Infomotions, Inc.The Golden Slipper : and other problems for Violet Strange / Green, Anna Katharine, 1846-1935



Author: Green, Anna Katharine, 1846-1935
Title: The Golden Slipper : and other problems for Violet Strange
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): violet
Contributor(s): Dickson, William P. (William Purdie), 1823-1901 [Translator]
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 92,546 words (short) Grade range: 9-11 (high school) Readability score: 65 (easy)
Identifier: etext3071
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Title: The Golden Slipper

Author:  Anna Katharine Green

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THE GOLDEN SLIPPER
And Other Problems for Violet Strange

by ANNA KATHARINE GREEN
(Mrs. Charles Rohlfs)




CONTENTS

I THE GOLDEN SLIPPER

II THE SECOND BULLET

III THE INTANGIBLE CLEW

IV THE GROTTO SPECTRE

V THE DREAMING LADY

VI THE HOUSE OF CLOCKS

VII THE DOCTOR, HIS WIFE, AND THE CLOCK

VIII MISSING: PAGE THIRTEEN

IX VIOLET'S OWN

The Golden Slipper And Other Problems for Violet Strange

PROBLEM I THE GOLDEN SLIPPER

"She's here! I thought she would be. She's one of the three
young ladies you see in the right-hand box near the proscenium."

The gentleman thus addressed--a man of middle age and a member
of the most exclusive clubs--turned his opera glass toward the
spot designated, and in some astonishment retorted:

"She? Why those are the Misses Pratt and--"

"Miss Violet Strange; no other."

"And do you mean to say--"

"I do--"

"That yon silly little chit, whose father I know, whose fortune
I know, who is seen everywhere, and who is called one of the
season's belles is an agent of yours; a--a--"

"No names here, please. You want a mystery solved. It is not a
matter for the police--that is, as yet,--and so you come to me,
and when I ask for the facts, I find that women and only women
are involved, and that these women are not only young but one
and all of the highest society. Is it a man's work to go to the
bottom of a combination like this? No. Sex against sex, and, if
possible, youth against youth. Happily, I know such a person--a
girl of gifts and extraordinarily well placed for the purpose.
Why she uses her talents in this direction--why, with means
enough to play the part natural to her as a successful
debutante, she consents to occupy herself with social and other
mysteries, you must ask her, not me. Enough that I promise you
her aid if you want it. That is, if you can interest her. She
will not work otherwise."

Mr. Driscoll again raised his opera glass.

"But it's a comedy face," he commented. "It's hard to associate
intellectuality with such quaintness of expression. Are you sure
of her discretion?"

"Whom is she with?"

"Abner Pratt, his wife, and daughters."

"Is he a man to entrust his affairs unadvisedly?"

"Abner Pratt! Do you mean to say that she is anything more to
him than his daughters' guest?"

"Judge. You see how merry they are. They were in deep trouble
yesterday. You are witness to a celebration."

"And she?"

"Don't you observe how they are loading her with attentions?
She's too young to rouse such interest in a family of notably
unsympathetic temperament for any other reason than that of
gratitude."

"It's hard to believe. But if what you hint is true, secure me
an opportunity at once of talking to this youthful marvel. My
affair is serious. The dinner I have mentioned comes off in
three days and--"

"I know. I recognize your need; but I think you had better enter
Mr. Pratt's box without my intervention. Miss Strange's value to
us will be impaired the moment her connection with us is
discovered."

"Ah, there's Ruthven! He will take me to Mr. Pratt's box,"
remarked Driscoll as the curtain fell on the second act. "Any
suggestions before I go?"

"Yes, and an important one. When you make your bow, touch your
left shoulder with your right hand. It is a signal. She may
respond to it; but if she does not, do not be discouraged. One of
her idiosyncrasies is a theoretical dislike of her work. But once
she gets interested, nothing will hold her back. That's all,
except this. In no event give away her secret. That's part of the
compact, you remember."

Driscoll nodded and left his seat for Ruthven's box. When the
curtain rose for the third time he could be seen sitting with
the Misses Pratt and their vivacious young friend. A widower and
still on the right side of fifty, his presence there did not
pass unnoted, and curiosity was rife among certain onlookers as
to which of the twin belles was responsible for this change in
his well-known habits. Unfortunately, no opportunity was given
him for showing. Other and younger men had followed his lead
into the box, and they saw him forced upon the good graces of
the fascinating but inconsequent Miss Strange whose rapid fire
of talk he was hardly of a temperament to appreciate.

Did he appear dissatisfied? Yes; but only one person in the
opera house knew why. Miss Strange had shown no comprehension of
or sympathy with his errand. Though she chatted amiably enough
between duets and trios, she gave him no opportunity to express
his wishes though she knew them well enough, owing to the signal
he had given her.

This might be in character but it hardly suited his views; and,
being a man of resolution, he took advantage of an absorbing
minute on the stage to lean forward and whisper in her ear:

"It's my daughter for whom I request your services; as fine a
girl as any in this house. Give me a hearing. You certainly can
manage it."

She was a small, slight woman whose naturally quaint appearance
was accentuated by the extreme simplicity of her attire. In the
tier upon tier of boxes rising before his eyes, no other
personality could vie with hers in strangeness, or in the
illusive quality of her ever-changing expression. She was
vivacity incarnate and, to the ordinary observer, light as
thistledown in fibre and in feeling. But not to all. To those who
watched her long, there came moments--say when the music rose to
heights of greatness--when the mouth so given over to laughter
took on curves of the rarest sensibility, and a woman's lofty
soul shone through her odd, bewildering features.

Driscoll had noted this, and consequently awaited her reply in
secret hope.

It came in the form of a question and only after an instant's
display of displeasure or possibly of pure nervous irritability.

"What has she done?"

"Nothing. But slander is in the air, and any day it may ripen
into public accusation."

"Accusation of what?" Her tone was almost pettish.

"Of--of theft," he murmured. "On a great scale," he emphasized,
as the music rose to a crash.

"Jewels?"

"Inestimable ones. They are always returned by somebody. People
say, by me."

"Ah!" The little lady's hands grew steady,--they had been
fluttering all over her lap. "I will see you to-morrow morning
at my father's house," she presently observed; and turned her
full attention to the stage.

Some three days after this Mr. Driscoll opened his house on the
Hudson to notable guests. He had not desired the publicity of
such an event, nor the opportunity it gave for an increase of
the scandal secretly in circulation against his daughter. But
the Ambassador and his wife were foreign and any evasion of the
promised hospitality would be sure to be misunderstood; so the
scheme was carried forward though with less eclat than possibly
was expected.

Among the lesser guests, who were mostly young and well
acquainted with the house and its hospitality, there was one
unique figure,--that of the lively Miss Strange, who, if
personally unknown to Miss Driscoll, was so gifted with the
qualities which tell on an occasion of this kind, that the
stately young hostess hailed her presence with very obvious
gratitude.

The manner of their first meeting was singular, and of great
interest to one of them at least. Miss Strange had come in an
automobile and had been shown her room; but there was nobody to
accompany her down-stairs afterward, and, finding herself alone
in the great hall, she naturally moved toward the library, the
door of which stood ajar. She had pushed this door half open
before she noticed that the room was already occupied. As a
consequence, she was made the unexpected observer of a beautiful
picture of youth and love.

A young man and a young woman were standing together in the glow
of a blazing wood-fire. No word was to be heard, but in their
faces, eloquent with passion, there shone something so deep and
true that the chance intruder hesitated on the threshold, eager
to lay this picture away in her mind with the other lovely and
tragic memories now fast accumulating there. Then she drew back,
and readvancing with a less noiseless foot, came into the full
presence of Captain Holliday drawn up in all the pride of his
military rank beside Alicia, the accomplished daughter of the
house, who, if under a shadow as many whispered, wore that shadow
as some women wear a crown.

Miss Strange was struck with admiration, and turned upon them
the brightest facet of her vivacious nature all the time she was
saying to herself: "Does she know why I am here? Or does she
look upon me only as an additional guest foisted upon her by a
thoughtless parent?"

There was nothing in the manner of her cordial but composed
young hostess to show, and Miss Strange, with but one thought in
mind since she had caught the light of feeling on the two faces
confronting her, took the first opportunity that offered of
running over the facts given her by Mr. Driscoll, to see if any
reconcilement were possible between them and an innocence in
which she must henceforth believe.

They were certainly of a most damaging nature.

Miss Driscoll and four other young ladies of her own station in
life had formed themselves, some two years before, into a coterie
of five, called The Inseparables. They lunched together, rode
together, visited together. So close was the bond and their
mutual dependence so evident, that it came to be the custom to
invite the whole five whenever the size of the function warranted
it. In fact, it was far from an uncommon occurrence to see them
grouped at receptions or following one another down the aisles of
churches or through the mazes of the dance at balls or
assemblies. And no one demurred at this, for they were all
handsome and attractive girls, till it began to be noticed that,
coincident with their presence, some article of value was found
missing from the dressing-room or from the tables where wedding
gifts were displayed. Nothing was safe where they went, and
though, in the course of time, each article found its way back to
its owner in a manner as mysterious as its previous abstraction,
the scandal grew and, whether with good reason or bad, finally
settled about the person of Miss Driscoll, who was the showiest,
least pecuniarily tempted, and most dignified in manner and
speech of them all.

Some instances had been given by way of further enlightenment.
This is one: A theatre party was in progress. There were twelve
in the party, five of whom were the Inseparables. In the course of
the last act, another lady--in fact, their chaperon--missed her
handkerchief, an almost priceless bit of lace. Positive that she
had brought it with her into the box, she caused a careful
search, but without the least success. Recalling certain whispers
she had heard, she noted which of the five girls were with her in
the box. They were Miss Driscoll, Miss Hughson, Miss Yates, and
Miss Benedict. Miss West sat in the box adjoining.

A fortnight later this handkerchief reappeared--and where? Among
the cushions of a yellow satin couch in her own drawing-room. The
Inseparables had just made their call and the three who had sat
on the couch were Miss Driscoll, Miss Hughson, and Miss Benedict.

The next instance seemed to point still more insistently toward
the lady already named. Miss Yates had an expensive present to
buy, and the whole five Inseparables went in an imposing group to
Tiffany's. A tray of rings was set before them. All examined and
eagerly fingered the stock out of which Miss Yates presently
chose a finely set emerald. She was leading her friends away when
the clerk suddenly whispered in her ear, "I miss one of the
rings." Dismayed beyond speech, she turned and consulted the
faces of her four companions who stared back at her with
immovable serenity. But one of them was paler than usual, and
this lady (it was Miss Driscoll) held her hands in her muff and
did not offer to take them out. Miss Yates, whose father had
completed a big "deal" the week before, wheeled round upon the
clerk. "Charge it! charge it at its full value," said she. "I buy
both the rings."

And in three weeks the purloined ring came back to her, in a box
of violets with no name attached.

The third instance was a recent one, and had come to Mr.
Driscoll's ears directly from the lady suffering the loss. She
was a woman of uncompromising integrity, who felt it her duty to
make known to this gentleman the following facts: She had just
left a studio reception, and was standing at the curb waiting for
a taxicab to draw up, when a small boy--a street arab--darted
toward her from the other side of the street, and thrusting into
her hand something small and hard, cried breathlessly as he
slipped away, "It's yours, ma'am; you dropped it." Astonished,
for she had not been conscious of any loss, she looked down at
her treasure trove and found it to be a small medallion which she
sometimes wore on a chain at her belt. But she had not worn it
that day, nor any day for weeks. Then she remembered. She had
worn it a month before to a similar reception at this same
studio. A number of young girls had stood about her admiring it--
she remembered well who they were; the Inseparables, of course,
and to please them she had slipped it from its chain. Then
something had happened,--something which diverted her attention
entirely,--and she had gone home without the medallion; had, in
fact, forgotten it, only to recall its loss now. Placing it in
her bag, she looked hastily about her. A crowd was at her back;
nothing to be distinguished there. But in front, on the opposite
side of the street, stood a club-house, and in one of its windows
she perceived a solitary figure looking out. It was that of Miss
Driscoll's father. He could imagine her conclusion.

In vain he denied all knowledge of the matter. She told him other
stories which had come to her ears of thefts as mysterious,
followed by restorations as peculiar as this one, finishing with,
"It is your daughter, and people are beginning to say so."

And Miss Strange, brooding over these instances, would have said
the same, but for Miss Driscoll's absolute serenity of demeanour
and complete abandonment to love. These seemed incompatible with
guilt; these, whatever the appearances, proclaimed innocence--an
innocence she was here to prove if fortune favoured and the
really guilty person's madness should again break forth.

For madness it would be and nothing less, for any hand, even the
most experienced, to draw attention to itself by a repetition of
old tricks on an occasion so marked. Yet because it would take
madness, and madness knows no law, she prepared herself for the
contingency under a mask of girlish smiles which made her at once
the delight and astonishment of her watchful and uneasy host.

With the exception of the diamonds worn by the Ambassadress,
there was but one jewel of consequence to be seen at the dinner
that night; but how great was that consequence and with what
splendour it invested the snowy neck it adorned!

Miss Strange, in compliment to the noble foreigners, had put on
one of her family heirlooms--a filigree pendant of extraordinary
sapphires which had once belonged to Marie Antoinette. As its
beauty flashed upon the women, and its value struck the host, the
latter could not restrain himself from casting an anxious eye
about the board in search of some token of the cupidity with
which one person there must welcome this unexpected sight.

Naturally his first glance fell upon Alicia, seated opposite to
him at the other end of the table. But her eyes were elsewhere,
and her smile for Captain Holliday, and the father's gaze
travelled on, taking up each young girl's face in turn. All were
contemplating Miss Strange and her jewels, and the cheeks of one
were flushed and those of the others pale, but whether with dread
or longing who could tell. Struck with foreboding, but alive to
his duty as host, he forced his glances away, and did not even
allow himself to question the motive or the wisdom of the
temptation thus offered.

Two hours later and the girls were all in one room. It was a
custom of the Inseparables to meet for a chat before retiring,
but always alone and in the room of one of their number. But this
was a night of innovations; Violet was not only included, but the
meeting was held in her room. Her way with girls was even more
fruitful of result than her way with men. They might laugh at
her, criticize her or even call her names significant of disdain,
but they never left her long to herself or missed an opportunity
to make the most of her irrepressible chatter.

Her satisfaction at entering this charmed circle did not take
from her piquancy, and story after story fell from her lips, as
she fluttered about, now here now there, in her endless
preparations for retirement. She had taken off her historic
pendant after it had been duly admired and handled by all
present, and, with the careless confidence of an assured
ownership, thrown it down upon the end of her dresser, which, by
the way, projected very close to the open window.

"Are you going to leave your jewel there?" whispered a voice in
her ear as a burst of laughter rang out in response to one of her
sallies.

Turning, with a simulation of round-eyed wonder, she met Miss
Hughson's earnest gaze with the careless rejoinder, "What's the
harm?" and went on with her story with all the reckless ease of a
perfectly thoughtless nature.

Miss Hughson abandoned her protest. How could she explain her
reasons for it to one apparently uninitiated in the scandal
associated with their especial clique.

Yes, she left the jewel there; but she locked her door and
quickly, so that they must all have heard her before reaching
their rooms. Then she crossed to the window, which, like all on
this side, opened on a balcony running the length of the house.
She was aware of this balcony, also of the fact that only young
ladies slept in the corridor communicating with it. But she was
not quite sure that this one corridor accommodated them all. If
one of them should room elsewhere! (Miss Driscoll, for instance).
But no! the anxiety displayed for the safety of her jewel
precluded that supposition. Their hostess, if none of the others,
was within access of this room and its open window. But how about
the rest? Perhaps the lights would tell. Eagerly the little
schemer looked forth, and let her glances travel down the full
length of the balcony. Two separate beams of light shot across it
as she looked, and presently another, and, after some waiting, a
fourth. But the fifth failed to appear. This troubled her, but
not seriously. Two of the girls might be sleeping in one bed.

Drawing her shade, she finished her preparations for the night;
then with her kimono on, lifted the pendant and thrust it into a
small box she had taken from her trunk. A curious smile, very
unlike any she had shown to man or woman that day, gave a
sarcastic lift to her lips, as with a slow and thoughtful
manipulation of her dainty fingers she moved the jewel about in
this small receptacle and then returned it, after one quick
examining glance, to the very spot on the dresser from which she
had taken it. "If only the madness is great enough!" that smile
seemed to say. Truly, it was much to hope for, but a chance is a
chance; and comforting herself with the thought, Miss Strange put
out her light, and, with a hasty raising of the shade she had
previously pulled down, took a final look at the prospect.

Its aspect made her shudder. A low fog was rising from the
meadows in the far distance, and its ghostliness under the moon
woke all sorts of uncanny images in her excited mind. To escape
them she crept into bed where she lay with her eyes on the end of
her dresser. She had closed that half of the French window over
which she had drawn the shade; but she had left ajar the one
giving free access to the jewels; and when she was not watching
the scintillation of her sapphires in the moonlight, she was
dwelling in fixed attention on this narrow opening.

But nothing happened, and two o'clock, then three o'clock struck,
without a dimming of the blue scintillations on the end of her
dresser. Then she suddenly sat up. Not that she heard anything
new, but that a thought had come to her. "If an attempt is made,"
so she murmured softly to herself, "it will be by--" She did not
finish. Something--she could not call it sound--set her heart
beating tumultuously, and listening--listening--watching--
watching--she followed in her imagination the approach down the
balcony of an almost inaudible step, not daring to move herself,
it seemed so near, but waiting with eyes fixed, for the shadow
which must fall across the shade she had failed to raise over
that half of the swinging window she had so carefully left shut.

At length she saw it projecting slowly across the slightly
illuminated surface. Formless, save for the outreaching hand, it
passed the casement's edge, nearing with pauses and hesitations
the open gap beyond through which the neglected sapphires beamed
with steady lustre. Would she ever see the hand itself appear
between the dresser and the window frame? Yes, there it comes,--
small, delicate, and startlingly white, threading that gap--
darting with the suddenness of a serpent's tongue toward the
dresser and disappearing again with the pendant in its clutch.

As she realizes this,--she is but young, you know,--as she sees
her bait taken and the hardly expected event fulfilled, her pent-
up breath sped forth in a sigh which sent the intruder flying,
and so startled herself that she sank back in terror on her
pillow.

The breakfast-call had sounded its musical chimes through the
halls. The Ambassador and his wife had responded, so had most of
the young gentlemen and ladies, but the daughter of the house was
not amongst them, nor Miss Strange, whom one would naturally
expect to see down first of all.

These two absences puzzled Mr. Driscoll. What might they not
portend? But his suspense, at least in one regard, was short.
Before his guests were well seated, Miss Driscoll entered from
the terrace in company with Captain Holliday. In her arms she
carried a huge bunch of roses and was looking very beautiful. Her
father's heart warmed at the sight. No shadow from the night
rested upon her.

But Miss Strange!--where was she? He could not feel quite easy
till he knew.

"Have any of you seen Miss Strange?" he asked, as they sat down
at table. And his eyes sought the Inseparables.

Five lovely heads were shaken, some carelessly, some wonderingly,
and one, with a quick, forced smile. But he was in no mood to
discriminate, and he had beckoned one of the servants to him,
when a step was heard at the door and the delinquent slid in and
took her place, in a shamefaced manner suggestive of a cause
deeper than mere tardiness. In fact, she had what might be called
a frightened air, and stared into her plate, avoiding every eye,
which was certainly not natural to her. What did it mean? and
why, as she made a poor attempt at eating, did four of the
Inseparables exchange glances of doubt and dismay and then
concentrate their looks upon his daughter? That Alicia failed to
notice this, but sat abloom above her roses now fastened in a
great bunch upon her breast, offered him some comfort, yet, for
all the volubility of his chief guests, the meal was a great
trial to his patience, as well as a poor preparation for the hour
when, the noble pair gone, he stepped into the library to find
Miss Strange awaiting him with one hand behind her back and a
piteous look on her infantile features.

"O, Mr. Driscoll," she began,--and then he saw that a group of
anxious girls hovered in her rear--"my pendant! my beautiful
pendant! It is gone! Somebody reached in from the balcony and
took it from my dresser in the night. Of course, it was to
frighten me; all of the girls told me not to leave it there. But
I--I cannot make them give it back, and papa is so particular
about this jewel that I'm afraid to go home. Won't you tell them
it's no joke, and see that I get it again. I won't be so careless
another time."

Hardly believing his eyes, hardly believing his ears,--she was
so perfectly the spoiled child detected in a fault--he looked
sternly about upon the girls and bade them end the jest and
produce the gems at once.

But not one of them spoke, and not one of them moved; only his
daughter grew pale until the roses seemed a mockery, and the
steady stare of her large eyes was almost too much for him to
bear.

The anguish of this gave asperity to his manner, and in a
strange, hoarse tone he loudly cried:

"One of you did this. Which? If it was you, Alicia, speak. I am
in no mood for nonsense. I want to know whose foot traversed the
balcony and whose hand abstracted these jewels."

A continued silence, deepening into painful embarrassment for
all. Mr. Driscoll eyed them in ill-concealed anguish, then
turning to Miss Strange was still further thrown off his balance
by seeing her pretty head droop and her gaze fall in confusion.

"Oh! it's easy enough to tell whose foot traversed the balcony,"
she murmured. "It left this behind." And drawing forward her
hand, she held out to view a small gold-coloured slipper. "I
found it outside my window," she explained. "I hoped I should not
have to show it."

A gasp of uncontrollable feeling from the surrounding group of
girls, then absolute stillness.

"I fail to recognize it," observed Mr. Driscoll, taking it in
his hand. "Whose slipper is this?" he asked in a manner not to
be gainsaid.

Still no reply, then as he continued to eye the girls one after
another a voice--the last he expected to hear--spoke and his
daughter cried:

"It is mine. But it was not I who walked in it down the
balcony."

"Alicia!"

A month's apprehension was in that cry. The silence, the pent-up
emotion brooding in the air was intolerable. A fresh young laugh
broke it.

"Oh," exclaimed a roguish voice, "I knew that you were all in it!
But the especial one who wore the slipper and grabbed the pendant
cannot hope to hide herself. Her finger-tips will give her away."

Amazement on every face and a convulsive movement in one half-
hidden hand.

"You see," the airy little being went on, in her light way, "I
have some awfully funny tricks. I am always being scolded for
them, but somehow I don't improve. One is to keep my jewelry
bright with a strange foreign paste an old Frenchwoman once gave
me in Paris. It's of a vivid red, and stains the fingers
dreadfully if you don't take care. Not even water will take it
off, see mine. I used that paste on my pendant last night just
after you left me, and being awfully sleepy I didn't stop to rub
it off. If your finger-tips are not red, you never touched the
pendant, Miss Driscoll. Oh, see! They are as white as milk.

"But some one took the sapphires, and I owe that person a
scolding, as well as myself. Was it you, Miss Hughson? You, Miss
Yates? or--" and here she paused before Miss West, "Oh, you have
your gloves on! You are the guilty one!" and her laugh rang out
like a peal of bells, robbing her next sentence of even a
suggestion of sarcasm. "Oh, what a sly-boots!" she cried. "How
you have deceived me! Whoever would have thought you to be the
one to play the mischief!"

Who indeed! Of all the five, she was the one who was considered
absolutely immune from suspicion ever since the night Mrs.
Barnum's handkerchief had been taken, and she not in the box.
Eyes which had surveyed Miss Driscoll askance now rose in wonder
toward hers, and failed to fall again because of the stoniness
into which her delicately-carved features had settled.

"Miss West, I know you will be glad to remove your gloves; Miss
Strange certainly has a right to know her special tormentor,"
spoke up her host in as natural a voice as his great relief would
allow.

But the cold, half-frozen woman remained without a movement. She
was not deceived by the banter of the moment. She knew that to
all of the others, if not to Peter Strange's odd little daughter,
it was the thief who was being spotted and brought thus
hilariously to light. And her eyes grew hard, and her lips grey,
and she failed to unglove the hands upon which all glances were
concentrated.

"You do not need to see my hands; I confess to taking the
pendant."

"Caroline!"

A heart overcome by shock had thrown up this cry. Miss West eyed
her bosom-friend disdainfully.

"Miss Strange has called it a jest," she coldly commented. "Why
should you suggest anything of a graver character?"

Alicia brought thus to bay, and by one she had trusted most,
stepped quickly forward, and quivering with vague doubts, aghast
before unheard-of possibilities, she tremulously remarked:

"We did not sleep together last night. You had to come into my
room to get my slippers. Why did you do this? What was in your
mind, Caroline?"

A steady look, a low laugh choked with many emotions answered
her.

"Do you want me to reply, Alicia? Or shall we let it pass?"

"Answer!"

It was Mr. Driscoll who spoke. Alicia had shrunk back, almost to
where a little figure was cowering with wide eyes fixed in
something like terror on the aroused father's face.

"Then hear me," murmured the girl, entrapped and suddenly
desperate. "I wore Alicia's slippers and I took the jewels,
because it was time that an end should come to your mutual
dissimulation. The love I once felt for her she has herself
deliberately killed. I had a lover--she took him. I had faith in
life, in honour, and in friendship. She destroyed all. A thief--
she has dared to aspire to him! And you condoned her fault. You,
with your craven restoration of her booty, thought the matter
cleared and her a fit mate for a man of highest honour."

"Miss West,"--no one had ever heard that tone in Mr. Driscoll's
voice before, "before you say another word calculated to mislead
these ladies, let me say that this hand never returned any one's
booty or had anything to do with the restoration of any
abstracted article. You have been caught in a net, Miss West,
from which you cannot escape by slandering my innocent
daughter."

"Innocent!" All the tragedy latent in this peculiar girl's nature
blazed forth in the word. "Alicia, face me. Are you innocent? Who
took the Dempsey corals, and that diamond from the Tiffany tray?"

"It is not necessary for Alicia to answer," the father interposed
with not unnatural heat. "Miss West stands self-convicted."

"How about Lady Paget's scarf? I was not there that night."

"You are a woman of wiles. That could be managed by one bent on
an elaborate scheme of revenge."

"And so could the abstraction of Mrs. Barnum's five-hundred-
dollar handkerchief by one who sat in the next box," chimed in
Miss Hughson, edging away from the friend to whose honour she
would have pinned her faith an hour before. "I remember now
seeing her lean over the railing to adjust the old lady's shawl."

With a start, Caroline West turned a tragic gaze upon the
speaker.

"You think me guilty of all because of what I did last night?"

"Why shouldn't I?"

"And you, Anna?"

"Alicia has my sympathy," murmured Miss Benedict.

Yet the wild girl persisted.

"But I have told you my provocation. You cannot believe that I am
guilty of her sin; not if you look at her as I am looking now."

But their glances hardly followed her pointing finger. Her
friends--the comrades of her youth, the Inseparables with their
secret oath--one and all held themselves aloof, struck by the
perfidy they were only just beginning to take in. Smitten with
despair, for these girls were her life, she gave one wild leap
and sank on her knees before Alicia.

"O speak!" she began. "Forgive me, and--"

A tremble seized her throat; she ceased to speak and let fall her
partially uplifted hands. The cheery sound of men's voices had
drifted in from the terrace, and the figure of Captain
Holliday could be seen passing by. The shudder which shook
Caroline West communicated itself to Alicia Driscoll, and the
former rising quickly, the two women surveyed each other,
possibly for the first time, with open soul and a complete
understanding.

"Caroline!" murmured the one.

"Alicia!" pleaded the other.

"Caroline, trust me," said Alicia Driscoll in that moving voice
of hers, which more than her beauty caught and retained all
hearts. "You have served me ill, but it was not all undeserved.
Girls," she went on, eyeing both them and her father with the
wistfulness of a breaking heart, "neither Caroline nor myself are
worthy of Captain Holliday's love. Caroline has told you her
fault, but mine is perhaps a worse one. The ring--the scarf--the
diamond pins--I took them all--took them if I did not retain
them. A curse has been over my life--the curse of a longing I
could not combat. But love was working a change in me. Since I
have known Captain Holliday--but that's all over. I was mad to
think I could be happy with such memories in my life. I shall
never marry now--or touch jewels again--my own or another's.
Father, father, you won't go back on your girl! I couldn't see
Caroline suffer for what I have done. You will pardon me and
help--help--"

Her voice choked. She flung herself into her father's arms; his
head bent over hers, and for an instant not a soul in the room
moved. Then Miss Hughson gave a spring and caught her by the
hand. "We are inseparable," said she, and kissed the hand,
murmuring, "Now is our time to show it."

Then other lips fell upon those cold and trembling fingers, which
seemed to warm under these embraces. And then a tear. It
came from the hard eye of Caroline, and remained a sacred secret
between the two.

"You have your pendant?"

Mr. Driscoll's suffering eye shone down on Violet Strange's
uplifted face as she advanced to say good-bye preparatory to
departure.

"Yes," she acknowledged, "but hardly, I fear, your gratitude."

And the answer astonished her.

"I am not sure that the real Alicia will not make her father
happier than the unreal one has ever done."

"And Captain Holliday?"

"He may come to feel the same."

"Then I do not quit in disgrace?"

"You depart with my thanks."

When a certain personage was told of the success of Miss
Strange's latest manoeuvre, he remarked: "The little one
progresses. We shall have to give her a case of prime importance
next."

END OF PROBLEM I


PROBLEM II

THE SECOND BULLET

"You must see her."

"No. No."

"She's a most unhappy woman. Husband and child both taken from
her in a moment; and now, all means of living as well, unless
some happy thought of yours--some inspiration of your genius--
shows us a way of re-establishing her claims to the policy voided
by this cry of suicide."

But the small wise head of Violet Strange continued its slow
shake of decided refusal.

"I'm sorry," she protested, "but it's quite out of my province.
I'm too young to meddle with so serious a matter."

"Not when you can save a bereaved woman the only possible
compensation left her by untoward fate?"

"Let the police try their hand at that."

"They have had no success with the case."

"Or you?"

"Nor I either."

"And you expect--"

"Yes, Miss Strange. I expect you to find the missing bullet which
will settle the fact that murder and not suicide ended George
Hammond's life. If you cannot, then a long litigation awaits this
poor widow, ending, as such litigation usually does, in favour of
the stronger party. There's the alternative. If you once saw her--"

"But that's what I'm not willing to do. If I once saw her I
should yield to her importunities and attempt the seemingly
impossible. My instincts bid me say no. Give me something
easier."

"Easier things are not so remunerative. There's money in this
affair, if the insurance company is forced to pay up. I can offer
you--"

"What?"

There was eagerness in the tone despite her effort at
nonchalance. The other smiled imperceptibly, and briefly named
the sum.

It was larger than she had expected. This her visitor saw by the
way her eyelids fell and the peculiar stillness which, for an
instant, held her vivacity in check.

"And you think I can earn that?"

Her eyes were fixed on his in an eagerness as honest as it was
unrestrained.

He could hardly conceal his amazement, her desire was so evident
and the cause of it so difficult to understand. He knew she
wanted money--that was her avowed reason for entering into this
uncongenial work. But to want it so much! He glanced at her
person; it was simply clad but very expensively--how expensively
it was his business to know. Then he took in the room in which
they sat. Simplicity again, but the simplicity of high art--the
drawing-room of one rich enough to indulge in the final luxury of
a highly cultivated taste, viz.: unostentatious elegance and the
subjection of each carefully chosen ornament to the general
effect.

What did this favoured child of fortune lack that she could be
reached by such a plea, when her whole being revolted from the
nature of the task he offered her? It was a question not new to
him; but one he had never heard answered and was not likely to
hear answered now. But the fact remained that the consent he had
thought dependent upon sympathetic interest could be reached
much more readily by the promise of large emolument,--and he
owned to a feeling of secret disappointment even while he
recognized the value of the discovery.

But his satisfaction in the latter, if satisfaction it were, was
of very short duration. Almost immediately he observed a change
in her. The sparkle which had shone in the eye whose depths he
had never been able to penetrate, had dissipated itself in
something like a tear and she spoke up in that vigorous tone no
one but himself had ever heard, as she said:

"No. The sum is a good one and I could use it; but I will not
waste my energy on a case I do not believe in. The man shot
himself. He was a speculator, and probably had good reason for
his act. Even his wife acknowledges that he has lately had more
losses than gains."

"See her. She has something to tell you which never got into the
papers."

"You say that? You know that?"

"On my honour, Miss Strange."

Violet pondered; then suddenly succumbed.

"Let her come, then. Prompt to the hour. I will receive her at
three. Later I have a tea and two party calls to make."

Her visitor rose to leave. He had been able to subdue all
evidence of his extreme gratification, and now took on a formal
air. In dismissing a guest, Miss Strange was invariably the
society belle and that only. This he had come to recognize.

The case (well known at the time) was, in the fewest possible
words, as follows:

On a sultry night in September, a young couple living in one of
the large apartment houses in the extreme upper portion of
Manhattan were so annoyed by the incessant crying of a child in
the adjoining suite, that they got up, he to smoke, and she to
sit in the window for a possible breath of cool air. They were
congratulating themselves upon the wisdom they had shown in thus
giving up all thought of sleep--for the child's crying had not
ceased--when (it may have been two o'clock and it may have been
a little later) there came from somewhere near, the sharp and
somewhat peculiar detonation of a pistol-shot.

He thought it came from above; she, from the rear, and they were
staring at each other in the helpless wonder of the moment, when
they were struck by the silence. The baby had ceased to cry. All
was as still in the adjoining apartment as in their own--too
still--much too still. Their mutual stare turned to one of
horror. "It came from there!" whispered the wife. "Some accident
has occurred to Mr. or Mrs. Hammond--we ought to go--"

Her words--very tremulous ones--were broken by a shout from
below. They were standing in their window and had evidently been
seen by a passing policeman. "Anything wrong up there?" they
heard him cry. Mr. Saunders immediately looked out. "Nothing
wrong here," he called down. (They were but two stories from the
pavement.) "But I'm not so sure about the rear apartment. We
thought we heard a shot. Hadn't you better come up, officer? My
wife is nervous about it. I'll meet you at the stair-head and
show you the way."

The officer nodded and stepped in. The young couple hastily
donned some wraps, and, by the time he appeared on their floor,
they were ready to accompany him.

Meanwhile, no disturbance was apparent anywhere else in the
house, until the policeman rang the bell of the Hammond
apartment. Then, voices began to be heard, and doors to open
above and below, but not the one before which the policeman
stood.

Another ring, and this time an insistent one;--and still no
response. The officer's hand was rising for the third time when
there came a sound of fluttering from behind the panels against
which he had laid his ear, and finally a choked voice uttering
unintelligible words. Then a hand began to struggle with the
lock, and the door, slowly opening, disclosed a woman clad in a
hastily donned wrapper and giving every evidence of extreme
fright.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, seeing only the compassionate faces of her
neighbours. "You heard it, too! a pistol-shot from there--there--
my husband's room. I have not dared to go--I--I--O, have mercy
and see if anything is wrong! It is so still--so still, and only
a moment ago the baby was crying. Mrs. Saunders, Mrs. Saunders,
why is it so still?"

She had fallen into her neighbour's arms. The hand with which she
had pointed out a certain door had sunk to her side and she
appeared to be on the verge of collapse.

The officer eyed her sternly, while noting her appearance, which
was that of a woman hastily risen from bed.

"Where were you?" he asked. "Not with your husband and child, or
you would know what had happened there."

"I was sleeping down the hall," she managed to gasp out. "I'm
not well--I--Oh, why do you all stand still and do nothing? My
baby's in there. Go! go!" and, with sudden energy, she sprang
upright, her eyes wide open and burning, her small well featured
face white as the linen she sought to hide.

The officer demurred no longer. In another instant he was trying
the door at which she was again pointing.

It was locked.

Glancing back at the woman, now cowering almost to the floor, he
pounded at the door and asked the man inside to open.

No answer came back.

With a sharp turn he glanced again at the wife.

"You say that your husband is in this room?"

She nodded, gasping faintly, "And the child!"

He turned back, listened, then beckoned to Mr. Saunders. "We
shall have to break our way in," said he. "Put your shoulder well
to the door. Now!"

The hinges of the door creaked; the lock gave way (this special
officer weighed two hundred and seventy-five, as he found out,
next day), and a prolonged and sweeping crash told the rest.

Mrs. Hammond gave a low cry; and, straining forward from where
she crouched in terror on the floor, searched the faces of the
two men for some hint of what they saw in the dimly-lighted
space beyond. Something dreadful, something which made Mr.
Saunders come rushing back with a shout:

"Take her away! Take her to our apartment, Jennie. She must not
see--"

Not see! He realized the futility of his words as his gaze fell
on the young woman who had risen up at his approach and now stood
gazing at him without speech, without movement, but with a glare
of terror in her eyes, which gave him his first realization of
human misery.

His own glance fell before it. If he had followed his instinct he
would have fled the house rather than answer the question of her
look and the attitude of her whole frozen body.

Perhaps in mercy to his speechless terror, perhaps in mercy to
herself, she was the one who at last found the word which voiced
their mutual anguish.

"Dead?"

No answer. None was needed.

"And my baby?"

O, that cry! It curdled the hearts of all who heard it. It shook
the souls of men and women both inside and outside the apartment;
then all was forgotten in the wild rush she made. The wife and
mother had flung herself upon the scene, and, side by
side with the not unmoved policeman, stood looking down upon the
desolation made in one fatal instant in her home and heart.

They lay there together, both past help, both quite dead. The
child had simply been strangled by the weight of his father's arm
which lay directly across the upturned little throat. But the
father was a victim of the shot they had heard. There was blood
on his breast, and a pistol in his hand.

Suicide! The horrible truth was patent. No wonder they wanted to
hold the young widow back. Her neighbour, Mrs. Saunders, crept in
on tiptoe and put her arms about the swaying, fainting woman; but
there was nothing to say--absolutely nothing.

At least, they thought not. But when they saw her throw herself
down, not by her husband, but by the child, and drag it out from
under that strangling arm and hug and kiss it and call out
wildly for a doctor, the officer endeavoured to interfere and
yet could not find the heart to do so, though he knew the child
was dead and should not, according to all the rules of the
coroner's office, be moved before that official arrived. Yet
because no mother could be convinced of a fact like this, he let
her sit with it on the floor and try all her little arts to
revive it, while he gave orders to the janitor and waited
himself for the arrival of doctor and coroner.

She was still sitting there in wide-eyed misery, alternately
fondling the little body and drawing back to consult its small
set features for some sign of life, when the doctor came, and,
after one look at the child, drew it softly from her arms and
laid it quietly in the crib from which its father had evidently
lifted it but a short time before. Then he turned back to her,
and found her on her feet, upheld by her two friends. She had
understood his action, and without a groan had accepted her fate.
Indeed, she seemed incapable of any further speech or action. She
was staring down at her husband's body, which she, for the first
time, seemed fully to see. Was her look one of grief or of
resentment for the part he had played so unintentionally in her
child's death? It was hard to tell; and when, with slowly rising
finger, she pointed to the pistol so tightly clutched in the
other outstretched hand, no one there--and by this time the room
was full--could foretell what her words would be when her tongue
regained its usage and she could speak.

What she did say was this:

"Is there a bullet gone? Did he fire off that pistol?" A question
so manifestly one of delirium that no one answered it, which
seemed to surprise her, though she said nothing till her glance
had passed all around the walls of the room to where a window
stood open to the night,--its lower sash being entirely raised.
"There! look there!" she cried, with a commanding accent, and,
throwing up her hands, sank a dead weight into the arms of those
supporting her.

No one understood; but naturally more than one rushed to the
window. An open space was before them. Here lay the fields not
yet parcelled out into lots and built upon; but it was not upon
these they looked, but upon the strong trellis which they found
there, which, if it supported no vine, formed a veritable ladder
between this window and the ground.

Could she have meant to call attention to this fact; and were her
words expressive of another idea than the obvious one of suicide?

If so, to what lengths a woman's imagination can go! Or so their
combined looks seemed to proclaim, when to their utter
astonishment they saw the officer, who had presented a calm
appearance up till now, shift his position and with a surprised
grunt direct their eyes to a portion of the wall just visible
beyond the half-drawn curtains of the bed. The mirror hanging
there showed a star-shaped breakage, such as follows the sharp
impact of a bullet or a fiercely projected stone.

"He fired two shots. One went wild; the other straight home."

It was the officer delivering his opinion.

Mr. Saunders, returning from the distant room where he had
assisted in carrying Mrs. Hammond, cast a look at the shattered
glass, and remarked forcibly:

"I heard but one; and I was sitting up, disturbed by that poor
infant. Jennie, did you hear more than one shot?" he asked,
turning toward his wife.

"No," she answered, but not with the readiness he had evidently
expected. "I heard only one, but that was not quite usual in its
tone. I'm used to guns," she explained, turning to the officer.
"My father was an army man, and he taught me very early to load
and fire a pistol. There was a prolonged sound to this shot;
something like an echo of itself, following close upon the first
ping. Didn't you notice that, Warren?"

"I remember something of the kind," her husband allowed.

"He shot twice and quickly," interposed the policeman,
sententiously. "We shall find a spent bullet back of that
mirror."

But when, upon the arrival of the coroner, an investigation was
made of the mirror and the wall behind, no bullet was found
either there or any where else in the room, save in the dead
man's breast. Nor had more than one been shot from his pistol, as
five full chambers testified. The case which seemed so simple had
its mysteries, but the assertion made by Mrs. Saunders no longer
carried weight, nor was the evidence offered by the broken mirror
considered as indubitably establishing the fact that a second
shot had been fired in the room.

Yet it was equally evident that the charge which had entered the
dead speculator's breast had not been delivered at the close
range of the pistol found clutched in his hand. There were no
powder-marks to be discerned on his pajama-jacket, or on the
flesh beneath. Thus anomaly confronted anomaly, leaving open but
one other theory: that the bullet found in Mr. Hammond's breast
came from the window and the one he shot went out of it. But this
would necessitate his having shot his pistol from a point far
removed from where he was found; and his wound was such as made
it difficult to believe that he would stagger far, if at all,
after its infliction.

Yet, because the coroner was both conscientious and alert, he
caused a most rigorous search to be made of the ground overlooked
by the above mentioned window; a search in which the police
joined, but which was without any result save that of rousing the
attention of people in the neighbourhood and leading to a story
being circulated of a man seen some time the night before
crossing the fields in a great hurry. But as no further
particulars were forthcoming, and not even a description of the
man to be had, no emphasis would have been laid upon this story
had it not transpired that the moment a report of it had come to
Mrs. Hammond's ears (why is there always some one to carry these
reports?) she roused from the torpor into which she had fallen,
and in wild fashion exclaimed:

"I knew it! I expected it! He was shot through the window and by
that wretch. He never shot himself." Violent declarations which
trailed off into the one continuous wail, "O, my baby! my poor
baby!"

Such words, even though the fruit of delirium, merited some sort
of attention, or so this good coroner thought, and as soon as
opportunity offered and she was sufficiently sane and quiet to
respond to his questions, he asked her whom she had meant by
that wretch, and what reason she had, or thought she had, of
attributing her husband's death to any other agency than his own
disgust with life.

And then it was that his sympathies, although greatly roused in
her favour began to wane. She met the question with a cold stare
followed by a few ambiguous words out of which he could make
nothing. Had she said wretch? She did not remember. They must not
be influenced by anything she might have uttered in her first
grief. She was well-nigh insane at the time. But of one thing
they might be sure: her husband had not shot himself; he was too
much afraid of death for such an act. Besides, he was too happy.
Whatever folks might say he was too fond of his family to wish to
leave it.

Nor did the coroner or any other official succeed in eliciting
anything further from her. Even when she was asked, with cruel
insistence, how she explained the fact that the baby was found
lying on the floor instead of in its crib, her only answer was:
"His father was trying to soothe it. The child was crying
dreadfully, as you have heard from those who were kept awake by
him that night, and my husband was carrying him about when the
shot came which caused George to fall and overlay the baby in his
struggles."

"Carrying a baby about with a loaded pistol in his hand?" came
back in stern retort.

She had no answer for this. She admitted when informed that the
bullet extracted from her husband's body had been found to
correspond exactly with those remaining in the five chambers of
the pistol taken from his hand, that he was not only the owner of
this pistol but was in the habit of sleeping with it under his
pillow; but, beyond that, nothing; and this reticence, as well as
her manner which was cold and repellent, told against her.

A verdict of suicide was rendered by the coroner's jury, and the
life-insurance company, in which Mr. Hammond had but lately
insured himself for a large sum, taking advantage of the suicide
clause embodied in the policy, announced its determination of not
paying the same.

Such was the situation, as known to Violet Strange and the
general public, on the day she was asked to see Mrs. Hammond and
learn what might alter her opinion as to the justice of this
verdict and the stand taken by the Shuler Life Insurance
Company.

The clock on the mantel in Miss Strange's rose-coloured boudoir
had struck three, and Violet was gazing in some impatience at the
door, when there came a gentle knock upon it, and the maid (one
of the elderly, not youthful, kind) ushered in her expected
visitor.

"You are Mrs. Hammond?" she asked, in natural awe of the too
black figure outlined so sharply against the deep pink of the
sea-shell room.

The answer was a slow lifting of the veil which shadowed the
features she knew only from the cuts she had seen in newspapers.

"You are--Miss Strange?" stammered her visitor; "the young lady
who--"

"I am," chimed in a voice as ringing as it was sweet. "I am the
person you have come here to see. And this is my home. But that
does not make me less interested in the unhappy, or less
desirous of serving them. Certainly you have met with the two
greatest losses which can come to a woman--I know your story
well enough to say that--; but what have you to tell me in proof
that you should not lose your anticipated income as well?
Something vital, I hope, else I cannot help you; something which
you should have told the coroner's jury--and did not."

The flush which was the sole answer these words called forth did
not take from the refinement of the young widow's expression, but
rather added to it; Violet watched it in its ebb and flow and,
seriously affected by it (why, she did not know, for Mrs. Hammond
had made no other appeal either by look or gesture), pushed
forward a chair and begged her visitor to be seated.

"We can converse in perfect safety here," she said. "When you
feel quite equal to it, let me hear what you have to
communicate. It will never go any further. I could not do the
work I do if I felt it necessary to have a confidant."

"But you are so young and so--so--"

"So inexperienced you would say and so evidently a member of
what New Yorkers call 'society.' Do not let that trouble you. My
inexperience is not likely to last long and my social pleasures
are more apt to add to my efficiency than to detract from it."

With this Violet's face broke into a smile. It was not the
brilliant one so often seen upon her lips, but there was
something in its quality which carried encouragement to the
widow and led her to say with obvious eagerness:

"You know the facts?"

"I have read all the papers."

"I was not believed on the stand."

"It was your manner--"

"I could not help my manner. I was keeping something back, and,
being unused to deceit, I could not act quite naturally."

"Why did you keep something back? When you saw the unfavourable
impression made by your reticence, why did you not speak up and
frankly tell your story?"

"Because I was ashamed. Because I thought it would hurt me more
to speak than to keep silent. I do not think so now; but I did
then--and so made my great mistake. You must remember not only
the awful shock of my double loss, but the sense of guilt
accompanying it; for my husband and I had quarreled that night,
quarreled bitterly--that was why I had run away into another
room and not because I was feeling ill and impatient of the
baby's fretful cries."

"So people have thought." In saying this, Miss Strange was
perhaps cruelly emphatic. "You wish to explain that quarrel? You
think it will be doing any good to your cause to go into that
matter with me now?"

"I cannot say; but I must first clear my conscience and then try
to convince you that quarrel or no quarrel, he never took his own
life. He was not that kind. He had an abnormal fear of death. I
do not like to say it but he was a physical coward. I have seen
him turn pale at the least hint of danger. He could no more have
turned that muzzle upon his own breast than he could have turned
it upon his baby. Some other hand shot him, Miss Strange.
Remember the open window, the shattered mirror; and I think I
know that hand."

Her head had fallen forward on her breast. The emotion she
showed was not so eloquent of grief as of deep personal shame.

"You think you know the man?" In saying this, Violet's voice
sunk to a whisper. It was an accusation of murder she had just
heard.

"To my great distress, yes. When Mr. Hammond and I were
married," the widow now proceeded in a more determined tone,
"there was another man--a very violent one--who vowed even at
the church door that George and I should never live out two full
years together. We have not. Our second anniversary would have
been in November."

"But--"

"Let me say this: the quarrel of which I speak was not serious
enough to occasion any such act of despair on his part. A man
would be mad to end his life on account of so slight a
disagreement. It was not even on account of the person of whom
I've just spoken, though that person had been mentioned between
us earlier in the evening, Mr. Hammond having come across him
face to face that very afternoon in the subway. Up to this time
neither of us had seen or heard of him since our wedding-day."

"And you think this person whom you barely mentioned, so mindful
of his old grudge that he sought out your domicile, and, with
the intention of murder, climbed the trellis leading to your
room and turned his pistol upon the shadowy figure which was all
he could see in the semi-obscurity of a much lowered gas-jet?"

"A man in the dark does not need a bright light to see his enemy
when he is intent upon revenge."

Miss Strange altered her tone.

"And your husband? You must acknowledge that he shot off his
pistol whether the other did or not."

"It was in self-defence. He would shoot to save his own life--or
the baby's."

"Then he must have heard or seen--"

"A man at the window."

"And would have shot there?"

"Or tried to."

"Tried to?"

"Yes; the other shot first--oh, I've thought it all out--causing
my husband's bullet to go wild. It was his which broke the
mirror."

Violet's eyes, bright as stars, suddenly narrowed.

"And what happened then?" she asked. "Why cannot they find the
bullet?"

"Because it went out of the window;--glanced off and went out of
the window."

Mrs. Hammond's tone was triumphant; her look spirited and
intense.

Violet eyed her compassionately.

"Would a bullet glancing off from a mirror, however hung, be apt
to reach a window so far on the opposite side?"

"I don't know; I only know that it did," was the contradictory,
almost absurd, reply.

"What was the cause of the quarrel you speak of between your
husband and yourself? You see, I must know the exact truth and
all the truth to be of any assistance to you."

"It was--it was about the care I gave, or didn't give, the baby.
I feel awfully to have to say it, but George did not think I did
my full duty by the child. He said there was no need of its
crying so; that if I gave it the proper attention it would not
keep the neighbours and himself awake half the night. And I--I
got angry and insisted that I did the best I could; that the
child was naturally fretful and that if he wasn't satisfied with
my way of looking after it, he might try his. All of which was
very wrong and unreasonable on my part, as witness the awful
punishment which followed."

"And what made you get up and leave him?"

"The growl he gave me in reply. When I heard that, I bounded out
of bed and said I was going to the spare room to sleep; and if
the baby cried he might just try what he could do himself to
stop it."

"And he answered?"

"This, just this--I shall never forget his words as long as I
live--'If you go, you need not expect me to let you in again no
matter what happens.'"

"He said that?"

"And locked the door after me. You see I could not tell all
that."

"It might have been better if you had. It was such a natural
quarrel and so unprovocative of actual tragedy."

Mrs. Hammond was silent. It was not difficult to see that she
had no very keen regrets for her husband personally. But then he
was not a very estimable man nor in any respect her equal.

"You were not happy with him," Violet ventured to remark.

"I was not a fully contented woman. But for all that he had no
cause to complain of me except for the reason I have mentioned. I
was not a very intelligent mother. But if the baby were living
now--O, if he were living now--with what devotion I should care
for him."

She was on her feet, her arms were raised, her face impassioned
with feeling. Violet, gazing at her, heaved a little sigh. It
was perhaps in keeping with the situation, perhaps extraneous to
it, but whatever its source, it marked a change in her manner.
With no further check upon her sympathy, she said very softly:

"It is well with the child."

The mother stiffened, swayed, and then burst into wild weeping.

"But not with me," she cried, "not with me. I am desolate and
bereft. I have not even a home in which to hide my grief and no
prospect of one."

"But," interposed Violet, "surely your husband left you
something? You cannot be quite penniless?"

"My husband left nothing," was the answer, uttered without
bitterness, but with all the hardness of fact. "He had debts. I
shall pay those debts. When these and other necessary expenses
are liquidated, there will be but little left. He made no secret
of the fact that he lived close up to his means. That is why he
was induced to take on a life insurance. Not a friend of his but
knows his improvidence. I--I have not even jewels. I have only my
determination and an absolute conviction as to the real nature of
my husband's death."

"What is the name of the man you secretly believe to have shot
your husband from the trellis?"

Mrs. Hammond told her.

It was a new one to Violet. She said so and then asked:

"What else can you tell me about him?"

"Nothing, but that he is a very dark man and has a club-foot."

"Oh, what a mistake you've made."

"Mistake? Yes, I acknowledge that."

"I mean in not giving this last bit of information at once to
the police. A man can be identified by such a defect. Even his
footsteps can be traced. He might have been found that very day.
Now, what have we to go upon?"

"You are right, but not expecting to have any difficulty about
the insurance money I thought it would be generous in me to keep
still. Besides, this is only surmise on my part. I feel certain
that my husband was shot by another hand than his own, but I know
of no way of proving it. Do you?"

Then Violet talked seriously with her, explaining how their only
hope lay in the discovery of a second bullet in the room which
had already been ransacked for this very purpose and without the
shadow of a result.

A tea, a musicale, and an evening dance kept Violet Strange in a
whirl for the remainder of the day. No brighter eye nor more
contagious wit lent brilliance to these occasions, but with the
passing of the midnight hour no one who had seen her in the
blaze of electric lights would have recognized this favoured
child of fortune in the earnest figure sitting in the obscurity
of an up-town apartment, studying the walls, the ceilings, and
the floors by the dim light of a lowered gas-jet. Violet Strange
in society was a very different person from Violet Strange under
the tension of her secret and peculiar work.

She had told them at home that she was going to spend the night
with a friend; but only her old coachman knew who that friend
was. Therefore a very natural sense of guilt mingled with her
emotions at finding herself alone on a scene whose gruesome
mystery she could solve only by identifying herself with the
place and the man who had perished there.

Dismissing from her mind all thought of self, she strove to
think as he thought, and act as he acted on the night when he
found himself (a man of but little courage) left in this room
with an ailing child.

At odds with himself, his wife, and possibly with the child
screaming away in its crib, what would he be apt to do in his
present emergency? Nothing at first, but as the screaming
continued he would remember the old tales of fathers walking the
floor at night with crying babies, and hasten to follow suit.
Violet, in her anxiety to reach his inmost thought, crossed to
where the crib had stood, and, taking that as a start, began
pacing the room in search of the spot from which a bullet, if
shot, would glance aside from the mirror in the direction of the
window. (Not that she was ready to accept this theory of Mrs.
Hammond, but that she did not wish to entirely dismiss it
without putting it to the test.)

She found it in an unexpected quarter of the room and much nearer
the bed-head than where his body was found. This, which might
seem to confuse matters, served, on the contrary to remove from
the case one of its most serious difficulties. Standing here, he
was within reach of the pillow under which his pistol lay hidden,
and if startled, as his wife believed him to have been by a noise
at the other end of the room, had but to crouch and reach behind
him in order to find himself armed and ready for a possible
intruder.

Imitating his action in this as in other things, she had herself
crouched low at the bedside and was on the point of withdrawing
her hand from under the pillow, when a new surprise checked her
movement and held her fixed in her position, with eyes staring
straight at the adjoining wall. She had seen there what he must
have seen in making this same turn--the dark bars of the opposite
window-frame outlined in the mirror--and understood at once what
had happened. In the nervousness and terror of the moment, George
Hammond had mistaken this reflection of the window for the window
itself, and shot impulsively at the man he undoubtedly saw
covering him from the trellis without. But while this explained
the shattering of the mirror, how about the other and still more
vital question, of where the bullet went afterward? Was the angle
at which it had been fired acute enough to send it out of a
window diagonally opposed? No; even if the pistol had been held
closer to the man firing it than she had reason to believe, the
angle still would be oblique enough to carry it on to the further
wall.

But no sign of any such impact had been discovered on this wall.
Consequently, the force of the bullet had been expended before
reaching it, and when it fell--

Here, her glance, slowly traveling along the floor, impetuously
paused. It had reached the spot where the two bodies had been
found, and unconsciously her eyes rested there, conjuring up the
picture of the bleeding father and the strangled child. How
piteous and how dreadful it all was. If she could only
understand-- Suddenly she rose straight up, staring and
immovable in the dim light. Had the idea--the explanation--the
only possible explanation covering the whole phenomena come to
her at last?

It would seem so, for as she so stood, a look of conviction
settled over her features, and with this look, evidences of a
horror which for all her fast accumulating knowledge of life and
its possibilities made her appear very small and very helpless.

A half-hour later, when Mrs. Hammond, in her anxiety at hearing
nothing more from Miss Strange, opened the door of her room, it
was to find, lying on the edge of the sill, the little
detective's card with these words hastily written across it:

I do not feel as well as I could wish, and so have telephoned to
my own coachman to come and take me home. I will either see or
write you within a few days. But do not allow yourself to hope.
I pray you do not allow yourself the least hope; the outcome is
still very problematical.

When Violet's employer entered his office the next morning it
was to find a veiled figure awaiting him which he at once
recognized as that of his little deputy. She was slow in lifting
her veil and when it finally came free he felt a momentary doubt
as to his wisdom in giving her just such a matter as this to
investigate. He was quite sure of his mistake when he saw her
face, it was so drawn and pitiful.

"You have failed," said he.

"Of that you must judge," she answered; and drawing near she
whispered in his ear.

"No!" he cried in his amazement.

"Think," she murmured, "think. Only so can all the facts be
accounted for."

"I will look into it; I will certainly look into it," was his
earnest reply. "If you are right-- But never mind that. Go home
and take a horseback ride in the Park. When I have news in regard
to this I will let you know. Till then forget it all. Hear me, I
charge you to forget everything but your balls and your parties."

And Violet obeyed him.

Some few days after this, the following statement appeared in
all the papers:

"Owing to some remarkable work done by the firm of -- & --, 
the well-known private detective agency, the claim made by Mrs.
George Hammond against the Shuler Life Insurance Company is
likely to be allowed without further litigation. As our readers
will remember, the contestant has insisted from the first that
the bullet causing her husband's death came from another pistol
than the one found clutched in his own hand. But while reasons
were not lacking to substantiate this assertion, the failure to
discover more than the disputed track of a second bullet led to
a verdict of suicide, and a refusal of the company to pay.

"But now that bullet has been found. And where? In the most
startling place in the world, viz.: in the larynx of the child
found lying dead upon the floor beside his father, strangled as
was supposed by the weight of that father's arm. The theory is,
and there seems to be none other, that the father, hearing a
suspicious noise at the window, set down the child he was
endeavouring to soothe and made for the bed and his own pistol,
and, mistaking a reflection of the assassin for the assassin
himself, sent his shot sidewise at a mirror just as the other let
go the trigger which drove a similar bullet into his breast. The
course of the one was straight and fatal and that of the other
deflected. Striking the mirror at an oblique angle, the bullet
fell to the floor where it was picked up by the crawling child,
and, as was most natural, thrust at once into his mouth. Perhaps
it felt hot to the little tongue; perhaps the child was simply
frightened by some convulsive movement of the father who
evidently spent his last moment in an endeavour to reach the
child, but, whatever the cause, in the quick gasp it gave, the
bullet was drawn into the larynx, strangling him.

"That the father's arm, in his last struggle, should have fallen
directly across the little throat is one of those anomalies
which confounds reason and misleads justice by stopping
investigation at the very point where truth lies and mystery
disappears.

"Mrs. Hammond is to be congratulated that there are detectives
who do not give too much credence to outward appearances."

We expect soon to hear of the capture of the man who sped home
the death-dealing bullet.

END OF PROBLEM II



PROBLEM III

AN INTANGIBLE CLUE

"Have you studied the case?"

"Not I."

"Not studied the case which for the last few days has provided
the papers with such conspicuous headlines?"

"I do not read the papers. I have not looked at one in a whole
week."

"Miss Strange, your social engagements must be of a very
pressing nature just now?"

"They are."

"And your business sense in abeyance?"

"How so?"

"You would not ask if you had read the papers."

To this she made no reply save by a slight toss of her pretty
head. If her employer felt nettled by this show of indifference,
he did not betray it save by the rapidity of his tones as,
without further preamble and possibly without real excuse, he
proceeded to lay before her the case in question. "Last Tuesday
night a woman was murdered in this city; an old woman, in a
lonely house where she has lived for years. Perhaps you remember
this house? It occupies a not inconspicuous site in Seventeenth
Street--a house of the olden time?"

"No, I do not remember."

The extreme carelessness of Miss Strange's tone would have been
fatal to her socially; but then, she would never have used it
socially. This they both knew, yet he smiled with his customary
indulgence.

"Then I will describe it."

She looked around for a chair and sank into it. He did the same.

"It has a fanlight over the front door."

She remained impassive.

"And two old-fashioned strips of parti-coloured glass on either
side."

"And a knocker between its panels which may bring money some
day."

"Oh, you do remember! I thought you would, Miss Strange."

"Yes. Fanlights over doors are becoming very rare in New York."

"Very well, then. That house was the scene of Tuesday's tragedy.
The woman who has lived there in solitude for years was foully
murdered. I have since heard that the people who knew her best
have always anticipated some such violent end for her. She never
allowed maid or friend to remain with her after five in the
afternoon; yet she had money--some think a great deal--always in
the house."

"I am interested in the house, not in her."

"Yet, she was a character--as full of whims and crotchets as a
nut is of meat. Her death was horrible. She fought--her dress was
torn from her body in rags. This happened, you see, before her
hour for retiring; some think as early as six in the afternoon.
And"--here he made a rapid gesture to catch Violet's wandering
attention--"in spite of this struggle; in spite of the fact that
she was dragged from room to room--that her person was searched--
and everything in the house searched--that drawers were pulled
out of bureaus--doors wrenched off of cupboards--china smashed
upon the floor--whole shelves denuded and not a spot from cellar
to garret left unransacked, no direct clue to the perpetrator has
been found--nothing that gives any idea of his personality save
his display of strength and great cupidity. The police have even
deigned to consult me,--an unusual procedure--but I could find
nothing, either. Evidences of fiendish purpose abound--of
relentless search--but no clue to the man himself. It's uncommon,
isn't it, not to have any clue?"

"I suppose so." Miss Strange hated murders and it was with
difficulty she could be brought to discuss them. But she was not
going to be let off; not this time.

"You see," he proceeded insistently, "it's not only mortifying
to the police but disappointing to the press, especially as few
reporters believe in the No-thoroughfare business. They say, and
we cannot but agree with them, that no such struggle could take
place and no such repeated goings to and fro through the house
without some vestige being left by which to connect this crime
with its daring perpetrator."

Still she stared down at her hands--those little hands so white
and fluttering, so seemingly helpless under the weight of their
many rings, and yet so slyly capable.

"She must have queer neighbours," came at last, from Miss
Strange's reluctant lips. "Didn't they hear or see anything of
all this?"

"She has no neighbours--that is, after half-past five o'clock.
There's a printing establishment on one side of her, a deserted
mansion on the other side, and nothing but warehouses back and
front. There was no one to notice what took place in her small
dwelling after the printing house was closed. She was the most
courageous or the most foolish of women to remain there as she
did. But nothing except death could budge her. She was born in
the room where she died; was married in the one where she worked;
saw husband, father, mother, and five sisters carried out in turn
to their graves through the door with the fanlight over the top--
and these memories held her."

"You are trying to interest me in the woman. Don't."

"No, I'm not trying to interest you in her, only trying to
explain her. There was another reason for her remaining where
she did so long after all residents had left the block. She had
a business."

"Oh!"

"She embroidered monograms for fine ladies."

"She did? But you needn't look at me like that. She never
embroidered any for me."

"No? She did first-class work. I saw some of it. Miss Strange,
if I could get you into that house for ten minutes--not to see
her but to pick up the loose intangible thread which I am sure
is floating around in it somewhere--wouldn't you go?"

Violet slowly rose--a movement which he followed to the letter.

"Must I express in words the limit I have set for myself in our
affair?" she asked. "When, for reasons I have never thought
myself called upon to explain, I consented to help you a little
now and then with some matter where a woman's tact and knowledge
of the social world might tell without offence to herself or
others, I never thought it would be necessary for me to state
that temptation must stop with such cases, or that I should not
be asked to touch the sordid or the bloody. But it seems I was
mistaken, and that I must stoop to be explicit. The woman who was
killed on Tuesday might have interested me greatly as an
embroiderer, but as a victim, not at all. What do you see in me,
or miss in me, that you should drag me into an atmosphere of low-
down crime?"

"Nothing, Miss Strange. You are by nature, as well as by
breeding, very far removed from everything of the kind. But you
will allow me to suggest that no crime is low-down which makes
imperative demand upon the intellect and intuitive sense of its
investigator. Only the most delicate touch can feel and hold the
thread I've just spoken of, and you have the most delicate touch
I know."

"Do not attempt to flatter me. I have no fancy for handling
befouled spider webs. Besides, if I had--if such elusive
filaments fascinated me--how could I, well-known in person and
name, enter upon such a scene without prejudice to our mutual
compact?"

"Miss Strange"--she had reseated herself, but so far he had
failed to follow her example (an ignoring of the subtle hint
that her interest might yet be caught, which seemed to annoy her
a trifle), "I should not even have suggested such a possibility
had I not seen a way of introducing you there without risk to
your position or mine. Among the boxes piled upon Mrs.
Doolittle's table--boxes of finished work, most of them
addressed and ready for delivery--was one on which could be seen
the name of--shall I mention it?"

"Not mine? You don't mean mine? That would be too odd--too
ridiculously odd. I should not understand a coincidence of that
kind; no, I should not, notwithstanding the fact that I have
lately sent out such work to be done."

"Yet it was your name, very clearly and precisely written--your
whole name, Miss Strange. I saw and read it myself."

"But I gave the order to Madame Pirot on Fifth Avenue. How came
my things to be found in the house of this woman of whose
horrible death we have been talking?"

"Did you suppose that Madame Pirot did such work with her own
hands?--or even had it done in her own establishment? Mrs.
Doolittle was universally employed. She worked for a dozen firms.
You will find the biggest names on most of her packages. But on
this one--I allude to the one addressed to you--there was more to
be seen than the name. These words were written on it in another
hand. Send without opening. This struck the police as suspicious;
sufficiently so, at least, for them to desire your presence at
the house as soon as you can make it convenient."

"To open the box?"

"Exactly."

The curl of Miss Strange's disdainful lip was a sight to see.

"You wrote those words yourself," she coolly observed. "While
someone's back was turned, you whipped out your pencil and--"

"Resorted to a very pardonable subterfuge highly conducive to
the public's good. But never mind that. Will you go?"

Miss Strange became suddenly demure.

"I suppose I must," she grudgingly conceded. "However obtained,
a summons from the police cannot be ignored even by Peter
Strange's daughter."

Another man might have displayed his triumph by smile or gesture;
but this one had learned his role too well. He simply said:

"Very good. Shall it be at once? I have a taxi at the door."

But she failed to see the necessity of any such hurry. With
sudden dignity she replied:

"That won't do. If I go to this house it must be under suitable
conditions. I shall have to ask my brother to accompany me."

"Your brother!"

"Oh, he's safe. He--he knows."

"Your brother knows?" Her visitor, with less control than usual,
betrayed very openly his uneasiness.

"He does and--approves. But that's not what interests us now,
only so far as it makes it possible for me to go with propriety
to that dreadful house."

A formal bow from the other and the words:

"They may expect you, then. Can you say when?"

"Within the next hour. But it will be a useless concession on my
part," she pettishly complained. "A place that has been gone
over by a dozen detectives is apt to be brushed clean of its
cobwebs, even if such ever existed."

"That's the difficulty," he acknowledged; and did not dare to add
another word; she was at that particular moment so very much the
great lady, and so little his confidential agent.

He might have been less impressed, however, by this sudden
assumption of manner, had he been so fortunate as to have seen
how she employed the three quarters of an hour's delay for which
she had asked.

She read those neglected newspapers, especially the one
containing the following highly coloured narration of this
ghastly crime:

"A door ajar--an empty hall--a line of sinister looking blotches
marking a guilty step diagonally across the flagging--silence--
and an unmistakable odour repugnant to all humanity,--such were
the indications which met the eyes of Officer O'Leary on his
first round last night, and led to the discovery of a murder
which will long thrill the city by its mystery and horror.

"Both the house and the victim are well known." Here followed a
description of the same and of Mrs. Doolittle's manner of life in
her ancient home, which Violet hurriedly passed over to come to
the following:

"As far as one can judge from appearances, the crime happened in
this wise: Mrs. Doolittle had been in her kitchen, as the tea-
kettle found singing on the stove goes to prove, and was coming
back through her bedroom, when the wretch, who had stolen in by
the front door which, to save steps, she was unfortunately in the
habit of leaving on the latch till all possibility of customers
for the day was over, sprang upon her from behind and dealt her a
swinging blow with the poker he had caught up from the
hearthstone.

"Whether the struggle which ensued followed immediately upon this
first attack or came later, it will take medical experts to
determine. But, whenever it did occur, the fierceness of its
character is shown by the grip taken upon her throat and the
traces of blood which are to be seen all over the house. If the
wretch had lugged her into her workroom and thence to the
kitchen, and thence back to the spot of first assault, the
evidences could not have been more ghastly. Bits of her clothing
torn off by a ruthless hand, lay scattered over all these floors.
In her bedroom, where she finally breathed her last, there could
be seen mingled with these a number of large but worthless glass
beads; and close against one of the base-boards, the string which
had held them, as shown by the few remaining beads still clinging
to it. If in pulling the string from her neck he had hoped to
light upon some valuable booty, his fury at his disappointment is
evident. You can almost see the frenzy with which he flung the
would-be necklace at the wall, and kicked about and stamped upon
its rapidly rolling beads.

"Booty! That was what he was after; to find and carry away the
poor needlewoman's supposed hoardings. If the scene baffles
description--if, as some believe, he dragged her yet living from
spot to spot, demanding information as to her places of
concealment under threat of repeated blows, and, finally baffled,
dealt the finishing stroke and proceeded on the search alone, no
greater devastation could have taken place in this poor woman's
house or effects. Yet such was his precaution and care for
himself that he left no finger-print behind him nor any other
token which could lead to personal identification. Even though
his footsteps could be traced in much the order I have mentioned,
they were of so indeterminate and shapeless a character as to
convey little to the intelligence of the investigator.

"That these smears (they could not be called footprints) not only
crossed the hall but appeared in more than one place on the
staircase proves that he did not confine his search to the lower
storey; and perhaps one of the most interesting features of the
case lies in the indications given by these marks of the raging
course he took through these upper rooms. As the accompanying
diagram will show [we omit the diagram] he went first into the
large front chamber, thence to the rear where we find two rooms,
one unfinished and filled with accumulated stuff most of which he
left lying loose upon the floor, and the other plastered, and
containing a window opening upon an alley-way at the side, but
empty of all furniture and without even a carpet on the bare
boards.

"Why he should have entered the latter place, and why, having
entered he should have crossed to the window, will be plain to
those who have studied the conditions. The front chamber windows
were tightly shuttered, the attic ones cumbered with boxes and
shielded from approach by old bureaus and discarded chairs. This
one only was free and, although darkened by the proximity of the
house neighbouring it across the alley, was the only spot on the
storey where sufficient light could be had at this late hour for
the examination of any object of whose value he was doubtful.
That he had come across such an object and had brought it to this
window for some such purpose is very satisfactorily demonstrated
by the discovery of a worn out wallet of ancient make lying on
the floor directly in front of this window--a proof of his
cupidity but also proof of his ill-luck. For this wallet, when
lifted and opened, was found to contain two hundred or more
dollars in old bills, which, if not the full hoard of their
industrious owner, was certainly worth the taking by one who had
risked his neck for the sole purpose of theft.

"This wallet, and the flight of the murderer without it, give to
this affair, otherwise simply brutal, a dramatic interest which
will be appreciated not only by the very able detectives already
hot upon the chase, but by all other inquiring minds anxious to
solve a mystery of which so estimable a woman has been the
unfortunate victim. A problem is presented to the police--"

There Violet stopped.

When, not long after, the superb limousine of Peter Strange
stopped before the little house in Seventeenth Street, it caused
a veritable sensation, not only in the curiosity-mongers
lingering on the sidewalk, but to the two persons within--the
officer on guard and a belated reporter.

Though dressed in her plainest suit, Violet Strange looked much
too fashionable and far too young and thoughtless to be observed,
without emotion, entering a scene of hideous and brutal crime.
Even the young man who accompanied her promised to bring a most
incongruous element into this atmosphere of guilt and horror,
and, as the detective on guard whispered to the man beside him,
might much better have been left behind in the car.

But Violet was great for the proprieties and young Arthur
followed her in.

Her entrance was a coup du theatre. She had lifted her veil in
crossing the sidewalk and her interesting features and general
air of timidity were very fetching. As the man holding open the
door noted the impression made upon his companion, he muttered
with sly facetiousness:

"You think you'll show her nothing; but I'm ready to bet a fiver
that she'll want to see it all and that you'll show it to her."

The detective's grin was expressive, notwithstanding the shrug
with which he tried to carry it off.

And Violet? The hall into which she now stepped from the most
vivid sunlight had never been considered even in its palmiest
days as possessing cheer even of the stately kind. The ghastly
green light infused through it by the coloured glass on either
side of the doorway seemed to promise yet more dismal things
beyond.

"Must I go in there?" she asked, pointing, with an admirable
simulation of nervous excitement, to a half-shut door at her
left. "Is there where it happened? Arthur, do you suppose that
there is where it happened?"

"No, no, Miss," the officer made haste to assure her. "If you are
Miss Strange" (Violet bowed), "I need hardly say that the woman
was struck in her bedroom. The door beside you leads into the
parlour, or as she would have called it, her work-room. You
needn't be afraid of going in there. You will see nothing but the
disorder of her boxes. They were pretty well pulled about. Not
all of them though," he added, watching her as closely as the dim
light permitted. "There is one which gives no sign of having been
tampered with. It was done up in wrapping paper and is addressed
to you, which in itself would not have seemed worthy of our
attention had not these lines been scribbled on it in a man's
handwriting: 'Send without opening.'"

"How odd!" exclaimed the little minx with widely opened eyes and
an air of guileless innocence. "Whatever can it mean? Nothing
serious I am sure, for the woman did not even know me. She was
employed to do this work by Madame Pirot."

"Didn't you know that it was to be done here?"

"No. I thought Madame Pirot's own girls did her embroidery for
her."

"So that you were surprised--"

"Wasn't I!"

"To get our message."

"I didn't know what to make of it."

The earnest, half-injured look with which she uttered this
disclaimer, did its appointed work. The detective accepted her
for what she seemed and, oblivious to the reporter's satirical
gesture, crossed to the work-room door, which he threw wide open
with the remark:

"I should be glad to have you open that box in our presence. It
is undoubtedly all right, but we wish to be sure. You know what
the box should contain?"

"Oh, yes, indeed; pillow-cases and sheets, with a big S
embroidered on them."

"Very well. Shall I undo the string for you?"

"I shall be much obliged," said she, her eye flashing quickly
about the room before settling down upon the knot he was deftly
loosening.

Her brother, gazing indifferently in from the doorway, hardly
noticed this look; but the reporter at his back did, though he
failed to detect its penetrating quality.

"Your name is on the other side," observed the detective as he
drew away the string and turned the package over.

The smile which just lifted the corner of her lips was not in
answer to this remark, but to her recognition of her employer's
handwriting in the words under her name: Send without opening.
She had not misjudged him.

"The cover you may like to take off yourself," suggested the
officer, as he lifted the box out of its wrapper.

"Oh, I don't mind. There's nothing to be ashamed of in
embroidered linen. Or perhaps that is not what you are looking
for?"

No one answered. All were busy watching her whip off the lid and
lift out the pile of sheets and pillow-cases with which the box
was closely packed.

"Shall I unfold them?" she asked.

The detective nodded.

Taking out the topmost sheet, she shook it open.  Then the next
and the next till she reached the bottom of the box.  Nothing of
a criminating nature came to light.  The box as well as its
contents was without mystery of any kind. This was not an
unexpected result of course, but the smile with which she began
to refold the pieces and throw them back into the box, revealed
one of her dimples which was almost as dangerous to the casual
observer as when it revealed both.

"There," she exclaimed, "you see! Household linen exactly as I
said. Now may I go home?"

"Certainly, Miss Strange."

The detective stole a sly glance at the reporter. She was not
going in for the horrors then after all.

But the reporter abated nothing of his knowing air, for while she
spoke of going, she made no move towards doing so, but continued
to look about the room till her glances finally settled on a long
dark curtain shutting off an adjoining room.

"There's where she lies, I suppose," she feelingly exclaimed.
"And not one of you knows who killed her. Somehow, I cannot
understand that. Why don't you know when that's what you're
hired for?" The innocence with which she uttered this was
astonishing. The detective began to look sheepish and the
reporter turned aside to hide his smile. Whether in another
moment either would have spoken no one can say, for, with a mock
consciousness of having said something foolish, she caught up her
parasol from the table and made a start for the door.

But of course she looked back.

"I was wondering," she recommenced, with a half wistful, half
speculative air, "whether I should ask to have a peep at the
place where it all happened."

The reporter chuckled behind the pencil-end he was chewing, but
the officer maintained his solemn air, for which act of self-
restraint he was undoubtedly grateful when in another minute she
gave a quick impulsive shudder not altogether assumed, and
vehemently added: "But I couldn't stand the sight; no, I
couldn't! I'm an awful coward when it comes to things like that.
Nothing in all the world would induce me to look at the woman or
her room. But I should like--" here both her dimples came into
play though she could not be said exactly to smile--"just one
little look upstairs, where he went poking about so long without
any fear it seems of being interrupted. Ever since I've read
about it I have seen, in my mind, a picture of his wicked figure
sneaking from room to room, tearing open drawers and flinging out
the contents of closets just to find a little money--a little,
little money! I shall not sleep to-night just for wondering how
those high up attic rooms really look."

Who could dream that back of this display of mingled childishness
and audacity there lay hidden purpose, intellect, and a keen
knowledge of human nature. Not the two men who listened to this
seemingly irresponsible chatter. To them she was a child to be
humoured and humour her they did. The dainty feet which had
already found their way to that gloomy staircase were allowed to
ascend, followed it is true by those of the officer who did not
dare to smile back at the reporter because of the brother's
watchful and none too conciliatory eye.

At the stair head she paused to look back.

"I don't see those horrible marks which the papers describe as
running all along the lower hall and up these stairs."

"No, Miss Strange; they have gradually been rubbed out, but you
will find some still showing on these upper floors."

"Oh! oh! where? You frighten me--frighten me horribly! But--but--
if you don't mind, I should like to see."

Why should not a man on a tedious job amuse himself? Piloting her
over to the small room in the rear, he pointed down at the
boards. She gave one look and then stepped gingerly in.

"Just look!" she cried; "a whole string of marks going straight
from door to window. They have no shape, have they,--just
blotches? I wonder why one of them is so much larger than the
rest?"

This was no new question. It was one which everybody who went
into the room was sure to ask, there was such a difference in the
size and appearance of the mark nearest the window. The reason--
well, minds were divided about that, and no one had a
satisfactory theory. The detective therefore kept discreetly
silent.

This did not seem to offend Miss Strange. On the contrary it gave
her an opportunity to babble away to her heart's content.

"One, two, three, four, five, six," she counted, with a shudder
at every count. "And one of them bigger than the others." She
might have added, "It is the trail of one foot, and strangely,
intermingled at that," but she did not, though we may be quite
sure that she noted the fact. "And where, just where did the old
wallet fall? Here? or here?"

She had moved as she spoke, so that in uttering the last "here,"
she stood directly before the window. The surprise she received
there nearly made her forget the part she was playing. From the
character of the light in the room, she had expected, on looking
out, to confront a near-by wall, but not a window in that wall.
Yet that was what she saw directly facing her from across the old-
fashioned alley separating this house from its neighbour; twelve
unshuttered and uncurtained panes through which she caught a
darkened view of a room almost as forlorn and devoid of furniture
as the one in which she then stood.

When quite sure of herself, she let a certain portion of her
surprise appear.

"Why, look!" she cried, "if you can't see right in next door!
What a lonesome-looking place! From its desolate appearance I
should think the house quite empty."

"And it is. That's the old Shaffer homestead. It's been empty for
a year."

"Oh, empty!" And she turned away, with the most inconsequent air
in the world, crying out as her name rang up the stair, "There's
Arthur calling. I suppose he thinks I've been here long enough.
I'm sure I'm very much obliged to you, officer. I really
shouldn't have slept a wink to-night, if I hadn't been given a
peep at these rooms, which I had imagined so different." And with
one additional glance over her shoulder, that seemed to penetrate
both windows and the desolate space beyond, she ran quickly out
and down in response to her brother's reiterated call.

"Drive quickly!--as quickly as the law allows, to Hiram Brown's
office in Duane Street."

Arrived at the address named, she went in alone to see Mr. Brown.
He was her father's lawyer and a family friend.

Hardly waiting for his affectionate greeting, she cried out
quickly. "Tell me how I can learn anything about the old Shaffer
house in Seventeenth Street. Now, don't look so surprised. I
have very good reasons for my request and--and--I'm in an awful
hurry."

"But--"

"I know, I know; there's been a dreadful tragedy next door to
it; but it's about the Shaffer house itself I want some
information. Has it an agent, a--"

"Of course it has an agent, and here is his name."

Mr. Brown presented her with a card on which he had hastily
written both name and address.

She thanked him, dropped him a mocking curtsey full of charm,
whispered "Don't tell father," and was gone.

Her manner to the man she next interviewed was very different. As
soon as she saw him she subsided into her usual society manner.
With just a touch of the conceit of the successful debutante, she
announced herself as Miss Strange of Seventy-second Street. Her
business with him was in regard to the possible renting of the
Shaffer house. She had an old lady friend who was desirous of
living downtown.

In passing through Seventeenth Street, she had noticed that the
old Shaffer house was standing empty and had been immediately
struck with the advantages it possessed for her elderly friend's
occupancy. Could it be that the house was for rent? There was no
sign on it to that effect, but--etc.

His answer left her nothing to hope for.

"It is going to be torn down," he said.

"Oh, what a pity!" she exclaimed. "Real colonial, isn't it! I
wish I could see the rooms inside before it is disturbed. Such
doors and such dear old-fashioned mantelpieces as it must have!
I just dote on the Colonial. It brings up such pictures of the
old days; weddings, you know, and parties;--all so different
from ours and so much more interesting."

Is it the chance shot that tells? Sometimes. Violet had no
especial intention in what she said save as a prelude to a
pending request, but nothing could have served her purpose better
than that one word, wedding. The agent laughed and giving her his
first indulgent look, remarked genially:

"Romance is not confined to those ancient times. If you were to
enter that house to-day you would come across evidences of a
wedding as romantic as any which ever took place in all the
seventy odd years of its existence. A man and a woman were
married there day before yesterday who did their first courting
under its roof forty years ago. He has been married twice and she
once in the interval; but the old love held firm and now at the
age of sixty and over they have come together to finish their
days in peace and happiness. Or so we will hope."

"Married! married in that house and on the day that--"

She caught herself up in time. He did not notice the break.

"Yes, in memory of those old days of courtship, I suppose. They
came here about five, got the keys, drove off, went through the
ceremony in that empty house, returned the keys to me in my own
apartment, took the steamer for Naples, and were on the sea
before midnight. Do you not call that quick work as well as
highly romantic?"

"Very." Miss Strange's cheek had paled. It was apt to when she
was greatly excited. "But I don't understand," she added, the
moment after. "How could they do this and nobody know about it? I
should have thought it would have got into the papers."

"They are quiet people. I don't think they told their best
friends. A simple announcement in the next day's journals
testified to the fact of their marriage, but that was all. I
would not have felt at liberty to mention the circumstances
myself, if the parties were not well on their way to Europe."

"Oh, how glad I am that you did tell me! Such a story of
constancy and the hold which old associations have upon sensitive
minds! But--"

"Why, Miss? What's the matter? You look very much disturbed."

"Don't you remember? Haven't you thought? Something else
happened that very day and almost at the same time on that
block. Something very dreadful--"

"Mrs. Doolittle's murder?"

"Yes. It was as near as next door, wasn't it? Oh, if this happy
couple had known--"

"But fortunately they didn't. Nor are they likely to, till they
reach the other side. You needn't fear that their honeymoon will
be spoiled that way."

"But they may have heard something or seen something before
leaving the street. Did you notice how the gentleman looked when
he returned you the keys?"

"I did, and there was no cloud on his satisfaction."

"Oh, how you relieve me!" One--two dimples made their appearance
in Miss Strange's fresh, young cheeks. "Well! I wish them joy. Do
you mind telling me their names? I cannot think of them as actual
persons without knowing their names."

"The gentleman was Constantin Amidon; the lady, Marian Shaffer.
You will have to think of them now as Mr. and Mrs. Amidon."

"And I will. Thank you, Mr. Hutton, thank you very much. Next to
the pleasure of getting the house for my friend, is that of
hearing this charming bit of news its connection.

She held out her hand and, as he took it, remarked:

"They must have had a clergyman and witnesses."

"Undoubtedly."

"I wish I had been one of the witnesses," she sighed
sentimentally.

"They were two old men."

"Oh, no! Don't tell me that."

"Fogies; nothing less."

"But the clergyman? He must have been young. Surely there was
some one there capable of appreciating the situation?"

"I can't say about that; I did not see the clergyman."

"Oh, well! it doesn't matter." Miss Strange's manner was as
nonchalant as it was charming. "We will think of him as being
very young."

And with a merry toss of her head she flitted away.

But she sobered very rapidly upon entering her limousine.

"Hello!"

"Ah, is that you?"

"Yes, I want a Marconi sent."

"A Marconi?"

"Yes, to the Cretic, which left dock the very night in which we
are so deeply interested."

"Good. Whom to? The Captain?"

"No, to a Mrs. Constantin Amidon. But first be sure there is such
a passenger."

"Mrs.! What idea have you there?"

"Excuse my not stating over the telephone. The message is to be
to this effect. Did she at any time immediately before or after
her marriage to Mr. Amidon get a glimpse of any one in the
adjoining house? No remarks, please. I use the telephone because
I am not ready to explain myself. If she did, let her send a
written description to you of that person as soon as she reaches
the Azores."

"You surprise me. May I not call or hope for a line from you
early to-morrow?"

"I shall be busy till you get your answer."

He hung up the receiver. He recognized the resolute tone.

But the time came when the pending explanation was fully given to
him. An answer had been returned from the steamer, favourable to
Violet's hopes. Mrs. Amidon had seen such a person and would send
a full description of the same at the first opportunity. It was
news to fill Violet's heart with pride; the filament of a clue
which had led to this great result had been so nearly invisible
and had felt so like nothing in her grasp.

To her employer she described it as follows:

"When I hear or read of a case which contains any baffling
features, I am apt to feel some hidden chord in my nature thrill
to one fact in it and not to any of the others. In this case the
single fact which appealed to my imagination was the dropping of
the stolen wallet in that upstairs room. Why did the guilty man
drop it? and why, having dropped it, did he not pick it up again?
but one answer seemed possible. He had heard or seen something at
the spot where it fell which not only alarmed him but sent him in
flight from the house."

"Very good; and did you settle to your own mind the nature of
that sound or that sight?"

"I did." Her manner was strangely businesslike. No show of
dimples now. "Satisfied that if any possibility remained of my
ever doing this, it would have to be on the exact place of this
occurrence or not at all, I embraced your suggestion and visited
the house."

"And that room no doubt."

"And that room. Women, somehow, seem to manage such things."

"So I've noticed, Miss Strange. And what was the result of your
visit? What did you discover there?"

"This: that one of the blood spots marking the criminal's steps
through the room was decidedly more pronounced than the rest;
and, what was even more important, that the window out of which I
was looking had its counterpart in the house on the opposite side
of the alley. In gazing through the one I was gazing through the
other; and not only that, but into the darkened area of the room
beyond. Instantly I saw how the latter fact might be made to
explain the former one. But before I say how, let me ask if it is
quite settled among you that the smears on the floor and stairs
mark the passage of the criminal's footsteps!"

"Certainly; and very bloody feet they must have been too. His
shoes--or rather his one shoe--for the proof is plain that only
the right one left its mark--must have become thoroughly
saturated to carry its traces so far."

"Do you think that any amount of saturation would have done this?
Or, if you are not ready to agree to that, that a shoe so covered
with blood could have failed to leave behind it some hint of its
shape, some imprint, however faint, of heel or toe? But nowhere
did it do this. We see a smear--and that is all."

"You are right, Miss Strange; you are always right. And what do
you gather from this?"

She looked to see how much he expected from her, and, meeting an
eye not quite as free from ironic suggestion as his words had
led her to expect, faltered a little as she proceeded to say:

"My opinion is a girl's opinion, but such as it is you have the
right to have it. From the indications mentioned I could draw but
this conclusion: that the blood which accompanied the criminal's
footsteps was not carried through the house by his shoes;--he
wore no shoes; he did not even wear stockings; probably he had
none. For reasons which appealed to his judgment, he went about
his wicked work barefoot; and it was the blood from his own veins
and not from those of his victim which made the trail we have
followed with so much interest. Do you forget those broken beads;--
how he kicked them about and stamped upon them in his fury? One
of them pierced the ball of his foot, and that so sharply that it
not only spurted blood but kept on bleeding with every step he
took. Otherwise, the trail would have been lost after his passage
up the stairs."

"Fine!" There was no irony in the bureau-chief's eye now. "You
are progressing, Miss Strange. Allow me, I pray, to kiss your
hand. It is a liberty I have never taken, but one which would
greatly relieve my present stress of feeling."

She lifted her hand toward him, but it was in gesture, not in
recognition of his homage.

"Thank you," said she, "but I claim no monopoly on deductions so
simple as these. I have not the least doubt that not only
yourself but every member of the force has made the same. But
there is a little matter which may have escaped the police, may
even have escaped you. To that I would now call your attention
since through it I have been enabled, after a little necessary
groping, to reach the open. You remember the one large blotch on
the upper floor where the man dropped the wallet? That blotch,
more or less commingled with a fainter one, possessed great
significance for me from the first moment I saw it. How came his
foot to bleed so much more profusely at that one spot than at any
other? There could be but one answer: because here a surprise met
him--a surprise so startling to him in his present state of mind,
that he gave a quick spring backward, with the result that his
wounded foot came down suddenly and forcibly instead of easily as
in his previous wary tread. And what was the surprise? I made it
my business to find out, and now I can tell you that it was the
sight of a woman's face staring upon him from the neighbouring
house which he had probably been told was empty. The shock
disturbed his judgment. He saw his crime discovered--his guilty
secret read, and fled in unreasoning panic. He might better have
held on to his wits. It was this display of fear which led me to
search after its cause, and consequently to discover that at this
especial hour more than one person had been in the Shaffer house;
that, in fact, a marriage had been celebrated there under
circumstances as romantic as any we read of in books, and that
this marriage, privately carried out, had been followed by an
immediate voyage of the happy couple on one of the White Star
steamers. With the rest you are conversant. I do not need to say
anything about what has followed the sending of that Marconi."

"But I am going to say something about your work in this matter,
Miss Strange. The big detectives about here will have to look
sharp if--"

"Don't, please! Not yet." A smile softened the asperity of this
interruption. "The man has yet to be caught and identified. Till
that is done I cannot enjoy any one's congratulations. And you
will see that all this may not be so easy. If no one happened to
meet the desperate wretch before he had an opportunity to retie
his shoe-laces, there will be little for you or even for the
police to go upon but his wounded foot, his undoubtedly carefully
prepared alibi, and later, a woman's confused description of a
face seen but for a moment only and that under a personal
excitement precluding minute attention. I should not be surprised
if the whole thing came to nothing."

But it did not. As soon as the description was received from Mrs.
Amidon (a description, by the way, which was unusually clear and
precise, owing to the peculiar and contradictory features of the
man), the police were able to recognize him among the many
suspects always under their eye. Arrested, he pleaded, just as
Miss Strange had foretold, an alibi of a seemingly unimpeachable
character; but neither it, nor the plausible explanation with
which he endeavoured to account for a freshly healed scar amid
the callouses of his right foot, could stand before Mrs. Amidon's
unequivocal testimony that he was the same man she had seen in
Mrs. Doolittle's upper room on the afternoon of her own happiness
and of that poor woman's murder.

The moment when, at his trial, the two faces again confronted
each other across a space no wider than that which had separated
them on the dread occasion in Seventeenth Street, is said to
have been one of the most dramatic in the annals of that ancient
court room.

END OF PROBLEM III


PROBLEM IV

THE GROTTO SPECTRE

Miss Strange was not often pensive--at least not at large
functions or when under the public eye. But she certainly forgot
herself at Mrs. Provost's musicale and that, too, without
apparent reason. Had the music been of a high order one might
have understood her abstraction; but it was of a decidedly
mediocre quality, and Violet's ear was much too fine and her
musical sense too cultivated for her to be beguiled by anything
less than the very best.

Nor had she the excuse of a dull companion. Her escort for the
evening was a man of unusual conversational powers; but she
seemed to be almost oblivious of his presence; and when, through
some passing courteous impulse, she did turn her ear his way, it
was with just that tinge of preoccupation which betrays the
divided mind.

Were her thoughts with some secret problem yet unsolved? It would
scarcely seem so from the gay remark with which she had left
home. She was speaking to her brother and her words were: "I am
going out to enjoy myself. I've not a care in the world. The
slate is quite clean." Yet she had never seemed more out of tune
with her surroundings nor shown a mood further removed from
trivial entertainment. What had happened to becloud her gaiety in
the short time which had since elapsed?

We can answer in a sentence.

She had seen, among a group of young men in a distant doorway,
one with a face so individual and of an expression so
extraordinary that all interest in the people about her had
stopped as a clock stops when the pendulum is held back. She
could see nothing else, think of nothing else. Not that it was so
very handsome--though no other had ever approached it in its
power over her imagination--but because of its expression of
haunting melancholy,--a melancholy so settled and so evidently
the result of long-continued sorrow that her interest had been
reached and her heartstrings shaken as never before in her whole
life.

She would never be the same Violet again.

Yet moved as she undoubtedly was, she was not conscious of the
least desire to know who the young man was, or even to be made
acquainted with his story. She simply wanted to dream her dream
undisturbed.

It was therefore with a sense of unwelcome shock that, in the
course of the reception following the programme, she perceived
this fine young man approaching herself, with his right hand
touching his left shoulder in the peculiar way which committed
her to an interview with or without a formal introduction.

Should she fly the ordeal? Be blind and deaf to whatever was
significant in his action, and go her way before he reached her;
thus keeping her dream intact? Impossible. His eye prevented
that. His glance had caught hers and she felt forced to await his
advance and give him her first spare moment.

It came soon, and when it came she greeted him with a smile. It
was the first she had ever bestowed in welcome of a confidence of
whose tenor she was entirely ignorant.

To her relief he showed his appreciation of the dazzling gift
though he made no effort to return it. Scorning all
preliminaries in his eagerness to discharge himself of a burden
which was fast becoming intolerable, he addressed her at once in
these words:

"You are very good, Miss Strange, to receive me in this
unconventional fashion. I am in that desperate state of mind
which precludes etiquette. Will you listen to my petition? I am
told--you know by whom--"(and he again touched his shoulder)
"that you have resources of intelligence which especially fit you
to meet the extraordinary difficulties of my position. May I beg
you to exercise them in my behalf? No man would be more grateful
if-- But I see that you do not recognize me. I am Roger Upjohn.
That I am admitted to this gathering is owing to the fact that
our hostess knew and loved my mother. In my anxiety to meet you
and proffer my plea, I was willing to brave the cold looks you
have probably noticed on the faces of the people about us. But I
have no right to subject you to criticism. I--"

"Remain." Violet's voice was troubled, her self-possession
disturbed; but there was a command in her tone which he was only
too glad to obey. "I know the name" (who did not!) "and possibly
my duty to myself should make me shun a confidence which may
burden me without relieving you. But you have been sent to me by
one whose behests I feel bound to respect and--"

Mistrusting her voice, she stopped. The suffering which made
itself apparent in the face before her appealed to her heart in a
way to rob her of her judgment. She did not wish this to be seen,
and so fell silent.

He was quick to take advantage of her obvious embarrassment.
"Should I have been sent to you if I had not first secured the
confidence of the sender? You know the scandal attached to my
name, some of it just, some of it very unjust. If you will grant
me an interview to-morrow, I will make an endeavour to refute
certain charges which I have hitherto let go unchallenged. Will
you do me this favour? Will you listen in your own house to what
I have to say?"

Instinct cried out against any such concession on her part,
bidding her beware of one who charmed without excellence and
convinced without reason. But compassion urged compliance and
compassion won the day. Though conscious of weakness,--she,
Violet Strange on whom strong men had come to rely in critical
hours calling for well-balanced judgment,--she did not let this
concern her, or allow herself to indulge in useless regrets even
after the first effect of his presence had passed and she had
succeeded in recalling the facts which had cast a cloud about
his name.

Roger Upjohn was a widower, and the scandal affecting him was
connected with his wife's death.

Though a degenerate in some respects, lacking the domineering
presence, the strong mental qualities, and inflexible character
of his progenitors, the wealthy Massachusetts Upjohns whose
great place on the coast had a history as old as the State
itself, he yet had gifts and attractions of his own which would
have made him a worthy representative of his race, if only he
had not fixed his affections on a woman so cold and heedless
that she would have inspired universal aversion instead of love,
had she not been dowered with the beauty and physical
fascination which sometimes accompany a hard heart and a scheming
brain. It was this beauty which had caught the lad; and one day,
just as the careful father had mapped out a course of study
calculated to make a man of his son, that son drove up to the
gates with this lady whom he introduced as his wife.

The shock, not of her beauty, though that was of the dazzling
quality which catches a man in the throat and makes a slave of
him while the first surprise lasts, but of the overthrow of all
his hopes and plans, nearly prostrated Homer Upjohn. He saw, as
most men did the moment judgment returned, that for all her satin
skin and rosy flush, the wonder of her hair and the smile which
pierced like arrows and warmed like wine, she was more likely to
bring a curse into the house than a blessing.

And so it proved. In less than a year the young husband had lost
all his ambitions and many of his best impulses. No longer
inclined to study, he spent his days in satisfying his wife's
whims and his evenings in carousing with the friends with which
she had provided him. This in Boston whither they had fled from
the old gentleman's displeasure; but after their little son came
the father insisted upon their returning home, which led to great
deceptions, and precipitated a tragedy no one ever understood.
They were natural gamblers--this couple--as all Boston society
knew; and as Homer Upjohn loathed cards, they found life slow in
the great house and grew correspondingly restless till they made
a discovery--or shall I say a rediscovery--of the once famous
grotto hidden in the rocks lining their portion of the coast.
Here they found a retreat where they could hide themselves (often
when they were thought to be abed and asleep) and play together
for money or for a supper in the city or for anything else that
foolish fancy suggested. This was while their little son remained
an infant; later, they were less easily satisfied. Both craved
company, excitement, and gambling on a large scale; so they took
to inviting friends to meet them in this grotto which, through
the agency of one old servant devoted to Roger to the point of
folly, had been fitted up and lighted in a manner not only
comfortable but luxurious. A small but sheltered haven hidden in
the curve of the rocks made an approach by boat feasible at high
tide; and at low the connection could be made by means of a path
over the promontory in which this grotto lay concealed. The
fortune which Roger had inherited from his mother made these
excesses possible, but many thousands, let alone the few he could
call his, soon disappeared under the witchery of an irresponsible
woman, and the half-dozen friends who knew his secret had to
stand by and see his ruin, without daring to utter a word to the
one who alone could stay it. For Homer Upjohn was not a man to be
approached lightly, nor was he one to listen to charges without
ocular proof to support them; and this called for courage, more
courage than was possessed by any one who knew them both.

He was a hard man was Homer Upjohn, but with a heart of gold for
those he loved. This, even his wary daughter-in-law was wise
enough to detect, and for a long while after the birth of her
child she besieged him with her coaxing ways and bewitching
graces. But he never changed his first opinion of her, and once
she became fully convinced of the folly of her efforts, she gave
up all attempt to please him and showed an open indifference.
This in time gradually extended till it embraced not only her
child but her husband as well. Yes, it had come to that. His love
no longer contented her. Her vanity had grown by what it daily
fed on, and now called for the admiration of the fast men who
sometimes came up from Boston to play with them in their unholy
retreat. To win this, she dressed like some demon queen or witch,
though it drove her husband into deeper play and threatened an
exposure which would mean disaster not only to herself but to the
whole family.

In all this, as any one could see, Roger had been her slave and
the willing victim of all her caprices. What was it, then, which
so completely changed him that a separation began to be talked of
and even its terms discussed? One rumour had it that the father
had discovered the secret of the grotto and exacted this as a
penalty from the son who had dishonoured him. Another, that Roger
himself was the one to take the initiative in this matter: That,
on returning unexpectedly from New York one evening and finding
her missing from the house, he had traced her to the grotto where
he came upon her playing a desperate game with the one man he had
the greatest reason to distrust.

But whatever the explanation of this sudden change in their
relations, there is but little doubt that a legal separation
between this ill-assorted couple was pending, when one bleak
autumn morning she was discovered dead in her bed under
circumstances peculiarly open to comment.

The physicians who made out the certificate ascribed her death to
heart-disease, symptoms of which had lately much alarmed the
family doctor; but that a personal struggle of some kind had
preceded the fatal attack was evident from the bruises which
blackened her wrists. Had there been the like upon her throat it
might have gone hard with the young husband who was known to be
contemplating her dismissal from the house. But the
discoloration of her wrists was all, and as bruised wrists do
not kill and there was besides no evidence forthcoming of the
two having spent one moment together for at least ten hours
preceding the tragedy but rather full and satisfactory testimony
to the contrary, the matter lapsed and all criminal proceedings
were avoided.

But not the scandal which always follows the unexplained. As time
passed and the peculiar look which betrays the haunted soul
gradually became visible in the young widower's eyes, doubts
arose and reports circulated which cast strange reflections upon
the tragic end of his mistaken marriage. Stories of the
disreputable use to which the old grotto had been put were
mingled with vague hints of conjugal violence never properly
investigated. The result was his general avoidance not only by
the social set dominated by his high-minded father, but by his
own less reputable coterie, which, however lax in its moral code,
had very little use for a coward.

Such was the gossip which had reached Violet's ears in connection
with this new client, prejudicing her altogether against him till
she caught that beam of deep and concentrated suffering in his
eye and recognized an innocence which ensured her sympathy and
led her to grant him the interview for which he so earnestly
entreated.

He came prompt to the hour, and when she saw him again with the
marks of a sleepless night upon him and all the signs of
suffering intensified in his unusual countenance, she felt her
heart sink within her in a way she failed to understand. A dread
of what she was about to hear robbed her of all semblance of self-
possession, and she stood like one in a dream as he uttered his
first greetings and then paused to gather up his own moral
strength before he began his story. When he did speak it was to
say:

"I find myself obliged to break a vow I have made to myself. You
cannot understand my need unless I show you my heart. My trouble
is not the one with which men have credited me. It has another
source and is infinitely harder to bear. Personal dishonour I
have deserved in a greater or less degree, but the trial which
has come to me now involves a person more dear to me than myself,
and is totally without alleviation unless you--" He paused,
choked, then recommenced abruptly: "My wife"--Violet held her
breath--"was supposed to have died from heart-disease or--or some
strange species of suicide. There were reasons for this
conclusion--reasons which I accepted without serious question
till some five weeks ago when I made a discovery which led me to
fear--"

The broken sentence hung suspended. Violet, notwithstanding his
hurried gesture, could not restrain herself from stealing a look
at his face. It was set in horror and, though partially turned
aside, made an appeal to her compassion to fill the void made by
his silence, without further suggestion from him.

She did this by saying tentatively and with as little show of
emotion as possible:

"You feared that the event called for vengeance and that
vengeance would mean increased suffering to yourself as well as
to another?"

"Yes; great suffering. But I may be under a most lamentable
mistake. I am not sure of my conclusions. If my doubts have no
real foundation--if they are simply the offspring of my own
diseased imagination, what an insult to one I revere! What a
horror of ingratitude and misunderstanding--"

"Relate the facts," came in startled tones from Violet. "They may
enlighten us."

He gave one quick shudder, buried his face for one moment in his
hands, then lifted it and spoke up quickly and with unexpected
firmness:

"I came here to do so and do so I will. But where begin? Miss
Strange, you cannot be ignorant of the circumstances, open and
avowed, which attended my wife's death. But there were other and
secret events in its connection which happily have been kept from
the world, but which I must now disclose to you at any cost to my
pride and so-called honour. This is the first one: On the morning
preceding the day of Mrs. Upjohn's death, an interview took place
between us at which my father was present. You do not know my
father, Miss Strange. A strong man and a stern one, with a hold
upon old traditions which nothing can shake. If he has a weakness
it is for my little boy Roger in whose promising traits he sees
the one hope which has survived the shipwreck of all for which
our name has stood. Knowing this, and realizing what the child's
presence in the house meant to his old age, I felt my heart turn
sick with apprehension, when in the midst of the discussion as to
the terms on which my wife would consent to a permanent
separation, the little fellow came dancing into the room, his
curls atoss and his whole face beaming with life and joy.

"She had not mentioned the child, but I knew her well enough to
be sure that at the first show of preference on his part for
either his grandfather or myself, she would raise a claim to him
which she would never relinquish. I dared not speak, but I met
his eager looks with my most forbidding frown and hoped by this
show of severity to hold him back. But his little heart was full
and, ignoring her outstretched arms, he bounded towards mine with
his most affectionate cry. She saw and uttered her ultimatum. The
child should go with her or she would not consent to a
separation. It was useless for us to talk; she had said her last
word. The blow struck me hard, or so I thought, till I looked at
my father. Never had I beheld such a change as that one moment
had made in him. He stood as before; he faced us with the same
silent reprobation; but his heart had run from him like water.

"It was a sight to call up all my resources. To allow her to
remain now, with my feelings towards her all changed and my
father's eyes fully opened to her stony nature, was impossible.
Nor could I appeal to law. An open scandal was my father's
greatest dread and divorce proceedings his horror. The child
would have to go unless I could find a way to influence her
through her own nature. I knew of but one--do not look at me,
Miss Strange. It was dishonouring to us both, and I'm horrified
now when I think of it. But to me at that time it was natural
enough as a last resort. There was but one debt which my wife
ever paid, but one promise she ever kept. It was that made at the
gaming-table. I offered, as soon as my father, realizing the
hopelessness of the situation, had gone tottering from the room,
to gamble with her for the child.

"And she accepted."

The shame and humiliation expressed in this final whisper; the
sudden darkness--for a storm was coming up--shook Violet to the
soul. With strained gaze fixed on the man before her, now little
more than a shadow in the prevailing gloom, she waited for him to
resume, and waited in vain. The minutes passed, the darkness
became intolerable, and instinctively her hand crept towards the
electric button beneath which she was sitting. But she failed to
press it. A tale so dark called for an atmosphere of its own
kind. She would cast no light upon it. Yet she shivered as the
silence continued, and started in uncontrollable dismay when at
length her strange visitor rose, and still, without speaking,
walked away from her to the other end of the room. Only so could
he go on with the shameful tale; and presently she heard his
voice once more in these words:

"Our house is large and its rooms many; but for such work as we
two contemplated there was but one spot where we could command
absolute seclusion. You may have heard of it, a famous natural
grotto hidden in our own portion of the coast and so fitted up as
to form a retreat for our miserable selves when escape from my
father's eye seemed desirable. It was not easy of access, and no
one, so far as we knew, had ever followed us there.

"But to ensure ourselves against any possible interruption, we
waited till the whole house was abed before we left it for the
grotto. We went by boat and oh! the dip of those oars! I hear
them yet. And the witchery of her face in the moonlight; and the
mockery of her low fitful laugh! As I caught the sinister note in
its silvery rise and fall, I knew what was before me if I failed
to retain my composure. And I strove to hold it and to meet her
calmness with stoicism and the taunt of her expression with a
mask of immobility. But the effort was hopeless, and when the
time came for dealing out the cards, my eyes were burning in
their sockets and my hands shivering like leaves in a rising
gale.

"We played one game--and my wife lost. We played another--and my
wife won. We played the third--and the fate I had foreseen from
the first became mine. The luck was with her, and I had lost my
boy!"

A gasp--a pause, during which the thunder spoke and the lightning
flashed,--then a hurried catching of his breath and the tale went
on.

"A burst of laughter, rising gaily above the boom of the sea,
announced her victory--her laugh and the taunting words: 'You
play badly, Roger. The child is mine. Never fear that I shall
fail to teach him to revere his father.' Had I a word to throw
back? No. When I realized anything but my dishonoured manhood, I
found myself in the grotto's mouth staring helplessly out upon
the sea. The boat which had floated us in at high tide lay
stranded but a few feet away, but I did not reach for it. Escape
was quicker over the rocks, and I made for the rocks.

"That it was a cowardly act to leave her there to find her way
back alone at midnight by the same rough road I was taking, did
not strike my mind for an instant. I was in flight from my own
past; in flight from myself and the haunting dread of madness.
When I awoke to reality again it was to find the small door, by
which we had left the house, standing slightly ajar. I was
troubled by this, for I was sure of having closed it. But the
impression was brief, and entering, I went stumbling up to my
room, leaving the way open behind me more from sheer inability to
exercise my will than from any thought of her.

"Miss Strange" (he had come out of the shadows and was standing
now directly before her), "I must ask you to trust implicitly in
what I tell you of my further experiences that fatal night. It
was not necessary for me to pass my little son's door in order to
reach the room I was making for; but anguish took me there and
held me glued to the panels for what seemed a long, long time.
When I finally crept away it was to go to the room I had chosen
in the top of the house, where I had my hour of hell and faced my
desolated future. Did I hear anything meantime in the halls
below? No. Did I even listen for the sound of her return? No. I
was callous to everything, dead to everything but my own misery.
I did not even heed the approach of morning, till suddenly, with
a shrillness no ear could ignore, there rose, tearing through the
silence of the house, that great scream from my wife's room which
announced the discovery of her body lying stark and cold in her
bed.

"They said I showed little feeling." He had moved off again and
spoke from somewhere in the shadows. "Do you wonder at this after
such a manifest stroke by a benevolent Providence? My wife being
dead, Roger was saved to us! It was the one song of my still
undisciplined soul, and I had to assume coldness lest they should
see the greatness of my joy. A wicked and guilty rejoicing you
will say, and you are right. But I had no memory then of the part
I had played in this fatality. I had forgotten my reckless flight
from the grotto, which left her with no aid but that of her own
triumphant spirit to help her over those treacherous rocks. The
necessity for keeping secret this part of our disgraceful story
led me to exert myself to keep it out of my own mind. It has only
come back to me in all its force since a new horror, a new
suspicion, has driven me to review carefully every incident of
that awful night.

"I was never a man of much logic, and when they came to me on
that morning of which I have just spoken and took me in where she
lay and pointed to her beautiful cold body stretched out in
seeming peace under the satin coverlet, and then to the pile of
dainty clothes lying neatly folded on a chair with just one fairy
slipper on top, I shuddered at her fate but asked no questions,
not even when one of the women of the house mentioned the
circumstance of the single slipper and said that a search should
be made for its mate. Nor was I as much impressed as one would
naturally expect by the whisper dropped in my ear that something
was the matter with her wrists. It is true that I lifted the lace
they had carefully spread over them and examined the
discoloration which extended like a ring about each pearly arm;
but having no memories of any violence offered her (I had not so
much as laid hand upon her in the grotto), these marks failed to
rouse my interest. But--and now I must leap a year in my story--
there came a time when both of these facts recurred to my mind
with startling distinctness and clamoured for explanation.

"I had risen above the shock which such a death following such
events would naturally occasion even in one of my blunted
sensibilities, and was striving to live a new life under the
encouragement of my now fully reconciled father, when accident
forced me to re-enter the grotto where I had never stepped foot
since that night. A favourite dog in chase of some innocent prey
had escaped the leash and run into its dim recesses and would not
come out at my call. As I needed him immediately for the hunt, I
followed him over the promontory and, swallowing my repugnance,
slid into the grotto to get him. Better a plunge to my death from
the height of the rocks towering above it. For there in a remote
corner, lighted up by a reflection from the sea, I beheld my
setter crouched above an object which in another moment I
recognized as my dead wife's missing slipper. Here! Not in the
waters of the sea or in the interstices of the rocks outside, but
here! Proof that she had never walked back to the house where she
was found lying quietly in her bed; proof positive; for I knew
the path too well and the more than usual
tenderness of her feet.

"How then, did she get there; and by whose agency? Was she living
when she went, or was she already dead? A year had passed since
that delicate shoe had borne her from the boat into these dim
recesses; but it might have been only a day, so vividly did I
live over in this moment of awful enlightenment all the events of
the hour in which we sat there playing for the possession of our
child. Again I saw her gleaming eyes, her rosy, working mouth,
her slim, white hand, loaded with diamonds, clutching the cards.
Again I heard the lap of the sea on the pebbles outside and smelt
the odour of the wine she had poured out for us both. The bottle
which had held it; the glass from which she had drunk lay now in
pieces on the rocky floor. The whole scene was mine again and as
I followed the event to its despairing close, I seemed to see my
own wild figure springing away from her to the grotto's mouth and
so over the rocks. But here fancy faltered, caught by a quick
recollection to which I had never given a thought till now. As I
made my way along those rocks, a sound had struck my ear from
where some stunted bushes made a shadow in the moonlight. The
wind might have caused it or some small night creature hustling
away at my approach; and to some such cause I must at the time
have attributed it. But now, with brain fired by suspicion, it
seemed more like the quick intake of a human breath. Some one had
been lying there in wait, listening at the one loophole in the
rocks where it was possible to hear what was said and done in the
heart of the grotto. But who? who? and for what purpose this
listening; and to what end did it lead?

"Though I no longer loved even the memory of my wife, I felt my
hair lift, as I asked myself these questions. There seemed to be
but one logical answer to the last, and it was this: A struggle
followed by death. The shoe fallen from her foot, the clothes
found folded in her room (my wife was never orderly), and the
dimly blackened wrists which were snow-white when she dealt the
cards--all seemed to point to such a conclusion. She may have
died from heart-failure, but a struggle had preceded her death,
during which some man's strong fingers had been locked about her
wrists. And again the question rose, Whose?

"If any place was ever hated by mortal man that grotto was hated
by me. I loathed its walls, its floor, its every visible and
invisible corner. To linger there--to look--almost tore my soul
from my body; yet I did linger and did look and this is what I
found by way of reward.

"Behind a projecting ledge of stone from which a tattered rug
still hung, I came upon two nails driven a few feet apart into a
fissure of the rock. I had driven those nails myself long before
for a certain gymnastic attachment much in vogue at the time, and
on looking closer, I discovered hanging from them the rope-ends
by which I was wont to pull myself about. So far there was
nothing to rouse any but innocent reminiscences. But when I heard
the dog's low moan and saw him leap at the curled-up ends, and
nose them with an eager look my way, I remembered the dark marks
circling the wrists about which I had so often clasped my
mother's bracelets, and the world went black before me.

"When consciousness returned--when I could once more move and see
and think, I noted another fact. Cards were strewn about the
floor, face up and in a fixed order as if laid in a mocking mood
to be looked upon by reluctant eyes; and near the ominous half-
circle they made, a cushion from the lounge, stained horribly
with what I then thought to be blood, but which I afterwards
found to be wine. Vengeance spoke in those ropes and in the
carefully spread-out cards, and murder in the smothering pillow.
The vengeance of one who had watched her corroding influence eat
the life out of my honour and whose love for our little Roger was
such that any deed which ensured his continued presence in the
home appeared not only warrantable but obligatory. Alas! I knew
of but one person in the whole world who could cherish feeling to
this extent or possess sufficient will power to carry her
lifeless body back to the house and lay it in her bed and give no
sign of the abominable act from that day on to this.

"Miss Strange, there are men who have a peculiar conception of
duty. My father--"

"You need not go on." How gently, how tenderly our Violet spoke.
"I understand your trouble--"

Did she? She paused to ask herself if this were so, and he, deaf
perhaps to her words, caught up his broken sentence and went on:

"My father was in the hall the day I came staggering in from my
visit to the grotto. No words passed, but our eyes met and from
that hour I have seen death in his countenance and he has seen it
in mine, like two opponents, each struck to the heart, who stand
facing each other with simulated smiles till they fall. My father
will drop first. He is old--very old since that day five weeks
ago; and to see him die and not be sure--to see the grave close
over a possible innocence, and I left here in ignorance of the
blissful fact till my own eyes close forever, is more than I can
hold up under; more than any son could. Cannot you help me then
to a positive knowledge? Think! think! A woman's mind is
strangely penetrating, and yours, I am told, has an intuitive
faculty more to be relied upon than the reasoning of men. It must
suggest some means of confirming my doubts or of definitely
ending them."

Then Violet stirred and looked about at him and finally found
voice.

"Tell me something about your father's ways. What are his habits?
Does he sleep well or is he wakeful at night?"

"He has poor nights. I do not know how poor because I am not
often with him. His valet, who has always been in our family,
shares his room and acts as his constant nurse. He can watch over
him better than I can; he has no distracting trouble on his
mind."

"And little Roger? Does your father see much of little Roger?
Does he fondle him and seem happy in his presence?"

"Yes; yes. I have often wondered at it, but he does. They are
great chums. It is a pleasure to see them together."

"And the child clings to him--shows no fear--sits on his lap or
on the bed and plays as children do play with his beard or with
his watch-chain?"

"Yes. Only once have I seen my little chap shrink, and that was
when my father gave him a look of unusual intensity,--looking for
his mother in him perhaps."

"Mr. Upjohn, forgive me the question; it seems necessary. Does
your father--or rather did your father before he fell ill--ever
walk in the direction of the grotto or haunt in any way the rocks
which surround it?"

"I cannot say. The sea is there; he naturally loves the sea. But
I have never seen him standing on the promontory."

"Which way do his windows look?"

"Towards the sea."

"Therefore towards the promontory?"

"Yes."

"Can he see it from his bed?"

"No. Perhaps that is the cause of a peculiar habit he has."

"What habit?"

"Every night before he retires (he is not yet confined to his
bed) he stands for a few minutes in his front window looking out.
He says it's his good-night to the ocean. When he no longer
does this, we shall know that his end is very near."

The face of Violet began to clear. Rising, she turned on the
electric light, and then, reseating herself, remarked with an
aspect of quiet cheer:

"I have two ideas; but they necessitate my presence at your
place. You will not mind a visit? My brother will accompany me."

Roger Upjohn did not need to speak, hardly to make a gesture; his
expression was so eloquent.

She thanked him as if he had answered in words, adding with an
air of gentle reserve: "Providence assists us in this matter. I
am invited to Beverly next week to attend a wedding. I was
intending to stay two days, but I will make it three and spend
the extra one with you."

"What are your requirements, Miss Strange? I presume you have
some."

Violet turned from the imposing portrait of Mr. Upjohn which she
had been gravely contemplating, and met the troubled eye of her
young host with an enigmatical flash of her own. But she made no
answer in words. Instead, she lifted her right hand and ran one
slender finger thoughtfully up the casing of the door near which
they stood till it struck a nick in the old mahogany almost on a
level with her head.

"Is your son Roger old enough to reach so far?" she asked with
another short look at him as she let her finger rest where it had
struck the roughened wood. "I thought
he was a little fellow."

"He is. That cut was made by--by my wife; a sample of her
capricious willfulness. She wished to leave a record of herself
in the substance of our house as well as in our lives. That nick
marks her height. She laughed when she made it. 'Till the walls
cave in or burn,' is what she said. And I thought her laugh and
smile captivating."

Cutting short his own laugh which was much too sardonic for a
lady's ears, he made a move as if to lead the way into another
portion of the room. But Violet failed to notice this, and
lingering in quiet contemplation of this suggestive little nick,--
the only blemish in a room of ancient colonial magnificence,--
she thoughtfully remarked:

"Then she was a small woman?" adding with seeming irrelevance--
"like myself."

Roger winced. Something in the suggestion hurt him, and in the
nod he gave there was an air of coldness which under ordinary
circumstances would have deterred her from pursuing this subject
further. But the circumstances were not ordinary, and she allowed
herself to say:

"Was she so very different from me,--in figure, I mean?"

"No. Why do you ask? Shall we not join your brother on the
terrace?"

"Not till I have answered the question you put me a moment ago.
You wished to know my requirements. One of the most important you
have already fulfilled. You have given your servants a half-
holiday and by so doing ensured to us full liberty of action.
What else I need in the attempt I propose to make, you will find
listed in this memorandum." And taking a slip of paper from her
bag, she offered it to him with a hand, the trembling of which he
would have noted had he been freer in mind.

As he read, she watched him, her fingers nervously clutching her
throat.

"Can you supply what I ask?" she faltered, as he failed to raise
his eyes or make any move or even to utter the groan she saw
surging up to his lips. "Will you?" she impetuously urged, as his
fingers closed spasmodically on the paper, in evidence that he
understood at last the trend of her daring purpose.

The answer came slowly, but it came. "I will. But what--"

Her hand rose in a pleading gesture.

"Do not ask me, but take Arthur and myself into the garden and
show us the flowers. Afterwards, I should like a glimpse of the
sea."

He bowed and they joined Arthur who had already begun to stroll
through the grounds.

Violet was seldom at a loss for talk even at the most critical
moments. But she was strangely tongue-tied on this occasion, as
was Roger himself. Save for a few observations casually thrown
out by Arthur, the three passed in a disquieting silence through
pergola after pergola, and around beds gorgeous with every
variety of fall flowers, till they turned a sharp corner and came
in full view of the sea.

"Ah!" fell in an admiring murmur from Violet's lips as her eyes
swept the horizon. Then as they settled on a mass of rock jutting
out from the shore in a great curve, she leaned towards her host
and softly whispered:

"The promontory?"

He nodded, and Violet ventured no farther, but stood for a little
while gazing at the tumbled rocks. Then, with a quick look back
at the house, she asked him to point out his father's window.

He did so, and as she noted how openly it faced the sea, her
expression relaxed and her manner lost some of its constraint. As
they turned to re-enter the house, she noticed an old man picking
flowers from a vine clambering over one end of the piazza.

"Who is that?" she asked.

"Our oldest servant, and my father's own man," was Roger's reply.
"He is picking my father's favourite flowers, a few late
honeysuckles."

"How fortunate! Speak to him, Mr. Upjohn. Ask him how your father
is this evening."

"Accompany me and I will; and do not be afraid to enter into
conversation with him. He is the mildest of creatures and devoted
to his patient. He likes nothing better than to talk about him."

Violet, with a meaning look at her brother, ran up the steps at
Roger's side. As she did so, the old man turned and Violet was
astonished at the wistfulness with which he viewed her.

"What a dear old creature!" she murmured. "See how he stares this
way. You would think he knew me."

"He is glad to see a woman about the place. He has felt our
isolation--Good evening, Abram. Let this young lady have a spray
of your sweetest honeysuckle. And, Abram, before you go, how is
Father to-night? Still sitting up?"

"Yes, sir. He is very regular in his ways. Nine is his hour; not
a minute before and not a minute later. I don't have to look at
the clock when he says: 'There, Abram, I've sat up long enough.'"

"When my father retires before his time or goes to bed without a
final look at the sea, he will be a very sick man, Abram."

"That he will, Mr. Roger; that he will. But he's very feeble to-
night, very feeble. I noticed that he gave the boy fewer kisses
than usual. Perhaps he was put out because the child was brought
in a half-hour earlier than the stated time. He don't like
changes; you know that, Mr. Roger; he don't like changes. I
hardly dared to tell him that the servants were all going out in
a bunch to-night."

"I'm sorry," muttered Roger. "But he'll forget it by to-morrow. I
couldn't bear to keep a single one from the concert. They'll be
back in good season and meantime we have you. Abram is worth half
a dozen of them, Miss Strange. We shall miss nothing."

"Thank you, Mr. Roger, thank you," faltered the old man. "I try
to do my duty." And with another wistful glance at Violet, who
looked very sweet and youthful in the half-light, he pottered
away.

The silence which followed his departure was as painful to her as
to Roger Upjohn. When she broke it it was with this decisive
remark:

"That man must not speak of me to your father. He must not even
mention that you have a guest to-night. Run after him and tell
him so. It is necessary that your father's mind should not be
taken up with present happenings. Run."

Roger made haste to obey her. When he came back she was on the
point of joining her brother but stopped to utter a final
injunction:

"I shall leave the library, or wherever we may be sitting, just
as the clock strikes half-past eight. Arthur will do the same, as
by that time he will feel like smoking on the terrace. Do not
follow either him or myself, but take your stand here on the
piazza where you can get a full view of the right-hand wing
without attracting any attention to yourself. When you hear the
big clock in the hall strike nine, look up quickly at your
father's window. What you see may determine--oh, Arthur! still
admiring the prospect? I do not wonder. But I find it chilly.
Let us go in."

Roger Upjohn, sitting by himself in the library, was watching
the hands of the mantel clock slowly approaching the hour of
nine.

Never had silence seemed more oppressive nor his sense of
loneliness greater. Yet the boom of the ocean was distinct to the
ear, and human presence no farther away than the terrace where
Arthur Strange could be seen smoking out his cigar in solitude.
The silence and the loneliness were in Roger's own soul; and, in
face of the expected revelation which would make or unmake his
future, the desolation they wrought was measureless.

To cut his suspense short, he rose at length and hurried out to
the spot designated by Miss Strange as the best point from which
to keep watch upon his father's window. It was at the end of the
piazza where the honeysuckle hung, and the odour of the blossoms,
so pleasing to his father, well-nigh overpowered him not only by
its sweetness but by the many memories it called up. Visions of
that father as he looked at all stages of their relationship
passed in a bewildering maze before him. He saw him as he
appeared to his childish eyes in those early days of confidence
when the loss of the mother cast them in mutual dependence upon
each other. Then a sterner picture of the relentless parent who
sees but one straight course to success in this world and the
next. Then the teacher and the matured adviser; and then--oh,
bitter change! the man whose hopes he had crossed--whose life he
had undone, and all for her who now came stealing upon the scene
with her slim, white, jewelled hand forever lifted up between
them. And she! Had he ever seen her more clearly? Once more the
dainty figure stepped from fairy-land, beauteous with every
grace that can allure and finally destroy a man. And as he saw,
he trembled and wished that these moments of awful waiting might
pass and the test be over which would lay bare his father's heart
and justify his fears or dispel them forever.

But the crisis, if crisis it was, was one of his own making and
not to be hastened or evaded. With one quick glance at his
father's window, he turned in his impatience towards the sea
whose restless and continuous moaning had at length struck his
ear. What was in its call to-night that he should thus sway
towards it as though drawn by some dread magnetic force? He had
been born to the dashing of its waves and knew its every mood and
all the passion of its song from frolicsome ripple to melancholy
dirge. But there was something odd and inexplicable in its effect
upon his spirit as he faced it at this hour. Grim and implacable--
a sound rather than a sight--it seemed to hold within its
invisible distances the image of his future fate. What this image
was and why he should seek for it in this impenetrable void, he
did not know. He felt himself held and was struggling with this
influence as with an unknown enemy when there rang out, from the
hall within, the preparatory chimes for which his ear was
waiting, and then the nine slow strokes which signalized the
moment when he was to look for his father's presence at the
window.

Had he wished, he could not have forborne that look. Had his eyes
been closing in death, or so he felt, the trembling lids would
have burst apart at this call and the revelations it promised.

And what did he see? What did that window hold for him?

Nothing that he might not have seen there any night at this hour.
His father's figure drawn up behind the panes in wistful
contemplation of the night. No visible change in his attitude,
nothing forced or unusual in his manner. Even the hand, lifted to
pull down the shade, moves with its familiar hesitation. In a
moment more that shade will be down and-- But no! the lifted hand
falls back; the easy attitude becomes strained, fixed. He is
staring now--not merely gazing out upon the wastes of sky and
sea; and Roger, following the direction of his glance, stares
also in breathless emotion at what those distances, but now so
impenetrable, are giving to the eye.

A spectre floating in the air above the promontory! The spectre
of a woman--of his wife, clad, as she had been clad that fatal
night! Outlined in supernatural light, it faces them with lifted
arms showing the ends of rope dangling from either wrist. A sight
awful to any eye, but to the man of guilty heart--

Ah! it comes--the cry for which the agonized son had been
listening! An old man's shriek, hoarse with the remorse of
sleepless nights and days of unimaginable regret and foreboding!
It cuts the night. It cuts its way into his heart. He feels his
senses failing him, yet he must glance once more at the window
and see with his last conscious look-- But what is this! a change
has taken place in the picture and he beholds, not the distorted
form of his father sinking back in shame and terror before this
visible image of his secret sin, but that of another weak, old
man falling to the floor behind his back! Abram! the attentive,
seemingly harmless, guardian of the household! Abram! who had
never spoken a word or given a look in any way suggestive of his
having played any other part in the hideous drama of their lives
than that of the humble and sympathetic servant!

The shock was too great, the relief too absolute for credence.
He, the listener at the grotto? He, the avenger of the family's
honour? He, the insurer of little Roger's continuance with the
family at a cost the one who loved him best would rather have
died himself than pay? Yes! there is no misdoubting this old
servitor's attitude of abject appeal, or the meaning of Homer
Upjohn's joyfully uplifted countenance and outspreading arms. The
servant begs for mercy from man, and the master is giving thanks
to Heaven. Why giving thanks? Has he been the prey of cankering
doubts also? Has the father dreaded to discover that in the son
which the son has dreaded to discover in the father?

It might easily be; and as Roger recognizes this truth and the
full tragedy of their mutual lives, he drops to his knees amid
the honeysuckles.

"Violet, you are a wonder. But how did you dare?"

This from Arthur as the two rode to the train in the early
morning.

The answer came a bit waveringly.

"I do not know. I am astonished yet, at my own daring. Look at my
hands. They have not ceased trembling since the moment you threw
the light upon me on the rocks. The figure of old Mr. Upjohn in
the window looked so august."

Arthur, with a short glance at the little hands she held out,
shrugged his shoulders imperceptibly. It struck him that the
tremulousness she complained of was due more to some parting word
from their young host, than from prolonged awe at her own daring.
But he made no remark to this effect, only observed:

"Abram has confessed his guilt, I hear."

"Yes, and will die of it. The master will bury the man, and not
the man the master."

"And Roger? Not the little fellow, but the father?"

"We will not talk of him," said she, her eyes seeking the sea
where the sun in its rising was battling with a troop of
lowering clouds and slowly gaining the victory.

END OF PROBLEM IV


PROBLEM V

THE DREAMING LADY

"And this is all you mean to tell me?"

"I think you will find it quite enough, Miss Strange."

"Just the address--"

"And this advice: that your call be speedy. Distracted nerves
cannot wait."

Violet, across whose wonted piquancy there lay an indefinable
shadow, eyed her employer with a doubtful air before turning away
toward the door. She had asked him for a case to investigate
(something she had never done before), and she had even gone so
far as to particularize the sort of case she desired: "It must be
an interesting one," she had stipulated, "but different, quite
different from the last one. It must not involve death or any
kind of horror. If you have a case of subtlety without crime, one
to engage my powers without depressing my spirits, I beg you to
let me have it. I--I have not felt quite like myself since I came
from Massachusetts." Whereupon, without further comment, but with
a smile she did not understand, he had handed her a small slip of
paper on which he had scribbled an address. She should have felt
satisfied, but for some reason she did not. She regarded him as
capable of plunging her into an affair quite the reverse of what
she felt herself in a condition to undertake.

"I should like to know a little more," she pursued, making a move
to unfold the slip he had given her.

But he stopped her with a gesture.

"Read it in your limousine," said he. "If you are disappointed
then, let me know. But I think you will find yourself quite ready
for your task."

"And my father?"

"Would approve if he could be got to approve the business at all.
You do not even need to take your brother with you."

"Oh, then, it's with women only I have to deal?"

"Read the address after you are headed up Fifth Avenue."

But when, with her doubts not yet entirely removed, she opened
the small slip he had given her, the number inside suggested
nothing but the fact that her destination lay somewhere near
Eightieth Street. It was therefore with the keenest surprise she
beheld her motor stop before the conspicuous house of the great
financier whose late death had so affected the money-market. She
had not had any acquaintance with this man herself, but she knew
his house. Everyone knew that. It was one of the most princely in
the whole city. C. Dudley Brooks had known how to spend his
millions. Indeed, he had known how to do this so well that it was
of him her father, also a financier of some note, had once said
he was the only successful American he envied.

She was expected; that she saw the instant the door was opened.
This made her entrance easy--an entrance further brightened by
the delightful glimpse of a child's cherubic face looking at her
from a distant doorway. It was an instantaneous vision, gone as
soon as seen; but its effect was to rob the pillared spaces of
the wonderful hallway of some of their chill, and to modify in
some slight degree the formality of a service which demanded
three men to usher her into a small reception-room not twenty
feet from the door of entrance.

Left in this secluded spot, she had time to ask herself what
member of the household she would be called upon to meet, and was
surprised to find that she did not even know of whom the
household consisted. She was sure of the fact that Mr. Brooks had
been a widower for many years before his death, but beyond that
she knew nothing of his domestic life. His son--but was there a
son? She had never heard any mention made of a younger Mr.
Brooks, yet there was certainly some one of his connection who
enjoyed the rights of an heir. Him she must be prepared to meet
with a due composure, whatever astonishment he might show at the
sight of a slip of a girl instead of the experienced detective he
had every right to expect.

But when the door opened to admit the person she was awaiting,
the surprise was hers. It was a woman who stood before her, a
woman and an oddity. Yet, in just what her oddity lay, Violet
found it difficult to decide. Was it in the smoothness of her
white locks drawn carefully down over her ears, or in the
contrast afforded by her eager eyes and her weak and tremulous
mouth? She was dressed in the heaviest of mourning and very
expensively, but there was that in her bearing and expression
which made it impossible to believe that she took any interest in
her garments or even knew in which of her dresses she had been
attired.

"I am the person you have come here to see," she said. "Your name
is not unfamiliar to me, but you may not know mine. It is
Quintard; Mrs. Quintard. I am in difficulty. I need assistance--
secret assistance. I did not know where to go for it except to a
detective agency; so I telephoned to the first one I saw
advertised; and--and I was told to expect Miss Strange. But I
didn't think it would be you though I suppose it's all right. You
have come here for this purpose, haven't you, though it does seem
a little queer?"

"Certainly, Mrs. Quintard; and if you will tell me--"

"My dear, it's just this--yes, I will sit down. Last week my
brother died. You have heard of him no doubt, C. Dudley Brooks?"

"Oh, yes; my father knew him--we all knew him by reputation. Do
not hurry, Mrs. Quintard. I have sent my car away. You can take
all the time you wish."

"No, no, I cannot. I'm in desperate haste. He--but let me go on
with my story. My brother was a widower, with no children to
inherit. That everybody knows. But his wife left behind her a son
by a former husband, and this son of hers my brother had in a
measure adopted, and even made his sole heir in a will he drew up
during the lifetime of his wife. But when he found, as he very
soon did, that this young man was not developing in a way to meet
such great responsibilities, he made a new will--though unhappily
without the knowledge of the family, or even of his most intimate
friends--in which he gave the bulk of his great estate to his
nephew Clement, who has bettered the promise of his youth and who
besides has children of great beauty whom my brother had learned
to love. And this will--this hoarded scrap of paper which means
so much to us all, is lost! lost! and I--" here her voice which
had risen almost to a scream, sank to a horrified whisper, "am
the one who lost it."

"But there's a copy of it somewhere--there is always a copy--"

"Oh, but you haven't heard all. My nephew is an invalid; has been
an invalid for years--that's why so little is known about him.
He's dying of consumption. The doctors hold out no hope for him,
and now, with the fear preying upon him of leaving his wife and
children penniless, he is wearing away so fast that any hour may
see his end. And I have to meet his eyes--such pitiful eyes--and
the look in them is killing me. Yet, I was not to blame. I could
not help--Oh, Miss Strange," she suddenly broke in with the
inconsequence of extreme feeling, "the will is in the house! I
never carried it off the floor where I sleep. Find it; find it, I
pray, or--"

The moment had come for Violet's soft touch, for Violet's
encouraging word.

"I will try," she answered her.

Mrs. Quintard grew calmer.

"But, first," the young girl continued, "I must know more about
the conditions. Where is this nephew of yours--the man who is
ill?"

"In this house, where he has been for the last eight months."

"Was the child his of whom I caught a glimpse in the hall as I
came in?"

"Yes, and--"

"I will fight for that child!" Violet cried out impulsively. "I
am sure his father's cause is good. Where is the other claimant--
the one you designate as Carlos?"

"Oh, there's where the trouble is! Carlos is on the Mauretania,
and she is due here in a couple of days. He comes from the East
where he has been touring with his wife. Miss Strange, the lost
will must be found before then, or the other will be opened and
read and Carlos made master of this house, which would mean our
quick departure and Clement's certain death."

"Move a sick man?--a relative as low as you say he is? Oh no,
Mrs. Quintard; no one would do that, were the house a cabin and
its owners paupers."

"You do not know Carlos; you do not know his wife. We should not
be given a week in which to pack. They have no children and they
envy Clement who has. Our only hope lies in discovering the paper
which gives us the right to remain here in face of all
opposition. That or penury. Now you know my trouble."

"And it is trouble; one from which I shall make every effort to
relieve you. But first let me ask if you are not worrying
unnecessarily about this missing document? If it was drawn up by
Mr. Brooks's lawyer--"

"But it was not," that lady impetuously interrupted. "His lawyer
is Carlos's near relative, and has never been told of the change
in my brother's intentions. Clement (I am speaking now of my
brother and not of my nephew) was a great money-getter, but when
it came to standing up for his rights in domestic matters, he was
more timid than a child. He was subject to his wife while she
lived, and when she was gone, to her relatives, who are all of a
dominating character. When he finally made up his mind to do us
justice and eliminate Carlos, he went out of town--I wish I could
remember where--and had this will drawn up by a stranger, whose
name I cannot recall."

Her shaking tones, her nervous manner betrayed a weakness
equalling, if not surpassing, that of the brother who dared in
secret what he had not strength to acknowledge openly, and it was
with some hesitation Violet prepared to ask those definite
questions which would elucidate the cause and manner of a loss
seemingly so important. She dreaded to hear some commonplace tale
of inexcusable carelessness. Something subtler than this--the
presence of some unsuspected agency opposed to young Clement's
interest; some partisan of Carlos; some secret undermining force
in a house full of servants and dependants, seemed necessary for
the development of so ordinary a situation into a drama
justifying the exercise of her special powers.

"I think I understand now your exact position in the house, as
well as the value of the paper which you say you have lost. The
next thing for me to hear is how you came to have charge of this
paper, and under what circumstances you were led to mislay it. Do
you not feel quite ready to tell me?"

"Is--is that necessary?" Mrs. Quintard faltered.

"Very," replied Violet, watching her curiously.

"I didn't expect--that is, I hoped you would be able to point
out, by some power we cannot of course explain, just the spot
where the paper lies, without having to tell all that. Some
people can, you know."

"Ah, I understand. You regarded me as unfit for practical work,
and so credited me with occult powers. But that is where you made
a mistake, Mrs. Quintard; I'm nothing if not practical. And let
me add, that I'm as secret as the grave concerning what my
clients tell me. If I am to be of any help to you, I must be made
acquainted with every fact involved in the loss of this valuable
paper.  Relate the whole circumstance or dismiss me from the
case. You can have done nothing more foolish or wrong than many--"

"Oh, don't say things like that!" broke in the poor woman in a
tone of great indignation. "I have done nothing anyone could call
either foolish or wicked. I am simply very unfortunate, and being
sensitive--But this isn't telling the story. I'll try to make it
all clear; but if I do not, and show any confusion, stop me and
help me out with questions. I--I--oh, where shall I begin?"

"With your first knowledge of this second will."

"Thank you, thank you; now I can go on. One night, shortly after
my brother had been given up by the physicians, I was called to
his bedside for a confidential talk. As he had received that day
a very large amount of money from the bank, I thought he was
going to hand it over to me for Clement, but it was for something
much more serious than this he had summoned me. When he was quite
sure that we were alone and nobody anywhere within hearing, he
told me that he had changed his mind as to the disposal of his
property and that it was to Clement and his children, and not to
Carlos, he was going to leave this house and the bulk of his
money. That he had had a new will drawn up which he showed me--"

"Showed you?"

"Yes; he made me bring it to him from the safe where he kept it;
and, feeble as he was, he was so interested in pointing out
certain portions of it that he lifted himself in bed and was so
strong and animated that I thought he was getting better. But it
was a false strength due to the excitement of the moment, as I
saw next day when he suddenly died."

"You were saying that you brought the will to him from his safe.
Where was the safe?"

"In the wall over his head. He gave me the key to open it. This
key he took from under his pillow. I had no trouble in fitting it
or in turning the lock."

"And what happened after you looked at the will?"

"I put it back. He told me to. But the key I kept. He said I was
not to part with it again till the time came for me to produce
the will."

"And when was that to be?"

"Immediately after the funeral, if it so happened that Carlos had
arrived in time to attend it. But if for any reason he failed to
be here, I was to let it lie till within three days of his
return, when I was to take it out in the presence of a Mr.
Delahunt who was to have full charge of it from that time. Oh, I
remember all that well enough! and I meant most earnestly to
carry out his wishes, but--"

"Go on, Mrs. Quintard, pray go on. What happened? Why couldn't
you do what he asked?"

"Because the will was gone when I went to take it out. There was
nothing to show Mr. Delahunt but the empty shelf."

"Oh, a theft! just a common theft! Someone overheard the talk
you had with your brother. But how about the key? You had that?"

"Yes, I had that."

"Then it was taken from you and returned? You must have been 
careless as to where you kept it--"

"No, I wore it on a chain about my neck. Though I had no reason
to mistrust any one in the house, I felt that I could not guard
this key too carefully. I even kept it on at night. In fact it
never left me. It was still on my person when I went into the
room with Mr. Delahunt. But the safe had been opened for all
that."

"There were two keys to it, then?"

"No; in giving me the key, my brother had strictly warned me not
to lose it, as it had no duplicate."

"Mrs. Quintard, have you a special confidant or maid?"

"Yes, my Hetty."

"How much did she know about this key?"

"Nothing, but that it didn't help the fit of my dress. Hetty has
cared for me for years. There's no more devoted woman in all New
York, nor one who can be more relied upon to tell the truth. She
is so honest with her tongue that I am bound to believe her even
when she says--"

"What?"

"That it was I and nobody else who took the will out of the safe
last night. That she saw me come from my brother's room with a
folded paper in my hand, pass with it into the library, and come
out again without it. If this is so, then that will is somewhere
in that great room. But we've looked in every conceivable place
except the shelves, where it is useless to search. It would take
days to go through them all, and meanwhile Carlos--"

"We will not wait for Carlos. We will begin work at once. But
just one other question. How came Hetty to see you in your walk
through the rooms? Did she follow you?"

"Yes. It's--it's not the first time I have walked in my sleep.
Last night--but she will tell you. It's a painful subject to me.
I will send for her to meet us in the library."

"Where you believe this document to lie hidden?"

"Yes."

"I am anxious to see the room. It is upstairs, I believe."

"Yes."

She had risen and was moving rapidly toward the door. Violet
eagerly followed her.

Let us accompany her in her passage up the palatial stairway, and
realize the effect upon her of a splendour whose future ownership
possibly depended entirely upon herself.

It was a cold splendour. The merry voices of children were
lacking in these great halls. Death past and to come infused the
air with solemnity and mocked the pomp which yet appeared so much
a part of the life here that one could hardly imagine the huge
pillared spaces without it.

To Violet, more or less accustomed to fine interiors, the chief
interest of this one lay in its connection with the mystery then
occupying her. Stopping for a moment on the stair, she inquired
of Mrs. Quintard if the loss she so deplored had been made known
to the servants, and was much relieved to find that, with the
exception of Mr. Delahunt, she had not spoken of it to any one
but Clement. "And he will never mention it," she declared, "not
even to his wife. She has troubles enough to bear without knowing
how near she stood to a fortune."

"Oh, she will have her fortune!" Violet confidently replied. "In
time, the lawyer who drew up the will will appear. But what you
want is an immediate triumph over the cold Carlos, and I hope you
may have it. Ah!"

This expletive was a sigh of sheer surprise.

Mrs. Quintard had unlocked the library door and Violet had been
given her first glimpse of this, the finest room in New York.

She remembered now that she had often heard it so characterized,
and, indeed, had it been taken bodily from some historic abbey of
the old world, it could not have expressed more fully, in
structure and ornamentation, the Gothic idea at its best. All
that it lacked were the associations of vanished centuries, and
these, in a measure, were supplied to the imagination by the
studied mellowness of its tints and the suggestion of age in its
carvings.

So much for the room itself, which was but a shell for holding
the great treasure of valuable books ranged along every shelf. As
Violet's eyes sped over their ranks and thence to the five
windows of deeply stained glass which faced her from the southern
end, Mrs. Quintard indignantly exclaimed:

"And Carlos would turn this into a billiard room!"

"I do not like Carlos," Violet returned hotly; then remembering
herself, hastened to ask whether Mrs. Quintard was quite positive
as to this room being the one in which she had hidden the
precious document.

"You had better talk to Hetty," said that lady, as a stout woman
of most prepossessing appearance entered their presence and
paused respectfully just inside the doorway. "Hetty, you will
answer any questions this young lady may put. If anyone can help
us, she can. But first, what news from the sick-room?"

"Nothing good. The doctor has just come for the third time today.
Mrs. Brooks is crying and even the children are dumb with fear."

"I will go. I must see the doctor. I must tell him to keep
Clement alive by any means till--"

She did not wait to say what; but Violet understood and felt her
heart grow heavy. Could it be that her employer considered this
the gay and easy task she had asked for?

The next minute she was putting her first question:

"Hetty, what did you see in Mrs. Quintard's action last night, to
make you infer that she left the missing document in this room?"

The woman's eyes, which had been respectfully studying her face,
brightened with a relief which made her communicative. With the
self-possession of a perfectly candid nature, she inquiringly
remarked:

"My mistress has spoken of her infirmity?"

"Yes, and very frankly."

"She walks in her sleep."

"So she said."

"And sometimes when others are asleep, and she is not."

"She did not tell me that."

"She is a very nervous woman and cannot always keep still when
she rouses up at night. When I hear her rise, I get up too; but,
never being quite sure whether she is sleeping or not, I am
careful to follow her at a certain distance. Last night I was so
far behind her that she had been to her brother's room and left
it before I saw her face."

"Where is his room and where is hers?"

"Hers is in front on this same floor. Mr. Brooks's is in the
rear, and can be reached either by the hall or by passing through
this room into a small one beyond, which we called his den.."

"Describe your encounter. Where were you standing when you saw
her first?"

"In the den I have just mentioned. There was a bright light in
the hall behind me and I could see her figure quite plainly. She
was holding a folded paper clenched against her breast, and her
movement was so mechanical that I was sure she was asleep. She
was coming this way, and in another moment she entered this room.
The door, which had been open, remained so, and in my anxiety I
crept to it and looked in after her. There was no light burning
here at that hour, but the moon was shining in in long rays of
variously coloured light. If I had followed her--but I did not. I
just stood and watched her long enough to see her pass through a
blue ray, then through a green one, and then into, if not
through, a red one. Expecting her to walk straight on, and having
some fears of the staircase once she got into the hall, I hurried
around to the door behind you there to head her off. But she had
not yet left this room. I waited and waited and still she did not
come. Fearing some accident, I finally ventured to approach the
door and try it. It was locked. This alarmed me. She had never
locked herself in anywhere before and I did not know what to make
of it. Some persons would have shouted her name, but I had been
warned against doing that, so I simply stood where I was, and
eventually I heard the key turn in the lock and saw her come out.
She was still walking stiffly, but her hands were empty and
hanging at her side."

"And then?"

"She went straight to her room and I after her. I was sure she
was dead asleep by this time."

"And she was?"

"Yes, Miss; but still full of what was on her mind. I know this
because she stopped when she reached the bedside and began
fumbling with the waist of her wrapper. It was for the key she
was searching, and when her fingers encountered it hanging on the
outside, she opened her wrapper and thrust it in on her bare
skin."

"You saw her do all that?"

"As plainly as I see you now. The light in her room was burning
brightly."

"And after that?"

"She got into bed. It was I who turned off the light."

"Has that wrapper of hers a pocket?"

"No, Miss."

"Nor her gown?"

"No, Miss."

"So she could not have brought the paper into her room concealed
about her person?"

"No, Miss; she left it here. It never passed beyond this
doorway."

"But might she not have carried it back to some place of
concealment in the rooms she had left?"

The woman's face changed and a slight flush showed through the
natural brown of her cheeks.

"No," she disclaimed; "she could not have done that. I was
careful to lock the library door behind her before I ran out into
the hall."

"Then," concluded Violet, with all the emphasis of conviction,
"it is here, and nowhere else we must look for that document
till we find it."

Thus assured of the first step in the task she had before her,
Miss Strange settled down to business.

The room, which towered to the height of two stories, was in the
shape of a huge oval. This oval, separated into narrow divisions
for the purpose of accommodating the shelves with which it was
lined, narrowed as it rose above the great Gothic chimney-piece
and the five gorgeous windows looking towards the south, till it
met and was lost in the tracery of the ceiling, which was of that
exquisite and soul-satisfying order which we see in the Henry VII
chapel in Westminster Abbey. What break otherwise occurred in the
circling round of books reaching thus thirty feet or more above
the head was made by the two doors already spoken of and a narrow
strip of wall at either end of the space occupied by the windows.
No furniture was to be seen there except a couple of stalls taken
from some old cathedral, which stood in the two bare places just
mentioned.

But within, on the extensive floor-space, several articles were
grouped, and Violet, recognizing the possibilities which any one
of them afforded for the concealment of so small an object as a
folded document, decided to use method in her search, and to that
end, mentally divided the space before her into four segments.

The first took in the door, communicating with the suite ending
in Mr. Brooks's bedroom. A diagram of this segment will show that
the only article of furniture in it was a cabinet.

It was at this cabinet Miss Strange made her first stop.

"You have looked this well through?" she asked as she bent over
the glass case on top to examine the row of mediaeval missals
displayed within in a manner to show their wonderful
illuminations.

"Not the case," explained Hetty. "It is locked you see and no one
has as yet succeeded in finding the key. But we searched the
drawers underneath with the greatest care. Had we sifted the
whole contents through our fingers, I could not be more certain
that the paper is not there."

Violet stepped into the next segment.

This was the one dominated by the huge fire-place. A rug lay
before the hearth. To this Violet pointed.

Quickly the woman answered: "We not only lifted it, but turned it
over."

"And that box at the right?"

"Is full of wood and wood only."

"Did you take out this wood?"

"Every stick."

"And those ashes in the fire-place? Something has been burned
there."

"Yes; but not lately. Besides, those ashes are all wood ashes. If
the least bit of charred paper had been mixed with them, we
should have considered the matter settled. But you can see for
yourself that no such particle can be found." While saying this,
she had put the poker into Violet's hand. "Rake them about, Miss,
and make sure."

Violet did so, with the result that the poker was soon put back
into place, and she herself down on her knees looking up the
chimney.

"Had she thrust it up there," Hetty made haste to remark, "there
would have been some signs of soot on her sleeves. They are white
and very long and are always getting in her way when she tries to
do anything."

Violet left the fire-place after a glance at the mantel-shelf on
which nothing stood but a casket of open fretwork, and two
coloured photographs mounted on small easels. The casket was too
open to conceal anything and the photographs lifted too high
above the shelf for even the smallest paper, let alone a document
of any size, to hide behind them.

The chairs, of which there were several in this part of the room,
she passed with just an inquiring look. They were all of solid
oak, without any attempt at upholstery, and although carved to
match the stalls on the other side of the room, offered no place
for search.

Her delay in the third segment was brief. Here there was
absolutely nothing but the door by which she had entered, and the
books. As she flitted on, following the oval of the wall, a small
frown appeared on her usually smooth forehead. She felt the
oppression of the books--the countless books. If indeed, she
should find herself obliged to go through them. What a hopeless
outlook!

But she had still a segment to consider, and after that the
immense table occupying the centre of the room, a table which in
its double capacity (for it was as much desk as table) gave more
promise of holding the solution of the mystery than anything to
which she had hitherto given her attention.

The quarter in which she now stood was the most beautiful, and,
possibly, the most precious of them all. In it blazed the five
great windows which were the glory of the room; but there are no
hiding-places in windows, and much as she revelled in colour, she
dared not waste a moment on them. There was more hope for her in
the towering stalls, with their possible drawers for books.

But Hetty was before her in the attempt she made to lift the lids
of the two great seats.

"Nothing in either," said she; and Violet, with a sigh, turned
towards the table.

This was an immense affair, made to accommodate itself to the
shape of the room, but with a hollowed-out space on the window-
side large enough to hold a chair for the sitter who would use
its top as a desk. On it were various articles suitable to its
double use. Without being crowded, it displayed a pile of
magazines and pamphlets, boxes for stationery, a writing pad with
its accompaniments, a lamp, and some few ornaments, among which
was a large box, richly inlaid with pearl and ivory, the lid of
which stood wide open.

"Don't touch," admonished Violet, as Hetty stretched out her hand
to move some little object aside. "You have already worked here
busily in the search you made this morning."

"We handled everything."

"Did you go through these pamphlets?"

"We shook open each one. We were especially particular here,
since it was at this table I saw Mrs. Quintard stop."

"With head level or drooped?"

"Drooped."

"Like one looking down, rather than up, or around?"

"Yes. A ray of red light shone on her sleeve. It seemed to me the
sleeve moved as though she were reaching out."

"Will you try to stand as she did and as nearly in the same place
as possible?"

Hetty glanced down at the table edge, marked where the gules
dominated the blue and green, and moved to that spot, and paused
with her head sinking slowly towards her breast.

"Very good," exclaimed Violet. "But the moon was probably in a
very different position from what the sun is now."

"You are right; it was higher up; I chanced to notice it."

"Let me come," said Violet.

Hetty moved, and Violet took her place but in a spot a step or
two farther front. This brought her very near to the centre of
the table. Hanging her head, just as Hetty had done, she reached
out her right hand.

"Have you looked under this blotter?" she asked, pointing towards
the pad she touched. "I mean, between the blotter and the frame
which holds it?"

"I certainly did," answered Hetty, with some pride.

Violet remained staring down. "Then you took off everything that
was lying on it?"

"Oh, yes."

Violet continued to stare down at the blotter. Then impetuously:

"Put them back in their accustomed places."

Hetty obeyed.

Violet continued to look at them, then slowly stretched out her
hand, but soon let it fall again with an air of discouragement.
Certainly the missing document was not in the ink-pot or the
mucilage bottle. Yet something made her stoop again over the pad
and subject it to the closest scrutiny.

"If only nothing had been touched!" she inwardly sighed. But she
let no sign of her discontent escape her lips, simply exclaiming
as she glanced up at the towering spaces overhead:  "The books!
the books! Nothing remains but for you to call up all the
servants, or get men from the outside and, beginning at one end--
I should say the upper one--take down every book standing within
reach of a woman of Mrs. Quintard's height."

"Hear first what Mrs. Quintard has to say about that,"
interrupted the woman as that lady entered in a flutter of
emotion springing from more than one cause.

"The young lady thinks that we should remove the books," Hetty
observed, as her mistress's eye wandered to hers from Violet's
abstracted countenance.

"Useless. If we were to undertake to do that, Carlos would be
here before half the job was finished. Besides, Hetty must have
told you my extreme aversion to nicely bound books. I will not
say that when awake I never place my hand on one, but once in a
state of somnambulism, when every natural whim has full control,
I am sure that I never would. There is a reason for my prejudice.
I was not always rich. I once was very poor. It was when I was
first married and long before Clement had begun to make his
fortune. I was so poor then that frequently I went hungry, and
what was worse saw my little daughter cry for food. And why?
Because my husband was a bibliomaniac. He would spend on fine
editions what would have kept the family comfortable. It is hard
to believe, isn't it? I have seen him bring home a Grolier when
the larder was as empty as that box; and it made me hate books
so, especially those of extra fine binding, that I have to tear
the covers off before I can find courage to read them."

O life! life! how fast Violet was learning it!

"I can understand your idea, Mrs. Quintard, but as everything
else has failed, I should make a mistake not to examine these
shelves. It is just possible that we may be able to shorten the
task very materially; that we may not have to call in help, even.
To what extent have they been approached, or the books handled,
since you discovered the loss of the paper we are looking for?"

"Not at all. Neither of us went near them." This from Hetty.

"Nor any one else?"

"No one else has been admitted to the room. We locked both doors
the moment we felt satisfied that the will had been left here."

"That's a relief. Now I may be able to do something. Hetty, you
look like a very strong woman, and I, as you see, am very little.
Would you mind lifting me up to these shelves? I want to look at
them. Not at the books, but at the shelves themselves."

The wondering woman stooped and raised her to the level of the
shelf she had pointed out. Violet peered closely at it and then
at the ones just beneath.

"Am I heavy?" she asked; "if not, let me see those on the other
side of the door."

Hetty carried her over.

Violet inspected each shelf as high as a woman of Mrs.
Quintard's stature could reach, and when on her feet again,
knelt to inspect the ones below.

"No one has touched or drawn anything from these shelves in
twenty-four hours," she declared. "The small accumulation of dust
along their edges has not been disturbed at any point. It was
very different with the table-top. That shows very plainly where
you had moved things and where you had not."

"Was that what you were looking for? Well, I never!"

Violet paid no heed; she was thinking and thinking very deeply.

Hetty turned towards her mistress, then quickly back to Violet,
whom she seized by the arm.

"What's the matter with Mrs. Quintard?" she hurriedly asked. "If
it were night, I should think that she was in one of her spells."

Violet started and glanced where Hetty pointed. Mrs. Quintard was
within a few feet of them, but as oblivious of their
presence as though she stood alone in the room. Possibly, she
thought she did. With fixed eyes and mechanical step she began
to move straight towards the table, her whole appearance of a
nature to make Hetty's blood run cold, but to cause that of
Violet's to bound through her veins with renewed hope.

"The one thing I could have wished!" she murmured under her
breath. "She has fallen into a trance. She is again under the
dominion of her idea. If we watch and do not disturb her she may
repeat her action of last night, and herself show where she has
put this precious document."

Meanwhile Mrs. Quintard continued to advance. A moment more, and
her smooth white locks caught the ruddy glow centred upon the
chair standing in the hollow of the table. Words were leaving her
lips, and her hand, reaching out over the blotter, groped among
the articles scattered there till it settled on a large pair of
shears.

"Listen," muttered Violet to the woman pressing close to her
side. "You are acquainted with her voice; catch what she says if
you can."

Hetty could not; an undistinguishable murmur was all that came to
her ears.

Violet took a step nearer. Mrs. Quintard's hand had left the
shears and was hovering uncertainly in the air. Her distress was
evident. Her head, no longer steady on her shoulders, was turning
this way and that, and her tones becoming inarticulate.

"Paper! I want paper" burst from her lips in a shrill unnatural
cry.

But when they listened for more and watched to see the uncertain
hand settle somewhere, she suddenly came to herself and turned
upon them a startled glance, which speedily changed into one of
the utmost perplexity.

"What am I doing here?" she asked. "I have a feeling as if I had
almost seen--almost touched--oh, it's gone! and all is blank
again. Why couldn't I keep it till I knew--" Then she came wholly
to herself and, forgetting even the doubts of a moment since,
remarked to Violet in her old tremulous fashion:

"You asked us to pull down the books? But you've evidently
thought better of it."

"Yes, I have thought better of it." Then, with a last desperate
hope of re-arousing the visions lying somewhere back in Mrs.
Quintard's troubled brain, Violet ventured to observe: "This is
likely to resolve itself into a psychological problem, Mrs.
Quintard. Do you suppose that if you fell again into the
condition of last night, you would repeat your action and so lead
us yourself to where the will lies hidden?"

"Possibly; but it may be weeks before I walk again in my sleep,
and meanwhile Carlos will have arrived, and Clement, possibly,
died. My nephew is so low that the doctor is coming back at
midnight. Miss Strange, Clement is a man in a thousand. He says
he wants to see you. Would you be willing to accompany me to his
room for a moment? He will not make many more requests and I will
take care that the interview is not prolonged."

"I will go willingly. But would it not be better to wait--"

"Then you may never see him at all."

"Very well; but I wish I had some better news to give."

"That will come later. This house was never meant for Carlos.
Hetty, you will stay here. Miss Strange, let us go now."

"You need not speak; just let him see you."

Violet nodded and followed Mrs. Quintard into the sick-room.

The sight which met her eyes tried her young emotions deeply.
Staring at her from the bed, she saw two piercing eyes over whose
brilliance death as yet had gained no control. Clements's soul
was in that gaze; Clement halting at the brink of dissolution to
sound the depths behind him for the hope which would make
departure easy. Would he see in her, a mere slip of a girl
dressed in fashionable clothes and bearing about her all the
marks of social distinction, the sort of person needed for the
task upon the success of which depended his darlings' future? She
could hardly expect it. Yet as she continued to meet his gaze
with all the seriousness the moment demanded, she beheld those
burning orbs lose some of their demand and the fingers, which had
lain inert upon the bedspread, flutter gently and move as if to
draw attention to his wife and the three beautiful children
clustered at the foot-board.

He had not spoken nor could she speak, but the solemnity with
which she raised her right hand as to a listening Heaven called
forth upon his lips what was possibly his last smile, and with
the memory of this faint expression of confidence on his part,
she left the room, to make her final attempt to solve the mystery
of the missing document.

Facing the elderly lady in the hall, she addressed her with the
force and soberness of one leading a forlorn hope:

"I want you to concentrate your mind upon what I have to say to
you. Do you think you can do this?"

"I will try," replied the poor woman with a backward glance at
the door which had just been closed upon her.

"What we want," said she, "is, as I stated before, an insight
into the workings of your brain at the time you took the will
from the safe. Try and follow what I have to say, Mrs. Quintard.
Dreams are no longer regarded by scientists as prophecies of the
future or even as spontaneous and irrelevant conditions of
thought, but as reflections of a near past, which can almost
without exception be traced back to the occurrences which caused
them. Your action with the will had its birth in some previous
line of thought afterwards forgotten. Let us try and find that
thought. Recall, if you can, just what you did or read yesterday."

Mrs. Quintard looked frightened.

"But, I have no memory," she objected. "I forget quickly, so
quickly that in order to fulfill my engagements I have to keep a
memorandum of every day's events. Yesterday? yesterday? What did
I do yesterday? I went downtown for one thing, but I hardly know
where."

"Perhaps your memorandum of yesterday's doings will help you."

"I will get it. But it won't give you the least help. I keep it
only for my own eye, and--"

"Never mind; let me see it."

And she waited impatiently for it to be put in her hands.

But when she came to read the record of the last two days, this
was all she found:

Saturday: Mauretania nearly due. I must let Mr. Delahunt know
today that he's wanted here to-morrow. Hetty will try on my
dresses. Says she has to alter them. Mrs. Peabody came to lunch,
and we in such trouble! Had to go down street. Errand for
Clement. The will, the will! I think of nothing else. Is it safe
where it is? No peace of mind till to-morrow. Clement better this
afternoon. Says he must live till Carlos gets back; not to
triumph over him, but to do what he can to lessen his
disappointment. My good Clement!

So nervous, I went to pasting photographs, and was forgetting all
my troubles when Hetty brought in another dress to try on.

Quiet in the great house, during which the clock on the staircase
sent forth seven musical peals. To Violet waiting alone in the
library, they acted as a summons. She was just leaving the room,
when the sound of hubbub in the hall below held her motionless in
the doorway. An automobile had stopped in front, and several
persons were entering the house, in a gay and unseemly fashion.
As she stood listening, uncertain of her duty, she perceived the
frenzied figure of Mrs. Quintard approaching. As she passed by,
she dropped one word: "Carlos!" Then she went staggering on, to
disappear a moment later down the stairway.

This vision lost, another came. This time it was that of
Clements's wife leaning from the marble balustrade above, the
shadow of approaching grief battling with the present terror in
her perfect features. Then she too withdrew from view and Violet,
left for the moment alone in the great hall, stepped back into
the library and began to put on her hat.

The lights had been turned up in the grand salon and it was in
this scene of gorgeous colour that Mrs. Quintard came face to
face with Carlos Pelacios. Those who were witness to her entrance
say that she presented a noble appearance, as with the resolution
of extreme desperation she stood waiting for his first angry
attack.

He, a short, thick-set, dark man, showing both in features and
expression the Spanish blood of his paternal ancestors, started
to address her in tones of violence, but changed his note, as he
met her eye, to one simply sardonic.

"You here!" he began. "I assure you, madame, that it is a
pleasure which is not without its inconveniences. Did you not
receive my cable-gram requesting this house to be made ready for
my occupancy?"

"I did."

"Then why do I find guests here? They do not usually precede the
arrival of their host."

"Clement is very ill--"

"So much the greater reason that he should have been removed--"

"You were not expected for two days yet. You cabled that you were
coming on the Mauretania."

"Yes, I cabled that. Elisabetta,"--this to his wife standing
silently in the background--"we will go to the Plaza for tonight.
At three o'clock tomorrow we shall expect to find this house in
readiness for our return. Later, if Mrs. Quintard desires to
visit us we shall be pleased to receive her. But"--this to Mrs.
Quintard herself--"you must come without Clement and the kids."

Mrs. Quintard's rigid hand stole up to her throat.

"Clement is dying. He is failing hourly," she murmured. "He may
not live till morning."

Even Carlos was taken aback by this. "Oh, well!" said he, "we
will give you two days."

Mrs. Quintard gasped, then she walked straight up to him. "You
will give us all the time his condition requires and more, much
more. He is the real owner of this house, not you. My brother
left a will bequeathing it to him. You are my nephew's guests,
and not he yours. As his representative I entreat you and your
wife to remain here until you can find a home to your mind."

The silence seethed. Carlos had a temper of fire and so had his
wife. But neither spoke, till he had gained sufficient control
over himself to remark without undue rancour:

"I did not think you had the wit to influence your brother to
this extent; otherwise, I should have cut my travels short." Then
harshly: "Where is this will?"

"It will be produced." But the words faltered.

Carlos glanced at the man standing behind his wife; then back at
Mrs. Quintard.

"Wills are not scribbled off on deathbeds; or if they are, it
needs something more than a signature to legalize them. I don't
believe in this trick of a later will. Mr. Cavanagh"--here he
indicated the gentleman accompanying them--"has done my father's
business for years, and he assured me that the paper he holds in
his pocket is the first, last, and only expression of your
brother's wishes. If you are in a position to deny this, show us
the document you mention; show us it at once, or inform us where
and in whose hands it can be found."

"That, for--for reasons I cannot give, I must refuse to do at
present. But I am ready to swear--"

A mocking laugh cut her short. Did it issue from his lips or from
those of his highstrung and unfeeling wife? It might have come
from either; there was cause enough.

"Oh!" she faltered, "may God have mercy!" and was sinking before
their eyes, when she heard her name, called from the threshold,
and, looking that way, saw Hetty beaming upon her, backed by a
little figure with a face so radiant that instinctively her hand
went out to grasp the folded sheet of paper Hetty was seeking to
thrust upon her.

"Ah!" she cried, in a great voice, "you will not have to wait,
nor Clement either. Here is the will! The children have come into
their own." And she fell at their feet in a dead faint.

"Where did you find it? Oh! where did you find it? I have waited
a week to know. When, after Carlos's sudden departure, I stood
beside Clement's death-bed and saw from the look he gave me that
he could still feel and understand, I told him that you had
succeeded in your task and that all was well with us. But I was
not able to tell him how you had succeeded or in what place the
will had been found; and he died, unknowing. But we may know, may
we not, now that he is laid away and there is no more talk of our
leaving this house?"

Violet smiled, but very tenderly, and in a way not to offend the
mourner. They were sitting in the library--the great library
which was to remain in Clement's family after all--and it amused
her to follow the dreaming lady's glances as they ran in
irrepressible curiosity over the walls. Had Violet wished, she
could have kept her secret forever. These eyes would never have
discovered it.

But she was of a sympathetic temperament, our Violet, so after a
moment's delay, during which she satisfied herself that little,
if anything, had been touched in the room since her departure
from it a week before, she quietly observed:

"You were right in persisting that you hid it in this room. It
was here I found it. Do you notice that photograph on the mantel
which does not stand exactly straight on its easel?"

"Yes."

"Supposing you take it down. You can reach it, can you not?"

"Oh, yes. But what--"

"Lift it down, dear Mrs. Quintard; and then turn it round and
look at its back."

Agitated and questioning, the lady did as she was bid, and at the
first glance gave a cry of surprise, if not of understanding. The
square of brown paper, acting as a backing to the picture, was
slit across, disclosing a similar one behind it which was still
intact.

"Oh! was it hidden in here?" she asked.

"Very completely," assented Violet. "Pasted in out of sight by a
lady who amuses herself with mounting and framing photographs.
Usually, she is conscious of her work, but this time she
performed her task in a dream."

Mrs. Quintard was all amazement.

"I don't remember touching these pictures," she declared. "I
never should have remembered. You are a wonderful person, Miss
Strange. How came you to think these photographs might have two
backings? There was nothing to show that this was so."

"I will tell you, Mrs. Quintard. You helped me."

"I helped you?"

"Yes. You remember the memorandum you gave me? In it you
mentioned pasting photographs. But this was not enough in itself
to lead me to examine those on the mantel, if you had not given
me another suggestion a little while before. We did not tell you
this, Mrs. Quintard, at the time, but during the search we were
making here that day, you had a lapse into that peculiar state
which induces you to walk in your sleep. It was a short one,
lasting but a moment, but in a moment one can speak, and, this
you did--"

"Spoke? I spoke?"

"Yes, you uttered the word 'paper!' not the paper, but 'paper!'
and reached out towards the shears. Though I had not much time to
think of it then, afterwards upon reading your memorandum I
recalled your words, and asked myself if it was not paper to cut,
rather than to hide, you wanted. If it was to cut, and you were
but repeating the experience of the night before, then the room
should contain some remnants of cut paper. Had we seen any? Yes,
in the basket, under the desk we had taken out and thrown back
again a strip or so of wrapping paper, which, if my memory did
not fail me, showed a clean-cut edge. To pull this strip out
again and spread it flat upon the desk was the work of a minute,
and what I saw led me to look all over the room, not now for the
folded document, but for a square of brown paper, such as had
been taken out of this larger sheet. Was I successful? Not for a
long while, but when I came to the photographs on the mantel and
saw how nearly they corresponded in shape and size to what I was
looking for, I recalled again your fancy for mounting photographs
and felt that the mystery was solved.

"A glance at the back of one of them brought disappointment, but
when I turned about its mate-- You know what I found underneath
the outer paper. You had laid the will against the original
backing and simply pasted another one over it.

"That the discovery came in time to cut short a very painful
interview has made me joyful for a week.

"And now may I see the children?"

END OF PROBLEM V


PROBLEM VI

THE HOUSE OF CLOCKS

Miss Strange was not in a responsive mood. This her employer had
observed on first entering; yet he showed no hesitation in laying
on the table behind which she had ensconced herself in the
attitude of one besieged, an envelope thick with enclosed papers.

"There," said he. "Telephone me when you have read them."

"I shall not read them."

"No?" he smiled; and, repossessing himself of the envelope, he
tore off one end, extracted the sheets with which it was filled,
and laid them down still unfolded, in their former place on the
table-top.

The suggestiveness of the action caused the corners of Miss
Srange's delicate lips to twitch wistfully, before settling into
an ironic smile.

Calmly the other watched her.

"I am on a vacation," she loftily explained, as she finally met
his studiously non-quizzical glance. "Oh, I know that I am in my
own home!" she petulantly acknowledged, as his gaze took in the
room; "and that the automobile is at the door; and that I'm
dressed for shopping. But for all that I'm on a vacation--a
mental one," she emphasized; "and business must wait. I haven't
got over the last affair," she protested, as he maintained a
discreet silence, "and the season is so gay just now--so many
balls, so many--But that isn't the worst. Father is beginning to
wake up--and if he ever suspects--" A significant gesture ended
this appeal.

The personage knew her father--everyone did--and the wonder had
always been that she dared run the risk of displeasing one so
implacable. Though she was his favourite child, Peter Strange was
known to be quite capable of cutting her off with a shilling,
once his close, prejudiced mind conceived it to be his duty. And
that he would so interpret the situation, if he ever came to
learn the secret of his daughter's fits of abstraction and the
sly bank account she was slowly accumulating, the personage
holding out this dangerous lure had no doubt at all. Yet he only
smiled at her words and remarked in casual suggestion:

"It's out of town this time--'way out. Your health certainly
demands a change of air."

"My health is good. Fortunately, or unfortunately, as one may
choose to look at it, it furnishes me with no excuse for an
outing," she steadily retorted, turning her back on the table.

"Ah, excuse me!" the insidious voice apologized, "your paleness
misled me. Surely a night or two's change might be beneficial."

She gave him a quick side look, and began to adjust her boa.

To this hint he paid no attention.

"The affair is quite out of the ordinary," he pursued in the tone
of one rehearsing a part. But there he stopped. For some reason,
not altogether apparent to the masculine mind, the pin of
flashing stones (real stones) which held her hat in place had to
be taken out and thrust back again, not once, but twice. It was
to watch this performance he had paused. When he was ready to
proceed, he took the musing tone of one marshalling facts for
another's enlightenment:

"A woman of unknown instincts--"

"Pshaw!" The end of the pin would strike against the comb holding
Violet's chestnut-coloured locks.

"Living in a house as mysterious as the secret it contains. But--"
here he allowed his patience apparently to forsake him, "I will
bore you no longer. Go to your teas and balls; I will struggle
with my dark affairs alone."

His hand went to the packet of papers she affected so
ostentatiously to despise. He could be as nonchalant as she. But
he did not lift them; he let them lie. Yet the young heiress had
not made a movement or even turned the slightest glance his way.

"A woman difficult to understand! A mysterious house--possibly a
mysterious crime!"

Thus Violet kept repeating in silent self-communion, as flushed
with dancing she sat that evening in a highly-scented
conservatory, dividing her attention between the compliments of
her partner and the splash of a fountain bubbling in the heart of
this mass of tropical foliage; and when some hours later she sat
down in her chintz-furnished bedroom for a few minutes' thought
before retiring, it was to draw from a little oak box at her
elbow the half-dozen or so folded sheets of closely written paper
which had been left for her perusal by her persistent employer.

Glancing first at the signature and finding it to be one already
favourably known at the bar, she read with avidity the statement
of events thus vouched for, finding them curious enough in all
conscience to keep her awake for another full hour.

We here subscribe it:

I am a lawyer with an office in the Times Square Building. My
business is mainly local, but sometimes I am called out of town,
as witness the following summons received by me on the fifth of
last October.

DEAR SIR,--

I wish to make my will. I am an invalid and cannot leave my room.
Will you come to me? The enclosed reference will answer for my
respectability. If it satisfies you and you decide to accommodate
me, please hasten your visit; I have not many days to live. A
carriage will meet you at Highland Station at any hour you
designate. Telegraph reply.

A. Postlethwaite, Gloom Cottage, -- N. J.

The reference given was a Mr. Weed of Eighty-sixth Street--a well-
known man of unimpeachable reputation.

Calling him up at his business office, I asked him what he could
tell me about Mr. Postlethwaite of Gloom Cottage, --, N. J. 
The answer astonished me:

"There is no Mr. Postlethwaite to be found at that address. He
died years ago. There is a Mrs. Postlethwaite--a confirmed
paralytic. Do you mean her?"

I glanced at the letter still lying open at the side of the
telephone:

"The signature reads A. Postlethwaite."

"Then it's she. Her name is Arabella. She hates the name, being a
woman of no sentiment. Uses her initials even on her cheques.
What does she want of you?"

"To draw her will."

"Oblige her. It'll be experience for you." And he slammed home
the receiver.

I decided to follow the suggestion so forcibly emphasized; and
the next day saw me at Highland Station. A superannuated horse
and a still more superannuated carriage awaited me--both too old
to serve a busy man in these days of swift conveyance. Could this
be a sample of the establishment I was about to enter? Then I
remembered that the woman who had sent for me was a helpless
invalid, and probably had no use for any sort of turnout.

The driver was in keeping with the vehicle, and as noncommittal
as the plodding beast he drove. If I ventured upon a remark, he
gave me a long and curious look; if I went so far as to attack
him with a direct question, he responded with a hitch of the
shoulder or a dubious smile which conveyed nothing. Was he deaf
or just unpleasant? I soon learned that he was not deaf; for
suddenly, after a jog-trot of a mile or so through a wooded road
which we had entered from the main highway, he drew in his horse,
and, without glancing my way, spoke his first word:

"This is where you get out. The house is back there in the
bushes."

As no house was visible and the bushes rose in an unbroken
barrier along the road, I stared at him in some doubt of his
sanity.

"But--" I began; a protest into which he at once broke, with the
sharp direction:

"Take the path. It'll lead you straight to the front door."

"I don't see any path."

For this he had no answer; and confident from his expression that
it would be useless to expect anything further from him, I
dropped a coin into his hand, and jumped to the ground. He was
off before I could turn myself about.

"'Something is rotten in the State of Denmark,'" I quoted in
startled comment to myself; and not knowing what else to do,
stared down at the turf at my feet.

A bit of flagging met my eye, protruding from a layer of thick
moss. Farther on I espied another--the second, probably, of many.
This, no doubt, was the path I had been bidden to follow, and
without further thought on the subject, I plunged into the bushes
which with difficulty I made give way before me.

For a moment all further advance looked hopeless. A more tangled,
uninviting approach to a so-called home, I had never seen outside
of the tropics; and the complete neglect thus displayed should
have prepared me for the appearance of the house I unexpectedly
came upon, just as, the way seemed on the point of closing up
before me.

But nothing could well prepare one for a first view of Gloom
Cottage. Its location in a hollow which had gradually filled
itself up with trees and some kind of prickly brush, its deeply
stained walls, once picturesque enough in their grouping but too
deeply hidden now amid rotting boughs to produce any other effect
than that of shrouded desolation, the sough of these same boughs
as they rapped a devil's tattoo against each other, and the
absence of even the rising column of smoke which bespeaks
domestic life wherever seen--all gave to one who remembered the
cognomen Cottage and forgot the pre-cognomen of Gloom, a sense of
buried life as sepulchral as that which emanates from the mouth
of some freshly opened tomb.

But these impressions, natural enough to my youth, were
necessarily transient, and soon gave way to others more business-
like. Perceiving the curve of an arch rising above the
undergrowth still blocking my approach, I pushed my way
resolutely through, and presently found myself stumbling upon the
steps of an unexpectedly spacious domicile, built not of wood, as
its name of Cottage had led me to expect, but of carefully cut
stone which, while showing every mark of time, proclaimed itself
one of those early, carefully erected Colonial residences which
it takes more than a century to destroy, or even to wear to the
point of dilapidation.

Somewhat encouraged, though failing to detect any signs of active
life in the heavily shuttered windows frowning upon me from
either side, I ran up the steps and rang the bell which pulled as
hard as if no hand had touched it in years.

Then I waited.

But not to ring again; for just as my hand was approaching the
bell a second time, the door fell back and I beheld in the black
gap before me the oldest man I had ever come upon in my whole
life. He was so old I was astonished when his drawn lips opened
and he asked if I was the lawyer from New York. I would as soon
have expected a mummy to wag its tongue and utter English, he
looked so thin and dried and removed from this life and all
worldly concerns.

But when I had answered his question and he had turned to marshal
me down the hall towards a door I could dimly see standing open
in the twilight of an absolutely sunless interior, I noticed that
his step was not without some vigour, despite the feeble bend of
his withered body and the incessant swaying of his head, which
seemed to be continually saying No!

"I will prepare madam," he admonished me, after drawing a
ponderous curtain two inches or less aside from one of the
windows. "She is very ill, but she will see you."

The tone was senile, but it was the senility of an educated man,
and as the cultivated accents wavered forth, my mind changed in,
regard to the position he held in the house. Interested anew, I
sought to give him another look, but he had already vanished
through the doorway, and so noiselessly, it was more like a
shadow's flitting than a man's withdrawal.

The darkness in which I sat was absolute; but gradually, as I
continued to look about me, the spaces lightened and certain
details came out, which to my astonishment were of a character to
show that the plain if substantial exterior of this house with
its choked-up approaches and weedy gardens was no sample of what
was to be found inside. Though the walls surrounding me were
dismal because unlighted, they betrayed a splendour unusual in
any country house. The frescoes and paintings were of an ancient
order, dating from days when life and not death reigned in this
isolated dwelling; but in them high art reigned supreme, an art
so high and so finished that only great wealth, combined with the
most cultivated taste, could have produced such effects. I was
still absorbed in the wonder of it all, when the quiet voice of
the old gentleman who had let me in reached me again from the
doorway, and I heard:

"Madam is ready for you. May I trouble you to accompany me to her
room."

I rose with alacrity. I was anxious to see madam, if only to
satisfy myself that she was as interesting as the house in which
she was self-immured.

I found her a great deal more so. But before I enter upon our
interview, let me mention a fact which had attracted my attention
in my passage to her room. During his absence my guide evidently
had pulled aside other curtains than those of the room in which
he had left me. The hall, no longer a tunnel of darkness, gave me
a glimpse as we went by, of various secluded corners, and it
seemed as if everywhere I looked I saw--a clock. I counted four
before I reached the staircase, all standing on the floor and all
of ancient make, though differing much in appearance and value. A
fifth one rose grim and tall at the stair foot, and under an
impulse I have never understood I stopped, when I reached it, to
note the time. But it had paused in its task, and faced me with
motionless hands and silent works--a fact which somehow startled
me; perhaps, because just then I encountered the old man's eye
watching me with an expression as challenging as it was
unintelligible.

I had expected to see a woman in bed. I saw instead, a woman
sitting up. You felt her influence the moment you entered her
presence. She was not young; she was not beautiful;--never had
been I should judge,--she had not even the usual marks about her
of an ultra strong personality; but that her will was law, had
always been, and would continue to be law so long as she lived,
was patent to any eye at the first glance. She exacted obedience
consciously and unconsciously, and she exacted it with charm.
Some few people in the world possess this power. They frown, and
the opposing will weakens; they smile, and all hearts succumb. I
was hers from the moment I crossed the threshold till--But I will
relate the happenings of that instant when it comes.

She was alone, or so I thought, when I made my first bow to her
stern but not unpleasing presence. Seated in a great chair, with
a silver tray before her containing such little matters as she
stood in hourly need of, she confronted me with a piercing gaze
startling to behold in eyes so colourless. Then she smiled, and
in obedience to that smile I seated myself in a chair placed very
near her own. Was she too paralysed to express herself clearly? I
waited in some anxiety till she spoke, when this fear vanished.
Her voice betrayed the character her features failed to express.
It was firm, resonant, and instinct with command. Not loud, but
penetrating, and of a quality which made one listen with his
heart as well as with his ears. What she said is immaterial. I
was there for a certain purpose and we entered immediately upon
the business of that purpose. She talked and I listened, mostly
without comment. Only once did I interrupt her with a suggestion;
and as this led to definite results, I will proceed to relate the
occurrence in full.

In the few hours remaining to me before leaving New York, I had
learned (no matter how) some additional particulars concerning
herself and family; and when after some minor bequests, she
proceeded to name the parties to whom she desired to leave the
bulk of her fortune, I ventured, with some astonishment at my own
temerity, to remark:

"But you have a young relative! Is she not to be included in this
partition of your property?"

A hush. Then a smile came to life on her stiff lips, such as is
seldom seen, thank God, on the face of any woman, and I heard:

"The young relative of whom you speak, is in the room. She has
known for some time that I have no intention of leaving anything
to her. There is, in fact, small chance of her ever needing it."

The latter sentence was a muttered one, but that it was loud
enough to be heard in all parts of the room I was soon assured.
For a quick sigh, which was almost a gasp, followed from a corner
I had hitherto ignored, and upon glancing that way, I perceived,
peering upon us from the shadows, the white face of a young girl
in whose drawn features and wide, staring eyes I beheld such
evidences of terror, that in an instant, whatever predilection I
had hitherto felt for my client, vanished in distrust, if not
positive aversion.

I was still under the sway of this new impression, when Mrs.
Postlethwaite's voice rose again, this time addressing the young
girl:

"You may go," she said, with such force in the command for all
its honeyed modulation, that I expected to see its object fly the
room in frightened obedience.

But though the startled girl had lost none of the terror which
had made her face like a mask, no power of movement remained to
her. A picture of hopeless misery, she stood for one breathless
moment, with her eyes fixed in unmistakable appeal on mine; then
she began to sway so helplessly that I leaped with bounding heart
to catch her. As she fell into my arms I heard her sigh as
before. No common anguish spoke in that sigh. I had stumbled
unwittingly upon a tragedy, to the meaning of which I held but a
doubtful key.

"She seems very ill," I observed with some emphasis, as I turned
to lay my helpless burden on a near-by sofa.

"She's doomed."

The words were spoken with gloom and with an attempt at
commiseration which no longer rang true in my ears.

"She is as sick a woman as I am myself"; continued Mrs.
Postlethwaite. "That is why I made the remark I did, never
imagining she would hear me at that distance. Do not put her
down. My nurse will be here in a moment to relieve you of your
burden."

A tinkle accompanied these words. The resolute woman had
stretched out a finger, of whose use she was not quite deprived,
and touched a little bell standing on the tray before her, an
inch or two from her hand.

Pleased to obey her command, I paused at the sofa's edge, and
taking advantage of the momentary delay, studied the youthful
countenance pressed unconsciously to my breast.

It was one whose appeal lay less in its beauty, though that was
of a touching quality, than in the story it told,--a story, which
for some unaccountable reason--I did not pause to determine what
one--I felt it to be my immediate duty to know. But I asked no
questions then; I did not even venture a comment; and yielded her
up with seeming readiness when a strong but none too intelligent
woman came running in with arms outstretched to carry her off.
When the door had closed upon these two, the silence of my client
drew my attention back to herself.

"I am waiting," was her quiet observation, and without any
further reference to what had just taken place under our eyes,
she went on with the business previously occupying us.

I was able to do my part without any too great display of my own
disturbance. The clearness of my remarkable client's
instructions, the definiteness with which her mind was made up as
to the disposal of every dollar of her vast property, made it
easy for me to master each detail and make careful note of every
wish. But this did not prevent the ebb and flow within me of an
undercurrent of thought full of question and uneasiness. What had
been the real purport of the scene to which I had just been made
a surprised witness? The few, but certainly unusual, facts which
had been given me in regard to the extraordinary relations
existing between these two closely connected women will explain
the intensity of my interest. Those facts shall be yours.

Arabella Merwin, when young, was gifted with a peculiar
fascination which, as we have seen, had not altogether vanished
with age. Consequently she had many lovers, among them two
brothers, Frank and Andrew Postlethwaite. The latter was the
older, the handsomer, and the most prosperous (his name is
remembered yet in connection with South American schemes of large
importance), but it was Frank she married.

That real love, ardent if unreasonable, lay at the bottom of her
choice, is evident enough to those who followed the career of the
young couple. But it was a jealous love which brooked no rival,
and as Frank Postlethwaite was of an impulsive and erratic
nature, scenes soon occurred between them which, while revealing
the extraordinary force of the young wife's character, led to no
serious break till after her son was born, and this,
notwithstanding the fact that Frank had long given up making a
living, and that they were openly dependent on their wealthy
brother, now fast approaching the millionaire status.

This brother--the Peruvian King, as some called him--must have
been an extraordinary man. Though cherishing his affection for
the spirited Arabella to the point of remaining a bachelor for
her sake, he betrayed none of the usual signs of disappointed
love; but on the contrary made every effort to advance her
happiness, not only by assuring to herself and husband an
adequate income, but by doing all he could in other and less open
ways to lessen any sense she might entertain of her mistake in
preferring for her lifemate his self-centred and unstable
brother. She should have adored him; but though she evinced
gratitude enough, there is nothing to prove that she ever gave
Frank Postlethwaite the least cause to cherish any other
sentiment towards his brother than that of honest love and
unqualified respect. Perhaps he never did cherish any other.
Perhaps the change which everyone saw in the young couple
immediately after the birth of their only child was due to
another cause. Gossip is silent on this point. All that it
insists upon is that from this time evidences of a growing
estrangement between them became so obvious that even the
indulgent Andrew could not blind himself to it; showing his sense
of trouble, not by lessening their income, for that he doubled,
but by spending more time in Peru and less in New York where the
two were living.

However,--and here we enter upon those details which I have
ventured to characterize as uncommon, he was in this country and
in the actual company of his brother when the accident occurred
which terminated both their lives. It was the old story of a
skidding motor, and Mrs. Postlethwaite, having been sent for in
great haste to the small inn into which the two injured men had
been carried, arrived only in time to witness their last moments.
Frank died first and Andrew some few minutes later--an important
fact, as was afterwards shown when the latter's will came to be
read.

This will was a peculiar one. By its provisions the bulk of the
King's great property was left to his brother Frank, but with
this especial stipulation that in case his brother failed to
survive him, the full legacy as bequeathed to him should be given
unconditionally to his widow. Frank's demise, as I have already
stated, preceded his brother's by several minutes and
consequently Arabella became the chief legatee; and that is how
she obtained her millions. But--and here a startling feature
comes in--when the will came to be administered, the secret
underlying the break between Frank and his wife was brought to
light by a revelation of the fact that he had practised a great
deception upon her at the time of his marriage. Instead of being
a bachelor as was currently believed, he was in reality a
widower, and the father of a child. This fact, so long held
secret, had become hers when her own child was born; and
constituted as she was, she not only never forgave the father,
but conceived such a hatred for the innocent object of their
quarrel that she refused to admit its claims or even to
acknowledge its existence.

But later--after his death, in fact--she showed some sense of
obligation towards one who under ordinary conditions would have
shared her wealth. When the whole story became heard, and she
discovered that this secret had been kept from his brother as
well as from herself, and that consequently no provision had been
made in any way for the child thus thrown directly upon her
mercy, she did the generous thing and took the forsaken girl into
her own home. But she never betrayed the least love for her, her
whole heart being bound up in her boy, who was, as all agree, a
prodigy of talent.

But this boy, for all his promise and seeming strength of
constitution, died when barely seven years old, and the desolate
mother was left with nothing to fill her heart but the
uncongenial daughter of her husband's first wife. The fact that
this child, slighted as it had hitherto been, would, in the event
of her uncle having passed away before her father, have been the
undisputed heiress of a large portion of the wealth now at the
disposal of her arrogant step-mother, led many to expect, now
that the boy was no more, that Mrs. Postlethwaite would proceed
to acknowledge the little Helena as her heir, and give her that
place in the household to which her natural claims entitled her.

But no such result followed. The passion of grief into which the
mother was thrown by the shipwreck of all her hopes left her hard
and implacable, and when, as very soon happened, she fell a
victim to the disease which tied her to her chair and made the
wealth which had come to her by such a peculiar ordering of
circumstances little else than a mockery even in her own eyes, it
was upon this child she expended the full fund of her secret
bitterness.

And the child? What of her? How did she bear her unhappy fate
when she grew old enough to realize it? With a resignation which
was the wonder of all who knew her. No murmurs escaped her lips,
nor was the devotion she invariably displayed to the exacting
invalid who ruled her as well as all the rest of her household
with a rod of iron ever disturbed by the least sign of reproach.
Though the riches, which in those early days poured into the home
in a measure far beyond the needs of its mistress, were expended
in making the house beautiful rather than in making the one young
life within it happy, she never was heard to utter so much as a
wish to leave the walls within which fate had immured her.
Content, or seemingly content, with the only home she knew, she
never asked for change or demanded friends or amusements.
Visitors ceased coming; desolation followed neglect. The garden,
once a glory, succumbed to a riot of weeds and undesirable brush,
till a towering wall seemed to be drawn about the house cutting
it off from the activities of the world as it cut it off from the
approach of sunshine by day, and the comfort of a star-lit heaven
by night. And yet the young girl continued to smile, though with
a pitifulness of late, which some thought betokened secret terror
and others the wasting of a body too sensitive for such
unwholesome seclusion.

These were the facts, known if not consciously specialized, which
gave to the latter part of my interview with Mrs. Postlethwaite a
poignancy of interest which had never attended any of my former
experiences. The peculiar attitude of Miss Postlethwaite towards
her indurate tormentor awakened in my agitated mind something
much deeper than curiosity, but when I strove to speak her name
with the intent of inquiring more particularly into her
condition, such a look confronted me from the steady eye
immovably fixed upon my own, that my courage--or was it my
natural precaution--bade me subdue the impulse and risk no
attempt which might betray the depth of my interest in one so
completely outside the scope of the present moment's business.
Perhaps Mrs. Postlethwaite appreciated my struggle; perhaps she
was wholly blind to it. There was no reading the mind of this
woman of sentimental name but inflexible nature, and realizing
the fact more fully with every word she uttered I left her at
last with no further betrayal of my feelings than might be
evinced by the earnestness with which I promised to return for
her signature at the earliest possible moment.

This she had herself requested, saying as I rose:

"I can still write my name if the paper is pushed carefully along
under my hand. See to it that you come while the power remains to
me."

I had hoped that in my passage downstairs I might run upon
someone who would give me news of Miss Postlethwaite, but the
woman who approached to conduct me downstairs was not of an
appearance to invite confidence, and I felt forced to leave the
house with my doubts unsatisfied.

Two memories, equally distinct, followed me. One was a picture of
Mrs. Postlethwaite's fingers groping among her belongings on the
little tray perched upon her lap, and another of the intent and
strangely bent figure of the old man who had acted as my usher,
listening to the ticking of one of the great clocks. So absorbed
was he in this occupation that he not only failed to notice me
when I went by, but he did not even lift his head at my cheery
greeting. Such mysteries were too much for me, and led me to
postpone my departure from town till I had sought out Mrs.
Postlethwaite's doctor and propounded to him one or two leading
questions. First, would Mrs. Postlethwaite's present condition be
likely to hold good till Monday; and secondly, was the young lady
living with her as ill as her step-mother said.

He was a mild old man of the easy-going type, and the answers I
got from him were far from satisfactory. Yet he showed some
surprise when I mentioned the extent of Mrs. Postlethwaite's
anxiety about her step-daughter, and paused, in the dubious
shaking of his head, to give me a short stare in which I read as
much determination as perplexity.

"I will look into Miss Postlethwaite's case more particularly,"
were his parting words. And with this one gleam of comfort I had
to be content.

Monday's interview was a brief one and contained nothing worth
repeating. Mrs. Postlethwaite listened with stoical satisfaction
to the reading of the will I had drawn up, and upon its
completion rang her bell for the two witnesses awaiting her
summons, in an adjoining room. They were not of her household,
but to all appearance honest villagers with but one noticeable
characteristic, an overweening idea of Mrs. Postlethwaite's
importance. Perhaps the spell she had so liberally woven for
others in other and happier days was felt by them at this hour.
It would not be strange; I had almost fallen under it myself, so
great was the fascination of her manner even in this wreck of her
bodily powers, when triumph assured, she faced us all in a state
of complete satisfaction.

But before I was again quit of the place, all my doubts returned
and in fuller force than ever. I had lingered in my going as much
as decency would permit, hoping to hear a step on the stair or
see a face in some doorway which would contradict Mrs.
Postlethwaite's cold assurance that Miss Postlethwaite was no
better. But no such step did I hear, and no face did I see save
the old, old one of the ancient friend or relative, whose bent
frame seemed continually to haunt the halls. As before, he stood
listening to the monotonous ticking of one of the clocks,
muttering to himself and quite oblivious of my presence.

However, this time I decided not to pass him without a more
persistent attempt to gain his notice. Pausing at his side, I
asked him in the friendly tone I thought best calculated to
attract his attention, how Miss Postlethwaite was to-day. He was
so intent upon his task, whatever that was, that while he turned
my way, it was with a glance as blank as that of a stone image.

"Listen!" he admonished me. "It still says No! No! I don't think
it will ever say anything else."

I stared at him in some consternation, then at the clock itself
which was the tall one I had found run down at my first visit.
There was nothing unusual in its quiet tick, so far as I could
hear, and with a compassionate glance at the old man who had
turned breathlessly again to listen, proceeded on my way without
another word.

The old fellow was daft. A century old, and daft.

I had worked my way out through the vines which still encumbered
the porch, and was taking my first steps down the walk, when some
impulse made me turn and glance up at one of the windows.

Did I bless the impulse? I thought I had every reason for doing
so, when through a network of interlacing branches I beheld the
young girl with whom my mind was wholly occupied, standing with
her head thrust forward, watching the descent of something small
and white which she had just released from her hand.

A note! A note written by her and meant for me! With a grateful
look in her direction (which was probably lost upon her as she
had already drawn back out of sight), I sprang for it only to
meet with disappointment. For it was no billet-doux I received
from amid the clustering brush where it had fallen; but a small
square of white cloth showing a line of fantastic embroidery.
Annoyed beyond measure, I was about to fling it down again, when
the thought that it had come from her hand deterred me, and I
thrust it into my vest pocket. When I took it out again--which
was soon after I had taken my seat in the car--I discovered what
a mistake I should have made if I had followed my first impulse.
For, upon examining the stitches more carefully, I perceived that
what I had considered a mere decorative pattern was in fact a
string of letters, and that these letters made words, and that
these words were:

IDONOTWANTTODIEBUTISURELYWILLIF

Or, in plain writing:

"I do not want to die, but I surely will if--"

Finish the sentence for me. That is the problem I offer you. It
is not a case for the police but one well worth your attention,
if you succeed in reaching the heart of this mystery and saving
this young girl.

Only, let no delay occur. The doom, if doom it is, is immanent.
Remember that the will is signed.

"She is too small; I did not ask you to send me a midget."

Thus spoke Mrs. Postlethwaite to her doctor, as he introduced
into her presence a little figure in nurse's cap and apron. "You
said I needed care,--more care than I was receiving. I answered
that my old nurse could give it, and you objected that she or
someone else must look after Miss Postlethwaite. I did not see
the necessity, but I never contradict a doctor. So I yielded to
your wishes, but not without the proviso (you remember that I
made a proviso) that whatever sort of young woman you chose to
introduce into this room, she should not be fresh from the
training schools, and that she should be strong, silent, and
capable. And you bring me this mite of a woman--is she a woman?
she looks more like a child, of pleasing countenance enough, but
who can no more lift me--"

"Pardon me!" Little Miss Strange had advanced. "I think, if you
will allow me the privilege, madam, that I can shift you into a
much more comfortable position." And with a deftness and ease
certainly not to be expected from one of her slight physique,
Violet raised the helpless invalid a trifle more upon her pillow.

The act, its manner, and the smile accompanying it, could not
fail to please, and undoubtedly did, though no word rewarded her
from lips not much given to speech save when the occasion was
imperative. But Mrs. Postlethwaite made no further objection to
her presence, and, seeing this, the doctor's countenance relaxed
and he left the room with a much lighter step than that with
which he had entered it.

And thus it was that Violet Strange--an adept in more ways than
one--became installed at the bedside of this mysterious woman,
whose days, if numbered, still held possibilities of action which
those interested in young Helena Postlethwaite's fate would do
well to recognize.

Miss Strange had been at her post for two days, and had gathered
up the following:

That Mrs. Postlethwaite must be obeyed.

That her step-daughter (who did not wish to die) would die if she
knew it to be the wish of this domineering but apparently
idolized woman.

That the old man of the clocks, while senile in some regards, was
very alert and quite youthful in others. If a century old--which
she began greatly to doubt--he had the language and manner of one
in his prime, when unaffected by the neighbourhood of the clocks,
which seemed in some non-understandable way to exercise an occult
influence over him. At table he was an entertaining host; but
neither there nor elsewhere would he discuss the family, or
dilate in any way upon the peculiarities of a household of which
he manifestly regarded himself as the least important member. Yet
no one knew them better, and when Violet became quite assured of
this, as well as of the futility of looking for explanation of
any kind from either of her two patients, she resolved upon an
effort to surprise one from him.

She went about it in this way. Noting his custom of making a
complete round of the clocks each night after dinner, she took
advantage of Mrs. Postlethwaite's inclination to sleep at this
hour, to follow him from clock to clock in the hope of
overhearing some portion of the monologue with which he bent his
head to the swinging pendulum, or put his ear to the hidden
works. Soft-footed and discreet, she tripped along at his back,
and at each pause he made, paused herself and turned her ear his
way. The extreme darkness of the halls, which were more sombre by
night than by day, favoured this attempt, and she was able, after
a failure or two, to catch the No! no! no! no! which fell from
his lips in seeming repetition of what he heard the most of them
say.

The satisfaction in his tone proved that the denial to which he
listened, chimed in with his hopes and gave ease to his mind. But
he looked his oldest when, after pausing at another of the many
time-pieces, he echoed in answer to its special refrain, Yes!
yes! yes! yes! and fled the spot with shaking body and a
distracted air.

The same fear and the same shrinking were observable in him as he
returned from listening to the least conspicuous one, standing in
a short corridor, where Violet could not follow him. But when,
after a hesitation which enabled her to slip behind the curtain
hiding the drawing-room door, he approached and laid his ear
against the great one standing, as if on guard, at the foot of
the stairs, she saw by the renewed vigour he displayed that there
was comfort for him in its message, even before she caught the
whisper with which he left it and proceeded to mount the stairs:

"It says No! It always says No! I will heed it as the voice of
Heaven."

But one conclusion could be the result of such an experiment to a
mind like Violet's. This partly touched old man not only held the
key to the secret of this house, but was in a mood to divulge it
if once he could be induced to hear command instead of dissuasion
in the tick of this one large clock. But how could he be induced?
Violet returned to Mrs. Postlethwaite's bedside in a mood of
extreme thoughtfulness.

Another day passed, and she had not yet seen Miss Postlethwaite.
She was hoping each hour to be sent on some errand to that young
lady's room, but no such opportunity was granted her. Once she
ventured to ask the doctor, whose visits were now very frequent,
what he thought of the young lady's condition. But as this
question was necessarily put in Mrs. Postlethwaite's presence,
the answer was naturally guarded, and possibly not altogether
frank.

"Our young lady is weaker," he acknowledged. "Much weaker," he
added with marked emphasis and his most professional air, "or she
would be here instead of in her own room. It grieves her not to
be able to wait upon her generous benefactress."

The word fell heavily. Had it been used as a test? Violet gave
him a look, though she had much rather have turned her
discriminating eye upon the face staring up at them from the
pillow. Had the alarm expressed by others communicated itself at
last to the physician? Was the charm which had held him
subservient to the mother, dissolving under the pitiable state of
the child, and was he trying to aid the little detective-nurse
in her effort to sound the mystery of her condition?

His look expressed benevolence, but he took care not to meet the
gaze of the woman he had just lauded, possibly because that gaze
was fixed upon him in a way to tax his moral courage. The silence
which ensued was broken by Mrs. Postlethwaite:

"She will live--this poor Helena--how long?" she asked, with no
break in her voice's wonted music.

The doctor hesitated, then with a candour hardly to be expected
from him, answered:

"I do not understand Miss Postlethwaite's case. I should like,
with your permission, to consult some New York physician."

"Indeed!"

A single word, but as it left this woman's thin lips Violet
recoiled, and, perhaps, the doctor did. Rage can speak in one
word as well as in a dozen, and the rage which spoke in this one
was of no common order, though it was quickly suppressed, as was
all other show of feeling when she added, with a touch of her old
charm:

"Of course you will do what you think best, as you know I never
interfere with a doctor's decisions. But" and here her natural
ascendancy of tone and manner returned in all its potency, "it
would kill me to know that a stranger was approaching Helena's
bedside. It would kill her. She's too sensitive to survive such a
shock."

Violet recalled the words worked with so much care by this young
girl on a minute piece of linen, I do not want to die, and
watched the doctor's face for some sign of resolution. But
embarrassment was all she saw there, and all she heard him say
was the conventional reply:

"I am doing all I can for her. We will wait another day and note
the effect of my latest prescription."

Another day!

The deathly calm which overspread Mrs. Postlethwaite's features
as this word left the physician's lips warned Violet not to let
another day go by without some action. But she made no remark,
and, indeed, betrayed but little interest in anything beyond her
own patient's condition. That seemed to occupy her wholly. With
consummate art she gave the appearance of being under Mrs.
Postlethwaite's complete thrall, and watched with fascinated eyes
every movement of the one unstricken finger which could do so
much.

This little detective of ours could be an excellent actor when
she chose.

III

To make the old man speak! To force this conscience-stricken but
rebellious soul to reveal what the clock forbade! How could it be
done?

This continued to be Violet's great problem. She pondered it so
deeply during all the remainder of the day that a little pucker
settled on her brow, which someone (I will not mention who) would
have been pained to see. Mrs. Postlethwaite, if she noticed it at
all, probably ascribed it to her anxieties as nurse, for never
had Violet been more assiduous in her attentions. But Mrs.
Postlethwaite was no longer the woman she had been, and possibly
never noted it at all.

At five o'clock Violet suddenly left the room. Slipping down into
the lower hall, she went the round of the clocks herself,
listening to every one. There was no perceptible difference in
their tick. Satisfied of this and that it was simply the old
man's imagination which had supplied them each with separate
speech, she paused before the huge one at the foot of the stairs,
--the one whose dictate he had promised himself to follow,--and
with an eye upon its broad, staring dial, muttered wistfully:

"Oh! for an idea! For an idea!"

Did this cumbrous relic of old-time precision turn traitor at
this ingenuous plea? The dial continued to stare, the works to
sing, but Violet's face suddenly lost its perplexity. With a wary
look about her and a listening ear turned towards the stair top,
she stretched out her hand and pulled open the door guarding the
pendulum, and peered in at the works, smiling slyly to herself as
she pushed it back into place and retreated upstairs to the sick
room.

When the doctor came that night she had a quiet word with him
outside Mrs. Postlethwaite's door. Was that why he was on hand
when old Mr. Dunbar stole from his room to make his nightly
circuit of the halls below? Something quite beyond the ordinary
was in the good physician's mind, for the look he cast at the old
man was quite unlike any he had ever bestowed upon him before,
and when he spoke it was to say with marked urgency:

"Our beautiful young lady will not live a week unless I get at
the seat of her malady. Pray that I may be enabled to do so, Mr.
Dunbar."

A blow to the aged man's heart which called forth a feeble "Yes,
yes," followed by a wild stare which imprinted itself upon the
doctor's memory as the look of one hopelessly old, who hears for
the first time a distinct call from the grave which has long been
awaiting him!

A solitary lamp stood in the lower hall. As the old man picked
his slow way down, its small, hesitating flame flared up as in a
sudden gust, then sank down flickering and faint as if it, too,
had heard a call which summoned it to extinction.

No other sign of life was visible anywhere. Sunk in twilight
shadows, the corridors branched away on either side to no place
in particular and serving, to all appearance (as many must have
thought in days gone by), as a mere hiding-place for clocks.

To listen to their united hum, the old man paused, looking at
first a little distraught, but settling at last into his usual
self as he started forward upon his course. Did some whisper,
hitherto unheard, warn him that it was the last time he would
tread that weary round? Who can tell? He was trembling very much
when with his task nearly completed, he stepped out again into
the main hall and crept rather than walked back to the one great
clock to whose dictum he made it a practice to listen last.

Chattering the accustomed words, "They say Yes! They are all
saying Yes! now; but this one will say No!" he bent his stiff old
back and laid his ear to the unresponsive wood. But the time for
no had passed. It was Yes! yes! yes! yes! now, and as his
straining ears took in the word, he appeared to shrink where he
stood and after a moment of anguished silence, broke forth into a
low wail, amid whose lamentations one could hear:

"The time has come! Even the clock she loves best bids me speak.
Oh! Arabella, Arabella!"

In his despair he had not noticed that the pendulum hung
motionless, or that the hands stood at rest on the dial. If he
had, he might have waited long enough to have seen the careful
opening of the great clock's tall door and the stepping forth of
the little lady who had played so deftly upon his superstition.

He was wandering the corridors like a helpless child, when a
gentle hand fell on his arm and a soft voice whispered in his
ear:

"You have a story to tell. Will you tell it to me? It may save
Miss Postlethwaite's life."

Did he understand? Would he respond if he did; or would the shock
of her appeal restore him to a sense of the danger attending
disloyalty? For a moment she doubted the wisdom of this startling
measure, then she saw that he had passed the point of surprise
and that, stranger as she was, she had but to lead the way for
him to follow, tell his story, and die.

There was no light in the drawing-room when they entered. But old
Mr. Dunbar did not seem to mind that. Indeed, he seemed to have
lost all consciousness of present surroundings; he was even
oblivious of her. This became quite evident when the lamp, in
flaring up again in the hall, gave a momentary glimpse, of his
crouching, half-kneeling figure. In the pleading gesture of his
trembling, outreaching arms, Violet beheld an appeal, not to
herself, but to some phantom of his imagination; and when he
spoke, as he presently did, it was with the freedom of one to
whom speech is life's last boon, and the ear of the listener
quite forgotten in the passion of confession long suppressed.

"She has never loved me," he began, "but I have always loved her.
For me no other woman has ever existed, though I was sixty-five
years of age when I first saw her, and had long given up the idea
that there lived a woman who could sway me from my even life and
fixed lines of duty. Sixty-five! and she a youthful bride! Was
there ever such folly! Happily I realized it from the first, and
piled ashes on my hidden flame. Perhaps that is why I adore her
to this day and only give her over to reprobation because Fate is
stronger than my age--stronger even than my love.

"She is not a good woman, but I might have been a good man if I
had never known the sin which drew a line of isolation about her,
and within which I, and only I, have stood with her in silent
companionship. What was this sin, and in what did it have its
beginning? I think its beginning was in the passion she had for
her husband. It was not the every-day passion of her sex in this
land of equable affections, but one of foreign fierceness,
jealousy, and insatiable demand. Yet he was a very ordinary man.
I was once his tutor and I know. She came to know it too, when--
but I am rushing on too fast, I have much to tell before I reach
that point.

"From the first, I was in their confidence. Not that either he or
she put me there, but that I lived with them and was always
around, and could not help seeing and hearing what went on
between them. Why he continued to want me in the house and at his
table, when I could no longer be of service to him, I have never
known. Possibly habit explains all. He was accustomed to my
presence and so was she; so accustomed they hardly noticed it, as
happened one night, when after a little attempt at conversation,
he threw down the book he had caught up and, addressing her by
name, said without a glance my way, and quite as if he were alone
with her:

"'Arabella, there is something I ought to tell you. I have tried
to find the courage to do so many times before now but have
always failed. Tonight I must.' And then he made his great
disclosure,--how, unknown to, his friends and the world, he was a
widower when he married her, and the father of a living child.

"With some women this might have passed with a measure of regret,
and some possible contempt for his silence, but not so with her.
She rose to her feet--I can see her yet--and for a moment stood
facing him in the still, overpowering manner of one who feels the
icy pang of hate enter where love has been. Never was moment more
charged. I could not breathe while it lasted; and when at last
she spoke, it was with an impetuosity of concentrated passion,
hardly less dreadful than her silence had been.

"'You a father! A father already!' she cried, all her sweetness
swallowed up in ungovernable wrath. 'You whom I expected to make
so happy with a child? I curse you and your brat. I--'

"He strove to placate her, to explain. But rage has no ears, and
before I realized my own position, the scene became openly
tempestuous. That her child should be second to another woman's
seemed to awaken demon instincts within her. When he ventured to
hint that his little girl needed a mother's care, her irony bit
like corroding acid. He became speechless before it and had not a
protest to raise when she declared that the secret he had kept so
long and so successfully he must continue to keep to his dying
day. That the child he had failed to own in his first wife's
lifetime should remain disowned in hers, and if possible be
forgotten. She should never give the girl a thought nor
acknowledge her in any way.

"She was Fury embodied; but the fury was of that grand order
which allures rather than repels. As I felt myself succumbing to
its fascination and beheld how he was weakening under it even
more perceptibly than myself, I started from my chair, and sought
to glide away before I should hear him utter a fatal
acquiescence.

"But the movement I made unfortunately drew their attention to
me, and after an instant of silent contemplation of my distracted
countenance, Frank said, as though he were the elder by the forty
years which separated us:

"'You have listened to Mrs. Postlethwaite's wishes. You will
respect them of course.'"

That was all. He knew and she knew that I was to be trusted; but
neither of them has ever known why.

A month later her child came, and was welcomed as though it were
the first to bear his name. It was a boy, and their satisfaction
was so great that I looked to see their old affection revive. But
it had been cleft at the root, and nothing could restore it to
life. They loved the child; I have never seen evidence of greater
parental passion than they both displayed, but there their
feelings stopped. Towards each other they were cold. They did not
even unite in worship of their treasure. They gloated over him
and planned for him, but always apart. He was a child in a
thousand, and as he developed, the mother especially, nursed all
her energies for the purpose of ensuring for him a future
commensurate with his talents. Never a very conscientious woman,
and alive to the advantages of wealth as demonstrated by the
power wielded by her rich brother-in-law, she associated all the
boy's prospects with money, great money, such money as Andrew had
accumulated, and now had at his disposal for his natural heirs.

"Hence came her great temptation,--a temptation to which she
yielded, to the lasting trouble of us all. Of this I must now
make confession though it kills me to do so, and will soon kill
her. The deeds of the past do not remain buried, however deep we
dig their graves, but rise in an awful resurrection when we are
old--old--"

Silence. Then a tremulous renewal of his painful speech.

Violet held her breath to listen. Possibly the doctor, hidden in
the darkest corner of the room, did so also.

"I never knew how she became acquainted with the terms of her
brother-in-law's will. He certainly never confided them to her,
and as certainly the lawyer who drew up the document never did.
But that she was well aware of its tenor is as positive a fact as
that I am the most wretched man alive tonight. Otherwise, why the
darksome deed into which she was betrayed when both the brothers
lay dying among strangers, of a dreadful accident?"

"I was witness to that deed. I had accompanied her on her hurried
ride and was at her side when she entered the inn where the two
Postlethwaites lay. I was always at her side in great joy or in
great trouble, though she professed no affection for me and gave
me but scanty thanks."

"During our ride she had been silent and I had not disturbed that
silence. I had much to think of. Should we find him living, or
should we find him dead? If dead, would it sever the relations
between us two? Would I ever ride with her again?"

"When I was not dwelling on this theme, I was thinking of the
parting look she gave her boy; a look which had some strange
promise in it. What had that look meant and why did my flesh
creep and my mind hover between dread and a fearsome curiosity
when I recalled it? Alas! There was reason for all these
sensations as I was soon to learn.

"We found the inn seething with terror and the facts worse than
had been represented in the telegram. Her husband was dying. She
had come just in time to witness the end. This they told her
before she had taken off her veil. If they had waited--if I had
been given a full glimpse of her face--But it was hidden, and I
could only judge of the nature of her emotions by the stern way
in which she held herself.

"'Take me to him,' was the quiet command, with which she met this
disclosure. Then, before any of them could move:

"'And his brother, Mr. Andrew Postlethwaite? Is he fatally
injured too?'

"The reply was unequivocal. The doctors were uncertain which of
the two would pass away first.

"You must remember that at this time I was ignorant of the rich
man's will, and consequently of how the fate of a poor child of
whom I had heard only one mention, hung in the balance at that
awful moment. But in the breathlessness which seized Mrs.
Postlethwaite at this sentence of double death, I realized from
my knowledge of her that something more than grief was at prey
upon her impenetrable heart, and shuddered to the core of my
being when she repeated in that voice which was so terrible
because so expressionless:

"'Take me to them.'"

They were lying in one room, her husband nearest the door, the
other in a small alcove some ten feet away. Both were
unconscious; both were surrounded by groups of frightened
attendants who fell back as she approached. A doctor stood at the
bed-head of her husband, but as her eye met his he stepped aside
with a shake of the head and left the place empty for her.

"The action was significant. I saw that she understood what it
meant, and with constricted heart watched her as she bent over
the dying man and gazed into his wide-open eyes, already
sightless and staring. Calculation was in her look and
calculation only; and calculation, or something equally
unintelligible, sent her next glance in the direction of his
brother. What was in her mind? I could understand her
indifference to Frank even at the crisis of his fate, but not the
interest she showed in Andrew. It was an absorbing one, altering
her whole expression. I no longer knew her for my dear young
madam, and the jealousy I had never felt towards Frank rose to
frantic resentment in my breast as I beheld what very likely
might be a tardy recognition of the other's well-known passion,
forced into disclosure by the exigencies of the moment.

"Alarmed by the strength of my feelings, and fearing an equal
disclosure on my own part, I sought for a refuge from all eyes
and found it in a little balcony opening out at my right. On to
this balcony I stepped and found myself face to face with a star-
lit heaven. Had I only been content with my isolation and the
splendour of the spectacle spread out before me! But no, I must
look back upon that bed and the solitary woman standing beside
it! I must watch the settling of her body into rigidity as a
voice rose from beside the other Postlethwaite saying, 'It is a
matter of minutes now,' and then--and then--the slow creeping of
her hand to her husband's mouth, the outspreading of her palm
across the livid lips--its steady clinging there, smothering the
feeble gasps of one already moribund, till the quivering form
grew still, and Frank Postlethwaite lay dead before my eyes!

"I saw, and made no outcry, but she did, bringing the doctor back
to her side with the startled exclamation:

"'Dead? I thought he had an hour's life left in him, and he has
passed before his brother.'

"I thought it hate--the murderous impulse of a woman who sees her
enemy at her mercy and can no longer restrain the passion of her
long-cherished antagonism; and while something within me rebelled
at the act, I could not betray her, though silence made a
murderer of me too. I could not. Her spell was upon me as in
another instant it was upon everyone else in the room. No
suspicion of one so self-repressed in her sadness disturbed the
universal sympathy; and encouraged by this blindness of the
crowd, I vowed within myself never to reveal her secret. The man
was dead, or as good as dead, when she touched him; and now that
her hate was expended she would grow gentle and good.

"But I knew the worthlessness of this hope as well as my
misconception of her motive, when Frank's child by another wife
returned to my memory, and Bella's sin stood exposed."

"But only to myself. I alone knew that the fortune now wholly
hers, and in consequence her boy's, had been won by a crime. That
if her hand had fallen in comfort on her husband's forehead
instead of in pressure on his mouth, he would have outlived his
brother long enough to have become owner of his millions; in
which case a rightful portion would have been insured to his
daughter, now left a penniless waif. The thought made my hair
rise, as the proceedings over, I faced her and made my first and
last effort to rid my conscience of its new and intolerable
burden.

"But the woman I had known and loved was no longer before me. The
crown had touched her brows, and her charm which had been mainly
sexual up to this hour had merged into an intellectual force,
with which few men's mentality could cope. Mine yielded at once
to it. From the first instant, I knew that a slavery of spirit,
as well as of heart, was henceforth to be mine.

"She did not wait for me to speak; she had assumed the dictator's
attitude at once.

"'I know of what you are thinking,"' said she, 'and it is a
subject you may dismiss at once from your mind. Mr.
Postlethwaite's child by his first wife is coming to live with
us. I have expressed my wishes in this regard to my lawyer, and
there is nothing left to be said. You, with your close mouth and
dependable nature, are to remain here as before, and occupy the
same position towards my boy that you did towards his father. We
shall move soon into a larger house, and the nature of our duties
will be changed and their scope greatly increased; but I know
that you can be trusted to enlarge with them and meet every
requirement I shall see fit to make. Do not try to express your
thanks. I see them in your face.'

"Did she, or just the last feeble struggle my conscience was
making to break the bonds in which she held me, and win back my
own respect? I shall never know, for she left me on completion of
this speech, not to resume the subject, then or ever.

"But though I succumbed outwardly to her demands, I had not
passed the point where inner conflict ends and peace begins. Her
recognition of Helena and her reception into the family calmed me
for a while, and gave me hope that all would yet be well. But I
had never sounded the full bitterness of madam's morbid heart,
well as I thought I knew it. The hatred she had felt from the
first for her husband's child ripened into frenzied dislike when
she found her a living image of the mother whose picture she had
come across among Frank's personal effects. To win a tear from
those meek eyes instead of a smile to the sensitive lips was her
daily play. She seemed to exult in the joy of impressing upon the
girl by how little she had missed a great fortune, and I have
often thought, much as I tried to keep my mind free from all
extravagant and unnecessary fancies, that half of the money she
spent in beautifying this house and maintaining art industries
and even great charitable institutions was spent with the base
purpose of demonstrating to this child the power of immense
wealth, and in what ways she might expect to see her little
brother expend the millions in which she had been denied all
share.

"I was so sure of this that one night while I was winding up the
clocks with which Mrs. Postlethwaite in her fondness for old
timepieces has filled the house, I stopped to look at the little
figure toiling so wearily upstairs, to bed, without a mother's
kiss. There was an appeal in the small wistful face which smote
my hard old heart, and possibly a tear welled up in my own eye
when I turned back to my duty."

"Was that why I felt the hand of Providence upon me, when in my
halt before the one clock to which any superstitious interest was
attached--the great one at the foot of the stairs--I saw that it
had stopped and at the one minute of all minutes in our wretched
lives: Four minutes past two? The hour, the minute in which Frank
Postlethwaite had gasped his last under the pressure of his
wife's hand! I knew it--the exact minute I mean--because
Providence meant that I should know it. There had been a clock on
the mantelpiece of the hotel room where he and his brother had
died and I had seen her glance steal towards it at the instant
she withdrew her palm from her husband's lips. The stare of that
dial and the position of its hands had lived still in my mind as
I believed it did in hers.

"Four minutes past two! How came our old timepiece here to stop
at that exact moment on a day when Duty was making its last
demand upon me to remember Frank's unhappy child? There was no
one to answer; but as I looked and looked, I felt the impulse of
the moment strengthen into purpose to leave those hands
undisturbed in their silent accusation. She might see, and, moved
by the coincidence, tremble at her treatment of Helena.

"But if this happened--if she saw and trembled--she gave no sign.
The works were started up by some other hand, and the incident
passed. But it left me with an idea. That clock soon had a way of
stopping and always at that one instant of time. She was forced
at length to notice it, and I remember, an occasion when she
stood stock-still with her eyes on those hands, and failed to
find the banister with her hand, though she groped for it in her
frantic need for support.

"But no command came from her to remove the worn-out piece, and
soon its tricks, and every lesser thing, were forgotten in the
crushing calamity which befell us in the sickness and death of
little Richard.

"Oh, those days and nights! And oh, the face of the mother when
the doctors told her that the case was hopeless! I asked myself
then, and I have asked myself a hundred times since, which of all
the emotions I saw pictured there bit the deepest, and made the
most lasting impression on her guilty heart? Was it remorse? If
so, she showed no change in her attitude towards Helena, unless
it was by an added bitterness. The sweet looks and gentle ways of
Frank's young daughter could not win against a hate sharpened by
disappointment. Useless for me to hope for it. Release from the
remorse of years was not to come in that way. As I realized this,
I grew desperate and resorted again to the old trick of stopping
the clock at the fatal hour. This time her guilty heart
responded. She acknowledged the stab and let all her miseries
appear. But how? In a way to wring my heart almost to madness,
and not benefit the child at all. She had her first stroke that
night. I had made her a helpless invalid.

"That was eight years ago, and since then what? Stagnation. She
lived with her memories, and I with mine. Helena only had a right
to hope, and hope perhaps she did, till--Is that the great clock
talking? Listen! They all talk, but I heed only the one. What
does it say? Tell! tell! tell! Does it think I will be silent now
when I come to my own guilt? That I will seek to hide my weakness
when I could not hide her sin?"

"Explain!" It was Violet speaking, and her tone was stern in its
command. "Of what guilt do you speak? Not of guilt towards
Helena; you pitied her too much--"

"But I pitied my dear madam more. It was that which affected me
and drew me into crime against my will. Besides, I did not know--
not at first--what was in the little bowl of curds and cream I
carried to the girl each day. She had eaten them in her step-
mother's room, and under her step-mother's eye as long as she had
strength to pass from room to room, and how was I to guess that
it was not wholesome? Because she failed in health from day to
day? Was not my dear madam failing in health also; and was there
poison in her cup? Innocent at that time, why am I not innocent
now? Because--Oh, I will tell it all; as though at the bar of
God. I will tell all the secrets of that day.

"She was sitting with her hand trembling on the tray from which I
had just lifted the bowl she had bid me carry to Helena. I had
seen her so a hundred times before, but not with just that look
in her eyes, or just that air of desolation in her stony figure.
Something made me speak; something made me ask if she were not
quite so well as usual, and something made her reply with the
dreadful truth that the doctor had given her just two months more
to live. My fright and mad anguish stupefied me; for I was not
prepared for this, no, not at all;--and unconsciously I stared
down at the bowl I held, unable to breathe or move or even to
meet her look."

As usual she misinterpreted my emotion.

"'Why do you stand like that?' I heard her say in a tone of great
irritation. 'And why do you stare into that bowl? Do you think I
mean to leave that child to walk these halls after I am carried
out of them forever? Do you measure my hate by such a petty yard-
stick as that? I tell you that I would rot above ground rather
than enter it before she did?'

"I had believed I knew this woman; but what soul ever knows
another's? What soul ever knows itself?

"'Bella!' I cried; the first time I had ever presumed to address
her so intimately. 'Would you poison the girl?' And from sheer
weakness my fingers lost their clutch, and the bowl fell to the
floor, breaking into a dozen pieces.

"For a minute she stared down at these from over her tray, and
then she remarked very low and very quietly:

"'Another bowl, Humphrey, and fresh curds from the kitchen. I
will do the seasoning. The doses are too small to be skipped. You
won't?'--I had shaken my head--'But you will! It will not be the
first time you have gone down the hall with this mixture.'

"'But that was before I knew--' I began.

"'And now that you do, you will go just the same.' Then as I
stood hesitating, a thousand memories overwhelming me in an
instant, she added in a voice to tear the heart, 'Do not make me
hate the only being left in this world who understands and loves
me.'

"She was a helpless invalid, and I a broken man, but when that
word 'love' fell from her lips, I felt the blood start burning in
my veins, and all the crust of habit and years of self-control
loosen about my heart, and make me young again. What if her
thoughts were dark and her wishes murderous! She was born to rule
and sway men to her will even to their own undoing."

"'I wish I might kiss your hand,' was what I murmured, gazing  at
her white fingers groping over her tray.

"'You may,' she answered, and hell became heaven to me for a
brief instant. Then I lifted myself and went obediently about my
task.

"But puppet though I was, I was not utterly without sympathy.
When I entered Helena's room and saw how her startled eyes fell
shrinkingly on the bowl I set down before her, my conscience
leaped to life and I could not help saying:

"'Don't you like the curds, Helena? Your brother used to love them
very much.'

"'His were--'

"'What, Helena?'

"'What these are not,' she murmured.

"I stared at her, terror-stricken. So she knew, and yet did not
seize the bowl and empty it out of the window! Instead, her hand
moved slowly towards it and drew it into place before her.

"'Yet I must eat,' she said, lifting her eyes to mine in a sort
of patient despair, which yet was without accusation.

"But my hand had instinctively gone to hers and grasped it.

"'Why must you eat it?' I asked. 'If--if you do not find it
wholesome, why do you touch it?'

"'Because my step-mother expects me to,' she cried, 'and I have
no other will than hers. When I was a little, little child, my
father made me promise that if I ever came to live with her I
would obey her simplest wish. And I always have. I will not
disappoint the trust he put in me.'

"'Even if you die of it?'

"I do not know whether I whispered these words or only thought
them. She answered as though I had spoken.

"'I am not afraid to die. I am more afraid to live. She may ask
me some day to do something I feel to be wrong.'

"When I fled down the hall that night, I heard one of the small
clocks speak to me. Tell! it cried, tell! tell! tell! tell! I
rushed away from it with beaded forehead and rising hair.

"Then another's note piped up. No it droned. No! no! no! no! I
stopped and took heart. Disgrace the woman I loved, on the brink
of the grave? I--, who asked no other boon from heaven than to
see her happy, gracious, and good? Impossible. I would obey the
great clock's voice; the others were mere chatterboxes.

"But it has at last changed its tune, for some reason, quite
changed its tune. Now, it is Yes! Yes! instead of No! and in
obeying it I save Helena. But what of Bella? and O God, what of
myself?"

A sigh, a groan, then a long and heavy silence, into which there
finally broke the pealing of the various clocks striking the
hour. When all were still again and Violet had drawn aside the
portiere, it was to see the old man on his knees, and between her
and the thin streak of light entering from the hall, the figure
of the doctor hastening to Helena's bedside.

When with inducements needless to name, they finally persuaded
the young girl to leave her unholy habitation, it was in the arms
which had upheld her once before, and to a life which promised to
compensate her for her twenty years of loneliness and unsatisfied
longing.

But a black shadow yet remained which she must cross before
reaching the sunshine!

It lay at her step-mother's door.

In the plans made for Helena's release, Mrs. Postlethwaite's
consent had not been obtained nor was she supposed to be
acquainted with the doctor's intentions towards the child whose
death she was hourly awaiting.

It was therefore with an astonishment, bordering on awe, that on
their way downstairs, they saw the door of her room open and
herself standing alone and upright on the threshold--she who had
not been seen to take a step in years. In the wonder of this
miracle of suddenly restored power, the little procession
stopped,--the doctor with his hand upon the rail, the lover with
his burden clasped yet more protectingly to his breast. That a
little speech awaited them could be seen from the force and fury
of the gaze which the indomitable woman bent upon the lax and
half-unconscious figure she beheld thus sheltered and conveyed.
Having but one arrow left in her exhausted quiver, she launched
it straight at the innocent breast which had never harboured
against her a defiant thought.

"Ingrate!" was the word she hurled in a voice from which all its
seductive music had gone forever. "Where are you going? Are they
carrying you alive to your grave?"

A moan from Helena's pale lips, then silence. She had fainted at
that barbed attack. But there was one there who dared to answer
for her and he spoke relentlessly. It was the man who loved her.

"No, madam. We are carrying her to safety. You must know what I
mean by that. Let her go quietly and you may die in peace.
Otherwise--"

She interrupted him with a loud call, startling into life the
echoes of that haunted hall:

"Humphrey! Come to me, Humphrey!"

But no Humphrey appeared.

Another call, louder and more peremptory than before:

"Humphrey! I say, Humphrey!"

But the answer was the same--silence, and only silence. As the
horror of this grew, the doctor spoke:

"Mr. Humphrey Dunbar's ears are closed to all earthly summons. He
died last night at the very hour he said he would--four minutes
after two."

"Four minutes after two!" It came from her lips in a whisper, but
with a revelation of her broken heart and life. "Four minutes
after two!" And defiant to the last, her head rose, and for an
instant, for a mere breath of time, they saw her as she had
looked in her prime, regal in form, attitude, and expression;
then the will which had sustained her through so much, faltered
and succumbed, and with a final reiteration of the words "Four
minutes after two!" she broke into a rattling laugh, and fell
back into the arms of her old nurse.

And below, one clock struck the hour and then another. But not
the big one at the foot of the stairs. That still stood silent,
with its hands pointing to the hour and minute of Frank
Postlethwaite's hastened death.

END OF PROBLEM VI


PROBLEM VII

THE DOCTOR, HIS WIFE, AND THE CLOCK

Violet had gone to her room. She had a task before her. That
afternoon, a packet had been left at the door, which, from a
certain letter scribbled in one corner, she knew to be from her
employer. The contents of that packet must be read, and she had
made herself comfortable with the intention of setting to work at
once. But ten o'clock struck and then eleven before she could
bring herself to give any attention to the manuscript awaiting
her perusal. In her present mood, a quiet sitting by the fire,
with her eyes upon the changeful flame, was preferable to the
study of any affair her employer might send her. Yet, because she
was conscious of the duty she thus openly neglected, she sat
crouched over her desk with her hand on the mysterious packet,
the string of which, however, she made no effort to loosen.

What was she thinking of?

We are not alone in our curiosity on this subject. Her brother
Arthur, coming unperceived into the room, gives tokens of a
similar interest. Never before had he seen her oblivious to an
approaching step; and after a momentary contemplation of her
absorbed figure, so girlishly sweet and yet so deeply intent, he
advances to her side, and peering earnestly into her face,
observes with a seriousness quite unusual to him:

"Puss, you are looking worried,--not like yourself at all. I've
noticed it for some time. What's up. Getting tired of the
business?"

"No--not altogether--that is, it's not that, if it's anything.
I'm not sure that it's anything. I--"

She had turned back to her desk and was pushing about the various
articles with which it was plentifully bespread; but this did not
hide the flush which had crept into her cheeks and even dyed the
snowy whiteness of her neck. Arthur's astonishment at this
evidence of emotion was very great; but he said nothing, only
watched her still more closely, as with a light laugh she
regained her self-possession, and with the practical air of a
philosopher uttered this trite remark:

"Everyone has his sober moments. I was only thinking--"

"Of some new case?"

"Not exactly." The words came softly but with a touch of mingled
humour and gravity which made Arthur stare again.

"See here, Puss!" he cried. His tone had changed. "I've just come
up from the den. Father and I have had a row--a beastly row."

"A row? You and father? Oh, Arthur, I don't like that. Don't
quarrel with father. Don't, don't. Some day he and I may have a
serious difference about what I am doing. Don't let him feel that
he has lost us all."

"That's all right, Puss; but I've got to think of you a bit. I
can't see you spoil all your good times with these police horrors
and not do something to help. To-morrow I begin life as a
salesman in Clarke & Stebbin's. The salary is not great, but
every little helps and I don't dislike the business. But father
does. He had rather see me loafing about town setting the
fashions for fellows as idle as myself than soil my hands with
handling merchandise. That's why we quarreled. But don't worry.
Your name didn't come up, or--or--you know whose. He hasn't an
idea of why I want to work--There, Violet there!"

Two soft arms were around his neck and Violet was letting her
heart out in a succession of sisterly kisses.

"O, Arthur, you good, good boy! Together we'll soon make up the
amount, and then--"

"Then what?"

A sweet soft look robbed her face of its piquancy, but gave it an
aspect of indescribable beauty quite new to Arthur's eyes.

Tapping his lips with a thoughtful forefinger, he asked:

"Who was that sombre-looking chap I saw bowing to you as we came
out of church last Sunday?"

She awoke from her dreamy state with an astonishing quickness.

"He? Surely you remember him. Have you forgotten that evening in
Massachusetts--the grotto--and--"

"Oh, it's Upjohn, is it? Yes, I remember him. He's fond of
church, isn't he? That is, when he's in New York."

Her lips took a roguish curve then a very serious one; but she
made no answer.

"I have noticed that he's always in his seat and always looking
your way."

"That's very odd of him," she declared, her dimples coming and
going in a most bewildering fashion. "I can't imagine why he
should do that."

"Nor I,--" retorted Arthur with a smile. "But he's human, I
suppose. Only do be careful, Violet. A man so melancholy will
need a deal of cheering."

He was gone before he had fully finished this daring remark, and
Violet, left again with her thoughts, lost her glowing colour but
not her preoccupation. The hand which lay upon the packet already
alluded to did not move for many minutes, and when she roused at
last to the demands of her employer, it was with a start and a
guilty look at the small gold clock ticking out its inexorable
reminder.

"He will want an answer the first thing in the morning," she
complained to herself. And opening the packet, she took out first
a letter, and then a mass of typewritten manuscript.

She began with the letter which was as characteristic of the
writer as all the others she had had from his hand; as witness:

You probably remember the Hasbrouck murder,--or, perhaps, you
don't; it being one of a time previous to your interest in such
matters. But whether you remember it or not, I beg you to read
the accompanying summary with due care and attention to business.
When you have well mastered it with all its details, please
communicate with me in any manner most convenient to yourself,
for I shall have a word to say to you then, which you may be glad
to hear, if as you have lately intimated you need to earn but one
or two more substantial rewards in order to cry halt to the
pursuit for which you have proved yourself so well qualified.

The story, in deference to yourself as a young and much
preoccupied woman, has been written in a way to interest. Though
the work of an everyday police detective, you will find in it no
lack of mystery or romance; and if at the end you perceive that
it runs, as such cases frequently do, up against a perfectly
blank wall, you must remember that openings can be made in walls,
and that the loosening of one weak stone from its appointed
place, sometimes leads to the downfall of all.

So much for the letter.

Laying it aside, with a shrug of her expressive shoulders,
Violet took up the manuscript.

Let us take it up too. It runs thus:

On the 17th of July, 19--, a tragedy of no little interest
occurred in one of the residences of the Colonnade in Lafayette
Place.

Mr. Hasbrouck, a well known and highly respected citizen, was
attacked in his room by an unknown assailant, and shot dead
before assistance could reach him. His murderer escaped, and the
problem offered to the police was how to identify this person
who, by some happy chance or by the exercise of the most
remarkable forethought, had left no traces behind him, or any
clue by which he could be followed.

The details of the investigation which ended so unsatisfactorily
are here given by the man sent from headquarters at the first
alarm.

When, some time after midnight on the date above mentioned, I
reached Lafayette Place, I found the block lighted from end to
end. Groups of excited men and women peered from the open
doorways, and mingled their shadows with those of the huge
pillars which adorn the front of this picturesque block of
dwellings.

The house in which the crime had been committed was near the
centre of the row, and, long before I reached it, I had learned
from more than one source that the alarm was first given to the
street by a woman's shriek, and secondly by the shouts of an old
man-servant who had appeared, in a half-dressed condition, at the
window of Mr. Hasbrouck's room, crying "Murder! murder!"

But when I had crossed the threshold, I was astonished at the
paucity of facts to be gleaned from the inmates themselves. The
old servant, who was the first to talk, had only this account of
the crime to give:

The family, which consisted of Mr. Hasbrouck, his wife, and three
servants, had retired for the night at the usual hour and under
the usual auspices. At eleven o'clock the lights were all
extinguished, and the whole household asleep, with the possible
exception of Mr. Hasbrouck himself, who, being a man of large
business responsibilities, was frequently troubled with insomnia.

Suddenly Mrs. Hasbrouck woke with a start. Had she dreamed the
words that were ringing in her ears, or had they been actually
uttered in her hearing? They were short, sharp words, full of
terror and menace, and she had nearly satisfied herself that she
had imagined them, when there came, from somewhere near the door,
a sound she neither understood nor could interpret, but which
filled her with inexplicable terror, and made her afraid to
breathe, or even to stretch forth her hand towards her husband,
whom she supposed to be sleeping at her side. At length another
strange sound, which she was sure was not due to her imagination,
drove her to make an attempt to rouse him, when she was horrified
to find that she was alone in bed, and her husband nowhere within
reach.

Filled now with something more than nervous apprehension, she
flung herself to the floor, and tried to penetrate with frenzied
glances, the surrounding darkness. But the blinds and shutters
both having been carefully closed by Mr. Hasbrouck before
retiring, she found this impossible, and she was about to sink in
terror to the floor, when she heard a low gasp on the other side
of the room followed by a suppressed cry.

"God! what have I done!"

The voice was a strange one, but before the fear aroused by this
fact could culminate in a shriek of dismay, she caught the sound
of retreating footsteps, and, eagerly listening, she heard them
descend the stairs and depart by the front door.

Had she known what had occurred--had there been no doubt in her
mind as to what lay in the darkness on the other side of the room
--it is likely that, at the noise caused by the closing front
door, she would have made at once for the balcony that opened out
from the window before which she was standing, and taken one look
at the flying figure below. But her uncertainty as to what lay
hidden from her by the darkness chained her feet to the floor,
and there is no knowing when she would have moved, if a carriage
had not at that moment passed down Astor Place, bringing with it
a sense of companionship which broke the spell holding her, and
gave her strength to light the gas which was in ready reach of
her hand.

As the sudden blaze illuminated the room, revealing in a burst
the old familiar walls and well-known pieces of furniture, she
felt for a moment as if released from some heavy nightmare and
restored to the common experiences of life. But in another
instant her former dread returned, and she found herself quaking
at the prospect of passing around the foot of the bed into that
part of the room which was as yet hidden from her eyes.

But the desperation which comes with great crises finally drove
her from her retreat; and, creeping slowly forward, she cast one
glance at the floor before her, when she found her worst fears
realized by the sight of the dead body of her husband lying prone
before the open doorway, with a bullet-hole in his forehead.

Her first impulse was to shriek, but, by a powerful exercise of
will, she checked herself, and ringing frantically for the
servants who slept on the top floor of the house, flew to the
nearest window and endeavoured to open it. But the shutters had
been bolted so securely by Mr. Hasbrouck, in his endeavour to
shut out all light and sound, that by the time she had succeeded
in unfastening them, all trace of the flying murderer had
vanished from the street.

Sick with grief and terror, she stepped back into the room just
as the three frightened servants descended the stairs. As they
appeared in the open doorway, she pointed at her husband's
inanimate form, and then, as if suddenly realizing in its full
force the calamity which had befallen her, she threw up her arms,
and sank forward to the floor in a dead faint.

The two women rushed to her assistance, but the old butler,
bounding over the bed, sprang to the window, and shrieked his
alarm to the street.

In the interim that followed, Mrs. Hasbrouck was revived, and the
master's body laid decently on the bed; but no pursuit was made,
nor any inquiries started likely to assist me in establishing the
identity of the assailant.

Indeed, everyone both in the house and out, seemed dazed by the
unexpected catastrophe, and as no one had any suspicions to offer
as to the probable murderer, I had a difficult task before me.

I began in the usual way, by inspecting the scene of the murder.
I found nothing in the room, or in the condition of the body
itself, which added an iota to the knowledge already obtained.
That Mr. Hasbrouck had been in bed; that he had risen upon
hearing a noise; and that he had been shot before reaching the
door, were self-evident facts. But there was nothing to guide me
further. The very simplicity of the circumstances caused a dearth
of clues, which made the difficulty of procedure as great as any
I had ever encountered.

My search through the hall and down the stairs elicited nothing;
and an investigation of the bolts and bars by which the house was
secured, assured me that the assassin had either entered by the
front door, or had already been secreted in the house when it was
locked up for the night.

"I shall have to trouble Mrs. Hasbrouck for a short interview," I
hereupon announced to the trembling old servant, who had followed
me like a dog about the house.

He made no demur, and in a few minutes I was ushered into the
presence of the newly made widow, who sat quite alone, in a large
chamber in the rear. As I crossed the threshold she looked up,
and I encountered a good, plain face, without the shadow of guile
in it.

"Madam," said I, "I have not come to disturb you. I will ask two
or three questions only, and then leave you to your grief. I am
told that some words came from the assassin before he delivered
his fatal shot. Did you hear these distinctly enough to tell me
what they were?"

"I was sound asleep," said she, "and dreamt, as I thought, that a
fierce, strange voice cried somewhere to some one: 'Ah! you did
not expect me!' But I dare not say that these words were really
uttered to my husband, for he was not the man to call forth hate,
and only a man in the extremity of passion could address such an
exclamation in such a tone as rings in my memory in connection
with the fatal shot which woke me."

"But that shot was not the work of a friend," I argued. "If, as
these words seem to prove, the assassin had some other motive
than plunder in his assault, then your husband had an enemy,
though you never suspected it."

"Impossible!" was her steady reply, uttered in the most
convincing tone. "The man who shot him was a common burglar, and
frightened at having been betrayed into murder, fled without
looking for booty. I am sure I heard him cry out in terror and
remorse: 'God! what have I done!'"

"Was that before you left the side of the bed?"

"Yes; I did not move from my place till I heard the front door
close. I was paralysed by fear and dread."

"Are you in the habit of trusting to the security of a latch-
lock only in the fastening of your front door at night? I am told
that the big key was not in the lock, and that the bolt at the
bottom of the door was not drawn."

"The bolt at the bottom of the door is never drawn. Mr. Hasbrouck
was so good a man that he never mistrusted any one. That is why
the big lock was not fastened. The key, not working well, he took
it some days ago to the locksmith, and when the latter failed to
return it, he laughed, and said he thought no one would ever
think of meddling with his front door."

"Is there more than one night-key to your house?" I now asked.

She shook her head.

"And when did Mr. Hasbrouck last use his?"

"To-night, when he came home from prayer meeting," she answered,
and burst into tears.

Her grief was so real and her loss so recent that I hesitated to
afflict her by further questions. So returning to the scene of
the tragedy, I stepped out upon the balcony which ran in front.
Soft voices instantly struck my ears. The neighbours on either
side were grouped in front of their own windows, and were
exchanging the remarks natural under the circumstances. I paused,
as in duty bound, and listened. But I heard nothing worth
recording, and would have instantly reentered the house, if I had
not been impressed by the appearance of a very graceful woman who
stood at my right. She was clinging to her husband, who was
gazing at one of the pillars before him in a strange fixed way
which astonished me till he attempted to move, and then I saw
that he was blind. I remembered that there lived in this row a
blind doctor, equally celebrated for his skill and for his
uncommon personal attractions, and greatly interested not only by
his affliction, but in the sympathy evinced by his young and
affectionate wife, I stood still, till I heard her say in the
soft and appealing tones of love:

"Come in, Constant; you have heavy duties for to-morrow, and you
should get a few hours' rest if possible."

He came from the shadow of the pillar, and for one minute I saw
his face with the lamplight shining full upon it. It was as
regular of feature as a sculptured Adonis, and it was as white.

"Sleep!" he repeated, in the measured tones of deep but
suppressed feeling. "Sleep! with murder on the other side of the
wall!" And he stretched out his arms in a dazed way that
insensibly accentuated the horror I myself felt of the crime
which had so lately taken place in the room behind me.

She, noting the movement, took one of the groping hands in her
own and drew him gently towards her.

"This way," she urged; and, guiding him into the house, she
closed the window and drew down the shades.

I have no excuse to offer for my curiosity, but the interest
excited in me by this totally irrelevant episode was so great
that I did not leave the neighbourhood till I had learned
something of this remarkable couple.

The story told me was very simple. Dr. Zabriskie had not been
born blind, but had become so after a grievous illness which had
stricken him down soon after he received his diploma. Instead of
succumbing to an affliction which would have daunted most men, he
expressed his intention of practising his profession, and soon
became so successful in it that he found no difficulty in
establishing himself in one of the best paying quarters of the
city. Indeed, his intuition seemed to have developed in a
remarkable degree after the loss of his sight, and he seldom, if
ever, made a mistake in diagnosis. Considering this fact, and the
personal attractions which gave him distinction, it was no wonder
that he soon became a popular physician whose presence was a
benefaction and whose word law.

He had been engaged to be married at the time of his illness, and
when he learned what was likely to be its result, had offered to
release the young lady from all obligation to him. But she would
not be released, and they were married. This had taken place some
five years previous to Mr. Hasbrouck's death, three of which had
been spent by them in Lafayette Place.

So much for the beautiful woman next door.

There being absolutely no clue to the assailant of Mr. Hasbrouck,
I naturally looked forward to the inquest for some evidence upon
which to work. But there seemed to be no underlying facts to this
tragedy. The most careful study into the habits and conduct of
the deceased brought nothing to light save his general
beneficence and rectitude, nor was there in his history or in
that of his wife, any secret or hidden obligation calculated to
provoke any such act of revenge as murder. Mrs. Hasbrouck's
surmise that the intruder was simply a burglar, and that she had
rather imagined than heard the words which pointed to the
shooting as a deed of vengeance, soon gained general credence.

But though the police worked long and arduously in this new
direction their efforts were without fruit and the case bids fair
to remain an unsolvable mystery.

That was all. As Violet dropped the last page from her hand, she
recalled a certain phrase in her employer's letter. "If at the
end you come upon a perfectly blank wall--" Well, she had come
upon this wall. Did he expect her to make an opening in it? Or
had he already done so himself, and was merely testing her much
vaunted discernment.

Piqued by the thought, she carefully reread the manuscript, and
when she had again reached its uncompromising end, she gave
herself up to a few minutes of concentrated thought, then, taking
a sheet of paper from the rack before her, she wrote upon it a
single sentence, and folding the sheet, put it in an envelope
which she left unaddressed. This done, she went to bed and slept
like the child she really was.

At an early hour the next morning she entered her employer's
office. Acknowledging with a nod his somewhat ceremonious bow,
she handed him the envelope in which she had enclosed that one
mysterious sentence.

He took it with a smile, opened it offhand, glanced at what she
had written, and flushed a vivid red.

"You are a--brick," he was going to say, but changed the last
word to one more in keeping with her character and appearance.
"Look here. I expected this from you and so prepared myself."
Taking out a similar piece of paper from his own pocket-book, he
laid it down beside hers on the desk before him. It also held a
single sentence and, barring a slight difference of expression,
the one was the counterpart of the other. "The one loose stone,"
he murmured.

"Seen and noted by both."

"Why not?" he asked. Then as she glanced expectantly his way, he
earnestly added: "Together we may be able to do something. The
reward offered by Mrs. Hasbrouck for the detection of the
murderer was a very large one. She is a woman of means. I have
never heard of its being withdrawn."

"Then it never has been," was Violet's emphatic conclusion, her
dimples enforcing the statement as only such dimples can. "But--
what do you want of me in an affair of this kind? Something more
than to help you locate the one possible clue to further
enlightenment. You would not have mentioned the big reward just
for that."

"Perhaps not. There is a sequel to the story I sent you. I have
written it out, with my own hand. Take it home and read it at
your leisure. When you see into what an unhappy maze my own
inquiries have led me, possibly you will be glad to assist me in
clearing up a situation which is inflicting great suffering on
one whom you will be the first to pity. If so, a line mentioning
the fact will be much appreciated by me." And disregarding her
startled look and the impetuous shaking of her head, he bowed her
out with something more than his accustomed suavity but also with
a seriousness which affected her in spite of herself and
effectually held back the protest it was in her heart to make.
She was glad of this when she read his story; but later on--

However, it is not for me to intrude Violet, or Violet's feelings
into an affair which she is so anxious to forget. I shall
therefore from this moment on, leave her as completely out of
this tale of crime and retribution as is possible and keep a full
record of her work. When she is necessary to the story, you will
see her again. Meanwhile, read with her, this relation of her
employer's unhappy attempt to pursue an investigation so openly
dropped by the police. You will perceive, from its general style
and the accentuation put upon the human side of this sombre
story, a likeness to the former manuscript which may prove to
you, as it certainly did to Violet, to whose consideration she
was indebted for the readableness of the policeman's report,
which in all probability had been a simple statement of facts.

But there, I am speaking of Violet again. To prevent a further
mischance of this nature, I will introduce at once the above
mentioned account.

II

No man in all New York was ever more interested than myself in
the Hasbrouck affair, when it was the one and only topic of
interest at a period when news was unusually scarce. But,
together with many such inexplicable mysteries, it had passed
almost completely from my mind, when it was forcibly brought
back, one day, by a walk I took through Lafayette Place.

At sight of the long row of uniform buildings, with their
pillared fronts and connecting balconies every detail of the
crime which had filled the papers at the time with innumerable
conjectures returned to me with extraordinary clearness, and,
before I knew it, I found myself standing stockstill in the
middle of the block with my eye raised to the Hasbrouck house and
my ears--or rather my inner consciousness, for no one spoke I am
sure--ringing with a question which, whether the echo of some old
thought or the expression of a new one, so affected me by the
promise it held of some hitherto unsuspected clue, that I
hesitated whether to push this new inquiry then or there by an
attempted interview with Mrs. Hasbrouck, or to wait till I had
given it the thought which such a stirring of dead bones
rightfully demanded.

You know what that question was. I shall have communicated it to
you, if you have not already guessed it, before perusing these
lines:

"Who uttered the scream which gave the first alarm of Mr.
Hasbrouck's violent death?"

I was in a state of such excitement as I walked away--for I
listened to my better judgment as to the inadvisability of my
disturbing Mrs. Hasbrouck with these new inquiries--that the
perspiration stood out on my forehead. The testimony she had
given at the inquest recurred to me, and I remembered as
distinctly as if she were then speaking, that she had expressly
stated that she did not scream when confronted by the sight of
her husband's dead body. But someone had screamed and that very
loudly. Who was it, then? One of the maids, startled by the
sudden summons from below, or someone else--some involuntary
witness of the crime, whose testimony had been suppressed at the
inquest, by fear or influence?

The possibility of having come upon a clue even at this late day
so fired my ambition that I took the first opportunity of
revisiting Lafayette Place. Choosing such persons as I thought
most open to my questions, I learned that there were many who
could testify to having heard a woman's shrill scream on that
memorable night, just prior to the alarm given by old Cyrus, but
no one who could tell from whose lips it had come. One fact,
however, was immediately settled. It had not been the result of
the servant-women's fears. Both of the girls were positive that
they had uttered no sound, nor had they themselves heard any till
Cyrus rushed to the window with his wild cries. As the scream, by
whomever given, was uttered before they descended the stairs, I
was convinced by these assurances that it had issued from one of
the front windows, and not from the rear of the house, where
their own rooms lay. Could it be that it had sprung from the
adjoining dwelling, and that--

I remembered who had lived there and was for ringing the bell at
once. But, missing the doctor's sign, I made inquiries and found
that he had moved from the block. However, a doctor is soon
found, and in less than fifteen, minutes I was at the door of his
new home, where I asked, not for him, but for Mrs. Zabriskie.

It required some courage to do this, for I had taken particular
notice of the doctor's wife at the inquest, and her beauty, at
that time, had worn such an aspect of mingled sweetness and
dignity that I hesitated to encounter it under any circumstances
likely to disturb its pure serenity. But a clue once grasped
cannot be lightly set aside by a true detective, and it would
have taken more than a woman's frowns to stop me at this point.

However, it was not with frowns she received me, but with a
display of emotion for which I was even less prepared. I had sent
up my card and I saw it trembling in her hand as she entered the
room. As she neared me, she glanced at it, and with a show of
gentle indifference which did not in the least disguise her
extreme anxiety, she courteously remarked:

"Your name is an unfamiliar one to me. But you told my maid that
your business was one of extreme importance, and so I have
consented to see you. What can an agent from a private detective
office have to say to me?"

Startled by this evidence of the existence of some hidden
skeleton in her own closet, I made an immediate attempt to
reassure her.

"Nothing which concerns you personally," said I. "I simply wish
to ask you a question in regard to a small matter connected with
Mr. Hasbrouck's violent death in Lafayette Place, a couple of
years ago. You were living in the adjoining house at the time I
believe, and it has occurred to me that you might on that account
be able to settle a point which has never been fully cleared up."

Instead of showing the relief I expected, her pallor increased
and her fine eyes, which had been fixed curiously upon me, sank
in confusion to the floor.

"Great heaven!" thought I. "She looks as if at one more word from
me, she would fall at my feet in a faint. What is this I have
stumbled upon!"

"I do not see how you can have any question to ask me on that
subject," she began with an effort at composure which for some
reason disturbed me more than her previous open display of fear.
"Yet if you have," she continued, with a rapid change of manner
that touched my heart in spite of myself, "I shall, of course, do
my best to answer you."

There are women whose sweetest tones and most charming smiles
only serve to awaken distrust in men of my calling; but Mrs.
Zabriskie was not of this number. Her face was beautiful, but it
was also candid in its expression, and beneath the agitation
which palpably disturbed her, I was sure there lurked nothing
either wicked or false. Yet I held fast by the clue which I had
grasped as it were in the dark, and without knowing whither I was
tending, much less whither I was leading her, I proceeded to say:

"The question which I presume to put to you as the next door
neighbour of Mr. Hasbrouck is this: Who was the woman who on the
night of that gentleman's assassination screamed out so loudly
that the whole neighbourhood heard her?"

The gasp she gave answered my question in a way she little
realized, and struck as I was by the impalpable links that had
led me to the threshold of this hitherto unsolvable mystery, I
was about to press my advantage and ask another question, when
she quickly started forward and laid her hand on my lips.

Astonished, I looked at her inquiringly, but her head was turned
aside, and her eyes, fixed upon the door, showed the greatest
anxiety. Instantly I realized what she feared. Her husband was
entering the house, and she dreaded lest his ears should catch a
word of our conversation.

Not knowing what was in her mind, and unable to realize the
importance of the moment to her, I yet listened to the advance of
her blind husband with an almost painful interest. Would he enter
the room where we were, or would he pass immediately to his
office in the rear? She seemed to wonder too, and almost held her
breath as he neared the door, paused, and stood in the open
doorway, with his ear turned towards us.

As for myself, I remained perfectly still, gazing at his face in
mingled surprise and apprehension. For besides its beauty, which
was of a marked order, as I have already observed, it had a
touching expression which irresistibly aroused both pity and
interest in the spectator. This may have been the result of his
affliction, or it may have sprung from some deeper cause; but,
whatever its source, this look in his face produced a strong
impression upon me and interested me at once in his personality.
Would he enter; or would he pass on? Her look of silent appeal
showed me in which direction her wishes lay, but while I answered
her glance by complete silence, I was conscious in some
indistinct way that the business I had undertaken would be better
furthered by his entrance.

The blind have often been said to possess a sixth sense in place
of the one they have lost. Though I am sure we made no noise, I
soon perceived that he was aware of our presence. Stepping
hastily forward he said, in the high and vibrating tone of
restrained passion:

"Zulma, are you there?"

For a moment I thought she did not mean to answer, but knowing
doubtless from experience the impossibility of deceiving him, she
answered with a cheerful assent, dropping her hand as she did so
from before my lips.

He heard the slight rustle which accompanied the movement, and a
look I found it hard to comprehend flashed over his features,
altering his expression so completely that he seemed another man.

"You have someone with you," he declared, advancing another step,
but with none of the uncertainty which usually accompanies the
movements of the blind. "Some dear friend," he went on, with an
almost sarcastic emphasis and a forced smile that had little of
gaiety in it.

The agitated and distressed blush which answered him could have
but one interpretation. He suspected that her hand had been
clasped in mine, and she perceived his thought and knew that I
perceived it also.

Drawing herself up, she moved towards him, saying in a sweet
womanly tone:

"It is no friend, Constant, not even an acquaintance. The person
whom I now present to you is a representative from some detective
agency. He is here upon a trivial errand which will soon be
finished, when I will join you in the office."

I knew she was but taking a choice between two evils, that she
would have saved her husband the knowledge of my calling as well
as of my presence in the house, if her self-respect would have
allowed it; but neither she nor I anticipated the effect which
this introduction of myself in my business capacity would produce
upon him.

"A detective," he repeated, staring with his sightless eyes, as
if, in his eagerness to see, he half hoped his lost sense would
return. "He can have no trivial errand here; he has been sent by
God Himself to--"

"Let me speak for you," hastily interposed his wife, springing to
his side and clasping his arm with a fervour that was equally
expressive of appeal and command. Then turning to me, she
explained: "Since Mr. Hasbrouck's unaccountable death, my husband
has been labouring under an hallucination which I have only to
mention, for you to recognize its perfect absurdity. He thinks--
oh! do not look like that, Constant; you know it is an
hallucination which must vanish the moment we drag it into broad
daylight--that he--he, the best man in all the world, was himself
the assailant of Mr. Hasbrouck."

"Good God!"

"I say nothing of the impossibility of this being so," she went
on in a fever of expostulation. "He is blind, and could not have
delivered such a shot even if he had desired to; besides, he had
no weapon. But the inconsistency of the thing speaks for itself,
and should assure him that his mind is unbalanced and that he is
merely suffering from a shock that was greater than we realized.
He is a physician and has had many such instances in his own
practice. Why, he was very much attached to Mr. Hasbrouck! They
were the best of friends, and though he insists that he killed
him, he cannot give any reason for the deed."

At these words the doctor's face grew stern, and he spoke like an
automaton repeating some fearful lesson:

"I killed him. I went to his room and deliberately shot him. I
had nothing against him, and my remorse is extreme. Arrest me and
let me pay the penalty of my crime. It is the only way in which I
can obtain peace."

Shocked beyond all power of self-control by this repetition of
what she evidently considered the unhappy ravings of a madman,
she let go his arm and turned upon me in frenzy.

"Convince him!" she cried. "Convince him by your questions that
he never could have done this fearful thing."

I was labouring under great excitement myself, for as a private
agent with no official authority such as he evidently attributed
to me in the blindness of his passion, I felt the incongruity of
my position in the face of a matter of such tragic consequence.
Besides, I agreed with her that he was in a distempered state of
mind, and I hardly knew how to deal with one so fixed in his
hallucination and with so much intelligence to support it. But
the emergency was great, for he was holding out his wrists in the
evident expectation of my taking him into instant custody; and
the sight was killing his wife, who had sunk on the floor between
us, in terror and anguish.

"You say you killed Mr. Hasbrouck," I began. "Where did you get
your pistol, and what did you do with it after you left his
house?"

"My husband had no pistol; never had any pistol," put in Mrs.
Zabriskie, with vehement assertion. "If I had seen him with such
a weapon--"

"I threw it away. When I left the house, I cast it as far from me
as possible, for I was frightened at what I had done, horribly
frightened."

"No pistol was ever found," I answered with a smile, forgetting
for the moment that he could not see. "If such an instrument had
been found in the street after a murder of such consequence, it
certainly would have been brought to the police."

"You forget that a good pistol is valuable property," he went on
stolidly. "Someone came along before the general alarm was given;
and seeing such a treasure lying on the sidewalk, picked it up
and carried it off. Not being an honest man, he preferred to keep
it to drawing the attention of the police upon himself."

"Hum, perhaps," said I; "but where did you get it. Surely you can
tell where you procured such a weapon, if, as your wife
intimates, you did not own one."

"I bought it that selfsame night of a friend; a friend whom I
will not name, since he resides no longer in this country. I--"
He paused; intense passion was in his face; he turned towards his
wife, and a low cry escaped him, which made her look up in fear.

"I do not wish to go into any particulars," said he. "God forsook
me and I committed a horrible crime. When I am punished, perhaps
peace will return to me and happiness to her. I would not wish
her to suffer too long or too bitterly for my sin."

"Constant!" What love was in the cry! It seemed to move him and
turn his thoughts for a moment into a different channel.

"Poor child!" he murmured, stretching out his hands by an
irresistible impulse towards her. But the change was but
momentary, and he was soon again the stem and determined self-
accuser. "Are you going to take me before a magistrate?" he
asked. "If so, I have a few duties to perform which you are
welcome to witness."

This was too much; I felt that the time had come for me to
disabuse his mind of the impression he had unwittingly formed of
me. I therefore said as considerately as I could:

"You mistake my position, Dr. Zabriskie. Though a detective of
some experience, I have no connection with the police and no
right to intrude myself in a matter of such tragic importance.
If, however, you are as anxious as you say to subject yourself to
police examination, I will mention the same to the proper
authorities, and leave them to take such action as they think
best."

"That will be still more satisfactory to me," said he; "for
though I have many times contemplated giving myself up, I have
still much to do before I can leave my home and practice without
injury to others. Good-day; when you want me you will find me
here."

He was gone, and the poor young wife was left crouching on the
floor alone. Pitying her shame and terror, I ventured to remark
that it was not an uncommon thing for a man to confess to a crime
he had never committed, and assured her that the matter would be
inquired into very carefully before any attempt was made upon his
liberty.

She thanked me, and slowly rising, tried to regain her
equanimity; but the manner as well as the matter of her husband's
self-condemnation was too overwhelming in its nature for her to
recover readily from her emotions.

"I have long dreaded this," she acknowledged. "For months I have
foreseen that he would make some rash communication or insane
avowal. If I had dared, I would have consulted some physician
about this hallucination of his; but he was so sane on other
points that I hesitated to give my dreadful secret to the world.
I kept hoping that time and his daily pursuits would have their
effect and restore him to himself. But his illusion grows, and
now I fear that nothing will ever convince him that he did not
commit the deed of which he accuses himself. If he were not blind
I would have more hope, but the blind have so much time for
brooding."

"I think he had better be indulged in his fancies for the
present," I ventured. "If he is labouring under an illusion it
might be dangerous to cross him."

"If?" she echoed in an indescribable tone of amazement and dread.
"Can you for a moment harbour the idea that he has spoken the
truth?"

"Madam," I returned, with something of the cynicism of my
calling, "what caused you to give such an unearthly scream just
before this murder was made known to the neighbourhood?"

She stared, paled, and finally began to tremble, not, as I now
believe, at the insinuation latent in my words, but at the doubts
which my question aroused in her own breast.

"Did I?" she asked; then with a burst of candour which seemed
inseparable from her nature, she continued: "Why do I try to
mislead you or deceive myself? I did give a shriek just before
the alarm was raised next door; but it was not from any knowledge
I had of a crime having been committed, but because I
unexpectedly saw before me my husband whom I supposed to be on
his way to Poughkeepsie. He was looking very pale and strange,
and for a moment I thought I stood face to face with his ghost.
But he soon explained his appearance by saying that he had fallen
from the train and had only been saved by a miracle from being
dismembered; and I was just bemoaning his mishap and trying to
calm him and myself, when that terrible shout was heard next door
of 'Murder! murder!' Coming so soon after the shock he had
himself experienced, it quite unnerved him, and I think we can
date his mental disturbance from that moment. For he began
immediately to take a morbid interest in the affair next door,
though it was weeks, if not months, before he let a word fall of
the nature of those you have just heard. Indeed it was not till I
repeated to him some of the expressions he was continually
letting fall in his sleep, that he commenced to accuse himself of
crime and talk of retribution."

"You say that your husband frightened you on that night by
appearing suddenly at the door when you thought him on his way to
Poughkeepsie. Is Dr. Zabriskie in the habit of thus going and
coming alone at an hour so late as this must have been?"

"You forget that to the blind, night is less full of perils than
the day. Often and often has my husband found his way to his
patients' houses alone after midnight; but on this especial
evening he had Leonard with him. Leonard was his chauffeur, and
always accompanied him when he went any distance."

"Well, then," said I, "all we have to do is to summon Leonard and
hear what he has to say concerning this affair. He will surely
know whether or not his master went into the house next door."

"Leonard has left us," she said. "Dr. Zabriskie has another
chauffeur now. Besides (I have nothing to conceal from you),
Leonard was not with him when he returned to the house that
evening or the doctor would not have been without his portmanteau
till the next day. Something--I have never known what--caused
them to separate, and that is why I have no answer to give the
doctor when he accuses himself of committing a deed that night so
wholly out of keeping with every other act of his life."

"And have you never asked Leonard why they separated and why he
allowed his master to come home alone after the shock he had
received at the station?"

"I did not know there was any reason for my doing so till long
after he had left us."

"And when did he leave?"

"That I do not remember. A few weeks or possibly a few days after
that dreadful night."

"And where is he now?"

"Ah, that I have not the least means of knowing. But," she
objected, in sudden distrust, "what do you want of Leonard? If he
did not follow Dr. Zabriskie to his own door, he could tell us
nothing that would convince my husband that he is labouring under
an illusion."

"But he might tell us something which would convince us that Dr.
Zabriskie was not himself after the accident; that he--"

"Hush!" came from her lips in imperious tones. "I will not
believe that he shot Mr. Hasbrouck even if you prove him to have
been insane at the time. How could he? My husband is blind. It
would take a man of very keen sight to force himself into a house
closed for the night, and kill a man in the dark at one shot."

"On the contrary, it is only a blind man who could do this,"
cried a voice from the doorway. "Those who trust to eyesight must
be able to catch a glimpse of the mark they aim at, and this
room, as I have been told, was without a glimmer of light. But
the blind trust to sound, and as Mr. Hasbrouck spoke--"

"Oh!" burst from the horrified wife, "is there no one to stop him
when he speaks like that?"

III

As you will see, this matter, so recklessly entered into, had
proved to be of too serious a nature for me to pursue it farther
without the cognizance of the police. Having a friend on the
force in whose discretion I could rely, I took him into my
confidence and asked for his advice. He pooh-poohed the doctor's
statements, but said that he would bring the matter to the
attention of the superintendent and let me know the result. I
agreed to this, and we parted with the mutual understanding that
mum was the word till some official decision had been arrived at.
I had not long to wait. At an early day he came in with the
information that there had been, as might be expected, a division
of opinion among his superiors as to the importance of Dr.
Zabriskie's so-called confession, but in one point they had been
unanimous and that was the desirability of his appearing before
them at Headquarters for a personal examination. As, however, in
the mind of two out of three of them his condition was attributed
entirely to acute mania, it had been thought best to employ as
their emissary one in whom he had already confided and submitted
his case to,--in other words, myself. The time was set for the
next afternoon at the close of his usual office hours.

He went without reluctance, his wife accompanying him. In the
short time which elapsed between their leaving home and entering
Headquarters, I embraced the opportunity of observing them, and I
found the study equally exciting and interesting. His face was
calm but hopeless, and his eye, dark and unfathomable, but
neither frenzied nor uncertain. He spoke but once and listened to
nothing, though now and then his wife moved as if to attract his
attention, and once even stole her hand towards his, in the
tender hope that he would feel its approach and accept her
sympathy. But he was deaf as well as blind; and sat wrapped up in
thoughts which she, I know, would have given worlds to penetrate.

Her countenance was not without its mystery also. She showed in
every lineament passionate concern and misery, and a deep
tenderness from which the element of fear was not absent. But
she, as well as he, betrayed that some misunderstanding deeper
than any I had previously suspected drew its intangible veil
between them and made the near proximity in which they sat at
once a heart-piercing delight and an unspeakable pain. What was
the misunderstanding; and what was the character of the fear that
modified her every look of love in his direction? Her perfect
indifference to my presence proved that it was not connected with
the position in which he had placed himself towards the police by
his voluntary confession of crime, nor could I thus interpret the
expression, of frantic question which now and then contracted her
features, as she raised her eyes towards his sightless orbs, and
strove to read in his firm set lips the meaning of those
assertions she could only ascribe to loss of reason.

The stopping of the carriage seemed to awaken both from thoughts
that separated rather than united them. He turned his face in her
direction, and she stretching forth her hand, prepared to lead
him from the carriage, without any of that display of timidity
which had previously been evident in her manner.

As his guide she seemed to fear nothing; as his lover,
everything.

"There is another and a deeper tragedy underlying the outward and
obvious one," was my inward conclusion, as I followed them into
the presence of the gentlemen awaiting them.

Dr. Zabriskie's quiet appearance was in itself a shock to those
who had anticipated the feverish unrest of a madman; so was his
speech, which was calm, straightforward, and quietly determined.

"I shot Mr. Hasbrouck," was his steady affirmation, given without
any show of frenzy or desperation. "If you ask me why I did it, I
cannot answer; if you ask me how, I am ready to state all that I
know concerning the matter."

"But, Dr. Zabriskie," interposed one of the inspectors, "the why
is the most important thing for us to consider just now. If you
really desire to convince us that you committed this dreadful
crime of killing a totally inoffensive man, you should give us
some reason for an act so opposed to all your instincts and
general conduct."

But the doctor continued unmoved:

"I had no reason for murdering Mr. Hasbrouck. A hundred questions
can elicit no other reply; you had better keep to the how."

A deep-drawn breath from the wife answered the looks of the three
gentlemen to whom this suggestion was offered. "You see," that
breath seemed to protest, "that he is not in his right mind."

I began to waver in my own opinion, and yet the intuition which
has served me in cases seemingly as impenetrable as this bade me
beware of following the general judgment.

"Ask him to inform you how he got into the house," I whispered to
Inspector D--, who sat nearest me.

Immediately the inspector put the question which I had suggested:

"By what means did you enter Mr. Hasbrouck's house at so late an
hour as this murder occurred?"

The blind doctor's head fell forward on his breast, and he
hesitated for the first and only time.

"You will not believe me," said he; "but the door was ajar when I
came to it. Such things make crime easy; it is the only excuse I
have to offer for this dreadful deed."

The front door of a respectable citizen's house ajar at half-
past eleven at night! It was a statement that fixed in all minds
the conviction of the speaker's irresponsibility. Mrs.
Zabriskie's brow cleared, and her beauty became for a moment
dazzling as she held out her hands in irrepressible relief
towards those who were interrogating her husband. I alone kept my
impassibility. A possible explanation of this crime had flashed
like lightning across my mind; an explanation from which I
inwardly recoiled, even while I felt forced to consider it.

"Dr. Zabriskie," remarked the inspector formerly mentioned as
friendly to him, "such old servants as those kept by Mr.
Hasbrouck do not leave the front door ajar at twelve o'clock at
night."

"Yet ajar it was," repeated the blind doctor, with quiet
emphasis; "and finding it so, I went in. When I came out again, I
closed it. Do you wish me to swear to what I say? If so, I am
ready."

What reply could they give? To see this splendid-looking man,
hallowed by an affliction so great that in itself it called forth
the compassion of the most indifferent, accusing himself of a
cold-blooded crime, in tones which sounded dispassionate because
of the will forcing their utterance, was too painful in itself
for any one to indulge in unnecessary words. Compassion took the
place of curiosity, and each and all of us turned involuntary
looks of pity upon the young wife pressing so eagerly to his
side.

"For a blind man," ventured one, "the assault was both deft and
certain. Are you accustomed to Mr. Hasbrouck's house, that you
found your way with so little difficulty to his bedroom?"

"I am accustomed--" he began.

But here his wife broke in with irrepressible passion:

"He is not accustomed to that house. He has never been beyond the
first floor. Why, why do you question him? Do you not see--"

His hand was on her lips.

"Hush!" he commanded. "You know my skill in moving about a house;
how I sometimes deceive those who do not know me into believing
that I can see, by the readiness with which I avoid obstacles and
find my way even in strange and untried scenes. Do not try to
make them think I am not in my right mind, or you will drive me
into the very condition you attribute to me."

His face, rigid, cold, and set, looked like that of a mask. Hers,
drawn with horror and filled with question that was fast taking
the form of doubt, bespoke an awful tragedy from which more than
one of us recoiled.

"Can you shoot a man dead without seeing him?" asked the
Superintendent, with painful effort.

"Give me a pistol and I will show you," was the quick reply.

A low cry came from the wife. In a drawer near to every one of us
there lay a pistol, but no one moved to take it out. There was a
look in the doctor's eye which made us fear to trust him with a
pistol just then.

"We will accept your assurance that you possess a skill beyond
that of most men," returned the Superintendent. And beckoning me
forward, he whispered: "This is a case for the doctors and not
for the police. Remove him quietly, and notify Dr. Southyard of
what I say."

But Dr. Zabriskie, who seemed to have an almost supernatural
acuteness of hearing, gave a violent start at this, and spoke up
for the first time with real passion in his voice:

"No, no, I pray you. I can bear anything but that. Remember,
gentlemen, that I am blind; that I cannot see who is about me;
that my life would be a torture if I felt myself surrounded by
spies watching to catch some evidence of madness in me. Rather
conviction at once, death, dishonour, and obloquy. These I have
incurred. These I have brought upon myself by crime, but not this
worse fate--oh! not this worse fate."

His passion was so intense and yet so confined within the bounds
of decorum, that we felt strangely impressed by it. Only the wife
stood transfixed, with the dread growing in her heart, till her
white, waxen visage seemed even more terrible to contemplate than
his passion-distorted one.

"It is not strange that my wife thinks me demented," the doctor
continued, as if afraid of the silence that answered him. "But it
is your business to discriminate, and you should know a sane man
when you see him."

Inspector D-- no longer hesitated.

"Very well," said he, "give me the least proof that your
assertions are true, and we will lay your case before the
prosecuting attorney."

"Proof? Is not a man's word--"

"No man's confession is worth much without some evidence to
support it. In your case there is none. You cannot even produce
the pistol with which you assert yourself to have committed the
deed."

"True, true. I was frightened by what I had done, and the
instinct of self-preservation led me to rid myself of the weapon
in any way I could. But someone found this pistol; someone picked
it up from the sidewalk of Lafayette Place on that fatal night.
Advertise for it. Offer a reward. I will give you the money."
Suddenly he appeared to realize how all this sounded. "Alas!"
cried he, "I know the story seems improbable; but it is not the
probable things that happen in this life, as, you should know,
who every day dig deep into the heart of human affairs."

Were these the ravings of insanity? I began to understand the
wife's terror.

"I bought the pistol," he went on, "of--alas! I cannot tell you
his name. Everything is against me. I cannot adduce one proof;
yet even she is beginning to fear that my story is true. I know
it by her silence, a silence that yawns between us like a deep
and unfathomable gulf."

But at these words her voice rang out with passionate vehemence.

"No, no, it is false! I will never believe that your hands have
been plunged in blood. You are my own pure-hearted Constant,
cold, perhaps, and stern, but with no guilt upon your conscience
save in your own wild imagination."

"Zulma, you are no friend to me," he declared, pushing her gently
aside. "Believe me innocent, but say nothing to lead these others
to doubt my word."

And she said no more, but her looks spoke volumes.

The result was that he was not detained, though he prayed for
instant commitment. He seemed to dread his own home, and the
surveillance to which he instinctively knew he would henceforth
be subjected. To see him shrink from his wife's hand as she
strove to lead him from the room was sufficiently painful; but
the feeling thus aroused was nothing to that with which we
observed the keen and agonized expectancy of his look as he
turned and listened for the steps of the officer who followed
him.

"From this time on I shall never know whether or not I am alone,"
was his final observation as he left the building.

Here is where the matter rests and here, Miss Strange, is where
you come in. The police were for sending an expert alienist into
the house; but agreeing with me, and, in fact, with the doctor
himself, that if he were not already out of his mind, this would
certainly make them so, they, at my earnest intercession, have
left the next move to me.

That move as you must by this time understand involves you. You
have advantages for making Mrs. Zabriskie's acquaintance of which
I beg you to avail yourself. As friend or patient, you must win
your way into that home? You must sound to its depths one or both
of these two wretched hearts. Not so much now for any possible
reward which may follow the elucidation of this mystery which has
come so near being shelved, but for pity's sake and the possible
settlement of a question which is fast driving a lovely member of
your sex distracted.

May I rely on you? If so--

Various instructions followed, over which Violet mused with a
deprecatory shaking of her head till the little clock struck two.
Why should she, already in a state of secret despondency, intrude
herself into an affair at once so painful and so hopeless?

IV

But by morning her mood changed. The pathos of the situation had
seized upon her in her dreams, and before the day was over, she
was to be seen, as a prospective patient, in Dr. Zabriskie's
office. She had a slight complaint as her excuse, and she made
the most of it. That is, at first, but as the personality of this
extraordinary man began to make its usual impression, she found
herself forgetting her own condition in the intensity of interest
she felt in his. Indeed, she had to pull herself together more
than once lest he should suspect the double nature of her errand,
and she actually caught herself at times rejoicing in his
affliction since it left her with only her voice to think of, in
her hated but necessary task of deception.

That she succeeded in this effort, even with one of his nice ear,
was evident from the interested way in which he dilated upon her
malady, and the minute instructions he was careful to give her--
the physician being always uppermost in his strange dual nature,
when he was in his office or at the bedside of the sick;--and had
she not been a deep reader of the human soul she would have left
his presence in simple wonder at his skill and entire absorption
in an exacting profession.

But as it was, she carried with her an image of subdued
suffering, which drove her, from that moment on, to ask herself
what she could do to aid him in his fight against his own
illusion; for to associate such a man with a senseless and cruel
murder was preposterous.

What this wish, helped by no common determination, led her into,
it was not in her mind to conceive. She was making her one great
mistake, but as yet she was in happy ignorance of it, and pursued
the course laid out for her without a doubt of the ultimate
result.

Having seen and made up her mind about the husband, she next
sought to see and gauge the wife. That she succeeded in doing
this by means of one of her sly little tricks is not to the
point; but what followed in natural consequence is very much so.
A mutual interest sprang up between them which led very speedily
to actual friendship. Mrs. Zabriskie's hungry heart opened to the
sympathetic little being who clung to her in such evident
admiration; while Violet, brought face to face with a real woman,
succumbed to feelings which made it no imposition on her part to
spend much of her leisure in Zulma Zabriskie's company.

The result were the following naive reports which drifted into
her employer's office from day to day, as this intimacy deepened.

The doctor is settling into a deep melancholy, from which he
tries to rise at times, but with only indifferent success.
Yesterday he rode around to all his patients for the purpose of
withdrawing his services on the plea of illness. But he still
keeps his office open, and today I had the opportunity of
witnessing his reception and treatment of the many sufferers who
came to him for aid. I think he was conscious of my presence,
though an attempt had been made to conceal it. For the listening
look never left his face from the moment he entered the room, and
once he rose and passed quickly from wall to wall, groping with
out-stretched hands into every nook and corner, and barely
escaping contact with the curtain behind which I was hidden. But
if he suspected my presence, he showed no displeasure at it,
wishing perhaps for a witness to his skill in the treatment of
disease.

And truly I never beheld a finer manifestation of practical
insight in cases of a more or less baffling nature. He is
certainly a most wonderful physician, and I feel bound to record
that his mind is as clear for business as if no shadow had fallen
upon it.

Dr. Zabriskie loves his wife, but in a way torturing to himself
and to her. If she is gone from the house he is wretched, and yet
when she returns he often forbears to speak to her, or if he does
speak it is with a constraint that hurts her more than his
silence. I was present when she came in today. Her step, which
had been eager on the stairway, flagged as she approached the
room, and he naturally noted the change and gave his own
interpretation to it. His face, which had been very pale, flushed
suddenly, and a nervous trembling seized him which he sought in
vain to hide. But by the time her tall and beautiful figure stood
in the doorway, he was his usual self again in all but the
expression of his eyes, which stared straight before him in an
agony of longing only to be observed in those who have once seen.

"Where have you been, Zulma?" he asked, as contrary to his wont,
he moved to meet her.

"To my mother's, to Arnold & Constable's, and to the hospital, as
you requested," was her quick answer, made without faltering or
embarrassment.

He stepped still nearer and took her hand, and as he did so my
eye fell on his and I noted that his finger lay over her pulse in
seeming unconsciousness.

"Nowhere else?" he queried.

She smiled the saddest kind of smile and shook her head; then,
remembering that he could not see this movement, she cried in a
wistful tone:

"Nowhere else, Constant; I was too anxious to get back."

I expected him to drop her hand at this, but he did not; and his
finger still rested on her pulse.

"And whom did you see while you were gone?" he continued.

She told him, naming over several names.

"You must have enjoyed yourself," was his cold comment, as he let
go her hand and turned away. But his manner showed relief, and I
could not but sympathize with the pitiable situation of a man who
found himself forced into means like this for probing the heart
of his young wife.

Yet when I turned towards her, I realized that her position was
but little happier than his. Tears are no strangers to her eyes,
but those which welled up at this moment seemed to possess a
bitterness that promised but little peace for her future. Yet she
quickly dried them and busied herself with ministrations for his
comfort.

If I am any judge of woman, Zulma Zabriskie is superior to most
of her sex. That her husband mistrusts her is evident, but
whether this is the result of the stand she has taken in his
regard, or only a manifestation of dementia, I have as yet been
unable to determine. I dread to leave them alone together, and
yet when I presume to suggest that she should be on her guard in
her interviews with him, she smiles very placidly and tells me
that nothing would give her greater joy than to see him lift his
hand against her, for that would argue that he is not accountable
for his deeds or assertions.

Yet it would be a grief to see her injured by this passionate and
unhappy man.

You have said that you wanted all the details I could give; so I
feel bound to say that Dr. Zabriskie tries to be considerate of
his wife, though he often fails in the attempt. When she offers
herself as his guide, or assists him with his mail or performs
any of the many acts of kindness by which she continually
manifests her sense of his affliction, he thanks her with
courtesy and often with kindness, yet I know she would willingly
exchange all his set phrases for one fond embrace or impulsive
smile of affection. It would be too much to say that he is not in
the full possession of his faculties, and yet upon what other
hypothesis can we account for the inconsistencies of his conduct?

I have before me two visions of mental suffering. At noon I
passed the office door, and looking within, saw the figure of Dr.
Zabriskie seated in his great chair, lost in thought or deep in
those memories which make an abyss in one's consciousness. His
hands, which were clenched, rested upon the arms of his chair,
and in one of them I detected a woman's glove, which I had no
difficulty in recognizing as one of the pair worn by his wife
this morning. He held it as a tiger might hold his prey or a
miser his gold, but his set features and sightless eyes betrayed
that a conflict of emotions was being waged within him, among
which tenderness had but little share. Though alive as he usually
is to every sound, he was too absorbed at this moment to notice
my presence, though I had taken no pains to approach quietly. I
therefore stood for a full minute watching him, till an
irresistible sense of the shame at thus spying upon a blind man
in his moments of secret anguish compelled me to withdraw. But
not before I saw his features relax in a storm of passionate
feeling, as he rained kisses after kisses on the senseless kid he
had so long held in his motionless grasp. Yet when an hour later
he entered the dining-room on his wife's arm, there was nothing
in his manner to show that he had in any way changed in his
attitude towards her.

The other picture was more tragic still. I was seeking Mrs.
Zabriskie in her own room, when I caught a fleeting vision of her
tall form, with her arms thrown up over her head in a paroxysm of
feeling which made her as oblivious to my presence as her husband
had been several hours before. Were the words that escaped her
lips "Thank God we have no children!" or was this exclamation
suggested to me by the passion and unrestrained impulse of her
action?

So much up to date. Interesting enough, or so her employer seemed
to think, as he went hurriedly through the whole story, one
special afternoon in his office, tapping each sheet as he laid it
aside with his sagacious forefinger, as though he would say,
"Enough! My theory still holds good; nothing contradictory here;
on the contrary complete and undisputable confirmation of the one
and only explanation of this astounding crime."

What was that theory; and in what way and through whose efforts
had he been enabled to form one? The following notes may
enlighten us. Though written in his own hand, and undoubtedly a
memorandum of his own activities, he evidently thinks it worth
while to reperuse them in connection with those he had just laid
aside.

We can do no better than read them also.

We omit dates.

Watched the Zabriskie mansion for five hours this morning, from
the second story window of an adjoining hotel. Saw the doctor
when he drove away on his round of visits, and saw him when he
returned. A coloured man accompanied him.

Today I followed Mrs. Zabriskie. She went first to a house in
Washington Place where I am told her mother lives. Here she
stayed some time, after which she drove down to Canal Street,
where she did some shopping, and later stopped at the hospital,
into which I took the liberty of following her. She seemed to
know many there, and passed from cot to cot with a smile in which
I alone discerned the sadness of a broken heart. When she left, I
left also, without having learned anything beyond the fact that
Mrs. Zabriskie is one who does her duty in sorrow as in joy. A
rare, and trustworthy woman I should say, and yet her husband
does not trust her. Why?

I have spent this day in accumulating details in regard to Dr.
and Mrs. Zabriskie's life previous to the death of Mr. Hasbrouck.
I learned from sources it would be unwise to quote just here,
that Mrs. Zabriskie had not lacked enemies to charge her with
coquetry; that while she had never sacrificed her dignity in
public, more than one person had been heard to declare that Dr.
Zabriskie was fortunate in being blind, since the sight of his
wife's beauty would have but poorly compensated him for the pain
he would have suffered in seeing how that beauty was admired.

That all gossip is more or less tinged with exaggeration I have
no doubt, yet when a name is mentioned in connection with such
stories, there is usually some truth at the bottom of them. And a
name is mentioned in this case, though I do not think it worth my
while to repeat it here; and loth as I am to recognize the fact,
it is a name that carries with it doubts that might easily
account for the husband's jealousy. True, I have found no one who
dares hint that she still continues to attract attention or to
bestow smiles in any direction save where they legally belong.
For since a certain memorable night which we all know, neither
Dr. Zabriskie nor his wife have been seen save in their own
domestic circle, and it is not into such scenes that this
serpent, to whom I have just alluded, ever intrudes, nor is it in
places of sorrow or suffering that his smile shines, or his
fascinations flourish.

And so one portion of my theory is proved to be sound. Dr.
Zabriskie is jealous of his wife; whether with good cause or bad
I am not prepared to decide; since her present attitude, clouded
as it is by the tragedy in which she and her husband are both
involved, must differ very much from that which she held when her
life was unshadowed by doubt, and her admirers could be counted
by the score.

I have just found out where Leonard is. As he is in service some
miles up the river, I shall have to be absent from my post for
several hours, but I consider the game well worth the candle.

Light at last. I have not only seen Leonard, but succeeded in
making him talk. His story is substantially this: That on the
night so often mentioned, he packed his master's portmanteau at
eight o'clock and at ten called a taxi and rode with the doctor
to the Central station. He was told to buy tickets to
Poughkeepsie where his master had been called in consultation,
and having done this, hurried back to join Dr. Zabriskie on the
platform. They had walked together as far as the cars, and Dr.
Zabriskie was just stepping on to the train, when a man pushed
himself hurriedly between them and whispered something into his
master's ear, which caused him to fall back and lose his footing.
Dr. Zabriskie's body slid half under the car, but he was
withdrawn before any harm was done, though the cars gave a lurch
at that moment which must have frightened him exceedingly, for
his face was white when he rose to his feet, and when Leonard
offered to assist him again on the train, he refused to go and
said he would return home and not attempt to ride to Poughkeepsie
that night.

The gentleman, whom Leonard now saw to be Mr. Stanton, an
intimate friend of Dr. Zabriskie, smiled very queerly at this,
and taking the doctor's arm led him back to his own auto. Leonard
naturally followed them, but the doctor, hearing his steps,
turned and bade him, in a very peremptory tone, to take the cars
home, and then, as if on second thought, told him to go to
Poughkeepsie in his stead and explain to the people there that he
was too shaken up by his misstep to do his duty, and that he
would be with them next morning. This seemed strange to Leonard,
but he had no reasons for disobeying his master's orders, and so
rode to Poughkeepsie. But the doctor did not follow him the next
day; on the contrary he telegraphed for him to return, and when
he got back dismissed him with a month's wages. This ended
Leonard's connection with the Zabriskie family.

A simple story bearing out what the wife has already told us; but
it furnishes a link which may prove invaluable. Mr. Stanton,
whose first name is Theodore, knows the real reason why Dr.
Zabriskie returned home on the night of the seventeenth of July,
19--. Mr. Stanton, consequently, is the man to see, and this
shall be my business tomorrow.

Checkmate! Theodore Stanton is not in this country. Though this
points him out as the man from whom Dr. Zabriskie bought the
pistol, it does not facilitate my work, which is becoming more
and more difficult.

Mr. Stanton's whereabouts are not even known to his most intimate
friends. He sailed from this country most unexpectedly on the
eighteenth of July a year ago, which was the day after the murder
of Mr. Hasbrouck. It looks like a flight, especially as he has
failed to maintain open communication even with his relatives.
Was he the man who shot Mr. Hasbrouck? No; but he was the man who
put the pistol in Dr. Zabriskie's hand that night, and whether he
did this with purpose or not, was evidently so alarmed at the
catastrophe which followed that he took the first outgoing
steamer to Europe. So far, all is clear, but there are mysteries
yet to be solved, which will require my utmost tact. What if I
should seek out the gentleman with whose name that of Mrs.
Zabriskie has been linked, and see if I can in any way connect
him with Mr. Stanton or the events of that night.

Eureka! I have discovered that Mr. Stanton cherished a mortal
hatred for the gentleman above mentioned. It was a covert
feeling, but no less deadly on that account; and while it never
led him into any extravagances, it was of force sufficient to
account for many a secret misfortune occurring to that gentleman.
Now if I can prove that he is the Mephistopheles who whispered
insinuations into the ear of our blind Faust, I may strike a fact
that will lead me out of this maze.

But how can I approach secrets so delicate without compromising
the woman I feel bound to respect if only for the devoted love
she manifests for her unhappy husband!

I shall have to appeal to Joe Smithers. This is something which I
always hate to do, but as long as he will take money, and as long
as he is fertile in resources for obtaining the truth from people
I am myself unable to reach, I must make use of his cupidity and
his genius. He is an honourable fellow in one way, and never
retails as gossip what he acquires for our use. How will he
proceed in this case, and by what tactics will he gain the very
delicate information which we need? I own that I am curious to
see.

I shall really have to put down at length the incidents of this
night. I always knew that Joe Smithers was invaluable not only to
myself but to the police, but I really did not know he possessed
talents of so high an order. He wrote me this morning that he had
succeeded in getting Mr. T--'s promise to spend the evening with
him, and advised me that if I desired to be present as well, his
own servant would not be at home, and that an opener of bottles
would be required.

As I was very anxious to see Mr. T-- with my own eyes, I accepted
this invitation to play the spy, and went at the proper hour to
Mr. Smithers's rooms. I found them picturesque in the extreme.
Piles of books stacked here and there to the ceiling made nooks
and corners which could be quite shut off by a couple of old
pictures set into movable frames capable of swinging out or in at
the whim or convenience of the owner.

As I had use for the dark shadows cast by these pictures, I
pulled them both out, and made such other arrangements as
appeared likely to facilitate the purpose I had in view; then I
sat down and waited for the two gentlemen who were expected to
come in together.

They arrived almost immediately, whereupon I rose and played my
part with all necessary discretion. While ridding Mr. T-- of his
overcoat, I stole a look at his face. It is not a handsome one,
but it boasts of a gay, devil-may-care expression which doubtless
makes it dangerous to many women, while his manners are
especially attractive, and his voice the richest and most
persuasive that I ever heard. I contrasted him, almost against my
will, with Dr. Zabriskie, and decided that with most women the
former's undoubted fascinations of speech and bearing would
outweigh the latter's great beauty and mental endowments; but I
doubted if they would with her.

The conversation which immediately began was brilliant but
desultory, for Mr. Smithers, with an airy lightness for which he
is remarkable, introduced topic after topic, perhaps for the
purpose of showing off Mr. T-'s versatility, and perhaps for the
deeper and more sinister purpose of shaking the kaleidoscope of
talk so thoroughly, that the real topic which we were met to
discuss should not make an undue impression on the mind of his
guest.

Meanwhile one, two, three bottles passed, and I had the pleasure
of seeing Joe Smithers's eye grow calmer and that of Mr. T-- more
brilliant and more uncertain. As the last bottle was being
passed, Joe cast me a meaning glance, and the real business of
the evening began.

I shall not attempt to relate the half dozen failures which Joe
made in endeavouring to elicit the facts we were in search of,
without arousing the suspicion of his visitor. I am only going to
relate the successful attempt. They had been talking now for some
hours, and I, who had long before been waved aside from their
immediate presence, was hiding my curiosity and growing
excitement behind one of the pictures, when I suddenly heard Joe
say:

"He has the most remarkable memory I ever met. He can tell to a
day when any notable event occurred."

"Pshaw!" answered his companion, who, by the way, was known to
pride himself upon his own memory for dates, "I can state where I
went and what I did on every day in the year. That may not
embrace what you call 'notable events,' but the memory required
is all the more remarkable, is it not?"

"Pooh!" was his friend's provoking reply, "you are bluffing, Ben;
I will never believe that."

Mr. T-, who had passed by this time into that stage of
intoxication which makes persistence in an assertion a duty as
well as a pleasure, threw back his head, and as the wreaths of
smoke rose in airy spirals from his lips, reiterated his
statement, and offered to submit to any test of his vaunted
powers which the other might dictate.

"You keep a diary--" began Joe.

"Which at the present moment is at home," completed the other.

"Will you allow me to refer to it tomorrow, if I am suspicious of
the accuracy of your recollections?"

"Undoubtedly," returned the other.

"Very well, then, I will wager you a cool fifty that you cannot
tell where you were between the hours of ten and eleven on a
certain night which I will name."

"Done!" cried the other, bringing out his pocket-book and laying
it on the table before him.

Joe followed his example and then summoned me.

"Write a date down here," he commanded, pushing a piece of paper
towards me, with a look keen as the flash of a blade. "Any date,
man," he added, as I appeared to hesitate in the embarrassment I
thought natural under the circumstances. "Put down day, month,
and year, only don't go too far back; not farther than two
years."

Smiling with the air of a flunkey admitted to the sports of his
superiors, I wrote a line and laid it before Mr. Smithers, who at
once pushed it with a careless gesture towards his companion. You
can of course guess the date I made use of: July 17, 19--. Mr. T--,
who had evidently looked upon this matter as mere play, flushed
scarlet as he read these words, and for one instant looked as if
he had rather fly the house than answer Joe Smithers's nonchalant
glance of inquiry.

"I have given my word and will keep it," he said at last, but
with a look in my direction that sent me reluctantly back to my
retreat. "I don't suppose you want names," he went on; "that is,
if anything I have to tell is of a delicate nature?"

"Oh, no," answered the other, "only facts and places."

"I don't think places are necessary either," he returned. "I will
tell you what I did and that must serve you. I did not promise to
give number and street."

"Well, well," Joe exclaimed; "earn your fifty, that is all. Show
that you remember where you were on the night of"--and with an
admirable show of indifference he pretended to consult the paper
between them--"the seventeenth of July, two years ago, and I
shall be satisfied."

"I was at the club for one thing," said Mr. T-; "then I went to
see a lady friend, where I stayed until eleven. She wore a blue
muslin--What is that?"

I had betrayed myself by a quick movement which sent a glass
tumbler crashing to the floor. Zulma Zabriskie had worn a blue
muslin on that same night. You will find it noted in the report
given me by the policeman who saw her on their balcony.

"That noise?" It was Joe who was speaking. "You don't know Reuben
as well as I do or you wouldn't ask. It is his practice, I am
sorry to say, to accentuate his pleasure in draining my bottles
by dropping a glass at every third one."

Mr. T-- went on.

"She was a married woman and I thought she loved me; but--and
this is the greatest proof I can offer you that I am giving you a
true account of that night--she had not the slightest idea of the
extent of my passion, and only consented to see me at all because
she thought, poor thing, that a word from her would set me
straight, and rid her of attentions she evidently failed to
appreciate. A sorry figure for a fellow like me to cut; but you
caught me on the most detestable date in my calendar and--"

There he ceased being interesting and I anxious. The secret of a
crime for which there seemed to be no reasonable explanation is
no longer a mystery to me. I have but to warn Miss Strange--

He had got thus far when a sound in the room behind him led him
to look up. A lady had entered; a lady heavily veiled and
trembling with what appeared to be an intense excitement.

He thought he knew the figure, but the person, whoever it was,
stood so still and remained so silent, he hesitated to address
her; which seeing, she pushed up her veil and all doubt vanished.

It was Violet herself. In disregard of her usual practice she had
come alone to the office. This meant urgency of some kind. Had
she too sounded this mystery? No, or her aspect would not have
worn this look of triumph. What had happened then? He made an
instant endeavour to find out.

"You have news," he quietly remarked. "Good news, I should judge,
by your very cheery smile."

"Yes; I think I have found the way of bringing Dr. Zabriskie to
himself."

Astonished beyond measure, so little did these words harmonize
with the impressions and conclusions at which he had just
arrived, something very like doubt spoke in his voice as he
answered with the simple exclamation:

"You do!"

"Yes. He is obsessed by a fixed idea, and must be given an
opportunity to test the truth of that idea. The shock of finding
it a false one may restore him to his normal condition. He
believes that he shot Mr. Hasbrouck with no other guidance than
his sense of hearing. Now if it can be proved that his hearing is
an insufficient guide for such an act (as of course it is) the
shock of the discovery may clear his brain of its cobwebs. Mrs.
Zabriskie thinks so, and the police--"

"What's that? The police?"

"Yes, Dr. Zabriskie would be taken before them again this
morning. No entreaties on the part of his wife would prevail; he
insisted upon his guilt and asked her to accompany him there; and
the poor woman found herself forced to go. Of course he
encountered again the same division of opinion among the men he
talked with. Three out of the four judged him insane, which
observing, he betrayed great agitation and reiterated his former
wish to be allowed an opportunity to prove his sanity by showing
his skill in shooting. This made an impression; and a disposition
was shown to grant his request then and there. But Mrs. Zabriskie
would not listen to this. She approved of the experiment but
begged that it might be deferred till another day and then take
place in some spot remote from the city. For some reason they
heeded her, and she has just telephoned me that this attempt of
his is to take place tomorrow in the New Jersey woods. I am sorry
that this should have been put through without you; and when I
tell you that the idea originated with me--that from some word I
purposely let fall one day, they both conceived this plan of
ending the uncertainty that was devouring their lives, you will
understand my excitement and the need I have of your support.
Tell me that I have done well. Do not show me such a face--you
frighten me--"

"I do not wish to frighten you. I merely wish to know just who
are going on this expedition."

"Some members of the police, Dr. Zabriskie, his wife, and--and
myself. She begged--"

"You must not go."

"Why? The affair is to be kept secret. The doctor will shoot,
fail--Oh!" she suddenly broke in, alarmed by his expression, "you
think he will not fail--"

"I think that you had better heed my advice and stay out of it.
The affair is now in the hands of the police, and your place is
anywhere but where they are."

"But I go as her particular friend. They have given her the
privilege of taking with her one of her own sex and she has
chosen me. I shall not fail her. Father is away, and if the awful
disappointment you suggest awaits her, there is all the more
reason why she should have some sympathetic support?"

This was so true, that the fresh protest he was about to utter
died on his lips. Instead, he simply remarked as he bowed her
out:

"I foresee that we shall not work much longer together. You are
nearing the end of your endurance."

He never forgot the smile she threw back at him.

V

There are some events which impress the human mind so deeply that
their memory mingles with all after-experiences. Though Violet
had made it a rule to forget as soon as possible the tragic
episodes incident to the strange career upon which she had so
mysteriously embarked, there was destined to be one scene, if not
more, which she has never been able to dismiss at will.

This was the sight which met her eyes from the bow of the small
boat in which Dr. Zabriskie and his wife were rowed over to
Jersey on the afternoon which saw the end of this most sombre
drama.

Though it was by no means late in the day, the sun was already
sinking, and the bright red glare which filled the west and shone
full upon the faces of the half dozen people before her added
much to the tragic nature of the scene, though she was far from
comprehending its full significance.

The doctor sat with his wife in the stern and it was upon their
faces Violet's glance was fixed. The glare shone luridly on his
sightless eyeballs, and as she noticed his unwinking lids, she
realized as never before what it was to be blind in the midst of
sunshine. His wife's eyes, on the contrary, were lowered, but
there was a look of hopeless misery in her colourless face which
made her appearance infinitely pathetic, and Violet felt
confident that if he could only have seen her, he would not have
maintained the cold and unresponsive manner which chilled the
words on his poor wife's lips and made all advance on her part
impossible.

On the seat in front of them sat an inspector and from some
quarter, possibly from under the inspector's coat, there came the
monotonous ticking of the small clock, which was to serve as a
target for the blind man's aim.

This ticking was all Violet heard, though the river was alive
with traffic and large and small boats were steaming by them on
every side. And I am sure it was all that Mrs. Zabriskie heard
also, as with hand pressed to her heart, and eyes fixed on the
opposite shore, she waited for the event which was to determine
whether the man she loved was a criminal or only a being
afflicted of God and worthy of her unceasing care and devotion.

As the sun cast its last scarlet gleam over the water, the boat
grounded, and Violet was enabled to have one passing word with
Mrs. Zabriskie. She hardly knew what she said but the look she
received in return was like that of a frightened child.

But there was always to be seen in Mrs. Zabriskie's countenance
this characteristic blending of the severe and the childlike, and
beyond an added pang of pity for this beautiful but afflicted
woman, Violet let the moment pass without giving it the weight it
perhaps demanded.

"The doctor and his wife had a long talk last night," was
whispered in her ear as she wound her way with the rest into the
heart of the woods. With a start she turned and perceived her
employer following close behind her. He had come by another boat.

"But it did not seem to heal whatever breach lies between them,"
he proceeded. Then, in a quick, anxious tone, he whispered:
"Whatever happens, do not lift your veil. I thought I saw a
reporter skulking in the rear."

"I will be careful," Violet assured him, and could say no more,
as they had already reached the ground which had been selected
for this trial at arms, and the various members of the party were
being placed in their several positions.

The doctor, to whom light and darkness were alike, stood with his
face towards the western glow, and at his side were grouped the
inspector and the two physicians. On the arm of one of the latter
hung Dr. Zabriskie's overcoat, which he had taken off as soon as
he reached the field.

Mrs. Zabriskie stood at the other end of the opening near a tall
stump, upon which it had been decided that the clock should be
placed when the moment came for the doctor to show his skill. She
had been accorded the privilege of setting the clock on this
stump, and Violet saw it shining in her hand as she paused for a
moment to glance back at the circle of gentlemen who were
awaiting her movements. The hands of the clock stood at five
minutes to five, though Violet scarcely noted it at the time, for
Mrs. Zabriskie was passing her and had stopped to say:

"If he is not himself, he cannot be trusted. Watch him carefully
and see that he does no mischief to himself or others. Ask one of
the inspectors to stand at his right hand, and stop him if he
does not handle his pistol properly."

Violet promised, and she passed on, setting the clock upon the
stump and immediately drawing back to a suitable distance at the
right, where she stood, wrapped in her long dark cloak. Her face
shone ghastly white, even in its environment of snow-covered
boughs, and noting this, Violet wished the minutes fewer between
the present moment and the hour of five, at which time he was to
draw the trigger.

"Dr. Zabriskie," quoth the inspector, "we have endeavoured to
make this trial a perfectly fair one. You are to have a shot at a
small clock which has been placed within a suitable distance, and
which you are expected to hit, guided only by the sound which it
will make in striking the hour of five. Are you satisfied with
the arrangement?"

"Perfectly. Where is my wife?"

"On the other side of the field some ten paces from the stump
upon which the clock is fixed." He bowed, and his face showed
satisfaction.

"May I expect the clock to strike soon?"

"In less than five minutes," was the answer.

"Then let me have the pistol; I wish to become acquainted with
its size and weight."

We glanced at each other, then across at her.

She made a gesture; it was one of acquiescence.

Immediately the inspector placed the weapon in the blind man's
hand. It was at once apparent that he understood the instrument,
and Violet's hopes which had been strong up to this moment, sank
at his air of confidence.

"Thank God I am blind this hour and cannot see her," fell from
his lips, then, before the echo of these words had died away, he
raised his voice and observed calmly enough, considering that he
was about to prove himself a criminal in order to save himself
from being thought a madman:

"Let no one move. I must have my ears free for catching the first
stroke of the clock." And he raised the pistol before him.

There was a moment of torturing suspense and deep, unbroken
silence. Violet's eyes were on him so she did not watch the
clock, but she was suddenly moved by some irresistible impulse to
note how Mrs. Zabriskie was bearing herself at this critical
moment, and casting a hurried glance in her direction she
perceived her tall figure swaying from side to side, as if under
an intolerable strain of feeling. Her eyes were on the clock, the
hands of which seemed to creep with snail-like pace along the
dial, when unexpectedly, and a full minute before the minute hand
had reached the stroke of five, Violet caught a movement on her
part, saw the flash of something round and white show for an
instant against the darkness of her cloak, and was about to
shriek warning to the doctor, when the shrill, quick stroke of a
clock rang out on the frosty air, followed by the ping and flash
of a pistol.

A sound of shattered glass, followed by a suppressed cry, told
the bystanders that the bullet had struck the mark, but before
any one could move, or they could rid their eyes of the smoke
which the wind had blown into their faces, there came another
sound which made their hair stand on end and sent the blood back
in terror to their hearts. Another clock was striking, which they
now perceived was still standing upright on the stump where Mrs.
Zabriskie had placed it.

Whence came the clock, then, which had struck before the time and
been shattered for its pains? One quick look told them. On the
ground, ten paces to the right, lay Zulma Zabriskie, a broken
clock at her side, and in her breast a bullet which was fast
sapping the life from her sweet eyes.

They had to tell him, there was such pleading in her looks; and
never will any of the hearers forget the scream which rang from
his lips as he realized the truth. Breaking from their midst, he
rushed forward, and fell at her feet as if guided by some
supernatural instinct.

"Zulma," he shrieked, "what is this? Were not my hands dyed deep
enough in blood that you should make me answerable for your life
also?"

Her eyes were closed but she opened them. Looking long and
steadily at his agonized face, she faltered forth:

"It is not you who have killed me; it is your crime. Had you been
innocent of Mr. Hasbrouck's death your bullet would never have
found my heart. Did you think I could survive the proof that you
had killed that good man?"

"I did it unwittingly. I--"

"Hush!" she commanded, with an awful look, which happily he could
not see. "I had another motive. I wished to prove to you, even at
the cost of my life, that I loved you, had always loved you, and
not--"

It was now his turn to silence her. His hand crept to her lips,
and his despairing face turned itself blindly towards those about
them.

"Go!" he cried; "leave us! Let me take a last farewell of my
dying wife, without listeners or spectators."

Consulting the eye of her employer who stood close beside her,
and seeing no hope in it, Violet fell slowly back. The others,
followed, and the doctor was left alone with his wife. From the
distant position they took, they saw her arms creep round his
neck, saw her head fall confidingly on his breast, then silence
settled upon them, and upon all nature, the gathering twilight
deepening, till the last glow disappeared from the heavens above
and from the circle of leafless trees which enclosed this tragedy
from the outside world.

But at last there came a stir, and Dr. Zabriskie, rising up
before them with the dead body of his wife held closely to his
breast, confronted them with a countenance so rapturous that he
looked like a man transfigured.

"I will carry her to the boat," said he. "Not another hand shall
touch her. She was my true wife, my true wife!" And he towered
into an attitude of such dignity and passion that for a moment he
took on heroic proportions and they forgot that he had just
proved himself to have committed a cold-blooded and ghastly
crime.

The stars were shining when the party again took their seats in
the boat; and if the scene of their crossing to Jersey was
impressive, what shall be said of the return?

The doctor, as before, sat in the stern, an awesome figure, upon
which the moon shone with a white radiance that seemed to lift
his face out of the surrounding darkness and set it like an image
of frozen horror before their eyes. Against his breast he held
the form of his dead wife, and now and then Violet saw him stoop
as if he were listening for some token of life from her set lips.
Then he would lift himself again with hopelessness stamped upon
his features, only to lean forward in renewed hope that was again
destined to disappointment.

Violet had been so overcome by this tragic end to all her hopes,
that her employer had been allowed to enter the boat with her.
Seated at her side in the seat directly in front of the doctor,
he watched with her these simple tokens of a breaking heart,
saying nothing till they reached midstream, when true to his
instincts for all his awe and compassion, he suddenly bent
towards him and said:

"Dr. Zabriskie, the mystery of your crime is no longer a mystery
to me. Listen and see if I do not understand your temptation, and
how you, a conscientious and God-fearing man, came to slay your
innocent neighbour.

"A friend of yours, or so he called himself, had for a long time
filled your ears with tales tending to make you suspicious of
your wife and jealous of a certain man whom I will not name. You
knew that your friend had a grudge against this man, and so for
many months turned a deaf ear to his insinuations. But finally
some change which you detected in your wife's bearing or
conversation roused your own suspicions, and you began to doubt
her truth and to curse your blindness, which in a measure
rendered you helpless. The jealous fever grew and had risen to a
high point when one night--a memorable night--this friend met you
just as you were leaving town, and with cruel craft whispered in
your ear that the man you hated was even then with your wife and
that if you would return at once to your home you would find him
in her company.

"The demon that lurks at the heart of all men, good or bad,
thereupon took complete possession, of you, and you answered
this false friend by saying that you would not return without a
pistol. Whereupon he offered to take you to his house and give
you his. You consented, and getting rid of your servant by
sending him to Poughkeepsie with your excuses, you entered your
friend's automobile.

"You say you bought the pistol, and perhaps you did, but, however
that may be, you left his house with it in your pocket, and
declining companionship, walked home, arriving at the Colonnade a
little before midnight.

"Ordinarily you have no difficulty in recognizing your own
doorstep. But, being in a heated frame of mind, you walked faster
than usual and so passed your own house and stopped at that of
Mr. Hasbrouck, one door beyond. As the entrances of these houses
are all alike, there was but one way by which you could have made
yourself sure that you had reached your own dwelling, and that
was by feeling for the doctor's sign at the side of the door. But
you never thought of that. Absorbed in dreams of vengeance, your
sole impulse was to enter by the quickest means possible. Taking
out your night key, you thrust it into the lock. It fitted, but
it took strength to turn it, so much strength that the key was
twisted and bent by the effort. But this incident, which would
have attracted your attention at another time, was lost upon you
at this moment. An entrance had been effected, and you were in
too excited a frame of mind to notice at what cost, or to detect
the small differences apparent in the atmosphere and furnishings
of the two houses, trifles which would have arrested your
attention under other circumstances, and made you pause before
the upper floor had been reached.

"It was while going up the stairs that you took out your pistol,
so that by the time you arrived at the front room door you held
it already drawn and cocked in your hand. For, being blind, you
feared escape on the part of your victim, and so waited for
nothing but the sound of a man's voice before firing. When,
therefore, the unfortunate Mr. Hasbrouck, roused by this sudden
intrusion, advanced with an exclamation of astonishment, you
pulled the trigger, and killed him on the spot. It must have been
immediately upon his fall that you recognized from some word he
uttered, or from some contact you may have had with your
surroundings, that you were in the wrong house and had killed the
wrong man; for you cried out, in evident remorse, 'God! what have
I done!' and fled without approaching your victim.

"Descending the stairs, you rushed from the house, closing the
front door behind you and regaining your own without being seen.
But here you found yourself baffled in your attempted escape, by
two things. First, by the pistol you still held in your hand, and
secondly, by the fact that the key upon which you depended for
entering your own door was so twisted out of shape that you knew
it would be useless for you to attempt to use it. What did you do
in this emergency? You have already told us, though the story
seemed so improbable at the time, you found nobody to believe it
but myself. The pistol you flung far away from you down the
pavement, from which, by one of those rare chances which
sometimes happen in this world, it was presently picked up by
some late passer-by of more or less doubtful character. The door
offered less of an obstacle than you had anticipated; for when
you turned again you found it, if I am not greatly mistaken,
ajar, left so, as we have reason to believe, by one who had gone
out of it but a few minutes before in a state which left him but
little master of his actions. It was this fact which provided you
with an answer when you were asked how you succeeded in getting
into Mr. Hasbrouck's house after the family had retired for the
night.

"Astonished at the coincidence, but hailing with gladness the
deliverance which it offered, you went in and ascended at once
into your wife's presence; and it was from her lips, and not from
those of Mrs. Hasbrouck, that the cry arose which startled the
neighbourhood and prepared men's minds for the tragic words which
were shouted a moment later from the next house.

"But she who uttered the scream knew of no tragedy save that
which was taking place in her own breast. She had just repulsed a
dastardly suitor, and seeing you enter so unexpectedly in a state
of unaccountable horror and agitation, was naturally stricken
with dismay, and thought she saw your ghost, or what was worse, a
possible avenger; while you, having failed to kill the man you
sought, and having killed a man you esteemed, let no surprise on
her part lure you into any dangerous self-betrayal. You strove
instead to soothe her, and even attempted to explain the
excitement under which you laboured, by an account of your narrow
escape at the station, till the sudden alarm from next door
distracted her attention, and sent both your thoughts and hers in
a different direction. Not till conscience had fully awakened and
the horror of your act had had time to tell upon your sensitive
nature, did you breathe forth those vague confessions, which, not
being supported by the only explanations which would have made
them credible, led her, as well as the police, to consider you
affected in your mind. Your pride as a man and your consideration
for her as a woman kept you silent, but did not keep the worm
from preying upon your heart.

"Am I not correct in my surmises, Dr. Zabriskie, and is not this
the true explanation of your crime?"

With a strange look, he lifted up his face.

"Hush!" said he; "you will waken her. See how peacefully she
sleeps! I should not like to have her wakened now, she is so
tired, and I--I have not watched over her as I should."

Appalled at his gesture, his look, his tone, Violet drew back,
and for a few minutes no sound was to be heard but the steady dip-
dip of the oars and the lap-lap of the waters against the boat.
Then there came a quick uprising, the swaying before her of
something dark and tall and threatening, and before she could
speak or move, or even stretch forth her hands to stay him, the
seat before her was empty and darkness had filled the place where
but an instant previous he had sat, a fearsome figure, erect and
rigid as a sphinx.

What little moonlight there was, only served to show a few rising
bubbles, marking the spot where the unfortunate man had sunk with
his much-loved burden. As the widening circles fled farther and
farther out, the tide drifted the boat away, and the spot was
lost which had seen the termination of one of earth's saddest
tragedies.

END OF PROBLEM VII


PROBLEM VIII

MISSING: PAGE THIRTEEN

"One more! just one more well paying affair, and I promise to
stop; really and truly to stop."

"But, Puss, why one more? You have earned the amount you set for
yourself,--or very nearly,--and though my help is not great, in
three months I can add enough--"

"No, you cannot, Arthur. You are doing well; I appreciate it; in
fact, I am just delighted to have you work for me in the way you
do, but you cannot, in your present position, make enough in
three months, or in six, to meet the situation as I see it.
Enough does not satisfy me. The measure must be full, heaped up,
and running over. Possible failure following promise must be
provided for. Never must I feel myself called upon to do this
kind of thing again. Besides, I have never got over the Zabriskie
tragedy. It haunts me continually. Something new may help to put
it out of my head. I feel guilty. I was responsible--"

"No, Puss. I will not have it that you were responsible. Some
such end was bound to follow a complication like that. Sooner or
later he would have been driven to shoot himself--"

"But not her."

"No, not her. But do you think she would have given those few
minutes of perfect understanding with her blind husband for a few
years more of miserable life?"

Violet made no answer; she was too absorbed in her surprise. Was
this Arthur? Had a few weeks' work and a close connection with
the really serious things of life made this change in him? Her
face beamed at the thought, which seeing, but not understanding
what underlay this evidence of joy, he bent and kissed her,
saying with some of his old nonchalance:

"Forget it, Violet; only don't let any one or anything lead you
to interest yourself in another affair of the kind. If you do, I
shall have to consult a certain friend of yours as to the best
way of stopping this folly. I mention no names. Oh! you need not
look so frightened. Only behave; that's all."

"He's right," she acknowledged to herself, as he sauntered away;
"altogether right."

Yet because she wanted the extra money--

The scene invited alarm,--that is, for so young a girl as Violet,
surveying it from an automobile some time after the stroke of
midnight. An unknown house at the end of a heavily shaded walk,
in the open doorway of which could be seen the silhouette of a
woman's form leaning eagerly forward with arms outstretched in an
appeal for help! It vanished while she looked, but the effect
remained, holding her to her seat for one startled moment. This
seemed strange, for she had anticipated adventure. One is not
summoned from a private ball to ride a dozen miles into the
country on an errand of investigation, without some expectation
of encountering the mysterious and the tragic. But Violet
Strange, for all her many experiences, was of a most susceptible
nature, and for the instant in which that door stood open, with
only the memory of that expectant figure to disturb the faintly
lit vista of the hall beyond, she felt that grip upon the throat
which comes from an indefinable fear which no words can explain
and no plummet sound.

But this soon passed. With the setting of her foot to ground,
conditions changed and her emotions took on a more normal
character. The figure of a man now stood in the place held by the
vanished woman; and it was not only that of one she knew but that
of one whom she trusted--a friend whose very presence gave her
courage. With this recognition came a better understanding of the
situation, and it was with a beaming eye and unclouded features
that she tripped up the walk to meet the expectant figure and
outstretched hand of Roger Upjohn.

"You here!" she exclaimed, amid smiles and blushes, as he drew
her into the hall.

He at once launched forth into explanations mingled with
apologies for the presumption he had shown in putting her to this
inconvenience. There was trouble in the house--great trouble.
Something had occurred for which an explanation must be found
before morning, or the happiness and honour of more than one
person now under this unhappy roof would be wrecked. He knew it
was late--that she had been obliged to take a long and dreary
ride alone, but her success with the problem which had once come
near wrecking his own life had emboldened him to telephone to the
office and--"But you are in ball-dress," he cried in amazement.
"Did you think--"

"I came from a ball. Word reached me between the dances. I did
not go home. I had been bidden to hurry."

He looked his appreciation, but when he spoke it was to say:

"This is the situation. Miss Digby--"

"The lady who is to be married tomorrow?"

"Who hopes to be married tomorrow."

"How, hopes?"

"Who will be married tomorrow, if a certain article lost in this
house tonight can be found before any of the persons who have
been dining here leave for their homes."

Violet uttered an exclamation.

"Then, Mr. Cornell," she began--

"Mr. Cornell has our utmost confidence," Roger hastened to
interpose. "But the article missing is one which he might
reasonably desire to possess and which he alone of all present
had the opportunity of securing. You can therefore see why he,
with his pride--the pride off a man not rich, engaged to marry a
woman who is--should declare that unless his innocence is
established before daybreak, the doors of St. Bartholomew will
remain shut to-morrow."

"But the article lost--what is it?"

"Miss Digby will give you the particulars. She is waiting to
receive you," he added with a gesture towards a half-open door at
their right.

Violet glanced that way, then cast her looks up and down the hall
in which they stood.

"Do you know that you have not told me in whose house I am? Not
hers, I know. She lives in the city."

"And you are twelve miles from Harlem. Miss Strange, you are in
the Van Broecklyn mansion, famous enough you will acknowledge.
Have you never been here before?"

"I have been by here, but I recognized nothing in the dark. What
an exciting place for an investigation!"

"And Mr. Van Broecklyn? Have you never met him?"

"Once, when a child. He frightened me then."

"And may frighten you now; though I doubt it. Time has mellowed
him. Besides, I have prepared him for what might otherwise
occasion him some astonishment. Naturally he would not look for
just the sort of lady investigator I am about to introduce to
him."

She smiled. Violet Strange was a very charming young woman, as
well as a keen prober of odd mysteries.

The meeting between herself and Miss Digby was a sympathetic one.
After the first inevitable shock which the latter felt at sight
of the beauty and fashionable appearance of the mysterious little
being who was to solve her difficulties, her glance, which, under
other circumstances, might have lingered unduly upon the piquant
features and exquisite dressing of the fairy-like figure before
her, passed at once to Violet's eyes, in whose steady depths
beamed an intelligence quite at odds with the coquettish dimples
which so often misled the casual observer in his estimation of a
character singularly subtle and well-poised.

As for the impression she herself made upon Violet, it was the
same she made upon everyone. No one could look long at Florence
Digby and not recognize the loftiness of her spirit and the
generous nature of her impulses. In person she was tall and as
she leaned to take Violet's hand, the difference between them
brought out the salient points in each, to the great admiration
of the one onlooker.

Meantime, for all her interest in the case in hand, Violet could
not help casting a hurried look about her, in gratification of
the curiosity incited by her entrance into a house signalized
from its foundation by such a series of tragic events. The result
was disappointing. The walls were plain, the furniture simple.
Nothing suggestive in either, unless it was the fact that nothing
was new, nothing modern. As it looked in the days of Burr and
Hamilton so it looked to-day, even to the rather startling detail
of candles which did duty on every side in place of gas.

As Violet recalled the reason for this, the fascination of the
past seized upon her imagination. There was no knowing where this
might have carried her, had not the feverish gleam in Miss
Digby's eyes warned her that the present held its own excitement.
Instantly, she was all attention and listening with undivided
mind to that lady's disclosures.

They were brief and to the following effect:

The dinner which had brought some half-dozen people together in
this house had been given in celebration of her impending
marriage. But it was also in a way meant as a compliment to one
of the other guests, a Mr. Spielhagen, who, during the week, had
succeeded in demonstrating to a few experts the value of a
discovery he had made which would transform a great industry.

In speaking of this discovery, Miss Digby did not go into
particulars, the whole matter being far beyond her understanding;
but in stating its value she openly acknowledged that it was in
the line of Mr. Cornell's own work, and one which involved
calculations and a formula which, if prematurely disclosed, would
invalidate the contract Mr. Spielhagen hoped to make, and thus
destroy his present hopes.

Of this formula but two copies existed. One was locked up in a
safe deposit vault in Boston, the other he had brought into the
house on his person, and it was the latter which was now missing,
having been abstracted during the evening from a manuscript of
sixteen or more sheets, under circumstances which she would now
endeavour to relate.

Mr. Van Broecklyn, their host, had in his melancholy life but one
interest which could be at all absorbing. This was for
explosives. As consequence, much of the talk at the dinner-table
had been on Mr. Spielhagen's discovery, and possible changes it
might introduce into this especial industry. As these, worked out
from a formula kept secret from the trade, could not but affect
greatly Mr. Cornell's interests, she found herself listening
intently, when Mr. Van Broecklyn, with an apology for his
interference, ventured to remark that if Mr. Spielhagen had made
a valuable discovery in this line, so had he, and one which he
had substantiated by many experiments. It was not a marketable
one, such as Mr. Spielhagen's was, but in his work upon the same,
and in the tests which he had been led to make, he had discovered
certain instances he would gladly name, which demanded
exceptional procedure to be successful. If Mr. Spielhagen's
method did not allow for these exceptions, nor make suitable
provision for them, then Mr. Spielhagen's method would fail more
times than it would succeed. Did it so allow and so provide? It
would relieve him greatly to learn that it did.

The answer came quickly. Yes, it did. But later and after some
further conversation, Mr. Spielhagen's confidence seemed to wane,
and before they left the dinner-table, he openly declared his
intention of looking over his manuscript again that very night,
in order to be sure that the formula therein contained duly
covered all the exceptions mentioned by Mr. Van Broecklyn.

If Mr. Cornell's countenance showed any change at this moment,
she for one had not noticed it; but the bitterness with which he
remarked upon the other's good fortune in having discovered this
formula of whose entire success he had no doubt, was apparent to
everybody, and naturally gave point to the circumstances which a
short time afterward associated him with the disappearance of
the same.

The ladies (there were two others besides herself) having
withdrawn in a body to the music-room, the gentlemen all
proceeded to the library to smoke. Here, conversation loosed from
the one topic which had hitherto engrossed it, was proceeding
briskly, when Mr. Spielhagen, with nervous gesture, impulsively
looked about him and said:

"I cannot rest till I have run through my thesis again. Where can
I find a quiet spot? I won't be long; I read very rapidly."

It was for Mr. Van Broecklyn to answer, but no word coming from
him, every eye turned his way, only to find him sunk in one of
those fits of abstraction so well known to his friends, and from
which no one who has this strange man's peace of mind at heart
ever presumes to rouse him.

What was to be done? These moods of their singular host sometimes
lasted half an hour, and Mr. Spielhagen had not the appearance of
a man of patience. Indeed he presently gave proof of the great
uneasiness he was labouring under, for noticing a door standing
ajar on the other side of the room, he remarked to those around
him:

"A den! and lighted! Do you see any objection to my shutting
myself in there for a few minutes?"

No one venturing to reply, he rose, and giving a slight push to
the door, disclosed a small room exquisitely panelled and
brightly lighted, but without one article of furniture in it, not
even a chair.

"The very place," quoth Mr. Spielhagen, and lifting a light cane-
bottomed chair from the many standing about, he carried it inside
and shut the door behind him.

Several minutes passed during which the man who had served at
table entered with a tray on which were several small glasses
evidently containing some choice liqueur. Finding his master
fixed in one of his strange moods, he set the tray down and,
pointing to one of the glasses, said:

"That is for Mr. Van Broecklyn. It contains his usual quieting
powder." And urging the gentlemen to help themselves, he quietly
left the room. Mr. Upjohn lifted the glass nearest him, and Mr.
Cornell seemed about to do the same when he suddenly reached
forward and catching up one farther off started for the room in
which Mr. Spielhagen had so deliberately secluded himself.

Why he did all this--why, above all things, he should reach
across the tray for a glass instead of taking the one under his
hand, he can no more explain than why he has followed many
another unhappy impulse. Nor did he understand the nervous start
given by Mr. Spielhagen at his entrance, or the stare with which
that gentleman took the glass from his hand and mechanically
drank its contents, till he saw how his hand had stretched itself
across the sheet of paper he was reading, in an open attempt to
hide the lines visible between his fingers. Then indeed the
intruder flushed and withdrew in great embarrassment, fully
conscious of his indiscretion but not deeply disturbed till Mr.
Van Broecklyn, suddenly arousing and glancing down at the tray
placed very near his hand remarked in some surprise: "Dobbs seems
to have forgotten me." Then indeed, the unfortunate Mr. Cornell
realized what he had done. It was the glass intended for his host
which he had caught up and carried into the other room--the glass
which he had been told contained a drug. Of what folly he had
been guilty, and how tame would be any effort at excuse!

Attempting none, he rose and with a hurried glance at Mr. Upjohn
who flushed in sympathy at his distress, he crossed to the door
he had lately closed upon Mr. Spielhagen. But feeling his
shoulder touched as his hand pressed the knob, he turned to meet
the eye of Mr. Van Broecklyn fixed upon him with an expression
which utterly confounded him.

"Where are you going?" that gentleman asked.

The questioning tone, the severe look, expressive at once of
displeasure and astonishment, were most disconcerting, but Mr.
Cornell managed to stammer forth:

"Mr. Spielhagen is in here consulting his thesis. When your man
brought in the cordial, I was awkward enough to catch up your
glass and carry it in to. Mr. Spielhagen. He drank it and I--I am
anxious to see if it did him any harm."

As he uttered the last word he felt Mr. Van Broecklyn's hand slip
from his shoulder, but no word accompanied the action, nor did
his host make the least move to follow him into the room.

This was a matter of great regret to him later, as it left him
for a moment out of the range of every eye, during which he says
he simply stood in a state of shock at seeing Mr. Spielhagen
still sitting there, manuscript in hand, but with head fallen
forward and eyes closed; dead, asleep or--he hardly knew what;
the sight so paralysed him.

Whether or not this was the exact truth and the whole truth, Mr.
Cornell certainly looked very unlike himself as he stepped back
into Mr. Van Broecklyn's presence; and he was only partially
reassured when that gentleman protested that there was no real
harm in the drug, and that Mr. Spielhagen would be all right if
left to wake naturally and without shock. However, as his present
attitude was one of great discomfort, they decided to carry him
back and lay him on the library lounge. But before doing this,
Mr. Upjohn drew from his flaccid grasp, the precious manuscript,
and carrying it into the larger room placed it on a remote table,
where it remained undisturbed till Mr. Spielhagen, suddenly
coming to himself at the end of some fifteen minutes, missed the
sheets from his hand, and bounding up, crossed the room to
repossess himself of them.

His face, as he lifted them up and rapidly ran through them with
ever-accumulating anxiety, told them what they had to expect.

The page containing the formula was gone!

Violet now saw her problem.

II

There was no doubt about the loss I have mentioned; all could see
that page 13 was not there. In vain a second handling of every
sheet, the one so numbered was not to be found. Page 14 met the
eye on the top of the pile, and page 12 finished it off at the
bottom, but no page 13 in between, or anywhere else.

Where had it vanished, and through whose agency had this
misadventure occurred? No one could say, or, at least, no one
there made any attempt to do so, though everybody started to look
for it.

But where look? The adjoining small room offered no facilities
for hiding a cigar-end, much less a square of shining white
paper. Bare walls, a bare floor, and a single chair for
furniture, comprised all that was to be seen in this direction.
Nor could the room in which they then stood be thought to hold
it, unless it was on the person of some one of them. Could this
be the explanation of the mystery? No man looked his doubts; but
Mr. Cornell, possibly divining the general feeling, stepped up to
Mr. Van Broecklyn and in a cool voice, but with the red burning
hotly on either cheek, said, so as to be heard by everyone
present:

"I demand to be searched--at once and thoroughly."

A moment's silence, then the common cry:

"We will all be searched."

"Is Mr. Spielhagen sure that the missing page was with the others
when he sat down in the adjoining room to read his thesis?" asked
their perturbed host.

"Very sure," came the emphatic reply. "Indeed, I was just going
through the formula itself when I fell asleep."

"You are ready to assert this?"

"I am ready to swear it."

Mr. Cornell repeated his request.

"I demand that you make a thorough search of my person. I must be
cleared, and instantly, of every suspicion," he gravely asserted,
"or how can I marry Miss Digby to-morrow."

After that there was no further hesitation. One and all subjected
themselves to the ordeal suggested; even Mr. Spielhagen. But this
effort was as futile as the rest. The lost page was not found.

What were they to think? What were they to do?

There seemed to be nothing left to do, and yet some further
attempt must be made towards the recovery of this important
formula. Mr. Cornell's marriage and Mr. Spielhagen's business
success both depended upon its being in the latter's hands before
six in the morning, when he was engaged to hand it over to a
certain manufacturer sailing for Europe on an early steamer.

Five hours!

Had Mr. Van Broecklyn a suggestion to offer? No, he was as much
at sea as the rest.

Simultaneously look crossed look. Blankness was on every face.

"Let us call the ladies," suggested one.

It was done, and however great the tension had been before, it
was even greater when Miss Digby stepped upon the scene. But she
was not a woman to be shaken from her poise even by a crisis of
this importance. When the dilemma had been presented to her and
the full situation grasped, she looked first at Mr. Cornell and
then at Mr. Spielhagen, and quietly said:

"There is but one explanation possible of this matter. Mr.
Spielhagen will excuse me, but he is evidently mistaken in
thinking that he saw the lost page among the rest. The condition
into which he was thrown by the unaccustomed drug he had drank,
made him liable to hallucinations. I have not the least doubt he
thought he had been studying the formula at the time he dropped
off to sleep. I have every confidence in the gentleman's candour.
But so have I in that of Mr. Cornell," she supplemented, with a
smile.

An exclamation from Mr. Van Broecklyn and a subdued murmur from
all but Mr. Spielhagen testified to the effect of this
suggestion, and there is no saying what might have been the
result if Mr. Cornell had not hurriedly put in this extraordinary
and most unexpected protest:

"Miss Digby has my gratitude," said he, "for a confidence which I
hope to prove to be deserved. But I must say this for Mr.
Spielhagen. He was correct in stating that he was engaged in
looking over his formula when I stepped into his presence with
the glass of cordial. If you were not in a position to see the
hurried way in which his hand instinctively spread itself over
the page he was reading, I was; and if that does not seem
conclusive to you, then I feel bound to state that in
unconsciously following this movement of his, I plainly saw the
number written on the top of the page, and that number was--13."

A loud exclamation, this time from Spielhagen himself, announced
his gratitude and corresponding change of attitude toward the
speaker.

"Wherever that damned page has gone," he protested, advancing
towards Cornell with outstretched hand, "you have nothing to do
with its disappearance."

Instantly all constraint fled, and every countenance took on a
relieved expression. But the problem remained.

Suddenly those very words passed some one's lips, and with their
utterance Mr. Upjohn remembered how at an extraordinary crisis in
his own life he had been helped and an equally difficult problem
settled, by a little lady secretly attached to a private
detective agency. If she could only be found and hurried here
before morning, all might yet be well. He would make the effort.
Such wild schemes sometimes work. He telephoned to the office and--

Was there anything else Miss Strange would like to know?

III

Miss Strange, thus appealed to, asked where the gentlemen were
now.

She was told that they were still all together in the library;
the ladies had been sent home.

"Then let us go to them," said Violet, hiding under a smile her
great fear that here was an affair which might very easily spell
for her that dismal word, failure.

So great was that fear that under all ordinary circumstances she
would have had no thought for anything else in the short interim
between this stating of the problem and her speedy entrance among
the persons involved. But the circumstances of this case were so
far from ordinary, or rather let me put it in this way, the
setting of the case was so very extraordinary, that she scarcely
thought of the problem before her, in her great interest in the
house through whose rambling halls she was being so carefully
guided. So much that was tragic and heartrending had occurred
here. The Van Broecklyn name, the Van Broecklyn history, above
all the Van Broecklyn tradition, which made the house unique in
the country's annals (of which more hereafter), all made an
appeal to her imagination, and centred her thoughts on what she
saw about her. There was door which no man ever opened--had never
opened since Revolutionary times--should she see it? Should she
know it if she did see it? Then Mr. Van Broecklyn himself! just
to meet him, under any conditions and in any place, was an event.
But to meet him here, under the pall of his own mystery! No
wonder she had no words for her companions, or that her thoughts
clung to this anticipation in wonder and almost fearsome delight.

His story was a well-known one. A bachelor and a misanthrope, he
lived absolutely alone save for a large entourage of servants,
all men and elderly ones at that. He never visited. Though he now
and then, as on this occasion, entertained certain persons under
his roof, he declined every invitation for himself, avoiding
even, with equal strictness, all evening amusements of whatever
kind, which would detain him in the city after ten at night.
Perhaps this was to ensure no break in his rule of life never to
sleep out of his own bed. Though he was a man well over fifty he
had not spent, according to his own statement, but two nights out
of his own bed since his return from Europe in early boyhood, and
those were in obedience to a judicial summons which took him to
Boston.

This was his main eccentricity, but he had another which is
apparent enough from what has already been said. He avoided
women. If thrown in with them during his short visits into town,
he was invariably polite and at times companionable, but he never
sought them out, nor had gossip, contrary to its usual habit,
ever linked his name with one of the sex.

Yet he was a man of more than ordinary attraction. His features
were fine and his figure impressive. He might have been the
cynosure of all eyes had he chosen to enter crowded drawing-
rooms, or even to frequent public assemblages, but having turned
his back upon everything of the kind in his youth, he had found
it impossible to alter his habits with advancing years; nor was
he now expected to. The position he had taken was respected.
Leonard Van Broecklyn was no longer criticized.

Was there any explanation for this strangely self-centred life?
Those who knew him best seemed to think so. In the first place he
had sprung from an unfortunate stock. Events of unusual and
tragic nature had marked the family of both parents. Nor had his
parents themselves been exempt from this seeming fatality.
Antagonistic in tastes and temperament, they had dragged on an
unhappy existence in the old home, till both natures rebelled,
and a separation ensued which not only disunited their lives but
sent them to opposite sides of the globe never to return again,
At least, that was the inference drawn from the peculiar
circumstances attending the event. On the morning of one never-
to-be-forgotten day, John Van Broecklyn, the grandfather of the
present representative of the family, found the following note
from his son lying on the library table:

"FATHER:

"Life in this house, or any house, with her is no longer
endurable. One of us must go. The mother should not be separated
from her child. Therefore it is I whom you will never see again.
Forget me, but be considerate of her and the boy.

"WILLIAM."

Six hours later another note was found, this time from the wife:

"FATHER:

"Tied to a rotting corpse what does one do? Lop off one's arm if
necessary to rid one of the contact. As all love between your
son and myself is dead, I can no longer live within the sound of
his voice. As this is his home, he is the one to remain in it.
May our child reap the benefit of his mother's loss and his
father's affection.

"RHODA."

Both were gone, and gone forever. Simultaneous in their
departure, they preserved each his own silence and sent no word
back. If the one went east and the other west, they may have met
on the other side of the globe, but never again in the home which
sheltered their boy. For him and for his grandfather they had
sunk from sight in the great sea of humanity, leaving them
stranded on an isolated and mournful shore. The grand-father
steeled himself to the double loss, for the child's sake; but the
boy of eleven succumbed. Few of the world's great sufferers, of
whatever age or condition, have mourned as this child mourned, or
shown the effects of his grief so deeply or so long. Not till he
had passed his majority did the line, carved in one day in his
baby forehead, lose any of its intensity; and there are those who
declare that even later than that, the midnight stillness of the
house was disturbed from time to time by his muffled shriek of
"Mother! Mother!", sending the servants from the house, and
adding one more horror to the many which clung about this
accursed mansion.

Of this cry Violet had heard, and it was that and the door--But I
have already told you about the door which she was still looking
for, when her two companions suddenly halted, and she found
herself on the threshold of the library, in full view of Mr. Van
Broecklyn and his two guests.

Slight and fairy-like in figure, with an air of modest reserve
more in keeping with her youth and dainty dimpling beauty than
with her errand,  her appearance produced an astonishment none of
which  the gentlemen were able to disguise. This the clever
detective, with a genius for social problems and odd elusive
cases! This darling of the ball-room in satin and pearls! Mr.
Spielhagen glanced at Mr. Cornell, and Mr. Cornell at Mr.
Spielhagen, and both at Mr. Upjohn, in very evident distrust. As
for Violet, she had eyes only for Mr. Van Broecklyn who stood
before her in a surprise equal to that of the others but with
more restraint in its expression.

She was not disappointed in him. She had expected to see a man,
reserved almost to the point of austerity. And she found his
first look even more awe-compelling than her imagination had
pictured; so much so indeed, that her resolution faltered, and
she took a quick step backward; which seeing, he smiled and her
heart and hopes grew warm again. That he could smile, and smile
with absolute sweetness, was her great comfort when later--But I
am introducing you too hurriedly to the catastrophe. There is
much to be told first.

I pass over the preliminaries, and come at once to the moment
when Violet, having listened to a repetition of the full facts,
stood with downcast eyes before these gentlemen, complaining in
some alarm to herself: "They expect me to tell them now and
without further search or parley just where this missing page is.
I shall have to balk that expectation without losing their
confidence. But how?"

Summoning up her courage and meeting each inquiring eye with a
look which seemed to carry a different message to each, she
remarked very quietly:

"This is not a matter to guess at. I must have time and I must
look a little deeper into the facts just given me. I presume that
the table I see over there is the one upon which Mr. Upjohn laid
the manuscript during Mr. Spielhagen's unconsciousness."

All nodded.

"Is it--I mean the table--in the same condition it was then? Has
nothing been taken from it except the manuscript?"

"Nothing."

"Then the missing page is not there," she smiled, pointing to its
bare top. A pause, during which she stood with her gaze fixed on
the floor before her. She was thinking and thinking hard.

Suddenly she came to a decision. Addressing Mr. Upjohn she asked
if he were quite sure that in taking the manuscript from Mr.
Spielhagen's hand he had neither disarranged nor dropped one of
its pages.

The answer was unequivocal.

"Then," she declared, with quiet assurance and a steady meeting
with her own of every eye, "as the thirteenth page was not found
among the others when they were taken from this table, nor on the
persons of either Mr. Cornell or Mr. Spielhagen, it is still in
that inner room."

"Impossible!" came from every lip, each in a different tone.
"That room is absolutely empty."

"May I have a look at its emptiness?" she asked, with a naive
glance at Mr. Van Broecklyn.

"There is positively nothing in the room but the chair Mr.
Spielhagen sat on," objected that gentleman with a noticeable air
of reluctance.

"Still, may I not have a look at it?" she persisted, with that
disarming smile she kept for great occasions.

Mr. Van Broecklyn bowed. He could not refuse a request so urged,
but his step was slow and his manner next to ungracious as he led
the way to the door of the adjoining room and threw it open.

Just what she had been told to expect! Bare walls and floors and
an empty chair! Yet she did not instantly withdraw, but stood
silently contemplating the panelled wainscoting surrounding her,
as though she suspected it of containing some secret hiding-
place not apparent to the eye.

Mr. Van Broecklyn, noting this, hastened to say:

"The walls are sound, Miss Strange. They contain no hidden
cupboards."

"And that door?" she asked, pointing to a portion of the
wainscoting so exactly like the rest that only the most
experienced eye could detect the line of deeper colour which
marked an opening.

For an instant Mr. Van Broecklyn stood rigid, then the immovable
pallor, which was one of his chief characteristics, gave way to a
deep flush as he explained:

"There was a door there once; but it has been permanently closed.
With cement," he forced himself to add, his countenance losing
its evanescent colour till it shone ghastly again in the strong
light.

With difficulty Violet preserved her show of composure. "The
door!" she murmured to herself. "I have found it. The great
historic door!" But her tone was light as she ventured to say:

"Then it can no longer be opened by your hand or any other?"

"It could not be opened with an axe."

Violet sighed in the midst of her triumph. Her curiosity had been
satisfied, but the problem she had been set to solve looked
inexplicable. But she was not one to yield easily to
discouragement. Marking the disappointment approaching to disdain
in every eye but Mr. Upjohn's, she drew herself up--(she had not
far to draw) and made this final proposal.

"A sheet of paper," she remarked, "of the size of this one cannot
be spirited away, or dissolved into thin air. It exists; it is
here; and all we want is some happy thought in order to find it.
I acknowledge that that happy thought has not come to me yet, but
sometimes I get it in what may seem to you a very odd way.
Forgetting myself, I try to assume the individuality of the
person who has worked the mystery. If I can think with his
thoughts, I possibly may follow him in his actions. In this case
I should like to make believe for a few moments that I am Mr.
Spielhagen" (with what a delicious smile she said this) "I should
like to hold his thesis in my hand and be interrupted in my
reading by Mr. Cornell offering his glass of cordial; then I
should like to nod and slip off mentally into a deep sleep.
Possibly in that sleep the dream may come which will clarify the
whole situation. Will you humour me so far?"

A ridiculous concession, but finally she had her way; the farce
was enacted and they left her as she had requested them to do,
alone with her dreams in the small room.

Suddenly they heard her cry out, and in another moment she
appeared before them, the picture of excitement.

"Is this chair standing exactly as it did when Mr. Spielhagen
occupied it?" she asked.

"No," said Mr. Upjohn, "it faced the other way."

She stepped back and twirled the chair about with her disengaged
hand.

"So?"

Mr. Upjohn and Mr. Spielhagen both nodded, so did the others when
she glanced at them.

With a sign of ill-concealed satisfaction, she drew their
attention to herself; then eagerly cried:

"Gentlemen, look here!"

Seating herself, she allowed her whole body to relax till she
presented the picture of one calmly asleep. Then, as they
continued to gaze at with fascinated eyes, not knowing what to
expect, they saw something white escape from her lap and slide
across the floor till it touched and was stayed by the wainscot.
It was the top page of the manuscript she held, and as some
inkling of the truth reached their astonished minds, she sprang
impetuously to her feet and, pointing to the fallen sheet, cried:

"Do you understand now? Look where it lies and then look here!"

She had bounded towards the wall and was now on her knees
pointing to the bottom of the wainscot, just a few inches to the
left of the fallen page.

"A crack!" she cried, "under what was once the door. It's a very
thin one, hardly perceptible to the eye. But see!" Here she laid
her finger on the fallen paper and drawing it towards her, pushed
it carefully against the lower edge of the wainscot. Half of it
at once disappeared.

"I could easily slip it all through," she assured them,
withdrawing the sheet and leaping to her feet in triumph. "You
know now where the missing page lies, Mr. Spielhagen. All that
remains is for Mr. Van Broecklyn to get it for you."

IV

The cries of mingled astonishment and relief which greeted this
simple elucidation of the mystery were broken by a curiously
choked, almost unintelligible, cry. It came from the man thus
appealed to, who, unnoticed by them all, had started at her first
word and gradually, as action followed action, withdrawn himself
till he now stood alone and in an attitude almost of defiance
behind the large table in the centre of the library.

"I am sorry," he began, with a brusqueness which gradually toned
down into a forced urbanity as he beheld every eye fixed upon him
in amazement, "that circumstances forbid my being of assistance
to you in this unfortunate matter. If the paper lies where you
say, and I see no other explanation of its loss, I am afraid it
will have to remain there for this night at least. The cement in
which that door is embedded is thick as any wall; it would take
men with pickaxes, possibly with dynamite, to make a breach there
wide enough for any one to reach in. And we are far from any such
help."

In the midst of the consternation caused by these words, the
clock on the mantel behind his back rang out the hour. It was but
a double stroke, but that meant two hours after midnight and had
the effect of a knell in the hearts of those most interested.

"But I am expected to give that formula into the hands of our
manager before six o'clock in the morning. The steamer sails at a
quarter after."

"Can't you reproduce a copy of it from memory?" some one asked;
"and insert it in its proper place among the pages you hold
there?"

"The paper would not be the same.  That would lead to questions
and the truth would come out. As the chief value of the process
contained in that formula lies in its secrecy, no explanation I
could give would relieve me from the suspicions which an
acknowledgment of the existence of a third copy, however well
hidden, would entail. I should lose my great opportunity."

Mr. Cornell's state of mind can be imagined. In an access of
mingled regret and despair, he cast a glance at Violet, who, with
a nod of understanding, left the little room in which they still
stood, and approached Mr. Van Broecklyn.

Lifting up her head,--for he was very tall,--and instinctively
rising on her toes the nearer to reach his ear, she asked in a
cautious whisper:

"Is there no other way of reaching that place?"

She acknowledged afterwards, that for one moment her heart stood
still from fear, such a change took place in his face, though she
says he did not move a muscle. Then, just when she was expecting
from him some harsh or forbidding word, he wheeled abruptly away
from her and crossing to a window at his side, lifted the shade
and looked out. When he returned, he was his usual self so far as
she could see.

"There is a way," he now confided to her in a tone as low as her
own, "but it can only be taken by a child."

"Not by me?" she asked, smiling down at her own childish
proportions.

For an instant he seemed taken aback, then she saw his hand begin
to tremble and his lips twitch. Somehow--she knew not why--she
began to pity him, and asked herself as she felt rather than saw
the struggle in his mind, that here was a trouble which if once
understood would greatly dwarf that of the two men in the room
behind them.

"I am discreet," she whisperingly declared.  "I have heard the
history of that door--how it was against the tradition of the
family to have it opened. There must have been some very dreadful
reason. But old superstitions do not affect me, and if you will
allow me to take the way you mention, I will follow your bidding
exactly, and will not trouble myself about anything but the
recovery of this paper, which must lie only a little way inside
that blocked-up door."

Was his look one of rebuke at her presumption, or just the
constrained expression of a perturbed mind? Probably, the latter,
for while she watched him for some understanding of his mood, he
reached out his hand and touched one of the satin folds crossing
her shoulder.

"You would soil this irretrievably," said he.

"There is stuff in the stores for another," she smiled. Slowly
his touch deepened into pressure. Watching him she saw the crust
of some old fear or dominant superstition melt under her eyes,
and was quite prepared, when he remarked, with what for him was
a lightsome air:

"I will buy the stuff, if you will dare the darkness and
intricacies of our old cellar. I can give you no light. You will
have to feel your way according to my direction."

"I am ready to dare anything."

He left her abruptly.

"I will warn Miss Digby," he called back. "She shall go with you
as far as the cellar."

V

Violet in her short career as an investigator of mysteries had
been in many a situation calling for more than womanly nerve and
courage. But never--or so it seemed to her at the time--had she
experienced a greater depression of spirit than when she stood
with Miss Digby before a small door at the extreme end of the
cellar, and understood that here was her road--a road which once
entered, she must take alone.

First, it was such a small door! No child older than eleven could
possibly squeeze through it. But she was of the size of a
child of eleven and might possibly manage that difficulty.

Secondly: there are always some unforeseen possibilities in every
situation, and though she had listened carefully to Mr. Van
Broecklyn's directions and was sure that she knew them by heart,
she wished she had kissed her father more tenderly in leaving him
that night for the ball, and that she had not pouted so
undutifully at some harsh stricture he had made. Did this mean
fear? She despised the feeling if it did.

Thirdly: She hated darkness. She knew this when she offered
herself for this undertaking; but she was in a bright room at the
moment and only imagined what she must now face as a reality. But
one jet had been lit in the cellar and that near the entrance.
Mr. Van Broecklyn seemed not to need light, even in his
unfastening of the small door which Violet was sure had been
protected by more than one lock.

Doubt, shadow, and a solitary climb between unknown walls, with
only a streak of light for her goal, and the clinging pressure of
Florence Digby's hand on her own for solace--surely the prospect
was one to tax the courage of her young heart to its limit. But
she had promised, and she would fulfill. So with a brave smile
she stooped to the little door, and in another moment had started
her journey.

For journey the shortest distance may seem when every inch means
a heart-throb and one grows old in traversing a foot. At first
the way was easy; she had but to crawl up a slight incline with
the comforting consciousness that two people were within reach of
her voice, almost within sound of her beating heart. But
presently she came to a turn, beyond which her fingers failed to
reach any wall on her left. Then came a step up which she
stumbled, and farther on a short flight, each tread of which she
had been told to test before she ventured to climb it, lest the
decay of innumerable years should have weakened the wood too much
to bear her weight. One, two, three, four, five steps! Then a
landing with an open space beyond. Half of her journey was done.
Here she felt she could give a minute to drawing her breath
naturally, if the air, unchanged in years, would allow her to do
so. Besides, here she had been enjoined to do a certain thing and
to do it according to instructions. Three matches had been given
her and a little night candle. Denied all light up to now, it was
at this point she was to light her candle and place it on the
floor, so that in returning she should not miss the staircase and
get a fall. She had promised to do this, and was only too happy
to see a spark of light scintillate into life in the immeasurable
darkness.

She was now in a great room long closed to the world, where once
officers in Colonial wars had feasted, and more than one council
had been held. A room, too, which had seen more than one tragic
happening, as its almost unparalleled isolation proclaimed. So
much Mr. Van Broecklyn had told her; but she was warned to be
careful in traversing it and not upon any pretext to swerve aside
from the right-hand wall till she came to a huge mantelpiece.
This passed, and a sharp corner turned, she ought to see
somewhere in the dim spaces before her a streak of vivid light
shining through the crack at the bottom of the blocked-up door.
The paper should be somewhere near this streak.

All simple, all easy of accomplishment, if only that streak of
light were all she was likely to see or think of. If the horror
which was gripping her throat should not take shape! If things
would remain shrouded in impenetrable darkness, and not force
themselves in shadowy suggestion upon her excited fancy! But the
blackness of the passage-way through which she had just struggled
was not to be found here. Whether it was the effect of that small
flame flickering at the top of the staircase behind her, or of
some change in her own powers of seeing, surely there was a
difference in her present outlook. Tall shapes were becoming
visible--the air was no longer blank--she could see--Then
suddenly she saw why. In the wall high up on her right was a
window. It was small  and all but invisible, being covered on the
outside with vines, and on the inside with the cobwebs of a
century. But some small gleams from the star-light night came
through, making phantasms out of ordinary things, which unseen
were horrible enough, and half seen choked her heart with terror.

"I cannot bear it," she whispered to herself even while creeping
forward, her hand upon the wall. "I will close my eyes" was her
next thought. "I will make my own darkness," and with a spasmodic
forcing of her lids together, she continued to creep on, passing
the mantelpiece, where she knocked against something which fell
with an awful clatter.

This sound, followed as it was by that of smothered voices from
the excited group awaiting the result of her experiment from
behind the impenetrable wall she should be nearing now if she had
followed her instructions aright, freed her instantly from her
fancies; and opening her eyes once more, she cast a look ahead,
and to her delight, saw but a few steps away, the thin streak of
bright light which marked the end of her journey.

It took her but a moment after that to find the missing page, and
picking it up in haste from the dusty floor, she turned herself
quickly about and joyfully began to retrace her steps. Why then,
was it that in the course of a few minutes more her voice
suddenly broke into a wild, unearthly shriek, which ringing with
terror burst the bounds of that dungeon-like room, and sank, a
barbed shaft, into the breasts of those awaiting the result of
her doubtful adventure, at either end of this dread no-
thoroughfare.

What had happened?

If they had thought to look out, they would have seen that the
moon--held in check by a bank of cloud occupying half the heavens
--had suddenly burst its bounds and was sending long bars of
revealing light into every uncurtained window.

VI

Florence Digby, in her short and sheltered life, had possibly
never known any very great or deep emotion. But she touched the
bottom of extreme terror at that moment, as with her ears still
thrilling with Violet's piercing cry, she turned to look at Mr.
Van Broecklyn, and beheld the instantaneous wreck it had made of
this seemingly strong man. Not till he came to lie in his coffin
would he show a more ghastly countenance; and trembling herself
almost to the point of falling, caught him by the arm and sought
to read his face what had happened. Something disastrous she was
sure; something which he had feared and was partially prepared
for, yet which in happening had crushed him. Was it a pitfall
into which the poor little lady had fallen? If so--But he is
speaking--mumbling low words to himself. Some of them she can
hear. He is reproaching himself--repeating over and over that he
should never have taken such a chance; that he should have
remembered her youth--the weakness of a young girl's nerve. He
had been mad, and now--and now--

With the repetition of this word his murmuring ceased. All his
energies were now absorbed in listening at the low door
separating him from what he was agonizing to know--a door
impossible to enter, impossible to enlarge--a barrier to all help
--an opening whereby sound might pass but nothing else, save her
own small body, now lying--where?

"Is she hurt?" faltered Florence, stooping, herself, to listen.
"Can you hear anything--anything?"

For an instant he did not answer; every faculty was absorbed in
the one sense; then slowly and in gasps he began to mutter:

"I think--I hear--something. Her step--no, no, no step. All is as
quiet as death; not a sound, not a breath--she has fainted. O
God! O God! Why this calamity on top of all!"

He had sprung to his feet at the utterance this invocation, but
next moment was down on knees again, listening--listening.

Never was silence more profound; they were hearkening for murmurs
from a tomb. Florence began to sense the full horror of it all,
and was swaying helplessly when Mr. Van Broecklyn impulsively
lifted his hand in an admonitory Hush! and through the daze of
her faculties a small far sound began to make itself heard,
growing louder as she waited, then becoming faint again, then
altogether ceasing only to renew itself once more, till it
resolved into an approaching step, faltering in its course, but
coming ever nearer and nearer.

"She's safe! She's not hurt!" sprang from Florence's lips in
inexpressible relief; and expecting Mr. Van Broecklyn to show an
equal joy, she turned towards him, with the cheerful cry

"Now if she has been so fortunate as to that missing page, we
shall all be repaid for our fright."

A movement on his part, a shifting of position which brought him
finally to his feet, but he gave no other proof of having heard
her, nor did his countenance mirror her relief. "It is as if he
dreaded, instead of hailed, her return," was Florence's inward
comment as she watched him involuntarily recoil at each fresh
token of Violet's advance.

Yet because this seemed so very unnatural, she persisted in her
efforts to lighten the situation, and when he made no attempt to
encourage Violet in her approach, she herself stooped and called
out a cheerful welcome which must have rung sweetly in the poor
little detective's ears.

A sorry sight was Violet, when, helped by Florence, she finally
crawled into view through the narrow opening and stood once again
on the cellar floor. Pale, trembling, and soiled with the dust of
years, she presented a helpless figure enough, till the joy in
Florence's face recalled some of her spirit, and, glancing down
at her hand in which a sheet of paper was visible, she asked for
Mr. Spielhagen.

"I've got the formula," she said. "If you will bring him, I will
hand it over to him here."

Not a word of her adventure; nor so much as one glance at Mr. Van
Broecklyn, standing far back in the shadows.

Nor was she more communicative, when, the formula restored and
everything made right with Mr. Spielhagen, they all came together
again in the library for a final word. "I was frightened by the
silence and the darkness, and so cried out," she explained in
answer to their questions. "Any one would have done so who found
himself alone in so musty a place," she added, with an attempt at
lightsomeness which deepened the pallor on Mr. Van Broecklyn's
cheek, already sufficiently noticeable to have been remarked upon
by more than one.

"No ghosts?" laughed Mr. Cornell, too happy in the return of his
hopes to be fully sensible of the feelings of those about him.
"No whispers from impalpable lips or touches from spectre hands?
Nothing to explain the mystery of that room long shut up that
even Mr. Van Broecklyn declares himself ignorant of its secret?"

"Nothing," returned Violet, showing her dimples in full force
now.

"If Miss Strange had any such experiences--if she has anything to
tell worthy of so marked a curiosity, she will tell it now," came
from the gentleman just alluded to, in tones so stern and strange
that all show of frivolity ceased on the instant. "Have you
anything to tell, Miss Strange?"

Greatly startled, she regarded him with widening eyes for a
moment, then with a move towards the door, remarked, with a
general look about her:

"Mr. Van Broecklyn knows his own house, and doubtless can relate
its histories if he will. I am a busy little body who having
finished my work am now ready to return home, there to wait for
the next problem which an indulgent fate may offer me."

She was near the threshold--she was about to take her leave, when
suddenly she felt two hands fall on her shoulder, and turning,
met the eyes of Mr. Van Broecklyn burning into her own.

"You saw!" dropped in an almost inaudible whisper from his lips.

The shiver which shook her answered him better than any word.

With an exclamation of despair, he withdrew his hands, and facing
the others now standing together in a startled group, he said, as
soon as he could recover some of his self-possession:

"I must ask for another hour of your company. I can no longer
keep my sorrow to myself. A dividing line has just been drawn
across my life, and I must have the sympathy of someone who
knows my past, or I shall go mad in my self-imposed solitude.
Come back, Miss Strange. You of all others have the prior right
to hear."

VII

"I shall have to begin," said he, when they were all seated and
ready to listen, "by giving you some idea, not so much of the
family tradition, as of the effect of this tradition upon all
who bore the name of Van Broecklyn. This is not the only house,
even in America, which contains a room shut away from intrusion.
In England there are many. But there is this difference between
most of them and ours. No bars or locks forcibly held shut the
door we were forbidden to open. The command was enough; that and
the superstitious fear which such a command, attended by a long
and unquestioning obedience, was likely to engender.

"I know no more than you do why some early ancestor laid his ban
upon this room. But from my earliest years I was given to
understand that there was one latch in the house which was never
to be lifted; that any fault would be forgiven sooner than that;
that the honour of the whole family stood in the way of
disobedience, and that I was to preserve that honour to my dying
day. You will say that all this is fantastic, and wonder that
sane people in these modern times should subject themselves to
such a ridiculous restriction, especially when no good reason was
alleged, and the very source of the tradition from which it
sprung forgotten. You are right; but if you look long into human
nature, you will see that the bonds which hold the firmest are
not material ones--that an idea will make a man and mould a
character--that it lies at the source of all heroisms and is to
be courted or feared as the case may be.

"For me it possessed a power proportionate to my loneliness. I
don't think there was ever a more lonely child. My father and
mother were so unhappy in each other's companionship that one or
other of them was almost always away. But I saw little of either
even when they were at home. The constraint in their attitude
towards each other affected their conduct towards me. I have
asked myself more than once if either of them had any real
affection for me. To my father I spoke of her; to her of him; and
never pleasurably. This I am forced to say, or you cannot
understand my story. Would to God I could tell another tale!
Would to God I had such memories as other men have of a father's
clasp, a mother's kiss--but no! my grief, already profound, might
have become abysmal. Perhaps it is best as it is; only, I might
have been a different child, and made for myself a different fate-
-who knows.

"As it was, I was thrown almost entirely upon my own resources
for any amusement. This led me to a discovery I made one day. In
a far part of the cellar behind some heavy casks, I found a
little door. It was so low--so exactly fitted to my small body,
that I had the greatest desire to enter it. But I could not get
around the casks. At last an expedient occurred to me. We had an
old servant who came nearer loving me than any one else. One day
when I chanced to be alone in the cellar, I took out my ball and
began throwing it about. Finally it landed behind the casks, and
I ran with a beseeching cry to Michael, to move them.

"It was a task requiring no little strength and address, but he
managed, after a few herculean efforts, to shift them aside and I
saw with delight, my way opened to that mysterious little door.
But I did not approach it then; some instinct deterred me. But
when the opportunity came for me to venture there alone, I did
so, in the most adventurous spirit, and began my operations by
sliding behind the casks and testing the handle of the little
door. It turned, and after a pull or two the door yielded. With
my heart in my mouth, I stooped and peered in. I could see
nothing--a black hole and nothing more. This caused me a moment's
hesitation. I was afraid of the dark--had always been. But
curiosity and the spirit of adventure triumphed. Saying to myself
that I was Robinson Crusoe exploring the cave, I crawled in, only
to find that I had gained nothing. It was as dark inside as it
had looked to be from without.

"There was no fun in this, so I crawled back, and when I tried
the experiment again, it was with a bit of candle in my hand, and
a surreptitious match or two. What I saw, when with a very
trembling little hand I had lighted one of the matches, would
have been disappointing to most boys, but not to me. The litter
and old boards I saw in odd corners about me were full of
possibilities, while in the dimness beyond I seemed to perceive a
sort of staircase which might lead--I do not think I made any
attempt to answer that question even in my own mind, but when,
after some hesitation and a sense of great daring, I finally
crept up those steps, I remember very well my sensation at
finding myself in front of a narrow closed door. It suggested too
vividly the one in Grandfather's little room--the door in the
wainscot which we were never to open. I had my first real
trembling fit here, and at once fascinated and repelled by this
obstruction I stumbled and lost my candle, which, going out in
the fall, left me in total darkness and a very frightened state
of mind. For my imagination which had been greatly stirred by my
own vague thoughts of the forbidden room, immediately began to
people the space about me with ghoulish figures. How should I
escape them, how ever reach my own little room again undetected
and in safety?

But these terrors, deep as they were, were nothing to the real
fright which seized me when, the darkness finally braved, and the
way found back into the bright, wide-open halls of the house, I
became conscious of having dropped something besides the candle.
My match-box was gone--not my match-box, but my grandfather's
which I had found lying on his table and carried off on this
adventure, in all the confidence of irresponsible youth. To make
use of it for a little while, trusting to his not missing it in
the confusion I had noticed about the house that morning, was one
thing; to lose it was another. It was no common box. Made of gold
and cherished for some special reason well known to himself, I
had often hear him say that some day I would appreciate its
value, and be glad to own it. And I had left it in that hole and
at any minute he might miss it--possibly ask for it! The day was
one of torment. My mother was away or shut up in her room. My
father--I don't know just what thoughts I had about him. He was
not to be seen either, and the servants cast strange looks at me
when I spoke his name. But I little realized the blow which had
just fallen upon the house in his definite departure, and only
thought of my own trouble, and of how I should meet my
grandfather's eye when the hour came for him to draw me to his
knee for his usual good-night.

"That I was spared this ordeal for the first time this very night
first comforted me, then added to my distress. He had discovered
his loss and was angry. On the morrow he would ask me for the box
and I would have to lie, for never could I find the courage to
tell him where I had been. Such an act of presumption he would
never forgive, or so I thought as I lay and shivered in my little
bed. That his coldness, his neglect, sprang from the discovery
just made that my mother as well as my father had just fled the
house forever was as little known to me as the morning calamity.
I had been given my usual tendance and was tucked safely into
bed; but the gloom, the silence which presently settled upon the
house had a very different explanation in my mind from the real
one. My sin (for such it loomed large in my mind by this time)
coloured the whole situation and accounted for every event.

"At what hour I slipped from my bed on to the cold floor, I shall
never know. To me it seemed to be in the dead of night; but I
doubt if it were more than ten. So slowly creep away the moments
to a wakeful child. I had made a great resolve. Awful as the
prospect seemed to me,--frightened as I was by the very thought,--
I had determined in my small mind to go down into the cellar, and
into that midnight hole again, in search of the lost box. I would
take a candle and matches, this time from my own mantel-shelf,
and if everyone was asleep, as appeared from the deathly quiet of
the house, I would be able to go and come without anybody ever
being the wiser.

"Dressing in the dark, I found my matches and my candle and,
putting them in one of my pockets, softly opened my door and
looked out. Nobody was stirring; every light was out except a
solitary one in the lower hall. That this still burned conveyed
no meaning to my mind. How could I know that the house was so
still and the rooms dark because everyone was out searching for
some clue to my mother's flight? If I had looked at the clock--
but I did not; I was too intent upon my errand, too filled with
the fever of my desperate undertaking, to be affected by anything
not bearing directly upon it.

"Of the terror caused by my own shadow on the wall as I made the
turn in the hall below, I have as keen a recollection today as
though it happened yesterday. But that did not deter me; nothing
deterred me, till safe in the cellar I crouched down behind the
casks to get my breath again before entering the hole beyond.

"I had made some noise in feeling my way around these casks, and
I trembled lest these sounds had been heard upstairs! But this
fear soon gave place to one far greater. Other sounds were making
themselves heard. A din of small skurrying feet above, below, on
every side of me! Rats! rats in the wall! rats on the cellar
bottom! How I ever stirred from the spot I do not know, but when
I did stir, it was to go forward, and enter the uncanny hole.

"I had intended to light my candle when I got inside; but for
some reason I went stumbling along in the dark, following the
wall till I got to the steps where I had dropped the box. Here a
light was necessary, but my hand did not go to my pocket. I
thought it better to climb the steps first, and softly one foot
found the tread and then another. I had only three more to climb
and then my right hand, now feeling its way along the wall, would
be free to strike a match. I climbed the three steps and was
steadying myself against the door for a final plunge, when
something happened--something so strange, so unexpected, and so
incredible that I wonder I did not shriek aloud in my terror. The
door was moving under my hand. It was slowly opening inward. I
could feel the chill made by the widening crack. Moment by moment
this chill increased; the gap was growing--a presence was there-a
presence before which I sank in a small heap upon the landing.
Would it advance? Had it feet--hands? Was it a presence which
could be felt?

"Whatever it was, it made no attempt to pass, and presently I
lifted my head only to quake anew at the sound of a voice--a
human voice--my mother's voice--so near me that by putting out my
arms I might have touched her.

"She was speaking to my father. I knew from the tone. She was
saying words which, little understood as they were, made such a
havoc in my youthful mind that I have never forgotten the effect.

"'I have come!' she said. 'They think I have fled the house and
are looking far and wide for me. We shall not be disturbed. Who
would think looking of here for either you or me.'

"Here! The word sank like a plummet in my breast. I had known for
some few minutes that I was on the threshold of the forbidden
room; but they were in it. I can scarcely make you understand the
tumult which this awoke in my brain. Somehow, I had never thought
that any such braving of the house's law would be possible.

"I heard my father's answer, but it conveyed no meaning to me. I
also realized that he spoke from a distance,--that he was at one
end of the room while we were at the other. I was presently to
have this idea confirmed, for while I was striving with all my
might and main to subdue my very heart-throbs so that she would
not hear me or suspect my presence, the darkness--I should rather
say the blackness of the place yielded to a flash of lightning--
heat lightning, all glare and no sound--and I caught an
instantaneous vision of my father's figure standing with gleaming
things about him, which affected me at the moment as
supernatural, but which, in later years, I decided to have been
weapons hanging on a wall.

"She saw him too, for she gave a quick laugh and said they would
not need any candles; and then, there was another flash and I saw
something in his hand and something in hers, and though I did not
yet understand, I felt myself turning deathly sick and gave a
choking gasp which was lost in the rush she made into the centre
of the room, and the keenness of her swift low cry.

"'Garde-toi! for only one of us will ever leave this room alive!'

"A duel! a duel to the death between this husband and wife--this
father and mother--in this hole of dead tragedies and within the
sight and hearing of their child! Has Satan ever devised a scheme
more hideous for ruining the life of an eleven-year-old boy!

"Not that I took it all in at once. I was too innocent and much
too dazed to comprehend such hatred, much less the passions which
engender it. I only knew that something horrible--something
beyond the conception of my childish mind--was going to take
place in the darkness before me; and the terror of it made me
speechless; would to God it had made me deaf and blind and dead!

"She had dashed from her corner and he had slid away from his, as
the next fantastic glare which lit up the room showed me. It also
showed the weapons in their hands, and for a moment I felt
reassured when I saw that these were swords, for I had seen them
before with foils in their hands practising for exercise, as they
said, in the great garret. But the swords had buttons on them,
and this time the tips were sharp and shone in the keen light.

"An exclamation from her and a growl of rage from him were
followed by movements I could scarcely hear, but which were
terrifying from their very quiet. Then the sound of a clash. The
swords had crossed.

"Had the lightning flashed forth then, the end of one of them
might have occurred. But the darkness remained undisturbed, and
when the glare relit the great room again, they were already far
apart. This called out a word from him; the one sentence he spoke
--I can never forget it:

"'Rhoda, there is blood on your sleeve; I have wounded you. Shall
we call it off and fly, as the poor creatures in there think we
have, to the opposite ends of the earth?'

"I almost spoke; I almost added my childish plea to his for them
to stop--to remember me and stop. But not a muscle in my throat
responded to my agonized effort. Her cold, clear 'No!' fell
before my tongue was loosed or my heart freed from the ponderous
weight crushing it.

"'I have vowed and I keep my promises,' she went on in a tone
quite strange to me. 'What would either's life be worth with the
other alive and happy in this world.'

"He made no answer; and those subtle movements--shadows of
movements I might almost call them--recommenced. Then there came
a sudden cry, shrill and poignant--had Grandfather been in his
room he would surely have heard it--and the flash coming almost
simultaneously with its utterance, I saw what has haunted my
sleep from that day to this, my father pinned against the wall,
sword still in hand, and before him my mother, fiercely
triumphant, her staring eyes fixed on his and--

Nature could bear no more; the band loosened from my throat; the
oppression lifted from my breast long enough for me to give one
wild wail and she turned, saw (heaven sent its flashes quickly at
this moment) and recognizing my childish form, all the horror of
her deed (or so I have fondly hoped) rose within her, and she
gave a start and fell full upon the point upturned to receive
her.

"A groan; then a gasping sigh from him, and silence settled upon
the room and upon my heart, and so far as I knew upon the whole
created world.

"That is my story, friends. Do you wonder that I have never been
or lived like other men?"

After a few moments of sympathetic silence, Mr. Van Broecklyn
went on, to say:

"I don't think I ever had a moment's doubt that my parents both
lay dead on the floor of that great room. When I came to myself--
which may have been soon, and may not have been for a long while--
the lightning had ceased to flash, leaving the darkness
stretching like a blank pall between me and that spot in which
were concentrated all the terrors of which my imagination was
capable. I dared not enter it. I dared not take one step that
way. My instinct was to fly and hide my trembling body again in
my own bed; and associated with this, in fact dominating it and
making me old before my time, was another--never to tell; never
to let any one, least of all my grandfather--know what that
forbidden room now contained. I felt in an irresistible sort of
way that my father's and mother's honour was at stake. Besides,
terror held me back; I felt that I should die if I spoke.
Childhood has such terrors and such heroisms. Silence often
covers in such, abysses of thought and feeling which astonish us
in later years. There is no suffering like a child's, terrified
by a secret which it dare not for some reason disclose.

"Events aided me. When, in desperation to see once more the light
and all the things which linked me to life--my little bed, the
toys on the window-sill, my squirrel in its cage--I forced myself
to retraverse the empty house, expecting at every turn to hear my
father's voice or come upon the image of my mother--yes, such was
the confusion of my mind, though I knew well enough even then
that they were dead and that I should never hear the one or see
the other. I was so benumbed with the cold in my half-dressed
condition, that I woke in a fever next morning after a terrible
dream which forced from my lips the cry of 'Mother! Mother!'--
only that.

"I was cautious even in delirium. This delirium and my flushed
cheeks and shining eyes led them to be very careful of me. I was
told that my mother was away from home; and when after two days
of search they were quite sure that all effort to find either her
or my father were likely to prove fruitless, that she had gone to
Europe where we would follow her as soon as I was well. This
promise, offering as it did, a prospect of immediate release from
the terrors which were consuming me, had an extraordinary effect
upon me. I got up out of my bed saying that I was well now and
ready to start on the instant. The doctor, finding my pulse
equable, and my whole condition wonder fully improved, and
attributing it, as was natural, to my hope of soon joining my
mother, advised my whim to be humoured and this hope kept active
till travel and intercourse with children should give me strength
and prepare me for the bitter truth ultimately awaiting me. They
listened to him and in twenty-four hours our preparations were
made. We saw the house closed--with what emotions surging in one
small breast, I leave you to imagine--and then started on our
long tour. For five years we wandered over the continent of
Europe, my grandfather finding distraction, as well as myself, in
foreign scenes and associations.

"But return was inevitable. What I suffered on reentering this
house, God and my sleepless pillow alone know. Had any discovery
been made in our absence; or would it be made now that renovation
and repairs of all kinds were necessary? Time finally answered
me. My secret was safe and likely to continue so, and this fact
once settled, life became endurable, if not cheerful. Since then
I have spent only two nights out of this house, and they were
unavoidable. When my grandfather died I had the wainscot door
cemented in. It was done from this side and the cement painted to
match the wood. No one opened the door nor have I ever crossed
its threshold. Sometimes I think I have been foolish; and
sometimes I know that I have been very wise. My reason has stood
firm; how do I know that it would have done so if I had subjected
myself to the possible discovery that one of both of them might
have been saved if I had disclosed instead of concealed my
adventure."

A pause during which white horror had shone on every face; then
with a final glance at Violet, he said:

"What sequel do you see to this story, Miss Strange? I can tell
the past, I leave you to picture the future."

Rising, she let her eye travel from face to face till it rested
on the one awaiting it, when she answered dreamily:

"If some morning in the news column there should appear an
account of the ancient and historic home of the Van Broecklyns
having burned to the ground in the night, the whole country would
mourn, and the city feel defrauded of one of its treasures. But
there are five persons who would see in it the sequel which you
ask for."

When this happened, as it did happen, some few weeks later, the
astonishing discovery was made that no insurance had been put
upon this house. Why was it that after such a loss Mr. Van
Broecklyn seemed to renew his youth? It was a constant source of
comment among his friends.

END OF PROBLEM VIII

PROBLEM IX  VIOLET'S OWN

"It has been too much for you?"

"I am afraid so."

It was Roger Upjohn who had asked the question; it was Violet who
answered. They had withdrawn from a crowd of dancers to a
balcony, half-shaded, half open to the moon,--a balcony made, it
would seem, for just such stolen interviews between waltzes.

Now, as it happened, Roger's face was in the shadow, but Violet's
in the full light. Very sweet it looked, very ethereal, but also
a little wan. He noticed this and impetuously cried:

"You are pale; and your hand! see, how it trembles!"

Slowly withdrawing it from the rail where it had rested, she sent
one quick glance his way and, in a low voice, said:

"I have not slept since that night."

"Four days!" he murmured. Then, after a moment of silence, "You
bore yourself so bravely at the time, I thought, or rather, I
hoped, that success had made you forget the horror. I could not
have slept myself, if I had known--"

"It is part of the price I pay," she broke in gently. "All good
things have to be paid for. But I see--I realize that you do not
consider what I am doing good. Though it helps other people--has
helped you--you wonder why, with all the advantages I possess, I
should meddle with matters so repugnant to a woman's natural
instincts."

Yes, he wondered. That was evident from his silence. Seeing her
as she stood there, so quaintly pretty, so feminine in look and
manner--in short, such a flower--it was but natural that he
should marvel at the incongruity she had mentioned.

"It has a strange, odd look," she admitted, after a moment of
troubled hesitation. "The most considerate person cannot but
regard it as a display of egotism or of a most mercenary spirit.
The cheque you sent me for what I was enabled to do for you in
Massachusetts (the only one I have ever received which I have
been tempted to refuse) shows to what extent you rated my help
and my--my expectations. Had I been a poor girl struggling for
subsistence, this generosity would have warmed my heart as a
token of your desire to cut that struggle short. But taken with
your knowledge of my home and its luxuries, it has often made me
wonder what you thought."

"Shall I tell you?"

He had stepped forward at this question and his countenance,
hitherto concealed, became visible in the moonlight. She no
longer recognized it. Transformed by feeling, it shone down upon
her, instinct with all that is finest and best in masculine
nature. Was she ready for this revelation of what she had
nevertheless dreamed of for many more nights than four? She did
not know, and instinctively drew herself back till it was she who
now stood in the semi-obscurity made by the drooping vines. From
this retreat, she faltered forth a very tremulous No, which in
another moment was disavowed by a Yes so faint it was little more
than a murmur, followed by a still fainter, Tell me.

But he did not seem in any haste to obey, sweetly as her low-
toned injunction must have sounded in his ears. On the contrary,
he hesitated to speak, growing paler every minute as he sought to
catch a glimpse of her downcast face so tantalizingly hidden from
him. Did she recognize the nature of the feelings which held him
back, or was she simply gathering up sufficient courage to plead
her own cause? Whatever her reason, it was she, not he, who
presently spoke saying as if no time had elapsed:

"But first, I feel obliged to admit that it was money I wanted,
that I had to have. Not for myself. I lack nothing and could have
more if I wished. Father has never limited his generosity in any
matter affecting myself, but--" She drew a deep breath and,
coming out of the shadow, lifted a face to him so changed from
its usual expression as to make him start. "I have a cause at
heart--one which should appeal to my father and does not; and for
that purpose I have sacrificed myself, in many ways, though--
though I have not disliked my work up to this last attempt. Not
really. I want to be honest and so must admit that much. I have
even gloried (quietly and all by myself, of course) over the
solution of a mystery which no one else seemed able to penetrate.
I am made that way. I have known it ever since--but that is a
story all by itself. Some day I may tell it to you, but not now."

"No, not now." The emphasis sent the colour into her cheek but
did not relieve his pallor. "Miss Strange, I have always felt,
even in my worst days, that the man who for selfish ends brought
a woman under the shadow of his own unhappy reputation was a man
to be despised. And I think so still, and yet--and yet--nothing
in the world but your own word or look can hold me back now from
telling you that I love you--love you notwithstanding my unworthy
past, my scarring memories, my all but blasted hopes. I do not
expect any response; you are young; you are beautiful; you are
gifted with every grace; but to speak,--to say over and over
again, 'I love you, I love you!' eases my heart and makes my
future more endurable. Oh, do not look at me like that unless--
unless--"

But the bright head did not fall, nor the tender gaze falter; and
driven out of himself, Roger Upjohn was about to step
passionately forward, when, seized by fresh compunction, he
hoarsely cried:

"It is not right. The balance dips too much my way. You bring me
everything. I can give you nothing but what you already possess
abundance--love, and money. Besides, your father--"

She interrupted him with a glance at once arch and earnest.

"I had a talk with Father this morning. He came to my room, and--
and it was very near being serious. Someone had told him I was
doing things on the sly which he had better look into; and of
course he asked questions and--and I answered them. He wasn't
pleased--in fact he was very displeased,--I don't think we can
blame him for that--but we had no open break for I love him
dearly, for all my opposing ways, and he saw that, and it helped,
though he did say after I had given my promise to stop where I
was and never to take up such work again, that--" here she stole
a shy look at the face bent so eagerly towards her--"that I had
lost my social status and need never hope now for the attentions
of--of--well, of such men as he admires and puts faith in. So you
see," her dimples all showing, "that I am not such a very good
match for an Upjohn of Massachusetts, even if he has a reputation
to recover and an honourable name to achieve. The scale hangs
more evenly than you think."

"Violet!"

A mutual look, a moment of perfect silence, then a low whisper,
airy as the breath of flowers rising from the garden below: "I
have never known what happiness was till this moment. If you will
take me with my story untold--"

"Take you! take you!" The man's whole yearning heart, the loss
and bitterness of years, the hope and promise of the future, all
spoke in that low, half-smothered exclamation. Violet's blushes
faded under its fervency, and only her spirit spoke, as leaning
towards him, she laid her two hands in his, and said with all a
woman's earnestness:

"I do not forget little Roger, or the father who I hope may have
many more days before him in which to bid good-night to the sea.
Such union as ours must be hallowed, because we have so many
persons to make happy besides ourselves."


The evening before their marriage, Violet put a dozen folded
sheets of closely written paper in his hand. They contained her
story; let us read it with him.

DEAR ROGER,--

I could not have been more than seven years old, when one night I
woke up shivering, at the sound of angry voices. A conversation
which no child should ever have heard, was going on in the room
where I lay. My father was talking to my sister--perhaps, you do
not know that I have a sister; few of my personal friends do,--
and the terror she evinced I could well understand but not his
words nor the real cause of his displeasure.

There are times even yet when the picture, forced upon my
infantile consciousness at that moment of first awakening, comes
back to me with all its original vividness. There was no light in
the room save such as the moon made; but that was enough to
reveal the passion burningly alive in either face, as, bending
towards each other, she in supplication and he in a tempest of
wrath which knew no bounds, he uttered and she listened to what I
now know to have been a terrible arraignment.

I may have an interesting countenance; you have told me so
sometimes; but she--she was beautiful. My elder by ten years, she
had stood in my mother's stead to me for almost as long as I
could remember, and as I saw her lovely features contorted with
pain and her hands extended in a desperate plea to one who had
never shown me anything but love, my throat closed sharply and I
could not cry out though I wanted to, nor move head or foot
though I longed with all my heart to bury myself in the pillows.

For the words I heard were terrifying, little as I comprehended
their full purport. He had surprised her talking from her window
to someone down below, and after saying cruel things about that,
he shouted out: "You have disgraced me, you have disgraced
yourself, you have disgraced your brother and your little sister.
Was it not enough that you should refuse to marry the good man I
had picked out for you, that you should stoop to this low-down
scoundrel--this--" I did not hear what else he called him, I was
wondering so to whom she had been stooping; I had never seen her
stoop except to tie my little shoes.

But when she cried out as she did after an interval, "I love him!
I love him!" then I listened again, for she spoke as though she
were in dreadful pain, and I did not know that loving made one
ill and unhappy. "And I am going to marry him," I heard her add,
standing up, as she said it, very straight and tall.

Marry! I knew what that meant. A long aisle in a church; women in
white and big music in the air behind. I had been flower-girl at
a wedding once and had not forgotten. We had had ice cream and
cake and--

But my childish thoughts stopped short at the answer she received
and all the words which followed--words which burned their way
into my infantile brain and left scorched places in my memory
which will never be eradicated. He spoke them--spoke them all;
she never answered again after that once, and when he was gone
did not move for a long time and when she did it was to lie down,
stiff and straight, just as she had stood, on her bed alongside
mine.

I was frightened; so frightened, my little brass bed rattled
under me. I wonder she did not hear it. But she heard nothing;
and after awhile she was so still I fell asleep. But I woke
again. Something hot had fallen on my cheek. I put up my hand to
brush it away and did not know even when I felt my fingers wet
that it was a tear from my sister-mother's eye.

For she was kneeling then; kneeling close beside me and her arm
was over my small body; and the bed was shaking again but not
this time with my tremors only. And I was sorry and cried too
until I dropped off to sleep again with her arm still
passionately embracing me.

In the morning, she was gone.

It must have been that very afternoon that Father came in where
Arthur and I were trying to play,--trying, but not quite
succeeding, for I had been telling Arthur, for whom I had a great
respect in those days, what had happened the night before, and we
had been wondering in our childish way if there would be a
wedding after all, and a church full of people, and flowers, and
kissing, and lots of good things to eat, and Arthur had said No,
it was too expensive; that that was why Father was so angry; and
comforted by the assertion, I was taking up my doll again, when
the door opened and Father stepped in.

It was a great event--any visit from him to the nursery--and we
both dropped our toys and stood staring, not knowing whether he
was going to be nice and kind as he sometimes was, or scold us as
I had heard him scold our beautiful sister.

Arthur showed at once what he thought, for without the least
hesitation he took the one step which placed him in front of me,
where he stood waiting with his two little fists hanging straight
at his sides but manfully clenched in full readiness for attack.
That this display of pigmy chivalry was not quite without its
warrant is evident to me now, for Father did not look like
himself or act like himself any more than he had the night
before.

However, we had no cause for fear. Having no suspicion of my
having been awake during his terrible interview with Theresa, he
saw only two lonely and forsaken children, interrupted in their
play.

Can I remember what he said to us? Not exactly, though Arthur and
I often went over it choked whispers in some secret nook of the
dreary old house; but his meaning--that we took in well enough.
Theresa had left us. She would never come back. We were not to
look out of the window for her, or run to the door when the bell
rang. Our mother had left us too, a long time ago, and she lay in
the cemetery where we sometimes carried flowers. Theresa was not
in the cemetery, but we must think of her as there; though not as
if she had any need of  flowers. Having said this, he looked at
us quietly for a minute. Arthur was trying very hard not to cry,
but I was sobbing like the lost child I was, with my cheek
against the floor where I had thrown myself when he said that
awful thing about the cemetery. She there! my sister-mother
there! I think he felt a little sorry for me; for he half stooped
as if to lift me up. But he straightened again and said very
sternly:

"Now, children, listen to me. When God takes people to heaven and
leaves us only their cold, dead bodies we carry flowers to their
graves and talk about them some if not very much. But when people
die because they love dark ways better than light, then we do not
remember them with gifts and we do not talk about them. Your
sister's name has been spoken for the last time in this house.
You, Arthur, are old enough to know what I mean when I say that I
will never listen to another word about her from either you or
Violet as long as you and I live. She is gone and nothing that is
mine shall she ever touch again.

"You hear me, Arthur; you hear me, Violet. Heed me, or you go
too."

His aspect was terrible, so was his purpose; much more terrible
than we realized at the time with our limited understanding and
experience. Later, we came to know the full meaning of this black
drop which had been infused into our lives. When we saw every
picture of her destroyed which had been in the house; her name
cut out from the leaves of books; the little tokens she had given
us surreptitiously taken away, till not a vestige of her once
beloved presence remained, we began to realize that we had indeed
lost her.

But children as young as we were then do not long retain the
poignancy of their first griefs. Gradually my memories of that
awful night ceased to disturb my dreams and I was sixteen before
they were again recalled to me with any vividness, and then it
was by accident. I had been strolling through a picture gallery
and had stopped short to study more particularly one which had
especially taken my fancy. There were two ladies sitting on a
bench behind me and one of them was evidently very deaf, for
their talk was loud, though I am sure they did not mean for me to
hear, for they were discussing my family. That is, one of them
had said:

"That's Violet Strange. She will never be the beauty her sister
was; but perhaps that's not to be deplored. Theresa made a great
mess of it."

"That's true. I hear that she and the Signor have been seen
lately here in town. In poverty, of course. He hadn't even as
much go in him as the ordinary singing-master."

I suppose I should have hurried away, and left this barbed arrow
to rankle where it fell. But I could not. I had never learned a
word of Theresa's fate and that word poverty, proving that she
was alive and suffering, held me to my place to hear what more
they might say of her who for years had been for me an indistinct
figure bathed in cruel moonlight.

"I have never approved of Peter Strange's conduct at that time,"
one of the voices now went on. "He didn't handle her right. She
had a lovely disposition and would have listened to him had he
been more gentle with her. But it isn't in him. I hope this one--"

I didn't hear the end of that. I had no interest in anything they
might say about myself. It was of her I wanted to hear, of her.
Weren't they going to say anything more about my poor sister?
Yes; it was a topic which interested both and presently I heard:

"He'll never do anything for her, no matter what happens; I've
heard him say so. And Laura has vowed the same." (Laura is our
aunt.) "Besides, Theresa has a pride of her own quite equal to
her father's. She wouldn't take anything from him now. She'd
rather struggle on. I'm told--I don't know how true it is--that
she's working in a department store; one of the Sixth Avenue
ones. Oh, there's Mrs. Vandegraff! Don't you want to speak to
her?"

They moved off, leaving me still gazing with unseeing eyes at
the picture before which I stood planted, and saying over and
over in monotonous iteration, "One of the department stores in
Sixth Avenue! One of the department stores in Sixth Avenue!"

Which department store?

I meant to find out.

I do not know whether up till then I had had the least
consciousness of possessing what is called the detective
instinct. But, at the prospect of this quest, so much like that
of the proverbial needle in a haystack, as I did not even know my
sister's married name and something within me forbade my asking
it, I experienced an odd sense of elation followed by a certainty
of success which in five minutes changed me from an irresponsible
girl to a woman with a deliberate purpose in life.

I am not going to write down here all the details of that search.
Some day I may relate them to you, but not now. I looked first
for a beautiful woman, for the straight, slim, and exquisite
creature I remembered. I did not find her. Then I tried another
course. Her figure might have changed in the ten years which had
elapsed; so might her expression. I would look for a woman with
beautiful dark eyes; time could not have altered them. I had
forgotten the effect of constant weeping. And I saw many eyes,
but not hers; not the ones I had seen smiling upon me as I lay in
my crib before the days I was lifted to the dignity of the little
brass bed. So I gave that up too and listened to the inner voice
which said, "You must wait for her to recognize you. You can
never hope to recognize her." And it was by following this plan
that I found her. I had arranged to have my name spoken aloud at
every counter where I bargained; and oh, the bargains I sought,
and the garments I had tried on! But I made little progress until
one day, after my name had been uttered a little louder than
usual I saw a woman turn from rearranging gowns on a hanger, and
give me one look.

I uttered a low cry and sprang impetuously, forward. Instantly
she turned her back and went on hanging, or trying to hang up,
gowns on the rack before her. Had I been mistaken? She was not
the sister of my dreams, but there was something fine in her
outline; something distinguished in the way she carried her head
which--

Next minute my last doubt fled! She had fallen her length on the
floor and lay with her face buried in her hands in a dead faint.

Oh, Roger, Roger, Roger! I had that dear head on my breast in a
moment. I talked to her, I whispered prayers in her unconscious
ear. I did everything I should not have done till they all
thought me demented. When she came to, as she did under other
ministrations than mine, I was for carrying her off in my
limousine. But she shook her head with a gesture of such
disapproval, that I realized I could not do that. The limousine
was my father's, and nothing of his was ever to be used for her
again. I would call a cab; but she told me that she had not the
money to pay for it and she would not take mine. Carfare she had;
five cents would take her home. I need not worry.

She smiled as she said this and for an instant I saw my dream-
sister again in this weary half-disheartened woman. But the smile
was a fleeting one, for this was to be her last day in the store;
she had no talent as a saleswoman and was merely working out her
week.

I felt my heart sink heavily at this, for the evidences of
poverty were plainly to be seen in her clothes and the thinness
of her face and figure. How could I help? What could I do? I took
her to a restaurant for food and talk, and before she would
order, she looked into her purse, with the result that we had
only a little toast and tea. It was all she could afford and I,
with a hundred dollars in bills at that moment in my bag, could
not offer her anything more though she was needing nourishment
and dishes piled with savoury meats were going by us every
moment.

I think, if she had let me, I would have dared my father's
displeasure and been disobedient to his wishes by giving her one
wholesome meal. But she was as resolute of mind as he, and, as
she said afterwards, had chosen her course in life and must abide
by it. My love she would accept. It took nothing from Father and
gave her what her heart was pining for--had pined for for years.
But nothing more--not another thing more. She would not even let
me go home with her; and I knew why when her eyes fell at the
searching look I gave her. Something would turn up, and when her
husband's health was better and she had found another position
she would send me her address and then I could come and see her.
As we walked out of the restaurant we ran against a gentleman I
knew. He stopped me for a passing word and in that minute she
disappeared. I did not try to follow her. I could get her street
and number from the store where she had worked.

But when I had done this and embraced the first opportunity which
offered to visit her, I found that she had moved away in the
interim, leaving everything behind in payment of her rent, except
such small things as she and her husband could carry. This was
discouraging as it left me without any clue by which to follow
them. But I was determined not to yield to her desire for
concealment in the difficult and disheartening task I now saw
before me.

Seeking advice from the man who has since become my employer, I
entered upon this second search with a quiet resolution which
admitted of no defeat. It took me six months, but I finally found
her, and satisfied with knowing where she was, desisted from
rushing in upon her, till I had caught one glimpse of her husband
whom, in the last six months, I had heard described but had never
seen. To understand her, it was perhaps necessary to understand
him, and if I could not hope to do this offhand, I could not fail
to get some idea of the man from even the most casual look.

He was, as I soon learned, the fetcher and carrier of the small
ménage; and the day came when I met him face to face in the
street where they lived. Did he disappoint me; or did I see
something in his appearance to justify her desertion of her
father's home and her present life of poverty? If I say Yes to
the first question, I must also say it to the last. If handsome
once, he was not handsome now; but with a personality such as
his, this did not matter. He had that better thing--that greatest
gift of the gods--charm. It was in his bearing, his movement, the
regard of his weary eye; more than that it was in his very nature
or it would have vanished long ago under disappointment and
privation.

But that was all there was to the man,--a golden net in which my
sister's youthful fancy had been caught and no doubt held meshed
to this very day. I felt less like blaming her for her folly,
after that instant's view of him as we passed each other in the
street. But, as I took time to think, I found myself growing
sorrier and sorrier for her and yet, in a way, gladder and
gladder, for the man was a physical wreck and would soon pass out
of her life leaving her to my love and possibly to our father's
forgiveness.

But I did not know Theresa. After her husband's death, which
occurred very soon, she let me come to her and we had a long talk--
Shall I ever forget it or the sight of her beauty in that sordid
room? For, account for it as you will, the loveliness which had
fled under her sense of complete isolation had slowly regained
its own with the recognition that she still had a place in the
heart of her little sister. Not even the sorrow she felt for the
loss of her suffering husband--and she did mourn him; this I am
glad to say--could more than temporarily stay this. Six months of
ease and wholesome food would make her--I hardly dared to think
what. For I knew, without asking her, or she telling me, that she
would accept neither; that she was as determined now, as ever
that nothing which came directly or indirectly from Father should
go to the rebuilding of her life. That she intended to start anew
and work her way up to a place where I should be glad to see her
she did say. But nothing more. She was still the sister-mother,
loving, but sufficient to herself, though she had but ten dollars
left in the world, as she showed me with a smile that made her
beautiful as an angel.

I can see that shabby little purse yet with its one poor greasy
bill;--a sum to her but to me the price of a luncheon or a gift
of flowers. How I longed, as I looked at it to tear every jewel
from my poor, bedecked body and fling them one and all into her
lap. I had worn them in profusion, though carefully hidden under
my coat, in the hope that she would accept one of them at least,
But she refused all, even such as had been gifts of friends and
schoolmates, only humouring me this far, that she let me hang
them for a few minutes about her neck and in her hair and then
pull them all off again. But this one vision of her in the
splendour she was born to comforted me. Henceforth in wearing
them it would be of her and not of myself I should think.

Well, I had to leave her and go home to my French and Italian
lessons, my music-masters and all the luxuries of our father's
house. Should I ever see her again? I did not know; she had not
promised. I could not go often into the quarter where she lived,
without rousing suspicion; and she had bidden me not to come
again for a month. So I waited, half fearing she would flit again
before the month was up. But she did not. She was still there
when--

But I am going too fast. The meeting I was about to mention was a
very memorable one to me, and I must describe it from the
beginning. I had ridden in my own car as near as I dared to the
street where she lived; the rest of the way I went on foot with
one of the servants--a new one--following close behind me. I was
not exactly afraid, but the actions of some of the people I had
encountered at my former visit warned me to be a little careful
for my father's sake if not for my own. Her room--she had but one
--was high up in a triangular court it was no pleasure to enter.
But love and loyalty heed nothing but the object sought, and I
was hunting about for the dark doorway which opened upon the
staircase leading to her room when--and this was the great moment
of my life--a sudden stream of melody floated down into that
noisome court, which from its clearness, its accuracy, its
richness, and its feeling startled me as I had never before been
startled even by the first notes of the world's greatest singers.
What a voice for a place like this! What a voice for any place!
Whose could it be? With a start, I stopped short, in the middle
of that court, heedless of the crowd of pushing, shouting
children who at once gathered about me. I had been struck by an
old recollection. My sister used to sing. I remembered where her
piano had stood in the great drawing-room. It had been carted
away during those dreadful weeks and her music all burned; but
the vision of her graceful figure bending over the keyboard was
one not to be forgotten even by a thoughtless child. Could it be--
oh, heaven! if this voice were hers! Her future was certain; she
had but to sing.

In a transport of hope I rushed for the dim entrance the children
had pointed out and flew up to her room. As I reached it, I heard
a trill as perfect as Tetrazzini's. The singer was Theresa; there
could be no more doubt. Theresa! exercising a grand voice as only
a great artist would or could.

The joy of it made me almost faint. I leaned against her door and
sobbed. Then when I thought I could speak quite calmly, I went
in.

Roger, you must understand me now,--my desire for money and the
means I have taken to obtain it. My sister had the makings of a
prima-donna. Her husband, of whose ability I had formed so low an
estimate, had trained her with consummate skill and judgment. All
she needed was a year with some great maestro in the foreign
atmosphere of art. But this meant money--not hundreds but
thousands, and the one sure source to which we might rightfully
look for any such amount was effectually closed to us. It is true
we had relatives--an aunt on our mother's side, and I mentioned
her to Theresa. But she would not listen to the suggestion. She
would take nothing from any one whom she would find it hard to
face in case of failure. Love must go with an advance involving
so much risk; love deep enough and strong enough to feel no loss
save that of a defeated hope. In short, to be acceptable, the
money must come from me, and as this was manifestly impossible,
she considered the matter closed and began to talk of a position
she had been offered in some choir. I let her talk, listening and
not listening; for the idea had come to me that if in some way I
could earn money, she might be induced to take it. Finally, I
asked her. She laughed, letting her kisses answer me. But I did
not laugh. If she had capabilities in one way, I had them in
another.

I went home to think.

Two weeks later, I began, in a very quiet way to do certain work
for the man who had helped me in my second search for Theresa.
The money I have earned has been immense; since it was troubles
of the rich I was given to settle, and I was almost always
successful. Every cent has gone to her. She has been in Europe
for a year and last week she made her debut. You read about it in
the papers, but neither you nor any one else in this country but
myself knew that under the name she chosen to assume, Theresa
Strange, the long forgotten beauty, has recovered that place in
the world, to which her love and genius entitle her.

This is my story and hers. From now on, you are the third in the
secret. Some day, my father will be the fourth. I think then, a
new dawn of love will arise for us all, which will stay the
whitening of his dear head--for I believe in him after all.
Yesterday when he passed the wall where her picture once hung--
no other has ever hung there--I saw him stop and look up, and,
Roger, when he passed me a minute later, there was a tear in his
hard eye.





End of Project Gutenberg's The Golden Slipper, by Anna Katharine Green


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