Infomotions, Inc.The Woman in the Alcove / Green, Anna Katharine, 1846-1935



Author: Green, Anna Katharine, 1846-1935
Title: The Woman in the Alcove
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
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The Woman in the Alcove

by Anna Katharine Green

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Etext prepared by Steve Crites of Everett, WA.





The Woman in the Alcove

by Anna Katharine Green




CONTENTS
I  THE WOMAN WITH THE DIAMOND
II  THE GLOVES
II  ANSON DURAND
IV  EXPLANATIONS
V  SUPERSTITION 
VI  SUSPENSE
VII  NIGHT AND A VOICE
VIII  ARREST 
IX  THE MOUSE NIBBLES AT THE NET
X  I ASTONISH THE INSPECTOR
XI  THE INSPECTOR ASTONISHES ME
XII  ALMOST 
XIII  THE MISSING RECOMMENDATION
XIV  TRAPPED 
XV  SEARS OR WELLGOOD 
XVI  DOUBT
XVII  SWEETWATER IN A NEW ROLE
XVIII  THE CLOSED DOOR 
XIX  THE FACE 
XX  MOONLIGHT--AND A CLUE
XXI  GRIZEL! GRIZEL! 
XXII  GUILT 
XXIII  THE GREAT MOGUL 


I

THE WOMAN WITH THE DIAMOND

I was, perhaps, the plainest girl in the room that night. I was
also the happiest--up to one o'clock. Then my whole world
crumbled, or, at least, suffered an eclipse. Why and how, I am
about to relate.

I was not made for love. This I had often said to myself; very
often of late. In figure I am too diminutive, in face far too
unbeautiful, for me to cherish expectations of this nature.
Indeed, love had never entered into my plan of life, as was
evinced by the nurse's diploma I had just gained after three
years of hard study and severe training.

I was not made for love. But if I had been; had I been gifted
with height, regularity of feature, or even with that eloquence
of expression which redeems all defects save those which savor of
deformity, I knew well whose eye I should have chosen to please,
whose heart I should have felt proud to win.

This knowledge came with a rush to my heart--(did I say heart? I
should have said understanding, which is something very
different)--when, at the end of the first dance, I looked up from
the midst of the bevy of girls by whom I was surrounded and saw
Anson Durand's fine figure emerging from that quarter of the hall
where our host and hostess stood to receive their guests. His eye
was roaming hither and thither and his manner was both eager and
expectant. Whom was he seeking? Some one of the many bright and
vivacious girls about me, for he turned almost instantly our way.
But which one?

I thought I knew. I remembered at whose house I had met him
first, at whose house I had seen him many times since. She was a
lovely girl, witty and vivacious, and she stood at this very
moment at my elbow. In her beauty lay the lure, the natural lure
for a man of his gifts and striking personality. If I continued
to watch, I should soon see his countenance light up under the
recognition she could not fail to give him. And I was right; in
another instant it did, and with a brightness there was no
mistaking. But one feeling common to the human heart lends such
warmth, such expressiveness to the features. How handsome it made
him look, how distinguished, how everything I was not except--

But what does this mean? He has passed Miss Sperry--passed her
with a smile and a friendly word--and is speaking to me, singling
me out, offering me his arm! He is smiling, too, not as he smiled
on Miss Sperry, but more warmly, with more that is personal in
it. I took his arm in a daze. The lights were dimmer than I
thought; nothing was really bright except his smile. It seemed to
change the world for me. I forgot that I was plain, forgot that I
was small, with nothing to recommend me to the eye or heart, and
let myself be drawn away, asking nothing, anticipating nothing,
till I found myself alone with him in the fragrant recesses of
the conservatory, with only the throb of music in our ears to
link us to the scene we had left.

Why had he brought me here, into this fairyland of opalescent
lights and intoxicating perfumes? What could he have to say--to
show? Ah in another moment I knew. He had seized my hands, and
love, ardent love, came pouring from his lips.

Could it be real? Was I the object of all this feeling, I? If so,
then life had changed for me indeed.

Silent from rush of emotion, I searched his face to see if this
Paradise, whose gates I was thus passionately bidden to enter,
was indeed a verity or only a dream born of the excitement of the
dance and the charm of a scene exceptional in its splendor and
picturesqueness even for so luxurious a city as New York.

But it was no mere dream. Truth and earnestness were in his
manner, and his words were neither feverish nor forced.

"I love you I! I need you!" So I heard, and so he soon made me
believe. "You have charmed me from the first. Your tantalizing,
trusting, loyal self, like no other, sweeter than any other, has
drawn the heart from my breast. I have seen many women, admired
many women, but you only have I loved. Will you be my wife?"

I was dazzled; moved beyond anything I could have conceived. I
forgot all that I had hitherto said to myself--all that I had
endeavored to impress upon my heart when I beheld him
approaching, intent, as I believed, in his search for another
woman; and, confiding in his honesty, trusting entirely to his
faith, I allowed the plans and purposes of years to vanish in the
glamour of this new joy, and spoke the word which linked us
together in a bond which half an hour before I had never dreamed
would unite me to any man.

His impassioned "Mine! mine!" filled my cup to overflowing.
Something of the ecstasy of living entered my soul; which, in
spite of all I have suffered since, recreated the world for me
and made all that went before but the prelude to the new life,
the new joy.

Oh, I was happy, happy, perhaps too happy! As the conservatory
filled and we passed back into the adjoining room, the glimpse I
caught of myself in one of the mirrors startled me into thinking
so. For had it not been for the odd color of my dress and the
unique way in which I wore my hair that night, I should not have
recognized the beaming girl who faced me so naively from the
depths of the responsive glass.

Can one be too happy? I do not know. I know that one can be too
perplexed, too burdened and too sad.

Thus far I have spoken only of myself in connection with the
evening's elaborate function. But though entitled by my old Dutch
blood to a certain social consideration which I am happy to say
never failed me, I, even in this hour of supreme satisfaction,
attracted very little attention and awoke small comment. There
was another woman present better calculated to do this. A fair
woman, large and of a bountiful presence, accustomed to conquest,
and gifted with the power of carrying off her victories with a
certain lazy grace irresistibly fascinating to the ordinary man;
a gorgeously appareled woman, with a diamond on her breast too
vivid for most women, almost too vivid for her. I noticed this
diamond early in the evening, and then I noticed her. She was not
as fine as the diamond, but she was very fine, and, had I been in
a less ecstatic frame of mind, I might have envied the homage she
received from all the men, not excepting him upon whose arm I
leaned. Later, there was no one in the world I envied less.

The ball was a private and very elegant one. There were some
notable guests. One gentleman in particular was pointed out to me
as an Englishman of great distinction and political importance. I
thought him a very interesting man for his years, but odd and a
trifle self-centered. Though greatly courted, he seemed strangely
restless under the fire of eyes to which he was constantly
subjected, and only happy when free to use his own in
contemplation of the scene about him. Had I been less absorbed in
my own happiness I might have noted sooner than I did that this
contemplation was confined to such groups as gathered about the
lady with the diamond. But this I failed to observe at the time,
and consequently was much surprised to come upon him, at the end
of one of the dances, talking With this lady in an animated and
courtly manner totally opposed to the apathy, amounting to
boredom, with which he had hitherto met all advances.

Yet it was not admiration for her person which he openly
displayed. During the whole time he stood there his eyes seldom
rose to her face; they lingered mainly-and this was what aroused
my curiosity--on the great fan of ostrich plumes which this
opulent beauty held against her breast. Was he desirous of seeing
the great diamond she thus unconsciously (or was it consciously)
shielded from his gaze? It was possible, for, as I continued to
note him, he suddenly bent toward her and as quickly raised
himself again with a look which was quite inexplicable to me. The
lady had shifted her fan a moment and his eyes had fallen on the
gem.

The next thing I recall with any definiteness was a tete-a-tete
conversation which I held with my lover on a certain yellow divan
at the end of one of the halls.

To the right of this divan rose a curtained recess, highly
suggestive of romance, called "the alcove." As this alcove
figures prominently in my story, I will pause here to describe
it.

It was originally intended to contain a large group of statuary
which our host, Mr. Ramsdell, had ordered from Italy to adorn his
new house. He is a man of original ideas in regard to such
matters, and in this instance had gone so far as to have this end
of the house constructed with a special view to an advantageous
display of this promised work of art. Fearing the ponderous
effect of a pedestal large enough to hold such a considerable
group, he had planned to raise it to the level of the eye by
having the alcove floor built a few feet higher than the main
one. A flight of low, wide steps connected the two, which,
following the curve of the wall, added much to the beauty of this
portion of the hall.

The group was a failure and was never shipped; but the alcove
remained, and, possessing as it did all the advantages of a room
in the way of heat and light, had been turned into a miniature
retreat of exceptional beauty.

The seclusion it offered extended, or so we were happy to think,
to the solitary divan at its base on which Mr. Durand and I were
seated. With possibly an undue confidence in the advantage of our
position, we were discussing a subject interesting only to
ourselves, when Mr. Durand interrupted himself to declare: "You
are the woman I want, you and you only. And I want you soon. When
do you think you can marry me? Within a week--if--"

Did my look stop him? I was startled. I had heard no incoherent
phrase from him before.

"A week!" I remonstrated. "We take more time than that to fit
ourselves for a journey or some transient pleasure. I hardly
realize my engagement yet."

"You have not been thinking of it for these last two months as I
have."

"No," I replied demurely, forgetting everything else in my
delight at this admission.

"Nor are you a nomad among clubs and restaurants."

"No, I have a home."

"Nor do you love me as deeply as I do you."

This I thought open to argument.

"The home you speak of is a luxurious one," he continued. "I can
not offer you its equal Do you expect me to?"

I was indignant.

"You know that I do not. Shall I, who deliberately chose a
nurse's life when an indulgent uncle's heart and home were open
to me, shrink from braving poverty with the man I love? We will
begin as simply as you please--"

"No," he peremptorily put in, yet with a certain hesitancy which
seemed to speak of doubts he hardly acknowledged to himself, "I
will not marry you if I must expose you to privation or to the
genteel poverty I hate. I love you more than you realize, and
wish to make your life a happy one. I can not give you all you
have been accustomed to in your rich uncle's house, but if
matters prosper with me, if the chance I have built on succeeds--
and it will fail or succeed tonight--you will have those comforts
which love will heighten into luxuries and--and--"

He was becoming incoherent again, and this time with his eyes
fixed elsewhere than on my face. Following his gaze, I discovered
what had distracted his attention. The lady with the diamond was
approaching us on her way to the alcove. She was accompanied by
two gentlemen, both strangers to me, and her head, sparkling with
brilliants, was turning from one to the other with an indolent
grace. I was not surprised that the man at my side quivered and
made a start as if to rise. She was a gorgeous image. In
comparison with her imposing figure in its trailing robe of rich
pink velvet, my diminutive frame in its sea-green gown must have
looked as faded and colorless as a half-obliterated pastel.

"A striking woman," I remarked as I saw he was not likely to
resume the conversation which her presence had interrupted. "And
what a diamond!"

The glance he cast me was peculiar.

"Did you notice it particularly?" he asked.

Astonished, for there was something very uneasy in his manner so
that I half expected to see him rise and join the group he was so
eagerly watching without waiting for my lips to frame a response,
I quickly replied:

"It would be difficult not to notice what one would naturally
expect to see only on the breast of a queen. But perhaps she is a
queen. I should judge so from the homage which follows her."

His eyes sought mine. There was inquiry in them, but it was an
inquiry I did not understand.

"What can you know about diamonds?" he presently demanded.
"Nothing but their glitter, and glitter is not all,--the gem she
wears may be a very tawdry one."

I flushed with humiliation. He was a dealer in gems--that was his
business--and the check which he had put upon my enthusiasm
certainly made me conscious of my own presumption. Yet I was not
disposed to take back my words. I had had a better opportunity
than himself for seeing this remarkable jewel, and, with the
perversity of a somewhat ruffled mood, I burst forth, as soon as
the color had subsided from my cheeks:

"No, no! It is glorious, magnificent. I never saw its like. I
doubt if you ever have, for all your daily acquaintance with
jewels. Its value must be enormous. Who is she? You seem to know
her."

It was a direct question, but I received no reply. Mr. Durand's
eyes had followed the lady, who had lingered somewhat
ostentatiously on the top step and they did not return to me till
she had vanished with her companions behind the long plush
curtain which partly veiled the entrance. By this time he had
forgotten my words, if he had ever heard them and it was with the
forced animation of one whose thoughts are elsewhere that he
finally returned to the old plea:

When would I marry him? If he could offer me a home in a month--
and he would know by to-morrow if he could do so--would I come to
him then? He would not say in a week; that was perhaps to soon;
but in a month? Would I not promise to be his in a month?

What I answered I scarcely recall. His eyes had stolen back to
the alcove and mine had followed them. The gentlemen who had
accompanied the lady inside were coming out again, but others
were advancing to take their places, and soon she was engaged in
holding a regular court in this favored retreat.

Why should this interest me? Why should I notice her or look that
way at all? Because Mr. Durand did? Possibly. I remember that for
all his ardent love-making, I felt a little piqued that he should
divide his attentions in this way. Perhaps I thought that for
this evening, at least, he might have been blind to a mere
coquette's fascinations.

I was thus doubly engaged in listening to my lover's words and in
watching the various gentlemen who went up and down the steps,
when a former partner advanced and reminded me that I had
promised him a waltz. Loath to leave Mr. Durand, yet seeing no
way of excusing myself to Mr. Fox, I cast an appealing glance at
the former and was greatly chagrined to find him already on his
feet.

"Enjoy your dance," he cried; "I have a word to say to Mrs.
Fairbrother," and was gone before my new partner had taken me on
his arm.

Was Mrs. Fairbrother the lady with the diamond? Yes; as I turned
to enter the parlor with my partner, I caught a glimpse of Mr.
Durand's tall figure just disappearing from the step behind the
sage-green curtains.

"Who is Mrs. Fairbrother?" I inquired of Mr. Fox at the end of
the dance.

Mr. Fox, who is one of society's perennial beaux, knows
everybody.

"She is--well, she was Abner Fairbrother's wife. You know
Fairbrother, the millionaire who built that curious structure on
Eighty-sixth Street. At present they are living apart--an
amicable understanding, I believe. Her diamond makes her
conspicuous. It is one of the most remarkable stones in New York,
perhaps in the United States. Have you observed it?"

"Yes--that is, at a distance. Do you think her very handsome?"

"Mrs. Fairbrother? She's called so, but she's not my style." Here
he gave me a killing glance. "I admire women of mind and heart.
They do not need to wear jewels worth an ordinary man's fortune."

I looked about for an excuse to leave this none too desirable
partner.

"Let us go back into the long hall," I urged. "The ceaseless
whirl of these dancers is making me dizzy."

With the ease of a gallant man he took me on his arm and soon we
were promenading again in the direction of the alcove. A passing
glimpse of its interior was afforded me as we turned to retrace
our steps in front of the yellow divan. The lady with the diamond
was still there. A fold of the superb pink velvet she wore
protruded across the gap made by the half-drawn curtains, just as
it had done a half-hour before. But it was impossible to see her
face or who was with her. What I could see, however, and did, was
the figure of a man leaning against the wall at the foot of the
steps. At first I thought this person unknown to me, then I
perceived that he was no other than the chief guest of the
evening, the Englishman of whom I have previously spoken.

His expression had altered. He looked now both anxious and
absorbed, particularly anxious and particularly absorbed; so much
so that I was not surprised that no one ventured to approach him.
Again I wondered and again I asked myself for whom or for what he
was waiting. For Mr. Durand to leave this lady's presence? No,
no, I would not believe that. Mr. Durand could not be there
still; yet some women make it difficult for a man to leave them
and, realizing this, I could not forbear casting a parting glance
behind me as, yielding to Mr. Fox's importunities, I turned
toward the supper-room. It showed me the Englishman in the act of
lifting two cups of coffee from a small table standing near the
reception-room door. As his manner plainly betokened whither he
was bound with this refreshment, I felt all my uneasiness vanish,
and was able to take my seat at one of the small tables with
which the supper-room was filled, and for a few minutes, at
least, lend an ear to Mr. Fox's vapid compliments and trite
opinions. Then my attention wandered.

I had not moved nor had I shifted my gaze from the scene before
me the ordinary scene of a gay and well-filled supper-room, yet I
found myself looking, as if through a mist I had not even seen
develop, at something as strange, unusual and remote as any
phantasm, yet distinct enough in its outlines for me to get a
decided impression of a square of light surrounding the figure of
a man in a peculiar pose not easily imagined and not easily
described. It all passed in an instant, and I sat staring at the
window opposite me with the feeling of one who has just seen a
vision. Yet almost immediately I forgot the whole occurrence in
my anxiety as to Mr. Durand's whereabouts. Certainly he was
amusing himself very much elsewhere or he would have found an
opportunity of joining me long before this. He was not even in
sight, and I grew weary of the endless menu and the senseless
chit chat of my companion, and, finding him amenable to my whims,
rose from my seat at table and made my way to a group of
acquaintances standing just outside the supper-room door. As I
listened to their greetings some impulse led me to cast another
glance down the hall toward the alcove. A man--a waiter--was
issuing from it in a rush. Bad news was in his face, and as his
eyes encountered those of Mr. Ramsdell, who was advancing
hurriedly to meet him, he plunged down the steps with a cry which
drew a crowd about the two in an instant.

What was it? What had happened?

Mad with an anxiety I did not stop to define, I rushed toward
this group now swaying from side to side in irrepressible
excitement, when suddenly everything swam before me and I fell in
a swoon to the floor.

Some one had shouted aloud

"Mrs. Fairbrother has been murdered and her diamond stolen! Lock
the doors!"



II

THE GLOVES

I must have remained insensible for many minutes, for when I
returned to full consciousness the supper-room was empty and the
two hundred guests I had left seated at table were gathered in
agitated groups about the hall. This was what I first noted; not
till afterward did I realize my own situation. I was lying on a
couch in a remote corner of this same hall and beside me, but not
looking at me, stood my lover, Mr. Durand.

How he came to know my state and find me in the general
disturbance I did not stop to inquire. It was enough for me at
that moment to look up and see him so near. Indeed, the relief
was so great, the sense of his protection so comforting that I
involuntarily stretched out my hand in gratitude toward him, but,
failing to attract his attention, slipped to the floor and took
my stand at his side. This roused him and he gave me a look which
steadied me, in spite of the thrill of surprise with which I
recognized his extreme pallor and a certain peculiar hesitation
in his manner not at all natural to it.

Meanwhile, some words uttered near us were slowly making their
way into my benumbed brain. The waiter who had raised the first
alarm was endeavoring to describe to an importunate group in
advance of us what he had come upon in that murderous alcove.

"I was carrying about a tray of ices," he was saying, "and seeing
the lady sitting there, went up. I had expected to find the place
full of gentlemen, but she was all alone, and did not move as I
picked my way over her long train. The next moment I had dropped
ices, tray and all. I bad come face to face with her and seen
that she was dead. She had been stabbed and robbed. There was no
diamond on her breast, but there was blood."

A hubbub of disordered sentences seasoned with horrified cries
followed this simple description. Then a general movement took
place in the direction of the alcove, during which Mr. Durand
stooped to my ear and whispered:

"We must get out of this. You are not strong enough to stand such
excitement. Don't you think we can escape by the window over
there?"

"What, without wraps and in such a snowstorm?" I protested.
"Besides, uncle will be looking for me. He came with me, you
know."

An expression of annoyance, or was it perplexity, crossed Mr.
Durand's face, and he made a movement as if to leave me.

"I must go," he began, but stopped at my glance of surprise and
assumed a different air--one which became him very much better.
"Pardon me, dear, I will take you to your uncle. This--this
dreadful tragedy, interrupting so gay a scene, has quite upset
me. I was always sensitive to the sight, the smell, even to the
very mention of the word blood."

So was I, but not to the point of cowardice. But then I had not
just come from an interview with the murdered woman. Her glances,
her smiles, the lift of her eyebrows were not fresh memories to
me. Some consideration was certainly due him for the shock he
must be laboring under. Yet I did not know how to keep back the
vital question.

"Who did it? You must have heard some one say."

"I have heard nothing," was his somewhat fierce rejoinder. Then,
as I made a move, "What you do not wish to follow the crowd
there?"

"I wish to find my uncle, and he is in that crowd."

Mr. Durand said nothing further, and together we passed down the
hall. A strange mood pervaded my mind. Instead of wishing to fly
a scene which under ordinary conditions would have filled me with
utter repugnance, I felt a desire to see and hear everything. Not
from curiosity, such as moved most of the people about me, but
because of some strong instinctive feeling I could not
understand; as if it were my heart which had been struck, and my
fate which was trembling in the balance.

We were consequently among the first to hear such further details
as were allowed to circulate among the now well-nigh frenzied
guests. No one knew the perpetrator of the deed nor did there
appear to be any direct evidence calculated to fix his identity.
Indeed, the sudden death of this beautiful woman in the midst of
festivity might have been looked upon as suicide, if the jewel
had not been missing from her breast and the instrument of death
removed from the wound. So far, the casual search which had been
instituted had failed to produce this weapon; but the police
would be here soon and then something would be done. As to the
means of entrance employed by the assassin, there seemed to be
but one opinion. The alcove contained a window opening upon a
small balcony. By this he had doubtless entered and escaped. The
long plush curtains which, during the early part of the evening,
had remained looped back on either side of the casement, were
found at the moment of the crime's discovery closely drawn
together. Certainly a suspicious circumstance. However, the
question was one easily settled. If any one had approached by the
balcony there would be marks in the snow to show it. Mr. Ramsdell
had gone out to see. He would be coming back soon.

"Do you think this a probable explanation of the crime?" I
demanded of Mr. Durand at this juncture. "If I remember rightly
this window overlooks the carriage drive; it must, therefore, be
within plain sight of the door through which some three hundred
guests have passed to-night. How could any one climb to such a
height, lift the window and step in without being seen?"

"You forget the awning." He spoke quickly and with unexpected
vivacity. "The awning runs up very near this window and quite
shuts it off from the sight of arriving guests. The drivers of
departing carriages could see it if they chanced to glance back.
But their eyes are usually on their horses in such a crowd. The
probabilities are against any of them having looked up." His brow
had cleared; a weight seemed removed from his mind. "When I went
into the alcove to see Mrs. Fairbrother, she was sitting in a
chair near this window looking out. I remember the effect of her
splendor against the snow sifting down in a steady stream behind
her. The pink velvet--the soft green of the curtains on either
side--her brilliants--and the snow for a background! Yes, the
murderer came in that way. Her figure would be plain to any one
outside, and if she moved and the diamond shone--Don't you see
what a probable theory it is? There must be ways by which a
desperate man might reach that balcony. I believe--"

How eager he was and with what a look he turned when the word
came filtering through the crowd that, though footsteps had been
found in the snow pointing directly toward the balcony, there was
none on the balcony itself, proving, as any one could see, that
the attack had not come from without, since no one could enter
the alcove by the window without stepping on the balcony.

"Mr. Durand has suspicions of his own," I explained determinedly
to myself. "He met some one going in as he stepped out. Shall I
ask him to name this person?" No, I did not have the courage; not
while his face wore so stern a look and was so resolutely turned
away.

The next excitement was a request from Mr. Ramsdell for us all to
go into the drawing-room. This led to various cries from
hysterical lips, such as, "We are going to be searched!" " He
believes the thief and murderer to be still in the house!" "Do
you see the diamond on me?" "Why don't they confine their
suspicions to the favored few who were admitted to the alcove?"

"They will," remarked some one close to my ear. 

But quickly as I turned I could not guess from whom the comment
came. Possibly from a much beflowered, bejeweled, elderly dame,
whose eyes were fixed on Mr. Durand's averted face. If so, she
received a defiant look from mine, which I do not believe she
forgot in a hurry.

Alas! it was not the only curious, I might say searching glance I
surprised directed against him as we made our way to where I
could see my uncle struggling to reach us from a short side hall.
The whisper seemed to have gone about that Mr. Durand had been
the last one to converse with Mrs. Fairbrother prior to the
tragedy.

In time I had the satisfaction of joining my uncle. He betrayed
great relief at the sight of me, and, encouraged by his kindly
smile, I introduced Mr. Durand. My conscious air must have
produced its impression, for he turned a startled and inquiring
look upon my companion, then took me resolutely on his own arm,
saying:

"There is likely to be some unpleasantness ahead for all of us. I
do not think the police will allow any one to go till that
diamond has been looked for. This is a very serious matter, dear.
So many think the murderer was one of the guests."

"I think so, too," said I. But why I thought so or why I should
say so with such vehemence, I do not know even now.

My uncle looked surprised.

"You had better not advance any opinions," he advised. "A lady
like yourself should have none on a subject so gruesome. I shall
never cease regretting bringing you here tonight. I shall seize
on the first opportunity to take you home. At present we are
supposed to await the action of our host."

"He can not keep all these people here long," I ventured.

"No; most of us will he relieved soon. Had you not better get
your wraps so as to be ready to go as soon as he gives the word?"

"I should prefer to have a peep at the people in the drawing-room
first.," was my perverse reply. "I don't know why I want to see
them, but I do; and, uncle, I might as well tell you now that I
engaged myself to Mr. Durand this evening--the gentleman with me
when you first came up."

"You have engaged yourself to--to this man--to marry him, do you
mean?"

I nodded, with a sly look behind to see if Mr. Durand were near
enough to hear. He was not, and I allowed my enthusiasm to escape
in a few quick words.

"He has chosen me," I said, "the plainest, most uninteresting
puss in the whole city." My uncle smiled. "And I believe he loves
me; at all events, I know that I love him."

My uncle sighed, while giving me the most affectionate of
glances.

"It's a pity you should have come to this understanding
to-night," said he. "He's an acquaintance of the murdered woman,
and it is only right for you to know that you will have to leave
him behind when you start for home. All who have been seen
entering that alcove this evening will necessarily be detained
here till the coroner arrives.

My uncle and I strolled toward the drawing-room and as we did so
we passed the library. It held but one occupant, the Englishman.
He was seated before a table, and his appearance was such as
precluded any attempt at intrusion, even if one had been so
disposed. There was a fixity in his gaze and a frown on his
powerful forehead which bespoke a mind greatly agitated. It was
not for me to read that mind, much as it interested me, and I
passed on, chatting, as if I had not the least desire to stop.

I can not say how much time elapsed before my uncle touched me on
the arm with the remark:

"The police are here in full force. I saw a detective in plain
clothes look in here a minute ago. He seemed to have his eye on
you. There he is again! What can he want? No, don't turn; he's
gone away now."

Frightened as I had never been in all my life, I managed to keep
my head up and maintain an indifferent aspect. What, as my uncle
said, could a detective want of me? I had nothing to do with the
crime; not in the remotest way could I be said to be connected
with it; why, then, had I caught the attention of the police?
Looking about, I sought Mr. Durand. He had left me on my uncle's
coming up, but had remained, as I supposed, within sight. But at
this moment he was nowhere to be seen. Was I afraid on his
account? Impossible; yet--

Happily just then the word was passed about that the police had
given orders that, with the exception of such as had been
requested to remain to answer questions, the guests generally
should feel themselves at liberty to depart.

The time had now come to take a stand and I informed my uncle, to
his evident chagrin, that I should not leave as long as any
excuse could be found for staying.

He said nothing at the time, but as the noise of departing
carriages gradually lessened and the great hall and drawing-rooms
began to wear a look of desertion he at last ventured on this
gentle protest:

"You have more pluck, Rita, than I supposed. Do you think it wise
to stay on here? Will not people imagine that you have been
requested to do so? Look at those waiters hanging about in the
different doorways. Run up and put on your wraps. Mr. Durand will
come to the house fast enough as soon as he is released. I give
you leave to sit up for him if you will; only let us leave this
place before that impertinent little man dares to come around
again," he artfully added.

But I stood firm, though somewhat moved by his final suggestion;
and, being a small tyrant in my way, at least with him, I carried
my point.

Suddenly my anxiety became poignant. A party of men, among whom I
saw Mr. Durand, appeared at the end of the hall, led by a very
small but self-important personage whom my uncle immediately
pointed out as the detective who had twice come to the door near
which I stood. As this man looked up and saw me still there, a
look of relief crossed his face, and, after a word or two with
another stranger of seeming authority, he detached himself from
the group he had ushered upon the scene, and, approaching me
respectfully enough, said with a deprecatory glance at my uncle
whose frown he doubtless understood:

"Miss Van Arsdale, I believe?"

I nodded, too choked to speak.

"I am sorry, Madam, if you were expecting to go. Inspector
Dalzell has arrived and would like to speak to you. Will you step
into one of these rooms? Not the library, but any other. He will
come to you as quickly as he can."

I tried to carry it off bravely and as if I saw nothing in this
summons which was unique or alarming. But I succeeded only in
dividing a wavering glance between him and the group of men of
which he had just formed a part. In the latter were several
gentlemen whom I had noted in Mrs. Fairbrother's train early in
the evening and a few strangers, two of whom were officials. Mr.
Durand was with the former, and his expression did not encourage
me.

"The affair is very serious," commented the detective on leaving
me. "That's our excuse for any trouble we may be putting you to."
I clutched my uncle's arm.

"Where shall we go?" I asked. "The drawing-room is too large. In
this hall my eyes are for ever traveling in the direction of the
alcove. Don't you know some little room? Oh, what, what can he
want of me?"

"Nothing serious, nothing important," blustered my good uncle.
"Some triviality such as you can answer in a moment. A little
room? Yes, I know one, there, under the stairs. Come, I will find
the door for you. Why did we ever come to this wretched ball?"

I had no answer for this. Why, indeed!

My uncle, who is a very patient man, guided me to the place he
had picked out, without adding a word to the ejaculation in which
he had just allowed his impatience to expend itself. But once
seated within, and out of the range of peering eyes and listening
ears, he allowed a sigh to escape him which expressed the
fullness of his agitation.

"My dear," he began, and stopped. "I feel--" here he again came
to a pause--"that you should know--"

"What?" I managed to ask.

"That I do not like Mr. Durand and--that others do not like him."

"Is it because of something you knew about him before to-night?"

He made no answer.

"Or because he was seen, like many other gentlemen, talking with
that woman some time before--a long time before--she was attacked
for her diamond and murdered?"

"Pardon me, my dear, he was the last one seen talking to her.
Some one may yet be found who went in after he came out, but as
yet he is considered the last. Mr. Ramsdell himself told me so."

"It makes no difference," I exclaimed, in all the heat of my
long-suppressed agitation. "I am willing to stake my life on his
integrity and honor. No man could talk to me as he did early this
evening with any vile intentions at heart. He was interested, no
doubt, like many others, in one who had the name of being a
captivating woman, but--"

I paused in sudden alarm. A look had crossed my uncle's face
which assured me that we were no longer alone. Who could have
entered so silently? In some trepidation I turned to see. A
gentleman was standing in the doorway, who smiled as I met his
eye.

"Is this Miss Van Arsdale?" he asked.

Instantly my courage, which had threatened to leave me, returned
and I smiled.

"I am," said I. "Are you the inspector?"

"Inspector Dalzell," he explained with a bow, which included my
uncle.

Then he closed the door.

"I hope I have not frightened you," he went on, approaching me
with a gentlemanly air. "A little matter has come up concerning
which I mean to be perfectly frank with you. It may prove to be
of trivial importance; if so, you will pardon my disturbing you.
Mr. Durand--you know him?"

"I am engaged to him," I declared before poor uncle could raise
his hand.

"You are engaged to him. Well, that makes it difficult, and yet,
in some respects, easier for me to ask a certain question."

It must have made it more difficult than easy, for he did not
proceed to put this question immediately, but went on:

"You know that Mr. Durand visited Mrs. Fairbrother in the alcove
a little while before her death?"

"I have been told so."

 "He was seen to go in, but I have not yet found any one who saw
him come out; consequently we have been unable to fix the exact
minute when he did so. What is the matter, Miss Van Arsdale? You
want to say something?"

"No, no," I protested, reconsidering my first impulse. Then, as I
met his look, "He can probably tell you that himself. I am sure
he would not hesitate."

"We shall ask him later," was the inspector's response.
"Meanwhile, are you ready to assure me that since that time he
has not intrusted you with a little article to keep--No, no, I do
not mean the diamond," he broke in, in very evident dismay, as I
fell back from him in irrepressible indignation and alarm. "The
diamond--well, we shall look for that later; it is another
article we are in search of now, one which Mr. Durand might very
well have taken in his hand without realizing just what he was
doing. As it is important for us to find this article, and as it
is one he might very naturally have passed over to you when he
found himself in the hall with it in his hand, I have ventured to
ask you if this surmise is correct."

"It is not," I retorted fiercely, glad that I could speak from my
very heart. "He has given me nothing to keep for him. He would
not--"

Why that peculiar look in the inspector's eye? Why did he reach
out for a chair and seat me in it before he took up my
interrupted sentence and finished it?

"--would not give you anything to hold which had belonged to
another woman? Miss Van Arsdale, you do not know men. They do
many things which a young, trusting girl like yourself would
hardly expect from them."

"Not Mr. Durand," I maintained stoutly.

"Perhaps not; let us hope not." Then, with a quick change of
manner, he bent toward me, with a sidelong look at uncle, and,
pointing to my gloves, remarked: "You wear gloves. Did you feel
the need of two pairs, that you carry another in that pretty bag
hanging from your arm?"

I started, looked down, and then slowly drew up into my hand the
bag he had mentioned. The white finger of a glove was protruding
from the top. Any one could see it; many probably had. What did
it mean? I had brought no extra pair with me.

"This is not mine," I began, faltering into silence as I
perceived my uncle turn and walk a step or two away.

"The article we are looking for," pursued the inspector, "is a
pair of long, white gloves, supposed to have been worn by Mrs.
Fairbrother when she entered the alcove. Do you mind showing me
those, a finger of which I see?"

I dropped the bag into his hand. The room and everything in it
was whirling around me. But when I noted what trouble it was to
his clumsy fingers to open it, my senses returned and, reaching
for the bag, I pulled it open and snatched out the gloves. They
had been hastily rolled up and some of the fingers were showing.

"Let me have them," he said.

With quaking heart and shaking fingers I handed over the gloves.

"Mrs. Fairbrother's hand was not a small one," he observed as he
slowly unrolled them. "Yours is. We can soon tell--"

But that sentence was never finished. As the gloves fell open in
his grasp he uttered a sudden, sharp ejaculation and I a
smothered shriek. An object of superlative brilliancy had rolled
out from them. The diamond! the gem which men said was worth a
king's ransom, and which we all knew had just cost a life.



III

ANSON DURAND

With benumbed senses and a dismayed heart, I stared at the fallen
jewel as at some hateful thing menacing both my life and honor.

"I have had nothing to do with it," I vehemently declared. "I did
not put the gloves in my bag, nor did I know the diamond was in
them. I fainted at the first alarm, and

"There! there! I know," interposed the inspector kindly. "I do
not doubt you in the least; not when there is a man to doubt.
Miss Van Arsdale, you had better let your uncle take you home. I
will see that the hall is cleared for you. Tomorrow I may wish to
talk to you again, but I will spare you all further importunity
tonight."

I shook my head. It would require more courage to leave at that
moment than to stay. Meeting the inspector's eye firmly, I
quietly declared,

"If Mr. Durand's good name is to suffer in any way, I will not
forsake him. I have confidence in his integrity, if you have not.
It was not his hand, but one much more guilty, which dropped this
jewel into the bag."

"So! so! do not be too sure of that, little woman. You had better
take your lesson at once. It will be easier for you, and more
wholesome for him."

Here he picked up the jewel.

"Well, they said it was a wonder!" he exclaimed, in sudden
admiration. "I am not surprised, now that I have seen a great
gem, at the famous stories I have read of men risking life and
honor for their possession. If only no blood had been shed!"

"Uncle! uncle!" I wailed aloud in my agony.

It was all my lips could utter, but to uncle it was enough.
Speaking for the first time, he asked to have a passage made for
us, and when the inspector moved forward to comply, he threw his
arm about me, and was endeavoring to find fitting words with
which to fill up the delay, when a short altercation was heard
from the doorway, and Mr. Durand came rushing in, followed
immediately by the inspector.

His first look was not at myself, but at the bag, which still
hung from my arm. As I noted this action, my whole inner self
seemed to collapse, dragging my happiness down with it. But my
countenance remained unchanged, too much so, it seems; for when
his eye finally rose to my face, he found there what made him
recoil and turn with something like fierceness on his companion.

"You have been talking to her," he vehemently protested. "Perhaps
you have gone further than that. What has happened here? I think
I ought to know. She is so guileless, Inspector Dalzell; so
perfectly free from all connection with this crime. Why have you
shut her up here, and plied her with questions, and made her look
at me with such an expression, when all you have against me is
just what you have against some half-dozen others,--that I was
weak enough, or unfortunate enough, to spend a few minutes with
that unhappy woman in the alcove before she died?"

"It might be well if Miss Van Arsdale herself would answer you,"
was the inspector's quiet retort. "What you have said may
constitute all that we have against you, but it is not all we
have against her."

I gasped, not so much at this seeming accusation, the motive of
which I believed myself to understand, but at the burning blush
with which it was received by Mr. Durand.

"What do you mean?" he demanded, with certain odd breaks in his
voice. "What can you have against her?"

"A triviality," returned the inspector, with a look in my
direction that was, I felt, not to be mistaken.

"I do not call it a triviality," I burst out. "It seems that Mrs.
Fairbrother, for all her elaborate toilet, was found without
gloves on her arms. As she certainly wore them on entering the
alcove, the police have naturally been looking for them. And
where do you think they have found them? Not in the alcove with
her, not in the possession of the man who undoubtedly carried
them away with him, but--"

"I know, I know," Mr. Durand hoarsely put in. "You need not say
any more. Oh, my poor Rita! what have I brought upon you by my
weakness?"

"Weakness!"

He started; I started; my voice was totally unrecognizable.

"I should give it another name," I added coldly.

For a moment he seemed to lose heart, then he lifted his head
again, and looked as handsome as when he pleaded for my hand in
the little conservatory.

"You have that right," said he; "besides, weakness at such a
time, and under such an exigency, is little short of wrong. It
was unmanly in me to endeavor to secrete these gloves; more than
unmanly for me to choose for their hiding-place the recesses of
an article belonging exclusively to yourself. I acknowledge it,
Rita, and shall meet only my just punishment if you deny me in
the future both your sympathy and regard. But you must let me
assure you and these gentlemen also, one of whom can make it very
unpleasant for me, that consideration for you, much more than any
miserable anxiety about myself, lay at the bottom of what must
strike you all as an act of unpardonable cowardice. From the
moment I learned of this woman's murder in the alcove, where I
had visited her, I realized that every one who had been seen to
approach her within a half-hour of her death would be subjected
to a more or less rigid investigation, and I feared, if her
gloves were found in my possession, some special attention might
be directed my way which would cause you unmerited distress. So,
yielding to an impulse which I now recognize as a most unwise, as
well as unworthy one, I took advantage of the bustle about us,
and of the insensibility into which you had fallen, to tuck these
miserable gloves into the bag I saw lying on the floor at your
side. I do not ask your pardon. My whole future life shall be
devoted to winning that; I simply wish to state a fact."

"Very good!" It was the inspector who spoke; I could not have
uttered a word to save my life. "Perhaps you will now feel that
you owe it to this young lady to add how you came to have these
gloves in your possession?"

"Mrs. Fairbrother handed them to me."

"Handed them to you?"

"Yes, I hardly know why myself. She asked me to take care of them
for her. I know that this must strike you as a very peculiar
statement. It was my realization of the unfavorable effect it
could not fail to produce upon those who beard it, which made me
dread any interrogation on the subject. But I assure you it was
as I say. She put the gloves into my hand while I was talking to
her, saying they incommoded her."

"And you?"

"Well, I held them for a few minutes, then I put them in my
pocket, but quite automatically, and without thinking very much
about it. She was a woman accustomed to have her own way. People
seldom questioned it, I judge."

Here the tension about my throat relaxed, and I opened my lips to
speak. But the inspector, with a glance of some authority,
forestalled me.

"Were the gloves open or rolled up when she offered them to you?"

"They were rolled up."

"Did you see her take them off?"

"Assuredly."

"And roll them up?"

"Certainly."

"After which she passed them over to you?" 

"Not immediately. She let them lie in her lap for a while." 

"While you talked?"

Mr. Durand bowed.

"And looked at the diamond?" 

Mr. Durand bowed for the second time.

"Had you ever seen so fine a diamond before?"

"No."

"Yet you deal in precious stones?"

"That is my business."

"And are regarded as a judge of them?" 

"I have that reputation."

"Mr. Durand, would you know this diamond if you saw it?"

"I certainly should."

"The setting was an uncommon one, I hear." 

"Quite an unusual one."

The inspector opened his hand.

"Is this the article?"

"Good God! Where--" 

"Don't you know?" 

"I do not."

The inspector eyed him gravely.

"Then I have a bit of news for you. It was hidden in the gloves
you took from Mrs. Fairbrother. Miss Van Arsdale was present at
their unrolling."

Do we live, move, breathe at certain moments? It hardly seems so.
I know that I was conscious of but one sense, that of seeing; and
of but one faculty, that of judgment. Would he flinch, break
down, betray guilt, or simply show astonishment? I chose to
believe it was the latter feeling only which informed his slowly
whitening and disturbed features. Certainly it was all his words
expressed, as his glances flew from the stone to the gloves, and
back again to the inspector's face.

"I can not believe it. I can not believe it." And his hand flew
wildly to his forehead.

"Yet it is the truth, Mr. Durand, and one you have now to face.
How will you do this? By any further explanations, or by what you
may consider a discreet silence?"

"I have nothing to explain,--the facts are as I have stated."

The inspector regarded him with an earnestness which made my
heart sink.

"You can fix the time of this visit, I hope; tell us, I mean,
just when you left the alcove. You must have seen some one who
can speak for you."

"I fear not."

Why did he look so disturbed and uncertain?

"There were but few persons in the hall just then," he went on to
explain. "No one was sitting on the yellow divan."

"You know where you went, though? Whom you saw and what you did
before the alarm spread?"

"Inspector, I am quite confused. I did go somewhere; I did not
remain in that part of the hall. But I can tell you nothing
definite, save that I walked about, mostly among strangers, till
the cry rose which sent us all in one direction and me to the
side of my fainting sweetheart."

"Can you pick out any stranger you talked to, or any one who
might have noted you during this interval? You see, for the sake
of this little woman, I wish to give you every chance."

"Inspector, I am obliged to throw myself on your mercy. I have no
such witness to my innocence as you call for. Innocent people
seldom have. It is only the guilty who take the trouble to
provide for such contingencies."

This was all very well, if it had been uttered with a
straightforward air and in a clear tone. But it was not. I who
loved him felt that it was not, and consequently was more or less
prepared for the change which now took place in the inspector's
manner. Yet it pierced me to the heart to observe this change,
and I instinctively dropped my face into my hands when I saw him
move toward Mr. Durand with some final order or word of caution.

Instantly (and who can account for such phenomena?) there floated
into view before my retina a reproduction of the picture I had
seen, or imagined myself to have seen, in the supper-room; and as
at that time it opened before me an unknown vista quite removed
from the surrounding scene, so it did now, and I beheld again in
faint outlines, and yet with the effect of complete distinctness,
a square of light through which appeared an open passage partly
shut off from view by a half-lifted curtain and the tall figure
of a man holding back this curtain and gazing, or seeming to
gaze, at his own breast, on which he had already laid one
quivering finger.

What did it mean? In the excitement of the horrible occurrence
which had engrossed us all, I had forgotten this curious
experience; but on feeling anew the vague sensation of shock and
expectation which seemed its natural accompaniment, I became
conscious of a sudden conviction that the picture which had
opened before me in the supper-room was the result of a
reflection in a glass or mirror of something then going on in a
place not otherwise within the reach of my vision; a reflection,
the importance of which I suddenly realized when I recalled at
what a critical moment it had occurred. A man in a state of dread
looking at his breast, within five minutes of the stir and rush
of the dreadful event which had marked this evening!

A hope, great as the despair in which I had just been sunk, gave
me courage to drop my hands and advance impetuously toward the
inspector.

"Don't speak, I pray; don't judge any of us further till you have
heard what I have to say."

In great astonishment and with an aspect of some severity, he
asked me what I had to say now which I had not had the
opportunity of saying before. I replied with all the passion of a
forlorn hope that it was only at this present moment I remembered
a fact which might have a very decided bearing on this case; and,
detecting evidences, as I thought, of relenting on his part, I
backed up this statement by an entreaty for a few words with him
apart, as the matter I had to tell was private and possibly too
fanciful for any ear but his own.

He looked as if he apprehended some loss of valuable time, but,
touched by the involuntary gesture of appeal with which I
supplemented my request, he led me into a corner, where, with
just an encouraging glance toward Mr. Durand, who seemed struck
dumb by my action, I told the inspector of that momentary picture
which I had seen reflected in what I was now sure was some
window-pane or mirror.

"It was at a time coincident, or very nearly coincident, with the
perpetration of the crime you are now investigating," I
concluded. "Within five minutes afterward came the shout which
roused us all to what had happened in the alcove. I do not know
what passage I saw or what door or even what figure; but the
latter, I am sure, was that of the guilty man. Something in the
outline (and it was the outline only I could catch) expressed an
emotion incomprehensible to me at the moment, but which, in my
remembrance, impresses me as that of fear and dread. It was not
the entrance to the alcove I beheld--that would have struck me at
once--but some other opening which I might recognize if I saw it.
Can not that opening be found, and may it not give a clue to the
man I saw skulking through it with terror and remorse in his
heart?"

"Was this figure, when you saw it, turned toward you or away?"
the inspector inquired with unexpected interest.

"Turned partly away. He was going from me."

"And you sat--where?"

"Shall I show you?"

The inspector bowed, then with a low word of caution turned to my
uncle.

"I am going to take this young lady into the hall for a moment,
at her own request. May I ask you and Mr. Durand to await me
here?"

Without pausing for reply, he threw open the door and presently
we were pacing the deserted supper-room, seeking the place where
I had sat. I found it almost by a miracle,--everything being in
great disorder. Guided by my bouquet, which I had left behind me
in my escape from the table, I laid hold of the chair before
which it lay, and declared quite confidently to the inspector:

"This is where I sat."

Naturally his glance and mine both flew to the opposite wall. A
window was before us of an unusual size and make. Unlike any
which had ever before come under my observation, it swung on a
pivot, and, though shut at the present moment, might very easily,
when opened, present its huge pane at an angle capable of
catching reflections from some of the many mirrors decorating the
reception-room situated diagonally across the hall. As all the
doorways on this lower floor were of unusual width, an open path
was offered, as it were, for these reflections to pass, making it
possible for scenes to be imaged here which, to the persons
involved, would seem as safe from any one's scrutiny as if they
were taking place in the adjoining house.

As we realized this, a look passed between us of more than
ordinary significance. Pointing to the window, the inspector
turned to a group of waiters watching us from the other side of
the room and asked if it had been opened that evening.

The answer came quickly.

"Yes, sir,--just before the--the--"

"I understand," broke in the inspector; and, leaning over me, he
whispered: "Tell me again exactly what you thought you saw."

But I could add little to my former description. "Perhaps you can
tell me this," he kindly persisted. "Was the picture, when you
saw it, on a level with your eye, or did you have to lift your
head in order to see it?"

"It was high up,--in the air, as it were. That seemed its oddest
feature."

The inspector's mouth took a satisfied curve. "Possibly I might
identify the door and passage, if I saw them," I suggested.

"Certainly, certainly," was his cheerful rejoinder; and,
summoning one of his men, he was about to give some order, when
his impulse changed, and he asked if I could draw.

I assured him, in some surprise, that I was far from being an
adept in that direction, but that possibly I might manage a rough
sketch; whereupon he pulled a pad and pencil from his pocket and
requested me to make some sort of attempt to reproduce, on paper,
my memory of this passage and the door.

My heart was beating violently, and the pencil shook in my hand,
but I knew that it would not do for me to show any hesitation in
fixing for all eyes what, unaccountably to myself, continued to
be perfectly plain to my own. So I endeavored to do as he bade
me, and succeeded, to some extent, for he uttered a slight
ejaculation at one of its features, and, while duly expressing
his thanks, honored me with a very sharp look.

"Is this your first visit to this house?" he asked.

"No; I have been here before."

"In the evening, or in the afternoon?"

"In the afternoon."

"I am told that the main entrance is not in use to-night."

"No. A side door is provided for occasions like the present.
Guests entering there find a special hall and staircase, by which
they can reach the upstairs dressing-rooms, without crossing the
main hall. Is that what you mean?"

"Yes, that is what I mean."

I stared at him in wonder. What lay back of such questions as
these?

"You came in, as others did, by this side entrance," he now
proceeded. "Did you notice, as you turned to go up stairs, an
arch opening into a small passageway at your left?"

"I did not," I began, flushing, for I thought I understood him
now. "I was too eager to reach the dressing-room to look about
me."

"Very well," he replied; "I may want to show you that arch."

The outline of an arch, backing the figure we were endeavoring to
identify, was a marked feature in the sketch I had shown him.

"Will you take a seat near by while I make a study of this
matter?"

I turned with alacrity to obey. There was something in his air
and manner which made me almost buoyant. Had my fanciful
interpretation of what I had seen reached him with the conviction
it had me? If so, there was hope,--hope for the man I loved, who
had gone in and out between curtains, and not through any arch
such as he had mentioned or I had described. Providence was
working for me. I saw it in the way the men now moved about,
swinging the window to and fro, under the instruction of the
inspector, manipulating the lights, opening doors and drawing
back curtains. Providence was working for me, and when, a few
minutes later, I was asked to reseat myself in my old place at
the supper-table and take another look in that slightly deflected
glass, I knew that my effort had met with its reward, and that
for the second time I was to receive the impression of a place
now indelibly imprinted on my consciousness.

"Is not that it?" asked the inspector, pointing at the glass with
a last look at the imperfect sketch I had made him, and which he
still held in his hand.

"Yes," I eagerly responded. "All but the man. He whose figure I
see there is another person entirely; I see no remorse, or even
fear, in his looks."

"Of course not. You are looking at the reflection of one of my
men. Miss Van Arsdale, do you recognize the place now under your
eye?"

"I do not. You spoke of an arch in the hall, at the left of the
carriage entrance, and I see an arch in the window-pane before
me, but--"

"You are looking straight through the alcove,--perhaps you did
not know that another door opened at its back,--into the passage
which runs behind it. Farther on is the arch, and beyond that
arch the side hall and staircase leading to the dressing-rooms.
This door, the one in the rear of the alcove, I mean, is hidden
from those entering from the main hall by draperies which have
been hung over it for this occasion, but it is quite visible from
the back passageway, and there can be no doubt that it was by its
means the man, whose reflected image you saw, both entered and
left the alcove. It is an important fact to establish, and we
feel very much obliged to you for the aid you have given us in
this matter."

Then, as I continued to stare at him in my elation and surprise,
he added, in quick explanation:

"The lights in the alcove, and in the several parlors, are all
hung with shades, as you must perceive, but the one in the hall,
beyond the arch, is very bright, which accounts for the
distinctness of this double reflection. Another thing,--and it is
a very interesting point,--it would have been impossible for this
reflection to be noticeable from where you sit, if the level of
the alcove flooring had not been considerably higher than that of
the main floor. But for this freak of the architect, the
continual passing to and fro of people would have prevented the
reflection in its passage from surface to surface. Miss Van
Arsdale, it would seem that by one of those chances which happen
but once or twice in a lifetime, every condition was propitious
at the moment to make this reflection a possible occurrence, even
the location and width of the several doorways and the exact
point at which the portiere was drawn aside from the entrance to
the alcove."

"It is wonderful," I cried, "wonderful!" Then, to his
astonishment, perhaps, I asked if there was not a small door of
communication between the passageway back of the alcove and the
large central hall.

"Yes," he replied. "It opens just beyond the fireplace. Three
small steps lead to it."

"I thought so," I murmured, but more to myself than to him. In my
mind I was thinking how a man, if he so wished, could pass from
the very heart of this assemblage into the quiet passageway, and
so on into the alcove, without attracting very much attention
from his fellow guests. I forgot that there was another way of
approach even less noticeable that by the small staircase running
up beyond the arch directly to the dressing-rooms.

That no confusion may arise in any one's mind in regard to these
curious approaches, I subjoin a plan of this portion of the lower
floor as it afterward appeared in the leading dailies.

"And Mr. Durand?" I stammered, as I followed the inspector back
to the room where we had left that gentleman. "You will believe
his statement now and look for this second intruder with the
guiltily-hanging head and frightened mien?"

"Yes," he replied, stopping me on the threshold of the door and
taking my hand kindly in his, "if--(don't start, my dear; life is
full of trouble for young and old, and youth is the best time to
face a sad experience) if he is not himself the man you saw
staring in frightened horror at his breast. Have you not noticed
that he is not dressed in all respects like the other gentlemen
present? That, though he has not donned his overcoat, he has put
on, somewhat prematurely, one might say, the large silk
handkerchief lie presumably wears under it? Have you not noticed
this, and asked yourself why?"

I had noticed it. I had noticed it from the moment I recovered
from my fainting fit, but I had not thought it a matter of
sufficient interest to ask, even of myself, his reason for thus
hiding his shirt-front. Now I could not. My faculties were too
confused, my heart too deeply shaken by the suggestion which the
inspector's words conveyed, for me to be conscious of anything
but the devouring question as to what I should do if, by my own
mistaken zeal, I had succeeded in plunging the man I loved yet
deeper into the toils in which he had become enmeshed.

The inspector left me no time for the settlement of this
question. Ushering me back into the room where Mr. Durand and my
uncle awaited our return in apparently unrelieved silence, he
closed the door upon the curious eyes of the various persons
still lingering in the hall, and abruptly said to Mr. Durand:

"The explanations you have been pleased to give of the manner in
which this diamond came into your possession are not too fanciful
for credence, if you can satisfy us on another point which has
awakened some doubt in the mind of one of my men. Mr. Durand, you
appear to have prepared yourself for departure somewhat
prematurely. Do you mind removing that handkerchief for a moment?
My reason for so peculiar a request will presently appear."

Alas, for my last fond hope! Mr. Durand, with a face as white as
the background of snow framed by the uncurtained window against
which he leaned, lifted his hand as if to comply with the
inspector's request, then let it fall again with a grating laugh.

"I see that I am not likely to escape any of the results of my
imprudence," he cried, and with a quick jerk bared his
shirt-front.

A splash of red defiled its otherwise uniform whiteness! That it
was the red of heart's blood was proved by the shrinking look he
unconsciously cast at it.



IV

EXPLANATIONS

My love for Anson Durand died at sight o£ that crimson splash or
I thought it did. In this spot of blood on the breast of him to
whom I had given my heart I could read but one word--guilt--
heinous guilt, guilt denied and now brought to light in language
that could be seen and read by all men. Why should I stay in such
a presence? Had not the inspector himself advised me to go?

Yes, but another voice bade me remain. Just as I reached the
door, Anson Durand found his voice and I heard, in the full,
sweet tones I loved so well:

"Wait I am not to be judged like this. I will explain!"

But here the inspector interposed.

"Do you think it wise to make any such attempt without the advice
of counsel, Mr. Durand?"

The indignation with which Mr. Durand wheeled toward him raised
in me a faint hope.

"Good God, yes!" he cried. "Would you have me leave Miss Van
Arsdale one minute longer than is necessary to such dreadful
doubts? Rita--Miss Van Arsdale--weakness, and weakness only, has
brought me into my present position. I did not kill Mrs.
Fairbrother, nor did I knowingly take her diamond, though
appearances look that way, as I am very ready to acknowledge. I
did go to her in the alcove, not once, but twice, and these are
my reasons for doing so: About three months ago a certain
well-known man of enormous wealth came to me with the request
that I should procure for him a diamond of superior beauty. He
wished to give it to his wife, and he wished it to outshine any
which could now be found in New York. This meant sending abroad--
an expense he was quite willing to incur on the sole condition
that the stone should not disappoint him when he saw it, and that
it was to be in his hands on the eighteenth of March, his wife's
birthday. Never before had I had such an opportunity for a large
stroke of business. Naturally elated, I entered at once into
correspondence with the best known dealers on the other side, and
last week a diamond was delivered to me which seemed to fill all
the necessary requirements. I had never seen a finer stone, and
was consequently rejoicing in my success, when some one, I do not
remember who now, chanced to speak in my hearing of the wonderful
stone possessed by a certain Mrs. Fairbrother--a stone so large,
so brilliant and so precious altogether that she seldom wore it,
though it was known to connoisseurs and had a great reputation at
Tiffany's, where it had once been sent for some alteration in the
setting. Was this stone larger and finer than the one I had
procured with so much trouble? If so, my labor had all been in
vain, for my patron must have known of this diamond and would
expect to see it surpassed.

"I was so upset by this possibility that I resolved to see the
jewel and make comparisons for myself. I found a friend who
agreed to introduce me to the lady. She received me very
graciously and was amiable enough until the subject of diamonds
was broached, when she immediately stiffened and left me without
an opportunity of proffering my request. However, on every other
subject she was affable, and I found it easy enough to pursue the
acquaintance till we were almost on friendly terms. But I never
saw the diamond, nor would she talk about it, though I caused her
some surprise when one day I drew out before her eyes the one I
had procured for my patron and made her look at it. 'Fine,' she
cried, 'fine!' But I failed to detect any envy in her manner, and
so knew that I had not achieved the object set me by my wealthy
customer. This was a woeful disappointment; yet, as Mrs.
Fairbrother never wore her diamond, it was among the
possibilities that he might be satisfied with the very fine gem I
had obtained for him, and, influenced by this hope, I sent him
this morning a request to come and see it tomorrow. Tonight I
attended this ball, and almost as soon as I enter the
drawing-room I hear that Mrs. Fairbrother is present and is
wearing her famous jewel. What could you expect of me? Why, that
I would make an effort to see it and so be ready with a reply to
my exacting customer when he should ask me to-morrow if the stone
I showed him had its peer in the city. But was not in the
drawing-room then, and later I became interested elsewhere"--here
he cast a look at me--"so that half the evening passed before I
had an opportunity to join her in the so-called alcove, where I
had seen her set up her miniature court. What passed between us
in the short interview we held together you will find me prepared
to state, if necessary. It was chiefly marked by the one short
view I succeeded in obtaining of her marvelous diamond, in spite
of the pains she took to hide it from me by some natural movement
whenever she caught my eyes leaving her face. But in that one
short look I had seen enough. This was a gem for a collector, not
to be worn save in a royal presence. How had she come by it? And
could Mr. Smythe expect me to procure him a stone like that? In
my confusion I arose to depart, but the lady showed a disposition
to keep me, and began chatting so vivaciously that I scarcely
noticed that she was all the time engaged in drawing off her
gloves. Indeed, I almost forgot the jewel, possibly because her
movements hid it so completely, and only remembered it when, with
a sudden turn from the window where she had drawn me to watch the
falling flakes, she pressed the gloves into my hand with the
coquettish request that I should take care of them for her. I
remember, as I took them, of striving to catch another glimpse of
the stone, whose brilliancy had dazzled me, but she had opened
her fan between us. A moment after, thinking I heard approaching
steps, I quitted the room. This was my first visit."

As he stopped, possibly for breath, possibly to judge to what
extent I was impressed by his account, the inspector seized the
opportunity to ask if Mrs. Fairbrother had been standing any of
this time with her back to him. To which he answered yes, while
they were in the window.

"Long enough for her to pluck off the jewel and thrust it into
the gloves, if she had so wished?"

"Quite long enough."

"But you did not see her do this?"

"I did not."

"And so took the gloves without suspicion?"

"Entirely so."

"And carried them away?"

"Unfortunately, yes."

"Without thinking that she might want them the next minute?"

"I doubt if I was thinking seriously of her at all. My thoughts
were on my own disappointment."

"Did you carry these gloves out in your hand?"

"No, in my pocket."

"I see. And you met--"

"No one. The sound I heard must have come from the rear hall."

"And there was nobody on the steps?"

"No. A gentleman was standing at their foot--Mr. Grey, the
Englishman--but his face was turned another way, and he looked as
if he had been in that same position for several minutes."

"Did this gentleman--Mr. Grey--see you?"

"I can not say, but I doubt it. He appeared to be in a sort of
dream. There were other people about, but nobody with whom I was
acquainted."

"Very good. Now for the second visit you acknowledge having paid
this unfortunate lady."

The inspector's voice was hard. I clung a little more tightly to
my uncle, and Mr. Durand, after one agonizing glance my way, drew
himself up as if quite conscious that he had entered upon the
most serious part of the struggle.

"I had forgotten the gloves in my hurried departure; but
presently I remembered them, and grew very uneasy. I did not like
carrying this woman's property about with me. I had engaged
myself, an hour before, to Miss Van Arsdale, and was very anxious
to rejoin her. The gloves worried me, and finally, after a little
aimless wandering through the various rooms, I determined to go
back and restore them to their owner. The doors of the
supper-room had just been flung open, and the end of the hall
near the alcove was comparatively empty, save for a certain
quizzical friend of mine, whom I saw sitting with his partner on
the yellow divan. I did not want to encounter him just then, for
he had already joked me about my admiration for the lady with the
diamond, and so I conceived the idea of approaching her by means
of a second entrance to the alcove, unsuspected by most of those
present, but perfectly well-known to me, who have been a frequent
guest in this house. A door, covered by temporary draperies,
connects, as you may know, this alcove with a passageway
communicating directly with the hall of entrance and the
up-stairs dressing-rooms. To go up the main stairs and come down
by the side one, and so on, through a small archway, was a very
simple matter for me. If no early-departing or late arriving
guests were in that hall, I need fear but one encounter, and that
was with the servant stationed at the carriage entrance. But even
he was absent at this propitious instant, and I reached the door
I sought without any unpleasantness. This door opened out instead
of in,--this I also knew when planning this surreptitious
intrusion, but, after pulling it open and reaching for the
curtain, which hung completely across it, I found it not so easy
to proceed as I had imagined. The stealthiness of my action held
back my hand; then the faint sounds I heard within advised me
that she was not alone, and that she might very readily regard
with displeasure my unexpected entrance by a door of which she
was possibly ignorant. I tell you all this because, if by any
chance I was seen hesitating in face of that curtain, doubts
might have been raised which I am anxious to dispel." Here his
eyes left my face for that of the inspector.

"It certainly had a bad look,--that I don't deny; but I did not
think of appearances then. I was too anxious to complete a task
which had suddenly presented unexpected difficulties. That I
listened before entering was very natural, and when I heard no
voice, only something like a great sigh, I ventured to lift the
curtain and step in. She was sitting, not where I had left her,
but on a couch at the left of the usual entrance, her face toward
me, and--you know how, Inspector. It was her last sigh I had
heard. Horrified, for I had never looked on death before, much
less crime, I reeled forward, meaning, I presume, to rush down
the steps shouting for help, when, suddenly, something fell
splashing on my shirt-front, and I saw myself marked with a stain
of blood. This both frightened and bewildered me, and it was a
minute or two before I had the courage to look up. When I did do
so, I saw whence this drop had come. Not from her, though the red
stream was pouring down the rich folds of her dress, but from a
sharp needle-like instrument which had been thrust, point
downward, in the open work of an antique lantern hanging near the
doorway. What had happened to me might have happened to any one
who chanced to be in that spot at that special moment, but I did
not realize this then. Covering the splash with my hands, I edged
myself back to the door by which I had entered, watching those
deathful eyes and crushing under my feet the remnants of some
broken china with which the carpet was bestrewn. I had no thought
of her, hardly any of myself. To cross the room was all; to
escape as secretly as I came, before the portiere so nearly drawn
between me and the main hall should stir under the hand of some
curious person entering. It was my first sight of blood; my first
contact with crime, and that was what I did, --I fled."

The last word was uttered with a gasp. Evidently he was greatly
affected by this horrible experience.

"I am ashamed of myself," he muttered, "but nothing can now undo
the fact. I slid from the presence of this murdered woman as
though she had been the victim of my own rage or cupidity; and,
being fortunate enough to reach the dressing-room before the
alarm had spread beyond the immediate vicinity of the alcove,
found and put on the handkerchief, which made it possible for me
to rush down and find Miss Van Arsdale, who, somebody told me,
had fainted. Not till I stood over her in that remote corner
beyond the supper-room did I again think of the gloves. What I
did when I happened to think of them, you already know. I could
have shown no greater cowardice if I had known that the murdered
woman's diamond was hidden inside them. Yet, I did not know this,
or even suspect it. Nor do I understand, now, her reason for
placing it there. Why should Mrs. Fairbrother risk such an
invaluable gem to the custody of one she knew so little? An
unconscious custody, too? Was she afraid of being murdered if she
retained this jewel?"

The inspector thought a moment, and then said:

"You mention your dread of some one entering by the one door
before you could escape by the other. Do you refer to the friend
you left sitting on the divan opposite?"

"No, my friend had left that seat. The portiere was sufficiently
drawn for me to detect that. If I had waited a minute longer," he
bitterly added, "I should have found my way open to the regular
entrance, and so escaped all this."

"Mr. Durand, you are not obliged to answer any of my questions;
but, if you wish, you may tell me whether, at this moment of
apprehension, you thought of the danger you ran of being seen
from outside by some one of the many coachmen passing by on the
driveway?"

"No,--I did not even think of the window,--I don't know why; but,
if any one passing by did see me, I hope they saw enough to
substantiate my story."

The inspector made no reply. He seemed to be thinking. I heard
afterward that the curtains, looped back in the early evening,
had been found hanging at full length over this window by those
who first rushed in upon the scene of death. Had he hoped to
entrap Mr. Durand into some damaging admission? Or was he merely
testing his truth? His expression afforded no clue to his
thoughts, and Mr. Durand, noting this, remarked with some
dignity:

"I do not expect strangers to accept these explanations, which
must sound strange and inadequate in face of the proof I carry of
having been with that woman after the fatal weapon struck her
heart. But, to one who knows me, and knows me well, I can surely
appeal for credence to a tale which I here declare to be as true
as if I had sworn to it in a court of justice."

"Anson!:" I passionately cried out, loosening my clutch upon my
uncle's arm. My confidence in him had returned.

And then, as I noted the inspector's businesslike air, and my
uncle's wavering look and unconvinced manner, I felt my heart
swell, and, flinging all discretion to the wind, I bounded
eagerly forward. Laying my hands in those of Mr. Durand, I cried
fervently:

"I believe in you. Nothing but your own words shall ever shake my
confidence in your innocence."

The sweet, glad look I received was my best reply. I could leave
the room, after that.

But not the house. Another experience awaited me, awaited us all,
before this full, eventful evening came to a close.



V

SUPERSTITION

I had gone up stairs for my wraps--my uncle having insisted on my
withdrawing from a scene where my very presence seemed in some
degree to compromise me.

Soon prepared for my departure, I was crossing the hall to the
small door communicating with the side staircase where my uncle
had promised to await me, when I felt myself seized by a desire
to have another look below before leaving the place in which were
centered all my deepest interests.

A wide landing, breaking up the main flight of stairs some few
feet from the top, offered me an admirable point of view. With
but little thought of possible consequences, and no thought at
all of my poor, patient uncle, I slipped down to this landing,
and, protected by the unusual height of its balustrade, allowed
myself a parting glance at the scene with which my most poignant
memories were henceforth to be connected.

Before me lay the large square of the central hall. Opening out
from this was the corridor leading to the front door, and
incidentally to the library. As my glance ran down this corridor,
I beheld, approaching from the room just mentioned, the tall
figure of the Englishman.

He halted as he reached the main hall and stood gazing eagerly at
a group of men and women clustered near the fireplace--a group on
which I no sooner cast my own eye than my attention also became
fixed.

The inspector had come from the room where I had left him with
Mr. Durand and was showing to these people the extraordinary
diamond, which he had just recovered under such remarkable if not
suspicious circumstances. Young heads and old were meeting over
it, and I was straining my ears to hear such comments as were
audible above the general hubbub, when Mr. Grey made a quick move
and I looked his way again in time to mark his air of concern and
the uncertainty he showed whether to advance or retreat.

Unconscious of my watchful eye, and noting, no doubt, that most
of the persons in the group on which his own eye was leveled
stood with their backs toward him, he made no effort to disguise
his profound interest in the stone. His eye followed its passage
from hand to hand with a covetous eagerness of which he may not
have been aware, and I was not at all surprised when, after a
short interval of troubled indecision, he impulsively stepped
forward and begged the privilege of handling the gem himself.

Our host, who stood not far from the inspector, said something to
that gentleman which led to this request being complied with. The
stone was passed over to Mr. Grey, and I saw, possibly because my
heart was in my eyes, that the great man's hand trembled as it
touched his palm. Indeed, his whole frame trembled, and I was
looking eagerly for the result of his inspection when, on his
turning to hold the jewel up to the light, something happened so
abnormal and so strange that no one who was fortunate (or
unfortunate) enough to be present in the house at that instant
will ever forget it.

This something was a cry, coming from no one knew where, which,
unearthly in its shrillness and the power it had on the
imagination, reverberated through the house and died away in a
wail so weird, so thrilling and so prolonged that it gripped not
only my own nerveless and weakened heart, but those of the ten
strong men congregated below me. The diamond dropped from Mr.
Grey's hand, and neither he nor any one else moved to pick it up.
Not till silence had come again--a silence almost as unendurable
to the sensitive ear as the cry which had preceded it--did any
one stir or think of the gem. Then one gentleman after another
bent to look for it, but with no success, till one of the
waiters, who possibly had followed it with his eye or caught
sight of its sparkle on the edge of the rug, whither it had
rolled, sprang and picked it up and handed it back to Mr. Grey.

Instinctively the Englishman's hand closed on it, but it was very
evident to me, and I think to all, that his interest in it was
gone. If he looked at it he did not see it, for he stood like one
stunned all the time that agitated men and women were running
hither and thither in unavailing efforts to locate the sound yet
ringing in their ears. Not till these various searchers had all
come together again, in terror of a mystery they could not solve,
did he let his hand fall and himself awake to the scene about
him.

The words he at once gave utterance to were as remarkable as all
the rest.

"Gentlemen," said he, "you must pardon my agitation. This cry--
you need not seek its source--is one to which I am only too well
accustomed. I have been the happy father of six children. Five I
have buried, and, before the death of each, this same cry has
echoed in my ears. I have but one child left, a daughter,--she is
ill at the hotel. Do you wonder that I shrink from this note of
warning, and show myself something less than a man under its
influence? I am going home; but, first, one word about this
stone." Here he lifted it and bestowed, or appeared to bestow on
it, an anxious scrutiny, putting on his glasses and examining it
carefully before passing it back to the inspector.

"I have heard," said he, with a change of tone which must have
been noticeable to every one, "that this stone was a very
superior one, and quite worthy of the fame it bore here in
America. But, gentlemen, you have all been greatly deceived in
it; no one more than he who was willing to commit murder for its
possession. The stone, which you have just been good enough to
allow me to inspect, is no diamond, but a carefully manufactured
bit of paste not worth the rich and elaborate setting which has
been given to it. I am sorry to be the one to say this, but I
have made a study of precious stones, and I can not let this
bare-faced imitation pass through my hands without a protest. Mr.
Ramsdell," this to our host, "I beg you will allow me to utter my
excuses, and depart at once. My daughter is worse,--this I know,
as certainly as that I am standing here. The cry you have heard
is the one superstition of our family. Pray God that I find her
alive!"

After this, what could be said? Though no one who had heard him,
not even my own romantic self, showed any belief in this
interpretation of the remarkable sound that had just gone
thrilling through the house, yet, in face of his declared
acceptance of it as a warning, and the fact that all efforts had
failed to locate the sound, or even to determine its source, no
other course seemed open but to let this distinguished man depart
with the suddenness his superstitious fears demanded.

That this was in opposition to the inspector's wishes was evident
enough. Naturally, he would have preferred Mr. Grey to remain, if
only to make clear his surprising conclusions in regard to a
diamond which had passed through the hands of some of the best
judges in the country, without a doubt having been raised as to
its genuineness.

With his departure the inspector's manner changed. He glanced at
the stone in his hand, and slowly shook his head. 

"I doubt if Mr. Grey's judgment can be depended on, to-night,"
said he, and pocketed the gem as carefully as if his belief in
its real value had been but little disturbed by the assertions of
this renowned foreigner.

I have no distinct remembrance of how I finally left the house,
or of what passed between my uncle and myself on our way home. I
was numb with the shock, and neither my intelligence nor my
feelings were any longer active. I recall but one impression, and
that was the effect made on me by my old home on our arrival
there, as of something new and strange; so much had happened, and
such changes had taken place in myself since leaving it five
hours before. But nothing else is vivid in my remembrance till
that early hour of the dreary morning, when, on waking to the
world with a cry, I beheld my uncle's anxious figure, bending
over me from the foot-board.

Instantly I found tongue, and question after question leaped from
my lips. He did not answer them; he could not; but when I grew
feverish and insistent, he drew the morning paper from behind his
back, and laid it quietly down within my reach. I felt calmed in
an instant, and when, after a few affectionate words, he left me
to myself, I seized on the sheet and read what so many others
were reading at that moment throughout the city.

I spare you the account so far as it coincides with what I had
myself seen and heard the night before. A few particulars which
had not reached my ears will interest you. The instrument of
death found in the place designated by Mr. Durand was one of note
to such as had any taste or knowledge of curios. It was a
stiletto of the most delicate type, long, keen and slender. Not
an American product, not even of this century's manufacture, but
a relic of the days when deadly thrusts were given in the corners
and by-ways of medieval streets.

This made the first mystery.

The second was the as yet unexplainable presence, on the alcove
floor, of two broken coffee-cups, which no waiter nor any other
person, in fact, admitted having carried there. The tray, which
had fallen from Peter Mooney's hand,--the waiter who had been the
first to give the alarm of murder,-- had held no cups, only ices.
This was a fact, proved. But the handles of two cups had been
found among the debris,-- cups which must have been full, from
the size of the coffee stain left on the rug where they had
fallen.

In reading this I remembered that Mr. Durand had mentioned
stepping on some broken pieces of china in his escape from the
fatal scene, and, struck with this confirmation of a theory which
was slowly taking form in my own mind, I passed on to the next
paragraph, with a sense of expectation.

The result was a surprise. Others may have been told, I was not,
that Mrs. Fairbrother had received a communication from outside
only a few minutes previous to her death. A Mr. Fullerton, who
had preceded Mr. Durand in his visit to the alcove, owned to
having opened the window for her at some call or signal from
outside, and taken in a small piece of paper which he saw lifted
up from below on the end of a whip handle. He could not see who
held the whip, but at Mrs. Fairbrother'S entreaty he unpinned the
note and gave it to her. While she was puzzling over it, for it
was apparently far from legible, he took another look out in time
to mark a figure rush from below toward the carriage drive. He
did not recognize the figure nor would he know it again. As to
the nature of the communication itself he could say nothing, save
that Mrs. Fairbrother did not seem to be affected favorably by
it. She frowned and was looking very gloomy when he left the
alcove. Asked if he had pulled the curtains together after
closing the window, he said that he had not; that she had not
requested him to do so.

This story, which was certainly a strange one, had been confirmed
by the testimony of the coachman who had lent his whip for the
purpose. This coachman, who was known to be a man of extreme good
nature, had seen no harm in lending his whip to a poor devil who
wished to give a telegram or some such hasty message to the lady
sitting just above them in a lighted window. The wind was fierce
and the snow blinding, and it was natural that the man should
duck his head, but he remembered his appearance well enough to
say that he was either very cold or very much done up and that he
wore a greatcoat with the collar pulled up about his ears. When
he came back with the whip he seemed more cheerful than when he
asked for it, but had no "thank you" for the favor done him, or
if he had, it was lost in his throat and the piercing gale.

The communication, which was regarded by the police as a matter
of the highest importance, had been found in her hand by the
coroner. It was a mere scrawl written in pencil on a small scrap
of paper. The following facsimile of the scrawl was given to the
public in the hope that some one would recognize the handwriting.

The first two lines overlapped and were confused, but the last
one was clear enough. Expect trouble if--If what? Hundreds were
asking the question and at this very moment. I should soon be
asking it, too, but first, I must make an effort to understand
the situation,--a situation which up to now appeared to involve
Mr. Durand, and Mr. Durand only, as the suspected party.

This was no more than I expected, yet it came with a shock under
the broad glare of this wintry morning; so impossible did it seem
in the light of every-day life that guilt could be associated in
any one's mind with a man of such unblemished record and
excellent standing. But the evidence adduced against him was of a
kind to appeal to the common mind--we all know that evidence--nor
could I say, after reading the full account, that I was myself
unaffected by its seeming weight. Not that my faith in his
innocence was shaken. I had met his look of love and tender
gratitude and my confidence in him had been restored, but I saw,
with all the clearness of a mind trained by continuous study, how
difficult it was going to be to counteract the prejudice induced,
first, by his own inconsiderate acts, especially by that
unfortunate attempt of his to secrete Mrs. Fairbrother's gloves
in another woman's bag, and secondly, by his peculiar
explanations--explanations which to many must seem forced and
unnatural.

I saw and felt nerved to a superhuman task. I believed him
innocent, and if others failed to prove him so, I would undertake
to clear him myself,--I, the little Rita, with no experience of
law or courts or crime, but with simply an unbounded faith in the
man suspected and in the keenness of my own insight,--an insight
which had already served me so well and would serve me yet
better, once I had mastered the details which must be the prelude
to all intelligent action.

The morning's report stopped with the explanations given by Mr.
Durand of the appearances against him. Consequently no word
appeared of the after events which had made such an impression at
the time on all the persons present. Mr. Grey was mentioned, but
simply as one of the guests, and to no one reading this early
morning issue would any doubt come as to the genuineness of the
diamond which, to all appearance, had been the leading motive in
the commission of this great crime.

The effect on my own mind of this suppression was a curious one.
I began to wonder if the whole event had not been a chimera of my
disturbed brain--a nightmare which had visited me, and me alone,
and not a fact to be reckoned with. But a moment's further
thought served to clear my mind of all such doubts, and I
perceived that the police had only exercised common prudence in
withholding Mr. Grey's sensational opinion of the stone till it
could be verified by experts.

The two columns of gossip devoted to the family differences which
had led to the separation of Mr. and Mrs. Fairbrother, I shall
compress into a few lines. They had been married three years
before in the city of Baltimore. He was a rich man then, but not
the multimillionaire he is to-day. Plain-featured and without
manner, lie was no mate for this sparkling coquette, whose charm
was of the kind which grows with exercise. Though no actual
scandal was ever associated with her name, he grew tired of her
caprices, and the conquests which she made no endeavor to hide
either from him or from the world at large; and at some time
during the previous year they had come to a friendly
understanding which led to their living apart, each in grand
style and with a certain deference to the proprieties which
retained them their friends and an enviable place in society. He
was not often invited where she was, and she never appeared in
any assemblage where he was expected; but with this exception,
little feeling was shown; matters progressed smoothly, and to
their credit, let it be said, no one ever heard either of them
speak otherwise than considerately of the other. He was at
present out or town, having started some three weeks before for
the southwest, but would probably return on receipt of the
telegram which had been sent him.

The comments made on the murder were necessarily hurried. It was
called a mystery, but it was evident enough that Mr. Durand's
detention was looked on as the almost certain prelude to his
arrest on the charge of murder.

I had had some discipline in life. Although a favorite of my
wealthy uncle, I had given up very early the prospects he held
out to me of a continued enjoyment of his bounty, and entered on
duties which required self-denial and hard work. I did this
because I enjoy having both my mind and heart occupied. To be
necessary to some one, as a nurse is to a patient, seemed to me
an enviable fate till I came under the influence of Anson Durand.
Then the craving of all women for the common lot of their sex
became my craving also; a craving, however, to which I failed at
first to yield, for I felt that it was unshared, and thus a token
of weakness. Fighting my battle, I succeeded in winning it, as I
thought, just as the nurse's diploma was put in my hands. Then
came the great surprise of my life. Anson Durand expressed his
love for me and I awoke to the fact that all my preparation had
been for home joys and a woman's true existence. One hour of
ecstasy in the light of this new hope, then tragedy and something
approaching chaos! Truly I had been through a schooling. But was
it one to make me useful in the only way I could be useful now? I
did not know; I did not care; I was determined on my course, fit
or unfit, and, in the relief brought by this appeal to my energy,
I rose and dressed and went about the duties of the day.

One of these was to determine whether Mr. Grey, on his return to
his hotel, had found his daughter as ill as his fears had
foreboded. A telephone message or two satisfied me on this point.
Miss Grey was very ill, but not considered dangerously so;
indeed, if anything, her condition was improved, and if nothing
happened in the way of fresh complications, the prospects were
that she would be out in a fortnight.

I was not surprised. It was more than I had expected. The cry of
the banshee in an American house was past belief, even in an
atmosphere surcharged with fear and all the horror surrounding a
great crime; and in the secret reckoning I was making against a
person I will not even name at this juncture, I added it as
another suspicious circumstance.



VI

SUSPENSE

To relate the full experiences of the next few days would be to
encumber my narrative with unnecessary detail. 

I did not see Mr. Durand again. My uncle, so amenable in most
matters, proved Inexorable on this point. Till Mr. Durand's good
name should be restored by the coroner's verdict, or such
evidence brought to light as should effectually place him beyond
all suspicion, I was to hold no communication with him of any
sort whatever. I remember the very words with which my uncle
ended the one exhaustive conversation we had on the subject. They
were these: 

"You have fully expressed to Mr. Durand your entire confidence In
his Innocence. That must suffice him for the present. If he Is
the honest gentleman you think him, It will." 

As uncle seldom asserted himself, and as he is very much in
earnest when he does, I made no attempt to combat this
resolution, especially as it met the approval of my better
judgment. But though my power to convey sympathy fell thus under
a yoke, my thoughts and feelings remained free, and these were
all consecrated to the man struggling under an imputation, the
disgrace and humiliation of which he was but poorly prepared, by
his former easy life of social and business prosperity, to meet. 

For Mr. Durand, in spite of the few facts which came up from time
to time in confirmation of his story, continued to be almost
universally regarded as a suspect. 

This seemed to me very unjust. What if no other clue offered—no
other clue, I mean, recognized as such by police or public! Was
he not to have the benefit of whatever threw a doubt on his own
culpability? For instance, that splash of blood on his
shirt-front, which I had seen, and the shape of which I knew! Why
did not the fact that it was a splash and not a spatter (and
spatter it would have been had it spurted there, instead of
falling from above, as he stated), count for more in the minds of
those whose business it was to probe into the very heart of this
crime ? To me, it told such a tale of innocence that I wondered
how a man like the inspector could pass over it. But later I
understood. A single word enlightened me. The stain, it was true,
was In the form of a splash and not a spurt, but a splash would
have been the result of a drop falling from the reeking end of
the stiletto, whether it dislodged itself early or late. And what
was there to prove that this drop had not fallen at the instant
the stiletto was being thrust Into the lantern, instead of after
the escape of the criminal, and the entrance of another man? 

But the mystery of the broken coffee-cups! For that no
explanation seemed to be forthcoming. 

And the still unsolved one of the written warning found in the
murdered woman's hand—a warning which had been deciphered to
read: "Be warned! He means to be at the ball! Expect trouble if—"
Was that to be looked upon as directed against a man who, from
the nature of his projected attempt, would take no one into his
confidence? 

Then the stiletto—a photographic reproduction of which was in all
the papers—was that the kind of instrument which a plain New York
gentleman would be likely to use In a crime of this nature? It
was a marked and unique article, capable, as one would think, of
being easily traced to its owner. Had it been claimed by Mr.
Ramsdell, had it been recognized as one of the many works of art
scattered about the highly-decorated alcove, its employment as a
means of death would have gone only to prove the possibly
unpremeditated nature of the crime, and so been valueless as the
basis of an argument in favor of Mr. Durand's innocence. But Mr.
Ramsdell had disclaimed from the first all knowledge of it,
consequently one could but feel justified in asking whether a man
of Mr. Durand's judgment would choose such an extraordinary
weapon in meditating so startling a crime which from its nature
and circumstance could not fail to attract the attention of the
whole civilized world.

Another argument, advanced by himself and subscribed to by all
his friends, was this: That a dealer in precious stones would be
the last man to seek by any unlawful means to possess so
conspicuous a jewel. For he, better than any one else, would know
the impossibility of disposing of a gem of this distinction in
any market short of the Orient. To which the unanswerable reply
was made that no one attributed to him any such folly; that if he
had planned to possess himself of this great diamond, it was for
the purpose of eliminating it from competition with the one he
had procured for Mr. Smythe; an argument, certainly, which drove
us back on the only plea we had at our command—his hitherto
unblemished reputation and the confidence which was felt In him
by those who knew him. 

But the one circumstance which affected me most at the time, and
which undoubtedly was the source of the greatest confusion to all
minds, whether official or otherwise, was the unexpected
confirmation by experts of Mr. Grey's opinion in regard to the
diamond. His name was not used, indeed it had been kept out of
the papers with the greatest unanimity, but the hint he had given
the inspector at Mr. Ramsdell's ball had been acted upon and, the
proper tests having been made, the stone, for which so many
believed a life to have been risked and another taken, was
declared to be an imitation, fine and successful beyond all
parallel, but still an imitation, of the great and renowned gem
which had passed through Tiffany's hands a twelve-month before: a
decision which fell like a thunderbolt on all such as had seen
the diamond blazing in unapproachable brilliancy on the breast of
the unhappy Mrs. Fairbrother only an hour or two before her
death. 

On me the effect was such that for days I lived in a dream, a
condition that, nevertheless, did not prevent me from starting a
certain little inquiry of my own, of which more hereafter. 

Here let me say that I did not share the general confusion on
this topic. I had my own theory, both as to the cause of this
substitution and the moment when it was made. But the time had
not yet come for me to advance it. I could only stand back and
listen to the suppositions aired by the press, suppositions which
fomented so much private discussion that ere long the one
question most frequently heard in this connection was not who
struck the blow which killed Mrs. Fairbrother (this was a
question which some seemed to think settled), but whose juggling
hand had palmed off the paste for the diamond, and how and when
and where had the jugglery taken place? 

Opinions on this point were, as I have said, many and various.
Some fixed upon the moment of exchange as that very critical and
hardly appreciable one elapsing between the murder and Mr.
Durand's appearance upon the scene. This theory, I need not say,
was advanced by such as believed that while he was not guilty of
Mrs. Fairbrother's murder, lie had been guilty of taking
advantage of the same to rob the body of what, in the terror and
excitement of the moment, he evidently took to be her great gem.
To others, among whom were many eyewitnesses of the event, it
appeared to be a conceded fact that this substitution had been
made prior to the ball and with Mrs. Fairbrother's full
cognizance. The effectual way in which she had wielded her fan
between the glittering ornament on her breast and the inquisitive
glances constantly leveled upon it might at the time have been
due to coquetry, but to them it looked much more like an
expression of fear lest the deception in which she was indulging
should be discovered. No one fixed the time where I did; but
then, no one but myself had watched the scene with the eyes of
love; besides, and this must be remembered, most people, among
whom I ventured to count the police officials, were mainly
interested in proving Mr. Durand guilty, while I, with contrary
mind, was bent on establishing such facts as confirmed the
explanations he had been pleased to give us, explanations which
necessitated a conviction, on Mrs. Fairbrother's part, of the
great value of the jewel she wore, and the consequent
advisability of ridding herself of it temporarily, if, as so many
believed, the full letter of the warning should read: "Be warned,
he means to be at the ball. Expect trouble if you are found
wearing the great diamond." 

True, she may herself have been deceived concerning it.
Unconsciously to herself, she may have been the victim of a
daring fraud on the part of some hanger-on who had access to her
jewels, but, as no such evidence had yet come to life, as she had
no recognized, or, so far as could be learned, secret lover or
dishonest dependent; and, moreover, as no gem of such unusual
value was known to have been offered within the year, here or
abroad, in public or private market, I could not bring myself to
credit this assumption; possibly because I was so ignorant as to
credit another, and a different one,—one which you have already
seen growing in my mind, and which, presumptuous as it was, kept
my courage from failing through all those dreadful days of
enforced waiting and suspense. For I was determined not to
intrude my suggestions, valuable as I considered them, till all
hope was gone of his being righted by the judgment of those who
would not lightly endure the interference of such an
insignificant mote in the great scheme of justice as myself.

The inquest, which might be trusted to bring out all these
doubtful points, had been delayed in anticipation of Mr.
Fairbrother's return. His testimony could not but prove valuable,
if not in fixing the criminal, at least in settling the moot
point as to whether the stone, which the estranged wife had
carried away with her on leaving the house, had been the genuine
one returned to him from Tiffany's or the well-known imitation
now in the hands of the police. He had been located somewhere in
the mountains of lower Colorado, but, strange to say, It had been
found impossible to enter into direct communication with him; nor
was it known whether he was aware as yet of his wife's tragic
death. So affairs went slowly in New York and the case seemed to
come to a standstill, when public opinion was suddenly reawakened
and a more definite turn given to the whole matter by a despatch
from Santa Fe to the Associated Press. This despatch was to the
effect that Abner Fairbrother had passed through that city some
three days before on his way to his new mining camp, the Placide;
that he then showed symptoms of pneumonia, and from advices since
received might be regarded as a very sick man. 

Ill,—well, that explained matters. His silence, which many had
taken for indifference, was that of a man physically disabled and
unfit for exertion of any kind. Ill,—a tragic circumstance which
roused endless conjecture. Was he aware, or was he not aware, of
his wife's death? Had he been taken ill before or after he left
Colorado for New Mexico? Was he suffering mainly from shock, or,
as would appear from his complaint, from a too rapid change of
climate? 

The whole country seethed with excitement, and my poor little
unthought-of, insignificant self burned with impatience, which
only those who have been subjected to a like suspense can
properly estimate. Would the proceedings which were awaited with
so much anxiety be further delayed? Would Mr. Durand remain
indefinitely in durance and under such a cloud of disgrace as
would kill some men and might kill him? Should I be called upon
to endure still longer the suffering which this entailed upon me,
when I thought I knew?

But fortune was less obdurate than I feared. Next morning a
telegraphic statement from Santa Fe settled one of the points of
this great dispute, a statement which you will find detailed at
more length in the following communication, which appeared a few
days later in one of our most enterprising journals. 

It was from a resident correspondent in New Mexico, and was
written, as the editor was careful to say, for his own eyes and
not for the public. He had ventured, however, to give It in full,
knowing the great interest which this whole subject had for his
readers.



VII

NIGHT AND A VOICE

Not to be outdone by the editor, I insert the article here with
all its details, the importance of which I trust I have
anticipated.

SANTA FE, N.M., April --.

Arrived in Santa Fe, I inquired where Abner Fairbrother could be
found. I was told that he was at his mine, sick.

Upon inquiring as to the location of the Placide, I was informed
that it was fifteen miles or so distant in the mountains, and
upon my expressing an intention of going there immediately, I was
given what I thought very unnecessary advice and then directed to
a certain livery stable, where I was told I could get the right
kind of a horse and such equipment as I stood in need of.

I thought I was equipped all right as it was, but I said nothing
and went on to the livery stable. Here I was shown a horse which
I took to at once and was about to mount, when a pair of leggings
was brought to me.

"You will need these for your journey," said the man.

"Journey!" I repeated. "Fifteen miles!"

The livery stable keeper--a half-breed with a peculiarly pleasant
smile--cocked up his shoulders with the remark:

"Three men as willing but as inexperienced as yourself have
attempted the same journey during the last week and they all came
back before they reached the divide. You will probably come back,
too; but I shall give you as fair a start as if I knew you were
going straight through."

"But a woman has done it," said I; "a nurse from the hospital
went up that very road last week."

"Oh, women! they can do anything--women who are nurses. But they
don't start off alone. You are going alone."

"Yes," I remarked grimly. "Newspaper correspondents make their
journeys singly when they can."

"Oh! you are a newspaper correspondent! Why do so many men from
the papers want to see that sick old man? Because he's so rich?"

"Don't you know?" I asked.

He did not seem to.

I wondered at his ignorance but did not enlighten him.

"Follow the trail and ask your way from time to time. All the
goatherds know where the Placide mine is.

Such were his simple instructions as he headed my horse toward
the canyon. But as I drew off, he shouted out:

"If you get stuck, leave it to the horse. He knows more about it
than you do."

With a vague gesture toward the northwest, he turned away,
leaving me in contemplation of the grandest scenery I had yet
come upon in all my travels.

Fifteen miles! but those miles lay through the very heart of the
mountains, ranging anywhere from six to seven thousand feet high.
In ten minutes the city and all signs of city life were out of
sight. In five more I was seemingly as far removed from all
civilization as if I had gone a hundred miles into the
wilderness.

As my horse settled down to work, picking his way, now here and
now there, sometimes over the brown earth, hard and baked as in a
thousand furnaces, and sometimes over the stunted grass whose
needle-like stalks seemed never to have known moisture, I let my
eyes roam to such peaks as were not cut off from view by the
nearer hillsides, and wondered whether the snow which capped them
was whiter than any other or the blue of the sky bluer, that the
two together had the effect upon me of cameo work on a huge and
unapproachable scale.

Certainly the effect of these grand mountains, into which you
leap without any preparation from the streets and market-places
of America's oldest city, is such as is not easily described.

We struck water now and then,--narrow water--courses which my
horse followed in mid stream, and, more interesting yet,
goatherds with their flocks, Mexicans all, who seemed to
understand no English, but were picturesque enough to look at and
a welcome break in the extreme lonesomeness of the way.

I had been told that they would serve me as guides if I felt at
all doubtful of the trail, and in one or two instances they
proved to be of decided help. They could gesticulate, if they
could not speak English, and when I tried them with the one word
Placide they would nod and point out which of the many side
canyons I was to follow. But they always looked up as they did
so, up, up, till I took to looking up, too, and when, after miles
multiplied indefinitely by the winding of the trail, I came out
upon a ledge from which a full view of the opposite range could
be had, and saw fronting me, from the side of one of its
tremendous peaks, the gap of a vast hole not two hundred feet
from the snowline, I knew that, inaccessible as it looked, I was
gazing up at the opening of Abner Fairbrother's new mine, the
Placide.

The experience was a strange one. The two ranges approached so
nearly that it seemed as if a ball might be tossed from one to
the other. But the chasm between was stupendous. I grew dizzy as
I looked downward and saw the endless zigzags yet to be traversed
step by step before the bottom of the canyon could be reached,
and then the equally interminable zigzags up the acclivity
beyond, all of which I must trace, still step by step, before I
could hope to arrive at the camp which, from where I stood,
looked to be almost within hail of my voice.

I have described the mine as a hole. That was all I saw at
first--a great black hole in the dark brown earth of the
mountain-side, from which ran down a still darker streak into the
waste places far below it. But as I looked longer I saw that it
was faced by a ledge cut out of the friable soil, on which I was
now able to descry the pronounced white of two or three tent-tops
and some other signs of life, encouraging enough to the eye of
one whose lot it was to crawl like a fly up that tremendous
mountain-side.

Truly I could understand why those three men, probably newspaper
correspondents like myself, had turned back to Santa Fe, after a
glance from my present outlook. But though I understood I did not
mean to duplicate their retreat.

The sight of those tents, the thought of what one of them
contained, inspired me with new courage, and, releasing my grip
upon the rein, I allowed my patient horse to proceed. Shortly
after this I passed the divide--that is where the water sheds
both ways--then the descent began. It was zigzag, just as the
climb had been, but I preferred the climb. I did not have the
unfathomable spaces so constantly before me, nor was my
imagination so active. It was fixed on heights to be attained
rather than on valleys to roll into. However, I did not roll.

The Mexican saddle held me securely at whatever angle I was
poised, and once the bottom was reached I found that I could
face, with considerable equanimity, the corresponding ascent.
Only, as I saw how steep the climb bade fair to be, I did not see
how I was ever to come down again. Going up was possible, but the
descent--

However, as what goes up must in the course of nature come down,
I put this question aside and gave my horse his head, after
encouraging him with a few blades of grass, which he seemed to
find edible enough, though they had the look and something of the
feel of spun glass.

How we got there you must ask this good animal, who took all the
responsibility and did all the work. I merely clung and balanced,
and at times, when he rounded the end of a zigzag, for instance,
I even shut my eyes, though the prospect was magnificent. At last
even his patience seemed to give out, and he stopped and
trembled. But before I could open my eyes on the abyss beneath he
made another effort. I felt the brush of tree branches across my
face, and, looking up, saw before me the ledge or platform dotted
with tents, at which I had looked with such longing from the
opposite hillsides.

Simultaneously I heard voices, and saw approaching a bronzed and
bearded man with strongly-marked Scotch features and a determined
air.

"The doctor!" I involuntarily exclaimed, with a glance at the
small and curious tent before which he stood guard.

"Yes, the doctor," he answered in unexpectedly good English. "And
who are you? Have you brought the mail and those medicines I sent
for?"

"No," I replied with as propitiatory a smile as I could muster up
in face of his brusk forbidding expression. "I came on my own
errand. I am a representative of the New York--,and I hope you
will not deny me a word with Mr. Fairbrother."

With a gesture I hardly knew how to interpret he took my horse by
the rein and led us on a few steps toward another large tent,
where he motioned me to descend. Then he laid his hand on my
shoulder and, forcing me to meet his eye, said:

"You have made this journey--I believe you said from New York--to
see Mr. Fairbrother. Why?"

"Because Mr. Fairbrother is at present the most sought-for man in
America," I returned boldly. "His wife--you know about his wife--
"

"No. How should I know about his wife? I know what his
temperature is and what his respiration is--but his wife? What
about his wife? He don't know anything about her now himself; he
is not allowed to read letters."

"But you read the papers. You must have known, before you left
Santa Fe, of Mrs. Fairbrother's foul and most mysterious murder
in New York. It has been the theme of two continents for the last
ten days."

He shrugged his shoulders, which might mean anything, and
confined his reply to a repetition of my own words.

"Mrs. Fairbrother murdered!" he exclaimed, but in a suppressed
voice, to which point was given by the cautious look he cast
behind him at the tent which had drawn my attention. "He must not
know it, man. I could not answer for his life if he received the
least shock in his present critical condition. Murdered? When?"

"Ten days ago, at a ball in New York. It was after Mr.
Fairbrother left the city. He was expected to return, after
hearing the news, but he seems to have kept straight on to his
destination. He was not very fond of his wife,--that is, they
have not been living together for the last year. But he could not
help feeling the shock of her death which he must have heard of
somewhere along the route."

"He has said nothing in his delirium to show that he knew it. It
is possible, just possible, that he didn't read the papers. He
could not have been well for days before he reached Santa Fe."

"When were you called in to attend him?"

"The very night after he reached this place. It was thought he
wouldn't live to reach the camp. But he is a man of great pluck.
He held up till his foot touched this platform. Then he
succumbed."

"If he was as sick as that," I muttered, "why did he leave Santa
Fe? He must have known what it would mean to be sick here."

"I don't think he did. This is his first visit to the mine. He
evidently knew nothing of the difficulties of the road. But he
would not stop. He was determined to reach the camp, even after
he had been given a sight of it from the opposite mountain. He
told them that he had once crossed the Sierras in midwinter. But
he wasn't a sick man then."

"Doctor, they don't know who killed his wife."

"He didn't."

"I know, but under such circumstances every fact bearing on the
event is of immense importance. There is one which Mr.
Fairbrother only can make clear. It can be said in a word--"

The grim doctor's eye flashed angrily and I stopped.

"Were you a detective from the district attorney's office in New
York, sent on with special powers to examine him, I should still
say what I am going to say now. While Mr. Fairbrother's
temperature and pulse remain where they now are, no one shall see
him and no one shall talk to him save myself and his nurse."

I turned with a sick look of disappointment toward the road up
which I had so lately come.  "Have I panted, sweltered, trembled,
for three mortal hours on the worst trail a man ever traversed to
go back with nothing for my journey? That seems to me hard lines.
Where is the manager of this mine?"

The doctor pointed toward a man bending over the edge of the
great hole from which, at that moment, a line of Mexicans was
issuing, each with a sack on his back which he flung down before
what looked like a furnace built of clay.

"That's he. Mr. Haines, of Philadelphia. What do you want of
him?"

"Permission to stay the night. Mr. Fairbrother may be better
to-morrow."

"I won't allow it and I am master here, so far as my patient is
concerned. You couldn't stay here without talking, and talking
makes excitement, and excitement is just what he can not stand. A
week from now I will see about it--that is, if my patient
continues to improve. I am not sure that he will."

Let me spend that week here. I'll not talk any more than the
dead. Maybe the manager will let me carry sacks."

"Look here," said the doctor, edging me farther and farther away
from the tent he hardly let out of his sight for a moment.
"You're a canny lad, and shall have your bite and something to
drink before you take your way back. But back you go before
sunset and with this message: No man from any paper north or
south will be received here till I hang out a blue flag. I say
blue, for that is the color of my bandana. When my patient is in
a condition to discuss murder I'll hoist it from his tent-top. It
can be seen from the divide, and if you want to camp there on the
lookout, well and good. As for the police, that's another matter.
I will see them if they come, but they need not expect to talk to
my patient. You may say so down there. It will save scrambling up
this trail to no purpose."

"You may count on me," said I; "trust a New York correspondent to
do the right thing at the right time to head off the boys. But I
doubt if they will believe me."

"In that case I shall have a barricade thrown up fifty feet down
the mountain-side," said he.

"But the mail and your supplies?"

"Oh, the burros can make their way up. We shan't suffer."

"You are certainly master," I remarked.

All this time I had been using my eyes. There was not much to
see, but what there was was romantically interesting. Aside from
the furnace and what was going on there, there was little else
but a sleeping-tent, a cooking-tent, and the small one I had come
on first, which, without the least doubt, contained the sick man.
This last tent was of a peculiar construction and showed the
primitive nature of everything at this height. It consisted
simply of a cloth thrown over a thing like a trapeze. This cloth
did not even come to the ground on either side, but stopped short
a foot or so from the flat mound of adobe which serves as a base
or floor for hut or tent in New Mexico. The rear of the simple
tent abutted on the mountain-side; the opening was toward the
valley. I felt an intense desire to look into this opening,--so
intense that I thought I would venture on an attempt to gratify
it. Scrutinizing the resolute face of the man before me and
flattering myself that I detected signs of humor underlying his
professional bruskness, I asked, somewhat mournfully, if he would
let me go away without so much as a glance at the man I had come
so far to see. "A glimpse would satisfy me I assured him, as the
hint of a twinkle flashed in his eye. "Surely there will be no
harm in that. I'll take it instead of supper."

He smiled, but not encouragingly, and I was feeling very
despondent, indeed, when the canvas on which our eyes were fixed
suddenly shook and the calm figure of a woman stepped out before
us, clad in the simplest garb, but showing in every line of face
and form a character of mingled kindness and shrewdness. She was
evidently on the lookout for the doctor, for she made a sign as
she saw him and returned instantly into the tent.

"Mr. Fairbrother has just fallen asleep," he explained. "It isn't
discipline and I shall have to apologize to Miss Serra, but if
you will promise not to speak nor make the least disturbance I
will let you take the one peep you prefer to supper."

"I promise," said I.

Leading the way to the opening, he whispered a word to the nurse,
then motioned me to look in. The sight was a simple one, but to
me very impressive. The owner of palaces, a man to whom millions
were as thousands to such poor devils as myself, lay on an
improvised bed of evergreens, wrapped in a horse blanket and with
nothing better than another of these rolled up under his head. At
his side sat his nurse on what looked like the uneven stump of a
tree. Close to her hand was a tolerably flat stone, on which I
saw arranged a number of bottles and such other comforts as were
absolutely necessary to a proper care of the sufferer.

That was all. In these few words I have told the whole story. To
be sure, this simple tent, perched seven thousand feet and more
above sea-level, had one advantage which even his great house in
New York could not offer This was the out look. Lying as he did
facing the valley, he had only to open his eyes to catch a full
view of the panorama of sky and mountain stretched out before
him. It was glorious; whether seen at morning, noon or night,
glorious. But I doubt if he would not gladly have exchanged it
for a sight of his home walls.

As I started to go, a stir took place in the blanket wrapped
about his chin, and I caught a glimpse of the iron-gray head and
hollow cheeks of the great financier. He was a very sick man.
Even I could see that. Had I obtained the permission I sought and
been allowed to ask him one of the many questions burning on my
tongue, I should have received only delirium for reply. There was
no reaching that clouded intelligence now, and I felt grateful to
the doctor for convincing me of it.

I told him so and thanked him quite warmly when we were well away
from the tent, and his answer was almost kindly, though he made
no effort to hide his impatience and anxiety to see me go. The
looks he cast at the sun were significant, and, having no wish to
antagonize him and every wish to visit the spot again, I moved
toward my horse with the intention of untying him.

To my surprise the doctor held me back.

"You can't go to-night," said he, "your horse has hurt himself."

It was true. There was something the matter with the animal's
left forefoot. As the doctor lifted it, the manager came up. He
agreed with the doctor. I could not make the descent to Santa Fe
on that horse that night. Did I feel elated? Rather. I had no
wish to descend. Yet I was far from foreseeing what the night was
to bring me.

I was turned over to the manager, but not without a final
injunction from the doctor. "Not a word to any one about your
errand! Not a word about the New York tragedy, as you value Mr.
Fairbrother's life."

"Not a word," said I.

Then he left me.

To see the sun go down and the moon come up from a ledge hung, as
it were, in mid air! The experience was novel--but I refrain. I
have more important matters to relate.

I was given a bunk at the extreme end of the long sleeping-tent,
and turned in with the rest. I expected to sleep, but on finding
that I could catch a sight of the sick tent from under the
canvas, I experienced such fascination in watching this forbidden
spot that midnight came before I had closed my eyes. Then all
desire to sleep left me, for the patient began to moan and
presently to talk, and, the stillness of the solitary height
being something abnormal, I could sometimes catch the very words.
Devoid as they were of all rational meaning, they excited my
curiosity to the burning point; for who could tell if he might
not say something bearing on the mystery?

But that fevered mind had recurred to early scenes and the babble
which came to my ears was all of mining camps in the Rockies and
the dicker of horses. Perhaps the uneasy movement of my horse
pulling at the end of his tether had disturbed him. Perhaps--

But at the inner utterance of the second "perhaps" I found myself
up on my elbow listening with all my ears, and staring with
wide-stretched eyes at the thicket of stunted trees where the
road debouched on the platform. Something was astir there besides
my horse. I could catch sounds of an unmistakable nature. A rider
was coming up the trail.

Slipping back into my place, I turned toward the doctor, who lay
some two or three bunks nearer the opening. He had started up,
too, and in a moment was out of the tent. I do not think he had
observed my action, for it was very dark where I lay and his back
had been turned toward me. As for the others, they slept like the
dead, only they made more noise.

Interested--everything is interesting at such a height--I brought
my eye to bear on the ledge, and soon saw by the limpid light of
a full moon the stiff, short branches of the trees, on which my
gaze was fixed, give way to an advancing horse and rider.

"Halloo!" saluted the doctor in a whisper, which was in itself a
warning. "Easy there! We have sickness in this camp and it's a
late hour for visitors."

"I know?'

The answer was subdued, but earnest.

"I'm the magistrate of this district. I've a question to ask this
sick man, on behalf of the New York Chief of Police, who is a
personal friend of mine. It is connected with--"

"Hush!"

The doctor had seized him by the arm and turned his face away
from the sick tent. Then the two heads came together and an
argument began.

I could not hear a word of it, but their motions were eloquent.
My sympathy was with the magistrate, of course, and I watched
eagerly while he passed a letter over to the doctor, who vainly
strove to read it by the light of the moon. Finding this
impossible, he was. about to return it, when the other struck a
match and lit a lantern hanging from the horn of his saddle. The
two heads came together again, but as quickly separated with
every appearance of irreconcilement, and I was settling back with
sensations of great disappointment, when a sound fell on the
night so unexpected to all concerned that with a common impulse
each eye sought the sick tent.

"Water! will some one give me water?" a voice had cried, quietly
and with none of the delirium which had hitherto rendered it
unnatural.

The doctor started for the tent. There was the quickness of
surprise in his movement and the gesture he made to the
magistrate, as he passed in, reawakened an expectation in my
breast which made me doubly watchful.

Providence was intervening in our favor, and I was not surprised
to see him presently reissue with the nurse, whom he drew into
the shadow of the trees, where they had a short conference. If
she returned alone into the tent after this conference I should
know that the matter was at an end and that the doctor had
decided to maintain his authority against that of the magistrate.
But she remained outside and the magistrate was invited to join
their council; when they again left the shadow of the trees it
was to approach the tent.

The magistrate, who was in the rear, could not have more than
passed the opening, but I thought him far enough inside not to
detect any movement on my part, so I took advantage of the
situation to worm myself out of my corner and across the ledge to
where the tent made a shadow in the moonlight.

Crouching close, and laying my ear against the canvas, I
listened.

The nurse was speaking in a gently persuasive tone. I imagined
her kneeling by the head of the patient and breathing words into
his ear. These were what I heard:

"You love diamonds. I have often noticed that; you look so long
at the ring on your hand. That is why I have let it stay there,
though at times I have feared it would drop off and roll away
over the adobe down the mountain-side. Was I right?"

"Yes, yes." The words came with difficulty, but they were clear
enough. "It's of small value. I like it because--"

He appeared to be too weak to finish.

A pause, during which she seemed to edge nearer to him.

"We all have some pet keepsake," said she. "But I should never
have supposed this stone of yours an inexpensive one. But I
forget that you are the owner of a very large and remarkable
diamond, a diamond that is spoken of sometimes in the papers. Of
course, if you have a gem like that, this one must appear very
small and valueless to you."

"Yes, this is nothing, nothing." And he appeared to turn away his
head.

"Mr. Fairbrother! Pardon me, but I want to tell you something
about that big diamond of yours. You have been in and have not
been able to read your letters, so do not know that your wife has
had some trouble with that diamond. People have said that it is
not a real stone, but a well-executed imitation. May I write to
her that this is a mistake, that it is all you have ever claimed
for it--that is, an unusually large diamond of the first water?"

I listened in amazement. Surely, this was an insidious way to get
at the truth,--a woman's way, but who would say it was not a wise
one, the wisest, perhaps, which could be taken under the
circumstances? What would his reply be? Would it show that he was
as ignorant of his wife's death as was generally believed, both
by those about him here and those who knew him well in New York?
Or would the question convey nothing further to him than the
doubt--in itself an insult of the genuineness of that great stone
which had been his pride?

A murmur--that was all it could be called--broke from his
fever-dried lips and died away in an inarticulate gasp. Then,
suddenly, sharply, a cry broke from him, an intelligible cry, and
we heard him say:

"No imitation! no imitation! It was a sun! a glory! No other like
it! It lit the air! it blazed, it burned! I see it now! I see--"

There the passion succumbed, the strength failed; another murmur,
another, and the great void of night which stretched over--I
might almost say under us--was no more quiet or seemingly
impenetrable than the silence of that moon-enveloped tent

Would he speak again? I did not think so. Would she even try to
make him? I did not think this, either. But I did not know the
woman.

Softly her voice rose again. There was a dominating insistence in
her tones, gentle as they were; the insistence of a healthy mind
which seeks to control a weakened one.

"You do not know of any imitation, then? It was the real stone
you gave her. You are sure of it; you would be ready to swear to
it if--say just yes or no," she finished in gentle urgency.

Evidently he was sinking again into unconsciousness, and she was
just holding him back long enough for the necessary word.

It came slowly and with a dragging intonation, but there was no
mistaking the ring of truth with which he spoke.

"Yes," said he,

When I heard the doctor's voice and felt a movement in the canvas
against which I leaned, I took the warning and stole back
hurriedly to my quarters.

I was scarcely settled, when the same group of three I had before
watched silhouetted itself again against the moonlight. There was
some talk, a mingling and separating of shadows; then the nurse
glided back to her duties and the two men went toward the clump
of trees where the horse had been tethered.

Ten minutes and the doctor was back in his bunk. Was it
imagination, or did I feel his hand on my shoulder before he
finally lay down and composed himself to sleep? I can not say; I
only know that I gave no sign, and that soon all stir ceased in
his direction and I was left to enjoy my triumph and to listen
with anxious interest to the strange and unintelligible sounds
which accompanied the descent of the horseman down the face of
the cliff, and finally to watch with a fascination, which drew me
to my knees, the passage of that sparkling star of light hanging
from his saddle. It crept to and fro across the side of the
opposite mountain as he threaded its endless zigzags and finally
disappeared over the brow into the invisible canyons beyond.

With the disappearance of this beacon came lassitude and sleep,
through whose hazy atmosphere floated wild sentences from the
sick tent, which showed that the patient was back again in
Nevada, quarreling over the price of a horse which was to carry
him beyond the reach of some threatening avalanche.

When next morning I came to depart, the doctor took me by both
hands and looked me straight in the eyes.

"You heard," he said.

"How do you know?" I asked.

"I can tell a satisfied man when I see him," he growled, throwing
down my hands with that same humorous twinkle in his eyes which
had encouraged me from the first.

I made no answer, but I shall remember the lesson.

One detail more. When I stared on my own descent I found why the
leggings, with which I had been provided, were so indispensable.
I was not allowed to ride; indeed, riding down those steep
declivities was impossible. No horse could preserve his balance
with a rider on his back. I slid, so did my horse, and only in
the valley beneath did we come together again.

VIII

ARREST

The success of this interview provoked other attempts on the part
of the reporters who now flocked into the Southwest. Ere long
particulars began to pour in of Mr. Fairbrother's painful journey
south, after his illness set in. The clerk of the hotel in El
Moro, where the great mine-owner's name was found registered at
the time of the murder, told a story which made very good reading
for those who were more interested in the sufferings and
experiences of the millionaire husband of the murdered lady than
in those of the unhappy but comparatively insignificant man upon
whom public opinion had cast the odium of her death.

It seems that when the first news came of the great crime which
had taken place in New York, Mr. Fairbrother was absent from the
hotel on a prospecting tour through the adjacent mountains.
Couriers had been sent after him, and it was one of these who
finally brought him into town. He had been found wandering alone
on horseback among the defiles of an untraveled region, sick and
almost incoherent from fever. Indeed, his condition was such that
neither the courier nor such others as saw him had the heart to
tell him the dreadful news from New York, or even to show him the
papers. To their great relief, he betrayed no curiosity in them.
All he wanted was a berth in the first train going south, and
this was an easy way for them out of a great responsibility. They
listened to his wishes and saw him safely aboard, with such
alacrity and with so many precautions against his being disturbed
that they have never doubted that he left El Moro in total
ignorance, not only of the circumstances of his great
bereavement, but of the bereavement itself.

This ignorance, which he appeared to have carried with him to the
Placide, was regarded by those who knew him best as proving the
truth of the affirmation elicited from him in the pauses of his
delirium of the genuineness of the stone which had passed from
his hands to those of his wife at the time of their separation;
and, further despatches coming in, some private and some
official, but all insisting upon the fact that it would be weeks
before he would be in a condition to submit to any sort of
examination on a subject so painful, the authorities in New York
decided to wait no longer for his testimony, but to proceed at
once with the inquest.

Great as is the temptation to give a detailed account of
proceedings which were of such moment to myself, and to every
word of which I listened with the eagerness of a novice and the
anguish of a woman who sees her lover's reputation at the mercy
of a verdict which may stigmatize him as a possible criminal, I
see no reason for encumbering my narrative with what, for the
most part, would be a mere repetition of facts already known to
you.

Mr. Durand's intimate and suggestive connection with this crime,
the explanations he had to give of this connection, frequently
bizarre and, I must acknowledge, not always convincing,--nothing
could alter these nor change the fact of the undoubted cowardice
he displayed in hiding Mrs. Fairbrother's gloves in my
unfortunate little bag.

As for the mystery of the warning, it remained as much of a
mystery as ever. Nor did any better success follow an attempt to
fix the ownership of the stiletto, though a half-day was
exhausted in an endeavor to show that the latter might have come
into Mr. Durand's possession in some of the many visits he was
shown to have made of late to various curio-shops in and out of
New York City.*

I had expected all this, just as I had expected Mr. Grey to be
absent from the proceedings and his testimony ignored. But this
expectation did not make the ordeal any easier, and when I
noticed the effect of witness after witness leaving the stand
without having improved Mr. Durand's position by a jot or
offering any new clue capable of turning suspicion into other
directions, I felt my spirit harden and my purpose strengthen
till I hardly knew myself. I must have frightened my uncle, for
his hand was always on my arm and his chiding voice in my ear,
bidding me beware, not only for my own sake and his, but for that
of Mr. Durand, whose eye was seldom away from my face.

The verdict, however, was not the one I had so deeply dreaded.
While it did not exonerate Mr. Durand, it did not openly accuse
him, and I was on the point of giving him a smile of
congratulation and renewed hope when I saw my little detective--
the one who had spied the gloves in my bag at the ball--advance
and place his hand upon his arm.

The police had gone a step further than the coroner's jury, and
Mr. Durand was arrested, before my eyes, on a charge of murder.


*Mr. Durand's visits to the curio-shops, as explained by him,
were made with a view of finding a casket in which to place his
diamond. This explanation was looked upon with as much doubt as
the others he had offered where the situation seemed to be of a
compromising character.



IX

THE MOUSE NIBBLES AT THE NET

The next day saw me at police headquarters begging an interview
from the inspector, with the intention of confiding to him a
theory which must either cost me his sympathy or open the way to
a new inquiry, which I felt sure would lead to Mr. Durand's
complete exoneration.

I chose this gentleman for my confidant, from among all those
with whom I had been brought in contact by my position as witness
in a case of this magnitude, first, because he had been present
at the most tragic moment of my life, and secondly, because I was
conscious of a sympathetic bond between us which would insure me
a kind hearing. However ridiculous my idea might appear to him, I
was assured that he would treat me with consideration and not
visit whatever folly I might be guilty of on the head of him for
whom I risked my reputation for good sense.

Nor was I disappointed in this. Inspector Dalzell's air was
fatherly and his tone altogether gentle as, in reply to my
excuses for troubling him with my opinions, he told me that in a
case of such importance he was glad to receive the impressions
even of such a prejudiced little partizan as myself. The word
fired me, and I spoke.

"You consider Mr. Durand guilty, and so do many others, I fear,
in spite of his long record for honesty and uprightness. And why?
Because you will not admit the possibility of another person's
guilt,--a person standing so high in private and public
estimation that the very idea seems preposterous and little short
of insulting to the country of which he is an acknowledged
ornament."

"My dear!"

The inspector had actually risen. His expression and whole
attitude showed shock. But I did not quail; I only subdued my
manner and spoke with quieter conviction.

"I am aware," said I, "how words so daring must impress you. But
listen, sir; listen to what I have to say before you utterly
condemn me. I acknowledge that it is the frightful position into
which I threw Mr. Durand by my officious attempt to right him
which has driven me to make this second effort to fix the crime
on the only other man who had possible access to Mrs. Fairbrother
at the fatal moment. How could I live in inaction? How could you
expect me to weigh for a moment this foreigner's reputation
against that of my own lover? If I have reasons--"

"Reasons!"

"--reasons which would appeal to all; if instead of this person's
having an international reputation at his back he had been a
simple gentleman like Mr. Durand,--would you not consider me
entitled to speak?"

"Certainly, but--"

"You have no confidence in my reasons, Inspector; they may not
weigh against that splash of blood on Mr. Durand's shirt-front,
but such as they are I must give them. But first, it will be
necessary for you to accept for the nonce Mr. Durand's statements
as true. Are you willing to do this?"

"I will try."

"Then, a harder thing yet,--to put some confidence in my
judgment. I saw the man and did not like him long before any
intimation of the evening's tragedy had turned suspicion on any
one. I watched him as I watched others. I saw that he had not
come to the ball to please Mr. Ramsdell or for any pleasure he
himself hoped to reap from social intercourse, but for some
purpose much more important, and that this purpose was connected
with Mrs. Fairbrother's diamond. Indifferent, almost morose
before she came upon the scene, he brightened to a surprising
extent the moment he found himself in her presence. Not because
she was a beautiful woman, for he scarcely honored her face or
even her superb figure with a look. All his glances were centered
on her large fan, which, in swaying to and fro, alternately hid
and revealed the splendor on her breast; and when by chance it
hung suspended for a moment in her forgetful hand and he caught a
full glimpse of the great gem, I perceived such a change in his
face that, if nothing more had occurred that night to give
prominence to this woman and her diamond, I should have carried
home the conviction that interests of no common import lay behind
a feeling so extraordinarily displayed."

"Fanciful, my dear Miss Van Arsdale I Interesting, but fanciful."

"I know. I have not yet touched on fact. But facts are coming,
Inspector."

He stared. Evidently he was not accustomed to hear the law laid
down in this fashion by a midget of my proportions.

"Go on," said he; "happily, I have no clerk here to listen."

"I would not speak if you had. These are words for but one ear as
yet. Not even my uncle suspects the direction of my thoughts."

"Proceed," he again enjoined.

Upon which I plunged into my subject.

"Mrs. Fairbrother wore the real diamond, and no imitation, to the
ball. Of this I feel sure. The bit of glass or paste displayed to
the coroner's jury was bright enough, but it was not the star of
light I saw burning on her breast as she passed me on her way to
the alcove."

"Miss Van Arsdale!"

"The interest which Mr. Durand displayed in it, the marked
excitement into which he was thrown by his first view of its size
and splendor, confirm in my mind the evidence which he gave on
oath (and he is a well-known diamond expert, you know, and must
have been very well aware that he would injure rather than help
his cause by this admission) that at that time he believed the
stone to be real and of immense value. Wearing such a gem, then,
she entered the fatal alcove, and, with a smile on her face,
prepared to employ her fascinations on whoever chanced to come
within their reach. But now something happened. Please let me
tell it my own way. A shout from the driveway, or a bit of snow
thrown against the window, drew her attention to a man standing
below, holding up a note fastened to the end of a whip-handle. I
do not know whether or not you have found that man. If you have--
" The inspector made no sign. "I judge that you have not, so I
may go on with my suppositions. Mrs. Fairbrother took in this
note. She may have expected it and for this reason chose the
alcove to sit in, or it may have been a surprise to her. Probably
we shall never know the whole truth about it; but what we can
know and do, if you are still holding to our compact and viewing
this crime in the light of Mr. Durand's explanations, is that it
made a change in her and made her anxious to rid herself of the
diamond. It has been decided that the hurried scrawl should read,
'Take warning. He means to be at the ball. Expect trouble if you
do not give him the diamond,' or something to that effect. But
why was it passed up to her unfinished? Was the haste too great?
I hardly think so. I believe in another explanation, which points
with startling directness to the possibility that the person
referred to in this broken communication was not Mr. Durand, but
one whom I need not name; and that the reason you have failed to
find the messenger, of whose appearance you have received
definite information, is that you have not looked among the
servants of a certain distinguished visitor in town. Oh," I burst
forth with feverish volubility, as I saw the inspector's lips
open in what could not fail to be a sarcastic utterance, "I know
what you feel tempted to reply. Why should a servant deliver a
warning against his own master? If you will be patient with me
you will soon see; but first I wish to make it clear that Mrs.
Fairbrother, having received this warning just before Mr. Durand
appeared in the alcove,--reckless, scheming woman that she was!--
sought to rid herself of the object against which it was directed
in the way we have temporarily accepted as true. Relying on her
arts, and possibly misconceiving the nature of Mr. Durand's
interest in her, she hands over the diamond hidden in her
rolled-up gloves, which he, without suspicion, carries away with
him, thus linking himself indissolubly to a great crime of which
another was the perpetrator. That other, or so I believe from my
very heart of hearts, was the man I saw leaning against the wall
at the foot of the alcove a few minutes before I passed into the
supper-room."

I stopped with a gasp, hardly able to meet the stern and
forbidding look with which the inspector sought to restrain what
he evidently considered the senseless ravings of a child. But I
had come there to speak, and I hastily proceeded before the
rebuke thus expressed could formulate itself into words.

"I have some excuse for a declaration so monstrous. Perhaps I am
the only person who can satisfy you in regard to a certain fact
about which you have expressed some curiosity. Inspector, have
you ever solved the mystery of the two broken coffee-cups found
amongst the debris at Mrs. Fairbrother's feet? It did not come
out in the inquest, I noticed."

"Not yet," he cried, "but--you can not tell me anything about
them!"

"Possibly not. But I can tell you this: When I reached the
supper-room door that evening I looked back and, providentially
or otherwise--only the future can determine that--detected Mr.
Grey in the act of lifting two cups from a tray left by some
waiter on a table standing just outside the reception-room door.
I did not see where he carried them; I only saw his face turned
toward the alcove; and as there was no other lady there, or
anywhere near there, I have dared to think--"

Here the inspector found speech.

"You saw Mr. Grey lift two cups and turn toward the alcove at a
moment we all know to have been critical? You should have told me
this before. He may be a possible witness."

I scarcely listened. I was too full of my own argument.

"There were other people in the hall, especially at my end of it.
A perfect throng was coming from the billiard-room, where the
dancing had been, and it might easily be that he could both enter
and leave that secluded spot without attracting attention. He had
shown too early and much too unmistakably his lack of interest in
the general company for his every movement to be watched as at
his first arrival. But this is simple conjecture; what I have to
say next is evidence. The stiletto--have you studied it, sir? I
have, from the pictures. It is very quaint; and among the devices
on the handle is one that especially attracted my attention. See!
This is what I mean." And I handed him a drawing which I had made
with some care in expectation of this very interview.

He surveyed it with some astonishment.

"I understand," I pursued in trembling tones, for I was much
affected by my own daring, "that no one has so far succeeded in
tracing this weapon to its owner. Why didn't your experts study
heraldry and the devices of great houses? They would have found
that this one is not unknown in England. I can tell you on whose
blazon it can often be seen, and so could-- Mr. Grey."



X

I ASTONISH THE INSPECTOR

I was not the only one to tremble now. This man of infinite
experience and daily contact with crime had turned as pale as
ever I myself had done in face of a threatening calamity.

"I shall see about this," he muttered, crumpling the paper in his
hand. "But this is a very terrible business you are plunging me
into. I sincerely hope that you are not heedlessly misleading
me."

"I am correct in my facts, if that is what you mean," said I.
"The stiletto is an English heirloom, and bears on its blade,
among other devices, that of Mr. Grey's family on the female
side. But that is not all I want to say. If the blow was struck
to obtain the diamond, the shock of not finding it on his victim
must have been terrible. Now Mr. Grey's heart, if my whole theory
is not utterly false, was set upon obtaining this stone. Your eye
was not on him as mine was when you made your appearance in the
hall with the recovered jewel. He showed astonishment, eagerness,
and a determination which finally led him forward, as you know,
with the request to take the diamond in his hand. Why did he want
to take it in his hand? And why, having taken it, did he drop
it--a diamond supposed to be worth an ordinary man's fortune?
Because he was startled by a cry he chose to consider the
traditional one of his family proclaiming death? Is it likely,
sir? Is it conceivable even that any such cry as we heard could,
in this day and generation, ring through such an assemblage,
unless it came with ventriloquial power from his own lips? You
observed that he turned his back; that his face was hidden from
us. Discreet and reticent as we have all been, and careful in our
criticisms of so bizarre an event, there still must be many to
question the reality of such superstitious fears, and some to ask
if such a sound could be without human agency, and a very guilty
agency, too. Inspector, I am but a child in your estimation, and
I feel my position in this matter much more keenly than you do,
but I would not be true to the man whom I have unwittingly helped
to place in his present unenviable position if I did not tell you
that, in my judgment, this cry was a spurious one, employed by
the gentleman himself as an excuse for dropping the stone."

"And why should he wish to drop the stone?"

"Because of the fraud he meditated. Because it offered him an
opportunity for substituting a false stone for the real. Did you
not notice a change in the aspect of this jewel dating from this
very moment? Did it shine with as much brilliancy in your hand
when you received it back as when you passed it over?"

"Nonsense! I do not know; it is all too absurd for argument." Yet
he did stop to argue, saying in the next breath: "You forget that
the stone has a setting. Would you claim that this gentleman of
family, place and political distinction had planned this hideous
crime with sufficient premeditation to have provided himself with
the exact counterpart of a brooch which it is highly improbable
he ever saw? You would make him out a Cagliostro or something
worse. Miss Van Arsdale, I fear your theory will topple over of
its own weight."

He was very patient with me; he did not show me the door.

"Yet such a substitution took place, and took place that
evening," I insisted. "The bit of paste shown us at the inquest
was never the gem Mrs. Fairbrother wore on entering the alcove.
Besides, where all is sensation, why cavil at one more
improbability? Mr. Grey may have come over to America for no
other reason. He is known as a collector, and when a man has a
passion for diamond-getting--"

"He is known as a collector?"

"In his own country."

"I was not told that."

"Nor I. But I found it out."

"How, my dear child, how?"

"By a cablegram or so."

"You--cabled--his name--to England?"

"No, Inspector; uncle has a code, and I made use of it to ask a
friend in London for a list of the most. noted diamond fanciers
in the country. Mr. Grey's name was third on the list."

He gave me a look in which admiration was strangely blended with
doubt and apprehension.

"You are making a brave struggle," said he, "but it is a hopeless
one."

"I have one more confidence to repose in you. The nurse who has
charge of Miss Grey was in my class in the hospital. We love each
other, and to her I dared appeal on one point. Inspector--" here
my voice unconsciously fell as he impetuously drew nearer--"a
note was sent from that sick chamber on the night of the ball,--a
note surreptitiously written by Miss Grey, while the nurse was in
an adjoining room. The messenger was Mr. Grey's valet, and its
destination the house in which her father was enjoying his
position as chief guest. She says that it was meant for him, but
I have dared to think that the valet would tell a different
story. My friend did not see what her patient wrote, but she
acknowledged that if her patient wrote more than two words the
result must have been an unintelligible scrawl, since she was too
weak to hold a pencil firmly, and so nearly blind that she would
have had to feel her way over the paper."

The inspector started, and, rising hastily, went to his desk,
from which he presently brought the scrap of paper which had
already figured in the inquest as the mysterious communication
taken from Mrs. Fairbrother's hand by the coroner. Pressing it
out flat, he took another look at it, then glanced up in visible
discomposure.

"It has always looked to us as if written in the dark, by an
agitated hand; but--"

I said nothing; the broken and unfinished scrawl was sufficiently
eloquent.

"Did your friend declare Miss Grey to have written with a pencil
and on a small piece of unruled paper?"

"Yes, the pencil was at her bedside; the paper was torn from a
book which lay there. She did not put the note when written in an
envelope, but gave it to the valet just as it was. He is an old
man and had come to her room for some final orders."

"The nurse saw all this? Has she that book?"

"No, it went out next morning, with the scraps. It was some
pamphlet, I believe."

The inspector turned the morsel of paper over and over in his
hand.

"What is this nurse's name?"

"Henrietta Pierson."

"Does she share your doubts?"

"I can not say."

"You have seen her often?"

"No, only the one time."

"Is she discreet?"

"Very. On this subject she will be like the grave unless forced
by you to speak."

"And Miss Grey?"

"She is still ill, too ill to be disturbed by questions,
especially on so delicate a topic. But she is getting well fast.
Her father's fears as we heard them expressed on one memorable
occasion were ill founded, sir."

Slowly the inspector inserted this scrap of paper between the
folds of his pocketbook. He did not give me another look, though
I stood trembling before him. Was he in any way convinced or was
he simply seeking for the most considerate way in which to
dismiss me and my abominable theory? I could not gather his
intentions from his expression, and was feeling very faint and
heart-sick when he suddenly turned upon me with the remark:

"A girl as ill as you say Miss Grey was must have had some very
pressing matter on her mind to attempt to write and send a
message under such difficulties. According to your idea, she had
some notion of her father's designs and wished to warn Mrs.
Fairbrother against them. But don't you see that such conduct as
this would be preposterous, nay, unparalleled in persons of their
distinction? You must find some other explanation for Miss Grey's
seemingly mysterious action, and I an agent of crime other than
one of England's most reputable statesmen."

"So that Mr. Durand is shown the same consideration, I am
content," said I. "It is the truth and the truth only I desire. I
am willing to trust my cause with you."

He looked none too grateful for this confidence. Indeed, now that
I look back on this scene, I do not wonder that he shrank from
the responsibility thus foisted upon him.

"What do you want me to do?" he asked.

"Prove something. Prove that I am altogether wrong or altogether
right. Or if proof is not possible, pray allow me the privilege
of doing what I can myself to clear up the matter."

"You?"

There was apprehension, disapprobation, almost menace in his
tone. I bore it with as steady and modest a glance as possible,
saying, when I thought he was about to speak again:

"I will do nothing without your sanction. I realize the dangers
of this inquiry and the disgrace that would follow if our attempt
was suspected before proof reached a point sufficient to justify
it. It is not an open attack I meditate, but one--"

Here I whispered in his ear for several minutes. when I had
finished he gave me a prolonged stare, then he laid his hand on
my head.

"You are a little wonder," he declared. "But your ideas are very
quixotic, very. However," he added, suddenly growing grave,
"something, I must admit, may be excused a young girl who finds
herself forced to choose between the guilt of her lover and that
of a man esteemed great by the world, but altogether removed from
her and her natural sympathies."

"You acknowledge, then, that it lies between these two?"

"I see no third," said he.

I drew a breath of relief.

"Don't deceive yourself, Miss Van Arsdale; it is not among the
possibilities that Mr. Grey has had any connection with this
crime. He is an eccentric man, that's all."

"But--but--"

"I shall do my duty. I shall satisfy you and myself on certain
points, and if--" I hardly breathed "--there is the least doubt,
I will see you again and--"

The change he saw in me frightened away the end of his sentence.
Turning upon me with some severity, he declared: "There are nine
hundred and ninety-nine chances in a thousand that my next word
to you will be to prepare yourself for Mr. Durand's arraignment
and trial. But an infinitesimal chance remains to the contrary.
If you choose to trust to it, I can only admire your pluck and
the great confidence you show in your unfortunate lover."

And with this half-hearted encouragement I was forced to be
content, not only for that day, but for many days, when--



XI

THE INSPECTOR ASTONISHES ME


But before I proceed to relate what happened at the end of those
two weeks, I must say a word or two in regard to what happened
during them.

Nothing happened to improve Mr. Durand's position, and nothing
openly to compromise Mr. Grey's. Mr. Fairbrother, from whose
testimony many of us hoped something would yet be gleaned
calculated to give a turn to the suspicion now centered on one
man, continued ill in New Mexico; and all that could be learned
from him of any importance was contained in a short letter
dictated from his bed, in which he affirmed that the diamond,
when it left him, was in a unique setting procured by himself in
France; that he knew of no other jewel similarly mounted, and
that if the false gem was set according to his own description,
the probabilities were that the imitation stone had been put in
place of the real one under his wife's direction and in some
workshop in New York, as she was not the woman to take the
trouble to send abroad for anything she could get done in this
country. The description followed. It coincided with the one we
all knew.

This was something of a blow to me. Public opinion would
naturally reflect that of the husband, and it would require very
strong evidence indeed to combat a logical supposition of this
kind with one so forced and seemingly extravagant as that upon
which my own theory was based. Yet truth often transcends
imagination, and, having confidence in the inspector's integrity,
I subdued my impatience for a week, almost for two, when my
suspense and rapidly culminating dread of some action being taken
against Mr. Durand were suddenly cut short by a message from the
inspector, followed by his speedy presence in my uncle's house.

We have a little room on our parlor floor, very snug and
secluded, and in this room I received him. Seldom have I dreaded
a meeting more and seldom have I been met with greater kindness
and consideration. He was so kind that I feared he had only
disappointing news to communicate, but his first words reassured
me. He said:

"I have come to you on a matter of importance. We have found
enough truth in the suppositions you advanced at our last
interview to warrant us in the attempt you yourself proposed for
the elucidation of this mystery. That this is the most risky and
altogether the most unpleasant duty which I have encountered
during my several years of service, I am willing to acknowledge
to one so sensible and at the same time of so much modesty as
yourself. This English gentleman has a reputation which lifts him
far above any unworthy suspicion, and were it not for the
favorable impression made upon us by Mr. Durand in a long talk we
had with him last night, I would sooner resign my place than
pursue this matter against him. Success would create a horror on
both sides the water unprecedented during my career, while
failure would bring down ridicule on us which would destroy the
prestige of the whole force. Do you see my difficulty, Miss Van
Arsdale? We can not even approach this haughty and highly
reputable Englishman with questions without calling down on us
the wrath of the whole English nation. We must be sure before we
make a move, and for us to be sure where the evidence is all
circumstantial, I know of no better plan than the one you were
pleased to suggest, which, at the time, I was pleased to call
quixotic."

Drawing a long breath I surveyed him timidly. Never had I so
realized my presumption or experienced such a thrill of joy in my
frightened yet elated heart. They believed in Anson's innocence
and they trusted me. Insignificant as I was, it was to my
exertions this great result was due. As I realized this, I felt
my heart swell and my throat close. In despair of speaking I held
out my hands. He took them kindly and seemed to be quite
satisfied.

"Such a little, trembling, tear-filled Amazon!" he cried. "Shall
you have courage to undertake the task before you? If not--"

"Oh, but I have," said I. "It is your goodness and the surprise
of it all which unnerves me. I can go through what we have
planned if you think the secret of my personality and interest in
Mr. Durand can be kept from the people I go among."

"It can if you will follow our advice implicitly. You say that
you know the doctor and that he stands ready to recommend you in
case Miss Pierson withdraws her services."

"Yes, he is eager to give me a chance. He was a college mate of
my father's."

"How will you explain to him your wish to enter upon your duties
under another name?"

"Very simply. I have already told him that the publicity given my
name in the late proceedings has made me very uncomfortable; that
my first case of nursing would require all my self-possession and
that if he did not think it wrong I should like to go to it under
my mother's name. He made no dissent and I think I can persuade
him that I would do much better work as Miss Ayers than as the
too well-known Miss Van Arsdale."

"You have great powers of persuasion. But may you not meet people
at the hotel who know you?"

"I shall try to avoid people; and, if my identity is discovered,
its effect or non-effect upon one we find it difficult to mention
will give us our clue. If he has no guilty interest in the crime,
my connection with it as a witness will not disturb him. Besides,
two days of unsuspicious acceptance of me as Miss Grey's nurse
are all I want. I shall take immediate opportunity, I assure you,
to make the test I mentioned. But how much confidence you will
have to repose in me! I comprehend all the importance of my
undertaking, and shall work as if my honor, as well as yours,
were at stake."

"I am sure you will." Then for the first time in my life I was
glad that I was small and plain rather than tall and fascinating
like so many of my friends, for he said: "If you had been a
triumphant beauty, depending on your charms as a woman to win
people to your will, we should never have listened to your
proposition or risked our reputation in your hands. It is your
wit, your earnestness and your quiet determination which have
impressed us. You see I speak plainly. I do so because I respect
you. And now to business."

Details followed. After these were well understood between us, I
ventured to say: "Do you object--would it be asking too much--if
I requested some enlightenment as to what facts you have
discovered about Mr. Grey which go to substantiate my theory? I
might work more intelligently."

"No, Miss Van Arsdale, you would not work more intelligently, and
you know it. But you have the natural curiosity of one whose very
heart is bound up in this business. I could deny you what you ask
but I won't, for I want you to work with quiet confidence, which
you would not do if your mind were taken up with doubts and
questions. Miss Van Arsdale, one surmise of yours was correct. A
man was sent that night to the Ramsdell house with a note from
Miss Grey. We know this because he boasted of it to one of the
bell-boys before he went out, saying that he was going to have a
glimpse of one of the swellest parties of the season. It is also
true that this man was Mr. Grey's valet, an old servant who came
over with him from England. But what adds weight to all this and
makes us regard the whole affair with suspicion, is the
additional fact that this man received his dismissal the
following morning and has not been seen since by any one we could
reach. This looks bad to begin with, like the suppression of
evidence, you know. Then Mr. Grey has not been the same man since
that night. He is full of care and this care is not entirely in
connection with his daughter, who is doing very well and bids
fair to be up in a few days. But all this would be nothing if we
had not received advices from England which prove that Mr. Grey's
visit here has an element of mystery in it. There was every
reason for his remaining in his own country, where a political
crisis is approaching, yet he crossed the water, bringing his
sickly daughter with him. The explanation as volunteered by one
who knew him well was this: That only his desire to see or
acquire some precious object for his collection could have taken
him across the ocean at this time, nothing else rivaling his
interest in governmental affairs. Still this would be nothing if
a stiletto similar to the one employed in this crime had not once
formed part of a collection of curios belonging to a cousin of
his whom he often visited. This stiletto has been missing for
some time, stolen, as the owner declared, by some unknown person.
All this looks bad enough, but when I tell you that a week before
the fatal ball at Mr. Ramsdell's, Mr. Grey made a tour of the
jewelers on Broadway and, with the pretext of buying a diamond
for his daughter, entered into a talk about famous stones, ending
always with some question about the Fairbrother gem, you will see
that his interest in that stone is established and that it only
remains for us to discover if that interest is a guilty one. I
can not believe this possible, but you have our leave to make
your experiment and see. Only do not count too much on his
superstition. If he is the deep-dyed criminal you imagine, the
cry which startled us all at a certain critical instant was
raised by himself and for the purpose you suggested. None of the
sensitiveness often shown by a man who has been surprised into
crime will be his. Relying on his reputation and the prestige of
his great name, he will, if he thinks himself under fire, face
every shock unmoved."

"I see; I understand. He must believe himself all alone; then,
the natural man may appear. I thank you, Inspector. That idea is
of inestimable value to me, and I shall act on it. I do not say
immediately; not on the first day, and possibly not on the
second, but as soon as opportunity offers for my doing what I
have planned with any chance of success. And now, advise me how
to circumvent my uncle and aunt, who must never know to what an
undertaking I have committed myself."

Inspector Dalzell spared me another fifteen minutes, and this
last detail was arranged. Then he rose to go. As he turned from
me he said:

"To-morrow?"

And I answered with a full heart, but a voice clear as my
purpose:

"To-morrow."



XII

ALMOST

"This is your patient. Your new nurse, my dear. What did you say
your name is? Miss Ayers?"

"Yes, Mr. Grey, Alice Ayers."

"Oh, what a sweet name!"

This expressive greeting, from the patient herself, was the first
heart-sting I received,--a sting which brought a flush into my
cheek which I would fain have kept down.

"Since a change of nurses was necessary, I am glad they sent me
one like you," the feeble, but musical voice went on, and I saw a
wasted but eager hand stretched out.

In a whirl of strong feeling I advanced to take it. I had not
counted on such a reception. I had not expected any bond of
congeniality to spring up between this high-feeling English girl
and myself to make my purpose hateful to me. Yet, as I stood
there looking down at her bright if wasted face, I felt that it
would be very easy to love so gentle and cordial a being, and
dreaded raising my eyes to the gentleman at my side lest I should
see something in him to hamper me, and make this attempt, which I
had undertaken in such loyalty of spirit, a misery to myself and
ineffectual to the man I had hoped to save by it. When I did look
up and catch the first beams of Mr. Grey's keen blue eyes fixed
inquiringly on me, I neither knew what to think nor how to act.
He was tall and firmly knit, and had an intellectual aspect
altogether. I was conscious of regarding him with a decided
feeling of awe, and found myself forgetting why I had come there,
and what my suspicions were,--suspicions which had carried hope
with them, hope for myself and hope for my lover, who would never
escape the opprobrium, even if he did the punishment, of this
great crime, were this, the only other person who could possibly
be associated with it, found to be the fine, clear-souled man he
appeared to be in this my first interview with him.

Perceiving very soon that his apprehensions in my regard were
limited to a fear lest I should not feel at ease in my new home
under the restraint of a presence more accustomed to intimidate
than attract strangers, I threw aside all doubts of myself and
met the advances of both father and daughter with that quiet
confidence which my position there demanded.

The result both gratified and grieved me. As a nurse entering on
her first case I was happy; as a woman with an ulterior object in
view verging on the audacious and unspeakable, I was wretched and
regretful and just a little shaken in the conviction which had
hitherto upheld me.

I was therefore but poorly prepared to meet the ordeal which
awaited me, when, a little later in the day, Mr. Grey called me
into the adjoining room, and, after saying that it would afford
him great relief to go out for an hour or so, asked if I were
afraid to be left alone with my patient.

"O no, sir--" I began, but stopped in secret dismay. I was
afraid, but not on account of her condition; rather on account of
my own. What if I should be led into betraying my feelings on
finding myself under no other eye than her own! What if the
temptation to probe her poor sick mind should prove stronger than
my duty toward her as a nurse!

My tones were hesitating but Mr. Grey paid little heed; his mind
was too fixed on what he wished to say himself.

"Before I go," said he, "I have a request to make--I may as well
say a caution to give you. Do not, I pray, either now or at any
future time, carry or allow any one else to carry newspapers into
Miss Grey's room. They are just now too alarming. There has been,
as you know, a dreadful murder in this city. If she caught one
glimpse of the headlines, or saw so much as the name of
Fairbrother--which--which is a name she knows, the result might
be very hurtful to her. She is not only extremely sensitive from
illness but from temperament. Will you be careful?"

"I shall be careful."

It was such an effort for me to say these words, to say anything
in the state of mind into which I had been thrown by his
unexpected allusion to this subject, that I unfortunately drew
his attention to myself and it was with what I felt to be a
glance of doubt that he added with decided emphasis:

"You must consider this whole subject as a forbidden one in this
family. Only cheerful topics are suitable for the sick-room. If
Miss Grey attempts to introduce any other, stop her. Do not let
her talk about anything which will not be conducive to her speedy
recovery. These are the only instructions I have to give you; all
others must come from her physician."

I made some reply with as little show of emotion as possible. It
seemed to satisfy him, for his face cleared as he kindly
observed:

"You have a very trustworthy look for one so young. I shall rest
easy while you are with her, and I shall expect you to be always
with her when I am not. Every moment, mind. She is never to be
left alone with gossiping servants. If a word is mentioned in her
hearing about this crime which seems to be in everybody's mouth,
I shall feel forced, greatly as I should regret the fad, to blame
you."

This was a heart-stroke, but I kept up bravely, changing color
perhaps, but not to such a marked degree as to arouse any deeper
suspicion in his mind than that I had been wounded in my amour
propre.

"She shall be well guarded," said I. "You may trust me to keep
from her all avoidable knowledge of this crime."

He bowed and I was about to leave his presence, when he detained
me by remarking with the air of one who felt that some
explanation was necessary:

"I was at the ball where this crime took place. Naturally it has
made a deep impression on me and would on her if she heard of
it."

"Assuredly," I murmured, wondering if he would say more and how I
should have the courage to stand there and listen if he did.

"It is the first time I have ever come in contact with crime," he
went on with what, in one of his reserved nature, seemed a hardly
natural insistence. "I could well have been spared the
experience. A tragedy with which one has been even thus remotely
connected produces a lasting effect upon the mind."

"Oh yes, oh yes!" I murmured, edging involuntarily toward the
door. Did I not know? Had I not been there, too; I, little I,
whom he stood gazing down upon from such a height, little
realizing the fatality which united us and, what was even a more
overwhelming thought to me at the moment, the fact that of all
persons in the world the shrinking little being, into whose eyes
he was then looking, was, perhaps, his greatest enemy and the one
person, great or small, from whom he had the most to fear.

But I was no enemy to his gentle daughter and the relief I felt
at finding myself thus cut off by my own promise from even the
remotest communication with her on this forbidden subject was
genuine and sincere.

But the father! What was I to think of the father? Alas! I could
have but one thought, admirable as he appeared in all lights save
the one in which his too evident connection with this crime had
placed him. I spent the hours of the afternoon in alternately
watching the sleeping face of my patient, too sweetly calm in its
repose, or so it seemed, for the mind beneath to harbor such
doubts as were shown in the warning I had ascribed to her, and
vain efforts to explain by any other hypothesis than that of
guilt, the extraordinary evidence which linked this man of great
affairs and the loftiest repute to a crime involving both theft
and murder.

Nor did the struggle end that night. It was renewed with still
greater positiveness the next day, as I witnessed the glances
which from time to time passed between this father and
daughter,--glances full of doubt and question on both sides, but
not exactly such doubt or such question as my suspicions called
for. Or so I thought, and spent another day or two hesitating
very much over my duty, when, coming unexpectedly upon Mr. Grey
one evening, I felt all my doubts revive in view of the
extraordinary expression of dread--I might with still greater
truth say fear--which informed his features and made them, to my
unaccustomed eyes, almost unrecognizable.

He was sitting at his desk in reverie over some papers which he
seemed not to have touched for hours, and when, at some movement
I made, he started up and met my eye, I could swear that his
cheek was pale, the firm carriage of his body shaken, and the
whole man a victim to some strong and secret apprehension he
vainly sought to hide. when I ventured to tell him what I wanted,
he made an effort and pulled himself together, but I had seen him
with his mask off, and his usually calm visage and self-possessed
mien could not again deceive me.

My duties kept me mainly at Miss Grey's bedside, but I had been
provided with a little room across the hall, and to this room I
retired very soon after this, for rest and a necessary
understanding with myself.

For, in spite of this experience and my now settled convictions,
my purpose required whetting. The indescribable charm, the
extreme refinement and nobility of manner observable in both Mr.
Grey and his daughter were producing their effect. I felt guilty;
constrained. whatever my convictions, the impetus to act was
leaving me. How could I recover it? By thinking of Anson Durand
and his present disgraceful position.

Anson Durand! Oh, how the feeling surged up in my breast as that
name slipped from my lips on crossing the threshold of my little
room! Anson Durand, whom I believed innocent, whom I loved, but
whom I was betraying with every moment of hesitation in which I
allowed myself to indulge! what if the Honorable Mr. Grey is an
eminent statesman, a dignified, scholarly, and to all appearance,
high-minded man? what if my patient is sweet, dove-eyed and
affectionate? Had not Anson qualities as excellent in their way,
rights as certain, and a hold upon myself superior to any claims
which another might advance? Drawing a much-crumpled little note
from my pocket, I eagerly read it. It was the only one I had of
his writing, the only letter he had ever written me. I had
already re-read it a hundred times, but as I once more repeated
to myself its well-known lines, I felt my heart grow strong and
fixed in the determination which had brought me into this family.

Restoring the letter to its place, I opened my gripsack and from
its inmost recesses drew forth an object which I had no sooner in
hand than a natural sense of disquietude led me to glance
apprehensively, first at the door, then at the window, though I
had locked the one and shaded the other. It seemed as if some
other eye besides my own must be gazing at what I held so
gingerly in hand; that the walls were watching me, if nothing
else, and the sensation this produced was so exactly like that of
guilt (or what I imagined to be guilt), that I was forced to
repeat once more to myself that it was not a good man's overthrow
I sought, or even a bad man's immunity from punishment, but the
truth, the absolute truth. No shame could equal that which I
should feel if, by any over-delicacy now, I failed to save the
man who trusted me.

The article which I held--have you guessed it?--was the stiletto
with which Mrs. Fairbrother had been killed. It had been
intrusted to me by the police for a definite purpose. The time
for testing that purpose had come, or so nearly come, that I felt
I must be thinking about the necessary ways and means.

Unwinding the folds of tissue paper in which the stiletto was
wrapped, I scrutinized the weapon very carefully. Hitherto, I had
seen only pictures of it, now, I had the article itself in my
hand. It was not a natural one for a young woman to hold, a woman
whose taste ran more toward healing than inflicting wounds, but I
forced myself to forget why the end of its blade was rusty, and
looked mainly at the devices which ornamented the handle. I had
not been mistaken in them. They belonged to the house of Grey,
and to none other. It was a legitimate inquiry I had undertaken.
However the matter ended, I should always have these historic
devices for my excuse.

My plan was to lay this dagger on Mr. Grey's desk at a moment
when he would be sure to see it and I to see him. If he betrayed
a guilty knowledge of this fatal steel; if, unconscious of my
presence, he showed surprise and apprehension,--then we should
know how to proceed; justice would be loosed from constraint and
the police feel at liberty to approach him. It was a delicate
task, this. I realized how delicate, when I had thrust the
stiletto out of sight under my nurse's apron and started to cross
the hall. Should I find the library clear? Would the opportunity
be given me to approach his desk, or should I have to carry this
guilty witness of a world-famous crime on into Miss Grey's room,
and with its unholy outline pressing a semblance of itself upon
my breast, sit at that innocent pillow, meet those innocent eyes,
and answer the gentle inquiries which now and then fell from the
sweetest lips I have ever seen smile into the face of a lonely,
preoccupied stranger?

The arrangement of the rooms was such as made it necessary for me
to pass through this sittting-room in order to reach my patient's
bedroom.

With careful tread, so timed as not to appear stealthy, I
accordingly advanced and pushed open the door. The room was
empty. Mr. Grey was still with his daughter and I could cross the
floor without fear. But never had I entered upon a task requiring
more courage or one more obnoxious to my natural instincts. I
hated each step I took, but I loved the man for whom I took those
steps, and moved resolutely on. Only, as I reached the chair in
which Mr. Grey was accustomed to sit, I found that it was easier
to plan an action than to carry it out. Home life and the
domestic virtues had always appealed to me more than a man's
greatness. The position which this man held in his own country,
his usefulness there, even his prestige as statesman and scholar,
were facts, but very dreamy facts, to me, while his feelings as a
father, the place he held in his daughter's heart--these were
real to me, these I could understand; and it was of these and not
of his place as a man, that this his favorite seat spoke to me.
How often had I beheld him sit by the hour with his eye on the
door behind which his one darling lay ill! Even now, it was easy
for me to recall his face as I had sometimes caught a glimpse of
it through the crack of the suddenly opened door, and I felt my
breast heave and my hand falter as I drew forth the stiletto and
moved to place it where his eye would fall upon it on his leaving
his daughter's bedside.

But my hand returned quickly to my breast and fell hack again
empty. A pile of letters lay before me on the open lid of the
desk. The top one was addressed to me with the word "Important"
written in the corner. I did not know the writing, but I felt
that I should open and read this letter before committing myself
or those who stood back of me to this desperate undertaking.

Glancing behind me and seeing that the door into Miss Grey's room
was ajar, I caught up this letter and rushed with it back into my
own room. As I surmised, it was from the inspector, and as I read
it I realized that I had received it not one moment too soon. In
language purposely non-committal, but of a meaning not to be
mistaken, it advised me that some unforeseen facts had come to
light which altered all former suspicions and made the little
surprise I had planned no longer necessary.

There was no allusion to Mr. Durand but the final sentence ran:

"Drop all care and give your undivided attention to your
patient."



XIII

THE MISSING RECOMMENDATION

My patient slept that night, but I did not. The shock given by
this sudden cry of Halt! at the very moment I was about to make
my great move, the uncertainty as to what it meant and my doubt
of its effect upon Mr. Durand's position, put me on the anxious
seat and kept my thoughts fully occupied till morning.

I was very tired and must have shown it, when, with the first
rays of a very meager sun, Miss Grey softly unclosed her eyes and
found me looking at her, for her smile had a sweet compassion in
it, and she said as she pressed my hand:

"You must have watched me all night. I never saw any one look so
tired,--or so good," she softly finished.

I had rather she had not uttered that last phrase. It did not fit
me at the moment,--did not fit me, perhaps, at any time. Good! I!
when my thoughts had not been with her, but with Mr. Durand; when
the dominating feeling in my breast was not that of relief, but a
vague regret that I had not been allowed to make my great test
and so establish, to my own satisfaction, at least, the perfect
innocence of my lover even at the cost of untold anguish to this
confiding girl upon whose gentle spirit the very thought of crime
would cast a deadly blight.

I must have flushed; certainly I showed some embarrassment, for
her eyes brightened with shy laughter as she whispered:

"You do not like to be praised,--another of your virtues. You
have too many. I have only one--I love my friends."

She did. One could see that love was life to her.

For an instant I trembled. How near I had been to wrecking this
gentle soul! Was she safe yet? I was not sure. My own doubts were
not satisfied. I awaited the papers with feverish impatience.
They should contain news. News of what? Ah, that was the
question!

"You will let me see my mail this morning, will you not?" she
asked, as I busied myself about her.

"That is for the doctor to say," I smiled. "You are certainly
better this morning."

"It is so hard for me not to be able to read his letters, or to
write a word to relieve his anxiety."

Thus she told me her heart's secret, and unconsciously added
another burden to my already too heavy load.

I was on my way to give some orders about my patient's breakfast,
when Mr. Grey came into the sitting-room and met me face to face.
He had a newspaper in his hand and my heart stood still as I
noted his altered looks and disturbed manner. Were these due to
anything he had found in those columns? It was with difficulty
that I kept my eyes from the paper which he held in such a manner
as to disclose its glaring head-lines. These I dared not read
with his eyes fixed on mine.

"How is Miss Grey? How is my daughter?" he asked in great haste
and uneasiness. "Is she better this morning, or--worse?"

"Better," I assured him, and was greatly astonished to see his
brow instantly clear.

"Really?" he asked. "You really consider her better? The doctors
say so' but I have not very much faith in doctors in a case like
this," he added.

"I have seen no reason to distrust them," I protested. "Miss
Grey's illness, while severe, does not appear to be of an
alarming nature. But then I have had very little experience out
of the hospital. I am young yet, Mr. Grey."

He looked as if he quite agreed with me in this estimate of
myself, and, with a brow still clouded, passed into his
daughter's room, the paper in his hand. Before I joined them I
found and scanned another journal. Expecting great things, I was
both surprised and disappointed to find only a small paragraph
devoted to the Fairbrother case. In this it was stated that the
authorities hoped for new light on this mystery as soon as they
had located a certain witness, whose connection with the crime
they had just discovered. No more, no less than was contained in
Inspector Dalzell's letter. How could I bear it,--the suspense,
the doubt,--and do my duty to my patient! Happily, I had no
choice. I had been adjudged equal to this business and I must
prove myself to be so. Perhaps my courage would revive after I
had had my breakfast; perhaps then I should be able to fix upon
the identity of the new witness,--something which I found myself
incapable of at this moment.

These thoughts were on my mind as I crossed the rooms on my way
back to Miss Grey's bedside. By the time I reached her door I was
outwardly calm, as her first words showed:

"Oh, the cheerful smile! It makes me feel better in spite of
myself."

If she could have seen into my heart!

Mr. Grey, who was leaning over the foot of the bed, cast me a
quick glance which was not without its suspicion. Had he detected
me playing a part, or were such doubts as he displayed the
product simply of his own uneasiness? I was not able to decide,
and, with this unanswered question added to the number already
troubling me, I was forced to face the day which, for aught I
knew, might be the precursor of many others equally trying and
unsatisfactory.

But help was near. Before noon I received a message from my uncle
to the effect that if I could be spared he would be glad to see
me at his home as near three o'clock as possible. What could he
want of me? I could not guess, and it was with great inner
perturbation that, having won Mr. Grey's permission, I responded
to his summons.

I found my uncle awaiting me in a carriage before his own door,
and I took my seat at his side without the least idea of his
purpose. I supposed that he had planned this ride that he might
talk to me unreservedly and without fear of interruption. But I
soon saw that he had some very different object in view, for not
only did he start down town instead of up, but his conversation,
such as it was, confined itself to generalities and studiously
avoided the one topic of supreme interest to us both.

At last, as we turned into Bleecker Street, I let my astonishment
and perplexity appear.

"Where are we bound?" I asked. "It can not be that you are taking
me to see Mr. Durand?"

"No," said he, and said no more.

"Ah, Police Headquarters!" I faltered as the carriage made
another turn and drew up before a building I had reason to
remember. "Uncle, what am I to do here?"

"See a friend," he answered, as he helped me to alight. Then as I
followed him in some bewilderment, he whispered in my ear:
"Inspector Dalzell. He wants a few minutes conversation with
you."

Oh, the weight which fell from my shoulders at these words! I was
to hear, then, what had intervened between me and my purpose. The
wearing night I had anticipated was to be lightened with some
small spark of knowledge. I had confidence enough in the
kind-hearted inspector to be sure of that. I caught at my uncle's
arm and squeezed it delightedly, quite oblivious of the curious
glances I must have received from the various officials we passed
on our way to the inspector's office.

We found him waiting for us, and I experienced such pleasure at
sight of his kind and earnest face that I hardly noticed uncle's
sly retreat till the door closed behind him.

"Oh, Inspector, what has happened?" I impetuously exclaimed in
answer to his greeting. "Something that will help Mr. Durand
without disturbing Mr. Grey--have you as good news for me as
that?"

"Hardly," he answered, moving up a chair and seating me in it
with a fatherly air which, under the circumstances, was more
discouraging than consolatory. "We have simply heard of a new
witness, or rather a fact has come to light which has turned our
inquiries into a new direction."

"And--and--you can not tell me what this fact is?" I faltered as
he showed no intention of adding anything to this very
unsatisfactory explanation.

"I should not, but you were willing to do so much for us I must
set aside my principles a little and do something for you. After
all, it is only forestalling the reporters by a day. Miss Van
Arsdale, this is the story: Yesterday morning a man was shown
into this room, and said that he had information to give which
might possibly prove to have some bearing on the Fairbrother
case. I had seen the man before and recognized him at the first
glance as one of the witnesses who made the inquest unnecessarily
tedious. Do you remember Jones, the caterer, who had only two or
three facts to give and yet who used up the whole afternoon in
trying to state those facts?"

"I do, indeed," I answered.

"Well, he was the man, and I own that I was none too delighted to
see him. But he was more at his ease with me than I expected, and
I soon learned what he had to tell. It was this: One of his men
had suddenly left him, one of his very best men, one of those who
had been with him in the capacity of waiter at the Ramsdell ball.
It was not uncommon for his men to leave him, but they usually
gave notice. This man gave no notice; he simply did not show up
at the usual hour. This was a week or two ago. Jones, having a
liking for the man, who was an excellent waiter, sent a messenger
to his lodging-house to see if he were ill. But he had left his
lodgings with as little ceremony as he had left the caterer.

"This, under ordinary circumstances, would have ended the
business, but there being some great function in prospect, Jones
did not feel like losing so good a man without making an effort
to recover him, so he looked up his references in the hope of
obtaining some clue to his present whereabouts.

"He kept all such matters in a special book and expected to have
no trouble in finding the man's name, James Wellgood, or that of
his former employer But when he came to consult this book, he was
astonished to find that nothing was recorded against this man's
name but the date of his first employment--March 15.

"Had he hired him without a recommendation? He would not be
likely to, yet the page was clear of all reference; only the name
and the date. But the date! You have already noted its
significance, and later he did, too. The day of the Ramsdell
ball! The day of the great murder! As he recalled the incidents
of that day he understood why the record of Wellgood's name was
unaccompanied by the usual reference. It had been a difficult day
all round. The function was an important one, and the weather
bad. There was, besides, an unusual shortage in his number of
assistants. Two men had that very morning been laid up with
sickness, and when this able-looking, self-confident Wellgood
presented himself for immediate employment, he took him out of
hand with the merest glance at what looked like a very
satisfactory reference. Later, he had intended to look up this
reference, which he had been careful to preserve by sticking it,
along with other papers, on his spike-file. But in the
distractions following the untoward events of the evening, he had
neglected to do so, feeling perfectly satisfied with the man's
work and general behavior. Now it was a different thing. The man
had left him summarily, and he felt impelled to hunt up the
person who had recommended him and see whether this was the first
time that Wellgood had repaid good treatment with bad. Running
through the papers with which his file was now full, he found
that the one he sought was not there. This roused him in good
earnest, for he was certain that he had not removed it himself
and there was no one else who had the right to do so. He
suspected the culprit,--a young lad who occasionally had access
to his desk. But this boy was no longer in the office. He had
dismissed him for some petty fault the previous week, and it took
him several days to find him again. Meantime his anger grew and
when he finally came face to face with the lad, he accused him of
the suspected trick with so much vehemence that the inevitable
happened, and the boy confessed. This is what he acknowledged. He
had taken the reference off the file, but only to give it to
Wellgood himself, who had offered him money for it. When asked
how much money, the boy admitted that the sum was ten dollars,--
an extraordinary amount from a poor man for so simple a service,
if the man merely wished to secure his reference for future use;
so extraordinary that Mr. Jones grew more and more pertinent in
his inquiries, eliciting finally what he surely could not have
hoped for in the beginning,--the exact address of the party
referred to in the paper he had stolen, and which, for some
reason, the boy remembered. It was an uptown address, and, as
soon as the caterer could leave his business, he took the
elevated and proceeded to the specified street and number.

"Miss Van Arsdale, a surprise awaited him, and awaited us when he
told the result of his search. The name attached to the
recommendation had been--'Hiram Sears, Steward.' He did not know
of any such man--perhaps you do--but when he reached the house
from which the recommendation was dated, he saw that it was one
of the great houses of New York, though he could not at the
instant remember who lived there. But he soon found out. The
first passer-by told him. Miss Van Arsdale, perhaps you can do
the same. The number was--Eighty-sixth Street."

"--!" I repeated, quite aghast. "Why, Mr. Fairbrother himself!
The husband of--"

"Exactly so, and Hiram Sears, whose name you may have heard
mentioned at the inquest, though for a very good reason he was
not there in person, is his steward and general factotum."

"Oh! and it was he who recommended Wellgood?"

"Yes."

"And did Mr. Jones see him?"

"No. The house, you remember, is closed. Mr. Fairbrother, on
leaving town, gave his servants a vacation. His steward he took
with him,--that is, they started together. But we hear no mention
made of him in our telegrams from Santa Fe. He does not seem to
have followed Mr. Fairbrother into the mountains."

"You say that in a peculiar way," I remarked.

"Because it has struck us peculiarly. Where is Sears now? And why
did he not go on with Mr. Fairbrother when he left home with
every apparent intention of accompanying him to the Placide mine?
Miss Van Arsdale, we were impressed with this fact when we heard
of Mr. Fairbrother's lonely trip from where he was taken ill to
his mine outside of Santa Fe; but we have only given it its due
importance since hearing what has come to us to-day.

"Miss Van Arsdale," continued the inspector, as I looked up
quickly, "I am going to show great confidence in you. I am going
to tell you what our men have learned about this Sears. As I have
said before, it is but forestalling the reporters by a day, and
it may help you to understand why I sent you such peremptory
orders to stop, when your whole heart was fixed on an attempt by
which you hoped to right Mr. Durand. We can not afford to disturb
so distinguished a person as the one you have under your eye,
while the least hope remains of fixing this crime elsewhere. And
we have such hope. This man, this Sears, is by no means the
simple character one would expect from his position. Considering
the short time we have had (it was only yesterday that Jones
found his way into this office), we have unearthed some very
interesting facts in his regard. His devotion to Mr. Fairbrother
was never any secret, and we knew as much about that the day
after the murder as we do now. But the feelings with which he
regarded Mrs. Fairbrother--well, that is another thing--and it
was not till last night we heard that the attachment which bound
him to her was of the sort which takes no account of youth or
age, fitness or unfitness. He was no Adonis, and old enough, we
are told, to be her father; but for all that we have already
found several persons who can tell strange stories of the
persistence with which his eager old eyes would follow her
whenever chance threw them together during the time she remained
under her husband's roof; and others who relate, with even more
avidity, how, after her removal to apartments of her own, he used
to spend hours in the adjoining park just to catch a glimpse of
her figure as she crossed the sidewalk on her way to and from her
carriage. Indeed, his senseless, almost senile passion for this
magnificent beauty became a by-word in some mouths, and it only
escaped being mentioned at the inquest from respect to Mr.
Fairbrother, who had never recognized this weakness in his
steward, and from its lack of visible connection with her
horrible death and the stealing of her great jewel. Nevertheless,
we have a witness now--it is astonishing how many witnesses we
can scare up by a little effort, who never thought of coming
forward themselves--who can swear to having seen him one night
shaking his fist at her retreating figure as she stepped
haughtily by him into her apartment house. This witness is sure
that the man he saw thus gesticulating was Sears, and he is sure
the woman was Mrs. Fairbrother. The only thing he is not sure of
is how his own wife will feel when she hears that he was in that
particular neighborhood on that particular evening, when he was
evidently supposed to be somewhere else." And the inspector
laughed.

"Is the steward's disposition a bad one." I asked, "that this
display of feeling should impress you so much?"

"I don't know what to say about that yet. Opinions differ on this
point. His friends speak of him as the mildest kind of a man who,
without native executive skill, could not manage the great
household he has in charge. His enemies, and we have unearthed a
few, say, on the contrary, that they have never had any
confidence in his quiet ways; that these were not in keeping with
the fact or his having been a California miner in the early
fifties.

"You can see I am putting you very nearly where we are ourselves.
Nor do I see why I should not add that this passion of the
seemingly subdued but really hot-headed steward for a woman, who
never showed him anything but what he might call an insulting
indifference, struck us as a clue to be worked up, especially
after we received this answer to a telegram we sent late last
night to the nurse who is caring for Mr. Fairbrother in New
Mexico."

He handed me a small yellow slip and I read:

"The steward left Mr. Fairbrother at El Moro. He has not heard
from him since.

"ANNETTA LA SERRA

"For Abner Fairbrother."

"At El Moro?" I cried. "Why, that was long enough ago"

"For him to have reached New York before the murder. Exactly so,
if he took advantage of every close connection."



XIV

TRAPPED

I caught my breath sharply. I did not say anything. I felt that I
did not understand the inspector sufficiently yet to speak. He
seemed to be pleased with my reticence. At all events, his manner
grew even kinder as he said:

"This Sears is a witness we must have. He is being looked for
now, high and low, and we hope to get some clue to his
whereabouts before night. That is, if he is in this city.
Meanwhile, we are all glad--I am sure you are also--to spare so
distinguished a gentleman as Mr. Grey the slightest annoyance."

"And Mr. Durand? What of him in this interim?"

"He will have to await developments. I see no other way, my
dear." 

It was kindly said, but my head drooped. This waiting was what
was killing him and killing me. The inspector saw and gently
patted my hand.

"Come," said he, "you have head enough to see that it is never
wise to force matters." Then, possibly with an intention of
rousing me, he remarked: "There is another small fact which may
interest you. It concerns the waiter, Wellgood, recommended, as
you will remember, by this Sears. In my talk with Jones it leaked
out as a matter of small moment, and so it was to him, that this
Wellgood was the waiter who ran and picked up the diamond after
it fell from Mr. Grey's hand."

"Ah!"

"This may mean nothing--it meant nothing to Jones--but I inform
you of it because there is a question I want to put to you in
this connection. You smile."

"Did I?" I meekly answered. "I do not know why."

This was not true. I had been waiting to see why the inspector
had so honored me with all these disclosures, almost with his
thoughts. Now I saw. He desired something in return.

"You were on the scene at this very moment," he proceeded, after
a brief contemplation of my face, "and you must have seen this
man when he lifted the jewel and handed it back to Mr. Grey. Did
you remark his features?"

"No, sir; I was too far off; besides, my eyes were on Mr. Grey."
"That is a pity. I was in hopes you could satisfy me on a very
important point."

"What point is that, Inspector Dalzell?"

"Whether he answered the following description." And, taking up
another paper, he was about to read it aloud to me, when an
interruption occurred. A man showed himself at the door, whom the
inspector no sooner recognized than he seemed to forget me in his
eagerness to interrogate him. Perhaps the appearance of the
latter had something to do with it; he looked as if he had been
running, or had been the victim of some extraordinary adventure.
At all events, the inspector arose as he entered, and was about
to question him when he remembered me, and, casting about for
some means of ridding himself of my presence without injury to my
feelings, he suddenly pushed open the door of an adjoining room
and requested me to step inside while he talked a moment with
this man.

Of course I went, but I cast him an appealing look as I did so.
It evidently had its effect, for his expression changed as his
band fell on the doorknob. Would he snap the lock tight, and so
shut me out from what concerned me as much as it did any one in
the whole world? Or would he recognize my anxiety--the necessity
I was under of knowing just the ground I was standing on--and let
me hear what this man had to report?

I watched the door. It closed slowly, too slowly to latch. Would
he catch it anew by the knob? No; he left it thus, and, while the
crack was hardly perceptible, I felt confident that the least
shake of the floor would widen it and give me the opportunity I
sought. But I did not have to wait for this. The two men in the
office I had just left began to speak, and to my unbounded relief
were sufficiently intelligible, even now, to warrant me in giving
them my fullest attention.

After some expressions of astonishment on the part of the
inspector as to the plight in which the other presented himself,
the latter broke out:

"I've just escaped death! I'll tell you about that later. What I
want to tell you now is that the man we want is in town. I saw
him last night, or his shadow, which is the same thing. It was in
the house in Eighty-sixth Street,--the house they all think
closed. He came in with a key and--"

"Wait! You have him?"

"No. It's a long story, sir--"

"Tell it!"

The tone was dry. The inspector was evidently disappointed.

"Don't blame me till you hear," said the other. "He is no common
crook. This is how it was: You wanted the suspect's photograph
and a specimen of his writing. I knew no better place to look for
them than in his own room in Mr. Fairbrother's house. I
accordingly got the necessary warrant and late last evening
undertook the job. I went alone I was always an egotistical chap,
more's the pity--and with no further precaution than a passing
explanation to the officer I met at the corner, I hastened up the
block to the rear entrance on Eighty-seventh Street. There are
three doors to the Fairbrother house, as you probably know. Two
on Eighty-sixth Street (the large front one and a small one
connecting directly with the turret stairs), and one on
Eighty-seventh Street. It was to the latter I had a key. I do not
think any one saw me go in. It was raining, and such people as
went by were more concerned in keeping their umbrellas properly
over their heads than in watching men skulking about in doorways.

"I got in, then, all right, and, being careful to close the door
behind me, went up the first short flight of steps to what I knew
must be the main hall. I had been given a plan of the interior,
and I had studied it more or less before starting out, but I knew
that I should get lost if I did not keep to the rear staircase,
at the top of which I expected to find the steward's room. There
was a faint light in the house, in spite of its closed shutters
and tightly-drawn shades; and, having a certain dread of using my
torch, knowing my weakness for pretty things and how hard it
would be for me to pass so many fine rooms without looking in, I
made my way up stairs, with no other guide than the hand-rail.
When I had reached what I took to be the third floor I stopped.
Finding it very dark, I first listened--a natural instinct with
us--then I lit up and looked about me.

"I was in a large hall, empty as a vault and almost as desolate.
Blank doors met my eyes in all directions, with here and there an
open passageway. I felt myself in a maze. I had no idea which was
the door I sought, and it is not pleasant to turn unaccustomed
knobs in a shut-up house at midnight, with the rain pouring in
torrents and the wind making pandemonium in a half-dozen great
chimneys.

"But it had to be done, and I went at it in regular order till I
came to a little narrow one opening on the turret-stair. This
gave me my bearings. Sears' room adjoined the staircase. There
was no difficulty in spotting the exact door now and, merely
stopping to close the opening I had made to this little
staircase, I crossed to this door and flung it open. I had been
right in my calculations. It was the steward's room, and I made
at once for the desk."

"And you found--?"

"Mostly locked drawers. But a key on my bunch opened some of
these and my knife the rest. Here are the specimens of his
handwriting which I collected. I doubt if you will get much out
of them. I saw nothing compromising in the whole room, but then I
hadn't time to go through his trunks, and one of them looked very
interesting,--old as the hills and--"

"You hadn't time? Why hadn't you time? What happened to cut it
short?"

"Well, sir, I'll tell you." The tone in which this was said
roused me if it did not the inspector. "I had just come from the
desk which had disappointed me, and was casting a look about the
room, which was as bare as my hand of everything like ornament--I
might almost say comfort--when I heard a noise which was not that
of swishing rain or even gusty wind--these had not been absent
from my ears for a moment. I didn't like that noise; it had a
sneakish sound, and I shut my light off in a hurry. After that I
crept hastily out of the room, for I don't like a set-to in a
trap.

"It was darker than ever now in the hall, or so it seemed, and as
I backed away I came upon a jog in the wall, behind which I
crept. For the sound I had heard was no fancy. Some one besides
myself was in the house, and that some one was coming up the
little turret-stair, striking matches as he approached. Who could
it be? A detective from the district attorney's office? I hardly
thought so. He would have been provided with something better
than matches to light his way. A burglar? No, not on the third
floor of a house as rich as this. Some fellow on the force, then,
who had seen me come in and, by some trick of his own, had
managed to follow me? I would see. Meantime I kept my place
behind the jog and watched, not knowing which way the intruder
would go.

"Whoever he was, he was evidently astonished to see the turret
door ajar, for he lit another match as he threw it open and,
though I failed to get a glimpse of his figure, I succeeded in
getting a very good one of his shadow. It was one to arouse a
detective's instinct at once. I did not say to myself, this is
the man I want, but I did say, this is nobody from headquarters,
and I steadied myself for whatever might turn up.

"The first thing that happened was the sudden going out of the
match which had made this shadow visible. The intruder did not
light another. I heard him move across the floor with the rapid
step of one who knows his way well, and the next minute a gas-jet
flared up in the steward's room, and I knew that the man the
whole force was looking for had trapped himself.

"You will agree that it was not my duty to take him then and
there without seeing what he was after. He was thought to be in
the eastern states, or south or west, and he was here; but why
here? That is what I knew you would want to know, and it was just
what I wanted to know myself. So I kept my place, which was good
enough, and just listened, for I could not see.

"What was his errand? What did he want in this empty house at
midnight? Papers first, and then clothes. I heard him at his
desk, I heard him in the closet, and afterward pottering in the
old trunk I had been so anxious to look into myself. He must have
brought the key with him, for it was no time before I heard him
throwing out the contents in a wild search for something he
wanted in a great hurry. He found it sooner than you would
believe, and began throwing the things back, when something
happened. Expectedly or unexpectedly, his eye fell on some object
which roused all his passions, and he broke into loud
exclamations ending in groans. Finally he fell to kissing this
object with a fervor suggesting rage, and a rage suggesting
tenderness carried to the point of agony. I have never heard the
like; my curiosity was so aroused that I was on the point of
risking everything for a look, when he gave a sudden snarl and
cried out, loud enough for me to hear: 'Kiss what I've hated?
That is as bad as to kill what I've loved.' Those were the words.
I am sure he said kiss and I am sure he said kill."

"This is very interesting. Go on with your story. Why didn't you
collar him while he was in this mood? You would have won by the
surprise.

"I had no pistol, sir, and he had. I heard him cock it. I thought
he was going to take his own life, and held my breath for the
report. But nothing like that was in his mind. Instead, he laid
the pistol down and deliberately tore in two the object of his
anger. Then with a smothered curse he made for the door and
turret staircase.

"I was for following, but not till I had seen what he had
destroyed in such an excess of feeling. I thought I knew, but I
wanted to feel sure. So, before risking myself in the turret, I
crept to the room he had left and felt about on the floor till I
came upon these."

"A torn photograph! Mrs. Fairbrother's!"

"Yes. Have you not heard how he loved her? A foolish passion, but
evidently sincere and--"

"Never mind comments, Sweetwater. Stick to facts."

"I will, sir. They are interesting enough. After I had picked up
these scraps I stole back to the turret staircase. And here I
made my first break. I stumbled in the darkness, and the man
below heard me, for the pistol clicked again. I did not like
this, and had some thoughts of backing out of my job. But I
didn't. I merely waited till I heard his step again; then I
followed.

"But very warily this time. It was not an agreeable venture. It
was like descending into a well with possible death at the
bottom. I could see nothing and presently could hear nothing but
the almost imperceptible sliding of my own fingers down the curve
of the wall, which was all I had to guide me. Had he stopped
midway, and would my first intimation of his presence be the
touch of cold steel or the flinging around me of two murderous
arms? I had met with no break in the smooth surface of the wall,
so could not have reached the second story. When I should get
there the question would be whether to leave the staircase and
seek him in the mazes of its great rooms, or to keep on down to
the parlor floor and so to the street, whither he was possibly
bound. I own that I was almost tempted to turn on my light and
have done with it, but I remembered of how little use I should be
to you lying in this well of a stairway with a bullet in me, and
so I managed to compose myself and go on as I had begun. Next
instant my fingers slipped round the edge of an opening, and I
knew that the moment of decision had come. Realizing that no one
can move so softly that he will not give away his presence in
some way, I paused for the sound which I knew must come, and when
a click rose from the depths of the hall before me I plunged into
that hall and thus into the house proper.

"Here it was not so dark; yet I could make out none of the
objects I now and then ran against. I passed a mirror (I hardly
know how I knew it to be such), and in that mirror I seemed to
see the ghost of a ghost flit by and vanish. It was too much. I
muttered a suppressed oath and plunged forward, when I struck
against a closing door. It flew open again and I rushed in,
turning on my light in my extreme desperation, when, instead of
hearing the sharp report of a pistol, as I expected, I saw a
second door fall to before me, this time with a sound like the
snap of a spring lock. Finding that this was so, and that all
advance was barred that way, I wheeled hurriedly back toward the
door by which I had entered the place, to find that that had
fallen to simultaneously with the other, a single spring acting
for both. I was trapped--a prisoner in the strangest sort of
passageway or closet; and, as a speedy look about presently
assured me, a prisoner with very little hope of immediate escape,
for the doors were not only immovable, without even locks to pick
or panels to break in, but the place was bare of windows, and the
only communication which it could be said to have with the
outside world at all was a shaft rising from the ceiling almost
to the top of the house. Whether this served as a ventilator, or
a means of lighting up the hole when both doors were shut, it was
much too inaccessible to offer any apparent way of escape.

"Never was a man more thoroughly boxed in. As I realized how
little chance there was of any outside interference, how my
captor, even if he was seen leaving the house by the officer on
duty, would be taken for myself and so allowed to escape, I own
that I felt my position a hopeless one. But anger is a powerful
stimulant, and I was mortally angry, not only with Sears, but
with myself. So when I was done swearing I took another look
around, and, finding that there was no getting through the walls,
turned my attention wholly to the shaft, which would certainly
lead me out of the place if I could only find means to mount it.

"And how do you think I managed to do this at last? A look at my
bedraggled, lime-covered clothes may give you some idea. I cut a
passage for myself up those perpendicular walls as the boy did up
the face of the natural bridge in Virginia. Do you remember that
old story in the Reader? It came to me like an inspiration as I
stood looking up from below, and though I knew that I should have
to work most of the way in perfect darkness, I decided that a
man's life was worth some risk, and that I had rather fall and
break my neck while doing something than to spend hours in
maddening inactivity, only to face death at last from slow
starvation.

"I had a knife, an exceedingly good knife, in my pocket--and for
the first few steps I should have the light of my electric torch.
The difficulty (that is, the first difficulty) was to reach the
shaft from the floor where I stood. There was but one article of
furniture in the room, and that was something between a table and
a desk. No chairs, and the desk was not high enough to enable me
to reach the mouth of the shaft. If I could turn it on end there
might be some hope. But this did not look feasible. However, I
threw off my coat and went at the thing with a vengeance, and
whether I was given superhuman power or whether the clumsy thing
was not as heavy as it looked, I did finally succeed in turning
it on its end close under the opening from which the shaft rose.
The next thing was to get on its top. That seemed about as
impossible as climbing the bare wall itself, but presently I
bethought me of the drawers, and, though they were locked, I did
succeed by the aid of my keys to get enough of them open to make
for myself a very good pair of stairs.

"I could now see my way to the mouth of the shaft, but after
that! Taking out my knife, I felt the edge. It was a good one, so
was the point, but was it good enough to work holes in plaster?
It depended somewhat upon the plaster. Had the masons, in
finishing that shaft, any thought of the poor wretch who one day
would have to pit his life against the hardness of the final
covering? My first dig at it would tell. I own I trembled
violently at the prospect of what that first test would mean to
me, and wondered if the perspiration which I felt starting at
every pore was the result of the effort I had been engaged in or
just plain fear.

"Inspector, I do not intend to have you live with me through the
five mortal hours which followed. I was enabled to pierce that
plaster with my knife, and even to penetrate deep enough to
afford a place for the tips of my fingers and afterward for the
point of my toes, digging, prying, sweating, panting, listening,
first for a sudden opening of the doors beneath, then for some
shout or wicked interference from above as I worked my way up
inch by inch, foot by foot, to what might not be safety after it
was attained.

"Five hours--six. Then I struck something which proved to be a
window; and when I realized this and knew that with but one more
effort I should breathe freely again, I came as near falling as I
had at any time before I began this terrible climb.

"Happily, I had some premonition of my danger, and threw myself
into a position which held me till the dizzy minute passed. Then
I went calmly on with my work, and in another half-hour had
reached the window, which, fortunately for me, not only opened
inward, but was off the latch. It was with a sense of
inexpressible relief that I clambered through this window and for
a brief moment breathed in the pungent odor of cedar. But it
could have been only for a moment. It was three o'clock in the
afternoon before I found myself again in the outer air. The only
way I can account for the lapse of time is that the strain to
which both body and nerve had been subjected was too much for
even my hardy body and that I fell to the floor of the cedar
closet and from a faint went into a sleep that lasted until two.
I can easily account for the last hour because it took me that
long to cut the thick paneling from the door of the closet.
However, I am here now, sir, and in very much the same condition
in which I left that house. I thought my first duty was to tell
you that I had seen Hiram Sears in that house last night and put
you on his track."

I drew a long breath,--I think the inspector did. I had been
almost rigid from excitement, and I don't believe he was quite
free from it either. But his voice was calmer than I expected
when he finally said:

"I'll remember this. It was a good night's work." Then the
inspector put to him some questions, which seemed to fix the fact
that Sears had left the house before Sweetwater did, after which
he bade him send certain men to him and then go and fix himself
up.

I believe he had forgotten me. I had almost forgotten myself.



XV

SEARS OR WELLGOOD

Not till the inspector had given several orders was I again
summoned into his presence. He smiled as our eyes met, but did
not allude, any more than I did, to what had just passed.
Nevertheless, we understood each other.

When I was again seated, he took up the conversation where we had
left it.

"The description I was just about to read to you," he went on;
"will you listen to it now?"

"Gladly," said I; "it is Wellgood's, I believe."

He did not answer save by a curious glance from under his brows,
but, taking the paper again from his desk, went on reading:

"A man of fifty-five looking like one of sixty. Medium height,
insignificant features, head bald save for a ring of scanty dark
hair. No beard, a heavy nose, long mouth and sleepy half-shut
eyes capable of shooting strange glances. Nothing distinctive in
face or figure save the depth of his wrinkles and a scarcely
observable stoop in his right shoulder. Do you see Wellgood in
that?" he suddenly asked.

"I have only the faintest recollection of his appearance," was my
doubtful reply. "But the impression I get from this description
is not exactly the one I received of that waiter in the momentary
glimpse I got of him."

"So others have told me before;' he remarked, looking very
disappointed. "The description is of Sears given me by a man who
knew him well, and if we could fit the description of the one to
that of the other, we should have it easy. But the few persons
who have seen Wellgood differ greatly in their remembrance of his
features, and even of his coloring. It is astonishing how
superficially most people see a man, even when they are thrown
into daily contact with him. Mr. Jones says the man's eyes are
gray, his hair a wig and dark, his nose pudgy, and his face
without much expression. His land-lady, that his eyes are blue,
his hair, whether wig or not, a dusty auburn, and his look quick
and piercing,--a look which always made her afraid. His nose she
don't remember. Both agree, or rather all agree, that he wore no
beard--Sears did, but a beard can be easily taken off--and all of
them declare that they would know him instantly if they saw him.
And so the matter stands. Even you can give me no definite
description,--one, I mean, as satisfactory or unsatisfactory as
this of Sears."

I shook my head. Like the others, I felt that I should know him
if I saw him, but I could go no further than that. There seemed
to be so little that was distinctive about the man.

The inspector, hoping, perhaps, that all this would serve to
rouse my memory, shrugged his shoulders and put the best face he
could on the matter.

"Well, well," said he, "we shall have to be patient. A day may
make all the difference possible in our outlook. If we can lay
hands on either of these men--"

He seemed to realize he had said a word too much, for he
instantly changed the subject by asking if I had succeeded in
getting a sample of Miss Grey's writing. I was forced to say no;
that everything had been very carefully put away. "But I do not
know what moment I may come upon it," I added. "I do not forget
its importance in this investigation."

"Very good. Those lines handed up to Mrs. Fairbrother from the
walk outside are the second most valuable clue we possess."

I did not ask him what the first was. I knew. It was the
stiletto.

"Strange that no one has testified to that handwriting," I
remarked.

He looked at me in surprise.

"Fifty persons have sent in samples of writing which they think
like it," he observed. "Often of persons who never heard of the
Fairbrothers. We have been bothered greatly with the business.
You know little of the difficulties the police labor under."

"I know too much," I sighed.

He smiled and patted me on the hand.

"Go back to your patient," he said. "Forget every other duty but
that of your calling until you get some definite word from me. I
shall not keep you in suspense one minute longer than is
absolutely necessary."

He had risen. I rose too. But I was not satisfied. I could not
leave the room with my ideas (I might say with my convictions) in
such a turmoil.

"Inspector," said I, "you will think me very obstinate, but all
you have told me about Sears, all I have heard about him, in
fact,"--this I emphasized,--"does not convince me of the entire
folly of my own suspicions. Indeed, I am afraid that, if
anything, they are strengthened. This steward, who is a doubtful
character, I acknowledge, may have had his reasons for wishing
Mrs. Fairbrother's death, may even have had a hand in the matter;
but what evidence have you to show that he, himself, entered the
alcove, struck the blow or stole the diamond? I have listened
eagerly for some such evidence, but I have listened in vain."

"I know," he murmured, "I know. But it will come; at least I
think so."

This should have reassured me, no doubt, and sent me away quiet
and happy. But something--the tenacity of a deep conviction,
possibly--kept me lingering before the inspector and finally gave
me the courage to say:

"I know I ought not to speak another word; that I am putting
myself at a disadvantage in doing so; but I can not help it,
Inspector; I can not help it when I see you laying such stress
upon the few indirect clues connecting the suspicious Sears with
this crime, and ignoring the direct clues we have against one
whom we need not name."

Had I gone too far? Had my presumption transgressed all bounds
and would he show a very natural anger? No, he smiled instead, an
enigmatical smile, no doubt, which I found it difficult to
understand, but yet a smile.

"You mean," he suggested, "that Sears' possible connection with
the crime can not eliminate Mr. Grey's very positive one; nor can
the fact that Wellgood's hand came in contact with Mr. Grey's, at
or near the time of the exchange of the false stone with the
real, make it any less evident who was the guilty author of this
exchange?"

The inspector's hand was on the door-knob, but he dropped it at
this, and surveying me very quietly said:

"I thought that a few days spent at the bedside of Miss Grey in
the society of so renowned and cultured a gentleman as her father
would disabuse you of these damaging suspicions."

"I don't wonder that you thought so," I burst out. "You would
think so all the more, if you knew how kind he can be and what
solicitude he shows for all about him. But I can not get over the
facts. They all point, it seems to me, straight in one
direction."

"All? You heard what was said in this room--I saw it in your
eye--how the man, who surprised the steward in his own room last
night, heard him talking of love and death in connection with
Mrs. Fairbrother. 'To kiss what I hate! It is almost as bad as to
kill what I love'--he said something like that."

"Yes, I heard that. But did he mean that he had been her actual
slayer? Could you convict him on those words?"

"Well, we shall find out. Then, as to Wellgood's part in the
little business, you choose to consider that it took place at the
time the stone fell from Mr. Grey's hand. What proof have you
that the substitution you believe in was not made by him? He
could easily have done it while crossing the room to Mr. Grey's
side."

"Inspector!" Then hotly, as the absurdity of the suggestion
struck me with full force: "He do this! A waiter, or as you
think, Mr. Fairbrother's steward, to be provided with so
hard-to-come-by an article as this counterpart of a great stone?
Isn't that almost as incredible a supposition as any I have
myself presumed to advance?"

"Possibly, but the affair is full of incredibilities, the
greatest of which, to my mind, is the persistence with which you,
a kind-hearted enough little woman, persevere in ascribing the
deepest guilt to one you profess to admire and certainly would be
glad to find innocent of any complicity with a great crime."

I felt that I must justify myself.

"Mr. Durand has had no such consideration shown him," said I.

"I know, my child, I know; but the cases differ. Wouldn't it be
well for you to see this and be satisfied with the turn which
things have taken, without continuing to insist upon involving
Mr. Grey in your suspicions?"

A smile took off the edge of this rebuke, yet I felt it keenly;
and only the confidence I had in his fairness as a man and public
official enabled me to say:

"But I am talking quite confidentially. And you have been so good
to me, so willing to listen to all I had to say, that I can not
help but speak my whole mind. It is my only safety valve.
Remember how I have to sit in the presence of this man with my
thoughts all choked up. It is killing me. But I think I should go
back content if you will listen to one more suggestion I have to
make. It is my last."

"Say it I am nothing if not indulgent."

He had spoken the word. Indulgent, that was it. He let me speak,
probably had let me speak from the first, from pure kindness. He
did not believe one little bit in my good sense or logic. But I
was not to be deterred. I would empty my mind of the ugly thing
that lay there. I would leave there no miserable dregs of doubt
to ferment and work their evil way with me in the dead watches of
the night, which I had yet to face. So I took him at his word.

"I only want to ask this. In case Sears is innocent of the crime,
who wrote the warning and where did the assassin get the stiletto
with the Grey arms chased into its handle? And the diamond? Still
the diamond! You hint that he stole that, too. That with some
idea of its proving useful to him on this gala occasion, he had
provided himself with an imitation stone, setting and all,--he
who has never shown, so far as we have heard, any interest in
Mrs. Fairbrother's diamond, only in Mrs. Fairbrother herself. If
Wellgood is Sears and Sears the medium by which the false stone
was exchanged for the real, then he made this exchange in Mr.
Grey's interests and not his own. But I don't believe he had
anything to do with it. I think everything goes to show that the
exchange was made by Mr. Grey himself."

"A second Daniel," muttered the inspector lightly. "Go on, little
lawyer!" But for all this attempt at banter on his part, I
imagined that I saw the beginning of a very natural anxiety to
close the conversation. I therefore hastened with what I had yet
to say, cutting my words short and almost stammering in my
eagerness.

"Remember the perfection of that imitation stone, a copy so exact
that it extends to the setting. That shows plan-- forgive me if I
repeat myself--preparation, a knowledge of stones, a particular
knowledge of this one. Mr. Fairbrother's steward may have had the
knowledge, but he would have been a fool to have used his
knowledge to secure for himself a valuable he could never have
found a purchaser for in any market. But a fancier--one who has
his pleasure in the mere possession of a unique and invaluable
gem--ah! that is different! He might risk a crime--history tells
us of several."

Here I paused to take breath, which gave the inspector chance to
say:

"In other words, this is what you think. The Englishman, desirous
of covering up his tracks, conceived the idea of having this
imitation on hand, in case it might be of use in the daring and
disgraceful undertaking you ascribe to him. Recognizing his own
inability to do this himself, he delegated the task to one who in
some way, he had been led to think, cherished a secret grudge
against its present possessor--a man who had had some opportunity
for seeing the stone and studying the setting. The copy thus
procured, Mr. Grey went to the ball, and, relying on his own
seemingly unassailable position, attacked Mrs. Fairbrother in the
alcove and would have carried off the diamond, if he had found it
where he had seen it earlier blazing on her breast. But it was
not there. The warning received by her--a warning you ascribe to
his daughter, a fact which is yet to be proved--had led her to
rid herself of the jewel in the way Mr. Durand describes, and he
found himself burdened with a dastardly crime and with nothing to
show for it. Later, however, to his intense surprise and possible
satisfaction, he saw that diamond in my hands, and, recognizing
an opportunity, as he thought, of yet securing it, he asked to
see it, held it for an instant, and then, making use of an almost
incredible expedient for distracting attention, dropped, not the
real stone but the false one, retaining the real one in his hand.
This, in plain English, as I take it, is your present idea of the
situation."

Astonished at the clearness with which he read my mind, I
answered: "Yes, Inspector, that is what was in my mind."

"Good! then it is just as well that it is out. Your mind is now
free and you can give it entirely to your duties." Then, as he
laid his hand on the door-knob, he added: "In studying so
intently your own point of view, you seem to have forgotten that
the last thing which Mr. Grey would be likely to do, under those
circumstances, would be to call attention to the falsity of the
gem upon whose similarity to the real stone he was depending. Not
even his confidence in his own position, as an honored and
highly-esteemed guest, would lead him to do that."

"Not if he were a well-known connoisseur," I faltered, "with the
pride of one who has handled the best gems? He would know that
the deception would be soon discovered and that it would not do
for him to fail to recognize it for what it was, when the
make-believe was in his hands."

"Forced, my dear child, forced; and as chimerical as all the
rest. It can not stand putting into words. I will go further,--
you are a good girl and can bear to hear the truth from me. I
don't believe in your theory; I can't. I have not been able to
from the first, nor have any of my men; but if your ideas are
true and Mr. Grey is involved in this matter, you will find that
there has been more of a hitch about that diamond than you, in
your simplicity, believe. If Mr. Grey were in actual possession
of this valuable, he would show less care than you say he does.
So would he if it were in Wellgood's hands with his consent and a
good prospect of its coming to him in the near future. But if it
is in Wellgood's hands without his consent, or any near prospect
of his regaining it, then we can easily understand his present
apprehensions and the growing uneasiness he betrays."

"True," I murmured.

"If, then," the inspector pursued, giving me a parting glance not
without its humor, probably not without something really serious
underlying its humor, "we should find, in following up our
present clue, that Mr. Grey has had dealings with this Wellgood
or this Sears; or if you, with your advantages for learning the
fact, should discover that he shows any extraordinary interest in
either of them, the matter will take on a different aspect. But
we have not got that far yet. At present our task is to find one
or the other of these men. If we are lucky, we shall discover
that the waiter and the steward are identical, in spite of their
seemingly different appearance. A rogue, such as this Sears has
shown himself to be, would be an adept at disguise."

"You are right," I acknowledged. "He has certainly the heart of a
criminal. If he had no hand in Mrs. Fairbrother's murder, he came
near having one in that of your detective. You know what I mean.
I could not help hearing, Inspector."

He smiled, looked me steadfastly in the face for a moment, and
then bowed me out.

The inspector told me afterward that, in spite of the cavalier
manner with which he had treated my suggestions, he spent a very
serious half-hour, head to head with the district attorney. The
result was the following order to Sweetwater, the detective.

"You are to go to the St. Regis; make yourself solid there, and
gradually, as you can manage it, work yourself into a position
for knowing all that goes on in Room --. If the gentleman (mind
you, the gentleman; we care nothing about the women) should go
out, you are to follow him if it takes you to--. We want to know
his secret; but he must never know our interest in it and you are
to be as silent in this matter as if possessed of neither ear nor
tongue. I will add memory, for if you find this secret to be one
in which we have no lawful interest, you are to forget it
absolutely and for ever. You will understand why when you consult
the St Regis register."

But they expected nothing from it; absolutely nothing.



XVI

DOUBT

I prayed uncle that we might be driven home by the way of
Eighty-sixth Street. I wanted to look at the Fairbrother house. I
had seen it many times, but I felt that I should see it with new
eyes after the story I had just heard in the inspector's office.
That an adventure of this nature could take place in a New York
house taxed my credulity. I might have believed it of Paris,
wicked, mysterious Paris, the home of intrigue and every
redoubtable crime, but of our own homely, commonplace
metropolis--the house must be seen for me to be convinced of the
fact related.

Many of you know the building. It is usually spoken of with a
shrug, the sole reason for which seems to be that there is no
other just like it in the city. I myself have always considered
it imposing and majestic; but to the average man it is too
suggestive of Old-World feudal life to be pleasing. On this
afternoon--a dull, depressing one--it looked undeniably heavy as
we approached it; but interesting in a very new way to me,
because of the great turret at one angle, the scene of that
midnight descent of two men, each in deadly fear of the other,
yet quailing not in their purpose,--the one of flight, the other
of pursuit.

There was no railing in front of the house. It may have seemed an
unnecessary safeguard to the audacious owner. Consequently, the
small door in the turret opened directly upon the street, making
entrance and exit easy enough for any one who had the key. But
the shaft and the small room at the bottom--where were they?
Naturally in the center of the great mass, the room being without
windows.

It was, therefore, useless to look for it, and yet my eye ran
along the peaks and pinnacles of the roof, searching for the
skylight in which it undoubtedly ended. At last I espied it, and,
my curiosity satisfied on this score, I let my eyes run over the
side and face of the building for an open window or a lifted
shade. But all were tightly closed and gave no more sign of life
than did the boarded-up door. But I was not deceived by this. As
we drove away, I thought how on the morrow there would be a
regular procession passing through this street to see just the
little I had seen to-day. The detective's adventure was like to
make the house notorious. For several minutes after I had left
its neighborhood my imagination pictured room after room shut up
from the light of day, but bearing within them the impalpable
aura of those two shadows flitting through them like the ghosts
of ghosts, as the detective had tellingly put it.

The heart has its strange surprises. Through my whole ride and
the indulgence in these thoughts I was conscious of a great inner
revulsion against all I had intimated and even honestly felt
while talking with the inspector. Perhaps this is what this wise
old official expected. He had let me talk, and the inevitable
reaction followed. I could now see only Mr. Grey's goodness and
claims to respect, and began to hate myself that I had not been
immediately impressed by the inspector's views, and shown myself
more willing to drop every suspicion against the august personage
I had presumed to associate with crime. What had given me the
strength to persist? Loyalty to my lover? His innocence had not
been involved. Indeed, every word uttered in the inspector's
office had gone to prove that he no longer occupied a leading
place in police calculations: that their eyes were turned
elsewhere, and that I had only to be patient to see Mr. Durand
quite cleared in their minds.

But was this really so? Was he as safe as that? What if this new
clue failed? What if they failed to find Sears or lay hands on
the doubtful Wellgood? Would Mr. Durand be released without a
trial? Should we hear nothing more of the strange and to many the
suspicious circumstances which linked him to this crime? It would
be expecting too much from either police or official
discrimination.

No; Mr. Durand would never be completely exonerated till the true
culprit was found and all explanations made. I had therefore been
simply fighting his battles when I pointed out what I thought to
be the weak place in their present theory, and, sore as I felt in
contemplation of my seemingly heartless action, I was not the
unimpressionable, addle-pated nonentity I must have seemed to the
inspector.

Yet my comfort was small and the effort it took to face Mr. Grey
and my young patient was much greater than I had anticipated. I
blushed as I approached to take my place at Miss Grey's bedside,
and, had her father been as suspicious of me at that moment as I
was of him, I am sure that I should have fared badly in his
thoughts.

But he was not on the watch for my emotions. He was simply
relieved to see me back. I noticed this immediately, also that
something had occurred during my absence which absorbed his
thought and filled him with anxiety.

A Western Union envelope lay at his feet,--proof that he had just
received a telegram. This, under ordinary circumstances, would
not have occasioned me a second thought, such a man being
naturally the recipient of all sorts of communications from all
parts of the world; but at this crisis, with the worm of a
half-stifled doubt still gnawing at my heart, everything that
occurred to him took on importance and roused questions.

When he had left the room, Miss Grey nestled up to me with the
seemingly ingenuous remark:

"Poor papa! something disturbs him. He will not tell me what. I
suppose he thinks I am not strong enough to share his troubles.
But I shall be soon. Don't you see I am gaining every day?"

"Indeed I do," was my hearty response. In face of such a sweet
confidence and open affection doubt vanished and I was able to
give all my thoughts to her.

"I wish papa felt as sure of this as you do," she said. "For some
reason he does not seem to take any comfort from my improvement.
When Doctor Freligh says, 'Well, well! we are getting on finely
to-day,' I notice that he does not look less anxious, nor does he
even meet these encouraging words with a smile. Haven't you
noticed it? He looks as care-worn and troubled about me now as he
did the first day I was taken sick. Why should he? Is it because
he has lost so many children he can not believe in his good
fortune at having the most insignificant of all left to him?"

"I do not know your father very well," I protested; "and can not
judge what is going on in his mind. But he must see that you are
quite a different girl from what you were a week ago, and that,
if nothing unforeseen happens, your recovery will only be a
matter of a week or two longer."

"Oh, how I love to hear you say that! To be well again! To read
letters!" she murmured, "and to write them!" And I saw the
delicate hand falter up to pinch the precious packet awaiting
that happy hour. I did not like to discuss her father with her,
so took this opportunity to turn the conversation aside into
safer channels. But we had not proceeded far before Mr. Grey
returned and, taking his stand at the foot of the bed, remarked,
after a moment's gloomy contemplation of his daughter's face:

"You are better today, the doctor says,--I have just been
telephoning to him. But do you feel well enough for me to leave
you for a few days? There is a man I must see--must go to, if you
have no dread of being left alone with your good nurse and the
doctor's constant attendance."

Miss Grey looked startled. Doubtless she found it difficult to
understand what man in this strange country could interest her
father enough to induce him to leave her while he was yet
laboring under such solicitude. But a smile speedily took the
place of her look of surprised inquiry and she affectionately
exclaimed:

"Oh, I haven't the least dread in the world, not now. See, I can
hold up my arms. Go, papa, go; it will give me a chance to
surprise you with my good looks when you come back."

He turned abruptly away. He was suffering from an emotion deeper
than he cared to acknowledge. But he gained control over himself
speedily and, coming back, announced with forced decision:

"I shall have to go to-night. I have no choice. Promise me that
you will not go back in my absence; that you will strive to get
well; that you will put all your mind into striving to get well."

"Indeed, I will," she answered, a little frightened by the
feeling he showed. "Don't worry so much. I have more than one
reason for living, papa."

He shook his head and went immediately to make his preparations
for departure. His daughter gave one sob, then caught me by the
hand.

"You look dumfounded," said she. "But never mind, we shall get on
very well together. I have the most perfect confidence in you."

Was it my duty to let the inspector know that Mr. Grey
anticipated absenting himself from the city for a few days? I
decided that I would only be impressing my own doubts upon him
after a rebuke which should have allayed them.

Yet, when Mr. Grey came to take his departure I wished that the
inspector might have been a witness to his emotion, if only to
give me one of his very excellent explanations. The parting was
more like that of one who sees no immediate promise of return
than of a traveler who intends to limit his stay to a few days.
He looked her in the eyes and kissed her a dozen times, each time
with an air of heartbreak which was good neither for her nor for
himself, and when he finally tore himself away it was to look
back at her from the door with an expression I was glad she did
not see, or it would certainly have interfered with the promise
she had made to concentrate all her energies on getting well.

What was at the root of his extreme grief at leaving her? Did he
fear the person he was going to meet, or were his plans such as
involved a much longer stay than he had mentioned? Did he even
mean to return at all?

Ah, that was the question! Did he intend to return, or had I been
the unconscious witness of a flight?



XVII

SWEETWATER IN A NEW ROLE

A few days later three men were closeted in the district
attorney's office. Two of them were officials--the district
attorney himself, and our old friend, the inspector. The third
was the detective, Sweetwater, chosen by them to keep watch on
Mr. Grey.

Sweetwater had just come to town,--this was evident from the
gripsack he had set down in a corner on entering, also from a
certain tousled appearance which bespoke hasty rising and but few
facilities for proper attention to his person. These details
counted little, however, in the astonishment created by his
manner. For a hardy chap he looked strangely nervous and
indisposed, so much so that, after the first short greeting, the
inspector asked him what was up, and if he had had another
Fairbrother-house experience.

He replied with a decided no; that it was not his adventure which
had upset him, but the news he had to bring.

Here he glanced at every door and window; and then, leaning
forward over the table at which the two officials sat, he brought
his head as nearly to them as possible and whispered five words.

They produced a most unhappy sensation. Both the men, hardened as
they were by duties which soon sap the sensibilities, started and
turned as pale as the speaker himself. Then the district
attorney, with one glance at the inspector, rose and locked the
door.

It was a prelude to this tale which I give, not as it came from
his mouth, but as it was afterward related to me. The language, I
fear, is mostly my own.

The detective had just been with Mr. Grey to the coast of Maine.
Why there, will presently appear. His task had been to follow
this gentleman, and follow him he did.

Mr. Grey was a very stately man, difficult of approach, and was
absorbed, besides, by some overwhelming care. But this fellow was
one in a thousand and somehow, during the trip, he managed to do
him some little service, which drew the attention of the great
man to himself. This done, he so improved his opportunity that
the two were soon on the best of terms, and he learned that the
Englishman was without a valet, and, being unaccustomed to move
about without one, felt the awkwardness of his position very
much. This gave Sweetwater his cue, and when he found that the
services of such a man were wanted only during the present trip
and for the handling of affairs quite apart from personal
tendance upon the gentleman himself, he showed such an honest
desire to fill the place, and made out to give such a good
account of himself, that he found himself engaged for the work
before reaching C--.

This was a great stroke of luck, he thought, but he little knew
how big a stroke or into what a series of adventures it was going
to lead him.

Once on the platform of the small station at which Mr. Grey had
bidden him to stop, he noticed two things: the utter helplessness
of the man in all practical matters, and his extreme anxiety to
see all that was going on about him without being himself seen.
There was method in this curiosity, too much method. Women did
not interest him in the least. They could pass and repass without
arousing his attention, but the moment a man stepped his way, he
shrank from him only to betray the greatest curiosity concerning
him the moment he felt it safe to turn and observe him. All of
which convinced Sweetwater that the Englishman's errand was in
connection with a man whom he equally dreaded and desired to
meet.

Of this he was made absolutely certain a little later. As they
were leaving the depot with the rest of the arrivals, Mr. Grey
said:

"I want you to get me a room at a very quiet hotel. This done,
you are to hunt up the man whose name you will find written in
this paper, and when you have found him, make up your mind how it
will be possible for me to get a good look at him without his
getting any sort of a look at me. Do this and you will earn a
week's salary in one day."

Sweetwater, with his head in air and his heart on fire--for
matters were looking very promising indeed--took the paper and
put it in his pocket; then he began to hunt for a hotel. Not till
he bad found what he wished, and installed the Englishman in his
room, did he venture to open the precious memorandum and read the
name he had been speculating over for an hour. It was not the one
he had anticipated, but it came near to it. It was that of James
Wellgood.

Satisfied now that he had a ticklish matter to handle, he
prepared for it, with his usual enthusiasm and circumspection.

Sauntering out into the street, he strolled first toward the
post-office. The train on which he had just come had been a
mail-train, and he calculated that he would find half the town
there.

His calculation was a correct one. The store was crowded with
people. Taking his place in the line drawn up before the
post-office window, he awaited his turn, and when it came shouted
out the name which was his one talisman--James Wellgood.

The man behind the boxes was used to the name and reached out a
hand toward a box unusually well stacked, but stopped half-way
there and gave Sweetwater a sharp look.

"Who are you?" he asked.

"A stranger," that young man put in volubly, "looking for James
Wellgood. I thought, perhaps, you could tell me where to find
him. I see that his letters pass through this office."

"You're taking up another man's time," complained the postmaster.
He probably alluded to the man whose elbow Sweetwater felt boring
into his back. "Ask Dick over there; he knows him."

The detective was glad enough to escape and ask Dick. But he was
better pleased yet when Dick--a fellow with a squint whose hand
was always in the sugar--told him that Mr. Wellgood would
probably be in for his mail in a few moments. "That is his buggy
standing before the drug-store on the opposite side of the way."

So! he had netted Jones' quondam waiter at the first cast!
"Lucky!" was what he said to himself, "still lucky!"

Sauntering to the door, he watched for the owner of that buggy.
He had learned, as such fellows do, that there was a secret hue
and cry after this very man by the New York police; that he was
supposed by some to be Sears himself. In this way he would soon
be looking upon the very man whose steps he had followed through
the Fairbrother house a few nights before, and through whose
resolute action he had very nearly run the risk of a lingering
death from starvation.

"A dangerous customer," thought he. "I wonder if my instinct will
go so far as to make me recognize his presence. I shouldn't
wonder. It has served me almost as well as that many times
before."

It appeared to serve him now, for when the man finally showed
himself on the cross-walk separating the two buildings he
experienced a sudden indecision not unlike that of dread, and
there being nothing in the man's appearance to warrant
apprehension, he took it for the instinctive recognition it
undoubtedly was.

He therefore watched him narrowly and succeeded in getting one
glance from his eye. It was enough. The man was commonplace,--
commonplace in feature, dress and manner, but his eye gave him
away. There was nothing commonplace in that. It was an eye to
beware of.

He had taken in Sweetwater as he passed, but Sweetwater was of a
commonplace type, too, and woke no corresponding dread in the
other's mind; for he went whistling into the store, from which he
presently reissued with a bundle of mail in his hand. The
detective's first instinct was to take him into custody as a
suspect much wanted by the New York police; but reason assured
him that he not only had no warrant for this, but that he would
better serve the ends of justice by following out his present
task of bringing this man and the Englishman together and
watching the result. But how, with the conditions laid on him by
Mr. Grey, was this to be done? He knew nothing of the man's
circumstances or of his position in the town. How, then, go to
work to secure his cooperation in a scheme possibly as mysterious
to him as it was to himself? He could stop this stranger in
mid-street, with some plausible excuse, but it did not follow
that he would succeed in luring him to the hotel where Mr. Grey
could see him. Wellgood, or, as he believed, Sears, knew too much
of life to be beguiled by any open clap-trap, and Sweetwater was
obliged to see him drive off without having made the least
advance in the purpose engrossing him.

But that was nothing. He had all the evening before him, and
reentering the store, he took up his stand near the sugar barrel.
He had perceived that in the pauses of weighing and tasting, Dick
talked; if he were guided with suitable discretion, why should he
not talk of Wellgood?

He was guided, and he did talk and to some effect. That is, he
gave information of the man which surprised Sweetwater. If in the
past and in New York he had been known as a waiter, or should I
say steward, he was known here as a manufacturer of patent
medicine designed to rejuvenate the human race. He had not been
long in town and was somewhat of a stranger yet, but he wouldn't
be so long. He was going to make things hum, he was. Money for
this, money for that, a horse where another man would walk, and
mail--well, that alone would make this post-office worth while.
Then the drugs ordered by wholesale. Those boxes over there were
his, ready to be carted out to his manufactory. Count them, some
one, and think of the bottles and bottles of stuff they stand
for. If it sells as he says it will--then he will soon be rich:
and so on, till Sweetwater brought the garrulous Dick to a
standstill by asking whether Wellgood had been away for any
purpose since he first came to town. He received the reply that
he had just come home from New York, where he had been for some
articles needed in his manufactory. Sweetwater felt all his
convictions confirmed, and ended the colloquy with the final
question:

"And where is his manufactory? Might be worth visiting, perhaps."

The other made a gesture, said something about northwest and
rushed to help a customer. Sweetwater took the opportunity to
slide away. More explicit directions could easily be got
elsewhere, and he felt anxious to return to Mr. Grey and
discover, if possible, whether it would prove as much a matter of
surprise to him as to Sweetwater himself that the man who
answered to the name of Wellgood was the owner of a manufactory
and a barrel or two of drugs, out of which he proposed to make a
compound that would rob the doctors of their business and make
himself and this little village rich.

Sweetwater made only one stop on his way to Mr. Grey's hotel
rooms, and that was at the stables. Here he learned whatever else
there was to know, and, armed with definite information, he
appeared before Mr. Grey, who, to his astonishment, was dining in
his own room.

He had dismissed the waiter and was rather brooding than eating.
He looked up eagerly, however, when Sweetwater entered, and asked
what news.

The detective, with some semblance of respect, answered that he
had seen Wellgood, but that he had been unable to detain him or
bring him within his employer's observation.

"He is a patent-medicine man," he then explained, "and
manufactures his own concoctions in a house he has rented here on
a lonely road some half-mile out of town."

"Wellgood does? the man named Wellgood?" Mr. Grey exclaimed with
all the astonishment the other secretly expected.

"Yes; Wellgood, James Wellgood. There is no other in town."

"How long has this man been here?" the statesman inquired, after
a moment of apparently great discomfiture.

"Just twenty-four hours, this time. He was here once before, when
he rented the house and made all his plans."

"Ah!"

Mr. Grey rose precipitately. His manner had changed.

"I must see him. What you tell me makes it all the more necessary
for me to see him. How can you bring it about?"

"Without his seeing you?" Sweetwater asked.

"Yes, yes; certainly without his seeing me. Couldn't you rap him
up at his own door, and hold him in talk a minute, while I looked
on from the carriage or whatever vehicle we can get to carry us
there? The least glimpse of his face would satisfy me. That is,
to-night."

"I'll try," said Sweetwater, not very sanguine as to the probable
result of this effort.

Returning to the stables, he ordered the team. With the last ray
of the sun they set out, the reins in Sweetwater's hands.

They headed for the coast-road.



XVIII

THE CLOSED DOOR

The road was once the highway, but the tide having played so many
tricks with its numberless bridges a new one had been built
farther up the cliff, carrying with it the life and business of
the small town. Many old landmarks still remained--shops,
warehouses and even a few scattered dwellings. But most of these
were deserted, and those that were still in use showed such
neglect that it was very evident the whole region would soon be
given up to the encroaching sea and such interests as are
inseparable from it.

The hour was that mysterious one of late twilight, when outlines
lose their distinctness and sea and shore melt into one mass of
uniform gray. There was no wind and the waves came in with a soft
plash, but so near to the level of the road that it was evident,
even to these strangers, that the tide was at its height and
would presently begin to ebb.

Soon they had passed the last forsaken dwelling, and the town
proper lay behind them. Sand and a few rocks were all that lay
between them now and the open stretch of the ocean, which, at
this point, approached the land in a small bay, well-guarded on
either side by embracing rocky heads. This was what made the
harbor at C--.

It was very still. They passed one team and only one. Sweetwater
looked very sharply at this team and at its driver, but saw
nothing to arouse suspicion. They were now a half-mile from C--,
and, seemingly, in a perfectly desolate region.

"A manufactory here!" exclaimed Mr. Grey. It was the first word
he had uttered since starting.

"Not far from here," was Sweetwater's equally laconic reply; and,
the road taking a turn almost at the moment of his speaking, he
leaned forward and pointed out a building standing on the
right-hand side of the road, with its feet in the water. "That's
it." said he. "They described it well enough for me to know it
when I see it. Looks like a robber's hole at this time of night,"
he laughed; "but what can you expect from a manufactory of patent
medicine?"

Mr. Grey was silent. He was looking very earnestly at the
building.

"It is larger than I expected," he remarked at last.

Sweetwater himself was surprised, but as they advanced and their
point of view changed they found it to be really an insignificant
structure, and Mr. Wellgood's portion of it more insignificant
still.

In reality it was a collection of three stores under one roof:
two of them were shut up and evidently unoccupied, the third
showed a lighted window. This was the manufactory. It occupied
the middle place and presented a tolerably decent appearance. It
showed, besides the lighted lamp I have mentioned, such signs of
life as a few packing-boxes tumbled out on the small platform in
front, and a whinnying horse attached to an empty buggy, tied to
a post on the opposite side of the road.

"I'm glad to see the lamp," muttered Sweetwater. "Now, what shall
we do? Is it light enough for you to see his face, if I can
manage to bring him to the door?"

Mr. Grey seemed startled.

"It's darker than I thought," said he. "But call the man and if I
can not see him plainly, I'll shout to the horse to stand, which
you will take as a signal to bring this Wellgood nearer. But do
not be surprised if I ride off before he reaches the buggy. I'll
come back again and take you up farther down the road."

"All right, sir," answered Sweetwater, with a side glance at the
speaker's inscrutable features. "It's a go!" And leaping to the
ground he advanced to the manufactory door and knocked loudly.

No one appeared.

He tried the latch; it lifted, but the door did not open; it was
fastened from within.

"Strange!" he muttered, casting a glance at the waiting horse and
buggy, then at the lighted window, which was on the second floor
directly over his head. "Guess I'll sing out."

Here he shouted the man's name. "Wellgood! I say, Wellgood!"

No response to this either.

"Looks bad!" he acknowledged to himself; and, taking a step back,
he looked up at the window.

It was closed, but there was neither shade nor curtain to
obstruct the view.

"Do you see anything?" he inquired of Mr. Grey, who sat with his
eye at the small window in the buggy top.

"Nothing."

"No movement in the room above? No shadow at the window?"

"Nothing."

"Well, it's confounded strange!" And he went back, still calling
Wellgood.

The tied-up horse whinnied, and the waves gave a soft splash and
that was all,--if I except Sweetwater's muttered oath.

Coming back, he looked again at the window, then, with a gesture
toward Mr. Grey, turned the corner of the building and began to
edge himself along its side in an endeavor to reach the rear and
see what it offered. But he came to a sudden standstill. He found
himself on the edge of the bank before he had taken twenty steps.
Yet the building projected on, and he saw why it had looked so
large from a certain point of the approach. Its rear was built
out on piles, making its depth even greater than the united width
of the three stores. At low tide this might be accessible from
below, but just now the water was almost on a level with the top
of the piles, making all approach impossible save by boat.

Disgusted with his failure, Sweetwater returned to the front,
and, finding the situation unchanged, took a new resolve. After
measuring with his eye the height of the first story, he coolly
walked over to the strange horse, and, slipping his bridle,
brought it back and cast it over a projection of the door; by its
aid he succeeded in climbing up to the window, which was the sole
eye to the interior,

Mr. Grey sat far back in his buggy, watching every movement.

There were no shades at the window, as I have before said, and,
once Sweetwater's eye had reached the level of the sill, he could
see the interior without the least difficulty. There was nobody
there. The lamp burned on a great table littered with papers, but
the rude cane-chair before it was empty, and so was the room. He
could see into every corner of it and there was not even a
hiding-place where anybody could remain concealed. Sweetwater was
still looking, when the lamp, which had been burning with
considerable smoke, flared up and went out. Sweetwater uttered an
ejaculation, and, finding himself face to face with utter
darkness, slid from his perch to the ground.

Approaching Mr. Grey for the second time, he said:

"I can not understand it. The fellow is either lying low, or he's
gone out, leaving his lamp to go out, too. But whose is the
horse--just excuse me while I tie him up again. It looks like the
one he was driving to-day. It is the one. Well, he won't leave
him here all night. Shall we lie low and wait for him to come and
unhitch this animal? Or do you prefer to return to the hotel?"

Mr. Grey was slow in answering. Finally he said:

"The man may suspect our intention. You can never tell anything
about such fellows as he. He may have caught some unexpected
glimpse of me or simply heard that I was in town. If he's the man
I think him, he has reasons for avoiding me which I can very well
understand. Let us go back,--not to the hotel, I must see this
adventure through tonight,--but far enough for him to think we
have given up all idea of routing him out to-night. Perhaps that
is all he is waiting for. You can steal back--"

"Excuse me," said Sweetwater, "but I know a better dodge than
that. We'll circumvent him. We passed a boat-house on our way
down here. I'll just drive you up, procure a boat, and bring you
back here by water. I don't believe that he will expect that, and
if he is in the house we shall see him or his light."

"Meanwhile he can escape by the road."

"Escape? Do you think he is planning to escape?"

The detective spoke with becoming surprise and Mr. Grey answered
without apparent suspicion.

"It is possible if he suspects my presence in the neighborhood."

"Do you want to stop him?"

"I want to see him."

"Oh, I remember. Well, sir, we will drive on,--that is, after a
moment."

"What are you going to do?"

"Oh, nothing. You said you wanted to see the man before he
escaped."

"Yes, but--"

"And that he might escape by the road."

"Yes--"

"Well, I was just making that a little bit impracticable. A small
pebble in the keyhole and--why, see now, his horse is walking
off! Gee! I must have fastened him badly. I shouldn't wonder if
he trotted all the way to town. But it can't be helped. I can not
be supposed to race after him. Are you ready now, sir? I'll give
another shout, then I'll get in." And once more the lonely region
about echoed with the cry: "Wellgood! I say, Wellgood!"

There was no answer, and the young detective, masking for the
nonce as Mr. Grey's confidential servant, jumped into the buggy,
and turned the horse's head toward C--.



XIX

THE FACE

The moon was well up when the small boat in which our young
detective was seated with Mr. Grey appeared in the bay
approaching the so-called manufactory of Wellgood. The looked-for
light on the waterside was not there. All was dark except where
the windows reflected the light of the moon.

This was a decided disappointment to Sweetwater, if not to Mr.
Grey. He had expected to detect signs of life in this quarter,
and this additional proof of Wellgood's absence from home made it
look as if they had come out on a fool's errand and might much
better have stuck to the road.

"No promise there," came in a mutter from his lips. "Shall I row
in, sir, and try to make a landing?"

"You may row nearer. I should like a closer view. I don't think
we shall attract any attention. There are more boats than ours on
the water."

Sweetwater was startled. Looking round, he saw a launch, or some
such small steamer, riding at anchor not far from the mouth of
the bay. But that was not all. Between it and them was a rowboat
like their own, resting quietly in the wake of the moon.

"I don't like so much company," he muttered. "Something's
brewing; something in which we may not want to take a part."

"Very likely," answered Mr. Grey grimly. "But we must not be
deterred--not till I have seen--" the rest Sweetwater did not
hear. Mr. Grey seemed to remember himself. "Row nearer," he now
bade. "Get under the shadow of the rocks if you can. If the boat
is for him, he will show himself. Yet I hardly see how he can
board from that bank."

It did not look feasible. Nevertheless, they waited and watched
with much patience for several long minutes. The boat behind them
did not advance, nor was any movement discernible in the
direction of the manufactory. Another short period, then suddenly
a light flashed from a window high up in the central gable,
sparkled for an instant and was gone. Sweetwater took it for a
signal and, with a slight motion of the wrist, began to work his
way in toward shore till they lay almost at the edge of the
piles.

"Hark!"

It was Sweetwater who spoke.

Both listened, Mr. Grey with his head turned toward the launch
and Sweetwater with his eye on the cavernous space, sharply
outlined by the piles, which the falling tide now disclosed under
each contiguous building. Goods had been directly shipped from
these stores in the old days. This he had learned in the village.
How shipped he had not been able to understand from his previous
survey of the building. But he thought he could see now. At low
tide, or better, at half-tide, access could be got to the floor
of the extension and, if this floor held a trap, the mystery
would be explainable. So would be the hovering boat--the
signal-light and--yes! this sound overheard of steps on a
rattling planking.

"I hear nothing," whispered Mr. Grey from the other end. "The
boat is still there, but not a man has dipped an oar."

"They will soon," returned Sweetwater as a smothered sound of
clanking iron reached his ears from the hollow spaces before him.
"Duck your head, sir; I'm going to row in under this portion of
the house."

Mr. Grey would have protested and with very good reason. There
was scarcely a space of three feet between them and the boards
overhead. But Sweetwater had so immediately suited action to word
that he had no choice.

They were now in utter darkness, and Mr. Grey's thoughts must
have been peculiar as he crouched over the stern, hardly knowing
what to expect or whether this sudden launch into darkness was
for the purpose of flight or pursuit. But enlightenment came
soon. The sound of a man's tread in the building above was every
moment becoming more perceptible, and while wondering, possibly,
at his position, Mr. Grey naturally turned his head as nearly as
he could in the direction of these sounds, and was staring with
blank eyes into the darkness, when Sweetwater, leaning toward
him, whispered:

"Look up! There's a trap. In a minute he'll open it. Mark him,
but don't breathe a word, and I'll get you out of this all
right."

Mr. Grey attempted some answer, but it was lost in the prolonged
creak of slowly-moving hinges somewhere over their heads. Spaces,
which had looked dark, suddenly looked darker; hearing was
satisfied, but not the eye. A man's breath panting with exertion
testified to a near-by presence; but that man was working without
a light in a room with shuttered windows, and Mr. Grey probably
felt that he knew very little more than before, when suddenly,
most unexpectedly, to him at least, a face started out of that
overhead darkness; a face so white, with every feature made so
startlingly distinct by the strong light Sweetwater had thrown
upon it, that it seemed the only thing in the world to the two
men beneath. In another moment it had vanished, or rather the
light which had revealed it.

"What's that? Are you there?" came down from above in hoarse and
none too encouraging tones.

There was none to answer; Sweetwater, with a quick pull on the
oars, had already shot the boat out of its dangerous harbor.



XX

MOONLIGHT--AND A CLUE

"Are you satisfied? Have you got what you wanted?" asked
Sweetwater, when they were well away from the shore and the voice
they had heard calling at intervals from the chasm they had left.

"Yes. You're a good fellow. It could not have been better
managed." Then, after a pause too prolonged and thoughtful to
please Sweetwater, who was burning with curiosity if not with
some deeper feeling: "What was that light you burned? A match?"

Sweetwater did not answer. He dared not. How speak of the
electric torch he as a detective carried in his pocket? That
would be to give himself away. He therefore let this question
slip by and put in one of his own.

"Are you ready to go back now, sir? Are we all done here?" This
with his ear turned and his eye bent forward; for the adventure
they had interrupted was not at an end, whether their part in it
was or not.

Mr. Grey hesitated, his glances following those of Sweetwater.

"Let us wait," said he, in a tone which surprised Sweetwater. "If
he is meditating an escape, I must speak to him before he reaches
the launch. At all hazards," he added after another moment's
thought.

"All right, sir--How do you propose--"

His words were interrupted by a shrill whistle from the direction
of the bank. Promptly, and as if awaiting this signal, the two
men in the rowboat before them dipped their oars and pulled for
the shore, taking the direction of the manufactory.

Sweetwater said nothing, but held himself in readiness.

Mr. Grey was equally silent, but the lines of his face seemed to
deepen in the moonlight as the boat, gliding rapidly through the
water, passed them within a dozen boat-lengths and slipped into
the opening under the manufactory building.

"Now row!" he cried. "Make for the launch. We'll intercept them
on their return."

Sweetwater, glowing with anticipation, bent to his work. The boat
beneath them gave a bound and in a few minutes they were far out
on the waters of the bay.

"They're coming!" he whispered eagerly, as he saw Mr. Grey
looking anxiously back. "How much farther shall I go?"

"Just within hailing distance of the launch," was Mr. Grey's
reply.

Sweetwater, gaging the distance with a glance, stopped at the
proper point and rested on his oars. But his thoughts did not
rest. He realized that he was about to witness an interview whose
importance he easily recognized. How much of it would he hear?
What would be the upshot and what was his full duty in the case?
He knew that this man Wellgood was wanted by the New York police,
but he was possessed with no authority to arrest him, even if he
had the power.

"Something more than I bargained for," he inwardly commented.
"But I wanted excitement, and now I have got it. If only I can
keep my head level, I may get something out of this, if not all I
could wish."

Meantime the second boat was very nearly on them. He could mark
the three figures and pick out Wellgood's head from among the
rest. It had a resolute air; the face on which, to his evident
discomfiture, the moon shone, wore a look which convinced the
detective that this was no patent-medicine manufacturer, nor even
a caterer's assistant, but a man of nerve and resources, the
same, indeed, whom he had encountered in Mr. Fairbrother's house,
with such disastrous, almost fatal, results to himself.

The discovery, though an unexpected one, did not lessen his sense
of the extreme helplessness of his own position. He could
witness, but he could not act; follow Mr. Grey's orders, but
indulge in none of his own. The detective must continue to be
lost in the valet, though it came hard and woke a sense of shame
in his ambitious breast.

Meanwhile Wellgood had seen them and ordered his men to cease
rowing.

"Give way, there," he shouted. "We're for the launch and in a
hurry."

"There's some one here who wants to speak to you, Mr. Wellgood,"
Sweetwater called out, as respectfully as he could. "Shall I
mention your name?" he asked of Mr. Grey.

"No, I will do that myself." And raising his voice, he accosted
the other with these words: "I am the man, Percival Grey, of
Darlington Manor, England. I should like to say a word to you
before you embark."

A change, quick as lightning and almost as dangerous, passed over
the face Sweetwater was watching with such painful anxiety; but
as the other added nothing to his words and seemed to be merely
waiting, he shrugged his shoulders and muttered an order to his
rowers to proceed.

In another moment the sterns of the two small craft swung
together, but in such a way that, by dint of a little skilful
manipulation on the part of Wellgood's men, the latter's back was
toward the moon.

Mr. Grey leaned toward Wellgood, and his face fell into shadow
also.

"Bah!" thought the detective, "I should have managed that myself.
But if I can not see I shall at least hear."

But he deceived himself in this. The two men spoke in such low
whispers that only their intensity was manifest. Not a word came
to Sweetwater's ears.

"Bah!" he thought again, "this is bad."

But he had to swallow his disappointment, and more. For presently
the two men, so different in culture, station and appearance,
came, as it seemed, to an understanding, and Wellgood, taking his
hand from his breast, fumbled in one of his pockets and drew out
something which he handed to Mr. Grey.

This made Sweetwater start and peer with still greater anxiety at
every movement, when to his surprise both bent forward, each over
his own knee, doing something so mysterious he could get no clue
to its nature till they again stretched forth their hands to each
other and he caught the gleam of paper and realized that they
were exchanging memoranda or notes.

These must have been important, for each made an immediate
endeavor to read his slip by turning it toward the moon's rays.
That both were satisfied was shown by their after movements.
Wellgood put his slip into his pocket, and without further word
to Mr. Grey motioned his men to row away. They did so with a
will, leaving a line of silver in their wake. Mr. Grey, on the
contrary, gave no orders. He still held his slip and seemed to be
dreaming. But his eye was on the shore, and he did not even turn
when sounds from the launch denoted that she was under way.

Sweetwater; looking at this morsel of paper with greedy eyes,
dipped his oars and began pulling softly toward that portion of
the beach where a small and twinkling light defined the
boat-house. He hoped Mr. Grey would speak, hoped that in some
way, by some means, he might obtain a clue to his patron's
thoughts. But the English gentleman sat like an image and did not
move till a slight but sudden breeze, blowing in-shore, seized
the paper in his hand and carried it away, past Sweetwater, who
vainly sought to catch it as it went fluttering by, into the
water ahead, where it shone for a moment, then softly
disappeared.

Sweetwater uttered a cry, so did Mr. Grey.

"Is it anything you wanted?" called out the former, leaning over
the bow of the boat and making a dive at the paper with his oar.

"Yes; but if it's gone, it's gone," returned the other with some
feeling. "Careless of me, very careless,--but I was thinking of--
"

He stopped; he was greatly agitated, but he did not encourage
Sweetwater in any further attempts to recover the lost
memorandum. Indeed, such an effort would have been fruitless; the
paper was gone, and there was nothing left for them but to
continue their way. As they did so it would have been hard to
tell in which breast chagrin mounted higher. Sweetwater had lost
a clue in a thousand, and Mr. Greywell, no one knew what he had
lost. He said nothing and plainly showed by his changed manner
that he was in haste to land now and be done with this doubtful
adventure.

When they reached the boat-house Mr. Grey left Sweetwater to pay
for the boat and started at once for the hotel.

The man in charge had the bow of the boat in hand, preparatory to
pulling it up on the boards. As Sweetwater turned toward him he
caught sight of the side of the boat, shining brightly in the
moonlight. He gave a start and, with a muttered ejaculation,
darted forward and picked off a small piece of paper from the
dripping keel. It separated in his hand and a part of it escaped
him, but the rest he managed to keep by secreting it in his palm,
where it still clung, wet and possibly illegible, when he came
upon Mr. Grey again in the hotel office.

"Here's your pay," said that gentleman, giving him a bill. "I am
very glad I met you. You have served me remarkably well."

There was an anxiety in his face and a hurry in his movements
which struck Sweetwater.

"Does this mean that you are through with me?" asked Sweetwater.
"That you have no further call for my services?"

"Quite so," said the gentleman. "I'm going to take the train
to-night. I find that I still have time."

Sweetwater began to look alive.

Uttering hasty thanks, he rushed away to his own room and,
turning on the gas, peeled off the morsel of paper which had
begun to dry on his hand. If it should prove to be the blank end!
If the written part were the one which had floated off! Such
disappointments had fallen to his lot! He was not unused to them.

But he was destined to better luck this time. The written end had
indeed disappeared, but there was one word left, which he had no
sooner read than he gave a low cry and prepared to leave for New
York on the same train as Mr. Grey.

The word was--diamond.



XXI

GRIZEL! GRIZEL!

I indulged in some very serious thoughts after Mr. Grey's
departure. A fact was borne in upon me to which I had hitherto
closed my prejudiced eyes, but which I could no longer ignore,
whatever confusion it brought or however it caused me to change
my mind on a subject which had formed one of the strongest bases
to the argument by which I had sought to save Mr. Durand. Miss
Grey cherished no such distrust of her father as I, in my
ignorance of their relations, had imputed to her in the early
hours of my ministrations. This you have already seen in my
account of their parting. Whatever his dread, fear or remorse,
there was no evidence that she felt toward him anything but love
and confidence: but love and confidence from her to him were in
direct contradiction to the doubts I had believed her to have
expressed in the half-written note handed to Mrs. Fairbrother in
the alcove. Had I been wrong, then, in attributing this scrawl to
her? It began to look so. Though forbidden to allow her to speak
on the one tabooed subject, I had wit enough to know that nothing
would keep her from it, if the fate of Mrs. Fairbrother occupied
any real place in her thoughts.

Yet when the opportunity was given me one morning of settling
this fact beyond all doubt, I own that my main feeling was one of
dread. I feared to see this article in my creed destroyed, lest I
should lose confidence in the whole. Yet conscience bade me face
the matter boldly, for had I not boasted to myself that my one
desire was the truth?

I allude to the disposition which Miss Grey showed on the morning
of the third day to do a little surreptitious writing. You
remember that a specimen of her handwriting had been asked for by
the inspector, and once had been earnestly desired by myself. Now
I seemed likely to have it, if I did not open my eyes too widely
to the meaning of her seemingly chance requests. A little pencil
dangled at the end of my watch-chain. Would I let her see it, let
her hold it in her hand for a minute? it was so like one she used
to have. Of course I took it off, of course I let her retain it a
little while in her hand. But the pencil was not enough. A few
minutes later she asked for a book to look at--I sometimes let
her look at pictures. But the book bothered her--she would look
at it later; would I give her something to mark the place--that
postal over there. I gave her the postal. She put it in the book
and I, who understood her thoroughly, wondered what excuse she
would now find for sending me into the other room. She found one
very soon, and with a heavily-beating heart I left her with that
pencil and postal. A soft laugh from her lips drew me back. She
was holding up the postal.

"See! I have written a line to him! Oh, you good, good nurse, to
let me! You needn't look so alarmed. It hasn't hurt me one bit."

I knew that it had not; knew that such an exertion was likely to
be more beneficial than hurtful to her, or I should have found
some excuse for deterring her. I endeavored to make my face more
natural. As she seemed to want me to take the postal in my hand I
drew near and took it.

"The address looks very shaky," she laughed. "I think you will
have to put it in an envelope."

I looked at it,--I could not help it,--her eye was on me, and I
could not even prepare my mind for the shock of seeing it like or
totally unlike the writing of the warning. It was totally unlike;
so distinctly unlike that it was no longer possible to attribute
those lines to her which, according to Mr. Durand's story, had
caused Mrs. Fairbrother to take off her diamond.

"Why, why!" she cried. "You actually look pale. Are you afraid
the doctor will scold us? It hasn't hurt me nearly so much as
lying here and knowing what he would give for one word from me."

"You are right, and I am foolish," I answered with all the spirit
left in me. "I should be glad--I am glad that you have written
these words. I will copy the address on an envelope and send it
out in the first mail."

"Thank you," she murmured, giving me back my pencil with a sly
smile. "Now I can sleep. I must have roses in my cheeks when papa
comes home."

And she bade fair to have ruddier roses than myself, for
conscience was working havoc in my breast. The theory I had built
up with such care, the theory I had persisted in urging upon the
inspector in spite of his rebuke, was slowly crumbling to pieces
in my mind with the falling of one of its main pillars. With the
warning unaccounted for in the manner I have stated, there was a
weakness in my argument which nothing could make good. How could
I tell the inspector, if ever I should be so happy or so
miserable as to meet his eye again? Humiliated to the dust, I
could see no worth now in any of the arguments I had advanced. I
flew from one extreme to the other, and was imputing perfect
probity to Mr. Grey and an honorable if mysterious reason for all
his acts, when the door opened and he came in. Instantly my last
doubt vanished. I had not expected him to return so soon.

He was glad to be back; that I could see, but there was no other
gladness in him. I had looked for some change in his manner and
appearance,--that is, if he returned at all,--but the one I saw
was not a cheerful one, even after he had approached his
daughter's bedside and found her greatly improved. She noticed
this and scrutinized him strangely. He dropped his eyes and
turned to leave the room, but was stopped by her loving cry; he
came back and leaned over her.

"What is it, father? You are fatigued, worried--"

"No, no, quite well," he hastily assured her. "But you! are you
as well as you seem?"

"Indeed, yes. I am gaining every day. See! see! I shall soon be
able to sit up. Yesterday I read a few words."

He started, with a side glance at me which took in a table near
by on which a little book was lying.

"Oh, a book?"

"Yes, and--and Arthur's letters."

The father flushed, lifted himself, patted her arm tenderly and
hastened into another room.

Miss Grey's eyes followed him longingly, and I heard her give
utterance to a soft sigh. A few hours before, this would have
conveyed to my suspicious mind deep and mysterious meanings; but
I was seeing everything now in a different light, and I found
myself no longer inclined either to exaggerate or to misinterpret
these little marks of filial solicitude. Trying to rejoice over
the present condition of my mind, I was searching in the hidden
depths of my nature for the patience of which I stood in such
need, when every thought and feeling were again thrown into
confusion by the receipt of another communication from the
inspector, in which he stated that something had occurred to
bring the authorities round to my way of thinking and that the
test with the stiletto was to be made at once.

Could the irony of fate go further! I dropped the letter half
read, querying if it were my duty to let the inspector know of
the flaw I had discovered in my own theory, before I proceeded
with the attempt I had suggested when I believed in its complete
soundness. I had not settled the question when I took the letter
up again. Re-reading its opening sentence, I was caught by the
word "something." It was a very indefinite one, yet was capable
of covering a large field. It must cover a large field, or it
could not have produced such a change in the minds of these men,
conservative from principle and in this instance from discretion.
I would be satisfied with that word something and quit further
thinking. I was weary of it. The inspector was now taking the
initiative, and I was satisfied to be his simple instrument and
no more. Arrived at this conclusion, however, I read the rest of
the letter. The test was to go on, but under different
conditions. It was no longer to be made at my own discretion and
in the up-stairs room; it was to be made at luncheon hour and in
Mr. Grey's private dining-room, where, if by any chance Mr. Grey
found himself outraged by the placing of this notorious weapon
beside his plate, the blame could be laid on the waiter, who,
mistaking his directions, had placed it on Mr. Grey's table when
it was meant for Inspector Dalzell's, who was lunching in the
adjoining room. It was I, however, who was to do the placing.
With what precautions and under what circumstances will presently
appear.

Fortunately, the hour set was very near. Otherwise I do not know
how I could have endured the continued strain of gazing on my
patient's sweet face, looking up at me from her pillow, with a
shadow over its beauty which had not been there before her
father's return.

And that father! I could hear him pacing the library floor with a
restlessness that struck me as being strangely akin to my own
inward anguish of impatience and doubt. What was he dreading?
What was it I had seen darkening his face and disturbing his
manner, when from time to time he pushed open the communicating
door and cast an anxious glance our way, only to withdraw again
without uttering a word. Did he realize that a crisis was
approaching, that danger menaced him, and from me? No, not the
latter, for his glance never strayed to me, but rested solely on
his daughter. I was, therefore, not connected with the
disturbance in his thoughts. As far as that was concerned I could
proceed fearlessly; I had not him to dread, only the event. That
I did dread, as any one must who saw Miss Grey's face during
these painful moments and heard that restless tramp in the room
beyond.

At last the hour struck,--the hour at which Mr. Grey always
descended to lunch. He was punctuality itself, and under ordinary
circumstances I could depend upon his leaving the room within
five minutes of the stroke of one. But would he be as prompt
to-day? Was he in the mood for luncheon? Would he go down stairs
at all? Yes, for the tramp, tramp stopped; I heard him
approaching his daughter's door for a last look in and managed to
escape just in time to procure what I wanted and reach the room
below before he came.

My opportunity was short, but I had time to see two things:
first, that the location of his seat had been changed so that his
back was to the door leading into the adjoining room; secondly,
that this door was ajar. The usual waiter was in the room and
showed no surprise at my appearance, I having been careful to
have it understood that hereafter Miss Grey's appetite was to be
encouraged by having her soup served from her father's table by
her father's own hands, and that I should be there to receive it.

"Mr. Grey is coming," said I, approaching the waiter and handing
him the stiletto loosely wrapped in tissue paper. "Will you be
kind enough to place this at his plate, just as it is? A man gave
it to me for Mr. Grey; said we were to place it there."

The waiter, suspecting nothing, did as he was bidden, and I had
hardly time to catch up the tray laden with dishes, which I saw
awaiting me on a side-table, when Mr. Grey came in and was
ushered to his seat.

The soup was not there, but I advanced with my tray and stood
waiting; not too near, lest the violent beating of my heart
should betray me. As I did so the waiter disappeared and the door
behind us opened. Though Mr. Grey's eye had fallen on the
package, and I saw him start, I darted one glance at the room
thus disclosed, and saw that it held two tables. At one, the
inspector and some one I did not know sat eating; at the other a
man alone, whose back was to us all, and who seemingly was
entirely disconnected with the interests of this tragic moment.
All this I saw in an instant,--the next my eyes were fixed on Mr.
Grey's face.

He had reached out his hand to the package and his features
showed an emotion I hardly understood.

"What's this?" he murmured, feeling it with wonder, I should
almost say anger. Suddenly he pulled off the wrapper, and my
heart stood still in expectancy. If he quailed--and how could he
help doing so if guilty--what a doubt would be removed from my
own breast, what an impediment from police action! But he did not
quail; he simply uttered an exclamation of intense anger, and
laid the weapon back on the table without even taking the
precaution of covering it up. I think he muttered an oath, but
there was no fear in it, not a particle.

My disappointment was so great, my humiliation so unbounded,
that, forgetting myself in my dismay, I staggered back and let
the tray with all its contents slip from my hands. The crash that
followed stopped Mr. Grey in the act of rising. But it did
something more. It awoke a cry from the adjoining room which I
shall never forget. While we both started and turned to see from
whom this grievous sound had sprung, a man came stumbling toward
us with his hands before his eyes and this name wild on his lips:

"Grizel! Grizel!"

Mrs. Fairbrother's name! and the man--



XXII

GUILT

Was he Wellgood? Sears? Who? A lover of the woman certainly; that
was borne in on us by the passion of his cry:

"Grizel! Grizel!"

But how here? and why such fury in Mr. Grey's face and such
amazement in that of the inspector?

This question was not to be answered offhand. Mr. Grey,
advancing, laid a finger on the man's shoulder. "Come," said he,
"we will have our conversation in another room."

The man, who, in dress and appearance looked oddly out of place
in those gorgeous rooms, shook off the stupor into which he had
fallen and started to follow the Englishman. A waiter crossed
their track with the soup for our table. Mr. Grey motioned him
aside.

"Take that back," said he. "I have some business to transact with
this gentleman before I eat. I'll ring when I want you."

Then they entered where I was. As the door closed I caught sight
of the inspector's face turned earnestly toward me. In his eyes I
read my duty, and girded up my heart, as it were, to meet--what?
In that moment it was impossible to tell.

The next enlightened me. With a total ignoring of my presence,
due probably to his great excitement, Mr. Grey turned on his
companion the moment he had closed the door and, seizing him by
the collar, cried:

"Fairbrother, you villain, why have you called on your wife like
this? Are you murderer as well as thief?"

Fairbrother! this man? Then who was he who was being nursed back
to life on the mountains beyond Santa Fe? Sears? Anything seemed
possible in that moment.

Meanwhile, dropping his hand from the other's throat as suddenly
as he had seized it, Mr. Grey caught up the stiletto from the
table where he had flung it, crying: "Do you recognize this?"

Ah, then I saw guilt!

In a silence worse than any cry, this so-called husband of the
murdered woman, the man on whom no suspicion had fallen, the man
whom all had thought a thousand miles away at the time of the
deed, stared at the weapon thrust under his eyes, while over his
face passed all those expressions of fear, abhorrence and
detected guilt which, fool that I was, I had expected to see
reflected in response to the same test in Mr. Grey's equable
countenance.

The surprise and wonder of it held me chained to the spot. I was
in a state of stupefaction, so that I scarcely noted the broken
fragments at my feet. But the intruder noticed them. Wrenching
his gaze from the stiletto which Mr. Grey continued to hold out,
he pointed to the broken cup and saucer, muttering:

"That is what startled me into this betrayal--the noise of
breaking china. I can not bear it since--"

He stopped, bit his lip and looked around him with an air of
sudden bravado.

"Since you dropped the cups at your wife's feet in Mr. Ramsdell's
alcove," finished Mr. Grey with admirable self-possession.

"I see that explanations from myself are not in order," was the
grim retort, launched with the bitterest sarcasm. Then as the
full weight of his position crushed in on him, his face assumed
an aspect startling to my unaccustomed eyes, and, thrusting his
hand into his pocket he drew forth a small box which he placed in
Mr. Grey's hands.

"The Great Mogul," he declared simply.

It was the first time I had heard this diamond so named.

Without a word that gentleman opened the box, took one look at
the contents, assumed a satisfied air, and carefully deposited
the recovered gem in his own pocket. As his eyes returned to the
man before him, all the passion of the latter burst forth.

"It was not for that I killed her!" cried he. "It was because she
defied me and flaunted her disobedience in my very face. I would
do it again, yet--"

Here his voice broke and it was in a different tone and with a
total change of manner he added: "You stand appalled at my
depravity. You have not lived my life." Then quickly and with a
touch of sullenness: "You suspected me because of the stiletto.
It was a mistake, using that stiletto. Otherwise, the plan was
good. I doubt if you know now how I found my way into the alcove,
possibly under your very eyes; certainly, under the eyes of many
who knew me."

"I do not. It is enough that you entered it; that you confess
your guilt."

Here Mr. Grey stretched his hand toward the electric button.

"No, it is not enough." The tone was fierce, authoritative. "Do
not ring the bell, not yet. I have a fancy to tell you how I
managed that little affair."

Glancing about, he caught up from a near-by table a small brass
tray. Emptying it of its contents, he turned on us with
drawn-down features and an obsequious air so opposed to his
natural manner that it was as if another man stood before us.

"Pardon my black tie," he muttered, holding out the tray toward
Mr. Grey.

Wellgood!

The room turned with me. It was he, then, the great financier,
the multimillionaire, the husband of the magnificent Grizel, who
had entered Mr. Ramsdell's house as a waiter!

Mr. Grey did not show surprise, but he made a gesture, when
instantly the tray was thrown aside and the man resumed his
ordinary aspect.

"I see you understand me," he cried. "I who have played host at
many a ball, passed myself off that night as one of the waiters.
I came and went and no one noticed me. It is such a natural sight
to see a waiter passing ices that my going in and out of the
alcove did not attract the least attention. I never look at
waiters when I attend balls. I never look higher than their
trays. No one looked at me higher than my tray. I held the
stiletto under the tray and when I struck her she threw up her
hands and they hit the tray and the cups fell. I have never been
able to bear the sound of breaking china since. I loved her--"

A gasp and he recovered himself.

"That is neither here nor there," he muttered. "You summoned me
under threat to present myself at your door to-day. I have done
so. I meant to restore you your diamond, simply. It has become
worthless to me. But fate exacted more. Surprise forced my secret
from me. That young lady with her damnable awkwardness has put my
head in a noose. But do not think to hold it there. I did not
risk this interview without precautions, I assure you, and when I
leave this hotel it will be as a free man."

With one of his rapid changes, wonderful and inexplicable to me
at the moment, he turned toward me with a bow, saying courteously
enough:

"We will excuse the young lady."

Next moment the barrel of a pistol gleamed in his hand.

The moment was critical. Mr. Grey stood directly in the line of
fire, and the audacious man who thus held him at his mercy was
scarcely a foot from the door leading into the hall. Marking the
desperation of his look and the steadiness of his finger on the
trigger, I expected to see Mr. Grey recoil and the man escape.
But Mr. Grey held his own, though he made no move, and did not
venture to speak. Nerved by his courage, I summoned up all my
own. This man must not escape, nor must Mr. Grey suffer. The
pistol directed against him must be diverted to myself. Such
amends were due one whose good name I had so deeply if secretly
insulted. I had but to scream, to call out for the inspector, but
a remembrance of the necessity we were now under of preserving
our secret, of keeping from Mr. Grey the fact that he had been
under surveillance, was even at that moment surrounded by the
police, deterred me, and I threw myself toward the bell instead,
crying out that I would raise the house if he moved, and laid my
finger on the button.

The pistol swerved my way. The face above it smiled. I watched
that smile. Before it broadened to its full extent, I pressed the
button.

Fairbrother stared, dropped his pistol, and burst forth with
these two words:

"Brave girl!"

The tone I can never convey.

Then he made for the door.

As he laid his hand on the knob, he called back:

"I have been in worse straits than this!"

But he never had; when he opened the door, he found himself face
to face with the inspector.



XXIII

THE GREAT MOGUL

Later, it was all explained. Mr. Grey, looking like another man,
came into the room where I was endeavoring to soothe his startled
daughter and devour in secret my own joy. Taking the sweet girl
in his arms, he said, with a calm ignoring of my presence, at
which I secretly smiled:

"This is the happiest moment of my existence, Helen. I feel as if
I had recovered you from the brink of the grave."

"Me? Why, I have never been so ill as that."

"I know; but I have felt as if you were doomed ever since I
heard, or thought I heard, in this city, and under no ordinary
circumstances, the peculiar cry which haunts our house on the eve
of any great misfortune. I shall not apologize for my fears; you
know that I have good cause for them, but to-day, only to-day, I
have heard from the lips of the most arrant knave I have ever
known, that this cry sprang from himself with intent to deceive
me. He knew my weakness; knew the cry; he was in Darlington Manor
when Cecilia died; and, wishing to startle me into dropping
something which I held, made use of his ventriloquial powers (he
had been a mountebank once, poor wretch!) and with such effect,
that I have not been a happy man since, in spite of your daily
improvement and continued promise of recovery. But I am happy
now, relieved and joyful; and this miserable being,--would you
like to hear his story? Are you strong enough for anything so
tragic? He is a thief and a murderer, but he has feelings, and
his life has been a curious one, and strangely interwoven with
ours. Do you care to hear about it? He is the man who stole our
diamond."

My patient uttered a little cry.

"Oh, tell me," she entreated, excited, but not unhealthfully;
while I was in an anguish of curiosity I could with difficulty
conceal.

Mr. Grey turned with courtesy toward me and asked if a few family
details would bore me. I smiled and assured him to the contrary.
At which he settled himself in the chair he liked best and began
a tale which I will permit myself to present to you complete and
from other points of view than his own.

Some five years before, one of the great diamonds of the world
was offered for sale in an Eastern market. Mr. Grey, who stopped
at no expense in the gratification of his taste in this
direction, immediately sent his agent to Egypt to examine this
stone. If the agent discovered it to be all that was claimed for
it, and within the reach of a wealthy commoner's purse, he was to
buy it. Upon inspection, it was found to be all that was claimed,
with one exception. In the center of one of the facets was a
flaw, but, as this was considered to mark the diamond, and rather
add to than detract from its value as a traditional stone with
many historical associations, it was finally purchased by Mr.
Grey and placed among his treasures in his manor-house in Kent.
Never a suspicious man, he took delight in exhibiting this
acquisition to such of his friends and acquaintances as were
likely to feel any interest in it, and it was not an uncommon
thing for him to allow it to pass from hand to hand while he
pottered over his other treasures and displayed this and that to
such as had no eyes for the diamond.

It was after one such occasion that he found, on taking the stone
in his hand to replace it in the safe he had had built for it in
one of his cabinets, that it did not strike his eye with its
usual force and brilliancy, and, on examining it closely, he
discovered the absence of the telltale flaw. Struck with dismay,
he submitted it to a still more rigid inspection, when he found
that what he held was not even a diamond, but a worthless bit of
glass, which had been substituted by some cunning knave for his
invaluable gem.

For the moment his humiliation almost equaled his sense of loss;
he had been so often warned of the danger he ran in letting so
priceless an object pass around under all eyes but his own. His
wife and friends had prophesied some such loss as this, not once,
but many times, and he had always laughed at their fears, saying
that he knew his friends, and there was not a scamp amongst them.
But now he saw it proved that even the intuition of a man
well-versed in human nature is not always infallible, and,
ashamed of his past laxness and more ashamed yet of the doubts
which this experience called up in regard to all his friends, he
shut up the false stone with his usual care and buried his loss
in his own bosom, till he could sift his impressions and recall
with some degree of probability the circumstances under which
this exchange could have been made.

It had not been made that evening. Of this he was positive. The
only persons present on this occasion were friends of such
standing and repute that suspicion in their regard was simply
monstrous. when and to whom, then, had he shown the diamond last?
Alas, it had been a long month since be had shown the jewel.
Cecilia, his youngest daughter, had died in the interim;
therefore his mind had not been on jewels. A month! time for his
precious diamond to have been carried back to the East! Time for
it to have been recut! Surely it was lost to him for ever, unless
he could immediately locate the person who had robbed him of it.

But this promised difficulties. He could not remember just what
persons he had entertained on that especial day in his little
hall of cabinets, and, when he did succeed in getting a list of
them from his butler, he was by no means sure that it included
the full number of his guests. His own memory was execrable, and,
in short, he had but few facts to offer to the discreet agent
sent up from Scotland Yard one morning to hear his complaint and
act secretly in his interests. He could give him carte blanche to
carry on his inquiries in the diamond market, but little else.
And while this seemed to satisfy the agent, it did not lead to
any gratifying result to himself, and he had thoroughly made up
his mind to swallow his loss and say nothing about it, when one
day a young cousin of his, living in great style in an adjoining
county, informed him that in some mysterious way he had lost from
his collection of arms a unique and highly-prized stiletto of
Italian workmanship.

Startled by this coincidence, Mr. Grey ventured upon a question
or two, which led to his cousin's confiding to him the fact that
this article had disappeared after a large supper given by him to
a number of friends and gentlemen from London. This piece of
knowledge, still further coinciding with his own experience,
caused Mr. Grey to ask for a list of his guests, in the hope of
finding among them one who had been in his own house.

His cousin, quite unsuspicious of the motives underlying this
request, hastened to write out this list, and together they pored
over the names, crossing out such as were absolutely above
suspicion. When they had reached the end of the list, but two
names remained uncrossed. One was that of a rattle-pated youth
who had come in the wake of a highly reputed connection of
theirs, and the other that of an American tourist who gave all
the evidences of great wealth and had presented letters to
leading men in London which had insured him attentions not
usually accorded to foreigners. This man's name was Fairbrother,
and, the moment Mr. Grey heard it, he recalled the fact that an
American with a peculiar name, but with a reputation for wealth,
had been among his guests on the suspected evening.

Hiding the effect produced upon him by this discovery, he placed
his finger on this name and begged his cousin to look up its
owner's antecedents and present reputation in America; but, not
content with this, he sent his own agent over to New York--
whither, as he soon learned, this gentleman had returned. The
result was an apparent vindication of the suspected American. He
was found to be a well-known citizen of the great metropolis,
moving in the highest circles and with a reputation for wealth
won by an extraordinary business instinct.

To be sure, he had not always enjoyed these distinctions. Like
many another self-made man, he had risen from a menial position
in a Western mining camp, to be the owner of a mine himself, and
so up through the various gradations of a successful life to a
position among the foremost business men of New York. In all
these changes he had maintained a name for honest, if not
generous, dealing. He lived in great style, had married and was
known to have but one extravagant fancy. This was for the unique
and curious in art,--a taste which, if report spoke true, cost
him many thousands each year.

This last was the only clause in the report which pointed in any
way toward this man being the possible abstractor of the Great
Mogul, as Mr. Grey's famous diamond was called, and the latter
was too just a man and too much of a fancier in this line himself
to let a fact of this kind weigh against the favorable nature of
the rest. So he recalled his agent, double-locked his cabinets
and continued to confine his display of valuables to articles
which did not suggest jewels. Thus three years passed, when one
day he heard mention made of a wonderful diamond which had been
seen in New York. From its description he gathered that it must
be the one surreptitiously abstracted from his cabinet, and when,
after some careful inquiries, he learned that the name of its
possessor was Fairbrother, he awoke to his old suspicions and
determined to probe this matter to the bottom. But secretly. He
still had too much consideration to attack a man in high position
without full proof.

Knowing of no one he could trust with so delicate an inquiry as
this had now become, he decided to undertake it himself, and for
this purpose embraced the first opportunity to cross the water.
He took his daughter with him because he had resolved never to
let his one remaining child out of his sight. But she knew
nothing of his plans or reason for travel. No one did. Indeed,
only his lawyer and the police were aware of the loss of his
diamond.

His first surprise on landing was to learn that Mr. Fairbrother,
of whose marriage he had heard, had quarreled with his wife and
that, in the separation which had occurred, the diamond had
fallen to her share and was consequently in her possession at the
present moment.

This changed matters, and Mr. Grey's only thought now was to
surprise her with the diamond on her person and by one glance
assure himself that it was indeed the Great Mogul. Since Mrs.
Fairbrother was reported to be a beautiful woman and a great
society belle, he saw no reason why he should not meet her
publicly, and that very soon. He therefore accepted invitations
and attended theaters and balls, though his daughter had suffered
from her voyage and was not able to accompany him. But alas! he
soon learned that Mrs. Fairbrother was never seen with her
diamond and, one evening after an introduction at the opera, that
she never talked about it. So there he was, balked on the very
threshold of his enterprise, and, recognizing the fact, was
preparing to take his now seriously ailing daughter south, when
he received an invitation to a ball of such a select character
that he decided to remain for it, in the hope that Mrs.
Fairbrother would be tempted to put on all her splendor for so
magnificent a function and thus gratify him with a sight of his
own diamond. During the days that intervened he saw her several
times and very soon decided that, in spite of her reticence in
regard to this gem, she was not sufficiently in her husband's
confidence to know the secret of its real ownership. This
encouraged him to attempt piquing her into wearing the diamond on
this occasion. He talked of precious stones and finally of his
own, declaring that he had a connoisseur's eye for a fine
diamond, but had seen none as yet in America to compete with a
specimen or two he had in his own cabinets. Her eye flashed at
this and, though she said nothing, he felt sure that her presence
at Mr. Ramsdell's house would be enlivened by her great jewel.

So much for Mr. Grey's attitude in this matter up to the night of
the ball. It is interesting enough, but that of Abner Fairbrother
is more interesting still and much more serious.

His was indeed the hand which had abstracted the diamond from Mr.
Grey's collection. Under ordinary conditions he was an honest
man. He prized his good name and would not willingly risk it, but
he had little real conscience, and once his passions were aroused
nothing short of the object desired would content him. At once
forceful and subtle, he had at his command infinite resources
which his wandering and eventful life had heightened almost to
the point of genius. He saw this stone, and at once felt an
inordinate desire to possess it. He had coveted other men's
treasures before, but not as he coveted this. What had been
longing in other cases was mania in this. There was a woman in
America whom he loved. She was beautiful and she was
splendor-loving. To see her with this glory on her breast would
be worth almost any risk which his imagination could picture at
the moment. Before the diamond had left his hand he had made up
his mind to have it for his own. He knew that it could not be
bought, so he set about obtaining it by an act he did not
hesitate to acknowledge to himself as criminal. But he did not
act without precautions. Having a keen eye and a proper sense or
size and color, he carried away from his first view of it a true
image of the stone, and when he was next admitted to Mr. Grey's
cabinet room he had provided the means for deceiving the owner
whose character he had sounded.

He might have failed in his daring attempt if he had not been
favored by a circumstance no one could have foreseen. A daughter
of the house, Cecilia by name, lay critically ill at the time,
and Mr. Grey's attention was more or less distracted. Still the
probabilities are that he would have noticed something amiss with
the stone when he came to restore it to its place, if, just as he
took it in his hand, there had not risen in the air outside a
weird and wailing cry which at once seized upon the imagination
of the dozen gentlemen present, and so nearly prostrated their
host that he thrust the box he held unopened into the safe and
fell upon his knees, a totally unnerved man, crying:

"The banshee! the banshee! My daughter will die!"

Another hand than his locked the safe and dropped the key into
the distracted father's pocket.

Thus a superhuman daring conjoined with a special intervention of
fate had made the enterprise a successful one; and Fairbrother,
believing more than ever in his star, carried this invaluable
jewel back with him to New York. The stiletto--well, the taking
of that was a folly, for which he had never ceased to blush. He
had not stolen it; he would not steal so inconsiderable an
object. He had merely put it in his pocket when he saw it
forgotten, passed over, given to him, as it were. That the risk,
contrary to that involved in the taking of the diamond, was far
in excess of the gratification obtained, he realized almost
immediately, but, having made the break, and acquired the curio,
he spared himself all further thought or the consequences, and
presently resumed his old life in New York, none the worse, to
all appearances, for these escapades from virtue and his usual
course of fair and open dealing.

But he was soon the worse from jealousy of the wife which his new
possession had possibly won for him. She had answered all his
expectations as mistress of his home and the exponent of his
wealth; and for a year, nay, for two, he had been perfectly
happy. Indeed, he had been more than that; he had been
triumphant, especially on that memorable evening when, after a
cautious delay of months, he had dared to pin that unapproachable
sparkler to her breast and present her thus bedecked to the smart
set--her whom his talents, and especially his far-reaching
business talents, had made his own.

Recalling the old days of barter and sale across the pine counter
in Colorado, he felt that his star rode high, and for a time was
satisfied with his wife's magnificence and the prestige she gave
his establishment. But pride is not all, even to a man of his
daring ambition. Gradually he began to realize, first, that she
was indifferent to him, next, that she despised him, and, lastly,
that she hated him. She had dozens at her feet, any of whom was
more agreeable to her than her own husband; and, though he could
not put his finger on any definite fault, he soon wearied of a
beauty that only glowed for others, and made up his mind to part
with her rather than let his heart be eaten out by unappeasable
longing for what his own good sense told him would never be his.

Yet, being naturally generous, he was satisfied with a
separation, and, finding it impossible to think of her as other
than extravagantly fed, waited on and clothed, he allowed her a
good share of his fortune with the one proviso, that she should
not disgrace him. But the diamond she stole, or rather carried
off in her naturally high-handed manner with the rest of her
jewels. He had never given it to hen She knew the value he set on
it, but not how he came by it, and would have worn it quite
freely if he had not very soon given her to understand that the
pleasure of doing so ceased when she left his house. As she could
not be seen with it without occasioning public remark, she was
forced, though much against her will, to heed his wishes, and
enjoy its brilliancy in private. But once, when he was out of
town, she dared to appear with this fortune on her breast, and
again while on a visit West,--and her husband heard of it.

Mr. Fairbrother had had the jewel set to suit him, not in
Florence, as Sears had said, but by a skilful workman he had
picked up in great poverty in a remote corner of Williamsburg.
Always in dread of some complication, he had provided himself
with a second facsimile in paste, this time of an astonishing
brightness, and this facsimile he had had set precisely like the
true stone. Then he gave the workman a thousand dollars and sent
him back to Switzerland. This imitation in paste he showed
nobody, but he kept it always in his pocket; why, he hardly knew.
Meantime, he had one confidant, not of his crime, but of his
sentiments toward his wife, and the determination he had secretly
made to proceed to extremities if she continued to disobey him.

This was a man of his own age or older, who had known him in his
early days, and had followed all his fortunes. He had been the
master of Fairbrother then, but he was his servant now, and as
devoted to his interests as if they were his own,--which, in a
way, they were. For eighteen years he had stood at the latter's
right hand, satisfied to look no further, but, for the last
three, his glances had strayed a foot or two beyond his master,
and taken in his master's wife.

The feelings which this man had for Mrs. Fairbrother were
peculiar. She was a mere adjunct to her great lord, but she was a
very gorgeous one, and, while he could not imagine himself doing
anything to thwart him whose bread he ate, and to whose rise he
had himself contributed, yet if he could remain true to him
without injuring he; he would account himself happy. The day came
when he had to decide between them, and, against all chances,
against his own preconceived notion of what he would do under
these circumstances, he chose to consider her.

This day came when, in the midst of growing complacency and an
intense interest in some new scheme which demanded all his
powers, Abner Fairbrother learned from the papers that Mr. Grey,
of English Parliamentary fame, had arrived in New York on an
indefinite visit. As no cause was assigned for the visit beyond a
natural desire on the part of this eminent statesman to see this
great country, Mr. Fairbrother's fears reached a sudden climax,
and he saw himself ruined and for ever disgraced if the diamond
now so unhappily out of his hands should fall under the eyes of
its owner, whose seeming quiet under its loss had not for a
moment deceived him. Waiting only long enough to make sure that
the distinguished foreigner was likely to accept social
attentions, and so in all probability would be brought in contact
with Mrs. Fairbrother, he sent her by his devoted servant a
peremptory message, in which he demanded back his diamond; and,
upon her refusing to heed this, followed it up by another, in
which he expressly stated that if she took it out of the safe
deposit in which he had been told she was wise enough to keep it,
or wore it so much as once during the next three months, she
would pay for her presumption with her life.

This was no idle threat, though she chose to regard it as such,
laughing in the old servant's face and declaring that she would
run the risk if the notion seized her. But the notion did not
seem to seize her at once, and her husband was beginning to take
heart, when he heard of the great ball about to be given by the
Ramsdells and realized that if she were going to be tempted to
wear the diamond at all, it would be at this brilliant function
given in honor of the one man he had most cause to fear in the
whole world.

Sears, seeing the emotion he was under, watched him closely. They
had both been on the point of starting for New Mexico to visit a
mine in which Mr. Fairbrother was interested, and he waited with
inconceivable anxiety to see if his master would change his
plans. It was while he was in this condition of mind that he was
seen to shake his fist at Mrs. Fairbrother's passing figure; a
menace naturally interpreted as directed against her, but which,
if we know the man, was rather the expression of his anger
against the husband who could rebuke and threaten so beautiful a
creature. Meanwhile, Mr. Fairbrother's preparations went on and,
three weeks before the ball, they started. Mr. Fairbrother had
business in Chicago and business in Denver. It was two weeks and
more before he reached La Junta. Sears counted the days. At La
Junta they had a long conversation; or rather Mr. Fairbrother
talked and Sears listened. The sum of what he said was this: He
had made up his mind to have back his diamond. He was going to
New York to get it. He was going alone, and as he wished no one
to know that he had gone or that his plans had been in any way
interrupted, the other was to continue on to El Moro, and,
passing himself off as Fairbrother, hire a room at the hotel and
shut himself up in it for ten days on any plea his ingenuity
might suggest. If at the end of that time Fairbrother should
rejoin him, well and good. They would go on together to Santa Fe.
But if for any reason the former should delay his return, then
Sears was to exercise his own judgment as to the length of time
he should retain his borrowed personality; also as to the
advisability of pushing on to the mine and entering on the work
there, as had been planned between them.

Sears knew what all this meant. He understood what was in his
master's mind, as well as if he had been taken into his full
confidence, and openly accepted his part of the business with
seeming alacrity, even to the point of supplying Fairbrother with
suitable references as to the ability of one James Wellgood to
fill a waiter's place at fashionable functions. It was not the
first he had given him. Seventeen years before he had written the
same, minus the last phrase. That was when he was the master and
Fairbrother the man. But he did not mean to play the part laid
out for him, for all his apparent acquiescence. He began by
following the other's instructions. He exchanged clothes with him
and other necessaries, and took the train for La Junta at or near
the time that Fairbrother started east. But once at El Moro--once
registered there as Abner Fairbrother from New York--he took a
different course from the one laid out for him,--a course which
finally brought him into his master's wake and landed him at the
same hour in New York.

This is what he did. Instead of shutting himself up in his room
he expressed an immediate desire to visit some neighboring mines,
and, procuring a good horse, started off at the first available
moment. He rode north, lost himself in the mountains, and
wandered till he found a guide intelligent enough to lend himself
to his plans. To this guide he confided his horse for the few
days he intended to be gone, paying him well and promising him
additional money if, during his absence, he succeeded in
circulating the report that he, Abner Fairbrother, had gone deep
into the mountains, bound for such and such a camp.

Having thus provided an alibi, not only for himself, but for his
master, too, in case he should need it, he took the direct road
to the nearest railway station, and started on his long ride
east. He did not expect to overtake the man he had been
personating, but fortune was kinder than is usual in such cases,
and, owing to a delay caused by some accident to a freight train,
he arrived in Chicago within a couple of hours of Mr.
Fairbrother, and started out of that city on the same train. But
not on the same car. Sears had caught a glimpse of Fairbrother on
the platform, and was careful to keep out of his sight. This was
easy enough. He bought a compartment in the sleeper and stayed in
it till they arrived at the Grand Central Station. Then he
hastened out and, fortune favoring him with another glimpse of
the man in whose movements he was so interested, followed him
into the streets.

Fairbrother had shaved off his beard before leaving El Moro.
Sears had shaved his off on the train. Both were changed, the
former the more, owing to a peculiarity of his mouth which up
till now he had always thought best to cover. Sears, therefore,
walked behind him without fear, and was almost at his heels when
this owner of one of New York's most notable mansions, entered,
with a spruce air, the doors of a prominent caterer.

Understanding the plot now, and having everything to fear for his
mistress, he walked the streets for some hours in a state of
great indecision. Then he went up to her apartment. But he had no
sooner come within sight of it than a sense of disloyalty struck
him and he slunk away, only to come sidling back when it was too
late and she had started for the ball.

Trembling with apprehension, but still strangely divided in his
impulses, wishing to serve master and mistress both, without
disloyalty to the one or injury to the other, he hesitated and
argued with himself, till his fears for the latter drove him to
Mr. Ramsdell's house.

The night was a stormy one. The heaviest snow of the season was
falling with a high gale blowing down the Sound. As he approached
the house, which, as we know, is one of the modern ones in the
Riverside district, he felt his heart fail him. But as he came
nearer and got the full effect of glancing lights, seductive
music, and the cheery bustle of crowding carriages, he saw in his
mind's eye such a picture of his beautiful mistress, threatened,
unknown to herself, in a quarter she little realized, that he
lost all sense of what had hitherto deterred him. Making then and
there his great choice, he looked about for the entrance, with
the full intention of seeing and warning her.

But this, he presently perceived, was totally impracticable. He
could neither go to her nor expect her to come to him; meanwhile,
time was passing, and if his master was there-- The thought made
his head dizzy, and, situated as he was, among the carriages, he
might have been run over in his confusion if his eyes had not
suddenly fallen on a lighted window, the shade of which had been
inadvertently left up.

Within this window, which was only a few feet above his head,
stood the glowing image of a woman clad in pink and sparkling
with jewels. Her face was turned from him, but he recognized her
splendor as that of the one woman who could never be too gorgeous
for his taste; and, alive to this unexpected opportunity, he made
for this window with the intention of shouting up to her and so
attracting her attention.

But this proved futile, and, driven at last to the end of his
resources, he tore out a slip of paper from his note-book and, in
the dark and with the blinding snow in his eyes, wrote the few
broken sentences which he thought would best warn her, without
compromising his master. The means he took to reach her with this
note I have already related. As soon as he saw it in her hands he
fled the place and took the first train west. He was in a
pitiable condition, when, three days later, he reached the small
station from which he had originally set out. The haste, the
exposure, the horror of the crime he had failed to avert, had
undermined his hitherto excellent constitution, and the symptoms
of a serious illness were beginning to make themselves manifest.
But he, like his indomitable master, possessed a great fund of
energy and willpower. He saw that if he was to save Abner
Fairbrother (and now that Mrs. Fairbrother was dead, his old
master was all the world to him) he must make Fairbrother's alibi
good by carrying on the deception as planned by the latter, and
getting as soon as possible to his camp in the New Mexico
mountains. He knew that he would have strength to do this and he
went about it without sparing himself.

Making his way into the mountains, he found the guide and his
horse at the place agreed upon and, paying the guide enough for
his services to insure a quiet tongue, rode back toward El Moro
where he was met and sent on to Santa Fe as already related.

Such is the real explanation of the well-nigh unintelligible
scrawl found in Mrs. Fairbrother's hand after her death. As to
the one which left Miss Grey's bedside for this same house, it
was, alike in the writing and sending, the loving freak of a very
sick but tender-hearted girl. She had noted the look with which
Mr. Grey had left her, and, in her delirious state, thought that
a line in her own hand would convince him of her good condition
and make it possible for him to enjoy the evening. She was,
however, too much afraid of her nurse to write it openly, and
though we never found that scrawl, it was doubtless not very
different in appearance from the one with which I had confounded
it. The man to whom it was intrusted stopped for too many warming
drinks on his way for it ever to reach Mr. Ramsdell's house. He
did not even return home that night, and when he did put in an
appearance the next morning, he was dismissed.

This takes me back to the ball and Mrs. Fairbrother. She had
never had much fear of her husband till she received his old
servant's note in the peculiar manner already mentioned. This,
coming through the night and the wet and with all the marks of
hurry upon it, did impress her greatly and led her to take the
first means which offered of ridding herself of her dangerous
ornament. The story of this we know.

Meanwhile, a burning heart and a scheming brain were keeping up
their deadly work a few paces off under the impassive aspect and
active movements of the caterer's newly-hired waiter. Abner
Fairbrother, whose real character no one had ever been able to
sound, unless it was the man who had known him in his days of
struggle, was one of those dangerous men who can conceal under a
still brow and a noiseless manner the most violent passions and
the most desperate resolves. He was angry with his wife, who was
deliberately jeopardizing his good name, and he had come there to
kill her if he found her flaunting the diamond in Mr. Grey's
eyes; and though no one could have detected any change in his
look and manner as he passed through the room where these two
were standing, the doom of that fair woman was struck when he saw
the eager scrutiny and indescribable air of recognition with
which this long-defrauded gentleman eyed his own diamond.

He had meant to attack her openly, seize the diamond, fling it at
Mr. Grey's feet, and then kill himself. That had been his plan.
But when he found, after a round or two among the guests, that
nobody looked at him, and nobody recognized the well-known
millionaire in the automaton-like figure with the
formally-arranged whiskers and sleekly-combed hair, colder
purposes intervened, and he asked himself if it would not be
possible to come upon her alone, strike his blow, possess himself
of the diamond, and make for parts unknown before his identity
could be discovered. He loved life even without the charm cast
over it by this woman. Its struggles and its hard-bought luxuries
fascinated him. If Mr. Grey suspected him, why, Mr. Grey was
English, and he a resourceful American. If it came to an issue,
the subtle American would win if Mr. Grey were not able to point
to the flaw which marked this diamond as his own. And this,
Fairbrother had provided against, and would succeed in if he
could hold his passions in check and be ready with all his wit
when matters reached a climax.

Such were the thoughts and such the plans of the quiet, attentive
man who, with his tray laden with coffee and ices, came and went
an unnoticed unit among twenty other units similarly quiet and
similarly attentive. He waited on lady after lady, and when, on
the reissuing of Mr. Durand from the alcove, he passed in there
with his tray and his two cups of coffee, nobody heeded and
nobody remembered.

It was all over in a minute, and he came out, still unnoted, and
went to the supper-room for more cups of coffee. But that minute
had set its seal on his heart for ever. She was sitting there
alone with her side to the entrance, so that he had to pass
around in order to face her. Her elegance and a certain air she
had of remoteness from the scene of which she was the glowing
center when she smiled, awed him and made his hand loosen a
little on the slender stiletto he held close against the bottom
of the tray. But such resolution does not easily yield, and his
fingers soon tightened again, this time with a deadly grip.

He had expected to meet the flash of the diamond as he bent over
her, and dreaded doing so for fear it would attract his eye from
her face and so cost him the sight of that startled recognition
which would give the desired point to his revenge. But the tray,
as he held it, shielded her breast from view, and when he lowered
it to strike his blow, he thought of nothing but aiming so truly
as to need no second blow. He had had his experience in those old
years in a mining camp, and he did not fear failure in this. What
he did fear was her utterance of some cry,--possibly his name.
But she was stunned with horror, and did not shriek,--horror of
him whose eyes she met with her glassy and staring ones as he
slowly drew forth the weapon.

Why he drew it forth instead of leaving it in her breast he could
not say. Possibly because it gave him his moment of gloating
revenge. When in another instant, her hands flew up, and the tray
tipped, and the china fell, the revulsion came, and his eyes
opened to two facts: the instrument of death was still in his
grasp, and the diamond, on whose possession he counted, was gone
from his wife's breast.

It was a horrible moment. Voices could be heard approaching the
alcove,--laughing voices that in an instant would take on the
note of horror. And the music,--ah! how low it had sunk, as if to
give place to the dying murmur he now heard issuing from her
lips. But he was a man of iron. Thrusting the stiletto into the
first place that offered, he drew the curtains over the staring
windows, then slid out with his tray, calm, speckless and
attentive as ever, dead to thought, dead to feeling, but aware,
quite aware in the secret depths of his being that something
besides his wife had been killed that night, and that sleep and
peace of mind and all pleasure in the past were gone for ever.

It was not he I saw enter the alcove and come out with news of
the crime. He left this role to one whose antecedents could
better bear investigation. His part was to play, with just the
proper display of horror and curiosity, the ordinary menial
brought face to face with a crime in high life. He could do this.
He could even sustain his share in the gossip, and for this
purpose kept near the other waiters. The absence of the diamond
was all that troubled him. That brought him at times to the point
of vertigo. Had Mr. Grey recognized and claimed it? If so, he,
Abner Fairbrother, must remain James Wellgood, the waiter,
indefinitely. This would require more belief in his star than
ever he had had yet. But as the moments passed, and no
contradiction was given to the universally-received impression
that the same hand which had struck the blow had taken the
diamond, even this cause of anxiety left his breast and he faced
people with more and more courage till the moment when he
suddenly heard that the diamond had been found in the possession
of a man perfectly strange to him, and saw the inspector pass it
over into the hands of Mr. Grey.

Instantly he realized that the crisis of his fate was on him. If
Mr. Grey were given time to identify this stone, he, Abner
Fairbrother, was lost and the diamond as well. Could he prevent
this? There was but one way, and that way he took. Making use of
his ventriloquial powers--he had spent a year on the public stage
in those early days, playing just such tricks as these--he raised
the one cry which he knew would startle Mr. Grey more than any
other in the world, and when the diamond fell from his hand, as
he knew it would, he rushed forward and, in the act of picking it
up, made that exchange which not only baffled the suspicions of
the statesman, but restored to him the diamond, for whose
possession he was now ready to barter half his remaining days.

Meanwhile Mr. Grey had had his own anxieties. During this whole
long evening, he had been sustained by the conviction that the
diamond of which he had caught but one passing glimpse was the
Great Mogul of his once famous collection. So sure was he of
this, that at one moment he found himself tempted to enter the
alcove, demand a closer sight of the diamond and settle the
question then and there. He even went so far as to take in his
hands the two cups of coffee which should serve as his excuse for
this intrusion, but his naturally chivalrous instincts again
intervened, and he set the cups down again--this I did not see--
and turned his steps toward the library with the intention of
writing her a note instead. But though he found paper and pen to
hand, he could find no words for so daring a request, and he came
back into the hall, only to hear that the woman he had
contemplated addressing had just been murdered and her great
jewel stolen.

The shock was too much, and as there was no leaving the house
then, he retreated again to the library where he devoured his
anxieties in silence till hope revived again at sight of the
diamond in the inspector's hand, only to vanish under the
machinations of one he did not even recognize when he took the
false jewel from his hand.

The American had outwitted the Englishman and the triumph of evil
was complete.

Or so it seemed. But if the Englishman is slow, he is sure.
Thrown off the track for the time being, Mr. Grey had only to see
a picture of the stiletto in the papers, to feel again that,
despite all appearances, Fairbrother was really not only at the
bottom of the thefts from which his cousin and himself had
suffered, but of this frightful murder as well. He made no open
move--he was a stranger in a strange land and much disturbed,
besides, by his fears for his daughter--but he started a secret
inquiry through his old valet, whom he ran across in the street,
and whose peculiar adaptability for this kind of work he well
knew.

The aim of these inquiries was to determine if the person, whom
two physicians and three assistants were endeavoring to nurse
back to health on the top of a wild plateau in a remote district
of New Mexico, was the man he had once entertained at his own
board in England, and the adventures thus incurred would make a
story in itself. But the result seemed to justify them. Word came
after innumerable delays, very trying to Mr. Grey, that be was
not the same, though he bore the name of Fairbrother, and was
considered by every one around there to be Fairbrother. Mr. Grey,
ignorant of the relations between the millionaire master and his
man which sometimes led to the latter's personifying the former,
was confident of his own mistake and bitterly ashamed of his own
suspicions.

But a second message set him right. A deception was being
practised down in New Mexico, and this was how his spy had found
it out. Certain letters which went into the sick tent were sent
away again, and always to one address. He had learned the
address. It was that of James Wellgood, C--, Maine. If Mr. Grey
would look up this Wellgood he would doubtless learn something of
the man he was so interested in.

This gave Mr. Grey personally something to do, for he would trust
no second party with a message involving the honor of a possibly
innocent man. As the place was accessible by railroad and his
duty clear, he took the journey involved and succeeded in getting
a glimpse in the manner we know of the man James Wellgood. This
time he recognized Fairbrother and, satisfied from the
circumstances of the moment that he would be making no mistake in
accusing him of having taken the Great Mogul, he intercepted him
in his flight, as you have already read, and demanded the
immediate return of his great diamond.

And Fairbrother? We shall have to go back a little to bring his
history up to this critical instant.

When he realized the trend of public opinion; when he saw a
perfectly innocent man committed to the Tombs for his crime, he
was first astonished and then amused at what he continued to
regard as the triumph of his star. But he did not start for El
Moro, wise as he felt it would be to do so. Something of the
fascination usual with criminals kept him near the scene of his
crime,--that, and an anxiety to see how Sears would conduct
himself in the Southwest. That Sears had followed him to New
York, knew his crime, and was the strongest witness against him,
was as far from his thoughts as that he owed him the warning
which had all but balked him of his revenge. When therefore he
read in the papers that "Abner Fairbrother" had been found sick
in his camp at Santa Fe, he felt that nothing now stood in the
way of his entering on the plans he had framed for ultimate
escape. On his departure from El Moro he had taken the precaution
of giving Sears the name of a certain small town on the coast of
Maine where his mail was to be sent in case of a great emergency.
He had chosen this town for two reasons. First, because he knew
all about it, having had a young man from there in his employ;
secondly, because of its neighborhood to the inlet where an old
launch of his had been docked for the winter. Always astute,
always precautionary, he had given orders to have this launch
floated and provisioned, so that now he had only to send word to
the captain, to have at his command the best possible means of
escape.

Meanwhile, he must make good his position in C--. He did it in
the way we know. Satisfied that the only danger he need fear was
the discovery of the fraud practised in New Mexico, he had
confidence enough in Sears, even in his present disabled state,
to take his time and make himself solid with the people of
C--while waiting for the ice to disappear from the harbor. This
accomplished and cruising made possible, he took a flying trip to
New York to secure such papers and valuables as he wished to
carry out of the country with him. They were in safe deposit, but
that safe deposit was in his strong room in the center of his
house in Eighty-sixth Street (a room which you will remember in
connection with Sweetwater's adventure). To enter his own door
with his own latch-key, in the security and darkness of a stormy
night, seemed to this self-confident man a matter of no great
risk. Nor did he find it so. He reached his strong room, procured
his securities and was leaving the house, without having suffered
an alarm, when some instinct of self-preservation suggested to
him the advisability of arming himself with a pistol. His own was
in Maine, but he remembered where Sears kept his; he had seen it
often enough in that old trunk he had brought with him from the
Sierras. He accordingly went up stairs to the steward's room,
found the pistol and became from that instant invincible. But in
restoring the articles he had pulled out he came across a
photograph of his wife and lost himself over it and went mad, as
we have heard the detective tell. That later, he should succeed
in trapping this detective and should leave the house without a
qualm as to his fate shows what sort of man he was in moments of
extreme danger. I doubt, from what I have heard of him since, if
he ever gave two thoughts to the man after he had sprung the
double lock on him; which, considering his extreme ignorance of
who his victim was or what relation he bore to his own fate, was
certainly remarkable.

Back again in C--, he made his final preparations for departure.
He had already communicated with the captain of the launch, who
may or may not have known his passenger's real name. He says that
he supposed him to be some agent of Mr. Fairbrother's; that among
the first orders he received from that gentleman was one to the
effect that he was to follow the instructions of one Wellgood as
if they came from himself; that he had done so, and not till he
had Mr. Fairbrother on board had he known whom he was expected to
carry into other waters. However, there are many who do not
believe the captain. Fairbrother had a genius for rousing
devotion in the men who worked for him, and probably this man was
another Sears.

To leave speculation, all was in train, then, and freedom but a
quarter of a mile away, when the boat he was in was stopped by
another and he heard Mr. Grey's voice demanding the jewel.

The shock was severe and he had need of all the nerve which had
hitherto made his career so prosperous, to sustain the encounter
with the calmness which alone could carry off the situation.
Declaring that the diamond was in New York, he promised to
restore it if the other would make the sacrifice worth while by
continuing to preserve his hitherto admirable silence concerning
him: Mr. Grey responded by granting him just twenty-four hours;
and when Fairbrother said the time was not long enough and
allowed his hand to steal ominously to his breast, he repeated
still more decisively, "Twenty-four hours."

The ex-miner honored bravery. Withdrawing his hand from his
breast, he brought out a note-book instead of a pistol and, in a
tone fully as determined, replied: "The diamond is in a place
inaccessible to any one but myself. If you will put your name to
a promise not to betray me for the thirty-six hours I ask, I will
sign one to restore you the diamond before one-thirty o'clock on
Friday."

"I will," said Mr. Grey.

So the promises were written and duly exchanged. Mr. Grey
returned to New York and Fairbrother boarded his launch.

The diamond really was in New York, and to him it seemed more
politic to use it as a means of securing Mr. Grey's permanent
silence than to fly the country, leaving a man behind him who
knew his secret and could precipitate his doom with a word. He
would, therefore, go to New York, play his last great card and,
if he lost, be no worse off than he was now. He did not mean to
lose.

But he had not calculated on any inherent weakness in himself,--
had not calculated on Providence. A dish tumbled and with it fell
into chaos the fair structure of his dreams. With the cry of
"Grizel! Grizel!" he gave up his secret, his hopes and his life.
There was no retrieval possible after that. The star of Abner
Fairbrother had set.


Mr. Grey and his daughter learned very soon of my relations to
Mr. Durand, but through the precautions of the inspector and my
own powers of self-control, no suspicion has ever crossed their
minds of the part I once played in the matter of the stiletto.

This was amply proved by the invitation Mr. Durand and I have
just received to spend our honeymoon at Darlington Manor.





End of Project Gutenberg Etext The Woman in the Alcove by Anna K. Green


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