Part 4 out of 5
must have come out in my fall. I value it very highly, for it was
the family book with my birth and my brother's marked by my father
in the beginning of it. I wish you would apply at the proper place
and have it sent to me. It can be of no possible value to anyone
else. If you address it to X, Bassano's Library, Broadway, New
York, it is sure to come to hand."
The Japanned Box
It WAS a curious thing, said the private tutor; one of those
grotesque and whimsical incidents which occur to one as one goes
through life. I lost the best situation which I am ever likely
to have through it. But I am glad that I went to Thorpe Place,
for I gained--well, as I tell you the story you will learn what I
I don't know whether you are familiar with that part of the
Midlands which is drained by the Avon. It is the most English part
of England. Shakespeare, the flower of the whole race, was born
right in the middle of it. It is a land of rolling pastures,
rising in higher folds to the westwards, until they swell into the
Malvern Hills. There are no towns, but numerous villages, each
with its grey Norman church. You have left the brick of the
southern and eastern counties behind you, and everything is stone--
stone for the walls, and lichened slabs of stone for the roofs. It
is all grim and solid and massive, as befits the heart of a great
It was in the middle of this country, not very far from
Evesham, that Sir John Bollamore lived in the old ancestral home of
Thorpe Place, and thither it was that I came to teach his two
little sons. Sir John was a widower--his wife had died three years
before--and he had been left with these two lads aged eight and
ten, and one dear little girl of seven. Miss Witherton, who is now
my wife, was governess to this little girl. I was tutor to the two
boys. Could there be a more obvious prelude to an engagement? She
governs me now, and I tutor two little boys of our own. But,
there--I have already revealed what it was which I gained in Thorpe
It was a very, very old house, incredibly old--pre-Norman, some
of it--and the Bollamores claimed to have lived in that situation
since long before the Conquest. It struck a chill to my heart when
first I came there, those enormously thick grey walls, the rude
crumbling stones, the smell as from a sick animal which exhaled
from the rotting plaster of the aged building. But the modern wing
was bright and the garden was well kept. No house could be dismal
which had a pretty girl inside it and such a show of roses in
Apart from a very complete staff of servants there were only
four of us in the household. These were Miss Witherton, who was at
that time four-and-twenty and as pretty--well, as pretty as Mrs.
Colmore is now--myself, Frank Colmore, aged thirty, Mrs. Stevens,
the housekeeper, a dry, silent woman, and Mr. Richards, a tall
military-looking man, who acted as steward to the Bollamore
estates. We four always had our meals together, but Sir John had
his usually alone in the library. Sometimes he joined us at
dinner, but on the whole we were just as glad when he did not.
For he was a very formidable person. Imagine a man six feet
three inches in height, majestically built, with a high-nosed,
aristocratic face, brindled hair, shaggy eyebrows, a small, pointed
Mephistophelian beard, and lines upon his brow and round his eyes
as deep as if they had been carved with a penknife. He had grey
eyes, weary, hopeless-looking eyes, proud and yet pathetic, eyes
which claimed your pity and yet dared you to show it. His back was
rounded with study, but otherwise he was as fine a looking man of
his age--five-and-fifty perhaps--as any woman would wish to look
But his presence was not a cheerful one. He was always
courteous, always refined, but singularly silent and retiring. I
have never lived so long with any man and known so little of him.
If he were indoors he spent his time either in his own small study
in the Eastern Tower, or in the library in the modern wing. So
regular was his routine that one could always say at any hour
exactly where he would be. Twice in the day he would visit his
study, once after breakfast, and once about ten at night. You
might set your watch by the slam of the heavy door. For the rest
of the day he would be in his library--save that for an hour or two
in the afternoon he would take a walk or a ride, which was solitary
like the rest of his existence. He loved his children, and was
keenly interested in the progress of their studies, but they were
a little awed by the silent, shaggy-browed figure, and they avoided
him as much as they could. Indeed, we all did that.
It was some time before I came to know anything about the
circumstances of Sir John Bollamore's life, for Mrs. Stevens, the
housekeeper, and Mr. Richards, the land-steward, were too loyal to
talk easily of their employer's affairs. As to the governess, she
knew no more than I did, and our common interest was one of the
causes which drew us together. At last, however, an incident
occurred which led to a closer acquaintance with Mr. Richards and
a fuller knowledge of the life of the man whom I served.
The immediate cause of this was no less than the falling of
Master Percy, the youngest of my pupils, into the mill-race, with
imminent danger both to his life and to mine, since I had to risk
myself in order to save him. Dripping and exhausted--for I
was far more spent than the child--I was making for my room when
Sir John, who had heard the hubbub, opened the door of his little
study and asked me what was the matter. I told him of the
accident, but assured him that his child was in no danger, while he
listened with a rugged, immobile face, which expressed in its
intense eyes and tightened lips all the emotion which he tried to
"One moment! Step in here! Let me have the details!" said he,
turning back through the open door.
And so I found myself within that little sanctum, inside which,
as I afterwards learned, no other foot had for three years been set
save that of the old servant who cleaned it out. It was a round
room, conforming to the shape of the tower in which it was
situated, with a low ceiling, a single narrow, ivy-wreathed window,
and the simplest of furniture. An old carpet, a single chair, a
deal table, and a small shelf of books made up the whole contents.
On the table stood a full-length photograph of a woman--I took no
particular notice of the features, but I remember, that a certain
gracious gentleness was the prevailing impression. Beside it were
a large black japanned box and one or two bundles of letters or
papers fastened together with elastic bands.
Our interview was a short one, for Sir John Bollamore perceived
that I was soaked, and that I should change without delay. The
incident led, however, to an instructive talk with Richards, the
agent, who had never penetrated into the chamber which chance had
opened to me. That very afternoon he came to me, all curiosity,
and walked up and down the garden path with me, while my two
charges played tennis upon the lawn beside us.
"You hardly realize the exception which has been made in your
favour," said he. "That room has been kept such a mystery, and Sir
John's visits to it have been so regular and consistent, that an
almost superstitious feeling has arisen about it in the household.
I assure you that if I were to repeat to you the tales which are
flying about, tales of mysterious visitors there, and of voices
overheard by the servants, you might suspect that Sir John had
relapsed into his old ways."
"Why do you say relapsed?" I asked.
He looked at me in surprise.
"Is it possible," said he, "that Sir John Bollamore's previous
history is unknown to you?"
"You astound me. I thought that every man in England knew
something of his antecedents. I should not mention the matter if
it were not that you are now one of ourselves, and that the facts
might come to your ears in some harsher form if I were silent upon
them. I always took it for granted that you knew that you were in
the service of `Devil' Bollamore."
"But why `Devil'?" I asked.
"Ah, you are young and the world moves fast, but twenty
years ago the name of `Devil' Bollamore was one of the best
known in London. He was the leader of the fastest set, bruiser,
driver, gambler, drunkard--a survival of the old type, and as bad
as the worst of them."
I stared at him in amazement.
"What!" I cried, "that quiet, studious, sad-faced man?"
"The greatest rip and debauchee in England! All between
ourselves, Colmore. But you understand now what I mean when I say
that a woman's voice in his room might even now give rise to
"But what can have changed him so?"
"Little Beryl Clare, when she took the risk of becoming his
wife. That was the turning point. He had got so far that his own
fast set had thrown him over. There is a world of difference, you
know, between a man who drinks and a drunkard. They all drink, but
they taboo a drunkard. He had become a slave to it--hopeless and
helpless. Then she stepped in, saw the possibilities of a fine man
in the wreck, took her chance in marrying him though she might have
had the pick of a dozen, and, by devoting her life to it, brought
him back to manhood and decency. You have observed that no liquor
is ever kept in the house. There never has been any since her foot
crossed its threshold. A drop of it would be like blood to a tiger
"Then her influence still holds him?"
"That is the wonder of it. When she died three years ago, we
all expected and feared that he would fall back into his old ways.
She feared it herself, and the thought gave a terror to death, for
she was like a guardian angel to that man, and lived only for
the one purpose. By the way, did you see a black japanned box in
"I fancy it contains her letters. If ever he has occasion to
be away, if only for a single night, he invariably takes his black
japanned box with him. Well, well, Colmore, perhaps I have told
you rather more than I should, but I shall expect you to
reciprocate if anything of interest should come to your knowledge."
I could see that the worthy man was consumed with curiosity and
just a little piqued that I, the newcomer, should have been the
first to penetrate into the untrodden chamber. But the fact raised
me in his esteem, and from that time onwards I found myself upon
more confidential terms with him.
And now the silent and majestic figure of my employer became an
object of greater interest to me. I began to understand that
strangely human look in his eyes, those deep lines upon his care-
worn face. He was a man who was fighting a ceaseless battle,
holding at arm's length, from morning till night, a horrible
adversary who was forever trying to close with him--an adversary
which would destroy him body and soul could it but fix its claws
once more upon him. As I watched the grim, round-backed figure
pacing the corridor or walking in the garden, this imminent danger
seemed to take bodily shape, and I could almost fancy that I saw
this most loathsome and dangerous of all the fiends crouching
closely in his very shadow, like a half-cowed beast which slinks
beside its keeper, ready at any unguarded moment to spring at his
throat. And the dead woman, the woman who had spent her life in
warding off this danger, took shape also to my imagination, and I
saw her as a shadowy but beautiful presence which intervened for
ever with arms uplifted to screen the man whom she loved.
In some subtle way he divined the sympathy which I had for him,
and he showed in his own silent fashion that he appreciated it. He
even invited me once to share his afternoon walk, and although no
word passed between us on this occasion, it was a mark of
confidence which he had never shown to anyone before. He asked me
also to index his library (it was one of the best private libraries
in England), and I spent many hours in the evening in his
presence, if not in his society, he reading at his desk and I
sitting in a recess by the window reducing to order the chaos which
existed among his books. In spite of these close relations I was
never again asked to enter the chamber in the turret.
And then came my revulsion of feeling. A single incident
changed all my sympathy to loathing, and made me realize that my
employer still remained all that he had ever been, with the
additional vice of hypocrisy. What happened was as follows.
One evening Miss Witherton had gone down to Broadway, the
neighbouring village, to sing at a concert for some charity, and I,
according to my promise, had walked over to escort her back. The
drive sweeps round under the eastern turret, and I observed as I
passed that the light was lit in the circular room. It was a
summer evening, and the window, which was a little higher than our
heads, was open. We were, as it happened, engrossed in our own
conversation at the moment and we had paused upon the lawn which
skirts the old turret, when suddenly something broke in upon our
talk and turned our thoughts away from our own affairs.
It was a voice--the voice undoubtedly of a woman. It was low--
so low that it was only in that still night air that we could have
heard it, but, hushed as it was, there was no mistaking its
feminine timbre. It spoke hurriedly, gaspingly for a few
sentences, and then was silent--a piteous, breathless, imploring
sort of voice. Miss Witherton and I stood for an instant staring
at each other. Then we walked quickly in the direction of the
"It came through the window," I said.
"We must not play the part of eavesdroppers," she answered.
"We must forget that we have ever heard it."
There was an absence of surprise in her manner which suggested
a new idea to me.
"You have heard it before," I cried.
"I could not help it. My own room is higher up on the same
turret. It has happened frequently."
"Who can the woman be?"
"I have no idea. I had rather not discuss it."
Her voice was enough to show me what she thought. But granting
that our employer led a double and dubious life, who could she be,
this mysterious woman who kept him company in the old tower?
I knew from my own inspection how bleak and bare a room it was.
She certainly did not live there. But in that case where did she
come from? It could not be anyone of the household. They were all
under the vigilant eyes of Mrs. Stevens. The visitor must come
from without. But how?
And then suddenly I remembered how ancient this building was,
and how probable that some mediaeval passage existed in it. There
is hardly an old castle without one. The mysterious room was the
basement of the turret, so that if there were anything of the sort
it would open through the floor. There were numerous cottages in
the immediate vicinity. The other end of the secret passage might
lie among some tangle of bramble in the neighbouring copse. I said
nothing to anyone, but I felt that the secret of my employer lay
within my power.
And the more convinced I was of this the more I marvelled at
the manner in which he concealed his true nature. Often as I
watched his austere figure, I asked myself if it were indeed
possible that such a man should be living this double life, and I
tried to persuade myself that my suspicions might after all prove
to be ill-founded. But there was the female voice, there was the
secret nightly rendezvous in the turret-chamber--how could such
facts admit of an innocent interpretation. I conceived a horror of
the man. I was filled with loathing at his deep, consistent
Only once during all those months did I ever see him without
that sad but impassive mask which he usually presented towards his
fellow-man. For an instant I caught a glimpse of those volcanic
fires which he had damped down so long. The occasion was an
unworthy one, for the object of his wrath was none other than the
aged charwoman whom I have already mentioned as being the one
person who was allowed within his mysterious chamber. I was
passing the corridor which led to the turret--for my own room lay
in that direction--when I heard a sudden, startled scream, and
merged in it the husky, growling note of a man who is inarticulate
with passion. It was the snarl of a furious wild beast. Then I
heard his voice thrilling with anger. "You would dare!" he cried.
"You would dare to disobey my directions!" An instant later the
charwoman passed me, flying down the passage, white-faced and
tremulous, while the terrible voice thundered behind her. "Go to
Mrs. Stevens for your money! Never set foot in Thorpe Place
again!" Consumed with curiosity, I could not help following the
woman, and found her round the corner leaning against the wall and
palpitating like a frightened rabbit.
"What is the matter, Mrs. Brown?" I asked.
"It's master!" she gasped. "Oh, 'ow 'e frightened me! If you
had seen 'is eyes, Mr. Colmore, sir. I thought 'e would 'ave been
the death of me."
"But what had you done?"
"Done, sir! Nothing. At least nothing to make so much of.
Just laid my 'and on that black box of 'is--'adn't even opened it,
when in 'e came and you 'eard the way 'e went on. I've lost my
place, and glad I am of it, for I would never trust myself within
reach of 'im again."
So it was the japanned box which was the cause of this
outburst--the box from which he would never permit himself to be
separated. What was the connection, or was there any connection
between this and the secret visits of the lady whose voice I had
overheard? Sir John Bollamore's wrath was enduring as well as
fiery, for from that day Mrs. Brown, the charwoman, vanished from
our ken, and Thorpe Place knew her no more.
And now I wish to tell you the singular chance which solved all
these strange questions and put my employer's secret in my
possession. The story may leave you with some lingering doubts as
to whether my curiosity did not get the better of my honour, and
whether I did not condescend to play the spy. If you choose to
think so I cannot help it, but can only assure you that, improbable
as it may appear, the matter came about exactly as I describe it.
The first stage in this denouement was that the small room
in the turret became uninhabitable. This occurred through the fall
of the worm-eaten oaken beam which supported the ceiling. Rotten
with age, it snapped in the middle one morning, and brought down a
quantity of plaster with it. Fortunately Sir John was not in the
room at the time. His precious box was rescued from amongst the
debris and brought into the library, where, henceforward, it was
locked within his bureau. Sir John took no steps to repair the
damage, and I never had an opportunity of searching for that secret
passage, the existence of which I had surmised. As to the lady, I
had thought that this would have brought her visits to an end, had
I not one evening heard Mr. Richards asking Mrs. Stevens who the
woman was whom he had overheard talking to Sir John in the library.
I could not catch her reply, but I saw from her manner that it was
not the first time that she had had to answer or avoid the same
"You've heard the voice, Colmore?" said the agent.
I confessed that I had.
"And what do YOU think of it?"
I shrugged my shoulders, and remarked that it was no business
"Come, come, you are just as curious as any of us. Is it a
woman or not?"
"It is certainly a woman."
"Which room did you hear it from?"
"From the turret-room, before the ceiling fell."
"But I heard it from the library only last night. I passed the
doors as I was going to bed, and I heard something wailing and
praying just as plainly as I hear you. It may be a woman----"
"Why, what else COULD it be?"
He looked at me hard.
"There are more things in heaven and earth," said he. "If it
is a woman, how does she get there?"
"I don't know."
"No, nor I. But if it is the other thing--but there, for a
practical business man at the end of the nineteenth century this is
rather a ridiculous line of conversation." He turned away, but I
saw that he felt even more than he had said. To all the old ghost
stories of Thorpe Place a new one was being added before our very
eyes. It may by this time have taken its permanent place, for
though an explanation came to me, it never reached the others.
And my explanation came in this way. I had suffered a
sleepless night from neuralgia, and about midday I had taken a
heavy dose of chlorodyne to alleviate the pain. At that time I was
finishing the indexing of Sir John Bollamore's library, and it was
my custom to work there from five till seven. On this particular
day I struggled against the double effect of my bad night and the
narcotic. I have already mentioned that there was a recess in the
library, and in this it was my habit to work. I settled down
steadily to my task, but my weariness overcame me and, falling
back upon the settee, I dropped into a heavy sleep.
How long I slept I do not know, but it was quite dark when I
awoke. Confused by the chlorodyne which I had taken, I lay
motionless in a semi-conscious state. The great room with its high
walls covered with books loomed darkly all round me. A dim
radiance from the moonlight came through the farther window, and
against this lighter background I saw that Sir John Bollamore was
sitting at his study table. His well-set head and clearly cut
profile were sharply outlined against the glimmering square behind
him. He bent as I watched him, and I heard the sharp turning of a
key and the rasping of metal upon metal. As if in a dream I was
vaguely conscious that this was the japanned box which stood in
front of him, and that he had drawn something out of it, something
squat and uncouth, which now lay before him upon the table. I
never realized--it never occurred to my bemuddled and torpid brain
that I was intruding upon his privacy, that he imagined himself to
be alone in the room. And then, just as it rushed upon my
horrified perceptions, and I had half risen to announce my
presence, I heard a strange, crisp, metallic clicking, and then the
Yes, it was a woman's voice; there could not be a doubt of it.
But a voice so charged with entreaty and with yearning love, that
it will ring for ever in my ears. It came with a curious faraway
tinkle, but every word was clear, though faint--very faint, for
they were the last words of a dying woman.
"I am not really gone, John," said the thin, gasping voice. "I
am here at your very elbow, and shall be until we meet once more.
I die happy to think that morning and night you will hear my voice.
Oh, John, be strong, be strong, until we meet again."
I say that I had risen in order to announce my presence, but I
could not do so while the voice was sounding. I could only remain
half lying, half sitting, paralysed, astounded, listening to those
yearning distant musical words. And he--he was so absorbed that
even if I had spoken he might not have heard me. But with the
silence of the voice came my half articulated apologies and
explanations. He sprang across the room, switched on the electric
light, and in its white glare I saw him, his eyes gleaming
with anger, his face twisted with passion, as the hapless
charwoman may have seen him weeks before.
"Mr. Colmore!" he cried. "You here! What is the meaning of
With halting words I explained it all, my neuralgia, the
narcotic, my luckless sleep and singular awakening. As he listened
the glow of anger faded from his face, and the sad, impassive mask
closed once more over his features.
"My secret is yours, Mr. Colmore," said he. "I have only
myself to blame for relaxing my precautions. Half confidences are
worse than no confidences, and so you may know all since you know
so much. The story may go where you will when I have passed away,
but until then I rely upon your sense of honour that no human soul
shall hear it from your lips. I am proud still--God help me!--or,
at least, I am proud enough to resent that pity which this story
would draw upon me. I have smiled at envy, and disregarded hatred,
but pity is more than I can tolerate.
"You have heard the source from which the voice comes--that
voice which has, as I understand, excited so much curiosity in my
household. I am aware of the rumours to which it has given rise.
These speculations, whether scandalous or superstitious, are such
as I can disregard and forgive. What I should never forgive would
be a disloyal spying and eavesdropping in order to satisfy an
illicit curiosity. But of that, Mr. Colmore, I acquit you.
"When I was a young man, sir, many years younger than you are
now, I was launched upon town without a friend or adviser, and with
a purse which brought only too many false friends and false
advisers to my side. I drank deeply of the wine of life--if there
is a man living who has drunk more deeply he is not a man whom I
envy. My purse suffered, my character suffered, my constitution
suffered, stimulants became a necessity to me, I was a creature
from whom my memory recoils. And it was at that time, the time of
my blackest degradation, that God sent into my life the gentlest,
sweetest spirit that ever descended as a ministering angel from
above. She loved me, broken as I was, loved me, and spent her life
in making a man once more of that which had degraded itself to the
level of the beasts.
"But a fell disease struck her, and she withered away before
my eyes. In the hour of her agony it was never of herself, of
her own sufferings and her own death that she thought. It was all
of me. The one pang which her fate brought to her was the fear
that when her influence was removed I should revert to that which
I had been. It was in vain that I made oath to her that no drop of
wine would ever cross my lips. She knew only too well the hold
that the devil had upon me--she who had striven so to loosen it--
and it haunted her night and day the thought that my soul might
again be within his grip.
"It was from some friend's gossip of the sick room that she
heard of this invention--this phonograph--and with the quick
insight of a loving woman she saw how she might use it for her
ends. She sent me to London to procure the best which money could
buy. With her dying breath she gasped into it the words which have
held me straight ever since. Lonely and broken, what else have I
in all the world to uphold me? But it is enough. Please God, I
shall face her without shame when He is pleased to reunite us!
That is my secret, Mr. Colmore, and whilst I live I leave it in
The Black Doctor
Bishop's Crossing is a small village lying ten miles in a south-
westerly direction from Liverpool. Here in the early seventies
there settled a doctor named Aloysius Lana. Nothing was known
locally either of his antecedents or of the reasons which had
prompted him to come to this Lancashire hamlet. Two facts only
were certain about him; the one that he had gained his medical
qualification with some distinction at Glasgow; the other that he
came undoubtedly of a tropical race, and was so dark that he
might almost have had a strain of the Indian in his composition.
His predominant features were, however, European, and he
possessed a stately courtesy and carriage which suggested a
Spanish extraction. A swarthy skin, raven-black hair, and dark,
sparkling eyes under a pair of heavily-tufted brows made a
strange contrast to the flaxen or chestnut rustics of England,
and the newcomer was soon known as "The Black Doctor of Bishop's
Crossing." At first it was a term of ridicule and reproach; as
the years went on it became a title of honour which was familiar
to the whole countryside, and extended far beyond the narrow
confines of the village.
For the newcomer proved himself to be a capable surgeon and an
accomplished physician. The practice of that district had been in
the hands of Edward Rowe, the son of Sir William Rowe, the
Liverpool consultant, but he had not inherited the talents of his
father, and Dr. Lana, with his advantages of presence and of
manner, soon beat him out of the field. Dr. Lana's social success
was as rapid as his professional. A remarkable surgical cure in
the case of the Hon. James Lowry, the second son of Lord Belton,
was the means of introducing him to county society, where he became
a favourite through the charm of his conversation and the elegance
of his manners. An absence of antecedents and of relatives is
sometimes an aid rather than an impediment to social advancement,
and the distinguished individuality of the handsome doctor was its
His patients had one fault--and one fault only--to find with
him. He appeared to be a confirmed bachelor. This was the more
remarkable since the house which he occupied was a large one, and
it was known that his success in practice had enabled him to save
considerable sums. At first the local matchmakers were continually
coupling his name with one or other of the eligible ladies, but as
years passed and Dr. Lana remained unmarried, it came to be
generally understood that for some reason he must remain a
bachelor. Some even went so far as to assert that he was already
married, and that it was in order to escape the consequence of an
early misalliance that he had buried himself at Bishop's Crossing.
And, then, just as the matchmakers had finally given him up in
despair, his engagement was suddenly announced to Miss Frances
Morton, of Leigh Hall.
Miss Morton was a young lady who was well known upon the
country-side, her father, James Haldane Morton, having been the
Squire of Bishop's Crossing. Both her parents were, however, dead,
and she lived with her only brother, Arthur Morton, who had
inherited the family estate. In person Miss Morton was tall and
stately, and she was famous for her quick, impetuous nature and for
her strength of character. She met Dr. Lana at a garden-party, and
a friendship, which quickly ripened into love, sprang up between
them. Nothing could exceed their devotion to each other. There
was some discrepancy in age, he being thirty-seven, and she twenty-
four; but, save in that one respect, there was no possible
objection to be found with the match. The engagement was in
February, and it was arranged that the marriage should take place
Upon the 3rd of June Dr. Lana received a letter from abroad.
In a small village the postmaster is also in a position to be the
gossip-master, and Mr. Bankley, of Bishop's Crossing, had many of
the secrets of his neighbours in his possession. Of this
particular letter he remarked only that it was in a curious
envelope, that it was in a man's handwriting, that the postscript
was Buenos Ayres, and the stamp of the Argentine Republic. It was
the first letter which he had ever known Dr. Lana to have from
abroad and this was the reason why his attention was particularly
called to it before he handed it to the local postman. It was
delivered by the evening delivery of that date.
Next morning--that is, upon the 4th of June--Dr. Lana called
upon Miss Morton, and a long interview followed, from which he was
observed to return in a state of great agitation. Miss Morton
remained in her room all that day, and her maid found her several
times in tears. In the course of a week it was an open secret to
the whole village that the engagement was at an end, that Dr. Lana
had behaved shamefully to the young lady, and that Arthur Morton,
her brother, was talking of horse-whipping him. In what particular
respect the doctor had behaved badly was unknown--some surmised one
thing and some another; but it was observed, and taken as the
obvious sign of a guilty conscience, that he would go for miles
round rather than pass the windows of Leigh Hall, and that he gave
up attending morning service upon Sundays where he might have met
the young lady. There was an advertisement also in the Lancet
as to the sale of a practice which mentioned no names, but which
was thought by some to refer to Bishop's Crossing, and to mean that
Dr. Lana was thinking of abandoning the scene of his success. Such
was the position of affairs when, upon the evening of Monday, June
21st, there came a fresh development which changed what had been a
mere village scandal into a tragedy which arrested the attention of
the whole nation. Some detail is necessary to cause the facts of
that evening to present their full significance.
The sole occupants of the doctor's house were his housekeeper,
an elderly and most respectable woman, named Martha Woods, and a
young servant--Mary Pilling. The coachman and the surgery-boy
slept out. It was the custom of the doctor to sit at night in his
study, which was next the surgery in the wing of the house which
was farthest from the servants' quarters. This side of the house
had a door of its own for the convenience of patients, so that it
was possible for the doctor to admit and receive a visitor there
without the knowledge of anyone. As a matter of fact, when
patients came late it was quite usual for him to let them in and
out by the surgery entrance, for the maid and the housekeeper were
in the habit of retiring early.
On this particular night Martha Woods went into the doctor's
study at half-past nine, and found him writing at his desk. She
bade him good night, sent the maid to bed, and then occupied
herself until a quarter to eleven in household matters. It was
striking eleven upon the hall clock when she went to her own room.
She had been there about a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes
when she heard a cry or call, which appeared to come from within
the house. She waited some time, but it was not repeated. Much
alarmed, for the sound was loud and urgent, she put on a dressing-
gown, and ran at the top of her speed to the doctor's study.
"Who's there?" cried a voice, as she tapped at the door.
"I am here, sir--Mrs. Woods."
"I beg that you will leave me in peace. Go back to your room
this instant!" cried the voice, which was, to the best of her
belief, that of her master. The tone was so harsh and so unlike
her master's usual manner, that she was surprised and hurt.
"I thought I heard you calling, sir," she explained, but no
answer was given to her. Mrs. Woods looked at the clock as she
returned to her room, and it was then half-past eleven.
At some period between eleven and twelve (she could not be
positive as to the exact hour) a patient called upon the doctor and
was unable to get any reply from him. This late visitor was Mrs.
Madding, the wife of the village grocer, who was dangerously ill of
typhoid fever. Dr. Lana had asked her to look in the last thing
and let him know how her husband was progressing. She observed
that the light was burning in the study, but having knocked several
times at the surgery door without response, she concluded that the
doctor had been called out, and so returned home.
There is a short, winding drive with a lamp at the end of it
leading down from the house to the road. As Mrs. Madding emerged
from the gate a man was coming along the footpath. Thinking that
it might be Dr. Lana returning from some professional visit, she
waited for him, and was surprised to see that it was Mr. Arthur
Morton, the young squire. In the light of the lamp she observed
that his manner was excited, and that he carried in his hand a
heavy hunting-crop. He was turning in at the gate when she
"The doctor is not in, sir," said she.
"How do you know that?" he asked harshly.
"I have been to the surgery door, sir."
"I see a light," said the young squire, looking up the drive.
"That is in his study, is it not?"
"Yes, sir; but I am sure that he is out."
"Well, he must come in again," said young Morton, and passed
through the gate while Mrs. Madding went upon her homeward way.
At three o'clock that morning her husband suffered a sharp
relapse, and she was so alarmed by his symptoms that she determined
to call the doctor without delay. As she passed through the gate
she was surprised to see someone lurking among the laurel bushes.
It was certainly a man, and to the best of her belief Mr. Arthur
Morton. Preoccupied with her own troubles, she gave no particular
attention to the incident, but hurried on upon her errand.
When she reached the house she perceived to her surprise that
the light was still burning in the study. She therefore tapped at
the surgery door. There was no answer. She repeated the knocking
several times without effect. It appeared to her to be unlikely
that the doctor would either go to bed or go out leaving so
brilliant a light behind him, and it struck Mrs. Madding that it
was possible that he might have dropped asleep in his chair. She
tapped at the study window, therefore, but without result. Then,
finding that there was an opening between the curtain and the
woodwork, she looked through.
The small room was brilliantly lighted from a large lamp on the
central table, which was littered with the doctor's books and
instruments. No one was visible, nor did she see anything unusual,
except that in the farther shadow thrown by the table a dingy white
glove was lying upon the carpet. And then suddenly, as her eyes
became more accustomed to the light, a boot emerged from the other
end of the shadow, and she realized, with a thrill of horror, that
what she had taken to be a glove was the hand of a man, who was
prostrate upon the floor. Understanding that something terrible
had occurred, she rang at the front door, roused Mrs. Woods, the
housekeeper, and the two women made their way into the study,
having first dispatched the maidservant to the police-station.
At the side of the table, away from the window, Dr. Lana was
discovered stretched upon his back and quite dead. It was
evident that he had been subjected to violence, for one of his eyes
was blackened and there were marks of bruises about his face and
neck. A slight thickening and swelling of his features appeared to
suggest that the cause of his death had been strangulation. He was
dressed in his usual professional clothes, but wore cloth slippers,
the soles of which were perfectly clean. The carpet was marked all
over, especially on the side of the door, with traces of dirty
boots, which were presumably left by the murderer. It was evident
that someone had entered by the surgery door, had killed the
doctor, and had then made his escape unseen. That the assailant
was a man was certain, from the size of the footprints and from the
nature of the injuries. But beyond that point the police found it
very difficult to go.
There were no signs of robbery, and the doctor's gold watch was
safe in his pocket. He kept a heavy cash-box in the room, and this
was discovered to be locked but empty. Mrs. Woods had an
impression that a large sum was usually kept there, but the doctor
had paid a heavy corn bill in cash only that very day, and it was
conjectured that it was to this and not to a robber that the
emptiness of the box was due. One thing in the room was missing--
but that one thing was suggestive. The portrait of Miss Morton,
which had always stood upon the side-table, had been taken from its
frame, and carried off. Mrs. Woods had observed it there when she
waited upon her employer that evening, and now it was gone. On the
other hand, there was picked up from the floor a green eye-patch,
which the housekeeper could not remember to have seen before. Such
a patch might, however, be in the possession of a doctor, and there
was nothing to indicate that it was in any way connected with the
Suspicion could only turn in one direction, and Arthur Morton,
the young squire, was immediately arrested. The evidence against
him was circumstantial, but damning. He was devoted to his sister,
and it was shown that since the rupture between her and Dr. Lana he
had been heard again and again to express himself in the most
vindictive terms towards her former lover. He had, as stated, been
seen somewhere about eleven o'clock entering the doctor's drive
with a hunting-crop in his hand. He had then, according to the
theory of the police, broken in upon the doctor, whose
exclamation of fear or of anger had been loud enough to attract the
attention of Mrs. Woods. When Mrs. Woods descended, Dr. Lana had
made up his mind to talk it over with his visitor, and had,
therefore, sent his housekeeper back to her room. This
conversation had lasted a long time, had become more and more
fiery, and had ended by a personal struggle, in which the doctor
lost his life. The fact, revealed by a post-mortem, that his
heart was much diseased--an ailment quite unsuspected during his
life--would make it possible that death might in his case ensue
from injuries which would not be fatal to a healthy man. Arthur
Morton had then removed his sister's photograph, and had made his
way homeward, stepping aside into the laurel bushes to avoid Mrs.
Madding at the gate. This was the theory of the prosecution, and
the case which they presented was a formidable one.
On the other hand, there were some strong points for the
defence. Morton was high-spirited and impetuous, like his sister,
but he was respected and liked by everyone, and his frank and
honest nature seemed to be incapable of such a crime. His own
explanation was that he was anxious to have a conversation with Dr.
Lana about some urgent family matters (from first to last he
refused even to mention the name of his sister). He did not
attempt to deny that this conversation would probably have been of
an unpleasant nature. He had heard from a patient that the doctor
was out, and he therefore waited until about three in the morning
for his return, but as he had seen nothing of him up to that hour,
he had given it up and had returned home. As to his death, he knew
no more about it than the constable who arrested him. He had
formerly been an intimate friend of the deceased man; but
circumstances, which he would prefer not to mention, had brought
about a change in his sentiments.
There were several facts which supported his innocence. It was
certain that Dr. Lana was alive and in his study at half-past
eleven o'clock. Mrs. Woods was prepared to swear that it was at
that hour that she had heard his voice. The friends of the
prisoner contended that it was probable that at that time Dr. Lana
was not alone. The sound which had originally attracted the
attention of the housekeeper, and her master's unusual impatience
that she should leave him in peace, seemed to point to that. If
this were so then it appeared to be probable that he had met
his end between the moment when the housekeeper heard his voice and
the time when Mrs. Madding made her first call and found it
impossible to attract his attention. But if this were the time of
his death, then it was certain that Mr. Arthur Morton could not be
guilty, as it was AFTER this that she had met the young squire
at the gate.
If this hypothesis were correct, and someone was with Dr. Lana
before Mrs. Madding met Mr. Arthur Morton, then who was this
someone, and what motives had he for wishing evil to the doctor?
It was universally admitted that if the friends of the accused
could throw light upon this, they would have gone a long way
towards establishing his innocence. But in the meanwhile it was
open to the public to say--as they did say--that there was no proof
that anyone had been there at all except the young squire; while,
on the other hand, there was ample proof that his motives in going
were of a sinister kind. When Mrs. Madding called, the doctor
might have retired to his room, or he might, as she thought at the
time, have gone out and returned afterwards to find Mr. Arthur
Morton waiting for him. Some of the supporters of the accused laid
stress upon the fact that the photograph of his sister Frances,
which had been removed from the doctor's room, had not been found
in her brother's possession. This argument, however, did not count
for much, as he had ample time before his arrest to burn it or to
destroy it. As to the only positive evidence in the case--the
muddy footmarks upon the floor--they were so blurred by the
softness of the carpet that it was impossible to make any
trustworthy deduction from them. The most that could be said was
that their appearance was not inconsistent with the theory that
they were made by the accused, and it was further shown that his
boots were very muddy upon that night. There had been a heavy
shower in the afternoon, and all boots were probably in the same
Such is a bald statement of the singular and romantic series of
events which centred public attention upon this Lancashire tragedy.
The unknown origin of the doctor, his curious and distinguished
personality, the position of the man who was accused of the murder,
and the love affair which had preceded the crimes all combined to
make the affair one of those dramas which absorb the whole
interest of a nation. Throughout the three kingdoms men discussed
the case of the Black Doctor of Bishop's Crossing, and many were
the theories put forward to explain the facts; but it may safely be
said that among them all there was not one which prepared the minds
of the public for the extraordinary sequel, which caused so much
excitement upon the first day of the trial, and came to a climax
upon the second. The long files of the Lancaster Weekly with
their report of the case lie before me as I write, but I must
content myself with a synopsis of the case up to the point when,
upon the evening of the first day, the evidence of Miss Frances
Morton threw a singular light upon the case.
Mr. Porlock Carr, the counsel for the prosecution, had
marshalled his facts with his usual skill, and as the day wore on,
it became more and more evident how difficult was the task which
Mr. Humphrey, who had been retained for the defence, had before
him. Several witnesses were put up to swear to the intemperate
expressions which the young squire had been heard to utter about
the doctor, and the fiery manner in which he resented the alleged
ill-treatment of his sister. Mrs. Madding repeated her evidence as
to the visit which had been paid late at night by the prisoner to
the deceased, and it was shown by another witness that the prisoner
was aware that the doctor was in the habit of sitting up alone in
this isolated wing of the house, and that he had chosen this very
late hour to call because he knew that his victim would then be at
his mercy. A servant at the squire's house was compelled to admit
that he had heard his master return about three that morning, which
corroborated Mrs. Madding's statement that she had seen him among
the laurel bushes near the gate upon the occasion of her second
visit. The muddy boots and an alleged similarity in the footprints
were duly dwelt upon, and it was felt when the case for the
prosecution had been presented that, however circumstantial it
might be, it was none the less so complete and so convincing, that
the fate of the prisoner was sealed, unless something quite
unexpected should be disclosed by the defence. It was three
o'clock when the prosecution closed. At half-past four, when the
court rose, a new and unlooked-for development had occurred. I
extract the incident, or part of it, from the journal which I have
already mentioned, omitting the preliminary observations of the
Considerable sensation was caused in the crowded court when the
first witness called for the defence proved to be Miss Frances
Morton, the sister of the prisoner. Our readers will remember that
the young lady had been engaged to Dr. Lana, and that it was his
anger over the sudden termination of this engagement which was
thought to have driven her brother to the perpetration of this
crime. Miss Morton had not, however, been directly implicated in
the case in any way, either at the inquest or at the police-court
proceedings, and her appearance as the leading witness for the
defence came as a surprise upon the public.
Miss Frances Morton, who was a tall and handsome brunette, gave
her evidence in a low but clear voice, though it was evident
throughout that she was suffering from extreme emotion. She
alluded to her engagement to the doctor, touched briefly upon its
termination, which was due, she said, to personal matters connected
with his family, and surprised the court by asserting that she had
always considered her brother's resentment to be unreasonable and
intemperate. In answer to a direct question from her counsel, she
replied that she did not feel that she had any grievance whatever
against Dr. Lana, and that in her opinion he had acted in a
perfectly honourable manner. Her brother, on an insufficient
knowledge of the facts, had taken another view, and she was
compelled to acknowledge that, in spite of her entreaties, he had
uttered threats of personal violence against the doctor, and had,
upon the evening of the tragedy, announced his intention of "having
it out with him." She had done her best to bring him to a more
reasonable frame of mind, but he was very headstrong where his
emotions or prejudices were concerned.
Up to this point the young lady's evidence had appeared to make
against the prisoner rather than in his favour. The questions of
her counsel, however, soon put a very different light upon the
matter, and disclosed an unexpected line of defence.
Mr. Humphrey: Do you believe your brother to be guilty of this
The Judge: I cannot permit that question, Mr. Humphrey. We
are here to decide upon questions of fact--not of belief.
Mr. Humphrey: Do you know that your brother is not guilty of
the death of Doctor Lana?
Miss Morton: Yes.
Mr. Humphrey: How do you know it?
Miss Morton: Because Dr. Lana is not dead.
There followed a prolonged sensation in court, which
interrupted the examination of the witness.
Mr. Humphrey: And how do you know, Miss Morton, that Dr. Lana
is not dead?
Miss Morton: Because I have received a letter from him since
the date of his supposed death.
Mr. Humphrey: Have you this letter?
Miss Morton: Yes, but I should prefer not to show it.
Mr. Humphrey: Have you the envelope?
Miss Morton: Yes, it is here.
Mr. Humphrey: What is the post-mark?
Miss Morton: Liverpool.
Mr. Humphrey: And the date?
Miss Morton: June the 22nd.
Mr. Humphrey: That being the day after his alleged death. Are
you prepared to swear to this handwriting, Miss Morton?
Miss Morton: Certainly.
Mr. Humphrey: I am prepared to call six other witnesses, my
lord, to testify that this letter is in the writing of Doctor Lana.
The Judge: Then you must call them tomorrow.
Mr. Porlock Carr (counsel for the prosecution): In the
meantime, my lord, we claim possession of this document, so that we
may obtain expert evidence as to how far it is an imitation of the
handwriting of the gentleman whom we still confidently assert to be
deceased. I need not point out that the theory so unexpectedly
sprung upon us may prove to be a very obvious device adopted by the
friends of the prisoner in order to divert this inquiry. I would
draw attention to the fact that the young lady must, according to
her own account, have possessed this letter during the proceedings
at the inquest and at the police-court. She desires us to believe
that she permitted these to proceed, although she held in her
pocket evidence which would at any moment have brought them to an
Mr. Humphrey. Can you explain this, Miss Morton?
Miss Morton: Dr. Lana desired his secret to be preserved.
Mr. Porlock Carr: Then why have you made this public?
Miss Morton: To save my brother.
A murmur of sympathy broke out in court, which was instantly
suppressed by the Judge.
The Judge: Admitting this line of defence, it lies with you,
Mr. Humphrey, to throw a light upon who this man is whose body has
been recognized by so many friends and patients of Dr. Lana as
being that of the doctor himself.
A Juryman: Has anyone up to now expressed any doubt about the
Mr. Porlock Carr: Not to my knowledge.
Mr. Humphrey: We hope to make the matter clear.
The Judge: Then the court adjourns until tomorrow.
This new development of the case excited the utmost interest
among the general public. Press comment was prevented by the fact
that the trial was still undecided, but the question was everywhere
argued as to how far there could be truth in Miss Morton's
declaration, and how far it might be a daring ruse for the purpose
of saving her brother. The obvious dilemma in which the missing
doctor stood was that if by any extraordinary chance he was not
dead, then he must be held responsible for the death of this
unknown man, who resembled him so exactly, and who was found in his
study. This letter which Miss Morton refused to produce was
possibly a confession of guilt, and she might find herself in the
terrible position of only being able to save her brother from the
gallows by the sacrifice of her former lover. The court next
morning was crammed to overflowing, and a murmur of excitement
passed over it when Mr. Humphrey was observed to enter in a state
of emotion, which even his trained nerves could not conceal, and to
confer with the opposing counsel. A few hurried words--words which
left a look of amazement upon Mr. Porlock Carr's face--passed
between them, and then the counsel for the defence, addressing the
Judge, announced that, with the consent of the prosecution, the
young lady who had given evidence upon the sitting before would not
The Judge: But you appear, Mr. Humphrey, to have left matters
in a very unsatisfactory state.
Mr. Humphrey: Perhaps, my lord, my next witness may help to
clear them up.
The Judge: Then call your next witness.
Mr. Humphrey: I call Dr. Aloysius Lana.
The learned counsel has made many telling remarks in his day,
but he has certainly never produced such a sensation with so short
a sentence. The court was simply stunned with amazement as the
very man whose fate had been the subject of so much contention
appeared bodily before them in the witness-box. Those among the
spectators who had known him at Bishop's Crossing saw him now,
gaunt and thin, with deep lines of care upon his face. But in
spite of his melancholy bearing and despondent expression, there
were few who could say that they had ever seen a man of more
distinguished presence. Bowing to the judge, he asked if he might
be allowed to make a statement, and having been duly informed that
whatever he said might be used against him, he bowed once more, and
"My wish," said he, "is to hold nothing back, but to tell with
perfect frankness all that occurred upon the night of the 21st of
June. Had I known that the innocent had suffered, and that so much
trouble had been brought upon those whom I love best in the world,
I should have come forward long ago; but there were reasons which
prevented these things from coming to my ears. It was my desire
that an unhappy man should vanish from the world which had known
him, but I had not foreseen that others would be affected by my
actions. Let me to the best of my ability repair the evil which I
"To anyone who is acquainted with the history of the Argentine
Republic the name of Lana is well known. My father, who came of
the best blood of old Spain, filled all the highest offices of the
State, and would have been President but for his death in the riots
of San Juan. A brilliant career might have been open to my twin
brother Ernest and myself had it not been for financial losses
which made it necessary that we should earn our own living. I
apologize, sir, if these details appear to be irrelevant, but they
are a necessary introduction to that which is to follow.
"I had, as I have said, a twin brother named Ernest, whose
resemblance to me was so great that even when we were together
people could see no difference between us. Down to the smallest
detail we were exactly the same. As we grew older this
likeness became less marked because our expression was not the
same, but with our features in repose the points of difference were
"It does not become me to say too much of one who is dead, the
more so as he is my only brother, but I leave his character to
those who knew him best. I will only say--for I HAVE to say
it--that in my early manhood I conceived a horror of him, and that
I had good reason for the aversion which filled me. My own
reputation suffered from his actions, for our close resemblance
caused me to be credited with many of them. Eventually, in a
peculiarly disgraceful business, he contrived to throw the whole
odium upon me in such a way that I was forced to leave the
Argentine for ever, and to seek a career in Europe. The freedom
from his hated presence more than compensated me for the loss of my
native land. I had enough money to defray my medical studies at
Glasgow, and I finally settled in practice at Bishop's Crossing, in
the firm conviction that in that remote Lancashire hamlet I should
never hear of him again.
"For years my hopes were fulfilled, and then at last he
discovered me. Some Liverpool man who visited Buenos Ayres put him
upon my track. He had lost all his money, and he thought that he
would come over and share mine. Knowing my horror of him, he
rightly thought that I would be willing to buy him off. I received
a letter from him saying that he was coming. It was at a crisis in
my own affairs, and his arrival might conceivably bring trouble,
and even disgrace, upon some whom I was especially bound to shield
from anything of the kind. I took steps to insure that any evil
which might come should fall on me only, and that"--here he turned
and looked at the prisoner--"was the cause of conduct upon my part
which has been too harshly judged. My only motive was to screen
those who were dear to me from any possible connection with scandal
or disgrace. That scandal and disgrace would come with my brother
was only to say that what had been would be again.
"My brother arrived himself one night not very long after my
receipt of the letter. I was sitting in my study after the
servants had gone to bed, when I heard a footstep upon the gravel
outside, and an instant later I saw his face looking in at me
through the window. He was a clean-shaven man like myself,
and the resemblance between us was still so great that, for an
instant, I thought it was my own reflection in the glass. He had
a dark patch over his eye, but our features were absolutely the
same. Then he smiled in a sardonic way which had been a trick of
his from his boyhood, and I knew that he was the same brother who
had driven me from my native land, and brought disgrace upon what
had been an honourable name. I went to the door and I admitted
him. That would be about ten o'clock that night.
"When he came into the glare of the lamp, I saw at once that he
had fallen upon very evil days. He had walked from Liverpool, and
he was tired and ill. I was quite shocked by the expression upon
his face. My medical knowledge told me that there was some serious
internal malady. He had been drinking also, and his face was
bruised as the result of a scuffle which he had had with some
sailors. It was to cover his injured eye that he wore this patch,
which he removed when he entered the room. He was himself dressed
in a pea-jacket and flannel shirt, and his feet were bursting
through his boots. But his poverty had only made him more savagely
vindictive towards me. His hatred rose to the height of a mania.
I had been rolling in money in England, according to his account,
while he had been starving in South America. I cannot describe to
you the threats which he uttered or the insults which he poured
upon me. My impression is, that hardships and debauchery had
unhinged his reason. He paced about the room like a wild beast,
demanding drink, demanding money, and all in the foulest language.
I am a hot-tempered man, but I thank God that I am able to say that
I remained master of myself, and that I never raised a hand against
him. My coolness only irritated him the more. He raved, he
cursed, he shook his fists in my face, and then suddenly a horrible
spasm passed over his features, he clapped his hand to his side,
and with a loud cry he fell in a heap at my feet. I raised him up
and stretched him upon the sofa, but no answer came to my
exclamations, and the hand which I held in mine was cold and
clammy. His diseased heart had broken down. His own violence had
"For a long time I sat as if I were in some dreadful dream,
staring at the body of my brother. I was aroused by the knocking
of Mrs. Woods, who had been disturbed by that dying cry. I sent
her away to bed. Shortly afterwards a patient tapped at the
surgery door, but as I took no notice, he or she went off again.
Slowly and gradually as I sat there a plan was forming itself in my
head in the curious automatic way in which plans do form. When I
rose from my chair my future movements were finally decided upon
without my having been conscious of any process of thought. It was
an instinct which irresistibly inclined me towards one course.
"Ever since that change in my affairs to which I have alluded,
Bishop's Crossing had become hateful to me. My plans of life had
been ruined, and I had met with hasty judgments and unkind
treatment where I had expected sympathy. It is true that any
danger of scandal from my brother had passed away with his life;
but still, I was sore about the past, and felt that things could
never be as they had been. It may be that I was unduly sensitive,
and that I had not made sufficient allowance for others, but my
feelings were as I describe. Any chance of getting away from
Bishop's Crossing and of everyone in it would be most welcome to
me. And here was such a chance as I could never have dared to hope
for, a chance which would enable me to make a clean break with the
"There was this dead man lying upon the sofa, so like me that
save for some little thickness and coarseness of the features there
was no difference at all. No one had seen him come and no one
would miss him. We were both clean-shaven, and his hair was about
the same length as my own. If I changed clothes with him, then Dr.
Aloysius Lana would be found lying dead in his study, and there
would be an end of an unfortunate fellow, and of a blighted career.
There was plenty of ready money in the room, and this I could carry
away with me to help me to start once more in some other land. In
my brother's clothes I could walk by night unobserved as far as
Liverpool, and in that great seaport I would soon find some means
of leaving the country. After my lost hopes, the humblest
existence where I was unknown was far preferable, in my estimation,
to a practice, however successful, in Bishop's Crossing, where at
any moment I might come face to face with those whom I should wish,
if it were possible, to forget. I determined to effect the change.
"And I did so. I will not go into particulars, for the
recollection is as painful as the experience; but in an hour
my brother lay, dressed down to the smallest detail in my clothes,
while I slunk out by the surgery door, and taking the back path
which led across some fields, I started off to make the best of my
way to Liverpool, where I arrived the same night. My bag of money
and a certain portrait were all I carried out of the house, and I
left behind me in my hurry the shade which my brother had been
wearing over his eye. Everything else of his I took with me.
"I give you my word, sir, that never for one instant did the
idea occur to me that people might think that I had been murdered,
nor did I imagine that anyone might be caused serious danger
through this stratagem by which I endeavoured to gain a fresh start
in the world. On the contrary, it was the thought of relieving
others from the burden of my presence which was always uppermost in
my mind. A sailing vessel was leaving Liverpool that very day for
Corunna, and in this I took my passage, thinking that the voyage
would give me time to recover my balance, and to consider the
future. But before I left my resolution softened. I bethought me
that there was one person in the world to whom I would not cause an
hour of sadness. She would mourn me in her heart, however harsh
and unsympathetic her relatives might be. She understood and
appreciated the motives upon which I had acted, and if the rest of
her family condemned me, she, at least, would not forget. And so
I sent her a note under the seal of secrecy to save her from a
baseless grief. If under the pressure of events she broke that
seal, she has my entire sympathy and forgiveness.
"It was only last night that I returned to England, and during
all this time I have heard nothing of the sensation which my
supposed death had caused, nor of the accusation that Mr. Arthur
Morton had been concerned in it. It was in a late evening paper
that I read an account of the proceedings of yesterday, and I have
come this morning as fast as an express train could bring me to
testify to the truth."
Such was the remarkable statement of Dr. Aloysius Lana which
brought the trial to a sudden termination. A subsequent
investigation corroborated it to the extent of finding out the
vessel in which his brother Ernest Lana had come over from South
America. The ship's doctor was able to testify that he had
complained of a weak heart during the voyage, and that his symptoms
were consistent with such a death as was described.
As to Dr. Aloysius Lana, he returned to the village from which
he had made so dramatic a disappearance, and a complete
reconciliation was effected between him and the young squire, the
latter having acknowledged that he had entirely misunderstood the
other's motives in withdrawing from his engagement. That another
reconciliation followed may be judged from a notice extracted from
a prominent column in the Morning Post:
"A marriage was solemnized upon September 19th, by the Rev.
Stephen Johnson, at the parish church of Bishop's Crossing, between
Aloysius Xavier Lana, son of Don Alfredo Lana, formerly Foreign
Minister of the Argentine Republic, and Frances Morton, only
daughter of the late James Morton, J.P., of Leigh Hall, Bishop's
The Jew's Breastplate
My particular friend, Ward Mortimer, was one of the best men of
his day at everything connected with Oriental archaeology. He
had written largely upon the subject, he had lived two years in a
tomb at Thebes, while he excavated in the Valley of the Kings,
and finally he had created a considerable sensation by his
exhumation of the alleged mummy of Cleopatra in the inner room of
the Temple of Horus, at Philae. With such a record at the age of
thirty-one, it was felt that a considerable career lay before
him, and no one was surprised when he was elected to the
curatorship of the Belmore Street Museum, which carries with it
the lectureship at the Oriental College, and an income which has
sunk with the fall in land, but which still remains at that ideal
sum which is large enough to encourage an investigator, but not
so large as to enervate him.
There was only one reason which made Ward Mortimer's position
a little difficult at the Belmore Street Museum, and that was the
extreme eminence of the man whom he had to succeed. Professor
Andreas was a profound scholar and a man of European reputation.
His lectures were frequented by students from every part of the
world, and his admirable management of the collection intrusted to
his care was a commonplace in all learned societies. There was,
therefore, considerable surprise when, at the age of fifty-five, he
suddenly resigned his position and retired from those duties which
had been both his livelihood and his pleasure. He and his daughter
left the comfortable suite of rooms which had formed his official
residence in connection with the museum, and my friend, Mortimer,
who was a bachelor, took up his quarters there.
On hearing of Mortimer's appointment Professor Andreas had
written him a very kindly and flattering congratulatory letter. I
was actually present at their first meeting, and I went with
Mortimer round the museum when the Professor showed us the
admirable collection which he had cherished so long. The
Professor's beautiful daughter and a young man, Captain Wilson, who
was, as I understood, soon to be her husband, accompanied us in our
inspection. There were fifteen rooms, but the Babylonian, the
Syrian, and the central hall, which contained the Jewish and
Egyptian collection, were the finest of all. Professor Andreas was
a quiet, dry, elderly man, with a clean-shaven face and an
impassive manner, but his dark eyes sparkled and his features
quickened into enthusiastic life as he pointed out to us the rarity
and the beauty of some of his specimens. His hand lingered so
fondly over them, that one could read his pride in them and the
grief in his heart now that they were passing from his care into
that of another.
He had shown us in turn his mummies, his papyri, his rare
scarabs, his inscriptions, his Jewish relics, and his duplication
of the famous seven-branched candlestick of the Temple, which was
brought to Rome by Titus, and which is supposed by some to be lying
at this instant in the bed of the Tiber. Then he approached a case
which stood in the very centre of the hall, and he looked down
through the glass with reverence in his attitude and manner.
"This is no novelty to an expert like yourself, Mr. Mortimer,"
said he; "but I daresay that your friend, Mr. Jackson, will be
interested to see it."
Leaning over the case I saw an object, some five inches square,
which consisted of twelve precious stones in a framework of gold,
with golden hooks at two of the corners. The stones were all
varying in sort and colour, but they were of the same size. Their
shapes, arrangement, and gradation of tint made me think of a box
of water-colour paints. Each stone had some hieroglyphic scratched
upon its surface.
"You have heard, Mr. Jackson, of the urim and thummim?"
I had heard the term, but my idea of its meaning was
"The urim and thummim was a name given to the jewelled plate
which lay upon the breast of the high priest of the Jews. They had
a very special feeling of reverence for it--something of the
feeling which an ancient Roman might have for the Sibylline
books in the Capitol. There are, as you see, twelve magnificent
stones, inscribed with mystical characters. Counting from the
left-hand top corner, the stones are carnelian, peridot, emerald,
ruby, lapis lazuli, onyx, sapphire, agate, amethyst, topaz, beryl,
I was amazed at the variety and beauty of the stones.
"Has the breastplate any particular history?" I asked.
"It is of great age and of immense value," said Professor
Andreas. "Without being able to make an absolute assertion, we
have many reasons to think that it is possible that it may be the
original urim and thummim of Solomon's Temple. There is certainly
nothing so fine in any collection in Europe. My friend, Captain
Wilson, here, is a practical authority upon precious stones, and he
would tell you how pure these are."
Captain Wilson, a man with a dark, hard, incisive face, was
standing beside his fiancee at the other side of the case.
"Yes," said he, curtly, "I have never seen finer stones."
"And the gold-work is also worthy of attention. The ancients
excelled in----"--he was apparently about to indicate the setting
of the stones, when Captain Wilson interrupted him.
"You will see a finer example of their gold-work in this
candlestick," said he, turning to another table, and we all joined
him in his admiration of its embossed stem and delicately
ornamented branches. Altogether it was an interesting and a novel
experience to have objects of such rarity explained by so great an
expert; and when, finally, Professor Andreas finished our
inspection by formally handing over the precious collection to the
care of my friend, I could not help pitying him and envying his
successor whose life was to pass in so pleasant a duty. Within a
week, Ward Mortimer was duly installed in his new set of rooms, and
had become the autocrat of the Belmore Street Museum.
About a fortnight afterwards my friend gave a small dinner to
half a dozen bachelor friends to celebrate his promotion. When his
guests were departing he pulled my sleeve and signalled to me that
he wished me to remain.
"You have only a few hundred yards to go," said he--I was
living in chambers in the Albany. "You may as well stay and have
a quiet cigar with me. I very much want your advice."
I relapsed into an arm-chair and lit one of his excellent
Matronas. When he had returned from seeing the last of his
guests out, he drew a letter from his dress-jacket and sat down
opposite to me.
"This is an anonymous letter which I received this morning,"
said he. "I want to read it to you and to have your advice."
"You are very welcome to it for what it is worth."
"This is how the note runs: `Sir,--I should strongly advise
you to keep a very careful watch over the many valuable things
which are committed to your charge. I do not think that the
present system of a single watchman is sufficient. Be upon your
guard, or an irreparable misfortune may occur.'"
"Is that all?"
"Yes, that is all."
"Well," said I, "it is at least obvious that it was written by
one of the limited number of people who are aware that you have
only one watchman at night."
Ward Mortimer handed me the note, with a curious smile. "Have
you an eye for handwriting?" said he. "Now, look at this!" He put
another letter in front of me. "Look at the c in
`congratulate' and the c in `committed.' Look at the capital
I. Look at the trick of putting in a dash instead of a stop!"
"They are undoubtedly from the same hand--with some attempt at
disguise in the case of this first one."
"The second," said Ward Mortimer, "is the letter of
congratulation which was written to me by Professor Andreas upon my
obtaining my appointment."
I stared at him in amazement. Then I turned over the letter in
my hand, and there, sure enough, was "Martin Andreas" signed upon
the other side. There could be no doubt, in the mind of anyone who
had the slightest knowledge of the science of graphology, that the
Professor had written an anonymous letter, warning his successor
against thieves. It was inexplicable, but it was certain.
"Why should he do it?" I asked.
"Precisely what I should wish to ask you. If he had any such
misgivings, why could he not come and tell me direct?"
"Will you speak to him about it?"
"There again I am in doubt. He might choose to deny that he
"At any rate," said I, "this warning is meant in a friendly
spirit, and I should certainly act upon it. Are the present
precautions enough to insure you against robbery?"
"I should have thought so. The public are only admitted from
ten till five, and there is a guardian to every two rooms. He
stands at the door between them, and so commands them both."
"But at night?"
"When the public are gone, we at once put up the great iron
shutters, which are absolutely burglar-proof. The watchman is a
capable fellow. He sits in the lodge, but he walks round every
three hours. We keep one electric light burning in each room all
"It is difficult to suggest anything more--short of keeping
your day watches all night."
"We could not afford that."
"At least, I should communicate with the police, and have a
special constable put on outside in Belmore Street," said I. "As
to the letter, if the writer wishes to be anonymous, I think he has
a right to remain so. We must trust to the future to show some
reason for the curious course which he has adopted."
So we dismissed the subject, but all that night after my return
to my chambers I was puzzling my brain as to what possible motive
Professor Andreas could have for writing an anonymous warning
letter to his successor--for that the writing was his was as
certain to me as if I had seen him actually doing it. He foresaw
some danger to the collection. Was it because he foresaw it that
he abandoned his charge of it? But if so, why should he hesitate
to warn Mortimer in his own name? I puzzled and puzzled until at
last I fell into a troubled sleep, which carried me beyond my usual
hour of rising.
I was aroused in a singular and effective method, for about
nine o'clock my friend Mortimer rushed into my room with an
expression of consternation upon his face. He was usually one of
the most tidy men of my acquaintance, but now his collar was undone
at one end, his tie was flying, and his hat at the back of his
head. I read his whole story in his frantic eyes.
"The museum has been robbed!" I cried, springing up in bed.
"I fear so! Those jewels! The jewels of the urim and
thummim!" he gasped, for he was out of breath with running. "I'm
going on to the police-station. Come to the museum as soon as
you can, Jackson! Good-bye!" He rushed distractedly out of the
room, and I heard him clatter down the stairs.
I was not long in following his directions, but I found when I
arrived that he had already returned with a police inspector, and
another elderly gentleman, who proved to be Mr. Purvis, one of the
partners of Morson and Company, the well-known diamond merchants.
As an expert in stones he was always prepared to advise the police.
They were grouped round the case in which the breastplate of the
Jewish priest had been exposed. The plate had been taken out and
laid upon the glass top of the case, and the three heads were bent
"It is obvious that it has been tampered with," said Mortimer.
"It caught my eye the moment that I passed through the room this
morning. I examined it yesterday evening, so that it is certain
that this has happened during the night."
It was, as he had said, obvious that someone had been at work
upon it. The settings of the uppermost row of four stones--the
carnelian, peridot, emerald, and ruby--were rough and jagged as if
someone had scraped all round them. The stones were in their
places, but the beautiful gold-work which we had admired only a few
days before had been very clumsily pulled about.
"It looks to me," said the police inspector, "as if someone had
been trying to take out the stones."
"My fear is," said Mortimer, "that he not only tried, but
succeeded. I believe these four stones to be skilful imitations
which have been put in the place of the originals."
The same suspicion had evidently been in the mind of the
expert, for he had been carefully examining the four stones with
the aid of a lens. He now submitted them to several tests, and
finally turned cheerfully to Mortimer.
"I congratulate you, sir," said he, heartily. "I will pledge
my reputation that all four of these stones are genuine, and of a
most unusual degree of purity."
The colour began to come back to my poor friend's frightened
face, and he drew a long breath of relief.
"Thank God!" he cried. "Then what in the world did the thief
"Probably he meant to take the stones, but was interrupted."
"In that case one would expect him to take them out one at a
time, but the setting of each of these has been loosened, and yet
the stones are all here."
"It is certainly most extraordinary," said the inspector. "I
never remember a case like it. Let us see the watchman."
The commissionaire was called--a soldierly, honest-faced man,
who seemed as concerned as Ward Mortimer at the incident.
"No, sir, I never heard a sound," he answered, in reply to the
questions of the inspector. "I made my rounds four times, as
usual, but I saw nothing suspicious. I've been in my position ten
years, but nothing of the kind has ever occurred before."
"No thief could have come through the windows?"
"Or passed you at the door?"
"No, sir; I never left my post except when I walked my rounds."
"What other openings are there in the museum?"
"There is the door into Mr. Ward Mortimer's private rooms."
"That is locked at night," my friend explained, "and in order
to reach it anyone from the street would have to open the outside
door as well."
"Their quarters are entirely separate."
"Well, well," said the inspector, "this is certainly very
obscure. However, there has been no harm done, according to Mr.
"I will swear that those stones are genuine."
"So that the case appears to be merely one of malicious damage.
But none the less, I should be very glad to go carefully round the
premises, and to see if we can find any trace to show us who your
visitor may have been."
His investigation, which lasted all the morning, was careful
and intelligent, but it led in the end to nothing. He pointed out
to us that there were two possible entrances to the museum which we
had not considered. The one was from the cellars by a trap-door
opening in the passage. The other through a skylight from the
lumber-room, overlooking that very chamber to which the intruder
had penetrated. As neither the cellar nor the lumber-room could be
entered unless the thief was already within the locked doors,
the matter was not of any practical importance, and the dust of
cellar and attic assured us that no one had used either one or the
other. Finally, we ended as we began, without the slightest clue
as to how, why, or by whom the setting of these four jewels had
been tampered with.
There remained one course for Mortimer to take, and he took it.
Leaving the police to continue their fruitless researches, he asked
me to accompany him that afternoon in a visit to Professor Andreas.
He took with him the two letters, and it was his intention to
openly tax his predecessor with having written the anonymous
warning, and to ask him to explain the fact that he should have
anticipated so exactly that which had actually occurred. The
Professor was living in a small villa in Upper Norwood, but we were
informed by the servant that he was away from home. Seeing our
disappointment, she asked us if we should like to see Miss Andreas,
and showed us into the modest drawing-room.
I have mentioned incidentally that the Professor's daughter was
a very beautiful girl. She was a blonde, tall and graceful, with
a skin of that delicate tint which the French call "mat," the
colour of old ivory, or of the lighter petals of the sulphur rose.
I was shocked, however, as she entered the room to see how much she
had changed in the last fortnight. Her young face was haggard and
her bright eyes heavy with trouble.
"Father has gone to Scotland," she said. "He seems to be
tired, and has had a good deal to worry him. He only left us
"You look a little tired yourself, Miss Andreas," said my
"I have been so anxious about father."
"Can you give me his Scotch address?"
"Yes, he is with his brother, the Rev. David Andreas, 1, Arran
Ward Mortimer made a note of the address, and we left without
saying anything as to the object of our visit. We found ourselves
in Belmore Street in the evening in exactly the same position in
which we had been in the morning. Our only clue was the
Professor's letter, and my friend had made up his mind to start for
Ardrossan next day, and to get to the bottom of the anonymous
letter, when a new development came to alter our plans.
Very early on the following morning I was aroused from my sleep
by a tap upon my bedroom door. It was a messenger with a note from
"Do come round," it said; "the matter is becoming more and more
When I obeyed his summons I found him pacing excitedly up and
down the central room, while the old soldier who guarded the
premises stood with military stiffness in a corner.
"My dear Jackson," he cried, "I am so delighted that you have
come, for this is a most inexplicable business."
"What has happened, then?"
He waved his hand towards the case which contained the
"Look at it," said he.
I did so, and could not restrain a cry of surprise. The
setting of the middle row of precious stones had been profaned in
the same manner as the upper ones. Of the twelve jewels eight had
been now tampered with in this singular fashion. The setting of
the lower four was neat and smooth. The others jagged and
"Have the stones been altered?" I asked.
"No, I am certain that these upper four are the same which the
expert pronounced to be genuine, for I observed yesterday that
little discoloration on the edge of the emerald. Since they have
not extracted the upper stones, there is no reason to think the
lower have been transposed. You say that you heard nothing,
"No, sir," the commissionaire answered. "But when I made my
round after daylight I had a special look at these stones, and I
saw at once that someone had been meddling with them. Then I
called you, sir, and told you. I was backwards and forwards all
night, and I never saw a soul or heard a sound."
"Come up and have some breakfast with me," said Mortimer, and
he took me into his own chambers.--"Now, what DO you think of
this, Jackson?" he asked.
"It is the most objectless, futile, idiotic business that ever
I heard of. It can only be the work of a monomaniac."
"Can you put forward any theory?"
A curious idea came into my head. "This object is a Jewish
relic of great antiquity and sanctity," said I. "How about the
anti-Semitic movement? Could one conceive that a fanatic of that
way of thinking might desecrate----"
"No, no, no!" cried Mortimer. "That will never do! Such a man
might push his lunacy to the length of destroying a Jewish relic,
but why on earth should he nibble round every stone so carefully
that he can only do four stones in a night? We must have a better
solution than that, and we must find it for ourselves, for I do not
think that our inspector is likely to help us. First of all, what
do you think of Simpson, the porter?"
"Have you any reason to suspect him?"
"Only that he is the one person on the premises."
"But why should he indulge in such wanton destruction? Nothing
has been taken away. He has no motive."
"No, I will swear to his sanity."
"Have you any other theory?"
"Well, yourself, for example. You are not a somnambulist, by
"Nothing of the sort, I assure you."
"Then I give it up."
"But I don't--and I have a plan by which we will make it all
"To visit Professor Andreas?"
"No, we shall find our solution nearer than Scotland. I will
tell you what we shall do. You know that skylight which overlooks
the central hall? We will leave the electric lights in the hall,
and we will keep watch in the lumber-room, you and I, and solve the
mystery for ourselves. If our mysterious visitor is doing four
stones at a time, he has four still to do, and there is every
reason to think that he will return tonight and complete the job."
"Excellent!" I cried.
"We will keep our own secret, and say nothing either to the
police or to Simpson. Will you join me?"
"With the utmost pleasure," said I; and so it was agreed.
It was ten o'clock that night when I returned to the Belmore
Street Museum. Mortimer was, as I could see, in a state of
suppressed nervous excitement, but it was still too early to
begin our vigil, so we remained for an hour or so in his chambers,
discussing all the possibilities of the singular business which we
had met to solve. At last the roaring stream of hansom cabs and
the rush of hurrying feet became lower and more intermittent as the
pleasure-seekers passed on their way to their stations or their
homes. It was nearly twelve when Mortimer led the way to the
lumber-room which overlooked the central hall of the museum.
He had visited it during the day, and had spread some sacking
so that we could lie at our ease, and look straight down into the
museum. The skylight was of unfrosted glass, but was so covered
with dust that it would be impossible for anyone looking up from
below to detect that he was overlooked. We cleared a small piece
at each corner, which gave us a complete view of the room beneath
us. In the cold white light of the electric lamps everything stood
out hard and clear, and I could see the smallest detail of the
contents of the various cases.
Such a vigil is an excellent lesson, since one has no choice
but to look hard at those objects which we usually pass with such
half-hearted interest. Through my little peep hole I employed the
hours in studying every specimen, from the huge mummy-case which
leaned against the wall to those very jewels which had brought us
there, gleaming and sparkling in their glass case immediately
beneath us. There was much precious gold-work and many valuable
stones scattered through the numerous cases, but those wonderful
twelve which made up the urim and thummim glowed and burned with a
radiance which far eclipsed the others. I studied in turn the tomb-
pictures of Sicara, the friezes from Karnak, the statues of
Memphis, and the inscriptions of Thebes, but my eyes would always
come back to that wonderful Jewish relic, and my mind to the
singular mystery which surrounded it. I was lost in the thought of
it when my companion suddenly drew his breath sharply in, and
seized my arm in a convulsive grip. At the same instant I saw what
it was which had excited him.
I have said that against the wall--on the right-hand side of
the doorway (the right-hand side as we looked at it, but the left
as one entered)--there stood a large mummy-case. To our
unutterable amazement it was slowly opening. Gradually, gradually
the lid was swinging back, and the black slit which marked the
opening was becoming wider and wider. So gently and carefully was
it done that the movement was almost imperceptible. Then, as we
breathlessly watched it, a white thin hand appeared at the opening,
pushing back the painted lid, then another hand, and finally a
face--a face which was familiar to us both, that of Professor
Andreas. Stealthily he slunk out of the mummy-case, like a fox
stealing from its burrow, his head turning incessantly to left and
to right, stepping, then pausing, then stepping again, the very
image of craft and of caution. Once some sound in the street
struck him motionless, and he stood listening, with his ear turned,
ready to dart back to the shelter behind him. Then he crept
onwards again upon tiptoe, very, very softly and slowly, until he
had reached the case in the centre of the room. There he took a
bunch of keys from his pocket, unlocked the case, took out the
Jewish breastplate, and, laying it upon the glass in front of him,
began to work upon it with some sort of small, glistening tool. He
was so directly underneath us that his bent head covered his work,
but we could guess from the movement of his hand that he was
engaged in finishing the strange disfigurement which he had begun.
I could realize from the heavy breathing of my companion, and
the twitchings of the hand which still clutched my wrist, the
furious indignation which filled his heart as he saw this vandalism
in the quarter of all others where he could least have expected it.
He, the very man who a fortnight before had reverently bent over
this unique relic, and who had impressed its antiquity and its
sanctity upon us, was now engaged in this outrageous profanation.
It was impossible, unthinkable--and yet there, in the white glare
of the electric light beneath us, was that dark figure with the
bent grey head, and the twitching elbow. What inhuman hypocrisy,
what hateful depth of malice against his successor must underlie
these sinister nocturnal labours. It was painful to think of and
dreadful to watch. Even I, who had none of the acute feelings of
a virtuoso, could not bear to look on and see this deliberate
mutilation of so ancient a relic. It was a relief to me when my
companion tugged at my sleeve as a signal that I was to follow him
as he softly crept out of the room. It was not until we were
within his own quarters that he opened his lips, and then I saw by
his agitated face how deep was his consternation.
"The abominable Goth!" he cried. "Could you have believed it?"
"It is amazing."
"He is a villain or a lunatic--one or the other. We shall very
soon see which. Come with me, Jackson, and we shall get to the
bottom of this black business."
A door opened out of the passage which was the private entrance
from his rooms into the museum. This he opened softly with his
key, having first kicked off his shoes, an example which I
followed. We crept together through room after room, until the
large hall lay before us, with that dark figure still stooping and
working at the central case. With an advance as cautious as his
own we closed in upon him, but softly as we went we could not take
him entirely unawares. We were still a dozen yards from him when
he looked round with a start, and uttering a husky cry of terror,
ran frantically down the museum.
"Simpson! Simpson!" roared Mortimer, and far away down the
vista of electric lighted doors we saw the stiff figure of the old
soldier suddenly appear. Professor Andreas saw him also, and
stopped running, with a gesture of despair. At the same instant we
each laid a hand upon his shoulder.
"Yes, yes, gentlemen," he panted, "I will come with you. To
your room, Mr Ward Mortimer, if you please! I feel that I owe you
My companion's indignation was so great that I could see that
he dared not trust himself to reply. We walked on each side of the
old Professor, the astonished commissionaire bringing up the rear.
When we reached the violated case, Mortimer stopped and examined
the breastplate. Already one of the stones of the lower row had
had its setting turned back in the same manner as the others. My
friend held it up and glanced furiously at his prisoner.
"How could you!" he cried. "How could you!"
"It is horrible--horrible!" said the Professor. "I don't
wonder at your feelings. Take me to your room."
"But this shall not be left exposed!" cried Mortimer. He
picked the breastplate up and carried it tenderly in his hand,
while I walked beside the Professor, like a policeman with a
malefactor. We passed into Mortimer's chambers, leaving the amazed
old soldier to understand matters as best he could. The Professor
sat down in Mortimer's arm-chair, and turned so ghastly a colour
that for the instant all our resentment was changed to concern. A
stiff glass of brandy brought the life back to him once more.
"There, I am better now!" said he. "These last few days have
been too much for me. I am convinced that I could not stand it any
longer. It is a nightmare--a horrible nightmare--that I should be
arrested as a burglar in what has been for so long my own museum.
And yet I cannot blame you. You could not have done otherwise. My
hope always was that I should get it all over before I was
detected. This would have been my last night's work."
"How did you get in?" asked Mortimer.
"By taking a very great liberty with your private door. But
the object justified it. The object justified everything. You
will not be angry when you know everything--at least, you will not
be angry with me. I had a key to your side door and also to the
museum door. I did not give them up when I left. And so you see
it was not difficult for me to let myself into the museum. I used
to come in early before the crowd had cleared from the street.
Then I hid myself in the mummy-case, and took refuge there whenever
Simpson came round. I could always hear him coming. I used to
leave in the same way as I came."
"You ran a risk."
"I had to."
"But why? What on earth was your object--YOU to do a thing
like that!" Mortimer pointed reproachfully at the plate which lay
before him on the table.
"I could devise no other means. I thought and thought, but
there was no alternate except a hideous public scandal, and a
private sorrow which would have clouded our lives. I acted for the
best, incredible as it may seem to you, and I only ask your
attention to enable me to prove it."
"I will hear what you have to say before I take any further
steps," said Mortimer, grimly.
"I am determined to hold back nothing, and to take you both
completely into my confidence. I will leave it to your own
generosity how far you will use the facts with which I supply you."
"We have the essential facts already."
"And yet you understand nothing. Let me go back to what passed
a few weeks ago, and I will make it all clear to you. Believe me
that what I say is the absolute and exact truth.
"You have met the person who calls himself Captain Wilson. I
say `calls himself' because I have reason now to believe that it is
not his correct name. It would take me too long if I were to
describe all the means by which he obtained an introduction to me
and ingratiated himself into my friendship and the affection of my
daughter. He brought letters from foreign colleagues which
compelled me to show him some attention. And then, by his own
attainments, which are considerable, he succeeded in making himself
a very welcome visitor at my rooms. When I learned that my
daughter's affections had been gained by him, I may have thought it
premature, but I certainly was not surprised, for he had a charm of
manner and of conversation which would have made him conspicuous in
"He was much interested in Oriental antiquities, and his
knowledge of the subject justified his interest. Often when he
spent the evening with us he would ask permission to go down into
the museum and have an opportunity of privately inspecting the
various specimens. You can imagine that I, as an enthusiast, was
in sympathy with such a request, and that I felt no surprise at the
constancy of his visits. After his actual engagement to Elise,
there was hardly an evening which he did not pass with us, and an
hour or two were generally devoted to the museum. He had the free
run of the place, and when I have been away for the evening I had
no objection to his doing whatever he wished here. This state of
things was only terminated by the fact of my resignation of my
official duties and my retirement to Norwood, where I hoped to have
the leisure to write a considerable work which I had planned.
"It was immediately after this--within a week or so--that I
first realized the true nature and character of the man whom I had
so imprudently introduced into my family. The discovery came to me
through letters from my friends abroad, which showed me that
his introductions to me had been forgeries. Aghast at the
revelation, I asked myself what motive this man could originally
have had in practising this elaborate deception upon me. I was too
poor a man for any fortune-hunter to have marked me down. Why,
then, had he come? I remembered that some of the most precious