Part 1 out of 5
The Bat, by Mary Roberts Rinehart and Avery Hopwood
ONE THE SHADOW OF THE BAT
TWO THE INDOMITABLE MISS VAN GORDER
THREE PISTOL PRACTICE
FOUR THE STORM GATHERS
FIVE ALOPECIA AND RUBEOLA
SIX DETECTIVE ANDERSON TAKES CHARGE
SEVEN CROSS-QUESTIONS AND CROOKED ANSWERS
EIGHT THE GLEAMING EYE
NINE A SHOT IN THE DARK
TEN THE PHONE CALL FROM NOWHERE
ELEVEN BILLY PRACTICES JIU-JITSU
TWELVE "I DIDN'T KILL HIM."
THIRTEEN THE BLACKENED BAG
FIFTEEN THE SIGN OF THE BAT
SIXTEEN THE HIDDEN ROOM
SEVENTEEN ANDERSON MAKES AN ARREST
EIGHTEEN THE BAT STILL FLIES
NINETEEN MURDER ON MURDER
TWENTY "HE IS - THE BAT!"
TWENTY-ONE QUITE A COLLECTION
THE SHADOW OF THE BAT
"You've got to get him, boys - get him or bust!" said a tired police
chief, pounding a heavy fist on a table. The detectives he bellowed
the words at looked at the floor. They had done their best and
failed. Failure meant "resignation" for the police chief, return
to the hated work of pounding the pavements for them - they knew
it, and, knowing it, could summon no gesture of bravado to answer
their chief's. Gunmen, thugs, hi-jackers, loft-robbers, murderers,
they could get them all in time - but they could not get the man
"Get him - to hell with expense - I'll give you carte blanche - but
get him!" said a haggard millionaire in the sedate inner offices of
the best private detective firm in the country. The man on the
other side of the desk, man hunter extraordinary, old servant of
Government and State, sleuthhound without a peer, threw up his hands
in a gesture of odd hopelessness. "It isn't the money, Mr. De Courcy
- I'd give every cent I've made to get the man you want - but I
can't promise you results - for the first time in my life." The
conversation was ended.
"Get him? Huh! I'll get him, watch my smoke!" It was young
ambition speaking in a certain set of rooms in Washington. Three
days later young ambition lay in a New York gutter with a bullet in
his heart and a look of such horror and surprise on his dead face
that even the ambulance-Doctor who found him felt shaken. "We've
lost the most promising man I've had in ten years," said his chief
when the news came in. He swore helplessly, "Damn the luck!"
"Get him - get him - get him - get him!" From a thousand sources
now the clamor arose - press, police, and public alike crying out
for the capture of the master criminal of a century - lost voices
hounding a specter down the alleyways of the wind. And still the
meshes broke and the quarry slipped away before the hounds were
well on the scent - leaving behind a trail of shattered safes and
rifled jewel cases - while ever the clamor rose higher to "Get him
- get him - get - "
Get whom, in God's name - get what? Beast, man, or devil? A
specter - a flying shadow - the shadow of a Bat.
>From thieves' hangout to thieves' hangout the word passed along
stirring the underworld like the passage of an electric spark.
"There's a bigger guy than Pete Flynn shooting the works, a guy
that could have Jim Gunderson for breakfast and not notice he'd et."
The underworld heard and waited to be shown; after a little while
the underworld began to whisper to itself in tones of awed respect.
There were bright stars and flashing comets in the sky of the world
of crime - but this new planet rose with the portent of an evil moon.
The Bat - they Called him the Bat. Like a bat he chose the night
hours for his work of rapine; like a bat he struck and vanished,
pouncingly, noiselessly; like a bat he never showed himself to the
face of the day. He'd never been in stir, the bulls had never
mugged him, he didn't run with a mob, he played a lone hand, and
fenced his stuff so that even the Fence couldn't swear he knew his
face. Most lone wolves had a moll at any rate - women were their
ruin - but if the Bat had a moll, not even the grapevine telegraph
could locate her.
Rat-faced gunmen in the dingy back rooms of saloons muttered over
his exploits with bated breath. In tawdrily gorgeous apartments,
where gathered the larger figures, the proconsuls of the world of
crime, cold, conscienceless brains dissected the work of a colder
and swifter brain than theirs, with suave and bitter envy. Evil's
Four Hundred chattered, discussed, debated - sent out a thousand
invisible tentacles to clutch at a shadow - to turn this shadow and
its distorted genius to their own ends. The tentacles recoiled,
baffled - the Bat worked alone - not even Evil's Four Hundred could
bend him into a willing instrument to execute another's plan.
The men higher up waited. They had dealt with lone wolves before
and broken them. Some day the Bat would slip and falter; then
they would have him. But the weeks passed into months and still
the Bat flew free, solitary, untamed, and deadly. At 1ast even his
own kind turned upon him; the underworld is like the upper in its
fear and distrust of genius that flies alone. But when they turned
against him, they turned against a spook - a shadow. A cold and
bodiless laughter from a pit of darkness answered and mocked at
their bungling gestures of hate - and went on, flouting Law and
Where official trailer and private sleuth had failed, the newspapers
might succeed - or so thought the disillusioned young men of the
Fourth Estate - the tireless foxes, nose-down on the trail of news
- the trackers, who never gave up until that news was run to earth.
Star reporter, leg-man, cub, veteran gray in the trade - one and
all they tried to pin the Bat like a caught butterfly to the front
page of their respective journals - soon or late each gave up,
beaten. He was news - bigger news each week - a thousand ticking
typewriters clicked his adventures - the brief, staccato recital of
his career in the morgues of the great dailies grew longer and more
incredible each day. But the big news - the scoop of the century
- the yearned-for headline, "Bat Nabbed Red-Handed", "Bat Slain in
Gun Duel with Police" - still eluded the ravenous maw of the
Linotypes. And meanwhile, the red-scored list of his felonies
lengthened and the rewards offered from various sources for any
clue which might lead to his apprehension mounted and mounted till
they totaled a small
Columnists took him up, played with the name and the terror, used
the name and the terror as a starting point from which to exhibit
their own particular opinions on everything and anything. Ministers
mentioned him in sermons; cranks wrote fanatic letters denouncing
him as one of the even-headed beasts of the Apocalypse and a
forerunner of the end of the world; a popular revue put on a special
Bat number wherein eighteen beautiful chorus girls appeared masked
and black-winged in costumes of Brazilian bat fur; there were Bat
club sandwiches, Bat cigarettes, and a new shade of hosiery called
simply and succinctly Bat. He became a fad - a catchword - a
national figure. And yet - he was walking Death - cold -
remorseless. But Death itself had become a toy of publicity in
these days of limelight and jazz.
A city editor, at lunch with a colleague, pulled at his cigarette
and talked. "See that Sunday story we had on the Bat?" he asked.
"Pretty tidy - huh - and yet we didn't have to play it up. It's
an amazing list - the Marshall jewels - the Allison murder - the
mail truck thing - two hundred thousand he got out of that, all
negotiable, and two men dead. I wonder how many people he's really
killed. We made it six murders and nearly a million in loot - didn't
even have room for the small stuff - but there must be more - "
His companion whistled.
"And when is the Universe's Finest Newspaper going to burst forth
with "Bat Captured by BLADE Reporter?'" he queried sardonically.
"Oh, for - lay off it, will you?" said the city editor peevishly.
"The Old Man's been hopping around about it for two months till
everybody's plumb cuckoo. Even offered a bonus - a big one - and
that shows how crazy he is - he doesn't love a nickel any better
than his right eye - for any sort of exclusive story. Bonus - huh!"
and he crushed out his cigarette. "It won't be a Blade reporter
that gets that bonus - or any reporter. It'll be Sherlock Holmes
from the spirit world!"
"Well - can't you dig up a Sherlock?"
The editor spread out his hands. "Now, look here," he said. "We've
got the best staff of any paper in the country, if I do say it.
We've got boys that could get a personal signed story from Delilah
on how she barbered Samson - and find out who struck Billy Patterson
and who was the Man in the Iron Mask. But the Bat's something else
again. Oh, of course, we've panned the police for not getting him;
that's always the game. But, personally, I won't pan them; they've
done their damnedest. They're up against something new. Scotland
Yard wouldn't do any better - or any other bunch of cops that I know
"But look here, Bill, you don't mean to tell me he'll keep on
getting away with it indefinitely?"
The editor frowned. "Confidentially - I- don't know," he said with
a chuckle: "The situation's this: for the first time the super-crook
- the super-crook of fiction - the kind that never makes a mistake
- has come to life - real life. And it'll take a cleverer man
than any Central Office dick I've ever met to catch him!"
"Then you don't think he's just an ordinary crook with a lot of luck?"
"I do not." The editor was emphatic. "He's much brainier. Got a
ghastly sense of humor, too. Look at the way he leaves his calling
card after every job - a black paper bat inside the Marshall safe
- a bat drawn on the wall with a burnt match where he'd jimmied the
Cedarburg Bank - a real bat, dead, tacked to the mantelpiece over
poor old Allison's body. Oh, he's in a class by himself - and I
very much doubt if he was a crook at all for most of his life."
"I mean this. The police have been combing the underworld for him;
I don't think he comes from there. I think they've got to look
higher, up in our world, for a brilliant man with a kink in the
brain. He may be a Doctor, a lawyer, a merchant, honored in his
community by day - good line that, I'll use it some time - and at
night, a bloodthirsty assassin. - Deacon Brodie - ever hear of him
- the Scotch deacon that burgled his parishioners' houses on the
quiet? Well - that's our man."
"But my Lord, Bill - "
"I know. I've been going around the last month, looking at
everybody I knew and thinking - are you the Bat? Try it for a
while. You'll want to sleep with a light in your room after a few
days of it. Look around the University Club - that white-haired
man over there - dignified - respectable - is he the Bat? Your own
lawyer - your own Doctor - your own best friend. Can happen you
know - look at those Chicago boys - the thrill-killers. Just
brilliant students - likeable boys - to the people that taught
them - and cold-bloodied murderers all the same.
"Bill! You're giving me the shivers!"
"Am I?" The edit or laughed grimly. "Think it over. No, it isn't
so pleasant. - But that's my theory - and I swear I think I'm right."
His companion laughed uncertainly.
"How about you, Bill - are you the Bat?"
The editor smiled. "See," he said, "it's got you already. No, I
can prove an alibi. The Bat's been laying off the city recently -
taking a fling at some of the swell suburbs. Besides I haven't
the brains - I'm free to admit it." He struggled into his coat.
"Well, let's talk about something else. I'm sick of the Bat and
His companion rose as well, but it was evident that the editor's
theory had taken firm hold on his mind. As they went out the door
together he recurred to the subject.
"Honestly, though, Bill - were you serious, really serious - when
you said you didn't know of a single detective with brains enough
to trap this devil?"
The editor paused in the doorway. "Serious enough," he said. "And
yet there's one man - I don't know him myself but from what I've
heard of him, he might be able - but what's the use of speculating?"
"I'd like to know all the same," insisted the other, and laughed
nervously. "We're moving out to the country next week ourselves
- right in the Bat's new territory."
"We-el," said the editor, "you won't let it go any further? Of
course it's just an idea of mine, but if the Bat ever came prowling
around our place, the detective I'd try to get in touch with would
be - " He put his lips close to his companion's ear and whispered
The man whose name he whispered, oddly enough, was at that moment
standing before his official superior in a quiet room not very far
away. Tall, reticently good-looking and well, if inconspicuously,
clothed and groomed, he by no means seemed the typical detective
that the editor had spoken of so scornfully. He looked something
like a college athlete who had kept up his training, something like
a pillar of one of the more sedate financial houses. He could
assume and discard a dozen manners in as many minutes, but, to the
casual observer, the one thing certain about him would probably
seem his utter lack of connection with the seamier side of existence.
The key to his real secret of life, however, lay in his eyes. When
in repose, as now, they were veiled and without unusual quality -
but they were the eyes of a man who can wait and a man who can
He stood perfectly easy before his chief for several moments before
the latter looked up from his papers.
"Well, Anderson," he said at last, looking up, "I got your report
on the Wilhenry burglary this morning. I'll tell you this about
it - if you do a neater and quicker job in the next ten years, you
can take this desk away from me. I'll give it to you. As it is,
your name's gone up for promotion today; you deserved it long ago."
"Thank you, sir," replied the tall man quietly, "but I had luck
with that case."
"Of course you had luck," said the chief. "Sit down, won't you, and
have a cigar - if you can stand my brand. Of course you had luck,
Anderson, but that isn't the point. It takes a man with brains to
use a piece of luck as you used it. I've waited a long time here
for a man with your sort of brains and, by Judas, for a while I
thought they were all as dead as Pinkerton. But now I know there's
one of them alive at any rate - and it's a hell of a relief."
"Thank you, sir," said the tall man, smiling and sitting down.
He took a cigar and lit it. "That makes it easier, sir - your
telling me that. Because - I've come to ask a favor."
"All right," responded the chief promptly. "Whatever it is, it's
Anderson smiled again. "You'd better hear what it is first, sir.
I don't want to put anything over on you."
"Try it!" said the chief. "What is it - vacation? Take as long as
you like - within reason - you've earned it - I'll put it through
Anderson shook his head, "No sir - I don't want a vacation."
"Well," said the chief impatiently. "Promotion? I've told you
about that. Expense money for anything - fill out a voucher and
I'll O.K. it - be best man at your wedding - by Judas, I'll even
Anderson laughed. "No, sir - I'm not getting married and - I'm
pleased about the promotion, of course - but it's not that. I want
to be assigned to a certain case - that's all."
The chief's look grew searching. "H'm," he said. "Well, as I say,
anything within reason. What case do you want to be assigned to?"
The muscles of Anderson's left hand tensed on the arm of his chair.
He looked squarely at the chief. "I want a chance at the Bat!" he
The chief's face became expressionless. "I said - anything within
reason," he responded softly, regarding Anderson keenly.
"I want a chance at the Bat!" repeated Anderson stubbornly. "If
I've done good work so far - I want a chance at the Bat!"
The chief drummed on the desk. Annoyance and surprise were in his
voice when he spoke.
"But look here, Anderson," he burst out finally. "Anything else
and I'll - but what's the use? I said a minute ago, you had brains
- but now, by Judas, I doubt it! If anyone else wanted a chance
at the Bat, I'd give it to them and gladly - I'm hard-boiled. But
you're too valuable a man to be thrown away!"
"I'm no more valuable than Wentworth would have been."
"Maybe not - and look what happened to him! A bullet hole in his
heart - and thirty years of work that he might have done thrown
away! No, Anderson, I've found two first-class men since I've been
at this desk - Wentworth and you. He asked for his chance; I gave
it to him - turned him over to the Government - and lost him. Good
detectives aren't so plentiful that I can afford to lose you both."
"Wentworth was a friend of mine," said Anderson softly. His knuckles
were white dints in the hand that gripped the chair. "Ever since
the Bat got him I've wanted my chance. Now my other work's cleaned
up - and I still want it."
"But I tell you - " began the chief in tones of high exasperation.
Then he stopped and looked at his protege. There was a silence for
"Oh, well - " said the chief finally in a hopeless voice. "Go ahead
- commit suicide - I'll send you a 'Gates Ajar' and a card, 'Here
lies a damn fool who would have been a great detective if he hadn't
been so pig-headed.' Go ahead!"
Anderson rose. "Thank you, sir," he said in a deep voice. His eyes
had light in them now. "I can't thank you enough, sir."
"Don't try," grumbled the chief. "If I weren't as much of a damn
fool as you are I wouldn't let you do it. And if I weren't so damn
old, I'd go after the slippery devil myself and let you sit here and
watch me get brought in with an infernal paper bat pinned where my
shield ought to be. The Bat's supernatural, Anderson. You haven't
a chance in the world but it does me good all the same to shake hands
with a man with brains and nerve," and he solemnly wrung Anderson's
hand in an iron grip.
Anderson smiled. "The cagiest bat flies once too often," he said.
"I'm not promising anything, chief, but - "
"Maybe," said the chief. "Now wait a minute, keep your shirt on,
you're not going out bat hunting this minute, you know - "
"Sir? I thought I - "
"Well, you're not," said the chief decidedly. "I've still some
little respect for my own intelligence and it tells me to get all
the work out of you I can, before you start wild-goose chasing after
this - this bat out of hell. The first time he's heard of again
- and it shouldn't be long from the fast way he works - you're
assigned to the case. That's understood. Till then, you do what
I tell you - and it'll be work, believe me!"
"All right, sir," Anderson laughed and turned to the door. "And -
thank you again."
He went out. The door closed. The chief remained for some minutes
looking at the door and shaking his head. "The best man I've had
in years - except Wentworth," he murmured to himself. "And throwing
himself away - to be killed by a cold-blooded devil that nothing
human can catch - you're getting old, John Grogan - but, by Judas,
you can't blame him, can you? If you were a man in the prime like
him, by Judas, you'd be doing it yourself. And yet it'll go hard
- losing him - "
He turned back to his desk and his papers. But for some minutes he
could not pay attention to the papers. There was a shadow on them
- a shadow that blurred the typed letters - the shadow of
THE INDOMITABLE MISS VAN GORDER
Miss Cornelis Van Gorder, indomitable spinster, last bearer of a
name which had been great in New York when New York was a red-roofed
Nieuw Amsterdam and Peter Stuyvesant a parvenu, sat propped up in
bed in the green room of her newly rented country house reading the
morning newspaper. Thus seen, with an old soft Paisley shawl tucked
in about her thin shoulders and without the stately gray
transformation that adorned her on less intimate occasions, - she
looked much less formidable and more innocently placid than those
could ever have imagined who had only felt the bite of her tart wit
at such functions as the state Van Gorder dinners. Patrician to her
finger tips, independent to the roots of her hair, she preserved, at
sixty-five, a humorous and quenchless curiosity in regard to every
side of life, which even the full and crowded years that already lay
behind her had not entirely satisfied. She was an Age and an
Attitude, but she was more than that; she had grown old without
growing dull or losing touch with youth - her face had the delicate
strength of a fine cameo and her mild and youthful heart preserved
an innocent zest for adventure.
Wide travel, social leadership, the world of art and books, a dozen
charities, an existence rich with diverse experience - all these
she had enjoyed energetically and to the full - but she felt, with
ingenious vanity, that there were still sides to her character which
even these had not brought to light. As a little girl she had
hesitated between wishing to be a locomotive engineer or a famous
bandit - and when she had found, at seven, that the accident of sex
would probably debar her from either occupation, she had resolved
fiercely that some time before she died she would show the world in
general and the Van Gorder clan in particular that a woman was quite
as capable of dangerous exploits as a man. So far her life, while
exciting enough at moments, had never actually been dangerous and
time was slipping away without giving her an opportunity to prove
her hardiness of heart. Whenever she thought of this the fact
annoyed her extremely - and she thought of it now.
She threw down the morning paper disgustedly. Here she was at 65
- rich, safe, settled for the summer in a delightful country place
with a good cook, excellent servants, beautiful gardens and grounds
- everything as respectable and comfortable as - as a limousine!
And out in the world people were murdering and robbing each other,
floating over Niagara Falls in barrels, rescuing children from
burning houses, taming tigers, going to Africa to hunt gorillas,
doing all sorts of exciting things! She could not float over Niagara
Falls in a barrel; Lizzie Allen, her faithful old maid, would never
let her! She could not go to Africa to hunt gorillas; Sally Ogden,
her sister, would never let her hear the last of it. She could not
even, as she certainly would if the were a man, try and track down
this terrible creature, the Bat!
She sniffed disgruntledly. Things came to her much too easily.
Take this very house she was living in. Ten days ago she had
decided on the spur of the moment - a decision suddenly crystallized
by a weariness of charitable committees and the noise and heat of
New York - to take a place in the country for the summer. It was
late in the renting season - even the ordinary difficulties of
finding a suitable spot would have added some spice to the quest -
but this ideal place had practically fallen into her lap, with no
trouble or search at all. Courtleigh Fleming, president of the
Union Bank, who had built the house on a scale of comfortable
magnificence - Courtleigh Fleming had died suddenly in the West
when Miss Van Gorder was beginning her house hunting. The day after
his death her agent had called her up. Richard Fleming, Courtleigh
Fleming's nephew and heir, was anxious to rent the Fleming house at
once. If she made a quick decision it was hers for the summer, at
a bargain. Miss Van Gorder had decided at once; she took an innocent
pleasure in bargains. The next day the keys were hers - the servants
engaged to stay on - within a week she had moved. All very pleasant
and easy no doubt - adventure - pooh!
And yet she could not really say that her move to the country had
brought her no adventures at all. There had been - things. Last
night the lights had gone off unexpectedly and Billy, the Japanese
butler and handy man, had said that he had seen a face at one of the
kitchen windows - a face that vanished when he went to the window.
Servants' nonsense, probably, but the servants seemed unusually
nervous for people who were used to the country. And Lizzie, of
course, had sworn that she had seen a man trying to get up the
stairs but Lizzie could grow hysterical over a creaking door. Still
- it was queer! And what had that affable Doctor Wells said to her
- "I respect your courage, Miss Van Gorder - moving out into the
Bat's home country, you know!" She picked up the paper again.
There was a map of the scene of the Bat's most recent exploits and,
yes, three of his recent crimes had been within a twenty-mile radius
of this very spot. She thought it over and gave a little shudder
of pleasurable fear. Then she dismissed the thought with a shrug.
No chance! She might live in a lonely house, two miles from the
railroad station, all summer long - and the Bat would never disturb
her. Nothing ever did.
She had skimmed through the paper hurriedly; now a headline caught
her eye. Failure of Union Bank - wasn't that the bank of which
Courtleigh Fleming had been president? She settled down to read
the article but it was disappointingly brief. The Union Bank had
closed its doors; the cashier, a young man named Bailey, was
apparently under suspicion; the article mentioned Courtleigh
Fleming's recent and tragic death in the best vein of newspaperese.
She laid down the paper and thought - Bailey - Bailey - she seemed
to have a vague recollection of hearing about a young man named
Bailey who worked in a bank - but she could not remember where or
by whom his name had been mentioned.
Well - it didn't matter. She had other things to think about. She
must ring for Lizzie - get up and dress. The bright morning sun,
streaming in through the long window, made lying in bed an old
woman's luxury and she refused to be an old woman.
"Though the worst old woman I ever knew was a man!" she thought
with a satiric twinkle. She was glad Sally's daughter - young Dale
Ogden - was here in the house with her. The companionship of Dale's
bright youth would keep her from getting old-womanish if anything
She smiled, thinking of Dale. Dale was a nice child - her favorite
niece. Sally didn't understand her, of course - but Sally wouldn't.
Sally read magazine articles on the younger generation and its wild
ways. "Sally doesn't remember when she was a younger generation
herself," thought Miss Cornelia. "But I do - and if we didn't have
automobiles, we had buggies - and youth doesn't change its ways just
because it has cut its hair. Before Mr. and Mrs. Ogden left for
Europe, Sally had talked to her sister Cornelia ... long and
weightily, on the problem of Dale. "Problem of Dale, indeed!"
thought Miss Cornelia scornfully. "Dale's the nicest thing I've
seen in some time. She'd be ten times happier if Sally wasn't
always trying to marry her off to some young snip with more of
what fools call 'eligibility' than brains! But there, Cornelia
Van Gorder - Sally's given you your innings by rampaging off to
Europe and leaving Dale with you all summer and you've a lot less
sense than I flatter myself you have, if you can't give your
favorite niece a happy vacation from all her immediate family -
and maybe find her someone who'll make her happy for good and all
in the bargain." Miss Cornelia was an incorrigible matchmaker.
Nevertheless, she was more concerned with "the problem of Dale"
than she would have admitted. Dale, at her age, with her charm
and beauty - why, she ought to behave as if she were walking on
air, thought her aunt worriedly. "And instead she acts more as if
she were walking on pins and needles. She seems to like being
here - I know she likes me - I'm pretty sure she's just as pleased
to get a little holiday from Sally and Harry - she amuses herself -
she falls in with any plan I want to make, and yet - " And yet
Dale was not happy - Miss Cornelia felt sure of it. "It isn't
natural for a girl to seem so lackluster and - and quiet - at her
age and she's nervous, too - as if something were preying on her
mind - particularly these last few days. If she were in love
with somebody - somebody Sally didn't approve of particularly -
well, that would account for it, of course - but Sally didn't say
anything that would make me think that - or Dale either - though
I don't suppose Dale would, yet, even to me. I haven't seen so
much of her in these last two years - "
Then Miss Cornelia's mind seized upon a sentence in a hurried flow
of her sister's last instructions - a sentence that had passed
almost unnoticed at the time - something about Dale and "an
unfortunate attachment - but of course, Cornelia, dear, she's so
young - and I'm sure it will come to nothing now her father and I
have made our attitude plain!"
"Pshaw - I bet that's it," thought Miss Cornelia shrewdly. Dale's
fallen in love, or thinks she has, with some decent young man without
a penny or an 'eligibility' to his name - and now she's unhappy
because her parents don't approve - or because she's trying to give
him up and finds she can't. Well - " and Miss Cornelia's tight little
gray curls trembled with the vehemence of her decision, if the young
thing ever comes to me for advice I'll give her a piece of my mind
that will surprise her and scandalize Sally Van Gorder Ogden out of
her seven senses. Sally thinks nobody's worth looking at if they
didn't come over to America when our family did - she hasn't gumption
enough to realize that if some people hadn't come over later, we'd
all still be living on crullers and Dutch punch!"
She was just stretching out her hand to ring for Lizzie when a knock
came at the door. She gathered her Paisley shawl more tightly about
her shoulders. "Who is it - oh, it's only you, Lizzie," as a
pleasant Irish face, crowned by an old-fashioned pompadour of
graying hair, peeped in at the door. "Good morning, Lizzie - I
was just going to ring for you. Has Miss Dale had breakfast - I
know it's shamefully late."
"Good morning, Miss Neily," said Lizzie, "and a lovely morning it is,
too - if that was all of it," she added somewhat tartly as she came
into the room with a little silver tray whereupon the morning mail
We have not yet described Lizzie Allen - and she deserves
description. A fixture in the Van Gorder household since her
sixteenth year, she had long ere now attained the dignity of a
Tradition. The slip of a colleen fresh from Kerry had grown old
with her mistress, until the casual bond between mistress and
servant had changed into something deeper; more in keeping with
a better-mannered age than ours. One could not imagine Miss
Cornelia without a Lizzie to grumble at and cherish - or Lizzie
without a Miss Cornelia to baby and scold with the privileged
frankness of such old family servitors. The two were at once a
contrast and a complement. Fifty years of American ways had not
shaken Lizzie's firm belief in banshees and leprechauns or tamed
her wild Irish tongue; fifty years of Lizzie had not altered Miss
Cornelia's attitude of fond exasperation with some of Lizzie's
more startling eccentricities. Together they may have been, as
one of the younger Van Gorder cousins had, irreverently put it,
"a scream," but apart each would have felt lost without the other.
"Now what do you mean - if that were all of it, Lizzie?" queried
Miss Cornelia sharply as she took her letters from the tray.
Lizzie's face assumed an expression of doleful reticence.
"It's not my place to speak," she said with a grim shake of her
head, "but I saw my grandmother last night, God rest her - plain as
life she was, the way she looked when they waked her - and if it
was my doing we'd be leaving this house this hour!"
"Cheese-pudding for supper - of course you saw your grandmother!"
said Miss Cornelia crisply, slitting open the first of her letters
with a paper knife. "Nonsense, Lizzie, I'm not going to be scared
away from an ideal country place because you happen to have a bad
"Was it a bad dream I saw on the stairs last night when the lights
went out and I was looking for the candles?" said Lizzie heatedly.
"Was it a bad dream that ran away from me and out the back door, as
fast as Paddy's pig? No, Miss Neily, it was a man - Seven feet tall
he was, and eyes that shone in the dark and - "
"Well, it's true for all that," insisted Lizzie stubbornly. "And
why did the lights go out - tell me that, Miss Neily? They never
go out in the city."
"Well, this isn't -the city," said Miss Cornelia decisively. "It's
the country, and very nice it is, and we're staying here all summer.
I suppose I may be thankful," she went on ironically, "that it was
only your grandmother you saw last night. It might have been the
Bat - and then where would you be this morning?"
"I'd be stiff and stark with candles at me head and feet," said
Lizzie gloomily. "Oh, Miss Neily, don't talk of that terrible
creature, the Bat!" She came nearer to her mistress. "There's bats
in this house, too - real bats," she whispered impressively. "I
saw one yesterday in the trunk room - the creature! It flew in the
window and nearly had the switch off me before I could get away!"
Miss Cornelia chuckled. "Of course there are bats," she said.
"There are always bats in the country. They're perfectly harmless,
- except to switches."
"And the Bat ye were talking of just then - he's harmless too, I
suppose?" said Lizzie with mournful satire. "Oh, Miss Neily, Miss
Neily - do let's go back to the city before he flies away with u
"Nonsense, Lizzie," said Miss Cornelia again, but this time less
firmly. Her face grew serious. "If I thought for an instant that
there was any real possibility of our being in danger here - " she
said slowly. "But - oh, look at the map, Lizzie! The Bat has been
flying in this district - that's true enough - but he hasn't come
within ten miles of us yet!"
"What's ten miles to the Bat?" the obdurate Lizzie sighed. "And
what of the letter ye had when ye first moved in here? 'The Fleming
house is unhealthy for strangers,' it said. Leave it while ye can."
"Some silly boy or some crank." Miss Cornelia's voice was firm. "I
never pay any attention to anonymous letters."
"And there's a funny-lookin' letter this mornin', down at the bottom
of the pile - " persisted Lizzie. "It looked like the other one.
I'd half a mind to throw it away before you saw it!"
"Now, Lizzie, that's quite enough!" Miss Cornelia had the Van Gorder
manner on now. "I don't care to discuss your ridiculous fears any
further. Where is Miss Dale?"
Lizzie assumed an attitude of prim rebuff, "Miss Dale's gone into
the city, ma'am."
"Gone into the city?"
"Yes, ma'am. She got a telephone call this morning, early - long
distance it was. I don't know who it was called her."
"Lizzie! You didn't listen?"
"Of course not, Miss Neily." Lizzie's face was a study in injured
virtue. "Miss Dale took the call in her own room and shut the door."
"And you were outside the door?"
"Where else would I be dustin' that time in the mornin'?" said
Lizzie fiercely. "But it's yourself knows well enough the doors
in this house is thick and not a sound goes past them."
"I should hope not," said Miss Cornelia rebukingly. "But - tell
me, Lizzie, did Miss Dale seem - well - this morning?"
"That she did not," said Lizzie promptly. "When she came down to
breakfast, after the call, she looked like a ghost. I made her
the eggs she likes, too - but she wouldn't eat 'em."
"H'm," Miss Cornelia pondered. "I'm sorry if - well, Lizzie, we
mustn't meddle in Miss Dale's affairs."
"But - did she say when she would be back?"
"Yes, Miss Neily. On the two o'clock train. Oh, and I was almost
forgettin' - she told me to tell you, particular - she said while
he was in the city she'd be after engagin' the gardener you
"The gardener? Oh, yes - I spoke to her about that the other night.
The place is beginning to look run down - so many flowers to attend
to. Well - that's very kind of Miss Dale."
"Yes, Miss Neily." Lizzie hesitated, obviously with some weighty
news on her mind which she wished to impart. Finally she took the
plunge. "I might have told Miss Dale she could have been lookin'
for a cook as well - and a housemaid - " she muttered at last,
"but they hadn't spoken to me then."
Miss Cornelia sat bolt upright in bed. "A cook - and a housemaid?
But we have a cook and a housemaid, Lizzie! You don't mean to tell
me - "
Lizzie nodded her head. "Yes'm. They're leaving. Both of 'em.
"But good heav- Lizzie, why on earth didn't you tell me before?"
Lizzie spoke soothingly, all the blarney of Kerry in her voice.
"Now, Miss Neily, as if I'd wake you first thing in the morning
with bad news like that! And thinks I, well, maybe 'tis all for
the best after all - for when Miss Neily hears they're leavin' -
and her so particular - maybe she'll go back to the city for just
a little and leave this house to its haunts and its bats and - "
"Go back to the city? I shall do nothing of the sort. I rented
this house to live in and live in it I will, with servants or
without them. You should have told me at once, Lizzie. I'm really
very much annoyed with you because you didn't. I shall get up
immediately - I want to give those two a piece of my mind. Is
Billy leaving too?"
"Not that I know of - the heathern Japanese!"" said Lizzie
sorrowfully. "And yet he'd be better riddance than cook or
"Now, Lizzie, how many times have I told you that you must conquer
your prejudices? Billy is an excellent butler - he'd been with
Mr. Fleming ten years and has the very highest recommendations. I
am very glad that he is staying, if he is. With you to help him,
we shall do very well until I can get other servants." Miss
Cornelia had risen now and Lizzie was helping her with the
intricacies of her toilet. "But it's too annoying," she went on,
in the pauses of Lizzie's deft ministrations. "What did they say
to you, Lizzie - did they give any reason? It isn't as if they
were new to the country like you. They'd been with Mr. Fleming for
some time, though not as long as Billy."
"Oh, yes, Miss Neily - they had reasons you could choke a goat with,"
said Lizzie viciously as she arranged Miss Cornelia's transformation.
"Cook was the first of them - she was up late - I think they'd been
talking it over together. She comes into the kitchen with her hat
on and her bag in her hand. 'Good morning,' says I, pleasant enough,
'you've got your hat on,' says I. 'I'm leaving,' says she. 'Leaving,
are you?' says I. 'Leaving,' says she. 'My sister has twins,'
says she. 'I just got word - I must go to her right away.' 'What?'
says I, all struck in a heap. 'Twins,' says she, 'you've heard of
such things as twins.' 'That I have,' says I, 'and I know a lie on
a face when I see it, too.'"
"Well, it made me sick at heart, Miss Neily. Her with her hat and
her bag and her talk about twins - and no consideration for you.
Well, I'll go on. 'You're a clever woman, aren't you?' says she
- the impudence! 'I can see through a millstone as far as most,'
says I - I wouldn't put up with her sauce. 'Well!' says she, 'you
can see that Annie the housemaid's leaving, too.' 'Has her sister
got twins as well?' says I and looked at her. 'No,' says she as
bold as brass, 'but Annie's got a pain in her side and she's feared
it's appendycitis - so she's leaving to go back to her family.'
'Oh,' says I, 'and what about Miss Van Gorder?' 'I'm sorry for
Miss Van Gorder,' says she - the falseness of her! - 'But she'll
have to do the best she can for twins and appendycitis is acts of
God and not to be put aside for even the best of wages.' 'Is that
so?' says I and with that I left her, for I knew if I listened to
her a minute longer I'd be giving her bonnet a shake and that
wouldn't be respectable. So there you are, Miss Neily, and that's
the gist of the matter."
Miss Cornelia laughed. "Lizzie - you're unique," she said. "But
I'm glad you didn't give her bonnet a shake - though I've no doubt
"Humph!" said Lizzie snorting, the fire of battle in her eye. "And
is it any Black Irish from Ulster would play impudence to a
Kerrywoman without getting the flat of a hand in - but that's
neither here nor there. The truth of it is, Miss Neily," her voice
grew solemn, "it's my belief they're scared - both of them - by the
haunts and the banshees here - and that's all."
"If they are they're very silly," said Miss Cornelia practically.
"No, they may have heard of a better place, though it would seem
as if when one pays the present extortionate wages and asks as
little as we do here - but it doesn't matter. If they want to go,
they may. Am I ready, Lizzie?"
"You look like an angel, ma'am," said Lizzie, clasping her hands.
"Well, I feel very little like one," said Miss Cornelia, rising.
"As cook and housemaid may discover before I'm through with them.
Send them into the livingroom, Lizzie, when I've gone down. I'll
talk to them there."
An hour or so later, Miss Cornelia sat in a deep chintz chair in
the comfortable living-room of the Fleming house going through the
pile of letters which Lizzie's news of domestic revolt had
prevented her reading earlier. Cook and housemaid had come and
gone - civil enough, but so obviously determined upon leaving the
house at once that Miss Cornelia had sighed and let them go, though
not without caustic comment. Since then, she had devoted herself
to calling up various employment agencies without entirely
satisfactory results. A new cook and housemaid were promised for
the end of the week - but for the next three days the Japanese
butler, Billy, and Lizzie between them would have to bear the brunt
of the service. Oh, yes - and then there's Dale's gardener, if
she gets one, thought Miss, Cornelia. "I wish he could cook - but I
don't suppose gardeners can - and Billy's a treasure. Still, its
inconvenient - now, stop - Cornelia Van Gorder - you were asking for
an adventure only this morning and the moment the littlest sort of
one comes along, you want to crawl out of it."
She had reached the bottom of her pile of letters - these to be
thrown away, these to be answered - ah, here was one she had
overlooked somehow. She took it up. It must be the one Lizzie
had wanted to throw away - she smiled at Lizzie's fears. The
address was badly typed, on cheap paper - she tore the envelope
open and drew out a single unsigned sheet.
If you stay in this house any longer - DEATH. Go back to the city
at once and save your life.
Her fingers trembled a little as she turned the missive over but
her face remained calm. She looked at the envelope - at the
postmark- while her heart thudded uncomfortably for a moment and
then resumed its normal beat. It had come at last - the adventure
- and she was not afraid!
She knew who it was, of course. The Bat! No doubt of it. And yet
- did the Bat ever threaten before he struck? She could not
remember. But it didn't matter. The Bat was unprecedented -
unique. At any rate, Bat or no Bat, she must think out a course
of action. The defection of cook and housemaid left her alone in
the house with Lizzie and Billy - and Dale, of course, if Dale
returned. Two old women, a young girl, and a Japanese butler to
face the most dangerous criminal in America, she thought grimly.
And yet - one couldn't be sure. The threatening letter might be
only a joke - a letter from a crank - after all. Still, she must
take precautions; look for aid somewhere. But where could she
look for aid?
She ran over in her mind the new acquaintances she had made since
she moved to the country. There was Doctor Wells, the local
physician, who had joked with her about moving into the Bat's
home territory - He seemed an intelligent man - but she knew him
only slightly - she couldn't call a busy Doctor away from his
patients to investigate something which might only prove to be a
mare's-nest. The boys Dale had met at the country club - "Humph!"
she sniffed, "I'd rather trust my gumption than any of theirs."
The logical person to call on, of course, was Richard Fleming,
Courtleigh Fleming's nephew and heir, who had rented her the
house. He lived at the country club - she could probably reach
him now. She was just on the point of doing so when she decided
against it - partly from delicacy, partly from an indefinable
feeling that he would not be of much help. Besides, she thought
sturdily, it's my house now, not his. He didn't guarantee
burglar protection in the lease.
As for the local police - her independence revolted at summoning
them. They would bombard her with ponderous questions and
undoubtedly think she was merely a nervous old spinster. If it
was just me, she thought, I swear I wouldn't say a word to
anybody - and if the Bat flew in he mightn't find it so easy to
fly out again, if I am sixty-five and never shot a burglar in my
life! But there's Dale - and Lizzie. I've got to be fair to them.
For a moment she felt very helpless, very much alone. Then her
"Pshaw, Cornelia, if you have got to get help - get the help you
want and hang the consequences!" she adjured herself. "You've
always hankered to see a first-class detective do his detecting -
well, get one - or decide to do the job yourself. I'll bet you
could at that."
She tiptoed to the main door of the living-room and closed it
cautiously, smiling as she did so. Lizzie might be about and
Lizzie would promptly go into hysterics if she got an inkling of
her mistress's present intentions. Then she went to the city
telephone and asked for long distance.
When she had finished her telephoning, she looked at once relieved
and a little naughty - like a demure child who has carried out
some piece of innocent mischief unobserved. "My stars!" she
muttered to herself. "You never can tell what you can do till
you try." Then she sat down again and tried to think of other
measures of defense.
Now if I were the Bat, or any criminal, she mused, how would I get
into this house? Well, that's it - I might get in 'most any way -
it's so big and rambling. All the grounds you want to lurk in,
too; it'd take a company of police to shut them off. Then there's
the house itself. Let's see - third floor - trunk room, servants'
rooms - couldn't get in there very well except with a pretty long
ladder - that's all right. Second floor - well, I suppose a man
could get into my bedroom from the porch if he were an acrobat, but
he'd need to be a very good acrobat and there's no use borrowing
trouble. Downstairs is the problem, Cornelia, downstairs is the
"Take this room now." She rose and examined it carefully. "There's
the door over there on the right that leads into the billiard room.
There's this door over here that leads into the hall. Then there's
that other door by the alcove, and all those French windows - whew!"
She shook her head.
It was true. The room in which she stood, while comfortable and
charming, seemed unusually accessible to the night prowler. A row
of French windows at the rear gave upon a little terrace; below
the terrace, the drive curved about and beneath the billiard-room
windows in a hairpin loop, drawing up again at the main entrance
on the other side of the house. At the left of the French windows
(if one faced the terrace as Miss Cornelia was doing) was the
alcove door of which she spoke. When open, it disclosed a little
alcove, almost entirely devoted to the foot of a flight of stairs
that gave direct access to the upper regions of the house. The
alcove itself opened on one side upon the terrace and upon the
other into a large butler's pantry. The arrangement was obviously
designed so that, if necessary, one could pass directly from the
terrace to the downstairs service quarters or the second floor of
the house without going through the living-room, and so that trays
could be carried up from the pantry by the side stairs- without
using the main staircase.
The- middle pair of French windows were open, forming a double
door. Miss Cornelia went over to them - shut them - tried the
locks. Humph! Flimsy enough! she thought. Then she turned toward
the billiard room.
The billiard room, as has been said, was the last room to the right
in the main wing of the house. A single door led to it from the
living-room. Miss Cornelia passed through this door, glanced about
the billiard room, noting that most of its windows were too high
from the ground to greatly encourage a marauder. She locked the
only one that seemed to her particularly tempting - the billiard-room
window on the terrace side of the house. Then she returned to the
living-room and again considered her defenses.
Three points of access from the terrace to the house - the door that
led into the alcove, the French windows of the living room - the
billiard-room window. On the other side of the house there was the
main entrance, the porch, the library and dining-room windows. The
main entrance led into a hall-living-room, and the main door of the
living-room was on the right as one entered, the dining-room and
library on the left, main staircase in front. "My mind is starting
to go round like a pinwheel, thinking of all those windows and doors,"
she murmured to herself. She sat down once more, and taking a pencil
and a piece of paper drew a plan of the lower floor of the house.
And now I've studied it, she thought after a while, I'm no further
than if I hadn't. As far as I can figure out, there are so many
ways for a clever man to get into this house that I'd have to be a
couple of Siamese twins to watch it properly. The next house I rent
in the country, she decided, just isn't going to have any windows
and doors - or I'll know the reason why.
But of course she was not entirely shut off from the world, even
if the worst developed. She considered the telephone instruments
on a table near the wall, one the general phone, the other
connecting a house line which also connected with the garage and
the greenhouses. The garage would not be helpful, since Slocum,
her chauffeur for many years, had gone back to England for a visit.
Dale had been driving the car. But with an able-bodied man in the
gardener's house -
She pulled herself together with a jerk.
"Cornelia Van Gorder, you're going to go crazy before nightfall if
you don't take hold of yourself. What you need is lunch and a nap
in the afternoon if you can make yourself take it. You'd better
look up that revolver of yours, too, that you bought when you thought
you were going to take a trip to China. You've never fired it off
yet, but you've got to sometime today - there's no other way of
telling if it will work. You can shut your eyes when you do it - no,
you can't either - that's silly.
"Call you a spirited old lady, do they? Well, you never had a
better time to show your spirit than now!"
And Miss Van Gorder, sighing, left the living-room to reach the
kitchen just in time to calm a heated argument between Lizzie and
Billy on the relative merits of Japanese and Irish-American cooking.
Dale Ogden, taxiing up from the two o'clock train some time later,
to her surprise discovered the front door locked and rang for some
time before she could get an answer. At last, Billy appeared,
white-coated, with an inscrutable expression on his face.
"Will you take my bag, Billy - thanks. Where is Miss Van Gorder
- taking a nap?"
"No," said Billy succinctly. "She take no nap. She out in
Dale stared at him incredulously. "Shooting, Billy?"
"Yes, ma'am. At least - she not shoot yet but she say she
going to soon."
"But, good heavens, Billy - shooting what?"
"Shotting pistol," said Billy, his yellow mask of a face preserving
its impish repose. He waved his hand. "You go srubbery. You see."
The scene that met Dale's eyes when she finally found the "srubbery"
was indeed a singular one. Miss Van Gorder, her back firmly planted
against the trunk of a large elm tree and an expression of ineffable
distaste on her features, was holding out a blunt, deadly looking
revolver at arm's length. Its muzzle wavered, now pointing at the
ground, now at the sky. Behind the tree Lizzie sat in a heap,
moaning quietly to herself, and now and then appealing to the saints
to avert a visioned calamity.
As Dale approached, unseen, the climax came. The revolver steadied,
pointed ferociously at an inoffensive grass-blade some 10 yards from
Miss Van Gorder and went off. Lizzie promptly gave vent to a shrill
Irish scream. Miss Van Gorder dropped the revolver like a hot potato
and opened her mouth to tell Lizzie not to be such a fool. Then she
saw Dale - her mouth went into a round 0 of horror and her hand
clutched weakly at her heart.
"Good heavens, child!" she gasped. "Didn't Billy tell you what I
was doing? I might have shot you like a rabbit!" and, overcome
with emotion, she sat down on the ground and started to fan herself
mechanically with a cartridge.
Dale couldn't help laughing - and the longer she looked at her aunt
the more she laughed - until that dignified lady joined in the mirth
"Aunt Cornelia - Aunt Cornelia!" said Dale when she could get her
breath. "That I've lived to see the day - and they call US the wild
generation! Why on earth were you having pistol practice, darling -
has Billy turned into a Japanese spy or what?"
Miss Van Gorder rose from the ground with as much stateliness as she
could muster under the circumstances.
"No, my dear - but there's no fool like an old fool - that's all,"
she stated. "I've wanted to fire that infernal revolver off ever
since I bought it two years ago, and now I have and I'm satisfied.
Still," she went on thoughtfully, picking up the weapon, "it seems
a very good revolver - and shooting people must be much easier than
I supposed. All you have to do is to point the - the front of it -
like this and - "
"Oh, Miss Dale, dear Miss Dale!" came in woebegone accents from the
other side of the tree. "For the love of heaven, Miss Dale, say no
more but take it away from her - she'll have herself all riddled
through with bullets like a kitchen sieve - and me too - if she's
let to have it again."
"Lizzie, I'm ashamed of you!" said Lizzie's mistress. "Come out
from behind that tree and stop wailing like a siren. This weapon is
perfectly safe in competent hands and - " She seemed on the verge
of another demonstration of its powers.
"MISS DALE, FOR THE DEAR LOVE O' GOD WILL YOU MAKE HER PUT IT AWAY?"
Dale laughed again. "I really think you'd better, Aunt Cornelia.
Or both of us will have to put Lizzie to bed with a case of acute
"Well," said Miss Van Gorder, "perhaps you're right, dear." Her eyes
gleamed. "I should have liked to try it just once more though," she
confided. "I feel certain that I could hit that tree over there if
my eye wouldn't wink so when the thing goes off."
"Now, it's winking eyes," said Lizzie on a note of tragic chant, "but
next time it'll be bleeding corpses and - "
Dale added her own protestations to Lizzie's. "Please, darling, if
you really want to practice, Billy can fix up some sort of target
range - but I don't want my favorite aunt assassinated by a
ricocheted bullet before my eyes!"
"Well, perhaps it would be best to try again another time," admitted
Miss Van Gorder. But there was a wistful look in her eyes as she
gave the revolver to Dale and the three started back to the house.
"I should never have allowed Lizzie to know what I was doing," she
confided in a whisper, on the way. "A woman is perfectly capable of
managing firearms - but Lizzie is really too nervous to live,
"I know just how you feel, darling," Dale agreed, suppressed mirth
shaking her as the little procession reached the terrace. "But - oh,"
she could keep it no longer, "oh - you did look funny, darling -
sitting under that tree, with Lizzie on the other side of it making
banshee noises and - "
Miss Van Gorder laughed too, a little shamefacedly.
"I must have," she said. "But - oh, you needn't shake your head,
Lizzie Allen - I am going to practice with it. There's no reason
I shouldn't and you never can tell when things like that might be
useful," she ended rather vaguely. She did not wish to alarm Dale
with her suspicions yet.
"There, Dale - yes, put it in the drawer of the table - that will
reassure Lizzie. Lizzie, you might make us some lemonade, I think
- Miss Dale must be thirsty after her long, hot ride."
"Yes, Miss Cornelia," said Lizzie, recovering her normal calm as
the revolver was shut away in the drawer of the large table in the
living-room. But she could not resist one parting shot. "And thank
God it's lemonade I'll be making - and not bandages for bullet
wounds!" she muttered darkly as she went toward the service quarters.
Miss Van Gorder glared after her departing back. "Lizzie is really
impossible sometimes!" she said with stately ire. Then her voice
softened. "Though of course I couldn't do without her," she added.
Dale stretched out on the settee opposite her aunt's chair. "I know
you couldn't, darling. Thanks for thinking of the lemonade." She
passed her hand over her forehead in a gesture of fatigue. "I AM
hot - and tired."
Miss Van Gorder looked at her keenly. The young face seemed
curiously worn and haggard in the clear afternoon light.
"You - you don't really feel very well, do you, Dale?"
"Oh - it's nothing. I feel all right - really."
"I could send for Doctor Wells if - "
"Oh, heavens, no, Aunt Cornelia." She managed a wan smile. "It
isn't as bad as all that. I'm just tired and the city was terribly
hot and noisy and - " She stole a glance at her aunt from between
lowered lids. "I got your gardener, by the way," she said casually.
"Did you, dear? That's splendid, though - but I'll tell you about
that later. Where did you get him?"
"That good agency, I can't remember its name." Dale's hand moved
restlessly over her eyes, as if remembering details were too great
an effort. "But I'm sure he'll be satisfactory. He'll be out here
this evening - he - he couldn't get away before, I believe. What
have you been doing all day, darling?"
Miss Cornelia hesitated. Now that Dale had returned she suddenly
wanted very much to talk over the various odd happenings of the day
with her - get the support of her youth and her common sense. Then
that independence which was so firmly rooted a characteristic of
hers restrained her. No use worrying the child unnecessarily; they
all might have to worry enough before tomorrow morning.
She compromised. "We have had a domestic upheaval," she said. "The
cook and the housemaid have left - if you'd only waited till the next
train you could have had the pleasure of their company into town."
"Aunt Cornelia - how exciting! I'm so sorry! Why did they leave?"
"Why do servants ever leave a good place?" asked Miss Cornelia grimly.
"Because if they had sense enough to know when they were well off,
they wouldn't be servants. Anyhow, they've gone - we'll have to
depend on Lizzie and Billy the rest of this week. I telephoned - but
they couldn't promise me any others before Monday."
"And I was in town and could have seen people for you - if I'd only
known!" said Dale remorsefully. "Only," she hesitated, "I mightn't
have had time - at least I mean there were some other things I had
to do, besides getting the gardener and - " She rose. "I think
I will go and lie down for a little if you don't mind, darling."
Miss Van Gorder was concerned. "Of course I don't mind but - won't
you even have your lemonade?"
"Oh, I'll get some from Lizzie in the pantry before I go up," Dale
managed to laugh. "I think I must have a headache after all," she
said. "Maybe I'll take an aspirin. Don't worry, darling."
"I shan't. I only wish there were something I could do for you, my
Dale stopped in the alcove doorway. "There's nothing anybody can do
for me, really," she said soberly. "At least - oh, I don't know
what I'm saying! But don't worry. I'm quite all right. I may go
over to the country club after dinner - and dance. Won't you come
with me, Aunt Cornelia?"
"Depends on your escort," said Miss Cornelia tartly. "If our
landlord, Mr. Richard Fleming, is taking you I certainly shall - I
don't like his looks and never did!"
Dale laughed. "Oh, he's all right," she said. "Drinks a good deal
and wastes a lot of money, but harmless enough. No, this is a very
sedate party; I'll be home early."
"Well, in that case," said her aunt, "I shall stay here with my
Lizzie and my ouija-board. Lizzie deserves some punishment for the
very cowardly way she behaved this afternoon - and the ouija-board
will furnish it. She's scared to death to touch the thing. I think
she believes it's alive."
"Well, maybe I'll send you a message on it from the country club,"
said Dale lightly. She had paused, half-way up the flight of side
stairs in the alcove, and her aunt noticed how her shoulders drooped,
belying the lightness of her voice. "Oh," she went on, "by the way
- have the afternoon papers come yet? I didn't have time to get
one when I was rushing for the train."
"I don't think so, dear, but I'll ask Lizzie." Miss Cornelia moved
toward a bell push.
"Oh, don't bother; it doesn't matter. Only if they have, would you
ask Lizzie to bring me one when she brings up the lemonade? I want
to read about - about the Bat - he fascinates me."
"There was something else in the paper this morning," said Miss
Cornelia idly. "Oh, yes - the Union Bank - the bank Mr. Fleming,
Senior, was president of has failed. They seem to think the cashier
robbed it. Did you see that, Dale?"
The shoulders of the girl on the staircase straightened suddenly.
Then they drooped again. "Yes - I saw it," she said in a queerly
colorless voice. "Too bad. It must be terrible to - to have
everyone suspect you - and hunt you - as I suppose they're hunting
that poor cashier."
"Well," said Miss Cornelia, "a man who wrecks a bank deserves very
little sympathy to my way of thinking. But then I'm old-fashioned.
Well, dear, I won't keep you. Run along - and if you want an
aspirin, there's a box in my top bureau-drawer."
"Thanks, darling. Maybe I'll take one and maybe I won't - all I
really need is to lie down for a while."
She moved on up the staircase and disappeared from the range of
Miss Cornelia's vision, leaving Miss Cornelia to ponder many things.
Her trip to the city had done Dale no good, of a certainty. If not
actually ill, she was obviously under some considerable mental
strain. And why this sudden interest, first in the Bat, then in
the failure of the Union Bank? Was it possible that Dale, too, had
been receiving threatening letters?
I'll be glad when that gardener comes, she thought to herself.
He'll make a MAN in the house at any rate.
When Lizzie at last came in with the lemonade she found her mistress
shaking her head.
"Cornelia, Cornelia," she was murmuring to herself, "you should have
taken to pistol practice when you were younger; it just shows how
children waste their opportunities."
THE STORM GATHERS
The long summer afternoon wore away, sunset came, red and angry,
a sunset presaging storm. A chill crept into the air with the
twilight. When night fell, it was not a night of silver patterns
enskied, but a dark and cloudy cloak where a few stars glittered
fitfully. Miss Cornelia, at dinner, saw a bat swoop past the
window of the dining room in its scurrying flight, and narrowly
escaped oversetting her glass of water with a nervous start. The
tension of waiting - waiting - for some vague menace which might
not materialize after all - had begun to prey on her nerves. She
saw Dale off to the country club with relief - the girl looked a
little better after her nap but she was still not her normal self.
When Dale was gone, she wandered restlessly for some time between
living-room and library, now giving an unnecessary dusting to a
piece of bric-a-brac with her handkerchief, now taking a book from
one of the shelves in the library only to throw it down before
she read a page.
This house was queer. She would not have admitted it to Lizzie,
for her soul's salvation - but, for the first time in her sensible
life, she listened for creakings of woodwork, rustling of leaves,
stealthy steps outside, beyond the safe, bright squares of the
windows - for anything that was actual, tangible, not merely
"There's too much ROOM in the country for things to happen to you!"
she confided to herself with a shiver. "Even the night - whenever
I look out, it seems to me as if the night were ten times bigger and
blacker than it ever is in New York!"
To comfort herself she mentally rehearsed her telephone conversation
of the morning, the conversation she had not mentioned to her
household. At the time it had seemed to her most reassuring - the
plans she had based upon it adequate and sensible in the normal
light of day. But now the light of day had been blotted out and
with it her security. Her plans seemed weapons of paper against the
sinister might of the darkness beyond her windows. A little wind
wailed somewhere in that darkness like a beaten child - beyond the
hills thunder rumbled, drawing near, and with it lightening and the
She made herself sit down in the chair beside her favorite lamp on
the center table and take up her knitting with stiff fingers. Knit
two - purl two - Her hands fell into the accustomed rhythm
mechanically - a spy, peering in through the French windows, would
have deemed her the picture of calm. But she had never felt less
calm in all the long years of her life.
She wouldn't ring for Lizzie to come and sit with her, she simply
wouldn't. But she was very glad, nevertheless, when Lizzie appeared
at the door.
"Yes, Lizzie?" Miss Cornelia's voice was composed but her heart
felt a throb of relief.
"Can I - can I sit in here with you, Miss Neily, just a minute?"
Lizzie's voice was plaintive. "I've been sitting out in the kitchen
watching that Jap read his funny newspaper the wrong way and
listening for ghosts till I'm nearly crazy!"
"Why, certainly, Lizzie," said Miss Cornelia primly. "Though," she
added doubtfully, "I really shouldn't pamper your absurd fears, I
suppose, but - "
"Oh, please, Miss Neily!"
"Very well," said Miss Cornelia brightly. "You can sit here, Lizzie
- and help me work the ouija-board. That will take your mind off
listening for things!"
Lizzie groaned. "You know I'd rather be shot than touch that uncanny
ouijie!" she said dolefully. "It gives me the creeps every time I
put my hands on it!"
"Well, of course, if you'd rather sit in the kitchen, Lizzie - "
"Oh, give me the ouijie!" said Lizzie in tones of heartbreak. "I'd
rather be shot and stabbed than stay in the kitchen any more.
"Very well," said Miss Cornelia, "it's your own decision, Lizzie -
remember that." Her needles clicked on. "I'll just finish this
row before we start," she said. "You might call up the light company
in the meantime, Lizzie - there seems to be a storm coming up and I
want to find out if they intend to turn out the lights tonight as
they did last night. Tell them I find it most inconvenient to be
left without light that way.
"It's worse than inconvenient," muttered Lizzie, "it's criminal -
that's what it is - turning off all the lights in a haunted house,
like this one. As if spooks wasn't bad enough with the lights on - "
"Yes, Miss Neily - I wasn't going to say another word." She went to
the telephone. Miss Cornelia knitted on - knit two - purl two - In
spite of her experiments with the ouija-board she didn't believe in
ghosts - and yet - there were things one couldn't explain by logic.
Was there something like that in this house - a shadow walking the
corridors - a vague shape of evil, drifting like mist from room to
room, till its cold breath whispered on one's back and - there! She
had ruined her knitting, the last two rows would have to be ripped
out. That came of mooning about ghosts like a ninny.
She put down the knitting with an exasperated little gesture. Lizzie
had just finished her telephoning and was hanging up the receiver.
"Yes'm," said the latter, glaring at the phone. "That's what he
says - they turned off the lights last night because there was a
storm threatening. He says it burns out their fuses if they leave
'em on in a storm."
A louder roll of thunder punctuated her words.
"There!" said Lizzie. "They'll be going off again to-night." She
took an uncertain step toward the French windows.
"Humph!" said Miss Cornelia, "I hope it will be a dry summer." Her
hands tightened on each other. Darkness - darkness inside this
house of whispers to match with the darkness outside! She forced
herself to speak in a normal voice.
"Ask Billy to bring some candles, Lizzie - and have them ready."
Lizzie had been staring fixedly at the French windows. At Miss
Cornelia's command she gave a little jump of terror and moved closer
to her mistress.
"You're not going to ask me to go out in that hall alone?" she said
in a hurt voice.
It was too much. Miss Cornelia found vent for her feelings in crisp
"What's the matter with you anyhow, Lizzie Allen?"
The nervousness in her own tones infected Lizzie's. She shivered
"Oh, Miss Neily - Miss Neily!" she pleaded. "I don't like it! I
want to go back to the city!"
Miss Cornelia braced herself. "I have rented this house for four
months and I am going to stay," she said firmly. Her eyes sought
Lizzie's, striving to pour some of her own inflexible courage into
the latter's quaking form. But Lizzie would not look at her.
Suddenly she started and gave a low scream;
"There's somebody on the terrace!" she breathed in a ghastly
whisper, clutching at Miss Cornelia's arm.
For a second Miss Cornelia sat frozen. Then, "Don't do that!" she
said sharply. "What nonsense!" but she, looked over her shoulder
as she said it and Lizzie saw the look. Both waited, in pulsing
stillness - one second - two.
"I guess it was the wind," said Lizzie at last, relieved, her grip
on Miss Cornelia relaxing. She began to look a trifle ashamed of
herself and Miss Cornelia seized the opportunity.
"You were born on a brick pavement," she said crushingly. "You get
nervous out here at night whenever a cricket begins to sing - or
scrape his legs - or whatever it is they do!"
Lizzie bowed before the blast of her mistress's scorn and began to
move gingerly toward the alcove door. But obviously she was not
"Oh, it's more than that, Miss Neily," she mumbled. "I - "
Miss Cornelia turned to her fiercely. If Lizzie was going to behave
like this, they might as well have it out now between them - before
Dale came home.
"What did you really see last night?" she said in a minatory voice.
The instant relief on Lizzie's face was ludicrous; she so obviously
preferred discussing any subject at any length to braving the
dangers of the other part of the house unaccompanied.
"I was standing right there at the top of that there staircase,"
she began, gesticulating toward the alcove stairs in the manner of
one who embarks upon the narration of an epic. "Standing there
with your switch in my hand, Miss Neily - and then I looked down
and," her voice dropped, "I saw a gleaming eye! It looked at me
and winked! I tell you this house is haunted!"
"A flirtatious ghost?" queried Miss Cornelia skeptically. She
snorted. "Humph! Why didn't you yell?"
"I was too scared to yell! And I'm not the only one." She started
to back away from the alcove, her eyes still fixed upon its haunted
stairs. "Why do you think the servants left so sudden this morning?"
she went on. "Do you really believe the housemaid had appendicitis?
Or the cook's sister had twins?"
She turned and gestured at her mistress with a long, pointed
forefinger. Her voice had a note of doom.
"I bet a cent the cook never had any sister - and the sister never
had any twins," she said impressively. "No, Miss Neily, they
couldn't put it over on me like that! They were scared away. They
saw - It!"
She concluded her epic and stood nodding her head, an Irish
Cassandra who had prophesied the evil to come.
"Fiddlesticks!" said Miss Cornelia briskly, more shaken by the
recital than she would have admitted. She tried to think of another
topic of conversation.
"What time is it?" she asked.
Lizzie glanced at the mantel clock. "Half-past ten, Miss Neily."
Miss Cornelia yawned, a little dismally. She felt as if the last
two hours had not been hours but years.
"Miss Dale won't be home for half an hour," she said reflectively.
And if I have to spend another thirty minutes listening to Lizzie
shiver, she thought, Dale will find me a nervous wreck when she
does come home. She rolled up her knitting and put it back in
her knitting-bag; it was no use going on, doing work that would
have to be ripped out again and yet she must do something to occupy
her thoughts. She raised her head and discovered Lizzie returning
toward the alcove stairs with the stealthy tread of a panther. The
sight exasperated her.
"Now, Lizzie Allen!" she said sharply, "you forget all that
superstitious nonsense and stop looking for ghosts! There's nothing
in that sort of thing." She smiled - she would punish Lizzie for
her obdurate timorousness. "Where's that ouija-board?" she
questioned, rising, with determination in her eye.
Lizzie shuddered violently. "It's up there - with a prayer book on
it to keep it quiet!" she groaned, jerking her thumb in the direction
of the farther bookcase.
"Bring it here!" said Miss Cornelia implacably; then as Lizzie still
Shivering, every movement of her body a conscious protest, Lizzie
slowly went over to the bookcase, lifted off the prayer book, and
took down the ouija-board. Even then she would not carry it normally
but bore it over to Miss Cornelia at arms'-length, as if any closer
contact would blast her with lightning, her face a comic mask of
loathing and repulsion.
She placed the lettered board in Miss Cornelia's lap with a sigh
of relief. "You can do it yourself! I'll have none of it!" she
"It takes two people and you know it, Lizzie Allen!" Miss Cornelia's
voice was stern but - it was also amused.
Lizzie groaned, but she knew her mistress. She obeyed. She
carefully chose the farthest chair in the room and took a long time
bringing it over to where her mistress sat waiting.
"I've been working for you for twenty years," she muttered. "I've
been your goat for twenty years and I've got a right to speak my
mind - "
Miss Cornelia cut her off. "You haven't got a mind. Sit down," she
Lizzie sat - her hands at her sides. With a sigh of tried patience,
Miss Cornelia put her unwilling fingers on the little moving table
that is used to point to the letters on the board itself. Then she
placed her own hands on it, too, the tips of the fingers just
"Now make your mind a blank!" she commanded her factotum.
"You just said I haven't got any mind," complained the latter.
"Well;" said Miss Cornelia magnificently, "make what you haven't
got a blank."
The repartee silenced Lizzie for the moment, but only for the moment.
As soon as Miss Cornelia had settled herself comfortably and tried
to make her mind a suitable receiving station for ouija messages,
Lizzie began to mumble the sorrows of her heart.
"I've stood by you through thick and thin," she mourned in a low
voice. "I stood by you when you were a vegetarian - I stood by you
when you were a theosophist - and I seen you through socialism,
Fletcherism and rheumatism - but when it comes to carrying on with
ghosts - "
"Be still!" ordered Miss Cornelia. "Nothing will come if you keep
"That's why I'm chattering!" said Lizzie, driven to the wall. "My
teeth are, too," she added. "I can hardly keep my upper set in,"
and a desolate clicking of artificial molars attested the truth of
the remark. Then, to Miss Cornelia's relief, she was silent for
nearly two minutes, only to start so violently at the end of the
time that she nearly upset the ouija-board on her mistress's toes.
"I've got a queer feeling in my fingers - all the way up my arms,"
she whispered in awed accents, wriggling the arms she spoke of
"Hush!" said Miss Cornelia indignantly. Lizzie always exaggerated,
of course - yet now her own fingers felt prickly, uncanny. There
was a little pause while both sat tense, staring at the board.
"Now, Ouija," said Miss Cornelia defiantly, "is Lizzie Allen right
about this house or is it all stuff and nonsense?"
For one second - two - the ouija remained anchored to its resting
place in the center of the board, Then -
"My Gawd! It's moving!" said Lizzie in tones of pure horror as the
little pointer began to wander among the letters.
"You shoved it!"
"I did not - cross my heart, Miss Neily - I - " Lizzie's eyes were
round, her fingers glued rigidly and awkwardly to the ouija. As
the movements of the pointer grew more rapid her mouth dropped
open - wider and wider - prepared for an ear-piercing scream.
"Keep quiet!" said Miss Cornelia tensely. There was a pause of a
few seconds while the pointer darted from one letter to another
"B - M - C - X - P - R - S - K - Z - " murmured Miss Cornelia
trying to follow the spelled letters.
"It's Russian!" gasped Lizzie breathlessly and Miss Cornelia nearly
disgraced herself in the eyes of any spirits that might be present
by inappropriate laughter. The ouija continued to move - more
letters - what was it spelling? - it couldn't be - good heavens -
"B - A - T - Bat!" said Miss Cornelia with a tiny catch in her voice.
The pointer stopped moving: She took her hands from the board.
"That's queer," she said with a forced laugh. She glanced at Lizzie
to see how Lizzie was taking it. But the 1atter seemed too relieved
to have her hands off the ouija-board to make the mental connection
that her mistress had feared.
All she said was, "Bats indeed! That shows it's spirits. There's
been a bat flying around this house all evening."
She got up from her chair tentatively, obviously hoping that the
seance was over.
"Oh, Miss Neily," she burst out. "Please let me sleep in your room
tonight! It's only when my jaw drops that I snore - I can tie it up
with a handkerchief!"
"I wish you'd tie it up with a handkerchief now," said her mistress
absent-mindedly, still pondering the message that the pointer had
spelled. "B - A - T - Bat!" she murmured. Thought-transference -
warning - accident? Whatever it was, it was - nerve-shaking. She
put the ouija-board aside. Accident or not, she was done with it
for the evening. But she could not so easily dispose of the Bat.
Sending a protesting Lizzie off for her reading glasses, Miss
Cornelia got the evening paper and settled down to what by now had
become her obsession. She had not far to search for a long black
streamer ran across the front page - "Bat Baffles Police Again."
She skimmed through the article with eerie fascination, reading
bits of it aloud for Lizzie's benefit.
"'Unique criminal - long baffled the police - record of his crimes
shows him to be endowed with an almost diabolical ingenuity - so
far there is no clue to his identity - '" Pleasant reading for
an old woman who's just received a threatening letter, she thought
ironically - ah, here was something new in a black-bordered box
on the front page - a statement by the paper.
She read it aloud. "'We must cease combing the criminal world for
the Bat and look higher. He may be a merchant - a lawyer - a Doctor
- honored in his community by day and at night a bloodthirsty
assassin - '" The print blurred before her eyes, she could read no
more for the moment. She thought of the revolver in the drawer of
the table close at hand and felt glad that it was there, loaded.
"I'm going to take the butcher knife to bed with me!" Lizzie was
Miss Cornelia touched the ouija-board. "That thing certainly
spelled Bat," she remarked. "I wish I were a man. I'd like to see
any lawyer, Doctor, or merchant of my acquaintance leading a double
life without my suspecting it."
"Every man leads a double life and some more than that," Lizzie
observed. "I guess it rests them, like it does me to take off my
Miss Cornelia opened her mouth to rebuke her but just at that moment
there, was a clink of ice from the hall, and Billy, the Japanese,
entered carrying a tray with a pitcher of water and some glasses on
it. Miss Cornelia watched his impassive progress, wondering if the
Oriental races ever felt terror - she could not imagine all Lizzie's
banshees and kelpies producing a single shiver from Billy. He set
down the tray and was about to go as silently as he had come when
Miss Cornelia spoke to him on impulse.
"Billy, what's all this about the cook's sister not having twins?"
she said in an offhand voice. She had not really discussed the
departure of the other servants with Billy before. "Did you happen
to know that this interesting event was anticipated?"
Billy drew in his breath with a polite hiss. "Maybe she have
twins," he admitted. "It happen sometime. Mostly not expected."
"Do you think there was any other reason for her leaving?"
"Maybe," said Billy blandly.
"Well, what was the reason?"
"All say the same thing - house haunted." Billy's reply was prompt
as it was calm.
Miss Cornelia gave a slight laugh. "You know better than that,
though, don't you?"
Billy's Oriental placidity remained unruffled. He neither admitted
nor denied. He shrugged his shoulders.
"Funny house," he said laconically. "Find window open - nobody
there. Door slam - nobody there!"
On the heels of his words came a single, startling bang from the
kitchen quarters - the bang of a slammed door!
ALOPECIA AND RUBEOLA
Miss Cornelia dropped her newspaper. Lizzie, frankly frightened,
gave a little squeal and moved closer to her mistress. Only Billy
remained impassive but even he looked sharply in the direction
whence the sound had come.
Miss Cornelia was the first of the others to recover her poise.
"Stop that! It was the wind!" she said, a little irritably - the
"Stop that!" addressed to Lizzie who seemed on the point of
"I think not wind," said Billy. His very lack of perturbation added
weight to the statement. It made Miss Cornelia uneasy. She took
out her knitting again.
"How long have you lived in this house, Billy?"
"Since Mr. Fleming built."
"H'm." Miss Cornelia pondered. "And this is the first time you
have been disturbed?"
"Last two days only." Billy would have made an ideal witness in a
courtroom. He restricted himself so precisely to answering what
was asked of him in as few words as possible.
Miss Cornelia ripped out a row in her knitting. She took a deep
"What about that face Lizzie said you saw last night at the window?"
she asked in a steady voice.
Billy grinned, as if slightly embarrassed. "Just face - that's all."
"A - man's face?"
He shrugged again.
"Don't know - maybe. It there! It gone!"
Miss Cornelia did not want to believe him - but she did. "Did you
go out after it?" she persisted.
Billy's yellow grin grew wider. "No thanks," he said cheerfully
with ideal succinctness.
Lizzie, meanwhile, had stood first on one foot and then on the
other during the interrogation, terror and morbid interest fighting
in her for mastery. Now she could hold herself in no longer.
"Oh, Miss Neily!" she exploded in a graveyard moan, "last night
when the lights went out I had a token! My oil lamp was full of
oil but, do what I would, it kept going out, too - the minute I
shut my eyes out that lamp would go. There ain't a surer token
of death! The Bible says, 'Let your light shine' - and when a
hand you can't see puts your lights out - good night!"
She ended in a hushed whisper and even Billy looked a trifle
uncomfortable after her climax.
"Well,, now that you've cheered us up," began Miss Cornelia
undauntedly, but a long, ominous roll of thunder that rattled the
panes in the French windows drowned out the end of her sentence.
Nevertheless she welcomed the thunder as a diversion. At least
its menace was a physical one - to be guarded against by physical
She rose and went over to the French windows. That flimsy bolt!
She parted the curtains and looked out - a flicker of lightning
stabbed the night - the storm must be almost upon them.
"Bring some candles, Billy," she said. "The lights may be going
out any moment - and Billy," as he started to leave, "there's a
gentleman arriving on the last train. After he comes you may go
to bed. I'll wait up for Miss Dale - oh, and Billy," arresting
him at the door, "see that all the outer doors on this floor are
locked and bring the keys here."
Billy nodded and departed. Miss Cornelia took a long breath. Now
that the moment for waiting had passed - the moment for action come
- she felt suddenly indomitable, prepared to face a dozen Bats!
Her feelings were not shared by her maid. "I know what all this
means," moaned Lizzie. "I tell you there's going to be a death,
"There certainly will be if you don't keep quiet," said her
mistress acidly. "Lock the billiard-room windows and go to bed."
But this was the last straw for Lizzie. A picture of the two
long, dark flights of stairs up which she had to pass to reach her
bedchamber rose before her - and she spoke her mind.
"I am not going to bed!" she said wildly. "I'm going to pack up
tomorrow and leave this house." That such a threat would never be
carried out while she lived made little difference to her - she
was beyond the need of Truth's consolations. "I asked you on my
bended knees not to take this place two miles from a railroad,"
she went on heatedly. "For mercy's sake, Miss Neily, let's go
back to the city before it's too late!"
Miss Cornelia was inflexible.
"I'm not going. You can make up your mind to that. I'm going to
find out what's wrong with this place if it takes all summer. I
came out to the country for a rest and I'm going to get it."
"You'll get your heavenly rest!" mourned Lizzie, giving it up. She
looked pitifully at her mistress's face for a sign that the latter
might be weakening - but no such sign came. Instead, Miss Cornelia
seemed to grow more determined.
"Besides," she said, suddenly deciding to share the secret she had
hugged to herself all day, "I might as well tell you, Lizzie. I'm
having a detective sent down tonight from police headquarters in
"A detective?" Lizzie's face was horrified. "Miss Neily, you're
keeping something from me! You know something I don't know."
"I hope so. I daresay he will be stupid enough. Most of them are.
But at least we can have one proper night's sleep."
"Not I. I trust no man," said Lizzie. But Miss Cornelia had
picked up the paper again.
"'The Bat's last crime was a particularly atrocious one,'" she
read. "'The body of the murdered man...'"
But Lizzie could bear no more.
"Why don't you read the funny page once in a while?" she wailed and
hurried to close the windows in the billiard room. The door leading
into the billiard room shut behind her.
Miss Cornelia remained reading for a moment. Then - was that a
sound from the alcove? She dropped the paper, went into the alcove
and stood for a moment at the foot of the stairs, listening. No -
it must have been imagination. But, while she was here, she might
as well put on the spring lock that bolted the door from the alcove
to the terrace. She did so, returned to the living-room and
switched off the lights for a moment to look out at the coming storm.
It was closer now - the lightning flashes more continuous. She
turned on the lights again as Billy re-entered with three candles
and a box of matches.
He put them down on a side table.
"New gardener come," he said briefly to Miss Cornelia's back.
Miss Cornelia turned. "Nice hour for him to get here. What's his
"Say his name Brook," said Billy, a little doubtful. English names
still bothered him - he was never quite sure of them at first.
Miss Cornelia thought. "Ask him to come in," she said. "And Billy
- where are the keys?"
Billy silently took two keys from his pocket and laid them on the
table. Then he pointed to the terrace door which Miss Cornelia had
"Door up there - spring lock," he said.
"Yes." She nodded. "And the new bolt you put on today makes it
fairly secure. One thing is fairly sure, Billy. If anyone tries
to get in tonight, he will have to break a window and make a certain
amount of noise."
But he only smiled his curious enigmatic smile and went out. And
no sooner had Miss Cornelia seated herself when the door of the
billiard room slammed open suddenly and Lizzie burst into the room
as if she had been shot from a gun - her hair wild - her face
stricken with fear.
"I heard somebody yell out in the grounds - away down by the gate!"
she informed her mistress in a loud stage whisper which had a
curious note of pride in it, as if she were not too displeased at
seeing her doleful predictions so swiftly coming to pass.
Miss Cornelia took her by the shoulder - half-startled, half-dubious.
"What did they yell?"
"Just yelled a yell!"
"I heard them!"
But she had cried "Wolf!" too often.
"You take a liver pill," said her mistress disgustedly, "and go to
Lizzie was about to protest both the verdict on her story and the
judgment on herself when the door in the hall was opened by Billy
to admit the new gardener. A handsome young fellow, in his late
twenties, he came two steps into the room and then stood there
respectfully with his cap in his hand, waiting for Miss Cornelia
to speak to him.
After a swift glance of observation that gave her food for thought
she did so.
"You are Brooks, the new gardener?"
The young man inclined his head.
"Yes, madam. The butler said you wanted to speak to me.
Miss Cornelia regarded him anew. His hands look soft - for a
gardener's, she thought. And his manners seem much too good for one
- Still -
"Come in," she said briskly. The young man advanced another two
steps. "You're the man my niece engaged in the city this afternoon?"
"Yes, madam." He seemed a little uneasy under her searching
scrutiny. She dropped her eyes.
"I could not verify your references as the Brays are in Canada - "
The young man took an eager step forward. "I am sure if Mrs. Bray
were here - " he began, then flushed and stopped, twisting his cap.
"Were here?" said Miss Cornelia in a curious voice. "Are you a
"Yes." The young man's manner had grown a trifle defiant but Miss
Cornelia's next question followed remorselessly.
"Know anything about hardy perennials?" she said in a soothing voice,
while Lizzie regarded the interview with wondering eyes.
"Oh. yes," but the young man seemed curiously lacking in confidence.
"They - they're the ones that keep their leaves during the winter,
"Come over here - closer - " said Miss Cornelia imperiously. Once
more she scrutinized him and this time there was no doubt of his
discomfort under her stare.