The Case of The Pool of Blood in the Pastor's Study
by Grace Isabel Colbron and Augusta Groner
INTRODUCTION TO JOE MULLER
Joseph Muller, Secret Service detective of the Imperial Austrian
police, is one of the great experts in his profession. In
personality he differs greatly from other famous detectives. He
has neither the impressive authority of Sherlock Holmes, nor the
keen brilliancy of Monsieur Lecoq. Muller is a small, slight,
plain-looking man, of indefinite age, and of much humbleness of
mien. A naturally retiring, modest disposition, and two external
causes are the reasons for Muller's humbleness of manner, which
is his chief characteristic. One cause is the fact that in early
youth a miscarriage of justice gave him several years in prison,
an experience which cast a stigma on his name and which made it
impossible for him, for many years after, to obtain honest
employment. But the world is richer, and safer, by Muller's
early misfortune. For it was this experience which threw him
back on his own peculiar talents for a livelihood, and drove him
into the police force. Had he been able to enter any other
profession, his genius might have been stunted to a mere pastime,
instead of being, as now, utilised for the public good.
Then, the red tape and bureaucratic etiquette which attaches to
every governmental department, puts the secret service men of the
Imperial police on a par with the lower ranks of the subordinates.
Muller's official rank is scarcely much higher than that of a
policeman, although kings and councillors consult him and the
Police Department realises to the full what a treasure it has in
him. But official red tape, and his early misfortune ... prevent
the giving of any higher official standing to even such a genius.
Born and bred to such conditions, Muller understands them, and
his natural modesty of disposition asks for no outward honours,
asks for nothing but an income sufficient for his simple needs,
and for aid and opportunity to occupy himself in the way he most
Joseph Muller's character is a strange mixture. The
kindest-hearted man in the world, he is a human bloodhound when
once the lure of the trail has caught him. He scarcely eats or
sleeps when the chase is on, he does not seem to know human
weakness nor fatigue, in spite of his frail body. Once put on
a case his mind delves and delves until it finds a clue, then
something awakes within him, a spirit akin to that which holds
the bloodhound nose to trail, and he will accomplish the apparently
impossible, he will track down his victim when the entire machinery
of a great police department seems helpless to discover anything.
The high chiefs and commissioners grant a condescending permission
when Muller asks, "May I do this? ... or may I handle this case
this way?" both parties knowing all the while that it is a farce,
and that the department waits helpless until this humble little
man saves its honour by solving some problem before which its
intricate machinery has stood dazed and puzzled.
This call of the trail is something that is stronger than anything
else in Muller's mentality, and now and then it brings him into
conflict with the department, ... or with his own better nature.
Sometimes his unerring instinct discovers secrets in high places,
secrets which the Police Department is bidden to hush up and leave
untouched. Muller is then taken off the case, and left idle for
a while if he persists in his opinion as to the true facts. And
at other times, Muller's own warm heart gets him into trouble. He
will track down his victim, driven by the power in his soul which
is stronger than all volition; but when he has this victim in the
net, he will sometimes discover him to be a much finer, better man
than the other individual, whose wrong at this particular criminal's
hand set in motion the machinery of justice. Several times that
has happened to Muller, and each time his heart got the better of
his professional instincts, of his practical common-sense, too,
perhaps, ... at least as far as his own advancement was concerned,
and he warned the victim, defeating his own work. This peculiarity
of Muller's character caused his undoing at last, his official
undoing that is, and compelled his retirement from the force. But
his advice is often sought unofficially by the Department, and to
those who know, Muller's hand can be seen in the unravelling of
many a famous case.
The following stories are but a few of the many interesting cases
that have come within the experience of this great detective.
But they give a fair portrayal of Muller's peculiar method of
working, his looking on himself as merely an humble member of the
Department, and the comedy of his acting under "official orders"
when the Department is in reality following out his directions.
JOE MULLER: DETECTIVE
THE CASE OF THE POOL OF BLOOD IN THE PASTOR'S STUDY
by Grace Isabel Colbron and Augusta Groner
The sun rose slowly over the great bulk of the Carpathian mountains
lying along the horizon, weird giant shapes in the early morning
mist. It was still very quiet in the village. A cock crowed here
and there, and swallows flew chirping close to the ground, darting
swiftly about preparing for their higher flight. Janci the shepherd,
apparently the only human being already up, stood beside the brook
at the point where the old bridge spans the streamlet, still
turbulent from the mountain floods. Janci was cutting willows to
make his Margit a new basket.
Once the shepherd raised his head from his work, for he thought he
heard a loud laugh somewhere in the near distance. But all seemed
silent and he turned back to his willows. The beauty of the
landscape about him was much too familiar a thing that he should
have felt or seen its charm. The violet hue of the distant woods,
the red gleaming of the heather-strewn moor, with its patches of
swamp from which the slow mist arose, the pretty little village with
its handsome old church and attractive rectory - Janci had known it
so long that he never stopped to realise how very charming, in its
gentle melancholy, it all was.
Also, Janci did not know that this little village of his home had
once been a flourishing city, and that an invasion of the Turks
had razed it to the ground leaving, as by a miracle, only the church
to tell of former glories.
The sun rose higher and higher. And now the village awoke to its
daily life. Voices of cattle and noises of poultry were heard
about the houses, and men and women began their accustomed round of
tasks. Janci found that he had gathered enough willow twigs by
this time. He tied them in a loose bundle and started on his
His path led through wide-stretching fields and vineyards past a
little hill, some distance from the village, on which stood a large
house. It was not a pleasant house to look at, not a house one
would care to live in, even if one did not know its use, for it
looked bare and repellant, covered with its ugly yellow paint, and
with all the windows secured with heavy iron bars. The trees that
surrounded it were tall and thick-foliaged, casting an added gloom
over the forbidding appearance of the house. At the foot of the
hill was a high iron fence, cutting off what lay behind it from
all the rest of the world. For this ugly yellow house enclosed
in its walls a goodly sum of hopeless human misery and misfortune.
It was an insane asylum.
For twenty years now, the asylum had stood on its hill, a source of
superstitious terror to the villagers, but at the same time a source
of added income. It meant money for them, for it afforded a
constant and ever-open market for their farm products and the output
of their home industry. But every now and then a scream or a harsh
laugh would ring out from behind those barred windows, and those in
the village who could hear, would shiver and cross themselves.
Shepherd Janci had little fear of the big house. His little hut
cowered close by the high iron gates, and he had a personal
acquaintance with most of the patients, with all of the attendants,
and most of all, with the kind elderly physician who was the head
of the establishment. Janci knew them all, and had a kind word
equally for all. But otherwise he was a silent man, living much
When the shepherd reached his little home, his wife came to meet
him with a call to breakfast. As they sat down at the table a
shadow moved past the little window. Janci looked up. "Who was
that?" asked Margit, looking up from her folded hands. She had
just finished her murmured prayer.
"Pastor's Liska," replied Janci indifferently, beginning his meal.
(Liska was the local abbreviation for Elizabeth.)'
"In such a hurry?" thought the shepherd's wife. Her curiosity would
not let her rest. "I hope His Reverence isn't ill again," she
remarked after a while. Janci did not hear her, for he was very
busy picking a fly out of his milk cup.
"Do you think Liska was going for the old man?" began Margit again
after a few minutes.
The "old man" was the name given by the people of the village, more
as a term of endearment than anything else, to the generally loved
and respected physician who was the head of the insane asylum. He
had become general mentor and oracle of all the village and was
known and loved by man, woman and child.
It's possible," answered Janci.
"His Reverence didn't look very well yesterday, or maybe the old
housekeeper has the gout again."
Janci gave a grunt which might have meant anything. The shepherd
was a silent man. Being alone so much had taught him to find his
own thoughts sufficient company. Ten minutes passed in silence
since Margit's last question, then some one went past the window.
There were two people this time, Liska and the old doctor. They
were walking very fast, running almost. Margit sprang up and
hurried to the door to look after them.
Janci sat still in his place, but he had laid aside his spoon and
with wide eyes was staring ahead of him, murmuring, "It's the pastor
this time; I saw him - just as I did the others."
"Shepherd, the inn-keeper wants to see you, there's something the
matter with his cow." cried a young man, coming from the other
direction and pushing in at the door past Margit, who stood there
staring up the road.
Janci was so deep in his own thoughts that he apparently did not
hear the boy's words. At all events he did not answer them, but
himself asked an unexpected question - a question that was not
addressed to the others in the room, but to something out and
beyond them. It was a strange question and it came from the lips
of a man whose mind was not with his body at that moment - whose
mind saw what others did not see.
"Who will be the next to go? And who will be our pastor now?"
These were Janci's words.
"What are you talking about, shepherd? Is it another one of your
visions?" exclaimed the young fellow who stood there before him.
Janci rubbed his hands over his eyes and seemed to come down to
earth with a start.
"Oh, is that you, Ferenz? What do you want of me?"
The boy gave his message again, and Janci nodded good-humouredly
and followed him out of the house. But both he and his young
companion were very thoughtful as they plodded along the way. The
boy did not dare to ask any questions, for he knew that the shepherd
was not likely to answer. There was a silent understanding among
the villagers that no one should annoy Janci in any way, for they
stood in a strange awe of him, although he was the most
good-natured mortal under the sun.
While the shepherd and the boy walked toward the inn, the old
doctor and Liska had hurried onward to the rectory. They were met
at the door by the aged housekeeper, who staggered down the path
wringing her hands, unable to give voice to anything but
inarticulate expressions of grief and terror. The rest of the
household and the farm hands were gathered in a frightened group
in the great courtyard of the stately rectory which had once been
a convent building. The physician hurried up the stairs into the
pastor's apartments. These were high sunny and airy rooms with
arched ceilings, deep window seats, great heavy doors and
handsomely ornamented stoves. The simple modern furniture appeared
still more plain and common-place by contrast with the huge spaces
of the building.
In one of the rooms a gendarme was standing beside the window. The
man saluted the physician, then shrugged his shoulders with an
expression of hopelessness. The doctor returned a silent greeting
and passed through into the next apartment. The old man was paler
than usual and his face bore an expression of pain and surprise,
the same expression that showed in the faces of those gathered
downstairs. The room he now entered was large like the others, the
walls handsomely decorated, and every corner of it was flooded with
sunshine. There were two men in this room, the village magistrate
and the notary. Their expression, as they held out their hands
to the doctor, showed that his coming brought great relief. And
there was something else in the room, something that drew the eyes
of all three of the men immediately after their silent greeting.
This was a great pool of blood which lay as a hideous stain on the
otherwise clean yellow-painted floor. The blood must have flowed
from a dreadful wound, from a severed artery even, the doctor
thought, there was such a quantity of it. It had already dried and
darkened, making its terrifying ugliness the more apparent.
"This is the third murder in two years," said the magistrate in a
"And the most mysterious of all of them," added the clerk.
"Yes, it is," said the doctor. "And there is not a trace of the
body, you say? - or a clue as to where they might have taken the
dead - or dying man?"
With these words he looked carefully around the room, but there
was no more blood to be seen anywhere. Any spot would have been
clearly visible on the light-coloured floor. There was nothing
else to tell of the horrible crime that had been committed here,
nothing but the great, hideous, brown-red spot in the middle of
"Have you made a thorough search for the body?" asked the doctor.
The magistrate shook his head. "No, I have done nothing to speak
of yet. We have been waiting for you. There is a gendarme at the
gate; no one can go in or out without being seen."
"Very well, then, let us begin our search now."
The magistrate and his companion turned towards the door of the
room but the doctor motioned them to come back. "I see you do not
know the house as well as I do," he said, and led the way towards
a niche in the side of the wall, which was partially filled by a
"Ah - that is the entrance of the passage to the church?" asked
the magistrate in surprise.
Yes, this is it. The door is not locked."
"You mean you believe - "
"That the murderers came in from the church? Why not? It is
"To think of such a thing!" exclaimed the notary with a shake of
The doctor laughed bitterly. "To those who are planning a murder,
a church is no more than any other place. There is a bolt here as
you see. I will close this bolt now. Then we can leave the room
knowing that no one can enter it without being seen."
The simple furniture of the study, a desk, a sofa, a couple of
chairs and several bookcases, gave no chance of any hiding place
either for the body of the victim or for the murderers. When the
men left the room the magistrate locked the door and put the key
in his own pocket. The gendarme in the neighbouring apartment was
sent down to stand in the courtyard at the entrance to the house.
The sexton, a little hunchback, was ordered to remain in the vestry
at the other end of the passage from the church to the house.
Then the thorough search of the house began. Every room in both
stories, every corner of the attic and the cellar, was looked over
thoroughly. The stable, the barns, the garden and even the well
underwent a close examination. There was no trace of a body
anywhere, not even a trail of blood, nothing which would give the
slightest clue as to how the murderers had entered, how they had
fled, or what they had done with their victim.
The great gate of the courtyard was closed. The men, reinforced by
the farm hands, entered the church, while Liska and the dairy-maids
huddled in the servants' dining-room in a trembling group around
the old housekeeper. The search in the church as well as in the
vestry was equally in vain. There was no trace to be found there
any more than in the house.
Meanwhile, during these hours of anxious seeking, the rumour of
another terrible crime had spread through the village, and a crowd
that grew from minute to minute gathered in front of the closed
gates to the rectory, in front of the church, the closed doors of
which did not open although it was a high feast day. The utter
silence from the steeple, where the bells hung mute, added to the
spreading terror. Finally the doctor came out from the rectory,
accompanied by the magistrate, and announced to the waiting
villagers that their venerable pastor had disappeared under
circumstances which left no doubt that he had met his death at
the hand of a murderer. The peasants listened in shuddering silence,
the men pale-faced, the women sobbing aloud with frightened children
hanging to their skirts. Then at the magistrate's order, the crowd
dispersed slowly, going to their homes, while a messenger set off
to the near-by county seat.
It was a weird, sad Easter Monday. Even nature seemed to feel the
pressure of the brooding horror, for heavy clouds piled up towards
noon and a chill wind blew fitfully from the north, bending the
young corn and the creaking tree-tops, and moaning about the
straw-covered roofs. Then an icy cold rain descended on the village,
sending the children, the only humans still unconscious of the fear
that had come on them all, into the houses to play quietly in the
corner by the hearth.
There was nothing else spoken of wherever two or three met together
throughout the village except this dreadful, unexplainable thing
that had happened in the rectory. The little village inn was full
to overflowing and the hum of voices within was like the noise of
an excited beehive. Everyone had some new explanation, some new
guess, and it was not until the notary arrived, looking even more
important than usual, that silence fell upon the excited throng.
But the expectations aroused by his coming were not fulfilled. The
notary knew no more than the others although he had been one of the
searchers in the rectory. But he was in no haste to disclose his
ignorance, and sat wrapped in a dignified silence until some one
found courage to question him.
"Was there nothing stolen?" he was asked.
"No, nothing as far as we can tell yet. But if it was the gypsies
- as may be likely - they are content with so little that it would
not be noticed."
Gypsies?" exclaimed one man scornfully. "It doesn't have to be
gypsies, we've got enough tramps and vagabonds of our own. Didn't
they kill the pedlar for the sake of a bag of tobacco, and old
Katiza for a couple of hens?"
"Why do you rake up things that happened twenty years ago?" cried
another over the table. "You'd better tell us rather who killed Red
Betty, and pulled Janos, the smith's farm hand, down into the swamp?"
"Yes, or who cut the bridge supports, when the brook was in flood,
so that two good cows broke through and drowned?"
"Yes, indeed, if we only knew what band of robbers and villains it
is that is ravaging our village."
"And they haven't stopped yet, evidently."
This is the worst misfortune of all! What will our poor do now
that they have murdered our good pastor, who cared for us all like
"He gave all he had to the poor, he kept nothing for himself."
"Yes, indeed, that's how it was. And now we can't even give this
good man Christian burial."
"Shepherd Janci knew this morning early that we were going to have
a new pastor," whispered the landlord in the notary's ear. The
latter looked up astonished. "Who said so?" he asked.
"My boy Ferenz, who went to fetch him about seven o'clock. One of
my cows was sick."
Ferenz was sent for and told his story. The men listened with
great interest, and the, smith, a broad-shouldered elderly man,
was particularly eager to hear, as he had always believed in the
shepherd's power of second sight. The tailor, who was more
modern-minded, laughed and made his jokes at this. But the smith
laid one mighty hand on the other's shoulder, almost crushing the
tailor's slight form under its weight, and said gravely: "Friend, do
you be silent in this matter. You've come from other parts and you
do not know of things that have happened here in days gone by. Janci
can do more than take care of his sheep. One day, when my little
girl was playing in the street, he said to me, 'Have a care of
Maruschka, smith!' and three days later the child was dead. The
evening before Red Betty was murdered he saw her in a vision lying
in a coffin in front of her door. He told it to the sexton, whom
he met in the fields; and next morning they found Betty dead. And
there are many more things that I could tell you, but what's the
use; when a man won't believe it's only lost talk to try to make
him. But one thing you should know: when Janci stares ahead of
him without seeing what's in front of him, then the whole village
begins to wonder what's going to happen, for Janci knows far more
than all the rest of us put together."
The smith's grave, deep voice filled the room and the others
listened in a silence that gave assent to his words. He had
scarcely finished speaking, however, when there was a noise of
galloping hoofs and rapidly rolling wagon wheels. A tall brake
drawn by four handsome horses dashed past in a whirlwind.
"It's the Count - the Count and the district judge," said the
landlord in a tone of respect. The notary made a grab at his hat
and umbrella and hurried from the room. "That shows how much they
thought of our pastor," continued the landlord proudly. "For the
Count himself has come and with four horses, too, to get here the
more quickly. His Reverence was a great friend of the Countess."
"They didn't make so much fuss over the pedlar and Betty," murmured
the cobbler, who suffered from a perpetual grouch. But he followed
the others, who paid their scores hastily and went out into the
streets that they might watch from a distance at least what was
going on in the rectory. The landlord bustled about the inn to have
everything in readiness in case the gentlemen should honour him by
taking a meal, and perhaps even lodgings, at his house. At the gate
of the rectory the coachman and the maid Liska stood to receive the
newcomers, just as five o'clock was striking from the steeple.
It should have been still quite light, but it was already dusk, for
the clouds hung heavy. The rain had ceased, but a heavy wind came
up which tore the delicate petals of the blossoms from the fruit
trees and strewed them like snow on the ground beneath. The Count,
who was the head of one of the richest and most aristocratic
families in Hungary, threw off his heavy fur coat and hastened up
the stairs at the top of which his old friend and confidant, the
venerable pastor, usually came to meet him. To-day it was only the
local magistrate who stood there, bowing deeply.
"This is incredible, incredible!" exclaimed the Count.
"It is, indeed, sir," said the man, leading the magnate through the
dining-room into the pastor's study, where, as far as could be seen,
the murder had been committed. They were joined by the district
judge, who had remained behind to give an order sending a carriage
to the nearest railway station. The judge, too, was serious and
deeply shocked, for he also had greatly admired and revered the old
pastor. The stately rectory had been the scene of many a jovial
gathering when the lord of the manor had made it a centre for a day's
hunting with his friends. The bearers of some of the proudest names
in all Hungary had gathered in the high-arched rooms to laugh with
the venerable pastor and to sample the excellent wines in his cellar.
These wines, which the gentlemen themselves would send in as
presents to the master of the rectory, would be carefully preserved
for their own enjoyment. Not a landed proprietor for many leagues
around but knew and loved the old pastor, who had now so strangely
disappeared under such terrifying circumstances.
"Well, we might as well begin our examination," remarked the Count.
"Although if Dr. Orszay's sharp eyes did not find anything, I doubt
very much if we will. You have asked the doctor to come here again,
"Yes, your Grace! As soon as I saw you coming I sent the sexton to
the asylum." Then the men went in again into the room which had
been the scene of the mysterious crime. The wind rattled the open
window and blew out its white curtains. It was already dark in the
corners of the room, one could see but indistinctly the carvings of
the wainscoting. The light backs of the books, or the gold letters
on the darker bindings, made spots of brightness in the gloom. The
hideous pool of blood in the centre of the floor was still plainly
to be seen.
"Judging by the loss of blood, death must have come quickly."
"There was no struggle, evidently, for everything in the room was
in perfect order when we entered it."
"There is not even a chair misplaced. His Bible is there on the
desk, he may have been preparing for to-day's sermon."
"Yes, that is the case; because see, here are some notes in his
The Count and Judge von Kormendy spoke these sentences at intervals
as they made their examination of the room. The local magistrate
was able to answer one or two simpler questions, but for the most
part he could only shrug his shoulders in helplessness. Nothing had
been seen or heard that was at all unusual during the night in the
rectory. When the old housekeeper was called up she could say
nothing more than this. Indeed, it was almost impossible for the
old woman to say anything, her voice choked with sobs at every
second word. None of the household force had noticed anything
unusual, or could remember anything at all that would throw light
on this mystery.
"Well, then, sir, we might just as well sit down and wait for the
detective's arrival," said the judge.
"You are waiting for some one besides the doctor?" asked the local
"Yes, His Grace telegraphed to Budapest," answered the district
judge, looking at his watch. "And if the train is on time, the man
we are waiting for ought to be here in an hour. You sent the
carriage to the station, didn't you? Is the driver reliable?"
"Yes, sir, he is a dependable man," said the old housekeeper.
Dr. Orszay entered the room just then and the Count introduced him
to the district judge, who was still a stranger to him.
"I fear, Count, that our eyes will serve but little in discovering
the truth of this mystery," said the doctor.
The nobleman nodded. "I agree with you," he replied. "And I have
sent for sharper eyes than either yours or mine."
The doctor looked his question, and the Count continued: "When the
news came to me I telegraphed to Pest for a police detective,
telling them that the case was peculiar and urgent. I received an
answer as I stopped at the station on my way here. This is it:
'Detective Joseph Muller from Vienna in Budapest by chance. Have
sent him to take your case.'"
"Muller?" exclaimed Dr. Orszay. "Can it be the celebrated Muller,
the most famous detective of the Austrian police? That would indeed
be a blessing."
"I hope and believe that it is," said the Count gravely. "I have
heard of this man and we need such a one here that we may find the
source of these many misfortunes which have overwhelmed our peaceful
village for two years past. It is indeed a stroke of good luck that
has led a man of such gifts into our neighbourhood at a time when
he is so greatly needed. I believe personally that it is the same
person or persons who have been the perpetrators of all these
outrages and I intend once for all to put a stop to it, let it cost
what it may."
"If any one can discover the truth it will be Muller," said the
district judge. "It was I who told the Count how fortunate we were
that this man, who is known to the police throughout Austria and far
beyond the borders of our kingdom, should have chanced to be in
Budapest and free to come to us when we called. You and I" - he
turned with a smile to the local magistrate - "you and I can get
away with the usual cases of local brutality hereabouts. But the
cunning that is at the bottom of these crimes is one too many for
The men had taken their places around the great dining-table. The
old housekeeper had crept out again, her terror making her forget
her usual hospitality. And indeed it would not have occurred to the
guests to ask or even to wish for any refreshment. The maid brought
a lamp, which sent its weak rays scarcely beyond the edges of the
big table. The four men sat in silence for some time.
"I suppose it would be useless to ask who has been coming and going
from the rectory the last few days?" began the Count.
"Oh, yes, indeed, sir," said the district judge with a sigh. "For
if this murderer is the same who committed the other crimes he must
live here in or near the village, and therefore must be known to
all and not likely to excite suspicion."
"I beg your pardon, sir," put in the doctor. "There must be at
least two of them. One man alone could not have carried off the
farm hand who was killed to the swamp where his body was found.
Nor could one man alone have taken away the bloody body of the
pastor. Our venerable friend was a man of size and weight, as
you know, and one man alone could not have dragged his body from
he room without leaving an easily seen trail."
The judge blushed, but he nodded in affirmation to the doctor's
words. This thought had not occurred to him before. In fact, the
judge was more notable for his good will and his love of justice
rather than for his keen intelligence. He was as well aware of
this as was any one else, and he was heartily glad that the Count
had sent to the capital for reinforcements.
Some time more passed in deep silence. Each of the men was occupied
with his own thoughts. A sigh broke the silence now and then, and
a slight movement when one or the other drew out his watch or raised
his head to look at the door. Finally, the sound of a carriage
outside was heard. The men sprang up.
The driver's voice was heard, then steps which ascended the stairs
lowly and lightly, audible only because the stillness was so great.
The door opened and a small, slight, smooth-shaven man with a gentle
face and keen grey eyes stood on the threshold. "I am Joseph
Muller," he said with a low, soft voice.
The four men in the room looked at him in astonishment.
"This simple-looking individual is the man that every one is afraid
of?" thought the Count, as he walked forward and held out his hand
"I sent for you, Mr. Muller," said the magnate, conscious of his
stately size and appearance, as well as of his importance in the
presence of a personage who so little looked what his great fame
might have led one to expect.
" Then you are Count -?" answered Muller gently. "I was in
Budapest, having just finished a difficult case which took me there.
They told me that a mysterious crime had happened in your
neighbourhood, and sent me here to take charge of it. You will
pardon any ignorance I may show as a stranger to this locality.
I will do my best and it may be possible that I can help you."
The Count introduced the other gentlemen in order and they sat down
again at the table.
"And now what is it you want me for, Count?" asked Muller.
"There was a murder committed in this house," answered the Count.
"Who is the victim?"
"How was he killed?"
We do not know."
"You are not a physician, then?" asked Muller, turning to Orszay.
"Yes, I am," answered the latter.
"The body is missing," said Orszay, somewhat sharply.
"Missing?" Muller became greatly interested. "Will you please
lead me to the scene of the crime?" he said, rising from his chair.
The others led him into the next room, the magistrate going ahead
with a lamp. The judge called for mote lights and the group stood
around the pool of blood on the floor of the study. Muller's arms
were crossed on his breast as he stood looking down at the hideous
spot. There was no terror in his eyes, as in those of the others,
but only a keen attention and a lively interest.
"Who has been in this room since the discovery?" he asked.
The doctor replied that only the servants of the immediate household,
the notary, the magistrate, and himself, then later the Count and
the district judge entered the room.
"You are quite certain that no one else has been in here?"
"No, no one else."
"Will you kindly send for the three servants?" The magistrate left
"Who else lives in the house?"
"The sexton and the dairymaid."
"And no one else has left the house to-day or has entered it?"
"No one. The main door has been watched all day by a gendarme."
"Is there but one door out of this room?"
"No, there is a small door beside that bookcase."
"Where does it lead to?"
"It leads to a passageway at the end of which there is a stair down
into the vestry."
Muller gave an exclamation of surprise.
"The vestry as well as the church have neither of them been opened
on the side toward the street."
"The church or the vestry, you mean," corrected Muller. "How many
doors have they on the street side?"
"The locks on these doors were in good condition?"
"Yes, they were untouched."
"Was there anything stolen from the church?"
"No, nothing that we could see."
"Was the pastor rich?"
"No, he was almost a poor man, for he gave away all that he had."
"But you were his patron, Count."
"I was his friend. He was the confidential adviser of myself and
"This would mean rich presents now and then, would it not?"
"No, that is not the case. Our venerable pastor would take nothing
for himself. He would accept no presents but gifts of money for
"Then you do not believe this to have been a murder for the sake
"No. There was nothing disturbed in any part of the house, no
drawers or cupboards broken open at all."
Muller smiled. "I have heard it said that your romantic Hungarian
bandits will often be satisfied with the small booty they may find
in the pocket or on the person of their victim."
"You are right, Mr. Muller. But that is only when they can find
"Or perhaps if it is a case of revenge.
"It cannot be revenge in this case!"
"The pastor was greatly loved?"
"He was loved and revered."
"By every one?"
"By every one!" the four men answered at once.
Muller was still a while. His eyes were veiled and his face
thoughtful. Finally he raised his head. "There has been nothing
moved or changed in this room?"
"No - neither here nor anywhere else in the house or the church,"
answered the local magistrate.
"That is good. Now I would like to question the servants."
Muller had already started for the door, then he turned back into
the room and pointing toward the second door he asked: "Is that
"Yes," answered the Count. "I found it locked when I examined it
myself a short time ago."
"It was locked on the inside?"
"Yes, locked on the inside."
"Very well. Then we have nothing more to do here for the time
being. Let us go back into the dining-room."
The men returned to the dining-room, Muller last, for he stopped
to lock the door of the study and put the key in his pocket. Then
he began his examination of the servants.
The old housekeeper, who, as usual, was the first to rise in the
household, had also, as usual, rung the bell to waken the other
servants. Then when Liska came downstairs she had sent her up
to the pastor's room. His bedroom was to the right of the
diningroom. Liska had, as usual, knocked on the door exactly at
seven o'clock and continued knocking for some few minutes without
receiving any answer. Slightly alarmed, the girl had gone back
and told the housekeeper that the pastor did not answer.
Then the old woman asked the coachman to go up and see if anything
was the matter with the reverend gentleman. The man returned in
a few moments, pale and trembling in every limb and apparently
struck dumb by fright. He motioned the women to follow him, and
all three crept up the stairs. The coachman led them first to the
pastor's bed, which was untouched, and then to the pool of blood
in his study. The sight of the latter frightened the servants so
much that they did not notice at first that there was no sign of
the pastor himself, whom they now knew must have been murdered.
When they finally came to themselves sufficiently to take some
action, the man hurried off to call the magistrate, and Liska ran
to the asylum to fetch the old doctor; the pastor's intimate friend.
The aged housekeeper, trembling in fear, crept back to her own room
and sat there waiting the return of the others.
This was the story of the early morning as told by the three
servants, who had already given their report in much the same words
to the Count on his arrival and also to the magistrate. There was
no reason to doubt the words of either the old housekeeper or of
Janos, the coachman, who had served for more than twenty years in
the rectory and whose fidelity was known. The girl Liska was
scarcely eighteen, and her round childish face and big eyes dimmed
with tears, corroborated her story. When they had told Muller all
they knew, the detective sat stroking, his chin, and looking
thoughtfully at the floor. Then he raised his head and said, in a
tone of calm friendliness: "Well, good friends, this will do for
to-night. Now, if you will kindly give me a bite to eat and a
glass of some light wine, I'd be very thankful. I have had no
food since early this morning."
The housekeeper and the maid disappeared, and Janos went to the
stable to harness the Count's trap.
The magnate turned to the detective. "I thank you once more that
you have come to us. I appreciate it greatly that a stranger to
our part of the country, like yourself, should give his time and
strength to this problem of our obscure little village."
"There is nothing else calling me, sir," answered Muller. "And the
Budapest police will explain to headquarters at Vienna if I do not
return at once."
"Do you understand our tongue sufficiently to deal with these people
"Oh, yes; there will be no difficulty about that. I have hunted
criminals in Hungary before. And a case of this kind does not
usually call for disguises in which any accent would betray one."
"It is a strange profession," said the doctor.
"One gets used to it - like everything else," answered Muller, with
a gentle smile. "And now I have to thank you gentlemen for your
confidence in me."
"Which I know you will justify," said the Count.
Muller shrugged his shoulders: "I haven't felt anything yet - but
it will come - there's something in the air."
The Count smiled at his manner of expressing himself, but all four
of the men had already begun to feel sympathy and respect for this
quiet-mannered little person whose words were so few and whose
voice was so gentle. Something in his grey eyes and in the quiet
determination of his manner made them realise that he had won his
fame honestly. With the enthusiasm of his race the Hungarian Count
pressed the detective's hand in a warm grasp as he said: "I know
that we can trust in you. You will avenge the death of my old
friend and of those others who were killed here. The doctor and
the magistrate will tell you about them to-morrow. We two will go
home now. Telegraph us as soon as anything has happened. Every
one in the village will be ready to help you and of course you can
call on me for funds. Here is something to begin on. With these
words the Count laid a silk purse full of gold pieces on the table.
One more pressure of the hand and he was gone. The other men also
left the room, following the Count's lead in a cordial farewell of
the detective. They also shared the nobleman's feeling that now
indeed, with this man to help them, could the cloud of horror that
had hung over the village for two years, and had culminated in
the present catastrophe, be lifted.
The excitement of the Count's departure had died away and the steps
of the other men on their way to the village had faded in the
distance. There was nothing now to be heard but the rustling of
the leaves and the creaking of the boughs as the trees bent before
the onrush of the wind. Muller stood alone, with folded arms, in
the middle of the large room, letting his sharp eyes wander about
the circle of light thrown by the lamps. He was glad to be alone
- for only when he was alone could his brain do its best work. He
took up one of the lamps and opened the door to the room in which,
as far as could be known, the murder had been committed. He
walked in carefully and, setting the lamp on the desk, examined the
articles lying about on it. There was nothing of importance to be
found there. An open Bible and a sheet of paper with notes for the
day's sermon lay on top of the desk. In the drawers, none of which
were locked, were official papers, books, manuscripts of former
sermons, and a few unimportant personal notes.
The flame of the lamp flickered in the breeze that came from the
open window. But Muller did not close the casement. He wanted to
leave everything just as he had found it until daylight. When he
saw that it was impossible to leave the lamp there he took it up
again and left the room.
"What is the use of being impatient?" he said to himself. "If I
move about in this poor light I will be sure to ruin some possible
clue. For there must be some clue left here. It is impossible for
even the most practiced criminal not to leave some trace of his
The detective returned to the dining-room, locking the study door
carefully behind him. The maid and the coachman returned, bringing
in an abundant supper, and Muller sat down to do justice to the many
good things on the tray. When the maid returned to take away the
dishes she inquired whether she should put the guest chamber in
order for the detective. He told her not to go to any trouble for
his sake, that he would sleep in the bed in the neighbouring room.
"You going to sleep in there?" said the girl, horrified.
"Yes, my child, and I think I will sleep well to-night. I feel
very tired." Liska carried the things out, shaking her head in
surprise at this thin little man who did not seem to know what it
was to be afraid. Half an hour later the rectory was in darkness.
Before he retired, Muller had made a careful examination of the
pastor's bedroom. Nothing was disturbed anywhere, and it was
evident that the priest had not made any preparations for the
night, but was still at work at his desk in the study when death
overtook him. When he came to this conclusion, the detective went
to bed and soon fell asleep.
In his little hut near the asylum gates, shepherd Janci slept as
sound as usual. But he was dreaming and he spoke in his sleep.
There was no one to hear him, for his faithful Margit was snoring
loudly. Snatches of sentences and broken words came from Janci's
lips: "The hand - the big hand - I see it - at his throat - the
face - the yellow face - it laughs - "
Next morning the children on their way to school crept past the
rectory with wide eyes and open mouths. And the grown people
spoke in lower tones when their work led them past the handsome
old house. It had once been their pride, but now it was a place
of horror to them. The old housekeeper had succumbed to her
fright and was very ill. Liska went about her work silently,
and the farm servants walked more heavily and chattered less than
they had before. The hump-backed sexton, who had not been allowed
to enter the church and therefore had nothing to do, made an early
start for the inn, where he spent most of the day telling what
little he knew to the many who made an excuse to follow him there.
The only calm and undisturbed person in the rectory household was
Muller. He had made a thorough examination of the entire scene of
the murder, but had not found anything at all. Of one thing alone
was he certain: the murderer had come through the hidden passageway
from the church. There were two reasons to believe this, one of
which might possibly not be sufficient, but the other was conclusive.
The heavy armchair before the desk, the chair on which the pastor
was presumably sitting when the murderer entered, was half turned
around, turned in just such a way as it would have been had the man
who was sitting there suddenly sprung up in excitement or surprise.
The chair was pushed back a step from the desk and turned towards
the entrance to the passageway. Those who had been in the room
during the day had reported that they had not touched any one of
the articles of furniture, therefore the position of the chair was
the same that had been given it by the man who had sat in it, by
the murdered pastor himself.
Of course there was always the possibility that some one had moved
the chair without realising it. This clue, therefore, could not be
looked upon as an absolutely certain one had it stood alone. But
there was other evidence far more important. The great pool of
blood was just half-way between the door of the passage and the
armchair. It was here, therefore, that the attack had taken place.
The pastor could not have turned in this direction in the hope of
flight, for there was nothing here to give him shelter, no weapon
that he could grasp, not even a cane. He must have turned in this
direction to meet and greet the invader who had entered his room in
this unusual manner. Turned to meet him as a brave man would, with
no other weapon than the sacredness of his calling and his age.
But this had not been enough to protect the venerable priest. The
murderer must have made his thrust at once and his victim had sunk
down dying on the floor of the room in which he had spent so many
hours of quiet study, in which he had brought comfort and given
advice to so many anxious hearts; for dying he must have been - it
would be impossible for a man to lose so much blood and live.
"The struggle," thought the detective, "but was there a struggle?"
He looked about the room again, but could see nothing that showed
disorder anywhere in its immaculate neatness. No, there could have
been no struggle. It must have been a quick knife thrust and death
at once. " Not a shot?" No, a shot would have been heard by the
night watchman walking the streets near the church. The night was
quiet, the window open. Some one in the village would have heard
the noise of a shot. And it was not likely that the old housekeeper
who slept in the room immediately below, slept the light sleep of
the aged would have failed to have heard the firing of a pistol.
Muller took a chair and sat down directly in front of the pool of
blood, looking at it carefully. Suddenly he bowed his head deeper.
He had caught sight of a fine thread of the red fluid which had
been drawn out for about a foot or two in the direction towards
the door to the dining-room. What did that mean? Did it mean that
the murderer went out through that door, dragging something after
him that made this delicate line? Muller bent down still deeper.
The sun shone brightly on the floor, sending its clear rays
obliquely through the window. The sharp eyes which now covered
every inch of the yellow-painted floor discovered something else.
They discovered that this red thread curved slightly and had a
continuation in a fine scratch in the paint of the floor. Muller
followed up this scratch and it led him over towards the window and
then back again in wide curves, then out again under the desk and
finally, growing weaker and weaker, it came back to the neighbourhood
of the pool of blood, but on the opposite side of it. Muller got
down on his hands and knees to follow up the scratch. He did not
notice the discomfort of his position, his eyes shone in excitement
and a deep flush glowed in his cheeks. Also, he began to whistle
Joseph Muller, the bloodhound of the Austrian police, had found a
clue, a clue that soon would bring him to the trail he was seeking.
He did not know yet what he could do with his clue. But this much
he knew; sooner or later this scratch in the floor would lead him
to the murderer. The trail might be long and devious; but he would
follow it and at its end would be success. He knew that this scratch
had been made after the murder was committed; this was proved by the
blood that marked its beginning. And it could not have been made by
any of those who entered the room during the day because by that
time the blood had dried. This strange streak in the floor, with
its weird curves and spirals, could have been made only by the
murderer. But how? With what instrument? There was the riddle
which must be solved.
And now Muller, making another careful examination of the floor,
found something else. It was something that might be utterly
unimportant or might be of great value. It was a tiny bit of
hardened lacquer which he found on the floor beside one of the legs
of the desk. It was rounded out, with sharp edges, and coloured
grey with a tiny zigzag of yellow on its surface. Muller lifted it
carefully and looked at it keenly. This tiny bit of lacquer had
evidently been knocked off from some convex object, but it was
impossible to tell at the moment just what sort of an object it
might have been. There are so many different things which are
customarily covered with lacquer. However, further examination
brought him down to a narrower range of subjects. For on the inside
of the lacquer he found a shred of reddish wood fibre. It must have
been a wooden object, therefore, from which the lacquer came, and
the wood had been of reddish tinge.
Muller pondered the matter for a little while longer. Then he
placed his discovery carefully in the pastor's emptied tobacco-box,
and dropped the box in his own pocket. He closed the window and the
door to the dining-room, lit a lamp, and entered the passageway
leading to the vestry. It was a short passageway, scarcely more
than a dozen paces long.
The walls were whitewashed, the floor tiled and the entire passage
shone in neatness. Muller held the light of his lamp to every inch
of it, but there was nothing to show that the criminal had gone
through here with the body of his victim.
"The criminal" - Muller still thought of only one. His long
experience had taught him that the most intricate crimes were
usually committed by one man only. The strength necessary for such
a crime as this did not deceive him either. He knew that in
extraordinary moments extraordinary strength will come to the one
who needs it.
He now passed down the steps leading into the vestry. There was no
trace of any kind here either. The door into the vestry was not
locked. It was seldom locked, they had told him, for the vestry
itself was closed by a huge carved portal with a heavy ornamented
iron lock that could be opened only with the greatest noise and
trouble. This door was locked and closed as it had been since
yesterday morning. Everything in the vestry was in perfect order;
the priest's garments and the censers all in their places. Muller
assured himself of this before he left the little room. He then
opened the glass door that led down by a few steps into the church.
It was a beautiful old church, and it was a rich church also. It
was built in the older Gothic style, and its heavy, broad-arched
walls, its massive columns would have made it look cold and bare
had not handsome tapestries, the gift of the lady of the manor,
covered the walls. Fine old pictures hung here and there above the
altars, and handsome stained glass windows broke the light that fell
into the high vaulted interior. There were three great altars in
the church, all of them richly decorated. The main altar stood
isolated in the choir. In the open space behind it was the
entrance to the crypt, now veiled in a mysterious twilight. Heavy
silver candlesticks, three on a side, stood on the altar. The pale
gold of the tabernacle door gleamed between them.
Muller walked through the silent church, in which even his light
steps resounded uncannily. He looked into each of the pews, into
the confessionals, he walked around all the columns, he climbed up
into the pulpit, he did everything that the others had done before
him yesterday. And as with them, he found nothing that would
indicate that the murderer had spent any time in the church.
Finally he turned back once more to the main altar on his way out.
But he did not leave the church as he intended. His last look at
the altar had showed him something that attracted his attention and
he walked up the three steps to examine it more closely.
What he had seen was something unusual about one of the silver
candlesticks. These candlesticks had three feet, and five of them
were placed in such a way that the two front feet were turned toward
the spectator. But on the end candlestick nearest Muller the single
foot projected out to the front of the altar. This candlestick
therefore had been set down hastily, not placed carefully in the
order of things as were the others.
And not only this. The heavy wax candle which was in the candlestick
was burned down about a finger's breadth more than the others, for
these were all exactly of a height. Muller bent still nearer to
the candlestick, but he saw that the dim light in the church was not
sufficient. He went to one of the smaller side altars, took a candle
from there, lit it with one of the matches that he found in his own
pocket and returned with the burning candle to the main altar. The
steps leading up to this altar were covered by a large rug with a
white ground and a pattern of flowers. Looking carefully at it the
detective saw a tiny brown spot, the mark of a burn, upon one of the
white surfaces. Beside it lay a half used match.
Walking around this carefully, Muller approached the candlestick
that interested him and holding up his light he examined every inch
of its surface. He found what he was looking for. There were dark
red spots between the rough edges of the silver ornamentation.
"Then the body is somewhere around here," thought the detective and
came down from the steps, still holding the burning candle.
He walked slowly to the back of the altar. There was a little table
there such as held the sacred dishes for the communion service, and
the little carpet-covered steps which the sexton put out for the
pastor when he took the monstrance from the high-built tabernacle.
That was all that was to be seen in the dark corner behind the altar.
Holding his candle close to the floor Muller discovered an iron ring
fastened to one of the big stone flags. This must be the entrance
to the crypt.
Muller tried to raise the flag and was astonished to find how easily
it came up. It was a square of reddish marble, the same with which
the entire floor of the church was tiled. This flag was very thin
and could easily be raised and placed back against the wall. Muller
took up his candle, too greatly excited to stop to get a stick for
it. He felt assured that now he would soon be able to solve at
least a part of the mystery. He climbed down the steps carefully
and found that they led into the crypt as he supposed. They were
kept spotlessly clean, as was the entire crypt as far as he could
see it by the light of his flickering candle. He was not surprised
to discover that the air was perfectly pure here. There must be
windows or ventilators somewhere, this he knew from the way his
The ancient vault had a high arched ceiling and heavy massive
pillars. It was a subterranean repetition of the church above.
There had evidently been a convent attached to this church at one
time; for here stood a row of simple wooden coffins all exactly
alike, bearing each one upon its lid a roughly painted cross
surrounded by a wreath. Thus were buried the monks of days long past.
Muller walked slowly through the rows of coffins looking eagerly to
each side. Suddenly he stopped and stood still. His hand did not
tremble but his thin face was pale - pale as that face which looked
up at him out of one of the coffins. The lid of the coffin stood
up against the wall and Muller saw that there were several other
empty ones further on, waiting for their silent occupants.
The body in the open coffin before which Muller stood was the body
of the man who had been missing since the day previous. He lay
there quite peacefully, his hands crossed over his breast, his eyes
closed, a line of pain about his lips. In the crossed fingers was
a little bunch of dark yellow roses. At the first glance one might
almost have thought that loving hands had laid the old pastor in his
coffin. But the red stain on the white cloth about his throat, and
the bloody disorder of his snow-white hair contrasted sadly with the
look of peace on the dead face. Under his head was a white silk
cushion, one of the cushions from the altar.
Muller stood looking down for some time at this poor victim of a
strange crime, then he turned to go.
He wanted to know one thing more: how the murderer had left the
crypt. The flame of his candle told him, for it nearly went out
in a gust of wind that came down the opening right above him. This
was a window about three or four feet from the floor, protected by
rusty iron bars which had been sawed through, leaving the opening
free. It was a small window, but it was large enough to allow a man
of much greater size than Muller to pass through it. The detective
blew out his candle and climbed up onto the window sill. He found
himself outside, in a corner of the churchyard. A thicket of heavy
bushes grown up over neglected graves completely hid the opening
through which he had come. There were thorns on these bushes and
also a few scattered roses, dark yellow roses.
Muller walked thoughtfully through the churchyard. The sexton sat
huddled in an unhappy heap at the gate. He looked up in alarm as he
saw the detective walking towards him. Something in the stranger's
face told the little hunchback that he had made a discovery. The
sexton sprang up, his lips did not dare utter the question that his
"I have found him," said the detective gravely.
The hunchback sexton staggered, then recovered himself, and hurried
away to fetch the magistrate and the doctor.
An hour later the murdered pastor lay in state in the chief apartment
of his home, surrounded by burning candles and high-heaped masses of
flowers. But he still lay in the simple convent coffin and the little
bunch of roses which his murderer had placed between his, stiffening
fingers had not been touched.
Two days later the pastor was buried. The Count and his family led
the train of numerous mourners and among the last was Muller.
A day or two after the funeral the detective sauntered slowly through
the main street of the village. He was not in a very good humour,
his answer to the greeting of those who passed him was short. The
children avoided him, for with the keenness of their kind they
recognised the fact that this usually gentle little man was not in
possession of his habitual calm temper. One group of boys, playing
with a top, did not notice his coming and Muller stopped behind
them to look on. Suddenly a sharp whistle was heard and the boys
looked up from their play, surprised at seeing the stranger behind
them. His eyes were gleaming, and his cheeks were flushed, and a
few bars of a merry tune came in a keen whistle from his lips as
he watched the spirals made by the spinning top.
Before the boys could stop their play the detective had left the
group and hastened onward to the little shop. He left it again
in eager haste after having made his purchase, and hurried back to
the rectory. The shop-keeper stood in the doorway looking in
surprise at this grown man who came to buy a top. And at home in
the rectory the old housekeeper listened in equal surprise to the
humming noise over her head. She thought at first it might be a
bee that had got in somehow. Then she realised that it was not
quite the same noise, and having already concluded that it was of
no use to be surprised at anything this strange guest might do, she
continued reading her scriptures.
Upstairs in the pastor's study, Muller sat in the armchair
attentively watching the gyrations of a spinning top. The little
toy, started at a certain point, drew a line exactly parallel to
the scratch on the floor that had excited his thoughts and absorbed
them day and night.
"It was a top-a top" repeated the detective to himself again and
again. "I don't see why I didn't think of that right away. Why,
of course, nothing else could have drawn such a perfect curve around
the room, unhindered by the legs of the desk. Only I don't see how
a toy like that could have any connection with this cruel and
purposeless murder. Why, only a fool - or a madman - "
Muller sprang up from his chair and again a sharp shrill whistle
came from his lips. "A madman! - " he repeated, beating his own
forehead. "It could only have been a madman who committed this
murder! And the pastor was not the first, there were two other
murders here within a comparatively short time. I think I will take
advantage of Dr. Orszay's invitation."
Half an hour later Muller and the doctor sat together in a
summer-house, from the windows of which one could see the park
surrounding the asylum to almost its entire extent. The park was
arranged with due regard to its purpose. The eye could sweep
through it unhindered. There were no bushes except immediately
along the high wall. Otherwise there were beautiful lawns, flower
beds and groups of fine old trees with tall trunks.
As would be natural in visiting such a place Muller had induced the
doctor to talk about his patients. Dr. Orszay was an excellent
talker and possessed the power of painting a personality for his
listeners. He was pleased and flattered by the evident interest
with which the detective listened to his remarks.
"Then your patients are all quite harmless?" asked Muller
thoughtfully, when the doctor came to a pause.
"Yes, all quite harmless. Of course, there is the man who strangely
enough considers himself the reincarnation of the famous French
murderer, the goldsmith Cardillac, who, as you remember, kept all
Paris in a fervour of excitement by his crimes during the reign of
Louis XIV. But in spite of his weird mania this man is the most
good-natured of any. He has been shut up in his room for several
days now. He was a mechanician by trade, living in Budapest, and
an unsuccessful invention turned his mind."
"Is he a large, powerful man?" asked Muller.
Dr. Orszay looked a bit surprised. "Why do you ask that? He does
happen to be a large man of considerable strength, but in spite of
it I have no fear of him. I have an attendant who is invaluable to
me, a man of such strength that even the fiercest of them cannot
overcome him, and yet with a mind and a personal magnetism which
they cannot resist. He can always master our patients mentally and
physically - most of them are afraid of him and they know that they
must do as he says. There is something in his very glance which
has the power to paralyse even healthy nerves, for it shows the
strength of will possessed by this man."
"And what is the name of this invaluable attendant?" asked Muller
with a strange smile which the doctor took to be slightly ironical.
"Gyuri Kovacz. You are amused at my enthusiasm? But consider my
position here. I am an old man and have never been a strong man.
At my age I would not have strength enough to force that little
woman there - she thinks herself possessed and is quite cranky at
times - to go to her own room when she doesn't want to. And do you
see that man over there in the blue blouse? He is an excellent
gardener but he believes himself to be Napoleon, and when he has
his acute attacks I would be helpless to control him were it not
"And you are not afraid of Cardillac?" interrupted Muller.
"Not in the least. He is as good-natured as a child and as
confiding. I can let him walk around here as much as he likes. If
it were not for the absurd nonsense that he talks when he has one
of his attacks, and which frightens those who do not understand him,
I could let him go free altogether."
"Then you never let him leave the asylum grounds?
"Oh, yes. I take him out with me very frequently. He is a man of
considerable education and a very clever talker. It is quite a
pleasure to be with him. That was the opinion of my poor friend
also, my poor murdered friend."
"The pastor. He often invited Cardillac to come to the rectory
"Indeed. Then Cardillac knew the inside of the rectory?"
"Yes. The pastor used to lend him books and let him choose them
himself from the library shelves. The people in the village are
very kind to my poor patients here. I have long since had the
habit of taking some of the quieter ones with me down into the
village and letting the people become acquainted with them. It is
good for both parties. It gives the patients some little diversion,
and it takes away the worst of the senseless fear these peasants
had at first of the asylum and its inmates. Cardillac in particular
is always welcome when he comes, for he brings the children all
sorts of toys that he makes in his cell."
The detective had listened attentively and once his eyes flashed
and his lips shut tight as if to keep in the betraying whistle.
Then he asked calmly: "But the patients are only allowed to go out
when you accompany them, I suppose?"
"Oh, no; the attendants take them out sometimes. I prefer, however,
to let them go only with Gyuri, for I can depend upon him more than
upon any of the others."
"Then he and Cardillac have been out together occasionally?"
"Oh, yes, quite frequently. But - pardon me - this is almost like
"I beg your pardon, doctor, it's a bad habit of mine. One gets so
accustomed to it in my profession."
"What is it you want?" asked Doctor Orszay, turning to a
fine-looking young man of superb build, who entered just then and
stood by the door.
"I just wanted to announce, sir, that No. 302 is quiet again!
"302 is Cardillac himself, Mr. Muller, or to give him his right
name, Lajos Varna," explained the doctor turning to his guest. "He
is the 302nd patient who has been received here in these twenty
years. Then Cardillac is quiet again?" he asked, looking up at the
young giant. "I am glad of that. You can announce our visit to
him. This gentleman wants to inspect the asylum."
Muller realised that this was the attendant Gyuri, and he looked at
him attentively. He was soon clear in his own mind that this
remarkably handsome man did not please him, in fact awoke in him a
feeling of repulsion. The attendant's quiet, almost cat-like
movements were in strange contrast to the massivity of his superb
frame, and his large round eyes, shaped for open, honest glances,
were shifty and cunning. They seemed to be asking "Are you trying
to discover anything about me?" coupled with a threat "For your own
sake you had better not do it."
When the young man had left the room Muller rose hastily and walked
up and down several times. 'His face was flushed and his lips tight
set. Suddenly he exclaimed: "I do not like this Gyuri."
Dr. Orszay looked up astonished. "There are many others who do not
like him - most of his fellow-warders for instance, and all of the
patients. I think there must be something in the contrast of such
quiet movements with such a big body that gets on people's nerves.
But consider, Mr. Muller, that the man's work would naturally make
him a little different from other people. I have known Gyuri for
five years as a faithful and unassuming servant, always willing and
ready for any duty, however difficult or dangerous. He has but one
fault - if I may call it such - that is that he has a mistress who
is known to be mercenary and hard-hearted. She lives in a
"For five years, you say? And how long has Cardillac been here?"
"Cardiliac? He has been here for almost three years."
"For almost three years, and is it not almost three years - "
Muller interrupted himself. "Are we quite alone? Is no one
listening?" The doctor nodded, greatly surprised, and the detective
continued almost in a whisper, "and it is just about three years now
that there have been committed, at intervals, three terrible crimes
notable from the cleverness with which they were carried out, and
from the utter impossibility, apparently, of discovering the
Orszay sprang up. His face flushed and then grew livid, and he put
his hand to his forehead. Then he forced a smile and said in a
voice that trembled in spite of himself: "Mr. Muller, your
imagination is wonderful. And which of these two do you think it is
that has committed these crimes - the perpetrator of which you have
come here to find?"
"I will tell you that later. I must speak to No. 302 first, and I
must speak to him in the presence of yourself and Gyuri."
The detective's deep gravity was contagious. Dr. Orszay had
sufficiently controlled himself to remember what he had heard in
former days, and just now recently from the district judge about
this man's marvelous deeds. He realised that when Muller said
a thing, no matter how extravagant it might sound, it was worth
taking seriously. This realisation brought great uneasiness and
grief to the doctor's heart, for he had grown fond of both of the
men on whom terrible suspicion was cast by such an authority.
Muller himself was uneasy, but the gloom that had hung over him for
the past day or two had vanished. The impenetrable darkness that
had surrounded the mystery of the pastor's murder had gotten on his
nerves. He was not accustomed to work so long over a problem without
getting some light on it. But now, since the chance watching of the
spinning top in the street had given him his first inkling of the
trail, he was following it up to a clear issue. The eagerness, the
blissful vibrating of every nerve that he always felt at this stage
of the game, was on him again. He knew that from now on what was
still to be done would be easy. Hitherto his mind had been made up
on one point; that one man alone was concerned in the crime. Now he
understood the possibility that there might have been two, the
harmless mechanician who fancied himself a dangerous murderer, and
the handsome young giant with the evil eyes.
The two men stood looking at each other in a silence that was almost
hostile. Had this stranger come to disturb the peace of the refuge
for the unfortunate and to prove that Dr. Orszay, the friend of all
the village, had unwittingly been giving shelter to such criminals?
" Shall we go now?" asked the detective finally.
"If you wish it, sir," answered the doctor in a tone that was
Muller held out his hand. "Don't let us be foolish, doctor. If
you should find yourself terribly deceived, and I should have been
the means of proving it, promise me that you will not be angry with
Orszay pressed the offered hand with a deep sigh. He realised the
other's position and knew it was his duty to give him every possible
assistance. "What is there for me to do now?" he asked sadly.
"You must see that all the patients are shut up in their cells so
that the other attendants are at our disposal if we need them.
Varna's room has barred windows, I suppose?"
"And I suppose also that it has but one door. I believe you told
me that your asylum was built on the cell system."
"Yes, there is but one door to the room."
"Let the four other attendants stand outside this door. Gyuri will
be inside with us. Tell the men outside that they are to seize and
hold whomever I shall designate to them. I will call them in by a
whistle. You can trust your people?"
"Yes, I think I can."
"Well, I have my revolver," said Muller calmly, "and now we can go."
They left the room together, and found Gyuri waiting for them a
little further along the corridor. "Aren't you well, sir?" the
attendant asked the doctor, with an anxious note in his voice.
The man's anxiety was not feigned. He was really a faithful servant
in his devotion to the old doctor, although Muller had not misjudged
him when he decided that this young giant was capable of anything.
Good and evil often lie so close together in the human heart.
The doctor's emotion prevented him from speaking, and the detective
answered in his place. "It is a sudden indisposition," he said.
"Lead me to No. 302, who is waiting for us, I suppose. The doctor
wants to lie down a moment in his own room."
Gyuri glanced distrustfully at this man whom he had met for the
first time to-day, but who was no stranger to him - for he had
already learned the identity of the guest in the rectory. Then
he turned his eyes on his master. The latter nodded and said:
"Take the gentleman to Varna's room. I will follow shortly."
The cell to which they went was the first one at the head of the
staircase. "Extremely convenient," thought Muller to himself. It
was a large room, comfortably furnished and filled now with the red
glow of the setting sun. A turning-lathe stood by the window and
an elderly man was at work at it. Gyuri called to him and he turned
and rose when he saw a stranger.
Lajos Varna was a tall, loose-jointed man with sallow skin and
tired eyes. He gave only a hasty glance at his visitor, then looked
at Gyuri. The expression in his eyes as he turned them on those of
the warder was like the look in the eyes of a well-trained dog when
it watches its master's face. Gyuri's brows were drawn close
together and his mouth set tight to a narrow line. His eyes fairly
bored themselves into the patient's eyes with an expression like
that of a hypnotiser.
Muller knew now what he wanted to know. This young man understood
how to bend the will of others, even the will of a sick mind, to
his own desires. The little silent scene he had watched had lasted
just the length of time it had taken the detective to walk through
the room and hold out his hand to the patient.
"I don't want to disturb you, Mr. Varna," he said in a friendly
tone, with a motion towards the bench from which the mechanician
had just arisen. Varna sat down again, obedient as a child. He
was not always so apparently, for Muller saw a red mark over the
fingers of one hand that was evidently the mark of a blow. Gyuri
was not very choice in the methods by which he controlled the
patients confided to his care.
"May I sit down also?" asked Muller.
Varna pushed forward a chair. His movements were like those of
"And now tell me how you like it here?" began the detective. Varna
answered with a low soft voice, "Oh, I like it very much, sir."
As he spoke he looked up at Gyuri, whose eyes still bore their
"They treat you kindly here?"
"The doctor is very good to you?"
"Ah, the doctor is so good!" Varna's dull eyes brightened.
"And the others are good to you also?"
"Oh, yes." The momentary gleam in the sad had vanished again.
"Where did you get this red scar?"
The patient became uneasy, he moved anxiously on his chair and
looked up at Gyuri. It was evident that he realised there would be
more red marks if he told the truth to this stranger.
Muller did not insist upon an answer. "You are uneasy and nervous
sometimes, aren't you?"
"Yes, sir, I have been - nervous - lately."
"And they don't let you go out at such times?"
"Why, I - no, I may not go out at such times."
"But the doctor takes you with him sometimes - the doctor or Gyuri?"
asked the detective.
"I haven't had him out with me for weeks," interrupted the attendant.
He seemed particularly anxious to have the "for weeks" clearly heard
by this inconvenient questioner.
Muller dropped this subject and took up another. "They tell me you
are very fond of children, and I can see that you are making toys for
"Yes, I love children, and I am so glad they are not afraid of me."
These words were spoken with more warmth and greater interest than
anything the man had yet said.
"And they tell me that you take gifts with you for the children
every time you go down to the village. This is pretty work here,
and it must be a pleasant diversion for you." Muller had taken up
a dainty little spinning-wheel which was almost completed. "Isn't
it made from the wood of a red yew tree?"
"Yes, the doctor gave me a whole tree that had been cut down in the
"And that gave you wood for a long time?"
"Yes, indeed; I have been making toys from it for months." Varna
had become quite eager and interested as he handed his visitor a
number of pretty trifles. The two had risen from their chairs and
were leaning over the wide window seat which served as a store-house
for the wares turned out by the busy workman. They were toys,
mostly, all sorts of little pots and plates, dolls' furniture, balls
of various sizes, miniature bowling pins, and tops. Muller took up
one of the latter.
"How very clever you are, and how industrious," he exclaimed,
sitting down again and turning the top in his hands. It was covered
with gray varnish with tiny little yellow stripes painted on it.
Towards the lower point a little bit of the varnish had been broken
off and the reddish wood underneath was visible. The top was much
better constructed than the cheap toys sold in the village. It was
hollow and contained in its interior a mechanism started by a
pressure on the upper end. Once set in motion the little top spun
about the room for some time.
"Oh, isn't that pretty! Is this mechanism your own invention?"
asked Muller smiling. Gyuri watched the top with drawn brows and
murmured something about "childish foolishness."
"Yes, it is my own invention," said the patient, flattered. He
started out on an absolutely technical explanation of the mechanism
of tops in general and of his own in particular, an explanation so
lucid and so well put that no one would have believed the man
who was speaking was not in possession of the full powers of his
Muller listened very attentively with unfeigned interest.
"But you have made more important inventions than this, haven't
you?" he asked when the other stopped talking. Varna's eyes flashed
and his voice dropped to a tone of mystery as he answered: "Yes
indeed I have. But I did not have time to finish them. For I had
become some one else."
"Some one else?"
"Cardillac," whispered Varna, whose mania was now getting the best
of him again.
"Cardillac? You mean the notorious goldsmith who lived in Paris
200 years ago? Why, he's dead."
Varna's pale lips curled in a superior smile. "Oh, yes - that's
what people think, but it's a mistake. He is still alive - I am
- I have - although of course there isn't much opportunity here - "
Gyuri cleared his throat with a rasping noise.
"What were you saying, friend Cardillac?" asked Muller with a great
show of interest.
"I have done things here that nobody has found out. It gives me
great pleasure to see the authorities so helpless over the riddles
I have given them to solve. Oh, indeed, sir, you would never
imagine how stupid they are here."
"In other words, friend Cardillac, you are too clever for the
"Yes, that's it," said the insane man greatly flattered. He raised
his head proudly and smiled down at his guest. At this moment the
doctor came into the room and Gyuri walked forward to the group at
"You are making him nervous, sir" he said to Muller in a tone that
was almost harsh.
"You can leave that to me," answered the detective calmly. "And
you will please place yourself behind Mr. Varna's chair, not behind
mine. It is your eyes that are making him uneasy."
The attendant was alarmed and lost control of himself for a moment.
"Sir!" he exclaimed in an outburst.
"My name is Muller, in case you do not know it already, Joseph
Muller, detective. Gyuri Kovacz, you will do what I tell you to!
I am master here just now. Is it not so, doctor?"
"Yes, it is so," said the doctor.
"What does this mean?" murmured Gyuri, turning pale.
"It means that the best thing for you to do is to stand up against
that wall and fold your arms on your breast," said Muller firmly.
He took a revolver from his pocket and laid it beside him on the
turning-lathe. The young giant, cowed by the sight of the weapon,
obeyed the commands of this little man whom he could have easily
crushed with a single blow.
Dr. Orszay sank down on the chair beside the door. Muller, now
completely master of the situation, turned to the insane man who
stood looking at him in a surprise which was mingled with admiration.
"And now, my dear Cardillac, you must tell us of your great deeds
here," said the detective in a friendly tone.
The unfortunate man bent over him with shining eyes and whispered:
"But you'll shoot him first, won't you?"
"Why should I shoot him?"
"Because he won't let me say a word without beating me. He is so
cruel. He sticks pins into me if I don't do what he wants."
"Why didn't you tell the doctor?"
"Gyuri would have treated me worse than ever then. I am a coward,
sir, I'm so afraid of pain and he knew that - he knew that I was
afraid of being hurt and that I'd always do what he asked of me.
And because I don't like to be hurt myself I always finished them
"Why, there was Red Betty, he wanted her money."
"Who wanted it?"
The man at the wall moved when he heard this terrible accusation.
But the detective took up his revolver again. "Be quiet there!" he
called, with a look such as he might have thrown at an angry dog.
Gyuri stood quiet again but his eyes shot flames and great drops
stood out on his forehead.
"Now go on, friend Cardillac," continued the detective. "We were
talking about Red Betty."
"I strangled her. She did not even know she was dying. She was
such a weak old woman, it really couldn't have hurt her."
"No, certainly not," said Muller soothingly, for he saw that the
thought that his victim might have suffered was beginning to make
the madman uneasy. "You needn't worry about that. Old Betty died
a quiet death. But tell me, how did Gyuri know that she had money?"
"The whole village knew it. She laid cards for people and earned
a lot of money that way. She was very stingy and saved every bit.
Somebody saw her counting out her money once, she had it in a big
stocking under her bed. People in the village talked about it.
That's how Gyuri heard of it."
"And so he commanded you to kill Betty and steal her money?"
"Yes. He knew that I loved to give them riddles to guess, just as
I did in Paris so long ago."
"Oh, yes, you're Cardillac, aren't you? And now tell us about the
"You mean Janos? Oh, he was a stupid lout," answered Varna
"He had cast an eye on the beautiful Julcsi, Gyuri's mistress, so
of course I had to kill him."
"Did you do that alone?"
"No, Gyuri helped me."
"Why did you cut the bridge supports?"
"Because I enjoy giving people riddles, as I told you. But Gyuri
forbade me to kill people uselessly. I liked the chance of getting
out though. The doctor's so good to me and the others too. Gyuri
is good to me when I have done what he wanted. But you see, Mr.
Muller, I am like a prisoner here and that makes me angry. I made
Gyuri let me out nights sometimes."
"You mean he let you out alone, all alone?"
"Yes, of course, for I threatened to tell the doctor everything if
"You wouldn't have dared do that."
"No, that's true," smiled Varna slyly. "But Gyuri was afraid I
might do it, for he isn't always strong enough to frighten me with
his eyes. Those were the hours when I could make him afraid - I
liked those hours - "
"What did you do when you were out alone at night?"
"I just walked about. I set fire to a tree in the woods once, then
the rain came and put it out. Once I killed a dog and another time
I cut through the bridge supports. That took me several hours to do
and made me very tired. But it was such fun to know that people
would be worrying and fussing about who did it."
Varna rubbed his hands gleefully. He did not look the least bit
malicious but only very much amused. The doctor groaned. Gyuri's
great body trembled, his arms shook, but he did not make a single
voluntary movement. He saw the revolver in Muller's hand and felt
the keen grey eyes resting on him in pitiless calm.
"And now tell us about the pastor?" said the detective in a firm
"Oh, he was a dear, good gentleman," said No. 302 with an expression
of pitying sorrow on his face. "I owed him much gratitude; that's
why I put the roses in his hand."
"Yes, but you murdered him first."
"Of course, Gyuri told me to."
"He hated the pastor, for the old gentleman had no confidence in
"Is this true?" Muller turned to the doctor.
"I did not notice it," said Orszay with a voice that showed deep
"And you?" Muller's eyes bored themselves into the orbs of the young
giant, now dulled with fear.
Gyuri started and shivered. "He looked at me sharply every now and
then," he murmured.
"And that was why he was killed?"
The warder's head sank on his breast.
"No, not only for that reason," continued No. 302. "Gyuri needed
money again. He ordered me to bring him the silver candlesticks
off the altar."
"Murder and sacrilege," said the detective calmly. "No, I did not
rob the church. When I had buried the reverend gentleman I heard
the cock crowing. I was afraid I might get home here too late and
I forgot the candlesticks. I had to stop to wash my hands in the
brook. While I was there I saw shepherd Janci coming along and I
hid behind the willows. He almost discovered me once, but Janci's
a dreamer, he sees things nobody else sees - and he doesn't see
things that everybody else does see. I couldn't help laughing at
his sleepy face. But I didn't laugh when I came back to the asylum.
Gyuri was waiting for me at the door. When he saw that I hadn't
brought the candlesticks he beat me and tortured me worse than he'd
ever done before."
"And you didn't tell anyone?"
"Why, no; because I was afraid that if I told on him, I'd never be
able to go out again."
"And you, quite alone, could carry the pastor's body out of his
"I am very strong."
"How did you arrange it that there should be no traces of blood to
"I waited until the body had stiffened, then I tied up the wound and
carried him down into the crypt."
"Why did you do that?"
"I didn't want to leave him in that horrid pool of blood."
"You were sorry for him then?"
"Why, yes; it looked so horrid to see him lying there - and he had
always been so good to me. He was so good to me that very evening
when I entered his study.
"He recognised you?
"Certainly. He sprang up from his chair when I came in through the
passage from the church. I saw that he was startled, but he smiled
at me and reached out his hand to me and said: 'What brings you here,
my dear Cardillac?' And then I struck. I wanted him to die with
that smile on his lips. It is beautiful to see a man die smiling,
it shows that he has not been afraid of death. He was dead at once.
I always kill that way - I know just how to strike and where. I
killed more than a hundred people years ago in Paris, and I didn't
leave one of them the time for even a sigh. I was renowned for
that - I had a kind heart and a sure hand."
Muller interrupted the dreadful imaginings of the madman with a
question. "You got into the house through the crypt?"
"Yes, through the crypt. I found the window one night when I was
prowling around in the churchyard. When I knew that the pastor was
to be the next, I cut through the window bars. Gyuri went into the
church one day when nobody was there and found out that it was easy
to lift the stone over the entrance to the crypt. He also learned
that the doors from the church to the vestry were never locked. I
knew how to find the passageway, because I had been through it
several times on my visits to the rectory. But it was a mere chance
that the door into the pastor's study was unlocked."
A chance that cost the life of a worthy man," said the detective
Varna nodded sadly. "But he didn't suffer, he was dead at once."
"And now tell me what this top was doing there?" No. 302 looked at
the detective in great surprise, and then laid his hand on the
latter's arm. "How did you know that I had the top there?" he asked
with a show of interest.
"I found its traces in the room, and it was those traces that led
me here to you," answered Muller.
"How strange!" remarked Varna. "Are you like shepherd Janci that
you can see the things others don't see?"
"No, I have not Janci's gift. It would be a great comfort to me
and a help to the others perhaps if I had. I can only see things
after they have happened."
"But you can see more than others - the others did not see the
traces of the top?"
"My business is to see more than others see," said Muller. "But
you have not told me yet what the top was doing there. Why did you
take a toy like that with you when you went out on such an errand?"
"It was in my pocket by chance. When I reached for my handkerchief
to quench the flow of blood the top came out with it. I must have
touched the spring without knowing it, for the top began to spin.
I stood still and watched it, then I ran after it. It spun around
the room and finally came back to the body. So did I. The pastor
was quite still and dead by that time."
"You have heard everything, Dr. Orszay?" asked the detective, rising
from his chair.
"Yes, I have heard everything," answered the venerable head of the
asylum. He was utterly crushed by the realisation that all this
tragedy and horror had gone out from his house.
Varna rose also. He understood perfectly that now Gyuri's power
was at an end and he was as pleased as a child that has just
received a present. "And now you're going to shoot him?" he asked,
in the tone a boy would use if asking when the fireworks were to
Muller shook. his head. "No, my dear Cardillac," he replied
gravely. "He will not be shot - that is a death for a brave
soldier - but this man has deserved - " He did not finish the
sentence, for the warder sank to the floor unconscious.
"What a coward!" murmured the detective scornfully, looking down at
the giant frame that lay prostrate before him. Even in his wide
experience he had known of no case of a man of such strength and
such bestial cruelty, combined with such utter cowardice.
Varna also stood looking down at the unconscious warder. Then he
glanced up with a cunning smile at the other two men who stood
there. The doctor, pale and trembling with horror, covered his
face with his hands. Muller turned to the door to call in the
attendants waiting outside. During the moment's pause that ensued
the madman bent over his worktable, seized a knife that lay there
and dropped on one knee beside the prostrate form. His hand was
raised to strike when a calm voice said: "Fie! Cardillac, for
shame! Do not belittle yourself. This man here is not worthy of
your knife, the hangman will look after him."
Varna raised his loose-jointed frame and looked about with
glistening eyes and trembling lips. His mind was completely
darkened once more. "I must kill him - I must have his
blood - there is no one to see me," he murmured. "I am a
hangman too - he has made a hangman of me," and again he bent
with uplifted hand over the man who had utilised his terrible
misfortune to make a criminal of him. But two of the waiting
attendants seized his arms and threw him back on the floor, while
the other two carded Gyuri out. Both unfortunates were soon
"Do not be angry with me, doctor," said Muller gravely, as he
walked through the garden accompanied by Orszay.
Doctor Orszay laughed bitterly. "Why should I be angry with you
- you who have discovered my inexcusable credulity?"
"Inexcusable? Oh, no, doctor; it was quite natural that you should
have believed a man who had himself so well in hand, and who knew
so well how to play his part. When we come to think of it, we
realise that most crimes have been made possible through some one's
credulity, or over-confidence, a credulity which, in the light of
subsequent events, seems quite incomprehensible. Do not reproach
yourself and do not lose heart. Your only fault was that you did
not recognise the heart of the beast of prey in this admirable human
"What course will the law take?" asked Orszay. "The poor
unfortunate madman - whose knife took all these lives - cannot be
held responsible, can he?"
"Oh, no; his misfortune protects him. But as for the other, though
his hands bear no actual bloodstains, he is more truly a murderer
than the unhappy man who was his tool. Hanging is too good for him.
There are times when even I could wish that we were back in the
Middle Ages, when it was possible to torture a prisoner.
"You do not look like that sort of a man," smiled the doctor through
"No, I am the most good-natured of men usually, I think - the
meekest anyway," answered Muller. "But a case like this -. However,
as I said before, keep a stout heart, doctor, and do not waste
time in unnecessary self-reproachings." The detective pressed the
doctor's hand warmly and walked down the hill towards the village.
He went at once to the office of the magistrate and made his report,
then returned to the rectory and packed his grip. He arranged for
its transport to the railway station, as he himself preferred to
walk the inconsiderable distance. He passed through the village
and had just entered the open fields when he met Janci with his
flock. The shepherd hastened his steps when he saw the detective
"You have found him, sir?" he exclaimed as he came up to Muller.
The men had come to be friends by this time. The silent shepherd
with the power of second sight had won Muller's interest at once.
"Yes, I found him. It is Gyuri, the warder at the asylum."
"No, sir, it is not Gyuri - Gyuri did not do it."
"But when I tell you that he did?"
"But I tell you, sir, that Gyuri did not do it. The man who did
it - he has yellowish hands - I saw them - I saw big yellowish
hands. Gyuri's hands are big, but they are brown."
"Janci, you are right. I was only trying to test you. Gyuri did
not do it; that is, he did not do it with his own hands. The man
who held the knife that struck down the pastor was Varna, the crazy
Janci beat his forehead. "Oh, I am a foolish and useless dreamer!"
he exclaimed; "of course it was Varna's hands that I saw. I have
seen them a hundred times when he came down into the village, and
yet when I saw them in the vision I did not recognise them."
"We're all dreamers, Janci - and our dreams are very useless
"Yours are not useless, sir," said the shepherd. "If I had as much
brains as you have, my dreams might be of some good."
Muller smiled. "And if I had your visions, Janci, it would be a
powerful aid to me in my profession."
"I don't think you need them, sir. You can find out the hidden
things without them. You are going to leave us?"
"Yes, Janci, I must go back to Budapest, and from there to Vienna.
They need me on another case."
"It's a sad work, this bringing people to the gallows, isn't it?"
"Yes, Janci, it is sometimes. But it's a good thing to be able to
avenge crime and bring justice to the injured. Good-bye, Janci."
"Good-bye, sir, and God speed you."
The shepherd stood looking after the small, slight figure of the
man who walked on rapidly through the heather. "He's the right one
for the work," murmured Janci as he turned slowly back towards the
An hour later Muller stood in the little waiting-room of the railway
station writing a telegram. It was addressed to Count -.
"Do you know the shepherd Janci? It would be a good thing to
make him the official detective for the village. He has high
qualifications for the profession. If I had his gifts combined
with my own, not one could escape me. I have found this one
however. The guards are already taking him to you. My work
here is done. If I should be needed again I can be found at
Police Headquarters, Vienna.
While the detective was writing his message - it was one of the rare
moments of humour that Muller allowed himself, and he wondered
mildly what the stately Hungarian nobleman would think of it - a
heavy farm wagon jolted over the country roads towards the little
county seat. Sitting beside the driver and riding about the wagon
were armed peasants. The figure of a man, securely bound, his face
distorted by rage and fear, lay in the wagon. It was Gyuri Kovacz,
who had murdered by the hands of another, and who was now on his
way to meet the death that was his due.
And at one of the barred windows in the big yellow house stood a
sallow-faced man, looking out at the rising moon with sad, tired
eyes. His lips were parted in a smile like that of a dreaming
child, and he hummed a gentle lullaby.
In his compartment of the express from Budapest to Vienna, Joseph
Muller sat thinking over the strange events that had called him to
the obscure little Hungarian village. He had met with many strange
cases in his long career, but this particular case had some features
which were unique. Muller's lips set hard and his hands tightened
to fists as he murmured: "I've met with criminals who used strange
tools, but never before have I met with one who had the cunning and
the incredible cruelty to utilise the mania of an unhinged human
mind. It is a thousand times worse than those criminals who, now
and then throughout the ages, have trained brute beasts to murder
for them. Truly, this Hungarian peasant, Gyuri Kovacz, deserves a
high place in the infamous roll-call of the great criminals of
history. A student of crime might almost be led to think that it
is a pity his career has been cut short so soon. He might have
"But for humanity's sake" (Muller's eyes gleamed), "I am thankful
that I was able to discover this beast in human form and render him
innocuous; he had done quite enough."