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The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Part 2 out of 5

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"I appreciate your desire to have everything nice for him," I
went on, "but the next time, you might take the Limoges china
It's more easily duplicated and less expensive."

"I haven't a young man--not here." She had got her breath now,
as I had guessed she would. "I--I have been chased by a thief,
Miss Innes."

"Did he chase you out of the house and back again?" I asked.

Then Rosie began to cry--not silently, but noisily, hysterically.

I stopped her by giving her a good shake.

"What in the world is the matter with you?" I snapped. "Has the
day of good common sense gone by! Sit up and tell me the whole
thing." Rosie sat up then, and sniffled.

"I was coming up the drive--" she began.

"You must start with when you went DOWN the drive, with my
dishes and my silver," I interrupted, but, seeing more signs of
hysteria, I gave in. "Very well. You were coming up the drive--

"I had a basket of--of silver and dishes on my arm and I was
carrying the plate, because--because I was afraid I'd break it.
Part-way up the road a man stepped out of the bushes, and held
his arm like this, spread out, so I couldn't get past. He said--
he said--`Not so fast, young lady; I want you to let me see
what's in that basket.'"

She got up in her excitement and took hold of my arm.

"It was like this, Miss Innes," she said, "and say you was the
man. When he said that, I screamed and ducked under his arm like
this. He caught at the basket and I dropped it. I ran as fast
as I could, and he came after as far as the trees. Then he
stopped. Oh, Miss Innes, it must have been the man that killed
that Mr. Armstrong!"

"Don't be foolish," I said. "Whoever killed Mr. Armstrong would
put as much space between himself and this house as he could. Go
up to bed now; and mind, if I hear of this story being repeated
to the other maids, I shall deduct from your wages for every
broken dish I find in the drive."

I listened to Rosie as she went up-stairs, running past the
shadowy places and slamming her door. Then I sat down and looked
at the Coalport plate and the silver spoon. I had brought my own
china and silver, and, from all appearances, I would have little
enough to take back. But though I might jeer at Rosie as much as
I wished, the fact remained that some one had been on the drive
that night who had no business there. Although neither had
Rosie, for that matter.

I could fancy Liddy's face when she missed the extra pieces of
china--she had opposed Rosie from the start. If Liddy once finds
a prophecy fulfilled, especially an unpleasant one, she never
allows me to forget it. It seemed to me that it was absurd to
leave that china dotted along the road for her to spy the next
morning; so with a sudden resolution, I opened the door again and
stepped out into the darkness. As the door closed behind me I
half regretted my impulse; then I shut my teeth and went on.

I have never been a nervous woman, as I said before. Moreover, a
minute or two in the darkness enabled me to see things fairly
well. Beulah gave me rather a start by rubbing unexpectedly
against my feet; then we two, side by side, went down the drive.

There were no fragments of china, but where the grove began I
picked up a silver spoon. So far Rosie's story was borne out: I
began to wonder if it were not indiscreet, to say the least, this
midnight prowling in a neighborhood with such a deservedly bad
reputation. Then I saw something gleaming, which proved to be
the handle of a cup, and a step or two farther on I found a V-
shaped bit of a plate. But the most surprising thing of all was
to find the basket sitting comfortably beside the road, with the
rest of the broken crockery piled neatly within, and a handful of
small silver, spoon, forks, and the like, on top! I could only
stand and stare. Then Rosie's story was true. But where had
Rosie carried her basket? And why had the thief, if he were a
thief, picked up the broken china out of the road and left it,
with his booty?

It was with my nearest approach to a nervous collapse that I
heard the familiar throbbing of an automobile engine. As it came
closer I recognized the outline of the Dragon Fly, and knew
that Halsey had come back.

Strange enough it must have seemed to Halsey, too, to come across
me in the middle of the night, with the skirt of my gray silk
gown over my shoulders to keep off the dew, holding a red and
green basket under one arm and a black cat under the other. What
with relief and joy, I began to cry, right there, and very nearly
wiped my eyes on Beulah in the excitement.



"Aunt Ray!" Halsey said from the gloom behind the lamps. "What
in the world are you doing here?"

"Taking a walk," I said, trying to be composed. I don't think
the answer struck either of us as being ridiculous at the time.
"Oh, Halsey, where have you been?"

"Let me take you up to the house." He was in the road, and had
Beulah and the basket out of my arms in a moment. I could see
the car plainly now, and Warner was at the wheel--Warner in an
ulster and a pair of slippers, over Heaven knows what. Jack
Bailey was not there. I got in, and we went slowly and painfully
up to the house.

We did not talk. What we had to say was too important to
commence there, and, besides, it took all kinds of coaxing from
both men to get the Dragon Fly up the last grade. Only
when we had closed the front door and stood facing each other in
the hall, did Halsey say anything. He slipped his strong young
arm around my shoulders and turned me so I faced the light.

"Poor Aunt Ray!" he said gently. And I nearly wept again. "I--I
must see Gertrude, too; we will have a three-cornered talk."

And then Gertrude herself came down the stairs. She had not been
to bed, evidently: she still wore the white negligee she had worn
earlier in the evening, and she limped somewhat. During her slow
progress down the stairs I had time to notice one thing: Mr.
Jamieson had said the woman who escaped from the cellar had worn
no shoe on her right foot. Gertrude's right ankle was the one
she had sprained!

The meeting between brother and sister was tense, but without
tears. Halsey kissed her tenderly, and I noticed evidences of
strain and anxiety in both young faces.

"Is everything--right?" she asked.

"Right as can be," with forced cheerfulness.

I lighted the living-room and we went in there. Only a half-hour
before I had sat with Mr. Jamieson in that very room,
listening while he overtly accused both Gertrude and Halsey of at
least a knowledge of the death of Arnold Armstrong. Now Halsey
was here to speak for himself: I should learn everything that
had puzzled me.

"I saw it in the paper to-night for the first time," he was
saying. "It knocked me dumb. When I think of this houseful of
women, and a thing like that occurring!"

Gertrude's face was still set and white. "That isn't all,
Halsey," she said. "You and--and Jack left almost at the time it
happened. The detective here thinks that you--that we--know
something about it."

"The devil he does!" Halsey's eyes were fairly starting from his
head. "I beg your pardon, Aunt Ray, but--the fellow's a

"Tell me everything, won't you, Halsey?" I begged. "Tell me
where you went that night, or rather morning, and why you went as
you did. This has been a terrible forty-eight hours for all of

He stood staring at me, and I could see the horror of the
situation dawning in his face.

"I can't tell you where I went, Aunt Ray," he said, after a
moment. "As to why, you will learn that soon enough. But
Gertrude knows that Jack and I left the house before this thing--
this horrible murder--occurred."

"Mr. Jamieson does not believe me," Gertrude said drearily.
"Halsey, if the worst comes, if they should arrest you, you

"I shall tell nothing," he said with a new sternness in his
voice. "Aunt Ray, it was necessary for Jack and me to leave that
night. I can not tell you why--just yet. As to where we went,
if I have to depend on that as an alibi, I shall not tell. The
whole thing is an absurdity, a trumped-up charge that can not
possibly be serious."

"Has Mr. Bailey gone back to the city," I demanded, "or to the

"Neither," defiantly; "at the present moment I do not know where
he is."

"Halsey," I asked gravely, leaning forward, "have you the
slightest suspicion who killed Arnold Armstrong? The police
think he was admitted from within, and that he was shot down from
above, by someone on the circular staircase."

"I know nothing of it," he maintained; but I fancied I caught
a sudden glance at Gertrude, a flash of something that died as it

As quietly, as calmly as I could, I went over the whole story,
from the night Liddy and I had been alone up to the strange
experience of Rosie and her pursuer. The basket still stood on
the table, a mute witness to this last mystifying occurrence.

"There is something else," I said hesitatingly, at the last.
"Halsey, I have never told this even to Gertrude, but the morning
after the crime, I found, in a tulip bed, a revolver. It--it was
yours, Halsey."

For an appreciable moment Halsey stared at me. Then he turned to

"My revolver, Trude!" he exclaimed. "Why, Jack took my revolver
with him, didn't he?"

"Oh, for Heaven's sake don't say that," I implored. "The
detective thinks possibly Jack Bailey came back, and--and the
thing happened then."

"He didn't come back," Halsey said sternly. "Gertrude, when you
brought down a revolver that night for Jack to take with him,
what one did you bring? Mine?"

Gertrude was defiant now.

"No. Yours was loaded, and I was afraid of what Jack might
do. I gave him one I have had for a year or two. It was empty."

Halsey threw up both hands despairingly.

"If that isn't like a girl!" he said. "Why didn't you do what I
asked you to, Gertrude? You send Bailey off with an empty gun,
and throw mine in a tulip bed, of all places on earth! Mine was
a thirty-eight caliber. The inquest will show, of course, that
the bullet that killed Armstrong was a thirty-eight. Then where
shall I be?"

"You forget," I broke in, "that I have the revolver, and that no
one knows about it."

But Gertrude had risen angrily.

"I can not stand it; it is always with me," she cried. "Halsey,
I did not throw your revolver into the tulip bed. I--think--
you--did it--yourself!"

They stared at each other across the big library table, with
young eyes all at once hard, suspicious. And then Gertrude held
out both hands to him appealingly.

"We must not," she said brokenly. "Just now, with so much at
stake, it--is shameful. I know you are as ignorant as I am.
Make me believe it, Halsey."

Halsey soothed her as best he could, and the breach seemed
healed. But long after I went to bed he sat down-stairs in the
living-room alone, and I knew he was going over the case as he
had learned it. Some things were clear to him that were dark to
me. He knew, and Gertrude, too, why Jack Bailey and he had gone
away that night, as they did. He knew where they had been for
the last forty-eight hours, and why Jack Bailey had not returned
with him. It seemed to me that without fuller confidence from
both the children--they are always children to me--I should never
be able to learn anything.

As I was finally getting ready for bed, Halsey came up-stairs and
knocked at my door. When I had got into a negligee--I used to
say wrapper before Gertrude came back from school--I let him in.
He stood in the doorway a moment, and then he went into agonies
of silent mirth. I sat down on the side of the bed and waited in
severe silence for him to stop, but he only seemed to grow worse.

When he had recovered he took me by the elbow and pulled me in
front of the mirror.

"`How to be beautiful,'" he quoted. "`Advice to maids and
matrons,' by Beatrice Fairfax!" And then I saw myself. I
had neglected to remove my wrinkle eradicators, and I presume my
appearance was odd. I believe that it is a woman's duty to care
for her looks, but it is much like telling a necessary
falsehood--one must not be found out. By the time I got them off
Halsey was serious again, and I listened to his story.

"Aunt Ray," he began, extinguishing his cigarette on the back of
my ivory hair-brush, "I would give a lot to tell you the whole
thing. But--I can't, for a day or so, anyhow. But one thing I
might have told you a long time ago. If you had known it, you
would not have suspected me for a moment of--of having anything
to do with the attack on Arnold Armstrong. Goodness knows what I
might do to a fellow like that, if there was enough provocation,
and I had a gun in my hand--under ordinary circumstances. But--I
care a great deal about Louise Armstrong, Aunt Ray. I hope to
marry her some day. Is it likely I would kill her brother?"

"Her stepbrother," I corrected. "No, of course, it isn't likely,
or possible. Why didn't you tell me, Halsey?"

"Well, there were two reasons," he said slowly.

"One was that you had a girl already picked out for me--"

"Nonsense," I broke in, and felt myself growing red. I had,
indeed, one of the--but no matter.

"And the second reason," he pursued, "was that the Armstrongs
would have none of me."

I sat bolt upright at that and gasped.

"The Armstrongs!" I repeated. "With old Peter Armstrong driving
a stage across the mountains while your grandfather was war

"Well, of course, the war governor's dead, and out of the
matrimonial market," Halsey interrupted. "And the present Innes
admits himself he isn't good enough for--for Louise."

"Exactly," I said despairingly, "and, of course, you are taken at
your own valuation. The Inneses are not always so self-

"Not always, no," he said, looking at me with his boyish smile.
"Fortunately, Louise doesn't agree with her family. She's
willing to take me, war governor or no, provided her mother
consents. She isn't overly-fond of her stepfather, but she
adores her mother. And now, can't you see where this thing puts
me? Down and out, with all of them."

"But the whole thing is absurd," I argued. "And besides,
Gertrude's sworn statement that you left before Arnold Armstrong
came would clear you at once."

Halsey got up and began to pace the room, and the air of
cheerfulness dropped like a mask.

"She can't swear it," he said finally. "Gertrude's story was
true as far as it went, but she didn't tell everything. Arnold
Armstrong came here at two-thirty--came into the billiard-room
and left in five minutes. He came to bring--something."

"Halsey," I cried, "you MUST tell me the whole truth. Every
time I see a way for you to escape you block it yourself with
this wall of mystery. What did he bring?"

"A telegram--for Bailey," he said. "It came by special messenger
from town, and was--most important. Bailey had started for here,
and the messenger had gone back to the city. The steward gave it
to Arnold, who had been drinking all day and couldn't sleep, and
was going for a stroll in the direction of Sunnyside."

"And he brought it?"


"What was in the telegram?"

"I can tell you--as soon as certain things are made public. It
is only a matter of days now," gloomily.

"And Gertrude's story of a telephone message?"

"Poor Trude!" he half whispered. "Poor loyal little girl! Aunt
Ray, there was no such message. No doubt your detective already
knows that and discredits all Gertrude told him."

"And when she went back, it was to get--the telegram?"

"Probably," Halsey said slowly. "When you get to thinking about
it, Aunt Ray, it looks bad for all three of us, doesn't it? And
yet--I will take my oath none of us even inadvertently killed
that poor devil."

I looked at the closed door into Gertrude's dressing-room, and
lowered my voice.

"The same horrible thought keeps recurring to me," I whispered.
"Halsey, Gertrude probably had your revolver: she must have
examined it, anyhow, that night. After you--and Jack had gone,
what if that ruffian came back, and she--and she--"

I couldn't finish. Halsey stood looking at me with shut lips.

"She might have heard him fumbling at the door he had no key,
the police say--and thinking it was you, or Jack, she admitted
him. When she saw her mistake she ran up the stairs, a step or
two, and turning, like an animal at bay, she fired."

Halsey had his hand over my lips before I finished, and in that
position we stared each at the other, our stricken glances

"The revolver--my revolver--thrown into the tulip bed!" he
muttered to himself. "Thrown perhaps from an upper window: you
say it was buried deep. Her prostration ever since, her--Aunt
Ray, you don't think it was Gertrude who fell down the clothes

I could only nod my head in a hopeless affirmative.



The morning after Halsey's return was Tuesday. Arnold Armstrong
had been found dead at the foot of the circular staircase at
three o'clock on Sunday morning. The funeral services were to be
held on Tuesday, and the interment of the body was to be deferred
until the Armstrongs arrived from California. No one, I think,
was very sorry that Arnold Armstrong was dead, but the manner of
his death aroused some sympathy and an enormous amount of
curiosity. Mrs. Ogden Fitzhugh, a cousin, took charge of the
arrangements, and everything, I believe, was as quiet as
possible. I gave Thomas Johnson and Mrs. Watson permission to go
into town to pay their last respects to the dead man, but for
some reason they did not care to go.

Halsey spent part of the day with Mr. Jamieson, but he said
nothing of what happened. He looked grave and anxious,
and he had a long conversation with Gertrude late in the

Tuesday evening found us quiet, with the quiet that precedes an
explosion. Gertrude and Halsey were both gloomy and distraught,
and as Liddy had already discovered that some of the china was
broken--it is impossible to have any secrets from an old
servant--I was not in a pleasant humor myself. Warner brought up
the afternoon mail and the evening papers at seven--I was curious
to know what the papers said of the murder. We had turned away
at least a dozen reporters. But I read over the head-line that
ran half-way across the top of the Gazette twice before I
comprehended it. Halsey had opened the Chronicle and was
staring at it fixedly.

"The Traders' Bank closes its doors!" was what I read, and then I
put down the paper and looked across the table.

"Did you know of this?" I asked Halsey.

"I expected it. But not so soon," he replied.

"And you?" to Gertrude.

"Jack--told us--something," Gertrude said faintly. "Oh, Halsey,
what can he do now?"

"Jack!" I said scornfully. "Your Jack's flight is easy
enough to explain now. And you helped him, both of you, to get
away! You get that from your mother; it isn't an Innes trait.
Do you know that every dollar you have, both of you, is in that

Gertrude tried to speak, but Halsey stopped her.

"That isn't all, Gertrude," he said quietly; "Jack is--under

"Under arrest!" Gertrude screamed, and tore the paper out of his
hand. She glanced at the heading, then she crumpled the
newspaper into a ball and flung it to the floor. While Halsey,
looking stricken and white, was trying to smooth it out and read
it, Gertrude had dropped her head on the table and was sobbing

I have the clipping somewhere, but just now I can remember only
the essentials.

On the afternoon before, Monday, while the Traders' Bank was in
the rush of closing hour, between two and three, Mr. Jacob
Trautman, President of the Pearl Brewing Company, came into the
bank to lift a loan. As security for the loan he had deposited
some three hundred International Steamship Company 5's, in total
value three hundred thousand dollars. Mr. Trautman went to the
loan clerk and, after certain formalities had been gone
through, the loan clerk went to the vault. Mr. Trautman, who was
a large and genial German, waited for a time, whistling under his
breath. The loan clerk did not come back. After an interval,
Mr. Trautman saw the loan clerk emerge from the vault and go to
the assistant cashier: the two went hurriedly to the vault. A
lapse of another ten minutes, and the assistant cashier came out
and approached Mr. Trautman. He was noticeably white and
trembling. Mr. Trautman was told that through an oversight the
bonds had been misplaced, and was asked to return the following
morning, when everything would be made all right.

Mr. Trautman, however, was a shrewd business man, and he did not
like the appearance of things. He left the bank apparently
satisfied, and within thirty minutes he had called up three
different members of the Traders' Board of Directors. At three-
thirty there was a hastily convened board meeting, with some
stormy scenes, and late in the afternoon a national bank examiner
was in possession of the books. The bank had not opened for
business on Tuesday.

At twelve-thirty o'clock the Saturday before, as soon as the
business of the day was closed, Mr John Bailey, the cashier
of the defunct bank, had taken his hat and departed. During the
afternoon he had called up Mr. Aronson, a member of the board,
and said he was ill, and might not be at the bank for a day or
two. As Bailey was highly thought of, Mr. Aronson merely
expressed a regret. From that time until Monday night, when Mr.
Bailey had surrendered to the police, little was known of his
movements. Some time after one on Saturday he had entered the
Western Union office at Cherry and White Streets and had sent two
telegrams. He was at the Greenwood Country Club on Saturday
night, and appeared unlike himself. It was reported that he
would be released under enormous bond, some time that day,

The article closed by saying that while the officers of the bank
refused to talk until the examiner had finished his work, it was
known that securities aggregating a million and a quarter were
missing. Then there was a diatribe on the possibility of such an
occurrence; on the folly of a one-man bank, and of a Board of
Directors that met only to lunch together and to listen to a
brief report from the cashier, and on the poor policy of a
government that arranges a three or four-day examination twice a
year. The mystery, it insinuated, had not been cleared by
the arrest of the cashier. Before now minor officials had been
used to cloak the misdeeds of men higher up. Inseparable as the
words "speculation" and "peculation" have grown to be, John
Bailey was not known to be in the stock market. His only words,
after his surrender, had been "Send for Mr. Armstrong at once."
The telegraph message which had finally reached the President of
the Traders' Bank, in an interior town in California, had been
responded to by a telegram from Doctor Walker, the young
physician who was traveling with the Armstrong family, saying
that Paul Armstrong was very ill and unable to travel.

That was how things stood that Tuesday evening. The Traders'
Bank had suspended payment, and John Bailey was under arrest,
charged with wrecking it; Paul Armstrong lay very ill in
California, and his only son had been murdered two days before.
I sat dazed and bewildered. The children's money was gone: that
was bad enough, though I had plenty, if they would let me share.
But Gertrude's grief was beyond any power of mine to comfort; the
man she had chosen stood accused of a colossal embezzlement--and
even worse. For in the instant that I sat there I seemed to
see the coils closing around John Bailey as the murderer of
Arnold Armstrong.

Gertrude lifted her head at last and stared across the table at

"Why did he do it?" she wailed. "Couldn't you stop him, Halsey?
It was suicidal to go back!"

Halsey was looking steadily through the windows of the breakfast-
room, but it was evident he saw nothing.

"It was the only thing he could do, Trude," he said at last.
"Aunt Ray, when I found Jack at the Greenwood Club last Saturday
night, he was frantic. I can not talk until Jack tells me I may,
but--he is absolutely innocent of all this, believe me. I
thought, Trude and I thought, we were helping him, but it was the
wrong way. He came back. Isn't that the act of an innocent

"Then why did he leave at all?" I asked, unconvinced. "What
innocent man would run away from here at three o'clock in the
morning? Doesn't it look rather as though he thought it
impossible to escape?"

Gertrude rose angrily. "You are not even just!" she flamed.
"You don't know anything about it, and you condemn him !"

"I know that we have all lost a great deal of money," I said. "I
shall believe Mr. Bailey innocent the moment he is shown to be.
You profess to know the truth, but you can not tell me! What am
I to think?"

Halsey leaned over and patted my hand.

"You must take us on faith," he said. "Jack Bailey hasn't a
penny that doesn't belong to him; the guilty man will be known in
a day or so."

"I shall believe that when it is proved," I said grimly. "In the
meantime, I take no one on faith. The Inneses never do."

Gertrude, who had been standing aloof at a window, turned
suddenly. "But when the bonds are offered for sale, Halsey,
won't the thief be detected at once?"

Halsey turned with a superior smile.

"It wouldn't be done that way," he said. "They would be taken
out of the vault by some one who had access to it, and used as
collateral for a loan in another bank. It would be possible to
realize eighty per cent. of their face value."

"In cash?"

"In cash."

"But the man who did it--he would be known?"

"Yes. I tell you both, as sure as I stand here, I believe that
Paul Armstrong looted his own bank. I believe he has a million
at least, as the result, and that he will never come back. I'm
worse than a pauper now. I can't ask Louise to share nothing a
year with me and when I think of this disgrace for her, I'm

The most ordinary events of life seemed pregnant with
possibilities that day, and when Halsey was called to the
telephone, I ceased all pretense at eating. When he came back
from the telephone his face showed that something had occurred.
He waited, however, until Thomas left the dining-room: then he
told us.

"Paul Armstrong is dead," he announced gravely. "He died this
morning in California. Whatever he did, he is beyond the law

Gertrude turned pale.

"And the only man who could have cleared Jack can never do it!"
she said despairingly.

"Also," I replied coldly, "Mr. Armstrong is for ever beyond the
power of defending himself. When your Jack comes to me, with
some two hundred thousand dollars in his hands, which is about
what you have lost, I shall believe him innocent."

Halsey threw his cigarette away and turned on me.

"There you go!" he exclaimed. "If he was the thief, he could
return the money, of course. If he is innocent, he probably
hasn't a tenth of that amount in the world. In his hands!
That's like a woman."

Gertrude, who had been pale and despairing during the early part
of the conversation, had flushed an indignant red. She got up
and drew herself to her slender height, looking down at me with
the scorn of the young and positive.

"You are the only mother I ever had," she said tensely. "I have
given you all I would have given my mother, had she lived--my
love, my trust. And now, when I need you most, you fail me. I
tell you, John Bailey is a good man, an honest man. If you say
he is not, you--you--"

"Gertrude," Halsey broke in sharply. She dropped beside the
table and, burying her face in her arms broke into a storm of

"I love him--love him," she sobbed, in a surrender that was
totally unlike her. "Oh, I never thought it would be like this.
I can't bear it. I can't."

Halsey and I stood helpless before the storm. I would have tried
to comfort her, but she had put me away, and there was something
aloof in her grief, something new and strange. At last, when her
sorrow had subsided to the dry shaking sobs of a tired child,
without raising her head she put out one groping hand.

"Aunt Ray!" she whispered. In a moment I was on my knees beside
her, her arm around my neck, her cheek against my hair.

"Where am I in this?" Halsey said suddenly and tried to put his
arms around us both. It was a welcome distraction, and Gertrude
was soon herself again. The little storm had cleared the air.
Nevertheless, my opinion remained unchanged. There was much to
be cleared up before I would consent to any renewal of my
acquaintance with John Bailey. And Halsey and Gertrude knew it,
knowing me.



It was about half-past eight when we left the dining-room and
still engrossed with one subject, the failure of the bank and its
attendant evils Halsey and I went out into the grounds for a
stroll Gertrude followed us shortly. "The light was thickening,"
to appropriate Shakespeare's description of twilight, and once
again the tree-toads and the crickets were making night throb
with their tiny life. It was almost oppressively lonely, in
spite of its beauty, and I felt a sickening pang of homesickness
for my city at night--for the clatter of horses' feet on cemented
paving, for the lights, the voices, the sound of children
playing. The country after dark oppresses me. The stars, quite
eclipsed in the city by the electric lights, here become
insistent, assertive. Whether I want to or not, I find myself
looking for the few I know by name, and feeling ridiculously
new and small by contrast--always an unpleasant

After Gertrude joined us, we avoided any further mention of the
murder. To Halsey, as to me, there was ever present, I am sure,
the thought of our conversation of the night before. As we
strolled back and forth along the drive, Mr. Jamieson emerged
from the shadow of the trees.

"Good evening," he said, managing to include Gertrude in his bow.

Gertrude had never been even ordinarily courteous to him, and she
nodded coldly. Halsey, however, was more cordial, although we
were all constrained enough. He and Gertrude went on together,
leaving the detective to walk with me. As soon as they were out
of earshot, he turned to me.

"Do you know, Miss Innes," he said, "the deeper I go into this
thing, the more strange it seems to me. I am very sorry for Miss
Gertrude. It looks as if Bailey, whom she has tried so hard to
save, is worse than a rascal; and after her plucky fight for him,
it seems hard."

I looked through the dusk to where Gertrude's light dinner dress
gleamed among the trees. She HAD made a plucky fight, poor
child. Whatever she might have been driven to do, I could
find nothing but a deep sympathy for her. If she had only come
to me with the whole truth then!

"Miss Innes," Mr. Jamieson was saying, "in the last three days,
have you seen a--any suspicious figures around the grounds?

"No," I replied. "I have a houseful of maids that will bear
watching, one and all. But there has been no strange woman near
the house or Liddy would have seen her, you may be sure. She has
a telescopic eye."

Mr. Jamieson looked thoughtful.

"It may not amount to anything," he said slowly. "It is
difficult to get any perspective on things around here, because
every one down in the village is sure he saw the murderer, either
before or since the crime. And half of them will stretch a point
or two as to facts, to be obliging. But the man who drives the
hack down there tells a story that may possibly prove to be

"I have heard it, I think. Was it the one the parlor maid
brought up yesterday, about a ghost wringing its hands on the
roof? Or perhaps it's the one the milk-boy heard: a tramp
washing a dirty shirt, presumably bloody, in the creek below the

I could see the gleam of Mr. Jamieson's teeth, as he smiled.

"Neither," he said. "But Matthew Geist, which is our friend's
name, claims that on Saturday night, at nine-thirty, a veiled

"I knew it would be a veiled lady," I broke in.

"A veiled lady," he persisted, "who was apparently young and
beautiful, engaged his hack and asked to be driven to Sunnyside.
Near the gate, however, she made him stop, in spite of his
remonstrances, saying she preferred to walk to the house. She
paid him, and he left her there. Now, Miss Innes, you had no
such visitor, I believe?"

"None," I said decidedly.

"Geist thought it might be a maid, as you had got a supply that
day. But he said her getting out near the gate puzzled him.
Anyhow, we have now one veiled lady, who, with the ghostly
intruder of Friday night, makes two assets that I hardly know
what to do with."

"It is mystifying," I admitted, "although I can think of one
possible explanation. The path from the Greenwood Club to the
village enters the road near the lodge gate. A woman who wished
to reach the Country Club, unperceived, might choose such a
method. There are plenty of women there."

I think this gave him something to ponder, for in a short time he
said good night and left. But I myself was far from satisfied.
I was determined, however, on one thing. If my suspicions--for I
had suspicions--were true, I would make my own investigations,
and Mr. Jamieson should learn only what was good for him to know.

We went back to the house, and Gertrude, who was more like
herself since her talk with Halsey, sat down at the mahogany desk
in the living-room to write a letter. Halsey prowled up and down
the entire east wing, now in the card-room, now in the billiard-
room, and now and then blowing his clouds of tobacco smoke among
the pink and gold hangings of the drawing-room. After a little I
joined him in the billiard-room, and together we went over the
details of the discovery of the body.

The card-room was quite dark. Where we sat, in the billiard-
room, only one of the side brackets was lighted, and we spoke in
subdued tones, as the hour and the subject seemed to demand.
When I spoke of the figure Liddy and I had seen on the porch
through the card-room window Friday night, Halsey sauntered
into the darkened room, and together we stood there, much as
Liddy and I had done that other night.

The window was the same grayish rectangle in the blackness as
before. A few feet away in the hall was the spot where the body
of Arnold Armstrong had been found. I was a bit nervous, and I
put my hand on Halsey's sleeve. Suddenly, from the top of the
staircase above us came the sound of a cautious footstep. At
first I was not sure, but Halsey's attitude told me he had heard
and was listening. The step, slow, measured, infinitely
cautious, was nearer now. Halsey tried to loosen my fingers, but
I was in a paralysis of fright.

The swish of a body against the curving rail, as if for guidance,
was plain enough, and now whoever it was had reached the foot of
the staircase and had caught a glimpse of our rigid silhouettes
against the billiard-room doorway. Halsey threw me off then and
strode forward.

"Who is it?" he called imperiously, and took a half dozen rapid
strides toward the foot of the staircase. Then I heard him
mutter something; there was the crash of a falling body, the slam
of the outer door, and, for an instant, quiet. I screamed,
I think. Then I remember turning on the lights and finding
Halsey, white with fury, trying to untangle himself from
something warm and fleecy. He had cut his forehead a little on
the lowest step of the stairs, and he was rather a ghastly sight.

He flung the white object at me, and, jerking open the outer
door, raced into the darkness.

Gertrude had come on hearing the noise, and now we stood, staring
at each other over--of all things on earth--a white silk and wool
blanket, exquisitely fine! It was the most unghostly thing in
the world, with its lavender border and its faint scent.
Gertrude was the first to speak.

"Somebody--had it?" she asked.

"Yes. Halsey tried to stop whoever it was and fell. Gertrude,
that blanket is not mine. I have never seen before."

She held it up and looked at it: then she went to the door on to
the veranda and threw it open. Perhaps a hundred feet from the
house were two figures, that moved slowly toward us as we looked.

When they came within range of the light, I recognized Halsey,
and with him Mrs. Watson, the housekeeper.



The most commonplace incident takes on a new appearance if the
attendant circumstances are unusual. There was no reason on
earth why Mrs. Watson should not have carried a blanket down the
east wing staircase, if she so desired. But to take a blanket
down at eleven o'clock at night, with every precaution as to
noise, and, when discovered, to fling it at Halsey and bolt--
Halsey's word, and a good one--into the grounds,--this made the
incident more than significant.

They moved slowly across the lawn and up the steps. Halsey was
talking quietly, and Mrs. Watson was looking down and listening.
She was a woman of a certain amount of dignity, most efficient,
so far as I could see, although Liddy would have found fault if
she dared. But just now Mrs. Watson's face was an enigma. She
was defiant, I think, under her mask of submission, and
she still showed the effect of nervous shock.

"Mrs. Watson," I said severely, "will you be so good as to
explain this rather unusual occurrence?"

"I don't think it so unusual, Miss Innes." Her voice was deep
and very clear: just now it was somewhat tremulous. "I was
taking a blanket down to Thomas, who is--not well to-night, and I
used this staircase, as being nearer the path to the lodge When--
Mr. Innes called and then rushed at me, I--I was alarmed, and
flung the blanket at him."

Halsey was examining the cut on his forehead in a small mirror on
the wall. It was not much of an injury, but it had bled freely,
and his appearance was rather terrifying.

"Thomas ill?" he said, over his shoulder. "Why, _I_ thought I
saw Thomas out there as you made that cyclonic break out of the
door and over the porch."

I could see that under pretense of examining his injury he was
watching her through the mirror.

"Is this one of the servants' blankets, Mrs. Watson?" I asked,
holding up its luxurious folds to the light.

"Everything else is locked away," she replied. Which was
true enough, no doubt. I had rented the house without bed

"If Thomas is ill," Halsey said, "some member of the family ought
to go down to see him. You needn't bother, Mrs. Watson. I will
take the blanket."

She drew herself up quickly, as if in protest, but she found
nothing to say. She stood smoothing the folds of her dead black
dress, her face as white as chalk above it. Then she seemed to
make up her mind.

"Very well, Mr. Innes," she said. "Perhaps you would better go.
I have done all I could."

And then she turned and went up the circular staircase, moving
slowly and with a certain dignity. Below, the three of us stared
at one another across the intervening white blanket.

"Upon my word," Halsey broke out, "this place is a walking
nightmare. I have the feeling that we three outsiders who have
paid our money for the privilege of staying in this spook-
factory, are living on the very top of things. We're on the lid,
so to speak. Now and then we get a sight of the things inside,
but we are not a part of them."

"Do you suppose," Gertrude asked doubtfully, "that she really
meant that blanket for Thomas?"

"Thomas was standing beside that magnolia tree," Halsey replied,
"when I ran after Mrs. Watson. It's down to this, Aunt Ray.
Rosie's basket and Mrs Watson's blanket can only mean one thing:
there is somebody hiding or being hidden in the lodge. It
wouldn't surprise me if we hold the key to the whole situation
now. Anyhow, I'm going to the lodge to investigate."

Gertrude wanted to go, too, but she looked so shaken that I
insisted she should not. I sent for Liddy to help her to bed,
and then Halsey and I started for the lodge. The grass was heavy
with dew, and, man-like, Halsey chose the shortest way across the
lawn. Half-way, however, he stopped.

"We'd better go by the drive," he said. "This isn't a lawn; it's
a field. Where's the gardener these days?"

"There isn't any," I said meekly. "We have been thankful enough,
so far, to have our meals prepared and served and the beds aired.

The gardener who belongs here is working at the club."

"Remind me to-morrow to send out a man from town," he said. "I
know the very fellow."

I record this scrap of conversation, just as I have tried to
put down anything and everything that had a bearing on what
followed, because the gardener Halsey sent the next day played an
important part in the events of the next few weeks--events that
culminated, as you know, by stirring the country profoundly. At
that time, however, I was busy trying to keep my skirts dry, and
paid little or no attention to what seemed then a most trivial

Along the drive I showed Halsey where I had found Rosie's basket
with the bits of broken china piled inside. He was rather

"Warner probably," he said when I had finished. "Began it as a
joke on Rosie, and ended by picking up the broken china out of
the road, knowing it would play hob with the tires of the car."
Which shows how near one can come to the truth, and yet miss it

At the lodge everything was quiet. There was a light in the
sitting-room down-stairs, and a faint gleam, as if from a shaded
lamp, in one of the upper rooms. Halsey stopped and examined the
lodge with calculating eyes.

"I don't know, Aunt Ray," he said dubiously; "this is hardly a
woman's affair. If there's a scrap of any kind, you hike
for the timber." Which was Halsey's solicitous care for me, put
into vernacular.

"I shall stay right here," I said, and crossing the small
veranda, now shaded and fragrant with honeysuckle, I hammered the
knocker on the door.

Thomas opened the door himself--Thomas, fully dressed and in his
customary health. I had the blanket over my arm.

"I brought the blanket, Thomas," I said; "I am sorry you are so

The old man stood staring at me and then at the blanket. His
confusion under other circumstances would have been ludicrous.

"What! Not ill?" Halsey said from the step. "Thomas, I'm afraid
you've been malingering."

Thomas seemed to have been debating something with himself. Now
he stepped out on the porch and closed the door gently behind

"I reckon you bettah come in, Mis' Innes," he said, speaking
cautiously. "It's got so I dunno what to do, and it's boun' to
come out some time er ruther."

He threw the door open then, and I stepped inside, Halsey close
behind. In the sitting-room the old negro turned with quiet
dignity to Halsey.

"You bettah sit down, sah," he said. "It's a place for a woman,

Things were not turning out the way Halsey expected. He sat down
on the center-table, with his hands thrust in his pockets, and
watched me as I followed Thomas up the narrow stairs. At the top
a woman was standing, and a second glance showed me it was Rosie.

She shrank back a little, but I said nothing. And then Thomas
motioned to a partly open door, and I went in.

The lodge boasted three bedrooms up-stairs, all comfortably
furnished. In this one, the largest and airiest, a night lamp
was burning, and by its light I could make out a plain white
metal bed. A girl was asleep there--or in a half stupor, for she
muttered something now and then. Rosie had taken her courage in
her hands, and coming in had turned up the light. It was only
then that I knew. Fever-flushed, ill as she was, I recognized
Louise Armstrong.

I stood gazing down at her in a stupor of amazement. Louise
here, hiding at the lodge, ill and alone! Rosie came up to the
bed and smoothed the white counterpane.

"I am afraid she is worse to-night," she ventured at last.
I put my hand on the sick girl's forehead. It was burning with
fever, and I turned to where Thomas lingered in the hallway.

"Will you tell me what you mean, Thomas Johnson, by not telling
me this before?" I demanded indignantly.

Thomas quailed.

"Mis' Louise wouldn' let me," he said earnestly. "I wanted to.
She ought to 'a' had a doctor the night she came, but she wouldn'
hear to it. Is she--is she very bad, Mis' Innes?"

"Bad enough," I said coldly. "Send Mr. Innes up."

Halsey came up the stairs slowly, looking rather interested and
inclined to be amused. For a moment he could not see anything
distinctly in the darkened room; he stopped, glanced at Rosie and
at me, and then his eyes fell on the restless head on the pillow.

I think he felt who it was before he really saw her; he crossed
the room in a couple of strides and bent over the bed.

"Louise!" he said softly; but she did not reply, and her eyes
showed no recognition. Halsey was young, and illness was new to
him. He straightened himself slowly, still watching her, and
caught my arm.

"She's dying, Aunt Ray!" he said huskily. "Dying! Why, she
doesn't know me!"

"Fudge!" I snapped, being apt to grow irritable when my
sympathies are aroused. "She's doing nothing of the sort,--and
don't pinch my arm. If you want something to do, go and choke

But at that moment Louise roused from her stupor to cough, and at
the end of the paroxysm, as Rosie laid her back, exhausted, she
knew us. That was all Halsey wanted; to him consciousness was
recovery. He dropped on his knees beside the bed, and tried to
tell her she was all right, and we would bring her around in a
hurry, and how beautiful she looked--only to break down utterly
and have to stop. And at that I came to my senses, and put him

"This instant!" I ordered, as he hesitated. "And send Rosie

He did not go far. He sat on the top step of the stairs, only
leaving to telephone for a doctor, and getting in everybody's way
in his eagerness to fetch and carry. I got him away finally, by
sending him to fix up the car as a sort of ambulance, in case the
doctor would allow the sick girl to be moved. He sent Gertrude
down to the lodge loaded with all manner of impossible
things, including an armful of Turkish towels and a box of
mustard plasters, and as the two girls had known each other
somewhat before, Louise brightened perceptibly when she saw her.

When the doctor from Englewood--the Casanova doctor, Doctor
Walker, being away--had started for Sunnyside, and I had got
Thomas to stop trying to explain what he did not understand
himself, I had a long talk with the old man, and this is what I

On Saturday evening before, about ten o'clock, he had been
reading in the sitting-room down-stairs, when some one rapped at
the door. The old man was alone, Warner not having arrived, and
at first he was uncertain about opening the door. He did so
finally, and was amazed at being confronted by Louise Armstrong.
Thomas was an old family servant, having been with the present
Mrs. Armstrong since she was a child, and he was overwhelmed at
seeing Louise. He saw that she was excited and tired, and he
drew her into the sitting-room and made her sit down. After a
while he went to the house and brought Mrs. Watson, and they
talked until late. The old man said Louise was in trouble, and
seemed frightened. Mrs. Watson made some tea and took it to the
lodge, but Louise made them both promise to keep her
presence a secret. She had not known that Sunnyside was rented,
and whatever her trouble was, this complicated things. She
seemed puzzled. Her stepfather and her mother were still in
California--that was all she would say about them. Why she had
run away no one could imagine. Mr. Arnold Armstrong was at the
Greenwood Club, and at last Thomas, not knowing what else to do,
went over there along the path. It was almost midnight. Part-
way over he met Armstrong himself and brought him to the lodge.
Mrs. Watson had gone to the house for some bed-linen, it having
been arranged that under the circumstances Louise would be better
at the lodge until morning. Arnold Armstrong and Louise had a
long conference, during which he was heard to storm and become
very violent. When he left it was after two. He had gone up to
the house--Thomas did not know why--and at three o'clock he was
shot at the foot of the circular staircase.

The following morning Louise had been ill. She had asked for
Arnold, and was told he had left town. Thomas had not the moral
courage to tell her of the crime. She refused a doctor, and
shrank morbidly from having her presence known. Mrs. Watson and
Thomas had had their hands full, and at last Rosie had been
enlisted to help them. She carried necessary provisions--little
enough--to the lodge, and helped to keep the secret.

Thomas told me quite frankly that he had been anxious to keep
Louise's presence hidden for this reason: they had all seen
Arnold Armstrong that night, and he, himself, for one, was known
to have had no very friendly feeling for the dead man. As to the
reason for Louise's flight from California, or why she had not
gone to the Fitzhughs', or to some of her people in town, he had
no more information than I had. With the death of her stepfather
and the prospect of the immediate return of the family, things
had become more and more impossible. I gathered that Thomas was
as relieved as I at the turn events had taken. No, she did not
know of either of the deaths in the family.

Taken all around, I had only substituted one mystery for another.

If I knew now why Rosie had taken the basket of dishes, I did not
know who had spoken to her and followed her along the drive. If
I knew that Louise was in the lodge, I did not know why she was
there. If I knew that Arnold Armstrong had spent some time
in the lodge the night before he was murdered, I was no nearer
the solution of the crime. Who was the midnight intruder who had
so alarmed Liddy and myself? Who had fallen down the clothes
chute? Was Gertrude's lover a villain or a victim? Time was to
answer all these things.



The doctor from Englewood came very soon, and I went up to see
the sick girl with him. Halsey had gone to supervise the fitting
of the car with blankets and pillows, and Gertrude was opening
and airing Louise's own rooms at the house. Her private sitting-
room, bedroom and dressing-room were as they had been when we
came. They occupied the end of the east wing, beyond the
circular staircase, and we had not even opened them.

The girl herself was too ill to notice what was being done.
When, with the help of the doctor, who was a fatherly man with a
family of girls at home, we got her to the house and up the
stairs into bed, she dropped into a feverish sleep, which lasted
until morning. Doctor Stewart--that was the Englewood doctor--
stayed almost all night, giving the medicine himself,
and watching her closely. Afterward he told me that she had had
a narrow escape from pneumonia, and that the cerebral symptoms
had been rather alarming. I said I was glad it wasn't an "itis"
of some kind, anyhow, and he smiled solemnly.

He left after breakfast, saying that he thought the worst of the
danger was over, and that she must be kept very quiet.

"The shock of two deaths, I suppose, has done this," he remarked,
picking up his case. "It has been very deplorable."

I hastened to set him right.

"She does not know of either, Doctor," I said. "Please do not
mention them to her."

He looked as surprised as a medical man ever does.

"I do not know the family," he said, preparing to get into his
top buggy. "Young Walker, down in Casanova, has been attending
them. I understand he is going to marry this young lady."

"You have been misinformed," I said stiffly. "Miss Armstrong is
going to marry my nephew."

The doctor smiled as he picked up the reins.

"Young ladies are changeable these days," he said. "We thought
the wedding was to occur soon. Well, I will stop in this
afternoon to see how my patient is getting along."

He drove away then, and I stood looking after him. He was a
doctor of the old school, of the class of family practitioner
that is fast dying out; a loyal and honorable gentleman who was
at once physician and confidential adviser to his patients. When
I was a girl we called in the doctor alike when we had measles,
or when mother's sister died in the far West. He cut out
redundant tonsils and brought the babies with the same air of
inspiring self-confidence. Nowadays it requires a different
specialist for each of these occurrences. When the babies cried,
old Doctor Wainwright gave them peppermint and dropped warm sweet
oil in their ears with sublime faith that if it was not colic it
was earache. When, at the end of a year, father met him driving
in his high side-bar buggy with the white mare ambling along, and
asked for a bill, the doctor used to go home, estimate what his
services were worth for that period, divide it in half--I don't
think he kept any books--and send father a statement, in a
cramped hand, on a sheet of ruled white paper. He was an honored
guest at all the weddings, christenings, and funerals--yes,
funerals--for every one knew he had done his best, and there
was no gainsaying the ways of Providence.

Ah, well, Doctor Wainwright is gone, and I am an elderly woman
with an increasing tendency to live in the past. The contrast
between my old doctor at home and the Casanova doctor, Frank
Walker, always rouses me to wrath and digression.

Some time about noon of that day, Wednesday, Mrs. Ogden Fitzhugh
telephoned me. I have the barest acquaintance with her--she
managed to be put on the governing board of the Old Ladies' Home
and ruins their digestions by sending them ice-cream and cake on
every holiday. Beyond that, and her reputation at bridge, which
is insufferably bad--she is the worst player at the bridge club--
I know little of her. It was she who had taken charge of Arnold
Armstrong's funeral, however, and I went at once to the

"Yes," I said, "this is Miss Innes."

"Miss Innes," she said volubly, "I have just received a very
strange telegram from my cousin, Mrs. Armstrong. Her husband
died yesterday, in California and--wait, I will read you the

I knew what was coming, and I made up my mind at once. If Louise
Armstrong had a good and sufficient reason for leaving her
people and coming home, a reason, moreover, that kept her from
going at once to Mrs. Ogden Fitzhugh, and that brought her to the
lodge at Sunnyside instead, it was not my intention to betray
her. Louise herself must notify her people. I do not justify
myself now, but remember, I was in a peculiar position toward the
Armstrong family. I was connected most unpleasantly with a cold-
blooded crime, and my niece and nephew were practically beggared,
either directly or indirectly, through the head of the family.

Mrs. Fitzhugh had found the message.

"`Paul died yesterday. Heart disease,'" she read. "`Wire at
once if Louise is with you.' You see, Miss Innes, Louise must
have started east, and Fanny is alarmed about her."

"Yes," I said.

"Louise is not here," Mrs. Fitzhugh went on, "and none of her
friends--the few who are still in town--has seen her. I called
you because Sunnyside was not rented when she went away, and
Louise might have, gone there."

"I am sorry, Mrs. Fitzhugh, but I can not help you," I said, and
was immediately filled with compunction. Suppose Louise
grew worse? Who was I to play Providence in this case? The
anxious mother certainly had a right to know that her daughter
was in good hands. So I broke in on Mrs. Fitzhugh's voluble
excuses for disturbing me.

"Mrs. Fitzhugh," I said. "I was going to let you think I knew
nothing about Louise Armstrong, but I have changed my mind.
Louise is here, with me." There was a clatter of ejaculations at
the other end of the wire. "She is ill, and not able to be
moved. Moreover, she is unable to see any one. I wish you would
wire her mother that she is with me, and tell her not to worry.
No, I do not know why she came east."

"But my dear Miss Innes!" Mrs. Fitzhugh began. I cut in

"I will send for you as soon as she can see you," I said. "No,
she is not in a critical state now, but the doctor says she must
have absolute quiet."

When I had hung up the receiver, I sat down to think. So Louise
had fled from her people in California, and had come east alone!
It was not a new idea, but why had she done it? It occurred to
me that Doctor Walker might be concerned in it, might possibly
have bothered her with unwelcome attentions; but it seemed
to me that Louise was hardly a girl to take refuge in flight
under such circumstances. She had always been high-spirited,
with the well-poised head and buoyant step of the outdoors girl.
It must have been much more in keeping with Louise's character,
as I knew it, to resent vigorously any unwelcome attentions from
Doctor Walker. It was the suitor whom I should have expected to
see in headlong flight, not the lady in the case.

The puzzle was no clearer at the end of the half-hour. I picked
up the morning papers, which were still full of the looting of
the Traders' Bank, the interest at fever height again, on account
of Paul Armstrong's death. The bank examiners were working on
the books, and said nothing for publication: John Bailey had been
released on bond. The body of Paul Armstrong would arrive Sunday
and would be buried from the Armstrong town house. There were
rumors that the dead man's estate had been a comparatively small
one. The last paragraph was the important one.

Walter P. Broadhurst, of the Marine Bank, had produced two
hundred American Traction bonds, which had been placed as
security with the Marine Bank for a loan of one hundred and sixty
thousand dollars, made to Paul Armstrong, just before his
California trip. The bonds were a part of the missing traction
bonds from the Traders' Bank! While this involved the late
president of the wrecked bank, to my mind it by no means cleared
its cashier.

The gardener mentioned by Halsey came out about two o'clock in
the afternoon, and walked up from the station. I was favorably
impressed by him. His references were good--he had been employed
by the Brays' until they went to Europe, and he looked young and
vigorous. He asked for one assistant, and I was glad enough to
get off so easily. He was a pleasant-faced young fellow, with
black hair and blue eyes, and his name was Alexander Graham. I
have been particular about Alex, because, as I said before, he
played an important part later.

That afternoon I had a new insight into the character of the dead
banker. I had my first conversation with Louise. She sent for
me, and against my better judgment I went. There were so many
things she could not be told, in her weakened condition, that I
dreaded the interview. It was much easier than I espected,
however, because she asked no questions.

Gertrude had gone to bed, having been up almost all night,
and Halsey was absent on one of those mysterious absences of his
that grew more and more frequent as time went on, until it
culminated in the event of the night of June the tenth. Liddy
was in attendance in the sick-room. There being little or
nothing to do, she seemed to spend her time smoothing the
wrinkles from the counterpane. Louise lay under a field of
virgin white, folded back at an angle of geometrical exactness,
and necessitating a readjustment every time the sick girl turned.

Liddy heard my approach and came out to meet me. She seemed to
be in a perpetual state of goose-flesh, and she had got in the
habit of looking past me when she talked, as if she saw things.
It had the effect of making me look over my shoulder to see what
she was staring at, and was intensely irritating.

"She's awake," Liddy said, looking uneasily down the circular
staircase, which was beside me. "She was talkin' in her sleep
something awful--about dead men and coffins."

"Liddy," I said sternly, "did you breathe a word about everything
not being right here?"

Liddy's gaze had wandered to the door of the chute, now bolted

"Not a word," she said, "beyond asking her a question or two,
which there was no harm in. She says there never was a ghost
known here."

I glared at her, speechless, and closing the door into Louise's
boudoir, to Liddy's great disappointment, I went on to the
bedroom beyond.

Whatever Paul Armstrong had been, he had been lavish with his
stepdaughter. Gertrude's rooms at home were always beautiful
apartments, but the three rooms in the east wing at Sunnyside,
set apart for the daughter of the house, were much more splendid.

From the walls to the rugs on the floor, from the furniture to
the appointments of the bath, with its pool sunk in the floor
instead of the customary unlovely tub, everything was luxurious.
In the bedroom Louise was watching for me. It was easy to see
that she was much improved; the flush was going, and the peculiar
gasping breathing of the night before was now a comfortable and
easy respiration.

She held out her hand and I took it between both of mine.

"What can I say to you, Miss Innes?" she said slowly. "To have
come like this--"

I thought she was going to break down, but she did not.

"You are not to think of anything but of getting well," I said,
patting her hand. "When you are better, I am going to scold you
for not coming here at once. This is your home, my dear, and of
all people in the world, Halsey's old aunt ought to make you

She smiled a little, sadly, I thought.

"I ought not to see Halsey," she said. "Miss Innes, there are a
great many things you will never understand, I am afraid. I am
an impostor on your sympathy, because I--I stay here and let you
lavish care on me, and all the time I know you are going to
despise me."

"Nonsense!" I said briskly. "Why, what would Halsey do to me if
I even ventured such a thing? He is so big and masterful that if
I dared to be anything but rapturous over you, he would throw me
out of a window. Indeed, he would be quite capable of it."

She seemed scarcely to hear my facetious tone. She had eloquent
brown eyes--the Inneses are fair, and are prone to a grayish-
green optic that is better for use than appearance--and they
seemed now to be clouded with trouble.

"Poor Halsey!" she said softly. "Miss Innes, I can not marry
him, and I am afraid to tell him. I am a coward--a coward!"

I sat beside the bed and stared at her. She was too ill to argue
with, and, besides, sick people take queer fancies.

"We will talk about that when you are stronger," I said gently.

"But there are some things I must tell you," she insisted. "You
must wonder how I came here, and why I stayed hidden at the
lodge. Dear old Thomas has been almost crazy, Miss Innes. I did
not know that Sunnyside was rented. I knew my mother wished to
rent it, without telling my--stepfather, but the news must have
reached her after I left. When I started east, I had only one
idea--to be alone with my thoughts for a time, to bury myself
here. Then, I--must have taken a cold on the train."

"You came east in clothing suitable for California," I said,
"and, like all young girls nowadays, I don't suppose you wear
flannels." But she was not listening.

"Miss Innes," she said, "has my stepbrother Arnold gone away?"

"What do you mean?" I asked, startled. But Louise was literal.

"He didn't come back that night," she said, "and it was so
important that I should see him."

"I believe he has gone away," I replied uncertainly. "Isn't it
something that we could attend to instead?"

But she shook her head. "I must do it myself," she said dully.
"My mother must have rented Sunnyside without telling my
stepfather, and--Miss Innes, did you ever hear of any one being
wretchedly poor in the midst of luxury?

"Did you ever long, and long, for money--money to use without
question, money that no one would take you to task about? My
mother and I have been surrounded for years with every indulgence
everything that would make a display. But we have never had any
money, Miss Innes; that must have been why mother rented this
house. My stepfather pays out bills. It's the most maddening,
humiliating existence in the world. I would love honest poverty

"Never mind," I said; "when you and Halsey are married you
can be as honest as you like, and you will certainly be poor."

Halsey came to the door at that moment and I could hear him
coaxing Liddy for admission to the sick room.

"Shall I bring him in?" I asked Louise, uncertain what to do.
The girl seemed to shrink back among her pillows at the sound of
his voice. I was vaguely irritated with her; there are few young
fellows like Halsey--straightforward, honest, and willing to
sacrifice everything for the one woman. I knew one once, more
than thirty years ago, who was like that: he died a long time
ago. And sometimes I take out his picture, with its cane and its
queer silk hat, and look at it. But of late years it has grown
too painful: he is always a boy--and I am an old woman. I would
not bring him back if I could.

Perhaps it was some such memory that made me call out sharply.

"Come in, Halsey." And then I took my sewing and went into the
boudoir beyond, to play propriety. I did not try to hear what
they said, but every word came through the open door with curious
distinctness. Halsey had evidently gone over to the bed and I
suppose he kissed her. There was silence for a moment, as
if words were superfluous things.

"I have been almost wild, sweetheart,"--Halsey's voice. "Why
didn't you trust me, and send for me before?"

"It was because I couldn't trust myself," she said in a low tone.

"I am too weak to struggle to-day; oh, Halsey, how I have wanted
to see you!"

There was something I did not hear, then Halsey again.

"We could go away," he was saying. "What does it matter about
any one in the world but just the two of us? To be always
together, like this, hand in hand; Louise--don't tell me it isn't
going to be. I won't believe you."

"You don't know; you don't know," Louise repeated dully.
"Halsey, I care--you know that--but--not enough to marry you."

"That is not true, Louise," he said sternly. "You can not look
at me with your honest eyes and say that."

"I can not marry you," she repeated miserably. "It's bad enough,
isn't it? Don't make it worse. Some day, before long, you will
be glad."

"Then it is because you have never loved me." There were depths
of hurt pride in his voice. "You saw how much I loved you, and
you let me think you cared--for a while. No--that isn't like
you, Louise. There is something you haven't told me. Is it--
because there is some one else?"

"Yes," almost inaudibly.

"Louise! Oh, I don't believe it."

"It is true," she said sadly. "Halsey, you must not try to see
me again. As soon as I can, I am going away from here--where you
are all so much kinder than I deserve. And whatever you hear
about me, try to think as well of me as you can. I am going to
marry--another man. How you must hate me--hate me!"

I could hear Halsey cross the room to the window. Then, after a
pause, he went back to her again. I could hardly sit still; I
wanted to go in and give her a good shaking.

"Then it's all over," he was saying with a long breath. "The
plans we made together, the hopes, the--all of it--over! Well,
I'll not be a baby, and I'll give you up the minute you say `I
don't love you and I do love--some one else'!"

"I can not say that," she breathed, "but, very soon, I shall
marry--the other man."

I could hear Halsey's low triumphant laugh.

"I defy him," he said. "Sweetheart, as long as you care for me,
I am not afraid."

The wind slammed the door between the two rooms just then, and I
could hear nothing more, although I moved my chair quite close.
After a discreet interval, I went into the other room, and found
Louise alone. She was staring with sad eyes at the cherub
painted on the ceiling over the bed, and because she looked tired
I did not disturb her.



We had discovered Louise at the lodge Tuesday night. It was
Wednesday I had my interview with her. Thursday and Friday were
uneventful, save as they marked improvement in our patient.
Gertrude spent almost all the time with her, and the two had
grown to be great friends. But certain things hung over me
constantly; the coroner's inquest on the death of Arnold
Armstrong, to be held Saturday, and the arrival of Mrs. Armstrong
and young Doctor Walker, bringing the body of the dead president
of the Traders' Bank. We had not told Louise of either death.

Then, too, I was anxious about the children. With their mother's
inheritance swept away in the wreck of the bank, and with their
love affairs in a disastrous condition, things could scarcely be
worse. Added to that, the cook and Liddy had a flare-up over
the proper way to make beef-tea for Louise, and, of
course, the cook left.

Mrs. Watson had been glad enough, I think, to turn Louise over to
our care, and Thomas went upstairs night and morning to greet his
young mistress from the doorway. Poor Thomas! He had the
faculty--found still in some old negroes, who cling to the
traditions of slavery days--of making his employer's interest
his. It was always "we" with Thomas; I miss him sorely; pipe-
smoking, obsequious, not over reliable, kindly old man!

On Thursday Mr. Harton, the Armstrongs' legal adviser, called up
from town. He had been advised, he said, that Mrs. Armstrong was
coming east with her husband's body and would arrive Monday. He
came with some hesitation, he went on, to the fact that he had
been further instructed to ask me to relinquish my lease on
Sunnyside, as it was Mrs. Armstrong's desire to come directly

I was aghast.

"Here!" I said. "Surely you are mistaken, Mr. Harton. I should
think, after--what happened here only a few days ago, she would
never wish to come back."

"Nevertheless," he replied, "she is most anxious to come. This
is what she says. `Use every possible means to have Sunnyside
vacated. Must go there at once.'"

"Mr. Harton," I said testily, "I am not going to do anything of
the kind. I and mine have suffered enough at the hands of this
family. I rented the house at an exorbitant figure and I have
moved out here for the summer. My city home is dismantled and in
the hands of decorators. I have been here one week, during which
I have had not a single night of uninterrupted sleep, and I
intend to stay until I have recuperated. Moreover, if Mr.
Armstrong died insolvent, as I believe was the case, his widow
ought to be glad to be rid of so expensive a piece of property."

The lawyer cleared his throat.

"I am very sorry you have made this decision," he said. "Miss
Innes, Mrs. Fitzhugh tells me Louise Armstrong is with you."

"She is."

"Has she been informed of this--double bereavement?"

"Not yet," I said. "She has been very ill; perhaps to-night she
can be told."

"It is very sad; very sad," he said. "I have a telegram for her,
Mrs. Innes. Shall I send it out?"

"Better open it and read it to me," I suggested. "If it is
important, that will save time."

There was a pause while Mr. Harton opened the telegram. Then he
read it slowly, judicially.

"`Watch for Nina Carrington. Home Monday. Signed F. L. W.'"

"Hum!" I said. "`Watch for Nina Carrington. Home Monday.' Very
well, Mr. Harton, I will tell her, but she is not in condition to
watch for any one."

"Well, Miss Innes, if you decide to--er--relinquish the lease,
let me know," the lawyer said.

"I shall not relinquish it," I replied, and I imagined his
irritation from the way he hung up the receiver.

I wrote the telegram down word for word, afraid to trust my
memory, and decided to ask Doctor Stewart how soon Louise might
be told the truth. The closing of the Traders' Bank I considered
unnecessary for her to know, but the death of her stepfather and
stepbrother must be broken to her soon, or she might hear it in
some unexpected and shocking manner.

Doctor Stewart came about four o'clock, bringing his leather
satchel into the house with a great deal of care, and opening it
at the foot of the stairs to show me a dozen big yellow eggs
nesting among the bottles.

"Real eggs," he said proudly. "None of your anemic store eggs,
but the real thing--some of them still warm. Feel them! Egg-nog
for Miss Louise."

He was beaming with satisfaction, and before he left, he insisted
on going back to the pantry and making an egg-nog with his own
hands. Somehow, all the time he was doing it, I had a vision of
Doctor Willoughby, my nerve specialist in the city, trying to
make an egg-nog. I wondered if he ever prescribed anything so
plebeian--and so delicious. And while Doctor Stewart whisked the
eggs he talked.

"I said to Mrs. Stewart," he confided, a little red in the face
from the exertion, "after I went home the other day, that you
would think me an old gossip, for saying what I did about Walker
and Miss Louise."

"Nothing of the sort," I protested.

"The fact is," he went on, evidently justifying him self, "I got
that piece of information just as we get a lot of things, through
the kitchen end of the house. Young Walker's chauffeur--Walker's
more fashionable than I am, and he goes around the country in a
Stanhope car--well, his chauffeur comes to see our servant
girl, and he told her the whole thing. I thought it was
probable, because Walker spent a lot of time up here last summer,
when the family was here, and besides, Riggs, that's Walker's
man, had a very pat little story about the doctor's building a
house on this property, just at the foot of the hill. The sugar,

The egg-nog was finished. Drop by drop the liquor had cooked the
egg, and now, with a final whisk, a last toss in the shaker, it
was ready, a symphony in gold and white. The doctor sniffed it.

"Real eggs, real milk, and a touch of real Kentucky whisky," he

He insisted on carrying it up himself, but at the foot of the
stairs he paused.

"Riggs said the plans were drawn for the house," he said, harking
back to the old subject. "Drawn by Huston in town. So I
naturally believed him."

When the doctor came down, I was ready with a question.

"Doctor," I asked, "is there any one in the neighborhood named
Carrington? Nina Carrington?"

"Carrington?" He wrinkled his forehead. "Carrington? No,
I don't remember any such family. There used to be Covingtons
down the creek."

"The name was Carrington," I said, and the subject lapsed.

Gertrude and Halsey went for a long walk that afternoon, and
Louise slept. Time hung heavy on my hands, and I did as I had
fallen into a habit of doing lately--I sat down and thought
things over. One result of my meditations was that I got up
suddenly and went to the telephone. I had taken the most intense
dislike to this Doctor Walker, whom I had never seen, and who was
being talked of in the countryside as the fiance of Louise

I knew Sam Huston well. There had been a time, when Sam was a
good deal younger than he is now, before he had married Anne
Endicott, when I knew him even better. So now I felt no
hesitation in calling him over the telephone. But when his
office boy had given way to his confidential clerk, and that
functionary had condescended to connect his employer's desk
telephone, I was somewhat at a loss as to how to begin.

"Why, how are you, Rachel?" Sam said sonorously. "Going to build
that house at Rock View?" It was a twenty-year-old joke of his.

"Sometime, perhaps," I said. "Just now I want to ask you a
question about something which is none of my business."

"I see you haven't changed an iota in a quarter of a century,
Rachel." This was intended to be another jest. "Ask ahead:
everything but my domestic affairs is at your service."

"Try to be serious," I said. "And tell me this: has your firm
made any plans for a house recently, for a Doctor Walker, at

"Yes, we have."

"Where was it to be built? I have a reason for asking."

"It was to be, I believe, on the Armstrong place. Mr. Armstrong
himself consulted me, and the inference was--in fact, I am quite
certain--the house was to be occupied by Mr. Armstrong's
daughter, who was engaged to marry Doctor Walker."

When the architect had inquired for the different members of my
family, and had finally rung off, I was certain of one thing.
Louise Armstrong was in love with Halsey, and the man she was
going to marry was Doctor Walker. Moreover, this decision was
not new; marriage had been contemplated for some time.
There must certainly be some explanation--but what was it?

That day I repeated to Louise the telegram Mr. Warton had opened.

She seemed to understand, but an unhappier face I have never
seen. She looked like a criminal whose reprieve is over, and the
day of execution approaching.



The next day, Friday, Gertrude broke the news of her stepfather's
death to Louise. She did it as gently as she could, telling her
first that he was very ill, and finally that he was dead. Louise
received the news in the most unexpected manner, and when
Gertrude came out to tell me how she had stood it, I think she
was almost shocked.

"She just lay and stared at me, Aunt Ray," she said. "Do you
know, I believe she is glad, glad! And she is too honest to
pretend anything else. What sort of man was Mr. Paul Armstrong,

"He was a bully as well as a rascal, Gertrude," I said. "But I
am convinced of one thing; Louise will send for Halsey now, and
they will make it all up."

For Louise had steadily refused to see Halsey all that day, and
the boy was frantic.

We had a quiet hour, Halsey and I, that evening, and I told him
several things; about the request that we give up the lease to
Sunnyside, about the telegram to Louise, about the rumors of an
approaching marriage between the girl and Doctor Walker, and,
last of all, my own interview with her the day before.

He sat back in a big chair, with his face in the shadow, and my
heart fairly ached for him. He was so big and so boyish! When I
had finished he drew a long breath.

"Whatever Louise does," he said, "nothing will convince me, Aunt
Ray, that she doesn't care for me. And up to two months ago,
when she and her mother went west, I was the happiest fellow on
earth. Then something made a difference: she wrote me that her
people were opposed to the marriage; that her feeling for me was
what it had always been, but that something had happened which
had changed her ideas as to the future. I was not to write until
she wrote me, and whatever occurred, I was to think the best I
could of her. It sounded like a puzzle. When I saw her
yesterday, it was the same thing, only, perhaps, worse."

"Halsey," I asked, "have you any idea of the nature of the
interview between Louise Armstrong and Arnold the night he was

"It was stormy. Thomas says once or twice he almost broke into
the room, he was so alarmed for Louise."

"Another thing, Halsey," I said, "have you ever heard Louise
mention a woman named Carrington, Nina Carrington?"

"Never," he said positively.

For try as we would, our thoughts always came back to that fatal
Saturday night, and the murder. Every conversational path led to
it, and we all felt that Jamieson was tightening the threads of
evidence around John Bailey. The detective's absence was hardly
reassuring; he must have had something to work on in town, or he
would have returned.

The papers reported that the cashier of the Traders' Bank was ill
in his apartments at the Knickerbocker--a condition not
surprising, considering everything. The guilt of the defunct
president was no longer in doubt; the missing bonds had been
advertised and some of them discovered. In every instance they
had been used as collateral for large loans, and the belief was
current that not less than a million and a half dollars had
been realized. Every one connected with the bank had been placed
under arrest, and released on heavy bond.

Was he alone in his guilt, or was the cashier his accomplice?
Where was the money? The estate of the dead man was
comparatively small--a city house on a fashionable street,
Sunnyside, a large estate largely mortgaged, an insurance of
fifty thousand dollars, and some personal property--this was all.

The rest lost in speculation probably, the papers said. There
was one thing which looked uncomfortable for Jack Bailey: he and
Paul Armstrong together had promoted a railroad company in New
Mexico, and it was rumored that together they had sunk large sums
of money there. The business alliance between the two men added
to the belief that Bailey knew something of the looting. His
unexplained absence from the bank on Monday lent color to the
suspicion against him. The strange thing seemed to be his
surrendering himself on the point of departure. To me, it seemed
the shrewd calculation of a clever rascal. I was not actively
antagonistic to Gertrude's lover, but I meant to be convinced,
one way or the other. I took no one on faith.

That night the Sunnyside ghost began to walk again. Liddy had
been sleeping in Louise's dressing-room on a couch, and the
approach of dusk was a signal for her to barricade the entire
suite. Situated as its was, beyond the circular staircase,
nothing but an extremity of excitement would have made her pass
it after dark. I confess myself that the place seemed to me to
have a sinister appearance, but we kept that wing well lighted,
and until the lights went out at midnight it was really cheerful,
if one did not know its history.

On Friday night, then, I had gone to bed, resolved to go at once
to sleep. Thoughts that insisted on obtruding themselves I
pushed resolutely to the back of my mind, and I systematically
relaxed every muscle. I fell asleep soon, and was dreaming that
Doctor Walker was building his new house immediately in front of
my windows: I could hear the thump-thump of the hammers, and then
I waked to a knowledge that somebody was pounding on my door.

I was up at once, and with the sound of my footstep on the floor
the low knocking ceased, to be followed immediately by sibilant
whispering through the keyhole.

"Miss Rachel! Miss Rachel!" somebody was saying, over and over.

"Is that you, Liddy?" I asked, my hand on the knob.

"For the love of mercy, let me in!" she said in a low tone.

She was leaning against the door, for when I opened it, she fell
in. She was greenish-white, and she had a red and black barred
flannel petticoat over her shoulders.

"Listen," she said, standing in the middle of the floor and
holding on to me. "Oh, Miss Rachel, it's the ghost of that dead
man hammering to get in!"

Sure enough, there was a dull thud--thud--thud from some place
near. It was muffled: one rather felt than heard it, and it was
impossible to locate. One moment it seemed to come, three taps
and a pause, from the floor under us: the next, thud--thud--
thud--it came apparently from the wall.

"It's not a ghost," I said decidedly. "If it was a ghost it
wouldn't rap: it would come through the keyhole." Liddy looked
at the keyhole. "But it sounds very much as though some one is
trying to break into the house."

Liddy was shivering violently. I told her to get me my slippers
and she brought me a pair of kid gloves, so I found my things
myself, and prepared to call Halsey. As before, the night alarm
had found the electric lights gone: the hall, save for its night
lamp, was in darkness, as I went across to Halsey's room. I
hardly know what I feared, but it was a relief to find him there,
very sound asleep, and with his door unlocked.

"Wake up, Halsey," I said, shaking him.

He stirred a little. Liddy was half in and half out of the door,
afraid as usual to be left alone, and not quite daring to enter.
Her scruples seemed to fade, however, all at once. She gave a
suppressed yell, bolted into the room, and stood tightly
clutching the foot-board of the bed. Halsey was gradually

"I've seen it," Liddy wailed. "A woman in white down the hall!"

I paid no attention.

"Halsey," I persevered, "some one is breaking into the house.
Get up, won't you?"

"It isn't our house," he said sleepily. And then he roused to
the exigency of the occasion. "All right, Aunt Ray," he
said, still yawning. "If you'll let me get into something--"

It was all I could do to get Liddy out of the room. The demands
of the occasion had no influence on her: she had seen the ghost,
she persisted, and she wasn't going into the hall. But I got her
over to my room at last, more dead than alive, and made her lie
down on the bed.

The tappings, which seemed to have ceased for a while, had
commenced again, but they were fainter. Halsey came over in a
few minutes, and stood listening and trying to locate the sound.

"Give me my revolver, Aunt Ray," he said; and I got it--the one I
had found in the tulip bed--and gave it to him. He saw Liddy
there and divined at once that Louise was alone.

"You let me attend to this fellow, whoever it is, Aunt Ray, and
go to Louise, will you? She may be awake and alarmed."

So in spite of her protests, I left Liddy alone and went back to
the east wing. Perhaps I went a little faster past the yawning
blackness of the circular staircase; and I could hear Halsey
creaking cautiously down the main staircase. The rapping, or
pounding, had ceased, and the silence was almost painful.
And then suddenly, from apparently under my very feet, there rose
a woman's scream, a cry of terror that broke off as suddenly as
it came. I stood frozen and still. Every drop of blood in my
body seemed to leave the surface and gather around my heart. In
the dead silence that followed it throbbed as if it would burst.
More dead than alive, I stumbled into Louise's bedroom. She was
not there!



I stood looking at the empty bed. The coverings had been thrown
back, and Louise's pink silk dressing-gown was gone from the
foot, where it had lain. The night lamp burned dimly, revealing
the emptiness of the place. I picked it up, but my hand shook so
that I put it down again, and got somehow to the door.

There were voices in the hall and Gertrude came running toward

"What is it?" she cried. "What was that sound? Where is

"She is not in her room," I said stupidly. "I think--it was
she--who screamed."

Liddy had joined us now, carrying a light. We stood huddled
together at the head of the circular staircase, looking down into
its shadows. There was nothing to be seen, and it was absolutely
quiet down there. Then we heard Halsey running up the
main staircase. He came quickly down the hall to where we were

"There's no one trying to get in. I thought I heard some one
shriek. Who was it?"

Our stricken faces told him the truth.

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