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The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Part 3 out of 5

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"Some one screamed down there," I said. "And--and Louise is not
in her room."

With a jerk Halsey took the light from Liddy and ran down the
circular staircase. I followed him, more slowly. My nerves
seemed to be in a state of paralysis: I could scarcely step. At
the foot of the stairs Halsey gave an exclamation and put down
the light.

"Aunt Ray," he called sharply.

At the foot of the staircase, huddled in a heap, her head on the
lower stair, was Louise Armstrong. She lay limp and white, her
dressing-gown dragging loose from one sleeve of her night-dress,
and the heavy braid of her dark hair stretching its length a
couple of steps above her head, as if she had slipped down.

She was not dead: Halsey put her down on the floor, and began to
rub her cold hands, while Gertrude and Liddy ran for stimulants.
As for me, I sat there at the foot of that ghostly staircase--
sat, because my knees wouldn't hold me--and wondered where
it would all end. Louise was still unconscious, but she was
breathing better, and I suggested that we get her back to bed
before she came to. There was something grisly and horrible to
me, seeing her there in almost the same attitude and in the same
place where we had found her brother's body. And to add to the
similarity, just then the hall clock, far off, struck faintly
three o'clock.

It was four before Louise was able to talk, and the first rays of
dawn were coming through her windows, which faced the east,
before she could tell us coherently what had occurred. I give it
as she told it. She lay propped in bed, and Halsey sat beside
her, unrebuffed, and held her hand while she talked.

"I was not sleeping well," she began, "partly, I think, because I
had slept during the afternoon. Liddy brought me some hot milk
at ten o'clock and I slept until twelve. Then I wakened and--I
got to thinking about things, and worrying, so I could not go to

"I was wondering why I had not heard from Arnold since the--since
I saw him that night at the lodge. I was afraid he was ill,
because--he was to have done something for me, and he had
not come back. It must have been three when I heard some one
rapping. I sat up and listened, to be quite sure, and the
rapping kept up. It was cautious, and I was about to call Liddy.

Then suddenly I thought I knew what it was. The east entrance
and the circular staircase were always used by Arnold when he was
out late, and sometimes, when he forgot his key, he would rap and
I would go down and let him in. I thought he had come back to
see me--I didn't think about the time, for his hours were always
erratic. But I was afraid I was too weak to get down the stairs.

The knocking kept up, and just as I was about to call Liddy, she
ran through the room and out into the hall. I got up then,
feeling weak and dizzy, and put on my dressing-gown. If it was
Arnold, I knew I must see him.

"It was very dark everywhere, but, of course, I knew my way. I
felt along for the stair-rail, and went down as quickly as I
could. The knocking had stopped, and I was afraid I was too
late. I got to the foot of the staircase and over to the door on
to the east veranda. I had never thought of anything but that it
was Arnold, until I reached the door. It was unlocked and opened
about an inch. Everything was black: it was perfectly dark
outside. I felt very queer and shaky. Then I thought perhaps
Arnold had used his key; he did--strange things sometimes, and I
turned around. Just as I reached the foot of the staircase I
thought I heard some one coming. My nerves were going anyhow,
there in the dark, and I could scarcely stand. I got up as far
as the third or fourth step; then I felt that some one was coming
toward me on the staircase. The next instant a hand met mine on
the stair-rail. Some one brushed past me, and I screamed. Then
I must have fainted."

That was Louise's story. There could be no doubt of its truth,
and the thing that made it inexpressibly awful to me was that the
poor girl had crept down to answer the summons of a brother who
would never need her kindly offices again. Twice now, without
apparent cause, some one had entered the house by means of the
east entrance: had apparently gone his way unhindered through the
house, and gone out again as he had entered. Had this unknown
visitor been there a third time, the night Arnold Armstrong was
murdered? Or a fourth, the time Mr. Jamieson had locked some one
in the clothes chute?

Sleep was impossible, I think, for any of us. We dispersed
finally to bathe and dress, leaving Louise little the worse for
her experience. But I determined that before the day was over
she must know the true state of affairs. Another decision I
made, and I put it into execution immediately after breakfast. I
had one of the unused bedrooms in the east wing, back along the
small corridor, prepared for occupancy, and from that time on,
Alex, the gardener, slept there. One man in that barn of a house
was an absurdity, with things happening all the time, and I must
say that Alex was as unobjectionable as any one could possibly
have been.

The next morning, also, Halsey and I made an exhaustive
examination of the circular staircase, the small entry at its
foot, and the card-room opening from it. There was no evidence
of anything unusual the night before, and had we not ourselves
heard the rapping noises, I should have felt that Louise's
imagination had run away with her. The outer door was closed and
locked, and the staircase curved above us, for all the world like
any other staircase.

Halsey, who had never taken seriously my account of the night
Liddy and I were there alone, was grave enough now. He examined
the paneling of the wainscoting above and below the stairs,
evidently looking for a secret door, and suddenly there flashed
into my mind the recollection of a scrap of paper that Mr.
Jamieson had found among Arnold Armstrong's effects. As nearly
as possible I repeated its contents to him, while Halsey took
them down in a note-book.

"I wish you had told me that before," he said, as he put the
memorandum carefully away. We found nothing at all in the house,
and I expected little from any examination of the porch and
grounds. But as we opened the outer door something fell into the
entry with a clatter. It was a cue from the billiard-room.

Halsey picked it up with an exclamation.

"That's careless enough," he said. "Some of the servants have
been amusing themselves."

I was far from convinced. Not one of the servants would go into
that wing at night unless driven by dire necessity. And a
billiard cue! As a weapon of either offense or defense it was an
absurdity, unless one accepted Liddy's hypothesis of a ghost, and
even then, as Halsey pointed out, a billiard-playing ghost would
be a very modern evolution of an ancient institution.

That afternoon we, Gertrude, Halsey and I, attended the coroner's
inquest in town. Doctor Stewart had been summoned also, it
transpiring that in that early Sunday morning, when Gertrude and
I had gone to our rooms, he had been called to view the body. We
went, the four of us, in the machine, preferring the execrable
roads to the matinee train, with half of Casanova staring at us.
And on the way we decided to say nothing of Louise and her
interview with her stepbrother the night he died. The girl was
in trouble enough as it was.



In giving the gist of what happened at the inquest, I have only
one excuse--to recall to the reader the events of the night of
Arnold Armstrong's murder. Many things had occurred which were
not brought out at the inquest and some things were told there
that were new to me. Altogether, it was a gloomy affair, and the
six men in the corner, who constituted the coroner's jury, were
evidently the merest puppets in the hands of that all-powerful
gentleman, the coroner.

Gertrude and I sat well back, with our veils down. There were a
number of people I knew: Barbara Fitzhugh, in extravagant
mourning--she always went into black on the slightest
provocation, because it was becoming--and Mr. Jarvis, the man who
had come over from the Greenwood Club the night of the
murder. Mr. Harton was there, too, looking impatient
as the inquest dragged, but alive to every particle of evidence.
From a corner Mr. Jamieson was watching the proceedings intently.

Doctor Stewart was called first. His evidence was told briefly,
and amounted to this: on the Sunday morning previous, at a
quarter before five, he had been called to the telephone. The
message was from a Mr. Jarvis, who asked him to come at once to
Sunnyside, as there had been an accident there, and Mr. Arnold
Armstrong had been shot. He had dressed hastily, gathered up
some instruments, and driven to Sunnyside.

He was met by Mr. Jarvis, who took him at once to the east wing.
There, just as he had fallen, was the body of Arnold Armstrong.
There was no need of the instruments: the man was dead. In
answer to the coroner's question--no, the body had not been
moved, save to turn it over. It lay at the foot of the circular
staircase. Yes, he believed death had been instantaneous. The
body was still somewhat warm and rigor mortis had not set in.
It occurred late in cases of sudden death. No, he believed the
probability of suicide might be eliminated; the wounds could have
been self-inflicted, but with difficulty, and there had been
no weapon found.

The doctor's examination was over, but he hesitated and cleared
his throat.

"Mr. Coroner," he said, "at the risk of taking up valuable time,
I would like to speak of an incident that may or may not throw
some light on this matter."

The audience was alert at once.

"Kindly proceed, Doctor," the coroner said.

"My home is in Englewood, two miles from Casanova," the doctor
began. "In the absence of Doctor Walker, a number of Casanova
people have been consulting me. A month ago--five weeks, to be
exact--a woman whom I had never seen came to my office. She was
in deep mourning and kept her veil down, and she brought for
examination a child, a boy of six. The little fellow was ill; it
looked like typhoid, and the mother was frantic. She wanted a
permit to admit the youngster to the Children's Hospital in town
here, where I am a member of the staff, and I gave her one. The
incident would have escaped me, but for a curious thing. Two
days before Mr. Armstrong was shot, I was sent for to go to the
Country Club: some one had been struck with a golf-ball that had
gone wild. It was late when I left--I was on foot, and
about a mile from the club, on the Claysburg road, I met two
people. They were disputing violently, and I had no difficulty
in recognizing Mr. Armstrong. The woman, beyond doubt, was the
one who had consulted me about the child."

At this hint of scandal, Mrs. Ogden Fitzhugh sat up very
straight. Jamieson was looking slightly skeptical, and the
coroner made a note.

"The Children's Hospital, you say, Doctor?" he asked.

"Yes. But the child, who was entered as Lucien Wallace, was
taken away by his mother two weeks ago. I have tried to trace
them and failed."

All at once I remembered the telegram sent to Louise by some one
signed F. L. W.--presumably Doctor Walker. Could this veiled
woman be the Nina Carrington of the message? But it was only
idle speculation. I had no way of finding out, and the inquest
was proceeding.

The report of the coroner's physician came next. The post-mortem
examination showed that the bullet had entered the chest in the
fourth left intercostal space and had taken an oblique course
downward and backward, piercing both the heart and lungs.
The left lung was collapsed, and the exit point of the ball had
been found in the muscles of the back to the left of the spinal
column. It was improbable that such a wound had been self-
inflicted, and its oblique downward course pointed to the fact
that the shot had been fired from above. In other words, as the
murdered man had been found dead at the foot of a staircase, it
was probable that the shot had been fired by some one higher up
on the stairs. There were no marks of powder. The bullet, a
thirty-eight caliber, had been found in the dead man's clothing,
and was shown to the jury.

Mr. Jarvis was called next, but his testimony amounted to little.

He had been summoned by telephone to Sunnyside, had come over at
once with the steward and Mr. Winthrop, at present out of town.
They had been admitted by the housekeeper, and had found the body
lying at the foot of the staircase. He had made a search for a
weapon, but there was none around. The outer entry door in the
east wing had been unfastened and was open about an inch.

I had been growing more and more nervous. When the coroner
called Mr. John Bailey, the room was filled with suppressed
excitement. Mr. Jamieson went forward and spoke a few words to
the coroner, who nodded. Then Halsey was called.

"Mr. Innes," the coroner said, "will you tell under what
circumstances you saw Mr. Arnold Armstrong the night he died?"

"I saw him first at the Country Club," Halsey said quietly. He
was rather pale, but very composed. "I stopped there with my
automobile for gasolene. Mr. Armstrong had been playing cards.
When I saw him there, he was coming out of the card-room, talking
to Mr. John Bailey."

"The nature of the discussion--was it amicable?"

Halsey hesitated.

"They were having a dispute," he said. "I asked Mr. Bailey to
leave the club with me and come to Sunnyside over Sunday."

"Isn't it a fact, Mr. Innes, that you took Mr. Bailey away from
the club-house because you were afraid there would be blows?"

"The situation was unpleasant," Halsey said evasively.

"At that time had you any suspicion that the Traders' Bank had
been wrecked?"


"What occurred next?"

"Mr. Bailey and I talked in the billiard-room until two-thirty."

"And Mr. Arnold Armstrong came there, while you were talking?"

"Yes. He came about half-past two. He rapped at the east door,
and I admitted him."

The silence in the room was intense. Mr. Jamieson's eyes never
left Halsey's face.

"Will you tell us the nature of his errand?"

"He brought a telegram that had come to the club for Mr. Bailey."

"He was sober?"

"Perfectly, at that time. Not earlier."

"Was not his apparent friendliness a change from his former

"Yes. I did not understand it."

"How long did he stay?"

"About five minutes. Then he left, by the east entrance."

"What occurred then?"

"We talked for a few minutes, discussing a plan Mr. Bailey
had in mind. Then I went to the stables, where I kept my car,
and got it out."

"Leaving Mr. Bailey alone in the billiard-room?"

Halsey hesitated.

"My sister was there?"

Mrs. Ogden Fitzhugh had the courage to turn and eye Gertrude
through her lorgnon.

"And then?"

"I took the car along the lower road, not to disturb the
household. Mr. Bailey came down across the lawn, through the
hedge, and got into the car on the road."

"Then you know nothing of Mr. Armstrong's movements after he left
the house?"

"Nothing. I read of his death Monday evening for the first

"Mr. Bailey did not see him on his way across the lawn?"

"I think not. If he had seen him he would have spoken of it."

"Thank you. That is all. Miss Gertrude Innes."

Gertrude's replies were fully as concise as Halsey's. Mrs.
Fitzhugh subjected her to a close inspection, commencing with her
hat and ending with her shoes. I flatter myself she found
nothing wrong with either her gown or her manner, but poor
Gertrude's testimony was the reverse of comforting. She had been
summoned, she said, by her brother, after Mr. Armstrong had gone.

She had waited in the billiard-room with Mr. Bailey, until the
automobile had been ready. Then she had locked the door at the
foot of the staircase, and, taking a lamp, had accompanied Mr.
Bailey to the main entrance of the house, and had watched him
cross the lawn. Instead of going at once to her room, she had
gone back to the billiard-room for something which had been left
there. The card-room and billiard-room were in darkness. She
had groped around, found the article she was looking for, and was
on the point of returning to her room, when she had heard some
one fumbling at the lock at the east outer door. She had thought
it was probably her brother, and had been about to go to the
door, when she heard it open. Almost immediately there was a
shot, and she had run panic-stricken through the drawing-room and
had roused the house.

"You heard no other sound?" the coroner asked. "There was no one
with Mr. Armstrong when he entered?"

"It was perfectly dark. There were no voices and I heard
nothing. There was just the opening of the door, the shot, and
the sound of somebody falling."

"Then, while you went through the drawing-room and up-stairs to
alarm the household, the criminal, whoever it was, could have
escaped by the east door?"


"Thank you. That will do."

I flatter myself that the coroner got little enough out of me. I
saw Mr. Jamieson smiling to himself, and the coroner gave me up,
after a time. I admitted I had found the body, said I had not
known who it was until Mr. Jarvis told me, and ended by looking
up at Barbara Fitzhugh and saying that in renting the house I had
not expected to be involved in any family scandal. At which she
turned purple.

The verdict was that Arnold Armstrong had met his death at the
hands of a person or persons unknown, and we all prepared to
leave. Barbara Fitzhugh flounced out without waiting to speak to
me, but Mr. Harton came up, as I knew he would.

"You have decided to give up the house, I hope, Miss Innes," he
said. "Mrs. Armstrong has wired me again."

"I am not going to give it up," I maintained, "until I understand
some things that are puzzling me. The day that the murderer is
discovered, I will leave."

"Then, judging by what I have heard, you will be back in the city
very soon," he said. And I knew that he suspected the
discredited cashier of the Traders' Bank.

Mr. Jamieson came up to me as I was about to leave the coroner's

"How is your patient?" he asked with his odd little smile.

"I have no patient," I replied, startled.

"I will put it in a different way, then. How is Miss Armstrong?"

"She--she is doing very well," I stammered.

"Good," cheerfully. "And our ghost? Is it laid?"

"Mr. Jamieson," I said suddenly, "I wish you would do one thing:
I wish you would come to Sunnyside and spend a few days there.
The ghost is not laid. I want you to spend one night at least
watching the circular staircase. The murder of Arnold Armstrong
was a beginning, not an end."

He looked serious.

"Perhaps I can do it," he said. "I have been doing something
else, but--well, I will come out to-night."

We were very silent during the trip back to Sunnyside. I watched
Gertrude closely and somewhat sadly. To me there was one glaring
flaw in her story, and it seemed to stand out for every one to
see. Arnold Armstrong had had no key, and yet she said she had
locked the east door. He must have been admitted from within the
house; over and over I repeated it to myself.

That night, as gently as I could, I told Louise the story of her
stepbrother's death. She sat in her big, pillow-filled chair,
and heard me through without interruption. It was clear that she
was shocked beyond words: if I had hoped to learn anything from
her expression, I had failed. She was as much in the dark as we



My taking the detective out to Sunnyside raised an unexpected
storm of protest from Gertrude and Halsey. I was not prepared
for it, and I scarcely knew how to account for it. To me Mr.
Jamieson was far less formidable under my eyes where I knew what
he was doing, than he was of in the city, twisting circumstances
and motives to suit himself and learning what he wished to know,
about events at Sunnyside, in some occult way. I was glad enough
to have him there, when excitements began to come thick and fast.

A new element was about to enter into affairs: Monday, or Tuesday
at the latest, would find Doctor Walker back in his green and
white house in the village, and Louise's attitude to him in the
immediate future would signify Halsey's happiness or
wretchedness, as it might turn out. Then, too, the return
of her mother would mean, of course, that she would
have to leave us, and I had become greatly attached to her.

From the day Mr. Jamieson came to Sunnyside there was a subtle
change in Gertrude's manner to me. It was elusive, difficult to
analyze, but it was there. She was no longer frank with me,
although I think her affection never wavered. At the time I laid
the change to the fact that I had forbidden all communication
with John Bailey, and had refused to acknowledge any engagement
between the two. Gertrude spent much of her time wandering
through the grounds, or taking long cross-country walks. Halsey
played golf at the Country Club day after day, and after Louise
left, as she did the following week, Mr. Jamieson and I were much
together. He played a fair game of cribbage, but he cheated at

The night the detective arrived, Saturday, I had a talk with him.

I told him of the experience Louise Armstrong had had the night
before, on the circular staircase, and about the man who had so
frightened Rosie on the drive. I saw that he thought the
information was important, and to my suggestion that we put an
additional lock on the east wing door he opposed a strong

"I think it probable," he said, "that our visitor will be back
again, and the thing to do is to leave things exactly as they
are, to avoid rousing suspicion. Then I can watch for at least a
part of each night and probably Mr. Innes will help us out. I
would say as little to Thomas as possible. The old man knows
more than he is willing to admit."

I suggested that Alex, the gardener, would probably be willing to
help, and Mr. Jamieson undertook to make the arrangement. For
one night, however, Mr. Jamieson preferred to watch alone.
Apparently nothing occurred. The detective sat in absolute
darkness on the lower step of the stairs, dozing, he said
afterwards, now and then. Nothing could pass him in either
direction, and the door in the morning remained as securely
fastened as it had been the night before. And yet one of the
most inexplicable occurrences of the whole affair took place that
very night.

Liddy came to my room on Sunday morning with a face as long as
the moral law. She laid out my, things as usual, but I missed
her customary garrulousness. I was not regaled with the new
cook's extravagance as to eggs, and she even forbore to mention
"that Jamieson," on whose arrival she had looked with silent

"What's the matter, Liddy?" I asked at last. "Didn't you sleep
last night?"

"No, ma'm," she said stiffly.

"Did you have two cups of coffee at your dinner?" I inquired.

"No, ma'm," indignantly.

I sat up and almost upset my hot water--I always take a cup of
hot water with a pinch of salt, before I get up. It tones the

"Liddy Allen," I said, "stop combing that switch and tell me what
is wrong with you."

Liddy heaved a sigh.

"Girl and woman," she said, "I've been with you twenty-five
years, Miss Rachel, through good temper and bad--"the idea! and
what I have taken from her in the way of sulks!--"but I guess I
can't stand it any longer. My trunk's packed."

"Who packed it?" I asked, expecting from her tone to be told she
had wakened to find it done by some ghostly hand.

"I did; Miss Rachel, you won't believe me when I tell you this
house is haunted. Who was it fell down the clothes chute?
Who was it scared Miss Louise almost into her grave?"

"I'm doing my best to find out," I said. "What in the world are
you driving at?" She drew a long breath.

"There is a hole in the trunk-room wall, dug out since last
night. It's big enough to put your head in, and the plaster's
all over the place."

"Nonsense!" I said. "Plaster is always falling."

But Liddy clenched that.

"Just ask Alex," she said. "When he put the new cook's trunk
there last night the wall was as smooth as this. This morning
it's dug out, and there's plaster on the cook's trunk. Miss
Rachel, you can get a dozen detectives and put one on every stair
in the house, and you'll never catch anything. There's some
things you can't handcuff."

Liddy was right. As soon as I could, I went up to the trunk-
room, which was directly over my bedroom. The plan of the upper
story of the house was like that of the second floor, in the
main. One end, however, over the east wing, had been left only
roughly finished, the intention having been to convert it into a
ball-room at some future time. The maids' rooms, trunk-room,
and various store-rooms, including a large airy linen-room,
opened from a long corridor, like that on the second floor. And
in the trunk-room, as Liddy had said, was a fresh break in the

Not only in the plaster, but through the lathing, the aperture
extended. I reached into the opening, and three feet away,
perhaps, I could touch the bricks of the partition wall. For
some reason, the architect, in building the house, had left a
space there that struck me, even in the surprise of the
discovery, as an excellent place for a conflagration to gain

"You are sure the hole was not here yesterday?" I asked Liddy,
whose expression was a mixture of satisfaction and alarm. In
answer she pointed to the new cook's trunk--that necessary
adjunct of the migratory domestic. The top was covered with fine
white plaster, as was the floor. But there were no large pieces
of mortar lying around--no bits of lathing. When I mentioned
this to Liddy she merely raised her eyebrows. Being quite
confident that the gap was of unholy origin, she did not concern
herself with such trifles as a bit of mortar and lath. No doubt
they were even then heaped neatly on a gravestone in the Casanova

I brought Mr. Jamieson up to see the hole in the wall, directly
after breakfast. His expression was very odd when he looked at
it, and the first thing he did was to try to discover what
object, if any, such a hole could have. He got a piece of
candle, and by enlarging the aperture a little was able to
examine what lay beyond. The result was nil. The trunk-room,
although heated by steam heat, like the rest of the house,
boasted of a fireplace and mantel as well. The opening had been
made between the flue and the outer wall of the house. There was
revealed, however, on inspection, only the brick of the chimney
on one side and the outer wall of the house on the other; in
depth the space extended only to the flooring. The breach had
been made about four feet from the floor, and inside were all the
missing bits of plaster. It had been a methodical ghost.

It was very much of a disappointment. I had expected a secret
room, at the very least, and I think even Mr. Jamieson had
fancied he might at last have a clue to the mystery. There was
evidently nothing more to be discovered: Liddy reported that
everything was serene among the servants, and that none of them
had been disturbed by the noise. The maddening thing,
however, was that the nightly visitor had evidently more than one
way of gaining access to the house, and we made arrangements to
redouble our vigilance as to windows and doors that night.

Halsey was inclined to pooh-pooh the whole affair. He said a
break in the plaster might have occurred months ago and gone
unnoticed, and that the dust had probably been stirred up the day
before. After all, we had to let it go at that, but we put in an
uncomfortable Sunday. Gertrude went to church, and Halsey took a
long walk in the morning. Louise was able to sit up, and she
allowed Halsey and Liddy to assist her down-stairs late in the
afternoon. The east veranda was shady, green with vines and
palms, cheerful with cushions and lounging chairs. We put Louise
in a steamer chair, and she sat there passively enough, her hands
clasped in her lap.

We were very silent. Halsey sat on the rail with a pipe, openly
watching Louise, as she looked broodingly across the valley to
the hills. There was something baffling in the girl's eyes; and
gradually Halsey's boyish features lost their glow at seeing her
about again, and settled into grim lines. He was like his father
just then.

We sat until late afternoon, Halsey growing more and more moody.
Shortly before six, he got up and went into the house, and in a
few minutes he came out and called me to the telephone. It was
Anna Whitcomb, in town, and she kept me for twenty minutes,
telling me the children had had the measles, and how Madame
Sweeny had botched her new gown.

When I finished, Liddy was behind me, her mouth a thin line.

"I wish you would try to look cheerful, Liddy," I groaned, "your
face would sour milk." But Liddy seldom replied to my gibes.
She folded her lips a little tighter.

"He called her up," she said oracularly, "he called her up, and
asked her to keep you at the telephone, so he could talk to Miss

"Nonsense!" I said bruskly. "I might have known enough to leave
them. It's a long time since you and I were in love, Liddy,
and--we forget."

Liddy sniffed.

"No man ever ,made a fool of me," she replied virtuously.

"Well, something did," I retorted.



Mr. Jamieson," I said, when we found ourselves alone after dinner
that night, "the inquest yesterday seemed to me the merest
recapitulation of things that were already known. It developed
nothing new beyond the story of Doctor Stewart's, and that was

"An inquest is only a necessary formality, Miss Innes," he
replied. "Unless a crime is committed in the open, the inquest
does nothing beyond getting evidence from witnesses while events
are still in their minds. The police step in later. You and I
both know how many important things never transpired. For
instance: the dead man had no key, and yet Miss Gertrude
testified to a fumbling at the lock, and then the opening of the
door. The piece of evidence you mention, Doctor Stewart's story,
is one of those things we have to take cautiously: the doctor has
a patient who wears black and does not raise her veil.
Why, it is the typical mysterious lady! Then the good doctor
comes across Arnold Armstrong, who was a graceless scamp--de
mortuis--what's the rest of it?--and he is quarreling with a
lady in black. Behold, says the doctor, they are one and the

"Why was Mr. Bailey not present at the inquest?"

The detective's expression was peculiar.

"Because his physician testified that he is ill, and unable to
leave his bed."

"Ill!" I exclaimed. "Why, neither Halsey nor Gertrude has told
me that."

"There are more things than that, Miss Innes, that are puzzling.
Bailey gives the impression that he knew nothing of the crash at
the bank until he read it in the paper Monday night, and that he
went back and surrendered himself immediately. I do not believe
it. Jonas, the watchman at the Traders' Bank, tells a different
story. He says that on the Thursday night before, about eight-
thirty, Bailey went back to the bank. Jonas admitted him, and he
says the cashier was in a state almost of collapse. Bailey
worked until midnight, then he closed the vault and went away.
The occurrence was so unusual that the watchman pondered
over it an the rest of the night. What did Bailey do when he
went back to the Knickerbocker apartments that night? He packed
a suit-case ready for instant departure. But he held off too
long; he waited for something. My personal opinion is that he
waited to see Miss Gertrude before flying from the country.
Then, when he had shot down Arnold Armstrong that night, he had
to choose between two evils. He did the thing that would
immediately turn public opinion in his favor, and surrendered
himself, as an innocent man. The strongest thing against him is
his preparation for flight, and his deciding to come back after
the murder of Arnold Armstrong. He was shrewd enough to disarm
suspicion as to the graver charge?"

The evening dragged along slowly. Mrs. Watson came to my bedroom
before I went to bed and asked if I had any arnica. She showed
me a badly swollen hand, with reddish streaks running toward the
elbow; she said it was the hand she had hurt the night of the
murder a week before, and that she had not slept well since. It
looked to me as if it might be serious, and I told her to let
Doctor Stewart see it.

The next morning Mrs. Watson went up to town on the eleven
train, and was admitted to the Charity Hospital. She was
suffering from blood-poisoning. I fully meant to go up and see
her there, but other things drove her entirely from my mind. I
telephoned to the hospital that day, however, and ordered a
private room for her, and whatever comforts she might be allowed.

Mrs. Armstrong arrived Monday evening with her husband's body,
and the services were set for the next day. The house on
Chestnut Street, in town, had been opened, and Tuesday morning
Louise left us to go home. She sent for me before she went, and
I saw she had been crying.

"How can I thank you, Miss Innes?" she said. "You have taken me
on faith, and--you have not asked me any questions. Some time,
perhaps, I can tell you; and when that time comes, you will all
despise me,--Halsey, too."

I tried to tell her how glad I was to have had her but there was
something else she wanted to say. She said it finally, when she
had bade a constrained good-by to Halsey and the car was waiting
at the door.

"Miss Innes," she said in a low tone, "if they--if there is any
attempt made to--to have you give up the house, do it, if
you possibly can. I am afraid--to have you stay."

That was all. Gertrude went into town with her and saw her
safely home. She reported a decided coolness in the greeting
between Louise and her mother, and that Doctor Walker was there,
apparently in charge of the arrangements for the funeral. Halsey
disappeared shortly after Louise left and came home about nine
that night, muddy and tired. As for Thomas, he went around
dejected and sad, and I saw the detective watching him closely at
dinner. Even now I wonder--what did Thomas know? What did he

At ten o'clock the household had settled down for the night.
Liddy, who was taking Mrs. Watson's place, had finished examining
the tea-towels and the corners of the shelves in the cooling-
room, and had gone to bed. Alex, the gardener, had gone heavily
up the circular staircase to his room, and Mr. Jamieson was
examining the locks of the windows. Halsey dropped into a chair
in the living-room, and stared moodily ahead. Once he roused.

"What sort of a looking chap is that Walker, Gertrude?" he asked!

"Rather tall, very dark, smooth-shaven. Not bad looking,"
Gertrude said, putting down the book she had been pretending to
read. Halsey kicked a taboret viciously.

"Lovely place this village must be in the winter," he said
irrelevantly. "A girl would be buried alive here."

It was then some one rapped at the knocker on the heavy front
door. Halsey got up leisurely and opened it, admitting Warner.
He was out of breath from running, and he looked half abashed.

"I am sorry to disturb you," he said. "But I didn't know what
else to do. It's about Thomas."

"What about Thomas?" I asked. Mr. Jamieson had come into the
hall and we all stared at Warner.

"He's acting queer," Warner explained. "He's sitting down there
on the edge of the porch, and he says he has seen a ghost. The
old man looks bad, too; he can scarcely speak."

"He's as full of superstition as an egg is of meat," I said.
"Halsey, bring some whisky and we will all go down."

No one moved to get the whisky, from which I judged there were
three pocket flasks ready for emergency. Gertrude threw a
shawl around my shoulders, and we all started down over the hill:
I had made so many nocturnal excursions around the place that I
knew my way perfectly. But Thomas was not on the veranda, nor
was he inside the house. The men exchanged significant glances,
and Warner got a lantern.

"He can't have gone far," he said. "He was trembling so that he
couldn't stand, when I left."

Jamieson and Halsey together made the round of the lodge,
occasionally calling the old man by name. But there was no
response. No Thomas came, bowing and showing his white teeth
through the darkness. I began to be vaguely uneasy, for the
first time. Gertrude, who was never nervous in the dark, went
alone down the drive to the gate, and stood there, looking along
the yellowish line of the road, while I waited on the tiny

Warner was puzzled. He came around to the edge of the veranda
and stood looking at it as if it ought to know and explain.

"He might have stumbled into the house," he said, "but he could
not have climbed the stairs. Anyhow, he's not inside or outside,
that I can see." The other members of the party had come back
now, and no one had found any trace of the old man. His
pipe, still warm, rested on the edge of the rail, and inside on
the table his old gray hat showed that its owner had not gone

He was not far, after all. From the table my eyes traveled
around the room, and stopped at the door of a closet. I hardly
know what impulse moved me, but I went in and turned the knob.
It burst open with the impetus of a weight behind it, and
something fell partly forward in a heap on the floor. It was
Thomas--Thomas without a mark of injury on him, and dead.



Warner was on his knees in a moment, fumbling at the old man's
collar to loosen it, but Halsey caught his hand.

"Let him alone?" he said. "You can't help him; he is dead."

We stood there, each avoiding the other's eyes; we spoke low and
reverently in the presence of death, and we tacitly avoided any
mention of the suspicion that was in every mind. When Mr.
Jamieson had finished his cursory examination, he got up and
dusted the knees of his trousers.

"There is no sign of injury," he said, and I know I, for one,
drew a long breath of relief. "From what Warner says and from
his hiding in the closet, I should say he was scared to death.
Fright and a weak heart, together."

"But what could have done it?" Gertrude asked. "He was
all right this evening at dinner. Warner, what did he say when
you found him on the porch?"
Warner looked shaken: his honest, boyish face was colorless.
"Just what I told you, Miss Innes. He'd been reading the
paper down-stairs; I had put up the car, and, feeling sleepy, I
came down to the lodge to go to bed. As I went up-stairs, Thomas
put down the paper and, taking his pipe, went out on the porch.
Then I heard an exclamation from him."

"What did he say?" demanded Jamieson.
"I couldn't hear, but his voice was strange; it sounded
startled. I waited for him to call out again, but he did not, so
I went down-stairs. He was sitting on the porch step, looking
straight ahead, as if he saw something among the trees across the
road. And he kept mumbling about having seen a ghost. He looked
queer, and I tried to get him inside, but he wouldn't move. Then
I thought I'd better go up to the house."
"Didn't he say anything else you could understand?" I asked.
"He said something about the grave giving up its dead."

Mr. Jamieson was going through the old man's pockets, and
Gertrude was composing his arms, folding them across his white
shirt-bosom, always so spotless.

Mr. Jamieson looked up at me.
"What was that you said to me, Miss Innes, about the murder
at the house being a beginning and not an end? By jove, I
believe you were right!"
In the course of his investigations the detective had come to
the inner pocket of the dead butler's black coat. Here he found
some things that interested him. One was a small flat key, with
a red cord tied to it, and the other was a bit of white paper, on
which was written something in Thomas' cramped hand. Mr.
Jamieson read it: then he gave it to me. It was an address in
fresh ink--

LUCIEN WALLACE, 14 Elm Street, Richfield.

As the card went around, I think both the detective and I
watched for any possible effect it might have, but, beyond
perplexity, there seemed to be none.
"Richfield!" Gertrude exclaimed. "Why, Elm Street is the
main street; don't you remember, Halsey?"

"Lucien Wallace!" Halsey said. "That is the child Stewart spoke
of at the inquest."

Warner, with his mechanic's instinct, had reached for the key.
What he said was not a surprise.

"Yale lock," he said. "Probably a key to the east entry."

There was no reason why Thomas, an old and trusted servant,
should not have had a key to that particular door, although the
servants' entry was in the west wing. But I had not known of
this key, and it opened up a new field of conjecture. Just now,
however, there were many things to be attended to, and, leaving
Warner with the body, we all went back to the house. Mr.
Jamieson walked with me, while Halsey and Gertrude followed.

"I suppose I shall have to notify the Armstrongs," I said. "They
will know if Thomas had any people and how to reach them. Of
course, I expect to defray the expenses of the funeral, but his
relatives must be found. What do you think frightened him, Mr.

"It is hard to say," he replied slowly, "but I think we may be
certain it was fright, and that he was hiding from something. I
am sorry in more than one way: I have always believed that
Thomas knew something, or suspected something, that he would not
tell. Do you know hour much money there was in that worn-out
wallet of his? Nearly a hundred dollars! Almost two months'
wages--and yet those darkies seldom have a penny. Well--what
Thomas knew will be buried with him."

Halsey suggested that the grounds be searched, but Mr. Jamieson
vetoed the suggestion.

"You would find nothing," he said. "A person clever enough to
get into Sunnyside and tear a hole in the wall, while I watched
down-stairs, is not to be found by going around the shrubbery
with a lantern."

With the death of Thomas, I felt that a climax had come in
affairs at Sunnyside. The night that followed was quiet enough.
Halsey watched at the foot of the staircase, and a complicated
system of bolts on the other doors seemed to be effectual.

Once in the night I wakened and thought I heard the tapping
again. But all was quiet, and I had reached the stage where I
refused to be disturbed for minor occurrences.

The Armstrongs were notified of Thomas' death, and I had my first
interview with Doctor Walker as a result. He came up early
the next morning, just as we finished breakfast, in a
professional looking car with a black hood. I found him striding
up and down the living-room, and, in spite of my preconceived
dislike, I had to admit that the man was presentable. A big
fellow he was, tall and dark, as Gertrude had said, smooth-shaven
and erect, with prominent features and a square jaw. He was
painfully spruce in his appearance, and his manner was almost
obtrusively polite.

"I must make a double excuse for this early visit, Miss Innes,"
he said as he sat down. The chair was lower than he expected,
and his dignity required collecting before he went on. "My
professional duties are urgent and long neglected, and"--a fall
to the every-day manner--"something must be done about that

"Yes," I said, sitting on the edge of my chair. "I merely wished
the address of Thomas' people. You might have telephoned, if you
were busy."

He smiled.

"I wished to see you about something else," he said. "As for
Thomas, it is Mrs. Armstrong's wish that would allow her to
attend to the expense. About his relatives, I have already
notified his brother, in the village. It was heart disease, I
think. Thomas always had a bad heart."

"Heart disease and fright," I said, still on the edge of my
chair. But the doctor had no intention of leaving.

"I understand you have a ghost up here, and that you have the
house filled with detectives to exorcise it," he said.

For some reason I felt I was being "pumped," as Halsey says.
"You have been misinformed," I replied.

"What, no ghost, no detectives!" he said, still with his smile.
"What a disappointment to the village!"

I resented his attempt at playfulness. It had been anything but
a joke to us.

"Doctor Walker," I said tartly, "I fail to see any humor in the
situation. Since I came here, one man has been shot, and another
one has died from shock. There have been intruders in the house,
and strange noises. If that is funny, there is something wrong
with my sense of humor."

"You miss the point," he said, still good-naturedly. "The thing
that is funny, to me, is that you insist on remaining here,
under the circumstances. I should think nothing would keep you."
"You are mistaken. Everything that occurs only confirms my
resolution to stay until the mystery is cleared."
"I have a message for you, Miss Innes," he said, rising at
last. "Mrs. Armstrong asked me to thank you for your kindness to
Louise, whose whim, occurring at the time it did, put her to
great inconvenience. Also--and this is a delicate matter--she
asked me to appeal to your natural sympathy for her, at this
time, and to ask you if you will not reconsider your decision
about the house. Sunnyside is her home; she loves it dearly, and
just now she wishes to retire here for quiet and peace."
"She must have had a change of heart," I said, ungraciously
enough. "Louise told me her mother despised the place. Besides,
this is no place for quiet and peace just now. Anyhow, doctor,
while I don't care to force an issue, I shall certainly remain
here, for a time at least."

"For how long?" he asked.
"My lease is for six months. I shall stay until some
explanation is found for certain things. My own family is
implicated now, and I shall do everything to clear the mystery of
Arnold Armstrong's murder."
The doctor stood looking down, slapping his gloves
thoughtfully against the palm of a well-looked-after hand.
"You say there have been intruders in the house?" he asked.
"You are sure of that, Miss Innes?"


"In what part?"

"In the east wing."
"Can you tell me when these intrusions occurred, and what the
purpose seemed to be? Was it robbery?"
"No," I said decidedly. "As to time, once on Friday night a
week ago, again the following night, when Arnold Armstrong was
murdered, and again last Friday night."
The doctor looked serious. He seemed to be debating some
question in his mind, and to reach a decision.
"Miss Innes," he said, "I am in a peculiar position; I
understand your attitude, of course; but--do you think you are
wise? Ever since you have come here there have been hostile
demonstrations against you and your family. I'm not a
croaker, but--take a warning. Leave before anything occurs that
will cause you a lifelong regret."

"I am willing to take the responsibility," I said coldly.

I think he gave me up then as a poor proposition. He asked to be
shown where Arnold Armstrong's body had been found, and I took
him there. He scrutinized the whole place carefully, examining
the stairs and the lock. When he had taken a formal farewell I
was confident of one thing. Doctor Walker would do anything he
could to get me away from Sunnyside.



It was Monday evening when we found the body of poor old Thomas.
Monday night had been uneventful; things were quiet at the house
and the peculiar circumstances of the old man's death had been
carefully kept from the servants. Rosie took charge of the
dining-room and pantry, in the absence of a butler, and, except
for the warning of the Casanova doctor, everything breathed of

Affairs at the Traders' Bank were progressing slowly. The
failure had hit small stock-holders very hard, the minister of
the little Methodist chapel in Casanova among them. He had
received as a legacy from an uncle a few shares of stock in the
Traders' Bank, and now his joy was turned to bitterness: he had
to sacrifice everything he had in the world, and his feeling
against Paul Armstrong, dead, as he was, must have been bitter in
the extreme. He was asked to officiate at the simple
services when the dead banker's body was interred in Casanova
churchyard, but the good man providentially took cold, and a
substitute was called in.

A few days after the services he called to see me, a kind-faced
little man, in a very bad frock-coat and laundered tie. I think
he was uncertain as to my connection with the Armstrong family,
and dubious whether I considered Mr. Armstrong's taking away a
matter for condolence or congratulation. He was not long in

I liked the little man. He had known Thomas well, and had
promised to officiate at the services in the rickety African Zion
Church. He told me more of himself than he knew, and before he
left, I astonished him--and myself, I admit--by promising a new
carpet for his church. He was much affected, and I gathered that
he had yearned over his ragged chapel as a mother over a half-
clothed child.

"You are laying up treasure, Miss Innes," he said brokenly,
"where neither moth nor rust corrupt, nor thieves break through
and steal."

"It is certainly a safer place than Sunnyside," I admitted. And
the thought of the carpet permitted him to smile. He stood
just inside the doorway, looking from the luxury of the house to
the beauty of the view.

"The rich ought to be good," he said wistfully. "They have so
much that is beautiful, and beauty is ennobling. And yet--while
I ought to say nothing but good of the dead--Mr. Armstrong saw
nothing of this fair prospect. To him these trees and lawns were
not the work of God. They were property, at so much an acre. He
loved money, Miss Innes. He offered up everything to his golden
calf. Not power, not ambition, was his fetish: it was money."
Then he dropped his pulpit manner, and, turning to me with his
engaging smile: "In spite of all this luxury," he said, "the
country people here have a saying that Mr. Paul Armstrong could
sit on a dollar and see all around it. Unlike the summer people,
he gave neither to the poor nor to the church. He loved money
for its own sake."

"And there are no pockets in shrouds!" I said cynically.

I sent him home in the car, with a bunch of hot-house roses for
his wife, and he was quite overwhelmed. As for me, I had a
generous glow that was cheap at the price of a church
carpet. I received less gratification--and less gratitude--when
I presented the new silver communion set to St. Barnabas.

I had a great many things to think about in those days. I made
out a list of questions and possible answers, but I seemed only
to be working around in a circle. I always ended where I began.
The list was something like this:

Who had entered the house the night before the murder?

Thomas claimed it was Mr. Bailey, whom he had seen on the foot-
path, and who owned the pearl cuff-link.

Why did Arnold Armstrong come back after he had left the house
the night he was killed?

No answer. Was it on the mission Louise had mentioned?

Who admitted him?

Gertrude said she had looked the east entry. There was no key on
the dead man or in the door. He must have been admitted from

Who had been locked in the clothes chute?

Some one unfamiliar with the house, evidently. Only two people
missing from the household, Rosie and Gertrude. Rosie had been
at the lodge. Therefore--but was it Gertrude? Might it not have
been the mysterious intruder again?

Who had accosted Rosie on the drive?

Again--perhaps the nightly visitor. It seemed more likely some
one who suspected a secret at the lodge. Was Louise under

Who had passed Louise on the circular staircase?

Could it have been Thomas? The key to the east entry made this a
possibility. But why was he there, if it were indeed he?

Who had made the hole in the trunk-room wall?

It was not vandalism. It had been done quietly, and with
deliberate purpose. If I had only known how to read the purpose
of that gaping aperture what I might have saved in anxiety and
mental strain!

Why had Louise left her people and come home to hide at the

There was no answer, as yet, to this, or to the next questions.

Why did both she and Doctor Walker warn us away from the house?

Who was Lucien Wallace?

What did Thomas see in the shadows the night he died?

What was the meaning of the subtle change in Gertrude?

Was Jack Bailey an accomplice or a victim in the looting of the
Traders' Bank?

What all-powerful reason made Louise determine to marry Doctor

The examiners were still working on the books of the Traders'
Bank, and it was probable that several weeks would elapse before
everything was cleared up. The firm of expert accountants who
had examined the books some two months before testified that
every bond, every piece of valuable paper, was there at that
time. It had been shortly after their examination that the
president, who had been in bad health, had gone to California.
Mr. Bailey was still ill at the Knickerbocker, and in this, as in
other ways, Gertrude's conduct puzzled me. She seemed
indifferent, refused to discuss matters pertaining to the bank,
and never, to my knowledge, either wrote to him or went to see

Gradually I came to the conclusion that Gertrude, with the rest
of the world, believed her lover guilty, and--although I believed
it myself, for that matter--I was irritated by her indifference.
Girls in my day did not meekly accept the public's verdict as to
the man they loved.

But presently something occurred that made me think that under
Gertrude's surface calm there was a seething flood of emotions.

Tuesday morning the detective made a careful search of the
grounds, but he found nothing. In the afternoon he disappeared,
and it was late that night when he came home. He said he would
have to go back to the city the following day, and arranged with
Halsey and Alex to guard the house.

Liddy came to me on Wednesday morning with her black silk apron
held up like a bag, and her eyes big with virtuous wrath. It was
the day of Thomas' funeral in the village, and Alex and I were in
the conservatory cutting flowers for the old man's casket. Liddy
is never so happy as when she is making herself wretched, and now
her mouth drooped while her eyes were triumphant.

"I always said there were plenty of things going on here,
right under our noses, that we couldn't see," she said, holding
out her apron.

"I don't see with my nose," I remarked. "What have you got

Liddy pushed aside a half-dozen geranium pots, and in the space
thus cleared she dumped the contents of her apron--a handful of
tiny bits of paper. Alex had stepped back, but I saw him
watching her curiously.

"Wait a moment, Liddy," I said. "You have been going through the
library paper-basket again!"

Liddy was arranging her bits of paper with the skill of long
practice and paid no attention.

"Did it ever occur to you," I went on, putting my hand over the
scraps, "that when people tear up their correspondence, it is for
the express purpose of keeping it from being read?"

"If they wasn't ashamed of it they wouldn't take so much trouble,
Miss Rachel," Liddy said oracularly. "More than that, with
things happening every day, I consider it my duty. If you don't
read and act on this, I shall give it to that Jamieson, and I'll
venture he'll not go back to the city to-day."

That decided me. If the scraps had anything to do with the
mystery ordinary conventions had no value. So Liddy arranged the
scraps, like working out one of the puzzle-pictures children play
with, and she did it with much the same eagerness. When it was
finished she stepped aside while I read it.

"Wednesday night, nine o'clock. Bridge," I real aloud. Then,
aware of Alex's stare, I turned on Liddy.

"Some one is to play bridge to-night at nine o'clock," I said.
"Is that your business, or mine?"

Liddy was aggrieved. She was about to reply when I scooped up
the pieces and left the conservatory.

"Now then," I said, when we got outside, "will you tell me why
you choose to take Alex into your confidence? He's no fool. Do
you suppose he thinks any one in this house is going to play
bridge to-night at nine o'clock, by appointment! I suppose you
have shown it in the kitchen, and instead of my being able to
slip down to the bridge to-night quietly, and see who is there,
the whole household will be going in a procession."

"Nobody knows it," Liddy said humbly. "I found it in the basket
in Miss Gertrude's dressing-room. Look at the back of the
sheet." I turned over some of the scraps, and, sure enough,
it was a blank deposit slip from the Traders' Bank. So Gertrude
was going to meet Jack Bailey that night by the bridge! And I
had thought he was ill! It hardly seemed like the action of an
innocent man--this avoidance of daylight, and of his fiancee's
people. I decided to make certain, however, by going to the
bridge that night.

After luncheon Mr. Jamieson suggested that I go with him to
Richfield, and I consented.

"I am inclined to place more faith in Doctor Stewart's story," he
said, "since I found that scrap in old Thomas' pocket. It bears
out the statement that the woman with the child, and the woman
who quarreled with Armstrong, are the same. It looks as if
Thomas had stumbled on to some affair which was more or less
discreditable to the dead man, and, with a certain loyalty to the
family, had kept it to himself. Then, you see, your story about
the woman at the card-room window begins to mean something. It
is the nearest approach to anything tangible that we have had

Warner took us to Richfield in the car. It was about twenty-five
miles by railroad, but by taking a series of atrociously rough
short cuts we got there very quickly. It was a pretty little
town, on the river, and back on the hill I could see the
Mortons' big country house, where Halsey and Gertrude had been
staying until the night of the murder.

Elm Street was almost the only street, and number fourteen was
easily found. It was a small white house, dilapidated without
having gained anything picturesque, with a low window and a porch
only a foot or so above the bit of a lawn. There was a baby-
carriage in the path, and from a swing at the side came the sound
of conflict. Three small children were disputing vociferously,
and a faded young woman with a kindly face was trying to hush the
clamor. When she saw us she untied her gingham apron and came
around to the porch.

"Good afternoon," I said. Jamieson lifted his hat, without
speaking. "I came to inquire about a child named Lucien

"I am glad you have come," she said. "In spite of the other
children, I think the little fellow is lonely. We thought
perhaps his mother would be here to-day."

Mr. Jamieson stepped forward.

"You are Mrs. Tate?" I wondered how the detective knew.

"Yes, sir."

"Mrs. Tate, we want to make some inquiries. Perhaps in the

"Come right in," she said hospitably. And soon we were in the
little shabby parlor, exactly like a thousand of its prototypes.
Mrs. Tate sat uneasily, her hands folded in her lap.

"How long has Lucien been here?" Mr. Jamieson asked.

"Since a week ago last Friday. His mother paid one week's board
in advance; the other has not been paid."

"Was he ill when he came?"

"No, sir, not what you'd call sick. He was getting better of
typhoid, she said, and he's picking up fine."

"Will you tell me his mother's name and address?"

"That's the trouble," the young woman said, knitting her brows.
"She gave her name as Mrs. Wallace, and said she had no address.
She was looking for a boarding-house in town. She said she
worked in a department store, and couldn't take care of the child
properly, and he needed fresh air and milk. I had three children
of my own, and one more didn't make much difference in the work,
but--I wish she would pay this week's board."

"Did she say what store it was?"

"No, sir, but all the boy's clothes came from King's. He has far
too fine clothes for the country."

There was a chorus of shouts and shrill yells from the front
door, followed by the loud stamping of children's feet and a
throaty "whoa, whoa!" Into the room came a tandem team of two
chubby youngsters, a boy and a girl, harnessed with a clothes-
line, and driven by a laughing boy of about seven, in tan
overalls and brass buttons. The small driver caught my attention
at once: he was a beautiful child, and, although he showed traces
of recent severe illness, his skin had now the clear transparency
of health.

"Whoa, Flinders," he shouted. "You're goin' to smash the trap."

Mr. Jamieson coaxed him over by holding out a lead-pencil,
striped blue and yellow.

"Now, then," he said, when the boy had taken the lead-pencil and
was testing its usefulness on the detective's cuff, "now then,
I'll bet you don't know what your name is!"

"I do," said the boy. "Lucien Wallace."

"Great! And what's your mother's name?"

"Mother, of course. What's your mother's name?" And he
pointed to me! I am going to stop wearing black: it doubles a
woman's age.

"And where did you live before you came here?" The detective was
polite enough not to smile.

"Grossmutter," he said. And I saw Mr. Jamieson's eyebrows go

"German," he commented. "Well, young man, you don't seem to know
much about yourself."

"I've tried it all week," Mrs. Tate broke in. "The boy knows a
word or two of German, but he doesn't know where he lived, or
anything about himself."

Mr. Jamieson wrote something on a card and gave it to her.

"Mrs. Tate," he said, "I want you to do something. Here is some
money for the telephone call. The instant the boy's mother
appears here, call up that number and ask for the person whose
name is there. You can run across to the drug-store on an errand
and do it quietly. Just say, `The lady has come.'"

"`The lady has come,'" repeated Mrs. Tate. "Very well, sir, and
I hope it will be soon. The milk-bill alone is almost double
what it was."

"How much is the child's board?" I asked.

"Three dollars a week, including his washing."

"Very well," I said. "Now, Mrs. Tate, I am going to pay last
week's board and a week in advance. If the mother comes, she is
to know nothing of this visit--absolutely not a word, and, in
return for your silence, you may use this money for--something
for your own children."

Her tired, faded face lighted up, and I saw her glance at the
little Tates' small feet. Shoes, I divined--the feet of the
genteel poor being almost as expensive as their stomachs.

As we went back Mr. Jamieson made only one remark: I think he
was laboring under the weight of a great disappointment.

"Is King's a children's outfitting place?" he asked.

"Not especially. It is a general department store."

He was silent after that, but he went to the telephone as soon as
we got home, and called up King and Company, in the city.

After a time he got the general manager, and they talked for some
time. When Mr. Jamieson hung up the receiver he turned to me.

"The plot thickens," he said with his ready smile. "There are
four women named Wallace at King's none of them married, and none
over twenty. I think I shall go up to the city to-night.
I want to go to the Children's Hospital. But before I go, Miss
Innes, I wish you would be more frank with me than you have been
yet. I want you to show me the revolver you picked up in the
tulip bed."

So he had known all along!

"It WAS a revolver, Mr. Jamieson," I admitted, cornered at
last, "but I can not show it to you. It is not in my



At dinner Mr. Jamieson suggested sending a man out in his place
for a couple of days, but Halsey was certain there would be
nothing more, and felt that he and Alex could manage the
situation. The detective went back to town early in the evening,
and by nine o'clock Halsey, who had been playing golf--as a man
does anything to take his mind away from trouble--was sleeping
soundly on the big leather davenport in the living-room.

I sat and knitted, pretending not to notice when Gertrude got up
and wandered out into the starlight. As soon as I was satisfied
that she had gone, however, I went out cautiously. I had no
intention of eavesdropping, but I wanted to be certain that it
was Jack Bailey she was meeting. Too many things had occurred in
which Gertrude was, or appeared to be, involved, to allow
anything to be left in question.

I went slowly across the lawn, skirted the hedge to a break not
far from the lodge, and found myself on the open road. Perhaps a
hundred feet to the left the path led across the valley to the
Country Club, and only a little way off was the foot-bridge over
Casanova Creek. But just as I was about to turn down the path I
heard steps coming toward me, and I shrank into the bushes. It
was Gertrude, going back quickly toward the house.

I was surprised. I waited until she had had time to get almost
to the house before I started. And then I stepped back again
into the shadows. The reason why Gertrude had not kept her tryst
was evident. Leaning on the parapet of the bridge in the
moonlight, and smoking a pipe, was Alex, the gardener. I could
have throttled Liddy for her carelessness in reading the torn
note where he could hear. And I could cheerfully have choked
Alex to death for his audacity.

But there was no help for it: I turned and followed Gertrude
slowly back to the house.

The frequent invasions of the house had effectually prevented any
relaxation after dusk. We had redoubled our vigilance as to
bolts and window-locks but, as Mr. Jamieson had suggested, we
allowed the door at the east entry to remain as before,
locked by the Yale lock only. To provide only one possible
entrance for the invader, and to keep a constant guard in the
dark at the foot of the circular staircase, seemed to be the only

In the absence of the detective, Alex and Halsey arranged to
change off, Halsey to be on duty from ten to two, and Alex from
two until six. Each man was armed, and, as an additional
precaution, the one off duty slept in a room near the head of the
circular staircase and kept his door open, to be ready for

These arrangements were carefully kept from the servants, who
were only commencing to sleep at night, and who retired, one and
all, with barred doors and lamps that burned full until morning.

The house was quiet again Wednesday night. It was almost a week
since Louise had encountered some one on the stairs, and it was
four days since the discovery of the hole in the trunk-room wall.

Arnold Armstrong and his father rested side by side in the
Casanova churchyard, and at the Zion African Church, on the hill,
a new mound marked the last resting-place of poor Thomas.

Louise was with her mother in town, and, beyond a polite note of
thanks to me, we had heard nothing from her. Doctor Walker had
taken up his practice again, and we saw him now and then flying
past along the road, always at top speed. The murder of Arnold
Armstrong was still unavenged, and I remained firm in the
position I had taken--to stay at Sunnyside until the thing was at
least partly cleared.

And yet, for all its quiet, it was on Wednesday night that
perhaps the boldest attempt was made to enter the house. On
Thursday afternoon the laundress sent word she would like to
speak to me, and I saw her in my private sitting-room, a small
room beyond the dressing-room.

Mary Anne was embarrassed. She had rolled down her sleeves and
tied a white apron around her waist, and she stood making folds
in it with fingers that were red and shiny from her soap-suds.

"Well, Mary," I said encouragingly, "what's the matter? Don't
dare to tell me the soap is out."

"No, ma'm, Miss Innes." She had a nervous habit of looking first
at my one eye and then at the other, her own optics shifting
ceaselessly, right eye, left eye, right eye, until I found myself
doing the same thing. "No, ma'm. I was askin' did you want
the ladder left up the clothes chute?"

"The what?" I screeched, and was sorry the next minute. Seeing
her suspicions were verified, Mary Anne had gone white, and stood
with her eyes shifting more wildly than ever.

"There's a ladder up the clothes chute, Miss Innes," she said.
"It's up that tight I can't move it, and I didn't like to ask for
help until I spoke to you."

It was useless to dissemble; Mary Anne knew now as well as I did
that the ladder had no business to be there. I did the best I
could, however. I put her on the defensive at once.

"Then you didn't lock the laundry last night?"

"I locked it tight, and put the key in the kitchen on its nail."

"Very well, then you forgot a window."

Mary Anne hesitated.

"Yes'm," she said at last. "I thought I locked them all, but
there was one open this morning."

I went out of the room and down the hall, followed by Mary Anne.
The door into the clothes chute was securely bolted, and when I
opened it I saw the evidence of the woman's story. A pruning-
ladder had been brought from where it had lain against the
stable and now stood upright in the clothes shaft, its end
resting against the wall between the first and second floors.

I turned to Mary.

"This is due to your carelessness," I said. "If we had all been
murdered in our beds it would have been your fault." She
shivered. "Now, not a word of this through the house, and send
Alex to me."

The effect on Alex was to make him apoplectic with rage, and with
it all I fancied there was an element of satisfaction. As I look
back, so many things are plain to me that I wonder I could not
see at the time. It is all known now, and yet the whole thing
was so remarkable that perhaps my stupidity was excusable.

Alex leaned down the chute and examined the ladder carefully.

"It is caught," he said with a grim smile. "The fools, to have
left a warning like that! The only trouble is, Miss Innes, they
won't be apt to come back for a while."

"I shouldn't regard that in the light of a calamity," I replied.

Until late that evening Halsey and Alex worked at the chute.
They forced down the ladder at last, and put a new bolt on the
door. As for myself, I sat and wondered if I had a deadly enemy,
intent on my destruction.

I was growing more and more nervous. Liddy had given up all
pretense at bravery, and slept regularly in my dressing-room on
the couch, with a prayer-book and a game knife from the kitchen
under her pillow, thus preparing for both the natural and the
supernatural. That was the way things stood that Thursday night,
when I myself took a hand in the struggle.



About nine o'clock that night Liddy came into the living-room and
reported that one of the housemaids declared she had seen two men
slip around the corner of the stable. Gertrude had been sitting
staring in front of her, jumping at every sound. Now she turned
on Liddy pettishly.

"I declare, Liddy," she said, "you are a bundle of nerves. What
if Eliza did see some men around the stable? It may have been
Warner and Alex."

"Warner is in the kitchen, miss," Liddy said with dignity. "And
if you had come through what I have, you would be a bundle of
nerves, too. Miss Rachel, I'd be thankful if you'd give me my
month's wages to-morrow. I'll be going to my sister's."

"Very well," I said, to her evident amazement. "I will make out
the check. Warner can take you down to the noon train."

Liddy's face was really funny.

"You'll have a nice time at your sister's," I went on. "Five
children, hasn't she?"

"That's it," Liddy said, suddenly bursting into tears. "Send me
away, after all these years, and your new shawl only half done,
and nobody knowin' how to fix the water for your bath."

"It's time I learned to prepare my own bath." I was knitting
complacently. But Gertrude got up and put her arms around
Liddy's shaking shoulders.

"You are two big babies," she said soothingly. "Neither one of
you could get along for an hour without the other. So stop
quarreling and be good. Liddy, go right up and lay out Aunty's
night things. She is going to bed early."

After Liddy had gone I began to think about the men at the
stable, and I grew more and more anxious. Halsey was aimlessly
knocking the billiard-balls around in the billiard-room, and I
called to him.

"Halsey," I said when he sauntered in, "is there a policeman in

"Constable," he said laconically. "Veteran of the war, one arm;
in office to conciliate the G. A. R. element. Why?"

"Because I am uneasy to-night." And I told him what Liddy had
said. "Is there any one you can think of who could be relied on
to watch the outside of the house to-night?"

"We might get Sam Bohannon from the club," he said thoughtfully.
"It wouldn't be a bad scheme. He's a smart darky, and with his
mouth shut and his shirt-front covered, you couldn't see him a
yard off in the dark."

Halsey conferred with Alex, and the result, in an hour, was Sam.
His instructions were simple. There had been numerous attempts
to break into the house; it was the intention, not to drive
intruders away, but to capture them. If Sam saw anything
suspicious outside, he was to tap at the east entry, where Alex
and Halsey were to alternate in keeping watch through the night.

It was with a comfortable feeling of security that I went to bed
that night. The door between Gertrude's rooms and mine had been
opened, and, with the doors into the hall bolted, we were safe
enough. Although Liddy persisted in her belief that doors would
prove no obstacles to our disturbers.

As before, Halsey watched the east entry from ten until two.
He had an eye to comfort, and he kept vigil in a heavy oak chair,
very large and deep. We went up-stairs rather early, and through
the open door Gertrude and I kept up a running fire of
conversation. Liddy was brushing my hair, and Gertrude was doing
her own, with a long free sweep of her strong round arms.

"Did you know Mrs. Armstrong and Louise are in the village?" she

"No," I replied, startled. "How did you hear it?"

"I met the oldest Stewart girl to-day, the doctor's daughter, and
she told me they had not gone back to town after the funeral.
They went directly to that little yellow house next to Doctor
Walker's, and are apparently settled there. They took the house
furnished for the summer."

"Why, it's a bandbox," I said. "I can't imagine Fanny Armstrong
in such a place."

"It's true, nevertheless. Ella Stewart says Mrs. Armstrong has
aged terribly, and looks as if she is hardly able to walk."

I lay and thought over some of these things until midnight. The
electric lights went out then, fading slowly until there was only
a red-hot loop to be seen in the bulb, and then even that
died away and we were embarked on the darkness of another night.

Apparently only a few minutes elapsed, during which my eyes were
becoming accustomed to the darkness. Then I noticed that the
windows were reflecting a faint pinkish light, Liddy noticed it
at the same time, and I heard her jump up. At that moment Sam's
deep voice boomed from somewhere just below.

"Fire!" he yelled. "The stable's on fire!"

I could see him in the glare dancing up and down on the drive,
and a moment later Halsey joined him. Alex was awake and running
down the stairs, and in five minutes from the time the fire was
discovered, three of the maids were sitting on their trunks in
the drive, although, excepting a few sparks, there was no fire
nearer than a hundred yards.

Gertrude seldom loses her presence of mind, and she ran to the
telephone. But by the time the Casanova volunteer fire
department came toiling up the hill the stable was a furnace,
with the Dragon Fly safe but blistered, in the road. Some
gasolene exploded just as the volunteer department got to work,
which shook their nerves as well as the burning building. The
stable, being on a hill, was a torch to attract the
population from every direction. Rumor had it that
Sunnyside was burning, and it was amazing how many people threw
something over their night-clothes and flew to the conflagration.

I take it Casanova has few fires, and Sunnyside was furnishing
the people, in one way and another, the greatest excitement they
had had for years.

The stable was off the west wing. I hardly know how I came to
think of the circular staircase and the unguarded door at its
foot. Liddy was putting my clothes into sheets, preparatory to
tossing them out the window, when I found her, and I could hardly
persuade her to stop.

"I want you to come with me, Liddy," I said. "Bring a candle and
a couple of blankets."

She lagged behind considerably when she saw me making for the
east wing, and at the top of the staircase she balked.

"I am not going down there," she said firmly.

"There is no one guarding the door down there," I explained.
"Who knows?--this may be a scheme to draw everybody away from
this end of the house, and let some one in here."

The instant I had said it I was convinced I had hit on the
explanation, and that perhaps it was already too late. It seemed
to me as I listened that I heard stealthy footsteps on the east
porch, but there was so much shouting outside that it was
impossible to tell. Liddy was on the point of retreat.

"Very well," I said, "then I shall go down alone. Run back to
Mr. Halsey's room and get his revolver. Don't shoot down the
stairs if you hear a noise: remember--I shall be down there. And

I put the candle on the floor at the top of the staircase and
took off my bedroom slippers. Then I crept down the stairs,
going very slowly, and listening with all my ears. I was keyed
to such a pitch that I felt no fear: like the condemned who sleep
and eat the night before execution, I was no longer able to
suffer apprehension. I was past that. Just at the foot of the
stairs I stubbed my toe against Halsey's big chair, and had to
stand on one foot in a soundless agony until the pain subsided to
a dull ache. And then--I knew I was right. Some one had put a
key into the lock, and was turning it. For some reason it
refused to work, and the key was withdrawn. There was a
muttering of voices outside: I had only a second. Another trial,
and the door would open. The candle above made a faint
gleam down the well-like staircase, and at that moment, with a
second, no more, to spare, I thought of a plan.

The heavy oak chair almost filled the space between the newel
post and the door. With a crash I had turned it on its side,
wedging it against the door, its legs against the stairs. I
could hear a faint scream from Liddy, at the crash, and then she
came down the stairs on a run, with the revolver held straight
out in front of her.

"Thank God," she said, in a shaking voice. "I thought it was

I pointed to the door, and she understood.

"Call out the windows at the other end of the house," I
whispered. "Run. Tell them not to wait for anything."

She went up the stairs at that, two at a time. Evidently she
collided with the candle, for it went out, and I was left in

I was really astonishingly cool. I remember stepping over the
chair and gluing my ear to the door, and I shall never forget
feeling it give an inch or two there in the darkness, under a
steady pressure from without. But the chair held, although I
could hear an ominous cracking of one of the legs. And
then, without the slightest warning, the card-room window broke
with a crash. I had my finger on the trigger of the revolver,
and as I jumped it went off, right through the door. Some one
outside swore roundly, and for the first time I could hear what
was said.

"Only a scratch. . . . Men are at the other end of the
house. . . . Have the whole rat's nest on us." And a lot of
profanity which I won't write down. The voices were at the
broken window now, and although I was trembling violently, I was
determined that I would hold them until help came. I moved up
the stairs until I could see into the card-room, or rather
through it, to the window. As I looked a small man put his leg
over the sill and stepped into the room. The curtain confused
him for a moment; then he turned, not toward me, but toward the
billiard-room door. I fired again, and something that was glass
or china crashed to the ground. Then I ran up the stairs and
along the corridor to the main staircase. Gertrude was standing
there, trying to locate the shots, and I must have been a
peculiar figure, with my hair in crimps, my dressing-gown flying,
no slippers, and a revolver clutched in my hands I had no time to
talk. There was the sound of footsteps in the lower hall,
and some one bounded up the stairs.

I had gone Berserk, I think. I leaned over the stair-rail and
fired again. Halsey, below, yelled at me.

"What are you doing up there?" he yelled. "You missed me by an

And then I collapsed and fainted. When I came around Liddy was
rubbing my temples with eau de quinine, and the search was in
full blast.

Well, the man was gone. The stable burned to the ground, while
the crowd cheered at every falling rafter, and the volunteer fire
department sprayed it with a garden hose. And in the house Alex
and Halsey searched every corner of the lower floor, finding no

The truth of my story was shown by the broken window and the
overturned chair. That the unknown had got up-stairs was almost
impossible. He had not used the main staircase, there was no way
to the upper floor in the east wing, and Liddy had been at the
window, in the west wing, where the servants' stair went up. But
we did not go to bed at all. Sam Bohannon and Warner helped in
the search, and not a closet escaped scrutiny. Even the cellars
were given a thorough overhauling, without result. The door
in the east entry had a hole through it where my bullet had gone.

The hole slanted downward, and the bullet was embedded in the
porch. Some reddish stains showed it had done execution.

"Somebody will walk lame," Halsey said, when he had marked the
course of the bullet. "It's too low to have hit anything but a
leg or foot."

From that time on I watched every person I met for a limp, and to
this day the man who halts in his walk is an object of suspicion
to me. But Casanova had no lame men: the nearest approach to it
was an old fellow who tended the safety gates at the railroad,
and he, I learned on inquiry, had two artificial legs. Our man
had gone, and the large and expensive stable at Sunnyside was a
heap of smoking rafters and charred boards. Warner swore the
fire was incendiary, and in view of the attempt to enter the
house, there seemed to be no doubt of it.



If Halsey had only taken me fully into his confidence, through
the whole affair, it would have been much simpler. If he had
been altogether frank about Jack Bailey, and if the day after the
fire he had told me what he suspected, there would have been no
harrowing period for all of us, with the boy in danger. But
young people refuse to profit by the experience of their elders,
and sometimes the elders are the ones to suffer.

I was much used up the day after the fire, and Gertrude insisted
on my going out. The machine was temporarily out of commission,
and the carriage horses had been sent to a farm for the summer.
Gertrude finally got a trap from the Casanova liveryman, and we
went out. Just as we turned from the drive into the road we
passed a woman. She had put down a small valise, and stood
inspecting the house and grounds minutely. I should
hardly have noticed her, had it not been for the fact that she
had been horribly disfigured by smallpox.

"Ugh!" Gertrude said, when we had passed, "what a face! I shall
dream of it to-night. Get up, Flinders."

"Flinders?" I asked. "Is that the horse's name?"

"It is." She flicked the horse's stubby mane with the whip. "He
didn't look like a livery horse, and the liveryman said he had
bought him from the Armstrongs when they purchased a couple of
motors and cut down the stable. Nice Flinders--good old boy!"

Flinders was certainly not a common name for a horse, and yet the
youngster at Richfield had named his prancing, curly-haired
little horse Flinders! It set me to thinking.

At my request Halsey had already sent word of the fire to the
agent from whom we had secured the house. Also, he had called
Mr. Jamieson by telephone, and somewhat guardedly had told him of
the previous night's events. Mr. Jamieson promised to come out
that night, and to bring another man with him. I did not
consider it necessary to notify Mrs. Armstrong, in the village.
No doubt she knew of the fire, and in view of my refusal to
give up the house, an interview would probably have been
unpleasant enough. But as we passed Doctor Walker's white and
green house I thought of something.

"Stop here, Gertrude," I said. "I am going to get out."

"To see Louise?" she asked.

"No, I want to ask this young Walker something."

She was curious, I knew, but I did not wait to explain. I went
up the walk to the house, where a brass sign at the side
announced the office, and went in. The reception-room was empty,
but from the consulting-room beyond came the sound of two voices,
not very amicable.

"It is an outrageous figure," some one was storming. Then the
doctor's quiet tone, evidently not arguing, merely stating
something. But I had not time to listen to some person probably
disputing his bill, so I coughed. The voices ceased at once: a
door closed somewhere, and the doctor entered from the hall of
the house. He looked sufficiently surprised at seeing me.

"Good afternoon, Doctor," I said formally. "I shall not
keep you from your patient. I wish merely to ask you a

"Won't you sit down?"

"It will not be necessary. Doctor, has any one come to you,
either early this morning or to-day, to have you treat a bullet

"Nothing so startling has happened to me," he said. "A bullet
wound! Things must be lively at Sunnyside."

"I didn't say it was at Sunnyside. But as it happens, it was.
If any such case comes to you, will it be too much trouble for
you to let me know?"

"I shall be only too happy," he said. "I understand you have had
a fire up there, too. A fire and shooting in one night is rather
lively for a quiet place like that."

"It is as quiet as a boiler-shop," I replied, as I turned to go.

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