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The Circular Staircase by Mary Roberts Rinehart

Part 4 out of 5

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"And you are still going to stay?"

"Until I am burned out," I responded. And then on my way down
the steps, I turned around suddenly.

"Doctor," I asked at a venture, "have you ever heard of a child
named Lucien Wallace?"

Clever as he was, his face changed and stiffened. He was on his
guard again in a moment.

"Lucien Wallace?" he repeated. "No, I think not. There are
plenty of Wallaces around, but I don't know any Lucien."

I was as certain as possible that he did. People do not lie
readily to me, and this man lied beyond a doubt. But there was
nothing to be gained now; his defenses were up, and I left, half
irritated and wholly baffled.

Our reception was entirely different at Doctor Stewart's. Taken
into the bosom of the family at once, Flinders tied outside and
nibbling the grass at the roadside, Gertrude and I drank some
home-made elderberry wine and told briefly of the fire. Of the
more serious part of the night's experience, of course, we said
nothing. But when at last we had left the family on the porch
and the good doctor was untying our steed, I asked him the same
question I had put to Doctor Walker.

"Shot!" he said. "Bless my soul, no. Why, what have you been
doing up at the big house, Miss Innes?"

"Some one tried to enter the house during the fire, and was
shot and slightly injured," I said hastily. "Please don't
mention it; we wish to make as little of it as possible."

There was one other possibility, and we tried that. At Casanova
station I saw the station master, and asked him if any trains
left Casanova between one o'clock and daylight. There was none
until six A.M. The next question required more diplomacy.

"Did you notice on the six-o'clock train any person--any man--who
limped a little?" I asked. "Please try to remember: we are
trying to trace a man who was seen loitering around Sunnyside
last night before the fire."

He was all attention in a moment.

"I was up there myself at the fire," he said volubly. "I'm a
member of the volunteer company. First big fire we've had since
the summer house burned over to the club golf links. My wife was
sayin' the other day, `Dave, you might as well 'a' saved the
money in that there helmet and shirt.' And here last night they
came in handy. Rang that bell so hard I hadn't time scarcely to
get 'em on."

"And--did you see a man who limped?" Gertrude put in, as he
stopped for breath.

"Not at the train, ma'm," he said. "No such person got on here
to-day. But I'll tell you where I did see a man that limped. I
didn't wait till the fire company left; there's a fast freight
goes through at four forty-five, and I had to get down to the
station. I seen there wasn't much more to do anyhow at the
fire--we'd got the flames under control"--Gertrude looked at me
and smiled--"so I started down the hill. There was folks here
and there goin' home, and along by the path to the Country Club I
seen two men. One was a short fellow. He was sitting on a big
rock, his back to me, and he had something white in his hand, as
if he was tying up his foot. After I'd gone on a piece I looked
back, and he was hobbling on and--excuse me, miss--he was
swearing something sickening."

"Did they go toward the club?" Gertrude asked suddenly, leaning

"No, miss. I think they came into the village. I didn't get a
look at their faces, but I know every chick and child in the
place, and everybody knows me. When they didn't shout at me--in
my uniform, you know--I took it they were strangers."

So all we had for our afternoon's work was this: some one had
been shot by the bullet that went through the door; he had not
left the village, and he had not called in a physician. Also,
Doctor Walker knew who Lucien Wallace was, and his very denial
made me confident that, in that one direction at least, we were
on the right track.

The thought that the detective would be there that night was the
most cheering thing of all, and I think even Gertrude was glad of
it. Driving home that afternoon, I saw her in the clear sunlight
for the first time in several days, and I was startled to see how
ill she looked. She was thin and colorless, and all her bright
animation was gone.

"Gertrude," I said, "I have been a very selfish old woman. You
are going to leave this miserable house to-night. Annie Morton
is going to Scotland next week, and you shall go right with her."

To my surprise, she flushed painfully.

"I don't want to go, Aunt Ray," she said. "Don't make me leave

"You are losing your health and your good looks," I said
decidedly. "You should have a change."

"I shan't stir a foot." She was equally decided. Then, more
lightly: "Why, you and Liddy need me to arbitrate between you
every day in the week."

Perhaps I was growing suspicious of every one, but it seemed to
me that Gertrude's gaiety was forced and artificial. I watched
her covertly during the rest of the drive, and I did not like the
two spots of crimson in her pale cheeks. But I said nothing more
about sending her to Scotland: I knew she would not go.



That day was destined to be an eventful one, for when I entered
the house and found Eliza ensconced in the upper hall on a chair,
with Mary Anne doing her best to stifle her with household
ammonia, and Liddy rubbing her wrists--whatever good that is
supposed to do--I knew that the ghost had been walking again, and
this time in daylight.

Eliza was in a frenzy of fear. She clutched at my sleeve when I
went close to her, and refused to let go until she had told her
story. Coming just after the fire, the household was
demoralized, and it was no surprise to me to find Alex and the
under-gardener struggling down-stairs with a heavy trunk between

"I didn't want to do it, Miss Innes," Alex said. "But she was so
excited, I was afraid she would do as she said--drag
it down herself, and scratch the staircase."

I was trying to get my bonnet off and to keep the maids quiet at
the same time. "Now, Eliza, when you have washed your face and
stopped bawling," I said, "come into my sitting-room and tell me
what has happened."

Liddy put away my things without speaking. The very set of her
shoulders expressed disapproval.

"Well," I said, when the silence became uncomfortable, "things
seem to be warming up."

Silence from Liddy, and a long sigh.

"If Eliza goes, I don't know where to look for another cook."
More silence.

"Rosie is probably a good cook." Sniff.

"Liddy," I said at last, "don't dare to deny that you are having
the time of your life. You positively gloat in this excitement.
You never looked better. It's my opinion all this running
around, and getting jolted out of a rut, has stirred up that
torpid liver of yours."

"It's not myself I'm thinking about," she said, goaded into
speech. "Maybe my liver was torpid, and maybe it wasn't; but I
know this: I've got some feelings left, and to see you
standing at the foot of that staircase shootin' through the
door--I'll never be the same woman again."

"Well, I'm glad of that--anything for a change," I said. And in
came Eliza, flanked by Rosie and Mary Anne.

Her story, broken with sobs and corrections from the other two,
was this: At two o'clock (two-fifteen, Rosie insisted) she had
gone up-stairs to get a picture from her room to show Mary Anne.
(A picture of a LADY, Mary Anne interposed.) She went up the
servants' staircase and along the corridor to her room, which lay
between the trunk-room and the unfinished ball-room. She heard a
sound as she went down the corridor, like some one moving
furniture, but she was not nervous. She thought it might be men
examining the house after the fire the night before, but she
looked in the trunk-room and saw nobody.

She went into her room quietly. The noise had ceased, and
everything was quiet. Then she sat down on the side of her bed,
and, feeling faint--she was subject to spells--("I told you that
when I came, didn't I, Rosie?" "Yes'm, indeed she did!")--she
put her head down on her pillow and--

"Took a nap. All right!" I said. "Go on."

"When I came to, Miss Innes, sure as I'm sittin' here, I thought
I'd die. Somethin' hit me on the face, and I set up, sudden.
And then I seen the plaster drop, droppin' from a little hole in
the wall. And the first thing I knew, an iron bar that long"
(fully two yards by her measure) "shot through that hole and
tumbled on the bed. If I'd been still sleeping" ("Fainting,"
corrected Rosie) "I'd 'a' been hit on the head and killed!"

"I wisht you'd heard her scream," put in Mary Anne. "And her
face as white as a pillow-slip when she tumbled down the stairs."

"No doubt there is some natural explanation for it, Eliza," I
said. "You may have dreamed it, in your `fainting' attack. But
if it is true, the metal rod and the hole in the wall will show

Eliza looked a little bit sheepish.

"The hole's there all right, Miss Innes," she said. "But the bar
was gone when Mary Anne and Rosie went up to pack my trunk."

"That wasn't all," Liddy's voice came funereally from a corner.
"Eliza said that from the hole in the wall a burning eye looked
down at her!"

"The wall must be at least six inches thick," I said with
asperity. "Unless the person who drilled the hole carried his
eyes on the ends of a stick, Eliza couldn't possibly have seen

But the fact remained, and a visit to Eliza's room proved it. I
might jeer all I wished: some one had drilled a hole in the
unfinished wall of the ball-room, passing between the bricks of
the partition, and shooting through the unresisting plaster of
Eliza's room with such force as to send the rod flying on to her
bed. I had gone up-stairs alone, and I confess the thing puzzled
me: in two or three places in the wall small apertures had been
made, none of them of any depth. Not the least mysterious thing
was the disappearance of the iron implement that had been used.

I remembered a story I read once about an impish dwarf that lived
in the spaces between the double walls of an ancient castle. I
wondered vaguely if my original idea of a secret entrance to a
hidden chamber could be right, after all, and if we were housing
some erratic guest, who played pranks on us in the dark, and
destroyed the walls that he might listen, hidden safely away, to
our amazed investigations.

Mary Anne and Eliza left that afternoon, but Rosie decided
to stay. It was about five o'clock when the hack came from the
station to get them, and, to my amazement, it had an occupant.
Matthew Geist, the driver, asked for me, and explained his errand
with pride.

"I've brought you a cook, Miss Innes," he said. "When the
message came to come up for two girls and their trunks, I
supposed there was something doing, and as this here woman had
been looking for work in the village, I thought I'd bring her

Already I had acquired the true suburbanite ability to take
servants on faith; I no longer demanded written and unimpeachable
references. I, Rachel Innes, have learned not to mind if the
cook sits down comfortably in my sitting-room when she is taking
the orders for the day, and I am grateful if the silver is not
cleaned with scouring soap. And so that day I merely told Liddy
to send the new applicant in. When she came, however, I could
hardly restrain a gasp of surprise. It was the woman with the
pitted face.

She stood somewhat awkwardly just inside the door, and she had an
air of self-confidence that was inspiring. Yes, she could cook;
was not a fancy cook, but could make good soups and desserts if
there was any one to take charge of the salads. And so, in
the end, I took her. As Halsey said, when we told him, it didn't
matter much about the cook's face, if it was clean.

I have spoken of Halsey's restlessness. On that day it seemed to
be more than ever a resistless impulse that kept him out until
after luncheon. I think he hoped constantly that he might meet
Louise driving over the hills in her runabout: possibly he did
meet her occasionally, but from his continued gloom I felt sure
the situation between them was unchanged.

Part of the afternoon I believe he read--Gertrude and I were out,
as I have said, and at dinner we both noticed that something had
occurred to distract him. He was disagreeable, which is unlike
him, nervous, looking at his watch every few minutes, and he ate
almost nothing. He asked twice during the meal on what train Mr.
Jamieson and the other detective were coming, and had long
periods of abstraction during which he dug his fork into my
damask cloth and did not hear when he was spoken to. He refused
dessert, and left the table early, excusing himself on the ground
that he wanted to see Alex.

Alex, however, was not to be found. It was after eight when
Halsey ordered the car, and started down the hill at a pace that,
even for him, was unusually reckless. Shortly after, Alex
reported that he was ready to go over the house, preparatory to
closing it for the night. Sam Bohannon came at a quarter before
nine, and began his patrol of the grounds, and with the arrival
of the two detectives to look forward to, I was not especially

At half-past nine I heard the sound of a horse driven furiously
up the drive. It came to a stop in front of the house, and
immediately after there were hurried steps on the veranda. Our
nerves were not what they should have been, and Gertrude, always
apprehensive lately, was at the door almost instantly. A moment
later Louise had burst into the room and stood there bareheaded
and breathing hard!

"Where is Halsey?" she demanded. Above her plain black gown her
eyes looked big and somber, and the rapid drive had brought no
color to her face. I got up and drew forward a chair.

"He has not come back," I said quietly. "Sit down, child; you
are not strong enough for this kind of thing."

I don't think she even heard me.

"He has not come back?" she asked, looking from me to Gertrude.
"Do you know where he went? Where can I find him?"

"For Heaven's sake, Louise," Gertrude burst out, "tell us what is
wrong. Halsey is not here. He has gone to the station for Mr.
Jamieson. What has happened?"

"To the station, Gertrude? You are sure?"

"Yes," I said. "Listen. There is the whistle of the train now."

She relaxed a little at our matter-of-fact tone, and allowed
herself to sink into a chair.

"Perhaps I was wrong," she said heavily. "He--will be here in a
few moments if--everything is right."

We sat there, the three of us, without attempt at conversation.
Both Gertrude and I recognized the futility of asking Louise any
questions: her reticence was a part of a role she had assumed.
Our ears were strained for the first throb of the motor as it
turned into the drive and commenced the climb to the house. Ten
minutes passed, fifteen, twenty. I saw Louise's hands grow rigid
as they clutched the arms of her chair. I watched Gertrude's
bright color slowly ebbing away, and around my own heart I
seemed to feel the grasp of a giant hand.

Twenty-five minutes, and then a sound. But it was not the chug
of the motor: it was the unmistakable rumble of the Casanova
hack. Gertrude drew aside the curtain and peered into the

"It's the hack, I am sure," she said, evidently relieved.
"Something has gone wrong with the car, and no wonder--the way
Halsey went down the hill."

It seemed a long time before the creaking vehicle came to a stop
at the door. Louise rose and stood watching, her hand to her
throat. And then Gertrude opened the door, admitting Mr.
Jamieson and a stocky, middle-aged man. Halsey was not with
them. When the door had closed and Louise realized that Halsey
had not come, her expression changed. From tense watchfulness to
relief, and now again to absolute despair, her face was an open

"Halsey?" I asked unceremoniously, ignoring the stranger. "Did
he not meet you?"

"No." Mr. Jamieson looked slightly surprised. "I rather
expected the car, but we got up all right."

"You didn't see him at all?" Louise demanded breathlessly.

Mr. Jamieson knew her at once, although he had not seen her
before. She had kept to her rooms until the morning she left.

"No, Miss Armstrong," he said. "I saw nothing of him. What is

"Then we shall have to find him," she asserted. "Every instant
is precious. Mr. Jamieson, I have reason for believing that he
is in danger, but I don't know what it is. Only--he must be

The stocky man had said nothing. Now, however, he went quickly
toward the door.

"I'll catch the hack down the road and hold it," he said. "Is
the gentleman down in the town?"

"Mr. Jamieson," Louise said impulsively, "I can use the hack.
Take my horse and trap outside and drive like mad. Try to find
the Dragon Fly--it ought to be easy to trace. I can think of no
other way. Only, don't lose a moment."

The new detective had gone, and a moment later Jamieson went
rapidly down the drive, the cob's feet striking fire at every
step. Louise stood looking after them. When she turned around
she faced Gertrude, who stood indignant, almost tragic, in the

"You KNOW what threatens Halsey, Louise," she said
accusingly. "I believe you know this whole horrible thing, this
mystery that we are struggling with. If anything happens to
Halsey, I shall never forgive you."

Louise only raised her hands despairingly and dropped them again.

"He is as dear to me as he is to you," she said sadly. "I tried
to warn him."

"Nonsense!" I said, as briskly as I could. "We are making a lot
of trouble out of something perhaps very small. Halsey was
probably late--he is always late. Any moment we may hear the car
coming up the road."

But it did not come. After a half-hour of suspense, Louise went
out quietly, and did not come back. I hardly knew she was gone
until I heard the station hack moving off. At eleven o'clock the
telephone rang. It was Mr. Jamieson.

"I have found the Dragon Fly, Miss Innes," he said. "It has
collided with a freight car on the siding above the station. No,
Mr. Innes was not there, but we shall probably find him. Send
Warner for the car."

But they did not find him. At four o'clock the next morning
we were still waiting for news, while Alex watched the house and
Sam the grounds. At daylight I dropped into exhausted sleep.
Halsey had not come back, and there was no word from the



Nothing that had gone before had been as bad as this. The murder
and Thomas' sudden death we had been able to view in a detached
sort of way. But with Halsey's disappearance everything was
altered. Our little circle, intact until now, was broken. We
were no longer onlookers who saw a battle passing around them.
We were the center of action. Of course, there was no time then
to voice such an idea. My mind seemed able to hold only one
thought: that Halsey had been foully dealt with, and that every
minute lost might be fatal.

Mr. Jamieson came back about eight o'clock the next morning: he
was covered with mud, and his hat was gone. Altogether, we were
a sad-looking trio that gathered around a breakfast that no one
could eat. Over a cup of black coffee the detective told us what
he had learned of Halsey's movements the night before.
Up to a certain point the car had made it easy enough to follow
him. And I gathered that Mr. Burns, the other detective, had
followed a similar car for miles at dawn, only to find it was a
touring car on an endurance run.

"He left here about ten minutes after eight," Mr Jamieson said.
"He went alone, and at eight twenty he stopped at Doctor
Walker's. I went to the doctor's about midnight, but he had been
called out on a case, and had not come back at four o'clock.
From the doctor's it seems Mr. Innes walked across the lawn to
the cottage Mrs. Armstrong and her daughter have taken. Mrs.
Armstrong had retired, and he said perhaps a dozen words to Miss
Louise. She will not say what they were, but the girl evidently
suspects what has occurred. That is, she suspects foul play, but
she doesn't know of what nature. Then, apparently, he started
directly for the station. He was going very fast--the flagman at
the Carol Street crossing says he saw the car pass. He knew the
siren. Along somewhere in the dark stretch between Carol Street
and the depot he evidently swerved suddenly--perhaps some one in
the road--and went full into the side of a freight. We found it
there last night."

"He might have been thrown under the train by the force of the
shock," I said tremulously.

Gertrude shuddered.

"We examined every inch of track. There was--no sign."

"But surely--he can't be--gone!" I cried. "Aren't there traces
in the mud--anything?"

"There is no mud--only dust. There has been no rain. And the
footpath there is of cinders. Miss Innes, I am inclined to think
that he has met with bad treatment, in the light of what has gone
before. I do not think he has been murdered." I shrank from the
word. "Burns is back in the country, on a clue we got from the
night clerk at the drug-store. There will be two more men here
by noon, and the city office is on the lookout."

"The creek?" Gertrude asked.

"The creek is shallow now. If it were swollen with rain, it
would be different. There is hardly any water in it. Now, Miss
Innes," he said, turning to me, "I must ask you some questions.
Had Mr. Halsey any possible reason for going away like this,
without warning?"

"None whatever."

"He went away once before," he persisted. "And you were as sure

"He did not leave the Dragon Fly jammed into the side of a
freight car before."

"No, but he left it for repairs in a blacksmith shop, a long
distance from here. Do you know if he had any enemies? Any one
who might wish him out of the way?"

"Not that I know of, unless--no, I can not think of any."

"Was he in the habit of carrying money?"

"He never carried it far. No, he never had more than enough for
current expenses."

Mr. Jamieson got up then and began to pace the room. It was an
unwonted concession to the occasion.

"Then I think we get at it by elimination. The chances are
against flight. If he was hurt, we find no trace of him. It
looks almost like an abduction. This young Doctor Walker--have
you any idea why Mr. Innes should have gone there last night?"

"I can not understand it," Gertrude said thoughtfully. "I don't
think he knew Doctor Walker at all, and--their relations could
hardly have been cordial, under the circumstances."

Jamieson pricked up his ears, and little by little he drew from
us the unfortunate story of Halsey's love affair, and the fact
that Louise was going to marry Doctor Walker.

Mr. Jamieson listened attentively.

"There are some interesting developments here," he said
thoughtfully. "The woman who claims to be the mother of Lucien
Wallace has not come back. Your nephew has apparently been
spirited away. There is an organized attempt being made to enter
this house; in fact, it has been entered. Witness the incident
with the cook yesterday. And I have a new piece of information."

He looked carefully away from Gertrude. "Mr. John Bailey is not
at his Knickerbocker apartments, and I don't know where he is.
It's a hash, that's what it is. It's a Chinese puzzle. They
won't fit together, unless--unless Mr. Bailey and your nephew
have again--"

And once again Gertrude surprised me. "They are not together,"
she said hotly. "I--know where Mr. Bailey is, and my brother is
not with him."

The detective turned and looked at her keenly.

"Miss Gertrude," he said, "if you and Miss Louise would only tell
me everything you know and surmise about this business, I
should be able to do a great many things. I believe I could find
your brother, and I might be able to--well, to do some other
things." But Gertrude's glance did not falter.

"Nothing that I know could help you to find Halsey," she said
stubbornly. "I know absolutely as little of his disappearance as
you do, and I can only say this: I do not trust Doctor Walker. I
think he hated Halsey, and he would get rid of him if he could."

"Perhaps you are right. In fact, I had some such theory myself.
But Doctor Walker went out late last night to a serious case in
Summitville, and is still there. Burns traced him there. We
have made guarded inquiry at the Greenwood Club, and through the
village. There is absolutely nothing to go on but this. On the
embankment above the railroad, at the point where we found the
machine, is a small house. An old woman and a daughter, who is
very lame, live there. They say that they distinctly heard the
shock when the Dragon Fly hit the car, and they went to the
bottom of their garden and looked over. The automobile was
there; they could see the lights, and they thought someone had
been injured. It was very dark, but they could make out two
figures, standing together. The women were curious, and,
leaving the fence, they went back and by a roundabout path down
to the road. When they got there the car was still standing, the
headlight broken and the bonnet crushed, but there was no one to
be seen."

The detective went away immediately, and to Gertrude and me was
left the woman's part, to watch and wait. By luncheon nothing
had been found, and I was frantic. I went up-stairs to Halsey's
room finally, from sheer inability to sit across from Gertrude
any longer, and meet her terror-filled eyes.

Liddy was in my dressing-room, suspiciously red-eyed, and trying
to put a right sleeve in a left armhole of a new waist for me. I
was too much shaken to scold.

"What name did that woman in the kitchen give?" she demanded,
viciously ripping out the offending sleeve.

"Bliss. Mattie Bliss," I replied.

"Bliss. M. B. Well, that's not what she has on he suitcase. It
is marked N. F. C."

The new cook and her initials troubled me not at all. I put on
my bonnet and sent for what the Casanova liveryman called a
"stylish turnout." Having once made up my mind to a course
of action, I am not one to turn back. Warner drove me; he was
plainly disgusted, and he steered the livery horse as he would
the Dragon Fly, feeling uneasily with his left foot for the
clutch, and working his right elbow at an imaginary horn every
time a dog got in the way.

Warner had something on his mind, and after we had turned into
the road, he voiced it.

"Miss Innes," he said. "I overheard a part of a conversation
yesterday that I didn't understand. It wasn't my business to
understand it, for that matter. But I've been thinking all day
that I'd better tell you. Yesterday afternoon, while you and
Miss Gertrude were out driving, I had got the car in some sort of
shape again after the fire, and I went to the library to call Mr.
Innes to see it. I went into the living-room, where Miss Liddy
said he was, and half-way across to the library I heard him
talking to some one. He seemed to be walking up and down, and he
was in a rage, I can tell you."

"What did he say?"

"The first thing I heard was--excuse me, Miss Innes, but it's
what he said, `The damned rascal,' he said, `I'll see him in'--
well, in hell was what he said, `in hell first.' Then
somebody else spoke up; it was a woman. She said, `I warned
them, but they thought I would be afraid.'"

"A woman! Did you wait to see who it was?"

"I wasn't spying, Miss Innes," Warner said with dignity. "But
the next thing caught my attention. She said, `I knew there was
something wrong from the start. A man isn't well one day, and
dead the next, without some reason.' I thought she was speaking
of Thomas."

"And you don't know who it was!" I exclaimed. "Warner, you had
the key to this whole occurrence in your hands, and did not use

However, there was nothing to be done. I resolved to make
inquiry when I got home, and in the meantime, my present errand
absorbed me. This was nothing less than to see Louise Armstrong,
and to attempt to drag from her what she knew, or suspected, of
Halsey's disappearance. But here, as in every, direction I
turned, I was baffled.

A neat maid answered the bell, but she stood squarely in the
doorway, and it was impossible to preserve one's dignity and pass

"Miss Armstrong is very ill, and unable to see any one," she
said. I did not believe her.

"And Mrs. Armstrong--is she also ill?"

"She is with Miss Louise and can not be disturbed."

"Tell her it is Miss Innes, and that it is a matter of the
greatest importance."

"It would be of no use, Miss Innes. My orders are positive."

At that moment a heavy step sounded on the stairs. Past the
maid's white-strapped shoulder I could see a familiar thatch of
gray hair, and in a moment I was face to face with Doctor
Stewart. He was very grave, and his customary geniality was
tinged with restraint.

"You are the very woman I want to see," he said promptly. "Send
away your trap, and let me drive you home. What is this about
your nephew?"

"He has disappeared, doctor. Not only that, but there is every
evidence that he has been either abducted, or--" I could not
finish. The doctor helped me into his capacious buggy in
silence. Until we had got a little distance he did not speak;
then he turned and looked at me.

"Now tell me about it," he said. He heard me through without

"And you think Louise knows something?" he said when I had
finished. "I don't--in fact, I am sure of it. The best evidence
of it is this: she asked me if he had been heard from, or if
anything had been learned. She won't allow Walker in the room,
and she made me promise to see you and tell you this: don't give
up the search for him. Find him, and find him soon. He is

"Well," I said, "if she knows that, she knows more. She is a
very cruel and ungrateful girl."

"She is a very sick girl," he said gravely. "Neither you nor I
can judge her until we know everything. Both she and her mother
are ghosts of their former selves. Under all this, these two
sudden deaths, this bank robbery, the invasions at Sunnyside and
Halsey's disappearance, there is some mystery that, mark my
words, will come out some day. And when it does, we shall find
Louise Armstrong a victim."

I had not noticed where we were going, but now I saw we were
beside the railroad, and from a knot of men standing beside the
track I divined that it was here the car had been found. The
siding, however, was empty. Except a few bits of splintered
wood on the ground, there was no sign of the accident.

"Where is the freight car that was rammed?" the doctor asked a

"It was taken away at daylight, when the train was moved."

There was nothing to be gained. He pointed out the house on the
embankment where the old lady and her daughter had heard the
crash and seen two figures beside the car. Then we drove slowly
home. I had the doctor put me down at the gate, and I walked to
the house--past the lodge where we had found Louise, and, later,
poor Thomas; up the drive where I had seen a man watching the
lodge and where, later, Rosie had been frightened; past the east
entrance, where so short a time before the most obstinate effort
had been made to enter the house, and where, that night two weeks
ago, Liddy and I had seen the strange woman. Not far from the
west wing lay the blackened ruins of the stables. I felt like a
ruin myself, as I paused on the broad veranda before I entered
the house.

Two private detectives had arrived in my absence, and it was a
relief to turn over to them the responsibility of the house and
grounds. Mr. Jamieson, they said, had arranged for more to
assist in the search for the missing man, and at that time the
country was being scoured in all directions.

The household staff was again depleted that afternoon. Liddy was
waiting to tell me that the new cook had gone, bag and baggage,
without waiting to be paid. No one had admitted the visitor whom
Warner had heard in the library, unless, possibly, the missing
cook. Again I was working in a circle.



The four days, from Saturday to the following Tuesday, we lived,
or existed, in a state of the most dreadful suspense. We ate
only when Liddy brought in a tray, and then very little. The
papers, of course, had got hold of the story, and we were
besieged by newspaper men. From all over the country false clues
came pouring in and raised hopes that crumbled again to nothing.
Every morgue within a hundred miles, every hospital, had been
visited, without result.

Mr. Jamieson, personally, took charge of the organized search,
and every evening, no matter where he happened to be, he called
us by long distance telephone. It was the same formula.
"Nothing to-day. A new clue to work on. Better luck to-morrow."

And heartsick we would put up the receiver and sit down again to
our vigil.

The inaction was deadly. Liddy cried all day, and, because she
knew I objected to tears, sniffled audibly around the corner.

"For Heaven's sake, smile!" I snapped at her. And her ghastly
attempt at a grin, with her swollen nose and red eyes, made me
hysterical. I laughed and cried together, and pretty soon, like
the two old fools we were, we were sitting together weeping into
the same handkerchief.

Things were happening, of course, all the time, but they made
little or no impression. The Charity Hospital called up Doctor
Stewart and reported that Mrs. Watson was in a critical
condition. I understood also that legal steps were being taken
to terminate my lease at Sunnyside. Louise was out of danger,
but very ill, and a trained nurse guarded her like a gorgon.
There was a rumor in the village, brought up by Liddy from the
butcher's, that a wedding had already taken place between Louise
and Doctor Walkers and this roused me for the first time to

On Tuesday, then, I sent for the car, and prepared to go out. As
I waited at the porte-cochere I saw the under-gardener, an
inoffensive, grayish-haired man, trimming borders near the house.

The day detective was watching him, sitting on the carriage
block. When he saw me, he got up.

"Miss Innes," he said, taking of his hat, "do you know where
Alex, the gardener, is?"

"Why, no. Isn't he here?" I asked.

"He has been gone since yesterday afternoon. Have you employed
him long?"

"Only a couple of weeks."

"Is he efficient? A capable man?"

"I hardly know," I said vaguely. "The place looks all right, and
I know very little about such things. I know much more about
boxes of roses than bushes of them."

"This man," pointing to the assistant, "says Alex isn't a
gardener. That he doesn't know anything about plants."

"That's very strange," I said, thinking hard. "Why, he came to
me from the Brays, who are in Europe."

"Exactly." The detective smiled. "Every man who cuts grass
isn't a gardener, Miss Innes, and just now it is our policy to
believe every person around here a rascal until he proves to be
the other thing."

Warner came up with the car then, and the conversation
stopped. As he helped me in, however, the detective said
something further.

"Not a word or sign to Alex, if he comes back," he said

I went first to Doctor Walker's. I was tired of beating about
the bush, and I felt that the key to Halsey's disappearance was
here at Casanova, in spite of Mr. Jamieson's theories.

The doctor was in. He came at once to the door of his
consulting-room, and there was no mask of cordiality in his

"Please come in," he said curtly.

"I shall stay here, I think, doctor." I did not like his face or
his manner; there was a subtle change in both. He had thrown of
the air of friendliness, and I thought, too, that he looked
anxious and haggard.

"Doctor Walker," I said, "I have come to you to ask some
questions. I hope you will answer them. As you know, my nephew
has not yet been found."

"So I understand," stiffly.

"I believe, if you would, you could help us, and that leads to
one of my questions. Will you tell me what was the nature of the
conversation you held with him the night he was attacked and
carried off?"

"Attacked! Carried off!" he said, with pretended surprise.
"Really, Miss Innes, don't you think you exaggerate? I
understand it is not the first time Mr. Innes has--disappeared."

"You are quibbling, doctor. This is a matter of life and death.
Will you answer my question?"

"Certainly. He said his nerves were bad, and I gave him a
prescription for them. I am violating professional ethics when I
tell you even as much as that."

I could not tell him he lied. I think I looked it. But I
hazarded a random shot.

"I thought perhaps," I said, watching him narrowly, "that it
might be about--Nina Carrington."

For a moment I thought he was going to strike me. He grew livid,
and a small crooked blood-vessel in his temple swelled and
throbbed curiously. Then he forced a short laugh.

"Who is Nina Carrington?" he asked.

"I am about to discover that," I replied, and he was quiet at
once. It was not difficult to divine that he feared Nina
Carrington a good deal more than he did the devil. Our leave-
taking was brief; in fact, we merely stared at each other over
the waiting-room table, with its litter of year-old
magazines. Then I turned and went out.

"To Richfield," I told Warner, and on the way I thought, and
thought hard.

"Nina Carrington, Nina Carrington," the roar and rush of the
wheels seemed to sing the words. "Nina Carrington, N. C." And I
then knew, knew as surely as if I had seen the whole thing.
There had been an N. C. on the suit-case belonging to the woman
with the pitted face. How simple it all seemed. Mattie Bliss
had been Nina Carrington. It was she Warner had heard in the
library. It was something she had told Halsey that had taken him
frantically to Doctor Walker's office, and from there perhaps to
his death. If we could find the woman, we might find what had
become of Halsey.

We were almost at Richfield now, so I kept on. My mind was not
on my errand there now. It was back with Halsey on that
memorable night. What was it he had said to Louise, that had
sent her up to Sunnyside, half wild with fear for him? I made up
my mind, as the car drew up before the Tate cottage, that I would
see Louise if I had to break into the house at night.

Almost exactly the same scene as before greeted my eyes at
the cottage. Mrs. Tate, the baby-carriage in the path, the
children at the swing--all were the same.

She came forward to meet me, and I noticed that some of the
anxious lines had gone out of her face. She looked young, almost

"I am glad you have come back," she said. "I think I will have
to be honest and give you back your money."

"Why?" I asked. "Has the mother come?"

"No, but some one came and paid the boy's board for a month. She
talked to him for a long time, but when I asked him afterward he
didn't know her name."

"A young woman?"

"Not very young. About forty, I suppose. She was small and
fair-haired, just a little bit gray, and very sad. She was in
deep mourning, and, I think, when she came, she expected to go at
once. But the child, Lucien, interested her. She talked to him
for a long time, and, indeed, she looked much happier when she

"You are sure this was not the real mother?"

"O mercy, no! Why, she didn't know which of the three was
Lucien. I thought perhaps she was a friend of yours, but, of
course, I didn't ask."

"She was not--pock-marked?" I asked at a venture. "No, indeed.
A skin like a baby's. But perhaps you will know the initials.
She gave Lucien a handkerchief and forgot it. It was very fine,
black-bordered, and it had three hand-worked letters in the
corner--F. B. A."

"No," I said with truth enough, "she is not a friend of mine."
F. B. A. was Fanny Armstrong, without a chance of doubt!

With another warning to Mrs. Tate as to silence, we started back
to Sunnyside. So Fanny Armstrong knew of Lucien Wallace, and was
sufficiently interested to visit him and pay for his support.
Who was the child's mother and where was she? Who was Nina
Carrington? Did either of them know where Halsey was or what had
happened to him?

On the way home we passed the little cemetery where Thomas had
been laid to rest. I wondered if Thomas could have helped us to
find Halsey, had he lived. Farther along was the more imposing
burial-ground, where Arnold Armstrong and his father lay in the
shadow of a tall granite shaft. Of the three, I think Thomas was
the only one sincerely mourned.



The bitterness toward the dead president of the Traders' Bank
seemed to grow with time. Never popular, his memory was
execrated by people who had lost nothing, but who were filled
with disgust by constantly hearing new stories of the man's
grasping avarice. The Traders' had been a favorite bank for
small tradespeople, and in its savings department it had
solicited the smallest deposits. People who had thought to be
self-supporting to the last found themselves confronting the
poorhouse, their two or three hundred dollar savings wiped away.
All bank failures have this element, however, and the directors
were trying to promise twenty per cent. on deposits.

But, like everything else those days, the bank failure was almost
forgotten by Gertrude and myself. We did not mention Jack
Bailey: I had found nothing to change my impression of his guilt,
and Gertrude knew how I felt. As for the murder of the
bank president's son, I was of two minds. One day I thought
Gertrude knew or at least suspected that Jack had done it; the
next I feared that it had been Gertrude herself, that night alone
on the circular staircase. And then the mother of Lucien Wallace
would obtrude herself, and an almost equally good case might be
made against her. There were times, of course, when I was
disposed to throw all those suspicions aside, and fix definitely
on the unknown, whoever that might be.

I had my greatest disappointment when it came to tracing Nina
Carrington. The woman had gone without leaving a trace. Marked
as she was, it should have been easy to follow her, but she was
not to be found. A description to one of the detectives, on my
arrival at home, had started the ball rolling. But by night she
had not been found. I told Gertrude, then, about the telegram to
Louise when she had been ill before; about my visit to Doctor
Walker, and my suspicions that Mattie Bliss and Nina Carrington
were the same. She thought, as I did, that there was little
doubt of it.

I said nothing to her, however, of the detective's suspicions
about Alex. Little things that I had not noticed at the time now
came back to me. I had an uncomfortable feeling that
perhaps Alex was a spy, and that by taking him into the house I
had played into the enemy's hand. But at eight o'clock that
night Alex himself appeared, and with him a strange and repulsive
individual. They made a queer pair, for Alex was almost as
disreputable as the tramp, and he had a badly swollen eye.

Gertrude had been sitting listlessly waiting for the evening
message from Mr. Jamieson, but when the singular pair came in, as
they did, without ceremony, she jumped up and stood staring.
Winters, the detective who watched the house at night, followed
them, and kept his eyes sharply on Alex's prisoner. For that was
the situation as it developed.

He was a tall lanky individual, ragged and dirty, and just now he
looked both terrified and embarrassed. Alex was too much
engrossed to be either, and to this day I don't think I ever
asked him why he went off without permission the day before.

"Miss Innes," Alex began abruptly, "this man can tell us
something very important about the disappearance of Mr. Innes. I
found him trying to sell this watch."

He took a watch from his pocket and put it on the table. It
was Halsey's watch. I had given it to him on his twenty-first
birthday: I was dumb with apprehension.

"He says he had a pair of cuff-links also, but he sold them--"

"Fer a dollar'n half," put in the disreputable individual
hoarsely, with an eye on the detective.

"He is not--dead?" I implored. The tramp cleared his throat.

"No'm," he said huskily. "He was used up pretty bad, but he
weren't dead. He was comin' to hisself when I"--he stopped and
looked at the detective. "I didn't steal it, Mr. Winters," he
whined. "I found it in the road, honest to God, I did."

Mr. Winters paid no attention to him. He was watching Alex.

"I'd better tell what he told me," Alex broke in. "It will be
quicker. When Jamieson--when Mr Jamieson calls up we can start
him right. Mr. Winters, I found this man trying to sell that
watch on Fifth Street. He offered it to me for three dollars."

"How did you know the watch?" Winters snapped at him.

"I had seen it before, many times. I used it at night when I was
watching at the foot of the staircase." The detective was
satisfied. "When he offered the watch to me, I knew it, and I
pretended I was going to buy it. We went into an alley and I got
the watch." The tramp shivered. It was plain how Alex had
secured the watch. "Then--I got the story from this fellow. He
claims to have seen the whole affair. He says he was in an empty
car--in the car the automobile struck."

The tramp broke in here, and told his story, with frequent
interpretations by Alex and Mr. Winters. He used a strange
medley, in which familiar words took unfamiliar meanings, but it
was gradually made clear to us.

On the night in question the tramp had been "pounding his ear"--
this stuck to me as being graphic--in an empty box-car along the
siding at Casanova. The train was going west, and due to leave
at dawn. The tramp and the "brakey" were friendly, and things
going well. About ten o'clock, perhaps earlier, a terrific crash
against the side of the car roused him. He tried to open the
door, but could not move it. He got out of the other side,
and just as he did so, he heard some one groan.

The habits of a lifetime made him cautious. He slipped on to the
bumper of a car and peered through. An automobile had struck the
car, and stood there on two wheels. The tail lights were
burning, but the headlights were out. Two men were stooping over
some one who lay on the ground. Then the taller of the two
started on a dog-trot along the train looking for an empty. He
found one four cars away and ran back again. The two lifted the
unconscious man into the empty box-car, and, getting in
themselves, stayed for three or four minutes. When they came
out, after closing the sliding door, they cut up over the
railroad embankment toward the town. One, the short one, seemed
to limp.

The tramp was wary. He waited for ten minutes or so. Some women
came down a path to the road and inspected the automobile. When
they had gone, he crawled into the box-car and closed the door
again. Then he lighted a match. The figure of a man,
unconscious, gagged, and with his hands tied, lay far at the end.

The tramp lost no time; he went through his pockets, found a
little money and the cuff-links, and took them. Then he
loosened the gag--it had been cruelly tight--and went his way,
again closing the door of the box-car. Outside on the road he
found the watch. He got on the fast freight east, some time
after, and rode into the city. He had sold the cuff-links, but
on offering the watch to Alex he had been "copped."

The story, with its cold recital of villainy, was done. I hardly
knew if I were more anxious, or less. That it was Halsey, there
could be no doubt. How badly he was hurt, how far he had been
carried, were the questions that demanded immediate answer. But
it was the first real information we had had; my boy had not been
murdered outright. But instead of vague terrors there was now
the real fear that he might be lying in some strange hospital
receiving the casual attention commonly given to the charity
cases. Even this, had we known it, would have been paradise to
the terrible truth. I wake yet and feel myself cold and
trembling with the horror of Halsey's situation for three days
after his disappearance.

Mr. Winters and Alex disposed of the tramp with a warning. It
was evident he had told us all he knew. We had occasion, within
a day or two, to be doubly thankful that we had given him
his freedom. When Mr. Jamieson telephoned that night we had news
for him; he told me what I had not realized before--that it would
not be possible to find Halsey at once, even with this clue. The
cars by this time, three days, might be scattered over the Union.

But he said to keep on hoping, that it was the best news we had
had. And in the meantime, consumed with anxiety as we were,
things were happening at the house in rapid succession.

We had one peaceful day--then Liddy took sick in the night. I
went in when I heard her groaning, and found her with a hot-water
bottle to her face, and her right cheek swollen until it was

"Toothache?" I asked, not too gently. "You deserve it. A woman
of your age, who would rather go around with an exposed nerve in
her head than have the tooth pulled! It would be over in a

"So would hanging," Liddy protested, from behind the hot-water

I was hunting around for cotton and laudanum.

"You have a tooth just like it yourself, Miss Rachel," she
whimpered. "And I'm sure Doctor Boyle's been trying to take it
out for years."

There was no laudanum, and Liddy made a terrible fuss when I
proposed carbolic acid, just because I had put too much on the
cotton once and burned her mouth. I'm sure it never did her any
permanent harm; indeed, the doctor said afterward that living on
liquid diet had been a splendid rest for her stomach. But she
would have none of the acid, and she kept me awake groaning, so
at last I got up and went to Gertrude's door. To my surprise, it
was locked.

I went around by the hall and into her bedroom that way. The bed
was turned down, and her dressing-gown and night-dress lay ready
in the little room next, but Gertrude was not there. She had not

I don't know what terrible thoughts came to me in the minute I
stood there. Through the door I could hear Liddy grumbling, with
a squeal now and then when the pain stabbed harder. Then,
automatically, I got the laudanum and went back to her.

It was fully a half-hour before Liddy's groans subsided. At
intervals I went to the door into the hall and looked out, but I
saw and heard nothing suspicious. Finally, when Liddy had
dropped into a doze, I even ventured as far as the head of the
circular staircase, but there floated up to me only the even
breathing of Winters, the night detective, sleeping just
inside the entry. And then, far off, I heard the rapping noise
that had lured Louise down the staircase that other night, two
weeks before. It was over my head, and very faint--three or four
short muffled taps, a pause, and then again, stealthily repeated.

The sound of Mr. Winters' breathing was comforting; with the
thought that there was help within call, something kept me from
waking him. I did not move for a moment; ridiculous things Liddy
had said about a ghost--I am not at all superstitious, except,
perhaps, in the middle of the night, with everything dark--things
like that came back to me. Almost beside me was the clothes
chute. I could feel it, but I could see nothing. As I stood,
listening intently, I heard a sound near me. It was vague,
indefinite. Then it ceased; there was an uneasy movement and a
grunt from the foot of the circular staircase, and silence again.

I stood perfectly still, hardly daring to breathe.

Then I knew I had been right. Some one was stealthily-passing
the head of the staircase and coming toward me in the dark. I
leaned against the wall for support--my knees were giving way.
The steps were close now, and suddenly I thought of
Gertrude. Of course it was Gertrude. I put out one hand in
front of me, but I touched nothing. My voice almost refused me,
but I managed to gasp out, "Gertrude!"

"Good Lord!" a man's voice exclaimed, just beside me. And then I
collapsed. I felt myself going, felt some one catch me, a
horrible nausea--that was all I remembered.

When I came to it was dawn. I was lying on the bed in Louise's
room, with the cherub on the ceiling staring down at me, and
there was a blanket from my own bed thrown over me. I felt weak
and dizzy, but I managed to get up and totter to the door. At
the foot of the circular staircase Mr. Winters was still asleep.
Hardly able to stand, I crept back to my room. The door into
Gertrude's room was no longer locked: she was sleeping like a
tired child. And in my dressing-room Liddy hugged a cold hot-
water bottle, and mumbled in her sleep.

"There's some things you can't hold with hand cuffs, she was
muttering thickly.



For the first time in twenty years, I kept my bed that day.
Liddy was alarmed to the point of hysteria, and sent for Doctor
Stewart just after breakfast. Gertrude spent the morning with
me, reading something--I forget what. I was too busy with my
thoughts to listen. I had said nothing to the two detectives.
If Mr. Jamieson had been there, I should have told him
everything, but I could not go to these strange men and tell them
my niece had been missing in the middle of the night; that she
had not gone to bed at all; that while I was searching for her
through the house, I had met a stranger who, when I fainted, had
carried me into a room and left me there, to get better or not,
as it might happen.

The whole situation was terrible: had the issues been less vital,
it would have been absurd. Here we were, guarded day and night
by private detectives, with an extra man to watch the
grounds, and yet we might as well have lived in a Japanese paper
house, for all the protection we had.

And there was something else: the man I had met in the darkness
had been even more startled than I, and about his voice, when he
muttered his muffled exclamation, there was something vaguely
familiar. All that morning, while Gertrude read aloud, and Liddy
watched for the doctor, I was puzzling over that voice, without

And there were other things, too. I wondered what Gertrude's
absence from her room had to do with it all, or if it had any
connection. I tried to think that she had heard the rapping
noises before I did and gone to investigate, but I'm afraid I was
a moral coward that day. I could not ask her.

Perhaps the diversion was good for me. It took my mind from
Halsey, and the story we had heard the night before. The day,
however, was a long vigil, with every ring of the telephone full
of possibilities. Doctor Walker came up, some time just after
luncheon, and asked for me.

"Go down and see him," I instructed Gertrude. "Tell him I am
out--for mercy's sake don't say I'm sick. Find out what he
wants, and from this time on, instruct the servants that he is
not to be admitted. I loathe that man."

Gertrude came back very soon, her face rather flushed.

"He came to ask us to get out," she said, picking up her book
with a jerk. "He says Louise Armstrong wants to come here, now
that she is recovering"

"And what did you say?"

"I said we were very sorry we could not leave, but we would be
delighted to have Louise come up here with us. He looked daggers
at me. And he wanted to know if we would recommend Eliza as a
cook. He has brought a patient, a man, out from town, and is
increasing his establishment--that's the way he put it."

"I wish him joy of Eliza," I said tartly. "Did he ask for

"Yes. I told him that we were on the track last night, and that
it was only a question of time. He said he was glad, although he
didn't appear to be, but he said not to be too sanguine."

"Do you know what I believe?" I asked. "I believe, as firmly as
I believe anything, that Doctor Walker knows something about
Halsey, and that he could put his finger on him, if he wanted

There were several things that day that bewildered me. About
three o'clock Mr. Jamieson telephoned from the Casanova station
and Warner went down to meet him. I got up and dressed hastily,
and the detective was shown up to my sitting-room.

"No news?" I asked, as he entered. He tried to look encouraging,
without success. I noticed that he looked tired and dusty, and,
although he was ordinarily impeccable in his appearance, it was
clear that he was at least two days from a razor.

"It won't be long now, Miss Innes," he said. "I have come out
here on a peculiar errand, which I will tell you about later.
First, I want to ask some questions. Did any one come out here
yesterday to repair the telephone, and examine the wires on the

"Yes," I said promptly; "but it was not the telephone. He said
the wiring might have caused the fire at the stable. I went up
with him myself, but he only looked around."

Mr. Jamieson smiled.

"Good for you!" he applauded. "Don't allow any one in the house
that you don't trust, and don't trust anybody. All are not
electricians who wear rubber gloves."

He refused to explain further, but he got a slip of paper out of
his pocketbook and opened it carefully.

"Listen," he said. "You heard this before and scoffed. In the
light of recent developments I want you to read it again. You
are a clever woman, Miss Innes. Just as surely as I sit here,
there is something in this house that is wanted very anxiously by
a number of people. The lines are closing up, Miss Innes."

The paper was the one he had found among Arnold Armstrong's
effects, and I read it again:

"----by altering the plans for----rooms, may be possible. The
best way, in my opinion, would be to----the plan for----in one of

"I think I understand," I said slowly. "Some one is searching
for the secret room, and the invaders--"

"And the holes in the plaster--"

"Have been in the progress of his--"

"Or her--investigations."

"Her?" I asked.

"Miss Innes," the detective said, getting up, "I believe that
somewhere in the walls of this house is hidden some of the money,
at least, from the Traders' Bank. I believe, just as
surely, that young Walker brought home from California the
knowledge of something of the sort and, failing in his effort to
reinstall Mrs. Armstrong and her daughter here, he, or a
confederate, has tried to break into the house. On two occasions
I think he succeeded."

"On three, at least," I corrected. And then I told him about the
night before. "I have been thinking hard," I concluded, "and I
do not believe the man at the head of the circular staircase was
Doctor Walker. I don't think he could have got in, and the voice
was not his."

Mr. Jamieson got up and paced the floor, his hands behind him.

"There is something else that puzzles me," he said, stepping
before me. "Who and what is the woman Nina Carrington? If it
was she who came here as Mattie Bliss, what did she tell Halsey
that sent him racing to Doctor Walker's, and then to Miss
Armstrong? If we could find that woman we would have the whole

"Mr. Jamieson, did you ever think that Paul Armstrong might not
have died a natural death?"

"That is the thing we are going to try to find out," he
replied. And then Gertrude came in, announcing a man below to
see Mr. Jamieson.

"I want you present at this interview, Miss Innes," he said.
"May Riggs come up? He has left Doctor Walker and he has
something he wants to tell us."

Riggs came into the room diffidently, but Mr. Jamieson put him at
his ease. He kept a careful eye on me, however, and slid into a
chair by the door when he was asked to sit down.

"Now, Riggs," began Mr. Jamieson kindly. "You are to say what
you have to say before this lady."

"You promised you'd keep it quiet, Mr. Jamieson." Riggs plainly
did not trust me. There was nothing friendly in the glance he
turned on me.

"Yes, yes. You will be protected. But, first of all, did you
bring what you promised?"

Riggs produced a roll of papers from under his coat, and handed
them over. Mr. Jamieson examined them with lively satisfaction,
and passed them to me. "The blue-prints of Sunnyside," he said.
"What did I tell you? Now, Riggs, we are ready."

"I'd never have come to you, Mr. Jamieson," he began, "if it
hadn't been for Miss Armstrong. When Mr. Innes was spirited
away, like, and Miss Louise got sick because of it, I
thought things had gone far enough. I'd done some things for the
doctor before that wouldn't just bear looking into, but I turned
a bit squeamish."

"Did you help with that?" I asked, leaning forward.

"No, ma'm. I didn't even know of it until the next day, when it
came out in the Casanova Weekly Ledger. But I know who did it,
all right. I'd better start at the beginning.

"When Doctor Walker went away to California with the Armstrong
family, there was talk in the town that when he came back he
would be married to Miss Armstrong, and we all expected it.
First thing I knew, I got a letter from him, in the west. He
seemed to be excited, and he said Miss Armstrong had taken a
sudden notion to go home and he sent me some money. I was to
watch for her, to see if she went to Sunnyside, and wherever she
was, not to lose sight of her until he got home. I traced her to
the lodge, and I guess I scared you on the drive one night, Miss

"And Rosie!" I ejaculated.

Riggs grinned sheepishly.

"I only wanted to make sure Miss Louise was there. Rosie
started to run, and I tried to stop her and tell her some sort of
a story to account for my being there. But she wouldn't wait."

"And the broken china--in the basket?"

"Well, broken china's death to rubber tires," he said. "I hadn't
any complaint against you people here, and the Dragon Fly was a
good car."

So Rosie's highwayman was explained.

"Well, I telegraphed the doctor where Miss Louise was and I kept
an eye on her. Just a day or so before they came home with the
body, I got another letter, telling me to watch for a woman who
had been pitted with smallpox. Her name was Carrington, and the
doctor made things pretty strong. If I found any such woman
loafing around, I was not to lose sight of her for a minute until
the doctor got back.

"Well, I would have had my hands full, but the other woman didn't
show up for a good while, and when she did the doctor was home."

"Riggs," I asked suddenly, "did you get into this house a day or
two after I took it, at night?"

"I did not, Miss Innes. I have never been in the house before.
Well, the Carrington woman didn't show up until the night Mr.
Halsey disappeared. She came to the office late, and the
doctor was out. She waited around, walking the floor and working
herself into a passion. When the doctor didn't come back, she
was in an awful way. She wanted me to hunt him, and when he
didn't appear, she called him names; said he couldn't fool her.
There was murder being done, and she would see him swing for it.

"She struck me as being an ugly customer, and when she left,
about eleven o'clock, and went across to the Armstrong place, I
was not far behind her. She walked all around the house first,
looking up at the windows. Then she rang the bell, and the
minute the door was opened she was through it, and into the

"How long did she stay?"

"That's the queer part of it," Riggs said eagerly. "She didn't
come out that night at all. I went to bed at daylight, and that
was the last I heard of her until the next day, when I saw her on
a truck at the station, covered with a sheet. She'd been struck
by the express and you would hardly have known her--dead, of
course. I think she stayed all night in the Armstrong house, and
the agent said she was crossing the track to take the up-train to
town when the express struck her."

"Another circle!" I exclaimed. "Then we are just where we

"Not so bad as that, Miss Innes," Riggs said eagerly. "Nina
Carrington came from the town in California where Mr. Armstrong
died. Why was the doctor so afraid of her? The Carrington woman
knew something. I lived with Doctor Walker seven years, and I
know him well. There are few things he is afraid of. I think he
killed Mr. Armstrong out in the west somewhere, that's what I
think. What else he did I don't know--but he dismissed me and
pretty nearly throttled me--for telling Mr. Jamieson here about
Mr. Innes' having been at his office the night he disappeared,
and about my hearing them quarreling."

"What was it Warner overheard the woman say to Mr. Innes, in the
library?" the detective asked me.

"She said `I knew there was something wrong from the start. A
man isn't well one day and dead the next without some reason.'"

How perfectly it all seemed to fit!



It was on Wednesday Riggs told us the story of his connection
with some incidents that had been previously unexplained. Halsey
had been gone since the Friday night before, and with the passage
of each day I felt that his chances were lessening. I knew well
enough that he might be carried thousands of miles in the box-
car, locked in, perhaps, without water or food. I had read of
cases where bodies had been found locked in cars on isolated
sidings in the west, and my spirits went down with every hour.

His recovery was destined to be almost as sudden as his
disappearance, and was due directly to the tramp Alex had brought
to Sunnyside. It seems the man was grateful for his release, and
when he learned some thing of Halsey's whereabouts from another
member of his fraternity--for it is a fraternity--he was prompt
in letting us know.

On Wednesday evening Mr. Jamieson, who had been down at the
Armstrong house trying to see Louise--and failing--was met near
the gate at Sunnyside by an individual precisely as repulsive and
unkempt as the one Alex had captured. The man knew the
detective, and he gave him a piece of dirty paper, on which was
scrawled the words--"He's at City Hospital, Johnsville." The
tramp who brought the paper pretended to know nothing, except
this: the paper had been passed along from a "hobo" in
Johnsville, who seemed to know the information would be valuable
to us.

Again the long distance telephone came into requisition. Mr.
Jamieson called the hospital, while we crowded around him. And
when there was no longer any doubt that it was Halsey, and that
he would probably recover, we all laughed and cried together. I
am sure I kissed Liddy, and I have had terrible moments since
when I seem to remember kissing Mr. Jamieson, too, in the

Anyhow, by eleven o'clock that night Gertrude was on her way to
Johnsville, three hundred and eighty miles away, accompanied by
Rosie. The domestic force was now down to Mary Anne and Liddy,
with the under-gardener's wife coming every day to help out.
Fortunately, Warner and the detectives were keeping bachelor hall
in the lodge. Out of deference to Liddy they washed their dishes
once a day, and they concocted queer messes, according to their
several abilities. They had one triumph that they ate regularly
for breakfast, and that clung to their clothes and their hair the
rest of the day. It was bacon, hardtack and onions, fried
together. They were almost pathetically grateful, however, I
noticed, for an occasional broiled tenderloin.

It was not until Gertrude and Rosie had gone and Sunnyside had
settled down for the night, with Winters at the foot of the
staircase, that Mr. Jamieson broached a subject he had evidently
planned before he came.

"Miss Innes," he said, stopping me as I was about to go to my
room up-stairs, "how are your nerves tonight?"

"I have none," I said happily. "With Halsey found, my troubles
have gone."

"I mean," he persisted, "do you feel as though you could go
through with something rather unusual?"

"The most unusual thing I can think of would be a peaceful
night. But if anything is going to occur, don't dare to let me
miss it."

"Something is going to occur," he said. "And you're the only
woman I can think of that I can take along." He looked at his
watch. "Don't ask me any questions, Miss Innes. Put on heavy
shoes, and some old dark clothes, and make up your mind not to be
surprised at anything."

Liddy was sleeping the sleep of the just when I went up-stairs,
and I hunted out my things cautiously. The detective was waiting
in the hall, and I was astonished to see Doctor Stewart with him.

They were talking confidentially together, but when I came down
they ceased. There were a few preparations to be made: the locks
to be gone over, Winters to be instructed as to renewed
vigilance, and then, after extinguishing the hall light, we
crept, in the darkness, through the front door, and into the

I asked no questions. I felt that they were doing me honor in
making me one of the party, and I would show them I could be as
silent as they. We went across the fields, passing through the
woods that reached almost to the ruins of the stable, going over
stiles now and then, and sometimes stepping over low fences.
Once only somebody spoke, and then it was an emphatic bit of
profanity from Doctor Stewart when he ran into a wire fence.

We were joined at the end of five minutes by another man, who
fell into step with the doctor silently. He carried something
over his shoulder which I could not make out. In this way we
walked for perhaps twenty minutes. I had lost all sense of
direction: I merely stumbled along in silence, allowing Mr.
Jamieson to guide me this way or that as the path demanded. I
hardly know what I expected. Once, when through a miscalculation
I jumped a little short over a ditch and landed above my shoe-
tops in the water and ooze, I remember wondering if this were
really I, and if I had ever tasted life until that summer. I
walked along with the water sloshing in my boots, and I was
actually cheerful. I remember whispering to Mr. Jamieson that I
had never seen the stars so lovely, and that it was a mistake,
when the Lord had made the night so beautiful, to sleep through

The doctor was puffing somewhat when we finally came to a halt.
I confess that just at that minute even Sunnyside seemed a
cheerful spot. We had paused at the edge of a level cleared
place, bordered all around with primly trimmed evergreen
trees. Between them I caught a glimpse of starlight shining down
on rows of white headstones and an occasional more imposing
monument, or towering shaft. In spite of myself, I drew my
breath in sharply. We were on the edge of the Casanova

I saw now both the man who had joined the party and the
implements he carried. It was Alex, armed with two long-handled
spades. After the first shock of surprise, I flatter myself I
was both cool and quiet. We went in single file between the rows
of headstones, and although, when I found myself last, I had an
instinctive desire to keep looking back over my shoulder, I found
that, the first uneasiness past, a cemetery at night is much the
same as any other country place, filled with vague shadows and
unexpected noises. Once, indeed--but Mr. Jamieson said it was an
owl, and I tried to believe him.

In the shadow of the Armstrong granite shaft we stopped. I think
the doctor wanted to send me back.

"It's no place for a woman," I heard him protesting angrily. But
the detective said something about witnesses, and the doctor only
came over and felt my pulse.

"Anyhow, I don't believe you're any worse off here than you would
be in that nightmare of a house," he said finally, and put his
coat on the steps of the shaft for me to sit on.

There is an air of finality about a grave: one watches the earth
thrown in, with the feeling that this is the end. Whatever has
gone before, whatever is to come in eternity, that particular
temple of the soul has been given back to the elements from which
it came. Thus, there is a sense of desecration, of a reversal of
the everlasting fitness of things, in resurrecting a body from
its mother clay. And yet that night, in the Casanova churchyard,
I sat quietly by, and watched Alex and Mr. Jamieson steaming over
their work, without a single qualm, except the fear of detection.

The doctor kept a keen lookout, but no one appeared. Once in a
while he came over to me, and gave me a reassuring pat on the

"I never expected to come to this," he said once. "There's one
thing sure--I'll not be suspected of complicity. A doctor is
generally supposed to be handier at burying folks than at digging
them up."

The uncanny moment came when Alex and Jamieson tossed the spades
on the grass, and I confess I hid my face. There was a
period of stress, I think, while the heavy coffin was being
raised. I felt that my composure was going, and, for fear I
would shriek, I tried to think of something else--what time
Gertrude would reach Halsey--anything but the grisly reality that
lay just beyond me on the grass.

And then I heard a low exclamation from the detective and I felt
the pressure of the doctor's fingers on my arm.

"Now, Miss Innes," he said gently. "If you will come over--"

I held on to him frantically, and somehow I got there and looked
down. The lid of the casket had been raised and a silver plate
on it proved we had made no mistake. But the face that showed in
the light of the lantern was a face I had never seen before. The
man who lay before us was not Paul Armstrong!



What with the excitement of the discovery, the walk home under
the stars in wet shoes and draggled skirts, and getting up-stairs
and undressed without rousing Liddy, I was completely used up.
What to do with my boots was the greatest puzzle of all, there
being no place in the house safe from Liddy, until I decided to
slip upstairs the next morning and drop them into the hole the
"ghost" had made in the trunk-room wall.

I went asleep as soon as I reached this decision, and in my
dreams I lived over again the events of the night. Again I saw
the group around the silent figure on the grass, and again, as
had happened at the grave, I heard Alex's voice, tense and

"Then we've got them," he said. Only, in my dreams, he said it
over and over until he seemed to shriek it in my ears.

I wakened early, in spite of my fatigue, and lay there thinking.
Who was Alex? I no longer believed that he was a gardener. Who
was the man whose body we had resurrected? And where was Paul
Armstrong? Probably living safely in some extraditionless
country on the fortune he had stolen. Did Louise and her mother
know of the shameful and wicked deception? What had Thomas
known, and Mrs. Watson? Who was Nina Carrington?

This last question, it seemed to me, was answered. In some way
the woman had learned of the substitution, and had tried to use
her knowledge for blackmail. Nina Carrington's own story died
with her, but, however it happened, it was clear that she had
carried her knowledge to Halsey the afternoon Gertrude and I were
looking for clues to the man I had shot on the east veranda.
Halsey had been half crazed by what he heard; it was evident that
Louise was marrying Doctor Walker to keep the shameful secret,
for her mother's sake. Halsey, always reckless, had gone at once
to Doctor Walker and denounced him. There had been a scene, and
he left on his way to the station to meet and notify Mr. Jamieson
of what he had learned. The doctor was active mentally and
physically. Accompanied perhaps by Riggs, who had shown himself
not overscrupulous until he quarreled with his employer, he had
gone across to the railroad embankment, and, by jumping in front
of the car, had caused Halsey to swerve. The rest of the story
we knew.

That was my reconstructed theory of that afternoon and evening:
it was almost correct--not quite.

There was a telegram that morning from Gertrude.

"Halsey conscious and improving. Probably home in day or so.

With Halsey found and improving in health, and with at last
something to work on, I began that day, Thursday, with fresh
courage. As Mr. Jamieson had said, the lines were closing up.
That I was to be caught and almost finished in the closing was
happily unknown to us all.

It was late when I got up. I lay in my bed, looking around the
four walls of the room, and trying to imagine behind what one of
them a secret chamber might lie. Certainly, in daylight,
Sunnyside deserved its name: never was a house more cheery and
open, less sinister in general appearance. There was not a
corner apparently that was not open and above-board, and
yet, somewhere behind its handsomely papered walls I believed
firmly that there lay a hidden room, with all the possibilities
it would involve.

I made a mental note to have the house measured during the day,
to discover any discrepancy between the outer and inner walls,
and I tried to recall again the exact wording of the paper
Jamieson had found.

The slip had said "chimney." It was the only clue, and a house
as large as Sunnyside was full of them. There was an open
fireplace in my dressing-room, but none in the bedroom, and as I
lay there, looking around, I thought of something that made me
sit up suddenly. The trunk-room, just over my head, had an open
fireplace and a brick chimney, and yet, there was nothing of the
kind in my room. I got out of bed and examined the opposite wall
closely. There was apparently no flue, and I knew there was none
in the hall just beneath. The house was heated by steam, as I
have said before. In the living-room was a huge open fireplace,
but it was on the other side.

Why did the trunk-room have both a radiator and an open
fireplace? Architects were not usually erratic! It was not
fifteen minutes before I was up-stairs, armed with a tape-measure
in lieu of a foot-rule, eager to justify Mr. Jamieson's
opinion of my intelligence, and firmly resolved not to tell him
of my suspicion until I had more than theory to go on. The hole
in the trunk-room wall still yawned there, between the chimney
and the outer wall. I examined it again, with no new result.
The space between the brick wall and the plaster and lath one,
however, had a new significance. The hole showed only one side
of the chimney, and I determined to investigate what lay in the
space on the other side of the mantel.

I worked feverishly. Liddy had gone to the village to market, it
being her firm belief that the store people sent short measure
unless she watched the scales, and that, since the failure of the
Traders' Bank, we must watch the corners; and I knew that what I
wanted to do must be done before she came back. I had no tools,
but after rummaging around I found a pair of garden scissors and
a hatchet, and thus armed, I set to work. The plaster came out
easily: the lathing was more obstinate. It gave under the blows,
only to spring back into place again, and the necessity for
caution made it doubly hard.

I had a blister on my palm when at last the hatchet went through
and fell with what sounded like the report of a gun to my
overstrained nerves. I sat on a trunk, waiting to hear Liddy fly
up the stairs, with the household behind her, like the tail of a
comet. But nothing happened, and with a growing feeling of
uncanniness I set to work enlarging the opening.

The result was absolutely nil. When I could hold a lighted
candle in the opening, I saw precisely what I had seen on the
other side of the chimney--a space between the true wall and the
false one, possibly seven feet long and about three feet wide.
It was in no sense of the word a secret chamber, and it was
evident it had not been disturbed since the house was built. It
was a supreme disappointment.

It had been Mr. Jamieson's idea that the hidden room, if there
was one, would be found somewhere near the circular staircase.
In fact, I knew that he had once investigated the entire length
of the clothes chute, hanging to a rope, with this in view. I
was reluctantly about to concede that he had been right, when my
eyes fell on the mantel and fireplace. The latter had evidently
never been used: it was closed with a metal fire front, and only
when the front refused to move, and investigation showed that it
was not intended to be moved, did my spirits revive.

I hurried into the next room. Yes, sure enough, there was a
similar mantel and fireplace there, similarly closed. In both
rooms the chimney flue extended well out from the wall. I
measured with the tape-line, my hands trembling so that I could
scarcely hold it. They extended two feet and a half into each
room, which, with the three feet of space between the two
partitions, made eight feet to be accounted for. Eight feet in
one direction and almost seven in the other--what a chimney it

But I had only located the hidden room. I was not in it, and no
amount of pressing on the carving of the wooden mantels, no
search of the floors for loose boards, none of the customary
methods availed at all. That there was a means of entrance, and
probably a simple one, I could be certain. But what? What would
I find if I did get in? Was the detective right, and were the
bonds and money from the Traders' Bank there? Or was our whole
theory wrong? Would not Paul Armstrong have taken his booty with
him? If he had not, and if Doctor Walker was in the secret, he
would have known how to enter the chimney room. Then--who had
dug the other hole in the false partition?



Liddy discovered the fresh break in the trunk-room wall while we
were at luncheon, and ran shrieking down the stairs. She
maintained that, as she entered, unseen hands had been digging at
the plaster; that they had stopped when she went in, and she had
felt a gust of cold damp air. In support of her story she
carried in my wet and muddy boots, that I had unluckily forgotten
to hide, and held them out to the detective and myself.

"What did I tell you?" she said dramatically. "Look at 'em.
They're yours, Miss Rachel--and covered with mud and soaked to
the tops. I tell you, you can scoff all you like; something has
been wearing your shoes. As sure as you sit there, there's the
smell of the graveyard on them. How do we know they weren't
tramping through the Casanova churchyard last night, and sitting
on the graves!"

Mr. Jamieson almost choked to death. "I wouldn't be at
all surprised if they were doing that very thing, Liddy," he
said, when he got his breath. "They certainly look like it."

I think the detective had a plan, on which he was working, and
which was meant to be a coup. But things went so fast there
was no time to carry it into effect. The first thing that
occurred was a message from the Charity Hospital that Mrs. Watson
was dying, and had asked for me. I did not care much about
going. There is a sort of melancholy pleasure to be had out of a
funeral, with its pomp and ceremony, but I shrank from a death-
bed. However, Liddy got out the black things and the crape veil
I keep for such occasions, and I went. I left Mr. Jamieson and
the day detective going over every inch of the circular
staircase, pounding, probing and measuring. I was inwardly
elated to think of the surprise I was going to give them that
night; as it turned out, I DID surprise them almost into

I drove from the train to the Charity Hospital, and was at once
taken to a ward. There, in a gray-walled room in a high iron
bed, lay Mrs. Watson. She was very weak, and she only opened her
eyes and looked at me when I sat down beside her. I was
conscience-stricken. We had been so engrossed that I had
left this poor creature to die without even a word of sympathy.

The nurse gave her a stimulant, and in a little while she was
able to talk. So broken and half-coherent, however, was her
story that I shall tell it in my own way. In an hour from the
time I entered the Charity Hospital, I had heard a sad and
pitiful narrative, and had seen a woman slip into the
unconsciousness that is only a step from death.

Briefly, then, the housekeeper's story was this:

She was almost forty years old, and had been the sister-mother of
a large family of children. One by one they had died, and been
buried beside their parents in a little town in the Middle West.
There was only one sister left, the baby, Lucy. On her the older
girl had lavished all the love of an impulsive and emotional
nature. When Anne, the elder, was thirty-two and Lucy was
nineteen, a young man had come to the town. He was going east,
after spending the summer at a celebrated ranch in Wyoming--one
of those places where wealthy men send worthless and dissipated
sons, for a season of temperance, fresh air and hunting. The
sisters, of course, knew nothing of this, and the young
man's ardor rather carried them away. In a word, seven years
before, Lucy Haswell had married a young man whose name was given
as Aubrey Wallace.

Anne Haswell had married a carpenter in her native town, and was
a widow. For three months everything went fairly well. Aubrey
took his bride to Chicago, where they lived at a hotel. Perhaps
the very unsophistication that had charmed him in Valley Mill
jarred on him in the city. He had been far from a model husband,
even for the three months, and when he disappeared Anne was
almost thankful. It was different with the young wife, however.
She drooped and fretted, and on the birth of her baby boy, she
had died. Anne took the child, and named him Lucien.

Anne had had no children of her own, and on Lucien she had
lavished all her aborted maternal instinct. On one thing she was
determined, however: that was that Aubrey Wallace should educate
his boy. It was a part of her devotion to the child that she
should be ambitious for him: he must have every opportunity. And
so she came east. She drifted around, doing plain sewing and
keeping a home somewhere always for the boy. Finally, however,
she realized that her only training had been domestic, and
she put the boy in an Episcopalian home, and secured the position
of housekeeper to the Armstrongs. There she found Lucien's
father, this time under his own name. It was Arnold Armstrong.

I gathered that there was no particular enmity at that time in
Anne's mind. She told him of the boy, and threatened exposure if
he did not provide for him. Indeed, for a time, he did so. Then
he realized that Lucien was the ruling passion in this lonely
woman's life. He found out where the child was hidden, and
threatened to take him away. Anne was frantic. The positions
became reversed. Where Arnold had given money for Lucien's
support, as the years went on he forced money from Anne Watson
instead until she was always penniless. The lower Arnold sank in
the scale, the heavier his demands became. With the rupture
between him and his family, things were worse. Anne took the
child from the home and hid him in a farmhouse near Casanova, on
the Claysburg road. There she went sometimes to see the boy, and
there he had taken fever. The people were Germans, and he called
the farmer's wife Grossmutter. He had grown into a beautiful
boy, and he was all Anne had to live for.

The Armstrongs left for California, and Arnold's persecutions
began anew. He was furious over the child's disappearance and
she was afraid he would do her some hurt. She left the big house
and went down to the lodge. When I had rented Sunnyside,
however, she had thought the persecutions would stop. She had
applied for the position of housekeeper, and secured it.

That had been on Saturday. That night Louise arrived
unexpectedly. Thomas sent for Mrs. Watson and then went for
Arnold Armstrong at the Greenwood Club. Anne had been fond of
Louise--she reminded her of Lucy. She did not know what the
trouble was, but Louise had been in a state of terrible
excitement. Mrs. Watson tried to hide from Arnold, but he was
ugly. He left the lodge and went up to the house about two-
thirty, was admitted at the east entrance and came out again very
soon. Something had occurred, she didn't know what; but very
soon Mr. Innes and another gentleman left, using the car.

Thomas and she had got Louise quiet, and a little before three,
Mrs. Watson started up to the house. Thomas had a key to the
east entry, and gave it to her.

On the way across the lawn she was confronted by Arnold, who for
some reason was determined to get into the house. He had a
golf-stick in his hand, that he had picked up somewhere, and on
her refusal he had struck her with it. One hand had been badly
cut, and it was that, poisoning having set in, which was killing
her. She broke away in a frenzy of rage and fear, and got into
the house while Gertrude and Jack Bailey were at the front door.
She went up-stairs, hardly knowing what she was doing.
Gertrude's door was open, and Halsey's revolver lay there on the
bed. She picked it up and turning, ran part way down the
circular staircase. She could hear Arnold fumbling at the lock
outside. She slipped down quietly and opened the door: he was
inside before she had got back to the stairs. It was quite dark,
but she could see his white shirt-bosom. From the fourth step
she fired. As he fell, somebody in the billiard-room screamed
and ran. When the alarm was raised, she had had no time to get
up-stairs: she hid in the west wing until every one was down on
the lower floor. Then she slipped upstairs, and threw the
revolver out of an upper window, going down again in time to
admit the men from the Greenwood Club.

If Thomas had suspected, he had never told. When she found the
hand Arnold had injured was growing worse, she gave the
address of Lucien at Richfield to the old man, and almost a
hundred dollars. The money was for Lucien's board until she
recovered. She had sent for me to ask me if I would try to
interest the Armstrongs in the child. When she found herself
growing worse, she had written to Mrs. Armstrong, telling her

Book of the day: