Part 2 out of 5
of the entry, into the hall, to the stairs, and down them into the
lighted room below.
And as I stood there, gasping for breath, Godfrey followed me, and I
saw that his face, too, was livid.
A FRESH ENIGMA
Godfrey met my eyes with a little deprecating smile, put his torch in
one pocket, took a handkerchief from another, and mopped his forehead.
"Rather nerve-racking, wasn't it, Lester?" he remarked, and then his
gaze wandered to the couch, and he stepped toward it quickly.
I saw that a change had come in Miss Vaughan's condition. Her eyes
were still closed, but her body no longer lay inert and lifeless, for
from moment to moment it was shaken by a severe nervous tremor.
Godfrey's face was very grave as he looked at her.
"Stop stroking her wrists, Swain," he said; "that does no good," and
when Swain, without answering or seeming to hear, kept on stroking
them, Godfrey drew the hands away, took Swain by the arm, and
half-lifted him to his feet. "Listen to me," he said, more sternly,
and shook him a little, for Swain's eyes were dull and vacant. "I want
you to sit quietly in a chair for a while, till you get your senses
back. Miss Vaughan is seriously ill and must not be disturbed in any
way. I'm going to get a doctor and a nurse at once; they'll do what
needs to be done. Until then, she must be left alone. Understand?"
Swain nodded vaguely, and permitted Godfrey to lead him to a chair
near the outer door, where he sat down. As his hand fell across the
arm of the chair, I could see that a little blood was still oozing
from the wound on the wrist. Godfrey saw it, too, and picked up the
hand and looked at it. Then he laid it gently down again and glanced
at his watch. I followed his example, and saw that it was half-past
"Have you nerve enough to stay here half an hour by yourself, Lester?"
"By myself?" I echoed, and glanced at the dead man and at the
"I've got to run over to my place to get a few things and do some
telephoning," he explained. "We must get a doctor up here at once; and
then there's the police--I'll try to get Simmonds. Will you stay?"
"Yes," I said, "of course. But please get back as soon as you can."
"I will," he promised, and, after a last look around the room, stepped
out upon the walk.
I went to the door and looked after him until the sound of his
footsteps died away. Then, feeling very lonely, I turned back into the
room. Those regular tremors were still shaking the girl's body in a
way that seemed to me most alarming, but there was nothing I could do
for her, and I finally pulled a chair to Swain's side. He, at least,
offered a sort of companionship. He was sitting with his head hanging
forward in a way that reminded me most unpleasantly of the huddled
figure by the table, and did not seem to be aware of my presence. I
tried to draw him into talk, but a slight nod from time to time was
all I could get from him, and I finally gave it up. Mechanically, my
hand sought my coat pocket and got out my pipe--yes, that was what I
needed; and, sitting down in the open doorway, I filled it and lighted up.
My nerves grew calmer, presently, and I was able to think connectedly
of the events of the night, but there were two things which, looked at
from any angle, I could not understand. One was Swain's dazed and
incoherent manner; the other was the absence of servants.
As to Swain, I believed him to be a well-poised fellow, not easily
upset, and certainly not subject to attacks of nerves. What had
happened to him, then, to reduce him to the pitiable condition in
which he had come back to us over the wall, and in which he was still
plunged? The discovery of the murder and of Miss Vaughan's senseless
body might have accounted for it, but his incoherence had antedated
that--unless, indeed, he knew of the murder before he left the
grounds. That thought gave me a sudden shock, and I put it away from
me, not daring to pursue it farther.
As to the house, its deserted condition seemed sinister and
threatening. It was absurd to suppose that an establishment such as
this could be carried on without servants, or with less than three or
four. But where were they? And then I remembered that Godfrey and I
had not completed our exploration of the house. We had stopped at the
gruesome room where the adept and his serpent gazed unwinking into the
crystal sphere. There was at least one suite on the same floor we had
not looked into, and no doubt there were other rooms on the attic
floor above. But that any one could have slept on undisturbed by those
piercing screams and by our own comings and goings seemed
unbelievable. Perhaps there were separate quarters in the grounds
And then, without conscious will of my own, I felt my body stiffen and
my fingers grip my pipe convulsively. A slow tremor seemed to start
from the end of my spine, travel up it, and pass off across my scalp.
There was someone in the room behind me; someone with gleaming eyes
fixed upon me; and I sat there rigidly, straining my ears, expecting
I knew not what--a blow upon the head, a cord about the neck.
A rapid step came up the walk and Godfrey appeared suddenly out of the
"Well, Lester," he began; but I sprang to my feet and faced the room,
for I could have sworn that I had heard behind me the rustle of a
silken dress. But there was no one there except Swain and Miss Vaughan
and the dead man--and none of them had moved.
"What is it?" Godfrey asked, stepping past me into the room.
"There was someone there, Godfrey," I said. "I'm sure of it--I felt
someone--I felt his eyes on me--and then, as you spoke, I heard the
rustle of a dress."
"Of a dress?"
"Or of a robe," and my thoughts were on the bearded man upstairs.
Godfrey glanced at me, crossed the room, and looked out into the hall.
Then he turned back to me.
"Well, whoever it was," he said, and I could see that he thought my
ears had deceived me, "he has made good his escape. There'll be a
doctor and a nurse here in a few minutes, and I got Simmonds and told
him to bring Goldberger along. He can't get here for an hour anyway.
And I've got a change here for Swain," he added, with a gesture
toward some garments he carried over one arm; "also a bracer to be
administered to him," and he drew a flask from his pocket and handed
it to me. "Maybe you need one, yourself," he added, smiling drily,
"since you've taken to hearing rustling robes."
"I do," I said, "though not on that account," and I raised the flask
to my lips and took a long swallow.
"Suppose you take Swain up to the bath-room," Godfrey suggested, "and
help him to get cleaned up. I'll go down to the gate and wait for the
"The gate's probably locked."
"I thought of that," and he drew a small but heavy hammer from his
pocket. "I'll smash the lock, if there's no other way. I'd like you to
get Swain into shape before anyone arrives," he added. "He's not a
prepossessing object as he is."
"No, he isn't," I agreed, looking at him, and I took the garments
which Godfrey held out to me. Then I went over to Swain and put the
flask into his uninjured hand. "Take a drink of that," I said.
He did not understand at first; then he put the flask to his lips and
drank eagerly--so eagerly that I had to draw it away. He watched me
longingly as I screwed on the cap and slipped it into my pocket; and
there was more colour in his face and a brighter light in his eyes.
"Now, come along," I said, "and get that cut fixed up."
He rose obediently and followed me out into the hall. Godfrey had
preceded us, found the light-switch after a brief search, and turned
"There's a switch in the bath-room, too, no doubt," he said. "Bring
him down again, as soon as you get him fixed up. You'll find some
cotton and gauze in one of the pockets of the coat."
Swain followed me up the stair and into the bath-room. He seemed to
understand what I intended doing, for he divested himself of coat and
shirt and was soon washing arms and face vigorously. Then he dried
himself, and stood patiently while I washed and bandaged the cut on
the wrist. It was not a deep one, and had about stopped bleeding.
"Feel better?" I asked.
"Yes," he said, and without waiting for me to tell him, slipped into
the clean shirt which Godfrey had brought, attached the collar and
tied the tie, all this quite composedly and without hesitation or
clumsiness. Yet I felt, in some indefinable way, that something was
seriously wrong with him. His eyes were vacant and his face flabby, as
though the muscles were relaxed. It gave me the feeling that his
intelligence was relaxed, too!
He picked up his own coat, but I stopped him.
"Don't put that on," I said, speaking to him as I would have spoken to
a child. "The sleeve is blood-stained and there's a long tear down the
side. Take this one," and I held out the light lounging-coat Godfrey
had brought with him.
Swain laid down his own garment without a word and put on the other
one. I rolled the soiled garments into a bundle, took them under my
arm, turned out the lights, and led the way downstairs.
A murmur of voices from the library told me that someone had arrived,
and when I reached the door, I saw that it was the doctor and the
nurse. The former was just rising from a rapid examination of the
quivering figure on the couch.
"We must get her to bed at once," he said, turning to Godfrey. "Her
bedroom's upstairs, I suppose?"
"Yes," said Godfrey; "shall I show you the way?"
The doctor nodded and, lifting the girl carefully in his arms,
followed Godfrey out into the hall. The nurse picked up a
medicine-case from the floor and followed after.
I had expected Swain to rush forward to the couch, to make a scene,
perhaps, and had kept my hand upon his arm; but to my astonishment he
did not so much as glance in that direction. He stood patiently beside
me, with his eyes on the floor, and when my restraining hand fell
away, he walked slowly to the chair in which he had been sitting, and
dropped into it, relaxing limply as with fatigue.
Godfrey was back in a moment.
"That doctor was the nearest one I could find," he said. "He seems to
be all right. But if Miss Vaughan isn't better in the morning, I'll
get a specialist out."
"Godfrey," I said, in a low tone, "there's something the matter with
Swain," and I motioned to where he sat, flaccid and limp, apparently
half-asleep. "He is suffering from shock, or something of that sort.
It's something more, anyway, than over-wrought nerves. He seems to be
"I noticed it," said Godfrey, with a little nod. "We'll have the
doctor look at him when he comes down," and he sank wearily into a
chair. "This has been a pretty strenuous night, Lester."
"Yes; and it isn't over yet. I wonder what the man with the snake is
"Still staring into the crystal, no doubt. Do you want to go and see?"
"No," I said decidedly, "I don't. Godfrey," I added, "doesn't the
absence of servants seem strange to you?"
"Very strange. But, I dare say, we'll find them around
somewhere--though they seem to be sound sleepers! We didn't look
through the whole house, you know. I'm not going to, either; I'm going
to let the police do that. They ought to be here pretty soon. I told
Simmonds to bring two or three men with him."
I glanced at the huddled body of the murdered man. With all the
night's excitements and surprises, we had not even touched upon that
mystery. Not a single gleam of light had been shed upon it, and yet it
was the centre about which all these other strange occurrences
revolved. Whose hand was it had thrown that cord about the throat and
drawn it tight? What motive lay behind? Fearsome and compelling must
the motive be to drive a man to such a crime! Would Simmonds be able
to divine that motive, to build the case up bit by bit until the
murderer was found? Would Godfrey?
I turned my head to look at him. He was lying back in his chair, his
eyes closed, apparently lost in thought, and for long minutes there
was no movement in the room.
At last the doctor returned, looking more cheerful than when he had
left the room. He had given Miss Vaughan an opiate and she was
sleeping calmly; the nervous trembling had subsided and he hoped that
when she waked she would be much better. The danger was that brain
fever might develop; she had evidently suffered a very severe shock.
"Yes," said Godfrey, "she discovered her father strangled in the chair
"I saw the body when I came in," the doctor remarked, imperturbably.
"So it's her father, is it?"
"And strangled, you say?"
Godfrey answered with a gesture, and the doctor walked over to the
body, glanced at the neck, then disengaged one of the tightly clenched
hands from the chair-arm, raised it and let it fall. I could not but
envy his admirable self-control.
"How long has he been dead?" Godfrey asked.
"Not more than two or three hours," the doctor answered. "The muscles
are just beginning to stiffen. It looks like murder," he added, and
touched the cord about the neck.
"It _is_ murder."
"You've notified the police?"
"They will be here soon."
I saw the doctor glance at Godfrey and then at me, plainly puzzled as
to our footing in the house; but if there was a question in his mind,
he kept it from his lips and turned back again to the huddled body.
"Any clue to the murderer?" he asked, at last.
"We have found none."
And then the doctor stooped suddenly and picked up something from the
floor beside the chair.
"Perhaps this is a clue," he said, quietly, and held to the light an
object which, as I sprang to my feet, I saw to be a blood-stained
He spread it out under our eyes, handling it gingerly, for it was
still damp, and we saw it was a small handkerchief--a woman's
handkerchief--of delicate texture. It was fairly soaked with blood,
and yet in a peculiar manner, for two of the corners were much
crumpled but quite unstained.
The doctor raised his eyes to Godfrey's.
"What do you make of it?" he asked.
"A clue, certainly," said Godfrey; "but scarcely to the murderer."
The doctor looked at it again for a moment, and then nodded. "I'd
better put it back where I found it, I guess," he said, and dropped it
beside the chair.
And then, suddenly, I remembered Swain. I turned to find him still
drooping forward in his chair, apparently half-asleep.
"Doctor," I said, "there is someone else here who is suffering from
shock," and I motioned toward the limp figure. "Or perhaps it's
something worse than that."
The doctor stepped quickly to the chair and looked down at its
occupant. Then he put his hand under Swain's chin, raised his head and
gazed intently into his eyes. Swain returned the gaze, but plainly in
only a half-conscious way.
"It looks like a case of concussion," said the doctor, after a moment.
"The left pupil is enlarged," and he ran his hand rapidly over the
right side of Swain's head. "I thought so," he added. "There's a
considerable swelling. We must get him to bed." Then he noticed the
bandaged wrist. "What's the matter here?" he asked, touching it with
"He cut himself on a piece of glass," Godfrey explained. "You'd better
take him over to my place, where he can be quiet."
"I've got my car outside," said the doctor, and together he and I
raised Swain from the chair and led him to it.
He went docilely and without objection, and ten minutes later, was
safely in bed, already dozing off under the influence of the opiate
the doctor had given him. "He'll be all right in the morning," the
latter assured me. "But he must have got quite a blow over the head."
"I don't know what happened to him," I answered. "You'll come back
with me, won't you?"
"Yes; I may be useful," and he turned the car back the way we had
come. "Besides," he added, frankly, "I'm curious to learn what
happened in that house to-night."
He had certainly shown himself equal to emergencies, I reflected; and
I liked his voice and his manner, which was cool and capable.
"My name is Lester," I said. "I'm a lawyer staying with Mr. Godfrey.
We heard Miss Vaughan scream and ran over to the house, but we don't
know any more than you do."
"My name is Hinman, and I'm just a country doctor," said my companion;
"but if I can be of any help, I hope you'll call upon me. Hello!" he
added, as we turned through the gate into the grounds of Elmhurst, and
he threw on the brake sharply, for a uniformed figure had stepped out
into the glare of our lamps and held up his hand.
The police had arrived.
We found a little group of men gathered about the chair in which sat
the huddled body. Two of them I already knew. One was Detective-sergeant
Simmonds, and the other Coroner Goldberger, both of whom I had met
in previous cases. Simmonds was a stolid, unimaginative, but
industrious and efficient officer, with whom Godfrey had long
ago concluded an alliance offensive and defensive. In other words,
Godfrey threw what glory he could to Simmonds, and Simmonds such
stories as he could to Godfrey, and so the arrangement was to their
Goldberger was a more astute man than the detective, in that he
possessed a strain of Semitic imagination, a quick wit, and a fair
degree of insight. He was in his glory in a case like this. This was
shown now by his gleaming eyes and the trembling hand which pulled
nervously at his short, black moustache. Goldberger's moustache was a
good index to his mental state--the more ragged it grew, the more
baffling he found the case in hand!
Both he and Simmonds glanced up at our entrance and nodded briefly.
Then their eyes went back to that huddled figure.
There were three other men present whom I did not know, but I judged
them to be the plain-clothes-men whom Simmonds had brought along at
Godfrey's suggestion. They stood a little to one side until their
superiors had completed the examination.
"I didn't stop to pick up my physician," Goldberger was saying. "But
the cause of death is plain enough."
"Doctor Hinman here is a physician," I said, bringing him forward. "If
he can be of any service...."
Goldberger glanced at him, and was plainly favorably impressed by
Hinman's dark, eager face, and air of intelligence and self-control.
"I shall be very glad of Dr. Hinman's help," said Goldberger, shaking
hands with him. "Have you examined the body, sir?"
"Only very casually," answered Hinman. "But it is evident that the
cause of death was strangulation."
"How long has he been dead?"
Hinman lifted the stiff hand again and ran his fingers along the
muscles of the arm.
"About four hours, I should say."
Goldberger glanced at his watch.
"That would put his death at a little before midnight. The murderer
must have come in from the grounds, crept up behind his victim, thrown
the cord about his neck and drawn it tight before his presence was
suspected. The victim would hardly have remained seated in the chair
if he had known his danger. After the cord was round his throat, he
had no chance--he could not even cry out. There's one thing I don't
understand, though," he added, after a moment. "Where did that blood
come from?" and he pointed to the dark spots on the collar of the
Hinman looked up with a little exclamation.
"I forgot," he said. "Did you find the handkerchief? No, I see you
didn't," and he pointed to where it lay on the floor. "I noticed it
when I first looked at the body."
Without a word, Goldberger bent and picked up the blood-stained
handkerchief. Then he and Simmonds examined it minutely. Finally the
coroner looked at Godfrey, and his eyes were very bright.
"There can be only one inference," he said. "The dead man is not
bleeding--the cord did not cut the flesh. The blood, then, must have
come from the murderer. He must have been injured in some
way--bleeding profusely. Look at this handkerchief--it is fairly
I am sure that, at that instant, the same thought was in Godfrey's
mind which flashed through mine, for our eyes met, and there was a
shadow in his which I knew my own reflected. Then I glanced at Hinman.
He was looking at the handkerchief thoughtfully, his lips tightly
closed. I could guess what he was thinking, but he said nothing.
Goldberger laid the handkerchief on the table, at last, and turned
back to the body. He bent close above it, examining the blood spots,
and when he stood erect again there was in his face a strange
"Lend me your glass, Simmonds," he said, and when Simmonds handed him
a small pocket magnifying-glass, he unfolded it and bent above the
stains again, scrutinising each in turn. At last he closed the glass
with an emphatic little snap. "This case isn't going to be so
difficult, after all," he said. "Those spots are finger-prints."
With an exclamation of astonishment, Simmonds took the glass and
examined the stains; then he handed it to Godfrey, who finally passed
it on to me. Looking through it, I saw that Goldberger was right. The
stains had been made by human fingers. Most of them were mere
smudges, but here and there was one on which faint lines could be
"They seem to be pretty vague," I remarked, passing the glass on to
"They're plenty clear enough for our purpose," said Goldberger;
"besides they will come out much clearer in photographs. It's lucky
this stuff is so smooth and closely-woven," he added, fingering a
corner of the robe, "or we wouldn't have got even those. It's as hard
and fine as silk."
"How do you suppose those marks came there, Mr. Goldberger?" Godfrey
asked, and there was in his tone a polite scepticism which evidently
annoyed the coroner.
"Why, there's only one way they could come there," Goldberger answered
impatiently. "They were put there by the murderer's fingers as he drew
the cord tight. Do you see anything improbable in that?"
"Only that it seems too good to be true," Godfrey answered, quietly,
and Goldberger, after looking at him a moment, turned away with a
shrug of the shoulders.
"See if you can get the cord loose, Simmonds," he said.
The cord was in the form of a running noose, which had been knotted
to hold it in place after being drawn tight. Although it had not cut
the flesh of the neck, it had sunk deeply into it, and Simmonds worked
at the knot for some moments without result. I suspect his fingers
were not quite as steady as they might have been; but it was evidently
an intricate knot.
"That's a new one on me," he said, at last. "I can't get it loose."
Godfrey bent close above it and looked at it.
"It _is_ a peculiar knot," he agreed. "If you'll permit a suggestion,
Mr. Goldberger, you'll cut the cord and leave the knot as it is. It
may help us to find the man who made it."
"You're right," agreed Goldberger, promptly. "Cut the cord, Simmonds."
Simmonds got out his pocket-knife, opened it and slipped the blade
under the cord, cut it, and pulled it out of the ridge of flesh. He
looked at it a moment, and then handed it to Goldberger. The latter
examined it carefully.
"It's stained with blood, too," he remarked, and passed it on to
"It looks like curtain-cord," Godfrey said, and made a little tour of
the room. "Ah!" he added, after a moment, from the door opening into
the grounds. "See here!"
He was holding up the end of the cord by which the curtains covering
the upper part of the double doors were controlled.
"You were right, Mr. Coroner," he said, "in thinking that the murderer
entered by this door, for he stopped here and cut off a piece of this
cord before going on into the room."
"Then he must also have stopped to make it into a noose," remarked
Goldberger. "If he did that, he was certainly a cool customer. It's a
wonder his victim didn't hear the noise he made."
"Making a knot isn't a noisy operation," Godfrey pointed out;
"besides, the back of the chair was toward the door. And then, of
course, it's possible his victim _did_ hear him."
"But then he would have jumped from the chair," objected Simmonds.
"Not necessarily. Suppose you were sitting there, and heard a noise,
and looked around and saw me standing here, you wouldn't jump from the
chair, would you?"
"No; I'd have no reason to jump from you."
"Perhaps Vaughan thought he had no reason to jump from the man _he_
saw--if he saw anyone. I'm inclined to think, however, that he didn't
suspect anyone else was in the room until he felt the cord about his
"And, of course," said Goldberger, taking the cord again and looking
at it, "it was while the murderer was making it into a noose with his
blood-stained fingers that he stained it in that way. Don't you agree,
"That is a possible explanation," Godfrey conceded.
"But why did he make this second knot?" inquired the coroner; "the
knot which holds the noose tight and prevents it from slipping?"
"If he hadn't knotted it like that he would have had to stand there
holding it until his victim was dead. As it was, he didn't have to
I shivered a little at the thought of the scoundrel calmly tying the
knot to secure his noose, and then leaving his victim to twitch his
"It's no little trick to tie a knot like that," Godfrey added,
thoughtfully. "I should like to study it."
"All right," agreed Goldberger; "you can have it whenever you want
it," and he got a heavy manila envelope out of his pocket and placed
the cord carefully inside. "Now we must get that robe off. We can't
run any risk of having those finger-prints smeared."
It was a difficult job and a revolting one, for the body had stiffened
into its huddled posture, but at last the robe was removed and the
body itself lying at full length on its back on the couch. Seen thus,
with the light full on it, the face was horrible, and Goldberger laid
his handkerchief over the swollen and distorted features, while, at a
sign from him, Simmonds pulled down the portiere from the inner door
and placed it over the body. Then the coroner picked up the robe and
held it out at arms' length.
"What kind of a freak dress is this, anyway?" he asked.
"It's a robe," said Godfrey. "Mr. Vaughan was a mystic."
"A mystic--a believer in Hinduism or some other Oriental religion."
"Did he dress this way all the time?"
"I believe so. It is probably the dress of his order."
Goldberger rolled the robe up carefully, and said nothing more; but I
could see from his expression that he had ceased to wonder why Vaughan
had come to a strange and violent end. Surely anything might happen to
a mystic! Then he placed the blood-stained handkerchief in another
envelope, and finally put his hand in his pocket and brought out half
a dozen cigars.
"Now," he said, "let's sit down and rest awhile. Simmonds tells me it
was you who called him, Mr. Godfrey. How did you happen to discover
The question was asked carelessly, but I could feel the alert mind
behind it. I knew that Godfrey felt it, too, from the way in which he
told the story, for he told it carefully, and yet with an air of
keeping nothing back.
Of the mysterious light he said nothing, but, starting with my finding
of the letter and summoning Swain to receive it, told of the
arrangements for the rendezvous, dwelling upon it lightly, as a
love-affair which could have no connection with the tragedy. He passed
on to his own arrival from the city, to Swain's return from the
rendezvous, and finally to the screams which had reached us, and to
the discovery we had made when we burst into the house.
"I summoned Dr. Hinman immediately," he added, "for Miss Vaughan
seemed to be in a serious condition; then I called Simmonds, and
suggested that he stop for you, Mr. Coroner, for I knew that the case
would interest you. Dr. Hinman arrived perhaps half an hour ahead of
you, and had Miss Vaughan put to bed at once. And I guess you know the
rest," he concluded.
We had all listened intently. I was pretty sure that Simmonds would
make no inferences which Godfrey wished to avoid; but I feared the
more penetrating mind of the coroner. His first question proved that I
was right to do so.
"Where is this man Swain?" he asked.
"He was suffering from the shock," said Godfrey, "and Lester and Dr.
Hinman took him over to my place and put him to bed. That's where they
were when you got here."
"He seemed to be suffering from a slight concussion," Hinman
explained. "There was a swelling on one side of his head, as though
some one had struck him, and the pupils of his eyes were
unsymmetrical. He had also a cut on the wrist," he added, after an
"Ah!" commented Goldberger, with a glance at Godfrey. "Had it been
"He cut himself when crossing the wall," Godfrey explained; "a mere
scratch, but I believe it _did_ bleed a good deal."
"Ah!" said Goldberger again; and then he turned to the doctor. "Did I
understand you to say that he went to sleep?"
"He certainly did. I gave him a good strong opiate to make sure of
"Do you think he'll sleep till morning?"
"He'll sleep nine or ten hours, at least."
"Then _that's_ all right," said Goldberger, and settled back in his
chair again. "But didn't anybody live in this house except that old
man and his daughter? Aren't there any servants?"
"There must be some somewhere about," answered Godfrey, to whom the
question was addressed; "but Lester and I looked through the lower
floor and part of the upper one and didn't find any. There's a bell
there by the door, but nobody answered when I rang. We didn't have
time to go all over the house. We _did_ find one thing, though," he
added, as if by an afterthought.
"What was that?"
"There's an adept in one of the rooms upstairs."
Goldberger sat up and stared at him.
"An adept?" he repeated. "What's that?"
"An expert in mysticism. I judge that Vaughan was his pupil."
"Do you mean he's a Hindu?" asked the coroner, as though that would
But Godfrey was having his revenge.
"I don't know whether he's a Hindu or not," he said, airily. "I didn't
get a very good look at him."
"What was he doing?" Goldberger demanded.
"He was just sitting there."
Again Goldberger stared at him, this time suspiciously.
"But, good heavens, man!" he cried. "That was three or four hours ago!
You don't suppose he's sitting there yet!"
"Yes," said Godfrey drily, "I think he is."
Goldberger's face flushed, and he sprang to his feet impatiently.
"Show me the room," he commanded.
"Glad to," said Godfrey laconically, and led the way out into the
The whole crowd tailed along after him. As I rose to follow, I saw
that the outside world was turning grey with the approaching dawn.
The nurse, hearing our footsteps on the stairs, looked out in alarm,
and held up a warning finger. Godfrey paused for a word with her.
"How is she?" he asked.
"Sleeping quietly," said the nurse; "but please don't make any more
noise than you can help."
"We won't," Godfrey promised, and crossed the hall to the door leading
into the little entry. Then he paused and looked around at Goldberger.
"Better go slow here," he cautioned. "The adept has a pet cobra."
"The deadliest snake in the world."
Goldberger drew back a little, as did all the others.
"I don't think it will bite us, though," added Godfrey, cheerfully,
"if we don't crowd it. It's sitting there, too," and he opened the
outer door, passed through, and held back the curtain at the farther
I was just behind Goldberger and Simmonds, and I heard their gasp of
amazement, as they saw what lay beyond.
The scene had not changed in the slightest detail. The crystal sphere
still softly glowed, with intangible shadows flitting across its
surface; the adept still sat cross-legged staring into its depths;
opposite him, the cobra, its hood distended, swayed slowly to and fro.
But as we stood there staring, a single delicate ray of sunlight
coming through a pin-hole in the curtained window, struck the sphere
and seemed to extinguish it. The glow within it flickered and
fluttered and finally vanished, and it hung there dull and grey. An
instant later, the motionless figure raised its arms high in air, with
a motion somehow familiar; then it got slowly to its feet, crossed to
the window, drew back the curtain and flung wide the shutter.
The sun was just peeping over the trees to the east, and for a second
its light blinded me. Then I saw the adept bowing low before it, his
arms still extended. Once, twice, thrice he bowed, as before a deity,
while we stood there staring. Then he turned slowly toward us.
"Enter, friends," he said calmly. "The peace of the Holy One be on
you, and his love within your hearts!"
THE WHITE PRIEST OF SIVA
The adept was an impressive figure, as he stood there with the sun
behind him, throwing a yellow nimbus around his head. The robe he wore
was of a rich purple, and gave an added effect of height and dignity
to a figure already tall. His hair was dark and crinkled like
wind-swept water, his complexion dark, but with an under-blush of red
in the cheeks. His lips were scarlet and his eyes coal-black and of an
arresting brilliance. The whole effect he gave was of transcendent
energy and magnetism, nor did he show the slightest fatigue from his
His eyes swept our faces, as we stood crowded there in the doorway. He
did not seem surprised. If there was any expression in his face except
courteous inquiry, it was one of carefully suppressed amusement.
"Enter, friends," he repeated. "What is it you desire?"
His voice was rich and deep, and he spoke with a peculiar intonation,
but without accent. It was something of a shock to hear the ordinary
words of English speech coming from his lips, for they seemed formed
to utter prophecies in unknown tongues.
Goldberger took one step into the room, and then stopped abruptly.
Following his eyes, I saw that the cobra had also awakened from its
trance, and was regarding us steadily and hissing slightly. The adept
smiled as he saw us shrink back.
"Do not fear," he said. "Come, Toto," and stepping across the room, he
lifted the cobra in one hand and held it a moment close to him, gently
stroking the distended hood. The snake curled itself about his arm and
seemed to cuddle to him, but it kept its eyes fixed on us. I could not
but smile at the incongruity of its name. Toto was well enough for a
French poodle, but for a cobra!
After a moment, the adept lifted the lid of a round basket which stood
on the floor near the divan, dropped the snake gently into it, and
fastened down the lid. Then he clapped his hands softly, and an
instant later the curtains at the rear of the room parted and a
strange figure appeared between them.
It was the figure of a man, not over five feet tall and very thin. He
was almost as dark as a full-blooded negro, and the white burnoose
which was thrown about his shoulders and covered him to just below
the hips, made him look even darker. His legs were bare and seemed to
be nothing but skin and bone. The flat-nosed face, with its full lips
and prominent eyes, reminded me of an idol I had seen pictured
The newcomer bowed low before the adept, and, at a sign from him,
picked up Toto's basket and disappeared with it through the curtains.
He had not even glanced in our direction. The adept turned back to us.
"Now, friends," he said, "will you not enter?"
Goldberger led the way into the room and stopped to look about it. The
walls were hung with black velvet, so arranged that windows and doors
could be covered also, and the room was absolutely devoid of
furniture, save for a low, circular divan in the centre of which stood
the crystal sphere, supported, as I saw now, by a slender pedestal.
"I have a few questions to ask you," began Goldberger at last, in a
voice deferential despite himself.
"Proceed, sir," said the adept, courteously.
"Do you know that Mr. Vaughan is dead?"
The adept made a little deprecating gesture.
"Not dead," he protested. "A man does not die. His soul rejoins the
Over-soul, that is all. Yes, I know that at midnight the soul of my
pupil passed over."
"How did you learn that?" Goldberger demanded.
"I saw it in the sphere," replied the adept calmly.
"Where were you at the time?"
"I was gazing at the sphere."
"Do you mean," asked Goldberger incredulously, "that you sat for five
hours and more staring at that thing?"
"My vigil began at sundown," said the adept, with a slight smile.
"Last night was the White Night of Siva. It must be spent in
meditation by all who follow him."
Goldberger worried his moustache with nervous fingers, as he stared at
the adept, plainly at a loss how to proceed.
"Perhaps," ventured Godfrey, softly, "your crystal could give us some
further information which we very much desire."
The adept turned his dark eyes on the speaker, and it seemed to me
that they glittered more coldly, as though they recognised an
"What information, sir?" he asked.
"Information as to the manner of Mr. Vaughan's passing--can you tell
us anything of that?"
The adept shook his head.
"I only saw the soul as it passed over. I knew, however, that it had
been torn from the body by violence."
"How did you know that?" broke in Goldberger.
"Because of its colour," answered the adept; and then, when he saw our
benumbed expressions, he explained. "Souls which pass in peace are
white; souls which the body has driven forth by its own hands are
black; souls which are torn from the body by an alien hand are red. My
pupil's soul was red."
I could see that Goldberger did not know whether to snort with
derision or to be impressed. He ended by smiling feebly. As for me, I
admit I was impressed.
"When an alien hand, as you put it, is used," said the coroner, "we
call it murder in this country, and the law tries to get hold of the
alien and to send his soul after his victim's. That's what we are
trying to do now. We are officers of the law."
The adept bowed.
"Any assistance I can give you," he said, softly, "I shall be glad to
give; though to do murder, as you call it, is not always to do wrong."
"Our law doesn't make such nice distinctions," said Goldberger,
drily. "May I ask your profession?"
"I am a White Priest of Siva," said the adept, touching his forehead
lightly with the fingers of his left hand, as in reverence.
"Who is Siva?"
"The Holy One, the Over-soul, from whom we come and to whom we all
Again Goldberger worried his moustache.
"Well," he said, at last, "until the mystery is cleared up, I must ask
you not to leave this house."
"I have no wish to leave it, sir."
"And the other fellow--the fellow who took away the snake--where was
he last night?"
"He slept in a small room opening into this one."
"May I look into it?"
"Certainly," and the adept swept aside the curtains.
The room into which we looked was not more than ten feet square, and
empty of furniture, except for a mat in the middle of the floor and
three or four baskets set against the wall. On the mat was squatted
the attendant, his legs crossed with feet uppermost, and his hands
held palm to palm before him. On the floor in front of him were what
looked to me like a strip of cloth, a bone and a tooth. He did not
raise his eyes at our entrance, but sat calmly contemplating these
Goldberger's moustache lost a few more hairs as he stood staring down
at this strange figure.
"What are those things? His grandmother's remains?" he asked, at last.
"Those are the attributes of Kali," said the adept gravely, as one
"Very interesting, no doubt," commented the coroner drily. "Would it
disturb the gentleman too much to ask him a few questions?"
"He speaks no English, but I shall be glad to translate for you."
The coroner thought this over for a moment, and then shook his head.
"No," he said; "I'll wait for the court interpreter. You might tell
him, though, that there will be officers of the law on duty below, and
that he is not to leave the house."
"I will caution him," answered the adept, and let the curtain fall, as
we passed out.
"I suppose there are some other servants somewhere about the place?"
"There are three--they sleep on the floor above."
"Are they Hindus, too?"
"Oh, no," and the adept smiled. "Two of them are German and the other
The coroner reddened a little, for the words somehow conveyed a
"That is all for to-day," he said; "unless Mr. Simmonds has some
questions?" and he looked at his companion.
But Simmonds, to whom all these inquiries had plainly been successive
steps into the darkness, shook his head.
"Then we will bid you good-morning," added Goldberger, still a little
on his dignity. "And many thanks for your courtesy."
The adept responded with a low bow and with a smile decidedly
ironical. I, at least, felt that we had got the worst of the
Goldberger, without a word, led the way up the stair that mounted to
the attic story, and there soon succeeded in routing out the three
servants. The Germans proved to be a man and wife, well past middle
age, the former the gardener and the latter the cook. Erin was
represented by a red-haired girl who was the housemaid. All of them
were horrified when told their master had been murdered, but none of
them could shed any light on the tragedy. They had all been in bed
long before midnight, and had not been disturbed by any of the noises
of the night.
This could be the more readily understood when, as a little
investigation showed, we found that they had all slept with doors
locked and windows closed and shuttered. Any sounds from the house
would really have to penetrate two doors to reach them, for their
rooms were at the end of an entry, closed by an outer door. As to the
windows, it was the rule of the house that they should always be
closed and tightly shuttered during the night. They knew of no
especial reason for the rule, though the Irish girl remarked that,
with heathen in the house and lunatics, there was no telling how the
nights were spent.
They were all evidently innocent of any connection with the tragedy;
but Goldberger, for some ridiculous reason, brought them downstairs
with him and made them look at their master's body. This had no result
except to send the Irish girl into hysterics, and Hinman for a few
minutes had another patient on his hands.
"Well," said Goldberger, passing his hand wearily across his forehead,
"I guess there's nothing more to be done. And I'm dead tired. I had
just got to bed when Simmonds called me. I'll set the inquest for ten
o'clock to-morrow morning, and I'll hold it here in this room. We'll
want you here, Mr. Godfrey, and you, Mr. Lester. And--oh, yes," he
added suddenly, "we'll want that Mr. Swain, whose story I haven't
heard yet. No doubt of his appearing is there?"
"Absolutely none," I assured him.
"I could put him under guard, of course," said Goldberger, pensively,
"for I'm sure he'll prove to be a very important witness; but if you
will be personally responsible for him, Mr. Lester...."
"I will," I agreed, and Goldberger nodded.
"Have him here at ten o'clock, then," he said.
"Dr. Hinman would better see him again to-day," I suggested.
"I'll call about four o'clock this afternoon," the doctor promised;
and, leaving Goldberger to complete his arrangements and Simmonds to
post his men, Godfrey and I stepped out upon the lawn.
It was after five o'clock and the sun was already high. It scarcely
seemed possible that, only six hours before, Swain had crossed the
wall for the first time!
"We'd better go out as we came," Godfrey said, and turned across the
lawn. He walked with head down and face puckered with thought.
"Can you make anything of it?" I asked, but he only shook his head.
We soon reached the ladder, and Godfrey paused to look about him. The
shrubbery was broken in one place, as though some heavy body had
fallen on it, and this was evidently the mark of Swain's wild jump
from the wall.
At last, Godfrey motioned me to precede him, and, when I was over,
reached one ladder down to me and descended to my side. We replaced
the ladders against the shed, and then walked on toward the house. As
we turned the corner, we found Mrs. Hargis standing on the front
"Well, you _are_ out early!" she said.
"Yes," laughed Godfrey; "fact is, we haven't been to bed yet. Will you
have something to eat, Lester, before you turn in?"
A glass of milk was all I wanted; and five minutes later I mounted to
my room. I glanced in for a moment at Swain, who seemed to be sleeping
peacefully; and then darkened my room as well as I could and tumbled
into bed. I must have dropped asleep the moment my head touched the
pillow, for I remember nothing more until I opened my eyes to find
Godfrey standing over me.
"I hate to wake you, Lester," Godfrey said, smiling, "but it's nearly
four o'clock. Dr. Hinman will be here before long, and if you're going
to hear Swain's story, you'll have to be getting up."
I sat up in bed at once, all trace of sleepiness vanished.
"How is he?" I asked.
"He seems to be all right. He's been up for some time. I haven't said
anything to him about last night--I wanted the doctor to see him
first; besides, I thought you ought to be present."
"I'll be down right away," I said, and twenty minutes later, I found
Godfrey and Swain sitting together on the front porch. As Swain
returned my greeting, I was relieved to see that his eyes were no
longer fixed and staring, but seemed quite normal.
"Mrs. Hargis has your breakfast ready," said Godfrey, "and I think
I'll join you. Will you come, Mr. Swain?"
"No, thank you," Swain replied. "I had my breakfast only about an
hour ago. I'll just sit here, if you don't mind."
"All right," said Godfrey, "we won't be long," and together we went
back to the dining-room.
Mrs. Hargis was there, and greeted us as though stopping out till dawn
and breakfasting at four o'clock in the afternoon were the most
ordinary things in the world. A copy of the _Record_ was lying, as
usual, on the table, and a black headline caught my eye:
* * * * *
RICH RECLUSE STRANGLED TO
DEATH AT HIS HOME IN
* * * * *
I glanced at Godfrey in surprise.
"Yes," he said, reddening a little, "I was just in time to 'phone the
story in for the last edition. I called the doctor first, though,
Lester--you must give me credit for that! And it was a beautiful
"What time did you get up?" I asked.
"About noon. I sent down the full story for to-morrow morning's paper
just before I called you."
"None that I know of. Of course, I haven't heard Swain's story yet."
"Godfrey," I said, "it seems to me that this thing is going to look
bad for Swain--I think Goldberger suspects him already. A good deal
depends upon his story."
"Yes, it does," Godfrey agreed.
We finished the meal in silence. It was not a long one, for I, at
least, was anxious to get back to Swain. As we rejoined him on the
porch, Dr. Hinman's car came up the drive. He got out and shook hands
with us. As he greeted Swain, I saw him glance anxiously into his
eyes--and saw also that the glance reassured him.
"You're feeling better to-day," he said, sitting down by Swain's side.
"Yes," said Swain quietly, "I'm feeling all right again."
"How is Miss Vaughan, doctor?" I asked.
Swain jerked round toward the doctor.
"Is Miss Vaughan ill?" he demanded.
"She had a shock last night," answered the doctor, slowly; "but she's
getting along nicely. She'll have to be kept quiet for a few days."
I was looking at Swain curiously. He was rubbing his head
perplexedly, as though trying to bring some confused memory to the
surface of his mind.
"I seem to remember," he said, "that Miss Vaughan fainted, and that I
picked her up." Then he stopped and stared at us. "Is her father
"Yes," I said, and he fell to rubbing his head again.
I glanced at Hinman, and he nodded slightly. I took it for assurance
that Swain might be questioned. Godfrey, who had gone indoors to get
some cigars, came back with a handful. All of us, including Swain,
"Now, Swain," I began, "I want you to tell us all that you remember of
last night's happenings. Both Mr. Godfrey and Dr. Hinman are in my
confidence and you may speak freely before them. I want them to hear
your story, because I want their advice."
There was a pucker of perplexity on Swain's face.
"I've been trying, ever since I woke up this morning, to straighten
out my remembrance of last night," he began, slowly; "but I haven't
succeeded very well. At least, everything seems to stop right in the
"Go ahead," I said, "and tell us what you do remember. Maybe it will
grow clearer as you recall it, or maybe we can fill in the gaps. Begin
at the moment you went over the wall. We know everything that happened
up to that time. You remember that clearly, don't you?"
"Oh, yes," said Swain. "I remember all that," and he settled back in
his chair. "Well, after I went down the ladder, I found myself in a
clump of shrubbery, and beyond that was a path. I knew that the arbour
where I was to meet Miss Vaughan was in the corner of the grounds at
the back next to Mr. Godfrey's place, so I turned back along the wall,
leaving the path, which curved away from it. It was very dark under
the trees, and I had to go slowly for fear of running into one of
them. But I finally found the arbour. I struck a match to assure
myself that it was empty, and then sat down to wait. Once or twice I
fancied I heard some one moving outside, but it was only the wind
among the trees, I guess, for it was fully half an hour before Miss
I could see how his hand was trembling on the arm of his chair, and he
paused a moment to collect himself.
"What Miss Vaughan told me," he went on, at last, and I saw that of
the details of the meeting he did not intend to speak, "convinced me
that her father was quite mad--much worse than I had suspected. I
knew, of course, that he was a student of the supernatural, but since
the coming of this yogi...."
"This what?" Hinman interrupted.
"A yogi," Swain answered, turning toward him, "is, as nearly as I can
make out, a sort of high priest of Hinduism. He knows all its secrets,
and is supposed to be able to do all sorts of supernatural things.
This fellow who lived with Mr. Vaughan is a yogi. Mr. Vaughan was his
"Where did the yogi come from?" Godfrey asked.
"I don't know. I don't think Miss Vaughan knows. He arrived, with his
attendant, about six months ago; and since then things have gone from
bad to worse. There has been crystal-gazing and star-worship and
necromancy of all sorts. I confess I didn't understand very much of
it," he added. "It was all so wild and weird; but it ended not only in
Mr. Vaughan's becoming a convert to whatever religion it is the yogi
practises, but in a determination that his daughter should become a
priestess of the cult. It was from that she wished me to help her to
He stopped and again rubbed his head slowly.
"As I tell it," he went on, at last, "it sounds absurd and
unbelievable; but as she told it, there in the darkness, with those
strange rustlings round us, it sent the chills up and down my spine.
Perhaps those Orientals _do_ know more about the supernatural than we
give them credit for; at any rate, I know that Miss Vaughan had been
impressed with the yogi's power. It fascinated and at the same time
horrified her. She said he had a hideous snake, a cobra, which he
petted as she would pet a kitten...."
His voice broke off again, and he wiped the perspiration from his
forehead. I myself felt decidedly nervous. Godfrey threw away his
cigar, which had broken in his fingers.
"At any rate," Swain went on, "I was so upset by what she told me that
I could think of nothing to do except to beg her to come away with me
at once. I remembered my promise to you, Mr. Lester, but I was sure
you would approve. I told her about you--that it was into your hands
the letter had fallen. She said she had seen you looking at her from a
tree and had known at a glance that she could trust you. You didn't
tell me you were in a tree," he added.
"Yes," I said, awkwardly. "I was just taking a little look over the
landscape. Rather foolish of me, wasn't it?"
"Well, it was mighty fortunate, anyway. She had written the letter,
but she had no idea how she was going to get it to me."
"You mean she couldn't go out when she wanted to?" demanded Godfrey.
"I gathered from what she told me," said Swain, his face flushing with
anger, "that she has been practically a prisoner ever since the yogi
arrived. Besides, even if she had succeeded in mailing the letter, it
wouldn't have reached me until too late."
"In what way too late?"
"Her father seems to have had a sudden turn for the worse yesterday;
he became almost violent in insisting that she consent to his plan. He
told her that the life of his own soul as well as of hers depended
upon it. He threatened--I don't know what. The yogi talked to her
afterwards. He, of course, believed, or pretended to believe, as her
father did; moreover, he told her that her father would certainly
suffer a serious mental shock if she refused, perhaps a fatal one. In
despair, she finally agreed, on the condition that she be given three
days in which to prepare herself. If she did not hear from me in that
time, she had made up her mind to consent."
Swain stopped again, and I lay back in my chair, wondering if such
things were possible in this twentieth century, here within the
boundaries of Greater New York! My brain reeled at the absurdity of it!
"Vaughan was undoubtedly suffering from mania," said Dr. Hinman, in a
low voice. "The symptoms, as Mr. Swain describes them, are unmistakable."
"It was that argument I used," said Swain. "I told her that, since he
was clearly mad, she must, in self-defence, place herself beyond his
reach. But she refused to leave him. Then, I argued, in kindness to
him she must have him committed to some institution where he would be
taken care of, and where he might, in time, regain his sanity. I told
her that it would be criminal folly to permit him to remain longer
under the influence of the yogi. She had to agree with me; and she
finally consented to sign an affidavit to the facts as I have told
them, and a petition asking that a commission be appointed to examine
her father. You were to have drawn up the papers to-day, Mr. Lester,
and I was to have taken them to her for signature to-night."
"That would have settled the matter," said Godfrey, thoughtfully.
"It's too bad it wasn't settled in that way. What else happened, Mr.
"Miss Vaughan had grown very nervous, with all this discussion, and at
last she sprang to her feet and said she must go, or her father would
discover her absence. We rose to leave the arbour, and at that
instant, a white-robed figure sprang to her side, seized her and tore
her away from me. I was too startled for an instant to resist; then,
as I started toward them, Marjorie pushed me back.
"'Go! Go!' she cried. 'It is my father!'
"But he stopped me. In a voice shaking and husky with rage, he warned
me that if I entered the place again, my life would be forfeit. I
can't repeat the horrible things he said. I could see his eyes
gleaming like a wild beast's. He cursed me. I had never been cursed
before," and Swain smiled thinly, "and I confess it wasn't pleasant.
Then he led his daughter away.
"I stood staring after them. I didn't know what to do. I felt like a
madman myself. I sat down and tried to collect my thoughts. I saw that
some new plan must be made--that there was no hope of meeting Marjorie
again. I was sick with fear for her; I thought of following to the
house and compelling her to come with me at once. And then, suddenly,
I saw two eyes gleaming at me. They were not human eyes--they were too
close together--and they were swaying gently back and forth in the
air, about a foot from the ground. I gazed at them, fascinated, and
then I heard a soft, low whistle, followed by a faint hissing, as the
eyes fell forward.
"In a flash, I knew what it was--the cobra; I knew why it was
there--Vaughan had said my life was forfeit. I sprang up with a
shriek, dashed along the seat to the door and out into the darkness. I
struck my head against something--a tree, I suppose; but I kept on,
and reached the wall and got over it somehow--it is all confused,
after that. I seem to remember hearing Marjorie scream, and finding
her lying beside her father, who was dead--but I can't put things
together," and he rubbed his head helplessly.
"I'll put them together for you," said Godfrey. "When you ran into the
tree, you suffered a partial concussion. It's lucky it wasn't total,
or Toto would have got you!"
"That, I believe, is the cobra's name," explained Godfrey, with a
smile; "unless, of course, there are two of them." And he told Swain
in detail of the events which had followed.
Swain listened with staring eyes. I did not blame him. Indeed, I felt
that my own eyes were staring a little, though I already knew the
story. But Godfrey, with a gift of narration born of long newspaper
experience, told it in a way that made its horror salient and left one
"There is one question I want to ask you, Swain," he said, in
conclusion, "and I want you to think carefully before you answer it.
During your altercation with Mr. Vaughan, did you at any time touch
"Touch him? No, of course not," and Swain shook his head decidedly.
"You are sure of that?" asked Godfrey earnestly.
"Perfectly sure," said Swain, looking at him in astonishment. "I was
never within three feet of him."
Godfrey sprang to his feet with a gesture of relief.
"I seem to need a cocktail," he said, in another tone. "Isn't that the
prescription for all of us, doctor?"
"Yes," assented Hinman, smiling, "and, after that, complete change of
GUESSES AT THE RIDDLE
We tried to follow Dr. Hinman's prescription, but not with any great
success, for it is difficult to talk about one thing and think about
another. So the doctor took himself off, before long, and Swain
announced that he himself would have to return to the city. He had
come out without so much as a tooth-brush, he pointed out; his
trousers were in a lamentable condition, and, while Godfrey's coat was
welcome, it was far from a perfect fit.
"Which reminds me," he added, "that I don't know what has become of my
own coat and shirt."
I looked at Godfrey quickly.
"No, I forgot them," he said. "They're over in the library at
Elmhurst," he added to Swain. "You can get them to-morrow."
"I shall have to be there to-morrow, then?"
"Yes, at the inquest; I've promised to produce you there," I said.
"At what time?"
"You'd better be there by ten."
"Very well; that's all the more reason for getting back to my base of
supplies. If I went on the stand looking like this, the jury would
probably think I was the murderer!" he added, laughing.
My answering smile was decidedly thin. Godfrey did not even try to
"Wait a few minutes," he suggested, "and I'll take you down in my car.
I'll try to get back early, Lester," he added, apologetically. "I'm
far from an ideal host--but you'll find some books on my desk that may
interest you--I got them up to-day. Take a look at them after dinner."
He went back to bring out his car, and Swain sat down again beside me.
"Mr. Lester," he said, in a low voice, "I hope you haven't forgotten
"To put Miss Vaughan in a safe place and to look after her interests."
"No," I said, "I haven't forgotten. I am going to ask to see her after
the inquest to-morrow. If she wishes us to represent her, we will."
"And to protect her," he added, quickly. "She hasn't even a mad father
"She's safe enough for the present," I pointed out. "Dr. Hinman has
employed another nurse, so that one is with her all the time."
"I won't be satisfied," said Swain, "till you get her out of that
house and away from those damned Hindus. One nurse, or even two,
wouldn't stop them."
"Stop them from what?"
"I don't know," and he twisted his fingers helplessly.
"Well, the police will stop them. There are three or four men on duty
there, with orders to let no one in or out."
His face brightened.
"Ah, that's better," he said. "I didn't know that. How long will they
"Till after the inquest, anyway."
"And you will see Miss Vaughan after the inquest?"
"And urge her to go to Mr. and Mrs. Royce?"
"Yes--but I don't think she'll need much urging. I'll get a note from
Mrs. Royce. I'll telephone to Mr. Royce now, and you can stop and get
the note as you come up in the morning."
Godfrey's car glided up the drive and stopped at the porch. Swain held
out his hand and clasped mine warmly.
"Thank you, Mr. Lester," he said; and a moment later the car turned
into the highway and passed from sight.
Then I went in, got Mr. Royce on the 'phone, and give him a brief
outline of the incidents of the night before. He listened with an
exclamation of astonishment from time to time, and assented heartily
when I suggested that Miss Vaughan might be placed in Mrs. Royce's
"She's a beautiful girl," I concluded, "and very young. I agree with
Swain that she mustn't be left alone in that house."
"Certainly she mustn't," said my partner. "I'll have Mrs. Royce write
the note, and get a room ready for her."
"Of course," I said, "it's possible she won't come--though I believe
she'll be glad to. Or there may be a family lawyer who will want to
look after her. Only she didn't appear to know of any when she was
talking to Swain."
"Well, bring her along if you can," said Mr. Royce. "We'll be glad to
have her. And take your time about coming back, if you're needed up
there. We're getting along all right."
I thanked him, and hung up; and presently Mrs. Hargis came to summon
me to dinner. That meal over, I went in to Godfrey's desk to see what
the books were he had suggested that I look at. There was quite a pile
of them, and I saw that they all related to mysticism or to the
religions of India. There was Sir Monier Williams's "Brahmanism and
Hinduism," Hopkins's "The Religions of India," a work on
crystallomancy, Mr. Lloyd Tuckey's standard work on "Hypnotism and
Suggestion," and some half dozen others whose titles I have forgotten.
And as I looked at them, I began to understand one reason for
Godfrey's success as a solver of mysteries--no detail of a subject
ever escaped him.
I lit my pipe, sat down, and was soon deep in the lore of the East. I
must confess that I did not make much of it. In that maze of
superstition, the most I could do was to pick up a thread here and
there. The yogi had referred to the White Night of Siva, and I soon
found out that Siva is one of the gods of Hinduism--one of a great
trilogy: Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Siva the
destroyer. He had also spoken of the attributes of Kali, and, after a
little further search, I discovered that Kali was Siva's wife--a most
unprepossessing and fiendish female.
But when I passed on to Hinduism itself, and tried to understand its
tenets and its sects, I soon found myself out of my depth. They were
so jumbled, so multitudinous, and so diverse that I could get no clear
idea of them. I read of the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Brahmanas; of
metaphysical abstractions too tenuous to grasp; of karna or action,
of maya or illusion, and I know not what "tangled jumble of ghosts and
demons, demi-gods, and deified saints, household gods, village gods,
tribal gods, universal gods, with their countless shrines and temples
and din of discordant rites." At last, in despair, I gave it up, and
turned to the book on crystallomancy.
Here, at least, was something comprehensible, if not altogether
believable, and I read with interest of the antiquity of
crystal-gazing as a means of inducing hallucination for the purpose of
seeking information not to be gained by any normal means. I read of
its use in China, in Assyria, in Egypt, in Arabia, in India, in Greece
and Rome; of how its practitioners in the Middle Ages were looked upon
as heretics and burnt at the stake or broken on the wheel; of the
famous Dr. Dee, and so down to the present time. The scryers or seers
sometimes used mirrors, sometimes vessels filled with water, but
usually a polished stone, and beryl was especially esteemed.
The effect of gazing at these intently for a time was to abstract the
mind from normal sensory impressions, and to induce a state of partial
hypnosis during which the scryer claimed he could perceive in the
crystal dream-pictures of great vividness, scenes at a distance,
occurrences of the past, and of the future.
I was still deep in this, when I heard a step outside, the door
opened, and Godfrey came in. He smiled when he saw what I was doing.
"How have you been getting along?" he asked.
"Not very well," and I threw the book back on the table. "The
crystal-gazing isn't so bad--one can understand that; but the jumble
of abstractions which the Hindus call religion is too much for me. I
didn't know it was so late," I added, and looked at my watch; but it
was not yet eleven o'clock.
"I'm earlier than usual," said Godfrey. "I cut loose as soon as I
could, because I thought we'd better talk things over. I saw Simmonds
in town to-night."
"Ah," I said; "and what did he tell you?"
"Nothing I didn't know already. The police have discovered nothing
new--or, if they have, they're keeping it dark until to-morrow.
Simmonds did, however, regale me with his theory of the case. He says
the murder was done either by one of the Hindus or by young Swain."
"What do _you_ think?" I asked.
"I'm inclined to agree with Simmonds," said Godfrey, grimly. "With the
emphasis on the Hindus," he added, seeing the look on my face, "I
don't believe Swain had any hand in it."
"Neither do I," I agreed, heartily. "In fact, such a theory is too
absurd to discuss."
"Just the same," said Godfrey, slowly, "I'm glad he didn't touch
Vaughan. If he had happened to seize him by the neck, while they were
struggling together,--in other words, if those finger-prints
Goldberger found had happened to be Swain's--things would have looked
bad for him. I'm hoping they'll turn out to belong to one of the
Hindus--but, as I said to Goldberger, I'm afraid that's too good to be
"Which one of the Hindus?" I asked.
"Oh, the Thug, of course."
I sat bolt upright.
"The Thug?" I echoed.
"Didn't you get that far?" and Godfrey picked up one of the books and
ran rapidly through the pages. "You remember we found him squatting on
the floor with a rag and a tooth and a bone in front of him?"
"And do you remember how the yogi described them, when Goldberger
asked him about them?"
"Very distinctly--he called them the attributes of Kali."
"Now listen to this: 'The Thugs are a religious fraternity, committing
murders in honor of Kali, the wife of Siva, who, they believe, assists
them and protects them. Legend asserts that she presented her
worshippers with three things, the hem of her lower garment to use as
a noose, a rib to use as a knife, and a tooth to use as a pick-axe in
burying the victims.'" He glanced at me, and then went on: "'But the
knife was little used, for the religious character of an assassination
came to depend more and more upon its bloodless character, and for
this a noose was used, with which the victim was strangled. The
aversion to bloodshed became in time so great that many sects of
Thuggee consider it defiling to touch human blood!'" He closed the
book and threw it on the table. "Don't you think that proves the
"Yes," I said, thoughtfully. "And the yogi--is he also a Thug?"
"Oh, no; a White Priest of Siva could never be a Thug. The worship of
Siva and of Kali are the very opposites of each other. The Saivas are
ascetics. That is," he added, in another tone, "if the fellow is
really a Saiva and not just a plain fraud."
"All these fellows are frauds, more or less, aren't they?" I
"No," was Godfrey's unexpected answer; "the real yogin are no doubt
sincere; but a real yogi wouldn't waste his time on a soft-brained old
man, and fire sky-rockets off at midnight to impress him. My own
opinion is that this fellow is a fakir--a juggler, a sleight-of-hand
man--and, of course, a crook."
"Well?" I asked, as Godfrey stopped and failed to continue.
"Well, that's as far as I've got. Oh, yes--there's Toto. A cobra is
one of a fakir's stock properties."
"But, Godfrey," I protested, "he is no ignorant roadside juggler. He's
a cultivated man--an unusual man."
"Certainly he is--most unusual. But that doesn't disprove my guess; it
only makes the problem harder. Even a roadside juggler doesn't do his
tricks for nothing--what reward is it this fellow's working for? It
must be a big one, or it wouldn't tempt him."
"I suppose Vaughan paid him well," I ventured.
"Yes; but did you look at him, Lester? You've called him unusual, but
that word doesn't begin to express him. He's extraordinary. No doubt
Vaughan _did_ pay him well, but it would take something more than that
to persuade such a man to spend six months in a place like that. And I
think I can guess at the stake he's playing for."
"You mean Miss Vaughan?"
"Just that," and Godfrey leaned back in his chair.
I contemplated this theory for some moments in silence. It was, at
least, a theory and an interesting one--but it rested on air. There
was no sort of foundation for it that I could see, and at last I said
"I know it's pretty thin," Godfrey admitted, "but it's the best I've
been able to do--there's so little to build a theory out of. But I'm
going to see if I can't prove one part of it true to-night."
"About his being a fakir. Here's my theory: that hocus-pocus on the
roof at midnight was for the purpose of impressing Vaughan. No doubt
he believed it a real spiritual manifestation, whereas it was only a
clever bit of jugglery. Now that Vaughan is dead, that particular bit
of jugglery will cease until there is some new victim to impress. In
fact, it has ceased already. There was no star last night."
"But you know why," I pointed out. "The yogi spent the night in
contemplation. We can bear witness to that."
"We can't bear witness to when he started in," said Godfrey, drily.
"We didn't see him till after half-past twelve. However, accepting his
explanation, there would be no reason for omitting the phenomenon
to-night, if it's a genuine one."
"No," I agreed.
"And if it _is_ omitted," Godfrey went on, "it will be pretty
conclusive evidence that it isn't genuine. Although," he went on
hurriedly, "I don't need any proof of that--anything else would be
unbelievable." He glanced at his watch. "It's ten minutes to twelve,"
he said. "Come along."
I followed him out of the house and through the grove with very mixed
sensations. If the star _didn't_ fall, it would tend to prove that it
was, as Godfrey had said, merely a fake arranged to impress a
credulous old man; but suppose it _did_ fall! That was a part of the
test concerning which Godfrey had said nothing. Suppose it _did_ fall!
So it was in silence that I followed Godfrey up the ladder and took my
place on the limb. But Godfrey seemed to have no uneasiness.
"We won't have long to wait," he said. "We'll wait till five minutes
after twelve, just to make sure. It must be twelve now. I wish I could
persuade that fellow to show me how the fake was worked, for it was
certainly a good one--one of the best...."
He stopped abruptly, staring out into the darkness. I was staring,
too, for there, against the sky, a light began to glow and brighten.
It hung for a moment motionless, and then began slowly to descend,
steadily, deliberately, as of set purpose. Lower and lower it sank, in
a straight line, hovered for an instant, and burst into a million
In the flare of light, a white-robed figure stood, gazing upwards, its
arms strained toward the sky.
As we went silently down the ladder, a moment later, it seemed to me
that I could hear Godfrey's theory crashing about his ears.
It was not quite ten o'clock when Godfrey and I turned in at the gates
of Elmhurst, next morning, and made our way up the drive to the house,
but in the library we found a considerable company already assembled.
Goldberger was there, with Freylinghuisen his physician, his clerk,
his stenographer, and the men who were to constitute the jury;
Simmonds was there, and with him was an alert little man in glasses,
who, Godfrey told me in an aside, was Sylvester, the head of the
Identification Bureau, and the greatest expert on finger-prints in
America. The district attorney had sent up an assistant, also with a
stenographer, and altogether the room was decidedly crowded.
It became impossible a moment later, when a string of automobiles
puffed up the drive and disgorged a mob of reporters and
photographers. As many as the room would hold pushed into it, and the
others stood outside in the drive and complained loudly. The
complaints of the photographers were especially varied and forceful.
Goldberger looked around him in despair, mopping his face angrily,
for the crowded room was very hot.
"You fellows will have to get out of here," he said to the reporters.
"There's no room. I'll give you a transcript of the proceedings after
The protests redoubled. How were they to get any human interest out of
a transcript? Besides, there were the photographers. What did he
expect them to do--photograph the transcript? And finally, the law
required that the hearing be public, so they had a right to be
present. It was a tense moment, the more so since Goldberger was by no
means insensible of the value of newspaper popularity to a man in
"Why not go out on the lawn?" Godfrey suggested. "It's only a question
of moving some chairs and tables, and the boys will all lend a hand."
The boys applauded, almost forgiving Godfrey his scoop, protested
their entire willingness to lend two hands if necessary, and, when
Goldberger nodded his approval, fell to work with a will. The lower
floor of the house was denuded, the garden seats pressed into service,
and at the end of five minutes, the court was established amid the
circle of trees, the reporters had their coats off and their pipes
lighted, the photographers ditto and their cameras placed. Good humour
was restored; peace reigned; and Goldberger smiled again, for he knew
that the adjectives with which the reporters would qualify his name
would be complimentary ones!
He took his place, rapped for order, and instructed his clerk to swear
the jury. Nobody paid much attention to the jury, for it was a
recognised device for paying small political debts, and its verdict
was usually in strict accord with the wishes of the presiding officer.
Then Goldberger looked at the vacant chair which I had kept beside me.
"By the way, Mr. Lester," he said, "I don't see Mr. Swain."
"He had to go back to the city last night," I explained, "to get some
fresh clothes. He had an errand or two to do this morning, and may
have been detained. I left word at the house for him to come over here
"You seem to have a good deal of confidence in him," Goldberger
"I have," I answered quietly. "A great deal."
Goldberger frowned a little, but proceeded to open the case without
further delay. Godfrey was the first witness, and told his story much
as he had told it the night before. I followed him, but contributed no
new details. Both of us were excused without cross-examination.
To my great satisfaction, Swain arrived while I was testifying, and I
could not deny myself a triumphant glance at Goldberger, but he was
studying some memoranda and affected not to notice it. As soon as I
left the stand, Swain came and sat down beside me and gave me a
letter. It was addressed to Miss Vaughan.
"It's from Mrs. Royce," he said. "She's a trump! She's determined that
Marjorie shall come to her. She says if you don't bring her, she'll
come after her herself. Do you know how she is this morning?"
"No," I said; "I haven't seen Hinman. But how are you?"
"Oh, I'm all right again--head a little sore yet where I bumped
it--but otherwise as fit as a fiddle."
"You look it!" I said; and I was glad, because I wanted him to make a
good impression on the stand. I knew what weight appearances often
had; and no jury, I told myself, would believe that this bright-eyed,
fresh-coloured boy could have had any hand in a brutal murder.
Just then Hinman's name was called, and an officer hurried away to the
house after him. They returned together almost at once, and Hinman was
placed on the stand. He told of being summoned by Godfrey, and of the
events which followed. He said that the murder had been committed
about midnight, that death had been due to strangulation; and
identified the cord and the blood-stained handkerchief which the
coroner submitted to him. I fancied that Swain lost a little of his
colour when he saw the handkerchief and learned where it had been
found, but he made no remark.
"Will Miss Vaughan be able to testify?" Goldberger inquired, just
before the doctor stepped down.
"Unless it is absolutely necessary, I think she would better be
excused," Hinman answered. "She is still very nervous. The ordeal
might cause a serious collapse."
"We will try to get along without her," assented Goldberger. "If
necessary, I can take her deposition. Is she in bed?"
"Yes; I am keeping her as quiet as possible."
"Very well; we won't disturb her," said Goldberger, and Hinman was
excused, and Freylinghuisen called. He merely testified to the cause
of death and that the autopsy had shown that the deceased was in fair
health and without organic disease.
Then the servants were called, but their evidence was unimportant.
They had gone to bed about ten o'clock, and had not awakened until the
coroner himself had pounded at the door. They had heard no unusual
sound. Yes, they had slept with their doors locked and windows
shuttered because that was the rule of the house. Yes, even in the
hottest weather; that made no difference, since each of their rooms
was fitted with a ventilator.
Questioned as to the manner of life of the other inmates of the house,
the German and his wife were non-committal. They had been with the
family a long time; had taken care of the place when their master was
abroad; only after his return had it been necessary to get another
servant. He had been at home for a year, and the Hindus had arrived
about six months later. Yes, they knew their master was studying some
strange religion, but that was no affair of theirs, and they had never
seen anything wrong. He had always treated them well; was a little
strange and absent-minded at times; but neither of them really saw
much of him. He never interfered in the household affairs, Miss
Vaughan giving such instructions as were necessary. The man spent most
of his time in the grounds, and the woman in the kitchen. She was a
little petulant over the fact that one of the Hindus--the "ugly
one"--refused to eat her cooking, but insisted on preparing his own
food. Also, the housemaid had told her that there was a snake, but she
had never seen it.
From the Irish housemaid a little more information was obtained.
Neither Mr. Vaughan nor the yogi ate any breakfast; indeed, they
rarely left their rooms before noon. The other Hindu mixed himself up
some sort of mess over the kitchen stove. Miss Vaughan breakfasted
alone at nine o'clock. At such times, she was accustomed to talk over
household affairs with the maid, and after breakfast would visit the
kitchen and make a tour of the grounds and garden. The remainder of
her day would be spent in reading, in playing the piano, in doing
little household tasks, or in walking about the grounds with her
father. Yes, sometimes the yogi would join them, and there would be
long discussions. After dinner, in the library, there would also be
long discussions, but the girl had no idea what they were about. She
heard a fragment of them occasionally, but had never been able to make
anything of them. In fact, from the way they dressed and all, she had
come to the conclusion that Mr. Vaughan and the yogi were both a
little crazy, but quite inoffensive and harmless.
"And how about Miss Vaughan?" asked the coroner.
"Miss Vaughan, bless her heart, wasn't crazy," said the girl quickly;
"not a bit of it. She was just sad and lonely,--as who wouldn't be!
She never went out--in the five months I've been here, she's never
been off the place; and them front gates was never opened to let
anybody in. The only people who come in were the grocer and milk-man
and such-like, through the little door at the side."
"You say you have been here five months?"
"How did you come to apply for the place?"
"I didn't apply for it. I was sent here by an employment bureau. Miss
Marjorie engaged me. I didn't see the Hindus till afterwards, or I
don't think I'd have took it. After that, I stayed for Miss Marjorie's
"You thought she needed you?"
"Yes, I did. With her father moonin' round in a kind of trance, and
the yogi lookin' at her with eyes like live coals, and a snake that
stood on its tail, and the other naygur going around with nothin' on
but a diaper, I thought she needed somebody to look after her; and
says I, 'Annie Crogan, you're the girl to do it!'"
There was a ripple of laughter and the pencils of the reporters flew
across their paper. It was the first gleam to enliven a prosaic and
"Were the Hindus obtrusive in any way?" asked the coroner.
"Oh, no; they minded their business; I've no complaint on that
"Did you see any of their religious practices?"
"I wouldn't call them religious--quite the contrary. I've seen them
wavin' their arms and bowin' to the sun and settin' in the dark
starin' at a glass globe with a light in it; that's about all. I got
used to it, after a while, and just went on about my work without
takin' any notice."
There was little more to be got from her, and finally she was excused.
The reporters yawned. The jury twitched nervously. Worthington Vaughan
was dead; he had been strangled--so much was clear; but not a
scintilla of evidence had as yet been introduced as to who had
strangled him. Then a movement of interest ran through the crowd, for
a policeman came from the direction of the house accompanied by two
strange figures. One was the yogi, in robes of dazzling white; the
other his attendant, wearing something more than a diaper, indeed, but
with his thin brown legs bare.
The yogi bowed to Goldberger with grave courtesy, and, at a word from
the attendant policeman, sat down in the witness-chair. Everybody was
leaning forward looking at him, and the cameras were clicking in
chorus, but he seemed scarcely aware of the circle of eager faces.
"Hold up your right hand, please," began Goldberger, after
contemplating him for a moment.
"For what purpose?" asked the yogi.
"I'm going to swear you."
"I do not understand."
"I'm going to put you on oath to tell nothing but the truth,"
explained the coroner.
"An oath is unnecessary," said the yogi with a smile. "To speak the
truth is required by my religion."
There was something impressive in the words, and Goldberger slowly
lowered his arm.
"What is your name?" he asked.
"You are not a Hindu?"
"I am of their faith."
"But by birth?"
"I am a Portuguese."
"Born in India?"
"Born at Goa."
The coroner paused. He had never heard of Goa. Neither had I. Neither,
I judged, had any one else present. In this, however, I was wrong.
Godfrey had heard of it, and afterwards referred me to Marryat's
"Phantom Ship" as his source of information.
"Goa," Silva explained, seeing our perplexity, "is a colony owned by
Portugal on the Malabar coast, some distance below Bombay."
"How does it come that you speak English so well?"
"I was educated at Bombay, and afterwards at Oxford and at Paris."