Part 3 out of 5
"But you are by religion a Hindu?"
"I am a Saiva--a follower of Siva, the Lord of life and death."
As he spoke, he touched his forehead with the fingers of his left
hand. There was a moment's silence. Goldberger's moustache, I noted
with a smile, was beginning to suffer again.
"You are what is called an adept?" he asked, at last.
"Some may call me that," said Silva, "but incorrectly. Among my fellow
Saivas, I am known as a White Priest, a yogi, a teacher of the law."
"Mr. Vaughan was your pupil?"
"Yes; for six months he was my pupil."
"In what way did you come to accept this position?"
"Two years ago, Mr. Vaughan visited the monastery of our order in
Crete. He was at that time merely a student of Orientalism, and came
to us from curiosity. But his interest grew; and after a year spent in
studying the holy books, he asked that a teacher be sent to him. There
was none at that time who could be spared; but six months ago, having
completed a task which had occupied me in Paris, I was assigned to
"Do you always go to so much trouble to secure converts?" questioned
Goldberger, a little cynically.
"Usually we require that the period of study be passed at one of our
monasteries. But this case was exceptional."
"In what way?"
"It was our hope," explained the yogi, calmly, "that Mr. Vaughan would
assist us in spreading the Great Truth by endowing a monastery for us
in this country."
"Ah!" and Goldberger looked at him. "Did he agree to do so?"
"He did," answered the yogi, still more calmly. "This estate was to
have been given to us for that purpose, together with an endowment
sufficient to maintain it. Mr. Vaughan himself hoped to gain the White
Robe and become a teacher."
"What was to become of his daughter?"
"It was his hope that she would become a priestess of our order."
"You hoped so, too, no doubt?" inquired Goldberger sweetly.
"I did. It is an office of high honour and great influence. She would
walk all her days in the shadow of the Holy One. So sweet a cup is
offered to few women. The number of priestesses is limited to nine."
Goldberger pulled at his moustache helplessly. Evidently the witness's
calm self-control was not to be broken down, or even ruffled.
"Please tell me where you were night before last," said the coroner,
"I was in this house."
"Did you see Mr. Vaughan?"
"I did not."
"How did you spend the night?"
"In contemplation. It was, as I have told you, the White Night of
Siva, sacred to him from sunset to sunrise."
"Do you mean that you spent the whole night sitting before that
crystal?" asked the coroner, incredulously.
"That is my meaning."
"You know nothing, then, of the death of Mr. Vaughan?"
"I saw his soul pass in the night. More than that I know not."
Again Goldberger twitched at his moustache. He was plainly at a loss
how to proceed.
"Was your attendant with you?" he asked, at last.
"He was in his closet."
"At his devotions too, perhaps?"
"The White Night of Siva is also the Black Night of Kali," said the
yogi, gravely, as one rebuking an unworthy levity.
"What do you mean by that?" Goldberger demanded.
"Mahbub is of the cult of Kali, who is the wife of Siva," said the
yogi, touching his forehead reverently as he spoke the words. "He
spent the night in adoration of her attributes."
Goldberger's stenographer was having his difficulties; the pencils of
the reporters were racing wildly in unison; everyone was listening
with strained attention; there was, somehow, a feeling in the air that
something was about to happen. I saw Godfrey write a line upon a sheet
of paper, fold it, and toss it on the table in front of Goldberger.
The coroner opened it, read the line, and stared at the impassive
Mahbub, who stood beside his master with folded arms, staring over the
heads of the crowd.
"In other words," said Goldberger, slowly, "your attendant is a Thug."
The yogi bowed.
"Yes," he said, calmly; "Mahbub is Thuggee."
A shiver ran through the crowd, like a gust of wind across a field of
wheat. The words, "Mahbub is Thuggee," seemed to rend the veil which
obscured the tragedy. Surely it was clear enough, now: here was a man
killed by Thuggee's peculiar method, and here was the Thug. It was as
simple as two and two!
Every eye was on the bare-legged Hindu, impassive as ever, staring
straight before him. The camera-men hastily pushed in fresh plates and
trained their machines upon him. Two policemen edged close to his
But Francisco Silva looked about him with scornful eyes, and presently
he opened his lips as though to speak, and then he closed them.
Goldberger seemed perplexed. He looked as though, while rolling
smoothly along the road toward a well-understood goal, he had suddenly
struck an unforeseen obstacle. The possibility of Mahbub's guilt
seemed to interfere with some theory of his own. He called Simmonds
and the district attorney to him, and they exchanged a few low words.
Then he turned back to the witness.
"I should like to question your attendant," he said. "Will you
translate for me? I have not been able to find a Hindu interpreter."
Silva bowed his consent.
"Ask him, please, where he spent Thursday night."
There was a brief interchange between Silva and Mahbub, then the
former turned to Goldberger.
"It was as I thought," he said. "He spent the night in the worship of
the attributes of Kali."
The coroner opened an envelope which lay on the table at his elbow and
took out a piece of knotted cord.
"Ask him if he ever saw this before," he said, and passed it to the
"I notice that it is stained," said Silva, looking at it. "Is it with
"Then Mahbub will not touch it. For him to do so, would be to defile
"He doesn't need to touch it. Show it to him."
Silva spoke to his servant, holding up the cord. The latter glanced at
it and shook his head. Without a word, Silva handed the cord back to
"Are there any further questions?" he asked.
Goldberger pulled at his moustache impatiently.
"There are a lot of questions I'd like to ask," he said, "but I feel a
good deal as though I were questioning the Sphinx. Isn't it a little
queer that a Thug should be so particular about a few blood-stains?"
"I fear that you are doing Mahbub an injustice in your thoughts,"
Silva said, gravely. "You have heard certain tales of the Thugs,
perhaps--tales distorted and magnified and untrue. In the old days, as
worshippers of Kali, they did, sometimes, offer her a human sacrifice;
but that was long ago. To say a man is a Thug is not to say he is also
"It will take more than that to convict him, anyway," assented
Goldberger, quickly. "That is all for the present, professor." I bit
back a smile at the title which came so unconsciously from
Silva bowed and walked slowly away toward the house, Mahbub following
close behind. At a look from Simmonds, two of his men strolled after
the strange couple.
Goldberger stared musingly after them for a moment, then shook his
head impatiently, and turned back to the business in hand.
"Will Mr. Swain please take the stand?" he said; and Swain took the
chair. "Now, Mr. Swain," Goldberger began, after swearing him,
"please tell us, in your own way, of what part you had in the
incidents of Thursday night."
Swain told his story much as he had told it to Godfrey and me, and I
noticed how closely both Goldberger and the district attorney followed
it. When he had finished, Goldberger asked the same question that
Godfrey had asked.
"While you were having the altercation with Mr. Vaughan, did you grasp
hold of him?"
"No, sir; I did not touch him."
"You are quite sure?"
"You didn't touch him at any time, then or afterwards?"
"No, sir. I didn't see him afterwards."
"What were your feelings when he took his daughter away?"
"I was profoundly grieved."
"Yes, I suppose I was angry. He was most unjust to me."
"He had used very violent language to you, had he not?"
"He had threatened your life if you tried to see his daughter again?"
"Now, Mr. Swain, as you stood there, angry and humiliated, didn't you
make up your mind to follow him to the house and have it out with
"I'm lawyer enough to know," he said, "that a question like that isn't
permissible. But I'll answer it. I may have had such an impulse--I
don't know; but the sight of the cobra there in the arbour put it
effectually out of my head."
"You still think there was a cobra?"
"I am sure of it."
"And you ran out of the arbour so fast you bumped your head?"
"I suppose that's what happened. It's mighty sore, anyway," and Swain
put his hand to it ruefully.
"Mr. Swain," went on the coroner, slowly, "are you prepared to swear
that, after you hurt your head, you might not, in a confused and
half-dazed condition, have followed your previous impulse to go to the
house and see Mr. Vaughan?"
"Yes," answered Swain, emphatically, "I am. Although I was somewhat
dazed, I have a distinct recollection of going straight to the wall
and climbing back over it."
"You cut your wrist as you were crossing the wall the first time?"
[Illustration: "I'm lawyer enough to know," he said, "that a question
like that is not permissible"]
"Yes," and Swain held up his hand and showed the strip of plaster
across the wound.
"Your right wrist?"
"It bled freely, did it not?"
"What became of the clothes you took off when you changed into those
brought by Mr. Godfrey?"
"I don't know. Mr. Lester told me they were left here. I intended to
inquire for them."
At a sign from Goldberger, Simmonds opened a suit-case and placed a
bundle on the table. Goldberger unrolled it and handed it to Swain.
"Are these the clothes?" he asked.
"Yes," said Swain, after a moment's examination.
"Will you hold the shirt up so the jury can see it?"
Swain held the garment up, and everybody's eyes were fixed upon the
"There seems to have been a good deal of blood," remarked Goldberger.
"It must have run down over your hand."
"It did. It was all over my fingers."
"So that it would probably stain anything you touched?"
"Yes, very probably."
"Did you think of that when you were in the arbour with Miss Vaughan?"
Swain's face suddenly crimsoned and he hung his head.
"I'm afraid not," he said.
"How was she dressed?"
"In a white robe of some silk-like material."
"A robe that would show a blood-stain?"
Goldberger paused for an instant, and then produced a pad, such as one
uses for inking rubber stamps, opened it and placed it on the table
"Have you any objection to giving me a set of your finger-prints?" he
"None whatever," and Swain stepped toward the table and placed the
tips of his fingers on the pad. Then he pressed each one carefully
upon the pad of paper which the coroner placed before him. Goldberger
watched him curiously, until all ten impressions had been made.
"You did that as though you had done it before," he remarked.
"I made a set once for Mr. Vaughan," said Swain, sitting down again.
"He had a most interesting collection."
Goldberger passed the prints over to the head of the Bureau of
Identification, then he turned back to the witness.
"Mr. Swain," he said, "have you ever seen this cord before?" and he
handed him the knotted cord.
Swain took it and examined it curiously, without hesitation or repugnance.
"No," he answered, finally, "I never saw it before."
"Do you know what it is?" and Goldberger watched him closely.
"I infer that it is the cord with which Mr. Vaughan was strangled."
"That is so. You did not see it around his neck?"
"I have no recollection of having done so."
"Please look at the cord again, Mr. Swain," said Goldberger, still
watching him. "You will see that it is knotted. Can you describe those
knots for me?"
Swain looked at the knots, and I was glad to see that his hands were
absolutely steady and his face free from fear. No murderer could
handle so unconcernedly the instrument of his crime! Surely the jury
would see that!
"The knots," said Swain, at last, "seem to be an ordinary square knot
with which the cord was made into a noose, and then a double bowline
to secure it."
"A double bowline? Can you tie such a knot?"
"Certainly. Anyone who has ever owned a boat can do so. It is the best
knot for this purpose."
The coroner reached out for the cord and replaced it in the envelope.
Then he produced the handkerchief.
"Can you identify this?" he asked, and handed it to the witness.
Swain changed colour a little as he took it.
"I cannot identify it," he said, in a low voice; "but I will say this:
when Miss Vaughan found that my wrist was bleeding, she insisted upon
tying her handkerchief around it. This may be the handkerchief."
Again a little shiver ran through the crowd, and Goldberger's eyes
"You notice that two corners of the handkerchief are free from stain,"
he said, "and are crumpled as though they had been tied in a knot. The
handkerchief Miss Vaughan used would probably be in that condition,
would it not?"
"Yes," Swain answered, his voice still low.
"You heard Dr. Hinman testify that he found the handkerchief beside
the chair in which Mr. Vaughan was murdered?"
"Can you explain its presence there?"
"I cannot, unless it dropped from my wrist when I stooped to raise
Goldberger looked at the witness for a moment, then he glanced at
Sylvester, who nodded almost imperceptibly.
"That is all for the present, Mr. Swain," the coroner said, and Swain
sat down again beside me, very pale, but holding himself well in hand.
Then Simmonds took the stand. His story developed nothing new, but he
told of the finding of the body and of its appearance and manner of
death in a way which brought back the scene to me very vividly. I
suspected that he made his story deliberately impressive in order to
efface the good impression made by the previous witness.
Finally, the coroner dipped once more into the suit-case, brought out
another bundle and unrolled it. It proved to be a white robe with red
stains about the top. He handed it to Simmonds.
"Can you identify this?" he asked.
"Yes," said Simmonds; "it is the garment worn by Mr. Vaughan at the
time of his murder."
"How do you identify it?"
"By my initials in indelible ink, on the right sleeve, where I placed
"There are stains on the collar of the robe. What are they?"
"How do you know?"
"I have had them tested."
"Did any blood come from the corpse?"
"No, sir; the skin of the neck was not broken."
"Where, then, in your opinion, did this blood come from?"
"From the murderer," answered Simmonds, quietly.
There was a sudden gasp from the reporters, as they saw whither this
testimony was tending. I glanced at Swain. He was a little paler, but
was smiling confidently.
Goldberger, his face hawklike, stooped again to the suit-case,
produced a third bundle, and, unrolling it, disclosed another robe,
also of white silk. This, too, he handed to Simmonds.
"Can you identify that?" he asked.
"Yes," said Simmonds. "It is the robe worn by Miss Vaughan on the
night of the tragedy. My initials are on the left sleeve."
"That also has blood-marks on it, I believe?"
"Yes, sir;" and, indeed, we could all perceive the marks.
"Yes, sir. I had it tested, too."
"That is all," said Goldberger, quickly, and placed on the stand the
head of the Identification Bureau.
"Mr. Sylvester," he began, "you have examined the marks on these
"What did you make of them?"
"They are all unquestionably finger-marks, but most of them are mere
smudges. However, the fabric of which these robes are made is a very
hard and finely-meshed silk, with an unusually smooth surface, and I
succeeded in discovering a few marks on which the lines were
sufficiently distinct for purposes of identification. These I have
photographed. The lines are much plainer in the photographs than on
"Have you the photographs with you?"
"I have," and Sylvester produced them from a pocket. "These are the
prints on the robe belonging to the murdered man," he added, passing
four cards to the coroner. "You will notice that two of them show the
right thumb, though one is not very distinct; another shows the right
fore-finger, and the fourth the right middle-finger."
"You consider these plain enough for purposes of identification?"
"Undoubtedly. Any one of them would be enough."
Goldberger passed the photographs to the foreman of the jury, who
looked at them vacantly.
"And the other photographs?" he asked.
"I got only two prints from the other robe," said Sylvester. "All but
these were hopelessly smudged, as though the hand had moved while
touching the garment."
"You mean they were all made by one hand?" asked Goldberger.
"Yes, sir; by the right hand. Again I have a print of the thumb and
one of the third finger."
He passed the photographs over, and again Goldberger handed them on to
"Mr. Sylvester," said the coroner, "you consider the finger-print
method of identification a positive one, do you not?"
"Even with a single finger?"
"Perhaps with a single finger there may be some doubt, if there is no
other evidence. Somebody has computed that the chance of two prints
being exactly the same is one in sixty-four millions."
"And where there is other evidence?"
"I should say that a single finger was enough."
"Suppose you have two fingers?"
"Then it is absolutely certain."
"And three fingers?"
Sylvester shrugged his shoulders to indicate that proof could go no
further. Goldberger took back the photographs from the foreman of the
jury and ranged them before him on the table.
"Now, Mr. Sylvester," he said, "did you notice any correspondence
between these prints?"
"Yes," answered the witness, in a low voice; "the thumb-prints on both
robes were made by the same hand."
The audience sat spell-bound, staring, scarce breathing. I dared not
glance at Swain. I could not take my eyes from that pale-faced man on
the witness-stand, who knew that with every word he was riveting an
awful crime to a living fellow-being.
"One question more," said Goldberger. "Have you any way of telling by
whom these prints were made?"
"Yes," said Sylvester again, and his voice was so low I could scarcely
hear it. "They were made by Frederic Swain. The prints he made just
now correspond with them in every detail!"
THE CHAIN TIGHTENS
An instant's silence followed Sylvester's words, and then a little
murmur of interest and excitement, as the reporters bent closer above
their work. I heard a quick, deep intaking of the breath from the man
who sat beside me, and then I was on my feet.
"Your Honour," I said to Goldberger, "it seems that an effort is to be
made to incriminate Mr. Swain in this affair, and he should therefore
be represented by counsel. I myself intend to represent him, and I ask
for an hour's adjournment in order to consult with my client."
Goldberger glanced at his watch.
"I intended to adjourn for lunch," he said, "as soon as I had finished
with Mr. Sylvester. We will adjourn now, if you wish--until
one-thirty," he added.
The battery of cameras was clicking at Swain, and two or three artists
were making sketches of his head; there was a great bustle as the
reporters gathered up their papers and hurried to their cars to search
for the nearest telephone; the jury walked heavily away in charge of
an officer to get their lunch at some near-by road-house; Sylvester
was gathering up his prints and photographs and putting them carefully
in his pocket; Simmonds was replacing the blood-stained clothing in
the suit-case, to be held as evidence for the trial; but Swain sat
there, with arms folded, staring straight before him, apparently
unconscious of all this.
Goldberger looked at him closely, as he came down to speak to me, but
Swain did not glance up.
"I can parole him in your custody, I suppose, Mr. Lester?" the coroner
"Yes; certainly," I assented.
"Sylvester's evidence makes it look bad for him."
"Will you introduce me to Sylvester? I should like to go over the
prints with him."
"Certainly;" and, a moment later, with the prints spread out before
us, Sylvester was showing me their points of similarity.
Godfrey came forward while he was talking and stood looking over his
I had heard of finger-print identification, of course, many times, but
had made no study of the subject, and, I confess, the blurred
photographs which Sylvester offered for my inspection seemed to me
mighty poor evidence upon which to accuse a man of murder. The
photographs showed the prints considerably larger than life-size, but
this enlargement had also exaggerated the threads of the cloth, so
that the prints seemed half-concealed by a heavy mesh. To the naked
eye, the lines were almost indistinguishable, but under Sylvester's
powerful glass they came out more clearly.
"The thumb," said Sylvester, following the lines first to the right
and then to the left with the point of a pencil, "is what we call a
double whorl. It consists of fourteen lines, or ridges. With the
micrometer," and he raised the lid of a little leather box which stood
on the table, took out an instrument of polished steel and applied it
to one of the photographs, "we get the angle of these ridges. See how
I adjust it," and I watched him, as, with a delicate thumbscrew, he
made the needle-like points of the finder coincide with the outside
lines of the whorl. "Now here is a photograph from the other robe,
also showing the thumb," and he applied the machine carefully to it.
"It also is a double whorl of fourteen lines, and you see the angles
are the same. And here is the print of the right thumb which your
client made for me." He applied the micrometer and drew back that I
might see for myself.
"But these photographs are enlarged," I objected.
"That makes no difference. Enlargement does not alter the angles.
Here are the other prints."
He compared them one by one, in the same manner. When he had finished,
there was no escaping the conviction that they had been made by the
same hand--that is, unless one denied the theory of finger-print
identification altogether, and that, I knew, would be absurd. As he
finished his demonstration, Sylvester glanced over my shoulder with a
little deprecating smile, as of a man apologising for doing an
unpleasant duty, and I turned to find Swain standing there, his face
lined with perplexity.
"You heard?" I asked.
"Yes; and I believe Mr. Sylvester is right. I can't understand it."
"Well," I said, "suppose we go and have some lunch, and then we can
talk it over," and thanking Sylvester for his courtesy, I led Swain
away. Godfrey fell into step beside us, and for some moments we walked
on in silence.
"There is only one explanation that I can see," said Godfrey, at last.
"Swain, you remember, got to the library about a minute ahead of us,
and when we reached the door he was lifting Miss Vaughan to the couch.
In that minute, he must have touched the dead man."
Swain shook his head doubtfully.
"I don't see why I should have done that," he said.
"It isn't a question of why you did it," Godfrey pointed out. "It's a
question of whether you did it. Go over the scene in your mind,
recalling as many details as you can, and then we'll go over it
together, step by step, after lunch."
It was a silent meal, and when it was over, Godfrey led the way into
"Now," he began, when we were seated, "where was Miss Vaughan at the
moment you sprang through the door?"
"She was lying on the floor by the table, in front of her father's
chair," Swain replied.
"You are sure of that?"
"Yes; I didn't see her until I ran around the table."
"I was hoping," said Godfrey, "that she had fainted with her arms
clasped about her father's neck, and that, in freeing them, you made
those marks on his robe."
But Swain shook his head.
"No," he said; "I'm positive I didn't touch him."
"Then how did the marks get there?"
"I don't know," said Swain helplessly.
"Now, see here, Swain," said Godfrey, a little sternly, "there is only
one way in which those finger-prints could have got on that garment,
and that is from your fingers. If you didn't put them there
consciously, you must have done so unconsciously. If they aren't
explained in some way, the jury will very probably hold you
responsible for the crime."
"I understand that," Swain answered thickly; "but how can they be
explained? I don't see why I should put my hands on Mr. Vaughan's
throat, even unconsciously. And then there's the fact that at no time
during the evening was I really unconscious--I was only confused and
"Goldberger's theory is plain enough," said Godfrey, turning to me;
"and I must say that it's a good one. He realises that there wasn't
provocation enough to cause a man like Swain to commit murder, with
all his senses about him; but his presumption is that the crime was
committed while Swain was in a dazed condition and not wholly
self-controlled. Such a thing is possible."
"No, it isn't!" cried Swain, his face livid. "It isn't possible! I'm
not a murderer. I remember everything else--do you think I wouldn't
remember a thing like that!"
"I don't know what to think," Godfrey admitted, a straight line
between his brows. "Besides, there's the handkerchief."
"I don't see any mystery about that," said Swain. "There's only one
way that could have come there. It dropped from my wrist when I
stooped over Miss Vaughan."
Godfrey looked at me, and I nodded. Swain might as well know the
"That would be an explanation, sure enough," said Godfrey, slowly,
"but for one fact--you didn't have any bandage on your wrist when you
came back over the wall. Both Lester and I saw your wrist and the cut
on it distinctly. Therefore, if you dropped the handkerchief there, it
must have been before that."
The blood had run from Swain's cheeks, as though drained by an open
artery, and for a moment he sat silent, staring at the speaker. Then
he raised his trembling right hand and looked at it, as though it
might bear some mark to tell him whether it were indeed guilty.
"But--but I don't understand!" he cried thickly. "You--you don't mean
to intimate--you don't believe--but I wasn't unconscious, I tell you!
I wasn't near the house until after we heard the screams! I'm sure of
it! I'd stake my soul on it!"
"Get a grip of yourself, Swain," said Godfrey, soothingly. "Don't let
yourself go like that. No, I don't believe you killed Worthington
Vaughan, consciously or unconsciously. I said Goldberger's theory was
a good one, and it is; but I don't believe it. My belief is that the
murder was done by the Thug; but there's nothing to support it, except
the fact that he was on the ground and that a noose was used. There's
not a bit of direct evidence to connect him with the crime, and
there's a lot of direct evidence to connect you with it. It's up to us
to explain it away. Now, think carefully before you answer my
questions: Have you any recollection, however faint, of having seen
Mahbub before this morning?"
Swain sat for quite a minute searching his consciousness. Then, to my
great disappointment, he shook his head.
"No," he said; "I am sure I never saw him before."
"No, nor Silva--except, of course, the time, three or four months ago,
when he gave me Mr. Vaughan's message."
"Have you a distinct recollection that the library was empty when you
sprang into it?"
"Yes; very distinct. I remember looking about it, and then running
past the table and discovering Miss Vaughan."
"You saw her father also?"
"Yes; but I merely glanced at him. I realised that he was dead."
"And you also have a distinct recollection that you did not approach
him or touch him?"
"I am quite certain of that," answered Swain, positively.
"Then I give it up," said Godfrey, and lay back in his chair.
There was a queer boiling of ideas in my mind; ideas difficult to
clothe with words, and composed of I know not what farrago of
occultism, mysticism, and Oriental magic; but at last I managed to
simmer them down to a timid question:
"I know it sounds foolish, but wouldn't it be possible, Godfrey, to
explain all this by hypnosis, or occult influence, or something of
Godfrey turned and looked at me.
"Silva seems to have impressed you," he said.
"He has. But isn't such an explanation possible?"
"I don't think so. I don't deny that the Orientals have gone farther
along certain paths of psychology than we have, but as to their
possessing any occult power, it is, in my opinion, all bosh. As for
hypnosis, the best authorities agree that no man can be hypnotised to
do a thing which, in his normal condition, would be profoundly
repugnant to him. Indeed, few men can be hypnotised against their
will. To be hypnotised, you have to yield yourself. Of course, the
more you yield yourself, the weaker you grow, but that doesn't apply
to Swain. I shouldn't advise you to use that line of argument to a
jury," he added, with a smile. "You'd better just leave the whole
thing up in the air."
"Well," I said, "I'll make the best fight I can. I was hoping Swain
could help me; since he can't, we'll have to trust to luck."
Godfrey left us to get his story of the morning hearing into shape,
and I fell into a gloomy revery. I could see no way out of the maze;
either Swain had touched Vaughan's body, or it had been touched by
another man with the same finger-markings. I sat suddenly upright, for
if there was such a man, he must be one of two....
"What is it?" Swain asked, looking at me.
"A long shot," I said. "An exceedingly long shot--a
three-hundred-million to one shot. How many people are there in the
"I'm sure I don't know," and he stared at me in bewilderment.
"I think it's something like a billion and a half. If that is true,
then it's possible that there are four people in the world, beside
yourself, with the thumb and two fingers of the right hand marked
exactly as yours are."
"We must have a reunion, some day," Swain remarked, with irony.
But I refused to be diverted.
"Allowing for imperceptible differences," I went on, "I think it is
safe to assume that there are ten such people."
"Well," said Swain, bitterly, "I know one thing that it _isn't_ safe
to assume, and that is that either of those Hindus is one of those
ten. I suppose that is the assumption you will make next?"
"It's an assumption I intend to put to the proof, anyway," I answered,
somewhat testily, "and if it fails, I'm afraid you'll have to go to
jail till I can dig up some more evidence."
He turned toward me quickly, his face working.
"See here, Mr. Lester," he said, "don't misunderstand me. I'm awfully
grateful for all you're doing for me; but I don't mind going to
jail--not on my own account. I'm innocent, and I'll be able to prove
it in time. But Marjorie mustn't be left alone. I'd be ready to face
anything if I knew that she was safe. She mustn't be left in that
house--not a single night. Promise me that you'll take her with you as
soon as the inquest's over!"
"I'll promise that, Swain, gladly," I said, "provided, of course, the
"We must get him," and Swain sprang to his feet. "We must explain to
him how important it is."
"Perhaps I can get him on the 'phone," I said; but the person who
answered told me that he had already started for the inquest. And, a
moment later, Mrs. Hargis tapped at the door of the study and said
that the doctor was outside. I told her to show him in at once.
"The truth is," said Hinman, shaking hands with both of us, "I thought
I'd drop in to find out if there was anything I could do. No
reasonable person," he went on, turning to Swain, "believes you killed
that defenceless old man; but those finger-prints certainly do puzzle
"They puzzle me, too," said Swain; "but I'll prove my
innocence--though it will take time."
"It looks to me," said the doctor, slowly, "that about the only way
you can prove your innocence is to catch the real murderer."
"That's exactly what we're going to try to do," I assented.
"And meanwhile Mr. Swain will be in jail?" asked the doctor.
"I'm afraid there's no help for it," I admitted ruefully.
"I was just telling Mr. Lester that I didn't mind that," said Swain
earnestly, "that I could stand anything, if I was only sure that Miss
Vaughan was safe. She isn't safe in that house. Mr. Lester has
arranged to place her with the family of his partner, Mr. Royce,
where she will be properly taken care of. Is there any reason why she
can't be taken there to-day?"
The doctor considered for a moment.
"Ordinarily," he said, at last, "I would advise that she be left where
she is for a few days; but, under the circumstances, perhaps she would
better be moved. You can get an easy-riding carriage--or a car will
do, if you drive carefully. The nurses, will, of course, go along. The
only thing is, she will probably wish to attend her father's funeral,
which takes place to-morrow."
Swain bit his lips nervously.
"I have a horror of her staying in that house another night," he said;
"but I hadn't thought of the funeral. There is one nurse on duty all
the time, isn't there, doctor?"
"All right, then; we'll risk one night more. But you promise me that
she shall be taken away immediately after the funeral?"
"Yes," I said, "I promise."
"And I," said the doctor. Then he looked at his watch. "It's time we
were getting back," he added.
He took us over in his car, and we found the jury, under the guidance
of Simmonds, just coming out of the house, each member smoking a fat
black cigar at the expense of the State. They had been viewing the
body and the scene of the crime, but as they filed back into their
seats, I noted that they seemed anything but depressed. The lunch had
evidently been a good one.
Sylvester was recalled to finish his testimony. He explained the
system of curves and angles by which finger-prints are grouped and
classified, and the various points of resemblance by which two prints
could be proved to have been made by the same finger. There was, first
of all, the general convolution, whether a flexure, a stria, a sinus,
a spiral, a circle, or a whorl; there was, secondly, the number of
ridges in the convolution; and there was, thirdly, the angles which
these ridges made. If two prints agreed in all these details, their
identity was certain. He then proceeded to show that the prints made
that morning by Swain did so agree with the photographs of the prints
on the garments. Finally the witness was turned over to me for
"Mr. Sylvester," I began, "are you willing to assert that those
finger-prints could have been made by no man in the world except Mr.
Sylvester hesitated, just as I hoped he would do.
"No," he answered, at last, "I can't assert that, Mr. Lester. There
may be three or four other men in the world with finger-prints like
these. But the probabilities against any of these men having made
these prints are very great. Besides, it is a thing easily proved--the
number of persons who might have committed the crime is limited, and
it is an easy thing to secure prints of their fingers."
"That is what I was about to propose," I agreed. "I should like the
finger-prints taken of every one who was in the house Thursday night."
"Do I understand that your case stands or falls upon this point?"
asked the coroner.
"Your Honor," I answered, "my client cannot explain how the prints of
his fingers, if they are his, came to be upon that robe. The one thing
he is certain of is that they were not placed there by him. Not once,
during the entire evening, was my client near enough to Mr. Vaughan to
touch him; not once did he so far lose consciousness as to be unable
to remember what occurred. We have racked our brains for an
explanation, and the only possible one seems to be that the prints of
the real murderer resemble those of my client. And when I say the real
murderer," I added, "I do not necessarily mean one of the persons whom
we know to have been in the house. Outside of these finger-prints,
there has been absolutely no evidence introduced here to prove that
the crime might not have been committed by some person unknown to us."
"You can scarcely expect the jury to believe, however," Goldberger
pointed out, "that this supposititious person had finger-tips like
"No," I agreed, "I make no such assertion; my hope is that we shall
soon have the prints of the real murderer; and when I say the real
murderer," I added, looking at the jury, "I believe every one present
understands who I mean."
The coroner rapped sharply; but I had said what I wished to say, and
sat down. The witnesses of the morning were ordered to be brought out.
Sylvester arranged his ink-pad and sheets of paper.
"It seems to me," remarked the coroner, with a smile, "that you and
Mr. Godfrey would better register, too. You were within striking
"That is right," I agreed, and was the first to register; but
Sylvester, after a glance at my prints, shook his head.
"Your thumb is a left sinus," he said. "You're cleared, Mr. Lester."
Godfrey came forward and registered, too, and after him the three
servants. In each case, a shake of Sylvester's head told the result.
Then Simmonds came from the house, with Silva and Mahbub after him,
and the coroner explained to Silva what was wanted. I fancied that the
yogi's brow contracted a little.
"The registration of the fingers," he said, "of the foot or of the
palm, is with us a religious ceremony, not to be lightly performed. By
some, it is also held that the touch of ink, unless compounded by a
priest of the temple according to a certain formula, is defiling; and,
above all, it is impossible for a believer to permit such relics of
himself to remain in the hands of an infidel."
"The relics, as you call them," Goldberger explained, "won't need to
remain in our hands. My expert here can tell in a minute whether your
prints resemble those of his photographs. If they do not, they will be
returned to you."
"And if they do?"
"Well, you can have them back, anyway. In that case, I guess we can
persuade you, later on, to make another set."
The yogi flushed angrily, but controlled himself.
"I rely upon your promise, sir," he said, and laid his fingers first
upon the pad and then upon the paper.
He stood with closed eyes and moving lips, his inked fingers held
carefully away from him, during the breathless moment that Sylvester
bent above the prints. Then the expert looked up and shook his head.
"No resemblance at all," he said, and held out the sheet of paper on
which the prints were.
Silva accepted it silently, and rolled it into a ball in the palm of
"Now for the other fellow," said Goldberger.
Silva glanced at his follower doubtfully.
"I am not sure that I can make him understand," he said, and for some
moments talked energetically to Mahbub in a language which I suppose
was Hindu. Mahbub listened, scowling fiercely, speaking a brief
sentence now and then. "He would know," Silva asked, at last, turning
to the coroner, "whether blood is a constituent of that ink."
"It is a purely chemical compound," Sylvester explained. "There is no
blood in it, nor any other animal matter."
This was repeated to Mahbub, and, after some further hesitation, he
advanced to the table.
A moment later, Sylvester was bending above the prints. Then he looked
up, his face red with astonishment, and motioned me to approach.
"Look at that!" he said, and laid the prints before me.
My heart was leaping with the hope that the incredible had happened;
that here lay the clue to the mystery. But the first glance told me
that such was not the case. The prints resembled Swain's not at all.
And then, when I looked at them again, I perceived that they resembled
no other prints which I had ever seen.
For the prints of all ten fingers were exactly alike, and consisted,
not of whorls and spirals, but of straight lines running right across
the finger. Sylvester was staring at them in bewilderment.
"These," he said, when he could find his voice, "are the most
remarkable prints I ever saw."
"Do they resemble those on the robe?" asked the coroner.
"Not in the least."
"Then that settles that point," said Goldberger, with what seemed to
me a sigh of relief.
"There is one thing, though," said Sylvester, eyeing Mahbub curiously;
"I wish I knew the secret of these extraordinary prints."
"I can tell it to you," said Silva, with a little smile. "It is not at
all extraordinary. The system of finger-print identification has been
in use among the Hindus for many centuries, and was adopted by the
English courts in India nearly a hundred years ago, after every other
method had failed. The caste of Thuggee, which was at war with all
other castes, and especially at war with the English, evaded it by
stimulating on the fingers of their male children the formation of
these artificial ridges. It became a sacred rite, performed by the
priests, and has been maintained by the more devout members of the
caste, although the need for it has ceased."
Sylvester looked at the prints again.
"I should like to keep these," he said. "They would be a great
addition to my collection."
"Mahbub will have no objection," he said. "To him, they are of no
importance, since there are many hundreds of men in the world with
finger-tips identical with his. That is all?"
Goldberger nodded, and the two strange figures walked slowly away
toward the house.
MISS VAUGHAN'S STORY
Sylvester was still bending in ecstasy over those strange
finger-prints--the absorbed ecstasy of the collector who has come
unexpectedly upon a specimen wonderful and precious.
"Well," he said, looking up, at last, "I've learned something new
to-day. These prints shall have the place of honour. They might not be
a means of identification among the Thugs, but I'll wager there's no
collection in America has a set like them! They're unique!"
"But not in the least like the photographs," put in Goldberger, drily.
"No," and Sylvester flushed a little as he felt himself jerked from
his hobby. "None of the prints we have taken this afternoon resemble
the photographs in any way."
"But those made by Mr. Swain _do_ resemble them?"
"It is more than a resemblance. They are identical with them."
"What inference do you draw from that?"
"It is more than an inference," Sylvester retorted. "It is a
certainty. I am willing to swear that the finger-prints on the robe
worn by the murdered man were made by Frederic Swain."
"You realise the serious nature of this assertion?" asked the coroner,
"I realise it fully."
"And that realisation does not cause you to modify it in any way?"
"It cannot be modified," said Sylvester, firmly, "however serious it
may be, however reluctant I may be to make it--it cannot be modified
because it is the truth."
There was a moment's silence, then Goldberger turned to me.
"Have you any questions to ask the witness, Mr. Lester?"
"No," I answered; "I have none."
Sylvester bent again above his prints, while the coroner and the
prosecutor held a brief consultation. Then Goldberger turned back to
"Have you anything further, Mr. Lester?" he asked. "Our evidence is
all in, I believe."
I was driven to my last entrenchment.
"I should like to call Miss Vaughan," I said, "if Dr. Hinman thinks
she is strong enough."
Swain's chair creaked as he swung toward me.
"No, no!" he whispered, angrily. "Don't do that! Spare her that!"
But I waved him away, for it was his honour and welfare I had to
consider, not Miss Vaughan's convenience, and turned to Dr. Hinman,
who was evidently struggling between two duties. One was his duty to
his patient; the other his duty to a man cruelly threatened, whom his
patient's testimony might save.
"Well, what do you say, doctor?" asked the coroner.
"Miss Vaughan is no doubt able to testify," said the doctor, slowly,
"but I should like to spare her as much as possible. Couldn't her
deposition be taken privately? I think you mentioned something of the
Goldberger looked at me.
"I shall be satisfied," I said, "to question her in the presence of
Mr. Goldberger, reserving the right to put her on the stand, should I
deem it necessary to do so."
"Very well," agreed the doctor. "I will prepare her," and he hurried
away toward the house.
Swain was gripping my arm savagely.
"See here, Mr. Lester," he said in my ear, his voice shaking with
anger, "I'm in deadly earnest about this. Take Miss Vaughan's
deposition if you wish, but under no circumstances shall she be hauled
before this crowd, in her present condition, and compelled to
"Why not?" I asked, surprised at his vehemence.
"Because, in the first place, her testimony can't help me; and, in the
second place, I won't have her tortured."
"She wouldn't be tortured."
"Look around at these reporters and these photographers, and then tell
me she wouldn't be tortured!"
"How do you know her evidence won't help you?"
"How can it?"
"It will confirm your story."
"Can it explain away the finger-prints?"
At the words, I suddenly realised that there was one person within
striking distance of the murdered man whose prints we had not
taken--his daughter. Not that they were necessary ...
Dr. Hinman appeared at the edge of the lawn and beckoned. As I arose
from my chair, Swain gave my arm a last savage grip.
"Remember!" he said.
But I kept my lips closed. If Miss Vaughan really loved him, and could
help him, I would not need to urge her to the stand!
Goldberger joined me and together we followed Hinman into the house
and up the stairs. He opened the door at the stair-head, waited for us
to precede him, followed us into the room, and closed the door
Miss Vaughan was half-sitting, half-reclining in a large chair. The
blinds were drawn and the room in semi-darkness, but even in that
light I could see how changed she was from the girl of whom I had
caught a glimpse two days before. Her face was dead white, as though
every drop of blood had been drained from it; her eyes were heavy and
puffed, as from much weeping, and it seemed to me that there still
lingered in their depths a shadow of horror and shrinking fear.
"This is Mr. Goldberger," said the doctor, "and this is Mr. Lester."
She inclined her head to each of us, as we took the chairs the doctor
drew up, and I fancied that her cheeks flushed a little as her eyes
"I have explained to Miss Vaughan," the doctor continued, "that an
inquiry is in progress, as the law requires, to determine the manner
of her father's death, and that her story of what happened that night
is essential to it."
"It will, at least, be a great help to us," said Goldberger gently,
and I saw how deeply the girl's delicate beauty appealed to him. It
was a beauty which no pallor could disguise, and Goldberger's
temperament was an impressionable one.
"I shall be glad to tell you all I know," said Miss Vaughan, "but I
fear it will not help you much."
"Will you tell us something, first, of your father's mental state?" I
"For many years," she began, "father had been a student of mysticism,
and until quite recently he remained merely a student. I mean by that
that he approached the subject with a detached mind and with no
interest in it except a scientific interest."
"I understand," I said. "And that has changed recently?"
"It has changed completely in the last few months. He became a
disciple, a convert anxious to win other converts."
"A convert to what?"
"To Hinduism--to the worship of Siva."
"That is the cult to which Francisco Silva belongs?"
"Yes; he is a White Priest of Siva."
"And this change in your father has been since the coming of this man?"
"Do you know anything of him?"
"Only that he is a very wonderful man."
"You know nothing of his past?"
"Did your father wish you to become a convert?"
"Yes, he desired it deeply."
"A priestess of Siva, I believe it is called?"
"And the yogi also desired it?"
"He believed it would be a great destiny. But he urged it only for my
"So you determined to appeal to Mr. Swain?"
The colour deepened in her cheeks again.
"I decided to ask his advice," she said.
"Please tell us what happened that evening."
"Mr. Swain met me at the arbour in the corner of the grounds, as I had
asked him to, and convinced me that my father's mind had given way
under his long study of the occult. We decided that he should be
placed in a sanitarium where he could have proper attention, and Mr.
Swain was to make the necessary arrangements. All I would have to do
would be to sign some papers. We were just saying good-night, when my
father appeared at the entrance of the arbour."
"This was about midnight, was it not?"
"Why did you choose that hour for the meeting?"
"Because at that hour my father and the yogi were always engaged in
invoking an astral benediction."
Even I, who knew the significance of the words, paused a little at
them. The doctor and Goldberger were hopelessly at sea. After all, the
words were a very good description of the weird ceremony.
"Well," I said, "and after your father appeared, what happened?"
"He was very excited and spoke to Mr. Swain in a most violent manner.
Mr. Swain attempted to take me away from him, not knowing, at first,
who it was had seized me; but I pushed him back and led my father away
toward the house."
"Did Mr. Swain touch your father?"
"No; I was between them all the time. I was determined that they
should not touch each other. I was afraid, if they came together, that
something terrible would happen."
Goldberger glanced at me.
"Something terrible to your father?" he asked.
"Oh, no," she answered, quickly; "Mr. Swain would not have harmed my
father, but father did not know what he was doing and might have
harmed Mr. Swain."
It was my turn to look at Goldberger.
"After you left the arbour," I asked, "did you see Mr. Swain again?"
"No, I did not see him again."
"You went straight to the house?"
"Yes; father was still very violent. He had forbidden me to see Mr.
Swain or to write to him. He had taken a violent dislike to him."
"Do you know why?"
"Yes," and she flushed a little, but went on bravely. "He believed
that Mr. Swain wished to marry me."
"As, in fact, he did," I commented.
"Yes; or, at least, he did before his financial troubles came. After
that, he wished to give me up."
"But you refused to be given up?"
"Yes," she said, and looked at me with eyes beautifully radiant. "I
refused to be given up."
I felt that I was rushing in where angels would hesitate to enter, and
beat a hasty retreat.
"Was your father always opposed to your marriage?" I asked.
"No; he has wanted me to wait until I was of age; but he never
absolutely forbade it until a few months ago. It was at the time he
first tried to persuade me to become a convert to Hinduism."
"What occurred after you and your father reached the house?"
"Father was very angry, and demanded that I promise never to see Mr.
Swain again. When I refused to promise, he sent me to my room,
forbidding me to leave it without his permission. I came up at once,
more than ever convinced that father needed medical attention. I was
very nervous and over-wrought, and I sat down by the window to control
myself before going to bed. And then, suddenly, I remembered something
the yogi had told me--that father was not strong, and that a fit of
anger might be very serious. I knew the servants had gone to bed, and
that he must be downstairs alone, since I had heard no one come up."
"You had heard no one in the hall at all?" I asked.
"No, I had heard no one. But I remember, as I started down the stairs,
a curious feeling of dread seized me. It was so strong that I stood
for some moments on the top step before I could muster courage to go
down. At last, I _did_ go down and--and found my father!"
She stopped, her hands over her eyes, as though to shut away the
remembrance of that dreadful sight.
"Have you strength to tell me just what happened, Miss Vaughan?" I
She controlled herself with an effort and took her hands from her face.
"Yes," she said; "I can tell you. I remember that I stood for a
moment at the door, looking about the room, for at the first glance I
thought there was no one there. I thought, for an instant, that father
had gone into the grounds, for the curtain at the other door was
trembling a little, as though someone had just passed."
"Ah!" I said, and looked at Goldberger.
"It might have been merely the breeze, might it not?" he asked.
"I suppose so. The next instant I saw my father huddled forward in his
chair. I was sure he had had a seizure of some sort; I ran to him, and
raised his head...."
Again she stopped, her eyes covered, and a slow shudder shook her from
head to foot. I could guess what a shock the sight of that horrible
face had been!
"I do not remember anything more," she added, in a whisper.
For a moment, we all sat silent. The only portion of her evidence
which could in any way help Swain was her discovery of the swaying
curtain, and even that, as Goldberger had pointed out, might easily
"Miss Vaughan," I said, at last, "how long a time elapsed from the
moment you left your father in the library until you found him?"
"I don't know. Perhaps fifteen minutes."
"Was he quite dead when you found him?"
"Yes, I--I think so."
"Then," I said to Goldberger, "the murder must have been committed
very soon after Miss Vaughan came upstairs."
"Yes," agreed Goldberger, in a low tone, "and by somebody who came in
from the grounds, since she met no one in the hall and heard no one."
Miss Vaughan leaned toward him, her hands clasping and unclasping.
"Do you know who it was?" she gasped. "Have you found out who it was?"
"We suspect who it was," answered Goldberger gravely.
"Tell me," she began.
"Wait a minute, Miss Vaughan," I broke in. "Tell me, first--did you
hear anyone following you across the garden?"
"Yes," she answered thoughtfully; "once or twice I fancied that
someone was following us. It seemed to me I heard a step, but when I
looked back I saw no one."
"Did that fact make you uneasy?"
"No," she said, with a little smile. "I thought it was Mr. Swain."
I saw Goldberger's sudden movement. I myself could not repress a
"You thought that would be the natural thing for Mr. Swain to do, did
you not?" the coroner inquired.
"Yes--I thought he might wish to see me safe." Then she stopped,
leaning forward in her chair and staring first at Goldberger and then
at me. "What is it?" she whispered, her hands against her heart. "Oh,
what is it? You don't mean--you can't mean--oh, tell me! It isn't Fred
you suspect! It can't be Fred!"
It was Dr. Hinman who laid a gentle and quieting hand upon her
shoulder, and it was his grave voice which answered her.
"Yes," he said, "there are some things which seem to implicate Mr.
Swain; but both Mr. Lester and I are certain he isn't guilty. We're
going to prove it!"
She looked up at him with a grateful smile.
"Thank you!" she gasped. "I--wait a moment--I was silly to give way
so. Of course you will prove it! It's absurd!" And then she stopped
and looked at Goldberger. "Do _you_ believe it?" she demanded.
Goldberger flushed a little under her gaze.
"I don't know what to believe, Miss Vaughan," he said. "I'm searching
for the truth."
"So are we all," I said. "I am counsel for Mr. Swain, Miss Vaughan,
and I have come to you, hoping that your story would help to clear him."
"Oh, I wish it might!" she cried.
"You know Mr. Swain cut his wrist as he came over the wall that night?"
"Yes, he told me. He didn't know it was bleeding, at first; then he
felt the blood on his hand, and I wrapped his wrist in my
"Was it this handkerchief?" asked Goldberger, and took from his pocket
the blood-stained square and handed it to her.
She took it with a little shiver, looked at it, and passed it back to him.
"Yes," she said; "that is it."
Then she sat upright, her clenched hands against her breast, staring
at us with starting eyes.
"I remember now!" she gasped. "I remember now! I saw it--a blotch of
red--lying on the floor beside my father's chair! How did it get
there, Mr. Lester? Had he been there? Did he follow us?" She stopped
again, as she saw the look in Goldberger's eyes, and then the look in
mine. With a long, indrawn breath of horror, she cowered back into the
chair, shaking from head to foot. "Oh, what have I done!" she moaned.
"What have I done?"
There could be no question as to what she had done, I told myself,
bitterly: she had added another link to the chain of evidence about
her lover. I could see the same thought in the sardonic gaze which
Goldberger turned upon me; but before either of us could say a word,
the doctor, with a peremptory gesture, had driven us from the room.
Goldberger paused at the stair-head and looked at me, an ironical
light in his eyes. I knew he suspected that Miss Vaughan's story of
the handkerchief was no great surprise to me.
"Well," he asked, "will you wish to put her on the stand?"
I shook my head and started down the stairs, for I was far from
desiring an argument just then, but he stopped me with a hand upon the
"You realise, Mr. Lester," he said, more seriously, "that it is
plainly my duty to cause Swain's arrest?"
"Yes," I assented. "I realise that. Under the circumstances, you can
do nothing else."
He nodded, and we went downstairs together. I saw Swain's eager eyes
upon us as we came out upon the lawn, and his lips were at my ear the
instant I had taken my seat.
"Well?" he whispered.
"She cannot help you," I said. I did not think it necessary to say how
deeply she would hurt him when her testimony was called for in open
court, as, of course, it would be.
"And you won't put her on the stand?"
"No," I answered, and he sank back with a sigh of relief. Then
something in my face seemed to catch his eye, for he leaned forward
again. "You don't mean that she believes I did it!" he demanded
"Oh, no," I hastened to assure him; "she says such an accusation is
absurd; she was greatly overcome when she learned that you were even
suspected; she said...."
But the coroner rapped for order.
"Have you any other evidence to introduce, Mr. Lester?" he asked.
"No, Your Honour," I answered, and I saw the cloud of disappointment
which fell upon the faces of reporters and photographers. To have been
able to feature Miss Vaughan would have meant an extra column. I could
also see, from the expression on the faces of the jury, that my
failure to put her on the stand made an unfavourable impression. There
was, indeed, only one inference to draw from it.
Goldberger turned aside for a few words with the prosecutor, and I
suspected that he was telling him of Miss Vaughan's discovery of the
blood-stained handkerchief; but there was no way to get the story
before the jury without calling her. They seemed to agree, at last,
that they had evidence enough, for the jury was instructed to prepare
its verdict. Its members withdrew a little distance under the trees,
and gathered into a group to talk it over.
I watched them for a moment, and then I turned to Swain.
"I suppose you know," I said, "that they're certain to find against
you? Even if they don't, the district attorney will cause your arrest
"I'm not worrying about that. I'm worrying about Miss Vaughan. You
won't forget your promise?"
"She'll have no one but you," he went on rapidly. "Neither will I! You
mustn't fail us!"
"I shan't," I promised. "But you'd better think about yourself a
"Plenty of time for that when I'm sure that Marjorie's safe. The
minute you tell me she's at the Royces', I'll begin to think about
myself. I'm not afraid. I didn't kill that man. No jury would convict me."
I might have told him that convictions are founded on evidence, and
that the evidence in this case was certainly against him, but I
thought it better to hold my peace. The more confident he was, the
less irksome he would find imprisonment. So I sat silent until the
members of the jury filed back into their places.
"Have you reached a verdict, gentlemen?" the coroner asked, after his
clerk had polled them.
"Yes, Your Honour," the foreman answered.
"What is the verdict?"
The foreman held out a folded paper to the clerk, who took it, opened
it, and read:
"We, the jury in the inquest held this thirteenth day of June, 1908,
into the death of one Worthington Vaughan, residing in the Borough of
the Bronx, City of New York, do find that the deceased came to his
death by strangulation at the hands of one Frederic Swain."
There was an instant's silence, and then Goldberger turned to the jury.
"Is this your verdict, gentlemen?" he asked quietly; and each juryman
replied in the affirmative as his name was called. "I thank you for
your services," Goldberger added, directed his clerk to give them
their vouchers on the city treasurer, and dismissed them.
Simmonds and the assistant district attorney came toward us, and I
arose to meet them. Swain got up, also, and when I glanced at him I
saw that he was smiling.
"I don't know whether you have met Mr. Blake, Mr. Lester," said
Simmonds, and the prosecutor and I shook hands. I introduced him to
Swain, but Swain did not offer his hand.
"I suppose you've come to take me along?" he said, the smile still on
"I'm afraid we'll have to."
"Would bail be considered?" I asked.
"I'm afraid not," and Blake shook his head. "It isn't a bailable offence."
I knew, of course, that he was right and that it was of no use to
argue or protest. Swain turned to me and held out his hand.
"Then I'll say good-bye, Mr. Lester," he said. "I'll hope to see you
"You shall," I promised.
"And with good news," he added.
"Yes--and with good news."
"Can we give you a lift?" Blake asked.
"No," I said, "thank you; but I'm staying out here for the present."
I watched them as they climbed into a car--Goldberger, Blake, Simmonds
and Swain; I saw the latter take one last look at the house; then he
waved to me, as the car turned into the highroad--at least, he was
taking it bravely! The coroner's assistants climbed into a second car,
and the four or five policemen into a third. Then the reporters and
photographers piled into the others, the few stragglers who had
straggled in straggled on again, and in five minutes the place was
deserted. As I looked around, I was surprised to see that even Godfrey
had departed. There was something depressing about the jumble of
chairs and tables, the litter of paper on the grass--something sordid,
as of a banquet-hall deserted by the diners.
I turned away and started for the gate; and then, suddenly, I wondered
who was in charge of the house. Who would give orders to clear away
this litter? Who would arrange for the funeral on the morrow? How
could Miss Vaughan do it, ill as she was? With quick resolution, I
turned back toward the house. As I did so, I was surprised to see a
man appear at the edge of the lawn and run toward me. It was Hinman.
"I was afraid I'd missed you," he said. "Miss Vaughan wishes to see
you. She's all alone here and needs some help."
"I'd thought of that," I said. "I was just coming to offer it. Is she
"Yes, much better. I think she has realised the necessity of
conquering her nerves. Of course, we must still be careful."
I nodded, and followed him into the house. Then I stopped in
astonishment, for Miss Vaughan was sitting in a chair in the library.
She rose as I entered, came a step toward me and held out her hand.
"You must not think too badly of me, Mr. Lester," she said. "I won't
give way again, I promise you."
"You have had a great deal to bear," I protested, taking her hand in
mine. "I think you have been very brave. I only hope that I can be of
some service to you."
"Thank you. I am sure you can. Let us all sit down, for we must have
quite a talk. Dr. Hinman tells me that I shall need a lawyer."
"Undoubtedly," I assented. "Your father's estate will have to be
settled, and that can only be done in the courts. Besides, in the eyes
of the law, you are still a minor."
"Will you be my lawyer, Mr. Lester?"
"It will be a great privilege," I answered.
"Then we will consider that settled?"
"Yes," I agreed, "we will consider that settled."
"But it is not business I wish to discuss to-day," she went on,
quickly. "There are other things more urgent. First, I wish to get
acquainted with you. Have you not wondered, Mr. Lester, why it was
that I chose you to deliver my letter?"
"I suppose it was because there was no one else," I answered, looking
at her in some astonishment for the way she was rattling on. The
colour was coming and going in her cheeks and her eyes were very
bright. I wondered if she had escaped brain fever, after all.
"No," she said, smiling audaciously, "it was because I liked your
face--I knew you could be trusted. Of course, for a moment I was
startled at seeing you looking down at me from a tree. I wondered
afterwards how you came to be there."
"Just idle curiosity," I managed to stammer, my face very hot. "I am
sorry if I annoyed you."
"Oh, but it was most fortunate," she protested; "and a great
coincidence, too, that you should be Mr. Swain's employer, and able to
get hold of him at once."
"It didn't do much good," I said, gloomily; "and it has ended in
putting Swain in jail."
I happened to glance at her hands, folded in her lap, and saw that
they were fairly biting into each other.
"In jail!" she whispered, and now there was no colour in her face.
"Forgive me, Miss Vaughan," I said, hastily. "That was brutal. I
forgot you didn't know."
"Tell me!" she panted. "Tell me! I can stand it! Oh, you foolish man,
didn't you see--I was trying to nerve myself--I was trying to find
I caught the hands that were bruising themselves against each other
and held them fast.
"Miss Vaughan," I said, "listen to me and believe that I am telling
you the whole truth. The coroner's jury returned a verdict that Swain
was guilty of your father's death. As the result of that verdict, he
has been taken to the Tombs. But the last words he said to me before
the officers took him away were that he was innocent, and that he had
"Surely," she assented, eagerly, "he should have no fear. But to think
of him in prison--it tears my heart!"
"Don't think of it that way!" I protested. "He is bearing it
bravely--when I saw him last, he was smiling."
"But the stain--the disgrace."
"There will be none; he shall be freed without stain--I will see to that."
"But I cannot understand," she said, "how the officers of the law
could blunder so."
"All of the evidence against him," I said, "was purely circumstantial,
except in one particular. He was in the grounds at the time the murder
was committed; your father had quarrelled with him, and it was
possible that he had followed you and your father to the house,
perhaps not knowing clearly what he was doing, and that another
quarrel had occurred. But that amounted to nothing. Young men like
Swain, even when half-unconscious, don't murder old men by strangling
them with a piece of curtain-cord. To suppose that Swain did so would
be absurd, but for one thing--no, for two things."
"What are they?" she demanded.
"One is that the handkerchief which you had tied about his wrist was
found beside your father's chair--but it was not upon that the jury
made its finding."
"What was it, then?"
"It was this: Swain swore positively that at no time during the
evening had he touched your father."
"Yes, yes; and that was true. He could not have touched him."
"And yet," I went on slowly, "prints of Swain's blood-stained fingers
were found on your father's robe."
"But," she gasped, pulling her hands away from me and wringing them
together, "how could that be? That is impossible!"
"I should think so, too," I agreed, "if I had not seen the prints with
my own eyes."
"You are sure they were his--you are sure?"
"I am afraid there can be no doubt of it," and I told her how
Sylvester had proved it.
She listened motionless, mute, scarce-breathing, searching my face
with distended eyes. Then, suddenly, her face changed, she rose from
her chair, flew across the room, opened a book-case and pulled out a
bulky volume bound in vellum. She turned the pages rapidly, giving
each of them only a glance. Suddenly she stopped, and stared at a
page, her face livid.
"What is it?" I asked, and hastened to her.
"It is the book of finger-prints," she gasped. "A great many--oh, a
great many--my father collected and studied them for years. He
believed--I do not know what he believed."
She paused, struggling for breath.
"Well," I said; "what then?"
"Mr. Swain's was among them," she went on, in the merest whisper.
"They were here--page two hundred and thirty--see, there is an
index--'Swain, F., page two hundred and thirty.'"
She pointed at the entry with a shaking finger.
"Well," I said again, striving to understand, "what of it?"
"Look!" she whispered, holding the book toward me, "that page is no
longer there! It has been torn out!"
Then, with a convulsive shudder, she closed the book, thrust it back
into its place, and ran noiselessly to the door leading to the hall.
She swept back the curtain and looked out.
"Oh, is it you, Annie?" she said, and I saw the Irish maid standing
just outside. "I was about to call you. Please tell Henry to bring
those tables and chairs in from the lawn."
"Yes, ma'am," said the girl, and turned away.
Miss Vaughan stood looking after her for a moment, then dropped the
curtain and turned back again into the room. I saw that she had
mastered her emotion, but her face was still dead white.
As for me, my brain was whirling. What if Swain's finger-prints _were_
missing from the book? What connection could that have with the
blood-stains on the robe? What was the meaning of Miss Vaughan's
emotion? Who was it she had expected to find listening at the door? I
could only stare at her, and she smiled slightly as she saw my look.
"But what is it you suspect?" I stammered. "I don't see...."
"Neither do I," she broke in. "But I am trying to see--I am trying to
see!" and she wrung her hands together.
"The disappearance of the prints seems plain enough to me," said
Hinman, coming forward. "Mr. Vaughan no doubt tore them out himself,
when he took his violent dislike to Swain. The act would be
characteristic of a certain form of mania. Nobody else would have any
motive for destroying them; in fact, no one else would dare mutilate a
book he prized so highly."
Miss Vaughan seemed to breathe more freely, but her intent inward look
did not relax.
"At least that is an explanation," I agreed.
"It is the true explanation," said Hinman, confidently. "Can you
suggest any other, Miss Vaughan?"
"No," she said, slowly; "no," and walked once or twice up and down the
room. Then she seemed to put the subject away from her. "At any rate,
it is of no importance. I wish to speak to you about my father's
funeral, Dr. Hinman," she went on, in another tone. "It is to be
"Yes--at eleven o'clock. I have made such arrangements as I could
without consulting you. But there are some things you will have to
"What are they?"
"Do you desire a minister?"
"No. He would not have wished it. If there is any priest, it will be
"You mean the yogi?"
"Are there any relatives to inform?"
"Where shall the body be buried?"
"It must not be buried. It must be given to the flames. That was his
"Very well. I will arrange for cremation. Will you wish to accompany it?"
"No, no!" she cried, with a gesture of repugnance.
"That is all, then, I believe," said Hinman slowly. "And now I must be
going. I beg you not to overtax yourself."
"I shall not," she promised, and he bowed and left us.
The afternoon was fading into evening, and the shadows were deepening
in the room. I glanced about me with a little feeling of apprehension.
"The nurses are still here, are they not?" I asked.
"Yes; but I shall dismiss them to-morrow."
I hesitated a moment. I did not wish to alarm her, and yet....
"After they are gone, it will be rather lonesome for you here," I
"I am used to being lonesome."
"My partner's wife, Mrs. Royce, would be very glad if you would come
to her," I said. "I have a letter from her," and I gave it to her.
She stood considering it with a little pucker of perplexity between
her brows. She did not attempt to open it.
"She is very kind," she murmured, and her tone surprised and
"May I see you to-morrow?"
"If you wish."
"I shall come some time during the afternoon," I said, and took up my
hat. "There is nothing else I can do for you?"
"No, I believe not."
She was plainly preoccupied and answered almost at random, with a
coldness in sharp contrast to the warmth of her previous manner.