Part 4 out of 5
"Then I will say good-bye."
"Good-bye, Mr. Lester; and thank you."
She went with me to the door, and stood for a moment looking after me;
then she turned back into the house. And I went on down the avenue
with a chill at my heart.
BUILDING A THEORY
I was surprised, when I came down for dinner an hour later, to find
Godfrey awaiting me.
"I always try to make it, Saturday night," he explained. "The chief
throws the work on the other fellows, if he can. That's the reason I
hustled away after the inquest. The story's all in, and now we'll have
a good dinner--if I do say it myself--and then a good talk. I feel the
need of a talk, Lester."
"So do I," I said; "though I'm afraid talking won't help us much."
"The funny thing about this case is," mused Godfrey, "that the farther
we get into it the thicker it grows."
"Yes," I agreed, "and the more one thinks about it, the less one
"Well, suppose we get away from it for a while," said Godfrey, and
turned the talk to other things. No man could talk more delightfully
of music, of art, of letters. How he managed it I could never guess,
but he seemed to have read everything, to have seen everything, to
have heard everything. Marryat, for instance; who reads Marryat
nowadays? And yet he had read the "Phantom Ship," and so knew
something of Goa. An hour passed very quickly, but at last he rose and
led the way into his study.
"A friend of mine dropped in to see me to-day at the office," he
remarked, "a Cuban planter who comes up to New York occasionally, and
whom I happened to help out of a rather serious difficulty a few years
ago. Perhaps some day I'll tell you about it. He always brings me a
bundle of his own special cigars. I didn't see him to-day, but he left
the cigars, and I want you to try one. Perhaps it will give you an
He went to his desk, opened a tin-foiled package that lay there, and
carefully extracted two long cigars of a rich and glowing brown.
"Perhaps you've heard of the special cigars that are made for Pierpont
Morgan," he went on, as he handed one to me, after carefully replacing
the wrappings of the bundle. "Well, I smoked one of Morgan's cigars
once--it was good, mighty good; but it wasn't in the same class with
these. Light up."
I did. Never before had I drawn between my lips a breath so
satisfying--so rich, so smooth, so full of flavour. I exhaled the
fragrant smoke slowly.
"Godfrey," I said, "I never knew what tobacco was before. Are these
cigars purchasable? I'm only a poor lawyer, but even one a month would
be a thing to look forward to and dream about."
But Godfrey shook his head.
"I've felt like that," he said; "but they're not to be had for money.
And now about Swain."
"Let's postpone it a little longer," I begged. "I don't want my mind
Godfrey laughed, but fell silent; and for the next half hour, no sound
"Now," I said, at last, "I'm ready to listen, so fire ahead whenever
you want to."
"I haven't much to tell," he began; "nothing new about the case. But I
stopped at the Tombs, before I started back, to make sure that Swain
had everything he wanted. They'd given him an upper cell, and sent
over to the Marathon and got him his things, and I arranged to have
his meals sent in to him from Moquin's."
"I ought to have thought of that," I said, contritely. "I'm much
obliged to you, Godfrey. Did you see him?"
"Only for a minute. He seemed fairly cheerful. He'd had them bring
some of his law books to him, and remarked that he'd have plenty of
time to study. I like the way he's taking it. He gave me a message for
"What was it?"
"That you are not to forget your promise."
I smoked on for a few moments in silence.
"I promised him I'd get Miss Vaughan away from that house," I said at
last. "I had Mrs. Royce write her a note, inviting her to stay with
her. I gave it to her this afternoon."
"What did she say?"
"She didn't say anything, but I could see the idea didn't impress her.
And I had thought all along that she would jump at it."
Godfrey gave a little grunt, whether of surprise or satisfaction I
could not tell.
"Why didn't you put her on the stand to-day, Lester?" he asked.
"Afraid of upsetting her?"
"I wouldn't have stopped for that, if her evidence would have helped
Swain. But it would only have put him deeper in the hole."
"In what way?"
"Well, in the first place, she says that as she and her father
returned to the house, she heard footsteps behind them and thought it
was Swain following them, because that would be a natural thing for
him to do; and, in the second place, she saw that blood-stained
handkerchief on the floor beside her father's chair when she came into
the room and found him dead."
"So," said Godfrey slowly, "it couldn't have been dropped there by
Swain when he stooped to pick her up."
"No; besides, we know perfectly well that it wasn't about his wrist
when he came back over the wall. Goldberger knows it, too, and we'll
be asked about it, next time."
"It might have been pushed up his sleeve--we weren't absolutely
certain. But this new evidence settles it."
I assented miserably and Godfrey smoked on thoughtfully. But my cigar
had lost some of its flavour.
"How did Miss Vaughan come to find the body?" he asked at last, and I
told him the story as she had told it to me. He thought it over for
some moments; then he leaned forward and laid his hand on my knee.
"Now, Lester," he said, "let's review this thing. It can't be as dark
as it seems--there's light somewhere. Here is the case, bared of all
inessentials: Swain crosses the wall about eleven o'clock, cutting his
wrist as he does so; Miss Vaughan meets him about eleven-thirty, and
after a time, finds that his wrist is bleeding and ties her
handkerchief about it; they agree to have her father examined for
lunacy, arrange a meeting for the next night, and are about to
separate, when her father rushes in upon them, savagely berates Swain
and takes his daughter away. That must have been about twelve o'clock.
"Swain, according to his story, sits there for ten or fifteen minutes,
finally sees the cobra, or thinks he does, and makes a dash for
safety, striking his head sharply against a tree. He tumbles over the
wall in a half-dazed condition. The handkerchief is no longer about
his wrist. That, you will remember, was about twelve-twenty.
"Almost at once we heard Miss Vaughan's screams. After that, Swain
isn't out of our sight for more than a minute--too short a time,
anyway, for anything to have happened we don't know about.
"Meanwhile, Miss Vaughan has returned with her father to the house,
hearing steps behind her and taking it for granted that it is Swain
following at a distance. She goes to her room, stays there fifteen
minutes or so, and comes downstairs again to find her father dead.
"Now let us see what had happened. You were right in saying that her
father must have been strangled immediately after she left him.
Otherwise he would still have been twitching in such a way that she
must have noticed it. No doubt he dropped into the chair exhausted by
his fit of rage; the murderer entered through the garden door,
stopped to cut off the end of the curtain-cord and make a noose of
it--that would have taken at least a minute--and then strangled his
victim. Then he heard her coming down the stairs, and escaped through
the garden-door again just as she entered at the other. She saw the
curtain still shaking. Then she fainted.
"Now, what are the clues to the murderer? A string tied with a
peculiar knot, the blood-stained handkerchief, and the finger-prints
on the dead man's robe."
Godfrey paused for a moment. Freed of its inessentials, in this way,
the case was beautifully clear--and beautifully baffling. It was a
paved way, smooth and wide and without obstruction of any kind; but it
ended in a cul-de-sac!
"One thing is certain," Godfrey went on, at last; "the murder was
committed by somebody--either by Swain, or by one of the Hindus, or by
some unknown. Let us weigh the evidence for and against each of them.
"Against Swain it may be urged that he was on the ground, that he had
time to do it, and some provocation, though the provocation, as we
know it, seems to be inadequate, provided Swain was in his right mind;
a handkerchief which was tied about his wrist is found beside the
body, and his finger-prints are found upon it. Miss Vaughan believed
he was following them; he admits that he thought of doing so.
"In his favour, it may be urged that a man like Swain doesn't commit
murder--though, as a matter of fact, this is a dangerous
generalisation, for all sorts of men commit murder; but if he should
do so, it would be only under great provocation and in the heat of
anger, certainly not in cold blood with a noose; and, finally, if the
motion of the curtain Miss Vaughan noticed was made by the murderer,
it couldn't possibly have been Swain, because he was with us at that
moment. You will see that there is a mass of evidence against him, and
practically the whole defence is that such a crime would be impossible
to one of his temperament. You know yourself how flimsy such a defence
"Against the Hindus, on the other hand, practically the only basis for
suspicion is that such a crime might be temperamentally possible to
them. They may have been on the ground, and the method of the murder
savours strongly of Thuggee--though don't forget that Swain admitted
he could have tied that knot. Besides, if it was the Thug who followed
them, he wouldn't have made any noise, and most certainly he couldn't
have left the prints of Swain's fingers on the body. But if Swain is
right in his assertion that he saw the snake in the arbour, it is
probable that the Thug wasn't far away.
"Against an unknown it may be urged that neither Swain nor the Hindus
could have committed the crime; but I don't see how an unknown could
either, unless he happened to be one of the three or four people in
the world with finger-tips like Swain's. And that is too far-fetched
to be believable.
"But this I am sure of, Lester," and Godfrey leaned forward again:
"the murder was committed either by Swain or by someone anxious to
implicate Swain. We agree that it wasn't Swain. Very well, then: the
person who committed the murder made a noise in following Miss Vaughan
and her father so that she should think it was Swain who was following
them; he picked up the blood-stained handkerchief, which Swain had
dropped perhaps when he fled from the arbour, and placed it beside the
body; and in some way inconceivable to me he pressed the prints of
Swain's fingers on the dead man's robe. Now, to do that, he must have
known that Swain was injured--the blood-stained handkerchief would
tell him that; but he must also have known that it was his right hand
that was injured. There was no blood on Swain's left hand."
Again Godfrey paused. I was following his reasoning with such
absorbed attention that I could feel my brain crinkle with the effort.
"Now, listen," said Godfrey, and I could have smiled at the
uselessness of the admonition--as if I were not already listening with
all my faculties! "There is only one way in which the murderer could
have known that it was Swain's right hand, and that was by overhearing
the conversation in the arbour. But if he overheard that much, he
overheard it all, and he knew therefore what it was Swain proposed to
do. He knew that Vaughan's sanity was to be questioned; he knew that
he would probably be placed in a sanitarium; he knew that Miss Vaughan
would probably marry Swain. Presuming that it was Silva, he knew that,
unless something was done to stop it, a very few days would place both
Vaughan and his daughter beyond his reach."
"That is true," I admitted; "but Vaughan was beyond his reach a good
deal more certainly dead than he would have been in a sanitarium.
Besides, it isn't at all certain that he would have been sent to a
"That's an objection, surely," Godfrey agreed; "but I must find out if
Vaughan is really beyond his reach dead."
I stared at him.
"You don't mean...."
"I don't know what I mean, Lester. I can feel a sort of dim meaning
at the back of my mind, but I can't get it out into the light."
"Besides," I went on, "if the yogi did it, how did he get back into
the house before we got there?"
"He peeped in at the door, saw the coast was clear, and went back
through the library. Remember, Miss Vaughan was unconscious. That
doesn't bother me. And another thing, Lester. How did Miss Vaughan's
father come to burst in on her and Swain like that? How did he know
they were in the arbour? It was dark and he couldn't have seen either
"He might have been walking about the grounds and overheard them."
"I don't believe it. I believe somebody told him they were there. And
only one person could have told him--that is Silva. No--there's only
one point I can't get past--that's the finger-prints."
And then I remembered.
"Godfrey," I cried, "there's one thing--I forgot to tell you. You
heard Swain remark that Vaughan was a collector of finger-prints?"
"And that he had a set of Swain's?"
"Well, when I told Miss Vaughan about the prints on her father's
robe, she ran to a book-case and got out a book. It had Vaughan's
collection in it, all bound together. But the page on which Swain's
were had been torn out."
Godfrey sat for a moment, staring at me spell-bound. Then he began
pacing up and down the study, like a tiger in its cage; up and down,
up and down.
"I'm bound to add," I went on finally, "that Hinman suggested a very
plausible reason for their disappearance."
"What was it?"
"He said they were probably destroyed by Vaughan himself, because of
his dislike of Swain. He said that would be characteristic of
Vaughan's form of insanity."
Godfrey took another turn up and down, then he stopped in front of my
"What did Miss Vaughan think of that explanation?" he asked.
"It didn't seem to impress her, but I don't remember that she made any
He stood a moment longer staring down at me, and I could feel the
intense concentration of his mind; then he ran his fingers impatiently
through his hair.
"I can't get it, Lester!" he said. "I can't get it. But I _will_ get
it! It's there! It's there, just out of reach." He shrugged his
shoulders and glanced at his watch. "I'm getting dippy," he added, in
another tone. "Let's go out and get a breath of air."
I followed him out into the yard--I knew where he was going--among the
trees and up the ladder. Silently we took our places on the limb;
silently we stared out into the darkness.
And there, presently, the strange star glowed and burned steel-blue,
and floated slowly down, and burst above a white-robed figure,
standing as though carved in marble, its arms extended, its head
"That fellow is certainly an artist," Godfrey muttered, as he led the
way back to the house.
THE YOGI CONQUERS
The events of the day that followed--Sunday--I shall pass over as
briefly as may be. It was for me a day of disappointment, culminating
in despair, and, looking back at it, I remember it as a grey day,
windy, and with gusts of rain.
Dr. Hinman stopped for us, and Godfrey and I accompanied him to the
service over the body of the murdered man. We were the only outsiders
there, besides the undertaker and his assistants, and they were not
admitted to the ceremony. This was witnessed only by Miss Vaughan,
Mahbub and us three. The servants were not there, and neither were
Miss Vaughan's nurses.
I have never seen a more impressive figure than Silva made that
morning. His robes were dead black, and in contrast to them and to his
hair and beard, his face looked white as marble. But, after the first
moments, the ceremony failed to interest me; for Silva spoke a
language which I supposed to be Hindustani, and there was a monotony
about it and about his gestures which ended in getting on my nerves.
It lasted half an hour, and the moment it was over, Miss Vaughan
slipped away. The yogi and Mahbub followed her, and then we three
stepped forward for a last look at the body.
It was robed all in white. The undertaker had managed to compose the
features, and the high stock concealed the ugly marks upon the neck.
So there was nothing to tell of the manner of his death, and there was
a certain majesty about him as he lay with hands crossed and eyes
We left the room in silence, and Hinman signed to the undertaker that
the service was ended.
"I am going with the body to the crematory," he said, and presently
drove away with the undertaker, ahead of the hearse. Godfrey and I
stood gazing after it until it passed from sight, then, in silence, we
walked down the drive to the entrance. The gardener was standing
there, and regarded us with eyes which seemed to me distinctly
unfriendly. He made no sign of recognition, and, the moment we were
outside, he closed the gates and locked them carefully, as though
obeying precise instructions.
"So," said Godfrey, in a low tone, as we went on together, "the lock
has been repaired. I wonder who ordered that done?"
"Miss Vaughan, no doubt," I answered. "She wouldn't want those gates
"Perhaps not," Godfrey assented; "but would she want the barrier
intact? Remember, Lester, it's as much a barrier from one side as from
"Well, she won't be inside it much longer," I assured him. "I'm going
to get her out this afternoon."
The words were uttered with a confidence I was far from feeling, and I
rather expected Godfrey to challenge it, but he walked on without
replying, his head bent in thought, and did not again speak of Miss
Vaughan or her affairs.
He drove into the city shortly after lunch, and it was about the
middle of the afternoon when I presented myself again at the gates of
Elmhurst and rang the bell. I waited five minutes and rang again.
Finally the gardener came shuffling down the drive and asked me what I
wanted. I told him I had an appointment with his mistress; but,
instead of admitting me, he took my card and shuffled away with it.
I confess that I grew angry, as I stood there kicking my heels at the
roadside, for he was gone a long time, and all these precautions and
delays were incomprehensible to me. But he came back at last, unlocked
the gate without a word, and motioned me to enter. Then he locked it
again, and led the way up the drive to the house. The housemaid met
us at the door of the library, as though she had been stationed there.
"If you will wait here, sir," she said, "Miss Vaughan will see you."
"I hope she is well," I ventured, thinking the girl might furnish me
with some clue to all this mystery, but she was already at the door.
"Quite well, sir," she said, and the next instant had disappeared.
Another ten minutes elapsed, and then, just as I was thinking
seriously of putting on my hat and leaving the house, I heard a step
coming down the stair. A moment later Miss Vaughan stood on the
I had taken it for granted that, relieved of her father's presence,
she would return to the clothing of every day; but she still wore the
flowing white semi-Grecian garb in which I had first seen her. I could
not but admit that it added grace and beauty to her figure, as well as
a certain impressiveness impossible to petticoats; and yet I felt a
sense of disappointment. For her retention of the costume could only
mean that her father's influence was still dominant.
"You wished to see me?" she asked; and again I was surprised, for I
had supposed she would apologise for the delay to which I had been
subjected. Instead, she spoke almost as to a stranger.
"I had an appointment for this afternoon," I reminded her, striving
to keep my vexation from my voice.
"Oh, yes," and she came a few steps into the room, but her face lost
none of its coldness. "I had forgotten. It is not to speak of
"No," I said; "it is to speak of your going to friends of Mr. Swain
and me--for a time, at least."
"You will thank your friends for me," she answered, calmly; "but I
have decided to remain here."
"But--but," I stammered, taken aback at the finality of her tone, "do
you think it wise?"
"Yes--far wiser than going to people I do not know and who do not
"And safe," I persisted; "do you think it safe?"
"Safe?" she echoed, looking at me in astonishment. "Certainly. What
have I to fear?"
I had to confess that I myself did not know very clearly what she had
to fear, so I temporised.
"Are you keeping the nurses?"
"No; I do not need them. They left an hour ago."
"But the servants," I said, in a panic, "they are here? They are going
Again she looked at me.
"Your questions seem most extraordinary to me, Mr. Lester. Of course
the servants will stay."
"And--and the Hindus?" I blurted out.
"Yes, and the Hindus, as you call them. This is their home. It was my
I gave it up; her manner indicated that all this was no concern of
mine, and that my interference was a mere impertinence. But I tried
one parting shot.
"Mr. Swain is very anxious you should not stay here," I said. "He will
be deeply grieved when he learns your decision."
To this she made no answer, and, finding nothing more to say, sore at
heart, and not a little angry and resentful, I started to leave the
"There is one thing more," I said, turning back at the threshold. "I
shall have to go in to the city to-morrow, but I shall come out again
in the evening. Would it be convenient to have our business conference
"Yes," she agreed; "that will do very well."
"At eight o'clock, then?"
"I shall expect you at that time," she assented; and with that I took
It was in a most depressed state of mind that I made my way back to
Godfrey's; and I sat down on the porch and smoked a pipe of bitter
meditation. For I felt that, somehow, Miss Vaughan was slipping away
from me. There had been a barrier between us to-day which had not been
there before, a barrier of coldness and reserve which I could not
penetrate. Some hostile influence had been at work; in death, even
more than in life, perhaps, her father's will weighed upon her. I
could imagine how a feeling of remorse might grow and deepen, and urge
her toward foolish and useless sacrifice.
And just then Mrs. Hargis came out and told me that someone wanted me
on the 'phone. It was Swain.
"They let me come out here to the office to 'phone to you," he said,
as he heard my exclamation of surprise. "Simmonds happened in and told
them it would be all right. He's here now."
"And they're treating you all right?"
"They're treating me like the star boarder," he laughed. And then his
voice grew suddenly serious. "Have you seen Miss Vaughan?"
"Yes," I answered; for I knew of course that the question was coming.
"Miss Vaughan refuses to go to the Royces', Swain."
There was a moment's silence.
"Then where will she go?"
"She won't go anywhere."
"You don't mean," he cried, panic in his voice, "that she's going to
stay out there?"
"Yes; she laughed when I mentioned danger. There's one
consolation--the servants will stay."
"Did you tell her how anxious I was for her?"
"Yes; I did my best, Swain."
"And it made no difference?"
"No; it made no difference. The fact is, Swain, I fancy she's a little
remorseful about her father--his death has unnerved her--and there was
the funeral to-day--and, as a sort of atonement, she's trying to do
what she imagines he would wish her to do."
"He wished her to become a priestess," said Swain, his voice ghastly.
"Oh, well, she won't go that far," I assured him cheerfully; "and no
doubt in a few days, when the first impression of the tragedy has worn
off, she will be ready to go to the Royces'. I'll keep suggesting it,
and I'm going to have Mrs. Royce call on her."
"Thank you, Mr. Lester," he said, but his voice was still shaking.
"I--this sort of knocks me out--I hadn't foreseen it. I'll have to
think it over. But there's one thing you _can_ do."
"What is it?"
"Watch the house!" he cried. "Watch the house! And be ready if she
"All right," I said, soothingly, "I'll do that. But tell me, Swain,
what is it you fear?"
"I fear Silva!" said Swain, in a voice husky with emotion. "It isn't
remorse for her father--it's Silva who's working on her. I feel it,
some way--I'm sure of it. God knows what he'll try--any villainy. You
must watch the house, Mr. Lester--day and night you must watch the
"All right," I said, again, strangely impressed by his words. "You may
count on me."
"Thank you," he said. "Remember, we've only you. Good-bye."
Swain's words gave me plenty to think over, and left me so troubled
and uneasy that I made a trip to the top of the ladder to take a look
over Elmhurst. But everything appeared as usual. Perhaps Swain was
right--perhaps it _was_ Silva who was using every minute to increase
his influence; but what could I do? So long as he committed no overt
act, there was no excuse for interference, and Miss Vaughan would
undoubtedly resent it. As Swain had said, there was nothing that I
could do but watch.
Two hours later, just as I was getting up from a dinner to which, in
my perturbed condition, I had done small justice, I heard a ring at
the bell, and presently Mrs. Hargis entered to tell me that there was
a gentleman asking for me. I went out to meet him, and was astonished
to find that it was Simmonds.
"I don't wonder you're surprised," he said, as we sat down. "Fact is,
I'm surprised myself, for I don't know exactly what I'm to do out
here. But Swain, after he got back to his cell, was like a crazy man;
he was sure something dreadful was going to happen to Miss Vaughan if
she stayed in the house with those Hindus. In the end, he got me kind
of scared, too, and made me promise to come out and help you keep
watch. I went down to the _Record_ office and had a talk with Godfrey
before I started. I half expected him to laugh at me; but he seemed to
think I'd better come. The fact is," concluded Simmonds, shifting his
cigar to the other side of his mouth, "he was so serious about it,
that I brought two men along. One of them's patrolling the road in
front of the house, and the other the road along the side. I've
arranged for two others to relieve them at midnight. Now, what's it
all about, anyway?"
"Well," I said, "in the first place, neither Godfrey nor I believes
that Swain strangled that man."
"I can't hardly believe it myself," agreed Simmonds, "for he seems a
nice young feller; but it's a clear case: there's the motive, he was
on the ground, and there's the finger-prints. How can you explain them
"I can't explain them away. But, just the same, Godfrey believes the
murder was committed by one of those Hindus."
"He intimated something of the sort to me," said Simmonds; "but
there's no evidence against them."
"No," I conceded; "that's what we've got to find."
"Where are we going to look for it?"
"There's only one place to look for it, and that's in the house where
the murder was committed. I only wish we could get Miss Vaughan out of
it--that would give us a freer hand."
"What's the matter with the fool girl, anyway?" demanded Simmonds. "I
should think she'd jump at a chance to get away."
"So should I--but she isn't reasonable, just now. I can't make her
out. Perhaps she'll come round in a day or two, but meanwhile, if she
should happen to need help, I don't see how your men out on the road,
on the other side of a twelve-foot wall, could do any good."
Simmonds rubbed his chin thoughtfully.
"What would you suggest?" he asked, at last.
"Why not put them in the grounds, as soon as it is dark, and let them
conceal themselves near the house? They can get over the wall on this
side. We've got ladders. Besides," I added, "it would be a great
mistake to give Silva any reason to suspect he's being watched. He'd
see the men out on the road, sooner or later; but they could keep out
of sight among the shrubbery."
Simmonds considered this for a moment.
"I don't know but what you're right," he agreed, at last. "We'll
arrange it that way, then," and he went away presently to call in his
men. He soon came back with them, and gave them careful and detailed
instructions as to what he wanted them to do, dwelling especially upon
the importance of their keeping carefully concealed. Then we got the
ladders and put them in place.
"Be careful not to touch the top of the wall," I cautioned them;
"there's broken glass on top, and the merest touch may mean a bad
"When you get down on the other side," Simmonds added, "take down the
ladder and hide it in the shrubbery at the foot of the wall. Somebody
might see it if you left it standing there. But for heaven's sake,
don't get mixed up so you can't find it again. Be back here at
eleven-thirty, and your relief will be ready. You've got your
whistles? Well, blow them good and hard if there's any trouble. And
be mighty careful not to let anyone see you, or you may get snake-bit!"
The men mounted the ladder, crossed the wall and disappeared on the
other side, and Simmonds and I turned back to the house. I felt as
though a great load had been lifted from my shoulders. With those two
men so close at hand, surely nothing very serious could happen to Miss
Simmonds and I spent the remainder of the evening in discussing the
case, but neither of us was able to shed any new light upon it.
Shortly after eleven, the two men who were to form the relief arrived,
and just as we started for the wall, Godfrey drove in from the
highway. It needed but a moment to tell him of our arrangements, which
he heartily approved. He joined us, and we were soon at the foot of
the ladder. While we waited, Simmonds gave the new men the same minute
instructions he had given the others; and presently we heard a slight
scraping against the wall, and the men who had been on duty recrossed it.
They had nothing of especial interest to report. The yogi and Miss
Vaughan had taken a stroll through the grounds early in the evening;
and my heart sank as the detective added that they seemed to be
talking earnestly together. Then they had re-entered the house, and
Miss Vaughan had remained in the library looking at a book, while her
companion passed on out of sight. At the end of an hour, she had
closed the book, shut and locked the outer door, and turned out the
light. Another light had appeared shortly afterwards in a room
upstairs. It, too, had been extinguished half an hour later, and the
detectives presumed that she had gone to bed. After that, the house
had remained in complete darkness. The servants had spent the evening
sitting on a porch at the rear of the house, talking together, but had
gone in early, presumably to bed.
When the men had finished their report, Simmonds dismissed them, and
the two who were to take up the watch crossed the wall and passed from
"And now, Simmonds," said Godfrey, "come along and I'll show you what
started me to watching that house, and caused me to get Lester out here."
Simmonds followed him up the ladder without a word, and I came along
behind. We were soon on the limb.
"Of course," Godfrey added, when we were in place, "it is just
possible that nothing will happen. But I think the show will come off
as usual. Look straight out over the trees, Simmonds--ah!"
High in the heavens that strange star sprang suddenly into being,
glowed, brightened, burned steel-blue; then slowly and slowly it
floated down, straight down; hovered, burst into a thousand sparks....
And, scarcely able to believe my eyes, I saw standing there against
the night two white-robed figures, with arms extended and faces
raised; and then they vanished again into the darkness.
For an instant we sat there silent, still staring. Then Godfrey drew a
"I feared so!" he said. "Miss Vaughan has become a convert!"
And he led the way down the ladder.
I was honestly glad to get back to the office, next morning, for I
felt the need of work--absorbing work--to take my mind off the problem
of Worthington Vaughan's death, and especially to relieve me from the
depression into which his daughter's inexplicable conduct had plunged
me. When I thought of her, it was with impatience and aversion, for I
felt that she had deserted to the enemy and turned her back upon the
man who loved her, in the hour of his utmost need.
As I saw it, her conduct was little short of heartless. She had
summoned her lover to her side, and he had come; instantly and without
hesitation, without pausing to consider the danger to himself, he had
answered her call; in consequence of that high devotion, he was now in
prison, charged with a dreadful crime; but, instead of hastening to
him, instead of standing by his side and proclaiming to the whole
world her belief in his innocence, she deliberately stood aloof. It
was almost as if she herself believed in his guilt! The world, at
least, could draw no other inference.
But she had done more than that. She had abandoned herself to the
fate from which he had tried to save her. Her presence at Silva's side
could have only one meaning--she had become his disciple, had accepted
his faith, was ready to follow him. The thought turned me sick at
heart, for her as well as for Swain, but for Swain most of all, for he
had done nothing to merit such misfortune, while she, at least, had
chosen her road and was following it with open eyes. Small wonder that
I thought of her with anger and resentment, yes, and with a vague
distrust, for, at the very back of my mind was the suspicion that she
had been a decoy to lure Swain to his destruction.
I threw myself feverishly into the work which had accumulated at the
office, in order to tear my mind away from thoughts like these; but
when Mr. Royce arrived, I had to go over the case with him, and I have
seldom seen a man more puzzled or astonished.
"I shall defend Swain, of course," I concluded, "and I'm hoping that
something in his favour will turn up before long, but I haven't the
remotest idea what it will be. He can't be tried till fall, and
meanwhile I'm afraid he'll have to stay in jail."
"Yes; I see no way of getting him out," agreed my partner. "But the
girl's danger is much more serious. Can't we do something for her?"
"It's difficult to do anything against her will," I pointed out.
"Besides, I've lost interest in her a little."
"Don't blame her too much--we must do everything we can. Since she
isn't of age, she'll have to have a guardian appointed. He might do
"I had thought of that; I'll suggest to her to-night that she let me
arrange for a guardian. But if we wait for a court to take action, I'm
afraid we'll be too late. Swain seems to think that the danger is very
"At least we can make one more effort," said Mr. Royce. "I'll have my
wife drive out to see her this afternoon. Perhaps she can do
something," and he went to the 'phone to make the arrangements.
I turned back to my work, but found myself unable to take it up, for
my conscience told me that I ought to see Swain, make sure that he was
comfortable, and do what I could to relieve his anxiety. It was not a
pleasant task, for I should have to admit my failure, but at last I
put my work aside, made my way reluctantly to the Tombs, and asked to
They had given him a well-lighted cell on the upper tier, and some of
his own things had been brought in to soften its bareness, but my
first glance at Swain told me that he was in a bad way.
"Is she all right?" was his first question, and his eyes seemed to
burn into me.
"Yes," I answered a little testily, "she's all right--that is, if you
mean Miss Vaughan. For heaven's sake, Swain, be a little sensible.
What's the use of working yourself up into a state like this! Did you
sleep any last night?"
"No," said Swain, after thinking a minute. "No, I believe not."
"How about breakfast?"
"I don't seem to remember about breakfast," he answered, after another
I stepped to the door, called the guard, and, putting a bill into his
hand, asked him to send up the prison barber and to have a good meal
sent in in the course of half an hour. When the barber arrived, I had
him take Swain in hand, give him a shave and shampoo and general
freshening up. Then I saw that he got into clean things; and then the
breakfast arrived, and I made him sit down and eat. He obeyed
passively, and I could see the food did him good. When he had finished
his coffee, I handed him a cigar.
"Now, Swain," I began, sitting down opposite him, "I'm going to talk
to you seriously. In the first place, Miss Vaughan is in no danger.
Simmonds had two men in the grounds watching the house all last night,
ready to interfere at the least sign of anything wrong. That watch
will be kept up as long as Miss Vaughan remains there."
"That's good," he said. "I didn't know that. But just the same, she
mustn't remain there. Even with the men on guard, you may be too late."
"Just what is it you're afraid of?" I asked him, curiously. "Do you
think her life's in danger?"
"Worse than that!" said Swain thickly, his face suddenly livid. "Oh,
worse than that!"
I confess that I caught something of his horror; but I shook myself
"I can't believe that," I said. "But, in any case, our men will be at
hand. At the least outcry they will burst into the house. And
remember, the three servants are there."
"They cut no figure. If they didn't hear those screams the other
night, do you think they would hear any others? You must get her away
from there, Mr. Lester," he went on rapidly. "If she won't come of her
own accord, you must use force."
"But, my dear Swain," I objected, "I can't do that. Do you want me to
"Just that--if it's necessary."
"Then I'd soon be occupying a cell here, too. I don't see what good
that would do."
"It would save her," he asserted, doggedly. "It would save her. That's
the only thing to consider."
But I rose to my feet in sudden impatience; what consideration was she
showing for him or for me or for anyone?
"You're talking foolishly," I said. "You'd much better be thinking of
your own danger; it's much more real than hers." I had an impulse to
add that, since she had chosen her path, it was folly to waste pity
upon her, but I managed to check the words. "Has any new light on the
case occurred to you?"
"No," he answered, listlessly, "I haven't thought about it. When do
you see her again, Mr. Lester?"
"I'm to see her to-night."
"Will you give her a note from me?"
"Yes," I agreed.
His face lighted again at that, and he cleared a corner of his table
and sat down to write the note. It was evidently difficult to compose,
for he tore up two drafts before he got one to suit him. But at last
it was done, and he folded it, rummaged an envelope out of a pile of
papers on a chair, slipped the note into it, and handed it to me.
"There," he said, and his face was bright with hope. "I think that
will settle it."
I was far from sharing his certainty, but I put the envelope in my
pocket, assured myself that there was nothing more I could do for him,
and returned to the office. Just as I was getting ready to leave, Mr.
Royce came in, a chagrined look on his face.
"Mrs. Royce just telephoned me," he said. "She drove out there, as I
asked her to, but Miss Vaughan refused to see her."
I had expected it, but the certainty that we had failed again did not
add to my cheerfulness.
"Swain wants us to kidnap her," I said, with a twisted smile.
"I'm not sure but that he's right," said my partner, and went
I went to my rooms, changed, had dinner at a quiet restaurant, and
then took the elevated for the long trip to the Bronx. It was after
eight o'clock when I pulled the bell beside the tall gates to
Elmhurst. The gardener was evidently expecting me, for he appeared
almost at once and admitted me. Without waiting for him, I walked up
the drive toward the house. The lights were on in the library, and I
stepped up to the open door.
Then I stopped, and my heart fell. For there were two white-robed
figures in the room. One was Miss Vaughan and the other was Francisco
Silva. The girl was sitting at his feet.
They had evidently heard my footsteps, for they were looking toward
the door, and Miss Vaughan arose as soon as I came within the circle
of light. But if I expected her to show any embarrassment, I was
"Come in, Mr. Lester," she said. "I believe you have not met Senor Silva."
The yogi had risen, and now he bowed to me.
"Our encounters heretofore have been purely formal," he said, smiling.
"I am happy to meet you, Mr. Lester."
His manner was friendly and unaffected, and imperceptibly some of my
distrust of him slipped away.
"I have told Senor Silva," Miss Vaughan continued, when we were
seated, "that you have consented to act as my man of business."
"And it is my intention," broke in Silva, "to beseech Mr. Lester to
consent to act as my man of business also. I am sure that I shall need
I was not at all sure of it, for he seemed capable of dealing with
"It would not be possible for me to represent divergent interests," I
"My dear sir," protested the yogi, "there will be no divergent
interests. Suppose we put it in this way: you will represent Miss
Vaughan, and will dispose of my interests from that standpoint. There
could be no objection to that, I suppose?"
"No," I answered, slowly; "but before we go into that, let me
understand exactly what these interests are. Mr. Vaughan's estate I
understand, is a large one."
Silva shrugged his shoulders.
"I have understood so," he said, "but I know nothing about it, beyond
what Mr. Vaughan himself told me."
"What was that?"
"That it was his intention to give this place as a monastery for the
study of our religion, and to endow it."
"Did he mention the amount of the endowment?"
"He asked me, not long ago, if a million dollars would be sufficient."
"Had he drawn up a deed of gift?"
"I do not know."
"Or made a will?"
Again Silva shrugged indifferently to indicate that he was also
ignorant on that point, and I turned to Miss Vaughan.
"If there is a will," I asked, "where would it probably be?"
"There is a safe here," she said, "in which my father kept his papers
of value," and she went to the wall and swung out a hinged section of
shelving. The door of a safe appeared behind it.
I approached and looked at it, then tried the door, but it was locked.
"To open this, we must know the combination," I said; "or else we
shall have to get an expert."
"I know the combination," she broke in; "it is ..."
But I stopped her.
"My dear Miss Vaughan," I laughed, "one doesn't go around proclaiming
the combination of a safe. How do you happen to know it?"
"My father often had me open the safe for him."
"Does anyone else know it?"
"I do not think so."
"Well, suppose we see what is in the safe," I suggested, and, as she
knelt before it, turned away. I, at least, did not wish to know the
combination. That Silva already knew it I accepted as certain.
I heard the twirling of the knob, and a sharp click as the bolts were
thrown back. Then I walked to Miss Vaughan's side and knelt beside
her. The interior of the safe was divided into the usual compartments,
one of them equipped with a Yale lock. The key was in the lock, and I
turned it, swung the little door open, and drew out the drawer which
lay behind it.
"If there is a will, it is probably here," I said; "let us see," and I
carried the drawer over to the light.
Miss Vaughan followed me, but Silva had sunk back into his chair, and
was staring abstractedly through the open door out into the darkness,
as though our proceedings interested him not at all. Then, as I looked
into the drawer, I gave a little gasp of astonishment, for it was
almost filled with packets of bills. There were five of them, neatly
sealed in wrappers of the National City Bank, and each endorsed to
contain ten thousand dollars.
"Why did your father require all this money?" I asked, but Miss
Vaughan shook her head.
"He always kept money there," she said, "though I never knew the
[Illustration: "Oh, Master, receive me!"]
I glanced at the yogi, but his revery remained unbroken. Then I laid
the packets on the table and dipped deeper into the drawer. There were
two bank-books, some memoranda of securities, a small cash-book,
and, at the very bottom, an unsealed envelope endorsed, "Last will and
testament of Worthington Vaughan."
"Here we are," I said, took it out, and replaced the rest of the
contents. "Shall we read it now?"
"Yes, I should like to read it," she answered quietly.
The document was a short one. It had evidently been drawn by Vaughan
himself, for it was written simply and without legal phrases. It had
been witnessed by Henry and Katherine Schneider, and was dated only a
week previously--but three days before the murder.
"Who are these witnesses?" I asked.
"They are the cook and the gardener."
"Do you recognise your father's writing?"
"Oh, yes; there can be no question as to that."
It was a peculiar writing, and a very characteristic one; not easy to
read until one grew accustomed to it. But at the end of a few minutes
I had mastered it. The provisions of the will were simple: Elmhurst
and the sum of one million dollars in negotiable securities were left
absolutely to "my dear and revered Master, Francisco Silva, Priest of
the Third Circle of Siva, and Yogi of the Ninth Degree, to whom I owe
my soul's salvation," the bequest to be used for the purpose of
founding a monastery for the study of the doctrines of Saivaism, and
as an asylum for all true believers. The remainder of his estate was
left absolutely to his daughter, to dispose of as she saw fit. "It is,
however, my earnest wish", the will concluded, "that my daughter
Marjorie should enter upon the Way, and accept the high destiny which
the Master offers her as a Priestess of our Great Lord. May the
All-Seeing One guide her steps aright!"
There was a moment's silence as I finished; then I glanced at Miss
Vaughan. Her eyes were fixed; her face was rapt and shining.
She felt my gaze upon her, and turned to face me.
"As your attorney, Miss Vaughan," I said, "it is my duty to advise you
that this will would probably not hold in law. I think it would be
comparatively easy to convince any court that your father was not of
sound mind when he drew it. You see, Senor Silva," I added, "that
there is at once a conflict of interests."
But Silva shook his head with a little smile.
"There is no conflict," he said. "If Miss Vaughan does not approve her
father's wishes, they are as though they were not!"
"I do approve them" the girl cried passionately, her hands against
her heart. "I do approve them!"
"All of them?" I asked.
She swung full upon me, her eyes aflame.
"Yes, all of them!" she cried. "Oh, Master, receive me!" and she flung
herself on her knees by Silva's chair.
THE VISION IN THE CRYSTAL
Silva laid a hand tenderly upon the bowed head, as though in
benediction, but I could have sworn there was unholy triumph in his
eyes. I caught but a glimpse of it, for he veiled them instantly and
bowed his head, and his lips moved as if in prayer. The kneeling
figure was quivering with sobs; I could hear them in her throat; and
my heart turned sick as I saw how she permitted his caressing touch.
Then, suddenly, she sprang, erect, and, without a glance at me,
hurried from the room.
There was silence for a moment, then Silva arose and faced me.
"You see how it is, Mr. Lester," he said.
"Yes," I answered drily, "I see how it is."
I refolded the will, slipped it back into its envelope, restored it to
the drawer, made sure that all the packets were there, too, replaced
the drawer in the safe, closed the door, twirled the knob, swung the
shelves into place in front of it, and finally, my self-control
partially regained, turned back to Silva.
"Well," I said, and my voice sounded very flat, "let us sit down and
talk it over."
He wheeled his chair around to face me and sat down. I looked at him
in silence for a moment. The man was virile, dominant; there was in
his aspect something impressive and compelling. Small wonder this
child of nineteen had found herself unable to stand against him!
"I know what is in your mind," he said, at last. "But, after all, it
was her father's wish. That should weigh with you."
"Her father was mad."
"I deny it. He was very sane. He found the Way, and he has set her
feet upon it."
"What way?" I demanded. "Where does it lead?"
"The Way of life. It leads to peace and happiness."
He uttered the words as with finality; but I shrugged them impatiently
"Don't float off into your mysticism," I said. "Let us keep our feet
on the earth. You may be sincere, or you may not--it is impossible for
me to say. But I know this--it is not fair to that child to take her
at her word. She doesn't realise what she is doing. I don't know what
it is you plan for her, but before you do anything, she must have a
chance to find herself. She must be taken out of this atmosphere into
a healthier one, until she has rallied from the shock of her father's
death, and emerged from the shadow of his influence. She must have
time to get back her self-control. Then, if she chooses to return,
well and good."
"To all your 'musts,' Mr. Lester," retorted Silva, "I can only say
that I am willing. I have not lifted a finger to detain her. But what
if she will not go?"
"Then she must be made to go."
"Another 'must'!" he rejoined lightly. "I would remind you that she is
mistress of her own actions. Neither you nor I can compel her to do
anything she does not wish to do. It has been a great happiness to me
that she has chosen as she has; it would have been a great sorrow to
me had she decided differently. But I should have acquiesced. Now it
is for you to acquiesce. After all, what claim have you upon her?"
"I admit that I have no claim," I said, more calmly. "But there is one
who has a claim, and to whom she is bound to listen."
"You refer, no doubt, to that misguided young man who is now in prison."
"I refer to Frederic Swain, yes," I retorted hotly. "It is true he is
in prison. And how did he get there? By coming when she called him; by
trying to assist her."
"Was it assisting her to kill her father?" queried Silva, and his
lips were curled with scorn.
I paused a moment to make sure of my self-control, for it seemed to be
slipping from me.
"Senor Silva," I said, at last, "how her father came to his death I do
not know; but I do know that Swain had no hand in it."
"Yet he is in prison," he reminded me.
"Innocent men have been in prison before this. I will get him out."
"By what means?"
"By finding the real murderer!" I said, and looked at him with eyes
which I know were bloodshot.
He returned my gaze steadily.
"So you think I am the murderer?" he asked, quietly.
I got a grip of myself--I saw that I had gone too far.
"I do not know what to think," I answered. "I am seeking light. In any
event, Swain merits some consideration. Miss Vaughan should, at least,
listen to what he has to say. She promised to marry him."
"She has withdrawn that promise."
"She has never said so."
"She has withdrawn it in choosing as she has chosen. They who serve in
the temple of Siva turn their backs on marriage."
I put the words away from me with a gesture.
"That means nothing to me," I said. "I know nothing of the temple of
Siva. I wish to know nothing, for mysticism repels me. But I do know
that she gave her word; I do know that she loved him."
"Earthly love fades and passes," said the yogi, solemnly. "She has
given her heart to the Master," and he made his gesture of reverence.
There was anger in my eyes as I looked at him. How was one to reply to
"I would point out to you, Senor Silva," I said, "that Miss Vaughan is
not yet of legal age, and so not quite her own mistress."
"Does your law interfere in matters of the heart?" he inquired
blandly; "or in matters of religion?"
"No," I said, flushing at his irony; "but the law demands that, until
she is of age, she have a guardian to protect her interests. I shall
ask that one be appointed at once."
"To that," said the yogi, mildly, "I have not the least objection. In
fact, Mr. Lester, I do not know why you should tell me your plans.
But, for some reason, you seem to regard me as an adversary. I am
not--I am no man's adversary. I object to nothing; I have no right to
object to anything. I am simply Miss Vaughan's friend and
well-wisher, and seek her happiness. I should like to be your friend
"And Swain's?" I queried, a little brutally.
"The friend of all men," said the yogi, simply. "They are all my
brothers. We are children of the same Great Spirit."
I was silent for a moment. Then I took Swain's letter from my pocket.
"If you are sincere," I said, "you can easily prove it. I have a
letter here from Swain. He gave it to me to-day, and I promised to
give it to Miss Vaughan to-night."
Without a word, he crossed to the bell and rang it. The maid answered.
"Mr. Lester has a letter which you will give to your mistress," he said.
"And you will wait for an answer," I added.
The girl took the letter and went away. Silva sat down again, and when
I glanced at him, I saw that his eyes were closed. Five minutes
passed, and the girl appeared again at the door.
"Miss Vaughan says there is no answer, sir," she said, and let the
curtain fall into place again.
I made a gesture of despair; I felt that the game was lost.
"After all, Mr. Lester," said Silva, kindly, "what is this fate that
you would prepare for her? You seek her marriage with a young man who,
when I saw him, appeared to me merely commonplace. Admitting for the
moment that he is innocent of this crime, you would nevertheless
condemn her to an existence flat and savourless, differing in no
essential from that of the beasts of the field."
"It is the existence of all normal people," I pointed out, "and the
one which they are happiest in."
"But Miss Vaughan would not be happy. She has too great a soul; that
young man is not worthy of her. You yourself have felt it!"
I could not deny it.
"Few men are worthy of a good woman," I said lamely.
"Faugh! Good woman!" and he snapped his fingers. "I abhor the words!
They are simply cant! But a great woman, a woman of insight, of
imagination--ah, for such a woman the Way that I prepare is the only
Way. There she will find joy and inspiration; there she will grow in
knowledge; there she will breathe the breath of life! Mr. Lester," and
he leaned forward suddenly, "have you the courage to consult the
"What do you mean?"
"You saw how I spent the White Night of Siva," and he made his gesture
of reverence. "Will you gaze for an hour on the crystal?"
"For what purpose?"
"I do not know what may be revealed to you," he answered. "That is in
the keeping of the Holy One. Perhaps nothing; perhaps much. Will you
make the trial?"
His eyes were distended with excitement, his lips were trembling with
"I feel that it will not be in vain!" he added.
There was something compelling in his gaze. After all, why not? I
struggled to my feet.
With a strange smile, he held back the curtain, and I passed before
him into the hall and up the stairs. As I hesitated at the top, he
opened the door into the entry, and again my senses were assaulted by
a heavy, numbing odour. In the middle of the room the crystal sphere
"Take your place upon the couch," he said; "sit thus, with your legs
crossed, and your hands folded before you. But first, listen to me.
There is in this no magic; this sphere is merely a shell of crystal,
in which a small lamp burns. It serves only to concentrate the mind,
to enable it to forget the world and to turn in upon itself. The
visions which will come to you, if any come, will come from within and
not from without. They will be such visions as the Holy One may will;
and by the Holy One I mean that Spirit which pervades the universe,
even to its farthest bound; the Spirit which is in all of us alike;
the Spirit which is in good men and in bad, men like you and me, and
men like the one who slew my pupil. It is with this Spirit, if the
Holy One so wills, that you will commune, so that you will see no
longer with the poor eyes of the body, but with eyes from which
nothing is concealed, either in the past or in the future. Do you
"I think so," I murmured, unable to take my eyes from the glowing circle.
"Then to the Holy One I commend thee!" said the yogi, and sat down on
the couch opposite me.
I felt that his eyes were upon me, but mine were upon the sphere, and
in a moment I was no longer aware of him. I was aware only of the
glowing circle, which seemed to widen and widen until the whole
universe revolved within it. The sun and the moon and the stars were
there, and I gazed at them as from a great distance. I saw stars glow
and fade; I saw great nebulae condense to points of light, and
disintegrate to dust; then, slowly, slowly, a single planet swung into
view, a million miles away, at first, but growing clearer and more
clear, until I was looking down upon its seas and continents; and
suddenly, as it turned before me, I recognised the earth. Europe,
Asia, the broad Pacific swung below me; then land again--America! I
saw great mountains, broad plains, and mighty rivers.
The motion ceased. I was gazing down upon a great city, built upon a
narrow spur of land between two rivers, a city of towering buildings
and busy streets; then upon a single house, set in the midst of lofty
elms; then I was in a room, a room with books against the walls, and a
door opening upon a garden. From the garden the light faded, and the
darkness came, and a clock somewhere struck twelve. Then, suddenly, at
the door appeared two white-robed figures, an old man and a girl. The
man was talking violently, but the girl crossed the room without a
backward glance, and passed through a door on its farther side. The
man stood for a moment looking after her, then flung himself into a
chair, and put his hands before his face.
With creeping flesh, I looked again at the outer door, waiting who
would enter. And slowly, slowly, the drapery was put aside, and a face
peered in. I could see its flashing eyes and working mouth. A hand, in
which a knife gleamed, was raised cautiously to the cord, and when it
was lowered, it held a piece of the cord within its grasp. I could see
the eager fingers fashioning a knot; then, with head bent, the figure
crept forward, foot by foot; it was at the chair-back, and even as
the old man, conscious at last of the intruder, raised his head, the
cord was cast about his throat and drawn tight. There was a moment's
struggle, and I saw that the hand which held the cord was red with
blood. From the wrist, a stained handkerchief fell softly to the
And then the assassin turned to steal away; but as he went, he cast
one awful glance over his shoulder. The light fell full upon his
face--and I saw that it was Swain's!
* * * * *
I opened my eyes to find myself extended full length on the divan,
with Silva standing over me, a tiny glass of yellow liquid in his
"Drink this," he said, and I swallowed it obediently.
It had a pungent, unpleasant taste, but I could feel it running
through my veins, and it cleared my mind and steadied my nerves as
though by magic. I sat up and looked at the crystal. The other lights
in the room had been switched on, and the sphere lay cold and
lifeless. I passed my hand before my eyes, and looked at it again;
then my eyes sought Silva's. He was smiling softly.
"The visions came," he said. "Your eyes tell me that the visions came.
Is it not so?"
"Yes," I answered; "strange visions, Senor Silva. I wish I knew their
"Their origin is in the Universal Spirit," he said, quietly. "Even yet
you do not believe."
"No," and I looked again at the crystal. "There are some things past
"Nothing is past belief," he said, still more quietly, "You think so
because your mind is wrapped in the conventions amid which you exist.
Free it from those wrappings, and you will begin really to live. You
have never known what life is."
"How am I to free it, Senor Silva?" I questioned.
He took a step nearer to me.
"By becoming a disciple of the Holy One," he said, most earnestly.
But I was myself again, and I rose to my feet and shook my head, with
"No," I said. "You will get no convert here. I must be going."
"I will open the gate for you," he said, in another tone, and led the
way down the stairs, through the library, and out upon the gravelled walk.
After the drugged atmosphere of his room, the pure night air was like
a refreshing bath, and I drew in long breaths of it. Silva walked
beside me silently; he unlocked the gate with a key which he carried
in his hand, and pulled it open.
"Good-night, Mr. Lester," he said. "The sphere is at your service
should you desire again to test it. Think over what I have said to you."
"Good-night," I answered, and stepped through into the road.
The gate swung shut and the key grated in the lock. Mechanically I
turned my steps toward Godfrey's house; but I seemed to be bending
under a great burden--the burden of the vision.
I was confused and shaken; I had no idea of the hour; I did not know
whether that vision had lasted a minute or a thousand years. But when
I blundered up the path to Godfrey's house, I found him and Simmonds
sitting on the porch together.
"I had Godfrey bring me out," said Simmonds, as he shook hands,
"because I wanted another look at those midnight fireworks. Did you
come up on the elevated?"
"Yes," I answered; and I felt Godfrey turn suddenly in his chair, at
the sound of my voice, and scrutinise my face. "I had dinner in town
and came up afterwards."
"What time was that?" asked Godfrey, quietly.
"I got up here about eight o'clock. I had an engagement with Miss
"You have been with her since?"
"With her and Silva," and I dropped into a chair and mopped my face
with my handkerchief. "The experience was almost too much for me," I
added, and told them all that had occurred.
They listened, Godfrey motionless and intent, and Simmonds with a
murmur of astonishment now and then.
"I'm bound to confess," I concluded, "that my respect for Silva has
increased immensely. He's impressive; he's consistent; I almost
believe he's sincere."
"Have you considered what that belief implies?" asked Godfrey.
"What does it imply?"
"If Silva is sincere," said Godfrey, slowly; "if he is really what he
pretends to be, a mystic, a priest of Siva, intent only on making
converts to what he believes to be the true religion, then our whole
theory falls to the ground; and Swain is guilty of murder."
I shivered a little, but I saw that Godfrey was right.
"We are in this dilemma," Godfrey continued, "either Silva is a fakir
and charlatan, or Swain is a murderer."
"I wish you could have witnessed that horrible scene, as I did," I
broke in; "it would have shaken your confidence, too! I wish you could
have seen his face as he glanced back over his shoulder! It was
fiendish, Godfrey; positively fiendish! It made my blood run cold. It
makes it run cold now, to remember it!"
"How do you explain all that crystal sphere business, anyway?" asked
Simmonds, who had been chewing his cigar perplexedly. "It stumps me."
"Lester was hypnotised and saw what Silva willed him to see," answered
Godfrey. "You'll remember he sat facing him."
"But," I objected, "no one remembers what happens during hypnosis."
"They do if they are willed to remember. Silva willed you to remember.
It was cleverly done, and his explanation of the origin of the vision
was clever, too. Moreover, it had some truth in it, for the secret of
crystal-gazing is that it awakens the subjective consciousness, or
Great Spirit, as Silva called it. But you weren't crystal-gazing,
to-night, Lester--you were simply hypnotised."
"You may be right," I admitted; "I remember how his eyes stared at me.
But it was wonderful--I'm more impressed with him than ever."
"It isn't the fact that he hypnotised you that bothers me," said
Godfrey, after a moment. "It's the fact that he has also hypnotised
The words startled me.
"You think that's the reason of her behaviour?" I asked, quickly.
"What other reason can there be?" Godfrey demanded. "Here we have a
girl who thinks herself in danger and summons to her aid the man who
loves her and whom, presumably, she loves. And two days later, when he
has been imprisoned for a crime of which she declares it is absurd to
suspect him, instead of hastening to him or trying to carry out his
wishes, she turns her back on him and deliberately walks into the
danger from which, up to that moment, she had shrunk with loathing.
Contrast her behaviour of Saturday, when she declared her faith in
Swain and begged your assistance, with her behaviour of yesterday and
to-day, when she throws you and Swain aside and announces that she is
going to follow Silva--to become a priestess of Siva. Do you know what
that means, Lester--to become a priestess of Siva?"
"No," I answered, slowly; "I don't know. Silva said it was a great
destiny; yes, and that it meant turning one's back on marriage."
"That is right," said Godfrey, in an indescribable tone, "there is no
marriage--there are only revolting, abominable, unspeakable rites and
ceremonies. I ran across Professor Sutro, the Orientalist, to-day, and
had a talk with him about it. He says the worship of Siva is merely
the worship of the reproductive principle, as it runs through all
creation, and that the details of this worship are inconceivably
disgusting. That is the sort of destiny Miss Vaughan has chosen."
My hands were clammy with the horror of it.
"We must save her!" I said, hoarsely. "Of course she doesn't
know--doesn't suspect! We must get her away from Silva!"
"Undoubtedly we must do something," Godfrey agreed. "I don't know how
we can get her away from Silva, but we might get Silva away from her.
Couldn't you arrest him on suspicion and keep him locked up for two or
three days, Simmonds?"
"I might," Simmonds grunted.
"And while he's away, you can work with her, Lester; take Mrs. Royce
to see her, give her a hint of what Saivaism really is--or get Mrs.
Royce to. If that doesn't have any effect, we can try stronger
measures; but I believe, if we can get her away from Silva's influence
for a few days, she will be all right again."
"I hope so," I agreed, "but I'm not at all certain. She didn't behave
like a hypnotised person, Godfrey; she seemed to be acting of her own
free will. I couldn't see that Silva was trying to influence her in
any way. She said she was trying to carry out her father's wish. And
it certainly was his wish--the will proves that. If anybody is
hypnotising her, I should say it was he."
"Well, I can't arrest him," said Simmonds, with a grin.
"Her father's wishes may have had some weight with her at the outset,"
admitted Godfrey, "but they couldn't have driven her to the length to
which she has gone. And about the will. If Vaughan had not been
killed, if he had been found insane, the will would have been at once
invalidated. Don't you get the glimmer of a motive for his murder
"It can be invalidated now, if Miss Vaughan contests it," I pointed out.
"Yes; but unless she _does_ contest it, it will stand. But if Vaughan
had been declared insane, the will could never have been probated--no
contest would have been necessary. Do you see the difference?"
"I see what you mean; but I don't think it amounts to much. Silva
declares that if Miss Vaughan contests the will, he will not defend
"But he knows perfectly well that she will not contest it. The surest
way to prevent a contest is by adopting just such an attitude.
Besides, if we don't save her, he'll get her share, too. Vaughan's
estate and Vaughan's daughter and everything else that was Vaughan's
will disappear into his maw. Oh, he's playing for a big stake,
Lester, and it looks to me as though he were going to win it!"
It looked so to me, too, and I fell into gloomy thought.
"You've got your men watching the house, I suppose?" I asked, at last,
turning to Simmonds.
"Yes; and we managed to score one little point to-day."
"What was that?"
"I found out that Annie Crogan, the housemaid over there, had a cousin
on the force, so I got him out here and he managed to have a talk with
her. He didn't find out anything," he added; "that is, anything we
don't know; but she promised to leave the door of her bedroom open at
night, and, if anything happened, to show a light at her window."
"Splendid!" I said. "And of course she'll keep her eyes open in the
"Sure she will. She's a bright girl. The only thing I'm afraid of is
that the Hindu will get on to her and fire her. But she's been warned
to be mighty careful. If they don't suspect her, maybe she'll have
something to tell us, in a day or two."
"Perhaps she will," I agreed; and I drew a breath of relief. Surely
with all these guardians, inside the house and out, Miss Vaughan was
safe. The least outcry would bring swift assistance. Besides, I could
not bring myself to believe that Silva was such a brute as Godfrey
seemed to think him. I had been attracted by him, not repelled, and I
have always believed in the accuracy of these instinctive feelings.
And Godfrey himself, I reflected, did not seem to be very clear in the
matter. If Silva was merely a fakir and a charlatan, there was no
reason why he should wish to induct Miss Vaughan into the mysteries of
a religion which he wore only as a cloak, to be dropped as soon as his
plans were accomplished. On the other hand, if he was sincere and
really wished to convert the girl, it was only reasonable to suppose
that he was sincere in other things as well.
"It reduces itself to this," I said finally to Godfrey. "If Silva is a
charlatan, there is no reason why he should hypnotise Miss Vaughan;
but if he really wishes to make a priestess of her, then, by the same
token, he is sincere and not a charlatan at all."
"There's a twist there which I can't seem to get straight," he
admitted. "We'll have to watch Silva a little longer to find out what
his game really is. Of course, it's just possible that he'd be glad
to get rid of the girl, but that she really is obsessed by the idea of
carrying out her father's wish. If that's the case, Silva is rather up
"That's where _we'd_ better be getting," broke in Simmonds, who had
taken out his watch and held it up to the light. "It's nearly twelve
o'clock, and I don't want to miss the fireworks. Besides, you fellows
don't gain anything by all this jawing. You've been at it for an hour,
and you're more tangled up now than when you started. My motto with a
case of this kind is just to sit quiet and watch it; and pretty soon
the rat thinks the coast is clear, and pokes out his head, and you nab
"There's a good deal in that," agreed Godfrey, with a little laugh. "I
admit that our arguing doesn't seem to lead anywhere. Come along," and
he led the way out among the trees.
"Now take these fireworks," went on Simmonds, in a low tone, when we
were sitting side by side on the limb. "I don't understand what they
mean; but they must mean something. Am I laying awake nights worrying
about them? Not me! I'm just going to keep on watching till I find out
what the meaning is. I know you're a great fellow for theory and
deduction, and all that sort of thing, Godfrey, and I know you've
pulled off some mighty clever stunts; but, after all, there's nothing
"Yes--'it's dogged as does it,'" agreed Godfrey. "Patience is a great
thing. I only wish I had more of it."
"It would be a good thing," assented Simmonds, candidly; and then we
fell silent, gazing out into the darkness.
"Surely," said Godfrey, at last, "it must be twelve o'clock."
Simmonds got out his watch and flashed upon it a ray from his electric
"Yes," he said, "it's four minutes after."
I felt Godfrey's hand stiffen on my arm.
"Then there's something wrong," he whispered. "You remember, Lester,
what happened the other time that light failed to appear. A man was
The darkness into which I stared seemed suddenly to grow threatening
and sinister, full of vague terrors. Even Simmonds grew uneasy, and I
could feel his arm twitching.
Godfrey put his foot on the ladder, and began to descend. Simmonds and
I followed him silently.
"I'm going over the wall," he said, when we were on the ground.
"Something's wrong, and we've got to find out what it is."
"How will we get down?" asked Simmonds. "There's no ladder there."
Godfrey considered a moment.
"We can stand on the top of the wall," he said, at last, "and lift
this ladder over. It won't be easy, but it can be done. Go ahead,
Lester, and be careful of the glass."
I mounted the ladder, felt cautiously along the top of the wall and
found a place where I could put my feet; Simmonds followed me, and
then came Godfrey. His was the difficult part, to draw up the ladder
and lower it again. As for me, it was all I could do to keep from
falling. I felt absurdly as though I were standing on a tremulous
tight-rope, high in the air; but Godfrey managed it somehow and
And at that instant, there shrilled through the night the high,
piercing note of a police-whistle. It rose and fell, rose and fell,
rose and fell; and then came poignant silence. The sound stabbed
through me. Without hesitation or thought of peril, I let myself go
and plunged downward into the darkness.
There must be a providence which protects fools and madmen, for I
landed in a heavy clump of shrubbery, and got to my feet with no
injury more serious than some scratches on hands and face, which at
the time I did not even feel. In a moment, I had found the path and
was speeding toward the house. Ahead of me flitted a dark shadow which
I knew to be Godfrey, and behind me came the pad-pad of heavy feet,
which could only belong to Simmonds. And then, from the direction of
the house, came the crash of broken glass.
I reached the lawn, crossed it, and traversed the short avenue which
ended at the library door. Three men were there, and Simmonds came
panting up an instant later. The detectives had their torches in their
hands, and I saw that they had broken one of the glass panels of the
doors, and that one of them had passed a hand through the opening and
was fumbling about inside. There was a sharp click, and the hand came
"There you are," he said, threw the door open, and stood aside for
his superior officer to lead the way.
"What's wrong?" Simmonds asked.
"I don't know--but the girl showed a light at her window."
"You heard nothing?"
"Not a sound."
Simmonds hesitated. No doubt the same thought occurred to him as to
me; for the lawyer-Tartarin in me suggested that we scarcely had
warrant to break our way into a sleeping house in the middle of the night.
But no such doubts seemed to disturb Godfrey. Without a word, he
caught the torch from Simmonds's hand, and passed through the doorway.
Simmonds followed, I went next, and the two other men came last, their
torches also flaring. Three beams of light flashed about the library
and showed it to be empty. One of them--Godfrey's--lingered on the
high-backed chair, but this time it had no occupant.
Then Godfrey switched on the light, passed into the hall and switched
on the light there. The hall, too, was empty, and only the ticking of
a tall clock disturbed the silence. I was faltering and ready to turn
back, but, to my amazement, Godfrey crossed the hall at a bound and
sprang up the stair, three steps at a time.
"Make all the noise you can!" he shouted over his shoulder, and the
clatter of our feet seemed enough to wake the dead.
The upper hall was also empty; and then my heart gave a sudden leap,
for the circle of light from Godfrey's torch had come to rest upon a
white-robed figure, which had stolen half-way down the stair from the
upper story. It was the maid, holding her night-dress about her; and
her face was as white as her gown.
Godfrey sprang to her side.
"What is it?" he asked. "What is wrong?"
"I heard a cry," gasped the girl. "Down here somewhere. And a scuffle
in the dark. A woman's cry. It was choked off short."
Godfrey leaped down among us, and, as the light of a torch flashed
across it, I saw that his face was livid.
"Who's got an extra gun?" he demanded, and one of the detectives
pressed one into his hand. "Ready, now, men," he added, crossed the
hall, threw open the outer door into Silva's room, and flung back the
My heart was in my throat as I peered over Godfrey's shoulder at what
lay within; and then a gasp of amazement from my companions mingled
with my own.
For the crystal sphere was glowing softly, and seated cross-legged on
the divan, his hands folded, his eyes fixed in meditation, was Silva.
We all stood for a moment staring at him, then Godfrey passed his hand
dazedly before his eyes.
"You two men stay on guard here," he said. "One of you keep your torch
on this fellow, and the other keep his torch on the floor. There's a
cobra around somewhere."
An arc of light swept shakingly across the floor, as one of the men
turned his torch toward it. But I saw no sign of Toto.
"Lester, you and Simmonds come with me," Godfrey added, stepped back
into the hall, and tapped at the door of Miss Vaughan's bedroom.
There was no response, and he tapped again. Then he tried the door,
found it unlocked, and opened it. He sent a ray of light skimming
about the room; then he found the switch, turned on the lights, and
The room was empty, as were the dressing-room and bath-room adjoining.
The covers of the bed had been turned back, ready for its occupant,
but the bed was undisturbed.
Godfrey glanced about the room again, a sort of frenzied concentration
in his gaze, and then went out, leaving the lights burning. It took
but a moment or two to look through the other suites. They were all empty.
"If Miss Vaughan was anywhere about, and unharmed," said Godfrey,
"the noise we made would have brought her out to investigate. There's
only one place she can be," and he led the way resolutely back to the
door of Silva's room.
The yogi had not moved.
Godfrey contemplated him for a moment, with his torch full on the
bearded face. Then he crossed the threshold, his torch sweeping the
floor in front of him.
"Let's see what the Thug is up to," he said, crossed the room, drew
back the drapery, and opened the door into the little closet where we
had seen Mahbub once before.
There was a burst of acrid smoke into the room, and Godfrey stepped
back with a stifled exclamation.
"Come here, you fellows!" he cried, and Simmonds and I sprang to his side.
For a moment I could see nothing; the rolling clouds of smoke blinded
and choked me; I could feel the tears running down my cheeks and my
throat burned as though it had been scalded.
Then the smoke lifted a little, and I caught a glimpse of what lay
within the room.
In the middle of the floor stood an open brazier, with a thin yellow
flame hovering above it, now bright, now dim, as the smoke whirled
about it. Before the brazier, sat Mahbub, his legs crossed with feet
uppermost, his hands pressed palm to palm before his face.
"But he'll suffocate!" I gasped, and, indeed, I did not see how any
human being could breathe in such an atmosphere.
And then, as the smoke whirled aside again, I saw the snake. Its head
was waving slowly to and fro, its horrible hood distended, its yellow,
lidless eyes fixed upon us.
Simmonds saw it too, and retreated a step.
"We'd better keep out of there," he gasped, "till that little pet's
put away in his basket."
But Godfrey seized his arm and dragged him back to the threshold of
"Look, Simmonds," he cried, rubbing his dripping eyes fiercely, "there
against the wall?--is there something there--or is it just the smoke?"
I looked, too, but at first saw nothing, for a cloud of smoke rolled
down and blotted out the light from Godfrey's torch. Then it swirled
aside, and against the farther wall I fancied I saw something--a
shape, a huddled shape--grotesque--horrible, somehow....
I heard Godfrey's startled cry, saw his hand swing up, saw a tongue of
yellow flame leap from his revolver.
And with the echo of the shot, came a scream--a scream piercing,
unearthly, of terror unspeakable....
I saw the Thug spring into the air, his face distorted, his mouth
open--I saw him tearing at something that swung from his
neck--something horrible, that clung and twisted....
He tore the thing loose--it was only an instant, really, but it seemed
an age--and, still shrieking, flung it full at us.
I was paralysed with terror, incapable of movement, staring
dumbly--but Godfrey swept me aside so sharply that I almost fell.
And that foul shape swished past us, fell with a thud, and was lost in
Words cannot paint the nauseating horror of that moment. Fear--cold,
abject, awful fear--ran through my veins like a drug; my face was
clammy with the sweat of utter terror; my hands clutched wildly at
some drapery, which tore from its fastenings and came down in my
Three shafts of lights swept across the floor, and almost at once
picked up that horrid shape. It was coiled with head raised, ready to
strike, and I saw that one side of its hood had been shot away.
I have, more than once, referred to Simmonds as hard-headed and
wanting in imagination--not always, I fear, in terms the most
respectful. For that I ask his pardon; I shall not make that mistake
again. For, in that nerve-racking moment, he never lost his coolness.
Revolver in hand, he crept cautiously forward, while we others held
our breath; then the pistol spoke, one, twice, thrice, and the ugly
head fell forward to the floor.
At the same moment, Godfrey sprang to the door from which volumes of
heavy, scented smoke still eddied, and disappeared inside.
I scarcely noticed him; I was staring at that foul object on the
floor; and then I stared at Francisco Silva, motionless on the divan,
his eyes fixed on the crystal sphere, undisturbed amid all this terror
and tumult. It is impossible for me to remember him, as he was in that
moment, without admiration--yes, and a little awe.
But Godfrey's voice, shrill with excitement, brought me around with a
"Lester!" he shouted. "Lend a hand here!"
Wondering what new horror lay in wait, I fought my way into the other
room, stumbled over the body of the Thug, barely saved myself, my
scalp prickling with terror, from falling upon it, and pitched forward
to where Godfrey was bending above that huddled shape I had glimpsed
through the smoke.
"Catch hold!" he panted; and choking, staggering, suffocating, we
dragged it into the outer room. "Get a window open!" he gasped. "Get a
And Simmonds, whom nothing seemed to shake, groped along the wall
until he found a window, pulled the hangings back, threw up the sash,
and flung back the shutters.
"Quick!" said Godfrey. "Over there. Now hold the torch."
And as I took it and pressed the button with a trembling finger, the
halo of light fell upon a bloodless face--the face of Marjorie Vaughan.
Simmonds was supporting her, and Godfrey, with frantic fingers, was