Part 1 out of 6
and Chris Hill.
THE GOLDEN SLIPPER
And Other Problems for Violet Strange
by ANNA KATHARINE GREEN
(Mrs. Charles Rohlfs)
I THE GOLDEN SLIPPER
II THE SECOND BULLET
III THE INTANGIBLE CLEW
IV THE GROTTO SPECTRE
V THE DREAMING LADY
VI THE HOUSE OF CLOCKS
VII THE DOCTOR, HIS WIFE, AND THE CLOCK
VIII MISSING: PAGE THIRTEEN
IX VIOLET'S OWN
The Golden Slipper And Other Problems for Violet Strange
PROBLEM I THE GOLDEN SLIPPER
"She's here! I thought she would be. She's one of the three
young ladies you see in the right-hand box near the proscenium."
The gentleman thus addressed--a man of middle age and a member
of the most exclusive clubs--turned his opera glass toward the
spot designated, and in some astonishment retorted:
"She? Why those are the Misses Pratt and--"
"Miss Violet Strange; no other."
"And do you mean to say--"
"That yon silly little chit, whose father I know, whose fortune
I know, who is seen everywhere, and who is called one of the
season's belles is an agent of yours; a--a--"
"No names here, please. You want a mystery solved. It is not a
matter for the police--that is, as yet,--and so you come to me,
and when I ask for the facts, I find that women and only women
are involved, and that these women are not only young but one
and all of the highest society. Is it a man's work to go to the
bottom of a combination like this? No. Sex against sex, and, if
possible, youth against youth. Happily, I know such a person--a
girl of gifts and extraordinarily well placed for the purpose.
Why she uses her talents in this direction--why, with means
enough to play the part natural to her as a successful
debutante, she consents to occupy herself with social and other
mysteries, you must ask her, not me. Enough that I promise you
her aid if you want it. That is, if you can interest her. She
will not work otherwise."
Mr. Driscoll again raised his opera glass.
"But it's a comedy face," he commented. "It's hard to associate
intellectuality with such quaintness of expression. Are you sure
of her discretion?"
"Whom is she with?"
"Abner Pratt, his wife, and daughters."
"Is he a man to entrust his affairs unadvisedly?"
"Abner Pratt! Do you mean to say that she is anything more to
him than his daughters' guest?"
"Judge. You see how merry they are. They were in deep trouble
yesterday. You are witness to a celebration."
"Don't you observe how they are loading her with attentions?
She's too young to rouse such interest in a family of notably
unsympathetic temperament for any other reason than that of
"It's hard to believe. But if what you hint is true, secure me
an opportunity at once of talking to this youthful marvel. My
affair is serious. The dinner I have mentioned comes off in
three days and--"
"I know. I recognize your need; but I think you had better enter
Mr. Pratt's box without my intervention. Miss Strange's value to
us will be impaired the moment her connection with us is
"Ah, there's Ruthven! He will take me to Mr. Pratt's box,"
remarked Driscoll as the curtain fell on the second act. "Any
suggestions before I go?"
"Yes, and an important one. When you make your bow, touch your
left shoulder with your right hand. It is a signal. She may
respond to it; but if she does not, do not be discouraged. One of
her idiosyncrasies is a theoretical dislike of her work. But once
she gets interested, nothing will hold her back. That's all,
except this. In no event give away her secret. That's part of the
compact, you remember."
Driscoll nodded and left his seat for Ruthven's box. When the
curtain rose for the third time he could be seen sitting with
the Misses Pratt and their vivacious young friend. A widower and
still on the right side of fifty, his presence there did not
pass unnoted, and curiosity was rife among certain onlookers as
to which of the twin belles was responsible for this change in
his well-known habits. Unfortunately, no opportunity was given
him for showing. Other and younger men had followed his lead
into the box, and they saw him forced upon the good graces of
the fascinating but inconsequent Miss Strange whose rapid fire
of talk he was hardly of a temperament to appreciate.
Did he appear dissatisfied? Yes; but only one person in the
opera house knew why. Miss Strange had shown no comprehension of
or sympathy with his errand. Though she chatted amiably enough
between duets and trios, she gave him no opportunity to express
his wishes though she knew them well enough, owing to the signal
he had given her.
This might be in character but it hardly suited his views; and,
being a man of resolution, he took advantage of an absorbing
minute on the stage to lean forward and whisper in her ear:
"It's my daughter for whom I request your services; as fine a
girl as any in this house. Give me a hearing. You certainly can
She was a small, slight woman whose naturally quaint appearance
was accentuated by the extreme simplicity of her attire. In the
tier upon tier of boxes rising before his eyes, no other
personality could vie with hers in strangeness, or in the
illusive quality of her ever-changing expression. She was
vivacity incarnate and, to the ordinary observer, light as
thistledown in fibre and in feeling. But not to all. To those who
watched her long, there came moments--say when the music rose to
heights of greatness--when the mouth so given over to laughter
took on curves of the rarest sensibility, and a woman's lofty
soul shone through her odd, bewildering features.
Driscoll had noted this, and consequently awaited her reply in
It came in the form of a question and only after an instant's
display of displeasure or possibly of pure nervous irritability.
"What has she done?"
"Nothing. But slander is in the air, and any day it may ripen
into public accusation."
"Accusation of what?" Her tone was almost pettish.
"Of--of theft," he murmured. "On a great scale," he emphasized,
as the music rose to a crash.
"Inestimable ones. They are always returned by somebody. People
say, by me."
"Ah!" The little lady's hands grew steady,--they had been
fluttering all over her lap. "I will see you to-morrow morning
at my father's house," she presently observed; and turned her
full attention to the stage.
Some three days after this Mr. Driscoll opened his house on the
Hudson to notable guests. He had not desired the publicity of
such an event, nor the opportunity it gave for an increase of
the scandal secretly in circulation against his daughter. But
the Ambassador and his wife were foreign and any evasion of the
promised hospitality would be sure to be misunderstood; so the
scheme was carried forward though with less eclat than possibly
Among the lesser guests, who were mostly young and well
acquainted with the house and its hospitality, there was one
unique figure,--that of the lively Miss Strange, who, if
personally unknown to Miss Driscoll, was so gifted with the
qualities which tell on an occasion of this kind, that the
stately young hostess hailed her presence with very obvious
The manner of their first meeting was singular, and of great
interest to one of them at least. Miss Strange had come in an
automobile and had been shown her room; but there was nobody to
accompany her down-stairs afterward, and, finding herself alone
in the great hall, she naturally moved toward the library, the
door of which stood ajar. She had pushed this door half open
before she noticed that the room was already occupied. As a
consequence, she was made the unexpected observer of a beautiful
picture of youth and love.
A young man and a young woman were standing together in the glow
of a blazing wood-fire. No word was to be heard, but in their
faces, eloquent with passion, there shone something so deep and
true that the chance intruder hesitated on the threshold, eager
to lay this picture away in her mind with the other lovely and
tragic memories now fast accumulating there. Then she drew back,
and readvancing with a less noiseless foot, came into the full
presence of Captain Holliday drawn up in all the pride of his
military rank beside Alicia, the accomplished daughter of the
house, who, if under a shadow as many whispered, wore that shadow
as some women wear a crown.
Miss Strange was struck with admiration, and turned upon them
the brightest facet of her vivacious nature all the time she was
saying to herself: "Does she know why I am here? Or does she
look upon me only as an additional guest foisted upon her by a
There was nothing in the manner of her cordial but composed
young hostess to show, and Miss Strange, with but one thought in
mind since she had caught the light of feeling on the two faces
confronting her, took the first opportunity that offered of
running over the facts given her by Mr. Driscoll, to see if any
reconcilement were possible between them and an innocence in
which she must henceforth believe.
They were certainly of a most damaging nature.
Miss Driscoll and four other young ladies of her own station in
life had formed themselves, some two years before, into a coterie
of five, called The Inseparables. They lunched together, rode
together, visited together. So close was the bond and their
mutual dependence so evident, that it came to be the custom to
invite the whole five whenever the size of the function warranted
it. In fact, it was far from an uncommon occurrence to see them
grouped at receptions or following one another down the aisles of
churches or through the mazes of the dance at balls or
assemblies. And no one demurred at this, for they were all
handsome and attractive girls, till it began to be noticed that,
coincident with their presence, some article of value was found
missing from the dressing-room or from the tables where wedding
gifts were displayed. Nothing was safe where they went, and
though, in the course of time, each article found its way back to
its owner in a manner as mysterious as its previous abstraction,
the scandal grew and, whether with good reason or bad, finally
settled about the person of Miss Driscoll, who was the showiest,
least pecuniarily tempted, and most dignified in manner and
speech of them all.
Some instances had been given by way of further enlightenment.
This is one: A theatre party was in progress. There were twelve
in the party, five of whom were the Inseparables. In the course of
the last act, another lady--in fact, their chaperon--missed her
handkerchief, an almost priceless bit of lace. Positive that she
had brought it with her into the box, she caused a careful
search, but without the least success. Recalling certain whispers
she had heard, she noted which of the five girls were with her in
the box. They were Miss Driscoll, Miss Hughson, Miss Yates, and
Miss Benedict. Miss West sat in the box adjoining.
A fortnight later this handkerchief reappeared--and where? Among
the cushions of a yellow satin couch in her own drawing-room. The
Inseparables had just made their call and the three who had sat
on the couch were Miss Driscoll, Miss Hughson, and Miss Benedict.
The next instance seemed to point still more insistently toward
the lady already named. Miss Yates had an expensive present to
buy, and the whole five Inseparables went in an imposing group to
Tiffany's. A tray of rings was set before them. All examined and
eagerly fingered the stock out of which Miss Yates presently
chose a finely set emerald. She was leading her friends away when
the clerk suddenly whispered in her ear, "I miss one of the
rings." Dismayed beyond speech, she turned and consulted the
faces of her four companions who stared back at her with
immovable serenity. But one of them was paler than usual, and
this lady (it was Miss Driscoll) held her hands in her muff and
did not offer to take them out. Miss Yates, whose father had
completed a big "deal" the week before, wheeled round upon the
clerk. "Charge it! charge it at its full value," said she. "I buy
both the rings."
And in three weeks the purloined ring came back to her, in a box
of violets with no name attached.
The third instance was a recent one, and had come to Mr.
Driscoll's ears directly from the lady suffering the loss. She
was a woman of uncompromising integrity, who felt it her duty to
make known to this gentleman the following facts: She had just
left a studio reception, and was standing at the curb waiting for
a taxicab to draw up, when a small boy--a street arab--darted
toward her from the other side of the street, and thrusting into
her hand something small and hard, cried breathlessly as he
slipped away, "It's yours, ma'am; you dropped it." Astonished,
for she had not been conscious of any loss, she looked down at
her treasure trove and found it to be a small medallion which she
sometimes wore on a chain at her belt. But she had not worn it
that day, nor any day for weeks. Then she remembered. She had
worn it a month before to a similar reception at this same
studio. A number of young girls bad stood about her admiring it--
she remembered well who they were; the Inseparables, of course,
and to please them she had slipped it from its chain. Then
something had happened,--something which diverted her attention
entirely,--and she had gone home without the medallion; had, in
fact, forgotten it, only to recall its loss now. Placing it in
her bag, she looked hastily about her. A crowd was at her back;
nothing to be distinguished there. But in front, on the opposite
side of the street, stood a club-house, and in one of its windows
she perceived a solitary figure looking out. It was that of Miss
Driscoll's father. He could imagine her conclusion.
In vain he denied all knowledge of the matter. She told him other
stories which had come to her ears of thefts as mysterious,
followed by restorations as peculiar as this one, finishing with,
"It is your daughter, and people are beginning to say so."
And Miss Strange, brooding over these instances, would have said
the same, but for Miss Driscoll's absolute serenity of demeanour
and complete abandonment to love. These seemed incompatible with
guilt; these, whatever the appearances, proclaimed innocence--an
innocence she was here to prove if fortune favoured and the
really guilty person's madness should again break forth.
For madness it would be and nothing less, for any hand, even the
most experienced, to draw attention to itself by a repetition of
old tricks on an occasion so marked. Yet because it would take
madness, and madness knows no law, she prepared herself for the
contingency under a mask of girlish smiles which made her at once
the delight and astonishment of her watchful and uneasy host.
With the exception of the diamonds worn by the Ambassadress,
there was but one jewel of consequence to be seen at the dinner
that night; but how great was that consequence and with what
splendour it invested the snowy neck it adorned!
Miss Strange, in compliment to the noble foreigners, had put on
one of her family heirlooms--a filigree pendant of extraordinary
sapphires which had once belonged to Marie Antoinette. As its
beauty flashed upon the women, and its value struck the host, the
latter could not restrain himself from casting an anxious eye
about the board in search of some token of the cupidity with
which one person there must welcome this unexpected sight.
Naturally his first glance fell upon Alicia, seated opposite to
him at the other end of the table. But her eyes were elsewhere,
and her smile for Captain Holliday, and the father's gaze
travelled on, taking up each young girl's face in turn. All were
contemplating Miss Strange and her jewels, and the cheeks of one
were flushed and those of the others pale, but whether with dread
or longing who could tell. Struck with foreboding, but alive to
his duty as host, he forced his glances away, and did not even
allow himself to question the motive or the wisdom of the
temptation thus offered.
Two hours later and the girls were all in one room. It was a
custom of the Inseparables to meet for a chat before retiring,
but always alone and in the room of one of their number. But this
was a night of innovations; Violet was not only included, but the
meeting was held in her room. Her way with girls was even more
fruitful of result than her way with men. They might laugh at
her, criticize her or even call her names significant of disdain,
but they never left her long to herself or missed an opportunity
to make the most of her irrepressible chatter.
Her satisfaction at entering this charmed circle did not take
from her piquancy, and story after story fell from her lips, as
she fluttered about, now here now there, in her endless
preparations for retirement. She had taken off her historic
pendant after it had been duly admired and handled by all
present, and, with the careless confidence of an assured
ownership, thrown it down upon the end of her dresser, which, by
the way, projected very close to the open window.
"Are you going to leave your jewel there?" whispered a voice in
her ear as a burst of laughter rang out in response to one of her
Turning, with a simulation of round-eyed wonder, she met Miss
Hughson's earnest gaze with the careless rejoinder, "What's the
harm?" and went on with her story with all the reckless ease of a
perfectly thoughtless nature.
Miss Hughson abandoned her protest. How could she explain her
reasons for it to one apparently uninitiated in the scandal
associated with their especial clique.
Yes, she left the jewel there; but she locked her door and
quickly, so that they must all have heard her before reaching
their rooms. Then she crossed to the window, which, like all on
this side, opened on a balcony running the length of the house.
She was aware of this balcony, also of the fact that only young
ladies slept in the corridor communicating with it. But she was
not quite sure that this one corridor accommodated them all. If
one of them should room elsewhere! (Miss Driscoll, for instance).
But no! the anxiety displayed for the safety of her jewel
precluded that supposition. Their hostess, if none of the others,
was within access of this room and its open window. But how about
the rest? Perhaps the lights would tell. Eagerly the little
schemer looked forth, and let her glances travel down the full
length of the balcony. Two separate beams of light shot across it
as she looked, and presently another, and, after some waiting, a
fourth. But the fifth failed to appear. This troubled her, but
not seriously. Two of the girls might be sleeping in one bed.
Drawing her shade, she finished her preparations for the night;
then with her kimono on, lifted the pendant and thrust it into a
small box she had taken from her trunk. A curious smile, very
unlike any she had shown to man or woman that day, gave a
sarcastic lift to her lips, as with a slow and thoughtful
manipulation of her dainty fingers she moved the jewel about in
this small receptacle and then returned it, after one quick
examining glance, to the very spot on the dresser from which she
had taken it. "If only the madness is great enough!" that smile
seemed to say. Truly, it was much to hope for, but a chance is a
chance; and comforting herself with the thought, Miss Strange put
out her light, and, with a hasty raising of the shade she had
previously pulled down, took a final look at the prospect.
Its aspect made her shudder. A low fog was rising from the
meadows in the far distance, and its ghostliness under the moon
woke all sorts of uncanny images in her excited mind. To escape
them she crept into bed where she lay with her eyes on the end of
her dresser. She had closed that half of the French window over
which she had drawn the shade; but she had left ajar the one
giving free access to the jewels; and when she was not watching
the scintillation of her sapphires in the moonlight, she was
dwelling in fixed attention on this narrow opening.
But nothing happened, and two o'clock, then three o'clock struck,
without a dimming of the blue scintillations on the end of her
dresser. Then she suddenly sat up. Not that she heard anything
new, but that a thought had come to her. "If an attempt is made,"
so she murmured softly to herself, "it will be by--" She did not
finish. Something--she could not call it sound--set her heart
beating tumultuously, and listening--listening--watching--
watching--she followed in her imagination the approach down the
balcony of an almost inaudible step, not daring to move herself,
it seemed so near, but waiting with eyes fixed, for the shadow
which must fall across the shade she had failed to raise over
that half of the swinging window she had so carefully left shut.
At length she saw it projecting slowly across the slightly
illuminated surface. Formless, save for the outreaching hand, it
passed the casement's edge, nearing with pauses and hesitations
the open gap beyond through which the neglected sapphires beamed
with steady lustre. Would she ever see the hand itself appear
between the dresser and the window frame? Yes, there it comes,--
small, delicate, and startlingly white, threading that gap--
darting with the suddenness of a serpent's tongue toward the
dresser and disappearing again with the pendant in its clutch.
As she realizes this,--she is but young, you know,--as she sees
her bait taken and the hardly expected event fulfilled, her pent-
up breath sped forth in a sigh which sent the intruder flying,
and so startled herself that she sank back in terror on her
The breakfast-call had sounded its musical chimes through the
halls. The Ambassador and his wife had responded, so had most of
the young gentlemen and ladies, but the daughter of the house was
not amongst them, nor Miss Strange, whom one would naturally
expect to see down first of all.
These two absences puzzled Mr. Driscoll. What might they not
portend? But his suspense, at least in one regard, was short.
Before his guests were well seated, Miss Driscoll entered from
the terrace in company with Captain Holliday. In her arms she
carried a huge bunch of roses and was looking very beautiful. Her
father's heart warmed at the sight. No shadow from the night
rested upon her.
But Miss Strange!--where was she? He could not feel quite easy
till he knew.
"Have any of you seen Miss Strange?" he asked, as they sat down
at table. And his eyes sought the Inseparables.
Five lovely heads were shaken, some carelessly, some wonderingly,
and one, with a quick, forced smile. But he was in no mood to
discriminate, and he had beckoned one of the servants to him,
when a step was heard at the door and the delinquent slid in and
took her place, in a shamefaced manner suggestive of a cause
deeper than mere tardiness. In fact, she had what might be called
a frightened air, and stared into her plate, avoiding every eye,
which was certainly not natural to her. What did it mean? and
why, as she made a poor attempt at eating, did four of the
Inseparables exchange glances of doubt and dismay and then
concentrate their looks upon his daughter? That Alicia failed to
notice this, but sat abloom above her roses now fastened in a
great bunch upon her breast, offered him some comfort, yet, for
all the volubility of his chief guests, the meal was a great
trial to his patience, as well as a poor preparation for the hour
when, the noble pair gone, he stepped into the library to find
Miss Strange awaiting him with one hand behind her back and a
piteous look on her infantile features.
"0, Mr. Driscoll," she began,--and then he saw that a group of
anxious girls hovered in her rear--"my pendant! my beautiful
pendant! It is gone! Somebody reached in from the balcony and
took it from my dresser in the night. Of course, it was to
frighten me; all of the girls told me not to leave it there. But
I--I cannot make them give it back, and papa is so particular
about this jewel that I'm afraid to go home. Won't you tell them
it's no joke, and see that I get it again. I won't be so careless
Hardly believing his eyes, hardly believing his ears,--she was
so perfectly the spoiled child detected in a fault--he looked
sternly about upon the girls and bade them end the jest and
produce the gems at once.
But not one of them spoke, and not one of them moved; only his
daughter grew pale until the roses seemed a mockery, and the
steady stare of her large eyes was almost too much for him to
The anguish of this gave asperity to his manner, and in a
strange, hoarse tone he loudly cried:
"One of you did this. Which? If it was you, Alicia, speak. I am
in no mood for nonsense. I want to know whose foot traversed the
balcony and whose hand abstracted these jewels."
A continued silence, deepening into painful embarrassment for
all. Mr. Driscoll eyed them in ill-concealed anguish, then
turning to Miss Strange was still further thrown off his balance
by seeing her pretty head droop and her gaze fall in confusion.
"Oh! it's easy enough to tell whose foot traversed the balcony,"
she murmured. "It left this behind." And drawing forward her
hand, she held out to view a small gold-coloured slipper. "I
found it outside my window," she explained. "I hoped I should not
have to show it."
A gasp of uncontrollable feeling from the surrounding group of
girls, then absolute stillness.
"I fail to recognize it," observed Mr. Driscoll, taking it in
his hand. "Whose slipper is this?" he asked in a manner not to
Still no reply, then as he continued to eye the girls one after
another a voice--the last he expected to hear--spoke and his
"It is mine. But it was not I who walked in it down the
A month's apprehension was in that cry. The silence, the pent-up
emotion brooding in the air was intolerable. A fresh young laugh
"Oh," exclaimed a roguish voice, "I knew that you were all in it!
But the especial one who wore the slipper and grabbed the pendant
cannot hope to hide herself. Her finger-tips will give her away."
Amazement on every face and a convulsive movement in one half-
"You see," the airy little being went on, in her light way, "I
have some awfully funny tricks. I am always being scolded for
them, but somehow I don't improve. One is to keep my jewelry
bright with a strange foreign paste an old Frenchwoman once gave
me in Paris. It's of a vivid red, and stains the fingers
dreadfully if you don't take care. Not even water will take it
off, see mine. I used that paste on my pendant last night just
after you left me, and being awfully sleepy I didn't stop to rub
it off. If your finger-tips are not red, you never touched the
pendant, Miss Driscoll. Oh, see! They are as white as milk.
"But some one took the sapphires, and I owe that person a
scolding, as well as myself. Was it you, Miss Hughson? You, Miss
Yates? or--" and here she paused before Miss West, "Oh, you have
your gloves on! You are the guilty one!" and her laugh rang out
like a peal of bells, robbing her next sentence of even a
suggestion of sarcasm. "Oh, what a sly-boots!" she cried. "How
you have deceived me! Whoever would have thought you to be the
one to play the mischief!"
Who indeed! Of all the five, she was the one who was considered
absolutely immune from suspicion ever since the night Mrs.
Barnum's handkerchief had been taken, and she not in the box.
Eyes which had surveyed Miss Driscoll askance now rose in wonder
toward hers, and failed to fall again because of the stoniness
into which her delicately-carved features had settled.
"Miss West, I know you will be glad to remove your gloves; Miss
Strange certainly has a right to know her special tormentor,"
spoke up her host in as natural a voice as his great relief would
But the cold, half-frozen woman remained without a movement. She
was not deceived by the banter of the moment. She knew that to
all of the others, if not to Peter Strange's odd little daughter,
it was the thief who was being spotted and brought thus
hilariously to light. And her eyes grew hard, and her lips grey,
and she failed to unglove the hands upon which all glances were
"You do not need to see my hands; I confess to taking the
A heart overcome by shock had thrown up this cry. Miss West eyed
her bosom-friend disdainfully.
"Miss Strange has called it a jest," she coldly commented. "Why
should you suggest anything of a graver character?"
Alicia brought thus to bay, and by one she had trusted most,
stepped quickly forward, and quivering with vague doubts, aghast
before unheard-of possibilities, she tremulously remarked:
"We did not sleep together last night. You had to come into my
room to get my slippers. Why did you do this? What was in your
A steady look, a low laugh choked with many emotions answered
"Do you want me to reply, Alicia? Or shall we let it pass?"
It was Mr. Driscoll who spoke. Alicia had shrunk back, almost to
where a little figure was cowering with wide eyes fixed in
something like terror on the aroused father's face.
"Then hear me," murmured the girl, entrapped and suddenly
desperate. "I wore Alicia's slippers and I took the jewels,
because it was time that an end should come to your mutual
dissimulation. The love I once felt for her she has herself
deliberately killed. I had a lover--she took him. I had faith in
life, in honour, and in friendship. She destroyed all. A thief--
she has dared to aspire to him! And you condoned her fault. You,
with your craven restoration of her booty, thought the matter
cleared and her a fit mate for a man of highest honour."
"Miss West,"--no one had ever heard that tone in Mr. Driscoll's
voice before, "before you say another word calculated to mislead
these ladies, let me say that this hand never returned any one's
booty or had anything to do with the restoration of any
abstracted article. You have been caught in a net, Miss West,
from which you cannot escape by slandering my innocent
"Innocent!" All the tragedy latent in this peculiar girl's nature
blazed forth in the word. "Alicia, face me. Are you innocent? Who
took the Dempsey corals, and that diamond from the Tiffany tray?"
"It is not necessary for Alicia to answer," the father interposed
with not unnatural heat. "Miss West stands self- convicted."
"How about Lady Paget's scarf? I was not there that night."
"You are a woman of wiles. That could be managed by one bent on
an elaborate scheme of revenge."
"And so could the abstraction of Mrs. Barnum's five-hundred-
dollar handkerchief by one who sat in the next box," chimed in
Miss Hughson, edging away from the friend to whose honour she
would have pinned her faith an hour before. "I remember now
seeing her lean over the railing to adjust the old lady's shawl."
With a start, Caroline West turned a tragic gaze upon the
"You think me guilty of all because of what I did last night?"
"Why shouldn't I."
"And you, Anna?"
"Alicia has my sympathy," murmured Miss Benedict.
Yet the wild girl persisted.
"But I have told you my provocation. You cannot believe that I am
guilty of her sin; not if you look at her as I am looking now."
But their glances hardly followed her pointing finger. Her
friends--the comrades of her youth, the Inseparables with their
secret oath--one and all held themselves aloof, struck by the
perfidy they were only just beginning to take in. Smitten with
despair, for these girls were her life, she gave one wild leap
and sank on her knees before Alicia.
"O speak!" she began. "Forgive me, and--"
A tremble seized her throat; she ceased to speak and let fall her
partially uplifted hands. The cheery sound of men's voices had
drifted in from the terrace, and the figure of Captain
Holliday could be seen passing by. The shudder which shook
Caroline West communicated itself to Alicia Driscoll, and the
former rising quickly, the two women surveyed each other,
possibly for the first time, with open soul and a complete
"Caroline!" murmured the one.
"Alicia!" pleaded the other.
"Caroline, trust me," said Alicia Driscoll in that moving voice
of hers, which more than her beauty caught and retained all
hearts. "You have served me ill, but it was not all undeserved.
Girls," she went on, eyeing both them and her father with the
wistfulness of a breaking heart, "neither Caroline nor myself are
worthy of Captain Holliday's love. Caroline has told you her
fault, but mine is perhaps a worse one. The ring--the scarf--the
diamond pins--I took them all--took them if I did not retain
them. A curse has been over my life--the curse of a longing I
could not combat. But love was working a change in me. Since I
have known Captain Holliday--but that's all over. I was mad to
think I could be happy with such memories in my life. I shall
never marry now--or touch jewels again--my own or another's.
Father, father, you won't go back on your girl! I couldn't see
Caroline suffer for what I have done. You will pardon me and help-
Her voice choked. She flung herself into her father's arms; his
head bent over hers, and for an instant not a soul in the room
moved. Then Miss Hughson gave a spring and caught her by the
hand. "We are inseparable," said she, and kissed the hand,
murmuring, "Now is our time to show it."
Then other lips fell upon those cold and trembling fingers, which
seemed to warm under these embraces. And then a tear. It
came from the hard eye of Caroline, and remained a sacred secret
between the two.
"You have your pendant?"
Mr. Driscoll's suffering eye shone down on Violet Strange's
uplifted face as she advanced to say good-bye preparatory to
"Yes," she acknowledged, "but hardly, I fear, your gratitude."
And the answer astonished her.
"I am not sure that the real Alicia will not make her father
happier than the unreal one has ever done."
"And Captain Holliday?"
"He may come to feel the same."
"Then I do not quit in disgrace?"
"You depart with my thanks."
When a certain personage was told of the success of Miss
Strange's latest manoeuvre, he remarked: "The little one
progresses. We shall have to give her a case of prime importance
END OF PROBLEM I
THE SECOND BULLET
"You must see her."
"She's a most unhappy woman. Husband and child both taken from
her in a moment; and now, all means of living as well, unless
some happy thought of yours--some inspiration of your genius--
shows us a way of re-establishing her claims to the policy voided
by this cry of suicide."
But the small wise head of Violet Strange continued its slow
shake of decided refusal.
"I'm sorry," she protested, "but it's quite out of my province.
I'm too young to meddle with so serious a matter."
"Not when you can save a bereaved woman the only possible
compensation left her by untoward fate?"
"Let the police try their hand at that."
"They have had no success with the case."
"Nor I either."
"And you expect--"
"Yes, Miss Strange. I expect you to find the missing bullet which
will settle the fact that murder and not suicide ended George
Hammond's life. If you cannot, then a long litigation awaits this
poor widow, ending, as such litigation usually does, in favour of
the stronger party. There's the alternative. If you once saw her--
"But that's what I'm not willing to do. If I once saw her I
should yield to her importunities and attempt the seemingly
impossible. My instincts bid me say no. Give me something
"Easier things are not so remunerative. There's money in this
affair, if the insurance company is forced to pay up. I can offer
There was eagerness in the tone despite her effort at
nonchalance. The other smiled imperceptibly, and briefly named
It was larger than she had expected. This her visitor saw by the
way her eyelids fell and the peculiar stillness which, for an
instant, held her vivacity in check.
"And you think I can earn that?"
Her eyes were fixed on his in an eagerness as honest as it was
He could hardly conceal his amazement, her desire was so evident
and the cause of it so difficult to understand. He knew she
wanted money--that was her avowed reason for entering into this
uncongenial work. But to want it so much! He glanced at her
person; it was simply clad but very expensively--how expensively
it was his business to know. Then he took in the room in which
they sat. Simplicity again, but the simplicity of high art--the
drawing-room of one rich enough to indulge in the final luxury of
a highly cultivated taste, viz.: unostentatious elegance and the
subjection of each carefully chosen ornament to the general
What did this favoured child of fortune lack that she could be
reached by such a plea, when her whole being revolted from the
nature of the task he offered her? It was a question not new to
him; but one he had never heard answered and was not likely to
hear answered now. But the fact remained that the consent he had
thought dependent upon sympathetic interest could be reached
much more readily by the promise of large emolument,--and he
owned to a feeling of secret disappointment even while he
recognized the value of the discovery.
But his satisfaction in the latter, if satisfaction it were, was
of very short duration. Almost immediately he observed a change
in her. The sparkle which had shone in the eye whose depths he
had never been able to penetrate, had dissipated itself in
something like a tear and she spoke up in that vigorous tone no
one but himself had ever heard, as she said:
"No. The sum is a good one and I could use it; but I will not
waste my energy on a case I do not believe in. The man shot
himself. He was a speculator, and probably had good reason for
his act. Even his wife acknowledges that he has lately had more
losses than gains."
"See her. She has something to tell you which never got into the
"You say that? You know that?"
"On my honour, Miss Strange."
Violet pondered; then suddenly succumbed.
"Let her come, then. Prompt to the hour. I will receive her at
three. Later I have a tea and two party calls to make."
Her visitor rose to leave. He had been able to subdue all
evidence of his extreme gratification, and now took on a formal
air. In dismissing a guest, Miss Strange was invariably the
society belle and that only. This he had come to recognize.
The case (well known at the time) was, in the fewest possible
words, as follows:
On a sultry night in September, a young couple living in one of
the large apartment houses in the extreme upper portion of
Manhattan were so annoyed by the incessant crying of a child in
the adjoining suite, that they got up, he to smoke, and she to
sit in the window for a possible breath of cool air. They were
congratulating themselves upon the wisdom they had shown in thus
giving up all thought of sleep--for the child's crying had not
ceased--when (it may have been two o'clock and it may have been
a little later) there came from somewhere near, the sharp and
somewhat peculiar detonation of a pistol-shot.
He thought it came from above; she, from the rear, and they were
staring at each other in the helpless wonder of the moment, when
they were struck by the silence. The baby had ceased to cry. All
was as still in the adjoining apartment as in their own--too
still--much too still. Their mutual stare turned to one of
horror. "It came from there!" whispered the wife. "Some accident
has occurred to Mr. or Mrs. Hammond--we ought to go--"
Her words--very tremulous ones--were broken by a shout from
below. They were standing in their window and had evidently been
seen by a passing policeman. "Anything wrong up there?" they
heard him cry. Mr. Saunders immediately looked out. "Nothing
wrong here," he called down. (They were but two stories from the
pavement.) "But I'm not so sure about the rear apartment. We
thought we heard a shot. Hadn't you better come up, officer? My
wife is nervous about it. I'll meet you at the stair-head and
show you the way."
The officer nodded and stepped in. The young couple hastily
donned some wraps, and, by the time he appeared on their floor,
they were ready to accompany him.
Meanwhile, no disturbance was apparent anywhere else in the
house, until the policeman rang the bell of the Hammond
apartment. Then, voices began to be heard, and doors to open
above and below, but not the one before which the policeman
Another ring, and this time an insistent one;--and still no
response. The officer's hand was rising for the third time when
there came a sound of fluttering from behind the panels against
which he had laid his ear, and finally a choked voice uttering
unintelligible words. Then a hand began to struggle with the
lock, and the door, slowly opening, disclosed a woman clad in a
hastily donned wrapper and giving every evidence of extreme
"Oh!" she exclaimed, seeing only the compassionate faces of her
neighbours. "You heard it, too! a pistol-shot from there--there--
my husband's room. I have not dared to go--I--I--O, have mercy
and see if anything is wrong! It is so still--so still, and only
a moment ago the baby was crying. Mrs. Saunders, Mrs. Saunders,
why is it so still?"
She had fallen into her neighbour's arms. The hand with which she
had pointed out a certain door had sunk to her side and she
appeared to be on the verge of collapse.
The officer eyed her sternly, while noting her appearance, which
was that of a woman hastily risen from bed.
"Where were you?" he asked. "Not with your husband and child, or
you would know what had happened there."
"I was sleeping down the hall," she managed to gasp out. "I'm
not well--I--Oh, why do you all stand still and do nothing? My
baby's in there. Go! go!" and, with sudden energy, she sprang
upright, her eyes wide open and burning, her small well featured
face white as the linen she sought to hide.
The officer demurred no longer. In another instant he was trying
the door at which she was again pointing.
It was locked.
Glancing back at the woman, now cowering almost to the floor, he
pounded at the door and asked the man inside to open.
No answer came back.
With a sharp turn he glanced again at the wife.
"You say that your husband is in this room?"
She nodded, gasping faintly, "And the child!"
He turned back, listened, then beckoned to Mr. Saunders. "We
shall have to break our way in," said he. "Put your shoulder well
to the door. Now!"
The hinges of the door creaked; the lock gave way (this special
officer weighed two hundred and seventy-five, as he found out,
next day), and a prolonged and sweeping crash told the rest.
Mrs. Hammond gave a low cry; and, straining forward from where
she crouched in terror on the floor, searched the faces of the
two men for some hint of what they saw in the dimly-lighted
space beyond. Something dreadful, something which made Mr.
Saunders come rushing back with a shout:
"Take her away! Take her to our apartment, Jennie. She must not
Not see! He realized the futility of his words as his gaze fell
on the young woman who had risen up at his approach and now stood
gazing at him without speech, without movement, but with a glare
of terror in her eyes, which gave him his first realization of
His own glance fell before it. If he had followed his instinct he
would have fled the house rather than answer the question of her
look and the attitude of her whole frozen body.
Perhaps in mercy to his speechless terror, perhaps in mercy to
herself, she was the one who at last found the word which voiced
their mutual anguish.
No answer. None was needed.
"And my baby?"
O, that cry! It curdled the hearts of all who heard it. It shook
the souls of men and women both inside and outside the apartment;
then all was forgotten in the wild rush she made. The wife and
mother had flung herself upon the scene, and, side by
side with the not unmoved policeman, stood looking down upon the
desolation made in one fatal instant in her home and heart.
They lay there together, both past help, both quite dead. The
child had simply been strangled by the weight of his father's arm
which lay directly across the upturned little throat. But the
father was a victim of the shot they had heard. There was blood
on his breast, and a pistol in his hand.
Suicide! The horrible truth was patent. No wonder they wanted to
hold the young widow back. Her neighbour, Mrs. Saunders, crept in
on tiptoe and put her arms about the swaying, fainting woman; but
there was nothing to say--absolutely nothing.
At least, they thought not. But when they saw her throw herself
down, not by her husband, but by the child, and drag it out from
under that strangling arm and hug and kiss it and call out
wildly for a doctor, the officer endeavoured to interfere and
yet could not find the heart to do so, though he knew the child
was dead and should not, according to all the rules of the
coroner's office, be moved before that official arrived. Yet
because no mother could be convinced of a fact like this, he let
her sit with it on the floor and try all her little arts to
revive it, while he gave orders to the janitor and waited
himself for the arrival of doctor and coroner.
She was still sitting there in wide-eyed misery, alternately
fondling the little body and drawing back to consult its small
set features for some sign of life, when the doctor came, and,
after one look at the child, drew it softly from her arms and
laid it quietly in the crib from which its father had evidently
lifted it but a short time before. Then he turned back to her,
and found her on her feet, upheld by her two friends. She had
understood his action, and without a groan had accepted her fate.
Indeed, she seemed incapable of any further speech or action. She
was staring down at her husband's body, which she, for the first
time, seemed fully to see. Was her look one of grief or of
resentment for the part he had played so unintentionally in her
child's death? It was hard to tell; and when, with slowly rising
finger, she pointed to the pistol so tightly clutched in the
other outstretched hand, no one there--and by this time the room
was full--could foretell what her words would be when her tongue
regained its usage and she could speak.
What she did say was this:
"Is there a bullet gone? Did he fire off that pistol?" A question
so manifestly one of delirium that no one answered it, which
seemed to surprise her, though she said nothing till her glance
had passed all around the walls of the room to where a window
stood open to the night,--its lower sash being entirely raised.
"There! look there!" she cried, with a commanding accent, and,
throwing up her hands, sank a dead weight into the arms of those
No one understood; but naturally more than one rushed to the
window. An open space was before them. Here lay the fields not
yet parcelled out into lots and built upon; but it was not upon
these they looked, but upon the strong trellis which they found
there, which, if it supported no vine, formed a veritable ladder
between this window and the ground.
Could she have meant to call attention to this fact; and were her
words expressive of another idea than the obvious one of suicide?
If so, to what lengths a woman's imagination can go! Or so their
combined looks seemed to proclaim, when to their utter
astonishment they saw the officer, who had presented a calm
appearance up till now, shift his position and with a surprised
grunt direct their eyes to a portion of the wall just visible
beyond the half-drawn curtains of the bed. The mirror hanging
there showed a star-shaped breakage, such as follows the sharp
impact of a bullet or a fiercely projected stone.
"He fired two shots. One went wild; the other straight home."
It was the officer delivering his opinion.
Mr. Saunders, returning from the distant room where he had
assisted in carrying Mrs. Hammond, cast a look at the shattered
glass, and remarked forcibly:
"I heard but one; and I was sitting up, disturbed by that poor
infant. Jennie, did you hear more than one shot?" he asked,
turning toward his wife.
"No," she answered, but not with the readiness he had evidently
expected. "I heard only one, but that was not quite usual in its
tone. I'm used to guns," she explained, turning to the officer.
"My father was an army man, and he taught me very early to load
and fire a pistol. There was a prolonged sound to this shot;
something like an echo of itself, following close upon the first
ping. Didn't you notice that, Warren?"
"I remember something of the kind," her husband allowed.
"He shot twice and quickly," interposed the policeman,
sententiously. "We shall find a spent bullet back of that
But when, upon the arrival of the coroner, an investigation was
made of the mirror and the wall behind, no bullet was found
either there or any where else in the room, save in the dead
man's breast. Nor had more than one been shot from his pistol, as
five full chambers testified. The case which seemed so simple had
its mysteries, but the assertion made by Mrs. Saunders no longer
carried weight, nor was the evidence offered by the broken mirror
considered as indubitably establishing the fact that a second
shot had been fired in the room.
Yet it was equally evident that the charge which had entered the
dead speculator's breast had not been delivered at the close
range of the pistol found clutched in his hand. There were no
powder-marks to be discerned on his pajama-jacket, or on the
flesh beneath. Thus anomaly confronted anomaly, leaving open but
one other theory: that the bullet found in Mr. Hammond's breast
came from the window and the one he shot went out of it. But this
would necessitate his having shot his pistol from a point far
removed from where he was found; and his wound was such as made
it difficult to believe that he would stagger far, if at all,
after its infliction.
Yet, because the coroner was both conscientious and alert, he
caused a most rigorous search to be made of the ground overlooked
by the above mentioned window; a search in which the police
joined, but which was without any result save that of rousing the
attention of people in the neighbourhood and leading to a story
being circulated of a man seen some time the night before
crossing the fields in a great hurry. But as no further
particulars were forthcoming, and not even a description of the
man to be had, no emphasis would have been laid upon this story
had it not transpired that the moment a report of it had come to
Mrs. Hammond's ears (why is there always some one to carry these
reports?) she roused from the torpor into which she had fallen,
and in wild fashion exclaimed:
"I knew it! I expected it! He was shot through the window and by
that wretch. He never shot himself." Violent declarations which
trailed off into the one continuous wail, "O, my baby! my poor
Such words, even though the fruit of delirium, merited some sort
of attention, or so this good coroner thought, and as soon as
opportunity offered and she was sufficiently sane and quiet to
respond to his questions, he asked her whom she had meant by
that wretch, and what reason she had, or thought she had, of
attributing her husband's death to any other agency than his own
disgust with life.
And then it was that his sympathies, although greatly roused in
her favour began to wane. She met the question with a cold stare
followed by a few ambiguous words out of which he could make
nothing. Had she said wretch? She did not remember. They must not
be influenced by anything she might have uttered in her first
grief. She was well-nigh insane at the time. But of one thing
they might be sure: her husband had not shot himself; he was too
much afraid of death for such an act. Besides, he was too happy.
Whatever folks might say he was too fond of his family to wish to
Nor did the coroner or any other official succeed in eliciting
anything further from her. Even when she was asked, with cruel
insistence, how she explained the fact that the baby was found
lying on the floor instead of in its crib, her only answer was:
"His father was trying to soothe it. The child was crying
dreadfully, as you have heard from those who were kept awake by
him that night, and my husband was carrying him about when the
shot came which caused George to fall and overlay the baby in his
"Carrying a baby about with a loaded pistol in his hand?" came
back in stern retort.
She had no answer for this. She admitted when informed that the
bullet extracted from her husband's body had been found to
correspond exactly with those remaining in the five chambers of
the pistol taken from his hand, that he was not only the owner of
this pistol but was in the habit of sleeping with it under his
pillow; but, beyond that, nothing; and this reticence, as well as
her manner which was cold and repellent, told against her.
A verdict of suicide was rendered by the coroner's jury, and the
life-insurance company, in which Mr. Hammond had but lately
insured himself for a large sum, taking advantage of the suicide
clause embodied in the policy, announced its determination of not
paying the same.
Such was the situation, as known to Violet Strange and the
general public, on the day she was asked to see Mrs. Hammond and
learn what might alter her opinion as to the justice of this
verdict and the stand taken by the Shuler Life Insurance
The clock on the mantel in Miss Strange's rose-coloured boudoir
had struck three, and Violet was gazing in some impatience at the
door, when there came a gentle knock upon it, and the maid (one
of the elderly, not youthful, kind) ushered in her expected
"You are Mrs. Hammond?" she asked, in natural awe of the too
black figure outlined so sharply against the deep pink of the
The answer was a slow lifting of the veil which shadowed the
features she knew only from the cuts she had seen in newspapers.
"You are--Miss Strange?" stammered her visitor; "the young lady
"I am," chimed in a voice as ringing as it was sweet. "I am the
person you have come here to see. And this is my home. But that
does not make me less interested in the unhappy, or less
desirous of serving them. Certainly you have met with the two
greatest losses which can come to a woman--I know your story
well enough to say that--; but what have you to tell me in proof
that you should not lose your anticipated income as well?
Something vital, I hope, else I cannot help you; something which
you should have told the coroner's jury--and did not."
The flush which was the sole answer these words called forth did
not take from the refinement of the young widow's expression, but
rather added to it; Violet watched it in its ebb and flow and,
seriously affected by it (why, she did not know, for Mrs. Hammond
had made no other appeal either by look or gesture), pushed
forward a chair and begged her visitor to be seated.
"We can converse in perfect safety here," she said. "When you
feel quite equal to it, let me hear what you have to
communicate. It will never go any further. I could not do the
work I do if I felt it necessary to have a confidant."
"But you are so young and so--so--"
"So inexperienced you would say and so evidently a member of
what New Yorkers call 'society.' Do not let that trouble you. My
inexperience is not likely to last long and my social pleasures
are more apt to add to my efficiency than to detract from it."
With this Violet's face broke into a smile. It was not the
brilliant one so often seen upon her lips, but there was
something in its quality which carried encouragement to the
widow and led her to say with obvious eagerness:
"You know the facts?"
"I have read all the papers."
"I was not believed on the stand."
"It was your manner--"
"I could not help my manner. I was keeping something back, and,
being unused to deceit, I could not act quite naturally."
"Why did you keep something back? When you saw the unfavourable
impression made by your reticence, why did you not speak up and
frankly tell your story?"
"Because I was ashamed. Because I thought it would hurt me more
to speak than to keep silent. I do not think so now; but I did
then--and so made my great mistake. You must remember not only
the awful shock of my double loss, but the sense of guilt
accompanying it; for my husband and I had quarreled that night,
quarreled bitterly--that was why I had run away into another
room and not because I was feeling ill and impatient of the
baby's fretful cries."
"So people have thought." In saying this, Miss Strange was
perhaps cruelly emphatic. "You wish to explain that quarrel? You
think it will be doing any good to your cause to go into that
matter with me now?"
"I cannot say; but I must first clear my conscience and then try
to convince you that quarrel or no quarrel, he never took his own
life. He was not that kind. He had an abnormal fear of death. I
do not like to say it but he was a physical coward. I have seen
him turn pale at the least hint of danger. He could no more have
turned that muzzle upon his own breast than he could have turned
it upon his baby. Some other hand shot him, Miss Strange.
Remember the open window, the shattered mirror; and I think I
know that hand."
Her head had fallen forward on her breast. The emotion she
showed was not so eloquent of grief as of deep personal shame.
"You think you know the man?" In saying this, Violet's voice
sunk to a whisper. It was an accusation of murder she had just
"To my great distress, yes. When Mr. Hammond and I were
married," the widow now proceeded in a more determined tone,
"there was another man--a very violent one--who vowed even at
the church door that George and I should never live out two full
years together. We have not. Our second anniversary would have
been in November."
"Let me say this: the quarrel of which I speak was not serious
enough to occasion any such act of despair on his part. A man
would be mad to end his life on account of so slight a
disagreement. It was not even on account of the person of whom
I've just spoken, though that person had been mentioned between
us earlier in the evening, Mr. Hammond having come across him
face to face that very afternoon in the subway. Up to this time
neither of us had seen or heard of him since our wedding-day."
"And you think this person whom you barely mentioned, so mindful
of his old grudge that he sought out your domicile, and, with
the intention of murder, climbed the trellis leading to your
room and turned his pistol upon the shadowy figure which was all
he could see in the semi-obscurity of a much lowered gas-jet?"
"A man in the dark does not need a bright light to see his enemy
when he is intent upon revenge."
Miss Strange altered her tone.
"And your husband? You must acknowledge that he shot off his
pistol whether the other did or not."
"It was in self-defence. He would shoot to save his own life--or
"Then he must have heard or seen--"
"A man at the window."
"And would have shot there?
"Or tried to."
"Yes; the other shot first--oh, I've thought it all out--causing
my husband's bullet to go wild. It was his which broke the
Violet's eyes, bright as stars, suddenly narrowed.
"And what happened then?" she asked. "Why cannot they find the
"Because it went out of the window;--glanced off and went out of
Mrs. Hammond's tone was triumphant; her look spirited and
Violet eyed her compassionately.
"Would a bullet glancing off from a mirror, however hung, be apt
to reach a window so far on the opposite side?"
"I don't know; I only know that it did," was the contradictory,
almost absurd, reply.
"What was the cause of the quarrel you speak of between your
husband and yourself? You see, I must know the exact truth and
all the truth to be of any assistance to you."
"It was--it was about the care I gave, or didn't give, the baby.
I feel awfully to have to say it, but George did not think I did
my full duty by the child. He said there was no need of its
crying so; that if I gave it the proper attention it would not
keep the neighbours and himself awake half the night. And I--I
got angry and insisted that I did the best I could; that the
child was naturally fretful and that if he wasn't satisfied with
my way of looking after it, he might try his. All of which was
very wrong and unreasonable on my part, as witness the awful
punishment which followed."
"And what made you get up and leave him?"
"The growl he gave me in reply. When I heard that, I bounded out
of bed and said I was going to the spare room to sleep; and if
the baby cried he might just try what he could do himself to
"And he answered?"
"This, just this--I shall never forget his words as long as I
live--'If you go, you need not expect me to let you in again no
matter what happens.'"
"He said that?"
"And locked the door after me. You see I could not tell all
"It might have been better if you had. It was such a natural
quarrel and so unprovocative of actual tragedy."
Mrs. Hammond was silent. It was not difficult to see that she
had no very keen regrets for her husband personally. But then he
was not a very estimable man nor in any respect her equal.
"You were not happy with him," Violet ventured to remark.
"I was not a fully contented woman. But for all that he had no
cause to complain of me except for the reason I have mentioned. I
was not a very intelligent mother. But if the baby were living
now--0, if he were living now--with what devotion I should care
She was on her feet, her arms were raised, her face impassioned
with feeling. Violet, gazing at her, heaved a little sigh. It
was perhaps in keeping with the situation, perhaps extraneous to
it, but whatever its source, it marked a change in her manner.
With no further check upon her sympathy, she said very softly:
"It is well with the child."
The mother stiffened, swayed, and then burst into wild weeping.
"But not with me," she cried, "not with me. I am desolate and
bereft. I have not even a home in which to hide my grief and no
prospect of one."
"But," interposed Violet, "surely your husband left you
something? You cannot be quite penniless?"
"My husband left nothing," was the answer, uttered without
bitterness, but with all the hardness of fact. "He had debts. I
shall pay those debts. When these and other necessary expenses
are liquidated, there will be but little left. He made no secret
of the fact that he lived close up to his means. That is why he
was induced to take on a life insurance. Not a friend of his but
knows his improvidence. I--I have not even jewels. I have only my
determination and an absolute conviction as to the real nature of
my husband's death."
"What is the name of the man you secretly believe to have shot
your husband from the trellis?"
Mrs. Hammond told her.
It was a new one to Violet. She said so and then asked:
"What else can you tell me about him?"
"Nothing, but that he is a very dark man and has a club-foot."
"Oh, what a mistake you've made."
"Mistake? Yes, I acknowledge that."
"I mean in not giving this last bit of information at once to
the police. A man can be identified by such a defect. Even his
footsteps can be traced. He might have been found that very day.
Now, what have we to go upon?"
"You are right, but not expecting to have any difficulty about
the insurance money I thought it would be generous in me to keep
still. Besides, this is only surmise on my part. I feel certain
that my husband was shot by another hand than his own, but I know
of no way of proving it. Do you?"
Then Violet talked seriously with her, explaining how their only
hope lay in the discovery of a second bullet in the room which
had already been ransacked for this very purpose and without the
shadow of a result.
A tea, a musicale, and an evening dance kept Violet Strange in a
whirl for the remainder of the day. No brighter eye nor more
contagious wit lent brilliance to these occasions, but with the
passing of the midnight hour no one who had seen her in the
blaze of electric lights would have recognized this favoured
child of fortune in the earnest figure sitting in the obscurity
of an up-town apartment, studying the walls, the ceilings, and
the floors by the dim light of a lowered gas-jet. Violet Strange
in society was a very different person from Violet Strange under
the tension of her secret and peculiar work.
She had told them at home that she was going to spend the night
with a friend; but only her old coachman knew who that friend
was. Therefore a very natural sense of guilt mingled with her
emotions at finding herself alone on a scene whose gruesome
mystery she could solve only by identifying herself with the
place and the man who had perished there.
Dismissing from her mind all thought of self, she strove to
think as he thought, and act as he acted on the night when he
found himself (a man of but little courage) left in this room
with an ailing child.
At odds with himself, his wife, and possibly with the child
screaming away in its crib, what would he be apt to do in his
present emergency? Nothing at first, but as the screaming
continued he would remember the old tales of fathers walking the
floor at night with crying babies, and hasten to follow suit.
Violet, in her anxiety to reach his inmost thought, crossed to
where the crib had stood, and, taking that as a start, began
pacing the room in search of the spot from which a bullet, if
shot, would glance aside from the mirror in the direction of the
window. (Not that she was ready to accept this theory of Mrs.
Hammond, but that she did not wish to entirely dismiss it
without putting it to the test.)
She found it in an unexpected quarter of the room and much nearer
the bed-head than where his body was found. This, which might
seem to confuse matters, served, on the contrary to remove from
the case one of its most serious difficulties. Standing here, he
was within reach of the pillow under which his pistol lay hidden,
and if startled, as his wife believed him to have been by a noise
at the other end of the room, had but to crouch and reach behind
him in order to find himself armed and ready for a possible
Imitating his action in this as in other things, she had herself
crouched low at the bedside and was on the point of withdrawing
her hand from under the pii1ow, when a new surprise checked her
movement and held her fixed in her position, with eyes staring
straight at the adjoining wall. She had seen there what he must
have seen in making this same turn--the dark bars of the opposite
window-frame outlined in the mirror--and understood at once what
had happened. In the nervousness and terror of the moment, George
Hammond had mistaken this reflection of the window for the window
itself, and shot impulsively at the man he undoubtedly saw
covering him from the trellis without. But while this explained
the shattering of the mirror, how about the other and still more
vital question, of where the bullet went afterward? Was the angle
at which it had been fired acute enough to send it out of a
window diagonally opposed? No; even if the pistol had been held
closer to the man firing it than she had reason to believe, the
angle still would be oblique enough to carry it on to the further
But no sign of any such impact had been discovered on this wall.
Consequently, the force of the bullet had been expended before
reaching it, and when it fell--
Here, her glance, slowly traveling along the floor, impetuously
paused. It had reached the spot where the two bodies had been
found, and unconsciously her eyes rested there, conjuring up the
picture of the bleeding father and the strangled child. How
piteous and how dreadful it all was. If she could only
understand- - Suddenly she rose straight up, staring and
immovable in the dim light. Had the idea--the explanation--the
only possible explanation covering the whole phenomena come to
her at last?
It would seem so, for as she so stood, a look of conviction
settled over her features, and with this look, evidences of a
horror which for all her fast accumulating knowledge of life and
its possibilities made her appear very small and very helpless.
A half-hour later, when Mrs. Hammond, in her anxiety at hearing
nothing more from Miss Strange, opened the door of her room, it
was to find, lying on the edge of the sill, the little
detective's card with these words hastily written across it:
I do not feel as well as I could wish, and so have telephoned to
my own coachman to come and take me home. I will either see or
write you within a few days. But do not allow yourself to hope.
I pray you do not allow yourself the least hope; the outcome is
still very problematical.
When Violet's employer entered his office the next morning it
was to find a veiled figure awaiting him which he at once
recognized as that of his little deputy. She was slow in lifting
her veil and when it finally came free he felt a momentary doubt
as to his wisdom in giving her just such a matter as this to
investigate. He was quite sure of his mistake when he saw her
face, it was so drawn and pitiful.
"You have failed," said he.
"Of that you must judge," she answered; and drawing near she
whispered in his ear.
"No!" he cried in his amazement.
"Think," she murmured, "think. Only so can all the facts be
"I will look into it; I will certainly look into it," was his
earnest reply. "If you are right-- But never mind that. Go home
and take a horseback ride in the Park. When I have news in regard
to this I will let you know. Till then forget it all. Hear me, I
charge you to forget everything but your balls and your parties."
And Violet obeyed him.
Some few days after this, the following statement appeared in
all the papers:
"Owing to some remarkable work done by the firm of --&--, the
well-known private detective agency, the claim made by Mrs.
George Hammond against the Shuler Life Insurance Company is
likely to be allowed without further litigation. As our readers
will remember, the contestant has insisted from the first that
the bullet causing her husband's death came from another pistol
than the one found clutched in his own hand. But while reasons
were not lacking to substantiate this assertion, the failure to
discover more than the disputed track of a second bullet led to
a verdict of suicide, and a refusal of the company to pay.
"But now that bullet has been found. And where? In the most
startling place in the world, viz.: in the larynx of the child
found lying dead upon the floor beside his father, strangled as
was supposed by the weight of that father's arm. The theory is,
and there seems to be none other, that the father, hearing a
suspicious noise at the window, set down the child he was
endeavouring to soothe and made for the bed and his own pistol,
and, mistaking a reflection of the assassin for the assassin
himself, sent his shot sidewise at a mirror just as the other let
go the trigger which drove a similar bullet into his breast. The
course of the one was straight and fatal and that of the other
deflected. Striking the mirror at an oblique angle, the bullet
fell to the floor where it was picked up by the crawling child,
and, as was most natural, thrust at once into his mouth. Perhaps
it felt hot to the little tongue; perhaps the child was simply
frightened by some convulsive movement of the father who
evidently spent his last moment in an endeavour to reach the
child, but, whatever the cause, in the quick gasp it gave, the
bullet was drawn into the larynx, strangling him.
"That the father's arm, in his last struggle, should have fallen
directly across the little throat is one of those anomalies
which confounds reason and misleads justice by stopping
investigation at the very point where truth lies and mystery
"Mrs. Hammond is to be congratulated that there are detectives
who do not give too much credence to outward appearances."
We expect soon to hear of the capture of the man who sped home
the death-dealing bullet.
END OF PROBLEM II
AN INTANGIBLE CLUE
"Have you studied the case?"
"Not studied the case which for the last few days has provided
the papers with such conspicuous headlines?"
"I do not read the papers. I have not looked at one in a whole
"Miss Strange, your social engagements must be of a very
pressing nature just now?"
"And your business sense in abeyance?"
"You would not ask if you had read the papers."
To this she made no reply save by a slight toss of her pretty
head. If her employer felt nettled by this show of indifference,
he did not betray it save by the rapidity of his tones as,
without further preamble and possibly without real excuse, he
proceeded to lay before her the case in question. "Last Tuesday
night a woman was murdered in this city; an old woman, in a
lonely house where she has lived for years. Perhaps you remember
this house? It occupies a not inconspicuous site in Seventeenth
Street--a house of the olden time?"
"No, I do not remember."
The extreme carelessness of Miss Strange's tone would have been
fatal to her socially; but then, she would never have used it
socially. This they both knew, yet he smiled with his customary
"Then I will describe it."
She looked around for a chair and sank into it. He did the same.
"It has a fanlight over the front door."
She remained impassive.
"And two old-fashioned strips of parti-coloured glass on either
"And a knocker between its panels which may bring money some
"Oh, you do remember! I thought you would, Miss Strange."
"Yes. Fanlights over doors are becoming very rare in New York."
"Very well, then. That house was the scene of Tuesday's tragedy.
The woman who has lived there in solitude for years was foully
murdered. I have since heard that the people who knew her best
have always anticipated some such violent end for her. She never
allowed maid or friend to remain with her after five in the
afternoon; yet she had money--some think a great deal--always in
"I am interested in the house, not in her."
"Yet, she was a character--as full of whims and crotchets as a
nut is of meat. Her death was horrible. She fought--her dress was
torn from her body in rags. This happened, you see, before her
hour for retiring; some think as early as six in the afternoon.
And"--here he made a rapid gesture to catch Violet's wandering
attention--"in spite of this struggle; in spite of the fact that
she was dragged from room to room--that her person was searched--
and everything in the house searched--that drawers were pulled
out of bureaus--doors wrenched off of cupboards-- china smashed
upon the floor--whole shelves denuded and not a spot from cellar
to garret left unransacked, no direct clue to the perpetrator has
been found--nothing that gives any idea of his personality save
his display of strength and great cupidity. The police have even
deigned to consult me,--an unusual procedure--but I could find
nothing, either. Evidences of fiendish purpose abound--of
relentless search--but no clue to the man himself. It's uncommon,
isn't it, not to have any clue?"
"I suppose so." Miss Strange hated murders and it was with
difficulty she could be brought to discuss them. But she was not
going to be let off; not this time.
"You see," he proceeded insistently, "it's not only mortifying
to the police but disappointing to the press, especially as few
reporters believe in the No-thoroughfare business. They say, and
we cannot but agree with them, that no such struggle could take
place and no such repeated goings to and fro through the house
without some vestige being left by which to connect this crime
with its daring perpetrator."
Still she stared down at her hands--those little hands so white
and fluttering, so seemingly helpless under the weight of their
many rings, and yet so slyly capable.
"She must have queer neighbours," came at last, from Miss
Strange's reluctant lips. "Didn't they hear or see anything of
"She has no neighbours--that is, after half-past five o'clock.
There's a printing establishment on one side of her, a deserted
mansion on the other side, and nothing but warehouses back and
front. There was no one to notice what took place in her small
dwelling after the printing house was closed. She was the most
courageous or the most foolish of women to remain there as she
did. But nothing except death could budge her. She was born in
the room where she died; was married in the one where she worked;
saw husband, father, mother, and five sisters carried out in turn
to their graves through the door with the fanlight over the top--
and these memories held her."
"You are trying to interest me in the woman. Don't."
"No, I'm not trying to interest you in her, only trying to
explain her. There was another reason for her remaining where
she did so long after all residents had left the block. She had
"She embroidered monograms for fine ladies."
"She did? But you needn't look at me like that. She never
embroidered any for me."
"No? She did first-class work. I saw some of it. Miss Strange,
if I could get you into that house for ten minutes--not to see
her but to pick up the loose intangible thread which I am sure
is floating around in it somewhere--wouldn't you go?"
Violet slowly rose--a movement which he followed to the letter.
"Must I express in words the limit I have set for myself in our
affair?" she asked. "When, for reasons I have never thought
myself called upon to explain, I consented to help you a little
now and then with some matter where a woman's tact and knowledge
of the social world might tell without offence to herself or
others, I never thought it would be necessary for me to state
that temptation must stop with such cases, or that I should not
be asked to touch the sordid or the bloody. But it seems I was
mistaken, and that I must stoop to be explicit. The woman who was
killed on Tuesday might have interested me greatly as an
embroiderer, but as a victim, not at all. What do you see in me,
or miss in me, that you should drag me into an atmosphere of low-
"Nothing, Miss Strange. You are by nature, as well as by
breeding, very far removed from everything of the kind. But you
will allow me to suggest that no crime is low-down which makes
imperative demand upon the intellect and intuitive sense of its
investigator. Only the most delicate touch can feel and hold the
thread I've just spoken of, and you have the most delicate touch
"Do not attempt to flatter me. I have no fancy for handling
befouled spider webs. Besides, if I had--if such elusive
filaments fascinated me--how could I, well-known in person and
name, enter upon such a scene without prejudice to our mutual
"Miss Strange"--she had reseated herself, but so far he had
failed to follow her example (an ignoring of the subtle hint
that her interest might yet be caught, which seemed to annoy her
a trifle), "I should not even have suggested such a possibility
had I not seen a way of introducing you there without risk to
your position or mine. Among the boxes piled upon Mrs.
Doolittle's table--boxes of finished work, most of them
addressed and ready for delivery--was one on which could be seen
the name of--shall I mention it?"
"Not mine? You don't mean mine? That would be too odd--too
ridiculously odd. I should not understand a coincidence of that
kind; no, I should not, notwithstanding the fact that I have
lately sent out such work to be done."
"Yet it was your name, very clearly and precisely written--your
whole name, Miss Strange. I saw and read it myself."
"But I gave the order to Madame Pirot on Fifth Avenue. How came
my things to be found in the house of this woman of whose
horrible death we have been talking?"
"Did you suppose that Madame Pirot did such work with her own
hands?--or even had it done in her own establishment? Mrs.
Doolittle was universally employed. She worked for a dozen firms.
You will find the biggest names on most of her packages. But on
this one--I allude to the one addressed to you--there was more to
be seen than the name. These words were written on it in another
hand. Send without opening. This struck the police as suspicious;
sufficiently so, at least, for them to desire your presence at
the house as soon as you can make it convenient."
"To open the box?"
The curl of Miss Strange's disdainful lip was a sight to see.
"You wrote those words yourself," she coolly observed. "While
someone's back was turned, you whipped out your pencil and--"
"Resorted to a very pardonable subterfuge highly conducive to
the public's good. But never mind that. Will you go?"
Miss Strange became suddenly demure.
"I suppose I must," she grudgingly conceded. "However obtained,
a summons from the police cannot be ignored even by Peter
Another man might have displayed his triumph by smile or gesture;
but this one had learned his role too well. He simply said:
"Very good. Shall it be at once? I have a taxi at the door."
But she failed to see the necessity of any such hurry. With
sudden dignity she replied:
"That won't do. If I go to this house it must be under suitable
conditions. I shall have to ask my brother to accompany me."
"Oh, he's safe. He--he knows."
"Your brother knows?" Her visitor, with less control than usual,
betrayed very openly his uneasiness.
"He does and--approves. But that's not what interests us now,
only so far as it makes it possible for me to go with propriety
to that dreadful house."
A formal bow from the other and the words:
"They may expect you, then. Can you say when?"
"Within the next hour. But it will be a useless concession on my
part," she pettishly complained. "A place that has been gone
over by a dozen detectives is apt to be brushed clean of its
cobwebs, even if such ever existed."
"That's the difficulty," he acknowledged; and did not dare to add
another word; she was at that particular moment so very much the
great lady, and so little his confidential agent.
He might have been less impressed, however, by this sudden
assumption of manner, had he been so fortunate as to have seen
how she employed the three quarters of an hour's delay for which
she had asked.
She read those neglected newspapers, especially the one
containing the following highly coloured narration of this
"A door ajar--an empty hall--a line of sinister looking blotches
marking a guilty step diagonally across the flagging--silence--
and an unmistakable odour repugnant to all humanity,--such were
the indications which met the eyes of Officer O'Leary on his
first round last night, and led to the discovery of a murder
which will long thrill the city by its mystery and horror.
"Both the house and the victim are well known." Here followed a
description of the same and of Mrs. Doolittle's manner of life in
her ancient home, which Violet hurriedly passed over to come to
"As far as one can judge from appearances, the crime happened in
this wise: Mrs. Doolittle had been in her kitchen, as the tea-
kettle found singing on the stove goes to prove, and was coming
back through her bedroom, when the wretch, who had stolen in by
the front door which, to save steps, she was unfortunately in the
habit of leaving on the latch till all possibility of customers
for the day was over, sprang upon her from behind and dealt her a
swinging blow with the poker he had caught up from the
"Whether the struggle which ensued followed immediately upon this
first attack or came later, it will take medical experts to
determine. But, whenever it did occur, the fierceness of its
character is shown by the grip taken upon her throat and the
traces of blood which are to be seen all over the house. If the
wretch had lugged her into her workroom and thence to the
kitchen, and thence back to the spot of first assault, the
evidences could not have been more ghastly. Bits of her clothing
torn off by a ruthless hand, lay scattered over all these floors.
In her bedroom, where she finally breathed her last, there could
be seen mingled with these a number of large but worthless glass
beads; and close against one of the base-boards, the string which
had held them, as shown by the few remaining beads still clinging
to it. If in pulling the string from her neck he had hoped to
light upon some valuable booty, his fury at his disappointment is
evident. You can almost see the frenzy with which he flung the
would-be necklace at the wall, and kicked about and stamped upon
its rapidly rolling beads.
"Booty! That was what he was after; to find and carry away the
poor needlewoman's supposed hoardings. If the scene baffles
description--if, as some believe, he dragged her yet living from
spot to spot, demanding information as to her places of
concealment under threat of repeated blows, and, finally baffled,
dealt the finishing stroke and proceeded on the search alone, no
greater devastation could have taken place in this poor woman's
house or effects. Yet such was his precaution and care for
himself that he left no finger-print behind him nor any other
token which could lead to personal identification. Even though
his footsteps could be traced in much the order I have mentioned,
they were of so indeterminate and shapeless a character as to
convey little to the intelligence of the investigator.
"That these smears (they could not be called footprints) not only
crossed the hall but appeared in more than one place on the
staircase proves that he did not confine his search to the lower
storey; and perhaps one of the most interesting features of the
case lies in the indications given by these marks of the raging
course he took through these upper rooms. As the accompanying
diagram will show [we omit the diagram] he went first into the
large front chamber, thence to the rear where we find two rooms,
one unfinished and filled with accumulated stuff most of which he
left lying loose upon the floor, and the other plastered, and
containing a window opening upon an alley-way at the side, but
empty of all furniture and without even a carpet on the bare
"Why he should have entered the latter place, and why, having
entered he should have crossed to the window, will be plain to
those who have studied the conditions. The front chamber windows
were tightly shuttered, the attic ones cumbered with boxes and
shielded from approach by old bureaus and discarded chairs. This
one only was free and, although darkened by the proximity of the
house neighbouring it across the alley, was the only spot on the
storey where sufficient light could be had at this late hour for
the examination of any object of whose value he was doubtful.
That he had come across such an object and had brought it to this
window for some such purpose is very satisfactorily demonstrated
by the discovery of a worn out wallet of ancient make lying on
the floor directly in front of this window--a proof of his
cupidity but also proof of his ill-luck. For this wallet, when