Part 2 out of 6
lifted and opened, was found to contain two hundred or more
dollars in old bills, which, if not the full hoard of their
industrious owner, was certainly worth the taking by one who had
risked his neck for the sole purpose of theft.
"This wallet, and the flight Of the murderer without it, give to
this affair, otherwise simply brutal, a dramatic interest which
will be appreciated not only by the very able detectives already
hot upon the chase, but by all other inquiring minds anxious to
solve a mystery of which so estimable a woman has been the
unfortunate victim. A problem is presented to the police--"
There Violet stopped.
When, not long after, the superb limousine of Peter Strange
stopped before the little house in seventeenth Street, it caused
a veritable sensation, not only in the curiosity-mongers
lingering on the sidewalk, but to the two persons within--the
officer on guard and a belated reporter.
Though dressed in her plainest suit, Violet Strange looked much
too fashionable and far too young and thoughtless to be observed,
without emotion, entering a scene of hideous and brutal crime.
Even the young man who accompanied her promised to bring a most
incongruous element into this atmosphere of guilt and horror,
and, as the detective on guard whispered to the man beside him,
might much better have been left behind in the car.
But Violet was great for the proprieties and young Arthur
followed her in.
Her entrance was a coup du theatre. She had lifted her veil in
crossing the sidewalk and her interesting features and general
air of timidity were very fetching. As the man holding open the
door noted the impression made upon his companion, he muttered
with sly facetiousness:
"You think you'll show her nothing; but I'm ready to bet a fiver
that she'll want to see it all and that you'll show it to her."
The detective's grin was expressive, notwithstanding the shrug
with which he tried to carry it off.
And Violet? The hall into which she now stepped from the most
vivid sunlight had never been considered even in its palmiest
days as possessing cheer even of the stately kind. The ghastly
green light infused through it by the coloured glass on either
side of the doorway seemed to promise yet more dismal things
"Must I go in there?" she asked, pointing, with an admirable
simulation of nervous excitement, to a half-shut door at her
left. "Is there where it happened? Arthur, do you suppose that
there is where it happened?"
"No, no, Miss," the officer made haste to assure her. "If you are
Miss Strange" (Violet bowed), "I need hardly say that the woman
was struck in her bedroom. The door beside you leads into the
parlour, or as she would have called it, her work-room. You
needn't be afraid of going in there. You will see nothing but the
disorder of her boxes. They were pretty well pulled about. Not
all of them though," he added, watching her as closely as the dim
light permitted. "There is one which gives no sign of having been
tampered with. It was done up in wrapping paper and is addressed
to you, which in itself would not have seemed worthy of our
attention had not these lines been scribbled on it in a man's
handwriting: 'Send without opening.'"
"How odd!" exclaimed the little minx with widely opened eyes and
an air of guileless innocence. "Whatever can it mean? Nothing
serious I am sure, for the woman did not even know me. She was
employed to do this work by Madame Pirot."
"Didn't you know that it was to be done here?"
"No. I thought Madame Pirot's own girls did her embroidery for
"So that you were surprised--"
"To get our message."
"I didn't know what to make of it."
The earnest, half-injured look with which she uttered this
disclaimer, did its appointed work. The detective accepted her
for what she seemed and, oblivious to the reporter's satirical
gesture, crossed to the work-room door, which he threw wide open
with the remark:
"I should be glad to have you open that box in our presence. It
is undoubtedly all right, but we wish to be sure. You know what
the box should contain?"
"Oh, yes, indeed; pillow-cases and sheets, with a big S
embroidered on them."
"Very well. Shall I undo the string for you?"
"I shall be much obliged," said she, her eye flashing quickly
about the room before settling down upon the knot he was deftly
Her brother, gazing indifferently in from the doorway, hardly
noticed this look; but the reporter at his back did, though he
failed to detect its penetrating quality.
"Your name is on the other side," observed the detective as he
drew away the string and turned the package over.
The smile which just lifted the comer of her lips was not in
answer to this remark, but to her recognition of her employer's
handwriting in the words under her name: Send without opening.
She had not misjudged him.
"The cover you may like to take off yourself," suggested the
officer, as he lifted the box out of its wrapper.
"Oh, I don't mind. There's nothing to be ashamed of in
embroidered linen. Or perhaps that is not what you are looking
No one answered. All were busy watching her whip off the lid and
lift out the pile of sheets and pillow-cases with which the box
was closely packed.
"Shall I unfold them?" she asked.
The detective nodded.
Taking out the topmost sheet, she shook it open. Then the next
and the next till she reached the bottom of the box. Nothing of
a criminating nature came to light. The box as well as its
contents was without mystery of any kind. This was not an
unexpected result of course, but the smile with which she began
to refold the pieces and throw them back into the box, revealed
one of her dimples which was almost as dangerous to the casual
observer as when it revealed both.
"There," she exclaimed, "you see! Household linen exactly as I
said. Now may I go home?"
"Certainly, Miss Strange."
The detective stole a sly glance at the reporter. She was not
going in for the horrors then after all.
But the reporter abated nothing of his knowing air, for while she
spoke of going, she made no move towards doing so, but continued
to look about the room till her glances finally settled on a long
dark curtain shutting off an adjoining room.
"There's where she lies, I suppose," she feelingly exclaimed.
"And not one of you knows who killed her. Somehow, I cannot
understand that. Why don't you know when that's what you're
hired for?" The innocence with which she uttered this was
astonishing. The detective began to look sheepish and the
reporter turned aside to hide his smile. Whether in another
moment either would have spoken no one can say, for, with a mock
consciousness of having said something foolish, she caught up her
parasol from the table and made a start for the door.
But of course she looked back.
"I was wondering," she recommenced, with a half wistful, half
speculative air, "whether I should ask to have a peep at the
place where it all happened."
The reporter chuckled behind the pencil-end he was chewing, but
the officer maintained his solemn air, for which act of self-
restraint he was undoubtedly grateful when in another minute she
gave a quick impulsive shudder not altogether assumed, and
vehemently added: "But I couldn't stand the sight; no, I
couldn't! I'm an awful coward when it comes to things like that.
Nothing in all the world would induce me to look at the woman or
her room. But I should like--" here both her dimples came into
play though she could not be said exactly to smile--"just one
little look upstairs, where he went poking about so long without
any fear it seems of being interrupted. Ever since I've read
about it I have seen, in my mind, a picture of his wicked figure
sneaking from room to room, tearing open drawers and flinging out
the contents of closets just to find a little money--a little,
little money! I shall not sleep to-night just for wondering how
those high up attic rooms really look."
Who could dream that back of this display of mingled childishness
and audacity there lay hidden purpose, intellect, and a keen
knowledge of human nature. Not the two men who listened to this
seemingly irresponsible chatter. To them she was a child to be
humoured and humour her they did. The dainty feet which had
already found their way to that gloomy staircase were allowed to
ascend, followed it is true by those of the officer who did not
dare to smile back at the reporter because of the brother's
watchful and none too conciliatory eye.
At the stair head she paused to look back.
"I don't see those horrible marks which the papers describe as
running all along the lower hall and up these stairs."
"No, Miss Strange; they have gradually been rubbed out, but you
will find some still showing on these upper floors."
"Oh! oh! where? You frighten me--frighten me horribly! But--but--
if you don't mind, I should like to see."
Why should not a man on a tedious job amuse himself? Piloting her
over to the small room in the rear, he pointed down at the
boards. She gave one look and then stepped gingerly in.
"Just look!" she cried; "a whole string of marks going straight
from door to window. They have no shape, have they,--just
blotches? I wonder why one of them is so much larger than the
This was no new question. It was one which everybody who went
into the room was sure to ask, there was such a difference in the
size and appearance of the mark nearest the window. The reason--
well, minds were divided about that, and no one had a
satisfactory theory. The detective therefore kept discreetly
This did not seem to offend Miss Strange. On the contrary it gave
her an opportunity to babble away to her heart's content.
"One, two, three, four, five, six," she counted, with a shudder
at every count. "And one of them bigger than the others." She
might have added, "It is the trail of one foot, and strangely,
intermingled at that," but she did not, though we may be quite
sure that she noted the fact. "And where, just where did the old
wallet fall? Here? or here?"
She had moved as she spoke, so that in uttering the last "here,"
she stood directly before the window. The surprise she received
there nearly made her forget the part she was playing. From the
character of the light in the room, she had expected, on looking
out, to confront a near-by wall, but not a window in that wall.
Yet that was what she saw directly facing her from across the old-
fashioned alley separating this house from its neighbour; twelve
unshuttered and uncurtained panes through which she caught a
darkened view of a room almost as forlorn and devoid of furniture
as the one in which she then stood.
When quite sure of herself, she let a certain portion of her
"Why, look!" she cried, "if you can't see right in next door!
What a lonesome-looking place! From its desolate appearance I
should think the house quite empty."
"And it is. That's the old Shaffer homestead. It's been empty for
"Oh, empty!" And she turned away, with the most inconsequent air
in the world, crying out as her name rang up the stair, "There's
Arthur calling. I suppose he thinks I've been here long enough.
I'm sure I'm very much obliged to you, officer. I really
shouldn't have slept a wink to-night, if I hadn't been given a
peep at these rooms, which I had imagined so different." And with
one additional glance over her shoulder, that seemed to penetrate
both windows and the desolate space beyond, she ran quickly out
and down in response to her brother's reiterated call.
"Drive quickly!--as quickly as the law allows, to Hiram Brown's
office in Duane Street."
Arrived at the address named, she went in alone to see Mr. Brown.
He was her father's lawyer and a family friend.
Hardly waiting for his affectionate greeting, she cried out
quickly. "Tell me how I can learn anything about the old Shaffer
house in Seventeenth Street. Now, don't look so surprised. I
have very good reasons for my request and--and--I'm in an awful
"I know, I know; there's been a dreadful tragedy next door to
it; but it's about the Shaffer house itself I want some
information. Has it an agent, a--"
"Of course it has an agent, and here is his name."
Mr. Brown presented her with a card on which he had hastily
written both name and address.
She thanked him, dropped him a mocking curtsey full of charm,
whispered "Don't tell father," and was gone.
Her manner to the man she next interviewed was very different. As
soon as she saw him she subsided into her usual society manner.
With just a touch of the conceit of the successful debutante, she
announced herself as Miss Strange of Seventy-second Street. Her
business with him was in regard to the possible renting of the
Shaffer house. She had an old lady friend who was desirous of
In passing through Seventeenth Street, she had noticed that the
old Shaffer house was standing empty and had been immediately
struck with the advantages it possessed for her elderly friend's
occupancy. Could it be that the house was for rent? There was no
sign on it to that effect, but--etc.
His answer left her nothing to hope for.
"It is going to be torn down," he said.
"Oh, what a pity!" she exclaimed. "Real colonial, isn't it! I
wish I could see the rooms inside before it is disturbed. Such
doors and such dear old-fashioned mantelpieces as it must have!
I just dote on the Colonial. It brings up such pictures of the
old days; weddings, you know, and parties;--all so different
from ours and so much more interesting."
Is it the chance shot that tells? Sometimes. Violet had no
especial intention in what she said save as a prelude to a
pending request, but nothing could have served her purpose better
than that one word, wedding. The agent laughed and giving her his
first indulgent look, remarked genially:
"Romance is not confined to those ancient times. If you were to
enter that house to-day you would come across evidences of a
wedding as romantic as any which ever took place in all the
seventy odd years of its existence. A man and a woman were
married there day before yesterday who did their first courting
under its roof forty years ago. He has been married twice and she
once in the interval; but the old love held firm and now at the
age of sixty and over they have come together to finish their
days in peace and happiness. Or so we will hope."
"Married! married in that house and on the day that--"
She caught herself up in time. He did not notice the break.
"Yes, in memory of those old days of courtship, I suppose. They
came here about five, got the keys, drove off, went through the
ceremony in that empty house, returned the keys to me in my own
apartment, took the steamer for Naples, and were on the sea
before midnight. Do you not call that quick work as well as
"Very." Miss Strange's cheek had paled. It was apt to when she
was greatly excited. "But I don't understand," she added, the
moment after. "How could they do this and nobody know about it? I
should have thought it would have got into the papers."
"They are quiet people. I don't think they told their best
friends. A simple announcement in the next day's journals
testified to the fact of their marriage, but that was all. I
would not have felt at liberty to mention the circumstances
myself, if the parties were not well on their way to Europe."
"Oh, how glad I am that you did tell me! Such a story of
constancy and the hold which old associations have upon sensitive
"Why, Miss? What's the matter? You look very much disturbed."
"Don't you remember? Haven't you thought? Something else
happened that very day and almost at the same time on that
block. Something very dreadful--"
"Mrs. Doolittle's murder?"
"Yes. It was as near as next door, wasn't it? Oh, if this happy
couple had known--"
"But fortunately they didn't. Nor are they likely to, till they
reach the other side. You needn't fear that their honeymoon will
be spoiled that way."
"But they may have heard something or seen something before
leaving the street. Did you notice how the gentleman looked when
he returned you the keys?"
"I did, and there was no cloud on his satisfaction."
"Oh, how you relieve me!" One--two dimples made their appearance
in Miss Strange's fresh, young cheeks. "Well! I wish them joy. Do
you mind telling me their names? I cannot think of them as actual
persons without knowing their names."
"The gentleman was Constantin Amidon; the lady, Marian Shaffer.
You will have to think of them now as Mr. and Mrs. Amidon."
"And I will. Thank you, Mr. Hutton, thank you very much. Next to
the pleasure of getting the house for my friend, is that of
hearing this charming bit of news its connection.
She held out her hand and, as he took it, remarked:
"They must have had a clergyman and witnesses."
"I wish I had been one of the witnesses," she sighed
"They were two old men."
"Oh, no! Don't tell me that."
"Fogies; nothing less."
"But the clergyman? He must have been young. Surely there was
some one there capable of appreciating the situation?"
"I can't say about that; I did not see the clergyman."
"Oh, well! it doesn't matter." Miss Strange's manner was as
nonchalant as it was charming. "We will think of him as being
And with a merry toss of her head she flitted away.
But she sobered very rapidly upon entering her limousine.
"Ah, is that you?"
"Yes, I want a Marconi sent."
"Yes, to the Cretic, which left dock the very night in which we
are so deeply interested."
"Good. Whom to? The Captain?"
"No, to a Mrs. Constantin Amidon. But first be sure there is such
"Mrs.! What idea have you there?"
"Excuse my not stating over the telephone. The message is to be
to this effect. Did she at any time immediately before or after
her marriage to Mr. Amidon get a glimpse of any one in the
adjoining house? No remarks, please. I use the telephone because
I am not ready to explain myself. If she did, let her send a
written description to you of that person as soon as she reaches
"You surprise me. May I not call or hope for a line from you
"I shall be busy till you get your answer."
He hung up the receiver. He recognized the resolute tone.
But the time came when the pending explanation was fully given to
him. An answer had been returned from the steamer, favourable to
Violet's hopes. Mrs. Amidon had seen such a person and would send
a full description of the same at the first opportunity. It was
news to fill Violet's heart with pride; the filament of a clue
which had led to this great result had been so nearly invisible
and had felt so like nothing in her grasp.
To her employer she described it as follows:
"When I hear or read of a case which contains any baffling
features, I am apt to feel some hidden chord in my nature thrill
to one fact in it and not to any of the others. In this case the
single fact which appealed to my imagination was the dropping of
the stolen wallet in that upstairs room. Why did the guilty man
drop it? and why, having dropped it, did he not pick it up again?
but one answer seemed possible. He had heard or seen something at
the spot where it fell which not only alarmed him but sent him in
flight from the house."
"Very good; and did you settle to your own mind the nature of
that sound or that sight?"
"I did." Her manner was strangely businesslike. No show of
dimples now. "Satisfied that if any possibility remained of my
ever doing this, it would have to be on the exact place of this
occurrence or not at all, I embraced your suggestion and visited
"And that room no doubt."
"And that room. Women, somehow, seem to manage such things."
"So I've noticed, Miss Strange. And what was the result of your
visit? What did you discover there?"
"This: that one of the blood spots marking the criminal's steps
through the room was decidedly more pronounced than the rest;
and, what was even more important, that the window out of which I
was looking had its counterpart in the house on the opposite side
of the alley. In gazing through the one I was gazing through the
other; and not only that, but into the darkened area of the room
beyond. Instantly I saw how the latter fact might be made to
explain the former one. But before I say how, let me ask if it is
quite settled among you that the smears on the floor and stairs
mark the passage of the criminal's footsteps!"
"Certainly; and very bloody feet they must have been too. His
shoes--or rather his one shoe--for the proof is plain that only
the right one left its mark--must have become thoroughly
saturated to carry its traces so far."
"Do you think that any amount of saturation would have done this?
Or, if you are not ready to agree to that, that a shoe so covered
with blood could have failed to leave behind it some hint of its
shape, some imprint, however faint, of heel or toe? But nowhere
did it do this. We see a smear--and that is all."
"You are right, Miss Strange; you are always right. And what do
you gather from this?"
She looked to see how much he expected from her, and, meeting an
eye not quite as free from ironic suggestion as his words had
led her to expect, faltered a little as she proceeded to say:
"My opinion is a girl's opinion, but such as it is you have the
right to have it. From the indications mentioned I could draw but
this conclusion: that the blood which accompanied the criminal's
footsteps was not carried through the house by his shoes;--he
wore no shoes; he did not even wear stockings; probably he had
none. For reasons which appealed to his judgment, he went about
his wicked work barefoot; and it was the blood from his own veins
and not from those of his victim which made the trail we have
followed with so much interest. Do you forget those broken beads;-
-how he kicked them about and stamped upon them in his fury? One
of them pierced the ball of his foot, and that so sharply that it
not only spurted blood but kept on bleeding with every step he
took. Otherwise, the trail would have been lost after his passage
up the stairs."
"Fine!" There was no irony in the bureau-chief's eye now. "You
are progressing, Miss Strange. Allow me, I pray, to kiss your
hand. It is a liberty I have never taken, but one which would
greatly relieve my present stress of feeling."
She lifted her hand toward him, but it was in gesture, not in
recognition of his homage.
"Thank you," said she, "but I claim no monopoly on deductions so
simple as these. I have not the least doubt that not only
yourself but every member of the force has made the same. But
there is a little matter which may have escaped the police, may
even have escaped you. To that I would now call your attention
since through it I have been enabled, after a little necessary
groping, to reach the open. You remember the one large blotch on
the upper floor where the man dropped the wallet? That blotch,
more or less commingled with a fainter one, possessed great
significance for me from the first moment I saw it. How came his
foot to bleed so much more profusely at that one spot than at any
other? There could be but one answer: because here a surprise met
him--a surprise so startling to him in his present state of mind,
that he gave a quick spring backward, with the result that his
wounded foot came down suddenly and forcibly instead of easily as
in his previous wary tread. And what was the surprise? I made it
my business to find out, and now I can tell you that it was the
sight of a woman's face staring upon him from the neighbouring
house which he had probably been told was empty. The shock
disturbed his judgment. He saw his crime discovered--his guilty
secret read, and fled in unreasoning panic. He might better have
held on to his wits. It was this display of fear which led me to
search after its cause, and consequently to discover that at this
especial hour more than one person had been in the Shaffer house;
that, in fact, a marriage had been celebrated there under
circumstances as romantic as any we read of in books, and that
this marriage, privately carried out, had been followed by an
immediate voyage of the happy couple on one of the White Star
steamers. With the rest you are conversant. I do not need to say
anything about what has followed the sending of that Marconi."
"But I am going to say something about your work in this matter,
Miss Strange. The big detectives about here will have to look
"Don't, please! Not yet." A smile softened the asperity of this
interruption. "The man has yet to be caught and identified. Till
that is done I cannot enjoy any one's congratulations. And you
will see that all this may not be so easy. If no one happened to
meet the desperate wretch before he had an opportunity to retie
his shoe-laces, there will be little for you or even for the
police to go upon but his wounded foot, his undoubtedly carefully
prepared alibi, and later, a woman's confused description of a
face seen but for a moment only and that under a personal
excitement precluding minute attention. I should not be surprised
if the whole thing came to nothing."
But it did not. As soon as the description was received from Mrs.
Amidon (a description, by the way, which was unusually clear and
precise, owing to the peculiar and contradictory features of the
man), the police were able to recognize him among the many
suspects always under their eye. Arrested, he pleaded, just as
Miss Strange had foretold, an alibi of a seemingly unimpeachable
character; but neither it, nor the plausible explanation with
which he endeavoured to account for a freshly healed scar amid
the callouses of his right foot, could stand before Mrs. Amidon's
unequivocal testimony that he was the same man she had seen in
Mrs. Doolittle's upper room on the afternoon of her own happiness
and of that poor woman's murder.
The moment when, at his trial, the two faces again confronted
each other across a space no wider than that which had separated
them on the dread occasion in Seventeenth Street, is said to
have been one of the most dramatic in the annals of that ancient
END OF PROBLEM III
THE GROTTO SPECTRE
Miss Strange was not often pensive--at least not at large
functions or when under the public eye. But she certainly forgot
herself at Mrs. Provost's musicale and that, too, without
apparent reason. Had the music been of a high order one might
have understood her abstraction; but it was of a decidedly
mediocre quality, and Violet's ear was much too fine and her
musical sense too cultivated for her to be beguiled by anything
less than the very best.
Nor had she the excuse of a dull companion. Her escort for the
evening was a man of unusual conversational powers; but she
seemed to be almost oblivious of his presence; and when, through
some passing courteous impulse, she did turn her ear his way, it
was with just that tinge of preoccupation which betrays the
Were her thoughts with some secret problem yet unsolved? It would
scarcely seem so from the gay remark with which she had left
home. She was speaking to her brother and her words were: "I am
going out to enjoy myself. I've not a care in the world. The
slate is quite clean." Yet she had never seemed more out of tune
with her surroundings nor shown a mood further removed from
trivial entertainment. What had happened to becloud her gaiety in
the short time which had since elapsed?
We can answer in a sentence.
She had seen, among a group of young men in a distant doorway,
one with a face so individual and of an expression so
extraordinary that all interest in the people about her had
stopped as a clock stops when the pendulum is held back. She
could see nothing else, think of nothing else. Not that it was so
very handsome--though no other had ever approached it in its
power over her imagination--but because of its expression of
haunting melancholy,--a melancholy so settled and so evidently
the result of long-continued sorrow that her interest had been
reached and her heartstrings shaken as never before in her whole
She would never be the same Violet again.
Yet moved as she undoubtedly was, she was not conscious of the
least desire to know who the young man was, or even to be made
acquainted with his story. She simply wanted to dream her dream
It was therefore with a sense of unwelcome shock that, in the
course of the reception following the programme, she perceived
this fine young man approaching herself, with his right hand
touching his left shoulder in the peculiar way which committed
her to an interview with or without a formal introduction.
Should she fly the ordeal? Be blind and deaf to whatever was
significant in his action, and go her way before he reached her;
thus keeping her dream intact? Impossible. His eye prevented
that. His glance had caught hers and she felt forced to await his
advance and give him her first spare moment.
It came soon, and when it came she greeted him with a smile. It
was the first she had ever bestowed in welcome of a confidence of
whose tenor she was entirely ignorant.
To her relief he showed his appreciation of the dazzling gift
though he made no effort to return it. Scorning all
preliminaries in his eagerness to discharge himself of a burden
which was fast becoming intolerable, he addressed her at once in
"You are very good, Miss Strange, to receive me in this
unconventional fashion. I am in that desperate state of mind
which precludes etiquette. Will you listen to my petition? I am
told--you know by whom--"(and he again touched his shoulder)
"that you have resources of intelligence which especially fit you
to meet the extraordinary difficulties of my position. May I beg
you to exercise them in my behalf? No man would be more grateful
if-- But I see that you do not recognize me. I am Roger Upjohn.
That I am admitted to this gathering is owing to the fact that
our hostess knew and loved my mother. In my anxiety to meet you
and proffer my plea, I was willing to brave the cold looks you
have probably noticed on the faces of the people about us. But I
have no right to subject you to criticism. I--"
"Remain." Violet's voice was troubled, her self-possession
disturbed; but there was a command in her tone which he was only
too glad to obey. "I know the name" (who did not!) "and possibly
my duty to myself should make me shun a confidence which may
burden me without relieving you. But you have been sent to me by
one whose behests I feel bound to respect and--"
Mistrusting her voice, she stopped. The suffering which made
itself apparent in the face before her appealed to her heart in a
way to rob her of her judgment. She did not wish this to be seen,
and so fell silent.
He was quick to take advantage of her obvious embarrassment.
"Should I have been sent to you if I had not first secured the
confidence of the sender? You know the scandal attached to my
name, some of it just, some of it very unjust. If you will grant
me an interview to-morrow, I will make an endeavour to refute
certain charges which I have hitherto let go unchallenged. Will
you do me this favour? Will you listen in your own house to what
I have to say?"
Instinct cried out against any such concession on her part,
bidding her beware of one who charmed without excellence and
convinced without reason. But compassion urged compliance and
compassion won the day. Though conscious of weakness,--she,
Violet Strange on whom strong men had come to rely in critical
hours calling for well-balanced judgment,--she did not let this
concern her, or allow herself to indulge in useless regrets even
after the first effect of his presence had passed and she had
succeeded in recalling the facts which had cast a cloud about
Roger Upjohn was a widower, and the scandal affecting him was
connected with his wife's death.
Though a degenerate in some respects, lacking the domineering
presence, the strong mental qualities, and inflexible character
of his progenitors, the wealthy Massachusetts Upjohns whose
great place on the coast had a history as old as the State
itself, he yet had gifts and attractions of his own which would
have made him a worthy representative of his race, if only he
had not fixed his affections on a woman so cold and heedless
that she would have inspired universal aversion instead of love,
had she not been dowered with the beauty and physical
fascination which sometimes accompany a hard heart and a scheming
brain. It was this beauty which had caught the lad; and one day,
just as the careful father had mapped out a course of study
calculated to make a man of his son, that son drove up to the
gates with this lady whom he introduced as his wife.
The shock, not of her beauty, though that was of the dazzling
quality which catches a man in the throat and makes a slave of
him while the first surprise lasts, but of the overthrow of all
his hopes and plans, nearly prostrated Homer Upjohn. He saw, as
most men did the moment judgment returned, that for all her satin
skin and rosy flush, the wonder of her hair and the smile which
pierced like arrows and warmed like wine, she was more likely to
bring a curse into the house than a blessing.
And so it proved. In less than a year the young husband had lost
all his ambitions and many of his best impulses. No longer
inclined to study, he spent his days in satisfying his wife's
whims and his evenings in carousing with the friends with which
she had provided him. This in Boston whither they had fled from
the old gentleman's displeasure; but after their little son came
the father insisted upon their returning home, which led to great
deceptions, and precipitated a tragedy no one ever understood.
They were natural gamblers--this couple--as all Boston society
knew; and as Homer Upjohn loathed cards, they found life slow in
the great house and grew correspondingly restless till they made
a discovery--or shall I say a rediscovery--of the once famous
grotto hidden in the rocks lining their portion of the coast.
Here they found a retreat where they could hide themselves (often
when they were thought to be abed and asleep) and play together
for money or for a supper in the city or for anything else that
foolish fancy suggested. This was while their little son remained
an infant; later, they were less easily satisfied. Both craved
company, excitement, and gambling on a large scale; so they took
to inviting friends to meet them in this grotto which, through
the agency of one old servant devoted to Roger to the point of
folly, had been fitted up and lighted in a manner not only
comfortable but luxurious. A small but sheltered haven hidden in
the curve of the rocks made an approach by boat feasible at high
tide; and at low the connection could be made by means of a path
over the promontory in which this grotto lay concealed. The
fortune which Roger had inherited from his mother made these
excesses possible, but many thousands, let alone the few he could
call his, soon disappeared under the witchery of an irresponsible
woman, and the half-dozen friends who knew his secret had to
stand by and see his ruin, without daring to utter a word to the
one who alone could stay it. For Homer Upjohn was not a man to be
approached lightly, nor was he one to listen to charges without
ocular proof to support them; and this called for courage, more
courage than was possessed by any one who knew them both.
He was a hard man was Homer Upjohn, but with a heart of gold for
those he loved. This, even his wary daughter-in-law was wise
enough to detect, and for a long while after the birth of her
child she besieged him with her coaxing ways and bewitching
graces. But he never changed his first opinion of her, and once
she became fully convinced of the folly of her efforts, she gave
up all attempt to please him and showed an open indifference.
This in time gradually extended till it embraced not only her
child but her husband as well. Yes, it had come to that. His love
no longer contented her. Her vanity had grown by what it daily
fed on, and now called for the admiration of the fast men who
sometimes came up from Boston to play with them in their unholy
retreat. To win this, she dressed like some demon queen or witch,
though it drove her husband into deeper play and threatened an
exposure which would mean disaster not only to herself but to the
In all this, as any one could see, Roger had been her slave and
the willing victim of all her caprices. What was it, then, which
so completely changed him that a separation began to be talked of
and even its terms discussed? One rumour had it that the father
had discovered the secret of the grotto and exacted this as a
penalty from the son who had dishonoured him. Another, that Roger
himself was the one to take the initiative in this matter: That,
on returning unexpectedly from New York one evening and finding
her missing from the house, he had traced her to the grotto where
he came upon her playing a desperate game with the one man he had
the greatest reason to distrust.
But whatever the explanation of this sudden change in their
relations, there is but little doubt that a legal separation
between this ill-assorted couple was pending, when one bleak
autumn morning she was discovered dead in her bed under
circumstances peculiarly open to comment.
The physicians who made out the certificate ascribed her death to
heart-disease, symptoms of which had lately much alarmed the
family doctor; but that a personal struggle of some kind had
preceded the fatal attack was evident from the bruises which
blackened her wrists. Had there been the like upon her throat it
might have gone hard with the young husband who was known to be
contemplating her dismissal from the house. But the
discoloration of her wrists was all, and as bruised wrists do
not kill and there was besides no evidence forthcoming of the
two having spent one moment together for at least ten hours
preceding the tragedy but rather full and satisfactory testimony
to the contrary, the matter lapsed and all criminal proceedings
But not the scandal which always follows the unexplained. As time
passed and the peculiar look which betrays the haunted soul
gradually became visible in the young widower's eyes, doubts
arose and reports circulated which cast strange reflections upon
the tragic end of his mistaken marriage. Stories of the
disreputable use to which the old grotto had been put were
mingled with vague hints of conjugal violence never properly
investigated. The result was his general avoidance not only by
the social set dominated by his high-minded father, but by his
own less reputable coterie, which, however lax in its moral code,
had very little use for a coward.
Such was the gossip which had reached Violet's ears in connection
with this new client, prejudicing her altogether against him till
she caught that beam of deep and concentrated suffering in his
eye and recognized an innocence which ensured her sympathy and
led her to grant him the interview for which he so earnestly
He came prompt to the hour, and when she saw him again with the
marks of a sleepless night upon him and all the signs of
suffering intensified in his unusual countenance, she felt her
heart sink within her in a way she failed to understand. A dread
of what she was about to hear robbed her of all semblance of self-
possession, and she stood like one in a dream as he uttered his
first greetings and then paused to gather up his own moral
strength before he began his story. When he did speak it was to
"I find myself obliged to break a vow I have made to myself. You
cannot understand my need unless I show you my heart. My trouble
is not the one with which men have credited me. It has another
source and is infinitely harder to bear. Personal dishonour I
have deserved in a greater or less degree, but the trial which
has come to me now involves a person more dear to me than myself,
and is totally without alleviation unless you--" He paused,
choked, then recommenced abruptly: "My wife"--Violet held her
breath--"was supposed to have died from heart-disease or--or some
strange species of suicide. There were reasons for this
conclusion--reasons which I accepted without serious question
till some five weeks ago when I made a discovery which led me to
The broken sentence hung suspended. Violet, notwithstanding his
hurried gesture, could not restrain herself from stealing a look
at his face. It was set in horror and, though partially turned
aside, made an appeal to her compassion to fill the void made by
his silence, without further suggestion from him.
She did this by saying tentatively and with as little show of
emotion as possible:
"You feared that the event called for vengeance and that
vengeance would mean increased suffering to yourself as well as
"Yes; great suffering. But I may be under a most lamentable
mistake. I am not sure of my conclusions. If my doubts have no
real foundation--if they are simply the offspring of my own
diseased imagination, what an insult to one I revere! What a
horror of ingratitude and misunderstanding--"
"Relate the facts," came in startled tones from Violet. "They may
He gave one quick shudder, buried his face for one moment in his
hands, then lifted it and spoke up quickly and with unexpected
"I came here to do so and do so I will. But where begin? Miss
Strange, you cannot be ignorant of the circumstances, open and
avowed, which attended my wife's death. But there were other and
secret events in its connection which happily have been kept from
the world, but which I must now disclose to you at any cost to my
pride and so-called honour. This is the first one: On the morning
preceding the day of Mrs. Upjohn's death, an interview took place
between us at which my father was present. You do not know my
father, Miss Strange. A strong man and a stern one, with a hold
upon old traditions which nothing can shake. If he has a weakness
it is for my little boy Roger in whose promising traits he sees
the one hope which has survived the shipwreck of all for which
our name has stood. Knowing this, and realizing what the child's
presence in the house meant to his old age, I felt my heart turn
sick with apprehension, when in the midst of the discussion as to
the terms on which my wife would consent to a permanent
separation, the little fellow came dancing into the room, his
curls atoss and his whole face beaming with 11fe and joy.
"She had not mentioned the child, but I knew her well enough to
be sure that at the first show of preference on his part for
either his grandfather or myself, she would raise a claim to him
which she would never relinquish. I dared not speak, but I met
his eager looks with my most forbidding frown and hoped by this
show of severity to hold him back. But his little heart was full
and, ignoring her outstretched arms, he bounded towards mine with
his most affectionate cry. She saw and uttered her ultimatum. The
child should go with her or she would not consent to a
separation. It was useless for us to talk; she had said her last
word. The blow struck me hard, or so I thought, till I looked at
my father. Never had I beheld such a change as that one moment
had made in him. He stood as before; he faced us with the same
silent reprobation; but his heart had run from him like water.
"It was a sight to call up all my resources. To allow her to
remain now, with my feelings towards her all changed and my
father's eyes fully opened to her stony nature, was impossible.
Nor could I appeal to law. An open scandal was my father's
greatest dread and divorce proceedings his horror. The child
would have to go unless I could find a way to influence her
through her own nature. I knew of but one--do not look at me,
Miss Strange. It was dishonouring to us both, and I'm horrified
now when I think of it. But to me at that time it was natural
enough as a last resort. There was but one debt which my wife
ever paid, but one promise she ever kept. It was that made at the
gaming-table. I offered, as soon as my father, realizing the
hopelessness of the situation, had gone tottering from the room,
to gamble with her for the child.
"And she accepted."
The shame and humiliation expressed in this final whisper; the
sudden darkness--for a storm was coming up--shook Violet to the
soul. With strained gaze fixed on the man before her, now little
more than a shadow in the prevailing gloom, she waited for him to
resume, and waited in vain. The minutes passed, the darkness
became intolerable, and instinctively her hand crept towards the
electric button beneath which she was sitting. But she failed to
press it. A tale so dark called for an atmosphere of its own
kind. She would cast no light upon it. Yet she shivered as the
silence continued, and started in uncontrollable dismay when at
length her strange visitor rose, and still, without speaking,
walked away from her to the other end of the room. Only so could
he go on with the shameful tale; and presently she heard his
voice once more in these words:
"Our house is large and its rooms many; but for such work as we
two contemplated there was but one spot where we could command
absolute seclusion. You may have heard of it, a famous natural
grotto hidden in our own portion of the coast and so fitted up as
to form a retreat for our miserable selves when escape from my
father's eye seemed desirable. It was not easy of access, and no
one, so far as we knew, had ever followed us there.
But to ensure ourselves against any possible interruption, we
waited till the whole house was abed before we left it for the
grotto. We went by boat and oh! the dip of those oars! I hear
them yet. And the witchery of her face in the moonlight; and the
mockery of her low fitful laugh! As I caught the sinister note in
its silvery rise and fall, I knew what was before me if I failed
to retain my composure. And I strove to hold it and to meet her
calmness with stoicism and the taunt of her expression with a
mask of immobility. But the effort was hopeless, and when the
time came for dealing out the cards, my eyes were burning in
their sockets and my hands shivering like leaves in a rising
"We played one game--and my wife lost. We played another--and my
wife won. We played the third--and the fate I had foreseen from
the first became mine. The luck was with her, and I had lost my
A gasp--a pause, during which the thunder spoke and the lightning
flashed,--then a hurried catching of his breath and the tale went
"A burst of laughter, rising gaily above the boom of the sea,
announced her victory--her laugh and the taunting words: 'You
play badly, Roger. The child is mine. Never fear that I shall
fail to teach him to revere his father.' Had I a word to throw
back? No. When I realized anything but my dishonoured manhood, I
found myself in the grotto's mouth staring helplessly out upon
the sea. The boat which had floated us in at high tide lay
stranded but a few feet away, but I did not reach for it. Escape
was quicker over the rocks, and I made for the rocks.
"That it was a cowardly act to leave her there to find her way
back alone at midnight by the same rough road I was taking, did
not strike my mind for an instant. I was in flight from my own
past; in flight from myself and the haunting dread of madness.
When I awoke to reality again it was to find the small door, by
which we had left the house, standing slightly ajar. I was
troubled by this, for I was sure of having closed it. But the
impression was brief, and entering, I went stumbling up to my
room, leaving the way open behind me more from sheer inability to
exercise my will than from any thought of her.
"Miss Strange" (he had come out of the shadows and was standing
now directly before her), "I must ask you to trust implicitly in
what I tell you of my further experiences that fatal night. It
was not necessary for me to pass my little son's door in order to
reach the room I was making for; but anguish took me there and
held me glued to the panels for what seemed a long, long time.
When I finally crept away it was to go to the room I had chosen
in the top of the house, where I had my hour of hell and faced my
desolated future. Did I hear anything meantime in the halls
below? No. Did I even listen for the sound of her return? No. I
was callous to everything, dead to everything but my own misery.
I did not even heed the approach of morning, till suddenly, with
a shrillness no ear could ignore, there rose, tearing through the
silence of the house, that great scream from my wife's room which
announced the discovery of her body lying stark and cold in her
"They said I showed little feeling." He had moved off again and
spoke from somewhere in the shadows. "Do you wonder at this after
such a manifest stroke by a benevolent Providence? My wife being
dead, Roger was saved to us! It was the one song of my still
undisciplined soul, and I had to assume coldness lest they should
see the greatness of my joy. A wicked and guilty rejoicing you
will say, and you are right. But I had no memory then of the part
I had played in this fatality. I had forgotten my reckless flight
from the grotto, which left her with no aid but that of her own
triumphant spirit to help her over those treacherous rocks. The
necessity for keeping secret this part of our disgraceful story
led me to exert myself to keep it out of my own mind. It has only
come back to me in all its force since a new horror, a new
suspicion, has driven me to review carefully every incident of
that awful night.
"I was never a man of much logic, and when they came to me on
that morning of which I have just spoken and took me in where she
lay and pointed to her beautiful cold body stretched out in
seeming peace under the satin coverlet, and then to the pile of
dainty clothes lying neatly folded on a chair with just one fairy
slipper on top, I shuddered at her fate but asked no questions,
not even when one of the women of the house mentioned the
circumstance of the single slipper and said that a search should
be made for its mate. Nor was I as much impressed as one would
naturally expect by the whisper dropped in my ear that something
was the matter with her wrists. It is true that I lifted the lace
they had carefully spread over them and examined the
discoloration which extended like a ring about each pearly arm;
but having no memories of any violence offered her (I had not so
much as laid hand upon her in the grotto), these marks failed to
rouse my interest. But--and now I must leap a year in my story--
there came a time when both of these facts recurred to my mind
with startling distinctness and clamoured for explanation.
"I had risen above the shock which such a death following such
events would naturally occasion even in one of my blunted
sensibilities, and was striving to live a new life under the
encouragement of my now fully reconciled father, when accident
forced me to re-enter the grotto where I had never stepped foot
since that night. A favourite dog in chase of some innocent prey
had escaped the leash and run into its dim recesses and would not
come out at my call. As I needed him immediately for the hunt, I
followed him over the promontory and, swallowing my repugnance,
slid into the grotto to get him. Better a plunge to my death from
the height of the rocks towering above it. For there in a remote
corner, lighted up by a reflection from the sea, I beheld my
setter crouched above an object which in another moment I
recognized as my dead wife's missing slipper. Here! Not in the
waters of the sea or in the interstices of the rocks outside, but
here! Proof that she had never walked back to the house where she
was found lying quietly in her bed; proof positive; for I knew
the path too well and the more than usual
tenderness of her feet.
"How then, did she get there; and by whose agency? Was she living
when she went, or was she already dead? A year had passed since
that delicate shoe had borne her from the boat into these dim
recesses; but it might have been only a day, so vividly did I
live over in this moment of awful enlightenment all the events of
the hour in which we sat there playing for the possession of our
child. Again I saw her gleaming eyes, her rosy, working mouth,
her slim, white hand, loaded with diamonds, clutching the cards.
Again I heard the lap of the sea on the pebbles outside and smelt
the odour of the wine she had poured out for us both. The bottle
which had held it; the glass from which she had drunk lay now in
pieces on the rocky floor. The whole scene was mine again and as
I followed the event to its despairing close, I seemed to see my
own wild figure springing away from her to the grotto's mouth and
so over the rocks. But here fancy faltered, caught by a quick
recollection to which I had never given a thought till now. As I
made my way along those rocks, a sound had struck my ear from
where some stunted bushes made a shadow in the moonlight. The
wind might have caused it or some small night creature hustling
away at my approach; and to some such cause I must at the time
have attributed it. But now, with brain fired by suspicion, it
seemed more like the quick intake of a human breath. Some one had
been lying there in wait, listening at the one loophole in the
rocks where it was possible to hear what was said and done in the
heart of the grotto. But who? who? and for what purpose this
listening; and to what end did it lead?
"Though I no longer loved even the memory of my wife, I felt my
hair lift, as I asked myself these questions. There seemed to be
but one logical answer to the last, and it was this: A struggle
followed by death. The shoe fallen from her foot, the clothes
found folded in her room (my wife was never orderly), and the
dimly blackened wrists which were snow-white when she dealt the
cards--all seemed to point to such a conclusion. She may have
died from heart-failure, but a struggle had preceded her death,
during which some man's strong fingers had been locked about her
wrists. And again the question rose, Whose?
"If any place was ever hated by mortal man that grotto was hated
by me. I loathed its walls, its floor, its every visible and
invisible comer. To linger there--to look--almost tore my soul
from my body; yet I did linger and did look and this is what I
found by way of reward.
"Behind a projecting ledge of stone from which a tattered rug
still hung, I came upon two nails driven a few feet apart into a
fissure of the rock. I had driven those nails myself long before
for a certain gymnastic attachment much in vogue at the time, and
on looking closer, I discovered hanging from them the rope-ends
by which I was wont to pull myself about. So far there was
nothing to rouse any but innocent reminiscences. But when I heard
the dog's low moan and saw him leap at the curled-up ends, and
nose them with an eager look my way, I remembered the dark marks
circling the wrists about which I had so often clasped my
mother's bracelets, and the world went black before me.
"When consciousness returned--when I could once more move and see
and think, I noted another fact. Cards were strewn about the
floor, face up and in a fixed order as if laid in a mocking mood
to be looked upon by reluctant eyes; and near the ominous half-
circle they made, a cushion from the lounge, stained horribly
with what I then thought to be blood, but which I afterwards
found to be wine. Vengeance spoke in those ropes and in the
carefully spread-out cards, and murder in the smothering pillow.
The vengeance of one who had watched her corroding influence eat
the life out of my honour and whose love for our little Roger was
such that any deed which ensured his continued presence in the
home appeared not only warrantable but obligatory. Alas! I knew
of but one person in the whole world who could cherish feeling to
this extent or possess sufficient will power to carry her
lifeless body back to the house and lay it in her bed and give no
sign of the abominable act from that day on to this.
"Miss Strange, there are men who have a peculiar conception of
duty. My father--"
"You need not go on." How gently, how tenderly our Violet spoke.
"I understand your trouble--"
Did she? She paused to ask herself if this were so, and he, deaf
perhaps to her words, caught up his broken sentence and went on:
"My father was in the hall the day I came staggering in from my
visit to the grotto. No words passed, but our eyes met and from
that hour I have seen death in his countenance and he has seen it
in mine, like two opponents, each struck to the heart, who stand
facing each other with simulated smiles till they fall. My father
will drop first. He is old--very old since that day five weeks
ago; and to see him die and not be sure--to see the grave close
over a possible innocence, and I left here in ignorance of the
blissful fact till my own eyes close forever, is more than I can
hold up under; more than any son could. Cannot you help me then
to a positive knowledge? Think! think! A woman's mind is
strangely penetrating, and yours, I am told, has an intuitive
faculty more to be relied upon than the reasoning of men. It must
suggest some means of confirming my doubts or of definitely
Then Violet stirred and looked about at him and finally found
"Tell me something about your father's ways. What are his habits?
Does he sleep well or is he wakeful at night?"
"He has poor nights. I do not know how poor because I am not
often with him. His valet, who has always been in our family,
shares his room and acts as his constant nurse. He can watch over
him better than I can; he has no distracting trouble on his
"And little Roger? Does your father see much of little Roger?
Does he fondle him and seem happy in his presence?"
"Yes; yes. I have often wondered at it, but he does. They are
great chums. It is a pleasure to see them together."
"And the child clings to him--shows no fear--sits on his lap or
on the bed and plays as children do play with his beard or with
"Yes. Only once have I seen my little chap shrink, and that was
when my father gave him a look of unusual intensity,--looking for
his mother in him perhaps."
"Mr. Upjohn, forgive me the question; it seems necessary. Does
your father--or rather did your father before he fell ill--ever
walk in the direction of the grotto or haunt in any way the rocks
which surround it?"
"I cannot say. The sea is there; he naturally loves the sea. But
I have never seen him standing on the promontory."
"Which way do his windows look?"
"Towards the sea."
"Therefore towards the promontory?"
"Can he see it from his bed?"
"No. Perhaps that is the cause of a peculiar habit he has."
"Every night before he retires (he is not yet confined to his
bed) he stands for a few minutes in his front window looking out.
He says it's his good-night to the ocean. When he no longer
does this, we shall know that his end is very near."
The face of Violet began to clear. Rising, she turned on the
electric light, and then, reseating herself, remarked with an
aspect of quiet cheer:
"I have two ideas; but they necessitate my presence at your
place. You will not mind a visit? My brother will accompany me."
Roger Upjohn did not need to speak, hardly to make a gesture; his
expression was so eloquent.
She thanked him as if he had answered in words, adding with an
air of gentle reserve: "Providence assists us in this matter. I
am invited to Beverly next week to attend a wedding. I was
intending to stay two days, but I will make it three and spend
the extra one with you."
"What are your requirements, Miss Strange? I presume you have
Violet turned from the imposing portrait of Mr. Upjohn which she
had been gravely contemplating, and met the troubled eye of her
young host with an enigmatical flash of her own. But she made no
answer in words. Instead, she lifted her right hand and ran one
slender finger thoughtfully up the casing of the door near which
they stood till it struck a nick in the old mahogany almost on a
level with her head.
"Is your son Roger old enough to reach so far?" she asked with
another short look at him as she let her finger rest where it had
struck the roughened wood. "I thought
he was a little fellow."
"He is. That cut was made by--by my wife; a sample of her
capricious willfulness. She wished to leave a record of herself
in the substance of our house as well as in our lives. That nick
marks her height. She laughed when she made it. 'Till the walls
cave in or burn,' is what she said. And I thought her laugh and
Cutting short his own laugh which was much too sardonic for a
lady's ears, he made a move as if to lead the way into another
portion of the room. But Violet failed to notice this, and
lingering in quiet contemplation of this suggestive little nick,--
the only blemish in a room of ancient colonial magnificence,--
she thoughtfully remarked:
"Then she was a small woman?" adding with seeming irrelevance--
Roger winced. Something in the suggestion hurt him, and in the
nod he gave there was an air of coldness which under ordinary
circumstances would have deterred her from pursuing this subject
further. But the circumstances were not ordinary, and she allowed
herself to say:
"Was she so very different from me,--in figure, I mean?"
"No. Why do you ask? Shall we not join your brother on the
"Not till I have answered the question you put me a moment ago.
You wished to know my requirements. One of the most important you
have already fulfilled. You have given your servants a half-
holiday and by so doing ensured to us full liberty of action.
What else I need in the attempt I propose to make, you will find
listed in this memorandum." And taking a slip of paper from her
bag, she offered it to him with a hand, the trembling of which he
would have noted had he been freer in mind.
As he read, she watched him, her fingers nervously clutching her
"Can you supply what I ask?" she faltered, as he failed to raise
his eyes or make any move or even to utter the groan she saw
surging up to his lips. "Will you?" she impetuously urged, as his
fingers closed spasmodically on the paper, in evidence that he
understood at last the trend of her daring purpose.
The answer came slowly, but it came. "I will. But what--"
Her hand rose in a pleading gesture.
"Do not ask me, but take Arthur and myself into the garden and
show us the flowers. Afterwards, I should like a glimpse of the
He bowed and they joined Arthur who had already begun to stroll
through the grounds.
Violet was seldom at a loss for talk even at the most critical
moments. But she was strangely tongue-tied on this occasion, as
was Roger himself. Save for a few observations casually thrown
out by Arthur, the three passed in a disquieting silence through
pergola after pergola, and around beds gorgeous with every
variety of fall flowers, till they turned a sharp corner and came
in full view of the sea.
"Ah!" fell in an admiring murmur from Violet's lips as her eyes
swept the horizon. Then as they settled on a mass of rock jutting
out from the shore in a great curve, she leaned towards her host
and softly whispered:
He nodded, and Violet ventured no farther, but stood for a little
while gazing at the tumbled rocks. Then, with a quick look back
at the house, she asked him to point out his father's window.
He did so, and as she noted how openly it faced the sea, her
expression relaxed and her manner lost some of its constraint. As
they turned to re-enter the house, she noticed an old man picking
flowers from a vine clambering over one end of the piazza.
"Who is that?" she asked.
"Our oldest servant, and my father's own man," was Roger's reply.
"He is picking my father's favourite flowers, a few late
"How fortunate! Speak to him, Mr. Upjohn. Ask him how your father
is this evening."
"Accompany me and I will; and do not be afraid to enter into
conversation with him. He is the mildest of creatures and devoted
to his patient. He likes nothing better than to talk about him."
Violet, with a meaning look at her brother, ran up the steps at
Roger's side. As she did so, the old man turned and Violet was
astonished at the wistfulness with which he viewed her.
"What a dear old creature!" she murmured. "See how he stares this
way. You would think he knew me."
"He is glad to see a woman about the place. He has felt our
isolation--Good evening, Abram. Let this young lady have a spray
of your sweetest honeysuckle. And, Abram, before you go, how is
Father to-night? Still sitting up?"
"Yes, sir. He is very regular in his ways. Nine is his hour; not
a minute before and not a minute later. I don't have to look at
the clock when he says: 'There, Abram, I've sat up long enough.'"
"When my father retires before his time or goes to bed without a
final look at the sea, he will be a very sick man, Abram."
"That he will, Mr. Roger; that he will. But he's very feeble to-
night, very feeble. I noticed that he gave the boy fewer kisses
than usual. Perhaps he was put out because the child was brought
in a half-hour earlier than the stated time. He don't like
changes; you know that, Mr. Roger; he don't like changes. I
hardly dared to tell him that the servants were all going out in
a bunch to-night."
"I'm sorry," muttered Roger. "But he'll forget it by to-morrow. I
couldn't bear to keep a single one from the concert. They'll be
back in good season and meantime we have you. Abram is worth half
a dozen of them, Miss Strange. We shall miss nothing."
"Thank you, Mr. Roger, thank you," faltered the old man. "I try
to do my duty." And with another wistful glance at Violet, who
looked very sweet and youthful in the half-light, he pottered
The silence which followed his departure was as painful to her as
to Roger Upjohn. When she broke it it was with this decisive
"That man must not speak of me to your father. He must not even
mention that you have a guest to-night. Run after him and tell
him so. It is necessary that your father's mind should not be
taken up with present happenings. Run."
Roger made haste to obey her. When he came back she was on the
point of joining her brother but stopped to utter a final
"I shall leave the library, or wherever we may be sitting, just
as the clock strikes half-past eight. Arthur will do the same, as
by that time he will feel like smoking on the terrace. Do not
follow either him or myself, but take your stand here on the
piazza where you can get a full view of the right-hand wing
without attracting any attention to yourself. When you hear the
big clock in the hall strike nine, look up quickly at your
father's window. What you see may determine--oh, Arthur! still
admiring the prospect? I do not wonder. But I find it chilly.
Let us go in."
Roger Upjohn, sitting by himself in the library, was watching
the hands of the mantel clock slowly approaching the hour of
Never had silence seemed more oppressive nor his sense of
loneliness greater. Yet the boom of the ocean was distinct to the
ear, and human presence no farther away than the terrace where
Arthur Strange could be seen smoking out his cigar in solitude.
The silence and the loneliness were in Roger's own soul; and, in
face of the expected revelation which would make or unmake his
future, the desolation they wrought was measureless.
To cut his suspense short, he rose at length and hurried out to
the spot designated by Miss Strange as the best point from which
to keep watch upon his father's window. It was at the end of the
piazza where the honeysuckle hung, and the odour of the blossoms,
so pleasing to his father, well-nigh overpowered him not only by
its sweetness but by the many memories it called up. Visions of
that father as he looked at all stages of their relationship
passed in a bewildering maze before him. He saw him as he
appeared to his childish eyes in those early days of confidence
when the loss of the mother cast them in mutual dependence upon
each other. Then a sterner picture of the relentless parent who
sees but one straight course to success in this world and the
next. Then the teacher and the matured adviser; and then--oh,
bitter change! the man whose hopes he had crossed--whose life he
had undone, and all for her who now came stealing upon the scene
with her slim, white, jewelled hand forever lifted up between
them. And she! Had he ever seen her more clearly? Once more the
dainty figure stepped from fairy-land, beauteous with every
grace that can allure and finally destroy a man. And as he saw,
he trembled and wished that these moments of awful waiting might
pass and the test be over which would lay bare his father's heart
and justify his fears or dispel them forever.
But the crisis, if crisis it was, was one of his own making and
not to be hastened or evaded. With one quick glance at his
father's window, he turned in his impatience towards the sea
whose restless and continuous moaning had at length struck his
ear. What was in its call to-night that he should thus sway
towards it as though drawn by some dread magnetic force? He had
been born to the dashing of its waves and knew its every mood and
all the passion of its song from frolicsome ripple to melancholy
dirge. But there was something odd and inexplicable in its effect
upon his spirit as he faced it at this hour. Grim and implacable--
a sound rather than a sight--it seemed to hold within its
invisible distances the image of his future fate. What this image
was and why he should seek for it in this impenetrable void, he
did not know. He felt himself held and was struggling with this
influence as with an unknown enemy when there rang out, from the
hall within, the preparatory chimes for which his ear was
waiting, and then the nine slow strokes which signalized the
moment when he was to look for his father's presence at the
Had he wished, he could not have forborne that look. Had his eyes
been closing in death, or so he felt, the trembling lids would
have burst apart at this call and the revelations it promised.
And what did he see? What did that window hold for him?
Nothing that he might not have seen there any night at this hour.
His father's figure drawn up behind the panes in wistful
contemplation of the night. No visible change in his attitude,
nothing forced or unusual in his manner. Even the hand, lifted to
pull down the shade, moves with its familiar hesitation. In a
moment more that shade will be down and-- But no! the lifted hand
falls back; the easy attitude becomes strained, fixed. He is
staring now--not merely gazing out upon the wastes of sky and
sea; and Roger, following the direction of his glance, stares
also in breathless emotion at what those distances, but now so
impenetrable, are giving to the eye.
A spectre floating in the air above the promontory! The spectre
of a woman--of his wife, clad, as she had been clad that fatal
night! Outlined in supernatural light, it faces them with lifted
arms showing the ends of rope dangling from either wrist. A sight
awful to any eye, but to the man of guilty heart--
Ah! it comes--the cry for which the agonized son had been
listening! An old man's shriek, hoarse with the remorse of
sleepless nights and days of unimaginable regret and foreboding!
It cuts the night. It cuts its way into his heart. He feels his
senses failing him, yet he must glance once more at the window
and see with his last conscious look-- But what is this! a change
has taken place in the picture and he beholds, not the distorted
form of his father sinking back in shame and terror before this
visible image of his secret sin, but that of another weak, old
man falling to the floor behind his back! Abram! the attentive,
seemingly harmless, guardian of the household! Abram! who had
never spoken a word or given a look in any way suggestive of his
having played any other part in the hideous drama of their lives
than that of the humble and sympathetic servant!
The shock was too great, the relief too absolute for credence.
He, the listener at the grotto? He, the avenger of the family's
honour? He, the insurer of little Roger's continuance with the
family at a cost the one who loved him best would rather have
died himself than pay? Yes! there is no misdoubting this old
servitor's attitude of abject appeal, or the meaning of Homer
Upjohn's joyfully uplifted countenance and outspreading arms. The
servant begs for mercy from man, and the master is giving thanks
to Heaven. Why giving thanks? Has he been the prey of cankering
doubts also? Has the father dreaded to discover that in the son
which the son has dreaded to discover in the father?
It might easily be; and as Roger recognizes this truth and the
full tragedy of their mutual lives, he drops to his knees amid
"Violet, you are a wonder. But how did you dare?"
This from Arthur as the two rode to the train in the early
The answer came a bit waveringly.
"I do not know. I am astonished yet, at my own daring. Look at my
hands. They have not ceased trembling since the moment you threw
the light upon me on the rocks. The figure of old Mr. Upjohn in
the window looked so august."
Arthur, with a short glance at the little hands she held out,
shrugged his shoulders imperceptibly. It struck him that the
tremulousness she complained of was due more to some parting word
from their young host, than from prolonged awe at her own daring.
But he made no remark to this effect, only observed:
"Abram has confessed his guilt, I hear."
"Yes, and will die of it. The master will bury the man, and not
the man the master."
"And Roger? Not the little fellow, but the father?"
"We will not talk of him," said she, her eyes seeking the sea
where the sun in its rising was battling with a troop of
lowering clouds and slowly gaining the victory.
END OF PROBLEM IV
THE DREAMING LADY
"And this is all you mean to tell me?"
"I think you will find it quite enough, Miss Strange."
"Just the address--"
"And this advice: that your call be speedy. Distracted nerves
Violet, across whose wonted piquancy there lay an indefinable
shadow, eyed her employer with a doubtful air before turning away
toward the door. She had asked him for a case to investigate
(something she had never done before), and she had even gone so
far as to particularize the sort of case she desired: "It must be
an interesting one," she had stipulated, "but different, quite
different from the last one. It must not involve death or any
kind of horror. If you have a case of subtlety without crime, one
to engage my powers without depressing my spirits, I beg you to
let me have it. I--I have not felt quite like myself since I came
from Massachusetts." Whereupon, without further comment, but with
a smile she did not understand, he had handed her a small slip of
paper on which he had scribbled an address. She should have felt
satisfied, but for some reason she did not. She regarded him as
capable of plunging her into an affair quite the reverse of what
she felt herself in a condition to undertake.
"I should like to know a little more," she pursued, making a move
to unfold the slip he had given her.
But he stopped her with a gesture.
"Read it in your limousine," said he. "If you are disappointed
then, let me know. But I think you will find yourself quite ready
for your task."
"And my father?"
"Would approve if he could be got to approve the business at all.
You do not even need to take your brother with you."
"Oh, then, it's with women only I have to deal?"
"Read the address after you are headed up Fifth Avenue."
But when, with her doubts not yet entirely removed, she opened
the small slip he had given her, the number inside suggested
nothing but the fact that her destination lay somewhere near
Eightieth Street. It was therefore with the keenest surprise she
beheld her motor stop before the conspicuous house of the great
financier whose late death had so affected the money-market. She
had not had any acquaintance with this man herself, but she knew
his house. Everyone knew that. It was one of the most princely in
the whole city. C. Dudley Brooks had known how to spend his
millions. Indeed, he had known how to do this so well that it was
of him her father, also a financier of some note, had once said
he was the only successful American he envied.
She was expected; that she saw the instant the door was opened.
This made her entrance easy--an entrance further brightened by
the delightful glimpse of a child's cherubic face looking at her
from a distant doorway. It was an instantaneous vision, gone as
soon as seen; but its effect was to rob the pillared spaces of
the wonderful hallway of some of their chill, and to modify in
some slight degree the formality of a service which demanded
three men to usher her into a small reception-room not twenty
feet from the door of entrance.
Left in this secluded spot, she had time to ask herself what
member of the household she would be called upon to meet, and was
surprised to find that she did not even know of whom the
household consisted. She was sure of the fact that Mr. Brooks had
been a widower for many years before his death, but beyond that
she knew nothing of his domestic life. His son--but was there a
son? She had never heard any mention made of a younger Mr.
Brooks, yet there was certainly some one of his connection who
enjoyed the rights of an heir. Him she must be prepared to meet
with a due composure, whatever astonishment he might show at the
sight of a slip of a girl instead of the experienced detective he
had every right to expect.
But when the door opened to admit the person she was awaiting,
the surprise was hers. It was a woman who stood before her, a
woman and an oddity. Yet, in just what her oddity lay, Violet
found it difficult to decide. Was it in the smoothness of her
white locks drawn carefully down over her ears, or in the
contrast afforded by her eager eyes and her weak and tremulous
mouth? She was dressed in the heaviest of mourning and very
expensively, but there was that in her bearing and expression
which made it impossible to believe that she took any interest in
her garments or even knew in which of her dresses she had been
"I am the person you have come here to see," she said. "Your name
is not unfamiliar to me, but you may not know mine. It is
Quintard; Mrs. Quintard. I am in difficulty. I need assistance--
secret assistance. I did not know where to go for it except to a
detective agency; so I telephoned to the first one I saw
advertised; and--and I was told to expect Miss Strange. But I
didn't think it would be you though I suppose it's all right. You
have come here for this purpose, haven't you, though it does seem
a little queer?"
"Certainly, Mrs. Quintard; and if you will tell me--"
"My dear, it's just this--yes, I will sit down. Last week my
brother died. You have heard of him no doubt, C. Dudley Brooks?"
"Oh, yes; my father knew him--we all knew him by reputation. Do
not hurry, Mrs. Quintard. I have sent my car away. You can take
all the time you wish."
"No, no, I cannot. I'm in desperate haste. He--but let me go on
with my story. My brother was a widower, with no children to
inherit. That everybody knows. But his wife left behind her a son
by a former husband, and this son of hers my brother had in a
measure adopted, and even made his sole heir in a will he drew up
during the lifetime of his wife. But when he found, as he very
soon did, that this young man was not developing in a way to meet
such great responsibilities, he made a new will--though unhappily
without the knowledge of the family, or even of his most intimate
friends--in which he gave the bulk of his great estate to his
nephew Clement, who has bettered the promise of his youth and who
besides has children of great beauty whom my brother had learned
to love. And this will--this hoarded scrap of paper which means
so much to us all, is lost! lost! and I--" here her voice which
had risen almost to a scream, sank to a horrified whisper, "am
the one who lost it."
"But there's a copy of it somewhere--there is always a copy--"
"Oh, but you haven't heard all. My nephew is an invalid; has been
an invalid for years--that's why so little is known about him.
He's dying of consumption. The doctors hold out no hope for him,
and now, with the fear preying upon him of leaving his wife and
children penniless, he is wearing away so fast that any hour may
see his end. And I have to meet his eyes--such pitiful eyes--and
the look in them is killing me. Yet, I was not to blame. I could
not help--Oh, Miss Strange," she suddenly broke in with the
inconsequence of extreme feeling, "the will is in the house! I
never carried it off the floor where I sleep. Find it; find it, I
The moment had come for Violet's soft touch, for Violet's
"I will try," she answered her.
Mrs. Quintard grew calmer.
"But, first," the young girl continued, "I must know more about
the conditions. Where is this nephew of yours--the man who is
"In this house, where he has been for the last eight months."
"Was the child his of whom I caught a glimpse in the hall as I
"I will fight for that child!" Violet cried out impulsively. "I
am sure his father's cause is good . Where is the other claimant--
the one you designate as Carlos?"
"Oh, there's where the trouble is! Carlos is on the Mauretania,
and she is due here in a couple of days. He comes from the East
where he has been touring with his wife. Miss Strange, the lost
will must be found before then, or the other will be opened and
read and Carlos made master of this house, which would mean our
quick departure and Clement's certain death."
"Move a sick man?--a relative as low as you say he is? Oh no,
Mrs. Quintard; no one would do that, were the house a cabin and
its owners paupers."
"You do not know Carlos; you do not know his wife. We should not
be given a week in which to pack. They have no children and they
envy Clement who has. Our only hope lies in discovering the paper
which gives us the right to remain here in face of all
opposition. That or penury. Now you know my trouble."
"And it is trouble; one from which I shall make every effort to
relieve you. But first let me ask if you are not worrying
unnecessarily about this missing document? If it was drawn up by
Mr. Brooks's lawyer--"
"But it was not," that lady impetuously interrupted. "His lawyer
is Carlos's near relative, and has never been told of the change
in my brother's intentions. Clement (I am speaking now of my
brother and not of my nephew) was a great money-getter, but when
it came to standing up for his rights in domestic matters, he was
more timid than a child. He was subject to his wife while she
lived, and when she was gone, to her relatives, who are all of a
dominating character. When he finally made up his mind to do us
justice and eliminate Carlos, he went out of town--I wish I could
remember where--and had this will drawn up by a stranger, whose
name I cannot recall."
Her shaking tones, her nervous manner betrayed a weakness
equalling, if not surpassing, that of the brother who dared in
secret what he had not strength to acknowledge openly, and it was
with some hesitation Violet prepared to ask those definite
questions which would elucidate the cause and manner of a loss
seemingly so important. She dreaded to hear some commonplace tale
of inexcusable carelessness. Something subtler than this--the
presence of some unsuspected agency opposed to young Clement's
interest; some partisan of Carlos; some secret undermining force
in a house full of servants and dependants, seemed necessary for
the development of so ordinary a situation into a drama
justifying the exercise of her special powers.
"I think I understand now your exact position in the house, as
well as the value of the paper which you say you have lost. The
next thing for me to hear is how you came to have charge of this
paper, and under what circumstances you were led to mislay it. Do
you not feel quite ready to tell me?"
"Is--is that necessary?" Mrs. Quintard faltered.
"Very," replied Violet, watching her curiously.
"I didn't expect--that is, I hoped you would be able to point
out, by some power we cannot of course explain, just the spot
where the paper lies, without having to tell all that. Some
people can, you know."
"Ah, I understand. You regarded me as unfit for practical work,
and so credited me with occult powers. But that is where you made
a mistake, Mrs. Quintard; I'm nothing if not practical. And let
me add, that I'm as secret as the grave concerning what my
clients tell me. If I am to be of any help to you, I must be made
acquainted with every fact involved in the loss of this valuable
paper. Relate the whole circumstance or dismiss me from the
case. You can have done nothing more foolish or wrong than many--
"Oh, don't say things like that!" broke in the poor woman in a
tone of great indignation. "I have done nothing anyone could call
either foolish or wicked. I am simply very unfortunate, and being
sensitive--But this isn't telling the story. I'll try to make it
all clear; but if I do not, and show any confusion, stop me and
help me out with questions. I--I--oh, where shall I begin?"
"With your first knowledge of this second will."
"Thank you, thank you; now I can go on. One night, shortly after
my brother had been given up by the physicians, I was called to
his bedside for a confidential talk. As he had received that day
a very large amount of money from the bank, I thought he was
going to hand it over to me for Clement, but it was for something
much more serious than this he had summoned me. When he was quite
sure that we were alone and nobody anywhere within hearing, he
told me that he had changed his mind as to the disposal of his
property and that it was to Clement and his children, and not to
Carlos, he was going to leave this house and the bulk of his
money. That he had had a new will drawn up which he showed me--"
"Yes; he made me bring it to him from the safe where he kept it;
and, feeble as he was, he was so interested in pointing out
certain portions of it that he lifted himself in bed and was so
strong and animated that I thought he was getting better. But it
was a false strength due to the excitement of the moment, as I
saw next day when he suddenly died."
"You were saying that you brought the will to him from his safe.
Where was the safe?"
"In the wall over his head. He gave me the key to open it. This
key he took from under his pillow. I had no trouble in fitting it
or in turning the lock."
"And what happened after you looked at the will?"
"I put it back. He told me to. But the key I kept. He said I was
not to part with it again till the time came for me to produce
"And when was that to be?"
"Immediately after the funeral, if it so happened that Carlos had
arrived in time to attend it. But if for any reason he failed to
be here, I was to let it lie till within three days of his
return, when I was to take it out in the presence of a Mr.
Delahunt who was to have full charge of it from that time. Oh, I
remember all that well enough! and I meant most earnestly to
carry out his wishes, but--"
"Go on, Mrs. Quintard, pray go on. What happened? Why couldn't
you do what he asked?"
"Because the will was gone when I went to take it out. There was
nothing to show Mr. Delahunt but the empty shelf."
"Oh, a theft! just a common theft! Someone overheard the talk
you had with your brother. But how about the key? You had that?"
"Yes, I had that."
"Then it was taken from you and returned?
You must have been careless as to where you kept it--"
"No, I wore it on a chain about my neck. Though I had no reason
to mistrust any one in the house, I felt that I could not guard
this key too carefully. I even kept it on at night. In fact it
never left me. It was still on my person when I went into the
room with Mr. Delahunt. But the safe had been opened for all
"There were two keys to it, then?"
"No; in giving me the key, my brother had strictly warned me not
to lose it, as it had no duplicate."
"Mrs. Quintard, have you a special confidant or maid?"
"Yes, my Hetty."
"How much did she know about this key?"
"Nothing, but that it didn't help the fit of my dress. Hetty has
cared for me for years. There's no more devoted woman in all New
York, nor one who can be more relied upon to tell the truth. She
is so honest with her tongue that I am bound to believe her even
when she says--"
"That it was I and nobody else who took the will out of the safe
last night. That she saw me come from my brother's room with a
folded paper in my hand, pass with it into the library, and come
out again without it. if this is so, then that will is somewhere
in that great room. But we've looked in every conceivable place
except the shelves, where it is useless to search. It would take
days to go through them all, and meanwhile Carlos--"
"We will not wait for Carlos. We will begin work at once. But
just one other question. How came Hetty to see you in your walk
through the rooms? Did she follow you?"
"Yes. It's--it's not the first time I have walked in my sleep.
Last night--but she will tell you. It's a painful subject to me.
I will send for her to meet us in the library."
"Where you believe this document to lie hidden?"
"I am anxious to see the room. It is upstairs, I believe."
She had risen and was moving rapidly toward the door. Violet
eagerly followed her.
Let us accompany her in her passage up the palatial stairway, and
realize the effect upon her of a splendour whose future ownership
possibly depended entirely upon herself.
It was a cold splendour. The merry voices of children were
lacking in these great halls. Death past and to come infused the
air with solemnity and mocked the pomp which yet appeared so much
a part of the life here that one could hardly imagine the huge
pillared spaces without it.
To Violet, more or less accustomed to fine interiors, the chief
interest of this one lay in its connection with the mystery then
occupying her. Stopping for a moment on the stair, she inquired
of Mrs. Quintard if the loss she so deplored had been made known
to the servants, and was much relieved to find that, with the,
exception of Mr. Delahunt, she had not spoken of it to any one
but Clement. "And he will never mention it," she declared, "not
even to his wife. She has troubles enough to bear without knowing
how near she stood to a fortune."
"Oh, she will have her fortune!" Violet confidently replied. "In
time, the lawyer who drew up the will will appear. But what you
want is an immediate triumph over the cold Carlos, and I hope you
may have it. Ah!"
This expletive was a sigh of sheer surprise.
Mrs. Quintard had unlocked the library door and Violet had been
given her first glimpse of this, the finest room in New York.
She remembered now that she had often heard it so characterized,
and, indeed, had it been taken bodily from some historic abbey of
the old world, it could not have expressed more fully, in
structure and ornamentation, the Gothic idea at its best. All
that it lacked were the associations of vanished centuries, and
these, in a measure, were supplied to the imagination by the
studied mellowness of its tints and the suggestion of age in its
So much for the room itself, which was but a shell for holding
the great treasure of valuable books ranged along every shelf. As
Violet's eyes sped over their ranks and thence to the five
windows of deeply stained glass which faced her from the southern
end, Mrs. Quintard indignantly exclaimed:
"And Carlos would turn this into a billiard room!"
"I do not like Carlos," Violet returned hotly; then remembering
herself, hastened to ask whether Mrs. Quintard was quite positive
as to this room being the one in which she had hidden the
"You had better talk to Hetty," said that lady, as a stout woman
of most prepossessing appearance entered their presence and
paused respectfully just inside the doorway. "Hetty, you will
answer any questions this young lady may put. If anyone can help
us, she can. But first, what news from the sick-room?"
"Nothing good. The doctor has just come for the third time today.
Mrs. Brooks is crying and even the children are dumb with fear."
"I will go. I must see the doctor. I must tell him to keep