Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The House of the Whispering Pines by Anna Katharine Green

Part 2 out of 7

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.8 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

I was conscious of few hopes, but some of the oppression under which I
laboured lifted at those words. I had assured one man of my innocence! It
was like a great rock in the weary desert. My sigh of relief bespoke my
feelings and I longed to take his hand, but the moment had not yet come.
Something was wanting to a perfect confidence between us, and I was in
too sensitive a frame of mind to risk the slightest rebuff.

He was ready to speak before I was. "Then, you had not been long on the
scene of crime when the police arrived?"

"I had been in the room but a few minutes. I do not know how long I was
searching the house."

"The police say that fully twenty minutes elapsed between the time they
received Miss Cumberland's appeal for help and their arrival at the
club-house. If you were there that long--"

"I cannot say. Moments are hours at such a crisis--I--"

My emotions were too much for me, and I confusedly stopped. He was
surveying me with the old distrust. In a moment I saw why.

"You are not open with me," he protested. "Why should moments be hours to
you previous to the instant when you stripped those pillows from the
couch? You are not a fanciful man, nor have you any cowardly instincts.
Why were you in such a turmoil going through a house where you could have
expected to find nothing worse than some miserable sneak thief?"

This was a poser. I had laid myself open to suspicion by one
thoughtless admission, and what was worse, it was but the beginning in
all probability of many other possible mistakes. I had never taken the
trouble to measure my words and the whole truth being impossible, I
necessarily must make a slip now and then. He had better be warned of
this. I did not wish him to undertake my cause blindfolded. He must
understand its difficulties while believing in my innocence. Then, if
he chose to draw back, well and good. I should have to face the
situation alone.

"Charles," said I, as soon as I could perfectly control my speech, "you
are quite just in your remark. I am not and can not be perfectly open
with you. I shall tell you no lies, but beyond that I cannot promise. I
am caught in a net not altogether of my own weaving. So far I will be
frank with you. A common question may trip me up, others find me free and
ready with my defence. You have chanced upon one of the former. I was in
a turmoil of mind from the moment of my entrance into that fatal house,
but I can give no reason for it unless I am, as you hinted, a coward."

He settled that supposition with a gesture I had rather not have seen. It
would be better for him to consider me a poltroon than to suspect my real
reasons for the agitation which I had acknowledged.

"You say you cannot be open with me. That means you have certain memories
connected with that night which you cannot divulge."

"Right, Charles; but not memories of guilt--of active guilt, I mean. This
I have previously insisted on, and this is what you must believe. I am
not even an accessory before the fact. I am perfectly innocent so far as
Adelaide's death is concerned. You may proceed on that basis without
fear. That is, if you continue to take an interest in my case. If not, I
shall be the last to blame you. Little honour is likely to accrue to you
from defending me."

"I have accepted the case and I shall continue to interest myself in it,"
he assured me, with a dogged rather than genial persistence. "But I
should like to know what I am to work upon, if it cannot be shown that
her call for help came before you entered the building."

"That would be the best defence possible, of course," I replied; "but
neither from your standpoint nor mine is it a feasible one. I have no
proof of my assertion, I never looked at my watch from the time I left
the station till I found it run down this very morning. The club-house
clock has been out of order for some time and was not running. All I know
and can swear to about the length of time I was in that building prior
to the arrival of the police, is that it could not have been very long,
since she was not only dead and buried under those accumulated cushions,
but in a room some little distance from the telephone."

"That will do for me," said he, "but scarcely for those who are
prejudiced against you. Everything points so indisputably to your guilt.
The note which you say you wrote to Carmel to meet you at the station
looks very much more like one to Miss Cumberland to meet you at the

It was thus I first learned which part of this letter had been
burned off.[1]

[Footnote :1 It was the top portion, leaving the rest to read:

_"Come, come my darling, my life. She will forgive when all is done.
Hesitation will only undo us. To-night at 10:30. I shall never marry any
one but you."_

It was also evident that I had failed to add those expressions of
affection linked to Carmel's name which had been in my mind and awakened
my keenest apprehension.]

"Otherwise," he pursued, "what could have taken her there? Everybody who
knew her will ask that. Such a night! so soon after seeing you! It is a
mystery any way, but one entirely inconceivable without some such excuse
for her. These lines said 'Come!' and she went, for reasons which may be
clear to you who were acquainted with her weak as well as strong points.
Went how? No one knows. By chance or by intention on her part or yours,
every servant was out of the house by nine o'clock, and her brother, too.
Only the sister remained, the sister whom you profess to have urged to
leave the town with you that very evening; and she can tell us
nothing,--may die without ever being able to do so. Some shock to her
feelings--you may know its character and you may not--drove her from a
state of apparent health into the wildest delirium in a few hours. It was
not your letter--if your story is true about that letter--or she would
have shown its effect immediately upon receiving it; that is, in the
early evening. And she did not. Helen, one of the maids, declares that
she saw her some time after you left the house, and that she wore
anything but a troubled look; that, in fact, her countenance was beaming
and so beautiful that, accustomed as the girl was to her young mistress's
good looks, she was more than struck by her appearance and spoke of it
afterwards at the ball. A telling circumstance against you, Ranelagh, not
only contradicting your own story but showing that her after condition
sprang from some sudden and extreme apprehension in connection with her
sister. Did you speak?"

No, I had not spoken. I had nothing to say. I was too deeply shaken by
what he had just told me, to experience anything but the utmost confusion
of ideas. Carmel beaming and beautiful at an hour I had supposed her
suffering and full of struggle! I could not reconcile it with the letter
she had written me, or with that understanding with her sister which
ended so hideously in The Whispering Pines.

The lawyer, seeing my helpless state, proceeded with his presentation of
my case as it looked to unprejudiced eyes.

"Miss Cumberland comes to the club-house; so do you. You have not the
keys and so go searching about the building till you find an unlocked
window by which you both enter. There are those who say you purposely
left this window unfastened when you went about the house the day
before; that you dropped the keys in her house where they would be sure
to be found, and drove down to the station and stood about there for a
good half hour, in order to divert suspicion from yourself afterwards and
create an alibi in case it should be wanted. I do not believe any of this
myself, not since accepting your assurance of innocence, but there are
those who do believe it firmly and discern in the whole affair a cool and
premeditated murder. Your passion for Carmel, while not generally known,
has not passed unsuspected by your or her intimates; and this in itself
is enough to give colour to these suspicions, even if you had not gone so
far as to admit its power over you and the extremes to which you were
willing to go to secure the wife you wished. So much for the situation as
it appears to outsiders. Of the circumstantial evidence which links you
personally to this crime, we have already spoken. It is very strong and
apparently unassailable. But truth is truth, and if you only felt free to
bare your whole soul to me as you now decline to do, I should not despair
of finding some weak link in the chain which seems so satisfactory to the
police and, I am forced to add, to the general public."


I was very near unbosoming myself to him at that moment. But I caught
myself back in time. While Carmel lay ill and unconscious, I would not
clear my name at her expense by so much as a suggestion.

"Charles," I repeated, but in a different tone and with a different
purpose, "how do they account for the cordial that was drunk--the two
emptied glasses and the flask which were found in the adjacent closet?"

"It's one of the affair's conceded incongruities. Miss Cumberland is a
well-known temperance woman. Had the flask and glasses not come from her
house, you would get no one to believe that she had had anything to do
with them. Have you any hint to give on this point? It would be a welcome
addition to our case."

Alas! I was as much puzzled by those emptied cordial glasses as he was,
and told him so; also by the presence of the third unused one. As I dwelt
in thought on the latter circumstance, I remembered the observation which
Coroner Perry had made concerning it.

"Coroner Perry speaks of a third and unused glass which was found with
the flask," I ventured, tentatively. "He seemed to consider it an
important item, hiding some truth that would materially help this case.
What do you think, or rather, what is the general opinion on this point?"

"I have not heard. I have seen the fact mentioned, but without comment.
It is a curious circumstance. I will make a note of it. You have no
suggestions to offer on the subject?"


"The clew is a small one," he smiled.

"So is the one offered by the array of bottles found on the kitchen
table; yet the latter may lead directly to the truth. Adelaide never dug
those out of the cellar where they were locked up, and I'm sure I did
not. Yet I suppose I'm given credit for doing so."

"Naturally. The key to the wine-vault was the only key which was lacking
from the bunch left at Miss Cumberland's. That it was used to open the
wine-vault door is evident from the fact that it was found in the lock."

This was discouraging. Everything was against me. If the whole affair had
been planned with an intent to inculpate me and me only, it could not
have been done with more attention to detail, nor could I have found
myself more completely enmeshed. Yet I knew, both from circumstances and
my own instinct that no such planning had occurred. I was a victim, not
of malice but of blind chance, or shall I say of Providence? As to this
one key having been slipped from the rest and used to open the wine-vault
for wine which nobody wanted and nobody drank--this must be classed with
the other incongruities which might yet lead to my enlargement.

"You may add this coincidence to the other," I conceded, after I had
gone thus far in my own mind. "I swear that I had nothing to do with
that key."

Neither could I believe that it had been used or even carried there by
Adelaide or Carmel, though I knew that the full ring of keys had been in
their hands and that they had entered the building by means of one of
them. So assured was I of their innocence in this regard that the idea
which afterwards assumed such proportions in all our minds had, at this
moment, its first dawning in mine, as well as its first outward

"Some other man than myself was thirsty that night," I firmly declared.
"We are getting on, Charles."

Evidently he did not consider the pace a very fast one, but being a
cheerful fellow by nature, he simply expressed his dissatisfaction by an
imperceptible shrug.

"Do you know exactly what the club-house's wine-vault contained?" he

"An inventory was given me by the steward the morning we closed. It must
be in my rooms."

"Your rooms have been examined. You expected that, didn't you? Probably
this inventory has been found. I don't suppose it will help any."

"How should it?"

"Very true; how should it! No thoroughfare there, of course."

"No thoroughfare anywhere to-day," I exclaimed. "To-morrow some loop-hole
of escape may suggest itself to me. I should like to sleep on the matter.
I--I should like to sleep on it."

He saw that I had something in mind of which I had thus far given him no
intimation, and he waited anxiously for me to reconsider my last words
before he earnestly remarked:

"A day lost at a time like this is often a day never retrieved. Think
well before you bid me leave you, unenlightened as to the direction in
which you wish me to work."

But I was not ready, not by any means ready, and he detected this when I
next spoke.

"I will see you to-morrow; any time to-morrow; meantime I will give you a
commission which you are at liberty to perform yourself or to entrust to
some capable detective. The letter, of which a portion remains, _was_
written to Carmel, and she sent me a reply which was handed me on the
station platform by a man who was a perfect stranger to me. I have
hardly any memory of how the man looked, but it should be an easy task to
find him and if you cannot do that, the smallest scrap of the note he
gave me, and which unfortunately I tore up and scattered to the winds,
would prove my veracity in this one particular and so make it easier for
them to believe the rest."

His eye lightened. I presume the prospect of making any practical attempt
in my behalf was welcome.

"One thing more," I now added. "My ring was missing from Miss
Cumberland's hand when I took away those pillows. I have reason to
think--or it is natural for me to think--that she planned to return it to
me by some messenger or in some letter. Do you know if such messenger or
such letter has been received at my apartments? Have you heard anything
about this ring? It was a notable one and not to be confounded with any
other. Any one who knew us or who had ever remarked it on her hand would
be able to identify it."

"I have heard the ring mentioned," he replied, "I have even heard that
the police are interested in finding it; but I have not heard that they
have been successful. You encourage me much by assuring me that it was
missing from her hand when you first saw her. That ring may prove our
most valuable clew."

"Yes, but you must also remember that she may have taken it off before
she started for the club-house."

"That is very true."

"You do not know whether they have looked for it at her home?"

"I do not."

"Will you find out, and will you see that I get all my letters?"

"I certainly will, but you must not expect to receive the latter

"I suppose not."

I said this with more cheerfulness than he evidently expected. My heart
had been lightened of one load. The ring had not been discovered on
Carmel as I had secretly feared.

"I will take good care of your interests from now on," he remarked, in a
tone much more natural than any he had before used. "Be hopeful and show
a brave front to the district attorney when he comes to interview you. I
hear that he is expected home to-morrow. If you are innocent, you can
face him and his whole office with calm assurance." Which showed how
little he understood my real position.

There was comfort in this very thought, however, and I quietly remarked
that I did not despair.

"And I _will_ not," he emphasised, rising with an assumption of ease
which left him as he remained hesitating before me.

It was my moment of advantage, and I improved it by proffering a request
which had been more or less in my mind during the whole of this
prolonged colloquy.

First thanking him for his disinterestedness, I remarked that he had
shown me so much consideration as a lawyer, that I now felt emboldened to
ask something from him as my friend.

"You are free," said I; "I am not. Miss Cumberland will be buried before
I leave these four walls. I hate to think of her going to her grave
without one token from the man to whom she has been only too good and
who, whatever outrage he may have planned to her feelings, is not without
reverence for her character and a heartfelt repentance for whatever he
may have done to grieve her. Charles, a few flowers,--white--no wreath,
just a few which can be placed on her breast or in her hand. You need not
say whom they are from. It would seem a mockery to any one but her.
Lilies, Charles. I shall feel happier to know that they are there. Will
you do this for me?"

"I will."

"That is all."

Instinctively he held out his hand. I dropped mine in it; there was a
slight pressure, some few more murmured words and he was gone.

I slept that night.



I entreat you then
From one that so imperfectly conjects,
You'd take no notice; nor build yourself a trouble
Out of his scattering and unsure observance:
It were not for your quiet, nor your good,
Nor for my manhood, honesty or wisdom,
To let you know my thoughts.


I slept, though a question of no small importance was agitating my mind,
demanding instant consideration and a definite answer before I again saw
this friend and adviser. I woke to ask if the suggestion which had come
to me in our brief conversation about the bottles taken from the
wine-vault, was the promising one it had then appeared, or only a fool's
trick bound to end in disaster. I weighed the matter in every
conceivable way, and ended by trusting to the instinct which impelled me
to have resource to the one and only means by which the scent might be
diverted from its original course, confusion be sown in the minds of the
police, and Carmel, as well as myself, be saved from the pit gaping to
receive us.

This was my plan. I would acknowledge to having seen a horse and cutter
leave the club-house by the upper gateway, simultaneously with my
entrance through the lower one. I would even describe the appearance of
the person driving this cutter. No one by the greatest stretch of
imagination would be apt to associate this description with Carmel; but
it might set the authorities thinking, and if by any good chance a cutter
containing a person wearing a derby hat and a coat with an extra high
collar should have been seen on this portion of the road, or if, as I
earnestly hoped, the snow had left any signs of another horse having been
tethered in the clump of trees opposite the one where I had concealed my
own, enough of the truth might be furnished to divide public opinion and
start fresh inquiry.

That a woman's form had sought concealment under these masculine
habiliments would not, could not, strike anybody's mind. Nothing in
the crime had suggested a woman's presence, much less a woman's
active agency.

On the contrary, all the appearances, save such as I believed known to
myself alone, spoke so openly of a man's strength, a man's methods, a
man's appetite, and a man's brutal daring that the suspicion which had
naturally fallen on myself as the one and only person implicated, would
in shifting pass straight to another man, and, if he could not be found,
return to me, or be lost in a maze of speculation. This seemed so evident
after a long and close study of the situation that I was ready with my
confession when Mr. Clifton next came. I had even forestalled it in a
short interview forced upon me by the assistant district attorney and
Chief Hudson. That it had made an altogether greater impression upon the
latter than I had expected, gave me additional courage when I came to
discuss this new line of defence with the young lawyer. I was even able
to tell him that, to all appearance, my long silence on a point so
favourable to my own interests had not militated against me to the extent
one would expect from men so alive to the subterfuges and plausible
inventions of suspected criminals.

"Chief Hudson believes me, late as my statement is. I saw it in his eye."
Thus I went on. "And the assistant district attorney, too. At least, the
latter is willing to give me the benefit of the doubt, which was more
than I expected. What do you suppose has happened? Some new discovery on
their part? If so, I ought to know what it is. Believe me, Charles, I
ought to know what it is."

"I have heard of no new discovery," he coldly replied, not quite pleased,
as I could see, either with my words or my manner. "An old one may have
served your purpose. If another cutter besides yours passed through the
club-house grounds at the time you mention, it left tracks which all the
fury of the storm would not have entirely obliterated in the fifteen
minutes elapsing between that time and the arrival of the police. Perhaps
they remember these tracks, and if you had been entirely frank that

"I know, I know," I put in, "but I wasn't. Lay it to my confusion of
mind--to the great shock I had received, to anything but my own
blood-guiltiness, and take up the matter as it now stands. Can't you
follow up my suggestion? A witness can certainly be found who encountered
that cutter and its occupant somewhere on the long stretch of open road
between The Whispering Pines and the resident district."

"Possibly. It would help. You have not asked for news from the Hill."

The trembling which seized and shook me at these words testified to the
shock they gave me. "Carmel!" I cried. "She is worse--dead!"

"No. She's not worse and she's not dead. But the doctors say it will be
weeks before they can allow a question of any importance to be put to
her. You can see what that will do for us. Her testimony is too important
to the case to be ignored. A delay will follow which may or may not be
favourable to you. I am inclined to think now that it will redound to
your interests. You are ready to swear to the sleigh you speak of; that
you saw it leave the club-house grounds and turn north?"

"Quite ready; but you must not ask me to describe or in any way to
identify its occupant. I saw nothing but the hat and coat I have told you
about. It was just before the moon went under a cloud, or I could not
have seen that much."

Is it so hard to preserve a natural aspect in telling or suggesting a lie
that Charles's look should change as I uttered the last sentence? I do
not easily flush, and since my self-control had been called upon by the
dreadful experiences of the last few days, I had learned to conceal all
other manifestations of feeling except under some exceptional shock. But
a lie embodied in so many words, never came easy to my lips, and I
suppose my voice fell, for his glance became suddenly penetrating, and
his voice slightly sarcastic as he remarked:

"Those clouds obscured more than the moon, I fancy. I only wish that
they had not risen between you and me. This is the blindest case that has
ever been put in my hands. All the more credit to me if I see you through
it, I suppose; but--"

"Tell me," I broke in, with equal desire to cut these recriminations
short and to learn what was going on at the Cumberland house, "have you
been to the Hill or seen anybody who has? Can't you give me some details
of--of Carmel's condition; of the sort of nurse who cares for her, and
how Arthur conducts himself under this double affliction?"

"I was there last night. Miss Clifford was in the house and received me.
She told me that Arthur's state of mind was pitiful. He was never a very
affectionate brother, you know, but now they cannot get him away from
Carmel's door. He sits or stands all day just outside the threshold and
casts jealous and beseeching looks at those who are allowed to enter.
They say you wouldn't know him. I tried to get him to come down and see
me, but he wouldn't leave his post."

"Doesn't he grieve for Adelaide? I always thought that of the two she had
the greater influence over him."

"Yes, but they cannot get him to enter the place where she lies. His duty
is to the living, he says; at least, his anxiety is there. He starts at
every cry Carmel utters."

"She--cries out--then?"

"Very often. I could hear her from where I sat downstairs."

"And what does she say?"

"The one thing constantly. 'Lila! Lila!' Nothing more."

I kept my face in shadow. If he saw it at all, it must have looked as
cold and hard as stone. After a moment, I went on with my queries:

"Does he--Arthur--mention me at all?"

"I did not discuss you greatly with Miss Clifford. I saw that she was
prejudiced, and I preferred not to risk an argument; but she let fall
this much: that Arthur felt very hard towards you and loudly insisted
upon your guilt. She seemed to think him justified in this. You don't
mind my telling you? It is better for you to know what is being said
about you in town."

I understood his motive. He was trying to drive me into giving him my
full confidence. But I would not be driven. I simply retorted quietly but
in a way to stop all such future attempts:

"Miss Clifford is a very good girl and a true friend of the whole
Cumberland family; but she is not the most discriminating person in the
world, and even if she were, her opinion would not turn me from the
course I have laid out for myself. Does the doctor--Dr. Carpenter, I
presume,--venture to say how long Carmel's present delirium will hold?"

"He cannot, not knowing its real cause. Carmel fell ill before the news
of her sister's death arrived at the house, you remember. Some frightful
scene must have occurred between the two, previous to Adelaide's
departure for The Whispering Pines. What that scene was can only be told
by Carmel and for her account we must wait. Happily you have an alibi
which will serve you in this instance. You were at the station during
the time we are speaking of."

"Has that been proved?"

"Yes; several men saw you there."

"And the gentleman who brought me the--her letter?" It was more than
difficult for me to speak Carmel's name. "He has not come forward?"

"Not yet; not to my knowledge, at least."

"And the ring?"

"No news."

"The nurse--you have told me nothing about her," I now urged, reverting
to the topic of gravest interest to me. "Is she any one we know or an
importation of the doctor's?"

"I did not busy myself with that. She's a competent woman, of course. I
suppose that is what you mean?"

Could I tell him that this was not what I meant at all--that it was her
qualities as woman rather than her qualifications as nurse which were
important in this case? If she were of a suspicious, prying
disposition, given to weighing every word and marking every gesture of
a delirious patient, what might we not fear from her circumspection
when Carmel's memory asserted itself and she grew more precise in the
frenzy which now exhausted itself in unintelligible cries, or the
ceaseless repetition of her sister's name. The question seemed of such
importance to me that I was tempted to give expression to my secret
apprehension on this score, but I bethought myself in time and passed
the matter over with the final remark:

"Watch her, watch them all, and bring me each and every detail of the
poor girl's sickness. You will never regret humouring me in this. You
ordered the flowers for--Adelaide?"

"Yes; lilies, as you requested."

A short silence, then I observed:

"There will be no autopsy the papers say. The evidences of death by
strangulation are too well defined."

"Very true. Yet I wonder at their laxity in this. There were signs of
some other agency having been at work also. Those two empty glasses
smelling of cordial--innocent perhaps--yet--"

"Don't! I can bear no more to-day. I shall be stronger to-morrow."

Another feeler turned aside. His cheek showed his displeasure, but the
words were kind enough with which he speedily took his leave and left me
to solitude and a long night of maddening thought.





O, he sits high in all the people's hearts;
And that, which would appear offence in us,
His countenance like richest alchemy
Will change to virtue, and to worthiness.

_Julius Caesar_.

And you still hold him?"

"Yes, but with growing uncertainty. He's one of those fellows who affect
your judgment in spite of yourself. Handsome beyond the ordinary, a
finished gentleman and all that, he has, in addition to these advantages,
a way with him that goes straight to the heart in spite of prejudice and
the claims of conscience. That's a dangerous factor in a case like this.
It hampers a man in the exercise of his duties. You may escape the
fascination, probably will; but at least you will understand my present
position and why I telephoned to New York for an expert detective to help
us on this job. I wish to give the son of my old friend a chance."

The man whom Coroner Perry thus addressed, leaned back in his chair and
quietly replied:

"You're right; not because he's the son of your old friend, a handsome
fellow and all that, but for the reason that every man should have his
full chance, whatever the appearances against him. Personally, I have no
fear of my judgment being affected by his attractions. I've had to do
with too many handsome scamps for that. But I shall be as just to him as
you will, simply because it seems an incredibly brutal crime for a
gentleman to commit, and also because I lay greater stress than you do on
the two or three minor points which seem to favour his latest
declaration, that a man had preceded him in his visit to this lonely
club-house,--a man whom he had himself seen leaving the grounds in a
cutter just as he entered by the opposite driveway."

"Ah!" came in quick ejaculation from the coroner's lips, "I like to hear
you say that. I was purposely careful not to lay emphasis on the facts
you allude to. I wished you to draw your own inferences, without any aid
from me. The police did find traces of a second horse and cutter having
passed through the club-house grounds. It was snowing hard, and these
traces were speedily obliterated, but Hexford and Clarke saw them in time
to satisfy themselves that they extended from the northern clump of trees
to the upper gateway where they took the direction of the Hill."

"That is not all. A grip-sack, packed for travelling, was in Mr.
Ranelagh's cutter, showing that his story of an intended journey was not
without some foundation."

"Yes. We have retained that grip-sack. It is not the only proof we have
of his intention to leave the city for a while. He had made other
arrangements, business arrangements--But that's neither here nor there.
No one doubts that he planned an elopement with the beautiful Carmel; the
question is, was his disappointment followed by the murder of the woman
who stood in his way?"

District Attorney Fox (you will have guessed his identity before now)
took his time, deliberating carefully with himself before venturing to
reply. Then when the coroner's concealed impatience was about to disclose
itself, he quietly remarked:

"I suppose that no conclusion can be drawn from the condition of the body
when our men reached it. I judge that it was still warm."

"Yes, but so it would have been if she had met her fate several minutes
earlier than was supposed. Clarke and Hexford differ about the length of
time which intervened between the moment when the former looked into the
room from the outside and that of their final entrance. But whether it
was five minutes or ten, the period was long enough to render their
testimony uncertain as to the exact length of time she had lain there
dead. Had I been there--But it's useless to go into that. Let us take up
something more tangible."

"Very good. Here it is. Of the six bottles of spirits which were
surreptitiously taken from the club-house's wine-vault, four were found
standing unopened on the kitchen table. Where are the other two?"

"That's it! That's the question I have put myself ever since I
interrogated the steward and found him ready to swear to the correctness
of his report and the disappearance of these two bottles. Ranelagh did
not empty them, or the bottles themselves would have been found somewhere
about the place. Now, who did?"

"No one within the club-house precincts. They were opened and emptied
elsewhere. There's our clew and if the man you've got up from New York is
worth his salt, he has his task ready to hand."

"A hard task for a stranger--and such a stranger! Not very prepossessing,
to say the least. But he has a good eye, and will get along with the boys
all right. Nothing assertive about him; not enough go, perhaps. Would you
like to see him?"

"In a moment. I want to clear my mind in reference to these bottles. Only
some one addicted to drink would drag those six bottles out of that cold,
unlighted cellar."

"Yes, and a connoisseur at that. The two missing bottles held the
choicest brand in the whole stock. They were kept far back
too--hidden, as it were, behind the other bottles. Yet they were
hauled to the front and carried off, as you say, and by some one who
knows a good thing in spirits."

"What was in the four bottles found on the kitchen table?"

"Sherry, whiskey, and rum. Two bottles of rum and one each of sherry
and whiskey."

"The thief meant to carry them all off, but had not time."

"The _gentleman_ thief! No common man such as we are looking for, would
make choice of just those bottles. So there we are again! Contradictions
in every direction."

"Don't let us bother with the contradictions, but just follow the clew.
Those bottles, full or empty, must be found. You know the labels?"

"Yes, and the shape and colour of the bottles, both of which are

"Good! Now let us see your detective."

But Sweetwater was not called in yet. Just as Coroner Perry offered to
touch his bell, the door opened and Mr. Clifton was ushered in. Well and
favourably known to both men, he had no difficulty in stating his
business and preferring his request.

"I am here in the interests of Elwood Ranelagh," said he. "He is willing
to concede, and so am I, that under the circumstances his arrest was
justifiable, but not his prolonged detention. He has little excuse to
offer for the mistakes he has made, or the various offences of which he
has been guilty. His best friends must condemn his hypocrisy and
fast-and-loose treatment of Miss Cumberland; but he vows that he had no
hand in her violent death, and in this regard I feel not only bound but
forced to believe him. At all events, I am going to act on that
conviction, and have come here to entreat your aid in clearing up one or
two points which may affect your own opinion of his guilt.

"As his counsel I have been able to extract from him a fact or two which
he has hitherto withheld from the police. Reticent as he has shown
himself from the start,--and considering the character of the two women
involved in this tragedy, this cannot be looked upon as entirely to his
discredit,--he has confided to me a circumstance, which in the
excitement attendant on Miss Carmel Cumberland's sudden illness, may
have escaped the notice of the family and very naturally, of the police.
It is this:

"The ring which Miss Cumberland wore as the sign and seal of her
engagement to him was not on her hand when he came upon her, as he
declares he did, dead. It was there at dinner-time--a curious ring which
I have often noted myself and could accurately describe if required. If
she took it off before starting for The Whispering Pines, it should be
easily found. But if she did not, what a clew it offers to her unknown
assailant! Up till now, Mr. Ranelagh has been anticipating receiving this
ring back in a letter, written before she left her home. But he has heard
of no such letter, and doubts now if you have. May I ask if he is correct
in this surmise?"

"We know of no such letter. None has come to his rooms," replied
the coroner.

"I thought not. The whereabouts of this ring, then, is still to be
determined. You will pardon my having called your attention to it. As Mr.
Ranelagh's legal adviser, I am very anxious to have that ring found."

"We are glad to receive your suggestion," replied the district attorney.
"But you must remember that some of its force is lost by its having
originated with the accused."

"Very true; but Mr. Ranelagh was only induced to speak of this matter
after I had worked with him for an hour. There is a mystery in his
attitude which I, for one, have not yet fathomed. You must have noticed
this also, Coroner Perry? Your inquest, when you hold it, will reveal
some curious facts; but I doubt if it will reveal the secret underlying
this man's reticence. That we shall have to discover for ourselves."

"He has another secret, then, than the one involving his arrest as a
suspected murderer?" was the subtle conclusion of the district attorney.

"Yes, or why does he balk so at the simplest inquiries? I have my notion
as to its nature; but I'm not here to express notions unless you call my
almost unfounded belief in him a notion. What I want to present to you is
fact, and fact which can be utilised."

"In the cause of your client!"

"Which is equally the cause of justice."

"Possibly. We'll search for the ring, Mr. Clifton."

"Meanwhile, will you cast your eye over these fragments of a note which
Mr. Ranelagh says he received from Miss Carmel Cumberland while waiting
on the station platform for her coming."

Taking an envelope from his pocket, Mr. Clifton drew forth two small
scraps of soiled and crumpled paper, one of which was the half of another
envelope presenting very nearly the following appearance:

As he pointed this out, he remarked:

"Elwood is not so common a baptismal name, that there can be any doubt
as to the person addressed."

The other scraps, also written in pencil and by the same hand, contained
but two or three disconnected words; but one of those words was

"I spent an hour and a half in the yards adjoining the station before I
found those two bits," explained the young lawyer with a simple
earnestness not displeasing to the two seasoned men he addressed. "One
was in hiding under a stacked-up pile of outgoing freight, and the other
I picked out of a cart of stuff which had been swept up in the early
morning. I offer them in corroboration of Mr. Ranelagh's statement that
the '_Come!_' used in the partially consumed letter found in the
clubhouse chimney was addressed to Miss Carmel Cumberland and not to
Adelaide, and that the place of meeting suggested by this word was the
station platform, and not the spot since made terrible by death."

"You are acquainted with Miss Carmel Cumberland's handwriting?"

"If I am not, the town is full of people who are. I believe these words
to have been written by Carmel Cumberland."

Mr. Fox placed the pieces back in their envelope and laid the whole
carefully away.

"For a second time we are obliged to you," said he.

"You can cancel the obligation," was the quick retort, "by discovering
the identity of the man who in derby hat and a coat with a very high
collar, left the grounds of The Whispering Pines just as Mr. Ranelagh
drove into them. I have no facilities for the job, and no desire to
undertake it."

He had endeavoured to speak naturally, if not with an off-hand air; but
he failed somehow--else why the quick glance of startled inquiry which
Dr. Perry sent him from under his rather shaggy eyebrows.

"Well, we'll undertake that, too," promised the district attorney.

"I can ask no more," returned Charles Clifton, arising to depart. "The
confronting of that man with Ranelagh will cause the latter to unseal his
lips. Before you have finished with my client, you will esteem him much
more highly than you do now."

The district attorney smiled at what seemed the callow enthusiasm of a
youthful lawyer; but the coroner who knew his district well, looked very
thoughtfully down at the table before which he sat, and failed to raise
his head until the young man had vanished from the room and his place had
been taken by another of very different appearance and deportment. Then
he roused himself and introduced the newcomer to the prosecuting attorney
as Caleb Sweetwater, of the New York police department.

Caleb Sweetwater was no beauty. He was plain-featured to the point of
ugliness; so plain-featured that not even his quick, whimsical smile
could make his face agreeable to one who did not know his many valuable
qualities. His receding chin and far too projecting nose were not likely
to create a favourable impression on one ignorant of his cheerful,
modest, winsome disposition; and the district attorney, after eyeing him
for a moment with ill-concealed disfavour, abruptly suggested:

"You have brought some credentials with you, I hope."

"Here is a letter from one of the department. Mr. Gryce wrote it," he
added, with just a touch of pride.

"The letter is all right," hastily remarked Dr. Perry on looking it
over. "Mr. Sweetwater is commended to us as a man of sagacity and
becoming reserve."

"Very good. To business, then. The sooner we get to work on this new
theory, the better. Mr. Sweetwater, we have some doubts if the man we
have in hand is the man we really want. But first, how much do you know
about this case?"

"All that's in the papers."

"Nothing more?"

"Very little. I've not been in town above an hour."

"Are you known here?"

"I don't think so; it's my first visit this way."

"Then you are as ignorant of the people as they are of you. Well, that
has its disadvantages."

"And its advantages, if you will permit me to say so, sir. I have no
prejudices, no preconceived notions to struggle against. I can take
persons as I find them; and if there is any deep family secret to
unearth, it's mighty fortunate for a man to have nothing stand in the way
of his own instincts. No likings, I mean--no leanings this way or that,
for humane or other purely unprofessional reasons."

The eye of District Attorney Fox stole towards that of his brother
official, but did not meet it. The coroner had turned his attention to
the table again, and, while betraying no embarrassment, was not quite his
usual self. The district attorney's hand stole to his chin, which he
softly rubbed with his lean forefinger as he again addressed Sweetwater.

"This tragedy--the most lamentable which has ever occurred in this
town--is really, and without exaggeration, a tragedy in high life. The
lady who was strangled by a brute's clutch, was a woman of the highest
culture and most estimable character. Her sister, who is supposed to have
been the unconscious cause of the crime, is a young girl of blameless
record. Of the man who was seen bending over the victim with his hands on
her throat, we cannot speak so well. He has the faults and has lived the
life of a social favourite. Gifted in many ways, and popular with both
men and women, he has swung on his course with an easy disregard of the
claims of others, which, while leaving its traces no doubt in many a
humble and uncomplaining heart, did not attract notice to his inherent
lack of principle, until the horrors of this tragedy lifted him into
public view stripped of all his charms. He's an egotist, of the first
water; there is no getting over that. But did he strangle the woman? He
says not; that he was only following some extraordinary impulse of the
moment in laying his thumbs on the marks he saw on Miss Cumberland's
neck. A fantastic story--told too late, besides, for perfect credence,
and not worthy of the least attention if--"

The reasons which followed are too well known to us for repetition.
Sweetwater listened with snapping eyes to all that was said; and when he
had been given the various clews indicating the presence of a third--and
as yet unknown--party on the scene of crime, he rose excitedly to his
feet and, declaring that it was a most promising case, begged permission
to make his own investigations at The Whispering Pines, after which he
would be quite ready to begin his search for the man in the derby hat and
high coat-collar, whose love for wine was so great that he chose and
carried off the two choicest bottles that the club-house contained.

"A hardy act for any man, gentleman or otherwise, who had just strangled
the life out of a fine woman like that. If he exists and the whole story
is not a pure fabrication of the entrapped Ranelagh, he shouldn't be hard
to find. What do you say, gentlemen? He shouldn't be hard to find."

"_We_ have not found him," emphasised the district attorney, with the
shortest possible glance at the coroner's face.

"Then the field is all before me," smiled Sweetwater. "Wish me luck,
gentlemen. It's a blind job, but that's just in my line. A map of the
town, a few general instructions, and I'm off."

Mr. Fox turned towards the coroner, and opened his lips; but closed them
again without speaking. Did Sweetwater notice this act of self-restraint?
If he did, he failed to show it.



A subtle knave; a finder out of occasions;
That has an eye can stamp and counterfeit
Advantages though true advantage never presents
Itself; A devilish knave!


A half hour spent with Hexford in and about the club-house, and
Sweetwater was ready for the road. As he made his way through the
northern gate, he cast a quick look back at the long, low building he had
just left, with its tall chimneys and rows of sightless windows, half
hidden, half revealed by the encroaching pines. The mystery of the place
fascinated him. To his awakened imagination, there was a breathless
suggestion in it--a suggestion which it was his foremost wish, just now,
to understand.

And those pines--gaunt, restless, communicative! ready with their secret,
if one could only interpret their language. How their heads came together
as their garrulous tongues repeated the tale, which would never grow old
to them until age nipped their hoary heads and laid them low in the dust,
with their horror half expressed, their gruesome tale unfinished.

"Witnesses of it all," commented the young detective as he watched the
swaying boughs rising and dipping before a certain window. "They were
peering into that room long before Clarke stole the glimpse which has
undone the unfortunate Ranelagh. If I had their knowledge, I'd do
something more than whisper."

Thus musing, thus muttering, he plodded up the road, his insignificant
figure an unpromising break in the monotonous white of the wintry
landscape. But could the prisoner who had indirectly speeded this young
detective on his present course, have read his thoughts and rightly
estimated the force of his purpose, would he have viewed with so much
confidence the entrance of this unprepossessing stranger upon the
no-thoroughfare into which his own carefully studied admissions had
blindly sent him?

As has been said before, this road was an outlying one and but little
travelled save in the height of summer. Under ordinary circumstances
Sweetwater would have met not more than a half-dozen carts or sledges
between the club-house gates and the city streets. But to-day, the road
was full of teams carrying all sorts of incongruous people, eager for a
sight of the spot made forever notorious by a mysterious crime. He noted
them all; the faces of the men, the gestures of the women; but he did not
show any special interest till he came to that portion of the road where
the long line of half-buried fences began to give way to a few scattered
houses. Then his spirit woke, and be became quick, alert, and persuasive.
He entered houses; he talked with the people. Though evidently not a
dissipated man, he stopped at several saloons, taking his time with his
glass and encouraging the chatter of all who chose to meet his advances.
He was a natural talker and welcomed every topic, but his eye only
sparkled at one. This he never introduced himself; he did not need to.
Some one was always ready with the great theme; and once it was started,
he did not let the conversation languish till every one present had given
his or her quota of hearsay or opinion to the general fund.

It seemed a great waste of time, for nobody had anything to say worth the
breath expended on it. But Sweetwater showed no impatience, and proceeded
to engage the attention of the next man, woman, or child he encountered
with undiminished zest and hopefulness.

He had left the country road behind, and had entered upon the jumble of
sheds, shops, and streets which marked the beginnings of the town in this
direction, when his quick and experienced eye fell on a woman standing
with uncovered head in an open doorway, peering up the street in anxious
expectation of some one not yet in sight. He liked the air and well-kept
appearance of the woman; he appreciated the neatness of the house at her
back and gauged at its proper value the interest she displayed in the
expected arrival of one whom he hoped would delay that arrival long
enough for him to get in the word which by this time dropped almost
unconsciously from his lips.

But a second survey of the woman's face convinced him that his ordinary
loquaciousness would not serve him here. There was a refinement in her
aspect quite out of keeping with the locality in which she lived, and he
was hesitating how to proceed, when fortune favoured him by driving
against his knees a small lad on an ill-directed sled, bringing him
almost to the ground and upsetting the child who began to scream

It was the woman's child, for she made instantly for the gate which,
for some reason, she found difficulty in opening. Sweetwater, seeing
this, blessed his lucky stars. He was at his best with children, and
catching the little fellow up, he soothed and fondled him and finally
brought him with such a merry air of triumph straight to his mother's
arms, that confidence between them was immediately established and
conversation started.

He had in his pocket an ingenious little invention which he had exhibited
all along the road as an indispensable article in every well-kept house.
He wanted to show it to her, but it was too cold a day for her to stop
outside. Wouldn't she allow him to step in and explain how her work could
be materially lessened and her labour turned to play by a contrivance so
simple that a child could run it?

It was all so ridiculous in face of this woman's quiet intelligence, that
he laughed at his own words, and this laughter, echoed by the child and
in another instant by the mother, made everything so pleasant for the
moment that she insensibly drew back while he pulled open the gate, only
remarking, as she led the way in:

"I was looking for my husband. He may come any minute and I'm afraid he
won't care much about contrivances to save me work--that is, if they cost
very much."

Sweetwater, whose hand was in his pocket, drew it hastily out.

"You were watching for your husband? Do you often stand in the open
doorway, looking for him?"

Her surprised eyes met his with a stare that would have embarrassed the
most venturesome book agent, but this man was of another ilk.

"If you do," he went on imperturbably, but with a good-humoured smile
which deepened her favourable impression of him, "how much I would give
if you had been standing there last Tuesday night when a certain cutter
and horse went by on its way up the hill."

She was a self-contained woman, this wife of a master mechanic in one of
the great shops hard by; but her jaw fell at this, and she forgot to
chide or resist her child when he began to pull her towards the open
kitchen door.

Sweetwater, sensitive to the least change in the human face, prayed that
the husband might be detained, if only for five minutes longer, while he,
Sweetwater, worked this promising mine.

"You _were_ looking out," he ventured. "And you _did_ see that horse and
cutter. What luck! It may save a man's life."

"Save!" she repeated, staggering back a few steps and dragging the child
with her. "Save a man's life! What do you mean by that?"

"Not much if it was any cutter and any horse, and at any hour. But if it
was the horse and cutter which left The Whispering Pines at ten or half
past ten that night, then it may mean life and death to the man now in
jail under the dreadful charge of murder."

Catching up her child, she slid into the kitchen and sat down with it, in
the first chair she came to. Sweetwater following her, took up his stand
in the doorway, unobtrusive, but patiently waiting for her to speak. The
steaming kettles and the table set for dinner gave warning of the
expected presence for which she had been watching, but she seemed to have
forgotten her husband; forgotten everything but her own emotions.

"Who are you?" she asked at length. "You have not told me your real

"No, madam, and I ask your pardon. I feared that my real business, if
suddenly made known to you, might startle, perhaps frighten you. I am a
detective on the look-out for evidence in the case I have just mentioned.
I have a theory that a most important witness in the same, drove by here
at the hour and on the night I have named. I want to substantiate that
theory. Can you help me?"

A sensitiveness to, and quick appreciation of, the character of those he
addressed was one of Sweetwater's most valuable attributes. No glossing
of the truth, however skillfully applied, would have served him with this
woman so well as this simple statement, followed by its equally simple
and direct inquiry. Scrutinising him over the child's head, she gave but
a casual glance at the badge he took pains to show her, then in as quiet
and simple tones as he had himself used, she made this reply:

"I can help you some. You make it my duty, and I have never shrunk from
duty. A horse and cutter did go by here on its way uphill, last Tuesday
night at about eleven o'clock. I remember the hour because I was
expecting my husband every minute, just as I am now. He had some extra
work on hand that night which he expected to detain him till eleven or a
quarter after. Supper was to be ready at a quarter after. To surprise
him I had beaten up some biscuits, and I had just put them in the pan
when I heard the clock strike the hour. Afraid that he would come before
they were baked, I thrust the pan into the oven and ran to the front door
to look out. It was snowing very hard, and the road looked white and
empty, but as I stood there a horse and cutter came in sight, which, as
it reached the gate, drew up in a great hurry, as if something was the
matter. Frightened, because I'm always thinking of harm to my husband
whose work is very dangerous, I ran out bare-headed to the gate, when I
saw why the man in the sleigh was making me such wild gestures. His hat
had blown off, and was lying close up against the fence in front of me.
Anxious always to oblige, I made haste to snatch at it and carry it out
to its owner. I received a sort of thank you, and would never have
remembered the occurrence if it had not been for that murder and if--"
She paused doubtfully, ran her fingers nervously over her child's head,
looked again at Sweetwater waiting expectantly for her next word, and
faltered painfully--"if I had not recognised the horse."

Sweetwater drew a deep breath; it was such a happy climax. Then, as she
showed no signs of saying more, asked as quietly as his rapidly beating
heart permitted:

"Didn't you recognise the man?"

Her answer was short but as candid as her expression.

"No. The snow was blinding; besides he wore a high collar, in which his
head was sunk down almost out of sight."

"But the horse--"

"Was one which is often driven by here. I had rather not tell you whose
it is. I have not told any one, not even my husband, about seeing it on
the road that night. I couldn't somehow. But if it will save a man's life
and make clear who killed that good woman, ask any one on the Hill, in
what stable you can find a grey horse with a large black spot on his left
shoulder, and you will know as much about it as I do. Isn't that enough,
sir? Now, I must dish up my dinner."

"Yes, yes; it's almost enough. Just one question, madam. Was the hat what
folks call a derby? Like this one, madam," he explained, drawing his own
from behind his back.

"Yes, I think so. As well as I can remember, it was like that. I'm afraid
I didn't do it any good by my handling. I had to clutch it quick and I'm
sure I bent the brim, to say nothing of smearing it with flour-marks."

"How?" Sweetwater had started for the door, but stopped, all eagerness at
this last remark.

"I had been cutting out biscuits, and my hands were white with flour,"
she explained, simply. "But that brushes off easily; I don't suppose it

"No, no," he hastily assented. Then while he smiled and waved his hand to
the little urchin who had been his means of introduction to this possibly
invaluable witness, he made one final plea and that was for her name.

"Eliza Simmons," was the straightforward reply; and this ended the

The husband, whose anticipated approach had occasioned all this
abruptness, was coming down the hill when Sweetwater left the gate. As
this detective of ours was as careful in his finish as in all the rest
of his work, he called out as he went by:

"I've just been trying to sell a wonderful contrivance of mine to the
missus. But it was no go."

The man looked, smiled, and went in at his own gate with the air of one
happy in wife, child, and home.

Sweetwater went on up the hill. Towards the top, he came upon a
livery-stable. Stopping in his good-humoured way, he entered into talk
with a man loitering inside the great door. Before he left him, he had
asked him these questions:

"Any grey horse in town?"

"Yes, _one_."

"I think I've seen it--has a patch of black on its left shoulder."


"Whose is it? I've a mighty curiosity about the horse. Looks like a
trick horse."

"I don't know what you mean by that. It belongs to a respectable family.
A family you must have heard about if you ever heard anything. There's a
funeral there to-day--"

"Not Miss Cumberland's?" exclaimed Sweetwater, all agog in a moment.

"Yes, Miss Cumberland's. I thought you might have heard the name."

"Yes, I've heard it."

The tone was dry, the words abrupt, but the detective's heart was dancing
like a feather. The next turn he took was toward the handsome residence
district crowning the hill.



All things that we ordained festival
Turn from their office to black funeral;
Our instruments to melancholy bells;
Our wedding cheer to a sad burial feast;
And all things change them to the contrary.

_Romeo and Juliet_.

Fifteen minutes later, he stood in a finely wooded street before an open
gateway guarded by a policeman. Showing his badge, he passed in, and
entered a long and slightly curved driveway. As he did so, he took a
glance at the house. It was not as pretentious as he expected, but
infinitely more inviting. Low and rambling, covered with vines, and
nestling amid shrubbery which even in winter gave it a habitable air, it
looked as much the abode of comfort as of luxury, and gave--in outward
appearance at least--no hint of the dark shadow which had so lately
fallen across it.

The ceremonies had been set for three o'clock, and it was now half past
two. As Sweetwater reached the head of the driveway, he saw the first of
a long file of carriages approaching up the street.

"Lucky that my business takes me to the stable," thought he. "What is the
coachman's name? I ought to remember it. Ah--Zadok! Zadok Brown. There's
a combination for you!"

He had reached this point in his soliloquy (a bad habit of his, for it
sometimes took audible expression) when he ran against another policeman
set to guard the side door. A moment's parley, and he left this man
behind; but not before he had noted this door and the wide and hospitable
verandah which separated it from the driveway.

"I am willing to go all odds that I shall find that verandah the most
interesting part of the house," he remarked, in quiet conviction, to
himself, as he noted its nearness to the stable and the ease with which
one could step from it into a vehicle passing down the driveway.

It had another point of interest, or, rather the wing had to which it was
attached. As his eye travelled back across this wing, in his lively walk
towards the stable, he caught a passing glimpse of a nurse's face and
figure in one of its upper windows. This located the sick chamber, and
unconsciously he hushed his step and moved with the greatest caution,
though he knew that this sickness was not one of the nerves, and that the
loudest sound would fail to reach ears lapsed in a blessed, if alarming,

Once around the corner, he resumed a more natural pace, and perceiving
that the stable-door was closed but that a window well up the garden side
was open, he cast a look towards the kitchen windows at his back, and,
encountering no watchful eye, stepped up to the former one and peered in.

A man sat with his back to him, polishing a bit of harness. This was
probably Zadok, the coachman. As his interest was less with him than with
the stalls beyond, he let his eye travel on in their direction, when he
suddenly experienced a momentary confusion by observing the head and
shoulders of Hexford leaning towards him from an opposite window--in much
the same fashion, and certainly with exactly the same intent, as himself.
As their glances crossed, both flushed and drew back, only to return
again, each to his several peep-hole. Neither meant to lose the advantage
of the moment. Both had heard of the grey horse and wished to identify
it; Hexford for his own satisfaction, Sweetwater as the first link of the
chain leading him into the mysterious course mapped out for him by fate.
That each was more or less under the surveillance of the other did not
trouble either.

There were three stalls, and in each stall a horse stamped and fidgeted.
Only one held their attention. This was a mare on the extreme left, a
large grey animal with a curious black patch on its near shoulder. The
faces of both men changed as they recognised this distinguishing mark,
and instinctively their eyes met across the width of the open space
separating them. Hexford's finger rose to his mouth, but Sweetwater
needed no such hint. He stood, silent as his own shadow, while the
coachman rubbed away with less and less purpose, until his hands stood
quite still and his whole figure drooped in irresistible despondency. As
he raised his face, moved perhaps by that sense of a watchful presence to
which all of us are more or less susceptible, they were both surprised to
see tears on it. The next instant he had started to his feet and the bit
of harness had rattled from his hands to the floor.

"Who are you?" he asked, with a touch of anger, quite natural under the
circumstances. "Can't you come in by the door, and not creep sneaking up
to take a man at disadvantage?"

As he spoke, he dashed away the tears with which his cheeks were
still wet.

"I thought a heap of my young mistress," he added, in evident apology for
this display of what such men call weakness. "I didn't know that it was
in me to cry for anything, but I find that I can cry for her."

Hexford left his window, and Sweetwater slid from his; next minute they
met at the stable door.

"Had luck?" whispered the local officer.

"Enough to bring me here," acknowledged the other.

"Do you mean to this house or to this stable?"

"To this stable."

"Have you heard that the horse was out that night?"

"Yes, she was out."

"Who driving?"

"Ah, that's the question!"

"This man can't tell you."

A jerk of Hexford's thumb in Zadok's direction emphasised this statement.

"But I'm going to talk to him, for all that."

"He wasn't here that night; he was at a dance. He only knows that the
mare was out."

"But I'm going to talk to him."

"May I come in, too? I'll not interrupt. I've just fifteen minutes
to spare."

"You can do as you please. I've nothing to hide--from you, at any rate."

Which wasn't quite true; but Sweetwater wasn't a stickler for truth,
except in the statements he gave his superiors.

Hexford threw open the stable-door, and they both walked in. The coachman
was not visible, but they could hear him moving about above, grumbling to
himself in none too encouraging a way.

Evidently he was in no mood for visitors.

"I'll be down in a minute," he called out, as their steps sounded on the
hardwood floor.

Hexford sauntered over to the stalls. Sweetwater stopped near the doorway
and glanced very carefully about him. Nothing seemed to escape his eye.
He even took the trouble to peer into a waste-bin, and was just on the
point of lifting down a bit of broken bottle from an open cupboard when
Brown appeared on the staircase, dressed in his Sunday coat and carrying
a bunch of fresh, hot-house roses.

He stopped midway as Sweetwater turned towards him from the cupboard, but
immediately resumed his descent and was ready with his reply when Hexford
accosted him from the other end of the stable:

"An odd beast, this. They don't drive her for her beauty, that's

"She's fast and she's knowing," grumbled the coachman. "Reason enough for
overlooking her spots. Who's that man?" he grunted, with a drop of his
lantern jaws, and a slight gesture towards the unknown interloper.

"Another of us," replied Hexford, with a shrug. "We're both rather
interested in this horse."

"Wouldn't another time do?" pleaded the coachman, looking gravely down at
the flowers he held. "It's most time for the funeral and I don't feel
like talking, indeed I don't, gentlemen."

"We won't keep you." It was Sweetwater who spoke. "The mare's
company enough for us. She knows a lot, this mare. I can see it in
her eye. I understand horses; we'll have a little chat, she and I,
when you are gone."

Brown cast an uneasy glance at Hexford.

"He'd better not touch her," he cautioned. "He don't know the beast well
enough for that."

"He won't touch her," Hexford assured him. "She does look knowing, don't
she? Would like to tell us something, perhaps. Was out _that_ night, I've
heard you say. Curious! How did you know it?"

"I've said and said till I'm tired," Brown answered, with sudden heat.
"This is pestering a man at a very unfortunate time. Look! the people
are coming. I must go. My poor mistress! and poor Miss Carmel! I liked
'em, do ye understand? Liked 'em--and I do feel the trouble at the
house, I do."

His distress was so genuine that Hexford was inclined to let him go; but
Sweetwater with a cock of his keen eye put in his word and held the
coachman where he was.

"The old gal is telling me all about it," muttered this sly, adaptable
fellow. He had sidled up to the mare and their heads were certainly very
close together. "Not touch her? See here!" Sweetwater had his arm round
the filly's neck and was looking straight into her fiery and intelligent
eye. "Shall I pass her story on?" he asked, with a magnetic smile at the
astonished coachman, which not only softened him but seemed to give the
watchful Hexford quite a new idea of this gawky interloper.

"You'll oblige _me_ if you can put her knowledge into words," the man
Zadok declared, with one fascinated eye on the horse and the other on the
house where he evidently felt that his presence was wanted. "She was out
that night, and I know it, as any coachman would know, who doesn't come
home stone drunk. But where she was and who took her, get her to tell if
you can, for I don't know no more 'n the dead."

"The dead!" flashed out Sweetwater, wheeling suddenly about and pointing
straight through the open stable-door towards the house where the young
mistress the old servant mourned, lay in her funeral casket. "Do you mean
her--the lady who is about to be buried? Could _she_ tell if her lips
were not sealed by a murderer's hand?"

"She!" The word came low and awesomely. Rude and uncultured as the man
was, he seemed to be strangely affected by this unexpected suggestion. "I
haven't the wit to answer that," said he. "How can we tell what she knew.
The man who killed her is in jail. _He_ might talk to some purpose. Why
don't you question him?"

"For a very good reason," replied Sweetwater, with an easy good-nature
that was very reassuring. "He was arrested on the spot; so that it wasn't
he who drove this mare home, unharnessed her, put her back in her stall,
locked the stable-door and hung up the key in its place in the kitchen.
Somebody else did _that_."

"That's true enough, and what does it show? That the mare was out on some
other errand than the one which ended in blood and murder," was the
coachman's unexpected retort.

"Is that so?" whispered Sweetwater into the mare's cocked ear. "She's not
quite ready to commit herself," he drawled, with another enigmatical
smile at the lingering Zadok. "She's keeping something back. Are you?" he
pointedly inquired, leaving the stalls and walking briskly up to Zadok.

The coachman frowned and hastily retreated a step; but in another moment
he leaped in a rage upon Sweetwater, when the sight of the flowers he
held recalled him to himself and he let his hand fall again with the
quiet remark:

"You're overstepping your dooty. I don't know who you are or what you
want with me, but you're overstepping your dooty."

"He's right," muttered Hexford. "Better let the fellow go. See! one of
the maids is beckoning to him."

"He shall go, and welcome, if he will tell me where he gets his taste for
this especial brand of whiskey." Sweetwater had crossed to the cupboard
and taken down the lower half of the broken bottle which had attracted
his notice on his first entrance, and was now holding it out, with a
quizzical look at the departing coachman.

Hexford was at his shoulder with a spring, and together they inspected
the label still sticking to it--which was that of the very rare and
expensive spirit found missing from the club-house vault.

"This is a find," muttered Hexford into his fellow detective's ear. Then,
with a quick move towards Zadok, he shouted out:

"You'd better answer that question. Where did this bit of broken bottle
come from? They don't give you whiskey like this to drink."

"That they don't," muttered the coachman, not so much abashed as they had
expected. "And I wouldn't care for it if they did. I found that bit of
bottle in the ash-barrel outside, and fished it out to put varnish in. I
liked the shape."

"Broken this way?"

"Yes; it's just as good."

"Is it? Well, never mind, run along. We'll close the stable-door for

"I'd rather do it myself and carry in the key."

"Here then; we're going to the funeral, too. You'd like to?" This latter
in a whisper to Sweetwater.

The answer was a fervent one. Nothing in all the world would please this
protean-natured man quite so well.



O, treble woe
Fall ten times treble on that cursed head,
Whose wicked deed thy most ingenious sense
Depriv'd thee of!--Hold off the earth awhile,
Till I have caught her once more in my arms.


"Let us enter by the side door," suggested Sweetwater, as the two moved
towards the house. "And be sure you place me where I can see without
being seen. I have no wish to attract attention to myself, or to be
identified with the police until the necessity is forced upon me."

"Then we won't go in together," decided Hexford. "Find your own place;
you won't have any difficulty. A crowd isn't expected. Miss Cumberland's
condition forbids it."

Sweetwater nodded and slid in at the side door.

He found himself at once in a narrow hall, from the end of which opened a
large room. A few people were to be seen in this latter place, and his
first instinct was to join them; but finding that a few minutes yet
remained before the hour set for the services, he decided to improve them
by a rapid glance about this hall, which, for certain reasons hardly as
yet formulated in his own mind, had a peculiar interest for him.

The most important object within view, according to his present judgment,
was the staircase which connected it with the floor above; but if you had
asked his reason for this conclusion, he would not have told you, as
Ranelagh might have done, that it was because it was the most direct and
convenient approach to Carmel Cumberland's room. His thoughts were far
from this young girl, intimately connected as she was with this crime;
which shows through what a blind maze he was insensibly working. With his
finger on the thread which had been put in his hand, he was feeling his
way along inch by inch. It had brought him to this staircase, and it led
him next to a rack upon which hung several coats and a gentleman's hat.

He inspected the former and noted that one was finished with a high
collar; but he passed the latter by--it was not a derby. The table stood
next the rack, and on its top lay nothing more interesting than a
clothes-brush and one or two other insignificant objects; but, with his
memory for details, he had recalled the keys which one of the maids had
picked up somewhere about this house, and laid on a hall table. If this
were the hall and this the table, then was every inch of the latter's
simple cloth-covered top of the greatest importance in his eyes.

He had no further time for even these cursory investigations; Hexford's
step could be heard on the verandah, and Sweetwater was anxious to locate
himself before the officer came in. Entering the room before him, he
crossed to the small group clustered in its further doorway. There were
several empty chairs in sight; but he passed around them all to a dark
and inconspicuous corner, from which, without effort, he could take in
every room on that floor--from the large parlour in which the casket
stood, to the remotest region of the servants' hall.

The clergyman had not yet descended, and Sweetwater had time to observe
the row of little girls sitting in front of the bearers, each with a
small cluster of white flowers in her hand. Miss Cumberland's
Sunday-school class, he conjectured, and conjectured rightly. He also
perceived that some of these children loved her.

Near them sat a few relatives and friends. Among these was a very, very
old man, whom he afterwards heard was a great-uncle and a centenarian.
Between him and one of the little girls, there apparently existed a
strong sympathy; for his hand reached out and drew her to him when the
tears began to steal down her cheeks, and the looks which passed between
the two had all the appeal and all the protection of a great love.

Sweetwater, who had many a soft spot in his breast, felt his heart warm
at this one innocent display of natural feeling in an assemblage
otherwise frozen by the horror of the occasion. His eyes dwelt
lingeringly on the child, and still more lingeringly on the old, old man,
before passing to that heaped-up mound of flowers, under which lay a
murdered body and a bruised heart. He could not see the face, but the
spectacle was sufficiently awe-compelling without that.

Would it have seemed yet more so, had he known at whose request the huge
bunch of lilies had been placed over that silent heart?

The sister sick, the brother invisible, there was little more to hold his
attention in this quarter; so he let it roam across the heads of the
people about him, to the distant hall communicating with the kitchen.

Several persons were approaching from this direction, among them Zadok.
The servants of the house, no doubt, for they came in all together and
sat down, side by side, in the chairs Sweetwater had so carefully passed
by. There were five persons in all: two men and three women. Only two
interested him--Zadok, with whom he had already made a superficial
acquaintance and had had one bout; and a smart, bright-eyed girl with a
resolute mouth softened by an insistent dimple, who struck him as
possessing excellent sense and some natural cleverness. A girl to know
and a girl to talk to, was his instantaneous judgment. Then he forgot
everything but the solemnity of the occasion, for the clergyman had
entered and taken his place, and a great hush had fallen upon the rooms
and upon every heart there present.

"_I am the resurrection and the life_."

Never had these consoling words sounded more solemn than when they rang
above the remains of Adelaide Cumberland, in this home where she had
reigned as mistress ever since her seventeenth year. The nature of the
tragedy which had robbed the town of one of its most useful young women;
the awful fate impending over its supposed author,--a man who had come
and gone in these rooms with a spell of fascination to which many of
those present had themselves succumbed--the brooding sense of illness,
if not of impending death, in the room above; gave to these services a
peculiar poignancy which in some breasts of greater susceptibility than
the rest, took the form of a vague expectancy bordering on terror.

Sweetwater felt the poignancy, but did not suffer from the terror. His
attention had been attracted in a new direction, and he found himself
watching, with anxious curiosity, the attitude and absorbed expression of
a good-looking young man whom he was far from suspecting to be the secret
representative of the present suspect, whom nobody could forget, yet whom
nobody wished to remember at this hallowed hour.

Had this attitude and this absorption been directed towards the casket
over which the clergyman's words rose and fell with ever increasing
impressiveness, he might have noted the man but would scarcely have been
held by him. But this interest, sincere and strong as it undoubtedly was,
centred not so much in the services, careful as he was to maintain a
decorous attitude towards the same, but in the faint murmurs which now
and then came down from above where unconsciousness reigned and the
stricken brother watched over the delirious sister, with a concentration
and abandonment to fear which made him oblivious of all other duties, and
almost as unconscious of the rites then being held below over one who had
been as a mother to him, as the sick girl herself with her ceaseless and
importunate "Lila! Lila!" The detective, watching this preoccupied
stranger, shared in some measure his secret emotions, and thus was
prepared for the unexpected occurrence of a few minutes later.

No one else had the least forewarning of any break in the services. There
had been nothing in the subdued but impressive rendering of the prayers
to foreshadow a dramatic episode; yet it came, and in this manner:

The final words had been said, and the friends present invited to look
their last on the calm face which, to many there, had never worn so sweet
a smile in life. Some had hesitated; but most had obeyed the summons,
among them Sweetwater. But he had not much time in which to fix those
features in his mind; for the little girls, who had been waiting
patiently for this moment, now came forward; and he stepped aside to
watch them as they filed by, dropping as they did so, a tribute of
fragrant flowers upon the quiet breast. They were followed by the
servants, among whom Zadok had divided his roses. As the last cluster
fell from the coachman's trembling hand, the undertaker advanced with the
lid, and, pausing a moment to be sure that all were satisfied, began to
screw it on.

Suddenly there was a cry, and the crowd about the door leading into the
main hall started back, as wild steps were heard on the stairs and a
young man rushed into the room where the casket stood, and advanced upon
the officiating clergyman and the astonished undertaker with a fierceness
which was not without its suggestion of authority.

"Take it off!" he cried, pointing at the lid which had just been fastened
down. "I have not seen her--I must see her. Take it off!"

It was the brother, awake at last to the significance of the hour!

The clergyman, aghast at the sacrilegious look and tone of the intruder,
stepped back, raising one arm in remonstrance, and instinctively
shielding the casket with the other. But the undertaker saw in the
frenzied eye fixed upon his own, that which warned him to comply with the
request thus harshly and peremptorily uttered. Unscrewing the lid, he
made way for the intruder, who, drawing near, pushed aside the roses
which had fallen on the upturned face, and, laying his hand on the brow,
muttered a few low words to himself. Then he withdrew his hand, and
without glancing to right or left, staggered back to the door amid a hush
as unbroken as that which reigned behind him in that open casket. Another
moment and his white, haggard face and disordered figure would be blotted
from sight by the door-jamb.

The minister recovered his poise and the bearers their breath; the men
stirred in their seats and the women began to cast frightened looks at
each other, and then at the children, some of whom had begun to whimper,
when in an instant all were struck again into stone. The young man had
turned and was facing them all, with his hands held out in a clench which
in itself was horrible.

"If they let the man go," he called out in loud and threatening tones, "I
will strangle him with these two hands."

The word, and not the shriek which burst irrepressibly from more than one
woman before him, brought him to himself. With a ghastly look on his
bloated features, he scanned for one moment the row of deeply shocked
faces before him, then tottered back out of sight, and fled towards the
staircase. All thought that an end had come to the harrowing scene, and
minister and people faced each other once more; when, loud and sharp from
above, there rang down the shrill cry of delirium, this time in
articulate words which even the children could understand:

"Break it open, I say! break it open, and see if her heart is there!"

It was too awful. Men and women and children leaped to their feet and
dashed away into the streets, uttering smothered cries and wild
ejaculations. In vain the clergyman raised his voice and bade them
respect the dead; the rooms were well-nigh empty before he had finished
his appeal. Only the very old uncle and the least of the children
remained of all who had come there in memory of their departed kinswoman
and friend.

The little one had fled to the old man's arms before he could rise, and
was now held close to his aged and shaking knees, while he strove to
comfort her and explain.

Soon these, too, were gone, and the casket was refastened and carried out
by the shrinking bearers, leaving in those darkened rooms a trail of
desolation which was only broken from time to time by the now faint and
barely heard reiteration of the name of her who had just been borne away!

"Lila! Lila!"



I'll tell you, by the way,
The greatest comfort in the world.
You said
There was a clew to all.
Remember, Sweet,
He said there was a clew!
I hold it.

_A Blot in the 'Scutcheon._

Sweetwater, however affected by this scene, had not lost control of
himself or forgotten the claims of duty. He noted at a glance that, while
the candid looking stranger, whose lead he had been following, was as
much surprised as the rest at the nature of the interruption--which he
had possibly anticipated and for which he was in some measure
prepared--he was, of all present, the most deeply and peculiarly
impressed by it. No element of fear had entered into his emotion; nor had
it been heightened by any superstitious sense. Something deeper and more
important by far had darkened his thoughtful eye and caused that ebb and
flow of colour in a cheek unused, if Sweetwater read the man aright, to
such quick and forcible changes.

Sweetwater took occasion, likewise, while the excitement was at its
height, to mark what effect had been made on the servants by the action
and conduct of young Cumberland. "They know him better than we do," was
his inner comment; "what do they think of his words, and what do they
think of him?"

It was not so easy to determine as the anxious detective might wish.
Only one of them showed a simple emotion, and that one was, without any
possibility of doubt, the cook. She was a Roman Catholic, and was
simply horrified by the sacrilege of which she had been witness. There
was no mistaking her feelings. But those of the other two women were
more complex.

So were those of the men. Zadok specially watched each movement of his
young master with open mistrust; and very nearly started upright, in his
repugnance and dismay, when that intruding hand fell on the peaceful brow
of her over whose fate, to his own surprise, he had been able to shed
tears. Some personal prejudice lay back of this or some secret knowledge
of the man from whose touch even the dead appeared to shrink.

And the women! Might not the same explanation account for that curious
droop of the eye with which the two younger clutched at each other's
hands, to keep from screaming, and interchanged whispered words which
Sweetwater would have given considerable out of his carefully cherished
hoard to have heard.

It was impossible to tell, at present; but he was confident that it would
not be long before he understood these latter, at least. He had great
confidence in his success with women, homely as he was. He was not so
sure of himself with men; and he felt that some difficulties and not a
few pitfalls lay between him and, for instance, the uncommunicative
Zadok. "But I've the whole long evening before me," he added in quiet
consolation to himself. "It will be a pity if I can't work some of them
in that time."

The last thing he had remarked, before Carmel's unearthly cry had sent
the horrified guests in disorder from the house, was the presence of Dr.
Perry in a small room which Sweetwater had supposed empty, until the
astonishing events I have endeavoured to describe brought its occupant to
the door. What the detective then read in the countenance of the family's
best friend, he kept to himself; but his own lost a trace of its former
anxiety, as the official slipped back out of sight and remained so, even
after the funeral cortege had started on its course.

Plans had been made for carrying the servants to the cemetery, and,
despite the universal disturbance consequent upon these events, these
plans were adhered to. Sweetwater watched them all ride away in the last
two carriages.

This gave him the opportunity he wanted. Leaving his corner, he looked up
Hexford, and asked who was left in the house.

"Dr. Perry, Mr. Clifton, the lawyer, Mr. Cumberland, his sick sister, and
the nurse."

"Mr. Cumberland! Didn't he go to the grave?"

"Did you expect him to, after _that_?"

Sweetwater's shoulders rose, and his voice took on a tone of

"There's no telling. Where is he now, do you think? Upstairs?"

"Yes. It seems he spends all his time in a little alcove opposite his
sister's door. They won't let him inside, for fear of disturbing the
patient; so he just sits where I've told you, doing nothing but
listening to every sound that comes through the door."

"Is he there now?"

"Yes, and shaking just like a leaf. I walked by him a moment ago and
noticed particularly."

"Where's his room? In sight of the alcove you mention?"

"No; there's a partition or two between. If you go up by the side
staircase, you can slip into it without any one seeing you. Coroner Perry
and Mr. Clifton are in front."

"Is the side door locked?"


"Lock it. The back door, of course, is."

"Yes, the cook attended to that."

"I want a few minutes all by myself. Help me, Hexford. If Dr. Perry has
given you no orders, take your stand upstairs where you can give me
warning if Mr. Cumberland makes a move to leave his post, or the nurse
her patient."

"I'm ready; but I've been in that room and I've found nothing."

"I don't know that I shall. You say that it is near the head of the
stairs running up from the side door?"

"Just a few feet away."

"I would have sworn to that fact, even if you hadn't told me," muttered

Five minutes later, he had slipped from sight; and for some time not even
Hexford knew where he was.

"Dr. Perry, may I have a few words with you?"

The coroner turned quickly. Sweetwater was before him; but not the same
Sweetwater he had interviewed some few hours before in his office. This
was quite a different looking personage. Though nothing could change his
features, the moment had come when their inharmonious lines no longer
obtruded themselves upon the eye; and the anxious, nay, deeply troubled
official whom he addressed, saw nothing but the ardour and quiet
self-confidence they expressed.

"It'll not take long," he added, with a short significant glance in the
direction of Mr. Clifton.

Dr. Perry nodded, excused himself to the lawyer and followed the
detective into the small writing-room which he had occupied during the
funeral. In the decision with which Sweetwater closed the door behind
them there was something which caused the blood to mount to the
coroner's brow.

"You have made some discovery?" said he.

"A very important one," was the quick, emphatic reply. And in a few brief
words the detective related his interview with the master mechanic's wife
on the highroad. Then with an eager, "Now let me show you something," he
led the coroner through the dining-room into the side hall, where he
paused before the staircase.

"Up?" queried the coroner, with an obvious shrinking from what he might
encounter above.

"No," was the whispered reply. "What we want is _here_." And, pushing
open a small door let into the under part of the stairway (if Ranelagh in
his prison cell could have seen and understood this movement!), he
disclosed a closet and in that closet a coat or two, and one derby hat.
He took down the latter and, holding it out to the light, pointed to a
spot on the under side of its brim.

The coroner staggered as he saw it, and glanced helplessly about him. He
had known this family all their lives and the father had been his
dearest friend. But he could say nothing in face of this evidence. The
spot was a flour-mark, in which could almost be discerned the outline of
a woman's thumb.



'S blood, there is something in this more than natural, if philosophy
could find it out.


"The coat is here, too," whispered Sweetwater, after a moment of
considerate silence. "I had searched the hall-rack for them; I had
searched his closets; and was about owning myself to be on a false trail,
when I spied this little door. We had better lock it, now, had we not,
till you make up your mind what to do with this conclusive bit of

"Yes, lock it. I'm not quite myself, Sweetwater. I'm no stranger to
this house, or to the unfortunate young people in it. I wish I had not
been re-elected last year. I shall never survive the strain if--" He
turned away.

Sweetwater carefully returned the hat to its peg, turned the key in the
door, and softly followed his superior back into the dining-room, and
thence to their former retreat.

"I can see that it's likely to be a dreadful business," he ventured to
remark, as the two stood face to face again. "But we've no choice. Facts
are facts, and we've got to make the best of them. You mean me to go on?"

"Go on?"

"Following up the clews which you have yourself given me? I've only
finished with one; there's another--"

"The bottles?"

"Yes, the bottles. I believe that I shall not fail there if you'll give
me a little time. I'm a stranger in town, you remember, and cannot be
expected to move as fast as a local detective."

"Sweetwater, you have but one duty--to follow both clews as far as they
will take you. As for my duty, that is equally plain, to uphold you in
all reasonable efforts and to shrink at nothing which will save the
innocent and bring penalty to the guilty. Only be careful. Remember the
evidence against Ranelagh. You will have to forge an exceedingly strong
chain to hold your own against the facts which have brought this recreant
lover to book. You see--O, I wish that poor girl could get ease!" he
impetuously cried, as "Lila! Lila!" rang again through the house.

"There can never be any ease for her," murmured Sweetwater. "Whatever the
truth, she's bound to suffer if ever she awakens to reality again. Do you
agree with the reporters that she knew why and for what her unhappy
sister left this house that night?"

"If not, why this fever?"

"That's sound."

"_She_--" the coroner was emphatic, "_she_ is the only one who is wholly
innocent in this whole business. Consider her at every point. Her life is
invaluable to every one concerned. But she must not be roused to the
fact; not yet. Nor must he be startled either; you know whom I mean.
Quiet does it, Sweetwater. Quiet and a seeming deference to his wishes as
the present head of the house."

"Is the place his? Has Miss Cumberland made a will?"

"Her will will be read to-morrow. For to-night, Arthur Cumberland's
position here is the position of a master."

"I will respect it, sir, up to all reasonable bounds. I don't think he
meditates giving any trouble. He's not at all impressed by our presence.
All he seems to care about is what his sister may be led to say in her

"That's how you look at it?" The coroner's tone was one of gloom. Then,
after a moment of silence: "You may call my carriage, Sweetwater. I can
do nothing further here to-day. The atmosphere of this house stifles me.
Dead flowers, dead hopes, and something worse than death lowering in the
prospect. I remember my old friend--this was his desk. Let us go, I say."

Sweetwater threw open the door, but his wistful look did not escape the
older man's eye.

"You're not ready to go? Wish to search the house, perhaps."


"It has already been done in a general way."

"I wish to do it thoroughly."

The coroner sighed.

"I should be wrong to stand in your way. Get your warrant and the house
is yours. But remember the sick girl."

"That's why I wish to do the job my self."

"You're a good fellow, Sweetwater." Then as he was passing out, "I'm
going to rely on you to see this thing through, quietly if you can,
openly and in the public eye if you must. The keys tell the tale--the

Book of the day: