Part 3 out of 7
keys and the hat. If the former had been left in the club-house and the
latter found without the mark set on it by the mechanic's wife,
Ranelagh's chances would look as slim to-day as they did immediately
after the event. But with things as they are, he may well rest easily
to-night; the clouds are lifting for him."
Which shows how little we poor mortals realise what makes for the peace
even of those who are the nearest to us and whose lives and hearts we
think we can read like an open book.
The coroner gone, Sweetwater made his way to the room where he had last
seen Mr. Clifton. He found it empty and was soon told by Hexford that
the lawyer had left. This was welcome news to him; he felt that he had a
fair field before him now; and learning that it would be some fifteen
minutes yet before he could hope to see the carriages back, he followed
"I wish I had your advantages," he remarked as they reached the
"What would you do?"
"I'd wander down that hall and take a long look at things."
"I'd like to see the girl and I'd like to see the brother when he thought
no one was watching him."
"Why see the girl?"
"I don't know. I'm afraid that's just curiosity. I've heard she was a
wonder for beauty."
"She was, once."
"And not now?"
"You cannot tell; they have bound up her cheeks with cloths. She fell on
the grate and got burned."
"But I say that's dreadful, if she was so beautiful."
"Yes, it's bad, but there are worse things than that. I wonder what she
meant by that wild cry of 'Tear it open! See if her heart is there?' Tear
what open? the coffin?"
"Of course. What else could she have meant?"
"Well! delirium is a queer thing; makes a fellow feel creepy all over. I
don't reckon on my nights here."
"Hexford, help me to a peep. I've got a difficult job before me and I
need all the aid I can get."
"Oh, there's no trouble about that! Walk boldly along; he won't
"_He won't notice_?"
"No, he notices nothing but what comes from the sick room."
"I see." Sweetwater's jaw had fallen, but it righted itself at this
"Yes--as a fellow never listened before."
"Yes, I should call it expectant."
"Does the nurse know this?"
"The nurse is a puzzler."
"Half nurse and half--but go see for yourself. Here's a package to take
in,--medicine from the drug store. Tell her there was no one else to
bring it up. She'll show no surprise."
Muttering his thanks, Sweetwater seized the proffered package, and
hastened with it down the hall. He had been as far as the turn before,
but now he passed the turn to find, just as he expected, a closed door on
the left and an open alcove on the right. The door led into Miss
Cumberland's room; the alcove, circular in shape and lighted by several
windows, projected from the rear of the extension, and had for its
outlook the stable and the huge sycamore tree growing beside it.
Sweetwater's fingers passed thoughtfully across his chin as he remarked
this and took in the expressive outline of its one occupant. He could
not see his face; that was turned towards the table before which he sat.
But his drooping head, rigid with desperate thinking; his relaxed hand
closed around the neck of a decanter which, nevertheless, he did not
lift, made upon Sweetwater an impression which nothing he saw afterwards
ever quite effaced.
"When I come back, that whiskey will be half gone," thought he, and
lingered to see the tumbler filled and the first draught taken.
But no. The hand slowly unclasped and fell away from the decanter; his
head sank forward until his chin rested on his breast; and a sigh,
startling to Sweetwater, fell from his lips. Hexford was right; only one
thing could arouse him.
Sweetwater now tried that thing. He knocked softly on the sick-room door.
This reached the ear oblivious to all else. Young Cumberland started to
his feet; and for a moment Sweetwater saw again the heavy features
which, an hour before, had produced such a repulsive effect upon him in
the rooms below. Then the nerveless figure sank again into place, with
the same constraint in its lines, and the same dejection.
Sweetwater's hand, lifted in repetition of his knock, hung suspended. He
had not expected quite such indifference as this. It upset his
calculations just a trifle. As his hand fell, he reminded himself of the
coroner's advice to go easy. "Easy it is," was his internal reply. "I'll
walk as lightly as if eggshells were under my feet."
The door was opened to him, this time. As it swung back, he saw, first, a
burst of rosy color as a room panelled in exquisite pink burst upon his
sight; then the great picture of his life--the bloodless features of
Carmel, calmed for the moment into sleep.
Perfect beauty is so rare, its effect so magical! Not even the bandage
which swathed one cheek could hide the exquisite symmetry of the
features, or take from the whole face its sweet and natural distinction.
Frenzy, which had distorted the muscles and lit the eyes with a baleful
glare, was lacking at this moment. Repose had quieted the soul and left
the body free to express its natural harmonies.
Sweetwater gazed at the winsome, brown head over the nurse's shoulder,
and felt that for him a new and important factor had entered into this
case, with his recognition of this woman's great beauty. How deep a
factor, he was far from suspecting, or he would not have met the nurse's
eye with quite so cheery and self-confident a smile.
"Excuse the intrusion," he said. "We thought you might need these
things. Hexford signed for them."
"I'm obliged to you. Are you--one of them?" she sharply asked.
"Would it disturb you if I were? I hope not. I've no wish to seem
"What do you want? Something, I know. Give it a name before there's a
She nodded towards the bed, and Sweetwater took advantage of the moment
to scrutinise more closely the nurse herself. She was a robust,
fine-looking woman, producing an impression of capability united to
kindness. Strength of mind and rigid attendance to duty dominated the
kindness, however. If crossed in what she considered best for her
patient, possibly for herself, she could be severe, if not biting, in her
speech and manner. So much Sweetwater read in the cold, clear eye and
firm, self-satisfied mouth of the woman awaiting his response to the curt
demand she had made.
"I want another good look at your patient, and I want your confidence
since you and I may have to see much of each other before this matter is
ended. You asked me to speak plainly and I have done so."
"You are from headquarters?"
"Coroner Perry sent me." Throwing back his coat, he showed his badge.
"The coroner has returned to his office. He was quite upset by the outcry
which came from this room at an unhappy moment during the funeral."
"I know. It was my fault; I opened the door just for an instant, and in
that instant my patient broke through her torpor and spoke."
She had drawn him in, by this time, and, after another glance at her
patient, softly closed the door behind him.
"I have nothing to report," said she, "but the one sentence
Sweetwater took in the little memorandum book and pencil which hung at
her side, and understood her position and extraordinary amenability to
his wishes. Unconsciously, a low exclamation escaped him. He was young
and had not yet sunk the man entirely in the detective.
"A cruel necessity to watch so interesting a patient, for anything but
her own good," he remarked. Yet, because he was a detective as well as a
man, his eye went wandering all over the room as he spoke until it fell
upon a peculiar-looking cabinet or closet, let into the wall directly
opposite the bed. "What's that?" he asked.
"I don't know; I can't make it out, and I don't like to ask."
Sweetwater examined it for a moment from where he stood; then crossed
over, and scrutinised it more particularly. It was a unique specimen.
What it lacked in height--it could not have measured more than a foot
from the bottom to the top--it made up in length, which must have
exceeded five feet. The doors, of which it had two, were both tightly
locked; but as they were made of transparent glass, the objects behind
them were quite visible. It was the nature of these objects which made
the mystery. The longer Sweetwater examined them, the less he understood
the reason for their collection, much less for their preservation in a
room which in all other respects, expressed the quintessence of taste.
At one end he saw a stuffed canary, not perched on a twig, but lying
prone on its side. Near it was a doll, with scorched face and limbs
half-consumed. Next this, the broken pieces of a china bowl and what
looked like the torn remnants of some very fine lace. Further along, his
eye lighted on a young girl's bonnet, exquisite in colour and nicety of
material, but crushed out of all shape and only betraying its identity by
its dangling strings. The next article, in this long array of totally
unhomogeneous objects, was a metronome, with its pendulum wrenched half
off and one of its sides lacking. He could not determine the character of
what came next, and only gave a casual examination to the rest. The whole
affair was a puzzle to him, and he had no time for puzzles disconnected
with the very serious affair he was engaged in investigating.
"Some childish nonsense," he remarked, and moved towards the door. "The
servants will be coming back, and I had rather not be found here. You'll
see me again--I cannot tell just when. Perhaps you may want to send for
me. If so, my name is Sweetwater."
His hand was on the knob, and he was almost out of the room when he
started and looked back. A violent change in the patient had occurred.
Disturbed by his voice or by some inner pulsation of the fever which
devoured her, Carmel had risen from the pillow and now sat, staring
straight before her with every feature working and lips opened as if to
speak. Sweetwater held his breath, and the nurse leaped towards her and
gently encircled her with protecting arms.
"Lie down," she prayed; "lie down. Everything is all right: I am looking
after things. Lie down, little one, and rest."
The young girl drooped, and, yielding to the nurse's touch, sank slowly
back on the pillow; but in an instant she was up again, and flinging out
her hand, she cried out loudly just as she had cried an hour before:
"Break it open! Break the glass and look in. Her heart should be
there--her heart--her heart!"
"Go, or I cannot quiet her!" ordered the nurse, and Sweetwater
turned to obey.
But a new obstacle offered. The brother had heard this cry, and now stood
in the doorway.
"Who are you?" he impatiently demanded, surveying Sweetwater in
"I brought up the drugs," was the quiet explanation of the ever-ready
detective. "I didn't mean to alarm the young lady, and I don't think I
did. It's the fever, sir, which makes her talk so wildly."
"We want no strangers here," was young Cumberland's response. "Remember,
nurse, no strangers." His tone was actually peremptory.
Sweetwater observed him in real astonishment as he slid by and made his
quiet escape. He was still more astonished when, on glancing towards the
alcove, he perceived that, contrary to his own prognostication, the
whiskey stood as high in the decanter as before.
"I've got a puzzler this time," was his comment, as he made his way
downstairs. "Even Mr. Gryce would say that. I wonder how I'll come out.
Uppermost!" he finished in secret emphasis to himself. "_Uppermost_! It
would never do for me to fail in the first big affair I've undertaken on
my own account."
HELEN SURPRISES SWEETWATER
The returning servants drove up just as Sweetwater reached the lower
floor. He was at the side door when they came in, and a single glance
convinced him that all had gone off decorously at the grave, and that
nothing further had occurred during their absence to disturb them.
He followed them as they filed away into the kitchen, and, waiting till
the men had gone about their work, turned his attention to the girls who
stood about very much as if they did not know just what to do with
"Sit, ladies," said he, drawing up chairs quite as if he were doing the
honours of the house. Then with a sly, compassionate look into each
woe-begone face, he artfully remarked: "You're all upset, you are, by
what Mr. Cumberland said in such an unbecoming way at the funeral. He'd
like to strangle Mr. Ranelagh! Why couldn't he wait for the sheriff. It
looks as if that gentleman would have the job, all right."
"Oh! don't!" wailed out one of the girls, the impressionable,
warm-hearted Maggie. "The horrors of this house'll kill me. I can't
stand it a minute longer. I'll go--I'll go to-morrow."
"You won't; you're too kind-hearted to leave Mr. Cumberland and his
sister in their desperate trouble," Sweetwater put in, with a decision as
suggestive of admiration as he dared to assume.
Her eyes filled, and she said no more. Sweetwater shifted his attention
to Helen. Working around by her side, he managed to drop these words
into her ear:
"She talks most, but she doesn't feel her responsibilities any more
than you do. I've had my experience with women, and you're of the sort
She rolled her eyes towards him, in a slow, surprised way, that would
have abashed most men.
"I don't know your name, or your business here," said she; "but I do know
that you take a good deal upon yourself when you say what I shall do or
shan't do. I don't even know, myself."
"That's because your eye is not so keen to your own virtues as--well, I
won't say as mine, but as those of any appreciative stranger. I can't
help seeing what you are, you know."
She turned her shoulder but not before he caught a slight disdainful
twitch of her rosy, non-communicative mouth.
"Ah, ah, my lady, not quick enough!" thought he; and, with the most
innocent air in the world, he launched forth in a tirade against the man
then in custody, as though his guilt were an accepted fact and nothing
but the formalities of the law stood between him and his final doom. "It
must make you all feel queer," he wound up, "to think you have waited on
him and seen him tramping about these rooms for months, just as if he had
no wicked feelings in his heart and meant to marry Miss Cumberland, not
to kill her."
"Oh, oh," Maggie sobbed out. "And a perfect gentleman he was, too. I
can't believe no bad of him. He wasn't like--" Her breath caught, and so
suddenly that Sweetwater was always convinced that the more cautious
Helen had twitched her by her skirt. "Like--like other gentlemen who came
here. It was a kind word he had or a smile. I--I--" She made no attempt
to finish but bounded to her feet, pulling up the more sedate Helen with
her. "Let's go," she whispered, "I'm afeared of the man."
The other yielded and began to cross the floor behind the
Sweetwater summoned up his courage.
"One moment," he prayed. "Will you not tell me, before you go,
whether the candlestick I have noticed on the dining-room mantel is
not one of a pair?"
"Yes, there were two--_once_," said Helen, resisting Maggie's effort to
drag her out through the open door.
"_Once_," smiled Sweetwater; "by which you mean, three days ago."
A lowering of her head and a sudden make for the door.
Sweetwater changed his tone to one of simple inquiry.
"And was that where they always stood, the pair of them, one on each end
of the dining-room mantel?"
She nodded; involuntarily, perhaps, but decisively.
Sweetwater hid his disappointment. The room mentioned was a thoroughfare
for the whole family. Any member of it could have taken the candlestick.
"I'm obliged to you," said he; and might have ventured further had she
given him the opportunity. But she was too near the door to resist the
temptation of flight. In another moment she was gone, and Sweetwater
found himself alone with his reflections.
They were not altogether unpleasing. He was sure that he read the
evidences of struggle in her slowly working lips and changing impulses.
"So, so!" thought he. "The good seed has found its little corner of soil.
I'll leave it to take root and sprout. Perhaps the coroner will profit by
it. If not, I've a way of coaxing tender plants which should bring this
one to fruit. We'll see."
The moon shone that night, much to Sweetwater's discomforture. As he
moved about the stable-yard, he momentarily expected to see the window of
the alcove thrown up and to hear Mr. Cumberland's voice raised in loud
command for him to quit the premises. But no such interruption came. The
lonely watcher, whose solitary figure he could just discern above the
unshaded sill, remained immovable, with his head buried in his arms, but
whether in sleep or in brooding misery, there was naught to tell.
The rest of the house presented an equally dolorous and forsaken
appearance. There were lights in the kitchen and lights in the servants'
rooms at the top of the house, but no sounds either of talking or
laughing. All voices had sunk to a whisper, and if by chance a figure
passed one of the windows, it was in a hurried, frightened way, which
Sweetwater felt very ready to appreciate.
In the stable it was no better. Zadok had bought an evening paper, and
was seeking solace from its columns. Sweetwater had attempted the
sociable but had been met by a decided rebuff. The coachman could not
forget his attitude before the funeral and nothing, not even the pitcher
of beer the detective proposed to bring in, softened the forbidding air
with which this old servant met the other's advances.
Soon Sweetwater realised that his work was over for the night and
planned to leave. But there was one point to be settled first. Was there
any other means of exit from these grounds save that offered by the
He had an impression that in one of his strolls about, he had detected
the outlines of a door in what looked like a high brick wall in the
extreme rear. If so, it were well worth his while to know where that door
led. Working his way along in the shadow cast by the house and afterward
by the stable itself, he came upon what was certainly a wall and a wall
with a door in it. He could see the latter plainly from where he halted
in the thick of the shadows. The moonlight shone broadly on it, and he
could detect the very shape and size of its lock. It might be as well to
try that lock, but he would have to cross a very wide strip of moonlight
in order to do so, and he feared to attract attention to his extreme
inquisitiveness. Yet who was there to notice him at this hour? Mr.
Cumberland had not moved, the girls were upstairs, Zadok was busy with
his paper, and the footman dozing over his pipe in his room over the
stable. Sweetwater had just come from that room, and he knew.
A quiet stable-yard and a closed door only ten feet away! He glanced
again at the latter, and made up his mind. Advancing in a quiet, sidelong
way he had, he laid his hand on the small knob above the lock and quickly
turned it. The door was unlocked and swung under his gentle push. An
alley-way opened before him, leading to what appeared to be another
residence street. He was about to test the truth of this surmise when he
heard a step behind him, and turning, encountered the heavy figure of the
coachman advancing towards him, with a key in his hand.
Zadok was of an easy turn, but he had been sorely tried that day, and his
limit had been reached.
"You snooper!" he bawled. "What do you want here? Won't the run of the
house content ye? Come! I want to lock that door. It's my last duty
before going to bed."
Sweetwater assumed the innocent.
"And I was just going this way. It looks like a short road into town. It
is, isn't it?"
"No! Yes," growled the other. "Whichever it is, it isn't your road
to-night. That's private property, sir. The alley you see, belongs to our
neighbours. No one passes through there but myself and--"
He caught himself in time, with a sullen grunt which may have been the
result of fatigue or of that latent instinct of loyalty which is often
the most difficult obstacle a detective has to encounter.
"And Mr. Ranelagh, I suppose you would say?" was Sweetwater's easy
No answer; the coachman simply locked the door and put the key in
Sweetwater made no effort to deter him. More than that he desisted from
further questions though he was dying to ask where this key was kept at
night, and whether it had been in its usual place on the evening of the
murder. He had gone far enough, he thought. Another step and he might
rouse this man's suspicion, if not his enmity. But he did not leave the
shadows into which he again receded until he had satisfied himself that
the key went into the stable with the coachman, where it probably
remained for this night, at least.
It was after ten when Sweetwater re-entered the house to say good night
to Hexford. He found him on watch in the upper hall, and the man, Clarke,
below. He had a word with the former:
"What is the purpose of the little door in the wall back of the stable?"
"It connects these grounds with those of the Fultons. The Fultons live on
"Are the two families intimate?"
"Very. Mr. Cumberland is sweet on the young lady there. She was at the
funeral to-day. She fainted when--you know when."
"I can guess. God! What complications arise! You don't say that any woman
can care for _him_?"
Hexford gave a shrug. He had seen a good deal of life.
"He uses that door, then?" Sweetwater pursued, after a minute.
"Did he use it that night?"
"He didn't visit _her_"
"Where did he go?"
"We can't find out. He was first seen on Garden Street, coming home after
a night of debauch. He had drunk hard. Asked where he got the liquor, he
maundered out something about a saloon; but none of the places which he
usually frequents had seen him that night. I have tried them all and some
that weren't in his books. It was no good."
"That door is supposed to be locked at night. Zadok says that's his duty.
Was it locked that night?"
"Can't say. Perhaps the coroner can. You see the inquiry ran in such a
different direction, at first, that a small matter like that may have
Sweetwater subdued the natural retort, and, reverting to the subject of
the saloons, got some specific information in regard to them. Then he
passed thoughtfully down-stairs, only to come upon Helen who was just
extinguishing the front-hall light.
"Good night!" he said, in passing.
"Good night, Mr. Sweetwater."
There was something in her tone which made him stop and look back. She
had stepped into the library and was blowing out the lamp there. He
paused a moment and sighed softly. Then he started towards the door, only
to stop again and cast another look back. She was standing in one of the
doorways, anxiously watching him and twisting her fingers in and out in
an irresolute way truly significant in one of her disposition.
He felt his heart leap.
Returning softly, he took up his stand before her, looking her straight
in the eye.
"Good night," he repeated, with an odd emphasis.
"Good night," she answered, with equal force and meaning.
But the next moment she was speaking rapidly, earnestly.
"I can't sleep," said she. "I never can when I'm not certain of my duty.
Mr. Ranelagh is an injured man. Ask what was said and done at their last
dinner here. I can't tell you. I didn't listen and I didn't see what
happened, but it was something out of the ordinary. Three broken
wineglasses lay on the tablecloth when I went in to clear away. I heard
the clatter when they fell and smashed, but I said nothing. I have said
nothing since; but I know there was a quarrel, and that Mr. Ranelagh was
not in it, for his glass was the only one which remained unbroken. Am I
wrong in telling you? I wouldn't if--if it were not for Mr. Ranelagh. He
didn't do right by Miss Cumberland, but he don't deserve to be in prison;
and so would Miss Carmel tell you if she knew what was going on and could
speak. _She_ loved him and--I've said enough; I've said enough," the
agitated girl protested, as he leaned eagerly towards her. "I couldn't
tell the priest any more. Good night."
And she was gone.
He hesitated a moment, then pursued his way to the side door, and so out
of the house into the street. As he passed along the front of the now
darkened building, he scanned it with a new interest and a new doubt.
Soon he returned to his old habit of muttering to himself. "We don't know
the half of what has taken place within those walls during the last four
weeks," said he. "But one thing I will solve, and that is where this
miserable fellow spent the hours between this dinner they speak of and
the time of his return next day. Hexford has failed at it. Now we'll see
what a blooming stranger can do."
62 CUTHBERT ROAD
Tush! I will stir about,
And all things will be well, I warrant thee.
_Romeo and Juliet_.
He was walking south and on the best lighted and most beautiful street in
town, but his eyes were forever seeking a break in the long line of fence
which marked off the grounds of a seemingly interminable stretch of
neighbouring mansions, and when a corner was at last reached, he dashed
around it and took a straight course for Huested Street, down which he
passed with quickened steps and an air of growing assurance.
He was soon at the bottom of the hill where the street, taking a turn,
plunged him at once into a thickly populated district. As this was still
the residence quarter, he passed on until he gained the heart of the town
and the region of the saloons. Here he slackened pace and consulted a
memorandum he had made while talking to Hexford. "A big job," was his
comment, sorry to find the hour quite so late. "But I'm not bound to
finish it to-night. A start is all I can hope for, so here goes."
It was not his intention to revisit the places so thoroughly overhauled
by the police. He carried another list, that of certain small groceries
and quiet unobtrusive hotels where a man could find a private room in
which to drink alone; it being Sweetwater's conviction that in such a
place, and in such a place only, would be found the tokens of those
solitary hours spent by Arthur Cumberland between the time of his
sister's murder and his reappearance the next day. "Had they been spent
in his old haunts or in any of the well-known drinking saloons of the
city, some one would have peached on him before this," he went on, in
silent argument with himself. "He's too well known, too much of a swell
for all his lowering aspect and hang-dog look, to stroll along unnoticed
through any of the principal streets, so soon after the news of his
sister's murder had set the whole town agog. Yet he was not seen till he
struck Garden Street, a good quarter of a mile from his usual resorts."
Here, Sweetwater glanced up at the corner gas-lamp beneath which he
stood, and seeing that he was in Garden Street, tried to locate himself
in the exact spot where this young man had first been seen on the notable
morning in question. Then he looked carefully about him. Nothing in the
street or its immediate neighbourhood suggested the low and secret den he
was in search of.
"I shall have to make use of the list," he decided, and asked the first
passer-by the way to Hubbell's Alley.
It was a mile off. "That settles it," muttered Sweetwater. "Besides, I
doubt if he would go into an _alley_. The man has sunk low, but hardly
so low as that. What's the next address I have? Cuthbert Road.
Espying a policeman eyeing him with more or less curiosity from the other
side of the street, he crossed over and requested to be directed to
"Cuthbert Road! That's where the markets are. They're closed at this time
of night," was the somewhat suspicious reply.
Evidently the location was not a savoury one.
"Are there nothing but markets there?" inquired Sweetwater, innocently.
It was his present desire not to be recognised as a detective even by
the men on beat. "I'm looking up a friend. He keeps a grocery or some
kind of small hotel. I have his number, but I don't know how to get to
"Then turn straight about and go down the first street, and you'll
reach it before the trolley-car you see up there can strike this
corner. But first, sew up your pockets. There's a bad block between you
and the markets."
Sweetwater slapped his trousers and laughed.
"I wasn't born yesterday," he cried; and following the officer's
directions, made straight for the Road. "Worse than the alley," he
muttered; "but too near to be slighted. I wonder if I shouldn't have
borrowed somebody's old coat."
It had been wiser, certainly. In Garden Street all the houses had been
closed and dark, but here they were open and often brightly lighted and
noisy from cellar to roof. Men, women, and frequently children, jostled
him on the pavement, and he felt his pockets touched more than once. But
he wasn't Caleb Sweetwater of the New York department of police for
nothing. He laughed, bantered, fought his way through and finally
reached the quieter region and, at this hour, the almost deserted one,
of the markets. Sixty-two was not far off, and, pausing a moment to
consider his course, he mechanically took in the surroundings. He was
surprised to find himself almost in the open country. The houses
extending on his left were fronted by the booths and stalls of the
market but beyond these were the fields. Interested in this discovery,
and anxious to locate himself exactly, he took his stand under a
favouring gas-lamp, and took out his map.
What he saw, sent him forward in haste. Shops had now taken the place of
tenements, and as these were mostly closed, there were very few persons
on the block, and those were quiet and unobtrusive. He reached a corner
before coming to 62 and was still more interested to perceive that the
street which branched off thus immediately from the markets was a wide
and busy one, offering both a safe and easy approach to dealer and
customer. "I'm on the track," he whispered almost aloud in his secret
self-congratulation. "Sixty-two will prove a decent quiet resort which I
may not be above patronising myself."
But he hesitated when he reached it. Some houses invite and some repel.
This house repelled. Yet there was nothing shabby or mysterious about it.
There was the decent entrance, lighted, but not too brilliantly; a row of
dark windows over it; and, above it all, a sloping roof in which another
sparkle of light drew his attention to an upper row of windows, this
time, of the old dormer shape. An alley ran down one side of the house
to the stables, now locked but later to be thrown open for the use of the
farmers who begin to gather here as early as four o'clock. Nothing wrong
in its appearance, everything ship-shape and yet--"I shall find some
strange characters here," was the Sweetwater comment with which our
detective opened the door and walked into the house.
It was an unusual hour for guests, and the woman whom he saw bending over
a sort of desk in one corner of the room he strode into, looked up
hastily, almost suspiciously.
"Well, and what is your business?" she asked, with her eye on his
clothes, which while not fashionable, were evidently of the sort not
often seen in that place.
"I want a room," he tipsily confided to her, "in which I can drink and
drink till I cannot see. I'm in trouble I am; but I don't want to do any
mischief; I only want to forget. I've money, and--" as he saw her mouth
open, "and I've the stuff. Whiskey, just whiskey. Give me a room. I'll
"I'll give you nothing." She was hot, angry, and full of distrust. "This
house is not for such as you. It's a farmer's lodging; honest men, who'd
stare and go mad to see a feller like you about. Go along, I tell you, or
I'll call Jim. He'll know what to do with you."
"Then, he'll know mor'n I do myself," mumbled the detective, with a
crushed and discouraged air. "Money and not a place to spend it in! Why
can't I go in there?" he peevishly inquired with a tremulous gesture
towards a half-open door through which a glimpse could be got of a neat
little snuggery. "Nobody'll see me. Give me a glass and leave me till I
rap for you in the morning. That's worth a fiver. Don't you think so,
missus?--And we'll begin by passing over the fiver."
She was mighty peremptory and what was more, she was in a great hurry to
get rid of him. This haste and the anxious ear she turned towards the
hall enlightened him as to the situation. There was some one within
hearing or liable to come within hearing, who possibly was not so stiff
under temptation. Could it be her husband? If so, it might be worth his
own while to await the good man's coming, if only he could manage to hold
his own for the next few minutes.
Changing his tactics, he turned his back on the snuggery and surveyed the
offended woman, with just a touch of maudlin sentiment.
"I say," he cried, just loud enough to attract the attention of any one
within ear-shot. "You're a mighty fine woman and the boss of this here
establishment; that's evident. I'd like to see the man who could say no
to you. He's never sat in that 'ere cashier's seat where you be; of
that I'm dead sure. He wouldn't care for fivers if you didn't, nor for
She was really a fine woman for her station, and a buxom, powerful one,
too. But her glance wavered under these words and she showed a desire,
with difficulty suppressed, to use the strength of her white but brawny
arms, in shoving him out of the house. To aid her self-control, he, on
his part, began to edge towards the door, always eyeing her and always
speaking loudly in admirably acted tipsy unconsciousness of the fact.
"I'm a man who likes my own way as well as anybody," were the words with
which he sought to save the situation, and further his own purposes. "But
I never quarrel with a woman. Her whims are sacred to me. I may not
believe in them; they may cost me money and comfort; but I yield, I do,
when they are as strong in their wishes as you be. I'm going, missus
The exclamation burst from him. He could not help it. The door behind him
had opened, and a man stepped in, causing him so much astonishment that
he forgot himself. The woman was big, bigger than most women who rule the
roost and do the work in haunts where work calls for muscle and a good
head behind it. She was also rosy and of a make to draw the eye, if not
the heart. But the man who now entered was small almost to the point of
being a manikin, and more than that, he was weazen of face and
ill-balanced on his two tiny, ridiculous legs. Yet she trembled at his
presence, and turned a shade paler as she uttered the feeble protest:
"Is she making a fool of herself?" asked the little man in a voice as
shrill as it was weak. "Do your business with me. Women are no good." And
he stalked into the room as only little men can.
Sweetwater took out his ten; pointed to the snuggery, and tapped his
breast-pocket. "Whiskey here," he confided. "Bring me a glass. I don't
mind your farmers. They won't bother me. What I want is a locked door
and a still mouth in your head."
The last he whispered in the husband's ear as the wife crossed
reluctantly back to her books.
The man turned the bill he had received, over and over in his hand; then
scrutinised Sweetwater, with his first show of hesitation.
"You don't want to kill yourself?" he asked.
Sweetwater laughed with a show of good humour that appeared to relieve
the woman, if it did not the man.
"Oh, that's it," he cried. "That's what the missus was afraid of, was it?
Well, I vow! And ten thousand dollars to my credit in the bank! No, I
don't want to kill myself. I just want to booze to my heart's content,
with nobody by to count the glasses. You've known such fellers before,
and that cosey, little room over there has known them, too. Just add me
to the list; it won't harm you."
The man's hand closed on the bill. Sweetwater noted the action out of the
corner of his eye, but his direct glance was on the woman. Her back was
to him, but she had started as he mentioned the snuggery and made as if
to turn; but thought better of it, and bent lower over her books.
"I've struck the spot," he murmured, exultantly to himself. "This is the
place I want and here I'll spend the night; but not to booze my wits
away, oh, no."
Nevertheless it was a night virtually wasted. He learned nothing
more than what was revealed by that one slight movement on the part
of the woman.
Though the man came in and sat with him for an hour, and they drank
together out of the flask Sweetwater had brought with him, he was as
impervious to all Sweetwater's wiles and as blind to every bait he threw
out, as any man the young detective had ever had to do with. When the
door closed on him, and Sweetwater was left to sit out the tedious night
alone, it was with small satisfaction to himself, and some regret for his
sacrificed bill. The driving in of the farmers and the awakening of life
in the market, and all the stir it occasioned inside the house and out,
prevented sleep even if he had been inclined that way. He had to swallow
his pill, and he did it with the best grace possible. Sooner than was
expected of him, sooner than was wise, perhaps, he was on his feet and
peering out of the one small window this most dismal day room contained.
He had not mistaken the outlook. It gave on to the alley, and all that
was visible from behind the curtains where he stood, was the high brick
wall of the neighbouring house. This wall had not even a window in it;
which in itself was a disappointment to one of his resources. He turned
back into the room, disgusted; then crept to the window again, and,
softly raising the sash, cast one of his lightning glances up and down
the alley. Then he softly let the sash fall again and retreated to the
centre of the room, where he stood for a moment with a growing smile of
intelligence and hope on his face. He had detected close against the side
of the wall, a box or hand-cart full of empty bottles. It gave him an
idea. With an impetuosity he would have criticised in another man, he
flung himself out of the room in which he had been for so many hours
confined, and coming face to face with the landlady standing in
unexpected watch before the door, found it a strain on his nerves to
instantly assume the sullen, vaguely abused air with which he had decided
to leave the house. Nevertheless, he made the attempt, and if he did not
succeed to his own satisfaction, he evidently did to hers, for she made
no effort to stop him as he stumbled out, and in her final look, which he
managed with some address to intercept, he perceived nothing but relief.
What had been in her mind? Fear for him or fear for themselves? He could
not decide until he had rummaged that cart of bottles. But how was he to
do this without attracting attention to himself in a way he still felt,
to be undesirable. In his indecision, he paused on the sidewalk and let
his glances wander vaguely over the busy scene before him. Before be knew
it, his eye had left the market and travelled across the snow-covered
fields to a building standing by itself in the far distance. Its
appearance was not unfamiliar. Seizing hold of the first man who passed
him, he pointed it out, crying:
"What building is that?"
"That? That's The Whispering Pines, the country club-house, where--"
He didn't wait for the end of the sentence, but plunged into the thickest
group of people he could find, with a determination greater than ever to
turn those bottles over before he ate.
His manner of going about this was characteristic. Lounging about the
stalls until he found just the sort of old codger he wanted, he scraped
up an acquaintance with him on the spot, and succeeded in making himself
so agreeable that when the old fellow sauntered back to the stables to
take a look at his horse, Sweetwater accompanied him. Hanging round the
stable-door, he kept up his chatter, while sizing up the bottles heaped
in the cart at his side. He even allowed himself to touch one or two in
an absent way, and was meditating an accidental upset of the whole
collection when a woman he had not seen before, thrust her head out of a
rear window, shouting sharply:
"Leave those bottles alone. They're waiting for the old clothes man. He
pays us money for them."
Sweetwater gaped and strolled away. He had used his eyes to purpose, and
was quite assured that the bottle he wanted was not there. But the
woman's words had given him his cue, and when later in the day a certain
old Jew peddler went his rounds through this portion of the city, a
disreputable-looking fellow accompanied him, whom even the sharp landlady
in Cuthbert Road would have failed to recognise as the same man who had
occupied the snuggery the night before. He was many hours on the route
and had many new experiences with human nature. But he gained little
else, and was considering with what words he should acknowledge his
defeat at police headquarters, when he found himself again at the markets
and a minute later in the alley where the cart stood, with the contents
of which he had busied himself earlier in the day.
He had followed the peddler here because he had followed him to every
other back door and alley. But he was tired and had small interest in the
cart which looked quite undisturbed and in exactly the same condition as
when he turned his back upon it in the morning. But when he drew nearer
and began to lend a hand in removing the bottles to the waggon, he
discovered that a bottle had been added to the pile, and that this bottle
bore the label which marked it as being one of the two which had been
taken from the club-house on the night of the murder.
"MUST I TELL THESE THINGS?"
Had I but died an hour before this chance,
I had liv'd a blessed time; for from this instant,
There's nothing serious in mortality:
All is but toys; renown, and grace is dead;
The wine of life is drawn, and the lees
Is left this vault to brag of.
The lamp in the coroner's room shone dully on the perturbed faces of
three anxious men. They had been talking earnestly and long, but were now
impatiently awaiting the appearance of a fourth party, as was shown by
the glances which each threw from time to time towards the door leading
into the main corridor.
The district attorney courted the light, and sat where he would be the
first seen by any one entering. He had nothing to hide, being entirely
engrossed in his duty.
Further back and rather behind the lamp than in front of it stood or sat,
as his restlessness prompted, Coroner Perry, the old friend of Amasa
Cumberland, with whose son he had now to do. Behind him, and still
further in the shadow, could be seen the quiet figure of Sweetwater. All
counted the minutes and all showed relief--the coroner by a loud
sigh--when the door finally opened and an officer appeared, followed by
the lounging form of Adelaide's brother.
Arthur Cumberland had come unwillingly, and his dissatisfaction did not
improve his naturally heavy countenance. However, he brightened a little
at sight of the two men sitting at the table, and, advancing, broke into
speech before either of the two officials had planned their questions.
"I call this hard," he burst forth. "My place is at home and at the
bedside of my suffering sister, and you drag me down here at nine o'clock
at night to answer questions about things of which I am completely
ignorant. I've said all I have to say about the trouble which has come
into my family; but if another repetition of the same things will help to
convict that scoundrel who has broken up my home and made me the
wretchedest dog alive, then I'm ready to talk. So, fire ahead, Dr. Perry,
and let's be done with it."
"Sit down," replied the district attorney, gravely, with a gesture of
dismissal to the officer. "Mr. Cumberland, we have spared you up to
this time, for two very good reasons. You were in great trouble, and
you appeared to be in the possession of no testimony which would
materially help us. But matters have changed since you held
conversation with Dr. Perry on the day following your sister's decease.
You have laid that sister away; the will which makes you an independent
man for life has been read in your hearing; you are in as much ease of
mind as you can be while your remaining sister's life hangs trembling
in the balance; and, more important still, discoveries not made before
the funeral, have been made since, rendering it very desirable for you
to enter into particulars at this present moment, which were not
thought necessary then."
"Particulars? What particulars? Don't you know enough, as it is, to hang
the fellow? Wasn't he seen with his fingers on Adelaide's throat? What
can I tell you that is any more damaging than that? Particulars!" The
word seemed to irritate him beyond endurance. Never had he looked more
unprepossessing or a less likely subject for sympathy, than when he
stumbled into the chair set for him by the district attorney.
The word had a subtle ring. The coroner, who uttered it, waited to watch
its effect. Seemingly it had none, after the first sullen glance thrown
him by the young man; and the coroner sighed again, but this time softly,
and as a prelude to the following speech:
"We can understand," said he, "why you should feel so strongly against
one who has divided the hearts of your sisters, and played with one, if
not with both. Few men could feel differently. You have reason for your
enmity and we excuse it; but you must not carry it to the point of open
denunciation before the full evidence is in and the fact of murder
settled beyond all dispute. Whatever you may think, whatever we may
think, it has not been so settled. There are missing links still to be
supplied, and this is why we have summoned you here and ask you to be
patient and give the district attorney a little clearer account of what
went on in your own house, before you broke up that evening and you went
to your debauch, and your sister Adelaide to her death at The
"I don't know what you mean." He brought his fist down on the table with
each word. "Nothing went on. That is,--"
"Something went on at dinner-time. It was not a usual meal," put in the
district attorney. "You and your sisters--"
"Stop!" He was at that point of passion which dulls the most
self-controlled to all sense of propriety.
"Don't talk to me about that dinner. I want to forget that dinner. I want
to forget everything but the two things I live for--to see that fellow
hanged, and to--" The words choked him, and he let his head fall, but
presently threw it up again. "That dastard, whom may God confound, passed
a letter across Adelaide into Carmel's hand," he panted out. "I saw him,
but I didn't take it in; I wasn't thinking. I was--"
"Who broke the glasses?" urged his relentless inquisitor. "One at your
plate, one at Carmel's, and one at the head of the board where sat your
"God! Must I tell these things?" He had started to his feet and his hand,
violent in all it did, struck his forehead impulsively, as he uttered
this exclamation. "Have it, then! Heaven knows I think of it enough not
to be afraid to speak it out in words. Adelaide"--the name came with
passion, but once uttered, produced its own calming effect, so that he
went on with more restraint--"Adelaide never had much patience with me.
She was a girl who only saw one way. 'The right! the right!' was what
she dinned into my ears from the time I was a small boy and didn't know
but that all youngsters were brought up by sisters. I grew to hate what
she called 'the right,' I wanted pleasure, a free time, and a good drink
whenever the fancy took me. You know what I am, Dr. Perry, and everybody
in town knows; but the impulse which has always ruled me was not a
downright evil one; or if it was, I called it natural independence, and
let it go at that. But Adelaide suffered. I didn't understand it and I
didn't care a fig for it, but she _did_ suffer. God forgive me!"
He stopped and mopped his forehead. Sweetwater moved a trifle on his
seat, but the others--men who had passed the meridian of life, who had
known temptations, possibly had succumbed to them, from time to time--sat
like two statues, one in full light and the other in as dark a shadow as
he could find.
"That afternoon," young Cumberland presently resumed, "she was keyed up
more than usual. She loved Ranelagh,--damn him!--and he had played or was
playing her false. She watched him with eyes that madden me, now, when I
think of them. She saw him look at Carmel, and she saw Carmel look at
him. Then her eyes fell on me. I was angry; angry at them all, and I
wanted a drink. It was not her habit to have wine on the table; but
sometimes, when Ranelagh was there, she did. She was a slave to Ranelagh,
and he could make her do whatever he wished, just as he can make you and
Here he shot insolent glances at his two interlocutors, one of whom
changed colour--which, happily, he did not see. "'Ring the bell,' I
ordered, 'and have in the champagne. I want to drink to your marriage and
the happy days in prospect for us all,' It was brutal and I knew it; but
I was reckless and wild for the wine. So, I guess, was Ranelagh, for he
smiled at her, and she rang for the champagne. When the glasses had been
set beside each plate, she turned towards Carmel. 'We will all drink,'
she said, 'to my coming marriage,' This made Carmel turn pale; for
Adelaide had never been known to drink a drop of liquor in her life. I
felt a little queer, myself; and not one of us spoke till the glasses
were filled and the maid had left the dining-room and shut the door.
"Then Adelaide rose. 'We will drink standing,' said she, and never had I
seen her look as she did then. I thought of my evil life when I should
have been watching Ranelagh; and when she lifted the glass to her lips
and looked at me, almost as earnestly as she did at Ranelagh,--but it was
a different kind of earnestness,--I felt like--like--well, like the
wretch I was and always had been; possibly, always will be. She
drank;--we wouldn't call it drinking, for she just touched the wine with
her lips; but to her it was debauch. Then she stood waiting, with the
strangest gleam in her eyes, while Ranelagh drained his glass and I
drained mine. Ranelagh thought she wanted some sentiment, and started to
say something appropriate; but his eye fell on Carmel, who had tried to
drink and couldn't, and he bungled over his words and at last came to a
pause under the steady stare of Adelaide's eyes.
"'Never mind, Elwood,' she said; 'I know what you would like to say. But
that's not what I am thinking of now. I am thinking of my brother, the
boy who will soon be left to find his way through life without even the
unwelcome restraint of my presence. I want him to remember this day. I
want him to remember me as I stand here before him with this glass in my
hand. You see wine in it, Arthur; but I see poison--poison--nothing else,
for one like you who cannot refuse a friend, cannot refuse your own
longing. Never from this day on shall another bottle be opened under my
roof. Carmel, you have grieved as well as I over what has passed for
pleasure in this house. Do as I do, and may Arthur see and remember.'
"Her fingers opened; the glass fell from her hand, and lay in broken
fragments beside her plate. Carmel followed suit, and, before I knew it,
my own fingers had opened, and my own glass lay in pieces on the
table-cloth beneath me. Only Ranelagh's hand remained steady. He did not
choose to please her, or he was planning his perfidy and had not caught
her words or understood her action. She held her breath, watching that
hand; and I can hear the gasp yet with which she saw him set his glass
down quietly on the board. That's the story of those three broken
glasses. If she had not died that night, I should be laughing at them
now; but she did die and I don't laugh! I curse--curse her recreant
lover, and sometimes myself! Do you want anything more of me? I'm eager
to be gone, if you don't."
The district attorney sought out and lifted a paper from the others lying
on the desk before him. It was the first movement he had made since
Cumberland began his tale.
"I'm sorry," said he, with a rapid examination of the paper in his hand,
"but I shall have to detain you a few minutes longer. What happened after
the dinner? Where did you go from the table?"
"I went to my room to smoke. I was upset and thirsty as a fish."
"Have you liquor in your room?"
"Did you have any that night?"
"Not a drop. I didn't dare. I wanted that champagne bottle, but
Adelaide had been too quick for me. It was thrown out--wasted--I do
"So you did not drink? You only smoked in your room?"
"Smoked one cigar. That was all. Then I went down town."
His tone had grown sulky, the emotion which had buoyed him up till now,
seemed suddenly to have left him. With it went the fire from his eye, the
quiver from his lip, and it is necessary to add, everything else
calculated to awaken sympathy. He was simply sullen now.
"May I ask by which door you left the house?"
"The side door--the one I always take."
"What overcoat did you wear?"
"I don't remember. The first one I came to, I suppose."
"But you can surely tell what hat?"
They expected a violent reply, and they got it.
"No, I can't. What has my hat got to do with the guilt of Elwood
"Nothing, we hope," was the imperturbable answer. "But we find it
necessary to establish absolutely just what overcoat and what hat you
wore down street that night."
"I've told you that I don't remember." The young man's colour was rising.
"Are not these the ones?" queried the district attorney, making a sign to
Sweetwater, who immediately stepped forward, with a shabby old ulster
over his arm, and a battered derby in his hand.
The young man started, rose, then sat again, shouting out with
"Yet you recognise these?"
"Why shouldn't I? They're mine. Only I don't wear them any more. They're
done for. You must have rooted them out from some closet."
"We did; perhaps you can tell us what closet."
"I? No. What do I know about my old clothes? I leave that to the women."
The slight faltering observable in the latter word conveyed nothing to
"Mr. Cumberland,"--the district attorney was very serious,--"this hat and
this coat, old as they are, were worn into town from your house that
night. This we know, absolutely. We can even trace them to the
Mechanically, not spontaneously this time, the young man rose to his
feet, staring first at the man who had uttered these words, then at the
garments which Sweetwater still held in view. No anger now; he was too
deeply shaken for that, too shaken to answer at once--too shaken to be
quite the master of his own faculties. But he rallied after an interval
during which these three men devoured his face, each under his own
special anxiety, and read there possibly what each least wanted to see.
"I don't know anything about it," were the words with which Arthur
Cumberland sought to escape from the net which had been thus deftly cast
about him. "I didn't wear the things. Anybody can tell you what clothes I
came home in. Ranelagh may have borrowed--"
"Ranelagh wore his own coat and hat. We will let the subject of apparel
drop, and come to a topic on which you may be better qualified to speak.
Mr. Cumberland, you have told us that you didn't know at the time, and
can't remember now, where you spent that night and most of the next
morning. All you can remember is that it was in some place where they let
you drink all you wished and leave when the fancy took you, and not
before. It was none of your usual haunts. This seemed strange to your
friends, at the time; but it is easier for us to understand, now that you
have told us what had occurred at your home-table. You dreaded to have
your sister know how soon you could escape the influence of that moment.
You wished to drink your fill and leave your family none the wiser. Am I
"Yes; it's plain enough, isn't it? Why harp on that string? Don't you see
that it maddens me? Do you want to drive me to drink again?"
The coroner interposed. He had been very willing to leave the burden of
this painful inquiry to the man who had no personal feelings to contend
with; but at this indignant cry he started forward, and, with an air of
fatherly persuasion, remarked kindly:
"You mustn't mind the official tone, or the official persistence. There
is reason for all that Mr. Fox says. Answer him frankly, and this
inquiry will terminate speedily. We have no wish to harry you--only to
get at the truth."
"The truth? I thought you had that pat enough. The truth? The truth about
what? Ranelagh or me? I should think it was about me, from the kind of
questions you ask."
"It is, just now," resumed the district attorney, as his colleague drew
back out of sight once more. "You cannot remember the saloon in which you
drank. That's possible enough; but perhaps you can remember what they
gave you. Was it whiskey, rum, absinthe, or what?"
The question took his irritable listener by surprise. Arthur gasped, and
tried to steal some comfort from Coroner Perry's eye. But that old
friend's face was too much in shadow, and the young man was forced to
meet the district attorney's eye, instead, and answer the district
"I drank--absinthe," he cried, at last.
"From this bottle?" queried the other, motioning again to Sweetwater, who
now brought forward the bottle he had picked up in Cuthbert Road.
Arthur Cumberland glanced at the bottle the detective held up, saw the
label, saw the shape, and sank limply in his chair, his eyes starting,
his jaw falling.
"Where did you get that?" he asked, pulling himself together with a
sudden desperate self-possession that caused Sweetwater to cast a quick
significant glance at the coroner, as he withdrew to his corner, leaving
the bottle on the table.
"That," answered the district attorney, "was picked up at a small hotel
on Cuthbert Road, just back of the markets."
"I don't know the place."
"It's not far from The Whispering Pines. In fact, you can see the
club-house from the front door of this hotel."
"I don't know the place, I tell you."
"It's not a high-class resort; not select enough by a long shot, to
have this brand of liquor in its cellar. They tell me that this is of
very choice quality. That very few private families, even, indulge in
it. That there were only two bottles of it left in the club-house
when the inventory was last taken, that those two bottles are now
gone, and that--"
"This is one of them? Is that what you want to say? Well, it may be for
all I know. I didn't carry it there. I didn't have the drinking of it."
"We have seen the man and woman who keep that hotel. They will talk, if
they have to."
"They will?" His dogged self-possession rather astonished them. "Well,
that ought to please you. I've nothing to do with the matter."
A change had taken place in him. The irritability approaching to
violence, which had attended every speech and infused itself into every
movement since he came into the room, had left him. He spoke quietly,
and with a touch of irony in his tone. He seemed more the man, but not
a whit more prepossessing, and, if anything, less calculated to
inspire confidence. The district attorney showed that he was baffled,
and Dr. Perry moved uneasily in his seat, until Sweetwater, coming
forward, took up the cue and spoke for the first time since young
Cumberland entered the room.
"Then I have no doubt but you will do us this favour," he volunteered, in
his pleasantest manner. "It's not a long walk from here. Will you go
there in my company, with your coat-collar pulled up and your hat well
down over your eyes, and ask for a seat in the snuggery and show them
this bottle? They won't know that it's empty. The man is sharp and the
woman intelligent. They will see that you are a stranger, and admit you
readily. They are only shy of one man--the man who drank there on the
night of your sister's murder."
"You 're a--" he began, with a touch of his old violence; but realising,
perhaps, that his fingers were in a trap, he modified his manner again,
and continued more quietly. "This is an odd request to make. I begin to
feel as if my word were doubted here; as if my failings and reckless
confession of the beastly way in which I spent that night, were making
you feel that I have no good in me and am at once a liar and a sneak. I'm
not. I won't go with you to that low drinking hell, unless you make me,
but I'll swear--"
"Don't swear." It is unnecessary to say who spoke. "We wouldn't believe
you, and it would be only adding perjury to the rest."
"You wouldn't believe me?"
"No; we have reasons, my boy. There were two bottles."
"The other has been found nearer your home."
"That's a trick. You're all up to tricks--"
"Not in this case, Arthur. Let me entreat you in memory of your father to
be candid with us. We have arrested a man. He denies his guilt, but can
produce no witnesses in support of his assertions. Yet such witnesses may
exist. Indeed, we think that one such does exist. The man who took the
bottles from the club-house's wine-vault did so within a few minutes of
the time when this crime was perpetrated on your sister. He should be
able to give valuable testimony for or against Elwood Ranelagh. Now, you
can see why we are in search of this witness and why we think you can
serve us in this secret and extraordinary matter. If you can't, say so;
and we will desist from all further questions. But this will not help
you. It will only show that, in our opinion, you have gained the rights
of a man suspected of something more than shirking his duty as an unknown
and hitherto unsuspected witness."
"This is awful!" Young Cumberland had risen to his feet and was swaying
to and fro before them like a man struck between the eyes by some
"God! if I had only died that night!" he muttered, with his eyes upon
the floor and every muscle tense with the shock of this last calamity.
"Dr. Perry," he moaned suddenly, stretching out one hand in entreaty,
and clutching at the table for support with the other, "let me go for
to-night. Let me think. My brain is all in a whirl. I'll try to answer
to-morrow." But even as he spoke he realised the futility of his
request. His eye had fallen again on the bottle, and, in its shape and
tell-tale label, he beheld a witness bound to testify against him if he
kept silent himself.
"Don't answer," he went on, holding fast to the table, but letting his
other hand fall. "I was always a fool. I'm nothing but a fool now. I may
as well own the truth, and be done with it. I was in the clubhouse. I did
rob the wine-vault; I did carry off the bottles to have a quiet spree,
and it was to some place on Cuthbert Road I went. But, when I've admitted
so much, I've admitted all. I saw nothing of my sister's murder; saw
nothing of what went on in the rooms upstairs. I crept in by the open
window at the top of the kitchen stairs, and I came out by the same. I
only wanted the liquor, and when I got it, I slid out as quickly as I
could, and made my way over the golf-links to the Road."
Wiping the sweat from his brow, he stood trembling. There was something
in the silence surrounding him which seemed to go to his heart; for his
free right hand rose unconsciously to his breast, and clung there.
Sweetwater began to wish himself a million of miles away from this scene.
This was not the enjoyable part of his work. This was the part from which
he always shrunk with overpowering distaste.
The district attorney's voice sounded thin, almost piercing, as he made
"You entered by an open window. Why didn't you go in by the door?"
"I hadn't the key. I had only abstracted the one which opens the
wine-vault. The rest I left on the ring. It was the sight of this key,
lying on our hall-table, which first gave me the idea. I feel like a cad
when I think of it, but that's of no account now. All I really care
about is for you to believe what I tell you. I wasn't mixed up in that
matter of my sister's death. I didn't know about it--I wish I had.
Adelaide might have been saved; we might all have been saved; _but it was
not to be._"
Flushed, he slowly sank back into his seat. No complaint, now, of being
in a hurry, or of his anxiety to regain his sick sister's bedside. He
seemed to have forgotten those fears in the perturbations of the
moment. His mind and interest were here; everything else had grown dim
"Did you try the front door?"
"What was the use? I knew it to be locked."
"What was the use of trying the window? Wasn't it also,
The red mounted hot and feverish to his cheek.
"You'll think me no better than a street urchin or something worse,"
he exclaimed. "I knew that window; I had been through it before. You
can move that lock with your knife-blade. I had calculated on entering
"Mr. Ranelagh's story receives confirmation," commented the district
attorney, wheeling suddenly towards the coroner. "He says that he found
this window unlocked, when he approached it with the idea of escaping
Arthur Cumberland remained unmoved.
The district attorney wheeled back.
"There were a number of bottles taken from the wine-vault; some half
dozen were left on the kitchen table. Why did you trouble yourself to
carry up so many?"
"Because my greed outran my convenience. I thought I could lug away
an armful, but there are limits to one's ability. I realised this
when I remembered how far I had to go, and so left the greater part
of them behind."
"Why, when you had a team ready to carry you?"
"A--I had no team." But the denial cost him something. His cheek lost its
ruddiness, and took on a sickly white which did not leave it again as
long as the interview lasted.
"You had no team? How then did you manage to reach home in time to make
your way back to Cuthbert Road by half-past eleven?"
"I didn't go home. I went straight across the golf-links. If fresh
snow hadn't fallen, you would have seen my tracks all the way to
"If fresh snow had not fallen, we should have known the whole story of
that night before an hour had passed. How did you carry those bottles?"
"In my overcoat pockets. These pockets," he blurted out, clapping his
hands on either side of him.
"Had it begun to snow when you left the clubhouse?"
"Was it dark?"
"I guess not; the links were bright as day, or I shouldn't have got over
them as quickly as I did."
"Quickly? How quickly?" The district attorney stole a glance at the
coroner, which made Sweetwater advance a step from his corner.
"I don't know. I don't understand these questions," was the sullen reply.
"You walked quickly. Does that mean you didn't look back?"
"How, look back?"
"Your sister lit a candle in the small room where her coat was found.
This light should have been visible from the golf-links."
"I didn't see any light."
He was almost rough in these answers. He was showing himself now at his
A few more questions followed, but they were of minor import, and aroused
less violent feeling. The serious portion of the examination, if thus it
might be called, was over, and all parties showed the reaction which
follows all unnatural restraint or subdued excitement.
The coroner glanced meaningly at the district attorney, who, tapping with
his fingers on the table, hesitated for a moment before he finally turned
again upon Arthur Cumberland.
"You wish to return to your sister? You are at liberty to do so; I will
trouble you no more to-night. Your sleigh is at the door, I presume."
The young man nodded, then rising slowly, looked first at the district
attorney, then at the coroner, with a glance of searching inquiry which
did not escape the watchful eye of Sweetwater, lurking in the rear. There
was no display of anger, scarcely of impatience, in him now. If he spoke,
they did not hear him; and when he moved, it was heavily and with a
drooping head. They watched him go, each as silent as he. The coroner
tried to speak, but succeeded no better than the boy himself. When the
door opened under his hand, they all showed relief, but were startled
back into their former attention by his turning suddenly in the doorway
with this final remark:
"What did you say about a bottle with a special label on it being found
at our house? It never was, or, if it was, some fellow has been playing
you a trick. I carried off those two bottles myself. One you see there;
the other is--I can't tell where; but I didn't take it home. That you
can bet on."
One more look, followed by a heavy frown and a low growling sound in his
throat--which may have been his way of saying good-bye--and he was gone.
Sweetwater came forward and shut the door; then the three men drew more
closely together, and the district attorney remarked:
"He is better at the house. I hadn't the heart on your account, Dr.
Perry, to hurry matters faster than necessity compels. What a lout he is!
Pardon me, but what a lout he is to have had two such uncommon and
"And such a father," interposed the coroner.
"Just so--and such a father. Sweetwater? Hey! what's the matter? You
don't look satisfied. Didn't I cover the ground?"
"Fully, sir, so far as I see now, but--"
"Well, well--out with it."
"I don't know what to out with. It's all right but--I guess I'm a fool,
or tired, or something. Can I do anything more for you? If not, I should
like to hunt up a bunk. A night's sleep will make a man of me again."
"Go then; that is, if Dr. Perry has no orders for you."
"None. I want my sleep, too." But Dr. Perry had not the aspect of one
who expects to get it.
Sweetwater brightened. A few more words, some understanding as to the
morrow, and he was gone. The district attorney and the coroner still
sat, but very little passed between them. The clock overhead struck the
hour; both looked up but neither moved. Another fifteen minutes, then
the telephone rang. The coroner rose and lifted the receiver. The
message could be heard by both gentlemen, in the extreme quiet of this
"Yes, I'm listening."
"He came in at a quarter to twelve, greatly agitated and very white. I
ran upon him in the lower hall, and he looked angry enough to knock me
down; but he simply let out a curse and passed straight up to his
sister's room. I waited till he came out; then I managed to get hold of
the nurse and she told me this queer tale:
"He was all in a tremble when he came in, but she declares he had not
been drinking. He went immediately to the bedside; but his sister was
asleep, and he didn't stay there, but went over where the nurse was, and
began to hang about her till suddenly she felt a twitch at her side and,
looking quickly, saw the little book she carries there, falling back into
place. He had lifted it, and probably read what she had written in it
during his absence.
"She was displeased, but he laughed when he saw that he had been caught
and said boldly: 'You are keeping a record of my sister's ravings. Well,
I think I'm as interested in them as you are, and have as much right to
read as you to write. Thank God! they are innocent enough. Even you must
acknowledge that,' She made no answer, for they were innocent enough; but
she'll keep the book away from him after this--of that you may be sure."
"And what is he doing now? Is he going into his own room to-night?"
"No. He went there but only to bring out his pillows. He will sleep in
"No, not a drop. He has ordered the whiskey locked up. I hear him moaning
sometimes to himself as if he missed it awfully, but not a thimbleful has
left the decanter."
"You heard?" This to the district attorney.
Both went for their overcoats. Only on leaving did they speak again, and
then it was to say:
"At ten o'clock to-morrow morning."
"At ten o'clock."
ON IT WAS WRITTEN--
Can this avail thee? Look to it!
The district attorney was right; Sweetwater was not happy. His night's
rest had not benefited him. He had seemed natural enough when he first
appeared at the coroner's office in the early morning, and equally
natural all through the lengthy conference which followed; but a half
hour later, any one who knew him well,--any of his fellow detectives in
New York; especially Mr. Gryce, who had almost fathered him since he came
among them, a raw and inexperienced recruit--would have seen at first
glance that his spirits were no longer at par, and that the cheer he
displayed in manner and look was entirely assumed, and likely to
disappear as soon as he found himself alone.
And it did so disappear. When, at two o'clock, he entered the club-house
grounds, it was without buoyancy or any of the natural animation with
which he usually went about his work. Each step seemed weighted with
thought, or, at least, heavy with inner dissatisfaction. But his eye was
as keen as ever, and he began to use that eye from the moment he passed
the gates. What was in his mind? Was he hunting for new clews, or was he
merely seeking to establish the old?
The officers on guard knew him, by this time, and let him pass hither,
thither, and where he would, unmolested. He walked up and down the
driveways, peering continuously at the well-trodden snow. He studied the
spaces between. He sauntered to the rear, and looked out over the
golf-links. Then he began to study the ground in this direction, as he
had already studied it in front. The few mutterings which left his lips
continued to speak of discontent. "If I had only had Clarke's chance, or
even Hexford's," was among his complaints. "But what can I hope now? The
snow has been trampled till it is one solid cake of ice, to the very edge
of the golf-links. Beyond that, the distance is too great for minute
inspection. Yet it will have to be gone over, inch by inch, before I
shall feel satisfied. I must know how much of his story is to be
believed, and how much of it we can safely set aside."
He ended by wandering down on the golf-links. Taking out his watch, he
satisfied himself that he had time for an experiment, and immediately
started for Cuthbert Road. An hour later, he came wandering back, on a
different line. He looked soured, disappointed. When near the building
again, he cast his eye over its rear, and gazed long and earnestly at
the window which had been pointed out to him as the one from which a
possible light had shone forth that night. There were no trees on this
side of the house--only vines. But the vines were bare of leaves and
offered no obstruction to his view. "If there had been a light in that
window, any one leaving this house by the rear would have seen it,
unless he had been drunk or a fool," muttered Sweetwater, in
contemptuous comment to himself. "Arthur Cumberland's story is one lie.
I'll take the district attorney's suggestion and return to New York
to-night. My work's done here."
Yet he hung about the links for a long time, and finally ended by
entering the house, and taking up his stand beneath the long, narrow
window of the closet overlooking the golf-links. With chin resting on his
arms, he stared out over the sill and sought from the space before him,
and from the intricacies of his own mind, the hint he lacked to make this
present solution of the case satisfactory to all his instincts.
"Something is lacking." Thus he blurted out after a look behind him into
the adjoining room of death. "I can't say what; nor can I explain my own
unrest, or my disinclination to leave this spot. The district attorney
is satisfied, and so, I'm afraid is the coroner; but I'm not, and I feel
Here he threw open the window for air, and, thrusting his head out,
glanced over the links, then aside at the pines, showing beyond the line
of the house on the southern end, and then out of mere idleness, down at
the ground beneath him. "As guilty," he went on, "as Ranelagh appears to
be, and some one really is. I--"
Starting, he leaned farther out. What was that he saw in the vines--not
on the snow of the ground, but half way up in the tangle of small
branches clinging close to the stone of the lower story, just beneath
this window? He would see. Something that glistened, something that could
only have got there by falling from this window. Could he reach it? No;
he would have to climb up from below to do that. Well, that was easy
enough. With the thought, he rushed from the room. In another minute he
was beneath that window; had climbed, pulled, pushed his way up; had
found the little pocket of netted vines observable from above; had thrust
in his fingers and worked a small object out; had looked at it, uttered
an exclamation curious in its mixture of suppressed emotions, and let
himself down again into the midst of the two or three men who had scented
the adventure and hastened to be witnesses of its outcome.
"A phial!" he exclaimed, "An empty phial, but--" Holding the little
bottle up between his thumb and forefinger, he turned it slowly about
until the label faced them.
On it was written one word, but it was a word which invariably carries
alarm with it.
That word was: _Poison_.
Sweetwater did not return to New York that night.
"IT 'S NOT WHAT YOU WILL FIND"
I am not mad;--I would to heaven I were!
For then, 't is like I should forget myself:
O, if I could, what grief should I forget!--
Preach some philosophy to make me mad,
For being not mad, but sensible of grief,
My reasonable part produces reason
How I may be delivered of these woes.
"I regret to disturb you, Arthur; but my business is of great importance,
and should be made known to you at once. This I say as a friend. I might
have waited for the report to have reached you from hearsay, or through
the evening papers; but I preferred to be the one to tell you. You can
Sullen and unmollified, the young man thus addressed eyed,
apprehensively, his father's old friend, placed so unfortunately in his
regard, and morosely exclaimed:
"Out with it! I'm a poor hand at guessing. What has happened now?"
"A discovery. A somewhat serious one I fear; at least, it will force the
police to new action. Your sister may not have died entirely from
strangulation; other causes may have been at work!"
"Now, what do you mean by that?" Arthur Cumberland was under his own
roof and in presence of one who should have inspired his respect; but
he made no effort to hide the fury which these words called up. "I
should like to know what deviltry is in your minds now. Am I never to
"Peace and tragedy do not often run together," came in the mild tones of
his would-be friend. "A great crime has taken place. All the members of
this family are involved--to say nothing of the man who lies, now, under
the odium of suspicion, in our common county jail. Peace can only come
with the complete clearing up of this crime, and the punishment of the
guilty. But the clearing up must antedate the punishment. Mr. Ranelagh's
assertion that he found Miss Cumberland dead when he approached her, may
not be, as so many now believe, the reckless denial of a criminal,
disturbed in his act. It may have had a basis in fact."
"I don't believe it. Nothing will make me believe it," stormed the other,
jumping up, and wildly pacing the drawing-room floor. "It is all a scheme
for saving the most popular man in society. Society! That for society!"
he shouted out, snapping his fingers. "He is president of the club; the
pet of women; the admired of all the dolts and gawks who are taken with
his style, his easy laughter, and his knack at getting at men's hearts.
He won't laugh so easily when he's up before a jury for murder; and he'll
never again fool women or bulldoze men, even if they are weak enough to
acquit him of this crime. Enough of the smirch will stick to prevent
that. If it doesn't, I'll--"
Again his hands went out in the horribly suggestive way they had done at
his sister's funeral. The coroner sat appalled,--confused, almost
distracted between his doubts, his convictions, his sympathy for the man
and his recoil from the passions he would be only too ready to pardon if
he could feel quite sure of their real root and motive. Cumberland may
have felt the other's silence, or he may have realised the imprudence of
his own fury; for he dropped his hands with an impatient sigh, and
"But you haven't told me your discovery. It seems to me it is a little
late to make discoveries now."
"This was brought about by the persistence of Sweetwater. He seems to
have an instinct for things. He was leaning out of the window at the rear
of the clubhouse--the window of that small room where your sister's coat
was found--and he saw, caught in the vines beneath, a--"
"Why don't you speak out? I cannot tell what he found unless you name
"A little bottle--an apothecary's phial. It was labelled 'Poison,' and it
came from this house."
Arthur Cumberland reeled; then he caught himself up and stood, staring,
with a very obvious intent of getting a grip on himself before he spoke.
The coroner waited, a slight flush deepening on his cheek.
"How do you know that phial came from this house?"
Dr. Perry looked up, astonished. He was prepared for the most frantic
ebullitions of wrath, for violence even; or for dull, stupid, blank
silence. But this calm, quiet questioning of fact took him by surprise.
He dropped his anxious look, and replied:
"It has been seen on the shelves by more than one of your servants. Your
sister kept it with her medicines, and the druggist with whom you deal
remembers selling it some time ago to a member of your family."
"Which member? I don't believe this story; I don't believe any of your--"
He was fast verging on violence now.
"You will have to, Arthur. Facts are facts, and we cannot go against
them. The person who bought it was yourself. Perhaps you can recall the
"I cannot." He did not seem to be quite master of himself. "I don't know
half the things I do; at least, I didn't use to. But what are you coming
to? What's in your mind, and what are your intentions? Something to shame
us further, I've no doubt. You're soft on Ranelagh and don't care how I
feel, or how Carmel will feel when she comes to herself--poor girl. Are
you going to call it suicide? You can't, with those marks on her throat."
"We're going to carry out our investigations to the full. We're going to
hold the autopsy, which we didn't think necessary before. That's why I am
here, Arthur. I thought it your due to know our intentions in regard to
this matter. If you wish to be present, you have only to say so; if you
do not, you may trust me to remember that she was your father's daughter,
as well as my own highly esteemed friend."
Shaken to the core, the young man sat down amid innumerable tokens of the
two near, if not dear, ones just mentioned; and for a moment had nothing
to say. Gone was his violence, gone his self-assertion, and his insolent,
captious attitude towards his visitor. The net had been drawn too
tightly, or the blow fallen too heavily. He was no longer a man
struggling with his misery, but a boy on whom had fallen a man's
responsibilities, sufferings, and cares.
"My duty is here," he said at last. "I cannot leave Carmel."
"The autopsy will take place to-morrow. How is Carmel to-day?"
"No better." The words came with a shudder. "Doctor, I've been a brute to
you. I am a brute! I have misused my life and have no strength with which
to meet trouble. What you propose to do with--with Adelaide is horrible
to me. I didn't love her much while she was living; I broke her heart and
shamed her, from morning till night, every day of her life; but
good-for-nothing as I am and good-for-nothing as I've always been, if I
could save her body this last humiliation, I would willingly die right
here and now, and be done with it. Must this autopsy take place?"
"Then--" He raised his arm; the blood swept up, dyeing his cheeks, his
brow, his very neck a vivid scarlet. "Tell them to lock up every
bottle the house holds, or I cannot answer for myself. I should like
to drink and drink till I knew nothing, cared for nothing, was a
madman or a beast."
"You will not drink." The coroner's voice rang deep; he was greatly
moved. "You will not drink, and you will come to the office at five
o'clock to-morrow. We may have only good news to impart. We may find
nothing to complicate the situation."
Arthur Cumberland shook his head. "It's not what you will find--" said
he, and stopped, biting his lips and looking down.
The coroner uttered a few words of consolation forced from him by the
painfulness of the situation. The young man did not seem to hear them.
The only sign of life he gave was to rush away the moment the coroner had
taken his leave, and regain his seat within sight and hearing of his
still unconscious sister. As he did so, these words came to his ears
through the door which separated them:
"Flowers--I smell flowers! Lila, you always loved flowers; but I never
saw your hands so full of them."
Arthur uttered a sharp cry; then, bowing his face upon his aims, he broke
into sobs which shook the table where he sat.
Twenty-four hours later, in the coroner's office, sat an anxious group
discussing the great case and the possible revelations awaiting them. The
district attorney, Mr. Clifton, the chief of police, and one or two
others--among them Sweetwater--made up the group, and carried on the
conversation. Dr. Perry only was absent. He had undertaken to make the
autopsy and had been absent, for this purpose, several hours.
Five o'clock had struck, and they were momentarily looking for his
reappearance; but, when the door opened, as it did at this time, it was
to admit young Cumberland, whose white face and shaking limbs betrayed
his suspense and nervous anxiety.
He was welcomed coldly, but not impolitely, and sat down in very much
the same place he had occupied during his last visit, but in a very
different, and much more quiet state of mind. To Sweetwater, his
aspect was one of despair, but be made no remark upon it; only kept
all his senses alert for the coming moment, of so much importance to
them all. But even he failed to guess how important, until the door
opened again, and the coroner appeared, looking not so much depressed
as stunned. Picking out Arthur from the group, he advanced towards him
with some commonplace remark; but desisted suddenly and turned upon
the others instead.
"I have finished the autopsy," said he. "I knew just what poison the
phial had held, and lost no time in my tests. A minute portion of this
drug, which is dangerous only in large quantities, was found in the
stomach of the deceased; but not enough to cause serious trouble, and she
died, as we had already decided, from the effect of the murderous clutch
upon her throat. But," he went on sternly, as young Cumberland moved, and
showed signs of breaking in with one of his violent invectives against
the supposed assassin, "I made another discovery of still greater
purport. When we lifted the body out of its resting-place, something
beside withered flowers slid from her breast and fell at our feet. The
ring, gentlemen--the ring which Ranelagh says was missing from her hand
when he came upon her, and which certainly was not on her finger when she
was laid in the casket,--rolled to the floor when we moved her. Here it
is; there is one person here, at least, who can identify it. But I do not
ask that person to speak. That we may well spare him."
He laid the ring on the table, not too near Arthur, not within reach of
his hand, but close enough for him to see it. Then he sat down, and hid
his face in his hands. The last few days had told on him. He looked
older, by ten years, than he had at the beginning of the month.
The silence which followed these words and this action, was memorable to
everybody there concerned. Some had seen, and all had heard of young
Cumberland's desperate interruption of the funeral, and the way his hand
had invaded the flowers which the children had cast in upon her breast.
As the picture, real or fancied, rose before their eyes, one man rose and
left his place at the table; then another, and presently another. Even
Charles Clifton drew back. The district attorney remained where he was,
and so did young Cumberland. The latter had reached out his hand, but he
had not touched the ring, and he sat thus, frozen. What went on in his
heart, no man there could guess, and he did not enlighten them. When at
last he looked up, it was with a dazed air and an almost humble mien:
"Providence has me this time," he muttered. "I don't understand these
mysteries. You will have to deal with them as you think best." His eyes,
still glued to the jewel, dilated and filled with fierce light as he
said this. "Damn the ring, and damn the man who gave it to her! However
it came into her casket, he's at the bottom of the business, just as he
was at the bottom of her death. If you think anything else, you will
think a lie."
Turning away, he made for the door. There was in his manner, desperation
approaching to bravado, but no man made the least effort to detain him.
Not till he was well out of the room did any one move, then the district
attorney raised his finger, and Arthur Cumberland did not ride back to
his home alone.
"HE OR YOU! THERE IS NO THIRD"
A heavy summons lies like lead upon me,
And yet I would not sleep Merciful powers!
Restrain in me the cursed thoughts that nature
Gives way to in repose.
For several days I had been ill. They were merciful days to me since I
was far too weak for thought. Then there came a period of conscious rest,
then renewed interest in life and my own fate and reputation. What had
happened during this interval?
I had a confused memory of having seen Clifton's face at my bedside, but
I was sure that no words had passed between us. When would he come again?
When should I hear about Carmel, and whether she were yet alive, or
mercifully dead, like her sister? I might read the papers, but they had
been carefully kept from me. Not one was in sight. The nurse would
undoubtedly give me the information I desired, but, kind as she had been,
I dreaded to consult a stranger about matters which involved my very
existence and every remaining hope. Yet I must know; for I could not help
thinking, now, and I dreaded to think amiss and pile up misery for myself
when I needed support and consolation.
I would risk one question, but no more. I would ask about the inquest.
Had it been held? If she said yes--ah, if she said yes!--I should know
that Carmel was dead; and the news, coming thus, would kill me. So I
asked nothing, and was lying in a sufficiently feverish condition when
the doctor came in, saw my state, and thinking to cheer me up,
"You are well enough this morning to hear good news. Do you recognise the
room you are in?"
"I'm in the hospital, am I not?"
"Hardly. You are in one of Mr. O'Hagen's own rooms." (Mr. O'Hagen was the
head keeper.) "You are detained, now, simply as a witness."
I was struck to the heart; terrified in an instant.
"What? Why? What has happened?" I questioned, rapidly, half starting up,
then falling back on my pillow under his astonished eye.
"Nothing," he parried, seeing his mistake, and resorting to the soothing
process. "They simply have had time to think. You're not the sort of man
from which criminals are made."
"That's nonsense," I retorted, reckless of his opinion, and mad to know
the truth, yet shrinking horribly from it. "Criminals are made from all
kinds of men; neither are the police so philosophical. Something has
occurred. But don't tell me--" I protested inconsistently, as he opened
his lips. "Send for Mr. Clifton. He's my friend; I can better bear--"
"Here he is," said the doctor, as the door softly opened under the
nurse's careful hand.
I looked up, saw Charles's faithful face, and stretched out my hand
without speaking. Never had I needed a friend more, and never had I been
more constrained in my greeting. I feared to show my real heart, my real
fears, my real reason for not hailing my release, as every one evidently
expected me to!
With a gesture to the nurse, the doctor tiptoed out, muttering to
Clifton, as he passed, some word of warning or casual instruction. The
nurse followed, and Clifton, coming forward, took a seat at my side. He
was cheerful but not too cheerful; and the air of slight constraint which
tinged his manner, as much as it did mine, did not escape me.
"Well, old fellow," he began--
My hand went up in entreaty.
"Tell me why they have withdrawn their suspicions. I've heard
nothing--read nothing--for days. I don't understand this move."
For reply, he laid his hand on mine.
"You're stanch," he began. "You have my regard, Elwood. Not many men
would have stood the racket and sacrificed themselves as you have done.
The fact is recognised, now, and your motive--"
I must have turned very white; for he stopped and sprang to his feet,
searching for some restorative.
I felt the need of blinding him to my condition. With an effort, which
shook me from head to foot, I lifted myself from the depths into which
his words had plunged me, and fighting for self-control, faltered forth,
"Don't be frightened. I'm all right again; I guess I'm not very strong
yet. Sit down; I don't need anything."
He turned and surveyed me carefully, and finding my colour restored,
reseated himself, and proceeded, more circumspectly: