Part 2 out of 3
When he came to this spot in his story, he halted and drew a long
breath. Commissioner von Riedau had begun to make some figures on
the paper in front of him, then changed the lines until the head
of a pretty woman in a fur hat took shape under his fingers.
"Well, go on," he said, looking with interest at his drawing and
improving it with several quick strokes.
Johann Knoll continued:
"Then the devil came over me and I thought I better take this good
opportunity - well - I did. The man was lying on his back and I
saw a watch chain on his dark vest. I bent over him and took his
watch and chain. Then I felt around in his pocket and found his
purse. And then - well then I felt sorry for him lying out in the
open road like that, and I thought I'd lift him up and put him
somewhere where he could sleep it off more convenient. But I didn't
see there was a little ditch there and I stumbled over it and
dropped him. 'It's a good thing he's so drunk that even this don't
wake him up,' I thought, and ran off. Then I thought I heard
something moving and I was scared stiff, but there was nothing in
the street at all. I thought I had better take to the fields though
and I crossed through some corn and then out onto another street.
Finally I walked into the city, stayed there till this morning, sold
the watch, then went to Pressburg."
"So that was the way it was," said the commissioner, pushing his
drawing away from him and motioning to the policemen at the door.
"You may take this man away now," he added in a voice of cool
indifference, without looking at the prisoner.
Knoll's head drooped and he walked out quietly between his two
guards. The clock on the office wall struck eleven.
"Dear me! what a lot of time the man wasted," said the commissioner,
putting the report of the proceedings, the watch and the purse in a
drawer of his desk. "When anybody has been almost convicted of a
crime, it's really quite unnecessary to invent such a long story.
A few minutes later, the room was empty and Muller, as the last of
the group, walked slowly down the stairs. He was in such a brown
study that he scarcely heard the commissioner's friendly "goodnight,"
nor did he notice that he was walking down the quiet street under a
star-gilded sky. "Almost convicted - almost. Almost?" Muller's
lips murmured while his head was full of a chaotic rush of thought,
dim pictures that came and went, something that seemed to be on the
point of bringing light into the darkness, then vanishing again.
"Almost - but not quite. There is something here I must find out
first. What is it? I must know -"
THE FACE AT THE GATE
The second examination of the prisoner brought nothing new. Johann
Knoll refused to speak at all, or else simply repeated what he had
said before. This second examination took place early the next
morning, but Muller was not present. He was taking a walk in
When they took Johann Knoll in the police wagon to the City Prison,
Muller was just sauntering slowly through the street where the
murder had been committed. And as the door of the cell shut
clangingly behind the man whose face was distorted in impotent rage
and despair, Joseph Muller was standing in deep thought before the
broken willow twig, which now hung brown and dry across the planks
of the fence. He looked at it for a long time. That is, he seemed
to be looking at it, but in reality his eyes were looking out and
beyond the willow twig, out into the unknown, where the unknown
murderer was still at large. Leopold Winkler's body had already
been committed to the earth. How long will it be before his death
is avenged? Or perhaps how long may it even be before it is
discovered from what motive this murder was committed. Was it a
murder for robbery, or a murder for personal revenge perhaps? Were
the two crimes committed here by one and the same person, or were
there two people concerned? And if two, did they work as
accomplices? Or is it possible that Knoll's story was true? Did
he really only rob the body, not realising that it was a dead man
and not merely an intoxicated sleeper as he had supposed? These
and many more thoughts rushed tumultuously through Muller's brain
until he sighed despairingly under the pressure. Then he smiled
in amusement at the wish that had crossed his brain, the wish that
this case might seem as simple to him as it apparently did to the
commissioner. It would certainly have saved him a lot of work and
trouble if he could believe the obvious as most people did. What
was this devil that rode him and spurred him on to delve into the
hidden facts concerning matters that seemed so simple on the
surface? The devil that spurred him on to understand that there
always was some hidden side to every case? Then the sigh and the
smile passed, and Muller raised his head in one of the rare moments
of pride in his own gifts that this shy unassuming little man ever
allowed himself. This was the work that he was intended by
Providence to do or he wouldn't have been fitted for it, and it was
work for the common good, for the public safety. Thinking back over
the troubles of his early youth, Muller's heart rejoiced and he
was glad in his own genius. Then the moment of unwonted elation
passed and he bent his mind again to the problem before him.
He sauntered slowly through the quiet street in the direction of
the four houses. To reach them he passed the fence that enclosed
this end of the Thorne property. Muller had already known, for
the last twenty-four hours at least, that the owner of the fine
old estate was an artist by the name of Herbert Thorne. His own
landlady had informed him of this. He himself was new to the
neighbourhood, having moved out there recently, and he had verified
her statements by the city directory. As he was now passing the
Thorne property, in his slow, sauntering walk, he had just come
within a dozen paces of the little wooden gate in the fence when
this gate opened. Muller's naturally soft tread was made still
more noiseless by the fact that he wore wide soft shoes. Years
before he had acquired a bad case of chilblains, in fact had been
in imminent danger of having his feet frozen by standing for five
hours in the snow in front of a house, to intercept several
aristocratic gentlemen who sooner or later would be obliged to
leave that house. The police had long suspected the existence of
this high-class gambling den; but it was not until they had put
Muller in charge of the case, that there were any results attained.
The arrests were made at the risk of permanent injury to the
celebrated detective. Since then, Muller's step was more noiseless
than usual, and now the woman who opened the gate and peered out
cautiously did not hear his approach nor did she see him standing
in the shadow of the fence. She looked towards the other end of
the street, then turned and spoke to somebody behind her. "There's
nobody coming from that direction," he said. Then she turned her
head the other way and saw Muller. She looked at him for a moment
and slammed the gate shut, disappearing behind it. Muller heard
the lock click and heard the beat of running feet hastening rapidly
over the gravel path through the garden.
The detective stood immediately in front of the gate, shaking his
head. "What was the matter with the woman? What was it that she
wanted to see or do in the street? Why should she run away when
she saw me?" These were his thoughts. But he didn't waste time
in merely thinking. Muller never did. Action followed thought
with him very quickly. He saw a knot-hole in the fence just
beside the gate and he applied his eyes to this knot-hole. And
through the knot-hole he saw something that interested and
The woman whose face had appeared so suddenly at the gate, and
disappeared still more suddenly, was the same woman whom he had
seen bidding farewell to Mr. Thorne and his wife on the Tuesday
morning previous, the woman whom he took to be the housekeeper.
The old butler stood beside her. It was undoubtedly the same man,
although he had worn a livery then and was now dressed in a
comfortable old house coat. He stood beside the woman, shaking
his head and asking her just the questions that Muller was asking
himself at the moment.
"Why, what is the matter with you, Mrs. Bernaner? You're so
nervous since yesterday. Are you ill? Everything seems to
frighten you? Why did you run away from that gate so suddenly? I
thought you wanted me to show you the place?"
Mrs. Bernauer raised her head and Muller saw that her face looked
pale and haggard and that her eyes shone with an uneasy feverish
light. She did not answer the old man's questions, but made a
gesture of farewell and then turned and walked slowly towards the
house. She realised, apparently, and feared, perhaps, that the
man who was passing the gate might have, noticed her sudden change
of demeanour and that he was listening to what she might say. She
did not think of the knot-hole in the board fence, or she might
have been more careful in hiding her distraught face from possible
Muller stood watching through this knot-hole for some little time.
He took a careful observation of the garden, and from his point of
vantage he could easily see the little house which was apparently
the dwelling of the gardener, as well as the mansard roof of the
main building. There was considerable distance between the two
houses. The detective decided that it might interest him to know
something more about this garden, this house and the people who
lived there. And when Muller made such a decision it was usually
not very long before he carried it out.
The other street, upon which the main front of the mansard house
opened, contained a few isolated dwellings surrounded by gardens
and a number of newly built apartment houses. On the ground floor
of these latter houses were a number of stores and immediately
opposite the Thorne mansion was a little cafe. This suited Muller
exactly, for he had been there before and he remembered that from
one of the windows there was an excellent view of the gate and the
front entrance of the mansion opposite. It was a very modest little
cafe, but there was a fairly good wine to be had there and the
detective made it an excuse to sit down by the window, as if
enjoying his bottle while admiring the changing colours of the
foliage in the gardens opposite.
Another rather good chance, he discovered, was the fact that the
landlord belonged to the talkative sort, and believed that the
refreshments he had to sell were rendered doubly agreeable when
spiced by conversation. In this case the good man was not mistaken.
It was scarcely ten o'clock in the forenoon and there were very
few people in the cafe. The landlord was quite at leisure to
devote himself to this stranger in the window seat, whom he did not
remember to have seen before, and who was therefore doubly
interesting to him. Several subjects of conversation usual in such
cases, such as politics and the weather, seemed to arouse no
particular enthusiasm in his patron's manner. Finally the portly
landlord decided that he would touch upon the theme which was still
absorbing all Hietzing.
"Oh, by the way, sir, do you know that you are in the immediate
vicinity of the place where the murder of Monday evening was
committed? People are still talking about it around here. And I
see by the papers that the murderer was arrested in Pressburg
yesterday and brought to Vienna last night."
"Indeed, is that so? I haven't seen a paper to-day," replied
Muller, awakening from his apparent indifference.
The landlord was flattered by the success of the new subject, and
stood ready to unloose the floodgates of his eloquence. His customer
sat up and asked the question for which the landlord was waiting.
"So it was around here that the man was shot?"
"Yes. His name was Leopold Winkler, that was in the papers to-day
too. You see that pretty house opposite? Well, right behind this
house is the garden that belongs to it and back of that, an old
garden which has been neglected for some time. It was at the end
of this garden where it touches the other street, that they found
the man under a big elder-tree, early Tuesday morning, day before
"Oh, indeed!" said. Muller, greatly interested, as if this was
the first he had heard of it. The landlord took a deep breath and
was about to begin again when his customer, who decided to keep the
talkative man to a certain phase of the subject, now took command
of the conversation himself.
"I should think that the people opposite, who live so near the
place where the murder was committed, wouldn't be very much pleased,"
he said. "I shouldn't care to look out on such a spot every time
I went to my window."
"There aren't any windows there," exclaimed the landlord, "for
there aren't any houses there. There's only the old garden, and
then the large garden and the park belonging to Mr. Thorne's house,
that fine old house you see just opposite here. It's a good thing
that Mr. Thorne and his wife went away before the murder became
known. The lady hasn't been well for some weeks, she's very nervous
and frail, and it probably would have frightened her to think that
such things were happening right close to her home."
"The lady is sick? What's the matter with her?"
"Goodness knows, nerves, heart trouble, something like that. The
things these fine ladies are always having. But she wasn't always
that way, not until about a year ago. She was fresh and blooming
and very pretty to look at before that."
"She is a young lady then?"
"Yes, indeed, sir; she's very young still and very pretty. It makes
you feel sorry to see her so miserable, and you feel sorry for her
husband. Now there's a young couple with everything in the world
to make them happy and so fond of each other, and the poor little
lady has to be so sick."
"They are very happy, you say?" asked Muller carelessly. He had
no particular set purpose in following up this inquiry, none but
his usual understanding of the fact that a man in his business can
never amass too much knowledge, and that it will sometimes happen
that a chance bit of information comes in very handy.
The landlord was pleased at the encouragement and continued: "Indeed
they are very happy. They've only been married two years. The lady
comes from a distance, from Graz. Her father is an army officer I
believe, and I don't think she was over-rich. But she's a very
sweet-looking lady and her rich husband is very fond of her, any one
can see that."
"You said just now that they had gone away, where have they gone to?"
"They've gone to Italy, sir. Mrs. Thorne was one of the few people
who do not know Venice. Franz, that's the butler, sir, told me
yesterday evening that he had received a telegram saying that the
lady and gentleman had arrived safely and were very comfortably
fixed in the Hotel Danieli. You know Danieli's?"
"Yes, I do. I also was one of the few people who did not know
Venice, that is I was until two years ago. Then, however, I had
the pleasure of riding over the Bridge of Mestre," answered Muller.
He did not add that he was not alone at the time, but had ridden
across the long bridge in company with a pale haggard-faced man who
did not dare to look to the right or to the left because of the
revolver which he knew was held in the detective's hand under his
loose overcoat. Muller's visit to Venice, like most of his
journeyings, had been one of business. This time to capture and
bring home a notorious and long sought embezzler. He did not
volunteer any of this information, however, but merely asked in a
politely interested manner whether the landlord himself had been
"Yes, indeed," replied the latter proudly. "I was head waiter at
Baner's for two years."
"Then you must make me some Italian dishes soon," said Muller.
Further conversation was interrupted by the entrance of Franz, the
old butler of the house opposite.
"Excuse me, sir; I must get him his glass of wine," said the
landlord, hurrying away to the bar. He returned in a moment with
a small bottle and a glass and set it down on Muller's table.
"You don't mind, sir, if he sits down here?" he asked. "He usually
sits here at this table because then he can see if he is needed over
at the house."
"Oh, please let him come here. He has prior rights to this table
undoubtedly," said the stranger politely. The old butler sat down
with an embarrassed murmur, as the voluble landlord explained that
the stranger had no objection. Then the boniface hurried off to
attend to some newly entered customers and the detective, greatly
pleased at the prospect, found himself alone with the old servant.
"You come here frequently?" he began, to open the conversation.
"Yes, sir, since my master and myself have settled down here - we
travelled most of the time until several years ago - I find this
place very convenient. It's a cosy little room, the wine is good
and not expensive, I'm near home and yet I can see some new faces
"I hope the faces that you see about you at home are not so
unpleasant that you are glad to get away from them?" asked Muller
with a smile.
The old man gave a start of alarm. "Oh, dear, no, sir," he
exclaimed eagerly; "that wasn't what I meant. Indeed I'm fond of
everybody in the house from our dear lady down to the poor little
Here Muller gained another little bit of knowledge, the fact that
the lady of the house was the favourite of her servants, or that
she seemed to them even more an object of adoration than the master.
"Then you evidently have a very good place, since you seem so fond
of every one."
"Indeed I have a good place, sir."
"You've had this place a long time?"
"More than twenty years. My master was only eleven years old when
I took service with the family."
"Ah, indeed! then you must be a person of importance in the house
if you have been there so long?"
"Well more or less I might say I am," the old man smiled and
looked flattered, then added: "But the housekeeper, Mrs. Bernaner,
is even more important than I am, to tell you the truth. She was
nurse to our present young master, and she's been in the house ever
since. When his parents died, it's some years ago now, she took
entire charge of the housekeeping. She was a fine active woman
then, and now the young master and mistress couldn't get along
without her. They treat her as if she was one of the family."
"And she is ill also? I say also," explained Muller, "because the
landlord has just been telling me that your mistress is ill."
"Yes, indeed, more's the pity! our poor dear young lady has been
miserable for nearly a year now. It's a shame to see such a sweet
angel as she is suffer like that and the master's quite heart-broken
over it. But there's nothing the matter with Mrs. Bernaner. How
did you come to think that she was sick?"
Muller did not intend to explain that the change in the housekeeper's
appearance, a change which had come about between Tuesday morning
and Thursday morning, might easily have made any one think that she
was ill. He gave as excuse for his question the old man's own words:
"Why, I thought that she might be ill also because you said yourself
that the housekeeper - what did you say her name was?"
"Bernauer, Mrs. Adele Bernauer. She was a widow when she came to
take care of the master. Her husband was a sergeant of artillery."
"Well, I mean," continued Muller, "you said yourself that when the
gentleman's parents died, Mrs. Bernauer was a fine active woman,
therefore I supposed she was no longer so."
Franz thought the matter over for a while. "I don't know just why
I put it that way. Indeed she's still as active as ever and always
fresh and well. It's true that for the last two or three days she's
been very nervous and since yesterday it is as if she was a changed
woman. She must be ill, I don't know how to explain it otherwise."
"What seems to be the matter with her?" asked Muller and then to
explain his interest in the housekeeper's health, he fabricated a
story: "I studied medicine at one time and although I didn't finish
my course or get a diploma, I've always had a great interest in such
things, and every now and then I'll take a case, particularly
nervous diseases. That was my specialty." Muller took up his glass
and turned away from the window, for be felt a slow flush rising
to his cheeks. It was another of Muller's peculiarities that he
always felt an inward embarrassment at the lies he was obliged to
tell in his profession.
The butler did not seem to have noticed it however, and appeared
eager to tell of what concerned him in the housekeeper's appearance
and demeanour. "Why, yesterday at dinner time was the first that
we began to notice anything wrong with Mrs. Bernauer. The rest of
us, that is, Lizzie the upstairs girl, the cook and myself. She
began to eat her dinner with a good appetite, then suddenly, when
we got as far as the pudding, she let her fork fall and turned
deathly white. She got up without saying a word and left the room.
Lizzie ran after her to ask if anything was the matter, but she
said no, it was nothing of importance. After dinner, she went right
out, saying she was doing some errands. She brought in a lot of
newspapers, which was quite unusual, for she sometimes does not look
at a newspaper once a week even. I wouldn't have noticed it but
Lizzie's the kind that sees and hears everything and she told us
about it." Franz stopped to take a drink, and Muller said
indifferently, "I suppose Mrs. Bernauer was interested in the murder
case. The whole neighbourhood seems to be aroused about it."
"No, I don't think that was it," answered the old servant, "because
then she would have sent for a paper this morning too."
"And she didn't do that?"
"No, unless she might have gone out for it herself. There's a news
stand right next door here. But I don't think she did because I
would have seen the paper around the house then."
"And is that all that's the matter with her?" asked Muller in a
tone of disappointment. "Why, I thought you'd have something really
interesting to tell me."
"Oh, no, that isn't all, sir," exclaimed the old man eagerly.
Muller leaned forward, really interested now, while Franz continued:
"She was uneasy all the afternoon yesterday. She walked up and down
stairs and through the halls - I remember Lizzie making some joke
about it - and then in the evening to our surprise she suddenly began
a great rummaging in the first story."
"Is that where she lives ?"
"Oh, no; her room is in the wing out towards the garden. The rooms
on the first floor all belong to the master and mistress. This
morning we found out that Mrs. Bernauer's cleaning up of the evening
before had been done because she remembered that the master wanted
to take some papers with him but couldn't find them and had asked
her to look for them and send them right on."
"Well, I shouldn't call that a sign of any particular nervousness,
but rather an evidence of Mrs. Bernaner's devotion to her duty."
"Oh, yes, sir - but it certainly is queer that she should go into
the garden at four o'clock this morning and appear to be looking
for something along the paths and under the bushes. Even if a few
of the papers blew out of the window, or blew away from the summer
house, where the master writes sometimes, they couldn't have
scattered all over the garden like that."
Muller didn't follow up this subject any longer. There might come
a time when he would be interested in finding out the reason for
the housekeeper's search in the garden, but just at present he
wanted something else. He remembered some remark of the old man's
about the "poor little dog," and on this he built his plan.
"Oh, well," he said carelessly, "almost everybody is nervous and
impatient now-a-days. I suppose Mrs. Bernauer felt uneasy because
she couldn't find the paper right away. There's nothing particularly
interesting or noticeable about that. Anyway, I've been occupying
myself much more these last years with sick animals rather than with
sick people. I've had some very successful cures there."
"No, really, have you? Then you could do us a great favour,"
exclaimed Franz in apparent eagerness. Muller's heart rejoiced. He
had apparently hit it right this time. He knew that in a house like
that "a poor dog" could only mean a "sick dog." But his voice was
quite calm as he asked: "How can I do you a favour?"
"Why, you see, sir, we've got a little terrier," explained the old
man, who had quite forgotten the fact that he had mentioned the dog
before. "And there's been something the matter with the poor little
chap for several days. He won't eat or drink, he bites at the grass
and rolls around on his stomach and cries - it's a pity to see him.
If you're fond of animals and know how to take care of them, you may
be able to help us there."
"You want me to look at the little dog? Why, yes, I suppose I can."
"We'll appreciate it," said the old man with an embarrassed smile.
But Muller shook his head and continued: "No, never mind the payment,
I wouldn't take any money for it. But I'll tell you what you can
do for me. I'm very fond of flowers. If you think you can take the responsibility of letting me
walk around in the garden for a little
while, and pick a rose or two, I will be greatly pleased."
"Why, of course you may," said Franz. "Take any of the roses you
see there that please you. They're nearly over for the season now
and it's better they should be picked rather than left to fade on
the bush. We don't use so many flowers in the house now when the
family are not there."
"All right, then, it's a bargain," laughed Muller, signalling to
the landlord. "Are you, going already?" asked the old servant.
"Yes, I must be going if I am to spend any time with the little dog."
"I suppose I ought to be at home myself," said Franz. "Something's
the matter with the electric wiring in our place. The bell in the
master's room keeps ringing. I wrote to Siemens & Halske to send us
a man out to fix it. He's likely to come any minute now." The two
men rose, paid their checks, and went out together. Outside the
cafe Muller hesitated a moment. "You go on ahead," he said to Franz.
"I want to go in here and get a cigar."
While buying his cigar and lighting it, he asked for several
newspapers, choosing those which his quick eye had told him were no
longer among the piles on the counter. "I'm very sorry, sir," said
the clerk; "we have only a few of those papers, just two or three
more than we need for our regular customers, and this morning they
are all sold. The housekeeper from the Thorne mansion took the very
This was exactly what Muller wanted to know. He left the store and
caught up with the old butler as the latter was opening the handsome
iron gate that led from the Thorne property out onto the street.
"Well, where's our little patient?" asked the detective as he
walked through the courtyard with Franz.
"You'll see him in a minute," answered the old servant. He led
the way through a light roomy corridor furnished with handsome old
pieces in empire style, and opened a door at its further end.
"This is my room."
It was a large light room with two windows opening on the garden.
Muller was not at all pleased that the journey through the hall had
been such a short one. However he was in the house, that was
something, and he could afford to trust to chance for the rest.
Meanwhile he would look at the dog. The little terrier lay in a
corner by the stove and it did not take Muller more than two or
three minutes to discover that there was nothing the matter with
the small patient but a simple case of over-eating. But he put on
a very wise expression as he handled the little dog and looking up,
asked if he could get some chamomile tea.
"I'll go for it, I think there's some in the house. Do you want it
made fresh?" said Franz.
"Yes, that will be better, about a cupful will do," was Muller's
answer. He knew that this harmless remedy would be likely to do
the dog good and at the present moment he wanted to be left alone
in the room. As soon as Franz had gone, the detective hastened to
the window, placing himself behind the curtain so that he could
not be seen from outside. He himself could see first a wide
courtyard lying between the two wings of the house, then beyond it
the garden, an immense square plot of ground beautifully cultivated.
The left wing of the house was about six windows longer than the
other, and from the first story of it it would be quite easy to look
out over the vacant lot where the old shed stood which had served
as a night's lodging for Johann Knoll.
There was not the slightest doubt in Muller's mind that this part
of the tramp's story was true, for by a natural process of
elimination he knew there was nothing to be gained by inventing any
such tale. Besides which the detective himself had been to look at
the shed. His well-known pedantic thoroughness would not permit
him to take any one's word for anything that he might find out for
himself, In his investigations on Tuesday morning he had already
seen the half-ruined shed, now he knew that it contained a broken
Thus far, therefore, Knoll's story was proved to be true-but there
was something that didn't quite hitch in another way. The tramp had
said that he had seen first a woman and then a man come from the main
house and go in the direction of the smaller house which he took to
be the gardener's dwelling. This Muller discovered now was quite
impossible. A tall hedge, fully seven or eight feet high and very
thick, stretched from the courtyard far down into the garden past
the gardener's little house. There was a broad path on the right
and the left of this green wall. From his position in the shed,
Knoll could have seen people passing only when they were on the
right side of the hedge. But to reach the gardener's house from
the main dwelling, the shortest way would be on the left side of
the hedge. This much Muller saw, then he heard the butler's steps
along the hall and he went back to the corner where the dog lay.
Franz was not alone. There was some one else with him, the
housekeeper, Mrs. Bernauer. Just as they opened the door, Muller
heard her say: "If the gentleman is a veterinary, then we'd better
ask him about the parrot- "
The sentence was never finished. Muller never found out what was
the matter with the parrot, for as he looked up with a polite smile
of interest, he looked into a pale face, into a pair of eyes that
opened wide in terror, and heard trembling lips frame the words:
"There he is again!"
A moment later Mrs. Bernauer would have been glad to have recalled
her exclamation, but it was too late.
Muller bowed before her and asked: "'There he is again,' you said;
have you ever seen me before?"
The woman looked at him as if hypnotised and answered almost in a
whisper: "I saw you Tuesday morning for the first time, Tuesday
morning when the family were going away. Then I saw you pass
through our street twice again that same day. This morning you went
past the garden gate and now I find you here. What-what is it you
want of us?"
"I will tell you what I want, Mrs. Bernauer, but first I want to
speak to you alone. Mr. Franz doesn't mind leaving us for a while,
"But why?" said the old man hesitatingly. He didn't understand
at all what was going on and he would much rather have remained.
"Because I came here for the special purpose of speaking to Mrs.
Bernauer," replied Muller calmly.
"Then you didn't come on account of the dog?"
"No, I didn't come on account of the dog."
"Then you - you lied to me?"
"And you're no veterinary?"
"No - I can help your dog, but I am not a veterinary and never have
"What are you then?"
"I will tell Mrs. Bernauer who and what I am when you are outside
- outside in the courtyard there. You can walk about in the garden
if you want to, or else go and get some simple purgative for this
dog. That is all he needs; he has been over-fed."
Franz was quite bewildered. These new developments promised to be
interesting and he was torn between his desire to know more, and
his doubts as to the propriety of leaving the housekeeper with this
queer stranger. He hesitated until the woman herself motioned to
him to go. He went out into the hall, then into the courtyard,
watched by the two in the room who stood silently in the window
until they saw the butler pass down into the garden. Then they
looked at each other.
"You belong to the police?" asked Adele Bernauer finally with a
"That was a good guess," replied Muller with an ironic smile,
adding: "All who have any reason to fear us are very quick in
"What do you mean by that?" she exclaimed with a start. "What
are you thinking of?"
"I am thinking about the same thing that you are thinking of - that
I have proved you are thinking of - the same thing that drove you
out into the street yesterday and this morning to buy the papers.
These papers print news which is interesting many people just now,
and some people a great deals. I am thinking of the same thing
that was evidently in your thoughts as you peered out of the garden
gate this morning, although you would not come out into the street.
I know that you do not read even one newspaper regularly. I know
also that yesterday and today you bought a great many papers,
apparently to get every possible detail about a certain subject.
Do you deny this?"
She did not deny it, she did not answer at all. She sank down on
a chair, her wide staring eyes looking straight ahead of her, and
trembling so that the old chair cracked underneath her weight. But
this condition did not last long. The woman had herself well under
control. Muller's coming, or something else, perhaps, may have
overwhelmed her for a moment, but she soon regained her usual
"Still you have not told me what you want here," she began coldly,
and as he did not answer she continued: "I have a feeling that you
are watching us. I had this feeling when I saw you the first time
and noticed then - pardon my frankness - that you stared at us
sharply while we were saying goodbye to our master and mistress.
Then I saw you pass twice again through the street and look up at
our windows. This morning I find you at our garden gate and
now - you will pardon me if I tell the exact truth - now you have
wormed yourself in here under false pretenses because you have no
right whatever to force an entrance into this house. And I ask
you again, what do you want here?"
Muller was embarrassed. That did not happen very often. Also it
did not happen very often that he was in the wrong as he was now.
The woman was absolutely right. He had wormed himself into the
house under false pretenses to follow up the new clue which almost
unconsciously as yet was leading him on with a stronger and stronger
attraction. He could not have explained it and he certainly was not
ready to say anything about it at police headquarters, even at the
risk of being obliged to continue to enter this mysterious house
under false pretenses and to be told that he was doing so. Of
course this sort of thing was necessary in his business, it was
the only way in which he could follow up the criminals.
But there was something in this woman's words that cut into a
sensitive spot and drove the blood to his cheeks. There was
something in the bearing and manner of this one-time nurse that
impressed him, although he was not a man to be lightly impressed.
He had a feeling that be had made a fool of himself and it bothered
him. For a moment he did not know what he should say to this woman
who stood before him with so much quiet energy in her bearing. But
the something in his brain, the something that made him what he was,
whispered to him that he had done right, and that he must follow
up the trail he had found. That gave him back his usual calm.
He took up his hat, and standing before the pale-faced woman,
looking her firmly in the eyes, he said: "It is true that I have
no right as yet to force my way into your house, therefore I have
been obliged to enter it as best I could. I have done this often
in my work, but I do it for the safety of society. And those who
reproach me for doing it are generally those whom I have been
obliged to persecute in the name of the law. Mrs. Bernauer, I
will confess that there are moments in which I feel ashamed that I
have chosen this profession that compels me to hunt down human
beings. But I do not believe that this is one of those moments.
You have read this morning's papers; you must know, therefore, that
a man has been arrested and accused of the murder which interests
you so much; you must be able to realise the terror and anxiety
which are now filling this man's heart. For to-day's papers - I
have read them myself - expressed the public sentiment that the
police may succeed in convicting this man of the crime, that the
death may be avenged and justice have her due. Several of these
papers, the papers I know you have bought and presumably read, do
not doubt that Johann Knoll is the murderer of Leopold Winkler.
"Now there are at least two people who do not believe that Knoll is
the murderer. I am one of them, and you, Mrs. Bernauer, you are
the other. I am going now and when I come again, as I doubtless
will come again, I will come with full right to enter this house.
I acknowledge frankly that I have no justification in causing your
arrest as yet, but you are quite clever enough to know that if I
had the faintest justification I would not leave here alone. And
one thing more I have to say. You may not know that I have had the
most extraordinary luck in my profession, that in more than a
hundred cases there have been but two where the criminal I was
hunting escaped me. And now, Mrs. Bernauer, I will bid you good
Muller stepped towards the window and motioned to Franz, who was
walking up and down outside. The old man ran to the door and met
the detective in the hall.
"You'd better go in and look after Mrs. Bernauer," said the
latter, "I can find my way out alone."
Franz looked after him, shaking his head in bewilderment and then
entered his own room. "Merciful God!" he exclaimed, bending down
in terror over the housekeeper, who lay on the floor. In his shock
and bewilderment he imagined that she too had been murdered, until
he realised that it was only a swoon from which she recovered in
a moment. He helped her regain her feet and she looked about as
if still dazed, stammering: "Has he gone?"
"The strange man? ... Yes, he went some time ago. But what
happened to you? Did he give you something to make you faint? Do
you think he was a thief?"
Mrs. Bernauer shook her head and murmured: "Oh, no, quite the
contrary." A remark which did not enlighten Franz particularly
as to the status of the man who had just left them. There was a
note of fear in the housekeepers s voice and she added hastily:
"Does any one besides ourselves know that he was here?"
No. Lizzie and the cook are in the kitchen talking about the
Mrs. Bernauer shivered again and went slowly out of the room and
up the stairs.
If Franz believed that the stranger had left the house by the
front entrance he was very much mistaken. When Muller found
himself alone in the corridor he turned quickly and hurried out
into the garden. None of the servants had seen him. Lizzie and
the cook were engaged in an earnest conversation in the kitchen
and Franz was fully occupied with Mrs. Bernauer. The gardener
was away and his wife busy at her wash tubs. No one was aware,
therefore, that Muller spent about ten minutes wandering about the
garden, and ten minutes were quite sufficient for him to become so
well acquainted with the place that he could have drawn a map of
it. He left the garden through the rear gate, the latch of which
he was obliged to leave open. The gardener's wife found it that
way several hours later and was rather surprised thereat. Muller
walked down the street rapidly and caught a passing tramway. His
mood was not of the best, for he could not make up his mind whether
or no this morning had been a lost one. His mind sorted and
rearranged all that he knew or could imagine concerning Mrs.
Bernaner. But there was hardly enough of these facts to reassure
him that he was not on a false trail, that he had not allowed
himself to waste precious hours all because he had seen a woman's
haggard face appear for a moment at the little gate in the quiet street.
JOHANN KNOLL REMEMBERS SOMETHING ELSE
Muller's goal was the prison where Johann Knoll was awaiting his
fate. The detective had permission to see the man as often as
he wished to. Knoll had been proven a thief, but the accusation
of murder against him had not been strengthened by anything but
the most superficial circumstantial evidence, therefore it was
necessary that Muller should talk with him in the hope of
discovering something more definite.
Knoll lay asleep on his cot as the detective and the warder entered
the cell. Muller motioned the attendant to leave him alone with
the prisoner and he stood beside the cot looking down at the man.
The face on the hard pillow was not a very pleasant one to look at.
The skin was roughened and swollen and had that brown-purple tinge
which comes from being constantly in the open air, and from habitual
drinking. The weather-beaten look may be seen often in the faces of
men whose honest work keeps them out of doors; but this man had not
earned his colouring honestly, for he was one of the sort who worked
only from time to time when it was absolutely necessary and there
was no other way of getting a penny. His hands proved this, for
although soiled and grimy they had soft, slender fingers which
showed no signs of a life of toil. But even a man who has spent
forty years in useless idling need not be all bad. There must have
been some good left in this man or he could not have lain there so
quietly, breathing easily, wrapped in a slumber as undisturbed as
that of a child. It did not seem possible that any man could lie
there like that with the guilt of murder on his conscience, or even
with the knowledge in his soul that he had plundered a corpse.
Muller had never believed the first to be the case, but he had
thought it possible that Knoll knew perfectly well that it was a
lifeless body he was robbing. He had believed it at least until
the moment when he stood looking down at the sleeping tramp. Now,
with the deep knowledge of the human heart which was his by
instinct and which his profession had increased a thousand-fold,
Muller knew that this man before him had no heavy crime upon his
conscience - that it was really as he had said - that he had taken
the watch and purse from one whom he believed to be intoxicated
only. Of course it was not a very commendable deed for which the
tramp was now in prison, but it was slight in comparison to the
crimes of which he was suspected.
Muller bent lower over the unconscious form and was surprised to
see a gentle smile spread over the face before him. It brightened
and changed the coarse rough face and gave it for a moment a look
of almost child-like innocence. Somewhere within the coarsened
soul there must be a spot of brightness from which such a smile
But the face grew ugly again as Knoll opened his eyes and looked
up. He shook off the clouds of slumber as he felt Muller's hand
on his shoulder and raised himself to a sitting position, grumbling:
"Can't I have any rest? Are they going to question me again? I'm
getting tired of this. I've said everything I know anyhow."
"Perhaps not everything. Perhaps you will answer a few of my
questions when I tell you that I believe the story you told us
yesterday, and that I want to be your friend and help you."
Knoll's little eyes glanced up without embarrassment at the man
who spoke to him. They were sharp eyes and had a certain spark of
intelligence in them. Muller had noticed that yesterday, and he
saw it again now. But he saw also the gleam of distrust in these
eyes, a distrust which found expression in Knoll's next words.
"You think you can catch me with your good words, but you're makin'
a mistake. I've got nothin' new to say. And you needn't think
that you can blind me, I know you're one of the police, and I'm
not going to say anything at all."
"Just as you like. I was trying to help you, I believe I really
could help you. I have just come from Hietzing - but of course if
you don't want to talk to me - " Muller shrugged his shoulders and
turned toward the door.
But before he reached it Knoll stood at his side. "You really mean
to help me?" he gasped.
"I do," said the detective calmly.
"Then swear, on your mother's soul - or is your mother still alive?"
"No, she has been dead some time."
"Well, then, will you swear it?"
"Would you believe an oath like that?"
"Why shouldn't I?"
"With the life you've been leading?"
"My life's no worse than a lot of others. Stealing those things on
Monday was the worst thing I've done yet. Will you swear?"
"Is it something so very important you have to tell me?"
"No, I ain't got nothin' at all new to tell you. But I'd just like
to know - in this black hole I've got into - I'd just like to know
that there's one human being who means well with me - I'd like to
know that there's one man in the world who don't think I'm quite
The tramp covered his face with his hands and gave a heart-rending
sob. Deep pity moved the detective's breast. He led Knoll back to
his cot, and put both hands on his shoulders, saying gravely: "I
believe that this theft was the worst thing you have done. By my
mother's salvation, Knoll, I believe your words and I will try to
Knoll raised his head, looking up at Muller with a glance of
unspeakable gratitude. With trembling lips he kissed the hand
which a moment before had pressed kindly on his shoulder, clinging
fast to it as if he could not bear to let it go. Muller was almost
embarrassed. "Oh, come now, Knoll, don't be foolish. Pull yourself
together and answer my questions carefully, for I am asking you
these questions more for your own sake than for anything else."
The tramp nodded and wiped the tears from his face. He looked
almost happy again, and there was a softness in his eyes that
showed there was something in the man which might be saved and
which was worth saving.
Muller sat beside him on the cot and began: "There was one mistake
in your story yesterday. I want you to think it over carefully.
You said that you saw first a woman and then a man going through
the neighbouring garden. I believe that one or both of these
people is the criminal for whom we are looking. Therefore, I want
you to try and remember everything that you can connect with them,
every slightest detail. Anything that you can tell us may be of
the greatest importance. Therefore, think very carefully."
Knoll sat still a few moments, evidently trying hard to put his
hazy recollections into useful form and shape. But it was also
evident that orderly thinking was an unusual work for him, and he
found it almost too difficult. "I guess you 'better ask me
questions, maybe that'll go," he said after a pause.
Then Muller began to question. With his usual thoroughness he
began at the very beginning: "When was it that you climbed the
fence to get into the shed?"
"It just struck nine o'clock when I put my foot on the lowest bar."
"Are you sure of that?"
"Quite sure. I counted every stroke. You see, I wanted to know
how long the night was going to be, seein' I'd have to sleep in
that shed. I was in the garden just exactly an hour. I came out
of the shed as it struck ten and it wasn't but a few minutes before
I was in the street again."
"And when was it that you saw the woman in the garden next door?"
"H'm, I don't just know when that was. I'd been in on the bench
quite a while."
"And the man? When did you see the man?"
"He came past a few minutes after the woman had gone towards the
little house in the garden."
"Ah! there you see, that's where you made your mistake. It is
more than likely that these two did not go to the little house, but
that they went somewhere else. Did they walk slowly and quietly?"
"Not a bit of it. They ran almost ... Went past as quick as a bat
in the night."
"Then they both appeared to be in a hurry?"
"Yes indeed they did."
"Ah, ha, you see! Now when any one's in a hurry he doesn't go the
longest way round, as a rule. And it would have been the longest
way round for these two people to go from the big house to the
gardener's cottage - for the little house you saw was the gardener's
cottage. There is tall thick hedge that starts from the main
building and goes right down through the garden, quite a distance
past the gardener's cottage. The vegetable garden is on the left
side of this hedge and in the middle of the vegetable garden is the
gardener's cottage. But you could have seen the man and the woman
only because they passed down the right side of the hedge, and this
would have given them a detour of fifty paces or more to reach
the gardener's house. Nov do you think that two people who were
very much in a hurry would have gone down the right side of the
hedge, to reach a place which they could have gotten to much quicker
on the left side?"
"No, that would have been a fool thing to do."
"And you are quite sure that these people were in a hurry?"
"That's dead sure. I scarcely saw them before they'd gone again."
"And you didn't see them come back?"
"No, at least I didn't pay any further attention to them. When I
thought it wouldn't be any good to look about in there I turned
around and dozed off."
"And it was during this dozing that you thought you heard the shot?"
Yes, sir, that's right."
"And you didn't notice anything else? You didn't hear anything
"No, nothin' at all, there was so much noise anyway. There was a
high wind that night and the trees were rattling and creaking."
"And you didn't see anything else, anything that attracted your
"No, nothing - " Knoll did not finish his sentence, but began
another instead. He had suddenly remembered something which had
seemed to him of no importance before. "There was a light that
went out suddenly."
"In the side of the house that I could see from my place. There
was a lamp in the last window of the second story, a lamp with a
red shade. That lamp went out all at once."
"Was the window open?"
"There was a strong wind that night, might not the wind have blown
the lamp out?"
"No, that wasn't it," said Knoll, rising hastily.
"Well, how was it?" asked Muller calmly.
"A hand put out the lamp."
"I couldn't see that. The light was so low on account of the shade
that I couldn't see the person who stood there."
"And you don't know whether it was a man or a woman?"
"No, I just saw a hand, more like a shadow it was."
"Well, it doesn't matter much anyway. It was after nine o'clock
and many people go to bed about that time," said Muller, who did
not see much value in this incident.
But Knoll shook his head. "The person who put out that light didn't
go to bed, at least not right away," he said eagerly. "I looked
over after a while to the place where the red light was and I saw
"Well, what was it you saw?"
"The window had been closed."
"Who closed it? Didn't you see the person that time? The moonlight
lay full on the house."
"Yes, when there weren't any clouds. But there was a heavy cloud
over the moon just then and when it came out again the window was
shut and there was a white curtain drawn in front of it."
"How could you see that?"
"I could see it when the lamp was lit again."
"Then the lamp was lit again?"
"Yes, I could see the red light behind the curtain."
"And what happened then?"
"Nothing more then, except that the man went through the garden."
Muller rose now and took up his hat. He was evidently excited and
Knoll looked at him uneasily. "You're goin' already?" he asked.
"Yes, I have a great deal to do to-day," replied the detective and
nodded to the prisoner as he knocked on the door. "I am glad you
remembered that," he added, "it will be of use to us, I think."
The warder opened the door, let Muller out, and the heavy iron
portal clanged again between Knoll and freedom.
Muller was quite satisfied with the result of his visit to the
accused. He hurried to the nearest cab stand and entered one of
the carriages waiting there. He gave the driver Mrs. Klingmayer's
address. It was about two o'clock in the afternoon now and Muller
had had nothing to eat yet. But he was quite unaware of the fact
as his mind was so busy that no mere physical sensation could
divert his attention for a moment. Muller never seemed to need
sleep or food when he was on the trail, particularly not in the
fascinating first stages of the case when it was his imagination
alone, catching at trifles unnoticed by others, combining them in
masterly fashion to an ordered whole, that first led the seekers
to the truth. Now he went over once more all the little apparently
trivial incidents that had caused him first to watch the Thorne
household and then had drawn his attention, and his suspicion,
to Adele Bernauer. It was the broken willow twig that had first
drawn his attention to the old garden next the Thorne property.
This twig, this garden, and perhaps some one who could reach his
home again, unseen and unendangered through this garden - might
not this have something to do with the murder?
The breaking of the twig was already explained. It was Johann
Knoll who had stepped on it. But he had not climbed the wall at
all, had only crept along it looking for a night's shelter. And
there was no connection between Knoll and the people who lived
in the Thorne house. Muller had not the slightest doubt that the
tramp had told the entire truth that day and the day preceding.
Then the detective's mind went back to the happenings of Tuesday
morning. The little twig had first drawn his attention to the
Thorne estate and the people who lived there. He had seen the
departure of the young couple and had passed the house again that
afternoon and the following day, drawn to it as if by a magnet.
He had not been able then to explain what it was that attracted
him; there had been nothing definite in his mind as he strolled
past the old mansion. But his repeated appearance had been noticed
by some one - by one person only - the housekeeper. Why should she
have noticed it? Had she any reason for believing that she might
be watched? People with an uneasy conscience are very apt to
connect even perfectly natural trivial circumstances with their own
doings. Adele Bernauer had evidently connected Muller's repeated
passing with something that concerned herself even before the
detective had thought of her at all.
Muller had not noticed her until he had seen her peculiar conduct
that very morning. When he heard Franz's words and saw how
disturbed the woman was, he asked himself: "Why did this woman
want to be shown the spot of the murder? Didn't she know that
place, living so near it, as well as any of the many who stood
there staring in morbid curiosity? Did she ask to have it shown
her that the others might believe she had nothing whatever to do
with the occurrences that had happened there? Or was she drawn
thither by that queer attraction that brings the criminal back to
the scene of his crime?"
The sudden vision of Mrs. Bernauer's head at the garden gate, and
its equally sudden disappearance had attracted Muller's attention
and his thoughts to the woman. What he had been able to learn
about her had increased his suspicions and her involuntary
exclamation when she met him face to face in the house had proved
beyond a doubt that there was something on her mind. His open
accusation, her demeanour, and finally her swoon, were all links in
the chain of evidence that this woman knew something about the
murder in the quiet lane.
With this suspicion in his mind what Muller had learned from Knoll
was of great value to him, at all events of great interest. Was
it the housekeeper who had put out the light? For now Muller did
not doubt for a moment that this sudden extinguishing of the lamp
was a signal. He believed that Knoll had seen clearly and that he
had told truly what he had seen. A lamp that is blown out by the
wind flickers uneasily before going out. A sudden extinguishing of
the light means human agency. And the lamp was lit again a few
moments afterward and burned on steadily as before. A short time
after the lamp had been put out the man had been seen going through
the garden. And it could not have been much later before the shot
was heard. This shot had been fired between the hours of nine and
ten, for it was during this hour only that Knoll was in the garden
house and heard the shot. But it was not necessary to depend upon
the tramp's evidence alone to determine the exact hour of the shot.
It must have been before half past nine, or otherwise the janitor
of No.1, who came home at that hour and lay awake so long, would
undoubtedly have heard a shot fired so near his domicile, in spite
of the noise occasioned by the high wind. There would have been
sufficient time for Mrs. Bernauer to have reached the place of the
murder between the putting out of the lamp and the firing of the
shot. But perhaps she may have rested quietly in her room; she
may have been only the inciter or the accomplice of the deed. But
at all events, she knew something about it, she was in some way
connected with it.
Muller drew a deep breath. He felt much easier now that he had
arranged his thoughts and marshalled in orderly array all the facts
he had already gathered. There was nothing to do now but to follow
up a given path step by step and he could no longer reproach himself
that he might have cast suspicion on an innocent soul. No, his
bearing towards Mrs. Bernauer had not been sheer brutality. His
instinct, which had led him so unerringly so many times, had again
shown him the right way when he had thrust the accusation in her
Now that his mind was easier he realised that he was very hungry.
He drove to a restaurant and ordered a hasty meal.
"Beer, sir?' asked the waiter for the third time.
"No," answered Muller, also for the third time.
"Then you'll take wine, sir?" asked the insistent Ganymede.
"Oh, go to the devil! When I want anything I'll ask for it,"
growled the detective, this time effectively scaring the waiter.
It did not often happen that a customer refused drinks, but then
there were not many customers who needed as clear, a head as
Muller knew he would have to have to-day. Always a light drinker,
it was one of his rules never to touch a drop of liquor during
this first stage of the mental working out of any new problem
which presented itself. But soft-hearted as he was, he repented
of his irritation a moment later and soothed the waiter's wounded
feelings by a rich tip. The boy ran out to open the cab door for
his strange customer and looked after him, wondering whether the
man was a cranky millionaire or merely a poet. For Joseph
Muller, by name and by reputation one of the best known men in
Vienna, was by sight unknown to all except the few with whom he
had to do on the police force. His appearance, in every way
inconspicuous, and the fact that he never sought acquaintance with
any one, was indeed of the greatest possible assistance to him in
his work. Many of those who saw him several times in a day would
pass him or look him full in the face without recognising him. It
was only, as in the case of Mrs. Bernauer, the guilty conscience
that remembered face and figure of this quiet-looking man who was
one of the most-feared servants of the law in Austria.
When Muller reached the house where Mrs. Klingmayer lived he ordered
the cabman to wait and hurried up to the widow's little apartment.
He had the key to Leopold Winkler's room in his own pocket, for
Mrs. Klingmayer had given this key to Commissioner von Riedau at
the latter's request and the commissioner had given it to Muller.
The detective told the good woman not to bother about him as he
wanted to make an examination of the place alone. Left to himself
in the little room, Muller made a thorough search of it, opening
the cupboard, the bureau drawers, every possible receptacle where
any article could be kept or hidden. What he wanted to find was
some letter, some bit of paper, some memoranda perhaps, anything
that would show any connection existing between the murdered man
and Mrs. Bernauer, who lived so near the place where this man had
died and who was so greatly interested in his murder.
The detective's search was not quite in vain, although he could not
tell yet whether what he had found would be of any value. Leopold
Winkler had had very little correspondence, or else he had had no
reason to keep the letters he received. Muller found only about a
half dozen letters in all. Three of them were from women of the
half-world, giving dates for meetings. Another was written by a
man and signed "Theo." This "Theo" appeared to be the same sort
of a cheap rounder that Winkler was. And he seemed to have sunk
one grade deeper than the dead man, in spite of the latter's bad
reputation. For this other addressed Winkler as his "Dear Friend"
and pleaded with him for "greater discretion," alluding evidently
to something which made this discretion necessary.
"I wonder what rascality it was that made these two friends?"
murmured Muller, putting "Theo's letter with the three he had
already read. But before he slipped it in his pocket he glanced at
the postmark. The letters of the three women had all been posted
from different quarters of the city some months ago. Theo's letter
was postmarked "Marburg," and dated on the 1st of September of
the present year.
Then Muller looked at the postmark of the two remaining letters
which he had not yet read, and whistled softly to himself. Both
these letters were posted from a certain station in Hietzing, the
station which was nearest his own lodgings and also nearest the
Thorne house. He looked at the postmark more sharply. They both
bore the dates of the present year, one of them being stamped "March
17th," the other "September 24th." This last letter interested
the detective most.
Muller was not of a nervous disposition, but his hand trembled
slightly as he took the letter from its envelope. It was clear
that this letter had been torn open hastily, for the edges of the
opening were jagged and uneven.
When the detective had read the letter - it contained but a few
lines and bore neither address nor signature - he glanced over
it once more as if to memorise the words. They were as follows:
"Do not come again. In a day or two I will be able to do what I
have to do. I will send you later news to your office. Impatience
will not help you." - These words were written hastily on a piece
of paper that looked as if it had been torn from a pad. In spite
of the haste the writer had been at some pains to disguise the
handwriting. But it was a clumsy disguise, done by one not
accustomed to such tricks, and it was evidently done by a woman.
All she had known how to do to disguise her writing had been to
twist and turn the paper while writing, so that every letter had
a different position. The letters were also made unusually long.
This peculiarity of the writing was seen on both letters and both
envelopes. The earlier letter was still shorter and seemed to have
been written with the same haste, and with the same disgust, or
perhaps even hatred, for the man to whom it was written.
"Come to-morrow, but not before eight o'clock. He has gone away.
God forgive him and you." This was the contents of the letter of
the 17th of March. That is, the writer had penned the letter this
way. But the last two words, "and you," had evidently not come
from her heart, for she had annulled them by a heavy stroke of the
pen. A stroke that seemed like a knife thrust, so full of rage
and hate it was.
"So he was called to a rendezvous in Hietzing, too," murmured
Muller, then he added after a few moments: "But this rendezvous had
nothing whatever to do with love."
There was nothing else in Winkler's room which could be of any value
to Muller in the problem that was now before him. And yet he was
very well satisfied with the result of his errand.
He entered his cab again, ordering the driver to take him to
Hietzing. Just before he had reached the corner where he had told
the man to stop, another cab passed them, a coupe, in which was a
solitary woman. Muller had just time enough to recognise this woman
as Adele Bernauer, and to see that she looked even more haggard and
miserable than she had that morning. She did not look up as the
other cab passed her carriage, therefore she did not see Muller.
The detective looked at his watch and saw that it was almost
half-past four. The unexpected meeting changed, his plans for the
afternoon. He had decided that he must enter the Thorne mansion
again that very day, for he must find out the meaning of the
red-shaded lamp. And now that the housekeeper was away it would
be easier for him to get into the house, therefore it must be done
at once. His excuse was all ready, for he had been weighing
possibilities. He dismissed his cab a block from his own home and
entered his house cautiously.
Muller's lodgings consisted of two large rooms, really much too
large for a lone man who was at home so little. But Muller had
engaged them at first sight, for the apartment possessed one
qualification which was absolutely necessary for him. Its
situation and the arrangement of its doors made it possible for
him to enter and leave his rooms without being seen either by his
own landlady or by the other lodgers in the house. The little
apartment was on the ground floor, and Muller's own rooms had a
separate entrance opening on to the main corridor almost immediately
behind the door. Nine times out of ten, he could come and go
without being seen by any one in the house. To-day was the first
time, however, that Muller had had occasion to try this particular
qualification of his new lodgings.
He opened the street door and slipped into his own room without
having seen or been seen by any one.
Fifteen minutes later he left the apartment again, but left it
such a changed man that nobody who had seen him go in would have
recognised him. Before he came out, however, he looked about
carefully to see whether there was any one in sight He came out
unseen and was just closing the main door behind him, when he met
"Were you looking for anybody in the house?" said the woman,
glancing sharply at the stranger, who answered in a slightly veiled
voice: "No, I made a mistake in the number. The place I am looking
for is two houses further down."
He walked down the street and the woman looked after him until she
saw him turn into the doorway of the second house. Then she went
into her own rooms. The house Muller entered happened to be a
corner house with an entrance on the other street, through which
the detective passed and went on his way. He was quite satisfied
with the security of his disguise, for the woman who knew him well
had not recognised him at all. If his own janitress did not know
him, the people in the Thorne house would never imagine it was he.
And indeed Muller was entirely changed. In actuality small and
thin, with sparse brown hair and smooth shaven face, he was now an
inch or two taller and very much stouter. He wore thick curly blond
hair, a little pointed blond beard and moustache. His eyes were
hidden by heavy-rimmed spectacles.
It was just half-past five when he rang the bell at the entrance
gate to the Thorne property. He had spent the intervening time in
the cafe, as he was in no hurry to enter the house. Franz came down
the path and opened the door. "'What do you want?" he asked.
"I come from Siemens & Halske; I was to ask whether the other man - "
"Has been here already?" interrupted Franz, adding in an irritated
tone, "No, he hasn't been here at all."
"Well, I guess he didn't get through at the other place in time.
I'll see what the trouble is," said the stranger, whom Franz
naturally supposed to be the electrician, lie opened the gate and
asked the other to come in, leading him into the house. Under a
cloudy sky the day was fading rapidly. Muller knew that it would
not occur to the real electrician to begin any work as late as this,
and that he was perfectly safe in the examination he wanted to make.
"Well, what's the trouble here? Why did you write to our firm?"
asked the supposed electrician.
"The wires must cross somewhere, or there's something wrong with
the bells. When the housekeeper touches the button in her room to
ring for the cook or the upstairs girl, the bell rings in Mr. Thorne's
room. It starts ringing and it keeps up with a deuce of a noise.
Fortunately the family are away."
"Well, we'll fix it all right for you. First of all I want to look
at the button in the housekeeper's room."
"I'll take you up there," said Franz.
They walked through the wide corridor, then turned into a shorter,
darker hall and went up a narrow winding stairway. Franz halted
before a door in the second story. It was the last of the three
doors in the hall." Muller took off his hat as the door opened
and murmured a "good-evening."
"There's no one there; Mrs. Bernaner's out."
"Has she gone away, too?" asked the electrician hastily.
Franz did not notice that there was a slight change in the stranger's
voice at this question, and he answered calmly as ever: "Oh, no;
she's just driven to town. I think she went to see the doctor who
lives quite a distance away. She hasn't been feeling at all well.
She took a cab to-day. I told her she ought to, as she wasn't well
enough to go by the tram. She ought to be home any moment now."
"Well, I'll hurry up with the job so that I'll be out of the way
when the lady comes," said Muller, as Franz led him to the
It was in the wall immediately above a large table which filled the
window niche so completely that there was but scant space left for
the comfortable armchair that stood in front of it. The window was
open and Muller leaned out, looking down at the garden below.
"What a fine old garden!" he exclaimed aloud. To himself he said:
"This is the last window in the left wing. It is the window where
Johann Knoll saw the red light."
And when he turned back into the room again he found the source of
this light right at his hand on the handsome old table at which Mrs.
Bernauer evidently spent many of her hours. A row of books stood
against the wall, framing the back of the table. Well-worn volumes
of the classics among them gave proof that the one-time nurse was a
woman of education. A sewing basket and neat piles of house linen,
awaiting repairs, covered a large part of the table-top, and beside
them stood a gracefully shaped lamp, covered by a shade of soft red
It took Muller but a few seconds to see all this. Then he set about
his investigation of the electric button. He unscrewed the plate
and examined the wires meeting under it. While doing so he cast
another glance at the table and saw a letter lying there, an open
letter half out of its envelope. This envelope was of unusual shape,
long and narrow, and the paper was heavy and high-glossed.
"Your housekeeper evidently has no secrets from the rest of you,"
Muller remarked with a laugh, still busy at the wires, "or she
wouldn't leave her letters lying about like that."
"Oh, we've all heard what's in that letter," replied Franz. "She
read it to us when it came this morning. It's from the Madam. She
sent messages to all of us and orders, so Mrs. Bernauer read us the
whole letter. There's no secrets in that."
"The button has been pressed in too far and caught down. That seems
to be the main trouble," said Muller, readjusting the little knob.
"I'd like a candle here if I may have one."
"I'll get you a light at once," said Franz. But his intentions,
however excellent, seemed difficult of fulfilment. It was rapidly
growing dark, and the old butler peered about uncertainly. "Stupid,"
he muttered. "I don't know where she keeps the matches. I can't
find them anywhere. I'm not a smoker, so I haven't any in my pocket."
"Nor I," said Muller calmly, letting his hand close protectingly
over a new full box of them in his own pocket.
"I'll get you some from my own room," and Franz hurried away, his
loose slippers clattering down the stairs. He was no sooner well
out of the room than Muller had the letter in his hand and was
standing close by the window to catch the fading light. But on the
old servant's return the supposed electrician stood calmly awaiting
the coming of the light, and the letter was back on the table half
hidden by a piece of linen. Franz did not notice that the envelope
was missing. And the housekeeper, whose mind was so upset by the
events of the day, and whose thoughts were on other more absorbing
matters, would hardly be likely to remember whether she had returned
this quite unimportant letter to its envelope or not.
Franz brought a lighted candle with him, and Muller, who really did
possess a creditable knowledge of electricity, saw that the wires
in the room were all in good condition. As he had seen at first,
there was really nothing the matter except with the position of
the button. But it did not suit his purpose to enlighten Franz on
the matter just yet.
"Now I'd better look at the wires in the gentleman's room," he
said, when he had returned plate and button to their place.
"Just as you say," replied Franz, taking up his candle and leading
the way out into the hail and down the winding stair. They crossed
the lower corridor, mounted another staircase and entered a large,
handsomely furnished room, half studio, half library. The wall was
covered with pictures and sketches, several easels stood piled up
in the corner, and a broad table beside them held paint boxes,
colour tubes, brushes, all the paraphernalia of the painter, now
carefully ordered and covered for a term of idleness. Great
bookcases towered to the ceiling, and a huge flat top desk, a
costly piece of furniture, was covered with books and papers. It
was the room of a man of brains and breeding, a man of talent and
ability, possessing, furthermore, the means to indulge his tastes
freely. Even now, with its master absent, the handsome apartment
bore the impress of his personality. The detective's quick
imagination called up the attractive, sympathetic figure of the
man he had seen at the gate, as his quick eye took in the details
of the room. All the charm of Herbert Thorne's personality, which
the keen-sensed Muller had felt so strongly even in that fleeting
glimpse of him, came back again here in the room which was his own
little kingdom and the expression of his mentality.
"Well, what's the trouble here? Where are the wires?" asked the
detective, after the momentary pause which had followed his entrance
into the room. Franz led him to a spot on the wall hidden by a
marquetry cabinet. "Here's the bell, it rings for several minutes
before it stops."
The light of the candle which the butler held fell upon a portrait
hanging above the cabinet. It was a sketch in water-colours, the
life-sized head of a man who may have been about thirty years old,
perhaps, but who had none of the freshness and vigour of youth.
The scanty hair, the sunken temples, and the faded skin, emphasised
the look of dissipation given by the lines about the sensual mouth
and the shifty eyes.
"Well, say, can't your master find anything better to paint than a
face like that?" Muller asked with a laugh.
"Goodness me! you mustn't say such things!" exclaimed Franz in
alarm; "that's the Madam's brother. He's an officer, I'd have you
know. It's true, he doesn't look like much there, but that's
because he's not in uniform. It makes such a difference."
"Is the lady anything like her brother?" asked the detective
indifferently, bending to examine the wiring.
"Oh, dear, no, not a bit; they're as different as day and night.
He's only her half-brother anyway. She was the daughter of the
Colonel's second wife. Our Madam is the sweetest, gentlest lady
you can imagine, an angel of goodness. But the Lieutenant here
has always been a care to his family, they say. I guess he's
quieted down a bit now, for his father - he's Colonel Leining,
retired - made him get exchanged from the city to a small garrison
town. There's nothing much to do in Marburg, I dare say - well!
you are a merry sort, aren't you?" These last words, spoken in a
tone of surprise, were called forth by a sudden sharp whistle from
the detective, a whistle which went off into a few merry bars.
A sudden whistle like that from Muller's lips was something that
made the Imperial Police Force sit up and take notice, for it meant
that things were happening, and that the happenings were likely to
become exciting. It was a habit he could control only by the
severest effort of the will, an effort which he kept for occasions
when it was absolutely necessary. Here, alone with the harmless
old man, he was not so much on his guard, and the sudden vibrating
of every nerve at the word "Marburg," found vent in the whistle
which surprised old Franz. One young police commissioner with a
fancy for metaphor had likened this sudden involuntary whistle of
Muller's to the bay of the hound when he strikes the trail; which
was about what it was.
"Yes, I am merry sometimes," he said with a laugh. "It's a habit
I have. Something occurred to me just then, something I had
forgotten. Hope you don't mind."
"Oh, no, there's no one here now, whistle all you like."
But Muller's whistle was not a continuous performance, and he had
now completely mastered the excitation of his nerves which had
called it forth. He threw another sharp look at the picture of the
man who lived in Marburg, and then asked: "And now where is the
"By the window there, beside the desk." Franz led the way with
"Why, how funny! What are those mirrors there for?" asked the
electrician in a tone of surprise, pointing to two small mirrors
hanging in the window niche. They were placed at a height and at
such a peculiar angle that no one could possibly see his face
"Something the master is experimenting with, I guess. He's always
making queer experiments; he knows a lot about scientific things."
Muller shook his head as if in wonderment, and bent to investigate
the button which was fastened into the wall beneath the window sill.
His quick ear heard a carriage stopping in front of the house, and
heard the closing of the front door a moment later. To facilitate
his examination of the button, the detective had seated himself in
the armchair which stood beside the desk. He half raised himself
now to let the light of the candle fall more clearly on the wiring
- then he started up altogether and threw a hasty glance at the
mirrors above his head. A ray of light had suddenly flashed down
upon him - a ray of red light, and it came reflected from the
mirrors. Muller bit his lips to keep back the betraying whistle.
"What's the matter?" asked the butler. "Did you drop anything?"
"Yes, the wooden rim of the button," replied Muller, telling the
truth this time. For he had held the little wooden circlet in his
hands at the moment when the red light, reflected down from the
mirrors, struck full upon his eyes. He had dropped it in his
surprise and excitement. Franz found the little ring in the centre
of the room where it had rolled, and the supposed electrician
replaced it and rose to his feet, saying: "There, I've finished now."
Franz did not recognise the double meaning in the words. "Yes, it's
all right! I've finished here now," Muller repeated to himself.
For now he knew beyond a doubt that the red light was a signal - and
he knew also for whom this signal was intended. It was a signal for
Herbert Thorne! - Herbert Thorne, whom no single thought or suspicion
of Muller's had yet connected with the murder of Leopold Winkler.
The detective was very much surprised and greatly excited. But
Franz did not notice it, and indeed a far keener observer than the
slow-witted old butler might have failed to see the sudden gleam
which shot up in the grey eyes behind the heavy spectacles, might
have failed to notice the tightening of the lips beneath the blond
moustache, or the tenseness of the slight frame under the assumed
embonpoint. Muller's every nerve was tingling, but he had himself
completely in hand.
"What do we owe you?" asked Franz.
"They'll send you a bill from the office. It won't amount to much.
I must be getting on now."
Muller hastened out of the door and down the street to the nearest
cab stand. There were not very many cab stands in this vicinity,
and the detective reasoned that Mrs. Bernauer would naturally have
taken her cab from the nearest station. He had heard her return in
her carriage, presumably the same in which she had started out.
There was but one cab at the stand. Muller walked to it and laid
his hand on the door.
"Oh, Jimmy! must I go out again?" asked the driver hoarsely.
"Can't you see the poor beast is all wet from the last ride? We've
just come in." He pointed with his whip to the tired-looking animal
under his blanket.
"Why, he does look warm. You must have been making a tour out into
the country," said the blond gentleman in a friendly tone.
"No, sir, not quite so far as that. I've just taken a woman to the
main telegraph office in the city and back again. But she was in a
hurry and he's not a young horse, sir."
"Well, never mind, then; I can get another cab across the bridge,"
replied the stout blond man, turning away and strolling off leisurely
in the direction of the bridge. It was now quite dark, and a few
steps further on Muller could safely turn and take the road to his
own lodging. No one saw him go in, and in a few moments the real
Muller, slight, smooth-shaven, sat down at his desk, looking at the
papers that lay before him. They were three letters and an empty
He took up the last, and compared it carefully with the envelope of
one of the letters found in Winkler's room - the unsigned letter
postmarked Hietzing, September 24th. The two envelopes were exactly
alike. They were of the same size and shape, made of the same
cream-tinted, heavy, glossy paper, and the address was written by
the same hand. This any keen observer, who need not necessarily be
an expert, could see. The same hand which had addressed the
envelope to Mrs. Adele Bernauer on the letter which was postmarked
"Venice," about thirty-six hours previous - this hand had, in an
awkward and childish attempt at disguise, written Winkler's address
on the envelope which bore the date of September 24th.
The writer of the harmless letter to Mrs. Bernauer, a letter which
chatted of household topics and touched lightly on the beauties of
Venice, was Mrs. Thorne. It was Mrs. Thorne, therefore, who,
reluctantly and in anger and distaste, had called Leopold Winkler
to Hietzing, to his death.
And whose hand had fired the shot that caused his death? The
question, at this stage in Muller's meditation, could hardly be
called a question any more. It was all too sadly clear to him now.
Winkler met his death at the hand of the husband, who, discovering
the planned rendezvous, had misunderstood its motive.
For truly this had been no lovers' meeting. It had been a meeting
to which the woman was driven by fear and hate; the man by greed of
gain. This was clearly proved by the 300 guldens found in the dead
man's pocket, money enclosed in a delicate little envelope, sealed
hastily, and crumpled as if it had been carried in a hot and
It was already known that Winkler never had any money except at
certain irregular intervals, when he appeared to have come into
possession of considerable sums. During these days he indulged in
extravagant pleasures and spent his money with a recklessness which
proved that he had not earned it by honest work.
Leopold Winkler was a blackmailer.
Colonel Leining, retired, the father of two such widely different
children, was doubtless a man of stern principles, and an army
officer as well, therefore a man with a doubly sensitive code of
honour and a social position to maintain; and this man, morbidly
sensitive probably, had a daughter who had inherited his
sensitiveness and his high ideals of honour, a daughter married to
a rich husband. But he had another child, a son without any sense
of honour at all, who, although also an officer, failed to live in
a manner worthy his position. This son was now in Marburg, where
there were no expensive pleasures, no all-night cafes and gambling
dens, for a man to lose his time in, his money, and his honour also.
For such must have been the case with Colonel Leining's son before
his exile to Marburg. The old butler had hinted at the truth. The
portrait drawn by Herbert Thorne, a picture of such technical
excellence that it was doubtless a good likeness also, had given an
ugly illustration to Franz's remarks. And there was something even
more tangible to prove it: "Theo's" letter from Marburg pleading
with Winkler for "discretion and silence," not knowing ("let us
hope he did not know!" murmured Muller between set teeth) that the
man who held him in his power because of some rascality, was being
paid for his silence by the Lieutenant's sister.
It is easy to frighten a sensitive woman, so easy to make her
believe the worst! And there is little such a tender-hearted woman
will not do to save her aging father from pain and sorrow, perhaps
It must have been in this way that Mrs. Thorne came into the power
of the scoundrel who paid with his life for his last attempt at
When Muller reached this point in his chain of thought, he closed
his eyes and covered his face with his hands, letting two pictures
stand out clear before his mental vision.
He saw the little anxious group around the carriage in front of the
Thorne mansion. He saw the pale, frail woman leaning back on the
cushions, and the husband bending over her in tender care. And
then he saw Johann Knoll in his cell, a man with little manhood left
in him, a man sunk to the level of the brutes, a man who had already
committed one crime against society, and who could never rise to the
mental or spiritual standard of even the most mediocre of decent
If Herbert Thorne were to suffer the just punishment for his deed
of doubly blind jealousy, then it was not only his own life, a life
full of gracious promise, that would be ruined, but the happiness of
his delicate, sweet-faced wife, who was doubtless still in blessed
ignorance of what had happened. And still one other would be dragged
down by this tragedy; a respected, upright man would bow his white
hairs in disgrace. Thorne's father-in-law could not escape the
scandal and his own share in the responsibility for it. And to a
veteran officer, bred in the exaggerated social ethics of his
profession. such a disgrace means ruin, sometimes even voluntary
"Oh, dear, if it had only been Knoll who did it," said Muller with
a sigh that was almost a groan.
Then he rose slowly and heavily, and slowly and heavily, as if borne
down by the weight of great weariness, he reached for his hat and
coat and left the house.
Whether he wished it or not, he knew it was his duty to go on to the
bitter end on this trail he had followed up all day from the moment
that he caught that fleeting glimpse of Mrs. Bernauer's haggard face
at the garden gate. He was almost angry with the woman, because she
chanced to look out of the gate at just that moment, showing him her
face distorted with anxiety. For it was her face that had drawn
Muller to the trail, a trail at the end of which misery awaited those
for whom this woman had worked for years, those whom she loved and
who treated her as one of the family.
Muller knew now that the one-time nurse was in league with her
former charge; that Thorne and Adele Bernauer were in each other's
confidence; that the man sat waiting for the signal which she was
to give him, a signal bringing so much disgrace and sorrow in its
If the woman had not spied upon and betrayed her mistress, this
terrible event, which now weighed upon her own soul, would not have
"A faithful servant, indeed," said Muller, with a harsh laugh.
Then maturer consideration came and forced him to acknowledge that
it was indeed devotion that had swayed Adele Bernauer, devotion to
her master more than to her mistress. This was hardly to be
wondered at. But she had not thought what might come from her
revelations, what had come of them. For now her pet, the baby who
had once lain in her arms, the handsome, gifted man whom she adored
with more than the love of many a mother for the child of her own
blood, was under the shadow of hideous disgrace and doom, was the
just prey of the law for open trial and condemnation as a murderer.
Muller sighed deeply once more and then came one of those moments
which he had spoken of to the unhappy woman that very day. He felt
like cursing the fatal gift that was his, the gift to see what was
hidden from others, this something within him that forced him
relentlessly onward until he had uncovered the truth, and brought
misery to many.
Muller need not do anything, he need simply do nothing. Not a soul
besides himself suspected the dwellers in the Thorne mansion of any
connection with the murder. If he were silent, nothing could be
proven against Knoll after all, except the robbery which he himself
had confessed. Then the memory of the terror in the tramp's little
reddened eyes came back to the detective's mind.
"A human soul after all, and a soul trembling in the shadow of a
great fear. And even he's a better man than the blackmailer who
was killed. A miscarriage of justice will often make a criminal
of a poor fellow whose worst fault is idleness." Muller's face
darkened as the things of the past, shut down in the depths of his
own soul, rose up again. "No; that's why I took up this work.
Justice must be done - but it's bitter hard sometimes. I could
almost wish now that I hadn't seen that face at the gate."
MULLER RETURNS TO THE THORNE MANSION
It was striking eight as Muller came out of a cafe in the heart of
the city. He had been in there but a few moments, for his purpose
was merely to look through the Army lists of the current year. The
result of his search proved the correctness of his conclusions.
There was a Lieutenant Theobald Leining in the single infantry
regiment stationed at Marburg.
Muller took a cab and drove to the main telegraph office. He asked
for the original of the telegram which had been sent that afternoon
to the address; "Herbert Thorne, Hotel Danieli, Venice." This
closed the circle of the chain.
The detective re-entered his waiting cab and drove back to Hietzing.
He told the driver to halt at the corner of the street on which
fronted the Thorne mansion and to wait for him there. He himself
walked slowly down the quiet Street and rang the bell at the iron
"You come to this house again?" asked Franz, starting back in
alarm when he saw who it was that had called him to the door.
"Yes, my good friend; I want to get into this house again. But not
on false pretenses this time. And before you let me in you can go
upstairs and ask Mrs. Bernauer if she will receive me in her own
room - in her own room, mind. But make haste; I am in a hurry."
The detective's tone was calm and he strolled slowly up and down in
front of the gate when he had finished speaking.
The old butler hesitated a moment, then walked into the house.
When he returned, rather more quickly, he looked alarmed and his
tone was very humble as he asked Muller to follow him.
When the detective entered Mrs. Bernauer's room the housekeeper
rose slowly from the large armchair in front of her table. She was
very pale and her eyes were full of terror. She made no move to
speak, so Muller began the conversation. He put down his hat,
brought up a chair and placed it near the window at which the
housekeeper had been sitting. Then he sat down and motioned to
her to do the same.
"You are a faithful servant, all too faithful," he began. "But
you are faithful only to your master. You have no devotion for
"You are mistaken," replied the woman in a low tone.
"Perhaps, but I do not think so. One does not betray the people
to whom one is devoted."
Mrs. Bernauer looked up in surprise. "What - what do you know?"
Muller did not answer the question directly, but continued: "Mrs.
Thorne had a meeting recently with a strange man. It was not their
first meeting, and somehow you discovered it. But before this last
meeting occurred you spoke to the lady's husband about it, and it
was arranged between you that you should give him a signal which
would mean to him, 'Your wife is going to the meeting.' Mrs. Thorne
did go to the meeting. This happened on Monday evening at about
quarter past nine. Some one, who was in the neighbourhood by
chance, saw a woman's figure hurrying through the garden, down to
the other street, and a moment after this, the light of this lamp
in your window was seen to go out. A hand had turned down the
wick - it was your hand.
"This was the signal to Mr. Thorne. The mirrors over his desk
reflected in his eyes the light he could not otherwise have seen
as he sat by his own window. The signal, therefore, told him that
the time had come to act. This same chance watcher, who had seen
the woman going through the garden, had seen the lamp go out, and
now saw a man's figure hurrying down the path the woman had taken.
The man as well as the woman came from this house and went in the
direction of the lower end of the garden.
"A little while later a shot was heard, and the next morning Leopold
Winkler was found with a bullet in his back. The crime was
generally taken to be a murder for the sake of robbery. But you and
I, and Mr. Herbert Thorne, know very well that it was not.
"You know this since Wednesday noon. Then it was that the idea
suddenly came to you, falling like a heavy weight on your soul, the
idea that Winkler might not have been killed for the sake of robbery,
but because of the hatred that some one bore him. Then it was that
you lost your appetite suddenly, that you drove into the city with
the excuse of errands to do, in order to read the papers without
being seen by any one who knew you. When you came home you searched
everywhere in your master's room: you made an excuse for this search,
but what you wanted to find out was whether he had left anything
that could betray him. Your fright had already confused your mind.
You were searching probably for the weapon from which he had fired
the bullet. You did not realise that he would naturally have taken
it with him and thrown it somewhere into a ravine or river beside
the railway track between here and Venice. How could you think for
a moment that he would leave it behind him, here in his room, or
dropped in the garden? But this was doubtless due to the confusion
owing to your sudden alarm and anxiety - a confusion which prevented
you from realising the danger of the two peculiarly hung mirrors in
Mr. Thorne's room. These should have been taken away at once. This
morning my sudden appearance at the garden gate prevented you from
making an examination of the place of the murder. Your swoon, after
I had spoken to you in the butler's room, showed me that you were
carrying a burden too heavy for your strength. Finally, this
afternoon, you drove to the main telegraph office in the city, as
you thought that it would be safer to telegraph Mr. Thorne from
there. Your telegram was very cleverly written. But you might have
spared the last sentence, the request that Mr. Thorne should get the
Viennese papers of these last days. Believe me, he has already read
these papers. Who could be more interested in what they have to tell
The housekeeper had sat as if frozen to stone during Muller's long
speech. Her face was ashen and her eyes wild with horror. When the
detective ceased speaking, there was dead silence in the room for
some time. Finally Muller asked: "Is this what happened?" His voice
was cutting and the glance of his eyes keen and sharp.
Mrs. Bernauer trembled. Her head sank on her breast. Muller waited
a moment more and then he said quietly: "Then it is true."
"Yes, it is true," came the answer in a low hoarse tone.
Again there was silence for an appreciable interval.
"If you had been faithful to your mistress as well, if you had not
spied upon her and betrayed her to her husband, all this might not
have happened," continued the detective pitilessly, adding with a
bitter smile: "And it was not even a case of sinful love. Your
mistress had no such relations with this Winkler as you - I say
this to excuse you - seemed to believe."
Adele Bernauer sprang up. "I do not need this excuse," she cried,
trembling in excitement. "I do not need any excuse. What I have
done I did after due consideration and in the realisation that it
was absolutely necessary to do it. Never for one moment did I
believe that my mistress was untrue to her husband. Never for one
moment could I believe such an evil thing of her, for I knew her to
be an angel of goodness. A woman who is deceiving her husband is
not as unhappy as this poor lady has been for months. A woman does
not write to a successful lover with so much sorrow, with so many
tears. I had long suspected these meetings before I discovered
them, but I knew that these meetings had nothing whatever to do
with love. Because I knew this, and only because I knew it, did I
tell my master about them. I wanted him to protect his wife, to
free her from the wretch who had obtained some power over her, I
knew not how."
"Ah! then that was it?" exclaimed Muller, and his eyes softened
as he looked at the sobbing woman who had sunk back into her chair.
He laid his hand on her cold fingers and continued gently: "Then
you have really done right, you have done only what was your duty.
I pity you deeply that you - "
"That I have brought suspicion upon my master by my own foolishness?"
she finished the sentence with a pitifully sad smile. "If I could
have controlled myself, could have kept calm, nobody would have had
a thought or a suspicion that he - my pet, my darling - that it was
he who was forced, through some terrible circumstance of which I do
not know, to free his wife, in this manner, from the wretch who