Part 3 out of 3
Mrs. Bernauer wrung her hands and gazed with despairing eyes at the
man who sat before her, himself deeply moved.
Again there was a long silence. Muller could not find a word to
comfort the weeping woman. There was no longer anger in his heart,
nothing but the deepest pity. He took out his handkerchief and
wiped away the drops that were dimming his own eyes.
"You know that I will have to go to Venice?" he asked.
Mrs. Bernauer sprang up. "Officially?" she gasped, pale to her
He nodded. "Yes, officially of course. I must make a report at
once to headquarters about what I have learned. You can imagine
yourself what the next steps will be."
Her deep sigh showed him that she knew as well as he. In the same
second, however, a thought shot through her brain, changing her
whole king. Her pale face glowed, her dulled eyes shot fire, and
the fingers with which she held Muller's hand tightly clasped, were
suddenly feverishly hot.
"And you - you are still the only person who knows the truth?" she
gasped in his ear.
The detective nodded. "And you thought you might silence me?" he
asked calmly. "That will not be easy - for you can imagine that I
did not come unarmed."
Adele Bernauer smiled sadly. "I would take even this way to save
Herbert Thorne from disgrace, if I thought that it could be
successful, and if I had not thought of a milder way to silence a
man who cannot be a millionaire. I have served in this house for
thirty-two years, I have been treated with such generosity that I
have been able to save almost every cent of my wages for my old
age. With the interest that has rolled up, my little fortune must
amount to nearly eight thousand gulden. I will gladly give it to
you, if you will but keep silence, if you will not tell what you
have discovered." She spoke gaspingly and sank down on her knees
before she had finished.
"And Mr. Thorne also - " she continued hastily, as she saw no sign
of interest in Muller's calm face. Then her voice failed her.
The detective looked down kindly on her grey hairs and answered:
"No, no, my good woman; that won't do. One cannot conceal one
crime by committing another. I myself would naturally not listen
to your suggestion for a moment, but I am also convinced that Mr.
Thorne, to whom you are so devoted, and who, I acknowledge, pleased
me the very first sight I had of him - I am convinced that he would
not agree for a moment to any such solution of the problem."
"Then I can only hope that you will not find him in Venice,"
replied Mrs. Bernauer, with utter despair in her voice and eyes.
"I am not at all certain that I will find him in Venice when I
leave here to-morrow morning," said Muller calmly.
"Oh! then you don't want to find him! Oh God! how good, how
inexpressibly good you are," stammered the woman, seizing at some
vague hope in her distraught heart.
"No, you are mistaken again, Mrs. Bernauer. I will find Mr. Thorne
wherever he may be. But I may arrive in Venice too late to meet
him there. He may already be on his way home."
"On his way home?" cried the housekeeper in terror, staggering
where she stood.
Muller led her gently to a chair. "Sit down here and listen to me
calmly. This is what I mean. If Mr. Thorne has seen in the papers
that a man has been arrested and accused of the murder of Leopold
Winkler, then he will take the next train back and give himself up
to the authorities. That he makes no such move as long as he thinks
there is no suspicion on any one else, no possibility that any one
else could suffer the consequences of his deed - is quite
comprehensible - it is only natural and human."
Adele Bernauer sighed deeply again and heavy tears ran down her
cheeks, in strange contrast to the ghost of a smile that parted
her lips and shone in her dimmed eyes.
"You know him better than I do," she murmured almost inaudibly,
"you know him better than I do, and I have known him for so long."
A moment later Muller had parted from the housekeeper with a warm,
sincere pressure of the hand.
"Lieutenant Theobald Leining was here on a visit to his sister last
March, wasn't he?" the detective asked as Franz led him out of the
"Yes, sir; the Lieutenant was here just about that time," answered
the old man.
And he left here on the 16th of March?"
"On the 16th? Why, it may have been - yes, it was the 16th - that
is our lady's birthday. He went away that day." Franz bowed a
farewell to this stranger who began to appear uncanny in his eyes,
and shutting the gate carefully he returned to the house.
"What does the man want anyway?" he murmured to himself, shivering
involuntarily. Without knowing why he turned his steps towards Mrs.
Bernauer s room. He opened the door hesitatingly as if afraid of
what he might see there. He would not have been at all surprised if
he had found the housekeeper fainting on the floor as before.
But she was not fainting this time. She was very much alive, for,
to Franz's great astonishment, she was busied at the packing of a
"Are you going away too?" asked Franz. Mrs. Bernauer answered in
a voice that was dull with weariness: "Yes, Franz, I am going away.
Will you please look up the time-tables of the Southern railroad
and let me know when the morning express leaves? And please order
a cab in time for it. I will depend upon you to look after the
house in my absence. You can imagine that it must be something
very important that takes me to Venice."
"To Venice? Why, what are you going to Venice for?"
"Never mind about that, Franz, but help me to pray that I may get
there in time."
She almost pushed the old man out of the door with these last
words and shut and locked it behind him.
She wanted to be alone with this hideous fear that was clutching
at her heart. For it was not to Franz that she could tell the
thoughts that came to her lips now as she sank down, wringing her
hands, before a picture of the Madonna: "Oh Holy Virgin, Mother
of our Lord, plead for me! let me be with my dear mistress when
the terrible time comes and they take her husband away from her,
or, if preferring death to disgrace, he ends his life by his own
IN THE POLICE COURT
Commissioner Von Riedau sat at his desk late that evening,
finishing up some important papers. The quiet of an undisturbed
night watch had settled down on the busy police station. An
occasional low murmur of whispering voices floated up from the
guardroom below, but otherwise the stillness was broken only by
the scratching of the commissioner's pen and the rustle of the
paper as he turned the leaves. It was a silence so complete that
a light step on the stair outside and the gentle turning of the
doorknob was heard distinctly and the commissioner looked up
with almost a start to see who was coming to his room so late.
Joseph Muller stood in the open door, awaiting his chief's official
"Oh ! it's you, Muller. So late? Come in. Anything new?" asked
the commissioner. "Have you succeeded in drawing a confession from
that stubborn tramp yet? You've been interviewing him, I take it?"
"Yes, I had a long talk with Johann Knoll to-day."
"Well, that ought to help matters along. Has he confessed? What
could you get out of him?"
"Nothing, or almost nothing more than he told us here in the station,
"The man's incredibly stubborn," said the commissioner. "If he
could only be made to understand that a free confession would benefit
him more than any one else! Well, don't look so down-cast about it,
Muller. This thing is going to take longer than we thought at first
for such a simple affair. But it's only a question of time until the
man comes to his senses. You'll get him to talk soon. You always
do. And even if you should fail here, this matter is not so very
important, when we think of all the other things you have done."
Muller, standing front of the desk, shook his head sadly.
"But I haven't failed here, sir. More's the pity, I had almost
"What!" The commissioner looked up in surprise. "I thought you
just said that you couldn't get anything more out of the accused."
"Knoll has told us all he knows, sir. He did not murder Leopold
"Hmph!" The commissioner's exclamation had a touch of acidity in
it. "Then, if he didn't murder him, who did?"
"Herbert Thorne, painter, living in the Thorne mansion in B. Street,
Hietzing, now in Venice, Hotel Danieli. I ask for a warrant for
his arrest, sir, and orders to start for Venice on the early morning
"Muller! ... what the deuce does all this mean?" The commissioner
sprang up, his face flushing deeply as he leaned over the desk
staring at the sad quiet face of the little man opposite. "What
are you talking about? What does all this mean?"
"It means, sir, that we now know who committed the murder in
Hietzing. Johann Knoll is innocent of anything more than the theft
confessed by himself. He took the purse and watch from the
senseless form of the just murdered man. The body was warm and
still supple and the tramp supposed the victim to be merely
intoxicated. His story was in every respect true, sir."
The commissioner flushed still deeper. "And who do you say murdered
"Herbert Thorne, sir.
"But Thome! I know of him ... have even a slight personal
acquaintance with him. Thorne is a rich man, of excellent family.
Why should he murder and rob an obscure clerk like this Winkler?"
"He did not rob him sir, Knoll did that."
"Oh, yes. But why should Thorne commit murder on this man who
scarcely touched his life at any point ... It's incredible!
Muller! Muller! are you sure you are not letting your imagination
run away with you again? It is a serious thing to make such an
accusation against any man, much less against a man in Thorne's
position. Are you sure of what you are saying?" The commissioner's
excitement rendered him almost inarticulate. The shock of the
surprise occasioned by the detective's words produced a feeling of
irritation ... a phenomenon not unusual in the minds of worthy but
pedantic men of affairs when confronted by a startling new thought.
"I am quite sure of what I am saying, sir. I have just heard the
confession of one who might be called an accomplice of the murderer."
"It is incredible ... incredible! An accomplice you say? ... who
is this accomplice? Might it not be some one who has a grudge
against Thorne - some one who is trying to purposely mislead you ?"
"I am not so easily deceived or misled, sir. Every evidence points
to Thorne, and the confession I have just heard was made by a woman
who loves him, who has loved and cared for him from his babyhood.
There is not the slightest doubt of it, sir."
Muller moved a step nearer the desk, gazing firmly in the eyes of
the excited commissioner. The sadness on the detective's face had
given way to a gleam of pride that flushed his sallow cheek and
brightened his grey eyes. It was one of those rare moments when
Muller allowed himself a feeling of triumph in his own power, in
spite of official subordination and years of habit. His slight
frame seemed to grow taller and broader as he faced the Chief with
an air of quiet determination that made him at once master of the
situation. His voice was as low as ever but it took on a keen
incisive note that compelled attention, as he continued: "Herbert
Thorne is the murderer of Leopold Winkler. Now that he knows an
innocent man is under accusation for his deed it is only a question
of time before he will come himself to confess. He will doubtless
make this confession to me, if I go to Venice to see him, and to
bring him back to trial."
The commissioner could doubt no longer. Pedantic though he was,
Commissioner von Riedau possessed sufficient insight to know the
truth when it was presented to him with such conviction, and also
sufficient insight to have recognised the gifts of the man before
him. "But why ... why?" he murmured, sinking back into his chair,
and shaking his
head in bewilderment.
"Winkler was a miserable scoundrel, sir, a blackmailer. Thorne did
only what any decent man would have felt like doing in his place.
But justice must be done."
Muller's elation vanished and a deep sigh welled up from his heart.
The commissioner nodded slowly, and glanced across the desk almost
timidly. This case had appeared to be so simple, and suddenly the
hidden deeps of a dark mystery had opened before him, deeps already
sounded by the little man here who had gone so quietly about his
work while the official police, represented in this case by
Commissioner von Riedau himself, had sat calmly waiting for an
innocent man to confess to a crime he had not committed! It was
humiliating. The commissioner flushed again and his eyes sank to
"Tell me what you know, Muller," he said finally.
Muller told the story of his experiences in the Thorne mansion,
told of the slight clues which led him to take an interest in the
house and its inmates, until finally the truth began to glimmer up
out of the depths. The commissioner listened with eager interest.
"Then you believed this elaborate yarn told by the tramp?" he
interrupted once, at the beginning of the narrative.
"Why, yes, sir, just because it was so elaborate. A man like Knoll
would not have had the mind to invent such a story. It must have
been true, on the face of it."
The commissioner's eyes sank again, and he did not speak until the
detective had reached the end of his story. Then he opened a drawer
in his desk and took out a bundle of official blank-forms.
"It is wonderful! Wonderful! Muller, this case will go on record
as one of your finest achievements - and we thought it was so simple
"Oh, indeed, sir, chance favoured me at every turn," replied Muller
"There is no such thing as chance," said the commissioner. "We
might as well be honest with ourselves. Any one might have seen,
doubtless did see, all the things you saw, but no one else had the
insight to recognise their value, nor the skill to follow them up
to such a conclusion. But it's a sad case, a sad case. I never
wrote a warrant with a heavier heart. Thorne is a true-hearted
gentleman, while the scoundrel he killed..."
"Yes, sir, I feel that way about it myself. I can confess now that
there was one moment when I was ready to-well, just to say nothing.
"And let us blunder on in our official stupidity and blindness?"
interrupted the commissioner, a faint smile breaking the gravity of
his face. "We certainly gave you every opportunity."
"But there's an innocent man accused - suffering fear of death
- justice must be done. But, sir," Muller took the warrant the
commissioner handed across the table to him. "May I not make it
as easy as I can for Mr. Thorne - I mean, bring him here with as
little publicity as possible? His wife is with him in Venice."
"Poor little woman, it's terrible! Do whatever you think best,
Muller. You're a queer mixture. Here you've hounded this man down,
followed hot on his trail when not a soul but yourself connected
him in any way with the murder. And now you're sorry for him! A
soft heart like yours is a dangerous possession for a police
detective, Muller. It's no aid to our business."
"No, sir, I know that."
"Well take care it doesn't run away with you this time. Don't let
Herbert Thorne escape, however much pity you may feel for him."
"I doubt if he'll want to sir, as long as another is in prison for
"But he may make his confession and then try to escape the disgrace."
"Yes, sir, I've thought of that. That's why I want to go to Venice
myself. And then, there's the poor young wife, he must think of her
when the desire comes to end his own life..."
"Yes! Yes! This terrible thing has shaken us both up more than a
little. I feel exhausted. You look tired yourself, Muller. Go home
now, and get some rest for your early start. Good-night."
ON THE LIDO
A Wonderfully beautiful night lay over the fair old city of Venice
when the Northern Express thundered over the long bridge to the
railway station. A passenger who was alone in a second-class
compartment stood up to collect his few belongings. Suddenly he
looked up as he heard a voice, a voice which he had learned to know
only very recently, calling to him from the door of the compartment.
"Why! you were in the train too? You have come to Venice?"
exclaimed Joseph Muller in astonishment as he saw Mrs. Bernauer
standing there before him.
"Yes, I have come to Venice too. I must be with my dear lady - when
- when Herbert - " She had begun quite calmly, but she did not
finish her sentence, for loud sobs drowned the words.
"You were in the next compartment? Why didn't you come in here
with me? It would have made this journey shorter for both of us."
"I had to be alone," said the pale woman and then she added: "I
only came to you now to ask you where I must go."
"I think we two had better go to the Hotel Bauer. Let me arrange
things for you. Mrs. Thorne must not see you until she has been
prepared for your coming. I will arrange that with her husband."
The two took each other's hands. They had won respect and sympathy
for each other, this quiet man who went so relentlessly and yet so
pityingly about his duty in the interest of justice - and the devoted
woman whose faithfulness had brought about such a tragedy.
The train had now entered the railway station. Muller and Mrs.
Bernauer stood a few minutes later on the banks of the Grand Canal
and entered, one of the many gondolas waiting there. The moon
glanced back from the surface of the water broken into ripples under
the oars of the gondoliers; it shone with a magic charm on the old
palaces that stood knee-deep in the lagoons, and threw heavy shadows
over the narrow water-roads on which the little dark boats glided
silently forward. In most of the gondolas coming from the station
excited voices and exclamations of delight broke the calm of the
moonlit evening as the tourists rejoiced in the beauty that is
But in the gondola in which Muller and Mrs. Bernauer sat there was
deep silence, silence broken only by a sobbing sigh that now and
then burst from the heart of the haggard woman. There were few
travellers entering Venice on one of its world-famous moonlit nights
who were so sad at heart as were these two.
And there were few travellers in Venice as heavy hearted as was the
man who next morning took one of the earliest boats out to the Lido.
Muller and Mrs. Bernauer were on the same boat watching him from a
hidden corner. The woman's sad eyes gazed yearningly at the haggard
face of the tall man who stood looking over the railing of the little
steamer. Her own tears came as she saw the gloom in the once shining
grey eyes she loved so well.
Muller stood beside Mrs. Bernauer. His eyes too, keen and quick,
followed Herbert Thorne as he stood by the rail or paced restlessly
up and down; his face too showed pity and concern. He also saw that
Thorne held in his hand a bundle of newspapers which were still
enclosed in their mailing wrappers. The papers were pressed in a
convulsive grip of the artist's long slender fingers.
Muller knew then that Thorne had not yet learned of the arrest of
Johann Knoll. At the very earliest, Thursday's papers, which brought
the news, could not reach him before Friday morning. But these
newspapers (Muller saw that they were German papers) were still in
their wrappings. They were probably Viennese papers for which he had
telegraphed and which had just arrived. His anxiety had not allowed
him to read them in the presence of his wife. He had sought the
solitude of early morning on the Lido, that he might learn,
unobserved, what terrors fate had in store for him.
It was doubtless Mrs. Bernauer's telegram which caused his present
anxiety, a telegram which had reached him only the night before
when he returned with his wife from an excursion to Torcello. It
had caused him a sleepless night, for it had brought the realisation
that his faithful nurse suspected the truth about the murder in the
quiet lane. The telegram had read as follows: "Have drawn money and
send it at once. Further journey probably necessary, visitor in
house to-day. Connected with occurrence in -Street. Please read
Viennese papers. News and orders for me please send to address A.B.
This telegram told Herbert Thorne the truth. And the papers which
arrived this morning were to tell him more - what he did not yet
know. But his heart was drawn with terrors which threw lines in his
face and made him look ten years older than on that Tuesday morning
when the detective saw him setting out on his journey with his wife.
When the boat landed at the Lido, Thorne walked off down the road
which led to the ocean side. Muller and Mrs. Bernauer entered the
waiting tramway that took them in the same direction. They
dismounted in front of the bathing establishment, stepped behind a
group of bushes and waited there for Thorne. In about ten minutes
they saw his tall figure passing on the other side of the road. He
was walking down to the beach, holding the still unopened papers in
A narrow strip of park runs along parallel to the beach in the
direction towards Mala Mocco. Muller and Mrs Bernauer walked along
through this park on the path which was nearest the water. The
detective watched the rapidly moving figure ahead of them, while the
woman's tear-dimmed eyes veiled everything else to her but the path
along which her weary feet hastened. Thorne halted about half way
between the bathing establishment and the customs barracks, looked
around to see if he were alone and threw himself down on the sand.
He had chosen a good place. To the right and to the left were high
sand dunes, before him was the broad surface of the ocean, and at
his back was rising ground, bare sand with here and there a scraggly
bush or a group of high thistles. Herbert Thorne believed himself
to be alone here ... as far as a man can be alone over whom hangs
the shadow of a crime. He groaned aloud and hid his pale face in
In his own distress he did not hear the deep sigh - which, just
above him on the edge of the knoll, broke from the breast of a woman
who was suffering scarcely less than he; he did not know that two
pair of sad eyes looked down upon him. And now into the eyes of the
watching woman there shot a gleam of terror. For Herbert Thorne had
taken a revolver from his pocket and laid it quietly beside him.
Then he took out a notebook and a pencil and placed them beside the
weapon. Then slowly, reluctantly, he opened one of the papers.
A light breeze from the shining sea before him carried off the
wrapping. The paper which he opened shook in his trembling hands,
as his eyes sought the reports of the murder. He gave a sudden
start and a tremor ran through his frame. He had come to the spot
which told of the arrest of another man, who was under shadow of
punishment for the crime which he himself had committed. When he
had read this report through, he turned to the other papers. He was
quite calm now, outwardly calm at least.
When he had finished reading the papers he laid them in a heap
beside him and reached out for his notebook. As he opened it the
two watchers saw that between its first pages there was a sealed and
addressed letter. Two other envelopes were contained in the
notebook, envelopes which were also addressed although still open.
Muller's sharp eyes could read the addresses as Thorne took them up
in turn, looking long at each of them. One envelope was addressed
in Italian to the Chief of Police of Venice, the other to the Chief
of Police in Vienna.
The two watchers leaned forward, scarcely three yards above the man
in whom they were interested. Thorne tore out two leaves of his
notebook and wrote several lines on each of them. One note, he
placed in the envelope addressed to the Viennese police and sealed
it carefully. Then he put the sealed letter with the second note in
the other envelope, the one addressed to the Italian police. He put
all the letters back in his notebook, holding it together with a
rubber strap, and replaced it in his pocket.
Then he stretched out his hand toward the revolver.
The sand came rattling down upon him, the thistles bent over
creakingly and two figures appeared beside him.
"There's time enough for that yet, Mr. Thorne," said the man at whom
the painter gazed up in bewilderment. And then this man took the
revolver quietly from his hand and hid it in his own pocket.
Thorne pressed his teeth down on his lips until the blood came. He
could not speak; he looked first at the stranger who had mastered
him so completely, and then, in dazed astonishment, at the woman who
had sunk down beside him in the sand, clasping his hand in both of
"Adele! Adele! 'Why are you here?" he stammered finally.
"I want to be with you - in this hour," she answered, looking at
him with eyes of worship. "I want to be with my dear lady - to
comfort her - to protect her when - when - "
"When they arrest me?" Thorne finished the sentence himself. Then
turning to Muller he continued: "And that is why you are here?"
"Yes, Mr. Thorne. I have a warrant for your arrest in my pocket.
But I think it will be unnecessary to make use of it in the
customary official way through the authorities here. I see that
you have written to both police stations - confessing your deed.
This will amount to a voluntary giving up of yourself to the
authorities, therefore all that is necessary is that I return with
you in the same train which takes you to Vienna. But I must ask
you for those two letters, for until you yourself give them to the
police authorities in my presence, it is my duty to keep them."
Muller had seldom found his official duty as difficult as it was
now. His words came haltingly and great drops stood out on his
The painter rose from the sand and he too wiped his face, which was
drawn in agony.
"Herbert, Herbert!" cried Adele Bernauer suddenly. "Oh, Herbert,
you will live, you will! Promise me, you will not think of suicide,
it would kill your wife - "
She lay on her knees before him in the sand. He looked down at her
gently and with a gesture which seemed to be a familiar one of days
long past, he stroked the face that had grown old and worn in these
hours of fear for him.
"Yes, you dear good soul, I will live on, I will take upon myself my
punishment for killing a scoundrel. The poor man whom they have
arrested in my place must not linger in the fear of death. I am
"My name is Muller - detective Muller."
"Joseph Muller, the famous detective Muller?" asked Thorne with a
sad smile. "I have had little to do with the police but by chance
I have heard of your fame. I might have known; they tell me you
are one from whom the truth can never remain hidden."
"My duty is not always an easy one," said Muller.
"Thank you. Dispose of me as you will. I do not wish any
privileges that others would not have, Mr. Muller. Here is my
written confession and here am I myself. Shall we go. now?"
Herbert Thorne handed the detective his notebook with its important
contents and then walked slowly back along the road he had come.
Muller walked a little behind him, while Mrs. Bernauer was at his
side. As in days long past, they walked hand in hand.
With eyes full of pity Muller watched them, and he heard Thorne
give his old nurse orders for the care of his wife. She was to take
Mrs. Thorne to Graz to her father, then to return herself to Vienna
and take care of the house as usual, until his attorney could settle
up his affairs and sell the property. For Thorne said that neither
he nor his wife would ever want to set foot in the house again. He
spoke calmly, he thought of everything - he thought even of the
possibility that he might have to pay the death penalty for his deed.
For who could tell how the authorities would judge this murder?
It had indeed been a murder by merest chance only. Thorne told his
old nurse all about it. When she had given him the signal he had
hurried down into the garden, and walking quietly along the path,
he had found his wife at the garden gate in conversation with a man
who was a stranger to him. That part of their talk which he
overheard told him that the man was a blackmailer, and that he was
making money on the fact that he had caught Theobald Leining cheating
This chance had put the officer into Winkler's power. The clerk
knew that he could get nothing from the guilty man himself, so he
had turned to the latter's sister, who was rich, and had threatened
to bring about a disgraceful scandal if she did not pay for his
silence. For more than a year he had been getting money from her
by means of these threats. All this was clear from the conversation.
The man spoke in tones of impertinence, or sneering obsequiousness,
the woman s voice showed contempt and hatred.
Thorne's blood began to boil. His fingers tightened about the
revolver which he had brought with him to be ready for any emergency,
and he stepped designedly upon a twig which broke under his feet
with a noise. He wanted to frighten his wife and send her back to
the house. This was what did occur. But the blackmailer was alarmed
as well and fled hastily from the garden when he realised that he was
not alone with his victim. Thorne followed the man's disappearing
figure, calling him to halt. He did not call loudly for he too wanted
to avoid a scandal. His intention was to force the man to follow him
into the house, to get his written confession of blackmail - then to
finish him off with a large sum once for all and kick him out of the
In this manner Herbert Thorne thought to free himself and his wife
from the persecutions of the rascal. His heart was filled with
hatred towards the man. For since Mrs. Bernauer had told him what
she had discovered, he knew that it was because of this wretch that
his once so happy wife was losing her strength, her health and her
peace of mind.
He followed the fleeing man and called to him several times to halt.
Finally Winkler half turned and called out over his shoulder: "You'd
better leave me alone! Do you want all Vienna to know that your
brother-in-law ought to be in jail?"
These words robbed Thorne of all control. He pressed the trigger
under his finger and the bullet struck the man before him, who had
turned to continue his flight, full in the back. "And that is how
I became a murderer." With these words Herbert Thorne concluded his
narrative. He appeared quite calm now. He was really calmer, for
the strain of the deed, which was justified in his eyes, was not so
great upon his conscience as had been the strain of the secret of it.
In his own eyes he had only killed a beast who chanced to bear the
form of a man. But of course in the eyes of the world this was a
murder like any other, and the man who had committed it knew that
he was under the ban of the law, that it was only a chance that the
arm of justice had not yet reached out for him. And now this arm
had reached out for him, although it was no longer necessary. For
Herbert Thorne was not the man to allow another to suffer in his
As soon as he knew that another had been arrested and was under
suspicion of the murder, he knew that there was nothing more for
him but open confession. But he wished to avoid a scandal even now.
If he died by his own hand, then the first cause of all this trouble,
his brother-in-law's rascality, could still be hidden.
But now his care was all in vain and Herbert Thorne knew that he
must submit to the inevitable. Side by side with his old friend
he sat on the deck of the boat that took them back to the Riva dei
Schiavoni. Muller sat at some distance from them. The pale
sad-faced woman, and the pale sad-faced man had much to say to each
other that a stranger might not hear.
When the little boat reached the landing stage, there were but a
few steps more to the door of the Hotel Danieli. From a balcony on
the first floor a young woman stood looking down onto the canal.
She too was pale and her eyes were heavy with anxiety. She had been
pale and anxious even then, the day when she left the beautiful old
house in the quiet street, to start on this pleasure trip to Venice.
It had been no pleasure trip to her. She had seen the change in her
husband, a change that struck deep into his very being and altered
him in everything except in his love and tender care for her. "Oh,
why is it? what is the matter?" she asked her self a thousand times
a day. Could it be possible that he had discovered the secret which
tortured her, the only secret she had ever had from him, the secret
she had longed to confess to him a hundred times but had lacked
courage to do it.
For she had sinned deeply against her husband, she knew. Her fear
and her confusion had driven her deeper and deeper into the waters
of deceit until it was impossible for her to find the words that
would have brought help and comfort from the man whom she loved more
than anything else in the world. In the very earliest stages of
Winkler's persecution she had lost her head completely and instead
of confessing to her husband and asking for his aid and protection,
she had pawned the rich jewels which had been his wedding present to
get the money demanded by the blackmailer. In her ignorance she had
thought that this one sum would satisfy him.
But he came again and again, demanding money which she saved from
her pin money, from her household allowance, thus taking what she
had intended to use to redeem her jewels. The pledge was lost, and
her jewels gone forever. From now on, Mrs. Thorne lived in a terror
which sapped her strength and drank her life blood drop by drop. Any
hour might bring discovery, a discovery which she feared would shake
her husband's love for her. The poor weak little woman grew pale and
ill. She wrote finally to her step-brother, but he could think of no
way out; he wrote only that if the matter came to a scandal there
would be nothing for him to do but to kill himself. This was one
reason more for her silence, and Mrs. Thome faded to a wan shadow of
her former sunny self.
As she looked down from the balcony, she was like a woman suffering
from a deathly illness. A new terror had come to her heart because
her husband had gone away so early without telling her why or whither
he had gone. When she saw him coming towards the door of the hotel,
pale and drooping, and when she saw Mrs. Bernauer beside him, her
heart seemed to stand still. She crept back from the window and
stood in the middle of the room as Herbert Thorne and his former
"What has happened?" This was all she could say as she looked into
the distraught face of the housekeeper, into her husband's sad eyes.
He led her to a chair, then knelt beside her and told her all.
"Outside the door stands the man who will take me back to Vienna
- and you, my dearest, you must go to your father." He concluded his
story with these words.
She bent down over him and kissed him. "'No, I am going with you,"
she said softly, strangely calm; "why should I leave you now? Is
it not I who am the cause of this dreadful thing?"
And then she made her confession, much too late. And she went with
him, back to the city of their home. It seemed to them both quite
natural that she should do so.
When the Northern Express rolled out of Venice that afternoon, three
people sat together in a compartment, the curtains of which were
drawn close. They were the unhappy couple and their faithful
servant. And outside in the corridor of the railway carriage, a
small, slight man walked up and down - up and down. He had pressed
a gold coin into the conductor's hand, with the words: "The party
in there do not wish to be disturbed; the lady is ill."
Herbert Thorne's trial took place several weeks later. Every
possible extenuating circumstance was brought to bear upon his
sentence. Five years only was to be the term of his imprisonment,
his punishment for the crime of a single moment of anger.
His wife waited for him in patient love. She did not go to Graz,
but continued to live in the old mansion with the mansard roof.
Her father was with her. The brother Theobald, the cause of all
this suffering to those who had shielded him at the expense of
their own happiness, had at last done the only good deed of his
life - had put an end to his useless existence with his own hand.
Father and daughter waited patiently for the return of the man
who had sinned and suffered for their sake. They spoke of him
only in terms of the tenderest affection and respect.
And indeed, seldom has any condemned murderer met with the respect
of the entire community as Herbert Thorne did. The tone of the
newspapers, and public opinion, evinced by hundreds of letters from
friends, acquaintances, and from strangers, was a great boon to
the solitary man in his cell, and to the three loving hearts in the
old house. And at the end of two years the clemency of the Monarch
ended his term of imprisonment, and Herbert Thorne was set free, a
step which met with the approval of the entire city.
He returned to the home where love and affection awaited him, ready
to make him forget what he had suffered. But the silver threads in
his dark hair and a certain quiet seriousness in his manner, and in
the hearts of all the dwellers in the old mansion, showed that the
occurrence of that fatal 27th of September had thrown a shadow over
them all which was not to be shaken off.
Joseph Muller brought many other cases to a successful solution.
But for years after this particular case had been won, he was
followed, as by a shadow, by a man who watched over him, and who,
whenever danger threatened, stood over the frail detective as if
to take the blow upon himself. He is a clever assistant, too, and
no one who had seen Johann Knoll the day that he was put into the
cell on suspicion of murder would have believed that the idle tramp
could become again such a useful member of society. These are the
victories that Joseph Muller considers his greatest.