Part 2 out of 5
to the road along which we had come, I turned and followed her gaze.
There was no one in sight: the lane stretched dust white in the
sun, - no moving figure on it, no sign of life.
MISS WEST'S REQUEST
The surprising change in her held me speechless. All the animation
of the breakfast table was gone: there was no hint of the response
with which, before, she had met my nonsensical sallies. She stood
there, white-lipped, unsmiling, staring down the dusty road. One
hand was clenched tight over some small object. Her eyes dropped
to it from the distant road, and then closed, with a quick, indrawn
breath. Her color came back slowly. Whatever had caused the change,
she said nothing. She was anxious to leave at once, almost
impatient over my deliberate masculine way of getting my things
together. Afterward I recalled that I had wanted to explore the
barn for a horse and some sort of a vehicle to take us to the
trolley, and that she had refused to allow me to look. I remembered
many things later that might have helped me, and did not. At the
time, I was only completely bewildered. Save the wreck, the
responsibility for which lay between Providence and the engineer of
the second section, all the events of that strange morning were
logically connected; they came from one cause, and tended unerringly
to one end. But the cause was buried, the end not yet in view.
Not until we had left the house well behind did the girl's face
relax its tense lines. I was watching her more closely than I had
realized, for when we had gone a little way along the road she turned
to me almost petulantly. "Please don't stare so at me," she said,
to my sudden confusion. "I know the hat is dreadful. Green always
makes me look ghastly."
"Perhaps it was the green." I was unaccountably relieved. "Do you
know, a few minutes ago, you looked almost pallid to me!"
She glanced at me quickly, but I was gazing ahead. We were out of
sight of the house, now, and with every step away from it the girl
was obviously relieved. Whatever she held in her hand, she never
glanced at it. But she was conscious of it every second. She
seemed to come to a decision about it while we were still in sight
of the gate, for she murmured something and turned back alone, going
swiftly, her feet stirring up small puffs of dust at every step.
She fastened something to the gate-post, - I could see the nervous
haste with which she worked. When she joined me again it was
without explanation. But the clenched fingers were free now, and
while she looked tired and worn, the strain had visibly relaxed.
We walked along slowly in the general direction of the suburban
trolley line. Once a man with an empty wagon offered us a lift,
but after a glance at the springless vehicle I declined.
"The ends of the bone think they are castanets as it is," I
explained. "But the lady - "
The young lady, however, declined and we went on together. Once,
when the trolley line was in sight, she got a pebble in her low
shoe, and we sat down under a tree until she found the cause of
"I - I don't know what I should have done without you," I blundered.
"Moral support and - and all that. Do you know, my first conscious
thought after the wreck was of relief that you had not been hurt?"
She was sitting beside me, where a big chestnut tree shaded the road,
and I surprised a look of misery on her face that certainly my words
had not been meant to produce.
"And my first thought," she said slowly, "was regret that I - that
I hadn't been obliterated, blown out like a candle. Please don't
look like that! I am only talking."
But her lips were trembling, and because the little shams of society
are forgotten at times like this, I leaned over and patted her hand
lightly, where it rested on the grass beside me.
"You must not say those things," I expostulated. "Perhaps, after
all, your friends - "
"I had no friends on the train." Her voice was hard again, her tone
final. She drew her hand from under mine, not quickly, but
decisively. A car was in sight, coming toward us. The steel finger
of civilization, of propriety, of visiting cards and formal
introductions was beckoning us in. Miss West put on her shoe.
We said little on the car. The few passengers stared at us frankly,
and discussed the wreck, emphasizing its horrors. The girl did not
seem to hear. Once she turned to me with the quick, unexpected
movement that was one of her charms.
"I do not wish my mother to know I was in the accident:," she said.
"Will you please not tell Richey about having met me?"
I gave my promise, of course. Again, when we were almost into
Baltimore, she asked to examine the gun-metal cigarette case, and
sat silent with it in her hands, while I told of the early morning's
events on the Ontario.
"So you see," I finished, "this grip, everything I have on, belongs
to a fellow named Sullivan. He probably left the train before the
wreck, - perhaps just after the murder."
"And so - you think he committed the - the crime?" Her eyes; were
on the cigarette case.
"Naturally," I said. "A man doesn't jump off a Pullman car in the
middle of the night in another man's clothes, unless he is trying
to get away from something. Besides the dirk, there were the stains
that you, saw. Why, I have the murdered man's pocket-book in this
valise at my feet. What does that look like?"
I colored when I saw the ghost of a smile hovering around the
corners of her mouth. "That is," I finished, "if you care to believe
that I am innocent."
The sustaining chain of her small gold bag gave way just then. She
did not notice it. I picked it up and slid the trinket into my
pocket for safekeeping, where I promptly forgot it. Afterwards I
wished I had let it lie unnoticed on the floor of that dirty little
suburban car, and even now, when I see a woman carelessly dangling
a similar feminine trinket, I shudder involuntarily: there comes
back to me the memory of a girl's puzzled eyes under the brim of a
flopping hat, the haunting suspicion of the sleepless nights that
Just then I was determined that my companion should not stray back
to the wreck, and to that end I was determinedly facetious.
"Do you know that it is Sunday?" she asked suddenly, "and that we
are actually ragged?"
"Never mind that," I retorted. "All Baltimore is divided on Sunday
into three parts, those who rise up and go to church, those who
rise up and read the newspapers, and those who don't rise up. The
first are somewhere between the creed and the sermon, and we need
not worry about the others."
"You treat me like a child," she said almost pettishly. "Don't try
so hard to be cheerful. It - it is almost ghastly."
After that I subsided like a pricked balloon, and the remainder of
the ride was made in silence. The information that she would go to
friends in the city was a shock: it meant an earlier separation
than I had planned for. But my arm was beginning again. In putting
her into a cab I struck it and gritted my teeth with the pain. It
was probably for that reason that I forgot the gold bag.
She leaned forward and held out her hand. "I may not have another
chance to thank you," she said, "and I think I would better not try,
anyhow. I cannot tell you how grateful I am." I muttered something
about the gratitude being mine: owing to the knock I was seeing two
cabs, and two girls were holding out two hands.
"Remember," they were both saying, "you have never met me, Mr.
Blakeley. And - if you ever hear anything about me - that is not
- pleasant, I want you to think the best you can of me. Will you?"
The two girls were one now, with little flashes of white light
playing all around. "I - I'm afraid that I shall think too well
for my own good," I said unsteadily. And the cab drove on.
THE NAME WAS SULLIVAN
I had my arm done up temporarily in Baltimore and took the next
train home. I was pretty far gone when I stumbled out of a cab
almost into the scandalized arms of Mrs. Klopton. In fifteen
minutes I was in bed, with that good woman piling on blankets
and blistering me in unprotected places with hot-water bottles.
And in an hour I had a whiff of chloroform and Doctor
Williams had set the broken bone.
I dropped asleep then, waking in the late twilight to a realization
that I was at home again, without the papers that meant conviction
for Andy Bronson, with a charge of murder hanging over my head, and
with something more than an impression of the girl my best friend
was in love with, a girl moreover who was almost as great an enigma
as the crime itself.
"And I'm no hand at guessing riddles," I groaned half aloud. Mrs.
Klopton came over promptly and put a cold cloth on my forehead.
"Euphemia," she said to some one outside the door, "telephone the
doctor that he is still rambling, but that he has switched from
green ribbons to riddles."
"There's nothing the matter with me, Mrs. Klopton," I rebelled.
"I was only thinking out loud. Confound that cloth: it's trickling
all over me!" I gave it a fling, and heard it land with a soggy
thud on the floor.
"Thinking out loud is delirium," Mrs. Klopton said imperturbably.
"A fresh doth, Euphemia."
This time she held it on with a firm pressure that I was too weak
to resist. I expostulated feebly that I was drowning, which she
also laid to my mental exaltation, and then I finally dropped into
a damp sleep. It was probably midnight when I roused again. I had
been dreaming of the wreck, and it was inexpressibly comforting to
feel the stability of my bed, and to realize the equal stability of
Mrs. Klopton, who sat, fully attired, by the night light, reading
Science and Health.
"Does that book say anything about opening the windows on a hot
night?" I suggested, when I had got my bearings.
She put it down immediately and came over to me. If there is one
time when Mrs. Klopton is chastened - and it is the only time - it
is when she reads Science and Health. "I don't like to open the
shutters, Mr. Lawrence," she explained. "Not since the night you
But, pressed further, she refused to explain. "The doctor said you
were not to be excited," she persisted. "Here's your beef tea."
"Not a drop until you tell me," I said firmly. "Besides, you know
very well there's nothing the matter with me. This arm of mine is
only a false belief." I sat up gingerly. "Now - why don't you open
Mrs. Klopton succumbed. "Because there are queer goings-on in that
house next door," she said. "If you will take the beef tea, Mr.
Lawrence, I will tell you."
The queer goings-on, however, proved to be slightly disappointing.
It seemed that after I left on Friday night, a light was seen
flitting fitfully through the empty house next door. Euphemia had
seen it first and called Mrs. Klopton. Together they had watched
it breathlessly until it disappeared on the lower floor.
"You should have been a writer of ghost stories," I said, giving my
pillows a thump. "And so it was fitting flitfully!"
"That's what it was doing," she reiterated. "Fitting flitfully - I
mean flitting fitfully - how you do throw me out, Mr. Lawrence! And
what's more, it came again!"
"Oh, come now, Mrs. Klopton," I objected, "ghosts are like lightning;
they never strike twice in the same night. That is only worth half
a cup of beef tea."
"You may ask Euphemia," she retorted with dignity. "Not more than
an hour after, there was a light there again. We saw it through
the chinks of the shutters. Only - this time it began at the lower
floor and climbed!"
"You oughtn't to tell ghost stories at night," came McKnight's voice
from the doorway. "Really, Mrs. Klopton, I'm amazed at you. You
old duffer! I've got you to thank for the worst day of my life."
Mrs. Klopton gulped. Then realizing that the "old duffer" was meant
for me, she took her empty cup and went out muttering.
"The Pirate's crazy about me, isn't she?" McKnight said to the
closing door. Then he swung around and held out his hand.
"By Jove," he said, "I've been laying you out all day, lilies on
the door-bell, black gloves, everything. If you had had the sense
of a mosquito in a snow-storm, you would have telephoned me."
"I never even thought of it." I was filled with remorse. "Upon my
word, Rich, I hadn't an idea beyond getting away from that place.
If you had seen what I saw - "
McKnight stopped me. "Seen it! Why, you lunatic, I've been digging
for you all day in the ruins! I've lunched and dined on horrors.
Give me something to rinse them down, Lollie."
He had fished the key of the cellarette from its hiding-place in my
shoe bag and was mixing himself what he called a Bernard Shaw - a
foundation of brandy and soda, with a little of everything else in
sight to give it snap. Now that I saw him clearly, he looked weary
and grimy. I hated to tell him what I knew he was waiting to hear,
but there was no use wading in by inches. I ducked and got it over.
"The notes are gone, Rich," I said, as quietly as I could. In
spite of himself his face fell.
"I - of course I expected it," he said. "But - Mrs. Klopton said
over the telephone that you had brought home a grip and I hoped
- well, Lord knows we ought not to complain. You're here, damaged,
but here." He lifted his glass. "Happy days, old man!"
"If you will give me that black bottle and a teaspoon, I'll drink
that in arnica, or whatever the stuff is; Rich, - the notes were
gone before the wreck!"
He wheeled and stared at me, the bottle in his hand. "Lost, strayed
or stolen?" he queried with forced lightness.
"Stolen, although I believe the theft was incidental to something
Mrs. Klopton came in at that moment, with an eggnog in her hand.
She glanced at the clock, and, without addressing any one in
particular, she intimated that it was time for self-respecting folks
to be at home in bed. McKnight, who could never resist a fling at
her back, spoke to me in a stage whisper.
"Is she talking still? or again?" he asked, just before the door
closed. There was a second's indecision with the knob, then,
judging discretion the better part, Mrs. Klopton went away.
"Now, then," McKnight said, settling himself in a chair beside the
bed, "spit it out. Not the wreck - I know all I want about that.
But the theft. I can tell you beforehand that it was a woman."
I had crawled painfully out of bed, and was in the act of pouring
the egg-nog down the pipe of the washstand. I paused, with the
glass in the air.
"A woman!" I repeated, startled. "What makes you think that?"
"You don't know the first principles of a good detective yarn," he
said scornfully. "Of course, it was the woman in the empty house
next door. You said it was brass pipes, you will remember. Well
- on with the dance: let joy be unconfined."
So I told the story; I had told it so many times that day that I
did it automatically. And I told about the girl with the bronze
hair, and my suspicions. But I did not mention Alison West.
McKnight listened to the end without interruption. When I had
finished he drew a long breath.
"Well!" he said. "That's something of a mess, isn't it? If you
can only prove your mild and child-like disposition, they couldn't
hold you for the murder - which is a regular ten-twent-thirt crime,
anyhow. But the notes - that's different. They are not burned,
anyhow. Your man wasn't on the train - therefore, he wasn't in the
wreck. If he didn't know what he was taking, as you seem to think,
he probably reads the papers, and unless he is a fathead, he's
awake by this time to what he's got. He'll try to sell them to
"Or to us," I put in.
We said nothing for a few minutes. McKnight smoked a cigarette and
stared at a photograph of Candida over the mantel. Candida is the
best pony for a heavy mount in seven states.
"I didn't go to Richmond," he observed finally. The remark followed
my own thoughts so closely that I started. "Miss West is not home yet
from Seal Harbor."
Receiving no response, he lapsed again into thoughtful silence. Mrs.
Klopton came in just as the clock struck one, and made preparation
for the night by putting a large gaudy comfortable into an arm-chair
in the dressing-room, with a smaller, stiff-backed chair for her
feet. She was wonderfully attired in a dressing-gown that was
reminiscent, in parts, of all the ones she had given me for a half
dozen Christmases, and she had a purple veil wrapped around her head,
to hide Heaven knows what deficiency. She examined the empty
egg-nog glass, inquired what the evening paper had said about the
weather, and then stalked into the dressing-room, and prepared, with
much ostentatious creaking, to sit up all night.
We fell silent again, while McKnight traced a rough outline of the
berths on the white table-cover, and puzzled it out slowly. It was
something like this:
| 12 | 10 | 8 |
| 11 | 9 | 7 |
"You think he changed the tags on seven and nine, so that when you
went back to bed you thought you were crawling into nine, when it
was really seven, eh?"
"Then toward morning, when everybody was asleep, your theory is that
he changed the numbers again and left the train."
"I can't think of anything else," I replied wearily.
"Jove, what a game of bridge that fellow would play! It was like
finessing an eight-spot and winning out. They would scarcely have
doubted your story had the tags been reversed in the morning. He
certainly left you in a bad way. Not a jury in the country would
stand out against the stains, the stiletto, and the murdered man's
pocket-book in your possession."
"Then you think Sullivan did it?" I asked.
"Of course," said McKnight confidently. "Unless you did it in your
sleep. Look at the stains on his pillow, and the dirk stuck into
it. And didn't he have the man Harrington's pocket-book?"
"But why did he go off without the money?" I persisted. "And where
does the bronze-haired girl come in?"
"Search me," McKnight retorted flippantly. "Inflammation of the
imagination on your part."
"Then there is the piece of telegram. It said lower ten, car seven.
It's extremely likely that she had it. That telegram was about me,
"I'm getting a headache," he said, putting out his cigarette against
the sole of his shoe. "All I'm certain of just now is that if there
hadn't been a wreck, by this time you'd be sitting in an eight by
ten cell, and feeling like the rhyme for it."
"But listen to this," I contended, as he picked up his hat, "this
fellow Sullivan is a fugitive, and he's a lot more likely to make
advances to Bronson than to us. We could have the case continued,
release Bronson on bail and set a watch on him."
"Not my watch," McKnight protested. "It's a family heirloom."
"You'd better go home," I said firmly. "Go home and go to bed.
You're sleepy. You can have Sullivan's red necktie to dream over
if you think it will help any."
Mrs. Klopton's voice came drowsily from the next room, punctuated
by a yawn. "Oh, I forgot to tell you," she called, with the
suspicious lisp which characterizes her at night, "somebody called
up about noon, Mr. Lawrence. It was long distance, and he said
he would call again. The name was" - she yawned - "Sullivan."
THE GOLD BAG
I have always smiled at those cases of spontaneous combustion which,
like fusing the component parts of a seidlitz powder, unite two
people in a bubbling and ephemeral ecstasy. But surely there is
possible, with but a single meeting, an attraction so great, a
community of mind and interest so strong, that between that first
meeting and the next the bond may grow into something stronger.
This is especially true, I fancy, of people with temperament, the
modern substitute for imagination. It is a nice question whether
lovers begin to love when they are together, or when they are apart.
Not that I followed any such line of reasoning at the time. I would
not even admit my folly to myself. But during the restless hours of
that first night after the accident, when my back ached with lying
on it, and any other position was torture, I found my thoughts
constantly going back to Alison West. I dropped into a doze, to
dream of touching her fingers again to comfort her, and awoke to
find I had patted a teaspoonful of medicine out of Mrs. Klopton's
indignant hand. What was it McKnight had said about making an
egregious ass of myself?
And that brought me back to Richey, and I fancy I groaned. There is
no use expatiating on the friendship between two men who have gone
together through college, have quarreled and made it up, fussed
together over politics and debated creeds for years: men don't need
to be told, and women can not understand. Nevertheless, I groaned.
If it had been any one but Rich!
Some things were mine, however, and I would hold them: the halcyon
breakfast, the queer hat, the pebble in her small shoe, the gold
bag with the broken chain - the bag! Why, it was in my pocket at
I got up painfully and found my coat. Yes, there was the purse,
bulging with an opulent suggestion of wealth inside. I went back
to bed again, somewhat dizzy, between effort and the touch of the
trinket, so lately hers. I held it up by its broken chain and
gloated over it. By careful attention to orders, I ought to be out
in a day or so. Then - I could return it to her. I really ought
to do that: it was valuable, and I wouldn't care to trust it to the
mail. I could run down to Richmond, and see her once - there was
no disloyalty to Rich in that.
I had no intention of opening the little bag. I put it under my
pillow - which was my reason for refusing to have the linen slips
changed, to Mrs. Klopton's dismay. And sometimes during the morning,
while I lay under a virgin field of white, ornamented with strange
flowers, my cigarettes hidden beyond discovery, and Science and
Health on a table by my elbow, as if by the merest accident, I slid
my hand under my pillow and touched it reverently.
McKnight came in about eleven. I heard his car at the curb, followed
almost immediately by his slam at the front door, and his usual
clamor on the stairs. He had a bottle under his arm, rightly
surmising that I had been forbidden stimulant, and a large box of
cigarettes in his pocket, suspecting my deprivation.
"Well," he said cheerfully. "How did you sleep after keeping me up
half the night?"
I slid my hand around: the purse was well covered. "Have it now,
or wait till I get the cork out?" he rattled on.
"I don't want anything," I protested. "I wish you wouldn't be so
darned cheerful, Richey." He stopped whistling to stare at me.
"'I am saddest when I sing!'" he quoted unctuously. "It's pure
reaction, Lollie. Yesterday the sky was low: I was digging for my
best friend. To-day - he lies before me, his peevish self.
Yesterday I thought the notes were burned: to-day - I look forward
to a good cross-country chase, and with luck we will draw." His
voice changed suddenly. "Yesterday - she was in Seal Harbor. To-day
- she is here."
"Here in Washington?" I asked, as naturally as I could.
"Yes. Going to stay a week or two."
"Oh, I had a little hen and she had a wooden leg
And nearly every morning she used to lay an egg - "
"Will you stop that racket, Rich! It's the real thing this time,
"She's the best little chicken that we have on the farm
And another little drink won't do us any harm - "
he finished, twisting out the corkscrew. Then he came over and sat
down on the bed.
"Well," he said judicially, "since you drag it from me, I think
perhaps it is. You - you're such a confirmed woman-hater that I
hardly knew how you would take it."
"Nothing of the sort," I denied testily. "Because a man reaches
the age of thirty without making maudlin love to every - "
"I've taken to long country rides," he went on reflectively, without
listening to me, "and yesterday I ran over a sheep; nearly went into
the ditch. But there's a Providence that watches over fools and
lovers, and just now I know darned well that I'm one, and I have a
sneaking idea I'm both."
"You are both," I said with disgust. "If you can be rational for
one moment, I wish you would tell me why that man Sullivan called me
over the telephone yesterday morning."
"Probably hadn't yet discovered the Bronson notes - providing you
hold to your theory that the theft was incidental to the murder.
May have wanted his own clothes again, or to thank you for yours.
Search me: I can't think of anything else." The doctor came in
As I said before, I think a lot of my doctor - when I am ill. He
is a young man, with an air of breezy self-confidence and good
humor. He looked directly past the bottle, which is a very valuable
accomplishment, and shook hands with McKnight until I could put the
cigarettes under the bedclothes. He had interdicted tobacco. Then
he sat down beside the bed and felt around the bandages with hands
as gentle as a baby's.
"Pretty good shape," he said. "How did you sleep?"
"Oh, occasionally," I replied. "I would like to sit up, doctor."
"Nonsense. Take a rest while you have an excuse for it. I wish to
thunder I could stay in bed for a day or so. I was up all night."
"Have a drink," McKnight said, pushing over the bottle.
"Twins!" The doctor grinned.
"Have two drinks."
But the medical man refused.
"I wouldn't even wear a champagne-colored necktie during business
hours," he explained. "By the way, I had another case from your
accident, Mr. Blakeley, late yesterday afternoon. Under the tongue,
please." He stuck a thermometer in my mouth.
I had a sudden terrible vision of the amateur detective coming to
light, note-book, cheerful impertinence and incriminating data. "A
small man?" I demanded, "gray hair - "
"Keep your mouth closed," the doctor said peremptorily. "No. A
woman, with a fractured skull. Beautiful case. Van Kirk was up to
his eyes and sent for me. Hemorrhage, right-sided paralysis, irregular
pupils - all the trimmings. Worked for two hours."
"Did she recover?" McKnight put in. He was examining the doctor
with a new awe.
"She lifted her right arm before I left," the doctor finished
cheerily, "so the operation was a success, even if she should die."
"Good Heavens," McKnight broke in, "and I thought you were just an
ordinary mortal, like the rest of us! Let me touch you for luck.
Was she pretty?"
"Yes, and young. Had a wealth of bronze-colored hair. Upon my
soul, I hated to cut it."
McKnight and I exchanged glances.
"Do you know her name, doctor?" I asked.
"No. The nurses said her clothes came from a Pittsburg tailor."
"She is not conscious, I suppose?"
"No; she may be, to-morrow - or in a week."
He looked at the thermometer, murmured something about liquid diet,
avoiding my eye - Mrs. Klopton was broiling a chop at the time - and
took his departure, humming cheerfully as he went down-stairs.
McKnight looked after him wistfully.
"Jove, I wish I had his constitution," he exclaimed. "Neither
nerves nor heart! What a chauffeur he would make!"
But I was serious.
"I have an idea," I said grimly, "that this small matter of the
murder is going to come up again, and that your uncle will be in
the deuce of a fix if it does. If that woman is going to die,
somebody ought to be around to take her deposition. She knows a
lot, if she didn't do it herself. I wish you would go down to
the telephone and get the hospital. Find out her name, and if she
McKnight went under protest. "I haven't much time," he said,
looking at his watch. "I'm to meet Mrs. West and Alison at one.
I want you to know them, Lollie. You would like the mother."
"Why not the daughter?" I inquired. I touched the little gold bag
under the pillow.
"Well," he said judicially, "you've always declared against the
immaturity and romantic nonsense of very young women - "
"I never said anything of the sort," I retorted furiously.
"'There is more satisfaction to be had out of a good saddle horse!'"
he quoted me. "'More excitement out of a polo pony, and as for
the eternal matrimonial chase, give me instead a good stubble, a
fox, some decent hounds and a hunter, and I'll show you the real
joys of the chase!'"
"For Heaven's sake, go down to the telephone, you make my head ache,"
I said savagely.
I hardly know what prompted me to take out the gold purse and look
at it. It was an imbecile thing to do - call it impulse,
sentimentality, what you wish. I brought it out, one eye on the
door, for Mrs. Klopton has a ready eye and a noiseless shoe. But
the house was quiet. Down-stairs McKnight was flirting with the
telephone central and there was an odor of boneset tea in the air.
I think Mrs. Klopton was fascinated out of her theories by the
"boneset" in connection with the fractured arm.
Anyhow, I held up the bag and looked at it. It must have been
unfastened, for the next instant there was an avalanche on the
snowfield of the counterpane - some money, a wisp of a handkerchief,
a tiny booklet with thin leaves, covered with a powdery substance
- and a necklace. I drew myself up slowly and stared at the
It was one of the semi-barbaric affairs that women are wearing now,
a heavy pendant of gold chains and carved cameos, swung from a thin
neck chain of the same metal. The necklace was broken: in three
places the links were pulled apart and the cameos swung loose
and partly detached. But it was the supporting chain that held my
eye and fascinated with its sinister suggestion. Three inches of
it had been snapped off, and as well as I knew anything on earth, I
knew that the bit of chain that the amateur detective had found,
blood-stain and all, belonged just there.
And there was no one I could talk to about it, no one to tell me
how hideously absurd it was, no one to give me a slap and tell me
there are tons of fine gold chains made every year, or to point out
the long arm of coincidence!
With my one useful hand I fumbled the things back into the bag and
thrust it deep out of sight among the pillows. Then I lay back in
a cold perspiration. What connection had Alison West with this
crime? Why had she stared so at the gun-metal cigarette case that
morning on the train? What had alarmed her so at the farm-house?
What had she taken back to the gate? Why did she wish she had not
escaped from the wreck? And last, in Heaven's name, how did a part
of her necklace become torn off and covered with blood?
Down-stairs McKnight was still at the telephone, and amusing himself
with Mrs. Klopton in the interval of waiting.
"Why did he come home in a gray suit, when he went away in a blue?"
he repeated. "Well, wrecks are queer things, Mrs. Klopton. The suit
may have turned gray with fright. Or perhaps wrecks do as queer
stunts as lightning. Friend of mine once was struck by lightning; he
and the caddy had taken refuge under a tree. After the flash, when
they recovered consciousness, there was my friend in the caddy's
clothes, and the caddy in his. And as my friend was a large man
and the caddy a very small boy - "
McKnight's story was interrupted by the indignant slam of the
dining-room door. He was obliged to wait some time, and even his
eternal cheerfulness was ebbing when he finally got the hospital.
"Is Doctor Van Kirk there?" he asked. "Not there? Well, can you
tell me how the patient is whom Doctor Williams, from Washington,
operated on last night? Well, I'm glad of that. Is she conscious?
Do you happen to know her name? Yes, I'll hold the line." There
was a long pause, then McKnight's voice:
"Hello - yes. Thank you very much. Good-by."
He came up-stairs, two steps at a time.
"Look here," he said, bursting into the room, "there may be
something in your theory, after all. The woman's name - it may be
a coincidence, but it's curious - her name is Sullivan."
"What did I tell you?" I said, sitting up suddenly in bed. "She's
probably a sister of that scoundrel in lower seven, and she was
afraid of what he might do."
"Well, I'll go there some day soon. She's not conscious yet. In
the meantime, the only thing I can do is to keep an eye, through a
detective, on the people who try to approach Bronson. We'll have
the case continued, anyhow, in the hope that the stolen notes will
sooner or later turn up."
"Confound this arm," I said, paying for my energy with some
excruciating throbs. "There's so much to be looked after, and here
I am, bandaged, splinted, and generally useless. It's a beastly
"Don't forget that I am here," said McKnight pompously. "And
another thing, when you feel this way just remember there are two
less desirable places where you might be. One is jail, and the
other is - " He strummed on an imaginary harp, with devotional
But McKnight's light-heartedness jarred on me that morning. I lay
and frowned under my helplessness. When by chance I touched the
little gold bag, it seemed to scorch my fingers. Richey, finding
me unresponsive, left to keep his luncheon engagement with Alison
West. As he clattered down the stairs, I turned my back to the
morning sunshine and abandoned myself to misery. By what strain
on her frayed nerves was Alison West keeping up, I wondered? Under
the circumstances, would I dare to return the bag? Knowing that I
had it, would she hate me for my knowledge? Or had I exaggerated
the importance of the necklace, and in that case had she forgotten
But McKnight had not gone, after all. I heard him coming back, his
voice preceding him, and I groaned with irritation.
"Wake up!" he called. "Somebody's sent you a lot of flowers.
Please hold the box, Mrs. Klopton; I'm going out to be run down by
I roused to feeble interest. My brother's wife is punctilious about
such things; all the new babies in the family have silver rattles,
and all the sick people flowers.
McKnight pulled up an armful of roses, and held them out to me.
"Wonder who they're from?" he said, fumbling in the box for a card.
"There's no name - yes, here's one."
He held it up and read it with exasperating slowness.
"'Best wishes for an early recovery.
A COMPANION IN MISFORTUNE.'
"Well, what do you know about that!" he exclaimed. "That's something
you didn't tell me, Lollie."
"It was hardly worth mentioning," I said mendaciously, with my heart
beating until I could hear it. She had not forgotten, after all.
McKnight took a bud and fastened it in his button-hole. I'm afraid
I was not especially pleasant about it. They were her roses, and
anyhow, they were meant for me. Richey left very soon, with an
irritating final grin at the box.
"Good-by, sir woman-hater," he jeered at me from the door.
So he wore one of the roses she had sent me, to luncheon with her,
and I lay back among my pillows and tried to remember that it was
his game, anyhow, and that I wasn't even drawing cards. To remember
that, and to forget the broken necklace under my head!
I was in the house for a week. Much of that time I spent in
composing and destroying letters of thanks to Miss West, and in
growling at the doctor. McKnight dropped in daily, but he was less
cheerful than usual. Now and then I caught him eying me as if he
had something to say, but whatever it was he kept it to himself.
Once during the week he went to Baltimore and saw the woman in the
hospital there. From the description I had little difficulty in
recognizing the young woman who had been with the murdered man in
Pittsburg. But she was still unconscious. An elderly aunt had
appeared, a gaunt person in black, who sat around like a buzzard
on a fence, according to McKnight, and wept, in a mixed figure,
into a damp handkerchief.
On the last day of my imprisonment he stopped in to thrash out a
case that was coming up in court the next day, and to play a game
of double solitaire with me.
"Who won the ball game?" I asked.
"We were licked. Ask me something pleasant. Oh, by the way,
Bronson's out to-day."
"I'm glad I'm not on his bond," I said pessimistically. "He'll
Not he." McKnight pounced on my ace. "He's no fool. Don't you
suppose he knows you took those notes to Pittsburg? The papers
were full of it. And he knows you escaped with your life and a
broken arm from the wreck. What do we do next? The Commonwealth
continues the case. A deaf man on a dark night would know those
notes are missing."
"Don't play so fast," I remonstrated. "I have only one arm to
your two. Who is trailing Bronson? Did you try to get Johnson?"
"I asked for him, but he had some work on hand."
"The murder's evidently a dead issue," I reflected. "No, I'm not
joking. The wreck destroyed all the evidence. But I'm firmly
convinced those notes will be offered, either to us or to Bronson
very soon. Johnson's a blackguard, but he's a good detective. He
could make his fortune as a game dog. What's he doing?"
McKnight put down his cards, and rising, went to the window. As he
held the curtain back his customary grin looked a little forced.
"To tell you the truth, Lollie," he said, "for the last two days he
has been watching a well-known Washington attorney named Lawrence
Blakeley. He's across the street now."
It took a moment for me to grasp what he meant.
"Why, it's ridiculous," I asserted. "What would they trail me for?
Go over and tell Johnson to get out of there, or I'll pot at him
with my revolver."
"You can tell him that yourself." McKnight paused and bent forward.
"Hello, here's a visitor; little man with string halt."
"I won't see him," I said firmly. "I've been bothered enough with
We listened together to Mrs. Klopton's expostulating tones in the
lower hall and the creak of the boards as she came heavily up the
stairs. She had a piece of paper in her hand torn from a pocket
account-book, and on it was the name, Mr. Wilson Budd Hotchkiss.
"Oh, well, show him up," I said resignedly. "You'd better put those
cards away, Richey. I fancy it's the rector of the church around
But when the door opened to admit a curiously alert little man,
adjusting his glasses with nervous fingers, my face must have shown
It was the amateur detective of the Ontario!
I shook hands without enthusiasm. Here was the one survivor of the
wrecked car who could do me any amount of harm. There was no hope
that he had forgotten any of the incriminating details. In fact,
he held in his hand the very note-book which contained them.
His manner was restrained, but it was evident he was highly excited.
I introduced him to McKnight, who has the imagination I lack, and
who placed him at once, mentally.
"I only learned yesterday that you had been - er - saved," he said
rapidly. "Terrible accident - unspeakable. Dream about it all night
and think about it all day. Broken arm?"
"No. He just wears the splint to be different from other people,"
McKnight drawled lazily. I glared at him: there was nothing to be
gained by antagonizing the little man.
"Yes, a fractured humerus, which isn't as funny as it sounds."
"Humerus-humorous! Pretty good," he cackled. "I must say you keep
up your spirits pretty well, considering everything."
"You seem to have escaped injury," I parried. He was fumbling for
something in his pockets.
"Yes, I escaped," he replied abstractedly. "Remarkable thing, too.
I haven't a doubt I would have broken my neck, but I landed on
- you'll never guess what! I landed head first on the very pillow
which was under inspection at the time of the wreck. You remember,
don't you? Where did I put that package?"
He found it finally and opened it on a table, displaying with some
theatricalism a rectangular piece of muslin and a similar patch of
"You recognize it?" he said. "The stains, you see, and the hole
made by the dirk. I tried to bring away the entire pillow, but they
thought I was stealing it, and made me give it up."
Richey touched the pieces gingerly. "By George," he said, "and you
carry that around in your pocket! What if you should mistake it for
But Mr. Hotchkiss was not listening. He stood bent somewhat forward,
leaning over the table, and fixed me with his ferret-like eyes.
"Have you see the evening papers, Mr. Blakeley?" he inquired.
I glanced to where they lay unopened, and shook my head.
"Then I have a disagreeable task," he said with evident relish. "Of
course, you had considered the matter of the man Harrington's death
closed, after the wreck. I did myself. As far as I was concerned, I
meant to let it remain so. There were no other survivors, at least
none that I knew of, and in spite of circumstances, there were a
number of points in your favor."
"Thank you," I put in with a sarcasm that was lost on him.
"I verified your identity, for instance, as soon as I recovered from
the shock. Also - I found on inquiring of your tailor that you
invariably wore dark clothing."
McKnight came forward threateningly. "Who are you, anyhow?" he
demanded. "And how is this any business of yours?" Mr. Hotchkiss
was entirely unruffled.
"I have a minor position here," he said, reaching for a visiting
card. "I am a very small patch on the seat of government, sir."
McKnight muttered something about certain offensive designs against
the said patch and retired grumbling to the window. Our visitor
was opening the paper with a tremendous expenditure of energy.
"Here it is. Listen." He read rapidly aloud:
"The Pittsburg police have sent to Baltimore two detectives who are
looking up the survivors of the ill-fated Washington Flier. It has
transpired that Simon Harrington, the Wood Street merchant of that
city, was not killed in the wreck, but was murdered in his berth
the night preceding the accident. Shortly before the collision,
John Flanders, the conductor of the Flier, sent this telegram to the
chief of police:
"'Body of Simon Harrington found stabbed in his berth, lower ten,
Ontario, at six-thirty this morning.
JOHN FLANDERS, Conductor.'
"It is hoped that the survivors of the wrecked car Ontario will be
found, to tell what they know of the discovery of the crime.
"Mr. John Gilmore, head of the steel company for which Mr. Harrington
was purchasing agent, has signified his intention of sifting the
matter to the bottom.
"So you see," Hotchkiss concluded, "there's trouble brewing. You
and I are the only survivors of that unfortunate car."
I did not contradict him, but I knew of two others, at least: Alison
West, and the woman we had left beside the road that morning,
babbling incoherently, her black hair tumbling over her white face.
"Unless we can find the man who occupied lower seven," I suggested.
"I have already tried and failed. To find him would not clear you,
of course, unless we could establish some connection between him and
the murdered man. It is the only thing I see, however. I have
learned this much," Hotchkiss concluded: "Lower seven was reserved
Cresson! Where Alison West and Mrs. Curtis had taken the train!
McKnight came forward and suddenly held out his hand. "Mr.
Hotchkiss," he said, "I - I'm sorry if I have been offensive. I
thought when you came in, that, like the Irishman and the government,
you were 'forninst' us. If you will put those cheerful relics out
of sight somewhere, I should be glad to have you dine with me at
the Incubator." (His name for his bachelor apartment.) "Compared
with Johnson, you are the great original protoplasm."
The strength of this was lost on Hotchkiss, but the invitation was
clear. They went out together, and from my window I watched them
get into McKnight's car. It was raining, and at the corner the
Cannonball skidded. Across the street my detective, Johnson,
looked after them with his crooked smile. As he turned up his
collar he saw me, and lifted his hat.
I left the window and sat down in the growing dusk. So the occupant
of lower seven had got on the car at Cresson, probably with Alison
West and her companion. There was some one she cared about enough
to shield. I went irritably to the door and summoned Mrs. Klopton.
"You may throw out those roses," I said without looking at her.
"They are quite dead."
"They have been quite dead for three days," she retorted spitefully.
"Euphemia said you threatened to dismiss her if she touched them."
By Sunday evening, a week after the wreck, my inaction had goaded
me to frenzy. The very sight of Johnson across the street or
lurking, always within sight of the house, kept me constantly
exasperated. It was on that day that things began to come to a
focus, a burning-glass of events that seemed to center on me.
I dined alone that evening in no cheerful frame of mind. There
had been a polo game the day before and I had lent a pony, which
is always a bad thing to do. And she had wrenched her shoulder,
besides helping to lose the game. There was no one in town: the
temperature was ninety and climbing, and my left hand persistently
cramped under its bandage.
Mrs. Klopton herself saw me served, my bread buttered and cut in
tidbits, my meat ready for my fork. She hovered around me
maternally, obviously trying to cheer me.
"The paper says still warmer," she ventured. "The thermometer is
"And this coffee is two hundred and fifty," I said, putting down
my cup. "Where is Euphemia? I haven't seen her around, or heard a
dish smash all day."
"Euphemia is in bed," Mrs. Klopton said gravely. "Is your meat cut
small enough, Mr. Lawrence?" Mrs. Klopton can throw more mystery
into an ordinary sentence than any one I know. She can say, "Are
your sheets damp, sir?" And I can tell from her tone that the
house across the street has been robbed, or that my left hand
neighbor has appendicitis. So now I looked up and asked the
question she was waiting for.
"What's the matter with Euphemia?" I inquired idly.
"Frightened into her bed," Mrs. Klopton said in a stage whisper.
"She's had three hot water bottles and she hasn't done a thing all
day but moan."
"She oughtn't to take hot water bottles," I said in my severest
tone. "One would make me moan. You need not wait, I'll ring if I
Mrs. Klopton sailed to the door, where she stopped and wheeled
indignantly. "I only hope you won't laugh on the wrong side of
your face some morning, Mr. Lawrence," she declared, with
Christian fortitude. "But I warn you, I am going to have the
police watch that house next door."
I was half inclined to tell her that both it and we were under
police surveillance at that moment. But I like Mrs. Klopton, in
spite of the fact that I make her life a torment for her, so I
"Last night, when the paper said it was going to storm, I sent
Euphemia to the roof to bring the rugs in. Eliza had slipped out,
although it was her evening in. Euphemia went up to the roof - it
was eleven o'clock - and soon I heard her running down-stairs crying.
When she got to my room she just folded up on the floor. She said
there was a black figure sitting on the parapet of the house next
door - the empty house - and that when she appeared it rose and waved
long black arms at her and spit like a cat."
I had finished my dinner and was lighting a cigarette. "If there
was any one up there, which I doubt, they probably sneezed," I
suggested. "But if you feel uneasy, I'll take a look around the
roof to-night before I turn in. As far as Euphemia goes, I wouldn't
be uneasy about her - doesn't she always have an attack of some sort
when Eliza rings in an extra evening on her?"
So I made a superficial examination of the window locks that night,
visiting parts of the house that I had not seen since I bought it.
Then I went to the roof. Evidently it had not been intended for
any purpose save to cover the house, for unlike the houses around,
there was no staircase. A ladder and a trap-door led to it, and it
required some nice balancing on my part to get up with my useless
arm. I made it, however, and found this unexplored part of my
domain rather attractive. It was cooler than down-stairs, and I
sat on the brick parapet and smoked my final cigarette. The roof
of the empty house adjoined mine along the back wing, but
investigation showed that the trap-door across the low dividing
wall was bolted underneath.
There was nothing out of the ordinary anywhere, and so I assured
Mrs. Klopton. Needless to say, I did not tell her that I had left
the trap-door open, to see if it would improve the temperature of
the house. I went to bed at midnight, merely because there was
nothing else to do. I turned on the night lamp at the head of my
bed, and picked up a volume of Shaw at random (it was Arms and the
Man, and I remember thinking grimly that I was a good bit of a
chocolate cream soldier myself), and prepared to go to sleep.
Shaw always puts me to sleep. I have no apologies to make for what
occurred that night, and not even an explanation that I am sure of.
I did a foolish thing under impulse, and I have not been sorry.
It was something after two when the door-bell rang. It rang quickly,
twice. I got up drowsily, for the maids and Mrs. Klopton always
lock themselves beyond reach of the bell at night, and put on a
dressing-gown. The bell rang again on my way down-stairs. I lit
the hall light and opened the door. I was wide-awake now, and I saw
that it was Johnson. His bald head shone in the light - his crooked
mouth was twisted in a smile.
"Good Heavens, man," I said irritably. "Don't you ever go home and
go to bed?"
He closed the vestibule door behind him and cavalierly turned out
the light. Our dialogue was sharp, staccato.
"Have you a key to the empty house next door?" he demanded.
"Somebody's in there, and the latch is caught."
"The houses are alike. The key to this door may fit. Did you see
them go in?"
"No. There's a light moving up from room to room. I saw something
like it last night, and I have been watching. The patrolman
reported queer doings there a week or so ago."
"A light!" I exclaimed. "Do you mean that you - "
"Very likely," he said grimly. "Have you a revolver?"
"All kinds in the gun rack," I replied, and going into the den, I
came back with a Smith and Wesson. "I'm not much use," I explained,
"with this arm, but I'll do what I can. There may be somebody there.
The servants here have been uneasy."
Johnson planned the campaign. He suggested on account of my
familiarity with the roof, that I go there and cut off escape in
that direction. "I have Robison out there now - the patrolman on
the beat," he said. "He'll watch below and you above, while I
search the house. Be as quiet as possible."
I was rather amused. I put on some clothes and felt my way carefully
up the stairs, the revolver swinging free in my pocket, my hand on
the rail. At the foot of the ladder I stopped and looked up. Above
me there was a gray rectangle of sky dotted with stars. It occurred
to me that with my one serviceable hand holding the ladder, I was
hardly in a position to defend myself, that I was about to hoist a
body that I am rather careful of into a danger I couldn't see and
wasn't particularly keen about anyhow. I don't mind saying that the
seconds it took me to scramble up the ladder were among the most
unpleasant that I recall.
I got to the top, however, without incident. I could see fairly
well after the darkness of the house beneath, but there was nothing
suspicious in sight. The roofs, separated by two feet of brick
wall, stretched around me, unbroken save by an occasional chimney.
I went very softly over to the other trap, the one belonging to
the suspected house. It was closed, but I imagined I could hear
Johnson's footsteps ascending heavily. Then even that was gone.
A near-by clock struck three as I stood waiting. I examined my
revolver then, for the first time, and found it was empty!
I had been rather skeptical until now. I had had the usual tolerant
attitude of the man who is summoned from his bed to search for
burglars, combined with the artificial courage of firearms. With
the discovery of my empty gun, I felt like a man on the top of a
volcano in lively eruption. Suddenly I found myself staring
incredulously at the trap-door at my feet. I had examined it early
in the evening and found it bolted. Did I imagine it, or had it
raised about an inch? Wasn't it moving slowly as I looked? No, I
am not a hero: I was startled almost into a panic. I had one arm,
and whoever was raising that trap-door had two. My knees had a
queer inclination to bend the wrong way.
Johnson's footsteps were distinct enough, but he was evidently far
below. The trap, raised perhaps two inches now, remained stationary.
There was no sound from beneath it: once I thought I heard two or
three gasping respirations: I am not sure they were not my own. I
wanted desperately to stand on one leg at a time and hold the other
up out of focus of a possible revolver.
I did not see the hand appear. There was nothing there, and then
it was there, clutching the frame of the trap. I did the only thing
I could think of; I put my foot on it!
There was not a sound from beneath. The next moment I was kneeling
and had clutched the wrist just above the hand. After a second's
struggle, the arm was still. With something real to face, I was
"Don't move, or I'll stand on the trap and break your arm," I panted.
What else could I threaten? I couldn't shoot, I couldn't even fight.
"Johnson!" I called.
And then I realized the thing that stayed with me for a month, the
thing I can not think of even now without a shudder. The hand lay
ice cold, strangely quiescent. Under my fingers, an artery was
beating feebly. The wrist was as slender as - I held the hand to
the light. Then I let it drop.
"Good Lord," I muttered, and remained on my knees, staring at the
spot where the hand had been. It was gone now: there was a faint
rustle in the, darkness below, and then silence.
I held up my own hand in the starlight and stared at a long scratch
in the palm. "A woman!" I said to myself stupidly. "By all that's
ridiculous, a woman!"
Johnson was striking matches below and swearing softly to himself.
"How the devil do you get to the roof?" he called. "I think I've
broken my nose."
He found the ladder after a short search and stood at the bottom,
looking up at me. "Well, I suppose you haven't seen him?" he
inquired. "There are enough darned cubbyholes in this house to
hide a patrol wagon load of thieves." He lighted a fresh match.
"Hello, here's another door!"
By the sound of his diminishing footsteps I supposed it was a rear
staircase. He came up again in ten minutes or so, this time with
"He's gone, all right," he said ruefully. "If you'd been attending
to your business, Robison, you'd have watched the back door."
"I'm not twins." Robison was surly.
"Well," I broke in, as cheerfully as I could, "if you are through
with this jolly little affair, and can get down my ladder without
having my housekeeper ring the burglar alarm, I have some good
Monongahela whisky - eh?"
They came without a second invitation across the roof, and with
them safely away from the house I breathed more freely. Down in
the den I fulfilled my promise, which Johnson drank to the toast,
"Coming through the rye." He examined my gun rack with the eye
of a connoisseur, and even when he was about to go he cast a
loving eye back at the weapons.
"Ever been in the army?" he inquired.
"No," I said with a bitterness that he noticed but failed to
comprehend. "I'm a chocolate cream soldier - you don't read Shaw,
I suppose, Johnson?"
"Never heard of him," the detective said indifferently. "Well,
good night, Mr. Blakeley. Much obliged." At the door he hesitated
"I suppose you understand, Mr. Blakeley," he said awkwardly, "that
this - er - surveillance is all in the day's work. I don't like it,
but it's duty. Every man to his duty, sir."
"Sometime when you are in an open mood, Johnson," I returned, "you
can explain why I am being watched at all."
On Monday I went out for the first time. I did not go to the
office. I wanted to walk. I thought fresh air and exercise would
drive away the blue devils that had me by the throat. McKnight
insisted on a long day in his car, but I refused.
"I don't know why not," he said sulkily. "I can't walk. I haven't
walked two consecutive blocks in three years. Automobiles have
made legs mere ornaments - and some not even that. We could have
Johnson out there chasing us over the country at five dollars an
"He can chase us just as well at five miles an hour," I said. "But
what gets me, McKnight, is why I am under surveillance at all. How
do the police know I was accused of that thing?"
"The young lady who sent the flowers - she isn't likely to talk, is
"No. That is, I didn't say it was a lady." I groaned as I tried
to get my splinted arm into a coat. "Anyhow, she didn't tell," I
finished with conviction, and McKnight laughed.
It had rained in the early morning, and Mrs. Klopton predicted more
showers. In fact, so firm was her belief and so determined her eye
that I took the umbrella she proffered me.
"Never mind," I said. "We can leave it next door; I have a story
to tell you, Richey, and it requires proper setting."
McKnight was puzzled, but he followed me obediently round to the
kitchen entrance of the empty house. It was unlocked, as I had
expected. While we climbed to the upper floor I retailed the
events of the previous night.
"It's the finest thing I ever heard of," McKnight said, staring up
at the ladder and the trap. "What a vaudeville skit it would make!
Only you ought not to have put your foot on her hand. They don't
do it in the best circles."
I wheeled on him impatiently.
"You don't understand the situation at all, Richey!" I exclaimed.
"What would you say if I tell you it was the hand of a lady? It
was covered with rings."
"A lady!" he repeated. "Why, I'd say it was a darned compromising
situation, and that the less you say of it the better. Look here,
Lawrence, I think you dreamed it. You've been in the house too
much. I take it all back: you do need exercise."
"She escaped through this door, I suppose," I said as patiently as
I could. "Evidently down the back staircase. We might as well go
down that way."
"According to the best precedents in these affairs, we should find
a glove about here," he said as we started down. But he was more
impressed than he cared to own. He examined the dusty steps
carefully, and once, when a bit of loose plaster fell just behind
him, he started like a nervous woman.
"What I don't understand is why you let her go," he said, stopping
once, puzzled. "You're not usually quixotic."
"When we get out into the country, Richey," I replied gravely, "I
am going to tell you another story, and if you don't tell me I'm a
fool and a craven, on the strength of it, you are no friend of mine."
We stumbled through the twilight of the staircase into the blackness
of the shuttered kitchen. The house had the moldy smell of closed
buildings: even on that warm September morning it was damp and chilly.
As we stepped into the sunshine McKnight gave a shiver.
"Now that we are out," he said, "I don't mind telling you that I
have been there before. Do you remember the night you left, and,
the face at the window?"
"When you speak of it - yes."
"Well, I was curious about that thing," he went on, as we started
up the street, "and I went back. The street door was unlocked, and
I examined every room. I was Mrs. Klopton's ghost that carried a
light, and clumb."
"Did you find anything?"
"Only a clean place rubbed on the window opposite your dressing-room.
Splendid view of an untidy interior. If that house is ever occupied,
you'd better put stained glass in that window of yours."
As we turned the corner I glanced back. Half a block behind us
Johnson was moving our way slowly. When he saw me he stopped and
proceeded with great deliberation to light a cigar. By hurrying,
however, he caught the car that we took, and stood unobtrusively
on the rear platform. He looked fagged, and absent-mindedly paid
our fares, to McKnight's delight.
"We will give him a run for his money," he declared, as the car
moved countryward. "Conductor, let us off at the muddiest lane
you can find."
At one o'clock, after a six-mile ramble, we entered a small country
hotel. We had seen nothing of Johnson for a half hour. At that
time he was a quarter of a mile behind us, and losing rapidly.
Before we had finished our luncheon he staggered into the inn. One
of his boots was under his arm, and his whole appearance was
deplorable. He was coated with mud, streaked with perspiration, and
he limped as he walked. He chose a table not far from us and
ordered Scotch. Beyond touching his hat he paid no attention to us.
"I'm just getting my second wind," McKnight declared. "How do you
feel, Mr. Johnson? Six or eight miles more and we'll all enjoy our
dinners." Johnson put down the glass he had raised to his lips
The fact was, however, that I was like Johnson. I was soft from my
week's inaction, and I was pretty well done up. McKnight, who was
a well spring of vitality and high spirits, ordered a strange
concoction, made of nearly everything in the bar, and sent it over
to the detective, but Johnson refused it.
"I hate that kind of person," McKnight said pettishly. "Kind of a
fellow that thinks you're going to poison his dog if you offer him
When we got back to the car line, with Johnson a draggled and
drooping tail to the kite, I was in better spirits. I had told
McKnight the story of the three hours just after the wreck; I had
not named the girl, of course; she had my promise of secrecy. But
I told him everything else. It was a relief to have a fresh mind
on it: I had puzzled so much over the incident at the farm-house,
and the necklace in the gold bag, that I had lost perspective.
He had been interested, but inclined to be amused, until I came to
the broken chain. Then he had whistled softly.
"But there are tons of fine gold chains made every year," he said.
"Why in the world do you think that the - er - smeary piece came
from that necklace?"
I had looked around. Johnson was far behind, scraping the mud off
his feet with a piece of stick.
"I have the short end of the chain in the sealskin bag," I reminded
him. "When I couldn't sleep this morning I thought I would settle
it, one way or the other. It was hell to go along the way I had
been doing. And - there's no doubt about it, Rich. It's the same
We walked along in silence until we caught the car back to town.
"Well," he said finally, "you know the girl, of course, and I don't.
But if you like her - and I think myself you're rather hard hit, old
man - I wouldn't give a whoop about the chain in the gold purse.
It's just one of the little coincidences that hang people now and
then. And as for last night - if she's the kind of a girl you say
she is, and you think she had anything to do with that, you - you're
addled, that's all. You can depend on it, the lady of the empty
house last week is the lady of last night. And yet your train
acquaintance was in Altoona at that time."
Just before we got off the car, I reverted to the subject again. It
was never far back in my mind.
"About the - young lady of the train, Rich," I said, with what I
suppose was elaborate carelessness, "I don't want you to get a wrong
impression. I am rather unlikely to see her again, but even if I do,
I - I believe she is already 'bespoke,' or next thing to it."
He made no reply, but as I opened the door with my latch-key he
stood looking up at me from the pavement with his quizzical smile.
"Love is like the measles," he orated. "The older you get it, the
worse the attack."
Johnson did not appear again that day. A small man in a raincoat
took his place. The next morning I made my initial trip to the
office, the raincoat still on hand. I had a short conference with
Miller, the district attorney, at eleven. Bronson was under
surveillance, he said, and any attempt to sell the notes to him
would probably result in their recovery. In the meantime, as I
knew, the Commonwealth had continued the case, in hope of such
At noon I left the office and took a veterinarian to see Candida,
the injured pony. By one o'clock my first day's duties were
performed, and a long Sahara of hot afternoon stretched ahead.
McKnight, always glad to escape from the grind, suggested a
vaudeville, and in sheer ennui I consented. I could neither ride,
drive nor golf, and my own company bored me to distraction.
"Coolest place in town these days," he declared. "Electric fans,
breezy songs, airy costumes. And there's Johnson just behind - the
coldest proposition in Washington."
He gravely bought three tickets and presented the detective with
one. Then we went in. Having lived a normal, busy life, the
theater in the afternoon is to me about on a par with ice-cream
for breakfast. Up on the stage a very stout woman in short pink
skirts, with a smile that McKnight declared looked like a slash in
a roll of butter, was singing nasally, with a laborious kick at the
end of each verse. Johnson, two rows ahead, went to sleep.
McKnight prodded me with his elbow.
"Look at the first box to the right," he said, in a stage whisper.
"I want you to come over at the end of this act."
It was the first time I had seen her since I put her in the cab at
Baltimore. Outwardly I presume I was calm, for no one turned to
stare at me, but every atom of me cried out at the sight of her.
She was leaning, bent forward, lips slightly parted, gazing raptly
at the Japanese conjurer who had replaced what McKnight
disrespectfully called the Columns of Hercules. Compared with the
draggled lady of the farm-house, she was radiant.
For that first moment there was nothing but joy at the sight of her.
McKnight's touch on my arm brought me back to reality.
"Come over and meet them," he said. "That's the cousin Miss West
is visiting, Mrs. Dallas."
But I would not go. After he went I sat there alone, painfully
conscious that I was being pointed out and stared at from the box.
The abominable Japanese gave way to yet more atrocious performing
"How many offers of marriage will the young lady in the box have?"
The dog stopped sagely at 'none,' and then pulled out a card that
said eight. Wild shouts of glee by the audience. "The fools," I
After a little I glanced over. Mrs. Dallas was talking to McKnight,
but She was looking straight at me. She was flushed, but more calm
than I, and she did not bow. I fumbled for my hat, but the next
moment I saw that they were going, and I sat still. When McKnight
came back he was triumphant.
"I've made an engagement for you," he said. "Mrs. Dallas asked me
to bring you to dinner to-night, and I said I knew you would fall
all over yourself to go. You are requested to bring along the
broken arm, and any other souvenirs of the wreck that you may
"I'll do nothing of the sort," I declared, struggling against my
inclination. "I can't even tie my necktie, and I have to have my
food cut for me."
"Oh, that's all right," he said easily. "I'll send Stogie over to
fix you up, and Mrs. Dal knows all about the arm. I told her."
(Stogie is his Japanese factotum, so called because he is lean, a
yellowish brown in color, and because he claims to have been shipped
into this country in a box.)
The Cinematograph was finishing the program. The house was dark and
the music had stopped, as it does in the circus just before somebody
risks his neck at so much a neck in the Dip of Death, or the
hundred-foot dive. Then, with a sort of shock, I saw on the white
curtain the announcement:
THE NEXT PICTURE
IS THE DOOMED WASHINGTON FLIER, TAKEN A SHORT DISTANCE FROM THE
SCENE OF THE WRECK ON THE FATAL MORNING OF SEPTEMBER TENTH. TWO
MILES FARTHER ON IT MET WITH ALMOST COMPLETE ANNIHILATION.
I confess to a return of some of the sickening sensations of the
wreck; people around me were leaning forward with tense faces. Then
the letters were gone, and I saw a long level stretch of track, even
the broken stone between the ties standing out distinctly. Far off
under a cloud of smoke a small object was rushing toward us and
growing larger as it came.
Now it was on us, a mammoth in size, with huge drivers and a colossal
tender. The engine leaped aside, as if just in time to save us from
destruction, with a glimpse of a stooping fireman and a grimy
engineer. The long train of sleepers followed. From a forward
vestibule a porter in a white coat waved his hand. The rest of the
cars seemed still wrapped in slumber. With mixed sensations I saw
my own car, Ontario, fly past, and then I rose to my feet and
On the lowest step at the last car, one foot hanging free, was a man.
His black derby hat was pulled well down to keep it from blowing
away, and his coat was flying open in the wind. He was swung well
out from the car, his free hand gripping a small valise, every
muscle tense for a jump.
"Good God, that's my man!" I said hoarsely, as the audience broke
into applause. McKnight half rose: in his seat ahead Johnson stifled
a yawn and turned to
I dropped into my chair limply, and tried to control my excitement.
"The man on the last platform of the train," I said. "He was just
about to leap; I'll swear that was my bag."
"Could you see his face?" McKnight asked in an undertone. "Would
you know him again?"
"No. His hat was pulled down and his head was bent I'm going back
to find out where that picture was taken. They say two miles, but
it may have been forty."
The audience, busy with its wraps, had not noticed. Mrs. Dallas and
Alison West had gone. In front of us Johnson had dropped his hat
and was stooping for it.
"This way," I motioned to McKnight, and we wheeled into the narrow
passage beside us, back of the boxes. At the end there was a door
leading into the wings, and as we went boldly through I turned the
The final set was being struck, and no one paid any attention to
us. Luckily they were similarly indifferent to a banging at the
door I had locked, a banging which, I judged, signified Johnson.
"I guess we've broken up his interference," McKnight chuckled.
Stage hands were hurrying in every direction; pieces of the side
wall of the last drawing-room menaced us; a switchboard behind us
was singing like a tea-kettle. Everywhere we stepped we were in
somebody's way. At last we were across, confronting a man in his
shirt sleeves, who by dots and dashes of profanity seemed to be
directing the chaos.
"Well?" he said, wheeling on us. "What can I do for you?"
"I would like to ask," I replied, "if you have any idea just where
the last cinematograph picture was taken."
"Broken board - picnickers - lake?"
"No. The Washington Flier."
He glanced at my bandaged arm.
"The announcement says two miles," McKnight put in, "but we should
like to know whether it is railroad miles, automobile miles, or
"I am sorry I can't tell you," he replied, more civilly. "We get
those pictures by contract. We don't take them ourselves."
"Where are the company's offices?"
"New York." He stepped forward and grasped a super by the shoulder.
"What in blazes are you doing with that gold chair in a kitchen set?
Take that piece of pink plush there and throw it over a soap box, if
you haven't got a kitchen chair."
I had not realized the extent of the shock, but now I dropped into
a chair and wiped my forehead. The unexpected glimpse of Alison
West, followed almost immediately by the revelation of the picture,
had left me limp and unnerved. McKnight was looking at his watch.
"He says the moving picture people have an office down-town. We
can make it if we go now."
So he called a cab, and we started at a gallop. There was no sign
of the detective. "Upon my word," Richey said, "I feel lonely
The people at the down-town office of the cinematograph company were
very obliging. The picture had been taken, they said, at M-, just
two miles beyond the scene of the wreck. It was not much, but it
was something to work on. I decided not to go home, but to send
McKnight's Jap for my clothes, and to dress at the Incubator. I was
determined, if possible, to make my next day's investigations without
Johnson. In the meantime, even if it was for the last time, I would
see Her that night. I gave Stogie a note for Mrs. Klopton, and with
my dinner clothes there came back the gold bag, wrapped in tissue
THE SHADOW OF A GIRL
Certain things about the dinner at the Dallas house will always be
obscure to me. Dallas was something in the Fish Commission, and
I remember his reeling off fish eggs in billions while we ate our
caviar. He had some particular stunt he had been urging the
government to for years - something about forbidding the
establishment of mills and factories on river-banks - it seems they
kill the fish, either the smoke, or the noise, or something they
pour into the water.
Mrs. Dallas was there, I think. Of course, I suppose she must have
been; and there was a woman in yellow: I took her in to dinner, and
I remember she loosened my clams for me so I could get them. But
the only real person at the table was a girl across in white, a
sublimated young woman who was as brilliant as I was stupid, who
never by any chance looked directly at me, and who appeared and
disappeared across the candles and orchids in a sort of halo of
When the dinner had progressed from salmon to roast, and the
conversation had done the same thing - from fish to scandal - the
yellow gown turned to me. "We have been awfully good, haven't we,
Mr. Blakeley?" she asked. "Although I am crazy to hear, I have
not said 'wreck' once. I'm sure you must feel like the survivor
of Waterloo, or something of the sort."
"If you want me to tell you about the wreck," I said, glancing
across the table, "I'm sorry to be disappointing, but I don't
"You are fortunate to be able to forget it." It was the first word
Miss West had spoken directly to me, and it went to my head.
"There are some things I have not forgotten," I said, over the
candles. "I recall coming to myself some time after, and that a
girl, a beautiful girl - "
"Ah!" said the lady in yellow, leaning forward breathlessly. Miss
West was staring at me coldly, but, once started, I had to stumble
"That a girl was trying to rouse me, and that she told me I had been
on fire twice already." A shudder went around the table.
"But surely that isn't the end of the story," Mrs. Dallas put in
aggrievedly. "Why, that's the most tantalizing thing I ever heard."
"I'm afraid that's all," I said. "She went her way and I went mine.
If she recalls me at all, she probably thinks of me as a weak-kneed
individual who faints like a woman when everything is over.
"What did I tell you?" Mrs. Dallas asserted triumphantly. "He
fainted, did you hear? when everything was over! He hasn't begun
to tell it."
I would have given a lot by that time if I had not mentioned the
girl. But McKnight took it up there and carried it on.
"Blakeley is a regular geyser," he said. "He never spouts until he
reaches the boiling point. And by that same token, although he
hasn't said much about the Lady of the Wreck, I think he is crazy
about her. In fact, I am sure of it. He thinks he has locked his
secret in the caves of his soul, but I call you to witness that he
has it nailed to his face. Look at him!"
I squirmed miserably and tried to avoid the startled eyes of the
girl across the table. I wanted to choke McKnight and murder the
rest of the party.
"It isn't fair," I said as coolly as I could. "I have my fingers
crossed; you are five against one."
"And to think that there was a murder on that very train," broke
in the lady in yellow. "It was a perfect crescendo of horrors,
wasn't it? And what became of the murdered man, Mr. Blakeley?"
McKnight had the sense to jump into the conversation and save my
"They say good Pittsburgers go to Atlantic City when they die," he
said. "So - we are reasonably certain the gentleman did not go to
The meal was over at last, and once in the drawing-room it was clear
we hung heavy on the hostess' hands. "It is so hard to get people
for bridge in September," she wailed. "there is absolutely nobody
in town. Six is a dreadful number."
"It's a good poker number," her husband suggested.
The matter settled itself, however. I was hopeless, save as a
dummy; Miss West said it was too hot for cards, and went out on a
balcony that overlooked the Mall. With obvious relief Mrs. Dallas
had the card-table brought, and I was face to face with the minute
I had dreaded and hoped for for a week.
Now it had come, it was more difficult than I had anticipated. I
do not know if there was a moon, but there was the urban
substitute for it - the arc light. It threw the shadow of the
balcony railing in long black bars against her white gown, and as
it swung sometimes her face was in the light. I drew a chair close
so that I could watch her.
"Do you know," I said, when she made no effort at speech, "that you
are a much more formidable person to-night, in that gown, than you
were the last time I saw you?"
The light swung on her face; she was smiling faintly. "The hat with
the green ribbons!" she said. "I must take it back; I had almost
"I have not forgotten - anything." I pulled myself up short. This
was hardly loyalty to Richey. His voice came through the window
just then, and perhaps I was wrong, but I thought she raised her
head to listen.
"Look at this hand," he was saying. "Regular pianola: you could
play it with your feet."
"He's a dear, isn't he?" Alison said unexpectedly. "No matter how
depressed and downhearted I am, I always cheer up when I see Richey."
"He's more than that," I returned warmly. "He is the most honorable
fellow I know. If he wasn't so much that way, he would have a
career before him. He wanted to put on the doors of our offices,
Blakeley and McKnight, P. B. H., which is Poor But Honest."
>From my comparative poverty to the wealth of the girl beside me was
a single mental leap. From that wealth to the grandfather who was
responsible for it was another.
"I wonder if you know that I had been to Pittsburg to see your
grandfather when I met you?" I said.
"You?" She was surprised.
"Yes. And you remember the alligator bag that I told you was
exchanged for the one you cut off my arm?" She nodded expectantly.
"Well, in that valise were the forged Andy Bronson notes, and Mr.
Gilmore's deposition that they were forged."
She was on her feet in an instant. "In that bag!" she cried. "Oh,
why didn't you tell me that before? Oh, it's so ridiculous, so - so
hopeless. Why, I could - "
She stopped suddenly and sat down again. "I do not know that I am
sorry, after all," she said after a pause. "Mr. Bronson was a
friend of my father's. I - I suppose it was a bad thing for you,
losing the papers?"
"Well, it was not a good thing," I conceded. "While we are on the
subject of losing things, do you remember - do you know that I still
have your gold purse?"
She did not reply at once. The shadow of a column was over her
face, but I guessed that she was staring at me.
"You have it!" She almost whispered.
"I picked it up in the street car," I said, with a cheerfulness I
did not feel. "It looks like a very opulent little purse."
Why didn't she speak about the necklace? For just a careless word
to make me sane again!
"You!" she repeated, horror-stricken. And then I produced the purse
and held it out on my palm. "I should have sent it to you before,
I suppose, but, as you know, I have been laid up since the wreck."
We both saw McKnight at the same moment. He had pulled the curtains
aside and was standing looking out at us. The tableau of give and
take was unmistakable; the gold purse, her outstretched hand, my own
attitude. It was over in a second; then he came out and lounged on
the balcony railing.
"They're mad at me in there," he said airily, "so I came out. I
suppose the reason they call it bridge is because so many people
get cross over it."
The heat broke up the card group soon after, and they all came out
for the night breeze. I had no more words alone with Alison.
I went back to the Incubator for the night. We said almost nothing
on the way home; there was a constraint between us for the first
time that I could remember. It was too early for bed, and so we
smoked in the living-room and tried to talk of trivial things.
After a time even those failed, and we sat silent. It was McKnight
who finally broached the subject.
"And so she wasn't at Seal Harbor at all."
"Do you know where she was, Lollie?"
"Somewhere near Cresson."
"And that was the purse - her purse - with the broken necklace in
"Yes, it was. You understand, don't you, Rich, that, having given
her my word, I couldn't tell you?"
"I understand a lot of things," he said, without bitterness.
We sat for some time and smoked. Then Richey got up and stretched
himself. "I'm off to bed, old man," he said. "Need any help with
that game arm of yours?"
"No, thanks," I returned.
I heard him go into his room and lock the door. It was a bad hour
for me. The first shadow between us, and the shadow of a girl at
AT THE FARM-HOUSE AGAIN
McKnight is always a sympathizer with the early worm. It was
late when he appeared. Perhaps, like myself, he had not slept
well. But he was apparently cheerful enough, and he made a better
breakfast than I did. It was one o'clock before we got to Baltimore.
After a half hour's wait we took a local for M-, the station near
which the cinematograph picture had been taken.
We passed the scene of the wreck, McKnight with curiosity, I with
a sickening sense of horror. Back in the fields was the little
farm-house where Alison West and I had intended getting coffee, and
winding away from the track, maple trees shading it on each side,
was the lane where we had stopped to rest, and where I had - it
seemed presumption beyond belief now - where I had tried to comfort
her by patting her hand.
We got out at M-, a small place with two or three houses and a
general store. The station was a one-roomed affair, with a
railed-off place at the end, where a scale, a telegraph instrument
and a chair constituted the entire furnishing.
The station agent was a young man with a shrewd face. He stopped
hammering a piece of wood over a hole in the floor to ask where we
wanted to go.
"We're not going," said McKnight, "we're coming. Have a cigar?"
The agent took it with an inquiring glance, first at it and then
"We want to ask you a few questions," began McKnight, perching
himself on the railing and kicking the chair forward for me. "Or,
rather, this gentleman does."
"Wait a minute," said the agent, glancing through the window.
"There's a hen in that crate choking herself to death."
He was back in a minute, and took up his position near a
sawdust-filled box that did duty as a cuspidor.
"Now fire away," he said.
"In the first place," I began, "do you remember the day the
Washington Flier was wrecked below here?"
"Do I!" he said. "Did Jonah remember the whale?"
"Were you on the platform here when the first section passed?"
"Do you recall seeing a man hanging to the platform of the last car?"
"There was no one hanging there when she passed here," he said with
conviction. "I watched her out of sight."
"Did you see anything that morning of a man about my size, carrying
a small grip, and wearing dark clothes and a derby hat?" I asked
McKnight was trying to look unconcerned, but I was frankly anxious.
It was clear that the man had jumped somewhere in the mile of track
"Well, yes, I did." The agent cleared his throat. "When the smash
came the operator at MX sent word along the wire, both ways. I got
it here, and I was pretty near crazy, though I knew it wasn't any
fault of mine.
"I was standing on the track looking down, for I couldn't leave the
office, when a young fellow with light hair limped up to me and
asked me what that smoke was over there.
"'That's what's left of the Washington Flier,' I said, 'and I guess
there's souls going up in that smoke.'
"'Do you mean the first section?' he said, getting kind of
"'That's what I mean,' I said; 'split to kindling wood because
Rafferty, on the second section, didn't want to be late.'
"He put his hand out in front of him, and the satchel fell with a
"'My God!' he said, and dropped right on the track in a heap.
"I got him into the station and he came around, but he kept on
groaning something awful. He'd sprained his ankle, and when he got
a little better I drove him over in Carter's milk wagon to the
Carter place, and I reckon he stayed there a spell."
"That's all, is it?" I asked.
"That's all - or, no, there's something else. About noon that day
one of the Carter twins came down with a note from him asking me to
send a long-distance message to some one in Washington."
"To whom?" I asked eagerly.
"I reckon I've forgot the name, but the message was that this fellow
- Sullivan was his name - was at M-, and if the man had escaped
from the wreck would he come to see him."
"He wouldn't have sent that message to me," I said to McKnight,
rather crestfallen. "He'd have every object in keeping out of my
"There might be reasons," McKnight observed judicially. "He might
not have found the papers then."
"Was the name Blakeley?" I asked.
"It might have been - I can't say. But the man wasn't there, and
there was a lot of noise. I couldn't hear well. Then in half an
hour down came the other twin to say the gentleman was taking on
awful and didn't want the message sent."
"He's gone, of course?"
"Yes. Limped down here in about three days and took the noon train
for the city."
It seemed a certainty now that our man, having hurt himself somewhat