Part 3 out of 5
in his jump, had stayed quietly in the farm-house until he was able
to travel. But, to be positive, we decided to visit the Carter place.
I gave the station agent a five-dollar bill, which he rolled up with
a couple of others and stuck in his pocket. I turned as we got to a
bend in the road, and he was looking curiously after us.
It was not until we had climbed the hill and turned onto the road
to the Carter place that I realized where we were going. Although
we approached it from another direction, I knew the farm-house at
once. It was the one where Alison West and I had breakfasted
nine days before. With the new restraint between us, I did not tell
McKnight. I wondered afterward if he had suspected it. I saw him
looking hard at the gate-post which had figured in one of our
mysteries, but he asked no questions. Afterward he grew almost
taciturn, for him, and let me do most of the talking.
We opened the front gate of the Carter place and went slowly up the
walk. Two ragged youngsters, alike even to freckles and squints,
were playing in the yard.
"Is your mother around?" I asked.
"In the front room. Walk in," they answered in identical tones.
As we got to the porch we heard voices, and stopped. I knocked,
but the people within, engaged in animated, rather one-sided
conversation, did not answer.
"'In the front room. Walk in,'" quoted McKnight, and did so.
In the stuffy farm parlor two people were sitting. One, a
pleasant-faced woman with a checked apron, rose, somewhat embarrassed,
to meet us. She did not know me, and I was thankful. But our
attention was riveted on a little man who was sitting before a table,
writing busily. It was Hotchkiss!
He got up when he saw us, and had the grace to look uncomfortable.
"Such an interesting case," he said nervously, "I took the liberty - "
"Look here," said McKnight suddenly, "did you make any inquiries at
"A few," he confessed. "I went to the theater last night - I felt
the need of a little relaxation - and the sight of a picture there,
a cinematograph affair, started a new line of thought. Probably the
same clue brought you gentlemen. I learned a good bit from the
"The son-of-a-gun," said McKnight. "And you paid him, I suppose?"
"I gave him five dollars," was the apologetic answer. Mrs. Carter,
hearing sounds of strife in the yard, went out, and Hotchkiss folded
up his papers.
"I think the identity of the man is established," he said. "What
number of hat do you wear, Mr. Blakeley?"
"Seven and a quarter," I replied.
"Well, it's only piling up evidence," he said cheerfully. "On the
night of the murder you wore light gray silk underclothing, with the
second button of the shirt missing. Your hat had 'L. B.' in gilt
letters inside, and there was a very minute hole in the toe of one
"Hush," McKnight protested. "If word gets to Mrs. Klopton that Mr.
Blakeley was wrecked, or robbed, or whatever it was, with a button
missing and a hole in one sock, she'll retire to the Old Ladies'
Home. I've heard her threaten it."
Mr. Hotchkiss was without a sense of humor. He regarded McKnight
gravely and went on:
"I've been up in the room where the man lay while he was unable to
get away, and there is nothing there. But I found what may be a
possible clue in the dust heap.
"Mrs. Carter tells me that in unpacking his grip the other day she
took out of the coat of the pajamas some pieces of a telegram. As
I figure it, the pajamas were his own. He probably had them on when
he effected the exchange."
I nodded assent. All I had retained of my own clothing was the suit
of pajamas I was wearing and my bath-robe.
"Therefore the telegram was his, not yours. I have pieces here, but
some are missing. I am not discouraged, however."
He spread out some bits of yellow paper, and we bent over them
curiously. It was something like this:
Man with p- Get-
We spelled it out slowly.
"Now," Hotchkiss announced, "I make it something like this: The 'p.-'
is one of two things, pistol - you remember the little pearl-handled
affair belonging to the murdered man - or it is pocket-book. I am
inclined to the latter view, as the pocket-book had been disturbed
and the pistol had not."
I took the piece of paper from the table and scrawled four words on
"Now," I said, rearranging them, "it happens, Mr. Hotchkiss, that I
found one of these pieces of the telegram on the train. I thought
it had been dropped by some one else, you see, but that's immaterial.
Arranged this way it almost makes sense. Fill out that 'p.-' with
the rest of the word, as I imagine it, and it makes 'papers,' and add
this scrap and you have:
"'Man with papers (in) lower ten, car seven. Get (them).'
McKnight slapped Hotchkiss on the back. "You're a trump," he said.
"Br- is Bronson, of course. It's almost too easy. You see, Mr.
Blakeley here engaged lower ten, but found it occupied by the man
who was later murdered there. The man who did the thing was a
friend of Bronson's, evidently, and in trying to get the papers we
have the motive for the crime."
"There are still some things to be explained." Mr. Hotchkiss wiped
his glasses and put them on. "For one thing, Mr. Blakeley, I am
puzzled by that bit of chain."
I did not glance at McKnight. I felt that the hand, with which I
was gathering up the bits of torn paper were shaking. It seemed to
me that this astute little man was going to drag in the girl in
spite of me.
A NEW WORLD
Hotchkiss jotted down the bits of telegram and rose.
"Well," he said, "we've done something. We've found where the
murderer left the train, we know what day he went to Baltimore,
and, most important of all, we have a motive for the crime.
"It seems the irony of fate," said McKnight, getting up, "that a
man should kill another man for certain papers he is supposed to
be carrying, find he hasn't got them after all, decide to throw
suspicion on another man by changing berths and getting out, bag
and baggage, and then, by the merest fluke of chance, take with
him, in the valise he changed for his own, the very notes he was
after. It was a bit of luck for him."
"Then why," put in Hotchkiss doubtfully, "why did he collapse when
he heard of the wreck? And what about the telephone message the
station agent sent? You remember they tried to countermand it, and
with some excitement."
"We will ask him those questions when we get him," McKnight said.
We were on the unrailed front porch by that time, and Hotchkiss had
put away his notebook. The mother of the twins followed us to the
"Dear me," she exclaimed volubly, "and to think I was forgetting to
tell you! I put the young man to bed with a spice poultice on his
ankle: my mother always was a firm believer in spice poultices.
It's wonderful what they will do in croup! And then I took the
children and went down to see the wreck. It was Sunday, and the
mister had gone to church; hasn't missed a day since he took the
pledge nine years ago. And on the way I met two people, a man and
a woman. They looked half dead, so I sent them right here for
breakfast and some soap and water. I always say soap is better
than liquor after a shock."
Hotchkiss was listening absently: McKnight was whistling under his
breath, staring down across the field to where a break in the woods
showed a half dozen telegraph poles, the line of the railroad.
"It must have been twelve o'clock when we got back; I wanted the
children to see everything, because it isn't likely they'll ever
see another wreck like that. Rows of - "
"About twelve o'clock," I broke in, "and what then?"
"The young man up-stairs was awake," she went on, "and hammering at
his door like all possessed. And it was locked on the outside!"
She paused to enjoy her sensation.
"I would like to see that lock," Hotchkiss said promptly, but for
some reason the woman demurred.
"I will bring the key down," she said and disappeared. When she
returned she held out an ordinary door key of the cheapest variety.
"We had to break the lock," she volunteered, "and the key didn't
turn up for two days. Then one of the twins found the turkey
gobbler trying to swallow it. It has been washed since," she
hastened to assure Hotchkiss, who showed an inclination to drop it.
"You don't think he locked the door himself and threw the key out
of the window?" the little man asked.
"The windows are covered with mosquito netting, nailed on. The
mister blamed it on the children, and it might have been Obadiah.
He's the quiet kind, and you never know what he's about."
"He's about to strangle, isn't he," McKnight remarked lazily, "or
is that Obadiah?"
Mrs. Carter picked the boy up and inverted him, talking amiably all
the time. "He's always doing it," she said, giving him a shake.
"Whenever we miss anything we look to see if Obadiah's black in the
face." She gave him another shake, and the quarter I had given him
shot out as if blown from a gun. Then we prepared to go back to
>From where I stood I could look into the cheery farm kitchen, where
Alison West and I had eaten our al fresco breakfast. I looked at
the table with mixed emotions, and then, gradually, the meaning of
something on it penetrated my mind. Still in its papers, evidently
just opened, was a hat box, and protruding over the edge of the box
was a streamer of vivid green
On the plea that I wished to ask Mrs. Carter a few more questions,
I let the others go on. I watched them down the flagstone walk; saw
McKnight stop and examine the gate-posts and saw, too, the quick
glance he threw back at the house. Then I turned to Mrs. Carter.
"I would like to speak to the young lady up-stairs," I said.
She threw up her hands with a quick gesture of surrender. "I've
done all I could," she exclaimed. "She won't like it very well,
but - she's in the room over the parlor."
I went eagerly up the ladder-like stairs, to the rag-carpeted hall.
Two doors were open, showing interiors of four poster beds and high
bureaus. The door of the room over the parlor was almost closed.
I hesitated in the hallway: after all, what right had I to intrude
on her? But she settled my difficulty by throwing open the door
and facing me.
"I - I beg your pardon, Miss West," I stammered. "It has just
occurred to me that I am unpardonably rude. I saw the hat
down-stairs and I - I guessed - "
"The hat!" she said. "I might have known. Does Richey know I am
"I don't think so." I turned to go down the stairs again. Then I
halted. "The fact is," I said, in an attempt at justification,
"I'm in rather a mess these days, and I'm apt to do irresponsible
things. It is not impossible that I shall be arrested, in a day or
so, for the murder of Simon Harrington."
She drew her breath in sharply. "Murder!" she echoed. "Then they
have found you after all!"
"I don't regard it as anything more than - er - inconvenient," I
lied. "They can't convict me, you know. Almost all the witnesses
She was not deceived for a moment. She came over to me and stood,
both hands on the rail of the stair. "I know just how grave it is,"
she said quietly. "My grandfather will not leave one stone unturned,
and he can be terrible - terrible. But" - she looked directly into
my eyes as I stood below her on the stairs - "the time may come
- soon - when I can help you. I'm afraid I shall not want to; I'm
a dreadful coward, Mr. Blakeley. But - I will." She tried to smile.
"I wish you would let me help you," I said unsteadily. "Let us make
it a bargain: each help the other!"
The girl shook her head with a sad little smile. "I am only as
unhappy as I deserve to be," she said. And when I protested and
took a step toward her she retreated, with her hands out before her.
"Why don't you ask me all the questions you are thinking?" she
demanded, with a catch in her voice. "Oh, I know them. Or are you
afraid to ask?"
I looked at her, at the lines around her eyes, at the drawn look
about her mouth. Then I held out my hand. "Afraid!" I said, as
she gave me hers. "There is nothing in God's green earth I am
afraid of, save of trouble for you. To ask questions would be to
imply a lack of faith. I ask you nothing. Some day, perhaps, you
will come to me yourself and let me help you."
The next moment I was out in the golden sunshine: the birds were
singing carols of joy: I walked dizzily through rainbow-colored
clouds, past the twins, cherubs now, swinging on the gate. It was
a new world into which I stepped from the Carter farm-house that
morning, for - I had kissed her !
AT THE TABLE NEXT
McKnight and Hotchkiss were sauntering slowly down the road as I
caught up with them. As usual, the little man was busy with some
abstruse mental problem.
"The idea is this," he was saying, his brows knitted in thought,
"if a left-handed man, standing in the position of the man in the
picture, should jump from a car, would he be likely to sprain his
right ankle? When a right-handed man prepares for a leap of that
kind, my theory is that he would hold on with his right hand, and
alight at the proper time, on his right foot. Of course - "
"I imagine, although I don't know," interrupted McKnight, "that a
man either ambidextrous or one-armed, jumping from the Washington
Flier, would be more likely to land on his head."
"Anyhow," I interposed, "what difference does it make whether
Sullivan used one hand or the other? One pair of handcuffs will
put both hands out of commission.
As usual when one of his pet theories was attacked, Hotchkiss looked
"My dear sir," he expostulated, "don't you understand what bearing
this has on the case? How was the murdered man lying when he was
"On his back," I said promptly, "head toward the engine."
"Very well," he retorted, "and what then? Your heart lies under
your fifth intercostal space, and to reach it a right-handed blow
would have struck either down or directly in.
"But, gentleman, the point of entrance for the stiletto was below
the heart, striking up! As Harrington lay with his head toward the
engine, a person in the aisle must have used the left hand."
McKnight's eyes sought mine and he winked at me solemnly as I
unostentatiously transferred the hat I was carrying to my right hand.
Long training has largely counterbalanced heredity in my case, but
I still pitch ball, play tennis and carve with my left hand. But
Hotchkiss was too busy with his theories to notice me.
We were only just in time for our train back to Baltimore, but
McKnight took advantage of a second's delay to shake the station
agent warmly by the hand.
"I want to express my admiration for you," he said beamingly.
"Ability of your order is thrown away here. You should have been
a city policeman, my friend."
The agent looked a trifle uncertain.
"The young lady was the one who told me to keep still," he said.
McKnight glanced at me, gave the agent's hand a final shake, and
climbed on board. But I knew perfectly that he had guessed the
reason for my delay.
He was very silent on the way home. Hotchkiss, too, had little to
say. He was reading over his notes intently, stopping now and
then to make a penciled addition. Just before we left the train
Richey turned to me. "I suppose it was the key to the door that
she tied to the gate?"
"Probably. I did not ask her."
"Curious, her locking that fellow in," he reflected. "You may
depend on it, there was a good reason for it all. And I wish you
wouldn't be so suspicious of motives, Rich," I said warmly.
"Only yesterday you were the suspicious one," he retorted, and we
lapsed into strained silence.
It was late when we got to Washington. One of Mrs. Klopton's small
tyrannies was exacting punctuality at meals, and, like several other
things, I respected it. There are always some concessions that
should be made in return for faithful service.
So, as my dinner hour of seven was long past, McKnight and I went
to a little restaurant down town where they have a very decent way
of fixing chicken a la King. Hotchkiss had departed, economically
bent, for a small hotel where he lived on the American plan.
"I want to think some things over," he said in response to my
invitation to dinner, "and, anyhow, there's no use dining out when
I pay the same, dinner or no dinner, where I am stopping."
The day had been hot, and the first floor dining-room was sultry in
spite of the palms and fans which attempted to simulate the verdure
and breezes of the country.
It was crowded, too, with a typical summer night crowd, and, after
sitting for a few minutes in a sweltering corner, we got up and went
to the smaller dining-room up-stairs. Here it was not so warm, and
we settled ourselves comfortably by a window.
Over in a corner half a dozen boys on their way back to school were
ragging a perspiring waiter, a proceeding so exactly to McKnight's
taste that he insisted on going over to join them. But their table
was full, and somehow that kind of fun had lost its point for me.
Not far from us a very stout, middle-aged man, apoplectic with the
heat, was elephantinely jolly for the benefit of a bored-looking
girl across the table from him, and at the next table a newspaper
woman ate alone, the last edition propped against the water-bottle
before her, her hat, for coolness, on the corner of the table. It
was a motley Bohemian crowd.
I looked over the room casually, while McKnight ordered the meal.
Then my attention was attracted to the table next to ours. Two
people were sitting there, so deep in conversation that they did not
notice us. The woman's face was hidden under her hat, as she traced
the pattern of the cloth mechanically with her fork. But the man's
features stood out clear in the light of the candles on the table.
It was Bronson!
"He shows the strain, doesn't he?" McKnight said, holding up the
wine list as if he read from it. "Who's the woman?"
"Search me," I replied, in the same way.
When the chicken came, I still found myself gazing now and then at
the abstracted couple near me. Evidently the subject of conversation
was unpleasant. Bronson was eating little, the woman not at all.
Finally he got up, pushed his chair back noisily, thrust a bill at
the waiter and stalked out.
The woman sat still for a moment; then, with an apparent resolution
to make the best of it, she began slowly to eat the meal before her.
But the quarrel had taken away her appetite, for the mixture in our
chafing-dish was hardly ready to serve before she pushed her chair
back a little and looked around the room.
I caught my first glimpse of her face then, and I confess it
startled me. It was the tall, stately woman of the Ontario, the
woman I had last seen cowering beside the road, rolling pebbles in
her hand, blood streaming from a cut over her eye. I could see the
scar now, a little affair, about an inch long, gleaming red through
its layers of powder.
And then, quite unexpectedly, she turned and looked directly at me.
After a minute's uncertainty, she bowed, letting her eyes rest on
mine with a calmly insolent stare. She glanced at McKnight for a
moment, then back to me. When she looked away again I breathed
"Who is it?" asked McKnight under his breath.
"Ontario." I formed it with my lips rather than said it. McKnight's
eyebrows went up and he looked with increased interest at the
I ate little after that. The situation was rather bad for me, I
began to see. Here was a woman who could, if she wished, and had
any motive for so doing, put me in jail under a capital charge. A
word from her to the police, and polite surveillance would become
Then, too, she could say that she had seen me, just after the wreck,
with a young woman from the murdered man's car, and thus probably
bring Alison West into the case.
It is not surprising, then, that I ate little. The woman across
seemed in no hurry to go. She loitered over a demi-tasse, and that
finished, sat with her elbow on the table, her chin in her hand,
looking darkly at the changing groups in the room.
The fun at the table where the college boys sat began to grow a
little noisy; the fat man, now a purplish shade, ambled away behind
his slim companion; the newspaper woman pinned on her business-like
hat and stalked out. Still the woman at the next table waited.
It was a relief when the meal was over. We got our hats and were
about to leave the room, when a waiter touched me on the arm.
"I beg your pardon, sir," he said, "but the lady at the table near
the window, the lady in black, sir, would like to speak to you."
I looked down between the rows of tables to where the woman sat
alone, her chin still resting on her hand, her black eyes still
insolently staring, this time at me.
"I'll have to go," I said to McKnight hurriedly. "She knows all
about that affair and she'd be a bad enemy."
"I don't like her lamps," McKnight observed, after a glance at her.
"Better jolly her a little. Good-by."
THE NOTES AND A BARGAIN
I went back slowly to where the woman sat alone.
She smiled rather oddly as I drew near, and pointed to the chair
Bronson had vacated.
"Sit down, Mr. Blakeley," she said, "I am going to take a few
minutes of your valuable time."
"Certainly." I sat down opposite her and glanced at a cuckoo clock
on the wall. "I am sorry, but I have only a few minutes. If you - "
She laughed a little, not very pleasantly, and opening a small black
fan covered with spangles, waved it slowly.
"The fact is," she said, "I think we are about to make a bargain."
"A bargain?" I asked incredulously. "You have a second advantage of
me. You know my name" - I paused suggestively and she took the cue.
"I am Mrs. Conway," she said, and flicked a crumb off the table with
an over-manicured finger.
The name was scarcely a surprise. I had already surmised that this
might be the woman whom rumor credited as being Bronson's common-law
wife. Rumor, I remembered, had said other things even less pleasant,
things which had been brought out at Bronson's arrest for forgery.
"We met last under less fortunate circumstances," she was saying.
"I have been fit for nothing since that terrible day. And you - you
had a broken arm, I think."
"I still have it," I said, with a lame attempt at jocularity; "but
to have escaped at all was a miracle. We have much, indeed, to be
"I suppose we have," she said carelessly, "although sometimes I doubt
it." She was looking somberly toward the door through which her
late companion had made his exit.
"You sent for me - " I said.
"Yes, I sent for you." She roused herself and sat erect. "Now, Mr.
Blakeley, have you found those papers?"
"The papers? What papers?" I parried. I needed time to think.
"Mr. Blakeley," she said quietly, "I think we can lay aside all
subterfuge. In the first place let me refresh your mind about a few
things. The Pittsburg police are looking for the survivors of the
car Ontario; there are three that I know of - yourself, the young
woman with whom you left the scene of the wreck, and myself. The
wreck, you will admit, was a fortunate one for you."
I nodded without speaking.
"At the time of the collision you were in rather a hole," she went
on, looking at me with a disagreeable smile. "You were, if I
remember, accused of a rather atrocious crime. There was a lot of
corroborative evidence, was there not? I seem to remember a dirk
and the murdered man's pocket-book in your possession, and a few
other things that were - well, rather unpleasant."
I was thrown a bit off my guard.
"You remember also," I said quickly, "that a man disappeared from
the car, taking my clothes, papers and everything."
"I remember that you said so." Her tone was quietly insulting, and
I bit my lip at having been caught. It was no time to make a defense.
"You have missed one calculation," I said coldly, "and that is, the
discovery of the man who left the train."
"You have found him?" She bent forward, and again I regretted my
hasty speech. "I knew it; I said so."
"We are going to find him," I asserted, with a confidence I did not
feel. "We can produce at any time proof that a man left the Flier
a few miles beyond the wreck. And we can find him, I am positive."
"But you have not found him yet?" She was clearly disappointed.
"Well, so be it. Now for our bargain. You will admit that I am no
I made no such admission, and she smiled mockingly.
"How flattering you are!" she said. "Very well. Now for the
premises. You take to Pittsburg four notes held by the Mechanics'
National Bank, to have Mr. Gilmore, who is ill, declare his
indorsement of them forged.
"On the journey back to Pittsburg two things happen to you: you lose
your clothing, your valise and your papers, including the notes, and
you are accused of murder. In fact, Mr. Blakeley, the circumstances
were most singular, and the evidence - well, almost conclusive."
I was completely at her mercy, but I gnawed my lip with irritation.
"Now for the bargain." She leaned over and lowered her voice. "A
fair exchange, you know. The minute you put those four notes in my
hand - that minute the blow to my head has caused complete
forgetfulness as to the events of that awful morning. I am the only
witness, and I will be silent. Do you understand? They will call
off their dogs."
My head was buzzing with the strangeness of the idea.
"But," I said, striving to gain time, "I haven't the notes. I can't
give you what I haven't got."
"You have had the case continued," she said sharply. "You expect
to find them. Another thing," she added slowly, watching my face,
"if you don't get them soon, Bronson will have them. They have been
offered to him already, but at a prohibitive price."
"But," I said, bewildered, "what is your object in coming to me? If
Bronson will get them anyhow - "
She shut her fan with a click and her face was not particularly
pleasant to look at.
"You are dense," she said insolently. "I want those papers - for
myself, not for Andy Bronson."
"Then the idea is," I said, ignoring her tone, "that you think you
have me in a hole, and that if I find those papers and give them to
you you will let me out. As I understand it, our friend Bronson,
under those circumstances, will also be in a hole."
"The notes would be of no use to you for a limited length of time,"
I went on, watching her narrowly. "If they are not turned over to
the state's attorney within a reasonable time there will have to be
a nolle pros - that is, the case will simply be dropped for lack
"A week would answer, I think," she said slowly. "You will do it,
I laughed, although I was not especially cheerful.
"No, I'll not do it. I expect to come across the notes any time
now, and I expect just as certainly to turn them over to the state's
attorney when I get them."
She got up suddenly, pushing her chair back with a noisy grating
sound that turned many eyes toward us.
"You're more of a fool than I thought you," she sneered, and left
me at the table.
Mc KNIGHT'S THEORY
I confess I was staggered. The people at the surrounding tables,
after glancing curiously in my direction, looked away again.
I got my hat and went out in a very uncomfortable frame of mind.
That she would inform the police at once of what she knew I never
doubted, unless possibly she would give a day or two's grace in
the hope that I would change my mind.
I reviewed the situation as I waited for a car. Two passed me
going in the opposite direction, and on the first one I saw Bronson,
his hat over his eyes, his arms folded, looking moodily ahead. Was
it imagination? or was the small man huddled in the corner of the
rear seat Hotchkiss?
As the car rolled on I found myself smiling. The alert little man
was for all the world like a terrier, ever on the scent, and scouring
about in every direction.
I found McKnight at the Incubator, with his coat off, working with
enthusiasm and a manicure file over the horn of his auto.
"It's the worst horn I ever ran across," he groaned, without looking
up, as I came in. "The blankety-blank thing won't blow."
He punched it savagely, finally eliciting a faint throaty croak.
"Sounds like croup," I suggested. "My sister-in-law uses camphor
and goose greese for it; or how about a spice poultice?"
But McKnight never sees any jokes but his own. He flung the horn
clattering into a corner, and collapsed sulkily into a chair.
"Now," I said, "if you're through manicuring that horn, I'll tell
you about my talk with the lady in black."
"What's wrong?" asked McKnight languidly. "Police watching her,
"Not exactly. The fact is, Rich, there's the mischief to pay."
Stogie came in, bringing a few additions to our comfort. When he
went out I told my story.
"You must remember," I said, "that I had seen this woman before the
morning of the wreck. She was buying her Pullman ticket when I did.
Then the next morning, when the murder was discovered, she grew
hysterical, and I gave her some whisky. The third and last time I
saw her, until to-night, was when she crouched beside the road,
after the wreck."
McKnight slid down in his chair until his weight rested on the small
of his back, and put his feet on the big reading table.
"It is rather a facer," he said. "It's really too good a situation
for a commonplace lawyer. It ought to be dramatized. You can't
agree, of course; and by refusing you run the chance of jail, at
least, and of having Alison brought into publicity, which is out of
the question. You say she was at the Pullman window when you were?"
"Yes; I bought her ticket for her. Gave her lower eleven."
"And you took ten?"
McKnight straightened up and looked at me.
"Then she thought you were in lower ten."
"I suppose she did, if she thought at all."
"But listen, man." McKnight was growing excited. "What do you
figure out of this? The Conway woman knows you have taken the
notes to Pittsburg. The probabilities are that she follows you
there, on the chance of an opportunity to get them, either for
Bronson or herself.
"Nothing doing during the trip over or during the day in Pittsburg;
but she learns the number of your berth as you buy it at the Pullman
ticket office in Pittsburg, and she thinks she sees her chance. No
one could have foreseen that that drunken fellow would have crawled
into your berth.
"Now, I figure it out this way: She wanted those notes desperately
- does still - not for Bronson, but to hold over his head for some
purpose. In the night, when everything is quiet, she slips behind
the curtains of lower ten, where the man's breathing shows he is
asleep. Didn't you say he snored?"
"He did!" I affirmed. "But I tell you - "
"Now keep still and listen. She gropes cautiously around in the
darkness, finally discovering the wallet under the pillow. Can't
you see it yourself?"
He was leaning forward, excitedly, and I could almost see the
gruesome tragedy he was depicting.
"She draws out the wallet. Then, perhaps she remembers the alligator
bag, and on the possibility that the notes are there, instead of in
the pocket-book, she gropes around for it. Suddenly, the man awakes
and clutches at the nearest object, perhaps her neck chain, which
breaks. She drops the pocket-book and tries to escape, but he has
caught her right hand.
"It is all in silence; the man is still stupidly drunk. But he
holds her in a tight grip. Then the tragedy. She must get away;
in a minute the car will be aroused. Such a woman, on such an
errand, does not go without some sort of a weapon, in this case a
dagger, which, unlike a revolver, is noiseless.
"With a quick thrust - she's a big woman and a bold one - she strikes.
Possibly Hotchkiss is right about the left-hand blow. Harrington may
have held her right hand, or perhaps she held the dirk in her left
hand as she groped with her right. Then, as the man falls back, and
his grasp relaxes, she straightens and attempts to get away. The
swaying of the car throws her almost into your berth, and, trembling
with terror, she crouches behind the curtains of lower ten until
everything is still. Then she goes noiselessly back to her berth."
"It seems to fit partly, at least," I said, "In the morning when
she found that the crime had been not only fruitless, but that she
had searched the wrong berth and killed the wrong man; when she saw
me emerge, unhurt, just as she was bracing herself for the discovery
of my dead body, then she went into hysterics. You remember, I gave
her some whisky.
"It really seems a tenable theory. But, like the Sullivan theory,
there are one or two things that don't agree with the rest. For one
thing, how did the remainder of that chain get into Alison West's
"She may have picked it up on the floor."
"We'll admit that," I said; "and I'm sure I hope so. Then how did
the murdered man's pocket-book get into the sealskin bag? And the
dirk, how account for that, and the blood-stains?"
"Now what's the use," asked McKnight aggrievedly, "of my building
up beautiful theories for you to pull down? We'll take it to
Hotchkiss. Maybe he can tell from the blood-stains if the murderer's
finger nails were square or pointed."
"Hotchkiss is no fool," I said warmly. "Under all his theories
there's a good hard layer of common sense. And we must remember,
Rich, that neither of our theories includes the woman at Doctor
Van Kirk's hospital, that the charming picture you have just drawn
does not account for Alison West's connection with the case, or
for the bits of telegram in the Sullivan fellow's pajamas pocket.
You are like the man who put the clock together; you've got half
of the works left over."
"Oh, go home," said McKnight disgustedly. "I'm no Edgar Allan
Poe. What's the use of coming here and asking me things if you're
With one of his quick changes of mood, he picked up his guitar.
"Listen to this," he said. "It is a Hawaiian song about a fat
lady, oh, ignorant one! and how she fell off her mule."
But for all the lightness of the words, the voice that followed me
down the stairs was anything but cheery.
"There was a Kanaka in Balu did dwell,
Who had for his daughter a monstrous fat girl-
he sang in his clear tenor. I paused on the lower floor and
listened. He had stopped singing as abruptly as he had begun.
AT THE BOARDING-HOUSE
I had not been home for thirty-six hours, since the morning of the
preceding day. Johnson was not in sight, and I let myself in
quietly with my latchkey. It was almost midnight, and I had hardly
settled myself in the library when the bell rang and I was surprised
to find Hotchkiss, much out of breath, in the vestibule.
"Why, come in, Mr. Hotchkiss," I said. "I thought you were going
home to go to bed."
"So I was, so I was." He dropped into a chair beside my reading
lamp and mopped his face. "And here it is almost midnight, and
I'm wider awake than ever. I've seen Sullivan, Mr. Blakeley."
"I have," he said impressively.
"You were following Bronson at eight o'clock. Was that when it
"Something of the sort. When I left you at the door of the
restaurant, I turned and almost ran into a plain clothes man from
the central office. I know him pretty well; once or twice he has
taken me with him on interesting bits of work. He knows my hobby."
"You know him, too, probably. It was the man Arnold, the detective
whom the state's attorney has had watching Bronson."
Johnson being otherwise occupied, I had asked for Arnold myself.
"Well, he stopped me at once; said he'd been on the fellow's tracks
since early morning and had had no time for luncheon. Bronson, it
seems, isn't eating much these days. I at once jotted down the fact,
because it argued that he was being bothered by the man with the
"It might point to other things," I suggested. "Indigestion, you
Hotchkiss ignored me. "Well, Arnold had some reason for thinking
that Bronson would try to give him the slip that night, so he asked
me to stay around the private entrance there while he ran across
the Street and got something to eat. It seemed a fair presumption
that, as he had gone there with a lady, they would dine leisurely,
and Arnold would have plenty of time to get back."
"What about your own dinner?" I asked curiously.
"Sir," he said pompously, "I have given you a wrong estimate of
Wilson Budd Hotchkiss if you think that a question of dinner would
even obtrude itself on his mind at such a time as this."
He was a frail little man, and to-night he looked pale with heat
"Did you have any luncheon?" I asked.
He was somewhat embarrassed at that.
"I - really, Mr. Blakeley, the events of the day were so
engrossing - "
"Well," I said, "I'm not going to see you drop on the floor from
exhaustion. Just wait a minute."
I went back to the pantry, only to be confronted with rows of locked
doors and empty dishes. Downstairs, in the basement kitchen,
however, I found two unattractive looking cold chops, some dry bread
and a piece of cake, wrapped in a napkin, and from its surreptitious
and generally hang-dog appearance, destined for the coachman in the
stable at the rear. Trays there were none - everything but the
chairs and tables seemed under lock and key, and there was neither
napkin, knife nor fork to be found.
The luncheon was not attractive in appearance, but Hotchkiss ate
his cold chops and gnawed at the crusts as though he had been
famished, while he told his story.
"I had been there only a few minutes," he said, with a chop in one
hand and the cake in the other, "when Bronson rushed out and cut
across the street. He's a tall man, Mr. Blakeley, and I had had
work keeping close. It was a relief when he jumped on a passing
car, although being well behind, it was a hard run for me to catch
him. He had left the lady.
"Once on the car, we simply rode from one end of the line to the
other and back again. I suppose he was passing the time, for he
looked at his watch now and then, and when I did once get a look
at us face it made me - er - uncomfortable. He could have crushed
me like a fly, sir."
I had brought Mr. Hotchkiss a glass of wine, and he was looking
better. He stopped to finish it, declining with a wave of his
hand to have it refilled, and continued:
"About nine o'clock or a little later he got off somewhere near
Washington Circle. He went along one of the residence streets
there, turned to his left a square or two, and rang a bell. He
had been admitted when I got there, but I guessed from the
appearance of the place that it was a boarding-house.
"I waited a few minutes and rang the bell. When a maid answered it,
I asked for Mr. Sullivan. Of course there was no Mr. Sullivan there.
"I said I was sorry; that the man I was looking for was a new
boarder. She was sure there was no such boarder in the house; the
only new arrival was a man on the third floor - she thought his name
"'My friend has a cousin by that name,' I said. 'I'll just go up
"She wanted to show me up, but I said it was unnecessary. So after
telling me it was the bedroom and sitting-room on the third floor
front, I went up.
"I met a couple of men on the stairs, but neither of them paid any
attention to me. A boarding-house is the easiest place in the world
"They're not always so easy to leave," I put in, to his evident
"When I got to the third story, I took out a bunch of keys and
posted myself by a door near the ones the girl had indicated. I
could hear voices in one of the front rooms, but could not
understand what they said.
"There was no violent dispute, but a steady hum. Then Bronson
jerked the door open. If he had stepped into the hall he would
have seen me fitting a key into the door before me. But he spoke
before he came out.
"'You're acting like a maniac,' he said. 'You know I can get those
things some way; I'm not going to threaten you. It isn't necessary.
You know me.'
"'It would be no use,' the other man said. 'I tell you, I haven't
seen the notes for ten days.'
"'But you will,' Bronson said savagely. 'You're standing in your
own way, that's all. If you're holding out expecting me to raise
my figure, you're making a mistake. It's my last offer.'
"'I couldn't take it if it was for a million,' said the man inside
the room. 'I'd do it, I expect, if I could. The best of us have
"Bronson slammed the door then, and flung past me down the hall.
"After a couple of minutes I knocked at the door, and a tall man
about your size, Mr. Blakeley, opened it. He was very blond, with
a smooth face and blue eyes - what I think you would call a handsome
"'I beg your pardon for disturbing you,' I said. 'Can you tell me
which is Mr. Johnson's room? Mr. Francis Johnson?'
"'I can not say,' he replied civilly. 'I've only been here a few
"I thanked him and left, but I had had a good look at him, and I
think I'd know him readily any place."
I sat for a few minutes thinking it over. "But what did he mean by
saying he hadn't seen the notes for ten days? And why is Bronson
making the overtures?"
"I think he was lying," Hotchkiss reflected. "Bronson hasn't
reached his figure."
"It's a big advance, Mr. Hotchkiss, and I appreciate what you have
done more than I can tell you," I said. "And now, if you can
locate any of my property in this fellow's room, we'll send him up
for larceny, and at least have him where we can get at him. I'm
going to Cresson to-morrow, to try to trace him a little from there.
But I'll be back in a couple of days, and we'll begin to gather in
these scattered threads."
Hotchkiss rubbed his hands together delightedly.
"That's it," he said. "That's what we want to do, Mr. Blakeley.
We'll gather up the threads ourselves; if we let the police in too
soon, they'll tangle it up again. I'm not vindictive by nature; but
when a fellow like Sullivan not only commits a murder, but goes to
all sorts of trouble to put the burden of guilt on an innocent man
- I say hunt him down, sir!"
"You are convinced, of course, that Sullivan did it?"
"Who else?" He looked over his glasses at me with the air of a man
whose mental attitude is unassailable. "Well, listen to this," I
Then I told him at length of my encounter with Bronson in the
restaurant, of the bargain proposed by Mrs. Conway, and finally of
McKnight's new theory. But, although he was impressed, he was far
"It's a very vivid piece of imagination," he said drily; "but while
it fits the evidence as far as it goes, it doesn't go far enough.
How about the stains in lower seven, the dirk, and the wallet?
Haven't we even got motive in that telegram from Bronson?"
"Yes," I admitted, "but that bit of chain - "
"Pooh," he said shortly. "Perhaps, like yourself, Sullivan wore
glasses with a chain. Our not finding them does not prove they did
And there I made an error; half confidences are always mistakes. I
could not tell of the broken chain in Alison West's gold purse.
It was one o'clock when Hotchkiss finally left. We had by that time
arranged a definite course of action - Hotchkiss to search Sullivan's
rooms and if possible find evidence to have him held for larceny,
while I went to Cresson.
Strangely enough, however, when I entered the train the following
morning, Hotchkiss was already there. He had bought a new note-book,
and was sharpening a fresh pencil.
"I changed my plans, you see," he said, bustling his newspaper aside
for me. "It is no discredit to your intelligence, Mr. Blakeley, but
you lack the professional eye, the analytical mind. You legal
gentlemen call a spade a spade, although it may be a shovel."
"'A primrose by the river's brim
A yellow primrose was to him,
And nothing more!'"
I quoted as the train pulled out.
A NIGHT AT THE LAURELS
I slept most of the way to Cresson, to the disgust of the little
detective. Finally he struck up an acquaintance with a
kindly-faced old priest on his way home to his convent school,
armed with a roll of dance music and surreptitious bundles that
looked like boxes of candy. From scraps of conversation I gleaned
that there had been mysterious occurrences at the convent, - ending
in the theft of what the reverend father called vaguely, "a quantity
of undermuslins." I dropped asleep at that point, and when I roused
a few moments later, the conversation had progressed. Hotchkiss had
a diagram on an envelope.
"With this window bolted, and that one inaccessible, and if, as you
say, the - er - garments were in a tub here at X, then, as you hold
the key to the other door, - I think you said the convent dog did not
raise any disturbance? Pardon a personal question, but do you ever
walk in your sleep?"
The priest looked bewildered.
"I'll tell you what to do," Hotchkiss said cheerfully, leaning
forward, "look around a little yourself before you call in the
police. Somnambulism is a queer thing. It's a question whether
we are most ourselves sleeping or waking. Ever think of that?
Live a saintly life all day, prayers and matins and all that,
and the subconscious mind hikes you out of bed at night to steal
undermuslins! Subliminal theft, so to speak. Better examine
I dozed again. When I wakened Hotchkiss sat alone, and the priest,
from a corner, was staring at him dazedly, over his breviary.
It was raining when we reached Cresson, a wind-driven rain that had
forced the agent at the newsstand to close himself in, and that beat
back from the rails in parallel lines of white spray. As he went up
the main street, Hotchkiss was cheerfully oblivious of the weather,
of the threatening dusk, of our generally draggled condition. My
draggled condition, I should say, for he improved every moment,
- his eyes brighter, his ruddy face ruddier, his collar newer and
glossier. Sometime, when it does not encircle the little man's
neck, I shall test that collar with a match.
I was growing steadily more depressed: I loathed my errand and its
necessity. I had always held that a man who played the spy on a
woman was beneath contempt. Then, I admit I was afraid of what I
might learn. For a time, however, this promised to be a negligible
quantity. The streets of the straggling little mountain town had
been clean-washed of humanity by the downpour. Windows and doors
were inhospitably shut, and from around an occasional drawn shade
came narrow strips of light that merely emphasized our gloom. When
Hotchkiss' umbrella turned inside out, I stopped.
"I don't know where you are going," I snarled, "I don't care. But
I'm going to get under cover inside of ten seconds. I'm not
I ducked into the next shelter, which happened to be the yawning
entrance to a livery stable, and shook myself, dog fashion.
Hotchkiss wiped his collar with his handkerchief. It emerged
gleaming and unwilted.
"This will do as well as any place," he said, raising his voice
above the rattle of the rain. "Got to make a beginning."
I sat down on the usual chair without a back, just inside the door,
and stared out at the darkening street. The whole affair had an
air of unreality. Now that I was there, I doubted the necessity,
or the value, of the journey. I was wet and uncomfortable. Around
me, with Cresson as a center, stretched an irregular circumference
of mountain, with possibly a ten-mile radius, and in it I was to
find the residence of a woman whose first name I did not know, and
a man who, so far, had been a purely chimerical person.
Hotchkiss had penetrated the steaming interior of the cave, and now
his voice, punctuated by the occasional thud of horses' hoofs, came
"Something light will do," he was saying. "A runabout, perhaps."
He came forward rubbing his hands, followed by a thin man in
overalls. "Mr. Peck says," he began, - "this is Mr. Peck of Peck
and Peck, - says that the place we are looking for is about seven
miles from the town. It's clearing, isn't it?"
"It is not," I returned savagely. "And we don't want a runabout,
Mr. Peck. What we require is hermetically sealed diving suit. I
suppose there isn't a machine to be had?" Mr. Peck gazed at me, in
silence: machine to him meant other things than motors. "Automobile,"
I supplemented. His face cleared.
"None but private affairs. I can give you a good buggy with a
rubber apron. Mike, is the doctor's horse in?"
I am still uncertain as to whether the raw-boned roan we took out
that night over the mountains was the doctor's horse or not. If it
was, the doctor may be a good doctor, but he doesn't know anything
about a horse. And furthermore, I hope he didn't need the beast
that miserable evening.
While they harnessed the horse, Hotchkiss told me what he had
"Six Curtises in the town and vicinity," he said. "Sort of family
name around here. One of them is telegraph operator at the station.
Person we are looking for is - was - a wealthy widow with a brother
named Sullivan! Both supposed to have been killed on the Flier."
"Her brother," I repeated stupidly.
"You see," Hotchkiss went on, "three people, in one party, took the
train here that night, Miss West, Mrs. Curtis and Sullivan. The two
women had the drawing-room, Sullivan had lower seven. What we want
to find out is just who these people were, where they came from, if
Bronson knew them, and how Miss West became entangled with them.
She may have married Sullivan, for one thing."
I fell into gloom after that. The roan was led unwillingly into the
weather, Hotchkiss and I in eclipse behind the blanket. The
liveryman stood in the doorway and called directions to us. "You
can't miss it," he finished. "Got the name over the gate anyhow,
'The Laurels.' The servants are still there: leastways, we didn't
bring them down." He even took a step into the rain as Hotchkiss
picked up the lines. "If you're going to settle the estate," he
bawled, "don't forget us, Peck and Peck. A half-bushel of name and
a bushel of service.
Hotchkiss could not drive. Born a clerk, he guided the roan much as
he would drive a bad pen. And the roan spattered through puddles and
splashed ink - mud, that is - until I was in a frenzy of irritation.
"What are we going to say when we get there?" I asked after I had
finally taken the reins in my one useful hand. "Get out there at
midnight and tell the servants we have come to ask a few questions
about the family? It's an idiotic trip anyhow; I wish I had stayed
The roan fell just then, and we had to crawl out and help him up.
By the time we had partly unharnessed him our matches were gone,
and the small bicycle lamp on the buggy was wavering only too
certainly. We were covered with mud, panting with exertion, and
even Hotchkiss showed a disposition to be surly. The rain, which
had lessened for a time, came on again, the lightning flashes doing
more than anything else to reveal our isolated position.
Another mile saw us, if possible, more despondent. The water in
our clothes had had time to penetrate: the roan had sprained his
shoulder, and drew us along in a series of convulsive jerks. And
then through the rain-spattered window of the blanket, I saw a
light. It was a small light, rather yellow, and it lasted perhaps
thirty seconds. Hotchkiss missed it, and was inclined to doubt me.
But in a couple of minutes the roan hobbled to the side of the road
and stopped, and I made out a break in the pines and an arched gate.
It was a small gate, too narrow for the buggy. I pulled the horse
into as much shelter as possible under the trees, and we got out.
Hotchkiss tied the beast and we left him there, head down against
the driving rain, drooping and dejected. Then we went toward the
It was a long walk. The path bent and twisted, and now and then we
lost it. We were climbing as we went. Oddly there were no lights
ahead, although it was only ten o'clock, - not later. Hotchkiss
kept a little ahead of me, knocking into trees now and then, but
finding the path in half the time I should have taken. Once, as I
felt my way around a tree in the blackness, I put my hand
unexpectedly on his shoulder, and felt a shudder go down my back.
"What do you expect me to do?" he protested, when I remonstrated.
"Hang out a red lantern? What was that? Listen."
We both stood peering into the gloom. The sharp patter of the rain
on leaves had ceased, and from just ahead there came back to us the
stealthy padding of feet in wet soil. My hand closed on Hotchkiss'
shoulder, and we listened together, warily. The steps were close by,
unmistakable. The next flash of lightning showed nothing moving:
the house was in full view now, dark and uninviting, looming huge
above a terrace, with an Italian garden at the side. Then the
blackness again. Somebody's teeth were chattering: I accused
Hotchkiss but he denied it.
"Although I'm not very comfortable, I'll admit," he confessed; "there
was something breathing right at my elbow here a moment ago."
"Nonsense!" I took his elbow and steered him in what I made out to
be the direction of the steps of the Italian garden. "I saw a deer
just ahead by the last flash; that's what you heard. By Jove, I
We paused to listen and Hotchkiss put his hand on something close
to us. "Here's your deer," he said.
As we neared the house the sense of surveillance we had had in the
park gradually left us. Stumbling over flower beds, running afoul
of a sun-dial, groping our way savagely along hedges and thorny banks,
we reached the steps finally and climbed the terrace.
It was then that Hotchkiss fell over one of the two stone urns which,
with tall boxwood trees in them, mounted guard at each side of the
door. He didn't make any attempt to get up. He sat in a puddle on
the brick floor of the terrace and clutched his leg and swore softly
in Government English.
The occasional relief of the lightning was gone. I could not see an
outline of the house before me. We had no matches, and an instant's
investigation showed that the windows were boarded and the house
closed. Hotchkiss, still recumbent, was ascertaining the damage,
tenderly peeling down his stocking.
"Upon my soul," he said finally, "I don't know whether this moisture
is blood or rain. I think I've broken a bone."
"Blood is thicker than water," I suggested. "Is it sticky? See if
you can move your toes."
There was a pause: Hotchkiss moved his toes. By that time I had
found a knocker and was making the night hideous. But there was no
response save the wind that blew sodden leaves derisively in our
faces. Once Hotchkiss declared he heard a window-sash lifted, but
renewed violence with the knocker produced no effect.
"There's only one thing to do," I said finally. "I'll go back and
try to bring the buggy up for you. You can't walk, can you?"
Hotchkiss sat back in his puddle and said he didn't think he could
stir, but for me to go back to town and leave him, that he didn't
have any family dependent on him, and that if he was going to have
pneumonia he had probably got it already. I left him there, and
started back to get the horse.
If possible, it was worse than before. There was no lightning, and
only by a miracle did I find the little gate again. I drew a long
breath of relief, followed by another, equally long, of dismay. For
I had found the hitching strap and there was nothing at the end of
it! In a lull of the wind I seemed to hear, far off, the eager thud
of stable-bound feet. So for the second time I climbed the slope
to the Laurels, and on the way I thought of many things to say.
I struck the house at a new angle, for I found a veranda, destitute
of chairs and furnishings, but dry and evidently roofed. It was
better than the terrace, and so, by groping along the wall, I tried
to make my way to Hotchkiss. That was how I found the open window.
I had passed perhaps six, all closed, and to have my hand grope for
the next one, and to find instead the soft drapery of an inner
curtain, was startling, to say the least.
I found Hotchkiss at last around an angle of the stone wall1 and
told him that the horse was gone. He was disconcerted, but not
abased; maintaining that it was a new kind of knot that couldn't
slip and that the horse must have chewed the halter through! He
was less enthusiastic than I had expected about the window.
"It looks uncommonly like a trap," he said. "I tell you there was
some one in the park below when we were coming up. Man has a sixth
sense that scientists ignore - a sense of the nearness of things.
And all the time you have been gone, some one has been watching me."
"Couldn't see you," I maintained; "I can't see you now. And your
sense of contiguity didn't tell you about that flower crock."
In the end, of course, he consented to go with me. He was very
lame, and I helped him around to the open window. He was full of
moral courage, the little man: it was only the physical in him that
quailed. And as we groped along, he insisted on going through the
"If it is a trap," he whispered, "I have two arms to your one, and,
besides, as I said before, life holds much for you. As for me, the
government would merely lose an indifferent employee."
When he found I was going first he was rather hurt, but I did not
wait for his protests. I swung my feet over the sill and dropped.
I made a clutch at the window-frame with my good hand when I found
no floor under my feet, but I was too late. I dropped probably
ten feet and landed with a crash that seemed to split my ear-drums.
I was thoroughly shaken, but in some miraculous way the bandaged
arm had escaped injury.
"For Heaven's sake," Hotchkiss was calling from above, "have you
broken your back?"
"No," I returned, as steadily as I could, "merely driven it up
through my skull. This is a staircase. I'm coming up to open
It was eerie work, but I accomplished it finally, discovering, not
without mishap, a room filled with more tables than I had ever
dreamed of, tables that seemed to waylay and strike at me. When I
had got a window open, Hotchkiss crawled through, and we were at
last under shelter.
Our first thought was for a light. The same laborious
investigation that had landed us where we were, revealed that the
house was lighted by electricity, and that the plant was not in
operation. By accident I stumbled across a tabouret with smoking
materials, and found a half dozen matches. The first one showed
us the magnitude of the room we stood in, and revealed also a
brass candle-stick by the open fireplace, a candle-stick almost
four feet high, supporting a candle of similar colossal proportions.
It was Hotchkiss who discovered that it had been recently lighted.
He held the match to it and peered at it over his glasses.
"Within ten minutes," he announced impressively, this candle has
been burning. Look at the wax! And the wick! Both soft."
"Perhaps it's the damp weather," I ventured, moving a little nearer
to the circle of light. A gust of wind came in just then, and the
flame turned over on its side and threatened demise. There was
something almost ridiculous in the haste with which we put down the
window and nursed the flicker to life.
The peculiarly ghost-like appearance of the room added to the
uncanniness of the situation. The furniture was swathed in white
covers for the winter; even the pictures wore shrouds. And in a
niche between two windows a bust on a pedestal, similarly wrapped,
one arm extended under its winding sheet, made a most life-like
ghost, if any ghost can be life-like.
In the light of the candle we surveyed each other, and we were
objects for mirth. Hotchkiss was taking off his sodden shoes and
preparing to make himself comfortable, while I hung my muddy
raincoat over the ghost in the corner. Thus habited, he presented
a rakish but distinctly more comfortable appearance.
"When these people built," Hotchkiss said, surveying the huge
dimensions of the room, "they must have bought a mountain and built
all over it. What a room!"
It seemed to be a living-room, although Hotchkiss remarked that it
was much more like a dead one. It was probably fifty feet long and
twenty-five feet wide. It was very high, too, with a domed ceiling,
and a gallery ran around the entire room, about fifteen feet above
the floor. The candle light did not penetrate beyond the dim
outlines of the gallery rail, but I fancied the wall there hung
with smaller pictures.
Hotchkiss had discovered a fire laid in the enormous fireplace, and
in a few minutes we were steaming before a cheerful blaze. Within
the radius of its light and heat, we were comfortable again. But
the brightness merely emphasized the gloom of the ghostly corners.
We talked in subdued tones, and I smoked, a box of Russian
cigarettes which I found in a table drawer. We had decided to stay
all night, there being nothing else to do. I suggested a game of
double-dummy bridge, but did not urge it when my companion asked me
if it resembled euchre. Gradually, as the ecclesiastical candle
paled in the firelight, we grew drowsy. I drew a divan into the
cheerful area, and stretched myself out for sleep. Hotchkiss, who
aid the pain in his leg made him wakeful, sat wide-eyed by the
fire, smoking a pipe.
I have no idea how much time had passed when something threw itself
violently on my chest. I roused with a start and leaped to my feet,
and a large Angora cat fell with a thump to the floor. The fire
was still bright, and there was an odor of scorched leather through
the room, from Hotchkiss' shoes. The little detective was sound
asleep, his dead pipe in his fingers. The cat sat back on its
haunches and wailed.
The curtain at the door into the hallway bellied slowly out into
the room and fell again. The cat looked toward it and opened its
mouth for another howl. I thrust at it with my foot, but it
refused to move. Hotchkiss stirred uneasily, and his pipe
clattered to the floor.
The cat was standing at my feet, staring behind me. Apparently it
was following with its eyes, an object unseen to me, that moved
behind me. The tip of its tail waved threateningly, but when I
wheeled I saw nothing.
I took the candle and made a circuit of the room. Behind the
curtain that had moved the door was securely closed. The windows
were shut and locked, and everywhere the silence was absolute. The
cat followed me majestically. I stooped and stroked its head, but
it persisted in its uncanny watching of the corners of the room.
When I went back to my divan, after putting a fresh log on the fire,
I was reassured. I took the precaution, and smiled at myself for
doing it, to put the fire tongs within reach of my hand. But the
cat would not let me sleep. After a time I decided that it wanted
water, and I started out in search of some, carrying the candle
without the stand. I wandered through several rooms, all closed
and dismantled, before I found a small lavatory opening off a
billiard room. The cat lapped steadily, and I filled a glass to
take back with me. The candle flickered in a sickly fashion that
threatened to leave me there lost in the wanderings of the many
hallways, and from somewhere there came an occasional violent puff
of wind. The cat stuck by my feet, with the hair on its back raised
menacingly. I don't like cats; there is something psychic about
Hotchkiss was still asleep when I got back to the big room. I moved
his boots back from the fire, and trimmed the candle. Then, with
sleep gone from me, I lay back on my divan and reflected on many
things: on my idiocy in coming; on Alison West, and the fact that
only a week before she had been a guest in this very house; on
Richey and the constraint that had come between us. From that I
drifted back to Alison, and to the barrier my comparative poverty
The emptiness, the stillness were oppressive. Once I heard
footsteps coming, rhythmical steps that neither hurried nor dragged,
and seemed to mount endless staircases without coming any closer.
I realized finally that I had not quite turned off the tap, and that
the lavatory, which I had circled to reach, must be quite close.
The cat lay by the fire, its nose on its folded paws, content in the
warmth and companionship. I watched it idly. Now and then the
green wood hissed in the fire, but the cat never batted an eye.
Through an unshuttered window the lightning flashed. Suddenly the
cat looked up. It lifted its head and stared directly at the
gallery above. Then it blinked, and stared again. I was amused.
Not until it had got up on its feet, eyes still riveted on the
balcony, tail waving at the tip, the hair on its back a bristling
brush, did I glance casually over my head.
>From among the shadows a face gazed down at me, a face that seemed
a fitting tenant of the ghostly room below. I saw it as plainly as
I might see my own face in a mirror. While I stared at it with
horrified eyes, the apparition faded. The rail was there, the
Bokhara rug still swung from it, but the gallery was empty.
The cat threw back its head and wailed.
HIS WIFE'S FATHER
I jumped up and seized the fire tongs. The cat's wail had roused
Hotchkiss, who was wide-awake at once. He took in my offensive
attitude, the tongs, the direction of my gaze, and needed nothing
more. As he picked up the candle and darted out into the hall, I
followed him. He made directly for the staircase, and part way up
he turned off to the right through a small door. We were on the
gallery itself; below us the fire gleamed cheerfully, the cat was
not in sight. There was no sign of my ghostly visitant, but as we
stood there the Bokhara rug, without warning, slid over the railing
and fell to the floor below.
"Man or woman?" Hotchkiss inquired in his most professional tone.
"Neither - that is, I don't know. I didn't notice anything but the
eyes," I muttered. "They were looking a hole in me. If you'd seen
that cat you would realize my state of mind. That was a traditional
"I don't think you saw anything at all," he lied cheerfully. "You
dozed off, and the rest is the natural result of a meal on a buffet
Nevertheless, he examined the Bokhara carefully when we went down,
and when I finally went to sleep he was reading the only book in
sight - Elwell on Bridge. The first rays of daylight were coming
mistily into the room when he roused me. He had his finger on his
lips, and he whispered sibilantly while I tried to draw on my
"I think we have him," he said triumphantly. "I've been looking
around some, and I can tell you this much. Just before we came in
through the window last night, another man came. Only - he did not
drop, as you did. He swung over to the stair railing, and then
down. The rail is scratched. He was long enough ahead of us to go
into the dining-room and get a decanter out of the sideboard. He
poured out the liquor into a glass, left the decanter there, and
took the whisky into the library across the hall. Then - he broke
into a desk, using a paper knife for a jimmy."
"Good Lord, Hotchkiss," I exclaimed; "why, it may have been
Sullivan himself! Confound your theories - he's getting farther
away every minute."
"It was Sullivan," Hotchkiss returned imperturbably. "And he has
not gone. His boots are by the library fire."
"He probably had a dozen pairs where he could get them," I scoffed.
"And while you and I sat and slept, the very man we want to get our
hands on leered at us over that railing."
"Softly, softly, my friend," Hotchkiss said, as I stamped into my
other shoe. "I did not say he was gone. Don't jump at conclusions.
It is fatal to reasoning. As a matter of fact, he didn't relish a
night on the mountains any more than we did. After he had
unintentionally frightened you almost into paralysis, what would
my gentleman naturally do? Go out in the storm again? Not if I
know the Alice-sit-by-the-fire type. He went up-stairs, well up
near the roof, locked himself in and went to bed."
"And he is there now?"
"He is there now."
We had no weapons. I am aware that the traditional hero is always
armed, and that Hotchkiss as the low comedian should have had a
revolver that missed fire. As a fact, we had nothing of the sort.
Hotchkiss carried the fire tongs, but my sense of humor was too
strong for me; I declined the poker.
"All we want is a little peaceable conversation with him," I
demurred. "We can't brain him first and converse with him afterward.
And anyhow, while I can't put my finger on the place, I think your
theory is weak. If he wouldn't run a hundred miles through fire and
water to get away from us, then he is not the man we want."
Hotchkiss, however, was certain. He had found the room and listened
outside the door to the sleeper's heavy breathing, and so we climbed
past luxurious suites, revealed in the deepening daylight, past long
vistas of hall and boudoir. And we were both badly winded when we
got there. It was a tower room, reached by narrow stairs, and well
above the roof level. Hotchkiss was glowing.
"It is partly good luck, but not all," he panted in a whisper. "If
we had persisted in the search last night, he would have taken alarm
and fled. Now - we have him. Are you ready?"
He gave a mighty rap at the door with the fire tongs, and stood
expectant. Certainly he was right; some one moved within.
"Hello! Hello there!" Hotchkiss bawled. "You might as well come
out. We won't hurt you, if you'll come peaceably."
"Tell him we represent the law," I prompted. "That's the customary
thing, you know."
But at that moment a bullet came squarely through the door and
flattened itself with a sharp pst against the wall of the tower
staircase. We ducked unanimously, dropped back out of range, and
Hotchkiss retaliated with a spirited bang at the door with the tongs.
This brought another bullet. It was a ridiculous situation. Under
the circumstances, no doubt, we should have retired, at least until
we had armed ourselves, but Hotchkiss had no end of fighting spirit,
and as for me, my blood was up.
"Break the lock," I suggested, and Hotchkiss, standing at the side,
out of range, retaliated for every bullet by a smashing blow with
the tongs. The shots ceased after a half dozen, and the door was
giving, slowly. One of us on each side of the door, we were ready
for almost any kind of desperate resistance. As it swung open
Hotchkiss poised the tongs; I stood, bent forward, my arm drawn
back for a blow.
There was not a sound. Finally, at the risk of losing an eye which
I justly value, I peered around and into the room. There was no
desperado there: only a fresh-faced, trembling-lipped servant,
sitting on the edge of her bed, with a quilt around her shoulders
and the empty revolver at her feet.
We were victorious, but no conquered army ever beat such a retreat
as ours down the tower stairs and into the refuge of the living-room.
There, with the door closed, sprawled on the divan, I went from one
spasm of mirth into another, becoming sane at intervals, and
suffering relapse again every time I saw Hotchkiss' disgruntled
countenance. He was pacing the room, the tongs still in his hand,
his mouth pursed with irritation. Finally he stopped in front of
me and compelled my attention.
"When you have finished cackling," he said with dignity, "I wish to
justify my position. Do you think the - er - young woman up-stairs
put a pair of number eight boots to dry in the library last night?
Do you think she poured the whisky out of that decanter?"
"They have been known to do it," I put in, but his eye silenced me.
"Moreover, if she had been the person who peered at you over the
gallery railing last night, don't you suppose, with her - er
- belligerent disposition, she could have filled you as full of
lead as a window weight?"
"I do," I assented. "It wasn't Alice-sit-by-the-fire. I grant you
that. Then who was it?"
Hotchkiss felt certain that it had been Sullivan, but I was not so
sure. Why would he have crawled like a thief into his own house?
If he had crossed the park, as seemed probable, when we did, he had
not made any attempt to use the knocker. I gave it up finally, and
made an effort to conciliate the young woman in the tower.
We had heard no sound since our spectacular entrance into her room.
I was distinctly uncomfortable as, alone this time, I climbed to
the tower staircase. Reasoning from before, she would probably
throw a chair at me. I stopped at the foot of the staircase and
"Hello up there," I said, in as debonair a manner as I could summon.
"Good morning. Wie geht es bei ihen?"
"Bon jour, mademoiselle," I tried again. This time there was a
movement of some sort from above, but nothing fell on me.
"I - we want to apologize for rousing you so - er - unexpectedly
this morning," I went on. "The fact is, we wanted to talk to you,
and you - you were hard to waken. We are travelers, lost in your
mountains, and we crave a breakfast and an audience."
She came to the door then. I could feel that she was investigating
the top of my head from above. "Is Mr. Sullivan with you?" she
asked. It was the first word from her, and she was not sure of her
"No. We are alone. If you will come down and look at us you will
find us two perfectly harmless people, whose horse - curses on
him - departed without leave last night and left us at your gate."
She relaxed somewhat then and came down a step or two. "I was
afraid I had killed somebody," she said. "The housekeeper left
yesterday, and the other maids went with her."
When she saw that I was comparatively young and lacked the earmarks
of the highwayman, she was greatly relieved. She was inclined to
fight shy of Hotchkiss, however, for some reason. She gave us
a breakfast of a sort, for there was little in the house, and
afterward we telephoned to the town for a vehicle. While Hotchkiss
examined scratches and replaced the Bokhara rug, I engaged Jennie
"Can you tell me," I asked, "who is managing the estate since Mrs.
Curtis was killed?"
"No one," she returned shortly.
"Has - any member of the family been here since the accident?"
"No, sir. There was only the two, and some think Mr. Sullivan was
killed as well as his sister."
"No," with conviction.
She wheeled on me with quick suspicion.
"Are you a detective?" she demanded.
"You told him to say you represented the law."
"I am a lawyer. Some of them misrepresent the law, but I - "
She broke in impatiently.
"A sheriff's officer?"
"No. Look here, Jennie; I am all that I should be. You'll have to
believe that. And I'm in a bad position through no fault of my own.
I want you to answer some questions. If you will help me, I will
do what I can for you. Do you live near here?"
Her chin quivered. It was the first sign of weakness she had shown.
"My home is in Pittsburg," she said, "and I haven't enough money to
get there. They hadn't paid any wages for two months. They didn't
"Very well," I returned. "I'll send you back to Pittsburg, Pullman
included, if you will tell me some things I want to know."
She agreed eagerly. Outside the window Hotchkiss was bending over,
examining footprints in the drive.
"Now," I began, "there has been a Miss West staying here?"
"Mr. Sullivan was attentive to her?"
"Yes. She was the granddaughter of a wealthy man in Pittsburg.
My aunt has been in his family for twenty years. Mrs. Curtis wanted
her brother to marry Miss West."
"Do you think he did marry her?" I could not keep the excitement out
of my voice.
"No. There were reasons" - she stopped abruptly.
"Do you know anything of the family? Are they - were they New
"They came from somewhere in the south. I have heard Mrs. Curtis
say her mother was a Cuban. I don't know much about them, but Mr.
Sullivan had a wicked temper, though he didn't look it. Folks say
big, light-haired people are easy going, but I don't believe it, sir."
"How long was Miss West here?"
I hesitated about further questioning. Critical as my position was,
I could not pry deeper into Alison West's affairs. If she had got
into the hands of adventurers, as Sullivan and his sister appeared
to have been, she was safely away from them again. But something of
the situation in the car Ontario was forming itself in my mind: the
incident at the farmhouse lacked only motive to be complete. Was
Sullivan, after all, a rascal or a criminal? Was the murderer
Sullivan or Mrs. Conway? The lady or the tiger again.
Jennie was speaking.
"I hope Miss West was not hurt?" she asked. "We liked her, all of
us. She was not like Mrs. Curtis."
I wanted to say that she was not like anybody in the world. Instead
- "She escaped with some bruises," I said.
She glanced at my arm. "You were on the train?"
She waited for more questions, but none coming, she went to the door.
Then she closed it softly and came back.
"Mrs. Curtis is dead? You are sure of it?" she asked.
"She was killed instantly, I believe. The body was not recovered.
But I have reasons for believing that Mr. Sullivan is living."
"I knew it," she said. "I - I think he was here the night before
last. That is why I went to the tower room. I believe he would
kill me if he could." As nearly as her round and comely face could
express it, Jennie's expression was tragic at that moment. I made
a quick resolution, and acted on it at once.
"You are not entirely frank with me, Jennie," I protested. "And I
am going to tell you more than I have. We are talking at cross
"I was on the wrecked train, in the same car with Mrs. Curtis, Miss
West and Mr. Sullivan. During the night there was a crime committed
in that car and Mr. Sullivan disappeared. But he left behind him a
chain of circumstantial evidence that involved me completely, so
that I may, at any time, be arrested."
Apparently she did not comprehend for a moment. Then, as if the
meaning of my words had just dawned on her, she looked up and gasped:
"You mean - Mr. Sullivan committed the crime himself?"
"I think he did."
"What was it?"
"It was murder," I said deliberately.
Her hands clenched involuntarily, and she shrank back. "A woman?"
She could scarcely form her words.
"No, a man; a Mr. Simon Harrington, of Pittsburg."
Her effort to retain her self-control was pitiful. Then she broke
down and cried, her head on the back of a tall chair.
"It was my fault," she said wretchedly, "my fault, I should not
have sent them the word."
After a few minutes she grew quiet. She seemed to hesitate over
something, and finally determined to say it.
"You will understand better, sir, when I say that I was raised in
the Harrington family. Mr. Harrington was Mr. Sullivan's wife's
AT THE STATION
So it had been the tiger, not the lady! Well, I had held to that
theory all through. Jennie suddenly became a valuable person; if
necessary she could prove the connection between Sullivan and the
murdered man, and show a motive for the crime. I was triumphant
when Hotchkiss came in. When the girl had produced a photograph
of Mrs. Sullivan, and I had recognized the bronze-haired girl of
the train, we were both well satisfied - which goes to prove the
ephemeral nature of most human contentments.
Jennie either had nothing more to say, or feared she had said too
much. She was evidently uneasy before Hotchkiss. I told her that
Mrs. Sullivan was recovering in a Baltimore hospital, but she
already knew it, from some source, and merely nodded. She made a
few preparations for leaving, while Hotchkiss and I compared notes,
and then, with the cat in her arms, she climbed into the trap from
the town. I sat with her, and on the way down she told me a little,
"If you see Mrs. Sullivan," she advised, "and she is conscious, she
probably thinks that both her husband and her father were killed in
the wreck. She will be in a bad way, sir."
"You mean that she - still cares about her husband?"
The cat crawled over on to my knee, and rubbed its bead against my
hand invitingly. Jennie stared at the undulating line of the
mountain crests, a colossal sun against a blue ocean of sky. "Yes,
she cares," she said softly. "Women are made like that. They say
they are cats, but Peter there in your lap wouldn't come back and
lick your hand if you kicked him. If - if you have to tell her the
truth, be as gentle as you can, sir. She has been good to me - that's
why I have played the spy here all summer. It's a thankless thing,
spying on people."
"It is that," I agreed soberly.
Hotchkiss and I arrived in Washington late that evening, and, rather
than arouse the household, I went to the club. I was at the office
early the next morning and admitted myself. McKnight rarely
appeared before half after ten, and our modest office force some
time after nine. I looked over my previous day's mail and waited,
with such patience as I possessed, for McKnight. In the interval
I called up Mrs. Klopton and announced that I would dine at home
that night. What my household subsists on during my numerous
absences I have never discovered. Tea, probably, and crackers.
Diligent search when I have made a midnight arrival, never reveals
anything more substantial. Possibly I imagine it, but the
announcement that I am about to make a journey always seems to
create a general atmosphere of depression throughout the house,
as though Euphemia and Eliza, and Thomas, the stableman, were
already subsisting, in imagination, on Mrs. Klopton's meager fare.
So I called her up and announced my arrival. There was something
unusual in her tone, as though her throat was tense with
indignation. Always shrill, her elderly voice rasped my ear
painfully through the receiver.
"I have changed the butcher, Mr. Lawrence," she announced
portentously. "The last roast was a pound short, and his
mutton-chops - any self-respecting sheep would refuse to
As I said before, I can always tell from the voice in which Mrs.
Klopton conveys the most indifferent matters, if something of
real significance has occurred. Also, through long habit, I have
learned how quickest to bring her to the point.
"You are pessimistic this morning," I returned. "What's the matter,
Mrs. Klopton? You haven't used that tone since Euphemia baked a
pie for the iceman. What is it now? Somebody poison the dog?"
She cleared her throat.
"The house has been broken into, Mr. Lawrence," she said. "I have
lived in the best families, and never have I stood by and seen what
I saw yesterday - every bureau drawer opened, and my - my most
sacred belongings - " she choked.
"Did you notify the police?" I asked sharply.
"Police!" she sniffed. "Police! It was the police that did it - two
detectives with a search warrant. I - I wouldn't dare tell you over
the telephone what one of them said when he found the whisky and rock
candy for my cough."
"Did they take anything?" I demanded, every nerve on edge.
"They took the cough medicine," she returned indignantly, "and they
said - "
"Confound the cough medicine!" I was frantic. "Did they take
anything else? Were they in my dressing-room?"
"Yes. I threatened to sue them, and I told them what you would do
when you came back. But they wouldn't listen. They took away that
black sealskin bag you brought home from Pittsburg with you!"
I knew then that my hours of freedom were numbered. To have found
Sullivan and then, in support of my case against him, to have
produced the bag, minus the bit of chain, had been my intention.
But the police had the bag, and, beyond knowing something of
Sullivan's history, I was practically no nearer his discovery than
before. Hotchkiss hoped he had his man in the house off Washington
Circle, but on the very night he had seen him Jennie claimed that
Sullivan had tried to enter the Laurels. Then - suppose we found
Sullivan and proved the satchel and its contents his? Since the
police had the bit of chain it might mean involving Alison in the
story. I sat down and buried my face in my hands. There was no
escape. I figured it out despondingly.
Against me was the evidence of the survivors of the Ontario that
I had been accused of the murder at the time. There had been
blood-stains on my pillow and a hidden dagger. Into the bargain,
in my possession had been found a traveling-bag containing the
dead man's pocket-book.
In my favor was McKnight's theory against Mrs. Conway. She had a
motive for wishing to secure the notes, she believed I was in lower
ten, and she had collapsed at the discovery of the crime in the
Against both of these theories, I accuse a purely chimerical person
named Sullivan, who was not seen by any of the survivors - save one,
Alison, whom I could not bring into the case. I could find a motive
for his murdering his father-in-law, whom he hated, but again - I
would have to drag in the girl.
And not one of the theories explained the telegram and the broken
Outside the office force was arriving. They were comfortably
ignorant of my presence, and over the transom floated scraps of
dialogue and the stenographer's gurgling laugh. McKnight had a
relative, who was reading law with him, in the intervals between
calling up the young women of his acquaintance. He came in
singing, and the office boy joined in with the uncertainty of
voice of fifteen. I smiled grimly. I was too busy with my own
troubles to find any joy in opening the door and startling them
into silence. I even heard, without resentment, Blobs of the
uncertain voice inquire when "Blake" would be back.
I hoped McKnight would arrive before the arrest occurred. There
were many things to arrange. But when at last, impatient of his
delay, I telephoned, I found he had been gone for more than an hour.
Clearly he was not coming directly to the office, and with such
resignation as I could muster I paced the floor and waited.
I felt more alone than I have ever felt in my life. "Born an
orphan," as Richey said, I had made my own way, carved out myself
such success as had been mine. I had built up my house of life
on the props of law and order, and now some unknown hand had