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The Vanishing Man by R. Austin Freeman

Part 5 out of 6

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eyes bent dreamily on the face that looked out at us. I watched her with
reverent admiration. How charming she looked as she stood with her
sweet, grave face turned so earnestly to the object of her mystical
affection! How dainty and full of womanly dignity and grace! And then,
suddenly, it was borne in upon me that a great change had come over her
since the day of our first meeting. She had grown younger, more girlish,
and more gentle. At first she had seemed much older than I; a sad-faced
woman, weary, solemn, enigmatic, almost gloomy, with a bitter, ironic
humour and a bearing distant and cold. Now she was only maidenly and
sweet; tinged, it is true, with a certain seriousness, but frank and
gracious and wholly lovable.

Could the change be due to our growing friendship? As I asked myself the
question, my heart leaped with a new-born hope. I yearned to tell her
all that she was to me--all that I hoped we might be to one another in
the years to come.

At length I ventured to break in upon her reverie.

"What are you thinking about so earnestly, fair lady?"

She turned quickly with a bright smile and sparkling eyes that looked
frankly into mine. "I was wondering," said she, "if he was jealous of my
new friend. But what a baby I am to talk such nonsense!"

She laughed softly and happily with just an adorable hint of shyness.

"Why should he be jealous?" I asked.

"Well, you see, before--we were friends, he had me all to himself. I
have never had a man-friend before--except my father--and no really
intimate friend at all. And I was very lonely in those days, after our
troubles had befallen. I am naturally solitary, but still, I am only a
girl; I am not a philosopher. So when I felt very lonely, I used to come
here and look at Artemidorus and make believe that he knew all the
sadness of my life and sympathised with me. It was very silly, I know,
but yet, somehow it was a real comfort to me."

"It was not silly of you at all. He must have been a good man, a gentle,
sweet-faced man who had won the love of those who knew him, as this
beautiful memorial tells us; and it was wise and good of you to sweeten
the bitterness of your life with the fragrance of this human love that
blossoms in the dust after the lapse of centuries. No, you were not
silly, and Artemidorus is not jealous of your new friend."

"Are you sure?" She still smiled as she asked the question, but her
glance was soft--almost tender--and there was a note of whimsical
anxiety in her voice.

"Quite sure. I give you my confident assurance."

She laughed gaily. "Then," said she, "I am satisfied, for I am sure you
know. But here is a mighty telepathist who can read the thoughts even of
a mummy. A most formidable companion. But tell me how you know."

"I know, because it is he who gave you to me to be my friend. Don't you

"Yes, I remember," she answered, softly. "It was when you were so
sympathetic with my foolish whim that I felt we were really friends."

"And I, when you confided your pretty fancy to me, thanked you for the
gift of your friendship, and treasured it, and do still treasure it,
above everything on earth."

She looked at me quickly with a sort of nervousness in her manner, and
cast down her eyes. Then, after a few moments' almost embarrassed
silence, as if to bring our talk back to a less emotional plane, she

"Do you notice the curious way in which this memorial divides itself up
into two distinct parts?"

"How do you mean?" I asked, a little disconcerted by the sudden descent.

"I mean that there is a part of it that is purely decorative and a part
that is expressive or emotional. You notice that the general design and
scheme of decoration, although really Greek in feeling, follows rigidly
the Egyptian conventions. But the portrait is entirely in the Greek
manner, and when they came to that pathetic farewell, it had to be
spoken in their own tongue, written in their own familiar characters."

"Yes. I have noticed that and admired the taste with which they have
kept the inscription so inconspicuous as not to clash with the
decoration. An obtrusive inscription in Greek characters would have
spoiled the consistency of the whole scheme."

"Yes, it would." She assented absently as if she were thinking of
something else, and once more gazed thoughtfully at the mummy. I watched
her with deep content: noted the lovely contour of her cheek, the soft
masses of hair that strayed away so gracefully from her brow, and
thought her the most wonderful creature that had ever trod the earth.
Suddenly she looked at me reflectively.

"I wonder," she said, "what made me tell you about Artemidorus. It was a
rather silly, childish sort of make-believe, and I wouldn't have told
anyone else for the world; not even my father. How did I know that you
would sympathise and understand?"

She asked the question in all simplicity with her serious, grey eyes
looking inquiringly into mine. And the answer came to me in a flash,
with the beating of my own heart.

"I will tell you how you knew, Ruth," I whispered passionately. "It was
because I loved you more than anyone in the world has ever loved you,
and you felt my love in your heart and called it sympathy."

I stopped short, for she had blushed scarlet and then turned deathly
pale. And now she looked at me wildly, almost with terror.

"Have I shocked you, Ruth, dearest?" I exclaimed penitently, "have I
spoken too soon? If I have, forgive me. But I had to tell you. I have
been eating my heart out for love of you for I don't know how long. I
think I have loved you from the first day we met. Perhaps I shouldn't
have spoken yet, but, Ruth, dear, if you only knew what a sweet girl you
are, you wouldn't blame me."

"I don't blame you," she said, almost in a whisper; "I blame myself. I
have been a bad friend to you, who have been so loyal and loving to me.
I ought not to have let this happen. For it can't be, Paul; I can't say
what you want me to say. We can never be anything more to one another
than friends."

A cold hand seemed to grasp my heart--a horrible fear that I had lost
all that I cared for--all that made life desirable.

"Why can't we?" I asked. "Do you mean that--that the gods have been
gracious to some other man?"

"No, no," she answered, hastily--almost indignantly, "of course I don't
mean that."

"Then it is only that you don't love me yet. Of course you don't. Why
should you? But you will, dear, some day. And I will wait patiently
until that day comes and not trouble you with entreaties. I will wait
for you as Jacob waited for Rachel; and as the long years seemed to him
but as a few days because of the love he bore her, so it shall be with
me, if only you will not send me away quite without hope."

She was looking down, white-faced, with a hardening of the lips as if
she were in bodily pain. "You don't understand," she whispered. "It
can't be--it can never be. There is something that makes it impossible,
now and always. I can't tell you more than that."

"But, Ruth, dearest," I pleaded despairingly, "may it not become
possible some day? Can it not be made possible? I can wait, but I can't
give you up. Is there no chance whatever that this obstacle may be

"Very little, I fear. Hardly any. No, Paul; it is hopeless, and I can't
bear to talk about it. Let me go now. Let us say good-bye here and see
one another no more for a while. Perhaps we may be friends again some
day--when you have forgiven me."

"Forgiven you, dearest!" I exclaimed. "There is nothing to forgive. And
we are friends, Ruth. Whatever happens, you are the dearest friend I
have on earth, or can ever have."

"Thank you, Paul," she said faintly. "You are very good to me. But let
me go, please. I must go. I must be alone."

She held out a trembling hand, and, as I took it, I was shocked to see
how terribly agitated and ill she looked.

"May I not come with you, dear?" I pleaded.

"No, no!" she exclaimed breathlessly; "I must go away by myself. I want
to be alone. Good-bye!"

"Before I let you go, Ruth--if you must go--I must have a solemn promise
from you."

Her sad grey eyes met mine and her lips quivered with an unspoken

"You must promise me," I went on, "that if ever this barrier that parts
us should be removed, you will let me know instantly. Remember that I
love you always, and that I am waiting for you always on this side of
the grave."

She caught her breath in a little quick sob, and pressed my hand.

"Yes," she whispered: "I promise. Good-bye." She pressed my hand again
and was gone; and, as I gazed at the empty doorway through which she had
passed, I caught a glimpse of her reflection in a glass case on the
landing, where she had paused for a moment to wipe her eyes. I felt it,
in a manner, indelicate to have seen her, and turned away my head
quickly; and yet I was conscious of a certain selfish satisfaction in
the sweet sympathy that her grief bespoke.

But now that she was gone a horrible sense of desolation descended on
me. Only now, by the consciousness of irreparable loss, did I begin to
realise the meaning of this passion of love that had stolen unawares
into my life. How it had glorified the present and spread a glamour of
delight over the dimly considered future: how all pleasures and desires,
all hopes and ambitions, had converged upon it as a focus; how it had
stood out as the one great reality behind which the other circumstances
of life were as a background, shimmering, half seen, immaterial, and
unreal. And now it was gone--lost, as it seemed, beyond hope; and that
which was left to me was but the empty frame from which the picture had

I have no idea how long I stood rooted to the spot where she had left
me, wrapped in a dull consciousness of pain, immersed in a half-numb
reverie. Recent events flitted, dream-like, through my mind; our happy
labours in the reading-room; our first visit to the Museum; and this
present day that had opened so brightly and with such joyous promise.
One by one these phantoms of a vanished happiness came and went.
Occasional visitors sauntered into the room--but the galleries were
mostly empty that day--gazed inquisitively at my motionless figure, and
went their way. And still the dull, intolerable ache in my breast went
on, the only vivid consciousness that was left to me.

Presently I raised my eyes and met those of the portrait. The sweet,
pensive face of the old Greek settler looked out at me wistfully as
though he would offer comfort; as though he would tell me that he, too,
had known sorrow when he lived his life in the sunny Fayyum. And a
subtle consolation, like the faint scent of old rose leaves, seemed to
exhale from that friendly face that had looked on the birth of my
happiness and had seen it wither and fade. I turned away, at last, with
a silent farewell; and when I looked back, he seemed to speed me on my
way with gentle valediction.



Of my wanderings after I left the Museum on that black and dismal _dies
irae_, I have but a dim recollection. But I must have travelled a quite
considerable distance, since it wanted an hour or two to the time for
returning to the surgery, and I spent the interval walking swiftly
through streets and squares, unmindful of the happenings around, intent
only on my present misfortune, and driven by a natural impulse to seek
relief in bodily exertion. For mental distress sets up, as it were, a
sort of induced current of physical unrest; a beneficent arrangement, by
which a dangerous excess of emotional excitement may be transformed into
motor energy, and so safely got rid of. The motor apparatus acts as a
safety-valve to the psychical; and if the engine races for a while, with
the onset of bodily fatigue the emotional pressure-gauge returns to a
normal reading.

And so it was with me. At first I was conscious of nothing but a sense
of utter bereavement, of the shipwreck of all my hopes. But, by degrees,
as I threaded my way among the moving crowds, I came to a better and
more worthy frame of mind. After all, I had lost nothing that I had ever
had. Ruth was still all that she had ever been to me--perhaps even more;
and if that had been a rich endowment yesterday, why not to-day also?
And how unfair it would be to her if I should mope and grieve over a
disappointment that was no fault of hers and for which there was no
remedy! Thus I reasoned with myself, and to such purpose that, by the
time I reached Fetter Lane, my dejection had come to quite manageable
proportions and I had formed the resolution to get back to the _status
quo ante bellum_ as soon as possible.

About eight o'clock, as I was sitting alone in the consulting-room,
gloomily persuading myself that I was now quite resigned to the
inevitable, Adolphus brought me a registered packet, at the handwriting
on which my heart gave such a bound that I had much ado to sign the
receipt. As soon as Adolphus had retired (with undissembled contempt of
the shaky signature) I tore open the packet, and as I drew out a letter
a tiny box dropped on the table.

The letter was all too short, and I devoured it over and over again with
the eagerness of a condemned man reading a reprieve:--

"My Dear Paul,

"Forgive me for leaving you so abruptly this afternoon, and leaving you
so unhappy, too. I am more sane and reasonable now, and so send you
greeting and beg you not to grieve for that which can never be. It is
quite impossible, dear friend, and I entreat you, as you care for me,
never to speak of it again; never again to make me feel that I can give
so little when you have given so much. And do not try to see me for a
little while. I shall miss your visits, and so will my father, who is
very fond of you; but it is better that we should not meet, until we can
take up the old relations--if that can ever be.

"I am sending you a little keepsake in case we should drift apart on
the eddies of life. It is the ring that I told you about--the one that
my uncle gave me. Perhaps you may be able to wear it as you have a small
hand, but in any case keep it in remembrance of our friendship. The
device on it is the Eye of Osiris, a mystic symbol for which I have a
sentimentally superstitious affection, as also had my poor uncle, who
actually bore it tattooed in scarlet on his breast. It signifies that
the great judge of the dead looks down on men to see that justice is
done and that truth prevails. So I commend you to the good Osiris; may
his eye be upon you, ever watchful over your welfare in the absence of

"Your affectionate friend


It was a sweet letter, I thought, even if it carried little comfort;
quiet and reticent like its writer, but with an undertone of sincere
affection. I laid it down at length, and, taking the ring from its box,
examined it fondly. Though but a copy, it had all the quaintness and
feeling of the antique original, and, above all, it was fragrant with
the spirit of the giver. Dainty and delicate, wrought of silver and
gold, with an inlay of copper, I would not have exchanged it for the
Koh-i-noor; and when I had slipped it on my finger its tiny eye of blue
enamel looked up at me so friendly and companionable that I felt the
glamour of the old-world superstition stealing over me, too.

Not a single patient came in this evening, which was well for me (and
also for the patient), as I was able forthwith to write in reply a long
letter; but this I shall spare the long-suffering reader excepting its
concluding paragraph:--

"And now, dearest, I have said my say; once for all, I have said it, and
I will not open my mouth on the subject again (I am not actually opening
it now) 'until the times do alter.' And if the times do never alter--if
it shall come to pass, in due course, that we two shall sit side by
side, white-haired, and crinkly-nosed, and lean our poor old chins upon
our sticks and mumble and gibber amicably over the things that might
have been if the good Osiris had come up to the scratch--I will still be
content, because your friendship, Ruth, is better than another woman's
love. So you see, I have taken my gruel and come up to time smiling--if
you will pardon the pugilistic metaphor--and I promise you loyally to do
your bidding and never again to distress you.

"Your faithful and loving friend,


This letter I addressed and stamped, and then, with a wry grimace which
I palmed off on myself (but not on Adolphus) as a cheerful smile, I went
out and dropped it into the post-box; after which I further deluded
myself by murmuring _Nunc dimittis_ and assuring myself that the
incident was now absolutely closed.

But, despite this comfortable assurance, I was, in the days that
followed, an exceedingly miserable young man. It is all very well to
write down troubles of this kind as trivial and sentimental. They are
nothing of the kind. When a man of an essentially serious nature has
found the one woman of all the world who fulfils his highest ideals of
womanhood, who is, in fact, a woman in ten thousand, to whom he has
given all that he has to give of love and worship, the sudden wreck of
all his hopes is no small calamity. And so I found it. Resign myself as
I would to the bitter reality, the ghost of the might-have-been haunted
me night and day, so that I spent my leisure wandering abstractedly
about the streets, always trying to banish thought and never for an
instant succeeding. A great unrest was upon me; and when I received a
letter from Dick Barnard announcing his arrival at Madeira, homeward
bound, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had no plans for the future, but I
longed to be rid of the, now irksome, routine of the practice--to be
free to come and go when and how I pleased.

One evening, as I sat consuming with little appetite my solitary supper,
there fell on me a sudden sense of loneliness. The desire that I had
hitherto felt to be alone with my own miserable reflections gave place
to a yearning for human companionship. That, indeed, which I craved for
most was forbidden, and I must abide by my lady's wishes; but there were
my friends in the Temple. It was more than a week since I had seen them;
in fact, we had not met since the morning of that unhappiest day of my
life. They would be wondering what had become of me. I rose from the
table, and, having filled my pouch from a tin of tobacco, set forth for
King's Bench Walk.

As I approached the entry of No. 5A in the gathering darkness I met
Thorndyke himself emerging, encumbered with two deck-chairs, a
reading-lantern, and a book.

"Why, Berkeley!" he exclaimed, "is it indeed thou? We have been
wondering what had become of you."

"It _is_ a long time since I looked you up," I admitted.

He scrutinised me attentively by the light of the entry lamp, and then
remarked: "Fetter Lane doesn't seem to be agreeing with you very well,
my son. You are looking quite thin and peaky."

"Well, I've nearly done with it. Barnard will be back in about ten days.
His ship is putting in at Madeira to coal and take in some cargo, and
then he is coming home. Where are you going with those chairs?"

"I am going to sit down at the end of the Walk by the garden railings.
It's cooler there than indoors. If you will wait a moment I will fetch
another chair for Jervis, though he won't be back for a little while."
He ran up the stairs, and presently returned with a third chair, and we
carried our impedimenta down to the quiet corner at the bottom of the

"So your term of servitude is coming to an end," said he when we had
placed the chairs and hung the lantern on the railings. "Any other

"No. Have you any?"

"I am afraid I have not. All my inquiries have yielded negative results.
There is, of course, a considerable body of evidence, and it all seems
to point one way. But I am unwilling to make a decisive move without
something more definite. I am really waiting for confirmation or
otherwise of my ideas on the subject; for some new item of evidence."

"I didn't know there was any evidence."

"Didn't you?" said Thorndyke. "But you know as much as I know. You have
all the essential facts; but apparently you haven't collated them and
extracted their meaning. If you had, you would have found them
curiously significant."

"I suppose I mustn't ask what their significance is?"

"No, I think not. When I am conducting a case I mention my surmises to
nobody--not even to Jervis. Then I can say confidently that there has
been no leakage. Don't think I distrust you. Remember that my thoughts
are my client's property, and that the essence of strategy is to keep
the enemy in the dark."

"Yes, I see that. Of course, I ought not to have asked."

"You ought not to need to ask," Thorndyke replied, with a smile; "you
should put the facts together and reason from them yourself."

While we had been talking I had noticed Thorndyke glance at me
inquisitively from time to time. Now, after an interval of silence, he
asked suddenly:

"Is anything amiss, Berkeley? Are you worrying about your friends'

"No, not particularly; though their prospects don't look very rosy."

"Perhaps they are not quite so bad as they look," said he. "But I am
afraid something is troubling you. All your gay spirits seem to have
evaporated." He paused for a few moments, and then added: "I don't want
to intrude on your private affairs, but if I can help you by advice or
otherwise, remember that we are old friends and that you are my academic

Instinctively, with a man's natural reticence, I began to mumble a
half-articulate disclaimer; and then I stopped. After all, why should I
not confide in him? He was a good man and a wise man, full of human
sympathy, as I knew, though so cryptic and secretive in his
professional capacity. And I wanted a friend badly just now.

"I am afraid," I began shyly, "it is not a matter that admits of much
help, and it's hardly the sort of thing that I ought to worry you by
talking about----"

"If it is enough to make you unhappy, my dear fellow, it is enough to
merit serious consideration by your friend; so, if you don't mind
telling me----"

"Of course I don't, sir!" I exclaimed.

"Then fire away; and don't call me 'sir.' We are brother practitioners

Thus encouraged, I poured out the story of my little romance; bashfully
at first and with halting phrases, but, later, with more freedom and
confidence. He listened with grave attention, and once or twice put a
question when my narrative became a little disconnected. When I had
finished he laid his hand softly on my arm.

"You have had rough luck, Berkeley. I don't wonder that you are
miserable. I am more sorry than I can tell you."

"Thank you," I said. "It's exceedingly good of you to listen so
patiently, but it's a shame for me to pester you with my sentimental

"Now, Berkeley, you don't think that, and I hope you don't think that I
do. We should be bad biologists and worse physicians if we should
under-estimate the importance of that which is Nature's chiefest care.
The one salient biological truth is the paramount importance of sex; and
we are deaf and blind if we do not hear and see it in everything that
lives when we look abroad upon the world; when we listen to the spring
song of the birds, or when we consider the lilies of the field. And as
is man to the lower organisms, so is human love to their merely reflex
manifestations of sex. I will maintain, and you will agree with me, I
know, that the love of a serious and honourable man for a woman who is
worthy of him is the most momentous of all human affairs. It is the
foundation of social life, and its failure is a serious calamity, not
only to those whose lives may be thereby spoilt, but to society at

"It's a serious enough matter for the parties concerned," I agreed; "but
that is no reason why they should bore their friends."

"But they don't. Friends should help one another and think it a

"Oh, I shouldn't mind coming to you for help, knowing you as I do. But
no one can help a poor devil in a case like this--and certainly not a
medical jurist."

"Oh, come, Berkeley!" he protested, "don't rate us too low. The humblest
of creatures has its uses--'even the little pismire,' you know, as Isaak
Walton tells us. Why, I have got substantial help from a
stamp-collector. And then reflect upon the motor-scorcher and the
earthworm and the blow-fly. All these lowly creatures play their parts
in the scheme of Nature; and shall we cast out the medical jurist as
nothing worth?"

I laughed dejectedly at my teacher's genial irony.

"What I meant," said I, "was that there is nothing to be done but
wait--perhaps for ever. I don't know why she isn't able to marry me, and
I mustn't ask her. She can't be married already."

"Certainly not. She told you explicitly that there was no man in the

"Exactly. And I can think of no other valid reason, excepting that she
doesn't care enough for me. That would be a perfectly sound reason, but
then it would only be a temporary one, not the insuperable obstacle that
she assumes to exist, especially as we really got on excellently
together. I hope it isn't some confounded perverse feminine scruple. I
don't see how it could be; but women are most frightfully tortuous and
wrong-headed at times."

"I don't see," said Thorndyke, "why we should cast about for perversely
abnormal motives when there is a perfectly reasonable explanation
staring us in the face."

"Is there?" I exclaimed. "I see none."

"You are, not unnaturally, overlooking some of the circumstances that
affect Miss Bellingham; but I don't suppose she has failed to grasp
their meaning. Do you realise what her position really is? I mean with
regard to her uncle's disappearance?"

"I don't think I quite understand you."

"Well, there is no use in blinking the facts," said Thorndyke. "The
position is this: If John Bellingham ever went to his brother's house at
Woodford, it is nearly certain that he went there after his visit to
Hurst. Mind, I say '_if_ he went'; I don't say that I believe he did.
But it is stated that he appears to have gone there; and if he did go,
he was never seen alive afterwards. Now, he did not go in at the front
door. No one saw him enter the house. But there was a back gate, which
John Bellingham knew, and which had a bell which rang in the library.
And you will remember that, when Hurst and Jellicoe called, Mr.
Bellingham had only just come in. Previous to that time Miss Bellingham
had been alone in the library; that is to say, she was alone in the
library at the very time when John Bellingham is said to have made his
visit. That is the position, Berkeley. Nothing pointed has been said up
to the present. But, sooner or later, if John Bellingham is not found,
dead or alive, the question will be opened. Then it is certain that
Hurst, in self-defence, will make the most of any facts that may
transfer suspicion from him to someone else. And that someone else will
be Miss Bellingham."

I sat for some moments literally paralysed with horror. Then my dismay
gave place to indignation. "But, damn it!" I exclaimed, starting up--"I
beg your pardon--but could anyone have the infernal audacity to
insinuate that that gentle, refined lady murdered her uncle?"

"That is what will be hinted, if not plainly asserted; and she knows it.
And that being so, is it difficult to understand why she should refuse
to allow you to be publicly associated with her? To run the risk of
dragging your honourable name into the sordid transactions of the
police-court or the Old Bailey? To invest it, perhaps, with a dreadful

"Oh, don't! for God's sake! It is too horrible! Not that I would care
for myself. I would be proud to share her martyrdom of ignominy, if it
had to be; but it is the sacrilege, the blasphemy of even thinking of
her in such terms, that enrages me."

"Yes," said Thorndyke; "I understand and sympathise with you. Indeed, I
share your righteous indignation at this dastardly affair. So you
mustn't think me brutal for putting the case so plainly."

"I don't. You have only shown me the danger that I was fool enough not
to see. But you seem to imply that this hideous position has been
brought about deliberately."

"Certainly I do! This is no chance affair. Either the appearances
indicate the real events--which I am sure they do not--or they have been
created of a set purpose to lead to false conclusions. But the
circumstances convince me that there has been a deliberate plot; and I
am waiting--in no spirit of Christian patience, I can tell you--to lay
my hand on the wretch who has done this."

"What are you waiting for?" I asked.

"I am waiting for the inevitable," he replied; "for the false move that
the most artful criminal invariably makes. At present he is lying low;
but presently he must make a move, and then I shall have him."

"But he may go on lying low. What will you do then?"

"Yes, that is the danger. We may have to deal with the perfect villain
who knows when to leave well alone. I have never met him, but he may
exist, nevertheless."

"And then we should have to stand by and see our friends go under."

"Perhaps," said Thorndyke; and we both subsided into gloomy and silent

The place was peaceful and quiet, as only a backwater of London can be.
Occasional hoots from far-away tugs and steamers told of the busy life
down below in the crowded Pool. A faint hum of traffic was borne in from
the streets outside the precincts, and the shrill voices of newspaper
boys came in unceasing chorus from the direction of Carmelite Street.
They were too far away to be physically disturbing, but the excited
yells, toned down as they were by distance, nevertheless stirred the
very marrow in my bones, so dreadfully suggestive were they of those
possibilities of the future at which Thorndyke had hinted. They seemed
like the sinister shadows of coming misfortunes.

Perhaps they called up the same association of ideas in Thorndyke's
mind, for he remarked presently: "The newsvendor is abroad to-night like
a bird of ill-omen. Something unusual has happened: some public or
private calamity, most likely, and these yelling ghouls are out to feast
on the remains. The newspaper men have a good deal in common with the
carrion-birds that hover over a battle-field."

Again we subsided into silence and reflection. Then, after an interval,
I asked:

"Would it be possible for me to help in any way in this investigation of

"That is exactly what I have been asking myself," replied Thorndyke. "It
would be right and proper that you should, and I think you might."

"How?" I asked eagerly.

"I can't say off-hand; but Jervis will be going away for his holiday
almost at once--in fact, he will go off actual duty to-night. There is
very little doing; the long vacation is close upon us, and I can do
without him. But if you would care to come down here and take his place,
you would be very useful to me; and if there should be anything to be
done in the Bellinghams' case, I am sure you would make up in enthusiasm
for any deficiency in experience."

"I couldn't really take Jervis's place," said I, "but if you would let
me help you in any way it would be a great kindness. I would rather
clean your boots than be out of it altogether."

"Very well. Let us leave it that you come here as soon as Barnard has
done with you. You can have Jervis's room, which he doesn't often use
nowadays, and you will be more happy here than elsewhere, I know. I may
as well give you my latchkey now. I have a duplicate upstairs, and you
understand that my chambers are yours too from this moment."

He handed me the latchkey and I thanked him warmly from my heart, for I
felt sure that the suggestion was made, not for any use that I should be
to him, but for my own peace of mind. I had hardly finished speaking
when a quick step on the paved walk caught my ear.

"Here is Jervis," said Thorndyke. "We will let him know that there is a
locum tenens ready to step into his shoes when he wants to be off." He
flashed the lantern across the path, and a few moments later his junior
stepped up briskly with a bundle of newspapers tucked under his arm.

It struck me that Jervis looked at me a little queerly when he
recognised me in the dim light; also that he was a trifle constrained in
his manner, as if my presence were an embarrassment. He listened to
Thorndyke's announcement of our newly made arrangement without much
enthusiasm and with none of his customary facetious comments. And again
I noticed a quick glance at me, half curious, half uneasy, and wholly
puzzling to me.

"That's all right," he said when Thorndyke had explained the situation.
"I daresay you'll find Berkeley as useful as me, and, in any case, he'll
be better here than staying on with Barnard." He spoke with unwonted
gravity, and there was in his tone a solicitude for me that attracted my
notice and that of Thorndyke as well, for the latter looked at him
curiously, though he made no comment. After a short silence, however, he
asked: "And what news does my learned brother bring? There is a mighty
shouting among the outer barbarians, and I see a bundle of newspapers
under my learned friend's arm. Has anything in particular happened?"

Jervis looked more uncomfortable than ever. "Well--yes," he replied
hesitatingly, "something has happened--there! It's no use beating about
the bush; Berkeley may as well learn it from me as from those yelling
devils outside." He took a couple of papers from his bundle and silently
handed one to me and the other to Thorndyke.

Jervis's ominous manner, naturally enough, alarmed me not a little. I
opened the paper with a nameless dread. But whatever my vague fears,
they fell far short of the occasion; and when I saw those yells from
without crystallised into scare headlines and flaming capitals I turned
for a moment sick and dizzy with fear.

The paragraph was only a short one, and I read it through in less than a



"The mystery that has surrounded the remains of a mutilated human body,
portions of which have been found in various places in Kent and Essex,
has received a partial and very sinister solution. The police have, all
along, suspected that these remains were those of a Mr. John Bellingham
who disappeared under circumstances of some suspicion about two years
ago. There is now no doubt upon the subject, for the finger which was
missing from the hand that was found at Sidcup has been discovered at
the bottom of a disused well _together with a ring_, which has been
identified as one habitually worn by Mr. John Bellingham.

"The house in the garden of which the well is situated was the property
of the murdered man, and was occupied at the time of the disappearance
by his brother, Mr. Godfrey Bellingham. But the latter left it very soon
after, and it has been empty ever since. Just lately it has been put in
repair, and it was in this way that the well came to be emptied and
cleaned out. It seems that Detective-Inspector Badger, who was searching
the neighbourhood for further remains, heard of the emptying of the well
and went down in the bucket to examine the bottom, where he found the
three bones and the ring.

"Thus the identity of the body is established beyond all doubt, and the
question that remains is, Who killed John Bellingham? It may be
remembered that a trinket, apparently broken from his watch-chain, was
found in the grounds of this house on the day that he disappeared, and
that he was never again seen alive. What may be the import of these
facts time will show."

That was all; but it was enough. I dropped the paper to the ground and
glanced round furtively at Jervis, who sat gazing gloomily at the toes
of his boots. It was horrible; It was incredible! The blow was so
crushing that it left my faculties numb, and for a while I seemed
unable even to think intelligibly.

I was aroused by Thorndyke's voice--calm, business-like, composed:

"Time will show, indeed! But meanwhile we must go warily. And don't be
unduly alarmed, Berkeley. Go home, take a good dose of bromide with a
little stimulant, and turn in. I am afraid this has been rather a shock
to you."

I rose from my chair like one in a dream and held out my hand to
Thorndyke; and even in the dim light and in my dazed condition I noticed
that his face bore a look that I had never seen before: the look of a
granite mask of Fate--grim, stern, inexorable.

My two friends walked with me as far as the gateway at the top of Inner
Temple Lane, and as we reached the entry a stranger, coming quickly up
the Lane, overtook and passed us. In the glare of the lamp outside the
porter's lodge he looked at us quickly over his shoulder, and though he
passed on without halt or greeting, I recognised him with a certain dull
surprise which I did not understand then and do not understand now. It
was Mr. Jellicoe.

I shook hands once more with my friends and strode out into Fleet
Street, but as soon as I was outside the gate I made direct for Nevill's
Court. What was in my mind I do not know; only that some instinct of
protection led me there, where my lady lay unconscious of the hideous
menace that hung over her. At the entrance to the court a tall, powerful
man was lounging against the wall, and he seemed to look at me curiously
as I passed; but I hardly noticed him and strode forward into the narrow
passage. By the shabby gateway of the house I halted and looked up at
such of the windows as I could see over the wall. They were all dark.
All the inmates, then, were in bed. Vaguely comforted by this, I walked
on to the New Street end of the court and looked out. Here, too, a
man--a tall, thick-set man--was loitering; and, as he looked
inquisitively into my face, I turned and reentered the court, slowly
retracing my steps. As I again reached the gate of the house I stopped
to look up once more at the windows, and turning, I found the man whom I
had last noticed close behind me. Then, in a flash of dreadful
comprehension, I understood. These two men were plain-clothes policemen.

For a moment a blind fury possessed me. An insane impulse urged me to
give battle to this intruder; to avenge upon his person the insult of
his presence. Fortunately the impulse was but momentary, and I recovered
myself without making any demonstration. But the appearance of those two
policemen brought the peril into the immediate present, imparted to it a
horrible actuality. A chilly sweat of terror stood on my forehead, and
my ears were ringing when I walked with faltering steps out into Fetter



The next few days were a very nightmare of horror and gloom. Of course,
I repudiated my acceptance of the decree of banishment that Ruth had
passed upon me. I was her friend, at least, and in time of peril my
place was at her side. Tacitly--though thankfully enough, poor
girl!--she had recognised the fact and made me once more free of the

For there was no disguising the situation. Newspaper boys yelled the
news up and down Fleet Street from morning to night; soul-shaking
posters grinned on gaping crowds; and the newspapers fairly wallowed in
the "Shocking details." It is true that no direct accusations were made;
but the original reports of the disappearance were reprinted with such
comments as made me gnash my teeth with fury.

The wretchedness of those days will live in my memory until my dying
day. Never can I forget the dread that weighed me down, the horrible
suspense, the fear that clutched at my heart as I furtively scanned the
posters in the streets. Even the wretched detectives who prowled about
the entrances to Nevill's Court became grateful to my eyes, for,
embodying as they did the hideous menace that hung over my dear lady,
their presence at least told me that the blow had not yet fallen.
Indeed, we came, after a time, to exchange glances of mutual
recognition, and I thought that they seemed to be sorry for her and for
me, and had no great liking for their task. Of course, I spent most of
my leisure at the old house, though my heart ached more there than
elsewhere; and I tried, with but poor success, I fear, to maintain a
cheerful, confident manner, cracking my little jokes as of old, and even
essaying to skirmish with Miss Oman. But this last experiment was a dead
failure; and when she had suddenly broken down in a stream of brilliant
repartee to weep hysterically on my breast, I abandoned the attempt and
did not repeat it.

A dreadful gloom had settled down upon the old house. Poor Miss Oman
crept silently but restlessly up and down the ancient stairs with dim
eyes and a tremulous chin, or moped in her room with a parliamentary
petition (demanding, if I remember rightly, the appointment of a female
judge to deal with divorce and matrimonial causes) which lay on her
table languidly awaiting signatures that never came. Mr. Bellingham,
whose mental condition at first alternated between furious anger and
absolute panic, was fast sinking into a state of nervous prostration
that I viewed with no little alarm. In fact, the only really
self-possessed person in the entire household was Ruth herself, and even
she could not conceal the ravages of sorrow and suspense and
overshadowing peril. Her manner was almost unchanged; or rather, I
should say, she had gone back to that which I had first known--quiet,
reserved, taciturn, with a certain bitter humour showing through her
unvarying amiability. When she and I were alone, indeed, her reserve
melted away and she was all sweetness and gentleness. But it wrung my
heart to look at her, to see how, day by day, she grew ever more thin
and haggard; to watch the growing pallor of her cheek; to look into her
solemn grey eyes, so sad and tragic and yet so brave and defiant of

It was a terrible time; and through it all the dreadful questions
haunted me continually: When will the blow fall? What is it that the
police are waiting for? And when they do strike, what will Thorndyke
have to say?

So things went on for four dreadful days. But on the fourth day, just as
the evening consultations were beginning and the surgery was filled with
waiting patients, Polton appeared with a note, which he insisted, to the
indignation of Adolphus, on delivering into my own hands. It was from
Thorndyke, and was to the following effect:----

"I learn from Dr. Norbury that he has recently heard from Herr
Lederbogen, of Berlin--a learned authority on Oriental antiquities--who
makes some reference to an English Egyptologist whom he met in Vienna
about a year ago. He cannot recall the Englishman's name, but there are
certain expressions in the letter which make Dr. Norbury suspect that he
is referring to John Bellingham.

"I want you to bring Mr. and Miss Bellingham to my chambers this evening
at 8.30, to meet Dr. Norbury and talk over this letter; and in view of
the importance of the matter, I look to you not to fail me."

A wave of hope and relief swept over me. It was still possible that this
Gordian knot might be cut; that the deliverance might come before it was
too late. I wrote a hasty note in reply to Thorndyke and another to
Ruth, making the appointment; and having given them both to the trusty
Polton, returned somewhat feverishly to my professional duties. To my
profound relief, the influx of patients ceased, and the practice sank
into its accustomed torpor; whereby I was able, without base and
mendacious subterfuge, to escape in good time to my tryst.

It was near upon eight o'clock when I passed through the archway into
Nevill's Court. The warm afternoon light had died away, for the summer
was running out apace. The last red glow of the setting sun had faded
from the ancient roofs and chimney-stacks, and down in the narrow court
the shades of evening had begun to gather in nooks and corners. I was
due at eight, and, as it still wanted some minutes to the hour, I
sauntered slowly down the court, looking reflectively on the familiar
scene and the well-known friendly faces.

The day's work was drawing to a close. The little shops were putting up
their shutters; lights were beginning to twinkle in parlour windows; a
solemn hymn arose in the old Moravian chapel, and its echoes stole out
through the dark entry that opens into the court under the archway.

Here was Mr. Finneymore (a man of versatile gifts, with a leaning
towards paint and varnish) sitting, white-aproned and shirt-sleeved, on
a chair in his garden, smoking his pipe with a complacent eye on his
dahlias. There at an open window a young man, with a brush in his hand
and another behind his ear, stood up and stretched himself while an
older lady deftly rolled up a large map. The barber was turning out the
gas in his little saloon; the greengrocer was emerging with a cigarette
in his mouth and an aster in his button-hole, and a group of children
were escorting the lamplighter on his rounds.

All these good, homely folk were Nevill's Courtiers of the genuine
breed; born in the court, as had been their fathers before them for
generations. And of such to a great extent was the population of the
place. Miss Oman herself claimed aboriginal descent and so did the
sweet-faced Moravian lady next door--a connection of the famous La
Trobes of the old Conventicle, whose history went back to the Gordon
Riots; and as to the gentleman who lived in the ancient
timber-and-plaster house at the bottom of the court, it was reported
that his ancestors had dwelt in that very house since the days of James
the First.

On these facts I reflected as I sauntered down the court: on the strange
phenomenon of an old-world hamlet with its ancient population lingering
in the very heart of the noisy city; an island of peace set in an ocean
of unrest, an oasis in a desert of change and ferment.

My meditations brought me to the shabby gate in the high wall, and as I
raised the latch and pushed it open, I saw Ruth standing at the door of
the house talking to Miss Oman. She was evidently waiting for me, for
she wore her sombre black cloak and hat and a black veil, and when she
saw me she came out, closing the door after her and holding out her

"You are punctual," said she. "St. Dunstan's clock is striking now."

"Yes," I answered. "But where is your father?"

"He has gone to bed, poor old dear. He didn't feel well enough to come,
and I did not urge him. He is really very ill. This dreadful suspense
will kill him if it goes on much longer."

"Let us hope it won't," I said, but with little conviction, I fear, in
my tone. It was harrowing to see her torn by anxiety for her father, and
I yearned to comfort her. But what was there to say? Mr. Bellingham was
breaking up visibly under the stress of the terrible menace that hung
over his daughter, and no words of mine could make the fact less

We walked silently up the court. The lady at the window greeted us with
a smiling salutation, Mr. Finneymore removed his pipe and raised his
cap, receiving a gracious bow from Ruth in return, and then we passed
through the covered way into Fetter Lane, where my companion paused and
looked about her.

"What are you looking for?" I asked.

"The detective," she answered quietly. "It would be a pity if the poor
man should miss me after waiting so long. However, I don't see him"; and
she turned away towards Fleet Street. It was an unpleasant surprise to
me that her sharp eyes had detected the secret spy upon her movements;
and the dry, sardonic tone of her remark pained me, too, recalling, as
it did, the frigid self-possession that had so repelled me in the early
days of our acquaintance. And yet I could not but admire the cool
unconcern with which she faced her horrible peril.

"Tell me a little more about this conference," she said, as we walked
down Fetter Lane. "Your note was rather more concise than lucid; but I
suppose you wrote it in a hurry."

"Yes, I did. And I can't give you any details now. All I know is that
Doctor Norbury has had a letter from a friend of his in Berlin, an
Egyptologist, as I understand, named Lederbogen, who refers to an
English acquaintance of his and Norbury's whom he saw in Vienna about a
year ago. He cannot remember the Englishman's name, but from some of the
circumstances Norbury seems to think that he is referring to your Uncle
John. Of course, if this should turn out to be really the case, it would
set everything straight; so Thorndyke was anxious that you and your
father should meet Norbury and talk it over."

"I see," said Ruth. Her tone was thoughtful but by no means

"You don't seem to attach much importance to the matter," I remarked.

"No. It doesn't seem to fit the circumstances. What is the use of
suggesting that poor Uncle John is alive--and behaving like an imbecile,
which he certainly was not--when his dead body has actually been found?"

"But," I suggested lamely, "there may be some mistake. It may not be his
body after all."

"And the ring?" she asked, with a bitter smile.

"That may be just a coincidence. It was a copy of a well-known form of
antique ring. Other people may have had copies made as well as your
uncle. Besides," I added, with more conviction, "we haven't seen the
ring. It may not be his at all."

She shook her head. "My dear Paul," she said quietly, "it is useless to
delude ourselves. Every known fact points to the certainty that it is
his body. John Bellingham is dead: there can be no doubt of that. And to
everyone except his unknown murderer and one or two of my own loyal
friends, it must seem that his death lies at my door. I realised from
the beginning that the suspicion lay between George Hurst and me; and
the finding of the ring fixes it definitely on me. I am only surprised
that the police have made no move yet."

The quiet conviction of her tone left me for a while speechless with
horror and despair. Then I recalled Thorndyke's calm, even confident
attitude, and I hastened to remind her of it.

"There is one of your friends," I said, "who is still undismayed.
Thorndyke seems to anticipate no difficulties."

"And yet," she replied, "he is ready to consider a forlorn hope like
this. However, we shall see."

I could think of nothing more to say, and it was in gloomy silence that
we pursued our way down Inner Temple Lane and through the dark entries
and tunnel-like passages that brought us out, at length, by the

"I don't see any light in Thorndyke's chambers," I said, as we crossed
King's Bench Walk; and I pointed out the row of windows all dark and

"No: and yet the shutters are not closed. He must be out."

"He can't be after making an appointment with you and your father. It is
most mysterious. Thorndyke is so very punctilious about his

The mystery was solved, when we reached the landing, by a slip of paper
fixed by a tack on the iron-bound "oak."

"A note for P.B. is on the table," was the laconic message: on reading
which I inserted my key, swung the heavy door outward, and opened the
lighter inner door. The note was lying on the table and I brought it
out to the landing to read by the light of the staircase lamp.

"Apologise to our friends," it ran, "for the slight change of programme.
Norbury is anxious that I should get my experiments over before the
Director returns, so as to save discussion. He has asked me to begin
to-night and says he will see Mr. and Miss Bellingham here, at the
Museum. Please bring them along at once. The hall porters are instructed
to admit you and bring you to us. I think some matters of importance may
transpire at the interview.--J.E.T."

* * * * *

"I hope you don't mind," I said apologetically, when I had read the note
to Ruth.

"Of course I don't," she replied. "I am rather pleased. We have so many
associations with the dear old Museum, haven't we?" She looked at me for
a moment with a strange and touching wistfulness and then turned to
descend the stone stairs.

At the Temple gate, I hailed a hansom and we were soon speeding westward
and north to the soft tinkle of the horse's bell.

"What are these experiments that Doctor Thorndyke refers to?" she asked

"I can only answer you rather vaguely," I replied. "Their object, I
believe, is to ascertain whether the penetrability of organic substances
by the X-rays becomes altered by age; whether, for instance, an ancient
block of wood is more or less transparent to the rays than a new block
of the same size."

"And of what use would the knowledge be, if it were obtained?"

"I can't say. Experiments are made to obtain knowledge without regard
to its utility. The use appears when the knowledge has been acquired.
But in this case, if it should be possible to determine the age of any
organic substance by its reaction to X-rays, the discovery might be of
some value in legal practice--as in demonstrating a new seal on an old
document, for instance. But I don't know whether Thorndyke has anything
definite in view; I only know that the preparations have been on a most
portentous scale."

"How do you mean?"

"In regard to size. When I went into the workshop yesterday morning, I
found Polton erecting a kind of portable gallows about nine feet high,
and he had just finished varnishing a pair of enormous wooden trays,
each over six feet long. It looked as if he and Thorndyke were
contemplating a few private executions with subsequent post-mortems on
the victims."

"What a horrible suggestion!"

"So Polton said, with his quaint, crinkly smile. But he was mighty close
about the use of the apparatus all the same. I wonder if we shall see
anything of the experiments, when we get there. This is Museum Street,
isn't it?"

"Yes." As she spoke, she lifted the flap of one of the little windows in
the back of the cab and peered out. Then, closing it with a quiet,
ironic smile, she said:

"It is all right; he hasn't missed us. It will be quite a nice little
change for him."

The cab swung round into Great Russell Street, and, glancing out as it
turned, I saw another hansom following; but before I had time to inspect
its solitary passenger, we drew up at the Museum gates. The
gate-porter, who seemed to expect us, ushered us up the drive to the
great portico and into the Central Hall, where he handed us over to
another official.

"Doctor Norbury is in one of the rooms adjoining the Fourth Egyptian
Room," the latter stated in answer to our inquiries: and, providing
himself with a wire-guarded lantern, he prepared to escort us thither.

Up the great staircase, now wrapped in mysterious gloom, we passed in
silence with bitter-sweet memories of that day of days when we had first
trodden its steps together: through the Central Saloon, the Mediaeval
Room and the Asiatic Saloon, and so into the long range of the
Ethnographical Galleries.

It was a weird journey. The swaying lantern shot its beams abroad into
the darkness of the great, dim galleries, casting instantaneous flashes
on the objects in the cases, so that they leaped into being and vanished
in the twinkling of an eye. Hideous idols with round, staring eyes
started forth from the darkness, glared at us for an instant and were
gone. Grotesque masks, suddenly revealed by the shimmering light, took
on the semblance of demon faces that seemed to mow and gibber at us as
we passed. As for the life-sized models--realistic enough by
daylight--their aspect was positively alarming; for the moving light and
shadow endowed them with life and movement, so that they seemed to watch
us furtively, to lie in wait and to hold themselves in readiness to
steal out and follow us. The illusion evidently affected Ruth as well as
me, for she drew nearer to me and whispered:

"These figures are quite startling. Did you see that Polynesian? I
really felt as if he were going to spring out on us."

"They are rather uncanny," I admitted, "but the danger is over now. We
are passing out of their sphere of influence."

We came out on a landing as I spoke and then turned sharply to the left
along the North Gallery, from the centre of which we entered the Fourth
Egyptian Room.

Almost immediately, a door in the opposite wall opened; a peculiar,
high-pitched humming sound became audible, and Jervis came out on tiptoe
with his hand raised.

"Tread as lightly as you can," he said. "We are just making an

The attendant turned back with his lantern, and we followed Jervis into
the room from whence he had come. It was a large room, and little
lighter than the galleries, for the single glow-lamp that burned at the
end where we entered left the rest of the apartment in almost complete
obscurity. We seated ourselves at once on the chairs that had been
placed for us, and, when the mutual salutations had been exchanged, I
looked about me. There were three people in the room besides Jervis:
Thorndyke, who sat with his watch in his hand, a grey-headed gentleman
whom I took to be Dr. Norbury, and a smaller person at the dim farther
end--undistinguishable, but probably Polton. At our end of the room were
the two large trays that I had seen in the workshop, now mounted on
trestles and each fitted with a rubber drain-tube leading down to a
bucket. At the farther end of the room the sinister shape of the gallows
reared itself aloft in the gloom; only now I could see that it was not a
gallows at all. For affixed to the top cross-bar was a large,
bottomless glass basin, inside which was a glass bulb that glowed with a
strange green light; and in the heart of the bulb a bright spot of red.

It was all clear enough so far. The peculiar sound that filled the air
was the hum of the interrupter; the bulb was, of course, a Crookes tube,
and the red spot inside it, the glowing red-hot disc of the
anti-cathode. Clearly an X-ray photograph was being made; but of what? I
strained my eyes, peering into the gloom at the foot of the gallows, but
though I could make out an elongated object lying on the floor directly
under the bulb, I could not resolve the dimly seen shape into anything
recognisable. Presently, however, Dr. Norbury supplied the clue.

"I am rather surprised," said he, "that you chose so composite an object
as a mummy to begin on. I should have thought that a simpler object,
such as a coffin or a wooden figure, would have been more instructive."

"In some ways it would," replied Thorndyke, "but the variety of
materials that the mummy gives us has its advantages. I hope your father
is not ill, Miss Bellingham."

"He is not at all well," said Ruth, "and we agreed that it was better
for me to come alone. I knew Herr Lederbogen quite well. He stayed with
us for a time when he was in England."

"I trust," said Dr. Norbury, "that I have not troubled you for nothing.
Herr Lederbogen speaks of 'our erratic English friend with the long name
that I can never remember,' and it seemed to me that he might be
referring to your uncle."

"I should hardly have called my uncle erratic," said Ruth.

"No, no. Certainly not," Dr. Norbury agreed hastily. "However, you shall
see the letter presently and judge for yourself. We mustn't introduce
irrelevant topics while the experiment is in progress, must we, Doctor?"

"You had better wait until we have finished," said Thorndyke, "because I
am going to turn out the light. Switch off the current, Polton."

The green light vanished from the bulb, the hum of the interrupter swept
down an octave or two and died away. Then Thorndyke and Dr. Norbury rose
from their chairs and went towards the mummy, which they lifted tenderly
while Polton drew from beneath it what presently turned out to be a huge
black-paper envelope. The single glow-lamp was switched off, leaving the
room in total darkness, until there burst out suddenly a bright
orange-red light immediately above one of the trays.

We all gathered round to watch, as Polton--the high-priest of these
mysteries--drew from the black envelope a colossal sheet of bromide
paper, laid it carefully in the tray and proceeded to wet it with a
large brush which he had dipped in a pail of water.

"I thought you always used plates for this kind of work," said Dr.

"We do, by preference; but a six-foot plate would be impossible, so I
had a special paper made to the size."

There is something singularly fascinating in the appearance of a
developing photograph; in the gradual, mysterious emergence of the
picture from the blank, white surface of plate or paper. But a
skiagraph, or X-ray photograph, has a fascination all its own. Unlike
an ordinary photograph, which yields a picture of things already seen,
it gives a presentment of objects hitherto invisible; and hence, when
Polton poured the developer on the already wet paper, we all craned over
the tray with the keenest curiosity.

The developer was evidently a very slow one. For fully half a minute no
change could be seen in the uniform surface. Then, gradually, almost
insensibly, the marginal portion began to darken, leaving the outline of
the mummy in pale relief. The change, once started, proceeded apace.
Darker and darker grew the margin of the paper until from slaty grey it
had turned to black; and still the shape of the mummy, now in strong
relief, remained an elongated patch of bald white. But not for long.
Presently the white shape began to be tinged with grey, and, as the
colour deepened, there grew out of it a paler form that seemed to steal
out of the enshrouding grey like an apparition, spectral, awesome,
mysterious. The skeleton was coming into view.

"It is rather uncanny," said Dr. Norbury. "I feel as if I were assisting
at some unholy rite. Just look at it now!"

The grey shadow of the cartonnage, the wrappings and the flesh was
fading away into the black background and the white skeleton stood out
in sharp contrast. And it certainly was a rather weird spectacle.

"You'll lose the bones if you develop much farther," said Dr. Norbury.

"I must let the bones darken," Thorndyke replied, "in case there are any
metallic objects. I have three more papers in the envelope."

The white shape of the skeleton now began to grey over and, as Dr.
Norbury had said, its distinctness became less and yet less. Thorndyke
leaned over the tray with his eyes fixed on a point in the middle of the
breast and we all watched him in silence. Suddenly he rose. "Now,
Polton," he said sharply; "get the hypo on as quickly as you can."

Polton, who had been waiting with his hand on the stop-cock of the
drain-tube, rapidly ran off the developer into the bucket and flooded
the paper with the fixing solution.

"Now we can look at it at our leisure," said Thorndyke. After waiting a
few seconds, he switched on one of the glow-lamps, and as the flood of
light fell on the photograph, he added: "You see we haven't quite lost
the skeleton."

"No." Dr. Norbury put on a pair of spectacles and bent down over the
tray; and at this moment I felt Ruth's hand touch my arm, lightly, at
first, and then with a strong, nervous grasp; and I could feel that her
hand was trembling. I looked round at her anxiously and saw that she had
turned deathly pale.

"Would you rather go out into the gallery?" I asked; for the room with
its tightly shut windows was close and hot.

"No," she replied quietly, "I will stay here. I am quite well." But
still she kept hold of my arm.

Thorndyke glanced at her keenly and then looked away as Dr. Norbury
turned to him to ask a question.

"Why is it, think you, that some of the teeth show so much whiter than

"I think the whiteness of the shadows is due to the presence of metal,"
Thorndyke replied.

"Do you mean that the teeth have metal fillings?" asked Dr. Norbury.


"Really! This is very interesting. The use of gold stoppings--and
artificial teeth, too--by the ancient Egyptians is well known, but we
have no examples in the Museum. This mummy ought to be unrolled. Do you
think all those teeth are filled with the same metal? They are not
equally white."

"No," replied Thorndyke. "Those teeth that are perfectly white are
undoubtedly filled with gold, but that greyish one is probably filled
with tin."

"Very interesting," said Dr. Norbury. "_Very_ interesting! And what do
you make of that faint mark across the chest, near the top of the

It was Ruth who answered his question.

"It is the Eye of Osiris!" she exclaimed, in a hushed voice.

"Dear me!" exclaimed Dr. Norbury, "so it is. You are quite right. It is
the Utchat--the Eye of Horus--or Osiris, if you prefer to call it so.
That, I presume, will be a gilded device on some of the wrappings."

"No: I should say it is a tattoo mark. It is too indefinite for a gilded
device. And I should say further that the tattooing is done in
vermilion, as carbon tattooing would cast no visible shadow."

"I think you must be mistaken about that," said Dr. Norbury, "but we
shall see, if the Director allows us to unroll the mummy. By the way,
those little objects in front of the knees are metallic, I suppose?"

"Yes, they are metallic. But they are not in front of the knees; they
are _in_ the knees. They are pieces of silver wire which have been used
to repair fractured knee-caps."

"Are you sure of that?" exclaimed Dr. Norbury, peering at the little
white marks with ecstasy; "because, if you are, and if these objects are
what you say they are, the mummy of Sebek-hotep is an absolutely unique

"I am quite certain of it," said Thorndyke.

"Then," said Dr. Norbury, "we have made a discovery, thanks to your
inquiring spirit. Poor John Bellingham! He little knew what a treasure
he was giving us! How I wish he could have known! How I wish he could
have been here with us to-night!"

He paused once more to gaze in rapture at the photograph. And then
Thorndyke, in his quiet, impassive way, said:

"John Bellingham is here, Doctor Norbury. This is John Bellingham."

Dr. Norbury started back and stared at Thorndyke in speechless

"You don't mean," he exclaimed, after a long pause, "that this mummy is
the body of John Bellingham!"

"I do, indeed. There is no doubt of it."

"But it is impossible! The mummy was here in the gallery a full three
weeks before he disappeared."

"Not so," said Thorndyke. "John Bellingham was last seen alive by you
and Mr. Jellicoe on the fourteenth of October, more than three weeks
before the mummy left Queen Square. After that date he was never seen
alive or dead by any person who knew him and could identify him."

Dr. Norbury reflected awhile in silence. Then, in a faint voice, he
asked: "How do you suggest that John Bellingham's body came to be
inside that cartonnage?"

"I think Mr. Jellicoe is the most likely person to be able to answer
that question," Thorndyke replied drily.

There was another interval of silence, and then Dr. Norbury asked

"But what do you suppose has become of Sebek-hotep? The real
Sebek-hotep, I mean?"

"I take it," said Thorndyke, "that the remains of Sebek-hotep, or at
least a portion of them, are at present lying in the Woodford mortuary
awaiting an adjourned inquest."

As Thorndyke made this statement a flash of belated intelligence,
mingled with self-contempt, fell on me. Now that the explanation was
given, how obvious it was! And yet I, a competent anatomist and
physiologist and actually a pupil of Thorndyke's, had mistaken those
ancient bones for the remains of a recent body!

Dr. Norbury considered the last statement for some time in evident
perplexity. "It is all consistent enough, I must admit," said he, at
length, "and yet--are you quite sure there is no mistake? It seems so

"There is no mistake, I assure you," Thorndyke answered. "To convince
you, I will give you the facts in detail. First, as to the teeth. I have
seen John Bellingham's dentist and obtained particulars from his
case-book. There were in all five teeth that had been filled. The right
upper wisdom-tooth, the molar next to it, and the second lower molar on
the left side, had all extensive gold fillings. You can see them all
quite plainly in the skiagraph. The left lower lateral incisor had a
very small gold filling, which you can see as a nearly circular white
dot. In addition to these, a filling of tin amalgam had been inserted
while the deceased was abroad, in the second left upper bicuspid, the
rather grey spot that we have already noticed. These would, by
themselves, furnish ample means of identification. But in addition,
there is the tattooed device of the Eye of Osiris--"

"Horus," murmured Dr. Norbury.

"Horus, then--in the exact locality in which it was borne by the
deceased and tattooed, apparently, with the same pigment. There are,
further, the suture wires in the knee-caps; Sir Morgan Bennet, having
looked up the notes of the operation, informs me that he introduced
three suture wires into the left patella and two into the right; which
is what the skiagraph shows. Lastly, the deceased had an old Pott's
fracture on the left side. It is not very apparent now, but I saw it
quite distinctly just now when the shadows of the bones were whiter. I
think that you may take it that the identification is beyond all doubt
or question."

"Yes," agreed Dr. Norbury, with gloomy resignation, "it sounds, as you
say, quite conclusive. Well, well, it is a most horrible affair. Poor
old John Bellingham! It looks uncommonly as if he had met with foul
play. Don't you think so?"

"I do," replied Thorndyke. "There was a mark on the right side of the
skull that looked rather like a fracture. It was not very clear, being
at the side, but we must develop up the next negative to show it."

Dr. Norbury drew his breath in sharply through his teeth. "This is a
gruesome business, Doctor," said he. "A terrible business. Awkward for
our people, too. By the way, what is our position in the matter? What
steps ought we to take?"

"You should give notice to the coroner--I will manage the police--and
you should communicate with one of the executors of the will."

"Mr. Jellicoe?"

"No, not Mr. Jellicoe, under the peculiar circumstances. You had better
write to Mr. Godfrey Bellingham."

"But I rather understood that Mr. Hurst was the co-executor," said Dr.

"He is surely, as matters stand," said Jervis.

"Not at all," replied Thorndyke. "He _was_ as matters _stood_; but he is
not now. You are forgetting the conditions of clause two. That clause
sets forth the conditions under which Godfrey Bellingham shall inherit
the bulk of the estate and become the co-executor; and those conditions
are: 'that the body of the testator shall be deposited in some
authorised place for the reception of the bodies of the dead, situate
within the boundaries of, or appertaining to some place of worship
within, the parish of St. George, Bloomsbury, and St. Giles in the
Fields or St. Andrew above the Bars and St. George the Martyr.' Now
Egyptian mummies are the bodies of the dead, and this Museum is an
authorised place for their reception; and this building is situate
within the boundaries of the parish of St. George, Bloomsbury. Therefore
the provisions of clause two have been duly carried out and therefore
Godfrey Bellingham is the principal beneficiary under the will, and the
co-executor, in accordance with the wishes of the testator. Is that
quite clear?"

"Perfectly," said Dr. Norbury; "and a most astonishing coincidence--but,
my dear young lady, had you not better sit down? You are looking very

He glanced anxiously at Ruth, who was pale to the lips and was now
leaning heavily on my arm.

"I think, Berkeley," said Thorndyke, "you had better take Miss
Bellingham out into the gallery, where there is more air. This has been
a tremendous climax to all the trials that she has borne so bravely. Go
out with Berkeley," he added gently, laying his hand on her shoulder,
"and sit down while we develop the other negatives. You mustn't break
down now, you know, when the storm has passed and the sun is beginning
to shine." He held the door open, and as we passed out his face softened
into a smile of infinite kindness. "You won't mind my locking you out,"
said he; "this is a photographic dark-room at present."

The key grated in the lock and we turned away into the dim gallery. It
was not quite dark, for a beam of moonlight filtered in here and there
through the blinds that covered the sky-lights. We walked on slowly, her
arm linked in mine, and for a while neither of us spoke. The great rooms
were very silent and peaceful and solemn. The hush, the stillness, the
mystery of the half-seen forms in the cases around, were all in harmony
with the deeply-felt sense of a great deliverance that filled our

We had passed through into the next room before either of us broke the
silence. Insensibly our hands had crept together, and as they met and
clasped with mutual pressure, Ruth exclaimed: "How dreadful and tragic
it is! Poor, poor Uncle John! It seems as if he had come back from the
world of shadows to tell us of this awful thing. But, O God! what a
relief it is!" She caught her breath in one or two quick sobs and
pressed my hand passionately.

"It is over, dearest," I said. "It is gone for ever. Nothing remains but
the memory of your sorrow and your noble courage and patience."

"I can't realise it yet," she murmured. "It has been like a frightful,
interminable dream."

"Let us put it away," said I, "and think only of the happy life that is

She made no reply, and only a quick catch in her breath, now and again,
told of the long agony that she had endured with such heroic calm.

We walked on slowly, scarcely disturbing the silence with our soft
foot-falls, through the wide doorway into the second room. The vague
shapes of the mummy-cases standing erect in the wall-cases, loomed out
dim and gigantic, silent watchers keeping their vigil with the memories
of untold centuries locked in their shadowy breasts. They were an
awesome company. Reverend survivors from a vanished world, they looked
out from the gloom of their abiding-place, but with no shade of menace
or of malice in their silent presence; rather with a solemn benison on
the fleeting creatures of to-day.

Half-way along the room a ghostly figure, somewhat aloof from its
companions, showed a dim, pallid blotch where its face would have been.
With one accord we halted before it.

"Do you know who it is, Ruth?" I asked.

"Of course I do," she answered. "It is Artemidorus."

We stood, hand in hand, facing the mummy, letting our memories fill in
the vague silhouette with its well-remembered details. Presently I drew
her nearer to me and whispered:

"Ruth! do you remember when we last stood here?"

"As if I could ever forget!" she answered passionately. "Oh, Paul! The
sorrow of it! The misery! How it wrung my heart to tell you! Were you
_very_ unhappy when I left you?"

"Unhappy! I never knew, until then, what real, heart-breaking sorrow
was. It seemed as if the light had gone out of my life for ever. But
there was just one little spot of brightness left."

"What was that?"

"You made me a promise, dear--a solemn promise; and I felt--at least I
hoped--that the day would come, if I only waited patiently, when you
would be able to redeem it."

She crept closer to me and yet closer, until her head nestled on my
shoulder and her soft cheek lay against mine.

"Dear heart," I whispered, "is it now? Is the time fulfilled?"

"Yes, dearest," she murmured softly. "It is now--and for ever."

Reverently I folded her in my arms; gathered her to the heart that
worshipped her utterly. Henceforth no sorrows could hurt us, no
misfortunes vex; for we should walk hand in hand on our earthly
pilgrimage and find the way all too short.

Time, whose sands run out with such unequal swiftness for the just and
the unjust, the happy and the wretched, lagged, no doubt, with the
toilers in the room that we had left. But for us its golden grains
trickled out apace and left the glass empty before we had begun to mark
their passage. The turning of a key and the opening of a door aroused us
from our dream of perfect happiness. Ruth raised her head to listen, and
our lips met for one brief moment. Then, with a silent greeting to the
friend who had looked on our grief and witnessed our final happiness, we
turned and retraced our steps quickly, filling the great, empty rooms
with chattering echoes.

"We won't go back into the dark-room--which isn't dark now," said Ruth.

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because--when I came out I was very pale; and I'm--well, I don't think
I am very pale now. Besides, poor Uncle John is in there--and--I should
be ashamed to look at him with my selfish heart overflowing with

"You needn't be," said I. "It is the day of our lives and we have a
right to be happy. But you shan't go in, if you don't wish to," and I
accordingly steered her adroitly past the beam of light that streamed
from the open door.

"We have developed four negatives," said Thorndyke, as he emerged with
the others, "and I am leaving them in the custody of Doctor Norbury, who
will sign each when they are dry, as they may have to be put in
evidence. What are you going to do?"

I looked at Ruth to see what she wished.

"If you won't think me ungrateful," said she, "I should rather be alone
with my father to-night. He is very weak, and--"

"Yes, I understand," I said hastily. And I did. Mr. Bellingham was a man
of strong emotions and would probably be somewhat overcome by the sudden
change of fortune and the news of his brother's tragic death.

"In that case," said Thorndyke, "I will bespeak your services. Will you
go on and wait for me at my chambers, when you have seen Miss Bellingham

I agreed to this, and we set forth under the guidance of Dr. Norbury
(who carried an electric lamp) to return by the way we had come; two of
us, at least, in a vastly different frame of mind. The party broke up at
the entrance gates, and as Thorndyke wished my companion "Good night,"
she held his hand and looked up in his face with swimming eyes.

"I haven't thanked you, Doctor Thorndyke," she said, "and I don't feel
that I ever can. What you have done for me and my father is beyond all
thanks. You have saved his life and you have rescued me from the most
horrible ignominy. Good-bye! and God bless you!"

The hansom that bowled along eastward--at most unnecessary speed--bore
two of the happiest human beings within the wide boundaries of the town.
I looked at my companion as the lights of the street shone into the cab,
and was astonished at the transformation. The pallor of her cheek had
given place to a rosy pink; the hardness, the tension, the haggard
self-repression that had aged her face, were all gone, and the girlish
sweetness that had so bewitched me in the early days of our love had
stolen back. Even the dimple was there when the sweeping lashes lifted
and her eyes met mine in a smile of infinite tenderness. Little was said
on that brief journey. It was happiness enough to sit, hand clasped in
hand, and know that our time of trial was past; that no cross of Fate
could ever part us now.

The astonished cabman set us down, according to instructions, at the
entrance to Nevill's Court, and watched us with open mouth as we
vanished into the narrow passage. The court had settled down for the
night, and no one marked our return; no curious eye looked down on us
from the dark house-front as we said "Good-bye" just inside the gate.

"You will come and see us to-morrow, dear, won't you?" she asked.

"Do you think it possible that I could stay away, then?"

"I hope not. But come as early as you can. My father will be positively
frantic to see you; because I shall have told him, you know. And,
remember, that it is you who have brought us this great deliverance.
Good night, Paul."

"Good night, sweetheart."

She put up her face frankly to be kissed and then ran up to the ancient
door; whence she waved me a last good-bye. The shabby gate in the wall
closed behind me and hid her from my sight; but the light of her love
went with me and turned the dull street into a path of glory.



It came upon me with something of a shock of surprise to find the scrap
of paper still tacked to the oak of Thorndyke's chambers. So much had
happened since I had last looked on it that it seemed to belong to
another epoch of my life. I removed it thoughtfully and picked out the
tack before entering, and then, closing the inner door, but leaving the
oak open, I lit the gas and fell to pacing the room.

What a wonderful episode it had been! How the whole aspect of the world
had been changed in a moment by Thorndyke's revelation! At another time,
curiosity would have led me to endeavour to trace back the train of
reasoning by which the subtle brain of my teacher had attained this
astonishing conclusion. But now my own happiness held exclusive
possession of my thoughts. The image of Ruth filled the field of my
mental vision. I saw her again as I had seen her in the cab with her
sweet, pensive face and downcast eyes; I felt again the touch of her
soft cheek and the parting kiss by the gate, so frank and simple, so
intimate and final.

I must have waited quite a long time, though the golden minutes sped
unreckoned, for when my two colleagues arrived they tendered needless

"And I suppose," said Thorndyke, "you have been wondering what I wanted
you for."

I had not, as a matter of fact, given the matter a moment's

"We are going to call on Mr. Jellicoe," Thorndyke explained. "There is
something behind this affair, and until I have ascertained what it is,
the case is not complete from my point of view."

"Wouldn't it have done as well to-morrow?" I asked.

"It might; and then it might not. There is an old saying as to catching
a weasel asleep. Mr. Jellicoe is a somewhat wide-awake person, and I
think it best to introduce him to Inspector Badger at the earliest
possible moment."

"The meeting of a weasel and a badger suggests a sporting interview,"
remarked Jervis. "But you don't expect Jellicoe to give himself away, do

"He can hardly do that, seeing that there is nothing to give away. But I
think he may make a statement. There were some exceptional
circumstances, I feel sure."

"How long have you known that the body was in the Museum?" I asked.

"About thirty or forty seconds longer than you have, I should say."

"Do you mean," I exclaimed, "that you didn't know until the negative was

"My dear fellow," he replied, "do you suppose that, if I had had certain
knowledge where the body was, I should have allowed that noble girl to
go on dragging out a lingering agony of suspense that I could have cut
short in a moment? Or that I should have made these humbugging pretences
of scientific experiments if a more dignified course had been open to

"As to the experiments," said Jervis, "Norbury could hardly have
refused if you had taken him into your confidence."

"Indeed he could, and probably would. My 'confidence' would have
involved a charge of murder against a highly respectable gentleman who
was well known to him. He would probably have referred me to the police,
and then what could I have done? I had plenty of suspicions, but not a
single solid fact."

Our discussion was here interrupted by hurried footsteps on the stairs
and a thundering rat-tat on our knocker.

As Jervis opened the door, Inspector Badger burst into the room in a
highly excited state.

"What is all this, Doctor Thorndyke?" he asked. "I see you've sworn an
information against Mr. Jellicoe, and I have a warrant to arrest him;
but before anything is done I think it right to tell you that we have
more evidence than is generally known pointing to quite a different

"Derived from Mr. Jellicoe's information," said Thorndyke. "But the fact
is that I have just examined and identified the body at the British
Museum, where it was deposited by Mr. Jellicoe. I don't say that he
murdered John Bellingham--though that is what the appearances
suggest--but I do say that he will have to account for his secret
disposal of the body."

Inspector Badger was thunderstruck. Also he was visibly annoyed. The
salt which Mr. Jellicoe had so adroitly sprinkled on the constabulary
tail appeared to develop irritating properties, for when Thorndyke had
given him a brief outline of the facts he stuck his hands in his pockets
and exclaimed gloomily:

"Well, I'm hanged! And to think of all the time and trouble I've spent
on those damned bones! I suppose they were just a plant?"

"Don't let us disparage them," said Thorndyke. "They have played a
useful part. They represent the inevitable mistake that every criminal
makes sooner or later. The murderer will always do a little too much. If
he would only lie low and let well alone, the detective might whistle
for a clue. But it is time we were starting."

"Are we all going?" asked the inspector, looking at me in particular
with no very gracious recognition.

"We will all come with you," said Thorndyke; "but you will, naturally,
make the arrest in the way that seems best to you."

"It's a regular procession," grumbled the inspector; but he made no more
definite objection, and we started forth on our quest.

The distance from the Temple to Lincoln's Inn is not great. In five
minutes we were at the gateway in Chancery Lane, and a couple of minutes
later saw us gathered round the threshold of the stately old house in
New Square.

"Seems to be a light in the first floor front," said Badger. "You'd
better move away before I ring the bell."

But the precaution was unnecessary. As the inspector advanced to the
bell-pull a head was thrust out of the open window immediately above the
street door.

"Who are you?" inquired the owner of the head in a voice which I
recognised as that of Mr. Jellicoe.

"I am Inspector Badger, of the Criminal Investigation Department. I
wish to see Mr. Arthur Jellicoe."

"Then look at me. I am Mr. Arthur Jellicoe."

"I hold a warrant for your arrest, Mr. Jellicoe. You are charged with
the murder of Mr. John Bellingham, whose body has just been discovered
in the British Museum."

"By whom?"

"By Doctor Thorndyke."

"Indeed," said Mr. Jellicoe. "Is he here?"


"Ha! And you wish to arrest me, I presume?"

"Yes. That is what I am here for."

"Well, I will agree to surrender myself subject to certain conditions."

"I can't make any conditions, Mr. Jellicoe."

"No. I will make them, and you will accept them. Otherwise you will not
arrest me."

"It's no use for you to talk like that," said Badger. "If you don't let
me in I shall have to break in. And I may as well tell you," he added
mendaciously, "that the house is surrounded."

"You may accept my assurance," Mr. Jellicoe replied calmly, "that you
will not arrest me if you do not accept my conditions."

"Well, what are your conditions?" demanded Badger impatiently.

"I desire to make a statement," said Mr. Jellicoe.

"You can do that, but I must caution you that anything you say may be
used in evidence against you."

"Naturally. But I wish to make the statement in the presence of Doctor
Thorndyke, and I desire to hear a statement from him of the method of
investigation by which he discovered the whereabouts of the body. That
is to say, if he is willing."

"If you mean that we should mutually enlighten one another, I am very
willing indeed," said Thorndyke.

"Very well. Then my conditions, Inspector, are that I shall hear Doctor
Thorndyke's statement and that I shall be permitted to make a statement
myself, and that until those statements are completed, with any
necessary interrogation and discussion, I shall remain at liberty and
shall suffer no molestation or interference of any kind. And I agree
that, on the conclusion of the said proceedings, I will submit without
resistance to any course that you may adopt."

"I can't agree to that," said Badger.

"Can't you?" said Mr. Jellicoe coldly; and, after a pause, he added:
"Don't be hasty. I have given you full warning."

There was something in Mr. Jellicoe's passionless tone that disturbed
the inspector exceedingly, for he turned to Thorndyke and said in a low

"I wonder what his game is? He can't get away, you know."

"There are several possibilities," said Thorndyke.

"M'yes," said Badger, stroking his chin perplexedly.

"After all, is there any objection? His statement might save trouble,
and you'd be on the safe side. It would take you some time to break in."

"Well," said Mr. Jellicoe, with his hand on the window, "do you
agree--yes or no?"

"All right," said Badger sulkily. "I agree."

"You promise not to molest me in any way until I have quite finished?"

"I promise."

Mr. Jellicoe's head disappeared and the window closed. After a short
interval we heard the jar of massive bolts and the clank of a chain,
and, as the heavy door swung open, Mr. Jellicoe stood revealed, calm and
impassive, with an old-fashioned office candlestick in his hand.

"Who are the others?" he inquired, peering out sharply through his

"O, they are nothing to do with me," replied Badger.

"They are Doctor Berkeley and Doctor Jervis," said Thorndyke.

"Ha!" said Mr. Jellicoe; "very kind and attentive of them to call. Pray
come in, gentlemen. I am sure you will be interested to hear our little

He held the door open with a certain stiff courtesy, and we all entered
the hall led by Inspector Badger. He closed the door softly and preceded
us up the stairs and into the apartment from the window of which he had
dictated the terms of surrender. It was a fine old room, spacious,
lofty, and dignified, with panelled walls and a carved mantelpiece, the
central escutcheon of which bore the initials "J.W.P." with the date
"1671." A large writing-table stood at the farther end, and behind it an
iron safe.

"I have been expecting this visit," Mr. Jellicoe remarked tranquilly as
he placed four chairs opposite the table.

"Since when?" asked Thorndyke.

"Since last Monday evening, when I had the pleasure of seeing you
conversing with my friend Doctor Berkeley at the Inner Temple gate, and
then inferred that you were retained in the case. That was a
circumstance that had not been fully provided for. May I offer you
gentlemen a glass of sherry?" As he spoke he placed on the table a
decanter and a tray of glasses, and looked at us interrogatively with
his hand on the stopper.

"Well, I don't mind if I do, Mr. Jellicoe," said Badger, on whom the
lawyer's glance had finally settled. Mr. Jellicoe filled a glass and
handed it to him with a stiff bow; then, with the decanter still in his
hand, he said persuasively: "Doctor Thorndyke, pray allow me to fill you
a glass?"

"No, thank you," said Thorndyke, in a tone so decided that the inspector
looked round at him quickly. And as Badger caught his eye, the glass
which he was about to raise to his lips became suddenly arrested and was
slowly returned to the table untasted.

"I don't want to hurry you, Mr. Jellicoe," said the inspector, "but it's
rather late, and I should like to get this business settled. What is it
that you wish to do?"

"I desire," replied Mr. Jellicoe, "to make a detailed statement of the
events that have happened, and I wish to hear from Doctor Thorndyke
precisely how he arrived at his very remarkable conclusion. When this
has been done I shall be entirely at your service; and I suggest that it
would be more interesting if Doctor Thorndyke would give us his
statement before I furnish you with the actual facts."

"I am entirely of your opinion," said Thorndyke.

"Then in that case," said Mr. Jellicoe, "I suggest that you disregard
me, and address your remarks to your friends as if I were not present."

Thorndyke acquiesced with a bow, and Mr. Jellicoe, having seated himself
in his elbow-chair behind the table, poured himself out a glass of
water, selected a cigarette from a neat silver case, lighted it
deliberately, and leaned back to listen at his ease.

"My first acquaintance with this case," Thorndyke began without
preamble, "was made through the medium of the daily papers about two
years ago; and I may say that, although I had no interest in it beyond
the purely academic interest of a specialist in a case that lies in his
particular specialty, I considered it with deep attention. The newspaper
reports contained no particulars of the relations of the parties that
could furnish any hints as to motives on the part of any of them, but
merely a bare statement of the events. And this was a distinct
advantage, inasmuch as it left one to consider the facts of the case
without regard to motive--to balance the _prima facie_ probabilities
with an open mind. And it may surprise you to learn that those _prima
facie_ probabilities pointed from the very first to that solution which
has been put to the test of experiment this evening. Hence it will be
well for me to begin by giving the conclusions that I reached by
reasoning from the facts set forth in the newspapers before any of the
further facts came to my knowledge.

"From the facts as stated in the newspaper reports it is obvious that
there were four possible explanations of the disappearance.

"1. The man might be alive and in hiding. This was highly improbable,
for the reasons that were stated by Mr. Loram at the late hearing of the
application, and for a further reason that I shall mention presently.

"2. He might have died by accident or disease, and his body failed to be
identified. This was even more improbable, seeing that he carried on his
person abundant means of identification, including visiting cards.

"3. He might have been murdered by some stranger for the sake of his
portable property. This was highly improbable for the same reason: his
body could hardly have failed to be identified.

"These three explanations are what we may call the outside explanations.
They touched none of the parties mentioned; they were all obviously
improbable on general grounds; and to all of them there was one
conclusive answer--the scarab which was found in Godfrey Bellingham's
garden. Hence I put them aside and gave my attention to the fourth
explanation. This was that the missing man had been made away with by
one of the parties mentioned in the report. But, since the reports
mentioned three parties, it was evident that there was a choice of three
hypotheses, namely:

"(_a_) That John Bellingham had been made away with by Hurst; or (_b_)
by the Bellinghams; or (_c_) by Mr. Jellicoe.

"Now, I have constantly impressed on my pupils that the indispensable
question that must be asked at the outset of such an inquiry as this is,
'When was the missing person last undoubtedly seen or known to be
alive?' That is the question that I asked myself after reading the
newspaper report; and the answer was, that he was last certainly seen
alive on the fourteenth of October, nineteen hundred and two, at 141
Queen Square, Bloomsbury. Of the fact that he was alive at that time
and place there could be no doubt whatever; for he was seen at the same
moment by two persons, both of whom were intimately acquainted with him,
and one of whom, Doctor Norbury, was apparently a disinterested witness.
After that date he was never seen, alive or dead, by any person who knew
him and was able to identify him. It was stated that he had been seen on
the twenty-third of November following by the housemaid of Mr. Hurst;
but as this person was unacquainted with him, it was uncertain whether
the person whom she saw was or was not John Bellingham.

"Hence the disappearance dated, not from the twenty-third of November,
as everyone seems to have assumed, but from the fourteenth of October;
and the question was not, 'What became of John Bellingham after he
entered Mr. Hurst's house?' but, 'What became of him after his interview
in Queen Square?'

"But as soon as I had decided that that interview must form the real
starting-point of the inquiry, a most striking set of circumstances came
into view. It became obvious that if Mr. Jellicoe had had any reason for
wishing to make away with John Bellingham, he had such an opportunity as
seldom falls to the lot of an intending murderer.

"Just consider the conditions. John Bellingham was known to be setting
out alone upon a journey beyond the sea. His exact destination was not
stated. He was to be absent for an undetermined period, but at least
three weeks. His disappearance would occasion no comment; his absence
would lead to no inquiries, at least for several weeks, during which the
murderer would have leisure quietly to dispose of the body and conceal
all traces of the crime. The conditions were, from a murderer's point of
view, ideal.

"But that was not all. During that very period of John Bellingham's
absence Mr. Jellicoe was engaged to deliver to the British Museum what

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