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The Master Detective by Percy James Brebner

Part 6 out of 6

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occasion no one was likely to be curious.

Watching Wibley when he came down to Hythe, Quarles found he had a
liking for motoring on the Dymchurch Road. He saw him pull up one
morning to speak to a man on the roadside. He did the same thing on the
following morning, but it was a different man, and Quarles recognized
young Squires.

Squires afterwards went to this empty house, and Quarles speedily had men
on the Marsh watching it night and day. It looked as if the house were
the gang's meeting-place. Either another coup was being prepared, or an
escape was being arranged.

During a hurried visit to town the professor had seen my letter to Zena,
and this had given him a clue.

"It was the name Selborne," Quarles explained. "I told you, Wigan, that
Wibley's daughter--or supposed daughter--was not with him in Hampshire.
Her whereabouts worried me. I could not forget that a woman had taken
part in our capture during the chalice case. While I was in Hampshire I
spent half a day in Gilbert White's village. His 'Natural History of
Selborne' has always delighted me. Selborne. If you were going to take a
false name, Wigan, and your godfathers had not called you Murray, only
James, what would you do? As likely as not you would take the name of
some place with which you were familiar. In itself the idea was not
convincing, but it brought me to your hotel at Folkestone, and then I was
certain. Do you remember the woman Squires spoke to on the night he led
us into that trap?"

"It was too dark to see her face," I said.

"I mean the way she stood," said Quarles, "with her arms akimbo; so did
the masked woman in the cellar, and when I saw Mrs. Selborne on the lawn
she did the same. The pose is peculiar. When a woman falls into this
attitude you will find she either rests her knuckles on her hips, or
grasps her waist with open hands, the thumbs behind the four finger in
front. This woman doesn't. She grasps her waist with the thumbs in front,
a man's way rather than a woman's. Her presence there suggested, another
hotel robbery; the yacht suggested a means of escape for the gang,
apparently gathering at the empty house. Since Mrs. Selborne had paid you
so much attention, I guessed she knew who you were, and thought you were
on duty, posing as an invalid. I thought it likely your presence would
prevent the robbery, but she took every precaution that you should go
with her to-day, storm or shine, eh, Wigan? We have had the glasses on
the yacht all day, and when the crew landed to-night we caught them.
Then we went to the house, Wigan. Got them all, and I believe the whole
of the six months' spoil."

"Why didn't you put me on my guard?" I asked.

"Well, Wigan, I think you would have scouted the idea. You were
fascinated, you know. In any case, you could not have helped watching her
for confirmation or to prove me wrong; she would have noted the change in
you, grown suspicious, and might have ruined everything at the eleventh
hour. Unless I am much mistaken we shall discover that the woman was the
brains of the gang."

So it proved when the trial came on, and in another direction Quarles
was correct.

Squires was Mason's son. The lad had cut himself loose from his old
companions, and had only meant to warn his father. He knew where he was
likely to find him, but meeting the man and woman unexpectedly, he was
frightened into trapping us.

There can be little doubt that it was intended to cast away the yacht
as Mrs. Selborne had explained to me, and to drown those who were not
meant to share in the spoil, but who knew too much to be allowed to go
free. I should certainly have been amongst the missing, and young
Squires, too, probably.

I shall always remember this case because--no, Zena and I did not quarrel
exactly, but she was very much annoyed about Mrs. Selborne.

CHAPTER XV

THE SOLUTION OF THE GRANGE PARK MYSTERY

I really had some difficulty in convincing Zena that I had not fallen
in love with Mrs. Selborne, and Quarles seemed to think it humorous to
also express doubt on the subject. The professor is unconsciously
humorous on occasion, but when he tries to be funny he only succeeds in
being pathetic.

I got so tired of his humor one evening that I left Chelsea much earlier
than usual, telling Zena that I should not come again until I heard from
her that she was ready to go and choose furniture, I heard next day.

We were to be married in two months' time and had taken a house near
Grange Park, and I have always thought it curious that my first
introduction to the neighborhood, so to speak, should be as a detective,
and not in the role of a newly married man.

It happened in this way.

Just before two o'clock one morning Constable Poulton turned into Rose
Avenue, Grange Park. He was passing Clarence Lodge, the residence of Mrs.
Crosland, when the front door opened suddenly and a girl came running
down the drive, calling to him.

"The burglars," she said, "and I am afraid my brother hay shot one of
them."

He certainly had. Poulton found the man lying crumpled up at the bottom
of the stairs. He blew his whistle to summon another officer, and after
searching the house they communicated with headquarters.

Grange Park, as many of you may know, is an estate which was developed
some years ago in the Northwest of London, on land belonging to the
Chisholm family. It got into the hands of a responsible firm of
builders, and artistic, well-built houses were erected which attracted
people of considerable means. It wasn't possible to live in Grange Park
on a small income.

A few months ago the sedate tranquillity of the neighborhood had been
broken by an astonishing series of burglaries, which had occurred in
rapid succession. Half a dozen houses were entered; valuables, chiefly
jewelry, worth many thousands of pounds, had been taken, and not a single
arrest, even on suspicion, had been made. The known gangs had been
carefully shadowed without results, and not a trace of the stolen
property had been discovered. The thieves had evidently known where to go
for their spoil, not only the right houses but the exact spot where the
spoil was kept. There had been no bungling; indeed, in some cases, it was
doubtful how an entrance had been effected. Not in a single instance had
the inmates been aroused or alarmed, no thief had been seen or heard upon
the premises, nor had the police noticed any suspicious looking persons
about the estate.

The investigation of these robberies was finally entrusted to me, and I
suppose the empty room in Chelsea had never been used more often and with
less result than over the Grange Park burglaries. It was not only one
chance we had had of getting at the truth, for half a dozen houses had
been broken into; and it was not the lack of clues which bothered us so
much as the number of them. The thieves seemed to have scattered clues
in every direction, yet not one of them led to any definite result.

Like the rest of us, Christopher Quarles had his weaknesses. Whenever he
failed to elucidate a mystery he was always able to show that the fault
was not his, but somebody else's; either too long a time had elapsed
before he was consulted, or some meddlesome fool had touched things and
confused the evidence, or even that something supernatural had been at
work. Once, at least, according to the professor, I had played the part
of meddlesome fool, and one of my weaknesses being a short temper, it
had required all Zena's tact to keep us from quarreling on that
occasion. It came almost as a shock, therefore, when, after a long
discussion one evening, he suddenly jumped up and exclaimed: "I'm
beaten, Wigan, utterly beaten," and did not proceed to lay the
responsibility for his failure on any one.

Upon the receipt of Constable Poulton's message, I was sent for at once,
and it was still early morning when I roused Quarles and we went to
Grange Park. I do not think I have ever seen the professor so excited.

Mrs. Crosland had a son and daughter and a nephew living with her. It was
the daughter who had run down the drive and called Poulton. There were
four servants, a butler and two women in the house and a chauffeur who
lived over the garage. There was besides a nurse, for Mrs. Crosland was
an invalid, often confined to her bed and even at her best only able to
get about with difficulty. She suffered from some acute form of
rheumatism and was tied to her bed at this time.

The son's version of the tragedy was simple and straightforward. Hearing
a noise, he had taken his revolver--always kept handy since the
burglaries--and had reached the top of the stairs when his sister Helen
came out of her room. She had also heard some one moving. They went down
together to the landing at the angle of the staircase. He did not see any
one in the hall, nor was there any sound just then. He called out "Who's
there?" The answer was a bullet, which struck the wall behind them. Then
Crosland fired down into the hall, but at random. He saw no one, but as a
fact he shot the man through the head.

"Do you think the man was alone?" I asked.

"In the hall, yes; but I feel convinced there was some one else in the
house who escaped," Crosland answered. "My sister and I had not moved
from the landing when Hollis, the butler, and one of the women servants
came hastily from their rooms. Then I went down and switched on the
light. The man was lying just as the constable found him. I never saw him
move. When my sister realized he was dead she became excited, and before
I knew what she was doing, she had opened the front door and run down the
drive. The constable happened to be passing the gate at the moment."

"What time elapsed between the firing of the shots and the entrance of
the constable?" I asked.

"A few minutes; I cannot be exact. It took me some little time to realize
that I had actually killed the man, and I don't think Helen fully
understood the extent of the tragedy until I said, 'Good God, I've killed
him,' or something of that kind. I was suddenly aware of my awkward
position in the matter."

"He had fired at you," I said.

"I think I forgot that for the moment," Crosland answered. "As a matter
of fact we had a marvelous escape. You will see where the bullet struck
the wall of the landing. It must have passed between us."

"Did your mother hear the shots?"

"They roused her out of a deep sleep, but she did not realize they were
shots. The nurse came onto the landing whilst we were in the hall. I told
her to say that something had fallen down. My mother is of an extremely
nervous temperament, and I am glad she cannot leave her bed just now."

Helen Crosland had nothing to add to her brother's narrative. When
she rushed out of the house her idea was to call the police as
quickly as possible, not so much because of the burglars, but on her
brother's account. She had the horrible thought of her brother being
accused of murder.

Quarles asked no questions. He was interested in the bullet mark on the
landing wall, and very interested in the dead man. A doctor had seen him
before our arrival, and the body had been removed to a small room off the
hall. Quarles examined the head very closely, also the hands; and
casually looked at the revolver, one chamber of which had been
discharged.

"A swell mobsman, Wigan, not accustomed to work entirely on his own, I
should imagine. As Mr. Crosland says, there may have been others in the
house who escaped."

"We may get some information from the servants presently," I answered.

"I doubt it. In all these burglaries, Wigan, we have considered the
possibility of the servants being implicated, and in no case has it led
us anywhere. More than once there have been clues which pointed to such a
conclusion, merely clever ruses on the thieves' part. No, our clue is the
dead man."

Quarles questioned Constable Poulton closely. The constable had not heard
the shots. About half an hour earlier in the evening he had passed
Clarence Lodge. There was no light in the house then. Just before one
o'clock he had met Mr. Smithers who lived in the next house to Clarence
Lodge; he was coming from the direction of the station and said good
night. Since then he had seen no one upon his beat. Poulton described the
position of the dead man graphically and minutely. He had no doubt he had
been shot a few minutes before he saw him.

"I searched the house with Griffiths, the officer who came when I blew my
whistle; we saw no sign of the others."

"How did they get in?" I asked.

"A window in the passage there was open," said Poulton. "That's the only
way they could have come unless they fastened some window or door again
when they had entered."

I examined this window carefully. There was no sign that any one had
entered this way, no mark upon the catch. Outside the window was a flower
bed, and I pointed out to Quarles that if any one had left the house in a
hurry, as they would do at the sound of firearms, they would inevitably
have left marks upon the flower bed.

Quarles had nothing to say against my argument.

"I don't believe either exit or entrance was made by this window,"
I declared.

"Have you still got servants in your mind, Wigan?"

"I have, to tell the truth I always have had."

"The body is our best clue, Wigan. If we can identify that we shall be
nearing the end." And then Quarles turned to Poulton. "Isn't there a
nephew in the house? We haven't seen him."

"I'm told he is abroad, sir," the constable answered.

"Do you happen to know him?"

"Quite well by sight, sir."

Quarles nodded, but the nephew was evidently not disposed of to his
Satisfaction.

I interviewed the servants closely, including the chauffeur who had heard
nothing of the affair until aroused by the police. Hollis was certain
that all the doors and windows were securely fastened. Quarles rather
annoyed me by suggesting that the thieves might have entered by an
upstairs window or even by the front door.

"If you look at the upstairs windows I think you will find that
impossible," said Hollis.

"We will look, and also at the front door."

The professor made a pretense of examining the front door rather
carefully.

"You're sure this was locked and bolted last night?"

"Quite, sir."

"It looks substantial and innocent."

The only window which interested Quarles upstairs was that of a small
room in the front of the house overlooking the drive, but, as the butler
pointed out, no one could have got in there without a ladder.

"No, no, I suppose not," and Quarles did not say another word until we
saw Mr. Crosland again. Then he immediately inquired about the nephew.

"George is in Paris, at least he was three days ago," and Crosland
produced a picture postcard sent to his mother. "We are expecting him
back at the end of the week."

"I suppose, Mr. Crosland, you have no suspicions regarding this affair?"

"I don't quite understand what you mean."

"Let me put it in another way," said the professor, "and please do not
think that I am suggesting you fired too hastily. Immediately you heard
the noise, you remembered the burglars who have caused a sensation in
Grange Park recently. It was quite natural, but it seems to me rather
strange that so astute a gang should commence operations in the same
neighborhood again. For the sake of argument, let us suppose this gang
had nothing to do with the affair. Now can you think of any one who might
have something to gain by breaking into Clarence Lodge?"

"No, I cannot; and yet--"

"Well," said Quarles.

"I can think of no one; I recall no family skeleton, but there is one
curious fact. This gang seemed to know exactly where to go for their
spoil--jewels mostly, and there is nothing of that kind worth taking at
Clarence Lodge."

"That goes to support my argument, doesn't it?"

"It does."

"That is the reason I asked particularly about your cousin."

"George Radley is like a brother," laughed Crosland, "our interests are
identical."

"Oh, it was only a point that occurred to me as an outsider," Quarles
returned. "We can leave him out of the argument and yet not be convinced
there is no family skeleton. You might perhaps question your mother
without explaining the reason, although I suppose she will have to know
about this affair presently."

"I hope not."

"Acute rheumatism, isn't it? I wonder if she has ever heard of a quack
who made a new man of me. What was his name now?"

"Was it Bush?" Crosland asked.

"No, but it was a commonplace name."

"As a matter of fact a man named Bush has been to see my mother. I dare
not tell Dr. Heathcote; at one time I fancy Bush did her good, or she got
better naturally, but she believes in him. He hasn't been for some time
now, but she was speaking of him the other day."

"I'll look up my man's card and send it on to you," said Quarles. "You
get Mrs. Crosland to see him, never mind Dr. Heathcote."

"I didn't know you had suffered from rheumatism," I said to Quarles as we
left the house.

"Didn't you! Have it now sometimes. Well, Wigan, what do you make of this
affair? Do you think the burglars are responsible?"

"I want time to think."

"We'll just call in and see Dr. Heathcote," said Quarles.

The doctor was a young man rather overburdened with his own importance.
He was inclined to think that Crosland had done Grange Park a service by
shooting one of the burglar gang.

"I only hope the authorities won't get sentimental and make it needlessly
unpleasant for him."

"I shouldn't think so," I returned. "I may take it, doctor, that the man
had been dead only a short time when you saw him?"

"Quite. Death must have been practically instantaneous."

"Oh, there is no doubt about Crosland's narrative, it is quite
straightforward," said Quarles, "but I shouldn't be surprised if he found
the inquiry awkward. I think his mother ought to know the truth."

"Why not?" asked Heathcote.

"He seems to think it would be bad for her in her state of health."

"I'll talk to him," said the doctor. "The old lady is not so bad as he
supposes. To tell you the truth I think the nurse is rather a fool and
frightens her. I tried to get them to change her, but she seems to be a
sort of relation."

"That's the worst of relations, they're so constantly in the way,"
said Quarles.

We left the doctor not much wiser than when we went, it seemed to me, but
Quarles appeared to find considerable food for reflection. He was silent
until we were in the train.

"Wigan, you must see that a watch is kept upon Clarence Lodge day and
night. Have half a dozen men drafted into the neighborhood. You want to
know who goes to the house, and any one leaving it must be followed.
Poulton's a good man, I should keep him there, and let him be inquisitive
about callers. Then telegraph at once to the Paris police. Ask if George
Radley is still at the Vendme Hotel. If he is tell them to keep an eye
on him. Now, here's my card. Take it to Schuster, 12 Grant Street,
Pimlico, and ask him if he knows anything of a man named Bush, a quack
specialist in rheumatism. Find out all you can about Bush. To-morrow
morning you must go to Grange Park again, and see young Crosland. He may
complain about the watch which is being kept over the house. If he does,
spin him the official jargon about information received, etc., intimate
your fear that the gang may attempt reprisals, and tell him you are bound
to take precautions. After that come on to Chelsea. We ought to be able
to arrive at some decision then. Oh, and one other thing, you might see
if you have any one resembling the dead man in your criminal portrait
gallery at the Yard."

"A fairly full day's work," I said with a smile.

"I am going to be busy, too, with a theory I have got. To-morrow we will
see if your facts fit in with it."

To avoid repetition I shall come to the results of my inquiries as I
related them to Quarles next day. I got back from Grange Park soon after
two o'clock, had a couple of sandwiches and a glass of wine in the Euston
Road, and then took a taxi to Chelsea. Zena and the professor were
already in the private room, Zena doing nothing. Quarles engaged in some
proposition of Euclid, apparently. On the writing table were a revolver
and some cartridges.

"I have told Zena the whole affair as far as we know it," said Quarles,
putting his papers on the table, "and she asks me a foolish question,
Wigan. 'Why didn't the butler run for the police instead of Miss
Crosland?' Have you got any information which will help to answer it?"

"It doesn't seem to me very strange that she went," I returned. "I have
been busy, but there is not very much to tell. I have got the house
watched as you suggested. The Paris police telegraph that an Englishman
named George Radley is at the Hotel Vendme, a harmless tourist
apparently, going about Paris seeing the sights. Schuster was able to
give me Bush's address, and I called upon him, but did not see him. He
had gone to a case in Yorkshire, but may be back any time. He lives in
Hampstead, in quite a pleasant flat overlooking the Heath."

"Is he married?"

"No, he has a housekeeper, rather a deaf old lady who speaks of him as
the doctor."

"You didn't chance to see a portrait of him?"

"No, there were no photographs about of any kind. His hobby seems to be
old prints, of which he has some good specimens. I should say his
temperament is artistic."

"That is an interesting conclusion," said the professor. "You didn't get
any idea of his age?"

"No. This morning I went to Clarence Lodge and find you are by no means
liked there."

"Indeed."

"An old gentleman called there yesterday afternoon saying you had asked
him to go and see Mrs. Crosland about her rheumatism--a Mr. Morrison."

"The silly old ass!" exclaimed the professor. "He is the man I told
Crosland of, the man who cured rheumatism so marvelously. I suppose
Morrison misread my letter and went at once instead of waiting to be
sent for."

"Crosland appears to have given him a piece of his mind," I laughed, "and
called you a meddlesome fool."

"Poor old Morrison, but it serves him right."

"He managed to see Mrs. Crosland," I said. "When the old lady heard he
was there she would see him. As the son was anxious his mother
shouldn't know of the tragedy, it was arranged that she should be told
that Morrison's visit was the outcome of a casual remark Crosland had
dropped to a friend concerning Mrs. Crosland's suffering. The old lady
appears to have put the old man through his paces, but ended by being
convinced that Morrison knew what he was talking about. He has been
asked to call again."

"Then I appear to have done the old lady a good turn after all," said
Quarles. "Did you see Mrs. Crosland, Wigan?"

"No. The butler opened the door, and I only saw young Crosland besides. I
explained to him the necessity of having the house watched, and I think
he believes I am afraid he will attempt to run away. He is a little
nervous about his position in the affair. I reassured him."

"It's a pity you didn't manage to see the old lady. Don't you think it
would be interesting to know what she is like?"

"I can't say I am very interested on that point."

"Well, we can ask old Morrison," said Quarles. "I daresay his quackery
has made him a close observer. You don't succeed as a quack unless you
have a keen appreciation of the foibles and weaknesses of human nature."

"You have my facts, Professor; now, have you progressed with your theory;
has revolver practise had something to do with it?"

And I pointed to the writing table.

"Let's go back to the Grange Park burglaries for a moment," Quarles began
slowly. "We have investigated them under the impression that they were
the work of a gang, but it is possible they were worked by one man. The
gang may have attacked Clarence Lodge, Crosland's chance though excellent
marksmanship accounting for one of the members while the rest escaped;
but on the whole the evidence seems to suggest that this man was alone,
and we might conclude that the burglaries were the work of one man."

"I shall never believe that," I said.

"Still, you cannot disprove it by direct evidence. You may show it to be
unlikely, but you cannot prove it impossible. Indirectly we can go a
little further. There were several features about these burglaries to
make them remarkable. The right house was chosen, the thieves were never
heard or seen, there were always plenty of misleading clues left about,
there was no bungling, In the case of Clarence Lodge the wrong house was
chosen--Crosland himself told us that it contained no jewelry or
particular valuables. The thieves, or rather thief, was heard, the sound
must have been considerable to arouse both Crosland and his sister; the
thief makes no attempt to conceal himself and fires the moment he is
spoken to; in short, there was a considerable amount of bungling, quite
unlike the experts we have been thinking of. We are safe, therefore, I
fancy, in considering that the Clarence Lodge affair is not to be
reckoned as one of the Grange Park burglaries."

I shook my head doubtfully.

"Since experts may at times make mistakes, I grant that my negative
evidence is not as convincing as it might be," said Quarles, "but I want
the point conceded. I want, as it were, a base line upon which to build
my theoretical plan. I want to forget the burglaries, in fact, and come
to the Clarence Lodge case by itself. So we have a dead man and we first
ask who shot him. Crosland says he did, and tells us the circumstances,
his sister confirms his statement, and the butler, the woman servant and
the nurse, who are quickly upon the stage in this tragedy, see no reason
to disbelieve the statement. We burrow a little deeper into the evidence,
and we discover one or two interesting facts. The man was shot on the
left side of the head, a clean wound above the left ear. Crosland says he
fired after he had been fired at, so the man, directly he had fired, must
deliberately have turned his head to the right, which at least is
remarkable. Further, to hit the wall of the landing in the place he did
the man must have stood in the very center of the stairs to fire. His
body was found some feet away from this central position, and a bullet so
fired and striking where it did could not have missed two people
standing on that landing. I have made a rough plan here," and Quarles
took up the papers from the table, "giving the position of the dead man,
the position of the walls and stairs. The lines show where the bullet
would have hit if fired from a spot nearer where the dead man was found."

I examined his diagram closely.

"A man shot through the brain might fall several feet away from where he
was standing," I said.

"Yes, behind where he was standing, or perhaps forward, but hardly to one
side. However, we burrow again, and we try and answer Zena's question why
it was Helen Crosland who ran for the police. Why not? we may ask. Her
close association with her brother in the affair, her anxiety on his
account, make it natural that she should dash out not only for help but
to make it certain that they had nothing to hide. Her words to Poulton,
'The burglars, and I am afraid my brother has shot one of them,' are
significant. They tell the whole story in a nutshell. Crosland's
statement merely elaborates it, over-elaborates it, in fact. The bolts on
the front door, Wigan, were very stiff; I tried them. Helen Crosland
would certainly have had difficulty in drawing them back, and it is an
absurdity for her brother to declare that she had gone before he knew
what she was doing."

I had no comment to make, and Zena leaned forward in her chair,
evidently excited.

"It is a point to remember that she ran out exactly at the moment Poulton
was passing, which may have been chance, of course, but from that room
over the hall one can see down the drive and, by the light of a street
lamp, some way down the road. Had any one watched there he could have
prompted the girl when to start."

"You seem to be overloading the theory too much," I said, "and I do not
see many real facts yet."

"I am coming to some facts presently," said Quarles. "I am showing you my
working. Now, having done away with the gang of burglars, we ask how did
the man get into the house. Your argument that no one could have escaped
through that window in the passage was sound, I think, Wigan, and
considering the immaculate condition of the latch and the lack of signs
on the sill and the flower bed, I doubt if any one got in that way,
either. On the whole, I am inclined to think he came through the front
door, which was opened for him by Hollis the butler or by one of the
servants."

"Still no facts," I said.

"Still theory," admitted Quarles. "By my theory it follows that the dead
man was known to the Croslands. We will assume that in some family
quarrel he was killed that night. The death--the murder--had to be
concealed, so they pitched on the idea of the burglars, put the body in
the hall, fired a shot into the landing wall, and threw open the passage
window. It was smartly conceived, but, of course, took some little time,
which had to be accounted for. Crosland could only say that he could not
tell how long a time elapsed between the firing and the arrival of
Poulton. Everything had to be thought of before Helen Crosland rushed out
for the police."

"You assume that the whole household was in the conspiracy?" I asked.

"Yes, and that they are exceedingly clever. What do you think of
the theory?"

"As a theory rather interesting, but I am still waiting for a fact or
two."

"Here's one," said Quarles, taking up the revolver. "This is Crosland's;
I purloined it. It is a very good weapon by a small maker. Curiously
enough the thief's weapon was exactly like it."

"That may be a coincidence," said Zena.

"It may be, but I prefer to think it a significant fact," the professor
returned; "but we'll go back to the theory again for the moment. I was
very interested in Crosland and his sister, they were not exceedingly
unlike each other. There was no portrait of Mrs. Crosland about, so I
could not tell which of them took after the mother. Had you told me that
Helen Crosland was the butler's daughter I should have believed you. Did
you notice the likeness, Wigan?"

"No," I said with a smile. It seemed to me that the theory had got
altogether out of hand.

"Well, it made me curious about the nephew," Quarles went on. "I wondered
whether the dead man was the nephew and so I asked Crosland about a
family skeleton, showed him that I had no belief in the burglar theory,
and he quickly responded by saying there was nothing in the house worth
stealing. I helped him out of a difficulty, and it was easy to talk about
his mother and her rheumatism. So we got to the specialist Bush. You see
the chief point was to find out the identity of the dead man. Now we get
to two facts. He isn't the nephew who is still in Paris, and Bush is
supposed to be in Yorkshire."

"Do you mean--"

"I am still theorizing," said Quarles. "There are no portraits at
Clarence Lodge; you noticed a lack of portraits in Bush's flat, and you
conclude by external evidence that his temperament is artistic. The dead
man's hands were curiously capable and artistic. It struck me the moment
I looked at them."

"I am not convinced, Professor."

"Nor was I," said Quarles, "so I mentioned the rheumatic specialist who
had cured me."

"You, grandfather!" Zena exclaimed.

"Ah, you have evidently forgotten how I used to suffer," was the smiling
answer. "I allowed Morrison to make a mistake on purpose and go to
Clarence Lodge, his one idea to get an interview with Mrs. Crosland."

"And you have seen him since?" I asked.

"Came home with him from Grange Park," answered Quarles. "He was roundly
abused to begin with, but, as you were told, he saw Mrs. Crosland. It was
an interesting interview. The first thing that struck him was that the
old lady was totally unlike her children, a different type altogether.
She is a hard, masculine kind of woman, not at all of the nervous
temperament he had been led to expect; and he was convinced that she had
only consented to see him to make sure that he was no more than he had
proclaimed himself--a specialist in rheumatism. My friend Morrison came
to the conclusion that the nurse, as a nurse, was incompetent, and that
the room he entered would not have been the one constantly occupied by
the invalid. He was exceedingly interested in Mrs. Crosland, seeing in
her a woman of extraordinary force of character and intellectual
capacity, and he came to the conclusion that there was nothing whatever
the matter with her."

"No rheumatism?" said Zena.

"About as much as I suffer from," said Quarles. "In short, Morrison was
rather glad to get safely out of the house. He was certain that the old
lady had a revolver under her pillow, and would certainly have shot him
had she suspected that he was any one else but a specialist in
rheumatism."

I was looking at Quarles as he turned to me.

"What do you make of my theory now, Wigan?"

"Were you Morrison?" I asked.

"Of course, and it was a trying ordeal. Do you think we have enough facts
to go on?"

"Not facts, exactly, but evidence," I admitted.

"I think we shall find that the dead man is Bush," said the professor.
"Inquiry will probably show that he has a record for quackery and has
probably sailed fairly close to the wind at times. His connection with
the Crosland family was not professional, but had other aims, and his
profession was used merely as a reason for not having a doctor for Mrs.
Crosland, who found it convenient to pose as an invalid. A quarrel
resulted in Bush's being shot that night. I hazard a guess that it was
the old lady who shot him, and that it was her brain which conceived the
way out of the difficulty."

"That is guessing with a vengeance," I said.

"Yes, but not without some reason," Quarles went on. "Let's go back to
the Grange Park burglaries for a moment, and suppose that a gang of
expert thieves under the name of Crosland took Clarence Lodge. An invalid
mother, son and daughter so called, butler, servants--a most respectable
family apparently, in the midst of people worth plundering, able by
friendly intercourse to collect the necessary information and plan their
raids. Bush is the outside representative of the firm, so to speak, and
the nephew who travels abroad occasionally sees to the selling of the
spoil. It was the plot of a master mind--the old lady's, which has
entirely beaten us until they quarrel between themselves. Now what do
you think of my theory?"

"It takes me back to Grange Park without unnecessary delay," I said,
getting up quickly.

"I thought it would. You have got the men waiting for you there, and I
should raid the house forthwith. But caution, Wigan. I don't think they
have any suspicion of Morrison, but the moment they tumble to your
intentions they'll show fight, and probably put up a hot one. And don't
forget the nephew in Paris. Take him, too."

The raid upon Clarence Lodge took place that evening, and was so managed
that the servants and the chauffeur were taken before Crosland and his
sister, who proved to be no relation as Quarles had surmised, were aware
of the fact. Faced with the inevitable they made no fight at all, but the
old lady was made of entirely different metal. She barricaded herself in
her room, and swore to shoot the first man who forced the door. She had
the satisfaction of wounding me slightly in the shoulder, and then before
we could stop her she had turned the weapon upon herself and shot herself
through the head.

The nephew was taken in Paris, and with the rest of the gang was sent to
penal servitude. The evidence at the trial proved Quarles's theory to be
very much as the tragedy had happened. The dead man was Bush, and it was
his threat to give the burglaries away unless he had a larger share of
the spoil than had been assigned to him which made the old lady shoot him
in an ungovernable fit of rage.

"A master mind, Wigan," Quarles remarked, "and it is just as well
not to have her as a neighbor. Your wound is not likely to put off
your wedding?"

"No."

"A little better aim and she would have put it off altogether."

"Don't be so horrible," said Zena.

"A fact, my dear. Murray has been very keen about getting: hold of facts
in this case, so I mention one. The Grange Park burglaries beat me
because there was no clue to build on, but with a dead body--well, it
really wasn't very difficult, was it?"

"Quite easy," I answered as if I really meant it, and then turned to
discuss carpets with Zena.

It was not always wise to let the old man know you thought him clever.

THE END

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