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Full text of "The master of mysteries : being an account of the problems solved by Astro, seer of secrets, and his love affair with Valeska Wynne, his assistant"

THE 

MASTER 



MYSTERIES 




BANCROFT 
LIBRARY 

o 

THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

Gift of 

Joseph K. Bransten 




,\rllM 



.hW 

. 



I'd know then just what you were to me alone in the dark." 



THE 
MASTER OF MYSTERIES 



BEING AN ACCOUNT OF THE PROBLEMS 

SOLVED BY ASTRO, SEER OF SECRETS, 

AND HIS LOVE AFFAIR WITH VA- 

LESKA WYNNE, HIS ASSISTANT 




WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY 

KARL ANDERSON AND GEORGE BREHM 




INDIANAPOLIS 
THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY 

PUBLISHERS 



COPYRIGHT 1912 
THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY 




I 



OF 

BRAUNWORTH & CO. 

BOOKBINDERS AND PRINTERS 

BROOKLYN, N. Y. 



CONTENTS 

it . PAGE 

MISSING JOHN HUDSON ...,..,.. 1 
THE STOLEN SHAKESPEARE . . ... .23 

THE MAcDouGAL STREET AFFAIR . . . . .44 

THE FANSHAWE GHOST ...... .65 

THE DENTON BOUDOIR MYSTERY ..... 83 

THE LORSSON ELOPEMENT ...... 103 

THE CALENDON KIDNAPING CASE ..... 128 

Miss DALRYMPLE'S LOCKET ...... 148 

NUMBER THIRTEEN ........ 165 

THE TROUBLE WITH TULLIVER ...... 186 

WHY MRS. BURBANK RAN AWAY . . .. ; > . 203 

MRS. SELWYN'S EMERALD . . > : .... . . 225 

THE ASSASSINS' CLUB ....;... 247 

THE LUCK OF THE MERRINGTONS . . ... . . 271 

THE COUNT'S COMEDY ..... . 291 

PRISCILLA'S PRESENTS . . . ,. ; . . .311 
THE HEIR TO SOOTHOID ..... ... 326 

THE Two Miss MANNINGS ...... 344 

VAN ASTEN'S VISITOR ...... . 365 

THE MIDDLEBURY MURDER . . . . .384 

VENGEANCE OF THE Pi RHO Nu .:.... 407 

THE LADY IN TAUPE . . . . . .428 

MRS. STELLERY'S LETTERS . , : > x . . 443 
BLACK LIGHT . . . >: -. . . . 465 



'/ 



INTRODUCTION 

Astro put The Great Cryptogram back upon his 
book-shelf among the other attempts to solve the im- 
mortal Shakespeare-Bacon controversy. 

"Valeska," he said, turning to his pretty assistant, 
"it's queer that there appears to be no other book con- 
taining a secret message except the Shakespeare folios, 
isn't it ! It seems to me that I have heard it said that 
Chatterton had a cipher in one of his books, though ; 
that's the only other one I know of. Strange more au- 
thors haven't done it !" 

"Why?" Valeska asked, looking up from her cata- 
logue. "Why should a writer put anything in that 
can't go plainly in the body of the book, or, at least, in 
an introduction?" 

"For many reasons : He may be ashamed of the book, 
or have some other reason for not acknowledging its 
authorship. It may describe his friends too accurately. 
It may reveal important secrets. Even if his name does 
appear on the title page, I can imagine of a number of 
secret messages he might want to insert for the benefit 
of those able to understand it." 

"Perhaps it has often been done," Valeska suggested. 
"One wouldn't know, unless one had a reason to sus- 
pect the existence of such a thing and then one would 
have to be clever enough to read the cipher." 

Astro thought it over. "By Jove !" he exclaimed at 
last, "you're right ! Now I think of it there's one par- 



INTRODUCTION 

ticular book, published anonymously, that I've often 
been curious about. Clewfinder, I think I'll take a 
look at it." 

He went to his book-shelves again and took out the 
volume, opened it, and ran swiftly over the pages. 
"Let's see," he said; "if the author wanted his true 
name known, he would put it in an easy cipher, 
wouldn't he ? But if he didn't want it found out easily, 
it would be something more complex. This book has 
had a great sale it could hardly hurt the man to be 
suspected of writing it. Let's try the easiest possible 
method first." 

He ran swiftly over the pages. "Well, what d'you 
think!" he said, looking up. "I knew the man was 
pretty clever, and fairly versatile, but I never thought 
of him as the author of such a novel as Clew finder! 
Just look at it, Valeska." 

"You say it's the easiest possible method he has 
taken ?" Valeska said, as she looked over the pages. 

"The very easiest." 

Valeska studied on it a few minutes, then her face 
lighted. She hurriedly turned the pages, stopped here 
and there, and then smiled. "Well, that is a surprise, 
isn't it ! But why didn't he put his name on the title 
page ? I can't understand that !" 

"Give me the book !" Astro said, eagerly. "I believe 
he would be likely to tell that, too !" He took the vol- 
ume again, and again he ran hurriedly over the pages. 
"Yes ; as I thought," he said, finally. "He has the best 
of reasons." He handed the book back to his assistant. 

"The second cipher, surely, would be written in the 
second easiest way, shouldn't it ?" 

Astro nodded. "Naturally." 



INTRODUCTION 

Valeska sat for a while at her table, her head resting 
in her hand. Then she slowly turned the leaves, think- 
ing. In a moment she went faster, stopping as before, 
for a second, occasionally. She went back once, made 
sure, and recommenced. Finally she smiled. "Yes!" 
she said. 'Tie's right, too !" 

"It may have a third cipher message, too," she sug- 
gested, looking at the volume curiously. 

Astro thought it over. "Possibly, but that would be 
for the few, not for the ordinary 'smarty-cats.' I'll see 
when I have leisure for it. It will probably take a little 
more time to read it." 

"Well," said Valeska, "if other books have contained 
any such secret messages, it's strange that some one 
hasn't eventually discovered them." 

"That's no doubt because they didn't have modern 
publishers, who understood the practical psychology of 
advertising," said Astro. 

And he turned to play with his pet white lizard. 



THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 



The Master of Mysteries 



MISSING JOHN HUDSON 

THE Master of Mysteries bent over the onyx lec- 
tern for a moment to gaze at the monograph, and 
then chuckled derisively. "Oh, these German Symbol- 
ists !" he said half aloud. "For unadulterated humor, 
give me a Teuton that has joined the ranks of the meta- 
physicians. It is hardly to be wondered that ninety per 
cent, of them have died in madhouses, and that Max 
Nordau has scheduled the rest of them for suicide !" 

He paused again to give a final glance at Ehrenfeld's 
little book on tone color in vowels. "The letter A," 
he translated rapidly, "suggests at once bright red, and 
symbolizes youth, or joy ; the letter I is suggestive of 
sky-blue, and symbolizes intimacy, or love et cetera, 
et cetera" He stopped from sheer exasperation. "Poor 
Arthur Rimbaud ! Poor old sodden Verlaine ! What 
crimes are committed in your cause !" 

The door opened softly, and he turned to greet a 
beautiful blond-haired girl who entered. 

"Valeska, if I were making up a list of the tonal es- 
sences in vowel sounds, I should say the A was yellow, 
in disagreement with our friend here, Mr. Ehren- 

I 



THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 



feld. The U would be purple, verging on maroon. 
By the way, did you happen to notice that woman who 
was here this afternoon?" He gazed abstractedly at 
the floor. "It seemed to me," he went on after a few 
moments' thought, "as if she possessed distinctly pur- 
ple vibrations, denoting unrest." 

"Which one?" was the quick reply. "THe one in 
black satin, with jet ornaments, who wore gold-bowed 
eye-glasses, and limped ?" 

"Of course; but I should describe her as a woman 
who was worried and was jealous of her husband ; very 
suspicious of him ; also abnormally anxious for money." 

"I didn't talk to her ; I was too busy." 

"You must do a few palms some day, just to see how 
you are getting along in your study of the science of 
human nature. You noticed nothing else about her?" 

Valeska put the end of her pencil to her lips and con- 
sidered it abstractedly for a few moments. "Let me 
see " she began. "She carried two books, didn't she ?" 

"Precisely. One was a Baedeker's Northern Italy, 
and the other was a church report, Park Avenue 
Presbyterian. But the point is that she's coming here 
again, possibly this evening or to-morrow. She was 
literally perishing with the desire to ask me something 
which she did not dare to at the time." 

At this moment there came a ring at the office door- 
bell. 

"There she is now," went on the mystic. "Did you 
notice that was a nervous ring? It came twice. She 
wasn't quite sure the first time whether she had pressed 
hard enough. Show her in, Valeska." 

A few minutes intervened before his visitor ap- 
peared, pausing undecidedly on the threshold. "Could 



MISSING JOHN HUDSON 3 

I see you for a short time about something of impor- 
tance ?" she questioned. 

"Have a seat, madam." Astro had risen, and placed 
a chair, apparently innocently enough, where the full 
glare of the drop electric light would illuminate her. 
His eyes did not appear to survey his client ; but under 
his long lashes they were busy noting detail after detail. 
She sat down and again hesitated to begin. 

"I I suppose that what I am about to say, sir, will 
be kept in perfect confidence ?" 

"Assuredly, madam. You are worried about your 
husband, I presume." 

She started in surprise, looked curiously at him, and 
then said, "Yes," in a faint tremulous whisper. At 
once she added, "You told me things this afternoon 
which were so wonderfully true that I thought I 
might trust you to give me some help on a far more im- 
portant affair which has been worrying me for some 
time. The fact is, Mr. Hudson, my husband, has dis- 
appeared. I haven't seen him for over a week." 

At this Astro manifested no surprise, and merely re- 
marked, "I was aware that he was away, madam, when 
I read your palm this afternoon. No doubt I can 
find him, if that is what you wish; but it may take 
some time ; for I shall have to gaze into my crystals and 
go into a trance. It will also be necessary for me to 
go to your house into his room, in fact in order 
that I may first take his atmosphere." 

"Oh, I understand," she exclaimed. "To tell the 
truth, I'm very, very much worried, and anxious to 
have you go to work as soon as possible. I daren't go 
to the police ; for, after all, there may be nothing seri- 
ous the matter, and it would cause a lot of talk ; and I 



4 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

shouldn't want him ever to know that I'd employed a 
detective for anything like this. But of course you are 
different." 

"I am 'different', as you say," responded Astro, smil- 
ing. "I shall be able to trace him, no doubt, without 
any one ever suspecting me. Just when did you see 
him for the last time ?" 

"On Tuesday, the tenth." 

"And now it is the twentieth. He has had no busi- 
ness troubles ?" 

"On the contrary, he was doing remarkably well in 
his real estate business. We've been saving up to go 
abroad, you see ; it has been a plan we've had ever since 
we were married. It's a sort of delayed honeymoon, I 
suppose. We hoped to live in Italy for a year." She 
sighed. 

"You are a church-member, I presume ?" 

"Yes, I go to the Park Avenue Presbyterian church. 
Mr. Hudson is a deacon there." 

"I see. He is well-off, you say?" 

"Oh, no ; not that. But we have been quite encour- 
aged of late. Mr. Hudson was quite hopeful about our 
European trip." 

"Very well, Mrs. Hudson ; I shall be at your house at 
nine o'clock to-morrow." 



Valeska entered the room again as soon as the vis- 
itor had left, and looked at the palmist, with a question 
in her eyes. 

Astro waved his hand carelessly. "As I thought," 
he began, turning to his narghile, lighting it, and blow- 
ing the fumes through his nose luxuriously, "John 



MISSING JOHN HUDSON 5 

Hudson has disappeared. She asked several pointed 
questions about him this afternoon, although she 
thought that she guarded herself well. They are both 
church-members, and their ambition is to go abroad. 
He is in the real estate business. Can you put two and 
two together ?" 

Valeska's pretty eyebrows creased themselves in 
thought. "Let me see. Judging from her appearance, 
they can't have been making very much money in the 
real estate business. You say they wanted to go to 
Europe, wanted to stay a year in Italy, wasn't it? 
and wanted all this badly. He'd naturally try to get 
the money in other ways ; perhaps illegitimately. It 
might even lead him into crime. Being religious, he 
would naturally want to hide this from his wife. Per- 
haps he has been suspected and has escaped." She 
looked up at him anxiously. 

"You're improving," said the Seer impassively. "In 
fact, that's just what I've been thinking myself. What 
we must find out is, what crime, if any, he has com- 
mitted. Perhaps he is dead ; perhaps he has run away 
with another woman. We must consider every possi- 
bility. Now, I can't very well take you up to the Hud- 
son house, as this is a delicate case ; so I wish you'd go 
over all the newspapers since the tenth and see what 
you can find that will help us." 



At ten o'clock next day Astro appeared in his psychic 
studio, where appointments with his fashionable clients 
kept him till two in the afternoon. At that time he 
called Valeska into his favorite corner of the studio 
where he did his lounging and studying. 



6 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Well," he asked, "what did you get out of the news- 
papers ?" 

"I found so much that it's worse than if I'd found 
nothing at all, several murders, an elopement, and a 
bank robbery. I don't see how any of them help, 
though. The criminals all seem to be known. Per- 
haps Hudson was an accomplice." 

"My dear girl, never go on general principles ; gen- 
eral principles are the refuge of the hopelessly incom- 
petent and inane. If you will follow general principles 
long enough, you will find yourself in a class that is 
unlimited in its generalities and hidebound in its prin- 
ciples. If there is no significant detail that dovetails 
into Hudson's disappearance, we'll simply have to go 
about it in another way. You will be better able to 
judge when I tell you what happened this forenoon be- 
fore I came down to the studio here. 

"Mrs. Hudson was ready for me with the news that 
she had found her husband's check-book, and that it 
showed him to have an unexpected deposit in the bank 
of some six thousand dollars. Then she showed me 
into the bedroom ; but as they shared this apartment I 
thought it unnecessary to look there for anything sig- 
nificant. Hudson's own den was a bare office-like sort 
of place, small, and furnished with a leather couch, a 
bookcase, and an old office desk. In this, all the 
drawers were unlocked except one. I got Mrs. Hud- 
son's permission to pick that lock, and here is what I 
found." He smiled. "Of course, you understand these 
were absolutely necessary for me to get my vibrations." 

They both laughed at the remark, and he took from 
his pocket several articles, which he laid upon the table. 
There were, first, two advertising pictures posed by a 



MISSING JOHN HUDSON 7 

pretty woman; evidently the same model in each in- 
stance, though used in connection with different prod- 
ucts. In one pose the girl held a loaf of bread in her 
hand; in the other she displayed her gleaming teeth 
whitened by "Dentabella," a new proprietary tooth- 
paste. She was pretty and quite young. Next was a 
card, curiously covered with an intricate series of in- 
terlaced curves in purple ink, a beautiful, symmetrical 
pattern, as accurately drawn as the lathe engraving on 
a bank-note. Last, there was a small printed page con- 
taining a calendar with all the months given. Oddly 
enough, the year was not printed at the top ; instead, 
above the calendar proper appeared the caption, "Num- 
ber fourteen/' 

Valeska looked at the collection curiously. "Well," 
she said at last, "I can't make much of anything except 
the girl's picture. It looks to me as if Hudson must 
have some special interest in her, to have two pictures 
of the same woman. We might find out who she is." 

"That's important, surely ; unless, of course, we can 
get hold of a better clue. But do you know what this 
is ?" He held up the card. 

"No, it looks to me like a fairy's lace handkerchief 
design or a sea-shell." 

"That is a harmonic curve," said Astro. "Sometimes 
it's called a vibration curve, and it is traced by a com- 
pound or twin elliptic pendulum." 

"What's that? I am getting farther away than 
ever." 

"Suppose," continued Astro, "you tie one end of a 
string to a nail in the ceiling, while the other end is 
looped up to another nail, also in the ceiling. Now, 
from the lower point of this V, hang a string with a 



8 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

weight on the end. You observe, the weight will be at 
the end of a Y, and if you give a rotary motion to the 
compound pendulum so formed, the weight will travel 
in an intricate but regular curve, dependent on the 
relative lengths of the two parts of the pendulum as it 
swings forward and backward and right and left at the 
same time. This curve was made by such a one, only 
more complicated, and arranged so as to trace a line on 
a plane surface. The curves so formed, curious to say, 
correspond actually to the musical vibrations of various 
chords." 

"It's interesting, but rather intricate, and I don't see 
how it helps us much with Hudson," said Valeska. 
"How about this calendar, and what's the 'Number 
fourteen' for?" 

"That," said the Master of Mysteries, "is a page 
from a universal calendar ; that is, a calendar that can 
be used for any year. This is the last page of the pam- 
phlet, as it takes just fourteen different diagrams to in- 
clude all the calendar possibilities, seven different dia- 
grams* in which the year begins on a different day of 
the week, and another set of seven for the leap years. 
There's a list in front, probably giving the number of 
the diagram to be used for each individual year." 

"Oh !" exclaimed the girl. "That reminds me, now. 
I did see something about a 'two-hundred-year calen- 
dar'. Where was it? Let me think. Yes, I have it. 
It was in an account of a body that was found drowned. 
Stupid of me to overlook that ! I'll see if I can find it." 

"Get it," Astro said, "while I think this over." 

She flew to her file and began to go hurriedly 
through the sheets of paper. "Here it is ! Here it is !" 
she cried. Then she read breathlessly : 



MISSING JOHN HUDSON 9 

"The body of an unknown man was found this 
morning floating in the East River near Thirty- 
eight Street. The corpse was that of a man of 
fifty-five or sixty years, and had evidently been in 
in the water some ten days. The lower part of 
the face was completely covered by a full beard. 
The body was dressed in a black diagonal cutaway 
coat and striped trousers, and was doubtless that 
of a gentleman in reduced circumstances. In the 
trousers pocket was found a bunch of keys, a 
small sum of money, and a two-hundred-year cal- 
endar. No marks indicating foul play were dis- 
covered on the body, which is awaiting identifica- 
tion at the morgue." 

"That corresponds in a general way with the descrip- 
tion of Hudson that his wife gave me," said Astro. 
"She had no photograph of him taken within the last 
twenty years. There's a chance that it may be he, in 
which case it looks to me like murder ; but I'll have to 
go down to the morgue and see, anyway, on account 
of the calendar. I think you'd better let me do that 
alone, while you try to discover something about this 
'Dentabella' girl. Come back here as soon as you have 
located her." 

No one would have recognized in the smart, stylishly 
dressed man who emerged from the studio a half-hour 
later, the languid picturesque Master of Mysteries, 
Astro the Seer. He walked briskly along, his eyes 
eager and alert to every impression. At the morgue 
he had no difficulty in obtaining permission to view the 
remains of the man he sought, and to inspect the cloth- 
ing and the articles that had been found in the pocket. 

The body was that of a middle-aged man of benevo- 



io THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

lent appearance, the face showing weakness rather than 
resolution in its features. The hands were delicately 
shaped, with pointed slender fingers. He had been 
apparently a dreamer, a mystic, rather than a man of 
vigorous life and practical affairs. Astro turned to in- 
spect the articles displayed before his gaze. The two- 
hundred-year calendar which had been mentioned in 
the newspaper corresponded exactly to the page found 
in Hudson's desk; and on opening it he found that 
page twenty-nine, containing table number fourteen, 
had been torn out. What was more remarkable, how- 
ever, was the fact that with it was a collection of water- 
soaked, purple-stained cards. Each contained a "har- 
monic curve", such as had been found in Hudson's 
drawer. One such coincidence was unusual. Two 
pointed conclusively to some connection between the 
two men ; if, indeed, the corpse were not that of Hud- 
son himself. 

This point, however, was soon settled. Calling up 
Mrs. Hudson, he found that her husband's hair was 
scant and brown. The hair of the dead man was strong, 
slightly curly, and reddish. It was not Hudson. 

Astro walked slowly home, plunged in thought, and 
looked neither to the right nor the left as he advanced. 
A block before he reached his studio he stopped stock- 
still for a moment, gazing in front of him ; then, with 
a quick turn, he walked rapidly back, took a cross-town 
car, and got off at Second Avenue. Along this he hur- 
ried till he came to a second-hand bookstore, where on 
one of the stands outside the window, there was a col- 
lection of pamphlets and magazines. He ran his eye 
over tKe names: The Swastika, Universal Brother- 
hood, Vibrations, The New Wisdom, and Cosmos. He 



MISSING JOHN HUDSON 11 

took up one of these and turned to the advertising 
pages in the rear ; then he tried another. It was not 
till he had read through the Swastika that he was sat- 
isfied and smiled. He paid for the copy, hailed a pass- 
ing cab, and was driven to his studio, where Valeska 
was already waiting for him. 

He announced to her at once that the dead man was 
not Hudson, and gave a brief description of the latter, 
whereupon she told Astro the story of her own search. 

"I didn't find the girl ; but I traced her antecedents. 
First I went to the advertising manager of the 'Denta- 
bella' company, and told him I wanted to get hold of 
the model he had used in the ad. Finally I wheedled 
her name out of him it was Agnes Vivian and went 
up to the Harlem address he gave me. The young 
lady, however, no longer lived there; but I got the 
woman of the house to talking and found out that our 
little friend had left without settling her bill. So I in- 
timated that I was looking for Miss Vivian to pay her 
some money I had borrowed, and in this way got the 
landlady to tell me everything she could that would 
help me to locate the missing girl. She had been pos- 
ing for photographers ; but now it seems as if she had 
got another job. At all events, a gentleman answering 
to Hudson's description had called on her several times, 
with the result that one day she had left and had never 
come back. She had sent for her trunk next day ; but 
the landlady would not let it go, and could not ascer- 
tain where it was to be taken. She had an idea, though, 
that the girl was working on East Thirty-ninth Street 
somewhere; for she had overheard her telephoning 
one day previous to her departure. So you see," Va- 
leska concluded, "our friend Hudson has probably left 



12 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

his wife for good and all ; or rather for evil, perhaps." 

"We'll soon find out," said Astro. "We'll go up and 
call on him this afternoon." 

"What ! Have you found out where he is already ?" 

"I'm inclined to think he's living, temporarily at 
least, at 198 East Thirty-ninth Street." 

"With that girl ?" Valeska's eyes blazed. 

"Not at all. The only trouble with him is that he 
loves his wife too much." 

Valeska still stared. "That isn't likely, there are 
very few men like that nowadays. But I'm very much 
relieved ; for I rather liked the Vivian girl's face ; it's 
attractive." 

"Yes," Astro assented, "and Hudson is paying her to 
be attractive. He has a good business head, this man 
Hudson. But we must find out first what is the cause 
of the death of Professor Dove." 

"Why, who is he?" 

"He is the man whose body is now lying in the 
morgue." 

"How did you find that out?" 

"Look at this," said Astro. He pointed to an adver- 
tisement in The Swastika: 

LET ME HELP YOU! 

Get into your own Vibration; develop your 
latent faculties, inherent possibilities; and develop 
your power, health, success, beauty, and love. 
Send 50c with name and birth date for trial read- 
ing and Vibratory Curve. Prof. Dove, 198 East 
39th-St, N. Y. 

"And that's what those curves are for, then?" Va- 
leska asked. 



MISSING JOHN HUDSON 13 

"Well, that's what Professor Dove used them for; 
to mystify his dupes; or, by the looks of him, it's 
more than likely that he believed in them himself." 

"Hudson must have believed in them too, then," she 
remarked, "or he wouldn't have been keeping them in 
his desk drawer. Was he a dupe, do you think ?" 

"You'll recall that Hudson had several of them in his 
possession. If he had had only one, I'd say he might 
have been a dupe." 

"But what if he did have several ?" queried Valeska. 
"Do you think Hudson murdered the professor ?" 

"Ah, my dear, that's what I'd like to know myself. I 
propose that we call at the Vibratory office, or what- 
ever they call it. You see, I doubt if Professor Dove 
ever had six thousand dollars, or even six thousand 
cents ; he was not worth murdering for his money. One 
thing is certain, Hudson didn't murder Miss Vivian; 
and I'm glad of that, for I'd really like to see her. Sup- 
pose we go up to Thirty-ninth Street and find out 
what sort of place it is." 

As they walked across town the Master of Mysteries 
said, "That's a very clever graft, that vibration curve 
business. The more I think of it, the more I like it. 
You see, as there are two adjustments, the length of 
the upper and the length of the lower pendulum, you 
can get an infinite number of vibrations, and conse- 
quently an infinite number of curves. Therefore, you 
can attach any significance you please to the ratio be- 
tween the two. Suppose, for instance, you divide off 
the top arm that corresponds to the upper part of the 
Y into inches, and call each inch a certain year. Then 
divide the lower arm in a similar way into days ; say 
these are eighths of an inch each. If you set your com- 



14 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

pound pendulum to the two marks any day and any 
year you can produce a curve for any birthday you 
please, and you can always reproduce it to order. It's 
a very good plan to have some sort of scientific basis 
for this kind of thing, on account of the inquisitiveness 
of the post-office authorities. If you simply have a set 
of form letters for answers, the chances are that you'll 
have a fraud order against you and you'll not get your 
mail with its desirable money-orders and stamp en- 
closures." 

"And the calendar?" 

"Merely to tell easily what day of the week any 
birthday fell on. For instance, December 22, 1883, 
was on a Saturday, and so on." 

"What I am most interested in is the life readings," 
said the girl, "and the advice on how to acquire 
beauty." 

"Or love?" Astro added, with a smile. 

"I'll try to do that myself. It's more exciting." 

From across the street the two now reconnoitered 
number 198. Below, at the musty stairway, appeared, 
among other signs, the legend, "Prof. Dove, Astrolo- 
ger." It was already growing dark, and above, in a 
window on the third floor, a dim light appeared. The 
shade was drawn. 

"I'm going to investigate more closely," said Astro. 
"You wait outside here and watch the window. If I 
raise the shade, come up !" 

So saying, he crossed, and ascended the stairs. As 
he reached the landing, however, he met a young 
woman coming down, who, at a glance, proved to be 
the Miss Vivian of the "Dentabella" advertisements. 
Astro stood still in front of her, barring the way. 



MISSING JOHN HUDSON 15 

"Would you please tell me where Professor Dove 
is?" he inquired. 

"Why, I I don't know, I'm sure." She looked 
him up and down curiously. 

"Then would you mind telling me where I can find 
Mr. John Hudson?" 

Still she showed no sign of surprise ; but drew her- 
self up proudly. "There's no such person in this build- 
ing that I know of," she asserted. 

"I thought I had seen you in Professor Dove's of- 
fice," continued the crystal-gazer suavely. 

Something in his manner now seemed to alarm her. 
"Indeed ! I'm a stranger here. You must be mistaken, 
really." 

"You have never heard of Mr. Hudson ?" he went on. 

"What right have you to question me in this way ?" 
she demanded boldly; and yet, oddly enough, she did 
not try to pass him. 

"I have the right for two reasons. First, because the 
post-office is very curious as to the nature of concerns 
doing a mail-order business, and second, because the 
police would very much like to know something more 
concerning the death of Professor Dove." 

She scarcely stopped to hear the rest of the sentence 
before she turned and ran up-stairs. Astro, though he 
bounded after her in a moment, was a moment too 
late ; for the door was slammed and locked in his face. 

"The police!" he heard her cry, and at once there 
was a commotion in the room. A window was thrown 
up hurriedly; then all became still. He waited in pa- 
tience, listening intently. The first sound audible, how- 
ever, came from the stairway beneath him. Assured 
that some one was coming up, he turned and saw Va- 



16 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

leska beckoning frantically. He tiptoed to her, and she 
whispered : 

"He climbed out through the window into that of the 
next house ! Can't we catch him there ?" 

"We'll have to, or lose the whole game!" he cried. 
"It was a bit premature ; but perhaps it will be as well, 
after all. Come along, and look out for trouble. I'll 
have to bluff it out now, though I have no desire to im- 
personate a police officer, that's a dangerous game. 
But we must hurry." 

In an instant more they were down-stairs and hidden 
in the entrance of the next building. They had not 
long to wait. A man, bareheaded and excited, came 
running down, and would have dashed by, had not As- 
tro's hand immediately clutched him. 

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Hudson," said the Master 
of Mysteries, "but I wish to ask you a few questions." 

"Who are you?" The man's voice was full of anx- 
iety. 

"A friend," said Astro. 

Valeska put out her hand and took that of the fright- 
ened old man. "Don't be alarmed, Mr. Hudson. 
Really you are quite safe with us." 

He gazed at her in dull astonishment. "What do 
you want, anyhow?" he exclaimed peevishly, attempt- 
ing to recover a bold front, though his face was hag- 
gard with terror. 

"I've found all I really want," Astro replied quietly ; 
"but at the same time I'd like to have my curiosity grat- 
ified. What, for instance, do you know concerning 
the death of Professor Dove?" 

Hudson started, and stared in the young man's face. 
"What! Is he dead? When did he die ?" 



MISSING JOHN HUDSON 17 

"He died at about the same time you disappeared 
from home." 

Hudson turned white. "Great God ! You don't sus- 
pect me of anything ?" 

"I'd like to have you explain a few things, that's all," 
was the quiet response. 

"Who are you?" The old man had pulled himself 
together now, and was more defiant. 

"My dear sir," said the Seer calmly, "I am one who 
has been sent by your wife to discover your where- 
abouts. As I said, that mission is now accomplished. 
At the same time you must admit that the circum- 
stances in which I find you are suspicious. You have 
just escaped from Professor Dove's office, and Pro- 
fessor Dove now lies unidentified in the morgue. You 
are in possession of a considerable sum of money, re- 
cently acquired. You are, moreover, found in the com- 
pany of a very pretty young woman. Surely all this 
will interest Mrs. Hudson. It remains for you to say 
how much of it I shall report." 

Hudson trembled violently and put his face in his 
hands. "Oh, my God! you mustn't tell her! You 
can't! I'm innocent of any crime, so help me God! 
Wait ! Come up to the office, and I'll explain it all." 

Astro and Valeska retraced their steps in company 
with the fugitive, and soon found themselves before the 
office door. All was dark. Hudson gave three knocks, 
paused, and then delivered another. The door was 
opened silently. Miss Vivian stood before them in a 
dim light. At sight of the two strangers she staggered 
back. 

"Oh!" she cried in alarm. "Are you arrested, Mr. 
Hudson?" 



i8 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"I don't know," he answered childishly as he turned 
up the light. 

There was a litter of papers strewn upon the office 
floor. A long table was piled with letters opened and 
unopened ; there was a typewriter on a stand, a copy- 
ing-press, a high desk with ledgers, and in a corner, 
suspended from hooks in the ceiling, the compound 
pendulum that Astro had described. On the horizontal 
shelf, fixed to the end of the pendulum, was a white 
card; and, extending from a table near by, an arm 
carrying a glass pen projected so that, when the pendu- 
lum was swung, a curve in purple ink was traced on 
the card. A heavy weight depended from the bottom 
of the instrument. 

Hudson sunk into a chair and groaned. The girl 
waited without a word, watching him. 

Then Valeska approached him. "Mr. Hudson," she 
said gently, "pray don't take, it all so hard. I'm sure 
that you are innocent, and we'll both help you. If you 
tell us everything, we can find some way of saving 
you." 

He raised his head and looked at Astro, who nodded 
in confirmation. Hudson took courage. "The first 
thing, the most important thing, of course, is to explain 
about Professor Dove's death. I have no idea how it 
occurred. Indeed, I didn't know he was dead until you 
told me. I suspected that something fatal had hap- 
pened ; but I knew nothing definite." 

"When did you see him last?" 

"Two weeks ago, but Miss Vivian has seen him since 
then." 

The girl took it up. "It was here in this office that I 
saw him. He was intoxicated, and he frightened me ; 



MISSING JOHN HUDSON 19 

so I went out and telephoned to Mr. Hudson about it. 
Then, when I got back, the professor had gone." 

"You will understand," hastily explained Hudson, 
"that Professor Dove, when in his right mind, was a 
most gentlemanly and kind-hearted man ; but when he 
was drunk there was no doing anything with him. I 
have had several unpleasant experiences with him be- 
fore. He'd go out and wander all over the town in a 
sort of daze, talking aloud to himself about his psychic 
beliefs and all that. He was especially fond of the 
river, and once we found him sitting away out on a 
pier and gazing into the water. But I know absolutely 
nothing about his death, sir, I assure you. Now, about 
my being here. I'd like to explain " I 

i "That is not necessary," interrupted Astro, "I know 
everything I wish to, now." 

"What do you mean ? What do you know about my 
private affairs ?" 

"I'll tell you, Mr. Hudson. First, for a long time you 
have been anxious to discover some way of making 
more money than you could in the real estate business. 
You and your wife wanted to go abroad ; and you are 
very fond of her and naturally wished to please her. 
Thinking it over and watching the advertisements, you 
saw that the quickest way to make money was to go 
into some sort of fortune-telling business and play on 
the credulity of fools. Knowing of the compound 
pendulum and the curves it traces so mysteriously, you 
decided to adopt that as the basis of your graft. You 
found a willing helper in Professor Dove, who was 
well, just a little cracked, and inclined to believe thor- 
oughly in his own psychic powers. You backed him 
in this enterprise," Astro waved his hand round the 



20 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

room; "but, being a church-member, you naturally 
couldn't afford to let any one, your wife especially, 
know of your being engaged in a business that was so 
undignified and of such dubious morality. 

"You advertised, and did so well that you needed 
more help. You couldn't afford to be known in the 
matter, and so, when Miss Vivian, here, came to your 
office to get work, you selected her as assistant. Not 
wishing to be seen too much in her company, you went 
to call on her, and finally induced her to help the pro- 
fessor. Then the professor went on one of his periodi- 
cal debauches, she telephoned to you, and you came 
down here to straighten out the correspondence, which 
was becoming larger and more profitable every day. 
There was more work to it than you at first thought. 
You had to stay here that night; then you became 
afraid of Dove's disappearance and of the post-office in- 
spectors. So you buckled down to a night and day job 
of it until you could clean up the money before you 
were caught. You are now about ready to quit the af- 
fair altogether. Is this correct?" 

The old man, who had been listening in great aston- 
ishment, assented. "But are you going to report all 
this to my wife, sir?" he faltered. "It will simply kill 
her. Can't you keep this from her ? I promise to give 
up the business right now." 

Astro drew a telegraph blank from his pocket. There 
was a message already written on the yellow slip, and 
he handed it over to Hudson. It read : 



"ROCHESTER, Oct. 21, 4 p. M. 
"Why no letter? Did you receive mine? Re- 
turning Empire State Limited to-night. JOHN." 



MISSING JOHN HUDSON 21 

"Ring for a messenger boy and send this," continued 
the Master of Mysteries. "She will not know that it 
isn't a genuine telegram. A woman in her state of 
mind won't notice anything, I'm sure; and I think if 
you turn up at the Grand Central, appearing to have 
come in on that train, she will be there to meet you 
with open arms." 

Tears appeared in the old man's eyes. "I'll do it !" 
he said. "And to-morrow I'll buy a couple of tickets 
for Naples. God bless you, sir, for your kindness !" 

"And what's to become of me?" spoke up Miss 
Vivian. 

Astro looked at her indulgently. "You may go on 
with this work here, for all I care," he said. "It's a 
very tidy little business apparently, and none of my 
affair. But I advise you rather to apply for a position 
in Mr. Hudson's office. I don't think, however, that 
with your face and figure you will have much trouble 
in getting employment." 

"Oh, I'll see to that," said John Hudson. 



"Well," Valeska said with relief, as she and Astro 
left the office, "it's all over now." 

"Not at all !" remarked her companion bruskly. "I 
haven't earned my fee yet. Come into this drug store 
with me a moment." 

He went to the telephone and called up Mrs. John 
Hudson. "Mrs. Hudson," he said, "I've been consult- 
ing my crystals, and have just seen your husband in 
Rochester. He was taking a train for New York. He 
had just consummated a real estate deal there which 
had been very profitable, and I think you will see him 



22 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

safe and sound again to-night. Kindly send my check 
to the studio. Thank you. Good night." 

"My crystals are certainly wonderful," said Astro, 
laughing. 

"Yes," said Valeska, "and I think you're rather won- 
derful yourself." 



THE STOLEN SHAKESPEARE 

HESITATING at the door of the studio long 
enough only to send to Astro a quick surrepti- 
tious message with her eyes indicating, apparently, 
contempt for the visitor Valeska announced, "Mr. 
Barrister," and left the two men alone in the room. 

The newcomer looked about a bit foolishly, and then 
turned to the palmist. "You're Astro, I suppose ?" 

Astro, in robe and turban, bowed gravely and his 
glance slumbered. 

"Eh ah the fact is, sir," continued Barrister, 
"that I have come here about a peculiar matter, and 
solely, sir, to please my wife. She has a woman's weak- 
ness for anything occult, anything full of folderol 
and fake. You see, I don't take any stock in it my- 
self ; but " 

"I understand perfectly," said the Master of Mys- 
teries without apparent annoyance. He seemed, in 
fact, to be bored already. 

The other teetered affably on his toes and heels, con- 
descension in his manner. "She had heard that you 
professed to be some kind of fortune-teller, besides do- 
ing this palmistry business. Is that so ?" 

"I have had occasion at times to use certain powers 
which are ah supposed to be occult. I say 'sup- 
posed to be', out of deference to your manifest feelings 
in the matter, Mr. Barrister." 

23 



24 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Hum !" said the prospective client quickly. "Well, 
whether they are or not doesn't matter in this case, as 
I'm here simply to please my wife. If I didn't come, 
she'd come, you know. However, if you are able to 
locate what we want, I'll be willing to acknowledge 
anything you wish, and pay you accordingly. I sup- 
pose you are a medium, then ?" 

"Some call it that," acknowledged the reserved 
young man. "I myself assert that I have merely done 
a few things that others find it too hard to do." 

"Such as" 

"Kindly let me look at your hand." 

"Bosh!" said Barrister; but he gazed at his own 
palm, nevertheless, with a new air of curiosity, and 
after a moment stretched it toward the palmist. "Well, 
see what you can find in it !" he said. 

Astro looked at it negligently ; then, under his half- 
shut lids his eyes sped rapidly over his client's person, 
the neat business suit beneath the black dress overcoat, 
the daintily tied scarf, the highly polished shoes, and 
the general air of careful grooming. Then they re- 
turned to the hand before him. Finally, the Seer leaned 
back listlessly and smiled. 

"You went to see Anna Held last night, and were 
bored. You once had your pockets picked, and will 
probably have it happen to you again. You are inter- 
ested in Egyptology and, apropos, I wish you'd look 
at my porphyry sphinx there and give me some idea of 
its age." 

Barrister stared, and grew a bit uneasy. Then, ap- 
parently to hide his embarrassment, he turned to the 
carved image and surveyed it with the air of a connois- 
seur. As he presented his back to the Seer, the latter 



THE STOLEN SHAKESPEARE 25 

swiftly stooped over, picked up a return check of a 
New York theater, good the night before, and slid it 
into one of the pockets of his silk robe. 

"That's about 1400 B. C," said Barrister easily. 
"Where on earth did you get hold of it?" 

"From my godfather, in Cairo," said the palmist. 

"Well," said Barrister, returning, "I've no time now 
to examine it closely." 

"And the matter which worries your wife?" Astro 
inquired. 

Again his visitor hesitated, looked about the room, 
and gazed again at the sphinx. "Well," he said finally, 
"I'll tell you." He seated himself and went ori : "I have, 
or rather did have, a First Folio Shakespeare, one of 
the few good ones of the thirty-seven copies extant. 
It was stolen from my library yesterday. That's what 
I want to find" 

"That, and the one who stole it also, I suppose ?" 

"Er yes. Yes, certainly." 

"An interesting sort of quarry, and rather unusual. 
Have you been to the police ?" 

Barrister pursed his lips and shook his head. 

"No. You see, there wouldn't be much use in that, 
would there ? I'm afraid the thief, if he found he was 
suspected, would destroy the book. He can't sell it, 
anyway ; for these folios are as well known to collectors 
as good race-horses are to touts. He can't get away 
with it ; for every bookman in the world will soon know 
it if he offers it for sale. I want it back, of course; 
but it is my wife's idea, this coming to you about it. 
She gave me the book when we were first married, and 
so, naturally, I value it at even more than its own great 
intrinsic value." 



26 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Have you ever had any offers for it ?" Astro asked 
carelessly. 

"What? Offers? Oh, no; no indeed; no offers at 
all. Why should I want to sell it ? No, sir ! It would 
be useless for any one to attempt to buy it." 

"But nobody is harming you by offering. When did 
you miss it ?" 

"Last night, after I came home from the theater. I 
went to see Anna Held, as you said, though how the 
mischief you knew it I can't see, and we came home 
early, disgusted. We happened to be talking about the 
Folio, and my wife walked to the case and looked for 
it. It was gone." 

"Had the lock been tampered with?" 

"Yes, forced. The window had been pried open 
with a jimmy, too. It was evidently done by a burglar 
who knew just what he wanted. But it doesn't look 
like a professional's work; for the book would be too 
hard to dispose of." 

"I see," said Astro. He gazed away into space and 
puffed at his water-pipe meditatively. "Mr. Barrister, 
I'll try to find it for you. If I succeed in getting the 
book or the person who stole it from you, my charge 
will be five hundred dollars." 

"All right," said Barrister, rising. "Will you want 
to come up to my house and look over the place ?" 

"I think I can put myself more en rapport with the 
case, if I do ; I want to feel the vibrations, so to speak, 
and no doubt I shall get an impression of the aura of 
the culprit if I am on the spot. The rest I shall do with 
the crystals." 

Barrister did not conceal his scorn. "Oh, very well," 



THE STOLEN SHAKESPEARE 27 

He said, "I suppose it will at least satisfy my wife. 
When will you be up ?" 

"To-morrow morning, early. I'll ask you to disturb 
nothing, and even to keep away from the room until 
I come." 

"There's nothing to disturb," Barrister commented ; 
"but I'll see to it that nobody interferes with your 
magic." And so saying, he took up his hat, gave the 
sphinx one last glance, and left the room. 



When he was gone the palmist doffed his regalia 
and yawned. A moment later Valeska reentered the 
studio. Astro gazed at her reflectively. 

"Did you notice that man's watch-charm ?" he asked. 

"Why, there was something funny about it; but I 
couldn't make the thing out exactly." 

"Did you ever see an Egyptian scarab?" 

"Why, yes. But he didn't have one, did he?" 

"He used to have one. You know how they mount 
them, with a pin through the beetle so it can revolve ? 
The setting and the pin were there ; but not the stone. 
You must look closer next time." 

"What else did I miss ?" she asked, pouting. 

"You didn't say anything about his carrying his 
purse in his outside overcoat pocket. He will always 
be an easy mark for the light-fingered gentry if he 
keeps that up. It's lucky for him that he's rich." 

"Oh, he is wealthy, of course ! I got that much right, 
anyway. He looked as if he were very well-off, in 
fact." 

"I should imagine he was, with a First Folio Shake- 



28 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

speare lying loose in his library! That's what we've 
got to find." 

"It's interesting?" 

"Interesting ! I should say so ! It's a regular kid- 
naping case. Talk about diamonds! Why, they're 
stupid things. Every one likes diamonds, and they can 
be cut up into smaller stones and readily disposed of, 
if you're careful about it. But you can't cut a page out 
of a First Folio, you can't even hint that you'd like to 
sell it, without all the world knowing about it. Book- 
hunters are the most determined and interesting col- 
lectors in the world. I know of no passion to equal it." 

He walked over to the telephone and called up a 
leading dealer in rare volumes. 

"I wish to ask about a First Folio Shakespeare. Are 
'there any bidders in the open market for a copy?" He 
wrote down rapidly on a tab as he spoke into the re- 
ceiver, "William A. Hepson. Oh, yes, the million- 
aire. Ah, thank you." 

He slammed the instrument down vigorously, 
snatched up a telegraph blank, rapidly wrote a mes- 
sage, and handed it to Valeska. 

She read it aloud : 

"WILLIAM A. HEPSON, Chicago, 111. Will you 
give four thousand dollars for a guaranteed First 
Folio Shakespeare? Wire reply to Jane Gore, 
181 East 18th Street, New York." 

"Why!" she exclaimed. "Have you located it al- 
ready?" 

"Not quite. But I have an idea, and this will help, 
if we get an answer by to-morrow morning"." 

"Who is he?" 



THE STOLEN SHAKESPEARE 29 

"He's a Chicago beef packer who offered four thou- 
sand dollars for the book a while ago; but, curiously 
enough, he was in town this week." 

"Is he in the city now ?" 

"That's what I should like very much to know my- 
self. In the meantime, send this, get the answer at 
your place, and bring it to me in the morning. Then 
we'll go up and see Mrs. Barrister." 



Valeska appeared next morning with a yellow en- 
velope. "He refuses your offer," she said. 

"Good !" exclaimed the Master of Mysteries, rubbing 
his hands in satisfaction. "He has the Folio, then, as I 
suspected. Now, to work! This case already begins 
to offer delicate little labyrinths which are nothing short 
of delicious to the analytical mind. We'll lose no time 
getting out to Mrs. Barrister's, and I want you to use 
your eyes better than you did last night. I expect you 
to see everything that I don't. Remember to watch me, 
though, and be ready for instructions. Notice any sig- 
nal that I may happen to give you. For instance, if I 
raise my .eyes to the ceiling, my next look will be at 
what I want you to notice. If I touch anything, you're 
to take it and look at it carefully, and follow what I 
say next. If I cough, you're to create some diversion 
so that I shan't be noticed for a few moments." 

Valeska laughed. "You'll be doing a trance next. 
Funny how well the bluff always works, isn't it ?" 

Astro frowned. "My dear," he said pompously, 
"there are waves of the ether, N-rays, X-rays, actinic 
and ultraviolet vibrations, to which I am exceedingly 
susceptible. I have an inner sense and an esoteric 



30 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

knowledge of life and its mysteries that is hidden from 
all who have not lived for cycles and eons in solitude 
and contemplation with the Mahatmas of the Hima- 
layas!" 

Valeska, instead of being impressed, broke into a 
rippling laugh as they went up the avenue. 

The Barristers lived in a large, solemn brownstone 
house off Fifth Avenue, one of a hundred similar domi- 
ciles, heavily furnished, dim, close, lusterless, quiet, 
warm. Astro and his assistant waited in the reception- 
room till Mrs. Barrister appeared. She was large, 
plumply built, with gray hair artfully pompadoured 
and undulated, and a pleasant, though not very intelli- 
gent smile; a woman that still kept herself well and 
carried herself well, treasuring the last remains of what 
had been a comfortable prettiness. She greeted them 
cordially. 

"I'm so glad youVe come !" she announced. "Seems 
as if I couldn't wait any longer; for I felt sure that 
you could help us if anybody could, and I do feel so 
terribly about this robbery ! You know it was my wed- 
ding gift to Mr. Barrister. My husband agreed with 
me that it wasn't exactly a case for the police, and we 
don't want any more talk about it than is absolutely 
necessary. I've heard so much about you, Mr. Astro ; 
for a great many of my friends have gone to you, and 
you told them such remarkable things ! Then that case 
of your finding the Sacarnet sapphire gave me consid- 
erable confidence in you. Why, my own mother once 
recovered a purse she had lost, by going to a medium 
about it !" She bustled about amiably. 

"Now, I suppose you want to see the library, don't 
you? You know Mr. Barrister doesn't believe in any- 



THE STOLEN SHAKESPEARE 31 

thing supernatural, and he wouldn't stay. But I'll show 
you in." 

During this long speecH, Valeska's eyes traveled over 
Mrs. Barrister's portly person ; but the Master of Mys- 
teries seemed rapt in thought, abstracted and inatten- 
tive. He rose now, however, and followed through the 
folding doors into the library beyond. The shades had 
been drawn as if a death had occurred ; she raised them, 
showing a square room, every wall lined with glass- 
covered bookcases. She went up to one, beside a win- 
dow, and threw open a door. It was as if she were 
displaying a rifled tomb. 

"Here is where it was kept, right in there. You 
can see the marks of a chisel or something near the 
lock. The frame was pried open. Isn't it dreadful? 
That book was like an only child to us !" 

Astro apparently gave it scarcely a glance. "Mrs. 
Barrister," he said, "I'll ask you kindly to leave me 
here alone for fifteen minutes. I am extraordinarily 
sensitive to vibrations ; but I must be undisturbed while 
I concentrate my mind sufficiently to induce the proper 
psychic conditions. Meanwhile my assistant will stay 
with you." 

Mrs. Barrister was impressed, and withdrew with- 
out further questioning. The door of the library was 
shut, and the two women sat down by a window in the 
reception-room. Valeska immediately began her own 
line of investigation. 

"When did you last see the book ?" she asked. 

"Thursday afternoon at about four o'clock I showed 
it to a caller, and then locked the case as usual. We 
got home from the theater that night a little after ten, 
and went almost immediately to the library, as we 



32 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

had been having a discussion about one of the lines 
in Macbeth. Then we saw that the book was gone." t 

"Do you know of any one having entered the room, 
besides yourself and Mr. Barrister, between four and 
ten?" 

"Mary, my maid, was in with the tea things ; that's 
all I know." 

"And you don't suspect her?" 

"Oh, no ! She has been with me for years." 

"And the caller?" 

Mrs. Barrister thought for a moment before an- 
swering. Then she said, "It was a Mr. White. I con- 
fess I don't like him very well. But he's more a friend 
of my husband's than mine. In fact, my husband came 
in before Mr. White left ; so I went up-stairs and left 
the two men alone. I had an idea there was some 
trouble between them." 

"Does your husband belong to any club?" 

"Yes, the Booklovers, and the Stage Club. So 
does Mr. White. Why?" 

"Oh," said Valeska carelessly, "Mr. Barrister 
seemed such a man of the world, just the man to be- 
long to clubs, you know. But who showed Mr. White 
out the door?" 

"Why, Mr. Barrister went with him himself. You 
see, it couldn't have been possible for Mr. White to 
have concealed the book ; it's quite large, you know ?" 

"You have looked -everywhere, of course ?" 

"Oh, yes. We went immediately to work, searched 
Mary's room at her request, and then everywhere else 
in the house. It simply isn't here." 

At this moment Astro opened the door and walked 
silently into the room. 



THE STOLEN SHAKESPEARE 33 

"Oh," Mrs. Barrister suddenly exclaimed, "I quite 
forgot to tell Mr. Astro something that I'm sure is 
important! It's a clue we discovered while we were 
searching the library after we had found the scratches 
and the broken lock of the case. Here it is!' 7 She 
drew a scrap of paper from her purse and handed it 
to him. It was evidently the corner of a letter, and 
bore a few words written in violet ink. 

The palmist held it lightly in his hand for a mo- 
ment, then asked, "Has any one else had this, except 
you ?" 

"Oh, yes. Mr. Barrister himself found it, and, of 
course, he examined it carefully; but he could make 
nothing of it." 

Astro cast his eyes to the ceiling, and then down 
on the paper again. He pressed it to his forehead, 
then handed it to his assistant. 

"I shall have to wait until the last influences are 
evaporated, leaving the original personality of the 
writer to assert itself." He whirled quickly about, 
placed his hand to his lips, and coughed. 

"Oh, Mrs. Barrister!" Valeska exclaimed. "Look 
at this paper again for a moment. Come to the light 
by the window here. It seemed to me I saw a water- 
mark that showed through when I held it to the light. 
See if you can see it." As she spoke she drew the 
woman into the bay-window so that she stood with her 
back to the room. 

Astro stepped quickly over to a bookcase against 
the wall, and, keeping his eyes carefully on Mrs. Bar- 
rister, reached to the top of one of the shelves. Four 
or five books protruded about an inch from the rest 
of the line. Astro's hand curved over these and down 



34 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

behind until it touched the shelf. Before Mrs. Bar- 
rister had turned again, his hand was withdrawn. He 
spoke sharply. 

"Could you lend me a screw-driver?" 

"Certainly." She rang for the maid, who appeared, 
and was sent on the errand. In a few minutes she re- 
turned. 

"I'm very sorry, Mrs. Barrister, but I can't find it. 
We always keep it in the kitchen closet; but it's not 
there now." 

"I thought so," said Astro. "But one question, 
Mary, before you go. First, let me see your palm." 

The girl held out her hand timidly, with wonder in 
her face. 

The Master of Mysteries felt of it tentatively, then 
looked directly into her eyes. "Mary," he said, "where 
were you after dinner-time on Thursday; from then 
until Mr. and Mrs. Barrister returned home?" 

"In the kitchen with the cook most of the time, sir. 
I went up into the dining-room beside the library once 
or twice, though." 

"You heard nothing unusual?" 

"Nothing at all, sir." 

"How did you get that violet stain on your finger ?" 

Mary looked at it calmly. "It was from writing a 
letter the other day. I couldn't get it all off." 

"I think I have stayed as long as is necessary," said 
Astro, turning to Mrs. Barrister, "and now, if you'll 
excuse me, I'll go. I shall report to your husband as 
soon as I find anything." 



iLeaving with his assistant, he walked slowly down 



THE STOLEN SHAKESPEARE 35 

the front steps. As soon as they were out of sight of 
the windows, he said, "Well, what did you find out 
while I was investigating, Valeska?" 

She narrated the conversation while Astro walked 
thoughtfully beside her, his eyes roaming from side to 
side, until they lighted upon a line of ash barrels near 
the curb. He stopped. 

"See here, Valeska!" he exclaimed suddenly. "I 
wish you'd go into this house and find out in some way 
how long these barrels have been standing here. It's a 
shame the way the Board of Health neglects its duties. 
Do you see ? Tell them you have been sent by a Civic 
Reform committee to find out if there's any complaint." 

He walked on, smiling to himself. "Entirely too 
clever," he murmured; "so clever that it's positively 
stupid!" He approached the ash cans and surveyed 
their contents. From the top of one he gingerly drew 
out a torn sheet of paper. Another barrel showed, 
among its overflowing contents, several tin cans, a 
shoe, a lot of broken bottles, and a mass of sawdust. 
He gave them a hard look, then sauntered on till Va- 
leska caught up with him. 

"Those barrels have been out since Thursday," she 
said. 

He smiled and made no comment. "Now," he said, 
"what I want you to do is to call on this Mr. White. 
You had better be getting subscriptions for a book. 
Get one for a sample at some shop, something rather 
silly too Bibliophiles and Their Hobbies and you 
are to find out White's private opinion of Barrister. 
Barrister, you understand, has already subscribed. You 
may work it up any way you like, only be sure to get 
some expression of opinion." 



36 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

It was almost noon before Valeska returned from 
her errand, and, as by this time the palmist's outer of- 
fice was filled with waiting clients, it was the lunch 
hour before she could speak to him. 

"I shall have to raise my fee again/' he said. "Ten 
dollars a reading doesn't seem to stop them at all. I'll 
make them come only by appointment after this. But 
what did you find out?" 

The girl's eyes sparkled with news. "Hepson's our 
man, Hepson via White, I guess. Hepson saw Bar- 
rister, too, at the club the other morning. Hepson's 
gone ; but White" 

"Hepson, Hepson, Hepson!" mimicked the Seer, 
with a smile at her eagerness. "But pray give us more 
news about White." 

Valeska laughed. "Well, he's awfully sore on Bar- 
rister for some reason. He believes Mr. Barrister's a 
fool, I gather." 

"He isn't in love with Mrs. Barrister, is he ?" 
1 "No ! He's in love with himself, I think. He said, 
for one thing, that Barrister knew no more about books 
than he did about poker." 

"Poker! How's that?" 

"Why, I told him I had sold several copies to mem- 
bers of the Stage Club, I got their names out of the 
Blue Book, and knew they played pretty hard there, 
so we got to chatting about our luck. You see, I told 
him I liked to play myself, and he began telling me how 
successful he always was. Then he said he had hard 
work with some of his friends to collect the gambling 
debts they owed him." 

"I see." The Master of Mysteries turned into his 
den, and Valeska followed him. 



THE STOLEN SHAKESPEARE 37 

"Why, what's this?" she asked, pointing to a large, 
flat, heavy parcel on the table. "Why, it's addressed to 
Mr. Hepson in Chicago! Oh! have you found the 
Folio already ?" 

Astro smiled. "I told you some time ago that Hep- 
son already had it. But this is getting warm." 

Valeska fingered the package. "It looks just like a 
big atlas wrapped up." 

"It is," said Astro. "I bought it at a book-shop after 
I left you." 

"What in the world do you want to send it to Hep- 
son for, then ?" 

"I don't particularly. But I should like to show it to 
the clerk at a certain branch office of the Adams Ex- 
press Company here." 

"Oh, I do wish you'd explain !" Valeska exclaimed. 

"I'd rather let you do a little thinking for yourself. 
You have seen White. You know that Hepson was in 
town. You have heard Barrister's story. Nothing 
could be simpler. For instance, how about Mary the 
maid, and the violet ink stains? What would you 
make of that?" He stopped a moment, smiling. "I 
will tell you, however, that I found the screw-driver 
that was used to open the bookcase with and to force 
the window with; for it wasn't a jimmy at all." 

"Where was it?" 

"You recall when I gave you the signal to distract 
Mrs. Barrister's attention? You did it very cleverly. 
At that moment I was more interested in the appear- 
ance of several books in a case in the library than 
I was in the scrap of paper. The instrument, badly 
bent and twisted, was behind those projecting books." 

"Oh!" Valeska studied at it. "No wonder Mary 



38 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

couldn't find it ! Then it must have been Mary, after 
all. But why didn't she throw the screw-driver away ? 
Perhaps she thought it would be missed, and wanted a 
chance to have it straightened out." 

"Perhaps so," said Astro dryly. 

"But what about the scrap of paper, then?" asked 
the girl. "Have you made anything of that ?" 

"A good deal," replied the Master. "For instance, 
here's the rest of the sheet," and he took from his 
pocket the portion that he had removed from the ash 
barrel. "Does that give you a clue ?" 

She studied a moment. "Now, wait ! Don't tell me, 
please ! Your rule is, 'Ask yourself what there is about 
this crime that distinguishes it from others. How is 
it different from the ordinary run of things? Then 
seize upon that difference, be it great or small, and 
proceed logically and analytically in any direction it 
offers/ But what is different? It's all different, it 
seems to me." 

"Well, you work it out, and I'll go down and try to 
find an express ofHce in which a flat parcel addressed 
to a Chicago millionaire will have been noticed. You 
may turn away any people who come for a reading. 
This is going to bring in more money than I thought, 
and it will pay to follow it up while it's hot." 



Valeska met him at the front door when he returned, 
and said in a low voice, "Mr. Barrister is here." 

"Certainly," said Astro. "I telephoned him to be 
here at four o'clock." 

"Then you are finished ?" 

"You'll see." 



THE STOLEN SHAKESPEARE 39 

"I found out that White had left town to-day," she 
announced. 

"Aha !" said the Seer cryptically. 

He went in and bowed gravely to Barrister in the 
reception-room. Valeska busied herself at her desk 
and watched under her brows. Astro took his accus- 
tomed seat on the divan. 

"Mr. Barrister," he said, after a pause, "I am sorry 
to say that I have been unable to find either the Folio 
or the thief." 

The other immediately rose, shaking his head em- 
phatically and triumphantly. "I thought as much," he 
said. "This is what all this charlatanry usually amounts 
to. You're all alike, you can impose upon credulous 
women; but when it comes actually to accomplishing 
anything, you can't deliver the goods. However, I've 
satisfied my wife, at any rate. I suppose there will be 
no charge in these circumstances, Mr. Astro?" 

The Master of Mysteries twirled his thumbs and 
spoke dreamily. "On the contrary, Mr. Barrister, my 
services on this case will cost you just one thousand 
dollars." 

His client stared at him indignantly. His brow drew 
down. "What in the world do you mean, sir? One 
thousand dollars !" 

"One thousand dollars is my fee. I can give you a 
blank check if you haven't your book with you." 

"But you've discovered nothing." 

"I said that I had not found the book or the thief." 

"And yet your fee, if you had found either, was to 
have been only five hundred ! I don't understand what 
you are driving at, sir !" 

Astro recrossed his legs and gave his client gaze for 



40 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

gaze. He spoke now very deliberately. His languor- 
ous tone had given place to a crisp hard enunciation. 
"Mr. Barrister," he said, "what you say is true. You 
understand me perfectly. If I had told you the name 
of the thief and the location of the book, I should have 
charged you only five hundred dollars. My price for 
not telling is one thousand. Do you understand me 
now ?" 

He took up a crystal sphere and began to regard it 
fixedly. 

Barrister's face had changed from perplexity to an- 
ger, and then to a sudden comprehension. He dropped 
his head and gazed at the carpet, standing for some 
moments irresolute and dismayed. Finally he walked 
to the desk, took the blank check that Valeska handed 
to him, and dipped his pen into the ink. He looked up. 

"You never expect to find the culprit, I suppose ?" he 
asked, with a strange expression on his face. 

"I never expect to," answered the Seer. 

Barrister signed his name and handed over the 
check. "You are a most extraordinary young man, 
sir !" he snarled, and left the room, slamming the door 
behind him. 



Valeska stared, her brows knitted. "Wait a min- 
ute ! I've almost got it ! It was Barrister himself who 
stole the book his own book " 

"Which his wife had given him when they were mar- 
ried ; don't forget that," said Astro. 

"Yes ; so, of course, he wouldn't want her to know he 
had been mean enough to dispose of it. She is still in 
love with him, I could see that, and she's a sentimental 



i 




Barrister signed his name and handed over the check. 



THE STOLEN SHAKESPEARE 41 

old thing, too. So he had to mimic a burglary, did he ?" 

"And very stupidly he did it, with an ordinary 
screw-driver which he didn't have sense enough to de- 
stroy." 

"But why did he want the book? What did he do 
with it?" 

"Made arrangements with Hepson that morning; 
stole it that afternoon. Gambling debt. You found 
that out yourself from White, who had been forcing 
Barrister for the money, and was sore because he 
wouldn't pay up. Barrister is sadly in need of ready 
cash; I found that out from his bank. And Hepson 
offered him three thousand for his Folio." 

"Then Hepson has the book now ?" 

"Or it's on its way there. That's the reason he turned 
our telegraph offer down. He wasn't interested, be- 
cause Barrister had already sold him his copy." 

"How did you know that ?" 

"Let me ask you one question. What was there 
about this case that was different from most affairs 
like it?" 

Valeska pondered. "Why, it seems to me strange 
that Barrister didn't call in the police at once." 

"Precisely. If he had, he was afraid he would have 
trouble, and Hepson might be investigated. It's easy 
enough now for Barrister to keep his wife from know- 
ing anything of the sale; and Hepson will be glad 
enough at getting the book to say nothing about it for 
a year or two. There was my start. It seemed queer 
that Barrister, losing so valuable a treasure, shouldn't 
report it at once and have it traced, and all the dealers 
notified. His wife's belief in the occult was what got 
him safely over the necessity of calling in the police. I 



42 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

didn't like the way he protested so much that nobody 
had offered to buy his Folio. It seemed to back up my 
suspicion." 

"I rather suspected Mary," commented Valeska, 
"when I saw the violet stains on her fingers just like the 
ink on the scrap of paper. By the way, where did you 
get the rest of that paper, and what does it mean ? It 
quite led me astray." 

"Which was precisely what it was intended to do. 
Our friend Mr. Barrister tried not only to hide his own 
tracks, but to create false ones in order to befuddle any 
detective who tackled the job. I noticed the violet 
writing as we came past the ash barrels. So, I pre- 
sume, did Barrister when he came home after commit- 
ting the robbery. 'Aha!' he said to himself, 'here's a 
chance to fool any detective that comes hunting for 
clues. I'll give him clues !' So he took the piece, tore 
off a part, and carefully left it on the floor. I confess 
that was clever ; for as his finding of it in the ash can 
was entirely accidental, no one knows where such a 
trail might have led to. But the trouble is that such a 
man always goes too far, especially when he has to 
work in a hurry. Now, there's the case of the boots, 
for instance." 

"But I didn't see any boots." 

"I saw one in the ash barrel, a left shoe. When I 
looked out the window that was supposed to have been 
forced, I saw the prints of a right boot; but it had 
nails in the heel arranged just as its brother in the bar- 
rel had. Of course Barrister took the shoe out of the 
barrel and used it to make the footprints of a suppos- 
ititious burglar." 

"Why," exclaimed the girl, "it's just as wonderful as 



THE STOLEN SHAKESPEARE 43 

if you had really done it with crystal gazing! But I 
don't see how you could be sure, after all. There was 
White, who might have been Hepson's tool." 

"Yes, I had two lines I might have worked on, 
White as well as Barrister, but White had been win- 
ning plenty of money, and is well-off, anyway. He 
wouldn't go around jimmying windows to get things, 
either." 

"Still, I insist you had nothing that absolutely con- 
nected Barrister with his own misdeeds." 

"Hadn't I ? If you had gone into about ten branch 
express offices in the down-town district as I had, you'd 
have found out. You recall my package? It was just 
the same size as the Folio. I finally found the office that 
I was looking for, and said to the clerk, 'I sent a pack- 
age to Mr. Hepson two days ago, and he telegraphs 
that it hasn't been received. So I'm sending this. I 
wish you'd look it up and see what's the matter. It's 
from Renold M. White.' Well, the clerk looked over 
his record of carbon duplicate receipts, and said, 
There was a package sent from a Mr. Barrister to a 
Mr. Hepson in Chicago ; but none from White.' So I 
said, 'Never mind,' and left." 

The two sat in silence for some time. At last the 
Master of Mysteries spoke : 

"There is just one thing I don't like about this case 
of the theft of the First Folio Shakespeare." 

"What's that?" asked Valeska. 

"This is the first time I go on record as not having 
run down my quarry; but it has paid fairly well for 
two days' work." And he smiled as he took up an an- 
tique volume of the Kabala. 



THE MACDOUGAL STREET 
AFFAIR 

ENTERING the room slowly, grave and distin- 
guished in his flowing silken robes, Astro did 
not glance at his visitor till he had seated himself in a 
picturesque pose upon the divan. Then, taking up the 
silver mouthpiece of his water-pipe, he gave a long 
sober look at the stranger. 

"It's a pity you are unhappily married," he said, 
gazing languidly at the red and gold ceiling above him. 
He semed to pay little attention to the thick hairy 
hand of his client, which lay limp on the velvet cushion. 

Opposite him the bull-necked, red-faced man sat star- 
ing in amazement, no longer wearing the contemptu- 
ous, amused expression with which he had entered the 
astrological parlors of the slim, romantic-looking, 
young man in the turban. Like many another unbe- 
liever who had come to test Astro in that very room, 
his look had changed gradually from scorn to interest, 
until now his eyes were fixed on the palmist with eager 
curiosity and perplexity. 

"No doubt it's her fault," Astro continued ; "for she 
is indifferent and selfish. It might be better if you 
were to let it come to an actual quarrel, and be sepa- 
rated." He reached for his narghile, and took a long 
bubbling whiff of perfumed smoke, as if, as far as he 

44 



THE MACDOUGAL STREET AFFAIR 45 

was concerned, the matter had been weighed and set- 
tled. 

There came at this moment the sound of a muffled 
electric bell. His client still gazed stupidly in front of 
him, but said nothing. He did not seem to notice the 
signal. 

Astro, however, rose and went to a pair of black vel- 
vet curtains hanging at one side of the wall behind his 
visitor's back. There was a mirror hung above which 
reflected the stocky form of the man at the little table, 
the bulge of a revolver in his hip pocket, and the round 
head with its short cropped hair. The head did not 
turn. Astro parted the hangings deftly and peered 
within. On a level with his eyes was a small square 
window, lighted from behind. Against the glass a 
sheet of paper was fastened, and on it was written in 
a feminine scrawl, "Plain-clothes man. Working on 
the Macdougal Street dynamite case." 

Valeska smiled at him from the secret cabinet. 

Astro picked up a magnifying-glass, dropped the 
curtains, and returned to his client. Seating himself, 
he looked carefully at the lines in the detective's palm ; 
after which he took a small crystal sphere from a draw- 
er in the table, set it on the cushion, and seemed to lose 
himself in prolonged contemplation of the mysteries 
hidden within it. His vis-a-vis fidgeted restlessly. 

"You are a busy man indeed," commented Astro, 
half aloud. "Not only are you keeping your eye on the 
crooks around the Rennick Hotel, and investigating 
several pool-room layouts, but you come up here in 
reality to see if my place is, as you would call it, 'on the 
square'. How on earth you have time for all this, when 
you are so puzzled about the Macdougal Street busi- 



46 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

ness, is more than I can see. You must be a man of 
extraordinary resource." 

The officer stared like a child at the dreamy-eyed 
Oriental before him. "Gosh!" he said almost plain- 
tively. Then he rose and thrust his big hairy hands 
into his pockets. "Say, what do you know about that 
dynamite affair, anyway?" he asked. 

Astro smiled. "Nothing. I'm too busy to trouble 
about things that are not any of my business." 

"But what if it was your business?" continued the 
policeman eagerly. "What if I made it an object to 
you?" 

Astro assumed a dramatic air of omnipotence. 

"Ah!" answered the Seer. "No doubt I could tell 
you anything you wished to know." 

The man drew out a pocketbook. "See here," he 
said, tapping it, "I ain't rich by any means ; but I'm up 
against it on this case, and if you can look into them 
glasses and give me a tip, I'll make it worth your 
while." 

Astro laughed. "Oh, it's not quite so simple as that. 
You must understand, my dear sir, that I can do abso- 
lutely nothing without coming into direct personal con- 
tact with the vibrations emanating from the scene or 
from the individual. I can tell about you, because you 
happen to be before me ; but I should have to be pres- 
ent at the place in order to become sensitive to the oc- 
cult influences that have permeated the vicinity of the 
crime. Do you understand?" 

The officer evidently did not understand ; but he was 
in nowise deterred from making use of this power that 
had so impressed him. "I'll take you up there," he 
offered. 



THE MACDOUGAL STREET AFFAIR 47 

"Very well," said Astro. "I'll help you on this case, 

Mr. " 

"McGraw." 

" Mr.Graw, with tHe distinct understanding, how- 
ever, that I am to be left to do what I like, undisturbed 
and unwatched. Utter abstraction, my dear sir, the 
harmony of the Tatvic Rythm, is in all instances abso- 
lutely necessary. I see the invisible ; I hear the inaudi- 
ble; I touch the intangible." 

The detective stood like a cow gazing on an eighth 
wonder of the world. "All right," he said, lamely. 
"When'll you come?" 

"At three this afternoon. Meet me in front of the 
place number 950, isn't it? That's right. But first I 
should like to know what you have learned about the 
matter." 

"Well, it's just this way. There's a chap at number 
950 named Pietro Gallino. He has a wholesale wine 
and grocery shop, and does a considerable importing 
business ; he also acts as a sort of local banker. Two 
weeks ago he got a letter that was made up of words 
torn out of a newspaper, telling him to leave a thous- 
and dollars in ten-dollar bills underneath a certain 
bench by the arch into Washington Square. He was to 
put it there the next night, or else his place would be 
blown up. He went dippy about it, of course, and re- 
ported it to the police right away. We told him to put 
up a dummy package and carry out instructions. He 
did that and the place was watched. Nobody came, of 
course. The next day there was an explosion in front 
of his store, and it smashed up the windows and doors 
good and plenty. Then he got another letter, some- 
thing like the first one, only he was to put the money in 



48 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

a certain fire bucket on the third floor of a building at 
231 Vestry Street. Somebody came that time! but, 
with three exits to the building and us watching every 
one of them, we couldn't nab our man. The next day 
there was an explosion on top of Gallino's building, and 
then came this last letter." 

He took from his pocketbook a sheet of paper, folded. 
On it were pasted irregular fragments from the adver- 
tising pages of a newspaper. It read as follows : 

"Have a thousand dollars with you, day and 
night. We will tell you how to pay before the 
twelfth. If any more tricks, will blow you to 
pieces sure I" 

It was signed with the dread insignia of the Black 
Hand, a skull and cross-bones and a rudely drawn 
hand. 

Astro looked at it carelessly, pressed it to his fore- 
head, fingered it sensitively, and then put it in his 
pocket with composure. "Very well. I get from this 
letter, even now, a subtle impression, and when I en- 
counter these vibrations in the flesh I shall immediately 
recognize them. The criminal has a violet soul, tend- 
ing toward purple. Purples are malicious and very 
dangerous. This aura distresses me." And he fop- 
pishly sniffed at a bottle of smelling-salts. 

The effect of this was not lost on McGraw. "I don't 
know how the mischief you get wise," said the dazed 
officer; "but it don't matter how you turn the trick, 
just so you deliver the goods. I'll see you at three 
then. And be mighty careful of that paper !" 

Astro nodded impassively as his visitor left. Then 
he pressed an electric button, and Valeska Wynne, his 



THE MACDOUGAL STREET AFFAIR 49 

young assistant, entered the room with" a free and easy, 
graceful, girlish stride. She smiled quickly, and lifted 
her eyebrows at the departing plain-clothes man. 

"Easy enough to tip you that time," she remarked, 
"I passed him on the stairs with a policeman, and 
caught a few words. Anything in him ?" 

"No money; but it's a good advertisement, and it 
g-ets me in with the police, so that I shall be able to rely 
on them for help from time to time. Did you notice 
the chalk on his sleeve ?" 

"Sure ; but I didn't have time to tell you, and I knew 
you'd get that. Billiard cue, I suppose?" 

"Hardly not in this Broadway neighborhood; 
though it's possible. Billiard-cue chalk hereabout is 
generally green in color. That white stuff probably 
means a bucket-shop. He's been nosing round illegal 
race-track, gambling places, I imagine. At least I told 
him so, and it took. Notice the dab of gilt paint on his 
vest?" 

"No," answered the girl. 

"They're rebronzing the furnishings and decorations 
in the Rennick lobby to-day. Inasmuch as that is the 
notorious hotel for crooks of all descriptions, I saw at 
a glance that he had been there. Did you observe his 
handkerchief?" 

"Oh, yes," said she eagerly, glad at last to have 
caught one point in the train of the master's deduction. 
"It was a small one a woman's, of course." 

"And the top button of his coat?" 

"No." Valeska's face fell. 

"Sewed on with fine copper wire instead of thread. 
What do you make of that ?" He surveyed her quiz- 
zically. 



50 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

She puckered her pretty face for a moment, then 
raised her fair blue eyes interrogatively. "They seem 
contradictory, don't they? The handkerchief would 
suggest marriage ; unless it's a souvenir " 

"No. He used it too strenuously, I'm afraid, for 
any sentiment to be attached to it; his only emotion 
seemed to be disgust at its size or lack of size. His 
wife's, of course. She's alive, and with him, or her 
handkerchiefs wouldn't be where he'd pick one up in a 
hurry; probably mixed in with his when the laundry 
came home." 

"It might be his sister's," suggested the girl. 

"Why didn't she sew his buttons on for him, then? 
Oh, it's simple enough. But your tip was what really 
helped me most with McGraw that's his name after 
all. He wants me to help him solve the Macdougal 
Street mystery." 

In a few minutes Astro went over the history of the 
affair, and laid the last threatening letter on the table. 
Valeska inspected it carefully. 

"The pieces are all cut from the advertising pages of 
The Era," she said finally. 

"Good! Except these two, which, you see, instead 
of being cut, are torn along the edge. Not much of a 
clue, but worth remembering." 

"What do you know about the Black Hand?" Va- 
leska asked. 

"As much as any one, and that is nothing. Even 
Petrosini, the greatest of metropolitan Italian sleuths, 
said that there was no such thing. Warburton, on Im- 
migration, has some very interesting chapters concern- 
ing the bloodthirsty Sicilian and his criminal organiza- 
tion, all of which have been corroborated in the recent 



THE MACDOUGAL STREET AFFAIR 51 

Camorra and Mafia trials. But here in America there 
is really no Black Hand ; although the rather melodra- 
matic name is made use of from time to time by indi- 
viduals bent on extortion. It is a great terrorizer. In 
this instance, the work is clearly that of one person. 
The affair looks simple. I'll get my vibrations easily 
enough ; you just see if I don't ! It isn't half so difficult 
as that interior epicycloid I was at work on last night. 
Be ready at three o'clock." 



Until that time Astro the Seer was characteristically 
picturesque. Curious women listened to his talk about 
them in delight, men came with ill-disguised scorn and 
left the studio in admiration, and through it all he 
gazed into crystals, and intoned cabalistic words. 
When the last client, however, had disappeared, Astro 
threw off his turban and robe, yawned prodigiously, 
and became his real, alert, keen-eyed self. With Va- 
leska Wynne he walked rapidly down Fifth Avenue, 
across Washington Square, and along Macdougal 
Street to number 950, where he found McGraw await- 
ing him in some impatience. At once the mask fell 
again over Astro's handsome poetic face ; no summer 
saunterer seemed ever more idle or indifferent. 
I "Ah, here you are, sir," said the detective with evi- 
dent relief as he tipped his hat to Valeska. "And here's 
the joint." 

The house still showed signs of the recent outrage. 
The broken frames of the front windows were boarded 
up, and several beams held the tottering lumber in 
place. The sidewalk was not yet repaired, but had been 
hastily covered with loose planks. Evidently the bomb 



52 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

thrower had created a terrific disturbance. Every pane 
of glass in the building was shattered. As a result of 
the latest attempt upon Gallino's life, the whole top of 
the store was a mass of broken timber in front; the 
back part of the roof seemed not to have been dis- 
turbed. A small group of silent wide-eyed Italians 
hung about the place, eying the evidences of destruc- 
tion in awe. 

Astro scarcely gave the place a glance ; but, accom- 
panied by McGraw and Valeska, entered the store and 
spoke a few commonplaces to the proprietor, who, with 
hunted face, gazed anxiously at the officer. Valeska's 
eyes roamed vivaciously about the interior, taking in 
everything. 

"Don't you suspect any one?" she asked Gallino at 
length. 

"Yassa, ma'am, I do. I say it ees Tony, my ol' clerk. 
He ees no good, that-a boy. I fire 'im. That ees-a 
one week ago. I tell-a da cop; he say-a no. Tony, 
he live across da street right-a now. He blow me up-a 
for sure. You wait teel I catch-a heem !" 

McGraw laughed easily. "The old man's nutty 
about it, that's all. We looked up Antonio's record. 
He had good alibis, too. Nothing to that theory." 

Astro seemed to come out of his daze and began to 
take an interest in the chatter about him. "Well, Mr. 
McGraw," he announced, as he picked his way daintily 
among the debris, "I've seen what I care to inspect in 
this part of the building ; now, if you will kindly leave 
me to wander about the place as I like, I may get those 
influences and manifestations that will enable me to use 
my crystals to good advantage." 

The bulky officer immediately looked disappointed. 



THE MACDOUGAL STREET AFFAIR 53 

He had evidently expected the Master of Mysteries to 
announce the author of the crime at once ; and there- 
fore it was with an unwilling nod that he withdrew. 

"I'd like to go up on the roof first," said Astro to the 
Italian merchant. "It was there, I believe, that the 
latest explosion occurred." 

Gallino showed the way up to a trap-door in the rear, 
and left Valeska and her companion on the ruined 
roof. 

"Ah, this is more like business !" he said. "Valeska, 
see what you can find around here that's interesting." 
Then he walked directly toward the blank wall of the 
adjoining building. This rose three stories above Gal- 
lino's roof, and against it lay a number of pieces of 
scantling, untouched by the explosion. Over these As- 
tro bent in search, while Valeska, left to herself, in- 
spected the hole that the dynamiter had torn in the 
middle front of the roof. 

"Here we are !" came his voice enthusiastically a mo- 
ment later. She ran over toward him in surprise, to 
find him gazing across at the buildings on the other side 
of the street. Between his thumb and forefinger he 
held a tiny object. 

"I've got it!" he announced, and continued his in- 
spection of the house across the way. 

"Got what?" she asked. 

"The whole secret, as far as that goes. But spe- 
cifically, I've got what I came up here for. What did 
you come up for?" 

"Because you did," she confessed. "And, too, on 
the chance of finding something." 

"One doesn't solve mysteries that way, Valeska. 
There is no use looking for something unless you know 



54 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

what that something is. Have you decided how a bomb 
was exploded on top of this roof in broad daylight, 
with people watching the house? Until you've got 
that, you are nowhere." 

"It might have been thrown from the top of a build- 
ing up there." 

"And anybody could have seen it. No. There was 
only one possible way, besides electric wiring, and here 
it is." He opened his hand and disclosed a small 
twisted bullet. 

"Oh !" cried the girl. "They put the bomb there and 
then shot at it." 

"Yes. Shot at it and missed the first time. Now, 
here we find the place where the first bullet, going 
wild, hit this piece of scantling. This makes it merely 
a matter of surveying. If you will stand with the back 
of your head where the indentation of this bullet is, 
then sight across the approximate middle of the hole in 
the roof caused by the explosion, you will probably get 
some idea of where the bullet came from. What do 
you see?" 

"Well, it might have been aimed from any one of 
those three windows over there, in the building next to 
the shirt factory. I should say it came from the sec- 
ond one, where the potted plant is." 

"One of them, certainly," answered Astro. "But 
we shall have to investigate them all, if we are to be 
conscientious about it, and for that purpose I suggest 
we look up McGraw again." 

'f As they went down-stairs, Valeska asked, "When did 
the first explosion occur ?" 

"At night." 



THE MACDOUGAL STREET AFFAIR 55 

"Then the bomb was merely hurled from the win- 
dow?" 

"Presumably. Nothing could be easier, and, of 
course, it could not be definitely seen or traced. But 
here is McGraw ; so let us take advantage of his office." 

The detective, though delighted to accompany Astro, 
and especially his pretty assistant, into the house across 
the street, belittled the possibilities of finding anything 
there. "I've been into every room on the block, and I 
saw nothing. But I ain't got the second sight, o' 
course. All I can say is, I hope you track 'em." 

The party went up-stairs into a cheap lodging-house, 
accompanied by a frightened and voluble landlady, un- 
til they reached the third floor fronting on the street. 
McGraw knocked on the first door; but, getting no 
answer, motioned the landlady to unlock. 

It was a small room, in great disorder, looking as if 
the tenant had suddenly taken his departure. The bed 
was unmade, the small bureau was covered with soiled 
linen, neckties, cigarette stubs, and the like, and a mis- 
cellaneous lot of shoes, magazines, newspapers, and 
rubbish were strewed on the floor. McGraw started 
to push his way in officiously ; but the slim hand of the 
Seer detained him. 

"Kindly wait outside a moment," he commanded. 
"My assistant and I would prefer to enter alone. The 
vibrations, you know," he murmured, with a smile. 
The moment the door was shut behind them, two pairs 
of eyes ransacked the place, hunting for the things they 
had already decided to find. Astro's were- the first to 
come to rest on a pile of crumpled newspapers hastily 
thrown beneath the unkempt bed. In a flash he had 



56 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

seized them and was scanning them one by one. Finally 
he separated an Era from the rest of the sheets, 
turned it toward Valeska, and smiled. She saw that 
one page had been torn out. 

"The advertising page," he remarked. He drew out 
the Black Hand letter and compared the torn scraps 
silently with the journal in his hand, nodded his head 
in confirmation, then silently opened the door. 

"Who lives here ?" he asked the woman of the house. 

"Antonio Soroni." 

Astro turned to the detective. "Arrest him to-night 
and bring him to my apartments at eight o'clock." 

"Did he really do it?" asked McGraw eagerly. 

Astro turned away without answering. 

"Kindly don't put any questions to him," interrupted 
Valeska ; "for he is now getting in touch with the psy- 
chic influences of the place." 

"Now for the next room, please," announced the 
Master of Mysteries, as if suddenly wakening. 

"Oh, that's vacant," said the landlady with arms 
akimbo. "A young girl had it until last Friday; but 
she's left." 

Valeska turned at once. "When was the last explo- 
sion, did you say, Mr. McGraw ?" 

"Thursday." 

"And when did you search these rooms ?" 

"Friday, miss. The girl was here when I came. 
Fine looker, too, she was. A sort of laundress or seam- 
stress or clerk or something ; out of work, she said." 

"Well, better look her up too, McGraw," said Astro, 
"and bring her around with' Antonio." 

He walked into the empty room, and Valeska fol- 
lowed him. The plain-clothes man and the proprietress 



THE MACDOUGAL STREET AFFAIR 57 

awaited patiently until they came out again, some 
fifteen minutes later. Their faces betrayed nothing 
whatever concerning their search. 

"Now, the third door!" Astro's voice was sharp 
and commanding. The others pricked up their ears in 
expectation. 

McGraw knocked; but there was no answer. He 
knocked again, and the listening party caught the sound 
of unintelligible cursing, heavy and befuddled. At 
this the officer took the key in haste, threw open the 
door, and looked inside, his hand on the butt of his re- 
volver. One glance, and he had jumped inside, collar- 
ing the man on the bed. 

"It's Bull O'Kennery, by all that's holy! Think o' 
meetin' you this way, Bull! Get up now, an' come 
along with us ; for I've been huntin' you two weeks an' 
more! Where've you been spendin' your vacation, 
anyway ?" 

The prostrate man rubbed his thick knuckles into his 
eyes and expostulated brokenly with a maudlin drunken 
accent. In a jiffy McGraw had dragged him upright 
and placed him against the wall outside, snapping the 
bracelets on his wrists as he did so. Then the detective 
turned to Astro. 

"This here's Bull, one o' the slickest dips in the burg. 
There's been a warrant out for his arrest for over two 
weeks now. He'll be the man we're after, too, most 
likely. Anyway, he'll have to go up and give an ac- 
count." 

Astro surveyed the disheveled prisoner nonchalantly, 
took up his hand, examined the palm, the lower lid of 
his eye, and listened to his heart-beats, his head against 
the man's chest. "Bah !" he exclaimed with a nauseated 



58 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

shrug of his shoulders, "he's been drunk for sixty 
hours. Take him away, McGraw. He makes me quite 
ill. I'll attend to the rest of this alone." 

After the detective had led the wretch shuffling down 
the stairs, the palmist and Valeska entered the room 
and threw up the blinds. It was a sickening enough 
abode, smelling vilely of whisky, stale beer, and staler 
tobacco smoke. A sluggish kerosene lamp still burned 
weakly on the mantel. Amid the mass of tangled rub- 
bish a bureau drawer stood half open. Astro strode 
over to it. With a sudden gesture he took out a box 
of twenty-two caliber cartridges ; then a woman's pock- 
etbook, a ten-dollar bill, a piece of old-fashioned paper 
fractional currency of fifty-cent denomination, and a 
horn-handled shoe-buttoner. 

"I think we're getting at it now !" he exclaimed, his 
eyes alight with discovery. 

"But, for heaven's sake, which one of them did it? 
Antonio ? Bull O'Kennery ? Or the girl ? Or all three 
together?" 

"Or none of them?" smiled Astro. Suddenly his 
mood changed as he weighed the bullet thoughtfully in 
his hand. "It's a very pretty piece of business," he 
went on. "What was it the old Frenchman said in his 
wisdom, Cherchez la femme? I'm afraid Mr. Gallino 
across the street is up against it; unless hum well, 
we'll see what McGraw gets into his net by nightfall." 



Valeska never questioned further than the Master 
wished to answer ; for she knew that it merely dis- 
turbed the marvelous deductive powers of his brain 
while they were at work ; then, too, he preferred her, as 



THE MACDOUGAL STREET AFFAIR 59 

she was, so to speak, still in her student days, to work 
out her own clues. Later, in case she had erred, he in- 
dulgently pointed out her mistakes. It was in some 
such tacit understanding that they now left the Mac- 
dougal Street tenement and made their way back to 
Astro's cozy studio. 

Once there, she could see from the way in which he 
donned his turban and robe, lighted his water-pipe, 
and disposed himself on the cushioned divan in his fa- 
vorite corner, that he had already solved the problem 
to his own satisfaction. Above the top shelf a row of 
the ancient Toltec, laughing heads grinned down on 
him; farther on, brazen implements and slabs of mar- 
velous jade wrought with hieroglyphics gleamed dully, 
adding their touch of mystery to the man beneath. 
On the table were the sheets of paper and the dividers 
and rule with which he had been plotting an intricate 
curve, and this work he again took up immediately. 
Valeska withdrew. After an hour's work, heedless of 
the passage of dinner-time, he smiled, carefully laid 
aside his instruments, and turned to a plaster cast hung 
against the wall. 

"It is true, then, as I thought, about you, Monsieur 
Voltaire," he murmured, half aloud. "The line of the 
upper half of the perimeter of that right ear of yours 
is a logarithmic spiral, of which the equation is 
x* = 2ab + y." He threw back his head and yawned. 

Valeska glided in. "McGraw has come with An- 
tonio," she whispered, "and has been waiting half an 
hour; but I wouldn't interrupt you until you had fin- 
ished your calculations. Shall I let them in now ?" 

Astro yawned again, luxuriously. "You are too in- 
dulgent of me, my dear girl, I'm very much afraid. 



60 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

The delay may cost Signer Gallino a thousand dollars, 
possibly his life. Yes, you may show them in." 

In another moment the officer appeared, leading by 
the sleeve a very badly frightened Italian. The mo- 
ment the latter perceived the gorgeously picturesque 
figure of the palmist he rushed across the room and 
sank on the floor, clutching Astro by the knees. 

"I no t'row-a da bomb !" he screamed. "I no t'row-a 
da bomb ! Sacrament' ! I spika da trut' ! I no t'row-a 
bomb, signor! Gallino he give-a me da bounce, si! I 
shake-a-da fist in da face ; bot I no t'row-a da bomb !" 
At that the tears streamed from his wild eyes. 

Astro waved his hand impatiently, took up Antonio's 
hand, and began reading the palm, only to let it drop 
in a few moments. 

"This young lady who roomed next to you," he said 
gently, "you liked her, Antonio?" 

The accused's eyes beamed. "Ah, si, signor! She 
the fine-a, nice-a girl. She speak-a to me, nice !" 

"Very of ten?" 

"Ah, no, signor ! She lock herself in da room all-a 
da time. Some eve she come-a in, get-a da match. Da's 
all. Read-a da pape', maybe, sometime." 

Astro cast a quick significant look at Valeska under 
his dark brows. "When did she come in and tear out 
a page from The Era, Tony ?" 

Antonio scratched his head, laboring to remember. 
"Sometime dees-a last-a wik, early. Si. One night she 
come in, she say, Tony, I like-a get-a da posish. You 
lemme take-a do pape'. I brink 'er back.' I say 'No, I 
wanta-da pape' for read-a to-night/ She say, 'All-a 
right ; I tear off da one piece/ " 




I no t'row-a da bomb ! " he cried. 



THE MACDOUGAL STREET AFFAIR 61 

Astro turned to McGraw, "You'd better turn this 
poor fellow loose, I think. He's innocent enough. I 
know what I want to know now." 

"What do you know?" said the detective peevishly. 
"Seems to me it's time I was put wise to some of this 
game, ain't it ?" 

"I'll tell you in ten minutes, if you'll telephone a 
question to headquarters, or to the proper precinct, and 
find out if there has been any complaint made of the 
loss of a pocketbook containing a ten-dollar bill, a fifty- 
cent piece of the old-fashioned paper currency, and a 
horn-handled shoe-buttoner. If there has, you'll want 
your friend Bull O'Kennery for that piece of work, 
too." 

McGraw rose wonderingly and went to the tele- 
phone. 

Astro called after him, "Tell them that if any one 
does appear with that complaint, to arrest him imme- 
diately and disarm him." 

Valeska waited till the detective had gone into the 
hall. "It was the girl, then. I see !" she cried. "But 
how in the world did she ever expect to collect the 
money without being caught ?" 

"That's the cleverest part of it," answered tHe Seer 
meditatively. "You remember that she sent word to 
him the last time to have a thousand dollars with him 
night and day, and she'd let him know how to transfer 
the money ?" 

"Yes ; but she hasn't let him know, so far." 

"But she will to-night. You forget that to-morrow 
is the twelfth, the last day." 

Valeska, extremely puzzled even yet as to how a 



62 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

lone girl was to accomplish her design, sat studying 
the matter over. Before she could reply, however, 
McGraw came back with an astonished look on his 
face. 

"The girl called at the Mulberry Street Station yes- 
terday and reported that her pocket had been picked. 
She described the money and the button-hook all right ; 
and I guess if you say so it must be one of Bull's jobs. 
But it's too late to catch her, I'm afraid." 

"What did she look like?" asked Astro. 

"Why, that's funny. This Gallino happened to be 
there, talking to the sergeant about his place bein* 
blown up, and he recognized her as a girl that used to 
work in the corner drug store near him. She spoke to 
him a few minutes, and then left ; and Gallino told the 
sergeant about it." 

Astro clapped his hands. "Selah!" he exclaimed. 
"The ether waves have met at last ! Wait five minutes. 
I must consult my crystals." 

The two watched him carefully. 

Finally he looked up. "We must hurry!" he ex- 
claimed sharply. "To-night a man will come to see 
Gallino, and as soon as he's alone will demand the 
thousand dollars." 

"A man?" queried Valeska. "I thought it was the 
girl." 

"The girl!" said McGraw in bewilderment. "Well, 
never mind. Whoever it is, we'll get him or her. The 
house is watched." 

"Watched!" sneered the Master of Mysteries. 
"From the outside, I suppose ?" 

"Certainly," answered McGraw hotly. 



THE MACDOUGAL STREET AFFAIR 63 

"Fools !" answered Astro. "Anybody can enter. You 
can't keep innocent people out of the house. This man 
may go in, present a pistol at Gallino's head, get the 
money, and walk out. Who's to suspect a casual vis- 
itor?" He paused a moment to don his street coat. 
"Gallino may even be chloroformed. We've got to get 
there at once. Hurry !" 

As they hastened along to the cab-stand, McGraw 
grunted in ill temper, "But who's the man that's after 
it, I'd like to know?" 

He received no answer ; nor was a word spoken all 
the time that they were being driven to Macdougal and 
Fourth Streets. When they had alighted there, paid 
their fare, and looked down the dark sidewalk, no 
one could be observed. Number 950 showed no sign of 
life. They started to walk briskly toward Gallino's, 
when suddenly a person emerged from the Italian's 
doorway and hastened down the steps. 

Instantly Astro drew his revolver and shouted! to 
McGraw, "That's the one ! Get him !" 

At the exclamation, the figure turned on the bottom 
step, shrank back in surprise, and becoming entangled 
in the long coat, fell across the balustrade to the stone 
sidewalk. Instantly, with a frightful roar, a terrific ex- 
plosion rent the air. Astro and his companions stag- 
gered back, and above the crash of falling debris the 
Master of Mysteries could be heard shouting : 

"That's what was meant for Gallino if he hadn't 
paid to-night!" 

Then the three rushed anxiously forward to where 
the limp figure lay in a distorted knot on the flagging. 
The clothing had been torn to shreds, and a pool of 



64 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

blood encircled the prostrate form. The body lay face 
downward; so that the detective had to turn it over. 
He struck a match and cried in bewilderment : 

"Why, it's a girl in man's clothes !" 

Astro turned slowly away. "There will be no more 
bombs exploded in Macdougal Street for a while," he 
said. "You'd better telephone to the hospital." 



THE FANSHAWE GHOST 

A5 it was nearly time for his first client of the day 
to arrive, Astro the Palmist ended the little les- 
son in optical anatomy he had been giving to Valeska. 
He closed the transparent doors of the huge model 
of the human eye about which he had been talking, 
and replaced it on a shelf in his laboratory, where it 
remained, a large livid ball of glass and porcelain, 
veined with red. 

"It's simply wonderful !" Valeska said, staring at it 
hard. 

Astro laughed, and passed into the great studio for 
his morning consultations. "And yet," he remarked, 
"Helmholtz says, 'Nature seems to have packed this 
organ with mistakes/ I'll explain that sometime. 
Most people do think that the body of man is the con- 
summation of the Maker's skill and wisdom. In point 
of fact, it is far from being perfect. 

"Think of the ants and bees," he went on thought- 
fully. "Think of their strength and adaptability ! By 
a mere change of diet a neuter can become a perfect 
female." 

"Do you mean to say that men's bodies are not so 
good as some of the animals' bodies ?" Valeska asked. 

"I mean to say that the human machine is imperfect. 
It contains much that is unnecessary, much that is not 
well adapted to the struggle for existence." 

Astro, now assuming his red silken robe and turban, 

65 



66 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

in preparation for his astral readings, seated himself 
cross-legged on the divan, and took up the stem of his 
narghile. 

"Wiedersheim," he continued, "has counted one 
hundred and seven so-called Vestigial organs'; the 
remains, that is, of similar but more developed organs 
that fulfilled a useful function in our simian ancestors. 
Some of them are still able to perform their physiolog- 
ical functions in a more or less incomplete manner; 
some survive merely as ancestral relics ; and some are 
actually harmful to the body. Take, for instance, 
superfluous hairs; they are no longer capable of pro- 
tecting the body from cold and often do serious harm. 
Wisdom-teeth are unnecessary to man; their powers 
of mastication are feeble, and they often cause tumors 
and diffused suppuration and dental caries. We all 
know how unnecessary and how dangerous to health 
the vermiform appendix is. 

"Then there are other organs whose powers are 
almost completely lost. The little tail disappears from 
the embryo before birth ; but there remain the useless 
muscles of the ear, the unnecessary thirteenth pair of 
ribs, the weak and imperfect eleventh and twelfth 
pairs of ribs, which serve no useful purpose, the 
muscles of the toes, and so on. Why, the colon, or 
large intestine, the seat of most diseases of the ali- 
mentary tract and the nursery of arterial sclerosis, has 
been pronounced practically useless by MetchnikofT, 
and in London hospitals the entire colon is often re- 
moved." 

Valeska stared. "But what are they all there for ?" 
she inquired. 

"I suppose their chief use is to shame our vanity. 



THE FANSHAWE GHOST 67 

They are undoubted proof of our animal origin, our 
descent from the anthropoid apes." 

Valeska frowned. "I never like to be reminded of 
that." 

"Well, then, of our descent from birds, or reptiles. 
You have beautiful eyes, my dear ; but you can't con- 
ceal that little part near the nose which is called the 
'semilunar fold'. That is but the remains of the third 
eyelid you possessed as a bird, the transparent mem- 
brane that eagles draw over the cornea." 

The bell rang outside. Astro the Philosopher be- 
came, on the instant, Astro the Seer, and dropped into 
his professional poise, calm, inert, picturesque, ori- 
ental. Valeska retired to another room and began her 
work of looking carefully over the papers for news 
of anything that might be of use to the Seer in his 
conferences. It was her duty to keep in touch with 
the doings of the day. ' 

For some time she read without interest, making 
notes occasionally, and from time to time consulting 
her card catalogue to look up the condensed biog- 
raphies of persons prominent,, in society, politics, or 
finance, adding to the data there collected. She cut 
clippings, too, and pasted them in a blank book for 
Astro to look over at his leisure. In the last of the 
morning papers, her eyes fell on the following para- 
graph, and she read it with attention: 

No small amount of gossip has been occasioned 
during the last week or so in the little village of 
Vandyke, by the rumors of supernatural visitations 
at the well-known Fanshawe farm, now the resi- 
dence of Miss Mildred Fanshawe, the last living 
representative of a prominent old family in the 



68 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

county. While all the servants at the farm deny 
the sensational reports, and Miss Fanshawe abso- 
lutely refuses to be interviewed, the stories afloat 
make the place famous in the vicinity. According 
to what can be learned, at least three of the serv- 
ants at the farm have seen the "Fanshawe ghost," 
purported to be the spirit of Sally Towers, who 
was a well-known belle of New York in the 1830's. 
Sally appears, so it is said, in the walled garden 
side of the old house, usually with a baby in her 
arms. Occasionally she is seen on the roof of the 
dwelling. The Society for Psychical Research is 
said to be interested, and has asked the privilege 
of investigating the apparition; but Miss Fan- 
shawe has persistently refused them admittance to 
the premises, which are now well guarded from 
intrusion. 

Of Miss Fanshawe, Valeska could find no informa- 
tion in her catalogue. But as soon as Astro was free 
she gave him the clipping, and was not disappointed in 
his interest. 

"It's a case I'd like to handle," he said, when he had 
read the story. "If Miss Fanshawe does not apply to 
me for a solution of the mystery, I shall certainly vol- 
unteer my services. Perhaps you had better send her 
a note, anyway." 

This Valeska did forthwith, with the result that 
Miss Fanshawe appeared a few days later at the stu- 
dio. She confessed herself worried about the stories 
that had been circulated, because of the unpleasant 
notoriety she had gained, and the fact that they might 
depreciate the value of the property, which she wished 
to sell as soon as possible. The rumors were, she 
confessed, based on tales which some of her servants 
had been indiscreet enough to relate. There seemed to 



THE FANSHAWE GHOST 69 

be something at the bottom of the affair, and sEe would 
be much relieved to have the mystery cleared up. 

Miss Miildred Fanshawe was an aristocratic but 
anemic-looking woman of perhaps thirty years. She 
was a brunette, with dark hair and eyes, with a lean 
narrow face, full of nervous energy. Her hands were 
long and slim ; her upper lip was nearly covered with 
fine hair, almost a mustache, which gave her a dis- 
tinctly Italian aspect. She talked freely with Astro 
and Valeska, using gestures like a foreigner. 

When she had gone, Astro turned to his assistant. 
"Well," he said, "I'm curious to know just what you 
noticed about that woman." 

"There is something strange about her I hardly 
know what it is," said Valeska. "I noticed, though, 
for one thing, that she wiggled her ears. I knew a 
boy once who could do that. I've often tried to; but 
I can't. Then, her mustache was a great blemish, 
wasn't it? It's a pity for a woman to have to suffer 
that. Then, her eyes were queer. What was the mat- 
ter with them?" 

Astro smiled. "And I have been lecturing you upon 
the eye for a fortnight! It was the 'semilunar fold' 
I spoke to you about a while ago. It was extraordi- 
narily large." 

"So it was, now I recall it. That was funny about 
her being able to pick up a fork with her toes, like 
Stevenson at Vailima, wasn't it? I always wanted 
to live in a country where I could go barefooted. We 
don't half use our feet, do we ?" 

"Well and the ghost? Have you no theory?" 
Astro asked. 

"Already? Of course not! How can we tell any- 



70 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

thing till we investigate the premises and see the ap- 
parition?" 

"Oh, we'll go down, of course; but it's scarcely 
necessary, I consider." 

Valeska's hands fell into her lap with a hopeless 
gesture. "Oh, dear !" she exclaimed. "I'll never learn 
anything! How in the world could you learn the 
secret of the ghost story, just by talking to her?" 

"And watching her?" he hinted. "But take her 
talk, even. What did she say that might be signifi- 
cant?" 

"Do you mean about that operation she had for ap- 
pendicitis?" Valeska considered it thoughtfully. 
"Let's see. She mentioned the fact that she had her 
vermiform appendix removed, and it proved to be 
abnormally large. But that doesn't prove anything to 
me." 

"Think it over. See if you can't put it with what 
I have told you, and, more important still, read Metch- 
nikoff! I recommend to you his Prolongation of 
Life; but I won't tell you what chapter especially. 
There you'll find the missing link in the argument. 
You have already half of my theory, in the doctrine of 
'vestigial organs', which you can apply to Miss Fan- 
shawe's case. The other half I prefer you to work out 
for yourself. It's the simplest kind of deduction, and 
needs only corroboration at Fanshawe Farm. Let's 
see; she asked us to come down next Friday. That 
gives you three days in which to think it over." 

He rose and yawned. "I wish you'd buy me some 
blue paint and a brush," he added. "Now I must put 
in a little time on that new somnoform experiment. 
I think I'm getting at it." 



THE FANSHAWE GHOST 71 

But Valeska had no time to read Metchnikoff that 
week. Astro's absences from the studio were long 
and often, and Valeska, who had been preparing 
herself in palmistry, gave readings to all those clients 
who did not insist on a personal interview with the 
Master of Mysteries. It need scarcely be said that 
most such clients were men. Every moment of her 
time was occupied until Friday afternoon. 

On that day, at four o'clock, she met Astro at the 
Grand Central Station, and together they took the 
train for Vandyke village to keep their appointment 
with Miss Fanshawe. 

"How little I know of you, Valeska," Astro said, 
on the journey down. "Do you realize that it is 
almost nothing? You applied in answer to my ad- 
vertisement for an assistant, and you know that it is 
not my habit to ask personal questions unless it is abso- 
lutely necessary. But, to me, you are as mysterious 
as this Fanshawe. ghost we are hunting down. I have 
always had a queer feeling about you, that I didn't 
want to know too much about your history; that it 
was a prettier situation to be ignorant of everything 
except this very happy present when we are working 
together." 

"Oh, let's be sure of that, and enjoy it!" she 
breathed, turning her eyes away. "I am perfectly 
happy ! I only hope that we both shall remain so !" 

If Astro had intended by his remarks to give her 
an opening for a confession, she did not accept it, 
and he did not insist. Their talk changed to the 
business that occupied their immediate attention. 

Astro carefully reread the newspaper clipping. 

"The first thing is, of course, to get the accounts 



72 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

of the servants, and then to see the ghost for ourselves. 
Finally, we must lay the specter forever." 

"I have thought that the phantom might have been 
impersonated by one of the servants," Valeska sug- 
gested. 

"With that hypothesis we should seek a motive," he 
replied. 

"I admit that's what has baffled me." 

"Well, we must follow every clue, that's all." 

Miss Fanshawe's man met them at the station with 
an open carriage, and Astro, seating himself beside 
the driver, immediately began to draw him out on the 
subject of the ghost. The man was Irish, and willing 
to talk. He himself, however, had not seen the spirit, 
though he believed implicitly in its existence. John, 
the stableman, had seen it, however, and Genevieve, 
Miss Fanshawe's maid. The third witness, an old 
woman who had been cook, had left the place, refus- 
ing to remain in a haunted house. 

Miss Fanshawe greeted them hospitably and had 
them shown to their rooms by Genevieve. Before 
dressing for dinner Astro and Valeska had the story 
from her. She took them herself into the garden and 
pointed out the scene of the visitation. 

A high brick wall screened the place from the street 
and enclosed it on three sides. The garden was laid 
out formally, with brick walks along the two axes of 
the rectangular space, and a circular pool with a foun- 
tain in the middle. The fourth side was shut off by 
the brick wall of the house itself, which there rose two 
stories in height. Along the south wall was planted 
a thicket of high bushes, interspersed with trees. This 
wall ran into the side of the house just below Miss 



THE FANSHAWE GHOST 73 

Fanshawe's own chamber, whose window showed 
some nine feet above. The maid's room was next. 
The northern wall was flusH with the front of the 
house, which was decorated with a portico two stories 
in height. Above that was the sloping roof. 

"I've seen it walking up and down many a time, 
from my window over there," said Genevieve. "It 
always disappears in the bushes over there," and she 
pointed to the southern wall. "Once I saw it on the 
very top of the roof, waving its arms. Yes, it almost 
always carries a baby, and it's always in white, shroud- 
like. It always scares me stiff ; but I won't leave Miss 
Fanshawe for it nor anything like it." 

"It's a queer thing that you and John are the only 
ones here who have ever seen it," said Valeska, look- 
ing at her fixedly. 

"Oh, the cook has seen it, many's the time," said 
Genevieve. 

"But the cook left." 

"Yes, and good reason why, too! It came at Her 
with a run once, and like to scratch her eyes out." 

"It's queer that Miss Fanshawe has never seen it." 

"Ah, and I hope she never will, the poor dear ! It'll 
be for no good if she does. It comes to warn her, 
I'm thinking." 

John the stableman's tale was almost the same. He, 
too, had seen the ghost on the roof of the house, and 
running swiftly along the garden walk, and often with 
the baby. In the year he had been employed at Fan- 
shawe Farm he had seen it, he thought, at least a 
dozen times. He appeared to share Genevieve's super- 
stitious terrors and had never dared to pursue the 
specter. 



74 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

All this, of course, Miss Fanshawe had heard be- 
fore, and with Astro and Valeska she discussed the 
probability of her servants possibly having conspired 
to give the house a bad name. But no motive for that 
was apparent, and Genevieve's devotion seemed sin- 
cere. The talk had already begun to wear on her. 
She showed many signs of nervousness, becoming at 
times almost hysterical. Seeing this, Astro changed 
the subject, and nothing more was said of his purpose 
there. 

That night he took his place with Valeska at the end 
of the garden, away from the house, to watch. He 
had come prepared to spend several days; for the 
chances were against their seeing anything the first 
time, though the appearances had, according to John, 
become much more frequent of late. So, bundled in 
wraps, the two took their seats on a bench at the end 
of the path. From here, most of the house windows 
were screened from them; but a clear vista up the 
center of the garden was illuminated by a moon be- 
yond its first quarter. Miss Fanshawe, pleading indis- 
position, had retired to her room early. 
j Beyond the seat there was a small door in the wall, 
opening on a path leading to the stable. Directly in 
front of where they sat was an old-fashioned sun-dial. 
It was altogether a romantic spot, one well fitted for a 
tryst, natural or supernatural. Perhaps Valeska 
thought it too romantic, for after sitting with Astro 
for a while she rose and paced impatiently up and 
down. He did not try to keep her with him. Her 
nearness seemed dangerous to his concentration of 
mind, to his watchfulness. 



THE FANSHAWE GHOST 75 

At ten o'clock a sound behind him attracted his at- 
tention. Valeska was some distance away, and he did 
not call her, but stole to the small door in the wall 
and looked out. What he saw made him smile. He 
returned and, with a low whistle, called his assistant. 

"We might learn some things from Genevieve and 
John," he said a little sadly, "even if we don't learn 
much about the ghost from them." 

"Have you seen them ?" she exclaimed. 

"They were bidding each other good night at the 
stable door." 

"Then," said Valeska, "it's my opinion that we'll 
see the ghost within a quarter of an hour. Let's sit 
down now and watch." 

They took their places on the bench again, and her 
hand stole into his. Was it the suggestion she had 
received from the servants' love-making, or did she be- 
gin to fear the specter ? "With all his cleverness, Astro 
could not decide. 

But suddenly she sprang up, and now there was no 
doubt of her alarm. 

"There it is!" she exclaimed in a harsH whisper, 
pointing toward the shrubbery at the south wall. 

There it was at last, indeed, a seemingly sheeted 
form, bearing something that looked like a little child 
in its arms, stealing down the path! It approached 
them noiselessly. In the shadow of the trees it showed 
too indistinct for identification at that distance. Astro 
rose abruptly and took a step toward the house, when 
immediately the thing sped rapidly away. Astro broke 
into a run; but when he came to the house nothing 
was to be seen. 

He went back to reassure Valeska, who stood, star- 



76 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

ing, trembling with excitement, but without fear. 
Hardly had he reached her, however, when her voice 
rang out again. 

"There! On the roof!" she cried. 

Astro looked and beheld the figure gliding swiftly 
along the top of the building. The vision lasted only 
a moment, then disappeared. 

He spoke sharply. "Valeska, run up to Miss Fan- 
shawe's room and awaken her! Tell her I want her 
to see this !" 

Valeska ran up the brick walk, passed through a 
door in the middle of the south wall, and entered the 
house. The halls had been left lighted, and she found 
her way easily to Miss Fanshawe's room. Here she 
knocked on the door, at first softly, then with increas- 
ing vehemence. Trying the door, she found it locked. 
No one answered. 

She flew down-stairs again, and was about to go for 
Astro, when a sound attracted her attention. Down 
the hall, toward the back stairs, she saw something or 
some one pass and disappear. Her thoughts flew to 
Genevieve, and, with a new desire to awaken Miss 
Fanshawe, she went up-stairs again and knocked. 

This time there was a noise inside the chamber, a 
rattle, a chair being moved, and in a few moments 
the door was partly opened and Miss Fanshawe looked 
out. At the same moment Genevieve appeared in the 
upper hall. 

For a moment Valeska could not decide what to say. 
If, as she suspected, Genevieve had been, in some 
strange way, impersonating the phantom, she dared 
not tell of it before her. She slipped inside Miss 
Fanshawe's room, which was not lighted. 



THE FANSHAWE GHOST 77 

"We have seen the ghost, and Astro wished you to 
come out ; but it is undoubtedly too late now. I wish 
your door had been unlocked, so I might have 
awakened you without making so much noise." 

Miss Fanshawe wrung her hands. Her long black 
hair streamed over her white night-dress ; the costume 
and her aspect of extreme disarray made her figure 
almost grotesque. 

"It's terrible, terrible!" she moaned. "I don't see 
why I should be tortured so. I don't want to see it! 
I couldn't bear it!' 3 She broke into a violent fit of 
sobbing. 

Genevieve knocked at the door and entered. "I'll 
attend to her, miss/' she said to Valeska. "I'm used to 
her when she has the hysterics, and I can calm her 
down if you'll only leave us." 

There seemed nothing better to do, and Valeska 
went down-stairs and passed into the garden again. 
Astro strode up to her, a lighted cigar in his mouth. 

"Well?" 

Valeska narrated what had happened. 

"We mustn't be caught that way again. I'll ask her 
to leave the door unlocked to-morrow night. Well, 
there's nothing further to do to-night. I propose that 
we turn in." 

"But have you found out who or what it is ?" Vales- 
ka asked, still trembling with the excitement. 

Astro smiled. "I'll have a trap for the ghost to- 
morrow, and if she appears you'll see. It's only a 
question of how to do it delicately and safely. But 
it's most amusing. I think I was never so enter- 
tained." 

"Why, did you see it after I left?" she asked. 



78 .THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"I should say I did! It was as good as a circus. 
But you must go to bed. Good night." 



As they went out into the garden the next night, 
Astro showed Valeska a nickeled brass cylinder he had 
concealed in his inside pocket. 

"Here's what an automobilist calls an oil gun," he 
explained. "It works like a large syringe, and is 
loaded with blue paint. I might also mention that the 
lightning-rod running up and down the house wall 
side of those windows is already painted bright blue. 
If I don't succeed in shooting our extremely lively 
little friend the spook with this gun, I expect the light- 
ning-rod to streak her up with blue stripes sufficient 
for identification." 

Valeska gazed at the moonlit house in wonder. 
"The lightning-rod !" she exclaimed. "It isn't possible 
for any one to climb up there ! Do you mean to say " 

"Wait, and you'll see some of the prettiest ground 
and lofty tumbling outside of vaudeville," was his 
reply. 

"But it runs up beside Genevieve's window ! It isn't 
possible for that girl to climb down from there into 
the garden." 

"It also runs beside Miss Fanshawe's window. It 
may be possible for her. I assure you, she's an ath- 
lete." 

"But how could any human being get on the roof 
so quickly?" 

"If you'll go round there, you'll see. Once you 
climb the north wall, you can almost reach the first 
balcony. Up the column to the second is easy enough. 



THE FANSHAWE GHOST 79 

On the other side there's a stout ivy vine that makes 
a practical ladder to the very top." 

"But why, why, why?" Valeska almost wailed the 
words. 

"Ah, you haven't read Metchnikoff." 

Then, suddenly he cried, "Look !" and seized her arm. 

They were standing beside the central pool now, and 
he pointed to Miss Fanshawe's window, clearly visible 
from this part of the garden. The moonlight struck 
the glass as the sash was raised. A form looked out, 
climbed rapidly across the sill, lowered itself till it 
hung by the hands, and then dropped lightly to the 
top of the garden wall. Quick as had been its appear- 
ance and disappearance, something was visible, tucked 
under one arm. While they stood fascinated, a white 
object appeared on the grass of the garden plot, the 
figure of a woman with hair streaming about her 
shoulders, apparently carrying a child. She came a 
few steps toward them, then retreated swiftly and 
made for the bushes by the north wall. In another in- 
stant she appeared atop the wall, and swung up to the 
first balcony of the portico, still bearing her burden. 
A few minutes more, and she reappeared on the roof. 

"Quick, now !" cried Astro. "Run up to Miss Fan- 
shawe's room and go in and wait for her to return. 
I'll hide in the bushes by the south wall and pop her 
full of blue paint. If I miss, there's the lightning-rod, 
her only way to enter the room." 

"But what shall I say how can I accuse her of it?" 

Astro stopped suddenly and looked at her. "Why, 
my dear, I forgot. Is it possible you haven't guessed 
it yet ? Miss Fanshawe is asleep. It's somnambulism, 
that's all. But hurry! Make any excuse if she's 



80 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

awake ; if she's not, don't awaken her. Let her go to 
bed herself." 

Valeska flew into the house and up-stairs. Miss 
Fanshawe had kept her promise and had left her door 
unlocked. Valeska entered. 

The window was still up. There was no one in 
the bed. One pillow was missing. On the instant 
Valeska understood the secret of the baby that the 
specter was supposed to carry. 

She slipped into the corner and waited. In a few 
moments a form appeared in the window, blocking out 
the light. A wriggle and a twist, and it sprang lightly 
in, and Miss Fanshawe stood revealed in the moon- 
light, in her night-dress, now streaked and spattered 
with blue stains. In her arms she still held the pillow, 
as a mother holds her babe. Her eyes stared straight 
before her without power of sight. 

Valeska, more moved by this uncanny vision than if 
it had been a supernatural visitation, stole silently 
away and rejoined the Master. 



"I don't see how it was possible, even though I saw 
it with my own eyes!" she said, as they sat down on 
the bench to talk it over before sleeping. "A frail 
woman like that to climb to the second story up a 
rod, to the roof even ! I've heard stories of somnam- 
bulists before, but this is miraculous!" 

"If you had read Metchnikoff," said Astro, smoking 
calmly, "you would have found that such a case as this 
is not rare; and you would have discovered the ex- 
planation. The fact is that in somnambulism and in 
hysteria persons often revert atavistically to the char- 




The white form sped down the garden wall. 



THE FANSHAWE GHOST 81 

acteristics of their simian ancestors. They are often 
able to jump and run and climb and even chatter like 
apes while in this abnormal condition. Miss Fan- 
shawe, as we had already observed, possesses many 
still active functions of her monkey ancestry, which in 
most men and women have become atrophied with dis- 
use. Her appendix was large, like those of the apes. 
She bore traces of this also in the hair on her lip, in 
her ability to use her ears, in the development of the 
muscles of her toes. It was evident to me, at my first 
glance at her, that she was, if not abnormal, at least 
peculiar. In her waking state, of course, she is a 
highly refined and cultured lady. Under the influence 
of hysteria, or in this strange somnambulistic condi- 
tion, she merely reverts to type. You know that new- 
born babies can hang from their hands, like monkeys, 
but soon lose that power. Miss Fanshawe loses her 
extraordinary agility in her waking moments, and re- 
gains it while asleep." 

"But why the blue paint?" said Valeska. "If you 
knew the secret of the Fanshawe ghost, why didn't 
you tell her at first?" 

"Would you have Relieved it possible?" he asked 
smiling. 

Valeska confessed she would not. 

"Neither would Miss Fanshawe. And b'esides, it 
would have been necessary to explain the origin of my 
suspicions. No woman would care to be told that she 
resembled an ape, and I don't intend to explain Metch- 
nikoff's theory to her or to point out her vestigial or- 
gans which are not quite vestigial. No, I'll merely tell 
her she walks in her sleep, as is proved by the blue 
paint on her night-dress, and advise her either to lock 



82 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

the window when she retires or to have a companion 
to watch her. I don't think any one will see the ghost 
again. 

"I wonder," he added thoughtfully, as they walked 
toward the house, "if, after all, I hadn't better begin 
to investigate the ghost of your past, little girl!" He 
took her hand affectionately. 

"Well, you won't find any vestigial signs in that, 
anyway," she answered, gently drawing away her 
hand. "And," she added, "I'm glad I can't wiggle my 
ears or pick up things with my toes. I'd rather be a 
lady even while asleep. I'm quite satisfied with my 
body, thank you, just as it is." 



THE DENTON BOUDOIR 
MYSTERY 

T TNDERNEATH a shaded, swinging, bronze lamp 
V-J in his favorite corner of the studio, the Master 
of Mysteries sat with half-closed eyes, seeming to 
drowse over a huge vellum-bound folio whose leaves 
bore lines of Arabic characters. But, though his 
dreamy eyes appeared heavy and dull, his index finger 
sped with such rapidity from line to line as to reveal 
that the palmist was eagerly absorbed in the message 
of those antique parchment pages. Behind him 
loomed the damasks and embroidered hangings with 
which the room was adorned; in a corner hung a 
gilded censer breathing its delicate aromatic perfume ; 
an astrolabe occupied a small table at one hand, and 
near it lay a strange assortment of queer instruments 
picked up by the Seer in his vagabond travels, the 
dread "spider" of the Inquisition, the Angoise "pear", 
a set of fearsome thumbscrews, strips of human hide, 
and other such horrors. 

"So," he murmured contemplatively, "Ptolemy was 
a Torquemada himself, in a good many ways. That's 
interesting ; and it confirms an old theory of mine. To 
think that many persons don't believe in metempsy- 
chosis and do believe in the signs of the zodiac!" 
His thin lips parted in a smile. 

He had turned to his book again, and had read for 



84 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

a few minutes, when his whole attitude changed. He 
sat upright; his eyes gleamed with interest. Voices 
were heard outside in the office, where his assistant 
was still working. He listened intently; then with a 
quick movement of his right hand touched a button, 
and the room was flooded with light. It was the first 
sight of a new client that often told Astro more than 
an hour's interview. 

"Wait a moment till I announce you !" Valeska was 
exclaiming. "The Master can not be interrupted in 
his work. It is impossible. I could not do it for the 
President himself !" 

"I must see him immediately ! I tell you I must see 
him !" a man's voice replied. "By heaven ! I'll break 
in by main force!" 

Another moment, and the black velvet portieres 
leading to the waiting-room were violently flung aside, 
and a -flushed and excited young man of about thirty 
years strode into the apartment. Behind him the face 
of Valeska Wynne appeared in the doorway, with an 
alarmed expression. 

Astro sat, in turban and silken robe, reading, appar- 
ently unmoved by this interruption. When the young 
man stopped in the center of the room, the Seer slowly 
raised his olive-hued face to the visitor, and a smolder- 
ing glance shot from his dark eyes, in a mute question. 
The young man took a few steps nearer, and broke out 
again : 

"See here! You've got to take this case!" He ex- 
claimed appealingly. "I am at my wits' ends. I'll go 
mad if you don't help me; no one else can solve it. 
You're the only man in New York that can explain 
this mystery. For God's sake, sir, tell me you'll do 



THE DENTON BOUDOIR MYSTERY 85 

it !" He dropped in exhaustion into an armchair, look- 
ing anxiously at the crystal-gazer. The ringers of one 
hand twitched nervously, while his other fist was 
clenched. His forehead was lined with vertical 
wrinkles. 

Astro, still unperturbed, looked at him gravely, his 
quick eye darting from point to point of the young 
man's clothing. Finally he said languidly, with an 
almost imperceptible foreign accent, "My dear sir, the 
Turks have a proverb, 'He who is in a hurry is already 
half mad.' If you were in such haste to see me, you 
should have taken a cab to come here, instead of a 
street-car." 

The young man pulled himself together, sat up, and 
stared hard at the Seer. Then his face relaxed, as he 
said, with a tone of great relief, nodding his head, 
"That's wonderful! It's exactly what I did. Oh, I 
know you can do it, if you only will ! The police are 
all stupid, there isn't a man with a brain on the 
whole force, I believe. You're the man to help me !" 

Astro made a graceful gesture with his long slender 
hand. "It is not a question of brains, my dear sir. 
It is a question of the right comprehension of the 
forces of the occult, of undeveloped senses and powers. 
Men need sign-boards to show them the way from town 
to town. The birds wing their straight paths by in- 
stinct. It is my fortune to be sensitive to vibrations 
that most minds do not register. Where you see a 
body, I see a spirit, a life, an invisible color. All these 
esoteric laws have been known by the priestcraft of 
the occult for ages. Nothing is hidden from the Inner 
Eye." 

"I don't know how you get it," the young man inter- 



86 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

rupted. "I believe that there are many things we don't 
understand yet, and that some men are developed be- 
yond their fellows. I've studied mysticism myself, 
and that's why I came directly to you. I want the 
mystery of my sweetheart's death cleared up, and the 
hellish scoundrel that killed her executed. Until that 
is accomplished, my life will stop, or I'll go insane. 
The police can prove nothing, even on their own sus- 
pect. What motive there could have been for such a 
crime I can't imagine; it seems so unnecessary, so 
monstrous!" He had worked himself again into a 
fever of excitement. 

Astro rose and walked over to his visitor. Placing 
his thumbs on two muscles in the young man's neck, 
near the spinal column, he manipulated the flesh for 
a few moments. His client's hysteria gradually sub- 
sided, and he became calmer. 

"Now," said Astro, sinking back into his chair and 
taking up the amber mouthpiece of his water-pipe, 
"give me the details of your story from the beginning. 
You need not mind my assistant; she is quite in my 
confidence and may be trusted implicitly." 

Valeska had entered, and sat at a table prepared to 
take notes of the conversation. Astro's eyes turned 
indulgently on the pretty blond head as it bent seri- 
ously over the writing pad. 



The young man spoke now as if he had the history 
already clearly mapped out in his mind. He used oc- 
casional impulsive gestures, displaying an ardent and 
intense temperament. 

"My name is Edward Masson. For three months I 



THE DENTON BOUDOIR. MYSTERY 87* 

have been engaged to marry Miss Elizabeth Denton, of 
Hamphurst, Long Island. That is, I was, until three 
days ago, when we had a quarrel, nothing to speak 
of, really, you know, but the match was temporarily 
broken off. It would have come out all right, I'm 
sure. I intended to make it up with her. I was pre- 
pared to make any compromise whatever; for I was 
crazy about her. She was my whole life." He paused 
and put his hands across his eyes. 

Valeska looked across to the Master, her own eyes 
already swimming with tears of sympathy. Astro, 
however, showed no sign, and puffed tranquilly at his 
hookah, waiting for Masson to become more calm. 
In the anteroom a great clock broke the silence with a 
ringing melodious chime and struck the hour of six 
in booming notes. 

Masson looked up with a tense face. "That next 
day she was murdered !" he said brokenly. "She was 
found dead in her boudoir on the second floor of her 
house, just before dinner-time, at about dusk. Both 
doors were locked ; but the double windows were open. 
The police say she was strangled. Think of it ! God ! 
she was beautiful ! How could any one have done it ? 
It seems impossible, even now that she is dead. There 
were slight marks on her throat that looked like ringer 
prints. I didn't see them, there was lace around her 
neck when I saw her, in her casket. Oh, God!" He 
rose and paced up and down the room restlessly, his 
eyes cast down. 

"What have the police done ?" Astro inquired gently. 

"They've arrested Miss Denton's maid. She had 
a key to Elizabeth's room, it seems, and some of the 
servants thought they heard her talking in the room. 



88 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

I think that's the strongest point against her. But I 
doubt if she did it. It was too brutal. I must run 
down the real murderer and have it proved beyond the 
possibility of a doubt. I can't rest till that's done." 

He turned almost savagely to the quiet figure of the 
palmist. "Can't you do it? You can see things in 
crystals ; you know the secret laws of nature ; you lead 
a life of study and research with the old adepts. Can't 
you do this for me?" 

Astro smiled subtly. "My dear Mr. Masson," he 
said, "I do not ordinarily concern myself with such 
affairs. Those who wish come to me, and I, of my 
knowledge of the Laws of Being, can reveal what is 
hidden. Such agonizing experiences as yours are 
distracting to the student of the Higher Way." 

"I'm rich!" Masson broke in. "I'll pay you any- 
thing you wish! Make your price one thousand, 
two, anything! Only help me! My God, man! you 
were a part of the world once. Can't you remember 
what it means to love a beautiful woman and want to 
marry her?" 

"I remember only too well. It was partly on that 
account that I hesitated. But I'll forget myself and 
consent to assist you." 

The young man sank into a chair again, with grati- 
tude in his poise. "You'll want to go down to Hamp- 
hurst?" he asked. 

"Certainly. I must get the vibrations of the scene 
itself before I seek the murderer. He has left behind 
him emanations that will rapidly evaporate. I shall 
go down to-morrow if you will accompany me. To- 
night I shall go to the Tombs and see Miss Denton's 
maid. She, too, must be studied by one who is sensi- 



THE DENTON BOUDOIR MYSTERY 89 

tive to aura. My friend McGraw will be able to get 
permission for that, no doubt." 

He shot a glance at Valeska as he mentioned the in- 
spector's name. She replied with a fluttering smile 
and was serious again. 

Young Masson buttoned up his overcoat, and with 
an embarrassed, hesitating manner, did his best to ex- 
press his thanks. Astro cut short his stammering 
sentences, laid his own hand with a friendly gesture 
on Masson's shoulder, and guided him out of the room. 
At parting it was agreed that they should meet on the 
nine-twelve train for Hamphurst. 

The palmist walked back to the studio, shut off all 
lights but the one in his favorite corner, and sat down 
in silence. Valeska waited for him to speak. 

"Not bad for two days' work," he said finally, smil- 
ing. 

"Are you sure you can do it ?" she asked, raising her 
golden brows. 

"My dear," he replied, taking up his water-pipe 
again, "am I not a Mahatma of the Fourth Sphere, 
and were not the divine laws of cosmic life revealed 
to me while I was a chela on the heights of the Hima- 
layas?" 

Valeska broke into a silvery laugh. "Do you know," 
she said, "that patter of yours is almost as becoming 
as that turban and robe. But, to be serious, have you 
any clue as yet?" 

Astro did not answer for a moment; then he said 
meaningly, "The principle by which muscle reading 
can be accomplished is this : The person that is held 
moves in a minute circle until he finds the point of 
least resistance to his motion. He moves, then, in this 



90 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

line as long as his holders unconsciously guide him in 
that direction. The same principle is true of any prob- 
lem of this sort. Let us wait, until we are guided by 
something that seems characteristic of this special 
crime. The street-car business was simple enough to 
you, I suppose?" 

Valeska pouted. "Oh, I'm not altogether a fool. 
Why, he had a Broadway transfer in his hand when he 
came in here. He was in too much of a hurry to take 
a cross-town car for the four blocks." 

The Seer chuckled. "But now we'd better go to 
work. I'll see the maid first. There's no need of your 
going. You'd better get back to your work on the 
zodiac. Look up Napoleon's notes on the subject. His 
was the biggest intellect the stars ever fooled. It will 
teach you how to fool lesser ones. But get a good 
night's rest. There'll be something more to search for 
at Hamphurst to-morrow. I'll look over the papers and 
see what is known about this murder. Masson was 
too excited to tell half." 

After reading for a half-hour, Astro yawned, shook 
himself, and changed from the cynical psychologist 
to a man of keen brisk manner and alert glance. His' 
green limousine, which was always kept waiting at the 
door of the studio, took him rapidly down-town. A 
half-hour later he was looking through the cell door 
at Marie Dubois, the French maid of the late Miss 
Denton. 

She was eager to talk and volubly protested her 
innocence. Astro let her run on without questions, 
until she had finally told all she knew of the affair, 
which was little enough, apparently. She had started 
up to Miss Denton's room at about half past six to get 



THE DENTON BOUDOIR MYSTERY 91 

a cashmere shawl which was to be sent to the cleaner's. 
Half-way up the side stairs she had stopped, hearing 
voices inside the boudoir. She did not, however, rec- 
ognize Miss Denton's voice; instead, there was a 
higher-pitched voice, exclaiming "Great God !" several 
times. This was followed by laughter ; then came a 
shrill whistle. She heard something like the fall of 
a body, then footsteps. All this so alarmed her that 
she ran up and tried the boudoir door. Finding that 
locked, she called down ,to the butler, went and got her 
own key, and asked him to investigate. The voice 
she had heard seemed like an old woman's. The butler 
had heard it, and also the chauffeur, who was in the 
stable across the yard. 

"And how about the letters from Mr. Masson to 
Miss Denton, which were found in your room ?" Astro 
inquired. 

"Oh, Mees Denton, she give me zem zat I send to 
her fiance !" the girl protested. "Zat same afternoon 
she make ze paquet. Mon Dieu! ze police say I steal 
ze letters! It ees not so! Nevaire have I seen a man 
so good like Monsieur Masson to me. He ees gentle- 
man. Why I steal his letters?" She began to weep. 

"Let me see your hand, Marie." 

The girl gave him a slender trembling palm. 
Astro looked at it for a few moments ; then he said, 
"Marie, did Mr. Masson ever make love to you?" 

A sudden wave of color flooded the girl's face ; but 
she cried out excitedly, "Nevaire! Mon Dieu! non, 
par exemple ! Why should he do zat ? Had he not ze 
beautiful Mees Denton? Oh, non, Monsieur!" 

Astro smiled cryptically and walked out. The rest 
of the evening he spent translating certain obscure 



92 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Hebrew texts from the Midrash and comparing them 
with the published English versions. 



On the train down to Hamphurst, next day, Masson 
was morose and talked but little. He was nervous and 
impatient to get to the house, watching sullenly out of 
the window all the way. Valeska did her best to be 
agreeable ; but Astro came out of his reverie only once, 
to ask : 

"Why was the date of your marriage postponed, 
Mr. Masson?" 

Masson scowled, then sighed and shook his head. 

"Miss Denton, a month or so ago, was not at all 
well. The doctors found her heart to be weak. They 
thought that the excitement of a wedding and its prep- 
aration would be too much for her, and feared a col- 
lapse." 

Astro resumed his abstracted pose. Valeska bent 
her brows. Masson gazed mournfully out of the win- 
dow. 

Alighting at Hamphurst, they took a carriage and 
were driven to the Denton house, an old-fashioned, 
two-and-a-half-story, frame building, painted yellow 
with white trimmings. It was surrounded with beauti- 
ful wine-glass elms which were scattered over the 
grounds. A wide lawn stretched in front and on one 
side, with a gravel driveway to the residence and a 
stable in the rear. The place had an air of quiet 
peaceful respectability. It seemed to the last degree 
improbable as the scene of such a tragedy as had been 
so recently enacted. 

The officers had finished their investigations, and 



THE DENTON BOUDOIR MYSTERY 93 

the funeral had taken place the day before. An aged 
aunt of Miss Denton's and the four servants now occu- 
ipied the house. Astro and his assistant were intro- 
duced to the old lady, then went immediately up to the 
boudoir where the body had been found. Here, at 
Astro's request, the exact situation discovered at that 
time was explained by James, the man-of-all-work, 
whom Marie had referred to as the butler. 

He pointed out the position in which he had found 
the corpse. It lay face downward; the hair was 
somewhat disarranged. The square, cheerful, blue- 
and-white boudoir was now filled with sunlight 
streaming in from the high French windows which 
led to a small balcony outside. Many of Miss Den- 
ton's belongings still lay about, a fold of ribbon, a 
lace collar, a handkerchief on the bureau; and on a 
small table, a book face down where she had left it, 
made it seem as if the owner had only just left the 
room on some trifling errand. 

The old lady silently handed Astro a photograph of 
her niece, a beautiful woman of twenty-three, with 
the frank and winning expression of a young girl. 
Astro handed it to Valeska, who looked at it in ad- 
miration and regret. The aunt explained further that 
her niece Elizabeth was in a low-necked, white 
mull dress. She had come down for dinner; but, 
finding that she had forgotten her handkerchief, had 
gone back up-stairs to get it. She had not hurried, as 
dinner had not yet been served. Her aunt did not 
think it strange that Elizabeth did not return for ten 
or fifteen minutes. Then she had heard Marie scream 
to James, and she herself had followed him up, and 
had been there when he opened the door. 



94 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

The old lady was too overcome to go further; But 
James corroborated Masson's previous story. Both 
doors had been locked and the keys withdrawn. The 
windows were open. No footprints or traces of any 
kind had been found outside by the police. James him- 
self had been in the lower front hall at the time, roll- 
ing up some rugs, and had heard the sound of voices 
up-stairs, and had wondered at them. One voice, he 
thought, sounded much like Marie's. It was about 
three minutes, he thought, between the time when he 
heard the voice and the laughter for he had heard 
that also to the moment when Marie called for him 
to come up. She had appeared much excited. 

He was a simple-faced fellow, with an awkward air 
and a generally shiftless appearance, the ordinary 
country youth who has had too little energy to better 
himself in any way. Astro scarcely gave him a glance, 
but stood gazing at the door in front of him. 

He made a sign finally, and all but Valeska left the 
room. She shut the door behind them. Then she 
followed his eyes about the walls and floor. 

"I think," said Astro, thoughtfully regarding the 
window-frame, "that Masson regrets exceedingly hav- 
ing tried to kiss Marie about four days ago. Poor 
chap !" , 

Valeska's eyes narrowed. "Oh!" she said. "That 
was what broke off the engagement?" 

"I'm afraid so." 

"But was Marie in love with him, too?" she asked 
eagerly. 

Astro's expression was more animated as he replied, 
"I love, thou lovest, he loves ; we love, you love, they 
love. I think, my dear, that in matters of the heart 



THE DENTON BOUDOIR MYSTERY 95 

you know the symptoms better than I, although you 
were not taught the philosophy of the Yogis by a 
Hindu fakir. What do you say, pretty priestess?" 

"Masson was sincerely in love with Miss Denton. 
He never cared a snap for Marie." 

"I believe you. And yet he kissed her or tried to. 
There was no mistaking that blush. It is a common 
error to suppose that French girls are a whit less mod- 
est than their English or American sisters. In point 
of fact, they are often more so, more ignorant, more 
innocent. Marie was carefully brought up ; she is 
still a child. But the Latin races have temperament; 
they soon learn. Marie is a passionate little thing, 
quick at loving as at hating, full of revenges and re- 
grets." 

"But what has that kiss to do with this murder?" 

"That's precisely what I'm here to find out. Per- 
mit me to resume my meditation, that my astral vision 
may be released." 

Valeska smiled, and kept silent. It was Astro's way 
of requesting that he was not to be questioned further 
until he himself had run down his clue. 

It was a quarter of an hour before he spoke; then 
to say in triumph, "Ho! I have found it! I have 
at least solved half the mystery." He pointed to three 
parallel scratches on the frieze, above the picture- 
molding. 

Valeska shook her head, puzzled. 

He shrugged his shoulders and went to the window, 
pointing to a tiny spot on the white frame. 

"It's blood!" exclaimed Valeska. 

"It's blood; and yet Miss Denton was strangled, 
and no blood was shed, none, at least, of hers." 



96 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Whose blood, then, was it?" 

"Kindly get out of the window on the balcony, my 
dear." 

She stepped over the low sill, unconsciously placing 
her left hand on the frame to steady herself. Her 
fingers touched the paint about two inches below the 
bloody smutch. 

"Well, my dear, it certainly isn't your blood, at 
least," said Astro. 

"Marie's, then? She is taller than I." 

"She had no wound on her hand. I examined them 
both carefully." 

"And there was none on James'." 

"Nor the aunt's. If you have looked all you wish 
to, you might go down to the kitchen and talk to the 
cook. It was said in the paper that she had a bad 
temper, and had lately quarreled with Miss Denton. 
To be sure, all good cooks have bad tempers ; but, as 
the police didn't see fit to arrest her, she may possibly 
be the murderer. See what you can do. I shall re- 
main here for a while. There's much to be done, and 
I'm in a hurry to earn my thousand dollars." 

When Valeska had left, Astro resumed his study 
of the room, going over it inch by inch, looking again 
at the window, finally turning to the balcony. The 
care with which he worked showed that the Master 
of Mysteries was unusually perplexed. After exam- 
ining the floor and rail of the balcony, he drew a bird 
glass from his pocket and spent a half-hour gazing at 
the elm whose branches stretched toward the window. 
Off the balcony was another window, from the room 
next to the boudoir. This, too, he examined carefully. 
Then he smiled slightly, put up the glass, and re- 



THE DENTON BOUDOIR MYSTERY 97 

entered the room. It was evident that he had found 
what he had sought. 

Descending to the lower hall, he gave a quick look 
at doors and windows, then went out into the yard in 
the rear to the base of the tree he had spent so much 
time in investigating. He looked now up, and then 
down. He gazed up at the two windows of the bal- 
cony. His eyes were on the great door of the stable 
when Valeska appeared, her eyes shining. 

"The cook has a cut on her left forefinger !" she an- 
nounced breathlessly. "The second girl says that, just 
before they discovered the crime, the cook was away 
from the kitchen for about fifteen minutes. The cook 
herself says that she had gone out back of the stable 
to get a few strawberries for her own supper." 
"Did she come back with the berries?" 
"Yes ; but she might have picked them before." 
"What shape was the cut on her finger?" 
"Why, it was a straight cut, of course. She said she 
did it slicing ham. But you know she might have 
gone up-stairs and into the guest-room, which has a 
window *on the same balcony, and " 

"What about the second girl ?" Astro interrupted. 
Valeska laughed. "She's a country girl, awfully, 
awfully in love with James. She's frightened to death 
for fear that he'll be suspected of the murder." 
"Did she hear the voices and the laughter?" 
"No. Anyway, she was with the aunt most of the 
time, in the dining-room. It was the cook who did it, 
I'm sure." 

"And how about the whistle? And why should the 
cook laugh at such a time ?" 

Valeska's face fell. "Well," she said finally, "for 



98 JHE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

that matter why should any murderer laugh? The 
whistle might have been a signal to some one outside." 

"Except that, in this case, it wasn't. My dear, the 
laughter and the whistle are the easiest parts of the 
mystery. What I want to know is, where is the key 
to the door? It was in the lock when Miss Denton 
went up-stairs the second time." 

"Where, indeed, is it? That would show a good 
deal." 

"If you'll come with me, I'll show it to you. But 
first I think we had better get Mr. Masson. I may 
need a little help in a few moments. Will you kindly 
call him? I'll be in the stable." 

As Valeska left, the palmist strolled slowly over to 
the stable and looked in the great door. In the center 
of the floor stood a large brown touring-car. A young 
man in overalls was polishing the brass work. 

Astro nodded. "A very fine-looking machine," he 
offered. "A Lachmore, isn't it?" 

The chauffeur grunted and kept on with his work:. 

"I am a friend of Mr. Masson's," Astro went on, 
"and I should like to look over this car. I am think- 
ing of getting one myself some day." 

Still the young man did not answer except by in- 
articulate grunts. 

Astro drew nearer. "What's the matter with your 
finger?" he asked abruptly. 

The young man looked up, now angrily, as if about 
to make a discourteous retort. Seeing Masson ap- 
proaching, however, he replied, "Oh, it got jammed 
in the machine a day or two ago. What's that to you ?" 

"I'd like to see it. I can cure it. I am a healer." 

Astro extended his hand suavely. 



THE DENTON BOUDOIR MYSTERY 99 

The young man scowled darkly. "Oh, it's not much. 
No need of bothering you." 

By this time Masson had entered with Valeska. 

"Mr. Masson," said the Seer, "this young man in- 
terests me very much. I have been conscious ever 
since I arrived at Hamphurst of certain very harsh 
and painful vibrations. In the boudoir, these grew 
more intense. I felt something in that room that was 
neither an odor nor a color, but partook of the nature 
of both. Now, singularly enough, I find the same in- 
fluence here, only more active and vibrant. This 
young man has a peculiar aura. I wonder that you 
can not perceive it even with one of your five material 
senses." 

The young man stared, more and more uncomfort- 
able at the talk. Finally he dropped his rag, walked 
round to the back of the car, and took up a heavy 
wrench. 

Astro raised his voice slightly. "Mr. Masson," he 
said, "I can see this fellow's astral body as well as his 
material frame. Now, I notice on the forefinger of 
his left hand, in its astral condition, a small V-shaped 
cut I am very anxious to know whether such a cor- 
responding wound is to be found on his fleshly hand. 
Do you think you could induce him to remove that 
bandage?" 

Masson, mystified, but evidently comprehending 
that something important was at stake, raised his 
voice. "Walters," he said, "kindly oblige me by re- 
moving that rag from your left hand." 

Walters looked up surlily. "I can't, Mr. Masson. It 
would make it bleed again. It bled like anything when 
I jammed it in the machine." 



ioo THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"My friend," said Astro genially, "jammed wounds 
do not bleed to any extent. It is a V-shaped scar 
then?" 

"What of it ?" The chauffeur stood poised in a sin- 
ister attitude. 

"That's what I want to know, too," cried Masson. 
"By heaven! do you mean that this fellow here had 
anything " 

Astro raised his hand. "One moment," he inter- 
rupted. "First, I want to ask you, Walters, to show 
me where the gasoline tank is in this car?" 

A look of terror swept over the young man's face. 
He raised the wrench in his hand and rushed at the 
palmist. Astro avoided him lithely and grappled with 
him. The man struck out, tore himself free, and 
dashed for the door. He would have made his escape 
had not Masson jumped for him. There was another 
scuffle. Masson, now convinced that he had his sweet- 
heart's murderer before him, fought like a maniac. 
Astro, who had been thrown to the ground by the 
force of the blow he had received, now rose, and the 
next moment drew out a revolver and covered his 
prisoner. 

"Let go, or I shoot you like a dog!" he barked out 
between his teeth. "Let him go, Masson ! This is not 
for you. The law will attend to him. The man's evil 
enough; but not so bad as you think. He's no mur- 
derer, really." 

At these words Walters turned to Astro with a 
gleam of hope in his eye. "Oh, I'm not, sir! Before 
God, I had no intention of murdering her! I didn't 
know I had till afterward. I only tried to keep her 
from screaming, and she dropped like a log. It was 



THE DENTON BOUDOIR MYSTERY 101 

that accursed parrot ! Miss Denton was frightened to 
death, sir, and so was I, pretty near." 

Astro spoke sharply. "Valeska, get that halter, and 
I'll fasten him so he'll be safe till the police can get 
here." 

"A parrot," ejaculated Valeska, as she brought the 
halter. "Ah, I see! That accounts for the strange, 
high-pitched voice, the laughter, and the whistling 1" 

"Get up now, and tell your story!" commanded As- 
tro. "And remember that you speak in the presence of 
one to whom everything is revealed. At the slightest 
departure from the truth I shall feel instantly the shift- 
ing of your spectrum, and a change in the amplitude 
of your vibrations. In my crystals I saw the scene; 
but it was dusk, and the glass was cloudy. Tell me 
exactly what happened, and if it coincides with my 
vision you shall have my help in your trial." 

"I'll tell the truth, so help me God!" cried Walters. 
"Listen ! It was this way. It was only her money I 
was after. I had planned it for a week back, knowing 
just when she left the room empty. I got up the side 
stairs, and out on the balcony, and into the tree where 
I could watch her. As soon as she finished dressing 
and put out the light and went down-stairs, I slid on to 
the balcony and slipped into the room. Well, I had 
got her purse and emptied it, when all of a sudden the 
door opened, and in she came; for I hadn't thought 
to lock it. She gave a little scream at seeing me there 
in the dusk, and I grabbed her to keep her from mak- 
ing more noise. Just then Hades seemed to break loose 
all around me. There was a voice yelling, 'Great God ! 
Great God !' and then something feathery came scratch- 
ing and flapping into my face. I put out one hand to 



102 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

ward it off, and got a bite that made me drop my hold 
of the lady. Then as she fell to the floor, there was a 
laugh that made my blood run cold. It laughed and 
laughed fit to kill. I couldn't stand it! I didn't care 
whether I was caught or not then ; I locked the door, 
climbed out on the tree and got down to the ground. I 
didn't dare to run away, for fear I'd be suspected ! but 
after I heard how it came out it was all I could stand 
to stay here. I didn't know what to do about Marie; 
but I hoped she'd get off some way, for I knew they 
never could prove it on her. And that's the truth, so 
help me God ! Where the parrot came from I have no 
idea." 

"It belongs in the next neighbor's house, and has 
been missing for a week," said Masson. "Now I'll go 
and telephone to the police." 

He stopped a moment and looked wistfully at the 
Seer. "Ah, I knew you could do it," he said. "I wish 
you could tell me now how ever to be happy again." 

"There is no such thing as happiness, my friend," 
said Astro seriously. "There is no joy but calm, the 
Eastern books say." 

Masson bowed his head. Then, as he left, he re- 
marked, "I shall send you a check in the morning. 
You will see if I am not grateful." 



"What I don't see is, how you knew the key was 
in the gasoline tank of the auto?" Valeska asked him, 
on the way to town. 

"I am not yet sure that it was, but can you think of 
any safer place for a chauffeur to hide it?" Astro re- 
plied with a smile. 



THE LORSSON ELOPEMENT 

THE Master of Mysteries entered the great studio 
smiling, and, without removing his overcoat or 
silk hat, threw himself on the divan and chuckled. 

Valeska looked up from her desk with a question in 
her eyes, though she did not speak. As Astro did not 
seem inclined to answer, she resumed her work with 
the finger prints. Each one of these, printed in pale 
red ink on a small sheet of bristol board, she exam- 
ined carefully, then with a pencil she traced out the 
primary figure formed by the capillary lines, starting 
from the microscopic triangle on the inside of the fin- 
ger, where the lines, coming from the back, first sep- 
arated, and then following the curve till it met the 
corresponding little triangle or "island" on the out- 
side of the finger. The axes of this diagram were then 
drawn, and the pattern thus defined was entered on 
the card index as an "invaded loop", an "arched 
spiral", or a "whorl", according to Galton's classifica- 
tion. 

So absorbing was her work that it took her whole 
attention, and she did not think again of her employer 
until he spoke aloud. He had thrown off his overcoat 
and put on his oriental turban and his red silk robe 
to be ready for patrons. No visitors had yet appeared 
to interview the palmist, however, and Astro was lazily 
puffing -his narghile. 

103 



104 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Valeska," he said at last, between two long inKala- 
tions of the water-pipe, "did you ever try to put out a 
fire in the grate by covering the front with a blower ?" 

She laid down her pencil and looked up smiling. 
"Why, no. It only makes the fire burn the hotter, 
doesn't it?" 

He nodded his head gravely. "Precisely. And yet 
that's what Mrs. Lorsson is doing with her daughter 
Ruth." 

Valeska waited for something more. 

"I had an interesting time there to-day," he went 
on. "There were a dozen or more pretty well-known 
society women at her tea, and they were all crazy to 
have me read their palms, of course. That was all 
stupid enough, until Ruth Lorsson came in. Have 
you ever seen her?" 

"Oh, yes," said Valeska. "A pretty girl of about 
eighteen, with dark eyes and dark hair, isn't she ? She 
always looks so innocent that I want to pet her." 

"You needn't worry. She has somebody to pet her, 
if I'm not mistaken. And as for being timid and in- 
nocent ; well, you never can tell by the looks ; that is, 
unless you see what -I saw." He smiled again mys- 
teriously. 

"Is she in love then?" Valeska asked. 

"Without doubt, by her handwriting, which I saw 
a sample of you should have seen the double curve 
in the crossing of her t's and by her heart line, too, 
for that matter; and by Her general appearance and 
demeanor, most decidedly. But I had better proof 
than all that." 

"Why, was he there? I could Have told in an in- 
stant, I'm sure." 



THE LORSSON ELOPEMENT 105 

"No, he wasn't there; but another man was; and, 
though it was evident that Mrs. Lorsson considers him 
eligible and is trying to make a match of it, Ruth 
hates him. Of course you or any bright woman could 
have seen that as well as I." 

"Then how did you find out specifically?" 

"Why, in a surreptitious way, I must admit. You 
know that Mrs. Lorsson wanted to exploit me as the 
latest fad, and she insisted that I should come in cos- 
tume. Very well, I was willing to oblige. Mrs. Lars- 
son is rich and influential, and I made out my bill ac- 
cordingly. 

"Well, I was shown up into Miss Ruth's room to 
dress. There on her secretary I happened to see her 
blotter covered with figures. If it had been writing, I 
shouldn't have read it; but I confess that that list of 
numbers piqued my curiosity, and I looked at it. It 
wasn't a sum, or anything like that. It occurred to me 
at first glance that it was a cipher. I don't know why 
perhaps because the thing seemed so meaningless. 
At any rate, it interested me, and I made a copy. Here 
it is." 

He pulled out a note-book and showed Valeska the 
list: 

3 36 91 2 101 91 

4 36 91 43 98 91 

5 36 91 



8 341 91 

i 81 91 71 96 91 
ii 61 91 



'What do you make of it ?" 



io6 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Why, nothing as yet. It's absolutely meaningless." 
Valeska looked up. 

"I agree with you so far. But let me tell you the 
rest of the story. Ruth is, as you know, a very pretty 
young girl; but she's more than that she's clever. 
Of course the cleverness of eighteen isn't quite so deep 
as the cleverness of maturity; but I think she is in- 
telligent enough to keep that stepmother of hers guess- 
ing. Of course one of the first things I said was that 
she was in love. Her stepmother denied it so indig- 
nantly that I immediately smelled a mouse. Ruth 
didn't betray herself; but I noticed that the young 
man who was present immediately began to take no- 
tice. He is Sherman Fuller, and, I imagine from what 
I heard, a millionaire in his own right. Decidedly an 
eligible ! The way Mrs. Lorsson managed him was 
wonderful. There's no doubt that if she can throw 
Ruth at his head she'll do it. He seemed to be per- 
fectly willing ; but Ruth scarcely looked at him. When 
she did, it was with scorn. It was easy enough to see 
how the land lay. She was in love with some one else. 

"Well, I had used my eyes pretty well when I was 
up in her room, and had noticed several things. Among 
these were, first, a Bible on her book-shelf, a half-filled 
box of caramels, a copy of The Star with one page 
torn out, and so on. I tried what the spiritualistic 
mediums call a 'fishing test' on her, saying that I 
thought she was very religious. She smiled rather 
cynically; but her stepmother thought it was wonder- 
ful. 'Why, Ruth goes up to her room every night after 
dinner to read her Bible!' she exclaimed. I next in- 
formed her that she was fond of sweet things, and 



THE LORSSON ELOPEMENT 107 

her stepmother corroborated me by saying that she 
bought a box of candy every day or two. 

"The rest was easy, and doesn't matter. But I could 
see that she was strictly chaperoned. She didn't go out 
of the room without Mrs. Lorsson's asking her where 
she was going, and from the conversation I inferred 
that she went nowhere alone. I was certain it was not 
only mere conventionality. Mrs. Lorsson watches her. 
As I was going out, a maid brought some letters in on 
a salver. One was for Miss Ruth. Mrs. Lorsson 
opened it calmly, as if it were for herself, glanced it 
over, and handed it to her stepdaughter. I have no 
doubt that the letters Miss Ruth writes are inspected 
as well." 

"Isn't it awful?" sighed Valeska. "I thought that 
sort of thing had all gone by nowadays." 

"Not when you have a stepdaughter, and an eligible 
young millionaire to marry her to," said Astro. "That 
woman is a tyrant and a schemer. There's little love 
lost in that family, I'm sure. But now look at the 
cipher again." 

"First, let me think," Valeska said thoughtfully, 
holding the paper in her hand. "Here's a young girl 
who is having a young man, whom she doesn't like, 
forced on her. She is probably in love with another ; 
but is not allowed to see him or to write to him. Well, 
I'd manage to communicate with him in some way." 

"Yes, and you're clever, for eighteen, and you read 
the Bible every night after dinner." 

"Oh!" Valeska's eyes grew bright. "Then these 
figures refer to Bible texts ? But that was the way our 
grandmothers wrote, interlarding their messages with 



108 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Scriptural quotations. I don't really believe Ruth is so 
religious as that." 

"Ah, you don't know your Bible then," Astro re- 
joined, as he went to a bookcase and took down a 
copy. "Why, it's the most wonderful book in the 
world in more ways than one! It not only contains 
the sum of human and divine wisdom, but almost every 
message that one might wish to send. Why, it's a 
ready-made lover's codex! It isn't only the Song of 
Songs that contains beautiful love messages, I assure 
you. They're scattered all through the book." 

"Then these figures must refer to the chapters and 
verses," Valeska said, scrutinizing the numbers. 

"And the books," Astro added. 

Valeska still puzzled over the list of figures. "The 
numbers seem too high for that." 

"And there's our first clue. Now let us examine the 
columns in detail. We'd naturally expect the number 
of the book to come first, the chapter next, and the 
verse last. The highest number in the first row is sev- 
enty-one. But there are only sixty-six books in the 
Bible ; so that can't be the number of any book. Taking 
the second column, we see that the highest number 
is three hundred forty-one. But the longest book in 
the Bible, the book of Psalms, has only one hundred 
and fifty chapters, so that column can't give the 
chapter numbers as it is, at least. The third column 
has only the number ninety-one. That can't be the 
number of every verse." 

He waited for Valeska. She frowned prettily as she 
studied it out. For some time her look was intense, 
rapt. Then, as if some idea passed from him to her, 
her smile came radiantly, and she exclaimed : 



THE LORSSON ELOPEMENT 109 

"The figures are reversed ! What a sly-boots she is !" 
Astro smiled also. "Of course I saw that at the 
first glance. There is a direct corroboration of it plainly 
evident. In the first place, ninety-one reversed is 
nineteen, the number in Biblical order of the book 
of Psalms, which has more personal messages than 
any other book and second we get the chapter one 
hundred forty-three, which could come from no other 
.book, of course. Now let us try and see what we 
get. I'll begin at the top, the sixty-third Psalm, 
verses three, four, and five." And he read aloud : 

" 'Because thy loving kindness is better than 
life, my lips shall praise thee. 

" 'Thus will I bless thee while I live : I will lift 
up my hands in thy name. 

" 'My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and 
fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joy- 
ful lips.' " 

"It's pretty, isn't it?" he asked. 

The tears had come into Valeska's eyes. "Oh, it's 
beautiful !" she exclaimed. "No one could call it sacri- 
legious, even though she has used the words that ap- 
ply to the Almighty for her own lover. She's a dear ! 
It seems wrong to pry into so charming a secret ; but 
I'm dying to hear the rest of it." 

Astro put down the cipher. "This is evidently only 
one side of the correspondence, you must remember. 
If we are to get it all, we must find his answers. That's 
a little more difficult." 

"It seems impossible to me," said Valeska. "You 
only happened on this. I shouldn't know where to look 
for his messages." 



i io THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

He sat down and looked at her seriously. "The 
only way is to use your imagination and your mem- 
ory. Put yourself in her place. You can't trust serv- 
ants or mails. You are watched everywhere except in 
your own room. Think it out ; concentrate your mind 
on the problem." 

Valeska dropped her head on her hand thoughtfully, 
and spoke as if to herself. "Let's see. I am in my 
room alone. I read my Bible and pick out appropriate 
messages. But how do I get them to him?" She 
looked up, puzzled. 

"Never mind that now. How does he communicate 
with you?" 

"There's a box of candy there, and a newspaper " 
She paused and then, gazing at him through narrowed 
eyes, went on. "It must be through the paper ; I can't 
see any other way possible. No one would suspect 
that, if the message were concealed. It might be in 
the ' Personal' column." 

"That's too easy, and it might be noticed. Besides, 
The Star has no 'Personals'." 

"Then It couldn't be in a news item ; for he 
wouldn't be sure of its being inserted, even if he were 
a reporter. It must be in an advertisement." 

He went into the waiting-room, and returned with 
a copy of The Star. 

"Correct," he said. "That's the only possible solu- 
tion. Now the thing to do is to look through this file 
of The Star and see if we can discover any advertise- 
ment that seems suspicious. First, what date shall we 
lookup?" 

Valeska returned to the paper on which the num- 
bers were written. "Well," she said, "if it were I, I 



THE LORSSON ELOPEMENT in 

should want to have a message as often as possible. If 
I send him my texts every night, he ought to reply 
in the morning paper. This paper seems to show four 
messages. The last one must be yesterday's. That 
would bring his first advertisement just four days ago 
Monday, May twenty-fifth." 

He turned to the file, and they looked over the pages 
together, her chin on his shoulder, Astro's long fore- 
finger hovering at one advertisement after another, 
his suave voice keeping up a running commentary : 

"We'll omit the displayed ads. He's probably poor, 
or Ruth's stepmother wouldn't object to him; so 
couldn't afford that, and besides they would be too 
conspicuous. All the little ones are classified under 
heads. Let's see: 'Automobiles/ h'm, all well- 
known second-hand shops. 'Lawyers/ nothing there. 
'Real Estate, Villa Lots/ don't see anything, do you ? 
'Furnished Rooms.' 'Unfurnished Flats/ let's go 
carefully here. What we want is three figures. We'll 
recognize them by the wording, if they're put in on 
purpose. I don't see anything- there. H'm, 'For Sale/ 
go slow now ! 'Fixtures/ 'Bargains/ 'Typewriters.' 
'Sacrifice/ well! what do you think of that? Eu- 
reka!" 

His finger stopped at a three-line notice, which read : 

FOR SALE 

19 vols. of Sir Roger de Coverley, 63 illustra- 
tions on wood; $6 and $8 each. G. P. James & 
Co., Flatiron Bldg. 

"Now, isn't that crazy enougK to tie suspicious? 
'Nineteen' again, too, her favorite number. Who ever 
heard of Sir Roger de Coverley, except in the papers 



112 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

of The Spectator, anyway ? There you are : 19 : 63 6 
and 8. Look it up !" 

Valeska flew to the Bible and turned to the Psalms, 
and read from the sixty-third chapter : 

" 'When I remember thee upon my bed, and 
meditate on thee in the night watches. 

" 'My soul followeth hard after thee : thy right 
hand upholdeth me.' " 

"The blessed infants ! Isn't it perfectly lovely? Ruth 
must have had hard work to answer that ; but the one 
she sent was nearly as good, wasn't it? Oh, let's find 
the next one, and get the whole correspondence quick ! 
It's too exciting !" 

Astro opened the issue of the twenty-sixth, and 
scanned the advertisements carefully. It was some 
time before they found it, and several false clues were 
followed up. Valeska, thinking she had discovered the 
secret, would hurriedly take the Bible, only to be re- 
ferred to some such text in Ezra as, 

"'The children of Magbish, an hundred fifty 
and six. 

"'The children of Kirjath-arim, Chephirah, and 
Beeroth, seven hundred and forty and three, ' " 

and would go off into peals of laughter. Some of these 
false scents led deep into the "Begats" ; some led into 
the whale's belly. 

But at last the right one was discovered in the "Sec- 
ond Hand" column, which read, innocently enough : 

FOR SALE : 64 good, 1st class, 2d hand tables. 
Address CHESTER, Star Office. 



THE LORSSON ELOPEMENT 113 

And, turning, therefore, to the third book of John, 
chapter one, verse two, she read aloud: 

"'Beloved, I wish above all things that thou 
mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul 
prospereth.' " 

"Now let's arrange the whole correspondence as 
far as we have it," Valeska suggested, after the four 
messages were all deciphered. "It certainly is a charm- 
ing set of love-letters !" 

"It may well be, written by the ablest literary men 
of King James' epoch," said Astro. "You read off the 
texts, and I'll write them down. It's a relief from 
solving murder mysteries and dynamite outrages and 
stolen jewels." 

Valeska, having the references checked off, read as 
follows, insisting that Ruth's lover should be called 
Chester, from the name in the second advertisement. 

Ruth 

"'I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. (Ps. 
18:1.) 

"Thou wilt shew me the path of life; in thy 
presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there 
are pleasures for evermore/" (Ps. 16:11.) 

Chester 

" 'And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I 
wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that 
which we had from the beginning, that we love 
one another. (2 John, 5.) 

"'I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul 
thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah."' 
(Ps. 143:6.) 



ii4 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Ruth 

" 'I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. 
O when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk 
within my house with a perfect heart. (Ps. 
101:2.) 

"'My covenant will I not break, nor alter the 
thing that is gone out of my lips.'" (Ps. 89:34.) 

Chester 

" 'How sweet are thy words unto my taste ! yea, 
sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Ps. 119: 103.) 

"'Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there 
is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.' " (Ps. 
73:25.) 

Ruth 

" 'Cause me to hear thy loving kindness in the 
morning ; for in thee do I trust : cause me to know 
the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my 
soul unto thee. (Ps. 143:8.) 

" 'And hide not thy face from thy servant ; for I 
am in trouble; hear me speedily.' " (Ps. 69-17.) 

Valeska reread the whole series, and her eyes 
burned deep. Astro watched her pretty serious face 
without a word, waiting for her comments. The tears 
glistened in her eyes as she said finally : 

"Oh ! can't we help them somehow? Surely you can, 
if you only will!" 

Astro recited whimsically to himself: 

"'They warned him of her, 

And they warned her of him; 
And the courtship proceeded 
To go on with a vim !' " 

"It's altogether too romantic for us to interfere with. 
Let them have their clandestine correspondence; it 
makes the affair interesting. Wait till we read his re- 



THE LORSSON ELOPEMENT 115 

ply in to-morrow's Star, Valeska. Perhaps they can 
manage it themselves." 

This was all she could get out of the Master of Mys- 
teries that day; but she knew from his silent contem- 
plation that he had not stopped thinking the matter 
over. She herself puzzled her wits as to how Ruth 
had communicated with her lover, until she had to give 
it up. She knew that if she waited Astro would solve 
that mystery, if indeed he had not already found it out. 

She came into the studio next morning excitedly. 
"Oh ! isn't it awful ?" were her first words. She held 
the morning Star out to him, with an anxious look. 

Astro smiled and pointed to another copy which 
lay on his great table where his astrological charts 
were spread out. "It's only a lover's quarrel, I think. 
He's a little jealous of that Sherman Fuller, I im- 
agine." 

"Well, that's enough. I should trunk Chester would 
be wild!" 

"Well," said Astro, yawning, "I'm glad he made 
one jump out of the Psalms, anyway. I was getting 
tired of that number nineteen. Job is a good place for 
a jealous man to look. You'd better add his remarks 
to our list." 

Valeska, therefore, wrote down the following texts, 
which she had drawn from the advertisement of that 
morning's paper: 

Chester 

" 'I prevented the dawning of the morning, and 
cried : I hoped in thy word. (Ps. 119 : 147.) 

"'Thou boldest mine eyes waking: I am so 
troubled that I can not speak. (Ps, 77:4.) 



ii6 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

" 'Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, 
and mine acquaintance into darkness. (Ps. 18:18.) 

" 'When I thought to know this, it was too pain- 
ful for me. ( Ps. 73:16.) 

" 'Why doth thine heart carry thee away ? and 
what do thine eyes wink at . . . ? (Job 15:12.) 

" 'Deliver my soul from the sword ; my darling 
from the power of the dog.' " (Ps. 22 :20. ) 

"Surely you'll help them out now, won't you ?" Va- 
leska pleaded. "We can't let it all be spoiled this way ! 
Think how hard it is for her to explain !" 

"Trust her" said Astro, shaking his head. "Only 
I'd like to know how she does it ; that's all I want. I 
propose that we take a walk out to Fifty-third Street 
this evening. You know she goes up-stairs into her 
room every night after dinner, say from eight till nine 
o'clock. I think if we walk up and down in front of 
that block we may find something doing." 

"Oh, I hope we'll find Chester, anyway !" Valeska 
exclaimed. 



They proceeded as he had suggested, that evening, 
to walk up Fifth Avenue after dinner, reaching Fifty- 
third Street at a few minutes past eight. Astro 
pointed out Ruth's window, which was already lighted. 
Then together they walked slowly up and down on the 
opposite side of the street, keeping the house well in 
view. 

They had not been there for more than ten minutes, 
when the sash was suddenly thrown up in Ruth Lors- 
son's room. They could see her form silhouetted 
against the light. A white something was thrown out, 
and fell on the sidewalk. Immediately a man emerged 



THE LORSSON ELOPEMENT 117 

from the shadow of the adjacent doorway, ran down 
the steps, picked up the white package, and walked 
rapidly up the street. 

"It's Chester !" Valeska exclaimed. 

"Yes, we must find out where he lives and who he 
is," was Astro' s reply. "You had better go home, and 
I'll follow him." 

The man had walked off so rapidly that she saw it 
would be useless to attempt to keep up with him, much 
less overtake him, and she tried to stifle her disap- 
pointment as Astro, leaving her, walked quickly up 
the street. As Chester walked, she saw him tear some- 
thing from the package he carried. Then another 
white piece dropped. She followed far enough to dis- 
cover what the fragments were the sides of an empty 
candy box which Ruth Lorsson had thrown into the 
street. Her message had indubitably been written on 
the bottom, since he had thrown all the rest away. 

"I see now why Miss Ruth is so fond of candy/' 
Valeska said to herself. "A note thrown from the win- 
dow would be too dangerous and too hard to find. It's 
ridiculously simple ! I think I'm growing fond of that 
girl." 



Next day Astro appeared at the studio with the in- 
formation that the young man's name was indeed 
Chester ; that he was an artist or illustrator for maga- 
zines ; and that he lived on the south side of Washing- 
ton Square. 

"He's getting into a terrible state," said Valeska. 
"Did you read his advertisement this morning? It 
was under 'Lawyers' this time." 



ii8 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"I haven't had time to look over The Star. What 
is it?" 

Valeska read from her list the last addition: 

" Tor thou hast made him most blessed for- 
ever; thou hast made him exceeding glad with thy 
countenance. (Ps. 21 : 6.) 

" 'Thou hast given him his heart's desire, and 
hast not withholden the request of his lips. Selah. 
.(Ps. 21:2.) 

"'Yea, they opened their mouth wide against 
me, and said, Aha, aha, our eye hath seen it. (Ps. 
35:21.) 

"'I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I 
go mourning all the day long.'" (Ps. 38:6.) 

"Poor devil!" Astro grew serious. "I did see a 
paragraph in Town Gossip this morning about a Fifty- 
third Street belle who was about to make a brilliant 
match. It was thinly disguised, and evidently referred 
to Ruth Lorsson." 

"He evidently believes she is engaged," said Va- 
leska ; "but I don't. No girl would give up such a ro- 
mantic lover." 

"Now," said Astro, "the question is: How are we 
going to get hold of her side of the correspondence? 
I'm getting as interested in this affair as if I were 
paid for it. The fact that there is a misunderstanding 
does alter the matter too, and I don't see but that we'll 
have to straighten it out if we can. I've thought of a 
way to get hold of to-night's message by a trick. It 
may work, and it may not. Of course it's rather low 
of us to interfere with their private post-office ; but we 
may be able to make that up to them later. Anyway, 



THE LORSSON ELOPEMENT 119 

it will make it exciting for them. I'm going to bait a 
box myself," he went on, "and place it on the sidewalk 
at a quarter of eight. Chester will arrive and think 
that for some reason she has already thrown it out, 
and he'll take it and make off. Then, when she throws 
her own box out, we'll grab it." 

The temptation was too great for Valeska's curi- 
osity, and she gave a hesitating consent, on the agree- 
ment that it should be tried only once. "But you'll 
have to put a message on the box, or he'll know there's 
something wrong," she said. 

"Turn to Psalms 102. I think that will not compro- 
mise her too much," Astro said. 



" 'My heart is smitten, and withered like grass ; 
so that I forget to eat my bread. (Ps. 102:4.) 

"'Because of thine indignation and thy wrath: 
for thou hast lifted me up, and cast me down.' " 
(Ps. 102:10.) 



The ruse succeeded. Shortly after eight o'clock, 
Chester came walking down the street, spied the box 
which Astro had placed conspicuously on the sidewalk, 
examined it quickly, and walked hurriedly away. Fif- 
teen minutes later, Ruth's box dropped from the win- 
dow. Astro secured it and took it to a near-by lamp 
post, looked at the figures, and then consulted a small 
Bible which he drew from his pocket. 

"This is too bad," he said to Valeska, who had ac- 
companied him. "I didn't think she'd be so strong. 
It won't do for him to miss this message, poor chap ! 
Here, read it :" 



120 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

" 'Deliver me not over unto the the will of mine 
enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against 
me, and such as breathe out cruelty. (Ps. 27:12.) 

" 'I have not sat with vain persons, neither will 
I go in with dissemblers. (Ps. 26:4.) 

" 'But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity : 
redeem me, and be merciful unto me.'" (Ps. 26: 
11.) 

"I'll tell you what'll do," said Astro, "we'll send this 
down to his house by a messenger boy. He won't 
know what to make of it ; but he won't be able to ask 
her how it was delivered till it's all over." 

The message was sent at once ; then, as Astro walked 
with Valeska to her home, he said : 

"We can't do this again; it will make too much 
trouble. You'll have to see if you can't get into his 
studio some way and find out what messages he is re- 
ceiving. You can go and offer yourself as a model. 
That will give you plenty of time to look about, and 
you may manage to find the bottoms of the boxes every 
day. If I know the young man in love, he won't de- 
stroy them." 

Valeska consented to attempt the adventure, and ac- 
cordingly set out the next morning after entering on 
her list the following message deciphered from Ches- 
ter's advertisement in The Star: 



"'Let the lying lips be put to silence; which 
speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously 
against the righteous. (Ps. 31 : 18.) 

" 'For I said in my haste, I am cut off from be- 
fore thine eyes : nevertheless thou heardest the 
voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee. 
(Ps. 31:22.) 



THE LORSSON ELOPEMENT 121 

" 'In the day when I cried them answeredst me, 
and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul. 
(Ps. 138:3.) 

" 'So foolish was I, and ignorant : I was as a 
beast before thee.' " (Ps. 73:22.) 

Astro worked all day in his studio alone, reading 
palms and casting horoscopes for his fashionable cli- 
ents, and during the leisure times between their calls, 
casting many a glance across to the desk where his 
pretty blond assistant was wont to look up at him with 
such animation whenever he spoke. The velvet hang- 
ings were dull and shadowy, and the high lights on 
trophies of arms and tinseled costumes on the wall 
twinkled through the dusk, when the portieres parted, 
and Valeska, smartly attired, gloved and feathered, 
appeared. Astro smiled for almost the first time that 
day. She sank into a deep divan to get her breath. 
He turned on a light above her head. 

"He's a perfect dear !" she said as soon as she could 
speak. "He isn't at all handsome, in fact he's ugly; 
but he's the most romantic and kind-hearted chap in 
the world. I'd trust him anywhere. He has red hair, 
and twinkling blue eyes, and fine teeth, and so young 
why he made me feel eighty years old ! It was too 
easy! I was just what he wanted, and I was intelli- 
gent, and he liked my hands." She extended them 
gracefully for Astro to admire. He kissed her fin- 
ger-tips. 

"It was a funny old place, all full of canvases with 
their faces to the wall, and dust, and pewter pots, and 
brushes, and old magazines, and everything". It smelled 
horribly of tobacco and turpentine; but it was such 
fun ! I didn't have to do much detective work, either. 



122 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Do you know, the child actually had all those candy- 
box bottoms nailed in a row on the wall over the man- 
tel-piece! I felt like a thief. There they were, all of 
them you got the list of, and the one we sent last night, 
and there was a shabby Bible on his mantel-piece." 

"How did he treat you?" 

Valeska laughed. "Well, not in a way to make me 
conceited. Oh, he's in love, all right. He looked at 
me exactly as if he were purchasing a horse. I almost 
expected him to open my mouth and examine my teeth 
to see how old I was. But he was nice, all the same, 
and delighted to find a model that had brains and 
could take and hold a pose. My, if I'm not tired, 
though ! I was supposed to be playing on a piano 
the table and looking up mischievously over my 
shoulder. I ache all over!" 

"Of course he didn't say anything significant?" 

"No. But he stopped working every little while and 
began to think; and I knew what that meant. Then 
he'd go to the window and look out for a long while, 
and then come back and draw like mad. Oh, he had 
all the signs ! Poor boy !" 

"Does he want you to-morrow?" 

"Yes, all this week." 

"Good ! By that time I think we shall have arranged 
'some plan to help him. If I bought a picture or two, 
it might help, perhaps." 

Valeska posed for Chester the six days, returning 
each evening to the studio to report to Astro, each 
time more interested in the love-affair. Each day she 
wrote down the cipher message printed in The Star, 
and the text she found in the studio written on Ruth's 




" He looked at me as if he were purchasing a horse." 



THE LORSSON ELOPEMENT 123 

candy box. At the end of the week the courtship be- 
gan to approach a crisis, as the correspondence showed. 

Ruth 

" 'He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within 
my house; he that tell eth lies shall not tarry in 
my sight. (Ps. 101:7.) 

" 'But thou art the same, and thy years shall 
have no end.'" (Ps. 102:27.) 

Chester 

" 'I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way 
which thou shalt go : I will guide thee with mine 
eye.'" (Ps. 32:8.) 

Ruth 

" 'And I will delight myself in thy command- 
ments, which I have loved. (Ps. 119:47.) 

"'But mine enemies are lively, and they are 
strong: and they that hate me wrongfully are 
multiplied. Ps. 38: 19.) 

" 'All that hate me whisper together against me : 
against me do they devise my hurt.' " (Ps. 41 :7.) 

Chester 

"'Let not them that are mine enemies wrong- 
fully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with 
the eye that hate me without a cause. (Ps. 
35:19.) 

" 'Let them be turned back for a reward of 
their shame that say, Aha, aha/" (Ps. 70:3.) 

Ruth 

"'Pull me out of the net that they have laid 
privily for me: for thou art my strength. (Ps. 
31 : 4.) 

" 'Then call thou, and I will answer : or let me 
speak and answer thou me/ " (Job 13 :22.) 



i2 4 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Chester 

"'Having many things to write unto you, I 
would not write with paper and ink : but I trust to 
come unto you, and speak face to face, that our 
joy may be full.' " (2 John:12.) 

Ruth 

"'They gather themselves together, they hide 
themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait 
for my soul. (Ps. 56: 6.) 

" 'And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove ! 
for then I would fly away, and be at rest. (Ps. 
55:6.) 

" 'I would hasten my escape from the windy 
storm and tempest. (Ps. 55:8.) 

" 'That thy beloved may be delivered ; save with 
thy right hand, and hear me/" (Ps. 60:5.) 

Chester 

"'And it shall be, if thou go with us, yea, it 
shall be, that what goodness the Lord shall do 
unto us, the same will we do unto thee. 5 " (Num. 
10:32.) 

Ruth 

" 'Then said I, Lo, I come : in the volume of the 
book it is written of me. (Ps. 40: 7.) 

"'And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, 
or to return from following after thee: for 
whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou 
lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my 
people, and thy God my God.' " (Ruth 1 :16.) 

"It is getting serious, isn't it?'* said Valeska, wHen 
she brought the last message of Ruth's. "Poor Ches- 
ter is half crazy. He's been working like mad to get 
some illustrations for The Universal Magazine done; 
so as to get money enough to get married on, I sup- 



THE LORSSON ELOPEMENT 125 

pose. But how in the world they are going to elope, 
I don't see." 

"Love laughs at locksmiths," said Astro. 

"But not at stepmothers. All the same, they're go- 
ing to do it somehow, and I want to see the fun. It's 
bound to come off in a day or so now. I'm dying to 
speak of it to Chester and offer to help him ; but I'm 
afraid it would spoil his fun. Hadn't we better just 
play about on the edge of it, and be ready for anything 
that happens ?" 

"It all depends on the next message. You go to the 
studio to-morrow and see if you can't find out about 
the elopement." 

"All right," said Valeska. 

At ten o'clock the next morning Astro received by 
a messenger a hurriedly penciled note. It read : 

"Something awful has happened ! Chester broke 
his leg last night, and was taken to the hospital; 
but when it was set (the leg), he insisted on being 
brought home to the studio. He's almost crazy, 
and has a fever, and I'm sure the elopement was 
planned for to-night. I'll get it out of him some- 
how, and you must tell me what to do. Here's the 
text he got last night: I can't make it out; so 
please tell me immediately. V." 

The text indicated was from the fifty-ninth Psalm, 
verse fourteen: 

" 'And at evening let them return ; and let them 
make a noise like a dog, and go round about the 
city.'" 

As soon as Astro had looked it up, he put on his hat 
and coat, and jumping into his green limousine drove 
to Washington Square. 



126 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

It was half past eight when Ruth Lorsson raised 
the shade of her window and threw up the sash. It 
was raining, and the asphalt pavement shimmered with 
reflected lights. At the curb opposite her house a 
taxicab was waiting. She looked at it eagerly. 

There came a sudden noise like the barking of a dog 
repeated three times. Ruth smiled, let doton the sash, 
and drew the shade. Then, stuffing a package wrapped 
in a towel inside her full blouse, she ran down-stairs. 

"Ruth, child! what are you doing?" Mrs. Lorsson's 
voice came petulantly. 

Ruth hovered a moment by the doorway, to say, in 
a voice that trembled a little, "Oh, I only want to get 
the Smiths' address from one of their cards on the 
hall table." 

She walked swiftly to the front door, opened it 
noiselessly, slipped out, and shut it carefully behind 
her. She had to slam it to make it latch, and the 
jar frightened her. She fairly flew down the steps 
now, and ran across the street straight for the cab. 
The door in its side swung open, and she popped in- 
side. The cab instantly drove off at a furious pace. 

There was a dark figure inside. She snuggled up to 
it deliciously. "Oh, Harry!" she breathed. "At last! 
Oh, I thought this time never would come!" Then 
with a little scream she jumped away from him. "Who 
are you !" she demanded. Her voice rang with terror. 

"My dear," said Astro, "don't be frightened. Mr. 
Chester couldn't come. He has had a slight accident ; 
but not bad enough to prevent his being married to- 
night. I'm going to have the pleasure of giving you 
away. I have your bridesmaid all ready at the studio." 

"Why, how did you know?" she demanded, staring 



THE LORSSON ELOPEMENT 127 

at him. Then, as an electric light suddenly illuminated 
the interior of the cab, she recognized the fine pic- 
turesque features of the Master of Mysteries, and gave 
a little sigh of relief. "Oh, it's Astro!" she exclaimed. 
"You know everything, don't you? Did you see it 
in your crystal ball ?" 

He smiled as he replied, "My dear, I saw it in your 
pretty eyes the first time I saw you." 

"But tell me about Harry ! Oh, I am so frightened ! 
It must be a bad accident to keep him away to-night." 

He reassured her, and they drove on she, excited, 
eager with anticipation, fearful of the step she had 
taken, but more and more confident in Astro's protec- 
tion. They reached Washington Square, and hurried 
to the studio. Valeska met them at the door with a 
smile. For a moment Ruth eyed her suspiciously. 

"Your bridesmaid," said Astro. 

Ruth, relieved, but anxious for a sight of her lover, 
darted by with hardly a glance, and ran to the bed 
where Harry Chester lay, weak, but impatiently await- 
ing her. 

"Oh, Harry!" 

"Oh, Ruth!" 



Astro and Valeska walked into the hall. "Well," 
said Astro, "I hope she's satisfied now. She has lost 
four millions and three magnificent houses, not to speak 
of a permanent place in smart society." 

"For which she'd have to pay all her life," said 
Valeska. "If you ask me, I'd say she's got a bargain. 
Come, let's call in the minister ! I'm going to wait and 
see it out !" 



THE CALENDON KIDNAP- 
ING CASE 

HARDLY had Astro's office hours begun, one 
morning, when Valeska threw back the black 
velvet portieres of the great studio, and motioned her 
visitors to enter. They came in anxiously a dignified 
but careworn haggard man of fifty and his hysterical 
sobbing wife. Apparently they expected immediately 
to meet the Master of Mysteries face to face ; for they 
looked curiously about the richly decorated apartment 
with a hesitating air. 

"You'll have to wait a few moments," said the girl 
in a friendly voice. "The Master is at present rapt in 
a psychic trance, and can not be disturbed. Excuse 
me while I prepare for his awakening. It is dangerous 
to call him too suddenly ; but I know your business is 
urgent, and I'll do what I can." 

With that, she took from a small antique reliquary 
a handful of green powder and scattered it on a censer. 
Almost immediately it flared up and sent forth an aro- 
matic smoke. It flickered eerily as she left them. 
Once alone, she entered a small chamber off the recep- 
tion-room, and turned on the studio lights from an 
electric switch. 

In the place where she stood now, looking into a 
large mirror, she could see the visitors, vividly illum- 

128 



THE CALENDON KIDNAPING CASE 129 

inated, as if in a camera obscura. The man sat list- 
lessly staring straight ahead of him without movement 
of any kind. The woman gazed, with raised eyebrows 
and a half-startled expression, from one curious ob- 
ject to another. The skull in a corner made her trem- 
ble. Her fingers plucked nervously at her wrap. It 
was evident that she was fearfully distraught. 

Astro entered the cabinet and cast his eyes on the 
glass. His assistant leaned close to him and whis- 
pered : 

"A kidnaping case. The Calendons' little boy was 
stolen a week or so ago, don't you remember? It's 
really dreadful. The police have been unable to locate 
the child anywhere, and the parents are half crazy 
about it. She poured it all out to me while they were 
waiting for you. I do hope you can do something !" 

The Seer's eyes were busy in the mirror. "Yes, I 
know. He's a director in the tobacco trust. I'd have 
known it, anyway, by that little gold cigar on his 
watch-charm. A dozen of them were made for souve- 
nirs when the combine was first organized. He hasn't 
slept for two or three nights. But what's he doing 
with The Era? He'd naturally be a reader of The 
Planet. Oh, I see! The kidnapers, of course, have 
asked him to communicate with them through the 
'Personal' column. So they've begun to work him 
already. Poor devil!" 



It was an agonizing 1 story that fell from the lips of 
Calendon a little later; one which, in all the sensa- 
tional events of the Seer's career in the solution of 
mysteries, long- stood out as unique. Used as was 



130 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Astro to astonishing recitals, there was a ferocity 
about this crime that astonished him. Calendon recited 
the details in a voice as hard and strained as a taut 
wire. 

"My five-year-old boy, Harold, has been missing 
for ten days, having been kidnaped and kept in hiding 
by the most merciless gang of fiends in New York. I 
try to restrain myself, sir, in order to tell you the 
story concisely; but I assure you that it is hard to 
speak calmly. My child was abducted in Central Park, 
where he had gone with his nurse. He had strayed a 
little away from her at the time. I can not think the 
crime was committed with her connivance. Neverthe- 
less, she has been closely watched. I have not spared 
money, I assure you. I at once notified the police, and 
they have been at work on the case, without results, so 
far." He paused for a moment, almost overcome. 

His wife interrupted him with a cry of anguish 
pitiful to hear. "Oh, James! how can you sit there 
and tell all that? Why don't you tell him immediately 
what has happened to-day ? Why don't you show him 
the terrible thing?" She dropped her face in her 
hands and sobbed aloud. Valeska, deeply moved her- 
self, tried in vain to comfort her. 

Calendon put a trembling hand into his pocket and 
drew out a package wrapped in paper. Silently he 
handed it to the palmist. Astro took it and carefully 
undid the wrapping. 

Inside was disclosed a small tin box, such as tobacco 
of the sliced-plug variety usually comes in. This, 
opened, showed an object in crumpled oiled paper, 
packed in the box with cotton-wool. Astro, with a 
grave expression on his face, picked the thing up and 




"Why don't you show him the terrible thing? 



THE CALENDON KIDNAPING CASE 131 

looked carefully at it. With great caution, then he 
slowly unfolded the paper. It was a child's toe. 

For a few minutes not a sound was heard in the 
studio, save Mrs. Calendon's choking sobs, and the 
intake of her husband's deep breaths as he endeavored 
to master his emotion. Astro put aside the gruesome 
object with its wrappings, and then extended his hand 
and grasped Calendon's with a strong encouraging 
pressure. 

"Mr. Calendon," he said simply, "I am at your serv- 
ice. I thank God that I have had some success in 
tracking down worse crimes than this, and what I can 
do in this matter shall be done without reward. Cheer 
up, Mr. Calendon ; I can help you ! Madam, pray 
accept my sympathy; but master yourself, for I must 
hear the whole story." 

Calendon moistened his lips, pulled himself together, 
and looked gratefully at the slender poetic figure be- 
fore him. "I'll tell you the rest of the story now, and 
I pray to God that you can help !" He turned to his 
wife, and after she was calmer he proceeded. 

"It's devilishly ingenious, sir. What they are hold- 
ing the boy for is in order to get tips on the market. 
That's their price. I got from them the third day a 
typewritten, unsigned letter telling me that if I valued 
the life of my boy, I should give them inside informa- 
tion of the stock market. They furnished me with a 
cipher, an easy one that simply reads backward, and 
by means of it I communicate with them every morn- 
ing in the personal column of The Era. I am not a 
stock gambler, sir, although I have a fair knowledge 
of current Wall Street probabilities, and I soon ex- 
hausted what information I had, and it became harder 



132 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

and harder to deliver the goods. You know how these 
things go: a big deal isn't pulled off every day, and, 
not being on the inside, I had to get down on my knees 
to beg for news from the men on the Street who were 
able to help me. A few have interested themselves in 
my misfortune and assisted me; but they're a cold- 
blooded set as a rule. But for a week I kept these 
bloodsuckers posted as well as I could, and I had good 
luck with my predictions. They must have made 
thousands; but still they wouldn't give up the boy. 
Why should they? They have a good thing, and 
intend to work it for all it's worth. 

"But yesterday great God ! yesterday I advertised 
in good faith to buy Continental Zinc. It was selling 
at 31, and I had figured on a big dividend being de- 
clared so my advice had it but instead the direct- 
ors voted to pass it, and the stock fell six points. It 
rallied later, on the mine reports ; but the rise came too 
late." 

He stopped to draw a typewritten slip from his 
pocket. "Here's what came in the box/' he said brok- 
enly, and hid his face in his hands. Mrs. Calendon 
began weeping afresh. 

Astro took the note and read it : 

"This is what we'll do every time you fool us. 
Be sharp!" 

For some time Astro gazed at the sheet of paper, 
then rose and put it away with the other relics. "Have 
you the other letter here?" 

Calendon took an envelope from his inside pocket 
and handed it to the palmist. 

Astro held the envelope to the light, smelled of it, 



THE CALENDON KIDNAPING CASE 133 

looked at the flap for a minute with his lens, then 
placed it on a side table. At last he rose and walked 
quietly over to a cupboard, from which he took a 
large crystal ball. This he placed on a black velvet 
cushion. He gazed into the sphere long and earnestly. 
It was his way of gaining time for reflection. 

The Seer finally drew his long slim hand across his 
forehead and nodded his head. "There is no one you 
suspect? No woman?" he asked deliberately. 

Calendon shook his head in silence. 

"My nurse girl has been completely prostrated by 
the shock," Mrs. Calendon volunteered. "We are 
both sure she is innocent." 

"There is a woman concerned in this, nevertheless. 
Now tell me what the police have done. They have 
tried to trace the buyers of the stocks you tipped off, 
I presume?" 

"Certainly. We have tried to find what persons, 
if any, have profited by all the tips; but have been 
unsuccessful. I shall have a list, to-night probably, of 
all the buyers of Continental Zinc, eliminating, of 
course, the names of those who have bought for in- 
vestment. The criminals are undoubtedly speculating 
on a margin, so there's little use looking up the records 
of the transfer office." 

"You have your tip for to-morrow all ready for the 
newspaper ?" 

"Yes, and this time I'm sure it's safe." 

"Very well, then, proceed as usual. You have, I 
suppose, your own detectives working on the case ?" 

"Yes. Can they do anything for you ?" 

"I'll telephone you early in the morning," said Astro, 
rising. "To-night I shall be busy. I shall cast the 



134 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

child's horoscope, and find out the best path to pursue. 
Kindly give me the exact hour of Harold's birth." 

He wrote it down solemnly, then pressed an elec- 
tric bell. Valeska appeared in the doorway ; the visit- 
ors followed her into the waiting-room to the outer 
door. 

Before she left, Mrs. Calendon took the girl's hand. 
"Oh, he's a wonderful man !" she exclaimed. "Some- 
how I have great faith in him. I'm strengthened 
already. He seems to know everything. Such eyes !" 

Her husband shook his head skeptically and went 
out without a word. 

Astro, meanwhile, had turned eagerly to the things 
that had been brought him, the lines of his olive face 
set and determined. From the inspired mystic to the 
man of practical analytic mind, the transition had 
been instantaneous. All pose was now dropped. His 
inspection was so absorbing that he did not notice 
Valeska's entrance. She did not speak, therefore, and 
watched him as he pored over the envelope, then at 
the oiled-paper wrapping of the horrid relic. Half an 
hour went by, during which the palmist rose several 
times to pace up and down the length of the dim 
studio. Once he took down a book from his shelves 
and ran hurriedly through its pages, stopping to mark 
a diagram. Valeska tiptoed across, and looked at the 
volume. It was Galton's Finger Prints, a classifica- 
tion of all the known capillary markings of the digital 
tips. It was an hour before Astro put up his work, 
much of which time had been spent merely in sitting 
with half-closed eyes, inert. Then he rose and 
yawned. 

"Well, little girl, a bit of supper wouldn't go bad, 



THE CALENDON KIDNAPING CASE 135 

would it?" he said gaily. "Afterward, you may sit 
at my feet, and I shall tell you of my desire to meet 
a lady that takes snuff, whose left thumb shows an 
invaded loop with two eyeleted rods ; also, of my inter- 
est in a gentleman that rolls his own smokes on a 
Moule a Cigarettes and gambles in Continental Zinc." 

Valeska shook her head, puzzled. 

"You heard what Calendon said, of course?" 

"Yes, I was in the cabinet all the time. But of 
course I haven't studied your evidence yet." 

"Nor shall you this night, by Rameses! A crystal- 
gazer has to make his living on the curiosity of women. 
Kindly let me enjoy your curiosity this evening; and, 
that you may not be a loser, I shall explain to you the 
fallacies in Doctor Lasker's analysis of the Ruy Lopez 
opening. Meanwhile, let us try some of that new 
Assyrian jelly which I sent for so long ago. If you 
wish to add anything more substantial, I won't object, 
although I am a vegetarian, a Mahatma, an astrologer, a 
cabalist, a student of Higher Space, and a thorough 
believer in the doctrine that an ounce of mystery is 
worth a pound of commonplace. Selah. I have 
spoken." 

During the meal, no one would have supposed by 
his animation that the occult Seer was confronted by 
the most difficult problem his profession had ever set 
before him. He joked like a young boy. His pretty 
assistant was kept in rippling peals of laughter. After 
dinner he produced a chess-board with ivory men, and 
the girl puzzled with him over innumerable variations 
of his favorite opening. They followed this by some 
of the regular chess problems, ending with several of 
his own. The last, finally, being too difficult, he left 



136 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

unfinished, sent Valeska home in his motor-car, and 
himself went to bed. 



The next morning Astro looked, the first thing, at 
The Era personals. Calendon's advertisement read 
as follows: 

ERUS : '97 Otog Lliwcirt celen atil opom S. O. C. 

"I think," he said thoughtfully, "that it will hardly 
be dishonorable for me to plunge in Cosmopolitan 
Electric, so long as I'm not going to let Mr. Calendon 
pay me for this affair. Let's see. Sold yesterday at 
75. If I can get it at five points margin, an investment 
of one thousand dollars will bring me in about eight 
hundred. I'll be able to get that Coptic manuscript I 
have been wanting so long. Now for Mr. Calendon !" 

He took his telephone, and was soon in communica- 
tion with his client. "What have you found out?" he 
asked. 

"Twelve persons bought Continental Zinc," was the 
answer. "Of these, seven were legitimate investors. 
I have the names of the other five." 

"Very good. Send your chief of detectives up to 
me in a hurry. There are some investigations they 
can make while I'm at work on a more important 
aspect of the case." 

"Have you found out anything?" came the anxious 
inquiry. 

"I am on the track. Have courage, and follow in- 
structions. Tell Mrs. Calendon that she will not be 
disappointed in my work." 

After Astro's routine work that day, Valeska came 



THE CALENDON KIDNAPING CASE 137 

into the studio, unable any longer to control her curi- 
osity. 

Astro drew out the evidence in the case and spread 
it before her. "All life is made up of trivial actions," 
he began. "Every one of them leaves its little trace. 
Whether you are tracking a bear by its footprints 
through the forest, or a criminal through his nefarious 
deeds, it is the same thing. Both leave their spoor 
behind. Now examine this letter and envelope care- 
fully." 

Valeska took the magnifying-glass and scrutinized 
both ; but was forced to acknowledge her defeat. 

Astro took the envelope from her and tilted it to 
the light. "Do you see a slight mark there ?" he asked. 
"It is the print of a thumb. It is not generally known 
that a finger pressed on paper will leave an invisible 
oily impression, especially when the hand has recently 
been passed through the hair. So it will on glass or any 
polished surface. Let us develop this print. The ink 
will cling to the paper except where these oily lines 
have been in contact with it. An ordinary thumb 
print would show the lines of the ridges ; this will show 
those of the channels between the ridges." 

Dipping a large brush in ink, he swept it lightly 
over the paper. The ink flowed away from a patch 
where a little system of concentric lines appeared. 

"Lo ! the invaded loop !" he announced. "It is a 
woman's thumb. I saw it yesterday, and copied its 
.fundamental diagram and its core. Now look at the 
mucilage on the flap. Do you see those tiny grains? 
Snuff, as I proved by my microscope. The postage- 
stamp is awry, and half off, and also shows tiny traces 
of snuff. The woman was in a hurry. The corners 



138 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

of her mouth were stained with the result of her filthy 
practise. Now for the paper surrounding the toe. Let 
me smooth it out. Do you see the foldings and in- 
dentations that were there before it was used for this 
purpose? The marks are unmistakable, and by their 
geometric extension, to any one who has studied ste- 
reotomy and the development of surfaces, it shows 
unmistakably what that object was. See, the parallel 
lines, a twisted rumpled area, and here the traces of 
the milling of a small wheel. A small cigarette machine, 
such as one buys on the Rue de la Paix, in Paris. This 
is a long shot, to be sure, but sometimes it is the long- 
shot that brings down the eagle. If I hit the mark this 
time, I shall never be afraid of making a risky guess 
again. We shall see." 

He was interrupted by the bell. Valeska left him, 
to introduce a neat and dapper young man, who en- 
tered, with a self-satisfied smile, with the report from 
the detective offices of Nally & Co. 

The five purchasers of Continental Zinc bought from 
the curb market had been traced with some difficulty. 
A man had been assigned to each buyer, and these had 
followed the instructions given Nally that morning. 

Abraham Kraser, retired Jewish merchant ; the pur- 
chaser of twenty shares ; smoked thick black cigars. 

H. V. Linwood, a young club-man and society favor- 
ite; insisted on a special brand of Russian cigarettes, 
costing four dollars a hundred. 

William Bartlett Smith, a Westerner staying at the 
Waldorf-Astoria; smoked a French brier pipe with 
granulated tobacco. 

Lambert F. Owens, a race-track bookie, living in 
South Orange, New Jersey; could not be traced, but 



THE CALENDON KIDNAPING CASE 139 

information in regard to him was momentarily ex- 
pected. 

"The fifth man, Paul Stacey, I saw myself," said the 
detective. "I acted as a newspaper reporter. He's 
fairly well-known on the Street; but yet I could find 
out little about him. Nobody knew much; but what 
they did let out was not very favorable. But I talked 
to him, and he smokes incessantly. Rolls his own cigar- 
ettes with a little nickel-plated machine. Keeps Turk- 
ish tobacco loose in his right-hand coat pocket, the in- 
strument in his left. While I was near him he threw 
away a stub, and I brought it to show you. Here it is." 

"Very good," said Astro, squinting at the cigarette 
butt. "You needn't bother about Owens. Now I 
want you to shadow this man Stacey wherever he goes. 
Use as many men for relays as you think necessary; 
but don't let him give you the slip, as you value your 
reputation. You understand the importance of this, 
and how fast we must work if the boy is to be saved." 

As the young man left, Astro picked up the evening 
paper and turned to the reports of the stock market. 
His eyes ran down the column of figures swiftly, until 
he came to the line : 

2000 Cosmopolitan Electric 75 7 7 2 ~3 

"Rameses the Great!" he ejaculated. "That will 
teach me a lesson not to take advantage of my inside 
information. My margin's wiped out already. Pity 
I didn't stay with my good intentions ! And I an As- 
trologer of the Fourth Circle! I hope nobody will 
find that out. Valeska, whatever you do, don't gam- 
ble." For a moment he stood contemplating the sheet 



140 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

before him, and then he turned to her with a strange 
expression. 

"Mercy!" he cried, "I forgot. Calendon's tip has 
gone wrong again! What will happen next? It's 
horrible !" 

He was interrupted by a long ring at the electric 
bell, and, when Valeska answered it, Calendon plunged 
into the room, holding a package in one hand. The 
muscles of his hand were twitching in a frenzy of 
agony. 

"It's come again, oh God !" he cried. "My poor boy ! 
What in heaven's name can we do ?" He went up to 
the palmist fiercely. "See here ! you promised me your 
help ! You even gave me encouragement ! See what 
has happened already ! How long must this thing go 
on?" 

"Have you opened the package?" Astro asked 
quietly. 

Calendon shuddered. "No. I couldn't!" 

"Leave it with me, then. You must wait, Mr. 
Calendon. I am hard at work. I am certain to suc- 
ceed. Already I have the man ; but it is necessary to 
prove it. One can't use a crystal vision as evidence in 
a court of law, you know." 

"Who is the scoundrel?" Calendon demanded. "By 
heaven! I'll tear him limb from limb! I'll kill him! 
I'll" 

Astro put a restraining hand on the director's arm. 
"Calm yourself, Mr. Calendon," he said soothingly. 
"It is not by such means that we'll get the boy. In 
your present frame of mind I dare not trust you with 
the man's name. If you make a move now, you may 
jeopardize your boy's life. He must on no account 



THE CALENDON KIDNAPING CASE 141 

know that he is suspected. No, play tfie game, Mr. 
Calendon, according to the rules the kidnapers have 
prescribed, and I'll guarantee that soon they'll be play- 
ing it according to your own ideas of justice. Get 
your tip and advertise as usual. You will no doubt 
have better luck to-morrow." 

"To-morrow," said Calendon sadly, "I'm going to 
throw all my holdings in the Fountainet Company 
into the market and bear the stock long enough for 
these devils to get their shameful profits. I can't bear 
to receive another package. It will mean ruin for me ; 
but I'll not care, if the boy is safe." 



It was fortunate for Astro that at that time he was 
also interested in the astonishing burglaries at Glebe 
House; for it filled in a tedious forty-eight hours of 
waiting with considerable excitement. Valeska could 
see that the Master was profoundly interested in the 
fate of the young boy, and that it had enlisted all his 
deepest sympathies. What little leisure they had was 
occupied with a set of chess problems which Astro 
was working out for relaxation. 

It was a great relief, therefore, when the young de- 
tective from Nally's put in his appearance two days 
later, and made his report. 

"We've been hot on Stacey's trail ever since I left 
you ; but with nothing doing of any importance what- 
ever until late yesterday afternoon. Then he took 
a train to Antwerp, New Jersey. He was met at the 
station by a carryall containing two women. He rode 
about for an hour with them, not stopping anywhere 
at all, and was driven back to the station, and took the 



142 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

six-twelve back to New York, and went direct to his 
rooms at the Beau Rivage apartments." 

"He saw no one else? Not even a man in black, 
with a black tie?" 

"Absolutely no one." 

"And who are the women ?" 

"One is a Mrs. Elizabeth Cutter, widow, lives in a 
small house on the outskirts of the village; the other, 
a Miss Easting, lives a mile away. Both live alone." 

"Did you get into either house?" 

"I tried to, but couldn't make it. They seemed to be 
very suspicious of strangers. Miss Easting turned 
the dog on me." 

"Did you notice that either of these women took 
snuff?" 

"One of them looked it. She was sallow, and 
seemed to have smears of brown in the corners of her 
mouth." 

"Which one was it?" 

"Mrs. Cutter." 

"Very good. That is all. Thank you for what 
you've done. Good day." 

In a flash Astro had sprung to a messenger call on 
the wall and pressed down the handle. Then he 
scribbled a message on a telegraph blank and handed 
it to Valeska. It read as follows : 

"Come immediately to the Beau Rivage. Im- 
portant. P. S." 

"Give that to the boy when he comes. Where's my 
revolver? Good! Telephone immediately to Calen- 
don to take the next train for Antwerp, and meet me 
at the station. I don't want to miss it." He threw 



THE CALENDON KIDNAPING CASE 143 

himself into a heavy overcoat, slipped the revolver into 
a pocket, jammed on his hat, and was off before Va- 
leska could question. 

She waited in the studio, however, so absorbed had 
she become in the mystery, so much she feared that, 
when Astro did return, it would be with some dread- 
ful news. 

It was late in the evening when a telegraph boy ar- 
rived with a message for her. Eagerly she tore it 
open. It read : 

"Problem 294 : White knight to king's fourth ; 
black rook to queen's bishop's third: white king's 
fook's pawn to seventh, check; black queen's 
bishop to king's knight's third, mate. Please file. 

A." 

Valeska was never more exasperated in her life. 
Only the solution to a knotty chess problem ! 



When Calendon alighted on the platform at Ant- 
werp, at eight o'clock that evening, he was met in the 
shade of the station by Astro and a burly local con- 
stable. 

"Plenty of time and a clear field, I think," said 
Astro, his eyes dancing with the anticipation of peril 
imminent ; "and unless I'm very much mistaken in my 
understanding, Mr. Calendon, I'll have some pleasant 
news for you before long." 

"I hope to heaven you will !" said the old man. "I 
can't stand this much longer. I've sent Mrs. Calen- 
don to the hospital. Her nerves have quite given away 
under the strain. I only hope that if we get the boy 



144 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

we'll find the dastard who stole him as well 1" His 
look was grim. 

"I am afraid you won't get that opportunity, how- 
ever/' said the mystic, drawing out his watch and 
pausing to inspect it under a gas lamp. "Mr. Stacey 
was born under an evil planet and in an evil House of 
the Heavens. At the present moment he is under ar- 
rest in the Beau Rivage apartments. One of his ac- 
complices has just left here for New York, where she 
will be met by the police. Another will soon be taken. 
I have been waiting for one more of the gang who is 
engaged in a shady business hereabouts. We need 
only him to solve the last shreds of mystery in this 
affair. I've already seen him in my crystals, dressed 
in black. It remains to find him on the material plane." 

They walked rapidly through the outskirts of the vil- 
lage, past a stretch of open country. 

Calendon, nervously excited, spoke only once, to 
say, "There must have been some change of affairs, 
Astro ; for so far as I can find the gang didn't speculate 
to-day in the stocks I tipped off in The Era. I had a 
circle of my friends attempting to influence the mar- 
ket ; but it got away from them altogether. We simply 
couldn't sell enough to make any effect. The Foun- 
tainet Company common stock jumped seven points, 
when I sold out, and I'm about fifty thousand ahead of 
the game. If my son is restored to me, I'll have good 
cause to be happy to-night." He relapsed into silence. 

They were now approaching a lonely house, back 
from the road, and in utter darkness. Astro strode up 
to the front door and knocked. There was no response. 
The constable unlocked the door with a skeleton key, 
and all three men entered. A lighted kerosene lamp 



THE CALENDON KIDNAPING CASE 145 

was found in the kitchen. Hardly had it been brought 
into the front room when Calendon stooped and 
picked up a child's shirt. 

"It's my son's, I'm sure!" he exclaimed in excite- 
ment. "Harold ! Harold !" he cried aloud, and began 
a hasty search through the rooms. He was followed 
by Astro and the constable; but, after a thorough in- 
spection, no living thing was found except a canary, 
which, awakened by the disturbance, warbled shrilly in 
the sitting-room. 

The constable threw open the cellar door, and taking 
the lamp, stumbled down the narrow steps. 

In another moment there came a stifled exclamation 
from below. Calendon dashed down in terror. 

Suddenly, up-stairs, where Astro had momentarily 
remained, there was heard the sound of footsteps. 
Then a gruff voice broke out : 

"I've got you fellers now ! I've tracked you for five 
days, and now, by hickey, I'll make you pay for it! 
You'll never snatch another body, curse you !" 

There was a shuffling of feet, and Astro's voice rang 
steadily: "Throw up your hands and drop that gun! 
You're a pretty character to call names ! I think you'll 
show up well when you're investigated! Constable 
Jenkins, come up here!" He kicked loudly on the 
floor. 

"By Jove ! It's the coroner !" said the constable, ap- 
pearing in the doorway. 

"Is there a body here ?" the coroner inquired. 

"Yes why?" Now Calendon appeared, most puz- 
zled and alarmed of all. 

"It's all right, Mr. Calendon, we're on their trail 
now!" said Astro, 



146 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Calendon groaned. 

"Your boy is safe and unmutilated. I have sus- 
pected this a long time, but I didn't dare let you hope. 
Now, Coroner, tell your story." 

"Why," he began, turning shamefacedly to the con- 
stable, "it's this way, Jim. I was comin' along the 
road last Friday with my outfit an' three of them poor- 
house folks' bodies, y'know, an' blamed if the hind 
axle didn't break short off about a mile up back o' 
here. I had to walk clean back to Joe Miller's house 
for a scantlin' to prop up the axle with, an' I was gone 
about three-quarters of an hour. When I come back 
I see one of the coffins was gone, the little one, a 
boy it was. An' I see the axle had been sawed half 
through with a hack saw. Somebody had laid for 
me just to steal that " 

"And will you please explain," said Astro suavely, 
"why you were burying these bodies, for which you 
are paid by the township, at night ?" 

The coroner's face fell. "Oh, I was too busy day 
times," he said lamely. 

"I think it had best be looked into, Constable. I 
can see where our friend the coroner makes a very 
pretty little income from the medical students, and 
does the town out of a few burials occasionally. But 
we must go on, Mr. Calendon. I had hoped that the 
boy was here. We must hurry to the other house. It's 
a mile away. We'll take your rig, Coroner, while you 
attend to the remains in the cellar." 

The three men hurried outdoors, and the constable 
drove at breakneck pace to Miss Easting's house. Ar- 
rived there, they knocked loudly, and, there being no 
immediate answer, the constable entered. 



THE CALENDON KIDNAPING CASE 147 

Calendon followed close behind. "Harold! Har- 
old r he called loudly. 

There was no reply; but a door slammed up-stairs, 
and a pattering of feet was heard. Calendon fairly 
floundered up and threw open the door. There was 
still no one in sight ; but a tumbled bed showed where 
some one had lain. A boy's clothes were scattered 
about the room, a few playthings were on the floor. 

Astro, who had followed on the father's heels, made 
directly for a closed door and wrenched it open. There 
sat a little boy in his red flannel nightgown, caressing 
a large glass jar of jam. His round chubby cheeks 
were stained with strawberry. 

Then, before his father could reach for him in ex- 
ultation, the child exclaimed joyfully, "I don't care. 
I liked it, and I tooked it, and I eated it, and I don't 
care! I don't!" 

And, after the frightful strain that had been on the 
three men who gazed down at the boy, they all broke 
into a hearty laugh. 

It was Harold Calendon, and he was perfectly 
happy. But there were several others there who were 
happy, too. 



MISS DALRYMPLE'S LOCKET 

, dear, she's come to see you again!" said 
Valeska, making a very pretty picture as she 
stood in the doorway, framed by the black velvet por- 
tieres. 

Astro the Seer followed his first indulgent look by 
a second questioning, curious glance. "Who is it?" 

She put her head on one side and looked at him 
coquettishly. "A lady," she said, tossing her head 
archly, "whom, among all your fashionable clients, I 
believe you consider the most charming, most de- 
licious, the prettiest, the sweetest, the most " 

Astro laughed and nodded. "Miss Dalrymple?" 

"The same. She was here only last week. It is 
very suspicious ! Beware !" She shook a saucy finger 
at him and disappeared. 

The young woman who next entered assuredly justi- 
fied Valeska's adjectives. Indeed, many more might 
have been applied to her, though the smile that ap- 
peared on Astro's own handsome face best testified to 
her witchery. She was scarcely twenty years old, and 
of that dark, winning, dimpled, innocent type that few 
know how to resist. To this, there was an appealing 
look that flattered men's vanity. Were her brown eyes 
or her delectable smiling mouth the more lovely to look 
upon? Astro himself could not tell. Was it her easy 

148 



MISS DALRYMPLE'S LOCKET 149 

well-bred grace or her ingenuous, girlish candor that 
most delighted him ? He remembered her dainty hands, 
perhaps the most exquisite he had ever seen. Now 
they were hidden in her sable muff. Her little rosy 
face shone like a flower under her picturesque veiled 
hat ; her figure, slim and charmingly curved, was only 
partly modified by the smart lines of her black cloth 
suit. 

She looked at him with big eyes and said, "Good 
afternoon, Mr. Astro. I hope you haven't forgotten 
me." 

"Scarcely," was his reply. His tone was flattering. 

She smiled with innocent roguery, her eyes explor- 
ing the curious decorations of the great studio. She 
sniffed daintily at the pleasant smell of myrrh that 
filled the air as she took the seat he offered her. 

"I have come for help," she said. "I'm awfully puz- 
zled about something, and you told me such wonder- 
ful things last time I came, that I thought I'd ask you." 
She showed a line of snow-white little teeth. 

The Master rested his head negligently on one 
slender hand, and nodded gravely. 

"It's about a locket," she continued. 

"Ah! You have lost one?" 

"No, not at all. I have found one !" 

AvStro raised his eyebrows. 

"Oh, you're partly right, too ; for it was lost a long 
time ago, and I have just got it back in a rather re- 
markable way. You see, it used to belong to my 
mother. She died last year. I returned only in time 
to see her for two hours before the end." 

"When did you see this locket last?" 

"Long before mother died. It disappeared myste- 



150 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

riously when I was abroad. Only yesterday it was re- 
turned to me by mail, addressed to me at my house in 
Yonkers, in a handwriting that I can't recognize." 

"Well, I don't see what you are troubled about, then, 
if you have got it back." 

Miss Dalrymple looked thoughtfully at him for a 
moment, her cheek resting on her white-gloved hand, 
as if not quite sure how to express what she meant. 
Finally she said impulsively, "Well, it's something so 
vague and silly it seems absurd to speak to you about 
it. But Fanny and I have been talking it over and 
wondering where it came from, and everything, and we 
both have a sort of queer feeling that it has something 
to do, perhaps, with a certain letter my mother once 
had." 

"Wait a moment. Who is Fanny?" 

"Oh, she's my maid and she's a treasure. Indeed, 
she is more like a friend to me than a maid." 

"How long have you had her ?" 

"Oh, ever since mother died." 

The Seer frowned slightly. "Go on, about the let- 
ter." 

"You've heard about my father's will, and the law- 
suit, haven't you? The papers haye had a lot about 
it." 

"Oh, yes, the Dalrymple will case. Let's see your 
father was divorced from your mother, wasn't he?" 

"Yes; but he wasn't at all happy with the woman 
he married afterward she's a vixen and he always 
regretted that he had left my mother. This Mrs. Dal- 
rymple is contesting the will that father made in favor 
of my mother. She isn't satisfied with her widow's 
third." 



MISS DALRYMPLE'S LOCKET 151 

"And, by that will, you are the legal heir to the 
rest of the estate?" 

"Of course. But the other side has claimed that it 
was a forgery, and, as he left all his property to his 
divorced wife, they have a fair case, unless we can 
prove that the will was genuine. Unfortunately, 
though the will is in our possession, having been given 
to mother, both the witnesses to it are dead." 

"I see," said Astro, "and the letter you mentioned ?" 

"Was from my father to my mother, telling her that 
he had left her all his property. You see how im- 
portant it would be to our case ; but I haven't been able 
to find it anywhere." 

"Yes, but how does the locket come into it?" 

"That's what I don't know myself. That's why I 
came to you," Miss Dalrymple exclaimed eagerly. "I 
can't describe why, but I do feel that the locket has 
something to do with it ; for my mother was delirious 
just before she died, and talked about the letter and 
the locket. She kept saying that she had been robbed 
or perhaps she only feared it. Then the locket was 
restored so providentially, just in time; for the case is 
to come to court next week. Then I remember that 
before I went away mother was very careful of it, and 
kept it locked up." 

"Let me see it," said the Master of Mysteries. 

She unbuttoned her coat and took it from a gold 
chain about her neck, a small oval gold locket such 
as was commonly worn in the sixties. The cover, being 
opened, disclosed a small photograph of a beautiful 
woman in an old-fashioned round bonnet with roses 
framing the calm serious face. 

Astro inspected it admiringly. 



152 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"That's my mother," said Miss Dalrymple, looking 
over his shoulder. 

"It is hardly necessary to explain that. I see now 
where you get your beauty." With a deft movement of 
his thumb nail, Astro opened the inner rim and re- 
moved the photograph. The back of the paper was 
covered with Greek letters written microscopically in 
ink, as follows: 



QJU JULtp 

"Oh !" the girl cried excitedly, "I knew it ! I knew 
there was something to be found out ! It's Greek, isn't 
it ? Oh, I hope you read Greek ! Do you ?" 

Astro smiled. "I read Greek as well as I do Eng- 
lish; but this, unfortunately, isn't Greek at all." 

"Why, isn't it ? I know some of the letters myself. 
Look there isn't that a Delta, and that Alpha and 
Pi?" 

"Yes, the letters are Greek characters, but they are 
not Greek words. It's a cipher, Miss Dalrymple." 

The girl's face fell. "Oh !" she breathed. In her 
excitement she was almost leaning on his shoulder. 
She clasped his arm unconsciously as she added, 
"Surely you can read it? You have solved so many 
mysteries; you have such wonderful occult power! 
I've heard that any cipher ever invented could be 
solved." 

"And so it can. I have solved harder ones than this, 
I'm sure. Yes, your locket is certainly getting inter- 
esting. I'm sorry that I am too busy now to work on 




I knew there was something to be found out ! " " It's Greek, 
isn't it?" 



MISS DALRYMPLE'S LOCKET 153 

it, though. I have several appointments that can't be 
postponed. Suppose I wire you as soon as I have read 
it. Or, better, I'll send you the solution direct by a 
messenger." 

"All right. I'll be dying of impatience ; so I hope 
you'll hurry." 

"I'll promise it some time to-morrow. But another 
question: Did your mother read Greek?" 

"Oh, yes, she had a magnificent education." 

"And how about the second Mrs. Dalrymple?" 

The girl's lips curled. "I should say not! Why, 
she was an ordinary chorus girl when father married 
her!" 

"Well," said the Seer, rising to assume a poetic atti- 
tude, "I shall consult my crystals and see what I can 
find out. If I am not mistaken, though, the will will 
be probated and you will come into your inheritance. 
And I shall be the first to congratulate you !" 

After a quick friendly hand-shake, like a boy's, Miss 
Dalrymple walked gracefully out of the room. 

As soon as she had left, Astro called his assistant 
and showed her the cipher. Valeska pored over it 
without speaking for some time. Finally she sighed 
and said pathetically, "What a pity I don't know 
Greek!" 

"Cheer up!" said the Master, with a whimsical 
grimace. "You probably know as much about it as 
the one who composed this childish little cryptogram 
did. It has the mark of the tyro upon it." 

"Why! how could you tell that?" 

"Suppose a Fiji Islander attempted to copy a lot of 
English that is, the so-called Latin alphabet. 



154 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Wouldn't you be able to tell instantly that he was ig- 
norant of the English language? It's the same here. 
Any one who is used to writing Greek would form 
the letters easily and swiftly; would write, in short, 
a pure cursive hand. These Greek letters here are all 
laboriously copied from some school-book or diction- 
ary." 

"Well, who wrote it?" 

"My dear Valeska," said Astro soberly, "the in- 
finitesimal vibrations from this locket will, if I absorb 
myself in contemplation, set up sympathetic waves in 
my own aura. I am not yet ready to go into a psychic 
trance. Let us first read the message. It is ridicu- 
lously simple. I will first separate the message into 
words, for what here appears to be a set of words is 
merely letters run together with a few false spaces 
between them in order to baffle the first glance. 

He took a pad of paper and wrote out the following 
in Greek characters : 



Ae yapQev, 
pose (3wx. t Ae jrAur 
Ae 



When he had finished he looked up at her. "You 
surely know the Greek alphabet, at least?" 

"Of course I know that much. We used to use it in 
boarding-school to write secret messages in. What 
girl that's ever had a 'frat' boy for a beau doesn't know 
the Greek alphabet?" 

"Then this should read easily. Kindly write it out, 
letter for letter." 



MISS DALRYMPLE'S LOCKET 155 
Valeska studied a minute, and then scribbled out : 

Dans le garden au dessous le rose buck le plus near 
le pommier. 

"Partly in English', partly in French, you see/' said 
Astro. "One word, 'buch', looks like German, but it's 
not : 'In the garden under the rose bush nearest to the 
apple tree !' The Greek character Chi was the nearest 
the writer could get to the English 'sh,' you see, and 
note the use of the Sigma's, too. How childish to con- 
sider this a hard puzzle !" 

"It is the location of Mrs. Dalrymple's missing letter, 
I suppose," ventured Valeska. "I suppose she was 
afraid it would be stolen, and so buried it there." 

"You forget, however, that, if Mrs. Dalrymple was 
a good Greek scholar, she wouldn't have written this 
so laboriously." 

Valeska looked quickly up at him. "Could some one 
have found the letter and buried it there for his own 
purpose?" 

"It is possible; but it seems an unnecessary thing 
to do. The most suspicious thing about the cipher is 
that it is so easy." 

"Then I give it up." Valeska shook her head sadly. 

"Don't give up, little girl. Simply keep your mind 
on the fact that there are clever brains at work upon 
this unsuspecting young woman." He edged his chair 
over closer and tapped with his finger on the table. 
"Look here! Who stole this locket in the first place? 
Why was it stolen ? Was the person who took it the 
one who returned it ? Or was the person who returned 
it a friend of Miss Dalrymple's? If he or she were, 



156 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

why should the action be done anonymously? Did 
this person know about the cipher? If so, why leave 
the cipher there where she could find it and dig up the 
letter? Several things look suspicious to me. I must 
go over every point and analyze it. We must, in be- 
ginning any case of this sort, cast about immediately 
and find out who are the actors in the drama, who are 
the ones who will suffer or be benefited by this chain 
of circumstances. 

"Now," he straightened up abruptly, "we must know 
more about Miss Dalrymple's household. To-morrow 
morning you shall make the trip to Yonkers, ostensibly 
to return her this locket with our solution of the ci- 
pher, but actually to enable you to inspect the house, 
grounds, servants, family history, and the like." 

At once Valeska became businesslike. "Anything 
else?" 

"Yes," he said emphatically. "Tell her that on no 
account whatsoever is she to dig beneath the rose 
bush until she hears from me ! Understand ?" 



Valeska returned next noon with the information 
that Miss Dalrymple was in high spirits over the solu- 
tion of the secret message. 

"Did you tell her not to dig up the place until I 
came?" 

"Yes, and she promised to wait." 

"Well, what else?" 

Valeska sniffed. "I certainly do not like that maid 
of hers. I may be only a woman without any more 
analytical brain than a sand-snipe, but I can tell a 
sniveling hypocrite of my own sex as far as I can see 



MISS DALRYMPLE'S LOCKET 157 

her. There's too much goody-goody talk to suit me. 
It was 'Yes, dear Miss Dalrymple,' and 'Oh, certainly, 
Miss Dalrymple/ and, behind her back, 'Isn't Miss 
Dalrymple the sweetest thing!' When I hear that 
kind of talk, I look out for a cat." 

"You think she's two-faced?" 

"Oh, she's a snake in the grass! Tall, lantern- 
jawed, skinny, smirking thing! As luck would have 
it, she caught the same train back to town that I did, 
or rather she came down on the trolley-car just behind 
mine, and I sat about three seats behind her when we 
got the subway at Kingsbridge. I thought I'd see 
where she went. It was an express, and she got off 
at Brooklyn Bridge. That's what kept me so long. 
I followed her over to Brooklyn." 

Astro started. "Brooklyn?" he ejaculated. 

"Yes." Valeska was evidently pleased that at last 
she had made some sort of sensation. "I shadowed 
her to number 1435 Fulton Avenue, waited half an 
hour, and, when she didn't come out, hurried back to 
report." 

"Well," Astro spoke with a curious expression, "did 
you find out who lives there?" 

The girl was crestfallen. "No. I entirely forgot 
that." 

He threw it at her pointblank. "Mrs. Myra Dal- 
rymple !" 

For a moment she could only gaze at him in aston- 
ishment. Then, "Oh!" she cried. "Oh!" Her eyes 
blazed. "Didn't I say she was a snake? Why, then, 
Fanny is undoubtedly in the pay of the second wife ! 
Think of it ! She's been spying on that sweet innocent 
girl ever since her mother died, and has carried the 



158 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

news to Mrs. Dalrymple number two. It's out- 
rageous ! 

"Oh, but " Valeska sprang up in consternation 
and faced her master with a look of horror. "I for- 
got ! Why, I translated the cipher to Miss Dalrymple 
while the maid was in the room ! What will happen ?" 

Astro took up his water-pipe with perfect equa- 
nimity. "My dear, you seem to have made several 
very lucky blunders to-day." 

She put her hands to her eyes. "Oh, I don't under- 
stand ! What about this cipher message ? Where 
did it come from?" 

"Let us go at it analytically," he replied calmly. "For 
the sake of the argument, grant first that the cipher 
discloses the hiding-place of the lost letter, secreted 
by the first Mrs. Dalrymple. Very good. Let us sup- 
pose, also, as a second hypothesis, that the locket was 
sent by the second Mrs. Dalrymple, knowing of the 
cipher. Very good again. Now examine the two 
theories. Is it likely that such a person as this second 
wife would place a rival claimant to the estate in pos- 
session of the secret? No. Something is wrong, the 
first hypothesis, or the second. Take your pick. I say 
the first is wrong, the cipher does not disclose the 
place of the letter, but the second is right : Mrs. Dal- 
rymple sent it. We know that probably she knew Miss 
Dalrymple visited me, and believed in my power. She, 
therefore, intended Miss Dalrymple to dig in that spot, 
cleverly concealing her instrumentality in the matter. 
That's why the cipher was made so absurdly easy. Do 
you think it will be well for Miss Dalrymple to dig 
there? I don't." 

He paused. "Now suppose the second hypothesis 



MISS DALRYMPLE'S LOCKET 159 

to be wrong, that Mrs. Dalrymple did not send the 
locket. If any one else did, what reason could he have 
for making such a mystery of it? It would be ab- 
surd." 

"I follow all that," said Valeska; "but I can't think 
why Mrs. Dalrymple would have any motive for in- 
ducing Miss Dalrymple to dig in the garden." 

"I think you forget the second Mrs. Dalrymple's 
character. But you can study it out. What I intend 
to do is to call on Mrs. Dalrymple this evening and 
find out. I have a very good case against her, I think, 
and I intend to make her give up that letter, if she 
has it. Of course it may have been destroyed, but I 
don't quite believe it. It is common for criminals, 
especially women, to refrain from actually destroying 
the very evidence that may convict them. From some 
scruple or fear they seldom do it. At any rate, I shall 
frighten her with what I suspect of her actions in the 
past, and use my positive knowledge of Fanny's serv- 
ices." 

"But what is hidden in the garden? Anything? 
And if so, how did it get there ?" 

"Was there no one besides Miss Dalrymple and 
Fanny living in the house ? No other servants ?" 

Valeska shook her head, then reflected for an in- 
stant. "I did hear something about a gardener " She 
stopped and stared at him. 

He nodded. "I think that probably completes the 
last link of the chain. At any rate, I'm willing to risk 
it. Well, I'll go right over to Brooklyn and have it 
out. Meet me at the Grand Central Station to-night 
in time for the eleven-thirty-six train for Yonkers, and 
we'll see the whole thing through this very night." 



160 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Valeska's eyes danced. "I'll be there, with my own 
little revolver! I hope it will be exciting!" 



She was at the station at eleven-thirty, and waited 
until the train had pulled out without seeing the Mas- 
ter. A half-hour and then a full hour passed without 
his appearance. She had begun to be alarmed seriously, 
when, at a quarter past one, she saw him walking 
rapidly across the great waiting-room toward her. 
She gave an exclamation of relief ; but at once he took 
her arm and ran her toward the subway. 

"Hurry !" he cried in a tense voice. "We can't wait 
for the one-thirty; so we'll have to make it by the 
subway and change to the trolley. We have no time 
to lose ! It's serious !" 

They caught the train with less than a minute's 
margin; and once settled in the car, Valeska turned 
to him anxiously. 

"I was a fool to let Miss Dalrymple have the transla- 
tion!" he said. "It was the only serious error I have 
made in a year. I hope to heaven I may save her yet ; 
but it's a toss-up now !" 

"What is it?" Valeska shouted above the shriek 
of the wheels. 

Astro said nothing. Seeing that he was too deeply 
moved to explain, she pressed him no further, covertly 
watching his restless nervous gestures and his drawn 
expression all through the ride until the trolley slowed 
down at Yonkers and stopped on the main street. A 
solitary cab was standing beside the curb, its driver 
dozing on the box. 

A fat man was waddling hurriedly ahead of them, 



MISS DALRYMPLE'S LOCKET 161 

signaling with his umbrella to the driver; but Astra, 
with a rough gesture, threw him aside, ran to the cab, 
and pushed Valeska quickly inside. 

"To Miss Dalrymple's, out on Broadway, and drive 
like lightning!" he ordered. Then he jumped in him- 
self, and slammed the door in the face of the enraged 
fat man who was in quick pursuit. The cab drove off 
at headlong speed. 

Still Valeska kept silent; but now she shared the 
excitement of the Master, who bit his knuckles nerv- 
ously as the horse galloped along the avenue high 
above the river. All she could hear besides the pound- 
ing of hoofs was the muttering of the dark man by 
her side. It seemed an hour's drive, so had the sus- 
pense wrought upon her, tree by tree, lamp by lamp, 
house by house, they advanced. She was now pre- 
pared for anything, for anything save what hap- 
pened. 

At last the carriage slowed down and came to a stop. 
Before the driver had a chance to dismount, Astro had 
dashed out without paying the least attention to his 
assistant. She hurried after him. 

The Dalrymple house stood on the side of the hill, 
overlooking the quiet moonlit Hudson. It was sur- 
rounded by a high wall, over the tops of which showed 
the thick limbs of a few apple trees. The house loomed 
beyond, a brick edifice of two stories. The iron gate 
in the wall was locked, and Astro jerked viciously at 
the bell. 

At this moment, as if he himself had set it off, a 
loud explosion reverberated through the night. A 
woman's scream was next heard, rising in a piercing 
staccato. Then all was silence again. At length a 



162 THE*" MASTER^ OF MYSTERIES 

shutter was thrown open at one of the front windows 
of the house, and a shaft of light made a brilliant path 
through the deep shadow. A woman's head appeared. 

"What is it?" cried Valeska in terror. "Is Miss 
Dalrymple shot ?" 

"God knows!'* Astro muttered grimly. "Help me 
over the wall. Give me a foot up, Valeska. We're too 
late, as I feared; but I must find out what has hap- 
pened. Driver," he yelled back over his shoulder, "go 
for a doctor as quick as you can !" 

In an instant he had mounted the top of the wall 
and dropped to the other side. Valeska heard his foot- 
steps running up the gravel walk. After that she 
waited some time in silence. The cab had driven off 
with a clatter. 

When, after a wait that seemed interminable, As- 
tro returned, Valeska's eyes stared to see him with 
Miss Dalrymple, who was apparently unharmed. She 
wore a long mackintosh cape, covering her night 
dress, and her hair was disordered. A look of 
horror on her pretty face made her seem a woman 
almost for the first time. She unlocked the gate and 
put her slender white arms about Valeska. 

"What has happened?" exclaimed the latter. 

"What I feared; only, thank heaven, not to Miss 
Dalrymple !" was Astro's solemn response. "Come this 
way and you'll see." 

He led the way past an apple tree at the side of 
the house. A few pac'es beyond this a great hole was 
torn in the earth, and, by its jagged appearance and 
slanting sides, it was evident that it had been made 
by some explosive. Behind a rose bush lay a woman's 
body. 



MISS DALRYMPLE'S LOCKET 163 

"Fanny," said Astro. 

Miss Dalrymple sank beside her maid and began to 
weep silently. 

"Do you understand now?" said Astro to his as- 
sistant. 

"What a fiend !" she cried. "Her stepmother meant 
this trap for Miss Dalrymple ! She buried an infernal 
machine here ! But how was it exploded ?" 

Astro pointed to the motionless body. "The rea- 
son why I did not caution Miss Dalrymple not to show 
her maid the translation of the cipher was because I 
wanted the second Mrs. Dalrymple to believe that her 
hellish trick was going to be successful. I was afraid 
Miss Dalrymple's curiosity would induce her to dig 
under the rose bush before I came. To-night I wrung 
a confession from her stepmother revealing this whole 
frightful business. That's why I hurried. But I had 
no idea of Fanny's duplicity. Evidently, though she 
was a spy for the Brooklyn woman, she did not have 
her complete confidence. Fanny thought she would get 
the letter before Miss Dalrymple dug it up, and use it 
to extort money. You see how well she has succeeded." 

"Oh ! is she dead ?" whispered Valeska. 

"Luckily, no; only stunned. Mrs. Myra Dalrymple 
probably won't have to go to the electric chair for it, 
though she deserves it richly. But, at least, there will 
be no more contest over the will. In the first place, I 
got the letter from her to-night; in the second, if I 
hadn't, we could prevent her opposition by our knowl- 
edge of this crime. She'll leave the country to-mor- 
row." 

The cab was now heard. It stopped, and the driver, 
with a physician, came running up the walk. 



164 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"There has been a little accident here/' said Astro 
suavely. "A buried gasoline tank exploded, and this 
woman was injured, doctor. Carry her into the house 
and do what you can for her." 

Miss Dalrymple, who had been listening wide-eyed 
to the conversation, a ravishing figure in the moon- 
light in her charmingly disheveled state, now put her 
hand on Astro's arm. 

"But I don't understand at all," she said, "except 
that Fanny has been deceiving me for a year. Do you 
mean to say that Mrs. Dalrymple put that cipher in the 
locket herself and sent it to me ?" 

"Certainly," said Astro, "and a very clever trick it 
was." 

"But why did she do it that way?" the young girl 
inquired, still baffled. "Why was she so elaborate 
about it?" 

"Because," replied the Master of Mysteries, with a 
lurking smile, "she knew a great deal more about hu- 
man nature than you do, and a good deal less than I, 
that's all!" 



NUMBER THIRTEEN 

RECLINING on a huge velvet divan, puffing at his 
water-pipe lazily, Astro read to the last page of 
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and then tossed the paper- 
covered book on the floor with a grunt. 

Valeska looked up from her work, ready for his 
comment. 

"If Stevenson had written that book this year, he'd 
have known more about dissociated personality," he 
remarked. 

"Why, it's nothing but a parable, that's all," Va- 
leska offered. 

"Well, it might be more ; it might be science as well. 
The fundamental idea is wrong. We haven't only two 
souls or personalities apiece, one good, one bad ; we 
have an infinite number, according to modern psychol- 
ogy. Our normal self can break up into any number 
of combinations of its elements. That is why we are 
different persons when we're angry, when we dream, 
when we are drunk or insane." 

"But isn't there a subconscious self that runs the 
body at such times?" said Valeska. "I've been read- 
ing about it. Some psychologists call it the 'subliminal* 
self." 

"Rubbish!" Astro rose and walked up and down 
nervously. "They are not psychologists ; they are 

165 



166 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

metaphysicians, and not worth considering. They speak 
as if there were a sort of secret submerged soul coiled 
up inside us like a chicken in an egg. An oracle in a 
well ! There is no such thing. We are all of a piece \" 

"But how about somnambulists who diagnose their 
own complaints and predict the course of their ill- 
ness? How about the known cases of multiple per- 
sonality, Felida X and Miss Beauchamp in Boston? 
Their alternate selves were distinct and separate." 

"You should read The Journal of Abnormal Psy- 
chology" said Astro. "Those selves are fortuitous 
combinations of the normal self's properties ; they are, 
strictly, part-selves. The subjects are simply not 'all 
there'." 

"And those post-hypnotic time experiments, too?" 
she persisted. "I have read of their suggesting that a 
subject should, just fifteen hundred and forty-seven 
minutes afterward, look at his watch and write down 
the time. He did it, in every such case." 

"And you think he has a subliminal self, a sort of 
psychic alarm clock, that telephones to his waking per- 
sonality? Nonsense! They managed to tap the me- 
chanical part of his memory, that's all. It's like look- 
ing up a book in a library. There are no co-conscious 
personalities. What happens in 'automatic writing'? 
A person holds a pencil in his hand, and it seems to 
write of itself. Spirits? Rubbish! A subliminal self? 
Poppycock! The hand transcribes merely records of 
thoughts or memories that have been forgotten or 
were unnoticed, that's all. We don't think of half we 
see and hear; we pass myriads of faces in the street, 
for instance ; but everything is recorded, as on a pho- 



NUMBER THIRTEEN 167 

nographic cylinder, and, under abnormal conditions, 
the record may be reproduced.'* 

"Well," said Valeska, "it's all uncanny. Normal 
psychology is difficult enough to understand ; but when 
one is four or five different persons I give up. How 
many am I ?" she added merrily, tossing a mischievous 
glance at him, as she put on her hat and furs. 

"You're a million each nicer than the rest." 

"Then I'm glad!" She looked very demure as she 
walked toward the door ; but she stopped there to smile 
frankly back at him, then threw him a good night and 
vanished. 

Astro yawned, went to the bookcase, and returned 
to the couch with a book by Leonide Keating. For 
a while he labored with his grandiloquent mysticism, 
with the secret of Om and the central crystal of the 
universe; then suddenly he sat erect. A noise in the 
outer room had attracted his attention. Another mo- 
ment told him that Valeska had returned and was 
speaking to some one. His name was called. 

He went out, to find her with a strange girl, 
strangely clad. Dark-haired and dark-skinned, hand- 
some, oriental, she was of medium height, with a red 
shawl drawn about her head, and a short plaid skirt, 
showing her little feet incased in men's heavy shoes. 
She had a wild frightened look in her eyes, as Va- 
leska tried to calm her. Her mouth trembled pitifully, 
and she crouched in an attitude of fear and self-ef- 
facement. She looked quickly round at Astro, and ran 
for the door. Evidently she saw a new terror in him, 
and trembled all over with excitement. It was all Va- 
leska could do to restrain her. 



168 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Astro looked the girl over deliberately, noting every 
detail of countenance and costume, then he raised his 
eyebrows. 

"It's the strangest thing!" Valeska explained. "I 
was walking along Thirty-fourth Street when I met 
her, and as I passed I thought that she was probably 
some Italian organ-grinder's wife. Then she turned 
back and ran up to me and seized my hand. She was 
evidently terribly frightened at something; but she 
wouldn't speak. I haven't been able to get her to speak 
yet. She seemed to want my protection ; so I brought 
her back here. Who do you suppose she can be ?" 

Astro addressed the girl in Italian; but got no re- 
sponse. The girl eyed him as a dog watches the boy 
who has been torturing him. A question in Russian 
was as unsuccessful. Greek, Turkish, Yiddish, she 
appeared to understand none of these, or else refused 
to answer. The Master of Mysteries became interested. 

"Bring her into the studio," he said to Valeska. 
"We'll have something to eat here. Perhaps she is 
hungry. If so, that will gain us her confidence." So 
saying, he went to the telephone and ordered a dinner 
for three sent up from a near-by restaurant. 

As Valeska gently led the stranger toward the en- 
trance to the studio, the girl suddenly gave a wail, 
clasped her hands to her bosom, and stared fixedly, 
in an ecstasy of terror, at the office wall. There was 
a large one-day calendar there above Valeska's desk, 
the sheet showing the words, "Thursday, May 13." 
Astro hurried to the girl's side, watching her keenly. 
Valeska put her arms about her reassuringly; but it 
was not till she had drawn her softly away from the 



NUMBER THIRTEEN 169 

sight of the calendar that the girl's perturbation was 
over. She walked doggedly into the great dim studio, 
as if half-asleep. Valeska, with friendly insistence, 
placed her in a comfortable chair. There the girl sat, 
staring with expressionless face at the light. 

"Well," said Valeska, as they watched her, waiting 
for the dinner to be bought in, "is she deaf, or dumb, 
or half-witted, or drugged, or what?" 

Astro had not taken his eyes from the figure of his 
mysterious visitor. "She's an oriental, of course. 
That is why she's afraid of me. She has been through 
some terrible nervous ordeal, I think. I believe she 
hasn't had enough to eat. Wait till we have had din- 
ner, and then I'll see what I can do with her. Poor 
thing! I'm glad it was you and not a police officer 
who found her, Valeska." 

The girl began to look about timidly, but with little 
apparent curiosity. Valeska undid her shawl from 
her head. A wave of black, fine, curly hair fell with 
the covering and made the face more picturesque. She 
nestled a little closer to her protector ; held Valeska's 
hand to her own cheek. The two, vividly blond and 
brunette, made a striking picture together. 

On Astro's table was a small desk calendar, with a 
memorandum sheet for each day. He quietly took it 
up and placed it in the girl's lap. Instantly she had a 
new fit of terror, and leaped up in alarm. Standing in 
the full light of the electric lamp, they could see her 
mouth working convulsively as she stared at the num- 
ber 13. She started on a run for the door. Valeska, 
quicker than Astro, caught and held her, and again 
attempted to soothe her. 



170 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Oh, don't try any more experiments with her yet !" 
she implored. "The poor thing can't stand it. She is 
suffering so that it makes my heart ache. What can 
be the matter?" 

"Aphasia, for one thing," said Astro, seating him- 
self a little way off. "She tried to speak hard enough ; 
but she couldn't. The girl is not deaf or dumb, any- 
way. It is growing decidedly interesting." 

By degrees the girl was coaxed back to the chair, 
and by the time the dinner had been brought in she 
was more -easily persuaded to take a seat at the table 
beside Valeska. Indeed, it was evident that she was 
nearly starving. She ate ravenously, with great mouth- 
fuls, picking up the food in her hands. She was not 
to the manner born, but her prettiness made her sole- 
cisms pardonable. Once or twice during the meal she 
stopped, looked at Valeska, and seemed to be trying 
to speak; but no words came. Her hunger satisfied, 
she seemed more tractable and courageous. She 
looked at Astro without fear. Toward Valeska, she 
showed the devotion of a dog. 

The table cleared away, Astro took a sheet of paper 
and wrote down the number 13. The girl trembled, 
but now not so violently. She looked up at Valeska 
with a mute appeal. 

"Don't!" said Valeska. 

Astro wrote a column of three figures : 6, 5, and 2. 
The girl stared at it without intelligence. The Roman 
numerals XIII did not excite her at all. Next, he wrote 
the word "thirteen" ; she was still unmoved. He spoke 
the word; no response. .Then he placed the paper in 
front of her, and put the pencil in her hand. She took 



NUMBER THIRTEEN 171 

it with evident familiarity, and her hand trembled. 
They saw her bite her lip she was indubitably at- 
tempting to communicate with them but she was un- 
able to make a mark on the sheet. 

"H'm!" said Astro thoughtfully. "Agraphia, as 
well. Now we're getting warmer. I think I shall get 
it after a while." 

"Why, to me it seems more impossible than ever!" 
Valeska said. 

"Strange that we should have just been talking about 
it," he replied. "It's a case of lost identity, disassoci- 
ated personality, beyond doubt. I think I can solve the 
riddle if I can hypnotize her. I'll try." 

He did try, but without avail. At his first mesmeric 
gestures she shrank from him in fear. As he persisted, 
trying with a crystal ball held in front of and above 
her eyes, to send her into a hypnotic sleep by means 
of a partial paralysis of the optic nerve, she resolutely 
defended herself. The strangeness of his motions 
aroused her suspicion, and she refused to concentrate 
her attention sufficiently to be influenced. Direct ver- 
bal suggestion, the simplest and most effective method 
of inducing hypnosis, was of course out of the ques- 
tion, since she did not appear to understand any lan- 
guage he spoke. 

"There is only one other method, if even that will 
succeed," Astro said at last. "If we can get her to 
write automatically, we may learn something. Her 
agraphia prevents her writing with her conscious mind. 
We'll try what is called the method of 'abstraction'. It 
is a common experiment. One holds his patient ab- 
sorbed in a conversation that compels his utmost men- 



172 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

tal capacity, in Hebrew, for instance, if he under- 
stands Hebrew, and while that is going on some one 
places a pencil in his hand and whispers in his ear. 
What you have called the 'subconscious self commu- 
nicates by writing, and the normal conscious person- 
ality is unaware that he is writing." 

"But how can we engage her mind so absorbingly ?" 
Valeska asked hopelessly. "We don't know her lan- 
guage, whatever it may be." 

Astro paced the room for several minutes, thinking 
deeply. He stopped occasionally to look at the girl 
fixedly, and resumed his contemplation. Finally he 
went up to her, examined her palms, and his face 
lighted up. 

"I believe she's musical !" he said. 

Valeska stared. "But then" 

"We'll see. Have the pencil ready to put in her 
hand, and the paper on the table by it. Watch her 
closely, and see if she is affected by the music. If she 
seems to be, give her the pencil." 

With that, he walked to the piano, sat down, and 
began to play the tenth rhapsody of Liszt. As he 
swung into the abandon of its more temperamental 
passages, he seemed himself to be absorbed, to lose 
himself in the intricate harmonies. He was a skilled 
and artistic musician. He swayed to and fro, giving 
himself up physically and mentally to the passion and 
beauty of the themes, and it was not till the echoes of 
the last divine chords had ceased reverberating that 
he slowly turned on the piano stool and seemed to 
awaken. 

"I've got it !" cried Valeska, and, springing up, she 



NUMBER THIRTEEN 



173 



ran over and handed him a sheet of paper. It was 
partly covered with rude drawings, apparently mean- 
ingless rough sketches, mingled with attempts at let- 
tering : 







He took the sheet eagerly, and went to the table 
under the electric lamp to scrutinize the figures. 

"It's not very promising material, is it?" said Va- 
leska. 

"On the contrary, it's a fine beginning; only it will 
take a bit of doing to make it out." 

"I see the fatal 13 has put in its appearance again." 

The girl, who had seemed to be in a sort of stupor, 
now leaned over the table and inspected the sheet. At 
sight of the figures 13 she gave a moan, and threw her 
arms about Valeska, trembling all over. 

"Poor girl!" said Astro. "I'm afraid there's some- 
thing big back of all this. She's a Turk, or an Ar- 



174 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

menian, or a Syrian. See the Turkish flag that she has 
roughly drawn here? . . . Babi . . . Wait!" 

He had risen to go to the bookcase, when the girl 
reached over and would have seized the paper, had not 
Valeska prevented her. Astro turned to ejaculate: 

"Babi?" and again, "Baha-Ullah?" 

The girl quivered ; but did not speak. 

"She may be a member of the Bahai sect, followers 
of the Bab, the Incarnation of the Almighty, whose 
religion is not tolerated by the faithful in Persia. They 
are all kept to one city, where they live like primitive 
Christians; indeed, their faith is a mixture of Chris- 
tianity and Mohammedanism. We'll see. Valeska, 
she's had enough for to-night. You must take her 
home and take care of her, and bring her back to- 
morrow. Until then I must stay up and think it out." 



For hours after Valeska had left with her ward, As- 
tro walked up and down the length of the great dim 
studio. Occasionally he threw himself at full length on 
the big couch in concentrated thought. At intervals he 
stood erect, his eyes fixed in abstraction on some trophy 
of arms on the wall, or gazing into the lucent trans- 
parency of his crystal ball. Once or twice he sat down 
at the table and gazed long at the hieroglyphic marks 
made on the paper by the strange girl. At three in 
the morning, he partially undressed and lay down on 
the couch to sleep. He rose at seven, bathed, and went 
outdoors for a walk. 

When he returned, an hour later, Valeska was in the 
studio alone. Her eyes were red ; she seemed ashamed 
and self-reproachful. 



NUMBER THIRTEEN 175 

"The girl has disappeared!" she exclaimed the mo- 
ment Astro appeared. "When I woke up, she wasn't 
in the room. She must have risen and dressed while 
I was asleep. But I found this." She held out a short 
curved dagger, in a morocco sheath. 

Astro, withdrawing the blade, found it was engraved 
with an Arabic inscription. He read the motto aloud : 

"For the heart of a dog, the tongue of a serpent!" 

"Ah !" he commented, "this may help some. Our 
little friend apparently isn't so timid as she appeared. 
But, somehow, this doesn't look like the property of a 
Babist. In spite of their many persecutions, I believe 
they are usually non-resistants. Well, Valeska, we'll 
have to find the girl, now! Come along with me im- 
mediately." 

His green limousine was already at the door in 
waiting. Both jumped in, and as they drove to the 
southern end of the city Astro explained : 

"There are two Syrian quarters in New York. One 
is in Brooklyn, the other down on Washington Street, 
near the Battery. We'll go to that one first, and see 
what we can find there. The Turkish flag reminds me 
that that is often hung outside stores where they sell 
Turkish rugs. We'll try that clue afterward." 

Reaching Washington Street, the two left the 
motor-car and walked toward the Battery, past rows 
of squalid houses. At every corner Astro stopped and 
gazed about deliberately. 

Finally, he seized Valeska's arm with a quick ges- 
ture. "Look at that sign !" he exclaimed. 

On West Street, facing the Hudson River, but with 



176 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

its rear abutting on a vacant lot on Washington Street, 
was a huge soap factory. Painted on the dead wall was 
a sign whose letters were eight or ten feet in height. 

Valeska read it aloud: "Use Babrock's Brown 
Soap." She stopped and looked at Astro in bewilder- 
ment. "What about it?"" 

He drew the drawing from his pocket and pointed 
out the lettering. "Don't you see ?" he cried. " 'BABP P 
That's a part of the sign, surely. Look at those two 
buildings on each side of the sign. Now look at this 
row of houses. From some one of those windows the 
sign must present the appearance she has drawn. 
Making the drawing subconsciously, she has merely 
copied something with which she has been familiar, 
seeing it, probably, every day. We must find the win- 
dow from which the sign looks just like her drawing." 

He looked at the sign again carefully, estimating its 
height and the relative position of the two buildings 
whose roofs would cut off the first and last group of 
letters. A rough triangulation led him to a house in 
the lower part of which was a cobbler's shop. This he 
entered. 

"Are there any rooms to let in this house ?" he asked 
of the man at the bench. 

The man nodded. "Go up-stairs and ask at second 
floor," he replied. "You see Carbon Soumissin; he 
keeps the house." 

Up-stairs went Astro and Valeska, and plunged into 
a dark narrow hallway. A doorway opened part way 
and a whiskered man looked out. He had an evil face, 
blotched with red spots, and wore a fez. He was smok- 
ing a Turkish cigarette. 

"What you want here?" 



NUMBER THIRTEEN 177 

"I'd like to look at your front room, third floor." 

A murmur of voices came from inside the room. 
The man turned and growled some foreign oath. Then 
he turned and looked at Astro with a vicious inquisi- 
tion. 

"All right/' he said at last ; "you go up. Door open. 
Three dollars a week." 

Astro waited for no more; but ran up the stairs, 
followed by his assistant. Once out of earshot, he 
stopped for a moment to pull out the paper again, and 
pointed to the first drawing on the sheet. "Fez," he 
said, and looked at her meaningly. 

"The old man with the cigarette?" 

"Probably. Now we'll find out what they have been 
up to." 

The hall bedroom was incredibly dirty, but con- 
tained nothing but a cot bed with vile coverings, a 
chair, and a crazy wash-stand, over which hung a 
square cracked mirror. Astro first went to the grimy 
window and looked out. He pointed to the sign, and 
Valeska followed his eyes. One of the buildings across 
the street cut off the first word, "use," and the other, 
with a small dormer, obscured all after "bab" with the 
exception of the upper half of the R. It showed, in 
fact, precisely as the girl had drawn it. 

"This is the room, all right. Now let's examine it." 

He took up the chair first, and looked it over care- 
fully. Then he pointed to marks on the sides of the 
back, where the paint was worn smooth. The marks 
were about an inch wide, and similar ones showed on 
the legs and on the side rails of the seat. 

"This is where straps have chafed the paint," he 
commented. "She was undoubtedly fastened securely. 



178 [THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES ^ 

Did you notice where the marks or bruises were on 
her?" 

"Yes; they were bad enough for me to remember. 
There were red marks on her wrists and on her arms 
below her shoulders; and her arms were almost cov- 
ered with bruises ; but small ones." 

"Oh, they pinched her, no doubt. Undoubtedly she 
had a rough time of it, if one may judge the character 
of the villain with the fez. Well, we must find her. 
There's no use inquiring here. If they have used this 
room for a torture chamber, we'll get nothing out of 
them, and they'll grow suspicious." 

They went down-stairs, and, while Valeska waited 
in the street, Astro drove a bargain with Carbon 
Soumissin. Luckily the lower hall was dark, and the 
Turk could not perceive Astro's oriental countenance. 
But the Master of Mysteries had an important piece 
of news to tell when he rejoined Valeska, 

"They were talking Arabic, or rather Turkish. I 
heard one of them quote the motto we saw on the dag- 
ger. Now I know what they are. Have you heard of 
the Hunchakists?" 

The papers had been so full of one of the recent 
murders of this dreaded Armenian society, that Va- 
leska knew roughly what the name implied. 

"Every country seems to have its guerrilla assas- 
sins," said Astro, as they drove up-town. "But the Ar- 
menian Hunchakists are more dangerous than any of 
the others, because they are better organized. Their 
object is usually extortion. Now we must visit the rug 
merchants. I'm afraid we're on the track of something 
serious this time." 

Their route led them directly into the heart of the 




All right," he said at last, " you go up. Door open " 



NUMBER THIRTEEN 179 

mystery. On Eighteenth Street, where, in front of a 
Turkish rug store, the crescent of Turkey hung out, 
there was a great crowd gathered, pressing about the 
entrance. It took Astro little time to discover the 
cause of the disturbance. The merchant, Marco 
Dyorian, had been found, when his shop was opened 
by his head bookkeeper, lying in a pool of blood in his 
office, shot in the back. He was not dead, though mor- 
tally wounded and unconscious. He was now at the 
hospital, at the point of death. 

A policeman guarded the door, preventing any one 
from entering. Astro and Valeska caught sight of his 
cap over the heads of the bystanders, and when the 
crowd eddied they saw his face. 

"Why, it's McGraw!" 

"So it is!" said Astro. "What luck!" 

They squirmed their way through the crowd, to find 
the burly police officer who, with Astro's assistance, 
had been able to gain considerable reputation in con- 
nection with the Macdougal Street dynamite outrages. 
The two were now fast friends. Indeed, McGraw 
owed his lieutenant's cap to the help of the Master of 
Mysteries. He therefore welcomed them both with a 
grin. 

"What is the straight of this, McGraw?" Astro 
asked. 

"Hunchakist murder, sure!" responded the lieu- 
tenant. 

"I thought as much. Who did it?" 

"Oh, we got 'em all right this time. No thanks to 
you, sir, for once, though I'd always be glad of your 
help. This one's a girl who done it." 

Astro and Valeska looked at each other. "A girl?" 



i8o THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Yes, sir. They'll be bringing her down presently. 
It's only fifteen minutes ago we got her. She was hid- 
ing out in a back closet where nobody thought to look 
at first. She was in a dead faint." 

"What does she look like?" 

"Faith, I don't know that myself. I've only just got 
here with the reserves. But if you stand here, you'll 
see her come down. There's the wagon already. Stand 
back there!" 

The crowd scattered, and the patrol wagon drove 
up with a clatter. Several officers jumped out and ran 
up-stairs. 

Astro turned to Valeska and spoke under his breath. 
"What time did you see her last?" 

"I got up about midnight, and she was lying on the 
couch." 

She put her hand on his arm. "Oh, it couldn't have 
been she!" she exclaimed. 

At that moment the officers brought their prisoner 
down-stairs. It was indeed the girl who had been in 
the studio the night before, and had gone home with 
Valeska. Just as the group passed, Astro touched Mc- 
Graw's shoulder. 

"Let me speak to her a moment. I know this girl." 

McGraw stared; but his faith in the occult powers 
of the Seer was so great that he delayed the officers. 
They stopped for a moment. Astro addressed the girl 
in Turkish. 

"Let me help you," he said. 

She looked at him sulkily. But it was not with the 
blank expressionless face of yesterday. Her brows 
drew together. 

"I don't know you," she said at last. 



NUMBER THIRTEEN 181 

Valeska pushed forward and took Her hand. 

"Don't you know this lady ?" Astro asked. 

The girl stared. Some half-forgotten memory 
seemed to stir within her. Her lips moved silently as 
she stared hard at Valeska's face. Then she shook 
her head, and said, "I don't know." 

"I can't keep 'em waiting," McGraw whispered. 
"Let her go, and you can call at the Tombs to see her 
again. I'll see that you get in. Go on, now !" 

The girl was escorted to the wagon and took her 
seat, facing the crowd stolidly, an officer on each side 
of her. Once, before they drove away, her eyes turned 
to where Valeska stood in the doorway, and the same 
puzzled expression crossed her face. 

"McGraw," said Astro, after the wagon had gone, 
"how'd you like to get a captain's commission?" 

McGraw hastily took him aside. "You don't mean 
to say you know about this job already?" he asked ex- 
citedly. 

"I know one thing. A man you want lives at 101 
Washington Street, and I think his name is Carbon 
Soumissin. At any rate, I'd advise you to get right 
down there immediately and run in every one you find 
in the house. Hurry up before they've gone !" 

McGraw's eyes gleamed. "And you'll coach me then 
what to do?" he asked. 

"Yes." 

"All right." Hastily summoning a police sergeant, 
he gave him a few orders, and then hurried to the 
station. 

"Where was the wounded man taken ?" Astro asked 
the sergeant." 

"To the receiving hospital." 



182 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"We'll go over there first, then." And Astro and 
Valeska made their way to the limousine and ordered 
the driver to the place. 

"But," said Valeska, "how queerly she acted! I'm 
so disappointed that she didn't recognize me, after all 
I'd done for her. I don't know what to make of it." 

"Don't you see? She has waked up. Yesterday she 
was quite another person, a dissociated personality. 
She had no memory, and had even lost the power to 
talk or write. That is often the case. Owing to some 
severe mental shock, her normal personality was 
broken up into parts, so to speak. She had just enough 
of the functions of her mind synthesized to have voli- 
tion, and that part-self resembled a crazy person. She 
had been tortured and starved, no doubt in order to 
force her to commit this crime, by Soumissin. Some- 
how she managed to escape from that house, and then 
her reason left her. You found her what she was, 
half-witted, with only sense enough to appeal to your 
protection. She had forgotten everything, every- 
thing, that is, except something concerning the num- 
ber 13. Now the question is, when did she come to 
herself and her full rationality? Was it when she got 
up in your room to leave you " 

"Or was it when she got into the rug store?" Va- 
leska added, with a look of horror in her eyes. 

"That's the question. Let's hope that Dyorian is 
conscious by the time we reach the hospital. Every- 
thing depends on that !" 

Arrived at the hospital, Astro entered the office and 
asked for the house physician. A few words only were 
necessary to explain the palmist's right of inquiry, and 
his description of the Syrian girl's mental condition 



NUMBER THIRTEEN 183 

was of great professional interest to the doctor. He 
promised to go to the Tombs and see her as soon as 
possible. Dyorian, it seemed, lay at the point of death ; 
but, finding how important it was to have the exact 
time of the shooting determined, the doctor consented 
to go up to the ward and attempt to revive him suffi- 
ciently to answer the question. Astro and Valeska 
waited for him in the office. 

It was fifteen minutes before he returned. "I could 
just barely make him understand," he said, "but I am 
sure that he did at last. With almost his last breath 
he whispered, 'Ten o'clock/ adding that he didn't know 
who shot him. He died before I left the bedside." 



Acting on Astro's hint, McGraw not only succeeded 
in capturing a half-dozen Turks and Armenians in the 
Washington Street den, but, exercising the "third de- 
gree" in a manner for which he was famous, extorted 
a confession from one of the prisoners. It was the 
more easy because the man, who had honestly believed 
himself to be working for the cause of Armenian free- 
dom, discovered that he had been merely the tool of a 
band of blackmailers and murderers. He had witnessed 
the cruel torture of the young Syrian girl ; but had been 
told that she was a Turkish spy who was plotting to 
betray the Armenian cause to the Sublime Porte. 

On hearing her alibi, sworn to by Valeska, the girl 
was released; but she was ten days under the care of 
the hospital doctor before her nerves were recovered 
enough for her to be brought to the studio. She had 
been told of Valeska's kindness; but could remember 
nothing that had happened since her mind first began 



184 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

to wander under the effects of pain and starvation. 
But her intuition recognized her protectress without 
the aid of reason, and she fell on her knees like a slave 
at Valeska's feet. She could not speak a word of Eng- 
lish; but her eyes were sufficiently eloquent to prove 
her gratitude. She treated Astro as if he were her 
lord and master, watching him continually. 

After she had told of her wakening to her full rea- 
son in Valeska's room, she described the terror that 
had come over her at the thought of Dyorian. The 
thirteenth was the day set for his murder. Her tor- 
mentors had in vain tried to force her to do the deed ; 
but, when they found she was intractable, they had 
told her that, whether she did it or not, Dyorian should 
surely die on the thirteenth. It was with the idea of 
saving him from his fate that she made more strenuous 
attempts to escape, and, after her memory had gone, 
the number 13 still inspired her with terror and dread. 
Wakening at Valeska's, this thought had been her 
first, and she dressed quietly and stole out of the house 
to warn him. She had found the rug merchant al- 
ready shot, and the horror of the scene had in her 
weak state again deprived her of reason. She had run 
from the body and that was all she could remember 
until she was restored to consciousness by two police- 
men. Then, her fear of being accused as the murderess 
had nearly distraught her wits again. 

She looked curiously now at the pictures she had 
drawn while in the state of abstraction, and identified 
the sign, the fez, the Turkish flag, and the number 13. 

"But what is this one?" Astro asked, pointing to 
the one drawing he had not identified. 



NUMBER THIRTEEN 185 

The girl shuddered, and reach for Valeska's hand. 
When she could speak, she explained to Astro. 

"It was awful, you can't know how awful it was 
till you have tried it. I was three days strapped to that 
chair, and on the wall right opposite my head was a 
mirror. I had to look at myself all day. It grew more 
and more horrible, till I couldn't stand it. By turning 
my head I could see the sign, but always my own face 
was in front of me, staring, staring, staring. It grew 
hideous, sinister, diabolic. After a while it wasn't I, 
at all. It was a devil leering at me, and I knew he was 
inside of me looking through my own eyes. Oh, God !" 
She paused, and looking up at Valeska said simply, 
"She is lucky. She can look at her face in the glass. 
I can't ever use a mirror any more. It frightens me." 

Astro nodded his head slowly. Then he said, with 
a faint smile, "Yes, I can fancy no more exquisite tor- 
ture for a woman to bear." 

Then, before he translated the speech to Valeska, 
he turned to her with a whimsical expression. 

"What would you do if you were to be deprived of 
mirrors of any kind for the rest of your life?" 

"I think I'd commit suicide," she replied, blushing. 

"There'd be no need for that. I shall always be able 
to tell you how pretty you are. But now we must cure 
this little girl. I'm sure that a hypnotic treatment will 
soon convince her how pretty she is, and she won't be 
afraid to prove it." 

Valeska looked up archly, and added, "Neither 
shall I!" 



THE TROUBLE WITH 
TULLIVER 

"T NOTICE that most of the talk about Tulliver's 

J- running for governor has stopped," said Astro, 
dropping his morning paper and looking over to where 
Valeska, his assistant, was copying horoscopes from 
the Master's notes. 

"I'm disappointed," she replied. "There seemed to 
be hope for the regeneration of the city government at 
last. It is strange how Tulliver has let up on the prose- 
cution of those Brooklyn aldermen, though, isn't it?" 

"Strange ? How ?" Astro gazed at her keenly ; but 
it was perfectly evident that he was confident of his 
own opinion. 

"Why, he began so well and so strenuously; and 
then, just before the case was to be brought for trial 
he seems to have dropped the whole thing. It doesn't 
seem to be like what we know of his character, some- 
how." 

"Do you believe that he's been bribed ?" Astro bent 
his dark brows. 

"You never can tell nowadays. But he's such a 
fighter ordinarily that it looks suspicious. Why, I've 
heard extraordinary tales of his persistence and his 
energy. He takes no more sleep than Edison, he 
works night and day, and can do usually four times as 

186 



THE TROUBLE WITH TULLIVER 187 

mucfi work as an ordinary man could in similar cir- 
cumstances." 

Astro nodded his picturesque dark head thought- 
fully, and took his customary seat on the divan by his 
water-pipe. With a toss of his hand he threw his red 
silken robe about his legs. The moonstone aigret in 
his oriental turban nodded rhythmically as he thought 
it over. Finally he said : 

"The district attorney has not been bribed, Valeska, 
I'm sure of that. I have seen him and talked with 
him. I've studied his hand, his face, his gait, his voice, 
his gesture. Money can't buy that man. He not only 
has the energy you speak of, Valeska, he has a tre- 
mendous moral force besides. There is no graft in 
Tulliver. But there's something wrong. This lack of 
power, just when he ought to strike hardest, is suspi- 
cious. It's sinister. I tell you!" he added, rising, as 
the idea caught and held him with a new force. "This 
gang of boodlers has got him somehow! It's not a 
square fight !" 

Valeska came up to him, more than commonly 
moved by his emotion. "Oh!" she exclaimed, taking 
his hand, "why can't you help him, if there is a plot? 
I'd like to see you try your hand at something more 
worth while than mere murders and jewel mysteries. 
You're wasting your talents on such ordinary detective 
work. Why not offer your services? Why not take 
up the fight for him, and with him, if it's possible, and 
help him win? You'll never have a more worthy 
cause!" 

In her excitement her voice had become vibrant, 
thrilling with a warm personal note not wholly ac- 
counted for by her words. Astro perceived it, glanced 



188 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

at her, turned away suddenly. His voice had changed 
too, when he said : 

"Shall I offer my services?" 

"Oh, do!" 

"You know that it is not my policy nor my custom 
to do that." 

"It's your duty." 

He swung round to her and took both her hands in 
a strong grip. "If you ask me, Valeska, I'll do it." 

And so Astro undertook to discover what was the 
trouble with Tulliver. 

It was a delicate proceeding, at first, and it devolved 
upon Valeska herself to undertake the initial steps. It 
was three or four days before she had gone over the 
ground well enough to select the point of attack; but 
at the end of that time she had made up her mind that 
Mrs. Tulliver was in the line of least resistance to her 
efforts. 

It did not take long for Valeska to discover that 
Mrs. Tulliver had a baby, and that the baby had a 
nurse, that the two went every fine morning to take 
the air in Central Park. In two days Valeska was 
there also with a baby borrowed for the occasion. 
Valeska waited at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 
East Sixty-fourth Street, until little Alice Tulliver 
and her nurse came down the steps of the Tulliver 
house. After that it was easy to make connections in 
the park and to happen to sit down on the same bench. 
To any one who watched Valeska's whimsical charm, 
and pretty expressive face, a confidential acquaint- 
anceship was inevitable and the most natural thing in 
the world. 



THE TROUBLE WITH TULLIVER 189 

In such wise Valeska soon learned that Tulliver was 
suffering from what the doctors were pleased to term 
nervous prostration; that he had been advised to take 
a rest ; and that Mrs. Tulliver was much worried over 
the situation. Mrs. Tulliver was ambitious and took 
great interest in her husband's political career. There 
was an atmosphere of great anxiety in the house on 
Sixty-fourth Street. 

Valeska was a willing and sympathetic listener to 
the nurse's confidence, and watched her chance for in- 
terposition. It came unexpectedly the very next day, 
when Mrs. Tulliver herself came across the two en- 
gaged in conversation on a park bench. There was lit- 
tle need for diplomacy. Valeska's attractive manners 
produced an immediate effect upon Mrs. Tulliver's 
emotional, intuitive nature; and seeing with her rare 
perception that frankness was the quickest and easiest 
method with her, Valeska boldly told her who she was, 
and offered her services. 

Mrs. Tulliver was too full of her own forebodings 
not to grasp immediately at this unlooked-for hope in 
her trouble. She confessed that her suspicions had 
been aroused, and, though they were not shared by her 
husband, she was convinced that the gang of boodling 
aldermen, desperate at the prospect of conviction, were 
making underhanded attacks upon their chief enemy, 
the district attorney. They were not of a sort to stop 
at any crime that would rid them of his strenuous 
prosecution. 

Of Astro's fame as Master of Mysteries, Mrs. Tul- 
liver had heard, and she willingly consented to lay the 
matter before him. His name was already known at 
the district attorney's office through the many crimes 



190 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

tHat, in unofficial cooperation with the police, he had 
pursued and solved. 

Her story, after reaching the studio, amply con- 
firmed Astro's suspicions. Tulliver had, the week be- 
fore the date set for the opening of the trial, worked 
hard night and day over the data. His material was 
complex and voluminous ; it required all his energy to 
select the proper points of testimony, to arrange his 
plan of prosecution, and to divide the work to be done 
by his assistants. All had gone well till Saturday. He 
had worked at his office till noon, and then had gone to 
a barber shop in the vicinity of City Hall Square and 
been shaved and manicured. That night he had in- 
tended going to the house of a friend for an evening's 
entertainment and relaxation, before beginning on 
the arduous final preparations for the trial. These 
last important investigations he had put off till Sunday, 
thinking that the recreation on Saturday night would 
help him to devote his whole energy to the case. 

On Saturday night he showed extreme lassitude and 
manifested an unwillingness to go out with his wife. 
She had induced him to attend the entertainment, how- 
ever; but, his fatigue increasing, they had both re- 
turned early and retired. On Sunday he slept late. 
He was worried about the case ; but felt almost unable 
to rise and go to work. He had, after breakfast, 
dragged himself to his study and shut himself up with 
his papers. There Mrs. Tulliver had found him fast 
asleep at dinner-time. He made a second attempt to 
go about his work in the afternoon, and fell asleep a 
second time, showing extreme exhaustion. At nine 
o'clock he roused himself sufficiently to ask his wife to 



THE TROUBLE WITH TULLIVER 191 

telephone to the judge of the court to postpone the 
case, and to notify his assistants of the necessary delay. 

A doctor called on Monday against Tulliver's wishes 
and diagnosed his lassitude as nervous prostration. He 
had prescribed a remedy, and after taking it Tulliver 
had gradually recovered his customary state of health 
and energy. This attack of exhaustion, however, com- 
ing just before an important phase of the case was 
reached, and the rumors of bribery in connection with 
the district attorney, which had already been voiced in 
some of the city papers, had affected him as deeply as 
they had disturbed Mrs. Tulliver. He showed no disin- 
clination whatever to drop the case; in fact he was 
more ardent than ever in wishing to bring the boodlers 
to justice. But already his delays and apparent lack of 
interest had seriously damaged his political career in 
the minds of the people. 

Astro listened to all this attentively, with only an 
occasional question. A pretty woman at all times, with 
a proud, spiritedly-poised head and soft dark eyes, 
Mrs. Tulliver's distress made her beauty pathetic. It 
was plainly evident that, much as she was moved by 
the fear of her husband's illness and the sacrifice of his 
political future, what affected her still more strongly 
was the fear of some stain on his reputation ; and, per- 
haps, in the dim shadows of her mind, unacknowl- 
edged, but sinisterly insistent, was the specter of a 
doubt of his probity. She knew well enough the cun- 
ning and the ingratiating methods of political corrup- 
tion, and though she would not admit even to herself 
that her husband was venal, the horror of this potent 
secret force prostrated her. 

It was Astro himself who gave her back her courage 



192 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

and her faith. She regained her strength at his offers 
of assistance. As he spoke, slowly, gently, command- 
ingly, as she watched his handsome, mysteriously sen- 
tient face, some of his secret power went from him to 
her. The very strangeness of that face, with its ori- 
ental calm, with its oriental wisdom, with its beatific 
sympathy, gave her trust. She sat, so, watching him, 
one hand in Valeska's hand, till he had finished. 

One question, however, before she left, he put in a 
way to renew her alarm. "Who is your cook?" he 
asked. 

"Why, we've had her only about nine months; but 
she came recommended highly. Do you think " 

"Can you see to it that all his food is prepared under 
your personal supervision, or that he takes his lunches 
only at large, well-known restaurants?" 

She thought she could do both. 

"Be careful, then," he said. "And, for the last thing, 
find out all his movements in what detail you can, both 
in the past and in the future. Telephone me every day 
what he intends to do. And, by the way, what is the 
date set for the opening of the trial ?" 

"Next Monday." 

"Then we haven't much time. But we'll win !" 

As she left the great studio Valeska accompanied 
her to the outer door. Here she paused and clutched 
the girl's hand. "What did he mean about the cook?" 
she demanded. "Does he think it can be as bad as that, 
that they would try poison ?" 

"Oh, he's only anxious to take all the precautions 
possible." 

"Then I shall have to tell my Husband I have been 
here." 



THE TROUBLE WITH TULLIVER 193 

"As you please," said Valeska. "Only be sure that 
you have the most powerful defender in New York. 
Astro has never failed yet." 

She returned to the studio, to find Astro already 
absorbed in a medical book. He had taken down a 
bound volume of The Lancet, and pointed to it. 
"Look that over carefully and see if you can find that 
article on the Pathology of Fatigue. I can't recall 
what year it came out ; but it was the report of the ex- 
periments of an Austrian, I think." 

She looked at him in surprise. "You have a theory 
already?" 

"No, not quite ; but there is a disturbance in my 
memory, there's something I can't quite place, or ac- 
count for; if I don't try too hard, it will float up un- 
consciously. That's why I want you to look it up. 
But our line of investigation is plain." 

"The barber?" 

"Or the manicure. I didn't dare ask about that. I 
don't want Tulliver to suspect. Of course she'll tell 
him everything; I can see that, I expected it. But I 
must get to that particular barber shop to-day and be- 
gin to watch." 

"Is it poison, then?" 

"Undoubtedly poison ; but whether physical or moral 
I don't yet know." 

"But you seemed to be so sure of his honesty." 

"I knew she would tell him everything. It was the 
only way. There is always the chance of corruption. 
Dishonesty is as much a disease as cholera. One can 
become infected by it as well as by a germ. I said it 
was my business to know human nature; but no one 
can know it, except to be sure that it's liable to all 



194 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

sorts of dangers and diseases. No one is immune. We 
can only fight infection of all sorts. If this man Tulli- 
ver is being poisoned, I'll find out how and by whom, 
and I'll save him. If he is being corrupted morally, is 
there any less reason why I should help him ? It may 
be the first time in his life and the last. I know only 
that I like him, I admire his wife, and if I can beat that 
gang I'll do it ! Selah. I have spoken." 



It was late that afternoon when Astro returned from 
his investigations. By his look, Valeska knew that he 
was worried. Mrs. Tulliver had telephoned and said 
that the district attorney would be at his office all day 
and would return directly from there. From her tone 
it was evident that her husband did not take the Seer's 
assistance so gratefully as she herself did. Astro lis- 
tened with a frown. 

"Well, I'll save him in spite of himself, then. I con- 
fess it looks dubious. I saw our old friend, Lieutenant 
McGraw of the detective force, and he succeeded 
in finding out for me some of Tulliver's habits. He 
patronizes a small barber shop on Broadway, opposite 
the post-office, but doesn't go there regularly. Most 
often drops in there on Saturdays. I went in and got 
a shave. There was a tow-headed manicure in a cor- 
ner, with about ten pounds of bracelets and a Marcel 
wave of the Eighth-Avenue type, crisp as galvanized 
iron. I didn't like her, on several counts ; I somehow 
felt wrong with her. I had my nails attended to, and 
she was too smooth. She never refuses an invitation 
to dinner, that girl. 

"Now," he continued, "we can't possibly investigate 



THE TROUBLE WITH TULLIVER 195 

this thing from the Brooklyn end. There are too many 
in that gang of boodlers for us to follow them all. So 
we have to trace it back from the district attorney, and 
find some point of contact with the aldermen. If Tul- 
liver was bought up, he wouldn't have worked so hard 
up to Saturday noon. He would have taken it easy 
and put his assistants off. Something must have hap- 
pened on Saturday, and if anything happened, whether 
he was doped or bribed, the only place for it to have 
happened was in that barber shop. It's too bad I can't ; 
trail her to-night; but I have a positive appointment 
with Colonel Mixter. You'll have to shadow the man- 
icure. She leaves the shop at six o'clock ; so you must 
hurry." 

With that, he threw himself on his divan, spread 
a pack of cards in front of him, and began "getting 
Napoleon out of Saint Helena." It was a habit of his 
when most puzzled with his strange problems to rest 
his mind occasionally by a game of solitaire. It was a 
sort of mental bath from which he rose always re- 
freshed and ready for a new attack of the question in 
hand. 

"Did you find that article in The Lancet?" he asked 
as Valeska was preparing to leave the studio. 

"No," was her reply ; "but I found a reference to it 
in an article on the anatomy of the vasomotor nerves. 
The name was Weichardt, wasn't it?" 

"By Jove! that's it!" he cried joyfully. "Weich- 
ardt, Weichardt!" he repeated the name to himself. 
"I'll get it now! I'll just let that boil subconsciously 
a while." 

Valeska took the subway down-town, reaching the 



196 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

barber shop just in time to see, through the basement 
windows, an orange-haired girl putting on her hat be- 
hind a screen in the corner. She nodded to the men 
at the chairs as she passed and came slowly up the 
steps to the street, still fingering the terrific pompadour 
that jutted from her forehead. She walked slowly 
down Broadway, glancing at her watch once, and loi- 
tering occasionally at shop-windows. It was evident 
that she was a bit too early for some appointment. At 
the corner of Fulton Street she stopped and waited. 

It was a long time before a man, smoking a cigar, 
came up to her and stopped without lifting his hat. 
Then he took the girl's arm familiarly, and the two 
walked to the subway entrance again, descended, and 
took a Brooklyn train, and got off at the Borough sta- 
tion. 

Valeska had meanwhile not only kept on their track, 
but had secured a seat where she could watch them at 
close range. The man looked like a political heeler, a 
barkeeper, or a sport. He might indeed have been all 
three. The two seemed very friendly; the girl's stri- 
dent laugh sounded more than once through the car. 
In Brooklyn they went to a flashy restaurant that was 
generally frequented by the sporting element. The 
man ordered dinner and wine. As the meal proceeded, 
the manicure's laugh grew louder, and she became 
more familiar. It was not a pleasant sight. 

From here the two came out upon the electric- 
lighted sidewalk, debated for a while at the curb, then 
got into a street-car. At Waverley Avenue they got 
out and walked up to number 1321. Here, rather to 
Valeska's surprise, the girl left the man abruptly, ran 
up the steps, took out a key, and entered. The man 



THE TROUBLE WITH TULLIVER 197 

walked slowly back, boarded a car, and rode down- 
town. 

Valeska followed him. She got out with him at 
Preston Street, and from here her task was more diffi- 
cult. Keeping at a safe distance, however, she saw 
him stop at a two-story wooden house. At that mo- 
ment a man, approaching from the other direction with 
two dogs held in leash, met him. The two entered the 
house together, and Valeska approached and reconnoi- 
tered. As she passed, she heard the dogs barking, and 
mingled with the noise was the sound of whining, as 
of animals in pain. The lower windows were dark; 
but the three above, on the second floor, were lighted. 
Creeping softly up the steps, Valeska laid her ear to 
the keyhole and listened. There was a low but distinct 
sound, a rumbling as of wheels turning, wheels with 
a heavy load, as if some machine were being labori- 
ously worked. 



Two days passed, and each night Valeska took up 
the scent, following the manicure girl across to Brook- 
lyn as before. Both times, however, the girl was alone. 
The first night she dined alone at a little dairy near the 
Borough station and went to a vaudeville show after- 
ward. The second night she went directly home. The 
next day was Saturday. 

"We seem to have got nothing yet," she said to As- 
tro that morning. "I confess I'm discouraged. If that 
man I saw is the go-between he covers his tracks well. 
If he hands her any drug or money it is impossible for 
us to detect it. If we could only get into that house 
on Preston Street !" 



198 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"That's impossible," said Astro ; "it's too well guard- 
ed. I've been over there to see it. I was looking- for 
a house to rent, you know, and found out enough to 
arouse my suspicions. The neighbors are gossiping 
about the place already. Dogs go in; but don't come 
out. There are moans and howls all night long, and 
it's getting to be a scandal. But to-day I hope to find 
out something definite about the relations that exist 
between Tulliver and that girl. McGraw has agreed 
to tip me off when Tulliver goes to the shop, and I 
think I can get a chance to watch the two together." 

Nothing had been heard from Mrs. Tulliver in the 
meantime. To Valeska's mind that in itself was suspi- 
cious. Astro's story when he returned did not relieve 
her mind. 

"I got in after Tulliver," he said, "and was shaved, 
just managing to miss my turn with the manicure lady. 
Tulliver had his nails polished, as usual. She bright- 
ened up considerably at sight of him. It seemed to me 
that she was excited. He talked and laughed a little 
with her ; but not enough to prove any great intimacy. 
She was undoubtedly nervous, however. Once she 
went behind the screen and did something, I don't 
know what. But she had ample opportunity to convey 
a secret message to him without arousing the least 
suspicion. I confess I'm worried about him." 

With this, Valeska had to be content for the time, 
and she heard no more till Monday morning. Then, 
upon her arrival at the studio, Astro met her with a 
black face. 

"Tulliver is down again!" he said immediately. 
"Mrs. Tulliver telephoned yesterday at ten o'clock in 
the morning, while her husband was asleep. He abso- 




s 

3 
o 

0* 

<u 

<u 

t-i 

o 



THE TROUBLE WITH TULLIVER 199 

lutely refused to work, said he was exhausted, and in- 
sisted on taking a nap. He said he wasn't ill at all, 
only felt tired. It was plain enough that she is fear- 
fully worried now, and will help us out with informa- 
tion whether he objects or not. You had better go and 
see her and get all the details." 

Valeska lost no time in obeying him. Astro threw 
himself on the divan, refused all comers, and gave 
himself up to a struggle with his problem. Something 
in his memory balked. He was usually wonderfully in 
control of it, and the refusal tantalized .him. 

Valeska returned at eleven o'clock and reported that 
Tulliver had gone down to the office, though still list- 
less and blue. Mrs. Tulliver's alarm had increased, and 
she was now willing to tell all she knew. 

"I spoke to her as delicately as I could about the 
manicure girl," she said. "Mrs. Tulliver seemed a bit 
worried at the subject. She said that Tulliver had 
often spoken of her as an original slangy type, whose 
conversation refreshed him after his hard work. In 
fact, that was his chief reason for having his nails 
done there, so that he could listen to the girl's persi- 
flage, to which he didn't even have to answer. That 
seemed to be her main talent, in fact ; for Mrs. Tulli- 
ver said that she had a gift of gab, rather striking 
looks, and the ability to create a high and showy polish 
on men's nails. She is clumsy, though. She has man- 
aged her scissors so unskilfully that she has cut Mr. 
Tulliver's fingers twice." 

Astro jumped to his feet. "Abracadabra!" he ex- 
claimed, and stood staring at Valeska. 

"What's the matter?" 

"We're getting on!" He started to walk up and 



200 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

down. "Let me think it over again. I believe I've al- 
most got it. Leave me alone here, and I'll do some 
deep-sea diving in the abysses of my memory, if you'll 
pardon the metaphor. You look over the papers while 
I grope in the recesses." 

Valeska left and took up the file of morning papers. 
She was not gone long, having found something al- 
most immediately that seemed important enough to 
warrant her interrupting the Master of Mysteries. 

"What do you think ?" she exclaimed, appearing be- 
tween the velvet portieres that screened the palmist's 
vast studio from the reception-room. "That house at 
number 1321 Preston Street has been raided by the 
police, at the instigation of the Society for the Preven- 
tion of Cruelty to Animals. They entered the place yes- 
terday, and found a sort of treadmill where two dogs 
were working themselves almost to death, for no ap- 
parent reason whatever. There was a bed, a table, and 
chemical things in one of the rooms of the lower floor ; 
but there was nothing up-stairs but the dogs, the tread- 
mill, and a table that looked as if it had been used for 
dissection." 

Astro had stood listening to every word. As Va- 
leska spoke, his face cleared. A smile appeared on 
his lips. He threw off his crimson silk robe, tossed his 
turban into a corner, and on the instant appeared as 
the virile keen man of activity. 

"I have it!" he exclaimed. "It is all over! District 
Attorney Tulliver will have no more mysterious at- 
tacks of fatigue! The boodling Brooklyn aldermen 
will be prosecuted from now on with all despatch !" 

He went up to Valeska, and gently led her to a seat, 
laughing at the wonder in her eyes. 



THE TROUBLE WITH TULLIVER 201 

"Listen," he said. "I had it all deep in my mem- 
ory ; but until this moment I couldn't make connections 
with it and apply my knowledge to this case. Now I 
recall everything. Herr Weichardt, a Munich patholo- 
gist, some years ago made some experiments which 
showed that fatigue was an actual pathological condi- 
tion. In other words, he proved it was a disease, by 
discovering the germ and inoculating living organisms 
with it. He took some animals, pigs, if I recall aright, 
made them work till they were almost dead of fa- 
tigue, then removed the tired muscles and extracted 
the serum from them. With this he inoculated other 
animals. He found that a small dose of his serum cul- 
ture caused all the characteristic symptoms of fatigue 
in the patient and that a heavy dose produced even 
death." 

"But how could this gang administer sucri a poison?" 
"Through the manicure, whom they had engaged 
and paid, of course. All she had to do, after she had 
received the serum from the man you saw, was to dip 
her nail scissors into the solution, and then clip the 
cuticle so as to draw blood. The merest scratch would 
suffice, and no noticeable sore in the finger would be 
caused ; but the toxic germs would permeate the veins 
and be distributed all over the body. It was the fact 
that she had cut Tulliver's finger that aroused my 
memory ; then the story of the treadmill instantly sug- 
gested Weichardt's experiments. It was a devilishly 
subtle plot. You see, they didn't dare actually to poi- 
son him, or give him any easily recognized disease. All 
they needed was to put him out of business for a day 
or so at critical moments when they needed time to pre- 
pare their fight." 



202 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Then you'll tell Tulliver?" 

"Certainly. With the police behind him, he can easily 
run down the plot and do what he wishes about it. 
Most likely he'll see that the manicure girl leaves town, 
and let the rest go/' 

Valeska looked thoughtfully at the huge crystal ball 
on an ebony table in front of her and spoke as if to 
herself. "I wish some other symptoms besides fatigue 
could be transmitted in that way. One might infuse 
some of . the district attorney's own strenuosity and 
honesty, for instance, into persons who need moral 
stamina." 

"I can think of better things than that to do." As- 
tro gazed dreamily at the pretty flushed face in front 
of him. His eyes lingered on the fair curling hair, 
the lovely curve of the neck, the slenderly graceful, 
girlish hands, the sensitive mouth, the cunningly 
molded figure, and he sighed. 

"What would you try to give me, if you were under- 
taking the experiment?" Valeska asked without look- 
ing up. 

Astro did not answer. Instead he took one more 
long tender look at her. "I think," he said finally, 
"that first I shall have to treat myself !" 



WHY MRS. BURBANK RAN 
AWAY 

"O URELY," said Astro, "until you have solved a 
O woman's emotional equation, there's little use in 
trying to discover her motive. A woman will kill a 
man she hates; but she will as often kill a man she 
loves. Now look at this letter and tell me whether the 
writer is in love or not." As he spoke, he selected a 
sheet from the many spread out on his table and 
handed it to his assistant. Then, taking up the stem 
of his narghile, he leaned comfortably back on his vel- 
vet couch and watched the girl with amusement and 
fondness. His oriental eyes narrowed, and his olive- 
skinned, handsome, oval face under the white turban 
became a mask. 

Valeska took up the writing with a pretty gesture 
and scanned it studiously. She looked up at last with 
a quick interrogative smile. "She's in love, I think; 
isn't she?" 

"Decidedly!" The Master of Mysteries bowed 
slowly. "The crossings of the "t's".are almost all in a 
double curve; it's a sure sign. But you notice that 
some of them have only a single curve, like the lower 
arc of a circle." 

"Oh, so they have ! Why, then, she has had a previ- 
ous love-affair, hasn't she ?" 

203 



204 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Yes. She is sincerely in love now; though she 
hasn't yet forgotten her first. You see by the regularity 
of her terminals, too, that she's a faithful friend. But 
to return to the crossings: let us compare these with 
some others." 

He looked over the collection and drew forth an- 
other specimen. "Here you see a woman that has had 
but one affair, and has quite outlived it. The arc is 
that of the top of a circle, you see. Here's one who is 
beginning to be in love. You will observe the same arc 
as in the first, a rising curve, but no compound 
curves. If you thoroughly understand this principle, 
we'll go on to a study of terminals and gladiated 
words." As he spoke his face lighted up with enthu- 
siasm. 

A bell, softly tinkling, interrupted him. With a sud- 
den gesture he swept all the letters into a heap and 
tossed them into a drawer. That done, he became 
again the calm impassive Seer. He drew his red silken 
robe about him as Valeska rose to answer the bell. He 
followed her svelt graceful form with alert eyes till 
she disappeared in the waiting-room ; then they fell ab- 
stractedly on the slow, gracefully-rising, blue, per- 
fumed smoke of the censer in a corner of the dim stu- 
dio and remained there until the curtains again parted. 

The visitor was a fine military type of man, with 
white mustache and iron-gray hair, tall and well-built, 
but with a face drawn and haggard. He strode up to 
Astro with a determined air. The Seer awaited the 
first words calmly. 

"My name is Burbank," the man began, "Major 
Burbank, retired. I have come to you on an important 
and delicate piece of business, at the advice of a friend 



WHY MRS. BURBANK RAN AWAY 205 

who has told me of your reputation for solving mys- 
teries. I trust, sir, that you will consider what I have 
to say to you as confidential ?" 

Astro nodded and made an expressive gesture. 

"My wife left our home yesterday afternoon, leav- 
ing a very painful letter for me. I wish to know, sir, 
if you think that you can discover her whereabouts for 
me without precipitating a scandal. I have the greatest 
wish that this matter should not be known unless it is 
absolutely necessary/' 

Astro bowed and pointed to a chair, seating himself 
as well. "I am ready, sir," he replied. "If you will 
acquaint me with the details, I think I can do what 
you wish." 

"There are no details," the visitor broke out ; "that 
is, none but this letter. Everything was all right; we 
were happily married ; my wife and I loved each other. 
We have two children, whom she has abandoned. It's 
incredible, sir! There is absolutely no reason for it at 
all, so far as I can see. But look at this, and imagine 
what I have to suffer !" 

He took a letter in an envelope from his pocket and 
handed it to the Seer. 

Astro looked over the envelope carefully then opened 
the letter and read the following message : 

"My DEAR, DEAR GEORGE I shall never see you 
again. Don't try to find me. I'm going to finish a 
long bitter wretchedness. Forgive me if you can ; 
for I have suffered. Farewell. ELLEN." 

His eyes ran over the pen strokes carefully. He 
looked at the back of the envelope again, then held it 
sensitively in his hands, keeping a serious silence for 



2o6 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

a few minutes. His gaze became abstracted. For sev- 
eral minutes he did not speak, seemingly falling into 
a deep reverie. Then he said : 

"My dear sir, your wife is still alive, and I think 
I can find her. But I get from the radiations of this 
writing a conviction that she is in great mental distress 
which it is not well for you to break in upon just yet. 
I should prefer that you permit me to inspect your 
house and see if I can not discover the reason for this 
surprising action. By visiting the place where she was 
last, I shall the more readily be impressed by her mag- 
netism and get the vibrations that have undoubtedly 
affected her. First of all, I must ask you to send me 
immediately several photographs of Mrs. Burbank, that 
I may fix her image in my mind." 

Major Burbank had stood looking at him with a 
tense anxious look. "Is that necessary?" he said, "I 
had hoped that, if you had the occult power you claim, 
you could do it more simply." 

"If you wish to help her " Astro shrugged his 
shoulders. 

"Help her! It's just that!" he exclaimed. "I want 
to save her, even more than I want to find her." 

"That goes without saying. Very well. Only a few 
more questions, so that I may be prepared for what- 
ever influences I may find. Who lives in your house ?" 
He added, "Including servants, of course." 

"Besides my wife and myself, only the cook, a sec- 
ond girl, and a nurse." 

"Who are your most frequent visitors ?" 

"Why, let's see. Ellen has a lot of women friends 
who run in occasionally, of course." 

"No, the men." 



WHY MRS. BURBANK RAN AWAY 207 

The major looked at him sternly. "See here, sir! 
If you attempt for a moment to hint that " 

"My dear Major Burbank," Astro replied amiably, 
"I hint at nothing. All I wish is to be able to distin- 
guish between the astral emanations of those who fre- 
quent your place. It is possible that Mrs. Burbank was 
most affected by a woman ; but it is not likely." 

The major, still frowning, replied : "We lead a very 
quiet life. My friend Colonel Trevellian is the only 
close friend of the family. But I must tell you, sir, 
that my wife has of late confessed to me that she did 
not like him. It has made it very uncomfortable for 
me, I assure you. But I saw him only to-day. He can 
have nothing to do with this disappearance, I'm sure. 
I have known him for several years quite intimately, 
and he's the last person " 

"I understand/' said Astro dryly ; "but has he heard 
of Mrs. Burbank's disappearance ?" 

"No, I haven't had the heart to tell him." 

"Very good. I should advise you not to. Well, I 
will call this afternoon. I think we shall be able to sat- 
isfy you." 

As soon as the visitor had gone, Valeska appeared. 
Astro handed her Mrs. Burbank's letter, with a curi- 
ous look. She examined it under the drop-light at the 
table. 

"She is in love ; but has had a previous affair, just 
like that other woman. How curious ! And she's suf- 
fering from a severe mental strain, too. I heard the 
major's conversation while I was in the secret closet. 
It's interesting, isn't it ? Do you suppose she has out- 
grown her feeling for her husband and is in love with 
his friend now?" 



208 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Or is she in love with her husband and has out- 
grown her affection for Colonel Trevellian that's 
what we have to find out." Astro shook his head. 

"You said you knew she was alive, though. How 
can you be sure that is true ?" 

"You haven't half examined that envelope," Astro 
replied abstractedly, as he walked up and down, his 
chin in his hand, supporting the elbow with his other 
arm, absorbed in thought. 

"It's postmarked New York, though Oh, I see !" 
Valeska smiled at him. She had turned back the top 
flap, which adhered, loosely gummed, and looked at the 
imprint of the stationer. "Hodge & Durland, Pough- 
keepsie, N. Y." she read. "She may be there, perhaps. 
But how did she mail it here in New York ?" 

"No doubt she gave a porter a dollar at the station 
to post it when his train got into the city. Perfectly 
simple. You'll notice that the envelope is badly crum- 
pled 'and soiled. It has evidently been carried some 
time in a man's pocket. 

"Now," he continued, taking off his robe and tur- 
ban, "I wish to lose no time; so I'll go right over to 
the Burbanks', while you wait for the photographs. As 
soon as they come, take the first train for Poughkeep- 
sie, and see if you can locate Mrs. Burbank. It's un- 
likely she is still there ; yet she may be." 

"And if I find her?" 

"Keep her in sight, wire me, and await instructions." 

"I see." Valeska bent her brows in thought. "If 
she's gone, of course I'll try to tn.ce her, if I can get 
it out of the hotel clerks." 

"If you can?" Astro, struggling into a long gray 
overcoat, paused long enough to smile at his assistant. 



WHY MRS. BURBANK RAN AWAY 209 

In return she made a mischievous face at him. He 
blew a kiss to her, and taking his stick and silk hat, 
left the studio. 

His green limousine took him in ten minutes to a 
brownstone house on West Fifty-second Street, one of 
a row of gloomily respectable fronts. A butler, im- 
pressively solemn, ushered him into the parlor. 

Astro was about to sit down when the man said : 

"I'm sorry to say that Major Burbank has been un- 
expectedly called away, sir, and left instructions that 
you should see anything you wished." His voice 
dropped in tone as he added somberly, "The fact is, 
sir, the major had just heard a piece of shocking news. 
His brother has just committed suicide, sir, and he 
has gone up to Kingsbridge to see about it, sir. 
He was very much upset, of course, sir; but he told 
me to do wliat was necessary for you. So if you are 
ready I'll show you everything." 

"Is Mrs. Burbank in?" Astro asked. 

"No, sir, she is not, I understand an aunt was taken 
ill and she has gone out of town to attend to her. She 
left yesterday afternoon, sir, directly after lunch, in a 
great hurry, sir." 

"In a hurry?" Astro repeated, watching the impas- 
sive countenance of the servant. 

"Yes, sir ; so much so that she never stopped to hang 
up the telephone receiver, sir. I expect the call was 
from her aunt's people, though she got a letter in the 
morning that did seem to upset her, too." 

"Ah !" The Master of Mysteries knitted his brow, 
and sat for a few moments without speaking, while the 
butler stood erect, waiting like a lay figure. Astro 
looked up at him suddenly, with a keen searching 



2io THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

gaze, and for a moment a startled expression passed 
over the man's face. 

"So Mrs. Burbank has gone to her aunt's ?" he said 
deliberately. 

"That's what she said, sir." 

"Do you believe it?" 

The butler shifted his feet uneasily. "It's hardly for 
me to say, sir." 

"See here !" Astro rose and took the fellow by the 
lapel of his coat. "You're quite right, my man. It 
isn't for you to suspect anything, of course. But if I 
know anything about human nature, you are devoted 
to the major, and you're to be trusted. Now see here ! 
I'm here to help him in this matter; but anything 
I find out from you shall go no further. Do you un- 
derstand?" 

"Yes, sir," the butler replied uneasily. "The major 
said I was to obey your instructions to the letter, sir." 

"There is one thing that I want to know, my man, 
and that is, did Mrs. Burbank write to Colonel Tre- 
vellian before or since she went away?" 

"I can't say, sir, as to that." 

The Seer still looked at the man searchingly, as if 
sending his will and thought through his eyes to fas- 
cinate and charm. The man's attitude, as he watched 
Astro, changed subtly from suspicion to confidence. 
Gradually he lost the conventional stolidity of the 
servant and became more human. 

"All I want to see is the envelope of that letter," As- 
tro said, watching his man. 

The butler hesitated. "I might possibly find out 
from the colonel's man, sir. I'm well acquainted with 
him, and I've done him favors in times past." 



WHY MRS. BURBANK RAN AWAY 211 

"See if you can get it ; and meanwhile I'll go up into 
Mrs. Burbank's room." 

The butler showed the way up-stairs and left the 
Master of Mysteries alone. Once the door was shut, 
Astro gave a swift look about the chamber, then walked 
to a writing-desk. Everything was in order, and not 
a letter was visible. From here he turned to the open 
grate. The fire was out, and only a few ashes re- 
mained. These he examined carefully. On the top 
were a few flakes of carbonized paper, crumpled like 
black poppy petals. With a deft finger he drew these 
from the grate and carried them to the desk, placing 
them on a white blotter. On the wrinkled surface, al- 
most invisible, were some traces of writing, appearing 
as if slightly embossed on the surface. He could make 
out only one word, or part of a word: "Kellem." 
The closest scrutiny revealed no more writing ; but on 
one charred fragment he discovered the remains of a 
postage-stamp. It was curiously shrunk to half-size, 
and appeared as a negative, in which all that had been 
white was black, and the red ink changed to gray. 

By the time he had accomplished this delicate ma- 
nipulation, the butler had returned. 

"I found the letter, sir; but it hasn't been opened 
at all. It seems that the colonel didn't come home last 
night, and hasn't returned yet. I got it out of William ; 
but he's in a mortal terror, sir, and he wants me to 
bring it back at once. Do you think it will take you 
long, sir?" 

"About ten minutes ; but I shall have to be alone." 

"You're not going to open it, sir! It's as much as 
William's place is worth to be caught at this game." 

"No, I won't open it. I only wish to see the writ- 



212 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

ing. Come back in ten minutes, and I'll let you have 
it back." 

As soon as the butler had gone Astro drew from his 
pocket a bottle of alcohol and a velvet sponge. With 
this he moistened the envelope, and it became as trans- 
parent as tracing-paper. The letter inside was so 
folded, however, that he could read only one line, in a 
nervous, hurried handwriting which he recognized as 
Mrs. Burbank's: 

"I can not bear it any longer. If you don't " 

He opened the window, set the envelope in a draft, 
and waited. In ten minutes he took it up, smelled of 
it, and went out of the room. The butler was anx- 
iously waiting, and received it with relief. 

"One moment, before you go," said Astro. "I'd 
like to see the nursery and the children." 

The butler led the way and opened a door on the 
third floor. Two children, one about four and the 
other two years old, were playing on the floor with 
building blocks, while a nursemaid was busy at the 
window with some sewing. The butler retired to re- 
turn the letter. 

Astro went to the children and knelt down beside 
them, showing by his manner that he was not only 
fond of children but used to them. He did not speak 
at first, sitting with them, smiling, and playing with the 
blocks as if he himself was of their age. The elder, 
a boy, seeing him arranging a pile of blocks, crawled 
over to watch and help him. As the two sat there to- 
gether, the other baby stared at Astro. Then she put 
out her two arms and cried : 

"Kellem! Kellem!" 



WHY MRS. BURBANK RAN AWAY 213 

Astro stared in surprise. It was the same word, 
evidently, that he had found on the ashes of Mrs. Bur- 
bank's letter. He turned to the nurse, who apparently 
had noticed nothing unusual. 

"What does she mean by that?" he asked. 

"Oh, that 'Kellem, kellem'? Why, I don't know, 
I'm sure, sir. I fancy it's one of the games they play 
with Colonel Trevellian. He often comes in here for 
a romp with the kiddies, and they seem to be fond of 
him. I've heard Agatha say that before ; but, lord ! I 
never thought to wonder about it. It is funny, isn't 
it?" 

Again the child reached out her arms and repeated 
the words, "Kellem, kellem!" 

"Did she ever play that particular game with her 
mother, nurse?" 

"I don't remember, sir, I'm sure. I expect so, 
though. Seems to me, now I think of it, I did hear 
Mrs. Burbank trying to break Agatha of it; but no 
doubt I've got it mixed up." 

Astro watched the children for some time; then, 
after kissing each of the chubby faces, went thought- 
fully down-stairs. 

He had no sooner reached the hall than the outer 
door opened, and Burbank entered with a serious ex- 
pression on his face. He bowed and shook his head 
sadly. 

"My misfortunes are all coming at once, it seems," 
he said. "My brother is dead, my wife missing. It's 
too much for me, and I'm afraid I'll have to call in the 
police and put them on the case. I can't stand it any 
longer ; unless unless you have discovered some way 
of helping me," he added. 



2i 4 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"When did your brother die ?" Astro asked. 

"As far as we can learn, early this morning. The 
gas was turned on in his room, and he was found at 
eight o'clock, dead from the fumes. They were un- 
able to locate me till four this afternoon, when I went 
right over and did what was necessary." 

"He lived alone, I presume ?" 

"Yes, not even a servant. The body was discovered 
by a friend whom he had asked to call, who smelled the 
gas and had the door broken in. I can't account for 
it any way." 

"Did Mrs. Burbank ever visit his apartment?" As- 
tro asked. 

"Yes. Occasionally when he was ill, she went over 
and took him things necessary." He stopped and 
stared at the Master. "But you don't suspect that 
that there's any connection between Mrs. Burbank's 
disappearance and my brother's death ?" 

"I should like to investigate your brother's apart- 
ments," said Astro evasively. "I may be able to re- 
ceive some impression there that will lead me on the 
track. I have succeeded in harmonizing the vibrations 
in Mrs. Burbank's apartments, and feel already that I 
understand her mental condition when she left home. 
But there is a strange discord there, Mr. Burbank, and 
I must complete the impression." 

"Here is my card, then. I'll write a note asking that 
you be given the fullest opportunity for investigation 
on the premises. Of course the body has been taken 
to the morgue, and the police are in charge of the 
apartment; but I think you will have no trouble with 
them." 

"One more thing, Mr. Burbank. I'd like to know if 



WHY MRS. BURBANK RAN AWAY 215 

Mrs. Burbank was ever hypnotized, that you know of." 

"Why, only once, possibly twice, at an evening party 
here. We did have some rather amusing experiments 
this fall ; but it was nothing but fun, of course." 

"And who was it that hypnotized her that time?" 
asked the Seer. 

"Why, my friend Colonel Trevellian. He fancied 
that he had some power, and did succeed in influencing 
one or two of the company, my wife included. But 
nothing further ever came of it, and we never tried it 
again." 

"Has the colonel known your wife long?" 

"Yes, since before we were married. But, my dear 
sir, you don't " 

"Mr. Burbank, at present I am merely holding my- 
self sensitive to whatever influences I come in contact 
with, that's all. As soon as I have soaked myself in 
them, so to speak, I shall go into a trance and be 
guided by subconscious mind. I don't know about 
these things at all. I observe, I listen, I smell ; but 
what works these impressions out in me is deeper than 
mere sense or mere ratiocination. You must wait pa- 
tiently, and hope for the best." 

He left Burbank disconsolate in the library, and 
jumping into his limousine, the Master of Mysteries 
drove to the studio. Here a telegram awaited him. 
It was from Valeska : 

"She is in Troy. Shall find her this evening and 
wire address." 

He despatched an answer, and hurrying to the sub- 
way, took an express to Kingsbridge. 

On the way his face belied the confident patter by 



216 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

which he had imposed upon his client. His eyes were 
fixed, his mouth set. Occasionally he drew from his 
pocket a note-book and consulted its contents, staring 
at the page for minutes at a time. As the train slowed 
down, he became alert again, and when it stopped he 
waited only long enough to ask for directions, then 
walked briskly to Burbank's apartment. 

The note insured a grudging admittance, and he was 
taken up-stairs by an officer into a little flat. The place 
was meagerly furnished as a bachelor's quarters. A 
look into the kitchen revealed a few utensils and pack- 
ages of food strewn about in a disorderly manner. The 
sitting-room was scantily furnished, but in better or- 
der. Astro gave it a glance. The chamber where Bur- 
bank had died next engrossed his attention. Here he 
spent a half-hour in elaborate scrutiny. Still he ap- 
peared dissatisfied. Excusing himself to the officer, he 
opened the back door and inspected the platform. Here 
he saw an ash barrel and a can for refuse. He opened 
the cover of each in turn. Lighting a match, he looked 
eagerly into them. 

In a moment he had drawn out a broken, hollow, 
black-rubber cylinder, and after assuring himself that 
he had all the fragments, slipped them into his overcoat 
pocket. He then returned inside. 

"You have no doubt that the death was caused by 
suicide, I suppose, officer?" 

"Of course not. There's no evidence to the con- 
trary that I know of." 

"No one was known to have visited him the night 
before he died?" 

"The people down-stairs say they heard footsteps 
late that night; but it may have been anybody. No- 



WHY MRS. BURBANK RAN AWAY 217 

body heard the Hoor shut. Or if they had, how was 

it possible to turn on the gas? The door was locked 

on the inside, as they found when they burst it in." 
"And the rear entrance was locked, too ?" 
"That, too. It was a suicide, all right." 
"Of course. Very well, then, that's all. I'll report 

to the major. Good night, Officer." 
Astro hurried back to the subway station. As he 

reached the ticket taker he drew a photograph from his 

pocket and handed it to the man. 

"Did you see a woman like this last night, late ?" 
He looked at it for some time before he answered. 

"I wouldn't be sure about that ; but I've certainly seen 

her several times. I can't recall just when was the 

last time." 

"That's all," said Astro, and he handed the man a 

dollar, ran down-stairs, and boarded the express for 

down-town. 

Another telegram from Valeska was lying under his 
door when he reached the studio. After reading it, he 
hastily scribbled two despatches and rang for a messen- 
ger. One read : 

"Your child Bobby has been taken ill with 
pneumonia and is at a private hospital, at number 
234 West Thirty-fourth Street. Come at once. 
Important." 

This was addressed to Mrs. Belle Grant, Delmar 
House, Troy, New York. The other was sent to Va- 
leska Wynne. 

"Follow B. G. wherever she goes, and get ac- 
quainted with her if possible but do not let her 
know you know her." 



218 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Then, yawning, he took off his coat, rolled up his 
shirt-sleeves, and sat down to a table under the electric 
light. Here he laid out the pieces of the cylinder he 
had found, and with liquid glue started laboriously to 
piece them together. One by one he fastened them 
and warmed them over a Bunsen burner till they were 
dry. The work was long and arduous, and it was al- 
most daylight before he had finished the job. The 
cylinder was now complete, except for an irregularly 
shaped hole at one extremity. With a penknife he 
trimmed the protruding glue, and then examined the 
whole through a magnifying-glass. Not till it ap- 
peared to satisfy his inspection did he desist. But at 
last the thing was done, and without undressing he 
threw himself on the great velvet couch under a trophy 
of arms and fell sound asleep. 

His pet cat Deodar, a handsome black Angora, 
awakened him at nine o'clock by clawing at his sleeve, 
and Astro jumped up and went to the telephone. A 
half-hour later, tubbed, and clad in his flowing red silk 
robe, his turban and its moonstone clasp on his 
head, he sipped his thick black coffee and munched his 
rolls as he read in the morning paper the accounts of 
the suicide of Edward Burbank. Nothing new to in- 
terest him had transpired. 

As he sat there the bell rang, and soon a boy in but- 
tons entered, carrying a parcel. Astro opened it, and 
took from a box a phonograph, which he set on the 
table. He was a bit excited now, as he fitted his 
mended cylinder to the drum and started the clock- 
work. 

The wheels whirred; a harsh dry voice announced 
a song by a well-known comedian. After a preliminary 



WHY MRS. BURBANK RAN AWAY 219 

orchestral flourish, tHe solo began. Astro listened 
eagerly. The melody was constantly interrupted by 
discordant explosive noises caused by the joining of 
the broken pieces ; but with these interruptions the song 
ran on for a while fairly intelligibly. Then there was 
a splitting series of crackling noises. From the 
silence following these there came a sudden, loud, mo- 
notonous exclamation, "Kellem, kellem, kellem, kell " 

Astro, staring, stopped the machine and reseated 
himself, to fall into a profound reverie. At times he 
shook his head. Once he rose to take Mrs. Burbank's 
letter from a pigeonhole, and scrutinized it long and 
carefully. At last, with a shrug, he took up his nar- 
ghile and a volume of French memoirs. Smoking and 
reading, the time passed away till ten o'clock. 

The first visitors were sent away by Buttons. Astro 
would not be disturbed. At eleven, the telephone bell 
rang. The Master of Mysteries took up the receiver 
eagerly. 

It was Major Burbank. "I have just received a let- 
ter," he said, "and I thought it would be well for you 
to know the contents. It is from my unfortunate 
brother Edward, and in it he tells me that he is con- 
templating suicide. The poor fellow was in ill health 
and financial straits, and the fact that he had been a 
care to me seemed to worry him. It's dreadful to 
think of his having been distressed over the little I was 
able to do for him ; but I feel quite sure that he was 
not sane when he committed his desperate act. The 
poor fellow is at rest in peace now, I trust. I almost 
wish I were." 

Astro's expression had changed wonderfully as he 
heard the news. He hastened to offer his sympathy 



220 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

anew to his client, and assured him that it was only a 
question of a few hours before his wife would return. 
This promise seemed to quiet the old man's distress. 
Astro went back into the studio with a new expression, 
at once determined and jubilant. He sat down, wrote 
a note, and despatched it by a messenger boy. This 
done, he set the phonograph carefully at the beginning 
of the strange exclamation that interrupted the song 
on the record, and waited. 

In a half-hour Buttons opened the heavy portieres, 
announced "Colonel Trevellian!" and a man walked 
in. 

The visitor looked about scornfully. He was a lean, 
yellow, bony-faced man, with deep-set eyes and a 
drooping mustache. He spoke with a drawl. "I be- 
lieve you requested to see me on a matter of impor- 
tance and of a confidential nature," he observed lan- 
guidly. 

"I did," Astro replied. "I am about to make a re- 
quest of you." 

"Indeed, you do me a great honor." The man's tone 
was sarcastic. 

Astro scarcely looked at him. "I should be infinitely 
obliged to you, Colonel Trevellian, if you would con- 
sent to pack up your things, leave New York and not 
return for five years." 

The colonel scowled, took a step nearer, and 
clenched his fist. "You infernal charlatan! if you'll 
take off that nightgown and sweeping-cap, I'll see that 
you don't decorate this cozy corner any longer ! What 
the deuce do you mean? By Jove ! I'll thrash you and 
pitch you out of your own window !" 

Astro yawned. Then he brought his two hands 



WHY MRS. BURBANK RAN AWAY 221 

down on his knees, and his dark alert head was out- 
stretched toward the colonel, on whom he turned two 
blazing eyes. "Colonel Trevellian," he said in a voice 
like the rattling of paper, "you have persecuted Mrs. 
Burbank long enough ! If you fancy you understand 
the art of hypnotic suggestion, I can show you that 
you're a fool as well as a cur. For her sake I consent 
to permit you to leave town without informing the 
major exactly what kind of a cad you are, but you'll 
have to leave quickly." 

The colonel had already lost the most of his nerve ; 
but he made a last attempt to bluster. "What do you 
mean, sir? I've done nothing at all, I assure you. 
You're quite mistaken. Why, the major is my best 
friend !" 

"And do you not wish to supplant him as husband 
of your old sweetheart, Mrs. Burbank?" 

"Of course not. It's absurd." The colonel's face 
was ashen now. 

"And you did not suggest, after hypnotizing her and 
getting her somewhat under your influence, that she " 

The man stared hard at Astro, and his jaw had 
dropped. "That she what ?" He almost whispered it. 

Astro touched the phonograph. "Kellem, kellem, 
kell " it ground out raucously. 

The colonel stared first at the mechanism, then at 
the palmist. He dropped a step back, undecided, then, 
turning suddenly, bolted out of the room. 

Astro dropped again into his chair, folded his arms, 
and drew a long breath. 

The hansom drew up at number 234. A woman got 
out, paid the driver, and looked curiously at the front 



222 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

door. Apparently puzzled, she drew a telegram from 
her purse and read it over. She was a fine-looking 
woman of thirty-five, dressed all in black, even to her 
furs, though she wore no mourning veil. Her only 
luggage was a small traveling bag. Everything about 
her stamped her as a woman of culture and influence, 
if not rich, at least comfortably off. Yet her demeanor 
was timid, almost frightened. 

As she started to ascend the steps, a green motor- 
car, driving furiously, came down Thirty-fourth Street 
and drew up suddenly before her. A young girl, fresh 
and pretty, smartly dressed, and with an air of jaunty 
confidence, jumped out. 

The woman who had first arrived stared at her in 
astonishment. "Why," she said, "how do you happen 
to be here?" The look of perplexity and timidity in 
her eyes deepened now into positive alarm. "Oh!" 
she breathed, "you're not a detective ?" 

Valeska took her hand affectionately. "No, my dear 
Mrs. Burbank, only a friend who wants to help you. 
I knew that if I told you on the train you'd never come 
here; so I didn't dare to explain that we had really 
imposed upon you. Bobby is quite well, I assure you. 
You needn't worry on his account. And I hope on 
no other account either ; for I'm sure that by this time 
the Master has been able to straighten things out." 

"The Master?" Mrs. Burbank gasped. 

"Yes, Astro, the Master of Mysteries, my employer 
and my friend, as I'm sure he is yours. Your hus- 
band secured his services, for no one else would have 
been able to find you and help you without danger of 
publicity. Come right up and you'll hear from him 
that everything is all right." 




" Oh," she breathed, " you're not a detective ? " 



WHY MRS. BURBANK RAN AWAY 223 

"Oh, if it only were!" The woman followed Va- 
leska hopelessly. 

Ten minutes after that Mrs. Burbank sat smiling in 
the studio. Astro had told her that there would be 
nothing more to fear from the persecutor who had 
made the last few weeks hideous. She had herself 
confessed everything; how, after that first hypnotic 
sleep, the colonel had given her persistently so often 
that it drove her almost distracted the horrible sug- 
gestion that she kill her husband. She had struggled 
hard against it; but the iteration of the words "Kill 
him!" so distorted as to be unintelligible to any one 
else, coming now in letters, now over the telephone, 
now from the innocent lips of her own child, had finally 
unstrung her mind ; and, for fear lest in her distress she 
should actually commit the crime, she had run away 
to get out of the colonel's 1 power. 

"When I went away," she concluded, "I thought I 
had destroyed every evidence that might enable my 
husband to know how I had been tormented; that is 
every piece but one, the phonograph cylinder. I was 
afraid I could not destroy that, and feared to leave it 
in the house. I took it with me when I went to see 
Edward, hoping that I should find some place to con- 
ceal it. But every one seemed to be watching me, and 
I was too nervous to risk throwing it away. So when 
I got to Edward's apartment I left it there in the ash 
barrel. I had intended to tell him everything and 
ask his advice, but the poor fellow was so blue that I 
didn't have the heart to worry him with my own trou- 
bles and I left him without saying anything." 

She looked curiously at Astro. "I can't imagine how 
you ever found out. It's wonderful !" 



224 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Astro's look was cryptic. "My dear Mrs. Burbank," 
he replied, "such a nervous force as yours is intensely 
dynamic; it effects a disturbance of the ether, and to 
one sensitive to such vibration the message-impression 
is as plain as the ringing of a bell." 

Valeska smiled and folded her hands. 

"But now what am I to tell my husband?" Mrs. 
Burbank exclaimed. "If he knows everything he'll 
want to kill Colonel Trevellian !" 

"The colonel will take himself out of harm's way, 
I'm sure," said Astro. "He has had his warning. 
There is only one possible way that I know of plausi- 
bly explaining your absence." 

Valeska looked up swiftly, as if to anticipate his ex- 
planation. 

"What can I say?" Mrs. Burbank said doubtfully. 

"The truth a woman's last resort." And Astro fa- 
vored her with a rather cynical smile. 



MRS. SELWYN'S EMERALD 



ASPING at the splendor of the scene, the won- 
derful house, the gorgeously-arrayed company, 
the terrifying magnificence of the servants in livery, 
Valeska grabbed Astro's arm tightly, trembling. He 
patted her hand and smiled. A pompous butler bent 
his head to hear their names, then bellowed them into 
the salon: 

"Monsieur Astro and Miss Wynne !" 

As they made their way toward their hostess, the 
buzz of conversation in the reception-room was for a 
moment hushed. Women watched through curious 
eyes the distinguished, picturesque figure of the Mas- 
ter of Mysteries, whispered to one another, and noted 
critically the face and costume of the beautiful girl 
who accompanied the lion of the evening. Men 
glanced with amused contempt at Astro's oriental 
face, and scrutinized Valeska Wynne more indul- 
gently. The murmur arose again, and the temporary 
stillness that had followed the announcement of Astro's 
name gave way to motion, laughter and persiflage. 

The room fairly scintillated with lights, reflected 
from the cut-glass pendants of the silver electroliers, 
smoldering in the dusky gold carvings, twinkling from 
the jewels on women's necks and breasts, gleaming 
from the polished oak parquetry floor. The large 

225 



226 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

double salon of the Selwyns was about half filled; 
there were not yet too many present to hide the ele- 
gance of the highly decorated Louis XIV rooms which 
enclosed the brilliant company as in an ornate frame. 
The ceiling, frescoed in the panels with nymphs and 
cupids, seemed faintly to reflect the life below ; the tall 
mirrors multiplied the complexity of mysterious dis- 
tances. There was an odor of winter roses which 
mingled with the perfumes of dainty women. An or- 
chestra sounded languorously from the balcony at the 
head of the wide staircase. 

"I'm delighted !" Mrs. Selwyn exclaimed effusively, 
leaning gracefully forward with a swanlike movement. 
She was a deliciously, almost a foolishly pretty crea- 
ture, with her bright smile accented by a black beauty- 
spot at the corner of her mouth, her slender little 
fingers flashing with jewels, her lovely neck and her 
fair hair. It was hard to believe her a matron. 

Astro, in his masculine way as striking a figure as 
she, presented his assistant. Valeska seemed more 
human than either. There was little artifice in her ap- 
pearance; her costume was girlishly simple. One was 
not tempted even for a moment to let his eyes wander 
from her earnest pretty face. 

"I'm so glad to see you, Miss Wynne !" Mrs. Sel- 
wyn scarcely gave her a glance and returned spiritedly 
to Astro. "My dear," she said archly, "I had no idea 
that I had captured such a lion. People are simply 
wild about you! Why, I've made a sensation already 
by merely inviting you, I assure you ! Not that I didn't 
know you were famous and popular and all that, of 
course; but, dear me, it's a positive rage! You have 
no idea what stories I've been hearing about you! 



MRS. SELWYN'S EMERALD 227 

They say you can read one's thoughts and go through 
a stone wall, and eat fire, and conjure the dead and 
dear knows what ! I'm actually afraid of you !" 

"And I of you also, madam, in that gown." 

She spread her hands demurely down her sides and 
looked up at him from under her lashes. She wore a 
costume of silken mesh, sheer and delicate, over cloth 
of silver, touched daringly with black. The top of her 
corsage was caught together by an immense square-cut 
emerald, set in small blue diamonds. Mrs. Selwyn was 
evidently not beyond being pleased at Astro's compli- 
ment ; but her look suggested an unsatisfied desire. 

"They're expecting something wonderful," she 
hinted. 

Astro frowned. "My dear lady " he began. 

She nodded and shook her fan lightly. "Oh, yes, 
I know. I shan't ask you, of course. I promised. 
But at the same time if something anything should 
happen, you know, it would be perfectly lovely; and 
it would make the thing go, wouldn't it? Oh, and 
there's an Italian countess here, whose hand I'm sim- 
ply dying to have you read !" 

Valeska, smiling amusedly at the hostess' prattle, 
was about to turn away, when Mrs. Selwyn caught her 
hand eagerly. 

"It was so good of you to come on so unconventional 
an invitation! We must make you at home. You 
shall have positively all the men you want; I have 
armies of 'em to-night. And perhaps," here Mrs. 
Selwyn became almost coquettish, "you may have 
more influence with Astro than poor I. Do talk to 
him ! Countess Trixola will be so disappointed if you 
don't succeed!" 



228 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

A fresh group of guests here interrupted her, and 
she turned to welcome them. 

Valeska took Astro's arm again, and he led her to 
a corner of the room where they could view the assem- 
bly. 

"I see what's coming," he began hurriedly. 'Til 
be at my wits' end to avoid doing parlor tricks to 
amuse this crowd, in spite of what Mrs. Selwyn prom- 
ished. I shan't have much time to attend to you, my 
dear. But, really, you did beautifully. Nobody would 
ever imagine that you were born in an East Side tene- 
ment. Why, I think you can tell the would-be's and 
the bounders as quickly as I can, already. It's all 
worth seeing, and I want you to use your eyes. Watch 
every little thing as if it were all of the utmost impor- 
tance and you were to use every bit of information you 
acquired. But don't on any account lose sight of me, 
if you can help it, and watch for my signals. Be ready 
for anything. It's the accidents of life by which we 
profit, and there is no predicting accidents. Give me 
the 'up and down' sign if you discover anything par- 
ticularly interesting. Well, I'll see that you are intro- 
duced. I'm going to be mobbed." 
i "Here's the countess, I'll wager," Valeska said. 

A tall, ashen-haired, limp and insipid youth was 
bearing toward them, escorting a vivacious green- 
eyed brunette, with a narrow alert face and eyes 
heavily shadowed. Nearer, those dark eyes seemed 
a bit hard and glassy; but they were quick. She was 
considerably made up ; but her rouge had been applied 
cleverly. 

Astro had time only to remark out of one corner 



MRS. SELWYN'S EMERALD 229 

of his mouth, "Look at her right hand !" and then the 
countess was fairly bubbling over him. 

Valeska gave the hand a glance. It hung, white- 
gloved, lightly by her side, the first and second fingers 
tentatively outstretched, the third and fourth curled 
toward the palm, the thumb projecting. 

"You are Astro the Palmist, aren't you?" the 
woman asked gaily, tipping her head to one side and 
peeping over her fan. "Mrs. Selwyn said I mustn't 
bother you ; but I do hope something extraordinary 
is going to happen ! We're expecting something quite 
miraculous, after all we've heard about your occult 
powers !" % 

"My dear Countess," said Astro a bit cynically, 
"even saints must have holidays. I'm afraid I am out 
of miracles to-night." 

"But at least you can tell me something about my- 
self before you go ?" she insisted. 

Astro smiled quizzically. "Surely not in public?" 

The pale youth burst into a guffaw. 

The countess shook her finger at him airily. "Why, 
my life is an open book !" she protested. 

"Be careful that it's open at a blank page, then." 

The pale youth again bellowed and was struck on 
the shoulder by the countess' fan. 

"Oh, I hope I'm naughty enough to be nice," she 
said demurely. 

"Madam," said Astro, with a queer expression, "I 
doubt if you could be either naughtier or nicer." 

"Now, what d'you mean by that ?" she cried. "Why, 
positively I don't know whether it's the best kind 
of compliment or the worst kind of insult!" 



230 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"I leave it to your conscience and your vanity," 
said Astro calmly. 

She laughed it off and turned to Valeska. "Does 
he say such enigmatical things to you, too?" she 
asked. 

"Oh, he doesn't dare," said Valeska. "He knows 
that I'd take them all as compliments." 

The group was now joined by others eagerly press- 
ing about them to listen to the dialogue. The fame of 
the Master of Mysteries had grown wonderfully with 
the reports of his recent exploits and his reputation 
as a palmist was almost eclipsed by his fame as a seer 
and solver of inexplicable problems. The distinction 
of his appearance and the charm of his manner gave 
him a personal influence as well, and on this first 
appearance in society in the role of guest he was, as 
Mrs. Selwyn had said, an immense success. 

Valeska's reception was as flattering. She had 
passed the ordeal of introduction cleverly. The men 
flocked to this pretty blond girl with the blue eyes, as 
to a popular heiress. Unused as she had been to fash- 
ionable life, her native wit and confidence, combined 
with Astro's own support, carried her through with 
colors flying. The affair soon resolved itself into a 
rivalry among the women for Astro's whimsical notice, 
and among the men for Valeska's flashing sallies. 

To all hinted requests for character readings, the 
palmist offered polished and affable excuses. He 
seemed as much at home in this smart company as in 
his own picturesque studio. Women gathered about 
him, fascinated by his romantic personality, and rather 
pleasantly afraid of his powers as an occultist. Mrs. 
Selwyn persistently showed him off; but, anxious as 




I hope I'm naughty enough to be nice," she said demurely. 



MRS. SELWYN'S EMERALD 231 

she evidently was to make her reception a success, 
kept to the letter of her promise, and did not ask him 
to perform any tricks for the company. 

The salon filled. The talk became gayer. Astro 
had no time now to speak confidentially to Valeska; 
but from time to time he sent her a look, a motion of 
head or hand, which directed her attention to one or 
another of the party. The quick-witted girl watched 
him everywhere he went, and followed his cues on the 
instant. Long practise had made it easy for her to 
communicate with him thus; but this was the first 
public test of her facility. She played their game with 
a new zest, her bright eyes and high color alone be- 
traying her excitement. 

At last supper was announced, and as the company 
paired off and began to leave for the great dining- 
room, Astro succeeded in eluding his worshipers and 
captured Valeska for a few hasty words. 

"There's something in the air," he said under his 
breath. "Can't you feel it? I don't know just what 
it is, but there is something sinister impending. Don't 
laugh. This is not mere professional jargon. You 
know I'm sensitive to this sort of thing. I never felt 
it more strongly." 

"I have felt so too, but I thought it was a mere 
fancy." 

"Cultivate those fancies, my dear; they're the in- 
choate beginnings of intuitions. Nothing comes by 
chance. There's a reason for every whim we have, 
and you must learn to trace it." 

"I don't like that green-eyed woman. I wonder if 
she is really a countess ?" 



232 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

He smiled in amiable derision. "Are you?" 

Valeska's eyes dilated. "Who is she?" 

"That I don't know. I've tried her with all sorts of 
traps ; but she is too clever." 

"Oh, she's bad, I know that ; but she fascinates me." 

"She came alone, in a hired cab, Mrs. Selwyn told 
me. They got acquainted through mutual friends in 
Florence. That's all I know, except " 

He had lowered his voice to a whisper, and was 
leaning toward Valeska to continue, when the woman 
in question appeared at the door of the dining-room, 
cast a sharp glance up the hall, and espied them. 

"Aren't you coming in, Monsieur?" She smiled be- 
witchingly. 

"In a moment, Countess." 

"I want to know if you're magician enough to tell 
me what Mrs. Selwyn's punch is made of. It's the 
most mysterious thing I ever saw." 

"If it's as mysterious as you are, my dear Countess, 
I'll have to admit I can't fathom it." 

She dropped a courtesy, tipping her head roguishly 
to one side, and withdrew. Astro's eyes followed her. 
He was much amused. 

"Looking for some one," Valeska suggested lacon- 
ically. 

Astro nodded. "Oh did you see that chap with a 
pompadour and a curled blond mustache?" 

"Yes. One eye was bigger than the other, the 
right one." 

"Watchmaker. Comes from screwing up his right 
eye in his lens and using it so much. Or possibly 
by Jove! a diamond cutter! Queer, isn't it?" 

"Decidedly. But they seem to be sure enough of 



MRS. SELWYN'S EMERALD 233 

their position here. They're as well received as the 
other guests." 

"There's something awry. I wish I could get it. 
It's all there in my brain, but I haven't time to think 
it out, now and here. Never mind. Only wait, and be 
ready! Come, we'll go in. I'll talk to you later. 
Here's Mrs. Selwyn now." 

Their hostess sailed past on a young man's arm, and, 
holding out a hand, carried Astro in with her to a seat 
at the end of the room. Valeska was promptly annexed 
by Selwyn, a short, puffy little man with mutton-chop 
whiskers and a fat stomach. He had the air of not 
being at all at home in his own house. Nobody could 
seem so harmless and timid as this chubby round- 
faced host. He might have been an awkward serv- 
ant, in his endeavors to efface himself. Seeing Valeska 
left alone, he offered his arm in a sudden access of 
courage. She was not like the others, and apparently 
he was not afraid of her. 

"Infernal humbug, all this sort of thing !" he grum- 
bled. 

"Why, what do you mean?" she answered, a little 
surprised. 

"Having this fool palm-reader here, and all that. 
Bosh!" 

Valeska could scarcely repress a titter. But Selwyn 
was evidently quite serious about it. Seeing that he 
had no idea who she was, she humored him. 

"It is nonsense, of course," she said gravely; "but 
I think that Mr. Astro is quite modest about it, don't 
you?" 

"Oh, he's all right, he has to make a living, I sup- 
pose, but the women make such fools of themselves 



234 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

about him. I might as well give a monkey dinner and 
be done with it!" 

Muttering thus, in an inconsequent, petulant way, 
he led her into the dining-room, where she was im- 
mediately surrounded by^men who offered her chairs, 
plates and refreshments. Selwyn, more than ever 
disgruntled, retired to the wall, against which he flat- 
tened himself, and gloomily regarded the crowd. 
Valeska, besieged as she was, threw him a smile and 
a remark occasionally, pitying his discomfort and his 
timidity. 

Meanwhile, her eyes were busy in the room. Once 
she caught sight of the green-eyed countess talking 
with the pompadoured man, and she noted a certain 
surreptitious haste in their encounter. Was it furtive, 
suggestive, or did she merely fancy it? From them, 
her glance wandered to the group of which Astro, 
with Mrs. Selwyn, was the center. The countess 
joined it, sparkling, vivid, keen. A heavy soggy dow- 
ager in black silk, with an astoundingly low-cut dress, 
plump round neck and innumerable curls in her 
gray hair, was absorbed in Astro's conversation. 
A debutante, as fresh as a lily, ingenuous, eager, 
bright-eyed with curiosity, leaned over his shoulder, 
holding out her hand for him to read. Valeska heard 
little gushes of laughter whenever he spoke. She had 
never before seen him in such a company, and it 
amazed her to see how he dominated it, how his mag- 
netism radiated and drew one after another into his 
circle of influence. 

So it went on for half an hour, until the party began 



MRS. SELWYN'S EMERALD 235 

gradually to leave the room, drifting out in twos and 
threes, all more or less stimulated by the supper and 
the champagne to an increasing good fellowship. All, 
that is, excepting poor Selwyn, who seemed to shrink 
smaller and smaller. He hardly spoke to anybody, 
except to apologize to some woman for stepping on 
her train, or to call a waiter to pass cigars or wine. 
His round eyes winked continually, and his lips moved 
as if he were talking to himself. When Valeska 
looked at him with an arch smile, he beamed like a 
child upon her for an instant, and the next all the light 
went out of his face. 

She met Astro in the hall, passed him, and caught 
a sign. It was the "up and down" signal this time, 
denoting whom she was to observe, a glance up to 
the ceiling, and down to his feet. His hand touched 
his hair with a little flourish. The man with the 
pompadour! She had it as plain as words could 
tell it. 

She drifted away and sought the man with the 
pompadour. He was nowhere to be seen. The party 
was now humming with talk and laughter, and the 
double salon was crowded. The orchestra swept into 
a Hungarian rhapsody which seemed to waft a wave 
of abandon into the room. The men who followed her 
flirted persistently; it was all she could do now to 
parry their jests and at the same time keep track of 
what was going on about her. Astro was standing 
near the center of the room in a group of wonderfully 
dressed and dangerously pretty women, each perfect, 
finished, poised, yet animated and merry. Their little 
aigrets nodded as they talked and laughed. Selwyn, 



236 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

his hands in his pockets, moodily effaced himself be- 
hind the piano in the corner. Every time he saw 
Valeska, he beamed. 

As she stood near the great hall doors, new men 
were continually brought up to her to be introduced, 
each with a new compliment or a flippant remark or a 
joke, each showing a friendly rivalry with the others. 
Valeska enjoyed it all excitedly. She could hear a 
nervous pitch in her voice, as she shot her frivolous 
retorts ; but the newness of it all stimulated her. For 
the moment she lost sight of the pompadoured man. 
She was gazing across the room to where Mrs. Selwyn 
stood, when 



Suddenly the lights in the two electric chandeliers 
went out. The room for an instant seemed as black 
as night. Several women cried out in fright, and then 
a light chorus of laughter rippled round the room 
hysterically. In the instantaneous cessation of talk, 
a shuffling of feet was for a moment all that was heard. 

The picture in Valeska's view remained for a mo- 
ment in her eyes as clear as a photograph against the 
darkness; Mrs. Selwyn, merry, jubilant, talking to a 
fat old man; behind her the dowager, the debutante, 
the pale youth, all talking together ; and a little aloof, 
the countess, with a strange expression, and her fan 
pressed to her lips, looking in Valeska's direction as 
if she were giving a sign ! Then the picture faded ; a 
babble of voices arose. Mounting over them all, ris- 
ing to a scream, came Mrs. Selwyn's excited cry: 

"Oh! Stop! Help! I'm robbed!" 

Valeska at the same moment felt a man rush swiftly 



MRS. SELWYN'S EMERALD 237 

past her, and there was a sharp twitch at the side of 
her waist. 

Then another voice came like a bark, swift, stern, 
mandatory, abrupt, angry. "Light up, there, imme- 
diately ! The switch is at the side of the door. Don't 
any one dare to move till we have a light !" 

At last, after a frightened half-minute, full of whis- 
pers and shocked expletives, the lights sprang up 
again, and showed a room full of shocked agonized 
faces. Every one looked at his neighbor with startled 
eyes. A louder buzzing of talk arose, only to cease 
suddenly again as Selwyn, pushing his way into the 
middle of the room, took command of the situation, 
like a general. 

"Nobody shall move a step here until we find out 
what's the matter! My wife has lost her brooch, the 
Selwyn emerald. You all know it. I insist that every 
one keep his place until it is found !" 

What had awakened to the little man ? At the crisis 
he had changed from a bashful boy into a wilful as- 
sertive man, dominating the room with his resolution. 
The talk swept excitedly about the place now; each 
questioned his neighbor, or stared spellbound. Mean- 
while Selwyn had walked to the folding doors and 
rolled them shut with a bang. Then, red-faced, with 
a fierce scowl, he strode back to his wife : 

"Now, who was near you, Betty?" 

"Oh, I don't remember exactly," she answered hys- 
terically. "All I know is that when the lights went 
out some one came up to me and I felt a snatch at my 
corsage see where the lace is torn ! Somebody stole 
it. It's preposterous !" 

"Search everybody !" somebody called out 



238 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"No, no !" cried others. 

"See if it hasn't dropped on the floor!" 

For a moment every one spoke at once, and the con- 
fusion was maddening. Then suddenly clapping his 
hands for silence, and speaking as sharply as an officer 
commanding his soldiers, Astro's voice rose over the 
tumult. He had sprung upon a chair, and his fine 
head appeared above the throng. 

"Mr. Selwyn, let me find the brooch ! There will be 
no trouble, no unpleasantness for any one. Let every 
one keep his place until I've finished, and I'll promise 
to discover the emerald." 

A clapping of hands all over the room responded to 
his speech. Instantly the mood of the company re- 
laxed from its nervous strain of uncomfortable embar- 
rassment and suspicion to an amused interest. 

But Selwyn shook his head savagely. "No, indeed ! 
None of your parlor tricks, thank you! I will send 
for the police immediately. Meanwhile, every one in 
this room is my prisoner. Those who object must nec- 
essarily be regarded with suspicion." 

"Oh, George !" Mrs. Selwyn pleaded, "do let Astro 
try it ! I'm sure he'll be able to do it. He's so clever, 
and he has done such marvelous things!" 

"Yes, yes ! Let him try it !" came from every one. 

Selwyn hesitated, looking half-contemptuously at the 
palmist. "How do you propose to find it?" he asked 
finally. 

Astro put his hand to his head and drew his brows 
together. "I already feel an influence disturbing this 
gathering," he said. "I shall be drawn inevitably to- 
ward the person who committed the theft, as if by a 



MRS. SELWYN'S EMERALD 239 

magnet. Or at least I shall be drawn to the emerald," 
he added. 

"Bosh !" Selwyn exclaimed. "That's all poppycock ! 
What I want is a good detective and a police officer or 
two to search every man and woman in the room." 

At this there came an indignant chorus of protest; 
the guests stirred uneasily. 

"Mr. Selwyn, do you believe in the X-ray?" Astro 
asked. 

The little man grunted, "Yes, I do; but this is no 
time for a lecture !" 

"One moment, please, however! Nobody knows 
in just what part of the spectrum the X-rays lie, except 
that they are beyond the ultraviolet. They are visible 
only with the fluoroscope. Nobody knows just where 
the so-called actinic rays lie, either. They are invisible 
also ; but they react upon a plate sensitized with nitrate 
of silver. Where are the N-rays, which emanate from 
the human body ? Nobody knows ; but I tell you, Mr. 
Selwyn, that they are registered in the gray matter of 
my brain. I am sensitive to them, as no one else has 
been, consciously, for centuries. And it is that sensi- 
tiveness that I propose to utilize. No thought can 
exist without modifying the molecular structure of the 
brain cells in the thinker. That change acts upon 
the ether, and is transmitted in vibratory form. Is it 
not possible that those ether waves can react upon the 
molecules in my brain and set up a corresponding 
change to that made by the original thought? Mr. 
Selwyn, I'll prove it!" 

Astro's voice had risen to a strident tone, compelling 
and incisive. Every one looked at him eagerly. There 



2 4 o THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

was a hush. Then a volley of exclamations broke out 
like a storm, and Selwyn's last objections were swept 
away. 

At last the host, overborne, and himself piqued with 
curiosity, gave a gesture of acquiescence. Astro 
stepped down from his chair, with a fixed look in his 
eyes, and gazed eagerly to right and left. He paused 
one moment, standing with his hand to his forehead, 
his little finger pointed upward. Valeska saw and 
read the signal: 

"Follow the person I point out !" 

He then walked up to the dowager with whom he 
had been at supper-time. "Will you kindly take off 
your left glove, Mrs. Postlethwaite ?" he asked. 

"The idea!" she ejaculated. "Why, what do you 
mean? Do you dare insinuate that I took Mrs. Sel- 
wyn's brooch?" 

Her eyes were wide open as a doll's, and her anger 
was ludicrous to the company who watched her. For 
the first time since the lights went out, there was a 
hearty laugh all over the salon. 

"Silence!" Astro commanded harshly. He turned 
to the gaping matron. "Madam, you must do what I 
ask, and do it quickly, so as not to delay the recovery ! 
If you are innocent you have nothing to fear. If you 
hesitate, we can't, of course, be blamed for suspecting 
you." 

She stared at him indignantly, muttering to herself, 
but tugged at her glove nevertheless. He took her 
bared hand and inspected the palm. Then he took her 
right hand, gloved as it was, and inspected that. 

He left her as suddenly as he had come, however, 
with no comment whatever, and darted to the young 



MRS. SELWYN'S EMERALD 241 

debutante who had also been of his group in the din- 
ing-room. 

"Quick, Miss Preston!" he said. "Take off your 
left-hand glove!" 

Miss Preston was young enough and thoughtless 
enough to take the situation lightly, and obeyed him 
with a smile. He gave her palm a glance, then turned 
her hand and looked at the back. Then he left her 
for the pale wan youth. His glove, too, came off his 
left hand, and his right gloved hand was examined. 
The man with the pompadour came next, and the same 
pantomine was enacted. Astro's eyes stayed for a sec- 
ond or two on the man's left coat sleeve; then he 
passed on. 

So he went from one to another, now to a woman, 
now to a man, until he came to the Countess Trixola. 
Her eyes had never left him ; her hand remained on 
her breast, as if to hide the beating of her heart. Her 
eyes were hard and cold but the pupils were dilated. 
Her upper lip quivered a little. 

"Will you kindly remove your glove, Countess ? No, 
your right, if you please. Yes, thank you. Now your 
left hand, just as it is. Thank you." 

He turned swiftly to the next beside her, but before 
he had examined the hand he had bitten the knuckle 
of his forefinger, as if in abstraction. 

This Valeska noticed, and from that moment regard- 
less of what he was doing, she kept her eyes on the 
countess. The woman had turned to a companion, and 
was evidently voicing some sarcastic comment on 
Astro's methods. As she spoke, she moved insensibly 
away, and backed toward another group nearer the 
wall by the windows. The company had now begun to 



242 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

, 

move a little, and her progress was so clever as to be 
unnoticeable to one who did not specially follow her 
movements. She passed a few feet nearer the window. 

Astro went on steadily, from one person to another, 
examining palms. In another moment, however, he 
had stopped dramatically, put both his hands to his 
forehead, staggered and dropped to the floor. A 
woman screamed. Two or three men ran up to sup- 
port him in their arms. A physician elbowed his way 
through the crowd. 

At that moment, while every one was staring at 
the group that surrounded the Master of Mysteries, 
Valeska saw the countess move quickly toward the 
window. There, for a moment, she stood facing the 
assembly, looking sharply about, her hands behind her 
back. An instant more, and she had left again and 
joined the man with the pompadour. She drew him 
aside and spoke to him. He nodded, looked behind 
him, and moved away. 

Some one was calling for water. A man laid his 
hand to the door to open it, when Selwyn's voice 
barked out again. He assumed command again. 

"No one leaves this room ! This man is not seriously 
hurt ; he hasn't even fainted. It's all a trick to cover 
his failure. We'll end this nonsense right now, and 
have in the police !" 

Valeska hurried up to the group, pressed in between 
the bystanders, and knelt beside Astro. "Stand back, 
please!" she exclaimed. "I know how to attend to 
him. He has gone into a psychic trance, that's all. 
The strain was too much for him. He'll be all right in 
a moment, and will go on with his search." 
i She took his hand, and, unseen by the company, 



MRS. SELWYN'S EMERALD 243 

pressed it four times. Astro's eyes opened. He sat 
up; rose to his feet slowly; trembled; looked about; 
took a step forward, tentatively. Valeska still held his 
hand. 

"Silence, everybody!" she called out, and held up 
her right hand with a warning gesture. 

Every eye turned to the two, and every tongue was 
silent, as Astro moved, at first uncertainly, and then 
with increasing confidence, directly across the room. 
He stopped before a tall cloisonne vase standing in 
front of the window, looked at it for a moment stu- 
pidly, then lifted it and turned it upside down. Out 
dropped the Selwyn emerald. 

A hurricane of applause burst from the company, 
hands clapped, and men cried "Bravo !" Mrs. Selwyn 
rushed forward. 

Astro handed her the brooch. She gave one look at 
it, clasped it to her breast, and then took the palmist's 
hands with both hers. 

"Wonderful!" she exclaimed. "It's perfectly mar- 
vel" 

Then her eyes caught a whimsical look in his, saw 
his cryptic smile, and her face changed. First it grew 
suddenly blank, then a delighted expression flooded it. 

"Why why, it was a trick ! wasn't it ? How clever ! 
Oh, it was worth the fright, really! It was the best 
thing I've ever seen done! I never suspected it for 
a minute! Oh, thank you so much! I knew you 
wouldn't be mean enough to refuse altogether. I 
knew you'd be nice and amuse us some way. But my ! 
you are a wizard, aren't you ?" 

Selwyn strode forward. "Do you mean to say* you 
cooked this whole thing up, sir? Well, you certainly 



244 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

fooled me, by Jove! Ha, ha! You got us all going, 
didn't you? Think of that! But you pretty nearly 
caused a big scandal, I tell you!" He turned to a 
neighbor and began to talk vociferously about it. 

The crowd swarmed about Astro now, each eager 
to congratulate and to praise. Every one gesticulated, 
almost screamed at one another, laughing, asking 
questions without number. Dozens of people, their 
conventional reserve broken down by the strain of the 
last few minutes, shook Astro by the hand. 

The countess came up, also, to flatter him on his 
success. 

"But you didn't tell me my character after all," she 
complained playfully. 

The glance Astro gave her was cold and sharp. 
"Madam," he replied, "your character will hardly 
stand another such test. If you will call at my studio 
to-morrow, I will give you some advice. When do 
you expect to return to Italy ?" 

She gave him a long stare, grew a little pale, but 
shrugged her shoulders. "Are you in a hurry for me 
to return, Monsieur?" 

"I predict a great misfortune for you, if you remain 
here for more than a week." 

"Thank you very much for your advice, then. You 
are too kind ! Yes, I think I shall be bored to death 
in this town. I shall go. Au revoir, Monsieur! I 
should like to know you better. We would make fine 
playmates !" 

She smiled, and, as if reluctantly, removed her eyes, 
and left him. 

Mrs. Selwyn drew him aside with eager eyes. "Of 
course, I know I'm a pig," she said, "but really, Astro, 



MRS. SELWYN'S EMERALD 245 

couldn't you get that diamond off the countess' hand 
and hide it somewhere? It would be such fun, you 
know! Do be nice and do just one more! They'll 
talk about my reception forever if you do !" 

Astro laughed. "That's one thing I'm afraid I 
can't do. You see, the countess isn't quite so innocent 
as you are, Mrs. Selwyn." 



"It was a pretty big chance you were taking, seems 
to me," said Valeska, as Astro drove her home. "Of 
course she grabbed the stone so tightly that it printed 
the marks of the facets on her white glove ; that part 
of it was easy. But how could you be sure? You 
didn't look at half the people's hands." 

"You noticed the way she held her ringers when I 
spoke to you, didn't you? I didn't have time, then, to 
explain. But I knew by that that she was or had been 
a pickpocket. The professional dip works with his 
first two fingers, and almost always carries his hand 
with them extended, and the other two fingers curled 
up out of the way." 

"But why did you look at her left glove, instead of 
the right, as you did all the others?" 

"I had noticed at supper time that she was left- 
handed. When I took my long chance, my dear, was 
when I trusted to you to find out what she did with 
the brooch. I confess that when I dropped on the 
floor and waited for your signal, I was rather anxious. 
It was up to you, then, to make me or break me. But 
I was sure I could trust you, and you did beautifully." 

Valeska herself had been more anxious during that 
few minutes than she confessed. There was, however, 



246 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

one more thing to be straightened out in her mind. 

"What I don't understand is who put out the lights," 
she remarked. "I forgot to tell you that I was stand- 
ing near the wall where the electric switch was, and 
immediately the lights went out some one brushed 
past me roughly, and something twitched at my waist. 
I wonder who it was?" 

Astro cast a look down at her side and smiled. "Oh, 
that settles something that bothered me," he said mus- 
ingly. "Clever little buckles on your corsage, my 
dear! I wondered how that pompadoured chap hap- 
pened to have his left coat sleeve cut in such a queer 
way, but I was too busy to think it out. I wish now 
I had given both of them over to the police. I expect 
he's a diamond cutter, fast enough ! Mrs. Selwyn is 
lucky that six or seven different persons won't be 
wearing pieces of her emerald next year, Valeska." 



THE ASSASSINS' CLUB 

VERY time I see a gargoyle/' said Astro, "I feel 
a thrill of secret kinship. It's as if I were the 
only one who understood its mystery. If I were roman- 
tic, I would say that in a previous incarnation I had 
lived in the dark ages. What do you think about gar- 
goyles, Valeska?" 

Astro looked up from a book of Viollet-le-Duc's 
architectural drawings and glanced across to the 
pretty blond head. His assistant, busy with her card 
catalogue, where she kept memoranda of the Seer's 
famous cases, made a delightful picture against the dull 
crimson hangings of the wall. 

She came over to him and looked down across his 
shoulder at the pictures of the grotesque stone mon- 
sters. "Why," she said, "I've seen those horrible 
cynical old ones on Notre Dame in Paris, that gaze 
down on the city roofs. I've always wondered why 
they placed them on beautiful churches." 

"It's a deep question," said Astro, his eyes still on 
the engraving. "But to my mind they symbolize the 
ancient cult of Wonder. In the Middle Ages men 
really wondered ; they didn't anticipate flying-machines 
years before they were invented, as we moderns do. 
They took nothing for granted. Everything in life 
was a miracle." 

Valeska dropped quietly into a seat to listen. Astro 
247 



2 4 8 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

had many moods. Sometimes he was the dreamy oc- 
cult Seer, cryptic, mysterious; again he was the alert 
man of affairs, keen, logical, worldly. She had seen 
him, too, in society, affable, bland, jocose. But in this 
introspective, whimsical, analytic mood she got nearest 
him and learned something of the true import of his 
life. 

He went on, his eyes half-closed, his red silken robe 
enveloping him like a shroud, the diamond in his turban 
glittering as he moved his head. His olive-skinned, 
picturesque face with its dark eyes was serene and 
quiet now. A little blue-tailed lizard, one of Astro's 
many exotic fancies, frisked across the table. He 
caught it and held it as he talked. 

"In the thirteenth century clergy and laity alike 
believed that the forces of good and evil were almost 
equally balanced. They worshiped the Almighty, but 
propitiated Satan as well; so these grotesque beasts 
leered down from the cornices of the house of God, 
and watched the holy offices of priests. The devil had 
his own litany, his own science. They were forbidden 
practises, but they flourished then among the most in- 
tellectual people as they flourish now among the most 
ignorant. Magic was then a science, now it is a fake. 
Still, a man's chief desire is to get something for noth- 
ing, to find a short cut to wisdom. The "gargoyle is 
replaced by the dollar mark. So be it! One must 
earn one's living. Selah! I have spoken!" 

He looked up with a smile and a boyish twinkle 
in his eyes. Then his businesslike, cynical self re- 
turned. He jumped up, tall and eager, a pictur- 
esque oriental figure informed with the stirring life of 
the West. 



THE ASSASSINS' CLUB 249 

"Valeska, I've been reading about the Devil-wor- 
shipers of Paris, the black mass, infant sacrifices, and 
all that. That's an anachronistic cult. I'd like to 
know if there really is any genuine survival of the 
worship of Evil?" 

Valeska shuddered. "Oh, that would be horrible !" 

"But interesting." He clasped his hands behind him 
and gazed up at the silver-starred ceiling. "I don't 
mean degeneracy or insanity, but a man that does evil 
for the love of it, as they did in the old days. Think, 
for instance, of the lost art of torture the science of 
human suffering " 

"Oh, don't! I hate to have you talk like that!" 
Valeska put a hand on his arm. 

"Very well, I won't." He snapped his fingers as if 
to rid himself of the thought, and walked into the 
reception-room adjoining the great studio. 

Valeska went back to her work. For some minutes 
she arranged her cards in their tin box ; then, hearing 
voices outside, she looked up and listened. Then she 
walked softly across the heavy rugs and, touching a 
button in the mahogany wainscoting, passed through 
a secret door. 

Scarcely had she disappeared wHen Astro returned, 
ushering in a young woman stylishly dressed in brown. 
When she put aside her veil her face shone out like 
a portrait, vivid, instinct with grace and a delicate, 
rare, high-bred beauty, full of character and force. 
Astro showed her a seat under the electric lamp. 

"I thought you would help me if any one could," 
she was saying, in continuation of her conversation in 
the reception-room. "If it were anything less vague, 



250 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

I'd speak to mother about it; but it's too strange and 
elusive. I'm sure he has not been drinking; I would 
notice that in other ways. And yet he is different, he 
is not himself. It frightens me." 

"Have you spoken to him about it ?" Astro asked. 

"Yes ; but he won't say anything. He evades it, and 
says he's all right. But I don't dare to marry him till 
I know what it is that has changed him. I know it 
seems disloyal to suspect him, but how can I help it?" 

"What is Mr. Cameron's business?" 

"He's a naval lieutenant, in the construction depart- 
ment at the Brooklyn navy yard. And that is another 
reason why I'm worried. He has charge of work that 
is important and secret. If this change whatever it is 
should affect his work, he'd be disgraced ; he might 
even be dishonorably discharged." 

"When have you noticed this peculiarity of his ? At 
any particular time?" 

"Usually on Sundays, when he almost always comes 
to call ; but sometimes in the middle of the week. At 
times he talks queerly, almost as if in his sleep, of 
colors and queer landscapes that have nothing to do 
with what we are discussing. Sometimes he doesn't 
even finish his sentences and goes off into a sort of 
daze for a minute; and then he'll ask my pardon and 
go on as if nothing had happened." 

"And when shall you see him next?" 

"He will probably come Saturday afternoon. Us- 
ually he stays to dinner, but of late he has been having 
engagements that prevent." 

"All right," said the Seer; "I'll see what I can do. 
Knowing that he is at your house, I shall be able to 
orient myself and thereby be more receptive to his 



THE ASSASSINS' CLUB 251 

astral influence. I shall then be able to ascertain 
the cause of any psychic disturbance." 

The young woman, rising to go, looked at him plain- 
tively. "Oh, I hope I haven't done wrong in telling 
you about it ! But I do love him so I can't bear to see 
him so changed !" 

"My dear Miss Mannering," said Astro kindly, "you 
need have no fear, I assure you. Your business shall 
be kept absolutely confidential. With the exception of 
my assistant, no one shall ever know that you came 
here." 

"Your assistant?" She looked at him doubtfully. 

"Miss Wynne." 

She seemed surprised. "A lady?" she asked; then, 
timidly, "Might I see her?" 

"Certainly." Astro touched a bell. 

In a moment Valeska appeared between the velvet 
portieres, and waited there, her piquant sensitive face 
questioning his wish, her golden hair brightly illumi- 
nated from behind. 

Miss Mannering walked to her impulsively and took 
her hand. "Might I speak to you for a moment?" she 
asked. 

Valeska, giving Astro a glance, led the visitor into 
the reception-room. 

"I had no idea that Astro had a lady assistant," she 
said. "I feel much better about having told him, 
now." 

Valeska smiled at her and held the hand in both 
hers. "Oh, I only do some of his routine work," she 
said ; "but he often discusses his important cases with 
me. I'm sure that he can help you. He is wonderful, 
I never knew him to fail," 



252 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Miss Wynne," said the visitor, "no one but a 
woman can understand how distressed I am. I'm sure 
I can trust you; I can read that in your face. I am 
always sure of my intuitions. And, now that I have 
seen you, I'm going to tell you something that I didn't 
quite dare to tell Astro. I know my fiance is in some 
trouble. But what I'm afraid of is too dreadful; it 
terrifies me ! Here ! look at this ! It dropped out of 
Mr. Cameron's pocket the last time he called, and I 
found it after he had gone." 

She handed an envelope to Valeska, who looked at 
it carefully and drew out a single sheet of paper. On 
this was written in green ink : 

"Be at the Assassins' Saturday at seven. Has- 
kell's turn." 

"What can that mean ?" Miss Mannering whispered. 
"I didn't dare to show it for fear of getting Bob into 
trouble in some way. That word 'Assassins' Oh, it's 
awful !" 

"May I take this letter?" Valeska asked. 

"No, I daren't leave it. Mr. Cameron may miss it 
and ask for it. But you may tell Astro, if you think 
best." 

Valeska gave another glance at the letter and 
handed it back. "My dear Miss Mannering, don't 
worry about it," she said, pressing her hand. "It may 
not be so bad as you fear. Whatever it is, Astro will 
find it out, you may be sure." 



When the visitor had departed, Valeska walked into 
the studio with the news. Astro listened in silence 



THE ASSASSINS' CLUB 253 

till she had finished ; then he smiled, nodded, and took 
up his water-pipe lazily. 

"The solution of this thing is so simple that I'm sur- 
prised it hasn't occurred to you, my dear. But that's 
because of your lack of experience and the fact that 
you haven't read so much as I have. But, all the same, 
there may be something deeper in it than appears now. 
At any rate the girl is to be helped, and the lieutenant 
as well; and that we shall do." 

"But what about the 'Assassins'?" Valeska inquired 
anxiously. 

"Oh, that's the whole thing, of course. But I think 
I'll let you study that out yourself. It will be good 
practise for your reasoning powers. First, let's see 
if your powers of observation have improved. Tell me 
all about the letter." He blew out a series of smoke 
rings and regarded her quizzically. 

"Well," Valeska puckered her brows, "it was writ- 
ten on buff-laid linen paper of about ninety pounds 
weight very heavy stock, anyway in an envelope of 
the same, postmarked Madison Square station, April 
nineteenth, four P. M. The handwriting was that of a 
stout middle-aged man, who had just had some serious 
illness, a foreigner, hard-working, unscrupulous, dis- 
honest, with no artistic sensibility." 

"Bravo! Is that all?" 

"No, the stationery came from Perkins & Shaw's. 
I saw the stamping under the flap." 

"Very good. Unfortunately we can't ask there 
about the Assassins. But perhaps we'll find my ideal 
criminal after all. The easiest plan will be to follow 
Cameron to-morrow night. Meanwhile, you had bet- 
ter do some thinking yourself." 



254 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Valeska sat down and gazed long into trie great 
open fire, her brows frowning, her hands working 
mechanically, absorbed in thought. Astro took a small 
folding chess-board and gracefully amused himself 
with an intricate problem in the logistics of the game. 
When at last he had queened his white pawn accord- 
ing to his theory, he looked over at his assistant and 
smiled to see her seriousness. In that look something 
seemed to pass from him to her. 

"Oh!" she cried, jumping up, "does it begin with 
anH?" 

"More properly with a C," he replied. 

She shook her head and went at the problem again, 
and kept at it until it was time to close the studio. 



The next afternoon Astro and Valeska waited for 
two hours across Seventy-eighth Street from Miss 
Mannering's house before they saw the lieutenant 
emerge. They had already a good description of him, 
and had no trouble in recognizing the tall good-look- 
ing fellow who at half past six o'clock walked briskly 
up the street, ran down the stairs to the subway, and 
took a seat in a down-town local train. Astro and 
Valeska separated and took seats on the opposite side 
of the car, watching their man guardedly. At Twenty- 
third Street he got out, went up to the sidewalk, and 
walked eastward. 

Beyond Fourth Avenue was a row of three-story, 
old-fashioned, brick houses, back from the street. The 
lieutenant entered the small iron gate to one of the 
yards and, taking a key from his pocket, went in the 
front door of a house. It slammed behind him. 



THE ASSASSINS' CLUB 255 

"The headquarters of the Assassins," said Astro 
calmly, his hands in his overcoat pockets, studying the 
windows. 

"And what next?" asked Valeska. 

"We'll wait a while. Come into this next doorway." 

On the side of the doorway they now entered was a 
sign, "Furnished Rooms." It was now after seven 
o'clock, and had begun to snow. Valeska stood inside 
the vestibule protected from the weather ; Astro waited 
just outside watching the doorway of number 109. The 
Twenty-third Street cars clanged noisily by, the din 
of the traffic muffled by the carpet of snow. The open 
mouth of the subway sucked in an unsteady stream 
of wayfarers. 

Suddenly Valeska put her hand on Astro's arm. 
"Does it begin with 'C-o'?" she asked. 

He smiled. "No, 'C-a,' " he answered. 

"Oh, dear, I thought I had it ! But don't tell me ! 
I'm sure I'll work it out, though. But it makes me 
anxious. Anything might happen on a night like 
this!" 

"Yes, even an assasination." 

"You don't fear that, really?" She looked at him in 
alarm. 

"But I do, assassination of a sort. What else could 
the letter mean?" 

She had not time to answer before the door of the 
next house opened, and a man buttoned up in a fur- 
trimmed overcoat came out. He stopped a moment 
to raise an umbrella, and they could see that he was a 
stout pasty-faced German of some fifty years, with a 
curling yellow mustache. He wore spectacles and 
seemed to be near-sighted. 



256 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"There's the man who wrote the letter ! Follow him, 
Valeska! Find out who he is and all that's possible! 
We must follow every lead." 

Valeska was off on the instant, running down the 
steps and walking swiftly up Twenty-third Street. 

Astro lighted a cigar, turned up his collar and waited 
another half-hour in the doorway. Nobody having en- 
tered or left number 109 by that time, he rang the bell 
of number in. A Swedish maid came to the door. 

"I'd like to see what rooms you have," said Astro. 

"The only one is on the third floor rear," she re- 
plied, and showed him up two flights of unlighted 
stairs, steep and narrow, to a small square room, 
meagerly furnished. Walking to the window, Astro 
saw that, level with the floor, was a tin-covered roof 
over an extension in the rear. It stretched along the 
whole width of the four houses in the row. On this 
he might easily stand and look into the adjoining 
windows. Saying that he would move in later, Astro 
paid the girl for a week's rent in advance, and left the 
house and walked home. 



Valeska next morning came full of news. "The 
German kept right along Twenty-third Street toward 
Broadway," she said, "and it occurred to me that I 
might get him to make the first advances, and get ac- 
quainted without being suspected. So I passed him, 
and very gracefully slipped on the snow and dropped 
my purse. Then I began looking about on the sidewalk 
for the money that might have dropped out. My Ger- 
man friend came along and offered to help me. It took 
some time, and the long and short of it was that we 



THE ASSASSINS' CLUB 257 

had quite a conversation, and I convinced him that I 
was respectable. He walked along with me and asked 
me where I was going. I said that I had intended go- 
ing to the Hippodrome with a friend; but that I had 
been detained, and it was so late I thought I'd go 
home. He proposed having something to eat, and of 
course I refused. I had to be urged and urged; but 
the more I refused, the more anxious he was to have 
me come. Finally, I reluctantly assented to his invita- 
tion, and we went to the Cafe Riche. 

"Well, you ought to have seen that German eat, 
I mean you ought to have heard him eat ! I couldn't 
eat anything myself; but sipped the wine he ordered 
and coyly led him on, chattering away about myself 
ingenuously. I had an engagement with Richard 
Mansfield and a three years' contract at one hundred 
dollars a week when he died, and was awfully anxious 
to get another chance. All the money I had was tied 
up in one of the trust companies, and so on. He kept 
on eating, taking the biggest mouthfuls I ever saw and 
leaving half of it on his mustache. Oh, I put in some 
hard work, I assure you ! 

"Then he began asking me questions, and wanted 
to know if I would like to earn some money on the 
side. Would I? I jumped at it! five thousand actor 
folk out of a job this season, you know, and all that. 
He said I reminded him of his dead daughter you 
know I'm always reminding people of somebody 
and he thought he could trust me. I cast down my eyes 
and let him go on. 

"He said there was a man he knew who had stolen 
some confidential papers, and he wanted to get them 
away from him without publicity. He needed a good 



258 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

clever woman to help him out on the job. I bright- 
ened up considerably. He asked me to go home with 
him so that he could give me a photograph to identify 
my victim. I said I would; although I confess I was 
^getting nervous, not being quite sure what he was up 
to. He had begun paying me compliments, and when a 
German begins to get sentimental well, you know ! 

"I took the subway with him, and we went up to 
One Hundred and Twenty-sixth Street. There was a 
big apartment hotel there, called the Dahlia, one of 
those marble-hailed affairs that look as if they were 
built of a dozen different kinds of fancy soap, with a 
red carpet and awfully funny oil-paintings and negro 
hall boys sitting in Renaissance armchairs. I refused 
to go up-stairs. Well, after a while he came down the 
elevator and handed me this photograph. What do 
you think?" 

She handed Astro a cabinet photograph. He lifted 
his fine brows when he looked at it. 

"Lieutenant Cameron !" 

Valeska nodded. "I'm to scrape up an acquaintance 
with him, get his confidence, and then report to Herr 
Beimer for final instructions. I wonder what poor lit- 
tle Miss Mannering would say?" 

She took off her sables, her saucy fur toque, and 
touched up her hair at the great carved mirror at one 
end of the studio. 

Astro sat regarding the portrait in his hand. He 
looked up to ask, "Did you find out what his business 
was?" 

She whirled round to him. "Oh, I forgot! He's 
the agent for a big German firm, connected with the 
Krupps' steel plant. They control the rights to a new 



THE ASSASSINS' CLUB 259 

magazine pistol. I was awfully interested in machin- 
ery, you know. It bored me to death ; but I listened 
half an hour to his description of a new ammunition 
hoist for battleships." 

Astro was suddenly electrified with energy. "Ah !" 
he exclaimed. "You didn't remember that the 
Krupps stand in with the German government and 
have the biggest subsidies and contracts in the world? 
He wants you to make up to a construction officer in 
the United States navy, does he? He needs a clever 
woman! I should say he did! Was Herr Beimer 
sober?" 

"Perfectly, as far as I could see, except for his 
sentimentality. Of course he was a bit effusive, you 
know." 

"Yes, I see. It wasn't his night. It was Haskell's 
night, whoever Haskell is! But I think we'll have 
to hurry. This looks more serious than I thought at 
first. I shall sleep at number in East Twenty-third 
Street to-night. And meanwhile I have a nice job of 
forgery for you, Valeska. I wish you'd practise copy- 
ing this writing till you can write a short note that 
will pass for Lieutenant Cameron's handwriting." 

He took a letter from a drawer. The envelope was 
addressed to Miss Violet Mannering. Valeska took 
it and read it over carefully. It was a single sheet, 
torn from a double page, and read partly as follows : 

"I believe that just as everything seems some- 
how different at night when we can see farther 
than by day ; for can we not see the stars ? when 
our emotions seem freer so there are two worlds 
in which it is possible to exist. One is the dreary 
every-day place of business and duty and pain ; the 



2<5o THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

other is free from care or suffering. Don't we en- 
ter that occult world at night through our dreams, 
where there is no such thing as conscience? There 
are no consequences there! No doubt it's a dan- 
gerous place, because it is abnormal; but its ex- 
ploration is fascinating. Why ignore the fact that 
it exists as a refuge from the worries of matter- 
of-fact existence " 

Valeska read it thoughtfully. Her eyes looked 
through the paper as if into a mist beyond. "No won- 
der poor Miss Mannering is worried !" she said to her- 
self. She looked at Astro, as if to ask a question. He 
was busy with a planimeter, calculating the area of a 
queer irregular polygon drawn on a sheet of parch- 
ment. Seeing his tense look, she turned to her study 
of the manuscript. 



As soon as it was dark, Astro opened the window of 
his room on Twenty-third Street, and walked along the 
crackling tin roof till he came to the first window of 
the house occupied by the Assassins. Looking in, he 
saw a small, bare, hall bedroom, furnished with a cot, 
a wash-stand, and one chair. The next two windows 
were lighted. He approached them carefully. Three 
men were seated at a library table strewn with maga- 
zines. All were smoking comfortably. One, Astro 
recognized as the lientenant, another as Herr Beimer. 
The third was a yellow-faced man with red hair, high 
cheek-bones, and dark eyes deeply set into his skull. In 
front of him was a plate filled with what looked like 
caviar sandwiches, cut small and thin. 

Herr Beimer said something, at which the others 
laughed loudly. Then with a flourish, as if drinking 



THE ASSASSINS' CLUB 261 

their health, Lieutenant Cameron took one of the sand- 
wiches and ate it almost with an air of bravado. 
Beimer looked at his watch. The lean yellow-faced 
man walked out of the room. The lieutenant took up 
an illustrated paper and began to read. 

Astro tiptoed carefully back to his room, put on his 
overcoat, and went down-stairs, walked over to the 
drug store, and at the telephone booth rang up Valeska. 

"Have you written the letter?" he asked. 

"Not yet," was the answer. 

"Well, you must do it immediately as well as you 
can. Bring it to number ill and ask for Mr. Silver- 
man." 

He then went back to his room. Another stealthy 
glance through the windows of the club showed the 
two still at the table. Cameron was busy with a pen- 
cil and a sheet of paper, explaining something to the 
German. The yellow-faced man watched them over 
his book. The lieutenant was evidently talking with a 
little difficulty; every little while he stopped, and be- 
gan again with an effort. One leg was twitching at 
the knee-joint. He supported his head heavily on his 
hand. 

Going back to his room, Astro took a bottle of am- 
monia from his overcoat pocket and placed it on the 
sink. Next he poured a white powder from a paper 
and dissolved it in a tumbler of water, stirring it with 
a spoon. This done, he took the wash-bowl from the 
stand and put it on the table beside the bed. Then he 
sat down to wait for Valeska. 

In half an hour she appeared, breathing hard, her 
cheeks flushed with her haste. 

"Here it is," she said, as soon as the maid had left. 



262 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"It's the best I could do." She handed it over. It 
read: 

"Please allow the bearer to come in and see me 
on important business at any time he may present 
this. ROBERT CAMERON." 

"Good !" said Astro. "Now you must wait here and 
listen at the window till you hear my whistle. Then 
come right along the roof to me and be ready for any- 
thing." 

He started to open the door when she put a hand 
on his arm. "Does it begin with 'C-a-n'?" she asked 
breathlessly. 

He nodded. "How did you get it?" 

"From the lieutenant's letter." 

"Of course. Well, it may have begun with 'D-a-n* 
by this time." 

"D-a-n-g-e-r?" 

"Perhaps. Be ready !" And he was down-stairs. 

At the door of the Assassins' Club, a white-haired 
negro answered the bell. 

Astro presented the letter. "I wish to see Lieuten- 
ant Cameron immediately !" he said. 

"Ah, don't perzactly know, sah," said the darky. 
"Mah o'ders is not to leave nobody, come in yah. Ah 
expect Ah'd better say no, sah." 

Astro brushed past him and had set his foot on the 
stair, when a fat face looked down over the balusters. 
The portly form of Herr Beimer followed it. 

"Vat's de madder ?" he inquired, as he started down. 

Without further parley Astro ran up the stair, and, 
before there was any time for resistance from the as- 
tonished German, grasped him by the knees, and pull- 



THE ASSASSINS' CLUB 263 

ing his feet from under him, sent him madly sliding 
down the stairs. Herr Beimer, swearing a polysyllabic 
oath, stumbled awkwardly to his feet and set off up- 
stairs again after his attacker. But by this time Astro 
was at the top of the second flight. He dashed into 
the square room in the rear where he had seen the 
group of men. It was empty ! Beside it, however, was 
a small hall bedroom, and here, in his shirt-sleeves, 
lying in a stupor on the cot, lay Lieutenant Cameron. 

Astro sprang to the door and locked it just as the 
excited German thumped ponderously on the panels. 
Next he threw up the window and whistled. Then 
taking the lieutenant in his arms, he succeeded in car- 
rying him to the window-sill. Valeska was already on 
the roof outside, waiting for him. 

"Take his feet !" said Astro under his breatH, and so 
together they managed to get the lieutenant out on the 
roof and to the window of the chamber in number in. 
By this time the man had begun to revive and to pro- 
test in word and action against his removal. They paid 
no heed to him, however, and bundled him into the 
room and on the bed. Then Astro shook him energet- 
ically. 

"Wake up, man !" he cried. "Wake up now ! You 
can, if you try ! Here ! Smell this !" He reached for 
the ammonia and held it under the lethargic man's nos- 
trils. 

The lieutenant turned away his head, coughed, 
blinked, and partially rose on one arm. "Who are 
you ?" he said, gazing at them in surprise. 

"Friends of Miss Mannering's," said Astro. 

The lieutenant shook his head, and stared. "What's 
the matter ?" he brought out laboriously. 



264 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"I got you away from Beimer afraid of trouble 
want to help you." Astro spoke very distinctly, as if 
to a deaf man. 

The lieutenant felt for his coat, found himself with- 
out one, seemed puzzled, and dropped back again 
limply. 

"The draw " his voice ended in a mumble. 

"Yes, the drawer! What drawer?" Astro asked 
eagerly. 

"Find draw " The lieutenant seemed to drop 
asleep. 

"I wonder what he means? There's something on 
his mind. No doubt he has hidden something." Astro 
looked keenly at Valeska under drawn brows. 

"Can't you revive him again ?" she asked. 

"No use trying the ammonia yet. It seems to have 
too great a reaction and sends him into a deeper sleep. 
We'll have to wait till he comes to himself for a mo- 
ment naturally. You know what it is now, don't you ?" 

She nodded. "And I found it out, curiously, only 
from the dictionary. I looked up the word 'assassin,' 
and found that it came from Hashashin or hashish 
eater. Then I looked up about the Old Man of the 
Mountain who used to drug his followers with bhang 
till they would commit any crime, and that led me, of 
course, to Cannabis Indica, or Indian hemp, and I 
found out all about the effects of hashish." 

"Yes, I thought these amateur assassins were inno- 
cent enough, only a club to experiment with hashish ; 
for with a moderate dose the sensations are wonderful, 
and well worth trying, but there's more in this than 
that. What is Beimer up to? That's what I want to 
know." 



THE ASSASSINS' CLUB 265 

"Is he really unconscious now?" Valeska asked, 
watching the prostrate form of the lieutenant as he lay 
flushed and breathing, but otherwise inert. 

"Not really. He may be dimly aware that we are 
here; but his will is gone. He won't speak until he 
rises to the level of volition again. It's a sort of dou- 
ble consciousness, a rhythmic process of alternate 
sinking into apathy, where he sees visions, and rising 
into full consciousness when he can talk for a moment. 
I wish I knew what dose he had. The intervals are 
about three minutes. I tried hashish when I was in 
college ; but I took such an overdose the last time that 
I have dreaded to use it again." 

The lieutenant now began to mutter, as if talking in 
his sleep. "I'm tottering on the tops of tall pendu- 
lums. . . . The world is full of spiralated muci- 
lages . . . lovely color. ... In a tunnel now, twist- 
ing, turning, violet, green, orange . . . floating . . . 
floating like a spirit . . . tops of tropic trees . . ." 

Suddenly he gasped and sat up, staring hard at 
them. "What did I say? What was it? Quick! be- 
fore I go off again! I was saying something." 

"Find the drawer," Astro suggested, leaning to him. 

"Draw draw What was it? Drawings!" he 
exclaimed. "Beimer wants the drawings ! For God's 
sake, help me ! I'm losing it again ! Drawings ! What 
is it about drawings?" 

"Where did you put them . 

"Drawings! Yes. Un-der the mat " His eyes 
closed. 

Astro tried again. "Under the mat in the little 
room ?" 

The lieutenant stared stupidly. "I forget. Mat 



266 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

that meant something. I can't get it. Wait till I come 
up again. . . . All snaky now, like live wires . . . 
pink and green. . . Ah !" The rest was inaudible. 

The moment he had again succumbed to the effects 
of the drug Astro sprang to the window. He paused 
there to say sharply : 

"Beimer is trying to get some of the lieutenant's 
navy drawings, that's evident, and has given Cameron 
a big dose of hashish to keep him quiet till the papers 
can be found. I think Cameron must have suspected 
it, and has hidden the blue-prints or whatever they are. 
I'm going to go through that bedroom and see if 
they're under the mat. You wait here. He is likely 
to be unconscious for two or three minutes more now, 
and I'll just have time." With that, he had leaped out 
on the roof and was off. 

The lieutenant still muttered in a whisper so low that 
Valeska could make out nothing. She went to the win- 
dow just as Astro reappeared. 

"No mat, nothing but a carpet. Beimer must have 
got away with them. You'll have to get after him, Va- 
leska, while I pull the lieutenant through. If I know 
anything about hashish, he's had a terrific dose, and is 
going to have the worst case of nausea he ever had in 
his life. I took a look at those hashish sandwiches, 
they were fairly loaded with the stuff. His first voy- 
age wasn't a circumstance to the seasickness he'll have 
in about half an hour. You get right out to Beimer's 
place and see what you can do with him !" 

As Valeska threw on her furs the lieutenant was 
beginning to rouse again. As she slipped out of the 
door and ran down-stairs, he sat up on the bed, his 




" I'm tottering on the top of tall pendulums ! . . . The world is 
full of spirilated mucilages ! " 



THE ASSASSINS' CLUB 267 

eyes glassy, his fists clenched. The effort he was mak- 
ing to gain possession of his mental faculties was evi- 
dent in his writhing mouth and wild staring eyes. 

"What was it ?" he demanded. 

"It's all right/' said Astro. "Beimer has the draw- 
ings ; but we'll get them for you." He turned for the 
glass of water on the table. 

The lieutenant clutched his arm in a fierce grip. 
"Gods !" he cried. "Help me ! The papers were secret 
plans for fire control. Man, it's ruin for me !" 

"You must drink this, first of all," Astro replied, 
holding the glass to the man's lips. "It's an emetic. We 
must get this hemp out of your stomach before you 
can recover." 

It was too late. The lieutenant dropped back, now 
as rigid as a marble statue, only his wild eyes moving. 
He spoke painfully through his clenched teeth. 

"Oh, God !" he murmured. "Take it away ! I can't 
drink it ! I'm going through hell !" His brow was fur- 
rowed with tense lines as he fought with the deathly 
nausea that was working in him. 

Astro put down the glass and waited. It was evi- 
dent that nothing could help now, and the drug which 
had thoroughly impregnated the man's system must 
work off its own effects. 

"It works so so fast . . . All black now . . . 
Oh, God! . . . I'm afraid! . . . Afraid . . ." He 
began to moan. 

"You're all right; there's no danger. You're just a 
little sick, that's all." 

"I'm dying! It's no use ... Tell Violet . . . 
I'm dead . . . Don't you see, man? I'm dead al- 



268 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

ready . . . The world is full of spiralated mucilages 
that's the inner secret of Death spiral . . . I'm 
whirling through space . . . Dead!" 

Astro smiled. It was, he knew, a common symptom 
of an overdose of Cannabis Indica. There was, as he 
said, no danger. He waited for the crisis, attending to 
his patient like a trained nurse. For a while the moan- 
ing continued; then Cameron began to curse wildly, 
like a man with the delirium tremens. Then of a sud- 
den he sat up in bed, and the convulsion came. His 
outraged stomach revolted at the burden it had to 
bear. During this Astro waited on him kindly, and 
when the active stage of nausea had passed he laid the 
lieutenant back on the bed and waited till he sank into 
a natural sleep. Then he took a small book from his 
pocket and began to read. 

For half an hour he read the little volume of the 
Morte d } Arthur; for another half-hour he sat in a 
brown study, his eyes fixed on the pattern in the worn 
carpet. There was a zigzag figure in it which resem- 
bled the letter M. 

The lieutenant moaned in his sleep, and felt under 
his bed mechanically with one hand. Astro's eyes fol- 
lowed him. 

Then, with his face suddenly illumined, he rose 
quietly, threw up the window, and passed out on the 
roof. In less than five minutes he returned with a 
smile on his lips. He took up the book again and be- 
gan reading. 



It was after midnight when Valeska returned in 
great disappointment. She took off her coat and looked 



THE ASSASSINS' CLUB 269 

sadly at the lieutenant, who was now sleeping peace- 
fully. 

"It was no use," she said. "Herr Beimer wasn't "in, 
and no one knew when to expect him. I waited as 
long as I dared; for I hated to come back unsuc- 
cessful." 

"It was too bad I was so stupid as to send you 
away out there," said Astro quietly. "I should have 
taken time to think it over, first. It came to me an 
hour after you had left. Here are the blue-prints, safe 
and untouched." 

"Oh!" she exclaimed joyously. "Did he tell you 
where they were after I left?" 

"No, before you left. Didn't you hear him?" 

"Under the mat? But I thought you looked and 
found none there." 

"My dear," said Astro, with a whimsical expression 
on his face, "you should learn to concentrate, to focus 
your subconscious mind upon itself. The psychic state 
of receptivity " 

"Oh, bother!" Valeska exclaimed. "Where were 
they, if they weren't under the mat ?" 

"Under the mattress," he answered. 

The lieutenant sat up, now fully recovered, and 
looked at the two. Astro handed him the blue-prints. 
He grasped them exultantly. For a while he lay weakly 
looking at them, saying nothing. Astro put on his 
overcoat and helped Valeska into her wraps. Just be- 
fore he opened the door, he turned and said : 

"I don't think I need give you any advice, Lieuten- 
ant. Go to sleep now, and you'll be all right in the 
morning. If you have gone through what I did the 
last time I was an 'assassin,' there is no danger of your 



270 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

ever trying it again. I think that Miss Mannering 
needn't know about this, certainly I shall not tell her." 

"What does she know? Did she send you to help 
me?" the lieutenant asked anxiously. 

"She asked my advice, that's all. Unfortunately she 
saw the name 'Assassins' ; but I think you can explain 
that easily enough, if you don't care to confess the 
truth." 

"How can I explain it ?" Cameron said thoughtfully. 

"Why, tell her that the club met to kill time," said 
Astro, "and that at that you are a tolerably successful 



THE LUCK OF THE MER- 
RINGTONS 

ETE one afternoon in February, a policeman, stand- 
ing on the corner of Thompson and West Fourth 
Streets, gazing abstractedly across Washington Square, 
felt something brushing against his trousers. Looking 
down, he saw a little child of scarcely three years hold- 
ing something up to him. 

"See ! See !" she was saying. 

The officer opened his eyes in amazement. In one 
little fist the baby held a fire opal as large as a robin's 
egg; in the other was a shriveled black hand. 

He grabbed them from the child and questioned her ; 
but her prattle was meaningless. Taking her care- 
fully in charge, he hurried to the station-house and re- 
ported the incident to the sergeant at the desk. 

Next morning the city papers "played up" the ac- 
count of the astonishing affair, with a picture of the 
child, the officer, and the two extraordinary objects 
with which the baby was found. That afternoon the 
mother of the little girl came to claim her daughter 
bnt was unable to explain the incident. She lived in 
a tenement on a level with the elevated railroad, on 
West Third Street, and had missed little Elsa at five 
o'clock. Inquiries in the neighborhood elicited the fact 
that Elsa had been seen about four o'clock in the after- 

271 



272 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

noon in the basement tenement of a house across the 
street, a place used as a cheap laundry. The laundress 
had noticed the child playing at the wood-pile ; but had 
been too busy to send her home. When she had fin- 
ished hanging her clothes in the back yard and had re- 
turned to the wash-room, the child had gone. The 
baby had been found by the policeman at a quarter to 
five. Where she had been in the interim it seemed 
impossible to discover. 



The case was turned over to the detective force, and 
was eventually taken up by Lieutenant McGraw. He 
worked at it a day without success, and then, recalling 
the many services done him by his friend, Astro the 
Seer, he determined to seek his help. McGraw's earlier 
experience with the palmist had been at the time of the 
Macdougal Street dynamite outrages and the Hunch- 
akist murder, mysteries that Astro had solved pri- 
vately. Assuming the credit of this, McGraw had been 
promoted and had paid his debt of gratitude to Astro 
in several ways. He had often secured information 
for the palmist that no one outside the police force 
would have been able to obtain. The mutual relation 
having proved profitable, McGraw did not hesitate to 
apply to his gifted friend in this case, which had be- 
come prominent in the papers. 

Astro, free at the time, and rather bored with his 
ordinary routine of chiromancy and astrologic work, 
readily undertook the commission. He questioned Mc- 
Graw on the details of the affair, and dismissed him 
with a promise to go about the matter immediately. 

"It will probably be easy and interesting," he re- 



THE LUCK OF THE MERRINGTONS 273 

marked to his assistant, Valeska, who had been present 
at the interview with McGraw. "It is these cases 
which are apparently so extraordinary that are most 
easily solved. Given any remarkable variation in the 
aspect of a crime, and you know immediately where to 
begin. This will be only play, I fancy. We'll go right 
down and look the ground over and see the lay of the 
land. Of course the important thing is to trace the 
child's route from the basement laundry, in the mid- 
dle of the block, to the corner." 

"Why, the obvious course would be along two sides 
of the rectangle, along West Third Street and up 
Thompson Street to the Square, wouldn't it?" said Va- 
leska. 

"Undoubtedly. And yet, if little Elsa went that way, 
along the sidewalk, it seems impossible that some one 
wouldn't have noticed her and remarked the surprising 
playthings she was holding in her hands." 

"She might have only just picked them up, near the 
corner." 

"Very true. We must carefully go over all possible 
routes and then determine the probabilities. But let's 
go down and look at the exhibits in the case. I confess 
I'm curious as to that hand." 



Astro's green limousine was entered, and He and his 
assistant drove immediately to the detective bureau on 
Allen Street. McGraw welcomed them, and taking 
them into an inner room, displayed the relics. 

The opal was nearly an inch long, a perfect ellipse, 
shot with colored fires. As it was shifted in the 
light the play of color was mysterious and surprising. 



274 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

It seemed now suffused with blood; now it glowed 
with pale green; then a blinding ray of pure yellow 
shot forth. It seemed to hold impossible distances and 
atomic cosmic worlds within its shell. It winked like 
a living thing ; it glared and blushed ; it was at once 
baleful and beautiful. 

The hand, however, seemed never to have.had to do 
with life or motion. Dried like a mummy, strung with 
tendons like a turkey's claw, wrinkled, stiff, all color 
dulled into the hue of earth, it was a horrid thing. Va- 
leska turned away from it in disgust; but Astro still 
peered at it, examining it, inch by inch, from the long 
coarse nails to the dissevered wrist. 

"Well ?" said McGraw. 

"A negro's hand," Astro replied. "It has been bur- 
ied. A man of at least forty. Cut from the arm dur- 
ing life. And yet " He did not finish the sentence ; 
instead, he said abruptly, "Take us to the laundry." 

At the basement McGraw left them, Astro preferring 
to be alone with Valeska during his investigation. The 
two entered the cellar after McGraw had introduced 
them to the proprietor. She pointed out where the 
child had last been seen, and then went on with her 
work. 

The front of the basement was used for one of the 
small wood and coal depots common in the poorer dis- 
tricts of New York. Partitioned off with rough board- 
ing was a little chamber where the Italian who sold 
fuel lived. Behind this was the laundry where two 
girls, bare-armed, were washing. Two of them lifted 
a basket of wet linen and went out into the yard with 
it while Astro and Valeska watched. 

In each of these rooms Astro spent considerable 



THE LUCK OF THE MERRINGTONS 275 

time, letting his eyes rove in every direction, searching 
every foot of the walls, ceiling, and floor. After each 
survey he gave a nod to Valeska and passed on. The 
laundry itself occupied more time. He watched the 
girls at work and their going and coming attentively. 
Then he went back to the wood-pile and knelt down on 
the rough floor, crawling here and there, watching, 
smelling, fingering everything in the vicinity. The 
track he pursued led back to the little room where the 
Italian slept. There he spent more time, searching 
carefully. When he rose and dusted his clothes, he 
handed Valeska a bent safety-pin. 

"Keep that safe," he said. "I think that little Elsa 
has been playing under the Italian's cot bed." 

Hardly had he spoken the words than the stairway 
was darkened, and a man bearing a loaded basket came 
down the steps. He put down his load and, seeing 
strangers, demanded roughly: 

"What you doin' here, what ?" 

"Oh, looking about," said Astro coolly. "I've lost 
something, and I came here to find it." 

The Italian stared. "What you a-lost, what?" 
> Astro kept his eyes on him. "I've lost a large opal," 
he said calmly. 

The man began to tremble. "Opal ! Wha's that?" 
! "I'll show you." Astro walked into the man's little 
room and lifted the mattress. Between it and the can- 
vas cover of the cot appeared a small box. On its 
cover was printed, "Heintz & Co., El Paso, Texas." 

"I no gotta eet, I no gotta eet! Sure! De littla 
babee she stole eet away." The man watched Astro's 
face apprehensively. 

"Where did you get it, anyway," asked the Seer. 



276 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"My uncle in Italy, he give it to me," the man pro- 
tested. 

They talked for ten minutes ; but the man persisted in 
this story. Giving up the attempt, Astro was about to 
return to the laundry, when his eyes fell on the basket 
the man had been carrying. He stopped and took off 
a few pieces of kindling, then, after a quick look at the 
Italian, took something from under the pieces of wood. 
It was a human skull. 

"Perhaps you'll tell me where you got this?" Astro 
demanded sternly. 

The Italian's face brightened. "Oh, a littla boy, he 
geeve eet to me for ten cent," he said simply. 

Astro turned to Valeska with a baffled expression. 
"In heaven's name what kind of place are we in, 
where babies play with dead hands and human skulls, 
to say nothing of giant opals hid in cots ?" 

"Yes, yes, a littla boy, on Washington Square, sure !" 
the man repeated. 

Astro placed the skull on a shelf and regarded it at- 
tentively. For some moments he said nothing; then, 
shrugging his shoulders, he passed into the laundry. 
Valeska followed him. 

"The man is lying, of course," she said. "But what 
a barefaced falsehood ! Would anything be more im- 
probable?" 

"He's lying, it's true," said Astro ; "but it may not be 
all false, nevertheless. We'll have to wait till we fin- 
ish our examination." And with that, he walked out 
into the back yard. 

The place was half-filled with clothes, drying. The 
ground was completely bricked over and surrounded 
by a high fence. On the farther side of this and be- 




What kind of place are we in, where babies play with dead hands 
and human skulls ? " 



THE LUCK OF THE MERRINGTONS 277 

yond the yards of tfie abutters appeared the rear of the 
houses on South Washington Square, or West Fourth 
Street, rising four stories high. On the right and left 
were other yards. Astro began at the right-hand side 
of the house and examined the fence foot by foot all 
round the three sides, till he had come back to the 
house again at the left-hand side. Then he looked up at 
the windows of the house opposite. A second examina- 
tion of the fence opposite the laundry took more time. 
Meanwhile, Valeska followed him and did her best to 
interpret his movements. 

"Well," he said, as he returned to the laundry door, 
"what have you discovered ?" 

She spoke eagerly. "Why, there's a hole broken in 
the fence on the north side, and it seems to me it's big 
enough for a baby to crawl through. Besides, as the 
clothes are hung now, it is well hidden, and little Elsa 
might easily have got through unnoticed." 

"Did you notice her footprints beyond, in the earth 
of the other back yard ?" 

"No." Valeska was apologetic. 

"Well, they are there. Nothing else?" 

"Why, no." 

"Look again !" 

Valeska went carefully along the fence and finally 
stopped at some vertical scars half-way up the north 
wall. "What do they mean ?" she asked. 

"That's the false half of our Italian friend's tale," 
said Astro. "Never mind them for the present. Now 
we'll call at the house opposite." 

They left the basement and walked round the block, 
climbed over some excavations in the street, and rang 
the bell. A buxom, jolly young woman opened the 



278 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

door. Astro asked for rooms to let, preferably in the 
rear. 

"We ain't got but one now," she replied. "That's on 
the third floor up, and it ain't vacant yet though. You 
can look at it. Was you married ?" 

Astro laughed and, ignoring the question, followed 
the woman up three flights of stairs, followed by his 
assistant. The landlady threw open a door, and the 
three entered. Astro gave a quick look around the 
apartment. 

It was in confusion, cluttered with clothing and 
newspapers, old boots and cooking utensils. 

"And he ain't paid me for t'ree weeks yet, neither !" 
she added. "I give him the bounce two days ago. He 
come home drunk in my house ! I don't keep no lodg- 
ers like that !" 

"What day was it he came home drunk?" Astro 
asked. 

"Only Thursday. He nearly fell out the window, 
he was so soused. He had a black eye, too." 

"What time was it?" 

"Oh, about four o'clock. Look at them rags, now! 
What d'ye think of that ! The pig dog !" She picked 
up a long dirty strip of cloth on the floor. "Bah !" she 
cried. "It smells like a graveyard, don't it?" 

Astro took the rag and examined it carefully. It 
smelled strongly of creosote. He laid it on a table, 
and with a secret sign called Valeska's attention to 
it. Then he walked to the window, threw up the sash, 
and looked down. 

"It would be a bad drop, wouldn't it?" he said. 

The landlady laughed. "I only wish he had fell 
out!" 



THE LUCK OF THE MERRINGTONS 279 

"Who lives on the floor below ?" 

"Oh, a Spaniard and his wife; but they ain't been 
here for two weeks now. They pay all the same." 

"And on the second story ?" 

"Oh, I live there myself with my dog." 

Suddenly Astro exclaimed aloud, "The deuce ! I've 
dropped my hat. How stupid ! I'll have to go down 
in the yard and get it." 

"Never mind ; I'll go down," said the woman. 

Astro, however, insisted, and before she had a 
chance to offer again he was running down-stairs. A 
sign to Valeska told her to occupy the woman's atten- 
tion for a while; and this Valeska did successfully. 
Finally she and the landlady walked down-stairs, the 
girl talking with animation, the woman giggling and 
laughing and showing a set of big good-natured dim- 
ples. They waited in the hall for Astro to return. 

He shook hands with the landlady cordially. "I'll 
let you know about the room, if I want it," he said. 
"But I like the landlady better than I do the room. 
What are they doing on West Fourth Street?" he 
continued. "Digging for a new drain ?" 

"Yes," she said. "All the time they are digging up, 
somewheres. It makes me tired, this New York! I 
wish they'd get it finished." 

"When will your lodger come back to pack up his 
things?" 

"Oh, I wish I knew my own self. He's a crook, I 
think, that man ; he's got a bad eye. All the time he 
brings such funny things home. Bags and things, and 
sometimes watches." 

As soon as Astro and Valeska were alone he smiled 
and said, "Well, it's as easy as I said it was going to 



280 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

be, isn't it? All we have to do now is to search the 
hospitals." 

Valeska thought it over. Then she spoke slowly. 
"I suppose that rag was wrapped round the hand, 
wasn't it?" 

Astro nodded. 

"The man came home drunk he sat down by the 
open window and dropped the hand ?" 

Astro nodded again. 

"The baby crawled through the hole in the fence 
with the opal, I see that. She found the hand in the 
yard under the window, where it had been dropped. 
Then, somehow, she passed through the kitchen and 
came out on West Fourth Street, here, and walked to 
the corner, where she met the policeman. That's all 
plain enough. But where did this man get the hand, 
and where did the Italian get the opal ?" 

"Take the last question first. You recall the up-and- 
down marks on the fence ?" 

Valeska assented. "Oh! The Italian climbed over 
there?" 

"He must have. He must have seen the box drop. 
He climbed the fence and grabbed the box and didn't 
notice the hand. Then the baby came along, before 
this man, who was evidently a pickpocket, awoke from 
his stupor. You see, he came home with the bag he 
had snatched " 

"Oh ! That was that leather bag with the handle 
cut?" 

"Of course. He went to the window and sat down, 
unwrapped the dead hand, and dropped it, or placed it 
in his lap. Then he looked at the opal, and, beginning 



THE LUCK OF THE MERRINGTONS 281 

to drowse, dropped both into the yard. When I went 
down there I saw footprints, undoubtedly the Italian's, 
in the earth." 

"But that leads nowhere, after all?" said Valeska. 
"How in the world should an immense opal and a hand 
be in the bag that was snatched ?" 

"That's what we have to find out," said Astro. 

"And why should the Italian have a human skull in 
his basket?" 

Astro laughed. "That's where the true half of his 
lie comes in. Undoubtedly a boy did sell it to him. It 
wasn't till I spoke to the woman about the excavations 
in the street here that I recalled that Washington 
Square was in old days the Totters Field/ Many 
graves have been found here, and no doubt the gamins 
of the neighborhood have watched every shovel and got 
the skulls there. The Italian fancied it, thought per- 
haps he could sell it to some doctor, and so brought it 
home. In fact, I think we have eliminated him from 
the affair altogether. Of course, he'd never dare say 
he stole the opal." 

"And what about searching the hospitals ?" 

"For the original owner of the bag, of course. The 
thief came home with a bruised eye. That means he 
had a fight ; but, as he brought off his booty, he must 
have punished his man pretty badly. Consequently he 
is now probably in a hospital. We have to look for a 
man from El Paso ; for there is where he got the opal, 
or at least the box in which it was kept. Well, we'll 
leave that till to-morrow. I believe I have an engage- 
ment for five o'clock, haven't I ?" 

"Yes. A Miss Merrington." 



282 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Who is she?" 

"I haven't found out anything about her. You'll 
have to hurry." 

They got into the limousine and drove rapidly to the 
studio, where Miss Merrington was waiting. While 
Valeska busied herself with the file of daily papers she 
had as yet had no chance to look over, Astro inter- 
viewed his visitor in the great studio. 

Miss Merrington was a tall willowy brunette, with 
plenty of humor in her face, well dressed, and evi- 
dently fairly well-to-do. She had come, it seemed, on 
a peculiar errand. In brief, as she told it to Astro, it 
was this : 

Major Merrington, her grandfather, had been a 
United States Army officer on a special errand in 
Mexico at the time of Maximilian's regime. He had 
had the good fortune to be of service to the emperor, 
who had been duly grateful. In return for his serv- 
ices, the emperor, at their last meeting shortly before 
the end of Maximilian's tragic career, had rather 
jocosely offered him his choice of two gifts. The first 
was a large box of the famous cigarettes of Chiapas, 
made by an old woman who had been famous for her 
tobacco for years and had recently died. This cutting 
off of the already limited supply had increased the 
value of the genuine cigarettes enormously. Mexicans 
held them in almost superstitious esteem. They were 
said to have all kinds of esoteric virtues and to bring 
extraordinary happiness. The first cigarette, when 
smoked, was as mild as Virginia's tobacco. The sec- 
ond was always as strong as a black cigar and pro- 
duced a sort of half-trance, like opium. 



THE LUCK OF THE MERRINGTONS 283 

The alternative gift was an old Aztec relic. Miss 
Merrington did not herself know its exact nature ; but 
she did know that all sorts of good luck were attrib- 
uted to its possession. It was this gift that the major 
had chosen. "The Luck of the Montezumas" it was 
called ; but, as the "Luck of the Merringtons" its name 
seemed to be as inapt as it had been to the Aztec em- 
perors. With it, whatever it was, and escorted by a 
trusted negro slave named Ptolemy, the major had 
journeyed half-way from Chihuahua to El Paso, when 
his party was attacked by brigands. Their last stand 
was made in an adobe ruin, where the major had been 
killed. What had become of the "Luck of the Merring- 
tons" and what it really was, was what Miss Merring- 
ton had come, in a rather skeptical and playful humor, 
to ask of Astro the Seer. 

She had got so far, when a muffled electric bell was 
faintly heard in the studio. Astro, who had listened 
attentively, excused himself to get a book of astrologic 
tables which he said it was necessary for him to con- 
sult before he could answer Miss Merrington's ques- 
tion. Around a corner of the book-shelf was a sort of 
alcove cupboard, hung with black curtains. He parted 
them, and a glass window was disclosed. Pressed 
against this was a newspaper showing the "Lost and 
Found" column. One was ringed about with a blue 
pencil. It read : 

"LOST A large opal, on Second Avenue, 
Thursday last, at two p. M. Finder will be paid 
a generous reward and no questions asked. 
HENRY MERRINGTON, Bellevue Hospital." 

Astro dropped the velvet curtains, reached on the 
shelf for an immense volume bound in heavy leather 



284 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

with silver clasps. He took it to the table near where 
his visitor sat and threw it open. The pages were 
parchment, written with beautiful medieval letters, 
with illuminated initials and many zodiacal diagrams. 
For some time he turned the leaves thoughtfully ; then 
stopped to ask : 

"Do you know the exact date of your grandfather's 
birth?" 

Miss Merrington, unfortunately, did not. He asked, 
then, for her birthday, which she gave to the hour. 
Astro turned to another diagram, and taking a pencil, 
made a few computations. 

"H'm. Under the sign Libra, with Mars and Saturn 
in the ascendant a daughter of the Ninth House the 
moon. Wait a moment. Let me see your palm." 

She drew off her glove, and, not a little mystified, 
but still smiling as at a child's game, showed her hand. 
Astro gave it a glance, turned it over, doubled the 
knuckle of the third finger. Then he sat down, nod- 
ding his head. 

"It's too absurd," he said. "One can't often strike a 
fact so definitely as this appears. If I'm not mistaken, 
the 'Luck of the Merringtons' is here in New York. 
It's let's see," he looked at his diagram and figures 
again "forty-seven, that's right. Violet, indigo, blue, 
green, that's fourth, yellow, orange, red, that's 
seven. Green and red Why, it must be an opal; 
that's the only stone that's both green and red. It's a 
fire opal, probably a Mexican gem, not the Austrian 
milky-blue stone. Curious, isn't it?" 

"Yes," she drawled, "if it's true." 

"Well, if you'll wait a moment, I may be able to find 
just where it is." 



THE LUCK OF THE MERRINGTONS 285 

"Oh, I'll wait a long time to get back the family 
luck, bad or good," she said. 

Astro shut his eyes and remained silent for a time. 
Then he shuddered, put his hand to his head, and said 
slowly, "I get the name Allen. Allen Street, that's it. 
And I see a man in a blue coat guarding it. He has 
brass buttons oh, yes, he's a policeman." He shud- 
dered again, and appeared to come to himself. "What 
did I say ?" he asked ingenuously. 

Miss Merrington repeated his words. 

"Oh, that must mean the detective bureau," said 
Astro. 

"It's perfectly wonderful at least, if it turns out 
so !" the woman exclaimed. "I can't wait to find out, 
though I don't see what I can do. I haven't lost any 
opal, and I can't pretend to. I only know the old story 
about the 'Luck of the Merringtons' as my father told 
it to me. You see, grandfather never told in his letter 
just what it was. No doubt he was afraid of being 
robbed of it. But there's one other question I'd like to 
ask you. I have an older brother who went to Mexico 
two months ago, and we have had only two letters 
from him. Can you tell me where he is now ?" 

"His name is Henry, isn't it?" 

Miss Merrington stared. "Why yes! How did 
you know?" 

"It's my business to know such things," said Astro. 
"Your brother has had an accident but is not seri- 
ously hurt. You will hear from him in a very short 
time." 

"An accident!" Miss Merrington's face paled. 
"That frightens me dreadfully! Do you know," she 
went on, "somehow, what happened to my grandfather 



586' THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

is so suggestive ! My brother went to Mexico on pur- 
pose to trace up the 'Luck of the Merringtons.' He 
had a foolish idea that he could find it. It has always 
been a family legend only, but we children took it 
seriously. Lucky or unlucky, we wanted it in our pos- 
session. Henry always said that if he ever had time 
and money for a vacation, he was going to Chihuahua 
to track down that heirloom, whatever it was. It was 
because I was so impatient to find out about it that I 
came to you. I thought you might give me some hint 
that would help him find it. I wasn't worried at his 
not writing, because I knew he might be away from 
the railroad ; but I was impatient to have news. And 
I've heard such things of you, so I thought I'd come, 
for the fun of it. I never expected you could do any- 
thing so specific as this, though. Now I'm worried. 
Oh, I hope Henry's all right and safe! If he only 
comes back, I don't care if we don't get the 'Luck of 
the Merringtons,' though heaven knows we need it 
badly enough! Our luck couldn't possibly be worse 
than it is now, I think. I've been a companion for a 
rich woman for a year; but I can't stand it a day 
longer, and I'm going to be a stenographer." 

"I predict a better fate for you than that," said 
Astro. "I think the family luck will return. You wait 
patiently for a few days and see if I'm not right." 

Valeska came into the studio as soon as Miss Mer- 
rington had gone. "It seems to me you took a long 
chance," she said, as she sat down. 

"My dear," said Astro, throwing himself on the red 
velvet couch and drawing up his narghile, "I took no 
chance at all. If this Henry Merrington who adver- 



THE LUCK OF THE MERRINGTONS 287 

tised is not her brother, the opal is, of course, not the 
'Luck of the Merringtons' ; but she will never know 
whether it is or not. If her brother has gone on a 
rough trip to Mexico, he'll scarcely escape without an 
accident of some kind, though it may be slight. What- 
ever he finds as a relic, he can't prove it is the true 
'luck/ can he ? and I'll have the benefit of the doubt. 
But we must look him up immediately and get his 
story. I confess I'm still at sea about that hand." 

"Why didn't he let his sister know, if he was in- 
jured?" 

"Probably didn't want to frighten her. Perhaps he 
was drunk. Now he's lost the 'luck,' he hopes to get it 
back before she finds out he is here, so as not to disap- 
point her. But come. I confess I can't wait. We 
can't get in after eight o'clock." 

The two set out, therefore, without waiting for din- 
ner, and after Astro had sent up a card marked "opal", 
a nurse brought word that her patient could be seen. 
He had been robbed and sandbagged, as Astro had sur- 
mised. He had lain unconscious for several hours; 
but was now recuperating, and would need only an- 
other day in which to be quite well. 

He was frankly curious as to his guests, and could 
hardly greet them before he had sent away the nurse 
and demanded their errand. In a few words Astro 
told him exactly what had happened to the famous 
opal, without confessing how it had been traced. In 
as mysterious a manner, he let Merrington know that 
as a Seer he was aware of the esoteric and magic prop- 
erties of the stone and its tradition. 

Merrington listened with immense interest, delighted 



288 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

to learn that the opal had been found, and that he could 
probably claim it without a reward. He then took up 
the story of his quest where his sister had left it. 

"I founded my whole hope of finding the thing on 
what I had heard of Rolemy, the negro. I knew he 
was brave and clever and faithful. I always put this 
murder with the story of the Sancy diamond, which I 
suppose you know. Baron Sancy, you remember, 
when told that the messenger who was carrying the cel- 
ebrated gem had been killed, said, 'Never mind, the 
Sancy diamond is not lost!' He sent men to disinter 
the body of the messenger, and found the stone in the 
stomach of the corpse of his faithful retainer. That's 
something the way I reasoned it out. It was a wild- 
goose chase ; but I succeeded marvelously. I discov- 
ered the place where the attack on my grandfather had 
been made ; I found the very adobe ruin where he had 
made the last stand. Some of the old people there re- 
membered the story, how my grandfather had been 
shot first, and how Ptolemy, defending the wooden 
door, had his hand chopped off with an ax before 
the brigands could enter. But no one had heard of any 
precious stone or other valuable thing that would ac- 
count for the legend, though everybody in Chihuahua 
knew the story of the "cigarettes of Chiapas'. 

"Well, it took a month to locate the grave ; but, after 
disinterring several coffins, I found one larger than 
usual, decayed almost to paper. And when I opened 
it which was easy, it was so rotten there, in the 
skull, between the upper and lower jaw-bone, was a fire 
opal as big as the end of my thumb ! It was the 'Luck 
of the Merringtons/ I was sure, if for no other reason 
because, from that time till it was snatched out of my 



THE LUCK OF THE MERRINGTONS 289 

hand on Second Avenue, things went gorgeously with 
me. One of my mosos put me on to an abandoned 
claim, an old gold-mine that had been lost for years. 
In a month I sold out my interests for thirty thousand 
dollars. Every one in the place became my friend. I 
found an old schoolmate who insisted on my going into 
partnership with him, and on the train coming north, 
I met the nicest girl in the world !" 

He sank back in his cot with a smile. "Now my 
luck's come back," he added, "I'm going to present the 
opal to my sister Helen and see what it'll do for her." 

"But one thing I don't understand," said Astro. 
"Did you get nothing but this opal from the grave ?" 

Merrington did not notice the incongruity of the re- 
mark, apparently. "Oh, I forgot!" he exclaimed. 
"That was a funny thing, too! You know Ptolemy's 
hand had been buried with him. Something had mum- 
mified it, somehow, while the rest of the body was 
pretty far gone, nothing, really, but bones and a few 
tendons. Well, I thought I'd take the dried hand as a 
relic of poor old Ptolemy. It was ghastly ; but I didn't 
know but that would bring luck, too. But no doubt 
that was what queered me, after all. I wonder what 
became of it?" 

"You'll find that at the detective bureau, too," said 
Astro. "If I were you, I'd give it decent and honor- 
able burial." 

"I will!" said Merrington. "And by to-morrow 
afternoon I'm going to appear and surprise my sister. 
I hope she hasn't worried about me." 



"But I always thought opals were unlucky," said Va- 



290 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

leska, as she left the hospital with the Master of Mys- 
teries. 

"My dear," he replied; "nothing is unlucky, but 
thinking makes it so ; and nothing is lucky but " He 
looked at her a bit sadly, adding: "Well, I'm afraid 
you'd hardly understand." 



THE COUNT'S COMEDY 

ENGROSSED in his own thoughts a young man 
waited in the great dim studio of Astro the Seer, 
nervously punching the magnificent Turkish rug with 
the ferrule of his cane. He was young, well groomed 
and smartly dressed, apparently well-bred. It was evi- 
dent that he was more worried than impatient. 

He looked up with a scowl as Astro, dressed in his 
red silk robe, wearing his turban with the moonstone 
clasp, leisurely entered the apartment. For a moment 
the young man gazed at the Seer as if to estimate the 
man's caliber and character. Astro said nothing; but, 
bowing gravely, took his seat on the big couch and 
lazily lighted his water-pipe, waiting for his visitor to 
speak. 

"I have come to you," the young man said finally, 
"although I must confess I don't quite believe in occult 
powers, because I have an idea that you must know 
considerable about human nature. You certainly see 
plenty of it." 

Astro bowed again, and a faint smile curled his lips. 

"I have also heard you called the Master of Mys- 
teries," the young man continued. 

Again Astro bowed. 

The young man rose and handed the palmist a card. 
It read, "Mr. John Wallington Shaw." 

291 



292 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Astro looked at it and tossed it on the table. 

"I suppose you know who I am ?" 

Astro again bowed. 

"It's a part of your business, I suppose. You may 
have read in the papers also of my sister's engagement 
to Count D'Ampleri?" 

The same sober gesture of assent from the palmist. 

Shaw sat down again, shoved his hands into his 
pockets, crossed his legs, and leaned back. "Mr. As- 
tro," he said, "I have come here on a queer errand. I 
suppose you see many strange things in your profes- 
sion, and it seemed to me that your experience would 
enable you to give me some help. What I want you 
to do first is to believe something that's nearly incredi- 
ble." 

"My dear sir," said Astro, speaking at last, "nothing 
is incredible. From what I know of life, the more im- 
possible it seems to be, the more probable it is. For 
that matter, one has only to read the papers. But se- 
riously, if I can help you in any way, I shall be glad to 
do so." 

Shaw now took a gold cigarette case from his 
pocket, selected a cigarette, knocked it against his fist, 
and struck a match. After the first long inhalation he 
remarked, "You'll promise, then, to believe the ex- 
traordinary story I tell you ?" 

"Mr. Shaw," Astro replied, "it's easy enough for me 
to perceive that you are a gentleman. I expect an equal 
amount of perception from you. At any rate, I hardly 
see why you should come here to tell me an untruth." 

"But what I mean is, I'm afraid you'll think I'm 
well, a bit crazy. It's simply too ridiculous. Why, I 
wouldn't believe it myself, hardly !" 



THE COUNT'S COMEDY 293 

"Let's have it. You have really excited my curios- 
ity." Astro folded his arms and looked at Shaw with 
sharp eyes. "You certainly show no symptoms of de- 
rangement yet." 

Shaw gave a nervous laugh. "Oh, it isn't I ; it's my 
sister. That's why it is so hard to tell. I assume, of 
course, that this confession will be kept confidential. 
Not only that, but I expect you to help me out for an 
ample consideration." 

Astro bowed. "I have secrets enough in this head 
of mine to destroy a dozen of the first families of New 
York," he said a little dryly. 

Shaw shrugged his shoulders. "Very well. I'll 
waste no more time. You'll see how useless it is to 
appeal to the police, or even to my lawyer. But first, 
have you heard of the robbery of Mrs. Landor's 
jewels?" 

"Oh, yes. The thief, I believe, has never been dis- 
covered. It always seemed to me curious, too, that no 
reward for their return had ever been offered. But 
what have they to do with your sister?" 

Shaw gazed up at the ceiling, then down at the floor. 
"Really, I'm almost ashamed to tell the story, it's so 
confoundedly absurd. We are Westerners, you know, 
of good, sound, and healthy stock. We're as sane as 
Shakespeare. No trace of brain storms or parancea in 
our family ! The thing hasn't gone far ; but it will be 
talked about if I can't stop it ; that is, if you can't. I 
don't know what to do. I'm up a tree. You've got to 
get hold of whoever's responsible for this thing, and 
tie them up, some way. It's a serious problem for us." 

Astro put his fingers to his lips and yawned. 

Shaw took the hint and proceeded abruptly : "Mrs. 



294 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Lander's jewels are at my house, a whole teapotful of 
them!" 

"Ah ! You know the thief, then ?" 

"No, I don't ; nor do I know what the deuce I'm to 
do with the loot ! One thing you are to do is to re- 
turn it." 

"And be accused of the theft myself?" 

"Oh, that won't need to follow. They have to be 
sent back somehow. I don't want my sister to be ac- 
cused of cleptomania; the other thing is quite bad 
enough. The idea of a gorilla in a top hat and all that ! 
It would make a pretty scandal if it was found out; I 
can fancy how people would talk. We have a great 
many friends, you know." He smiled cynically at the 
word. 

"She is innocent, I presume, then ?" said Astro. "But 
what about the gorilla ?" 

"There's no use in beating about the bush any long- 
er," said Shaw. "Only, you see, I wanted to make sure 
of you before I trusted you with the secret. I'll go 
ahead with it, and if you call it a cock and bull story, 
I don't see that I can blame you. You see, it was this 
way : We were down at our country place at Lake- 
side, a big, rambling old house with a veranda all 
round it and long French windows opening out on it. 
My sister's room has a little balcony ; it's on the second 
floor. She had gone up-stairs to dress for dinner. I 
was in my own room, a little way down the hall, and 
my door was closed at the time. We had a lot of com- 
pany down for the week-end ; it was ten days ago." 

"Who were there?" 

"Oh, the count, of course, and his valet, and the 
.Churches you know, Simeon Church and his wife 



THE COUNT'S COMEDY 295 

the Raddelle girls, and two or three others. I'll give 
you a list later, if you like." 

"All right, go ahead." 

"It happened, as I say, just before dinner ; about half 
past seven. It was quite dark. We don't light up 
much outside, there was nothing going on at that 
time. Well, I heard her door open, and then she was 
pounding on mine, and she called out, 'John, John! 
Come here quick !' I opened the door, half-dressed as 
I was, and she was in a deuce of a funk. She grabbed 
me by the arm and pulled me down the hall and shut 
her door. Then she said, 'Oh! what shall I do?' I 
said, 'What's the matter, Ethel? Have you been 
robbed?' She was nearly fainting, and I thought she 
would drop before she could speak. But finally I got 
it out of her. And her story was a wonder, and that's 
a fact!" 

Shaw, in his excitement, rose and gesticulated. 

"She had sent her maid out of the room for some- 
thing, and had her back to the French window and 
was stooping to pick up a comb, when she heard the 
sash open, and she looked around in a fright. There, 
standing right in front of her, was a big black gorilla, 
bowing to her." 

"H'm !" Astro concealed his amusement. 

"Wait! I made her tell me the story half a dozen 
times, and it was the same each time. The thing had 
on a silk hat, and a Peter Pan collar, a red necktie, and 
white kid gloves, and pearl gray spats buttoned around 
his knees." 

Astro could control his mirth no longer, and his 
grave demeanor exploded in a gust of hilarity. Shaw, 
despite his anxiety, had to join the laugh. 



296 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"What do you think of that for a fairy tale? But 
that's not half. This baboon" 

"You said gorilla before." 

"Well, gorilla, then; it doesn't matter in a night- 
mare like that. He held a china soup-plate in one 
hand, and in the other a black bag, a cloth bag. By 
Jove ! that much I can swear to myself ! I've seen it. 
Well, the chimpanzee thing " 

"I thought it was a baboon." 

"How the blazes do I know ? I wasn't there, and if 
I had been I shouldn't have known the difference. It 
may have been a monkey or an anthropoid ape, for all 
I know. Anyway, it set the soup-plate down on the 
dressing-table, and tipped its hat and said, 'Miss Ethel 
Shaw, I believe?'" 

"Ah !" said Astro. "Now we're getting warmer !" 

"Warm! He's made it hot enough for poor Ethel, 
I can tell you ! Then, without waiting for an answer, 
Ethel was out of her wits by this time, though she 
half suspected a practical joke, too, the orang-utan " 

"Or monkey," Astro interjected, smiling. 

"Yes, or gibbon perhaps held out the bag to her. 
It said, 'From your friends and well-wishers in the 
lunatic asylum.' Then it did a graceful two-step over 
to the window, recited l x* plus 2xy plus yV and van- 
ished on to the balcony. My sister was so frightened 
that she dropped the bag, and bing! out dropped 
Mrs. Landor's pearls and brooches and rings and 
things all over the floor. Now I ask you what 
kind of a story is that to get all about town?" He 
stared at the Master of Mysteries gloomily. 

"Well, it certainly would add to the gaiety of na- 
tions," Astro remarked quietly; "but it looks like a 







Then it did a graceful two-step, recited "^ 
onto the balcony. 



V and vanished 



THE COUNT'S COMEDY 297 

4 

pretty slim case if your sister had to rely on it for a 
defense." 

"We'd be laughed out of court," Shaw said. 

"Did your sister give you any further description of 
the creature, anything that could identify the masquer- 
ader?" 

"Why, she said he was a little knock-kneed, she 
thought; but that might have been on account of the 
spats." He grinned sadly, in spite of himself. "Oh, 
I forgot ! By Jove ! yes ! His breath smelled of garlic, 
and he wore automobile goggles !" 

This was too much for Astro. It was some time be- 
fore he could take the thing seriously. 

Shaw waited patiently until the palmist stopped 
laughing. "I knew you'd think I was a blanked fool," 
he said mournfully ; "but it's no joke to the Shaw fam- 
ily, I assure you. Anybody would say Ethel was 
crazy. I did myself, the very first time she told me 
this yarn. I said, 'Ethel, you're foolish!' But there 
was the stuff to prove it ! Then she began to cry. The 
worst of it is, the count is absolutely convinced that 
Ethel is mad. 

"As soon as we had dressed and gone down to din- 
ner, Ethel told the story to the whole crowd. Of 
course we consider D'Ampleri already as virtually a 
member of the family, and the others are old friends. 
Oh, their friendship will be tested, all right enough! 
The count looked shocked and changed the subject 
pointedly, as if the thing was suspicious. It was per- 
fectly evident that he discredited my sister. It made 
me foam at the mouth; but what could I do? What 
can we do now? Ethel, of course, persisted in her 
story, and the count has grown cooler and cooler ever 



298 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

since. I'm afraid he'll talk. We can keep the others 
quiet, easily enough. They have skeletons of their 
own to hide. What do you make of it, anyhow? Is 
there any way out ?" 

Astro puffed at his water-pipe for a few moments in 
silence, as he thought. The smoke, rising in a blue 
swaying curve, writhed in a faint arabesque against 
the velvet hangings of the walls. Shaw had begun 
punching holes in the rug with his cane again. From 
the portieres leading to the reception-room, where Va- 
leska, Astro's pretty assistant, sat, pretending to work, 
came a silvery chime of bells as the tall clock struck 
four. It had begun to grow a little dark. Astro pressed 
a switch and lighted an electric lamp depending from 
the ceiling. Instantly the walls glittered with points of 
light from the embroideries, the weapons, the golden 
carvings, and other decorations. 

"What is your father worth ?" the palmist asked. 

Shaw seemed to awaken from a daze. "If you had 
asked me two weeks ago, I'd have said, roughly, four 
millions, or possibly five. But this recent deal in lead 
has bit him hard. His shrinkage is nearly seventy-five 
per cent., I suppose. He was almost ruined, in fact. 
But if you're in doubt as to your fee, why, that'll be 
all right. It's worth five thousand dollars to us to 
have the matter settled. We'd have to pay that in 
blackmail, I suppose. If you can think of any way to 
return the jewels and no questions asked and head off 
this insanity charge, the money's yours." 

"Had any dowry been settled on Count D'Ampleri ?" 

Shaw blushed faintly. "Oh, I say !" he began. 

"I'm aware that it's a Continental practise, that's 



THE COUNT'S COMEDY 299 

all," Astro said suavely. "It is inevitable with an in- 
ternational marriage, isn't it?" 

"Yes. I fought against it as hard as I could; but 
Ethel can make the governor do anything she likes. 
Besides, my mother was set on the match, you know, 
and she helped arrange all that. They do it through 
lawyers, you know. It isn't quite so crude as it sounds ; 
but it's bad enough. Yes, we arranged to buy the title 
for Ethel, I suppose." He kept his eyes on the rug in 
some embarrassment. There was a trace of anger in 
his tone. It was evident that the affair did not please 
him in any way. 

"Very well. I'll undertake the commission, delicate 
as it is," Astro said, rising. "I'd like to have the jew- 
els delivered here sometime next week. You had best 
bring them yourself. I wish also you'd find out just 
when the Count D'Ampleri arrived in America, and' 
by what boat. I suppose you can tell me the day and 
hour of your sister's birth?" 

Shaw wheeled round on him. "Oh, come, now !" he 
protested. "I came to you because you know or ought 
to know most of the weaknesses of human nature ; but 
if you think I take any stock in astrology or occult- 
ism" 

"What was the date, did you say?" Astro's voice 
was hard. 

"October I4th, 1885 ; nine A. M., I believe." Shaw 
scowled. 

"My dear Mr. Shaw," said Astro, "if you give me 
this commission, you must let me do it my own way. 
It won't matter to you, I should think, how I do it. 
You are, I presume, an agnostic. Very good, I am a 



300 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

fatalist. Go to a detective or a doctor, if you prefer 
modern science. I prefer the ancient lore." 

"I came to you because you've done harder things 
than this," Shaw said to placate the independent Seer. 
"Go ahead with your cusps and nativities, if you like, 
only get us out of this fearful mess as safely and 
quickly as you can." 

"I hope to see you on Monday," said Astro, bowing 
with dignity. 



John Wallington Shaw left the room. As soon as he 
had departed, Valeska entered, laughing, the dimples 
showing in her cheeks and chin. 

Astro's pose had gone. He threw off his robe and 
turban. "Did you hear the uncouth history ?" he asked. 

Valeska nodded. "Of all things ! Can it be true?" 

"Easily. Simple as milk. And at the same time one 
of the cleverest schemes I ever heard of. It's all 
straight; that is, all except the jewels. That we'll have 
to investigate." 

"But I don't understand it at all," Valeska pouted. 

"Have you happened to hear that Count D'Ampleri 
has been paying rather too marked attention, for an 
engaged man, to Miss Belle Miller, the lady whom the 
cruel wits of the Four Hundred have dubbed the 'Bay 
Mare'?" 

"I knew she was in here one day for a reading." 

"And was much interested in my prediction that 
she was to marry a titled foreigner. I heard the gos- 
sip at the Lorssons the day I went to that tea. I never 
forget items of that sort. They are more important 
than horoscopes." 



THE COUNT'S COMEDY 301 

"I think I have a glimmer of light now," said Va- 
leska. "The Bay Mare is an heiress, isn't she ?" 
"Rather ! Old man Miller owns half of Buffalo." 
"And Shaw is on the verge of failure." 
"And the count wants a good excuse to transfer 
his affections and his hopes of a permanent income. 
What better escape than to impute insanity to Miss 
Ethel Shaw ? I say it's a merry scheme." 
Valeska frowned. "It's horribly cruel !" 
"Well, it's infamously Italian, if you like. Fancy 
one of the Borgias reappearing to grace the twentieth 
century ! But you can't deny it is cleverly worked out. 
Insanity is one of the best reasons for not marrying, 
even for a fortune-hunting foreigner. Every one will 
pity him, instead of blaming him, and he'll walk out 
of the Shaw family into the arms of the Millers. He 
only wanted to be well off with the old love before he 
was on with the new. But I'll forgive him anything 
for the sake of the automobile goggles." 

"And the Peter Pan collar!" cried Valeska, laugh- 
ing. "Couldn't you hear me giggling in the closet ?" 

"The Landor jewels, though!" said Astro thought- 
fully. "If it wasn't for them, one might suspect that 
Miss Ethel had taken an overdose of headache pow- 
ders. Acetanilid does affect the brain, you know." 
"The question is, who played the gorilla ?" 
"Ah, an Italian, I'm afraid. If you'll pardon the pun, 
I think that garlic puts us on the scent. As I see it, 
it's a case where our friend McGraw can help us out. 
I'll try him. There'll be no particular credit in it for 
him ; but, what's just as good, there'll be money." 

From an interview with his friend, the police lieu- 



302 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

tenant, that night Astro found out that no one had 
been suspected of the robbery of Mrs. Landor's jew- 
els strongly enough to warrant arrest. Ethel Shaw and 
her fiance were both present at the Landor reception 
held on the night when the jewels were stolen. A 
charge of cleptomania might, therefore, be reasonably 
preferred against her. As young Shaw had said, such 
an accusation, coupled with her testimony as to the 
method by which she obtained the jewels, would deal 
a serious blow to the Shaws' social aspirations. 

McGraw had too often profited by Astro's assistance 
in puzzling cases not to do his best to help the palmist ; 
but nothing was known by the police about the count 
or his valet. It was found, however, that, on his pass- 
age across the Atlantic in the Pcnumbria, Count D'Am- 
pleri had taken no servant. This of itself w.as of suffi- 
cient importance for Astro to request McGraw to look 
up the man and furnish a description of him and his 
circumstances. This, in a few days, revealed the fact 
that the valet had a dubious reputation, and it was sus- 
pected that he had been in prison. McGraw himself 
was not sure at first; but subsequently a brother offi- 
cer familiar with the Italian quarter of New York 
positively identified him as Kneesy Tim, who had done 
time for second-story work, and was so called among 
his pals on account of his knock-knees. 

It did not take the officer long after that to ascertain 
through the detective force that Tim had attended the 
Landor reception as Count D'Ampleri's valet. The 
line of evidence was now direct. Tim had welded the 
most important link of it himself by appearing as the 
bearer of the stolen jewels. His boldness was ac- 
counted for, of course, by the fact that he relied on 



THE COUNT'S COMEDY 303 

his ludicrous appearance to make Miss Shaw's story 
incredible, at the same time preventing any identifi- 
cation of himself. In all this it was impossible not to 
suspect the count of being an accessory; if, indeed, 
he did not plan the whole thing. 

But why had the thief been willing to surrender 
such valuable booty? If the count were merely after 
money, here was a treasure in the hands of his accom- 
plice. The answer was an easy one for Astro to solve 
when Shaw produced the black bag full of Mrs. Lan- 
dor's heirlooms. 

The jewels were all false. Astro's critical eyes 
needed but one careful look at them. They were mar- 
velous imitations ; but of no possible use to any one 
except the owner who would never be suspected of 
having hypothecated her celebrated gems. It was evi- 
dent now why Mrs. Landor the respectable, aristo- 
cratic Mrs. Lemuel Landor, of the Landor jewels 
had never offered a reward for their capture. Astro, 
cynical as he was, familiar as he was with the many 
hypocrisies of the upper ten of the town, could not 
help laughing when he held the famous Landor tiara 
up to Valeska's envious view. 

"I'll never believe in anybody or anything again!" 
she exclaimed. "Did you tell Mr. Shaw ?" 

"Not after his remarks on my profession," said As- 
tro, with a decided shake of his head. "That's the 
time he did himself out of a hearty laugh at Mrs. Lan- 
dor's expense. In any case, I don't believe in ever 
telling any more than is necessary." 

"The count is an ordinary crook, then?" 

"I doubt that. Nor is he even an ordinary count. 
He's a clever bourgeois Frenchman. I have talked 



304 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

with him and know. I imagine that he picked up this 
fellow Tim to help him play the part, and found out 
afterward what he was and used him. But that doesn't 
matter. We have them now on the hip." 

"And how are you going to fix him ? From what I 
hear, he is more attentive than ever to the Bay Mare, 
and people are talking about it." 

"That doesn't matter. If Miss Ethel can get rid of 
him without his telling that ridiculous story, she'll 
undoubtedly call it good riddance to bad rubbish. And 
I will fix that." 

"How?" 

"My dear, if you'll walk up and down on Eighth 
Avenue, between Thirty-seventh and Thirty-eighth 
Streets, from twelve till half past to-morrow night, 
you'll see. And," he continued, smiling to himself, "I 
think it will be worth your attendance. I think we 
might ask Shaw to escort you, if he's willing to dis- 
guise himself a little, enough so that the count won't 
recognize him." 

"I shall be there," said Valeska. 

"I promise a comedy," said Astro. "By the by, it 
may interest you to know that I have rented a room 
at number 573 Eighth Avenue." 

"Indeed !" said Valeska, raising her brows. "I im- 
agine from your tone that I'm not to ask you any ques- 
tions; but I would like to know if you are through 
with McGraw?" 

"No, indeed. McGraw is to figure as the deus ex 
machina; also he is to earn two thousand dollars. One 
he will collect from me, and one from Mrs. Landor, 
who will be very glad to pay, I imagine, if he 
acts strictly in a private capacity. In other words, it is 



THE COUNT'S COMEDY 305 

not particularly to Mrs. Landor's interest for the pub- 
lic to know that she has sold her jewels and wears 
paste." 

"I begin dimly to comprehend now," Valeska mused. 
"You will emulate the Mikado of Japan, and 'let the 
punishment fit the crime' ?" 

Astro replied, "My dear, in the mutual interaction 
of telepathic vibrations, one neutralizes the other. 
Two loud sounds can be made to produce a silence. 
Selah. 'Tar a ak khaldah maha tara. Abracadabra, 
maha tara' " 

"Boom-de-ay !" Valeska added gaily. 

"Precisely. And, speaking of nonsense, I didn't ask 
you to get me a pair of white duck trousers and a yel- 
low-striped blazer and an old woman's wig and a green 
umbrella and a white top hat, did I?" He looked 
thoughtfully at his finger nails. 

"No, you didn't," she replied briskly ; "nor a bottle 
of soothing syrup nor a tombstone." 

"Nevertheless, you will do this to-morrow morning, 
and have them sent to number 573 Eighth Avenue." 

"I agree, if you'll only let me add some rubber 
boots." 

"Well, as a special favor, yes. Now run along and 
I'll get to work. Oh, Tim was arrested to-day, on sus- 
picion of having stolen the Landor jewels. Too bad, 
isn't it?" 

He sat down, thereupon, to write a letter as follows : 

"Commesso sbaglio gravissimo. Lei e in un 
gran pericolo. Venga a trovarmi martedi a mez~ 
zanotte sulla porta del no. 573 Eighth Avenue. 
Venga solo. T." 



306 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 
" > 

He showed it to Valeska and translated : 

"Terrible mistake made. You are in great dan- 
ger. Meet me Tuesday at midnight in the door- 
way of number 573 Eighth Avenue. Come 
alone. T." 

Roughly scrawled on brown paper, and put into a 
plain but dirty envelope, the note was convincing. 
Tim, at any rate, would not be able to deny it for some 
time. It was not a message that the Count D'Ampleri 
would dare ignore. 

The Count D'Ampleri did not ignore it. Smart and 
aristocratic in appearance, though foreign-looking with 
his Parisian silk hat, his queer trousers, and his waxed 
and pointed mustache, he was prompt at the rendez- 
vous. Valeska and John Wallington Shaw, drifting 
slowly down the block, noticed him there waiting in the 
dusky doorway, looking impatiently up and down, 
smoking a cigarette. The count seemed to be a bit un- 
easy. He lighted one cigarette after another. 

The two spectators passed again, talking absorb- 
edly one to the other, but watching guardedly as they 
passed. At the Thirty-seventh Street corner they no- 
ticed a man standing, his back against a lamp-post. A 
child would have known him to be a policeman in plain 
clothes. His burly figure, his bull neck, the very cut 
of his mustache, proved it indubitably. He gave them 
a wink as they passed him. They crossed to the other 
side of the avenue and walked slowly. As they reached 
the far end of the block they suddenly stopped. Va- 
leska began to giggle, pointed, and excitedly watched 
the scene across the street. Shaw seized her arm and 



THE COUNT'S COMEDY 307 

hurried her over the crossing and to the front of the 
doorway. The little drama was almost over. As they 
stopped, staring, a fantastic figure retreated, entered 
the door, and banged it behind him. 

They were laughing at the count's discomfiture as 
McGraw came up. He took his cue like an actor, and 
walking up to the count grabbed him fiercely by the 
arm. 

"Now then," he said harshly, "what you a-doin' 
here? What's that you got there?" He pointed to a 
black bag the Italian still held in his hand. 

"Who are you, anyway?" said the count angrily. 
"Vat beesness of yours? Tell me that!" 

"I'll show you!" and McGraw threw back his coat 
and displayed his badge. "See here now ! What have 
you got in that bag at this time of night, hangin' round 
in this doorway?" 

"My God! I don't know myself!" the count ex- 
claimed. 

"I'll see, then," said McGraw, and snatching it from 
him he opened the bag and drew out a diamond tiara. 

"You don't know !" he thundered. "We'll see about 
that at the station-house ! Come along with me !" 

The count, seeing the jewels, seemed almost ready 
to faint with surprise and horror. "But I am very in- 
nocent !" he wailed. "I am ze Count D'Ampleri. I live 
at ze Saint Regis! You shall see! Before heaven! I 
never knew that things was there ! It was give me just 
now, by by " He paused, discomfited. 

"Well, by whom ?" was McGraw's inquiry. 

"You will not believe nobody won't believe it ees 
too much! A mad woman she give me zis bag just 
now zis minute!" 



308 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"What kind of a woman? Out with it!" 

"Oh! what shall I say? You will not believe. A 
woman like a man, with white pantaloon, with a top- 
per hat, a yellow jacquette with stripes like zis." He 
made a pitiful gesture down the front of his coat. 

"Aw, g'wan !" said McGraw. "D'you expect me to 
believe a pipe dream like that? That's the worst I 
ever heard, and I've heard some thin ones, too !" 

"But I tell ze truth, I swear it! She have a green 
ombrelle." 

"Any more ? Go as far as you like." McGraw's tone 
was affable. 

"She wear big boots of la gomme, what you call it 
rubbaire." 

McGraw towered above him now, and calmly folded 
his arms. "No blue whiskers, or purple hat pins stuck 
in her face, was they ? She wasn't chewin' shavin's or 
had red fire on her hands, I suppose? Lord, man! 
you got no imagination at all! Why, I can dream 
out things that would make that old lady seem like a 
fashion-plate. When I dope 'em out they generally 
wears armor plate and glass gloves at least. But I guess 
that'll be about all for you. I'm going to run you in." 

The count in despair appealed to Valeska. "But ze 
lady and ze gentleman, she see ze old woman! Ask 
them ! I am spik ze truth to you !" 

Valeska, smothering her laughter, did her best to 
speak calmly. "We saw nothing at all, officer. The 
man must be intoxicated." 

"Or crazy," Shaw put in wickedly. 

"You see nozzing?" the count ejaculated in amaze- 
ment. Then he dropped in a dejected huddle, nodding 
his head sillily. 



THE COUNT'S COMEDY 309 

McGraw motioned to Valeska, and nodded toward 
Thirty-seventh Street. 

"Well, 111 have to go," she said, smiling. "You'd 
better be careful, officer ; he may be dangerous." And 
so saying she walked away with Shaw, who was too 
nearly hysterical with mirth to speak for a while. 
When he did, it was to say : 

"Will you kindly inform Astro when you see him 
that I take back what I said about horoscopes and oc- 
cultism? I am quite sure he will understand." 



She repeated the message next day, when she and 
Astro found themselves alone in the studio. Astro 
smiled. "If they were all like John Wallington Shaw," 
he said, "you and I wouldn't make much of a living, 
little girl." Then he added irrelevantly, "I understand 
that the Count D'Ampleri is to sail on the Germanic 
next week." 

"Oh. Then McGraw let him off?" 

"All McGraw wanted was to get his thousand out 
of Mrs. Landor, and the less talk about it the better. 
He telephoned me this morning to say that she gave 
him a very lively half-hour, but paid. By the way, I 
wonder if Shaw told his sister Ethel how the matter 
was solved?" 

"He said he intended to, before he went to bed." 

"Then we may consider the episode closed." Astro 
took down a volume of Imrnanuel Kant. Before he 
began his reading he remarked dasually, "It was a nar- 
row escape for all three. I don't know exactly which 
one to congratulate the most." 

"I'd congratulate the old lady with the white duck 



310 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

trousers and the blazer," said Valeska. "I think she 
had the merriest time of all." 

"Yes," said Astro, his eyes twinkling, "I think so 
myself!" 



PRISCILLA'S PRESENTS 

THE winter afternoon had wrapped itself in dark- 
ness before Astro spoke. He had bent for twenty 
minutes over the chess-board, vividly illumined by an 
overhead electric lamp, while Valeska's keen eyes 
watched him attentively. Outside, the clanging of 
bells and the rattle of cars had grown gradually 
fainter as the falling snow spread a blanket over the 
pavements. Within the palmist's studio the two were 
surrounded by shadowy objects enlivened with twink- 
ling lights caught on the polished points or planes of 
embroidered patterns or ornaments. 

Suddenly Astro rose and switched on a blaze of light. 
The whole picturesque splendor of the apartment 
blazed in color, from the heavy tones of the oriental 
rugs to the gilded coffered ceiling. The walls, half 
lined with books, surrounded the luxurious furnish- 
ings of the studio, which in their elegance and rarity 
gave the place almost the air of a museum. 

"Mate in seven moves !" he announced. 

His pretty assistant wrinkled her brows in the at- 
tempt to analyze the game. For weeks she had been 
studying with him the mysteries and complications of 
the Muzio gambit, and, though she was well along with 
the strategics of the play, Astro's extraordinary im- 
agination made him mentally able to keep many moves 



312 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

ahead of her. She sighed whimsically and looked up 
at him. He put his finger on a black ivory piece as he 
spoke with a droll look in his eyes. 

"It all came because of your absurd fondness for the 
knight!" 

"I admit that I am partial to knights," she replied. 
"I'm always willing to exchange a bishop for one." 

"I wonder why ?" Astro mused. "No doubt because 
the knight's move is symbolical of a woman's way of 
thinking. She loves to jump over things in the logical 
path of reasoning : one move ahead and one diagonally 
to the right, one backward and one obliquely to the 
left, or anyway rather than along a straight line." He 
laughed a little cynically. 

"And do men never think that way?" she asked de- 
murely. 

He put his chin in his fist and nodded his head, shak- 
ing his waving black hair. "That's queer, too. They 
do, sometimes. There are types that do, races that do ; 
Orientals, for instance." 

"And aren't you oriental ?" she asked. 

He walked away suddenly and picked up his little 
white tame lizard from its silver cage. "Oh, Egypt is 
hardly the Orient. Egypt is well, it's Egypt, the 
eternal mystery." 

He turned quickly to her. "I never believed you 
were Irish," he said. "I wonder what you are?" 

"Pure troll !" she said nimbly. 

"I have solved many mysteries," Astro replied, and 
now his voice was softer ; "but you are the most myste- 
rious of all. Somehow, I hate to know too much about 
you. Well, let's call you a troll." He picked up the 
mouthpiece of his narghile. 



PRISCILLA'S PRESENTS 313 

A bell tinkled. Valeska, after a glance at the Master 
of Mysteries, pressed a button on the wall. In a mo- 
ment a boy in buttons entered, carrying a salver, on 
which were letters. Astro took them up and spread 
them on the table under the lamp. Valeska looked 
playfully over his shoulder. Then, with a queer ex- 
pression on her face, she seated herself. 

"All from women !" she commented. "I wish " 

"What?" The Seer wheeled in his chair. 

"Never mind." Valeska took up a book. 

Astro rapidly opened the envelopes and cast them 
aside one by one. The last, a letter on heavy blue 
paper, he read a second time and tossed it over to 
Valeska. 

"Read it aloud," he said. "I want to think." 

Valeska read as follows : 

"MY DEAR ASTRO You will remember, perhaps, 
having read my hand some months ago, and hav- 
ing told me some most wonderful things about 
myself. It was all so marvelous to me that I 
though you might be able to help me in a funny 
thing that has been happening for the last five 
weeks or so. Of course, I apply to you in strict 
confidence, and I hope you will understand." 

"Oh, cut all that part out," Astro interrupted, "and 
all her feminine circumlocutions ! Get to the business !" 

"Well, then, five weeks ago last Saturday I re- 
ceived a mysterious present of a pair of beautiful 
slippers. I had no idea where it came from; but 
supposed it was from a Mr. Thompson, who had 
been rather attentive to me. But he denied it. 
The next Saturday I got another parcel, by mail, 
containing a lovely bound leather album, beauti- 



3H THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

fully tooled. Then I suspected a Mr. Gerrish; 
but he has denied sending either. Since then, 
every Saturday I have received a parcel by mail, 
every time a different thing, and I'm simply wild 
to know who is sending these things. If you think 
you can find out for me, I'll be glad to pay you 
whatever fee you charge, as I can't stand it not to 
know any longer. If you'll make an appointment, 
I'll come and see you any time. 

"Yours sincerely, 

"PRISCILLA QUARICH." 

"Isn't it lovely?" Valeska exclaimed. "It's a wel- 
come relief from the murders and robberies and things. 
I'm glad that there are some benevolent criminals." 

"Slippers album " the Seer mused. "Too bad she 
didn't mention the other gifts." 

"Why ? Do you think it's so very mysterious ? It's 
romantic, of course ; but " 

"Five Saturdays in succession " Astro went on 
thoughtfully. 

"Slippers are a funny present," said Valeska. "You 
have to know the exact size, of course." 

"Thompson Gerrish " Astro rose. "This should 
be your field, Valeska," he said, smiling. "My spe- 
cialty is the intricacy of the human brain. You ought 
to know about the human heart. Of course it's a love- 
affair." 

"And of course you know nothing of love," she 
added. 

He tossed the black locks from his brow and gazed 
at her thoughtfully. "No of course not." His voice 
was low ; he did not look at her. 

Then he threw off his mood. "Write her in answer, 
Valeska, to this effect: In order to settle this rather 



PRISCILLA'S PRESENTS 315 

delicate question for her, I shall have to meet the two 
men. Suggest that she invite me to dinner and have 
them there. You'll be invited, of course. Suppose we 
make it next Friday. Also, ask her to send me a com- 
plete list of the gifts she has received to date, in chrono- 
logical order." 



The next day a letter came from Miss Quarich in 
reply to Valeska's note. She said that, as her butler 
was usually away on Fridays, she would prefer to have 
the dinner on Thursday. "And," she added, "do, 
please, bring that pretty Miss Wynne, if she will par- 
don my informality in not calling myself to invite her. 
But I'm so busy " etc. 

On Thursday evening, therefore, Astro's green car 
bore the two to Miss Quarich's residence on upper 
Madison Avenue. They were admitted by the smil- 
ing Japanese butler, and, entering the drawing-room, 
found the two men of the party already waiting. 

Thompson, the elder of the two, was a typical man 
about town, bullet-headed, red-faced, with cropped red 
mustache, and of a jovial magnetic temperament. Care 
had scarcely rubbed elbows with Tom Thompson, and 
he was full of the gossip of the day, cordial, hearty, 
and evidently innocuous. Gerrish was more suave, 
with a clever head, egg-shaped, smooth shaved, with a 
sensitive mouth and smiling eyes. 

A moment after, Miss Quarich appeared, attired in 
the most modern of empire gowns, revealing her slim 
lithe figure and beautiful neck. She was young and 
merry, with dark eyes full of coquetry. She welcomed 
Valeska with a little patronizing snuggle, and held 



3 i6 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

out her hand to Astro, who bent over it and kissed it 
gracefully. Then their eyes met, and Miss Quarich 
blushed. It became her charmingly. Valeska, mean- 
while, had turned to the men, and her eyes and wits 
were busy. Sam, the Japanese butler, came in with 
cocktails on a tray. Neither of the women indulged ; 
but the men drank their healths, each with a character- 
istic compliment. Then they went into the dining- 
room. 

As Sam, with the crisp, impersonal, quiet dignity of 
his race, passed from one guest to another serving, 
both Astro and Valeska watched the company sharply. 
The Seer showed himself not only au fait, but distin- 
guished, as always when he accepted such social invita- 
tions. 

Once or twice, during the meal, Astro's eyes sought 
Valeska's, with a questioning expression. The faintest 
possible shake of the head was his only answer. The 
two men divided their attention between Miss Quarich 
and Valeska Wynne with discretion and tact. The talk 
ran on in social commonplaces, of the theaters, of the 
newspaper topics of the day, of sporting events. That 
Astro was anything more than the merest society but- 
terfly, the favorite of the moment, no one would have 
suspected. Yet again and again he shot his shrewd 
look across the table at his assistant, and his glance in 
their secret language pointed her attention to many 
things. 

After the sweets, the women retired up-stairs to 
Miss Quarich's private sitting-room for their coffee 
and a few moments of relaxation. 

"Well?" said Miss Quarich, passing her golden 
cigarette case to Valeska. 



PRISCILLA'S PRESENTS 317 

"They're both immensely interested in you, it seems 
to me." 

Miss Quarich's brows rose. "My dear," she said, 
"it struck me that you came in for some notice also." 

Valeska smiled. "But I don't expect to receive a 
present from either of them on Saturday, however." 

Miss Quarich sat up with animation. "It's great 
fun, of course," she said ; "but it's tantalizing. I would 
never suspect either of them of being romantic. Of 
course I've had loads of flowers and books and all that 
sort of thing from men, and both these men have been, 
as you say, interested and attentive. In fact, each of 
them has come dangerously near to a refusal." She 
laughed merrily. 

"Do you recall having mentioned the size of your 
shoe to either of them ?" 

"Not at all ; though either might have found out, if 
he tried hard enough." 

"And about the album?" 

"Oh, I recall having mentioned one I saw, one night 
at dinner when they were both there. I must show it 
to you." She rang a bell at her side, and shortly a 
maid appeared. "Stebbins, will you bring that album 
on the table in my room, please ?" 

When it came, Valeska examined it interestedly. It 
was made in imitation of the Renaissance volumes that 
are still decorated and sold in Sienna. The board covers 
were gilded and painted with quaint pictures of knights 
and castles, and were bound with leather thongs, fas- 
tened with silver-headed nails. Inside were pages of 
tooled leather, with apertures for photographs. The 
slippers were also brought, of golden and blue embroi- 
dery of a quaint design. But, despite her close scru- 



3i8 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

tiny, Valeska could find no distinguishing mark to hint 
at the place of their manufacture. 

Miss Quarich handed them back finally to her maid. 
"Wrap them up neatly with the other things on my ta- 
ble, and give the parcel to Samugi. Tell him to give 
them to Monsieur Astro when he leaves the house. 
Now, my dear," Miss Quarich said, turning to pour 
out a cordial, "we must hurry down-stairs. We have 
been here long enough. I want to hear Astro read 
the hands of the two men. It ought to be fun. Oh, 
here's the list of presents up to date. You can give 
him that yourself." 



Astro and Valeska left the house early and drove 
directly to the studio. She was animated with interest. 
The mystery was pretty enough to excite her feminine 
enthusiasm. Astro laughed at her but refused to dis- 
cuss it till she had entered the studio and opened the 
paper Miss Quarich had given her, and displayed the 
whole collection of presents. The list was as follows : 

November seventh, pair of slippers ; November four- 
teenth, album ; November twenty-first, volume of Mon- 
taigne; November twenty-eighth, umbrella; December 
fifth, six pairs of gloves. 

Astro first handled the objects taken from the parcel, 
and then looked over the list. For ten minutes he said 
nothing, walking up and down the dim apartment in 
silence. For a few moments he stood by the window, 
staring out, thinking. Then, with a smile illuminating 
his countenance, he returned to the table, glanced again 
at the list of gifts, and chuckled. 

"To-day is Thursday," he remarked. "The day after 



PRISCILLA'S PRESENTS 319 

to-morrow, Miss Quarich will receive can you guess 
what?" 

"Of course I can't!" said Valeska. "What?" 

He dropped his chin into his fist. "Well, she will 
receive a present of an inkstand; probably of cut 
glass." 

"Really?" Valeska stared at him in amazement. 

"Yes, unless he sends another book, which I think 
unlikely." 

"He? Who?" 

"Do you mean to say you don't know?" 

"How can I? Why how can you, either? You 
haven't even examined the presents. There's that vol- 
ume of Montaigne's Essays. It would be like Mr. Ger- 
rish to send that ; but more like Mr. Thompson to send 
the gloves. I'm all at sea." 

Astro patted her familiarly on the shoulder. "After 
all my lessons?" he complained humorously. "Never 
mind, think it over. And look over that list again to- 
morrow, when you're rested." 



The next day, however, brought no hint to Valeska, 
who, in the intervals of her work, examined the arti- 
cles one by one, and pored over the list of presents. 
On Saturday, Miss Quarich rang up the studio. Va- 
leska, in high excitement, listened, and then stared at 
Astro with a baffled expression. 

"Miss Quarich received this morning a parcel con- 
taining a cut-glass ink-well !" 

Astro laughed silently, and nodded. 

For some time Valeska stood gazing at him with a 
blank look on her face. Then, without a word she 



320 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

went to the table, took up the list of gifts, and, as if 
mesmerized by Astro's unspoken thought, sat down, 
took a pencil and began to write : 

Slippers 

Album 

Montaigne 

Umbrella 

Gloves 

Inkstand 

"What is that Japanese butler's name?" she de- 
manded. 

"Why, Sam, isn't it?" 

"You know it isn't. It's Samugi. But how did you 
know? I only happened to hear Miss Quarich men- 
tion it." 

"Well, I inquired. I often ask questions. So you've 
solved the acrostic?" 

"Yes, the initials read 'Samugi,' of course. But what 
does it mean ?" 

Astro yawned. "It is difficult to interpret the ori- 
ental mind; almost as difficult as to understand femi- 
nine psychology. What did I tell you the other day? 
It's a mental knight's move, an indirect message. We'll 
have to wait." 

"But fancy that Jap having the nerve to take such 
liberties with Miss Quarich !" 

"That Japanese is, as I have succeeded in finding out 
at the consulate, more than Miss Quarich's social 
equal." 

"But he's only a servant !" 

"In New York, yes. In Tokio, he's a noble of an 



PRISCILLA'S PRESENTS 321 

old Samurai family. His father is an army officer on 
General Oku's staff. So may Samugi be, for that 
matter." 

"Then why is he taking a servile position here ?" 

"Oh, that is done very often. Who knows the rea- 
son ? Not I, nor do I care. Perhaps he's an army spy, 
perhaps he's writing a sociological book on the Ameri- 
can millionaires, perhaps he is sent by his government 
for private reasons. But most likely of all he is sim- 
ply desperately in love with Miss Priscilla Quarich, and 
has taken this devious oriental method of pressing a 
hopeless suit." 

"Hopeless ?" Valeska's eyes snapped. 

"Of course. The question now is, what are we to 
do about it ? If Miss Quarich finds out, she, of course, 
will have him immediately discharged. The only thing 
is to wait till we get his message definitely." 

Valeska tossed her head and walked away. "So you 
consider yourself an expert in the human heart, do 
you ?" she asked jauntily, as she put on her furs. 

"I confess I don't know much about yours," was his 
retort ; and then, as he watched her out of the door he 
added slowly, "I wish to Heaven I did !" 

Three weeks elapsed, Miss Quarich having been put 
off from day to day on one excuse or another. But 
each Saturday a new gift had been received. On De- 
cember twelfth it had been an exquisite inlaid mother- 
of-pearl lorgnette. On the nineteenth she had received 
a magnificently-set opal, and the next week a huge box 
of violets arrived, fresh and fragrant from Morley's. 
The tenor of the message was now growing evident. 
According to the presents so far received, it read, 



322 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Samugi lov," and it needed little shrewdness to con- 
struct from that the probable declaration: "Samugi 
loves you." 

The elegance and costliness of the gifts had already 
confirmed Astro's opinion of Samugi's condition. 
It was evident that he had not only birth and social 
position at home, but wealth as well. He had been 
shrewd enough to send nothing edible, such as confec- 
tionery, which might immediately arouse distrust. His 
tact was, indeed, most delicate. Should Priscilla Quar- 
ich disdain his advances, she need only pretend not to 
understand the acrostic. He was wise enough not to 
want to subject her to the embarrassment of refusing 
an overt offer, in case she should be prejudiced against 
the Orient. He actually did, it seemed, wish to be 
loved for himself alone, as the song has it, with no aid 
from his possession of noble birth. 

It became, therefore, a delicate question as to how 
and when Miss Quarich should be informed of the so- 
lution of her problem. As she did not press for it, 
however, Astro let the matter wait a while, hoping to 
receive word from her of the gifts that might come. 
No letter came, however, and he expressed surprise to 
Valeska. 

"I'm not at all surprised," she remarked. 

"Please write to her for an account of what she has 
received since the violets came, and in what order," he 
said. 

This Valeska did, and, in a few days, received the 
following answer : 

"My DEAR ASTRO I had almost forgotten that 
I had asked you to unravel my little mystery, and 
I'm afraid now that it is hardly worth your while 



PRISCILLA'S PRESENTS 323 

spending much time on it. As you ask, however, 
I'll tell you that I have received, since I telephoned 
about the violets, a copy of Undine, an emerald, a 
pair of opera-glasses, and some other things. 
Please don't bother about it. It really doesn't 
matter much. Yours sincerely, 

"PRISCILLA QUARICH." 

Astro whistled. "I confess I don't know what to 
make of that," he exclaimed ; "but at least it confirms 
my original prophecy. She hasn't given us all the let- 
ters, nor their correct order; but what she does give 
certainly fill in right. He took a pencil and wrote a 
line as follows : 

"Samugi lov . . . ou." 

"But why this sudden lack of interest in the solution 
of the problem ?" he demanded. "Do you suppose that 
she can have puzzled it out for herself; that perhaps 
she's so ashamed of it she doesn't want me to know 
the truth?" 

Valeska burst out into a laugh. "I saw Miss Quar- 
ich in a cab driving up Lexington Avenue this after- 
noon," she said ; and added slyly, "with a man." 

"Thompson, or Gerrish?" said Astro. 

"It is Friday, isn't it?" she inquired demurely. 

Astro sprang up. "By Jove! Samugi's day off! 
You don't mean to say she was with Samugi ?" 

"In a top hat," Valeska added with mirth ; "which 
shows all you know about the human heart. I thought 
she looked at him rather soulfully that first day at the 
dinner. . Only, I wanted to see what you knew of 
women." 

"Less and less, every day," said he, with a mock 
mournful look. 



324 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

The next Monday's paper contained an account of 
Miss Priscilla Quarich's elopement with her Japanese 
butler. Samugi's history was given, however, and it 
was one partly to reconcile the gossips with the scandal 
of the affair. His noble family, his war record, his 
academic achievements, all received sensational de- 
scription. Society exclaimed, shrugged its shoulders, 
and forgot the affair next week. Astro's bill was paid 
with a yellow porcelain lion of an ancient dynasty, one 
of the seven left in the world. 



Valeska's birthday came that week. She was in the 
studio when an expressman entered with a big basket 
filled with parcels all addressed to her. She opened 
them first with glee, then with increasing anxiety on 
her face. When the last package had been unwrapped 
and the papers carefully put away, she spent some time 
sitting on the floor gazing at the thirteen several gifts. 
If there were tears in her eyes, Astro came too late to 
see them. He did not enter the studio, in fact, until 
after she had arranged the presents into three rows, in 
this way. 



Astrakhan furs 
Slippers 
Thimble 
Ruby ring 
Orchids 


Lorgnette 
Opal pin 
Violets 
Emerald brooch 
Sash 


Yeats' Poems 
Opera-glasses 
Umbrella 



At the sound of his step in the outer hall, however, 
she swept the gifts together in a heap and jumped to 
her feet. 



PRISCILLA'S PRESENTS 325 

"Well," he said, as he entered, "I wish you a happy 
new year, my dear!" 

She was still blushing. "OH," she said, "I've just 
got so many beautiful, wonderful presents! They're 
simply lovely; but I can't understand why they were 
all sent to me at once." She looked away. 

"And no idea where they came from, either, I sup- 
pose?" 

She cast down her eyes. "I suppose only an Ori- 
ental would be so munificent and so mysterious. 
And I'm sure of one thing that my Oriental's presents 
have brought me even more delight than hers did to 
Priscilla!" 



THE HEIR TO SOOTHOID 

THE mellow barytone of Astro's voice vibrated 
through the great studio with a note of profound 
mystery, as he read aloud from Anna Hempstead 
Branch's poem, The Pilgrim: 

"Touch me not, mother, who art thou, 

To lay a hand on me? 

My soul was driven through sun and moon 
Ere I was come to thee !" 

Then he dropped the book and gazed at Valeska, his 
assistant, for a while thoughtfully. She was sitting on 
the floor, propped up by gorgeous cushions, playing 
with a huge piece of rock-crystal cut in the form of a 
tetrahedron. A shaft of light fell on her lap, piercing 
the obscurity of the apartment. The crystal caught 
and gathered the rays, then broke them, shattering the 
white light into streaks of brilliant color. At the other 
end of the room a spot of radiance appeared on the 
ceiling, splendid with the hues of a rainbow. She 
looked up to the Master as he ceased reading. 

"There's the poet's immemorial challenge to the 
monist," he said, almost in a reverie. "It's a cry as old 
as the world, and, I think, idealistic as it is, mystic as 
it is, with as sure a foundation as that of modern de- 
terminism. But this is modern, too. It voices an 

326 



THE HEIR TO SOOTHOffi 327 

idea that, though it has long been common to oriental 
thought, is new to the western civilizations. What re- 
lation, after all, is the son to the father? See how 
sublimely Miss Branch herself answers that passionate 
question : 

"If thou came out of the moon and star 

I plucked thee forth by my desire. 
I can hold thee burning in my hand ! 
It was my hand that shaped the fire !" 

Astro rose, and, as was his custom when absorbed 
in any subject, began to walk up and down the room. 
His keen dark eyes stared straight in front of him 
without looking at the priceless decorations of the 
studio. His hands were clasped behind his back across 
his red silken robe. His turban nodded as he spoke. 
Valeska watched him eagerly. These philosophic 
moods, alternating with the active eager phases of his 
mind, when he was pursuing the track of some almost 
insoluble mystery, fascinated her. It was at such times, 
she thought, that he betrayed his real self. 

"There's the purely transcendental side," he said. 
"But the materialistic miracle is as marvelous, the 
fact that protoplasm is immortal, that characteristics, 
physical and mental, are handed down in the infinitesi- 
mal cell that persists from generation to generation in 
the id and the biophore. Tricks of speech and gesture, 
abnormal formations of the organs of the body, tem- 
per, emotion, all transmitted in that tiny primordial 
atom ! What has science done but induce us to believe 
the impossible ?" 

A bronze clock in the anteroom pealed out the hour 
of ten, preceded by the Westminster chime of four 



328 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

staves of music. Valeska rose, but hesitated, unwilling 
to interrupt the Seer's soliloquy. But he threw off his 
absorbed mood, came back to her, and smiled. 

"Well," he said, "one must earn one's living. What's 
on for to-day?" 

"You have an appointment with Colonel Mixter at 
ten." 

"Very well. When he comes, show him in. I shall 
now give an imitation of an oriental adept of the Fifth 
Circle. Pass me the crystal ball, Valeska, and touch off 
that incense in the Japanese burner. Am I properly 
sedate and scornful? Bah! What rubbish it all is 
and how it goes with the mob !" 

He took his favorite position on the couch, drew up 
his narghile, and assumed a picturesque attitude. Va- 
leska left him and took her place in the reception-room. 
In ten minutes she ushered in Colonel Mixter, bowed, 
and left the two together, dropping the black velvet 
portieres behind her. She did not, however, remain in 
the reception-room. Instead, she passed into a room 
connecting that with the studio, where in a combina- 
tion of mirrors she could see all that happened and 
also hear the talk. 

The new client was a military-looking man of some 
fifty years, with iron-gray hair and a curling white 
mustache. He had an active air, full of strength and 
character and showing his habit of command. Scrupu- 
lously dressed, immaculately clean, well groomed from 
head to heels, he was what might have been called both 
handsome and distinguished in appearance. His voice 
was crisp and hearty. 

"May I smoke?" he asked. "Dashed if I can talk 
without smoking! I have to treat my confounded 



THE HEIR TO SOOTHOID 329 

nerves like a confounded pack of dogs, confound it! 
Thanks." 

In reply, Astro had drawn up his water-pipe and in- 
haled a long whiff of the aromatic Russian tobacco 
that smoldered in the bowl. The colonel produced a 
cigar, bit off the end, and lighted it. 

"I suppose you've seen the advertisements of 
'Soothoid/ that chewing-gum stuff, all over the town, 
haven't you ?" he began. 

Astro nodded gravely. 

"Biggest fake on earth," said the colonel, "and the 
most remunerative. My old uncle invented it, you 
know. Conceived the brilliantly vile idea of doping 
ordinary chicle with a tincture of opium and making 
chewing-gum of it. 'It soothes the nerves/ I should 
say it did! 'Children cry for it/ and all that sort of 
thing ! It's monstrous, of course. It ought to be sup- 
pressed by law, and it's only a question of time when 
this pure-food agitation will knock it out of business. 
It's a crime against civilization ; but all the same it has 
made four millions for that disreputable old uncle of 
mine, and now the whole works belong to me. Brings 
me in eighteen thousand a year. I'm afraid to stop it, 
and more afraid not to. But that's not the point." 

He rolled his cigar from one corner of his mouth to 
another, flicked a fleck of dust from his spotless trou- 
sers, and looked calmly at Astro. The Seer smiled, de- 
spite himself, waved his hand dispassionately for the 
other to proceed, and waited. 

"The thing is this," the colonel went on. "I'm an 
expert on ordnance, and I've traveled all over the 
world for the government. Never at home from one 
year's end to another. I came back to find myself im- 



330 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

mensely rich, last October, and at the same time up 
against a mystery that it's practically impossible to 
solve. So I come to you. Understand ?" 

"Scarcely, as yet/' said the Master. "Kindly go on." 

"Why, see here. I have a son or thought I had. 
Query : Is he my son at all ? And if not, who is to in- 
herit the 'Soothoid' millions? That's the question I 
have to decide right away. I have angina pectoris. 
I'm likely to die any fine day. I don't want a chap 
that's no relative of mine to get away with all that 
money, do I?" 

"My dear Colonel," said Astro, "you'll have to give 
me more information than that, before I decide such a 
weighty question for you. What do you mean by say- 
ing you don't know whether he's your son or not. You 
mean you suspect " 

The colonel roared. "Oh, lord, no, not that!" he 
exclaimed. "This is no question of matrimonial infe- 
licity, you know. I'm the father of a child, all right; 
only, the question is, what child?" He put it very 
gravely. 

"Tell me the whole story." Astro's brows bent on 
his client. 

"Well, then, see here. When the child was born, my 
wife was in a hospital on Long Island. I wanted her 
to have the very best of care, especially as I had to be 
away so much. Well, the night her child was born, the 
hospital took fire. It spread so quickly that they 
couldn't get the patients out fast enough. The doctors 
working over my wife didn't dare leave her, and they 
worked against time. Just after they finished with her 
and another case of the same kind, the wing caught, 



THE HEIR TO SOOTHOID 331 

and there was barely time to hustle every one down- 
stairs and outside. Do you see the situation? They 
had to work quick. Those surgeons showed all sorts 
of nerve, I can tell you. But in the confusion the two 
babies were somehow mixed up by the nurse. One 
was a boy, and one was a girl, born within three min- 
utes of each other. But which was my child, the boy 
or the girl? That's how it stands. You see, at the 
time nothing was said to me about any uncertainty. 
My wife died from the shock ; so did the other woman. 
The boy was given to me as my baby. I never sus- 
pected that there was any doubt about it, and have 
brought him up and educated him as my son." 

"But when did you first suspect that he wasn't?" 
Astro asked. 

"Only a month ago. The former nurse told the 
whole thing. Said it was on her conscience, and had 
been for years ; so much so that she had kept track of 
both children. The little girl was put in an orphan 
asylum, as no one came to claim her; then she was 
adopted by a family in Newark ; and now she's a sales- 
girl at Bloom's candy store. Working behind a coun- 
ter at six a week, by Jove ! and may be my daughter, 
and the heir to 'Soothoid' ! What do you think of 
that? Wouldn't you worry?" He shoved his hands 
into his pockets and regarded the Master of Mysteries. 

"The nurse isn't sure which is which ?" 

"No. It has been tormenting her conscience for 
twenty years, and she had to make a clean breast of it. 
All she knows is that she 'mixed those babies up' ; like 
Little Buttercup in Pinafore. So I've come to you. 
Doctors say it positively can't be proved, either way. I 
thought you might do it by the palms or crystals or 



332 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

something. I've seen 'em do some great stunts in 
India, and I believe there is something in this occult 
business. They tell me you have a pretty good record 
for that sort of thing here in New York." 

The Seer waved his hand modestly. "Does the boy 
resemble you in any way?" he asked. 

"Why, he does and he doesn't. You know the way 
things like that go. I've been told I look like every- 
body under the sun. I suppose I'm a type. Well, he 
is, too. Sometimes I think he's like me, and then I 
doubt it. There's one funny thing, though. We both 
of us sleep with our thumbs curled up inside our fists. 
Then he has a second toe longer than his great toe, 
and so have I. They tell me that's rare. My father 
had it too, though. He has blue eyes, and so have I. 
Red hair, though, and there's no trace of that in my 
family or my wife's, that I know of." 

"And the girl have you seen her ?" Astro inquired. 

"Of course. Went right down there immediately, 
and found her behind the counter selling 'Soothoid,' 
by Jove ! Big pompadour, rats in her hair, brass ban- 
gles, and all. What do you expect for six a week, 
though? If she's my daughter, she'll soon learn how 
to act the part, don't you worry !" 

Astro laughed again. "She hasn't been spoken to 
about it, I hope ?" 

"Oh, lord, no! What do you take me for? I 
wouldn't have her building air castles for the world. 
I only bought a pound of cheap chocolates and talked 
to her a little. I've no doubt the poor girl thought I 
was trying to mash her. She was a nice little thing, 
though, for all her rats. I liked her, by Jove ! I'd like 



THE HEIR TO SOOTHOID 333 

to do something for her in any case, daughter or not. 
Her name is Miss Maverick." 

"Does she resemble you or your wife ?" 

"Why, the funny part of it is that she does, in a far- 
away sort of fashion. I noticed that she was left- 
handed, too, like me. Blue eyes ; but her hair was 
hennaed, so I couldn't tell about that. Cute little 
thing, she is. Confound it! I did like her immensely, 
at first sight." 

"Well," said the Seer, after reflecting a while, "I 
must confess that you have set a difficult problem for 
me. But I think that it can be determined through 
astral means. No doubt you have consulted some 
medium already?" 

"Oh, they're all a lot of fakers ! They told me that 
the boy was mine and that the girl was, too, both." 

"I agree with you. The ordinary mediums are an 
ignorant and unscrupulous lot. I have occult methods 
unknown except in the Himalayas. But it will be diffi- 
cult, I am afraid. But may I ask you what is the mat- 
ter with your eyes, Colonel?" 

The colonel stared. "My eyes? Nothing except a 
slight astigmatism. I have some glasses ; but I seldom 
wear them. Why?" 

"They seem peculiar to me. You know that the eye 
has been called the 'window of the soul'. The phrase 
is trite; but it contains a germ of truth. I can tell a 
great deal from the eye, as much as from the palm or 
the voice. If you don't mind, I'd like to examine yours 
with the ophthalmoscope. My methods are my own; 
but I don't hesitate to make use of the instruments 
known to modern science. After all, the ophthalmo- 



334 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

scope merely enables one to see through the cornea 
into the retina and the optic plexus." 

With that he called in Valeska, who darkened the 
great studio. Then she turned on a single electric 
lamp which had a blue-glass bulb. The thread of in- 
candescent wire showed purple. Then, attaching his 
instrument to the wires, he went up to the colonel and 
peered through the little slit in the holder. He gazed 
for some moments in silence, then switched on the 
lights again. 

"Now," he added, "I have to make a request that 
may seem absurd. You may have heard of divination 
by moles. It is an almost unknown art ; but, while not 
absolute, there is much to be learned from the relative 
disposition of such marks on the human body. Casa- 
nova, you may recall, if you have read his memoirs, 
practised the art, and had a theory regarding the sym- 
metrical distribution of moles. For instance, if one 
has a mole on the right cheek, there is a probability 
that there will be another to correspond with it on the 
left hip. We are tracing, you understand, mere physi- 
cal heredity. That is all you require, I believe. The 
relation of souls is far beyond our ken." 

"That's true," said the colonel. "People often seem 
to bear no spiritual relationship to their parents." 

"Where the soul comes from will probably always 
remain unsettled by modern science," Astro agreed. 
"It is one of the world questions that even Haeckel 
gave up. Our oriental philosophers have their explana- 
tion; but for that one has to know the whole lore of 
the Vedantic sacred books. But there are laws that 
govern the transmission of physical characteristics. 
Now, therefore, if you will kindly step into this room 



THE HEIR TO SOOTHOID 335 

and remove your clothes, I shall chart your birthmarks 
and compare them with your horoscope." 

Ten minutes later the Seer joined Valeska in the 
studio. In his hand was a little diagram, an outline of 
the human form shown in four positions, from the 
front and back, the right and left sides. Little crosses 
were marked where the moles on the colonel's body 
appeared. He handed it to his assistant with a wink, 
and she left immediately. The colonel came in soon 
after, as faultlessly dressed as ever, and, after a few 
more questions from Astro, was permitted to take his 
leave. 



"Now," said Astro, when he was again alone with 
Valeska, "you have a- delicate piece of detective work 
to do. Do you think you can get a position in Bloom's 
confectionery store and scrape up an acquaintance with 
Miss Maverick?" 

"I shall be delighted to try," was her reply. "I sup- 
pose I'll earn six dollars a week at it, won't I ?" 

"Colonel Mixter is worth millions. I expect it will 
pay you pretty well." 

"Besides being lots of fun!" Valeska's eyes shone. 
"But, really, it seems to me that there's a much simpler 
way of settling the question. Why not marry young 
Mixter to Miss Maverick? Then, whoever is the true 
heir, he or she'll have the use of the money." 

"That is exactly what I propose to do. It's the only 
solution possible. Heredity can't be proved by any 
method known to modern science, of course ; but we'll 
have to make three persons believe that it can. I be- 
lieve I can convince them all. At any rate, it's as pretty 



336 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

a task as the other, and you ought to be able to man- 
age it, if any one can." 

"Oh, you can't make a person fall in love so easily 
as that!" said Valeska, turning away. 

"I think you could make any one fall in love," he 
answered, gazing at her. 

For a while there was silence between them. Then 
with apparent effort, he took up the subject they had 
left. 

"The evidence is pretty equally balanced between 
the two," he said. "The son curls in his thumb in his 
sleep ; but many do that. The same with the long sec- 
ond toe. Both have blue eyes; so that's no test. The 
girl affects him mentally, or spiritually; but that's 
merely sentimental evidence. Her sinistrality, of 
course, amounts to nothing, nor does the faint resem- 
blance he remarked to himself. We have to have some 
positive physical abnormality in order to appear to 
prove heredity. Mere probability doesn't count." 

"How about finger prints ?" Valeska asked. 

"We know little of that. We have no records of 
hereditary transmission in that direction. It's too bad." 

"What was the ophthalmoscope test for? And why 
all that patter of moles and birthmarks?" 

"A mere shot in the air! Do you know what I 
brought down, though? The colonel has an optic disk 
- that's where the optic nerve comes into the retina 
of a most peculiar shape, like an angel's wings. I just 
stumbled on it, in the hope of finding something pe- 
culiar that wouldn't appear to any observer. Also, he 
has a curious red birthmark of almost the same shape 
on his left shoulder. I saw it when I was pretending 
to diagram the moles. Now what we have to do is to 



THE HEIR TO SOOTHOID 337 

examine both youngsters in some way. You'll have to 
patch up a friendship with the girl, Miss Maverick, 
while I investigate the boy. His father will help in 
that. I'll fix it: Have a doctor's sign painted on the 
door of my laboratory, and with the father's directions, 
medically inspect the lad for life insurance. That's 
easy. If we find one of the stigmata, the proof will 
be strong enough. Should we find two, it may be called 
positive certainty." 



A week afterward found Valeska behind the counter 
at Bloom's, dressed in white, with a pompadour as big 
as any of those in the shop, selling candy and soda- 
water. Her bare arms were heavy with bracelets, her 
language was slangy and facetious. Her companion 
at the counter was Miss Maverick, known to the other 
employees as Bessie. It did not take Valeska long to 
create a friendship. 

Bessie was a demure little miss, who did not by any 
means tell all she knew to a chance acquaintance. But 
Valeska asked no questions. Her conversation was a 
monologue, apparently artless, but cleverly contrived 
to throw the most suspicious off her guard. She asked 
Bessie's advice on this and that; she fished for Bes- 
sie's compliments; she gave Bessie hardly a chance 
for a word. A week went by without a move in the 
desired direction. Then Valeska came to the shop with 
a tale of misfortune, of a lost purse and other pa- 
thetic details. Bessie offered to share her own room 
with her. From that moment all was easy. Valeska 
gradually talked less; Bessie gradually talked more. 
The two soon became real friends. 



338 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Valeska's first report to Astro was sensational. 
"What do you think?" she announced, "Bessie knows 
all about the 'Soothoid' affair, and the colonel, and 
even the colonel's son! One of those mediums gave 
the whole thing away to her, and tried to get her to 
stand in with him to claim the heirship of the estate. 
But she's the squarest little brick in the world, Bessie 
is ! She's a dear ; she's pure gold ! She has looked up 
the colonel's business herself, and is all ready to fall 
in love with the colonel's son, just for himself alone. 
It's going to be easier than I thought/' 

"But how about the birthmarks?" Astro inquired. 

"Oh, you've no idea how hard it was to find that 
out, till she had a little touch of rheumatism. Then 
I offered to rub liniment on her back, and well, she 
has a birthmark, something the shape of what you said, 
an angel's wings." 

"What?" Astro cried. 

"It's true. And how about Willie Mixter?" 

"Well, he has a birthmark, too," said Astro. 

Valeska burst into a laugh. "Thereby proving that 
the earth is round, or something like that, doesn't it? 
Well, what to do now, I don't see." 

"You forget the ophthalmoscope." 

"Have you looked at Willie's eyes?" 

"Yes, and his optic disk is the ordinary, irregular 
circle." 

"Oh, I'm so glad! Then there's a chance for Bes- 
sie's making good for the 'Soothoid' millions." 

"If you can get her up here for me to examine her 
eyes." 

"But what if, after all, I can make the match with- 
out?" 



THE HEIR TO SOOTHOID. 339 

"OH, I spoke to the colonel about that. He'd be 
delighted. He really has taken a fancy to Bessie." 

"Then Willie must see her." 

"I agree. And I've been thinking that in any case 
Willie should be told. If he loses his money, he'll have 
to know, anyway. And I see no reason why he 
shouldn't know now. He's really a fine chap, a gentle- 
man in every sense of the word. If I know anything 
of psychology, the thing will appeal to him as im- 
mensely romantic." 

It was with the keenest interest, therefore, that Va- 
leska, three days later, saw Willie Mixter enter 
Bloom's, cast his eyes about the shop, and walk toward 
the counter behind which Bessie Maverick stood. She 
saw Bessie blush; but the conversation was too low 
to be overheard. When the time came for the girls to 
leave the shop, instead of Bessie's accompanying Va- 
leska to their room, she excused herself and went off 
alone. Valeska followed at a discreet distance. In five 
minutes she saw Willie Mixter overtake Bessie, and 
the two walked off like old friends. 

The next day he came in again. Valeska asked no 
questions. Bessie had grown reserved. But she did 
not go this night, either, to the little dairy place where 
the two girls usually took their dinner. So it went on 
for another week, Bessie seeing the rich young fellow 
two or three times. 

That next Sunday, as the two girls sat in their little 
room on East Nineteenth Street, Bessie began to cry. 
Valeska's arm was about her neck immediately, and, 
through her sobs, Bessie came out with the whole 
story. 



340 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"He wants to marry me !" she confessed. "And I 
love him so much that I won't ! I know it's all on ac- 
count of this miserable money, and he only wants to 
be fair with me, and divide. I simply can't accept him 
on that account ! He'd think, anyway, I was after him 
on account of his money, even if I didn't think he was 
after me only because of his conscience. It's hopeless, 
my dear, hopeless ! I hope I'll die and end it that way ! 
I wish I might never see a package of 'Soothoid' 
again as long as I live !" 

"Oh, of course you'll marry him!" Valeska said. 
"I'm sure he's in love with you." 

"He is not ! He talks all the time about our dividing 
the money ; so I'm sure he only wants to arrange it like 
one of those royal family complications I've read about. 
I've got to tell some one !" she went on. "I'm breaking 
my heart with it. I have no mother and no father," 
here she broke off to stare wildly at Valeska, "unless 
the colonel is my father ; and so I tell you ! Oh, dear ! 
it can never be settled ! That's the horrible part of it. 
If that horrid old nurse had only been more careful of 
us!" and she laughed through her tears hysterically. 
"What shall I do, Valeska, what shall I do?" 

"Do you really want my advice ?" Valeska asked. 

Bessie snuggled closer to her friend. 

"I have a friend," Valeska said slowly, "a man whom 
I know you can trust. He is the wisest person in the 
world, it seems to me. He has been my friend a long 
time. He saved me from what was worse than death." 

"Are you in love with him ?" Bessie interrupted. 

Valeska ignored the remark. "He is a palmist and 
an astrologer, and I used to work for him. He has 
solved some of the most astonishing mysteries in this 



THE HEIR TO SOOTHOID 341 

city. He is continually doing good. You can be sure 
of him." 

"What must I do ?" Bessie demanded. 

"He knows all about you," said Valeska. "The colo- 
nel has told him everything, and Astro, my friend, 
has agreed to help solve the problem. I know I can 
trust you, when I tell you this. I want you to see him 
and ask his advice." 

"I will!" Bessie rose with determination. "I'll just 
leave it all to him. He can't make it any worse than 
to tell me that I'm not the colonel's daughter, and then 
that will settle it. Let's go and call on him now." 



Astro looked up in surprise when he saw the two 
girls enter the studio. A secret glance from Valeska 
told him the truth. He nodded, and welcomed the 
visitor. 

"I've told her everything," said Valeska. "She can 
be trusted. You will take my word for it, I know. 
And she's ready for the ophthalmoscope test." 

"Is it really a proof ?" Bessie asked timidly. 

"My dear girl," said Astro, "if your optic disk shows 
itself to be the ordinary circle, nothing whatever will 
be proved, and the chances are equal as between you 
and Willie. If, on the contrary it appears like your 
father's I mean the colonel's it will be ten thou- 
sand to one that you are descended from him; that 
you are, in fact, his daughter. Now, Valeska, put down 
the lights and light the blue bulb." 

The room became dim and full of shadows. The in- 
candescent wire of the electric lamp showed a rich 
purple. Astro took up the instrument, placed it in 



342 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

front of Miss Maverick's eyes and stared through the 
aperture. 

"Come here, Valeska!" 

He handed her the ophthalmoscope, adjusted it, and 
bade her look. Valeska gazed into the retina of Bes- 
sie's eye. At first she could distinguish nothing. 
Slowly she perceived the warm pink back of the eye, 
and in the center a ruddy spot. It was the optic disk 
shaped like an angel's wings! She dropped the in- 
strument and clasped Bessie in her arms. 

"Bessie Mixter!" she exclaimed. 

"No!" Bessie jumped up, staring. For a moment 
she stood silent, then she grasped Astro's hand. 

"Oh, you won't tell him, will you?" she pleaded. 
"Promise me you won't ever, ever let him know! I 
don't want the money! I want Willie to have it, as 
he's always had it ! Don't let him ever, ever know !" 

"But it's yours !" Valeska exclaimed. 

"I don't care. Don't you understand, Valeska?" 

"You mean" 

"Yes !" Bessie cast down her eyes. 

"Then you'll marry him, now you know that the 
money's rightfully yours ?" 

Bessie drew herself up. "Of course!" she said. 
"Wouldn't you?" 

"It's too much for me," said Astro. 

"That," said Valeska, "is because you are only a 
man." 

"I know I'm supposed not to know anything about 
love," he said gloomily. 

"Nothing at all !" Valeska's tone was decisive. 

"And I'll have a father after all!" cried Bessie. 
"That's the best part of it ! I've wanted a father all 



* : 




*' Now Valeska, put down the lights and light the blue bulb. 



THE HEIR TO SOOTHOID 343 

my life. And," she added, "he'll never know, by the 
way I treat him, that he's missed anything by not hav- 
ing a truly daughter!" She walked toward the tele- 
phone. "I'm going to ring up Willie right now," she 
announced. 

Astro watched her keenly. "It would be rather 
pleasant to have a daughter like that," he muttered to 
himself, and walked into the laboratory with a thought- 
ful scowl. 



THE TWO MISS MANNINGS 

"T)E careful, Valeska, don't joggle my arm, now!" 

JD said Astro. 

They were in the small laboratory that led off the 
great studio. Here the Seer pursued his studies in 
physics, chemistry, and pathology. Here he had his 
microscope, over which he spent most of his leisure. 
Here, now, he stood before the window, dressed in a 
linen suit, holding to the light a corked test-tube. 

Valeska waited, smiling, ready for a new marvel, a 
new philosophic theory, some shrewd comment on hu- 
man nature, or what other thought had sprung from the 
Master's prolific brain. She looked over his shoulder, 
letting her chin touch it, even; though she did not 
often permit herself such intimacy as this. 

He did not turn his head. Instead, without speak- 
ing he unstopped the tube gently. Immediately in 
the glass cylinder a tiny miracle appeared. A white 
ray sprang from the bottom of the colorless liquid. It 
divided and subdivided, branching in a dozen direc- 
tions ; and as she looked it grew rapidly, until the in- 
terior of the vessel was filled as if by magic with a 
feathery delicate mass of crystals. 

"Oh ! How very beautiful how wonderful !" she 
gasped. 

He put the tube into her hand and sat down on the 
table. 

344 



THE TWO MISS MANNINGS 345 

"The tree of Paracelsus," he remarked. "In the 
olden time it was accounted magic. With that sim- 
ple experiment with sodium sulphate dukes and kings 
may have been beguiled, fortunes won, the lives of 
great men changed. Those were the palmy days for 
charlatans, Valeska. It paid well to be an alchemist 
in the Middle Ages ; that is, if you escaped being put to 
death for it." 

As she handed back the tube, he gazed on it thought- 
fully for a moment; and then, holding it over a Bun- 
sen burner, warmed the tube. In a few moments the 
crystals began to melt. The tree shrank and disap- 
peared. He gave it a shake, and the solution was trans- 
parent again. He set it in a rack and smiled. 

Valeska waited, knowing that this was not mere 
amusement. It was like him to wait for her to fathom, 
if she could, what he was thinking. But his mind sur- 
passed hers; she could only follow him at times, 
though oftener than at first. Here she had no clue. 

"It's a moral lesson," he said. "It is a parable of 
human nature and its mysteries. Why do we become 
absolutely different persons when we are angry? I 
am, we'll say, like this clear solution, hermetically 
sealed from the atmosphere of strife. Open the cork, 
or drop in a crystal of anger. Immediately, without 
apparent reason, I am changed ; but not so beautifully 
as this. Warm this tree of acrid bitterness that has 
sprung up, and I melt into good nature again. Read- 
ing Paracelsus, the analogy came into my mind. Thus 
endeth the first lesson." 

And, so saying, he stripped off his working clothes, 
attired himself in gown and turban, and, as he changed 
his costume, became again the inscrutable calm Seer, 



346 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

ready for his patrons. He walked into the dim studio, 
took a gyroscope from a tabouret and spun it on a little 
standard. 

Valeska's look followed him. His eyes questioned 
her. She drew down her fair brows and watched the 
toy, supported seemingly immune from the power of 
gravitation as it revolved slowly in its orbit, its wheel 
flying too fast, too silently, for its motion to be per- 
ceived. 

She spoke timidly. "Human emotions the down- 
ward pull governed and held in equilibrium by " 

"The trained mind, the intellect," he suggested. 
"Very well, Valeska. Very well, indeed! You're 
coming on." He yawned. "Well, now for work! 
It's dangerous pushing analogies too far." 



"Well, about that young man who came yesterday ?" 

"Oh, yes. I didn't have time to see him. Besides, 
it's time you were taking some cases off my hands, 
and he didn't seem too anxious. I know you prefer 
men to women." He watched her from the tail of his 
eye. 

"I don't !" she protested, blushing. 

Astro seemed pleased. "Well, it's agreeable for 
them, at any rate. What was the story?" 

"Why, it's most romantic ! It's perfectly ridiculous, 
though! He wants you to find a strange woman 
whom he saw on the subway." 

"Why strange?" 

"Oh, strange enough in every way. And it's a hard 
problem, too." 

"First, who is he?" 





fp 




* 5m 




The ' Tree of Paracelsus,' " he remarked. " In the olden times 
it was accounted magic." 



THE TWO MISS MANNINGS 347 

"He's a Mr. Jenson, and he said to ring him up at 
Madison 2995 between nine and two o'clock. Those 
are banking hours. And I found out the number was 
that of the Sixth Avenue National." 

"Very good. Go on." 

"Well, yesterday at four o'clock, he took a local in 
the subway at Twenty-third Street. Between Twenty- 
eighth Street and Thirty-third, an up-town express 
passed him. You know how, sometimes, two trains 
keep side by side for a short distance, exactly even, 
and then the express shoots ahead?" 

"Yes. I've often thought of complications arising 
from two passengers watching each other." 

"Which is exactly what happened. Directly op- 
posite his window was a beautiful girl sitting in the 
express. She seemed fearfully agitated, and looked at 
him strangely ; almost as if she recognized him, though 
he's sure he has never seen her before. But he had 
another sort of feeling an emotion as if somehow 
she was something to him, one might call it a sudden 
feeling of affinity, a real love at first sight." 

"Oh, in the circumstances she felt safe enough to 
flirt with him, I suppose." 

"Oh, that's impossible; for it seemed evident that 
she didn't feel safe at all, in fact that she was in a 
great danger, and was so distressed that she made a 
mute appeal to him for help." 

"Why to him?' 

"To him, he thinks, perhaps too sentimentally, be- 
cause she, too, felt the mysterious affinity, whatever 
it is, trust in him, or something. And she asked him 
to help her." 

Astro stared. "Asked him ! How, pray ? She had 



348 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

only a few moments, and I suppose the windows were 
shut. They always are, even in summer." 

"Yes; but she was really clever. She had a news- 
paper in her hand. On the front page were the head- 
lines. Here, I have a yesterday's paper." 

She took up a copy of the Gazette and pointed to 
the scare-head, "Tammany Will Help Push the New 
Viaduct," in such a way that only the word "Help" was 
evident. 

"Then," Valeska continued, "she gave him a num- 
ber, 3324, one digit at a time, on her fingers." 

"I see. And Mr. Jenson, I suppose, wants to know 
the lady's name and address, and what she wanted?" 

"Exactly. Of course the number was that of her 
house ; but what street ?" 

Astro snapped his fingers impatiently. "It was her 
telephone number. Didn't she make any sign to show 
the central?" 

"Why, just as she got to the 4, the train she was in 
swept out of sight as his slowed up at the Thirty-third-. 
Street station." 

Astro thought for a while. Finally he said, "Take 
the telephone book and make a list of all the ex- 
changes, first thing. Then we'll have to use our pull 
with the company to find out the names and addresses 
of all the 3324*5, and send men to investigate. It's 
merely a question of elimination then. But the ques- 
tion is, what was the matter? That requires thought. 
What happened yesterday? I suppose you've finished 
all the papers ?" 

"Yes ; but there was nothing that seemed important 
to me." 



THE TWO MISS MANNINGS 349 

"Then I'll have to look over the files myself. What 
a bore !" 

He went into the waiting-room and began list- 
lessly to turn the sheets. He had not gone far before 
Valeska heard a low whistle. Running up to him, she 
saw him reading a news item under the following 
headings: "Aged Woman Killed in Subway Station. 
Run Over by Down-town Express After Falling on 
Track in View of Crowd/' 

"Look at that !" he exclaimed. "This happened at a 
quarter to three o'clock yesterday. The mysterious 
lady might easily have been at the Fourteenth- Street 
station at the time of the accident." 

"And what does that prove?" 

"Nothing yet ! but it's a, chance for a clue ; a queer 
coincidence, at any rate. I'll take a think, when I have 
leisure." 

He went back to the studio, and, after he had fin- 
ished reading the palm of his first client, Valeska en- 
tered with the list: 



Audubon 
Barclay 
Beekman 
Broad 
Bryant 
Chelsea 
City Island 
Columbus 


Cortland 
Franklin 
Gramercy 
Hanover 
Harlem 
John 
Kingsbridge 
Lenox 


Madison Sq. 
Marble 
Melrose 
Morning Side 
Murray Hill 
Orchard 
Plaza 
Rector 


Riverside 
Schuyler 
Spring 
Stuyvesant 
Tremont 
Westchester 
Williamsbridge 
Worth 



Astro glanced it over, and penciled it as he talked. 
"We'll first strike out all the stations obviously not in 
the residence districts where the lady would be likely 
to live. We may leave out Beekman, Barclay, Broad, 
City Island, Franklin, Cortland, John, Hanover, Or- 
chard, Rector, and Worth. That leaves us still nine- 



350 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

teen numbers to investigate. Now, if the young lady 
wanted help badly enough to appeal to a casual stran- 
ger, and for that purpose tried to communicate her 
telephone number, it must have been that she was 
going directly home, and wanted a quick reply. As 
she was on a subway express at Thirty-third Street, 
then it couldn't have been either of the Chelsea, 
Gramercy, Madison Square, Spring, or Stuyvesant dis- 
tricts. The subway does not go near the Harlem, 
Melrose, Lenox, Tremont, Westchester, or Williams- 
bridge sections. Let's see, then, what is left: Audu- 
bon, Bryant, Columbus, Kingsbridge, Morningside, 
Riverside, and Murray Hill. Ring up Mr. Potter in 
the advertising department of the telephone company, 
and tell him I'd like to find the names and addresses 
of number 3324 in each of those seven exchanges." 

Valeska left the studio on this errand, and, as no 
client appeared, Astro picked up his Paracelsus and 
went on with his reading. He had finished the chapter 
on Aqueous Vapors when she returned. He took up 
her memorandum and looked it over. The Audubon 
and Kingsbridge addresses he eliminated, for the pres- 
ent, these being apartment-houses with private ex- 
changes. The Social Register enabled him to identify 
the persons in the Morningside, Plaza, and Riverside 
districts. There were left only three addresses, as fol- 
lows: 

(Bryant, 3324) H. J. Cook, 199 West Forty-fifth 
Street. 

(Columbus, 3324) Peter J. Manning, 521 West Sev- 
enty-third Street. 



THE TWO MISS MANNINGS 351 

(Murray Hill, 3324) Alpheus Hardy, 118 East Thirty- 
sixth Street. 

"Well," he said, "the last one, Hardy, must go, be- 
cause if she were going to East Thirty-sixth Street, 
the lady would have taken a local to Thirty-third-Street 
station. To-morrow we'll see what we can find out 
about the Cooks and Mannings. We'll see if my theory 
is correct. You have a description of the girl, I sup- 
pose?" 

"Such as it is, not much ; though he'd know her, of 
course, if he saw her again. He was too busy trying 
to take her message to have noticed or recalled much. 
He did say she wore chinchilla furs, though, had red- 
dish hair, and either a scar or a deep dimple in her 
chin." 

"I hope it's a dimple," said Astro, taking up his 
Paracelsus. 

Valeska pouted, shook her fist at him, and retired. 

The next morning a man purporting to be an agent 
of the New York Directory Company called at 199 
West Forty-fifth Street and asked many questions. 
He had an affable way with him that quite won the 
heart of the maid who answered the door. She denied, 
however, that there was any young woman living in 
the house, which belonged to H. J. Cook. 

That afternoon the same agent called at 521 West 
Seventy-third Street. He was met by a butler, who 
treated the agent with cold disdain and refused to 
commit himself more than to assert that the house was 
the residence of Peter J. Manning, wholesale wood 
dealer. The servant thawed out, however, in an inter- 



352 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

view with a young woman who called later, asking 
for Miss Manning. Miss Manning, he ventured to 
say, was out; but was expected back at two o'clock. 
He had not heard that she had lost any chinchilla furs, 
but hoped the young lady would return, and if the 
furs found belonged to Miss Manning, he was sure 
that the finder would be well rewarded. Yes, he had 
seen Miss Manning with chinchillas, and it was his 
opinion that she had them on when she left the house 
at ten o'clock that morning. He hoped the young lady 
would call again. 

At one o'clock a coupe drew up at the corner of 
West Seventy-third Street and Broadway and stopped. 
The curtains were drawn at the side of the carriage, 
but a man's face occasionally looked out from the little 
window in the .end. Two o'clock passed, and three. 

Meanwhile, another coupe had been standing at the 
corner of West End Avenue, at the other end of the 
same block. In this also the curtains were drawn; 
but at times a passing pedestrian caught sight of a 
young woman's pretty face, with light hair and blue 
eyes. At about half past two o'clock a woman wearing 
chinchilla furs passed the carriage. Its occupant im- 
mediately alighted and after a word to the driver, fol- 
lowed her. She walked rapidly along Seventy-third 
Street, and ran up the steps of number 521. The fol- 
lower did not stop, however, but went to Broadway, 
spoke to the driver of the waiting cab, and sprang in. 
It immediately drove off. 

At the studio Valeska went immediately to the tele- 
phone and rang up Jenson. 



THE TWO MISS MANNINGS 353 

"The person you inquired about," she said, "is Miss 
Margaret Manning, and she is now at 521 West Sev- 
enty-third Street. I gave the Master the card-case you 
left, and with that as a test he went into an astral 
trance yesterday. While in that state he saw, clair- 
voyantly, the scene you described, as well as the girl's 
subsequent movements." 

She waited for the reply and then smiled as she an- 
swered, "I'm afraid I can not tell you more of her, Mr. 
Jenson. The Master does not feel that he is at liberty 
to disclose the secrets revealed to him while in this 
astral state. Should events prove it advisable, how- 
ever, he will inform you, as far as is possible. The 
girl is in trouble; but we must make sure that she 
desires your assistance before we let you into the de- 
tails of her life. Yes, please send a check to Astro. 
One hundred dollars. Thank you." 

"Oh, the girl is in trouble, is she, sorceress?" Astro 
asked languidly, looking up from where he was toying 
with his pet white lizard. 

"Why, of course! What woman isn't?" said Va- 
leska. "Did you ever encounter one who didn't have 
a secret sorrow, big or little?" 

"My dear," and Astro playfully chucked her under 
the chin, "you are positively learning. You are right, 
of course. The first thing a charlatan has to learn is 
that every man likes to be understood, and every wom- 
an to be misunderstood. Both like to be considered sen- 
sitive, critical, good judges of human nature, and of 
delicate perceptions. No one objects to being called 
reckless; but every one dislikes being considered 
stupid. But, seriously, of course the chances are ten 
to one that Miss Manning has some pet sorrow, and 



354 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

if she hasn't Jenson will never know. At any rate, 
we have done our part. We'll see him again, though. 
Any man who has that affinity idea may be depended 
upon to do something foolish." 

It was two weeks after that, however, before Jenson 
was heard from. He came in late one afternoon, pink- 
cheeked and immaculate, in stylish clothes, a clean- 
shaven, fresh, young man, evidently wealthy. Astro 
received him gravely. The Seer had on his oriental 
costume and his most effete manner. 

"See here !" the young man began. "You're a won- 
der, I've got to confess that ! I take off my hat to you, 
Astro. I don't know how you do it, but you certainly 
deliver the goods. I don't mind telling you that I 
came to this place as the result of a bet. I saw that 
girl in the subway and told one of my friends about it. 
He said, 'You go to Astro; he can do anything.' Of 
course, I didn't believe it, and all this nonsense about 
astral trances is rot. All the same, you did find the 
girl. It was Miss Manning, all right." 

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Jenson," Astro's voice was 
a bit sarcastic, "I presume you did not come here to 
insult me. I take your exuberance as mere youth. As 
you know nothing of my methods, it would be courtesy, 
since they are successful, to accept what explanation I 
am pleased to offer. But I pass that by." 

"I say, you know, I didn't mean to offend you." 
Jenson was visibly embarrassed. 

Without reply, Astro rose and touched a gong. 
Valeska entered immediately. With a gesture toward 
the young man, the Seer left the studio. 

"I say, I'm sorry!" Jenson began. 

"The Master has his moods," said Valeska. 



THE TWO MISS MANNINGS 355 

"I wanted to ask his advice." 

"You may deal with me ; and if he decides to con- 
tinue with your case I shall let you know." Valeska 
looked her sweetest, but her voice was crisp and cool. 

"Well, the fact is, I've seen Miss Manning three 
times, and she certainly has got me going. I wanted 
to talk to Astro about it." 

"Talk to me." 

"Well, it was this way. I went up to Seventy-third 
Street and hung around the afternoon you telephoned, 
and I did succeed in seeing her ; but I was across the 
street, and before I could get to her she had got into 
a carriage. Well, I've been up there very often since ; 
but I never caught her till about ten days ago. She 
was walking down the block, and as I passed her she 
recognized me and stopped. The first thing she said 
was, 'Can you help me? Will you help me?' I said 
of course I would. It was romantic. I don't mind 
saying it was mighty exciting to me. We walked a 
way, and she told me an extraordinary thing. I can't 
believe it ; indeed, it's impossible. But she believed it, 
though she said it was impossible, too." 

"Well, what was it?" 

"Why, she said, 'I'm frightened because something 
that's obviously impossible is true. One hour ago I 
was in Chicago !' What do you think of that ?" 

"I should say that she was insane." 

"That was my first idea ; but, as you see, she herself 
admitted that such a thing was impossible, as it takes 
twenty-four hours to go from Chicago to New York. 
It was four o'clock. She said she was in Chicago in 
front of the Auditorium at three." 

"Well, what did she expect you to do for her?" 



356 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Why, that wasn't all; she said she had no idea 
where she was or what she was doing in New York. 
She didn't even know who the people were she was 
living with. She remembered having signaled to me 
on the train. She was lost then, too. She suddenly 
found herself with a stranger, a man who seemed to 
think he was her protector ; but she was afraid of him. 
She had just heard him give his telephone number to 
a friend who had passed through the car. That was 
all the clue she had to where she was going. So she 
signaled that to me; but didn't have time to give me 
the name of -the exchange, 'Columbus/ She wanted 
me to take her to Chicago immediately. I told her that 
was impossible; but that I'd go. the next day with her 
and take her home. She was afraid of this man's fol- 
lowing her. I made an appointment for the next 
morning. She was to meet me in the Waldorf-Astoria 
palm-room at ten o'clock." 

"And she didn't come, of course?" 

"No. I got frightened thought that something 
serious was the matter and called at her house. Sent 
up my name. She came down and coolly asked to 
know what I wanted. She pretended not to know me, 
and I was in a deuce of a situation. I floundered out 
of it as best I could; told her I had an appointment. 
She denied it; said she didn't know me, nor what I 
was talking about. And there you are!" Jenson 
crossed his legs and gazed at Valeska with big eyes. 

"Well, I suppose you wish the Master to explain 
this?" 

"That's what I came here for. I told him the first 
time I came it was on account of a wager. I bet my 
friend fifty dollars that Astro couldn't find the girl. 



THE TWO MISS MANNINGS 357 

Well, I lost. This time I come believing in him. Will 
you see what you can do? I confess I'm fond of that 
girl. I've felt it from the beginning, the very first 
glance. I want to help her. I want to know her, and, 
you may think it absurd, but I want to marry her." 
He folded his arms and became almost defiant. 

Valeska rose. "Very well. I can promise nothing ; 
but I shall put it before the Master, and, as I said, I 
shall let you know his decision. Of myself I can do 
nothing ; but I shall try to influence him." 

Jenson left, thanking her profusely. Just as he 
opened the door, he said embarrassedly, "See here; 
I'd do anything for that girl !" 

"Would you really?" Valeska asked, smiling. 

"I mean just that, anything!" And Jenson went 
out the door with a grim look on his face. 

Valeska came back into the studio laughing. "Do 
tell me what it means!" she exclaimed after she had 
told the story to Astro. 

He yawned. "Isn't Miss Manning calling quite 
often at number 85 Central Park, South ?" he remarked 
casually, examining his long nails. 

"Why, how do you know? I didn't know you had 
done anything more on the case." 

"Oh, very little. It's scarcely necessary." 

"But whom is she going to see?" 

"Doctor George HerreschofT." 

"A specialist?" 

"A neurologist." 

"I don't understand." 

Astro smiled and shook his head indulgently. 

"Well, I'll give you a book by Doctor Morton Prince 
to read. You'll find it as exciting as a novel ; I might 



358 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

venture to say as exciting as Mr. Jensen's experience 
with Miss Manning." 

Valeska knew more than to ask further. The Seer 
usually gave her a hint and let her exert her imagina- 
tion. 

"Don't forget the accident in the subway station at 
Fourteenth Street. And there's an article in the No- 
vember number of The Journal of Abnormal Psychol- 
ogy," he added. 

He rose, went to the book-shelves that lined three 
walls of the vast studio, took down the book and the 
little magazine, and gave them to her with a smile. 
Then he walked into his laboratory to prepare, for her 
edification, the arbor Jovis, the arbor Diange, and the 
arbor Saturnae : the trees of tin, silver, and lead. 

He stuck his head out of the door a half-hour later 
and called over to where Valeska was reading under a 
lamp, "Your friend Jenson will never marry that girl 
he's after!" 

"Oh, won't he?" 

"No; she's going to disappear." 

Valeska stared at him in wonder. Her look changed 
to amazement when he added : 

"But he may marry Margaret Manning." 

"Why, she is Margaret Manning," she replied, still 
puzzled. 

"No, she isn't," he said, laughing, and shut the door 
of the laboratory. 



The next day Jenson telephoned to the studio. 
Valeska came back from her conversation with him, 
leaving the receiver off the hook. "He says he has 



THE TWO MISS MANNINGS 359 

met Miss Manning again, and she still is urging him 
to take her to Chicago. But he has begun to be sus- 
picious of her, and doubts if he ought to do it. He 
wants your advice." 

Astro smiled. "You might tell him what I told you 
yesterday." 

"Ah ! but what's the use if he hasn't read The Dis- 
sociation of a Personality?" 

"Then suppose you advise him to call on Doctor 
Herreschoff and ask his advice." 

"Shall I, really? Who is he?" 

"The most famous specialist on nervous diseases 
in America, who knows more of multiple or disso- 
ciated personality than any one living." 

"Oh, I see. I'll tell him." And Valeska returned 
to the telephone to repeat the address. 

"You understand now?" Astro asked. 

"Of course. Miss Manning has a dual personality. 
In her normal state she does not, of course, recall Mr. 
Jenson. In her secondary state she appealed to him 
for help." 

"Because she literally did not know where she was," 
added Astro. "Doubtless, from his story, while she 
was in Chicago her own normal self, she changed into 
the secondary character, in which she did not even 
know her own brother. She alternated between the 
two states, which may be called the A and the B. It is 
often the case that a mental or physical shock entirely 
changes the personality. That's what I thought of on 
reading of the accident at the subway station. No 
doubt she witnessed the accident. The shock broke 
up her personality, changed A, her normal state, into 
B. She had, no doubt, been B before, in Chicago. 



36o THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

But, finding herself with a man she did not recognize, 
she became alarmed. Her impulse was to appeal to 
the first likely-looking stranger for help. Somehow 
she was attracted to Jenson, and so she signaled to 
him." 

"Then she was B again when she asked him to take 
her to Chicago?" 

"Certainly. Of course she must have gone to Chi- 
cago between the time he saw her on the train and 
when he met her in the street. She recalled having 
been in Chicago at three o'clock. She must have 
changed almost immediately, and taken the train soon 
afterward. Then, upon arriving in New York, some- 
thing threw her back into the B state again. Owing 
to her amnesia, while in the secondary state, she forgot 
all that had happened, and thought it was the same 
day that she was in Chicago. But when he called at 
the house, she had changed back to her normal con- 
dition. All that is evident from his story. It is as 
evident that such a case would be brought to Doctor 
Herreschoff for treatment, and doubtless he will be 
very glad to meet Jenson, who knows something of 
what has happened to her in this abnormal, or B, state. 
The doctor will undoubtedly treat her hypnotically and 
restore her to a permanently normal personality." 

"And that's how Mr. Jenson's friend, poor B, will 
disappear ?" 

"Yes. There is, properly, no such person. B is 
merely a part of Miss Manning, Miss Manning with 
certain faculties, including memory, missing. It's not 
so interesting a case as that of Miss Beauchamp, which 
Doctor Prince has written of, nor of the celebrated 
Felida X, reported by Azan. Of course there are all 



THE TWO MISS MANNINGS 361 

sorts of dissociations. Some persons break up into 
three or four separate and intermittent personalities. 
But Miss Manning is certainly interesting. I'd like to 
meet her, myself." 

"And I'd like to know how poor Jensen's love- 
affair will turn out," said Valeska. "I'm sorry for 
him." 

"I've no doubt he'll not only lose the girl he has fal- 
len in love with, but he'll be asked to help in putting 
her out of existence." 

"That's simply horrible ! He said he'd do anything 
for her. I wonder if he'd do that? But it's all so 
mysterious and so impossible! Why, one might as 
well believe in witchcraft or magic it seems to me." 

"It is just exactly what was called witchcraft in the 
old days. Now we understand it, and it is merely 
psychology." 

Astro rose and pointed to the laboratory. "Do you 
remember the tree of Paracelsus ?" he asked. 

Valeska nodded. 

"It is like that. In the Middle Ages that experi- 
ment was nothing but pure magic. No common per- 
son could understand that the clear solution and the 
mass of crystals were different forms of the same 
thing, sulphate of sodium and water. In the same 
way, no one understood that one person could appear 
at different times under different forms ; it was en- 
chantment. To-day we understand that one's person- 
ality is merely the sum of his qualities, emotions and 
functions. This solid person may break up into other 
combinations ; part of his functions may become syn- 
thesized and have a volition of this new group's own 
character. We see it every day. When we lose our 



362 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

temper we become temporarily dissociated. We say 
things foreign to our true nature. When we dream, 
too, we become different in many ways. Occasionally 
some natures in a state of unstable equilibrium top- 
ple over and change their mental and spiritual struc- 
ture. Then we have such patients as Miss Beauchamp, 
as Miss Smith, reported by Flournoy, as Mrs. Smead, 
whom Hyslop describes, or Ansel Bourne, studied by 
Doctor Hodgson and Professor James. And how 
many unknown such are confined in insane asylums, 
who might be easily restored to normality, God 
knows !" 

He had been walking up and down the great studio 
as he talked. Now he returned to Valeska, and for an 
instant his hand rested on her blond head. 

"There's one thing more potent than mental shock 
that changes men's personality often enough," he said 
softly. 

She looked up quickly, uncomprehending. "What 
do you mean ?" 

"Did I say one thing? There are two things that 
change a man's character essentially," he went on, 
looking at her thoughtfully. "One is a profound sor- 
row ; the other is love." He walked away to the win- 
dow. "Dickens understood that," he threw over his 
shoulder. 

Valeska turned her eyes away from him, then rose 
and passed into the waiting-room. 

Three days after that, Jenson called. He was no 
longer the blithe and joyous young man of fashion. 
Instead, he seemed prematurely old. His eyes were 
softer, his manner less careless. 



THE TWO MISS MANNINGS 363 

"It all came true as Astro predicted," he said to 
Valeska, talking it over ; "even to my never marrying 
the girl I fell in love with. Doctor Herreschoff told 
me all about her case, and asked my assistance in bring- 
ing her back to her true self. In her normal state she 
does not know me at all; in fact, there is almost a 
dislike of me, on account of my having been mixed up 
with her secondary self, the girl who asked my help. 
But the doctor thinks my companionship is beneficial, 
and I have consented to give my assistance. If she 
appears in her abnormal state, I shall take her to him 
and have her treated hypnotically. Her changes come 
less often, and he thinks she will soon be permanently 
normal." 

"You do love her, indeed !" Valeska breathed in ad- 
miration. 

"Enough to murder her, in a way of speaking, for 
her own good !" he replied grimly. "But didn't I tell 
you I would do anything for that girl? Anything! 
Could anything harder be asked of me than that I 
should help myself to lose her forever?" He smiled 
wanly as he spoke. 

"Oh, it won't be lost, that sacrifice!" Valeska ex- 
claimed. "She will realize what you have done, in 
time, and she will she must love you for it ! Then it 
will be she herself, not a mere part of her personality, 
but the whole woman, who will repay you with her 
love." 

"Perhaps." Jenson rose to go, and stood a moment, 
sadly thoughtful. "But somehow confound it, that 
other girl, you know! she was the one, after all 
Well, I've given my word. All I want is her well- 
being. I'm satisfied. Good-by !" and he wrung Vales- 



364 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

ka's hand till the tears came into her eyes, though 
she made no sound. 



She came back into the great studio and found Astro 
gazing abstractedly out of the window. He was so 
lost in his reverie that he did not notice her approach 
till she had laid a hand on his shoulder. Then he 
looked round, startled. His face changed wonderfully 
and became infinitely tender. 

"You were right," she said softly, "there are two 
things that change human character, love and sorrow. 
Our poor Mr. Jenson has tasted both, I think." 

"It will make a man of him," said Astro. "I hope it 
may make a man of me !" 

He walked into the little laboratory. Into a Flor- 
ence flask, filled with a solution of lead acetate, he 
dropped a few pieces of zinc. In an hour there had 
grown up, exquisitely feathery and foliated, the crys- 
talline tree of lead, the arbor Saturnse of the alchem- 
ists, potent with its parable of life. 

Valeska found it there after he had left, looked at it 
a moment, and bit her lip in silence. Then, after a 
quick timid look about, she took up the flask and gave 
it a kiss. 



VAN ASTEN'S VISITOR 

"T T NLESS it stops snowing pretty soon, I think I'll 

\~J not go to Boston to-night, after all," said young 
Van Asten, of the law firm of Hipp & Van Asten. He 
stood looking out a thirteenth-story window, late one 
December afternoon, watching the big storm which 
had increased steadily in violence since one o'clock. 
His hat was tilted on the back of his head and his 
overcoat collar was turned up about his ears. Keen, 
quick, and clear-cut, his features showed handsomely 
in profile. He was the popular member of the firm 
among his affluent clientele. 

"Looks like a blizzard," said the clerk, rummaging 
in a pasteboard letter-holder. 

"Sure. The midnight train is sure either to be stalled 
or delayed, and I can go on Saturday just as well. I 
don't care to sit up for hours in a snow-bank." Then 
he turned suddenly to the clerk. "Say, has anybody 
from Selvig's been in to-day ?" he asked. 

"You mean about the Drellmont will case?" 

"Yes. By the way young Drellmont spoke yester- 
day, I rather expect he's getting ready to compromise. 
He's a fool if he doesn't ; and a bigger fool to expect 
me to show him the will, too !" 

"Nobody's been in," said the clerk laconically. 

Van Asten went out and plowed his way through 

365 



3 66 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

rising drifts to the subway station. By six o'clock he 
was at the Gavel Club, and by eight had finished his 
dinner. Several games of pool, a long talk with a 
visiting Englishman, perusal of the French comic 
papers, and convivial gossip with late comers from the 
theaters full of tales of the storm, kept him warm and 
cheerful till midnight. Then, as the clock struck, he 
put on his things and went out. 

There were few abroad at this hour, and not a car- 
riage or an automobile in sight. The street-car lines 
had given up trying to keep the tracks clear, and he 
came across one darkened car abandoned in the snow. 
He had to fight his way home, struggling through 
drifts waist high. It was deathly quiet except for 
the sound of the wind. 

He reached his apartment-house at last, and, stamp- 
ing and shaking himself, climbed four flights of stairs, 
the elevator being out of order. At his door he 
stopped, surprised. Under the door there was a thin 
streak of light. 

Van Asten's firm was still too young to enable him 
to live in the style he had been used to before going 
into business. His apartment consisted of only four 
rooms, a large, L-shaped studio, a bedroom, and, 
off the entrance hall, on one side a bath-room, and on 
the other a kitchenet. A woman came in every morn- 
ing to clean up the place; except for that, he was 
alone. 

He distinctly remembered that no light had been 
left burning when he had left the place at ten o'clock 
that morning. What, then, could the light mean? No 
one save the janitor had a key to the place. His 
thought went naturally to burglars. He hesitated for 



VAN ASTEN'S VISITOR 367 

some moments, wondering what to do. It was late to 
summon the janitor for assistance, and he would ap- 
pear foolish if nothing serious had happened. He de- 
termined to investigate alone, and, prepared for an im- 
mediate struggle, he put his key quietly into the door 
and turned the latch. The door opened without noise, 
and he could see through the one opposite into the 
long studio. 

There, a woman in mink furs stood, with her back 
to him, beside the great table. She was bending over, 
as if taking something from a bag. 

The tension of suspense that had knotted Van 
Asten's muscles and nerves gave way to a little laugh. 
The romance of the encounter amused him keenly, 
though his curiosity was doubly alert. He took a 
step forward. 

At the sound of his footsteps, the woman looked 
round quickly, and for a minute stood staring at him 
with an expression of alarm. Her hand went to her 
heart. She was a beautiful woman of twenty-three, 
dressed with elegance. She was a vivid blonde, with 
masses of heavy yellow hair, blue eyes and slender 
hands. For a single moment she stood there, immo- 
bile; then, to Van Asten's amazement, she ran for- 
ward and threw her arms about his neck and pressed 
her lips to his cheek. 

"Oh, Paul! I'm so glad you've come! I didn't 
know what to do ! I was afraid I'd have to stay here 
all night alone ! Where in the world have you been ?" 

Van Asten calmly disentangled himself from her 
embrace and took another look at her face. She was 
blushing violently. "Will you kindly tell me, first of 
all, who you are?" 



3 68 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Why, Paul! What in the world do you mean?" 

"I mean I haven't the pleasure of your acquaintance, 
and naturally I have a little curiosity about a visitor 
at this hour." 

For a second or two she gazed at him steadily, her 
lips parted. "Are you drunk, Paul?" she demanded 
finally. 

"I'm not drunk. I simply don't know you. Why 
should I?" 

"You don't know your own sister!" she exclaimed 
in a vibrant intense tone. Then she took a backward 
step, as if she feared him. 

"My sister is in Boston." He stared at her with a 
frown and folded his arms. "What's your little game, 
anyway ?" 

"You don't know your own sister!" she repeated 
helplessly. Then she staggered back and sunk into 
a chair, hiding her face in her hands, and began to 
weep. 

"You are not my sister, and you know it as well as 
I do! What do you want here, anyway?" he de- 
manded, still standing, staring at her. 

"Why, I want to stay here, of course! I've just 
come from Boston to visit you!" She suddenly 
sprang up. "The idea! It's a stupid practical joke 
you're playing on me, of course. Come, Paul, drop it, 
please ! I'm tired, and want to go to bed. Where are 
you going to put me?" 

"I'm going to put you outdoors !" he retorted. 

"In this awful blizzard ?" she demanded. She smiled 
sadly through her tears. The effect was really daz- 
zling ; but Van Asten kept his head. 

He stopped and reflected for a few moments. Then, 




You don't know your own sister?" she exclaimed. 



VAN ASTEN'S VISITOR 369 

without taking his eyes from her, he took off his hat 
and overcoat, tossed them aside, and sat down. He 
tried hard to appear calm. 

"Now," he continued, "I insist that you drop this 
masquerade and tell me immediately who you are and 
how you came here. You're either crazy, or it's some 
sort of blackmailing game. If you know anything 
about my sister, you know you don't in the least re- 
semble her; and if you know anything about me, you 
know I haven't any money. So, out with it, quick !" 

"I've told you!" she said, and loosed another pa- 
thetic smile at him. 

He frowned impatiently. "Then you are crazy !" 

"No, I'm afraid you are !" 

The deadlock continued for some minutes before 
either spoke again. Then he began more quietly. "I 
don't know what's the matter with you. It's too much 
for me. But, of course, I can't let you stay here. 
Neither can I put you out into this storm. The only 
thing I can think of is to telephone to some one to 
come here. But no woman could get here to-night, 
even if she should be willing to. I confess I don't 
know what to do with you." 

"It's perfectly all right," she answered sweetly. "I'm 
your sister, and surely you should be willing to let 
me have your room for to-night. You can sleep on 
that big couch round the corner of the studio, and 
you'll be sober in the morning. When you wake up, 
you'll probably recognize me. I won't be hard on you, 
my dear. Only, really, you ought to be careful what 
you drink." She rose, walked over to him, and patted 
jhis head. 

He jumped up abruptly and walked away, opened 



370 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

his bedroom door, and stood there for a moment. 
"Come in here!" he commanded. 

"All right, Paul!" she answered with extravagant 
humility, and, casting down her eyes, walked into the 
room. Just before she closed the door she came near 
him again. 

"Aren't you going to kiss me good night, Paul, 
dear?" she asked. 

Without answering her he pulled the door to, and 
heard her swiftly lock it on the inside. Then, still 
frowning, he walked up and down the long studio for 
ten minutes. Once or twice he stopped outside the 
door to listen, but heard nothing. Later she called out 
"Good night, Paul!" to him in blithe accents. He 
bit his lip and resumed his promenade, more worried 
than ever. The thing was uncanny. He no longer 
accepted the situation as romantic; he felt decidedly 
uncomfortable and embarrassed. Some one was mak- 
ing a fool of him, or worse. 

Suddenly a thought came to him, and he went to 
the telephone and spoke as low as possible, "Madison, 



For fully three minutes he waited without receiving 
a reply. 

"Madison 5555 doesn't answer/' came the word at 
last. 

"Ring 'em up again !" He spoke a bit more loudly. 

In two minutes more he heard, "Hello!" 

"Is this Astro?" 

"Yes. What the deuce" 

"Wait a minute and I'll explain." 

"Well, hurry up ! You've got me up out of bed." 

"I'm Paul Van Asten, and am at my apartment at 



VAN ASTEN'S VISITOR 371 

the Elton, 444 West Twenty-first Street. I've just 
come home and found a strange woman in my place. 
She says she's my sister. Pretty and all that, well 
dressed, and not otherwise obviously mad. But she 
worries me. I can't put her out; and she won't go, 
anyway. What'll I do? Could you possibly come 
over here? It's mighty embarrassing." 

There was a pause, then this inquiry, "Did you find 
her before she saw you ?" 

"Yes, opened the door and there she was." 

"What was she doing?" 

"Standing up, looking into a bag, or something." 

"Dressed for the street?" 

"Yes, it looked as if she had just come in." 

"Did you say how long she had been there ?" 

"I think she did say she'd waited some time." 

"Where is she now?" 

"Locked in my bedroom." 

"Good. I'll come right over. I can't get a cab in 
this blizzard ; so it may take half or three quarters of 
an hour." 

"All right. But for heaven's sake, hurry! I don't 
know what she'll do next !" 

"Oh, wait. Describe her, please!" 

"A blonde, with yellow hair, and lots of it. Rather 
small, with blue eyes. Mink stole and muff." 

"All right. Good-by. I'll hurry." 

Van Asten hung up the receiver with a sigh of re- 
lief. He had heard much of Astro the Seer and his 
marvelous solution of mysteries, but the young lawyer 
did not place much faith in these sensational tales. 
Astro was, however, a close student of human nature, 
and, if not intuitive, at least shrewd, and his knowl- 



372 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

edge of society, and his willingness to undertake any 
case, however delicate, made him a desirable compan- 
ion in so embarrassing a crisis. 

Van Asten threw himself into a chair commanding 
a view of the bedroom door and took up a book. No 
sound came from his chamber. From all that could 
be gathered, his erratic visitor had gone to bed and 
to sleep. Now that he was sure of a tactful and clever 
companion, he rather looked forward to seeing the girl 
again. He could at last permit his imagination to play 
with the situation. It might be, after all, a romance 
who could tell ? The girl was pretty and cultured. No 
great scandal could ensue with two men there; and 
somehow, with his luck or his astuteness, Astro would 
bring the affair to a pleasant solution. A half-hour 
went by. Van Asten yawned, read a little, and again 
fell into a reverie. It was three-quarters of an hour 
before the electric bell sounded. Van Asten ran to 
the door, threw it open, and Astro, covered with snow, 
picturesque in slouch hat and Inverness cape, entered. 

"Well," he said amusedly, stamping his feet, "when 
did she leave?" 

"She didn't !" said Van Asten. "She's in that room 
now." 

"Oh, didn't she?" Astro shrugged his shoulders and 
walked toward the bedroom door. "Well, let's see 
her." 

"But, heavens! you mustn't open that door! She's 
probably in bed and asleep! And besides, the door's 
locked." 

"So it is," said Astro, trying the handle. "I shall 
have to ask you for a button-hook." 

"I haven't any except one in that room." 



VAN ASTEN'S VISITOR 373 

Astro reflected a moment. Then he asked, "Have 
you any canned goods in your larder?" 

"I have some canned chicken, I believe. Why?" 

"And a gas-stove, I presume ?" 

"Yes." Van Asten looked puzzled, but led the way 
to the kitchenet. He took down a tin of chicken and 
handed it to the Seer. 

Astro removed the key fastened to the top for the 
purpose of opening the tin, then went to the stove and 
lighted a burner. He heated the split wire till it was 
red-hot; then, taking a pair of small pliers from his 
pocket, bent the end into a right angle. Returning to 
the chamber door, he inserted this rough skeleton key 
into the lock. 

"I'll take the responsibility of awakening or disturb* 
ing your visitor," he said, smiling at Van Asten. "You 
must give me full authority to do what I please." 

As he spoke he was trying the lock. After some 
unsuccessful attempts, the bolt shot back. He turned 
the handle and threw open the door. "Light up !" h r 
commanded sharply. 

Van Asten, more embarrassed than ever, stepped 
to the switch on the wall, and the room was imme- 
diately illuminated. Then, staring about him, and 
finally at Astro, he stammered, "By Jove! She has 
gone, hasn't she ?" 

"Of course. You didn't really expect her to spend 
the night, did you ?" 

"Well, that's what she said she was going to do. 
I'm glad she didn't, I confess. Unless " then he 
stopped suddenly. "By Jove !" he ejaculated. "Could 
she have been a burglar?" His eyes roved round the 
room in trace of corroboration of his surmise, and fell 



374 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

upon a partly raised window which gave on an inner 
court, or air-shaft. 

"Could she have escaped that way ?" He ran to the 
window and threw up the sash. 

As he did so, Astro stooped to the floor and picked 
up a hairpin, glanced at it, and put it into his pocket. 
It was of silver, fully six inches long, evidently spe- 
cially made for a woman with an immense mass of 
hair. He said nothing of his discovery, however, but 
followed Van Asten to the window. 

"She could hardly have got out that way," said the 
young lawyer. 

"It's unlikely," Astro assented ; "but I see you have 
an electric reading lamp. I wonder if it will reach to 
the window?" 

He took it from the table, and, finding that the wire 
was long enough; held it above his head outside the 
window and looked down to the bottom of the court. 

"I don't see her," Van Asten laughed. 

If Astro saw anything, he did not mention it. He 
drew himself in, replaced the lamp, and pulled down 
the sash. 

"I didn't expect to see her hanging by the hair of 
her head, like Absalom," he remarked. "But," he added 
casually, "what kind of hair did she have?" 

"Yellow hair, pounds and pounds of it, apparently, 
though you never can tell nowadays, when all the 
women are wearing rats." 

"Where is your telephone ?" the Seer inquired. 

Van Asten led the way back into the studio. Around 
the corner, out of sight of the chamber door, the re- 
ceiver stood on his library table. 

"She got out while you were talking to me," said 



VAN ASTEN'S VISITOR 375 

Astro. "That's plain enough. Now, the question is, 
what's missing?" 

"By Jove ! That's true ! But I didn't notice any dis- 
turbance. Hold on !" he stood for a moment with his 
eyes fixed. "The Drellmont will! Good lord! if she 
came for that " Instead of finishing, he ran back to 
the chamber. Astro followed him quickly enough to 
find him at a writing-desk there, rummaging through 
the pigeonholes. 

He stopped and exclaimed, "Thank the Lord!" and 
held up a package of papers. "Here it is, safe enough. 
It wasn't that she wanted, at any rate." 

"What about the Drellmont will?" Astro inquired 
casually. 

"Why, I took it home yesterday to study on the case 
with it. You've heard of Albert Drellmont, of 
course ?" 

"The millionaire? Yes." 

"Then you know he had a scapegrace son, who went 
to the bad a year or so ago. Well, this is the will dis- 
inheriting him. Old Drellmont had made another 
only a few months before, leaving his son the bulk of 
his property. Young Drellmont has been trying to 
bluff his way into the fortune, by claiming his legacy 
under the old will and asserting this to be a forgery. 
This, you see, is in favor of his half-sister." He 
handed the document to Astro, who took it and ex- 
amined it carefully. 

"Drellmont's attorneys are a sharp lot; but Drell- 
mont himself hasn't a cent, and I don't see how he can 
afford to fight the case, considering what little show he 
has against his sister. In fact, I've been expecting an 
offer to compromise. He came in this morning and 



376 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

wanted to see our will. Of course I shouldn't have 
showed it to him if I had had it ; but I told him it was 
here. If it had been stolen, we should have been up 
against it, though we should have won in the end." 

"What was the date of the former will ?" 

"January i, 1908." 

"And this, I see, is just six months later, July i, 
1908." 

"Yes, it was made after Drellmont, junior, had that 
affair with a chorus girl. The papers were full of it. 
After that, he went West and got into more scrapes. I 
understand the police are after him now. My client, 
Miss Drellmont, has wanted to compromise, just to 
get rid of him, but I wouldn't have it." 

"I see." Astro spoke abstractedly as he handed 
back the document. He was sitting near the secretary, 
and, as he listened, had picked up a red blotter that 
lay on the desk. As he rose, he kept it in his hand, 
and when Van Asten put the will away Astro put the 
blotter into his pocket. 

There was a strange light in his eyes, however, as 
he gazed at the young lawyer. It was as if he were 
analyzing him, deliberately, scientifically, reading his 
character in his features, one by one, weighing his soul 
in the balance. 

"Well, I think I can't do anything more now," he 
said, finally. "I'll try to get home before the drifts 
have got any higher. If you miss anything else, tele- 
phone me. You might inquire of the janitor, too. He 
may know how your visitor got in." 

"What do you think she wanted, anyway?" said 
Van Asten. 

"Ah ! I can't tell you that yet. But there are evil 



VAN ASTEN'S VISITOR 377 

vibrations here. I feel wrong. She wanted no good, 
you may be sure of that. I shall try the crystals and 
go into a psychic trance." 

Van Asten smiled. It did not escape Astro's notice. 

"Having engaged my services/' he said calmly, "I 
shall expect you to follow my instructions to the let- 
ter. I can help you; and I think you need more aid 
than you imagine." 

Van Asten immediately became serious. "I believe 
you do know something," he said. "Well, I don't care 
how you find out. I know I can trust you. Let me 
know what to do, and I'll do it." 

As Astro opened the outer door of the Elton, the 
drifts were two feet high. The snow drove in gusts 
of fine icy particles, and it was bitterly cold. The 
flakes came in squalls, driving clouds before them ; one 
could scarcely stand upright against the blast. He bent 
his head forward and fought his way. Before he had 
gone a block his hands and ears were almost frozen. 
Another block, and he sought refuge in a doorway to 
beat himself, rub his -ears, and stamp a little warmth 
into his feet. 

There was a drift filling a corner of the doorway, 
and, as his eyes fell on it, he saw a black patch be- 
neath. Brushing the snow aside, he came upon a 
woman, unconscious with the cold. She was dressed 
in black, and wore mink furs. Her heavy yellow hair 
was fastened with long silver pins. 

Bending over her, he tried to restore her to con- 
sciousness ; but it was impossible. Her hands and feet 
were indubitably frozen, and she had succumbed to 
the exposure. The covering of snow had, in a way, 
protected her; but the case was desperate. What was 



378 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

there to do? Outside in the street there were no signs 
of life. Had the doorway been that of a residence, he 
might have rung the bell and appealed to the mercy of 
the residents. But it was the entrance to a small office 
building, and no one would be in at this hour. Astro 
was ten blocks from his studio. He had reasons for 
wanting to be alone with the girl. A little scrap of 
mink fur he had found caught in the outer doorway 
of the Elton fitted suspiciously with a torn place at the 
end of this woman's astrakhan stole, and her hairpins 
matched the one in his pocket. 

A gray splotch came into view down the avenue. It 
was a two-horse carriage, laboring painfully into the 
teeth of the blizzard. As it approached, Astro ran out 
and bribed or bullied the driver into taking him and 
the woman to Thirty-fourth Street. It took half an 
hour, and more than once the man on the box stopped 
and protested that he would have to give it up. But 
they finally arrived at number 234, and, taking the in- 
animate form in his arms, Astro carried her up-stairs. 

His first action, after depositing her on a sofa, was 
to ring for a doctor. His next was to telephone to Va- 
leska, and urge her to attempt to come immediately to 
the studio. Then he returned to his charge. 

She still gripped a leather bag in her frozen hands. 
Astro separated the stiffened fingers and put the bag 
away. Next, he got brandy and forced it down her 
throat. Wrapping her in warm blankets, he chafed 
her hands with snow till the doctor arrived. Leaving 
the two alone for a few minutes, he opened the bag 
quickly. It contained several bills, a bunch of keys, a 
handkerchief, and a penciled note. This he opened. 



VAN ASTEN'S VISITOR 379 

The note-paper was imprinted with the name of the 
Swastika Hotel. It read as follows: 

k 

"The job must be done to-night, or it will be too 
late. S. will give up to-morrow. Do it if you can, 
let me know immediately here. P. D." 

Valeska, living only two blocks away, succeeded in 
arriving at the studio by four o'clock in the morning. 
By the time she came in Astro and the doctor had re- 
stored their patient to consciousness and the use of 
her limbs. The woman was, however, weak and suf- 
fering. Rest was enjoined, and the doctor left definite 
instructions that she was to remain in bed all day. 



"What I want you to do, Valeska," said Astro, "is, 
when this lady awakens, to talk with her long enough 
to study her voice. By nine o'clock you must be able 
to give an imitation of it that will pass over a telephone 
wire without being detected." 

He proceeded, then, to narrate the whole story of the 
night, from the time he was awakened by Van Asten's 
message. Valeska listened attentively. 

"You say that when you looked down the air-shaft 
you saw a broken bottle at the bottom ?" 

"Yes, almost hidden by the snow. And here's an- 
other clue." He took the blotter from his pocket and 
passed it to her. "Do you see anything significant in 
that?" he asked. 

"There's a spot where the ink that was on it has 
disappeared," she said. "But I don't quite see what 
that means. You say the date of his will was all right, 



380 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

wasn't it? I thought first that she might have gone 
down there to alter the date, and so make the old will 
valid/' 

"But, in that case, the marks of the erasure, even if 
done with Labarraque's solution or any of the ready- 
made ink destroyers, would have proved that it had 
been tampered with." 

"That's so. Well, I'll think it over. But do you 
know who this girl is, yet?" 

"She's a friend of Paul Drellmont's, and no doubt 
his tool." Astro passed over the note he had found 
in the bag. 

"I see. I'm to report to him, then, over the tele- 
phone, in her voice, that the thing has been done ?" 

"By no means. You're to tell him that you failed." 

Valeska bent her brows over the riddle. "Well, I 
hope I won't have to go into details." 

"No, he'll be satisfied. You see, this is his last card. 
If she failed, he'll not care to fight the will case any 
longer. He knows he's beaten, and he can't pay his 
lawyers. He'll offer to compromise, and I shall tell 
Van Asten to make a reasonable offer." 

"The girl failed, then, in whatever she went for?" 

"No, she succeeded." 

"Then won't Drellmont find out about it, and make 
more trouble?" 

"I hope he'll leave immediately. If he accepts a sum 
of money to compromise, I think he'll quit New York 
without delay." 

"Oh ! And you expect to keep this girl hidden away 
from him till then ?" 

"Exactly. This blizzard was a godsend for Van 
Asten and Miss Drellmont." 



VAN ASTEN'S VISITOR 381 

"Well, I don't understand yet what she went to his 
rooms for, but I'll do my part." 



It was just nine o'clock, and the unknown girl was 
again sleeping quietly, when Valeska rang up the 
Swatiska Hotel and inquired for Drellmont. After a 
moment there was a reply. 

"It's me, Paul," she said. "I'm awfully sorry; but 
I couldn't get down there and do the business." Va- 
leska dropped the receiver with a shocked expression. 

"What did he say?" Astro asked. 

"I refuse to tell you." Valeska put up the instru- 
ment and rose. 

"Didn't he even ask where you were?" 

"No, indeed." 

"Then it's as I suspected. Drellmont has been play- 
ing on this girl ; making love to her, probably, in order 
to use her as his tool. Now she's failed, he has no 
further use for her. Well, I think it serves her right. 
Perhaps it will teach her a lesson. Now, I'll give my 
instructions to Van Asten." 

He rang up the lawyer. After the conversation, he 
returned to Valeska and said : 

"He's agreed to compromise, if Drellmont calls. 
The janitor told him this lady presented a typewritten 
note, with his name forged to it, inviting her to wait 
in his apartment for him. That's how she got in there. 
I suggested that he hint at prosecuting Drellmont for 
blackmail, on the strength of that episode, and he has 
agreed to suggest to the rascal that he leave town im- 
mediately as one of the conditions of the compromise. 
But it's a ticklish game, altogether. I don't know 



382 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

whether I ought to explain everything to Van Asten 
or not." 

"Why, I should think he ought to know," said Va- 
leska. 

"Why, then, you haven't solved the mystery of the 
lady's errand?" he asked. 

"I confess I haven't." 

"Well, then, I'll tell you. It's so ingenious and sim- 
ple that you'd probably never get it alone. The fact 
is, that she went down there to erase the date on the 
will. This she did, and then wrote in the same date, 
July i, 1908. I saw it immediately I cast my eyes on 
the document. When I saw the broken bottle at the 
foot of the air-shaft, I suspected that she had thrown 
away some damaging evidence. When I noticed that 
spot on the blotter where the ink had been bleached, I 
was sure of it. The only question, then, was whether 
Van Asten himself hadn't taken the paper home to 
tamper with it. But, as the date was right, of course, 
he couldn't have." 

"What was her, or rather Drellmont's, reason for 
putting in the same date, then?" 

"Why, so that when the will was probated they 
could call attention to the erasure and subsequent re- 
writing. That would cast suspicion on the whole docu- 
ment and no doubt the first will would be accepted as 
legal." 

"Oh, it was simple, wasn't it? But you didn't tell 
Van Asten?" 

"No, not yet. I want him to offer the will for pro- 
bate as it is. You see, it is undoubtedly genuine ; but 
if it had been tampered with, he'd never be willing to 
handle it. I got that from my study of his character. 



VAN ASTEN'S VISITOR 383 

I'm going to take the responsibility on myself. If 
Drellmont leaves town before he can communicate 
with this lady, whoever she is, he'll never know that 
she succeeded, and Van Asten and Miss Drellmont will 
be safe. When this blond lady finds that she has been 
abandoned, she won't care to play into his hands, es- 
pecially as it may get her into trouble herself." 

Late that afternoon, as Valeska was busy in the lab- 
oratory off the studio, she saw the girl pass swiftly 
toward the waiting-room. Valeska waited and listened. 

"Give me Madison Square 2615 . . . Hello! Is 
Mr. Drellmont there? . . . He's left? Why that's 
impossible! . . . This afternoon ? Where did he go? 
. . . No address? . . . Are you sure?" The re- 
ceiver went on the hook with a snap. 

Valeska waited to see what she would do next. A 
few minutes later she stole to the portieres and looked 
into the waiting-room. No one was there ! 

"Well," said Astro, "you should have followed her. 
That girl was clever. Any one who could act as well 
as she did with Van Asten would be a valuable assist- 
ant. I might have used her." 

Valeska's fine lips curled. "I think one assistant is 
enough for you, sir ! She was altogether too blond. I 
always distrust that kind !" 

The Seer smiled. "Well, as for that, I prefer 
blondes, myself." 

He took a step toward her, but she evaded him, and 
sought refuge in the office. Not, however, before she 
had paused in the doorway to shake her finger and ask, 
mischievously : "Are you perfectly sure ?" 



THE MIDDLEBURY MURDER 

RETURNING, late one night, from an investiga- 
tion which had carried them down to the Battery, 
Astro the Seer and Valeska were suddenly nearly 
thrown from their seats by a sudden stop of the green 
limousine. 

They were driving along Canal Street, and, as 
the vicinity was apparently deserted, the Seer of secrets 
looked in surprise from the window to see what was 
the matter. 

A police officer was speaking in tones of command 
to the chauffeur. Astro, recognizing him as Lieuten- 
ant McGraw, smiled in relief. The police officer came 
to the window with his hat in his hand. 

"I beg your pardon, sir, but I recognized your car, 
so I just ordered your man to stop. I wanted to speak 
to you a moment. Ah, Miss Wynne, it's glad I am to 
see you !" 

Valeska gave him her hand and a smile. 

"I've just been called from the office," said McGraw, 
"on a case that may be interesting, as I know how you 
like mysteries. Perhaps you might help me out, even." 
And Officer McGraw winked elaborately. "When it 
comes to giving a crook the third degree, or raiding a 
joint, I'm there with the goods ; but this looks like a 
murder, and murders are sometimes " 

384 



THE MIDDLEBURY MURDER 385 

"I see/' said Astro suavely. "Well, if you can get 
in here, we'll go with you. Where is it ?" 

"Just around the corner, here, at the Aspenwall 
building on Grand Street." And, after Astro had given 
the order to the driver, McGraw went on. "You see, 
the night watchman has just telephoned for an officer, 
as something suspicious has happened. He seemed ex- 
cited, and it may turn out something doing, or it may 
not." 

"Well, I'll be glad to be first on the ground, at any 
rate," said Astro. "That ought to make it easier to 
solve, if it should happen to be a mystery." 

He had scarcely finished when the car drew up at 
the entrance to the Aspenwall building. A full-bearded 
man in jumper and overalls was waiting scowling in 
the doorway. He came immediately forward. 

"There's a murder or a suicide been committed here, 
I'm afraid," he began; "but I didn't want to do any- 
thing 1 till I had the police, to be on the safe side. It's 
up on the tenth story, in Mr. Middlebury's office." 

"Has any one left the building since you tele- 
phoned?" 

"No, I made sure of that. The elevator boy thought 
he heard a shot fired, and I went around to all the 
lighted offices. They were all right except at Middle- 
bury's office, where there was no answer when I 
knocked. The door was locked." 

"How many tenants are in the building now ?" 

"There have only been two or three here to-night, 
and some went before this thing happened. There's 
only one I know of, Mr. Moffett, on the ninth. I 
think he's there yet. I spoke to him a little while 
ago." 



386 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Better ring for a couple more men, McGraw," said 
Astro. 

After the party had entered the corridor, McGraw 
rang up the office, then returned to the elevator. The 
boy had just come out, and was standing with white 
scared face in the corridor. He was a thin anemic 
youth of eighteen, with red hair and roving, pale blue 
eyes with dilated pupils. 

"Now, young fellow," said McGraw, "what do you 
know about this ?" 

"Nothing, sir. Only, I thought I heard a shot fired, 
and I called Thompson." 

"You didn't go up yourself ?" 

"No, only to take Thompson. I waited in the car 
while he knocked on the door." 

"Where did you find Thompson?" 

"On the fifth floor. I went down to the boiler-room 
at first, thinking he was there ; then I tried each floor 
till I found him." 

"What time did you hear the report?" 

"About half past eleven o'clock." 

"How many people have you taken up on the ele- 
vator this evening?" 

"Only one or two. Mr. Moffett went up to his 
office on the ninth at eight o'clock or so he must be 
there now Mr. Smythe, on the fourth; but he left 
at ten o'clock, about. I don't remember the others." 

Astro now turned to the night watchman, Thomp- 
son, a heavy-set hairy man, who stood with his mouth 
open, listening as if fascinated. 

"What have you been doing this evening, Thomp- 
son?" 

"Why, I had a bite of lunch in the boiler-room at 



THE MIDDLEBURY MURDER 387 

about eight o'clock. Then at nine I made my rounds 
to see if everything was all right. I have to look for 
signs of fires or burglars or anything wrong, you 
know." 

"How many offices were lighted up?" 
"Smythe's and Moffett's and Mr. Middlebury's ; 
that's all I remember, sir." 

"Where were you when this boy called you?" 
"On the stairs, going up to the sixth floor." 
"This is the only elevator running at night?" 
"Yes, sir. I'm supposed to keep run of this boy and 
see that he stays till midnight." 

At this moment two officers appeared at the entrance. 
Astro turned to McGraw. "Tell them to keep hidden 
outside," he said, "and nab any one leaving the build- 
ing. Now we'll go up and see what has happened." 

As the five entered the car, Astro, whose look had 
fallen on the rubber matting on the floor, moved 
over nearer the elevator boy, and, pushing him a lit- 
tle aside, picked up a slip of paper on which he had 
been standing. It proved to be blank; but the Seer, 
after scrutinizing it, put it away in his pocketbook. 
The boy slammed the door and the car started up the 
shaft. Astro touched the boy's arm. 

"Stop at the ninth floor!" he commanded. 
The elevator boy looked up in surprise; but pulled 
the lever and threw open the hall door. 

"You wait here," said Astro to Thompson and the 
lad. "Come on, McGraw. We'll see Moffett first." 

They walked down the hall and around a corner till 
they came to a lighted door. Astro, without knocking, 
threw the door wide open. It was a small room, and 
at a roll-top desk a man jumped up quickly in conster- 



3 88 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

nation. In one hand he held a revolver, in the other 
a cleaning instrument. A box of cartridges was open 
beside him. He stared at his unexpected visitors. 

"Good evening, Mr. Moffett," said Astro. "What 
are you doing with that pistol ?" 

"Why Fm cleaning it," said Moffett. The pistol 
dropped from his hand as he spoke, and he turned 
white at the scrutiny of his interlocutor. 

The Seer gazed for a moment without speaking at 
the small, smooth-shaven, anxious-looking man who 
confronted him. He wore iron spectacles and was 
shabbily dressed. His thin bony hands trembled 
visibly. 

"Did you fire that pistol this evening?" 

"Why, no of course not!" 

"What were you cleaning it for?" 

"Why I always carry it when I go home. I live 
out at Kingsbridge, and there have been so many 
hold-ups" 

"Did you hear a shot fired in this building to-night ?" 

"Good God, no !" Moffett's alarm increased. He put 
his hand to his head. "You don't mean there's any- 
thing happened ?" he faltered. 

Instead of answering, Astro walked over, picked up 
the revolver from the floor, and examined it. The 
chambers were empty. Next, he looked at the box of 
cartridges. Five were missing. Of these, four were 
scattered on the desk. 

"When did you fire this gun last?" he demanded. 

"Last night at a cat," said Moffett. 

McGraw laughed aloud. 

Astro went to the window, threw up the sash, and 
looked out. The roof of the adjoining building was 



THE M1DDLEBURY MURDER 389 

only two stories below. He gave it a glance, then 
lowered the window and walked to the door. 

"Will I bring him along, sir?" said McGraw. 

"No, leave him alone. Mr. MofTett, remain here till 
we come for you, please." And with that, Astro went 
out. In the hall he turned to McGraw. 

"You don't mind my taking charge of this?" he 
asked. 

"You bet I don't!" McGraw exclaimed. "But I 
don't see why you want Moffett to make a get-away." 

"He can't get past the men down-stairs, can he?" 

"That's right. But did you see any empty cartridge 
shells on the roof below ?" 

"No. We'll have to examine the roof later. Now 
we'll go up to Middlebury's office. We've lost too 
much time already." 

< "Have you a key to Middlebury's office, Thomp- 
son ?" he asked on reentering the elevator. 

"No, sir. Mr. Middlebury lost one of his office keys 
this week, and was given the duplicate the superin- 
tendent had till another one could be made for him." 

"What did he need two for?" 

"One was for his stenographer, I believe." 

"Oh, he had a typewriter, then?" said Astro. 

The elevator boy interrupted. "He had one, but she 
left to-day." 

"How do you know that?" Astro turned to the 
youth with a keen gaze. 

The elevator boy cowered under his inspection. 
"Why she told me so, that's all." 

The elevator had reached the tenth floor and stopped. 
The boy threw open the door and the party stepped 
out. 



390 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Almost opposite the elevator, across a narrow hall, 
appeared a lighted door, on which was painted the 
legend: "John Middlebury, Architect and Landscape 
Gardener." Above it was a transom tilted half open. 

"Give me a leg up," said Astro, and, placing his 
foot in Thompson's big hand, he raised himself to the 
height of the lintel and looked in. He stayed there 
for a few minutes, then dropped to the floor again. 

"Well, it's a murder, fast enough," he said to Mc- 
Graw. 

"We'll have to bust down the door, then," said the 
officer. 

"Unless the boy can crawl through the transom." 

"No, I can't !" exclaimed the boy. "It's too narrow." 

"You try it," said Astro. 

"I don't dare to !" the lad whimpered. 

McGraw laid a heavy hand on his shoulder. "Now, 
then, my son, go to it, and no talk!" 

With that, he lifted the lad bodily to a handhold 
on the lintel. "Hurry up, now, Dennis !" said Thomp- 
son gruffly, and the boy struggled through the open- 
ing, pulled his legs inside, and dropped to the floor. 
In a moment he opened the door and stood as white 
as paper, trembling in horror. 

Beyond a counter that shut off the front part of the 
office, below a large drafting table in the center of 
the room, the body of a man lay on its back, the arms 
outstretched on the floor. The eyes were shut, and 
one hand still held a small black rubber drawing tri- 
angle. The counter shut off a view of his feet. He 
was a man of some thirty years, with black mustache 
and sparse beard, a handsome picturesque type of 
slightly foreign appearance. 



THE MIDDLEBURY MURDER 391 

Astro passed through the little door in the counter 
with McGraw, and together they bent over the body. 

"There's no blood at all !" said the officer in amaze- 
ment. "What is it, anyway? He can't be shot!" 

Astro made no reply for some moments, but exam- 
ined every detail of the body with care. At last he 
rose. "Thompson," he said, "have you a gun?" 

"Why, no sir!" Thompson spoke anxiously. "At 
least, I ain't got any with me. I got one down in the 
boiler-room, though. I don't carry it all the time, sir." 

"Go down and get it !" Astro spoke sharply. "Bring 
it to me ! No, Dennis, you stay right here. Thompson, 
take the elevator down yourself. Tell the officers to 
telephone for a doctor." 

The watchman left without a word, shaking his 
head. The elevator boy sat down on a chair outside 
the counter and gazed dismally into the corridor. 

Astro stood for several minutes silently looking 
about the room. His eyes went from the drawing- 
board, where the perspective view of a country resi- 
dence had been roughly sketched in pencil, past the 
ground-glass windows which admitted light from a 
side hall opposite the elevator, to the doors of an inner 
room. Valeska's eyes followed his in careful search 
of the room. 

McGraw still stared in amazement at the body, look- 
ing for some sign of a bullet wound, but without suc- 
cess. At last he arose, and gazed long at Astro. 

"He's dead, all right," he said finally ; "but hanged 
if I can see what killed him! Could it be suicide? 
Perhaps we can find some poison, somewhere. Look 
in the dressing-room." 

"He's shot," said Astro, without looking at the 



392 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

corpse. "Valeska, see what you can find in the private 
office in there.' 5 He pointed to the inner door. 

As she started to go in through the door in the 
counter, her foot struck a strip of cardboard that shot 
in along the floor. Astro glanced at it, then stooped 
and picked up an advertising calendar. He walked to 
the waiting space outside and began to examine the 
wall carefully. The elevator boy's eyes followed him 
listlessly. The Seer stopped near the hall door and 
fixed his eyes on a small hole in the woodwork. Then 
he went back to the drawing-board and examined it 
attentively. There was a large black blot on it where 
evidently a bottle of India ink had been spilled. The 
paper was fastened down with thumb-tacks in the form 
of wire spirals. He drew one out and put it into his 
pocket. 

Suddenly Valeska called out, "There has been a 
woman in here to-night !" 

Astro and McGraw hurried into the private office. 
Valeska was standing by a small set bowl in the cor- 
ner and held up a tiny gold ring. 

"Do you see?" she exclaimed. "The bowl is full 
of soap-suds and dirty water. She must have left in a 
hurry without stopping for her ring." 

"Ah, it was a woman shot him," said McGraw. 

Astro examined it, took a long look about the room, 
tried the private door that led to the branch hall, and 
then went back to the architect's office. "What was 
Mr. Middlebury's stenographer's name?" he asked of 
the elevator boy. 

"Miss Wilson." Dennis looked up with a look of 
alarm. 

"What time did you take her up in the elevator ?" 



THE MIDDLEBURY MURDER 393 

"I didn't take her up at all, to-night!" was the re- 
sponse ; but his eye wandered away from his examiner. 

"I took her down, though, when she left here, at five 
o'clock." 

"It's queer she should leave her ring here, then, and 
dirty water in the bowl." 

"Perhaps it was another woman," the boy ventured. 

"Perhaps it was. Did you carry up any other?" 

"Why, I think I did ; but I can't quite remember. I 
think she went out again, though." 

"You have a remarkably poor memory," said Astro 
acidly. 

The door was now flung open again, and Thompson 
appeared. He showed signs of the greatest distress, 
his eyes staring, and his mouth lax. 

"The gun has gone !" he exclaimed, and stood gaz- 
ing helplessly at McGraw. 

"It has ! Then I'll have to arrest you," said the offi- 
cer, and he took a pair of handcuffs from his pocket. 
"Hold out your hands, my man !" 

Astro apparently paid no attention to this scene, and 
walked again into the office and stood looking at the 
body. "You'd better get Moffett and take them both 
down-stairs. I'll look about a bit. When the doctor 
comes, send him up. Send some one to look at the 
roof under Moffett's window to see if he can find an 
empty cartridge. Keep a watch out yourself for any 
one going down-stairs." 

When McGraw had gone with his prisoner, Valeska 
approached the Seer and gazed timidly at the body of 
Middlebury. 

"Look at his left eye," said Astro soberly. 



394 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Valeska shudderingly did so. "There's the tiniest 
drop of blood there !" she exclaimed. "It's a strange 
case and would puzzle any one who hadn't brains. I 
wonder what poor old McGraw would have done 
alone?" 

Astro smiled grimly. 

"Do you know who did it?" Valeska asked breath- 
lessly. 

"Of course." 

"What, already? It seems impossible. There are 
three persons to suspect, aren't there ?" 

"Who are they?" 

"Why, Moffett and the watchman and the mysterious 
woman who was undoubtedly here to-night." 

"That woman is still in the building. I saw her 
hiding by a corner of the stairway as we came up ; but 
I didn't mention it, as I knew the men below would get 
her if she attempted to escape." 

"Which one did it, then?" 

"That's what I shall have to prove before I leave 
the building. I'm sure enough; but I need evidence. 
Just at present what worries me is, how did that cal- 
endar happen to fall down from the wall where it was 
fastened with one of these spiral thumb-tacks?' He 
pointed to those on the drawing-board. 

At this moment they heard the bell of the elevator, 
which now was standing at the floor below while Mc- 
graw made his second arrest, begin to ring furiously. 
Astro ran out into the hall and listened. In a moment 
McGraw entered the car with his two men and the car 
descended. The dial in the front of the shaft showed 
its descent to the fifth floor ; then the marker stopped. 

Astro pointed to it. "They've captured the girl," 



THE MIDDLEBURY MURDER 395 

he said. "We'll wait for Miss Wilson in tKe office ; I'm 
not through with my investigation yet." ; 

; He walked rapidly back, passed the body, and re- 
entered the private office. Sitting down at the desk 
in the corner, he began a rapid investigation of the 
pigeonholes. Suddenly he held up an envelope on which 
was printed, "J ames Moffett, Aspenwall Bldg., New 
York City." Opening this, he took out a letter and 
read it aloud : 

"Mv DEAR MIDDLEBURY : I can't wait any longer 
for that money. You'll positively have to pay it 
by the fifteenth or there'll be trouble for you sure. 
I'd like an immediate answer. J. MOFFETT." 

1 "Looks bad for Moffett, doesn't it?" said the Seer, 
putting the note into his pocket. "But look at this! 
Here's something worse." 

He had just opened a small drawer and looked in. 
As he spoke he held up a revolver. "One cartridge 
used. I'm sorry for Miss Wilson." 

"And the night watchman's pistol yet to be accounted 
for !" said Valeska. 

"Oh, I think I can account for that, all right," said 
Astro. "I'll locate that as soon as I get the time. 
Here comes the latest suspect. See what you make of 
her. You know women." 

The elevator door opened with a snap, and Mc- 
Graw, holding a young woman by the wrist, entered 
the outer office. She was a pretty blonde, her eyes 
now red with weeping. She wore a neat blue tailor- 
made suit and stylish hat. The elevator boy came in 
behind her and gazed at her hungrily. 

"We found her on the fifth floor trying to get 



396 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

down," said McGraw. "She has acknowledged that 
she was up in Middlebury's office this evening." 

Astro turned swiftly to the elevator boy. "What 
did you say you hadn't taken her up for?" lie de- 
manded. 

"Oh, God ! I knew she was up there ; but I didn't 
take her up ; she walked up-stairs. I hoped she'd get 
away and nobody'd know. I thought she'd gone al- 
ready." 

"And you wanted to shield her? Why?" 

Dennis hung his head. Then he muttered shame- 
fully, "Because I'm in love with her, sir, that's why! 
And I didn't want her to get into trouble. She didn't 
do it, sir. I'll swear she didn't shoot him !" He looked 
down at the body in horror, then turned his eyes away 
and began to sob hysterically. 

"Well, then, Miss Wilson, what have you to say for 
yourself ?" 

She had taken one look at the corpse also, and had 
turned away, her tears breaking forth afresh. Be- 
tween her gasps she told her story: 

"Mr. Middlebury was too attentive to me, I thought, 
and then yesterday he kissed me. He said he wanted 
to marry me ; but I didn't believe it. So I told him I 
was going to leave. I did leave to-day, and never ex- 
pected to come back here. Mr. Middlebury had paid 
me, and everything, only I found I had forgotten my 
house keys. So I had dinner down-town and then 
came back here, because I knew Mr. Middlebury would 
be working late alone in the office on a rush job he 
had. I didn't want Dennis to know I went up, be- 
cause I had told him about Mr. Middlebury's kissing 
me; so I waited till he went up in the elevator, and 



THE MIDDLEBURY MURDER 397 

then I ran up-stairs, trying to keep out of his sight. 
Only, he caught me half-way up. Besides, I had to 
hide from the night watchman, because he had had a 
quarrel with Mr. Middlebury, and he thought I had 
complained of him." 

"Oh, Thompson had quarreled with Middlebury, had 
he ?" said McGraw meaningly. 

"Yes, sir. Middlebury had Thompson discharged. 
He has to leave at the end of the week, and he was 
pretty angry about it. But I didn't have anything to 
do with that at all. It was on account of Thompson's 
refusing to let Mr. Middlebury have an extra key to 
the door." 

"Where is Thompson?" Astro asked. 

"Oh, he's safe enough with my men down on the 
first floor." 

"Well, go ahead with your story, Miss Wilson." 

"Why, Mr. Middlebury was awfully nice and apol- 
ogized for kissing me, and proposed to me again. I 
didn't know what to say to him ; but I was afraid he 
didn't mean it and was up to some game with me. He 
tried to hold my hand, and I snatched it away so quick 
I upset a bottle of India ink he was using. So I went 
into his private office to wash my hands. While I 
was in there " She covered her face with her hands. 

"You took a revolver from the desk drawer?" said 
Astro. 

She looked at him in amazement, with widely opened 
eyes. "A revolver? No! Of course not! I washed 
my hands at the bowl, and just as I was finishing I 
heard a pistol-shot, and then I heard Mr. Middlebury 
fall." 

"Did you look into this office?" 



398 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Oh, no; I was so frightened I didn't dare to. I 
waited a minute till I heard the door slam: then I 
opened the door to the side hall and ran down-stairs." 

"You saw nobody?" 

"Not a soul." 

"Was the elevator there?" 

"Oh, I didn't look! I only wanted to get away as 
fast as I could. I was afraid that I was going to be 
suspected and arrested. You see, I knew there was a 
pistol in the private office, for Mr. Middlebury had 
shown it to me one day. I thought that if he threat- 
ened me I might use it to protect myself with." 

"Yes, and that's exactly what you did do, I'm think- 
ing," said McGraw gruffly. 

Valeska took Miss Wilson's hand affectionately and 
pressed it. "Don't be afraid, my dear," she said. 

With this friendly help the girl became more calm. 

Astro, calm and picturesque, the cape of his Inver- 
ness thrown negligently across his shoulder, scrutinized 
the girl keenly for a few moments. His eyes passed 
over every detail of her costume, analyzed every fea- 
ture. He was standing so, mysterious, potent, inscrut- 
able, when his face changed suddenly. 

"Do you remember, Miss Wilson, whether there 
was a small calendar pinned to the wall by the door 
there when you came in?" 

She looked up, her eyes still streaming. "Why, yes, 
I'm sure there was. That is, I stuck it to the wall with 
a thumb-tack yesterday, and I don't remember its hav- 
ing been taken down." She looked at him in surprise 
at his question. 

The door opened again, and the doctor, who had 
obtained a key to another of the elevators, coming up 



THE MIDDLEBURY MURDER 399 

alone, entered the room and gave a curious look 
around. i 

"I'm Doctor Flynn," he announced. "What's the 
trouble?" 

"There's your man," said Astro, pointing gravely 
to the body of Middlebury. "He's been dead an hour 
or so. You'll find he was shot through the eye. The 
bullet pierced the brain, and the man bled only in- 
ternally. Lift his left eyelid and you'll see." 

"That's more than I could find out," cried McGraw. 
"So he was shot, then, for sure. Now, then, who 
done it?" 

"We'll leave the doctor here to make his examina- 
tion," said the Seer. "We'll take Miss Wilson down- 
stairs. I'm about through, now. I promise you the 
criminal will confess before you can get the coroner 
and the patrol wagon here." 

Leaving the doctor to his examination of the body, 
Astro and Valeska walked into the elevator, followed 
by McGraw, who still held Miss Wilson in his heavy 
grip. The elevator boy stepped in, shut the door, and 
the car descended. In the hall of the ground floor an 
officer was standing with Moffett, and another with 
Thompson, each of the prisoners being handcuffed. 
As Astro came up, another policeman hurried in from 
the front entrance. 

"I've found the cartridge," he said, holding up the 
small copper cylinder. "It was not twenty feet away 
from Moffett's window, on the roof of the next build- 
ing." 

"Yes, I threw it out of the window. It was just 
before I cleaned the gun. I told you I shot a cat last 
night with it." 



400 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

McGraw laughed in derision. 

Astro looked Moffett over quietly and said. "I be- 
lieve, Mr. Moffett, that Mr. Middlebury owed you 
some money, did he not?" 

"Yes why?" Then Moffett's face changed to ter- 
ror. 

"And you threatened that he would have trouble 
if he didn't pay up, did you not ?" 

"By George! we got the man all right now!" said 
McGraw. 

"I got my pay, though, only yesterday," exclaimed 
Moffett. "You'll probably find the receipt in Middle- 
bury's pocket, or with his papers." 

"Which shows how dangerous it is to judge a man 
on circumstantial evidence," remarked Astro. 

"Well, it's more than we got against the others," 
McGraw grumbled. 

"My dear old chap, I'll show you circumstantial evi- 
dence enough to convince you, before I'm through. 
'Besides that, I'll let you listen to an outright confes- 
sion. Now you had better let Mr. Moffett depart in 
peace. He's had a narrow escape. It's lucky some 
one with psychic perceptions was here to rescue him 
from the web of circumstance." 

"It was the night watchman then, I'll bet on that!" 
said McGraw. 

"Well, we'll take up his case next. Let's see, he 
owed Middlebury a grudge for having him discharged. 
He had a pistol; but he can't produce it. What has 
he done with it?" 

They had approached Thompson by this time. The 
night watchman was listening, trembling in his turn. 
His face had the color of clay. 



THE MIDDLEBURY MURDER 401 

"I kept it down-cellar in my table drawer, near the 
foot of the elevator shaft. I have no idea what has 
become of it!" he pleaded. 

Astro touched the officer wKo had been holding 
Moffett. "Take the elevator and go down to the cel- 
lar. Open the door of the nearest furnace and look 
in and see if you can find a gun." 

"Is it there?" said McGraw. "How in blazes did 
you know that, you wizard?" 

"Where would you hide a gun better?" said Astro, 
smiling. "If it isn't there, you'll find it in some cor- 
ner, or in one of the ash barrels. It doesn't matter 
much, anyway." 

Valeska, meanwhile, was trying to comfort Miss 
Wilson, who was crying and talking intermittently. 
The two blondes made a pretty picture together. Mc- 
Graw, who since his first visit to the Seer's studio, had 
always admired Valeska, looked on, apparently touched. 
Finally he could endure his curiosity no longer. 

"For God's sake, sir, it ain't the girl, is it?" he 
asked in a whisper. 

Astro laughed, and waited. The elevator boy sat 
on a bench, a picture of dejection, waiting for the out- 
come. It was ten minutes before the officer reappeared 
from the basement. As he threw open the elevator 
door he showed, hanging from a bent wire, the dis- 
torted metal work of a revolver, still glowing a dull 
red. 

"It was just where you said, sir," he explained. 

Astro gave a glance at it, then turned to Thompson. 
"What have you to say?" he asked. 

"I don't know how it got there," said Thompson 
dully. 



402 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"I believe this is your last week as watchman here ?" 

"Yes, sir." 

"And it was Mr. Middlebury who caused your dis- 
charge?" 

"Yes, sir." Thompson stared stupidly at his large 
feet. 

"Then you had good reason to hate him? He is 
shot, and your revolver thrown into the furnace. It 
looks bad, my man!" 

"I swear to God I'm innocent !" Thompson looked 
wildly into the impassive face of the Seer. 

And, as he did so, Astro's face softened. "I believe 
you. I think you can take the handcuffs off him, Mc- 
Graw." 

"Take 'em off ! Why, he must be the one who done 
it ! Any fool could see that !" 

"You're fool enough to, no doubt," said Astro, 
shrugging his shoulders; "but if you want the credit 
of detecting the murderer, you'd better free this man 
and listen to me." 

Astro had proved his marvelous powers of deduc- 
tion or intuition too many times, and too much to Mc- 
Graw's own advantage, for the officer to refuse. 

"It's sure too much for me!" he muttered to him- 
self as he unlocked the handcuffs. 

"Well, now we'll have an interview with the real 
criminal," said Astro, walking over to the two girls. 

Miss Wilson, hearing this, looked terrified at him; 
but there was no expression there that could reassure 
her. She opened her lips to speak, but could not. 

Astro began deliberately, speaking so that his words 
echoed through the corridor. "Miss Wilson, by your 



THE MIDDLEBURY MURDER 403 

own confession you were in the office of Mr. Middle- 
bury at the time he was shot." 

"In the inner office, I was," she ejaculated. 

"In the inner office, where there was found a re- 
Solver with one cartridge used," added Astro. 

iThe girl nodded, her face pale. 

r "You have confessed to Dennis, here, that Mr. Mid- 
ftlebury had kissed you and that you were offended. 
[You have confessed that he made a proposal of mar- 
riage to-night that you suspected was false and only 
a game to fool you with." 

"Oh, but I'm sure now he was sincere !" Miss Wil- 
son cried. "I am sure he loved me ! I'm sorry I sus- 
pected him of anything ungentlemanly !" 

"Nevertheless, there was a scuffle. He attempted to 
take your hand. You escaped to the inner room 
where the revolver was kept." 

"Only to wash my hands !" she wailed. 

"Your story is too flimsy," said Astro, his voice 
suddenly grown harsh, as he turned to McGraw. "Offi- 
cers, I charge Miss Wilson with the crime of mur- 
der ! Arrest her and handcuff her !" 

Valeska, who had sprung up in surprise and indig- 
nation, opened her lips to protest. McGraw, instead 
of moving forward, had taken a step backward, when 
Dennis, the elevator boy, jumped up and seized Astro's 
arm. 

"Don't arrest her, don't!" he shrieked. "I done it 
myself!" 

"You done it?" McGraw echoed. 

"Yes ! Arrest me !" and the boy held out his wrists 
imploringly. 



404 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Astro coolly took out his cigarette case and lighted 
a cigarette. "Well, McGraw," he said, smiling, "didn't 
I promise you a confession?" 

McGraw, stupefied, clasped the handcuffs on Dennis' 
wrists. Miss Wilson fell, almost fainting, on the 
bench, where Valeska put her arm tenderly about her. 

"Well, Dennis, you're fairly caught," said Astro. 
"I've known for some time that you were guilty ; but 
it's so much more satisfactory to have an out-and-out 
confession. Now I'll trouble you for the key to Mid- 
dlebury's door." And, so saying, he reached into the 
boy's trousers pocket and brought forth a small Yale 
key. 

"When did you find it, Dennis?" 

"I found it last week, sir, on the floor of my car." 

"And you kept it thinking it might come in handy, 
and perhaps get the night watchman into trouble, eh? 
So you were jealous of Mr. Middlebury on Miss Wil- 
son's account, were you?" 

"Oh, it made me wild, sir! I just couldn't stand it 
when she told me he had kissed her, and when I saw 
her going up there to-night I went crazy." 

"So you stole Thompson's gun from the cellar, went 
up when Thompson was on his rounds, opened the 
door with your key, and shot Mr. Middlebury?" 

"Yes, sir !" Dennis' voice was faint. 

"Then you ran your car to the cellar, threw the gun 
into the furnace, then went up and found Thompson 
and told him you had heard a shot ?" 

"Yes, sir. Oh, I was crazy! I was crazy about 
her!" 

"And you thought if you said nothing about her 
she would escape ?" 



THE MIDDLEBURY MURDER 405 

"Yes, sir. For God's sake take me away! I don't 
ever want to see her again !" 

"Patrol wagon's come, sir," said one of the officers, 
walking up to McGraw. He laid his hand on Dennis' 
arm. 

"One minute, please," said Astro. "Dennis, my 
boy, will you please hold up your left foot? Thank 
you !" And as the boy did so Astro removed a spiral 
wire thumb-tack that was imbedded in the rubber heel 
of the boot. 

"What's that for?" McGraw inquired. 

"The law doesn't permit a defendant to plead guilty 
to a charge of murder. You may need this for evi- 
dence when the case is tried." As the elevator boy 
was led away he looked at him pityingly. "Cocaine," 
he remarked to McGraw. 

"Sure. Dope done it, all right. He was worked up 
to it. It may do for an insanity defense." 

"He's a mattoid. You'll find his parents or grand- 
parents were criminals, poor devil!" The Seer turned 
to Miss Wilson. "You've had a lucky escape, too, my 
dear. It's fortunate that I was here." 

"Oh, I don't know how to say how grateful I am !" 
she exclaimed. 

"We'll drive you home," Valeska volunteered. "I 
know this shock has been terrible for you. Do come 
with us !" 

She drew tHe girl toward the doorway and they 
bade good night to McGraw. As Astro and the officer 
waited talking for a moment, the girls entered the 
green limousine. But, hardly in, Valeska returned to 
the doorway hurriedly. McGraw had gone inside. 

"I can't wait till we've left Miss Wilson," she said. 



4 o6 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Do please let me see that paper you picked up in the 
elevator. I think I see where you got your first clue, 
now. Dennis, the elevator boy, had stepped on it, 
hadn't he?" 

Astro took the paper from his pocketbook and 
handed it to his assistant. Faintly indented on its 
surface was a small spiral. 

"Yes, I'll have to confess, Valeska," he said, "that, 
if it hadn't been for that small scrap of paper, Mc- 
Graw would have had three prisoners instead of one 
in custody to-night I" 



VENGEANCE OF THE PI 

RHO NU 

"/^RACIOUS ! It's perfectly wonderful! Why, 

v_T you've told me things no one has ever known 
about me." The young woman gazed at Astro with 
her deep brown eyes eyes that bespoke feeling rather 
than intellect. 

Then she drew a long breath, as if seeking courage 
to speak. "There's one thing I'd like to know if you 
can tell me," she added anxiously, "shall I be married 
soon?" 

Astro leaned back into the shadow and contemplated 
his client. She was young, vivid, temperamental, and 
decidedly pretty. But he looked in vain for evidences 
of a sense of humor. Her level eyebrows were too 
delicately straight for that. Her lips curved delicious- 
ly, but not with whimsicality. There was no doubt 
about it, Miss Pauline Wister was a bromide ; and he 
must act accordingly. 

"Very soon," he answered. 

She drew a sigh of relief, and he felt her clasp on 
his hands relax. "I've been worrying a little," she 
confessed. 

It was evident that she was willing to talk, and 
Astro waited a moment without answering, bending in 
closer scrutiny over her palm. He finally put down 

407 



408 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

her hand, nodding his head mysteriously. "I can see 
that you are in trouble. If I can be of any help, I 
shall be glad to do what I can." 

Miss Wister released her hand and opened her bag, 
from which she drew a small envelope. Her lips 
trembled as she looked at the Seer. 

"I am to be married to-morrow morning at ten 
o'clock/' she said ; "that is, if nothing happens to pre- 
vent it." Her fingers clasped the letter more tightly. 
"I am engaged to Mr. Edward Farralon; but but I 
haven't heard from him since yesterday noon !" There 
were tears in her big brown eyes as she gazed up at 
him. 

As Astro, however, only nodded gravely, she went 
on. "I tried to telephone to him last night, and he 
was not at home; at least, he didn't answer. I tried 
this forenoon, and they told me that he had not been 
down to his office. And and I'm to be married to- 
morrow !" Miss Wister had almost broken into tears. 

"You've been seeing him often and quite regularly, 
I suppose?" 

"Oh, yes, every day! That's what makes it seem 
so strange. Do you think anything can have hap- 
pened to him? I don't know what to do! I daren't 
tell any one for fear of making talk, and if he's all 
right, that would be dreadful. But there's something 
else here, look at this letter I got this morning!" 

Astro glanced at the envelope she passed him, saw 
that it was addressed with a typewriter, and took out 
the single sheet it contained. On this was typewritten 
the line: 

"Beware the Vengeance of the Pi Rho Nu! H 



VENGEANCE OF THE PI RHO NU 409 

"Well," he said, "that certainly is enough to give 
a girl the creeps on the day before her wedding. You 
have no idea what it means, I suppose?" 

"No. I'm awfully alarmed; but at the same time 
I'll have to tell you Edward is an awful jollier, 
and is all the time playing jokes on me; so I never 
can be sure of anything. He says he's training my 
sense of humor." Miss Wister smiled sadly. "But 
the fact that he's missing is different. It frightens 
me!" 

"My dear Miss Wister," Astro said, clasping her 
hand in assurance, "if you'll leave this to me, I'll 
promise you that you shall be married promptly on 
time. You need give yourself no anxiety about it. 
As it happens, I have nothing else to do, and I shall 
be glad to help you." 

"Oh, I'm so relieved! I knew that if you would 
only try you could solve the mystery. You know, I 
used to know Mrs. Chester when she was Ruth Lors- 
son, and she told me the story of how you helped her. 
It was that made me want to tell you." 

Astro smiled. "Yes, I confess love-affairs do rather 
amuse me, and I'm always willing to help straighten 
them out. So, if you're willing to do exactly as I say, 
I'll take this on." 

"Oh, I'll do anything!" 

"It may cost considerable money, too." 

"But think of having trouble with my wedding ! It's 
awful! Why, I don't know but I ought to counter- 
mand the invitations ! Of course, I don't want to un- 
less it's necessary ; it's a terrible thing to do." 

"Go right ahead, and trust to me. I'll promise to 
have Mr. Farralon on time. Is it at a church ?" 



4io THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"No, we're to be married at my house, 5678 Lexing- 
ton Avenue." 

"All right. Where is Mr. Farralon's office?" 

"Eighteen West Thirty-second Street. He's the 
American agent for a Belgian rubber firm, you know, 
and has only a small place for a headquarters." 

"He's a college man, I suppose?" 

"Yes, Stapleton University, '04." 

"Who is to be his best man?" 

"Why, Mr. Stringer, a classmate of his. He's a 
lawyer ; a patent lawyer, I think. I've told him about 
Edward's disappearance, and he's promised to find him 
to-day ; but I thought" 

"You'd make sure ?" Astro smiled as he rose. "Mr. 
Stringer knew nothing, I suppose? Did he offer to 
come and see you about it?" 

"Yes ; said he'd be up this afternoon." 

"Very well. Let me know if he's found out any- 
thing. Meanwhile, be ready to do anything I request. 
I'll consult my crystal ball immediately. Valeska !" he 
called, raising his voice. "Show Miss Wister out, 
please." 

His guest had no sooner left than Astro took up the 
telephone. He called for Edward Masson, a man 
whose friendship he had won at the time of the solu- 
tion of the famous Denton boudoir murder mystery. 
Of the conversation that ensued, Valeska, returning to 
the palmist's studio, heard only one side. 

"Is this Mr. Masson? . . . You're a Stapleton 
University man, aren't you, Masson ? . . . Were there 
any local secret fraternities there along from 1901 to 
1904? . . . What was the name of it? . . . 



VENGEANCE OF THE PI RHO NU 411 

The Pi Rho Nu? . . . Can you get me a list of 
the members? . . . Rather lively crowd, eh? 
. . . Well, thank you, but you'll have to hurry. 
Telephone me here as soon as you can." 

He hung up the receiver and turned to Valeska. 
"We have but little time, and there's much to be done. 
I can't explain till later. You'd better wait here till 
Masson telephones, and stay till I come. I'm off right 
away. Ring up Lieutenant McGraw, and ask him if 
he can get me a burglar's jimmy, and also ask him to 
investigate the Belgian Rubber Syndicate's office, 18 
West Thirty-second Street. See if there's anything 
crooked about it. I'll be back as soon as I can. Oh ! 
If Masson rings up soon, go out to Miss Wister's 
house, look it over outside, and hurry back and be 
ready to report the lay of the land." 

Two minutes after that, Astro was in a green motor- 
car headed for West Thirty-second Street. Here he 
alighted and went in through a narrow doorway. 
There was a narrow hall with a single elevator, and a 
flight of stairs leading upward. A list of names on the 
wall showed that the office of "Edward Farralon, 
American Agent, Belgian Rubber Syndicate," occupied 
room twelve, on the third floor. Astro pressed the 
bell, and shortly afterward the elevator door rolled 
open. A red-headed man in shirt sleeves was inside. 

"Mr. Farralon has an office here?" said the Seer. 

"Yep ; but he ain't in." 

"Been in to-day?" 

"Nope." 

"Here yesterday?" 

"Yep." 

"Did you see him go out last night?" 



4 i2 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Nope. He worked rather late, though, I think. He 
prob'ly walked down-stairs. The elevator boy skipped 
last night ; so the box wa'n't working. I'm the janitor ; 
just running the car till they can get another boy." 

"Ah! So the elevator boy skipped, did he? What 
was his name?" 

"Mickey Flynn. He'll have hard work getting an- 
other job, if I can prevent it, leaving me in the lurch 
like that!" 

"Do you know where he lives ?" 

"Out on East One Hundred and Fifty-sixth Street, 
I believe. Let's see,. I believe I got it writ down in my 
pocketbook somewhere. Did you want him ?" 

"I dropped a package in the car yesterday, or in Mr. 
Farralon's office, I don't know which. If I can't get 
into Farralon's office, I want to see the boy, in case he 
found it." 

"Well, you'll never get it, then, I'll bet! But I'll 
give a look and see if I can find the address. Let's see. 
He come here about two months back." He looked 
over the greasy pages of the note-book till he found the 
page. "Here it is: 1575 East One Hundred and Fifty- 
sixth. That's right. Well, I hope you'll find your 
package, sir." 

Astro went back to the cab and drove immediately 
to the address. It was a tenement swarming with chil- 
dren, and he was directed to the fifth floor, where, at 
his knock, the door was opened by Mickey himself. It 
took only a short talk to convince the boy that he 
would avoid trouble if he told what he knew immedi- 
ately, and he explained his disappearance from his 
post of duty with considerable anxiety. 

"I was in de box up to eight o'clock, all right. 



VENGEANCE OF THE PI RHO NU 413 

Along about then two swell chaps come into de hall 
and asked me was Mr. Farralon up-stairs. Yes, I says, 
he was. Then one o' de chaps peeled free tens ofFn a 
roll o' bills and shoved it into me fist. 'Beat it out'n 
dis here !' he says. 'Go chase a new job/ he says, 'an' 
lose yourself ! Dis here is give you so you don't come 
back for a week/ he says. Well, I didn't ask no ques- 
tions. It looked like a easy way to make t'irty to me, 
an' I got me coat an' piked out in a hurry, and went 
up to de Circle T'eater to see de show. An dat's all I 
know." 

"How did they come ?" Astro asked. 

"In a buzz wagon. I copped dat off all right. Say, 
I'll give you de number for anoder ten." 

"You'll give it to me without that, or I'll have you 
arrested ! I'm a detective !" the Seer threatened. 

Mickey's eyes grew big; he was evidently a hero 
worshiper. He fumbled in his pocket and drew out a 
bit of newspaper. On it was scrawled the number 
11115. 

"Dat's de mark, all right," he explained. "Say, I'm 
goin' to be a 'teck myself when I grow up. Will youse 
give me a job ?" 

Astro laughed. "If you'd had sense enough to wait 
and see what those two men did, I'd give you a job 
right now," he said. 

Mickey groaned. "Gee!" he exclaimed. "W'y 
didn't I t'ink o' dat? I was dopin' out w'at I'd do wit' 
de money. I was crazy to see a show." 

"Well, what did the men look like, then, if you're 
such a good detective ?" 

Mickey brightened visibly as he replied, "Say, I got 
dat, all right. Look a-here! One was a tall guy wit' 



4H THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

specs and a little mustache and, gee ! w'at a neck ! De 
other was built like Jim Jeffries, stocky an' heavy. 
Looked like he could punch, all right! Mout' full o' 
gold teeth, he had. De other chap called him Frank." 

"Was there any one in the car when you left ?" 

"Dey was a ch'uffer dere, all bungled up so I 
couldn't reckernize him, wit' goggles and one o' dem 
hairy coats." 

"All right. That's worth the ten you wanted, I 
think." And Astro passed over the bill and started 
down-stairs. 

Mickey leaned over the rail and shouted, "Say, boss, 
de tall guy had a leather bag !" 

Astro nodded and regained his car. "Drive to the 
nearest big automobile dealer," he ordered. 

The car stopped before the Aeromobile warerooms. 
Astro got out and asked to see the automobile list. In 
two minutes he had found that the car registered num- 
ber 11115 was owned by Frank Brigham of number 
12 1 2 Charles Street, in Greenwich village, New York. 
A look at the telephone book showed Brigham's busi- 
ness to be brokerage, and his office to be 1000 Wall 
Street. Astro reentered the cab and returned to the 
studio. 

Valeska was not in the place. A boy in buttons in- 
formed him that she had left a half-hour ago, after 
having answered the telephone. 

A package had come from Lieutenant McGraw. 
Astro opened it, and took out a burglar's jimmy and a 
note. It read : 

"Be careful; but if you get in bad, let me know. 
Belg. Rub. Synd. O. K., as far as I can find out. 

"McGRAW." 



VENGEANCE OF THE PI RHO NU 415 

It was a quarter of an Hour before he heard Valeska 
enter. 

"Did Masson give you any names?" was his first in- 
quiry. 

"Yes; Mr. Paul Stringer of Flatbush, Mr. Richard 
Hanbury of Albany, Mr. Frank Brigham." 

"Of 1212 Charles Street?" 

"Yes !" Valeska looked at him in wonder. 

"And what about Miss Wister's house? YouVe 
been out there, I fancy ?" 

"Yes. It's a five-story brick dwelling. It's on the 
corner." 

"What about the other houses in the block?" 

"I have the names of the owners from the Social 
Register, all except one, which is vacant and for sale." 

"Real estate agents ?" 

"Swan & Dowell, 3421 Broadway." 

"Very good. Telephone right out there for an ap- 
pointment ; then hire that house and pay in advance for 
one month. Tell them you'll sign a lease if the place 
is satisfactory. Use any excuse you need. Just where 
is it?" 

"At the other end of the block, on the corner of the 
next street." 

"All right. Then, as soon as possible, look up 
Stringer he's Farralon's best man and see where 
he goes to-night. Find him, and don't lose sight of 
him ! I'll have to work quickly, if I'm going to keep 
my word to Miss Wister." 

"You think Stringer knows something of it?" 

"He hasn't been to see Miss Wister, and that's sus- 
picious. I telephoned to her and to his office. He 
hasn't been there. They say he's out of town. That 



416 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

means he doesn't want to be found ; but you must try 
to find him. Miss Wister will give you a description. 
Now I'm off!" 

He ran down-stairs and jumped into the waiting 
cab. In less than twenty minutes he was at Frank 
Brigham's Wall Street office. Inquiring of the office 
boy, he discovered that Brigham was in; but, instead 
of waiting, Astro took the elevator down to the street. 
There was an automobile waiting by the curb, and he 
looked at the number. It was 11115! He went back 
to his taxicab. 

"Can you keep up with that car?" he asked, point- 
ing to Brigham's machine and handing the chauffeur a 
five-dollar bill. 

The man touched his cap and grinned. "I'll do it or 
get pinched for speeding!" he answered. 

Astro got into the cab and waited, watching through 
a slit side of the curtain window. Within five minutes 
Brigham appeared with a tall thin man in eye-glasses, 
wearing a small, black, close-cropped mustache. They 
entered the tonneau of the automobile, and the car 
moved off, followed by the taxicab. Winding in and 
out of the up-town traffic, the car was easily followed 
until it stopped at the Hotel Saint Nemo, where the 
two men alighted. Astro followed them to the grill- 
room, waited till they had seated themselves, and took 
a table not too far away to watch them. 

Cocktails for three were brought. Astro's eyes nar- 
rowed as he awaited the third conspirator. In a few 
minutes he appeared, and the Seer of secrets had time 
to make up his mind that he was the missing best man 
before his suspicion was corroborated by Valeska's 



VENGEANCE OF THE PI RHO NU 417 

unobtrusive appearance in the doorway. He gave her 
a sign that she could safely join him, and she came to 
his table as if she had been expected. 

"How do you suppose I got him?" she asked jubi- 
lantly. "I called him up on the telephone, and some 
one asked my name. I replied, 'Pi Rho Nu. J It was a 
sudden inspiration, though I haven't the least idea 
what it means. As soon as he answered, I hung up, 
and got to his apartment-house as soon as I could. He 
took a hansom, and I had no trouble in following him. 
Who are these men ?" 

"Brigham and Doctor Hanbury," .said Astro. "At 
least I imagine that the one they've been calling 'Doc' is 
Richard Hanbury. I wish they'd talk a little louder." 

"Wait till they've finished those cocktails," said Va- 
leska sapiently. 

The three men were already laughing uproariously. 
One was telling a story, marking imaginary circles on 
his cheeks as he spoke. At the close of the narration 
all three lifted their glasses and drank a health. 

"Was that To the ride'?" 

"Not quite." Astro was seated nearer to the group. 

At nine o'clock the men showed signs of being about 
to leave the dining-room, and Astro and Valeska had 
just time to make their exit first without being ob- 
served. 

"I'll have to continue the chase alone," he said. 
"You'd better try and find out what you can from Far- 
ralon's apartment. See his man, if you can. You can 
act the French maid for that. Any valet will talk, if he 
thinks you come from some woman. As for me, I may 
be in the police court for burglary by to-morrow morn- 



418 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

ing; and so, if I'm not at the studio by eight o'clock, 
you'd better see Lieutenant McGraw. Here they come, 
now ! Good-by I" 

In another minute his cab had again taken up the 
chase of car 11115. They sped north, crossed the park, 
turned into Seventy-second Street, and finally flew at 
full speed straight out the Broadway boulevard. Here 
the little taxicab had hard work following ; but kept on 
and on, nearly to Kingsbridge. Here the open draw- 
bridge enabled Astro to catch up. Beyond that, the 
car turned sharply to the right and went a hundred 
yards, stopping before a large brick building that stood 
alone. It bore the sign of a sewing-machine company 
but was apparently deserted, though a light shone from 
one of the upper floors. 

Astro, whose driver had stopped the cab at a safe 
distance, got out and walked on cautiously. Luckily it 
was dark and cloudy. As he went up the steps to the 
door, he could still hear the voices of the men who had 
just entered. The door was ajar. Instantly he slipped 
inside, and, suspecting that the doorkeeper would re- 
turn after he had shown his guests the way, he dodged 
into a vacant room off the hall. 

Here he waited nearly an hour, and, hiding close to 
the door, heard several visitors arrive, saw them give 
the hailing sign and pass up-stairs. At about eleven 
o'clock the watchman looked at his watch, lighted his 
pipe, and walked into the room opposite, evidently to 
sleep. This was the time, if any time were safe, to in- 
vestigate the upper floors. 

Up one floor he crept softly, found all dark, and lis- 
tened. From higher up came now the sounds of laugh- 



.VENGEANCE OF THE PI RHO NU 419 

ter, of singing, and an occasional cheer. He crept up 
the next flight; the noise grew louder. He opened a 
door at the right of the landing, and found a large hall, 
once used for machinery. The pounding of feet on the 
ceiling told him that the men he had seen enter were 
immediately above. He paced the room, and found it 
to be a hundred feet by fifty. Opposite the long row 
of shuttered windows was another door. This he en- 
tered, and found a small room, evidently once used for 
an office, with a fireplace, mantel, and one window. 

Step by step he now ascended the next flight of 
stairs, the sounds of revelry growing louder every 
minute. A glance above showed a streak of light 
through the half-opened door. A nearer approach 
showed another door, corresponding to that of the of- 
fice he had noticed below. He darted up to the land- 
ing, put his hand to the handle of this door, and it 
opened easily. Passing in, he closed it behind him and 
looked about. 

There was a cot bed with a pair of blankets drawn 
up against the wall, a basket of food, and a pitcher of 
water and many beer bottles on a table. A fireplace 
on the other wall corresponded to the one he had seen 
below. Astro stole to the keyhole of the door leading 
into the hall and listened. A smile came to his lips. 

"Brigham ! Brigham !" the company was yelling. 

From his post Astro could see only the broad back 
of Brigham in the light of many candles ; but he could 
hear perfectly the speech that followed. 

"Brothers of the Pi Rho Nu," Brigham began, "far 
be it from me to try to make a speech to-night as you 
know I can't! But I'll take my turn in testifying to 
the utter depravity of the prisoner." 



420 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Cries of "Hear, hear!" interrupted him, and after 
they were stilled Brigham went on. 

"The event is now a piece of the history of the Pi 
Rho Nu ; but I'll briefly state the facts. Two years ago 
I was married." 

"How delightful to be married!" the crowd began 
to sing. 

"And it was my fond intention to pass my honey- 
moon in an automobile. In fact, it was begun all right, 
and I'd have been safe if I had contented myself with 
driving only daytimes. But on my very first evening 
we were married at noon I was held up by a band of 
desperadoes on the road from Albany to Troy. I should 
have been able to take care of all of them with my 
fists ; but I could never look a gun in the muzzle calmly. 
The result was that I was tied up with Mrs. Brigham 
and carried into a lonely house. She was put into one 
room, and I into another. Gentlemen, I ask you to pic- 
ture my feelings that night, as I heard scream after 
scream coming from the room adjacent for hours un- 
ending. It was only because I knew my bride had 
been carried safely away to the nearest hotel that I was 
able to sleep at all. So, gentlemen, I demand the pen- 
alty of" 

"Death!" shouted the rest in a chorus of laughter, 
after which there were calls for "Doc Hanbury." Han- 
bury was invisible from Astro's peep-hole, but his voice 
rose clearly. 

"I also was married," he began, and was also inter- 
rupted by the popular chorus ; "but under painful and 
embarrassing circumstances," he continued. "The 
afternoon of the wedding my flat was entered and I 
was garroted by two masked men. I was tied to a 



VENGEANCE OF THE PI RHO NU 421 

chair, and then one of them painted my face deliber- 
ately but too fancifully with iodine. He painted my 
cheeks in circles, gentlemen, and my brow was a pic- 
turesque plaid of squares. Those of you who were 
present at the ceremony possibly remarked the grease 
paint that attempted too unsuccessfully to cover my 
shame. I had to do it. You can't explain an absence 
from your own wedding except by " 

"Death !" came the jovial chorus. 

One after another proceeded to testify, each con- 
stantly interrupted by the hilarious members of the 
fraternity. 

Astro had heard enough. It was evident that Far- 
ralon, the master spirit of the association and fiercest 
of its practical jokers, had met his just deserts. Just 
what they would do with him, Astro could not guess ; 
but that the bridegroom would need a friend was not 
to be doubted. How was he to be helped? Astro de- 
termined to complete his investigation of the building 
before he decided. Undoubtedly the gang would make 
a night of it in the house and keep Farralon a prisoner 
till the last moment, if indeed they did not prevent the 
ceremony. The Seer took an electric torch from his 
pocket and stole up-stairs. 

The floor was planned like those below, with the 
same big hall, the small office, and fireplace. As it was 
in the office that Farralon was to be locked, evidently, 
when his fraternity members had departed, Astro 
looked over the little room carefully. The iron shut- 
ters were barred and immovable. There was only one 
safe means of communicating with the prisoner after 
he was left alone, by way of the chimney. Astro took 
the jimmy from his pocket and set to work inside the 



422 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

fireplace, to open a hole on each side. Which of the 
two flues ran down into the next floor it was impossible 
to tell. He must be ready for both. It took two hours 
of hard work to get the bricks out ; but by the time the 
company were racketing down-stairs Astro had the 
satisfaction of perceiving a faint light deep down in 
one of the openings. It was now only a question of 
waiting till Farralon was alone, and hailing him. To 
find out what was going on, he had started down-stairs 
when he heard voices. A man was still in the larger 
room speaking through the closed door of the office. 

"Don't you try and make a row now, or we'll come 
in and make you quit ! You keep quiet, Farralon ! I'm 
going to turn in now. So long, old man ! Dream of 
your bride and a happy wedding!" and after turning 
the key in the door he rolled over on a cot in the hall. 
In a few minutes he was snoring. 

Astro stole up-stairs and put his mouth to the hole, 
calling Farralon. No answer came. Then he sat down 
on the floor, took off his sock, and raveled out a long 
line of silk. Next, he wrote a short note, fastened the 
paper into his pocket-knife, and tied the line to it. This 
he let cautiously down the hole, and jangled it softly 
at the bottom. In a few minutes he felt the line pulled 
taut. Farralon took the note, read it, and came back. 

"Who's up there ?" he called up in a loud whisper. 

"A friend !" Astro replied. 

And thereupon ensued a long dialogue ; after which 
the Seer of Secrets, chuckling to himself mightily, stole 
down-stairs and out the door, found his still waiting 
taxicab, and was driven rapidly back to the city. It 
was four o'clock when he threw himself, exhausted, on 
the great couch in his studio. 



VENGEANCE OF THE PI RHO NU 423 

At half past nine that forenoon, Astro and Valeska 
stood behind the inside shutters of the parlor window 
at number 5652 Lexington Avenue. It was the house 
that Valeska had rented at the other end of the block in 
which Miss Wister lived. 

A large furniture van stood in front of the door. A 
long table was on the sidewalk, standing parallel to the 
curb. Two men in overalls walked in and out of the 
house occasionally. 

Astro looked at his watch. "About time for the 
show," he remarked. "How is Miss Wister standing 
the suspense ?" 

Valeska giggled. "I don't think she slept a wink 
last night, and when I got to her this morning she was 
almost frantic. I don't think that even now she con- 
siders herself safe. You see, she doesn't know you so 
well as I do. If you told me I was to be married to- 
day, I'd believe it !" 

Astro turned to her with a sudden look in his eyes. 
"If I told you that you were to be married next month, 
would you believe it ?" he demanded. 

"Ah, but you're not going to tell me that !" said Va- 
leska, putting away his hand gently. "But it was im- 
possible to get Miss Wister to see the funny side of it 
all. I'm afraid that young Mr. Farralon is going to 
have a hard time getting some things into her head." 

"Well, her heart is accessible, at any rate," Astro 
replied. His gaze returned to the window. "It's queer 
the Pi Rho Nu aren't here. We have mighty little time 
to get him ready. I believe they're going to wait till 
the last minute. No, by Jove ! there they come now !" 
He rapped on the window sharply to the men on the 
sidewalk, who immediately put their hands to the table. 



424 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

At the other end of the block, where a long awning 
stretched from the door of the Wister house to the 
sidewalk and a curious crowd had gathered, a large 
red automobile number 11115 had stopped just as he 
spoke. It was full of men. One got out, then another, 
then another. As the fourth, stepped on the sidewalk, 
however, there was a sudden commotion. A man 
dropped. Two others seemed fighting. They were 
joined by two more, who jumped from the car. An- 
other dropped, and another, and then 

Sprinting down the block came a wild fantastic 
creature, half in man's clothes, half in woman's, with 
ribbons streaming, with short skirts flapping, fighting 
his way with excited gestures through the passers-by, 
knocking down several as he strove. Behind him in- 
stantly followed the crowd, led by the men who had 
risen to their feet. As the fugitive came up to the 
house where Astro and Valeska waited, the men on the 
sidewalk swung the long table round and the mob 
dashed against the barrier. One or two hurdled it ; the 
rest ran round the ends. But the moment's handicap 
gave the fugitive just time to rush up the front steps 
and enter the doorway before the doors were closed 
and bolted behind him. 

"Quick ! Follow me !" exclaimed Astro. He could 
hardly speak from laughter ; but the man followed him 
with curses, raving like a wild beast. Up three flights 
of stairs they raced, entered a small closet, and scram- 
bled up a ladder. 

"Now it's a plain track to the scuttle of the Wister 
house," said Astro. "You'll find a ladder three houses 
beyond here. You have just eight minutes to dress in. 
Your clothes are all laid out in Wister's room, and the 



VENGEANCE OF THE PI RHO NU 425 

ring is in the pocket of your waistcoat. There'll be no 
best man. I'll wait here to make ready for your get- 
away." 

"My get-away!" cried Farralon wildly. "For heav- 
en's sake ! isn't it over yet ? Is there any more of this 
confounded practical joke?" 

"More!" said Astro smiling. "You ought to know 
the capacity of the Pi Rho Nu. There's a hack covered 
with ribbons which I've had ready at the door, and 
there's a brass band and a demonstration waiting at 
the pier that will make you feel as if you were a crown 
prince." 

Farralon wilted. "Well, I guess I'll get what's com- 
ing to me this time," he said, grinning feebly. 

"No, you won't. You'll escape on Miss Wister's 
account. I've got it all fixed. As soon as you can, 
after the ceremony, you and your wife are to go up- 
stairs. Say you're going to leave in the cab at the door 
in half an hour and drive by way of the Christopher 
Street ferry to Hoboken. Then get up to the roof, 
come back here, just as you are, and I'll give you your 
instructions ?" 

"But my trunks, and Kitty's my clothes, and every- 
thing" 

"Everything is ready in that furniture van at the 
door. Now hurry ! You've wasted two minutes !" 

Farralon darted across the roof at reckless speed. 
Astro watched, with a lingering smile, till the groom 
disappeared over the edge of the roof of the third 
house beyond. Then he descended into the house 
again. Valeska was arranging a queer collection of 
clothes in a rear room up-stairs. 

"Is everything ready?" he asked. 



426 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

She burst out laughing. "There's a bride's going- 
away costume for you!" she exclaimed, holding up a 
blue gingham skirt, a purple-checked blouse, and a 
bandana kerchief. 

"Well, be prepared for a quick change, then. I'll go 
to the roof and be ready to help the bride down." 

Astro had begun to be anxious by the time the bridal 
couple reappeared. It was fully an hour before he saw 
the happy pair approach, clambering lightly over the 
roof. Then Farralon gave a whoop, and the two came 
up laughing. 

They laughed as she stumbled down the ladder ; they 
roared as Astro with the bridegroom in the front 
room, and Valeska with the bride in the rear the pair 
changed their clothes for the emigrant costumes that 
were ready. Then down-stairs they went, Astro carry- 
ing two large suit cases filled with the wedding clothes. 
At the door he stopped them and went to the window 
to reconnoiter. The Brigham automobile was still 
standing at the curb, near to the hack which was fairly 
white with ribbons and bridal flags. 

"Take this chair now," said Astro. 

Farralon took one end of a Morris chair and Mrs. 
Farralon the other. There was no one on the sidewalk 
at this end of the block, though a crowd was collected 
in front of the Wister residence, preparing for the fun 
of throwing rice and old shoes. The couple were un- 
noticed as they lifted the chair into the van and then 
climbed in themselves. The two teamsters followed 
with the suit cases, and in another minute the van was 
safely off. Astro and Valeska waved a discreet adieu 
behind the shutters of the empty house. 



VENGEANCE OF THE PI RHO NU 427 

Astro took from his pocket a check for a thousand 
dollars and handed it to Valeska. "I think I deserve 
more credit than the clergyman," he said. "But now 
we must follow them and see how it all comes out." 



The members of the Pi Rho Nu had hurried to the 
ferry as soon as the bridegroom's escape was suspected. 
They roamed all over the boat, passing the furniture 
van several times in their search. 

As soon as the boat was in the slip the gay fraternity 
hurried to the pier where the Carothian lay with steam 
up. Here a brass band was in readiness to serenade 
the couple. The fraternity swarmed aboard the 
steamer and pushed their quest everywhere save into 
the third-class cabin, where the bridal couple, disguised 
as steerage passengers, sat and laughed till the gang- 
plank was raised. Then Astro and Valeska, near the 
baffled members of the crestfallen Pi Rho Nu, awaited 
the denouement. 

Just before the last line was cast off, the couple, 
dressed perfectly now, appeared at the rail of the 
promenade deck, waving their handkerchiefs merrily. 
A shout went up from the Pi Rho Nu. 

Stringer, who was standing near Astro, turned to 
his companion. "Well," he said, "they fooled us, after 
all. But when he gets into his stateroom it'll look like 
a small grain elevator. There's a good ton of rice on 
the floor and in the mattresses. He'll get his on the 
way across ! Hooray for the Pi Rho Nu !" 

Valeska smiled as if she were pleased ; and also as if 
she were a little envious, too. 



THE LADY IN TAUPE 

"T^XCUSE me if I appear to patronize you," said 

A ^ the young man, "but you certainly are clever." 
He twisted up his blond mustache, nodded his head 
slowly, and smiled. 

"My very dear sir," said Astro calmly, "what you 
call my cleverness is the product of innate gifts, years 
of study, and infinite thought and contemplation. You 
are the clever one." 

"How so ?" The palmist's client raised his eyebrows, 
as a woman might. His deep blue eyes sparkled, 
lighted with a strong sense of humor. 

"Clever to have come here for the purpose you 
did. I assure you that you could have found no bet- 
ter place, though I confess I shall be sorry to have 
my studio reproduced. I shall have to redecorate it." 

"What do you think I came here for, then?" Some 
of the self-assurance had vanished from the young 
man's face. 

Astro looked about calmly and pointed with the 
stem of his narghile as he spoke. "That granite Thoth 
could be easily imitated in papier-mache. One can hire 
rugs, and pay for the rent by advertising on the pro- 
gram. There should be a door there, R. U. E., of 
course, and the divan should be brought down front 
so that your leading lady can sit on it and look up over 

428 



THE LADY IN TAUPE 429 

her shoulder when her lover leans on the back of it. 
You can't escape that sort of love scene, you know, 
in a modern drama." 

The young man laughed heartily. Then he said, 
"By Jove ! you've struck it ! I am an actor." 

"No, you're not," said Astro. "You're a playwright, 
and a successful one." 

The young man jumped up and banged his fist on 
the table. "What do you think of that !" he exclaimed. 

Astro smiled cryptically. Then, "With considerable 
literary ambition, as well." 

His client sat down again as suddenly, and stared at 
the Seer. "See here ! I want to tell you something. I 
had no idea of coming to you for advice. All I wanted 
was local color, as you've discovered. I wanted hints 
as to setting, props, and business. I wanted a good 
characterization. And, by Jove ! I wish you'd play my 
Granthope! But never mind that. I'd just like to ask 
you a question about a queer experience I've had lately. 
You've convinced me that you know some things." 

Astro handed him a small silver box. "Have one 
of my cigarettes," he said. "There are not more than 
four or five hundred left in the world. They were 
given me by an army officer who once helped Diaz. 
Now go on with your story." 

"My name is Pinkard, Lionel Pinkard," said the 
young man, "and, as you discovered, I am a play- 
wright. I've written a book, too that is, it's almost 
finished and it's going to make a sensation in more 
ways than one. Plays are all right for making money ; 
but half the audience doesn't know or care who's the 
author. I confess I want fame. By Jove! that cigar- 
ette is sweet ! A bit too mild, though, for me. Well, 



430 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

let's see, it was after A Run of Luck was put on. I 
was working on The Chameleon that was when I 
first saw the Lady in Taupe." 

"The Lady in Taupe!" Astro repeated the phrase 
with humor. 

"That's what I called her. She always used to wear 
that color 'taupe/ you know a sort of purplish- 
gray, something like what they call 'London smoke,' 
only lighter. A gown with good lines, too. She always 
wore it, usually with black lynx furs." 

"Where did you see her?" 

"Everywhere ; that's the funny part of it. This very 
day I saw her breakfasting at Mouquin's, at the next 
table. She's always near me. About two months ago 
she began. I say began, because it has happened too 
often to be accidental. She passed me in the street. 
Next day she stood on a corner waiting for a car. A 
mighty pretty girl, too small head you know how 
that makes a girl look taller and helps her figure ; most 
women are built like dwarfs nowadays deep brown 
eyes, a delicious mouth, and a touch of originality in 
her expression on account of a small scar on the left 
side of her chin. It's positively a beauty-spot, more 
like a dimple than a scar, and it crinkles up when she 
smiles. Well, I've run into her almost every day since 
then and she's never moved an eyelash to show she 
recognized me. But she's up to something. She's al- 
ways right in my way and never notices me. She's 
got me going, there's no doubt about that." 

"Have you ever followed her ?" 

"Yes, I confess I've tried several times ; but she has 
always given me the slip, or else I was clumsy." 

"Well, what do you wish me to do about it ?" 



THE LADY IN TAUPE 431 

4 

"I want to know what the lady's up to." 

'That's simple enough. She wants to get an en- 
gagement." 

"Why doesn't she ask me, then ?" 

"Ah, no doubt she will. She wants to make an im- 
pression, first. You know what a hard struggle it is 
for a girl without influence to get an engagement. She 
wants to get you curious, interested. I fancy she's 
heard you are to have a new play produced, and though 
the author doesn't always have much to say as to the 
cast, you are established and could probably help her." 

"That's true enough. In my contracts I reserve a 
power of veto as to members of the cast, and I natur- 
ally have some weight, though there's a terrific 
amount of influence in these things. But it seems an 
elaborate method, I must say!" 

"Well, I've heard of how the girls have to struggle. 
It strikes me she's clever. I'm curious to know what 
she will say when her time comes." 

"So am I. I hope she'll spring her trap soon." 

"And how is your book coming on?" 

"Nearly finished. It's more or less of an expose of 
society, and I hope will make talk. I'll send you a 
copy; that is, if your diagnosis proves correct in re- 
gard to the Lady in Taupe. If not, my dear Astro, I 
shall conclude you are merely a clever guesser." 

The tone was such that Astro could not be offended 
at the banter. He rose smilingly to show Pinkard out. 
The young man gave Valeska, who was busy in the 
waiting-room, a sharp glance as he left. 

"How did you know he was a playwright?" she 
asked the Master. 



43* THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"I was in my laboratory when he came into the 
room, and watched him unobserved. He took in the 
whole studio at a glance, very interestedly. He went 
back to the door to get the effect as it would appear 
in a stage set, from the orchestra. He viewed it, as 
few do, as a whole, not in detail. Almost every one 
who enters inspects the curios and furnishings one by 
one. He summed up the general effect. By his ap- 
pearance I knew him to be a man with brains. Few 
men of business can afford the time for a morning 
call, unless they wish some definite information. He 
had not the appearance of the idle rich; yet he was 
well-off. A literary man can use his inventive faculty 
not more than four hours a day without excessive 
fatigue; consequently he has time left in which to 
amuse himself. And finally, when he opened his coat 
for a pencil, I saw a typewritten manuscript in his in- 
side pocket." 

"He might have been an actor/' 

"It was not a part in a play that he had; they're 
bound up in smaller shape. Besides, he had none of 
the vanity of the actor. He was so sure of himself 
that he didn't feel the need of impressing any one." 

"He might have been reading a play for a friend." 

"The manuscript was full of pencil corrections. It 
was not a final draft, and would be almost undeci- 
pherable, except to the author. But, as far as that goes, 
almost every man who writes has an unfinished play 
up his sleeve. It was a safe guess." 

"Well, what of the Lady in Taupe, then ? I'm in- 
terested in her." 

"What I surmised is probably true; but I suspect 
something deeper than that. It's a bit elaborate, as he 



THE LADY IN TAUPE 433 

said. It's a clever scheme, and may turn out to be still 
cleverer than it looks." 

"I'd like to have a look at her. It takes a woman to 
read women." 

"True. I believe it would be amusing to have you 
see her. The more I think of it, the more curious I am. 
I'll tell you. I'll ring Pinkard up and find out what 
he's going to do to-morrow." 

He took up the telephone that evening and had a 
short conversation with the playwright. The next 
morning he said to Valeska : 

"Pinkard will leave his house on West Seventy- 
fifth Street to-day at about ten o'clock, go to Dayton's 
office, lunch at the Grill Club, attend a rehearsal of 
his play Wild-fire at the Monster Theater in the after- 
noon, then go to the Park Riding Academy, dine at 
the Grill Club, and go to see Marlowe this evening at 
the Broadway. Knowing his itinerary, you can't miss 
him, and you'll probably see her, as she hasn't appeared 
for two days, and seldom misses it longer than that." 



That evening Valeska returned with her report. "I 
saw her!" she exclaimed exultantly. "She's a beauty, 
too ! I liked her at first sight. I followed him to Day- 
ton's office, and she met him in Forty-second Street, 
almost the first thing." 

"Where did she go?" 

"That's the queer part of it. After she had passed 
him she waited on the corner of Forty-second and 
Broadway. An automobile came along with a lady in 
it a really swell girl stopped, and the Lady in Taupe 
got in. What do you think of that ?" 



434 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Number of the automobile ?" 

Valeska consulted a paper in her purse. "99,954." 

Astro went into the little library in his waiting-room 
and took down the automobile list for the state of New 
York. He looked up the number, and then whistled 
softly. "Why, that was Helen Van Amsterdam !" 

Valeska's eyebrows rose. "The heiress?" 

"It must have been. That's the number of the Van 
Amsterdam's automobile, at least." 

"Then I don't see why the Lady in Taupe should be 
looking for an engagement, if she has such rich 
friends." 

"Oh, that doesn't signify. But there's something 
queer about it. Well, we can't take any more time ; I 
have too many important things to attend to. We'll 
just file that information for reference. We may hear 
from Pinkard again." 



He did hear from Pinkard, in fact, within the week. 
The playwright came in one morning, as handsome, 
confident, and debonair as ever. He took a new criti- 
cal look at the studio, then sat down as Astro came in, 
and said : 

"Well, the Lady of Taupe has called on me at last !" 

"Yes?" 

"You were quite right as far as you went. She 
wanted a part in the cast of The Chameleon, and 
waxed eloquent over her attempts to get an engage- 
ment. You should have heard her talk! That girl 
has magnetism, all right. She played as pretty a scene, 
for an hour, in my library as I've ever watched on the 
stage. She did imitations of Mansfield and Cissy Lof- 




" She played as pretty a scene in my library as I've ever watched 
on the stage." 



THE LADY IN TAUPE 435 

tus and Warfield and Barrymore; she told dramatic 
little stories; she discussed the psychology of audi- 
ences, the technique of the drama, and the very meta- 
physics of acting. I never heard such talk in my life; 
but " He closed his eyes and smiled. 

"Ah, but !" said Astro. "There was something else, 
then?" 

"I should say so! After she had left, I went into 
my study, and found that it had been visited by bur- 
glars." 

Astro betrayed no surprise ; but his brows bent into 
a new tense curve. He leaned forward and looked at 
Pinkard intently. "And what was missing? Wait!" 
He suddenly raised a warning finger. "Don't tell me ! 
I'll get it, perhaps I have a feeling." He dropped his 
head into his hands for a few moments, then looked at 
Pinkard through half-shut eyes. "Not the manuscript 
of your new book?" 

Pinkard slapped his hand on his knee. "By Jove! 
you've got it ! See here, you'll have to take this on !" 

"Anything else gone ?" 

"Nothing. I had a little safe in the wall, but it was 
untouched." 

"A very pretty game, indeed." 

"Wasn't it slick? Of course, she held me there 
while they worked it. I can't imagine how they ever 
got in, though. The back door shows no sign of hav- 
ing been forced, it was bolted on the inside. No fire- 
escapes available. It's a small apartment-house, and 
rather old-fashioned. But why any one should want 
that manuscript, I don't know." 

"You have no other copy?" 

"No, I wrote it on the typewriter myself, and was 



436 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

too lazy to make carbon copies. I haven't even my 
first draft of the thing. And I wouldn't attempt to 
rewrite it for all my hopes of fame and fortune ! I'm 
no Carlyle. I've simply got to get it back ! And there's 
no use going to the police for a thing like that, as you 
ought to know. If it isn't diamonds or money, they'll 
do nothing." 

"Tell me something about the novel." 

"Why, I hadn't decided upon a name yet; but it 
was by way of being a social satire. I've been about 
a good deal, you know, in New York, and know the 
fastest part of the smart set, and not a few of the 
others. It was pretty frank, an expose, really, as I 
told you. Of course, I have toned it down in some 
places and raised things to a higher power in others. 
It's a bit sensational; but I've taken good care to 
change episodes and details so that no one of the 
characters could be identified. I'm not altogether a 
cad. But it's all true to life; what might happen any 
day in New York, and seen from the inside, too." 

"How many people know that you were writing it ?" 

"Oh, I've made no secret of it. Any one who wanted 
to could have found out." 

"Very well. I'll be up this afternoon to look about. 
The Lady in Taupe called in the evening, I take it?" 

"Yes, at about eight o'clock. I'm seldom in at that 
hour. I can't imagine how she should know I was at 
home. Funny thing, too, I have almost always met 
her in the forenoon, usually within a half-hour of the 
time I left my flat." 

"Did you promise her a place in The Chameleon?" 

"Why, I said I'd do what I could. She interested 
me, and might go well for my heavy woman, though 



THE LADY IN TAUPE 437 

a bit too young. But of course, now, I'll see that she 
doesn't get in. It's not likely that she'll let me see her 
again, anyway." 

"On the contrary," said Astro, "you'll see her as 
much as ever." 

Astro and Valeska called at the Vanberg apart- 
ments that afternoon at three o'clock and went care- 
fully over Pinkard's rooms. To Valeska's surprise, 
their call lasted only fifteen minutes, and then Astro, 
pleading another engagement, took his leave. She did 
not question him, being busy trying to puzzle out the 
mystery for herself ; but, when he stopped at the front 
door down-stairs and rang the janitor's bell, she gave 
a little cry of triumph. 

"Oh, I begin to see !" she exclaimed. 

"I should hope so! It's too ridiculously simple. 
Half the flat burglaries in New York are done that 
way." 

"But who helped ? She couldn't do it alone." 

"That's what we'll have to make sure of. I can 
only guess, just now. But here's the janitor. Have 
you any flats to rent in the building?" 

The janitor looked them over before replying. 
"Well, there's a party wants to move out if she can 
find a good tenant to sublet to," he said. 

"May we see the apartment?" 

"She's not in, I think ; but I guess it'll be all right. 
She's in a great hurry to rent, and I promised to help 
her. It's up on the third floor." 

Valeska pressed Astro's arm in glee. Pinkard lived 
on the third floor ! They were taken up, and the door 
unlocked. 



43^' THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"She's been here only a little while," said the jani- 
tor. "She didn't move in all her furniture; but you 
can get an idea what the place is like." 

They walked rapidly through the place. Only one 
room was fitted up, and that but scantily, with only 
the requisites. The kitchen contained a few utensils, 
and it was evident that the occupant of the apartment 
took her meals outside. Astro walked to the dumb- 
waiter and lifted the sliding door. Opposite, only 
three feet away, was the corresponding door into 
Pinkard's kitchen. A glance at Valeska was hardly 
necessary. She nodded her head emphatically. 

"Who lives here ?" Astro asked. 

"A Miss Demming. She's an actress, I hear. A 
pretty girl she is, too." 

"Well, I'll come and see her. Much obliged, I'm 
sure." 

"Do you think you will take it ?" the janitor asked. 

"I'm afraid it's too small," said the Seer, as they 
went out. 

They were hesitating in the vestibule, and the jani- 
tor had left them, when Valeska exclaimed, "Why, 
there she is now !" 

Astro looked out. A very pretty woman was walk- 
ing toward them. By Pinkard's description alone he 
would have known her, even in her spring costume, 
for the Lady in Taupe. She held her head erect, ran 
up the steps, and, as they made way for her, entered 
the vestibule. Astro turned in time to see her open 
the letter-box of the third-floor suite. She took a key 
from her pocketbook, unlocked the door, and went up- 
stairs without looking behind her. 
. "Which," said Astro, smiling, "explains how she is 



THE LADY IN TAUPE 439 

able to know so easily when Pinkard is at home, and 
when he leaves to walk abroad." 

"And how the flat was entered while she held him 
spellbound with her talk," added Valeska. 

"But not how she is able to afford an eighty-five- 
dollar a month flat when she's out of a job," Astro 
scowled. 

"Nor who it was who climbed across the shaft, en- 
tered Pinkard's kitchen, and ransacked his study." 

Astro finished, "For further particulars I think we'll 
have to apply to Miss Van Amsterdam." 

"Oh !" said Valeska. 

"I forgot to tell you that Pinkard was once engaged 
to Miss Van Amsterdam. She threw him over in a 
particularly nasty way two years ago, when she was 
engaged for a time to Count Vinola." 

"How did you find that out ?" 

"The steward of the Grill Club owns a half interest 
in the Peerless Restaurant, though few of the mem- 
bers know it. I lunched there this noon, and gave him 
some tips on the stock market. Now that Mr. Calen- 
don is a power in Wall Street, he doesn't forget his 
friends. The steward was duly grateful, and told me 
several interesting things. I shall cultivate him in the 
future." 

"Ah!" Valeska looked up, smiling. "So Miss Van 
Amsterdam was afraid of being exposed in his book, 
was she? Well, I hope she'll read the manuscript 
quickly." 

"Yes," said Astro, as they walked back to the stu- 
dio, "I hardly think it will be necessary for us to do 
anything more. I venture to make a prophecy. The 
Lady in Taupe will call on Pinkard again within three 



440 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

days, and the manuscript will be returned. See if I'm 
not right. I'm going to write Pinkard to that effect 
to-night, and enclose my bill for one hundred dollars." 



It was four days afterward when Pinkard made his 
third appearance at the studio, smiling broadly. "By 
Jove, Astro !" he said, "I wish really you'd tell me how 
you did it! I need it for my play. I'll swear it's too 
much for me!" 

"Well, what happened?" 

"I don't see why I need tell you, by Jove !" Pinkard 
shook his head. "You've certainly got your crystal 
ball well trained. I wish I could make my character 
Granthope as sensational as you are. I've got your stu- 
dio all right; but I think I'll have to get you to take 
the part. You could make an audience believe any- 
thing. Of course I got the manuscript back, as you 
said I should." 

"Is your play cast yet?" 

Pinkard laughed outright. "Part of it. What do 
you think? We've signed the Lady in Taupe for the 
heavy woman, after all. She's an adventuress, all 
right! Talk about romance in every-day life! She 
made a grandstand play with me for fair!" 

"Do tell me about it." 

"Well, last night she turned up again, as bold as 
brass. I taxed her with being accessory to a felony, 
and she only laughed, by Jove ! She swore it was all 
a joke, just to awaken my interest in her, and then she 
promised that the manuscript would be returned if I 
gave her a part. Well, the audacity of it tickled me 
just enough to accept. I wanted to see if it was a 



THE LADY IN TAUPE 441 

bluff. And what do you think ? She said, as soon as I 
consented to the bargain, that I'd find the manuscript 
on my study table. I raced in immediately, and there 
it was ! Here's your hundred dollars. You're a wizard. 
Sometimes I suspect that you were in cahoots with the 
Lady in Taupe and planned the whole thing yourself. 
But who on earth is she, anyway ?" 

Astro chuckled good-naturedly. "I'm not wise 
enough to know that. She is certainly clever, though. 
If you hadn't engaged her, I think I should." 

"Well," said Pinkard, rising to take his leave, "there 
are tricks in all trades, they say. I won't inquire into 
yours; but if I want any more sleuthing done, I'll 
know where to go. I'll certainly send you a box for the 
opening night of The Chameleon. I'm going to re- 
write that part for the Lady in Taupe, by Jove! It 
wasn't half good enough for her as it was." 



"Well, Valeska," said Astro, "that proves again the 
value of a knowledge of human nature plus a friend 
'below stairs.' I fancy Miss Van Amsterdam must have 
a rather guilty conscience to be so afraid of the reve- 
lations of Pinkard's book. She certainly secured a 
clever assistant in the Lady in Taupe. It must have 
cost nearly a thousand dollars to put that little game 
through. I'd rather like to know, though, whether it 
was the heiress herself who crawled through the door 
across the shaft. At any rate, it was lucky for Pinkard 
that he wasn't a cad, as he said. I'm afraid his book 
would have never seen the light, else." 

Valeska placed her hand lightly on the Seer's shoul- 
der. "But you didn't mean I mean, you wouldn't 



442 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

really have engaged the Lady in Taupe as your assist- 
ant would you?" 

His answer was not in words ; but Valeska was ap- 
parently satisfied. It was evident that she had no 
longer a fear of any such dilemma. 



MRS. STELLERY'S LETTERS 

"OHE must be a beautiful woman, Mrs. Stellery," 

O said Astro. 

Stellery looked a little embarrassed. He pulled his 
blond mustache thoughtfully. "Why ah yes ; I used 
to think so, when I first marrried her. One gets used to 
a face, you know." 

"I see. Still your wife must be charming. At least, 
her anonymous correspondent seems to think so. He 
is certainly very complimentary. See here," the Seer 
picked up one of the letters from the bunch on the 
table, opened it, and read aloud: 

"It may sound banal to say you're pretty, and 
yet every woman likes to know that she is. You're 
far more; you have an original type of beauty. 
One watches for your smile, hoping it will come 
soon. And that constellation of dimples in your 
cheeks !" 

Stellery laughed faintly. "Just about the way I used 
to talk," he acknowledged. "When I first courted her 
I was quite poetical about those dimples, named 
every one after a different star, I believe. Queer this 
chap has picked up the same idea, though." 

It was on Astro's lips to say that the simile was as 
old as woman's love and man's, but he did not. He 
turned to another letter, typewritten like the other. 

443 



444 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"You're like a little gray mouse. I wonder if 
there is any lurking devil in you for me to evoke? 
With your gray eyes you look so demure! Are 
you really as quiet as you seem ? I'd like to have 
a talk with you alone and see !" 

"She has a devil in her, all right," remarked Stel- 
lery, "and a delicious enough one, too! Oh, she can 
be charming, that mouse! It's very evident that the 
fellow who's writing these letters doesn't know her 
very well. That's one satisfaction." 

Astro took up one more. 

"I saw you at the opera last night. You had 
more style, more apparent culture, more caste, 
than any woman in the house. Once you looked 
full at me, and I wondered what it would seem 
like to have a wife like you. To own you, and be 
owned by so wonderful a creature! How proud 
I'd be!" 

"I remember that night. Mrs. Stellery does look 
well when she's dressed up. But curse such audacity ! 
Writing to my wife like that ! It's an outrage, by Jove ! 
You'll see why I don't care to go to the police with 
these letters. But they must be stopped, and I must 
find out who's doing it !" 

"How long has this thing been going on ?" 

"For two months, now. I have a bunch more of 'em 
at home that my wife gave me." 

The letters on the table were all written on tele- 
graph blanks and enclosed in government-stamped 
envelopes. 

"All typewritten like these?" 

"No; the first ones were crudely printed in pencil, 
as if a child had done them." 



MRS. STELLERY'S LETTERS 445 

"And all of them complimentary?" 

"Every one of them." 

"How often do they come?" 

"Every two or three days. Mrs. Stellery has been 
away visiting in Philadelphia the last three weeks, and 
they followed her down there. She brought back a 
whole lot of them to show to me." 

"Did she show you the first one when it came?" 

Mr. Stellery considered the question a little. 

"No, not for some time; not till she had received 
several, in fact. At first she didn't want to worry me, 
she said ; then she decided that I ought to know about 
them, anyway. Some of the first ones were left in the 
letter-box, but most of them have been sent through 
the mails." 

"Does Mrs. Stellery seem to be much worried at re- 
ceiving them?" 

"Decidedly. Of course, it isn't as if they were as un- 
pleasant as anonymous letters sometimes are. But she 
didn't want me to go to you about them, and thought 
that they'd stop coming after a while. In point of fact 
she hasn't had any this week ; but I want to find out 
who's responsible for them ; and, from what I've heard 
of you, you're the one to do it." 

"I see." Astro let his chin fall into his palms and 
stared at the table in silence for some time. 

Stellery walked up and down, examining the fur- 
nishings of the studio. He picked up a gold stiletto 
and fingered it, walked to the wall and looked at an 
antique bit of tapestry, smiled at Astro's white lizard 
in its cage, and returned to the Seer, who looked up 
to say: 

"It's queer that a man who professes to admire her 



446 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

so much doesn't have the courage to tell her so, isn't 
it?" He watched Stellery between half-closed lids. 

"You don't know her. My wife is a very proud 
woman. She'd not stand for it a minute, I'm sure of 
that. This chap has some romantic notion, or he wants 
to make trouble. It seems to me the letters are a bit 
too literary in style, as if he were used to composition. 
And what he says is true, too ! How does he know my 
wife has dimples in her shoulders, by Jove ? How does 
he know how she looks in an Egyptian scarf? She 
hasn't worn one since her honeymoon when I got one 
in Cairo. Why, I might have written those letters my- 
self ! Little intimate details that make my blood boil 
to think of another man's knowing! Little tricks she 
has I didn't think any one else had ever noticed ! It's 
amazing !" 

"Are you home much of the time?" Astro asked, 
stacking the letters into a pile on the table. 

"Not much; that is, until lately. I'm a busy man, 
and when I'm at home I try to get rid of some of my 
outside work. I have a den down next to my library, 
and often spend the whole evening there. I've been 
trying to get together a lot of information on the his- 
tory of Wall Street coups, and it takes about all my 
spare time. All the relaxation I get, really, is in bridge 
at the Percentage Club. Why?" He stopped and 
darted a look at Astro. 

"Oh, I only wondered how much time your wife 
had to herself." 

Stellery wheeled on him. "See here! I hope that's 
no insinuation! My wife is above suspicion, you un- 
derstand that! Good lord! why should she show me 
these letters, if she weren't?" 



MRS. STELLERY'S LETTERS 447 

/ 

"Oh, my dear sir," said Astro suavely, "don't take 
it that way ! I was wondering if any one were watch- 
ing her, following her. Nevertheless, I should like to 
know, also, just whom she sees, and where, and how. 
You have given me a difficult task, Mr. Stellery, and 
you must forgive me if I seem curious. But I pre- 
sume I shall get it all better in my own way. You 
don't mind my calling on Mrs. Stellery, I imagine?" 

"Why, of course not. She'll be glad to see you, I 
suppose. But, of course, it's a delicate matter, and she's 
naturally sensitive." 

"Very good." Astro rose, tall and distinguished. A 
yeil seemed to be drawn before his eyes, masking all 
expression; as if, having learned all he could of his 
client, he was anxious to be alone to solve the problem. 

Stellery seemed to feel the change of atmosphere. 
He reached for his hat, shook hands, and left the 
studio. 

"How do you diagnose him, Valeska?" Astro asked 
his assistant, who had overheard the talk. 

"A clever man, absorbed in business, a bit cruel, or 
at least inclined to be cold and unsympathetic, and 
yet honorable and loyal at heart. I'd hate to be in love 
with him ! He'd make me suffer. And you ?" 

Astro smiled cryptically. "You work from your 
feelings ; I from my facts," he said. "Fortunately, we 
often come out in the same place. But, speaking of 
facts, try and see what you can make of these letters. 
It's an amusing complication, and a new variation of 
the anonymous letter." 

Valeska sat down and looked over the pile. As she 
examined them one by one and threw them into a 



448 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

heap to begin over again, she kept up a running com- 
mentary. "Mostly stamped at the Madison Square 
branch post-office. A few at Station E that's on West 
Thirty-second Street, isn't it? One or two at Times 
Square branch, and one at Station I, One Hundred 
and Fifth Street. All but that one mailed in the early 
afternoon. Written on a Rem-Smith typewriter; a 
pretty old one, I should say, for the alignment is bad. 
All the small "o's" register below the line, and all the 
capital "N's" above it. And I should say that the writer 
is not in love with her ; only pretending." 

"How do you make that out?" Astro smiled curi- 
ously. 

"I can feel it." 

"Too literary?" 

"Oh, I can't explain it. Only, I know if I got letters 
like this I'd throw them in the fire. 'Your gracile 
hands!' bosh!" 

"Yes, I noticed 'gracile/ It seems to be his pet 
word. Also 'jimp/ Queer love-letters I agree with 
you." 

"Love-letters ! They're deeper than that !" 

"You're right, and there is small possibility of find- 
ing the author unless we discover the motive first. 
There are thousands of persons who might write these 
letters. What I have to decide is, why should any one 
of them do it? It may be a mere practical joke. If 
that's so, it would be done by some one who can watch 
the effect upon her. In any case, I take it that it must 
be some one who knows her. What good could it do 
a stranger?" 

"What good could it do a friend or an acquaint- 
ance?" 



MRS. STELLERY'S LETTERS 449 

"Flatter a woman with all sorts of intimate original 
compliments, not spoken, so that she would have to 
blush, deny, and reprove ; but written, so that she could 
read and reread them in secret as often as she liked, 
arouse her curiosity, a powerful ally ; her sense of the 
romantic, a still stronger one, and finally unmask your- 
self as the adorer; I don't know that it's so bad a 
way, after all." 

"Unless you try it on a woman who shows all the 
letters to her husband," said Valeska dryly. 

"Yes ; but how's the writer to know she will ? He's 
probably conceited enough to think she won't." 

"There's one other way of discovering the writer, 
find a Rem- Smith typewriter with an alignment im- 
perfect in just this way." 

"Yes," said Astro. "We might begin and fine-tooth- 
comb the city for it. Still, accidents do happen, luck- 
ily for prophets and seers. And, at any rate, that will 
be the final proof. Well, I'm going to reread the 
whole bunch, look for some unifying theory and then 
call on the lady. I confess I'm curious to see her." 



Mrs. Stellery, he was to find, was a woman of by no 
means an obvious type. Outwardly, it is true, she 
manifested social grace and experience, was handsome 
rather than beautiful, with a dark serious face and 
finely-chiseled features. One would call her aristo- 
cratic in looks and manner, and yet behind the con- 
ventional aspects in which she showed herself in com- 
pany, a keen observer would note subtlety after sub- 
tlety. That she had a fine mind and a fearless one, 
was occasionally proved by the flashes of wit and per- 



450 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

spicacity that illumined her conversation and colored 
what might otherwise be a rather bored and repressed, 
though perfectly polite habit of talk. She seemed 
aloof, waiting for something interesting, all but ef- 
fete. Her smile was elusive ; but, when it came forth, 
compelling, captivating, and as soon as it had created 
that impression, it faded and the weary manner as- 
serted itself again. Only the mouth was tempera- 
mental. The gray eyes were well schooled, though 
velvety soft. She had a trick of half raising one eye- 
brow, which gave a whimsical relief to her haughty 
pose. One could fancy her always playing a part and 
wonder what the real woman would be like. Not very 
different from other women, after all, if one judged by 
the quivering lips. 

This, at least, is the way Astro described the wom- 
an to Valeska later. He was waiting in the reception- 
room, looking at a novel entitled The Guerdon, when 
Mrs. Stellery entered, one brow delicately arched, as 
if she had not been quite sure whom she was to find. 

He introduced himself, and for a moment she 
seemed embarrassed and turned the conversation to 
the novel. 

"Have you read it?" she asked. "I met the author. 
Mr. Askerson, lately in Philadelphia at a dinner, and 
he sent me the book. I saw him only twice; but he 
seemed quite an extraordinary man." 

Astro turned to the title page, and before rinding 
it noticed the inscription on the fly-leaf, "Viola Stel- 
lery : Her Book," a quaint-enough wording to arouse 
his smile. "A problem?" he asked. 

"Love after marriage the modern theme," she re- 
plied. 



MRS. STELLERY'S LETTERS 451 

"I'd like to know his solution." 

She merely smiled. It was her only smile during the 
interview, and the talk passed to the letters. 

She had no idea, she said, why she was being so 
persecuted. The letters were stupid, and apparently 
meaningless, yet they annoyed her. Their audacity 
had now begun to worry her, as well. If anything 
could be done to stop them, she would be glad. Yes, 
they had ceased coming, for the time being, and per- 
haps it would be as well to wait and do nothing; but 
now Mr. Stellery himself was aroused and wished the 
matter investigated. He was too busy with his press 
of work to spend much time on the matter. He was a 
very busy man. Quite absorbed in his work and she 
had hoped to go abroad with him in the spring. At 
present it seemed impossible. And so on the talk ran, 
while her expression said, "What are you going to do 
about it? I don't care!" 

Then a card was brought in, and she said, "It is Doc- 
tor Primfield, my husband's brother-in-law, you know. 
Married Paul's sister, who died two years ago. He's 
a physician. We see a good deal of him." 

She did not add, "and he bores me" ; but the merest 
drag in her words implied it. In another minute the 
doctor came bruskly in. 

He was a nervous, slim, snapping-eyed man of 
thirty-five, with a jerky way of speaking and moving. 
He said, "Hello, Lila !" shook hands, bowed to Astro, 
and looked at him with a professional eye, seemed to 
decide that the palmist was all right, flapped himself 
into a seat, screwed his feet round the legs of a chair, 
and began to talk very fast to his hostess, ignoring 
Astro. 



452 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Mrs. Stellery endeavored to include both guests in 
the conversation but found it difficult. Astro, seeing 
that he was in the way, at least of the doctor, withdrew 
and went back to his studio. 

On the way he stopped at a bookstore and bought a 
copy of The Guerdon. Dipping into it, walking down 
Fifth Avenue, he came across a sentence, reread it, 
shut the book with a snap, and walked home thinking. 

Arrived at the studio, he laid the book open at the 
page he had read, before Valeska. 

" 'She laid her soft gracile hands, palms down, on 
the table/ " she read aloud, and looked up. "Did you 
find 'jimp', too?" 

"You'll have to read the book and see," was his an- 
swer. And then he described the interview. "If you 
find 'jimp' and 'nuance/ for there are several 
'nuances' in the letters, I think it would be well for 
you to apply to Askerson for a position as secretary. 
Only on the chance, a slim enough one, but all we 
have at present. But Stellery is right; the letters do 
sound literary, though Mrs. Stellery is wrong they 
are by no means stupid. If I could only think of a 
motive for a man like Askerson doing such a senti- 
mental thing!" 

"He might want to see what she'd do, and use the 
episode in fiction." 

"Yes, that's the trouble. Men have many motives, 
and often several at a time, really mixed. Women sel- 
dom act except with a single definite motive, no mat- 
ter how they conceal it or even pretend to themselves 
that it's different. I wonder if the author could pos- 
sibly be Doctor Primfield." 

"Why Doctor Primfield more than another?" 



MRS. STELLERY'S LETTERS 453 

Astro laughed. "There doesn't seem to be any other, 
yet; and there was something queer in the way he 
looked at her." 

"How did he look at her?" 

"This way/' 

But Valeska, seeing too well what was in his eyes, 
turned away her own. "Well, I'll read the book/' she 
remarked, leaving. 

"And I'll read the letters again." 



There were, Valeska found, three "graciles," one 
"jimp," and two "nuances" in Askerson's novel. In 
connection with their recurrence in the letters, the coin- 
cidence might mean anything or nothing. What was 
more important was to get a sample of Askerson's 
typewriting ; and to this end Valeska, in the guise of a 
stenographer in search of work, visited him. 

She found Askerson to be the farthest removed from 
her preconceived idea of a novelist. He was a short, 
round, and chubby, seraphic-looking young man, with 
light curly hair and the mien of a preternaturally sol- 
emn child. His earnestness seemed absurd masquerad- 
ing in this juvenile guise; but, once that inconsistency 
was forgotten, under the spell of his mental power, she 
found him a most interesting man. He was in the 
midst of his work, dressed in a pink silk shirt and 
white duck trousers, his hair a mass of light wavy 
locks over his eyes, smoking a brier pipe. 

He assured her that, though he would like to em- 
ploy a secretary, he could not afford it. Besides, he 
was engaged in dramatizing The Guerdon, and had 
to work it out himself on his machine, inch by inch. 



454 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

He had to refuse her request; but seemed willing to 
talk. 

Valeska had prepared for the interview by reading 
everything of Askerson's that she could find. Among 
other books, she had discovered a slim book of poems, 
privately printed during his college days. As a last 
resort, she used this, hoping to play upon the vanity 
of the poet in him. 

"I heard a girl once recite one of your poems ; Sea 
Magic, I think it was called. Do you know where I 
could get a copy of it ?" 

He seemed pleased. "I didn't know any one remem- 
bered that verse," he said. "It's one of my favorites. 
If you'll wait, I'll see if I can remember it. I'll type- 
write it for you, if you like." He sat down to his ma- 
chine, puckered his brows, and began to write. He 
paused once in a while in search of a phrase, which he 
usually found by a hard glare at the ceiling, and finally 
finished it and presented her with the sheet. 

"Would you mind signing it?" she asked timidly. 

He put his name and a flourish at the bottom of the 
page. 

She could scarcely wait till she was in the car to ex- 
amine the printing. The small "o's" registered a little 
below the lines; but the capital "N's" were in true 
alignment. 

Astro shrugged his shoulders when he saw it, and 
pointed silently with the stem of his narghile to the 
word "gracile" in the last stanza. 



Two days after that, a hasty summons came from 
Stellery over the telephone, at four in the afternoon. 



MRS. STELLERY'S LETTERS 455 

He wished Astro to come immediately to the house; 
but did not care to tell, over the wire, why he was 
needed. 

Astro took a taxicab and went up-town immedi- 
ately. He found the broker in his den, writing at a big 
table covered with sheets of paper. On a smaller table 
stood his typewriter, a sheet, half written, sticking 
from the roller. 

Stellery looked up with a worried expression. "Take 
a seat," he said. "I want your advice ; or, rather, your 
help. Things have come to a crisis. Brush those pa- 
pers on the floor anywhere." 

As Astro sat down, he noticed a waste-paper basket 
behind him, a little to the left. As he seated himself, 
he pushed his chair back a foot or so, so that the bas- 
ket was within easy reach. 

Stellery took a letter from his pocket and passed it 
over. "Here's what came yesterday," he said. 

Astro opened it and read : 

"I simply can't wait any longer! I must see 
you ! You must know, by this time, how madly I 
am in love with you. I don't dare to speak to you 
face to face, unless I receive some encouragement. 
But I want to end this suspense immediately and 
know my fate! Will you meet me to-morrow 
afternoon, at six o'clock, at the prescription coun- 
ter of the Times Square drug store? If you'll be 
there and will let me speak to you for only five 
minutes, please leave a candle lighted in the win- 
dow of your room to-night between ten and eleven 
o'clock." 

"Well, did she light the signal?" said Astro hand- 
ing back the letter. 



456 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

Stellery frowned and nodded. "See here, you can 
imagine how I must feel to have this sort of thing 
going on!" he said. "And it's enough to make me 
fairly sick ! But I want to trap that man and find out 
who he is. That's why I sent for you. Mrs. Stellery 
objected very strongly to lending herself to the scheme 
in any way. It was all I could do to get her to light 
the candle ; in fact, I had to do that myself. But, after 
talking it over, and deciding that there was after all 
no real danger of her compromising herself, she con- 
sented to be at the rendezvous this evening at six 
o'clock. She doesn't seem to be curious the thing 
disgusts her but she wants to put an end to the mat- 
ter. Of course I can't be seen there, or he'd never ap- 
pear at all. That's what makes me wild. I'd like to 
go down and punch that chap's head! Instead, I've 
got to stay here and wait. I want you to follow her 
down nobody will know you have anything to do 
with it, of course and find out who it is, if it's some 
one she doesn't know. Then we'll put that chap in 
jail, if it's a possible thing!" 

He had worked himself into a passion as he talked, 
and, rising and gesticulating, walked back and forth 
in the little room. 

Astro watched his chance, and, when Stellery's back 
was turned, reached into the waste-paper basket, drew 
out a sheet of typewritten paper, crumpled it up in his 
hand, and slid it into his pocket. 

"Is Mrs. Stellery at home?" he asked. 

"No; she had an appointment this afternoon. But 
she'll be at the drug store at six, she promised." 

"I wish I had known this before," said Astro. "I 
should have liked to have my assistant with me." 



MRS. STELLERY'S LETTERS 457 

"I've been trying to get you on the 'phone all day. 
But, in point of fact, though Mrs. Stellery consented 
to the signal, I had to argue with her all this morning 
to get her to meet this man. You can imagine how I 
feel! I wonder if I've done wrong? Can you fancy 
how it feels to send your wife to a rendezvous to meet 
an anonymous correspondent ? By Jove ! I didn't know 
how much I loved her, before ! You know, I've neg- 
lected her shamefully, I suppose. I've been absorbed 
in my work, and that's why this sort of thing has been 
possible. I suppose people have seen her going about 
alone, and have thought perhaps we were estranged, 
even. And every thing this damned scoundrel has been 
writing her is true, by Jove. She is charming, you can 
see that! She's one of ten thousand, that woman! I 
ought to know. Now, at the faintest prospect of los- 
ing her, absurd as that chance is why, I'm fairly 
crazy about her. If I saw that man with her, I don't 
care who he is, I believe I'd kill him !" 

"Which is another reason for your not going," said 
Astro, rising. "There must be no scene. You can 
trust Mrs. Stellery to make the talk brief and forcible 
enough, and, in any case, you may depend on me to 
protect her." 



It was nearly a quarter to six before he reached 
Times Square. He entered the building and started 
down-stairs toward the subway entrance on his way to 
the drug store below the street, when a man brushed 
past him, almost jostling him off the step in his haste. 
The man looked round to apologize; it was Doctor 
Primfield. 



458 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

"Oh, I beg your pardon!" he said, and looked at 
Astro queerly. "Haven't I met you somewhere?" he 
added. 

Astro recalled the meeting but did not mention his 
own name. 

The doctor appeared to be a little embarrassed. 
"I've got to catch a subway train; so you'll have to 
excuse me," he said. "Otherwise, I'd like to have a 
talk. I have some theories of my own about capillary 
markings on the fingers I'd like to discuss with you. 
Good day !" and he was off like a busy squirrel. As 
he passed the drug-store entrance Astro noticed that 
he gave a swift, apparently uneasy look inside. 

Mrs. Stellery, however, had not yet appeared ; but at 
a few minutes before six she walked in the door, hand- 
ed a prescription to the clerk at the desk, and seated 
herself without appearing to recognize the Seer, who 
lounged at a counter some distance away. She was 
beautifully dressed in the prevalent mode, and sat like 
a fashion-plate, without expression on her proud face, 
as if bored to death. 

Six o'clock struck, and no one approached Her. Fif- 
teen minutes went by, and still she sat, calm and 
haughty, in her place. Finally, when the prescription 
was handed her, she walked over to Astro and bowed 
coldly. 

"Do you think it will be any use waiting longer?" 
she asked. 

"Not the slightest," was his reply. "No one will 
come, I am quite sure." 

She looked up at him with a sudden keen expres- 
sion. "You are sure ?" she repeated. 

"Quite so, Mrs. Stellery. May I escort you home?" 



MRS. STELLERY'S LETTERS 459 

When they arrived, the servant who opened the door 
put a note into Mrs. Stellery's hand, saying that it had 
been delivered by a messenger boy. She tore it open, 
read it, and passed it to Astro : 

"It was, of course, impossible for me to speak 
to you, as you were watched." 



The next day, as Astro and Valeska were driving 
up-town, returning from a case that was then puzzling 
him, he proposed that they rest at Sherry's and take 
tea there. It was not yet four o'clock, and there was 
no one else in the room when they entered. Tea, muf- 
fins, and jam had hardly been ordered, however, when 
Valeska suddenly exclaimed : 

"Why, there's Mr. Askerson now !" 

"And there's Mrs. Stellery as well !" Astro added. 

Master and assistant gave each other a quick glance, 
then turned to the approaching couple. They were 
earnestly conversing, and did not, apparently, notice 
that there was any one else in the room as they walked 
across to the opposite side and sat down. Then Mrs. 
Stellery cast her gray eyes slowly about the room and 
met Astro's. He and Valeska could see the color man- 
tle her cheeks as she turned away. Askerson was 
slower at perceiving who was present; but when at 
last he noticed Valeska, he turned suddenly and said 
something to Mrs. Stellery. The latter was too well- 
bred to turn ; perhaps she was too busy in attempting 
to mask her thoughts in her haughty cold expression. 
They did not look over again. 

"Well, if Mr. Askerson has written those letters, it's 
about time for him to explain now," said Valeska. "I 



460 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

> 

think he's dear ! But why should he take such an elab- 
orate method of making love to her when he can meet 
her like this whenever he wants to ?" 

"Perhaps he can't." 

"There's no reason why he shouldn't, is there? It's 
all right." 

"Do you think he wrote them?" 

"I don't know. If it hadn't been for your meeting 
Doctor Primfield, I'd be surer. Askerson's typewriter 
leaves it in doubt. 

"Oh, the typewriter, we agreed, was only the final 
test. What you must seek is a motive." 

"Well, then, Askerson is romantic and a bit afraid 
of her. Doctor Primfield is practical ; but afraid of her 
husband. Either may be in love with her." 

"I don't think you have proved a sufficient motive 
yet for so extraordinary a course. But, by Jove ! look 
at that ! If there isn't Primfield himself !" 

It was Primfield, indeed, who entered at that mo- 
ment, looked about, caught sight of Mrs. Stellery, 
walked over to her table, and spoke. She reached out 
her hand and smiled faintly. There were a few words 
of introduction, and he sat down at their table and 
lighted a cigarette. 

"Now," said Astro, "you have a chance to vindicate 
your woman's perception. Watch and see which of 
those two men is in love with her." 

Valeska narrowed her eyes and watched. It was 
five minutes before she said deliberately, "I think nei- 
ther of them is." 

Astro laughed softly. "Well, my dear, I have a bet- 
ter motive than you have yet discovered." 

"What is it?" she asked eagerly. 




Watch and see which of those two men is in love with her." 



MRS. STELLERY'S LETTERS 461 

"I won't tell you yet ; I'll give you a chance to think 
it over by yourself. But at ten o'clock to-morrow 
morning the writer of the Stellery anonymous letters 
will walk into my studio." 

At ten next morning Valeska came swiftly into the 
laboratory where Astro was experimenting with phos- 
phorescent sulfid of calcium screens. The sight of 
her face made the Seer smile, it was so puzzled in its 
expression. 

"Mrs. Stellery is here. She says you wished to see 
her. Are you going to have her meet the author of the 
letters?" 

"Yes," he answered, putting down a varnish brush. 
"And if you want enlightenment on human nature, I 
advise you to listen in the anteroom." 

He took a piece of crumpled paper covered with 
typewriting from his pocket and handed it to her. She 
looked at it carefully ; then, as she stood for a moment 
staring at him, her face changed. 

"Oh !" she breathed, and walked rapidly back to the 
reception-room. 

Mrs. Stellery was waiting for him, standing beside 
the granite Thoth in the center of the studio. Her eyes 
were fixed blankly; but at his coming she turned a 
white face suddenly to him. 

"You said that you had discovered the authorship of 
the letters," she said, and her voice was very low. "I'm 
anxious about it. Do you really know? Are you 
sure?" 

He nodded gravely, motioned her to a seat, and sat 
down himself. "My dear Mrs. Stellery," he began, "I 
want you to trust implicitly in my tact and my consid- 



462 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

eration. I shall do nothing whatever without your con- 
sent, you may be sure. Indeed, it was to ask your ad- 
vice that I sent for you." 

She continued staring at him anxiously, and her lips 
formed the words, "My husband !" 

"Mr. Stellery shall know only what you please to 
tell him yourself," he answered. 

"Then you do know !" Her lips were trembling. 

"It was my business to find out." 

"Who wrote them, then?" she demanded almost 
fiercely, as if defying him. 

"Mrs. Stellery," he replied, "you are a clever woman. 
Not only that, but you have a profound knowledge of 
men. And you have a heart that, in its danger, knows 
how to ally itself with your brain." 

"You mean" 

"That you wrote them yourself !" 

For a few minutes no one would have recognized 
her for the proud serene woman of the world. A 
strong effort of her will brought her back to something 
like composure ; but now she must talk. 

"If you knew what I have suffered !" she exclaimed. 
"We have been growing away from each other for a 
year. If it had been only a quarrel, we might have 
made it up ; but this was only his carelessness, his ab- 
sorption in his business, his thoughtless cruelty. I 
wanted to arouse him, rekindle his interest in me, make 
him love me again, if I could. Oh ! can't you see ? It 
may not have been right it was a deceit, I know 
but I missed him so !" 

"My dear Mrs. Stellery, you needn't justify your- 
self to me. All I need to say is that I'm sure your 
ruse has worked." 



MRS. STELLERY'S LETTERS 463 

"Oh, I know it has ! But I had some good advice, 
it wasn't all sheer woman's wit Mr. Askerson 
helped me. I don't know how I came to confide in 
him I've seen him so few times but he wrote most 
of the letters for me, and I copied them ; so they would 
seem more like a man's letters, you know. But I con- 
fess I don't know what you'll think of my praising 
myself so all those intimate personal things were 
truly my own. Most of them my husband had said to 
me during our honeymoon. I thought they would be 
most likely to arouse his jealousy." 

"Oh, he's jealous enough," said Astro. "You needn't 
fear that you haven't succeeded. He has threatened to 
kill the writer of the letters." 

She smiled wistfully. "Well, I hope he won't kill 
me when he finds out I'm the one. And that's the 
question ! I always expected to tell him ; but now I'm 
afraid to. I didn't quite intend to let it go so far, and 
I don't know how to explain. What shall I do?" She 
looked up at him with tears in her eyes. There was no 
haughtiness left, now. 

"I think you needn't worry," said Astro, giving her 
his hand in sympathy; "for I met Mr. Stellery this 
morning on his way to the office. He told me that he 
intended to take you abroad immediately. That, he 
said, would stop this nonsense and give him a chance to 
get acquainted with you all over again. He said he 
was sure you had been left alone too much." 

"Really?" she said, suddenly smiling. "Oh, then, 
I'm sure the letters will stop ! And," she added softly, 
"when I've quite won him back, and we're happy again, 
I'll confess everything." She paused a moment, then 
spoke as if to herself. "There's a little canal in Venice 



464 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

I love. It's called the Rio Margherita. I think it will 
be there in June just after sunset." 

She looked up wistfully as she added, "Oh, I do 
hope he'll forgive me for being such a schemer !" 



BLACK LIGHT 

SURELY it had been a curious wooing; for Astro, 
Seer of Secrets, so confident in other matters, so 
keen in his insight into human nature, so quick to think 
and bold to act, had shown from the first a strange 
timidity when it came to a personal relation with Va- 
leska, his assistant. His manner had long been merely 
brotherly, modified only by his relation as instructor to 
her. But of late he had begun to make tentative sug- 
gestions, as if to try and sound her affection. From 
these Valeska had instinctively warned him off, and 
his tact had made him accede to her wishes. It seemed 
as if he feared to lose her by speaking too soon. 

But at last he had spoken. The words had sprung 
unpremeditated from his lips, on the surging impulse 
of the moment. Nor were they the fruit of any 
dramatic moment. Merely the sight of her in a char- 
acteristic attitude at the table, her blond head illumined 
by the electric light, and a sudden terror struck him 
lest destiny should sweep them apart and write the 
story of their two years' friendship in the chronicles 
of the past. So many things in his life had faded 
like autumn leaves ! He must be sure of her, sure of 
having her beside him always, sure of the inspiration 
of her companionship. The speech came on the in- 
stant in a passionate demand. 

It had appeared -to frighten her for the moment, as 

465 



4 66 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

if it were a question she had long been dreading. She 
had asked for time in which to consider it, and he 
had reluctantly consented. Since then he had not 
mentioned the subject; but he had watched her silently 
with fear and constraint in his manner. 

Valeska found it hard to explain why she had been 
unwilling to answer; but, as she went over and over 
the question, it seemed to her that their friendship 
had been merely the product of propinquity. They 
had been thrown together continually, had incurred 
danger, and had enjoyed victory. How, then, could 
she be sure that it was no more than friendship, a 
common interest in their work ? Love, she had always 
thought, should come with a flash of sudden illumina- 
tion, as a divine gift, as a sudden wonder, convincing 
in its very mystery. But her feeling was it not the 
mere result of a daily comradeship? Was it a fatal 
irresistible appeal of the soul? She found him aristo- 
cratic, generous, talented, finely perceptive, and deli- 
cate ; but was this all ? Her love, if it were love, spoke 
a commonplace tongue and she had wanted words of 
fire. So, for a week, she went over and over the sub- 
ject, subjecting herself and Astro to a searching criti- 
cism, and as yet she had found no answer. 



He came into the room one morning, carrying from 
his laboratory a large black square object, which he 
set on the table. She looked at it, and then her eyes 
questioned him. 

"It is a lantern of a special kind," he said. "It casts 
black light." 

"Black light!" Her delicate brows rose. 



BLACK LIGHT 467 

"That's what Doctor Le Bon calls it. You see, the 
visible spectrum (or all the light we can see) is only 
about one per cent, of all the vibrant energy emitted 
by the sun or any other luminous body. Beyond that 
visible spectrum lie, at one end the ultraviolet rays, 
and at the other the infra-red. I have here a lighted 
lantern enclosed in an opaque box, which cuts off all 
the visible rays, but permits the other ninety-nine per 
cent, to pass through. The flame inside is now cast- 
ing rays of black light through the opaque sides, 
black, because they are invisible ; light, because they 
will illuminate certain objects. 

"I want you to witness an experiment. You recall 
the celebrated interference experiment of Fresnel, in 
which light added to light produced darkness? Well, 
I shall show you how darkness added to darkness may 
give birth to light. It is Le Bon's discovery. Now 
come into my dark room, and I'll show it to you." 

At the farther end of the laboratory he opened a 
door which led into a small dark room. Entering this, 
and closing the laboratory door, he opened one into 
another dark room beyond, carrying the dark lantern. 
They both entered the inner dark room, which was 
ventilated through a circuitous light-proof pipe. The 
room was absolutely black; but Astro, well used to 
the place, feeling his way with his hands, set the lan- 
tern on a table. 

"Upon a shelf here," he said, "is a Chinese image 
of Buddha, which some weeks ago I coated with phos- 
phorescent sulfid of calcium. By this time all its 
luminosity is gone, and it is absolutely invisible. But 
now I shall direct the invisible rays of black light from 
this lantern upon it. Watch!" 



468 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

As she waited there in the silence and the dark, Va- 
leska strained her eyes for nearly a minute in vain. 
Then a faint luminous blur was apparent. It gathered 
intensity and showed a triangle of violet radiance. In 
another minute it had taken the form of a squatting 
Buddha and glowed plainly, the only visible thing in 
the room. 

"It's wonderful !" she breathed. 

"Oh, that's not half that can be done with black 
light," Astro said, as he took the lantern and led the 
way out. "With it one can photograph objects through 
an opaque screen, when they are illuminated by ordi- 
nary sunlight. By using a screen of sulfid of zinc, 
and training this black light upon an object, one could 
see it even at midnight, half a mile away." 

When they came out into the great studio, he 
dropped to his favorite place on the divan and went 
on. "Phosphorescence, opalescence and fluorescence 
are queer things, Valeska. They haven't been half un- 
derstood till lately, when what is called 'the new 
physics' came into being through the discoveries in 
radioactivity by Monsieur and Madame Curie. It used 
to be thought that after a phosphorescent object had re- 
mained in the dark for a while and had ceased to be 
luminous, it ceased its radioactivity, and needed a new 
bath of light to make it act again. But Le Bon found 
that it would radiate for months after all visible glow 
had disappeared. We have proved it with this black 
light just now." 

He had taken up his narghile and sat looking off 
into space with a mystic expression on his face. It 
was one of his dreamy, philosophical moments. Va- 
leska recognized the mood and waited for the inevita- 



BLACK LIGHT 469 

ble parable. For, to Astro the Seer, modern science 
was but an allegory of the intellect and the emotions. 
By it he explained even his own charlatanry. 

"Isn't it like absence? While our friend is present, 
he is bathed in the matter-of-fact light of day; he is 
radiant, luminous. When he disappears, for a time 
that impression of him lasts, like the phosphorescent 
glow. Then, the light fades and we begin to forget, 
all save those who truly love, who truly know, whose 
soul can still perceive the mysterious astral black light 
he radiates through the dark. His influence persists, 
transmuted from mental into psychic energy. Selah!" 

He dropped his narghile and sat with folded hands, 
looking at her as if she were miles away. His smile 
was the calm expression of his own bronze Buddha. 

But Valeska took the parable to herself eagerly. 
"Yes, yes, it's true, and that's just what I need to 
know before I give you the answer you want ! I don't 
know whether I really love you or not, you're too 
near me, too intermingled with my life and my work. 
If I could try that test of absence, if I could wait till 
your phosphorescence fades out, then I could tell 
whether or not I was affected by your black light. I'd 
know then just what you were to me alone in the 
dark!" 

"Shall we try it?" he asked gently. "Shall I dis- 
appear for a week, say?" 

"Ah, I'm afraid it would take at least a month!" 
she said. 

He laughed. "Well, as long as you like." 

"Will you really?" 

He bowed gravely. "I shall disappear to-morrow. 
You may use the studio as you please; and, when 



470 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

you've found out whether or not you can be affected 
by my psychic black light, you will let me know." 

"Do I care? Do I care enough for him?" Valeska 
asked herself the next morning as she walked to the 
studio. She had thought of it almost all night; she 
had risen with the question on her lips. She had seen 
him every day for two years. The thought that to- 
day, and perhaps for a week or a month, she would not 
see him, gave her a strange feeling. Was it a relief, 
or a pain? As yet, she could not decide. 

As she entered the studio it seemed strange not to 
find him there, at first. Then, insensibly she began to 
find it hard to believe that he was not there. Every- 
thing suggested his presence, the curiosities he had 
collected, the weapons, the Egyptian sculptures, tapes- 
tries, gems, all evidences of his taste and his re- 
searches. She could not rid herself of the feeling that 
at any moment he might come in. He was near her, 
somewhere, waiting and watching for her. 

But this, she said to herself, was only the effect of 
the familiar environment in which she had been used 
to see him. But it became at last too strong, too in- 
sistent. Surely she could never decide till she sought 
a new atmosphere. She was sorry that she had not 
disappeared, instead of Astro. But at least she could 
leave the studio and be alone for a while, to think it 
out. As she opened the outer door, she heard the soft 
ringing of the electric bell in the studio which warned 
them of visitors. It still rang as she closed the door, 
and it gave her an uncanny feeling, the one spark 
of life in that dead empty place. She hurried away 
and walked swiftly toward the park. 



" 




Shall \ve try it?" he asked gently. ''Shall I disappear 
for a week, say?" 



BLACK LIGHT 

' "Do I care?" Valeska had little doubt of it wlien 
the next morning she walked to the studio. One day 
had made her sure. She wanted to see Astro again 
more than she wanted anything in the world! The 
day before had been empty and vapid. She had scarce- 
ly reached the reservoir in the park before she knew 
what a fool she had been ever to doubt. The product 
of mere propinquity or not, the feeling she had for 
him was paramount over every other emotion. She 
wanted him back, to see him, hear him, and well, 
he would find out what else! 

Again the empty studio smote her with trie strange 
feeling that, despite the fact that she did not meet 
him there, he was near her. Now it was a tantalizing 
thought. Why had she not arranged how to notify 
him ? She had been so sure she would need a month 
that she had not asked where he was going, and she 
had now no means of letting him know. It was ab- 
surd! Must she wait for him to write? 

After all, had she really no means of discovering 
his whereabouts ? She looked eagerly about the studio. 
For two years she had been his assistant in unraveling 
mysteries. Why should she not now profit by her 
apprenticeship? But how? 

It came to her then that it was, so to speak, by means 
of black light that he himself had always worked. 
Most people saw only the outward and visible signs, 
the one per cent, of facts that were luminous and ob- 
vious. His delicate mind registered the infra-red rays 
of psychic action. He vibrated to the ultraviolet 
waves. Could she not do so as well? She was a 
woman and had intuitions as well as intellect ; she had 
emotions finer than men's. But her emotions told her 



472 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

somehow, irrationally, that Astro was still there in the 
studio. She could not believe, quite, in his absence. 
Everything shrieked his name to her. She could close 
her eyes and see him before the porphyry sphinx, ex- 
amining thumb prints at his table, poring over the 
mimic planets of the orrery, figuring out nativities, 
gazing into his crystal ball. 

That would never do ! She must keep her imagina- 
tion as an instrument with which to work on facts. 
Where, then, were the facts that could help her ? She 
set herself to investigate the studio thoroughly, inch 
by inch. 

At the first round, she found nothing not in its ac- 
customed place, nothing new, nothing significant. She 
sat down at his table to think, putting her elbows on 
the blotter and letting her head drop into her palms. 
Her eyes fell on the blue blotter. It was changed 
every morning, ordinarily ; but now she noticed pencil 
markings, a small square drawn with its diagonals. 
Would this be mere thoughtless penciling, or perhaps 
a clue? Next, an envelope lying beside the inkstand 
attracted her attention. Surely that could mean noth- 
ing, and yet, as it lay with its face down, the X shaped 
cross of its gummed edges suggested the diagonals 
of the square. Either one alone might have no sig- 
nificance; but the two taken together the hint, per- 
haps, repeated? She smiled at the very absurdity of 
so frail a clue. 

Then her eyes dropped to the waste-paper basket. 
This should have been emptied yesterday morning, yet 
it contained a few scraps of paper. She stooped and 



BLACK LIGHT 473 

drew them out, one by one. Three were blank. On 
the fourth she found the following: 

"St. Patrick's Cath 115 lOth-Ave. 

Pier 83 N. R 320 3d-Ave." 

She gave a little cry of triumph. Here at last was 
something to work on! She considered the ad- 
dresses carefully. What did they mean? Astro had 
never mentioned such places ; yet the notes were in his 
crabbed handwriting. She knew of a certainty that 
the studio had been cleaned the day before yesterday. 
This writing, then, must have been put into the basket 
after they had had their talk. If so, then they meant 
something. The first thing to do was, of course, to 
look up these localities and see what she could find 
there. Saint Patrick's Cathedral and the Pier 83 
seemed unlikely places to discover news of Astro's 
whereabouts ; but she determined to visit all four be- 
fore she returned. 

She called a taxicab and set out first for Pier 83. 
This, she found, was at the end of the Forty-second- 
Street side of the Weehawken ferry. She walked along 
the wharf, and found a tug laid up there. Besides 
this, there was no sign of life. What should she do? 
Ask the tugboat men if they knew where Astro was? 
That was nonsense ! She walked up and down for a 
half-hour, and discovered nothing which she could 
possibly twist into evidence. She decided, then, that 
she would visit the other places, and then, if she found 
nothing suspicious, return over the ground again. 

Saint Patrick's Cathedral next. There it stood, on 
the corner of the avenue, and she recalled how Astro 



474 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

had once called her attention to its resemblance to a 
vast Gothic rabbit. The two transepts did resemble 
a bunny's haunches, and the front towers were like 
ears. She smiled at the thought; but got no nearer 
Astro by the pleasantry. She walked inside, sat down 
on a seat, and thought. What associations could this 
have with his whereabouts? Why, he was not even 
a Catholic ! He always said He was a Buddhist. Well, 
if this were a part of the black light his memory ema- 
nated, it was black indeed ! 

In Third Avenue her hopes went up. Number 320 
was the entrance to a brick apartment-house. There 
was a sign indicating that flats were to let, and she 
rang for the janitor. By him she was shown a very 
pleasant "four rooms and bath", whose windows were 
on a level with the elevated railroad; but it was as 
bare as the palm of one's hand, with no lines she could 
read. She asked tentatively of the other occupants, 
and found that all, with the exception of a couple of 
old men, were married families. Yes, a man had been 
to look at the flat yesterday; but he had worn a beard. 
Was this a disguise? But if Astro had come there 
with the intention of renting a flat temporarily, why 
should he have left the address in the waste basket? 
And, moreover, why should he have coupled its ad- 
dress with Pier 83? 

There remained only the Tenth Avenue address, 
and this she found to be a huge unoccupied building 
with shuttered windows, belonging to a gas company. 
Opposite was a vacant lot piled with lumber refuse, 
beams and timbers; on the other side was the gas- 
tank's cylindrical bulk. She could find no watch- 
man to give her permission to enter. What pretext 



BLACK LIGHT 475 

could sfie give for wanting to see the premises, even 
if she inquired at the office on Eighteenth Street ? She 
could think of none. Better think it over and plan a 
campaign. She had this much information, at least. 
Now what she had to do was to find some plausible 
theory to utilize it. 

Back she went to her room and cried herself to sleep, 
as any other woman would. She missed Astro more 
than ever. Before, she had a hunger and thirst for his 
presence; now she wanted his help and protection. 
Oh, she was sure enough, now! She felt lost with- 
out him; she saw how necessary he was to her, how 
he had made life different, romantic, picturesque. 

It was a sad little Valeska that crept to the studio 
next day. She took up one of the cushions of his 
divan and kissed it passionately, buried her face in it 
for a while, then sat resolutely down at his desk to work 
out the mystery of his location. The more she thought 
of it now, the surer she became that he must have left 
these clues on purpose to guide her in her search. It 
would be like him to test her that way; there was a 
sort of humor in it that, at last, she saw. Well, then, 
she would be a worthy pupil. She would prove that 
his lessons had not been without effect. She, too, 
would be a seer of secrets ! 

With a smile on her lips now, she began the problem. 
But again she stopped. It was absurd to think of him 
as being away. She was so used to seeing him here 
in the studio that she could not take her task seriously. 
Could not she go into a trance, as he had so often pre- 
tended to, and summon him to her, or project her spirit 
to meet his? Could she not perceive the radiance of 



476 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES ' 

his secret black light directly through her intuitions, 
without this tedious and stupid analytical logical 
process? As she sat there she could almost feel him 
at her side, leaning over her shoulder, looking from 
the door of his laboratory. She looked up with a start 
from her reverie, and was a little frightened to find 
herself alone in the great studio with its shadowy cor- 
ners. Then she went back conscientiously to her study. 
What was the meaning of the four addresses? It 
seemed evident that he could not be in any one of the 
places ; that would be too easy an explanation of the 
mystery. Was there any esoteric significance to the 
Weehawken ferry or Pier 83? She laughed at the 
idea. All she could gather from the addresses was that 
Astro was probably in New York. Well, that was 
something. Her mind jumped to the square with di- 
agonals, to the cross on the envelope. How did they 
fit in ? Why, for all she knew, the pattern on the car- 
pet, or the legs of the chairs could solve the mystery ! 

No, there must be some relationship between these 
things. If these evidences were left purposely, they 
were correlated one to another. Her mind went back 
to memories of Astro. He used to jump up and walk 
back and forth as he considered his problems. So up 
rose Valeska and began to pace the room. 

As she passed the book-shelves, she noticed that one 
book stuck out a little from the others. It was a vol- 
ume of Poe's Tales. She pushed it back and con- 
tinued her promenade. She went over the addresses 
again, Saint Patrick's, Pier 83, 320 Third Avenue, 
the gas works. It came to her vaguely that these 



BLACK LIGHT 477 

places were about equal distances apart. Now could 
that mean anything ? Then she thought that she could 
consider them more clearly if she had a map. 

She went to the shelf, therefore, took down and un- 
folded a large map of New York, and laid it on the 
table. She next took four pins and marked each place. 
They were indeed equal distances apart ; she measured 
them with a ruler. Then she noticed that 'they seemed 
to form a square, and tested it with a little transparent 
celluloid triangle Astro used for plotting horoscopes, 
and found it was true. The sides were about a mile 
and a quarter long. Again she dropped her chin on 
her palms and her elbows on the table and studied the 
pins. 

But her thoughts wandered. It seemed as if Astro 
should be there to help her as he always had. She 
thought, with a smile, that if it were propinquity that 
had made her love him, propinquity was what she 
wanted most. But she forced her mind to the sub- 
ject and remembered the diagram drawn on the blotter 
of the table. Why, that was a square, too! And it 
had its diagonals drawn. The hint reached her at last 
and, seizing a pencil and ruler, she drew in the di- 
agonals on the map, and looked curiously to see where 
they intersected. On Thirty-fourth Street, between 
Seventh and Eighth Avenues. But the studio itself 
was at 234 West Thirty-fourth Street. 

She jumped up, then, her hand on her beating heart. 
Her intuitions, then, were true ! She had felt the black 
light of his presence, though he was invisible! He 
was in the studio, and had been from the first! He 



478 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

had, perhaps, even looked from the doorway, as she 
had fancied. She trembled as if at the presence of a 
ghost, and feared to see him. 

But where was he? Must she look in every nook 
and corner? Should she call him out loud? Hungry 
for him as she was, she could not yet do that; her 
heart beat too fast. Yet she longed to tear the mystery 
open and let in the light again the old-fashioned sun- 
light of his actual visible presence and break into 
tears on his shoulder. She moved across the room on 
tiptoe now, as if she were guilty of some crime in be- 
ing there, threw herself on the divan, and tried to think 
it out. 

As she calmed herself, the thought of the book she 
had replaced on the shelf came to her, and she ran 
across the studio to take it from its shelf. It fell open 
of itself to The Purloined Letter, and she smiled to 
herself. That proved her hypothesis to be right. Was 
not the purloined letter concealed in plain sight, so 
prominently placed that it escaped the search? Then 
Astro's hiding-place would be as obvious, if she rea- 
soned aright. Could she solve that as she had solved 
the other, by her intuitions, by means of his black 
light? 

Black light! The very words were enough to tell 
her. Where should he be, but in the dark room where 
she first witnessed his experiment, where the little 
phosphorescent Buddha, though invisible in the dark, 
still radiated its mysterious waves of energy? 

So it was solved ! She hugged herself with delight, 
and smiled at the prettiness of his plans. How well he 



BLACK LIGHT 479 

knew her and her mental processes indeed, he must 
know her very soul, to be so sure of her and her ways ! 
Indeed, he was the Seer of secrets; for he had seen 
hers before she had discovered it for herself, had waited 
with patience and tact till she should know and be 
sure of her own love for him. A wave of impatience 
to see him, speak to him, touch him, swept over her. 

Of course he had retreated to his hiding-place when 
he had heard the ringing of the bell on the door. She 
had been there for an hour, and he must be tired of 
waiting there, well ventilated as the dark room was. 
So she crossed to the laboratory door, opened the door 
of the little anteroom, shut it behind her, and put her 
hand to the inner door, opened it, and listened. 

It was black and still. For a moment she almost 
fainted with the fear that, after all, she might be mis- 
taken and he was not there. Her childhood's terror 
of the dark returned; but she put it away and tried 
to speak aloud. Her voice came thin and small in 
that closed space. 

"Astro, I have found you !" she said tremblingly. "I 
have seen your black light in the dark, and I know, 
now ! I want you, dear !" 

She gave a little cry as she felt two arms take her 
in their grasp. Then the touch of his lips thrilled her, 
and she laid her head on his shoulder in peace and con- 
tentment. 



When Astro took her out into the light, it blinded 
them with sunshine so that they staggered and could 
hardly see. 



480 THE MASTER OF MYSTERIES 

The thrilling of the electric bell interrupted them in 
their dream. 

"It is the clergyman and the witnesses," said Astro, 
smiling. "They are just five minutes ahead of time. 
I didn't expect you'd find me till eleven o'clock at 
least!" 



THE END 



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