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Full text of "Room number 3, and other detective stories"

ROOM NUMBER 

3 



KATHARINE 
GREEN 



S. EDWIN CORLE, JR. 

HIS BOOK 




THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 
OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 

IN MEMORY OF 
MRS. VIRGINIA B. SPORER 



ROOM 
NUMBER 3 



AND OTHER DETECTIVE STORIES 



By ANNA KATHARINE GREENE 

AUTHOR OF 

"The Mystery of The Hasty Arrow," 
"The Golden Slipper," "That Affair Next Door,'* etc. 




A. L. BURT COMPANY 
Publishers New York 

Published by arrangement with DODD, MEAD & COMPANY 



COPYRIGHT, 1912, BY 
ANNA KATHARINE GREEN 

COPYRIGHT, iqoo, 1910, BY 
THE CROWELL PUBLISHING CO. 

COPYRIGHT, 1910, BY 
ABBOTT & BRIGGS INC. 

COPYRIGHT, 1913, BY 
DODD, MEAD & COMPANY 
At " Masterpieces of Mystery " 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

I ROOM NUMBER 3 . . . . 3 

II MIDNIGHT IN BEAUCHAMP Row . 85 

III THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON . 107 

IV THE LITTLE STEEL COILS . . 149 

V THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 181 

VI THE AMETHYST Box . . . 209 

VII THE GREY LADY . . . .3" 

VIII THE THIEF 339 

IX THE HOUSE IN THE MIST . . 369 



2039213 



ROOM NUMBER 3 



I 

" WHAT door is that ? You've opened all the others ; 
why do you pass that one by? " 

"Oh, that! That's only Number 3. A mere 
closet, gentlemen," responded the landlord in a 
pleasant voice. " To be sure, we sometimes use it 
as a sleeping-room when we are hard pushed. Jake, 
the clerk you saw below, used it last night. But it's 
not on our regular list. Do you want a peep at it? " 

" Most assuredly. As you know, it's our duty to 
see every room in this house, whether it is on your 
regular list or not." 

" All right. I haven't the key of this one with 
me. But yes, I have. There, gentlemen ! " he 
cried, unlocking the door and holding it open for 
them to look inside. " You see it no more answers 
the young lady's description than the others do. 
And I haven't another to show you. You have seen 
all those in front, and this is the last one in the rear. 
You'll have to believe our story. The old lady 
never put foot in this tavern." 

The two men he addressed peered into the 
shadowy recesses before them, and one of them, a 
tall and uncommonly good-looking young man of 
stalwart build and unusually earnest manner, stepped 
soTtly inside. He was a gentleman farmer living 
near, recently appointed deputy sheriff on account 



4 ROOM NUMBER 3 

of a recent outbreak of horse-stealing in the 
neighbourhood. 

" I observe," he remarked, after a hurried glance 
about him, " that the paper on these walls is not at 
all like that she describes. She was very particular 
about the paper; said that it was of a muddy pink 
colour and had big scrolls on it which seemed to 
move and crawl about in whirls as you looked at it. 
This paper is blue and striped. Otherwise " 

" Let's go below," suggested his companion, who, 
from the deference with which his most casual word 
was received, was evidently a man of some authority. 
** It's cold here, and there are several new questions 
I should like to put to the young lady. Mr. 
Quimby," this to the landlord, " I've no doubt you 
are right, but we'll give this poor girl another 
chance. I believe in giving every one the utmost 
chance possible." 

" My reputation is in your hands, Coroner 
Golden," was the quiet reply. Then, as they both 
turned, *' my reputation against the word of an 
obviously demented girl." 

The words made their own echo. As the third 
man moved to follow the other two into the hall, 
he seemed to catch this echo, for he involuntarily 
cast another look behind him as if expectant of some 
contradiction reaching him from the bare and 
melancholy walls he was leaving. But no such con- 
tradiction came. Instead, he appeared to read con- 
firmation there of the landlord's plain and unem- 
bittered statement. The dull blue paper with its 



ROOM NUMBER 3 5 

old-fashioned and uninteresting stripes seemed to 
have disfigured the walls for years. It was not only 
grimy with age, but showed here and there huge 
discoloured spots, especially around the stovepipe- 
hole high up on the left-hand side. Certainly he 
was a dreamer to doubt such plain evidences as 
these. Yet 

Here his eye encountered Quimby's, and pulling 
himself up short, he hastily fell into the wake of his 
comrade now hastening down the narrow passage 
to the wider hall in front. Had it occurred to him 
to turn again before rounding the corner but no, 
I doubt if he would have learned anything even 
then. The closing of a door by a careful hand 
the slipping up behind him of an eager and noise- 
less step what is there in these to re-awaken 
curiosity and fix suspicion? Nothing, when the man 
concerned is Jacob Quimby; nothing. Better that 
he failed to look back; it left his judgment freer for 
the question confronting him in the room below. 

Three Forks Tavern has been long forgotten, but 
at the time of which I write it was a well-known 
but little-frequented house, situated just back of the 
highway on the verge of the forest lying between 
the two towns of Chester and Danton in southern 
Ohio. It was of ancient build, and had all the pic- 
turesquesness of age and the English traditions of 
its original builder. Though so near two thriving 
towns, it retained its own quality of apparent re- 
moteness from city life and city ways. This in a 
measure was made possible by the nearness of the 



6 ROOM NUMBER 3 

woods which almost enveloped it; but the character 
of the man who ran it had still more to do with it, 
his sympathies being entirely with the old, and not 
at all with the new, as witness the old-style glazing 
still retained in its ancient doorway. This, while 
it appealed to a certain class of summer boarders, 
did not so much meet the wants of the casual trav- 
eller, so that while the house might from some rea- 
son or other be overfilled one night, it was just as 
likely to be almost empty the next, save for the 
faithful few who loved the woods and the ancient 
ways of the easy-mannered host and his attentive, 
soft-stepping help. The building itself was of 
wooden construction, high in front and low in the 
rear, with gables toward the highway, projecting 
here and there above a strip of rude old-fashioned 
carving. These gables were new, that is, they were 
only a century old; the portion now called the ex- 
tension, in the passages of which we first found the 
men we have introduced to you, was the original 
house. Then it may have enjoyed the sunshine and 
air of the valley it overlooked, but now it was so 
hemmed in by yards and outbuildings as to be con- 
sidered the most undesirable part of the house, and 
Number 3 the most undesirable of its rooms; which 
certainly does not speak well for it. 

But we are getting away from our new friends 
and their mysterious errand. As I have already 
intimated, this tavern with the curious name (a 
name totally unsuggestive, by the way, of its loca- 
tion on a perfectly straight road) had for its south- 



ROOM NUMBER 3 7 

ern aspect the road and a broad expanse beyond of 
varied landscape which made the front rooms cheer- 
ful even on a cloudy day ; but it was otherwise with 
those in the rear and on the north end. They were 
never cheerful, and especially toward night were 
frequently so dark that artificial light was resorted 
to as early as three o'clock in the afternoon. It was 
so to-day in the remote parlour which these three 
now entered. A lamp had been lit, though the day- 
light still struggled feebly in, and it was in this con- 
flicting light that there rose up before them the 
vision of a woman, who seen at any time and in any 
place would have drawn, if not held, the eye, but 
seen in her present attitude and at such a moment 
of question and suspense, struck the imagination 
with a force likely to fix her image forever in 
the mind, if not in the heart, of a sympathetic 
observer. 

I should like to picture her as she stood there, 
because the impression she made at this instant de- 
termined the future action of the man I have intro- 
duced to you as not quite satisfied with the appear^ 
ances he had observed above. Young, slender but 
vigorous, with a face whose details you missed in 
the fire of her eye and the wonderful red of her 
young, fresh but determined mouth, she stood, on 
guard as it were, before a shrouded form on a 
couch at the far end of the room. An imperative 
Keep back! spoke in her look, her attitude, and the 
silent gesture of one outspread hand, but it was the 
Keep back! of love, not of fear, the command of 



8 ROOM NUMBER 3 

an outraged soul, conscious of its rights and in- 
stinctively alert to maintain them. 

The landlord at sight of the rebuke thus given 
to their intrusion, stepped forward with a concilia- 
tory bow. 

" I beg pardon," said he, " but these gentlemen, 
Doctor Golden, the coroner from Chester, and Mr. 
Hammersmith, wish to ask you a few more ques- 
tions about your mother's death. You will answer 
them, I am sure." 

Slowly her eyes moved till they met those of the 
speaker. 

" I am anxious to do so," said she, in a voice rich 
with many emotions. But seeing the open compas- 
sion in the landlord's face, the colour left her 
cheeks, almost her lips, and drawing back the hand 
whtch she had continued to hold outstretched, she 
threw a glance of helpless inquiry about her which 
touched the younger man's heart and induced him 
to say: 

" The truth should not be hard to find in a case 
like this. I'm sure the young lady can explain. 
Doctor Golden, are you ready for her story? " 

The coroner, who had been silent up till now, 
probably from sheer surprise at the beauty and sim- 
ple, natural elegance of the woman caught, as he 
believed, in a net of dreadful tragedy, roused him- 
self at this direct question, and bowing with an as- 
sumption of dignity far from encouraging to the 
man and woman anxiously watching him, replied: 

" We will hear what she has to say, of course, 



ROOM NUMBER 3 9 

but the facts are well known. The woman she calls 
mother was found early this morning lying on her 
face in the adjoining woods quite dead. She had 
fallen over a half-concealed root, and with such 
force that she never moved again. If her daughter 
was with her at the time, then that daughter fled 
without attempting to raise her. The condition and 
position of the wound on the dead woman's fore- 
head, together with such corroborative facts as have 
since come to light, preclude all argument on this 
point. But we'll listen to the young woman, not- 
withstanding; she has a right to speak, and she shall 
speak. Did not your mother die in the woods? No 
hocus-pocus, miss, but the plain unvarnished truth." 

" Sirs," the term was general, but her appeal 
appeared to be directed solely to the one sympathetic 
figure before her, " if my mother died in the wood 
and, for all I can say, she may have done so it was 
not till after she had been in this house. She ar- 
rived in my company, and was given a room. I saw 
the room and I saw her in it. I cannot be deceived 
in this. If I am, then my mind has suddenly failed 
me; something which I find it hard to believe." 

" Mr. Quimby, did Mrs. Demarest come to the 
house with Miss Demarest?" inquired Mr. Ham- 
mersmith of the silent landlord. 

" She says so," was the reply, accompanied by a 
compassionate shrug which spoke volumes. " And 
I am quite sure she means it," he added, with kindly 
emphasis. " But ask Jake, who was in the office all 
the evening. Ask my wife, who saw the young lady 



io ROOM NUMBER 3 

to her room. Ask anybody and everybody who was 
around the tavern last night. I'm not the only one 
to say that Miss Demarest came in alone. All will 
tell you that she arrived here without escort of any 
kind; declined supper, but wanted a room, and when 
I hesitated to give it to her, said by way of explana- 
tion of her lack of a companion that she had had 
trouble in Chester and had left town very hurriedly 
for her home. That her mother was coming to 
meet her and would probably arrive here very soon. 
That when this occurred I was to notify her; but if 
a gentleman called instead, I was to be very care- 
ful not to admit that any such person as herself 
was in the house. Indeed, to avoid any such possi- 
bility she prayed that her name might be left off 
the register a favour which I was slow in granting 
her, but which I finally did, as you can see for your- 
selves." 

" Oh ! " came in indignant exclamation from the 
young woman before them. " I understand my po- 
sition now. This man has a bad conscience. He 
has something to hide, or he would not take to lying 
about little things like that. I never asked him 'to 
allow me to leave my name off the register. On 
the contrary I wrote my name in it and my mother's 
name, too. Let him bring the book here and you 
will see." 

" We have seen," responded the coroner. " We 
looked in the register ourselves. Your names are 
not there." 

The flush of indignation which had crimsoned her 



ROOM NUMBER 3 11 

cheeks faded till she looked as startling and indi- 
vidual in her pallor as she had the moment before 
in her passionate bloom. 

"Not there?" fell from her lips in a frozen 
monotone as her eyes grew fixed upon the faces be- 
fore her and her hand went groping around for some 
support. 

Mr. Hammersmith approached with a chair. 

" Sit," he whispered. Then, as she sank slowly 
into an attitude of repose, he added gently, " You 
shall have every consideration. Only tell the truth, 
the exact truth without any heightening from your 
imagination, and, above all, don't be frightened." 

She may have heard his words, but she gave no 
sign of comprehending them. She was following 
the movements of the landlord, who had slipped out 
to procure the register, and now stood holding it 
out toward the coroner. 

" Let her see for herself," he suggested, with a 
bland, almost fatherly, air. 

Doctor Golden took the book and approached 
Miss Demarest. 

, " Here is a name very unlike yours," he pointed 
out, as her eye fell on the page he had opened to. 
" Annette Colvin, Lansing, Michigan." 

" That is not my name or writing," said she. 

" There is room below it for your name and that 
of your mother, but the space is blank, do you see? " 

" Yes, yes, I see," she admitted. " Yet I wrote 
my name in the book! Or is it all a monstrous 
dream!" 



12 ROOM NUMBER 3 

The coroner returned the book to the landlord. 

" Is this your only book? " he asked. 

" The only book." 

Miss Demarest's eyes flashed. Hammersmith, 
who had watched this scene with intense interest, 
saw, or believed that he saw, in this flash the natural 
indignation of a candid mind face to face with ar- 
rant knavery. But when he forced himself to con- 
sider the complacent Quimby he did not know what 
to think. His aspect of self-confidence equalled hers. 
Indeed, he showed the greater poise. Yet her tones 
rang true as she cried : 

" You made up one plausible story, and you may 
well make up another. I demand the privilege of 
relating the whole occurrence as I remember it," 
she continued with an appealing look in the one 
sympathetic direction. " Then you can listen to 
him." 

" We desire nothing better," returned the cor- 
oner. 

" I shall have to mention a circumstance very 
mortifying to myself," she proceeded, with a sudden 
effort at self-control, which commanded the admira- 
tion even of the coroner. " My one adviser is 
dead," here her eyes flashed for a moment toward 
the silent form behind her. " If I make mistakes, 
if I seem unwomanly but you have asked for the 
truth and you shall have it, all of it. I have no 
father. Since early this morning I have had no 
mother. But when I had, I found it my duty to 
work for her as well as for myself, that she might 



ROOM NUMBER 3 13 

have the comforts she had been used to and could 
no longer afford. For this purpose I sought a sit- 
uation in Chester, and found one in a family I had 
rather not name." A momentary tremor, quickly 
suppressed, betrayed the agitation which this allu- 
sion cost her. " My mother lived in Danton (the 
next town to the left) . Anybody there will tell you 
what a good woman she was. I had wished her 
to live in Chester (that is, at first; later, I I was 
glad she didn't), but she had been born in Danton, 
and could not accustom herself to strange surround- 
ings. Once a week I went home, and once a week, 
usually on a Wednesday, she would come and meet 
me on the highroad, for a little visit. Once we 
met here, but this is a circumstance no one seems 
to remember. I was very fond of my mother and 
she of me. Had I loved no one else, I should 
have been happy still, and not been obliged to face 
strangers over her body and bare the secrets of my 
heart to preserve my good name. There is a man, 
he seems a thousand miles away from me now, so 
much have I lived since yesterday. He he lived 
in the house where I did was one of the family 
always at table always before my eyes. He 
fancied me. I I might have fancied him had he 
been a better man. But he was far from being of 
the sort my mother approved, and when he urged 
his suit too far, I grew frightened and finally ran 
away. It was not so much that I could not trust 
him," she bravely added after a moment of silent 
confusion, " but that I could not trust myself. He 



i 4 ROOM NUMBER 3 

had an unfortunate influence over me, which I hated 
while I half yielded to it." 

" You ran away. When was this? " 

" Yesterday afternoon at about six. He had 
vowed that he would see me again before the even- 
ing was over, and I took that way to prevent a 
meeting. There was no other so simple, or such 
was my thought at the time. I did not dream that 
sorrows awaited me in this quiet tavern, and per- 
plexities so much greater than any which could have 
followed a meeting with him that I feel my reason 
fail when I contemplate them." 

" Go on," urged the coroner, after a moment of 
uneasy silence. " Let us hear what happened after 
you left your home in Chester." 

" I went straight to the nearest telegraph office, 
and sent a message to my mother. I told her I was 
coming home, and for her to meet me on the road 
near this tavern. Then I went to Hudson's and had 
supper, for I had not eaten before leaving my em- 
ployer's. The sun had set when I finally started, 
and I walked fast so as to reach Three Forks before 
dark. If my mother had got the telegram at once, 
which I calculated on her doing, as she lived next 
door to the telegraph office in Danton, she would 
be very near this place on my arrival here. So I 
began to look for her as soon as I entered the woods. 
But I did not see her. I came as far as the tavern 
door, and still I did not see her. But farther on, 
just where the road turns to cross the railroad-track, 
I spied her coming, and ran to meet her. She was 



ROOM NUMBER 3 15 

glad to see me, but asked a good many questions 
which I had some difficulty in answering. She saw 
this, and held me to the matter till I had satisfied her. 
When this was done it was late and cold, and we 
decided to come to the tavern for the night. And 
we came! Nothing shall ever make me deny so 
positive a fact. We came, and this man received 
us." 

With her final repetition of this assertion, she 
rose and now stood upright, with her finger pointing 
straight at Quimby. Had he cringed or let his eyes 
waver from hers by so much as a hair's breadth, her 
accusation would have stood and her cause been 
won. But not a flicker disturbed the steady patience 
of his look, and Hammersmith, who had made no 
effort to hide his anxiety to believe her story, showed 
his disappointment with equal frankness as he 
asked: 

"Who else was in the office? Surely Mr. 
Quimby was not there alone? " 

She reseated herself before answering. Ham- 
mersmith could see the effort she made to recall 
that simple scene. He found himself trying to re- 
call it, too the old-fashioned, smoke-begrimed of- 
fice, with its one long window toward the road and 
the glass-paned door leading into the hall of en- 
trance They had come in by that door and crossed 
to the bar, which was also the desk in this curious 
old hostelry. He could see them standing there in 
the light of possibly a solitary lamp, the rest of the 
room in shadow unless a game of checkers were on, 



i6 ROOM NUMBER > 

which evidently was not so on this night. Had she 
turned her head to peer into those shadows? It 
was not likely. She was supported by her mother's 
presence, and this she was going to say. By some 
strange telepathy that he would have laughed at 
a few hours before, he feels confident of her words 
before she speaks. Yet he listens intently as she 
finally looks up and answers: 

" There was a man, I am sure there was a man 
somewhere at the other end of the office. But I 
paid no attention to him. I was bargaining for two 
rooms and registering my name and that of my 
mother." 

"Two rooms; why two? You are not a fash- 
ionable young lady to require a room alone." 

" Gentlemen, I was tired. I had been through 
a wearing half-hour. I knew that if we occupied 
the same room or even adjoining ones that nothing 
could keep us from a night of useless and depressing 
conversation. I did not feel equal to it, so I asked 
for two rooms a short distance apart." 

An explanation which could at least be accepted. 
Mr. Hammersmith felt an increase of courage 
and scarcely winced as his colder-blooded com- 
panion continued this unofficial examination by 
asking : 

" Where were you standing when making these 
arrangements with Mr. Quimby? " 

" Right before the desk." 

" And your mother? " 

" She was at my left and a little behind me. She 



ROOM NUMBER 3 17 

was a shy woman. I usually took the lead when we 
were together." 

" Was she veiled? " the coroner continued quietly. 

" I think so. She had been crying " The 

bereaved daughter paused. 

" But don't you know? " 

" My impression is that her veil was down when 
we came into the room. She may have lifted it as 
she stood there. I know that it was lifted as we 
went upstairs. I remember feeling glad that the 
lamps gave so poor a light, she looked so dis- 
tressed." 

" Physically, do you mean, or mentally? " 

Mr. Hammersmith asked this question. It 
seemed to rouse some new train of thought in the 
girl's mind. For a minute she looked intently at 
the speaker, then she replied in a disturbed tone: 

" Both. I wonder " Here her thought wav- 
ered and she ceased. 

" Go on," ordered the coroner impatiently. 
" Tell your story. It contradicts that of the land- 
lord in almost every point, but we've promised to 
hear it out, and we will." 

Rousing, she hastened to obey him. 

44 Mr. Quimby told the truth when he said that 
he asked me if I would have supper, also when he 
repeated what I said about a gentleman, but not 
when he declared that I wished to be told if my 
mother should come and ask for me. My mother 
was at my side all the time we stood there talking, 
and I did not need to make any requests concerning 



1 8 ROOM NUMBER 3 

her. When we went to our rooms a woman accom- 
panied us. He says she is his wife. I should like 
to see that woman." 

" I am here, miss," spoke up a voice from a 
murky corner no one had thought of looking in till 
now. 

Miss Demarest at once rose, waiting for the 
woman to come forward. This she did with a quick, 
natural step which insensibly prepared the mind for 
the brisk, assertive woman who now presented her- 
self. Mr. Hammersmith, at sight of her open, not 
unpleasing face, understood for the first time the 
decided attitude of the coroner. If this woman cor- 
roborated her husband's account, the poor young 
girl, with her incongruous beauty and emotional 
temperament, would not have much show. He 
looked to see her quailing now. But instead of that 
she stood firm, determined, and feverishly beautiful. 

" Let her tell you what took place upstairs," she 
cried. " She showed us the rooms and carried water 
afterward to the one my mother occupied." 

" I am sorry to contradict the young lady," came 
in even tones from the unembarrassed, motherly- 
looking woman thus appealed to. " She thinks that 
her mother was with her and that I conducted this 
mother to another room after showing her to her 
own. I don't doubt in the least that she has worked 
herself up to the point of absolutely believing this. 
But the facts are these: She came alone and went 
to her room unattended by any one but my- 
self. And what is more, she seemed entirely com- 



ROOM NUMBER 3 19 

posed at the time, and I never thought of suspect- 
ing the least thing wrong. Yet her mother lay all 
that time in the wood " 

"Silence!" 

This word was shot at her by Miss Demarest, 
who had risen to her full height and now fairly 
flamed upon them all in her passionate indignation. 
" I will not listen to such words till I have finished 
all I have to say and put these liars to the blush. 
My mother was with me, and this woman witnessed 
our good-night embrace, and then showed my 
mother to her own room. I watched them going. 
They went down the hall to the left and around a 
certain corner. I stood looking after them till they 
turned this corner, then I closed my door and be- 
gan to take off my hat. But I wasn't quite satis- 
fied with the good-night which had passed between 
my poor mother and myself, and presently I opened 
my door and ran down the hall and around the 
corner on a chance of finding her room. I don't 
remember very well how that hall looked. I passed 
several doors seemingly shut for the night, and 
should have turned back, confused, if at that mo- 
ment I had not spied the landlady's figure, your 
figure, madam, coming out of one room on your 
way to another. You were carrying a pitcher, and 
I made haste and ran after you and reached the 
door just before you turned to shut it. Can you 
deny that, or that you stepped aside while I ran 
in and gave my mother another hug? If you can 
and do, then you are a dangerous and lying wo- 



20 ROOM NUMBER 3 

man, or I But I won't admit that I'm not all 

right. It is you, base and untruthful woman, who 
for some end I cannot fathom persist in denying 
facts on which my honour, if not my life, depends. 
Why, gentlemen, you, one of you at least, have 
heard me describe the very room in which I saw 
my mother. It is imprinted on my mind. I didn't 
know at the time that I took especial notice of it, 
but hardly a detail escaped me. The paper on the 
wall " 

" We have been looking through the rooms," 
interpolated the coroner. " We do not find any 
papered with the muddy pink you talk about." 

She stared, drew back from them all, and finally 

sank into a chair. " You do not find But you 

have not been shown them all." 

" I think so." 

" You have not. There is such a room. I could 
not have dreamed it." 

Silence met this suggestion. 

Throwing up her hands like one who realises for 
the first time that the battle is for life, she let an 
expression of her despair and desolation rush in 
frenzy from her lips: 

" It's a conspiracy. The whole thing is a con- 
spiracy. If my mother had had money on her or 
had worn valuable jewelry, I should believe her to 
have been a victim of this lying man and woman. 
As it is, I don't trust them. They say that my poor 
mother was found lying ready dressed and quite 
dead in the wood. That may be true, for I saw 



ROOM NUMBER 3 21 

men bringing her in. But if so, what warrant have 
we that she was not lured there, slaughtered, and 
made to seem the victim of accident by this un- 
scrupulous man and woman? Such things have 
been done; but for a daughter to fabricate such a 
plot as they impute to me is past belief, out of 
Nature and impossible. With all their wiles, they 
cannot prove it. I dare them to do so; I dare 
any one to do so." 

Then she begged to be allowed to search the 
house for the room she so well remembered. 
" When I show you that," she cried, with ringing 
assurance, " you will believe the rest of my story." 

" Shall I take the young lady up myself? " asked 
Mr. Quimby. " Or will it be enough if my wife 
accompanies her? " 

" We will all accompany her," said the coroner. 

" Very good," came in hearty acquiescence. 

" It's the only way to quiet her," he whispered 
in Mr. Hammersmith's ear. 

The latter turned on him suddenly. 

" None of your insinuations," he cried. " She's 
as far from insane as I am myself. We shall find 
the room." 

" You, too," fell softly from the other's lips as 
he stepped back into the coroner's wake. Mr. 
Hammersmith gave his arm to Miss Demarest, 
and the landlady brought up the rear. 

" Upstairs," ordered the trembling girl. " We 
will go first to the room I occupied." 

As they reached the door, she motioned them 



22 ROOM NUMBER 3 

all back, and started away from them down the 
hall. Quickly they followed. " It was around a 
corner," she muttered broodingly, halting at the 
first turning. " That is all I remember. But we'll 
visit every room." 

" We have already," objected the coroner, but 
meeting Mr. Hammersmith's warning look, he de- 
sisted from further interference. 

" I remember its appearance perfectly. I re- 
member it as if it were my own," she persisted, as 
door after door was thrown back and as quickly 
shut again at a shake of her head. " Isn't there 
another hall? Might I not have turned some other 
corner? " 

" Yes, there is another hall," acquiesced the land- 
lord, leading the way into the passage communciat- 
ing with the extension. 

"Oh!" she murmured, as she noted the in- 
creased interest in both the coroner and his com- 
panion; "we shall find it here." 

"Do you recognise the hall?" asked the cor- 
oner as they stepped through a narrow opening 
into the old part. 

" No, but I shall recognise the room." 

"Wait! " It was Hammersmith who called her 
back as she was starting forward. " I should like 
you to repeat just how much furniture this room 
contained and where it stood." 

She stopped, startled, and then said: 

" It was awfully bare; a bed was on the left " 

"On the left?" 



ROOM NUMBER 3 23 

" She said the left," quoth the landlord, u though 
I don't see that it matters ; it's all fancy with 
her." 

" Go on," kindly urged Hammersmith. 

" There was a window. I saw the dismal panes 
and my mother standing between them and me. I 
can't describe the little things." 

" Possibly because there were none to describe," 
whispered Hammersmith in his superior's ear. 

Meanwhile the landlord and his wife awaited 
their advance with studied patience. As Miss Dem- 
arest joined him, he handed her a bunch of keys, 
with the remark: 

" None of these rooms are occupied to-day, so 
you can open them without hesitation." 

She stared at him and ran quickly forward. 
Mr. Hammersmith followed speedily after. Sud- 
denly both paused. She had lost the thread of her 
intention before opening a single door. 

" I thought I could go straight to it," she de- 
clared. " I shall have to open all the doors, as we 
did in the other hall." 

" Let me help you," proffered Mr. Hammer- 
smith. She accepted his aid, and the search re- 
commenced with the same results as before. Hope 
sank to disappointment as each door was passed. 
The vigour of her step was gone, and as she paused 
heartsick before the last and only remaining door, 
it was with an ashy face she watched Mr. Hammer- 
smith stoop to insert the key. 

He, on his part, as the door fell back, watched 



24 ROOM NUMBER 3 

her for some token of awakened interest. But he 
watched in vain. The smallness of the room, its 
bareness, its one window, the absence of all furni- 
ture save the solitary cot drawn up on the right (not 
on the left, as she had said), seemed to make little 
or no impression on her. 

"The last! the last! and I have not found it. 
Oh, sir," she moaned, catching at Mr. Hammer- 
smith's arm, " am I then mad? Was it a dream? 
Or is this a dream? I feel that I no longer know." 
Then, as the landlady officiously stepped up, she 
clung with increased frenzy to Mr. Hammersmith, 
crying, with positive wildness, " This is the dream ! 
The room I remember is a real one and my story 
is real. Prove it, or my reason will leave me. I 
feel it going going " 

"Hush!" It was Hammersmith who sought 
thus to calm her. " Your story is real and I will 
prove it so. Meanwhile trust your reason. It will 
not fail you." 

He had observed the corners of the landlord's 
hitherto restrained lips settle into a slightly sar- 
castic curl as the door of this room closed for the 
second time. 

II 

" The girl's beauty has imposed on you." 

" I don't think so. I should be sorry to think 

myself so weak. I simply credit her story more 

than I do that of Quimby." 



ROOM NUMBER 3 25 

" But his is supported by several witnesses. Hers 
has no support at all." 

" That is what strikes me as so significant. This 
man Quimby understands himself. Who are his 
witnesses? His wife and his head man. There is 
nobody else. In the half-hour which has just 
passed I have searched diligently for some disin- 
terested testimony supporting his assertion, but I 
have found none. No one knows anything. Of 
the three persons occupying rooms in the extension 
last night, two were asleep and the third overcome 
with drink. The maids won't talk. They seem 
uneasy, and I detected a sly look pass from the 
one to the other at some question I asked, but they 
won't talk. There's a conspiracy somewhere. I'm 
as sure of it as that I am standing here." 

" Nonsense ! What should there be a conspiracy 
about? You would make this old woman an im- 
portant character. Now WQ know that she wasn't. 
Look at the matter as it presents itself to an un- 
prejudiced mind. A young and susceptible girl 
falls in love with a man, who is at once a gentle- 
man and a scamp. She may have tried to resist 
her feelings, and she may not have. Your judg- 
ment and mine would probably differ on this point. 
What she does not do is to let her mother into 
her confidence. She sees the man runs upon him, 
if you will, in places or under circumstances she 
cannot avoid till her judgment leaves her and the 
point of catastrophe is reached. Then, possibly, 
she awakens, or what is more probable, seeks to 



26 ROOM NUMBER 3 

protect herself from the penetration and opposition 
of his friends by meetings less open than those in 
which they had lately indulged. She says that she 
left the house to escape seeing him again last night. 
But this is not true. On the contrary, she must 
have given him to understand where she was going, 
for she had an interview with him in the woods 
before she came upon her mother. He acknowl- 
edges to the interview. I have just had a talk with 
him over the telephone." 

" Then you know his name? " 

" Yes, of course, she had to tell me. It's young 
Maxwell. I suspected it from the first." 

" Maxwell ! " Mr. Hammersmith's cheek showed 
an indignant colour. Or was it a reflection from 
the setting sun? "You called him a scamp a few 
minutes ago. A scamp's word isn't worth much." 

" No, but it's evidence when on oath, and I 
fancy he will swear te the interview." 

" Well, well, say there was an interview." 

" It changes things, Mr. Hammersmith. It 
changes things. It makes possible a certain theory 
of mine which accounts for all the facts." 

" It does!" 

11 Yes. I don't think this girl is really responsi- 
ble. I don't believe she struck her mother or is 
deliberately telling a tissue of lies to cover up some 
dreadful crime. I consider her the victim of a 
mental hallucination, the result of some great shock. 
Now what was the shock? I'll tell you. This is 
how I see it, how Mr. Quimby sees it, and such 



ROOM NUMBER 3 27 

others in the house as have ventured an opinion. 
She was having this conversation with her lover in 
the woods below here when her mother came in 
sight. Surprised, for she had evidently not ex- 
pected her mother to be so prompt, she hustled her 
lover off and hastened to meet the approaching 
figure. But it was too late. The mother had seen 
the man, and in the excitement of the discovery and 
the altercation which undoubtedly followed, made 
such a sudden move, possibly of indignant depart- 
ure, that her foot was caught by one of the roots 
protruding at this point and she fell her whole 
length and with such violence as to cause imme- 
diate death. Now, Mr. Hammersmith, stop a min- 
ute and grasp the situation. If, as I believe at this 
point in the inquiry, Miss Demarest had encoun- 
tered a passionate opposition to her desires from 
this upright and thoughtful mother, the spectacle 
of this mother lying dead before her, with all op- 
position gone and the way cleared in an instant to 
her wishes, but cleared in a manner which must 
haunt her to her own dying day, was enough to 
turn a brain already heated with contending emo- 
tions. Fancies took the place of facts, and by the 
time she reached this house had so woven them- 
selves into a concrete form that no word she now 
utters can be relied on. This is how I see it, Mr. 
Hammersmith, and it is on this basis I shall act." 

Hammersmith made an effort and, nodding 
slightly, said in a restrained tone : 

" Perhaps you are justified. I have no wish to 



28 ROOM NUMBER 3 

force my own ideas upon you; they are much too 
vague at present. I will only suggest that this is 
not the first time the attention of the police has 
been drawn to this house by some mysterious occur- 
rence. You remember the Stevens case? There must 
have been notes to the amount of seven thousand 
dollars in the pile he declared had been taken from 
him some time during the day and night he lodged 
here." 

" Stevens! I remember something about it. But 
they couldn't locate the theft here. The fellow 
had been to the fair in Chester all day and couldn't 
swear that he had seen his notes after leaving the 
grounds." 

" I know. But he always looked on Quimby as 
the man. Then there is the adventure of little Miss 
Thistlewaite." 

" I don't remember that." 

" It didn't get into the papers; but it was talked 
about in the neighbourhood. She is a quaint one, 
full of her crotchets, but clear clear as a bell 
where her interests are involved. She took a no- 
tion to spend a summer here in this house, I mean. 
She had a room in one of the corners overlooking 
the woods, and professing to prefer Nature to 
everything else, was happy enough till she began 
to miss things rings, pins, a bracelet and, finally, 
a really valuable chain. She didn't complain at 
first the objects were trivial, and she herself some- 
what to blame for leaving them lying around in her 
room, often without locking the door. But when 



ROOM NUMBER 3 29 

the chain went, the matter became serious, and she 
called Mr. Quimby's attention to her losses. He 
advised her to lock her door, which she was careful 
to do after that, but not with the expected result. 
She continued to miss things, mostly jewelry of 
which she had a ridiculous store. Various domes- 
tics were dismissed, and finally one of the perma- 
nent boarders was requested to leave, but still the 
thefts went on till, her patience being exhausted, 
she notified the police and a detective was sent: I 
have always wished I had been that detective. The 
case ended in what was always considered a joke. 
Another object disappeared while he was there, and 
it having been conclusively proved to him that it 
could not have been taken by way of the door, he 
turned his attention to the window which it was 
one of her freaks always to keep wide open. The 
result was curious. One day he spied from a 
hiding-place he had made in the bushes a bird flying 
out from that window, and following the creature 
till she alighted in her nest he climbed the tree and 
searched that nest. It was encrusted with jewels. 
The bird was a magpie and had followed its usual 
habits, but the chain was not there, nor one or 
two other articles of decided value. Nor were they 
ever found. The bird bore the blame; the objects 
missing were all heavy and might have been dropped 
in its flight, but I have always thought that the 
bird had an accomplice, a knowing fellow who 
understood what's what and how to pick out his 
share." 



-jo ROOM NUMBER 3 

The coroner smiled. There was little conviction 
-and much sarcasm in that smile. Hammersmith 
turned away. " Have you any instructions for 
me? " he said. 

"Yes, you had better stay here. I will return 
in the morning with my jury. It won't take long 
after that to see this thing through." 

The look he received in reply was happily hid- 
den from him. 

Ill 

" Yes, I'm going to stay here to-night. As it's 
a mere formality, I shall want a room to sit in, 
and if you have no objection I'll take Number 3 
on the rear corridor." 

" I'm sorry, but Number 3 is totally unfit for 
use, as you've already seen." 

" Oh, I'm not particular. Put a table in and a 
good light, and I'll get along with the rest. I 
have something to do. Number 3 will answer." 

The landlord shifted his feet, cast a quick 
scrutinising look at the other's composed face, 
and threw back his head with a quick laugh. 

" As you will. I can't make you comfortable 
on such short notice, but that's your lookout. I've 
several other rooms vacant." 

" I fancy that room," was all the reply he got. 

Mr. Quimby at once gave his orders. They 
were received by Jake with surprise. 

Fifteen minutes later Hammersmith prepared to 



ROOM NUMBER 3 31 

install himself in these desolate quarters. But be- 
fore doing so he walked straight to the small par- 
lour where he had last seen Miss Demarest and, 
knocking, asked for the privilege of a word with 
her. It was not her figure, however, which ap- 
peared in the doorway, but that of the land- 
lady. 

" Miss Demarest is not here," announced that 
buxom and smooth-tongued woman. " She was like 
to faint after you gentlemen left the room, and I 
just took her upstairs to a quiet place by herself." 

"On the rear corridor?" 

" Oh, no, sir; a nice front room; we don't con* 
sider money in a case like this." 

" Will you give me its number? " 

Her suave and steady look changed to one of 
indignation. 

"You're asking a good deal, aren't you? I 
doubt if the young lady " 

" The number, if you please," he quietly put in. 

" Thirty-two," she snapped out. " She will 
have every care," she hastened to assure him as he 
turned away. 

" I've no doubt. I do not intend to sleep to- 
to-night; if the young lady is worse, you will com- 
municate the fact to me. You will find me in 
Number 3." 

He had turned back to make this reply, and 
was looking straight at her as the number dropped 
from his lips. It did not disturb her set smile, but 
in some inscrutable way all meaning seemed to leave 



32 _ ROOM NUMBER 3 

that smile, and she forgot to drop her hand which 
had been stretched out in an attempted gesture. 

" Number 3," he repeated. " Don't forget, 
madam." 

The injunction seemed superfluous. She had not 
dropped her hand when he wheeled around once 
more in taking the turn at the foot of the stair- 
case. 

Jake and a very sleepy maid were on the floor 
above when he reached it. He paid no attention 
to Jake, but he eyed the girl somewhat curiously. 
She was comparatively a new domestic in the tav- 
ern, having been an inmate there for only three 
weeks. He had held a few minutes' conversation 
with her during the half-hour of secret inquiry in 
which he had previously indulged and he remem- 
bered some of her careful answers, also the air of 
fascination with which she had watched him all the 
time they were together. He had made nothing of 
her then, but the impression had remained that she 
was the one hopeful source of knowledge in the 
house. Now she looked dull and moved about in 
Jake's wake like an automaton. Yet Hammer- 
smith made up his mind to speak to her as soon as 
the least opportunity offered. 

"Where is 32?" he asked as he moved away 
from them in the opposite direction from the 
course they were taking. 

" I thought you were to have room Number 3," 
blurted out Jake. 

" I am. But where is 32? " 



ROOM NUMBER 3 33 

" Round there," said she. " A lady's in there 
now. The one " 

"Come on," urged Jake. " Huldah, you may go 
now. I'll show the gentleman his room." 

Huldah dropped her head, and began to move 
off, but not before Hammersmith had caught her 
eye. 

" Thirty-two," he formed with his lips, showing 
her a scrap of paper which he held in his hand. 

He thought she nodded, but he could not be 
sure. Nevertheless, he ventured to lay the scrap 
down on a small table he was passing, and when 
he again looked back, saw that it was gone and 
Huldah with it. But whither, he could not be 
quite sure. There was always a risk in these at- 
tempts, and he only half trusted the girl. She 
might carry it to 32, and she might carry it to 
Quimby. In the first case, Miss Demarest would 
know that she had an active and watchful friend 
in the house; in the other, the dubious landlord 
would but receive an open instead of veiled intima- 
tion that the young deputy had his eye on him 
and was not to be fooled by appearances and the 
lack of evidence to support his honest convictions. 

They had done little more than he had suggested 
to make Number 3 habitable. As the door swung 
open under Jake's impatient hand, the half-lighted 
hollow of the almost empty room gaped unin- 
vitingly before them, with just a wooden-bottomed 
chair and a rickety table added to the small cot- 
bed which had been almost its sole furnishing when 



34 ROOM NUMBER 3 

he saw it last. The walls, bare as his hand, 
stretched without relief from base-board to ceiling, 
and the floor from door to window showed an un- 
broken expanse of unpainted boards, save for the 
narrow space between chair and table, where a 
small rug had been laid. A cheerless outlook for 
a tired man, but it seemed to please Hammer- 
smith. There was paper and ink on the table, 
and the lamp which he took care to examine held 
oil enough to last till morning. With a tray of 
eatables, this ought to suffice, or so his manner 
conveyed, and Jake, who had already supplied the 
eatables, was backing slowly out when his eye, which 
seemingly against his will had been travelling cu- 
riously up and down the walls, was caught by that 
of Hammersmith, and he plunged from the room, 
with a flush visible even in that half light. 

It was a trivial circumstance, but it fitted in with 
Hammersmith's trend of thought at the moment, 
and when the man was gone he stood for several 
minutes with his own eye travelling up and down 
those dusky walls in an inquiry which this distant 
inspection did not seem thoroughly to satisfy, for 
in another instant he had lifted a glass of water 
from the tray and, going to the nearest wall, began 
to moisten the paper at one of the edges. When it 
was quite wet, he took out his penknife, but be- 
fore using it, he looked behind him, first at the 
door, and then at the window. The door was 
shut; the window seemingly guarded by an outside 
blind; but the former was not locked, and the latter 



ROOM NUMBER 3 35 

showed, upon closer inspection, a space between 
the slats which he did not like. Crossing to the 
door, he carefully turned the key, then proceeding, 
to the window, he endeavoured to throw up the 
sash in order to close the blinds more effectually. 
But he found himself balked in the attempt. The 
cord had been cut and the sash refused to move 
under his hand. 

Casting a glance of mingled threat and sarcasm 
out into the night, he walked back tq the wall and, 
dashing more water over the spot he had already 
moistened, began to pick at the loosened edges 
of the paper which were slowly falling away. The 
result was a disappointment; how great a disap- 
pointment he presently realised, as his knife-point 
encountered only plaster under the peeling edges 
of the paper. He had hoped to find other paper 
under the blue the paper which Miss Demarest 
remembered and not finding it, was conscious of 
a sinking of the heart which had never attended 
any of his miscalculations before. Were his own 
feelings involved in this matter? It would certainly 
seem so. 

Astonished at his own sensations, he crossed back 
to the table, and sinking into the chair beside it, 
endeavoured to call up his common sense, or at least 
shake himself free from the glamour which had 
seized him. But this especial sort of glamour is not 
so easily shaken off. Minutes passed an hour, and 
little else filled his thoughts than the position of this 
bewitching girl and the claims she had on his sense of 



36 ROOM NUMBER 3 

justice. If he listened, it was to hear her voice raised 
in appeal at his door. If he closed his eyes, it was to 
see her image more plainly on the background of 
his consciousness. The stillness into which the 
house had sunk aided this absorption and made 
his battle a losing one. There was naught to dis- 
tract his mind, and when he dozed, as he did for 
a while after midnight, it was to fall under the 
conjuring effect of dreams in which her form domi- 
nated with all the force of an unfettered fancy. 
The pictures which his imagination thus brought 
before him were startling and never to be forgot- 
ten. The first was that of an angry sea in the blue 
light of an arctic winter. Stars flecked the zenith 
and shed a pale lustre on the moving ice-floes hur- 
rying toward a horizon of skurrying clouds and 
rising waves. On one of those floes stood a 
woman alone, with face set toward her death. 

The scene changed. A desert stretched out be- 
fore him. Limitless, with the blazing colours 
of the arid sand topped by a cloudless sky, it re- 
vealed but one suggestion of life in its herbless, 
waterless, shadowless solitude. She stood in the 
midst of this desert, and as he had seen her sway 
on the ice-floe, so he saw her now stretching un- 
availing arms to the brazen heavens and sink 
No ! it was not a desert, it was not a sea, ice-bound 
or torrid, it was a toppling city, massed against 
impenetrable night one moment, then shown to its 
awful full the next by the sudden tearing through 
of lightning-flashes. He saw it all houses, 



ROOM NUMBER 3 37 

churches, towers, erect and with steadfast line, a 
silhouette of quiet rest awaiting dawn; then at a 
flash, the doom, the quake, the breaking down of 
outline, the caving in of walls, followed by the sick- 
ening collapse in which life, wealth, and innumer- 
able beating human hearts went down into the un- 
seen and unknowable. He saw and he heard, but 
his eyes clung to but one point, his ears listened for 
but one cry. There at the extremity of a cornice, 
clinging to a bending beam, was the figure again 
the woman of the ice-floe and the desert. She 
seemed nearer now. He could see the straining 
muscles of her arm, the white despair of her set 
features. He wished to call aloud to her not to 
look down then, as ' the sudden darkness yielded 
to another illuminating gleam, his mind changed 
and he would fain have begged her to look, slip, 
and end all, for subtly, quietly, ominously some- 
where below her feet, he had caught the glimpsing 
of a feathery line of smoke curling up from the 
lower debris. Flame was there; a creeping devil 

which soon 

Horror ! it was no dream ! He was awake, he, 
Hammersmith, in this small solitary hotel in Ohio, 
and there was fire, real fire in the air, and in his 
ears the echo of a shriek such as a man hears but 
few times in his life, even if his lot casts him con- 
tinually among the reckless and the suffering. Was 
it hers? Had these dreams been forerunners of 
some menacing danger? He was on his feet, his 
eyes staring at the floor beneath him, through the 



38 ROOM NUMBER 3 

cracks of which wisps of smoke were forcing their 
way up. The tavern was not only on fire, but on fire 
directly under him. This discovery woke him ef- 
fectually. He bounded to the door; it would not 
open. He wrenched at the key; but it would not 
turn, it was hampered in the lock. Drawing back, 
he threw his whole weight against the panels, utter- 
ing loud cries for help. The effort was useless. No 
yielding in the door, no rush to his assistance from 
without. Aroused now to his danger reading the 
signs of the broken cord and hampered lock only 
too well he desisted from his vain attempts and 
turned desperately toward the window. Though 
it might be impossible to hold up the sash and 
crawl under it at the same time, his only hope of 
exit lay there, as well as his only means of sur- 
viving the inroad of smoke which was fast becom- 
ing unendurable. He would break the sash and 
seek escape that way. They had doomed him to 
death, but he could climb roofs like a cat and 
feared nothing when once relieved from this 
smoke. Catching up the chair, he advanced toward 
the window. 

But before reaching it he paused. It was not 
only he they sought to destroy, but the room. 
There was evidence of crime in the room. In that 
moment of keenly aroused intelligence he felt sure 
of it. What was to be done? How could he save 
the room, and, by these means, save himself and 
her? A single glance about assured him that he 
could not save it. The boards under his feet were 



ROOM NUMBER 3 39 

hot. Glints of yellow light streaking through the 
shutters showed that the lower storey had already 
burst into flame. The room must go and with it 
every clue to the problem which was agitating him. 
Meanwhile, his eyeballs were smarting, his head 
growing dizzy. No longer sure of his feet, he stag- 
gered over to the wall and was about to make use of 
its support in his effort to reach the window, when 
his eyes fell on the spot from which he had peeled 
the paper, and he came to a sudden standstill. A 
bit of pink was showing under one edge of the 
blue. 

Dropping the chair which he still held, he fum- 
bled for his knife, found it, made a dash at that 
wall, and for a few frenzied moments worked at 
the plaster till he had hacked off a piece which he 
thrust into his pocket. Then seizing the chair again, 
he made for the window and threw it with all his 
force against the panes. They crashed and the air 
came rushing in, reviving him enough for the second 
attempt. This not only smashed the pane, but 
loosened the shutters, and in one instant two sights 
burst upon his view the face of a man in an upper 
window of the adjoining barn and the sudden swoop- 
ing up from below of a column of deadly smoke 
which seemed to cut off all hope of his saving him- 
self by the means he had calculated on. Yet no 
other way offered. It would be folly to try the door 
again. This was the only road, threatening as it 
looked, to possible safety for himself and her. He 
would take it, and if he succumbed in the effort, it 



40 ROOM NUMBER 3 

should be with a final thought of her who was fast 
becoming an integral part of his own being. 

Meanwhile he had mounted to the sill and taken 
another outward look. This room, as I have al- 
ready intimated, was in the rear of an extension 
running back from the centre of the main building. 
It consisted of only two stories, surmounted by a 
long, slightly-peaked roof. As the ceilings were 
low in this portion of the house, the gutter of this 
roof was very near the top of the window. To 
reach it was not a difficult feat for one of his 
strength and agility, and if only the smoke would 
blow aside Ah, it is doing so! A sudden change 
of wind had come to his rescue, and for the mo- 
ment the way is clear for him to work himself out 
and up on to the ledge above. But once there, 
horror makes him weak again. A window, high 
up in the main building overlooking the extension, 
had come in sight, and in it sways a frantic woman 
ready to throw herself out. She screamed as he 
measured with his eye the height of that window 
from the sloping roof and thence to the ground, 
and he recognised the voice. It was the same he 
had heard before, but it was not hers. She would 
not be up so high, besides the shape and attitude, 
shown fitfully by the light of the now leaping 
flames, were those of a heavier, and less-refined 
woman. It was one of the maids it was the maid 
Huldah, the one from whom he had hoped to win 
some light on this affair. Was she locked in, too? 
Her frenzy and mad looking behind and below 



ROOM NUMBER 3 41 

her seemed to argue that she was. What deviltry ! 
and, ah! what a confession of guilt on the part of 
the vile man who had planned this abominable end 
for the two persons whose evidence he dreaded. 
Helpless with horror, he became a man again in 
his indignation. Such villainy should not succeed. 
He would fight not only for his own life, but for 
this woman's. Miss Demarest was doubtless safe. 
Yet he wished he were sure of it; he could work 
with so much better heart. Her window was not 
visible from where he crouched. It was on the 
other side of the house. If she screamed, he would 
not be able to hear her. He must trust her to 
Providence. But his dream! his dream! The 
power of it was still upon him; a forerunner of 
fate, a picture possibly of her doom. The hesita- 
tion which this awful thought caused him warned 
him that not in this way could he make himself 
effective. The woman he saw stood in need of his 
help, and to her he must make his way. The 
bustle which now took place in the yards beneath, 
the sudden shouts and the hurried throwing up of 
windows all over the house showed that the alarm 
had now become general. Another moment, and 
the appalling cry the most appalling which leaves 
human lips of fire ! fire ! rang from end to end of 
the threatened building. It was followed by wom- 
en's shrieks and men's curses and then by flames. 

" She will hear, she will wake now," he thought, 
with his whole heart pulling him her way. But 
he did not desist from his intention to drop his 



42 ROOM NUMBER 3 

eyes from the distraught figure entrapped between 
a locked door and a fall of thirty feet. He could 
reach her if he kept his nerve. A slow but steady 
hitch along the gutter was bringing him nearer 
every instant. Would she see him and take cour- 
age? No! her eyes were on the flames which were 
so bright now that he could actually see them 
glassed in her eyeballs. Would a shout attract 
her? The air was full of cries as the yards filled 
with escaping figures, but he would attempt it at 
the first lull now while her head was turned his 
way. Did she hear him? Yes. She is looking 
at him. 

" Don't jump," he cried. " Tie your sheet to the 
bed-post. Tie it strong and fasten the other one to it 
and throw down the end. I will be here to catch 
it. Then you must come down hand over hand." 

She threw up her arms, staring down at him in 
mortal terror; then, as the whole air grew lurid, 
nodded and tottered back. With incredible anxiety 
he watched for her reappearance. His post was 
becoming perilous. The fire had not yet reached 
the roof, but it was rapidly undermining its sup- 
ports, and the heat was unendurable. Would he 
have to jump to the ground in his own despite? 
Was it his duty to wait for this girl, possibly al- 
ready overcome by her fears and lying insensible? 
Yes; so long as he could hold out against the heat, 
it was his duty, but Ah! what was that? Some 
one was shouting to him. He had been seen at 
last, and men, half-clad but eager, were rushing up 



ROOM NUMBER 3 43 

the yard with a ladder. He could see their faces. 
How they glared in the red light. Help and deter- 
mination were there, and perhaps when she saw the 
promise of this support, it would give nerve to her 
fingers and 

But it was not to be. As he watched their eager 
approach, he saw them stop, look back, swerve and 
rush around the corner of the house. Some one had 
directed them elsewhere. He could see the pointing 
hand, the baleful face. Quimby had realised his 
own danger in this prospect of Hammersmith's es- 
cape, and had intervened to prevent it. It was a 
murderer's natural impulse, and did not surprise 
him, but it added another element of danger to his 
position, and if this woman delayed much longer 
but she is coming; a blanket is thrown out, then a 
dangling end of cloth appears above the sill. It 
descends. Another moment he has crawled up the 
roof to the ridge and grasped it. 

" Slowly now ! " he shouts. " Take time and hold 
on tight. I will guide you." He feels the frail 
support stiffen. She has drawn it into her hands; 
now she is on the sill, and is working herself off. 
He clutched his end firmly, steadying himself as 
best he might by bestriding the ridge of the roof. 
The strain becomes greater, he feels her weight, 
she is slipping down, down. Her hands strike a 
knot; the jerk almost throws him off his balance. 
He utters a word of caution, lost in the growing 
roar of the flames whose hungry tongues have be- 
gun to leap above the gutter. She looks down, sees 



44 ROOM NUMBER 3 

the approaching peril, and hastens her descent. He 
is all astrain, with heart and hand nerved for the 
awful possibilities of the coming moments when 
ping! Something goes whistling by his ear, which 
for the instant sets his hair bristling on his head, and 
almost paralyses every muscle. A bullet! The 
flame is not threatening enough ! Some one is shoot- 
ing at him from the dark. 



IV 

Well! death which comes one way cannot come 
another, and a bullet is more merciful than flame. 
The thought steadies Hammersmith; besides he has 
nothing to do with what is taking place behind his 
back. His duty is here, to guide and support this 
rapidly-descending figure now almost within his 
reach. And he fulfils this duty, though that deadly 
" ping " is followed by another, and his starting 
eyes behold the hole made by the missile in the 
clap-board just before him. 

She is down. They stand toppling together on 
the slippery ridge with no support but the rapidly 
heating wall down which she had come. He looks 
one way, then another. Ten feet either way to the 
gutter! On one side leap the flames; beneath the 
other crouches their secret enemy. They cannot 
meet the first and live ; needs must they face the lat- 
ter. Bullets do not always strike the mark, as 
witness the two they had escaped. Besides, there 



ROOM NUMBER 3 45 

are friends as well as enemies in the yard on this 
side. He can hear their encouraging cries. He will 
toss down the blanket; perhaps there will be hands 
to hold it and so break her fall, if not his. 

With a courage which drew strength from her 
weakness, he carried out this plan and saw her land 
in safety amid half a dozen upstretched arms. Then 
he prepared to follow her, but felt his courage fail 
and his strength ooze without knowing the cause. 
Had a bullet struck him? He did not feel it. He 
was conscious of the heat, but of no other suffer- 
ing; yet his limbs lacked life, and it no longer seemed 
possible for him to twist himself about so as to fall 
easily from the gutter. 

" Come on ! Come on ! " rose in yells from be- 
low, but there was no movement in him. 

"We can't wait. The wall will fall," rose af- 
frightedly from below. But he simply clung and 
the doom of flame and collapsing timbers was rush- 
ing mercilessly upon him when, in the glare which 
lit up the whole dreadful scenery, there rose before 
his fainting eyes the sight of Miss Demarest's face 
turned his way from the crowd below, with all the 
terror of a woman's bleeding heart behind it. The 
joy which this recognition brought cleared his brain 
and gave him strength to struggle with his lethargy. 
Raising himself on one elbow, he slid his feet over 
the gutter, and with a frantic catch at its frail sup- 
port, hung for one instant suspended, then dropped 
softly into the blanket which a dozen eager hands 
held out for him. 



46 ROOM NUMBER 3 

As he did so, a single gasping cry went up from 
the hushed throng. He knew the voice. His rescue 
had relieved one heart. His own beat tumulruously 
and the blood throbbed in his veins as he realised 
this. 

The next thing he remembered was standing far 
from the collapsing building, with a dozen men and 
boys grouped about him. A woman at his feet was 
clasping his knees in thankfulness, another sinking 
in a faint at the edge of the shadow, but he saw 
neither, for the blood was streaming over his eyes 
from a wound not yet accounted for, and as he felt 
the burning flow, he realised a fresh duty. 

"Where is Quimby?" he demanded loudly. "He 
made this hole in my forehead. He's a murderer 
and a thief, and I order you all in the name of the 
law to assist me in arresting him." 

With the confused cry of many voices, the circle 
widened. Brushing the blood from his brow, he 
caught at the nearest man, and with one glance to- 
ward the tottering building, pointed to the wall 
where he and the girl Huldah had clung. 

"Look!" he shouted, "do you see that black 
spot? Wait till the smoke blows aside. There! 
now! the spot just below the dangling sheet. It's 
a bullet-hole. It was made while I crouched there. 
Quimby held the gun. He had his reasons for hin- 
dering our escape. The gir\ can tell you " 

" Yes, yes," rose up from the ground at his feet. 
" Quimby is a wicked man. He knew that I knew 
it and he locked my door when he saw the flames 



ROOM NUMBER 3 47 

coming. I'm willing to tell now. I was afraid be- 
fore." 

They stared at her with all the wonder of uncom- 
prehending minds as she rose with a resolute air to 
confront them; but as the full meaning of her words 
penetrated their benumbed brains, slowly, man by 
man, they crept away to peer about in the barns, and 
among the clustering shadows for the man who had 
been thus denounced. Hammersmith followed them, 
and for a few minutes nothing but chase was in any 
man's mind. That part of the building in which 
lay hidden the room of shadows shook, tottered, 
and fell, loading the heavens with sparks and light- 
ing up the pursuit now become as wild and reckless 
as the scene itself. To Miss Demarest's eyes, just 
struggling back to sight and hearing from the nether- 
most depths of unconsciousness, it looked like the 
swirling flight of spirits lost in the vortex of hell. 
For one wild moment she thought that she herself 
had passed the gates of life and was one of those 
unhappy souls whirling over a gulf of flame. The 
next moment she realised her mistake. A kindly 
voice was in her ear, a kindly hand was pressing a 
half-burned blanket about her. 

" Don't stare so," the voice said. " It is only 
people routing out Quimby. They say he set fire 
to the tavern himself, to hide his crime and do away 
with the one man who knew about it. I know that 
he locked me in because I Oh, see! they've got 
him! they've got him! and with a gun in his 
hand!" 



48 ROOM NUMBER 3 

The friendly hand fell; both women started up- 
right panting with terror and excitement. Then 
one of them drew back, crying in a tone of sudden 
anguish, " Why, no ! It's Jake, Jake ! " 

Daybreak ! and with it Doctor Golden, who at the 
first alarm had ridden out post-haste without waiting 
to collect his jury. As he stepped to the ground 
before the hollow shell and smoking pile which were 
all that remained to mark the scene of yesterday's 
events, he looked about among the half-clad, shiver- 
ing men and women peering from the barns and 
stables where they had taken refuge, till his eyes 
rested on Hammersmith standing like a sentinel 
before one of the doors. 

" What's this? what's this? " he cried, as the other 
quickly approached. " Fire, with a man like you in 
the house? " 

" Fire because I was in the house. They evi- 
dently felt obliged to get rid of me somehow. It's 
been a night of great experiences for me. When 
they found I was not likely to perish in the flames 
they resorted to shooting. I believe that my fore- 
head shows where one bullet passed. Jake's aim 
might be improved. Not that I am anxious for 
it." 

"Jake? Do you mean the clerk? Did he fire 
at you? " 

" Yes, while I was on the roof engaged in rescu- 
ing one of the women." 

11 The miserable cur I You arrested him, of 



ROOM NUMBER 3 49 

course, as soon as you could lay your hands on 
him? " 

" Yes. He's back of me in this outhouse." 

" And Quimby? What about Quimby? " 

" He's missing." 

"And Mrs. Quimby?" 

" Missing, too. They are the only persons un- 
accounted for." 

" Lost in the fire? " 

" We don't think so. He was the incendiary and 
she, undoubtedly, his accomplice. They would cer- 
tainly look out for themselves. Doctor Golden, it 
was not for insurance money they fired the place; 
it was to cover up a crime." 

The coroner, more or less prepared for this 
statement by what Hammersmith had already told 
him, showed but little additional excitement as he 
dubiously remarked: 

" So you still hold to that idea." 

Hammersmith glanced about him and, catching 
more than one curious eye turned their way from 
the crowd now rapidly collecting in all directions, 
drew the coroner aside and in a few graphic words 
related the night's occurrences and the conclusions 
these had forced upon him. Doctor Golden list- 
ened and seemed impressed at last, especially by 
one point. 

" You saw Quimby," he repeated; " saw his face 
distinctly looking toward your room from one of 
the stable windows?" 

" I can swear to it. I even caught his expression. 



50 ROOM NUMBER 3 

It was malignant in the extreme, quite unlike that 
he usually turns upon his guests." 

" Which window was it? " 

Hammersmith pointed it out. 

" You have been there? Searched the room and 
the stable?" 

, " Thoroughly, just as soon as it was light enough 
to see." 

"And found " 

" Nothing; not even a clue." 

" The man is lying dead in that heap. She, toe, 
perhaps. We'll have to put the screws on Jake. 
A conspiracy like this must be unearthed. Show 
me the rascal." 

" He's in a most careless mood. He doesn't 
think his master and mistress perished in the fire." 

"Careless, eh? Well, we'll see. I know that 
sort." 

But when a few minutes later he came to con- 
front the clerk he saw that his task was not likely 
to prove quite so easy as his former experience 
had led him to expect. Save for a slight nervous 
trembling of limb and shoulder surely not un- 
natural after such a night Jake bore himself with 
very much the same indifferent ease he had shown 
the day before. 

Doctor Golden surveyed him with becoming 
sternness. 

" At what time did this fire start? " he asked. 

Jake had a harsh voice, but he mellowed it won- 
derfully as he replied: 



ROOM NUMBER 3 51 

" Somewhere about one. I don't carry a watch, 
so I don't know the exact time." 

" The exact time isn't necessary. Near one an- 
swers well enough. How came you to be com- 
pletely dressed at near one in a country tavern 
like this?" 

" I was on watch. There was death in the 
house." 

" Then you were in the house? " 

"Yes." His tongue faltered, but not his gaze; 
that was as direct as ever. " I was in the house, 
but not at the moment the fire started. I had 
gone to the stable to get a newspaper. My 
room is in the stable, the little one high in the 
cock-loft. I did not find the paper at once and 
when I did I stopped to read a few lines. I'm 
a slow reader, and by the time I was ready to 
cross back to the house, smoke was pouring out 
of the rear windows, and I stopped short, horri- 
fied! I'm mortally afraid of fire." 

" You have shown it. I have not heard that you 
raised the least alarm." 

" I'm afraid you're right. I lost my head like a 
fool. You see, I've never lived anywhere else for 
the last ten years, and to see my home on fire was 
more than I could stand. You wouldn't think me 
so weak to look at these muscles." 

Baring his arm, he stared down at it with a for- 
lorn shake of his head. The coroner glanced at 
Hammersmith. What sort of fellow was this! A 



52 ROOM NUMBER 3 

giant with the air of a child, a rascal with the smile 
of a humourist. Delicate business, this; or were 
they both deceived and the man just a good-hu- 
moured silly? 

Hammersmith answered the appeal by a nod to- 
ward an inner door. The coroner understood and 
turned back to Jake with the seemingly irrelevant 
inquiry : 

" Where did you leave Mr. Quimby when you 
went to the cock-loft? " 

" In the house? " 

"Asleep?" 

" No, he was making up his accounts." 

"In the office?" 

" Yes." 

" And that was where you left him? " 

" Yes, it was." 

" Then, how came he to be looking out of your 
window just before the fire broke out? " 

" He? " Jake's jaw fell and his enormous shoul- 
ders drooped; but only for a moment. With some- 
thing between a hitch and a shrug, he drew himself 
upright and with some slight display of temper cried 
out, " Who says he was there? " 

The coroner answered him. " The man behind 
you. He saw him." 

Jake's hand closed in a nervous grip. Had the 
trigger been against his finger at that moment it 
would doubtless have been snapped with some sat- 
isfaction, so the barrel had been pointing at Ham- 
mersmith. 



ROOM NUMBER 3 53 

" Saw him distinctly," the coroner repeated. 
" Mr. Quimby's face is not to be mistaken." 

" If he saw him," retorted Jake, with unexpected 
cunning, " then the flames had got a start. One 
don't see in the dark. They hadn't got much of a 
start when I left. So he must have gone up to my 
room after I came down." 

" It was before the alarm was given; before Mr. 
Hammersmith here had crawled out of his room 
window." 

" I can't help that, sir. It was after I left the 
stable. You can't mix me up with Quimby's doings." 

"Can't we? Jake, you're no lawyer and you 
don't know how to manage a lie. Make a clean 
breast of it. It may help you and it won't hurt 
Quimby. Begin with the old lady's coming. What 
turned Quimby against her? What's the plot? " 

" I don't know of any plot. What Quimby told 
you is true. You needn't expect me to contradict 
it I" 

A leaden doggedness had taken the place of his 
whilom good nature. Nothing is more difficult to 
contend with. Nothing is more dreaded by the in- 
quisitor. Hammersmith realised the difficulties of 
the situation and repeated the gesture he had pre- 
viously made toward the door leading into an ad- 
joining compartment. The coroner nodded as be- 
fore and changed the tone of his inquiry. 

" Jake," he declared, " you are in a more serious 
position than you realise. You may be devoted to 
Quimby, but there are others who are not. A night 



51 ROOM NUMBER 3 

such as you have been through quickens the con- 
science of women if it does not that of men. One 
has been near death. The story of such a woman 
is apt to be truthful. Do you want to hear it? I 
have no objections to your doing so." 

"What story? I don't know of any story. 
Women have easy tongues ; they talk even when they 
have nothing to say." 

" This woman has something to say, or why 
should she have asked to be confronted with you? 
Have her in, Mr. Hammersmith. I imagine that 
a sight of this man will make her voluble." 

A sneer from Jake; but when Hammersmith, 
crossing to the door I've just mentioned, opened it 
and let in Huldah, this token of bravado gave way 
to a very different expression and he exclaimed half 
ironically, half caressingly: 

" Why, she's my sweetheart ! What can she have 
to say except that she was mighty fortunate not to 
have been burned up in the fire last night? " 

Doctor Golden and the detective crossed looks 
in some anxiety. They had not been told of this 
relation between the two, either by the girl herself 
or by the others. Gifted with a mighty close mouth, 
she had nevertheless confided to Hammersmith that 
she could tell things and would, if he brought her 
face to face with the man who tried to shoot him 
while he was helping her down from the roof. 
Would her indignation hold out under the insinuat- 
ing smile with which the artful rascal awaited her 
words? It gave every evidence of doing so, for her 



ROOM NUMBER 3 55 

eye flashed threateningly and her whole*body showed 
the tension of extreme feeling as she came hastily 
forward, and pausing just beyond the reach of his 
arm, cried out: 

" You had a hand in locking me in. You're tired 
of me. If you're not, why did you fire those bullets 
my way? I was escaping and ; 

Jake thrust in a quick word. " That was Quim- 
by's move locking your door. He had some game 
up. I don't know what it was. I had nothing to 
do with it." 

This denial seemed to influence her. She looked 
at him and her breast heaved. He was good to 
look at; he must have been more than that to one 
of her restricted experience. Hammersmith trem- 
bled for the success of their venture. Would this 
blond young giant's sturdy figure and provoking 
smile prevail against the good sense which must tell 
her that he was criminal to the core, and that neither 
his principle nor his love were to be depended on? 
No, not yet. With a deepening flush, she flashed 
out: 

"You hadn't? You didn't want me dead? Why, 
then, those bullets? You might have killed me as 
well as Mr. Hammersmith when you fired! " 

"Huldah! " Astonishment and reproach in the 
tone and something more than either in the look 
which accompanied it. Both were very artful and 
betrayed resources not to be expected from one of 
his ordinarily careless and good-humoured aspect. 
*' You haven't heard what I've said about that? " 



5 6 ROOM NUMBER 3 

"What could you say?" 

" Why, the truth, Huldah. I saw you on the 
roof. The fire was near. I thought that neither 
you nor the man helping you could escape. A death 
of that kind is horrible. I loved you too well to see 
you suffer. My gun was behind the barn door. I 
got it and fired out of mercy." 

She gasped. So, in a way, did the two officials. 
The plea was so specious, and its likely effect upon 
her so evident. 

" Jake, can I believe you? " she murmured. 

For answer, he fumbled in his pocket and drew 
out a small object which he held up before her be- 
tween his fat forefinger and thumb. It was a ring, 
a thin, plain hoop of gold worth possibly a couple 
of dollars, but which in her eyes seemed to possess 
an incalculable value, for she had no sooner seen it 
than her whole face flushed and a look of positive 
delight supplanted the passionately aggrieved one 
with which she had hitherto faced him. 

" You had bought that? " 

He smiled and returned it to his pocket. 

" For you," he simply said. 

The joy and pride with which she regarded him, 
despite the protesting murmur of the discomfited 
Hammersmith, proved that the wily Jake had been 
too much for them. 

"You see!" This to Hammersmith. "Jake 
didn't mean any harm, only kindness to us both. If 
you will let him go, I'll be more thankful than when 
you helped me down off the roof. We're wanting 



ROOM NUMBER 3 57 

to be married. Didn't you see him show me the 
ring? " 

It was for the coroner to answer. 

" We'll let him go when we're assured that he 
means all that he says. I haven't as good an opin- 
ion of him as you have. I think he's deceiving you 
and that you are a very foolish girl to trust him. 
Men don't fire on the women they love, for any 
reason. You'd better tell me what you have against 
him." 

" I haven't anything against him now." 

" But you were going to tell us something " 

" I guess I was fooling." 

" People are not apt to fool who have just been 
in terror of their lives." 

Her eyes sought the ground. " I'm just a hard- 
working girl," she muttered almost sullenly. 
" What should I know about that man Quimby's 
dreadful doings? " 

" Dreadful? You call them dreadful? " It was 
Doctor Golden who spoke. 

" He locked me in my room," she violently de- 
clared. " That wasn't done for fun." 

" And is that all you can tell us? Don't look at 
Jake. Look at me." 

" But I don't know what to say. I don't even 
know what you want." 

" I'll tell you. Your work in the house has been 
upstairs work, hasn't it? " 

" Yes, sir. I did up the rooms some of them," 
she added cautiously. 



58 ROOM NUMBER 3 

"What rooms? Front rooms, rear rooms, or 
both?" 

" Rooms in front; those on the third floor." 

"But you sometimes went into the extension?" 

" I've been down the hall." 

" Haven't you been in any of the rooms there, 
Number 3, for instance?" 

" No, sir; my work didn't take me there." 

" But you've heard of the room? " 

" Yes, sir. The girls sometimes spoke of it. It 
had a bad name, and wasn't often used. No girl 
liked to go there. A man was found dead in it 
once. They said he killed his own self." 

" Have you ever heard any one describe this 
room? " 

" No, sir." 

" Tell what paper was on the wall? " 

" No, sir." 

" Perhaps Jake here can help us. He's been in 
the room often." 

"The paper was blue; you know that; you saw 
it yourselves yesterday," blurted forth the man thus 
appealed to. 

" Always blue? Never any other colour that you 
remember? " 

" No; but I've been in the house only ten years." 

" Oh, is that all ! And do you mean to say that 
this room has not been redecorated in ten years? " 

" How can I tell? I can't remember every time 
a room is repapered." 

" You ought to remember this one." 



ROOM NUMBER 3 59 

"Why?" 

" Because of a very curious circumstance con- 
nected with it." 

" I don't know of any circumstance." 

" You heard what Miss Demarest had to say 
about a room whose walls were covered with muddy 
pink scrolls." 

" Oh, she ! " His shrug was very expressive. 
Huldah continued to look down. 

" Miss Demarest seemed to know what she was 
talking about," pursued the coroner in direct con- 
tradiction of the tone he had taken the day before. 
" Her description was quite vivid. It would be 
strange now if those walls had once been covered 
with just such paper as she described." 

An ironic stare, followed by an incredulous smile 
from Jake; dead silence and immobility on the part 
of Huldah. 

" Was it? " shot from Doctor Golden's lips with 
all the vehemence of conscious authority. 

There was an instant's pause, during which Hul- 
dah's breast ceased its regular rise and fall; then the 
clerk laughed sharply and cried with the apparent 
lightness of a happy-go-lucky temperament: 

** I should like to know if it was. I'd think it a 

very curious quin quin What's the word? 

quincedence, or something like that." 

" The deepest fellow I know," grumbled the baf- 
fled coroner into Hammersmith's ear, as the latter 
stepped his way, " or just the most simple." Then 
added aloud: "Lift up my coat there, please." 



60 ROOM NUMBER 3 

Hammersmith did so. The garment mentioned 
lay across a small table which formed the sole fur- 
nishing of the place, and when Hammersmith raised 
it, there appeared lying underneath several small 
pieces of plaster which Doctor Golden immediately 
pointed out to Jake. 

u Do you see these bits from a papered wall?" 
he asked. " They were torn from that of Number 
3, between the breaking out of the fire and Mr. 
Hammersmith's escape from the room. Come 
closer; you may look at them, but keep your fingers 
off. You see that the coincidence you mentioned 
holds." 

Jake laughed again loudly, in a way he probably 
meant to express derision; then he stood silent, gaz- 
ing curiously down at the pieces before him. The 
blue paper peeling away from the pink made it 
impossible for him to deny that just such paper 
as Miss Demarest described had been on the wall 
prior to the one they had all seen and remem- 
bered.* 

" Well, I vum ! " Jake finally broke out, turning 
and looking from one face to another with a very 
obvious attempt to carry off the matter jovially. 
" She must have a great eye; a a (another hard 
word! What is it now?) Well! no matter. One 
of the kind what sees through the outside of things 
to what's underneath. I always thought her queer, 

* Hammersmith's first attempt to settle this fact must have failed 
from his having chosen a spot for his experiment where the old 
paper had been stripped away before the new \vas put oa. 



ROOM NUMBER 3 61 

but not so queer as that. I'd like to have that sort 
of power myself. Wouldn't you, Huldah? " 

The girl, whose eye, as Hammersmith was care- 
ful to note, had hardly dwelt for an instant on these 
bits, not so long by any means as a woman's natural 
curiosity would seem to prompt, started as atten- 
tion was thus drawn to herself and attempted a sickly 
smile. 

But the coroner had small appreciation for this 
attempted display of humour, and motioning to 
Hammersmith to take her away, he subjected the 
clerk to a second examination which, though much 
more searching and rigorous than the first, resulted 
in the single discovery that for all his specious love- 
making he cared no more for the girl than for one 
of his old hats. This the coroner confided to Ham- 
mersmith when he came in looking disconsolate at 
his own failure to elicit anything further from the 
resolute Huldah. 

" But you can't make her believe that now," whis- 
pered Hammersmith. 

" Then we must trick him into showing her his 
real feelings." 

" How would you set to work? He's warned, 
she's warned, and life if not love is at stake." 

" It don't look very promising," muttered Doctor 
Golden, " but " 

He was interrupted by a sudden sound of hub- 
bub without. 

" It's Quimby, Quimby ! " declared Hammer- 
smith in his sudden excitement. 



62 ROOM NUMBER 3 

But again he was mistaken. It was not the land- 
lord, but his wife, wild-eyed, dishevelled, with bits 
of straw in her hair from some sheltering hayrick 
and in her hand a heavy gold chain which, as the 
morning sun shone across it, showed sparkles of 
liquid clearness at short intervals along its whole 
length. 

Diamonds ! Miss Thistlewaite's diamonds, and 
the woman who held them was gibbering like an 
idiot! 

The effect on Jake was remarkable. Uttering a 
piteous cry, he bounded from their hands and fell 
at the woman's feet. 

"Mother Quimby!" he moaned. "Mother 
Quimby ! " and sought to kiss her hand and wake 
some intelligence in her eye. 

Meanwhile the coroner and Hammersmith looked 
on, astonished at these evidences of real feeling. 
Then their eyes stole behind them, and simulta- 
neously both started back for the outhouse they had 
just left. Huldah was standing in the doorway, sur- 
veying the group before her with trembling, half- 
parted lips. 

" Jealous ! " muttered Hammersmith. " Provi- 
dence has done our little trick for us. She will talk 
now. Look! She's beckoning to us." 



ROOM NUMBER 3 63 



" Speak quickly. You'll never regret it, Huldah. 
He's no mate for you, and you ought to know it. 
You have seen this paper covered with the pink 
scrolls before?" 

The coroner had again drawn aside his coat from 
the bits of plaster. 

" Yes," she gasped, with quick glances at her 
lover through the open doorway. " He never shed 
tears for me ! " she exclaimed bitterly. " I didn't 
know he could for anybody. Oh, I'll tell what I've 
kept quiet here," and she struck her breast violently. 
" I wouldn't keep the truth back now if the minister 
was waiting to marry us. He loves that old woman 
and he doesn't love me. Hear him call her 
'mother.' Are mothers dearer than sweethearts? 
Oh, I'll tell ! I don't know anything about the old 
lady, but I do know that room 3 was repapered the 
night before last, and secretly, by him. I didn't see 
him do it, nobody did, but this is how I know : Some 
weeks ago I was hunting for something in the attic, 
when I stumbled upon some rolls of old wall-paper 
lying in a little cubby-hole under the eaves. The 
end of one of the rolls was torn and lay across the 
floor. I couldn't help seeing it or remembering its 
colour. It was like this, blue and striped. Exactly like 
it," she repeated, " just as shabby and old-looking. 
The rain had poured in on it, and it was all mouldy 
and stained. It smelt musty. I didn't give two 
thoughts to it then, but when after the old lady's 



64 ROOM NUMBER 3 

death I heard one of the girls say something in the 
kitchen about a room being blue now which only a 
little while ago was pink, I stole up into the attic 
to see if those rolls were still there and found 
them every one gone. Oh, what is happening 
now?" 

" One of the men is trying to take the diamonds 
from the woman and she won't let him. Her wits 
are evidently gone frightened away by the horrors 
of the night or she wouldn't try to cling to what 
has branded her at once as a thief." 

The word seemed to pierce the girl. She stared 
out at her former mistress, who was again being 
soothed by the clerk, and murmured hoarsely: 

" A thief ! and he don't seem to mind, but is just as 
good to her! Oh, oh, I once served a term myself 
for for a smaller thing than that and I thought that 

was why Oh, sir, oh, sir, there's no mistake 

about the paper. For I went looking about in the 
barrels and where they throw the refuse, for bits to 
prove that this papering had been done in the night. 
It seemed so wonderful to me that any one, even 
Jake, who is the smartest man you ever saw, could 
do such a job as that and no one know. And though 
I found nothing in the barrels, I did in the laundry 
stove. It was full of burned paper, and some of it 
showed colour, and it was just that musty old blue 
I had seen in the attic." 

She paused with a terrified gasp; Jake was look- 
ing at her from the open door. 

" Oh, Jake ! " she wailed out, " why weren't you 



ROOM NUMBER 3 65 

true to me ? Why did you pretend to love me when 
you didn't? " 

He gave her a look, then turned on his heel. He 
was very much subdued in aspect and did not think 
to brush away the tear still glistening on his cheek. 

" I've said my last word to you," he quietly de- 
clared, then stood silent a moment, with slowly 
labouring chest and an air of deepest gloom. But, 
as his eye stole outside again, they saw the spirit 
melt within him and simple human grief take the 
place of icy resolution. " She was like a mother to 
me," he murmured. " And now they say she'll 
never be herself again as long as she lives." Sud- 
denly his head rose and lie faced the coroner. 

" You're right," said he. " It's all up with me. 
No home, no sweetheart, no missus. She [there was 
no doubt as to whom he meant by that tremulous 
she] was the only one I've ever cared for and she's 
just shown herself a thief. I'm no better. This 
is our story." 

I will not give it in his words, but in my own. It 
will be shorter and possibly more intelligible. 

The gang, if you may call it so, consisted of 
Quimby and these two, with a servant or so in ad- 
dition. Robbery was its aim; a discreet and none 
too frequent spoliation of such of their patrons as 
lent themselves to their schemes. Quimby was the 
head, his wife the soul of this business, and Jake 
their devoted tool. The undermining of the latter's 
character had been begun early; a very dangerous 
undermining, because it had for one of its elements 



66 ROOM NUMBER 3 

good humour and affectionate suggestion. At four- 
teen he was ready for any crime, but he was merci- 
fully kept out of the worst till he was a full-grown 
man. Then he did his part. The affair of the old 
woman was an unpremeditated one. It happened 
in this wise: Miss Demarest's story had been true 
in every particular. Her mother was with her when 
she came to the house, and he, Jake, was the per- 
son sitting far back in the shadows at the time the 
young lady registered. There was nothing peculiar 
in the occurrence or in their behaviour except the 
decided demand which Miss Demarest made for 
separate rooms. This attracted his attention, for 
the house was pretty full and only one room was 
available in the portion reserved for transients. 
What would Quimby do? He couldn't send two 
women away, and he was entirely too conciliatory 
and smooth to refuse a request made so perempto- 
rily. Quimby did nothing. He hemmed, hawed, and 
looked about for his wife. She was in the inner 
office back of him, and, attracted by his uneasy move- 
ments, showed herself. A whispered consultation 
followed, during which she cast a glance Jake's way. 
He understood her instantly and lounged carelessly 
forward. " Let them have Number 3," he said. 
" It's all fixed for the night. I can sleep anywhere, 
on the settle here or even on the floor of the inner 
office." 

He had whispered these words, for the offer 
meant more than appeared. Number 3 was never 
given to guests. It was little more than a closet and 



ROOM NUMBER 3 67 

was not even furnished. A cot had been put in 
that very afternoon, but only to meet a special emer- 
gency. A long-impending conference was going to 
be held between him and his employers subsequent 
to closing up time, and he had planned this im- 
promptu refuge to save himself a late walk to the 
stable. At his offer to pass the same over to the 
Demarests, the difficulty of the moment vanished. 
Miss Demarest was shown to the one empty room 
in front, and the mother as being the one less 
likely to be governed by superstitious fears if it so 
happened that some rumour of the undesirability 
of the haunted Number 3 should have reached them 
to the small closet so hastily prepared for the 
clerk. Mrs. Quimby accompanied her, and after- 
ward visited her again for the purpose of carrying 
her a bowl and some water. It was then she en- 
countered Miss Demarest, who, anxious for a second 
and more affectionate good-night from her mother, 
had been wandering the halls in a search for her 
room. There was nothing to note in this simple 
occurrence, and Mrs. Quimby might have forgotten 
all about it if Miss Demarest had not made a cer- 
tain remark on leaving the room. The bareness and 
inhospitable aspect of the place may have struck her, 
for she stopped in the doorway and, looking back, 
exclaimed: " What ugly paper! Magenta, too, the 
one colour my mother hates." This Mrs. Quimby 
remembered, for she also hated magenta, and never 
went into this room if she could help it. 

The business which kept them all up that night 



68 ROOM NUMBER 3 

was one totally disconnected with the Demarests or 
any one else in the house. A large outstanding 
obligation was coming due which Quimby lacked 
the money to meet. Something must be done with 
the stolen notes and jewelry which they had accumu- 
lated in times past and had never found the will or 
courage to dispose of. A choice must be made of 
what was salable. But what choice? It was a 
question that opened the door to endless controversy 
and possibly to a great difference of opinion; for 
in his way Quimby was a miser of the worst type and 
cared less for what money would do than for the 
sight and feeling of the money itself, while Mrs. 
Quimby was even more tenacious in her passion for 
the trinkets and gems which she looked upon as her 
part of the booty. Jake, on the contrary, cared little 
for anything but the good of the couple to whom 
he had attached himself. He wished Quimby to be 
satisfied, but not at Mrs. Quimby's expense. He was 
really fond of the woman and he was resolved that 
she should have no cause to grieve, even if he had 
to break with the old man. Little did any of them 
foresee what the night really held for them, or on 
what a jagged and unsuspected rock their frail bark 
was about to split. 

Shutting-up time came, and with it the usual mid- 
night quiet. All the doors had been locked and the 
curtains drawn over the windows and across the 
glass doors of the office. They were determined to 
do what they had never done before, lay out the 
loot and make a division. Quimby was resolved to 



ROOM NUMBER 3 69 

see the diamonds which hts wife had kept hidden 
for so long, and she, the securities, concerning the 
value of which he had contradicted himself so often. 
Jake's presence would keep the peace; they had no 
reason to fear any undue urging of his claims. All 
this he knew, and he was not therefore surprised, 
only greatly excited, when, after a last quiet look 
and some listening at the foot of the stairs, Mr. 
Quimby beckoned him into the office and, telling him 
to lock the door behind him, stepped around the bar 
to summon his wife. Jake never knew how it hap- 
pened. He flung the door to and locked it, as he 
thought, but he must have turned the key too quickly, 
for the bolt of the lock did not enter the jamb, as 
they afterward found. Meanwhile they felt per- 
fectly secure. The jewels were brought out of Mrs. 
Quimby's bedroom and laid on the desk. The se- 
curities were soon laid beside them. They had been 
concealed behind a movable brick at the side of the 
fireplace. Then the discussion began, involving more 
or less heat and excitement. 

How long this lasted no one ever knew. At half- 
past eleven no change of attitude had taken place 
either in Quimby or his wife. At twelve the only 
difference marked by Jake was the removal of the 
securities to Quimby's breast pocket, and of the dia- 
mond-studded chain to Mrs. Quimby's neck. The 
former were too large for the pocket, the latter too 
brilliant for the dark calico background they blazed 
against. Jake, who was no fool, noted both facts, but 
had no words for the situation. He was absorbed, 



7 ROOM NUMBER 3 

and he saw that Quimby was absorbed, in watching 
her broad hand creeping over those diamonds and 
huddling them up in a burning heap against her heart. 
There was fear in the action, fierce and overmas- 
tering fear, and so there was in her eyes which, 
fixed and glassy, stared over their shoulders at the 
wall behind, as though something had reached out 
from that wall and struck at the very root of her 
being. What did it mean? There was nothing in 
the room to affright her. Had she gone daft? 
Or 

Suddenly they both felt the blood congeal in their 
own veins; each turned to each a horrified face, 
then slowly and as if drawn by a power supernat- 
ural and quite outside of their own will, their two 
heads turned in the direction she was looking, and 
they beheld standing in their midst a spectre no, it 
was the figure of a living, breathing woman, with 
eyes fastened on those jewels, those well-known, 
much-advertised jewels! So much they saw in that 
instant flash, then nothing! For Quimby, in a frenzy 
of unreasoning fear, had taken the chair from un- 
der him and had swung it at the figure. A lamp 
had stood on the bar top. It was caught by the 
backward swing of the chair, overturned asd 
quenched. The splintering of glass mingled its small 
sound with an ominous thud in the thick darkness. 
It was the end of all things; the falling of an im- 
penetrable curtain over a horror half sensed, yet 
all the greater for its mystery. 

The silence the terror the unspeakable sense 



ROOM NUMBER 3 71 

of doom which gripped them all was not broken by 
a heart-beat. All listened for a stir, a movement 
where they could see nothing. But the stillness re- 
mained unbroken. The silence was absolute. The 
figure which they had believed themselves to have 
seen had been a dream, an imagination of their over- 
wrought minds. It could not be otherwise. The 
door had been locked, entrance was impossible; yet 
doubt held them powerless. The moments were 
making years of themselves. To each came in a flash 
a review of every earthly incident they had experi- 
enced, every wicked deed, every unholy aspiration. 
Quimby gritted his teeth. It was the first sound 
which had followed that thud and, slight as it was, 
it released them somewhat from their awful tension. 
Jake felt that he could move now, and was about 
to let forth his imprisoned breath when he felt the 
touch of icy fingers trailing over his cheek, and 
started back with a curse. It was Mrs. Quimby 
feeling about for him in the impenetrable darkness, 
and in another moment he could hear her smoth- 
ered whisper: 

" Are you there, Jake? " 

" Yes; where are you? " 

" Here," said the woman, with an effort to keep 
her teeth from striking together. 

" For God's sake, a light! " came from the hollow 
darkness beyond. 

It was Quimby's voice at last. Jake answered : 

" No light for me. I'll stay where I am till day- 
break." 



72 ROOM NUMBER 3 

" Get a light, you fool ! " commanded Quimby, 
but not without a tremble in his usually mild tone. 

Hard breathing from Jake, but no other re- 
sponse. Quimby seemed to take a step nearer, for 
his voice was almost at their ears now. 

*' Jake, you can have anything I've got so as you 
get a light now." 

" There ain't nothing to light here. You broke 
the lamp." 

Quiet for a moment, then Quimby muttered 
hoarsely: 

" If you ain't scared out of your seven senses, 
you can go down cellar and bring up that bit of can- 
dle 'longside the ale-barrels." 

Into the cellar! Not Jake. The moving of the 
rickety table which his fat hand had found and 
rested on spoke for him. 

Another curse from Quimby. Then the woman, 
though with some hesitation, said with more self- 
control than could be expected : 

" I'll get it," and they heard her move away from 
it toward the trap-door behind the bar. 

The two men made no objection. To her that 
cold, black cellar might seem a refuge from the un- 
seen horror centred here. It had not struck them 
so. It had its own possibilities, and Jake wondered 
at her courage, as he caught the sound of her grop- 
ing advance and the sudden clatter and clink of bot- 
tles as the door came up and struck the edge of the 
bar. There was life and a suggestion of home in 
that clatter and clink, and all breathed easier for a 



ROOM NUMBER 3 73 

moment, but only for a moment. The something 
lying there behind them, or was it almost under 
their feet, soon got its hold again upon their fears, 
and Jake found himself standing stock-still, listening 
both ways for that dreaded, or would it be wel- 
come, movement on the floor behind, and to the 
dragging sound of Mrs. Quimby's skirt and petti- 
coat as she made her first step down those cellar- 
stairs. What an endless time it took! He could 
rush down there in a minute, but she she could not 
have reached the third step yet, for that always 
creaked. Now it did creak. Then there was no 
sound for some time, unless it was the panting of 
Quimby's breath somewhere over by the bar. Then 
the stair creaked again. She must be nearly up. 

" Here's matches and the candle," came in a hol- 
low voice from the trap-stairs. 

A faint streak appeared for an instant against the 
dark, then disappeared. Another; but no lasting 
light. The matches were too damp to burn. 

"Jake, ain't you got a match?" appealed the 
voice of Quimby in half-choked accents. 

After a bit of fumbling a small blaze shot up 
from where Jake stood. Its sulphurous smell may 
have suggested to all, as it did to one, the im- 
measurable distance of heaven at that moment, and 
the awful nearness of hell. They could see now, but 
not one of them looked in the direction where all 
their thoughts lay. Instead of that, they rolled their 
eyes on each other, while the match burned slowly 



74 ROOM NUMBER 3 

out : Mrs. Quimby from the trap, her husband from 
the bar, and Jake. Suddenly he found words, and 
his cry rang through the room: 

" The candle ! the candle ! this is my only match. 
Where is the candle? " 

Quimby leaped forward and with shaking hand 
held the worn bit of candle to the flame. It failed 
to ignite. The horrible, dreaded darkness was about 

to close upon them again before before But 

another hand had seized the candle. Mrs. Quimby 
has come forward, and as the match sends up its 
last flicker, thrusts the wick against the flame and 
the candle flares up. It is lighted. 

Over it they give each other one final appealing 
stare. There's no help for it now; they must look. 
Jake's head turned first, then Mrs. Quimby, and 
then that of the real aggressor. 

A simultaneous gasp from them all betrays the 
worst. It had been no phantom called into being 
by their overtaxed nerves. A woman lay before 
them, face downward on the hard floor. A woman 
dressed in black, with hat on head and a little 
satchel clutched in one stiff, outstretched hand. 
Miss Demarest's mother! The little old lady who 
had come into the place four hours before! 

With a muttered execration, Jake stepped over 
to her side and endeavoured to raise her; but he 
instantly desisted, and looking up at Quimby and 
his wife, moved his lips with the one fatal word 
which ends all hope: 

"Dead!" 



ROOM NUMBER 3 75 

They listened appalled. "Dead?" echoed the 
now terrified Quimby. 

" Dead?" repeated his no less agitated wife. 

Jake was the least overcome of the three. With 
another glance at the motionless figure, he rose, and 
walking around the body, crossed to the door and 
seeing what he had done to make entrance possible, 
cursed himself and locked it properly. Meanwhile, 
Mrs. Quimby, with her eyes on her husband, had 
backed slowly away till she had reached the desk, 
against which she now stood with fierce and furious 
eyes, still clutching at her chain. 

Quimby watched her fascinated. He had never 
seen her look like this before. What did it portend? 
They were soon to know. 

" Coward! " fell from her lips, as she stared with 
unrelenting hate at her husband. " An old woman 
who was not even conscious of what she saw! I'll 
not stand for this killing, Jacob. You may count 

me out of this and the chain, too. If you don't " 

a threatening gesture finished the sentence and the 
two men looking at her knew that they had come up 
against a wall. 

" Susan ! " Was that Quimby speaking ? " Susan, 
are you going back on me now? " 

She pointed at the motionless figure lying in its 
shrouding black like an ineffaceable blot on the of- 
fice floor, then at the securities shewing above the 
edge of his pocket. 

" Were we not close enough to discovery, with- 
out drawing the attention of the police by such an 



76 ROOM NUMBER 3 

unnecessary murder? She was walking in her sleep. 
I remember her eyes as she advanced toward me; 
there was no sight in them." 

" You lie ! " It was the only word which Quimby 
found to ease the shock which this simple statement 
caused him. But Jake saw from the nature of the 
glance he shot at his poor old victim that her words 
had struck home. His wife saw it, too, but it did 
not disturb the set line of her determined mouth. 

" You'll let me keep the chain," she said, " and 
you'll use your wits, now that you have used your 
hand, to save yourself and myself from the charge 
of murder." 

Quimby, who was a man of great intelligence 
when his faculties were undisturbed by anger or 
shock, knelt and turned his victim carefully over so 
that her face was uppermost. 

" It was not murder," he uttered in an indescrib- 
able tone after a few minutes of cautious scrutiny. 
" The old lady fell and struck her forehead. See ! 
the bruise is scarcely perceptible. Had she been 
younger " 

" A sudden death from any cause in this house at 
just this time is full of danger for us," coldly broke 
in his wife. 

The landlord rose to his feet, walked away to the 
window, dropped his head, thought for a minute, 
and then slowly came back, glanced at the woman 
again, at her dress, her gloved hands, and her little 
satchel. 

" She didn't die in this house," fell from his lips 



ROOM NUMBER 3 77 

in his most oily accents. " She fell in the woods; 
the path is full of bared roots, and there she must 
be found to-morrow morning. Jake, are you up to 
the little game? " 

Jake, who was drawing his first full breath, an- 
swered with a calm enough nod, whereupon Quimby 
bade his wife to take a look outside and see if the 
way was clear for them to carry the body out. 

She did not move. He fell into a rage; an un- 
usual thing for him. 

" Bestir yourself! do as I bid you," he muttered. 

Her eyes held his; her face took on the look he 
had learned to dread. Finally she spoke : 

" And the daughter ! What about the daugh- 
ter?" 

Quimby stood silent; then with a sidelong leer, 
and in a tone smooth as oil, but freighted with pur- 
pose, " The mother first; we'll look after the daugh- 
ter later." 

Mrs. Quimby shivered; then as her hand spread 
itself over the precious chain sparkling with the 
sinister gleam of serpent's eyes on her broad bosom, 
she grimly muttered : 

" How? I'm for no more risks, I tell you." 

Jake took a step forward. He thought his mas- 
ter was about to rush upon her. But he was only 
gathering up his faculties to meet the new problem 
she had flung at him. 

"The girl's a mere child; we shall have no diffi- 
culty with her," he muttered broodingly. " Who 
saw these two come in? " 



78 ROOM NUMBER 3 

Then it came out that no one but themselves had 
been present at their arrival. Further consultation 
developed that the use to which Number 3 had been 
put was known to but one of the maids, who could 
easily be silenced. Whereupon Quimby told his 
scheme. Mrs. Quimby was satisfied, and he and 
Jake prepared to carry it out. 

The sensations of the next half-hour, as told by 
Jake, would make your flesh creep. They did not 
dare to carry a lamp to light the gruesome task, and 
well as they knew the way, the possibilities of a 
stumble or a fall against some one of the many trees 
they had to pass filled them with constant terror. 
They did stumble once, and the low cry Jake uttered 
caused them new fears. Was that a window they 
heard flying up? No; but something moved in the 
bushes. They were sure of this and guiltily shook 
in their shoes; but nothing advanced out of the 
shadows, and they went on. 

But the worst was when they had to turn their 
backs upon the body left lying face downward in 
the cold, damp woods. Men of no compassion, un- 
reached by ordinary sympathies, they felt the fur- 
tive skulking back, step by step, along ways common- 
place enough in the daytime, but begirt with terrors 
now and full of demoniac suggestion. 

The sight of a single thread of light marking the 
door left ajar for them by Mrs. Quimby was a 
beacon of hope which was not even disturbed by the 
sight of her wild figure walking in a circle round 
and round the office, the stump of candle dripping 



ROOM NUMBER 3 79 

unheeded over her fingers, and her eyes almost as 
sightless as those of the form left in the woods. 

" Susan ! " exclaimed her husband, laying hand on 
her. 

She paused at once. The presence of the two 
men had restored her self-possession. 

But all was not well yet. Jake drew Quimby's 
attention to the register where the two names of 
mother and daughter could be seen in plain black 
and white. 

"Oh, that's nothing!" exclaimed the landlord, 
and, taking out his knife, he ripped the leaf out, to- 
gether with the corresponding one in the back. 
" The devil's on our side all right, or why did she 
pass over the space at the bottom of the page and 
write their two names at the top of the next one? " 

He started, for his wife had clutched his arm. 

" Yes, the devil's on our side thus far," said she, 
" but here he stops. I have just remembered some- 
thing that will upset our whole plan and possibly 
hang us. Miss Demarest visited her mother in 
Number 3 and noticed the room well, and particu- 
larly the paper. Now if she is able to describe that 
paper, it might not be so easy for us to have our 
story believed." 

For a minute all stood aghast, then Jake quietly 
remarked: " It is now one by the clock. If you can 
find me some of that old blue paper I once chucked 
under the eaves in the front attic, I will engage to 
have it on those four walls before daylight. Bring 
the raggedest rolls you can find. If it shouldn't be 



8o ROOM NUMBER 3 

dry to the touch when they come to see it to-morrow, 
it must look so stained and old that no one will think 
of laying hand on it. I'll go make the paste." 

As Jake was one of the quickest and most precise 
of workers at anything he understood, this astonish- 
ing offer struck the other two as quite feasible. The 
paper was procured, the furniture moved back, and 
a transformation made in the room in question 
which astonished even those concerned in it. Dawn 
rose upon the completed work and, the self-posses- 
sion of all three having been restored with the 
burning up of such scraps as remained after the four 
walls were covered, they each went to their several 
beds for a half-hour of possible rest. Jake's was 
in Number 3. He has never said what that half- 
hour was to him ! 

The rest we know. The scheme did not fully 
succeed, owing to the interest awakened in one man's 
mind by the beauty and seeming truth of Miss Dem- 
arest. Investigation followed which roused the 
landlord to the danger threatening them from 
the curiosity of Hammersmith, and it being neck or 
nothing with him, he planned the deeper crime of 
burning up room and occupant before further dis- 
coveries could be made. What became of him in 
the turmoil which followed, no one could tell, not 
even Jake. They had been together in Jake's 
room before the latter ran out with his gun, but 
beyond that the clerk knew nothing. Of Mrs. 
Quimby he could tell more. She had not been taken 
into their confidence regarding the fire, some small 



ROOM NUMBER 3 81 

grains of humanity remaining in her which they 
feared might upset their scheme. She had only been 
given some pretext for locking Huldah in her room, 
and it was undoubtedly her horror at her own deed 
when she saw to what it had committed her which 
unsettled her brain and made her a gibbering idiot 
for life. 

Or was it some secret knowledge of her hus- 
band's fate, unknown to others? We cannot tell, 
for no sign nor word of Jacob Quimby ever came 
to dispel the mystery of his disappearance. 

And this is the story of Three Forks Tavern and 
the room numbered 3. 



MIDNIGHT IN BEAUCHAMP ROW 



IT was the last house in Beauchamp Row, and it 
stood several rods away from its nearest neighbour. 
It was a pretty house in the daytime, but owing to 
its deep, sloping roof and small bediamonded win- 
dows it had a lonesome look at night, notwithstand- 
ing the crimson hall-light which shone through the 
leaves of its vine-covered doorway. 

Ned Chivers lived in it with his six months' mar- 
ried bride, and as he was both a busy fellow and a 
gay one there were many evenings when pretty Letty 
Chivers sat alone until near midnight. 

She was of an uncomplaining spirit, however, 
and said little, though there were times when 
both the day and evening seemed very long and 
married life not altogether the paradise she had 
expected. 

On this evening a memorable evening for her, 
the 24th of December, 1911 she had expected her 
husband to remain with her, for it was not only 
Christmas eve, but the night when, as manager of a 
large manufacturing concern, he brought up from 
New York the money with which to pay off the men 
on the next working day, and he never left her when 
there was any unusual amount of money in the 
house. But with the first glimpse she had of his 
figure coming up the road she saw that for some rea- 
son it was not to be thus to-night, and, indignant, 
alarmed almost, at the prospect of a lonesome even- 

8.S 



86 MIDNIGHT IN BEAUCHAMP ROW 

ing under such circumstances, she ran hastily down 
to the gate to meet him, crying: 

" Oh, Ned, you look so troubled I know you have 
only come home for a hurried supper. But you 
cannot leave me to-night. Tennie " (their only 
maid) " has gone for a holiday, and I never can 
stay in this house alone with all that." She pointed 
to the small bag he carried, which, as she knew, was 
filled to bursting with bank notes. 

He certainly looked troubled. It is hard to re- 
sist the entreaty in a young bride's uplifted face. 
But this time he could not help himself, and he 
said : 

" I am dreadfully sorry, but I must ride over to 
Fairbanks to-night. Mr. Pierson has given me an 
imperative order to conclude a matter of business 
there, and it is very important that it should be 
done. I should lose my position if I neglected the 
matter, and no one but Hasbrouck and Suffern 
knows that we keep the money in the house. I have 
always given out that I intrusted it to Hale's safe 
over night." 

" But I cannot stand it," she persisted. " You 
have never left me on these nights. That is why I 
let Tennie go. I will spend the evening at The 
Larches, or, better still, call in Mr. and Mrs. Tal- 
cott to keep me company." 

But her husband did not approve of her going 
out or of her having company. The Larches was 
too far away, and as for Mr. and Mrs. Talcott, 
they were meddlesome people, whom he had never 



MIDNIGHT IN BEAUCHAMP ROW 87 

liked; besides, Mrs. Talcott was delicate, and the 
night threatened storm. Let her go to bed like a 
good girl, and think nothing about the money, which 
he would take care to put away in a very safe place. 

" Or," said he, kissing her downcast face, " per- 
haps you would rather hide it yourself; women al- 
ways have curious ideas about such things." 

" Yes, let me hide it," she entreated. " The 
money, I mean, not the bag. Every one knows the 
bag. I should never dare to leave it in that." And 
begging him to unlock it, she began to empty it with 
a feverish haste that rather alarmed him, for he 
surveyed her anxiously and shook his head as if he 
dreaded the effects of this excitement upon her. 

But as he saw no way out of the difficulty, he con- 
fined himself to using such soothing words as were 
at his command, and then, humouring her weakness, 
helped her to arrange the bills in the place she had 
chosen, and restuffing the bag with old receipts till it 
acquired its former dimensions, he put a few bills on 
top to make the whole look natural, and, laughing 
at her white face, relocked the bag and put the key 
back in his pocket. 

"There, dear; a notable scheme and one that 
should relieve your mind entirely! " he cried. " If 
any one should attempt burglary in my absence and 
should succeed in getting into a house as safely 
locked as this will be when I leave it, then trust to 
their being satisfied when they see this booty, which 
I shall hide where I always hide it in the cupboard 
over my desk." 



88 MIDNIGHT IN BEAUCHAMP ROW 

" And when will you be back? " she questioned, 
trembling in spite of herself at these preparations. 

" By one o'clock if possible. Certainly by two." 

" And our neighbours go to bed at ten," she mur- 
mured. But the words were low, and she was glad 
he did not hear them, for if it was his duty to obey 
the orders he had received, then it was her duty to 
meet the position in which it left her as bravely as 
she could. 

At supper she was so natural that his face rapidly 
brightened, and it was with quite an air of cheer- 
fulness that he rose at last to lock up the house and 
make such preparations as were necessary for his 
dismal ride over the mountains to Fairbanks. She 
had the supper dishes to wash up in Tennie's ab- 
sence, and as she was a busy little housewife she 
found herself singing a snatch of song as she passed 
back and forth from dining-room to kitchen. He 
heard it, too, and smiled to himself as he bolted the 
windows on the ground floor and examined the locks 
of the three lower doors, and when he finally came 
into the kitchen with his greatcoat on to give her 
his final kiss, he had but one parting injunction to 
urge, and this was for her to lock and bolt the front 
door after him and then forget the whole matter till 
she heard his double knock at midnight. 

She smiled and held up her ingenuous face. 

" Be careful of yourself," she begged of him. " I 
hate this dark ride for you, and on such a night too." 
And she ran with him to the door to look out. 

" It is certainly very dark," he responded, " but 



MIDNIGHT IN BEAUCHAMP ROW 89 

I'm to have one of Brown's safest horses. Do not 
worry about me. I shall do well enough, and so 
will you, too, or you are not the plucky little woman 
I have always thought you." 

She laughed, but there was a choking sound in 
her voice that made him look at her again. But at 
sight of his anxiety she recovered herself, and point- 
ing to the clouds said earnestly: 

" It's going to snow. Be careful as you ride by 
the gorge, Ned; it is very deceptive there in a snow- 
storm." 

But he vowed that it would not snow before morn- 
ing and giving her one final embrace he dashed 
down the path toward Brown's livery stable. " Oh, 
what is the matter with me? " she murmured to her- 
self as his steps died out in the distance. " I never 
knew I was such a coward." And she paused for 
a moment, looking up and down the road, as if in 
despite of her husband's command she had the 
desperate idea of running away to some neigh- 
bour. 

But she was too loyal for that, and smothering 
a sigh she retreated into the house. As she did so 
the first flakes fell of the storm that was not to have 
come till morning. 

It took her an hour to get her kitchen in order, 
and nine o'clock struck before she was ready to sit 
down. She had been so busy she had not "noticed 
how the wind had increased or how rapidly the snow 
was falling. But when she went to the front door 
for another glance up and down the road she started 



90 MIDNIGHT IN BEAUCHAMP ROW 

back, appalled at the fierceness of the gale and at 
the great pile of snow that had already accumulated 
on the doorstep. 

Too delicate to breast such a wind, she saw her- 
self robbed of her last hope of any companionship, 
and sighing heavily she locked and bolted the door 
for the night and went back into her little sitting- 
room, where a great fire was burning. Here she 
sat down, and determined, since she must pass the 
evening alone, to do it as cheerfully as possible, 
she began to sew. " Oh, what a Christmas eve ! " 
she thought, as a picture of other homes rose before 
her eyes, homes in which husbands sat by wives 
and brothers by sisters ; and a great wave of regret 
poured over her and a longing for something, she 
hardly dared say what, lest her unhappiness should 
acquire a sting that would leave traces beyond the 
passing moment. 

The room in which she sat was the only one on 
the ground floor except the dining-room and kitchen. 
It therefore was used both as parlour and sitting- 
room, and held not only her piano, but her hus- 
band's desk. 

Communicating with it was the tiny dining-room. 
Between the two, however, was an entry leading to 
a side entrance. A lamp was in this entry, and she 
had left it burning, as well as the one in the kitchen, 
that the house might look cheerful and as if the 
whole family were at home. 

She was looking toward this entry and wondering 
what made it seem so dismally dark to her, when 



MIDNIGHT IN BEAUCHAMP ROW 91 

there came a faint sound from the door at its fur- 
ther end. 

Knowing that her husband must have taken 
peculiar pains with the fastenings of this door, as 
it was the one toward the woods and therefore most 
accessible to wayfarers, she sat where she was, with 
all her faculties strained to listen. But no further 
sound came from that direction, and after a few 
minutes of silent terror she was allowing herself to 
believe that she had been deceived by her fears when 
she suddenly heard the same sound at the kitchen 
door, followed by a muffled knock. 

Frightened now in good earnest, but still alive 
to the fact that the intruder was as likely to be a 
friend as foe, she stepped to the door, and with 
her hand on the lock stooped and asked boldly 
enough who was there. But she received no answer, 
and more affected by this unexpected silence than 
by the knock she had heard, she recoiled farther and 
farther till not only the width of the kitchen, but 
the dining-room also, lay between her and the scene 
of her alarm, when to her utter confusion the noise 
shifted again to the side of the house, and the door 
she thought so securely fastened, swung violently 
open as if blown in by a fierce gust, and she saw 
precipitated into the entry the burly figure of a 
man covered with snow and shaking with the violence 
of the storm that seemed at once to fill the house. 

Her first thought was that it was her husband 
come back, but before she could clear her eyes from 
the snow* which had rushed tumultuously in, he 



92 MIDNIGHT IN BEAUCHAMP ROW 

had thrown off his outer covering and she found 
herself face to face with a man in whose powerful 
frame and cynical visage she saw little to comfort 
her and much to surprise and alarm. 

" Ugh ! " was his coarse and rather familiar greet- 
ing. " A hard night, missus ! Enough to drive any 
man indoors. Pardon the liberty, but I couldn't 
wait for you to lift the latch; the wind drove me 
right in." 

"Was was not the door locked?" she feebly 
asked, thinking he must have staved it in with his 
foot, which was certainly well fitted for such a task. 

" Not much," he chuckled. " I s'pose you're too 
hospitable for that." And his eyes passed from 
her face to the comfortable firelight shining through 
the sitting-room. 

"Is it refuge you want?" she demanded, sup- 
pressing as much as possible all signs of fear. 

" Sure, missus what else ! A man can't live in 
a gale like that, specially after a tramp of twenty 
miles or more. Shall I shut the door for you? " he 
asked, with a mixture of bravado and good nature 
that frightened her more and more. 

" I will shut it," she replied, with a half notion 
of escaping this sinister stranger by a flight through 
the night. 

But one glance into the swirling snowstorm de- 
terred her, and making the best of the alarming 
situation, she closed the door, but did not lock it, 
being now more afraid of what was inside the house 
than of anything left lingering without. 



MIDNIGHT IN BEAUCHAMP ROW 93 

The man, whose clothes were dripping with 
water, watched her with a cynical smile, and then, 
without any invitation, entered the dining-room, 
crossed it, and moved toward the kitchen fire. 

"Ugh! ugh! But it is warm here!" he cried, 
his nostrils dilating with an animal-like enjoyment, 
that in itself was repugnant to her womanly delicacy. 
" Do you know, missus, I shall have to stay here all 
night? Can't go out in that gale again; not such a 
fool." Then with a sly look at her trembling form 
and white face he insinuatingly added, " All alone, 
missus? " 

The suddenness with which this was put, together 
with the leer that accompanied it, made her start. 
Alone? Yes, but should she acknowledge it? 
Would it not be better to say that her husband was 
upstairs? The man evidently saw the struggle going 
on in her mind, for he chuckled to himself and called 
out quite boldly: 

"Never mind, missus; it's all right. Just give 
me a bit of cold meat and a cup of tea or something, 
and we'll be very comfortable together. You're a 
slender slip of a woman to be minding a house like 
this. I'll keep you company if you don't mind, least- 
wise until the storm lets up a bit, which ain't likely 
for some hours to come. Rough night, missus, 
rough night." 

" I expect my husband home at any time," she 
hastened to say. And thinking she saw a change 
in the man's countenance at this she put on quite 
an air of sudden satisfaction and bounded toward 



94 MIDNIGHT IN BEAUCHAMP ROW 

the front of the house. "There! I think I hear 
him now," she cried. 

Her motive was to gain time, and if possible to 
obtain the opportunity of shifting the money from 
the place where she had first put it into another and 
safer one. " I want to be able," she thought, " to 
swear that I have no money with me in this house. 
If I can only get it into my apron I will drop it 
outside the door into the snowbank. It will be as 
safe there as in the vaults it came from." And dash- 
ing into the sitting-room she made a feint of drag- 
ging down a shawl from a screen, while she secretly 
filled her skirt with the bills which had been put 
between some old pamphlets on the bookshelves. 

She could hear the man grumbling in the kitchen, 
but he did not follow her front, and taking advan- 
tage of the moment's respite from his none too en- 
couraging presence she unbarred the door and cheer- 
fully called out her husband's name. 

The ruse was successful. She was enabled to 
fling the notes where the falling flakes would soon 
cover them from sight, and feeling more courageous, 
now that the money was out of the house, she went 
slowly back, saying she had made a mistake, and 
that it was the wind she had heard. 

The man gave a gruff but knowing guffaw and 
then resumed his watch over her, following her steps 
as she proceeded to set him out a meal, with a per- 
sistency that reminded her of a tiger just on the 
point of springing. But the inviting look of the 
viands with which she was rapidly setting the table 



MIDNIGHT IN BEAUCHAMP ROW 95 

soon distracted his attention, and allowing himself 
one grunt of satisfaction, he drew up a chair and 
set himself down to what to Jiim was evidently a 
most savoury repast. 

" No beer? No ale? Nothing o' that sort, eh? 
Don't keep a bar? " he growled, as his teeth closed 
on a huge hunk of bread. 

She shook her head, wishing she had a little cold 
poison bottled up in a tight-looking jug. 

" Nothing but tea," she smiled, astonished at her 
own ease of manner in the presence of this alarming 
guest. 

" Then let's have that," he grumbled, taking the 
bowl she handed him, with an odd look that made 
her glad to retreat to the other side of the room. 

" Jest listen to the howling wind," he went on 
between the huge mouthfuls of bread and cheese 
with which he was gorging himself. " But we're 
very comfortable, we two! We don't mind the 
storm, do we? " 

Shocked by his familiarity and still more moved 
by the look of mingled inquiry and curiosity with 
which his eyes now began to wander over the walls 
and cupboards, she hurried to the window overlook- 
ing her nearest neighbour, and, lifting the shade, 
peered out. A swirl o snowflakes alone confronted 
her. She could neither see her neighbours, nor could 
she be seen by them. A shout from her to them 
would not be heard. She was as completely iso- 
lated as if the house stood in the centre of a desolate 
western plain. 



96 MIDNIGHT IN BEAUCHAMP ROW 

" I have no trust but in God," she murmured as 
she came from the window. And, nerved to meet 
her fate, she crossed to the kitchen. 

It was now half-past ten. Two hours and a half 
must elapse before her husband could possibly 
arrive. 

She set her teeth at the thought and walked reso- 
lutely into the room. 

" Are you done? " she asked. 

" I am, ma'am," he leered. " Do you want me 
to wash the dishes? I kin, and I will." And he 
actually carried his plate and cup to the sink, where 
he turned the water upon them with another loud 
guffaw. 

" If only his fancy would take him into the pan- 
try," she thought, " I could shut and lock the door 
upon him and hold him prisoner till Ned gets 
back." 

But his fancy ended its flight at the sink, and be- 
fore her hopes had fully subsided he was standing 
on the threshold of the sitting-room door. 

" It's pretty here," he exclaimed, allowing his 
eye to rove again over every hiding-place within 

sight. " I wonder now " He stopped. His 

glance had fallen on the cupboard over her hus- 
band's desk. 

" Well? " she asked, anxious to break the thread 
of his thought, which was only too plainly mirrored 
in his eager countenance. 

He started, dropped his eyes, and, turning, sur- 
veyed her with a momentary fierceness. But, as she 



MIDNIGHT IN BEAUCHAMP ROW 97 

did not let her own glance quail, but continued to 
meet his gaze with what she meant for an ingrati- 
ating smile, he subdued this outward manifestation 
of passion, and, chuckling to hide his embarrassment, 
began backing into the entry, leering in evident en- 
joyment of the fears he caused. 

However, once in the hall, he hesitated for a 
long time ; then slowly made for the garment 
he had dropped on entering, and stooping, drew 
from underneath its folds a wicked-looking stick. 
Giving a kick to the coat, which sent it into a remote 
corner, he bestowed upon her another smile, and 
still carrying the stick, went slowly and reluctantly 
away into the kitchen. 

" Oh, God Almighty, help me! " was her prayer. 

There was nothing left for her now but to endure, 
so throwing herself into a chair, she tried to calm 
the beating of her heart and summon up courage 
for the struggle which she felt was before her. 
That he had come to rob and only waited to take 
her off her guard she now felt certain, and rapidly 
running over in her mind all the expedients of 
self-defence possible to one in her situation, she sud- 
denly remembered the pistol which Ned kept in his 
desk. 

Oh, why had she not thought of it before ! Why 
had she let herself grow mad with terror when here, 
within reach of her hand, lay such a means of self- 
defence? With a feeling of joy (she had always 
hated pistols before and scolded Ned when he 
bought this one) she started to her feet and slid her 



98 MIDNIGHT IN BEAUCHAMP ROW 

hand into the drawer. But it came back empty. 
Ned had taken the weapon away with him. 

For a moment, a surge of the bitterest feeling 
she had ever experienced passed over her; then she 
called reason to her aid and was obliged to acknowl- 
edge that the act was but natural, and that from 
his standpoint he was much more likely to need it 
than herself. But the disappointment, coming so 
soon after hope, unnerved her, and she sank back 
in her chair, giving herself up for lost. 

How long she sat there with her eyes on the door 
through which she momentarily expected her assail- 
ant to reappear, she never knew. She was conscious 
only of a sort of apathy that made movement dif- 
ficult and even breathing a task. In vain she tried 
to change her thoughts. In vain she tried to follow 
her husband in fancy over the snow-covered roads 
and into the gorge of the mountains. Imagination 
failed her at this point. Do what she would, all 
was misty to her mind's eye, and she could not see 
that wandering image. There was blankness be- 
tween his form and her, and no life or movement 
anywhere but here in the scene of her terror. 

Her eyes were on a strip of rug covering the 
entry floor, and so strange was the condition of her 
mind that she found herself mechanically counting 
the tassels finishing off its edge, growing wroth 
over one that was worn, till she hated that sixth 
tassel and mentally determined that if she ever out- 
lived this night she would strip them all off and be 
done with them. 



MIDNIGHT IN BEAUCHAMP ROW 99 

The wind had lessened, but the air had grown 
cooler and the snow made a sharp sound where it 
struck the panes. She felt it falling, though she had 
cut off all view of it. It seemed to her that a pall 
was settling over the world and that she would soon 
be smothered under its folds. 

Meanwhile no sound came from the kitchen. A 
dreadful sense of doom was creeping upon her a 
sense growing in intensity till she found herself 
watching for the shadow of that lifted stick on the 
wall of the entry and almost imagined she saw the 
tip of it appearing. 

But it was the door which again blew in, admitting 
another man of so threatening an aspect that she suc- 
cumbed instantly before him and forgot all her 
former fears in this new terror. 

The second intruder was a negro of powerful 
frame and lowering aspect, and as he came forward 
and stood in the doorway there was observable in 
his fierce and desperate countenance no attempt at 
the insinuation of the other, only a fearful resolu- 
tion that made her feel like a puppet before him, 
and drove her, almost without her volition, to her 
knees. 

" Money? Is it money you want? " was her des- 
perate greeting. " If so, here's my purse and here 
are my rings and watch. Take them and go." 

But the stolid wretch did not even stretch out his 
hands. His eyes went beyond her, and the mingled 
anxiety and resolve which he displayed would have 
cowed a stouter heart than that of this poor woman. 



ioo MIDNIGHT IN BEAUCHAMP ROW 

" Keep de trash," he growled. " I want de com- 
pany's money. You've got it two thousand dollars. 
Show me where it is, that's all, and I won't trouble 
you long after I close on it." 

" But it's not in the house," she cried. " I swear 
it is not in the house. Do you think Mr. Chivers 
would leave me here alone with two thousand dol- 
lars to guard? " 

But the negro, swearing that she lied, leaped into 
the room, and tearing open the cupboard above her 
husband's desk, seized the bag from the corner 
where they had put it. 

" He brought it in this," he muttered, and tried 
to force the bag open, but finding this impossible he 
took out a heavy knife and cut a big hole in its side. 
Instantly there fell out the pile of old receipts with 
which they had stuffed it, and seeing these he stamped 
with rage, and flinging them at her in one great 
handful, rushed to the drawers below, emptied them, 
and, finding nothing, attacked the bookcase. 

" The money is somewhere here. You can't fool 
me," he yelled. " I saw the spot your eyes lit on 
when I first came into the room. Is it behind these 
books? " he growled, pulling them out and throwing 
them helter-skelter over the floor. " Women is 
smart in the hiding business. Is it behind these 
books, I say?" 

They had been, or rather had been placed be- 
tween the books, but she had taken them away, as 
we know, and he soon began to realise that his 
search was bringing him nothing. Leaving the 



MIDNIGHT IN BEAUCHAMP ROW 101 

bookcase he gave the books one kick, and seizing 
her by the arm, shook her with a murderous glare 
on his strange and distorted features. 

" Where's the money? " he hissed. " Tell me, or 
you are a goner." 

He raised his heavy fist. She crouched and all 
seemed over, when, with a rush and cry, a figure 
dashed between them and he fell, struck down by 
the very stick she had so long been expecting to see 
fall upon her own head. The man who had been 
her terror for hours had at the moment of need 
acted as her protector. 

She must have fainted, but if so, her unconscious- 
ness was but momentary, for when she woke again 
to her surroundings she found the tramp still stand- 
ing over her adversary. 

u I hope you don't mind, ma'am," he said, with 
an air of humbleness she certainly had not seen in 
him before, " but I think the man's dead." And he 
stirred with his foot the heavy figure before him. 

" Oh, no, no, no ! " she cried. " That would be 
too fearful. He's shocked, stunned; you cannot 
have killed him." 

But the tramp was persistent. " I'm 'fraid I 
have," he said. " I done it before. I'm powerful 
strong in the biceps. But I couldn't see a man of 
that colour frighten a lady like you. My supper 
was too warm in me, ma'am. Shall I throw him 
outside the house? " 

" Yes," she said, and then, " No; let us first be 



102 MIDNIGHT IN BEAUCHAMP ROW 

sure there is no life in him." And, hardly know- 
ing what she did, she stooped down and peered into 
the glassy eyes of the prostrate man. 

Suddenly she turned pale no, not pale, but 
ghastly, and cowering back, shook so that the tramp, 
into whose features a certain refinement had passed 
since he had acted as her protector, thought she 
had discovered life in those set orbs, and was stoop- 
ing down to make sure that this was so, when he 
saw her suddenly lean forward and, impetuously 
plunging her hand into the negro's throat, tear open 
the shirt and give one look at his bared breast. 

It was w r hite. 

" O God! O God! " she moaned, and lifting the 
head in her two hands she gave the motionless 
features a long and searching look. " Water! " she 
cried. " Bring water." But before the now obe- 
dient tramp could respond, she had torn off the 
woolly wig disfiguring the dead man's head, and see- 
ing the blond curls beneath had uttered such a shriek 
that it rose above the gale and was heard by her 
distant neighbours. 

It was the head and hair of her husband. 

They found out afterwards that he had contem- 
plated this theft for months; that each and every 
precaution necessary to the success of this most 
daring undertaking had been made use of and that 
but for the unexpected presence in the house of the 
tramp, he would doubtless not only have extorted 
the money from his wife, but have so covered up 



MIDNIGHT IN BEAUCHAMP ROW 103 

the deed by a plausible alibi as to have retained her 
confidence and that of his employers. 

Whether the tramp killed him out of sympathy 
for the defenceless woman or in rage at being dis- 
appointed in his own plans has never been deter- 
mined. Mrs. Chivers herself thinks he was actuated 
by a rude sort of gratitude. 



THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 



<Copyrlght, 1905, by The Bobbs-Merrill Company 
Used by special permission of the publishers} 



As there were two good men on duty that night, I 
did not see why I should remain at my desk, even 
though there was an unusual stir created in our small 
town by the grand ball given at The Evergreens. 

But just as I was preparing to start for home, an 
imperative ring called me to the telephone, and I 
heard: 

" Halloo ! Is this the police-station? " 

"It is." 

" Well, then, a detective is wanted at once at The 
Evergreens. He cannot be too clever or too dis- 
creet. A valuable jewel has been lost, which must 
be found before the guests disperse for home. Large 
reward if the matter ends successfully." 

" May I ask who is speaking to me? " 

" Mrs. Ashley." 

It was the mistress of The Evergreens and giver 
of the ball. 

" Madam, a man shall be sent at once. Where 
will you see him? " 

" In the butler's pantry at the rear. Let him give 
his name as Jennings." 

" Very good. Good-bye." 

" Good-bye." 

"A pretty piece of work! Should I send Hen- 

dricks or should I send Hicks? Hendricks was 

clever and Hicks discreet, but neither united both 

qualifications in the measure demanded by the sen- 

107 



io8 THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 

sible and quietly resolved woman with whom I had 
just been talking. What alternative remained? 
But one : I must go myself. 

It was not late not for a ball-night, at least 
and as half the town had been invited to the dance, 
the streets were alive with carriages. I was watch- 
ing the blink of their lights through the fast-falling 
snow when my attention was drawn to a fact which 
struck me as peculiar. These carriages were all 
coming my way instead of rolling in the direction 
of The Evergreens. Had they been empty this 
would have needed no explanation; but, so far as 
I could see, most of them were full, and that, 
too, of loudly-talking women and gesticulating 
men. 

Something of a serious nature must have occurred 
at The Evergreens. Rapidly I paced on, and soon 
found myself before the great gates. 

A crowd of vehicles of all descriptions blocked 
the entrance. None seemed to be passing up the 
driveway; all stood clustered at the gates; and as 
I drew nearer I perceived many an anxious head 
thrust forth from their quickly-opened doors, and 
heard many an ejaculation of disappointment as the 
short interchange of words went on between the 
drivers of these various turnouts and a man drawn 
up in quiet resolution before the unexpectedly barred 
entrance. 

Slipping round to this man's side, I listened to 
what he was saying. It was simple, but very 
explicit. 



THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 109 

" Mrs. Ashley asks everybody's pardon, but the 
ball can't go on to-night. Something has happened 
which makes the reception of further guests im- 
possible. To-morrow evening she will be happy to 
see you all. The dance is simply postponed." 

This he had probably repeated forty times, and 
each time it had probably been received with the 
same mixture of doubt and curiosity which now held 
the lengthy procession in check. 

Not wishing to attract attention, yet anxious to 
lose no time, I pressed up still nearer, and, bending 
towards him from the shadow cast by a convenient 
post, uttered the one word : 

" Jennings." 

Instantly he unlocked a small gate at his right. 
I passed in, and with professional sang-froid pro- 
ceeded to take my way to the house through the 
double row of evergreens bordering the semicircular 
approach. 

As these trees stood very close together, and 
were, besides, heavily laden with fresh-fallen snow, 
I failed to catch a glimpse of the building itself until 
I stood in front of it. Then I saw that it was 
brilliantly lighted, and gave evidence here and there 
of some festivity; but the guests were too few for 
the effect to be very exhilarating, and, passing around 
to the rear, I sought the special entrance to which 
I had been directed. 

A heavy-browed porch, before which stood a 
caterer's wagon, led me to a door which had every 
appearance of being the one I sought. Pushing it 



i io THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 

open, I entered without ceremony, and speedily 
found myself in the midst of twenty or more col- 
oured waiters and chattering housemaids. To one 
of the former I addressed the question: 

"Where is the butler's pantry? I am told that 
I shall find the lady of the house there." 

" Your name? " was the curt demand. 

" Jennings." 

"Follow me." 

I was taken through narrow passages and across 
one or two storerooms to a small but well-lighted 
closet, where I was left, with the assurance that 
Mrs. Ashley would presently join me. I had never 
seen this lady, but I had often heard her spoken 
of as a woman of superior character and admirable 
discretion. 

She did not keep me waiting. In two minutes 
the door opened, and this fine, well-poised woman 
was telling her story in the straightforward manner 
I so much admire. 

The article lost was a large ruby of singular 
beauty and great value, the property of Mrs. Bur- 
ton, the Senator's wife, in whose honour this ball 
was being given. It had not been lost in the house, 
nor had it been originally missed this evening. Mrs. 
Burton and herself had attended the great football 
game in the afternoon, and it was on the college 
campus that Mrs. Burton had first dropped her 
invaluable jewel. But a reward of five hundred 
dollars having been at once offered to whomever 
should find and restore it, a great search had fol- 



THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON in 

lowed, which ended in its being picked up by one of 
the students, and brought back as far as the drive- 
way in front of The Evergreens, when it had again 
disappeared, and in a way to rouse conjecture of the 
strangest and most puzzling character. 

The young man who had brought it thus far bore 
the name of John Deane, and was a member of the 
senior class. He had been the first to detect its 
sparkle in the grass, and those who were near 
enough to see his face at that happy moment say 
that it expressed the utmost satisfaction at his good 
luck. 

" You see," said Mrs. Ashley, " he has a sweet- 
heart, and five hundred dollars looks like a fortune 
to a young man just starting life. But he was weak 
enough to take this girl into his confidence; and on 
their way here for both were invited to the ball 
he went so far as to pull it out of his pocket and 
show it to her. 

" They were admiring it together, and vaunting 
its beauties to the young lady friend who had accom- 
panied them, when their carriage turned into the 
driveway and they saw the lights of the house 
flashing before them. Hastily restoring the jewel 
to the little bag he had made for it out of the 
finger-end of an old glove a bag in which he 
assured me he had been careful to keep it safely 
tied ever since picking it up on the college green 
he thrust it back into his pocket and prepared to 
help the ladies out. But just then a disturbance 
arose in front. A horse which had been driven up 



H2 THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 

was rearing in a way that threatened to overturn the 
light buggy to which it was attached. As the occu- 
pants of this buggy were ladies, and seemed to have 
no control over the plunging beast, young Deane 
naturally sprang to the rescue. Bidding his own 
ladies alight and make for the porch, he hurriedly 
ran forward and, pausing in front of the maddened 
animal, waited for an opportunity to seize him by 
the rein. He says that as he stood there facing the 
beast with fixed eye and raised hand, he distinctly 
felt something strike or touch his breast. But the 
sensation conveyed no meaning to him in his excite- 
ment, and he did not think of it again till, the horse 
well in hand and the two alarmed occupants of the 
buggy rescued, he turned to see where his own 
ladies were, and beheld them looking down at him 
from the midst of a circle of young people, drawn 
from the house by the screaming of the women. 
Instantly a thought of the treasure he carried re- 
curred to his mind, and releasing the now quieted 
horse, he thrust his hand hastily into his pocket. 
The jewel was gone. He declares that for a mo- 
ment he felt as if he had been struck on the head 
by one of the hoofs of the frantic horse he had 
just handled. But immediately the importance of 
his loss and the necessity he felt for instant action 
restored him to himself, and shouting aloud, " I have 
dropped Mrs. Burton's ruby ! " he begged every one 
to stand still while he made a search for it. 

" This all occurred, as you must know, more than 
an hour and a half ago, consequently before many of 



THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 113 

my guests had arrived. My son, who was one of 
the few spectators gathered on the porch, tells me 
that there was only one other carriage behind the 
one in which Mr. Deane had brought his ladies. 
Both of these had stopped short of the stepping- 
stone, and as the horse and buggy which had made 
all this trouble had by this time been driven to the 
stable, nothing stood in the way of his search but 
the rapidly accumulating snow, which, if you re- 
member, was falling very thick and fast at the time. 
" My son, who had rushed in for his overcoat, 
came running down the steps to help him. So did 
some others. But, with an imploring gesture, he 
begged to be allowed to conduct the search alone, 
the ground being in such a state that the delicately- 
mounted jewel ran great risk of being trodden into 
the snow and thus injured or lost. They humoured 
him for a moment, then, seeing that his efforts bade 
fair to be fruitless, my son insisted upon joining him, 
and the two looked the ground over, inch by inch, 
from the place where Mr. Deane had set foot to 
ground in alighting from his carriage to the exact 
spot where he had stood when he had finally seized 
hold of the horse. But no ruby. Then Harrison 
(that is my son's name) sent for a broom and went 
over the place again, sweeping aside the surface 
snow and examining carefully the ground beneath, 
but with no better results than before. No ruby 
could be found. My son came to me panting. 
Mrs. Burton and myself stood awaiting him in a 
state of suspense. Guests and fete were alike for- 



ii4 THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 

gotten. We had heard that the jewel had been 
found on the campus by one of the students, and 
had been brought back as far as the step in front, 
and then lost again in some unaccountable manner 
in the snow, and we hoped, nay, expected from 
moment to moment, that it would be brought in. 

" When Harrison finally entered, pale, dishevelled 
and shaking his head, Mrs. Burton caught me by 
the hand, and I thought she would faint. For this 
jewel is of far greater value to her than its mere 
worth in money, though that is by no means 
small. 

" It is a family jewel, and was given to her by her 
husband under special circumstances. He prizes it 
even more than she does, and he is not here to 
counsel or assist her in this extremity. Besides, she 
was wearing it in direct opposition to his expressed 
wishes. This I must tell you, to show how im- 
perative it is for us to recover it; also to account for 
the large reward she is willing to pay. When he 
last looked at it he noticed that the fastening was a 
trifle slack, and, though he handed the trinket back, 
he told her distinctly that she was not to wear it till 
it had been either to Tiffany's or Starr's. But she 
considered it safe enough, and put it on to please the 
boys, and lost it. Senator Burton is a hard man 
and in short, the jewel must be found. I give you 
just one hour in which to do it." 

" But, madam " I protested. 

" I know," she put in, with a quick nod and a 
glance over her shoulder to see if the door was 



THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 115 

shut. " I have not finished my story. Hearing 
what Harrison had to say, I took action at once. I 
bade him call in the guests, whom curiosity or 
interest still detained in the porch, and seat them in 
a certain room which I designated to him. Then, 
after telling him to send two men to the gates with 
orders to hold back all further carriages from en- 
tering, and two others to shovel up and cart away 
to the stable every particle of snow for ten feet each 
side of the front step, I asked to see Mr. Deane. 
But here my son whispered something into my ear, 
which it is my duty to repeat. It was to the effect 
that Mr. Deane believed that the jewel had been 
taken from him; that he insisted, in fact, that he 
had felt a hand touch his breast while he stood 
awaiting an opportunity to seize the horse. ' Very 
good,' said I, ' we'll remember that too ; but first 
see that my orders are carried out, and that all 
approaches to the grounds are guarded and no one 
allowed to come in or go out without permission 
from me.' 

" He left us, and I was turning to encourage 
Mrs. Burton when my attention was caught by the 
eager face of a little friend of mine, who, quite 
unknown to me, was sitting in one of the corners 
of the room. She was studying my countenance 
with a subdued anxiety, hardly natural in one so 
young, and I was about to relieve my mind by ques- 
tioning her when she made a sudden rush and 
vanished from the room. Some impulse made me 
follow her. She is a conscientious little thing, but 



n6 THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 

timid as a hare, and though I saw she had something 
to say, it was with difficulty I could make her speak. 
Only after the most solemn assurances that her name 
should not be mentioned in the matter would she 
give me the following bit of information, which you 
may possibly think throws another light upon the 
affair. It seems that she was looking out of one of 
the front windows when Mr. Deane's carriage drove 
up. She had been watching the antics of the horse 
attached to the buggy, but as soon as she saw Mr. 
Deane going to the assistance of those in danger, 
she let her eyes stray back to the ladies whom he 
had left behind him in the carriage. 

" She did not know these ladies, but their looks 
and gestures interested her, and she watched them 
quite intently as they leaped to the ground and made 
their way toward the porch. One went on quickly, 
and without pause, to the step; but the other the 
one who came last did not do this. She stopped a 
moment, perhaps to watch the horse in front, per- 
haps to draw her cloak more closely about her, and 
when she again moved on it was with a start and 
a hurried glance at her feet, terminating in a quick 
turn and a sudden stooping to the ground. When 
she again stood upright she had something in her 
hand which she thrust furtively into her breast." 

" How was this lady dressed? " I inquired. 

" In a white cloak, with an edging of fur. I took 
pains to learn that too, and it was with some 
curiosity, I assure you, that I examined the few 
guests that had now been admitted to the room I 



THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 117 

had so carefully pointed out to my son. Two of 
them wore white cloaks, but one of these was Mrs. 
Dalrymple, and I did not give her or her cloak a 
second thought. The other was a tall, fine-looking 
girl, with an air and bearing calculated to rouse 
admiration if she had not looked so disturbed. But 
her preoccupation was evident, a circumstance which, 
had she been Mr. Deane's fiancee, would have needed 
no explanation; but, as she was only that lady's 
friend, its cause was not so apparent. 

" The floor of the room, as I had happily remem- 
bered, was covered with crash, and as I lifted each 
garment off I allowed no maid to assist me in this 
I shook it well; ostensibly because of the few 
flakes clinging to it, really to see if anything could 
be shaken out of it. Of course, I met with no 
success. I had not expected to, but it is my dis- 
position to be thorough. These wraps I saw all 
hung in an adjoining closet, the door of which I 
locked here is the key after which I handed my 
guests over to my son, and went to notify the 
police." 

I bowed, and asked where the young people were 
now. 

" Still in the drawing-room. I have ordered the 
musicians to play, and consequently there is more 
or less dancing. But, of course, nothing can remove 
the wet blanket which has fallen over us all 
nothing but the finding of this jewel. Do you see 
your way to accomplishing this? We are from this 
very moment at your disposal; only I pray that you 



ii8 THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 

will make no more disturbance than is necessary, 
and, if possible, arouse no suspicions you cannot 
back up by facts. I dread a scandal almost as much 
as I do sickness and death, and these young people 
well, their lives are all before them, and neither 
Mrs. Burton nor myself would wish to throw the 
shadow of a false suspicion over any one of them." 

I assured her that I sympathised with her scru- 
ples, and would do my best to recover the ruby with- 
out inflicting undue annoyance upon the innocent. 
Then I inquired whether it was known that a de- 
tective had been called in. She seemed to think it 
was suspected by some, if not by all. At which my 
way seemed a trifle complicated. 

We were about to proceed when another thought 
struck me. 

" Madam, you have not said whether the car- 
riage itself was searched." 

" I forgot. Yes, the carriage was thoroughly 
overhauled before the coachman left the box." 

"Who did this overhauling?" 

" My son. He would not trust any one else in a 
business of this kind." 

" One more question, madam. Was any one seen 
to approach Mr. Deane on the carriage-drive prior 
to his assertion that the jewel was lost? " 

" No. And there were no tracks in the snow of 
any such person. My son looked." 

And I would look, or so I decided within myself, 
but I said nothing; and in silence we proceeded to- 
ward the drawing-room. 



THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 119 

I had left my overcoat behind me, and always 
being well dressed, I did not present so bad an ap- 
pearance. Still, I was not in party attire, and nat- 
urally could not pass for a guest even if I had wanted 
to, which I did not. I felt that I must rely on in- 
sight in this case, and on a certain power I had 
always possessed of reading faces. That the case 
called for just this species of intuition I was positive. 
Mrs. Burton's ruby was within a hundred yards of 
us at this very moment, probably within a hundred 
feet; but to lay hands on it and without scandal 
well, that was a problem calculated to rouse the 
interest of even an old police-officer like myself. 

A strain of music desultory, however, and spirit- 
less, like everything else about the place that night 
greeted us as Mrs. Ashley opened the door leading 
directly into the large front hall. 

Immediately a scene meant to be~ festive, but 
which was, in fact, desolate, burst upon us. The 
lights, the flowers, and the brilliant appearance of 
such ladies as flitted into sight from the almost 
empty parlours, were all suggestive of the cheer 
suitable to a great occasion; but, in spite of this, 
the effect was altogether melancholy, for the hun- 
dreds who should have graced this scene, and for 
whom this illumination had been made and these 
festoons hung, had been turned away from the gates, 
and the few who felt they must remain, because their 
hostess showed no disposition to let them go, wore 
any but holiday faces, for all their forced smiles and 
pitiful attempts at nonchalance and gaiety. 



120 THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 

I scrutinised these faces carefully. I detected 
nothing in them but annoyance at a situation which 
certainly was anything but pleasant. 

Turning to Mrs. Ashley, I requested her to be 
kind enough to point out her son, adding that I 
should be glad to have a moment's conversation 
with him before I spoke to Mr. Deane. 

" That will give Mr. Deane time to compose him- 
self. He is quite upset. Not even Mrs. Burton 
can comfort him. My son oh, there is Harri- 
son!" 

A tall, fine-looking young man was crossing the 
hall. Mrs. Ashley beckoned to him, and in another 
moment we were standing together in one of the 
empty parlours. I gave him my name and told him 
my business. Then I said: 

" Your mother has allotted me an hour in which 
to find the valuable jewel which has just been lost 
on these premises." Here I smiled. " She evidently 
has great confidence in my ability. I must see that 
I do not disappoint her." 

All this time I was examining his face. It was not 
only handsome, but expressive of great candour. 
The eyes looked straight into mine, and, while show- 
ing anxiety, betrayed no deeper emotion than the 
occasion naturally called for. 

" Have you any suggestions to offer? I under- 
stand that you were on the ground almost as soon as 
Mr. Deane discovered his loss." 

His eyes changed a trifle, but did not swerve. Of 
course, he had been informed by his mother of the 



THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 121 

suspicious action of the young lady who had been a 
member of that gentleman's party, and shrank, as 
any one in his position would, from the responsibili- 
ties entailed by this knowledge. 

" No," said he. " We have done all we can. The 
next move must come from you." 

" I know of one that will settle the matter at 
once," I assured him, still with my eyes fixed scruti- 
nisingly on his face " a universal search, not of 
places, but of persons. But it is a harsh meas- 
ure." 

" A most disagreeable one," he emphasised, flush- 
ing. " Such an indignity offered to guests would 
never be forgotten or forgiven." 

" True. But if they offered to submit to this 
themselves? " 

"They? How?" 

" If you, the son of the house their host, we may 
say should call them together, and for your own 
satisfaction empty out your pockets in the sight of 
every one, don't you think that all the men, and 
possibly all the women too " here I let my voice 
fall suggestively "would be glad to follow suit? 
It could be done in apparent joke." 

He shook his head with a straightforward air, 
which set him high in my estimation. 

" That would call for little but effrontery on my 
part," said he. " But think how it would affect 
these boys who came here for the sole purpose of 
enjoying themselves. I will not so much as men- 
tion the ladies." 



122 THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 

" Yet one of the latter " 

" I know," he quietly acknowledged, growing 
restless for the first time. 

I withdrew my eyes from his face. I had learned 
what I wished. Personally, he did not shrink from 
search, therefore the jewel was not in his pockets. 
This left but two persons for suspicion to halt be- 
tween. But I disclosed nothing of my thoughts; I 
merely asked pardon for a suggestion that, while 
pardonable in a man accustomed to handle crime 
with ungloved hands, could not fail to prove offen- 
sive to a gentleman like himself. 

" We must move by means less open," I concluded. 
" It adds to our difficulties, but that cannot be helped. 
I should now like a glimpse of Mr. Deane." 

" Do you not wish to speak to him? " 

" L should prefer a sight of his face first." 

He led me across the hall and pointed through 
an open door. In the centre of a small room con- 
taining a table and some chairs I perceived a young 
man sitting, with fallen head and dejected air, 
staring at vacancy. By his side, with hand laid on 
his, knelt a young girl, striving in this gentle but 
speechless way to comfort him. It made a pathetic 
picture. I drew Ashley away. 

" I am disposed to believe in that young man," 
said I. " If he still has the jewel, he would not try 
to carry off the situation just this way. He really 
looks broken-hearted." 

" Oh, he is dreadfully cut up ! If you could have 
seen how frantically he searched for the stone, and 



THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 123 

the depression into which he fell when he realised 
that it was not to be found, you would not deubt 
him for an instant. What made you think he might 
still have the ruby? " 

" Oh, we police-officers think of everything. 
Then the fact that he insists that something or 
some one touched his breast on the driveway strikes 
me as a trifle suspicious. Your mother says that no 
second person could have been there, or the snow 
would have given evidence of it." 

"Yes; I looked expressly. Of course, the drive 
itself was full of hoof-marks and wheel-tracks, for 
several carriages had already passed over it. Then 
there were all of Deane's footsteps, but no other 
man's, so far as I could see." 

" Yet he insists that he was touched or struck." 

" Yes." 

" With no one there to touch or strike him." 

Mr. Ashley was silent. 

" Let us step out and take a view of the place," I 
suggested. " I should prefer doing this to question- 
ing the young man in his present state of mind." 
Then, as we turned to put on our coats, I asked 
with suitable precautions: " Do you suppose that he 
has the same secret suspicions as ourselves, and that 
it is to hide these he insists upon the jewel's having 
been taken away from him at a point the ladies are 
known not to have approached? " 

Young Ashley looked more startled than pleased. 

" Nothing has been said to him of what Miss 
Peters saw Miss Glover do. I could not bring my- 



i2 4 THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 

self to mention it. I have not even allowed myself 
to believe " 

Here a fierce gust, blowing in from the door he 
had just opened, cut short his words, and neither of 
us spoke again till we stood on the exact spot in the 
driveway where the episode we were endeavouring 
to understand had taken place. 

" Oh," I cried, as soon as I could look about me; 
" the mystery is explained. Look at that bush, or 
perhaps you call it a shrub. If the wind were 
blowing as freshly as it is now, and very probably 
it was, one of those slender branches might easily 
be switched against his breast, especially if he stood, 
as you say he did, close against this border." 

" Well, I'm a fool. Only the other day I told the 
gardener that these branches would need trimming 
in the spring, and yet I never so much as thought 
of them when Mr. Deane spoke of something strik- 
ing his breast." 

As we turned back I made this remark: 

" With this explanation of the one doubtful point 
in his otherwise plausible account, we can credit his 
story as being in the main true, which," I calmly 
added, " places him above suspicion and narrows 
our inquiry down to one." 

We had moved quickly, and were now at the 
threshold of the door by which we had come out. 

" Mr. Ashley," I continued, " I shall have to ask 
you to add to your former favours that of showing 
me the young lady in whom, from this moment on, 
we are especially interested. If you can manage to 



THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 125 

let me see her first without her seeing me, I shall be 
infinitely obliged to you." 

" I do not know where she is. I shall have to 
search for her." 

" I will wait by the hall door." 

In a few minutes he. returned to me. 

" Come," said he, and led me into what I judged 
to be the library. 

With a gesture towards one of the windows, he 
backed quickly out, leaving me to face the situation 
alone. I was rather glad of this. Glancing in the 
direction he had indicated, and perceiving the figure 
of a young lady standing with her back to me on the 
farther side of a flowing lace curtain, I took a few 
steps toward her, hoping that the movement would 
cause her to turn. But it entirely failed to produce 
this effect, nor did she give any sign that she noted 
the intrusion. This prevented me from catching the 
glimpse of her face which I so desired, and obliged 
me to confine myself to a study of her dress and 
attitude. 

The former was very elegant, more elegant than 
the appearance of her two friends had led me to 
expect. Though I am far from being an authority 
on feminine toilets, I yet had experience enough to 
know that such a gown represented not only the best 
efforts of the dressmaker's art, but very considerable 
means on the part of the woman wearing it. 

This was a discovery which instantly altered the 
complexion of my thoughts; for I had presupposed 
her a girl of humble means, willing to sacrifice cer- 



126 THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 

tain scruples to obtain a little extra money. This 
imposing figure might be that of a millionaire's 
daughter; how, then, could I associate her, even in 
my own mind, with theft? I decided that I 
must see her face before giving answer to these 
doubts. 

She did not seem inclined to turn. She had raised 
the shade from before the wintry panes and was 
engaged in looking out. Her attitude was not that 
of one simply enjoying a moment's respite from the 
dance. It was rather that of an absorbed mind 
brooding upon what gave little or no pleasure; and 
as I further gazed and noted the droop of her lovely 
shoulders and the languor visible in her whole bear- 
ing, I saw that a full glimpse of her features was 
imperative. Moving forward, I came upon her 
suddenly. 

"Excuse me, Miss Smith," I boldly exclaimed; 
then paused, for she had turned instinctively, and I 
had seen that for which I had risked this daring 
move. " Your pardon," I hastily apologised. " I 
mistook you for another young lady," and drew 
back with a low bow to let her pass, for I saw that 
her mind was bent on escape. 

And I did not wonder at this, for her eyes were 
streaming with tears, and her face, which was doubt- 
less a pretty one under ordinary conditions, looked 
so distorted with distracting emotions that she was 
no fit subject for any man's eye, let alone that of 
a hard-hearted officer of the law on the lookout 
for the guilty hand which had just appropriated * 



THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 127 

jewel worth anywhere from eight to ten thousand 
dollars. 

Yet I was glad to see her weep, for only 
first offenders weep, and first offenders are amen- 
able to influence, especially if they have been led 
into wrong by impulse, and are weak rather than 
wicked. 

Anxious to make no blunder, I resolved, before 
proceeding further, to learn what I could of the 
character and antecedents of the suspected one, and 
this from the only source which offered Mr. 
Deane's affianced. 

This young lady was a delicate girl, with a face 
like a flower. Recognising her sensitive nature, I 
approached her with the utmost gentleness. Not 
seeking to disguise either the nature of my business 
or my reasons for being in the house, since all this 
gave me authority, I modulated my tone to suit her 
gentle spirit, and, above all, I showed the utmost 
sympathy for her lover, whose rights in the reward 
had been taken from him as certainly as the jewel 
had been taken from Mrs. Burton. In this way I 
gained her confidence, and she was quite ready to 
listen when I observed: 

" There is a young lady here who seems to be in a 
state of even greater trouble than Mr. Deane. Why 
is this? You brought her here. Is her sympathy 
with Mr. Deane so great as to cause her to weep 
over his loss? " 

" Frances? Oh no. She likes Mr. Deane and 
she likes me, but not well enough to cry over our 



128 THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 

misfortunes. I think she has some trouble of her 
own." 

"One that you can tell me?" 

Her surprise was manifest. 

" Why do you ask that? What interest can a 
police-officer, called in, as I understand, to recover 
a stolen jewel, have in Frances Glover's personal 
difficulties? " 

I saw that I must make my position perfectly 
plain. 

"Only this: She was seen to pick up something 
from the driveway, where no one else had suc- 
ceeded in finding anything." 

"She? When? Who saw her?" 

" I cannot answer all these questions at once," I 
said, smiling. " She was seen to do this no mat- 
ter by whom while you were stepping down from 
the carriage. As you preceded her, you naturally did 
not observe this action, which was fortunate, per- 
haps, as you would scarcely have known what to 
do or say about it." 

" Yes, I should," she retorted with a most un- 
expected display of spirit. " I should have asked 
her what she had found, and I should have insisted 
upon an answer. I love my friends, but I love the 
man I am to marry better." 

Here her voice fell, and a most becoming blush 
suffused her cheek. 

" Quite right," I assented. " Now will you an- 
swer my former question? What troubles Miss 
Glover? Can you tell me?" 



THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 129 

" That I cannot. I only know that she has been 
very silent ever since she left the house. I thought 
her beautiful new dress would please her, but it 
does not seem to. She has been unhappy and pre- 
occupied all the evening. She only roused a bit 

when Mr. Deane showed us the ruby, and said 

Oh, I forgot! " 

" What's that? What have you forgot? " 

" Your remark of a moment ago. I wouldn't add 
a word " 

" Pardon me," I smilingly interrupted, looking 
as fatherly as I could, u but you have added this 
word, and now you must tell me what it means. 
You were going to speak of the interest she showed 
in the extraordinary jewel which Mr. Deane took 
from his pocket, and " 

"In what he said about the reward he expected. 
That is, she looked eagerly at the ruby, and sighed 
when he acknowledged that he expected it to bring 
him five hundred dollars before midnight. But 
any girl of means no larger than hers might do that. 
It would not be fair to lay too much stress on a 
sigh." 

"Is not Miss Glover wealthy? She wears a 
very expensive dress, I observe." 

" I know it, and I have wondered a little at it, 
for her father is not called very well off. But 
perhaps she bought it with her own money. I 
know she has some; she is an artist in burnt wood." 

I let the subject of Miss Glover's dress drop. I 
had heard enough to satisfy me that my first theory 



i 3 o THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 

was correct. This young woman, beautifully 
dressed, and with a face from which the rounded 
lines of early girlhood had not yet departed, held in 
her possession, probably at this very moment, Mrs. 
Burton's magnificent jewel. But where? On her 
person or hidden in some of her belongings? I 
remembered the cloak in the closet, and thought it 
wise to assure myself that the jewel was not secreted 
in this garment before I proceeded to extreme 
measures. Mrs. Ashley, upon being consulted, 
agreed with me as to the desirability of this, 
and presently I had this poor girl's cloak in my 
hands. 

Did I find the ruby? No; but I found some- 
thing else tucked away in an inner pocket which 
struck me as bearing quite pointedly upon this case. 
It was the bill crumpled, soiled, and tear-stained 
of the dress whose elegance had so surprised her 
friends and made me for a short time regard her as 
the daughter of wealthy parents. An enormous bill, 
which must have struck dismay to the soul of this 
self-supporting girl, who probably had no idea of 
how a French dressmaker can foot up items. Four 
hundred and fifty dollars, and for one gown ! I 
declare I felt indignant myself, and could quite 
understand why she heaved that little sigh when 
Mr. Deane spoke of the five hundred dollars he 
expected from Mrs. Burton, and, later, when, in 
following the latter's footsteps up the driveway, she 
stumbled upon this same jewel, fallen, as it were, 
from his pocket into her very hands, how she came 



THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 131 

to succumb to the temptation of endeavouring to 
secure this sum for herself. 

That he would shout aloud his loss, and thus draw 
the whole household out on the porch, was, naturally, 
not anticipated by her. Of course, when this oc- 
curred, the feasibility of her project was gone, and I 
only wished that I had been present and able to note 
her countenance, as, crowded in with others on that 
windy porch, she watched the progress of the search, 
which every moment made it not only less impossible 
for her to attempt the restoration upon which the 
reward depended, but must have caused her to feel, 
if she had been as well brought up as all indications 
showed, that it was a dishonest act of which she had 
been guilty, and that, willing or not, she must look 
upon herself as a thief so long as she held the jewel 
back from Mr. Deane or its rightful owner. But 
how face the publicity of restoring it now, after so 
elaborate and painful a search, in which even the son 
of her hostess had taken part! 

That would be to proclaim her guilt, and thus 
effectually ruin her in the eyes of everybody con- 
cerned. No, she would keep the compromising 
article a little longer, in the hope of finding some 
opportunity of returning it without risk to her good 
name. And so she allowed the search to proceed. 

I have entered thus elaborately into the supposed 
condition of this girl's mind on this critical evening 
that you may understand why I felt a certain sym- 
pathy for her, which forbade harsh measures. I was 
sure, from the glimpse I had caught of her face, that 



132 THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 

she longed to be relieved from the tension she was 
under, and that she would gladly rid herself of this 
valuable jewel if she only knew how. This oppor- 
tunity I proposed to give her; and this is why, on 
returning the bill to its place, I assumed such an air 
of relief on rejoining Mrs. Ashley. 

She saw, and drew me aside. 

" You have not found it," she said. 

"No," I returned; "but I am positive where 
it is." 

"And where is that?" 

" Over Miss Glover's uneasy heart." 

Mrs. Ashley turned pale. 

" Wait," said I. " I have a scheme for getting it 
back without making her shame public. Listen ! " 
and I whispered a few words in her ear. 

She surveyed me in amazement for a moment, 
then nodded, and her face lighted up. 

" You are certainly earning vour reward," she 
declared; and summoning her son, who was never 
far away from her side, she whispered her wishes. 
He started, bowed, and hurried from the room. 

By this time my business in the house was well 
known to all, and I could not appear in hall or 
parlour without a great silence falling upon every 
one present, followed by a breaking up of the only 
too small circle of unhappy guests into agitated 
groups. But I appeared to see nothing of all this 
till the proper moment, when, turning suddenly 
upon them all, I cried out cheerfully, but with a cer- 
tain deference I thought would please them: 



THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 133 

" Ladies and gentlemen, I have an interesting fact 
to announce. The snow which was taken up from 
the driveway has been put to melt in the great feed 
caldron over the stable fire. We expect to find the 
ruby at the bottom, and Mrs. Ashley invites you 
to be present at its recovery. It has now stopped 
snowing, and she thought you might enjoy the ex- 
citement of watching the water ladled out." 

A dozen girls bounded forward. 

" Oh yes ! What fun ! Where are our cloaks 
our rubbers? " 

Two only stood hesitating. One of these was 
Mr. Deane's lady-love, and the other her friend, 
Miss Glover. The former, perhaps, secretly won- 
dered. The latter but I dared not look long 
enough or closely enough in her direction to judge 
rightly of her emotions. Amid the bustle which 
now ensued I caught sight of Mr. Deane's face 
peering from an open doorway. It was all alive 
with hope. I also perceived a lady looking down 
from the second storey, who I fait sure was Mrs. 
Burton herself. Evidently my confident tone had 
produced more effect than the words themselves. 
Every one looked upon the jewel as already re- 
covered, and regarded my invitation to the stable as 
a ruse by which I hoped to restore universal good 
feeling by giving them all a share in my triumph. 

All but one! Nothing could make Miss Glover 
look otherwise than anxious, restless, and unsettled; 
and though she followed in the wake of the rest, it 
was with hidden face and lagging step, as if she 



134 THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 

recognised the whole thing as a farce, and doubted 
her own power to go through it calmly. 

" Ah, ha ! my lady," thought I, " only be patient 
and you will see what I shall do for you." And, 
indeed, I thought her eye brightened as we all drew 
up around the huge caldron standing full of water 
over the stable stove. As pains had already been 
taken to put out the fire in this stove, the ladies 
were not afraid of injuring their dresses, and con- 
sequently crowded as close as their numbers would 
permit. Miss Glover especially stood within reach 
of the brim, and as soon as I noted this, I gave the 
signal which had been agreed upon between Mr. 
Ashley and myself. Instantly the electric lights 
went out, leaving the place in total darkness. 

A scream from the girls, a burst of hilarious 
laughter from their escorts, mingled with loud 
apologies from their seemingly mischievous host, 
filled up the interval of darkness which I had in- 
sisted should not be too soon curtailed; then the 
lights flared up as suddenly as they had gone out, 
and while the glare was fresh on every face, I stole a 
glance at Miss Glover to see if she had made good 
use of the opportunity given her for ridding herself 
of the jewel by dropping it into the caldron. If she 
had, both her troubles and mine were at an end; 
if she had not, then I need feel no further scruple 
in approaching her with the direct question I had 
hitherto found it so difficult to put. 

She stood with both hands grasping her cloak, 
which she had drawn tightly about the rich folds of 



THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 135 

her new and expensive dress; but her eyes were 
fixed straight before her, with a soft light in their 
depths which made her positively beautiful. 

The jewel is in the pot, I inwardly decided, and 
ordered the two waiting stablemen to step forward 
with their ladles. Quickly those ladles went in, but 
before they could be lifted out dripping, half the 
ladies had scurried back, afraid of injury to their 
pretty dresses. But they soon sidled forward again, 
and watched with beaming eyes the slow but sure 
emptying of the great caldron at whose bottom they 
anticipated finding the lost jewel. 

As the ladles were plunged deeper and deeper, 
the heads drew closer, and so great was the interest 
shown that the busiest lips forgot to chatter, and 
eyes whose only business up till now had been to 
follow with shy curiosity every motion made by their 
handsome young host now settled on the murky 
depths of the great pot whose bottom was almost 
in sight. 

As I heard the ladles strike this bottom, I in- 
stinctively withdrew a step in anticipation of the 
loud hurrah which would naturally hail the first 
sight of the lost ruby. Conceive, then, my chagrin, 
my bitter and mortified disappointment, when, after 
one look at the broad surface of the now exposed 
bottom, the one shout which rose was: " Nothing! " 

I was so thoroughly put out that I did not wait to 
hear the loud complaints which burst from every lip. 
Drawing Mr. Ashley aside (who, by the way, 
seemed as much affected as myself by the turn affairs 



136 THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 

had taken) , I remarked to him that, after this, there 
was only one course left for me to take. 

"And what is that? " 

" To ask Miss Glover to show me what she 
picked up from your driveway." 

"And if she refuses?" 

" To take her quietly with me to the station, 
where we have women who can make sure that the 
ruby is not on her person." 

Mr. Ashley made an involuntary gesture of 
strong repugnance. 

" Let us pray that it will not come to that," he 
objected hoarsely. "Such a fine figure of a girl! 
Did you notice how bright and happy she looked 
when the lights sprang up? I declare she struck 
me as lovely." 

" So she did me, and caused me to draw some 
erroneous conclusions. I shall have to ask you to 
procure me an interview with her as soon as we 
return to the house." 

" She shall meet you in the library." 

But when, a few minutes later, she joined me in 
the room just designated, I own that my task 
became suddenly hateful to me. She was not far 
from my own daughter's age, and, had it not been 
for her furtive look of care, appeared almost as 
blooming and bright. Would it ever come to pass 
that a harsh man of the law should feel it his duty 
to speak to my Flora as I must now speak to the 
young girl before me? The thought made me in- 
wardly recoil, and it was in as gentle a manner as 



THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 137 

possible that I made my bow and began with the 
following remark: 

" I hope you will pardon me, Miss Glover I am 
told that is your name. I hate to disturb your 
pleasure " this with the tears of alarm and grief 
rising in her eyes " but you can tell me something 
which will greatly simplify my task, and possibly put 
matters in such shape that you and your friends can 
be released to your homes." 

"I?" 

She stood before me with amazed eyes, the colour 
rising in her cheeks. I had to force my next words, 
which, out of consideration for her, I made as direct 
as possible. 

" Yes, miss. What was the article you were seen 
to pick up from the driveway soon after leaving 
your carriage? " 

She started, then stumbled backward, tripping in 
her long train. 

" I pick up? " she murmured. Then with a blush, 
whether of anger or pride I could not tell, she coldly 
answered: "Oh, that was something of my own 
something I had just dropped. I had rather not tell 
you what it was." 

I scrutinised her closely. She met my eyes 
squarely, yet not with just the clear light I should, 
remembering Flora, have been glad to see there. 

" I think it would be better for you to be entirely 
frank," said I. " It was the only article known to 
have been picked up from the driveway after Mr. 
Deane's loss of the ruby; and though we do not 



138 THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 

presume to say that it was the ruby, yet the matter 
would look clearer to us all if you would frankly 
state what this object was." 

Her whole body seemed to collapse, and she 
looked as if about to sink. 

" Oh, where is Minnie? Where is Mr. Deane? " 
she moaned, turning and staring at the door, as if 
she hoped they would fly to her aid. Then, in a 
burst of indignation which I was fain to believe real, 
she turned on me with the cry: " It was a bit of 
paper which I had thrust into the bosom of my 
gown. It fell out " 

"Your dressmaker's bill?" I intimated. 

" She stared, laughed hysterically for a moment, 
then sank upon a sofa nearby, sobbing spasmodi- 
cally. 

"Yes," she cried, after a moment; "my dress- 
maker's bill. You seem to know all my affairs." 
Then suddenly, and with a startling impetuosity, 
which drew her to her feet: " Are you going to tell 
everybody that? Are you going to state publicly 
that Miss Glover brought an unpaid bill to the 
party, and that because Mr. Deane was unfortunate 
enough, or careless enough, to drop and lose the 
jewel he was bringing to Mrs. Burton she is to be 
looked upon as a thief, because she stooped to pick 
up this bill which had slipped inadvertently from its 
hiding-place? I shall die if you do ! " she cried. " I 
shall die if it is already known," she pursued with 
increasing emotion. " Is it? Is it? " 

Her passion was so great, so much greater than 



THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 139 

any likely to rise in a breast wholly innocent, that I 
began to feel very sober. 

" No one but Mrs. Ashley, and possibly her son, 
know about the bill," said I, " and no one shall if 
you will go with that lady to her room, and make 
plain to her, in the only way you can, that the ex- 
tremely valuable article which has been lost to-night 
is not in your possession." 

She threw up her arms with a scream. " Oh, what 
a horror! I cannot! I cannot! Oh, I shall die of 
shame ! My father ! My mother ! " And she 
burst from the room like one distraught. 

But in another moment she came cringing back. 

" I cannot face them," she said. " They all be- 
lieve it; they will always believe it unless I submit! 
Oh, why did I ever come to this dreadful place? 
Why did I order this hateful dress, which I can 
never pay for, and which, in spite of the misery it 

has caused me, has failed to bring me the " She 

did not continue. She had caught my eye and seen 
there, perhaps, some evidence of the pity I could 
not but experience for her. With a sudden change 
of tone she advanced upon me with the appeal: 
" Save me from this humiliation. I have not seen 
the ruby. I am as ignorant of its whereabouts as 
as Mr. Ashley himself. Won't you believe me? 
Won't they be satisfied if I swear " 

I was really sorry for her. I began to think, 
too, that some dreadful mistake had been made. 
Her manner seemed too ingenuous for guilt. Yet 
where could that ruby be, if not with this young 



HO THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 

girl? Certainly, all other possibilities had been ex- 
hausted, and her story of the bill, even if accepted, 
would never quite exonerate her from secret 
suspicion while that elusive jewel remained un- 
found. 

" You give me no hope," she moaned. " I must 
go out before them all, and ask to have it proved 
that I am no thief. Oh, if God would only have 
pity 1" 

" Or some one should succeed in finding 

Halloo, what's that?" 

A shout had risen from the hall beyond. 

She gasped, and we both plunged forward. Mr. 
Ashley, still in his overcoat, stood at the other end 
of the hall, and facing him were ranged the whole 
line of young people whom I had left scattered 
about in the various parlours. I thought he ap- 
peared to be in a peculiar frame of mind; and when 
he glanced our way, and saw who was standing with 
me in the library doorway, his voice took on a tone 
which made me doubt whether he was about to 
announce good news or bad. 

But his first word settled that question. 

" Rejoice with me ! " he cried. " The ruby has 
been found! Do you want to see the culprit, for 
there is a culprit? We have him at the door. Shall 
we bring him in? " 

" Yes, yes ! " cried several voices, among them 
that of Mr. Deane, who now strode forward with 
beaming eyes and instinctively lifted hand. But 
some of the ladies looked frightened, and Mr. Ash- 



THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 141 

ley, noting this, glanced for encouragement in our 
direction. 

He seemed to find it in Miss Glover's eyes. She 
had quivered and nearly fallen at that word found, 
but had drawn herself up by this time, and was 
awaiting his further action in a fever of relief and 
hope, which, perhaps, no one but myself could fully 
appreciate. 

" A vile thief! A most unconscionable rascal! " 
vociferated Mr. Ashley. " You must see him, 
mother; you must see him, ladies, else you will not 
realise our good fortune. Open the door there, and 
bring in the robber! " 

At this command, uttered in ringing tones, the 
huge leaves of the great front-door swung slowly 
forward, revealing two sturdy stablemen leading into 
view a huge horse. 

The scream of astonishment which went up from 
all sides, united to Mr. Ashley's shout of hilarity, 
caused the animal, unused, no doubt, to drawing- 
rooms, to rear to the length of his bridle. At which 
Mr. Ashley laughed again, and gaily cried: 

"Confound the fellow! Look at him, mother! 
look at him, ladies! Do you not see guilt written 
on his brow? It is he who has made us all this 
trouble. First, he must needs take umbrage at the 
two lights with which we presumed to illuminate our 
porch; then, envying Mrs. Burton her ruby and 
Mr. Deane his reward, seek to rob them both by 
grinding his hoofs all over the snow of the driveway 
till he came upon the jewel which Mr. Deane had 



142 THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 

dropped from his pocket, and, taking it up in a ball 
of snow, secrete it in his left hind shoe where it 
might be yet, if Mr. Spencer " here he bowed to a 
strange gentleman who at that moment entered 
" had not come himself for his daughters, and, going 
first to the stable, found his horse so restless and 
seemingly lame there, boys, you may take the 
wretch away now and harness him, but first hold up 
that guilty left hind hoof for the ladies to see that 
he stooped to examine him, and so came upon this." 

Here the young gentleman brought forward his 
hand. In it was a nondescript little wad, well 
soaked and shapeless; but once he had untied the 
kid, such a ray of rosy light burst from his out- 
stretched palm that I doubt if a single woman there 
noted the clatter of the retiring beast or the heavy 
clang made by the two front-doors as they shut upon 
the robber. Eyes and tongues were too busy, and 
Mr. Ashley, realising, probably, that the interest of 
all present would remain, for a few minutes at least, 
with this marvellous jewel so astonishingly re- 
covered, laid it, with many expressions of thankful- 
ness, in Mrs. Burton's now eagerly 'outstretched 
palm, and advancing towards us, greeted Miss 
Glover with a smile. 

" Congratulate me," he prayed. " All our trou- 
bles are over. Oh, what now? " 

The poor young thing, in trying to smile, had 
turned as white as a sheet. Before either of us 
could interpose an arm, she had slipped to the floor 
in a dead faint. With a murmur of pity and 



THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 143 

possibly of inward contrition, he stooped over her, 
and together we carried her into the library, where * 
I left her in his care, confident, from certain indica- 
tions, that my presence would not be greatly missed 
by either of them. 

Whatever hope I may have had of reaping the 
reward offered by Mrs. Ashley was now lost, but in 
the satisfaction I experienced at finding this young 
girl as innocent as my Flora, I did not greatly care. 

Well, it all ended even more happily than may 
here appear. The horse not putting in his claim to 
the reward, and Mr. Spencer repudiating all right to 
it, it was paid in full to Mr. Deane, who, accom- 
panied by his two ladies, went home in as buoyant a 
state of mind as was possible to him after the great 
anxieties of the preceding two hours. I was told 
that Mr. Ashley declined to close the carriage door 
upon them till the whole three had promised to come 
again the following night. 

Anxious to make such amends as I personally 
could for my share in the mortification to which Miss 
Glover had been subjected, I visited her in the morn- 
ing, with the intention of offering a suggestion or two 
in regard to that little bill. But she met my first 
advance with a radiant smile and the glad exclama- 
tion: 

" Oh, I have settled all that! I have just come 
from Madame Dupre's. I told her that I had never 
imagined the dress could possibly cost more than a 
hundred dollars, and I offered her that sum if she 
would take the garment back. And she did, she 



144 THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 

did, and I shall never have to wear that dreadful 
satin again! " 

I made a note of this dressmaker's name. 
She and I may have a bone to pick some day. 
But I said nothing to Miss Glover. I merely ex- 
claimed: 

" And to-night? " 

" Oh, I have an old spotted muslin which, with 
a few natural flowers, will make me look festive 
enough. One does not need fine clothes when one 
is happy." 

The dreamy far-off smile with which she finished 
the sentence was more eloquent than words, and I 
was not surprised when some time later I read of her 
engagement to Mr. Ashley. 

But it was not till she could sign herself with his 
name that she told me just what underlay the misery 
of that night. She had met Harrison Ashley more 
than once before, and, though she did not say so, 
had evidently conceived an admiration for him 
which made her especially desirous of attracting and 
pleasing him. Not understanding the world very 
well, certainly having very little knowledge of the 
tastes and feelings of wealthy people, she conceived 
that the more brilliantly she was attired the more 
likely she would be to please this rich young man. 
So in a moment of weakness she decided to devote 
all her small savings (a hundred dollars, as we 
know) to buying a gown such as she felt she could 
appear in at his house without shame. 

It came home as dresses from French dress- 



THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 145 

makers are very apt to do just in time for her 
to put it on for the party. The bill came with it, 
and when she saw the amount it was all itemised, 
and she could find no fault with anything but the 
summing up she was so overwhelmed that she 
nearly fainted. But she could not give up her ball; 
so she dressed herself, and, being urged all the time 
to hurry, hardly stopped to give one look at the new 
and splendid gown which had cost so much. The 
bill the incredible, the enormous bill was all she 
could think of, and the figures, which represented 
nearly her whole year's earnings, danced constantly 
before her eyes. She could not possibly pay it, 
nor could she ask her father to do so. She was 
ruined. But the ball and Mr. Ashley these still 
awaited her; so presently she worked herself up to 
some anticipation of enjoyment, and, having thrown 
on her cloak, was turning down her light prepara- 
tory to departure, when her eye fell on the bill lying 
open on her dresser. 

It would never do to leave it there never do 
to leave it anywhere in her room. There were pry- 
ing eyes in the house, and she was as ashamed of 
that bill as she might have been of a contemplated 
theft. So she tucked it into her corsage, and went 
down to join her friends in the carriage. 

The rest we know, with the exception of one small 
detail which turned to gall whatever enjoyment she 
was able to get out of the evening. There was a 
young girl present, dressed in a simple muslin gown. 
While looking at it, and inwardly contrasting it 



146 THE RUBY AND THE CALDRON 

with her own splendour, Mr. Ashley passed by with 
another gentleman, and she heard him say: 

" How much better young girls look in simple 
white than in the elaborate silks suited only to their 
mothers ! " 

Thoughtless words possibly forgotten as soon as 
uttered they sharply pierced this already sufficiently 
stricken and uneasy breast, and were the cause of 
the tears which had aroused my suspicion when I 
came upon her in the library, standing with her face 
to the night. 

But who can say whether, if the evening had 
been devoid of these occurrences, and no emotions 
of contrition and pity had been awakened in her 
behalf in the breast of her chivalrous host, she would 
ever have become Mrs. Ashley? 



THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 



" A LADY to see you, sir." 

I looked up and was at once impressed by the 
grace and beauty of the person thus introduced to 
me. 

"Is there anything I can do to serve you?" I 
asked, rising. 

She cast me a childlike look full of trust and can- 
dour as she seated herself in the chair I had pointed 
out. 

" I believe so; I hope so," she earnestly assured 
me. " I I am in great trouble. I have just lost 
my husband but it is not that. It is the slip of 
paper I found on my dresser, and which 
which " 

She was trembling violently and her words were 
fast becoming incoherent. I calmed her and asked 
her to relate her story just as it had happened; and 
after a few minutes of silent struggle she succeeded 
in collecting herself sufficiently to respond with some 
degree of connection and self-possession. 

" I have been married six months. My name is 
Lucy Holmes. For the last few weeks my husband 
and I have been living in an apartment house on 
Fifty-ninth Street, and, as we had not a care in the 
world, we were very happy till Mr. Holmes was 
called away on business to Philadelphia. This was 



150 THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 

two weeks ago. Five days later I received an affec^ 
tionate letter from him, in which he promised to 
come back the next day; and the news so delighted 
me that I accepted an invitation to the theatre from 
some intimate friends of ours. The next morning I 
naturally felt fatigued and rose late; but I was very 
cheerful, for I expected my husband at noon. And 
now comes the perplexing mystery. In the course of 
dressing myself I stepped to my bureau, and seeing a 
small newspaper slip attached to the cushion by a 
pin, I drew it off and read it. It was a death notice, 
and my hair rose and my limbs failed me as I took 
in its fatal and incredible words. 

" ' Died this day at the Colonnade, James For- 
sythe De Witt Holmes. New York papers please 
copy.' 

" James Forsythe De Witt Holmes was my hus- 
band, and his last letter, which was at that very mo- 
ment lying beside the cushion, had been dated from the 
Colonnade. Was I dreaming or under the spell of 
some frightful hallucination which led me to mis- 
read the name on the slip of paper before me? I 
could not determine. My head, throat, and chest 
seemed bound about with iron, so that I could neither 
speak nor breathe with freedom, and, suffering thus, 
I stood staring at this demoniacal bit of paper which 
in an instant had brought the shadow of death upon 
my happy life. Nor was I at all relieved when a 
little later I flew with the notice into a neighbour's 
apartment, and praying her to read it to me, found 
that my eyes had not deceived me and that the name 



THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 151 

was indeed my husband's and the notice one of 
death. 

" Not from my own mind but from hers came the' 
first suggestion of comfort. 

' It cannot be your husband who is meant,' said 
she ; ' but some one of the same name. Your hus- 
band wrote to you yesterday, and this person must 
have been dead at least two days for the printed 
notice of his decease to have reached New York. 
Some one has remarked the striking similarity of 
names, and wishing to startle you, cut the slip out 
and pinned it on your cushion.' 

" I certainly knew of no one inconsiderate enough 
to do this, but the explanation was so plausible, I at 
once embraced it and sobbed aloud in my relief. But 
in the midst of my rejoicing I heard the bell ring in 
my apartment, and, running thither, encountered a 
telegraph boy holding in his outstretched hand the 
yellow envelope which so often bespeaks death or 
disaster. The sight took my breath away. Summon- 
ing my maid, whom I saw hastening toward me from 
an inner room, I begged her to open the telegram for 
me. Sir, I saw in her face, before she had read the 
first line, a confirmation of my very worst fears. 
My husband was " 

The young widow, choked with her emotions, 
paused, recovered herself for the second time, and 
then went on. 

" I had better show you the telegram." 

Taking it from her pocketbook, she held it toward 



152 THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 

me. I read it at a glance. It was short, simple, and 
direct : 

" Come at once. Your husband found dead in his 
room this morning. Doctors say heart disease. 
Please telegraph." 

" You see it says this morning," she explained, 
placing her delicate finger on the word she so eagerly 
quoted. " That means a week ago Wednesday, the 
same day on which the printed slip recording his 
death was found on my cushion. Do you not see 
something very strange in this? " 

I did; but, before I ventured to express myself on 
this subject, I desired her to tell me what she had 
learned in her visit to Philadelphia. 

Her answer was simple and straightforward. 

" But little more than you find in this telegram. 
He died in his room. He was found lying on the 
floor near the bell-button, which he had evidently 
risen to touch. One hand was clenched on his chest, 
but his face wore a peaceful look, as if death had 
come too suddenly to cause him much suffering. His 
bed was undisturbed; he had died before retiring, 
possibly in the act of packing his trunk, for it was 
found nearly ready for the expressman. Indeed, 
there was every evidence of his intention to leave on 
an early morning train. He had even desired to be 
awakened at six o'clock; and it was his failure to re- 
spond to the summons of the bellboy which led to so 
early a discovery of his death. He had never com- 
plained of any distress in breathing, and we had 
always considered him a perfectly healthy man ; but 



THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 153 

there was no reason for assigning any other cause 
than heart failure to his sudden death, and so the 
burial certificate was made out to that effect, and I 
was allowed to bring him home and bury him in our 
vault at Woodlawn. But " and here her earnest- 
ness dried up the tears which had been flowing freely 
during this recital of her husband's lonely death and 
sad burial " do you not think an investigation 
should be made into a death preceded by a false 
obituary notice? For I found when I was in Phila- 
delphia that no paragraph such as I had found 
pinned to my cushion had been inserted in any paper 
there, nor had any other man of the same name 
ever registered at the Colonnade, much less died 
there." 

" Have you this notice with you? " I asked. 

She immediately produced it, and while I was 
glancing it over remarked: 

" Some persons would give a superstitious expla- 
nation to the whole matter; think I had received a 
supernatural warning and been satisfied with what 
they would call a spiritual manifestation. But I have 
not a bit of such folly in my composition. Living 
hands set up the type and printed the words which 
gave me so deathly a shock; and hands, with a real 
purpose in them, cut it from the paper and pinned it 
to my cushion for me to see when I woke on that 
fatal morning. But whose hands? That is what I 
want you to discover." 

I had caught the fever of her suspicions long be- 
fore this and now felt justified in showing my interest. 



154 THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 

" First, let me ask," said I, " who has access to 
your rooms besides your maid? " 

" No one; absolutely no one." 

"And what of her?" 

" She is innocence herself. She is no common 
housemaid, but a girl my mother brought up, who 
for love of me consents to do such work in the house- 
hold as my simple needs require." 

" I should like to see her." 

" There is no objection to your doing so; but you 
will gain nothing by it. I have already talked the sub- 
ject over with her a dozen times and she is as much 
puzzled by it as I am myself. She says she cannot 
see how any one could have found an entrance to 
my room during my sleep, as the doors were all 
locked. Yet, as she very naturally observes, some 
one must have done so, for she was in my bedroom 
herself just before I returned from the theatre, and 
can swear, if necessary, that no such slip of paper 
was to be seen on my cushion at that time, for her 
duties led her directly to my bureau and kept her 
there for full five minutes." 

" And you believed her? " I suggested. 

" Implicitly." 

" In what direction, then, do your suspicions 
turn? " 

" Alas ! in no direction. That is the trouble. I 
don't know whom to mistrust. It was because I was 
told that you had the credit of seeing light where 
others can see nothing but darkness that I have 
sought your aid in this emergency. For the uncer- 



THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 155 

tainty surrounding this matter is killing me and will 
make my sorrow quite unendurable if I cannot obtain 
relief from it." 

" I do not wonder," I began, struck by the note of 
truth in her tones. " And I shall certainly do what I 
can for you. But before we go any further, let us 
examine this scrap of newspaper and see what we 
can make out of it." 

I had already noted two or three points in con- 
nection with it to which I now proceeded to direct 
her attention. 

" Have you compared this notice," I pursued, 
" with such others as you find every day in the 
papers? " 

" No," was her eager answer. " Is it not like 
them all " 

" Read," was my quiet interruption. " ' On this 
day at the Colonnade ' on what day? The date is 
usually given in all the bona fide notices I have seen." 

" Is it? " she asked, her eyes, moist with unshed 
tears, opening widely in her astonishment. 

" Look in the papers on your return home and 
see. Then the print. Observe that the type is 
identical on both sides of this make-believe clipping, 
while in fact there is always a perceptible difference 
between that used in the obituary column and that 
to be found in the columns devoted to other matter. 
Notice also," I continued, holding up the scrap of 
paper between her and the light, " that the align- 
ment on one side is not exactly parallel with that 
on the other; a discrepancy which would not exist if 



1 5 6 THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 

both sides had been printed on a newspaper press. 
These facts lead me to conclude, first, that the effort 
to match the type exactly was the mistake of a man 
who tried to do too much; and, secondly, that one 
of the sides at least, presumably that containing the 
obituary notice, was printed on a hand-press, on the 
blank side of a piece of galley proof picked up in 
some newspaper office." 

" Let me see." And stretching out her hand with, 
the utmost eagerness, she took the slip and turned 
it over. Instantly a change took place in her counte- 
nance. She sank back in her seat and a blush of 
manifest confusion suffused her cheeks. " Oh! " she 
exclaimed; " what will you think of me! I brought 
this scrap of print into the house myself, and it was 
/ who pinned it on the cushion with my own hands ! 
I remember it now. The sight of those words recalls 
the whole occurrence." 

" Then there is one mystery less for us to solve," I 
remarked, somewhat drily. 

" Do you think so? " she protested, with a depreca- 
tory look. " For me the mystery deepens, and be- 
comes every minute more serious. It is true that I 
brought this scrap of newspaper into the house, and 
that it had, then as now, the notice of my husband's 
death upon it, but the time of my bringing it in was 
Tuesday night, and he was not found dead till 
Wednesday morning." 

" A discrepancy worth noting," I remarked. 

" Involving a mystery of some importance," she 
concluded. 



THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 15? 

I agreed to that. 

" And since we have discovered how the slip came 
into your room, we can now proceed to the clearing 
up of this mystery," I observed. " You can, of 
course, inform me where you procured this clipping 
which you say you brought into the house? " 

" Yes. You may think it strange, but when I 
alighted from the carriage that night, a man on the 
sidewalk put this tiny scrap of paper into my hand. 
It was done so mechanically that it made no more 
impression on my mind than the thrusting of an ad- 
vertisement upon me. Indeed, I supposed it was an 
advertisement, and I only wonder that I retained it in 
my hand at all. But that I did do so, and that, in a 
moment of abstraction, I went so far as to pin it to 
my cushion, is evident from the fact that a vague 
memory remains in my mind of having read this 
recipe which you see printed on the reverse side of 
the paper." 

" It was the recipe, then, and not the obituary 
notice which attracted your attention the night be- 
fore?" 

" Probably, but in pinning it to the cushion, it 
was the obituary notice that chanced to come upper- 
most. Oh, why should I not have remembered this 
till now ! Can you understand my forgetting a mat- 
ter of so much importance? " 

" Yes," I allowed, after a momentary considera- 
tion of her ingenuous countenance. " The words you 
read in the morning were so startling that they dis- 



1 5 8 THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 

connected themselves from those you had carelessly 
glanced at the night before." 

" That is it," she replied; " and since then I have 
had eyes for the one side only. How could I think 
of the other? But who could have printed this thing 
and who was the man who put it into my hand ? He 

looked like a beggar, but Oh! " she suddenly 

exclaimed, her cheeks flushing scarlet and her eyes 
flashing with a feverish, almost alarming glitter. 

" What is it now? " I asked. " Another recollec- 
tion? " 

" Yes." She spoke so low I could hardly ftear 
her. " He coughed and " 

"And what?" I encouragingly suggested, seeing 
that she was under some new and overwhelming 
emotion. 

" That cough had a familiar sound, now that I 

think of it. It was like that of a friend w r ho 

But no, no; I will not wrong him by any false sur- 
mises. He would stoop to much, but not to that; 
yet 

The flush on her cheeks had died away, but the two 
vivid spots which remained showed the depth of 
her excitement. 

" Do you think," she suddenly asked, " that a man 
out of revenge might plan to frighten me by a false 
notice of my husband's death, and that God to punish 
him, made the notice a prophecy? " 

" I think a man influenced by the spirit of revenge 
might do almost anything," I answered, purposely 
ignoring the latter part of her question. 



THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 159 

" But I always considered him a good man. At 
least I never looked upon him as a wicked one. 
Every other beggar we meet has a cough; and yet," 
she added after a moment's pause, " if it was not he 
who gave me this mortal shock, who was it? He is 
the only person in the world I ever wronged." 

" Had you not better tell me his name? " I sug- 
gested. 

" No, I am in too great doubt. I should hate 
to do him a second injury." 

" You cannot injure him if he is innocent. My 
methods are very safe." 

" If I could forget his cough ! but it had that pecu- 
liar catch in it that I remembered so well in the 
cough of John Graham. I did not pay any especial 
heed to it at the time. Old days and old troubles 
were far enough from my thoughts; but now that my 
suspicions are raised, that low, choking sound comes 
back to me in a strangely persistent way, and I seem 
to see a well-remembered form in the stooping figure 
of this beggar. Oh, I hope the good God will for- 
give me if I attribute to this disappointed man a 
wickedness he never committed." 

"Who is John Graham?" I urged, "and what 
was the nature of the wrong you did him? " 

She rose, cast me one appealing glance, and per- 
ceiving that I meant to have her whole story, turned 
towards the fire and stood warming her feet before 
the hearth, with her face turned away from my gaze. 

" I was once engaged to marry him," she began. 
" Not because I loved him, but because we were very 



160 THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 

poor I mean my mother and myself and he had a 
home and seemed both good and generous. The day 
came when we were to be married this was in the 
West, way out in Kansas and I was even dressed for 
the wedding, when a letter came from my uncle here, 
a rich uncle, very rich, who had never had anything 
to do with my mother since her marriage, and in it 
he promised me fortune and everything else desirable 
in life if I would come to him, unencumbered by any 
foolish ties. Think of it ! And I within half an hour 
of marriage with a man I had never loved and now 
suddenly hated. The temptation was overwhelming, 
and, heartless as my conduct may appear to you, I 
succumbed to it. Telling my lover that I had 
changed my mind, I dismissed the minister when he 
came, and announced my intention of proceeding 
East as soon as possible. Mr. Graham was simply 
paralysed by his disappointment, and during the few 
days which intervened before my departure, I was 
haunted by his face, which was like that of a man 
who had died from some overwhelming shock. But 
when I was once free of the town, especially after I 
arrived in New York, I forgot alike his misery and 
himself. Everything I saw was so beautiful! Life 
was so full of charm, and my uncle so delighted 
with me and everything I did! Then there was 

James Holmes, and after I had seen him But 

I cannot talk of that. We loved each other, and 
under the surprise of this new delight how could I be 
expected to remember the man I had left behind me 
in that barren region in which I had spent my youth? 



THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 161 

But he did not forget the misery I had caused him. 
He followed me to New York; and on the morning 
I was married found his way into the house, and mix- 
ing with the wedding guests, suddenly appeared be- 
fore me just as I was receiving the congratulations of 
my friends. At sight of him I experienced all the 
terror he had calculated upon causing, but remember- 
ing our old relations and my new position, I assumed 
an air of apparent haughtiness. This irritated John 
Graham. Flushing with anger, and ignoring my 
imploring look, he cried peremptorily, ' Present me 
to your husband ! * and I felt forced to present him. 
But his name produced no effect upon Mr. Holmes. 
I had never told him of my early experience with this 
man, and John Graham, perceiving this, cast me a 
bitter glance of disdain and passed on, muttering 
between his teeth, ' False to me and false to him ! 
Your punishment be upon you ! ' and I felt as if I 
had been cursed." 

She stopped here, moved by emotions readily to 
be understood. Then with quick impetuosity she 
caught up the thread of her story and went 
on. 

" That was six months ago; and again I forgot. 
My mother died and my husband soon absorbed my 
every thought. How could I dream that this man, 
who was little more than a memory to me and 
scarcely that, was secretly planning mischief against 
me? Yet this scrap about which we have talked so 
much may have been the work of his hands; and even 
my husband's death " 



i62 THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 

She did not finish, but her face, which was turned 
towards me, spoke volumes. 

" Your husband's death shall be inquired into," I 
assured her. And she, exhausted by the excitement 
of her discoveries, asked that she might be excused 
from further discussion of the subject at that time. 

As I had no wish, myself, to enter any more fully 
into the matter just then, I readily acceded to her 
request, and the pretty widow left me. 



II 

Obviously the first fact to be settled was whether 
Mr. Holmes had died from purely natural causes. 
I accordingly busied myself the next few days with 
the question, and was fortunate enough to so interest 
the proper authorities that an order was issued for 
the exhumation and examination of the body. 

The result was disappointing. No traces of poi- 
son were to be found in the stomach nor was there 
to be seen on the body any mark of violence with the 
exception of a minute prick upon one of his thumbs. 

This speck was so small that it escaped every eye 
but my own. 

The authorities assuring the widow that the doc- 
tor's certificate given her in Philadelphia was correct, 
the body was again interred. But I was not satis- 
fied; and confident that this death had not been a 
natural one, I entered upon one of those secret and 
prolonged investigations which for so many years 



THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 163 

have constituted the pleasure of my life. First, I 
visited the Colonnade in Philadelphia, and being 
allowed to see the room in which Mr. Holmes died, 
went through it carefully. As it had not been used 
since that time I had some hopes of coming upon a 
clue. 

But it was a vain hope, and the only result of my 
journey to this place was the assurance I received 
that the gentleman had spent the entire evening pre- 
ceding his death in his own room, where he had been 
brought several letters and one small package, the 
latter coming by mail. With this one point gained 
if it was a point I went back to New York. 

Calling on Mrs. Holmes, I asked her if, while 
her husband was away, she had sent him anything be- 
sides letters, and upon her replying to the contrary, 
requested to know if in her visit to Philadelphia she 
had noted among her husband's effects anything that 
was new or unfamiliar to her. " For he received a 
package while there," I explained, " and though its 
contents may have been perfectly harmless, it is just 
as well for us to be assured of this before going any 
further." 

" Oh, you think, then, he was really the victim of 
some secret violence." 

" We have no proof of it," I said. " On the con- 
trary, we are assured that he died from natural 
causes. But the incident of the newspaper slip out- 
weighs, in my mind, the doctor's conclusions, and 
until the mystery surrounding that obituary notice 
has been satisfactorily explained by its author I shall 



164 THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 

hold to the theory that your husband has been made 
away with in some strange and seemingly unaccount- 
able manner, which it is our duty to bring to light." 

" You are right ! You are right ! Oh, John 
Graham! " 

She was so carried away by this plain expression of 
my belief that she forgot the question I had put 
to her. 

" You have not said whether or not you found any- 
thing among your husband's effects that can explain 
this mystery," I suggested. 

She at once became attentive. 

"Nothing," said she; "his trunks were already 
packed and his bag nearly so. There were a few 
things lying about the room which I saw thrust into 
the latter. Would you like to look through them? 
I have not had the heart to open the bag since I 
came back." 

As this was exactly what I wished, I said as much, 
and she led me into a small room, against the wall 
of which stood a trunk with a travelling-bag on top 
of it. Opening the latter, she spread the contents 
out on the trunk. 

" I know all these things," she sadly murmured, 
the tears welling in her eyes. 

"This?" I inquired, lifting up a bit of coiled 
wire with two or three rings dangling from it. 

"No; why, what is that?" 

" It looks like a puzzle of some kind." 

" Then it is of no consequence. My husband was 
forever amusing himself over some such contrivance. 



THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 165 

All his friends knew how well he liked these toys and 
frequently sent them to him. This one evidently 
reached him from Philadelphia." 

Meanwhile I was eyeing the bit of wire curiously. 
It was undoubtedly a puzzle, but it had appendages 
to it that I did not understand. 

" It is more than ordinarily complicated," I ob- 
served, moving the rings up and down in a vain en- 
deavour to work them off. 

" The better he would like it," she said. 

I kept working with the rings. Suddenly I gave 
a painful start. A little prong in the handle of the 
toy had started out and pierced me. 

" You had better not handle it," said I, and laid 
it down. But the next moment I took it up again 
and put it in my pocket. The prick made by this 
treacherous bit of mechanism was in or near the same 
place on my thumb as the one I had noticed on the 
hand of the deceased Mr. Holmes. 

There was a fire in the room, and before proceed- 
ing further I cauterised that prick with the end of 
a red-hot poker. Then I made my adieux to Mrs. 
Holmes and went immediately to a chemist friend 
of mine. 

" Test the end of this bit of steel for me," said I. 
" I have reason to believe it carries with it a deadly 
poison." 

He took the toy, promising to subject it to every 
test possible and let me know the result. Then I 
went home. I felt ill, or imagined I did, which 
under the circumstances was almost as bad. 



166 THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 

Next day, however, I was quite well, with the 
exception of a certain inconvenience in my thumb. 
But not till the following week did I receive the 
chemist's report. It overthrew my whole theory. 
He found nothing, and returned me the bit of steel. 

But I was not convinced. 

" I will hunt up this John Graham," thought I, 
" and study him." 

But this was not so easy a task as it may appear. 
As Mrs. Holmes possessed no clue to the where- 
abouts of her quondam lover, I had nothing to aid 
me in my search for him, save her rather vague de- 
scription of his personal appearance and the fact 
that he was constantly interrupted in speaking by a 
low, choking cough. However, my natural persever- 
ance carried me through. After seeing and inter- 
viewing a dozen John Grahams without result, I at 
last lit upon a man of that name who presented a 
figure of such vivid unrest and showed such a des- 
perate hatred of his fellows, that I began to enter- 
tain hopes of his being the person I was in search 
of. But determined to be sure of this before proceed- 
ing further, I confided my suspicions to Mrs. 
Holmes, and induced her to accompany me down 
to a certain spot on the " Elevated " from which I 
had more than once seen this man go by to his usual 
lounging place in Printing House Square. 

She showed great courage in doing this, for she 
had such a dread of him that she was in a state of 
nervous excitement from the moment she left her 
house, feeling sure that she would attract his atten- 



THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 167 

tion and thus risk a disagreeable encounter. But 
she might have spared herself these fears. He did 
not even glance up in passing us, and it was mainly 
by his walk she recognised him. But she did recog- 
nise him; and this nerved me at once to set about the 
formidable task of fixing upon him a crime which 
was not even admitted as a fact by the authori- 
ties. 

He was a man-about-town, living, to all appear- 
ances, by his wits. He was to be seen mostly in the 
downtown portions of the city, standing for hours 
in front of some newspaper office, gnawing at his 
finger-ends, and staring at the passers-by with a hun- 
gry look alarming to the timid and provoking alms 
from the benevolent. Needless to say that he re- 
jected the latter expression of sympathy with angry 
contempt. 

His face was long and pallid, his cheek-bones high, 
and his mouth bitter and resolute in expression. He 
wore neither beard nor moustache, but made up for 
their lack by an abundance of light-brown hair, which 
hung very nearly to his shoulders. He stooped in 
standing, but as soon as he moved, showed decision 
and a certain sort of pride which caused him to hold 
his head high and his body more than usually erect. 
With all these good points his appearance was de- 
cidedly sinister, and I did not wonder that Mrs. 
Holmes feared him. 

My next move was to accost him. Pausing before 
the doorway in which he stood, I addressed him some 
trivial question. He answered me with sufficient 



i68 THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 

politeness, but with a grudging attention which be- 
trayed the hold which his own thoughts had upon 
him. He coughed while speaking, and his eye, 
which for a moment rested on mine, produced an im- 
pression upon me for which I was hardly prepared, 
great as was my prejudice against him. There was 
such an icy composure in it; the composure of an 
envenomed nature conscious of its superiority to all 
surprises. As I lingered to study him more closely, 
the many dangerous qualities of the man became 
more and more apparent to me; and convinced that 
to proceed further without deep and careful thought 
would be to court failure where triumph would set 
me up for life, I gave up all present attempt at 
enlisting him in conversation and went away in an 
inquiring and serious mood. 

In fact, my position was a peculiar one, and the 
problem I had set for myself one of unusual diffi- 
culty. Only by means of some extraordinary device 
such as is seldom resorted to by the police of this 
or any other nation, could I hope to arrive at the 
secret of this man's conduct, and triumph in a matter 
which to all appearance was beyond human pene- 
tration. 

But what device? I knew of none, nor through 
two days and nights of strenuous thought did I re- 
ceive the least light on the subject. Indeed, my 
mind seemed to grow more and more confused the 
more I urged it into action. I failed to get inspira- 
tion indoors or out; and feeling my health suffer 
from the constant irritation of my recurring dis- 



THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 169 

appointment, I resolved to take a day off and carry 
myself and my perplexities into the country. 

I did so. Governed by an impulse which I did 
not then understand, I went to a small town in New 
Jersey and entered the first house on which I saw 
the sign " Room to Let." The result was most 
fortunate. No sooner had I crossed the threshold 
of the neat and homely apartment thrown open to 
my use, than it recalled a room in which I had slept 
two years before and in which I had read a little 
book I was only too glad to remember at this mo- 
ment. Indeed, it seemed as if a veritable inspiration 
had come to me through this recollection, for though 
the tale to which I allude was a simple child's story 
written for moral purposes, it contained an idea 
which promised to be invaluable to me at this junc- 
ture. Indeed, by means of it, I believed myself to 
have solved the problem that was puzzling me, and, 
relieved beyond expression, I paid for the night's 
lodging I had now determined to forego, and re- 
turned immediately to New York, having spent just 
fifteen minutes in the town where I had received this 
happy inspiration. 

My first step on entering the city was to order a 
dozen steel coils made similar to the one which I 
still believed answerable for James Holmes's death. 
My next to learn as far as possible all of John 
Graham's haunts and habits. At a week's end I had 
the springs and knew almost as well as he did him- 
self where he was likely to be found at all times of 
the day and night. I immediately acted upon this 



170 THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 

knowledge. Assuming a slight disguise, I repeated 
my former stroll through Printing House Square, 
looking into each doorway as I passed. John Gra- 
ham was in one of them, staring in his old way at the 
passing crowd, but evidently seeing nothing but the 
images formed by his own disordered brain. A 
manuscript roll stuck out of his breast-pocket, and 
from the way his nervous fingers fumbled with it, I 
began to understand the restless glitter of his eyes, 
which were as full of wretchedness as any eyes I have 
ever seen. 

Entering the doorway where he stood, I dropped 
at his feet one of the small steel coils with which I 
was provided. He did not see it. Stopping near 
him, I directed his attention to it by saying: 

" Pardon me, but did I not see something drop out 
of your hand? " 

He started, glanced at the seemingly inoffensive 
toy I had pointed out, and altered so suddenly and so 
vividly that it became instantly apparent that the 
surprise I had planned for him was fully as keen and 
searching a one as I had anticipated. Recoiling 
sharply, he gave me a quick look, then glanced down 
again at his feet as if half expecting to find the object 
of his terror gone. But, perceiving it still lying 
there, he crushed it viciously with his heel, and utter- 
ing some incoherent words dashed impetuously from 
the building. 

Confident that he would regret this hasty impulse 
and return, I withdrew a few steps and waited. And 
sure enough, in less than five minutes he came slink- 



THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 171 

ing back. Picking up the coil with more than one 
sly look about, he examined it closely. Suddenly he 
gave a sharp cry and went staggering out. Had he 
discovered that the seeming puzzle possessed the 
same invisible spring which had made the one 
handled by James Holmes so dangerous? 

Certain as to the place he would be found next, I 
made a short cut to an obscure little saloon in Nassau 
Street, where I took up my stand in a spot conveni- 
ent for seeing without being seen. In ten minutes 
he was standing at the bar asking for a drink. 

" Whiskey ! " he cried. " Straight." 

It was given him, but as he set the empty glass 
down on the counter he saw lying before him another 
of the steel springs, and was so confounded by the 
sight that the proprietor, who had put it there at 
my instigation, thrust out his hand toward him as 
if half afraid he would fall. 

" Where did that that thing come from? " stam- 
mered John Graham, ignoring the other's gesture 
and pointing with a trembling hand at the insignifi- 
cant bit of wire between them. 

" Didn't it drop from your coat-pocket? " in- 
quired the proprietor. " It wasn't lying here before 
you came in." 

With a horrible oath the unhappy man turned and 
fled from the place. I lost sight of him after that 
for three hours, then I suddenly came upon him 
again. He was walking uptown with a set purpose 
in his face that made him look more dangerous than 
ever. Of course I followed him, expecting him to 



i 7 2 THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 

turn towards Fifty-ninth Street, but at the corner 
of Madison Avenue and Forty-seventh Street he 
changed his mind and dashed toward Third Avenue. 
At Park Avenue he faltered and again turned north, 
walking for several blocks as if the fiends were be- 
hind him. I began to think that he was but attempt- 
ing to walk off his excitement, when, at a sudden 
rushing sound in the cut beside us, he stopped and 
trembled. An express train was shooting by. As 
it disappeared in the tunnel beyond, he looked about 
him with a blanched face and wandering eye; but 
his glance did not turn my way, or, if it did, he 
failed to attach any meaning to my near pres- 
ence. 

He began to move on again and this time towards 
the bridge spanning the cut. I followed him very 
closely. In the centre of it he paused and looked 
down at the track beneath him. Another train was 
approaching. As it came near he trembled from 
head to foot, and, catching at the railing against 
which he leaned, was about to make a quick move 
forward when a puff of smoke arose from below and 
sent him staggering backward, gasping with a terror 
I could hardly understand till I saw that the smoke 
had taken the form of a spiral and was sailing away 
before him in what to his disordered imagination 
must have looked like a gigantic image of the coil 
with which twice before on this day he had found 
himself confronted. 

It may have been chance and it may have been 
providence; but whichever it was it saved him. He 



THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 173 

could not face that semblance of his haunting 
thought; and turning away he cowered down on the 
neighbouring curbstone, where he sat for several min- 
utes, with his head buried in his hands; when he 
arose again he was his own daring and sinister self. 
Knowing that he was now too much master of his 
faculties to ignore me any longer, I walked quickly 
away and left him. I knew where he would be at 
six o'clock and had already engaged a table at the 
same restaurant. It was seven, however, before he 
put in an appearance, and by this time he was looking 
more composed. There was a reckless air about 
him, however, which was perhaps only noticeable to 
me; for none of the habitues of this especial restau- 
rant were entirely without it; wild eyes and unkempt 
hair being in the majority. 

I let him eat. The dinner he ordered was simple 
and I had not the heart to interrupt his enjoyment 
of it. 

But when he had finished and came to pay, then I 
allowed the shock to come. Under the bill which 
the waiter laid at the side of his plate was the in- 
evitable steel coil ; and it produced even more than 
its usual effect. I own I felt sorry for him. 

He did not dash from the place, however, as he 
had from the liquor saloon. A spirit of resistance 
had seized him and he demanded to know where 
this object of his fear had come from. No one could 
tell him (or would). Whereupon he began to rave 
and would certainly have done himself or somebody 
else an injury if he had not been calmed by a man 



174 THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 

almost as wild-looking as himself. Paying his bill, 
but vowing he would never enter the place again, he 
went out, clay white, but with the swaggering air of 
a man who had just asserted himself. 

He drooped, however, as soon as he reached the 
street, and I had no difficulty in following him to a 
certain gambling den, where he gained three dollars 
and lost five. From there he went to his lodgings in 
West Tenth Street. 

I did not follow him. He had passed through 
many deep and wearing emotions since noon, and I 
had not the heart to add another to them. 

But late the next day I returned to this house and 
rang the bell. It was already dusk, but there was 
light enough for me to notice the unrepaired condi- 
tion of the iron railings on either side of the old 
stoop and to compare this abode of decayed grandeur 
with the spacious and elegant apartment in which 
pretty Mrs. Holmes mourned the loss of her young 
husband. Had any such comparison ever been made 
by the unhappy John Graham, as he hurried up these 
battered steps into the dismal halls beyond? 

In answer to my summons there came to the door a 
young woman to whom I had but to intimate my wish 
to see Mr. Graham for her to let me in with the 
short announcement: 

"Top floor, back room! Door open, he's out; 
door shut, he's in." 

As an open door meant liberty to enter, I lost no 
time in following the direction of her finger, and 
presently found myself in a low attic chamber over- 



THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 175 

looking an acre of roofs. A fire had been lighted in 
the open grate, and the flickering red beams danced 
on ceiling and walls with a cheeriness greatly in con- 
trast to the nature of the business which had led me 
there. As they also served to light the room, I pro- 
ceeded to make myself at home; and drawing up a 
chair, sat down at the fireplace in such a way as to 
conceal myself from any one entering the door. 

In less than half an hour he came in.^ 

He was in a state of high emotion. His face was 
flushed and his eyes burning. Stepping rapidly for- 
ward, he flung his hat on the table in the middle of 
the room, with a curse that was half cry and half 
groan. Then he stood silent and I had an oppor- 
tunity of noting how haggard he had grown in the 
short time which had elapsed since I had seen him 
last. But the interval of his inaction was short, and 
in a moment he flung up his arms with a loud " Curse 
her ! " that rang through the narrow room and be- 
trayed the source of his present frenzy. Then he 
again stood still, grating his teeth and working his 
hands in a way terribly suggestive of the murderer's 
instinct. But not for long. He saw something that 
attracted his attention on the table, a something upon 
which my eyes had long before been fixed, and start- 
ing forward with a fresh and quite different display 
of emotion, he caught up what looked like a roll of 
manuscript and began to tear it open. 

" Back again! Always back! " wailed from his 
lips; and he gave the roll a toss that sent from its 
midst a small object which he no sooner saw than 



1 76 THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 

he became speechless and reeled back. It was an- 
other of the steel coils. 

" Good God ! " fell at last from his stiff and work- 
ing lips. " Am I mad or has the devil joined in the 
pursuit against me? I cannot eat, I cannot drink, 
but this diabolical spring starts up before me. It is 
here, there, everywhere. The visible sign of my 
guilt; the the He had stumbled back upon 

my chair, and turning, saw me. 

I was on my feet at once, and noting that he was 
dazed by the shock of my presence, I slid quietly be- 
tween him and the door. 

The movement roused him. Turning upon me 
with a sarcastic smile in which was concentrated the 
bitterness of years, he briefly said: 

" So I am caught ! Well, there has to be an end to 
men as well as to things, and I am ready for mine. 
She turned me away from her door to-day, and after 
the hell of that moment I don't much fear any other." 

" You had better not talk," I admonished him. 
" All that falls from you now will only tell against 
you on your trial." 

He broke into a harsh laugh. " And do you think 
I care for that? That having been driven by a 
woman's perfidy into crime I am going to bridle 
my tongue and keep down the words which are my 
only safeguard from insanity? No, no; while my 
miserable breath lasts I will curse her, and if the 
halter is to cut short my words, it shall be with her 
name blistering my lips." 

I attempted to speak, but he would not give me 



THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 177 

an opportunity. The passion of weeks had found 
vent and he rushed on recklessly: 

" I went to her house to-day. I wanted to see her 
in her widow's weeds; I wanted to see her eyes red 
with weeping over a grief which owed its bitterness 
to me. But she would not grant me admittance. 
She had me thrust from her door, and I shall never 
know how deeply the iron has sunk into her soul. 
But " and here his face showed a sudden change 
" I shall see her if I am tried for murder. She will 
be in the courtroom on the witness stand " 

" Doubtless," I interjected; but his interruption 
came quickly and with vehement passion. 

" Then I am ready. Welcome trial, conviction, 
death, even. To confront her eye to eye is all I 
wish. She shall never forget it, never ! " 

" Then you do not deny " I began. 

" I deny nothing," he returned, and held out his 
hands with a grim gesture. " How can I, when there 
falls from everything I touch the devilish thing which 
took away the life I hated?" 

" Have you anything more to say or do before 
you leave these rooms? " I asked. 

He shook his head, and then, bethinking himself, 
pointed to the roll of paper which he had flung on 
the table. 

"Burn that!" he cried. 

I took up the roll and looked at it. It was the 
manuscript of a poem in blank verse. 

" I have been with it into a dozen newspaper and 
magazine offices," he explained with great bitter- 



178 THE LITTLE STEEL COILS 

ness. " Had I succeeded in getting a publisher for 
it I might have forgotten my wrongs and tried to 
build up a new life on the ruins of the old. But they 
would not have it, none of them; so I say, burn it! 
that no memory of me may remain in this miserable 
world." 

" Keep to the facts ! " I severely retorted. " It 
was while carrying this poem from one newspaper to 
another that you secured that bit of print upon the 
blank side of which yourself printed the obituary 
notice with which you savoured your revenge upon 
the woman who had disappointed you." 

" You know that? Then you know where I got 
the poison with which I tipped the silly toy with 
which that weak man fooled away his life? " 

" No," said I, " I do not know where you got it. 
I merely know it was no common poison bought 
at a druggist's, or from any ordinary chemist." 

"It was woorali; the deadly, secret woorali. I 
got it from but that is another man's secret. You 
will never hear from me anything that will com- 
promise a friend. I got it, that is all. One drop, 
but it killed my man." 

The satisfaction, the delight, which he threw into 
these words are beyond description. As they left his 
lips a jet of flame from the neglected fire shot up 
and threw his figure for one instant into bold relief 
upon the lowering ceiling; then it died out, and noth- 
ing but the twilight dusk remained in the room and 
on the countenance of this doomed and despairing 
man. 



THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S 
DELIGHT 



IN the spring of 18 , the attention of the New 
York police was attracted by the many cases of well- 
known men found drowned in the various waters 
surrounding the lower portion of our great city. 
Among these may be mentioned the name of Elwood 
Henderson, the noted tea merchant, whose remains 
were washed ashore at Redhook Point; and of 
Christopher Bigelow, who was picked up off Gov- 
ernor's Island after having been in the water for five 
days, and of another well-known millionaire whose 
name I cannot now recall, but who, I remember, was 
seen to walk towards the East River one March 
evening, and was not met with again till the 5th of 
April, when his body floated into one of the docks 
near Peck's Slip. 

As it seemed highly improbable that there should 
have been a concerted action among so many wealthy 
and distinguished men to end their lives within a few 
weeks of each other, and all by the same method of 
drowning, we soon became suspicious that a more 
serious verdict than that of suicide should have been 
rendered in the case of Henderson, Bigelow, and the 
other gentleman I have mentioned. Yet one fact, 
common to all these cases, pointed so conclusively 
to deliberate intention on the part of the sufferers 
that we hesitated to take action. 

This was, that upon the body of each of the above- 
mentioned persons there were found, not only valu- 

181 



182 THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 

ables in the shape of money and jewelry, but papers 
and memoranda of a nature calculated to fix the 
identity of the drowned man, in case the water should 
rob him of his personal characteristics. Conse- 
quently, we could not ascribe these deaths to a 
desire for plunder on the part of some unknown 
person. 

I was a young man in those days, and full of 
ambition. So, though I said nothing, I did not let 
this matter drop when the others did, but kept my 
mind persistently upon it and waited, with odd re- 
sults as you will hear, for another victim to be re- 
ported at police headquarters. 

Meantime I sought to discover some bond or 
connection between the several men who had been 
found drowned, which would serve to explain their 
similar fate. But all my efforts in this direction 
were fruitless. There was no bond between them, 
and the matter remained for a while an unsolved 
mystery. 

Suddenly one morning a clue was placed, not in 
my hands, but in those of a superior official who at 
that time exerted a great influence over the whole 
force. He was sitting in his private room, when 
there was ushered into his presence a young man of a 
dissipated but not unprepossessing appearance, who, 
after a pause of marked embarrassment, entered 
upon the following story: 

" I don't know whether or no I should offer an 
excuse for the communication I am about to make; 
but the matter I have to relate is simply this: Being 



THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 183 

hard up last night (for though a rich man's son I 
often lack money), I went to a certain pawnshop in 
the Bowery where I had been told I could raise 
money on my prospects. This place you may see it 
some time, so I will not enlarge upon it did not 
strike me favourably; but, being very anxious for a 
certain definite sum of money, I wrote my name in a 
book which was brought to me from some unknown 
quarter and proceeded to follow the young woman 
who attended me into what she was pleased to call 
her good master's private office. 

" He may have been a good master, but he was 
anything but a good man. In short, sir, when he 
found out who I was, and how much I needed money, 
he suggested that I should make an appointment 
with my father at a place he called Groll's in Grand 
Street, where, said he, ' your little affair will be ar- 
ranged, and you made a rich man within thirty days. 
That is,' he slily added, * unless your father has 
already made a will, disinheriting you.' 

" I was shocked, sir, shocked beyond all my pow- 
ers of concealment, not so much at his words, which 
I hardly understood, as at his looks, which had a 
world of evil suggestion in them; so I raised my 
fist and would have knocked him down, only that I 
found two young fellows at my elbows, who held me 
quiet for five minutes, while the old fellow talked to 
me. He asked me if I came to him on a fool's 
errand or really to get money; and when I admitted 
that I had cherished hopes of obtaining a clear two 
thousand dollars from him, he coolly replied that 



184 THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 

he knew of but one way in which I could hope to get 
such an amount, and that if I was too squeamish to 
adopt it, I had made a mistake in coming to 
his shop, which was no missionary institution, etc., 
etc. 

" Not wishing to irritate him, for there was 
menace in his eye, I asked, with a certain weak show 
of being sorry for my former heat, whereabouts in 
Grand Street I should find this Groll. 

" The retort was quick. ' Groll is not his name,' 
said he, * and Grand Street is not where you are 
to go to find him. I threw out a bait to see if you 
would snap at it, but I find you timid, and therefore 
advise you to drop the matter entirely.' 

" I was quite willing to do so, and answered him 
to this effect; whereupon, with a side glance I did 
not understand, but which made me more or less un- 
easy in regard to his intentions towards me, he 
motioned to the men who held my arms to let go 
their hold, which they at once did. 

" ' We have your signature,' growled the old man 
as I went out. ' If you peach on us or trouble us in 
any way we will show it to your father and that will 
put an end to all your hopes of future fortune.' 
Then raising his voice, he shouted to the girl in the 
outer office, ' Let the young man see what he has 
signed.' 

" She smiled and again brought forward the book 
in which I had so recklessly placed my name, and 
there at the top of the page I read these words: 
' For moneys received, I agree to notify Rube Good- 



THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 185 

man, within the month, of the death of my father, so 
that he may recover from me, without loss of time, 
the sum of ten thousand dollars as his part of the 
amount I am bound to receive as my father's 
heir.' 

" The sight of these lines knocked me hollow. 
But I am less of a coward morally than physically, 
and I determined to acquaint my father at once with 
what I had done, and get his advice as to whether or 
not I should inform the police of my adventure. He 
heard me with more consideration than I expected, 
but insisted that I should immediately make known 
to you my experience in this Bowery pawnbroker's 
shop." 

The officer, highly interested, took down the young 
man's statement in writing, and, after getting a more 
accurate description of the house itself, allowed his 
visitor to go. 

Fortunately for me, I was in the building at the 
time, and was able to respond when a man was called 
up to investigate this matter. Thinking that I saw 
a connection between it and the various mysterious 
deaths of which I have previously spoken, I entered 
into the affair with much spirit. But, wishing to 
be sure that my possibly unwarranted conclusions 
were correct, I took pains to inquire, before proceed- 
ing upon my errand, into the character of the heirs 
who had inherited the property of Elwood Hender- 
son and Christopher Bigelow, and found that in each 
case there was one among the rest who was well 
known for his profligacy and reckless expenditure. 



i86 THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 

It was a significant discovery, and increased, if pos- 
sible, my interest in running down this nefarious 
trafficker in the lives of wealthy men. 

Knowing that I could hope for no success in my 
character of detective, I made an arrangement with 
the father of the young gentleman before alluded 
to, by which I was to enter the pawnshop as an 
emissary of the latter. Accordingly, I appeared 
there, one dull November afternoon, in the garb of a 
certain Western sporting man, who, for a considera- 
tion, allowed me the temporary use of his name and 
credentials. 

Entering beneath the three golden balls, with the 
swagger and general air of ownership I thought most 
likely to impose upon the self-satisfied female who 
presided over the desk, I asked to see her boss. 

" On your own business? " she queried, glancing 
with suspicion at my short coat, which was rather 
more showy than elegant. 

" No," I returned, " not on my own business, but 
on that of a young gent " 

" Any one whose name is written here? " she in- 
terposed, reaching towards me the famous book, 
over the top of which, however, she was careful to 
lay her arm. 

I glanced down the page she had opened and in- 
stantly detected that of the young gentleman on 
whose behalf I was supposed to be there, and nodded 
" Yes," with all the assurance of which I was 
capable. 

" Come, then," said she, ushering me without more 



THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 187 

ado into a den of discomfort where sat a man with 
a great beard and such heavy overhanging eyebrows 
that I could hardly detect the twinkle of his eyes, 
keen and incisive as they were. 

Smiling upon him, but not in the same way I had 
upon the girl, I glanced behind me at the open door, 
and above me at the partitions, which failed to reach 
the ceiling. Then I shook my head and drew a step 
nearer. 

" I have come," I insinuatingly whispered, " on 
behalf of a certain party who left this place in a 
huff a day or so ago, but who since then has had 
time to think the matter over, and has sent me with 
an apology which he hopes " here I put on a dia- 
bolical smile, copied, I declare to you, from the one 
I saw at that moment on his own lips " you will 
accept" 

The old wretch regarded me for full two minutes 
in a way to unmask me had I possessed less confi- 
dence in my disguise and in my ability to support it. 

" And what is this young gentleman's name? " he 
finally asked. 

For reply, I handed him a slip of paper. He took 
it and read the few lines written on it, after which 
he began to rub his palms softly together with an 
unction eminently in keeping with the stray glints of 
light that now and then found their way through his 
bushy eyebrows. 

" And so the young gentleman had not the cour- 
age to come again himself? " he softly suggested, 
with just the suspicion of an ironical laugh. 



1 88 THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 

" Thought, perhaps, I would exact too much com- 
mission; or make him pay too roundly for his im- 
pertinent assurance." 

I shrugged my shoulders, but vouchsafed no im- 
mediate reply, and he saw that he had to open the 
business himself. He did it warily and with many an 
incisive question which would have tripped me up if 
I had not been very much on my guard; but it all 
ended, as such matters usually do, in mutual under- 
standing, and a promise that if the young gentleman 
was willing to sign a certain paper, which, by the 
way, was not shown me, he would in exchange give 
him an address which, if made proper use of, would 
lead to my patron finding himself an independent 
man within a very few days. 

As this address was the one thing I was most 
desirous of obtaining, I professed myself satisfied 
with the arrangement, and proceeded to hunt up my 
patron, as he was called. Informing him of the 
result of my visit, I asked if his interest in ferreting 
out these criminals was strong enough to lead him to 
sign the vile document which the pawnbroker would 
probably have in readiness for him on the morrow; 
and being told it was, we separated for that day, with 
the understanding that we were to meet the next 
morning at the spot chosen by the pawnbroker for 
the completion of his nefarious bargain. 

Being certain that I was being followed in all my 
movements by the agents of this adept in villainy, 

I took care, upon leaving Mr. L , to repair to the 

hotel of the sporting man I was personifying. Mak- 



THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 189 

ing myself square with the proprietor I took up my 
quarters in the room of my sporting friend, and the 
better to deceive any spy who might be lurking about, 
1 received his letters and sent out his telegrams, 
which, if they did not create confusion in the affairs 
of " The Plunger," must at least have occasioned 
him no little work the next day. 

Promptly at ten o'clock on the following morning 
I met my patron at the appointed place of rendez- 
vous; and when I tell you that this was no other 
than the ancient and now disused cemetery of which a 
portion is still to be seen off Chatham Square, you will 
understand the uncanny nature of this whole adven- 
ture, and the lurking sense there was in it of brooding 
death and horror. The scene, which in these days 
is disturbed by elevated railroad trains and the flap- 
ping of long lines of parti-coloured clothes strung 
high up across the quiet tombstones, was at that time 
one of peaceful rest, in the midst of a quarter de- 
voted to everything for which that rest is the fitting 
and desirable end; and as we paused among the 
mossy stones, we found it hard to realise that in a 
few minutes there would be standing beside us the 
concentrated essence of all that was evil and des- 
picable in human nature. 

He arrived with a smile on his countenance that 
completed his ugliness, and would have frightened 
any honest man from his side at once. Merely 
glancing my way, he shuffled up to my companion, 
and leading him aside, drew out a paper which he 
laid on a flat tombstone with a gesture significant of 



i 9 o THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 

his desire that the other should affix to it the required 
signature. 

Meantime I stood guard, and while attempting to 
whistle a light air, was carelessly taking in the sur- 
roundings, and conjecturing, as best I might, the 
reasons which had induced the old ghoul to make 
use of this spot for his diabolical business, and had 
about decided that it was because he was a ghoul, and 
thus felt at home among the symbols of mortality, 
when I caught sight of two or three young fel- 
lows who were lounging on the other side of the 
fence. 

These were so evidently accomplices that I won- 
dered if the two sly boys I had engaged to stand by 
me through this affair had spotted them, and would 
know enough to follow them back to their haunts. 

A few minutes later, the old rascal came sneaking 
towards me, with a gleam of satisfaction in his half- 
closed eyes. 

" You are not wanted any longer," he grunted. 
" The young gentleman told me to say that he could 
look out for himself now." 

" The young gentleman had better pay me the 
round fifty he promised me," I grumbled in return, 
with that sudden change from indifference to menace 
which I thought best calculated to further my plans; 
and shouldering the miserable wretch aside, I 
stepped up to my companion, who was still lingering 
in a state of hesitation among the gravestones. 

" Quick! Tell me the number and street which he 
has given you ! " I whispered, in a tone quite out of 



THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 191 

keeping with the angry and reproachful air I had 
assumed. 

He was about to answer, when the old fellow came 
sidling up behind us. Instantly the young man be- 
fore me rose to the occasion, and putting on an air 
of conciliation, said in a soothing tone: 

" There, there, don't bluster. Do one thing more 
for me, and I will add another fifty to that I prom- 
ised you. Conjure up an anonymous letter you 
know how and send it to my father, saying that if 
he wants to know where his son loses his hundreds, 
he must go to the place on the dock, opposite 5 
South Street, some night shortly after nine. It would 
not work with most men, but it will with my father, 
and when he has been in and out of that place, and 
I succeed to the fortune he will leave me, then I 
will remember you, and " 

" Say, too," a sinister voice here added in my 
ear, " that if he wishes to effect an entrance into the 
gambling den which his son haunts, he must take 
the precaution of tying a bit of blue ribbon in his 
buttonhole. It is a signal meaning business, and 
must not be forgotten," chuckled the old fellow, evi- 
dently deceived at last into thinking I was really 
one of his own kind. 

I answered by a wink, and taking care to attempt 
no further communication with my patron, I left the 
two, as soon as possible, and went back to the hotel, 
where I dropped " the sport," and assumed a char- 
acter and dress which enabled me to make my way 
undetected to the house of my young patron, where 



J 9 2 THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 

for two days I lay low, waiting for a suitable time 
in which to make my final attempt to penetrate this 
mystery. 

I knew that for the adventure I was now con- 
templating considerable courage was required. But 
I did not hesitate. The time had come for me to 
show my mettle. In the few communications I was 
enabled to hold with my superiors I told them of 
my progress and arranged with them my plan of 
work. As we all agreed that I was about to en- 
counter no common villainy, these plans naturally 
partook of finesse, as you will see if you follow my 
narrative to the end. 

Early in the evening of a cool November day 
I sallied forth into the streets, dressed in the habili- 
ments and wearing the guise of the wealthy old gen- 
tleman whose secret guest I had been for the last 
few days. As he was old and portly, and I young 
and spare, this disguise had cost me no little thought 
and labour. But assisted as I was by the darkness, I 
had but little fear of betraying myself to any chance 
spy who might be upon the watch, especially as Mr. 

L had a peculiar walk, which, in my short stay 

with him, I had learned to imitate perfectly. In the 
lapel of my overcoat I had tied a tag of blue ribbon, 
and, though for all I knew this was a signal devoting 
me to a secret and mysterious death, I walked along 
in a buoyant condition of mind, attributable, no 
doubt, to the excitement of the venture and to my 
desire to test my powers, even at the risk of my life. 

It was nine o'clock when I reached South Street. 



THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 193 

It was no new region to me, nor was I ignorant of the 
specified drinking den on the dock to which I had 
been directed. I remembered it as a bright spot in 
a mass of ship-prows and bow-rigging, and was pos- 
sessed, besides, of a vague consciousness that there 
was something odd in connection with it which had 
aroused my curiosity sufficiently in the past for me 
to have once formed the resolution of seeing it again 
under circumstances which would allow me to give 
it some attention. But I never thought that the cir- 
cumstances would involve my own life, impossible as 
it is for a detective to reckon upon the future or to 
foresee the events into which he will be hurried by the 
next crime which may be reported at police head- 
quarters. 

There were but few persons in the street when I 
crossed to The Heart's Delight so named from the 
heart-shaped opening in the framework of the door, 
through which shone a light, inviting enough to one 
chilled by the keen November air and oppressed by 
the desolate appearance of the almost deserted street. 
But amongst those persons I thought I recognised 
more than one familiar form, and felt reassured as 
to the watch which had been set upon the house. 

The night was dark and the river especially so, but 
in the gloomy space beyond the dock I detected a 
shadow blacker than the rest, which I took for the 
police boat they had promised to have in readiness in 
case I needed rescue from the waterside. Otherwise 
the surroundings were as usual, and saving the gruff 
singing of some drunken sailor coming from a nar- 



194 THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 

row side street near by, no sound disturbed the some- 
what lugubrious silence of this weird and forsaken 
spot. 

Pausing an instant before entering, I glanced up 
at the building, which was about three stories high, 
and endeavoured to see what there was about it 
which had once arrested my attention, and came to 
the conclusion that it was its exceptional situation on 
the dock, and the ghostly effect of the hoisting-beam 
projecting from the upper story like a gibbet. And 
yet this beam was common to many a warehouse in 
the vicinity, though in none of them were there any 
such signs of life as proceeded from the curious 
mixture of sail loft, boat shop, and drinking saloon, 
now before me. Could it be that the ban of criminal- 
ity was upon the house, and that I had been con- 
scious of this without being able to realise the cause 
of my interest? 

Not stopping to solve my sensations further, I 
tried the door, and, finding it yield easily to my 
touch, turned the knob and entered. For a mo- 
ment I was blinded by the smoky glare of the heated 
atmosphere into which I stepped, but presently I 
was able to distinguish the vague outlines of an 
oyster bar in the distance, and the motionless figures 
of some half-dozen men, whose movements had been 
arrested by my sudden entrance. For an instant this 
picture remained; then the drinking and card playing 
were resumed, and I stood, as it were, alone, on the 
sanded floor near the door. 

Improving the opportunity for a closer inspec- 



THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 195 

tion of the place, I was struck by its picturesqueness. 
It had evidently been once used as a ship chandlery, 
and on the walls, which were but partly plastered, 
there still hung old bits of marlin, rusty rings, and 
such other evidences of former traffic as did not 
interfere with the present more lucrative business. 

Below were the two bars, one at the right of the 
door, and the other at the lower end of the room 
near a window, through whose small, square panes I 
caught a glimpse of the coloured lights of a couple 
of ferryboats, passing each other in midstream. 

At a table near me sat two men, grumbling at 
each other over a game of cards. They were large 
and powerful figures in the contracted space of this 
long and narrow room, and my heart gave a bound 
of joy as I recognised on them certain marks by 
which I was to know friend from foe in this possible 
den of thieves and murderers. 

Two sailors at the bar were bona fide habitues of 
the place and so were the two other waterside charac- 
ters I could faintly discern in one of the dim corners. 
Meantime a man was approaching me. 

Let me see if I can describe him. He was about 
thirty, and had the complexion and figure of a con- 
sumptive, but his eye shone with the yellow glare of 
a beast of prey, and in the cadaverous hollows of 
his ashen cheeks and amid the lines about his thin 
drawn lips there lay, for all his conciliatory smile, 
an expression so cold and yet so ferocious that I 
spotted him at once as the man to whose genius we 
were indebted for the new scheme of murder which 



ig6 THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 

I was jeopardising my life to understand. But I 
allowed none of the repugnance with which he in- 
spired me to appear in my manner, and, greeting 
him with half a nod, waited for him to speak. His 
voice had that smooth quality which betrays the 
hypocrite. 

" Has the gentleman any appointment here? " he 
asked, letting his glance fall for the merest instant 
on the lapel of my coat. 

I returned a decided affirmative. " Or rather," 
I went on, with a meaning look he evidently compre- 
hended, " my son has, and I have made up my mind 
to know just what deviltry he is up to these days. 
I can make it worth your while to give me the op- 
portunity." 

" Oh, I see," he assented with a glance at the 
pocketbook I had just drawn out. " You want a 
private room from which you can watch the young 
i scapegrace. I understand, I understand. But the 
private rooms are above. Gentlemen are not com- 
fortable here." 

" I should say not," I murmured, and drew from 
the pocketbook a bill which I slid quietly into his 
hand. " Now take me where I shall be safe," I sug- 
gested, " and yet in full sight of the room where the 
young gentlemen play. I wish to catch him at his 
tricks. Afterwards " 

" All will be well," he finished smoothly, with an- 
other glance at my blue ribbon. " You see I do not 
ask you the young gentleman's name. I take your 
money and leave all the rest to you. Only don't 



THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 197 

make a scandal, I pray, for my house has the name 
of being quiet." 

"Yes," thought I, "too quiet!" and for an in- 
stant felt my spirits fail me. But it was only for 
an instant. I had friends about me and a pistol 
at half-cock in the pocket of my overcoat. Why 
should I fear any surprise, prepared as I was for 
every emergency? 

" I will show you up in a moment," said he; and 
left me to put up a heavy board shutter over the 
window opening on the river. Was this a signal or 
a precaution? I glanced towards my two friends 
playing cards, took another note of their broad 
shoulders and brawny arms, and prepared to follow 
my host, who now stood bowing at the other end of 
the room, before a covered staircase which was mani- 
festly the sole means of reaching the floor above. 

The staircase was quite a feature in the room. 
It ran from back to front, and was boarded all 
the way up to the ceiling. On these boards hung a 
few useless bits of chain, wire, and knotted ends of 
tarred ropes, which swung to and fro as the sharp 
November blast struck the building, giving out a 
weird and strangely muffled sound. Why did this 
sound, so easily to be accounted for, ring in my ears 
like a note of warning? I understand now, but I 
did not then, full of expectation as I was for de- 
velopments out of the ordinary. 

Crossing the room, I entered upon the staircase, 
in the wake of my companion. Though the two men 
at cards did not look up as I passed them, I noticed 



198 THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 

that they were alert and ready for any signal I might 
choose to give them. But I was not ready to give 
one yet. I must see danger before I summoned help, 
and there was no token of danger yet. 

When we were about half-way up the stairs the 
faint light which had illuminated us from below sud- 
denly vanished, and we found ourselves in total 
darkness. The door at the foot had been closed by a 
careful hand, and I felt, rather than heard, the 
stealthy pushing of a bolt across it. 

My first impulse was to forsake my guide and 
rush back, but I subdued the unworthy impulse and 
stood quite still, while my companion, exclaiming, 
" Damn that fellow ! What does he mean by shut- 
ting the door before we're half-way up ! " struck a 
match and lit a gas jet in the room above, which 
poured a flood of light upon the staircase. 

Drawing my hand from the pocket in which I had 
put my revolver, I hastened after him into the 
small landing at the top of the stairs. An open door 
was before me, in which he stood bowing, with the 
half-burnt match in his hand. " This is the place, 
sir," he announced, motioning me in. 

I entered and he remained by the door, while I 
passed quickly about the room, which was bare of 
every article of furniture save a solitary table and 
chair. There was not even a window in it, with the 
exception of one small light situated so high up in 
the corner made by the jutting staircase that I won- 
dered at its use, and was only relieved of extreme 
apprehension at the prison-like appearance of the 



THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 199 

place by the gleam of light which came through this 
dusty pane, showing that I was not entirely removed 
from the presence of my foes if I was from that of 
my friends. 

" Ah, you have spied the window," remarked my 
host, advancing toward me with a countenance he 
vainly endeavoured to make reassuring and friendly. 
" That is your post of observation, sir," he whis- 
pered, with a great show of mystery. " By mounting 
on the table you can peer into the room where my 
young friends sit securely at play." 

As it was not part of my scheme to show any 
special mistrust, I merely smiled a little grimly, and 
cast a glance at the table on which stood a bottle 
of brandy and one glass. 

"Very good brandy," he whispered; "not such 
stuff as we give those fellows downstairs." 

I shrugged my shoulders and he slowly backed to- 
wards the door. 

" The young men you bid me watch are very 
quiet," I suggested, with a careless wave of my hand 
towards the room he had mentioned. 

" Oh, there is no one there yet. They begin to 
straggle in about ten o'clock." 

" Ah," was my quiet rejoinder, " I am likely, then, 
to have use for your brandy." 

He smiled again and made a swift motion towards 
the door. 

" If you want anything," said he, " just step to 
the foot of the staircase and let me know. The 
whole establishment is at your service." And with 



200 THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 

one final grin that remains in my mind as the most 
threatening and diabolical I have ever witnessed, he 
laid his hand on the knob of the door and slid quickly 
out. 

It was done with such an air of final farewell 
that I felt my apprehensions take a positive form. 
Rushing towards the door through which he had just 
vanished, I listened and heard, as I thought, his 
stealthy feet descend the stair. But when I sought 
to follow, I found myself for the second time over- 
whelmed by darkness. The gas jet, which had 
hitherto burned with great brightness in the small 
room, had been turned off from below, and beyond 
the faint glimmer which found its way through the 
small window of which I have spoken, not a ray of 
light now disturbed the heavy gloom of this grue- 
some apartment. 

I had thought of every contingency but this, and 
for a few minutes my spirits were dashed. But I 
soon recovered some remnants of self-possession, 
and began feeling for the knob I could no longer see. 
Finding it after a few futile attempts, I was relieved 
to discover that this door at least was not locked; 
and, opening it with a careful hand, I listened in- 
tently, but could hear nothing save the smothered 
sound of men talking in the room below. 

Should I signal for my companions? No, for the 
secret was not yet mine as to how men passed from 
this room into the watery grave which was the evi- 
dent goal for all wearers of the blue ribbon. 

Stepping back into the middle of the room, I care- 



THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 201 

fully pondered my situation, but could get no further 
than the fact that I was somehow, and in some way, 
in mortal peril. Would it come in the form of a 
bullet, or a deadly thrust from an unseen knife? I 
did not think so. For, to say nothing of the dark- 
ness, there was one reassuring fact which recurred 
constantly to my mind in connection with the 
murders I was endeavouring to trace to this den of 
iniquity. 

None of the gentlemen who had been found 
drowned had shown any marks of violence on their 
bodies, so it was not attack I was to fear, but some 
mysterious, underhanded treachery which would rob 
me of consciousness and make the precipitation of 
my body into the water both safe and easy. Per- 
haps it was in the bottle of brandy that the peril 
lay; perhaps but why speculate further! I would 
watch till midnight and then, if nothing happened, 
signal my companions to raid the house. 

Meantime a peep into the next room might help 
me towards solving the mystery. Setting the bottle 
and glass aside, I dragged the table across the floor, 
placed it under the lighted window, mounted, and 
was about to peer through, when the light in that 
apartment was put out also. Angry and over- 
whelmed, I leaped down, and, stretching out my hands 
till they touched the wainscoting, I followed the 
wall around till I came to the knob of the door, which 
I frantically clutched. But I did not turn it immedi- 
ately, I was too anxious to catch these villains at 
work. 



202 THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 

Would I be conscious of the harm they meditated 
against me, or would I imperceptibly yield to some 
influence of which I was not yet conscious, and drop 
to the floor before I could draw my revolver or put 
to my mouth the whistle upon which I depended for 
assistance and safety? It was hard to tell, but I de- 
termined to cling to my first intention a little longer, 
and so stood waiting and counting the minutes, while 
wondering if the captain of the police boat was not 
getting impatient, and whether I had not more to 
fear from the anxiety of my friends than the cupidity 
of my foes. 

You see, I had anticipated communicating with 
the men in this boat by certain signals and tokens 
which had been arranged between us. But the lack 
of windows in the room had made all such arrange- 
ments futile, so I knew as little of their actions as 
they did of my sufferings ; all of which did not tend 
to add to the cheerfulness of my position. 

However, I held out for a half-hour, listening, 
waiting, and watching in a darkness which, like that 
of Egypt, could be felt, and when the suspense grew 
intolerable I struck a match and let its blue flame 
flicker for a moment over the face of my watch. 
But the matches soon gave out and with them my 
patience, if not my courage, and I determined to end 
the suspense by knocking at the door beneath. 

This resolution taken, I pulled open the door be- 
fore me and stepped out. Though I could see noth- 
ing, I remembered the narrow landing at the top 
of the stairs, and, stretching out my arms, I felt for 



THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 203 

the boarding on either hand, guiding myself by it, 
and began to descend, when something rising, as it 
were, out of the cavernous darkness before me made 
me halt and draw back in mingled dread and horror. 

But the impression, strong as it was, was only 
momentary, and, resolved to be done with the matter, 
I precipitated myself downward, when suddenly, at 
about the middle of the staircase, my feet slipped 
and I slid forward, plunging and reaching out with 
hands whose frenzied grasp found nothing to cling 
to, down a steep inclined plane or what to my be- 
wildered senses appeared such till I struck a yield- 
ing surface and passed with one sickening plunge into 
the icy waters of the river, which in another 
moment had closed dark and benumbing above my 
head. 

It was all so rapid I did not think of uttering a 
cry. But happily for me the splash I made told the 
story, and I was rescued before I could sink a sec- 
ond time. 

It was full half an hour before I had sufficiently 
recovered from the shock to relate my story. But 
when once I had made it known, you can imagine 
the gusto with which the police prepared to enter 
the house and confound the obliging host with a 
sight of my dripping garments and accusing face. 
And, indeed, in all my professional experience I have 
never beheld a more sudden merging of the bully into 
a coward than was to be seen in this slick villain's 
face, when I was suddenly pulled from the crowd 
and placed before him, with the old man's wig gone 



204 THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 

from my head, and the tag of blue ribbon still cling- 
ing to my wet coat. 

His game was up, and he saw it; and Ebenezer 
Gryce's career had begun. 

Like all destructive things the device by which 
I had been run into the river was simple enough when 
understood. In the first place it had been con- 
structed to serve the purpose of a stairway and 
chute. The latter was in plain sight when it was 
used by the sailmakers to run the finished sails into 
the waiting yawls below. At the time of my adven- 
ture, and for some time before, the possibilities of 
the place had been discovered by mine host, who had 
ingeniously put a partition up the entire stairway, 
dividing the steps from the smooth runway. At the 
upper part of the runway he had built a few steps, 
wherewith to lure the unwary far enough down to 
insure a fatal descent. To make sure of his game he 
had likewise ceiled the upper room all around, includ- 
ing the inclosure of the stairs. 

The door to the chute and the door to the stairs 
were side by side, and being made of the same boards 
as the wainscoting, were scarcely visible when closed, 
while the single knob that was used, being transfer- 
able from one to the other, naturally gave the im- 
pression that there was but one door. When this 
adroit villain called my attention to the little win- 
dow around the corner, he no doubt removed the 
knob from the stairs' door and quickly placed it in 
the one opening upon the chute. Another door, con- 
necting the two similar landings without, explains 



THE STAIRCASE AT HEART'S DELIGHT 205 

how he got from the chute staircase into which he 
passed on leaving me, to the one communicating with 
the room below. 

The mystery was solved, and my footing on the 
force secured ; but to this day and I am an old man 
now I have not forgotten the horror of the moment 
when my feet slipped from under me, and I felt 
myself sliding downward, without hope of rescue, 
into a pit of heaving waters, where so many men of 
conspicuous virtue had already ended their valuable 
lives. 

Myriad thoughts flashed through my brain in that 
brief interval, and among them the whole method 
of operating this death-trap, together with every 
detail of evidence that would secure the conviction 
of the entire gang. 



THE AMETHYST BOX 



THE FLASK WHICH HELD BUT A DROP 

IT was the night before the wedding. Though Sin- 
clair, and not myself, was the happy man, I had my 
own causes for excitement, and, finding the heat of 
the billiard-room insupportable, I sought the veranda 
for a solitary smoke in sight of the ocean and a full 
moon. 

I was in a condition of rapturous, if unreasoning, 
delight. That afternoon a little hand had lingered 
in mine for just an instant longer than the circum- 
stances of the moment strictly required; and small 
as the favour may seem to those who do not know 
Dorothy Camerden, to me, who realised fully both 
her delicacy and pride, it was a sign that my long, if 
secret, devotion was about to be rewarded, and that 
at last I was free to cherish hopes whose alternative 
had once bid fair to wreck the happiness of my 
life. 

I was revelling in the felicity of these anticipa- 
tions, and contrasting this hour of ardent hope with 
others of whose dissatisfaction and gloom I was yet 
mindful, when a sudden shadow fell across the 
broad band of light issuing from the library windo^ 
and Sinclair stepped out. 

He had the appearance of being disturbed very 
209 



2io THE AMETHYST BOX 

much disturbed, I thought, for a man on the point 
of marrying the woman for whom he professed to 
entertain the one profound passion of his life; but 
remembering his frequent causes of annoyance 
causes quite apart from his bride and her personal 
attributes I. kept on placidly smoking till I felt his 
hand on my shoulder, and turned to see that the 
moment was a serious one. 

" I have something to say to you, "'he whispered. 
" Come where we shall run less risk of being dis- 
turbed." 

"What's wrong?" I asked, facing him with 
curiosity, if not with alarm. " I never saw you look 
like this before. Has the old lady taken this last 
minute to " 

" Hush! " he prayed, emphasising the word with 
a curt gesture not to be mistaken. " The little room 
over the west porch is empty just now. Follow me 
there." 

With a sigh for the cigar I had so lately lighted, I 
tossed it into the bushes and sauntered in after him. 
I thought I understood his trouble. The prospective 
bride was young a mere slip of a girl indeed 
bright, beautiful, and proud, yet with odd little re- 
straints in her manner and language, due probably to 
her peculiar bringing up, and the surprise, not yet 
overcome, of finding herself, after an isolated, if 
not despised, childhood, the idol of society and the 
recipient of general homage. The fault was not 
with her. But she had for guardian (alas! my dear 
girl had the same) an aunt who was a gorgon. This 



THE AMETHYST BOX 211 

aunt must have been making herself disagreeable to 
the prospective bridegroom, and he, being quick to 
take offence quicker than myself, it was said had 
probably retorted in a way to make things un- 
pleasant. As he was a guest in the house, he and 
all the other members of the bridal party Mrs. 
Armstrong having insisted upon opening her mag- 
nificent Newport villa for this wedding and its at- 
tendant festivities the matter might well look black 
to him. Yet I did not feel disposed to take much 
interest in it, even though his case might be mine 
some day, with all its accompanying drawbacks. 

But once confronted with Sinclair in the well- 
lighted room above, I perceived that I had better 
drop all selfish regrets and give my full attention to 
what he had to say. For his eye, which had flashed 
with an unusual light at dinner, was clouded now; 
and his manner, when he strove to speak, betrayed 
a nervousness I had considered foreign to his nature 
ever since the day I had seen him rein in his horse 
so calmly on the extreme edge of a precipice, where 
a fall would have meant certain death, not only to 
himself, but also to the two riders who unwittingly 
were pressing closely behind him. 

" Walter," he faltered, " something has happened 
something dreadful, something unprecedented! 
You may think me a fool God knows, I would be 
glad to be proved so ! but this thing has frightened 
me. I " he paused and pulled himself together 
" I will tell you about it, then you can judge for 
yourself. I am in no condition " 



212 THE AMETHYST BOX 

" Don't beat about the bush ! Speak up ! What's 
the matter? " 

He gave me an odd look full of gloom a look I 
felt the force of, though I could not interpret it; 
then, coming closer, though there was no one within 
hearing possibly no one any nearer than the 
drawing-room below he whispered in my ear: 

" I have lost a little vial of the deadliest drug 
ever compounded a Venetian curiosity, which I was 
foolish enough to take out and show the ladies, 
because the little box which holds it is such an 
exquisite example of jeweller's work. There's death 
in its taste, almost in its smell; and it's out of my 
hands, and 

" Well, I'll tell you how to fix that up," I put in 
with my usual frank decision. " Order the music 
stopped; call everybody into the drawing-room, and 
explain the dangerous nature of this toy. After 
which, if anything happens, it will not be your fault, 
but that of the person who has so thoughtlessly 
appropriated it." 

His eyes, which had been resting eagerly on mine, 
shifted aside in visible embarrassment. 

" Impossible! It would only aggravate matters, 
or, rather, would not relieve my fears at all. The 
person who took it knew its nature very well, and 
that person " 

" Oh, then you know who took it! " I broke in 
in increasing astonishment. " I thought from your 
manner that " 

" No," he moodily corrected, " I do not know 



THE AMETHYST BOX 213 

who took it. If I did, I should not be here. That is, 
I do not know the exact person. Only Here 

he again eyed me with his former singular intent- 
ness, and, observing that I was nettled, made a fresh 
beginning. " When I came here I brought with me 
a case of rarities chosen from my various collections. 
In looking over them preparatory to making a pres- 
ent to Gilbertine, I came across the little box I 
have just mentioned. It is made of a single amethyst, 
and contains or so I was assured when I bought it 
a tiny flask of old but very deadly poison. How 
it came to be included with the other precious and 
beautiful articles I had picked out for her cadeau I 
cannot say. But there it was; and conceiving that 
the sight of it would please the ladies, I carried it 
down into the library, and in an evil hour called 
three or four of those about me to inspect it. This 
was while you boys were in the billiard-room, so the 
ladies could give their entire attention to the little 
box, which is certainly worth the most careful 
scrutiny. 

" I was holding k out on the palm of my hand, 
where it burned with a purple light which made 
more than one feminine eye glitter, when somebody 
inquired to what use so small and yet so rich a 
receptacle could be put. The question was such a 
natural one I never thought of evading it; besides, 
I enjoy the fearsome delight which women take 
in the marvellous. Expecting no greater result than 
lifted eyebrows or flushed cheeks, I answered by 
pressing a little spring in the filigree-work surround- 



214 THE AMETHYST BOX 

ing the gem. Instantly the tiniest of lids flew back, 
revealing a crystal flask of such minute propor- 
tions that the usual astonishment followed its dis- 
closure. 

44 ' You see! ' I cried, ' it was made to hold that! ' 
And moving my hand to and fro under the gas jet, 
I caused to shine in their eyes the single drop of 
yellow liquid it still held. ' Poison ! ' I impres- 
sively announced. ' This trinket may have adorned 
the bosom of a Borgia or flashed from the arm of 
some great Venetian lady as she flourished her fan 
between her embittered heart and the object of her 
wrath or jealousy.' 

44 The first sentence had come naturally, but the 
last was spoken at random, and almost unconsciously. 
For at the utterance of the word * poison ' a quickly 
suppressed cry had escaped the lips of some one be- 
hind me, which, while faint enough to elude the 
attention of any ear less sensitive than my own, con- 
tained such an astonishing, if involuntary, note of 
self-betrayal that my mind grew numb with horror, 
and I stood staring at the fearful toy which had 
called up such a revelation of what? That is what 
I am here to ask, first of myself, then of you. For 
the two women pressing behind me were " 

44 Who? " I sharply demanded, partaking in some 
indefinable way of his excitement and alarm. 

44 Gilbertine Murray and Dorothy Camerden ! "- 
his prospective bride and the woman I loved and 
whom he knew I loved, though I had kept my secret 
quite successfully from every one else ! 



THE AMETHYST BOX 215 

The look we exchanged neither of us will ever 
forget. 

" Describe the sound," I presently said. 

" I cannot," he replied. " I can only give you my 
impression of it. You, like myself, fought in more 
than one skirmish in the Cuban War. Did you 
ever hear the cry made by a wounded man when the 
cup of cool water for which he has long agonised is 
brought suddenly before his eyes? Such a sound, 
with all that goes to make it eloquent, did I hear 
from one of the two girls who leaned over my 
shoulder. Can you understand this amazing, this 
unheard-of circumstance ? Can you name the woman 
can you name the grief capable of making either 
of these seemingly happy and innocent girls hail the 
sight of such a doubtful panacea, with an unconscious 
ebullition of joy? You would clear my wedding-eve 
of a great dread if you could, for if this expression 
of concealed misery came from Gilbertine " 

" Do you mean," I cried in vehement protest, 
" that you really are in doubt as to which of these 
two women uttered the cry which so startled you? 
That you positively cannot tell whether it was Gil- 
bertine or or " 

"I cannot; as God lives, I cannot! I was too 
dazed, too confounded by the unexpected circum- 
stance, to turn at once, and when I did, it was to see 
both pairs of eyes shining, and both faces dimpling 
with real or affected gaiety. Indeed, if the matter 
had stopped there, I should have thought myself the 
victim of some monstrous delusion; but when, a 



216 THE AMETHYST BOX 

half-hour later, I found this box missing from the 
cabinet where I had hastily thrust it at the peremp- 
tory summons of our hostess, I knew that I had not 
misunderstood the nature of the cry I had heard; 
that it was indeed one of secret longing, and that the 
hand had simply taken what the heart desired. If 
a death occurs in this house to-night 

" Sinclair, you are mad! " I exclaimed with great 
violence. No lesser word would fit either the in- 
tensity of my feeling or the confused state of my 
mind. " Death here! where all are so happy! Re- 
member your bride's ingenuous face! Remember 
the candid expression of Dorothy's eye her smile, 
her noble ways ! You exaggerate the situation. You 
neither understand aright the simple expression of 
surprise you heard, nor the feminine frolic which led 
these girls to carry off this romantic specimen of 
Italian deviltry." 

" You are losing time," was his simple comment. 
" Every minute we allow to pass in inaction only 
brings the danger nearer." 

"What! You imagine " 

" I imagine nothing. I simply know that one of 
these girls has in her possession the means of termi- 
nating life in an instant; that the girl so having it 
is not happy; and that if anything happens to-night 
it will be because we rested supine in the face of a 
very real and possible danger. Now, as Gilbertine 
has never given me reason to doubt either her affec- 
tion for myself or her satisfaction in our approach- 
ing union, I have allowed myself " 



THE AMETHYST BOX 217 

" To think that the object of your fears is 
Dorothy," I finished, with a laugh I vainly strove 
to make sarcastic. 

He did not answer, and I stood battling with a 
dread I could neither conceal nor avow. For, pre- 
posterous as his idea was, reason told me that he 
had some grounds for his doubt. 

Dorothy, unlike Gilbertine Murray, was not to be 
read at a glance, and her trouble for she certainly 
had a trouble was not one she chose to share with 
any one, even with me. I had flattered myself in 
days gone by that I understood it well enough, and 
that any lack of sincerity I might observe in her 
could be easily explained by the position of depend- 
ence she held toward an irascible aunt. But now 
that I forced myself to consider the matter carefully, 
I could not but ask if the varying moods by which 
I had found myself secretly harrowed had not sprung 
from a very different cause a cause for which my 
persistent love was more to blame than the temper 
of her relative. The aversion she had once shown 
to my attentions had yielded long ago to a shy but 
seemingly sincere appreciation of them, and gleams 
of what I was fain to call real feeling had shown 
themselves now and then in her softened manner, 
culminating to-day in that soft pressure of my hand 
which had awakened my hopes and made me forget 
all the doubts and caprices of a disturbing courtship. 

But, had I interpreted that strong, nervous pres- 
sure aright? Had it necessarily meant love? Might 
it not have sprung from a sudden desperate resolu- 



218 THE AMETHYST BOX 

tion to accept a devotion which offered her a way out 
of difficulties especially galling to one of her gentle 
but lofty spirit? Her expression when she caught 
my look of joy had little of the demure tenderness of 
a maiden blushing at her first involuntary avowal. 
There was shrinking in it, but it was the shrinking 
of a frightened woman, not of an abashed girl; 
and when I strove to follow her, the gesture with 
which she waved me back had that in it which would 
have alarmed a more exacting lover. Had I mis- 
taken my darling's feelings? Was her heart still 
cold, her affection unwon? Or thought insupport- 
able ! had she secretly yielded to another what she 
had so long denied me, and ? 

" Ah ! " quoth Sinclair at this juncture, " I see that 
I have roused you at last." And unconsciously his 
tone grew lighter and his eye lost the strained look 
which had made it the eye of a stranger. " You 
begin to see that a question of the most serious im- 
port is before us, and that this question must be 
answered before we separate for the night." 

" I do," said I. 

His relief was evident. 

" Then, so much is gained. The next point is, 
how are we to settle our doubts? We cannot ap- 
proach either of these ladies with questions. A girl 
wretched enough to contemplate suicide would be 
especially careful to conceal both her misery and its 
cause. Neither can we order a search to be made 
for an object so small that it can be concealed about 
the person." 



THE AMETHYST BOX 219 

" Yet this jewel must be recovered. Listen, Sin- 
clair. I will have a talk with Dorothy, you with 
Gilbertine. A kind talk, mind you! one that will 
soothe, not frighten. If a secret lurks in either 
breast, our tenderness should find it out. Only, as 
you love me, promise to show me the same frank- 
ness I here promise to show you. Dear as Dorothy 
is to me, I swear to communicate to you the full 
result of my conversation with her, whatever the 
cost to myself or even to her." 

" And I will be equally fair as regards Gilbertine. 
But before we proceed to such extreme measures 
let us make sure that there is no shorter road to the 
truth. Some one may have seen which of our two 
dear girls went back to the library after we all came 
out of it. That would narrow down our inquiry, 
and save one of them, at least, from unnecessary 
disturbance." 

It was a happy thought, and I told him so, but 
at the same time bade him look in the glass and see 
how impossible it would be for him to venture below 
without creating an alarm which might precipitate 
the dread event we both feared. 

He replied by drawing me to his side before the 
mirror and pointing to my own face. It was as pale 
as his own. 

Most disagreeably impressed by this self-betrayal,. 
I coloured deeply under Sinclair's eye, and was but 
little, if any, relieved when I noticed that he coloured 
under mine. For his feelings were no enigma to 
me. Naturally, he was glad to discover that I shared 



220 THE AMETHYST BOX 

his apprehensions, since it gave him leave to hope 
that the blow he so dreaded was not necessarily 
directed toward his own affections. ,Yet, being a 
generous fellow, he blushed to be detected in his 
egotism, while I well, I own that at that moment 
I should have felt a very unmixed joy at being as- 
sured that the foundations of my own love were 
secure, and that the tiny flask Sinclair had missed 
had not been taken by the hand of her upon whom 
I depended for all my earthly happiness. 

And my wedding-day was as yet a vague and 
distant hope, while his was set for the morrow. 

" We must carry downstairs very different faces 
from these," he remarked, " or we shall be stopped 
before we reach the library." 

I made an effort at composure, so did he; and 
both being determined men, we soon found our- 
selves in a condition to descend among our friends 
without attracting any closer attention than was natu- 
rally due to him as prospective bridegroom and to 
myself as best man. 

II 

BEATON'S DREAM 

Mrs. Armstrong, our hostess, was fond of gaiety, 
and amusements were never lacking. As we stepped 
down into the great hall we heard music in the 
drawing-room, and saw that a dance was in prog- 
ress. 



THE AMETHYST BOX 221 

" That is good," observed Sinclair. " We shall 
run less risk of finding the library occupied." 

" Shall I not look and see where the girls are? 
It would be a great relief to find them both among 
the dancers." 

" Yes," said he; " but don't allow yourself to be 
inveigled into joining them. I could not stand the 
suspense." 

I nodded, and slipped toward the drawing-room. 
He remained in the bay-window overlooking the 
terrace. 

A rush of young people greeted me as soon as I 
showed myself. But I was able to elude them, and 
catch the one full glimpse I wanted of the great 
room beyond. It was a magnificent apartment, and 
so brilliantly lighted that every nook stood revealed. 
On a divan near the centre was a lady conversing 
with two gentlemen. Her back was toward me, but 
I had no difficulty in recognising Miss Murray. 
Some distance from her, but with her face also turned 
away, stood Dorothy. She was talking with an 
unmarried friend, and appeared quite at ease and 
more than usually cheerful. 

Relieved, yet sorry that I had not succeeded in 
catching a glimpse of their faces, I hastened back to 
Sinclair, who was watching me with furtive eyes 
from between the curtains of the window in which 
he had secreted himself. As I joined him a young 
man, who was to act as usher, sauntered from be- 
hind one of the great pillars forming a colonnade 
down the hall, and, crossing to where the music- 



222 THE AMETHYST BOX 

room door stood invitingly open, disappeared behind 
it with the air of a man perfectly contented with his 
surroundings. 

With a nervous grip Sinclair seized me by the arm. 

" Was that Beaton? " he asked. 

" Certainly; didn't you recognise him? " 

He gave me a very strange look. 

" Does the sight of him recall anything? " 

" No." 

" You were at the breakfast-table yesterday morn- 
ing? " 

" I was." 

" Do you remember the dream he related for the 
delectation of such as would listen?" 

Then it was my turn to go white. 

" You don't mean " I began. 

" I thought at the time that it sounded more like 
a veritable adventure than a dream; now I am sure 
that it was such." 

" Sinclair! You do not mean that the young girl 
he professed himself to have surprised one moonlit 
night standing on the verge of the cliff, with arms 
upstretched and a distracted air, was a real per- 
son?" 

" I do. We laughed at the time; he made it seem 
so tragic and preposterous. I do not feel like laugh- 
ing now." 

I gazed at Sinclair in horror. The music was 
throbbing in our ears, and the murmur of gay voices 
and swiftly-moving feet suggested nothing but joy 
and hilarity. Which was the dream? This scene 



THE AMETHYST BOX 223 

of seeming mirth and happy promise, or the fancies 
he had conjured up to rob us both of peace? 

44 Beaton mentioned no names," I stubbornly pro- 
tested. " He did not even call the vision he 
encountered a woman. It was a wraith, you re- 
member, a dream-maiden, a creature of his own 
imagination, born of some tragedy he had read." 

44 Beaton is a gentleman," was Sinclair's cold 
reply. " He did not wish to injure, but to warn 
the woman for whose benefit he told his tale." 

"Warn?" 

44 He doubtless reasoned in this way: If he could 
make this young and probably sensitive girl realise 
that she had been seen and her intentions recog- 
nised, she would beware of such attempts in the 
future. He is a kind-hearted fellow. Did you notice 
which end of the table he ignored when relating this 
dramatic episode? " 

" No." 

" If you had we might be better able to judge 
where his thoughts were. Probably you cannot even 
tell how the ladies took it? " 

44 No, I never thought of looking. Good God, 
Sinclair, don't let us harrow up ourselves unneces- 
sarily! I saw them both a moment ago, and nothing 
in their manner showed that anything was amiss 
with either of them." 

For answer he drew me toward the library. 

This room was not frequented by the young peo- 
ple at night. There were two or three elderly people 
in the party, notably the husband and the brother of 



224 THE AMETHYST BOX 

the lady of the house, and to their use the room was 
more or less given up after nightfall. Sinclair wished 
to show me the cabinet where the box had been. 

There was a fire in the grate, for the evenings 
were now more or less chilly. When the door had 
closed behind us we found that this fire supplied 
all the light there was in the room. Both gas jets 
had been put out, and the rich yet homelike room 
glowed with ruddy hues, interspersed with great 
shadows. A solitary scene, yet an enticing one. 

Sinclair drew a deep breath. " Mr. Armstrong 
must have gone elsewhere to read the evening 
papers," he remarked. 

I replied by casting a scrutinising look into the 
corners. I dreaded finding a pair of lovers hid 
somewhere in the many nooks made by the jutting 
bookcases. But I saw no one. However, at the 
other end of the large room there stood a screen 
near one of the many lounges, and I was on the point 
of approaching this place of concealment when Sin- 
clair drew me toward a tall cabinet upon whose glass 
doors the firelight was shimmering, and, pointing to 
a shelf far above our heads, cried: 

" No woman could reach that unaided. Gilbertine 
is tall, but not tall enough for that. I purposely put 
it high." 

I looked about for a stool. There was one just 
behind Sinclair. I drew his attention to it. 

He flushed and gave it a kick, then shivered 
slightly and sat down in a chair nearby. I knew 
what he was thinking. Gilbertine was taller than 



THE AMETHYST BOX 225 

Dorothy. This stool might have served Gilbertine, 
if not Dorothy. 

I felt a great sympathy for him. After all, his 
case was more serious than mine. The Bishop was 
coming to marry him the next day. 

" Sinclair," said I, " the stool means nothing. 
Dorothy has more inches than you think. With 
this under her feet, she could reach the shelf by 
standing tiptoe. Besides, there are the chairs." 

" True, true ! " and he started up; " there are the 
chairs! I forgot the chairs. I fear my wits have 
gone wool-gathering. We shall have to take others 
into our confidence." Here his voice fell to a 
whisper. " Somehow or by some means we must 
find out if either of them was seen to come into this 
room." 

" Leave that to me," said I. " Remember that a 
word might raise suspicion, and that in a case like 
this Halloa, what's that? " 

A gentle snore had come from behind the screen. 

" We are not alone," I whispered. " Some one is 
over there on the lounge." 

Sinclair had already bounded across the room. I 
pressed hurriedly behind him, and together we 
rounded the screen and came upon the recumbent 
figure of Mr. Armstrong, asleep on the lounge, with 
his paper fallen from his hand. 

" That accounts for the lights being turned out," 
grumbled Sinclair. " Dutton must have done 
it." 

Dutton was the butler. 



226 THE AMETHYST BOX 

I stood contemplating the sleeping figure before 
me. 

" He must have been lying here for some time," 
I muttered. 

Sinclair started. 

" Probably some little while before he slept/' I 
pursued. " I have often heard that he dotes on the 
firelight." 

" I have a notion to wake him," suggested Sinclair. 

41 It will not be necessary," said I, drawing back, 
as the heavy figure stirred, breathed heavily, and 
finally sat up. 

" I beg pardon," I now entreated, backing politely 
away. " We thought the room empty." 

Mr. Armstrong, who, if slow to receive impres- 
sions, is far from lacking intelligence, eyed us with 
sleepy indifference for a moment, then rose pon- 
derously to his feet, and was on the instant the man 
of manner and unfailing courtesy we had ever found 
him. 

"What can I do to oblige you?" he asked, his 
smooth, if hesitating, tones sounding strange to our 
excited ears. 

I made haste to forestall Sinclair, who was racking 
his brains for words with which to propound the 
question he dared not put too boldly. 

" Pardon me, Mr. Armstrong, we were looking 
about for a small pin dropped by Miss Camerden." 
(How hard it was for me to use her name in this 
connection only my own heart knew.) " She was in 
here just now, was she not? " 



THE AMETHYST BOX 227 

The courteous gentleman bowed, hemmed, and 
smiled a very polite but unmeaning smile. Evi- 
dently he had not the remotest notion whether she 
had been in or not. 

u I am sorry, but I am afraid I lost myself for 
a moment on that lounge," he admitted. " The fire- 
light always makes me sleepy. But if I can help 
you," he cried, starting forward, but almost imme- 
diately pausing again and giving us rather a curious 
look. " Some one was in the room. I remember it 
now. It was just before the warmth and glow of 
the fire became too much for me. I cannot say that 
it was Miss Camerden, however. I thought it was 
some one of quicker movement. She made quite a 
rattle with the chairs." 

I purposely did not look back at Sinclair. 

" Miss Murray? " I suggested. 

Mr. Armstrong made one of his low, old- 
fashioned bows. This, I doubt not, was out of 
deference to the bride-to-be. 

" Does Miss Murray wear white to-night? " 

" Yes," muttered Sinclair, coming hastily forward. 

" Then it may have been she, for as I lay there 
deciding whether or not to yield to the agreeable 
somnolence I felt creeping over me, I caught a 
glimpse of the lady's skirt as she passed out. 
And that skirt was white white silk I suppose you 
call it. It looked very pretty in the firelight." 

Sinclair, turning on his heel, stalked in a dazed 
way toward the door. To cover this show of 
abruptness, which was quite unusual on his part, 



228 THE AMETHYST BOX 

I made the effort of my life, and, remarking lightly, 
" She must have been here looking for the pin her 
friend has lost," I launched forth into an impromptu 
dissertation on one of the subjects I knew to be 
dear to the heart of the bookworm before me and 
kept it up, too, till I saw by his brightening eye 
and suddenly freed manner that he had forgotten 
the insignificant episode of a minute ago, never in 
all probability to recall it again. Then I made 
another effort, and released myself with something 
like deftness from the long-drawn-out argument I 
saw impending, and making for the door in my 
turn, glanced about for Sinclair. So far as I was 
concerned the question as to who had taken the box 
from the library was settled. 

It was now half-past eight. I made my way from 
room to room and from group to group looking for 
Sinclair. At last I returned to my old post near the 
library door, and was instantly rewarded by the 
sight of his figure approaching from a small side- 
passage in company with the butler, Dutton. His 
face, as he stepped into the full light of the open 
hall, showed discomposure, but not the extreme dis- 
tress I had anticipated. Somehow, at sight of it, 
I found myself seeking the shadow just as he had 
done a short time before, and it was in one of 
the recesses made by a row of bay-trees that we 
came face to face. 

He gave me one look, then his eyes dropped. 

" Miss Camerden has lost a pin from her hair," 
he impressively explained to me. Then, turning to 



THE AMETHYST BOX 229 

Button, he nonchalantly remarked: "It must be 
somewhere in this hall; perhaps you will be good 
enough to look for it." 

" Certainly," replied the man. u I thought she 
had lost something when I saw her come out of the 
library a little while ago, holding her hand to her 
hair." 

My heart gave a leap, then sank cold and almost 
pulseless in my breast. In the hum to which all 
sounds had sunk, I heard Sinclair's voice rise again 
in the question with which my own mind was full. 

"When was that? After Mr. Armstrong went 
into the room, or before? " 

" Oh, after he fell asleep. I had just come from 
putting out the gas when I saw Miss Camerden slip 
in and almost immediately come out again. I will 
search for the pin very carefully, sir." 

So Mr. Armstrong had made a mistake ! It was 
Dorothy, and not Gilbertine, whom he had seen 
leaving the room. I braced myself up and met Sin- 
clair's eye. 

" Dorothy's dress is grey to-night; but Mr. Arm- 
strong's eye may not be very good for colours." 

" It is possible that both were in the room," was 
Sinclair's reply. But I could see that he advanced 
this theory solely out of consideration for me; that 
he did not really believe it. "At all events," he 
went on, "we cannot prove anything this way; we 
must revert to our original idea. I wonder if Gil- 
bertine will give me the chance to speak to her." 

" You will have an easier task than I," was my 



230 THE AMETHYST BOX 

half-sullen retort. " If Dorothy perceives that I 
wish to approach her, she has but to lift her eyes 
to any of the half-dozen fellows here, and the thing 
becomes impossible." 

" There is to be a rehearsal of the ceremony at 
half-past ten. I might get a word in then ; only, 
this matter must be settled first. I could never go 
through the farce of standing up before you all 
at Gilbertine's side, with such a doubt as this in my 
mind." 

" You will see her before then. Insist on a mo- 
ment's talk. If she refuses " 

" Hush ! " he here put in. " We part now to meet 
in this same place again at ten. Do I look fit to 
enter among the dancers? I see a whole group of 
them coming for me." 

" You will be in another moment. Approaching 
matrimony has made you sober, that's all." 

It was some time before I had the opportunity, 
even if I had the courage, to look Dorothy in the 
face. When the moment came she was flushed with 
dancing and looked beautiful. Ordinarily she was 
a little pale, but not even Gilbertine, with her sumptu- 
ous colouring, showed a warmer cheek than she, as, 
resting from the waltz, she leaned against the rose- 
tinted wall, and let her eyes for the first time rise 
slowly to where I stood talking mechanically to my 
partner. 

Gentle eyes they were, made for appeal, and elo- 
quent with a subdued heart language. But they 
were held in check by an infinite discretion. Never 



THE AMETHYST BOX 231 

have I caught them quite off their guard, and to- 
night they were wholly unreadable. Yet she was 
trembling with something more than the fervour of 
the dance, and the little hand which had touched 
mine in lingering pressure a few hours before was 
not quiet for a moment. I could not see it flutter- 
ing in and out of the folds of her smoke-coloured 
dress without a sickening wonder if the little purple 
box which was the cause of my horror lay some- 
where concealed amid the airy puffs and ruffles that 
rose and fell so rapidly over her heaving breast. 
Could her eye rest on mine, even in this cold and 
perfunctory manner, if the drop which could sepa- 
rate us for ever lay concealed over her heart? She 
knew that I loved her. From the first hour we met 
in her aunt's forbidding parlour in Thirty-sixth 
Street she had recognised my passion, however per- 
fectly I had succeeded in concealing it from others. 
Inexperienced as she was in those days, she had noted 
as quickly as any society belle the effect produced 
upon me by her chill prettiness and her air of meek 
reserve, under which one felt the heart break; and 
though she would never openly acknowledge my 
homage, and frowned down every attempt on my 
part at lover-like speech or attention, I was as sure 
that she rated my feelings at their real value as that 
she was the dearest, yet most incomprehensible, mor- 
tal my narrow world contained. When, therefore, I 
encountered her eyes at the end of the dance, I said 
to myself: 

" She may not love me, but she knows that I love 



232 THE AMETHYST BOX 

her, and, being a woman of sympathetic instincts, 
would never meet my eyes with so calm a look if 
she were meditating an act which must infallibly 
plunge me into misery." 

Yet I was not satisfied to go away without a word. 
So, taking the bull by the horns, I excused myself to 
my partner, and crossed to Dorothy's side. 

"Will you dance the next waltz with me?" I 
asked. 

Her eyes fell from mine directly, and she drew 
back in a way that suggested flight. 

" I shall dance no more to-night," said she, her 
hand rising in its nervous fashion to her hair. 

I made no appeal. I just watched that hand, 
whereupon she flushed vividly, and seemed more than 
ever -anxious to escape. At which I spoke again. 

" Give me a chance, Dorothy. If you will not 
dance, come out on the veranda and look at the 
ocean. It is glorious to-night. I will not keep you 
long. The lights here trouble my eyes; besides, I 
am most anxious to ask you " 

" No, no," she vehemently objected, very much as 
if frightened. " I cannot leave the drawing-room 
do not ask me ! Seek some other partner do, to- 
night." 

"You wish it?" 

" Very much." 

She was panting, eager. I felt my heart sink, and 
dreaded lest I should betray my feelings. 

" You do not honour me, then, with your regard," 
I retorted, bowing ceremoniously as I became as- 



THE AMETHYST BOX 233 

sured that we were attracting more attention than I 
considered desirable. 

She was silent. Her hand went again to her 
hair. 

I changed my tone. Quietly, but with an emphasis 
which moved her in spite of herself, I whispered: 
" If I leave you now, will you tell me to-morrow 
why you are so peremptory with me to-night? " 

With an eagerness which was anything but en- 
couraging, she answered, almost gaily : 

" Yes, yes, after all this excitement is over." 

And slipping her hand into that of a friend who 
was passing, she was soon in the whirl again and 
dancing she who had just assured me that she did 
not mean to dance again that night. 



Ill 

A SCREAM IN THE NIGHT 

I turned and, hardly conscious of my actions, 
stumbled from the room. A bevy of young people 
at once surrounded me. What I said to them I 
hardly know. I only remember that it was several 
minutes before I found myself again alone and mak- 
ing for the little room into which Beaton had van- 
ished a half-hour before. It was the one given up 
to card-playing. Did I expect to find him seated at 
one of the tables? Possibly; at all events, I ap- 
proached the doorway, and was about to enter, 



234 THE AMETHYST BOX 

when a heavy step shook the threshold before me, 
and I found myself confronted by the advancing 
figure of an elderly lady, whose portrait it is now 
time for me to draw. It is no pleasurable task, but 
one I cannot escape. 

Imagine, then, a broad, weighty woman of not 
much height, with a face whose features were usually 
forgotten in the impression made by her great cheeks 
and falling jowls. If the small eyes rested on you, 
you found them sinister and strange, but if they 
were turned elsewhere, you asked in what lay the 
power of the face, and sought in vain amid its long 
wrinkles and indeterminate lines for the secret of 
that spiritual and bodily repulsion which the least 
look into this impassive countenance was calculated 
to produce. She was a woman of immense means, 
and an oppressive consciousness of this spoke in every 
movement of her heavy frame, which always seemed 
to take up three times as much space as rightfully 
belonged to any human creature. Add to this that 
she was seldom seen without a display of diamonds 
which made her broad bust look like the bejewelled 
breast of some Eastern idol, and some idea may be 
formed of this redoubtable woman whom I have 
hitherto confined myself to speaking of as the 
gorgon. 

The stare she gave me had something venomous 
and threatening in it. Evidently for the moment I 
was out of her books, and while I did not under- 
stand in what way I had displeased her, for we 
always had met amicably before, I seized upon this 



THE AMETHYST BOX 235 

sign of displeasure on her part as explanatory, per- 
haps, of the curtness and show of contradictory 
feelings on the part of her dependent niece. Yet 
why should the old woman frown on me? I had 
been told more than once that she regarded me with 
great favour. Had I unwittingly done something 
to displease her, or had the game of cards she had 
just left gone against her, ruffling her temper and 
making it imperative for her to choose some object 
on which to vent her spite ? I entered the room to 
see. Two men and one woman stood in rather an 
embarrassed silence about a table on which lay some 
cards, which had every appearance of having been 
thrown down by an impatient hand. One of the 
men was Will Beaton, and it was he who now re- 
marked : 

" She has just found out that the young people are 
enjoying themselves. I wonder upon which of her 
two unfortunate nieces she will expend her ill-temper 
to-night." 

" Oh, there's no question about that," remarked 
the lady who stood near him. " Ever since she has 
had a reasonable prospect of working Gilbertine off 
her hands, she has devoted herself quite exclusively 
to her remaining burden. I hear," she impulsively 
continued, craning her neck to be sure that the object 
of her remarks was quite out of earshot, " that the 
south hall was blue to-day with the talk she gave 
Dorothy Camerden. No one knows what about, 
for the girl evidently tries to please her. But some 
women have more than their own proper share of 



236 THE AMETHYST BOX 

bile; they must expend it on some one." And she in 
turn threw down her cards, which up till now she had 
held in her hand. 

I gave Beaton a look and stepped out on the 
veranda. In a minute he followed me, and in the 
corner facing the ocean, where the vines cluster the 
thickest, we held our conversation. 

I began it, with a directness born of my despera- 
tion. 

" Beaton," said I, " we have not known each other 
long, but I recognise a man when I see him, and I 
am disposed to be frank with you. I am in trouble. 
My affections are engaged, deeply engaged, in a 
quarter where I find some mystery. You have helped 
make it." (Here a gesture escaped him.) " I allude 
to the story you related the other morning of the 
young girl you had seen hanging over the verge of 
the cliff, with every appearance of intending to throw 
herself over." 

" It was as a dream I related that," he gravely 
remarked. 

" That I am aware of. But it was no dream to 
me, Beaton. I fear I know that young girl; I also 
fear that I know what drove her into contemplating 
so rash an act. The conversation just held in the 
card-room should enlighten you. Beaton, am I 
wrong? " 

The feeling I could not suppress trembled in my 
tones. He may have been sensitive to it, or he 
may have been simply good-natured. Whatever the 
cause, this is what he said in reply: 



THE AMETHYST BOX 237 

" It was a dream. Remember that I insist upon 
its being a dream. But some of its details are very 
clear in my mind. When I stumbled upon this 
dream-maiden in the moonlight her face was turned 
from me toward the ocean, and I did not see her 
features then or afterwards. Startled by some sound 
I made, she crouched, drew back, and fled to cover. 
That cover, I have good reason to believe, was this 
very house." 

I reached out my hand and touched him on the 
arm. 

" This dream-maiden was a woman? " I inquired. 
" One of the women now in this house? " 

He replied reluctantly: 

" She was a young woman, and she wore a long 
cloak. My dream ends there. I cannot even say 
whether she was fair or dark." 

I recognised that he had reached the limit of his 
explanations, and, wringing his hand, I started for 
the nearest window, which proved to be that of the 
music-room. I was about to enter when I saw two 
women crossing to the opposite doorway, and paused 
with a full heart to note them, for one was Mrs. 
Lansing and the other Dorothy. The aunt had 
evidently come for the niece, and they were leaving 
the room together. Not amicably, however. Harsh 
words had passed, or I am no judge of the human 
countenance. Dorothy especially bore herself like 
one who finds difficulty in restraining herself from 
some unhappy outburst, and as she disappeared 
from my sight in the wake of her formidable com- 



238 THE AMETHYST BOX 

panion my attention was again called to her hands, 
which she held clenched at her sides. 

I was stepping into the room when my impulse 
was again checked. Another person was sitting 
there, a person I had been most anxious to see ever 
since my last interview with Sinclair. It was Gil- 
bertine Murray, sitting alone in an attitude of deep, 
and possibly not altogether happy thought. 

I paused to study the sweet face. Truly she was 
a beautiful woman. I had never before realised how 
beautiful. Her rich colouring, her noble traits, and 
the spirited air which gave her such marked dis- 
tinction, bespoke at once an ardent nature and a 
pure soul. 

I did not wonder that Sinclair had succumbed to 
charms so pronounced and uncommon, and as I 
gazed longer and noted the tremulous droop of her 
ripe lips and the far-away look of eyes which had 
created a great stir in the social world when they 
first flashed upon it, I felt that if Sinclair could see 
her now he would never doubt her again, despite the 
fact that the attitude into which she had fallen was 
one of great fatigue, if not despondency. 

She held a fan in her hand, and as I stood looking 
at her she dropped it. As she stooped to pick it up 
her eyes met mine, and a startling change passed 
over her. Springing up, she held out her hands in 
wordless appeal, then let them drop again as if con- 
scious that I would not be likely to understand either 
herself or her mood. She was very beautiful. 

Entering the room, I approached her. Had Sin- 



THE AMETHYST BOX 239 

clair managed to have his little conversation with 
her? Something must have happened, for never 
had I seen her in such a state of suppressed excite- 
ment, and I had seen her many times, both here and 
in her aunt's house when I was visiting Dorothy. 
Her eyes were shining, not with a brilliant, but a 
soft light, and the smile with which she met my ad- 
vance had something in it strangely tremulous and 
expectant. 

" I am glad to have a moment in which to speak 
to you alone," I said. " As Sinclair's oldest and 
closest friend, I wish to tell you how truly you can 
rely both on his affection and esteem. He has an 
infinitely good heart." 

She did not answer as brightly and as quickly as 
I expected. Something seemed to choke her some- 
thing which she finally mastered, though only by an 
effort which left her pale, but self-contained, and 
even more lovely, if that is possible, than before. 

" Thank you," she then said, " my prospects are 
very happy. No one but myself knows how happy." 

And she smiled again, but with an expression 
which recalled to my mind Sinclair's fears. 

I bowed. Some one was calling her name; evi- 
dently our interview was to be short. 

" I am obliged," she murmured. Then quickly: 
" I have not seen the moon to-night. Is it beautiful? 
Can you see it from this veranda?" 

But before I could answer she was surrounded and 
dragged off by a knot of young people, and I was 
left free to keep my engagement with Sinclair. 



2 4 o THE AMETHYST BOX 

I did not find him at his post, nor could any one 
tell where he had vanished. 

It was plain that his conduct was looked upon as 
strange, and I felt some anxiety lest it should appear 
more so before the evening was over. I found him 
at last in his room, sitting with his head buried in his 
arms. He started up as I entered. 

"Well?" he asked sharply. 

" I have learned nothing decisive." 

" Nor I." 

" I exchanged some words with both ladies and I 
tackled Beaton; but the matter remains just about 
where it was. It may have been Dorothy who took 
the box and it may have been Gilbertine. But there 
seems to be greater reason for suspecting Doiothy. 
She lives a terrible life with that aunt." 

" And Gilbertine is on the point of escaping that 
bondage. I know; I have thought of that. Walter, 
you are a generous fellow; " and for a moment Sin- 
clair looked relieved. Before I could speak, how- 
ever, he was sunk again in his old despondency. 
" But the doubt," he cried " the doubt ! How can I 
go through this rehearsal with such a doubt in my 
mind? I cannot and will not. Go, tell them I 
am ill, and cannot come down again to-night. God 
knows you will tell no untruth." 

I saw that he was quite beside himself, but ven- 
tured upon one remonstrance. 

" It will be unwise to rouse comment," I said. 
11 If that box was taken for the death it holds, the 
one restraint most likely to act upon the young girl 



THE AMETHYST BOX 241 

who retains it will be the conventionalities of her 
position and the requirements of the hour. Any 
break in the settled order of things anything which 
would give her a moment by herself might precipi- 
tate the dreadful event we fear. Remember, one 
turn of the hand, and all is lost. A drop is quickly 
swallowed." 

" Frightful ! " he murmured, the perspiration ooz- 
ing from his forehead. " What a wedding-eve ! 
And they are laughing down there. Listen to them. 
I even imagine I hear Gilbertine's voice. Is there 
unconsciousness in it, or just the hilarity of a dis- 
tracted mind bent on self-destruction? I cannot tell; 
the sound conveys no meaning to me." 

" She has a sweet, true face," I said, " and she 
wears a very beautiful smile to-night." 

He sprang to his feet. 

"Yes, yes a smile that maddens me; a smile 
that tells me nothing, nothing! Walter, Walter, 
don't you see that, even if that cursed box remains 
unopened, and nothing ever comes of its theft, the 
seeds of distrust are sown thick in my breast, and 
I must always ask: 'Was there a moment when 
my young bride shrank from me enough to dream of 
death? ' That is why I cannot go through the mock- 
ery of this rehearsal." 

" Can you go through the ceremony of mar- 
riage?" ' 

" I must if nothing happens to-night." 

"And then?" 

I spoke involuntarily. I was thinking not of him, 



242 THE AMETHYST BOX 

but of myself. But he evidently found in my words 
an echo of his own thought. 

" Yes, it is the then," he murmured. " Well may 
a man quail before that then." 

He did go downstairs, however, and later on went 
through the rehearsal very much as I had expected 
him to do quietly and without any outward show 
of emotion. 

As soon as possible after this the company sepa- 
rated, Sinclair making me an imperceptible gesture 
as he went upstairs. I knew what it meant, and was 
in his room as soon as the fellows who accompanied 
him had left him alone. 

" The danger is from now on," he cried, as soon 
as I had closed the door behind me. " I shall not 
undress to-night." 

" Nor I." 

" Happily we both have rooms by ourselves in 
this great house. I shall put out my light, and then 
open my door as far as need be. Not a move in 
the house will escape me." 

" I will do the same." 

" Gilbertine God be thanked ! is not alone in 
her room. Little Miss Lane shares it with 
her." 

"And Dorothy?" 

" Oh, she is under the strictest bondage night and 
day. She sleeps in a little room off her aunt's. Do 
you know her door? " 

I shook my head. 

" I will pass down the hall and stop an instant be- 



THE AMETHYST BOX 243 

fore the two doors we are most interested in. When 
I pass Gilbertine's I will throw out my right 
hand." 

I stood on the threshold of his room and watched 
him. When the two doors were well fixed in my 
mind, I went to my own room and prepared for my 
self-imposed watch. When quite ready, I put out my 
light. It was then eleven o'clock. 

The house was very quiet. There had been the 
usual bustle attending the separation of a party of 
laughing, chattering girls for the night; but this 
had not lasted long, for the great doings of the 
morrow called for bright eyes and fresh cheeks, and 
these can only be gained by sleep. In this stillness 
twelve o'clock struck, and the first hour of my 
anxious vigil was at an end. I thought of Sinclair. 
He had given no token of the watch he was keeping, 
but I knew he was sitting with his ear to the door, 
listening for the alarm which must come soon if it 
came at all. 

But would it come at all? Were we not wasting 
strength and a great deal of emotion on a dread 
which had no foundation in fact? What were we 
two sensible and, as a rule, practical men thinking of, 
that we should ascribe to either of these dainty belles 
of a conventional and shallow society the wish to 
commit a deed calling for the vigour and daring of 
some wilful child of nature? It was not to be 
thought of in this sober, reasoning hour. We had 
given ourselves over to a ghastly nightmare, and 
would yet awake. 



244 THE AMETHYST BOX 

Why was I on my feet ? Had I heard any- 
thing? 

Yes, a stir, a very faint stir somewhere down the 
hall the slow, cautious opening of a door, then a 
footfall or had I imagined the latter? I could hear 
nothing now. 

Pushing open my own door, I looked cautiously 
out. Only the pale face of Sinclair confronted me. 
He was peering from the corner of an adjacent 
passage-way, the moonlight at his back. Advancing, 
we met in silence. For the moment we seemed to 
be the only persons awake in the vast house. 

" I thought I heard a step," was my cautious 
whisper after a moment of intense listening. 

"Where?" 

I pointed toward that portion of the house where 
the ladies' rooms were situated. 

" That is not what I heard," was his murmured 
protest; "what I heard was a creak in the small 
stairway running down at the end of the hall where 
my room is." 

" One of the servants," I ventured, and for a 
moment we stood irresolute. Then we both turned 
rigid as some sound arose in one of the far-off rooms, 
only to quickly relax again as that sound resolved 
itself into a murmur of muffled voices. Where there 
was talking there could be no danger of the special 
event we feared. Our relief was so great we both 
smiled. Next instant his face, and, I have no doubt, 
my own, turned the colour of clay, and Sinclair went 
reeling back against the wall. 



THE AMETHYST BOX 245 

A scream had risen in this sleeping house a 
piercing and insistent scream such as raises the hair 
and curdles the blood. 



IV 

WHAT SINCLAIR HAD TO TELL ME 

This scream seemed to come from the room where 
we had just heard voices. With a common impulse 
Sinclair and I both started down the hall, only to 
find ourselves met by a dozen wild interrogations 
from behind as many quickly opened doors. Was 
it fire? Had burglars got in? What was the mat- 
ter? Who had uttered that dreadful shriek? Alas ! 
that was the question which we of all men were most 
anxious to hear answered. Who? Gilbertine or 
Dorothy? 

Gilbertine's door was reached first. In it stood a 
short, slight figure, wrapped in a hastily-donned 
shawl. The white face looked into ours as we 
stopped, and we recognised little Miss Lane. 

" What has happened? " she gasped. " It must 
have been an awful cry to waken everybody so ! " 

We never thought of answering her. 

"Where is Gilbertine?" demanded Sinclair, 
thrusting his hand out as if to put her aside. 

She drew herself up with sudden dignity. 

" In bed," she replied. " It was she who told me 
that somebody had shrieked. I didn't wake." 



246 THE AMETHYST BOX 

Sinclair uttered a sigh of the greatest relief that 
ever burst from a man's overcharged breast. 

" Tell her we will find out what it means," he 
answered kindly, drawing me rapidly away. 

By this time Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong were 
aroused, and I could hear the slow and hesitating 
tones of the former in the passage behind us. 

" Let us hasten," whispered Sinclair. " Our eyes 
must be the first to see what lies behind that partly- 
opened door." 

I shivered. The door he had designated was 
Dorothy's. 

Sinclair reached it first and pushed it open. 
Pressing up behind him, I cast a fearful look over 
his shoulder. Only emptiness confronted us. Doro- 
thy was not in the little chamber. With an impulsive 
gesture Sinclair pointed to the bed it had not been 
lain in then to the gas it was still burning. The 
communicating-room, in which Mrs. Lansing slept, 
was also lighted, but silent as the one in which we 
stood. This last fact struck us as the most in- 
comprehensible of all. Mrs. Lansing was not the 
woman to sleep through a disturbance. Where was 
she, then? And why did we not hear her strident 
and aggressive tones rising in angry remon- 
strance at our intrusion? Had she followed her 
niece from the room? Should we in another minute 
encounter her ponderous figure in the group of peo- 
ple we could now hear hurrying toward us? I was 
for retreating and hunting the house over for Doro- 



THE AMETHYST BOX 247 

thy. But Sinclair, with truer instinct, drew me across 
the threshold of this silent room. 

Well was it for us that we entered there together, 
for I do not know how either of us, weakened as 
we were by our forebodings and all the alarms of 
this unprecedented night, could have borne alone the 
sight that awaited us. 

On the bed situated at the right of the doorway 
lay a form awful, ghastly, and unspeakably repul- 
sive. The head, which lay high but inert upon the 
pillow, was surrounded with the grey hairs of age, 
and the eyes, which seemed to stare into ours, were 
glassy with reflected light and not with inward intel- 
ligence. This glassiness told the tale of the room's 
grim silence. It was death we looked on, not the 
death we had anticipated, and for which we were in 
a measure prepared, but one fully as awful, and 
having for its victim, not Dorothy Camerden nor 
even Gilbertine Murray, but the heartless aunt, 
who had driven them both like slaves, and who 
now lay facing the reward of her earthly deeds 
alone. 

As a realisation of the awful truth came upon me 
I stumbled against the bedpost, looking on with al- 
most blind eyes as Sinclair bent over the rapidly 
whitening face, whose naturally ruddy colour no one 
had ever before seen disturbed. And I was still 
standing there when Mr. Armstrong and all the 
others came pouring in. Nor have I any distinct 
remembrance of what was said or how I came to be 
in the antechamber again. All thought, all con- 



248 THE AMETHYST BOX 

sciousness even, seemed to forsake me, and I did not 
really waken to my surroundings till some one near 
me whispered: 

"Apoplexy!" 

Then I began to look about me and peer into the 
faces crowding up on every side for the only one 
which could give me back my self-possession. But 
though there were many girlish countenances to be 
seen in the awestruck groups huddled in every corner, 
I beheld no Dorothy, and was therefore but little 
astonished when in another moment I heard the cry 
go up: 

" Where is Dorothy? Where was she when her 
aunt died? " 

Alas ! there was no one there to answer, and the 
looks of those about, which hitherto had expressed 
little save awe and fright, turned to wonder, and 
more than one person left the room as if to look for 
her. I did not join them. I was rooted to the 
place. Nor did Sinclair stir a foot, though his eye, 
which had been wandering restlessly over the faces 
about him, now settled inquiringly on the doorway. 
For whom was he looking? Gilbertine or Dorothy? 
Gilbertine, no doubt, for he visibly brightened as her 
figure presently appeared clad in a negligee, which 
emphasised her height, and gave to her whole ap- 
pearance a womanly sobriety unusual to it. 

She had evidently been told what had occurred, 
for she asked no questions, only leaned in still horror 
against the doorpost, with her eyes fixed on the room 
within. Sinclair, advancing, held out his arm. She 



THE AMETHYST BOX 249 

gave no sign of seeing it. Then he spoke. This 
seemed to rouse her, for she gave him a grateful 
look, though she did not take his arm. 

" There will be no wedding to-morrow," fell from 
her lips in self-communing murmur. 

Only a few minutes had passed since they had 
started to find Dorothy, but it seemed an age to me. 
My body remained in the room, but my mind was 
searching the house for the girl I loved. Where 
was she hidden? Would she be found huddled but 
alive in some far-off chamber? Or was another and 
more dreadful tragedy awaiting us? I wondered 
that I could not join the search. I wondered 
that even Gilbertine's presence could keep Sinclair 
from doing so. Didn't he know what in all- prob- 
ability this missing girl had with her? Didn't he 
know what I had suffered, was suffering? Ah! 
what now? She is coming! I can hear them 
speaking to her. Gilbertine moves from the door, 
and a young man and woman enter with Dorothy 
between them. 

But what a Dorothy! Years could have made 
no greater change in her. She looked and she moved 
like one who is done with life, yet fears the few 
remaining moments left her. Instinctively we fell 
back before her; instinctively we followed her with 
our eyes as, reeling a little at the door, she cast a 
look of inconceivable shrinking, first at her own bed, 
then at the group of older people watching her with 
serious looks from the room beyond. As she did so 
I noted that she was still clad in her evening dress 



250 THE AMETHYST BOX 

of grey, and that there was no more colour on cheek 
or lip than in the neutral tints of her gown. 

Was it our consciousness of the relief which Mrs. 
Lansing's death, horrible as it was, must bring to 
this unhappy girl, and of the inappropriateness of 
any display of grief on her part, which caused the 
silence with which we saw her pass with forced 
step and dread anticipation into the room where that 
image of dead virulence awaited her? Impossible 
to tell. I could not read my own thoughts. How, 
then, the thoughts of others ! 

But thoughts, if we had any, all fled when, after 
one slow turn of her head towards the bed, this 
trembling young girl gave a choking shriek, and fell, 
face down, on the floor. Evidently she had not been 
prepared for the look which made her aunt's still 
face so horrible. How could she have been? Had 
it not imprinted itself upon my mind as the one 
revolting vision of my life? How, then, if this 
young and tender-hearted girl had been insensible to 
it! As her form struck the floor Mr. Armstrong 
rushed forward; I had not the right. But it was 
not by his arms she was lifted. Sinclair was before 
him, and it was with a singularly determined look I 
could not understand, and which made us all fall 
back, that he raised her and carried her into her own 
bed, where he laid her gently down. Then, as if 
not content with this simple attention, he hovered 
over her for a moment, arranging the pillows and 
smoothing her dishevelled hair. When at last he 
left her the women rushed forward. 



THE AMETHYST BOX 251 

" Not too many of you," was his final adjuration, 
as, giving me a look, he slipped out into the hall. 

I followed him immediately. He had gained the 
moon-lighted corridor near his own door, where he 
stood awaiting me with something in his hand. As 
I approached, he drew me to the window and showed 
me what it was. It was the amethyst box, open and 
empty, and beside it, shining with a yellow instead 
of a purple light, the little vial void of the one drop 
which used to sparkle within it. 

" I found the vial in the bed with the old woman," 
said he. " The box I saw glittering among Doro- 
thy's locks before she fell. That was why I lifted 
her." 



THREE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING 

As he spoke, youth with its brilliant hopes, illu- 
sions, and beliefs, passed from me, never to return 
in the same measure again. I stared at the glimmer- 
ing amethyst, I stared at the empty vial, and, as a 
full realisation of all his words implied seized my 
benumbed faculties, I felt the icy chill of some grisly 
horror moving among the roots of my hair, lifting 
it on my forehead and filling my whole being with 
shrinking and dismay. 

Sinclair, with a quick movement, replaced the tiny 
flask in its old receptacle, and then, thrusting the 
whole out of sight, seized my hand and wrung it. 



252 THE AMETHYST BOX 

u I am your friend," he whispered. " Remember, 
under all circumstances and in every exigency, your 
friend." 

" What are you going to do with those? " I de- 
manded, when I regained control of my speech. 

" I do not know." 

" What are you going to do with with Doro- 
thy? " 

He drooped his head; I could see his fingers 
working in the moonlight. 

" The physicians will soon be here. I heard the 
telephone going a few minutes ago. When they have 
pronounced the old woman dead we will give the 
the lady you mention an opportunity to explain 
herself." 

Explain herself, she ! Simple expectation. Un- 
consciously I shook my head. 

" It is the least we can do," he gently persisted. 
" Come, we must not be seen with our heads to- 
gether not yet. I am sorry that we two were found 
more or less dressed at the time of the alarm. It 
may cause comment." 

" She was dressed, too," I murmured, as much to 
myself as to him. 

" Unfortunately, yes," was the muttered reply, 
with which he drew off and hastened into the hall, 
where the now thoroughly-aroused household stood 
in a great group about the excited hostess. 

Mrs. Armstrong was not the woman for an emer- 
gency. With streaming hair and tightly-clutched 
kimono, she was gesticulating wildly and bemoaning 



THE AMETHYST BOX 253 

the break in the festivities which this event must 
necessarily cause. As Sinclair approached, she 
turned her tirade on him, and as all stood still to 
listen and add such words of sympathy or disappoint- 
ment as suggested themselves in the excitement of 
the moment, I had an opportunity to note that neither 
of the two girls most interested was within sight. 
This troubled me. Drawing up to the outside of 
the circle, I asked Beaton, who was nearest to me, if 
he knew how Miss Camerden was. 

" Better, I hear. Poor girl! it was a great shock 
to her." 

I ventured nothing more. The conventionality of 
his tone was not to be mistaken. Our conversation 
on the veranda was to be ignored. I did not know 
whether to feel relief at this or an added distress. 
I was in a whirl of emotion which robbed me of all 
discrimination. As I realised my own condition, I 
concluded that my wisest move would be to withdraw 
myself for a time from every eye. Accordingly, 
and at the risk of offending more than one pretty 
girl who still had something to say concerning this 
terrible mischance, I slid away to my room, happy to 
escape the murmurs and snatches of talk rising on 
every side. One bitter speech, uttered by I do not 
know whom, rang in my ears and made all thinking 
unendurable. It was this : 

" Poor woman ! she was angry once too often. I 
heard her scolding Dorothy again after she went to 
her room. That is why Dorothy is so overcome. 
She says it was the violence of her aunt's rage which 



254 THE AMETHYST BOX 

killed her a rage of which she unfortunately was 
the cause." 

So there were words again between these two after 
the door closed upon them for the night ! Was this 
what we heard just before that scream went up? It 
would seem so. Thereupon, quite against my will, I 
found myself thinking of Dorothy's changed posi- 
tion before the world. Only yesterday a dependent 
slave; to-day, the owner of millions. Gilbertine 
would have her share a large one but there was 
enough to make them both wealthy. Intolerable 
thought ! Would that no money had been involved ! 
I hated to think of those diamonds and 

Oh, anything was better than this! Dashing from 
my room, I joined one of the groups into which the 
single large circle had now broken up. The house 
had been lighted from end to end, and some effort 
had been made at a more respectable appearance by 
such persons as I now saw; some even were fully 
dressed. All were engaged in discussing the one 
great topic. Listening and not listening, I waited 
for the front-door bell to ring. It sounded while one 
woman was saying to another: 

" The Sinclairs will now be able to take their 
honeymoon in their own yacht." 

I made my way to where I could watch Sinclair 
while the physicians were in the room. I thought 
his face looked very noble. The narrowness of his 
own escape, the sympathy for me which the event, 
so much worse than either of us anticipated, had 
wakened in his generous breast, had called out all 



THE AMETHYST BOX 255 

that was best in his naturally reserved and not- 
always-to-be-understood nature. A tower of strength 
he was to me at that hour. I knew that mercy, and 
mercy only, would influence his conduct. He would 
be guilty of no rash or inconsiderate act. He would 
give this young girl a chance. 

Therefore, when the physicians had pronounced 
the case one of apoplexy (a conclusion most natural 
under the circumstances), and the excitement which 
had held together the various groups of uneasy 
guests had begun to subside, it was with perfect confi- 
dence I saw him approach and address Gilbertine. 
She was standing fully dressed at the stair-head, 
where she had stopped to hold some conversation 
with the retiring physicians; and the look she gave 
him in return, and the way she moved off in obedience 
to his command or suggestion, assured me that he 
was laying plans for an interview with Dorothy. 
Consequently, I was quite ready to obey him when he 
finally stepped up to me and said : 

" Go below, and if you find the library empty, as 
I have no doubt you will, light one gas jet, and see 
that the door to the conservatory is unlocked. I 
require a place in which to make Gilbertine com- 
fortable while I have some words with her cousin." 

" But how will you be able to influence Miss 
Camerden to come down? " Somehow, the familiar 
name of Dorothy would not pass my lips. " Do 
you think she will recognise your right to summon 
her to an interview? " 

" Yes." 



256 THE AMETHYST BOX 

I had never seen his lip take that firm line before, 
yet I had always known him to be a man of great 
resolution. 

" But how can you reach her? She is shut up in 
her own room, under the care, I am told, of Mrs. 
Armstrong's maid." 

" I know; but she will escape that dreadful place 
as soon as her feet will carry her. I shall wait 
in the hall till I see her come out; then I will urge her 
to follow me, and she will do so, attended by Gil- 
bertine." 

"And I? Do you mean me to be present at an 
interview so painful nay, so serious and so threaten- 
ing? It would cut short every word you hope to 
hear. I cannot ' 

" I have not asked you to. It is imperative that I 
should see Miss Camerden alone." (He could not 
call her Dorothy, either.) " I shall ask Gilbertine 
to accompany us, so that appearances may be pre- 
served. I want you to be able to inform any one 
who approaches the door that you saw me go in there 
with Miss Murray." 

" Then I am to stay in the hall? " 

" If you will be so kind." 

The clock struck three. 

" It is very late," I exclaimed. " Why not wait till 
morning? " 

" And have the whole house about our ears? No. 
Besides, some things will not keep an hour, a mo- 
ment. I must hear what this young girl has to say 
in response to my questions. Remember, I am the 



THE AMETHYST BOX 257 

owner of the flask whose contents killed the old 
woman ! " 

" You believe she died from swallowing that 
drop?" 

" Absolutely." 

I said no more, but hastened downstairs to do his 
bidding. 

I found the lower hall partly lighted, but none of 
the rooms. 

Entering the library, I lit the gas as Sinclair had 
requested. Then I tried the conservatory door. It 
was unlocked. Casting a sharp glance around, I 
made sure that the lounges were all unoccupied, and 
that I could safely leave Sinclair to hold his con- 
templated interview without fear of interruption. 
Then, dreading a premature arrival on his part, I 
slid quickly out, and moved down the hall to where 
the light of the one burning jet failed to penetrate. 
" I will watch from here," thought I, and entered 
upon the quick pacing of the floor which my impa- 
tience and the overwrought condition of my nerves 
demanded. 

But before I had turned on my steps more than 
half a dozen times, a brilliant ray coming from some 
half-open door in the rear caught my eye, and I 
stepped back to see if any one was sharing my watch. 
In doing so I came upon the little spiral staircase 
which, earlier in the evening, Sinclair had heard creak 
under some unknown footstep. Had this footstep 
been Dorothy's, and if so, what had brought her into 
this remote portion of the house? Fear? Anguish? 



258 THE AMETHYST BOX 

Remorse? A flying from herself or from it? I 
wished I knew just where she had been found by 
the two young persons who had brought her back 
into her aunt's room. No one had volunteered the 
information, and I had not seen the moment when I 
felt myself in a position to demand it. 

Proceeding further, I stood amazed at my own 
forgetfulness. The light which had attracted my 
attention came from the room devoted to the display 
of Miss Murray's wedding-gifts. This I should 
have known instantly, having had a hand in their 
arrangement. But all my faculties were dulled that 
night, save such as responded to dread and horror. 
Before going back I paused to look at the detective 
whose business it was to guard the room. He was 
sitting very quietly at his post, and if he saw me he 
did not look up. Strange that I had forgotten this 
man when keeping my own vigil above. I doubted 
if Sinclair had remembered him either. Yet he must 
have been unconsciously sharing our watch from start 
to finish must even have heard the cry as only a 
waking man could hear it. Should I ask him if this 
was so? No. Perhaps I had not the courage to 
hear his answer. 

Shortly after my return into the main hall I heard 
steps on the grand staircase. Looking up, I saw the 
two girls descending, followed by Sinclair. He had 
been successful, then, in inducing Dorothy to come 
down. What would be the result? Could I stand 
the suspense of the impending interview? 

As they stepped within the rays of the solitary 



THE AMETHYST BOX 259 

gas jet already mentioned, I cast one quick look into 
Gilbertine's face, then a long one into Dorothy's. 
I could read neither. If it was horror and horror 
only which rendered both so pale and fixed of 
feature, then their emotion was similar in character 
and intensity. But if in either breast the one domi- 
nant sentiment was fear horrible, blood-curdling 
fear then was that fear confined to Dorothy; for 
while Gilbertine advanced bravely, Dorothy's steps 
lagged, and at the point where she should have 
turned into the library, she whirled sharply about, 
and made as if she would fly back upstairs. 

But one stare from Gilbertine, one word from 
Sinclair, recalled her to herself, and she passed in, 
and the door closed upon the three. I was left to 
prevent possible intrusion, and to eat out my heart 
in intolerable suspense. 



VI 

DOROTHY SPEAKS 

I shall not subject you to the ordeal from which I 
suffered. You shall follow my three friends into the 
room. According to Sinclair's description, the inter- 
view proceeded thus : 

As soon as the door had closed upon them, and 
before either of the girls had a chance to speak, he 
remarked to Gilbertine: 

" I have brought you here because I wish to ex- 



260 THE AMETHYST BOX 

press to you, in the presence of your cousin, my 
sympathy for the bereavement which in an instant 
has robbed you both of a lifelong guardian. I also 
wish to say, in the light of this sad event, that I am 
ready, if propriety so exacts, to postpone the cere- 
mony which I hoped would unite our lives to-day. 
Your wish shall be my wish, Gilbertine; though I 
would suggest that possibly you never more needed 
the sympathy and protection which only a husband 
can give than you do to-day." 

He told me afterward that he was so taken up 
with the effect of this suggestion on Gilbertine that 
he forgot to look at Dorothy, though the hint he 
strove to convey of impending trouble was meant as 
much for her as for his affianced bride. In another 
moment he regretted this, especially when he saw 
that Dorothy had changed her attitude, and was now 
looking away from them both. 

"What do you say, Gilbertine?" he asked ear- 
nestly, as she sat flushing and paling before him. 

" Nothing. I have not thought it is a question 
for others to decide others who know what is right 
better than I. I appreciate your consideration," she 
suddenly burst out, " and should be glad to tell you 
at this moment what to expect. But give me a 
little time let me see you later in the morning, 
Mr. Sinclair, after we are all somewhat rested, and 
when I can see you quite alone." 

Dorothy rose. 

"Shall I go?" she asked. 

Sinclair advanced, and with quiet protest touched 



THE AMETHYST BOX 261 

her on the shoulder. Quietly she sank back into 
her seat. 

" I want to say a half-dozen words to you, Miss 
Camerden. Gilbertine will pardon us; it is about 
matters which must be settled to-night. There are 
decisions to arrive at and arrangements to be made. 
Mrs. Armstrong has instructed me to question you 
in regard to these, as the one best acquainted with 
Mrs. Lansing's affairs and general tastes. We will 
not trouble Gilbertine. She has her own decisions 
to reach. Dear, will you let me make you comfort- 
able in the conservatory while I talk for five minutes 
with Dorothy? " 

He said she met this question with a look so 
blank and uncomprehending that he just lifted her 
and carried her in among the palms. 

" I must speak to Dorothy," he pleaded, placing 
her in the chair where he had often seen her sit of 
her own accord. " Be a good girl; I will not keep 
you here long." 

" But why cannot I go to my room? I do not 
understand I am frightened what have you to say 
to Dorothy you cannot say to me? " 

She seemed so excited that for a minute, just a 
minute, he faltered in his purpose. Then he took 
her gravely by the hand. 

" I have told you," said he. Then he kissed her 
softly on the forehead. " Be quiet, dear, and rest. 
See, here are roses ! " 

He plucked and flung a handful into her lap. 
Then he crossed back to the library and shut the 



262 THE AMETHYST BOX 

conservatory door behind him. I am not surprised 
that Gilbertine wondered at her peremptory bride- 
groom. 

When Sinclair re-entered the library, he found 
Dorothy standing with her hand on the knob of the 
door leading into the hall. Her head was bent 
thoughtfully forward, as though she were inwardly 
debating whether to stand her ground or fly. Sinclair 
gave her no further opportunity for hesitation. Ad- 
vancing rapidly, he laid his hand gently on hers, and 
with a gravity which must have impressed her, 
quietly remarked: 

" I must ask you to stay and hear what I have to 
say. I wished to spare Gilbertine; would that I 
could spare you ! But circumstances forbid. You 
know and I know that your aunt did not die of 
apoplexy." 

She gave a violent start, and her lips parted. If 
the hand under his clasp had been cold, it was now 
icy. He let his own slip from the contact. 

" You know ! " she echoed, trembling and pallid, 
her released hand flying instinctively to her 
hair. 

" Yes; you need not feel about for the little box. 
I took it from its hiding-place when I laid you faint- 
ing on the bed. Here it is." 

He drew it from his pocket and showed it to her. 
She hardly glanced at it; her eyes were fixed in 
terror on his face, and her lips seemed to be trying 
in vain t& formulate some inquiry. 

He tried to be merciful. 



THE AMETHYST BOX 263 

" I missed it many hours ago from the shelf yon- 
der where you all saw me place it. Had I known 
that you had taken it, I would have repeated to you 
how deadly were the contents, and how dangerous 
it was to handle the vial or to let others handle it, 
much less to put it to the lips." 

She started, and instinctively her form rose to its 
full height. 

" Have you looked in that little box since you took 
it from my hair? " she asked. 

" Yes." 

" Then you know it to be empty? " 

For answer he pressed the spring, and the little 
lid flew open. 

" It is not empty now, you see." Then more 
slowly and with infinite meaning: "But the little 
flask is." 

She brought her hands together and faced him 
with a noble dignity which at once put the interview 
on a different footing. 

u Where was this vial found? " she demanded. 

He found it difficult to answer. They seemed to 
have exchanged positions. When he did speak it 
was in a low tone, and with less confidence than he 
had shown before. 

" In the bed with the old lady. I saw it there 
myself. Mr. Worthington was with me. Nobody 
else knows anything about it. I wish to give you an 
opportunity to explain. I begin to think you can 
but how, God only knows. The box was hidden in 
your hair from early evening. I saw your hand con- 



264 THE AMETHYST BOX 

tinually fluttering toward it all the time we were 
dancing in the parlour." 

She did not lose an iota of her dignity or pride. 

" You are right," she said. " I put it there as soon 
as I took it from the cabinet. I could think of no 
safer hiding-place. Yes, I took it," she acknowl- 
edged, as she saw the flush rise to his cheek. " I 
took it; but with no worse motive than the dis- 
honest one of having for my own an object which 
bewitched me. I was hardly myself when I snatched 
it from the shelf and thrust it into my hair." 

He stared at her in amazement, her confession 
and her attitude so completely contradicted each 
other. 

" But I had nothing to do with the vial," she went 
on. And with this declaration her whole manner, 
even her voice changed, as if with the utterance of 
these few words she had satisfied some inner demand 
of self-respect, and could now enter into the suffer- 
ings of those about her. " This I think it right to 
make plain to you. I supposed the vial to be in the 
box when I took it, but when I got to my room and 
had an opportunity to examine the deadly trinket, I 
found it empty, just as you found it when you took 
it from my hair. Some one had taken the vial out 
before my hand had ever touched the box." 

Like a man who feels himself suddenly seized 
by the throat, yet who struggles for the life slowly 
but inexorably leaving him, Sinclair cast one heart- 
rending look toward the conservatory, then heavily 
demanded : 



THE AMETHYST BOX 265 

"Why were you out of your room? Why did 
they have to look for you ? And who was the person 
who uttered that scream? " 

She confronted him sadly, but with an earnestness 
he could not but respect. 

" I was not in the room because I was troubled by 
my discovery. I think I had some idea of returning 
the box to the shelf from which I had taken it. At 
all events, I found myself on the little staircase in 
the rear when that cry rang through the house. I 
do not know who uttered it; I only know that it 
did not spring from my lips." 

In a rush of renewed hope he seized her by the 
hand. 

" It was your aunt! " he whispered. " It was she 
who took the vial out of the box; who put it to her 
own lips; who shrieked when she felt her vitals 
gripped. Had you stayed you would have known 
this. Can't you say so ? Don't you think so ? Why 
do you look at me with those incredulous eyes? " 

" Because you must not believe a lie. Because you 
are too good a man to be sacrificed. It was a 
younger throat than my aunt's which gave utterance 
to that shriek. Mr. Sinclair, be advised; do not be 
married to-morrow! " 

Meanwhile I was pacing the hall without in a 
delirium of suspense. I tried hard to keep within 
the bounds of silence. I had turned for the fiftieth 
time to face that library door, when suddenly I heard 
a hoarse cry break from within, and saw the door 
fly open and Dorothy come hurrying out. She 



266 THE AMETHYST BOX 

shrank when she saw me, but seemed grateful that 
I did not attempt to stop her, and soon was up the 
stairs and out of sight. I rushed at once into the 
library. 

I found Sinclair sitting before a table with his head 
buried in his hands. In an instant I knew that our 
positions were again reversed, and, without stopping 
to give heed to my own sensations, I approached 
him as near as I dared and laid my hand on 
his shoulder. 

He shuddered, but did not look up, and it was 
minutes before he spoke. Then it all came in a rush. 

" Fool ! fool that I was ! And I saw that she was 
consumed by fright the moment it became plain that 
I was intent upon having some conversation with 
Dorothy. Her fingers where they gripped my arm 
must have left marks behind them. But I saw only 
womanly nervousness when a man less blind would 
have detected guilt. Walter, I wish that the mere 
scent of this empty flask would kill. Then I should 
not have to re-enter that conservatory door or 
look again in her face, or " 

He had taken out the cursed jewel and was finger- 
ing it in a nervous way which went to my heart of 
hearts. Gently removing it from his hand, I asked 
with all the calmness possible : 

" What is all this mystery? Why have your sus- 
picions returned to Gilbertine? I thought you had 
entirely dissociated her with this matter, and that 
you blamed Dorothy, and Dorothy only, for the 
amethyst's loss? " 



THE AMETHYST BOX 267 

" Dorothy had the empty box; but the vial! the 
vial ! that had been taken by a previous hand. Do 
you remember the white silk train which Mr. Arm- 
strong saw slipping from this room? I cannot talk, 
Walter; my duty leads me there." 

He pointed towards the conservatory. I drew 
back and asked if I should take up my watch again 
outside the door. 

He shook his head. 

" It makes no difference; nothing makes any dif- 
ference. But if you want to please me, stay here." 

I at once sank into a chair. He made a great 
effort and advanced to the conservatory door. I 
studiously looked another way; my heart was break- 
ing with sympathy for him. 

But in another instant I was on my feet. I could 
hear him rushing about among the palms. Presently 
I heard his voice shout out the wild cry : 

" She is gone ! I forgot the other door commu- 
nicating with the hall." 

I crossed the floor and entered where he stood 
gazing down at an empty seat and a trail of scattered 
roses. Never shall I forget his face. The dimness 
of the spot could not hide his deep, unspeakable 
emotions. To him this flight bore but one interpre- 
tation guilt. 

I did not advocate Sinclair's pressing the matter 
further that night. I saw that he was exhausted, and 
that any further movement would tax him beyond 
his strength. We therefore separated immediately 
after leaving the library, and I found my way to my 



268 THE AMETHYST BOX 

own room alone. It may seem callous in me, but I 
fell asleep very soon after, and did not wake till 
roused by a knock at my door. On opening it I 
confronted Sinclair, looking haggard and unkempt. 
As he entered, the first clear notes of the breakfast- 
call could be heard rising from the lower hall. 

" I have not slept," he said. " I have been walk- 
ing the hall all night, listening by spells at her door, 
and at other times giving what counsel I could to the 
Armstrongs. God forgive me, but I have said noth- 
ing to any one of what has made this affair an awful 
tragedy to me! Do you think I did wrong? I 
waited to give Dorothy a chance. Why should I not 
show the same consideration to Gilbertine?" 

" You should." But our eyes did not meet, and 
neither voice expressed the least hope. 

" I shall not go to breakfast," he now declared. 
" I have written this line to Gilbertine. Will you 
see that she gets it? " 

For reply I held out my hand. He placed the 
note in it, and I was touched to see that it was un- 
sealed. 

" Be sure, when you give it to her, that she will 
have an opportunity of reading it alone. I shall 
request the use of one of the little reception-rooms 
this morning. Let her come there if she is so im- 
pelled. She will find a friend as well as a judge." 

I endeavoured to express sympathy, urge patience, 
and suggest hope. But he had no ear for words, 
though he tried to listen, poor fellow! so I soon 
stopped, and he presently left the room. I immedi- 



THE AMETHYST BOX 269 

ately made myself as presentable as a night of un- 
precedented emotions would allow, and went below 
to do him such service as opportunity offered and 
the exigencies of the case permitted. 

I found the lower hall alive with eager guests and 
a few outsiders. News of the sad event was slowly 
making its way through the avenue, and some of the 
Armstrongs' nearest neighbours had left their break- 
fast-tables to express their interest and to hear the 
particulars. Among these stood the lady of the 
house; but Mr. Armstrong was nowhere within 
sight. For him the breakfast waited. Not wishing 
to be caught in any little swirl of conventional com- 
ment, I remained near the staircase waiting for some 
one to descend who could give me news concerning 
Miss Murray. For I had small expectation of her 
braving the eyes of these strangers, and doubted if 
even Dorothy would be seen at the breakfast-table. 
But little Miss Lane, if small, was gifted with a great 
appetite. She would be sure to appear prior to the 
last summons, and as we were good friends, she 
would listen to my questions and give me the answer 
I needed for the carrying out of Sinclair's wishes. 
But before her light footfall was heard descending 
I was lured from my plans by an unexpected series 
of events. Three men came down, one after the 
other, followed by Mr. Armstrong, looking even 
more grave and ponderous than usual. Two of 
them were the physicians who had been called in the 
night, and whom I myself had seen depart some- 
where near three o'clock. The third I did not know, 



270 THE AMETHYST BOX 

but he looked like a doctor also. Why were they 
here again so early? Had anything new come to 
light? 

It was a question which seemed to strike others 
as well as myself. As Mr. Armstrong ushered them 
down the hall and out of the front-door many were 
the curious glances which followed them, and it was 
with difficulty that the courteous host on his return 
escaped the questions and detaining hands of some 
of his inquisitive guests. A pleasant word, an ami- 
able smile, he had for all; but I was quite certain, 
when I saw him disappear into the little room he 
retained for his own use, that he had told them noth- 
ing which could in any way relieve their curiosity. 

This filled me with a vague alarm. Something 
must have occurred something which Sinclair ought 
to know. I felt a great anxiety, and was closely 
watching the door behind which Mr. Armstrong 
had vanished when it suddenly opened, and I per- 
ceived that he had been writing a telegram. As he 
gave it to one of the servants he made a gesture 
to the man standing with extended hand by the 
Chinese gong, and the summons rang out for break- 
fast. Instantly the hum of voices ceased, and young 
and old turned toward the dining-room, but the 
host did not enter with them. Before the younger 
and more active of his guests could reach his side he 
had slid into the room which I have before described 
as set apart for the display of Gilbertine's wedding- 
presents. Instantly I lost all inclination for break- 
fast, and lingered about in the hall until every one 



THE AMETHYST BOX 271 

had passed me, even little Miss Lane, who had come 
down unperceived while I was watching Mr. Arm- 
strong's door. Not very well pleased with myself 
for having missed the one opportunity which might 
have been of service to me, I was asking myself 
whether I should follow her, and make the best 
attempt I could at sociability, if not at eating, when 
Mr. Armstrong approached from the side hall, and, 
accosting me, inquired if Mr. Sinclair had come down 
yet. 

I assured him that I had not seen him, and did 
not think he meant to come to breakfast, adding 
that he had been very much affected by the affairs of 
the night, and had told me that he was going to shut 
himself up in his room and rest. 

" I am sorry, but there is a question I must ask 
him immediately. It is about a little Italian trinket 
which I am told he displayed to the ladies yesterday 
afternoon." 



VII 

CONSTRAINT 

So our dreadful secret was not confined to our- 
selves, as we had supposed, but was shared, or at 
least suspected, by our host. 

Thankful that it was I, rather than Sinclair, who 
was called upon to meet and sustain this shock, I 
answered with what calmness I could : 

" Yes ; Sinclair mentioned the matter to me. In- 



272 THE AMETHYST BOX 

deed, if you have any curiosity on the subject, I 
think I can enlighten you as fully as he can." 

Mr. Armstrong glanced up the stairs, hesitated, 
then drew me into his private room. 

" I find myself in a very uncomfortable position," 
he began. " A strange and quite unaccountable 
change has shown itself in the appearance of Mrs. 
Lansing's body during the last few hours a change 
which baffles the physicians and raises in their minds 
very unfortunate conjectures. What I want to know 
is whether Mr. Sinclair still has in his possession 
the box which is said to hold a vial of deadly poison, 
or whether it has passed into any other hand since 
he showed it to certain ladies in the library." 

We were standing directly in the light of an 
eastern window. Deception was impossible, even if 
I had felt like employing it. In Sinclair's interests, 
if not in my own, I resolved to be as true to our 
host as our positions demanded, yet, at the same 
time, to save Gilbertine as much as possible from 
premature, if not final suspicion. 

I therefore replied : " That is a question I can 
answer as well as Sinclair." (Happy was I to save 
him this cross-examination.) " While he was show- 
ing this toy, Mrs. Armstrong came into the room 
and proposed a stroll, which drew all of the ladies 
from the room and called for his attendance as well. 
With no thought of the danger involved, he placed 
the trinket on a high shelf in the cabinet, and went 
out with the rest. When he came back for it. it 
was gone." 



THE AMETHYST BOX 273 

The usually ruddy aspect of my host's face deep- 
ened, and he sat down in the great armchair which 
did duty before his writing-table. 

" This is dreadful! " was his comment; " entailing 
I do not know what unfortunate consequences upon 
this household and on the unhappy girl " 

"Girl?" I repeated. 

He turned upon me with great gravity. " Mr. 
Worthington, I am sorry to have to admit it, but 
something strange, something not easily explainable, 
took place in this house last night. It has only just 
come to light, otherwise the doctors' conclusions 
might have been different. You know there is a 
detective in the house. The presents are valuable, 
and I thought best to have a man here to look after 
them." 

I nodded; I had no breath for speech. 

u This man tells me," continued Mr. Armstrong, 
" that just a few minutes previous to the time the 
whole household was aroused last night he heard a 
step in the hall overhead, then the sound of a light 
foot descending the little staircase in the servants' 
hall. Being anxious to find out what this person 
wanted at an hour so late, he lowered the gas, closed 
his door, and listened. The steps went by his door. 
Satisfied that it was a woman he heard, he pulled 
open the door again and looked out. A young girl 
was standing not very far from him in a thin streak 
of moonlight. She was gazing intently at something 
in her hand, and that something had a purple gleam 
to it. He is ready to swear to this. Next moment, 



274 THE AMETHYST BOX 

frightened by some noise she heard, she fled back, 
and vanished again in the region of the little stair- 
case. It was soon, very soon, after this that the 
shriek came. Now, Mr. Worthington, what am I 
to do with this knowledge? I have advised this 
man to hold his peace till I can make inquiries, but 
where am I to make them? I cannot think that Miss 
Camerden " 

The ejaculation which escaped me was involun- 
tary. To hear her name for the second time in this 
association was more than I could bear. 

" Did he say it was Miss Camerden? " I hurriedly 
inquired, as he looked at me in some surprise. 
" How should he know Miss Camerden? " 

" He described her," was the unanswerable reply. 
41 Besides, we know that she was circulating in the 
halls at that time. I declare I have never known a 
worse business," this amiable man bemoaned. " Let 
me send for Sinclair; he is more interested than any 
one else in Gilbertine's relatives; or, stay, what if 
I should send for Miss Camerden herself? She 
should be able to tell how she came by this box." 

I subdued my own instincts, which were all for 
clearing Dorothy on the spot, and answered as I 
thought Sinclair would like me to answer. 

u It is a serious and very perplexing piece of busi- 
ness," said I; " but if you will wait a short time I do 
not think you will have to trouble Miss Camerden. 
I am sure that explanations will be given. Give the 
lady a chance," I stammered. " Imagine what her 
feelings would be if questioned on so delicate a topic. 



THE AMETHYST BOX 275 

It would make a breach which nothing could heal. 
Later, if she does not speak, it will be only right for 
you to ask her why." 

" She did not come down this morning." 

11 Naturally not." 

" If I could take counsel of my wife ! But she is 
of too nervous a temperament. I am anxious to 
keep her from knowing this fresh complication as 
long as possible. Do you think I can look for Miss 
Camerden to explain herself before the doctors re- 
turn, or before Mrs. Lansing's physician, for whom 
I have telegraphed, can arrive from New York? " 

"I am sure that three hours will not pass before 
you hear the truth. Leave me to work out the 
situation. I promise that if I cannot bring it about 
to your satisfaction, Sinclair shall be asked to lend 
his assistance. Only keep the gossips from Miss 
Camerden's good name. Words can be said in a 
moment that will not be forgotten in years. I trem- 
ble at such a prospect for her." 

" No one knows of her having been seen with the 
box," he protested; and, relieved as much by his 
manner as by his words, I took my leave of him, 
and made my way at once to the dining-room. 
Should I find Miss Lane there? Yes, and what was 
better still, the fortunes of the day had decreed that 
the place beside her should be unoccupied. 

I was on my way to that place when I was struck 
by the extreme quiet into which the room had fallen. 
It had been humming with talk when I first entered, 
but now not a voice was raised and scarcely an eye. 



2 7 6 THE AMETHYST BOX 

In the hurried glance I cast about the board, not a 
look met mine in recognition or welcome. 

What did it mean? Had they been talking about 
me? Possibly; and in a way, it would seem, that 
was not altogether flattering to my vanity. 

Unable to hide my sense of the general embarrass- 
ment which my presence had called forth, I passed to 
the seat I have indicated, and let my inquiring look 
settle on Miss Lane. She was staring, in imitation 
of the others, straight into her plate; but as I saluted 
her with a quiet " Good-morning," she looked up 
and acknowledged my courtesy with a faint, almost 
sympathetic, smile. At once the whole tableful broke 
again into chatter, and I could safely put the ques- 
tion with which my mind was full. 

" How is Miss Murray? " I asked. " I do not see 
her here." 

" Did you expect to? Poor Gilbertine! This is 
not the bridal-day she expected." Then, with irre- 
sistible naivete, entirely in keeping with her fairy- 
like figure and girlish face, she added: " I think it 
was just horrid in the old woman to die the night 
before the wedding, don't you? " 

" Indeed I do," I emphatically rejoined, humour- 
ing her in the hope of learning what I wished to 
know. " Does Miss Murray still cherish the ex- 
pectation of being married to-day? No one seems to 
know." 

" Nor do I. I haven't seen her since the middle 
of the night. She didn't come back to her room. 
They say she is sobbing out her terror and 



THE AMETHYST BOX 277 

pointment in some attic corner. Think of that 
for Gilbertine Murray! But even that is better 
than " 

The sentence trailed away into an indistinguish- 
able murmur, the murmur into silence. Was it be- 
cause of a fresh lull in the conversation about us? 
I hardly think so, for though the talk was presently 
resumed, she remained silent, not even giving the 
least sign of wishing to prolong this particular topic. 
I finished my coffee as soon as possible and quitted 
the room, but not before many had preceded me. 
The hall was consequently as full as before of a 
gossiping crowd. 

I was on the point of bowing myself through the 
various groups blocking my way to the library door, 
when I noticed renewed signs of embarrassment on 
all the faces turned my way. Women who were 
clustered about the newel-post drew back, and some 
others sauntered away into side-rooms with an ap- 
pearance of suddenly wishing to go somewhere. 
This certainly was very singular, especially as these 
marks of disapproval did not seem to be directed so 
much at myself as at some one behind me. Who 
could this some one be? Turning quickly, I cast a 
glance up the staircase, before which I stood, and saw 
the figure of a young girl dressed in black hesitating 
on the landing. This young girl was Dorothy Cam- 
erden, and it took but a moment's contemplation 
of the scene for me to feel assured that it was against 
her this feeling of universal constraint had been 
directed. 



278 THE AMETHYST BOX 

VIII 

GILBERTINE SPEAKS 

Knowing my darling's innocence, I felt the insult 
shown her in my heart of hearts, and might in the 
heat of the moment have been betrayed into an 
unwise utterance of my indignation, if at that mo- 
ment I had not encountered the eye of Mr. Arm- 
strong fixed on me from the rear hall. In the 
mingled surprise and distress he displayed, I saw 
that it was not from any indiscretion of his that this 
feeling against her had started. He had not be- 
trayed the trust I had placed in him, yet the murmur 
had gone about which virtually ostracised her, and 
instead of confronting the eager looks of friends, she 
found herself met by averted glances and coldly 
turned backs, and soon by an almost empty hall. 

She flushed as she realised the effect of her pres- 
ence, and cast me an agonised look which, without 
her expectation, perhaps, roused every instinct of 
chivalry within me. Advancing, I met her at the 
foot of the stairs, and with one quick word seemed 
to restore her to herself. 

" Be patient! " I whispered. " To-morrow they 
will all be around you again. Perhaps sooner. Go 
into the conservatory and wait." 

She gave me a grateful pressure of the hand, while 
I bounded upstairs, determined that nothing should 
stop me from finding Gilbertine, and giving her the 
letter with which Sinclair had entrusted me. 



THE AMETHYST BOX 279 

But this was more easily planned than accom- 
plished. When I had reached the third floor (an 
unaccustomed and strange spot for me to find myself 
in) I at first found no one who could tell me to 
which room Miss Murray had retired. Then, when 
I did come across a stray housemaid, and she, with 
an extraordinary stare, had pointed out the door, I 
found it quite impossible to gain any response from 
within, though I could hear a quick step moving rest- 
lessly to and fro, and now and then catch the sound 
of a smothered sob or low cry. The wretched girl 
would not heed me, though I told her who I was, 
and that I had a letter from Mr. Sinclair in my hand. 
Indeed, she presently became perfectly quiet, and let 
me knock again and again, till the situation became 
ridiculous, and I felt obliged to draw off. 

Not that I thought of yielding. No, I would stay 
there till her own fancy drove her to open the door, 
or till Mr. Armstrong should come up and force it. 
A woman upon whom so many interests depended 
would not be allowed to remain shut up the whole 
morning. Her position as a possible bride forbade 
it. Guilty or innocent, she must show herself be- 
fore long. As if in answer to my expectation, a figure 
appeared at this very moment at the other end of 
the hall. It was Button, the butler, and in his hand 
he held a telegram. He seemed astonished to see me 
there, but passed me with a simple bow, and stopped 
before the door I had so unavailingly assailed a few 
minutes before. 

" A telegram, miss," he shouted, as no answer 



280 THE AMETHYST BOX 

was made to his knock. " Mr. Armstrong asked me 
to bring it to you. It is from the Bishop, and calls 
for an immediate reply." 

There was a stir within, but the door did not 
open. Meanwhile, I had sealed and thrust forth the 
letter I had held concealed in my breast pocket. 

" Give her this, too," I signified, and pointed to 
the crack under the door. 

He took the letter, laid the telegram on it, and 
pushed them both in. Then he stood up, and eyed 
the unresponsive panels with the set look of a man 
who does not easily yield his purpose. 

" I will wait for the answer! " he shouted through 
the keyhole, and, falling back, he took up his stand 
against the opposite wall. 

I could not keep him company there. Withdraw- 
ing into a big dormer window, I waited with beating 
heart to see if her door would open. Apparently 
not; yet as I still lingered I heard the lock turn, 
followed by the sound of a measured but hurried 
step. Dashing from my retreat, I reached the main 
hall in time to see Miss Murray disappear toward 
the staircase. This was well, and I was about to 
follow, when, to my astonishment, I perceived Dut- 
ton standing in the doorway she had just left, staring 
down at the floor with a puzzled look. 

"She didn't pick up the letters!" he cried in 
amazement. " She just walked over them. \Yhr>t 
shall I do now? It's the strangest thing I ever 
saw!" 

" Take them to the little boudoir over the porch/' 



THE AMETHYST BOX 281 

I suggested. " Mr. Sinclair is there, and if she is 
not on her way to join him now, she certainly will 
be soon." 

Without a word Button caught up the letters and 
made for the stairs. 

Left to await the result, I found myself so worked 
upon that I wondered how much longer I should 
be able to endure these shifts of feeling and 
constantly recurring moments of extreme suspense. 
To escape the torture of my own thoughts, or, 
possibly, to get some idea of how Dorothy was sus- 
taining an ordeal which was fast destroying my own 
self-possession, I prepared to go downstairs. What 
was my astonishment, in passing the little boudoir 
on the second floor, to find its door ajar and the 
place empty. Either the interview between Sinclair 
and Gilbertine had been very much curtailed, or it 
had not yet taken place. With a heart heavy with 
forebodings I no longer sought to analyse, I made my 
way down, and reached the lower step of the great 
staircase just as a half-dozen girls, rushing from 
different quarters of the hall, surrounded the heavy 
form of Mr. Armstrong coming from his own little 
room. 

Their questions made a small hubbub. With a 
good-natured gesture he put them all back, and, rais- 
ing his voice, said to the assembled crowd: 

" It has been decided by Miss Murray that, under 
the circumstances, it will be wiser for her to postpone 
the celebration of her marriage to some time and 
place less fraught with mournful suggestions. A 



282 THE AMETHYST BOX 

telegram has just been sent to the Bishop to that 
effect, and while we all suffer from this disappoint- 
ment, I am sure there is no one here who will not 
see the propriety of her decision." 

As he finished, Gilbertine appeared behind him. 
At the same moment I caught, or thought I did, the 
flash of Sinclair's eye from the recesses of the room 
beyond; but I could not stop to make sure of this, 
for Gilbertine's look and manner were such as to 
draw my full attention, and it was with a mixture of 
almost inexplicable emotions that I saw her thread 
her way among her friends, in a state of high feeling 
which made her blind to their outstretched hands 
and deaf to the murmur of interest and sympathy 
which instinctively followed her. She was making 
for the stairs, and whatever her thoughts, whatever 
the state of her mind, she moved superbly, in her 
pale, yet seemingly radiant abstraction. I watched 
her, fascinated, yet when she left the last group and 
began to cross the small square of carpet which alone 
separated us, I stepped down and aside, feeling that 
to meet her eye just them without knowing what had 
passed between her and Sinclair would be cruel to 
her and well-nigh unbearable to myself. 

She saw the movement and seemed to hesitate an 
instant, then she turned for one brief instant in my 
direction, and I saw her smile. Great God! it was 
the smile of innocence. Fleeting as it was, the pride 
that was in it, the sweet assertion and the joy were 
unmistakable. I felt like springing to Sinclair's side 
in the gladness of my relief, but there was no time; 



THE AMETHYST BOX 283 

another door had opened down the hall, another 
person had stepped upon the scene, and Miss Mur- 
ray, as well as myself, recognised by the hush which 
at once fell upon every one present that something 
of still more startling import awaited us. 

" Mr. Armstrong and ladies ! " said this stranger 
I knew he was a stranger by the studied formality 
of the former's bow " I have made a few inquiries 
since I came here a short time ago, and I find that 
there is one young lady in the house who ought to 
be able to tell me better than any one else under 
what circumstances Mrs. Lansing breathed her last. 
I allude to her niece, who slept in the adjoining room. 
Is that young lady here? Her name, if I remember 
rightly, is Camerden Miss Dorothy Camerden." 

A movement as of denial passed from group to 
group down the hall, and, while no one glanced 
toward the library and some did glance upstairs, I 
felt the dart of sudden fear or was it hope that 
Dorothy, hearing her name called, would leave the 
conservatory and proudly confront the speaker in 
face of this whole suspicious throng. But no Doro- 
thy appeared. On the contrary, it was Gilbertine 
who turned, and, with an air of authority for which 
no one was prepared, asked in tones vibrating with 
feeling: 

" Has this gentleman the official right to question 
who was and who was not with my aunt when she 
died?" 

Mr. Armstrong, who showed his surprise as in- 
genuously as he did every other emotion, glanced up 



284 THE AMETHYST BOX 

at the light figure hovering over them from the stair- 
case, and made out to answer: 

" This gentleman has every right, Miss Murray. 
He is the coroner of the town, accustomed to in- 
quire into all cases of sudden death." 

u Then," she vehemently rejoined, her pale cheeks 
breaking out into a scarlet flush, above which her 
eyes shone with an almost unearthly brilliancy, " do 
not summon Dorothy Camerden. She is not the 
witness you want. I am. I am the one who uttered 
that scream; I am the one who saw our aunt die. 
Dorothy cannot tell you what took place in her room 
and at her bedside, for Dorothy was not there; but 
/ can." 

Amazed, not as others were, at the assertion itself, 
but at the manner and publicity of the utterance, I 
contemplated this surprising girl in ever-increasing 
wonder. Always beautiful, always spirited and 
proud, she looked at that moment as if nothing in 
the shape of fear, or even contumely, could touch 
her. She faced the astonishment of her best friends 
with absolute fearlessness, and before the general 
murmur could break into words, added: 

" I feel it my duty to speak thus publicly, because, 
by keeping silent so long, I have allowed a false 
impression to go about. Stunned with terror, I found 
it impossible to speak during that first shock. Be- 
sides, I was in a measure to blame for the catas- 
trophe itself, and lacked courage to own it. It was 
I who took the little crystal flask into my aunt's 
room. I had been fascinated by it from the first, 



THE AMETHYST BOX 285 

fascinated enough to long to see it closer, and to 
hold it in my hand. But I was ashamed of this 
fascination ashamed, I mean, to have any one know 
that I could be moved by such a childish impulse : 
so, instead of taking the box itself, which might 
easily be missed, I simply abstracted the tiny vial, 
and, satisfied with its possession, carried it about till 
I got to my room. Then, when the house was quiet 
and my room-mate asleep, I took it out and looked at 
it, and feeling an irresistible desire to share my amuse- 
ment with my cousin, I stole to her room by means 
of the connecting balcony, just as I had done many 
times before when our aunt was in bed and asleep. 
But unlike any previous occasion, I found the room 
empty. Dorothy was not there; but as the light 
was burning high, I knew she would soon be back, 
and so ventured to step in. 

" Instantly, I heard my aunt's voice. She was 
awake, and wanted something. She had evidently 
called before, for her voice was sharp with impa- 
tience, and she used some very harsh words. When 
she heard me in Dorothy's room, she shouted again, 
and, as I have always been accustomed to obey her 
commands, I hastened to her side, with the little 
vial concealed in my hand. As she expected to see 
Dorothy and not me, she rose up in unreasoning 
anger, asking where my cousin was, and why I was 
not in bed. I attempted to answer her, but she 
would not listen to me, and bade me turn up the 
gas. which I did. 

" Then, with her eyes fixed on mine as though she 



286 THE AMETHYST BOX 

knew I was trying to conceal something from her, 
she commanded me to rearrange her hair and make 
her more comfortable. This I could not do with 
the tiny flask still in my hand, so with a quick move- 
ment, which I hoped would pass unobserved, I slid 
it behind some bottles standing on a table by the 
bedside, and bent to do what she required. But to 
attempt to escape her eyes was useless. She had seen 
my action, and at once began to feel about for what 
I had attempted to hide from her. Coming in con- 
tact with the tiny flask, she seized it, and, with a 
smile I shall never forget, held it up between us. 

1 What's this? ' she cried, showing such astonish- 
ment at its minuteness and perfection of shape that 
it was immediately apparent she had heard nothing 
of the amethyst box displayed by Mr. Sinclair in the 
library. ' I never saw a bottle as small as this be- 
fore. What is in it, and why were you so afraid of 
my seeing it? ' 

" As she spoke she attempted to wrench out the 
stopper. It stuck, so I was in hopes she would fail 
in the effort, but she was a woman of uncommon 
strength, and presently it yielded, and I saw the vial 
open in her hand. 

41 Aghast with terror, I caught at the table beside 
me, fearing to drop before her eyes. Instantly her 
look of curiosity changed to one of suspicion, and 
repeating, ' What's in it? What's in it? ' she raised 
the flask to her nostrils, and when she found she 
could make out nothing from the smell, lowered 
it to her lips, with the intention, I suppose, of deter- 



THE AMETHYST BOX 287 

mining its contents by tasting them. As I caught 
sight of this fatal action, and beheld the one drop, 
which Mr. Sinclair had said was enough to kill a 
man, slip from its hiding-place of centuries into her 
open throat, I felt as if the poison had entered my 
own veins; I could neither speak nor move. But 
when, an instant later, I met the look which spread 
suddenly over her face a look of horror and hatred, 
accusing horror and unspeakable hatred mingled 
with what I dimly felt must mean death an ago- 
nised cry burst from my lips, after which, panic- 
stricken, I flew, as if for life, back by the way I had 
come, to my own room. This was a great mistake. 
I should have remained with my aunt and boldly met 
the results of the tragedy which my folly had brought 
about. But terror knows no law, and having once 
yielded to the instinct of concealment, I knew no 
other course than to continue to maintain an apparent 
ignorance of what had just occurred. With chatter- 
ing teeth and an awful numbness at my heart, I tore 
off my wrapper and slid into bed. Miss Lane had 
not wakened, but every one else had, and the hall 
was full of people. This terrified me still more, and 
for the moment I felt that I could never own the 
truth and bring down upon myself all this wonder 
and curiosity. So I allowed a wrong impression 
of the event to go about, for which act of cowardice 
I now ask the pardon of every one here, as I have al- 
ready asked that of Mr. Sinclair and of our kind 
friend Mr. Armstrong." 

She paused, and stood for a moment confronting 



288 THE AMETHYST BOX 

us all with proud eyes and flaming cheeks, then 
amid a hubbub which did not seem to affect her in 
the least, she stepped down, and approaching the 
man who, she had been told, had a right to her full 
confidence, she said, loud enough for all who wished 
to hear her: 

" I am ready to give you whatever further infor- 
mation you may require. Shall I step into the 
drawing-room with you? " 

He bowed, and as they disappeared from the great 
hall the hubbub of voices became tumultuous. 

Naturally I should have joined in the universal 
expressions of surprise and the gossip incident to 
such an unexpected revelation. But I found myself 
averse to any kind of talk. Till I could meet Sin- 
clair's eye and discern in it the happy clearing-up of 
all his doubts, I should not feel free to be my own 
ordinary and sociable self again. But Sinclair 
showed every evidence of wishing to keep in the back- 
ground; and while this was natural enough, so far as 
people in general were concerned, I thought it odd 
and very unlike him not to give me an opportunity to 
express my congratulations at the turn affairs had 
taken and the frank attitude assumed by Gilbertine. 
I own I felt much disturbed by this neglect, and as the 
minutes passed and he failed to appear, I found my 
satisfaction in her explanations dwindle under the 
consciousness that they had failed, in some respects, 
to account for the situation; and before I knew it I 
was the prey of fresh doubts, which I did my best 
to smother, not only for the sake of Sinclair, but 



THE AMETHYST BOX 289 

because I was still too much under the influence of 
Gilbertine's imposing personality to wish to believe 
aught but what her burning words conveyed. 

She must have spoken the truth, but was it the 
entire truth? I hated myself for asking the ques- 
tion; hated myself for being more critical with her 
than I had been with Dorothy, who certainly had not 
made her own part in this tragedy as clear as one 
who loved her could wish. Ah, Dorothy! it was 
time some one told her that Gilbertine had openly 
vindicated her, and that she could now come forth 
and face her friends without hesitation and without 
dread. Was she still in the conservatory? Doubt- 
less. But it would be better, perhaps, for me to 
make sure. 

Approaching the place by the small door connect- 
ing it with the hallway in which I stood, I took a 
hurried look within, and, seeing no one, stepped 
boldly down between the palms to the little nook 
where lovers of this quiet spot were accustomed to 
sit. It was empty, and so was the library beyond. 
Coming back, I accosted Dutton, whom I found 
superintending the removal of the potted plants 
which encumbered the passages, and asked him if he 
knew where Miss Camerden was? He answered 
without hesitation that she had stood in the rear 
hall a little while before, listening to Miss Murray; 
that she had then gone upstairs by the spiral stair- 
case, leaving word with him that if anybody wanted 
her she would be found in the small boudoir over the 
porch. 



290 THE AMETHYST BOX 

I thanked him, and was on my way to join her 
when Mr. Armstrong called me. He must have 
kept me a half-hour in his room discussing every 
aspect of the affair and apologising for the necessity 
which he now felt of bidding farewell to most of 
his guests, among whom, he was careful to state, he 
did not include me. Then, when I thought this 
topic exhausted, he began to talk about his wife, and 
what this dreadful occurrence was to her, and how 
he despaired of ever reconciling her to the fact that 
it had been considered necessary to call in a coroner. 
Then he spoke of Sinclair, but with some constraint 
and a more careful choice of words, at which, 
realising that I was to reap nothing from this inter- 
view, only suffer strong and continued irritation at a 
delay which was costing me the inestimable privilege 
of being the first to tell Dorothy of her re-establish- 
ment in every one's good opinion, I exerted myself 
for release, and to such good purpose that I presently 
found myself again in the hall, where the first person 
I ran against was Sinclair. 

He started, and so did I, at this unexpected en- 
counter. Then we stood still, and I stared at him 
in amazement, for everything about the man was 
changed, and inexplicable fact! in nothing was 
this change more marked than in his attitude toward 
myself. Yet he tried to be friendly and meet me on 
the old footing, and observed as soon as we found 
ourselves beyond the hearing of others: 

" You heard what Gilbertine said. There is no 
reason for doubting her words. / do not doubt 



THE AMETHYST BOX 291 

them, and you will show yourself my friend by not 
doubting them either." Then, with some impetuos- 
ity and a gleam in his eye quite foreign to its natural 
expression, he pursued, with a pitiful effort to speak 
dispassionately: "Our wedding is postponed in- 
definitely. There are reasons why this seemed best 
to Miss Murray. To you I will say that postponed 
nuptials seldom culminate in marriage. In fact, I 
have just released Miss Murray from all obligations 
to myself." 

The stare of utter astonishment I gave him pro- 
voked the first and only sneer I have ever seen on 
his face. What was I to say what could I say, in 
response to such a declaration, following so imme- 
diately upon his warm assertion of her innocence? 
Nothing. With that indefinable chill between us, 
which had come I know not how, I felt tongue-tied. 

He saw my embarrassment, possibly my emotion, 
for he smiled somewhat bitterly, and put a step or 
so between us before he remarked: 

" Miss Murray has my good wishes. Out of 
respect to her position, I shall show her a friend's 
attention while we remain in this house. That is 
all I have to say, Walter. You and I have held our 
last conversation on this subject." 

He was gone before I had sufficiently recovered to 
realise that in this conversation I had had no part, 
neither had it contained any explanation of the very 
facts which had once formed our greatest grounds 
for doubt namely, Beaton's dream; the smothered 
cry uttered behind Sinclair's shoulder when he first 



292 THE AMETHYST BOX 

made known the deadly qualities of the little vial; 
and, lastly, the strange desire acknowledged to by 
both these young ladies, to touch and hold an object 
calculated rather to repel than to attract the normal 
feminine heart. 

At every previous stage of this ever-shifting 
drama my instinct had been to set my wits against 
the facts, and, if I could, puzzle out the mystery. 
But I felt no such temptation now. My one desire 
was to act, and that immediately. Dorothy, for all 
Gilbertine's intimation to the contrary, held in her 
own breast the key to the enigma. Otherwise she 
would not have ventured upon the surprising and 
necessarily unpalatable advice to Sinclair an advice 
he seemed to have followed not to marry Gil- 
bertine Murray at the time proposed. Nothing short 
of a secret acquaintanceship with facts unknown as 
yet to the rest of us could have nerved her to such 
an act. 

My one hope, then, of understanding the matter 
lay with her. To seek her at once in the place 
where I had been told she awaited me seemed the 
only course to take. If any real gratitude underlay 
the look of trust which she had given me at the 
termination of our last interview, she would reward 
my confidence by unbosoming herself to me. 

I was at the door of the boudoir immediately 
upon forming this resolution. Finding it ajar, I 
pushed it softly open, and as softly entered. To 
my astonishment the place was very dark. Not only 
had the shades been drawn down, but the shutters 



THE AMETHYST BOX 293 

had been closed, so that it was with difficulty I de- 
tected the slight, black-robed figure which lay face 
down among the cushions of a lounge. She had evi- 
dently not heard my entrance, for she did not move; 
and, struck by her pathetic attitude, I advanced in a 
whirl of feeling, which made me forget all con- 
ventionalities, and everything else, in fact, but that I 
loved her, and had the utmost confidence in her 
power to make me happy. Laying my hand softly 
on her head, I tenderly whispered: 

" Look up, dear. Whatever barrier may have 
intervened between us has fallen. Look up and hear 
how I love you." 

She thrilled as a woman only thrills when her 
secret soul is moved, and, rising with a certain grand 
movement, turned her face upon me, glorious with a 
feeling that not even the dimness of the room could 
hide. 

Why, then, did my brain whirl and my heart 
collapse? 

It was Gilbertine and not Dorothy who stood 
before me. 



IX 

IN THE LITTLE BOUDOIR 

Never had a suspicion crossed my mind of any 
such explanation of our secret troubles. I had seen 
as much of one cousin as the other in my visits to 
Mrs. Lansing's house, but Gilbertine being from 



294 THE AMETHYST BOX 

the first day of our acquaintance engaged to my 
friend Sinclair, I naturally did not presume to study 
her face for any signs of interest in myself, even if 
my sudden and uncontrollable passion for Dorothy 
had left me the heart to do so. Yet now, in the 
light of her unmistakable smile, of her beaming eyes, 
from which all troublous thoughts seemed to have 
fled for ever, a thousand recollections forced them- 
selves upon my attention, which not only made me 
bewail my own blindness, but which served to ex- 
plain the peculiar attitude always maintained towards 
me by Dorothy, and many other things which a mo- 
ment before had seemed fraught with impenetrable 
mystery. 

All this in the twinkling of an eye. Meanwhile, 
misled by my words, Gilbertine drew back a step, 
and, with her face still bright with the radiance I 
have mentioned, murmured in low, but full-toned 
accents : 

"Not just yet; it is too soon. Let me simply 
enjoy the fact that I am free, and that the courage 
to win my release came from my own suddenly 
acquired trust in Mr. Sinclair's goodness. Last 
night " and she shuddered " I saw only another 
way a way the horrors of which I hardly realised. 
But God saved me from so dreadful, yea, so un- 
necessary a crime, and this morning " 

It was cruel to let her go on cruel to stand 
there and allow this ardent, if mistaken, nature to 
unfold itself so ingenuously, while I, with ear half 
turned toward the door, listened for the step of her 



THE AMETHYST BOX 295 

whom I had never so much loved as at that moment, 
possibly because I had only just come to understand 
the cause of her seeming vacillations. My instincts 
were so imperative, my duty and the obligations of 
my position so unmistakable, that I made a move as 
Gilbertine reached this point, which caused her first 
to hesitate, then to stop. How should I fill up this 
gap of silence? How tell her of the great, the 
grievous mistake she had made? The task was one 
to try the courage of stouter souls than mine. But 
the thought of Dorothy nerved me; perhaps also 
my real friendship and commiseration for Sinclair. 

" Gilbertine," I began, " I will make no pretence 
of misunderstanding you. The situation is too seri- 
ous, the honour which you do me too great; only, I 
am not free to accept that honour. The words which 
I uttered were meant for your cousin Dorothy. I 
expected to find her in this room. I have long loved 
your cousin in secrecy, I own, but honestly and 

with every hope of some day making her my wife. 
j j 

There was no need for me to finish. The warm 
hand turning to ice in my clasp, the wide-open blind- 
struck eyes, the recoil, the maiden flush rising, deep- 
ening, covering cheek and chin and forehead, then 
fading out again till the whole face was white as 
marble and seemingly as cold told me that the 
blow had gone home, and that Gilbertine Murray, 
the unequalled beauty, the petted darling of a society 
ready to recognise every charm she possessed save her 
ardent nature and great heart, had reached the height 



296 THE AMETHYST BOX 

of her many miseries, and that it was I who had 
placed her there. 

Overcome with pity, but conscious also of a pro- 
found respect, I endeavoured to utter some futile 
words, which she at once put an end to by an appeal- 
ing gesture. 

" You can say nothing," she began. " I have 
made an awful mistake, the worst a woman can make, 
I think." Then, with long pauses, as though her 
tongue were clogged by shame perhaps by some 
deeper if less apparent feeling: "You love Doro- 
thy. Does Dorothy love you ? " 

My answer was an honest one. 

" I have dared to hope so, despite the little oppor- 
tunity she has given me to express my feelings. 
She has always held me back, and that very de- 
cidedly, or my devotion would have been apparent to 
everybody." 

"Oh, Dorothy!" 

Regret, sorrow, infinite tenderness, all were au- 
dible in that cry. Indeed, it seemed as if for the 
moment her thoughts were more taken up with her 
cousin's unhappiness than with her own. 

" How I must have made her suffer ! I have been 
a curse to those who loved me. But I am humbled 
now, and very rightly." 

I began to experience a certain awe of this great 
nature. There was grandeur even in her contrition, 
and as I took in the expression of her colourless 
features, sweet with almost an unearthly sweetness 
in spite of the anguish consuming her, I suddenly 



THE AMETHYST BOX 297 

realised what Sinclair's love for her must be. I also 
as suddenly realised the depth and extent of his 
suffering. To call such a woman his, to lead her 
almost to the foot of the altar, and then to see her 
turn aside and leave him! Surely his lot was an 
intolerable one, and though the interference I had 
unconsciously made in his wishes had been involun- 
tary, I felt like cursing myself for not having been 
more open in my attentions to the girl I really loved. 

Gilbertine seemed to divine my thoughts, for, 
pausing at the door she had unconsciously ap- 
proached, she stood with the knob in her hand, and, 
with averted brow, remarked gravely: 

" I am going out of your life. Before I do so, 
however, I should like to say a few words in pallia- 
tion of my conduct. I have never known a mother. 
I early fell under my aunt's charge, who, detesting 
children, sent me away to school, where I was well 
enough treated, but never loved. I was a plain 
child, and felt my plainness. This gave an awkward- 
ness to my actions, and as my aunt had caused it to 
be distinctly understood that her sole intention in 
sending me to the Academy was to have me educated 
for a teacher, my position awakened little interest, 
and few hearts, if any, warmed toward me. Mean- 
while, my breast was filled with but one thought, 
one absorbing wish. I longed to love passionately, 
and be passionately loved in return. Had I found a 
mate but I never did. I was not destined for any 
such happiness. 

" Years passed. I was a woman, but neither my 



298 THE AMETHYST BOX 

happiness nor my self-confidence had kept pace with 
my growth. Girls who once passed me with a bare 
nod now stopped to stare, sometimes to whisper 
comments behind my back. I did not understand 
this change, and withdrew more and more into 
myself and the fairy-land made for me by books. 
Romance was my life, and I had fallen into the 
dangerous habit of brooding over the pleasures and 
excitements which would have been mine had I been 
born beautiful and wealthy, when my aunt suddenly 
visited the school, saw me, and at once took me away 
and placed me in the most fashionable school in New 
York City. From there I was launched, without any 
word of motherly counsel, into the gay society you 
know so well. Almost with my coming out I found 
the world at my feet, and though my aunt showed 
me no love, she evinced a certain pride in my success, 
and cast about to procure for me a great match. 
Mr. Sinclair was the victim. He visited me, took 
me to theatres, and eventually proposed. My aunt 
was in ecstasies. I, who felt helpless before her will, 
was glad that the husband she had chosen for me 
was at least a gentleman, and, to all appearances, 
respectable in his living and nice in his tastes. But 
he was not the man I had dwelt on in my dreams; 
and while I accepted him (it was not possible to do 
anything else, with my aunt controlling every action, 
if not every thought), I cared so little for Mr. 
Sinclair himself that I forgot to ask if his many 
attentions were the result of any real feeling on his 
part, or only such as he considered due to the woman 



THE AMETHYST BOX 299 

he expected to make his wife. You see what girls 
are. How I despise myself now for this miserable 
frivolity ! 

" All this time I knew that I was not my aunt's 
only niece; that Dorothy Camerden, whom I had 
never met, was as closely related to her as myself. 
True to her heartless code, my aunt had placed us 
in separate schools, and not till she found that I was 
to leave her, and that soon there would be nobody to 
see that her dresses were bought with discretion, and 
her person attended to with something like care, did 
she send for Dorothy. I shall never forget my first 
impression of her. I had been told that I need not 
expect much in the way of beauty and style, but from 
my first glimpse of her dear face I saw that my soul's 
friend had come, and that, marriage or no marriage, 
I need never be solitary again. 

u I do not think I made as favourable an impres- 
sion on my cousin as she did on me. Dorothy was 
new to elaborate dressing and to all the follies of 
fashionable life, and her look had more of awe than 
expectation in it. But I gave her a hearty kiss, and 
in a week she was as brilliantly equipped as myself. 

" I loved her, but, from blindness of eye or an 
overwhelming egotism which God has certainly pun- 
ished, I did not consider her beautiful. This I 
must acknowledge to you, if only to complete my 
humiliation. I never imagined for a moment, even 
after I became the daily witness of your many atten- 
tions to her, that it was on her account you visited 
the house so often. I had been so petted and spoiled 



300 THE AMETHYST BOX 

since entering society that I thought you were kind 
to her simply because honour forbade you to be too 
kind to me; and under this delusion / confided my 
folly to Dorothy. 

" You will have many a talk with her in the future, 
and some day she may succeed in proving to you that 
it was vanity and not badness of heart which led me 
to misunderstand your feelings. Having repressed 
my own impulses so long, I saw in your reticence 
the evidences of a like struggle; and when, immedi- 
ately upon my break with Mr. Sinclair, you entered 

here and said the words you did Well, we 

have finished with this subject for ever. 

" The explanations which I gave below of the part 
I played in my aunt's death were true. I only 
omitted one detail, which you may consider a very 
important one. The fact which paralysed my hand 
and voice when I saw her lift the drop of death to 
her lips was this: I had meant to die by this drop 
myself, in Dorothy's room, and with Dorothy's arms 
about me. This was my secret a secret which no 
one can blame me for keeping as long as I could, 
and one which I should hardly have the courage to 
disclose to you now if I had not already parted with 
it to the coroner, who would not credit my story till 
I had told him the whole truth." 

" Gilbertine," I urged, for I saw her fingers clos- 
ing upon the knob she had held lightly till now, " do 
not go till I have said this. A young girl does not 
always know the demands of her own nature. The 
heart you have ignored is one in a thousand. Do 



THE AMETHYST BOX 301 

not let it slip from you. God never gives a woman 
such a love twice." 

" I know it," she murmured, and turned the knob. 

I thought she was gone, and let the sigh which 
had been labouring at my breast have vent, when 
I caught one last word whispered from the threshold : 

" Throw back the shutters and let in the light. 
Dorothy is coming. I am going now to call her." 

An hour had passed, the hour of hours for me, for 
in it the sun of my happiness rose full-orbed, and 
Dorothy and I came to understand each other. We 
were sitting hand in hand in this blessed little 
boudoir, when suddenly she turned her sweet face 
toward me and gently remarked: 

"This seems like selfishness on our part; but 
Gilbertine insisted. Do you know what she is doing 
now? Helping old Mrs. Cummings and holding 
Mrs. Barnstable's baby while her maid packs. She 
will work like that all day, and with a smile, too. 
Oh, it is a rich nature, an ideal nature. I think we 
can trust her now." 

I did not like to discuss Gilbertine, even with 
Dorothy, so I said nothing. But she was too full 
of her theme to stop. I think she wished to un- 
burden her mind once and for ever of all that had 
disturbed it. 

" Our aunt's death," she continued, " will be a sort 
of emancipation for her. I don't think you, or any 
one out of our immediate household, can realise the 
control which Aunt Hannah exerted over every one 
who came within her daily influence. It would have 



302 THE AMETHYST BOX 

been the same had she occupied a dependent position 
instead of being the wealthy autocrat she was. In 
her cold nature dwelt an imperiousness which no one 
could withstand. You know how her friends, some 
of them as rich and influential as herself, bowed to 
her will and submitted to her interference. What, 
then, could you expect from two poor girls entirely 
dependent upon her for everything they enjoyed? 
XJJilbertine, with all her spirit, could not face Aunt 
Hannah's frown, while I studied to have no wishes. 
Had this been otherwise, had we found a friend in- 
stead of a tyrant in the woman who took us into 
her home, Gilbertine might have gained more control 
over her feelings. It was the necessity she felt of 
smothering her natural impulses, and of maintaining 
in the house and before the world an appearance of 
satisfaction in her position as bride-elect, which 
caused her to fall into such extremes of despondency 
and deep despair. Her self-respect was shocked. 
She felt she was a living lie, and hated herself in 
consequence. 

" You may think I did wrong not to tell her of 
your affection for myself, especially after what you 
whispered into my ear that night at the theatre. I 
did do wrong; I see it now. She was really a 
stronger woman than I thought, and we might all 
have been saved the horrors which have befallen us 
had I acted with more firmness at that time. But I 
was weak and frightened. I held you back and let 
her go on deceiving herself, which meant deceiving 
Mr. Sinclair, too. I thought, when she found her- 



THE AMETHYST BOX 303 

self really married and settled in her own home, she 
would find it easier to forget, and that soon, perhaps 
very soon, all this would seem like a troubled dream 
to her. And there was reason for this hope on my 
part. She showed a woman's natural interest in her 
outfit and the plans for her new house, but when 
she heard you were to be Mr. Sinclair's best man 
every feminine instinct within her rebelled, and it 
was with difficulty she could prevent herself from 
breaking out into a loud ' No ! ' in face of aunt and 
lover. From this moment on her state of mind grew 
desperate. In the parlour, at the theatre, she was 
the brilliant girl whom all admired and many en- 
vied; but in my little room at night she would bury 
her face in my lap and talk of death, till I moved in 
a constant atmosphere of dread. Yet, because she 
looked gay and laughed, I turned a like face to the 
world and laughed also. We felt it was expected 
of us, and the very nervous tension we were under 
made these ebullitions easy. But I did not laugh so 
much after coming here. One night I found her 
out of her bed long after every one else had retired 
for the night. Next morning Mr. Beaton told a 
dream I hope it was a dream but it frightened 
me. Then came that moment when Mr. Sinclair 
displayed the amethyst box and explained with such 
a nonchalant air how a drop from the little flask 
inside would kill a person. A toy, but so deadly! 
I felt the thrill which shot like lightning through 
her, and made up my mind she should never have 
the opportunity of touching that box. And that is 



304 THE AMETHYST BOX 

why I stole into the library, took it down and hid 
it in my hair. I never thought to look inside; I 
did not pause to think that it was the flask and not 
the box she wanted, and consequently felt convinced 
of her safety so long as I kept the latter successfully 
concealed in my hair. You know the rest." 

Yes, I knew it. How she opened the box in 
her room and found it empty. How she flew to 
Gilbertine's room, and, finding the door unlocked, 
looked in, and saw Miss Lane lying there asleep, 
but no Gilbertine. How her alarm grew at this, 
and how, forgetting that her cousin often stole to 
her room by means of the connecting balcony, she 
had wandered over the house in the hope of coming 
upon Gilbertine in one of the downstairs rooms. 
How her mind misgave her before she had entered 
the great hall, and how she turned back only to hear 
that awful scream go up as she was setting foot upon 
the spiral stair. I had heard it all before, and could 
imagine her terror and dismay; and why she found 
it impossible to proceed any further, but clung to the 
stair-rail, half alive and half dead, till she was found 
there by those seeking her, and taken up to her aunt's 
room. But she never told me, and I do not yet 
know, what her thoughts or feelings were when, in- 
stead of seeing her cousin outstretched in death on 
the bed they led her to, she beheld the lifeless figure 
of her aunt. The reserve she maintained on this 
point has always been respected by me. Let it con- 
tinue to be so. 

When, therefore, she said, " You know thr rest/' 



THE AMETHYST BOX 305 

I took her in my arms and gave her my first kiss. 
Then I softly released her, and by tacit consent we 
each went our way for that day. 

Mine took me into the hall below, which was all 
alive with the hum of departing guests. Beaton was 
among them, and as he stepped out on the porch 
I gave him a parting hand-clasp, and quietly 
whispered : 

" When all dark things are made light, you will 
find that there was both more and less to your dream 
than you were inclined to make out." 

He bowed, and that was the last word which ever 
passed between us on this topic. 

But what chiefly impressed me in connection with 
this afternoon's events was the short talk I had with 
Sinclair. I fear I forced this talk, but I could 
not let the dreary day settle into still drearier night 
without making clear to him a point which, in the 
new position he held toward Gilbertine, if not to- 
ward myself, might seem to be involved in some 
doubt. When, therefore, the opportunity came, I 
accosted him with these words : 

" It is not a very propitious time for me to intrude 
my personal affairs upon you, but I feel as if I should 
like you to know that the clouds have been cleared 
away between Dorothy and myself, and that some 
day we expect to marry." 

He gave me the earnest look of a man who has 
recovered his one friend. Then he grasped my hand 
warmly, saying, with something like his old fervour: 

" You deserve all the happiness that awaits you. 



306 THE AMETHYST BOX 

Mine is gone; but if I can regain it I will. Trust 
me for that, Worthington." 

The coroner, who had seen much of life and 
human nature, managed with much discretion the 
inquest he felt bound to hold. Mrs. Lansing was 
found to have come to her death by a meddlesome 
interference with one of her niece's wedding trinkets ; 
and, as every one acquainted with Mrs. Lansing knew 
her to be quite capable of such an act of malicious 
folly, the verdict was duly accepted, and the real 
heart of this tragedy closed for ever from every 
human eye. 

As we were leaving Newport Sinclair stepped up 
to me. 

u I have reason to know," said he, " that Mrs. 
Lansing's bequests will be a surprise, not only to 
her nieces, but to the world at large. Let me advise 
you to announce your engagement before reaching 
New York." 

I followed his advice, and in a few days under- 
stood why it had been given. All the vast property 
owned by this woman had been left to Dorothy. 
Gilbertine had been cut off without a cent. 

We never knew Mrs. Lansing's reason for this 
act. Gilbertine had always been considered her fa- 
vourite, and, had the will been a late one, it would 
have been generally thought that she had left her 
thus unprovided for solely in consideration of the 
great match which she expected her to make. But 
the will was dated back several years long before 
Gilbertine had met Mr. Sinclair, long before either 



THE AMETHYST BOX 307 

niece had come to live with Mrs. Lansing in New 
York. Had it always been the latter's wish, then, 
to enrich the one and slight the other? It would 
seem so ; but why should the slighted one have been 
Gilbertine? 

The only explanation I ever heard given was the 
partiality which Mrs. Lansing felt for Dorothy's 
mother, or, rather, her lack of affection for Gilber- 
tine's. Whether or not this is the true one, the 
discrimination she showed in her will put poor 
Gilbertine in a very unfortunate position. At least, 
it would have done so if Sinclair, with an adroit- 
ness worthy of his love, had not proved to her 
that a break at this time in their supposed relations 
would reflect most seriously upon his disinterested- 
ness, and thus secured for himself opportunities for 
urging his suit which ended, as such opportunities 
often do, in a renewal of their engagement. But this 
time with mutual love as its basis. This was evi- 
dent to any one who saw them together. But how 
the magic was wrought how this hard-to-be-won 
heart learned at last its true allegiance I did not 
know till later, and then it was told me by Gilber- 
tine herself. 

I had been married for some months and she for 
some weeks, when one evening chance threw us to- 
gether. Instantly, and as if she had waited for this 
hour, she turned upon me with the beautiful smile 
which has been hers ever since her new happiness 
came to her, and said: 

" You once gave me some very good advice, Mr. 



308 THE AMETHYST BOX 

Worthington ; but it was not that which led me to 
realise Mr. Sinclair's affection. It was a short con- 
versation which passed between us on the day my 
aunt's will was read. Do you remember my turning 
to speak to him the moment after that word all fell 
from the lawyer's lips? " 

" Yes, Mrs. Sinclair." 

Alas ! did I not ! It was one of the most poignant 
memories of my life. The look she gave him and 
the look he gave her ! Indeed, I did remember. 

" It was to ask him one question a question to 
which misfortune only could have given so much 
weight. Had my aunt taken him into her confidence ? 
Had he known that I had no place in her will? 
His answer was very simple ; a single word, ' Al- 
ways.' But after that do I need to say why I am a 
wife why I am his wife? " 



THE GREY LADY 



WAS it a spectre? 

For days I could not answer this question. I am 

no believer in spiritual manifestations, yet But 

let me tell my story. 

I was lodging with my wife on the first floor of 
a house in Twenty-seventh Street. I had taken the 
apartments for three months, and we had already 
lived in them two and found them sufficiently com- 
fortable. The back room we used as a bedroom, 
and as we received but few friends, the two great 
leaves of old mahogany connecting the rooms, usually 
stood wide open. 

One morning, my wife being ill, I left her lying in 
bed and stepped into the parlour preparatory to 
going out for breakfast. It was late nine o'clock 
probably and I was hastening to leave, when I 
heard a sound behind me or did I merely feel a 
presence? and, turning, saw a strange and totally 
unknown woman coming toward me from my 
wife's room. 

As I had just left that room, and as there was no 
other way of entrance save through a door we 
always kept locked, I was so overpowered by my 
astonishment that I never thought of speaking or 
moving until she had passed me. Then I found 
voice, and calling out " Madam! " endeavoured to 
stop her. 

But the madam, if madam she was, passed on as 
311 



3 i2 THE GREY LADY 

quietly, as mechanically even, as if I had not raised 
my voice, and before I could grasp the fact that 
she was melting from before me flitted through the 
hall to the front door and so out, leaving behind on 
the palm of my hand the " feel " of her wool dress, 
which I had just managed to touch. 

Not understanding her or myself or the strange 
thrill awakened by this contact, I tore open the front 
door and looked out, expecting, of course, to see her 
on the steps or on the sidewalk in front. But there 
was no one of her appearance visible, and I came 
back questioning whether I was the victim of a hal- 
lucination or just an everyday fool. To satisfy my- 
self on this important question I looked about for the 
hallboy, with the intention of asking him if he had 
seen any such person go out, but that young and 
inconsequent scamp was missing from his post 
as usual and there was no one within sight to ap- 
peal to. 

There was nothing to do but to re-enter my rooms, 
where my attention was immediately arrested by the 
sight of my wife sitting up in bed and surveying me 
with a look of unmistakable astonishment. 

"Who was that woman?" she asked. "And 
how came she in here? " 

So she had seen her too. 

" What woman, Lydia ? I have not let in any 
woman. Did you think there was a woman in this 
room? " 

" Not in that room," she answered hoarsely, " but 
in this one. I saw her just now passing through the 



THE GREY LADY 313 

folding doors. Wilbur, I am frightened. See how 
my hands shake. Do you think I am sick enough to 
imagine things? " 

I knew she was not, but I did not say so. I 
thought it would be better for her to think herself 
under some such delusion. 

" You were dozing," said I. " If you had seen 
a woman here you could tell me how she looked." 

" And I can," my wife broke in excitedly. " She 
was like the ghosts we read of, only that her dress 
and the veil or drapery she wore were all grey. 
Didn't you see her? You must have seen her. She 
went right by you a grey woman, all grey; a lady, 
Wilbur, and slightly lame. Could I have dreamed 
all that?" 

" You must have I " I protested, shaking the door 
leading directly into the hall so she might see it was 
locked, and even showing her the key to it lying 
in its accustomed place behind the bureau cushion. 
Yet I was in no satisfied condition myself, for she 
had described with the greatest accuracy the very 
person I had myself seen. Had we been alike the 
victims of a spiritual manifestation? 

This was Tuesday. On Friday my question 
seemed to receive an answer. I had been downtown, 
as usual, and on returning found a crowd assembled 
in front of my lodging-house. A woman had been 
run over and was being carried into our rooms. In 
the glimpse I caught of her I saw that she was mid- 
dle-aged and was wrapped in a long black cloak. 
Later this cloak fell off, as her hat had done long 



3H THE GREY LADY 

before, and I perceived that her dress was black and 
decent. 

She was laid on our bed and every attention paid 
her. But she had been grievously injured about the 
head and gradually but surely sank before our eyes. 
Suddenly she roused and gave a look about her. It 
was a remarkable one a look of recognition and al- 
most of delight. Then she raised one hand and, 
pointing with a significant gesture into the empty 
space before her, sank back and died. 

It was a sudden ending, and, anxious to see its 
effect upon my wife, who was standing on the other 
side of the bed, I glanced her way with some mis- 
giving. She showed more feeling than I had antici- 
pated. Indeed her countenance was a study, and 
when, under the influence of my scrutiny, she glanced 
my way, I saw that something of deeper import than 
this unexpected death in our rooms lay at the bottom 
of her uneasy look. 

What that was I was soon to know, for catching 
up from amid the folds of the woman's grey-lined 
cloak a long grey veil which had fallen at the bed- 
side, she disposed it softly about the woman's face, 
darting me a look full of significance. 

" You remember the vision I had the morning 
when I was sick? " she whispered softly in my ear. 

I nodded, secretly thrilled to my very heart's 
core. 

" Well, it was a vision of this woman. If she 
were living and on her feet and wrapped, as I have 



THE GREY LADY 315 

shown you, in this veil, you would behold a living 
picture of the person I saw passing out of this room 
that morning." 

"I shall not dispute you," I answered. Alas! I 
had myself perceived the likeness the instant the 
veil had fallen about the pinched but handsome 
features ! 

"A forewarning," whispered my wife; " a fore- 
warning of what has this day happened under our 
roof. It was a wraith we saw. Wilbur, I shall not 
spend another night in these rooms." 

And we did not. I was as anxious to leave as 
she was. Yet I am not a superstitious man. As 
proof of it, after the first effect of these events had 
left me I began to question my first impressions and 
feel tolerably ashamed of my past credulity. 
Though the phenomenon we had observed could not 
to all appearance be explained by any natural 
hypothesis ; though I had seen, and my wife had seen, 
a strange woman suddenly become visible in a room 
which a moment before had held no one but our- 
selves, and into which no live woman could have 
entered without our knowledge, something was it 
my natural good sense? recoiled before a super- 
natural explanation of this, and I found my- 
self forced to believe that our first visitor had 
been as real as the last; in other words, the same 
woman. 

But could I prove it? Could the seemingly impos- 
sible be made possible and the unexplainable receive 
a solution satisfying to a rational mind? I deter- 



3i6 THE GREY LADY 

mined to make an effort to accomplish this, if only 
to relieve the mind of my wife, who had not recov- 
ered her equanimity as readily as myself. 

Starting with the assumption above mentioned 
that the woman who had died in our presence was the 
same who had previously found an unexplainable en- 
trance into our rooms I first inquired if the black 
cloak lined with grey did not offer a solution to 
some of my previous difficulties. It was a long 
cloak, enveloping her completely. When worn with 
the black side out she would present an incon- 
spicuous appearance, but with the grey side out and 
the effect of this heightened by a long grey veil 
hung over her hat, she would look like the grey lady 
I had first seen. Now, a cloak can be turned in an 
instant, and if she had chosen to do this in flitting 
through my door I would naturally find only a 
sedate, black-clothed woman passing up the street, 
when, rousing from the apathy into which her ap- 
pearance had thrown me, I rushed to the front door 
and looked out. Had I seen such a woman? I 
seemed to remember that I had. 

Thus much, then, was satisfactory, but to account 
for her entrance into our rooms was not so easy- 
Had she slipped by me in coming in as she had on 
going out? The parlour door was open, for I had 
been out to get the paper. Could she have glided 
in by me unperceived and thus found her way into 
the bedroom from which I afterward saw her issue? 
No, for I had stood facing the front hall door all the 
time. Through the bedroom door, then? But that 



THE GREY LADY 31? 

was, as I have said, locked. Here, then, was a mys- 
tery; but it was one worth solving. 

My first step was to recall all that I had heard 
of the actual woman who had been buried from our 
rooms. Her name, as ascertained in the cheap 
boarding-house to which she was traced, was Hel- 
muth, and she was, so far as any one knew, without 
friends or relatives in the city. To those who saw 
her daily she was a harmless, slightly demented 
woman with money enough to live above want, but 
not enough to warrant her boasting talk about the 
rich things she was going to buy some day and the 
beautiful presents she would soon be in a position to 
give away. The money found on her person was 
sutiicient to bury her, but no papers were in her pos- 
session nor any letters calculated to throw light upon 
her past life. 

Her lameness had been caused by paralysis, but 
the date of her attack was not known. 

Finding no clue in this to what I wished to learn, 
I went back to our old rooms, which had not been 
let since our departure, and sought for one there, 
and, strangely enough, found it. I thought I knew 
everything there was to be known about the apart- 
ment we had lived in two months, but one little fact 
had escaped me which, under the scrutiny that I now 
gave it, became apparent. This was simply that 
the key which opened the hall door of the bedroom 
and which we had seldom if ever used was not as old 
a key as that of the corresponding door in the par- 



3 i8 THE GREY LADY 

lour, and this fact, small as it was, led me to make 
inquiries. 

The result was that I learned something about the 
couple who had preceded us in the use of these rooms. 
They were of middle age and of great personal ele- 
gance but uncertain pay, the husband being nothing 
more nor less than a professional gambler. Their 
name was L'Hommedieu. 

When I first heard of them I thought that Mrs. 
L'Hommedieu might be the Mrs. Helmuth in whose 
history I was so interested, but from all I could learn 
she was a very different sort of person. Mrs. 
L'Hommedieu was gay, dashing, and capable of mak- 
ing a show out of flimsy silk a shopgirl would hesi- 
tate to wear. Yet she looked distinguished and wore 
her cheap jewelry with more grace than many a 
woman her diamonds. I would, consequently, have 
dropped this inquiry if some one had not remarked 
upon her having had a paralytic stroke after leaving 
the house. This, together with the fact that the 
key to the rear door, which I had found replaced by 
a new one, had been taken away by her and never 
returned, connected her so indubitably with my mys- 
terious visitor that I resolved to pursue my investiga- 
tions into Mrs. L'Hommedieu's past. 

For this purpose I sought out a quaint little maiden 
lady living on the top floor who, I was told, knew 
more about the L'Hommedieus than any one in the 
building. Miss Winterburn, whose acquaintance I 
had failed to make while residing in the house, was 
a fluttering, eager, affable person whose one delight 



THE GREY LADY 319 

was, as I soon found, to talk about the L'Homme- 
dieus. Of the story she related I give as much of 
it as possible in her own words. 

" I was never their equal," said she, " but Mrs. 
L'Hommedieu was lonely, and, having no friends in 
town, was good enough to admit me to her parlour 
now and then and even to allow me to accompany 
her to the theatre when her husband was away on 
one of his mysterious visits. I never liked Mr. 
L'Hommedieu, but I did like her. She was so dif- 
ferent from me, and, when I first knew her, so gay 
and so full of conversation. But after a while she 
changed and was either feverishly cheerful or mor- 
bidly sad, so that my visits caused me more pain than 
pleasure. The reason for these changes in her was 
patent to everybody. Though her husband was a 
handsome man, he was as unprincipled as he was 
unfortunate. He gambled. This she once admitted 
to me, and while at long intervals he met with some 
luck he more often returned dispirited and with that 
hungry, ravaging look you expect to see in a wolf 
cheated of its prey. 

" I used to be afraid he would strike her after 
some one of these disappointments, but I do not 
think he ever did. She had a determined character 
of her own, and there have been times when I have 
thought he was as much afraid of her as she was of 
him. I became sure of this after one night. Mrs. 
L'Hommedieu and myself were having a little sup- 
per together in the front parlour you have so lately 
occupied. It was a very ordinary supper, for the 



320 THE GREY LADY 

L'Hommedieus' purse had run low, and Mrs. 
L'Hommedieu was not the woman to spend much at 
any time on her eating. It was palatable, however, 
and I would have enjoyed it greatly, if Mrs. 
L'Hommedieu had shown more appetite. But she 
ate scarcely anything and seemed very anxious and 
unhappy, though she laughed now and then with sud- 
den gusts of mirth too hysterical to be real. It was 
not late, and yet we were both very much surprised 
when there came a knock at the door, followed by 
the entrance of a visitor. 

" Mrs. L'Hommedieu, who was always la grande 
dame, rose without apparent embarrassment to meet 
the gentleman who entered, though I knew she could 
not help but feel keenly the niggardly appearance of 
the board she left with such grace. The stranger 
he was certainly a stranger; this I could see by the 
formality of her manner was a gentleman of ur- 
bane bearing and a general air of prosperity. 

" I remember every word that passed. 
' ' My name is Lafarge,' said he. ' I am, or 
rather have been, under great obligations to your 
husband, and I have come to discharge my debt. Is 
he at home?' 

" Mrs. L'Hommedieu's eye, which had sparkled 
at his name, dropped suddenly as he put the final 
question. 

" * I am sorry,' she returned after a moment of 
embarrassment, ' but my husband is very seldom 
home evenings. If you will come about noon some 
d ay ' 



THE GREY LADY 321 

1 Thank you,' said he, with a bright smile, ' but 
I will finish my business now and with you, seeing that 
Mr. L'Hommedieu is not at home. Years ago I 
am sure you have heard your husband mention my 
name I borrowed quite a sum of money from him, 
which I have never paid. You recall the amount, no 
doubt?' 

' ' I have heard Mr. L'Hommedieu say it was a 
thousand dollars,' she replied, with a sudden flutter- 
ing of her hands indicative of great excitement. 

' That is the sum,' he allowed, either not noticing 
me or thinking me too insignificant to be considered. 
' I regret to have kept him so long out of it, but I 
have not forgotten to add the interest in making out 
this statement of my indebtedness, and if you will 
look over this paper and acknowledge its correctness 
I will leave the equivalent of my debt here and now, 
for I sail for Europe to-morrow morning and wish 
to have all my affairs in order before leaving.' 

" Mrs. L'Hommedieu, who looked ready to faint 
from excess of feeling, summoned up her whole 
strength, looking so beautiful as she did so that one 
forgot the ribbons on her sleeves were no longer 
fresh and that the silk dress she wore hung in the 
very limpest of folds. 

" ' I am obliged to you,' she said in a tone from 
which she strove in vain to suppress all eagerness. 
4 And if I can speak for Mr. L'Hommedieu he will 
be as grateful for your remembrance of us as for the 
money you so kindly offer to return to him.' 

" The stranger bowed low and took ut a folded 



322 THE GREY LADY 

paper, which he handed to her. He was not de- 
ceived, I am sure, by her grand airs, and knew as 
well as I did that no woman ever stood in greater 
need of money. But nothing in his manner betrayed 
this knowledge. 

' It is a bond I give you,' he now explained. 
' As you will see, it has coupons attached to it which 
you can cash at any time. It will prove as valuable 
to you as so much ready money and possibly more 
convenient.' 

" And with just this hint, which I took as signifi- 
cant of his complete understanding of her position, he 
took her receipt and politely left the house. 

" Once alone with me, who am nobody, her joy 
had full vent. I have never seen any one so lost in 
delight as she was for a few minutes. To have this 
money thrust upon her just at a moment when actual 
want seemed staring her in the face was too much of 
a relief for her to conceal either the misery she had 
been under or the satisfaction she now enjoyed. 
Under the gush of her emotions her whole history 
came out, but as you have often heard the like I will 
not repeat it, especially as it was all contained in 
the cry with which a little later she thrust the bond 
into my hand. 

" * He must not see it! He must not! It would 
go like all the rest, and I should again be left without 
a cent. Take it and keep it, for I have no means of 
concealing it here. He is too suspicious.' 

" But this was asking more than I was willing to 
grant. Seeing how I felt, she took the paper back 



THE GREY LADY 323 

and concealed it in her bosom with a look I had 
rather not have seen. ' You will not charge yourself 
with such a responsibility,' said she. ' But I can trust 
you not to tell him? ' 

' Yes,' I nodded, feeling sick of the whole busi- 
ness. 

4 Then ' But here the door was violently 

flung open and Mr. L'Hommedieu burst into the 
room in a state of as much excitement as his wife, 
only his was the excitement of desperation. 

' * Gone 1 Gone ! ' he cried, ignoring me as com- 
pletely as Mr. Lafarge had done. ' Not a dollar 
left; not even my studs! See! ' And he pointed to 
his shirt-front hanging apart in a way I would never 
have looked for in this reckless but fastidious gentle- 
man. ' Yet if I had had a dollar more or even a ring 

worth a dollar or so, I might have Theresa, 

have you any money at all? A coin now might save 
us.' 

" Mrs. L'Hommedieu, who had turned alarmingly 
pale, drew up her fine figure and resolutely con- 
fronted him. ' No ! ' said she, and shifting her gaze 
she turned it meaningly upon me. 

" He misunderstood this movement. Thinking it 
simply a reminder of my presence, he turned, with 
his false but impressive show of courtesy, and made 
me a low bow. Then he forgot me utterly again, 
and, facing his wife, growled out: 

" 'Where are you going to get breakfast then? 
You don't look like a woman who expects to starve 1 ' 

" It was a fatal remark, for, do what she would, 



324 THE GREY LADY 

she could not prevent a slight smile of disdain, and, 
seeing it, he kept his eye riveted on her face till her 
uneasiness became manifest. Instantly his suspicion 
took form, and, surveying her still more fixedly, he 
espied a corner of the precious envelope protruding 
slightly above her corsage. To snatch it out, open 
it, and realise its value was the work of a moment. 
Her cry of dismay and his shout of triumph rang 
out simultaneously, and never have I seen such an 
ebullition of opposing passions as I was made wit- 
ness to as his hand closed over this small fortune 
and their staring eyes met in the moral struggle they 
had now entered upon for its ultimate possession. 

" She was the first to speak. ' It was given to me, 
it was meant for me. If I keep it both of us will 
profit by it, but if you 

" He did not wait for her to finish. ' Where did 
you get it? ' he cried. ' I can break the bank with 
what I can raise on this bond at the club. Dar- 
raugh's in town. You know what that means. 

Luck's in the air, and with a hundred dollars 

But I've no time to talk. I came for a dollar, a 
fifty-cent piece, a dime even, and go back with a bond 
worth ' 

" But she was already between him and the door. 
4 You will never carry that bond out of this house/ 
she whispered in the tone which goes further than a 
cry. * I have not held it in my hand to see it follow 
every other good thing I have had in life. I will 
not, Henry. Take that bond and sink it as you have 
all the rest and I fall at your feet a dead woman. I 



THE GREY LADY 325 

will never survive the destruction of my last hope.' 

"He was cowed for a moment, that is; she 
looked so superb and so determined. Then all that 
was mean and despicable in his thinly veneered na- 
ture came to the surface, and, springing forward 
with an oath, he was about to push her aside, when, 
without the moving of a finger on her part, he reeled 
back, recovered himself, caught at a chair, missed it, 
and fell heavily to the floor. 

1 ' My God, I thank thee ! ' was the exclamation 
with which she broke from the trance of terror into 
which she had been thrown by his sudden attempt to 
pass her; and without a glance at his face, which to 
me looked like the face of a dead man, she tore the 
paper from his hand and stood looking about her 
with a wild and searching gaze, in the desperate hope 
that somehow the walls would open and offer her 
a safe place of concealment for the precious sheet of 
paper. 

" Meanwhile I had crept near the prostrate man. 
He was breathing, but was perfectly unconscious. 

' ' Don't you mean to do something for him? ' 
I asked. * He may die.' 

" She met my question with the dazed air of one 
suddenly awakened. * No, he'll not die ; but he'll not 
come to for some minutes, and this must be hidden 
first. But where? where? I cannot trust it on my 
person or in any place a man like him would search. 
I must devise some means ah 1 ' 

" With this final exclamation she had dashed into 
the other room. I did not see where she went I did 



326 THE GREY LADY 

not want to but I soon realised she was working 
somewhere in a desperate hurry. I could hear her 
breath coming in quick, short pants as I bent over 
her husband, waiting for him to rouse and hating my 
inaction even while I succumbed to it. 

" Suddenly she was back in the parlour again, and 
to my surprise passed immediately to the little table 
in the corner where we had sat at supper. We had 
had for our simple refreshment that homeliest of 
all dishes, boiled milk thickened with flour. There 
was still some left in a bowl, and taking this away 
with her she called back hoarsely: 

" ' Pray that he does not come to till I have fin- 
ished. It will be the best prayer you ever made.' 

" She told me afterward that he was subject to 
these attacks and that she had long ceased to be 
alarmed by them. But to me the sight of that man 
lying there so helpless was horrible, and, though I 
hated him and pitied her, I scarcely knew what to 
wish. While battling with my desire to run and the 
feeling of loyalty which held me kneeling at that 
man's side, I heard her speak again, this time in an 
even and slightly hard tone : * Now you may dash a 
glass of cold water in his face. I am prepared to 
meet him now. Happily his memory fails after these 
attacks. I may succeed in making him believe that 
the bond he saw was one of his fancies.' 

" * Had you not better throw the water yourself? ' 
I suggested, getting up and meeting her eye very 
quietly. 

" She looked at me in wonder, then moved calmly 



THE GREY LADY 327 

to the table, took the glass, and dashed a few drops 
of water into her husband's face. Instantly he be- 
gan to stir, seeing which I arose without haste, but 
without any unnecessary delay, and quickly took my 
leave. I could bear no more that night. 

" Next morning I awoke in a fright. I had 
dreamed that he had come to my room in search of 
the bond. But it was only her knock at the door 
and her voice asking if she might enter at this early 
hour. It was such a relief I gladly let her in, and 
she entered with her best air and flung herself on my 
little lounge with the hysterical cry: 

' ' He has sent me up. I told him I ought not to 
intrude at such an inconvenient hour; that you would 
not have had your breakfast.' (How carelessly she 
spoke ! How hard she tried to keep the hungry note 
out of her voice!) ' But he insisted on my coming 
up. I know why. He searched me before I left 
the room, and now he wants to search the room 
itself.' 

" ' Then he did remember? ' I began. 

" ' Yes, he remembers now. I saw it in his eyes as 
soon as he awoke. But he will not find the bond. 
That is safe, and some day when I have escaped his 
vigilance long enough to get it back again I will use 
it so as to make him comfortable as well as myself. 
I am not a selfish woman.' 

" I did not think she was, and felt pity for her, 
and so after dressing and making her a cup of tea, I 
sat down with her, and we chatted for an hour or so 
quite comfortably. Then she grew so restless and 



328 THE GREY LADY 

consulted the clock so often that I tried to soothe 
her by remarking that it was not an easy task he had 
set himself, at which she laughed in a mysterious 
way, but failed to grow less anxious till our suspense 
was cut short by the appearance of the janitor with 
a message from Mr. L'Hommedieu. 

1 ' Mr. L'Hommedieu's compliments,' said he, 
1 and he hopes Mrs. L'Hommedieu will make herself 
comfortable and not think of coming down. He is 
doing everything that is necessary and will soon be 
through. You can rest quite easy, ma'am.' 

'What does he mean?' marvelled the poor 
woman as the janitor disappeared. * Is he spending 
all this time ransacking the rooms? I wish I dared 
disobey him. I wish I dared go down.' 

" But her courage was not equal to an open dis- 
regard of his wishes, and she had to subdue her impa- 
tience and wait for a summons that did not come 
till near two o'clock. Then Mr. L'Hommedieu him- 
self appeared with her hat and mantle on his arm. 

1 ' My dear,' said he as she rose, haggard with 
excitement, to meet him, ' I have brought your wraps 
with me that you may go directly from here to our 
new home. Shall I assist you to put them on? You 
do not look as well as usual, and that is why I have 
undertaken this thing all myself to save you, my 
dear; to save you each and every exertion.' 

" I had flung out my arms to catch her, for I 
thought she was going to faint, but she did not, 
though I think it would have been better for her if 
she had. 



THE GREY LADY 329 

" * We are going to leave this house ? ' she asked, 
speaking very slowly and with a studied lack of emo- 
tion that imposed upon nobody. 

' * I have said so,' he smiled. ' The dray has 
already taken away the half of our effects, and the 
rest will follow at Mrs. Latimer's convenience.' 

" ' Ah, I understand ! ' she replied, with a gasp of 
relief significant of her fear that by some super- 
human cunning he had found the bond she thought 
so safely concealed. ' I was wondering how Mrs. 
Latimer came to allow us to leave.' (I tell you they 
always talked as if I were not present.) ' Our goods 
are left as a surety, it seems.' 

1 ' Half of our goods,' he blandly corrected. 

* Would it interest you to know which half? ' 

" The cunning of this insinuation was matched 
by the imperturbable shrug with which she replied, 

* So a bed has been allowed us and some clothes I 
am satisfied,' at which he bit his lips, vexed at her 
self-control and his own failure to break it. 

" ' You have not asked where we are going,' he 
observed, as with apparent solicitude he threw her 
mantle over her shoulders. 

" The air of lassitude with which she replied be- 
spoke her feeling on that point. ' I have little curi- 
osity,' she said. ' You know I can be happy any- 
where.' And, turning toward me, she moved her 
lips in a way I interpreted to mean : * Go below with 
me. See me out.' 

' ' Say what you have to say to Miss Winterburn 
aloud,' he drily suggested. 



330 THE GREY LADY 

" * I have nothing to say to Miss Winterburn but 
thanks,' was her cold reply, belied, however, by the 
trembling of her fingers as she essayed to fit on her 
gloves. 

" ' And those I will receive below ! ' I cried, with 
affected gaiety. * I am going down with you to the 
door.' And resolutely ignoring his frown I tripped 
down before them. On the last stair I felt her steps 
lagging. Instantly I seemed to comprehend what 
was required of me, and, rushing forward, I entered 
the front parlour. He followed close behind me, 
for how could he know I was not in collusion with 
her to regain the bond? This gave her one minute 
by herself in the rear, and in that minute she secured 
the key which would give her future access to the 
spot where her treasure lay hidden. 

" The rest of the story I must give you mainly 
from hearsay. You must understand by this time 
what Mr. L'Hommedieu's scheme was in moving so 
suddenly. He knew that it would be impossible for 
him, by the most minute and continuous watchful- 
ness, to prevent his wife from recovering the bond 
while they continued to inhabit the rooms in which, 
notwithstanding his failure to find it, he had reason to 
believe it still lay concealed. But once in other quar- 
ters it would be comparatively easy for him to sub- 
ject her to a surveillance which not only would pre- 
vent her from returning to this house without his 
knowledge, but would lead her to give away her 
secret by the very natural necessity she would be 



THE GREY LADY 331 

under of going to the exact spot where her treasure 
lay hid. 

" It was a cunning plot and showed him to be as 
able as he was unscrupulous. How it worked I will 
now proceed to tell you. It must have been the next 
afternoon that the janitor came running up to me 
I suppose he had learned by this time that I had 
more than ordinary interest in these people to say 
that Mrs. L'Hommedieu had been in the house and 
had been so frightened by a man who had followed 
her that she had fainted dead away on the floor. 
Would I go down to her? 

" I had rather have gone anywhere else, unless it 
was to prison; but duty cannot be shirked, and I 
followed the man down. But we were too late. 
Mrs. L'Hommedieu had recovered and gone away, 
and the person who had frightened her was also 
gone, and only the hallboy remained to give any 
explanations. 

" This was what he had to say: 

" ' The man it was who went first. As soon as 
the lady fell he skipped out. I don't think he meant 
no good here ' 

" * Did she drop here in the hall? ' I asked, unable 
to restrain my intense anxiety. 

" ' Oh, no, ma'am ! They was in the back room 
yonder, which she got in somehow. The man fol- 
lowed her in, sneaking and sneaking like an eel or a 
cop, and she fell right against 

" * Don't tell me where ! ' I cried. * I don't want 
to know where ! ' And I was about to return up- 



332 THE GREY LADY 

stairs when I heard a quick, sharp voice behind me 
and realised that Mr. L'Hommedieu had come in and 
was having some dispute with the janitor. 

" Common prudence led me to listen. He wanted, 
as was very natural, to enter the room where his 
wife had just been surprised, but the janitor, alarmed 
by the foregoing very irregular proceedings, was 
disposed to deny his right to do so. 

' The furniture is held as a surety,' said he, ' and 
I have orders ' 

" But Mr. L'Hommedieu had a spare dollar, and 
before many minutes had elapsed I heard him go into 
that room and close the door. Of the next ten min- 
utes and the suspense I felt I need not speak. When 
he came out again, he looked as if the ground would 
not hold him. 

' ' I have done some mischief, I fear,' he airily 
said as he passed the janitor. ' But I'll pay for it. 
Don't worry. I'll pay for it and the rent, too, to- 
morrow. You may tell Mrs. Latimer so.' And he 
was gone, leaving us all agape in the hallway. 

" A minute later we all crept to that room and 
looked in. Now that he had got the bond I for one 
was determined to know where she had hid it. 
There was no mistaking the spot. A single glance 
was enough to show us the paper ripped off from a 
portion of the wall, revealing a narrow gap behind 
the baseboard large enough to hold the bond. It was 
near " 

" Wait! " I put in as I remembered where the so- 
called Mrs. Helmuth had pointed just before she 



THE GREY LADY 333 

died. " Wasn't it at the left of the large folding 
doors and midway to the wall? " 

" How came you to know?" she asked. "Did 
Mrs. Latimer tell you? " But as I did not answer 
she soon took up the thread of her narrative again, 
and, sighing softly, said: 

" The next day came and went, but no L'Homme- 
dieu appeared; another, and I began to grow seri- 
ously uneasy; a third, and a dreadful thing hap- 
pened. Late in the afternoon Mrs. L'Hommedieu, 
dressed very oddly, came sliding in at the front door, 
and with an appealing smile at the hallboy, who 
wished but dared not ask her for the key which made 
these visits possible, glided by to her old rooms, and, 
finding the door unlocked, went softly in. Her ap- 
pearance is worth description, for it shows the pitiful 
efforts she made at disguise, in the hope, I suppose, 
of escaping the surveillance she was evidently con- 
scious of being under. She was in the habit of wear- 
ing on cool days a black circular with a grey lining.- 
This she had turned inside out so that the gray was 
uppermost; while over her neat black bonnet she had 
flung a long veil, also grey, which not only hid her 
face, but gave her appearance an eccentric look as 
different as possible from her usual aspect. The hall- 
boy, who had never seen her save in showy black or 
bright colours, said she looked like a ghost in the day- 
time, but it was all done for a purpose, I am sure, 
and to escape the attention of the man who had fol- 
lowed her before. Alas, he might have followed 
her this time without addition to her suffering! 



334 THE GREY LADY 

Scarcely had she entered the room where her treas- 
ure had been left than she saw the torn paper and 
gaping baseboard, and, uttering a cry so piercing it 
found its way even to the stolid heart of the hall- 
boy, she tottered back into the hall, where she fell 
into the arms of her husband, who had followed her 
in from the street in a state of frenzy almost equal to 
her own. 

" The janitor, who that minute appeared on the 
stairway, says that he never saw two such faces. 
They looked at each other and were speechless. He 
was the first to hang his head. 

' * It is gone, Henry/ she whispered. ' It is 
gone. You have taken it.' 

" He did not answer. 

" * And it is lost! You have risked it, and it is 
lost!' 

" He uttered a groan. ' You should have given 
it to me that night. There was luck in the air then. 
Now the devil is in the cards and ' 

" Her arms went up with a shriek. ' My curse be 
upon you, Henry L'Hommedieu ! ' And whether it 
was the look with which she uttered this imprecation, 
or whether there was some latent love left in his 
heart for this long-suffering and once beautiful 
woman, he shrank at her words, and, stumbling like 
a man in the darkness, uttered a heart-rending groan, 
and rushed from the house. We never saw him 
again. 

" As for her, she fell this time under a paralytic 
attack which robbed her of her faculties. She was 



THE GREY LADY 335 

taken to a hospital, where I frequently visited her, 
but either from grief or the effect of her attack she 
did not know me, nor did she ever recognise any of 
us again. Mrs. Latimer, who is a just woman, sold 
her furniture and, after paying herself out of the 
proceeds, gave the remainder to the hospital nurses 
for the use of Mrs. L'Hommedieu, so that when she 
left them she had something with which to start life 
anew. But where she went or how she managed to 
get along in her enfeebled condition I do not know. 
I never heard of her again." 

" Then you did not see the woman who died in 
these rooms? " I asked. 

The effect of these words was magical and led to 
mutual explanations. She had not seen that woman, 
having encountered all the sorrow she wished to in 
that room. Nor was there any one else in the house 
at this time likely to recognise Mrs. L'Homme- 
dieu, the janitor and hallboy both being new and 
Mrs. Latimer one of those proprietors who are only 
seen on rent day. For the rest, Mrs. L'Homme- 
dieu's defective memory, which had led her to 
haunt the house and room where the bond had 
once been hidden, accounted not only for her first 
visit, but the last, which had ended so fatally. The 
cunning she showed in turning her cloak and flinging 
a veil over her hat was the cunning of a partially 
clouded mind. It was a reminiscence of the morning 
when her terrible misfortune occurred. My habit of 
taking the key out of the lock of that unused door 
made the use of her own key possible, and her fear 



336 THE GREY LADY 

of being followed caused her to lock the door behind 
her. My wife, who must have fallen into a doze 
on my leaving her, did not see her enter, but detected 
her just as she was trying to escape through the 
folding doors. My presence in the parlour probably 
added to her embarrassment, and she fled, turning 
her cloak as she did so. 

How simple it seemed now that we knew the facts ; 
but how obscure, and, to all appearance, unexplain- 
able, before the clue was given to the mystery ! 



THE THIEF 



" AND now, if you have all seen the coin and suffi- 
ciently admired it, you may pass it back. I make a 
point of never leaving it off the shelf for more than 
fifteen minutes." 

The half dozen or more guests seated about the 
board of the genial speaker, glanced casually at 
each other as though expecting to see the object 
mentioned immediately produced. 

But no coin appeared. 

" I have other amusements waiting," suggested 
their host, with a smile in which even his wife could 
detect no signs of impatience. " Now let Robert 
put it back into the cabinet." 

Robert was the butler. 

Blank looks, negative gestures, but still no coin. 

" Perhaps it is in somebody's lap," timidly ven- 
tured one of the younger women. " It doesn't seem 
to be on the table." 

Immediately all the ladies began lifting their nap- 
kins and shaking out the gloves which lay under 
them, in an effort to relieve their own embarrassment 
and that of the gentlemen who had not even so simple 
a resource as this at their command. 

" It can't be lost," protested Mr. Sedgwick, with 
an air of perfect confidence. " I saw it but a minute 
ago in somebody's hand. Darrow, you had it; what 
did you do with it? " 

" Passed it along." 

339 



340 THE THIEF 

" Well, well, it must be under somebody's plate 
or doily." And he began to move about his own 
and such dishes as were within reach of his 
hand. 

Each guest imitated him, lifting glasses and turn- 
ing over spoons till Mr. Sedgwick himself bade 
them desist. " It's slipped to the floor," he non- 
chalantly concluded. " A toast to the ladies, 
and we will give Robert the chance of looking 
for it." 

As they drank this toast, his apparently careless, 
but quietly astute, glance took in each countenance 
about him. The coin was very valuable and its loss 
would be keenly felt by him. Had it slipped from the 
table some one's eye would have perceived it, some 
hand would have followed it. Only a minute or two 
before, the attention of the whole party had been 
concentrated upon it. Darrow had held it up for all 
to see, while he discoursed upon its history. He 
would take Darrow aside at the first opportunity and 

ask him But it! how could he do that? 

These were his intimate friends. He knew them 

well, more than well, with one exception, and he 

Well, he was the handsomest of the lot and the most 
debonair and agreeable. A little more gay than 
usual to-night, possibly a trifle too gay, considering 
that a man of Mr. Blake's social weight and business 
standing sat at the board ; but not to be suspected, no, 
not to be suspected, even if he was the next man after 
Darrow and had betrayed something like confusion 
when the eyes of the whole table turned his way at 



THE THIEF 341 

the former's simple statement of " I passed it on." 
Robert would find the coin; he was a fool to doubt 
it; and if Robert did not, why, he would simply have 
to pocket his chagrin, and not let a triviality like this 
throw a shadow over his hospitality. 

All this, while he genially lifted his glass and pro- 
posed the health of the ladies. The constraint of the 
preceding moment was removed by his manner, and 
a dozen jests caused as many merry laughs. Then 
he pushed back his chair. 

" And now, some music ! " he cheerfully cried, as 
with lingering glances and some further pokings 
about of the table furniture, the various guests left 
their places and followed him into the adjoining 
room. 

But the ladies were too nervous and the gentlemen 
not sufficiently sure of their voices to undertake the 
entertainment of the rest at a moment of such ac- 
knowledged suspense ; and notwithstanding the exer- 
tions of their host and his quiet but much discomfited 
wife, it soon became apparent that but one thought 
engrossed them all, and that any attempt at conversa- 
tion must prove futile so long as the curtains between 
the two rooms remained open and they could see 
Robert on his hands and knees searching the floor 
and shoving aside the rugs. 

Darrow, who was Mr. Sedgwick's brother-in-law 
and almost as much at home in the house as Sedg- 
wick himself, made a move to draw these curtains, 
but something in his relative's face stopped him and 
he desisted with some laughing remark which did 



342 THE THIEt 

not attract enough attention, even, to elicit any re- 
sponse. 

" I hope his eyesight is good," murmured one of 
the young girls, edging a trifle forward. " Mayn't I 
help him look? They say at home that I am the 
only one in the house who can find anything." 

Mr. Sedgwick smiled indulgently at the speaker, 
(a round-faced, round-eyed, merry-hearted girl whom 
in days gone by he had dandled on his knees), but 
answered quite quickly for him : 

" Robert will find it if it is there." Then, dis- 
tressed at this involuntary disclosure of his thought, 
added in his whole-hearted way: " It's such a little 
thing, and the room is so big and a round object 
rolls unexpectedly far, you know. Well, have you 
got it? " he eagerly demanded, as the butler finally 
showed himself in the door. 

" No, sir; and it's not in the dining-room. I have 
cleared the table and thoroughly searched the floor." 

Mr. Sedgwick knew that he had. He had no 
doubts about Robert. Robert had been in his em- 
ploy for years and had often handled his coins and, 
at his order, sometimes shown them. 

" Very well," said he, " we'll not bother about 
it any more to-night; you may draw the cur- 
tains." 

But here the clear, almost strident voice of the 
youngest man of the party interposed. 

" Wait a minute," said he. " This especial coin 
is the great treasure of Mr. Sedgwick's valuable col- 
lection. It is unique in this country, and not only 



THE THIEF 343 

worth a great deal of money, but cannot be dupli- 
cated at any cost. There are only three of its stamp 
in the world. Shall we let the matter pass, then, as 
though it were of small importance? I feel that 
we cannot; that we are, in a measure, responsible for 
its disappearance. Mr. Sedgwick handed it to us to 
look at, and while it was going through our hands 
it vanished. What must he think? What has he 
every right to think? I need not put it into words; 
you know what you would think, what you could 
not help but think, if the object were yours and it was 
lost in this way. Gentlemen I leave the ladies en- 
tirely out of this I do not propose that he shall 
have further opportunity to associate me with this 
very natural doubt. I demand the privilege of 
emptying my pockets here and now, before any of 
us have left his presence. I am a connoisseur in 
coins myself and consequently find it imperative to 
take the initiative in this matter. As I propose to 
spare the ladies, let us step back into the dining- 
room. Mr. Sedgwick, pray don't deny me; I'm thor- 
oughly in earnest, I assure you." 

The astonishment created by this audacious propo- 
sition was so great, and the feeling it occasioned so 
intense, that for an instant all stood speechless. 
Young Hammersley was a millionaire himself, and 
generous to a fault, as all knew. Under no circum- 
stances would any one even suspect him of appropri- 
ating anything, great or small, to which he had not a 
perfect right. Nor was he likely to imagine for a 
moment that any one would. That he could make 



344 THE THIEF 

such a proposition then, based upon any such plea, 
argued a definite suspicion in some other quarter, 
which could not pass unrecognised. In vain Mr. 
Sedgwick raised his voice in frank and decided pro- 
test, two of the gentlemen had already made a quick 
move toward Robert, who still stood, stupefied by 
the situation, with his hand on the cord which con- 
trolled the curtains. 

" He is quite right," remarked one of these, as he 
passed into the dining-room. " I shouldn't sleep a 
wink to-night if this question remained unsettled." 
The other, the oldest man present, the financier of 
whose standing and highly esteemed character I have 
already spoken, said nothing, but followed in a way 
to show that his mind was equally made up. 

The position in which Mr. Sedgwick found him- 
self placed was far from enviable. With a glance 
at the two remaining gentlemen, he turned towards 
the ladies now standing in a close group at the other 
end of the room. One of them was his wife, and he 
quivered internally as he noted the deep red of her 
distressed countenance. But it was the others he 
addressed, singling out, with the rare courtesy which 
was his by nature, the one comparative stranger, 
Darrow's niece, a Rochester girl, who could not be 
finding this, her first party in Boston, very amusing. 

" I hope you will appreciate the dilemma in which 
I have been placed by these gentlemen," he began, 
" and will pardon 

But here he noticed that she was not in the least 
; her eyes were on the handsome figure 



THE THIEF 345 

of Hugh Clifford, her uncle's neighbour at table, 
who in company with Mr. Hammersley was still 
hesitating in the doorway. As Mr. Sedgwick stopped 
his useless talk, the two passed in and the sound of 
her fluttering breath as she finally turned a listening 
ear his way, caused him to falter as he repeated his 
assurances and begged her indulgence. 

She answered with some conventional phrase which 
he forgot while crossing the room. But the remem- 
brance of her slight satin-robed figure, drawn up in 
an attitude whose carelessness was totally belied 
by the anxiety of her half-averted glance, followed 
him into the presence of the four men awaiting him. 
Four? I should say five, for Robert was still there, 
though in a corner by himself, ready, no doubt, to 
share any attempt which the others might make to 
prove their innocence. 

" The ladies will await us in the music-room," 
announced the host on entering; and then paused, 
disconcerted by the picture suddenly disclosed to his 
eye. On one side stood the two who had entered 
first, with their eyes fixed in open sternness on young 
Clifford, who, quite alone on the rug, faced them with 
a countenance of such pronounced pallor that there 
seemed to be nothing else in the room. As his 
features were singularly regular and his almost per- 
fect mouth accentuated by a smile as set as his figure 
was immobile, the effect was so startling that not 
only Mr. Sedgwick, but every other person present, 
no doubt, wished that the plough had never turned 



346 THE THIEF 

the furrow which had brought this wretched coin to 
light. 

However, the affair had gone too far now for 
retreat, as was shown by Mr. Blake, the elderly 
financier whom all were ready to recognise as the 
chief guest there. With an apologetic glance at Mr. 
Hammersley, the impetuous young millionaire who 
had first proposed this embarrassing procedure, he 
advanced to an empty side-table and began, in a quiet, 
business-like way, to lay on it the contents of his 
various pockets. As the pile rose, the silence grew, 
the act in itself was so simple, the motive actuating 
it so serious and out of accord with the standing of 
the company and the nature of the occasion. When 
all was done, he stepped up to Mr. Sedgwick, with 
his arms raised and held out from his body. 

" Now accommodate me," said he, " by running 
your hands up and down my chest. I have a secret 
pocket there which should be empty at this time." 

Mr. Sedgwick, fascinated by his look, did as he 
was bid, reporting shortly: 

" You are quite correct. I find nothing there." 

Mr. Blake stepped back. As he did so, every eye, 
suddenly released from his imposing figure, flashed 
towards the immovable Clifford, to find him still 
absorbed by the action and attitude of the man who 
had just undergone what to him doubtless appeared 
a degrading ordeal. Pale before, he was absolutely 
livid now, though otherwise unchanged. To break 
the force of what appeared to be an open, if involun- 
tary, self-betrayal, another guest stepped forward; 



THE THIEF 347 

but no sooner had he raised his hand to his vest- 
pocket than Clifford moved, and in a high, strident 
voice totally unlike his usual tones remarked : 

" This is all all very interesting and commend- 
able, no doubt. But for such a procedure to be of 
any real value it should be entered into by all. Gen- 
tlemen " his rigidity was all gone now and so was 
his pallor " I am unwilling to submit myself to 
what, in my eyes, is an act of unnecessary humilia- 
tion. Our word should be enough. I have not the 

coin Stopped by the absolute silence, he cast 

a distressed look into the faces about him, till it 
reached that of Mr. Sedgwick, where it lingered, in 
an appeal to which that gentleman, out of his great 
heart, instantly responded. 

" One should take the word of the gentleman he 
invites to his house. We will excuse you, and ex- 
cuse all the others from the unnecessary ceremony 
which Mr. Blake has been good enough to initiate." 

But this show of favour was not to the mind of 
the last-mentioned gentleman, and met with instant 
reproof. 

" Not so fast, Sedgwick. I am the oldest man 
here and I did not feel it was enough simply to 
state that this coin was not on my person. As to 
the question of humiliation, it strikes me that humilia- 
tion would lie, in this instance, in a refusal for 
which no better excuse can be given than the purely 
egotistical one of personal pride." 

At this attack, the fine head of Clifford rose, and 
Darrow, remembering the girl within, felt instinc- 



348 THE THIEF 

tively grateful that she was not here to note the effect 
it gave to his person. 

" I regret to differ," said he. " To me no humilia- 
tion could equal that of demonstrating in this open 
manner the fact of one's not being a thief." 

Mr. Blake gravely surveyed him. For some rea- 
son the issue seemed no longer to lie between Clif- 
ford and the actual loser of the coin, but between 
him and his fellow guest, this uncompromising 
banker. 

" A thief ! " repeated the young man, in an in- 
describable tone full of bitterness and scorn. 

Mr. Blake remained unmoved; he was a just man 
but strict, hard to himself, hard to others. But he 
was not entirely without heart. Suddenly his expres- 
sion lightened. A certain possible explanation of 
the other's attitude had entered his mind. 

" Young men sometimes have reasons for their 
susceptibilities which the old forget. If you have 
such if you carry a photograph, believe that we 
have no interest in pictures of any sort to-night and 
certainly would fail to recognise them." 

A smile of disdain flickered across the young man's 
lip. Evidently it was no discovery of this kind that 
he feared. 

" I carry no photographs," said he; and, bowing 
low to his host, he added in a measured tone which 
but poorly hid his profound agitation, " I regret to 
hare interfered in the slightest way with the pleasure 
of the evening. If you will be so good as to make 
my excuses to the ladies, I will withdraw from a 



THE THIEF 349 

presence upon which I have made so poor an im- 
pression." 

Mr. Sedgwick prized his coin and despised deceit, 
but he could not let a guest leave him in this manner. 
Instinctively he held out his hand. Proudly young 
Clifford dropped his own into it; but the lack of 
mutual confidence was felt and the contact was a cold 
one. Half regretting his impulsive attempt at 
courtesy, Mr. Sedgwick drew back, and Clifford was 
already at the door leading into the hall, when Ham- 
mersley, who by his indiscreet proposition had made 
all this trouble for him, sprang forward and caught 
him by the arm. 

" Don't go," he whispered. " You're done for if 
you leave like this. I I was a brute to propose such 
an asinine thing, but having done so I am bound 
to see you out of the difficulty. Come into the ad- 
joining room there is nobody there at present 
and we will empty our pockets together and find this 
lost article if we can. I may have pocketed it myself, 
in a fit of abstraction." 

Did the other hesitate? Some thought so; but, if 
he did, it was but momentarily. 

" I cannot," he muttered; " think what you will of 
me, but let me go." And dashing open the door he 
disappeared from their sight just as light steps and 
the rustle of skirts were heard again in the adjoining 
room. 

" There are the ladies. What shall we say to 
them?" queried Sedgwick, stepping slowly towards 
the intervening curtains. 



350 THE THIEF 

" Tell them the truth," enjoined Mr. Blake, as 
he hastily repocketed his own belongings. " Why 
should a handsome devil like that be treated with any 
more consideration than another? He has' ar secret 
if he hasn't a coin. Let them know this. It may 
save some one a future heartache." 

The last sentence was muttered, but Mr. Sedg- 
wick heard it. Perhaps that was why his first move- 
ment on entering the adjoining room was to cross 
over to the cabinet and shut and lock the heavily pan- 
elled door which had been left standing open. At all 
events, the action drew general attention and caused 
an instant silence, broken the next minute by an 
ardent cry: 

" So your search was futile? " 

It came from the lady least known, the interest- 
ing young stranger whose personality had made so 
vivid an impression upon him. 

" Quite so," he answered, hastily facing her with 
an attempted smile. " The gentlemen decided not 
to carry matters to the length first proposed. The 
object was not worth it. I approved their decision. 
This was meant for a joyous occasion. Why mar it 
by unnecessary unpleasantness? " 

She had given him her full attention while he was 
speaking, but her eye wandered away the moment he 
had finished and rested searchingly on the other 
gentlemen. Evidently she missed a face she had 
expected to find there, for her colour changed and 
she drew back behind the other ladies with the light, 



THE THIEF 351 

unmusical laugh women sometimes use to hide a 
secret emotion. 

It brought Mr. Darrow forward. 

" Some were not willing to subject themselves to 
what they considered an unnecessary humiliation," 
he curtly remarked. " Mr. Clifford " 

" There! let us drop it," put in his brother-in-law. 
" I've lost my coin and that's the end of it. I don't 
intend to have the evening spoiled for a thing like 
that. Music! ladies, music and a jolly air! No 
more dumps." And with as hearty a laugh as he 
could command in face of the sombre looks he en- 
countered on every side, he led the way back into 
the music-room. 

Once there the women seemed to recover their 
spirits; that is, such as remained. One had dis- 
appeared. A door opened from this room into the 
main hall and through this a certain young lady 
had vanished before the others had had time to 
group themselves about the piano. We know who 
this lady was; possibly, we know, too, why her 
hostess did not follow her. 

Meanwhile, Mr. Clifford had gone upstairs for 
his coat, and was lingering there, the prey of some 
very bitter reflections. Though he had encountered 
nobody on the stairs, and neither heard nor saw any 
one in the halls, he felt confident that he was not 
unwatched. He remembered the look on the butler's 
face as he tore himself away from Hammersley's 
restraining hand, and he knew what that fellow 
thought and also was quite able to guess what that 



352 THE THIEF 

fellow would do, if his suspicions were farther 
awakened. This conviction brought an odd and not 
very open smile to his face, as he finally turned to 
descend the one flight which separated him from 
the front door he was so ardently desirous of closing 
behind him for ever. 

A moment and he would be down; but the steps 
were many and seemed to multiply indefinitely as he 
sped below. Should his departure be noted, and 
some one advance to detain him! He fancied he 
heard a rustle in the open space under the stairs. 

Were any one to step forth, Robert or With 

a start, he paused and clutched the banister. Some 
one had stepped forth; a woman! The swish of 
her skirts was unmistakable. He felt the chill of 
a new dread. Never in his short but triumphant 
career had he met coldness or disapproval in the 
eye of a woman. Was he to encounter it now? If 
so, it would go hard with him. He trembled as he 
turned his head to see which of the four it was. 

If it should prove to be his hostess But it was 

not she; it was Darrow's young friend, the pretty 
inconsequent girl he had chatted with at the dinner- 
table, and afterwards completely forgotten in the 
events which had centred all his thoughts upon him- 
self. And she was standing there, waiting for 
him! He would have to pass her, notice her, 
speak. 

But when the encounter occurred and their eyes 
met, he failed to find in hers any sign of the dis- 
approval he feared, but instead a gentle womanly 



THE THIEF 353 

interest which he might interpret deeply, or other- 
wise, according to the measure of his need. 

That need seemed to be a deep one at this instant, 
for his countenance softened perceptibly as he took 
her quietly extended hand. 

"Good-night," she said; "I am just going my- 
self," and with an entrancing smile of perfect friend- 
liness, she fluttered past him up the stairs. 

It was the one and only greeting which his sick 
heart could have sustained without flinching. Just 
this friendly farewell of one acquaintance to an- 
other, as though no change had taken place in his 
relations to society and the world. And she was 
a woman and not a thoughtless girl ! Staring after 
her slight, elegant figure, slowly ascending the stair, 
he forgot to return her cordial greeting. What 
delicacy, and yet what character there was in the 
poise of her spirited head! He felt his breath fail 
him, in his anxiety for another glance from her eye, 
for some sign, however small, that she had carried 
the thought of him up those few, quickly-mounted 
steps. Would he get it? She is at the bend of the 
stair; she pauses turns, a nod, and she is gone. 

With an impetuous gesture, he dashed from the 
house. 

In the drawing-room the noise of the closing door 
was heard, and a change at once took place in the 
attitude and expression of all present. The young 
millionaire approached Mr. Sedgwick and confi- 
dentially remarked : 

" There goes your precious coin. I'm sure of it. 



354 THE THIEF 

I even think I can tell the exact place in which it is 
hidden. His hand went to his left coat-pocket once 
too often." 

" That's right. I noticed the action also," chimed 
in Mr. Darrow, who had stepped up, unobserved. 
" And I noticed something else. His whole appear- 
ance altered from the moment this coin came on the 
scene. An indefinable half-eager, half-furtive look 
crept into his eye as he saw it passed from hand to 
hand. I remember it now, though it didn't make 
much impression upon me at the time." 

" And I remember another thing," supplemented 
Hammersley in his anxiety to set himself straight 
with these men of whose entire approval he was not 
quite sure. a He raised his napkin to his mouth 
very frequently during the meal and held it there 
longer than is usual, too. Once he caught me look- 
ing at him, and for a moment he flushed scarlet, 
then he broke out with one of his witty remarks 
and I had to laugh like everybody else. If I am 
not mistaken, his napkin was up and his right hand 
working behind it, about the time Mr. Sedgwick 
requested the return of his coin." 

" The idiot ! Hadn't he sense enough to know that 
such a loss wouldn't pass unquestioned? The gem 
of the collection; known all over the country, and 
he's not even a connoisseur." 

" No; I've never even heard him mention numis- 
matics." 

" Mr. Darrow spoke of its value. Perhaps that 



THE THIEF 355 

was what tempted him. I know that Clifford's been 
rather down on his luck lately." 

"He? Well, he don't look it. There isn't one of 
us so well set up. Pardon me, Mr. Hammersley, 
you understand what I mean. He perhaps relies a 
little bit too much on his fine clothes." 

" He needn't. His face is his fortune all the one 
he's got, I hear it said. He had a pretty income 
from Consolidated Silver, but that's gone up and left 
him in what you call difficulties. If he has debts 
besides " 

But here Mr. Darrow was called off. His niece 
wanted to see him for one minute in the hall. When 
he came back it was to make his adieu and hers. 
She had been taken suddenly indisposed and his 
duty was to see her immediately home. This broke 
up the party, and amid general protestations the 
various guests were taking their leave when the 
whole action was stopped by a smothered cry from 
the dining-room, and the precipitate entrance of 
Robert, asking for Mr. Sedgwick. 

"What's up? What's happened?" demanded 
that gentleman, hurriedly advancing towards the agi- 
tated butler. 

" Found ! " he exclaimed, holding up the coin be- 
tween his thumb and forefinger. " It was standing 
straight up between two leaves of the table. It 
tumbled and fell to the floor as Luke and I were 
taking them out." 

Silence which could be felt for a moment. Then 
each man turned and surveyed his neighbour, while 



356 THE THIEF 

the women's voices rose in little cries that were 
almost hysterical. 

" I knew that it would be found, and found here," 
came from the hallway in rich, resonant tones. 
" Uncle, do not hurry; I am feeling better," followed 
in unconscious naivete, as the young girl stepped in, 
showing a countenance in which were small signs of 
indisposition or even of depressed spirits. 

Mr. Darrow, with a smile of sympathetic under- 
standing, joined the others now crowding about the 
butler. 

" I noticed the crack between these two leaves 
when I pushed about the plates and dishes," he was 
saying. " But I never thought of looking in it for 
the missing coin. I'm sure I'm very sorry that I 
didn't." 

Mr. Darrow, to whom these words had recalled a 
circumstance he had otherwise completely forgotten, 
anxiously remarked: "That must have happened 
shortly after it left my hand. I recall now that the 
lady sitting between me and Clifford gave it a twirl 
which sent it spinning over the bare table-top. I 
don't think she realised the action. She was listen- 
ing we all were to a flow of bright repartee going 
on below us, and failed to follow the movements of 
the coin. Otherwise, she would have spoken. But 
what a marvel that it should have reached that crack 
in just the position to fall in! " 

" It wouldn't happen again, not if we spun it 
there for a month of Sundays." 

" But Mr. Clifford! " put in an agitated voice. 



THE THIEF 357 

" Yes, it has been rather hard on him. But he 
shouldn't have such keen sensibilities. If he had 
emptied out his pockets cheerfully and at the first 
intimation, none of this unpleasantness would have 
happened. Mr. Sedgwick, I congratulate you upon 
the recovery of this valuable coin, and am quite 
ready to offer my services if you wish to make Mr. 
Clifford immediately acquainted with Robert's dis- 
covery." 

" Thank you, but I will perform that duty myself," 
was Mr. Sedgwick's quiet rejoinder, as he unlocked 
the door of his cabinet and carefully restored the 
coin to its proper place. 

When he faced back, he found his guests on the 
point of leaving. Only one gave signs of any in- 
tention of lingering. This was the elderly financier 
who had shown such stern resolve in his treatment of 
Mr. Clifford's so-called sensibilities. He had con- 
fided his wife to the care of Mr. Darrow, and now 
met Mr. Sedgwick with this remark: 

" I'm going to ask a favour of you. If, as you 
have intimated, it is your intention to visit Mr. Clif- 
ford to-night, I should like to go with you. I don't 
understand this young man and his unaccountable 
attitude in this matter, and it is very important that 
I should. Have you any objection to my company? 
My motor is at the door, and we can settle the affair 
in twenty minutes." 

" None," returned his host, a little surprised, how- 
ever, at the request. " His pride does seem a little 
out of place, but he was among comparative stran- 



358 THE THIEF 

gers, and seemed to feel his honour greatly impugned 
by Hammersley's unfortunate proposition. I'm 
sorry way down to the ground for what has oc- 
curred, and cannot carry him our apologies too 
soon." 

" No, you cannot," retorted the other shortly. 
And so seriously did he utter this that no time was 
lost by Mr. Sedgwick, and as soon as they could get 
into their coats, they were in the motor and on their 
way to the young man's apartment. 

Their experience began at the door. A man was 
lolling there who told them that Mr. Clifford had 
changed his quarters; where he did not know. But 
upon the production of a five-dollar bill, he remem- 
bered enough about it to give them a number and 
street where possibly they might find him. In ^ 
rush, they hastened there; only to hear the same 
story from the sleepy elevator boy anticipating his 
last trip up for the night. 

" Mr. Clifford left a week ago; he didn't tell me 
where he was going." 

Nevertheless the boy knew; that they saw, and 
another but smaller bill came into requisition and 
awoke his sleepy memory. 

The street and number which he gave made the 
two well-to-do men stare. But they said nothing, 
though the looks they cast back at the second-rate 
quarters they were leaving, so far below the elegant 
apartment house they had visited first, were suf- 
ficiently expressive. The scale of descent from lux- 
ury to positive discomfort was proving a rapid one 



THE THIEF 359 

and prepared them for the dismal, ill-cared-for, al- 
together repulsive doorway before which they halted 
next. No attendant waited here; not even an ele- 
vator boy; the latter for the good reason that there 
was no elevator. An uninviting flight of stairs was 
before them; and on the few doors within sight a 
simple card showed the name of the occupant. 

Mr. Sedgwick glanced at his companion. 

" Shall we go up? " he asked. 

Mr. Blake nodded. " We'll find him," said he, 
" if it takes all night." 

" Surely he cannot have sunk lower than this." 

" Remembering his get-up I do not think so. Yet 
who knows? Some mystery lies back of his whole 
conduct. Dining in your home, with this to come 
back to ! I don't wonder " 

But here a thought struck him. Pausing with his 
foot on the stair, he turned a flushed countenance 
towards Mr. Sedgwick. " I've an idea," said he. 
" Perhaps " He whispered the rest. 

Mr. Sedgwick stared and shook his shoulders. 
" Possibly," said he, flushing slightly in his turn. 
Then, as they proceeded up, " I feel like a brute, 
anyway. A sorry night's business all through, unless 
the end proves better than the beginning." 

" We'll start from the top. Something tells me 
that we shall find him close under the roof. Can you 
read the names by such a light? " 

" Barely; but I have matches." 

And now there might have been witnessed by any 
chance home- comer the curious sight of two ex- 



360 THE THIEF 

tremely well-dressed men pottering through the attic 
hall of this decaying old domicile, reading the cards 
on the doors by means of a lighted match. 

And vainly. On none of the cards could be seen 
the name they sought. 

" We're on the wrong track," protested Mr. 
Blake. " No use keeping this up," but found him- 
self stopped, when about to turn away, by a gesture 
of Sedgwick's. 

" There's a light under the door you see there 
untagged," said he. " I'm going to knock." 

He did so. There was a sound within and then 
utter silence. 

He knocked again. A man's step was heard 
approaching the door, then again the silence. 

Mr. Sedgwick made a third essay, and then the 
door was suddenly pulled inward and in the gap 
they saw the handsome face and graceful figure of 
the young man they had so lately encountered amid 
palatial surroundings. But how changed! how 
openly miserable I and when he saw who his guests 
were, how proudly defiant of their opinion and 
presence. 

" You have found the coin," he quietly remarked. 
" I appreciate your courtesy in coming here to in- 
form me of it. Will not that answer, without fur- 
ther conversation? I am on the point of retiring 
and and " 

Even the hardihood of a very visible despair gave 
way for an instant as he met Mr. Sedgwick's eye. 
In the break which followed, the older man spoke. 



THE THIEF 361 

11 Pardon us, but we have come thus far with a 
double purpose. First, to tender our apologies, 
which you have been good enough to accept; sec- 
ondly, to ask, in no spirit of curiosity, I assure you, 
a question that I seem to see answered, but which I 
should be glad to hear confirmed by your lips. May 
we not come in? " 

The question was put with a rare smile such as 
sometimes was seen on this hard-grained handler of 
millions, and the young man, seeing it, faltered 
back, leaving the way open for them to enter. The 
next minute he seemed to regret the impulse, for 
backing against a miserable table they saw there, he 
drew himself up with an air as nearly hostile as one 
of his nature could assume. 

" I know of no question," said he, " which I feel 
at this very late hour inclined to answer. A man who 
has been tracked as I must have been for you to 
find me here, is hardly in a mood to explain his 
poverty or the mad desire for former luxuries which 
took him to the house of one friendly enough, he 
thought, to accept his presence without inquiry as 
to the place he lived in or the nature or number of 
the reverses which had brought him to such a place as 
this." 

" I do not believe me " faltered Mr. Sedg- 

wick, greatly embarrassed and distressed. In spite 
of the young man's attempt to hide the contents 
of the table, he had seen the two objects lying 
there a piece of bread or roll, and a half-cocked 
revolver. 



362 THE THIEF 

Mr. Blake had seen them, too, and at once took 
the word out of his companion's mouth. 

" You mistake us," he said coldly, " as well as 
the nature of our errand. We are here from no mo- 
tive of curiosity, as I have before said, nor from 
any other which might offend or distress you. We 
or rather I am here on business. I have a position 
to offer to an intelligent, upright, enterprising young 
man. Your name has been given me. It was given 
me before this dinner, to which I went if Mr. 
Sedgwick will pardon my plain speaking chiefly 
for the purpose of making your acquaintance. The 
result was what you know, and possibly now you can 
understand my anxiety to see you exonerate yourself 
from the doubts you yourself raised by your attitude 
of resistance to the proposition made by that head- 
long, but well-meaning, young man of many millions, 
Mr. Hammersley. I wanted to find in you the hon- 
ourable characteristics necessary to the man who is 
to draw an eight thousand dollars a year salary 
under my eye. I still want to do this. If then you 
are willing to make this whole thing plain to me 
for it is not plain not wholly plain, Mr. Clifford 
then you will find in me a friend such as few young 
fellows can boast of, for I like you I will say that 
and where I like " 

The gesture with which he ended the sentence was 
almost superfluous, in face of the change which 
had taken place in the aspect of the man he ad- 
dressed. Wonder, doubt, hope, and again incredulity 



THE THIEF 363 

were lost at last in a recognition of the other's 
kindly intentions toward himself, and the prospects 
which they opened out before him. With a shame- 
faced look, and yet with a manly acceptance of his 
own humiliation that was not displeasing to his visi- 
tors, he turned about and pointing to the morsel of 
bread lying on the table before them, he said to Mr. 
Sedgwick: 

" Do you recognise that? It is from your table, 
and and it is not the only piece I had hidden in 
my pockets. I had not eaten in twenty-four hours 
when I sat down to dinner this evening. I had no 
prospect of another morsel for to-morrow and 
and I was afraid of eating my fill there were 
ladies and so and so " 

They did not let him finish. In a flash they had 
both taken in the room. Not an article which could 
be spared was anywhere visible. His dress-suit was 
all that remained to him of former ease and luxury. 
That he had retained, possibly for just such oppor- 
tunities as had given him a dinner to-night. Mr. 
Blake understood at last, and his iron lip trem- 
bled. 

"Have you no friends?" he asked. "Was it 
necessary to go hungry? " 

" Could I ask alms or borrow what I could not 
pay? -It was a position I was after, and positions 
do not come at call. Sometimes they come without 
it," he smiled with the dawning of his old-time grace 
on his handsome face, " but I find that one can see 
his resources go, dollar by dollar, and finally, cent 



364 THE THIEF 

by cent, in the search for employment no one con- 
siders necessary to a man like me. Perhaps if I had 
had less pride, had been willing to take you or any 
one else into my confidence, I might not have sunk to 
these depths of humiliation; but I had not the con- 
fidence in men which this last half hour has given me, 
and I went blundering on, hiding my needs and hop- 
ing against hope for some sort of result to my efforts. 
This pistol is not mine. I did borrow this, but I 
did not mean to use it, unless nature reached the 
point where it could stand no more. I thought the 
time had come to-night when I left your house, Mr. 
Sedgwick, suspected of theft. It seemed the last 
straw; but but a woman's look has held me back. 
I hesitated and now you know the whole," s?.id he; 
" that is, if you can understand why it was more 
possible for me to brave the contumely of such a 
suspicion than to open my pockets and disclose the 
crusts I had hidden there." 

" I can understand," said Mr. Sedgwick; " but the 
opportunity you have given us for doing so must 
not be shared by others. We will undertake your 
justification, but it must be made in our own way 
and after the most careful consideration; eh, Mr. 
Blake?" 

" Most assuredly; and if Mr. Clifford will present 
himself at my office early in the morning, we will 
first breakfast and then talk business." 

Young Clifford could only hold out his hand, but 
when, his two friends gone, he sat in contemplation 
of his changed prospects, one word and one only 



THE THIEF 365 

left his lips, uttered in every inflection of tenderness, 
hope, and joy. " Edith ! Edith I Edith ! " 

It was the name of the sweet young girl who had 
shown her faith in him at the moment when his heart 
was lowest and despair at its culmination. 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 



(Copyright, 1905, by The Bobbs-Merrill Company 
Used by special permission of the publishers) 



AN OPEN DOOR 

IT was a night to drive any man indoors. Not only 
was the darkness impenetrable, but the raw mist 
enveloping hill and valley made the open road 
anything but desirable to a belated wayfarer like 
myself. 

Being young, untrammelled, and naturally in- 
different to danger, I was not averse to adventure; 
and having my fortune to make, was always on the 
lookout for El Dorado, which to ardent souls lies 
ever beyond the next turning. Consequently, when 
I saw a light shimmering through the mist at my 
right, I resolved to make for it and the shelter it so 
opportunely offered. 

But I did not realise then, as I do now, that 
shelter does not necessarily imply refuge, or I might 
not have undertaken this adventure with so light a 
heart. Yet who knows? The impulses of an 
unfettered spirit lean toward daring, and youth, as 
I have said, seeks the strange, the unknown, and 
sometimes the terrible. 

My path towards this light was by no means an 

easy one. After confused wanderings through 

tangled hedges, and a struggle with obstacles of 

whose nature I received the most curious impression 

369 



370 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

in the surrounding murk, I arrived in front of a 
long, low building, which, to my astonishment, I 
found standing with doors and windows open to the 
pervading mist, save for one square casement, 
through which the light shone from a row of candles 
placed on a long mahogany table. 

The quiet and seeming emptiness of this odd and 
picturesque building made me pause. I am not 
much affected by visible danger, but this silent 
room, with its air of sinister expectancy, struck me 
most unpleasantly, and I was about to reconsider my 
first impulse and withdraw again to the road, when 
a second look thrown back upon the comfortable 
interior I was leaving convinced me of my folly, and 
sent me straight toward the door which stood so 
invitingly open. 

But half-way up the path my progress was again 
stayed by the sight of a man issuing from the house 
I had so rashly looked upon as devoid of all human 
presence. He seemed in haste, and at the moment 
my eye first fell on him was engaged in replacing his 
watch in his pocket. 

But he did not shut the door behind him, which 
I thought odd, especially as his final glance had 
been a backward one, and seemed to take in all 
the appointments of the place he was so hurriedly 
leaving. 

As we met he raised his hat. This likewise struck 
me as peculiar, for the deference he displayed was 
more marked than that usually bestowed on stran- 
gers, while his lack of surprise at an encounter more 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 371 

or less startling in such a mist, was calculated to 
puzzle an ordinary man like myself. Indeed, he was 
so little impressed by my presence there that he was 
for passing me without a word or any other hint of 
good-fellowship save the bow of which I have spoken. 
But this did not suit me. I was hungry, cold, and 
eager for creature comforts, and the house before 
me gave forth, not only heat, but a savoury odour 
which in itself was an invitation hard to ignore. I 
therefore accosted the man. 

" Will bed and supper be provided for me here? " 
I asked. " I am tired out with a long tramp over 
the hills, and hungry enough to pay anything in 
reason " 

I stopped, for the man had disappeared. He had 
not paused at my appeal, and the mist had swallowed 
him. But at the break in my sentence his voice 
came back in good-natured tones, and I heard: 

" Supper will be ready at nine, and there are beds 
for all. Enter, sir; you are the first to arrive, but 
the others cannot be far behind." 

A queer greeting certainly. But when I strove 
to question him as to its meaning, his voice returned 
to me from such a distance that I doubted if my 
words had reached him any more than his answer 
had reached me. 

II Well," thought I, " it isn't as if a lodging had 
been denied me. He invited me to enter, and enter 
I will." 

The house, to which I now naturally directed a 
glance of much more careful scrutiny than before, 



372 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

was no ordinary farm-building, but a rambling old 
mansion, made conspicuously larger here and there 
by jutting porches and more than one convenient 
lean-to. Though furnished, warmed, and lighted 
with candles, as I have previously described, it had 
about it an air of disuse which made me feel myself 
an intruder, in spite of the welcome I had received. 
But I was not in a position to stand upon ceremony, 
and ere long I found myself inside the great room 
and before the blazing logs whose glow had 'ighted 
up the doorway and added its own attraction to the 
other allurements of the inviting place. 

Though the open door made a draught which was 
anything but pleasant, I did not feel like closing it, 
and was astonished to observe the effect of the mist 
through the square thus left open to the night. It 
was not an agreeable one, and, instinctively turning 
my back upon that quarter of the room, I let my 
eyes roam over the wainscoted walls and the odd 
pieces of furniture which gave such an air of old- 
fashioned richness to the place. As nothing of 
the kind had ever fallen under my eyes before, I 
would have thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity of 
gratifying my taste for the curious and the beautiful, 
if the quaint old chairs I saw standing about me on 
every side had not all been empty. But the solitude 
of the place, so much more oppressive than the 
solitude of the road I had left, struck cold to my 
heart, and I missed the cheer rightfully belonging to 
such attractive surroundings. Suddenly I bethought 
me of the many other apartments likely to be found 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 373 

in so spacious a dwelling, and, going to the nearest 
door, I opened it and called out for the master of 
the house. But only an echo came back, and re- 
turning to the fire, I sat down before the cheering 
blaze, in quiet acceptance of a situation too lonely 
for comfort, yet not without a certain piquant interest 
for a man of free mind and adventurous disposition 
like myself. 

After all, if supper was to be served at nine, some 
one must be expected to eat it; I should surely not 
be left much longer without companions. 

Meanwhile ample amusement awaited me in the 
contemplation of a picture which, next to the large 
fireplace, was the most prominent object in the room. 
This picture was a portrait, and a remarkable one. 
The countenance it portrayed was both characteristic 
and forcible, and so interested me that in studying 
it I quite forgot both hunger and weariness. Indeed 
its effect upon me was such that, after gazing at it 
uninterruptedly for a few minutes, I discovered that 
its various features the narrow eyes in which a 
hint of craft gave a strange gleam to their native 
intelligence; the steadfast chin, strong as the rock of 
the hills I had wearily tramped all day; the cunning 
wrinkles which yet did not interfere with a latent 
great-heartedness that made the face as attractive as 
it was puzzling had so established themselves in 
my mind that I continued to see them before me 
whichever way I turned, and even found it impossible 
to shake off their influence after I had resolutely set 
my mind in another direction by endeavouring to 



374 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

recall what I knew of the town into which I had 
strayed. 

I had come from Scranton, and was now, accord- 
ing to my best judgment, in one of those rural 
districts of Western Pennsylvania which breed such 
strange and sturdy characters. But of this special 
neighbourhood, its inhabitants, and its industries, 
I knew nothing, nor was I likely to become ac- 
quainted with it so long as I remained in the solitude 
I have described. 

But these impressions and these thoughts if 
thoughts they were presently received a check. A 
loud " Halloo ! " rose from somewhere in the mist, 
followed by a string of muttered imprecations, which 
convinced me that the person now attempting to 
approach the house was encountering some of the 
many difficulties which had beset me in the same 
undertaking a few minutes before. 

I therefore raised my voice and shouted out, 
"Here! This way!" after which I sat still and 
awaited developments. 

There was a huge clock in one of the corners, 
whose loud tick filled up every interval of silence. 
By this clock it was just ten minutes to eight when 
two gentlemen I should say men, and coarse men 
at that crossed the open threshold and entered the 
house. 

Their appearance was more or less noteworthy 
unpleasantly so, I am obliged to add. One was red- 
faced and obese; the other was tall, thin, and wiry, 
and showed as many seams in his face as a blighted 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 375 

apple. Neither of the two had anything to recom- 
mend him either in appearance or address, save a 
certain veneer of polite assumption as transparent as 
it was offensive. As I listened to the forced sallies 
of the one and the hollow laugh of the other, I was 
glad that I was large of frame and strong of arm, 
and used to all kinds of men and brutes. 

As these two newcomers seemed no more 
astonished at my presence than the man I had met 
at the gate, I checked the question which instinc- 
tively rose to my lips, and with a simple bow 
responded to by a more or less familiar nod from 
either accepted the situation with all the sang-froid 
the occasion seemed to demand. Perhaps this was 
wise, perhaps it was not; there was little opportunity 
to judge, for the start they both gave as they encoun- 
tered the eyes of the picture before mentioned drew 
my attention to a consideration of the different ways 
in which men, however similar in other respects, 
express sudden and unlooked-for emotion. The big 
man simply allowed his astonishment, dread, or 
whatever the feeling was which moved him, to ooze 
forth in a cold and deathly perspiration which 
robbed his cheeks of colour, and cast a bluish shadow 
over his narrow and retreating temples; while the 
thin and waspish man, caught in the same trap (for 
trap I saw it was), shouted aloud in his ill-timed 
mirth, the false and cruel character of which would 
have made me shudder, if all expression of feeling 
on my part had not been held in check by the interest 
I immediately experienced in the display of open 



376 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

bravado with which, in another moment, these two 
tried to carry off their mutual embarrassment. 

"Good likeness, eh?" laughed the seamy-faced 
man. " Quite an idea that! Makes him one of us 
again! Well, he's welcome in oils. Can't say 
much to us from canvas, eh?" And the rafters 
above him vibrated, as his violent efforts at joviality 
went up in loud and louder assertion from his thin 
throat. 

A nudge from the other's elbow stopped him, and 
I saw them both cast half-lowering, half-inquisitive 
glances in my direction. 

" One of the Witherspoon boys? " queried one. 

" Perhaps," snarled the other. " I never saw but 
one of them. There are five, aren't there? Eustace 
believed in marrying off his gals young." 

" Damn him, yes ! And he'd have married them 
off younger if he had known how numbers were 
going to count some day among the Westonhaughs." 
And he laughed again in a way I should certainly 
have felt it my business to resent if my indignation, 
as well as the ill-timed allusions which had called it 
forth, had not been put to an end by a fresh arrival 
through the veiling mist which hung like a shroud 
at the doorway. 

This time it was for me to experience a shock of 
something like fear. Yet the personage who called 
up this unlooked-for sensation in my naturally hardy 
nature was old, and to all appearance harmless from 
disability, if not from good-will. His form was 
bent over upon itself like a bow; and only from the 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 377 

glances he shot from his upturned eyes was the fact 
made evident that a redoubtable nature, full of force 
and malignity, had just brought its quota of evil into 
a room already overflowing with dangerous and 
menacing passions. 

As this old wretch, either from the feebleness of 
age or from the infirmity I have mentioned, had 
great difficulty in walking, he had brought with him 
a small boy, whose business it was to direct his 
tottering steps as best he could. 

But once settled in his chair, he drove away this 
boy with his pointed oak stick, and with some harsh 
words about caring for the horse and being in time 
in the morning, he sent him out into the mist. As 
this little shivering and pathetic figure vanished, the 
old man drew with gasp and haw a number of deep 
breaths, which shook his bent back, and did their 
share, no doubt, in restoring his own disturbed cir- 
culation. Then, with a sinister twist which brought 
his pointed chin and twinkling eyes again into view, 
he remarked: 

" Haven't ye a word for kinsman Luke, you two? 
It isn't often I get out among ye. Shakee, nephew ! 
Shakee, Hector! And now, who's the boy in the 
window? My eyes aren't what they used to be, 
but he don't seem to favour the Westonhaughs over- 
much. One of Salmon's four grandchildren, think 
'e? Or a shoot from Eustace's gnarled old trunk? 
His gals all married Americans, and one of them, 
I've been told, was a yellow-haired giant like this 
fellow." 



378 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

At this description, pointed directly toward me, I 
was about to venture a response on my own account, 
when my attention, as well as theirs, was freshly 
attracted by a loud " Whoa ! " at the gate, followed 
by the hasty but assured entrance of a dapper, wizen, 
but perfectly preserved little old gentleman with a 
bag in his hand. 

Looking askance with eyes that were like two 
beads, first at the two men, who were now elbowing 
each other for the best place before the fire, and 
next at the revolting figure in the chair, he bestowed 
his greeting, which consisted of an elaborate bow, 
not on them, but upon the picture hanging so con- 
spicuously on the open wall before him; and then, 
taking me within the scope of his quick, circling 
glance, cried out with an assumption of great cor- 
diality: 

"Good-evening, gentlemen; good-evening one, 
good-evening all. Nothing like being on the tick. 
I'm sorry the night has turned out so badly. Some, 
may find it too thick for travel. That would be 
bad, eh? very bad for them." 

As none of the men he openly addressed saw fit 
to answer, save by the hitch of a shoulder or a leer 
quickly suppressed, I kept silent also. But this 
reticence, marked as it was, did not seem to offend 
the newcomer. Shaking the wet from the umbrella 
he held, he stood the dripping article up in a corner, 
and then came and placed his feet on the fender. 
To do this he had to crowd between the two men 
already occupying the best part of the hearth. But 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 379 

he showed no concern at incommoding them, and 
bore their cross looks and threatening gestures with 
professional equanimity. 

" You know me? " he now unexpectedly snapped, 
bestowing another look over his shoulder at that 
oppressive figure in the chair. (Did I say that I had 
risen when the latter sat?) " I'm no Westonhaugh, 
I ; nor yet a Witherspoon nor a Clapsaddle. I'm 
only Smead, the lawyer Mr. Anthony Weston- 
haugh's lawyer," he repeated, with another glance of 
recognition in the direction of the picture. " I drew 
up his last will and testament, and, until all of his 
wishes have been duly carried out, am entitled by 
the terms of that will to be regarded both legally 
and socially as his representative. This you all 
know, but it is my way to make everything clear as 
I proceed. A lawyer's trick, no doubt. I do not 
pretend to be entirely exempt from such." 

A grumble from the large man, who seemed to 
have been disturbed in some absorbing calculation 
he was carrying on, mingled with a few muttered 
words of forced acknowledgment from the restless 
old sinner in the chair, made it unnecessary for me to 
reply, even if the last comer had given me the 
opportunity. 

" It's getting late ! " he cried, with an easy gar- 
rulity rather amusing under the circumstances. 
" Two more trains came in as I left the depot. If 
old Phil was on hand with his waggon, several more 
members of this interesting family may be here 
before the clock strikes; if not, the assemblage is like 



380 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

to be small. Too small," I heard him grumble a 
minute after, under his breath. 

" I wish it were a matter of one," spoke up the 
big man, striking his breast in a way to make it 
perfectly apparent whom he meant by that word one. 
And having (if I may judge by the mingled laugh 
and growl of his companions) thus shown his hand 
both figuratively and literally, he relapsed into the 
calculation which seemed to absorb all of his un- 
occupied moments. 

"Generous, very!" commented the lawyer in a 
murmur which was more than audible. " Pity that 
sentiments of such broad benevolence should go un- 
rewarded." 

This, because at that very instant wheels were 
heard in front, also a jangle of voices, in some con- 
troversy about fares, which promised anything but 
a pleasing addition to the already none too desirable 
company. 

" I suppose that's Sister Janet," snarled out the 
one addressed as Hector. There was no love in 
his voice, despite the relationship hinted at, and I 
awaited the entrance of this woman with some 
curiosity. 

But her appearance, heralded by many a puff and 
pant which the damp air exaggerated in a prodigious 
way, did not seem to warrant the interest I had 
shown in it. As she stepped into the room I saw only 
a big frowsy woman, who had attempted to make 
a show with a new silk dress and a hat in the latest 
fashion, but who had lamentably failed owing to 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 381 

the slouchiness of her figure and some misadven- 
ture, by which her hat had been set awry on her head 
and her usual complacency destroyed. Later, I noted 
that her down-looking eyes had a false twinkle in 
them, and that, commonplace as she looked, she 
was one to steer clear of in times of necessity and 
distress. 

She, too, evidently expected to find the door open 
and people assembled, but she had not anticipated 
being confronted by the portrait on the wall, and 
cringed in an unpleasant way as she stumbled by it 
into one of the ill-lighted corners. 

The old man, who had doubtless caught the rustle 
of her dress as she passed him, emitted one short 
sentence. 

" Almost late," said he. 

Her answer was a sputter of words. 

" It's the fault of that driver," she complained. 
u If he had taken one drop more at the half-way 
house I might really not have got here at all. That 
would not have inconvenienced you. But oh! what 
a grudge I would have owed that skinflint brother 
of ours " here she shook her fist at the picture 
" for making our good luck depend upon our arrival 
within two short strokes of the clock! " 

" There are several to come yet," blandly ob- 
served the lawyer. But before the words were well 
out of his mouth we all became aware of a new 
presence a woman, whose sombre grace and quiet 
bearing gave distinction to her unobtrusive entrance, 
and caused a feeling of something like awe to follow 



382 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

the first sight of her cold features and deep, heavily- 
fringed eyes. But this soon passed in the more 
human sentiment awakened by the soft pleading 
which infused her gaze with a touching femininity. 
She wore a long loose garment, which fell without 
a fold from chin to foot, and in her arms she seemed 
to carry something. 

Never before had I seen so beautiful a woman. 
As I was contemplating her, with respect but yet 
with a masculine intentness I could not quite sup- 
press, two or three other persons came in. And 
now I began to notice that the eyes of all these people 
turned mainly one way, and that was toward the 
clock. Another small circumstance likewise drew 
my attention. Whenever any one entered and 
there were one or two additional arrivals during the 
five minutes preceding the striking of the hour a 
frown settled for an instant on every brow, giving to 
each and all a similar look, for the interpretation of 
which I lacked the key. Yet not on every brow 
either. There was one which remained undisturbed, 
and showed only a grand patience. 

As the hands of the big clock neared the point of 
eight a furtive smile appeared on more than one 
face; and when the hour rang out a sigh of satisfac- 
tion swept through the room, to which the little 
old lawyer responded with a worldly-wise grunt as 
he moved from his place and proceeded to the 
door. 

This he had scarcely shut when a chorus of voices 
rose from without. Three or four lingerers had 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 383 

pushed their way as far as the gate, only to see the 
door of the house shut in their faces. 

"Too late!" growled old man Luke from be- 
tween the locks of his long beard. 

" Too late ! " shrieked the woman who had come 
so near being late herself. 

" Too late ! " smoothly acquiesced the lawyer, 
locking and bolting the door with a deft and assured 
hand. 

But the four or five persons who thus found 
themselves barred out did not accept without a 
struggle the decision of the more fortunate ones 
assembled within. More than one hand began 
pounding on the door, and we could hear cries of: 
"The train was behind time!" "Your clock is 
fast! " " You are cheating us; you want it all for 
yourselves ! " " We will have the law on you ! " and 
other bitter adjurations unintelligible to me from 
my ignorance of the circumstances which called them 
forth. 

But the wary old lawyer simply shook his head 
and answered nothing; whereat a murmur of grati- 
fication rose from within, and a howl of almost 
frenzied dismay from without, which latter presently 
received point from a startling vision which now 
appeared at the casement where the lights burned. 
A man's face looked in, and behind it, that of a 
woman, so wild and maddened by some sort of 
heart-break that I found my sympathies aroused in 
spite of the glare of evil passions which made both 
of these countenances something less than human. 



384 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

But the lawyer met the stare of these four eyes 
with a quiet chuckle, which found its echo in the 
ill-advised mirth of those about him; and moving 
over to the window where they still peered in, he 
drew together the two heavy shutters which hitherto 
had stood back against the wall, and, fastening them 
with a bar, shut out the sight of this despair, if he 
could not shut out the protests which ever and anon 
were shouted through the keyhole. 

Meanwhile, one form had sat through this w r hole 
incident without a gesture; and on the quiet brow, 
from which I could not keep my eyes, no shadows 
appeared save the perpetual one of native melan- 
choly, which was at once the source of its attraction 
and the secret of its power. 

Into what sort of gathering had I stumbled? 
And why did I prefer to await developments rather 
than ask the simplest question of any one about 
me? 

Meantime the lawyer had proceeded to make 
certain preparations. With the help of one or two 
willing hands he had drawn the great table into the 
middle of the room, and, having seen the candles 
restored to their places, began to open his small bag 
and take from it a roll of paper and several flat 
documents. Laying the latter in the centre of the 
table and slowly unrolling the former, he consulted, 
with his foxy eyes, the faces surrounding him, and 
smiled with secret malevolence, as he noted that 
every chair and every form was turned away from 
the picture before which he had bent with such 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 385 

obvious courtesy on entering. I alone stood erect, 
and this possibly was why a gleam of curiosity was 
noticeable in his glance, as he ended his scrutiny of 
my countenance and bent his gaze again upon the 
paper he held. 

" Heavens! " thought I. " What shall I answer 
this man if he asks me why I continued to remain in 
a spot where I have so little business? " 

The impulse came to go. But such was the effect 
of this strange convocation of persons, at night and 
in a mist which was itself a nightmare, that I failed 
to take action and remained riveted to my place, 
while Mr. Smead consulted his roll and finally asked 
in a business-like tone, quite unlike his previous 
sarcastic speech, the names of those whom he had 
the pleasure of seeing before him. 

The old man in the chair spoke up first. 

" Luke Westonhaugh," he announced. 

" Very good ! " responded the lawyer. 

" Hector Westonhaugh," came from the thin 
man. 

A nod and a look toward the next. 

" John Westonhaugh." 

" Nephew? " asked the lawyer. 

" Yes." 

"Go on, and be quick; supper will be ready at 
nine." 

" Eunice Westonhaugh," spoke up a soft voice. 

I felt my heart bound as if some inner echo re- 
sponded to that name. 

" Daughter of whom? " 



3 86 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

" Hudson Westonhaugh," she gently faltered. 
" My father is dead died last night. I am his 
only heir." 

A grumble of dissatisfaction and a glint of un- 
relieved hate came from the doubled-up figure, whose 
malevolence had so revolted me. 

But the lawyer was not to be shaken. 

" Very good ! It is fortunate you trusted your 
feet rather than the train. And now you? What 
is your name? " 

He was looking, not at me, as I had at first feared, 
but at the man next to me, a slim but slippery youth, 
whose small red eyes made me shudder. 

" William Witherspoon." 

" Barbara's son? " 

" Yes." 

" Where are your brothers?" 

" One of them, I think, is outside " here he 
laughed " the other is sick." 

The way he uttered this word made me set him 
down as one to be especially wary of when he smiled. 
But then, I had already passed judgment on him at 
my first view. 

" And you, madam? " this to the large, dowdy 
woman with the uncertain eye, a contrast to the 
young and melancholy Eunice. 

" Janet Clapsaddle," she replied, waddling hun- 
grily forward and getting unpleasantly near the 
speaker, for he moved off as she approached, and 
took his stand in the clear space at the head of the 
table. 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 387 

" Very well, Mistress Clapsaddle. You were a 
Westonhaugh, I believe?" 

" You believe, sneak-faced hypocrite that you 
are! " she blurted out. "1 don't understand your 
lawyer ways. I like plain speaking myself. Don't 
you know me, and Luke and Hector, and and most 
of us, indeed, except that puny, white-faced girl yon- 
der, whom, having been brought up on the other 
side of the Ridge, we have none of us seen since she 
was a screaming baby in Hildegarde's arms. And 
the young gentleman over there " here she indi- 
cated me " who shows so little likeness to the rest 
of the family, he will have to make his connection 
to us pretty plain before we shall feel like ac- 
knowledging him, either as the son of one of Eus- 
tace's girls, or a chip from Brother Salmon's hard 
old block." 

As this caused all eyes to turn upon me, even 
hers, I smiled as I stepped forward. The lawyer 
did not return that smile. 

"What is your name?" he asked shortly and 
sharply, as if he distrusted me. 

" Hugh Austin," was my quiet reply. 

" There is no such name on the list," snapped old 
Smead, with an authoritative gesture toward those 
who seemed anxious to enter a protest. 

" Probably not," I returned, " for I am not a 
Witherspoon, a Westonhaugh, nor yet a Clapsaddle. 
I am merely a chance wayfarer passing through the 
town on my way West. I thought this house was a 
tavern, or at least a place I could lodge in. The 



388 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

man I met in the doorway told me as much, and so 
I am here. If my company is not agreeable, or if 
you wish this room to yourselves, let me go into the 
kitchen. I promise not to meddle with the supper, 
hungry as I am. Or perhaps you wish me to join 
the crowd outside; it seems to be increasing." 

" No, no," came from all parts of the room. 
" Don't let the door be opened. Nothing could keep 
Lemuel and his crowd out if they once got foot over 
the threshold." 

The lawyer rubbed his chin. He seemed to be in 
some sort of quandary. First he scrutinised me 
from under his shaggy brows with a sharp gleam of 
suspicion; then his features softened, and, with a 
side-glance at the young woman who called herself 
Eunice (perhaps, because she was worth looking at, 
perhaps because she had partly risen at my words), 
he slipped toward a door I had before observed in 
the wainscoting on the left of the mantelpiece, and 
softly opened it upon what looked like a narrow 
staircase. 

"We cannot let you go out," said he; " and we 
cannot let you have a finger in our viands before the 
hour comes for serving them; so if you will be so 
good as to follow this staircase to the top, you will 
find it ends in a room comfortable enough for the 
wayfarer you call yourself. In that room you can 
rest till the way is clear for you to continue your 
travels. Better we cannot do for you. This house 
is not a tavern, but the somewhat valuable property 
of " He turned with a bow and smile, as every 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 389 

one there drew a deep breath; but no one ventured 
to end that sentence. 

I would have given all my future prospects 
(which, by the way, were not very great) to remain 
in that room. The oddity of the situation; the 
mystery of the occurrence; the suspense I saw in 
every face; the eagerness of the cries I heard re- 
doubled from time to time outside; the malevo- 
lence but poorly disguised in the old lawyer's 
countenance; and, above all, the presence of that 
noble-looking woman, which was the one off-set to 
the general tone of villainy with which the room 
was charged, filled me with curiosity, if I might call 
it by no other name, that made my acquiescence in 
the demand thus made upon me positively heroic. 
But there seemed no other course for me to follow, 
and with a last lingering glance at the genial fire 
and a quick look about me, which, happily, en- 
countered hers, I stooped my head to suit the low 
and narrow doorway opened for my accommoda- 
tion, and instantly found myself in darkness. The 
door had been immediately closed by the lawyer's 
impatient hand. 



II 

WITH MY EAR TO THE WAINSCOTING 

No move more unwise could have been made by 
the old lawyer that is, if his intention had been to 
rid himself of an unwelcome witness. For, finding 



390 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

myself thrust thus suddenly from the scene, I nat- 
urally stood still instead of mounting the stairs, and, 
by standing still, discovered that though shut from 
sight, I was not from sound. Distinctly through the 
panel of the door, which was much thinner, no doubt, 
than the old fox imagined, I heard one of the men 
present shout out: 

" Well, that makes the number less by one! " 

The murmur which followed this remark came 
plainly to my ears, and, greatly rejoicing over what 
I considered my good luck, I settled myself on the 
lowest step of the stairs in the hope of catching some 
word which would reveal to me the mystery of this 
scene. 

It was not long in coming. Old Smead had now 
his audience before him in good shape, and his next 
words were of a character to make evident the pur- 
pose of this meeting. 

" Heirs of Anthony Westonhaugh, deceased," he 
began in a sing-song voice strangely unmusical, " I 
congratulate you upon your good fortune at being 
at this especial moment on the inner rather than 
outer side of your amiable relative's front-door. 
His will, which you have assembled to hear read, is 
well known to you. By it his whole property not 
so large as some of you might wish, but yet a goodly 
property for farmers like yourselves is to be di- 
vided this night, share and share alike, among such 
of his relatives as have found it convenient to be 
present here between the strokes of half-past seven 
and eight. If some of our friends have failed us 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 391 

through sloth, sickness, or the misfortune of mis- 
taking the road, they have our sympathy, but they 
cannot have his dollars" 

" Cannot have his dollars ! " echoed a rasping 
voice which from its smothered sound probably came 
from the bearded lips of the old reprobate in the 
chair. 

The lawyer waited for one or two other repeti- 
tions of this phrase (a phrase which, for some un- 
imaginable reason, seemed to give him an odd sort 
of pleasure), then he went on with greater distinct- 
ness and a certain sly emphasis, chilling in effect, but 
very professional : 

"Ladies and gentlemen, shall I read this will?" 

" No, no ! The division ! the division ! Tell us 
what we are to have ! " rose in a shout about him. 

There was a pause. I could imagine the sharp 
eyes of the lawyer travelling from face to face as 
each thus gave voice to his cupidity, and the thin 
curl of his lips as he remarked in a low, tantalising 
way: 

" There was more in the old man's clutches than 
you think." 

A gasp of greed shook the partition against which 
my ear was pressed. Some one must have backed up 
against the wainscoting since my departure from the 
room. I found myself wondering which of them it 
was. Meantime old Smead was having his say, with 
the smoothness of a man who perfectly understands 
what is required of him. 

" Mr. Westonhaugh would not have put you to so 



392 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

much trouble or had you wait so long if he had not 
expected to reward you amply. There are shares 
in this bag which are worth thousands instead of 
hundreds. Now, now stop that! Hands off! 
hands off! There are calculations to make first. 
How many of you are there? Count yourselves 
up." 

" Nine ! " called out a voice with such rapacious 
eagerness that the word was almost unintelligible. 

" Nine." How slowly the old knave spoke ! 
What pleasure he seemed to take in the suspense 
he purposely made as exasperating as possible! 

" Well, if each one gets his share, he may count 
himself richer by two hundred thousand dollars than 
when he came in here to-night." 

Two hundred thousand dollars! They had ex- 
pected no more than thirty. Surprise made them 
speechless that is, for a moment; then a pande- 
monium of hurrahs, shrieks, and loud-voiced enthusi- 
asm made the room ring till wonder seized them 
again, and a sudden silence fell, through which I 
caught a far-off wail of grief from the disappointed 
ones without, which, heard in the dark and narrow 
place in which I was confined, had a peculiarly weird 
and desolate effect. 

Perhaps it likewise was heard by some of the 
fortunate ones within ! Perhaps one head, to mark 
which, in this moment of universal elation, I would 
have given a year from my life, turned toward the 
dark without, in recognition of the despair thus 
piteously voiced; but if so, no token of the same 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 393 

came to me, and I could but hope that she had 
shown by some such movement the natural sympathy 
of her sex. 

Meanwhile the lawyer was addressing the com- 
pany in his smoothest and most sarcastic tones. 

"Mr. Westonhaugh was a wise man a very wise 
man," he droned. " He foresaw what your pleasure 
would be, and left a letter for you. But before I 
read it, before I invite you to the board he ordered 
to be spread for you in honour of this happy occasion, 
there is one appeal he bade me make to those I 
should find assembled here. As you know, he was 
not personally acquainted with all the children and 
grandchildren of his many brothers and sisters. 
Salmon's sons, for instance, were perfect strangers 
to him, and all those boys and girls of the Evans's 
branch have never been long enough this side of the 
mountains for him to know their names, much less 
their temper or their lives. Yet his heirs or such 
was his wish, his great wish must be honest men, 
righteous in their dealings, and of stainless lives. 
If, therefore, any one among you feels that, for 
reasons he need not state, he has no right to accept 
his share of Anthony Westonhaugh's bounty, then 
that person is requested to withdraw before this let- 
ter to his heirs is read." 

Withdraw? Was the man a fool? Withdraw? 
These cormorants! these suckers of blood! these 
harpies and vultures! I laughed as I imagined 
sneaking Hector, malicious Luke, or brutal John 
responding to this naive appeal, and then found 



394 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

myself wondering why no echo of my mirth came 
from the men themselves. They must have seen 
much more plainly than I did the ludicrousness of 
their weak old kinsman's demand; yet Luke was 
still, Hector was still, and even John and the three 
or four others I have mentioned gave forth no 
audible token of disdain or surprise. I was asking 
myself what sentiment of awe or fear restrained 
these selfish souls, when I became conscious of a 
movement within, which presently resolved itself into 
a departing footstep. 

Some conscience there had been awakened. Some 
one was crossing the floor toward the door. Who? 
I waited in anxious expectancy for the word which 
was to enlighten me. Happily it came soon, and 
from the old lawyer's lips. 

" You do not feel yourself worthy? " he queried, 
in tones I had not heard from him before. " Why? 
What have you done that you should forego an 
inheritance to which these others feel themselves 
honestly entitled?" 

The voice which answered gave both my mind and 
heart a shock. It was she who had risen at this call 
she, the only true-faced person there! 

Anxiously I listened for her reply. Alas ! it was 
one of action rather than speech. As I afterwards 
heard, she simply opened her long cloak and showed 
a little infant slumbering in her arms. 

" This is my reason," said she. " I have sinned in 
the eyes of the world, therefore I cannot take my 
share of Uncle Anthony's money. I did not know 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 395 

he exacted an unblemished record from those he 
expected to enrich, or I would not have come." 

The sob which followed these last words showed 
at what a cost she thus renounced a fortune of which 
she, of all present, perhaps, stood in the greatest 
need; but there was no lingering in her step, and to 
me, who understood her fault only through the faint 
sound of infantile wailing which accompanied her 
departure, there was a nobility in her action which 
raised her in an instant to an almost ideal height of 
unselfish virtue. 

Perhaps they felt this, too. Perhaps even these 
hardened men and the more than hardened woman 
whose presence was in itself a blight, recognised 
heroism when they saw it; for when the lawyer, with 
a certain obvious reluctance, laid his hand on the 
bolts of the door with the remark, " This is not my 
work, you know ; I am but following out instructions 
very minutely given me," the smothered growls and 
grunts which rose in reply lacked the venom 
which had been infused into all their previous com- 
ments. 

" I think our friends out there are far enough 
withdrawn by this time for us to hazard the opening 
of the door," the lawyer now remarked. " Madam, 
I hope you will speedily find your way to some com- 
fortable shelter." 

Then the door opened, and after a moment closed 
again in a silence which at least was respectful. Yet 
I warrant there was not a soul remaining who had 
not already figured in his mind to what extent his 



396 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

own fortune had been increased by the failure of 
one of their number to inherit. 

As for me, my whole interest in the affair was at 
an end, and I was only anxious to find my way to 
where this desolate woman faced the mist with her 
unfed baby in her arms. 



Ill 

A LIFE DRAMA 

But, to reach this wanderer, it was first necessary 
for me to escape from the house. This proved 
simple enough. The upstairs room toward which 
I rushed had a window overlooking one of the 
many lean-tos already mentioned. The window was 
fastened, but I had little difficulty in unlocking it or 
in finding my way to the ground from the top of the 
lean-to. But once again on terra-firma, I discovered 
that the mist was now so thick that it had all the 
effect of a fog at sea. It was icy cold as well, and 
clung to me so closely that I presently began to shud- 
der most violently, and, strong man though I was, 
wish myself back in the little attic bedroom from 
which I had climbed in search of one in more un- 
happy case than myself. 

But these feelings did not cause me to return. If 
I found the night cold, she must find it biting. If 
desolation oppressed my naturally hopeful spirit, 
must it not be more overwhelming yet to one whose 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 397 

memories were sad and whose future was doubtful? 
And the child ! What infant could live in an air like 
this? Edging away from the house, I called out her 
name, but no answer came back. The persons whom 
we had heard flitting in restless longing about the 
house a few moments before had left in rage, and 
she, possibly, with them. Yet I could not imagine 
her joining herself to people of their stamp. There 
had been a solitariness in her aspect which seemed to 
forbid any such companionship. Whatever her 
story, at least she had nothing in common with the 
two ill-favoured persons whose faces I had seen 
looking in at the casement. No; I should find her 
alone, but where? Certainly the ring of mist, sur- 
rounding me at that moment, offered me little 
prospect of finding her anywhere, either easily o r 
soon. 

Again I raised my voice, and again I failed to 
meet with response. Then, fearing to leave the 
house lest I should be quite lost amid the fences 
and brush lying between it and the road, I began 
to feel my way along the walls, calling softly now, 
instead of loudly, so anxious was I not to miss any 
chance of carrying comfort, if not succour, to the 
woman I was seeking. But the night gave back no 
sound, and when I came to the open door of a shed 
I welcomed the refuge it offered, and stepped in. I 
was, of course, confronted by darkness a different 
darkness from that without, blanket-like and impene- 
trable. But when after a moment of intense listening 
I heard a soft sound as of weariful breathing, I was 



398 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

seized anew by hope, and, feeling in my pocket 
for my matchbox, I made a light and looked 
around. 

My intuitions had not deceived me : she was there. 
Sitting on the floor with her cheek pressed against 
the wall, she revealed to my eager scrutiny only the 
outlines of her pure, pale profile; but in those out- 
lines and on those pure, pale features I saw such an 
abandonment of hope, mingled with such quiet en- 
durance, that my whole soul melted before it, and 
it was with difficulty I managed to say: 

"Pardon! I do not wish to intrude; but I am 
shut out of the house also, and the night is raw and 
cold. Can I do nothing for your comfort or for 
for the child's?" 

She turned toward me, and I saw the faintest 
gleam of pleasure tremble in the sombre stillness of 
her face, and then the match went out in my hand, 
and we were again in complete darkness. But the 
little wail, which at the same instant rose from 
between her arms, filled up the pause as her sweet 
"Hush! "filled my heart. 

" I am used to the cold," came in another moment 
from the place where she crouched. " It is the child 
she is hungry; and I I walked here feeling, 
hoping that, as my father's heir, I might partake in 
some slight measure of Uncle Anthony's money. 
Though my father cast me out before he died, and 
I have neither home nor money, I do not complain. 

I forfeited all when " Another wail, another 

gentle " Hush ! " then silence. 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 399 

I lit another match. " Look in my face ! " I 
prayed. " I am a stranger, and you would be show- 
ing only proper prudence not to trust me. But I 
overheard your words when you withdrew from the 
room where your fortune lay; and I honour you, 
madam. If food can be' got for your little one, I 
will get it." 

I caught sight of the convulsive clasp with which 
she drew to her breast the tiny bundle she held; 
then darkness fell again. 

" A little bread," she entreated; " a little milk 
ah, baby, baby, hush ! " 

" But where can I get it? " I cried. " They are 
at table inside. I hear them shouting over their good 
cheer. But perhaps there are neighbours near by. 
Do you know? " 

" There are no neighbours," she replied. " What 
is got must be got here. I know a way to the 
kitchen; I used to visit Uncle Anthony when a little 
child. If you have the courage 

I laughed. This token of confidence seemed 
to reassure her. I heard her move; possibly she 
stood up. 

" In the further corner of this shed," said she, 
" there used to be a trap, connecting this floor with 
an underground passage-way. A ladder stood 
against the trap, and the small cellar at the foot 
communicated by means of an iron-bound door with 
the large one under the house. Eighteen years ago 
the wood of that door was old; now it should be 
rotten. If you have the strength " 



400 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

" I will make the effort and see," said I. " But 
when I am in the cellar, what then? " 

" Follow the wall to the right; you will come to a 
stone staircase. As this staircase has no railing, be 
careful in ascending it. At the top you will find a 
door; it leads into a pantry adjoining the kitchen. 
Some one will be in that pantry. Some one will give 
you a bite for the child, and when she is quieted and 
the sun has risen I will go away. It is my duty to 
do so. My uncle was always upright, if cold. He 
was perfectly justified in exacting rectitude in his 
heirs." 

I might have rejoined by asking if she detected 
rectitude in the faces of the greedy throng she had 
left behind her with the guardian of this estate, but 
I did not; I was too intent upon following out her 
directions. Lighting another match, I sought the 
trap. Alas! it was burdened with a pile of sticks 
and rubbish which looked as if they had lain there 
for years. As these had to be removed in total 
darkness, it took me some time. But once this 
debris had been scattered and thrown aside, I had no 
difficulty in finding the trap, and, as the ladder was 
still there, I was soon on the cellar-bottom. When, 
by the reassuring shout I gave, she knew that I had 
advanced thus far, she spoke, and her voice had a 
soft and thrilling sound. 

" Don't forget your own needs," she said. " We 
two are not so hungry that we cannot wait for you 
to take a mouthful. I will sing to the baby. Good- 
bye." 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 401 

These ten minutes we had spent together had 
made us friends. The warmth, the strength which 
this discovery brought, gave to my arm a force that 
made that old oak door go down before me in three 
vigorous pushes. 

Had the eight fortunate ones above not been in- 
dulging in a noisy celebration of their good luck, 
they must have heard the clatter of this door when 
it fell. But good eating, good drink, and the 
prospect of an immediate fortune far beyond their 
wildest dreams, made all ears deaf, and no pause 
occurred in the shouts of laughter and the hum of 
good-fellowship which sifted down between the 
beams supporting the house above my head. Con- 
sequently, little or no courage was required for the 
completion of my adventure; and before long I came 
upon the staircase and the door leading from its top 
into the pantry. The next minute I was in front of 
that door. 

But here a surprise awaited me. The noise, which 
had hitherto been loud, now became deafening, and 
I realised that, contrary to Eunice Westonhaugh's 
expectation, the supper had been spread in the 
kitchen, and that I was likely to run amuck of the 
whole despicable crowd in any effort I might make 
to get a bite for the famished baby. 

I therefore naturally hesitated to push open the 
door, fearing to draw attention to myself; and when 
I did succeed in lifting the latch and making a small 
crack, I was so astonished by the sudden lull in the 



402 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

general babble that I drew hastily back and was for 
descending the stairs in sudden retreat. 

But I was prevented from carrying out this cow- 
ardly impulse by catching the sound of the lawyer's 
voice, addressing the assembled guests. 

" You have eaten and you have drunk," he was 
saying; " you are therefore ready for the final toast. 
Brothers, nephews heirs all of Anthony Weston- 
haugh, I rise to propose the name of your generous 
benefactor, who, if spirits walk this earth, must cer- 
tainly be with us to-night." 

A grumble from more than one throat and an 
uneasy hitch from such shoulders as I could see 
through my narrow vantage-hole testified to the 
rather doubtful pleasure with which this suggestion 
was received. But the lawyer's tones lost none of 
their animation, as he went on to say: 

" The bottle, from which your glasses are to be 
replenished for this final draught, he has himself 
provided. So anxious was he that it should be of the 
very best and altogether worthy of the occasion it is 
to celebrate, that he gave into my charge, almost 
with his dying breath, this key, telling me that it 
would unlock a cupboard here in which he had 
placed a bottle of wine of the very rarest vintage. 
This is the key, and yonder, if I do not mistake, is 
the cupboard." 

They had already quaffed a dozen toasts. Per- 
haps this was why they accepted this proposition in 
a sort of panting silence, which remained unbroken 
while the lawyer crossed the floor, unlocked the 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 403 

cupboard, and brought out before them a bottle 
which he held up before their eyes with a simulated 
glee almost saturnine. 

"Isn't that a bottle to make your eyes dance? 
The very cobwebs on it are eloquent. And see ! 
look at this label. Tokay, friends real Tokay! 
How many of you ever had the opportunity of 
drinking real Tokay before? " 

A long deep sigh from a half-dozen throats, in 
which some strong but hitherto repressed passion, 
totally incomprehensible to me, found sudden vent, 
rose in one simultaneous sound from about that 
table, and I heard one jocular voice sing out: 

"Pass it around, Smead! I'll drink to Uncle 
Anthony out of that bottle till there isn't a drop left 
to tell what was in it ! " 

But the lawyer was in no hurry. 

" You have forgotten the letter, for the hearing 
of which you are called together. Mr. Anthony 
Westonhaugh left behind him a letter. The time 
is now come for reading it." 

As I heard these words, and realised that the final 
toast was to be delayed, and that some few moments 
must yet elapse before the room would be cleared 
and an opportunity given me for obtaining what 
I needed for the famishing mother and child, I felt 
such impatience with the fact, and so much anxiety 
as to the condition of those I had left behind me, 
that I questioned whether it would not be better for 
me to return to them empty-handed than to leave 



404 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

them so long without the comfort of my presence, 
when the fascination of the scene again seized me, 
and I found myself lingering to mark its conclusion 
with an avidity which can only be explained by my 
sudden and intense consciousness of what it all might 
mean to her whose witness I had thus inadvertently 
become. 

The careful lawyer began by quoting the injunc- 
tion with which this letter had been put in his hands. 

' When they are warm with food and wine, but not 
too warm ' thus his adjuration ran ' then let 
them hear my first and only words to them.' I 
know you are eager for these words. Folk so 
honest, so convinced of their own purity and up- 
rightness that they can stand unmoved while the 
youngest and most helpless among them withdraws 
her claim to wealth and independence rather than 
share an unmerited bounty such folk, I say, must 
be eager, must be anxious, to know why they have 
been made the legatees of so great a fortune under 
the easy conditions and amid such slight restrictions 
as have been imposd upon them by their munificent 
kinsman." 

" I had rather go on drinking toasts," babbled one 
thick voice. 

" I had rather finish my figuring," growled an- 
other, in whose grating tones no echo remained of 
Hector Westonhaugh's formerly honeyed voice. " I 
am making out a list of stock " 

" Blast your stock that is, if you mean horses 
and cows! " screamed a third. " I'm going in for 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 405 

city life. With less money than we have got, An- 
dreas Amsberger got to be Alderman " 

"Alderman!" sneered the whole pack; and the 
tumult became general. " If more of us had been 
sick," called out one, " or if Uncle Luke, say, had 
tripped into the ditch instead of on the edge of it, 
the fellows who came safe through might have had 
anything they wanted, even to the governorship of 
the State, or or " 

" Silence! " came in commanding tones from the 
lawyer, who had begun to let his disgust appear, 
perhaps because he held under his thumb the bottle 
upon which all eyes were now lovingly centred so 
lovingly, indeed, that I ventured to increase in the 
smallest perceptible degree the crack by means of 
which I was myself an interested, if unseen, par- 
ticipator in this scene. 

A sight of Smead, and a partial glimpse of old 
Luke's covetous profile, rewarded this small act of 
daring on my part. The lawyer was standing; all 
the rest were sitting. Perhaps he alone retained 
sufficient steadiness to stand, for I observed by the 
control he exercised over this herd of self-seekers 
that he had, not touched the cup which had so 
freely gone about among the others. The woman 
was hidden from me, but the change in her voice, 
when by any chance I heard it, convinced me that 
she had not disdained the toasts drunk by her 
brothers and nephews. 

"Silence!" the lawyer reiterated, "or I will 
smash this bottle on the hearth ! " He raised it in 



4 o6 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

one threatening hand, and every man there seemed 
to tremble, while old Luke put out his long fingers 
with an entreaty that ill became them. " You want 
to hear the letter?" old Smead called out. "I 
thought so." 

Putting the bottle down again, but still keeping 
one hand upon it, he drew a folded paper from his 
breast. " This," said he, " contains the final injunc- 
tions of Anthony Westonhaugh. You will listen, all 
of you listen till I am done or I will not only 
smash this bottle before your eyes, but I will keep 
forever buried in my breast the whereabouts of cer- 
tain drafts and bonds in which, as his heirs, you 
possess the greatest interest. Nobody but myself 
knows where these papers can be found." 

Whether this was so, or whether the threat was an 
empty one, thrown out by this subtle old schemer 
for the purpose of safeguarding his life from their 
possible hate and impatience, it answered his end 
with these semi-intoxicated men, and secured him 
the silence he demanded. Breaking open the seal of 
the envelope he held, he showed them the folded 
sheet which it contained with the remark: 

" I have had nothing to do with the writing of 
this letter. It is in Mr. Westonhaugh's own hand, 
and he was not even so good as to communicate to 
me the nature of its contents. I was bidden to read 
it to such as should be here assembled under the 
provisos mentioned in his will ; and as you are now 
in a condition to listen, I will proceed with my task 
as required." 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 407 

This was my time for leaving, but a certain brood- 
ing terror, latent in the air, held me chained to the 
spot, listening with my ears, but receiving the full 
sense of what was read from the expression of old 
Luke's face, which was probably more plainly visible 
to me than to those who sat beside him. For, being 
bent almost into a bow, as I have said, his forehead 
came within an inch of touching his plate, and one 
had to look under his arms, as I did, to catch the 
workings of his evil mouth, as old Smead gave forth, 
in his professional sing-song, the following words 
from his departed client: 

" ' Brothers, nephews, and heirs ! Though the 
earth has lain upon my breast a month, I am with 
you here to-night.' " 

A snort from old Luke's snarling lips, and a stir 
not a comfortable one in the jostling crowd, whose 
shaking arms and clawing hands I could see pro- 
jecting here and there over the board. 

" ' My presence at this feast a presence which, 
if unseen, cannot be unfelt, may bring you more 
pain than pleasure. But if so, it matters little. You 
are my natural heirs, and I have left you my money. 
Why, when so little love has characterised our inter- 
course, must be evident to such of my brothers as 
can recall their youth and the promise our father 
exacted from us on the day we set foot in this new 
land. 

" ' There were nine of us in those days Luke, 
Salmon, Barbara, Hector, Eustace, Janet, Hudson, 
William, and myself and all save one were promis- 



4 o8 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

ing, in appearance at least. But our father knew 
his offspring, and when we stood, an alien and miser- 
able band in front of Castle Garden, at the foot of 
the great city whose immensity struck terror to our 
hearts, he drew all our hands together and made 
us swear by the soul of our mother, whose body we 
had left in the sea, that we would keep the bond of 
brotherhood intact, and share with mutual confi- 
dence whatever good fortune this untried country 
might hold in store for us. You were strong, and 
your voices rang out loudly. Mine was faint, for I 
was weak so weak that my hand had to be held in 
place by my sister Barbara. But my oath has never 
lost its hold upon my heart, while yours answer 
how you have kept it, Luke; or you, Janet; or 
you, Hector, of the smooth tongue and vicious heart; 
or you, or you, who, from one stock, recognise but 
one law the law of cold-blooded selfishness, which 
seeks its own in face of all oaths and at the cost of 
another man's heart-break. 

" ' This I say to such as know my story. But 
lest there be one amongst you who has not heard 
from parent or uncle the true tale of him who has 
brought you all under one roof to-night, I will re- 
peat it here in words, that no man may fail to under- 
stand why I remembered my oath through life and 
beyond death, yet stand above you an accusing spirit 
while you quaff me toasts and count the gains my 
justice divides among you. 

1 ' I, as you all remember, was the weak one 
the ne'er-do-weel. When all of you were grown and 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 409 

had homes of your own, I still remained under the 
family roof-tree, fed by our father's bounty and look- 
ing to our father's justice for that share of his 
savings which he had promised to all alike. When 
he died it came to me as it came to you; but I had 
married before that day married, not, like the rest 
of you, for what a wife could bring, but for senti- 
ment and true passion. This, in my case, meant a 
loving wife, but a frail one; and while we lived a 
little while on the patrimony left us, it was far too 
small to support us long without some aid from our 
own hands; and our hands were feeble and could 
not work. And so we fell into debt for rent and, 
ere long, for the commonest necessities of life. In 
vain I struggled to redeem myself; the time of my 
prosperity had not come, and I only sank deeper and 
deeper into debt, and finally into indigence. A baby 
came. Our landlord was kind, and allowed us to 
stay for two weeks under the roof for whose protec- 
tion we could not pay; but at the end of that time we 
were asked to leave, and I found myself on the road 
with a dying wife, a wailing infant, no money in my 
purse, and no power in my arm to earn any. Then, 
when heart and hope were both failing, I recalled 
that ancient oath and the six prosperous homes scat- 
tered up and down the very highway on which I 
stood. I could not leave my wife ; the fever was in 
her veins, and she could not bear me out of her 
sight; so I put her on a horse, which a kind old 
neighbour was willing to lend me, and holding her 
up with one hand, guided the horse with the other 



4 io THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

to the home of my brother Luke. He was a 
straight enough fellow in those days physically, I 
mean and he looked able and strong that morning, 
as he stood in the open doorway of his house, gazing 
down at us as we halted before him in the roadway. 
But his temper had grown greedy with the accumula- 
tion of a few dollars, and he shook his head as he 
closed his door, saying he remembered no oath, and 
that spenders must expect to be beggars. 

" ' Struck to the heart by a rebuff which meant 
prolongation of the suffering I saw in my dear wife's 
eyes, I stretched up and kissed her where she sat 
half fainting on the horse; then I moved on. I 
came to Barbara's home next. She had been a little 
mother to me once that is, she had fed and dressed 
me, and doled out blows and caresses, and taught 
me to read and sing. But Barbara in her fathers 
home and without fortune was not the Barbara I 
saw on the threshold of the little cottage she called 
her own. She heard my story; looked in the face 
of my wife, and turned her back. She had no place 
for idle folk in her little house; if we would work 
she would feed us ; but we must earn our supper or 
go hungry to bed. I felt the trembling of my wife's 
frame where she leaned against my arm, and kissing 
her again, led her on to Salmon's. Luke, Hector, 
Janet, have you heard him tell of that vision at his 
gateway, twenty-five years ago? He is not amongst 
you. For twelve years he has lain beside our father 
in the churchyard, but his sons may be here, for 
they were ever alert when gold was in sight or a full 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 41 1 

glass to be drained. Ask them, ask John, whom I 
saw skulking behind his cousins at the garden fence 
that day, what it was they saw as I drew rein under 
the great tree which shadowed their father's door- 
step. 

' The sunshine had been pitiless that morning, 
and the head, for whose rest in some loving shelter 
I would have bartered soul and body, had fallen 
sidewise till it lay on my arm. Pressed to her breast 
was our infant, whose little wail struck in pitifully as 
Salmon called out, "What's to do here to-day?" 
Do you remember it, lads? Or how you all laughed, 
little and great, when I asked for a few weeks' stay 
under my brother's roof till we could all get well and 
go about our tasks again? 7 remember. I, who 
am writing these words from the very mouth of the 
tomb, / remember; but I did not curse you. I only 
rode on to the next. The way ran uphill now; 
and the sun which, since our last stop, had been 
under a cloud, came out and blistered my wife's 
cheeks, already burning red with fever. But I 
pressed my lips upon them, and led her on. With 
each rebuff I gave her a kiss; and her smile, as her 
head pressed harder and harder upon my arm, now 
exerting all its strength to support her, grew almost 
divine. But it vanished at my nephew Lemuel's. 

: ' He was shearing sheep, and could give no time 
to company; and when late in the day I drew rein at 
Janet's, and she said she was going to have a dance, 
and could not look after sick folk, the pallid lips 
failed to return my despairing embrace; and in the 



412 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

terror which this brought me I went down in the 
gathering twilight into the deep valley where Wil- 
liam raised his sheep, and reckoned day by day the 
increase among his pigs. Oh, the chill of that 
descent! Oh, the gloom of the gathering shadows! 
As we neared the bottom, and I heard a far-off voice 
shout out a hoarse command, some instinct made me 
reach up for the last time and bestow that faithful 
kiss, which was at once her consolation and my 
prayer. My lips were cold with the terror of my 
soul, but they were not so cold as the cheek they 
touched, and, shrieking in my misery and need, I 
fell before William where he halted by the horse- 
trough and He was always a hard man, was 

William, and it was a shock to him, no doubt, to see 
us standing in our anguish and necessity before him; 
but he raised the whip in his hand, and when it fell 
my arm fell with it, and she slipped from my grasp 
to the ground and lay in a heap in the roadway. 

' ' He was ashamed next minute, and pointed to 
the house nearby. But I did not carry her in, and 
she died in the roadway. Do you remember it, 
Luke? Do you remember it, Lemuel? 

" ' But it is not of this that I complain at this hour, 
nor is it for this I ask you to drink the toast I havt 
prepared for you.' " 

The looks, the writhings of old Luke and such 
others as I could now see through the widening 
crack my hands unconsciously made in the doorway, 
told me that the rack was at work in this room so 
lately given up to revelry. Yet the mutterings, which 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 413 

from time to time came to my ears from one sullen 
lip or another, did not rise into frightened impreca- 
tion or even into any assertion of sorrow or con- 
trition. It seemed as if some suspense common to all 
held them speechless, if not dumbly apprehensive; 
and while the lawyer said nothing in recognition of 
this, he could not have been quite blind to it, for he 
bestowed one curious glance around the table before 
he proceeded with old Anthony's words. 

Those words had now become short, sharp, and 
accusatory. 

' ' My child lived, and what remained to me of 
human passion and longing centred in his frail exist- 
ence. I managed to earn enough for his eating and 
housing, and in time I was almost happy again. 
This was while our existence was a struggle; but 
when, with the discovery of latent powers in my own 
mind, I began to find my place in the world and to 
earn money, then your sudden interest in my boy 
taught me a new lesson in human selfishness, but 
not as yet new fears. My nature was not one to 
grasp ideas of evil, and the remembrance of that 
oath still remained to make me lenient toward you. 

" ' I let him see you; not much, not often, but yet 
often enough for him to realise that he had uncles 
and cousins, or, if you like it better, kindred. And 
how did you repay this confidence on my part? 
What hand had ye in the removal of this small bar- 
rier to the fortune my own poor health warranted 
you in looking upon even in those early days as 
your own? To others' eyes it may appear none; to 



414 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

mine, ye are one and all his murderers as certainly 
as all of you were the murderers of the good 
physician hastening to his aid. For his illness was 
not a mortal one. He would have been saved if the 
doctor had reached him; but a precipice swallowed 
that good Samaritan, and only I of all who looked 
upon the footprints which harrowed up the road at 
this dangerous point knew whose shoes would fit 
those marks. God's providence, it was called, and I 
let it pass for such; but it was a providence which 
cost me my boy and made you my heirs.' " 

Silence, as sullen in character as the men who 
found themselves thus openly impeached, had for 
some minutes now replaced the muttered complaints 
which had accompanied the first portion of this de- 
nunciatory letter. As the lawyer stopped to cast 
them another of those strange looks, a gleam from 
old Luke's sidewise eyes startled the man next him, 
who, shrugging a shoulder, passed the underhanded 
look on, till it had circled the board and stopped 
with the man sitting opposite the crooked sinner 
who had started it. 

I began to have a wholesome dread of them all, 
and was astonished to see the lawyer drop his hand 
from the bottle, which to some degree offered itself 
as a possible weapon. But he knew his audience 
better than I did. Though the bottle was now free 
for any man's taking, not a hand trembled toward 
it, nor was a single glass held out. 

The lawyer, with an evil smile, went on with his 
relentless client's story. 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 415 

1 Ye had killed my wife; ye had killed my son; 
but this was not enough. Being lonesome in my 
great house, which was as much too large for me as 
my fortune was, I had taken a child to replace the 
boy I had lost. Remembering the cold blood run- 
ning in the veins of those nearest me, I chose a boy 
from alien stock, and for a while knew contentment 
again. But as he developed and my affections 
strengthened, the possibility of all my money going 
his way roused my brothers and sisters from the 
complacency they had enjoyed since their road to 
fortune had been secured by my son's death, and 
one day can you recall it, Hudson ? Can you recall 
it, Lemuel ? the boy was brought in from the mill, 
and laid at my feet dead! He had stumbled 
amongst the great belts, but whose was the voice 
which, with the loud " Halloo! " had startled him? 
Can you say, Luke? Can you say, John? I can 
say, in whose ear it was whispered that three, if not 
more of you were seen moving among the machinery 
that fatal morning. 

" ' Again God's providence was said to have 
visited my house; and again ye were my heirs.' " 

" Stop there ! " broke in the harsh voice of Luke, 
who was gradually growing livid under his long grey 
locks. 

" Lies ! lies ! " shrieked Hector, gathering courage 
from his brother. 

" Cut it all and give us the drink! " snarled one of 
the younger men, who was less under the effect of 
liquor than the rest. 



416 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

But a trembling voice muttered " Hush! " and the 
lawyer, whose eye had grown steely under these 
comments, took advantage of the sudden silence 
which had followed this last objurgation, and went 
steadily on: 

' ' Some men would have made a will and de- 
nounced you. I made a will, but did not denounce 
you. / am no breaker of oaths. More than this, I 
learned a new trick. I, who hated all subtlety, and 
looked upon craft as the favourite weapon of the 
devil, learned to smile with my lips while my heart 
was burning with hatred. Perhaps this was why you 
all began to smile, too, and joke me about certain 
losses I had sustained, by which you meant the gains 
which had come to me. That these gains were many 
times greater than you realised added to the sting 
of this good-fellowship, but I held my peace, and 
you began to have confidence in a good-nature 
which nothing could shake. You even gave me a 
supper.' " 

A supper! 

What was there in these words to cause every 
man there to stop in whatever movement he was 
making, and stare with wide-open eyes intently at 
the reader? He had spoken quietly; he had not 
even looked up; but the silence which for some 
minutes back had begun to reign over that tumultuous 
gathering now became breathless, and the seams in 
Hector's cheeks deepened to a bluish criss-cross. 

" ' You remembeY that supper? ' ' 

As the word rang out again I threw wide the 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 417 

door. I might have stalked openly into their circle; 
not a man there would have noticed me. 

' ' It was a memorable occasion,' " the lawyer 
read on, with stoical impassiveness. " ' There was 
not a brother lacking. Luke, and Hudson, and Wil- 
liam, and Hector, and Eustace's boys, as well as 
Eustace himself; Janet too, and Salmon's Lemuel, 
and Barbara's son, who, even if his mother had gone 
the way of all flesh, had so trained her black brood 
in the love of the things of this world that I scarcely 
missed her when I looked about among you all for 
the eight sturdy brothers and sisters who had joined 
in one clasp and one oath under the eye of a true- 
hearted immigrant, our father. What I did miss 
was one true eye lifted to my glance; but I did not 
show that I missed it. And so our peace was made, 
and we separated, you to wait for your inheritance, 
and I for the death which was to secure it to you. 
For when the cup passed round that night you each 
dropped into it a tear of repentance, and tears make 
bitter drinking. I sickened as I quaffed, and was 
never myself again, as you know. Do you under- 
stand me, you cruel, crafty ones?' ' 

Did they not! Heads quaking, throats gasping, 
teeth chattering no longer sitting all risen, all 
looking with wild eyes for the door was it not 
apparent that they understood, and only waited for 
one more word to break away and flee the accursed 
house? 

But that word lingered. Old Smead had now 
grown pale himself, and read with difficulty the lines 



418 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

which were to end this frightful scene. As I saw 
the red gleam of terror shine out from his small 
eyes, I wondered if he had been but the blind tool 
of his implacable client, and was as ignorant as those 
before him of what was to follow this heavy arraign- 
ment. The dread with which he finally proceeded 
was too marked for me to doubt the truth of this 
surmise. This is what he found himself forced to 
read : 

" ' There was a bottle reserved for me. It had a 
green label on it ' " 

A shriek from every one there and a hurried look 
up and down at the bottles standing on the table. 

" ' A green label,' " the lawyer repeated, " ' and it 
made a goodly appearance as it was set down before 
me. But you had no liking for wine with a green 
label on the bottle. One by one you refused it, and 
when I rose to quaff my final glass alone, every eye 
before me fell and did not lift again until the glass 
was drained. I did not notice this then, but I see 
it all now, just as I hear again the excuses you gave 
for not filling your glasses as the bottle went round. 
One had drunk enough; one suffered from qualms 
brought on by an unaccustomed indulgence in 
oysters; one felt that wine good enough for me 
was too good for him, and so on, and so on. Not 
one to show frank eyes and drink with me as I was 
ready to drink with him! Why? Because one and 
all of you knew what was in that cup, and would not 
risk an inheritance so nearly within your grasp.' " 

" Lies! lies! " again shrieked the raucous voice of 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 419 

Luke, smothered by terror; while oaths, shouts, im- 
precations, rang out in horrid tumult from one end 
of the table to the other, till the lawyer's face, over 
which a startling change was rapidly passing, drew 
the whole crowd forward again in awful fascination, 
till they clung, speechless, arm in arm, shoulder 
propping shoulder, while he gasped out in dismay 
equal to their own these last fatal words : 

"'That was at your board, my brothers; now 
you are at mine. You have eaten my viands, drunk 
of my cup ; and now, through the mouth of the one 
man who has been true to me because therein lies his 
advantage, I offer you a final glass. Will you drink 
it? I drank yours. By that old-time oath which 
binds us to share each other's fortune, I ask you to 
share this cup with me. You will not? ' ' 

"No, no, no! " shouted one after another. 

" ' Then,' " the inexorable voice went on, a voice 
which to these miserable souls was no longer that of 
the lawyer, but an issue from the grave they had 
themselves dug for Anthony Westonhaugh, " ' know 
that your abstinence comes too late; that you have 
already drunk the toast destined to end your lives. 
The bottle which you must have missed from that 
board of yours has been offered you again. A label 
is easily changed, and Luke, John, Hector, I know 
you all so well that bottle has been greedily emptied 
by you; and while I, who sipped sparingly, lived 
three weeks, you, who have drunk deep, have not 
three hours before you, possibly not three minutes.' " 

Oh, the wail of those lost souls as this last sentence 



420 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

issued in a final pant of horror from the lawyer's 
quaking lips ! Shrieks howls prayers for mercy - 
groans deep enough to make the hair rise and 
curses, at sound of which I shut my ears in horror, 
only to open them again in dread, as, with one 
simultaneous impulse, they flung themselves upon the 
lawyer, who, foreseeing this rush, had backed up 
against the wall. 

He tried to stem the tide. 

" I knew nothing of the poisoning," he protested. 
" That was not my reason for declining to drink. 
I wished to preserve my senses to carry out my 
client's wishes. As God lives, I did not know he 
meant to carry his revenge so far. Mercy ! 



But the hands which clutched him were the hands 
of murderers, and the lawyer's puny figure could 
not stand up against the avalanche of human terror, 
relentless fury, and mad vengeance which now rolled 
in upon it. As I bounded to his relief he turned his 
ghastly face upon me. But the way between us was 
blocked, and I was preparing myself to see him sink 
before my eyes when an unearthly shriek rose from 
behind us, and every living soul in that mass of 
struggling humanity paused, set and staring, with 
stiffened limbs and eyes fixed, not on him, not on 
me, but on one of their own number the only 
woman amongst them, Janet Clapsaddle who, with 
clutching hands clawing her breast, was reeling in 
solitary agony in her place beside the board. As 
they looked she fell, and lay with upturned face and 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 421 

staring eyes, in whose glassy depths the ill-fated 
ones who watched her could see mirrored their own 
impending doom. 

It was an awful moment. A groan, in which was 
concentrated the despair of seven miserable souls, 
rose from that petrified band; then, man by man, 
they separated and fell back, showing on each weak 
or wicked face the particular passion which had 
driven them into crime and made them the victims 
of this wholesale revenge. There had been some 
sort of bond between them till the vision of death 
rose before each shrinking soul. Shoulder to 
shoulder in crime, they fell apart as their doom ap- 
proached, and rushing, shrieking, each man for him- 
self, they one and all sought to escape by doors, 
windows, or any outlet which promised release from 
this fatal spot. One rushed by me I do not know 
which one and I felt as if a flame from hell had 
licked me, his breath was so hot and the moans he 
uttered so like the curses we imagine to blister the 
lips of the lost. None of them saw me; they did 
not even detect the sliding form of the lawyer crawl- 
ing away before them to some place of egress of 
which they had no knowledge ; and, convinced that in 
this scene of death I could play no part worthy of 
her who awaited me, I too rushed away, and, seeking 
my old path through the cellar, sought her side, 
where she still crouched in patient waiting against the 
dismal wall. 



422 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

IV 

THE FINAL SHOCK 

Her baby had fallen asleep. I knew this by the 
faint, low sweetness of her croon; and, shuddering 
with the horrors I had witnessed horrors which 
acquired a double force from the contrast presented 
by the peace of this quiet spot and the hallowing 
influence of the sleeping infant I threw myself 
down in the darkness at her feet, gasping out: 

" Oh, thank God and your uncle's seeming harsh- 
ness that you have escaped the doom which has 
overtaken those others! You and your babe are 
still alive; while they " 

" What of them? What has happened to them? 
You are breathless, trembling; you have brought no 
bread " 

" No, no.' Food in this house means death. Your 
relatives gave food and wine to your uncle at a 
supper; he, though now in his grave, has returned 
the same to them. There was a bottle " 

I stopped, appalled. A shriek, muffled by distance 
but quivering with the same note of death I had 
heard before, had gone up again from the other side 
of the wall against which we were leaning. 

" Oh I " she gasped, " and my father was at that 
supper! my father, who died last night cursing the 
day he was born ! We are an accursed race ! I 
have known it all my life. Perhaps that was why I 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 423 

mistook passion for love. And my baby O God, 
have mercy ! God, have mercy ! " 

The plaintiveness of that cry, the awesomeness of 
what I had seen of what was going on at that 
moment almost within the reach of our arms the 
darkness, the desolation of our two souls, affected 
me as I had never been affected in my whole life 
before. In the concentrated experience of the last 
two hours I seemed to have lived years under this 
woman's eyes; to know her as I did my own heart; to 
love her as I did my own soul. No growth of feeling 
ever brought the ecstasy of that moment's inspira- 
tion. With no sense of doing anything strange, with 
no fear of being misunderstood, I reached out my 
hand, and, touching hers where it lay clasped about 
her infant, I said: 

" We are two poor wayfarers. A rough road 
loses half its difficulties when trodden by two. Shall 
we, then, fare on together you, I, and the little 
child?" 

She gave a sob ; there was sorrow, longing, grief, 
hope in its thrilling, low sound. As I recognised 
the latter emotion I drew her to my breast. The 
child did not separate us. 

" We shall be happy," I murmured, and her sigh 
seemed to answer a delicious " Yes," when suddenly 
there came a shock to the partition against which 
we leaned, and, starting from my clasp, she 
cried: 

" Our duty is in there. Shall we think of our- 
selves, or even of each other, while these men, all 



424 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

relatives of mine, are dying on the other side of this 
wall?" 

Seizing my hand, she dragged me to the trap; 
but here I took the lead and helped her down the 
ladder. When I had her safely on the floor at the 
foot she passed in front of me again; but once up 
the steps and in front of the kitchen door I thrust 
her behind me, for one glance into the room beyond 
had convinced me it was no place for her. 

But she would not be held back. She crowded 
forward beside me, and together we looked upon 
the wreck within. It was a never-to-be-forgotten 
scene. The demon that was in those men had 
driven them to demolish furniture, dishes, every- 
thing. In one heap lay what, an hour before, had 
been an inviting board surrounded by rollicking and 
greedy guests. But it was not upon this overthrow 
we stopped to look. It was upon something that 
mingled with it, dominated it, and made of this chaos 
only a setting to awful death. Janet's face, in all its 
natural hideousness and depravity, looked up from 
the floor beside this heap; and farther on, lay the 
twisted figure of him they called Hector, with some- 
thing more than the seams of greedy longing round 
his wide-staring eyes and icy temples. Two in this 
room! and on the threshold of the one beyond a 
moaning third, who sank into eternal silence as we 
approached; and before the fireplace in the great 
room a horrible crescent that had once been aged 
Luke, upon whom we had no sooner turned our 
backs than we caught glimpses here and there of 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 425 

other prostrate forms which moved once under our 
eyes and then moved no more. 

One only still stood upright, and he was the man 
whose obtrusive figure and sordid expression had so 
revolted me in the beginning. There was no colour 
now in his flabby and heavily fallen cheeks. The 
eyes, in whose false sheen I had seen so much of evil, 
were glazed now, and his big and burly frame shook 
the door it pressed against. He was staring at a 
small slip of paper he held, and, from his anxious 
looks, appeared to miss something which neither of 
us had power to supply. It was a spectacle to make 
devils rejoice and mortals fly aghast. But Eunice 
had a spirit like an angel, and, drawing near him, 
she said: 

" Is there anything I can do for you, Cousin 
John?" 

He started, looked at her with the same blank 
gaze he had hitherto cast at the wall, then some 
words formed on his working lips, and we heard : 

" I cannot reckon ; I was never good at figures. 
But if Luke is gone, and William, and Hector, and 
Barbara's boy, and Janet, how much does that leave 
for me?" 

He was answered almost the moment he spoke, 
but it was by other tongues, and in another world 
than this. As his body fell forward I tore open the 
door before which he had been standing, and, lifting 
the almost fainting Eunice in my arms, I carried her 
out into the night. As I did so I caught a final 
glimpse of the pictured face I had found it so hard 



426 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

to understand a couple of hours before. I under- 
stood it now. 

A surprise awaited us as we turned toward the 
gate. The mist had lifted, and a keen but not un- 
pleasant wind was driving from the north. Borne 
on it we heard voices. The village had emptied 
itself, probably at the alarm given by the lawyer, 
and it was these good men and women whose ap- 
proach we heard. As we had nothing to fear from 
them we went forward to meet them. As we did so 
three crouching figures rose from some bushes we 
passed and ran scurrying before us through the gate- 
way. They were the late-comers who had shown 
such despair at being shut out from this fatal house, 
and who probably were not yet acquainted with the 
doom they had escaped. 

There were lanterns in the hands of some of the 
men who now approached. As we stopped before 
them these lanterns were held up, and by the light 
they gave we saw, first, the lawyer's frightened face, 
then the visages of two men who seemed to be per- 
sons of some authority. 

" What news? " faltered the lawyer, seeing by our 
faces that we knew the worst. 

"Bad," I returned; "the poison had lost none 
of its virulence by being mixed so long with the 
wine." 

"How many?" asked the man on his right 
anxiously. 

" Eight," was my solemn reply. 



THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 427 

"There were but eight," faltered the lawyer; 
" that means, then, all?" 

" All," I repeated. 

A murmur of horror rose, swelled, then died out 
in tumult as the crowd swept on past us. 

For a moment we stood watching these people; 
saw them pause before the door we had left open 
behind us, then rush in, leaving a wail of terror on 
the shuddering midnight air. When all was quiet 
again, Eunice laid her hand upon my arm. 

"Where shall we go?" she asked despairingly. 
" I do not know of a house that will open to me." 

The answer to her question came from other lips 
than mine. 

" I do not know one that will not'' spoke up a 
voice behind our backs. " Your withdrawal from 
the circle of heirs did not take from you your right- 
ful claim to an inheritance which, according to your 
uncle's will, could be forfeited only by a failure to 
arrive at the place of distribution within the hour 
set by the testator. As I see the matter now, this 
appeal to the honesty of the persons so collected was 
a test by which my unhappy client strove to save 
from the general fate such members of his miserable 
family as fully recognised their sin and were truly 
repentant." 

It was Lawyer Smead. He had lingered behind 
the others to tell her this. She was, then, no out- 
cast, but rich, very rich; how rich I dared not ac- 
knowledge to myself, lest a remembrance of the 
man who was the last to perish in that house of 



428 THE HOUSE IN THE MIST 

death should return to make this calculation hateful. 
It was a blow which struck deep deeper than any 
either of us had sustained that night. As we came 
to realise it, I stepped slowly back, leaving her stand- 
ing erect and tall in the middle of the roadway, with 
her baby in her arms. But not for long; soon she 
was close at my side murmuring softly: 

" Two wayfarers still ! Only, the road will be 
more difficult and the need of companionship 
greater. Shall we fare on together, you, I and the 
little child?" 




000 033 583