/ Language: English / Genre:detective

The Oxford Book of American Detective Stories

Edgar Poe

Hillerman, author of the Joe Leaphorn mysteries, and Herbert, editor of The Oxford Companion to Crime and Mystery Writing, trace this short-story genre from its beginnings in the hands of Edgar Allen Poe through its development by the likes of Erle Stanley Gardner, Mary Roberts Rinehart and Anthony Boucher to its current practice by such masters as Marcia Muller. Poe's "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," which established a great many of the whodunit conventions, is indispensable to such an overview. Raymond Chandler's "I'll be Waiting" emits a doom-laden atmosphere right from the first line; William Faulkner shows unexpected economy of language?and a transparent plot?in "An Error in Chemistry." Ed McBain scores high marks in "Small Homicide," in which the tiny details of a baby's untimely death resonate uncomfortably. As represented in this competent, unstartling collection, Linda Barnes ("Lucky Penny") easily outsasses Sue Grafton ("The Parker Shotgun"). Hillerman makes a solid appearance with "Chee's Witch," and in "Benny's Space" Muller captures the full subtle force of her novel-length vision.

Edgar Allan Poe, Bret Harte, Jacques Futrelle, Melville Davisson Post, Anna Katharine Green, Arthur B. Reeve, Susan Glaspell, Carroll John Daly, Clinton H. Stagg, Richard Sale, Mignon G. Eberhart, Erle Stanley Gardner, Raymond Chandler, John Dickson Carr, Cornell Woolrich, Mary Roberts Rinehart, Robert Leslie Bellem, William Faulkner, Clayton Rawson, T. S. Stribling, William Campbell Gault, Anthony Boucher, Ed McBain, Ross Macdonald, Rex Stout, Dorothy Salisbury Davis, Ellery Queen, Bill Pronzini, Edward D. Hoch, Linda Barnes, Sue Grafton, Tony Hillerman, Marcia Muller, Rosemary Herbert

The Oxford Book of American Detective Stories

First published in 1996

INTRODUCTION

Twenty-five years ago, when I was a first novelist on a visit to my editor, I had the occasion to read the galley proofs of «A Catalog of Crime,» now a bible of the detective-fiction genre. My editor, who was also editing the «Catalog,» was called away to deal with another problem. The author of the «Catalog» was due to pick up his proofs, I was told. Why didn't I take a look to see if my book had made it into the volume?

I found it on page 247. The author had recommended "less routine plots" and said that "unbelievable feats of survival and retaliation by people badly wounded and haemorrhaging make the reader impatient." I checked the title page to find the author of this affront. Jacques Barzun! I knew the name: a giant of the humanities, former dean and provost of Columbia University, and author of «House of the Intellect» and other weighty books. Until then, I had no idea that he was also an eminent critic of detective fiction. In fact, I knew almost nothing about the field.

My ignorance was quickly dented. Barzun arrived to collect his galleys and sensed from my sullen expression that he hadn't approved my work. In the ensuing conversation, I first learned that the game I had been playing had rules, many of which I had violated.

The point of the anecdote is the purpose of this anthology. While the detective story is founded on rules that remain important today, the distinctly American "take" on these rules has vastly enriched the genre. When Rosemary Herbert and I determined to select stories that would trace the evolution of the American detective short story, we discovered that I was far from the first American author to break or bend the rules. My American predecessors had been early pioneers in playing the detective game on their own terms.

But nobody can deny that assumptions, traditions, and rules of the genre remain important. Just what are they?

Early detective fiction was categorised as a tale rather than as serious fiction. As Barzun tells us, Edgar Allan Foe is not only the founding father and "the complete authority" on the form but also the one who "first made the point that the regular novel and the legitimate mystery will not combine."

Why not? Because in the tradition originated by the genius of Poe, the detective story emerged as a competition between writer and reader.

It was a game intended to challenge the intellect. Although Poe himself, in «The Murders in the Rue Morgue,» did arouse awe and horror, the major preoccupation-and innovation-in this story is the introduction of the puzzle. The reader is challenged to attempt to solve it with the clues provided. In the final pages, the reader will learn if his or her solution matches that of the detective.

Given such a purpose, the reader and writer had to be playing by the same rules. Even though the rules are rather self-evident, they were formalised by Monsignor Ronald Knox in his introduction to «The Best Detective Stories of 1928.» His rendition of the rules came to be known as the 'Detective Decalogue.' Perhaps because Father Knox was known as a theologian and translator of the Bible as well as a crime writer, the rules were also referred to as the 'Ten Commandments of Detective Writing.'

The rules are technical. The writer must introduce the criminal early, produce all clues found for immediate inspection by the reader, use no more than one secret room or passageway, and eschew acts of God, unknown poisons, unaccountable intuitions, helpful accidents, and so forth. Identical twins and doubles are prohibited unless the reader is prepared for them, and having the detective himself commit the crime is specifically barred. Some rules are whimsical at best or sadly indicative of the prejudices of Knox's day. Rule V, for example, provides that "no Chinaman must figure in the story." In all, the rules confirm the fact that detective stories are a game.

It is worth noting that all but one of those 'best' detective stories in the 1928 anthology were written by British authors. It was the golden age of the classic form, and though the American Poe was considered the inventor of the form, England was where the traditional side of the genre flourished. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, with Sherlock Holmes as his detective and Dr. John H. Watson as his narrator straight man, had earlier brought the detective short story to its finest flowering. And Agatha Christie polished the puzzle form, particularly in her novels, to perfection. But this volume shows that even then, things were changing in America.

As our selections show, American writers had been injecting new elements into and otherwise tinkering with Poe's classic form since the nineteenth century. Then came the 'Era of Disillusion,' which followed World War I; the cultural revolt of the 'Roaring Twenties'; the rise of organized crime and of political and police corruption, which accompanied national Prohibition; and the ensuing Great Depression. All contributed to changing the nature of American literature-with detective fiction leading the way in its recording of a distinctive American voice and its depiction of the social scene. In fact, I believe that Raymond Chandler was a greater influence on later generations of American writers-in and out of the detective genre-than was that darling of the literary establishment, F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Barzun told us that the classic detective story is written by and for the educated upper-middle classes. Particularly in the British manifestation, it was typically set in upper-crust milieus. But we've chosen Susan Glaspell to demonstrate that in an American writer's hands, the story can also succeed in a remote, rural farmhouse literally in the middle of America. Glaspell's story «A Jury of Her Peers» also proves that social concerns like wife battering can be used to evoke an emotional reaction on the part of the reader, even while the puzzle element remains central.

While in Britain readers were puzzling over whodunit in stories sold at railway stations, in the United States the newspaper stands and drugstore magazine racks held detective fiction of a different sort-published in pulp magazines with garish covers and cheap prices. One of these was «Black Mask,» and one who wrote for it was a former Pinkerton private detective named Dashiell Hammett.

Like many of his fellow American producers of detective fiction, Hammett was definitely not an effete product of the upper or even solidly middle class. Neither were the settings of his stories nor the characters who populated them. He and other American crime writers during the Depression years were taking crime out of the drawing rooms of country houses and putting it back on the 'mean streets' where it was actually happening.

This is not to say that the classic form was dead or even ailing. Early examples in this volume are the work of Bret Harte and Jacques Futrelle. Harte, known for his depictions of American life in Gold Rush territory, could turn his hand to writing the quintessential Sherlockian pastiche: «The Stolen Cigar Case.» And Jacques Futrelle's «The Problem of Cell 13» obeys all the rules of the locked-room mystery with a character locked into a high-security 'death cell' in an American prison.

Meanwhile, on the novel scene, until the end of the 1930's the best-selling American author of detective fiction was S. S. Van Dine, whose super-sleuth Philo Vance is among the most thoroughgoing snobs ever to appear in fiction. Van Dine's intricate plots follow the rules of Knox's 'Decalogue' and are played out in aristocratic settings into which the reality of corrupt cops, soup lines, and American hard times never intrudes. The purpose is the puzzle. Even today, literally millions of American readers buy detective fiction principally for the classical game.

In one way or another, the puzzle remains essential to the form, as demonstrated in the variety of mutations the detective story has been generating through the twentieth century. To consider the variations, one must start at the base, with «The Murders in the Rue Morgue.» In this story, Poe gives us the model for the classic detective tale, which is still alive and thriving in various modifications. Chevalier Auguste Dupin, his sleuth, not only is, in my opinion, the first detective of detective fiction, but is white, male, of an 'excellent-indeed illustrious family,' financially independent, and an amateur. The police are inept. The crime was the model for thousands of locked-room murders, done in a setting from which it seems impossible for the killer to escape, and the solution is based on close observation of physical evidence to which the superior 'ratiocination' of Dupin is applied. And, true to Poe's disdain for the notion of democracy and the uncouth labouring class, the principal characters (except the killer) are well-bred folks. In «The Purloined Letter, «Poe produced an even purer model, moving crime into the marble halls of the aristocracy.

A century later, with the traditional form enjoying its golden age, many writers still followed Poe's pattern. Locked-room crimes continued to flourish; the murder was done in a world of manor houses, formal gardens, faithful butlers, haughty house guests, and stupid police. The blood on the Persian carpet was usually blue, and everything was divorced from reality. Into this quiet haven, the skilful writer allowed no realism to intrude. It would distract the reader from the intricate puzzle the writer was unfolding.

Properly done, such stories are perfect escape literature. Book dealers labelled them 'cozies,' and Julian Symons, British crime writer and long-time literary critic for the «Times of London,» called them 'humdrums.' Fans bought them by the millions, and still do.

In his introduction to «A Catalog of Crime,» Barzun explained what the detective story should give those readers and what it should avoid. First, he stressed that the detective story is a tale, not a novel. "The tale does not pretend to social significance nor does it probe the depth of the soul," he wrote. "The characters it presents are not persons but types, as in the Gospels: the servant, the rich man, the camel driver (now a chauffeur)." Properly done, detective fiction is a high-brow form, according to Barzun. It is escape literature for the intellectual. It should deal with the workings of human reason, not with human emotion. "To put our creed positively," said Barzun (speaking for co-author Wendell Hertig Taylor as well), "we hold with the best philosophers that a detective story should be mainly occupied with detection, and not (say) with the forgivable nervousness of a man planning to murder his wife."

That great essay was published in 1971. But three years earlier, Raymond Chandler's «The Simple Art of Murder» had been republished, including the famous introductory essay, which served as a sort of writer's declaration of independence from the strictures of the classic form. I suspect that Barzun's essay was intended, at least in part, as a counterattack against the case that Chandler made for the detective story as novel and for the myriad modifications the genre had been undergoing, particularly in America.

Fortunately for me, and for hundreds of other mystery writers attracted into the genre for the other creative possibilities it offers, an increasing number of readers came to care less about whodunit and more about character development, social problems, settings, mood, culture, and all those aspects that involve emotion and not just the intellect. With the so-called mainstream of American literature polluted by the notions of the minimalists, and literary criticism entangled in the various fads of the mid-century, writers who thought they had something to say or a story to tell discovered detective fiction as Hammett and Chandler had been writing it. The mainstream novel, lying moribund under mid-century faddism, was being crowded off the best-seller lists by crime novels and mysteries.

Many of detective fiction's new practitioners leaped into the game, as did I, happily ignorant of Knox's 'Ten Commandments' or the genre's purpose as escapism for the intellectual. Instead of turning on whodunit, the focus shifted elsewhere. Sometimes, as in Ed McBain's story «Small Homicide,» the writers were chiefly interested in why the crime had been committed, or perhaps they merely used the sleuthing to draw the reader into a world they wanted to explore.

As the stories in this volume illustrate, Americans who wrote in the detective form had been branching out in all directions. The tale had been moved out of the isolation of the privileged class and into work-a-day America, and was often drawn with an excellent eye for regional settings and a keen ear for local voices. A bit of social purpose and realism had seeped in. In the United States, the sleuthing game had never been the exclusive domain of well-bred male amateurs; more and more of the popular writers-and their sleuths-were women. An early female detective found in these pages is Violet Strange, in Anna Katharine Green's «Missing: Page Thirteen.» But until the work of Hammett in the 1930's and Raymond Chandler in the 1940's began to have its effect, the puzzle generally remained at the heart of the work. Certainly in the minds of the publishing fraternity, that was what the public wanted. But even Chandler encountered editing that sought to trim his appeal to readers' emotions. In a letter to a friend written in 1947, Chandler noted that when he was writing short stories for the pulp-magazine market, editors cut out the language he used to establish mood and emotion on the grounds that their readers wanted action, not description: "My theory was that the readers just thought they cared about nothing but the action, that really, although they didn't know it, the thing they cared about, was the creation of emotion through dialogue and description." As our selection «I'll Be Waiting» shows, Chandler was not interested in producing the classic form as outlined by Knox's rules. He was interested in using crime as the centre around which he could spin a novel that illuminates social decadence and the human condition.

In this volume, Rosemary Herbert and I have assembled thirty-three stories that represent the evolution of the American detective story. Because the wealth of talent over the past century and a half was so great, we found ourselves in a position reminiscent of that of professional football coaches facing the deadline for cutting their teams down to the legal limit with too many outstanding players to chose among. Just as coaches sometimes keep a player because he can serve in more than one position, we chose our stories to illustrate more than one development in the field. Rex Stout's «Christmas Party,» for example, shows Nero Wolfe unusually active for an 'armchair detective'-but it beautifully illuminates how the 'Holmes and Watson' relationship had been modified. In making another selection, we evaluated several journalist sleuths, including George Harmon Coxe's photojournalist Flashgun Casey, but we picked Joe 'Daffy' Dill for this volume because we found Richard Sale's story «A Nose for News «irresistibly entertaining.

Our goal was to illustrate as many aspects of the American detective short story as we could. Thus we present examples of sleuth types, including amateurs like Poe's Dupin, 'scientific sleuths' like Futrelle's Professor S. F. X. Van Dusen and Arthur B. Reeve's Professor Craig Kennedy, hard-boiled dicks like Robert Leslie Bellem's Dan Turner, and police characters like Ed McBain's Eighty-seventh Precinct cop Dave Levine and my own Jim Chee and Joe Leaphorn. We also feature 'accidental sleuths'-characters who happen upon a crime and manage to discover the truth-as do the characters in Glaspell's «A Jury of Her Peers» and Mary Roberts Rinehart's «The Lipstick.» And Mignon G. Eberhart's Susan Dare, Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone, and Linda Barnes's Carlotta Carlyle join Green's Violet Strange as female private investigators. Melville Davisson Post's Uncle Abner and William Faulkner's Uncle Gavin Stevens are sermonising sleuths who grind moral axes until they shine, while Clayton Rawson's The Great Merlini adds sparkle to his sleuthing by means of his practical expertise in magic.

Stories that succeed in presenting examples of sleuth types also demonstrate regionalism, for which American detective fiction has become known. The works of Glaspell, Post, Bellem, and Faulkner portray distinctly American scenes, as does my own short story «Chee's Witch,» which illustrates the move into the use of ethnic detectives.

Although our table of contents includes the names of a good number of famous authors, we were more concerned to find the best story to represent a trend in the genre. Some of our selections are classics; some represent little-known writers whom we consider 'good finds' for readers. For example, we considered Clinton H. Stagg's «The Keyboard of Silence» delightful and included it as a gem that deserves to be better known, and not only because Stagg's blind sleuth demonstrates how disabled detectives can function efficiently.

While we represent as many decades as possible, and male and female sleuths and authors, we also chose our selections to show emotional range. We cover humour with Harte and Barnes, pathos with Glaspell and McBain. And we are sure that readers will have fun with Reeve's «The Beauty Mask,» in which the scientific jiggery-pokery is so dated that readers will find themselves chuckling even while being taken in by the earnestness with which it was written.

I join with Rosemary Herbert in the belief that we have fairly represented the evolution of the detective story in America. But our mission was to entertain as well as to educate. We trust that you will find this volume just plain fun to read.

Tony Hillerman, with Rosemary Herbert

EDGAR ALLAN POE (1809-1849)

Although his life was short and tragic, Edgar Allan Poe is considered by a few to be the founder of American letters, by many to be the inventor of horror stories and fantasy novels, and by one and all to be the father of detective fiction. He was the child of two actors, orphaned as a tot, expelled from West Point, and rejected by his fiancée. He married his cousin and, after she died of tuberculosis, wed the original fiancée. Through much of his forty years, his health was poor.

Despite-or perhaps inspired by-his circumstances, Poe became a published poet at age twenty, and he served as editor of the «Southern Literary Messenger» until he was fired at age twenty-eight for drunkenness. By the time Poe wrote «The Murders in the Rue Morgue», when he was thirty-two, he was already well established with his literary criticism, magazine articles, short stories, and poetry.

«The Murders in the Rue Morgue» is considered to be the single most, important piece in the literary history of detective fiction. While some elements that are now common to the genre, like the locked-room scenario, had been used previous to the publication of Poe's masterpiece, Poe was the first to play with what were to become conventions of the genre. These include the introduction of an eccentric detective who relies on ratiocination to solve crimes and the use of a narrator who, while awestruck at the sleuth's powers, nonetheless lays out a clearly described problem and details the steps toward its solution.

The purpose of literature, Poe said, "is to amuse by arousing thought." He also said that "tales of ratiocination" should stick to the puzzle and not wander off into novelistic digressions of mood and character. Thus he not only invented the detective form but also provided its credo.

Despite its atmosphere of horror, «The Murders in the Rue Morgue» shows Poe practicing what he preached. The focus remains on the puzzle and the process of solving it. His sleuth, Chevalier Auguste Dupin, is a private person, a 'thinking machine', with his ratiocination narrated by a faceless friend. The police are depicted as inept and looked on with disdain; clues are presented fairly, and the reader is invited to interpret them.

Readers of this anthology will notice that the form Poe created in the 1840's has been followed, with modifications, throughout the literary history of the genre. Variations on the form continue to challenge writers and excite readers today.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue

«What song the Syrens sang, or what name Achilles assumed when he hid himself among women, although puzzling questions, are not beyond all conjecture.»

SIR THOMAS BROWNE»

The mental features discoursed of as the analytical are, in themselves, but little susceptible of analysis. We appreciate them only in their effects. We know of them, among other things, that they are always to their possessor, when inordinately possessed, a source of the liveliest enjoyment. As the strong man exults in his physical ability, delighting in such exercises as call his muscles into action, so glories the analyst in that moral activity which «disentangles.» He derives pleasure from even the most trivial occupations bringing his talent into play. He is fond of enigmas, of conundrums, of hieroglyphics; exhibiting in his solutions of each a degree of «acumen» which appears to the ordinary apprehension preternatural. His results, brought about by the very soul and essence of method, have, in truth, the whole air of intuition.

The faculty of re-solution is possibly much invigorated by mathematical study, and especially by that highest branch of it which, unjustly, and merely on account of its retrograde operations, has been called, as if «par excellence,» analysis. Yet to calculate is not in itself to analyse. A chess-player, for example, does the one without effort at the other. It follows that the game of chess, in its effects upon mental character, is greatly misunderstood. I am not now writing a treatise, but simply prefacing a somewhat peculiar narrative by observations very much at random; I will, therefore, take occasion to assert that the higher powers of the reflective intellect are more decidedly and more usefully tasked by the unostentatious game of draughts than by all the elaborate frivolity of chess. In this latter, where the pieces have different and «bizarre» motions, with various and variable values, what is only complex is mistaken (a not unusual error) for what is profound. The «attention» is here called powerfully into play. If it flag for an instant, an oversight is committed, resulting in injury or defeat. The possible moves being not only manifold but involute, the chances of such oversights are multiplied; and in nine cases out of ten it is the more concentrative rather than the more acute player who conquers. In draughts, on the contrary, where the moves are «unique» and have but little variation, the probabilities of inadvertence are diminished, and the mere attention being left comparatively unemployed, what advantages are obtained by either party are obtained by superior acumen. To be less abstract-let us suppose a game of draughts where the pieces are reduced to four kings, and where, of course, no oversight is to be expected. It is obvious that here the victory can be decided (the players being at all equal) only by some «recherché» movement, the result of some strong exertion of the intellect. Deprived of ordinary resources, the analyst throws himself into the spirit of his opponent, identifies himself therewith, and not unfrequently sees thus, at a glance, the sole methods (sometimes indeed absurdly simple ores) by which he may seduce into error or hurry into miscalculation.

Whist has long been noted for its influence upon what is termed the calculating power; and men of the highest order of intellect have been known to take an apparently unaccountable delight in it, while eschewing chess as frivolous. Beyond doubt there is nothing of a similar nature so greatly tasking the faculty of analysis. The best chess-player in Christendom may be little more than the best player of chess; but proficiency in whist implies capacity for success in all those more important undertakings where mind struggles with mind. When I say proficiency, I mean that perfection in the game which includes a comprehension of all the sources whence legitimate advantage may be derived. These are not only manifold but multiform, and lie frequently among recesses of thought altogether inaccessible to the ordinary understanding. To observe attentively is to remember distinctly; and, so far, the concentrative chess-player will do very well at whist; while the rules of Hoyle (themselves based upon the mere mechanism of the game) are sufficiently and generally comprehensible. Thus to have a retentive memory, and to proceed by 'the book,' are points commonly regarded as the sum total of good playing. But it is in matters beyond the limits of mere rule that the skill of the analyst is evinced. He makes, in silence, a host of observations and inferences. So, perhaps, do his companions; and the difference in the extent of the information obtained lies not so much in the validity of the inference as in the quality of the observation. The necessary knowledge is that of what to observe. Our player confines himself not at all; nor, because the game is the object, does he reject deductions from things external to the game. He examines the countenance of his partner, comparing it carefully with that of each of his opponents. He considers the mode of assorting the cards in each hand; often counting trump by trump, and honor by honour, through the glances bestowed by their holders upon each. He notes every variation of face as the play progresses, gathering a fund of thought from the differences in the expression of certainty, of surprise, of triumph, or of chagrin. From the manner of gathering up a trick he judges whether the person taking it can make another in the suit. He recognises what is played through feint, by the air with which it is thrown upon the table. A casual or inadvertent word; the accidental dropping or turning of a card, with the accompanying anxiety or carelessness in regard to its concealment; the counting of the tricks, with the order of their arrangement; embarrassment, hesitation, eagerness or trepidation-all afford, to his apparently intuitive perception, indications of the true state of affairs. The first two or three rounds having been played, he is in full possession of the contents of each hand, and thenceforward puts down his cards with as absolute a precision of purpose as if the rest of the party had turned outward the faces of their own.

The analytical power should not be confounded with simple ingenuity; for while the analyst is necessarily ingenious, the ingenious man is often remarkably incapable of analysis. The constructive or combining power, by which ingenuity is usually manifested, and to which the phrenologists (I believe erroneously) have assigned a separate organ, supposing it a primitive faculty, has been so frequently seen in those whose intellect bordered otherwise upon idiocy, as to have attracted general observation among writers on morals. Between ingenuity and the analytic ability there exists a difference far greater, indeed, than that between the fancy and the imagination, but of a character very strictly analogous. It will be found, in fact, that the ingenious are always fanciful, and the truly imaginative never otherwise then analytic.

The narrative which follows will appear to the reader somewhat in the light of a commentary upon the propositions just advanced.

Residing in Paris during the spring and part of the summer of 18-, I there became acquainted with a Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin. This young gentleman was of an excellent-indeed of an illustrious family, but, by a variety of untoward events, had been reduced to such poverty that the energy of his character succumbed beneath it, and he ceased to bestir himself in the world, or to care for the retrieval of his fortunes. By courtesy of his creditors, there still remained in his possession a small remnant of his patrimony; and, upon the income arising from this, he managed, by means of a rigorous economy, to procure the necessaries of life, without troubling himself about its superfluities. Books, indeed, were his sole luxuries, and in Paris these are easily obtained.

Our first meeting was at an obscure library in the Rue Montmartre, where the accident of our both being in search of the same very rare and very remarkable volume brought us into closer communion. We saw each other again and again. I was deeply interested in the little family history which he detailed to me with all that candour which a Frenchman indulges whenever mere self is his theme. I was astonished, too, at the vast extent of his reading; and, above all, I felt my soul enkindled within me by the wild fervour, and the vivid freshness of his imagination. Seeking in Paris the objects I then sought, I felt that the society of such a man would be to me a treasure beyond price; and this feeling I frankly confided to him. It was at length arranged that we should live together during my stay in the city; and as my worldly circumstances were somewhat less embarrassed than his own, I was permitted to be at the expense of renting, and furnishing in a style which suited the rather fantastic gloom of our common temper, a time-eaten and grotesque mansion, long deserted through superstitions into which we did not inquire, and tottering to its fall in a retired and desolate portion of the Faubourg St. Germain.

Had the routine of our life at this place been known to the world, we should have been regarded as madmen-although, perhaps, as madmen of a harmless nature. Our seclusion was perfect. We admitted no visitors. Indeed the locality of our retirement had been carefully kept a secret from my own former associates; and it had been many years since Dupin had ceased to know or be known in Paris. We existed within ourselves alone.

It was a freak of fancy in my friend (for what else shall I call it?) to be enamoured of the Night for her own sake; and into this «bizarrerie,» as into all his others, I quietly fell; giving myself up to his wild whims with a perfect «abandon.» The sable divinity would not herself dwell with us always; but we could counterfeit her presence. At the first dawn of the morning we closed all the massy shutters of our old building, lighting a couple of tapers which, strongly perfumed, threw out only the ghastliest and feeblest of rays. By the aid of these we then busied our souls in dreams-reading, writing, or conversing, until warned by the clock of the advent of the true Darkness. Then we sallied forth into the streets, arm in arm, continuing the topics of the day, or roaming far and wide until a late hour, seeking, amid the wild lights and shadows of the populous city, that infinity of mental excitement which quiet observation can afford.

At such times I could not help remarking and admiring (although from his rich ideality I had been prepared to expect it) a peculiar analytic ability in Dupin. He seemed, too, to take an eager delight in its exercise-if not exactly in its display-and did not hesitate to confess the pleasure thus derived. He boasted to me, with a low chuckling laugh, that most men, in respect to himself, wore windows in their bosoms, and was wont to follow up such assertions by direct and very startling proofs of his intimate knowledge of my own. His manner at these moments was frigid and abstract; his eyes were vacant in expression; while his voice, usually a rich tenor, rose into a treble which would have sounded petulantly but for the deliberateness and entire distinctness of the enunciation. Observing him in these moods, I often dwelt meditatively upon the old philosophy of the Bi-Part Soul, and amused myself with the fancy of a double Dupin-the creative and the resolvent.

Let it not be supposed, from what I have just said, that I am detailing any mystery, or penning any romance. What I have described in the Frenchman was merely the result of an excited, or perhaps of a diseased intelligence. But of the character of his remarks at the periods in question an example will best convey the idea.

We were strolling one night down a long dirty street, in the vicinity of the Palais Royal. Being both, apparently, occupied with thought, neither of us had spoken a syllable for fifteen minutes at least. All at once Dupin broke forth with these words: "He is a very little fellow, that's true, and would do better for the «Théâtre des Variétés.»"

"There can be no doubt of that," I replied unwittingly, and not at first observing (so much had I been absorbed in reflection) the extraordinary manner in which the speaker had chimed in with my meditations. In an instant afterward I recollected myself, and my astonishment was profound.

"Dupin," said I, gravely, "this is beyond my comprehension. I do not hesitate to say that I am amazed, and can scarcely credit my senses.

How was it possible you should know I was thinking of____________________?" Here I paused, to ascertain beyond a doubt whether he really knew of whom I thought.

"____________________of Chantilly," said he, "why do you pause? You were remarking to yourself that his diminutive figure unfitted him for tragedy."

This was precisely what had formed the subject of my reflections. Chantilly was a «quondam» cobbler of the Rue St. Denis, who, becoming stage-mad, had attempted the «rôle» of Xerxes, in Crébillon's tragedy so called, and been notoriously Pasquinaded for his pains.

"Tell me, for Heaven's sake," I exclaimed, "the method-if method there is-by which you have been enabled to fathom my soul in this matter." In fact I was even more startled than I would have been willing to express.

"It was the fruiterer," replied my friend, "who brought you to the conclusion that the mender of soles was not of sufficient height for Xerxes «el id genus omne."«

"The fruiterer!-you astonish me-I know no fruiterer whomsoever."

"The man who ran up against you as we entered the street-it may have been fifteen minutes ago."

I now remembered that, in fact, a fruiterer, carrying upon his head a large basket of apples, had nearly thrown me down, by accident, as we passed from the Rue C____________________into the thoroughfare where we stood; but what this had to do with Chantilly I could not possibly understand.

There was not a particle of «charlatanerie» about Dupin. "I will explain," he said, "and that you may comprehend all clearly, we will first retrace the course of your meditations, from the moment in which I spoke to you until that of the «rencontre» with the fruiterer in question. The larger links of the chain run thus- Chantilly, Orion, Dr. Nichol, Epicurus, Stereotomy, the street stones, the fruiterer.

There are few persons who have not, at some period of their lives, amused themselves in retracing the steps by which particular conclusions of their own minds have been attained. The occupation is often full of interest; and he who attempts it for the first time is astonished by the apparently illimitable distance and incoherence between the starting-point and the goal. What, then, must have been my amazement when I heard the Frenchman speak what he had just spoken, and when I could not help acknowledging that he had spoken the truth. He continued: "We had been talking of horses, if I remember aright, just before leaving the Rue C____________________. This was the last subject we discussed. As we crossed into this street, a fruiterer, with a large basket upon his head, brushing quickly past us, thrust you upon a pile of paving-stones collected at a spot where the causeway is undergoing repair. You stepped upon one of the loose fragments, slipped, slightly strained your ankle, appeared vexed or sulky, muttered a few words, turned to look at the pile, and then proceeded in silence. I was not particularly attentive to what you did; but observation has become with me, of late, a species of necessity.

"You kept your eyes upon the ground-glancing, with a petulant expression, at the holes and ruts in the pavement, (so that I saw you were still thinking of the stones,) until we reached the little alley called Lamartine, which has been paved, by way of experiment, with the overlapping and riveted blocks. Here your countenance brightened up, and, perceiving your lips move, I could not doubt that you murmured the word 'stereotomy', a term very affectedly applied to this species of pavement. I knew that you could not say to yourself 'stereotomy' without being brought to think of atomies, and thus of the theories of Epicurus; and since, when we discussed this subject not very long ago, I mentioned to you how singularly, yet with how little notice, the vague guesses of that noble Greek had met with confirmation in the late nebular cosmogony, I felt that you could not avoid casting your eyes upward to the great «nebula» in Orion, and I certainly expected that you would do so. You did look up; and I was now assured that I had correctly followed your steps. But in that bitter «tirade» upon Chantilly, which appeared in yesterday's 'Musée', the satirist, making some disgraceful allusions to the cobbler's change of name upon assuming the buskin, quoted a Latin line about which we have often conversed. I mean the line «Perdidit antiquum litera prima sonum»

I had told you that this was in reference to Orion, formerly written Urion; and, from certain pungencies connected with this explanation, I was aware that you could not have forgotten it. It was clear, therefore, that you would not fail to combine the two ideas of Orion and Chantilly. That you did combine them I saw by the character of the smile which passed over your lips. You thought of the poor cobbler's immolation. So far, you had been stooping in your gait; but now I saw you draw yourself up to your full height. I was then sure that you reflected upon the diminutive figure of Chantilly. At this point I interrupted your meditations to remark that as, in fact, he was a very little fellow-that Chantilly -he would do better at the «Théâtre des Variétés."«

Not long after this, we were looking over an evening edition of the «Gazette des Tribunaux,» when the following paragraphs arrested our attention.

"EXTRAORDINARY MURDERS.-This morning, about three o'clock, the inhabitants of the Quartier St. Roch were aroused from sleep by a succession of terrific shrieks, issuing, apparently, from the fourth story of a house in the Rue Morgue, known to be in the sole occupancy of one Madame L'Espanaye, and her daughter Mademoiselle Camille L'Espanaye. After some delay, occasioned by a fruitless attempt to procure admission in the usual manner, the gateway was broken in with a crowbar, and eight or ten of the neighbours entered, accompanied by two «gendarmes.» By this time the cries had ceased; but, as the party rushed up the first flight of stairs, two or more rough voices, in angry contention, were distinguished, and seemed to proceed from the upper part of the house. As the second landing was reached, these sounds, also, had ceased, and everything remained perfectly quiet. The party spread themselves, and hurried from room to room. Upon arriving at a large back chamber in the fourth story, (the door of which, being found locked, with the key inside, was forced open,) a spectacle presented itself which struck every one present not less with horror than with astonishment.

"The apartment was in the wildest disorder-the furniture broken and thrown about in all directions. There was only one bedstead; and from this the bed had been removed, and thrown into the middle of the floor. On a chair lay a razor, besmeared with blood. On the hearth were two or three long and thick tresses of grey human hair, also dabbled in blood, and seeming to have been pulled out by the roots. On the floor were found four Napoleons, an ear-ring of topaz, three large silver spoons, three smaller of «métal d'Alger,» and two bags, containing nearly four thousand francs in gold. The drawers of a «bureau,» which stood in one corner, were open, and had been, apparently, rifled, although many articles still remained in them. A small iron safe was discovered under the «bed» (not under the bedstead). It was open, with the key still in the door. It had no contents beyond a few old letters, and other papers of little consequence.

"Of Madame L'Espanaye no traces were here seen; but an unusual quantity of soot being observed in the fire-place, a search was made in the chimney, and (horrible to relate!) the corpse of the daughter, head downward, was dragged therefrom; it having been thus forced up the narrow aperture for a considerable distance. The body was quite warm. Upon examining it, many excoriations were perceived, no doubt occasioned by the violence with which it had been thrust up and disengaged. Upon the face were many severe scratches, and, upon the throat, dark bruises, and deep indentations of finger nails, as if the deceased had been throttled to death.

"After a thorough investigation of every portion of the house, without farther discovery, the party made its way into a small paved yard in the rear of the building, where lay the corpse of the old lady, with her throat so entirely cut that, upon an attempt to raise her, the head fell off. The body, as well as the head, was fearfully mutilated-the former so much so as scarcely to retain any semblance of humanity.

"To this horrible mystery there is not as yet, we believe, the slightest clew."

The next day's paper had these additional particulars.

«"The Tragedy in the Rue Morgue.» Many individuals have been examined in relation to this most extraordinary and frightful affair." [The word «'affaire'«has not yet, in France, that levity of import which it conveys with us,] "but nothing whatever has transpired to throw light upon it. We give below all the material testimony elicited.

«"Pauline Dubourg,» laundress, deposes that she has known both the deceased for three years, having washed for them during that period. The old lady and her daughter seemed on good terms-very affectionate towards each other. They were excellent pay. Could not speak in regard to their mode or means of living. Believed that Madame L. told fortunes for a living. Was reputed to have money put by. Never met any persons in the house when she called for the clothes or took them home. Was sure that they had no servant in employ. There appeared to be no furniture in any part of the building except in the fourth story.

«"Pierre Moreau,» tobacconist, deposes that he has been in the habit of selling small quantities of tobacco and snuff to Madame L'Espanaye for nearly four years. Was born in the neighbourhood, and has always resided there. The deceased and her daughter had occupied the house in which the corpses were found, for more than six years. It was formerly occupied by a jeweller, who under-let the upper rooms to various persons. The house was the property of Madame L. She became dissatisfied with the abuse of the premises by her tenant, and moved into them herself, refusing to let any portion. The old lady was childish. Witness had seen the daughter some five or six times during the six years. The two lived an exceedingly retired life-were reputed to have money. Had heard it said among the neighbours that Madame L. told fortunes-did not believe it. Had never seen any person enter the door except the old lady and her daughter, a porter once or twice, and a physician some eight or ten times.

"Many other persons, neighbours, gave evidence to the same effect. No one was spoken of as frequenting the house. It was not known whether there were any living connexions of Madame L. and her daughter. The shutters of the windows were seldom opened. Those in the rear were always closed, with the exception of the large back room, fourth story. The house was a good house-not very old.

«"Isidore Muset, gendarme,» deposes that he was called to the house about three o'clock in the morning, and found some twenty or thirty persons at the gateway, endeavouring to gain admittance. Forced it open, at length, with a bayonet-not with a crowbar. Had but little difficulty in getting it open, on account of its being a double or folding gate, and bolted neither at bottom nor top. The shrieks were continued until the gate was forced-and then suddenly ceased. They seemed to be screams of some person (or persons) in great agony-were loud and drawn out, not short and quick. Witness led the way up stairs. Upon reaching the first landing, heard two voices in loud and angry contention-the one a gruff voice, the other much shriller-a very strange voice. Could distinguish some words of the former, which was that of a Frenchman. Was positive that it was not a woman's voice. Could distinguish the words «'sacré'«and «'diable.'«The shrill voice was that of a foreigner. Could not be sure whether it was the voice of a man or of a woman. Could not make out what was said, but believed the language to be Spanish. The state of the room and of the bodies was described by this witness as we described them yesterday.

«"Henri Duval,» a neighbour, and by trade a silver-smith, deposes that he was one of the party who first entered the house. Corroborates the testimony of Muset in general. As soon as they forced an entrance, they re-closed the door, to keep out the crowd, which collected very fast, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour. The shrill voice, this witness thinks, was that of an Italian. Was certain it was not French. Could not be sure that it was a man's voice. It might have been a woman's. Was not acquainted with the Italian language. Could not distinguish the words, but was convinced by the intonation that the speaker was an Italian. Knew Madame L. and her daughter. Had conversed with both frequently. Was sure that the shrill voice was not that of either of the deceased.

«"____________________Odenheimer, restaurateur.» This witness volunteered his testimony. Not speaking French, was examined through an interpreter. Is a native of Amsterdam. Was passing the house at the time of the shrieks. They lasted for several minutes-probably ten. They were long and loud-very awful and distressing. Was one of those who entered the building. Corroborated the previous evidence in every respect but one. Was sure that the shrill voice was that of a man-of a Frenchman. Could not distinguish the words uttered. They were loud and quick-unequal-spoken apparently in fear as well as in anger. The voice was harsh-not so much shrill as harsh. Could not call it a shrill voice. The gruff voice said repeatedly «'sacré,'

'diable'«and once «'mon Dieu.'«

«"]ules Mignaud,» banker, of the firm of Mignaud et Fils, Rue Delo-raine. Is the elder Mignaud. Madame L'Espanaye had some property. Had opened an account with his banking house in the spring of the year____________________(eight years previously). Made frequent deposits in small sums. Had checked for nothing until the third day before her death, when she took out in person the sum of 4000 francs. This sum was paid in gold, and a clerk sent home with the money.

«"Adolphe Le Bon,» clerk to Mignaud et Fils, deposes that on the day in question, about noon, he accompanied Madame L'Espanaye to her residence with the 4000 francs, put up in two bags. Upon the door being opened, Mademoiselle L. appeared and took from his hands one of the bags, while the old lady relieved him of the other. He then bowed and departed. Did not see any person in the street at the time. It is a bye-street-very lonely.

«"William Bird», tailor, deposes that he was one of the party who entered the house. Is an Englishman. Has lived in Paris two years. Was one of the first to ascend the stairs. Heard the voices in contention. The gruff voice was that of a Frenchman. Could make out several words, but cannot now remember all. Heard distinctly «'sacré'«and «'mon Dieu.'«There was a sound at the moment as if of several persons struggling-a scraping and scuffling sound. The shrill voice was very loud-louder than the gruff one. Is sure that it was not the voice of an Englishman. Appeared to be that of a German. Might have been a woman's voice. Does not understand German.

"Four of the above-named witnesses, being recalled, deposed that the door of the chamber in which was found the body of Mademoiselle L. was locked on the inside when the party reached it. Every thing was perfectly silent-no groans or noises of any kind. Upon forcing the door no person was seen. The windows, both of the back and front room, were down and firmly fastened from within. A door between the two rooms was closed, but not locked. The door leading from the front room into the passage was locked, with the key on the inside. A small room in the front of the house, on the fourth story, at the head of the passage, was open, the door being ajar. This room was crowded with old beds, boxes, and so forth. These were carefully removed and searched. There was not an inch of any portion of the house which was not carefully searched. Sweeps were sent up and down the chimneys. The house was a four story one, with garrets «(mansardes).» A trap-door on the roof was nailed down very securely-did not appear to have been opened for years. The time elapsing between the hearing of the voices in contention and the breaking open of the room door, was variously stated by the witnesses. Some made it as short as three minutes-some as long as five. The door was opened with difficulty.

«"Alfonzo Garcia,» undertaker, deposes that he resides in the Rue Morgue. Is a native of Spain. Was one of the party who entered the house. Did not proceed up stairs. Is nervous, and was apprehensive of the consequences of agitation. Heard the voices in contention. The gruff voice was that of a Frenchman. Could not distinguish what was said. The shrill voice was that of an Englishman-is sure of this. Does not understand the English language, but judges by the intonation.

«"Alberto Montani,» confectioner, deposes that he was among the first to ascend the stairs. Heard the voices in question. The gruff voice was that of a Frenchman. Distinguished several words. The speaker appeared to be expostulating. Could not make out the words of the shrill voice. Spoke quick and unevenly. Thinks it the voice of a Russian. Corroborates the general testimony. Is an Italian. Never conversed with a native of Russia.

"Several witnesses, recalled, here testified that the chimneys of all the rooms on the fourth story were too narrow to admit the passage of a human being. By 'sweeps' were meant cylindrical sweeping-brushes, such as are employed by those who clean chimneys. These brushes were passed up and down every flue in the house. There is no back passage by which any one could have descended while the party proceeded up stairs. The body of Mademoiselle L'Espanaye was so firmly wedged in the chimney that it could not be got down until four or five of the party united their strength.

«"Paul Dumas,» physician, deposes that he was called to view the bodies about day-break. They were both then lying on the sacking of the bedstead in the chamber where Mademoiselle L. was found. The corpse of the young lady was much bruised and excoriated. The fact that it had been thrust up the chimney would sufficiently account for these appearances. The throat was greatly chafed. There were several deep scratches just below the chin, together with a series of livid spots which were evidently the impression of fingers. The face was fearfully discoloured, and the eye-balls protruded. The tongue had been partially bitten through. A large bruise was discovered upon the pit of the stomach, produced, apparently, by the pressure of a knee. In the opinion of M. Dumas, Mademoiselle L'Espanaye had been throttled to death by some person or persons unknown. The corpse of the mother was horribly mutilated. All the bones of the right leg and arm were more or less shattered. The left «tibia» much splintered, as well as all the ribs of the left side. Whole body dreadfully bruised and discoloured. It was not possible to say how the injuries had been inflicted. A heavy club of wood, or a broad bar of iron-a chair-any large, heavy, and obtuse weapon would have produced such results, if wielded by the hands of a very powerful man. No woman could have inflicted the blows with any weapon. The head of the deceased, when seen by witness, was entirely separated from the body, and was also greatly shattered. The throat had evidently been cut with some very sharp instrument-probably with a razor.

«"Alexandre Etienne,» surgeon, was called with M. Dumas to view the bodies. Corroborated the testimony, and the opinions of M. Dumas.

"Nothing farther of importance was elicited, although several other persons were examined. A murder so mysterious, and so perplexing in all its particulars, was never before committed in Paris-if indeed a murder has been committed at all. The police are entirely at fault-an unusual occurrence in affairs of this nature. There is not, however, the shadow of a clew apparent."

The evening edition of the paper stated that the greatest excitement still continued in the Quartier St. Roch-that the premises in question had been carefully re-searched, and fresh examinations of witnesses instituted, but all to no purpose. A postscript, however, mentioned that Adolphe Le Bon had been arrested and imprisoned-although nothing appeared to incriminate him, beyond the facts already detailed.

Dupin seemed singularly interested in the progress of this affair-at least so I judged from his manner, for he made no comments. It was only after the announcement that Le Bon had been imprisoned, that he asked me my opinion respecting the murders.

I could merely agree with all Paris in considering them an insoluble mystery. I saw no means by which it would be possible to trace the murderer.

"We must not judge of the means," said Dupin, "by this shell of an examination. The Parisian police, so much extolled for «acumen,» are cunning, but no more. There is no method in their proceedings, beyond the method of the moment. They make a vast parade of measures; but, not unfrequently, these are so ill adapted to the objects proposed, as to put us in mind of Monsieur Jourdain's calling for «his robe-de-chambre-pour mieux entendre la musique.» The results attained by them are not unfrequently surprising, but, for the most part, are brought about by simple diligence and activity. When these qualities are unavailing, their schemes fail. Vidocq, for example, was a good guesser, and a persevering man. But, without educated thought, he erred continually by the very intensity of his investigations. He impaired his vision by holding the object too close. He might see, perhaps, one or two points with unusual clearness, but in so doing he necessarily, lost sight of the matter as a whole. Thus there is such a thing as being too profound. Truth is not always in a well. In fact, as regards the more important knowledge, I do believe that she is invariably superficial. The depth lies in the valleys where we seek her, and not upon the mountain-tops where she is found. The modes and sources of this kind of error are well typified in the contemplation of the heavenly bodies. To look at a star by glances-to view it in a side-long way, by turning toward it the exterior portions of the «retina» (more susceptible of feeble impressions of light than the interior), is to behold the star distinctly-is to have the best appreciation of its lustre-a lustre which grows dim just in proportion as we turn our vision «fully» upon it. A greater number of rays actually fall upon the eye in the latter case, but, in the former, there is the more refined capacity for comprehension. By undue profundity we perplex and enfeeble thought; and it is possible to make even Venus herself vanish from the firmament by a scrutiny too sustained, too concentrated, or too direct.

"As for these murders, let us enter into some examinations for ourselves, before we make up an opinion respecting them. An inquiry will afford us amusement," [I thought this an odd term, so applied, but said nothing] "and, besides, Le Bon once rendered me a service for which I am not ungrateful. We will go and see the premises with our own eyes. I know G____________________, the Prefect of Police, and shall have no difficulty in obtaining the necessary permission."

The permission was obtained, and we proceeded at once to the Rue Morgue. This is one of those miserable thoroughfares which intervene between the Rue Richelieu and the Rue St. Roch. It was late in the afternoon when we reached it; as this quarter is at a great distance from that in which we resided. The house was readily found; for there were still many persons gazing up at the closed shutters, with an objectless curiosity, from the opposite side of the way. It was an ordinary Parisian house, with a gateway, on one side of which was a glazed watch-box, with a sliding panel in the window, indicating a «loge de concierge.» Before going in we walked up the street, turned down an alley, and then, again turning, passed in the rear of the building-Dupin, meanwhile, examining the whole neighbourhood, as well as the house, with a minuteness of attention for which I could see no possible object.

Retracing our steps, we came again to the front of the dwelling, rang, and, having shown our credentials, were admitted by the agents in charge. We went up stairs-into the chamber where the body of Mademoiselle L'Espanaye had been found, and where both the deceased still lay. The disorders of the room had, as usual, been suffered to exist. I saw nothing beyond what had been stated in the «Gazette des Tribunaux.» Dupin scrutinised every thing-not excepting the bodies of the victims. We then went into the other rooms, and into the yard; a «gendarme» accompanying us throughout. The examination occupied us until dark, when we took our departure. On our way home my companion stepped in for a moment at the office of one of the daily papers.

I have said that the whims of my friend were manifold, and that «Je les ménageais:»-for this phrase there is no English equivalent. It was his humour, now, to decline all conversation on the subject of the murder, until about noon the next day. He then asked me, suddenly, if I had observed any thing «peculiar» at the scene of the atrocity.

There was something in his manner of emphasizing the word 'peculiar,' which caused me to shudder, without knowing why.

"No, nothing «peculiar,»" I said; "nothing more, at least, than we both saw stated in the paper."

"The 'Gazette,'" he replied, "has not entered, I fear, into the unusual horror of the thing. But dismiss the idle opinions of this print. It appears to me that this mystery is considered insoluble, for the very reason which should cause it to be regarded as easy of solution-I mean for the «outré» character of its features. The police are confounded by the seeming absence of motive-not for the murder itself-but for the atrocity of the murder. They are puzzled, too, by the seeming impossibility of reconciling the voices heard in contention, with the facts that no one was discovered up stairs but the assassinated Mademoiselle L'Espanaye, and that there were no means of egress without the notice of the party ascending. The wild disorder of the room; the corpse thrust, with the head downward, up the chimney; the frightful mutilation of the body of the old lady; these considerations, with those just mentioned, and others which I need not mention, have sufficed to paralyze the powers, by putting completely at fault the boasted «acumen,» of the government agents. They have fallen into the gross but common error of confounding the unusual with the abstruse. But it is by these deviations from the plane of the ordinary, that reason feels its way, if at all, in its search for the true. In investigations such as we are now pursuing, it should not be so much asked 'what has occurred,' as 'what has occurred that has never occurred before.' In fact, the facility with which I shall arrive, or have arrived, at the solution of this mystery, is in the direct ratio of its apparent insolubility in the eyes of the police."

I stared at the speaker in mute astonishment.

"I am now awaiting," continued he, looking toward the door of our apartment-"I am now awaiting a person who, although perhaps not the perpetrator of these butcheries, must have been in some measure implicated in their perpetration. Of the worst portion of the crimes committed, it is probable that he is innocent. I hope that I am right in this supposition; for upon it I build my expectation of reading the entire riddle. I look for the man here-in this room-every moment. It is true that he may not arrive; but the probability is that he will. Should he come, it will be necessary to detain him. Here are pistols; and we both know how to use them when occasion demands their use."

I took the pistols, scarcely knowing what I did, or believing what I heard, while Dupin went on, very much as if in a soliloquy. I have already spoken of his abstract manner at such times. His discourse was addressed to myself; but his voice, although by no means loud, had that intonation which is commonly employed in speaking to some one at a great distance. His eyes, vacant in expression, regarded only the wall.

"That the voices heard in contention," he said, "by the party upon the stairs, were not the voices of the women themselves, was fully proved by the evidence. This relieves us of all doubt upon the question whether the old lady could have first destroyed the daughter, and afterward have committed suicide. I speak of this point chiefly for the sake of method; for the strength of Madame L'Espanaye would have been utterly unequal to the task of thrusting her daughter's corpse up the chimney as it was found; and the nature of the wounds upon her own person entirely preclude the idea of self-destruction. Murder, then, has been committed by some third parry; and the voices of this third party were those heard in contention. Let me now advert-not to the whole testimony respecting these voices-but to what was «peculiar» in that testimony. Did you observe any thing peculiar about it?"

I remarked that, while all the witnesses agreed in supposing the gruff voice to be that of a Frenchman, there was much disagreement in regard to the shrill, or, as one individual termed it, the harsh voice.

"That was the evidence itself," said Dupin, "but it was not the peculiarity of the evidence. You have observed nothing distinctive. Yet there was something to be observed. The witnesses, as you remark, agreed about the gruff voice; they were here unanimous. But in regard to the shrill voice, the peculiarity is-not that they disagreed-but that, while an Italian, an Englishman, a Spaniard, a Hollander, and a Frenchman attempted to describe it, each one spoke of it as that «of a foreigner.» Each is sure that it was not the voice of one of his own countrymen. Each likens it-not to the voice of an individual of any nation with whose language he is conversant-but the converse. The Frenchman supposes it the voice of a Spaniard, and 'might have distinguished some words «had he been acquainted with the Spanish.'«The Dutchman maintains it to have been that of a Frenchman; but we find it stated that «'not understanding French this witness was examined through an interpreter.'«The Englishman thinks it the voice of a German, and «'does not understand German.'«The Spaniard 'is sure' that it was that of an Englishman, but 'judges by the intonation' altogether, «'as he has no knowledge of the English.'«The Italian believes it the voice of a Russian, but «'has never conversed with a native of Russia.'«A second Frenchman differs, moreover, with the first, and is positive that the voice was that of an Italian; but, «not being cognizant of that tongue,» is, like the Spaniard, 'convinced by the intonation.' Now, how strangely unusual must that voice have really been, about which such testimony as this «could» have been elicited!-in whose «tones,» even, denizens of the five great divisions of Europe could recognise nothing familiar! You will say that it might have been the voice of an Asiatic-of an African. Neither Asiatics nor Africans abound in Paris; but, without denying the inference, I will now merely call your attention to three points. The voice is termed by one witness 'harsh rather than shrill.' It is represented by two others to have been 'quick and «unequal.'«No words-no sounds resembling words-were by any witness mentioned as distinguishable.

"I know not," continued Dupin, "what impression I may have made, so far, upon your own understanding; but I do not hesitate to say that legitimate deductions even from this portion of the testimony-the portion respecting the gruff and shrill voices-are in themselves sufficient to engender a suspicion which should give direction to all farther progress in the investigation of the mystery. I said 'legitimate deductions;' but my meaning is not thus fully expressed. I designed to imply that the deductions are the sole proper ones, and that the suspicion arises «inevitably» from them as the single result. What the suspicion is, however, I will not say just yet. I merely wish you to bear in mind that, with myself, it was sufficiently forcible to give a definite form-a certain tendency-to my inquiries in the chamber.

"Let us now transport ourselves, in fancy, to this chamber. What shall we first seek here? The means of egress employed by the murderers. It is not too much to say that neither of us believe in præternatural events. Madame and Mademoiselle L'Espanaye were not destroyed by spirits. The doers of the deed were material, and escaped materially. Then how? Fortunately, there is but one mode of reasoning upon the point, and that mode «must» lead us to a definite decision. Let us examine, each by each, the possible means of egress. It is clear that the assassins were in the room where Mademoiselle L'Espanaye was found, or at least in the room adjoining, when the party ascended the stairs. It is then only from these two apartments that we have to seek issues. The police have laid bare the floors, the ceilings, and the masonry of the walls, in every direction. No «secret» issues could have escaped their vigilance. But, not trusting to «their» eyes, I examined with my own. There were, then, «no» secret issues. Both doors leading from the rooms into the passage were securely locked, with the keys inside. Let us turn to the chimneys. These, although of ordinary width for some eight or ten feet above the hearths, will not admit, throughout their extent, the body of a large cat. The impossibility of egress, by means already stated, being thus absolute, we are reduced to the windows. Through those of the front room no one could have escaped without notice from the crowd in the street. The murderers «must» have passed, then, through those of the back room. Now, brought to this conclusion in so unequivocal a manner as we are, it is not our part, as reasoners, to reject it on account of apparent impossibilities. It is only left for us to prove that these apparent 'impossibilities' are, in reality, not such.

"There are two windows in the chamber. One of them is unobstructed by furniture, and is wholly visible. The lower portion of the other is hidden from view by the head of the unwieldy bedstead which is thrust close up against it. The former was found securely fastened from within. It resisted the utmost force of those who endeavoured to raise it. A large gimlet-hole had been pierced in its frame to the left, and a very stout nail was found fitted therein, nearly to the head. Upon examining the other window, a similar nail was seen similarly fitted in it; and a vigorous attempt to raise this sash failed also. The police were now entirely satisfied that egress had not been in these directions. And, «therefore,» it was thought a matter of supererogation to withdraw the nails and open the windows.

"My own examination was somewhat more particular, and was so for the reason I have just given-because here it was, I knew, that all apparent impossibilities «must» be proved to be not such in reality.

"I proceeded to think thus-»á posteriori.» The murderers «did» escape from one of these windows. This being so, they could not have re-fastened the sashes from the inside, as they were found fastened;-the consideration which put a stop, through its obviousness, to the scrutiny of the police in this quarter. Yet the sashes «were» fastened. They «must,» then, have the power of fastening themselves. There was no escape from this conclusion. I stepped to the unobstructed casement, withdrew the nail with some difficulty, and attempted to raise the sash. It resisted all my efforts, as I had anticipated. A concealed spring must, I now knew, exist; and this corroboration of my idea convinced me that my premises, at least, were correct, however mysterious still appeared the circumstances attending the nails. A careful search soon brought to light the hidden spring. I pressed it, and, satisfied with the discovery, forbore to upraise the sash.

"I now replaced the nail and regarded it attentively. A person passing out through this window might have re-closed it, and the spring would have caught-but the nail could not have been replaced. The conclusion was plain, and again narrowed in the field of my investigations. The assassins «must» have escaped through the other window. Supposing, then, the springs upon each sash to be the same, as was probable, there «must» be found a difference between the nails, or at least between the modes of their fixture. Getting upon the sacking of the bedstead, I looked over the head-board minutely at the second casement. Passing my hand down behind the board, I readily discovered and pressed the spring, which was, as I had supposed, identical in character with its neighbour. I now looked at the nail. It was as stout as the other, and apparently fitted in in the same manner-driven in nearly up to the head.

"You will say that I was puzzled; but, if you think so, you must have misunderstood the nature of the inductions. To use a sporting phrase, I had not been once 'at fault.' The scent had never for an instant been lost. There was no flaw in any link of the chain. I had traced the secret to its ultimate result,-and that result was «the nail.» It had, I say, in every respect, the appearance of its fellow in the other window; but this fact was an absolute nullity (conclusive as it might seem to be) when compared with the consideration that here, at this point, terminated the clew. 'There «must» be something wrong,' I said, 'about the nail.' I touched it; and the head, with about a quarter of an inch of the shank, came off in my fingers. The rest of the shank was in the gimlet-hole, where it had been broken off. The fracture was an old one (for its edges were encrusted with rust), and had apparently been accomplished by the blow of a hammer, which had partially imbedded, in the top of the bottom sash, the head portion of the nail. I now carefully replaced this head portion in the indentation whence I had taken it, and the resemblance to a perfect nail was complete-the fissure was invisible. Pressing the spring, I gently raised the sash for a few inches; the head went up with it, remaining firm in its bed. I closed the window, and the semblance of the whole nail was again perfect.

"The riddle, so far, was now unriddled. The assassin had escaped through the window which looked upon the bed. Dropping of its own accord upon his exit (or perhaps purposely closed), it had become fastened by the spring; and it was the retention of this spring which had been mistaken by the police for that of the nail,-farther inquiry being thus considered unnecessary.

"The next question is that of the mode of descent. Upon this point I had been satisfied in my walk with you around the building. About five feet and a half from the casement in question there runs a lightning-rod. From this rod it would have been impossible for any one to reach the window itself, to say nothing of entering it. I observed, however, that the shutters of the fourth story were of the peculiar kind called by Parisian carpenters «ferrades»-a kind rarely employed at the present day, but frequently seen upon very old mansions at Lyons and Bourdeaux. They are in the form of an ordinary door, (a single, not a folding door) except that the upper half is latticed or worked in open trellis-thus affording an excellent hold for the hands. In the present instance these shutters are fully three feet and a half broad. When we saw them from the rear of the house, they were both about half open-that is to say, they stood off at right angles from the wall. It is probable that the police, as well as myself, examined the back of the tenement; but, if so, in looking at these «ferrades» in the line of their breadth (as they must have done), they did not perceive this great breadth itself, or, at all events, failed to take it into due consideration. In fact, having once satisfied themselves that no egress could have been made in this quarter, they would naturally bestow here a very cursory examination. It was clear to me, however, that the shutter belonging to the window at the head of the bed, would, if swung fully back to the wall, reach to within two feet of the lightning-rod. It was also evident that, by exertion of a very unusual degree of activity and courage, an entrance into the window, from the rod, might have been thus effected-by reaching to the distance of two feet and a half (we now suppose the shutter open to its whole extent) a robber might have taken a firm grasp upon the trellis-work. Letting go, then, his hold upon the rod, placing his feet securely against the wall, and springing boldly from it, he might have swung the shutter so as to close it, and, if we imagine the window open at the time, might even have swung himself into the room.

"I wish you to bear especially in mind that I have spoken of a very unusual degree of activity as requisite to success in so hazardous and so difficult a feat. It is my design to show you, first, that the thing might possibly have been accomplished:-but, secondly and «chiefly,» I wish to impress upon your understanding the «very extraordinary»-the almost præternatural character of that agility which could have accomplished it.

"You will say, no doubt, using the language of the law, that 'to make out my case,' I should rather undervalue, than insist upon a full estimation of the activity required in this matter. This may be the practice in law, but it is not the usage of reason. My ultimate object is only the truth. My immediate purpose is to lead you to place in juxtaposition, that «very unusual» activity of which I have just spoken, with that «very peculiar» shrill (or harsh) and «unequal» voice, about whose nationality no two persons could be found to agree, and in whose utterance no syllabification could be detected."

At these words a vague and half-formed conception of the meaning of Dupin flitted over my mind. I seemed to be upon the verge of comprehension, without power to comprehend-as men, at times, find themselves upon the brink of remembrance, without being able, in the end, to remember. My friend went on with his discourse.

"You will see," he said, "that I have shifted the question from the mode of egress to that of ingress. It was my design to suggest the idea that both were effected in the same manner, at the same point. Let us now revert to the interior of the room. Let us survey the appearances here. The drawers of the bureau, it is said, had been rifled, although many articles of apparel still remained within them. The conclusion here is absurd. It is a mere gues-a very silly one-and no more. How are we to know that the articles found in the drawers were not all these drawers had originally contained? Madame L'Espanaye and her daughter lived an exceedingly retired life-saw no company-seldom went out-had little use for numerous changes of habiliment. Those found were at least of as good quality as any likely to be possessed by these ladies. If a thief had taken any, why did he not take the best-why did he not take all? In a word, why did he abandon four thousand francs in gold to encumber himself with a bundle of linen? The gold «was» abandoned. Nearly the whole sum mentioned by Monsieur Mignaud, the banker, was discovered, in bags, upon the floor. I wish you, therefore, to discard from your thoughts the blundering idea of «motive,» engendered in the brains of the police by that portion of the evidence which speaks of money delivered at the door of the house. Coincidences ten times as remarkable as this (the delivery of the money, and murder committed within three days upon the party receiving it), happen to all of us every hour of our lives, without attracting even momentary notice. Coincidences, in general, are great stumbling-blocks in the way of that class of thinkers who have been educated to know nothing of the theory of probabilities-that theory to which the most glorious objects of human research are indebted for the most glorious of illustration. In the present instance, had the gold been gone, the fact of its delivery three days before would have formed something more than a coincidence. It would have been corroborative of this idea of motive. But, under the real circumstances of the case, if we are to suppose gold the motive of this outrage, we must also imagine the perpetrator so vacillating an idiot as to have abandoned his gold and his motive together.

"Keeping now steadily in mind the points to which I have drawn your attention-that peculiar voice, that unusual agility, and that startling absence of motive in a murder so singularly atrocious as this-let us glance at the butchery itself. Here is a woman strangled to death by manual strength, and thrust up a chimney, head downward. Ordinary assassins employ no such modes of murder as this. Least of all, do they thus dispose of the murdered. In the manner of thrusting the corpse up the chimney, you will admit that there was something «excessively outré»-something altogether irreconcilable with our common notions of human action, even when we suppose the actors the most depraved of men. Think, too, how great must have been that strength which could have thrust the body up such an aperture so forcibly that the united vigour of several persons was found barely sufficient to drag it «down!»

"Turn, now, to other indications of the employment of a vigour most marvellous. On the hearth were thick tresses-very thick tresses-of grey human hair. These had been torn out by the roots. You are aware of the great force necessary in tearing thus from the head even twenty or thirty hairs together. You saw the locks in question as well as myself. Their roots (a hideous sight!) were clotted with fragments of the flesh of the scalp-sure token of the prodigious power which had been exerted in uprooting perhaps half a million of hairs at a time. The throat of the old lady was not merely cut, but the head absolutely severed from the body: the instrument was a mere razor. I wish you also to look at the «brutal» ferocity of these deeds. Of the bruises upon the body of Madame L'Espanaye I do not speak. Monsieur Dumas, and his worthy coadjutor Monsieur Etienne, have pronounced that they were inflicted by some obtuse instrument; and so far these gentlemen are very correct. The obtuse instrument was clearly the stone pavement in the yard, upon which the victim had fallen from the window which looked in upon the bed. This idea, however simple it may now seem, escaped the police for the same reason that the breadth of the shutters escaped them-because, by the affair of the nails, their perceptions had been hermetically sealed against the possibility of the windows having ever been opened at all.

"If now, in addition to all these things, you have properly reflected upon the odd disorder of the chamber, we have gone so far as to combine the ideas of an agility astounding, a strength superhuman, a ferocity brutal, a butchery without motive, a «grotesquerie» in horror absolutely alien from humanity, and a voice foreign in tone to the ears of men of many nations, and devoid of all distinct or intelligible syllabification. What result, then, has ensued? What impression have I made upon your fancy?"

I felt a creeping of the flesh as Dupin asked me the question. "A madman," I said, "has done this deed-some raving maniac, escaped from a neighbouring «Maison de Santé."«

"In some respects," he replied, "your idea is not irrelevant. But the voices of madmen, even in their wildest paroxysms, are never found to tally with that peculiar voice heard upon the stairs. Madmen are of some nation, and their language, however incoherent in its words, has always the coherence of syllabification. Besides, the hair of a madman is not such as I now hold in my hand. I disentangled this little tuft from the rigidly clutched fingers of Madame L'Espanaye. Tell me what you can make of it."

"Dupin!" I said, completely unnerved; "this hair is most unusual-this is no «human hair."«

"I have not asserted that it is," said he; "but, before we decide this point, I wish you to glance at the little sketch I have here traced upon this paper. It is a «fac-simile» drawing of what has been described in one portion of the testimony as 'dark bruises, and deep indentations of finger nails,' upon the throat of Mademoiselle L'Espanaye, and in another, (by Messrs. Dumas and Etienne,) as a 'series of livid spots, evidently the impression of fingers.'

"You will perceive," continued my friend, spreading out the paper upon the table before us, "that this drawing gives the idea of a firm and fixed hold. There is no «slipping» apparent. Each finger has retained-possibly until the death of the victim-the fearful grasp by which it originally imbedded itself. Attempt, now, to place all your fingers, at the same time, in the respective impressions as you see them."

I made the attempt in vain.

"We are possibly not giving this matter a fair trial," he said. "The paper is spread out upon a plane surface; but the human throat is cylindrical. Here is a billet of wood, the circumference of which is about that of the throat. Wrap the drawing around it, and try the experiment again."

I did so; but the difficulty was even more obvious than before. "This," I said, "is the mark of no human hand."

"Read now, replied Dupin, "this passage from Cuvier."

It was a minute anatomical and generally descriptive account of the large fulvous Ourang-Outang of the East Indian Islands. The gigantic stature, the prodigious strength and activity, the wild ferocity, and the imitative propensities of these mammalia are sufficiently well known to all. I understood the full horrors of the murder at once.

"The description of the digits," said I, as I made an end of reading, "is in exact accordance with this drawing. I see that no animal but an Ourang-Outang, of the species here mentioned, could have impressed the indentations as you have traced them. This tuft of tawny hair, too, is identical in character with that of the beast of Cuvier. But I cannot possibly comprehend the particulars of this frightful mystery. Besides, there were two voices heard in contention, and one of them was unquestionably the voice of a Frenchman."

"True; and you will remember an expression attributed almost unanimously, by the evidence, to this voice,-the expression 'mon Dieu!' This, under the circumstances, has been justly characterized by one of the witnesses (Montani, the confectioner,) as an expression of remonstrance or expostulation. Upon these two words, therefore, I have mainly built my hopes of a full solution of the riddle. A Frenchman was cognizant of the murder. It is possible-indeed it is far more than probable-that he was innocent of all participation in the bloody transactions which took place. The Ourang-Outang may have escaped from him. He may have traced it to the chamber; but, under the agitating circumstances which ensued, he could never have recaptured it. It is still at large. I will not pursue these guesses-for I have no right to call them more-since the shades of reflection upon which they are based are scarcely of sufficient depth to be appreciable by my own intellect, and since I could not pretend to make them intelligible to the understanding of another. We will call them guesses then, and speak of them as such. If the Frenchman in question is indeed, as I suppose, innocent of this atrocity, this advertisement, which I left last night, upon our return home, at the office of 'Le Monde,' (a paper devoted to the shipping interest, and much sought by sailors,) will bring him to our residence."

He handed me a paper, and I read thus: CAUGHT-In the Bois de Boulogne, early in the morning of the____________________inst., (the morning of the murder,) a very large, tawny Ourang-Outang of the Bornese species. The owner, (who is ascertained to be a sailor, belonging to a Maltese vessel,) may have the animal again, upon identifying it satisfactorily, and paying a few charges arising from its capture and keeping. Call at No.____________________, Rue____________________, Faubourg St. Germain-au troisième.

"How was it possible," I asked, "that you should know the man to be a sailor, and belonging to a Maltese vessel?"

"I do «not» know it," said Dupin. "I am not «sure» of it. Here, however, is a small piece of ribbon, which from its form and from its greasy appearance, has evidently been used in tying the hair in one of those long «queues» of which sailors are so fond. Moreover, this knot is one which few besides sailors can tie, and is peculiar to the Maltese. I picked the ribbon up at the foot of the lightning-rod. It could not have belonged to either of the deceased. Now if, after all, I am wrong in my induction from this ribbon, that the Frenchman was a sailor belonging to a Maltese vessel, still I can have done no harm in saying what I did in the advertisement. If I am in error, he will merely suppose that I have been misled by some circumstance into which he will not take the trouble to inquire. But if I am right, a great point is gained. Cognizant although innocent of the murder, the Frenchman will naturally hesitate about replying to the advertisement-about demanding the Ourang-Outang. He will reason thus: 'I am innocent; I am poor; my Ourang-Outang is of great value-to one in my circumstances a fortune of itself-why should I lose it through idle apprehensions of danger? Here it is, within my grasp. It was found in the Bois de Boulogne-at a vast distance from the scene of that butchery. How can it ever be suspected that a brute beast should have done the deed? The police are at fault-they have failed to procure the slightest clew. Should they even trace the animal, it would be impossible to prove me cognizant of the murder, or to implicate me in guilt on account of that cognizance. Above all, «I am known.» The advertiser designates me as the possessor of the beast. I am not sure to what limit his knowledge may extend. Should I avoid claiming a property of so great value, which it is known that I possess, I will render the animal at least, liable to suspicion. It is not my policy to attract attention either to myself or to the beast. I will answer the advertisement, get the Ourang-Outang, and keep it close until this matter has blown over.'"

At this moment we heard a step upon the stairs.

"Be ready," said Dupin, "with your pistols, but neither use them nor show them until at a signal from myself."

The front door of the house had been left open, and the visitor had entered, without ringing, and advanced several steps upon the staircase. Now, however, he seemed to hesitate. Presently we heard him descending. Dupin was moving quickly to the door, when we again heard him coming up. He did not turn back a second time, but stepped up with decision, and rapped at the door of our chamber.

"Come in," said Dupin, in a cheerful and hearty tone.

A man entered. He was a sailor, evidently,-a tall, stout, and muscular-looking person, with a certain dare-devil expression of countenance, not altogether unprepossessing. His face, greatly sunburnt, was more than half hidden by whisker and «mustachio.» He had with him a huge oaken cudgel, but appeared to be otherwise unarmed. He bowed awkwardly, and bade us 'good evening,' in French accents, which, although somewhat Neufchatel-ish, were still sufficiently indicative of a Parisian origin.

"Sit down, my friend," said Dupin. "I suppose you have called about the Ourang-Outang. Upon my word, I almost envy you the possession of him; a remarkably fine, and no doubt a very valuable animal. How old do you suppose him to be?"

The sailor drew a long breath, with the air of a man relieved of some intolerable burden, and then replied, in an assured tone: "I have no way of telling-but he can't be more than four or five years old. Have you got him here?"

"Oh no; we had no conveniences for keeping him here. He is at a livery stable in the Rue Dubourg, just by. You can get him in the morning. Of course you are prepared to identify the property?"

"To be sure I am, sir."

"I shall be sorry to part with him," said Dupin.

"I don't mean that you should be at all this trouble for nothing, sir," said the man. "Couldn't expect it. Am very willing to pay a reward for the finding of the animal-that is to say, any thing in reason."

"Well," replied my friend, "that is all very fair, to be sure. Let me think!-what should I have? Oh! I will tell you. My reward shall be this. You shall give me all the information in your power about these murders in the Rue Morgue."

Dupin said the last words in a very low tone, and very quietly. Just as quietly, too, he walked toward the door, locked it, and put the key in his pocket. He then drew a pistol from his bosom and placed it, without the least flurry, upon the table.

The sailor's face flushed up as if he were struggling with suffocation. He started to his feet and grasped his cudgel; but the next moment he fell back into his seat, trembling violently, and with the countenance of death itself. He spoke not a word. I pitied him from the bottom of my heart.

"My friend," said Dupin, in a kind tone, "you are alarming yourself unnecessarily-you are indeed. We mean you no harm whatever. I pledge you the honour of a gentleman, and of a Frenchman, that we intend you no injury. I perfectly well know that you are innocent of the atrocities in the Rue Morgue. It will not do, however, to deny that you are in some measure implicated in them. From what I have already said, you must know that I have had means of information about this matter-means of which you could never have dreamed. Now the thing stands thus. You have done nothing which you could have avoided-nothing, certainly, which renders you culpable. You were not even guilty of robbery, when you might have robbed with impunity. You have nothing to conceal. You have no reason for concealment. On the other hand, you are bound by every principle of honour to confess all you know. An innocent man is now imprisoned, charged with that crime of which you can point out the perpetrator."

The sailor had recovered his presence of mind, in a great measure, while Dupin uttered these words; but his original boldness of bearing was all gone.

"So help me God," said he, after a brief pause, "I «will» tell you all I know about this affair;-but I do not expect you to believe one half I say-I would be a fool indeed if I did. Still, I «am» innocent, and I will make a clean breast if I die for it."

What he stated was, in substance, this. He had lately made a voyage to the Indian Archipelago. A party, of which he formed one, landed at Borneo, and passed into the interior on an excursion of pleasure. Himself and a companion had captured the Ourang-Outang. This companion dying, the animal fell into his own exclusive possession. After great trouble, occasioned by the intractable ferocity of his captive during the home voyage, he at length succeeded in lodging it safely at his own residence in Paris, where, not to attract toward himself the unpleasant curiosity of his neighbours, he kept it carefully secluded, until such time as it should recover from a wound in the foot, received from a splinter on board ship. His ultimate design was to sell it.

Returning home from some sailors' frolic on the night, or rather in the morning of the murder, he found the beast occupying his own bedroom, into which it had broken from a closet adjoining, where it had been, as was thought, securely confined. Razor in hand, and fully lathered, it was sitting before a looking-glass, attempting the operation of shaving, in which it had no doubt previously watched its master through the key-hole of the closet. Terrified at the sight of so dangerous a weapon in the possession of an animal so ferocious, and so well able to use it, the man, for some moments, was at a loss what to do. He had been accustomed, however, to quiet the creature, even in its fiercest moods, by the use of a whip, and to this he now resorted. Upon sight of it, the Ourang-Outang sprang at once through the door of the chamber, down the stairs, and thence, through a window, unfortunately open, into the street.

The Frenchman followed in despair; the ape, razor still in hand, occasionally stopping to look back and gesticulate at its pursuer, until the latter had nearly come up with it. It then again made off. In this manner the chase continued for a long time. The streets were profoundly quiet, as it was nearly three o'clock in the morning. In passing down an alley in the rear of the Rue Morgue, the fugitive's attention was arrested by a light gleaming from the open window of Madame L'Espanaye's chamber, in the fourth story of her house. Rushing to the building, it perceived the lightning-rod, clambered up with inconceivable agility, grasped the shutter, which was thrown fully back against the wall, and, by its means, swung itself directly upon the headboard of the bed. The whole feat did not occupy a minute. The shutter was kicked open again by the Ourang-Outang as it entered the room.

The sailor, in the meantime, was both rejoiced and perplexed. He had strong hopes of now recapturing the brute, as it could scarcely escape from the trap into which it had ventured, except by the rod, where it might be intercepted as it came down. On the other hand, there was cause for anxiety as to what it might do in the house. This latter reflection urged the man still to follow the fugitive. A lightning-rod is ascended without difficulty, especially by a sailor; but, when he had arrived as high as the window, which lay far to his left, his career was stopped; the most that he could accomplish was to reach over so as to obtain a glimpse of the interior of the room. At this glimpse he nearly fell from his hold through excess of horror. Now it was that those hideous shrieks arose upon the night, which had startled from slumber the inmates of the Rue Morgue. Madame L'Espanaye and her daughter, habited in their night clothes, had apparently been occupied in arranging some papers in the iron chest already mentioned, which had been wheeled into the middle of the room. It was open, and its contents lay beside it on the floor. The victims must have been sitting with their backs toward the window; and, from the time elapsing between the ingress of the beast and the screams, it seems probable that it was not immediately perceived. The flapping-to of the shutter would naturally have been attributed to the wind.

As the sailor looked in, the gigantic animal had seized Madame L'Espanaye by the hair, (which was loose, as she had been combing it,) and was flourishing the razor about her face, in imitation of the motions of a barber. The daughter lay prostrate and motionless; she had swooned. The screams and struggles of the old lady (during which the hair was torn from her head) had the effect of changing the probably pacific purposes of the Ourang-Outang into those of wrath. With one determined sweep of its muscular arm it nearly severed her head from her body. The sight of blood inflamed its anger into phrenzy. Gnashing its teeth, and flashing fire from its eyes, it flew upon the body of the girl, and imbedded its fearful talons in her throat, retaining its grasp until she expired. Its wandering and wild glances fell at this moment upon the head of the bed, over which the face of its master, rigid with horror, was just discernible. The fury of the beast, who no doubt bore still in mind the dreaded whip, was instantly converted into fear. Conscious of having deserved punishment, it seemed desirous of concealing its bloody deeds, and skipped about the chamber in an agony of nervous agitation; throwing down and breaking the furniture as it moved, and dragging the bed from the bedstead. In conclusion, it seized first the corpse of the daughter, and thrust it up the chimney, as it was found; then that of the old lady, which it immediately hurled through the window headlong.

As the ape approached the casement with its mutilated burden, the sailor shrank aghast to the rod, and, rather gliding than clambering down it, hurried at once home-dreading the consequences of the butchery, and gladly abandoning, in his terror, all solicitude about the fate of the Ourang-Outang. The words heard by the party upon the staircase were the Frenchman's exclamations of horror and affright, commingled with the fiendish jabberings of the brute.

I have scarcely anything to add. The Ourang-Outang must have escaped from the chamber, by the rod, just before the breaking of the door. It must have closed the window as it passed through it. It was subsequently caught by the owner himself, who obtained for it a very large sum at the «Jardin des Plantes.» Le Bon was instantly released, upon our narration of the circumstances (with some comments from Dupin) at the «bureau» of the Prefect of Police. This functionary, however well disposed to my friend, could not altogether conceal his chagrin at the turn which affairs had taken, and was fain to indulge in a sarcasm or two, about the propriety of every person minding his own business.

"Let him talk," said Dupin, who had not thought it necessary to reply. "Let him discourse; it will ease his conscience. I am satisfied with having defeated him in his own castle. Nevertheless, that he failed in the solution of this mystery, is by no means that matter for wonder which he supposes it; for, in truth, our friend the Prefect is somewhat too cunning to be profound. In his wisdom is no «stamen.» It is all head and no body, like the pictures of the Goddess Laverna,-or, at best, all head and shoulders, like a codfish. But he is a good creature after all. I like him especially for one master stroke of cant, by which he has attained his reputation for ingenuity. I mean the way he has «'de nier ce qui est, et d'expliquer ce qui n'est pas.'" «*

* Rousseau, «Nouvelle Heloise».

BRET HARTE (1836-1902)

It may at first seem surprising that the writer best known for putting the California of Gold Rush days on the literary map also produced «The Stolen Cigar Case,» a story widely regarded as the quintessential Sherlockian parody. But Bret Harte, who also did a great deal to establish the formula used in Westerns to this day, was a master of generic conventions and a skilled editor and literary critic. This story, and others collected in two volumes of Condensed Novels, were written to indulge Harte's passion for critiquing the very conventions that were the mainstays of his and other writers' popular success.

Born Francis Bret Harte in Albany, New York, in 1836, he was a precocious child who at the age of five burlesqued his school primers. He was raised in the eastern United States, where he moved from school to school according to his father's varying ability to pay tuition. His father changed the family name to Harte a year before he died. Soon afterward, the teenage Harte began to support himself, establishing a lifelong pattern of moving from job to job while pursuing his writing.

At the age of eighteen, Harte joined his remarried mother in California, where he was to spend the next sixteen years of his life. His first six years out west were not successful in terms of either literary or ordinary employment. But in drifting from job to job and dabbling in experiences like riding shotgun on a stagecoach and tutoring ranchers' children, he gathered a wealth of material that he would mine for years as he put 'Bret Harte Country' on the literary map.

Harte's connections with literary journals and newspapers ranged from writing for them to physically printing them. He simultaneously lost his job and made a name for himself when, in February 1860, he strongly editorialised about a massacre of Indians perpetrated by whites. Left in charge of the «Northern Californian» while the editor was away, he printed such bold statements about a rival paper and the local sheriff that he was fired within the month.

In his non-fiction and lectures, Harte revealed that he despised the corruption and lawlessness of the very world in which he chose to set his fiction. In his literary criticism, he disdained the use of formula and stock characters while unabashedly using both to his advantage in his highly popular fiction.

If «The Stolen Cigar Case» is one of Harte's most lasting gems, it may be because in it he could dissect and use to his advantage both formula and someone else's stock characters. And at the same time he could indulge a bad boy's sense of play.

The Stolen Cigar Case

I found Hemlock Jones in the old Brook Street lodgings, musing before the fire. With the freedom of an old friend I at once threw myself in my usual familiar attitude at his feet, and gently caressed his boot. I was induced to do this for two reasons: one, that it enabled me to get a good look at his bent, concentrated face, and the other, that it seemed to indicate my reverence for his superhuman insight. So absorbed was he even then, in tracking some mysterious clue, that he did not seem to notice me. But therein I was wrong-as I always was in my attempt to understand that powerful intellect.

"It is raining," he said, without lifting his head.

"You have been out, then?" I said quickly.

"No. But I see that your umbrella is wet, and that your overcoat has drops of water on it."

I sat aghast at his penetration. After a pause he said carelessly, as if dismissing the subject: "Besides, I hear the rain on the window. Listen."

I listened. I could scarcely credit my ears, but there was the soft pattering of drops on the panes. It was evident there was no deceiving this man!

"Have you been busy lately?" I asked, changing the subject. "What new problem-given up by Scotland Yard as inscrutable-has occupied that gigantic intellect?"

He drew back his foot slightly, and seemed to hesitate ere he returned it to its original position. Then he answered wearily: "Mere trifles-nothing to speak of. The Prince Kupoli has been here to get my advice regarding the disappearance of certain rubies from the Kremlin; the Rajah of Pootibad, after vainly beheading his entire bodyguard, has been obliged to seek my assistance to recover a jewelled sword. The Grand Duchess of Pretzel-Brauntswig is desirous of discovering where her husband was on the night of February 14; and last night"-he lowered his voice slightly-"a lodger in this very house, meeting me on the stairs, wanted to know why they didn't answer his bell."

I could not help smiling-until I saw a frown gathering on his inscrutable forehead.

"Pray remember," he said coldly, "that it was through such an apparently trivial question that I found out Why Paul Ferroll Killed His Wife, and What Happened to Jones!"

I became dumb at once. He paused for a moment, and then suddenly changing back to his usual pitiless, analytical style, he said: "When I say these are trifles, they are so in comparison to an affair that is now before me. A crime has been committed,-and, singularly enough, against myself. You start," he said. "You wonder who would have dared to attempt it. So did I; nevertheless, it has been done. «I» have been «robbed!"«

«"You» robbed! You, Hemlock Jones, the Terror of Peculators!" I gasped in amazement, arising and gripping the table as I faced him.

"Yes! Listen. I would confess it to no other. But «you» who have followed my career, who know my methods; you, for whom I have partly lifted the veil that conceals my plans from ordinary humanity,-you, who have for years rapturously accepted my confidences, passionately admired my inductions and inferences, placed yourself at my beck and call, become my slave, grovelled at my feet, given up your practice except those few unremunerative and rapidly decreasing patients to whom, in moments of abstraction over «my» problems, you have administered strychnine for quinine and arsenic for Epsom salts; you, who have sacrificed anything and everybody to me,-»you» I make my confidant!"

I arose and embraced him warmly, yet he was already so engrossed in thought that at the same moment he mechanically placed his hand upon his watch chain as if to consult the time. "Sit down," he said. "Have a cigar?"

"I have given up cigar smoking," I said.

"Why?" he asked.

I hesitated, and perhaps coloured. I had really given it up because, with my diminished practice, it was too expensive. I could afford only a pipe. "I prefer a pipe," I said laughingly. "But tell me of this robbery. What have you lost?"

He arose, and planting himself before the fire with his hands under his coattails, looked down upon me reflectively for a moment. "Do you remember the cigar case presented to me by the Turkish Ambassador for discovering the missing favourite of the Grand Vizier in the fifth chorus girl at the Hilarity Theatre? It was that one. I mean the cigar case. It was incrusted with diamonds."

"And the largest one had been supplanted by paste," I said.

"Ah," he said, with a reflective smile, "you know that?"

"You told me yourself. I remember considering it a proof of your extraordinary perception. But, by Jove, you don't mean to say you have lost it?"

He was silent for a moment. "No; it has been stolen, it is true, but I shall still find it. And by myself alone! In your profession, my dear fellow, when a member is seriously ill, he does not prescribe for himself, but calls in a brother doctor. Therein we differ. I shall take this matter in my own hands."

"And where could you find better?" I said enthusiastically. "I should say the cigar case is as good as recovered already."

"I shall remind you of that again," he said lightly. "And now, to show you my confidence in your judgment, in spite of my determination to pursue this alone, I am willing to listen to any suggestions from you."

He drew a memorandum book from his pocket and, with a grave smile, took up his pencil.

I could scarcely believe my senses. He, the great Hemlock Jones, accepting suggestions from a humble individual like myself! I kissed his hand reverently, and began in a joyous tone: "First, I should advertise, offering a reward; I should give the same intimation in hand-bills, distributed at the 'pubs' and the pastry-cooks'. I should next visit the different pawnbrokers; I should give notice at the police station. I should examine the servants. I should thoroughly search the house and my own pockets. I speak relatively," I added, with a laugh. "Of course I mean your own."

He gravely made an entry of these details.

"Perhaps," I added, "you have already done this?"

"Perhaps," he returned enigmatically.

"Now, my dear friend," he continued, putting the note-book in his pocket and rising, "would you excuse me for a few moments? Make yourself perfectly at home until I return; there may be some things," he added with a sweep of his hand toward his heterogeneously filled shelves, "that may interest you and while away the time. There are pipes and tobacco in that corner."

Then nodding to me with the same inscrutable face he left the room. I was too well accustomed to his methods to think much of his unceremonious withdrawal, and made no doubt he was off to investigate some clue which had suddenly occurred to his active intelligence.

Left to myself I cast a cursory glance over his shelves. There were a number of small glass jars containing earthy substances, labelled 'Pavement and Road Sweepings,' from the principal thoroughfares and suburbs of London, with the sub-directions 'for identifying foot-tracks.' There were several other jars, labelled 'Fluff from Omnibus and Road Car Seats,'

'Cocoanut Fibre and Rope Strands from Mattings in Public Places,'

'Cigarette Stumps and Match Ends from Floor of Palace Theatre, Row A, 1 to 50.' Everywhere were evidences of this wonderful man's system and perspicacity.

I was thus engaged when I heard the slight creaking of a door, and I looked up as a stranger entered. He was a rough-looking man, with a shabby overcoat and a still more disreputable muffler around his throat and the lower part of his face. Considerably annoyed at his intrusion, I turned upon him rather sharply, when, with a mumbled, growling apology for mistaking the room, he shuffled out again and closed the door. I followed him quickly to the landing and saw that he disappeared down the stairs. With my mind full of the robbery, the incident made a singular impression upon me. I knew my friend's habit of hasty absences from his room in his moments of deep inspiration; it was only too probable that, with his powerful intellect and magnificent perceptive genius concentrated on one subject, he should be careless of his own belongings, and no doubt even forget to take the ordinary precaution of locking up his drawers. I tried one or two and found that I was right, although for some reason I was unable to open one to its fullest extent. The handles were sticky, as if some one had opened them with dirty fingers. Knowing Hemlock's fastidious cleanliness, I resolved to inform him of this circumstance, but I forgot it, alas! Until-but I am anticipating my story.

His absence was strangely prolonged. I at last seated myself by the fire, and lulled by warmth and the patter of the rain on the window, I fell asleep. I may have dreamt, for during my sleep I had a vague semi-consciousness as of hands being softly pressed on my pockets – no doubt induced by the story of the robbery. When I came fully to my senses, I found Hemlock Jones sitting on the other side of the hearth, his deeply concentrated gaze fixed on the fire.

"I found you so comfortably asleep that I could not bear to awaken you," he said, with a smile.

I rubbed my eyes. "And what news?" I asked. "How have you succeeded?"

"Better than I expected," he said, "and I think," he added, tapping his note-book, "I owe much to «you."«

Deeply gratified, I awaited more. But in vain. I ought to have remembered that in his moods Hemlock Jones was reticence itself. I told him simply of the strange intrusion, but he only laughed.

Later, when I arose to go, he looked at me playfully. "If you were a married man," he said, "I would advise you not to go home until you had brushed your sleeve. There are a few short brown sealskin hairs on the inner side of your forearm, just where they would have adhered if your arm had encircled a sealskin coat with some pressure!"

"For once you are at fault," I said triumphantly; "the hair is my own, as you will perceive; I have just had it cut at the hairdresser's, and no doubt this arm projected beyond the apron."

He frowned slightly, yet, nevertheless, on my turning to go he embraced me warmly-a rare exhibition in that man of ice. He even helped me on with my overcoat and pulled out and smoothed down the flaps of my pockets. He was particular, too, in fitting my arm in my overcoat sleeve, shaking the sleeve down from the armhole to the cuff with his deft fingers. "Come again soon!" he said, clapping me on the back.

"At any and all times," I said enthusiastically; "I only ask ten minutes twice a day to eat a crust at my office, and four hours' sleep at night, and the rest of my time is devoted to you always, as you know."

"It is indeed," he said, with his impenetrable smile.

Nevertheless, I did not find him at home when I next called. One afternoon, when nearing my own home, I met him in one of his favourite disguises,-a long blue swallow-tailed coat, striped cotton trousers, large turn-over collar, blacked face, and white hat, carrying a tambourine. Of course to others the disguise was perfect, although it was known to myself, and I passed him-according to an old understanding between us-without the slightest recognition, trusting to a later explanation. At another time, as I was making a professional visit to the wife of a publican at the East End, I saw him, in the disguise of a broken-down artisan, looking into the window of an adjacent pawnshop. I was delighted to see that he was evidently following my suggestions, and in my joy I ventured to tip him a wink; it was abstractedly returned.

Two days later I received a note appointing a meeting at his lodgings that night. That meeting, alas! was the one memorable occurrence of my life, and the last meeting I ever had with Hemlock Jones! I will try to set it down calmly, though my pulses still throb with the recollection of it.

I found him standing before the fire, with that look upon his face which I had seen only once or twice in our acquaintance-a look which I may call an absolute concatenation of inductive and deductive ratiocination-from which all that was human, tender, or sympathetic was absolutely discharged. He was simply an icy algebraic symbol! Indeed, his whole being was concentrated to that extent that his clothes fitted loosely, and his head was absolutely so much reduced in size by his mental compression that his hat tipped back from his forehead and literally hung on his massive ears.

After I had entered he locked the doors, fastened the windows, and even placed a chair before the chimney. As I watched these significant precautions with absorbing interest, he suddenly drew a revolver and, presenting it to my temple, said in low, icy tones: "Hand over that cigar case!"

Even in my bewilderment my reply was truthful, spontaneous, and involuntary.

"I haven't got it," I said.

He smiled bitterly, and threw down his revolver. "I expected that reply! Then let me now confront you with something more awful, more deadly, more relentless and convincing than that mere lethal weapon,-the damning inductive and deductive proofs of your guilt!" He drew from his pocket a roll of paper and a note-book.

"But surely," I gasped, "you are joking! You could not for a moment believe-"

"Silence! Sit down!" I obeyed.

"You have condemned yourself," he went on pitilessly. "Condemned yourself on my processes,-processes familiar to you, applauded by you, accepted by you for years! We will go back to the time when you first saw the cigar case. Your expressions," he said in cold, deliberate tones, consulting his paper, were, 'How beautiful! I wish it were mine.' This was your first step in crime-and my first indication. From 'I «wish» it were mine' to 'I «will» have it mine,' and the mere detail, «'How can» I make it mine?' the advance was obvious. Silence! But as in my methods it was necessary that there should be an overwhelming inducement to the crime, that unholy admiration of yours for the mere trinket itself was not enough. You are a smoker of cigars."

"But," I burst out passionately, "I told you I had given up smoking cigars."

"Fool!" he said coldly, "that is the «second» time you have committed yourself. Of course you told me! What more natural than for you to blazon forth that prepared and unsolicited statement to prevent accusation. Yet, as I said before, even that wretched attempt to cover up your tracks was not enough. I still had to find that overwhelming, impelling motive necessary to affect a man like you. That motive I found in the strongest of all impulses-Love, I suppose you would call it," he added bitterly, "that night you called! You had brought the most conclusive proofs of it on your sleeve."

"But-" I almost screamed.

"Silence!" he thundered. "I know what you would say. You would say that even if you had embraced some Young Person in a sealskin coat, what had that to do with the robbery? Let me tell you, then, that that sealskin coat represented the quality and character of your fatal entanglement! You bartered your honour for it-that stolen cigar case was the purchaser of the sealskin coat!

"Silence! Having thoroughly established your motive, I now proceed to the commission of the crime itself. Ordinary people would have begun with that-with an attempt to discover the whereabouts of the missing object. These are not» my» methods."

So overpowering was his penetration that, although I knew myself innocent, I licked my lips with avidity to hear the further details of this lucid exposition of my crime.

"You committed that theft the night I showed you the cigar case, and after I had carelessly thrown it in that drawer. You were sitting in that chair, and I had arisen to take something from that shelf. In that instant you secured your booty without rising. Silence! Do you remember when I helped you on with your overcoat the other night? I was particular about fitting your arm in. While doing so I measured your arm with a spring tape measure, from the shoulder to the cuff. A later visit to your tailor confirmed that measurement. It proved to be «the exact distance between your chair and that drawer!"«

I sat stunned.

"The rest are mere corroborative details! You were again tampering with the drawer when I discovered you doing so! Do not start! The stranger that blundered into the room with a muffler on-was myself! More, I had placed a little soap on the drawer handles when I purposely left you alone. The soap was on your hand when I shook it at parting. I softly felt your pockets, when you were asleep, for further developments. I embraced you when you left-that I might feel if you had the cigar case or any other articles hidden on your body. This confirmed me in the belief that you had already disposed of it in the manner and for the purpose I have shown you. As I still believed you capable of remorse and confession, I twice allowed you to see I was on your track: once in the garb of an itinerant negro minstrel, and the second time as a workman looking in the window of the pawnshop where you pledged your booty."

"But," I burst out, "if you had asked the pawnbroker, you would have seen how unjust-"

"Fool!" he hissed, "that was one of «your» suggestions-to search the pawnshops! Do you suppose I followed any of your suggestions, the suggestions of the thief? On the contrary, they told me what to avoid."

"And I suppose," I said bitterly, "you have not even searched your drawer?"

"No," he said calmly.

I was for the first time really vexed. I went to the nearest drawer and pulled it out sharply. It stuck as it had before, leaving a part of the drawer unopened. By working it, however, I discovered that it was impeded by some obstacle that had slipped to the upper part of the drawer, and held it firmly fast. Inserting my hand, I pulled out the impeding object. It was the missing cigar case! I turned to him with a cry of joy.

But I was appalled at his expression. A look of contempt was now added to his acute, penetrating gaze. "I have been mistaken," he said slowly; "I had not allowed for your weakness and cowardice! I thought too highly of you even in your guilt! But I see now why you tampered with that drawer the other night. By some inexplicable means-possibly another theft-you took the cigar case out of pawn and, like a whipped hound, restored it to me in this feeble, clumsy fashion. You thought to deceive me, Hemlock Jones! More, you thought to destroy my infallibility. Go! I give you your liberty. I shall not summon the three policemen who wait in the adjoining room-but out of my sight forever!"

As I stood once more dazed and petrified, he took me firmly by the ear and led me into the hall, closing the door behind him. This reopened presently, wide enough to permit him to thrust out my hat, overcoat, umbrella, and overshoes, and then closed against me forever!

I never saw him again. I am bound to say, however, that thereafter my business increased, I recovered much of my old practice, and a few of my patients recovered also. I became rich. I had a brougham and a house in the West End. But I often wondered, pondering on that wonderful man's penetration and insight, if, in some lapse of consciousness, I had not really stolen his cigar case!

JACQUES FUTRELLE (1875-1912)

Critics agree that when Boston journalist Jacques Futrelle went down with the «Titanic» at the age of thirty-seven, the world lost an innovative master of the short story. The Georgia-born author also penned novels that have not stood the test of time. But his short stories gave us his great achievement: the American prototype of the scientific sleuth.

There is no doubt that Futrelle was building on the creations of Eugene Francois Vidocq, Edgar Allan Poe, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, when he invented Professor S. F. X. Van Dusen, Ph. D., LL. D., F. R. S., and M. D. However, no reader is likely to mistake Van Dusen for Sherlock Holmes, despite their cerebral similarities. With his outsize cranium, his mane of yellow hair, his petite body, and his arrogant freakishness, Van Dusen can't be imagined as welcome among the upper-crust British. And Van Dusen's character fits the American mould. His superlative reasoning powers are accompanied by a 'can-do' attitude that leads him to declare, "Nothing is impossible."

"How about an airship?" his friend challenges him.

"That's not impossible at all," Van Dusen asserts. "It will be invented sometime. I'd do it myself, but I'm busy.

Dubbed 'The Thinking Machine' by the press after 'a remarkable exhibition at chess,' the professor is aided by newspaper reporter Hutchinson Hatch, who runs the research and rescue operations while Van Dusen does the thinking. Setting the stage for sidekicks like Archie Goodwin in Rex Stout's later Nero Wolfe stories and Paul Drake in Erie Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason mysteries, Hatch is the more physically active partner.

Futrelle was on the editorial staff of the «Boston American» when «The Problem of Cell 13» made him famous. Like most of his Thinking Machine stories, it was first published in that newspaper (the predecessor of the present-day «Boston Herald),» with a challenge to the reader to furnish a solution. The story demonstrates the author's forte in the locked-room branch of detective fiction, with The Thinking Machine taking up a challenge to escape from a maximum-security prison cell with nothing but "shoes, stockings, trousers and shirt"-and, of course, his power to think.

The Problem of Cell 13

I

Practically all those letters remaining in the alphabet after Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen was named were afterward acquired by that gentleman in the course of a brilliant scientific career, and, being honourably acquired, were tacked on to the other end. His name, therefore, taken with all that belonged to it, was a wonderfully imposing structure. He was a Ph. D., an LL. D., an F. R. S., an M. D., and an M. D. S. He was also some other things-just what he himself couldn't say-through recognition of his ability by various foreign educational and scientific institutions.

In appearance he was no less striking than in nomenclature. He was slender with the droop of the student in his thin shoulders and the pallor of a close, sedentary life on his clean-shaven face. His eyes wore a perpetual, forbidding squint-of a man who studies little things-and when they could be seen at all through his thick spectacles, were mere slits of watery blue. But above his eyes was his most striking feature. This was a tall, broad brow, almost abnormal in height and width, crowned by a heavy shock of bushy, yellow hair. All these things conspired to give him a peculiar, almost grotesque, personality.

Professor Van Dusen was remotely German. For generations his ancestors had been noted in the sciences; he was the logical result, the master mind. First and above all he was a logician. At least thirty-five years of the half-century or so of his existence had been devoted exclusively to proving that two and two always equal four, except in unusual cases, where they equal three or five, as the case may be. He stood broadly on the general proposition that all things that start must go somewhere, and was able to bring the concentrated mental force of his forefathers to bear on a given problem. Incidentally it may be remarked that Professor Van Dusen wore a No.8 hat.

The world at large had heard vaguely of Professor Van Dusen as The Thinking Machine. It was a newspaper catch-phrase applied to him at the time of a remarkable exhibition at chess; he had demonstrated then that a stranger to the game might, by the force of inevitable logic, defeat a champion who had devoted a lifetime to its study. The Thinking Machine! Perhaps that more nearly described him than all his honorary initials, for he spent week after week, month after month, in the seclusion of his small laboratory from which had gone forth thoughts that staggered scientific associates and deeply stirred the world at large.

It was only occasionally that The Thinking Machine had visitors, and these were usually men who, themselves high in the sciences, dropped in to argue a point and perhaps convince themselves. Two of these men, Dr. Charles Ransome and Alfred Fielding, called one evening to discuss some theory which is not of consequence here.

"Such a thing is impossible," declared Dr. Ransome emphatically, in the course of the conversation.

"Nothing is impossible," declared The Thinking Machine with equal emphasis. He always spoke petulantly. "The mind is master of all things. When science fully recognises that fact a great advance will have been made."

"How about the airship?" asked Dr. Ransome.

"That's not impossible at all," asserted The Thinking Machine. "It will be invented some time. I'd do it myself, but I'm busy."

Dr. Ransome laughed tolerantly.

"I've heard you say such things before," he said. "But they mean nothing. Mind may be master of matter, but it hasn't yet found a way to apply itself. There are some things that can't be thought out of existence, or rather which would not yield to any amount of thinking."

"What, for instance?" demanded The Thinking Machine.

Dr. Ransome was thoughtful for a moment as he smoked. "Well, say prison walls," he replied. "No man can think himself out of a cell. If he could, there would be no prisoners."

"A man can so apply his brain and ingenuity that he can leave a cell, which is the same thing," snapped The Thinking Machine.

Dr. Ransome was slightly amused.

"Let's suppose a case," he said, after a moment. "Take a cell where prisoners under sentence of death are confined-men who are desperate and, maddened by fear, would take any chance to escape-suppose you were locked in such a cell. Could you escape?"

"Certainly," declared The Thinking Machine.

"Of course," said Mr. Fielding, who entered the conversation for the first time, "you might wreck the cell with an explosive-but inside, a prisoner, you couldn't have that."

"There would be nothing of that kind," said The Thinking Machine. "You might treat me precisely as you treated prisoners under sentence of death, and I would leave the cell."

"Not unless you entered it with tools prepared to get out," said Dr. Ransome.

The Thinking Machine was visibly annoyed and his blue eyes snapped.

"Lock me in any cell in any prison anywhere at any time, wearing only what is necessary, and I'll escape in a week," he declared, sharply.

Dr. Ransome sat up straight in the chair, interested. Mr. Fielding lighted a new cigar.

"You mean you could actually think yourself out?" asked Dr. Ransome.

"I would get out," was the response.

"Are you serious?"

"Certainly I am serious."

Dr. Ransome and Mr. Fielding were silent for a long time.

"Would you be willing to try it?" asked Mr. Fielding, finally.

"Certainly," said Professor Van Dusen, and there was a trace of irony in his voice. "I have done more asinine things than that to convince other men of less important truths."

The tone was offensive and there was an undercurrent strongly resembling anger on both sides. Of course it was an absurd thing, but Professor Van Dusen reiterated his willingness to undertake the escape and it was decided upon.

"To begin now," added Dr. Ransome.

"I'd prefer that it begin tomorrow," said The Thinking Machine, "because-"

"No, now," said Mr. Fielding, flatly. "You are arrested, figuratively, of course, without any warning locked in a cell with no chance to communicate with friends, and left there with identically the same care and attention that would be given to a man under sentence of death. Are you willing?"

"All right, now, then," said The Thinking Machine, and he arose.

"Say, the death-cell in Chisholm Prison."

"The death-cell in Chisholm Prison."

"And what will you wear?"

"As little as possible," said The Thinking Machine. "Shoes, stockings, trousers and a shirt."

"You will permit yourself to be searched, of course?"

"I am to be treated precisely as all prisoners are treated," said The Thinking Machine. "No more attention and no less."

There were some preliminaries to be arranged in the matter of obtaining permission for the test, but all three were influential men and everything was done satisfactorily by telephone, albeit the prison commissioners, to whom the experiment was explained on purely scientific grounds, were sadly bewildered. Professor Van Dusen would be the most distinguished prisoner they had ever entertained.

When The Thinking Machine had donned those things which he was to wear during his incarceration he called the little old woman who was his housekeeper, cook and maid-servant all in one.

"Martha," he said, "it is now twenty-seven minutes past nine o'clock. I am going away. One week from to-night at half-past nine, these gentlemen and one, possibly two, others will take supper with me here. Remember Dr. Ransome is very fond of artichokes."

The three men were driven to Chisholm Prison, where the warden was awaiting them, having been informed of the matter by telephone. He understood merely that the eminent Professor Van Dusen was to be his prisoner, if he could keep him, for one week; that he had committed no crime, but that he was to be treated as all other prisoners were treated.

"Search him," instructed Dr. Ransome.

The Thinking Machine was searched. Nothing was found on him; the pockets of the trousers were empty; the white, stiff-bosomed shirt had no pocket. The shoes and stockings were removed, examined, then replaced. As he watched all these preliminaries-the rigid search and noted the pitiful, childlike physical weakness of the man, the colourless face, and the thin, white hands-Dr. Ransome almost regretted his part in the affair.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" he asked.

"Would you be convinced if I did not?" inquired The Thinking Machine in turn.

"No."

"All right. I'll do it."

What sympathy Dr. Ransome had was dissipated by the tone. It nettled him, and he resolved to see the experiment to the end; it would be a stinging reproof to egotism.

"It will be impossible for him to communicate with any one outside?" he asked.

"Absolutely impossible," replied the warden. "He will not be permitted writing materials of any sort."

"And your jailers, would they deliver a message from him?"

"Not one word, directly or indirectly," said the warden. "You may rest assured of that. They will report anything he might say or turn over to me anything he might give them."

"That seems entirely satisfactory," said Mr. Fielding, who was frankly interested in the problem.

"Of course, in the event he fails," said Dr. Ransome, "and asks for his liberty, you understand you are to set him free?"

"I understand," replied the warden.

The Thinking Machine stood listening, but had nothing to say until this was all ended, then: "I should like to make three small requests. You may grant them or not, as you wish."

"No special favours, now," warned Mr. Fielding.

"I am asking none," was the stiff response. "I would like to have some tooth powder-buy it yourself to see that it is tooth powder-and I should like to have one five-dollar and two ten-dollar bills."

Dr. Ransome, Mr. Fielding and the warden exchanged astonished glances. They were not surprised at the request for tooth powder, but were at the request for money.

"Is there any man with whom our friend would come in contact that he could bribe with twenty-five dollars?" asked Dr. Ransome of the warden.

"Not for twenty-five hundred dollars," was the positive reply.

"Well, let him have them," said Mr. Fielding. "I think they are harmless enough."

"And what is the third request?" asked Dr. Ransome.

"I should like to have my shoes polished."

Again the astonished glances were exchanged. This last request was the height of absurdity, so they agreed to it. These things all being attended to, The Thinking Machine was led back into the prison from which he had undertaken to escape.

"Here is Cell 13," said the warden, stopping three doors down the steel corridor. "This is where we keep condemned murderers. No one can leave it without my permission; and no one in it can communicate with the outside. I'll stake my reputation on that. It's only three doors back of my office and I can readily hear any unusual noise."

"Will this cell do, gentlemen?" asked The Thinking Machine. There was a touch of irony in his voice.

"Admirably," was the reply.

The heavy steel door was thrown open, there was a great scurrying and scampering of tiny feet, and The Thinking Machine passed into the gloom of the cell. Then the door was closed and double locked by the warden.

"What is that noise in there?" asked Dr. Ransome, through the bars.

"Rats-dozens of them," replied The Thinking Machine, tersely.

The three men, with final good nights, were turning away when The Thinking Machine called: "What time is it exactly, warden?"

"Eleven seventeen," replied the warden.

"Thanks. I will join you gentlemen in your office at half-past eight o'clock one week from tonight," said The Thinking Machine. "And if you do not?"

"There is no 'if' about it."

II

Chisholm Prison was a great, spreading structure of granite, four stories in all, which stood in the centre of acres of open space. It was surrounded by a wall of solid masonry eighteen feet high, and so smoothly finished inside and out as to offer no foothold to a climber, no matter how expert. Atop of this fence, as a further precaution, was a five-foot fence of steel rods, each terminating in a keen point. This fence in itself marked an absolute deadline between freedom and imprisonment, for, even if a man escaped from his cell, it would seem impossible for him to pass the wall.

The yard, which on all sides of the prison building was twenty-five feet wide, that being the distance from the building to the wall, was by day an exercise ground for those prisoners to whom was granted the boon of occasional semi-liberty. But that was not for those in Cell 13.

At all times of the day there were armed guards in the yard, four of them, one patrolling each side of the prison building.

By night the yard was almost as brilliantly lighted as by day. On each of the four sides was a great arc light which rose above the prison wall and gave to the guards a clear sight. The lights, too, brightly illuminated the spiked top of the wall. The wires which fed the arc light ran up the side of the prison building on insulators and from the top story led out to the poles supporting the arc lights.

All these things were seen and comprehended by The Thinking Machine, who was only enabled to see out his closely barred cell window by standing on his bed. This was on the morning following his incarceration. He gathered, too, that the river lay over there beyond the wall somewhere, because he heard faintly the pulsation of a motor boat and high up in the air saw a river bird. From that same direction came the shouts of boys at play and the occasional crack of a batted ball. He knew then that between the prison wall and the river was an open space, a playground.

Chisholm Prison was regarded as absolutely safe. No man had ever escaped from it. The Thinking Machine, from his perch on the bed, seeing what he saw, could readily understand why. The walls of the cell, though built he judged twenty years before, were perfectly solid, and the window bars of new iron had not a shadow of rust on them. The window itself, even with the bars out, would be a difficult mode of egress because it was small.

Yet, seeing these things, The Thinking Machine was not discouraged. Instead, he thoughtfully squinted at the great arc light-there was bright sunlight now-and traced with his eyes the wire which led from it to the building. That electric wire, he reasoned, must come down the side of the building not a great distance from his cell. That might be worth knowing.

Cell 13 was on the same floor with the offices of the prison-that is, not in the basement, nor yet upstairs. There were only four steps up to the office floor, therefore the level of the floor must be only three or four feet above the ground. He couldn't see the ground directly beneath his window, but he could see it further out toward the wall. It would be an easy drop from the window. Well and good.

Then The Thinking Machine fell to remembering how he had come to the cell. First, there was the outside guard's booth, a part of the wall. There were two heavily barred gates there, both of steel. At this gate was one man always on guard. He admitted persons to the prison after much clanking of keys and locks, and let them out when ordered to do so. The warden's office was in the prison building, and in order to reach that official from the prison yard one had to pass a gate of solid steel with only a peep-hole in it. Then coming from that inner office to Cell 13, where he was now, one must pass a heavy wooden door and two steel doors into the corridors of the prison; and always there was the double-locked door to Cell 13 to reckon with.

There were then, The Thinking Machine recalled, seven doors to be overcome before one could pass from Cell 13 into the outer world, a free man. But against this was the fact that he was rarely interrupted. A jailer appeared at his cell door at six in the morning with a breakfast of prison fare; he would come again at noon, and again at six in the afternoon. At nine o'clock at night would come the inspection tour. That would be all.

"It's admirably arranged, this prison system," was the mental tribute paid by The Thinking Machine. "I'll have to study it a little when I get out. I had no idea there was such great care exercised in the prisons."

There was nothing, positively nothing, in his cell, except his iron bed, so firmly put together that no man could tear it to pieces save with sledges or a file. He had neither of these. There was not even a chair, or a small table, or a bit of tin or crockery. Nothing! The jailer stood by when he ate, then took away the wooden spoon and bowl which he had used.

One by one these things sank into the brain of The Thinking Machine. When the last possibility had been considered he began an examination of his cell. From the roof, down the walls on all sides, he examined the stones and the cement between them. He stamped over the floor carefully time after time, but it was cement, perfectly solid. After the examination he sat on the edge of the iron bed and was lost in thought for a long time. For Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen, The Thinking Machine, had something to think about.

He was disturbed by a rat, which ran across his foot, then scampered away into a dark corner of the cell, frightened at its own daring. After a while The Thinking Machine, squinting steadily into the darkness of the corner where the rat had gone, was able to make out in the gloom many little beady eyes staring at him. He counted six pair, and there were perhaps others; he didn't see very well.

Then The Thinking Machine, from his seat on the bed, noticed for the first time the bottom of his cell door. There was an opening there of two inches between the steel bar and the floor. Still looking steadily at this opening, The Thinking Machine backed suddenly into the corner where he had seen the beady eyes. There was a great scampering of tiny feet, several squeaks of frightened rodents, and then silence.

None of the rats had gone out the door, yet there were none in the cell. Therefore there must be another way out of the cell, however small. The Thinking Machine, on hands and knees, started a search for this spot, feeling in the darkness with his long, slender fingers.

At last his search was rewarded. He came upon a small opening in the floor, level with the cement. It was perfectly round and somewhat larger than a silver dollar. This was the way the rats had gone. He put his fingers deep into the opening; it seemed to be a disused drainage pipe and was dry and dusty.

Having satisfied himself on this point, he sat on the bed again for an hour, then made another inspection of his surroundings through the small cell window. One of the outside guards stood directly opposite, beside the wall, and happened to be looking at the window of Cell 13 when the head of The Thinking Machine appeared. But the scientist didn't notice the guard.

Noon came and the jailer appeared with the prison dinner of repulsively plain food. At home The Thinking Machine merely ate to live; here he took what was offered without comment. Occasionally he spoke to the jailer who stood outside the door watching him.

"Any improvements made here in the last few years?" he asked.

"Nothing particularly," replied the jailer. "New wall was built four years ago."

"Anything done to the prison proper?"

"Painted the woodwork outside, and I believe about seven years ago a new system of plumbing was put in."

"Ah!" said the prisoner, "How far is the river over there?"

"About three hundred feet. The boys have a baseball ground between the wall and the river."

The Thinking Machine had nothing further to say just then, but when the jailer was ready to go he asked for some water.

"I get very thirsty here," he explained. "Would it be possible for you to leave a little water in a bowl for me?"

"I'll ask the warden," replied the jailer, and he went away.

Half an hour later he returned with water in a small earthen bowl.

"The warden says you may keep this bowl," he informed the prisoner. "But you must show it to me when I ask for it. If it is broken, it will be the last."

"Thank you," said The Thinking Machine. "I shan't break it."

The jailer went on about his duties. For just the fraction of a second it seemed that The Thinking Machine wanted to ask a question, but he didn't.

Two hours later this same jailer, in passing the door of Cell No.13, heard a noise inside and stopped. The Thinking Machine was down on his hands and knees in a corner of the cell, and from that same corner came several frightened squeaks. The jailer looked on interestedly.

"Ah, I've got you," he heard the prisoner say.

"Got what?" he asked, sharply.

"One of these rats," was the reply. "See?" And between the scientist's long fingers the jailer saw a small gray rat struggling. The prisoner brought it over to the light and looked at it closely. "It's a water rat," he said.

"Ain't you got anything better to do than to catch rats?" asked the jailer.

"It's disgraceful that they should be here at all," was the irritated reply. "Take this one away and kill it. There are dozens more where it came from."

The jailer took the wriggling, squirmy rodent and flung it down on the floor violently. It gave one squeak and lay still. Later he reported the incident to the warden, who only smiled.

Still later that afternoon the outside armed guard on Cell 13 side of the prison looked up again at the window and saw the prisoner looking out. He saw a hand raised to the barred window and then something white fluttered to the ground, directly under the window of Cell 13. It was a little roll of linen, evidently of white shirting material, and tied around it was a five-dollar bill. The guard looked up at the window again, but the face had disappeared.

With a grim smile he took the little linen roll and the five-dollar bill to the warden's office. There together they deciphered something which was written on it with a queer sort of ink, frequently blurred. On the outside was this: "Finder of this please deliver to Dr. Charles Ransome."

"Ah," said the warden, with a chuckle. "Plan of escape number one has gone wrong." Then, as an afterthought: "But why did he address it to Dr. Ransome?"

"And where did he get the pen and ink to write with?" asked the guard.

The warden looked at the guard and the guard looked at the warden. There was no apparent solution of that mystery. The warden studied the writing carefully, then shook his head.

"Well, let's see what he was going to say to Dr. Ransome," he said at length, still puzzled, and he unrolled the inner piece of linen.

"Well, if that-what-what do you think of that?" he asked, dazed.

The guard took the bit of linen and read this: «"Epa cseot D'net niiy awe htto n'si sih. T."«

III

The warden spent an hour wondering what sort of a cipher it was, and half an hour wondering why his prisoner should attempt to communicate with Dr. Ransome, who was the cause of him being there. After this the warden devoted some thought to the question of where the prisoner got writing materials, and what sort of writing materials he had. With the idea of illuminating this point, he examined the linen again. It was a torn part of a white shirt and had ragged edges.

Now it was possible to account for the linen, but what the prisoner had used to write with was another matter. The warden knew it would have been impossible for him to have either pen or pencil, and, besides, neither pen nor pencil had been used in this writing. What, then? The warden decided to personally investigate. The Thinking Machine was his prisoner; he had orders to hold his prisoners; if this one sought to escape by sending cipher messages to persons outside, he would stop it, as he would have stopped it in the case of any other prisoner.

The warden went back to Cell 13 and found The Thinking Machine on his hands and knees on the floor, engaged in nothing more alarming than catching rats. The prisoner heard the warden's step and turned to him quickly.

"It's disgraceful," he snapped, "these rats. There are scores of them."

"Other men have been able to stand them," said the warden. "Here is another shirt for you-let me have the one you have on."

"Why?" demanded The Thinking Machine, quickly. His tone was hardly natural, his manner suggested actual perturbation.

"You have attempted to communicate with Dr. Ransome," said the warden severely. "As my prisoner, it is my duty to put a stop to it."

The Thinking Machine was silent for a moment.

"All right," he said, finally. "Do your duty."

The warden smiled grimly. The prisoner arose from the floor and removed the white shirt, putting on instead a striped convict shirt the warden had brought. The warden took the white shirt eagerly, and then and there compared the pieces of linen on which was written the cipher with certain torn places in the shirt. The Thinking Machine looked on curiously.

"The guard brought you those, then?" he asked.

"He certainly did," replied the warden triumphantly. "And that ends your first attempt to escape."

The Thinking Machine watched the warden as he, by comparison, established to his own satisfaction that only two pieces of linen had been torn from the white shirt.

"What did you write this with?" demanded the warden.

"I should think it a part of your duty to find out," said The Thinking Machine, irritably.

The warden started to say some harsh things, then restrained himself and made a minute search of the cell and of the prisoner instead. He found absolutely nothing; not even a match or toothpick which might have been used for a pen. The same mystery surrounded the fluid with which the cipher had been written. Although the warden left Cell 13 visibly annoyed, he took the torn shirt in triumph.

"Well, writing notes on a shirt won't get him out, that's certain," he told himself with some complacency. He put the linen scraps into his desk to await developments. "If that man escapes from that cell I'll-hang it-I'll resign."

On the third day of his incarceration The Thinking Machine openly attempted to bribe his way out. The jailer had brought his dinner and was leaning against the barred door, waiting, when The Thinking Machine began the conversation.

"The drainage pipes of the prison lead to the river, don't they?" he asked.

"Yes," said the jailer.

"I suppose they are very small?"

"Too small to crawl through, if that's what you're thinking about," was the grinning response.

There was silence until The Thinking Machine finished his meal. Then: "You know I'm not a criminal, don't you?"

"Yes."

"And that I've a perfect right to be freed if I demand it?"

"Yes."

"Well, I came here believing that I could make my escape," said the prisoner, and his squint eyes studied the face of the jailer. "Would you consider a financial reward for aiding me to escape?"

The jailer, who happened to be an honest man, looked at the slender, weak figure of the prisoner, at the large head with its mass of yellow hair, and was almost sorry.

"I guess prisons like these were not built for the likes of you to get out of," he said, at last.

"But would you consider a proposition to help me get out?" the prisoner insisted, almost beseechingly.

"No," said the jailer, shortly.

"Five hundred dollars," urged The Thinking Machine. "I am not a, criminal."

"No," said the jailer.

"A thousand?"

"No," again said the jailer, and he started away hurriedly to escape further temptation. Then he turned back. "If you should give me ten thousand dollars I couldn't get you out. You'd have to pass through seven doors, and I only have the keys to two."

Then he told the warden all about it.

"Plan number two fails," said the warden, smiling grimly. "First a cipher, then bribery."

When the jailer was on his way to Cell 13 at six o'clock, again bearing food to The Thinking Machine, he paused, startled by the unmistakable scrape, scrape of steel against steel. It stopped at the sound of his steps, then craftily the jailer, who was beyond the prisoner's range of vision, resumed his tramping, the sound being apparently that of a man going away from Cell 13. As a matter of fact he was in the same spot.

After a moment there came again the steady scrape, scrape, and the jailer crept cautiously on tiptoes to the door and peered between the bars. The Thinking Machine was standing on the iron bed working at the bars of the little window. He was using a file, judging from the backward and forward swing of his arms.

Cautiously the jailer crept back to the office, summoned the warden in person, and they returned to Cell 13 on tiptoes. The steady scrape was still audible. The warden listened to satisfy himself and then suddenly appeared at the door.

"Well?" he demanded, and there was a smile on his face.

The Thinking Machine glanced back from his perch on the bed and leaped suddenly to the floor, making frantic efforts to hide something. The warden went in, with hand extended.

"Give it up," he said.

"No," said the prisoner, sharply.

"Come, give it up," urged the warden. "I don't want to have to search you again."

"No," repeated the prisoner.

"What was it, a file?" asked the warden.

The Thinking Machine was silent and stood squinting at the warden with something very nearly approaching disappointment on his face-nearly, but not quite. The warden was almost sympathetic.

"Plan number three fails, eh?" he asked, good-naturedly. "Too bad, isn't it?"

The prisoner didn't say.

"Search him," instructed the warden.

The jailer searched the prisoner carefully. At last, artfully concealed in the waistband of the trousers, he found a piece of steel about two inches long, with one side curved like a half moon.

"Ah," said the warden, as he received it from the jailer. "From your shoe heel," and he smiled pleasantly.

The jailer continued his search and on the other side of the trousers waistband found another piece of steel identical with the first. The edges showed where they had been worn against the bars of the window.

"You couldn't saw a way through those bars with these," said the warden.

"I could have," said The Thinking Machine firmly.

"In six months, perhaps," said the warden, good-naturedly.

The warden shook his head slowly as he gazed into the slightly flushed face of his prisoner.

"Ready to give it up?" he asked.

"I haven't started yet," was the prompt reply.

Then came another exhaustive search of the cell. Carefully the two men went over it, finally turning out the bed and searching that. Nothing. The warden in person climbed upon the bed and examined the bars of the window where the prisoner had been sawing. When he looked he was amused.

"Just made it a little bright by hard rubbing," he said to the prisoner, who stood looking on with a somewhat crestfallen air. The warden grasped the iron bars in his strong hands and tried to shake them. They were immovable, set firmly in the solid granite. He examined each in turn and found them all satisfactory. Finally he climbed down from the bed.

"Give it up, professor," he advised.

The Thinking Machine shook his head and the warden and jailer passed on again. As they disappeared down the corridor The Thinking Machine sat on the edge of the bed with his head in his hands.

"He's crazy to try to get out," said the warden. "But he's clever. I would like to know what he wrote that cipher with."

It was four o'clock next morning when an awful, heart-racking shriek of terror resounded through the great prison. It came from a cell, somewhere about the centre, and its tone told a tale of horror, agony, terrible fear. The warden heard and with three of his men rushed into the long corridor leading to Cell 13.

IV

As they ran there came again that awful cry. It died away in a sort of wail. The white faces of prisoners appeared at cell doors upstairs and down, staring out wonderingly, frightened.

"It's that fool in Cell 13," grumbled the warden.

He stopped and stared in as one of the jailers flashed a lantern. "That fool in Cell 13" lay comfortably on his cot, flat on his back with his mouth open, snoring. Even as they looked there came again the piercing cry, from somewhere above. The warden's face blanched a little as he started up the stairs. There on the top floor he found a man in Cell 43, directly above Cell 13, but two floors higher, cowering in a corner of his cell.

"What's the matter?" demanded the warden.

"Thank God you've come," exclaimed the prisoner, and he cast himself against the bars of his cell.

"What is it?" demanded the warden again.

He threw open the door and went in. The prisoner dropped on his knees and clasped the warden about the body. His face was white with terror, his eyes were widely distended, and he was shuddering. His hands, icy cold, clutched at the warden's.

"Take me out of this cell, please take me out," he pleaded.

"What's the matter with you, anyhow?" insisted the warden, impatiently.

"I heard something-something," said the prisoner, and his eyes roved nervously around the cell.

"What did you hear?"

"I-I can't tell you," stammered the prisoner. Then, in a sudden burst of terror: "Take me out of this cell-put me anywhere-but take me out of here."

The warden and three jailers exchanged glances.

"Who is this fellow? What's he accused of?" asked the warden.

"Joseph Ballard," said one of the jailers. "He's accused of throwing acid in a woman's face. She died from it."

"But they can't prove it," gasped the prisoner. "They can't prove it. Please put me in some other cell."

He was still clinging to the warden, and that official threw his arms off roughly. Then for a time he stood looking at the cowering wretch, who seemed possessed of all the wild, unreasoning terror of a child.

"Look here, Ballard," said the warden, finally, "if you heard anything, I want to know what it was. Now tell me."

"I can't, I can't," was the reply. He was sobbing.

"Where did it come from?"

"I don't know. Everywhere-nowhere. I just heard it."

"What was it-a voice?"

"Please don't make me answer," pleaded the prisoner.

"You must answer," said the warden, sharply.

"It was a voice-but-but it wasn't human," was the sobbing reply.

"Voice, but not human?" repeated the warden, puzzled.

"It sounded muffled and-and far away-and ghostly," explained the man.

"Did it come from inside or outside the prison?"

"It didn't seem to come from anywhere-it was just here, here, everywhere. I heard it. I heard it."

For an hour the warden tried to get the story, but Ballard had become suddenly obstinate and would say nothing-only pleaded to be placed in another cell, or to have one of the jailers remain near him until daylight. These requests were gruffly refused.

"And see here," said the warden, in conclusion, "if there's any more of this screaming I'll put you in the padded cell."

Then the warden went his way, a sadly puzzled man. Ballard sat at his cell door until daylight, his face, drawn and white with terror, pressed against the bars, and looked out into the prison with wide, staring eyes.

That day, the fourth since the incarceration of The Thinking Machine, was enlivened considerably by the volunteer prisoner, who spent most of his time at the little window of his cell. He began proceedings by throwing another piece of linen down to the guard, who picked it up dutifully and took it to the warden. On it was written: "Only three days more."

The warden was in no way surprised at what he read; he understood that The Thinking Machine meant only three days more of his imprisonment, and he regarded the note as a boast. But how was the thing written? Where had The Thinking Machine found this new piece of linen? Where? How? He carefully examined the linen. It was white, of fine texture, shirting material. He took the shirt which he had taken and carefully fitted the two original pieces of the linen to the torn places. This third piece was entirely superfluous; it didn't fit anywhere, and yet it was unmistakably the same goods.

"And where-where does he get anything to write with?" demanded the warden of the world at large.

Still later on the fourth day The Thinking Machine, through the window of his cell, spoke to the armed guard outside.

"What day of the month is it?" he asked.

"The fifteenth," was the answer.

The Thinking Machine made a mental astronomical calculation and satisfied himself that the moon would not rise until after nine o'clock that night. Then he asked another question: "Who attends to those arc lights?"

"Man from the company."

"You have no electricians in the building?"

"No."

"I should think you could save money if you had your own man."

"None of my business," replied the guard.

The guard noticed The Thinking Machine at the cell window frequently during that day, but always the face seemed listless and there was a certain wistfulness in the squint eyes behind the glasses. After a while he accepted the presence of the leonine head as a matter of course. He had seen other prisoners do the same thing; it was the longing for the outside world.

That afternoon, just before the day guard was relieved, the head appeared at the window again, and The Thinking Machine's hand held something out between the bars. It fluttered to the ground and the guard picked it up. It was a five-dollar bill.

"That's for you," called the prisoner.

As usual, the guard took it to the warden. That gentleman looked at it suspiciously; he looked at everything that came from Cell 13 with suspicion.

"He said it was for me," explained the guard.

"It's sort of a tip, I suppose," said the warden. "I see no particular reason why you shouldn't accept-"

Suddenly he stopped. He had remembered that The Thinking Machine had gone into Cell 13 with one five-dollar bill and two ten-dollar bills; twenty-five dollars in all. Now a five-dollar bill had been tied around the first pieces of linen that came from the cell. The warden still had it, and to convince himself he took it out and looked at it. It was five dollars; yet here was another five dollars, and The Thinking Machine had only had ten-dollar bills.

"Perhaps somebody changed one of the bills for him," he thought at last, with a sigh of relief.

But then and there he made up his mind. He would search Cell 13 as a cell was never before searched in this world. When a man could write at will, and change money, and do other wholly inexplicable things, there was something radically wrong with his prison. He planned to enter the cell at night-three o'clock would be an excellent time. The Thinking Machine must do all the weird things he did some time. Night seemed the most reasonable.

Thus it happened that the warden stealthily descended upon Cell 13 that night at three o'clock. He paused at the door and listened. There was no sound save the steady, regular breathing of the prisoner. The keys unfastened the double locks with scarcely a clank, and the warden entered, locking the door behind him. Suddenly he flashed his dark-lantern in the face of the recumbent figure.

If the warden had planed to startle The Thinking Machine he was mistaken, for that individual merely opened his eyes quietly, reached for his glasses and inquired, in a most matter-of-fact tone: "Who is it?"

It would be useless to describe the search that the warden made. It was minute. Not one inch of the cell or the bed was overlooked. He found the round hole in the floor, and with a flash of inspiration thrust his thick fingers into it. After a moment of fumbling there he drew up something and looked at it in the light of his lantern.

"Ugh!" he exclaimed.

The thing he had taken out was a rat-a dead rat. His inspiration fled as a mist before the sun. But he continued the search.

The Thinking Machine, without a word, arose and kicked the rat out of the cell into the corridor.

The warden climbed on the bed and tried the steel bars in the tiny window. They were perfectly rigid; every bar of the door was the same.

Then the warden searched the prisoner's clothing, beginning at the shoes. Nothing hidden in them! Then the trousers waistband. Still nothing! Then the pockets of the trousers. From one side he drew out some paper money and examined it.

"Five one-dollar bills," he gasped.

"That's right," said the prisoner.

"But the-you had two tens and a five-what the-how do you do it?"

"That's my business," said The Thinking Machine.

"Did any of my men change this money for you-on your word of honour?"

The Thinking Machine paused just a fraction of a second.

"No," he said.

"Well, do you make it?" asked the warden. He was prepared to believe anything.

"That's my business," again said the prisoner.

The warden glared at the eminent scientist fiercely. He felt-he knew-that this man was making a fool of him, yet he didn't know how. If he were a real prisoner he would get the truth-but, then, perhaps, those inexplicable things which had happened would not have been brought before him so sharply. Neither of the men spoke for a long time, then suddenly the warden turned fiercely and left the cell, slamming the door behind him. He didn't care to speak, then.

He glanced at the clock. It was ten minutes to four. He had hardly settled himself in bed when again came that heart-breaking shriek through the prison. With a few muttered words, which, while not elegant, were highly expressive, he relighted his lantern and rushed through the prison again to the cell on the upper floor.

Again Ballard was crushing himself against the steel door, shrieking, shrieking at the top of his voice. He stopped only when the warden flashed his lamp in the cell.

"Take me out, take me out," he screamed. "I did it, I did it, I killed her. Take it away."

"Take what away?" asked the warden.

"I threw the acid in her face-I did it-I confess. Take me out of here."

Ballard's condition was pitiable; it was only an act of mercy to let him out into the corridor. There he crouched in a corner, like an animal at bay, and clasped his hands to his ears. It took half an hour to calm him sufficiently for him to speak. Then he told incoherently what had happened. On the night before at four o'clock he had heard a voice-a sepulchral voice, muffled and wailing in tone.

"What did it say?" asked the warden, curiously.

"Acid-acid-acid!" gasped the prisoner. "It accused me. Acid! I threw the acid, and the woman died. Oh!" It was a long, shuddering wail of terror.

"Acid?" echoed the warden, puzzled. The case was beyond him.

"Acid. That's all I heard-that one word, repeated several times. There were other things, too, but I didn't hear them."

"That was last night, eh?" asked the warden. "What happened tonight-what frightened you just now?"

"It was the same thing," gasped the prisoner. "Acid-acid-acid." He covered his face with his hands and sat shivering. "It was acid I used on her, but I didn't mean to kill her. I just heard the words. It was something accusing me-accusing me." He mumbled, and was silent.

"Did you hear anything else?"

"Yes-but I couldn't understand-only a little bit-just a word or two."

"Well, what was it?"

"I heard 'acid' three times, then I heard a long, moaning sound, then-then-I heard 'No.8 hat.' I heard that voice."

"No.8 hat," repeated the warden. "What the devil-No.8 hat? Accusing voices of conscience have never talked about No.8 hats, so far as I ever heard."

"He's insane," said one of the jailers, with an air of finality.

"I believe you," said the warden. "He must be. He probably heard something and got frightened. He's trembling now. No.8 hat! What the-"

V

When the fifth day of The Thinking Machine's imprisonment rolled around the warden was wearing a hunted look. He was anxious for the end of the thing. He could not help but feel that his distinguished prisoner had been amusing himself. And if this were so, The Thinking Machine had lost none of his sense of humour. For on this fifth day he flung down another linen note to the outside guard, bearing the words: "Only two days more." Also he flung down half a dollar.

Now the warden knew-he knew-that the man in Cell 13 didn't have any half dollars-he couldn't have any half dollars, no more than he could have pen and ink and linen, and yet he did have them. It was a condition, not a theory; that is one reason why the warden was wearing a hunted look.

That ghastly, uncanny thing, too, about 'Acid' and 'No.8 hat' clung to him tenaciously. They didn't mean anything, of course, merely the ravings of an insane murderer who had been driven by fear to confess his crime, still there were so many things that 'didn't mean anything' happening in the prison now since The Thinking Machine was there.

On the sixth day the warden received a postal stating that Dr. Ransome and Mr. Fielding would be at Chisholm Prison on the following evening, Thursday, and in the event Professor Van Dusen had not yet escaped-and they presumed he had not because they had not heard from him-they would meet him there.

"In the event he had not yet escaped!" The warden smiled grimly. Escaped!

The Thinking Machine enlivened this day for the warden with three notes. They were on the usual linen and bore generally on the appointment at half-past eight o'clock Thursday night, which appointment the scientist had made at the time of his imprisonment.

On the afternoon of the seventh day the warden passed Cell 13 and glanced in. The Thinking Machine was lying on the iron bed, apparently sleeping lightly. The cell appeared precisely as it always did from a casual glance. The warden would swear that no man was going to leave it between that hour-it was then four o'clock-and half-past eight o'clock that evening.

On his way back past the cell the warden heard the steady breathing again, and coming close to the door looked in. He wouldn't have done so if The Thinking Machine had been looking, but now-well, it was different.

A ray of light came through the high window and fell on the face of the sleeping man. It occurred to the warden for the first time that his prisoner appeared haggard and weary. Just then The Thinking Machine stirred slightly and the warden hurried on up the corridor guiltily. That evening after six o'clock he saw the jailer.

"Everything all right in Cell 13?" he asked.

"Yes, sir," replied the jailer. "He didn't eat much, though."

It was with a feeling of having done his duty that the warden received Dr. Ransome and Mr. Fielding shortly after seven o'clock. He intended to show them the linen notes and lay before them the full story of his woes, which was a long one. But before this came to pass the guard from the river side of the prison yard entered the office.

"The arc light in my side of the yard won't light," he informed the warden.

"Confound it, that man's a hoodoo," thundered the official. "Everything has happened since he's been here."

The guard went back to his post in the darkness, and the warden phoned to the electric light company.

"This is Chisholm Prison," he said through the 'phone. "Send three or four men down here quick, to fix an arc light."

The reply was evidently satisfactory, for the warden hung up the receiver and passed out into the yard. While Dr. Ransome and Mr. Fielding sat waiting, the guard at the outer gate came in with a special delivery letter. Dr. Ransome happened to notice the address, and, when the guard went out, looked at the letter more closely.

"By George!" he exclaimed.

"What is it?" asked Mr. Fielding.

Silently the doctor offered the letter. Mr. Fielding examined it closely.

"Coincidence," he said. "It must be."

It was nearly eight o'clock when the warden returned to his office. The electricians had arrived in a wagon, and were now at work. The warden pressed the buzz-button communicating with the man at the outer gate in the wall.

"How many electricians came in?" he asked, over the short 'phone. "Four? Three workmen in jumpers and overalls and the manager? Frock coat and silk hat? All right. Be certain that only four go out. That's all."

He turned to Dr. Ransome and Mr. Fielding. "We have to be careful here-particularly," and there was broad sarcasm in his tone, "since we have scientists locked up."

The warden picked up the special delivery letter carelessly, and then began to open it.

"When I read this I want to tell you gentlemen something about how-Great Caesar!" he ended, suddenly, as he glanced at the letter. He sat with mouth open, motionless, from astonishment.

"What is it?" asked Mr. Fielding.

"A special delivery letter from Cell 13," gasped the warden. "An invitation to supper."

"What?" and the two others arose, unanimously.

The warden sat dazed, staring at the letter for a moment, then called sharply to a guard outside in the corridor.

"Run down to Cell 13 and see if that man's in there."

The guard went as directed, while Dr. Ransome and Mr. Fielding examined the letter.

"It's Van Dusen's handwriting; there's no question of that," said Dr. Ransome. "I've seen too much of it."

Just then the buzz on the telephone from the outer gate sounded, and the warden, in a semi-trance, picked up the receiver.

"Hello! Two reporters, eh? Let 'em come in." He turned suddenly to the doctor and Mr. Fielding. "Why, the man can't be out. He must be in his cell."

Just at that moment the guard returned.

"He's still in his cell, sir," he reported. "I saw him. He's lying down."

"There, I told you so," said the warden, and he breathed freely again. "But how did he mail that letter?"

There was a rap on the steel door which led from the jail yard into the warden's office.

"It's the reporters," said the warden. "Let them in," he instructed the guard; then to the two other gentlemen: "Don't say anything about this before them, because I'd never hear the last of it."

The door opened, and the two men from the front gate entered.

"Good-evening, gentlemen," said one. That was Hutchinson Hatch; the warden knew him well.

"Well?" demanded the other, irritably. "I'm here."

That was The Thinking Machine.

He squinted belligerently at the warden, who sat with mouth agape. For the moment that official had nothing to say. Dr. Ransome and Mr. Fielding were amazed, but they didn't know what the warden knew. They were only amazed; he was paralyzed. Hutchinson Hatch, the reporter, took in the scene with greedy eyes.

"How-how-how did you do it?" gasped the warden, finally.

"Come back to the cell," said The Thinking Machine, in the irritated voice which his scientific associates knew so well.

The warden, still in a condition bordering on trance, led the way.

"Flash your light in there," directed The Thinking Machine.

The warden did so. There was nothing unusual in the appearance of the cell, and there-there on the bed lay the figure of The Thinking Machine. Certainly! There was the yellow hair! Again the warden looked at the man beside him and wondered at the strangeness of his own dreams.

With trembling hands he unlocked the cell door and The Thinking Machine passed inside.

"See here," he said.

He kicked at the steel bars in the bottom of the cell door and three of them were pushed out of place. A fourth broke off and rolled away in the corridor.

"And here, too," directed the erstwhile prisoner as he stood on the bed to reach the small window. He swept his hand across the opening and every bar came out.

"What's this in the bed?" demanded the warden, who was slowly recovering.

"A wig," was the reply. "Turn down the cover."

The warden did so. Beneath it lay a large coil of strong rope, thirty feet or more, a dagger, three files, ten feet of electric wire, a thin, powerful pair of steel pliers, a small tack hammer with its handle, and-and a Derringer pistol.

"How did you do it?" demanded the warden.

"You gentlemen have an engagement to supper with me at half-past nine o'clock," said The Thinking Machine. "Come on, or we shall be late."

"But how did you do it?" insisted the warden.

"Don't ever think you can hold any man who can use his brain," said The Thinking Machine. "Come on; we shall be late."

VI

It was an impatient supper party in the rooms of Professor Van Dusen and a somewhat silent one. The guests were Dr. Ransome, Albert Fielding, the warden, and Hutchinson Hatch, reporter. The meal was served to the minute, in accordance with Professor Van Dusen's instructions of one week before; Dr. Ransome found the artichokes delicious. At last the supper was finished and The Thinking Machine turned full on Dr. Ransome and squinted at him fiercely.

"Do you believe it now?" he demanded.

"I do," replied Dr. Ransome.

"Do you admit that it was a fair test?"

"I do."

With the others, particularly the warden, he was waiting anxiously for the explanation.

"Suppose you tell us how-" began Mr. Fielding.

"Yes, tell us how," said the warden.

The Thinking Machine readjusted his glasses, took a couple of preparatory squints at his audience, and began the story. He told it from the beginning logically; and no man ever talked to more interested listeners.

"My agreement was," he began, "to go into a cell, carrying nothing except what was necessary to wear, and to leave that cell within a week. I had never seen Chisholm Prison. When I went into the cell I asked for tooth powder, two ten and one five-dollar bills, and also to have my shoes blacked. Even if these requests had been refused it would not have mattered seriously. But you agreed to them.

"I knew there would be nothing in the cell which you thought I might use to advantage. So when the warden locked the door on me I was apparently helpless, unless I could turn three seemingly innocent things to use. They were things which would have been permitted any prisoner under sentence of death, were they not, warden?"

"Tooth powder and polished shoes, yes, but not money," replied the warden.

"Anything is dangerous in the hands of a man who knows how to use it," went on The Thinking Machine. "I did nothing that first night but sleep and chase rats." He glared at the warden. "When the matter was broached I knew I could do nothing that night, so suggested next day. You gentlemen thought I wanted time to arrange an escape with outside assistance, but this was not true. I knew I could communicate with whom I pleased, when I pleased."

The warden stared at him a moment, then went on smoking solemnly.

"I was aroused next morning at six o'clock by the jailer with my breakfast," continued the scientist. "He told me dinner was at twelve and supper at six. Between these times, I gathered, I would be pretty much to myself. So immediately after breakfast I examined my outside surroundings from my cell window. One look told me it would be useless to try to scale the wall, even should I decide to leave my cell by the window, for my purpose was to leave not only the cell, but the prison. Of course, I could have gone over the wall, but it would have taken me longer to lay my plans that way. Therefore, for the moment, I dismissed all idea of that.

"From this first observation I knew the river was on that side of the prison, and that there was also a playground there. Subsequently these surmises were verified by a keeper. I knew then one important thing-that any one might approach the prison wall from that side if necessary without attracting any particular attention. That was well to remember. I remembered it.

"But the outside thing which most attracted my attention was the feed wire to the arc light which ran within a few feet-probably three or four-of my cell window. I knew that would be valuable in the event I found it necessary to cut off that arc light."

"Oh, you shut it off tonight, then?" asked the warden.

"Having learned all I could from that window," resumed The Thinking Machine, without heeding the interruption, "I considered the idea of escaping through the prison proper. I recalled just how I had come into the cell, which I knew would be the only way. Seven doors lay between me and the outside. So, also for the time being, I gave up the idea of escaping that way. And I couldn't go through the solid granite walls of the cell."

The Thinking Machine paused for a moment and Dr. Ransome lighted a new cigar. For several minutes there was silence, then the scientific jail-breaker went on: "While I was thinking about these things a rat ran across my foot. It suggested a new line of thought. There were at least half a dozen rats in the cell-I could see their beady eyes. Yet I had noticed none come under the cell door. I frightened them purposely and watched the cell door to see if they went out that way. They did not, but they were gone. Obviously they went another way. Another way meant another opening.

"I searched for this opening and found it. It was an old drain pipe, long unused and partly choked with dirt and dust. But this was the way the rats had come. They came from somewhere. Where? Drain pipes usually lead outside prison grounds. This one probably led to the river, or near it. The rats must therefore come from that direction. If they came a part of the way, I reasoned that they came all the way, because it was extremely unlikely that a solid iron or lead pipe would have any hole in it except at the exit.

"When the jailer came with my luncheon he told me two important things, although he didn't know it. One was that a new system of plumbing had been put in the prison seven years before; another that the river was only three hundred feet away. Then I knew positively that the pipe was a part of an old system; I knew, too, that it slanted generally toward the river. But did the pipe end in the water or on land?

"This was the next question to be decided. I decided it by catching several of the rats in the cell. My jailer was surprised to see me engaged in this work. I examined at least a dozen of them. They were perfectly dry; they had come through the pipe, and, most important of all, they were not house rats, but field rats. The other end of the pipe was on land, then, outside the prison walls. So far, so good.

"Then, I knew that if I worked freely from this point I must attract the warden's attention in another direction. You see, by telling the warden that I had come here to escape you made the test more severe, because I had to trick him by false scents."

The warden looked up with a sad expression in his eyes.

"The first thing was to make him think I was trying to communicate with you, Dr. Ransome. So I wrote a note on a piece of linen I tore from my shirt, addressed it to Dr. Ransome, tied a five-dollar bill around it and threw it out the window. I knew the guard would take it to the warden, but I rather hoped the warden would send it as addressed. Have you that first linen note, warden?"

The warden produced the cipher.

"What the deuce does it mean, anyhow?" he asked.

"Read it backward, beginning with the 'T' signature and disregard the division into words" instructed The Thinking Machine.

The warden did so.

"T-h-i-s, this," he spelled, studied it a moment, then read it off, grinning: "This is not the way I intend to escape."

"Well, now what do you think o' that?" he demanded, still grinning.

"I knew that would attract your attention, just as it did," said The Thinking Machine, "and if you really found out what it was it would be a sort of gentle rebuke."

"What did you write it with?" asked Dr. Ransome, after he had examined the linen and passed it to Mr. Fielding.

"This," said the erstwhile prisoner, and he extended his foot. On it was the shoe he had worn in prison, though the polish was gone-scraped off clean. "The shoe blacking, moistened with water, was my ink; the metal tip of the shoe lace made a fairly good pen."

The warden looked up and suddenly burst into a laugh, half of relief, half of amusement.

"You're a wonder," he said, admiringly. "Go on."

"That precipitated a search of my cell by the warden, as I had intended," continued The Thinking Machine. "I was anxious to get the warden into the habit of searching my cell, so that finally, constantly finding nothing, he would get disgusted and quit. This at last happened, practically."

The warden blushed.

"He then took my white shirt away and gave me a prison shirt. He was satisfied that those two pieces of the shirt were all that was missing. But while he was searching my cell I had another piece of that same shirt, about nine inches square, rolled into a small ball in my mouth."

"Nine inches of that shirt?" demanded the warden. "Where did it come from?"

"The bosoms of all stiff white shirts are of triple thickness," was the explanation. "I tore out the inside thickness, leaving the bosom only two thicknesses. I knew you wouldn't see it. So much for that."

There was a little pause, and the warden looked from one to another of the men with a sheepish grin.

"Having disposed of the warden for the time being by giving him something else to think about, I took my first serious step toward freedom," said Professor Van Dusen. "I knew, within reason, that the pipe led somewhere to the playground outside; I knew a great many boys played there; I knew that rats came into my cell from out there. Could I communicate with some one outside with these things at hand?

"First was necessary, I saw, a long and fairly reliable thread, s-but here," he pulled up his trousers legs and showed that the tops of both stockings, of fine, strong lisle, were gone. "I unravelled those-after I got them started it wasn't difficult-and I had easily a quarter of a mile of thread that I could depend on.

"Then on half of my remaining linen I wrote, laboriously enough, I assure you, a letter explaining my situation to this gentleman here," and he indicated Hutchinson Hatch. "I knew he would assist me-for the value of the newspaper story. I tied firmly to this linen letter a ten-dollar bill-there is no surer way of attracting the eye of any one-and wrote on the linen: 'Finder of this deliver to Hutchinson Hatch, «Daily American,» who will give another ten dollars for the information.'

"The next thing was to get this note outside on the playground where a boy might find it. There were two ways, but I chose the best. I took one of the rats-I became adept in catching them-tied the linen and money firmly to one leg, fastened my lisle thread to another, and turned him loose in the drain pipe. I reasoned that the natural fright of the rodent would make him run until he was outside the pipe and then out on earth he would probably stop to gnaw off the linen and money.

"From the moment the rat disappeared into that dusty pipe I became anxious. I was taking so many chances. The rat might gnaw the string, of which I held one end; other rats might gnaw it; the rat might run out of the pipe and leave the linen and money where they would never be found; a thousand other things might have happened. So began some nervous hours, but the fact that the rat ran on until only a few feet of the string remained in my cell made me think he was outside the pipe. I had carefully instructed Mr. Hatch what to do in case the note reached him. The question was: Would it reach him?

"This done, I could only wait and make other plans in case this one failed. I openly attempted to bribe my jailer, and learned from him that he held the keys to only two of seven doors between me and freedom. Then I did something else to make the warden nervous. I took the steel supports out of the heels of my shoes and made a pretense of sawing the bars of my cell window. The warden raised a pretty row about that. He developed, too, the habit of shaking the bars of my cell window to see if they were solid. They were-then."

Again the warden grinned. He had ceased being astonished.

"With this one plan I had done all I could and could only wait to see what happened," the scientist went on. "I couldn't know whether my note had been delivered or even found, or whether the rat had gnawed it up. And I didn't dare to draw back through the pipe that one slender thread which connected me with the outside.

"When I went to bed that night I didn't sleep, for fear there would come the slight signal twitch at the thread which was to tell me that Mr. Hatch had received the note. At half-past three o'clock, I judge, I felt this twitch, and no prisoner actually under sentence of death ever welcomed a thing more heartily."

The Thinking Machine stopped and turned to the reporter.

"You'd better explain just what you did," he said.

"The linen note was brought to me by a small boy who had been playing baseball," said Mr. Hatch. "I immediately saw a big story in it, so I gave the boy another ten dollars, and got several spools of silk, some twine, and a roll of light, pliable wire. The professor's note suggested that I have the finder of the note show me just where it was picked up, and told me to make my search from there, beginning at two o'clock in the morning. If I found the other end of the thread I was to twitch it gently three times, then a fourth.

"I began to search with a small bulb electric light. It was an hour and twenty minutes before I found the end of the drain pipe, half hidden in weeds. The pipe was very large there, say twelve inches across. Then I found the end of the lisle thread, twitched it as directed and immediately I got an answering twitch.

"Then I fastened the silk to this and Professor Van Dusen began to pull it into his cell. I nearly had heart disease for fear the string would break. To the end of the silk I fastened the twine, and when that had been pulled in I tied on the wire. Then that was drawn into the pipe and we had a substantial line, which the rats couldn't gnaw, from the mouth of the drain into the cell."

The Thinking Machine raised his hand and Hatch stopped.

"All this was done in absolute silence," said the scientist. "But when the wire reached my hand I could have shouted. Then we tried another experiment, which Mr. Hatch was prepared for. I tested the pipe as a speaking tube. Neither of us could hear very clearly, but I dared not speak loud for fear of attracting attention in the prison. At last I made him understand what I wanted immediately. He seemed to have great difficulty in understanding when I asked for nitric acid, and I repeated the word 'acid' several times.

"Then I heard a shriek from a cell above me. I knew instantly that some one had overheard, and when I heard you coming, Mr. Warden, I feigned sleep. If you had entered my cell at that moment that whole plan of escape would have ended there. But you passed on. That was the nearest I ever came to being caught.

"Having established this improvised trolley it is easy to see how I got things in the cell and made them disappear at will. I merely dropped them back into the pipe. You, Mr. Warden, could not have reached the connecting wire with your fingers; they are too large. My fingers, you see, are longer and more slender. In addition I guarded the top of that pipe with a rat-you remember how."

"I remember," said the warden, with a grimace.

"I thought that if any one were tempted to investigate that hole the rat would dampen his ardour. Mr. Hatch could not send me anything useful through the pipe until next night, although he did send me change for ten dollars as a test, so I proceeded with other parts of my plan. Then I evolved the method of escape, which I finally employed.

"In order to carry this out successfully it was necessary for the guard in the yard to get accustomed to seeing me at the cell window. I arranged this by dropping linen notes to him, boastful in tone, to make the warden believe, if possible, one of his assistants was communicating with the outside for me. I would stand at my window for hours gazing out, so the guard could see, and occasionally I spoke to him. In that way I learned that the prison had no electricians of its own, but was dependent upon the lighting company if anything should go wrong.

"That cleared the way to freedom perfectly. Early in the evening of the last day of my imprisonment, when it was dark, I planned to cut the feed wire which was only a few feet from my window, reaching it with an acid-tipped wire I had. That would make that side of the prison perfectly dark while the electricians were searching for the break. That would also bring Mr. Hatch into the prison yard.

"There was only one more thing to do before I actually began the work of setting myself free. This was to arrange final details with Mr. Hatch through our speaking tube. I did this within half an hour after the warden left my cell on the fourth night of my imprisonment. Mr. Hatch again had serious difficulty in understanding me, and I repeated the word 'acid' to him several times, and later the words: 'Number eight hat'-that's my size-and these were the things which made a prisoner upstairs confess to murder, so one of the jailers told me next day. This prisoner heard our voices, confused of course, through the pipe, which also went to his cell. The cell directly over me was not occupied, hence no one else heard.

"Of course the actual work of cutting the steel bars out of the window and door was comparatively easy with nitric acid, which I got through the pipe in thin bottles, but it took time. Hour after hour on the fifth and sixth and seventh days the guard below was looking at me as I worked on the bars of the window with the acid on a piece of wire. I used the tooth powder to prevent the acid spreading. I looked away abstractly as I worked and each minute the acid cut deeper into the metal. I noticed that the jailers always tried the door by shaking the upper part, never the lower bars, therefore I cut the lower bars, leaving them hanging in place by thin strips of metal. But that was a bit of dare-deviltry. I could not have gone that way so easily."

The Thinking Machine sat silent for several minutes.

"I think that makes everything clear," he went on. "Whatever points I have not explained were merely to confuse the warden and jailers. These things in my bed I brought in to please Mr. Hatch, who wanted to improve the story. Of course, the wig was necessary in my plan. The special delivery letter I wrote and directed in my cell with Mr. Hatch's fountain pen, then sent it out to him and he mailed it. That's all, I think."

"But your actually leaving the prison grounds and then coming in through the outer gate to my office?" asked the warden.

"Perfectly simple," said the scientist. "I cut the electric light wire with acid, as I said, when the current was off. Therefore when the current was turned on the arc didn't light. I knew it would take some time to find out what was the matter and make repairs. When the guard went to report to you the yard was dark. I crept out the window-it was a tight fit, too-replaced the bars by standing on a narrow ledge and remained in a shadow until the force of electricians arrived. Mr. Hatch was one of them.

"When I saw him I spoke and he handed me a cap, a jumper and overalls, which I put on within ten feet of you, Mr. Warden, while you were in the yard. Later Mr. Hatch called me, presumably as a workman, and together we went out the gate to get something out of the wagon. The gate guard let us pass out readily as two workmen who had just passed in. We changed our clothing and reappeared, asking to see you. We saw you. That's all."

There was silence for several minutes. Dr. Ransome was first to speak.

"Wonderful!" he exclaimed. "Perfectly amazing."

"How did Mr. Hatch happen to come with the electricians?" asked Mr. Fielding.

"His father is manager of the company," replied The Thinking Machine.

"But what if there had been no Mr. Hatch outside to help?"

"Every prisoner has one friend outside who would help him escape if he could."

"Suppose-just suppose-there had been no old plumbing system there?" asked the warden, curiously.

"There were two other ways out," said The Thinking Machine, enigmatically.

Ten minutes later the telephone bell rang. It was a request for the warden.

"Light all right, eh?" the warden asked, through the 'phone. "Good. Wire cut beside Cell 13? Yes, I know. One electrician too many? What's that? Two came out?"

The warden turned to the others with a puzzled expression.

"He only let in four electricians, he has let out two and says there are three left."

"I was the odd one," said The Thinking Machine.

"Oh," said the warden. "I see." Then through the 'phone: "Let the fifth man go. He's all right."

MELVILLE DAVISSON POST (1869-1930)

Melville Davisson Post's two series characters, who earned their author wide popular acclaim in his day, are a study in contrasts. The antihero in his first book of crime stories and two later anthologies is Randolph Mason, an unscrupulous lawyer who expertly levers his criminal clients through legal loopholes. Mason's opposite is the scrupulous, Bible-quoting moralist Uncle Abner, whose efforts at uncovering crime in the hearts and actions of backwoods Virginians establish not only man's justice but God's.

Both of Post's characters are larger-than-life figures who use their different expertise to amaze their clients and Post's readers alike. Mason's legal expertise comes from his creator's own experience of the law. Post practiced criminal and corporate law for eleven years before becoming involved in Democratic politics. Criticised for allowing Mason to use the law to help criminals, Post wrote, "Nothing but good can come of exposing the law's defects." Some changes in criminal codes were actually made in response to Mason stories.

Abner was Post's answer to the lawlessness of the mountain men whom he knew intimately. Born in Romines Mills, West Virginia, Post was raised in the wild hills that he depicted in the Abner stories. His highly successful regional writing is considered to be an early influence leading to the blossoming of regionalism in American detective fiction.

Even critics who have not been enthusiastic about the literary quality of his work acknowledge Post's skill at plotting. They concede, along with Chris Steinbrunner and Otto Penzler in their «Encyclopedia of Mystery and Detection,» that he did much to speed up the pace of the detective story "by developing the mystery and its solution simultaneously."

A great commercial success as a magazine writer, the versatile and confident Post also dared to create a British sleuth, Sir Henry Marquis, chief of the Criminal Investigation Department of Scotland Yard, whose work takes him to international locales, including Asia and the United States. Another character, Walker of the Secret Service, had robbed trains until he reformed and became a federal agent. Post ventured into Paris with Monsieur Jonquelle, Prefect of Police of Paris, and returned to the Virginia hills with his gentleman lawyer, Colonel Braxton.

Loaded with biblical allusions and quotations, «The Doomdorf Mystery» exemplifies the Abner stories. The final line is an Abner classic.

The Doomdorf Mystery

The pioneer was not the only man in the great mountains behind Virginia. Strange aliens drifted in after the Colonial wars. All foreign armies are sprinkled with a cockle of adventurers that take root and remain. They were with Braddock and La Salle, and they rode north out of Mexico after her many empires went to pieces.

I think Doomdorf crossed the seas with Iturbide when that ill-starred adventurer returned to be shot against a wall; but there was no Southern blood in him. He came from some European race remote and barbaric. The evidences were all about him. He was a huge figure of a man, with a black spade beard, broad, thick hands, and square, flat fingers.

He had found a wedge of land between the Crown's grant to Daniel Davisson and a Washington survey. It was an uncovered triangle not worth the running of the lines; and so, no doubt, was left out, a sheer rock standing up out of the river for a base, and a peak of the mountain rising northward behind it for an apex.

Doomdorf squatted on the rock. He must have brought a belt of gold pieces when he took to his horse, for he hired old Robert Steuart's slaves and built a stone house on the rock, and he brought the furnishings overland from a frigate in the Chesapeake; and then in the handfuls of earth, wherever a root would hold, he planted the mountain behind his house with peach trees. The gold gave out; but the devil is fertile in resources. Doomdorf built a log still and turned the first fruits of the garden into a hell-brew. The idle and the vicious came with their stone jugs, and violence and riot flowed out.

The government of Virginia was remote and its arm short and feeble; but the men who held the lands west of the mountains against the savages under grants from George, and after that held them against George himself, were efficient and expeditious. They had long patience, but when that failed they went up from their fields and drove the thing before them out of the land, like a scourge of God.

There came a day, then, when my Uncle Abner and Squire Randolph rode through the gap of the mountains to have the thing out with Doomdorf. The work of this brew, which had the odours of Eden and the impulses of the devil in it, could be borne no longer. The drunken negroes had shot old Duncan's cattle and burned his haystacks, and the land was on its feet.

They rode alone, but they were worth an army of little men. Randolph was vain and pompous and given over to extravagance of words, but he was a gentleman beneath it, and fear was an alien and a stranger to him. And Abner was the right hand of the land.

It was a day in early summer and the sun lay hot. They crossed through the broken spine of the mountains and trailed along the river in the shade of the great chestnut trees. The road was only a path and the horses went one before the other. It left the river when the rock began to rise and, making a detour through the grove of peach trees, reached the house on the mountain side. Randolph and Abner got down, unsaddled their horses and turned them out to graze, for their business with Doomdorf would not be over in an hour. Then they took a steep path that brought them out on the mountain side of the house.

A man sat on a big red-roan horse in the paved court before the door. He was a gaunt old man. He sat bare-headed, the palms of his hands resting on the pommel of his saddle, his chin sunk in his black stock, his face in retrospection, the wind moving gently his great shock of voluminous white hair. Under him the huge red horse stood with his legs spread out like a horse of stone.

There was no sound. The door to the house was closed; insects moved in the sun; a shadow crept out from the motionless figure, and swarms of yellow butterflies manoeuvred like an army.

Abner and Randolph stopped. They knew the tragic figure-a circuit rider of the hills who preached the invective of Isaiah as though he were the mouthpiece of a militant and avenging overlord; as though the government of Virginia were the awful theocracy of the Book of Kings. The horse was dripping with sweat and the man bore the dust and the evidences of a journey on him.

"Bronson," said Abner, "where is Doomdorf?"

The old man lifted his head and looked down at Abner over the pommel of the saddle.

"'Surely,'" he said, "'he covereth his feet in his summer chamber.'"

Abner went over and knocked on the closed door, and presently the white, frightened face of a woman looked out at him. She was a little, faded woman, with fair hair, a broad foreign face, but with the delicate evidences of gentle blood.

Abner repeated his question.

"Where is Doomdorf?"

"Oh, sir," she answered with a queer lisping accent, "he went to lie down in his south room after his midday meal, as his custom is; and I went to the orchard to gather any fruit that might be ripened." She hesitated and her voice lisped into a whisper: "He is not come out and I cannot wake him."

The two men followed her through the hall and up the stairway to the door.

"It is always bolted," she said, "when he goes to lie down." And she knocked feebly with the tips of her fingers.

There was no answer and Randolph rattled the doorknob.

"Come out, Doomdorf!" he called in his big, bellowing voice.

There was only silence and the echoes of the words among the rafters. Then Randolph set his shoulder to the door and burst it open.

They went in. The room was flooded with sun from the tall south windows. Doomdorf lay on a couch in a little offset of the room, a great scarlet patch on his bosom and a pool of scarlet on the floor.

The woman stood for a moment staring; then she cried out: "At last I have killed him!" And she ran like a frightened hare.

The two men closed the door and went over to the couch. Doomdorf had been shot to death. There was a great ragged hole in his waistcoat. They began to look about for the weapon with which the deed had been accomplished, and in a moment found it-a fowling piece lying in two dogwood forks against the wall. The gun had just been fired; there was a freshly exploded paper cap under the hammer.

There was little else in the room-a loom-woven rag carpet on the floor; wooden shutters flung back from the windows; a great oak table, and on it a big, round, glass water bottle, filled to its glass stopper with raw liquor from the still. The stuff was limpid and clear as spring water; and, but for its pungent odour, one would have taken it for God's brew instead of Doomdorf's. The sun lay on it and against the wall where hung the weapon that had ejected the dead man out of life.

"Abner," said Randolph, "this is murder! The woman took that gun down from the wall and shot Doomdorf while he slept."

Abner was standing by the table, his fingers round his chin.

"Randolph," he replied, "what brought Bronson here?"

"The same outrages that brought us," said Randolph. "The mad old circuit rider has been preaching a crusade against Doomdorf far and wide in the hills."

Abner answered, without taking his fingers from about his chin: "You think this woman killed Doomdorf? Well, let us go and ask Bronson who killed him."

They closed the door, leaving the dead man on his couch, and went down into the court.

The old circuit rider had put away his horse and got an ax. He had taken off his coat and pushed his shirtsleeves up over his long elbows. He was on his way to the still to destroy the barrels of liquor. He stopped when the two men came out, and Abner called to him.

"Bronson," he said, "who killed Doomdorf?"

"I killed him," replied the old man, and went on toward the still.

Randolph swore under his breath. "By the Almighty," he said, "everybody couldn't kill him!"

"Who can tell how many had a hand in it?" replied Abner.

"Two have confessed!" cried Randolph. "Was there perhaps a third? Did you kill him, Abner? And I too? Man, the thing is impossible!"

"The impossible," replied Abner, "looks here like the truth. Come with me, Randolph, and I will show you a thing more impossible than this."

They returned through the house and up the stairs to the room. Abner closed the door behind them.

"Look at this bolt," he said; "it is on the inside and not connected with the lock. How did the one who killed Doomdorf get into this room, since the door was bolted?"

"Through the windows," replied Randolph.

There were but two windows, facing the south, through which the sun entered. Abner led Randolph to them.

"Look!" he said. "The wall of the house is plumb with the sheer face of the rock. It is a hundred feet to the river and the rock is as smooth as a sheet of glass. But that is not all. Look at these window frames; they are cemented into their casement with dust and they are bound along their edges with cobwebs. These windows have not been opened. How did the assassin enter?"

"The answer is evident," said Randolph: "The one who killed Doomdorf hid in the room until he was asleep; then he shot him and went out."

"The explanation is excellent but for one thing," replied Abner: "How did the assassin bolt the door behind him on the inside of this room after he had gone out?"

Randolph flung out his arms with a hopeless gesture.

"Who knows?" he cried. "Maybe Doomdorf killed himself."

Abner laughed.

"And after firing a handful of shot into his heart he got up and put the gun back carefully into the forks against the wall!"

"Well," cried Randolph, "there is one open road out of this mystery. Bronson and this woman say they killed Doomdorf, and if they killed him they surely know how they did it. Let us go down and ask them."

"In the law court," replied Abner, "that procedure would be considered sound sense; but we are in God's court and things are managed there in a somewhat stranger way. Before we go let us find out, if we can, at what hour it was that Doomdorf died."

He went over and took a big silver watch out of the dead man's pocket. It was broken by a shot and the hands lay at one hour after noon. He stood for a moment fingering his chin.

"At one o'clock," he said. "Bronson, I think, was on the road to this place, and the woman was on the mountain among the peach trees."

Randolph threw back his shoulders.

"Why waste time in a speculation about it, Abner?" he said. "We know who did this thing. Let us go and get the story of it out of their own mouths. Doomdorf died by the hands of either Bronson or this woman."

"I could better believe it," replied Abner, "but for the running of a certain awful law."

"What law?" said Randolph. "Is it a statute of Virginia?"

"It is a statute," replied Abner, "of an authority somewhat higher. Mark the language of it: 'He that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword.'"

He came over and took Randolph by the arm.

"Must! Randolph, did you mark particularly the word 'must'? It is a mandatory law. There is no room in it for the vicissitudes of chance or fortune. There is no way round that word. Thus, we reap what we sow and nothing else; thus, we receive what we give and nothing else. It is the weapon in our own hands that finally destroys us. You are looking at it now." And he turned him about so that the table and the weapon and the dead man were before him. "'He that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword.' And now," he said, "let us go and try the method of the law courts. Your faith is in the wisdom of their ways."

They found the old circuit rider at work in the still, staving in Doomdorf's liquor casks, splitting the oak heads with his ax.

"Bronson," said Randolph, "how did you kill Doomdorf?"

The old man stopped and stood leaning on his ax.

"I killed him," replied the old man, "as Elijah killed the captains of Ahaziah and their fifties. But not by the hand of any man did I pray the Lord God to destroy Doomdorf, but with fire from heaven to destroy him."

He stood up and extended his arms.

"His hands were full of blood," he said. "With his abomination from these groves of Baal he stirred up the people to contention, to strife and murder. The widow and the orphan cried to heaven against him. 'I will surely hear their cry,' is the promise written in the Book. The land was weary of him; and I prayed the Lord God to destroy him with fire from heaven, as he destroyed the Princes of Gomorrah in their palaces!"

Randolph made a gesture as of one who dismisses the impossible, but Abner's face took on a deep, strange look.

"With fire from heaven!" he repeated slowly to himself. Then he asked a question. "A little while ago," he said, "when we came, I asked you where Doomdorf was, and you answered me in the language of the third chapter of the Book of Judges. Why did you answer me like that, Bronson?-'Surely he covereth his feet in his summer chamber.'"

"The woman told me that he had not come down from the room where he had gone up to sleep," replied the old man, "and that the door was locked. And then I knew that he was dead in his summer chamber like Eglon, King of Moab."

He extended his arm toward the south.

"I came here from the Great Valley," he said, "to cut down these groves of Baal and to empty out this abomination; but I did not know that the Lord had heard my prayer and visited His wrath on Doomdorf until I was come up into these mountains to his door. When the woman spoke I knew it." And he went away to his horse, leaving the ax among the ruined barrels.

Randolph interrupted.

"Come, Abner," he said; "this is wasted time. Bronson did not kill Doomdorf."

Abner answered slowly in his deep, level voice: "Do you realise, Randolph, how Doomdorf died?"

"Not by fire from heaven, at any rate," said Randolph.

"Randolph," replied Abner, "are you sure?"

"Abner," cried Randolph, "you are pleased to jest, but I am in deadly earnest. A crime has been done here against the state. I am an officer of justice and I propose to discover the assassin if I can."

He walked away toward the house and Abner followed, his hands behind him and his great shoulders thrown loosely forward, with a grim smile about his mouth.

"It is no use to talk with the mad old preacher," Randolph went on. "Let him empty out the liquor and ride away. I won't issue a warrant against him. Prayer may be a handy implement to do a murder with, Abner, but it is not a deadly weapon under the statutes of Virginia. Doomdorf was dead when old Bronson got here with his Scriptural jargon. This woman killed Doomdorf. I shall put her to an inquisition."

"As you like," replied Abner. "Your faith remains in the methods of the law courts."

"Do you know of any better methods?" said Randolph.

"Perhaps," replied Abner, "when you have finished."

Night had entered the valley. The two men went into the house and set about preparing the corpse for burial. They got candles, and made a coffin, and put Doomdorf in it, and straightened out his limbs, and folded his arms across his shot-out heart. Then they set the coffin on benches in the hall.

They kindled a fire in the dining room and sat down before it, with the door open and the red firelight shining through on the dead man's narrow, everlasting house. The woman had put some cold meat, a golden cheese and a loaf on the table. They did not see her, but they heard her moving about the house; and finally, on the gravel court outside, her step and the whinny of a horse. Then she came in, dressed as for a journey. Randolph sprang up.

"Where are you going?" he said.

"To the sea and a ship," replied the woman. Then she indicated the hall with a gesture. "He is dead and I am free."

There was a sudden illumination in her face. Randolph took a step toward her. His voice was big and harsh.

"Who killed Doomdorf?" he cried.

"I killed him," replied the woman. "It was fair!"

"Fair!" echoed the justice. "What do you mean by that?"

The woman shrugged her shoulders and put out her hands with a foreign gesture.

"I remember an old, old man sitting against a sunny wall, and a little girl, and one who came and talked a long time with the old man, while the little girl plucked yellow flowers out of the grass and put them into her hair. Then finally the stranger gave the old man a gold chain and took the little girl away." She flung out her hands. "Oh, it was fair to kill him!" She looked up with a queer, pathetic smile.

"The old man will be gone by now," she said; "but I shall perhaps find the wall there, with the sun on it, and the yellow flowers in the grass. And now, may I go?"

It is a law of the story-teller's art that he does not tell a story. It is the listener who tells it. The story-teller does but provide him with the stimuli.

Randolph got up and walked about the floor. He was a justice of the peace in a day when that office was filled only by the landed gentry, after the English fashion; and the obligations of the law were strong on him. If he should take liberties with the letter of it, how could the weak and the evil be made to hold it in respect? Here was this woman before him a confessed assassin. Could he let her go?

Abner sat unmoving by the hearth, his elbow on the arm of his chair, his palm propping up his jaw, his face clouded in deep lines. Randolph was consumed with vanity and the weakness of ostentation, but he shouldered his duties for himself. Presently he stopped and looked at the woman, wan, faded like some prisoner of legend escaped out of fabled dungeons into the sun.

The firelight flickered past her to the box on the benches in the hall, and the vast, inscrutable justice of heaven entered and overcame him.

"Yes," he said. "Go! There is no jury in Virginia that would hold a woman for shooting a beast like that." And he thrust out his arm, with the fingers extended toward the dead man.

The woman made a little awkward curtsy.

"I thank you, sir." Then she hesitated and lisped, "But I have not shoot him."

"Not shoot him!" cried Randolph. "Why, the man's heart is riddled!"

"Yes, sir," she said simply, like a child. "I kill him, but have not shoot him."

Randolph took two long strides toward the woman.

"Not shoot him!" he repeated. "How then, in the name of heaven, did you kill Doomdorf?" And his big voice filled the empty places of the room.

"I will show you, sir," she said.

She turned and went away into the house. Presently she returned with something folded up in a linen towel. She put it on the table between the loaf of bread and the yellow cheese.

Randolph stood over the table, and the woman's deft fingers undid the towel from round its deadly contents; and presently the thing lay there uncovered.

It was a little crude model of a human figure done in wax with a needle thrust through the bosom.

Randolph stood up with a great intake of the breath.

"Magic! By the eternal!"

"Yes, sir," the woman explained, in her voice and manner of a child. "I have try to kill him many times-oh, very many times!-with witch words which I have remember; but always they fail. Then, at last, I make him in wax, and I put a needle through his heart; and I kill him very quickly."

It was as clear as daylight, even to Randolph, that the woman was innocent. Her little harmless magic was the pathetic effort of a child to kill a dragon. He hesitated a moment before he spoke, and then he decided like the gentleman he was. If it helped the child to believe that her enchanted straw had slain the monster-well, he would let her believe it.

"And now, sir, may I go?"

Randolph looked at the woman in a sort of wonder.

"Are you not afraid," he said, "of the night and the mountains, and the long road?"

"Oh no, sir," she replied simply. "The good God will be everywhere now."

It was an awful commentary on the dead man-that this strange half-child believed that all the evil in the world had gone out with him; that now that he was dead, the sunlight of heaven would fill every nook and corner.

It was not a faith that either of the two men wished to shatter, and they let her go. It would be daylight presently and the road through the mountains to the Chesapeake was open.

Randolph came back to the fireside after he had helped her into the saddle, and sat down. He tapped on the hearth for some time idly with the iron poker; and then finally he spoke.

"This is the strangest thing that ever happened," he said. "Here's a mad old preacher who thinks that he killed Doomdorf with fire from Heaven, like Elijah the Tishbite; and here is a simple child of a woman who thinks she killed him with a piece of magic of the Middle Ages-each as innocent of his death as I am. And yet, by the eternal, the beast is dead!"

He drummed on the hearth with the poker, lifting it up and letting it drop through the hollow of his fingers.

"Somebody shot Doomdorf. But who? And how did he get into and out of that shut-up room? The assassin that killed Doomdorf must have gotten into the room to kill him. Now, how did he get in?" He spoke as to himself; but my uncle sitting across the hearth replied: "Through the window."

"Through the window!" echoed Randolph. "Why, man, you yourself showed me that the window had not been opened, and the precipice below it a fly could hardly climb. Do you tell me now that the window was opened?"

"No," said Abner, "it was never opened."

Randolph got on his feet.

"Abner," he cried, "are you saying that the one who killed Doomdorf climbed the sheer wall and got in through a closed window, without disturbing the dust or the cobwebs on the window frame?"

My uncle looked Randolph in the face.

"The murderer of Doomdorf did even more," he said. "That assassin not only climbed the face of that precipice and got in through the closed window, but he shot Doomdorf to death and got out again through the closed window without leaving a single track or trace behind, and without disturbing a grain of dust or a thread of a cobweb."

Randolph swore a great oath.

"The thing is impossible!" he cried. "Men are not killed today in Virginia by black art or a curse of God."

"By black art, no," replied Abner; "but by the curse of God, yes. I think they are."

Randolph drove his clenched right hand into the palm of his left.

"By the eternal!" he cried. "I would like to see the assassin who could do a murder like this, whether he be an imp from the pit or an angel out of heaven."

"Very well," replied Abner, undisturbed. "When he comes back tomorrow I will show you the assassin who killed Doomdorf."

When day broke they dug a grave and buried the dead man against the mountain among his peach trees. It was noon when that work was ended. Abner threw down his spade and looked up at the sun.

"Randolph," he said, "let us go and lay an ambush for this assassin. He is on the way here."

And it was a strange ambush that he laid. When they were come again into the chamber where Doomdorf died he bolted the door; then he loaded the fowling piece and put it carefully back on its rack against the wall. After that he did another curious thing: He took the bloodstained coat, which they had stripped off the dead man when they had prepared his body for the earth, put a pillow in it and laid it on the couch precisely where Doomdorf had slept. And while he did these things Randolph stood in wonder and Abner talked: "Look you, Randolph… We will trick the murderer… We will catch him in the act."

Then he went over and took the puzzled justice by the arm.

"Watch!" he said. "The assassin is coming along the wall!"

But Randolph heard nothing, saw nothing. Only the sun entered. Abner's hand tightened on his arm.

"It is here! Look!" And he pointed to the wall.

Randolph, following the extended finger, saw a tiny brilliant disk of light moving slowly up the wall toward the lock of the fowling piece. Abner's hand became a vise and his voice rang as over metal.

"'He that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword.' It is the water bottle, full of Doomdorf's liquor, focusing the sun… And look, Randolph, how Bronson's prayer was answered!"

The tiny disk of light travelled on the plate of the lock.

"It is fire from heaven!"

The words rang above the roar of the fowling piece, and Randolph saw the dead man's coat leap up on the couch, riddled by the shot. The gun, in its natural position on the rack, pointed to the couch standing at the end of the chamber, beyond the offset of the wall, and the focused sun had exploded the percussion cap.

Randolph made a great gesture, with his arm extended.

"It is a world," he said, "filled with the mysterious joinder of accident!"

"It is a world," replied Abner, "filled with the mysterious justice of God!"

ANNA KATHARINE GREEN (1846-1935)

Often referred to as the mother of detective fiction, Anna Katharine Green deserves her distinction. Her accomplishments included the establishment and refining of many of the conventions of the genre that we now take for granted, and-along with depicting a male police detective-the creation of two of the earliest women sleuths in fiction. A contemporary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this New Yorker produced both police procedurals and private-investigator fiction. The heart of Green's literary career, which provided the main support for her family, spanned two decades on each side of the turn of the century.

While Conan Doyle was developing the civilian sleuth, Green wrote one of the first authentic police procedurals, «The Leavenworth Case: A Lawyer's Story,» in 1878. In this hugely successful first novel, she followed the work of New York City police detective Ebenezer Gryce. It might be noted that Gryce's reasoning is sometimes dubious. (For example, he clears a niece of suspicion when he sees lint from a cleaning cloth on the cylinder of the murder weapon. A woman, he declares, would fire a pistol but never clean it.)

«The Leavenworth Case» is said to be the first detective novel written by a woman under her own name. It is notable not only for the sleuth's reliance on reason to solve the case but also for pointing out the problems inherent in undue reliance on circumstantial evidence. The Yale Law School assigned it as required reading, and it sold a million copies in Green's day.

Gryce appeared in more than a dozen novels, often in the company of other series characters, including the sometimes rivalrous Caleb Sweetwater and the spinster-sleuth Amelia Butterworth. This last, a middle-age, upper-middle-class, middlebrow detective, is a prototype for Agatha Christie's Miss Jane Marple and other female amateur investigators of the golden age of detective fiction.

Violet Strange, who appears in «Missing: Page Thirteen,» is less staunch than Butterworth but more determined to make a paying career of the detective business. She pursues her work in order to pay for her widowed sister's voice lessons, an enterprise so frowned upon by their father that he has disowned Strange's sister. In order to avoid a similar fate, Strange keeps her sleuthing secret. An active social life provides her with entree into households where family wealth walks hand in hand with family secrets, where the atmosphere is Gothic, and where intuition guides her interpretation of evidence acquired through earnest-and sometimes courageous-resourcefulness. As do Green's novels, this tale illuminates social conventions oppressive to women.

Missing: Page Thirteen

I

"One more! just one more well paying affair, and I promise to stop; really and truly to stop."

"But, Puss, why one more? You have earned the amount you set for yourself,-or very nearly,-and though my help is not great, in three months I can add enough-"

"No, you cannot, Arthur. You are doing well; I appreciate it; in fact, I am just delighted to have you work for me in the way you do, but you cannot, in your present position, make enough in three months, or in six, to meet the situation as I see it. Enough does not satisfy me. The measure must be full, heaped up, and running over. Possible failure following promise must be provided for. Never must I feel myself called upon to do this kind of thing again. Besides, I have never got over the Zabriskie tragedy. It haunts me continually. Something new may help to put it out of my head. I feel guilty. I was responsible-"

"No, Puss. I will not have it that you were responsible. Some such end was bound to follow a complication like that. Sooner or later he would have been driven to shoot himself-"

"But not her."

"No, not her. But do you think she would have given those few minutes of perfect understanding with her blind husband for a few years more of miserable life."

Violet made no answer; she was too absorbed in her surprise. Was this Arthur? Had a few weeks' work and a close connection with the really serious things of life made this change in him? Her face beamed at the thought, which seeing, but not understanding what underlay this evidence of joy, he bent and kissed her, saying with some of his old nonchalance: "Forget it, Violet; only don't let any one or anything lead you to interest yourself in another affair of the kind. If you do, I shall have to consult a certain friend of yours as to the best way of stopping this folly. I mention no names. Oh! you need not look so frightened. Only behave; that's all."

"He's right," she acknowledged to herself, as he sauntered away; "altogether right."

Yet because she wanted the extra money- The scene invited alarm-that is, for so young a girl as Violet, surveying it from an automobile some time after the stroke of midnight. An unknown house at the end of a heavily shaded walk, in the open doorway of which could be seen the silhouette of a woman's form leaning eagerly forward with arms outstretched in an appeal for help! It vanished while she looked, but the effect remained, holding her to her seat for one startled moment. This seemed strange, for she had anticipated adventure. One is not summoned from a private ball to ride a dozen miles into the country on an errand of investigation, without some expectation of encountering the mysterious and the tragic. But Violet Strange, for all her many experiences, was of a most susceptible nature, and for the instant in which that door stood open, with only the memory of that expectant figure to disturb the faintly lit vista of the hall beyond, she felt that grip upon the throat which comes from an indefinable fear which no words can explain and no plummet sound.

But this soon passed. With the setting of her foot to ground, conditions changed and her emotions took on a more normal character. The figure of a man now stood in the place held by the vanished woman, and it was not only that of one she knew but that of one whom she trusted-a friend whose very presence gave her courage. With this recognition came a better understanding of the situation, and it was with a beaming eye and unclouded features that she tripped up the walk to meet the expectant figure and outstretched hand of Roger Upjohn.

"You here!" she exclaimed, amid smiles and blushes, as he drew her into the hall.

He at once launched forth into explanations mingled with apologies for the presumption he had shown in putting her to this inconvenience. There was trouble in the house-great trouble. Something had occurred for which an explanation must be found before morning, or the happiness and honour of more than one person now under this unhappy roof would be wrecked. He knew it was late-that she had been obliged to take a long and dreary ride alone, but her success with the problem which had once come near wrecking his own life had emboldened him to telephone to the office and- "But you are in ball-dress," he cried in amazement. "Did you think-"

"I came from a ball. Word reached me between the dances. I did not go home. I had been bidden to hurry."

He looked his appreciation, but when he spoke it was to say: "This is the situation. Miss Digby-"

"The lady who is to be married tomorrow?"

"Who hopes to be married tomorrow."

"How, «hopes?"«

"Who «will» be married tomorrow, if a certain article lost in this house tonight can be found before any of the persons who have been dining here leave for their homes."

Violet uttered an, exclamation.

"Then, Mr. Cornell," she began- "Mr. Cornell has our utmost confidence," Roger hastened to interpose. "But the article missing is one which he might reasonably desire to possess and which he alone of all present had the opportunity of securing. You can therefore see why he, with his pride-the pride of a man not rich, engaged to marry a woman who is-should declare that unless his innocence is established before daybreak, the doors of St. Bartholomew will remain shut tomorrow."

"But the article lost-what is it?"

"Miss Digby will give you the particulars. She is waiting to receive you," he added with a gesture towards a half-open door at their right.

Violet glanced that way, then cast her looks up and down the hall in which they stood.

"Do you know that you have not told me in whose house I am? Not hers, I know. She lives in the city."

"And you are twelve miles from Harlem. Miss Strange, you are in the Van Broecklyn mansion, famous enough you will acknowledge. Have you never been here before?"

"I have been by here, but I recognised nothing in the dark. What an exciting place for an investigation!"

"And Mr. Van Broecklyn? Have you never met him?"

"Once, when a child. He frightened me then."

"And may frighten you now; though I doubt it. Time has mellowed him. Besides, I have prepared him for what might otherwise occasion him some astonishment. Naturally he would not look for just the sort of lady investigator I am about to introduce to him."

She smiled. Violet Strange was a very charming young woman, as well as a keen prober of odd mysteries.

The meeting between herself and Miss Digby was a sympathetic one. After the first inevitable shock which the latter felt at sight of the beauty and fashionable appearance of the mysterious little being who was to solve her difficulties, her glance, which, under other circumstances, might have lingered unduly upon the piquant features and exquisite dressing of the fairy-like figure before her, passed at once to Violet's eyes in whose steady depths beamed an intelligence quite at odds with the coquettish dimples which so often misled the casual observer in his estimation of a character singularly subtle and well-poised.

As for the impression she herself made upon Violet, it was the same she made upon everyone. No one could look long at Florence Digby and not recognise the loftiness of her spirit and the generous nature of her impulses. In person she was tall, and as she leaned to take Violet's hand, the difference between them brought out the salient points in each, to the great admiration of the one onlooker.

Meantime, for all her interest in the case in hand, Violet could not help casting a hurried look about her, in gratification of the curiosity incited by her entrance into a house signalised from its foundation by such a series of tragic events. The result was disappointing. The walls were plain, the furniture simple. Nothing suggestive in either, unless it was the fact that nothing was new, nothing modern. As it looked in the days of Burr and Hamilton so it looked today, even to the rather startling detail of candles which did duty on every side in place of gas.

As Violet recalled the reason for this, the fascination of the past seized upon her imagination. There was no knowing where this might have carried her, had not the feverish gleam in Miss Digby's eyes warned her that the present held its own excitement. Instantly, she was all attention and listening with undivided mind to that lady's disclosures.

They were brief and to the following effect: The dinner which had brought some half-dozen people together in this house had been given in celebration of her impending marriage. But it was also in a way meant as a compliment to one of the other guests, a Mr. Spielhagen, who, during the week, had succeeded in demonstrating to a few experts the value of a discovery he had made which would transform a great industry.

In speaking of this discovery, Miss Digby did not go into particulars, the whole matter being far beyond her understanding; but in stating its value she openly acknowledged that it was in the line of Mr. Cornell's own work, and one which involved calculations and a formula which, if prematurely disclosed, would invalidate the contract Mr. Spielhagen hoped to make, and thus destroy his present hopes.

Of this formula but two copies existed. One was locked up in a safe deposit vault in Boston, the other he had brought into the house on his person, and it was the latter which was now missing, it having been abstracted during the evening from a manuscript of sixteen or more sheets, under circumstances which she would now endeavour to relate.

Mr. Van Broecklyn, their host, had in his melancholy life but one interest which could be called at all absorbing. This was for explosives. As a consequence, much of the talk at the dinner-table had been on Mr. Spielhagen's discovery, and the possible changes it might introduce into this especial industry. As these, worked out from a formula kept secret from the trade, could not but affect greatly Mr. Cornell's interests, she found herself listening intently, when Mr. Van Broecklyn, with an apology for his interference, ventured to remark that if Mr. Spielhagen had made a valuable discovery in this line, so had he, and one which he had substantiated by many experiments. It was not a marketable one, such as Mr. Spielhagen's was, but in his work upon the same, and in the tests which he had been led to make, he had discovered certain instances he would gladly name, which demanded exceptional procedure to be successful. If Mr. Spielhagen's method did not allow for these exceptions, nor make suitable provision for them, then Mr. Spielhagen's method would fail more times than it would succeed. Did it so allow and so provide? It would relieve him greatly to learn that it did.

The answer came quickly. Yes, it did. But later and after some further conversation, Mr. Spielhagen's confidence seemed to wane, and before they left the dinner-table, he openly declared his intention of looking over his manuscript again that very night, in order to be sure that the formula therein contained duly covered all the exceptions mentioned by Mr. Van Broecklyn.

If Mr. Cornell's countenance showed any change at this moment, she for one had not noticed it; but the bitterness with which he remarked upon the other's good fortune in having discovered this formula of whose entire success he had no doubt, was apparent to everybody, and naturally gave point to the circumstances which a short time afterward associated him with the disappearance of the same.

The ladies (there were two others besides herself) having withdrawn in a body to the music-room, the gentlemen all proceeded to the library to smoke. Here, conversation, loosed from the one topic which had hitherto engrossed it, was proceeding briskly, when Mr. Spielhagen, with a nervous gesture, impulsively looked about him and said: "I cannot rest till I have run through my thesis again. Where can I find a quiet spot? I won't be long; I read very rapidly."

It was for Mr. Van Broecklyn to answer, but no word coming from him, every eye turned his way, only to find him sunk in one of those fits of abstraction so well known to his friends, and from which no one who has this strange man's peace of mind at heart ever presumes to rouse him.

What was to be done? These moods of their singular host sometimes lasted half an hour, and Mr. Spielhagen had not the appearance of a man of patience. Indeed he presently gave proof of the great uneasiness he was labouring under, for noticing a door standing ajar on the other side of the room, he remarked to those around him: "A den! and lighted! Do you see any objection to my shutting myself in there for a few minutes?"

No one venturing to reply, he rose, and giving a slight push to the door, disclosed a small room exquisitely panelled and brightly lighted, but without one article of furniture in it, not even a chair.

"The very place," quoth Mr. Spielhagen, and lifting a light cane-bottomed chair from the many standing about, he carried it inside and shut the door behind him.

Several minutes passed during which the man who had served at table entered with a tray on which were several small glasses evidently containing some choice liqueur. Finding his master fixed in one of his strange moods, he set the tray down and, pointing to one of the glasses, said: "That is for Mr. Van Broecklyn. It contains his usual quieting powder." And urging the gentlemen to help themselves, he quietly left the room.

Mr. Upjohn lifted the glass nearest him, and Mr. Cornell seemed about to do the same when he suddenly reached forward and catching up one farther off started for the room in which Mr. Spielhagen had so deliberately secluded himself.

Why he did all this-why, above all things, he should reach across the tray for a glass instead of taking the one under his hand, he can no more explain than why he has followed many another unhappy impulse. Nor did he understand the nervous start given by Mr. Spielhagen at his entrance, or the stare with which that gentleman took the glass from his hand and mechanically drank its contents, till he saw how his hand had stretched itself across the sheet of paper he was reading, in an open attempt to hide the lines visible between his fingers. Then indeed the intruder flushed and withdrew in great embarrassment, fully conscious of his indiscretion but not deeply disturbed till Mr. Van Broecklyn, suddenly arousing and glancing down at the tray placed very near his hand, remarked in some surprise: "Dobbs seems to have forgotten me." Then indeed, the unfortunate Mr. Cornell realised what he had done. It was the glass intended for his host which he had caught up and carried into the other room-the glass which he had been told contained a drug. Of what folly he had been guilty, and how tame would be any effort at excuse!

Attempting none, he rose and with a hurried glance at Mr. Upjohn who flushed in sympathy at his distress, he crossed to the door he had so lately closed upon Mr. Spielhagen. But feeling his shoulder touched as his hand pressed the knob, he turned to meet the eye of Mr. Van Broecklyn fixed upon him with an expression which utterly confounded him.

"Where are you going?" that gentleman asked.

The questioning tone, the severe look, expressive at once of displeasure and astonishment, were most disconcerting, but Mr. Cornell managed to stammer forth: "Mr. Spielhagen is in here consulting his thesis. When your man brought in the cordial, I was awkward enough to catch up your glass and carry it in to Mr. Spielhagen. He drank it and I-I am anxious to see if it did him any harm."

As he uttered the last word he felt Mr. Van Broecklyn's hand slip from his shoulder, but no word accompanied the action, nor did his host make the least move to follow him into the room.

This was a matter of great regret to him later, as it left him for a moment out of the range of every eye, during which he says he simply stood in a state of shock at seeing Mr. Spielhagen still sitting there, manuscript in hand, but with head fallen forward and eyes closed; dead, asleep or-he hardly knew what; the sight so paralysed him.

Whether or not this was the exact truth and the whole truth, Mr. Cornell certainly looked very unlike himself as he stepped back into Mr. Van Broecklyn's presence; and he was only partially reassured when that gentleman protested that there was no real harm in the drug, and that Mr. Spielhagen would be all right if left to wake naturally and without shock. However, as his present attitude was one of great discomfort, they decided to carry him back and lay him on the library lounge. But before doing this, Mr. Upjohn drew from his flaccid grasp, the precious manuscript, and carrying it into the larger room placed it on a remote table, where it remained undisturbed till Mr. Spielhagen, suddenly coming to himself at the end of some fifteen minutes, missed the sheets from his hand, and bounding up, crossed the room to repossess himself of them.

His face, as he lifted them up and rapidly ran through them with ever accumulating anxiety, told them what they had to expect.

The page containing the formula was gone!

Violet now saw her problem.

II

There was no doubt about the loss I have mentioned; all could see that page 13 was not there. In vain a second handling of every sheet, the one so numbered was not to be found. Page 14 met the eye on the top of the pile, and page 12 finished it off at the bottom, but no page 13 in between, or anywhere else.

Where had it vanished, and through whose agency had this misadventure occurred? No one could say, or, at least, no one there made any attempt to do so, though everybody started to look for it.

But where look? The adjoining small room offered no facilities for hiding a cigar-end, much less a square of shining white paper. Bare walls, a bare floor, and a single chair for furniture, comprised all that was to be seen in this direction. Nor could the room in which they then stood be thought to hold it, unless it was on the person of some one of them. Could this be the explanation of the mystery? No man looked his doubts; but Mr. Cornell, possibly divining the general feeling, stepped up to Mr. Van Broecklyn and in a cool voice, but with the red burning hotly on either cheek, said, so as to be heard by everyone present: "I demand to be searched-at once and thoroughly."

A moment's silence, then the common cry: "We will all be searched."

"Is Mr. Spielhagen sure that the missing page was with the others when he sat down in the adjoining room to read his thesis?" asked their perturbed host.

"Very sure," came the emphatic reply. "Indeed, I was just going through the formula itself when I fell asleep."

"You are ready to assert this?"

"I am ready to swear it."

Mr. Cornell repeated his request.

"I demand that you make a thorough search of my person. I must be cleared, and instantly, of every suspicion," he gravely asserted, "or how can I marry Miss Digby tomorrow."

After that there was no further hesitation. One and all subjected themselves to the ordeal suggested; even Mr. Spielhagen. But this effort was as futile as the rest. The lost page was not found.

What were they to think? What were they to do?

There seemed to be nothing left to do, and yet some further attempt must be made towards the recovery of this important formula. Mr. Cornell's marriage and Mr. Spielhagen's business success both depended upon its being in the latter's hands before six in the morning, when he was engaged to hand it over to a certain manufacturer sailing for Europe on an early steamer.

Five hours!

Had Mr. Van Broecklyn a suggestion to offer? No, he was as much at sea as the rest.

Simultaneously look crossed look. Blankness was on every face.

"Let us call the ladies," suggested one.

It was done, and however great the tension had been before, it was even greater when Miss Digby stepped upon the scene. But she was not a woman to be shaken from her poise even by a crisis of this importance. When the dilemma had been presented to her and the full situation grasped, she looked first at Mr. Cornell and then at Mr. Spielhagen, and quietly said: "There is but one explanation possible of this matter. Mr. Spielhagen will excuse me, but he is evidently mistaken in thinking that he saw the lost page among the rest. The condition into which he was thrown by the unaccustomed drug he had drank, made him liable to hallucinations. I have not the least doubt he thought he had been studying the formula at the time he dropped off to sleep. I have every confidence in the gentleman's candour. But so have I in that of Mr. Cornell," she supplemented, with a smile.

An exclamation from Mr. Van Broecklyn and a subdued murmur from all but Mr. Spielhagen testified to the effect of this suggestion, and there is no saying what might have been the result if Mr. Cornell had not hurriedly put in this extraordinary and most unexpected protest: "Miss Digby has my gratitude," said he, "for a confidence which I hope to prove to be deserved. But I must say this for Mr. Spielhagen. He was correct in stating that he was engaged in looking over his formula when I stepped into his presence with the glass of cordial. If you were not in a position to see the hurried way in which his hand instinctively spread itself over the page he was reading, I was; and if that does not seem conclusive to you, then I feel bound to state that in unconsciously following this movement of his, I plainly saw the number written on the top of the page, and that number was-13."

A loud exclamation, this time from Spielhagen himself, announced his gratitude and corresponding change of attitude toward the speaker.

"Wherever that damned page has gone," he protested, advancing towards Cornell with outstretched hand, "you have nothing to do with its disappearance."

Instantly all constraint fled, and every countenance took on a relieved expression. «But the problem remained.»

Suddenly those very words passed some one's lips, and with their utterance Mr. Upjohn remembered how at an extraordinary crisis in his own life, he had been helped and an equally difficult problem settled, by a little lady secretly attached to a private detective agency. If she could only be found and hurried here before morning, all might yet be well. He would make the effort. Such wild schemes sometimes work. He telephoned to the office and- Was there anything else Miss Strange would like to know?

III

Miss Strange, thus appealed to, asked where the gentlemen were now.

She was told that they were still all together in the library; the ladies had been sent home.

"Then let us go to them," said Violet, hiding under a smile her great fear that here was an affair which might very easily spell for her that dismal word, «failure.»

So great was that fear that under all ordinary circumstances she would have had no thought for anything else in the short interim between this stating of the problem and her speedy entrance among the persons involved. But the circumstances of this case were so far from ordinary, or rather let me put it in this way, the setting of the case was so very extraordinary, that she scarcely thought of the problem before her, in her great interest in the house through whose rambling halls she was being so carefully guided. So much that was tragic and heartrending had occurred here. The Van Broecklyn name, the Van Broecklyn history, above all the Van Broecklyn tradition, which made the house unique in the country's annals (of which more hereafter), all made an appeal to her imagination, and centred her thoughts on what she saw about her. There was a door which no man ever opened-had never opened since Revolutionary times – should she see it? Should she know it if she did see it? Then Mr. Van Broecklyn himself! Just to meet him, under any conditions and in any place, was an event. But to meet him here, under the pall of his own mystery! No wonder she had no words for her companions, or that her thoughts clung to this anticipation in wonder and almost fearsome delight.

His story was a well-known one. A bachelor and a misanthrope, he lived absolutely alone save for a large entourage of servants, all men and elderly ones at that. He never visited. Though he now and then, as on this occasion, entertained certain persons under his roof, he declined every invitation for himself, avoiding even, with equal strictness, all evening amusements of whatever kind, which would detain him in the city after ten at night. Perhaps this was to ensure no break in his rule of life never to sleep out of his own bed. Though he was a man well over fifty he had not spent, according to his own statement, but two nights out of his own bed since his return from Europe in early boyhood, and those were in obedience to a judicial summons which took him to Boston.

This was his main eccentricity, but he had another which is apparent enough from what has already been said. He avoided women. If thrown in with them during his short visits into town, he was invariably polite and at times companionable, but he never sought them out, nor had gossip, contrary to its usual habit, ever linked his name with one of the sex.

Yet he was a man of more than ordinary attraction. His features were fine and his figure impressive. He might have been the cynosure of all eyes had he chosen to enter crowded drawing-rooms, or even to frequent public assemblages, but having turned his back upon everything of the kind in his youth, he had found it impossible to alter his habits with advancing years; nor was he now expected to. The position he had taken was respected. Leonard Van Broecklyn was no longer criticised.

Was there any explanation for this strangely self-centred life? Those who knew him best seemed to think so. In the first place he had sprung from an unfortunate stock. Events of an unusual and tragic nature had marked the family of both parents. Nor had his parents themselves been exempt from this seeming fatality. Antagonistic in tastes and temperament, they had dragged on an unhappy existence in the old home, till both natures rebelled, and a separation ensued which not only disunited their lives but sent them to opposite sides of the globe never to return again. At least, that was the inference drawn from the peculiar circumstances attending the event. On the morning of one never-to-be-forgotten day, John Van Broecklyn, the grandfather of the present representative of the family, found the following note from his son lying on the library table: Father: Life in this house, or any house, with her is no longer endurable. One of us must go. The mother should not be separated from her child. Therefore it is I whom you will never see again. Forget me, but be considerate of her and the boy.

WILLIAM

Six hours later another note was found, this time from the wife: Father: Tied to a rotting corpse what does one do? Lop off one's arm if necessary to rid one of the contact. As all love between your son and myself is dead, I can no longer live within the sound of his voice. As this is his home, he is the one to remain in it. May our child reap the benefit of his mother's loss and his father's affection.

RHODA

Both were gone, and gone forever. Simultaneous in their departure, they preserved each his own silence and sent no word back. If the one went east and the other west, they may have met on the other side of the globe, but never again in the home which sheltered their boy. For him and for his grandfather they had sunk from sight in the great sea of humanity, leaving them stranded on an isolated and mournful shore. The grandfather steeled himself to the double loss, for the child's sake; but the boy of eleven succumbed. Few of the world's great sufferers, of whatever age or condition, have mourned as this child mourned, or shown the effects of his grief so deeply or so long. Not till he had passed his majority did the line, carved in one day in his baby forehead, lose any of its intensity; and there are those who declare that even later than that, the midnight stillness of the house was disturbed from time to time by his muffled shriek of "Mother! Mother!" sending the servants from the house, and adding one more horror to the many which clung about this accursed mansion.

Of this cry Violet had heard, and it was that and the door-But I have already told you about the door which she was still looking for, when her two companions suddenly halted, and she found herself on the threshold of the library, in full view of Mr. Van Broecklyn and his two guests.

Slight and fairy-like in figure, with an air of modest reserve more in keeping with her youth and dainty dimpling beauty than with her errand, her appearance produced an astonishment which none of the gentlemen were able to disguise. This the clever detective, with a genius for social problems and odd elusive cases! This darling of the ball-room in satin and pearls! Mr. Spielhagen glanced at Mr. Carroll, and Mr. Carroll at Mr. Spielhagen, and both at Mr. Upjohn, in very evident distrust. As for Violet, she had eyes only for Mr. Van Broecklyn, who stood before her in a surprise equal to that of the others but with more restraint in its expression.

She was not disappointed in him. She had expected to see a man, reserved almost to the point of austerity. And she found his first look even more awe-compelling than her imagination had pictured; so much so indeed, that her resolution faltered, and she took a quick step backward; which seeing, he smiled and her heart and hopes grew warm again. That he could smile, and smile with absolute sweetness, was her great comfort when later-But I am introducing you too hurriedly to the catastrophe. There is much to be told first.

I pass over the preliminaries, and come at once to the moment when Violet, having listened to a repetition of the full facts, stood with downcast eyes before these gentlemen, complaining in some alarm to herself: "They expect me to tell them now and without further search or parley just where this missing page is. I shall have to balk that expectation without losing their confidence. But how?"

Summoning up her courage and meeting each inquiring eye with a look which seemed to carry a different message to each, she remarked very quietly: "This is not a matter to guess at. I must have time and I must look a little deeper into the facts just given me. I presume that the table I see over there is the one upon which Mr. Upjohn laid the manuscript during Mr. Spielhagen's unconsciousness."

All nodded.

"Is it-I mean the table-in the same condition it was then? Has nothing been taken from it except the manuscript?"

"Nothing."

"Then the missing page is not there," she smiled, pointing to its bare top. A pause, during which she stood with her gaze fixed on the floor before her. She was thinking and thinking hard.

Suddenly she came to a decision. Addressing Mr. Upjohn, she asked if he were quite sure that in taking the manuscript from Mr. Spielhagen's hand he had neither disarranged nor dropped one of its pages.

The answer was unequivocal.

"Then," she declared, with quiet assurance and a steady meeting with her own of every eye, "as the thirteenth page was not found among the others when they were taken from this table, nor on the persons of either Mr. Carroll or Mr. Spielhagen, it is still in that inner room."

"Impossible!" came from every lip, each in a different tone. "That room is absolutely empty."

"May I have a look at its emptiness?" she asked, with a naive glance at Mr. Van Broecklyn.

"There is positively nothing in the room but the chair Mr. Spielhagen sat on," objected that gentleman with a noticeable air of reluctance.

"Still, may I not have a look at it?" she persisted, with that disarming smile she kept for great occasions.

Mr. Van Broecklyn bowed. He could not refuse a request so urged, but his step was slow and his manner next to ungracious as he led the way to the door of the adjoining room and threw it open.

Just what she had been told to expect! Bare walls and floors and an empty chair! Yet she did not instantly withdraw, but stood silently contemplating the panelled wainscoting surrounding her, as though she suspected it of containing some secret hiding-place not apparent to the eye.

Mr. Van Broecklyn, noting this, hastened to say: "The walls are sound, Miss Strange. They contain no hidden cupboards."

"And that door?" she asked, pointing to a portion of the wainscoting so exactly like the rest that only the most experienced eye could detect the line of deeper colour which marked an opening.

For an instant Mr. Van Broecklyn stood rigid, then the immovable pallor, which was one of his chief characteristics, gave way to a deep flush, as he explained: "There was a door there once; but it has been permanently closed. With cement," he forced himself to add, his countenance losing its evanescent colour till it shone ghastly again in the strong light.

With difficulty Violet preserved her show of composure. "The door!" she murmured to herself. "I have found it. The great historic door!" But her tone was light as she ventured to say: "Then it can no longer be opened by your hand or any other?"

"It could not be opened with an axe."

Violet sighed in the midst of her triumph. Her curiosity had been satisfied, but the problem she had been set to solve looked inexplicable. But she was not one to yield easily to discouragement. Marking the disappointment approaching to disdain in every eye but Mr. Upjohn's, she drew herself up-(she had not far to draw) and made this final proposal.

"A sheet of paper," she remarked, "of the size of this one cannot be spirited away, or dissolved into thin air. It exists; it is here; and all we want is some happy thought in order to find it. I acknowledge that that happy thought has not come to me yet, but sometimes I get it in what may seem to you a very odd way. Forgetting myself, I try to assume the individuality of the person who has worked the mystery. If I can think with his thoughts, I possibly may follow him in his actions. In this case I should like to make believe for a few moments that I am Mr. Spielhagen" (with what a delicious smile she said this) "I should like to hold his thesis in my hand and be interrupted in my reading by Mr. Cornell offering his glass of cordial; then I should like to nod and slip off mentally into a deep sleep. Possibly in that sleep the dream may come which will clarify the whole situation. Will you humour me so far?"

A ridiculous concession, but finally she had her way; the farce was enacted and they left her as she had requested them to do, alone with her dreams in the small room.

Suddenly they heard her cry out, and in another moment she appeared before them, the picture of excitement.

"Is this chair standing exactly as it did when Mr. Spielhagen occupied it?" she asked.

"No," said Mr. Upjohn, "it faced the other way."

She stepped back and twirled the chair about with her disengaged hand.

"So?"

Mr. Upjohn and Mr. Spielhagen both nodded, so did the others when she glanced at them.

With a sign of ill-concealed satisfaction, she drew their attention to herself; then eagerly cried: "Gentlemen, look here!"

Seating herself, she allowed her whole body to relax till she presented the picture of one calmly asleep. Then, as they continued to gaze at her with fascinated eyes, not knowing what to expect, they saw something white escape from her lap and slide across the floor till it touched and was stayed by the wainscot. It was the top page of the manuscript she held, and as some inkling of the truth reached their astonished minds, she sprang impetuously to her feet and, pointing to the fallen sheet, cried: "Do you understand now? Look where it lies, and then look here!"

She had bounded towards the wall and was now on her knees pointing to the bottom of the wainscot, just a few inches to the left of the fallen page.

"A crack!" she cried, "under what was once the door. It's a very thin one, hardly perceptible to the eye. But see!" Here she laid her finger on the fallen paper and drawing it towards her, pushed it carefully against the lower edge of the wainscot. Half of it at once disappeared.

"I could easily slip it all through," she assured them, withdrawing the sheet and leaping to her feet in triumph. "You know now where the missing page lies, Mr. Spielhagen. All that remains is for Mr. Van Broecklyn to get it for you."

IV

The cries of mingled astonishment and relief which greeted this simple elucidation of the mystery were broken by a curiously choked, almost unintelligible, cry. It came from the man thus appealed to, who, unnoticed by them all, had started at her first word and gradually, as action followed action, withdrawn himself till he now stood alone and in an attitude almost of defiance behind the large table in the centre of the library.

"I am sorry," he began, with a brusqueness which gradually toned down into a forced urbanity as he beheld every eye fixed upon him in amazement, "that circumstances forbid my being of assistance to you in this unfortunate matter. If the paper lies where you say, and I see no other explanation of its loss, I am afraid it will have to remain there for this night at least. The cement in which that door is embedded is thick as any wall; it would take men with pickaxes, possibly with dynamite, to make a breach there wide enough for any one to reach in. And we are far from any such help."

In the midst of the consternation caused by these words, the clock on the mantel behind his back rang out the hour. It was but a double stroke, but that meant two hours after midnight and had the effect of a knell in the hearts of those most interested.

"But I am expected to give that formula into the hands of our manager before six o'clock in the morning. The steamer sails at a quarter after."

"Can't you reproduce a copy of it from memory?" some one asked; "and insert it in its proper place among the pages you hold there?"

"The paper would not be the same. That would lead to questions and the truth would come out. As the chief value of the process contained in that formula lies in its secrecy, no explanation I could give would relieve me from the suspicions which an acknowledgment of the existence of a third copy, however well hidden, would entail. I should lose my great opportunity."

Mr. Cornell's state of mind can be imagined. In an access of mingled regret and despair, he cast a glance at Violet, who, with a nod of understanding, left the little room in which they still stood, and approached Mr. Van Broecklyn.

Lifting up her head,-for he was very tall,-and instinctively rising on her toes the nearer to reach his ear, she asked in a cautious whisper: "Is there no other way of reaching that place?"

She acknowledged afterwards, that for one moment her heart stood still from fear, such a change took place in his face, though she says he did not move a muscle. Then, just when she was expecting from him some harsh or forbidding word, he wheeled abruptly away from her and crossing to a window at his side, lifted the shade and looked out. When he returned, he was his usual self so far as she could see.

"There is a way," he now confided to her in a tone as low as her own, "but it can only be taken by a child."

"Not by me?" she asked, smiling down at her own childish proportions.

For an instant he seemed taken aback, then she saw his hand begin to tremble and his lips twitch. Somehow-she knew not why-she began to pity him, and asked herself as she felt rather than saw the struggle in his mind, that here was a trouble which if once understood would greatly dwarf that of the two men in the room behind them.

"I am discreet," she whisperingly declared. "I have heard the history of that door-how it was against the tradition of the family to have it opened. There must have been some dreadful reason. But old superstitions do not affect me, and if you will allow me to take the way you mention, I will follow your bidding exactly, and will not trouble myself about anything but the recovery of this paper, which must lie only a little way inside that blocked-up door."

Was his look one of rebuke at her presumption, or just the constrained expression of a perturbed mind? Probably, the latter, for while she watched him for some understanding of his mood, he reached out his hand and touched one of the satin folds crossing her shoulder.

"You would soil this irretrievably," said he.

"There is stuff in the stores for another," she smiled. Slowly his touch deepened into pressure. Watching him she saw the rust of some old fear or dominant superstition melt under her eyes, and was quite prepared, when he remarked, with what for him was a lightsome air: "I will buy the stuff, if you will dare the darkness and intricacies of our old cellar. I can give you no light. You will have to feel your way according to my direction."

"I am ready to dare anything."

He left her abruptly.

"I will warn Miss Digby," he called back. "She shall go with you as far as the cellar."

V

Violet in her short career as an investigator of mysteries had been in many a situation calling for more than womanly nerve and courage. But never-or so it seemed to her at the time-had she experienced a greater depression of spirit than when she stood with Miss Digby before a small door at the extreme end of the cellar, and understood that here was her road-a road which once entered, she must take alone.

First, it was such a small door! No child older than eleven could possibly squeeze through it. But she was of the size of a child of eleven and might possibly manage that difficulty.

Secondly: there are always some unforeseen possibilities in every situation, and though she had listened carefully to Mr. Van Broecklyn's directions and was sure that she knew them by heart, she wished she had kissed her father more tenderly in leaving him that night for the ball, and that she had not pouted so undutifully at some harsh stricture he had made. Did this mean fear? She despised the feeling if it did.

Thirdly: she hated darkness. She knew this when she offered herself for this undertaking; but she was in a bright room at the moment and only imagined what she must now face as a reality. But one jet had been lit in the cellar and that near the entrance. Mr. Van Broecklyn seemed not to need light, even in his unfastening of the small door which Violet was sure had been protected by more than one lock.

Doubt, shadow, and a solitary climb between unknown walls, with only a streak of light for her goal, and the clinging pressure of Florence Digby's hand on her own for solace-surely the prospect was one to tax the courage of her young heart to its limit. But she had promised, and she would fulfil. So with a brave smile she stooped to the little door, and in another moment had started on her journey.

For journey the shortest distance may seem when every inch means a heart-throb and one grows old in traversing a foot. At first the way was easy; she had but to crawl up a slight incline with the comforting consciousness that two people were within reach of her voice, almost within sound of her beating heart. But presently she came to a turn, beyond which her fingers failed to reach any wall on her left. Then came a step up which she stumbled, and farther on a short flight, each tread of which she had been told to test before she ventured to climb it, lest the decay of innumerable years should have weakened the wood too much to bear her weight. One, two, three, four, five steps! Then a landing with an open space beyond. Half of her journey was done. Here she felt she could give a minute to drawing her breath naturally, if the air, unchanged in years, would allow her to do so. Besides, here she had been enjoined to do a certain thing and to do it according to instructions. Three matches had been given her and a little night candle. Denied all light up to now, it was at this point she was to light her candle and place it on the floor, so that in returning she should not miss the staircase and get a fall. She had promised to do this, and was only too happy to see a spark of light scintillate into life in the immeasurable darkness.

She was now in a great room long closed to the world, where once officers in Colonial wars had feasted, and more than one council had been held. A room, too, which had seen more than one tragic happening, as its almost unparalleled isolation proclaimed. So much Mr. Van Broecklyn had told her; but she was warned to be careful in traversing it and not upon any pretext to swerve aside from the right-hand wall till she came to a huge mantelpiece. This passed, and a sharp corner turned, she ought to see somewhere in the dim spaces before her a streak of vivid light shining through the crack at the bottom of the blocked-up door. The paper should be somewhere near this streak.

All simple, all easy of accomplishment, if only that streak of light were all she was likely to see or think of. If the horror which was gripping her throat should not take shape! If things would remain shrouded in impenetrable darkness, and not force themselves in shadowy suggestion upon her excited fancy! But the blackness of the passage-way through which she had just struggled, was not to be found here. Whether it was the effect of that small flame flickering at the top of the staircase behind her, or of some change in her own powers of seeing, surely there was a difference in her present outlook. Tall shapes were becoming visible-the air was no longer blank-she could see-Then suddenly she saw why. In the wall high up on her right was a window. It was small and all but invisible, being covered on the outside with vines, and on the inside with the cobwebs of a century. But some small gleams from the starlight night came through, making phantasms out of ordinary things, which unseen were horrible enough, and half seen choked her heart with terror.

"I cannot bear it," she whispered to herself even while creeping forward, her hand upon the wall. "I will close my eyes" was her next thought. "I will make my own darkness," and with a spasmodic forcing of her lids together, she continued to creep on, passing the mantelpiece, where she knocked against something which fell with an awful clatter.

This sound, followed as it was by that of smothered voices from the excited group awaiting the result of her experiment from behind the impenetrable wall she should be nearing now if she had followed her instructions aright, freed her instantly from her fancies; and opening her eyes once more, she cast a look ahead, and to her delight, saw but a few steps away, the thin streak of bright light which marked the end of her journey.

It took her but a moment after that to find the missing page, and picking it up in haste from the dusty floor, she turned herself quickly about and joyfully began to retrace her steps. Why then, was it that in the course of a few minutes more her voice suddenly broke into a wild, unearthly shriek, which ringing with terror burst the bounds of that dungeon-like room, and sank, a barbed shaft, into the breasts of those awaiting the result of her doubtful adventure, at either end of this dread no-thoroughfare.

What had happened?

If they had thought to look out, they would have seen that the moon-held in check by a bank of cloud occupying half the heavens-had suddenly burst its bounds and was sending long bars of revealing light into every uncurtained window.

VI

Florence Digby, in her short and sheltered life, had possibly never known any very great or deep emotion. But she touched the bottom of extreme terror at that moment, as with her ears still thrilling with Violet's piercing cry, she turned to look at Mr. Van Broecklyn, and beheld the instantaneous wreck it had made of this seemingly strong man. Not till he came to lie in his coffin would he show a more ghastly countenance; and trembling herself almost to the point of falling, she caught him by the arm and sought to read in his face what had happened. Something disastrous she was sure; something which he had feared and was partially prepared for, yet which in happening had crushed him. Was it a pitfall into which the poor little lady had fallen? If so-But he is speaking-mumbling low words to himself. Some of them she can hear. He is reproaching himself-repeating over and over that he should never have taken such a chance; that he should have remembered her youth-the weakness of a young girl's nerve. He had been mad, and now-and now- With the repetition of this word his murmuring ceased. All his energies were now absorbed in listening at the low door separating him from what he was agonising to know-a door impossible to enter, impossible to enlarge-a barrier to all help-an opening whereby sound might pass but nothing else, save her own small body, now lying – where?

"Is she hurt?" faltered Florence, stooping, herself, to listen. "Can you hear anything-anything?"

For an instant he did not answer; every faculty was absorbed in the one sense; then slowly and in gasps he began to mutter: "I think-I hear-»something.» Her step-no, no, no step. All is as quiet as death; not a sound,-not a breath-she has fainted. O God! O God! Why this calamity on top of all!"

He had sprung to his feet at the utterance of this invocation, but next moment was down on his knees again, listening-listening.

Never was silence more profound; they were hearkening for murmurs from a tomb. Florence began to sense the full horror of it all, and was swaying helplessly when Mr. Van Broecklyn impulsively lifted his hand in an admonitory Hush! and through the daze of her faculties a small far sound began to make itself heard, growing louder as she waited, then becoming faint again, then altogether ceasing only to renew itself once more, till it resolved into an approaching step, faltering in its course, but coming ever nearer and nearer.

"She's safe! She's not hurt!" sprang from Florence's lips in inexpressible relief; and expecting Mr. Van Broecklyn to show an equal joy, she turned towards him, with the cheerful cry: "Now if she has been so fortunate as to find that missing page, we shall all be repaid for our fright."

A movement on his part, a shifting of position which brought him finally to his feet, but he gave no other proof of having heard her, nor did his countenance mirror her relief. "It is as if he dreaded, instead of hailed, her return," was Florence's inward comment as she watched him involuntarily recoil at each fresh token of Violet's advance.

Yet because this seemed so very unnatural, she persisted in her efforts to lighten the situation, and when he made no attempt to encourage Violet in her approach, she herself stooped and called out a cheerful welcome which must have rung sweetly in the poor little detective's ears.

A sorry sight was Violet, when, helped by Florence, she finally crawled into view through the narrow opening and stood once again on the cellar floor. Pale, trembling, and soiled with the dust of years, she presented a helpless figure enough, till the joy in Florence's face recalled some of her spirit, and, glancing down at her hand in which a sheet of paper was visible, she asked for Mr. Spielhagen.

"I've got the formula," she said. "If you will bring him, I will hand it over to him here."

Not a word of her adventure; nor so much as one glance at Mr. Van Broecklyn, standing far back in the shadows.

Nor was she more communicative, when, the formula restored and everything made right with Mr. Spielhagen, they all came together again in the library for a final word.

"I was frightened by the silence and the darkness, and so cried out," she explained in answer to their questions. "Any one would have done so who found himself alone in so musty a place," she added, with an attempt at lightsomeness which deepened the pallor on Mr. Van Broecklyn's cheek, already sufficiently noticeable to have been remarked upon by more than one.

"No ghosts?" laughed Mr. Cornell, too happy in the return of his hopes to be fully sensible of the feelings of those about him. "No whispers from impalpable lips or touches from spectre hands? Nothing to explain the mystery of that room so long shut up that even Mr. Van Broecklyn declares himself ignorant of its secret?"

"Nothing," returned Violet, showing her dimples in full force now.

"If Miss Strange had any such experiences-if she has anything to tell worthy of so marked a curiosity, she will tell it now," came from the gentleman just alluded to, in tones so stern and strange that all show of frivolity ceased on the instant. "Have you anything to tell, Miss Strange?"

Greatly startled, she regarded him with widening eyes for a moment, then with a move towards the door, remarked, with a general look about her: "Mr. Van Broecklyn knows his own house, and doubtless can relate its histories if he will. I am a busy little body who having finished my work am now ready to return home, there to wait for the next problem which an indulgent fate may offer me."

She was near the threshold-she was about to take her leave, when suddenly she felt two hands fall on her shoulder, and turning, met the eyes of Mr. Van Broecklyn burning into her own.

«"You saw!"«dropped in an almost inaudible whisper from his lips.

The shiver which shook her answered him better than any word.

With an exclamation of despair, he withdrew his hands, and facing the others now standing together in a startled group, he said, as soon as he could recover some of his self-possession: "I must ask for another hour of your company. I can no longer keep my sorrow to myself. A dividing line has just been drawn across my life, and I must have the sympathy of someone who knows my past, or I shall go mad in my self-imposed solitude. Come back, Miss Strange. You of all others have the prior right to hear."

VII

"I shall have to begin," said he, when they were all seated and ready to listen, "by giving you some idea, not so much of the family tradition, as of the effect of this tradition upon all who bore the name of Van Broecklyn. This is not the only house, even in America, which contains a room shut away from intrusion. In England there are many. But there is this difference between most of them and ours. No bars or locks forcibly held shut the door we were forbidden to open. The command was enough; that and the superstitious fear which such a command, attended by a long and unquestioning obedience, was likely to engender. "I know no more than you do why some early ancestor laid his ban upon this room. But from my earliest years I was given to understand that there was one latch in the house which was never to be lifted; that any fault would be forgiven sooner than that; that the honour of the whole family stood in the way of disobedience, and that I was to preserve that honour to my dying day. You will say that all this is fantastic, and wonder that sane people in these modern times should subject themselves to such a ridiculous restriction, especially when no good reason was alleged, and the very source of the tradition from which it sprung forgotten. You are right; but if you look long into human nature, you will see that the bonds which hold the firmest are not material ones-that an idea will make a man and mould a character-that it lies at the source of all heroisms and is to be courted or feared as the case may be.

"For me it possessed a power proportionate to my loneliness. I don't think there was ever a more lonely child. My father and mother were so unhappy in each other's companionship that one or other of them was almost always away. But I saw little of either even when they were at home. The constraint in their attitude towards each other affected their conduct towards me. I have asked myself more than once if either of them had any real affection for me. To my father I spoke of her; to her of him; and never pleasurably. This I am forced to say, or you cannot understand my story. Would to God I could tell another tale! Would to God I had such memories as other men have of a father's clasp, a mother's kiss-but no! my grief, already profound, might have become abysmal. Perhaps it is best as it is; only, I might have been a different child, and made for myself a different fate-who knows.

"As it was, I was thrown almost entirely upon my own resources for any amusement. This led me to a discovery I made one day. In a far part of the cellar behind some heavy casks, I found a little door. It was so low-so exactly fitted to my small body, that I had the greatest desire to enter it. But I could not get around the casks. At last an expedient occurred to me. We had an old servant who came nearer loving me than any one else. One day when I chanced to be alone in the cellar, I took out my ball and began throwing it about. Finally it landed behind the casks, and I ran with a beseeching cry to Michael, to move them.

"It was a task requiring no little strength and address, but he managed, after a few herculean efforts, to shift them aside and I saw with delight my way opened to that; mysterious little door. But I did not approach it then; some instinct deterred me. But when the opportunity came for me to venture there alone, I did so, in the most adventurous spirit, and began my operations by sliding behind the casks and testing the handle of the little door. It turned, and after a pull or two the door yielded. With my heart in my mouth, I stooped and peered in. I could see nothing-a black hole and nothing more. This caused me a moment's hesitation. I was afraid of the dark-had always been. But curiosity and the spirit of adventure triumphed. Saying to myself that I was Robinson Crusoe exploring the cave, I crawled in, only to find that I had gained nothing. It was as dark inside as it had looked to be from without.

"There is no fun in this, so I crawled back, and when I tried the experiment again, it was with a bit of candle in my hand, and a surreptitious match or two. What I saw, when with a very trembling little hand I had lighted one of the matches, would have been disappointing to most boys, but not to me. The litter and old boards I saw in odd corners about me were full of possibilities, while in the dimness beyond I seemed to perceive a sort of staircase which might lead-I do not think I made any attempt to answer that question even in my own mind, but when, after some hesitation and a sense of great daring, I finally crept up those steps, I remember very well my sensation at finding myself in front of a narrow closed door. It suggested too vividly the one in Grandfather's little room-the door in the wainscot which we were never to open. I had my first real trembling fit here, and at once fascinated and repelled by this obstruction I stumbled and lost my candle, which, going out in the fall, left me in total darkness and a very frightened state of mind. For my imagination which had been greatly stirred by my own vague thoughts of the forbidden room, immediately began to people the space about me with ghoulish figures. How should I escape them, how ever reach my own little room again undetected and in safety?

"But these terrors, deep as they were, were nothing to the real fright which seized me when, the darkness finally braved, and the way found back into the bright, wide-open halls of the house, I became conscious of having dropped something besides the candle. My match-box was gone-not my match-box, but my grandfather's which I had found lying on his table and carried off on this adventure, in all the confidence of irresponsible youth. To make use of it for a little while, trusting to his not missing it in the confusion I had noticed about the house that morning, was one thing; to lose it was another. It was no common box. Made of gold and cherished for some special reason well known to himself, I had often heard him say that some day I would appreciate its value and be glad to own it. And I had left it in that hole and at any minute he might miss it-possibly ask for it! The day was one of torment. My mother was away or shut up in her room. My father-I don't know just what thoughts I had about him. He was not to be seen either, and the servants cast strange looks at me when I spoke his name. But I little realised the blow which had just fallen upon the house in his definite departure, and only thought of my own trouble, and of how I should meet my grandfather's eye when the hour came for him to draw me to his knee for his usual good-night.

"That I was spared this ordeal for the first time this very night first comforted me, then added to my distress. He had discovered his loss and was angry. On the morrow he would ask me for the box and I would have to lie, for never could I find the courage to tell him where I had been. Such an act of presumption he would never forgive, or so I thought as I lay and shivered in my little bed. That his coldness, his neglect, sprang from the discovery just made that my mother as well as my father had just fled the house forever was as little known to me as the morning calamity. I had been given my usual tendance and was tucked safely into bed; but the gloom, the silence which presently settled upon the house had a very different explanation in my mind from the real one. My sin (for such it loomed large in my mind by this time) coloured the whole situation and accounted for every event.

"At what hour I slipped from my bed on to the cold floor, I shall never know. To me it seemed to be in the dead of night; but I doubt if it were more than ten. So slowly creep away the moments to a wakeful child. I had made a great resolve. Awful as the prospect seemed to me,-frightened as I was by the very thought,-I had determined in my small mind to go down into the cellar, and into that midnight hole again, in search of the lost box. I would take a candle and matches, this time from my own mantel-shelf, and if everyone was asleep, as appeared from the deathly quiet of the house, I would be able to go and come without anybody ever being the wiser.

"Dressing in the dark, I found my matches and my candle and, putting them in one of my pockets, softly opened my door and looked out. Nobody was stirring; every light was out except a solitary one in the lower hall. That this still burned conveyed no meaning to my mind. How could I know that the house was so still and the rooms so dark because everyone was out searching for some clue to my mother's flight? If I had looked at the clock-but I did not; I was too intent upon my errand, too filled with the fever of my desperate undertaking, to be affected by anything not bearing directly upon it.

"Of the terror caused by my own shadow on the wall as I made the turn in the hall below, I have as keen a recollection today as though it happened yesterday. But that did not deter me; nothing deterred me, till safe in the cellar I crouched down behind the casks to get my breath again before entering the hole beyond.

"I had made some noise in feeling my way around these casks, and I trembled lest these sounds had been heard upstairs! But this fear soon gave place to one far greater. Other sounds were making themselves heard. A din of small skurrying feet above, below, on every side of me! Rats! rats in the wall! rats on the cellar bottom! How I ever stirred from the spot I do not know, but when I did stir, it was to go forward, and enter the uncanny hole.

"I had intended to light my candle when I got inside; but for some reason I went stumbling along in the dark, following the wall till I got to the steps where I had dropped the box. Here a light was necessary, but my hand did not go to my pocket. I thought it better to climb the steps first, and softly one foot found the tread and then another. I had only three more to climb and then my right hand, now feeling its way along the wall, would be free to strike a match. I climbed the three steps and was steadying myself against the door for a final plunge, when something happened-something so strange, so unexpected, and so incredible that I wonder I did not shriek aloud in my terror. The door was moving under my hand. It was slowly opening inward. I could feel the chill made by the widening crack. Moment by moment this chill increased; the gap was growing-a presence was there-a presence before which I sank in a small heap upon the landing. Would it advance? Had it feet-hands? Was it a presence which could be felt?

"Whatever it was, it made no attempt to pass, and presently I lifted my head only to quake anew at the sound of a voice-a human voice-my mother's voice-so near me that by putting out my arms I might have touched her.

"She was speaking to my father. I knew it from the tone. She was saying words which, little understood as they were, made such a havoc in my youthful mind that I have never forgotten them.

'"I have come!' she said. They think I have fled the house and are looking far and wide for me. We shall not be disturbed. Who would think of looking here for either you or me.'

"Here! The word sank like a plummet in my breast. I had known for some few minutes that I was on the threshold of the forbidden room; but they were in it. I can scarcely make you understand the tumult which this awoke in my brain. Somehow, I had never thought that any such braving of the house's law would be possible.

"I heard my father's answer, but it conveyed no meaning to me. I also realised that he spoke from a distance,-that he was at one end of the room while we were at the other. I was presently to have this idea confirmed, for while I was striving with all my might and main to subdue my very heart-throbs so that she would not hear me or suspect my presence, the darkness-I should rather say the blackness of the place yielded to a flash of lightning-heat lightning, all glare and no sound-and I caught an instantaneous vision of my father's figure standing with gleaming things about him, which affected me at the moment as supernatural, but which, in later years, I decided to have been weapons hanging on a wall.

"She saw him too, for she gave a quick laugh and said they would not need any candles; and then, there was another flash and I saw something in his hand and something in hers, and though I did not yet understand, I felt myself turning deathly sick and gave a choking gasp which was lost in the rush she made into the centre of the room, and the keenness of her swift low cry.

«" 'Garde-toi!» for only one of us will ever leave this room alive!'

"A duel! a duel to the death between this husband and wife-this father and mother-in this hole of dead tragedies and within the sight and hearing of their child! Has Satan ever devised a scheme more hideous for ruining the life of an eleven-year-old boy!

"Not that I took it all in at once. I was too innocent and much too dazed to comprehend such hatred, much less the passions which engendered it. I only knew that something horrible-something beyond the conception of my childish mind-was going to take place in the darkness before me; and the terror of it made me speechless; would to God it had made me deaf and blind and dead!

"She had dashed from her corner and he had slid away from his, as the next fantastic gleam which lit up the room showed me. It also showed the weapons in their hands, and for a moment I felt reassured when I saw that these were swords, for I had seen them before with foils in their hands practising for exercise, as they said, in the great garret. But the swords had buttons on them, and this time the tips were sharp and shone in the keen light.

"An exclamation from her and a growl of rage from him were followed by movements I could scarcely hear, but which were terrifying from their very quiet. Then the sound of a clash. The swords had crossed.

"Had the lightning flashed forth then, the end of one of them might have occurred. But the darkness remained undisturbed, and when the glare relit the great room again, they were already far apart. This called out a word from him; the one sentence he spoke-I can never forget it: " 'Rhoda, there is blood on your sleeve; I have wounded you. Shall we call it off and fly, as the poor creatures in there think we have, to the opposite ends of the earth?'

"I almost spoke; I almost added my childish plea to his for them to stop-to remember me and stop. But not a muscle in my throat responded to my agonized effort. Her cold, clear 'No!' fell before my tongue was loosed or my heart freed from the ponderous weight crushing it.

"I have vowed and – keep my promises – she went on in a tone quite strange to me. 'What would either's life be worth with the other alive and happy in this world.'

"He made no answer; and those subtle movements-shadows of movements I might almost call them-recommenced. Then there came a sudden cry, shrill and poignant-had Grandfather been in his room he would surely have heard it-and the flash coming almost simultaneously with its utterance, I saw what has haunted my sleep from that day to this, my father pinned against the wall, sword still in hand, and before him my mother, fiercely triumphant, her staring eyes fixed on his and- "Nature could bear no more; the band loosened from my throat; the oppression lifted from my breast long enough for me to give one wild wail and she turned, saw (heaven sent its flashes quickly at this moment) and recognising my childish form, all the horror of her deed (or so I have fondly hoped) rose within her, and she gave a start and fell full upon the point upturned to receive her.

"A groan; then a gasping sigh from him, and silence settled upon the room and upon my heart, and so far as I knew upon the whole created world.

"That is my story, friends. Do you wonder that I have never been or lived like other men?"

After a few moments of sympathetic silence, Mr. Van Broecklyn went on to say: "I don't think I ever had a moment's doubt that my parents both lay dead on the floor of that great room. When I came to myself-which may have been soon, and may not have been for a long while-the lightning had ceased to flash, leaving the darkness stretching like a blank pall between me and that spot in which were concentrated all the terrors of which my imagination was capable. I dared not enter it. I dared not take one step that way. My instinct was to fly and hide my trembling body again in my own bed; and associated with this, in fact dominating it and making me old before my time, was another-never to tell; never to let any one, least of all my grandfather-know what that forbidden room now contained. I felt in an irresistible sort of way that my father's and mother's honour was at stake. Besides, terror held me back; I felt that I should die if I spoke. Childhood has such terrors and such heroisms. Silence often covers in such, abysses of thought and feeling which astonish us in later years. There is no suffering like a child's, terrified by a secret which it dare not for some reason disclose.

"Events aided me. When, in desperation to see once more the light and all the things which linked me to life-my little bed, the toys on the window-sill, my squirrel in its cage-I forced myself to retraverse the empty house, expecting at every turn to hear my father's voice or come upon the image of my mother-yes, such was the confusion of my mind, though I knew well enough even then that they were dead and that I should never hear the one or see the other. I was so benumbed with the cold in my half-dressed condition, that I woke in a fever next morning after a terrible dream which forced from my lips the cry of 'Mother! Mother!'-only that.

"I was cautious even in delirium. This delirium and my flushed cheeks and shining eyes led them to be very careful of me. I was told that my mother was away from home; and when after two days of search they were quite sure that all efforts to find either her or my father were likely to prove fruitless, that she had gone to Europe where we would follow her as soon as I was well. This promise, offering as it did, a prospect of immediate release from the terrors which were consuming me, had an extraordinary effect upon me. I got up out of my bed saying that I was well now and ready to start on the instant. The doctor, finding my pulse equable, and my whole condition wonderfully improved, and attributing it, as was natural, to my hope of soon joining my mother, advised my whim to be humoured and this hope kept active till travel and intercourse with children should give me strength and prepare me for the bitter truth ultimately awaiting me. They listened to him and in twenty-four hours our preparations were made. We saw the house closed-with what emotions surging in one small breast, I leave you to imagine-and then started on our long tour. For five years we wandered over the continent of Europe, my grandfather finding distraction, as well as myself, in foreign scenes and associations.

"But return was inevitable. What I suffered on re-entering this house, God and my sleepless pillow alone know. Had any discovery been made in our absence; or would it be made now that renovation and repairs of all kinds were necessary? Time finally answered me. My secret was safe and likely to continue so, and this fact once settled, life became endurable, if not cheerful. Since then I have spent only two nights out of this house, and they were unavoidable. When my grandfather died I had the wainscot door cemented in. It was done from this side and the cement painted to match the wood. No one opened the door nor have I ever crossed its threshold. Sometimes I think I have been foolish; and sometimes I know that I have been very wise. My reason has stood firm; how do I know that it would have done so if I had subjected myself to the possible discovery that one or both of them might have been saved if I had disclosed instead of concealed my adventure."

A pause during which white horror had shone on every face; then with a final glance at Violet, he said: "What sequel do you see to this story, Miss Strange? I can tell the past, I leave you to picture the future."

Rising, she let her eye travel from face to face till it rested on the one awaiting it, when she answered dreamily: "If some morning in the news column there should appear an account of the ancient and historic home of the Van Broecklyns having burned to the ground in the night, the whole country would mourn, and the city feel defrauded of one of its treasures. But there are five persons who would see in it the sequel which you ask for."

When this happened, as it did happen, some few weeks later, the astonishing discovery was made that no insurance had been put upon this house. Why was it that after such a loss Mr. Van Broecklyn seemed to renew his youth? It was a constant source of comment among his friends.

ARTHUR B. REEVE (1880-1936)

It is sometimes said that Thomas Edison invented the twentieth century. It could be said with equal justification that the public's fascination with science and inventions produced before World War I made possible the widespread success of Arthur B. Reeve's scientific sleuth, Craig Kennedy.

Reeve graduated from Princeton University with a Phi Beta Kappa key. He then studied law, but opted to practice journalism instead. He worked as an editor of Public Opinion, began writing science articles for magazines, and created detective stories in which scientific gadgets are the focus of the plot and the means of its solution.

Chemistry professor Craig Kennedy is Reeve's sleuth. A newspaper reporter named Walter Jameson is the tag-along narrator who, in the Watson tradition, asks the questions that provoke the scientific-sounding explanations that made Reeve's books best-sellers in the United States and Europe. Read today, some of the professor's science seems doubtful at best; but in Reeve's day, the pseudo-science sounded authentic enough to wow readers.

Without the science, Reeve's plots would be mundane. Certainly, his characters are cut out of cardboard. Kennedy is a Sherlock Holmes imitation, an omniscient sleuth whose ratiocinative powers are enhanced by his specialised knowledge. Whereas Holmes is an expert on gentlemanly clues like varieties of cigar ash, Kennedy is a wiz regarding whatever is new in the world of science. Years before the Federal Bureau of Investigation and its famous crime laboratory were created, Professor Kennedy was bringing criminals to justice by identifying typewriter keys, analyzing blood stains, detecting drugs through chemistry, using X-rays, and applying modern psychological principles. The War Department was so impressed by Professor Kennedy that it asked Reeve to establish a scientific crime laboratory to help in the detection of the Kaiser's spies during World War I.

«The Beauty Mask» is typical of Reeve's work. While readers today may chuckle delightedly at the no longer impressive 'scientific' explanations that Kennedy offers, his earnestness only adds to the period charm of the piece. And it is easy to imagine that the application of futuristic nuclear science to the unraveling of a crime was very exciting stuff in more innocent times.

The Beauty Mask

"Oh, Mr. Jameson, if they could only wake her up-find out what is the matter-do something! This suspense is killing both mother and myself."

Scenting a good feature story, my city editor had sent me out on an assignment, my sole equipment being a clipping of two paragraphs from the morning Star.

GIRL IN COMA SIX DAYS-SHOWS NO SIGN OF REVIVAL Virginia Blakeley, the nineteen-year-old daughter of Mrs. Stuart Blakeley, of Riverside Drive, who has been in a state of coma for six days, still shows no sign of returning consciousness.

Ever since Monday some member of her family has been constantly beside her. Her mother and sister have both vainly tried to coax her back to consciousness, but their efforts have not met with the slightest response. Dr. Calvert Haynes, the family physician, and several specialists who have been called in consultation, are completely baffled by the strange malady.

Often I had read of cases of morbid sleep lasting for days and even for weeks. But this was the first case I had ever actually encountered and I was glad to take the assignment.

The Blakeleys, as every one knew, had inherited from Stuart Blakeley a very considerable fortune in real estate in one of the most rapidly developing sections of upper New York, and on the death of their mother the two girls, Virginia and Cynthia, would be numbered among the wealthiest heiresses of the city.

They lived in a big sandstone mansion fronting the Hudson and it was with some misgiving that I sent up my card. Both Mrs. Blakeley and her other daughter, however, met me in the reception-room, thinking, perhaps, from what I had written on the card, that I might have some assistance to offer.

Mrs. Blakeley was a well-preserved lady, past middle-age, and very nervous.

"Mercy, Cynthia!" she exclaimed, as I explained my mission, "it's another one of those reporters. No, I cannot say anything-not a word. I don't know anything. See Doctor Haynes. I-"

"But, mother," interposed Cynthia, more calmly, "the thing is in the papers. It may be that some one who reads of it may know of something that can be done. Who can tell?"

"Well, I won't say anything," persisted the elder woman. "I don't like all this publicity. Did the newspapers ever do anything but harm to your poor dear father? No, I won't talk. It won't do us a bit of good. And you, Cynthia, had better be careful."

Mrs. Blakeley backed out of the door, but Cynthia, who was a few years older than her sister, had evidently acquired independence. At least she felt capable of coping with an ordinary reporter who looked no more formidable than myself.

"It is quite possible that some one who knows about such cases may learn of this," I urged.

She hesitated as her mother disappeared, and looked at me a moment, then, her feelings getting the better of her, burst forth with the strange appeal I have already quoted.

It was as though I had come at just an opportune moment when she must talk to some outsider to relieve her pent-up feelings.

By an adroit question here and there, as we stood in the reception-hall, I succeeded in getting the story, which seemed to be more of human interest than of news. I even managed to secure a photograph of Virginia as she was before the strange sleep fell on her.

Briefly, as her sister told it, Virginia was engaged to Hampton Haynes, a young medical student at the college where his father was a professor of diseases of the heart. The Hayneses were of a fine Southern family which had never recovered from the war and had finally come to New York. The father, Dr. Calvert Haynes, in addition to being a well-known physician, was the family physician of the Blakeleys, as I already knew.

"Twice the date of the marriage has been set, only to be postponed," added Cynthia Blakeley. "We don't know what to do. And Hampton is frantic."

"Then this is really the second attack of the morbid sleep?" I queried.

"Yes-in a few weeks. Only the other wasn't so long-not more than a day."

She said it in a hesitating manner which I could not account for. Either she thought there might be something more back of it or she recalled her mother's aversion to reporters and did not know whether she was saying too much or not.

"Do you really fear that there is something wrong?" I asked, significantly, hastily choosing the former explanation.

Cynthia Blakeley looked quickly at the door through which her mother had retreated.

"I-I don't know," she replied, tremulously. "I don't know why I am talking to you. I'm so afraid, too, that the newspapers may say something that isn't true."

"You would like to get at the truth, if I promise to hold the story back?" I persisted, catching her eye.

"Yes," she answered, in a low tone, "but-" then stopped.

"I will ask my friend, Professor Kennedy, at the university, to come here," I urged.

"You know him?" she asked, eagerly. "He will come?"

"Without a doubt," I reassured, waiting for her to say no more, but picking up the telephone receiver on a stand in the hall.

Fortunately I found Craig at his laboratory and a few hasty words were all that was necessary to catch his interest.

"I must tell mother," Cynthia cried, excitedly, as I hung up the receiver. "Surely she cannot object to that. Will you wait here?"

As I waited for Craig, I tried to puzzle the case out for myself. Though I knew nothing about it as yet, I felt sure that I had not made a mistake and that there was some mystery here.

Suddenly I became aware that the two women were talking in the next room, though too low for me to catch what they were saying. It was evident, however, that Cynthia was having some difficulty in persuading her mother that everything was all right.

"Well, Cynthia," I heard her mother say, finally, as she left the room for one farther back, "I hope it will be all right-that is all I can say."

What was it that Mrs. Blakeley so feared? Was it merely the unpleasant notoriety? One could not help the feeling that there was something more that she suspected, perhaps knew, but would not tell. Yet, apparently, it was aside from her desire to have her daughter restored to normal. She was at sea, herself, I felt.

"Poor dear mother!" murmured Cynthia, rejoining me in a few moments. "She hardly knows just what it is she does want-except that we want Virginia well again."

We had not long to wait for Craig. What I had told him over the telephone had been quite enough to arouse his curiosity.

Both Mrs. Blakeley and Cynthia met him, at first a little fearfully, but quickly reassured by his manner, as well as my promise to see that nothing appeared in the Star which would be distasteful.

"Oh, if some one could only bring back our little girl!" cried Mrs. Blakeley, with suppressed emotion, leading the way with her daughter upstairs.

It was only for a moment that I could see Craig alone to explain the impressions I had received, but it was enough.

"I'm glad you called me," he whispered. "There is something queer."

We followed them up to the dainty bedroom in flowered enamel where Virginia Blakeley lay, and it was then for the first time that we saw her. Kennedy drew a chair up beside the little white bed and went to work almost as though he had been a physician himself.

Partly from what I observed myself and partly from what he told me afterward, I shall try to describe the peculiar condition in which she was.

She lay there lethargic, scarcely breathing. Once she had been a tall, slender, fair girl, with a sort of wild grace. Now she seemed to be completely altered. I could not help thinking of the contrast between her looks now and the photograph in my pocket.

Not only was her respiration slow, but her pulse was almost imperceptible, less than forty a minute. Her temperature was far below normal, and her blood pressure low. Once she had seemed fully a woman, with all the strength and promise of precocious maturity. But now there was something strange about her looks. It is difficult to describe. It was not that she was no longer a young woman, but there seemed to be something almost sexless about her. It was as though her secondary sex characteristics were no longer feminine, but-for want of a better word-neuter.

Yet, strange to say, in spite of the lethargy which necessitated at least some artificial feeding, she was not falling away. She seemed, if anything, plump. To all appearances there was really a retardation of metabolism connected with the trance-like sleep. She was actually gaining in weight!

As he noted one of these things after another, Kennedy looked at her long and carefully. I followed the direction of his eyes. Over her nose, just a trifle above the line of her eyebrows, was a peculiar red mark, a sore, which was very disfiguring, as though it were hard to heal.

"What is that?" he asked Mrs. Blakeley, finally.

"I don't know," she replied, slowly. "We've all noticed it. It came just after the sleep began."

"You have no idea what could have caused it?"

"Both Virginia and Cynthia have been going to a face specialist," she admitted, "to have their skins treated for freckles. After the treatment they wore masks which were supposed to have some effect on the skin. I don't know. Could it be that?"

Kennedy looked sharply at Cynthia's face. There was no red mark over her nose. But there were certainly no freckles on either of the girls' faces now, either.

"Oh, mother," remonstrated Cynthia, "it couldn't be anything Doctor Chapelle did."

"Doctor Chapelle?" repeated Kennedy.

"Yes, Dr. Carl Chapelle," replied Mrs. Blakeley. "Perhaps you have heard of him. He is quite well known, has a beauty-parlour on Fifth Avenue. He-"

"It's ridiculous," cut in Cynthia, sharply. "Why, my face was worse than Virgie's. Car-He said it would take longer."

I had been watching Cynthia, but it needed only to have heard her to see that Doctor Chapelle was something more than a beauty specialist to her.

Kennedy glanced thoughtfully from the clear skin of Cynthia to the red mark on Virginia. Though he said nothing, I could see that his mind was on it. I had heard of the beauty doctors who promise to give one a skin as soft and clear as a baby's-and often, by their inexpert use of lotions and chemicals, succeed in ruining the skin and disfiguring the patient for life. Could this be a case of that sort? Yet how explain the apparent success with Cynthia?

The elder sister, however, was plainly vexed at the mention of the beauty doctor's name at all, and she showed it. Kennedy made a mental note of the matter, but refrained from saying any more about it.

"I suppose there is no objection to my seeing Doctor Haynes?" asked Kennedy, rising and changing the subject.

"None whatever," returned Mrs. Blakeley. "If there's anything you or he can do to bring Virginia out of this-anything safe-I want it done," she emphasised.

Cynthia was silent as we left. Evidently she had not expected Doctor Chapelle's name to be brought into the case.

We were lucky in finding Doctor Haynes at home, although it was not the regular time for his office hours. Kennedy introduced himself as a friend of the Blakeleys who had been asked to see that I made no blunders in writing the story for the Star. Doctor Haynes did not question the explanation.

He was a man well on toward the sixties, with that magnetic quality that inspires the confidence so necessary for a doctor. Far from wealthy, he had attained a, high place in the profession.

As Kennedy finished his version of our mission, Doctor Haynes shook his head with a deep sigh.

"You can understand how I feel toward the Blakeleys," he remarked, at length. "I should consider it unethical to give an interview under any circumstances-much more so under the present."

"Still," I put in, taking Kennedy's cue, "just a word to set me straight can't do any harm. I won't quote you directly."

He seemed to realise that it might be better to talk carefully than to leave all to my imagination.

"Well," he began, slowly, "I have considered all the usual causes assigned for such morbid sleep. It is not auto-suggestion or trance, I am positive. Nor is there any trace of epilepsy. I cannot see how it could be due to poisoning, can you?"

I admitted readily that I could not.

"No," he resumed, "it is just a case of what we call narcolepsy-pathological somnolence-a sudden, uncontrollable inclination to sleep, occurring sometimes repeatedly or at varying intervals. I don't think it hysterical, epileptic, or toxemic. The plain fact of the matter, gentlemen, is that neither myself nor any of my colleagues whom I have consulted have the faintest idea what it is-yet."

The door of the office opened, for it was not the hour for consulting patients, and a tall, athletic young fellow, with a keen and restless face, though very boyish, entered.

"My son," the doctor introduced, "soon to be the sixth Doctor Haynes in direct line in the family."

We shook hands. It was evident that Cynthia had not by any means exaggerated when she said that he was frantic over what had happened to his fiancée.

Accordingly, there was no difficulty in reverting to the subject of our visit. Gradually I let Kennedy take the lead in the conversation so that our position might not seem to be false.

It was not long before Craig managed to inject a remark about the red spot over Virginia's nose. It seemed to excite young Hampton.

"Naturally I look on it more as a doctor than a lover," remarked his father, smiling indulgently at the young man, whom it was evident he regarded above everything else in the world. "I have not been able to account for it, either. Really the case is one of the most remarkable I have ever heard of."

"You have heard of a Dr. Carl Chapelle?" inquired Craig, tentatively.

"A beauty doctor," interrupted the young man, turning toward his father. "You've met him. He's the fellow I think is really engaged to Cynthia."

Hampton seemed much excited. There was unconcealed animosity in the manner of his remark, and I wondered why it was. Could there be some latent jealousy?

"I see," calmed Doctor Haynes. "You mean to infer that this-er-this Doctor Chapelle-" He paused, waiting for Kennedy to take the initiative.

"I suppose you've noticed over Miss Blakeley's nose a red sore?" hazarded Kennedy.

"Yes," replied Doctor Haynes, "rather refractory, too. I-"

"Say," interrupted Hampton, who by this time had reached a high pitch of excitement, "say, do you think it could be any of his confounded nostrums back of this thing?"

"Careful, Hampton," cautioned the elder man.

"I'd like to see him," pursued Craig to the younger. "You know him?"

"Know him? I should say I do. Good-looking, good practice, and all that, but-why, he must have hypnotized that girl! Cynthia thinks he's wonderful."

"I'd like to see him," suggested Craig.

"Very well," agreed Hampton, taking him at his word. "Much as I dislike the fellow, I have no objection to going down to his beauty-parlour with you."

"Thank you," returned Craig, as we excused ourselves and left the elder Doctor Haynes.

Several times on our journey down Hampton could not resist some reference to Chapelle for commercialising the profession, remarks which sounded strangely old on his lips.

Chapelle's office, we found, was in a large building on Fifth Avenue in the new shopping district, where hundreds of thousands of women passed almost daily. He called the place a Dermatological Institute, but, as Hampton put it, he practised "decorative surgery."

As we entered one door, we saw that patients left by another. Evidently, as Craig whispered, when sixty sought to look like sixteen the seekers did not like to come in contact with one another.

We waited some time in a little private room. At last Doctor Chapelle himself appeared, a rather handsome man with the manner that one instinctively feels appeals to the ladies.

He shook hands with young Haynes, and I could detect no hostility on Chapelle's part, but rather a friendly interest in a younger member of the medical profession.

Again I was thrown forward as a buffer. I was their excuse for being there. However, a newspaper experience gives you one thing, if no other-assurance.

"I believe you have a patient, a Miss Virginia Blakeley?" I ventured.

"Miss Blakeley? Oh yes, and her sister, also."

The mention of the names was enough. I was no longer needed as a buffer.

"Chapelle," blurted out Hampton, "you must have done something to her when you treated her face. There's a little red spot over her nose that hasn't healed yet."

Kennedy frowned at the impetuous interruption. Yet it was perhaps the best thing that could have happened.

"So," returned Chapelle, drawing back and placing his head on one side as he nodded it with each word, "you think I've spoiled her looks? Aren't the freckles gone?"

"Yes," retorted Hampton, bitterly, "but on her face is this new disfigurement."

"That?" shrugged Chapelle. "I know nothing of that-nor of the trance. I have only my specialty."

Calm though he appeared outwardly, one could see that Chapelle was plainly worried. Under the circumstances, might not his professional reputation be at stake? What if a hint like this got abroad among his rich clientele?

I looked about his shop and wondered just how much of a faker he was. Once or twice I had heard of surgeons who had gone legitimately into this sort of thing. But the common story was that of the swindler-or worse. I had heard of scores of cases of good looks permanently ruined, seldom of any benefit. Had Chapelle ignorantly done something that would leave its scar forever? Or was he one of the few who were honest and careful?

Whatever the case, Kennedy had accomplished his purpose. He had seen Chapelle. If he were really guilty of anything the chances were all in favour of his betraying it by trying to cover it up. Deftly suppressing Hampton, we managed to beat a retreat without showing our hands any further.

"Humph!" snorted Hampton, as we rode down in the elevator and hopped on a 'bus to go up-town. "Gave up legitimate medicine and took up this beauty doctoring-it's unprofessional, I tell you. Why, he even advertises!"

We left Hampton and returned to the laboratory, though Craig had no present intention of staying there. His visit was merely for the purpose of gathering some apparatus, which included a Crookes tube, carefully packed, a rheostat, and some other paraphernalia which we divided. A few moments later we were on our way again to the Blakeley mansion.

No change had taken place in the condition of the patient, and Mrs. Blakeley met us anxiously. Nor was the anxiety wholly over her daughter's condition, for there seemed to be an air of relief when Kennedy told her that we had little to report.

Upstairs in the sick-room, Craig set silently to work, attaching his apparatus to an electric-light socket from which he had unscrewed the bulb. As he proceeded I saw that it was, as I had surmised, his new X-ray photographing machine which he had brought. Carefully, from several angles, he took photographs of Virginia's head, then, without saying a word, packed up his kit and started away.

We were passing down the hall, after leaving Mrs. Blakeley, when a figure stepped out from behind a portiere. It was Cynthia, who had been waiting to see us alone.

"You-don't think Doctor Chapelle had anything to do with it?" she asked, in a hoarse whisper.

"Then Hampton Haynes has been here?" avoided Kennedy.

"Yes," she admitted, as though the question had been quite logical. "He told me of your visit to Carl."

There was no concealment, now, of her anxiety. Indeed, I saw no reason why there should be. It was quite natural that the girl should worry over her lover, if she thought there was even a haze of suspicion in Kennedy's mind.

"Really I have found out nothing yet," was the only answer Craig gave, from which I readily deduced that he was well satisfied to play the game by pitting each against all, in the hope of gathering here and there a bit of the truth. "As soon as I find out anything I shall let you and your mother know. And you must tell me everything, too."

He paused to emphasize the last words, then slowly turned again toward the door. From the corner of my eye I saw Cynthia take a step after him, pause, then take another.

"Oh, Professor Kennedy," she called.

Craig turned.

"There's something I forgot," she continued. "There's something wrong with mother!" She paused, then resumed: "Even before Virginia was taken down with this-illness I saw a change. She is worried. Oh, Professor Kennedy, what is it? We have all been so happy. And now-Virgie, mother-all I have in the world. What shall I do?"

"Just what do you mean?" asked Kennedy, gently.

"I don't know. Mother has been so different lately. And now, every night, she goes out."

"Where?" encouraged Kennedy, realising that his plan was working.

"I don't know. If she would only come back looking happier." She was sobbing, convulsively, over she knew not what.

"Miss Blakeley," said Kennedy, taking her hand between both of his, "only trust me. If it is in my power I shall bring you all out of this uncertainty that haunts you."

She could only murmur her thanks as we left.

"It is strange," ruminated Kennedy, as we sped across the city again to the laboratory. "We must watch Mrs. Blakeley."

That was all that was said. Although I had no inkling of what was back of it all, I felt quite satisfied at having recognised the mystery even on stumbling on it as I had.

In the laboratory, as soon as he could develop the skiagraphs he had taken, Kennedy began a minute study of them. It was not long before he looked over at me with the expression I had come to recognise when he found something important. I went over and looked at the radiograph which he was studying. To me it was nothing but successive gradations of shadows. But to one who had studied roentgenography as Kennedy had each minute gradation of light and shade had its meaning.

"You see," pointed out Kennedy, tracing along one of the shadows with a fine-pointed pencil, and then along a corresponding position on another standard skiagraph which he already had, "there is a marked diminution in size of the «sella turcica», as it is called. Yet there is no evidence of a tumour." For several moments he pondered deeply over the photographs. "And it is impossible to conceive of any mechanical pressure sufficient to cause such a change," he added.

Unable to help him on the problem, whatever it might be, I watched him pacing up and down the laboratory.

"I shall have to take that picture over again-under different circumstances," he remarked, finally, pausing and looking at his watch. "Tonight we must follow this clue which Cynthia has given us. Call a cab, Walter."

We took a stand down the block from the Blakeley mansion, near a large apartment, where the presence of a cab would not attract attention. If there is any job I despise it is shadowing. One must keep his eyes riveted on a house, for, once let the attention relax and it is incredible how quickly any one may get out and disappear.

Our vigil was finally rewarded when we saw Mrs. Blakeley emerge and hurry down the street. To follow her was easy, for she did not suspect that she was being watched, and went afoot. On she walked, turning off the Drive and proceeding rapidly toward the region of cheap tenements. She paused before one, and as our cab cruised leisurely past we saw her press a button, the last on the right-hand side, enter the door, and start up the stairs.

Instantly Kennedy signalled our driver to stop and together we hopped out and walked back, cautiously entering the vestibule. The name in the letter box was "Mrs. Reba Rinehart." What could it mean?

Just then another cab stopped up the street, and as we turned to leave the vestibule Kennedy drew back. It was too late, however, not to be seen. A man had just alighted and, in turn, had started back, also realising that it was too late. It was Chapelle! There was nothing to do but to make the best of it.

"Shadowing the shadowers?" queried Kennedy, keenly watching the play of his features under the arc-light of the street.

"Miss Cynthia asked me to follow her mother the other night," he answered, quite frankly. "And I have been doing so ever since."

It was a glib answer, at any rate, I thought.

"Then, perhaps you know something of Reba Rinehart, too," bluffed Kennedy.

Chapelle eyed us a moment, in doubt how much we knew. Kennedy played a pair of deuces as if they had been four aces instead.

"Not much," replied Chapelle, dubiously. "I know that Mrs. Blakeley has been paying money to the old woman, who seems to be ill. Once I managed to get in to see her. It's a bad case of pernicious anemia, I should say. A neighbour told me she had been to the college hospital, had been one of Doctor Haynes's cases, but that he had turned her over to his son. I've seen Hampton Haynes here, too."

There was an air of sincerity about Chapelle's words. But, then, I reflected that there had also been a similar ring to what we had heard Hampton say. Were they playing a game against each other? Perhaps-but what was the game? What did it all mean and why should Mrs. Blakeley pay money to an old woman, a charity patient?

There was no solution. Both Kennedy and Chapelle, by a sort of tacit consent, dismissed their cabs, and we strolled on over toward Broadway, watching one another, furtively. We parted finally, and Craig and I went up to our apartment, where he sat for hours in a brown study. There was plenty to think about even so far in the affair. He may have sat up all night. At any rate, he roused me early in the morning.

"Come over to the laboratory," he said. "I want to take that X-ray machine up there again to Blakeley's. Confound it! I hope it's not too late."

I lost no time in joining him and we were at the house long before any reasonable hour for visitors.

Kennedy asked for Mrs. Blakeley and hurriedly set up the X-ray apparatus. "I wish you would place that face mask which she was wearing exactly as it was before she became ill," he asked.

Her mother did as Kennedy directed, replacing the rubber mask as Virginia had worn it.

"I want you to preserve that mask," directed Kennedy, as he finished taking his pictures. "Say nothing about it to any one. In fact, I should advise putting it in your family safe for the present."

Hastily we drove back to the laboratory and Kennedy set to work again developing the second set of skiagraphs. I had not long to wait, this time, for him to study them. His first glance brought me over to him as he exclaimed loudly.

At the point just opposite the sore which he had observed on Virginia's forehead, and overlying the «sella turcica,» there was a peculiar spot on the radiograph.

"Something in that mask has affected the photographic plate," he explained, his face now animated.

Before I could ask him what it was he had opened a cabinet where he kept many new things which he studied in his leisure moments. From it I saw him take several glass ampoules which he glanced at hastily and shoved into his pocket as we heard a footstep out in the hall. It was Chapelle, very much worried. Could it be that he knew his society clientele was at stake, I wondered. Or was it more than that?

"She's dead!" he cried. "The old lady died last night!"

Without a word Kennedy hustled us out of the laboratory, stuffing the X-ray pictures into his pocket, also, as we went.

As we hurried down-town Chapelle told us how he had tried to keep a watch by bribing one of the neighbours, who had just informed him of the tragedy.

"It was her heart," said one of the neighbours, as we entered the poor apartment. "The doctor said so."

"Anaemia," insisted Chapelle, looking carefully at the body.

Kennedy bent over, also, and examined the poor, worn frame. As he did so he caught sight of a heavy linen envelope tucked under her pillow. He pulled it out gently and opened it. Inside were several time-worn documents and letters. He glanced over them hastily, unfolding first a letter.

"Walter," he whispered, furtively, looking at the neighbours in the room and making sure that none of them had seen the envelope already. "Read these. That's her story."

One glance was sufficient. The first was a letter from old Stuart Blakeley. Reba Rinehart had been secretly married to him-and never divorced. One paper after another unfolded her story.

I thought quickly. Then she had had a right in the Blakeley millions. More than that, the Blakeleys themselves had none, at least only what came to them by Blakeley's will.

I read on, to see what, if any, contest she had intended to make. And as I read I could picture old Stuart Blakeley to myself-strong, direct, unscrupulous, a man who knew what he wanted and got it, dominant, close-mouthed, mysterious. He had understood and estimated the future of New York. On that he had founded his fortune.

According to the old lady's story, the marriage was a complete secret. She had demanded marriage when he had demanded her. He had pointed out the difficulties. The original property had come to him and would remain in his hands only on condition that he married one of his own faith. She was not of the faith and declined to become so. There had been other family reasons, also. They had been married, with the idea of keeping it secret until he could arrange his affairs so that he could safely acknowledge her.

It was, according to her story, a ruse. When she demanded recognition he replied that the marriage was invalid, that the minister had been unfrocked before the ceremony. She was not in law his wife and had no claim, he asserted. But he agreed to compromise, in spite of it all. If she would go West and not return or intrude, he would make a cash settlement. Disillusioned, she took the offer and went to California. Somehow, he understood that she was dead. Years later he married again.

Meanwhile she had invested her settlement, had prospered, had even married herself, thinking the first marriage void. Then her second husband died and evil times came. Blakeley was dead, but she came East. Since then she had been fighting to establish the validity of the first marriage and hence her claim to dower rights. It was a moving story.

As we finished reading, Kennedy gathered the papers together and took charge of them. Taking Chapelle, who by this time was in a high state of excitement over both the death and the discovery, Kennedy hurried to the Blakeley mansion, stopping only long enough to telephone to Doctor Haynes and his son.

Evidently the news had spread. Cynthia Blakeley met us in the hall, half frightened, yet much relieved.

"Oh, Professor Kennedy," she cried, "I don't know what it is, but mother seems so different. What is it all about?"

As Kennedy said nothing, she turned to Chapelle, whom I was watching narrowly. "What is it, Carl?" she whispered.

"I-I can't tell," he whispered back, guardedly. Then, with an anxious glance at the rest of us, "Is your sister any better?"

Cynthia's face clouded. Relieved though she was about her mother, there was still that horror for Virginia.

"Come," I interrupted, not wishing to let Chapelle get out of my sight, yet wishing to follow Kennedy, who had dashed upstairs.

I found Craig already at the bedside of Virginia. He had broken one of the ampoules and was injecting some of the extract in it into the sleeping girl's arm. Mrs. Blakeley bent over eagerly as he did so. Even in her manner she was changed. There was anxiety for Virginia yet, but one could feel that a great weight seemed to be lifted from her.

So engrossed was I in watching Kennedy that I did not hear Doctor Haynes and Hampton enter. Chapelle heard, however, and turned.

For a moment he gazed at Hampton. Then with a slight curl of the lip he said, in a low tone, "Is it strictly ethical to treat a patient for disease of the heart when she is suffering from anaemia-if you have an interest in the life and death of the patient?"

I watched Hampton's face closely. There was indignation in every line of it. But before he could reply Doctor Haynes stepped forward.

"My son was right in the diagnosis," he almost shouted, shaking a menacing finger at Chapelle. "To come to the point, sir, explain that mark on Miss Virginia's forehead!"

"Yes," demanded Hampton, also taking a step toward the beauty doctor, "explain it-if you dare."

Cynthia suppressed a little cry of fear. For a moment I thought that the two young men would forget everything in the heat of their feelings.

"Just a second," interposed Kennedy, quickly stepping between them. "Let me do the talking." There was something commanding about his tone as he looked from one to the other of us.

"The trouble with Miss Virginia," he added, deliberately, "seems to lie in one of what the scientists have lately designated the 'endocrine glands'-in this case the pituitary. My X-ray pictures show that conclusively.

"Let me explain for the benefit of the rest. The pituitary is an oval glandular body composed of two lobes and a connecting area, which rest in the «sella turcica,» enveloped by a layer of tissue, about under this point." He indicated the red spot on her forehead as he spoke. "It is, as the early French surgeons called it, «I'organe enigmatique.» The ancients thought it discharged the pituita, or mucus, into the nose. Most scientists of the past century asserted that it was a vestigial relic of prehistoric usefulness. Today we know better.

"One by one the functions of the internal secretions are being discovered. Our variously acquired bits of information concerning the ductless glands lie before us like the fragments of a modern picture puzzle. And so, I may tell you, in connection with recent experimental studies in the role of the pituitary, Doctor Gushing and other collaborators at Johns Hopkins have noticed a marked tendency to pass into a profoundly lethargic state when the secretion of the pituitary is totally or nearly so removed."

Kennedy now had every eye riveted on him as he deftly led the subject straight to the case of the poor girl before us.

"This," he added, with a wave of his hand toward her, "is much like what is called the Frohlich syndrome-the lethargy, the subnormal temperature, slow pulse, and respiration, lowered blood pressure, and insensitivity, the growth of fat and the loss of sex characteristics. It has a name-»dystrophia adiposogenitalis."«

He nodded to Doctor Haynes, but did not pause. "This case bears a striking resemblance to the pronounced natural somnolence of hibernation. And induced hypopituitarism-under activity of the gland-produces a result just like natural hibernation. Hibernation has nothing to do with winter, or with food, primarily; it is connected in some way with this little gland under the forehead.

"As the pituitary secretion is lessened, the blocking action of the fatigue products in the body becomes greater and morbid somnolence sets in. There is a high tolerance of carbohydrates which are promptly stored as fat. I am surprised, Doctor Haynes, that you did not recognise the symptoms."

A murmur from Mrs. Blakeley cut short Doctor Haynes's reply. I thought I noticed a movement of the still face on the white bed.

"Virgie! Virgie!" called Mrs. Blakeley, dropping on her knee beside her daughter.

"I'm here-mother!"

Virginia's eyes opened ever so slightly. Her face turned just an inch or two. She seemed to be making a great effort, but it lasted only a moment. Then she slipped back into the strange condition that had baffled skilled physicians and surgeons for nearly a week.

"The sleep is being dispelled," said Kennedy, quietly placing his hand on Mrs. Blakeley's shoulder. "It is a sort of semi-consciousness now and the improvement should soon be great."

"And that?" I asked, touching the empty ampoule from which he had injected the contents into her.

"Pituitrin-the extract of the anterior lobe of the pituitary body. Some one who had an object in removing her temporarily probably counted on restoring her to her former blooming womanhood by pituitrin-and by removing the cause of the trouble."

Kennedy reached into his pocket and drew forth the second X-ray photograph he had taken. "Mrs. Blakeley, may I trouble you to get that beauty mask which your daughter wore?"

Mechanically Mrs. Blakeley obeyed. I expected Chapelle to object, but not a word broke the deathlike stillness.

"The narcolepsy," continued Kennedy, taking the mask, "was due, I find, to something that affected the pituitary gland. I have here a photograph of her taken when she was wearing the mask." He ran his finger lightly over the part just above the eyes. "Feel that little lump, Walter," he directed.

I did so. It was almost imperceptible, but there was something.

"What is it?" I asked.

"Located in one of the best protected and most inaccessible parts of the body," Kennedy considered, slowly, "how could the pituitary be reached? If you will study my skiagraph, you will see how I got my first clue. There was something over that spot which caused the refractory sore. What was it? Radium-carefully placed in the mask with guards of lead foil in such a way as to protect the eyes, but direct the emission full at the gland which was to be affected, and the secretions stopped."

Chapelle gave a gasp. He was pale and agitated.

"Some of you have already heard of Reba Rinehart," shot out Kennedy, suddenly changing the subject.

Mrs. Blakeley could not have been more astounded if a bomb had dropped before her. Still kneeling before Virginia's bed, she turned her startled face at Kennedy, clasping her hands in appeal.

"It was for my girls that I tried to buy her off-for their good name-their fortune-their future," she cried, imploringly.

Kennedy bent down, "I know that is all," he reassured, then, facing us, went on: "Behind that old woman was a secret of romantic interest. She was contemplating filing suit in the courts to recover a widow's interest in the land on which now stand the homes of millionaires, hotel palaces, luxurious apartments, and popular theatres-millions of dollars' worth of property."

Cynthia moved over and drew her arms about the convulsed figure of her mother.

"Some one else knew of this old marriage of Stuart Blakeley," proceeded Kennedy, "knew of Reba Rinehart, knew that she might die at any moment. But until she died none of the Blakeleys could be entirely sure of their fortune."

It flashed over me that Chapelle might have conceived the whole scheme, seeking to gain the entire fortune for Cynthia.

"Who was interested enough to plot this postponement of the wedding until the danger to the fortune was finally removed?" I caught sight of Hampton Haynes, his eyes riveted on the face on the bed before us.

Virginia stirred again. This time her eyes opened wider. As if in a dream she caught sight of the face of her lover and smiled wanly.

Could it have been Hampton? It seemed incredible.

"The old lady is dead," pursued Kennedy, tensely. "Her dower right died with her. Nothing can be gained by bringing her case back again-except to trouble the Blakeleys in what is rightfully theirs."

Gathering up the beauty mask, the X-ray photographs, and the papers of Mrs. Rinehart, Kennedy emphasized with them the words as he whipped them out suddenly.

"Postponing the marriage, at the possible expense of Chapelle, until Reba Rinehart was dead, and trusting to a wrong diagnosis and Hampton's inexperience as the surest way of bringing that result about quickly, it was your inordinate ambition for your son, Doctor Haynes, that led you on. I shall hold these proofs until Virginia Blakeley is restored completely to health and beauty."

SUSAN GLASPELL (1882-1948)

Susan Glaspell was not only a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright but a novelist and writer of short stories that established her as an important writer of local-colour fiction. Born in Davenport, Iowa, she relied on her Midwestern roots to nurture a writing career that took her to Provincetown, Massachusetts (where she founded the Provincetown Players with Eugene O'Neill), to New York City 's Greenwich Village, and to Greece.

Always a woman ahead of her time, Glaspell graduated from Davenport public schools and Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. She served for two years as a court and legislative reporter for the «Des Moines Daily News» before turning to writing for women's magazines full-time in 1901. Her short stories for such publications as «Good Housekeeping» and «Women's Home Companion» were set in the fictional town of Freeport, Iowa, which she based on her home town of Davenport. Her work treated romantic problems in a formula that incorporated setting the problem, flashbacks, obstacles overcome, and a happy ending. She also set out consciously to record the unique qualities of her region, including the strengths and failings of people who came of pioneer stock but possessed a small-town mentality.

After Glaspell met and married George Cram Cook, a well-to-do rebel against Davenport 's small-town pretensions, her work began to incorporate politically idealist overtones, including pacifist and socialist views. She moved away from the local-colour tradition's emphasis on sentimentality and began to employ realism to discuss more contemporary themes.

From 1913 to 1922, Glaspell wrote seven one-act and four full-length plays, including the one-act play «Trifles,» which she rewrote as the short story «A Jury of Her Peers.» The plot is based on an actual case that Glaspell covered as a reporter in Des Moines involving an abusive husband. «A Jury of Her Peers» is a strong example of writing that transcends local-colour conventions to become a classic of realism. Here Glaspell demonstrates how the straightforward delivery of dialogue in ordinary voices can make a poignant and powerful point. The carefully drawn setting is one of the earliest examples of regional writing in a genre that now thrives on the enrichment of formula with descriptions of distinctly American environments.

A Jury of Her Peers

When Martha Hale opened the storm-door and got a cut of the north wind, she ran back for her big woollen scarf. As she hurriedly wound that round her head her eye made a scandalised sweep of her kitchen. It was no ordinary thing that called her away-it was probably farther from ordinary than anything that had ever happened in Dickson County. But what her eye took in was that her kitchen was in no shape for leaving: her bread all ready for mixing, half the flour sifted and half unsifted.

She hated to see things half done; but she had been at that when the team from town stopped to get Mr. Hale, and then the sheriff came running in to say his wife wished Mrs. Hale would come too-adding, with a grin, that he guessed she was getting scary and wanted another woman along. So she had dropped everything right where it was.

"Martha!" now came her husband's impatient voice. "Don't keep folks waiting out here in the cold."

She again opened the storm-door, and this time joined the three men and the one woman waiting for her in the big two-seated buggy.

After she had the robes tucked around her she took another look at the woman who sat beside her on the back seat. She had met Mrs. Peters the year before at the county fair, and the thing she remembered about her was that she didn't seem like a sheriff's wife. She was small and thin and didn't have a strong voice. Mrs. Gorman, sheriff's wife before Gorman went out and Peters came in, had a voice that somehow seemed to be backing up the law with every word. But if Mrs. Peters didn't look like a sheriff's wife, Peters made it up in looking like a sheriff. He was to a dot the kind of man who could get himself elected sheriff-a heavy man with a big voice, who was particularly genial with the law-abiding, as if to make it plain that he knew the difference between criminals and non-criminals. And right there it came into Mrs. Hale's mind, with a stab, that this man who was so pleasant and lively with all of them was going to the Wrights' now as a sheriff.

"The country's not very pleasant this time of year," Mrs. Peters at last ventured, as if she felt they ought to be talking as well as the men.

Mrs. Hale scarcely finished her reply, for they had gone up a little hill and could see the Wright place now, and seeing it did not make her feel like talking. It looked very lonesome this cold March morning. It had always been a lonesome-looking place. It was down in a hollow, and the poplar trees around it were lonesome-looking trees. The men were looking at it and talking about what had happened. The county attorney was bending to one side of the buggy, and kept looking steadily at the place as they drew up to it.

"I'm glad you came with me," Mrs, Peters said nervously, as the two women were about to follow the men in through the kitchen door.

Even after she had her foot on the door-step, her hand on the knob, Martha Hale had a moment of feeling she could not cross the threshold. And the reason it seemed she couldn't cross it now was simply because she hadn't crossed it before. Time and time again it had been in her mind, "I ought to go over and see Minnie Foster"-she still thought of her as Minnie Foster, though for twenty years she had been Mrs. Wright. And then there was always something to do and Minnie Foster would go from her mind. But now she could come.

The men went over to the stove. The women stood close together by the door. Young Henderson, the county attorney, turned around and said, "Come up to the fire, ladies."

Mrs. Peters took a step forward, then stopped. "I'm not-cold," she said.

And so the two women stood by the door, at first not even so much as looking around the kitchen.

The men talked for a minute about what a good thing it was the sheriff had sent his deputy out that morning to make a fire for them, and then Sheriff Peters stepped back from the stove, unbuttoned his outer coat, and leaned his hands on the kitchen table in a way that seemed to mark the beginning of official business. "Now, Mr. Hale," he said in a sort of semi-official voice, "before we move things about, you tell Mr. Henderson just what it was you saw when you came here yesterday morning."

The county attorney was looking around the kitchen.

"By the way," he said, "has anything been moved?" He turned to the sheriff. "Are things just as you left them yesterday?"

Peters looked from cupboard to sink; from that to a small worn rocker a little to one side of the kitchen table.

"It's just the same."

"Somebody should have been left here yesterday," said the county attorney.

"Oh-yesterday," returned the sheriff, with a little gesture as of yesterday having been more than he could bear to think of. "When I had to send Frank to Morris Centre for that man who went crazy-let me tell you, I had my hands full yesterday. I knew you could get back from Omaha by today, George, and as long as I went over everything here myself-"

"Well, Mr. Hale," said the county attorney, in a way of letting what was past and gone go, "tell just what happened when you came here yesterday morning."

Mrs. Hale, still leaning against the door, had that sinking feeling of the mother whose child is about to speak a piece. Lewis often wandered along and got things mixed up in a story. She hoped he would tell this straight and plain, and not say unnecessary things that would just make things harder for Minnie Foster. He didn't begin at once, and she noticed that he looked queer-as if standing in that kitchen and having to tell what he had seen there yesterday morning made him almost sick. "Yes, Mr. Hale?" the county attorney reminded. "Harry and I had started to town with a load of potatoes," Mrs. Hale's husband began.

Harry was Mrs. Hale's oldest boy. He wasn't with them now, for the very good reason that those potatoes never got to town yesterday and he was taking them this morning, so he hadn't been home when the sheriff stopped to say he wanted Mr. Hale to come over to the Wright place and tell the county attorney his story there, where he could point it all out. With all Mrs. Hale's other emotions came the fear that maybe Harry wasn't dressed warm enough-they hadn't any of them realised how that north wind did bite.

"We come along this road," Hale was going on, with a motion of his hand to the road over which they had just come, "and as we got in sight of the house I says to Harry, 'I'm goin' to see if I can't get John Wright to take a telephone.' You see," he explained to Henderson, "unless I can get somebody to go in with me they won't come out this branch road except for a price I can't pay. I'd spoke to Wright about it once before; but he put me off, saying folks talked too much anyway, and all he asked was peace and quiet-guess you know about how much he talked himself. But I thought maybe if I went to the house and talked about it before his wife, and said all the women-folks liked the telephones, and that in this lonesome stretch of road it would be a good thing-well, I said to Harry that that was what I was going to say-though I said at the same time that I didn't know as what his wife wanted made much difference to John-"

Now, there he was!-saying things he didn't need to say. Mrs. Hale tried to catch her husband's eye, but fortunately the county attorney interrupted with: "Let's talk about that a little later, Mr. Hale. I do want to talk about that, but I'm anxious now to get along to just what happened when you got here."

When he began this time, it was very deliberately and carefully: "I didn't see or hear anything. I knocked at the door. And still it was all quiet inside. I knew they must be up-it was past eight o'clock. So I knocked again, louder, and I thought I heard somebody say 'Come in.' I wasn't sure-I'm not sure yet. But I opened the door-this door," jerking a hand toward the door by which the two women stood, "and there, in that rocker"-pointing to it-"sat Mrs. Wright."

Every one in the kitchen looked at the rocker. It came into Mrs. Hale's mind that that rocker didn't look in the least like Minnie Foster-the Minnie Foster of twenty years before. It was a dingy red, with wooden rungs up the back, and the middle rung was gone, and the chair sagged to one side.

"How did she-look?" the county attorney was inquiring.

"Well," said Hale, "she looked-queer."

"How do you mean-queer?"

As he asked it he took out a note-book and pencil. Mrs. Hale did not like the sight of that pencil. She kept her eye fixed on her husband, as if to keep him from saying unnecessary things that would go into that note-book and make trouble.

Hale did speak guardedly, as if the pencil had affected him too.

"Well, as if she didn't know what she was going to do next. And kind of-done up."

"How did she seem to feel about your coming?"

"Why, I don't think she minded-one way or other. She didn't pay much attention. I said, 'Ho' do, Mrs. Wright? It's cold, ain't it?' And she said, 'Is it? '-and went on pleatin' at her apron.

"Well, I was surprised. She didn't ask me to come up to the stove, or to sit down, but just set there, not even lookin' at me. And so I said: 'I want to see John.'

"And then she-laughed. I guess you would call it a laugh.

"I thought of Harry and the team outside, so I said, a little sharp, 'Can I see John?'

'No,' says she-kind of dull like. 'Ain't he home?' says I. Then she looked at me. 'Yes,' says she, 'he's home.' Then why can't I see him?' I asked her, out of patience with her now.'

'Cause he's dead.' says she, just as quiet and dull-and fell to pleatin' her apron. 'Dead?' says I, like you do when you can't take in what you've heard.

"She just nodded her head, not getting a bit excited, but rockin' back and forth.

"'Why-where is he?' says I, not knowing what to say.

"She just pointed upstairs-like this"-pointing to the room above.

"I got up, with the idea of going up there myself. By this time I-didn't know what to do. I walked from there to here; then I says: 'Why, what did he die of?'

'"He died of a rope around his neck,' says she; and just went on pleatin' at her apron."

Hale stopped speaking, and stood staring at the rocker, as if he were still seeing the woman who had sat there the morning before. Nobody spoke; it was as if every one were seeing the woman who had sat there the morning before.

"And what did you do then?" the county attorney at last broke the silence.

"I went out and called Harry. I thought I might-need help. I got Harry in, and we went upstairs." His voice fell almost to a whisper. "There he was-lying over the-"

"I think I'd rather have you go into that upstairs," the county attorney interrupted, "where you can point it all out. Just go on now with the rest of the story."

"Well, my first thought was to get that rope off. It looked-"

He stopped, his face twitching.

"But Harry, he went up to him, and he said, 'No, he's dead all right, and we'd better not touch anything.' So we went downstairs.

"She was still sitting that same way. 'Has anybody been notified?' I asked. 'No' says she, unconcerned.

"'Who did this, Mrs. Wright?' said Harry. He said it – businesslike, and she stopped pleatin' at her apron. 'I don't know,' she says. 'You don't know?' says Harry. 'Weren't you sleepin' in the bed with him?'

'Yes,' says she, 'but I was on the inside.'

'Somebody slipped a rope round his neck and strangled him, and you didn't wake up?' says Harry. 'I didn't wake up,' she said after him.

"We may have looked as if we didn't see how that could be, for after a minute she said, 'I sleep sound.'

"Harry was going to ask her more questions, but I said maybe that weren't our business; maybe we ought to let her tell her story first to the coroner or the sheriff. So Harry went fast as he could over to High Road-the Rivers' place, where there's a telephone."

"And what did she do when she knew you had gone for the coroner?" The attorney got his pencil in his hand all ready for writing.

"She moved from that chair to this one over here"-Hale pointed to a small chair in the corner-"and just sat there with her hands held together and looking down. I got a feeling that I ought to make some conversation, so I said I had come in to see if John wanted to put in a telephone; and at that she started to laugh, and then she stopped and looked at me-scared."

At the sound of a moving pencil the man who was telling the story looked up.

"I dunno-maybe it wasn't scared," he hastened; "I wouldn't like to say it was. Soon Harry got back, and then Dr. Lloyd came, and you, Mr. Peters, and so I guess that's all I know that you don't."

He said that last with relief, and moved a little, as if relaxing. Every one moved a little. The county attorney walked toward the stair door.

"I guess we'll go upstairs first-then out to the barn and around there."

He paused and looked around the kitchen.

"You're convinced there was nothing important here?" he asked the sheriff. "Nothing that would point to any motive?"

The sheriff too looked all around, as if to re-convince himself.

"Nothing here but kitchen things," he said, with a little laugh for the insignificance of kitchen things.

The county attorney was looking at the cupboard-a peculiar, ungainly structure, half closet and half cupboard, the upper part of it being built in the wall, and the lower part just the old-fashioned kitchen cupboard. As if its queerness attracted him, he got a chair and opened the upper part and looked in. After a moment he drew his hand away sticky.

"Here's a nice mess," he said resentfully.

The two women had drawn nearer, and now the sheriff's wife spoke.

"Oh-her fruit," she said, looking to Mrs. Hale for sympathetic understanding. She turned back to the county attorney and explained: "She worried about that when it turned so cold last night. She said the fire would go out and her jars might burst."

Mrs. Peters's husband broke into a laugh.

"Well, can you beat the women! Held for murder, and worrying about her preserves!"

The young attorney set his lips.

"I guess before we're through with her she may have something more serious than preserves to worry about."

"Oh, well," said Mrs. Hale's husband, with good-natured superiority, "women are used to worrying over trifles."

The two women moved a little closer together. Neither of them spoke. The county attorney seemed suddenly to remember his manners-and think of his future.

"And yet," said he, with the gallantry of a young politician, "for all their worries, what would we do without the ladies?"

The women did not speak, did not unbend. He went to the sink and began washing his hands. He turned to wipe them on the roller towel-whirled it for a cleaner place.

"Dirty towels! Not much of a housekeeper, would you say, ladies?"

He kicked his foot against some dirty pans under the sink.

"There's a great deal of work to be done on a farm," said Mrs. Hale stiffly.

"To be sure. And yet"-with a little bow to her-"I know there are some Dickson County farm-houses that do not have such roller towels." He gave it a pull to expose its full length again.

"Those towels get dirty awful quick. Men's hands aren't always as clean as they might be."

"Ah, loyal to your sex, I see," he laughed. He stopped and gave her a keen look. "But you and Mrs. Wright were neighbours. I suppose you were friends, too."

Martha Hale shook her head.

"I've seen little enough of her of late years. I've not been in this house-it's more than a year."

"And why was that? You didn't like her?"

"I liked her well enough," she replied with spirit. "Farmers' wives ' have their hands full, Mr. Henderson. And then"-She looked around the kitchen.

"Yes?" he encouraged.

"It never seemed a very cheerful place," said she, more to herself, than to him.

"No," he agreed; "I don't think any one could call it cheerful. I shouldn't say she had the home-making instinct."

"Well, I don't know as Wright had, either," she muttered.

"You mean they didn't get on very well?" he was quick to ask.

"No; I don't mean anything," she answered, with decision. As she turned a little away from him, she added: "But I don't think a place would be any the cheerfuler for John Wright's bein' in it."

"I'd like to talk to you about that a little later, Mrs. Hale," he said. "I'm anxious to get the lay of things upstairs now."

He moved toward the stair door, followed by the two men.

"I suppose anything Mrs. Peters does'll be all right?" the sheriff inquired. "She was to take in some clothes for her, you know-and a few little things. We left in such a hurry yesterday."

The county attorney looked at the two women whom they were alone there among the kitchen things.

"Yes-Mrs. Peters," he said, his glance resting on the woman who was not Mrs. Peters, the big farmer woman who stood behind the sheriff's wife. "Of course Mrs. Peters is one of us," he said, in a manner of entrusting responsibility. "And keep your eye out, Mrs. Peters, for anything that might be of use. No telling; you women might come upon a clue to the motive-and that's the thing we need."

Mr. Hale rubbed his face after the fashion of a show man getting ready for a pleasantry.

"But would the women know a clue if they did come upon it?" he said; and, having delivered himself of this, he followed the others through the stair door.

The women stood motionless and silent, listening to the footsteps, first upon the stairs, then in the room above them.

Then, as if releasing herself from something strange, Mrs. Hale began to arrange the dirty pans under the sink, which the county attorney's disdainful push of the foot had deranged.

"I'd hate to have men comin' into my kitchen," she said testily-"snoopin' around and criticisin'."

"Of course it's no more than their duty," said the sheriff's wife, in her manner of timid acquiescence.

"Duty's all right," replied Mrs. Hale bluffly; "but I guess that deputy sheriff that come out to make the fire might have got a little of this on." She gave the roller towel a pull. "Wish I'd thought of that sooner! Seems mean to talk about her for not having things slicked up when she had to come away in such a hurry."

She looked around the kitchen. Certainly it was not 'slicked up.' Her eye was held by a bucket of sugar on a low shelf. The cover was off the wooden bucket, and beside it was a paper bag-half full.

Mrs. Hale moved toward it.

"She was putting this in here," she said to herself-slowly.

She thought of the flour in her kitchen at home-half sifted, half not sifted. She had been interrupted, and had left things half done. What had interrupted Minnie Foster? Why had that work been left half done? She made a move as if to finish it,-unfinished things always bothered her,-and then she glanced around and saw that Mrs. Peters was watching her-and she didn't want Mrs. Peters to get that feeling she had got of work begun and then-for some reason-not finished.

"It's a shame about her fruit," she said, and walked toward the cupboard that the county attorney had opened, and got on the chair, murmuring: "I wonder if it's all gone."

It was a sorry enough looking sight, but "Here's one that's all right," she said at last. She held it toward the light. "This is cherries, too." She looked again. "I declare I believe that's the only one."

With a sigh, she got down from the chair, went to the sink, and wiped off the bottle.

"She'll feel awful bad, after all her hard work in the hot weather. I remember the afternoon I put up my cherries last summer."

She set the bottle on the table, and, with another sigh, started to sit down in the rocker. But she did not sit down. Something kept her from sitting down in that chair. She straightened-stepped back, and, half turned away, stood looking at it, seeing the woman who sat there 'pleatin' at her apron.'

The thin voice of the sheriff's wife broke in upon her: "I must be getting those things from the front room closet." She opened the door into the other room, started in, stepped back. "You coming with me, Mrs. Hale?" she asked nervously. "You-you could help me get them."

They were soon back-the stark coldness of that shut-up room was not a thing to linger in.

"My!" said Mrs. Peters, dropping the things on the table and hurrying to the stove.

Mrs. Hale stood examining the clothes the woman who was being detained in town had said she wanted.

"Wright was close!" she exclaimed, holding up a shabby black skirt that bore the marks of much making over. "I think maybe that's why she kept so much to herself. I s'pose she felt she couldn't do her part; and then, you don't enjoy things when you feel shabby. She used to wear pretty clothes and be lively-when she was Minnie Foster, one of the town girls, singing in the choir. But that-oh, that was twenty years ago."

With a carefulness in which there was something tender, she folded the shabby clothes and piled them at one corner of the table. She looked at Mrs. Peters, and there was something in the other woman's look that irritated her.

"She don't care," she said to herself. "Much difference it makes to her whether Minnie Foster had pretty clothes when she was a girl."

Then she looked again, and she wasn't so sure; in fact, she hadn't at any time been perfectly sure about Mrs. Peters. She had that shrinking manner, and yet her eyes looked as if they could see a long way into things.

"This all you was to take in?" asked Mrs. Hale.

"No," said the sheriff's wife; "she said she wanted an apron. Funny thing to want," she ventured in her nervous little way, "for there's not much to get you dirty in jail, goodness knows. But I suppose just to make her feel more natural. If you're used to wearing an apron-. She said they were in the bottom drawer of this cupboard. Yes-here they are. And then her little shawl that always hung on the stair door."

She took the small gray shawl from behind the door leading upstairs, and stood a minute looking at it.

Suddenly Mrs. Hale took a quick step toward the other woman.

"Mrs. Peters!"

"Yes, Mrs. Hale?"

"Do you think she-did it?"

A frightened look blurred the other things in Mrs. Peters's eyes.

"Oh, I don't know," she said, in a voice that seemed to shrink away from the subject.

"Well, I don't think she did," affirmed Mrs. Hale stoutly. "Asking for an apron, and her little shawl. Worryin' about her fruit."

"Mr. Peters says-" Footsteps were heard in the room above; she stopped, looked up, then went on in a lowered voice: "Mr. Peters says-it looks bad for her. Mr. Henderson is awful sarcastic in a speech, and he's going to make fun of her saying she didn't-wake up."

For a moment Mrs. Hale had no answer. Then, "Well, I guess John Wright didn't wake up-when they was slippin' that rope under his neck," she muttered.

"No, it's strange," breathed Mrs. Peters. "They think it was such a funny way to kill a man."

She began to laugh; at the sound of the laugh, abruptly stopped.

"That's just what Mr. Hale said," said Mrs. Hale, in a resolutely natural voice. "There was a gun in the house. He says that's what he can't understand."

"Mr. Henderson said, coming out, that what was needed for the case was a motive. Something to show anger-or sudden feeling."

"Well, I don't see any signs of anger around here," said Mrs. Hale. "I don't-"

She stopped. It was as if her mind tripped on something. Her eye was caught by a dish-towel in the middle of the kitchen table. Slowly she moved toward the table. One half of it was wiped clean, the other half messy. Her eyes made a slow, almost unwilling turn to the bucket of sugar and the half empty bag beside it. Things begun-and not finished.

After a moment she stepped back, and said, in that manner of releasing herself: "Wonder how they're finding things upstairs? I hope she had it a little more red up there. You know,"-she paused, and feeling gathered,-"it seems kind of «sneaking;» locking her up in town and coming out here to get her own house to turn against her!"

"But, Mrs. Hale," said the sheriff's wife, "the law is the law."

"I s'pose 'tis," answered Mrs. Hale shortly.

She turned to the stove, saying something about that fire not being much to brag of. She worked with it a minute, and when she straightened up she said aggressively: "The law is the law-and a bad stove is a bad stove. How'd you like to cook on this?"-pointing with the poker to the broken lining. She opened the oven door and started to express her opinion of the oven; but she was swept into her own thoughts, thinking of what it would mean, year after year, to have that stove to wrestle with. The thought of Minnie Foster trying to bake in that oven-and the thought of her never going over to see Minnie Foster- She was startled by hearing Mrs. Peters say: "A person gets discouraged-and loses heart."

The sheriff's wife had looked from the stove to the sink-to the pail of water which had been carried in from outside. The two women stood there silent, above them the footsteps of the men who were looking for evidence against the woman who had worked in that kitchen. That look of seeing into things, of seeing through a thing to something else, was in the eyes of the sheriff's wife now. When Mrs. Hale next spoke to her, it was gently: "Better loosen up your things, Mrs. Peters. We'll not feel them when we go out."

Mrs. Peters went to the back of the room to hang up the fur tippet she was wearing. A moment later she exclaimed, "Why, she was piecing a quilt," and held up a large sewing basket piled high with quilt pieces.

Mrs. Hale spread some of the blocks on the table.

"It's log-cabin pattern," she said, putting several of them together. "Pretty, isn't it?"

They were so engaged with the quilt that they did not hear the footsteps on the stairs. Just as the stair door opened Mrs. Hale was saying: "Do you suppose she was going to quilt it or just knot it?"

The sheriff threw up his hands.

"They wonder whether she was going to quilt it or just knot it!"

There was a laugh for the ways of women, a warming of hands over the stove, and then the county attorney said briskly: "Well, let's go right out to the barn and get that cleared up."

"I don't see as there's anything so strange," Mrs. Hale said resentfully, after the outside door had closed on the three men-"our taking up our time with little things while we're waiting for them to get the evidence. I don't see as it's anything to laugh about."

"Of course they've got awful important things on their minds," said the sheriff's wife apologetically.

They returned to an inspection of the blocks for the quilt. Mrs. Hale was looking at the fine, even sewing, and preoccupied with thoughts of the woman who had done that sewing, when she heard the sheriff's wife say, in a queer tone: "Why, look at this one."

She turned to take the block held out to her.

"The sewing," said Mrs. Peters, in a troubled way. "All the rest of them have been so nice and even-but-this one. Why, it looks as if she didn't know what she was about!"

Their eyes met-something flashed to life, passed between them; then, as if with an effort, they seemed to pull away from each other. A moment Mrs. Hale sat there, her hands folded over that sewing which was so unlike all the rest of the sewing. Then she had pulled a knot and drawn the threads.

"Oh, what are you doing, Mrs. Hale?" asked the sheriff's wife, startled.

"Just pulling out a stitch or two that's not sewed very good," said Mrs. Hale mildly.

"I don't think we ought to touch things," Mrs. Peters said, a little helplessly.

"I'll just finish up this end," answered Mrs. Hale, still in that mild, matter-of-fact fashion.

She threaded a needle and started to replace bad sewing with good. For a little while she sewed in silence. Then, in that thin, timid voice, she heard: "Mrs. Hale!"

"Yes, Mrs. Peters?"

"What do you suppose she was so-nervous about?"

"Oh, I don't know," said Mrs. Hale, as if dismissing a thing not important enough to spend much time on. "I don't know as she was-nervous. I sew awful queer sometimes when I'm just tired."

She cut a thread, and out of the corner of her eye looked up at Mrs. Peters. The small, lean face of the sheriff's wife seemed to have tightened up. Her eyes had that look of peering into something. But the next moment she moved, and said in her thin, indecisive way: "Well, I must get those clothes wrapped. They may be through sooner than we think. I wonder where I could find a piece of paper and string."

"In that cupboard, maybe," suggested Mrs. Hale, after a glance around.

One piece of the crazy sewing remained unripped. Mrs. Peters's back turned, Martha Hale now scrutinised that piece, compared it with the dainty, accurate sewing of the other blocks. The difference was startling. Holding this block made her feel queer, as if the distracted thoughts of the woman who had perhaps turned to it to try and quiet herself were communicating themselves to her.

Mrs. Peters's voice roused her.

"Here's a bird-cage," she said. "Did she have a bird, Mrs. Hale?"

"Why, I don't know whether she did or not." She turned to look at the cage Mrs. Peters was holding up. "I've not been here in so long." She sighed. "There was a man round last year selling canaries cheap-but I don't know as she took one. Maybe she did. She used to sing real pretty herself."

Mrs. Peters looked around the kitchen.

"Seems kind of funny to think of a bird here." She half laughed-an attempt to put up a barrier. "But she must have had one-or why would she have a cage? I wonder what happened to it."

"I suppose maybe the cat got it," suggested Mrs. Hale, resuming her sewing.

"No, she didn't have a cat. She's got that feeling some people have about cats-being afraid of them. When they brought her to our house yesterday, my cat got in the room, and she was real upset and asked me to take it out."

"My sister Bessie was like that," laughed Mrs. Hale.

The sheriff's wife did not reply. The silence made Mrs. Hale turn around. Mrs. Peters was examining the bird-cage.

"Look at this door," she said slowly. "It's broke. One hinge has been pulled apart."

Mrs. Hale came nearer.

"Looks as if some one must have been rough with it."

Again their eyes met-startled, questioning, apprehensive. For a moment neither spoke nor stirred. Then Mrs. Hale, turning away, said brusquely: "If they're going to find any evidence, I wish they'd be about it. I don't like this place."

"But I'm awful glad you came with me, Mrs. Hale." Mrs. Peters put the bird-cage on the table and sat down. "It would be lonesome for me-sitting here alone."

"Yes, it would, wouldn't it?" agreed Mrs. Hale, a certain determined naturalness in her voice. She picked up the sewing, but now it dropped in her lap, and she murmured in a different voice: "But I tell you what I do wish, Mrs. Peters. I wish I had come over sometimes when she was here. I wish-I had."

"But of course you were awful busy, Mrs. Hale. Your house-and your children."

"I could've come," retorted Mrs. Hale shortly. "I stayed away because it weren't cheerful-and that's why I ought to have come. I"-she looked around-"I've never liked this place. Maybe because it's down in a hollow and you don't see the road. I don't know what it is, but it's a lonesome place, and always was. I wish I had come over to see Minnie Foster sometimes. I can see now-" She did not put it into words.

"Well, you mustn't reproach yourself," counselled Mrs. Peters. "Somehow, we just don't see how it is with other folks till-something comes up."

"Not having children makes less work," mused Mrs. Hale, after a silence, "but it makes a quiet house-and Wright out to work all day-and no company when he did come in. Did you know John Wright, Mrs. Peters?"

"Not to know him. I've seen him in town. They say he was a good man."

"Yes-good," conceded John Wright's neighbour grimly. "He didn't drink, and kept his word as well as most, I guess, and paid his debts. But he was a hard man, Mrs. Peters. Just to pass the time of day with him-" She stopped, shivered a little. "Like a raw wind that gets to the bone." Her eye fell upon the cage on the table before her, and she added, almost bitterly: "I should think she would've wanted a bird!"

Suddenly she leaned forward, looking intently at the cage. "But what do you s'pose went wrong with it?"

"I don't know," returned Mrs. Peters; "unless it got sick and died."

But after she said it she reached over and swung the broken door. Both women watched it as if somehow held by it.

"You didn't know-her?" Mrs. Hale asked, a gentler note in her voice.

"Not till they brought her yesterday," said the sheriff's wife.

"She-come to think of it, she was kind of like a bird herself. Real sweet and pretty, but kind of timid and-fluttery. How-she-did-change."

That held her for a long time. Finally, as if struck with a happy thought and relieved to get back to everyday things, she exclaimed: "Tell you what, Mrs. Peters, why don't you take the quilt in with you? It might take up her mind."

"Why, I think that's a real nice idea, Mrs. Hale," agreed the sheriff's wife, as if she too were glad to come into the atmosphere of a simple kindness. "There couldn't possibly be any objection to that, could there? Now, just what will I take? I wonder if her patches are in here-and her things."

They turned to the sewing basket.

"Here's some red," said Mrs. Hale, bringing out a roll of cloth. Underneath that was a box. "Here, maybe her scissors are in here-and her things." She held it up. "What a pretty box! I'll warrant that was something she had a long time ago-when she was a girl."

She held it in her hand a moment; then, with a little sigh, opened it.

Instantly her hand went to her nose.

"Why-!"

Mrs. Peters drew nearer-then turned away.

"There's something wrapped up in this piece of silk," faltered Mrs. Hale.

"This isn't her scissors," said Mrs. Peters in a shrinking voice.

Her hand not steady, Mrs. Hale raised the piece of silk. "Oh, Mrs. Peters!" she cried. "It's-"

Mrs. Peters bent closer.

"It's the bird," she whispered.

"But, Mrs. Peters!" cried Mrs. Hale. "Look at it! Its neck-look at its neck! It's all-other side to."

She held the box away from her.

The sheriff's wife again bent closer.

"Somebody wrung its neck," said she, in a voice that was slow and deep.

And then again the eyes of the two women met-this time clung together in a look of dawning comprehension, of growing horror. Mrs. Peters looked from the dead bird to the broken door of the cage. Again their eyes met. And just then there was a sound at the outside door.

Mrs. Hale slipped the box under the quilt pieces in the basket, and sank into the chair before it. Mrs. Peters stood holding to the table. The county attorney and the sheriff came in from outside.

"Well, ladies," said the county attorney, as one turning from serious things to little pleasantries, "have you decided whether she was going to quilt it or knot it?"

"We think," began the sheriff's wife in a flurried voice, "that she was going to-knot it."

He was too preoccupied to notice the change that came in her voice on that last.

"Well, that's very interesting, I'm sure," he said tolerantly, he caught sight of the bird-cage. "Has the bird flown?"

"We think the cat got it," said Mrs. Hale in a voice curiously even.

He was walking up and down, as if thinking something out.

"Is there a cat?" he asked absently.

Mrs. Hale shot a look up at the sheriff's wife.

"Well, not now," said Mrs. Peters. "They're superstitious, you know; they leave."

She sank into her chair.

The county attorney did not heed her. "No sign at all of any one having come in from the outside," he said to Peters, in the manner of continuing an interrupted conversation. "Their own rope. Now let's go upstairs again and go over it, piece by piece. It would have to have been some one who knew just the-"

The stair door closed behind them and their voices were lost.

The two women sat motionless, not looking at each other, but as if peering into something and at the same time holding back. When they spoke now it was as if they were afraid of what they were saying, but as if they could not help saying it.

"She liked the bird," said Martha Hale, low and slowly. "She was going to bury it in that pretty box."

"When I was a girl," said Mrs. Peters, under her breath, "my kitten-there was a boy took a hatchet, and before my eyes-before I could get there-" She covered her face an instant. "If they hadn't held me back I would have"-she caught herself, looked upstairs where footsteps were heard, and finished weakly-"hurt him."

Then they sat without speaking or moving.

"I wonder how it would seem," Mrs. Hale at last began, as if feeling her way over strange ground-"never to have had any children around?" Her eyes made a slow sweep of the kitchen, as if seeing what that kitchen had meant through all the years. "No, Wright wouldn't like the bird," she said after that-"a thing that sang. She used to sing. He killed that too." Her voice tightened.

Mrs. Peters moved uneasily.

"Of course we don't know who killed the bird."

"I knew John Wright," was Mrs. Hale's answer.

"It was an awful thing was done in this house that night, Mrs. Hale," said the sheriff's wife. "Killing a man while He slept – slipping a thing round his neck that choked the life out of him."

Mrs. Hale's hand went out to the bird-cage.

"His neck. Choked the life out of him."

"We don't know who killed him," whispered Mrs. Peters wildly. "We don't know."

Mrs. Hale had not moved. "If there had been years and years of-nothing, then a bird to sing to you, it would be awful-still – after the bird was still."

It was as if something within her not herself had spoken, and it found in Mrs. Peters something she did not know as herself.

"I know what stillness is," she said, in a queer, monotonous voice. "When we homesteaded in Dakota, and my first baby died-after he was two years old-and me with no other then-"

Mrs. Hale stirred.

"How soon do you suppose they'll be through looking for evidence?"

"I know what stillness is," repeated Mrs. Peters, in just that same way. Then she too pulled back. "The law has got to punish crime, Mrs. Hale," she said in her tight little way.

"I wish you'd seen Minnie Foster," was the answer, "when she wore a white dress with blue ribbons, and stood up there in the choir and sang."

The picture of that girl, the fact that she had lived neighbour to that girl for twenty years, and had let her die for lack of life, was suddenly j more than she could bear.

"Oh, I wish I'd come over here once in a while!" she cried. "That was a crime! That was a crime! Who's going to punish that?"

"We mustn't take on," said Mrs. Peters, with a frightened look toward the stairs.

"I might 'a' known she needed help! I tell you, it's queer, Mrs. Peters. We live close together, and we live far apart. We all go through the same things-it's all just a different kind of the same thing! If it weren't-why do you and I understand? Why do we know-what we know this minute?"

She dashed her hand across her eyes. Then, seeing the jar of fruit on the table, she reached for it and choked out: "If I was you I wouldn't tell her her fruit was gone! Tell her it ain't. Tell her it's all right-all of it. Here-take this in to prove it to her! She-she may never know whether it was broke or not."

She turned away.

Mrs. Peters reached out for the bottle of fruit as if she were glad to take it – as if touching a familiar thing, having something to do, could keep her from something else. She got up, looked about for something to wrap the fruit in, took a petticoat from the pile of clothes she had brought from the front room, and nervously started winding that round the bottle.

"My!" she began, in a high, false voice, "it's a good thing the men couldn't hear us! Getting all stirred up over a little thing like a-dead canary." She hurried over that. "As if that could have anything to do with-with-My, wouldn't they laugh?"

Footsteps were heard on the stairs.

"Maybe they would," muttered Mrs. Hale-"maybe they wouldn't."

"No, Peters," said the county attorney incisively; "it's all perfectly clear, except the reason for doing it. But you know juries when it comes to women. If there was some definite thing-something to show. Something to make a story about. A thing that would connect up with this clumsy way of doing it."

In a covert way Mrs. Hale looked at Mrs. Peters. Mrs. Peters was looking at her. Quickly they looked away from each other. The outer door opened and Mr. Hale came in.

"I've got the team round now," he said. "Pretty cold out there."

"I'm going to stay here awhile by myself," the county attorney suddenly announced. "You can send Frank out for me, can't you?" he asked the sheriff. "I want to go over everything. I'm not satisfied we can't do better."

Again, for one brief moment, the two women's eyes found one another.

The sheriff came up to the table.

"Did you want to see what Mrs. Peters was going to take in?"

The county attorney picked up the apron. He laughed.

"Oh, I guess they're not very dangerous things the ladies have picked out."

Mrs. Hale's hand was on the sewing basket in which the box was concealed. She felt that she ought to take her hand off the basket. She did not seem able to. He picked up one of the quilt blocks which she had piled on to cover the box. Her eyes felt like fire. She had a feeling that if he took up the basket she would snatch it from him.

But he did not take it up. With another little laugh, he turned away, saying: "No; Mrs. Peters doesn't need supervising. For that matter, a sheriff's wife is married to the law. Ever think of it that way, Mrs. Peters?"

Mrs. Peters was standing beside the table. Mrs. Hale shot a look up at her; but she could not see her face. Mrs. Peters had turned away. When she spoke, her voice was muffled.

"Not-just that way," she said.

"Married to the law!" chuckled Mrs. Peters's husband. He moved toward the door into the front room, and said to the county attorney: "I just want you to come in here a minute, George. We ought to take a look at these windows."

"Oh-windows," said the county attorney scoffingly.

"We'll be right out, Mr. Hale," said the sheriff to the farmer, who was still waiting by the door.

Hale went to look after the horses. The sheriff followed the county attorney into the other room. Again-for one moment-the two women were alone in that kitchen.

Martha Hale sprang up, her hands tight together, looking at that other woman, with whom it rested. At first she could not see her eyes, for the sheriff's wife had not turned back since she turned away at that suggestion of being married to the law. But now Mrs. Hale made her turn back. Her eyes made her turn back. Slowly, unwillingly, Mrs. Peters turned her head until her eyes met the eyes of the other woman. There was a moment when they held each other in a steady, burning look in which there was no evasion nor flinching. Then Martha Hale's eyes pointed the way to the basket in which was hidden the thing that would make certain the conviction of the other woman-that woman who was not there and yet who had been there with them all through the hour.

For a moment Mrs. Peters did not move. And then she did it. With a rush forward, she threw back the quilt pieces, got the box, tried to put it in her handbag. It was too big. Desperately she opened it, started to take the bird out. But there she broke-she could not touch the bird. She stood helpless, foolish.

There was a sound of a knob turning in the inner door. Martha Hale snatched the box from the sheriff's wife, and got it in the pocket of her big coat just as the sheriff and the county attorney came back into the kitchen.

"Well, Henry," said the county attorney facetiously, "at least we found out that she was not going to quilt it. She was going to-what is it you call it, ladies?"

Mrs. Hale's hand was against the pocket of her coat.

"We call it-knot it, Mr. Henderson."

CARROLL JOHN DALY (1889-1958)

Carroll John Daly, identified as the 'pioneer of the private eye,' is credited with creating the hard-boiled detective. Daly demonstrates why he deserves that title in «The False Burton Combs,» which is considered to be the genesis of the private eye. In it, Daly defines the credo and personality not only of the unnamed protagonist in the story but also of his soon-to-be-created hero Race Williams, the tough-talking hard-boiled private eye of his own most successful series, and a thousand who would follow the pattern. The hero says, "I ain't a crook; just a gentleman adventurer and make my living working against the law breakers. Not that I work with the police-no, not me." He adds, "I'm no knight errant, either," anticipating how the hard-boiled hero would be used by Dashiell Hammett and, especially, Raymond Chandler.

Daly, born in Yonkers, New York, and a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, had given up on an acting career, become a movie projectionist, and moved from that into ownership of a chain of movie theatres. He didn't begin his writing career until the Roaring Twenties was in its third year, and the tone of his tales exactly fits the American hedonism of the period.

In a sense, Daly took the moralistic, 'white knight' hero of the pulp Westerns and converted him to fit the mood of a country turned cynical by World War I and by the official corruption that accompanied Prohibition. Race Williams declares that he makes his own ethics, and his solutions are more likely to be accomplished with a pistol shot or a punch than with the sharp reasoning of the courtly sleuths who had preceded him. His adventures are told in the first person, allowing the reader at once to experience the physical sensations and inner thoughts of the hero. Two other hard-boiled detectives created by Daly, Vee Brown and Satan Hall, followed in the same formula.

In disclaiming any moral intentions and describing himself as a soldier of fortune, the protagonist of «The False Burton Combs» sets the Race Williams pattern. He also anticipates Williams's attitude toward the establishment: "There ain't nothing in government unless you're a politician. And, as I said before, I ain't a crook."

The hero also states that he "never took women seriously. My game and women don't go well together." That attitude was often reflected in detective fiction of the 1920's. But while Daly's male heroes disdain women, the author is able to create the occasional exemplar of a woman who is clearly heroic. Strong female characters like the 'pretty game little kid' Marion St. James, whose courage is essential to the hero's well-being, were as unusual in Daly's era as is the resolution of this remarkable story.

The False Burton Combs

I had an outside stateroom on the upper deck of the Fall River boat and ten minutes after I parked my bag there I knew that I was being watched. The boat had already cleared and was slowly making its way toward the Battery.

I didn't take the shadowing too seriously. There was nothing to be nervous about-my little trip was purely a pleasure one this time. But then a dick getting your smoke is not pleasant under the best of circumstances. And yet I was sure I had come aboard unobserved.

This chap was a new one on me and I thought he must have just picked me up on suspicion-trailed along in the hope of getting something. But I checked up my past offences and there was really nothing they could hold me on.

I ain't a crook; just a gentleman adventurer and make my living working against the law breakers. Not that I work with the police-no, not me. I'm no knight errant, either. It just came to me that the simplest people in the world are crooks. They are so set on their own plans to fleece others that they never imagine that they are the simplest sort to do. Why, the best safe cracker in the country-the dread of the police of seven States-will drop all his hard-earned money in three weeks on the race track and many a well-thought-of stick-up man will turn out his wad in one evening's crap game. Get the game? I guess I'm just one of the few that see how soft the lay is.

There's a lot of little stunts to tell about if I wanted to give away professional secrets but the game's too good to spread broadcast. It's enough to say that I've been in card games with four sharpers and did the quartet. At that I don't know a thing about cards and couldn't stack a deck if I was given half the night.

But as I say, I'm an adventurer. Not the kind the name generally means; those that sit around waiting for a sucker or spend their time helping governments out of trouble. Not that I ain't willing to help governments at a certain price but none have asked me. Those kind of chaps are found between the pages of a book, I guess. I know. I tried the game just once and nearly starved to death. There ain't nothing in governments unless you're a politician. And as I said before, I ain't a crook.

I've done a lot of business in blackmail cases. I find out a lad that's being blackmailed and then I visit him. He pays me for my services and like as not we do the blackmailers every time. You see I'm a kind of a fellow in the centre-not a crook and not a policeman. Both of them look on me with suspicion, though the crooks don't often know I'm out after their hides. And the police-well, they run me pretty close at times but I got to take the chances.

But it ain't a nice feeling to be trailed when you're out for pleasure so I trot about the deck a few times whistling just to be sure there wasn't any mistake. And that bird come a-tramping after me as innocent as if it was his first job.

Then I had dinner and he sits at the next table and eyes me with a wistful longing like he hadn't made a pinch in a long time and is just dying to lock somebody up. But I study him, too, and he strikes me queer. He ain't got none of the earmarks of a dick. He acts like a lad with money and orders without even looking at the prices and it comes to me that I may have him wrong and that he might be one of these fellows that wanted to sell me oil stock. I always fall hard for the oil stock game. There ain't much in it but it passes the time and lets you eat well without paying for it.

Along about nine o'clock I am leaning over the rail just thinking and figuring how far the swim to shore is if a fellow had to do it. Not that I had any thought of taking to the water-no, not me-but I always like to figure what the chances are. You never can tell.

Well, that bird with the longing eyes cuddles right up and leans over the rail alongside of me.

"It's a nice night," he says.

"A first rate night for a swim."

I looked him over carefully out of the corner of my eyes.

He sort of straightens up and looks out toward the flickering shore lights.

"It is a long swim," he says, just like he had the idea in mind.

Then he asks me to have a cigar and it's a quarter one and I take it.

"I wonder would you do me a favour," he says, after a bit.

This was about what I expected. Con men are full of that kind of gush.

"Hmmm," is all I get off. My game is a waiting one.

"I came aboard a bit late," he goes right on. "I couldn't get a room-now I wonder would you let me take the upper berth in yours. I have been kind of watching you and saw that you were all alone."

Kind of watching me was right. And now he wanted to share my room. Well, that don't exactly appeal to me, for I'm banking on a good night's sleep. Besides, I know that the story is fishy, for I bought my room aboard and got an outsider. But I don't tell him that right off. I think I'll work him out a bit first.

"I'm a friend of the purser," I tell him. "I'll get you a room."

And I make to pass him.

"No-don't do that," he takes me by the arm. "It isn't that."

"Isn't what?"

I look him straight in the eyes and there's a look there that I have seen before and comes in my line of business. As he half turned and I caught the reflection of his eyes under the tiny deck light I read fear in his face-a real fear-almost a terror.

Then I give it to him straight.

"Out with what you want," I says. "Maybe I can help you but let me tell you first that there are plenty of rooms aboard the boat. Now, you don't look like a crook-you don't look sharp enough. What's the big idea of wanting to bunk with me?"

He thought a moment and then leaned far over the rail and started to talk, keeping his eyes on the water.

"I'm in some kind of trouble. I don't know if I have been followed aboard this boat or not. I don't think so but I can't chance it. I haven't had any sleep in two nights and while I don't expect to sleep tonight I'm afraid I may drop off. I don't want to be alone and-and you struck me as an easy-going fellow who might-might-"

"Like to take a chance on getting bumped off," I cut in.

He kind of drew away when I said this but I let him see right away that perhaps he didn't have me wrong. "And you would like me to sit up and protect you, eh?"

"I didn't exactly mean that but I-I don't want to be alone. Now, if you were a man I could offer money to-"

He paused and waited. I give him credit for putting the thing delicately and leaving the next move to me.

I didn't want to scare him off by putting him wise that he had come within my line of business. It might look suspicious to him. And I didn't want him to get the impression that I was a novice. There might be some future money in a job like this and it wouldn't do to be underrated.

"I'll tell you what I'll do," I says. "I've been all over the world and done some odd jobs for different South American governments"-that always has its appeal-"and I'll sit up and keep an eye on you for a hundred bucks."

Crude?-maybe-but then I know my game and you don't.

"And I can sleep?" he chirps, and his eyes sort of brighten up.

"Like a baby," I tells him.

"Good," he says, and "Come to my cabin."

So I take the number of his cabin and tell him that I'll meet him there as soon as I get my bag. Then I leave him and fetch my bag and put what money I have in the purser's office, for, although I can size up a game right away, a fellow can't afford to take chances. I have run across queerer ducks than this in my time.

Twenty minutes later he's in bed and we've turned the sign about smoking to the wall and are puffing away on a couple of good cigars. All content-he's paid me the hundred like a man; two nice new fifties.

He just lay there and smoked and didn't talk much and didn't seem as sleepy as I had thought he was. But I guess he was too tired to sleep, which is a queer thing but I've had it lots of times myself.

He seemed to be thinking, too. Like he was planning something and I was concerned in it. But I didn't bother him none. I saw what was on his chest and he didn't seem in a condition to keep things to himself. I thought he'd out with some proposition for me. But I didn't know. I wasn't anxious to travel about and be a nurse to him. That's more of a job for a private detective but they ain't used over much because they want to know all about your business and then you're worse off than you were before.

At last he opens up.

"What's your business?" he says.

And seeing I got his hundred there ain't no reason to dodge the question. I up and tells him.

"I'm a soldier of fortune."

He kind of blinks at this and then asks.

"That means a chap who takes chances for-for a consideration."

"Certain kind of chances." I qualify his statement.

"Like this for instance?"

"Sometimes; but I don't reckon to travel around as a body guard if that's what you're thinking."

He laughs like he was more at ease. But I often see them laugh when they are getting ready to send me into the danger that they fear. It's not downright meanness like I used to think when I was younger. It's relief, I guess.

"I think I can use you," he said slowly. "And pay you well and you won't need to see me again."

"Oh, I ain't got any particular dislike to you," I tell him. "It's only that I like to work alone. Let me hear what you have to offer and then-well, you can get some sleep tonight anyways."

He thought a moment.

"How much do I have to tell you?" he asked.

"As much or as little as you like. The less the better-but all I ought to know to make things go right for you."

"Well, then, there isn't much to tell. In the first place I want you to impersonate me for the summer or a greater part of it."

"That's not so easy." I shook my head.

"It's easy enough," he went on eagerly. "I am supposed to go to my father's hotel on Nantucket Island-"

Then he leaned out of the bed and talked quickly. He spoke very low and was very much in earnest. They could not possibly know me there. His father was abroad and he had not been to Nantucket since he was ten.

"How old are you?" he asked me suddenly.

"Thirty," I told him.

"You don't look more than I do. We are much alike-about the same size-the same features. And you won't meet anyone I know. If things should go wrong I'll be in touch with you."

"And your trouble?" I questioned. "What should I know about that?"

"That my life is threatened. I have been mixed up with some people whom I am not proud of."

"And they threaten to kill you."

I stroked my chin. Not that I minded taking the chances but somewheres I had learned that a labourer is worthy of his hire. It looked like he was hiring me to get bumped off in his place. Which was all right if I was paid enough. I had taken such chances before and nothing had come of it. That is nothing to me.

"Yes, they threaten my life-but I think it's all bluff."

I nodded. I could plainly see it was that, so I handed out a little talk.

"And that's why you paid me a hundred to sit up with you all night. Mind you, I don't mind the risk, but I must be paid accordingly."

When he saw that it was only a question of money he opens up considerable. He didn't exactly give me the facts in the case but he tells me enough and I learned that he had never seen the parties.

The end of it was that he draws up a paper which asks me to impersonate him and lets me out of all trouble. Of course, the paper wouldn't be much good in a bad jam but it would help if his old man should return suddenly from Europe. But I don't aim to produce that paper. I play the game fair and the figure he names was a good one-not what I would have liked perhaps but all he could afford to pay without bringing his old man into the case, which could not be done.

Somehow, when we finished talking, I got the idea that he had been mixed up in a shady deal-bootlegging or something-and a couple of friends had gone to jail on his evidence. There were three others from Canada who were coming on to get him-the three he had never seen. But it didn't matter much to me. I was just to show them that he wasn't afraid and then when they called things off or got me all was over.

Personally I did think that there was a lot of bluff in the whole business but he didn't and it wasn't my game to wise him up.

It was a big hotel I was going to for the summer and if things got melodramatic, why, I guess I could shoot as good as any bootlegger that ever robbed a church. They're hard guys, yes, but then I ain't exactly a cake-eater myself.

An hour or more talk in which I learn all about his family and the hotel and Burton Combs drops off for his first real sleep in months.

The next morning we part company in his stateroom and I taxied over to New Bedford. He thinks that's better than taking the train because there is a change of cars in the open country and he don't want me to drop too soon.

There are only about ten staterooms on the little tub that makes the trip from New Bedford to Nantucket and I have one of them which is already reserved in Burton Combs's name. After taking a walk about the ship I figure that there ain't no Desperate Desmonds aboard, and having earned my hundred the night before I just curl up in that little cabin and hit the hay.

Five hours and not a dream disturbed me and when I come on deck there's Nantucket right under our nose and we are rounding the little lighthouse that stands on the point leading into the bay.

There's a pile of people on the dock and they sure did look innocent enough and I take a stretch and feel mighty good. From some of the outfits I see I know that I'm going to travel in class and I hope that Burton Combs's clothes fit me for I didn't come away prepared for any social gayety. But it's early in the season yet and I'll get a chance to look around before the big rush begins.

There is a bus at the dock which is labelled 'Sea Breeze Inn' and that's my meat. I climb in with about five others and we are off. Up one shady street and down another; up a bit of a hill and a short straightaway and we are at the hotel. It's a peach, too, with a view of the ocean that would knock your eye out.

The manager spots me at once and says that he'd know me among a thousand as a Combs. Which was real sweet of him seeing that he was expecting me, and the others in the bus were an old man, three old women and a young girl about nineteen. But it wasn't my part to enlighten him and tell him that I was on to his flattery. Besides he was an old bird and probably believed what he said.

He was right glad to see me and tried to look like he meant it and wondered why I hadn't come up there again in all these years but guessed it was because it was kind of slow with my father having a hotel at Atlantic City and at Ostend. And he wanted to know if I was going to study the business. Said my father wrote him that he would like to see me interested in the hotel line.

I didn't say much. There wasn't no need. Mr. Rowlands, the manager, was one of those fussy old parties and he talked all the way up in the elevator and right into the room.

There were about fifty people there all told on the first of July but they kept coming in all the time and after I was there about two weeks the place was fairly well crowded. But I didn't make any effort to learn the business, thinking it might hurt young Combs who didn't strike me as a chap who would like any kind of work.

There was one young girl there-the one that came up in the bus with me-Marion St. James, and we had quite some times together. She was young and full of life and wanted to be up and doing all the time and we did a great deal of golf together.

Then there was another who took an interest in me. She was a widow and a fine looker and it was her first season there. I thought that she was more used to playing Atlantic City for she didn't look like the usual run of staunch New England dames. Sort of out of place and she looked to me to trot her around.

But I didn't have the time; there was Marion to be taken about. She was what you'd call a flapper and talked of the moonlight and such rot but she was real and had a big heart and after all a sensible little head on her shoulders. And she couldn't see the widow a mile and looked upon me as her own special property and blew the widow up every chance she got.

But the widow, I guess, was bent on making a match and she was finding the Island pretty dead though the son of John B. Combs, the hotel magnate, looked like a big catch. So you see my time was fairly well taken up and I grabbed many a good laugh. I never took women seriously. My game and women don't go well together.

Yet that widow was persistent and curious and wanted to know every place Marion and me went and used to keep asking me where we drove to nights. For the kid and me did a pile of motoring. Yes, I had a car. A nice little touring car came with the Burton Combs moniker.

Marion was different. She was just a slip of a kid stuck up in a place like that and it was up to me to show her a good time. I kind of felt sorry for her and then she was pretty and a fellow felt proud to be seen with her.

All the time I kept an eye peeled for the bad men. I wondered if they'd come at all and if they did I thought that they would come in the busy season when they wouldn't be noticed much. But that they'd come at all I very much doubted.

And then they came-the three of them. I knew them the very second they entered the door. They were dolled right up to the height of fashion-just what the others were wearing. But I knew them. They just didn't belong. Maybe the others didn't spot them as outsiders but I did.

They were no bluff, either. I have met all kinds of men in my day; bad and worse and these three were the real thing. It came to me that if these gents were bent on murder I had better be up and doing.

And that Island boasted that it had never had a real murder. Yes, it sure did look like all records were going to be broken.

One of them was a tall skinny fellow and he looked more like a real summer visitor than the others. But his mouth gave him away. When he thought he was alone with the others he'd talk through the side of it, a trick which is only found in the underworld or on the track.

One of the others was fat and looked like an ex-bartender and the third I should say was just a common jailbird that could cut a man's throat with a smile.

The tall skinny one was the leader and he was booked as Mr. James Farrow. He made friends with me right off the bat. Didn't overdo it, you know; just gave me the usual amount of attention that most of the guests showed toward the owner's son. He must-a read a book about the Island for he tried to tell me things about the different points of interest like he'd been there before. But he had a bad memory like on dates and things. Marion gave me the dope on that. She knew that Island like a book.

I didn't have much doubt as to who they were but I checked them up, liking to make sure. I didn't know just what their game was and I didn't see the big idea of wanting to bump me off. If they wanted money I could catch their point but they seemed well supplied with the ready. Yes, sir, I looked this Farrow over and he's a tough bird and no mistake. But then I've seen them just as tough before and pulled through it. Besides, I hold a few tricks myself. They don't know I'm on and they don't know that I'm mighty quick with the artillery myself.

And that gun is always with me. It ain't like I only carry it when I think there's trouble coming. I always have it. You see, a chap in my line of work makes a lot of bad friends and he can't tell when one of them is going to bob up and demand an explanation. But they all find out that I ain't a bird to fool with and am just as likely to start the fireworks as they are.

Nearly every night after dinner I'd take the car and Marion and me would go for a little spin about the Island. I don't know when I ever enjoyed anything so much and sometimes I'd forget the game I was playing and think that things were different. I've met a pile of women in my time but none like Marion nor near like her. Not since the days when I went to school-and that's a memory only.

Well, we'd just drive about and talk and she'd ask me about the different places I had been to. And I could hold my own there, for I've been all over the world.

Then one night-about ten days after the troupe arrived-I get a real scare. We've been over 'Scònset way and are driving home along about nine-thirty when-zip-there's a whiz in the air and a hole in the windshield. Then there's another zip and I see Marion jump.

It's nothing new to me. I knew that sound right away. It's a noiseless gun and someone has taken a couple of plugs at us from the distance. Well, it ain't my cue to stop, so I speed up and it's pretty near town before I slow down beneath a lamp and turn to Marion.

There is a little trickle of blood running down her cheek and she's pretty white. But she ain't hurt any. It's just a scratch and I stop in the drug store and get some stuff and bathe it off.

She is a mighty game little kid and don't shake a bit and act nervous. But I'm unsteady for the first time in my life and my hand shook. I wouldn't of been much good on a quick draw then. But later I would, for I was mad-bad mad-if you know what that is. I see that all the danger ain't mine. Not that I think they meant to get Marion. But I had brought that Kid into something, and all because she kind of liked me a bit and I took her around.

On the way back to the hotel I buck up and tell her that it must have been some of the natives hunting the hares and not to say anything about it but that I would speak to the authorities in the morning.

She just looked at me funny and I knew that she did not believe me but she let it go at that.

"If that's all you want to tell me, Burt-why-all right-I shan't say a word to anyone. You can trust me."

That was all. Neither of us spoke again until we reached the hotel and I had parked the car under the shed at the side and we were standing at the bottom of the steps by the little side entrance. Then she turned and put her two tiny hands up on my shoulders and the paleness had gone from her face but just across her cheek where the bullet had passed was the smallest streak of vivid red.

"You can trust me, Burt," she said again and there seemed to be a question in her voice.

"Of course I trust you, Marion," I answered and my voice was husky and seemed to come from a distance.

It all happened very suddenly after that. Her head was very close. I know, for her soft hair brushed my cheek. I think that she leaned forward but I know that she looked up into my eyes and that the next moment I had leaned down and kissed and held her so a moment. So we stood and she did not draw away and I made no movement to release her. We were alone there, very much alone.

Then there was the sudden chug of a motor, a second's flash of light and I had opened my arms and Marion was gone and I stood alone in the blackness.

So the spell of Marion's presence was broken and I stood silently in the shadow as Farrow and his two companions passed and entered the hotel lobby.

Had they seen us? Yes-I knew that they had. For they smiled as they passed. Smiled and never knew that they had passed close to death. For at that moment it was only the press of a trigger that lay between them and eternity.

The curtain had been rung up on the first act and the show was on. Before, I could sleep easy at night for the danger was mine and I had thought little of it. But now I felt that it was another's-and-well, I resolved to bring things to a head that night.

Ten minutes later I went to my room but not to bed. I put my light out and sat in the room until about twelve o'clock. At that time the hotel was as quiet as death.

Then I stepped out of my window and climbed down the fire escape which led to the little terrace which overlooked the ocean. I knew just where Farrow's room was and I walked along the terrace until I was under it and then swung myself up the fire escape and climbed to the third story. His window was open and thirty seconds later I had dropped into the room and was seated on the end of Farrow's bed.

Then I switched on the light and waited till he woke up. Guess he didn't have much fear of me for he slept right on for another five minutes and then he kind of turned over and blinked and-opened his eyes. He was awake fast enough then for he was looking in the mean end of my automatic.

He was quick witted, too, for he rubbed his eyes with one hand while he let the other slip under his pillow. Then I laughed and he drew it out empty and sat bolt upright in bed and faced the gun.

"Farrow," I says. "You were mighty near to going out tonight. And if I hadn't already lifted that gun of yours I'd a popped you then."

And I half wished that I had let his gun stay there for then there would have been an excuse to let him have it. A poor excuse but still an excuse. It's hard to shoot a man when he ain't armed and prepared but it's another thing to shoot when he's reaching for a gun and it's your life or his. Then you can let him have it with your mind easy.

He was a game bird, was Farrow, for he must have had plenty to think about at that moment. You see he couldn't tell just what was coming to him and from his point of view it must have looked mighty bad but he started right in to talk. Told me the chances I was taking and that I couldn't possibly get away with it. He didn't waste any time in bluffing and pretending surprise at seeing me sitting there with the gun. I give him credit-now-for understanding the situation.

But I stopped his wind.

"Shut up," I says.

And he caught the anger in my eyes and in my voice and he shut-which was good for him, for a chap can't tell for sure what he's going to do when he's seeing red and has the drop on a lad that he figures needs killing.

Then I did a bit of talking. I told him what had taken place that night and I knew it was his doing. And he nodded and never tried to deny it.

"You killed my brother," he says, "for he died in trying to break jail a few months ago-the jail where you sent him."

"So-I killed your brother, eh? Well, every man is entitled to his own opinion. Now, I don't know about the killing of your brother but I'll tell you this, my friend, I come mighty near to killing you and I don't miss either and I don't crack windshields and I don't go for to hit innocent parties."

I could see that he was kind of surprised at the way I talked for I wasn't specially careful about my language like I had been about the hotel and like what he would expect from the real Burton Combs. But I could see that he kind of smacked his lips at the mention of the girl and he knew that he had a hold on me there. But I didn't care what was on his chest. I knew that the morning would see the end of the thing one way or the other.

"I am going to give you until the six-thirty boat tomorrow morning to leave the Island," I told him.

And I was not bluffing, either. After a man has had his warning it's good ethics to shoot him down-at least I see it that way. That is, if he needs it bad and you happen to have my code of morals. Also if you want to live to a ripe old age.

"What then?" he sort of sneers.

Seeing as how he wasn't going over the hurdles right away he thinks I'm a bit soft. In the same position his own doubt about shooting me would be the chances of a getaway. And the chances were not good on that Island unless you had made plans in advance. Perhaps he had-I didn't know then for I hadn't seen any boat hanging about the harbour.

"What then?" he sneers again.

"Then-" I says very slowly and thinking of Marion. "Then I'll cop you off at breakfast tomorrow morning. Yes-as soon as that boat leaves the dock I'll be gunning for you, Mr. James Farrow. And as sure as you're not a better shot than you were tonight out on the moors you'll go join your brother."

With that I turned from the bed and, unlocking his door, walked out of his room. The temptation to shoot was too great.

But I didn't go to bed that night. I just put out my light and sat smoking in my room-smoking and thinking. So I spent the second night that summer awake. I knew that the three would meet and talk it over and no doubt-get. But I just sat there; half facing the door and half facing the window with my gun on my knees waiting.

How nice would it be if they would only come by the window? It would be sweet then-and what a lot of credit I'd get as Burton Combs protecting his father's property. They meant real business all right for I see now that there was sentiment behind the whole thing-sentiment and honour. That peculiar honour of the underworld which goes and gets a squealer. Combs had evidently squealed and Farrow's brother had paid the price. And Combs went free. Position and evidence and politics had done the trick, I guess.

I heard the clock strike two and then two-thirty and then there was a footstep in the hall and I turned and faced the door and then there come a light tap on the door. This sure was a surprise.

I didn't turn on the electric light but just went to the door and swung it open suddenly and stepped back. But no one came in.

Then I heard a kind of a gasp-a woman's voice. The first thing I thought of was Marion and then I see the widow in the dim hall light. Her hair was all down and she had thrown a light robe about her and she was excited and her eyes were wide open and she looked frightened.

"It's Marion-little Miss St. James," she sobbed, "and she's in my room now-and it was terrible and I think-I think she fainted."

Then she stopped and kind of choked a bit.

Right away it came to me that this gang had done something to her and I wished that I had settled the whole thing earlier in the evening when I had the chance but- "Come," I said to the widow and took her by the arm and led her down the hall to her room. The door was open and gun in hand I rushed into the room ahead of her.

"There on the bed," she gasped behind me.

I turned to the bed-and it was empty and then I knew. But it was too late, for I was trapped. There was a muzzle of a gun shoved into the middle of my back and a hard laugh. Then Farrow spoke.

"Throw that gun on the bed and throw it quick."

And-and I threw it and threw it quick. I was done. I should have suspected the widow from the first day I laid eyes on her, for she didn't belong. Yes, she was this gang's come on. And me, who had never fallen for women, was now caught by women. A good one and a bad one. One whom I wanted to protect and one who knew it. Now you see how the game is played. Neither a good nor a bad woman can help you in my sort of life. And yet I would take any chance for that little Marion who used to stand out on the moor at the-but Farrow was talking.

"And now, Mr. Combs, we meet again-and you're the one to do the listening. We are going to take you for a little motor ride-that is, you are going out with me to meet my friends. We don't intend to kill you. That is, if you have proved yourself a man and come along quietly. There is some information I want from you. And thanks for the return of my gun," he finished as he picked the gun off the bed.

Yes, it was his gun and mine was still in my pocket and I'd-a shot him then only I saw that the widow was covering me.

"Come."

Farrow turned and, poking the gun close to my ribs, he induced me to leave the room with him.

"If you make a noise you go," he told me as we walked down the long narrow hall to the servants' stairs. But I didn't intend to cry out. If he would just move that gun of his the least little bit I could draw and shoot. I almost laughed, the thing was so easy.

"The» Elsie» is lying right off the point," he went on, as we approached the little shed where my car was kept. "You remember the «Elsie»-it used to be your boat. The government remembers it, too. But they don't know it now nor would you. But enough of that. Climb into your car-we'll use that for our little jaunt."

We had reached the little shed now and I climbed into the car, always waiting for a chance to use my gun, but he watched me like a hawk. Then he laughed-a queer, weird laugh which had the ring of death in it.

I drove as he said and we turned from the hotel and out onto the moors-that long stretch of desolate road that leads across the Island. And then he made me stop the car and stand up.

"I'll take your gun," he said and he lifted it from my hip. "We won't need more than one gun between us tonight. For if it comes to shooting I'll take care of that end of it."

He threw the gun into the back of the car where I heard it strike the cushion of the rear seat and bounce to the floor.

We drove on in silence. He never said a word but I felt as clearly as if he had told me so that he was driving me to my death. The gun, he had let me carry until we were safe away. Perhaps he had thought that without it I might have cried out in the hotel but this I shall never know. That he knew all along I had it I have no doubt.

More than once I was on the edge of telling him that I was not the man he thought I was, for it looked as though the game was up. But he would not have believed me and besides my little agreement with Combs was back in my hotel room.

Not a soul did we pass as we sped over the deserted road. No light but the dulled rays of the moon broke the darkness all around us. Half hour or more and then suddenly I see a car in the road as the moon pops out from behind the clouds.

Then Farrow spoke and there was the snarl of an animal in his voice.

"Here's where you stop," he growled, "and here's where you get yours. They'll find you out here in the morning and they can think what they want; we'll be gone. And the killing of a rat like you is the only business I've got on the moors this night."

I had pulled up short in the centre of the road now for a big touring car which I recognised as Farrow's was stretched across our path blocking the passage. In it I clearly saw his two friends.

It was death now sure but I made up my mind to go out as gracefully as possible and when he ordered me to open the door I leaned over and placed my hand upon the seat. And it fell on the cool muzzle of a revolver. Yes, my fingers closed over a gun and I knew that that gun was mine.

Thrills in life-yes-there are many but I guess that that moment was my biggest. I didn't stop to think how that gun got there. I didn't care. I just tightened on it and felt the blood of life pass quickly through my body-if you know what I mean.

I couldn't turn and shoot him for he had his pistol pressed close against my side. What he feared I don't know but I guess he was just one of these over-careful fellows who didn't take any chances.

"Open that door and get out," he ordered again as he gave me a dig in the ribs.

I leaned over again and placed my hand upon the handle of the door and then I got a happy thought.

"I can't open it," I said and I let my voice tremble and my hand shake. But in my left hand I now held my gun and thanked my lucky stars that I was left-handed, for I knew if I got the one chance that I hoped for it would have to be a perfect shot.

"White livered after all," he muttered and he stooped over and placed his left hand upon the handle of the door.

His right hand still held the gun close to my side and his eyes were watching my every movement. I never seen a man so careful before. I couldn't pull the gun up and shoot for he would get me at the very first movement-and although I was tempted I waited. The other two sat in the car ahead and were smoking and laughing. Of course I knew that if I once stepped out in the moonlight with the gun in my hand that it was all up but I waited and then- The door really stuck a bit, for the nights are mighty damp on that island and it was that dampness which saved my life. For just the fraction of a second he took his eyes off me-just a glance down at the door with a curse on his lips.

And with that curse on his lips he died.

For as he turned the handle I give it to him right through the heart. I don't miss at that range-no-not me. The door flew open and he tumbled out on the road-dead.

I don't offer no apologies, for it was his life or mine and-as I said-he tumbled out on the road-dead.

Another fellow writing might say that things weren't clear after that. But they were clear enough to me because I never lose my head. That's why I have lived to be thirty and expect to die in bed. Yes, things are always clear when clearness means a little matter of life or death.

Those other chaps were so surprised at the turn things had taken that I had jumped to the road and winged one of them before they knew what had happened. But the other fellow was quick and had started shooting and I felt a sharp pain in my right shoulder. But one shot was all that he fired and then I had him-one good shot was all I needed and-he went out. I don't go for to miss.

I didn't take the time to examine them to see if they were dead. I'm not an undertaker and it wasn't my business. I guessed they were but if they wasn't I didn't intend to finish the job. I'm not a murderer, either. Then there were a couple of houses not so far off and I could see lights-lights that weren't there before-in both of them. Even on a quiet island like that you can't start a gun party without disturbing some of the people.

I just turned my car around and started back to the hotel. Twenty minutes later I had parked it in the shed and gone to my room. As far as I knew no one could know what had taken place on the lonely moor that night. I played doctor to my shoulder. It wasn't so very bad, either, though it pained a lot, but the bullet had gone through the flesh and passed out. I guess a little home treatment was as good as any doctor could do.

Then the morning came and my arm was not so good but I dressed and went down to breakfast and saw the manager and he told me that the widow had gone on the early boat. I don't think that she was a real widow but that she was the wife of one of those chaps. Farrow, I guess. But that didn't bother me none. She was a widow now all right.

And then about nine o'clock news of the three dead men being found away off on the road came in. And I know I got all three of them.

There was a lot of talk and newspaper men from the city came over and detectives and one thing and another. The morning papers of the following day had it all in and wild guesses as to how it happened. The three were recognised by the police as notorious characters and then it got about that a rum-runner had been seen off the east shore that very morning. The general opinion seemed to be that there had been a fight among the pirates and that these three men got theirs-which suited me to a T.

I would-a beat it only that would have looked mighty queer and honestly I didn't see where they had a thing on me. I thought the best thing to do was to sit tight and for nearly a week I sat.

And then the unexpected-unexpected by me at least-happened.

The widow sent a telegram to the Boston police and they came down and nailed me. You see the writing on the wall? Keep clear of the women.

A dick from Boston dropped in one morning and I knew him the minute he stepped foot in the hotel. And I also knew that he was after me though at the time I didn't wise up as to how he was on. But he wasn't sure of himself and he had the manager introduce him to me. Then he talked about everything but the killing and of course he was the only one at the hotel that left that topic out of his conversation. And that was his idea of hiding his identity!

But he was sharp enough at that and hadn't gone about the Island more than a couple of days before he stuck this and that together and had enough on me to make the charge. But he was a decent sort of chap and came up to my room late at night with the manager and put the whole thing straight up to me and told me about the widow's telegram and that I was under arrest and that I had better get a hold of the best lawyer that money could buy for I was in for a tough time.

He was right and I knew that I was in a mighty bad hole. But I also knew that there would be plenty of money behind me when the whole thing came out and money is a mighty good thing to get out of a hole with.

So I played the game and never let on that I wasn't the real Burton Combs. They locked me up and notified my adopted father and the next morning the news was shouted all over the world, for John B. Combs cut a big figure and his son's arrest made some music.

And then the Combs lawyer, Harvey Benton, came up to see me and the minute he set eyes on me the cat was out of the bag and I up and tells him the whole story though I didn't give him the reason for Combs being frightened but just said that he was threatened by these three rum-runners. I felt that my playing the game fair would give me a better standing with the Combses and help loosen up the old purse strings.

Young Combs wasn't such a bad fellow either, for the next day he was down to see me and ready to tell the whole story and stand up for me.

The we moved over to the mainland and I couldn't get out on bail and the prosecuting attorney started to have my record looked up and I can tell you that after that things didn't look so rosy. It all goes to prove that a clean sheet helps a man though mine wasn't nothing to be ashamed of. But I will admit that it looked pretty sick on the front pages of the newspapers.

Then John B. Combs himself arrives and comes up to see me. He listens to my story at first with a hard, cold face but when I come to the part where I have to shoot quick or die his eyes kind of fill and I see he's thinking of his son and the chances he would of had in the same place-and how if I hadn't got them they would-a got Burton.

Then he stretches forth his hand and grasps mine and I see it would have been better if Burton had taken his father into his confidence in the first place.

Yes, the old boy was a good scout and he told me that he loved his son and that I had saved his son's life and he didn't care what my past had been. And he would see me through this thing that his son had gotten me into if it cost a fortune.

It was a funny thing all around. Here was me, the sufferer, comforting the old boy and telling him that it was nothing. Just like the chair looking me in the face was an everyday affair. But I didn't much like the idea of his being so sad, for it gives me the impression that my chances are not so good and that I am going to pay the price for his son. Which ain't nothing to sing about. But it was my word against the word of the gang, and they being dead wouldn't have much to say.

Yes, I was indicted all right and held for the grand jury-first degree murder was the charge. Then come a wait with my lawyers trying to get a hold of some farmer who might of seen something of the shooting and would corroborate my story.

Then comes the trial and you would-a thought that the District Attorney had a personal grudge against me all his life and that all the politicians and one-horse newspapers were after his job. He paints up those three crooks like they were innocent young country girls that had been trapped by a couple of designing men. And he tells how Burton Combs done them in a shady deal and when he feared they was going to tell the authorities he up and hires a professional murderer to kill them.

I tell you it made a mighty good story and he told it well. One could almost see those three cherubs going forth in child-like innocence to be slaughtered by the butcher-which is me.

And he punched holes in my story. Especially that part about how I put down my hand and found the gun on the seat. And he said that I took them out on some pretence and shot them down in cold blood-quick shooting being my business and shady deals my living.

When he got through with my story it was as full of holes as a sieve and I had a funny feeling around the chest because I thought anyone could see what a rotten gang this was and what a clean-living young fellow I was. For my lawyer painted me up as a young gentleman what went around the world trying to help others.

Just when I think that things are all up and the jury are eyeing me with hard, stern faces comes the surprise. You see, I had never told a soul about Marion being in the car with me when that gang first started the gun play out on the 'Scònset road. You see, I didn't see the need of it and-and-well, somehow I just couldn't drag her into it. Weakness, I'll admit, for a fellow facing death should fight with every weapon he can grab. And there's that thing about women cropping up again.

But somehow there in that stuffy courtroom her innocent face and those soft, child-like eyes come up before me and I see she might of helped me a lot with the simple truth about the bullet that crossed her cheek. And while I was thinking about Marion and telling myself that my goose was cooked comes that big surprise.

My lawyer calls a witness, and it's Marion St. James. Gad! my heart just stops beating for the moment.

She was very quiet and very calm but her voice was low and the jury had to lean forward to catch what she said. She told about the ride that night and how the bullet broke the windshield and scratched her cheek.

And then came the shock. I was just dreaming there and thinking of the trouble I had caused her when I heard what she was saying and I woke up-quick.

"-after I left Mr. Combs-I called him Burton," and she pointed down at me. "I went upstairs but I couldn't sleep. I was thinking about what had happened out on the moor that night. Of course, I didn't believe what Burton had told me-about the hares. And then I remembered the look on his face as he bathed off my cheek-and it was terrible to see and-"

Then she paused a moment and wiped her eyes and went on.

"After a bit I looked out the window and I could see the little shed, where Burt kept his car, and I just caught the glimpse of a man going into it. I thought it was Burt and that he was going to drive out on the moor and-Oh, I don't know what I thought, but I was frightened and didn't want him to go and I just rushed out of my room and down the back stairs and out toward the shed.

"I was just in time to see a big touring car pull out and two men were in it. And then I waited a minute and went and looked into the shed and Burt's car was still there. I don't know why but I was frightened and I climbed into the little touring car and sat down in the back and kind of rested.

"Then I heard someone coming and I hid down in the back of the car and pulled some rugs up over me and waited."

"And why did you wait?" my lawyer asked her kindly.

"I just thought that I would be able to help Mr.-Burt-and I wanted to help him."

"Was there any other reason?"

"Yes-I thought that he was going into trouble for me and-and-" she paused a moment.

"Yes," the lawyer encouraged.

"And I wanted to help him."

She said the words so low that you could hardly catch them. But the lawyer didn't ask her to repeat them. I guess he thought it went over better that way and it sure did-at least with me. For I knew what she meant.

Then she went on.

"Pretty soon Mr. Combs came along" (for she kept calling me Burton Combs) "and that big man was with him. The one they called Mr. Farrow. I looked carefully up over the door, for it was very dark where I was, and I saw that Mr. Farrow had a gun in his hand and that he held it close up against Mr. Combs's back. And he talked rough but too low to understand and then they both climbed into the front of the machine. I did not know just what I could do, but I thought-oh-I don't know what I thought, but I did so want to help him and I was just too scared to cry out.

"And then they started off and after they were a little way out in the country Mr. Farrow made Burton stop the car and stand up while he searched him. And he found his revolver and took it from him and threw it into the back of the car. It landed on the seat and bounced off and I stretched out my hand and took hold of it and held it there under the rugs. I didn't know what to do with it at first for I had never fired a gun.

"Then I heard Mr. Farrow say that he was going to kill Mr. Combs and I was terribly frightened but I leaned up and stretched my hand over the seat and tried to give the pistol to Mr. Combs. But Mr. Farrow turned suddenly and I became frightened and dropped the pistol. Then I dropped back in the car again but I was half out of the covers and afraid to pull them over me for the car had stopped again and I had a feeling that someone was looking down at me. Then I heard them moving in front of the car and I looked up and I saw that Mr. Farrow had his gun pressed close against Mr. Combs's side and that Mr. Combs was trying to open the door.

"Then came the sudden report and I think that I cried out, for I thought that Burt was shot. Then came several more shots, one right after another, and I looked out and saw Mr. Combs standing in the moonlight and a man beside another big car firing at him-and then the man fell and-"

She broke off suddenly and started to cry.

"And after that?" my lawyer smiled at her.

"I climbed back under the robes and-Mr. Combs drove me back to the hotel-but he never knew I was there."

Well, that just about settled it, I guess. The room was in more or less of an uproar. And you ought to have heard my lawyer! Now I know why good lawyers get so much money. He started in and he sure did paint that gang up mighty black, and now I was the innocent boy led into danger by these hardened criminals. And he showed how the gun was held close to my side when I fired.

"And if that isn't self-defence and good American pluck I'd like to ask you what in heaven's name is?"

And that's the whole show. One hour later I was a free man. Everybody was shaking hands with me, and from a desperate criminal I had suddenly become a hero. And I guess that Marion had done it.

Then Old Combs came up to me and shook me by the hand and told me how glad he was that I was free and what a plucky little thing Marion was, and how I owed my life twice over to her.

Then he offered me a job. Imagine! Another job for the Combs family. But this was different.

"There is too much good in you to lead the life you have been leading. You may think that it is all right, but there will be others that won't. I can offer you something that will be mighty good."

But I shook my head.

"I guess I'll stick to my trade," I said. "I've had good offers before, and in my line-this little notoriety won't hurt none."

"It's a good position," he says, not paying much attention to what I was getting off. "The right people will be glad to know you-and there will be enough money in it to get married."

I started to shake my head again when he handed me a note.

"Read this note and then let me know. Not another word until you have read it."

He smiles.

I took the little blue envelope and tore it open, and it was from Marion: «I would like to see you again when you take that position of Mr. Combs.»

I guess I read that simple sentence over a couple of dozen times before I again turned to Mr. Combs.

"I guess I'll take that job-if it pays enough to get married on," was all that I said.

There ain't no explanation unless-unless I wanted to see Marion again myself.

That's all, unless to warn you that it would be kind of foolish to take too seriously anything I said about keeping clear of the women

CLINTON H. STAGG (1890-1916)

Little is known about the short-lived Clinton H. Stagg, creator of Thornley Colton, Blind Detective. Readers must turn to the fiction itself for clues about the character of its author.

In inventing an early example of a sleuth who uses a physical handicap to advantage, Stagg repeatedly proved that apparent limitations can be overcome with intelligence. At a time when people with disabilities were commonly viewed as figures of pity, Stagg made his blind sleuth a figure of admiration.

Stagg worked in the Sherlock Holmes tradition, endowing his sleuth with superb mental powers enhanced by extraordinary abilities in interpreting clues. Whereas Holmes may have known how to identify numerous varieties of cigar ash, Colton uses supersensitive powers of hearing and touch to provide a unique outlook on clues that the sighted police cannot see. Like Holmes, Colton is teamed with a Watson figure, Sydney Thames, whom Colton picked up on the banks of that London river; he accompanies Colton and receives his explanations with awe. When, for instance, in a crowded New York hotel dining room the blind sleuth remarks that a woman is too heavily rouged, Thames is predictably amazed. "Good heavens, Thorn!" he exclaims in Watsonesque wonder. "Sometimes I wonder if you are blind!" His mentor explains that his fingers tell him much. "In the lights of a Broadway restaurant the keyboard of silence gives me the secrets of living hearts," Colton intones. Such heightened sensitivity as compensation for blindness was used earlier by the British author Ernest Bramah, who created the blind detective Max Carrados, and later by the American writer Baynard Kendrick, whose sightless sleuth was Captain Duncan Maclain.

Colton 's leg man, Shrimp, is another sad case whom the hero has rescued. This freckle-faced lad with a penchant for imitating his dime-novel hero, Nick Carter, is also known as 'The Fee,' because he was the only payment Colton received for a case in which the murder of Shrimp's mother by his father left him orphaned.

«The Keyboard of Silence» is collected in a volume of eight problems solved by the supersensitive sleuth. It demonstrates Stagg's extraordinary eye for detail and shows the characters-hero and criminal alike-as spokesmen for their creator, who has eluded literary historians. Like the major players in his story, Stagg was a 'detailist' who plotted his mysteries and planned their solutions with consummate care. Along the way, a profound insight into character guides the blind detective toward the truth. Readers may agree that they cannot see the solution to this problem "until a blind man has shown them."

The Keyboard of Silence

I

Not often did mere man attract attention in the famous dining-room of the 'Regal,' but men and women alike, who were seated near the East Archway, raised their eyes to stare at the man who stood in the doorway, calmly surveying them. The smoke-glass, tortoise-shell library spectacles, which made of his eyes two great circles of dull brown, brought out the whiteness of the face strikingly. The nose, with its delicately sensitive nostrils, was thin and straight; the lips, now curved in a smile, somehow gave one the impression that, released by the mind, they would suddenly spring back to their accustomed thin, straight line. For a smile seemed out of place on that pale, masterful face, with its lean, cleft chin. The snow-white hair of silky fineness that curled away from the part to show the pink scalp underneath contrasted sharply with the sober black of the faultless dinner-coat that fell in just the proper folds from the broad shoulders and deep chest.

The eyes of the girl at the sixth table seemed to be held, fascinated. The elder woman, who was with her, toyed with her salad and conformed to convention by stealing covert glances at the man in the archway, and the square-chinned, clean-looking young man who made the third of the party stared openly, unashamed; but his eyes held not the other diners' rude questioning, nor yet the girl's frank fascination.

"You are staring, Rhoda," rebuked the elder woman mildly.

The girl turned her eyes with a little sigh.

"What wonderful character there is in his face!" she murmured.

"He is a wonderful character," asserted the man, his face lighting up boyishly, his tone one of admiration.

"You know him?" Both asked it in a breath, eyes eager.

"Yes. He is Thornley Colton, man about town, club member, musician, whose recreation is the solving of problems that baffle other men. It was he who found the murderer of President Parkins of the up-town National, and, when the crash came, secured me my position in the Berkley Trust."

"A detective?" The elder woman asked it; the girl's eyes were again on Colton.

"No." The man shook his head. "He jokingly calls himself a problemist, and accepts only those cases that he thinks will prove interesting, for the solving of them is merely his recreation. He takes no fees. The man with him is his secretary, Sydney Thames, whose name is pronounced like that of the river. He, too, is a remarkably handsome man, but he is never noticed when with Thornley Colton, except as his coal-black hair and eyes, and red cheeks, form a striking contrast to Colton."

"I had not even noticed him," confessed the elder woman, as she glanced for the first time at the slim young man of twenty-five or six, who stood at Colton 's side, eyes apparently taking in every detail of the big dining-room. Then she remembered her duty as mentor. "You must not stare so rudely, Rhoda!" she chided.

"I don't think Mr. Colton minds the stare," the man said quietly. "He has been totally blind since birth, though many people refuse to believe it."

"Blind!" They both breathed it, in their voices the tender sympathy all women feel for the misfortunes of others.

"He is coming," warned the elder woman unnecessarily.

They had seen the head-waiter apparently apologise to Colton, and step aside. The secretary had whispered a few words, and Thornley Colton, his slim stick held lightly and idly in his fingers, started down the aisle between the rows of tables, shoulders swung back, chin up, followed by Sydney Thames. The woman and the girl watched his approach with parted lips, in their eyes mother fear for his safety as he hurried toward them, stepping aside at exactly the proper moment to avoid a hurrying waiter, walking around the very much overdressed, stout woman whose chair projected a foot over the unmarked aisle line. As he neared their table, they saw the thin lips frame a smile of friendly greeting.

"How do you do, Mr. Morris?" His voice, rich, of wonderful musical timbre, seemed to thrill the girl with its kindliness and strength, as he stepped around her chair to shake hands with her escort. " Sydney saw you while we were waiting for our table."

"Will you meet Miss Richmond?" asked Norris, when he had answered the greeting in kind. Colton turned instantly to face the girl, his slim white hand, with its long, tapering fingers, outstretched.

"It is a concession we of the darkness ask of every one," he apologized.

Their hands met, the girl felt the warm grip, and her sensitive wrist seemed to feel a touch, light as the touch of wind-blown thistle-down, but it was gone instantly, and she knew it was but the telepathic thrill of the meeting palms. She murmured a commonplace, and bit her lips in vexation, because it was a commonplace. The man before her seemed to call for more.

"Your singing is wonderful, Miss Richmond," he declared enthusiastically. "Sydney and I have had orchestra seats three nights this week. You know, to me music must give the combined pleasures of painting, sculpture, architecture, and other beautiful things the average person doesn't even appreciate."

Her eyes expressed their pity, but her lips said only: "My mother, Mr. Colton." They shook hands across the table, Mrs. Richmond with a heartiness that was not part of the artificial code New York has fixed, he with a few words that brought a flush of pleasure to her faded cheeks.

"Why didn't Mr. Thames stay?" asked Norris curiously. "He hurried on as though he thought we were plague victims."

"He usually does," smiled Colton. "He has a very curious fear. I'll tell you about it some time."

"Why don't you drop into the bank and see me some day? You haven't been in my tomb-like office for months. Miss Richmond and her mother saw me at work for a few minutes this afternoon. It compares very favourably with the dressing-rooms given to opera-singers, they say."

"I should say so!" laughed the girl. "If you can compare Persian rugs and mahogany with our cracked walls, and box-propped dressing-tables, and plugged gas-jets!"

"Men always do take the best," conceded Colton smilingly. Then he addressed Norris directly. "How is Simpson attending to business nowadays?"

"He has been away for a week. He came in this afternoon to amaze us with the news that he had just been married. He didn't have much to say about his wife, however, except that he was going to turn over a new leaf."

"That's news!" whistled Colton. "He never struck me as the marrying kind."

"Nor any one else," laughed Norris, with a tender, significant glance at the girl across the table.

"I'll have to look him up and congratulate him. Till we meet again, then." And with a pleasant nod of parting to each of them, a touch of a chair leg with his slim stick, Colton hurried down the aisle to the small table in the far corner, where Sydney Thames was giving his order to the waiter. The serving-man responded to a friendly nod from Colton, closed his order tablet, and hurried away. Thornley took a cigarette from his case, scratched a match on the bronze box, and learned comfortably back in his chair.

"Some time, Sydney, your terrible fear of beautiful women is going to get me into a very embarrassing position." He said it half seriously, half smilingly. "Instead of seventeen steps, it was but sixteen and a short half. If it hadn't been for Norris's habit of nervously tapping his glass with his finger-tips, my outstretched hand would have gone to the back of his neck."

"I thought I had figured it exactly!" There was earnest contrition in the tone; the sombre, black eyes showed the pain of the mistake.

"It is forgotten," dismissed Colton. Then: "But you should have stopped, Sydney. Miss Richmond's personality is as remarkable as her singing, and her mother is so proud and happy she forgets to be embarrassed at the difference between Keokuk and the Regal. Norris is lucky, for she loves him, and he-" The smiling lips needed no finishing words.

"But she is already commanding two hundred dollars a week at the very beginning of her career, and Norris cannot be earning more than five thousand a year," protested Thames.

"You poor boy!" smiled Colton. "You'll never know women; that susceptible heart of yours, which drives you away like a scared sheep whenever a beautiful woman approaches, will never be good for anything but pumping blood."

"Thorn, don't I know my weakness!" The tone was indescribably bitter. "I must keep away, though I'm starving for the society of good women. To meet one would be to fall in love, hopelessly, helplessly. I'd forget that I was a thing of shame, a brat picked up on the banks of the river that gave me the only name I know."

Colton was instantly serious. "Starvation seems a peculiar cure for hunger," he mused. "But we have argued that so many times-" Again the thin, expressive lips finished the sentence.

Then came the waiter with a club sandwich for Thames and Colton's invariable after-theatre supper that was always ready when he came, and which he never needed to order; two slices of graham bread covered with rich, red beef-blood gravy, and a bottle of mineral water. Colton 's slim cane, hollow, and light as a feather, the slightest touch of which sent its warning to his supersensitive finger-tips, rested between his knees as he ate.

Sydney Thames nibbled his sandwich absent-mindedly, eyes roving around the dining-room, now stopping at a gaudily-dressed dowager, now at an overpainted lady who smiled her fixed smile at the bull-necked man at her table, now at the circle-eyed girl who stabbed the cherry from her empty cocktail glass with a curved tine of her oyster fork; but always coming back to the fresh, wholesomely beautiful face of Rhoda Richmond. Then the sombre eyes would light up; for a beautiful face, to Sydney Thames, was more intoxicating than wine, and, to his highly sensitive nature, more dangerous.

Colton pushed his plate aside as the other's eyes once more started their round of the dining-room.

"The gods give gaudiness in recompense for the eye-sparkle they have taken, and the wrinkles they have given," Thornley Colton murmured quietly. "One must come to a New York restaurant to realise the true pathos of beauty." Colton 's mood had been curiously serious since those few words at Norris's table.

Thames did not answer, for no answer was needed. His wandering eyes had rested on a table to the left.

"One often wonders," continued Colton, in that same musing, low-pitched voice, "why a stout woman, like that one two tables to our left, for instance, will suffer the tortures of her hereafter for the sake of drinking high balls in a tight, purple gown."

Sydney had turned his eyes to stare at Colton, as he always did when the man who had picked him up as a bundle of baby-clothes on the banks of the Thames, twenty-five years before, made an observation of this kind. Many such had he heard, but never did they fail to startle him.

"How, in Heaven's name, did you know what I was doing, or that she was dressed in purple?" he demanded.

"You should keep both feet flat on the floor if you want to keep your staring a secret," laughed Colton quietly. "You forget that crossed knees make your suspended foot tell my cane each time you turn your head ever so slightly. See that my fingers are not on my stick when you covertly watch the women you fear to meet."

"But the purple gown?" demanded Sydney, repressing the inclination to uncross his knees, and flushing at the amused smile the involuntary first motion of the foot had brought to the lips of Colton.

"All stout women who breathe asthmatically wear purple," declared Colton emphatically. "It is the only unfailing rule of femininity. And to one who has practised the locating of sounds that come to doubly sharp ears the breathing part was easy. There is no one at the next table on the left, you'll observe. Now you can resume your overt watching of Miss Richmond; see"-he laid both hands on the white table-cloth before him-"I won't look."

The head-waiter stopped at the table.

"Mr. Simpson would like to have you come to his table, Mr. Colton. He wants you to meet his wife."

"His wife?" put in Thames quickly.

"She is, sir." It was said with a positiveness there was no gainsaying."

"Where is Mr. Simpson?" asked Colton. "We had not seen him."

"In the east wing, sir, where the palms are."

"We will go to him immediately."

"I'll tell him, sir." His beckoning finger brought the waiter who had served them with the check.

Sydney Thames spoke. "Some one of his cheap actress friends has roped him at last," he said scornfully. "He's a pretty specimen of man to be first vice-president of the conservative Berkley Trust Company."

"I'll wager you're wrong," declared Colton quietly, as he handed the waiter a two-dollar bill from his fold. "If it were one of the women for whom he has been buying wine suppers for the past two years, she wouldn't be 'where the palms are' nor would the waiter be so positive of the marriage relation."

"I'm not going," protested Thames quickly.

"Surely, Sydney, you are not afraid a married woman will kidnap you?" smiled Colton, as he took the stick between his fingers and prepared to rise. "How many?"

Sydney, who had turned half around in his chair to gaze toward the entrance to the east wing, faced him. "I'll go," he said shortly; another hasty glance, and he rose with Colton. "Thirty-seven straight, eighteen left, nine right. We will stop at the door of the east wing. I can't see it."

"There are no pretty women to disturb the distance judgment you have been so many years acquiring?" queried Colton mildly.

Without answering, Thames turned on his heel, and made his way rapidly between the tables toward the east wing. Colton laughed silently, picked up his change, and hurried after, his perfectly trained brain counting the steps automatically, his thoughts busy elsewhere. He was thinking of Simpson, who had gained such an unenviable reputation as a spender along the gay White Way during the past two years.

Simpson had always interested him, student of human nature that he was, as the one man who had never lived up to the impression Colton 's unerring instinct had told him was the right one the first time they had met. The problemist had expected things of Simpson, and Simpson had done nothing but idle as much time as possible in the position as first vice-president of one of the most conservative banks in the city, and spend money on women.

Colton stopped for an instant beside Thames in the archway, apparently gazing idly at the crowd of men and women at the palm-shaded tables.

"Two left, nineteen straight, half in," directed Thames, stepping aside to follow.

The heavy-lidded, thickset man, with the faint lines of blue vein traceries in his cheeks, rose to meet them.

"This is a pleasure, Mr. Colton," he exclaimed, in heavy-voiced heartiness. "You are the one man I wanted to see; though I hardly believed it would be my luck to catch you this night of all nights. You knew the pace I was going, and I want you to meet the little girl I went back to the old town to marry. We've been friends since we were tots. Thank God, I waked up in time to know what a good woman means! When next you see us it will be in our own home. One moment, please"-his voice sank to an almost reverent whisper-"my wife is deaf and dumb, Mr. Colton."

Thames had heard; had seen, with curiously mixed feelings, the little woman with the small, boyish face around which the tendrils of brown hair curled from under the close-fitting toque, and had appraised the slim, quietly dressed figure, the half smile as she stared inquiringly at them. The girl seemed but a child, but he saw that her face was heavily daubed with powder and rouge, as though its application had neither been taught nor practised. Until those last explaining words he had stood back with a half-pitying light in his eyes, for he knew Simpson's reputation with women. But at the quietly spoken sentence he had undergone an instant change of feeling, such as only highly-strung, hypersensitive men like him are capable of, toward the man who had gone away from his women of wine to marry a simple country girl who could neither speak nor hear.

Simpson's fingers had been moving rapidly; he bowed toward Thornley Colton. The girl smiled, and put out her small hand, the movement throwing back from her wrist the filmy lace of the long sleeve. For a moment they clasped hands; then the girl's fingers worked again.

Simpson laughed. "She does not believe you are blind, Mr. Colton; she says you have eyes like every one else."

Thornley Colton smiled. "If you tell her that I've got to wear these large-lensed, smoked glasses to prevent the light giving me a headache you will probably never convince her," he observed, as he refused the chair the waiter had drawn up.

Sydney Thames acknowledged his introduction with a bow and the usual meaningless words, but his eyes were soft and tender as a woman's as they met those of the girl in the instant's glance she gave him before the lashes were lowered. A woman's face never failed to stir him.

"Won't you sit down?" pleaded Simpson. "It will probably be the last time you will ever find me in one of these glided palaces. A man who has been my kind of a fool can appreciate his own fireside, and Gertie, who was all aflutter to visit one of the famous Broadway restaurants, recognised in ten minutes the crass artificiality it took me years to discover." He was holding her hand openly and unashamed as he said it.

Thornley Colton shook his head. "It is past my time for going home, and you know my habits. A glass of Celestin's at one-fifteen, the beauties of the Moonlight Sonata on my piano for fifteen minutes, and then to bed. If I may visit you at your home, Mrs. Simpson?" his outstretched hand met that of the girl. "Ah, you read the lips? A wonderful accomplishment to us who have never had eyes." His lips framed a smile of pleasure; he turned to Thames. "The same, Sydney?" he asked.

The secretary's eyes travelled up the aisle. "The man nine steps up is gesticulating quite freely."

"Lots of room." Colton 's slim stick touched a chair-leg, he bowed, and hurried away, the hearty good-night of Simpson following. Thornley Colton never needed any direction for going back over the same route, for his mind, trained to the figures of steps, neither hesitated nor made mistakes in following them backward. He stepped aside to avoid the swinging arm of the loud-voiced man who was punctuating his liquor-born blatancy with violent gestures, and paused at the archway of the main dining-room for Thames.

"Is Morris still at his table?" he asked.

"It is empty."

"Urn!" Colton 's high forehead wrinkled a frown, his slim stick tapped his leg. "Time enough tomorrow," he announced finally, and started through the maze of tables towards the entrance.

They received their hats and overcoats and left the big hotel to enter the long, black car that awaited them at the north entrance at one o'clock each morning. They were well on their way to the big, old-fashioned brownstone house where Thornley Colton had been born, before the silence was broken. Then Sydney Thames spoke: "There must be a lot of latent goodness in a man who could take a woman like that to love, and cherish, and protect," he said slowly.

"You mean Miss Richmond?" The darkness concealed the whimsical smile on Colton 's lips.

"No!" The negative was short. "Morris will marry Miss Richmond just because she is beautiful and accomplished; because his man's vanity will be tickled to exhibit her before men as his possession. I mean Simpson, who took a simple country girl whom God had handicapped, just because he loved her. That means something."

"But, Sydney "- Colton 's thin fingers rested lightly on the other's sleeve; there was just the faintest trace of laughter in the words-"don't you think she was a bit too heavily rouged?"

He felt the highly-strung man jump under his hand.

"Good heavens, Thorn!" Sydney burst out. "Sometimes I wonder if you are blind!"

"God gives fingers to the sightless, Sydney," Colton 's voice was quietly serious. "In the darkness the keyboard of my piano gives me the soul secrets of dead men gone to dust. In the lights of a Broadway restaurant the keyboard of silence gives me the secrets of living hearts. And they cannot lie."

"What do you mean? What have I missed?" Thames asked the questions eagerly, tensely, for he knew the moods of this man who had been the only father he had ever known; he understood that something of grave portent had given its significance to the man who could not see, while he with five perfect senses, had seen nothing, suspected nothing.

Colton pulled his crystalless watch from his pocket, and touched it with a finger-tip. "One-thirty; we are fifteen minutes late." He put his hand on the door catch as the big machine slowed up before his home. And it was not until they were ascending the broad brownstone steps that he answered the question.

"You have missed the first act of what promises to be a very remarkable crime, Sydney," he said quietly.

II

Colton scowled when the red jack failed to turn up, but the mouth corners smiled when the ace of diamonds slid between the sensitive fingers to take its place in the top row of Mr. Canfield's famous game. The deuce followed, the red jack immediately after; then the problemist looked up toward the doorway of the library.

"Well, Shrimp?" he smiled.

"They's the theatrical papers yuh wanted." The red-headed, freckle-faced boy with the slightly-twisted nose came forward with an armful of big magazines and newspapers, the front pages of which were adorned with full-length portraits of stage celebrities. Before he quite reached the table he stopped short, eyes crackling their excitement. "Snakes! You're gettin' it, Mr. Colton! They's the four of hearts and the five of spades. Don't stop now."

Colton laughed. "All right, Shrimp. Do you want to do a little detective work for me?"

"Do I?" The eyes danced with eagerness. "Ain't I been studyin'? Nineteen steps from the kitchen t' the first chair in the dinin'-room. Six-"

"I know," assured Colton hastily. "But you take those papers to your room and write down the names of all the vaudeville actors-men, you know-who have quit the stage within the last two months; where they have gone, and why, if possible."

"Snakes!" The boy's face showed his disappointment. "Nick Carter never had t' do that."

"He never had to count steps for a blind man, either," smiled Thornley Colton. "You do that and there'll probably be some real detective work-shadowing, disguises, and the rest of it."

There was no answer. The boy had taken a firmer grip on the papers, and was already out of the room.

The four of hearts and the five of spades had been placed when Sydney, face broad in a smile, entered.

"What's the matter with The Fee'?" he demanded. "He ran past me as though he were on his way to a fire." Thames always referred to Shrimp as The Fee, because the red-headed, freckle-faced boy had become part of the Colton household after a particularly baffling case, at the conclusion of which the joy of capturing the murderer had been overshadowed by the blind man's sorrow for the broken-nosed boy who had jumped between him and a vicious blackjack. And Shrimp had been his fee for the case. As the boy's mother was the murdered one, and his father the murderer, there had been no one to object.

Before Colton had a chance to voice his laughing explanation, the tinkling telephone-bell on the desk demanded attention. At the first words the thin lips tautened to a straight line, the voice became pistol-like in its crispness, the muscles under the pale skin of the face became tense.

The problemist had a problem.

"When? Last night. All right. Still that two-wire burglar connection on the safe? Never mind further details. We'll be right down."

As his hand dropped the receiver on the hook a finger pressed the garage bell button that would bring his machine instantly at any hour of the day or night.

"Get your hat and coat, Sydney," he ordered curtly. "We're going to the Berkley Trust Company. Somebody's gotten away with half a million in negotiable bonds!"

"Half a million?" gasped Thames.

"So they said. Didn't wait for details." Colton grabbed his private phone-book of often-needed numbers, and ran his fingers down the backs of the thin pages on which the names and numbers had been heavily written with a hard pencil. As Sydney hurried out he heard the curt voice give a number over the phone. And it was fully five minutes before Colton took his place in the car.

In the smooth-running machine, with the wooden-faced Irish chauffeur at the wheel, Sydney Thames voiced the question: "Last night, you said?"

"Yes, the second act came sooner than I expected," broke in Thornley Colton. "I underrated the man." And the expression on the pale face augured ill for some one.

The funereal atmosphere of the Berkley Trust Company could be felt as they entered. In the office of the third secretary, the white-haired president of the institution stopped his nervous pacing to mumble a greeting in tremulous accents. First Vice-President Simpson's grave face broke into a smile of welcome. Norris raised his bowed head from his hands, and came forward joyfully, pleadingly. The red-faced man who had been standing over him kept a step away, but always near enough to touch him with an outstretched hand.

"My God, Mr. Colton! They think I'm guilty!" There was agony unutterable in Morris's voice.

"Ridiculous!" snapped Simpson, his heavy-lidded eyes half closed. "Mr. Colton will soon put this detective right."

The problemist nodded a grim acquiescence, and took the outstretched hand of Norris. "I know better," he said kindly. The red-faced man gave voice to a grunt, and Colton instantly swung around to face him. "So you've cleaned it up already, Jamison?" he asked mildly.

"Nobody said he was guilty," growled the red-faced central-office man significantly. "I just been questionin' him, that's all."

"And accusing him with every question!" snapped Colton. "Like the rest of your kind, you haven't the intelligence to suit your methods to the crime. Every crime must be worked according to the old Mulberry Street formula. That didn't change with the modern Centre Street building."

"But we know enough not to make any cracks till we get all the information," sneered Jamison. "We don't hand out that know-it-all stuff till we know something!"

"True," smiled the problemist with his lips, but there was no smile in his tone. Two hectic spots glowed in his cheeks, the muscles worked under the pale skin. "What do you think, President Montrose?" The white-haired president halted his pacing once more, and stroked his Vandyke.

"The first stain on the unsullied escutcheon of the Berkley Trust Company," he groaned. "In all of the half century-"

"I know all that!" broke in Colton impatiently. "What happened? Why are the police here instead of the protective-agency men?"

"I was excited," moaned the president. "It was the first thing that occurred to me. In all the half century of-"

"I guess we were all excited," interjected Simpson, his lips twisted in a wry smile. "I know I was up in the air. I came down here, happier than I ever was before in my life, to arrange for a short vacation to take a wedding trip. Now this comes up. When I came to my senses I telephoned for you, because I want the robbery solved as soon as possible. The little girl has banked so much on our little time."

"Too bad," murmured Colton. "Tell me the story, Norris." Before he could get an answer he turned to Thames, who always stayed discreetly in the background when Colton was on a case. "See that no one goes near that safe, Sydney; I may want to examine it."

"Kind of dropped that bluff of bein' blind, ain't you?" sneered Jamison, who was one of the hundreds of persons in New York who would not believe that Thornley Colton was really sightless. And the problemist did not deign to explain that once he had been in a room and touched its objects with his cane his trained brain held the correct mental picture for ever.

"The bonds were fifty in number, ten thousand each, government fours, negotiable anywhere," began Norris, licking his dry lips to make the words come easier. "They were the bulk of the Stillson estate, on which I was working. We are settling it up. As third secretary my work is with trusts and estates. It was necessary to have everything finished by tonight. I worked late yesterday, so late that the bonds and other papers could not go into the time-locked vaults, and I had to be at work on them this morning before the clock-release time."

"Is it customary to keep valuable bonds in the small safe in this office?" interrupted Colton.

"It is not unusual. The safe is practically as strong as the big vaults, and only lacks the clocks. This office is really part of the vault itself, the walls are windowless, and of four-foot concrete reinforced by interlocked steel rails. The sheet-steel door, the only entrance to the room, opens into a small cage that is occupied during the day by Thompson, head of the trust and estate routine clerks, and at night by one of our two watchmen. The watchmen never leave it, because it often happens that valuable papers and bonds are left out of the big vaults so that we can work on them before nine o'clock, the hour set on the vault's clocks. To get to the steel door of this office one would have to enter the outer and inner steel cages, the steel-barred door of the small ante-room, besides setting off burglar-alarms on all, disturbing the watchman, and ringing the bells in the burglar-alarm department of the Bankers' Protective Association, of which we are a member. And there was no sign of a break, the safe was opened with the combination that only Mr. Montrose and Mr. Simpson and myself know."

"The watchman could get to this door without any trouble?"

"Both have been in the employ of the bank for forty years. They are absolutely above suspicion. Both are illiterate. Even though they could enter the office, they could not open the safe, and even if they did that they would not know enough to steal all the notes I had made regarding the estate, or the bonds that have so utterly vanished. They have been sent for, however, and should be here any minute."

"Were the notes you made stolen, too?"

"All of them."

"Any of the other employees of the bank know the bonds were in this safe?"

"Several, probably."

"All have access to this room, at any time?"

"Only Thomas, the head of the T. and E. clerks."

"Trustworthy?"

"He grew up with the bank."

"You require other clerical assistance at times?"

"Thomas takes the papers from this office, and the clerks get them from him outside. All must be returned to me before closing time. I carefully checked over every one last night before any of them went away."

"Any one in here yesterday while you were at work on the papers; any one who could have seen the bonds?"

For a moment there was no answer; then it came, almost in a whisper: "Miss Richmond and her mother were in for a few moments-"

"And I was, too, by Jove!" The interruption came from Simpson. "And I remember asking you how you were getting on with the Stillson estate. I just finished my part when I went away. I guess I really held them up longer than I should."

"Has Miss Richmond been sent for?" Colton paid absolutely no heed to the first vice-president.

A grunting laugh from the detective. "She sure has, bo. After I found out this guy's stage lady had been in here with a tailor's suit-box after closin' time, my partner went right up to her hotel."

"By Heaven! You-" Norris rose to his feet, face black with fury. Colton 's hand on his shoulder forced him back into the chair. Sydney Thames, to whom all women were angels, clenched his fists.

"Is that true?" There was a new tone to Colton 's voice.

Norris seemed to recognise the menace. "She isn't guilty, I tell you! She can't be. She's-Listen, man! She's my wife!"

"Your wife!" They all echoed it. The detective with laughing triumph; President Montrose with horror; Sydney Thames in dazed surprise; Simpson with a half-suppressed, significant gasp.

"We were married two days ago; but it was to be a secret until the end of her season."

"How long ago was she sent for?"

The detective answered: "My side kick ought to be back now. We was on the job there, all right, all right."

Voices outside came to their ears-the harsh, commanding voice of a man, the half-subdued sobbing of a woman. The door was thrown open, and Rhoda Richmond, opera-singer, and wife of Norris, was half pushed, half carried into the small room.

"Good work, Jim!" grinned Jamison. "Did she put up a howl at the hotel?"

"Hotel?" growled the other scornfully. "No hotel for her. I had a lot of luck or I'd never've got her. She was boardin' a boat fer South America that sails in an hour."

"It's a lie!" Norris screamed the words as he leaped toward the man whose rough hand was clenched around the slim arm of the girl. Sydney Thames, obeying Colton 's silent signal, forced him back, his own hands trembling. The problemist without a word untwisted the central-office man's fingers, and gently seated the girl in a chair at the long table.

"Who the-" The blustering detective was cut off suddenly.

"We've had enough of your strong-arm methods!" Colton 's voice was hard as flint. "We'll get some facts now." The hardness vanished; in its place came gentle sympathy. "When did you get the message, Miss Richmond?" he asked.

The voice seemed to have the reassuring effect of a pat on the head of a hurt child. With an effort the girl controlled her sobs, and answered as though it had been the most natural question in the world: "An hour ago-over the telephone-I thought I recognised How-Mr. Norris's voice. He wanted me to meet him at the Buenos Aires dock. He had to go to South America secretly, he said, and I must tell no one. I hurried to the dock without even telling mother. I waited for an hour, but he did not come; then I decided to go aboard and see if he had missed me and gone to his state room. This man-said Howard had-robbed-I thought-" She broke down again.

"I guess that's bad!" grinned Jamison gloatingly. "In another hour there'd of been a clean getaway."

"The whereabouts of the bonds doesn't seem to worry you!" snapped Colton sarcastically.

"The stuff ain't never far away from the guy that took it," growled Jamison. "When you get through your know-it-all talk we'll sweat that out, all right."

"Did you have a tailor's suit-box with you yesterday?" asked Colton abruptly of the girl.

"Yes. I called to see if my new walking-suit was finished. It was all ready to be sent to my home, but when I saw the poor, tired little boy who would have to carry it I took it myself. The tailor is just around the corner, on the avenue; that is why mother and I dropped in here."

"Of course," nodded Colton, his teeth snapping together as he seemed to sense the derisive grins on the faces of the detectives. "Did you recognise the bonds among the papers on which Mr. Norris was working?"

"Oh, he showed them to me, and we laughingly spoke of what we could do with half a million dollars. Then, when he took mother out to show her around the bank-I was too tired-I picked one up and read it."

"Rhoda!" cried Norris. He could realise the present significance of yesterday's innocent words.

"That'll be about all from you!" scowled Jamison. "If this guy wants to third-degree her, and cinch it for us, let him."

"An' if he don't cinch it this will." The other detective pulled a paper from his pocket. "Here's the Buenos Aires 's passenger list, and here's Mr. and Mrs. Frank Morris, who booked yesterday, added in pencil. Morris for Norris! Slick enough to be almost good."

Every one in the room but Colton seemed to be shocked into a state of stupefied rigidity.

"Now-" Jamison said that word in the tone one uses to introduce some especially clever thing, and accompanied it with a sarcastic glance toward the blind man, who tapped his trouser leg with his cane in thoughtful silence. "If you ain't got no objection we'll take these two to headquarters, and get a line on where they got the stuff cached." He paused suggestively, mockingly.

The permission came, with a deprecatory wave of the cane, and a smile that was menacing in its very suaveness. "Go as far as you like, Jamison. Don't be too gentle with them."

"My God, Mr. Colton! You don't think-" The words choked in Norris's throat.

"I think you had better go." The problemist's tone was peculiarly quiet. "Jamison and his partner have the reputation of being the two wealthiest detectives in the department. No one knows how they got it, but they've enough to give you and your wife a twenty-thousand-dollar nest egg each on a false-arrest suit. Isn't that worth a few hours' discomfort? I can prove your innocence when they have gone. They worry me here."

Simpson whistled, and turned it into a jerky laugh. "Gad, that was clever!" he exclaimed.

"Oh, is that so!" The detectives chorused it, in their voices sarcasm-and just a tinge of something else, too. Colton knew the one thing that would make them stop and think.

"Are you going?" snapped Colton.

"We'll see them two watchmen first," growled Jamison.

"Good!" The problemist laughed at the sudden change. "I think you'll have quite a crowd to take down to headquarters if you hang around long enough. Before I started I telephoned to the burglar-alarm telegraph department of the protective agency to get hold of the men who answered the alarm that rang in from this office early this morning."

"What burglar-alarm?" snarled Jamison. He whirled on the white-haired president. "Why didn't you tell us there was an alarm rung in?"

"Really"-the Vandyke received several severe yanks-"I didn't know it. We do not receive the clock reports and emergency alarm sheets until about noon. Er-Mr. Colton, might I ask where you got this information?"

"I telephoned for it," answered Colton curtly. "If these policemen hadn't been so anxious to make arrests, and the robbery hadn't been too obvious for their thick heads, they might have investigated. But they are just headquarters men; the obvious arrest is the one they always make. Feet make good central-office men, not heads. Ah, here are the men, all together."

They came in slowly, two old men first; one with straggly, white whiskers that concealed the weak chin and grew up around the faded, watery eyes; the other's parchment-like face a network of wrinkles. Honesty shone from every part of them; the weak, helpless honesty of their kind.

As Colton took each man's hand with a murmured greeting he felt it tremble in his. The aged watchmen knew that something had happened; something that concerned them and the bank they had guarded so long. The two men from the burglar-alarm company nodded to the two detectives, and their eyes narrowed as they shook the hand of the problemist. Both knew him, and both knew this had been no common summons. Thornley Colton never bothered with common things. Sydney Thames had pulled two chairs up to the table, and the old men sat down. Colton lighted a cigarette thoughtfully, then he spoke: "This morning, gentlemen, that small safe was robbed of five hundred thousand dollars' worth of government bonds." His slim cane, apparently held idly between his fingers, touching the chair of the man nearest him, felt the watchman's involuntary jump. The others saw the old jaws drop, saw the watchmen glance helplessly at each other, their trembling fingers picking at worn trouser-knees. Colton heard the gasp of the two protective-agency men.

"I knowed it!" quavered the white-whiskered watchman. "I knowed something'd happen when Mary took sick."

"Who's Mary?" queried Colton interestedly. The others crowded forward.

"She's Mary, my wife. She's been scrubbin' the bank floors fer thirty years, an' nobody ever said a word against her." He glanced at them all with pathetic belligerence. "She even picked up the pins she found on the floor, and put 'em in a box on the cashier's desk."

"That's true," laughed Simpson. "It's the joke of the bank."

"And she was taken sick last night?" Thornley asked gently.

"A week ago." The other watchman answered, while the first brushed his dry lips with his work-gnarled hand. "Mrs. Bowden, she's got the consumption, and lives across the hall from us and-"

"Where do you live?" interrupted Colton.

" Sixteen hundred Third Avenue. I been boardin' with him an' his wife fer thirty years. Mrs. Bowden's been doing' Mary's work. We didn't say nothin' about Mary bein' sick, 'cause she might get laid off. An' Mrs. Bowden's awful poor." His voice was a childish, quavering treble.

"Last night, after Mrs. Bowden had gained your confidence, you allowed her to scrub Mr. Norris's office?" encouraged Colton.

Norris started. "I'd forgotten that!" he ejaculated. A motion from Colton commanded silence.

"Yes," trembled Mary's husband. "John opened the door, an' started to punch his clocks, an' I stayed in the ante-room, like I allus do, to watch Mrs. Bowden. Then somehow the door got closed. An' Mrs. Bowden got scared there in the dark. She screamed an' cried till it was real sad. But John had the key, an' he had to punch his clocks on the minute, er Mr. Montrose'd be mad when he got the records next day. An' I couldn't leave my place in the ante-room. So I encouraged her, sayin' that John'ld be back in half an hour an' let her out. She quieted after a while, an' didn't scream so loud, but I could hear her stumblin' around. Then John had to run to the front door to see who was knockin', an' he let these gentlemen in. The burglar-alarm on the safe had rung, they said, an'-"

"Never mind that part," halted Colton. "One of these men will tell me that part."

"We was called at seven-eighteen," began the taller of the two Bankers' Protective Agency men, "by the safe bell. The safe is connected with one wire, and under the carpet, running all around the safe, is a thin steel plate connected with the other. A man standing near enough to touch the safe forms a connection that rings our gong. In the daytime, of course, we pull the switch. We got here, and found the door locked, an' we could hear moaning. This guy"-he indicated the one with the straggly beard-"unlocked the door, and behind it was a woman, her skirt pinned up around her, laying on the floor, frightened to death. When she seen us she jumped to her feet with a little screech, and muttered something about thanking God."

"You were satisfied that she was frightened?"

"Sure! But we didn't let it go at that. We snapped on every light, and examined the room. Nothing had been touched. We frisked the woman, gentle, of course, but enough to know that she hadn't a thing on her. We finally got it out of her that she'd fell against the safe trying to find the door in the dark. She didn't know enough to snap on a light."

"She couldn't have had fifty ten-thousand-dollar bonds on her person?"

Both men laughed. "Gee, Mr. Colton," laughed the short one. "She was so frail you could almost see through her. She couldn't hardly have hid a cigarette paper without making a hump."

"What happened then?"

"She picked up the pail she had-it was full of dirty scrub water, and the yellow bar of soap was bobbing around in it-and John, here, took her into the cashier's cage. We hung around, talking, an' watching her scrub and weep into the pail until it was time fer her to go home. She was so all in I put her on a car."

"Urn!" Colton puffed his cigarette in silence; then he turned to Jamison and his partner. "Looks mighty suspicious, doesn't it, Jamison? I'd advise you to arrest these four men and get the woman. Five hundred thousand is likely to make any honest man a crook."

"Some kidder, ain't you?" sneered Jamison. "I know Pete, there, an' if he says it was all right, it was. We got the guilty parties first off, an' we'll get the stuff, too!"

The smile went from Colton's lips instantly. "You arrest them, and we'll start false-arrest proceedings in an hour!" he warned. "You leave Morris and Miss Richmond here! Any one but a fool detective would know they weren't guilty."

As he said the last word he jumped toward the safe, ran his highly sensitive fingers over the steel surface, knelt down, brushed the heavy carpet lightly with his finger-tips. The two hectic spots on his cheeks glowed redder; the nostrils quivered like those of a hound on the scent, even the eyes, behind the great, round, smoked glass lenses seemed to shine. Silently they watched him. He lowered his face almost to the floor, the cane was laid down, and his hand gave the carpet a resounding slap. They crowded closer. One hand went to his hip-pocket, a handkerchief brushed the hard-wood floor under the safe, between the edge of the rug and the wall. He rose, touched the burning end of his cigarette ever so lightly to the linen handkerchief that was now covered with a fine yellow powder.

"See it! See it!" he snapped. "You couldn't before because it was the same colour as the hard-wood floor."

"It's wood-polish powder, used for cleaning the varnished wood," sneered Jamison, stepping forward. "We don't want-"

"Smell it, then!" The blind man thrust the handkerchief under the central-office man's nose. "Do you recognise it now? It's sulphur. Ordinary powdered sulphur. The thing that would tell any man how the bonds were taken out of the office. Go to a drug store and find out what sulphur is used for."

He thrust the handkerchief into his coat-pocket, brushed off the knees of his trousers, and picked up his stick.

"Come, Sydney," he said quietly. "We've finished."

Before the astonished men could make move or protest he hurried from the office, automatically counting the steps. He jumped into the waiting machine, Sydney Thames followed, and as Simpson and Jamison ran to the door, he snapped: "Home, John!" to the Irish chauffeur, and the machine sped away.

Around the first corner he leaned forward.

"Sixteen hundred Third Avenue-quick!" he ordered.

"You don't think those two old watchmen guilty?" asked Thames, in surprise.

"No!" The tone was almost brusque. "Merely an unimportant detail I want to clear up,"

"You certainly left that crowd in the office at sixes and sevens." Thames laughed at the recollection.

"I intended to. That's why I went into all those details. I wanted to leave every one up in the air, especially the two detectives. They'll begin to think now. And they won't let any one get away before we have made this call. I want to think, now."

Sydney Thames knew the moods of the blind man; knew he could expect no explanations, or even replies, until Colton was ready to give them; so they sped in silence to the upper East Side.

Soon they were on upper Third Avenue. Overhead the clanking 'L' trains pounded their din into the two men's ears. The streets were crowded with their heterogeneous mass of men, women, and children. The rusty fireescapes staggered drunkenly across the dirty, red tenement-fronts.

The look of tense concentration left Colton's face.

"A far cry from the luxurious, staidly conservative Berkley Trust, eh, Sydney?" He smiled, leaning back in the cushions, puffing his cigarette as though untroubled by a serious thought; his eyes, behind the smoked library glasses, seemingly fixed on the narrow strip of blue sky overhead.

The car came to a stop.

"Is this it, John?"

"Th' saloon on th' corner is fifteen-ninety-four, sorr."

"Lead the way, Sydney." Again the twin red spots glowed in Colton's white cheeks, he jumped to the sidewalk, his slim stick tapping his trouser-leg eagerly.

Thames stepped along beside him, close enough for his coat-sleeve to touch that of Thornley Colton. And with that slight touch to guide him the problemist followed; for Thornley Colton was a trifle sensitive over his blindness, and nothing made him angrier than an attempt to lead him. Sydney found the entrance, between a second-hand-clothing store and a pawnbroker's shop. As he stopped to make sure of the weather-dimmed, painted number the clothing-store proprietor popped out, rubbing his dirty palms together, and coughing apologetically.

"On which floor does Mrs. Bowden live?" asked Colton sharply.

"Der fourf, front. You maybe like some clo'es?"

"Is her husband watchman at the Berkley Trust Company?"

"He's dead. You means Mrs. Schneider, across the hall. Her man watches. Dere boarder also. You like a elegant skirt for der poor vimens. Such a-"

Thames opened the door, and they left the clothing man in the middle of his sentence. In the dark hall Sydney made his way cautiously. Colton, cane lightly touching the heels of the man ahead, followed unhesitatingly. The journey up the rickety steps was torture to Colton. To his doubly acute ears and sense of smell the odours, the squalling of half-starved babies were terrible, but his brain automatically counted the steps so that he would have not the slightest difficulty in finding his way back to the automobile.

"Schneider first," whispered Colton, as Thames stopped in the fourth-floor hall.

In the dim light Thames saw that they were standing between two doors.

"I don't know which it is, but I'll take a chance." He knocked on the one at his left.

The one behind immediately popped open.

"Mrs. Bowden's gone away," shrilly proclaimed a tottery old woman, bobbing her head.

"Could you give us her address?" asked Colton, doffing his hat and bowing politely.

"Laws!" The woman's fluttering hand set her spectacles farther askew, in a hurried effort to straighten them. "She's gone to spend the day with her sister in Brooklyn. Them boys of mine pestered her till she's near sick. And she bein' so delicat' an' out late last night washin' dishes at the church sociable."

"Are you Mrs. Schneider?"

The darkness hid the smile the reference to the "boys" had caused.

"I'm her. Be you the Associated Charities? Mis' Bowden said she'd asked fer help. She came here two weeks ago, after losin' her job in the department store on account of her weak lungs. She had to take in odd day's work. Asthma, she calls it, but I ain't fooled on consumption. Two of my-"

"And you helped her by pretending you were ill?" interrupted Colton.

"I was sick fer two days." The woman hastened to set him right. "But she was so powerful glad to earn a few cents fer her asthma snuff, not that it is asthma. My sister's brother-"

"Of course she left the key with you until her return?" Colton left the sister's brother in mid-air.

"Yes; but-" There was just a shade of suspicion in the voice.

"As agents of the Associated Charities we must make an examination of the room, to prove that she is really in need of financial help," assured Colton gravely. "We can wait until she returns, of course, but this is the last application day for this month."

"Laws! I'll get it right away." She darted back into the room with surprising agility, and returned a moment later with an iron key tied to a broken-tined fork.

"There's no need of bothering you, Mrs. Schneider," declared Colton earnestly, as Thames took the key.

"Laws! Soon's I get these pataters on I'll be right with you. My boys had to go down to their bank-" The rest of the sentence was lost, for as she turned to the stove Colton had jerked Thames from the door.

"Quick!" he whispered. In an instant the key was in the lock, and the door was open. Colton pushed his way in, his cane touching the scarred, tumbled bed and the one broken chair. "Where's the trunk?" he queried, cane feeling around.

"No sign of one, nor a case."

"Damn!" snapped Colton. "The bureau drawers! See what your eyes find."

Thames had the top drawer open almost before he had finished. He whistled in amazement. "Nothing but an empty pill-box, with no druggist's label, three quills with the feathers cut off, and a tuft of cotton. What the-"

"Those are what I want! Put them in your pocket!" The tenseness went out of his voice; it became politely ingratiating, for his keen ears had heard the woman coming. "There is no doubt that Mrs. Bowden is in need of our assistance, Mrs. Schneider," he said smoothly. "Er-is that some of her asthma snuff in the top bureau-drawer?"

She ran past him, and bobbed her head over the open drawer. "Yes, sir; there is a little sprinkled over the bottom. You got mighty powerful eyes, mister." She nodded vigorously at the blind man. He had not been within five feet of the bureau. "She's dead set on it bein' asthma, but my sister's brother was-"

"Do you know anything against Mrs. Bowden's character?" Again the sister's brother was left dangling.

"Laws, no. She's that frightened she's afraid of her own shadow. I'm the on'y one in the house she took to, an' even me she kept at a distance." Another vigorous nod. "An' so modest! Laws, she wouldn't ha' come into the halls half dressed, like some of the other women does. An' clean! Laws! She lugged all her clo'es over to her sister's in Brooklyn today, to be washed in their Thirtieth Century Washer; not that I – "

"Ah, thank you, but we have four other calls to make." And, bowing gravely, Colton backed from the room, and hurried toward the head of the stairs, followed by Thames and the shrill-voiced encomiums of the woman.

They took their places in the car silently, and it was not until they had left the noise of the avenue for the quiet of the side-streets that Colton spoke.

"What do you think of it, Sydney?" asked the problemist gravely.

"I'm completely at sea," confessed Thames, with a shake of his head. "It looked awfully bad for Norris when we arrived at the bank. Then that South American boat business. How did you know she had received a message?" he asked suddenly.

"Didn't. But I knew Miss Richmond, or rather Mrs. Norris. Common sense would have told any one that could be the only reason for her presence at the dock. Jamison and his kind don't use common sense. They use the old policeman's formula; arrest the logical suspect and then convict him. With persons like Norris and his wife, each half doubting, half suspecting, either would have confessed to save the other. It was an ideal arrest, from the police view-point."

"Then you seemed to involve the two watchmen and the two men from the protective agency. Jamison will have a whole waggon-load."

"He'll take no one," answered Colton. "I know him. He'll spend the rest of the day trying to find out what I was talking about. Then he'll telephone to headquarters, and they'll send men to find out who sent the message to Miss Richmond, and to locate Mrs. Bowden."

"There's the woman, Thorn!" Thames spoke nervously, excitedly. "She took a dress-suit case, presumably full of clothes, to her 'sister' in Brooklyn. The bonds-"

"You forget that the agency men saw her come out of the room empty-handed; they even searched her, and one put her on the trolley." Colton smiled curiously. "This was wholly a man's job, Sydney. The work of the rarest kind of criminal; a detailist. This crime, while perfectly simple, is, I think, unique in its attention to details. That's why it interests me."

"Simple!" ejaculated Thames. "Simple? You speak as though you knew the guilty man."

"I do. Perfectly. I knew last night."

"Last night? The-"

"The robbery was committed early today. Exactly."

"Why-why-" Helpless amazement was in Sydney Thames's voice. "Why don't you arrest him? Why all this-"

"Simply because I would be laughed at. I haven't the proof-yet. The usual criminal stumbles on his opportunity, and seizes it in a haphazard fashion. The rare criminal, the detailist, attends to every detail; works his problem out with the shrewdness and forethought of a captain of finance, plans a coup months ahead. Then he creates the opportunity. You must understand, Sydney, that half a million is worth a few months' work."

"But suspicion points only to Miss Richmond, Norris, and this Mrs. Bowden."

"Suspicion points to every one," corrected the problemist. "Doesn't it seem suspicious that President Montrose should call in the police when he would naturally take all steps in his power to avoid publicity? Doesn't the very eagerness of the central-office men to arrest Norris and his wife seem queer? Isn't there a bit of suspicion in Simpson's confession that he delayed the Stillson estate until Norris was compelled to work after hours on them? Doesn't Miss Richmond's story that she was carrying her suit home to save work for a delivery boy seem highly improbable and unwoman-like? How about Norris telling his wife of the bonds? An unbusinesslike proceeding in the case of half a million's worth of negotiable bonds, truly. Didn't the two men who answered the early-morning alarm seem a bit too sure that nothing was wrong? Weren't the two watchmen in the conspiracy to pretend that Mrs. Schneider was ill, so that a woman whom they had known but two weeks could gain access to the bank? Doesn't the finding of an unlabelled pill-box, three featherless quills, and surgeon's cotton in the otherwise empty room of a woman dying with tuberculosis strike you as strange? As a further detail in this crime of details, doesn't my confession that I knew the criminal before the crime was committed seem a trifle like guilty knowledge?" He smiled broadly.

"Great Scott, Thorn!" Sydney Thames's voice trailed off in a whistle of pure bewilderment. "You've involved every one."

"Oh, no." Colton snapped his cigarette into the street. "Not every one. An unfortunate vaudeville actor will appear on the scene as soon as I get the list on which I left Shrimp busily at work."

III

In the absolute darkness of the shade-drawn library Thornley Colton softly whistled a syncopated version of Mendelssohn's «Spring Song» as his deft fingers filled an empty goose-quill with a fine white powder from an improvised paper funnel. He plugged the open end with a small wad of cotton; then his wonderfully sharp ears caught the rustle of the double portieres.

"Oh, Sydney," he called, "have you heard anything from the bank this morning?"

Thames entered the darkness unhesitatingly, for his constant practice of judging distance and figuring steps for Colton had made him almost as much at home in the darkness as the blind man himself.

"No," he answered shortly. Then, with the frank criticism of long friendship: "It's a crime, Thorn, for you to be idle while that girl is being dogged, and harassed, and-"

"I thought she sang remarkably well last night for a person under such a strain," interrupted Colton musingly.

"It was wonderful, wonderful!" Sydney Thames spoke with the breathless enthusiasm a beautiful girl always aroused in his woman-hungry heart.

"Here, here!" protested the problemist laughingly. "Remember that she is another man's wife!"

"Great heavens, Thorn! How can you laugh?" cried Thames resentfully. "Think of those two dogs of detectives, questioning, bulldozing, shadowing! Why, they didn't let Miss Richmond get away from the bank until late in the afternoon, then Jamison insisted on going with her. His partner hung around the bank till it closed-"

"Trying to discover the use of powdered sulphur," smiled Colton. "I thought he would. Any one but a central-office man would have gone to a drug store, as I suggested."

"Two other headquarters men hauled that frail old Mrs. Schneider and the two watchmen to police head-quarters, and put them through the third degree."

"And a half-dozen more were on the trail of Mrs. Bowden, while we were enjoying the opera and an alleged cabaret show afterward, for which this dark room is the penalty. Too much light yesterday gave me a frightful headache."

The sudden ringing of the telephone in the darkness made Thames jump, and Colton 's cane, which was never away from him, felt the movement.

"Answer it, Sydney," he requested.

The secretary's hands had not the sureness of his feet, and he had to fumble a moment. When he had given the customary salutation and had listened a moment he gasped: "It's Simpson, Thorn. His wife is missing! He wants you." He extended the phone in the darkness, but Thornley Colton made no move to take it.

"Tell him I'll be down to the bank in an hour or so. I'll see him then." Colton spoke idly.

Sydney repeated the message. Followed a silence. "He's frantic, Thorn!" Thames 's voice shook with excitement. "When he got home last night she was gone. The doorman at his apartment house said that she had gone out in the morning, for a short walk, he supposed. Simpson was so excited about the robbery he did not telephone her during the day, as he had promised. He spent half the night searching, and tried a dozen times to get you. She is deaf and dumb, Thorn. Think of it! Deaf and dumb, and lost!" It only needed a woman in trouble to shatter Sydney Thames's nerves.

"Tell him that I'm trying to figure out that robbery. Tell him also that I never let one case interfere with another. I'm not a detective. There's nothing interesting about a missing woman. Hundreds of 'em every day. I find my pleasure in interesting problems, not in police work." Colton 's voice was sharp, curt, utterly devoid of sympathy.

Sydney knew that tone, as he knew the man who used it. He repeated part of the message, added gentle-voiced apologies, and hung up the receiver with a sigh.

"That was heartless, Thorn! Think of that woman, deaf and dumb, lost in this-"

"Sometimes, Sydney, that susceptible heart of yours becomes wearisome." Colton spoke a bit sharply. "A moment ago you were protesting because I was here instead of running around after the man who stole the half-million in bonds from the Berkley Trust Company."

"But Mrs. Norris is not helpless-" And for fifteen minutes he argued, while Colton smiled imperturbably in the darkness, and filled two other quills with the white powder, and plugged the ends with tufts of cotton.

Suddenly Thames stopped, for Colton had picked up the telephone and was giving a number.

"Hello, Shrimp!" he called, when the connection had been made. "Everything all right? Fine business. Three hours, eh? Good! Be on time, and obey orders. Good-bye!"

"Where's The Fee?" demanded Sydney. "I haven't seen him since yesterday."

"Emulating the example of his worthy hero, Nick Carter. Shrimp is a real detective now." Colton returned the crystalless watch to his pocket, picked up the three quills, and arose. "Come on, Sydney. We'll walk over to the bank."

"Walk?" ejaculated Thames, for he knew the blind man's aversion to walking when he could ride. "Where's the machine?"

"John and the machine are helping Shrimp in his detective work," explained Colton. And in the twenty minutes' walk to the Berkley Trust Company he absolutely refused to answer questions, but kept up a continuous conversation on trivial topics, that was maddening to the nervous secretary.

The effect of the previous day's badgering, questioning, and threats of the central-office men could be seen as one entered the bank. The aged cashier's hands trembled as he tried to count a sheaf of new bills. Book-keepers in the rear wrote figures and erased them. Thompson, head of the trust and estate clerks, in his little ante-room cage, was in a pitiable state of nerves. The typewriter's chair by President Montrose's desk was vacant, because the lady stenographer was at home under the care of a doctor. The fifty years of staid, conservative calm that had characterised the Berkley Trust Company during its long and useful life had been hit by a five-hundred-thousand-dollar storm.

The group in the vault-like office of Third Secretary Norris was little better. President Montrose could hardly control his trembling hand to stroke his Vandyke; Norris's eyes showed the sleeplessness of the night before; Miss Richmond was calm with the calmness that means coming nervous collapse; her mother was crying softly; Simpson seemed positively haggard, and Sydney Thames murmured words of sympathy for the man who had two troubles. Jamison and the other central-office man could not make their sneers wholly sceptical. The protective-agency men were plainly puzzled.

"I see you are all on hand." There was no smile in Colton 's voice now, or on his lips; he was deadly calm, coldly earnest. "You didn't think it necessary to send for the two watchmen?"

"We got men watchin' them," put in the surly Jamison.

"Thanks!" came curtly from Colton. "Sit down at this table, all of you. I want to tell you a story."

"We didn't come to hear-"

Simpson interrupted the detective: "For God's sake, make it short, Mr. Colton! My wife-"

"I'll look into that later." Colton 's cane assured him that the chairs were around the long table, and his finger-tips felt the face of his watch in his pocket.

"Will you?" Simpson's voice was almost sarcastically eager, his heavy-lidded eyes narrowed. Thames could not blame the man's natural resentment for Colton 's offhandedness.

Silently they took seats. Colton sat facing the closed door; across the table was Simpson and Norris. Miss Richmond and her mother were at the end. The four detectives were on either side of the problemist.

"This is a story of a criminal who was born a criminal; who couldn't be honest if he tried," began Colton, in his quietly expressive voice.

One hand lay idly on the table before him, the other on his knees, fingers holding the slim, hollow cane. "He wasn't just born crooked. He started petty thieving before he was out of short trousers. He was the rare criminal that works years as an honest man to pave the way for criminality. He had brains. He could have been a wonderful success as an honest man. But he couldn't be straight. The criminal instinct was there. He was waiting for the proper time. But the coarser side of his nature refused to be held in leash. He needed money. And with the inherent craft of his kind he began to plan the robbery of the Berkley Trust Company. It wasn't so hard, because, being an old, conservative institution, in which men had grown gray, the personal side entered as it cannot in the modern, up-to-date institutions where men come and go. Instead of elaborate safeguards the simple protection of proven honesty entered largely into the protection of the bank's valuables. And where there is simple honesty there is always vulnerability.

"This criminal had found the vulnerable spot years before the robbery was actually planned; when the time came for its consummation luck came to his aid, as it often does." He paused. On the outside door came a knock, so faint that only his wonderfully sharp ears heard it. "There was no possibility of suspicion attaching itself to him, for he had planned an elaborate program to foist suspicion on others. And this robbery was but one of a series, for the method his shrewd brain had devised was capable of endless combinations. In a few years the Berkley Trust losses would have mounted to millions!"

His fist crashed down on the heavy table. The door opened. Between the sober-faced Shrimp and the expressionless Irish chauffeur was a sunken-eyed, tottering creature, unshaven- "There's your wife, Simpson!" In the silence Colton 's voice came like the crack of a pistol.

"My God, Thorn, it's a man!" In Sydney Thames's tone was agony that the sensitive blind man whom he loved could have made such a mistake.

"Yes, a man! Sit still, Simpson!" With a movement as quick as light itself Colton 's fingers had dropped the slim cane that had given its warning, and held a blue-steel automatic. "Or rather what was once a man." His tone rang with deadly menace. "Charlie De Roque, vaudeville actor, the youngest and best female impersonator on the stage; Mrs. Bowden, the consumptive who played so well on the sympathies of the three simple-minded souls at sixteen hundred Third Avenue; Mrs. Simpson, the deaf-and-dumb little girl who was going to make Simpson lead a better life."

"You lie!" The shambling shadow of a man screamed it as he tried to jerk away from the chauffeur. "They told me they were going to take me to a sanatorium. I don't know what you're talking about. They've kept me-" His whole body racked with sobs.

"Would you tell the truth for these?" The automatic did not waver a fraction of an inch as Colton's unoccupied hand threw down on the table three cotton-plugged quills.

"Merciful God! Yes!" With insane strength he broke away from the big Irishman and darted to the table. His twitching fingers snatched a quill, pulled the cotton from the end, threw his head back- "Enough of these damn' theatrics!" Simpson snarled it viciously, but he did not move. "By Heaven, Colton, you can't railroad me to save Morris and his wife with the fool ravings of a cocaine snuffler!" His face was purple, the veins in his forehead seemed ready to burst. "Mrs. Bowden!" He scoffed. "How did she get the bonds? Where are they? Find 'em!" he laughed triumphantly at Colton across the table, and the two central-office men who now stood over him.

"Here yuh are, Mr. Colton." It was Shrimp, staggering under the weight of a big bucket of dirty water. He set it down beside the problemist's chair.

"The bonds are here, Simpson!" Colton's hand plunged into the water, and came up with a dripping, shiny black object. "There's the first package, in an all-rubber ice bag!"

"You devil!" Simpson's rage made his voice a scream.

"Take your prisoner, policemen." Colton could not refrain from adding that last scornful word to the two detectives who had not seen until a blind man had shown them.

IV

"Of course, De Roque, who was merely the drug-crazed tool of the real criminal, would have told where the bonds were," declared Thornley Colton, when they were once more in the shade-drawn library of the big, old-fashioned house. "But Simpson would have had time to be on his guard. The finding of the bonds, as I did, before he had time to recover his nerve, drew from him those last betraying words. The police can establish his connection with the telephone message to Miss Richmond, the booking of the two passages under the name of Morris, and the place where he and De Roque met while the fake Mrs. Bowden was supposed to be out at day's work. Those details were not even worth bothering with, for me, because the keyboard of silence told me the guilty persons before the robbery was committed."

"I am as much at sea as ever," confessed Sydney Thames.

"In the Regal we saw the first act. Simpson, with the dare-devilishness that characterises the type, introduced me to the accomplice. It was not wholly dare-devilishness, however, for it was to prepare the get-away. He wanted, before the time came for her to disappear, to arouse your sympathy and my interest in the deaf-and-dumb woman, whom he had married to accomplish his reformation. After a fruitless search he would need a long vacation in Europe, with the bonds, of course, to recover from the shock. There could be no suspicion attached to him. No sane man would look for a deaf-and-dumb wife in the person of a vaudeville actor dying of tuberculosis and cocaine who had drug dreams of money coming his way. Once Simpson had gotten out of the country, De Roque could have raved and stormed, even confessed, and his confession would have been accepted as nothing but cocaine dementia. Simpson never intended to play fair; it isn't his nature. From the first time I ever shook his hand I have known him to be a born criminal, for I can read hands as the physiognomist reads faces. And I have the advantage, because men like Simpson, with the aid of their strong wills, can mask their emotions behind eyes and faces so that no man can read their minds. But they have never given a thought to their hands."

"Do you mean to say you could tell what Simpson was planning by shaking his hands there in the Regal?" demanded Thames incredulously.

"Not quite," protested Colton laughingly. "But you know how I shake hands. My long index finger always rests lightly on the keyboard of silence-the wrist. With a touch like mine, so light that I can read handwriting by feeling the ridges left on the blank side of the paper, not one person in a million could feel it. I think Miss Richmond did, when I shook hands with her, because I felt a responsive thrill. In the case of Simpson his heart was working like a steam-engine, though his face and eyes were a mask that neither you nor any man with eyes could read; my finger-tip on his pulse told me that he was labouring under some strong excitement. When I shook hands with his 'wife' I discovered why."

"Why?" echoed Thames blankly. "Because the wife was a man, and a drug-fiend."

"Your hand told you that, and my eyes were deceived!"

"My knowledge of anatomy told me the man part. Don't you know that over the muscles of a woman is a layer of fat that gives the beautiful feminine curves? The man's muscles play directly under the skin, and the curves of female impersonators are due to flabby muscles, and not the feminine fat layer. Besides the cocaine pulse of the 'wife' my finger-tip immediately felt the play of the muscles as the hand gripped mine. Knowing Simpson, the impersonation could mean nothing else but a contemplated crime. I further proved it by getting her to put out her hand before she could have had any knowledge, by signs, of my intention to say good-bye. Remember my reference to lip-reading? Simpson was taking no chance of letting her talk. The cocaine gave her the brightness of eye, and the heavily-daubed rouge I knew would have to be there to convince you that she was really a country girl who didn't know the use of cosmetics, and also to cover any trace of man's beard and cocaine pastiness of skin. It would have deceived any one who had eyes, where an artistic make-up would immediately have aroused suspicion. Simpson was a wonderful detailist.

"Common sense told me that Simpson could not risk working with an amateur. Therefore I set Shrimp to looking up actors who had been forced to leave the stage on account of ill health within the last two months. The whole thing must have been rehearsed many times, for the detailist would overlook no detail. In Shrimp's list was De Roque. A few telephone inquiries proved that he was really a cocaine fiend of the worst kind, also that he had returned, yesterday morning, from a sanatorium, no better, to his old boarding-house. It was Simpson's scheme to let him do that, for it eliminated him. As soon as I found out that Simpson would not risk visiting him, Shrimp and John got him on the pretence that they were from Simpson. Cocaine snufflers as far gone as he need the drug every hour. For three hours before the time arranged for Shrimp to bring him to the bank De Roque hadn't had a pinch; he was insane with craving. The visit to Third Avenue, and the finding of the quills which cocaine snufflers use to hide the stuff on their bodies and conceal it in their palms so that no one can see them snuff it gave me the things I needed to make him talk. You saw how they worked."

"But the detectives who helped him out of the room? How did you ever figure the possibility of the bonds being in the scrub water?"

"The protective-agency men told me. Their eyes saw what my lack of eyes understood. The yellow bar of soap bobbing on top of the water, I think one of them expressed it. An instant's intelligent thought would tell any one that the yellow soap used for scrubbing floors never floats. The finding of the powdered sulphur showed me the clever ice-bag trick, for powdered sulphur is always used by druggists to keep the thin rubber from sticking together when the bags are in the boxes. Of course, De Roque carried it with him every night waiting for his opportunity, and in pulling it out the powder scattered on the carpet. The natural thing was to brush it under the safe, where my handkerchief found it after my slapping hand had raised the scattered grains he had missed.

"The ringing of the burglar-alarm was a master-stroke. It was the link necessary to establish the innocence of Mrs. Bowden. Simpson, of course, knew of the connection. De Roque probably removed his shoes and stood on the rubber ice-bag while he opened the safe and took out the bonds and papers Simpson had so accurately described. Then, when they had all been packed and the safe closed, a natural stumbling against the safe would bring the protective-agency men to swear that nothing could have been taken from the room. When the time came to leave the building, the pail, still full of water, was carefully put in a far, dark corner of the cellar closet, where the scrub pails and mops are kept. It would have been safe until Simpson was ready to take the bonds away. That was why I worked to keep Jamison and his partner around the bank; I didn't want Simpson to have any opportunity to get the loot out.

"Of course, it was he who suggested the calling of the regular police to the flustered President Montrose. Because, while he was sure that he could deceive me, he wasn't taking any foolish risks. He wanted the central-office men to muddle the thing as much as possible, and he was shrewd enough not to overdo the casting of suspicion on Norris and his wife; the way he put in a word here and there, and looks, of course, was quite in keeping with the other details. This morning, I think, he had begun to realise what I was doing, but there was nothing he could do but count on a bluff. I took him off his guard."

For several minutes the two men smoked in silence.

"But why didn't you warn some one instead of letting the robbery go on?" Sydney asked finally.

Colton 's expressive lips framed a wry smile. "You will insist on showing the fly in the ointment, Sydney. The truth is, I was caught napping. But I guess it's just as well I didn't. Jails are built for the protection of society, and Simpson is the one man in a thousand against whom society needs protection."

RICHARD SALE (1911-1993)

With his profession providing a passport into many spheres of life, the newspaperman is a stock character in pulp detective fiction. Sometimes referred to as 'surrogate sleuths,' journalists use their skills to search out the truth and solve crimes, even though they are neither police professionals nor amateur detectives. One of the best-known reporter heroes is Joe 'Daffy' Dill, the creation of Richard Sale, who drew on his own early experience as a New York reporter to craft his crime stories.

Sale soon left the world of journalism for a career in popular writing that mirrored the development of the various media. He got his start in the pulp magazines of the 1930's, including «Detective Fiction Weekly, Argosy, Double Detective,» and «Baffling Detective,» turning out some forty-six short stories featuring Dill. In the 1940's, he began to write for the burgeoning 'slicks': his series character Lieutenant Alec Mason solved cases set in type on the glossy pages of the «Saturday Evening Post, Esquire,» and «Blue Book.» During the 1940's, too, he turned out the bulk of his longer fiction, including six novels and a collection of novelettes. Another novelette collection followed in 1950, another mystery novel appeared in 1971, and he published a mainstream novel in 1975.

In the interim, Sale had turned his talents to screenwriting and directing. His screenplays demonstrated versatility and allowed him to indulge his passion for writing snappy dialogue. He wrote several screenplays with Mary Loos and others, ranging from Westerns to sports sagas to suspense yarns. His directing career blossomed during the 1950's, and then he began to write for television series, «including Yancy Derringer» and «The FBI.»

Typical of the time and the medium, Sale 's pulp fiction is chiefly composed of dialogue. Animated exchanges are enlivened with exclamations. The repartee is quick, spiced with wisecracks, and leavened with humour. The characters 'snap' at one another. And the delivery of information is expressed in a vernacular that could only be American: "Listen, my little rattlesnake… I just put the bite on Rigo."

Sale 's hero is no stranger to violence. Despite his light-hearted nickname, Daffy Dill's adventures prove that when it comes to securing a scoop, the fist is mightier than the pencil.

A Nose for News

ONE

The telephone on my desk rang, so I stopped banging out the lead of the double suicide story I had just covered, and answered it. It was Dinah Mason, who is decidely bad for my heart. She was the reception girl for the «Chronicle,» and she had buzzed me from the outer office.

"Hello, Garbo," I said.

"Listen, Daffy," she said in a low voice, "a lunatic just went by here yelling your name. He looks angry. I couldn't stop him."

"Thanks for the warning, gel," I said. "But I'm not on the spot for anything-as far as I can recall."

"O. K." She sounded funereal. "He sure looks mad."

She hung up as did I, and no sooner had I shoved the telephone back where it belonged than the door to the city room burst open and the maniac stalked in.

He was a little guy, well dressed, with a black derby perched on the top of his skull. He was waving a home edition of the «Chronicle» in his right hand like a red flag. He kept saying: "Which one of you is Joe Dill? Which one of you pencil-pushers is Joe Dill?"

I kept my mouth shut, waiting for him to reach me before identifying myself, and hoping that by that time some of the hot blood would have cooled off.

The rest of the staff, in the tradition, kept their pans a perfect blank. If I wanted to make myself known, that was my business alone.

But just then Harry Lyons, the rat of our sheet, who had been sore at me since I got his job, gave me a dirty look and pointed at me. His biggest aspiration, you see, was to find me flat on my face with a knife between my shoulder blades. He said: "Here he is, mister. Meet Daffy Dill, the world's worst newspaper man."

I snapped: "Button your lip, Lyons!"

But he saw trouble for me. He smirked broadly, got up, and took the maniac by the arm. He pulled the guy right over to my desk and put a chair there for him.

"Here," he said, motioning at me, "is the Cyrano de Bergerac of the newspaper racket. All nose-no news! Ha-ha!"

"Ha-ha!" I said sadly, surveying Lyons ' face for the exact spot where I was going to hang a haymaker very shortly. I picked his eye. That was the most ignominious spot.

"Are you Joe Dill?" the maniac asked loudly.

"I am," I said, "Joe Dill. Sit down, my fran. What's wrong?"

"What's «wrong?"«he bellowed with new fervour, slapping his copy of the home edition on my desk and hurling the chair aside. "He asks me what's wrong». Du lieber Gott!"«

I got more and more puzzled.

"Mr. Dill," he said sibilantly, "do you know who I am, «hein?"«

I said: "You've got me there, mister."

"I am Adolph," he went on. " Adolph, America 's premier chef! Do you know what you have done?"

"Adolph?" I echoed. "Well, I'll be damned! Adolph, the chef of the Grenada Hotel? Well, what in hell are you sore about? Didn't you see that swell feature I wrote about you in the second section today?"

"Swell feature," Adolph moaned. "Mr. Dill, you should be arrested!» Verdamnt»-you should never be allowed to write again. You have libelled me! You have been malicious! I will sue this damn paper to heaven!"

He turned stoically to Lyons and asked with dignity: "Where is the editor?"

"Right this way," Lyons said, smiling sweetly at me. "I'll take you right in. Don't blame you a bit. Newspaper men shouldn't libel their readers. You're absolutely right. This way."

When he had gone in the vague direction of the Old Man's office I grabbed a stray copy of the Chronicle and hurriedly thumbed through it to my story, which had made a big enough hit with the Old Man to net me a by-line. I read it through carefully. Near the end I groaned. It went like this: "Adolph was famous long before he entered the cuisine of the Grenada Hotel. For ten years before the war, he was the most famous of all the crooks of Vienna."

Libel? It was dynamite, fuse lighted and all! I had meant to say that he was the most famous cook in all Vienna. But somehow my typewriter must have slipped in that wandering r while I was pounding the keys. I groaned. I locked my desk, got up, and found my hat and coat. I knew right then that I had joined the legion of the unemployed, but somehow that word crook still rankled me. I was damn positive that I hadn't written crook for cook. And if I had-why hadn't the copyreader picked it up and fixed it? Suspicion grew, and in five short minutes I realised that Harry Lyons, C. T. (Cut-Throat), had pulled a sandy on me. So I waited for him.

In a little while, Adolph came out of the Old Man's office with a happy expression on his face-as though he had just seen my corpse. He sneered a sneer at me and left the city room. No sooner had he gone out than Lyons came to my desk.

"Why, hello, Daffy," he said. "The Old Man wants to see you right away."

"You don't say," I said. "And some one wants to see you right away too."

"Who is it?" he asked.

"Your favourite doctor," I said.

With that I let him have a short sweet haymaker right under his eye, which spot I had chosen previously. There was a pleasant crunch. His teeth clicked together neatly. His eyes closed with a snap you could hear on West Street. He went down and-out.

McGuire, the sports editor, looked up from the story he was writing about Lou Gehrig and yawned: "Nice punch, Daffy. Better see the Old Man anyway. He may have mercy on your soul."

"Thanks, Mac," I said. "I'll see him."

I went to the Old Man's office and knocked. Then I opened the door and stuck my head in, weaving in case he started to throw things.

"Come in here, Daffy," the Old Man ordered. "Sit down a second."

"On the level?"

"Why, Daffy, did I ever-"

"O. K.," I growled. "Ixnay on the pathos. Let's get it over."

He nodded and I sat down.

"In the first place," he said, "you are fired."

"I knew that," I said.

"Listen, Daffy," the Old Man said suddenly. "I hate like hell to do it, but I've got a boss too, the guy who publishes this sheet. I couldn't let you stay."

"I know, I know."

"I had to settle with that frocked cook for one grand. He wouldn't take a cent less for release of that libel." The Old Man shrugged. "I have to fire you. Can't do anything else. But I wanted to speak to you about those gambling expose articles you've been writing, the ones you left with me for safety."

"They're mine," I said. "I did them on my own time."

"I know it," he said. "But I want them. They'll blow Cantrey's graft organisation wide open when I break them.

"Now I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll keep ' em here. You go out and run into the prize scoopy of the year. It'll have to be an exclusive. Then I'll just be forced to hire you again, over the publisher's head, to get your yarn. And all will be serene once more."

"You mean," I said, "that I've got to scoop the A. P., the U. P., the Metropolitan News Service and every other rag in this city to get my job back?"

"Yeah."

I sighed. "The day of miracles is past, my fran."

The Old Man shrugged. "You'll have to do it. I can't take you back otherwise. I've got to protect myself. I want you. You're a good newspaper man, Daffy. And I want that gambling expose too. Make a try anyhow. You've got thirty bucks due on salary. How about it?"

"Slave-driver," I said, "I will try. I'll do my damnedest, even if I have to steal or murder myself. So long. When you see this intelligent phiz again it will hold in its mind the greatest circulation yarn in days."

I went out. I felt enthusiastic and fine. The Old Man was a prince. He liked me-or my gambling story. When I reached the street, I went limp. Where in hell could you get a scoop in a modern newspaper day like this? I began to feel down. So I took the subway up to Times Square, which is my happy hunting ground. And then I went to the Hot Spot Club to drown my sorrows for awhile.

TWO

The Hot Spot is on West Forty-third, and it is owned by Mike Cantrey, alias the Brain. Cantrey headed just about every racket on the main stem. No murder, beering or bootlegging. Not crude stuff like that. He just took suckers. He ran machines, gambling houses, spots like this one, which were blinds for his crooked wheels in the rear. And it was Cantrey I had written my expose about.

I went in and took a seat by myself in one of the oaken stalls. A waiter came over and looked questioningly at me. I said: "An Old Fashioned, garsong, as ever."

While I was waiting for him I lighted a cigarette. A shadow fell across my table. I looked up. A girl was standing in front of my stall. She had corn-hair, a smooth-looker, and was dressed like the Queen of Sheba.

"I know you," she said, pointing.

She was a little bit tight and she was holding a rye highball. I thought I'd seen her before somewhere, but I played safe. I said: "You've got the better of me, Garbo."

"You're Daffy Dill," she said.

"Right the first time," I said.

"You're a reporter on the «Chronicle."«

"Wrong there," I said sadly. "I was a reporter on the «Chronicle.» I just lost my job. That's why my tears are staining my best shirt. Sit down and put up your hair and have a good cry with me. Who are you?"

"Tough," she said-about the job, and then added: "I'm Clare Gordon. " I didn't look bright. "You know-Pemberton Gordon's daughter. You interviewed him at the house last week on the N. R. A. He's in the cloak and suit end as administrator."

"Hell, yes!" I said, shaking hands with the gel. "But I didn't see you there or I would have stayed longer." I surveyed her. "You make pretty good copy yourself. Been in any more scrapes lately? I haven't seen a yarn about you since you forced down the police plane when it tried to get you for stunting over the city."

She made a face. "That was a jam. They cracked up in landing. I've reformed. Dad played hell with me on that one."

The waiter brought my Old Fashioned.

"Have one?" I asked.

"Sure," she said. "Thanks."

"Another," I told the waiter. He left.

"How'd you lose your job?"

I said: "I happened to have a guy in the office who hates my nerve. He had my job but he couldn't deliver. They promoted me to his forty fish a week and he's been sore at me ever since. He fixed me into a libellous story. Changed one word and got the paper in a jam. It looked as though I'd written it-and so I am fired."

"Tsk, tsk," she said, shaking her head. "Bad, bad. Daffy, am I a pal?"

"My fran," I said, "I have known you for years."

"You help me out," Clare said, "and I'll get you back your job."

"Why not?" I said. "Consider yourself helped."

She handed me a slip of paper. It had a list of figures on it which added up to five grand. "Know what that is?"

"I. O. U.'s, probably," I said. "Been playing the wheel?"

"Not me," she said. "I'm not that dumb. But my brother has and he's in a real spot. Dad's cracked down on him lately. Won't give him money. Dick was playing the wheel here at Cantrey's. He lost. He gave them an I. O. U. each time. Now they want to collect. They're going to go to dad and I know it'll get Dick disowned or something. I told him I'd fix it up. I saw the Brain. He said no."

"Five grand," I mused. "O. K., girlie. You sit here and devour your drink. I'll be right back."

I got up and went to the back door. Rigo, the Brain's right-hand man, peered out at me through the barred door.

"Oh, it's you," he said, and opened up. I went in.

The tables were all getting a good play, even for daytime. Suckers were plunking down the coppers and having them swept away without a bit of return, but they kept right at it. I asked Rigo: "Where's the Brain?"

"In his office," Rigo said. He was a little guy with black hair, black mustachio, and squinty eyes. "Want to see him?"

"Yeah."

He took me in. The Brain was sitting behind his desk, smoking a cigar. Luke Terk was sitting with him. Luke was the Brain's muscle man when customers were broken-armed about paying up. Rigo closed the door behind us.

"Hello, Daffy," said the Brain. "How's tricks?"

"Fair," I said. "I want to ask a favour."

"Anything for a pal," said the Brain, smiling, and I shivered because I knew damn well he would have liked to have had my throat slit. "What is it?"

"There's a guy named Richard Gordon," I said. "A good pal of mine. He owes you five grand."

"That's right."

"Tear up his I. O. U.," I said. "He's a personal friend, you see. He didn't know your wheels were crooked."

Luke Terk jumped around and stared at me. "Listen, birdie, button your lip or-"

"Why, Luke!" the Brain said. "Don't speak like that. Daffy's my best friend, aren't you, Daffy?"

"How about it?" I asked. "Afraid the answer's no," the Brain said. "Five grand is five grand."

"I see," I said. "Mind if I use your phone?"

"Go ahead."

I called the Old Man at the Chronicle. The three buzzards watched me carefully. The Old Man said irascibly: "Yeah."

"Chief," I said, "this is Daffy Dill. I'm at the Hot Spot seeing Mike Cantrey. He just refused to do a favour for me. Don't you think it was about time the «Chronicle» ran that series of articles exposing his crooked gambling joints all over the city?"

"Hell, no!" the Old Man said. "You haven't finished them up yet."

"Fine," I said. "I'll tell him he can read all about it in tomorrow's editions then."

"Wait a second," the Brain said.

"I get you," said the Old Man. "You're baiting him. Keep talking if you want. I'll play along from this end."

"Nice going, chief," I said. "But wait a second." I put my hand over the mouthpiece and asked: "What is it?"

The Brain studied me. "Is that on the level?"

"You bet your sweet life it is!"

"It can't hurt me. I've got the political boys greased."

"Yeah," I said, "but you haven't got the public greased. You take their money and they'll be sore when they read about it. They'll put the blame for any time they've ever been gypped on you. Maybe there'll be a Federal inquiry. And in two months there's an election coming up. The people won't elect your political boys unless they clean you out."

Luke Terk snapped: "This is one guy we oughta cook, Brain."

"Let me do it!" Rigo growled.

"Boys, boys!" I said. "Don't be silly. You don't kill a reporter who has just written an expose of you. That adds murder to the other crimes."

The Brain said: "He's right, you lugs. Call off your dogs, Daffy. It's a deal. I'll give you the I. O. U."

"Chief," I said into the phone, "it's all off. You'll have to hold those articles for another favour. So long."

I hung up. The Brain opened his desk, took out a note, handed it to me.

"I'm on the short end," he said. "You've still got those articles for publication. How much for them?"

"I'm not blackmailing," I said.

"You mean you'll run them sometime anyhow?"

"Yeah," I said. "But you'll have time to get your affairs together and start a new racket, Brain. Gambling's dead from now on."

Luke Terk growled: "Get outta here, you rat, before I forget myself and blast you."

I got out.

THREE

Clare Gordon had finished her Old Fashioned when I went back to the stall. She was a little tighter. She laughed at me and asked: "How'd you make out?"

I handed her the I. O. U. "Is this your brother's signature?"

She nodded. "That's it."

"Then you're all set." I took out a match and burned the note. "Tell him he's in the clear. Also tell him to lay off crooked joints. Now, how about my job?"

"That's right," she said. "I told you I'd get it back. I've got a swell plan. I'm going to be kidnapped."

"What?" I cried.

"Sure. I'm going to be kidnapped tomorrow night at eight o'clock. By airplane."

Rigo went by the stall at that moment.

"Shh," I said. "Not so loud. Now, what in hell is this?"

"I just figured it out," she said, "sitting here. You write my folks a threatening letter, saying I've been kidnapped and that the ransom-"

I sighed. "Did you ever hear of the Lindbergh Law?"

"Sure, but what's the difference? All right then. I'll write my own letter. I'll say that I've been kidnapped and the ransom is two hundred thousand. I'll name you as go-between. Then I'll take off from home in my plane tomorrow at 8:00 P.M. and fly up to Binneybunk, Maine, where dad has a cabin. It'll be deserted there now. After a week or two, while you bask in the publicity of go-between and your paper cries for your services, I'll come back and tell a wild story."

"You're hopped," I said. "You're staggering. Forget it. I wouldn't go in on a plan like that for money."

"But I want to help you!"

"Help me? You want me to become a lifer in a Federal jug!"

Clare wrinkled her nose. "All right. But you can't stop me from doing it. And I'll write the ransom note and still name you as go-between."

"I'll blow up the story."

"And they'll pinch you for conspiracy or something. I'm telling you, Daffy. Tomorrow at 8:00 P.M. I hop off for Maine and kidnap myself. Them's the kind words that gets back your job."

Well, she meant what she said. I was sitting in my apartment the next night around eight thirty, bemoaning the lack of scoops in this dazzling world. I had had a hard day trying to find a story which would yank back my job, but no luck. My nose simply wasn't in the news. I was washed up. Then my telephone rang.

I answered it with: "Your nickel!"

It was my heart, Dinah Mason. She thrust aside the usual sentimental amenities and said: "Daffy, hell's broken loose!"

"Somebody bomb the office?" I asked cheerfully.

"It's Clare Gordon," Dinah said. "She's been kidnapped. Half an hour ago. She was taking off from her father's estate out near Huntington, Long Island. Three men jumped her. At least that's what the chauffeur says. The snatchers piled into the plane and they all took off for points unknown."

I chuckled. "Damn the gel! Any other fine points?"

"There was a ransom note left behind. It names you as go-between! The bulls have been here for you. They're on their way up there now! The Old Man is frantic, trying to find you. The last place we looked was home. You're seldom there."

"Listen, Dinah," I said, "don't get excited. The Gordon skirt framed this whole thing. I'll tell the Old Man when I see him. It was put-up."

"Are you sure, Daffy? It doesn't look like a frame."

"It's a frame, my chickadee," I said. "Forget it. Who's covering for the paper?"

"Harry Lyons."

"Oh me, oh my," I gloated. "What glorious fun! Abyssinia, my hour-glass. Look me up in Atlanta."

I hung up, threw on my hat and coat and took a powder before the police reached my place. I wasn't any too soon either. They roared up the street to the door, sirens going, just as I went down the block. I caught a cab, said: "Headquarters, Mac," and settled back on the cushions to enjoy the ride, which cost me seventy-five cents when I finally paid off in front of the Centre Street building at the other end.

I went up to see Captain George Shane, who, I figured, would be in charge of the case, even if it had taken place on Long Island. They centralise things like kidnappings, because one man has to stand in with the Federal authorities when they come searching. Inspector Calloran and Sergeant Bill Hanley of the Homicide Squad were both on the out in this snatch.

I was right. Captain Shane was my man. Every newshound in the city was outside his door, pounding on it, trying to get in and get hold of some facts. A cop-I recognised him as Curly Newton-was pushing them aside. In the midst of the holocaust I saw Harry Lyons. He had a bad eye where I had brushed him off. I said: "Gentlemen of the Press!"

There was sudden silence. They stopped pushing and turned around. Lyons yelled: "Daffy Dill!" and that started it. I forgot for a moment that I had been named go-between in Clare Gordon's screwy ransom note. I was a public figure in the case. They mobbed me for a statement while Curly Newton tore into Captain Shane's office. In a second or two, before I could say a word, Newton came out again and dragged me through the mob into Shane's office. He closed the door and I liked the quiet for a change.

Captain Shane was pacing the floor in front of Pemberton Gordon, Clare's father. He recognised me easily since I had interviewed him for the paper only the week before, as Clare had said.

There were two other men in the room too. They were Federal operatives. I could see it as plain as day.

"Daffy," said Captain Shane. "You heard what's happened?"

I nodded.

"You heard you've been named go-between?"

I nodded again, looking at Pemberton Gordon's face. He was scared to death. His hands were trembling. I could see a vein in his temple throbbing like hell. I felt sorry for him.

"Listen, Captain," I said, "I just heard about it and I came right down to blow it up. It's a fake."

"A what?"

"A fake, a pushover, sandy. It's a frame. The kid did it on purpose to help me get my job back."

Captain Shane stared at me. "Daffy, are you on the level?"

"You know me, Captain," I said. "I don't lie to you."

"Then start talking," he snapped. "Let's hear this one."

I talked and told him all that had happened, how I'd done the gel a favour (I didn't say what it was because her old man was there) and how she wanted to do something for me. I told how she said she'd kidnap herself, name me as the go-between so's I'd get the job back. Shane listened without saying anything, just nodding now and then, but I saw that Pemberton Gordon was regarding me with the kind of a look he'd give Frankenstein's monster. And the Federal dicks were giving me the kind of eye which meant a rubber hose. I prayed.

When I had finished, Captain Shane shook his head.

"Daffy," he said, "it sounds fishy. I've known you a long time and all that, but it sounds fishy. I don't like to say it-but it does. Now come clean."

"Chief," I said shortly, "that's clean. I wouldn't fool you."

"He's one of the gang!" Gordon exclaimed. "I know he's one of the gang. That's why he was named as go-between. He knows where Clare is! I want him arrested!"

One of the Feds said: "Don't worry about that none."

"Wait a second," I said. "Take it easy, boys. I'm telling the God's honest truth." I was sweating like a soda glass. "The girl is up at her father's cabin at Binneybunk, Maine. Why don't you check on that and see if I'm right."

Shane nodded. "That's sound."

"We'll do that little thing," one of the Feds snapped.

"Meanwhile," said the other, "you're being detained as a material witness or suspicious character or anything you'd like. Put him in the can, Captain."

"That's what I'll have to do, Daffy," said Shane. "Sorry."

"O. K., chief," I said. "Just so we clear the thing up. I told that scatterbrained frill I wasn't in on it. She said that wouldn't stop her."

"We'll wire the Binneybunk sheriff," said Captain Shane. "Sit tight in the jug. You'll know in an hour."

FOUR

They put me in a cell. The minutes took a hell of a long time to pass. I smoked. I got to smoking so much I used a whole half-pack of cigarettes and my tongue felt like the Russian army had walked across it with bayonets fixed. I kept sweating and my hands were trembling. I don't know why, but I felt damned uneasy.

At ten o'clock Captain Shane came to see me.

"Did they find her?" I asked.

"Daffy," he said slowly, "I hate like hell to do this. But Pemberton Gordon just swore out a warrant for your arrest. You're charged with aiding in the kidnapping of one Clare Gordon, and anything you say from now on can be used against you. They're setting your bail at twenty-five grand."

"Twenty-five grand!" I yelled. "Arrest? Chief, for God's sake, listen. The girl-"

"She wasn't there," Captain Shane said. "The cabin hadn't been opened since Gordon was up at Binneybunk last summer."

I wilted. "Oh," I said. "Oh, thanks." I was croaking, not talking. "Thanks, chief. I-I guess I'm in a jam. Do me a favour, will you?"

"Sure," he said.

"Get me some cigs, please?"

"Sure. Anything else?"

"Telephone-telephone the Old Man. Tell him I want to see him."

Captain Shane shook his head. "No need of that, Daffy. The Old Man's here. He wants to see you."

"Can he?"

Captain Shane shrugged. "O. K., I guess. But only for five minutes."

"Thanks," I nodded. I felt better somehow. The sweating stopped. The suspense was killed. I knew where I stood. He went away. In a few seconds the Old Man puffed up to my cell and stared at me.

"Daffy, you old jailbird," he said, "when I told you to go scoopy, I didn't say get a life sentence doing it. Is it a story?"

"It's a story," I said. "But I'm the fall guy."

He looked me straight in the eye.

"Tell me one thing," he said. "One thing, Daffy. You're clean on this thing?"

I said: "I'm clean, chief."

"Good." He chuckled. "Then spill it."

I spilled it, the whole damn thing, and he listened, taking in every news angle it had. When I finished he remarked: "It's a lulu, all right. It'll make us dust off the type we used for the Armistice. But can you write it? If I get a machine up here, can you write that yarn? Can you-" He stopped and glanced warily at me. "Wait a second. If you-hell's bells! The girl wasn't at the Maine cabin. That means she's really been snatched!"

I nodded.

"Daffy," he said, watching my face, "do you know who did it?"

"I've got a good idea," I said.

The Old Man got pale. He paced back and forth a few minutes. Then he called: "Be right back," and left. I felt for a cigarette, but I didn't have any. Captain Shane came along and slipped me a pack. I paid him for them; they hadn't taken my belongings yet. "Thanks," I said. The Old Man showed up just at that instant.

"You're free, Daffy," he said. "I called up Kennril. He said that with the yarn behind it the «Chronicle» was going to post bond for your bail. That's legal. All O. K., Captain?"

"Hell, yes," Shane said. "The «Chronicle» is good for twenty-five grand. Have you signed the papers?"

"No, but I will now. Let the boy out."

"Not till the bond is posted."

They went off and fixed that business up while I jiggled on pins and needles. Every minute was precious. After an awfully long wait the turnkey came and let me out. The Old Man and Shane were waiting for me in Shane's office. Shane gave me a card, in case other bulls tried to put the bite on me.

"Judas," I said to the Old Man, "thanks! Thanks for everything! I'll never-"

"Wait a second," he said. "You've got to earn that bond. Go out and after them, Daffy. And try to break it right for the noon edition."

"Say," asked Shane suspiciously, "does he know the snatchers?"

"I don't know a thing," I said. "See my lawyer. O. K. I'm on my way." I shook hands with the Old Man. "I mean it, chief. Thanks."

"Get to hell out of here," the Old Man snapped. I had a gun permit for a.32 Colt, but I never carried the rod. I figured I needed it tonight, so I took a cab uptown to my place. There was a cop out front. I didn't want trouble. I went in the back way and upstairs. I found the rod all right, primed and ready to go. I slipped it in my coat pocket and went out the back way. Then I headed for the main stem, crossed it, and went into the Hot Spot. I called a waiter. "Is the Brain in?"

"No." The reply was surly.

"Rigo? Luke Terk?"

"Naw, they're all out."

"O. K.," I said. I went out and turned into the back alley. I knew if any one of the three came they'd go into the Brain's office the back way. I took up a spot in the shadows and waited with my right hand wrapped fondly around my gun.

I waited about fifteen minutes. It was ten after eleven by the Paramount clock. I heard footsteps come along the street. I ducked back farther into the shadows. A man turned into the alley. He was all alone. I recognised him. Rigo, with his short-stepped gait. I let the Colt go. I reached in my pocket and took out my penknife and snapped open the blade.

Rigo was careful. He took a good look around himself, but it was damn dark where I stood. He missed me. He aimed for the side door of the Hot Spot, and for one second he turned his back to me.

I jumped out of the shadows, threw my left arm around his neck and jabbed the knife into his back, just enough for him to feel the cold steel.

"Hello, Rigo," I said. "Nice seeing you again."

He was breathing hard. He gasped: "Who is it?"

"Daffy Dill," I said. "An old friend." I sneaked my left hand into his shoulder holster and put his gun in my pocket. "Don't move, you rat," I snapped, "or I'll give you the length of this blade." He didn't move. He asked: "What're you after, Dill?"

"Clare Gordon," I answered, "and the boys who snatched her."

He shuddered. I could feel it. He said: "Wrong alley. I don't know nothing about it."

"Listen, you crumby little bun," I snapped, "come clean. I'm not kidding now. The Brain engineered this. You overheard the gel say she was going to stage a fake. You were taking it out on her because I got that I. O. U. of her brother's back. That and the fact that I wrote those gambling expose articles which will blow your business to hell. You needed a new racket, and the Brain chose this one."

"You're crazy!" he said.

"Rigo," I said coldly, "where is she?"

"I tell you I don't know."

I took the knife and cut him deep across the back of the neck. The blood started running down over his shirt.

"Rigo," I said, "you're going to tell me or I'll cut your head off. Come clean. Where is she?"

"I tell you I don't-know!" His voice was shrill and he was breathing hard from the pain. That pup was scared to death.

"Want another cut?" I asked.

"Leave me alone! For God's sake, leave me alone. I don't know anything about it. I told you-"

I cut him again on the back of the neck, deeper this time. He winced and began to half sob from the pain. "For God's sake, Dill, are you crazy? Leave me alone!"

"Where is she?"

"I don't-"

I put the edge of the blade across the front of his throat. I tightened it there.

"Rigo," I said, "I'm going to tell you a little secret. I'm out on bail. I'm charged with Clare Gordon's snatch. If I don't find out from you where she is I'm due for either a death sentence or a lifer term."

"I don't know where she is!"

"I haven't got much to lose, Rigo," I said coldly. I pressed the knife harder. "Your jugular vein is right there. If you don't spill her location in ten seconds I'm going to slice your throat wide open and let you bleed to death."

"That's murder, Dill!"

"Sure," I said. "But what have I got to lose. Your ten seconds are up. Here goes. So long, Rigo."

I cut him slightly. He half screamed and tried to break away from me. I listened to his shrill words as he got hysterical with terror. "She's at the Brain's place! She's at the Brain's place!"

"Take it easy," I said, easing up on the blade. "What do you mean?"

"The Brain's place!" he babbled. "Uptown. Ritz Towers! The Brain's penthouse!"

It's funny how fear will make a guy squeal on his own mother. I kept the knife on him but just enough for him to feel it. "How'd she get there?" I asked. "You snatched her when she was taking off in her plane from Huntington, Long Island!"

"The Brain and Luke Terk engineered the snatch over there! I waited up at Yonkers with a speedboat!"

"Who piloted?"

"Cantrey! The Brain!" He was gasping.

"What then?"

"Cantrey set the crate down in the Hudson. He had flares."

"Was it an amphibian?"

"Yeah. Land and water. We broke the pontoons and let the crate sink. Then we came down the river in the speedboat. I had left the Brain's Lincoln by the Fifty-seventh Street pier. We tied up the boat and got in the car. We took the Gordon doll up to the Brain's place. I came back here to make things look right."

"Thanks," I said, "for the interesting lecture."

FIVE

I took out his rod and cracked him on the skull with it. He went out like a light and sagged to the alley floor. I figured him cold for at least an hour. I ran down the street to a cigar store, stuck a nickel in a telephone and called Dinah Mason.

"Hello?" she said.

"It's Daffy," I said.

"Darling," she said, "what's happened to you? The Old Man got word that you were being held in connection-"

"Listen, my little rattlesnake," I said. "I just put the bite on Rigo. You know Rigo-the Brain's right or left hand. I forget which. Anyway, he opened up and squealed beautifully. Now get this, because I'm on my way. Clare Gordon is being held captive at Mike Cantrey's penthouse apartment at the Ritz Towers. In case they should bury me before you see me again, tell some one else that pertinent information and write the story along with my obit."

"Check," she said. "Be careful, you lunatic. Don't get killed just when I've got you that way about me."

"I'm not going to try," I said, "but you never can tell."

I hung up and hooked a cab for uptown. We made the Ritz Towers in nothing flat. I paid off the driver-four bits it was-and I went in. I found out how the Brain got Clare up there without suspicion. He had a private elevator to his place. I said I wanted to see him. They made a call upstairs.

"The answer," said the desk clerk, "is no. Mr. Cantrey is seeing no one tonight."

"Tell him," I said, "it's about some gambling articles a fellow once wrote."

"He'll see you," the desk clerk said after relaying the kind words. "Take that elevator."

I took it. It was a non-stop at that time of night and we went up so fast I felt as though I'd left my stomach on the first floor. I got out. I didn't have any plan. I was just planning on inspiration. There were only two of them. I knew that. The Brain didn't go in for mobs.

I rang the bell. Luke Terk opened the door.

"Hello, rat," he said.

I went in. He had a gun in his right hand. With the other, as I passed him, he frisked me. He found my Colt and made me take it out. "Drop it on the floor. " I dropped it. I felt sort of empty. I had counted on that gun for a jam. "O. K.," Luke Terk said then. "Go on in. One funny move and I give it to you."

His voice was cold and low. He meant it.

The Brain was sitting in the living room. It was a swanky spot, all furnished modernistic, the way the furniture looks when you wake up with the jitters and a bad hangover. He smiled at me in a self-satisfied way. I had a feeling I was in for it.

"Come to the point," he said. "Never mind the gambling stories stall."

"All right," I said. "You snatched Clare Gordon. The gel's here. I want her."

"You want the moon," said the Brain softly.

"Maybe so," I said. "But I want her."

"She ain't here."

I laughed nervously. "You're stalling now, Cantrey. I hopped Rigo in an alley. He squealed."

"I know," the Brain said. "You cut him with your knife. Sorta nasty trick, wasn't it, Daffy?"

I felt icy. "So he came to and called you?"

"Yeah. He's got a tough skull. Sorta nasty, wasn't it?"

"Not for a rat like Rigo," I said. "He had it coming. I don't like snatchers, Brain."

"My, my!" Luke Terk exclaimed. "He don't like snatchers." His voice went taut. "Well, I don't like guys with knives, Dill!"

"He had it coming."

"And so have you," said the Brain. "Ever had your teeth burned with matches? Ever had needles stuck through your skin? We do that with welchers, Daffy. I think we'll stretch a point. Maybe you ain't a welcher. But you was pretty rough on Rigo. And Rigo is a pal of mine, see?"

"You're running a sandy," I said. "You can't scare me now. Go ahead, torture me. Then bump me off. The Feds are still after Clare Gordon. They don't miss out on their cases, Brain."

"She ain't here."

"Sure," I said, "she's flew away with a little birdie. Don't kid me. She's in the Ritz Towers somewhere. Rigo squealed once. He'll squeal again."

"The Feds don't carve guys' throats," snapped Luke Terk.

"Rigo's O. K.," said the Brain. "But you're not, Daffy. You're washed out. You've poked that big nose of yours into trouble this time."

"Into news," I said. "A nose for news."

"You stuck it into a coffin," said Luke Terk. "Only this time the lid's on it and you can't pull out."

I waited for a second and didn't say anything. They had the drop on me coming and going and there wasn't a thing I could do except bluff and stall a little.

"I want Clare Gordon," I said.

"Nuts," Luke Terk growled. "O. K., chief?"

The Brain nodded. "O. K., Luke. Give it to him. And make it hurt."

Luke Terk jabbed his gun in my ribs. "Get over to that sofa," he said. "And lie down."

I started for the sofa. Simultaneously, there was a hell of a racket in the streets below. We were up some sixteen floors, but we could hear the police sirens as plain as day. They were screaming and I could hear the cars grinding up to the curb.

The gun in my ribs loosened. Luke Terk tensed and turned.

"Chief," he snapped. "Bulls! This lug must've tipped them off!"

"Take it easy," the Brain said. "Maybe they're not for us."

"They're for you," I said. "I tipped them."

Luke Terk cried: "Chief-what'll we do with him?"

"Take him along!" the Brain said. "You take him down where the doll is. I'll stay here and parley with the cops. You-"

Now was the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party. I spun around, swinging with my right. It was a good swing, but I hit without a target, since Luke Terk and his rod were behind me. I heard the Brain yell. I missed Terk's chin and hit him on the left shoulder.

SIX

The punch hurt my fist. It hit solidly. Luke Terk went down, but I had fired the arm so hard I fell right on top of him. I hit him again as we sprawled. This time I caught him on the beak. It spouted blood. He tried to bring his gun hand up.

The Brain yelled again. Then there was a shot. The bullet went over my back with an angry whine. If you don't think slugs make noise, you want to get that close to one of them. I shot out my foot and smashed it down on Luke Terk's hand. Terk yelled with pain and his fingers shot open. The gun dropped to the rug.

Another shot from the Brain. The rug in front of Terk's head jumped as the slug dug into the floor.

"For God's sake, chief!" Terk screamed. "Go easy!"

I dove for the gun Terk had dropped, keeping low and not giving a damn whether the Brain hit me or not. I got into the spirit of the thing. I reached the gun, picked it up. I wheeled on my belly, firing twice. The slugs never went near the Brain, but they scared him. He let go another wild shot at me that missed by feet and then tore out of the room into the hall. I could hear the front door slam.

Luke Terk was struggling to his feet. On my knees, I covered him with the gun. He was reaching into his coat pocket.

"Cut it!" I snapped.

He must have figured that I was bluffing. He kept right on into his pocket. I saw his hand come out. He had the.32 pistol in it, the rod he had taken from me in the entrance hall when he frisked me.

"Cut it," I snapped again.

He raised it for a shot. I yanked the trigger of his own gun. It jumped in my hand. It made an awful racket. He fell over backwards as though I had hit him with a sledge-hammer. The.32 flew up into the air and smacked a picture on the wall, knocking the glass pane to bits.

I got to my feet and looked at him. There was a hole in his right lung. His chest was bleeding. He was conscious, his eyes were open and his lips kept moving as though he were trying to say something. Nothing came out. He'd live. Sawbones can fix up wounds like that one.

I stepped over him and started for the entrance hall. At the same time the front door burst open. I turned around and ran for the bedroom, the gun still in my hand. The window there was open. I shut the window after me and started down the fire escape. I knew if the police caught me there with Luke Terk wounded and no Clare Gordon to show for it I would be in a worse jam than ever. I had to get the Brain and the gel.

I went down two floors on the fire escape when I heard the window of the Brain's bedroom open. I hugged the wall of the building and stopped moving. Then I heard him say: "No one down there," and he closed the window again. It was Captain Shane.

I took a breather and wondered what in hell to do. I was marooned on the fire escape. The only chance I had of getting off it and trailing the Brain was by going through a window, into an apartment, and then out into the hall and down, dodging cops all the way. It was a small chance, but the only one. And it wouldn't do to have Luke's gun on me.

Glancing down into the street, I saw it was pretty deserted. This was the side of the hotel, not the front where the cops were. I heaved the gun out and away. I could hear it hit, just dully.

I tried the window in front of me. It was locked. Swearing softly, I went down another flight of the fire escape and tried the next one. It was unlocked. I opened it softly. The shade was down. It was dark green. I pushed it aside and stepped into the room. The lights were out. It was dark as hell. I stood there for a few seconds, trying to adjust my eyes. There wasn't a sound in the room. But in the one adjoining I could hear some one walking around. I started across the room. A floor board creaked. I stopped, stiffened.

Suddenly I gasped. The bed in the room was squealing loudly as some one moved on the springs.

"Take it easy," I whispered. "I'm a friend. I won't hurt you." I felt like a fool, but what else was there to say under circumstances like that?

The bed squeaked more and more. Some one was bouncing up and down on it. I had a hunch. I walked over to it and struck a match.

Just like I thought. There lay Clare Gordon…

She was bound with thick adhesive tape both on her ankles and her arms. Her hands were spread out flat against each other and taped. There was a wad of tape across her mouth. Two ropes stretched across her body and under the bed prevented her from rolling off.

She looked at me pleadingly. The match went out. I lighted another and went to work on the tape over her mouth, motioning her to keep quiet when she could speak. I pulled off the tape. They had stuck a lemon in her mouth. I took it out. The first thing she said was: "Judas Priest! I'm nearly dead!"

"Shh," I said.

I took off the rest of the tape and she sat up. She had to rub her legs to bring back the circulation. I said: "Well, you sure did it."

"Thank you, my fran," she said, grinning. She had what it takes. You couldn't keep her down. "They jumped me. They must have overheard me at the Hot Spot yesterday. Just when I was taking off they jumped me and flew off with me in the plane. Landed the plane in some river. Then a speedboat. Finally a car. Then here."

"Were you upstairs first?" I asked.

"Uh-huh. But somebody named Rigo telephoned and that oyster, Luke Terk, took me down here for safety. Thanks for saving me. It was good fun while it lasted, but I was getting stiff. How's your job? Get it back yet?"

"Listen, hare-brain," I said, "you're not saved yet. In the next room there's a mug with a gun and he's just aching to kill me."

"What are you going to do then?" she asked.

I shrugged ruefully. "I don't know. I haven't a rod. Damn it!" I sat down on the bed a second. "Guess we'd better go up by the fire escape. The cops are up there."

"That's safe and sound," she said. "Only you sound disappointed."

"I am. I'd like to get the Brain myself. It'd make a better news story for the Chronicle."

"Then get him. Pick up a chair or something. Get behind the door. I'll yell help or something. He'll come in."

"Wahoo," I said, "that's an idea." Picking up a brass candlestick from the mantel, I went over behind the door. "Let go in your best soprano," I said, "but make it muffled, like your gag has worked off."

"Help! Help! Save me!" she half moaned.

Next door there was a strident curse. Heavy footsteps pounded across the floor. The door flew open.

"Shut your mouth, damn you," the Brain greeted, "or I'll cook you right now!"

Clare had nerve. She repeated, "Help! Help!"

He came in. There was a gun in his hand. The light from the other room fell square on his head. It was all I needed. I brought the candlestick down with a swish. He half turned, firing his gun just once. Then he flopped over cold and pieces of plaster from the ceiling caromed onto my hat. I snapped on the lights.

"My hero," Clare grinned.

"My God!" I sighed, sitting down. "What a night…" I paused, a brilliant thought pervading my struggling mind. "Listen, heiress," I said, "your old man had me arrested. Now I saved your brother five grand, didn't I?"

"You did."

"Do you think, then, your old man would have any objections to a five grand pay-off out of court?"

"Out of court?"

"Sure, instead of defending himself against my suit for false arrest."

"Daffy Dill!" she exclaimed, laughing, "it's a lulu. It'll do my heart good to see him sign your check!"

The door was being knocked down. I let them knock it. I was too tired, and cops have nervous trigger fingers anyway. In a few seconds Captain Shane, the two Feds, and half the police force came in.

"There's your package," I said. "And here's the wrapper-upper."

Captain Shane grinned. "That cleans you, Daffy. Thanks. Your better-half called me up after your tip-off."

"Did you hear the shot in here?"

"Yeah. That's what brought us in."

I sighed. "Where's a telephone?"

"Wait a second," said Shane. "What in hell happened? Spill it."

"Uh-uh," I said, shaking my head. "See the patient."

"How about it, Miss Gordon?" Shane asked.

"You can read the exclusive story," Clare said, "in tomorrow's edition of the Chronicle."

"Listen-" Captain Shane roared.

"Hello, Dinah?" I said in the telephone.

"Howdy, my cherub," Dinah said. "All serene and sound?"

"Not serene," I replied, listening to Shane, "but quite sound."

"Good," said Dinah. "So what?"

"Get out the cold cuts," I said, "and the beer and potato salad. Daffy's on his way up to see you."

MIGNON G. EBERHART (b. 1899)

(M)ignon G(ood) Eberhart turned to plotting fictional murders in order to break the boredom induced by following her husband to the civil-engineering projects that took them to odd corners of the world. But what this Mystery Writers of America Grand Master had added to detective fiction by the time she'd published her fifty-ninth novel and reached her eighty-ninth year had more to do with her instincts as a storyteller.

Eberhart was born in Nebraska, studied at Nebraska Wesleyan College, married A. C. Eberhart in 1923 (and again in 1948 after a divorce), started her writing career with short stories, and published her first novel in 1929. Her first five books were in the Mary Roberts Rinehart pattern. They featured a middle-aged nurse, Sarah Keate, and her young policeman friend, Lance O'Leary. About the only thing new about these early books was a series character who grew younger as time passed and Hollywood began filming the novels.

Eberhart then created two amateur detectives. The mystery writer-sleuth Susan Dare anticipates many imitators. And the banker-sleuth James Wickwire is also a good example of a character who brings his professional expertise to bear on his amateur detections.

When Eberhart decided to give up the quest for a series character, she-as critics love to say-found her own voice and blazed a new trail. If we can credit Rinehart with developing the 'Had I But Known' form, Eberhart was best known for adapting the Gothic 'dark and stormy night' and elements of romance into mysterious crime. She is credited with an unusual ability to make those stormy nights, and particularly the places where those tempests raged, highly realistic. This is because, as she put it, "a good many of these places, I've lived in myself." She used the places she had visited during travels with her husband to provide her exotic settings, thereby anchoring her scenes with specific details that lend reality to inherently suspenseful and physically strange or threatening situations.

Eberhart was also keen on romance. She frequently featured a female protagonist and a love affair-described without the coyness usual for the period and also without the explicit sex that writers of her later years would be describing.

«Spider» features Susan Dare and illustrates the author's use of devices from Gothic romance to heighten tension. While today's feminists might find reason enough to fault her characterisation of the female, it was a long step ahead of what other writers were doing in the early 1930's.

Spider

"But it is fantastic," said Susan Dare, clutching the telephone. "You can't just be afraid. You've got to be afraid of something." She waited, but there was no reply.

"You mean," she said presently, in a hushed voice, "that I'm to go to this perfectly strange house, to be the guest of a perfectly strange woman-"

"To you," said Jim Byrne. "Not, I tell you, to me."

"But you said you had never seen her-"

"Don't maunder," said Jim Byrne sharply. "Of course I've never seen her. Now, Susan, do try to get this straight. This woman is Caroline Wray. One of the Wrays."

"Perfectly clear," said Susan. "Therefore I'm to go to her house and see why she's got an attack of nerves. Take a bag and prepare to spend the next few days as her guest. I'm sorry, Jim, but I'm busy. I've got to do a murder story this week and-"

"Sue," said Jim, "I'm serious."

Susan paused abruptly. He was serious.

"It's-I don't know how to explain it, Susan," he said. "It's just-well, I'm Irish, you know. And I'm-fey. Don't laugh."

"I'm not laughing," said Susan. "Tell me exactly what you want me to do."

"Just-watch things. There ought not to be any danger-don't see how there could be. To you."

Susan realised that she was going. "How many Wrays are there, and what do you think is going to happen?"

"There are four Wrays. But I don't know what is going on that has got Caroline so terrified. It was that-the terror in her voice-that made me call you."

"What's the number of the house?" said Susan.

He told her. "It's away north," he said. "One of those old houses-narrow, tall, hasn't changed, I suppose, since old Ephineas Wray died. He was a close friend, you know, of my father's. Don't know why Caroline called me: I suppose some vague notion that a man on a newspaper would know what to do. Now let me see-there's Caroline. She's the daughter of Ephineas Wray. David is his grandson and Caroline's nephew and the only man-except the houseman-in the place. He's young-in his twenties, I believe. His father and mother died when he was a child."

"You mean there are three women?"

"Naturally. There's Marie-she is old Wray's adopted daughter-not born a Wray, but more like him than the rest of them. And Jessica-she's Caroline's cousin; but she's always lived with the Wrays because her father died young. People always assume that the three women are sisters. Actually, of course, they are not. But old Ephineas Wray left his fortune divided equally among them."

"And they all live there together?"

"Yes. David's not married."

"Is that," said Susan, at the note of finality in his voice, "all you know about them?"

"Absolutely everything. Not much for you to go on, is it? It was just," said Jim Byrne soberly, with the effect of a complete explanation, "that she was so-so horribly scared. Old Caroline, I mean."

Susan retraced the address slowly before she said again: "What was she afraid of?"

"I don't know," said Jim Byrne. "And-it's queer-but I don't think she knew either."

It was approaching five o'clock, with a dark fog rolling up from the lake and blending itself with the early winter twilight, when Susan Dare pressed the bell beside the wide old door-pressed it and waited. Lights were on in the street, but the house before her was dark, its windows curtained. The door was heavy and secretive.

But they were expecting her-or at least Caroline Wray was; it had all been arranged by telephone. Susan wondered what Caroline had told them; what Jim Byrne had told Caroline to say to explain her presence; and, suddenly, what Caroline was like.

«Little Johnny hung his sister.»

S»he was dead before they missed her.»

J»ohnny's always up to tricks,»

A»in't he cute, and only six-»

The jingle had been haunting her with the persistency of a popular dance tune, and it gave accent to the impatient little beat of her brown Oxford upon the stone step. Then a light flashed on above the door. Susan took a deep breath of the moist cold air and felt a sudden tightening of her nerves. The door was going to open.

It swung wider, and a warm current of air struck Susan's cheeks.

Beyond was a dimly lit hall and a woman's figure-a tall, corseted figure with full sweeping skirts.

"Yes?" said a voice harshly out of the dimness.

"I am Susan Dare," said Susan.

"Oh-oh, yes." The figure moved aside and the door opened wider. "Come in, Miss Dare. We were expecting you."

Afterward Susan remembered her own hesitation on the dark threshold as the door closed with finality behind her, and the woman turned.

"I am Miss Jessica Wray," she said.

Jessica. This was the cousin, then.

She was a tall woman, large-boned, with a heavy, dark face, thick, iron-gray hair done high and full on her head, and long, strong hands. She was dressed after a much earlier fashion; one which, indeed, Susan was unable to date.

"We were expecting you," she said. "Caroline, however, was obliged to go out." She paused just under the light and beside a long mirror.

Susan had a confused impression of the house in that moment; an impression of old, crowded elegance. The mirror was wavery and framed in wide gilt; there were ferns in great marble urns; there were marble figures.

"We'll go up to your room," said Jessica. "Caroline said you would be in Chicago for several days. This way. You can leave your bag here. James will take it up later; he is out just now."

Susan put down her small suitcase, and followed Jessica. The newel post and stair rail were heavy and carved. The steps were carpeted and thickly padded. And the house was utterly, completely still. As they ascended the quiet stairs it grew increasingly hot and airless.

At the top of the stairs Jessica turned with a rigid motion of her strong body.

"Will you wait here a moment?" she said. "I'm not sure which room-"

Susan made some assenting gesture, and Jessica turned along the passage which ran toward the rear of the house.

So terrifically hot the house was. So crowded with old and almost sentient furniture. So very silent.

Susan moved a bit restively. It was not a pleasant house. But Caroline had to be afraid of something-not just silence and heat and brooding, secretive old walls. She glanced down the length of hall, moved again to put her hand upon the tall newel post of the stair rail beside her. The carved top of it seemed to shift and move slightly under the pressure of her hand and confirmed in the strangest way her feeling that the house itself had a singular kind of life.

Then she was staring straight ahead of her through an open, lighted doorway. Beyond it was a large room, half bedroom and half sitting room. A lamp on a table cast a circle of light, and beside the table, silhouetted against the light, sat a woman with a book in her lap.

It must be Marie Wray-the older sister; the adopted Wray who was more like old Ephineas Wray than any of them.

Her face was in shadow with the light beyond it, so Susan could see only a blunt, fleshy white profile and a tight knot of shining black hair above a massive black-silk bosom. She did not, apparently, know of Susan's presence, for she did not turn. There was a kind of patience about that massive, relaxed figure; a waiting. An enormous black female spider waiting in a web of shadows. But waiting for what?

The suggestion was not one calculated to relieve the growing tension of Susan's nerves. The heat was making her dizzy; fanciful. Calling a harmless old woman a black spider merely because she was wearing a shiny black-silk dress! Marie Wray still, so far as Susan could see, did not look at her, but there was suddenly the flicker of a motion on the table.

Susan looked and caught her breath in an incredulous little gasp.

There was actually a small gray creature on that table, directly under the lamplight. A small gray creature with a long tail. It sat down nonchalantly, pulled the lid off a box and dug its tiny hands into the box.

"It's a monkey," thought Susan with something like a clutch of hysteria. "It's a monkey-a spider monkey, is it?-with that tiny face."

It was turning its face jerkily about the room, peering with bright, anxious eyes here and there, and busily, furiously eating candy. It failed somehow to see Susan; or perhaps she was too far away to interest it. There was suddenly something curiously unreal about the scene. That, thought Susan, or the heat in this fantastic house, and turned at the approaching rustle of skirts down the passage. It was Jessica, and she looked at Susan and then through the open doorway and smiled coldly.

"Marie is deaf," she said. "I suppose she didn't realise you were here."

"No," said Susan.

"I'll tell her-" She made a stiff gesture with her long hand and turned to enter the room beyond the open door. As her gray silk rustled through the door the little monkey jerked around, gave her one piercing black glance and was gone from the table in a swift gray streak. He fled across the room, darted under an old sofa.

But Jessica did not reprove him. "Marie," she said loudly and distinctly.

There was a pause. Jessica's flowing gray-silk skirts were now silhouetted against the table lamp, and the monkey absently began to lick its paw.

"Yes, Jessica." The voice was that of a person long deaf-entirely without tone.

"Susan Dare is here-you know – the daughter of Caroline's friend. Do you want to see her?"

"See her? No. No, not now. Later."

"Very well. Do you want anything?"

"No."

"Your cushions?"

Jessica's rigid back bent over Marie as she arranged a cushion. Then she turned and walked again toward Susan. Susan felt queerly fascinated and somehow oddly shocked to note that, as Jessica turned her rigid back to the room, the monkey darted out from under the sofa and was suddenly skittering across the room again in the direction of the table and the candy.

He would be, thought Susan, one very sick monkey. The house was too hot, and yet Susan shivered a bit. Why did people keep monkeys?

"This way," said Jessica firmly, and Susan preceded her down the hall and into exactly the kind of bedroom she might have expected it to be.

But Jessica did not intend to leave her alone to explore its Victorian fastnesses. Under her somewhat unnerving dark gaze, Susan removed her cockeyed little hat, smoothed back her light hair and put her coat across a chair, only to have it placed immediately by Jessica in the enormous gloomy wardrobe. The servants, said Jessica, were out; the second girl and James because it was their half day out, the cook to do an errand.

"You are younger than I should have expected," she said abruptly to Susan. "Shall we go down now?"

As they passed down the stairs to the drawing room, a clock somewhere struck slowly, with long trembling variations.

"Five," said Jessica. "Caroline ought to return very soon. And David. He usually reaches home shortly after five. That is, if it isn't rainy. Traffic sometimes delays him. But it isn't rainy tonight!"

"Foggy," said Susan and obeyed the motion of Jessica's long gray hand toward a chair. It was not, however, a comfortable chair. And neither were the moments that followed comfortable, for Jessica sat sternly erect in a chair opposite Susan, folded her hands firmly in her silk lap and said exactly nothing. Susan started to speak a time or two, thought better of it, and herself sat in rather rigid silence. And was suddenly aware that she was acutely receptive to sight and sound and feeling.

It was not a pleasant sensation.

For she felt queerly as if the lives that were living themselves out in that narrow old house were pressing in upon her-as if long-spoken words and long-stifled whispers were living yet in the heated air.

She stirred restively and tried not to think of Marie Wray. Queer how difficult it was, once having seen Marie and heard her speak, not to think of that brooding figure-sitting in its web of shadows, waiting.

Three old women living in an old house. What were their relations to one another? Two of them she had seen and had heard speak, and knew no more of them than she had known. What about Caroline-the one who was afraid? She stirred again and knew Jessica was watching her.

They heard the bell, although it rang in some back part of the house. Jessica looked satisfied and rose.

It's David," she said. At the door into the hall she added in a different tone: "And I suppose Caroline, too."

Susan knew she was tense. Yet there was nothing in that house for her-Susan Dare-to fear. It was Caroline who was afraid.

Then another woman stood in the doorway. Caroline, no doubt. A tall slender woman, a blonde who had faded into tremulous, wispy uncertainty. She did not speak. Her eyes were large and blue and feverish, and two bright pink spots fluttered in her thin cheeks, and her bare thin hands moved. Susan rose and went to her and took the two hands.

"But you're so young," said Caroline. Disappointment throbbed in her voice.

"I'm not really," said Susan.

"And so little-" breathed Caroline.

"But that doesn't matter at all," said Susan, speaking slowly, as one does to a nervous child. There were voices in the hall, but she was mainly aware of Caroline.

"No, I suppose not," said Caroline, finally looking into Susan's eyes. Terrified, Jim had said. Curious how right Jim managed to be.

Caroline's eyes sought into Susan's, and she was about to speak when there was a rustle in the doorway. Caroline's uncertain lips closed in a kind of gasp, and Jessica swept into the room.

"But I must know what she's afraid of," thought Susan. "I must get her alone-away from Jessica."

"Take off your coat, Caroline," said Jessica. "Don't stand there. I see you've spoken to Susan Dare. Put away your hat and coat and then come down again."

"Yes, Jessica," said Caroline. Her hands were moving again, and she looked away.

"Go on," said Jessica. Her voice was not sharp, it was merely undefeatable.

"Yes, Jessica," said Caroline.

"Marie is reading," said Jessica. "You needn't speak to her now unless you wish to do so. You may take Susan Dare in to see her later."

"Yes, Jessica."

Caroline disappeared and in her place stood a man, and Susan was murmuring words of acknowledgment to Jessica's economical introduction.

David, too, was blond, and his eyes were darkly blue. He was slender and fairly tall; his mouth was fine and sensitive, and there was a look about his temples and around his eyes that was-Susan sought for the word and found it-wistful. He was young and strong and vibrant-the only young thing in the house-but he was not happy. Susan knew that at once. He said: "How do you do, Miss Dare?"

"Don't go upstairs yet, David," said Jessica. Her voice was less harsh, she watched him avidly. "You ought to rest."

"Not now, Aunt Jessica. I'll see you again, Miss Dare."

He walked away. "Aunt Marie all right?" he called from the stairway.

"Perfectly," said Jessica. Her voice was harsh again. "She's reading…"

Afterward Susan tried to remember whether she could actually hear David's steps upon the padded stairs or whether she was only half consciously calculating the time it took to climb the stairs-the time it took, or might have taken to walk along the hall, to enter a room. She was sure that Jessica did not speak. She merely sat there.

Why did Jessica become rigid and harsh again when David spoke of Marie? Why did- A loud, dreadful crash of sound forever shattered the silence in the house. It fell upon Susan and immersed her and shook the whole house and then receded in waves. Waves that left destruction and intolerable confusion.

Susan realised dimly that she was on her feet and trying to move toward the stairway, and that Jessica's mouth was gray, and that Jessica's hands were clutching her.

"Oh, my God-David-" said Jessica intelligibly, and Susan pushed the woman away from her.

She reached the stairway, Jessica beside her, and at the top of the stairs two figures were locked together and struggling in the upper hall.

"Caroline," screamed Jessica. "What are you doing? Where's Marie-where-"

"Let me go, Caroline!" David was pulling Caroline's thin clutching arms from around him. "Let me go, I tell you. Something terrible has happened. You must-"

Jessica brushed past them and then was at the door of Marie's room.