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´╗┐Title: The Circular Staircase
Author: Rinehart, Mary Roberts, 1876-1958
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Circular Staircase" ***

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THE CIRCULAR STAIRCASE


By

MARY ROBERTS RINEHART



CONTENTS

       I  I TAKE A COUNTRY HOUSE
      II  A LINK CUFF-BUTTON
     III  MR. JOHN BAILEY APPEARS
      IV  WHERE IS HALSEY?
       V  GERTRUDE'S ENGAGEMENT
      VI  IN THE EAST CORRIDOR
     VII  A SPRAINED ANKLE
    VIII  THE OTHER HALF OF THE LINE
      IX  JUST LIKE A GIRL
       X  THE TRADERS BANK
      XI  HALSEY MAKES A CAPTURE
     XII  ONE MYSTERY FOR ANOTHER
    XIII  LOUISE
     XIV  AN EGG-NOG AND A TELEGRAM
      XV  LIDDY GIVES THE ALARM
     XVI  IN THE EARLY MORNING
    XVII  A HINT OF SCANDAL
   XVIII  A HOLE IN THE WALL
     XIX  CONCERNING THOMAS
      XX  DOCTOR WALKER'S WARNING
     XXI  FOURTEEN ELM STREET
    XXII  A LADDER OUT OF PLACE
   XXIII  WHILE THE STABLES BURNED
    XXIV  FLINDERS
     XXV  A VISIT FROM LOUISE
    XXVI  HALSEY'S DISAPPEARANCE
   XXVII  WHO IS NINA CARRINGTON?
  XXVIII  A TRAMP AND THE TOOTHACHE
    XXIX  A SCRAP OF PAPER
     XXX  WHEN CHURCHYARDS YAWN
    XXXI  BETWEEN TWO FIREPLACES
   XXXII  ANNE WATSON'S STORY
  XXXIII  AT THE FOOT OF THE STAIRS
   XXXIV  THE ODDS AND ENDS



THE CIRCULAR STAIRCASE



CHAPTER I

I TAKE A COUNTRY HOUSE

This is the story of how a middle-aged spinster lost her mind, deserted
her domestic gods in the city, took a furnished house for the summer
out of town, and found herself involved in one of those mysterious
crimes that keep our newspapers and detective agencies happy and
prosperous.  For twenty years I had been perfectly comfortable; for
twenty years I had had the window-boxes filled in the spring, the
carpets lifted, the awnings put up and the furniture covered with brown
linen; for as many summers I had said good-by to my friends, and, after
watching their perspiring hegira, had settled down to a delicious quiet
in town, where the mail comes three times a day, and the water supply
does not depend on a tank on the roof.

And then--the madness seized me.  When I look back over the months I
spent at Sunnyside, I wonder that I survived at all.  As it is, I show
the wear and tear of my harrowing experiences.  I have turned very
gray--Liddy reminded me of it, only yesterday, by saying that a little
bluing in the rinse-water would make my hair silvery, instead of a
yellowish white.  I hate to be reminded of unpleasant things and I
snapped her off.

"No," I said sharply, "I'm not going to use bluing at my time of life,
or starch, either."

Liddy's nerves are gone, she says, since that awful summer, but she has
enough left, goodness knows!  And when she begins to go around with a
lump in her throat, all I have to do is to threaten to return to
Sunnyside, and she is frightened into a semblance of
cheerfulness,--from which you may judge that the summer there was
anything but a success.

The newspaper accounts have been so garbled and incomplete--one of them
mentioned me but once, and then only as the tenant at the time the
thing happened--that I feel it my due to tell what I know.  Mr.
Jamieson, the detective, said himself he could never have done without
me, although he gave me little enough credit, in print.

I shall have to go back several years--thirteen, to be exact--to start
my story.  At that time my brother died, leaving me his two children.
Halsey was eleven then, and Gertrude was seven.  All the
responsibilities of maternity were thrust upon me suddenly; to perfect
the profession of motherhood requires precisely as many years as the
child has lived, like the man who started to carry the calf and ended
by walking along with the bull on his shoulders.  However, I did the
best I could.  When Gertrude got past the hair-ribbon age, and Halsey
asked for a scarf-pin and put on long trousers--and a wonderful help
that was to the darning.--I sent them away to good schools.  After
that, my responsibility was chiefly postal, with three months every
summer in which to replenish their wardrobes, look over their lists of
acquaintances, and generally to take my foster-motherhood out of its
nine months' retirement in camphor.

I missed the summers with them when, somewhat later, at boarding-school
and college, the children spent much of their vacations with friends.
Gradually I found that my name signed to a check was even more welcome
than when signed to a letter, though I wrote them at stated intervals.
But when Halsey had finished his electrical course and Gertrude her
boarding-school, and both came home to stay, things were suddenly
changed.  The winter Gertrude came out was nothing but a succession of
sitting up late at night to bring her home from things, taking her to
the dressmakers between naps the next day, and discouraging ineligible
youths with either more money than brains, or more brains than money.
Also, I acquired a great many things: to say lingerie for
under-garments, "frocks" and "gowns" instead of dresses, and that
beardless sophomores are not college boys, but college men.  Halsey
required less personal supervision, and as they both got their mother's
fortune that winter, my responsibility became purely moral.  Halsey
bought a car, of course, and I learned how to tie over my bonnet a gray
baize veil, and, after a time, never to stop to look at the dogs one
has run down.  People are apt to be so unpleasant about their dogs.

The additions to my education made me a properly equipped maiden aunt,
and by spring I was quite tractable.  So when Halsey suggested camping
in the Adirondacks and Gertrude wanted Bar Harbor, we compromised on a
good country house with links near, within motor distance of town and
telephone distance of the doctor.  That was how we went to Sunnyside.

We went out to inspect the property, and it seemed to deserve its name.
Its cheerful appearance gave no indication whatever of anything out of
the ordinary.  Only one thing seemed unusual to me: the housekeeper,
who had been left in charge, had moved from the house to the gardener's
lodge, a few days before.  As the lodge was far enough away from the
house, it seemed to me that either fire or thieves could complete their
work of destruction undisturbed.  The property was an extensive one:
the house on the top of a hill, which sloped away in great stretches of
green lawn and clipped hedges, to the road; and across the valley,
perhaps a couple of miles away, was the Greenwood Club House.  Gertrude
and Halsey were infatuated.

"Why, it's everything you want," Halsey said "View, air, good water and
good roads.  As for the house, it's big enough for a hospital, if it
has a Queen Anne front and a Mary Anne back," which was ridiculous: it
was pure Elizabethan.

Of course we took the place; it was not my idea of comfort, being much
too large and sufficiently isolated to make the servant question
serious.  But I give myself credit for this: whatever has happened
since, I never blamed Halsey and Gertrude for taking me there.  And
another thing: if the series of catastrophes there did nothing else, it
taught me one thing--that somehow, somewhere, from perhaps a
half-civilized ancestor who wore a sheepskin garment and trailed his
food or his prey, I have in me the instinct of the chase.  Were I a man
I should be a trapper of criminals, trailing them as relentlessly as no
doubt my sheepskin ancestor did his wild boar.  But being an unmarried
woman, with the handicap of my sex, my first acquaintance with crime
will probably be my last.  Indeed, it came near enough to being my last
acquaintance with anything.

The property was owned by Paul Armstrong, the president of the Traders'
Bank, who at the time we took the house was in the west with his wife
and daughter, and a Doctor Walker, the Armstrong family physician.
Halsey knew Louise Armstrong,--had been rather attentive to her the
winter before, but as Halsey was always attentive to somebody, I had
not thought of it seriously, although she was a charming girl.  I knew
of Mr. Armstrong only through his connection with the bank, where the
children's money was largely invested, and through an ugly story about
the son, Arnold Armstrong, who was reported to have forged his father's
name, for a considerable amount, to some bank paper.  However, the
story had had no interest for me.

I cleared Halsey and Gertrude away to a house party, and moved out to
Sunnyside the first of May.  The roads were bad, but the trees were in
leaf, and there were still tulips in the borders around the house.  The
arbutus was fragrant in the woods under the dead leaves, and on the way
from the station, a short mile, while the car stuck in the mud, I found
a bank showered with tiny forget-me-nots.  The birds--don't ask me what
kind; they all look alike to me, unless they have a hall mark of some
bright color--the birds were chirping in the hedges, and everything
breathed of peace.  Liddy, who was born and bred on a brick pavement,
got a little bit down-spirited when the crickets began to chirp, or
scrape their legs together, or whatever it is they do, at twilight.

The first night passed quietly enough.  I have always been grateful for
that one night's peace; it shows what the country might be, under
favorable circumstances.  Never after that night did I put my head on
my pillow with any assurance how long it would be there; or on my
shoulders, for that matter.

On the following morning Liddy and Mrs. Ralston, my own housekeeper,
had a difference of opinion, and Mrs. Ralston left on the eleven train.
Just after luncheon, Burke, the butler, was taken unexpectedly with a
pain in his right side, much worse when I was within hearing distance,
and by afternoon he was started cityward.  That night the cook's sister
had a baby--the cook, seeing indecision in my face, made it twins on
second thought--and, to be short, by noon the next day the household
staff was down to Liddy and myself.  And this in a house with
twenty-two rooms and five baths!

Liddy wanted to go back to the city at once, but the milk-boy said that
Thomas Johnson, the Armstrongs' colored butler, was working as a waiter
at the Greenwood Club, and might come back. I have the usual scruples
about coercing people's servants away, but few of us have any
conscience regarding institutions or corporations--witness the way we
beat railroads and street-car companies when we can--so I called up the
club, and about eight o'clock Thomas Johnson came to see me.  Poor
Thomas!

Well, it ended by my engaging Thomas on the spot, at outrageous wages,
and with permission to sleep in the gardener's lodge, empty since the
house was rented.  The old man--he was white-haired and a little
stooped, but with an immense idea of his personal dignity--gave me his
reasons hesitatingly.

"I ain't sayin' nothin', Mis' Innes," he said, with his hand on the
door-knob, "but there's been goin's-on here this las' few months as
ain't natchal.  'Tain't one thing an' 'tain't another--it's jest a door
squealin' here, an' a winder closin' there, but when doors an' winders
gets to cuttin' up capers and there's nobody nigh 'em, it's time Thomas
Johnson sleeps somewhar's else."

Liddy, who seemed to be never more than ten feet away from me that
night, and was afraid of her shadow in that great barn of a place,
screamed a little, and turned a yellow-green.  But I am not easily
alarmed.

It was entirely in vain; I represented to Thomas that we were alone,
and that he would have to stay in the house that night. He was politely
firm, but he would come over early the next morning, and if I gave him
a key, he would come in time to get some sort of breakfast.  I stood on
the huge veranda and watched him shuffle along down the shadowy drive,
with mingled feelings--irritation at his cowardice and thankfulness at
getting him at all.  I am not ashamed to say that I double-locked the
hall door when I went in.

"You can lock up the rest of the house and go to bed, Liddy," I said
severely.  "You give me the creeps standing there.  A woman of your age
ought to have better sense."  It usually braces Liddy to mention her
age: she owns to forty--which is absurd.  Her mother cooked for my
grandfather, and Liddy must be at least as old as I.  But that night
she refused to brace.

"You're not going to ask me to lock up, Miss Rachel!" she quavered.
"Why, there's a dozen French windows in the drawing-room and the
billiard-room wing, and every one opens on a porch. And Mary Anne said
that last night there was a man standing by the stable when she locked
the kitchen door."

"Mary Anne was a fool," I said sternly.  "If there had been a man
there, she would have had him in the kitchen and been feeding him what
was left from dinner, inside of an hour, from force of habit.  Now
don't be ridiculous.  Lock up the house and go to bed.  I am going to
read."

But Liddy set her lips tight and stood still.

"I'm not going to bed," she said.  "I am going to pack up, and
to-morrow I am going to leave."

"You'll do nothing of the sort," I snapped.  Liddy and I often desire
to part company, but never at the same time.  "If you are afraid, I
will go with you, but for goodness' sake don't try to hide behind me."

The house was a typical summer residence on an extensive scale.
Wherever possible, on the first floor, the architect had done away with
partitions, using arches and columns instead.  The effect was cool and
spacious, but scarcely cozy.  As Liddy and I went from one window to
another, our voices echoed back at us uncomfortably.  There was plenty
of light--the electric plant down in the village supplied us--but there
were long vistas of polished floor, and mirrors which reflected us from
unexpected corners, until I felt some of Liddy's foolishness
communicate itself to me.

The house was very long, a rectangle in general form, with the main
entrance in the center of the long side.  The brick-paved entry opened
into a short hall to the right of which, separated only by a row of
pillars, was a huge living-room.  Beyond that was the drawing-room, and
in the end, the billiard-room.  Off the billiard-room, in the extreme
right wing, was a den, or card-room, with a small hall opening on the
east veranda, and from there went up a narrow circular staircase.
Halsey had pointed it out with delight.

"Just look, Aunt Rachel," he said with a flourish.  "The architect that
put up this joint was wise to a few things. Arnold Armstrong and his
friends could sit here and play cards all night and stumble up to bed
in the early morning, without having the family send in a police call."

Liddy and I got as far as the card-room and turned on all the lights.
I tried the small entry door there, which opened on the veranda, and
examined the windows.  Everything was secure, and Liddy, a little less
nervous now, had just pointed out to me the disgracefully dusty
condition of the hard-wood floor, when suddenly the lights went out.
We waited a moment; I think Liddy was stunned with fright, or she would
have screamed.  And then I clutched her by the arm and pointed to one
of the windows opening on the porch.  The sudden change threw the
window into relief, an oblong of grayish light, and showed us a figure
standing close, peering in.  As I looked it darted across the veranda
and out of sight in the darkness.



CHAPTER II

A LINK CUFF-BUTTON

Liddy's knees seemed to give away under her.  Without a sound she sank
down, leaving me staring at the window in petrified amazement.  Liddy
began to moan under her breath, and in my excitement I reached down and
shook her.

"Stop it," I whispered.  "It's only a woman--maybe a maid of the
Armstrongs'.  Get up and help me find the door."  She groaned again.
"Very well," I said, "then I'll have to leave you here. I'm going."

She moved at that, and, holding to my sleeve, we felt our way, with
numerous collisions, to the billiard-room, and from there to the
drawing-room.  The lights came on then, and, with the long French
windows unshuttered, I had a creepy feeling that each one sheltered a
peering face.  In fact, in the light of what happened afterward, I am
pretty certain we were under surveillance during the entire ghostly
evening.  We hurried over the rest of the locking-up and got upstairs
as quickly as we could.  I left the lights all on, and our footsteps
echoed cavernously.  Liddy had a stiff neck the next morning, from
looking back over her shoulder, and she refused to go to bed.

"Let me stay in your dressing-room, Miss Rachel," she begged. "If you
don't, I'll sit in the hall outside the door.  I'm not going to be
murdered with my eyes shut."

"If you're going to be murdered," I retorted, "it won't make any
difference whether they are shut or open.  But you may stay in the
dressing-room, if you will lie on the couch: when you sleep in a chair
you snore."

She was too far gone to be indignant, but after a while she came to the
door and looked in to where I was composing myself for sleep with
Drummond's Spiritual Life.

"That wasn't a woman, Miss Rachel," she said, with her shoes in her
hand.  "It was a man in a long coat."

"What woman was a man?"  I discouraged her without looking up, and she
went back to the couch.

It was eleven o'clock when I finally prepared for bed.  In spite of my
assumption of indifference, I locked the door into the hall, and
finding the transom did not catch, I put a chair cautiously before the
door--it was not necessary to rouse Liddy--and climbing up put on the
ledge of the transom a small dressing-mirror, so that any movement of
the frame would send it crashing down.  Then, secure in my precautions,
I went to bed.

I did not go to sleep at once.  Liddy disturbed me just as I was
growing drowsy, by coming in and peering under the bed.  She was afraid
to speak, however, because of her previous snubbing, and went back,
stopping in the doorway to sigh dismally.

Somewhere down-stairs a clock with a chime sang away the
hours--eleven-thirty, forty-five, twelve.  And then the lights went out
to stay.  The Casanova Electric Company shuts up shop and goes home to
bed at midnight: when one has a party, I believe it is customary to fee
the company, which will drink hot coffee and keep awake a couple of
hours longer.  But the lights were gone for good that night.  Liddy had
gone to sleep, as I knew she would.  She was a very unreliable person:
always awake and ready to talk when she wasn't wanted and dozing off to
sleep when she was.  I called her once or twice, the only result being
an explosive snore that threatened her very windpipe--then I got up and
lighted a bedroom candle.

My bedroom and dressing room were above the big living-room on the
first floor.  On the second floor a long corridor ran the length of the
house, with rooms opening from both sides.  In the wings were small
corridors crossing the main one--the plan was simplicity itself.  And
just as I got back into bed, I heard a sound from the east wing,
apparently, that made me stop, frozen, with one bedroom slipper half
off, and listen.  It was a rattling metallic sound, and it reverberated
along the empty halls like the crash of doom.  It was for all the world
as if something heavy, perhaps a piece of steel, had rolled clattering
and jangling down the hard-wood stairs leading to the card-room.

In the silence that followed Liddy stirred and snored again.  I was
exasperated: first she kept me awake by silly alarms, then when she was
needed she slept like Joe Jefferson, or Rip,--they are always the same
to me.  I went in and aroused her, and I give her credit for being wide
awake the minute I spoke.

"Get up," I said, "if you don't want to be murdered in your bed."

"Where?  How?" she yelled vociferously, and jumped up.

"There's somebody in the house," I said.  "Get up.  We'll have to get
to the telephone."

"Not out in the hall!" she gasped; "Oh, Miss Rachel, not out in the
hall!" trying to hold me back.  But I am a large woman and Liddy is
small.  We got to the door, somehow, and Liddy held a brass andiron,
which it was all she could do to lift, let alone brain anybody with.  I
listened, and, hearing nothing, opened the door a little and peered
into the hall.  It was a black void, full of terrible suggestion, and
my candle only emphasized the gloom.  Liddy squealed and drew me back
again, and as the door slammed, the mirror I had put on the transom
came down and hit her on the head.  That completed our demoralization.
It was some time before I could persuade her she had not been attacked
from behind by a burglar, and when she found the mirror smashed on the
floor she wasn't much better.

"There's going to be a death!" she wailed.  "Oh, Miss Rachel, there's
going to be a death!"

"There will be," I said grimly, "if you don't keep quiet, Liddy Allen."

And so we sat there until morning, wondering if the candle would last
until dawn, and arranging what trains we could take back to town.  If
we had only stuck to that decision and gone back before it was too late!

The sun came finally, and from my window I watched the trees along the
drive take shadowy form, gradually lose their ghostlike appearance,
become gray and then green.  The Greenwood Club showed itself a dab of
white against the hill across the valley, and an early robin or two
hopped around in the dew.  Not until the milk-boy and the sun came,
about the same time, did I dare to open the door into the hall and look
around.  Everything was as we had left it.  Trunks were heaped here and
there, ready for the trunk-room, and through an end window of stained
glass came a streak of red and yellow daylight that was eminently
cheerful. The milk-boy was pounding somewhere below, and the day had
begun.

Thomas Johnson came ambling up the drive about half-past six, and we
could hear him clattering around on the lower floor, opening shutters.
I had to take Liddy to her room up-stairs, however,--she was quite sure
she would find something uncanny. In fact, when she did not, having now
the courage of daylight, she was actually disappointed.

Well, we did not go back to town that day.

The discovery of a small picture fallen from the wall of the
drawing-room was quite sufficient to satisfy Liddy that the alarm had
been a false one, but I was anything but convinced.  Allowing for my
nerves and the fact that small noises magnify themselves at night,
there was still no possibility that the picture had made the series of
sounds I heard.  To prove it, however, I dropped it again.  It fell
with a single muffled crash of its wooden frame, and incidentally
ruined itself beyond repair.  I justified myself by reflecting that if
the Armstrongs chose to leave pictures in unsafe positions, and to rent
a house with a family ghost, the destruction of property was their
responsibility, not mine.

I warned Liddy not to mention what had happened to anybody, and
telephoned to town for servants.  Then after a breakfast which did more
credit to Thomas' heart than his head, I went on a short tour of
investigation.  The sounds had come from the east wing, and not without
some qualms I began there.  At first I found nothing.  Since then I
have developed my powers of observation, but at that time I was a
novice.  The small card-room seemed undisturbed.  I looked for
footprints, which is, I believe, the conventional thing to do, although
my experience has been that as clues both footprints and thumb-marks
are more useful in fiction than in fact.  But the stairs in that wing
offered something.

At the top of the flight had been placed a tall wicker hamper, packed,
with linen that had come from town.  It stood at the edge of the top
step, almost barring passage, and on the step below it was a long fresh
scratch.  For three steps the scratch was repeated, gradually
diminishing, as if some object had fallen, striking each one.  Then for
four steps nothing.  On the fifth step below was a round dent in the
hard wood.  That was all, and it seemed little enough, except that I
was positive the marks had not been there the day before.

It bore out my theory of the sound, which had been for all the world
like the bumping of a metallic object down a flight of steps.  The four
steps had been skipped.  I reasoned that an iron bar, for instance,
would do something of the sort,--strike two or three steps, end down,
then turn over, jumping a few stairs, and landing with a thud.

Iron bars, however, do not fall down-stairs in the middle of the night
alone.  Coupled with the figure on the veranda the agency by which it
climbed might be assumed.  But--and here was the thing that puzzled me
most--the doors were all fastened that morning, the windows unmolested,
and the particular door from the card-room to the veranda had a
combination lock of which I held the key, and which had not been
tampered with.

I fixed on an attempt at burglary, as the most natural explanation--an
attempt frustrated by the falling of the object, whatever it was, that
had roused me.  Two things I could not understand: how the intruder had
escaped with everything locked, and why he had left the small silver,
which, in the absence of a butler, had remained down-stairs over night.

Under pretext of learning more about the place, Thomas Johnson led me
through the house and the cellars, without result. Everything was in
good order and repair; money had been spent lavishly on construction
and plumbing.  The house was full of conveniences, and I had no reason
to repent my bargain, save the fact that, in the nature of things,
night must come again. And other nights must follow--and we were a long
way from a police-station.

In the afternoon a hack came up from Casanova, with a fresh relay of
servants.  The driver took them with a flourish to the servants'
entrance, and drove around to the front of the house, where I was
awaiting him.

"Two dollars," he said in reply to my question.  "I don't charge full
rates, because, bringin' 'em up all summer as I do, it pays to make a
special price.  When they got off the train, I sez, sez I, 'There's
another bunch for Sunnyside, cook, parlor maid and all.'  Yes'm--six
summers, and a new lot never less than once a month.  They won't stand
for the country and the lonesomeness, I reckon."

But with the presence of the "bunch" of servants my courage revived,
and late in the afternoon came a message from Gertrude that she and
Halsey would arrive that night at about eleven o'clock, coming in the
car from Richfield.  Things were looking up; and when Beulah, my cat, a
most intelligent animal, found some early catnip on a bank near the
house and rolled in it in a feline ecstasy, I decided that getting back
to nature was the thing to do.

While I was dressing for dinner, Liddy rapped at the door.  She was
hardly herself yet, but privately I think she was worrying about the
broken mirror and its augury, more than anything else. When she came in
she was holding something in her hand, and she laid it on the
dressing-table carefully.

"I found it in the linen hamper," she said.  "It must be Mr. Halsey's,
but it seems queer how it got there."

It was the half of a link cuff-button of unique design, and I looked at
it carefully.

"Where was it?  In the bottom of the hamper?" I asked.

"On the very top," she replied.  "It's a mercy it didn't fall out on
the way."

When Liddy had gone I examined the fragment attentively.  I had never
seen it before, and I was certain it was not Halsey's.  It was of
Italian workmanship, and consisted of a mother-of-pearl foundation,
encrusted with tiny seed-pearls, strung on horsehair to hold them.  In
the center was a small ruby.  The trinket was odd enough, but not
intrinsically of great value.  Its interest for me lay in this:  Liddy
had found it lying in the top of the hamper which had blocked the
east-wing stairs.

That afternoon the Armstrongs' housekeeper, a youngish good-looking
woman, applied for Mrs. Ralston's place, and I was glad enough to take
her.  She looked as though she might be equal to a dozen of Liddy, with
her snapping black eyes and heavy jaw.  Her name was Anne Watson, and I
dined that evening for the first time in three days.



CHAPTER III

MR. JOHN BAILEY APPEARS

I had dinner served in the breakfast-room.  Somehow the huge
dining-room depressed me, and Thomas, cheerful enough all day, allowed
his spirits to go down with the sun.  He had a habit of watching the
corners of the room, left shadowy by the candles on the table, and
altogether it was not a festive meal.

Dinner over I went into the living-room.  I had three hours before the
children could possibly arrive, and I got out my knitting.  I had
brought along two dozen pairs of slipper soles in assorted sizes--I
always send knitted slippers to the Old Ladies' Home at Christmas--and
now I sorted over the wools with a grim determination not to think
about the night before.  But my mind was not on my work: at the end of
a half-hour I found I had put a row of blue scallops on Eliza
Klinefelter's lavender slippers, and I put them away.

I got out the cuff-link and went with it to the pantry.  Thomas was
wiping silver and the air was heavy with tobacco smoke.  I sniffed and
looked around, but there was no pipe to be seen.

"Thomas," I said, "you have been smoking."

"No, ma'm."  He was injured innocence itself.  "It's on my coat, ma'm.
Over at the club the gentlemen--"

But Thomas did not finish.  The pantry was suddenly filled with the
odor of singeing cloth.  Thomas gave a clutch at his coat, whirled to
the sink, filled a tumbler with water and poured it into his right
pocket with the celerity of practice.

"Thomas," I said, when he was sheepishly mopping the floor, "smoking is
a filthy and injurious habit.  If you must smoke, you must; but don't
stick a lighted pipe in your pocket again.  Your skin's your own: you
can blister it if you like.  But this house is not mine, and I don't
want a conflagration.  Did you ever see this cuff-link before?"

No, he never had, he said, but he looked at it oddly.

"I picked it up in the hall," I added indifferently.  The old man's
eyes were shrewd under his bushy eyebrows.

"There's strange goin's-on here, Mis' Innes," he said, shaking his
head.  "Somethin's goin' to happen, sure.  You ain't took notice that
the big clock in the hall is stopped, I reckon?"

"Nonsense," I said.  "Clocks have to stop, don't they, if they're not
wound?"

"It's wound up, all right, and it stopped at three o'clock last night,"
he answered solemnly.  "More'n that, that there clock ain't stopped for
fifteen years, not since Mr. Armstrong's first wife died.  And that
ain't all,--no MA'M.  Last three nights I slep' in this place, after
the electrics went out I had a token. My oil lamp was full of oil, but
it kep' goin' out, do what I would.  Minute I shet my eyes, out that
lamp'd go.  There ain't no surer token of death.  The Bible sez, LET
YER LIGHT SHINE! When a hand you can't see puts yer light out, it means
death, sure."

The old man's voice was full of conviction.  In spite of myself I had a
chilly sensation in the small of my back, and I left him mumbling over
his dishes.  Later on I heard a crash from the pantry, and Liddy
reported that Beulah, who is coal black, had darted in front of Thomas
just as he picked up a tray of dishes; that the bad omen had been too
much for him, and he had dropped the tray.

The chug of the automobile as it climbed the hill was the most welcome
sound I had heard for a long time, and with Gertrude and Halsey
actually before me, my troubles seemed over for good. Gertrude stood
smiling in the hall, with her hat quite over one ear, and her hair in
every direction under her pink veil. Gertrude is a very pretty girl, no
matter how her hat is, and I was not surprised when Halsey presented a
good-looking young man, who bowed at me and looked at Trude--that is
the ridiculous nickname Gertrude brought from school.

"I have brought a guest, Aunt Ray," Halsey said.  "I want you to adopt
him into your affections and your Saturday-to-Monday list. Let me
present John Bailey, only you must call him Jack.  In twelve hours
he'll be calling you 'Aunt': I know him."

We shook hands, and I got a chance to look at Mr. Bailey; he was a tall
fellow, perhaps thirty, and he wore a small mustache.  I remember
wondering why: he seemed to have a good mouth and when he smiled his
teeth were above the average.  One never knows why certain men cling to
a messy upper lip that must get into things, any more than one
understands some women building up their hair on wire atrocities.
Otherwise, he was very good to look at, stalwart and tanned, with the
direct gaze that I like. I am particular about Mr. Bailey, because he
was a prominent figure in what happened later.

Gertrude was tired with the trip and went up to bed very soon.  I made
up my mind to tell them nothing; until the next day, and then to make
as light of our excitement as possible.  After all, what had I to tell?
An inquisitive face peering in at a window; a crash in the night; a
scratch or two on the stairs, and half a cuff-button!  As for Thomas
and his forebodings, it was always my belief that a negro is one part
thief, one part pigment, and the rest superstition.

It was Saturday night.  The two men went to the billiard-room, and I
could hear them talking as I went up-stairs.  It seemed that Halsey had
stopped at the Greenwood Club for gasolene and found Jack Bailey there,
with the Sunday golf crowd.  Mr. Bailey had not been hard to
persuade--probably Gertrude knew why--and they had carried him off
triumphantly.  I roused Liddy to get them something to eat--Thomas was
beyond reach in the lodge--and paid no attention to her evident terror
of the kitchen regions.  Then I went to bed.  The men were still in the
billiard-room when I finally dozed off, and the last thing I remember
was the howl of a dog in front of the house.  It wailed a crescendo of
woe that trailed off hopefully, only to break out afresh from a new
point of the compass.

At three o'clock in the morning I was roused by a revolver shot. The
sound seemed to come from just outside my door.  For a moment I could
not move.  Then--I heard Gertrude stirring in her room, and the next
moment she had thrown open the connecting door.

"O Aunt Ray!  Aunt Ray!" she cried hysterically.  "Some one has been
killed, killed!"

"Thieves," I said shortly.  "Thank goodness, there are some men in the
house to-night."  I was getting into my slippers and a bath-robe, and
Gertrude with shaking hands was lighting a lamp. Then we opened the
door into the hall, where, crowded on the upper landing of the stairs,
the maids, white-faced and trembling, were peering down, headed by
Liddy.  I was greeted by a series of low screams and questions, and I
tried to quiet them.

Gertrude had dropped on a chair and sat there limp and shivering.

I went at once across the hall to Halsey's room and knocked; then I
pushed the door open.  It was empty; the bed had not been occupied!

"He must be in Mr. Bailey's room," I said excitedly, and followed by
Liddy, we went there.  Like Halsey's, it had not been occupied!
Gertrude was on her feet now, but she leaned against the door for
support.

"They have been killed!" she gasped.  Then she caught me by the arm and
dragged me toward the stairs.  "They may only be hurt, and we must find
them," she said, her eyes dilated with excitement.

I don't remember how we got down the stairs: I do remember expecting
every moment to be killed.  The cook was at the telephone up-stairs,
calling the Greenwood Club, and Liddy was behind me, afraid to come and
not daring to stay behind.  We found the living-room and the
drawing-room undisturbed.  Somehow I felt that whatever we found would
be in the card-room or on the staircase, and nothing but the fear that
Halsey was in danger drove me on; with every step my knees seemed to
give way under me.  Gertrude was ahead and in the card-room she
stopped, holding her candle high.  Then she pointed silently to the
doorway into the hall beyond.  Huddled there on the floor, face down,
with his arms extended, was a man.

Gertrude ran forward with a gasping sob.  "Jack," she cried, "oh, Jack!"

Liddy had run, screaming, and the two of us were there alone.  It was
Gertrude who turned him over, finally, until we could see his white
face, and then she drew a deep breath and dropped limply to her knees.
It was the body of a man, a gentleman, in a dinner coat and white
waistcoat, stained now with blood--the body of a man I had never seen
before.



CHAPTER IV

WHERE IS HALSEY?

Gertrude gazed at the face in a kind of fascination.  Then she put out
her hands blindly, and I thought she was going to faint.

"He has killed him!"  she muttered almost inarticulately; and at that,
because my nerves were going, I gave her a good shake.

"What do you mean?" I said frantically.  There was a depth of grief and
conviction in her tone that was worse than anything she could have
said.  The shake braced her, anyhow, and she seemed to pull herself
together.  But not another word would she say: she stood gazing down at
that gruesome figure on the floor, while Liddy, ashamed of her flight
and afraid to come back alone, drove before her three terrified
women-servants into the drawing-room, which was as near as any of them
would venture.

Once in the drawing-room, Gertrude collapsed and went from one fainting
spell into another.  I had all I could do to keep Liddy from drowning
her with cold water, and the maids huddled in a corner, as much use as
so many sheep.  In a short time, although it seemed hours, a car came
rushing up, and Anne Watson, who had waited to dress, opened the door.
Three men from the Greenwood Club, in all kinds of costumes, hurried
in.  I recognized a Mr. Jarvis, but the others were strangers.

"What's wrong?" the Jarvis man asked--and we made a strange picture, no
doubt.  "Nobody hurt, is there?"  He was looking at Gertrude.

"Worse than that, Mr. Jarvis," I said.  "I think it is murder."

At the word there was a commotion.  The cook began to cry, and Mrs.
Watson knocked over a chair.  The men were visibly impressed.

"Not any member of the family?" Mr. Jarvis asked, when he had got his
breath.

"No," I said; and motioning Liddy to look after Gertrude, I led the way
with a lamp to the card-room door.  One of the men gave an exclamation,
and they all hurried across the room.  Mr. Jarvis took the lamp from
me--I remember that--and then, feeling myself getting dizzy and
light-headed, I closed my eyes.  When I opened them their brief
examination was over, and Mr. Jarvis was trying to put me in a chair.

"You must get up-stairs," he said firmly, "you and Miss Gertrude, too.
This has been a terrible shock.  In his own home, too."

I stared at him without comprehension.  "Who is it?" I asked with
difficulty.  There was a band drawn tight around my throat.

"It is Arnold Armstrong," he said, looking at me oddly, "and he has
been murdered in his father's house."

After a minute I gathered myself together and Mr. Jarvis helped me into
the living-room.  Liddy had got Gertrude up-stairs, and the two strange
men from the club stayed with the body.  The reaction from the shock
and strain was tremendous: I was collapsed--and then Mr. Jarvis asked
me a question that brought back my wandering faculties.

"Where is Halsey?" he asked.

"Halsey!"  Suddenly Gertrude's stricken face rose before me the empty
rooms up-stairs.  Where was Halsey?

"He was here, wasn't he?" Mr. Jarvis persisted.  "He stopped at the
club on his way over."

"I--don't know where he is," I said feebly.

One of the men from the club came in, asked for the telephone, and I
could hear him excitedly talking, saying something about coroners and
detectives.  Mr. Jarvis leaned over to me.

"Why don't you trust me, Miss Innes?" he said.  "If I can do anything I
will.  But tell me the whole thing."

I did, finally, from the beginning, and when I told of Jack Bailey's
being in the house that night, he gave a long whistle.

"I wish they were both here," he said when I finished.  "Whatever mad
prank took them away, it would look better if they were here.
Especially--"

"Especially what?"

"Especially since Jack Bailey and Arnold Armstrong were notoriously bad
friends.  It was Bailey who got Arnold into trouble last
spring--something about the bank.  And then, too--"

"Go on," I said.  "If there is anything more, I ought to know."

"There's nothing more," he said evasively.  "There's just one thing we
may bank on, Miss Innes.  Any court in the country will acquit a man
who kills an intruder in his house, at night.  If Halsey--"

"Why, you don't think Halsey did it!" I exclaimed.  There was a queer
feeling of physical nausea coming over me.

"No, no, not at all," he said with forced cheerfulness.  "Come, Miss
Innes, you're a ghost of yourself and I am going to help you up-stairs
and call your maid.  This has been too much for you."

Liddy helped me back to bed, and under the impression that I was in
danger of freezing to death, put a hot-water bottle over my heart and
another at my feet.  Then she left me.  It was early dawn now, and from
voices under my window I surmised that Mr. Jarvis and his companions
were searching the grounds.  As for me, I lay in bed, with every
faculty awake.  Where had Halsey gone? How had he gone, and when?
Before the murder, no doubt, but who would believe that?  If either he
or Jack Bailey had heard an intruder in the house and shot him--as they
might have been justified in doing--why had they run away?  The whole
thing was unheard of, outrageous, and--impossible to ignore.

About six o'clock Gertrude came in.  She was fully dressed, and I sat
up nervously.

"Poor Aunty!" she said.  "What a shocking night you have had!" She came
over and sat down on the bed, and I saw she looked very tired and worn.

"Is there anything new?" I asked anxiously.

"Nothing.  The car is gone, but Warner"--he is the chauffeur--"Warner
is at the lodge and knows nothing about it."

"Well," I said, "if I ever get my hands on Halsey Innes, I shall not
let go until I have told him a few things.  When we get this cleared
up, I am going back to the city to be quiet.  One more night like the
last two will end me.  The peace of the country--fiddle sticks!"

Whereupon I told Gertrude of the noises the night before, and the
figure on the veranda in the east wing.  As an afterthought I brought
out the pearl cuff-link.

"I have no doubt now," I said, "that it was Arnold Armstrong the night
before last, too.  He had a key, no doubt, but why he should steal into
his father's house I can not imagine.  He could have come with my
permission, easily enough.  Anyhow, whoever it was that night, left
this little souvenir."

Gertrude took one look at the cuff-link, and went as white as the
pearls in it; she clutched at the foot of the bed, and stood staring.
As for me, I was quite as astonished as she was.

"Where did--you--find it?" she asked finally, with a desperate effort
at calm.  And while I told her she stood looking out of the window with
a look I could not fathom on her face.  It was a relief when Mrs.
Watson tapped at the door and brought me some tea and toast.  The cook
was in bed, completely demoralized, she reported, and Liddy, brave with
the daylight, was looking for footprints around the house.  Mrs. Watson
herself was a wreck; she was blue-white around the lips, and she had
one hand tied up.

She said she had fallen down-stairs in her excitement.  It was natural,
of course, that the thing would shock her, having been the Armstrongs'
housekeeper for several years, and knowing Mr. Arnold well.

Gertrude had slipped out during my talk with Mrs. Watson, and I dressed
and went down-stairs.  The billiard and card-rooms were locked until
the coroner and the detectives got there, and the men from the club had
gone back for more conventional clothing.

I could hear Thomas in the pantry, alternately wailing for Mr. Arnold,
as he called him, and citing the tokens that had precursed the murder.
The house seemed to choke me, and, slipping a shawl around me, I went
out on the drive.  At the corner by the east wing I met Liddy.  Her
skirts were draggled with dew to her knees, and her hair was still in
crimps.

"Go right in and change your clothes," I said sharply.  "You're a
sight, and at your age!"

She had a golf-stick in her hand, and she said she had found it on the
lawn.  There was nothing unusual about it, but it occurred to me that a
golf-stick with a metal end might have been the object that had
scratched the stairs near the card-room.  I took it from her, and sent
her up for dry garments.  Her daylight courage and self-importance, and
her shuddering delight in the mystery, irritated me beyond words.
After I left her I made a circuit of the building.  Nothing seemed to
be disturbed: the house looked as calm and peaceful in the morning sun
as it had the day I had been coerced into taking it.  There was nothing
to show that inside had been mystery and violence and sudden death.

In one of the tulip beds back of the house an early blackbird was
pecking viciously at something that glittered in the light. I picked my
way gingerly over through the dew and stooped down: almost buried in
the soft ground was a revolver!  I scraped the earth off it with the
tip of my shoe, and, picking it up, slipped it into my pocket.  Not
until I had got into my bedroom and double-locked the door did I
venture to take it out and examine it.  One look was all I needed.  It
was Halsey's revolver.  I had unpacked it the day before and put it on
his shaving-stand, and there could be no mistake.  His name was on a
small silver plate on the handle.

I seemed to see a network closing around my boy, innocent as I knew he
was.  The revolver--I am afraid of them, but anxiety gave me courage to
look through the barrel--the revolver had still two bullets in it.  I
could only breathe a prayer of thankfulness that I had found the
revolver before any sharp-eyed detective had come around.

I decided to keep what clues I had, the cuff-link, the golf-stick and
the revolver, in a secure place until I could see some reason for
displaying them.  The cuff-link had been dropped into a little filigree
box on my toilet table.  I opened the box and felt around for it.  The
box was empty--the cuff-link had disappeared!



CHAPTER V

GERTRUDE'S ENGAGEMENT

At ten o'clock the Casanova hack brought up three men.  They introduced
themselves as the coroner of the county and two detectives from the
city.  The coroner led the way at once to the locked wing, and with the
aid of one of the detectives examined the rooms and the body.  The
other detective, after a short scrutiny of the dead man, busied himself
with the outside of the house.  It was only after they had got a fair
idea of things as they were that they sent for me.

I received them in the living-room, and I had made up my mind exactly
what to tell.  I had taken the house for the summer, I said, while the
Armstrongs were in California.  In spite of a rumor among the servants
about strange noises--I cited Thomas--nothing had occurred the first
two nights.  On the third night I believed that some one had been in
the house: I had heard a crashing sound, but being alone with one maid
had not investigated.  The house had been locked in the morning and
apparently undisturbed.

Then, as clearly as I could, I related how, the night before, a shot
had roused us; that my niece and I had investigated and found a body;
that I did not know who the murdered man was until Mr. Jarvis from the
club informed me, and that I knew of no reason why Mr. Arnold Armstrong
should steal into his father's house at night.  I should have been glad
to allow him entree there at any time.

"Have you reason to believe, Miss Innes," the coroner asked, "that any
member of your household, imagining Mr. Armstrong was a burglar, shot
him in self-defense?"

"I have no reason for thinking so," I said quietly.

"Your theory is that Mr. Armstrong was followed here by some enemy, and
shot as he entered the house?"

"I don't think I have a theory," I said.  "The thing that has puzzled
me is why Mr. Armstrong should enter his father's house two nights in
succession, stealing in like a thief, when he needed only to ask
entrance to be admitted."

The coroner was a very silent man: he took some notes after this, but
he seemed anxious to make the next train back to town.  He set the
inquest for the following Saturday, gave Mr. Jamieson, the younger of
the two detectives, and the more intelligent looking, a few
instructions, and, after gravely shaking hands with me and regretting
the unfortunate affair, took his departure, accompanied by the other
detective.

I was just beginning to breathe freely when Mr. Jamieson, who had been
standing by the window, came over to me.

"The family consists of yourself alone, Miss Innes?"

"My niece is here," I said.

"There is no one but yourself and your niece?"

"My nephew."  I had to moisten my lips.

"Oh, a nephew.  I should like to see him, if he is here."

"He is not here just now," I said as quietly as I could.  "I expect
him--at any time."

"He was here yesterday evening, I believe?"

"No--yes."

"Didn't he have a guest with him?  Another man?"

"He brought a friend with him to stay over Sunday, Mr. Bailey."

"Mr. John Bailey, the cashier of the Traders' Bank I believe." And I
knew that some one at the Greenwood Club had told.  "When did they
leave?"

"Very early--I don't know at just what time."

Mr. Jamieson turned suddenly and looked at me.

"Please try to be more explicit," he said.  "You say your nephew and
Mr. Bailey were in the house last night, and yet you and your niece,
with some women-servants, found the body.  Where was your nephew?"

I was entirely desperate by that time.

"I do not know," I cried, "but be sure of this: Halsey knows nothing of
this thing, and no amount of circumstantial evidence can make an
innocent man guilty."

"Sit down," he said, pushing forward a chair.  "There are some things I
have to tell you, and, in return, please tell me all you know.  Believe
me, things always come out.  In the first place, Mr. Armstrong was shot
from above.  The bullet was fired at close range, entered below the
shoulder and came out, after passing through the heart, well down the
back.  In other words, I believe the murderer stood on the stairs and
fired down.  In the second place, I found on the edge of the
billiard-table a charred cigar which had burned itself partly out, and
a cigarette which had consumed itself to the cork tip.  Neither one had
been more than lighted, then put down and forgotten.  Have you any idea
what it was that made your nephew and Mr. Bailey leave their cigars and
their game, take out the automobile without calling the chauffeur, and
all this at--let me see certainly before three o'clock in the morning?"

"I don't know," I said; "but depend on it, Mr. Jamieson, Halsey will be
back himself to explain everything."

"I sincerely hope so," he said.  "Miss Innes, has it occurred to you
that Mr. Bailey might know something of this?"

Gertrude had come down-stairs and just as he spoke she came in. I saw
her stop suddenly, as if she had been struck.

"He does not," she said in a tone that was not her own.  "Mr. Bailey
and my brother know nothing of this.  The murder was committed at
three.  They left the house at a quarter before three."

"How do you know that?" Mr. Jamieson asked oddly.  "Do you KNOW at what
time they left?"

"I do," Gertrude answered firmly.  "At a quarter before three my
brother and Mr. Bailey left the house, by the main entrance.
I--was--there."

"Gertrude," I said excitedly, "you are dreaming!  Why, at a quarter to
three--"

"Listen," she said.  "At half-past two the downstairs telephone rang.
I had not gone to sleep, and I heard it.  Then I heard Halsey answer
it, and in a few minutes he came up-stairs and knocked at my door.
We--we talked for a minute, then I put on my dressing-gown and
slippers, and went down-stairs with him.  Mr. Bailey was in the
billiard-room.  We--we all talked together for perhaps ten minutes.
Then it was decided that--that they should both go away--"

"Can't you be more explicit?" Mr. Jamieson asked.  "WHY did they go
away?"

"I am only telling you what happened, not why it happened," she said
evenly.  "Halsey went for the car, and instead of bringing it to the
house and rousing people, he went by the lower road from the stable.
Mr. Bailey was to meet him at the foot of the lawn.  Mr. Bailey left--"

"Which way?" Mr. Jamieson asked sharply.

"By the main entrance.  He left--it was a quarter to three.  I know
exactly."

"The clock in the hall is stopped, Miss Innes," said Jamieson. Nothing
seemed to escape him.

"He looked at his watch," she replied, and I could see Mr. Jamieson's
snap, as if he had made a discovery.  As for myself, during the whole
recital I had been plunged into the deepest amazement.

"Will you pardon me for a personal question?"  The detective was a
youngish man, and I thought he was somewhat embarrassed.  "What are
your--your relations with Mr. Bailey?"

Gertrude hesitated.  Then she came over and put her hand lovingly in
mine.

"I am engaged to marry him," she said simply.

I had grown so accustomed to surprises that I could only gasp again,
and as for Gertrude, the hand that lay in mine was burning with fever.

"And--after that," Mr. Jamieson went on, "you went directly to bed?"

Gertrude hesitated.

"No," she said finally.  "I--I am not nervous, and after I had
extinguished the light, I remembered something I had left in the
billiard-room, and I felt my way back there through the darkness."

"Will you tell me what it was you had forgotten?"

"I can not tell you," she said slowly.  "I--I did not leave the
billiard-room at once--"

"Why?"  The detective's tone was imperative.  "This is very important,
Miss Innes."

"I was crying," Gertrude said in a low tone.  "When the French clock in
the drawing-room struck three, I got up, and then--I heard a step on
the east porch, just outside the card-room.  Some one with a key was
working with the latch, and I thought, of course, of Halsey.  When we
took the house he called that his entrance, and he had carried a key
for it ever since.  The door opened and I was about to ask what he had
forgotten, when there was a flash and a report.  Some heavy body
dropped, and, half crazed with terror and shock, I ran through the
drawing-room and got up-stairs--I scarcely remember how."

She dropped into a chair, and I thought Mr. Jamieson must have
finished.  But he was not through.

"You certainly clear your brother and Mr. Bailey admirably," he said.
"The testimony is invaluable, especially in view of the fact that your
brother and Mr. Armstrong had, I believe, quarreled rather seriously
some time ago."

"Nonsense," I broke in.  "Things are bad enough, Mr. Jamieson, without
inventing bad feeling where it doesn't exist.  Gertrude, I don't think
Halsey knew the--the murdered man, did he?"

But Mr. Jamieson was sure of his ground.

"The quarrel, I believe," he persisted, "was about Mr. Armstrong's
conduct to you, Miss Gertrude.  He had been paying you unwelcome
attentions."

And I had never seen the man!

When she nodded a "yes" I saw the tremendous possibilities involved.
If this detective could prove that Gertrude feared and disliked the
murdered man, and that Mr. Armstrong had been annoying and possibly
pursuing her with hateful attentions, all that, added to Gertrude's
confession of her presence in the billiard-room at the time of the
crime, looked strange, to say the least.  The prominence of the family
assured a strenuous effort to find the murderer, and if we had nothing
worse to look forward to, we were sure of a distasteful publicity.

Mr. Jamieson shut his note-book with a snap, and thanked us.

"I have an idea," he said, apropos of nothing at all, "that at any rate
the ghost is laid here.  Whatever the rappings have been--and the
colored man says they began when the family went west three months
ago--they are likely to stop now."

Which shows how much he knew about it.  The ghost was not laid: with
the murder of Arnold Armstrong he, or it, only seemed to take on fresh
vigor.

Mr. Jamieson left then, and when Gertrude had gone up-stairs, as she
did at once, I sat and thought over what I had just heard. Her
engagement, once so engrossing a matter, paled now beside the
significance of her story.  If Halsey and Jack Bailey had left before
the crime, how came Halsey's revolver in the tulip bed? What was the
mysterious cause of their sudden flight?  What had Gertrude left in the
billiard-room?  What was the significance of the cuff-link, and where
was it?



CHAPTER VI

IN THE EAST CORRIDOR

When the detective left he enjoined absolute secrecy on everybody in
the household.  The Greenwood Club promised the same thing, and as
there are no Sunday afternoon papers, the murder was not publicly known
until Monday.  The coroner himself notified the Armstrong family
lawyer, and early in the afternoon he came out. I had not seen Mr.
Jamieson since morning, but I knew he had been interrogating the
servants.  Gertrude was locked in her room with a headache, and I had
luncheon alone.

Mr. Harton, the lawyer, was a little, thin man, and he looked as if he
did not relish his business that day.

"This is very unfortunate, Miss Innes," he said, after we had shaken
hands.  "Most unfortunate--and mysterious.  With the father and mother
in the west, I find everything devolves on me; and, as you can
understand, it is an unpleasant duty."

"No doubt," I said absently.  "Mr. Harton, I am going to ask you some
questions, and I hope you will answer them.  I feel that I am entitled
to some knowledge, because I and my family are just now in a most
ambiguous position."

I don't know whether he understood me or not: he took of his glasses
and wiped them.

"I shall be very happy," he said with old-fashioned courtesy.

"Thank you.  Mr. Harton, did Mr. Arnold Armstrong know that Sunnyside
had been rented?"

"I think--yes, he did.  In fact, I myself told him about it."

"And he knew who the tenants were?"

"Yes."

"He had not been living with the family for some years, I believe?"

"No.  Unfortunately, there had been trouble between Arnold and his
father.  For two years he had lived in town."

"Then it would be unlikely that he came here last night to get
possession of anything belonging to him?"

"I should think it hardly possible," he admitted.

"To be perfectly frank, Miss Innes, I can not think of any reason
whatever for his coming here as he did.  He had been staying at the
club-house across the valley for the last week, Jarvis tells me, but
that only explains how he came here, not why.  It is a most unfortunate
family."

He shook his head despondently, and I felt that this dried-up little
man was the repository of much that he had not told me.  I gave up
trying to elicit any information from him, and we went together to view
the body before it was taken to the city.  It had been lifted on to the
billiard-table and a sheet thrown over it; otherwise nothing had been
touched.  A soft hat lay beside it, and the collar of the dinner-coat
was still turned up.  The handsome, dissipated face of Arnold
Armstrong, purged of its ugly lines, was now only pathetic.  As we went
in Mrs. Watson appeared at the card-room door.

"Come in, Mrs. Watson," the lawyer said.  But she shook her head and
withdrew: she was the only one in the house who seemed to regret the
dead man, and even she seemed rather shocked than sorry.

I went to the door at the foot of the circular staircase and opened it.
If I could only have seen Halsey coming at his usual hare-brained clip
up the drive, if I could have heard the throb of the motor, I would
have felt that my troubles were over.

But there was nothing to be seen.  The countryside lay sunny and quiet
in its peaceful Sunday afternoon calm, and far down the drive Mr.
Jamieson was walking slowly, stooping now and then, as if to examine
the road.  When I went back, Mr. Harton was furtively wiping his eyes.

"The prodigal has come home, Miss Innes," he said.  "How often the sins
of the fathers are visited on the children!"  Which left me pondering.

Before Mr. Harton left, he told me something of the Armstrong family.
Paul Armstrong, the father, had been married twice. Arnold was a son by
the first marriage.  The second Mrs. Armstrong had been a widow, with a
child, a little girl.  This child, now perhaps twenty, was Louise
Armstrong, having taken her stepfather's name, and was at present in
California with the family.

"They will probably return at once," he concluded "sad part of my
errand here to-day is to see if you will relinquish your lease here in
their favor."

"We would better wait and see if they wish to come," I said. "It seems
unlikely, and my town house is being remodeled."  At that he let the
matter drop, but it came up unpleasantly enough, later.

At six o'clock the body was taken away, and at seven-thirty, after an
early dinner, Mr. Harton went.  Gertrude had not come down, and there
was no news of Halsey.  Mr. Jamieson had taken a lodging in the
village, and I had not seen him since mid-afternoon.  It was about nine
o'clock, I think, when the bell rang and he was ushered into the
living-room.

"Sit down," I said grimly.  "Have you found a clue that will
incriminate me, Mr. Jamieson?"

He had the grace to look uncomfortable.  "No," he said.  "If you had
killed Mr. Armstrong, you would have left no clues.  You would have had
too much intelligence."

After that we got along better.  He was fishing in his pocket, and
after a minute he brought out two scraps of paper.  "I have been to the
club-house," he said, "and among Mr. Armstrong's effects, I found
these.  One is curious; the other is puzzling."

The first was a sheet of club note-paper, on which was written, over
and over, the name "Halsey B. Innes."  It was Halsey's flowing
signature to a dot, but it lacked Halsey's ease.  The ones toward the
bottom of the sheet were much better than the top ones.  Mr. Jamieson
smiled at my face.

"His old tricks," he said.  "That one is merely curious; this one, as I
said before, is puzzling."

The second scrap, folded and refolded into a compass so tiny that the
writing had been partly obliterated, was part of a letter--the lower
half of a sheet, not typed, but written in a cramped hand.


"----by altering the plans for----rooms, may be possible.  The best
way, in my opinion, would be to----the plan for----in one of
the----rooms----chimney."


That was all.

"Well?" I said, looking up.  "There is nothing in that, is there? A man
ought to be able to change the plan of his house without becoming an
object of suspicion."

"There is little in the paper itself," he admitted; "but why should
Arnold Armstrong carry that around, unless it meant something?  He
never built a house, you may be sure of that.  If it is this house, it
may mean anything, from a secret room--"

"To an extra bath-room," I said scornfully.  "Haven't you a
thumb-print, too?"

"I have," he said with a smile, "and the print of a foot in a tulip
bed, and a number of other things.  The oddest part is, Miss Innes,
that the thumb-mark is probably yours and the footprint certainly."

His audacity was the only thing that saved me: his amused smile put me
on my mettle, and I ripped out a perfectly good scallop before I
answered.

"Why did I step into the tulip bed?" I asked with interest.

"You picked up something," he said good-humoredly, "which you are going
to tell me about later."

"Am I, indeed?" I was politely curious.  "With this remarkable insight
of yours, I wish you would tell me where I shall find my
four-thousand-dollar motor car."

"I was just coming to that," he said.  "You will find it about thirty
miles away, at Andrews Station, in a blacksmith shop, where it is being
repaired."

I laid down my knitting then and looked at him.

"And Halsey?" I managed to say.

"We are going to exchange information," he said "I am going to tell you
that, when you tell me what you picked up in the tulip bed."

We looked steadily at each other: it was not an unfriendly stare; we
were only measuring weapons.  Then he smiled a little and got up.

"With your permission," he said, "I am going to examine the card-room
and the staircase again.  You might think over my offer in the
meantime."

He went on through the drawing-room, and I listened to his footsteps
growing gradually fainter.  I dropped my pretense at knitting and,
leaning back, I thought over the last forty-eight hours.  Here was I,
Rachel Innes, spinster, a granddaughter of old John Innes of
Revolutionary days, a D. A. R., a Colonial Dame, mixed up with a vulgar
and revolting crime, and even attempting to hoodwink the law!
Certainly I had left the straight and narrow way.

I was roused by hearing Mr. Jamieson coming rapidly back through the
drawing-room.  He stopped at the door.

"Miss Innes," he said quickly, "will you come with me and light the
east corridor?  I have fastened somebody in the small room at the head
of the card-room stairs."

I jumped! up at once.

"You mean--the murderer?" I gasped.

"Possibly," he said quietly, as we hurried together up the stairs.
"Some one was lurking on the staircase when I went back. I spoke;
instead of an answer, whoever it was turned and ran up. I followed--it
was dark--but as I turned the corner at the top a figure darted through
this door and closed it.  The bolt was on my side, and I pushed it
forward.  It is a closet, I think."  We were in the upper hall now.
"If you will show me the electric switch, Miss Innes, you would better
wait in your own room."

Trembling as I was, I was determined to see that door opened.  I hardly
knew what I feared, but so many terrible and inexplicable things had
happened that suspense was worse than certainty.

"I am perfectly cool," I said, "and I am going to remain here."

The lights flashed up along that end of the corridor, throwing the
doors into relief.  At the intersection of the small hallway with the
larger, the circular staircase wound its way up, as if it had been an
afterthought of the architect.  And just around the corner, in the
small corridor, was the door Mr. Jamieson had indicated.  I was still
unfamiliar with the house, and I did not remember the door.  My heart
was thumping wildly in my ears, but I nodded to him to go ahead.  I was
perhaps eight or ten feet away--and then he threw the bolt back.

"Come out," he said quietly.  There was no response.  "Come--out," he
repeated.  Then--I think he had a revolver, but I am not sure--he
stepped aside and threw the door open.

From where I stood I could not see beyond the door, but I saw Mr.
Jamieson's face change and heard him mutter something, then he bolted
down the stairs, three at a time.  When my knees had stopped shaking, I
moved forward, slowly, nervously, until I had a partial view of what
was beyond the door.  It seemed at first to be a closet, empty.  Then I
went close and examined it, to stop with a shudder.  Where the floor
should have been was black void and darkness, from which came the
indescribable, damp smell of the cellars.

Mr. Jamieson had locked somebody in the clothes chute.  As I leaned
over I fancied I heard a groan--or was it the wind?



CHAPTER VII

A SPRAINED ANKLE

I was panic-stricken.  As I ran along the corridor I was confident that
the mysterious intruder and probable murderer had been found, and that
he lay dead or dying at the foot of the chute.  I got down the
staircase somehow, and through the kitchen to the basement stairs.  Mr.
Jamieson had been before me, and the door stood open.  Liddy was
standing in the middle of the kitchen, holding a frying-pan by the
handle as a weapon.

"Don't go down there," she yelled, when she saw me moving toward the
basement stairs.  "Don't you do it, Miss Rachel.  That Jamieson's down
there now.  There's only trouble comes of hunting ghosts; they lead you
into bottomless pits and things like that. Oh, Miss Rachel, don't--" as
I tried to get past her.

She was interrupted by Mr. Jamieson's reappearance.  He ran up the
stairs two at a time, and his face was flushed and furious.

"The whole place is locked," he said angrily.  "Where's the laundry key
kept?"

"It's kept in the door," Liddy snapped.  "That whole end of the cellar
is kept locked, so nobody can get at the clothes, and then the key's
left in the door? so that unless a thief was as blind as--as some
detectives, he could walk right in."

"Liddy," I said sharply, "come down with us and turn on all the lights."

She offered her resignation, as usual, on the spot, but I took her by
the arm, and she came along finally.  She switched on all the lights
and pointed to a door just ahead.

"That's the door," she said sulkily.  "The key's in it."

But the key was not in it.  Mr. Jamieson shook it, but it was a heavy
door, well locked.  And then he stooped and began punching around the
keyhole with the end of a lead-pencil.  When he stood up his face was
exultant.

"It's locked on the inside," he said in a low tone.  "There is somebody
in there."

"Lord have mercy!" gasped Liddy, and turned to run.

"Liddy," I called, "go through the house at once and see who is
missing, or if any one is.  We'll have to clear this thing at once.
Mr. Jamieson, if you will watch here I will go to the lodge and find
Warner.  Thomas would be of no use.  Together you may be able to force
the door."

"A good idea," he assented.  "But--there are windows, of course, and
there is nothing to prevent whoever is in there from getting out that
way."

"Then lock the door at the top of the basement stairs," I suggested,
"and patrol the house from the outside."

We agreed to this, and I had a feeling that the mystery of Sunnyside
was about to be solved.  I ran down the steps and along the drive.
Just at the corner I ran full tilt into somebody who seemed to be as
much alarmed as I was.  It was not until I had recoiled a step or two
that I recognized Gertrude, and she me.

"Good gracious, Aunt Ray," she exclaimed, "what is the matter?"

"There's somebody locked in the laundry," I panted.  "That
is--unless--you didn't see any one crossing the lawn or skulking around
the house, did you?"

"I think we have mystery on the brain," Gertrude said wearily. "No, I
haven't seen any one, except old Thomas, who looked for all the world
as if he had been ransacking the pantry.  What have you locked in the
laundry?"

"I can't wait to explain," I replied.  "I must get Warner from the
lodge.  If you came out for air, you'd better put on your overshoes."
And then I noticed that Gertrude was limping--not much, but
sufficiently to make her progress very slow, and seemingly painful.

"You have hurt yourself," I said sharply.

"I fell over the carriage block," she explained.  "I thought perhaps I
might see Halsey coming home.  He--he ought to be here."

I hurried on down the drive.  The lodge was some distance from the
house, in a grove of trees where the drive met the county road.  There
were two white stone pillars to mark the entrance, but the iron gates,
once closed and tended by the lodge-keeper, now stood permanently open.
The day of the motor-car had come; no one had time for closed gates and
lodge-keepers.  The lodge at Sunnyside was merely a sort of
supplementary servants' quarters: it was as convenient in its
appointments as the big house and infinitely more cozy.

As I went down the drive, my thoughts were busy.  Who would it be that
Mr. Jamieson had trapped in the cellar?  Would we find a body or some
one badly injured?  Scarcely either.  Whoever had fallen had been able
to lock the laundry door on the inside.  If the fugitive had come from
outside the house, how did he get in? If it was some member of the
household, who could it have been? And then--a feeling of horror almost
overwhelmed me.  Gertrude! Gertrude and her injured ankle!  Gertrude
found limping slowly up the drive when I had thought she was in bed!

I tried to put the thought away, but it would not go.  If Gertrude had
been on the circular staircase that night, why had she fled from Mr.
Jamieson?  The idea, puzzling as it was, seemed borne out by this
circumstance.  Whoever had taken refuge at the head of the stairs could
scarcely have been familiar with the house, or with the location of the
chute.  The mystery seemed to deepen constantly.  What possible
connection could there be between Halsey and Gertrude, and the murder
of Arnold Armstrong? And yet, every way I turned I seemed to find
something that pointed to such a connection.

At the foot of the drive the road described a long, sloping,
horseshoe-shaped curve around the lodge.  There were lights there,
streaming cheerfully out on to the trees, and from an upper room came
wavering shadows, as if some one with a lamp was moving around.  I had
come almost silently in my evening slippers, and I had my second
collision of the evening on the road just above the house.  I ran full
into a man in a long coat, who was standing in the shadow beside the
drive, with his back to me, watching the lighted windows.

"What the hell!" he ejaculated furiously, and turned around. When he
saw me, however, he did not wait for any retort on my part.  He faded
away--this is not slang; he did--he absolutely disappeared in the dusk
without my getting more than a glimpse of his face.  I had a vague
impression of unfamiliar features and of a sort of cap with a visor.
Then he was gone.

I went to the lodge and rapped.  It required two or three poundings to
bring Thomas to the door, and he opened it only an inch or so.

"Where is Warner?" I asked.

"I--I think he's in bed, ma'm."

"Get him up," I said, "and for goodness' sake open the door, Thomas.
I'll wait for Warner."

"It's kind o' close in here, ma'm," he said, obeying gingerly, and
disclosing a cool and comfortable looking interior.  "Perhaps you'd
keer to set on the porch an' rest yo'self."

It was so evident that Thomas did not want me inside that I went in.

"Tell Warner he is needed in a hurry," I repeated, and turned into the
little sitting-room.  I could hear Thomas going up the stairs, could
hear him rouse Warner, and the steps of the chauffeur as he hurriedly
dressed.  But my attention was busy with the room below.

On the center-table, open, was a sealskin traveling bag.  It was filled
with gold-topped bottles and brushes, and it breathed opulence, luxury,
femininity from every inch of surface.  How did it get there?  I was
still asking myself the question when Warner came running down the
stairs and into the room.  He was completely but somewhat incongruously
dressed, and his open, boyish face looked abashed.  He was a country
boy, absolutely frank and reliable, of fair education and
intelligence--one of the small army of American youths who turn a
natural aptitude for mechanics into the special field of the
automobile, and earn good salaries in a congenial occupation.

"What is it, Miss Innes?" he asked anxiously.

"There is some one locked in the laundry," I replied.  "Mr. Jamieson
wants you to help him break the lock.  Warner, whose bag is this?"

He was in the doorway by this time, and he pretended not to hear.

"Warner," I called, "come back here.  Whose bag is this?"

He stopped then, but he did not turn around.

"It's--it belongs to Thomas," he said, and fled up the drive.

To Thomas!  A London bag with mirrors and cosmetic jars of which Thomas
could not even have guessed the use!  However, I put the bag in the
back of my mind, which was fast becoming stored with anomalous and
apparently irreconcilable facts, and followed Warner to the house.

Liddy had come back to the kitchen: the door to the basement stairs was
double-barred, and had a table pushed against it; and beside her on the
table was most of the kitchen paraphernalia.

"Did you see if there was any one missing in the house?" I asked,
ignoring the array of sauce-pans rolling-pins, and the poker of the
range.

"Rosie is missing," Liddy said with unction.  She had objected to
Rosie, the parlor maid, from the start.  "Mrs. Watson went into her
room, and found she had gone without her hat.  People that trust
themselves a dozen miles from the city, in strange houses, with
servants they don't know, needn't be surprised if they wake up some
morning and find their throats cut."

After which carefully veiled sarcasm Liddy relapsed into gloom. Warner
came in then with a handful of small tools, and Mr. Jamieson went with
him to the basement.  Oddly enough, I was not alarmed.  With all my
heart I wished for Halsey, but I was not frightened.  At the door he
was to force, Warner put down his tools and looked at it.  Then he
turned the handle.  Without the slightest difficulty the door opened,
revealing the blackness of the drying-room beyond!

Mr. Jamieson gave an exclamation of disgust.

"Gone!" he said.  "Confound such careless work!  I might have known."

It was true enough.  We got the lights on finally and looked all
through the three rooms that constituted this wing of the basement.
Everything was quiet and empty.  An explanation of how the fugitive had
escaped injury was found in a heaped-up basket of clothes under the
chute.  The basket had been overturned, but that was all.  Mr. Jamieson
examined the windows: one was unlocked, and offered an easy escape.
The window or the door? Which way had the fugitive escaped?  The door
seemed most probable, and I hoped it had been so.  I could not have
borne, just then, to think that it was my poor Gertrude we had been
hounding through the darkness, and yet--I had met Gertrude not far from
that very window.

I went up-stairs at last, tired and depressed.  Mrs. Watson and Liddy
were making tea in the kitchen.  In certain walks of life the tea-pot
is the refuge in times of stress, trouble or sickness: they give tea to
the dying and they put it in the baby's nursing bottle.  Mrs. Watson
was fixing a tray to be sent in to me, and when I asked her about Rosie
she confirmed her absence.

"She's not here," she said; "but I would not think much of that, Miss
Innes.  Rosie is a pretty young girl, and perhaps she has a sweetheart.
It will be a good thing if she has.  The maids stay much better when
they have something like that to hold them here."

Gertrude had gone back to her room, and while I was drinking my cup of
hot tea, Mr. Jamieson came in.

"We might take up the conversation where we left off an hour and a half
ago," he said.  "But before we go on, I want to say this: The person
who escaped from the laundry was a woman with a foot of moderate size
and well arched.  She wore nothing but a stocking on her right foot,
and, in spite of the unlocked door, she escaped by the window."

And again I thought of Gertrude's sprained ankle.  Was it the right or
the left?



CHAPTER VIII

THE OTHER HALF OF THE LINE

"Miss Innes," the detective began, "what is your opinion of the figure
you saw on the east veranda the night you and your maid were in the
house alone?"

"It was a woman," I said positively.

"And yet your maid affirms with equal positiveness that it was a man."

"Nonsense," I broke in.  "Liddy had her eyes shut--she always shuts
them when she's frightened."

"And you never thought then that the intruder who came later that night
might be a woman--the woman, in fact, whom you saw on the veranda?"

"I had reasons for thinking it was a man," I said remembering the pearl
cuff-link.

"Now we are getting down to business.  WHAT were your reasons for
thinking that?"

I hesitated.

"If you have any reason for believing that your midnight guest was Mr.
Armstrong, other than his visit here the next night, you ought to tell
me, Miss Innes.  We can take nothing for granted. If, for instance, the
intruder who dropped the bar and scratched the staircase--you see, I
know about that--if this visitor was a woman, why should not the same
woman have come back the following night, met Mr. Armstrong on the
circular staircase, and in alarm shot him?"

"It was a man," I reiterated.  And then, because I could think of no
other reason for my statement, I told him about the pearl cuff-link.
He was intensely interested.

"Will you give me the link," he said, when I finished, "or, at least,
let me see it?  I consider it a most important clue."

"Won't the description do?"

"Not as well as the original."

"Well, I'm very sorry," I said, as calmly as I could, "I--the thing is
lost.  It--it must have fallen out of a box on my dressing-table."

Whatever he thought of my explanation, and I knew he doubted it, he
made no sign.  He asked me to describe the link accurately, and I did
so, while he glanced at a list he took from his pocket.

"One set monogram cuff-links," he read, "one set plain pearl links, one
set cuff-links, woman's head set with diamonds and emeralds.  There is
no mention of such a link as you describe, and yet, if your theory is
right, Mr. Armstrong must have taken back in his cuffs one complete
cuff-link, and a half, perhaps, of the other."

The idea was new to me.  If it had not been the murdered man who had
entered the house that night, who had it been?

"There are a number of strange things connected with this case," the
detective went on.  "Miss Gertrude Innes testified that she heard some
one fumbling with the lock, that the door opened, and that almost
immediately the shot was fired.  Now, Miss Innes, here is the strange
part of that.  Mr. Armstrong had no key with him.  There was no key in
the lock, or on the floor.  In other words, the evidence points
absolutely to this:  Mr. Armstrong was admitted to the house from
within."

"It is impossible," I broke in.  "Mr. Jamieson, do you know what your
words imply?  Do you know that you are practically accusing Gertrude
Innes of admitting that man?"

"Not quite that," he said, with his friendly smile.  "In fact, Miss
Innes, I am quite certain she did not.  But as long as I learn only
parts of the truth, from both you and her, what can I do?  I know you
picked up something in the flower bed: you refuse to tell me what it
was.  I know Miss Gertrude went back to the billiard-room to get
something, she refuses to say what.  You suspect what happened to the
cuff-link, but you won't tell me. So far, all I am sure of is this:  I
do not believe Arnold Armstrong was the midnight visitor who so alarmed
you by dropping--shall we say, a golf-stick?  And I believe that when
he did come he was admitted by some one in the house.  Who knows--it
may have been--Liddy!"

I stirred my tea angrily.

"I have always heard," I said dryly, "that undertakers' assistants are
jovial young men.  A man's sense of humor seems to be in inverse
proportion to the gravity of his profession."

"A man's sense of humor is a barbarous and a cruel thing, Miss Innes,"
he admitted.  "It is to the feminine as the hug of a bear is to the
scratch of--well;--anything with claws.  Is that you, Thomas?  Come in."

Thomas Johnson stood in the doorway.  He looked alarmed and
apprehensive, and suddenly I remembered the sealskin dressing-bag in
the lodge.  Thomas came just inside the door and stood with his head
drooping, his eyes, under their shaggy gray brows, fixed on Mr.
Jamieson.

"Thomas," said the detective, not unkindly, "I sent for you to tell us
what you told Sam Bohannon at the club, the day before Mr. Arnold was
found here, dead.  Let me see.  You came here Friday night to see Miss
Innes, didn't you?  And came to work here Saturday morning?"

For some unexplained reason Thomas looked relieved.

"Yas, sah," he said.  "You see it were like this:  When Mistah
Armstrong and the fam'ly went away, Mis' Watson an' me, we was lef' in
charge till the place was rented.  Mis' Watson, she've bin here a good
while, an' she warn' skeery.  So she slep' in the house.  I'd bin
havin' tokens--I tol' Mis' Innes some of 'em--an' I slep' in the lodge.
Then one day Mis' Watson, she came to me an' she sez, sez she, 'Thomas,
you'll hev to sleep up in the big house.  I'm too nervous to do it any
more.'  But I jes' reckon to myself that ef it's too skeery fer her,
it's too skeery fer me.  We had it, then, sho' nuff, and it ended up
with Mis' Watson stayin' in the lodge nights an' me lookin' fer work at
de club."

"Did Mrs. Watson say that anything had happened to alarm her?"

"No, sah.  She was jes' natchally skeered.  Well, that was all, far's I
know, until the night I come over to see Mis' Innes.  I come across the
valley, along the path from the club-house, and I goes home that way.
Down in the creek bottom I almost run into a man.  He wuz standin' with
his back to me, an' he was workin' with one of these yere electric
light things that fit in yer pocket.  He was havin' trouble--one minute
it'd flash out, an' the nex' it'd be gone.  I hed a view of 'is white
dress shirt an' tie, as I passed.  I didn't see his face.  But I know
it warn't Mr. Arnold.  It was a taller man than Mr. Arnold.  Beside
that, Mr. Arnold was playin' cards when I got to the club-house, same's
he'd been doin' all day."

"And the next morning you came back along the path," pursued Mr.
Jamieson relentlessly.

"The nex' mornin' I come back along the path an' down where I dun see
the man night befoh, I picked up this here."  The old man held out a
tiny object and Mr. Jamieson took it.  Then he held it on his extended
palm for me to see.  It was the other half of the pearl cuff-link!

But Mr. Jamieson was not quite through questioning him.

"And so you showed it to Sam, at the club, and asked him if he knew any
one who owned such a link, and Sam said--what?"

"Wal, Sam, he 'lowed he'd seen such a pair of cuff-buttons in a shirt
belongin' to Mr. Bailey--Mr. Jack Bailey, sah."

"I'll keep this link, Thomas, for a while," the detective said. "That's
all I wanted to know.  Good night."

As Thomas shuffled out, Mr. Jamieson watched me sharply.

"You see, Miss Innes," he said, "Mr. Bailey insists on mixing himself
with this thing.  If Mr. Bailey came here that Friday night expecting
to meet Arnold Armstrong, and missed him--if, as I say, he had done
this, might he not, seeing him enter the following night, have struck
him down, as he had intended before?"

"But the motive?" I gasped.

"There could be motive proved, I think.  Arnold Armstrong and John
Bailey have been enemies since the latter, as cashier of the Traders'
Bank, brought Arnold almost into the clutches of the law.  Also, you
forget that both men have been paying attention to Miss Gertrude.
Bailey's flight looks bad, too."

"And you think Halsey helped him to escape?"

"Undoubtedly.  Why, what could it be but flight?  Miss Innes, let me
reconstruct that evening, as I see it.  Bailey and Armstrong had
quarreled at the club.  I learned this to-day.  Your nephew brought
Bailey over.  Prompted by jealous, insane fury, Armstrong followed,
coming across by the path.  He entered the billiard-room wing--perhaps
rapping, and being admitted by your nephew. Just inside he was shot, by
some one on the circular staircase. The shot fired, your nephew and
Bailey left the house at once, going toward the automobile house.  They
left by the lower road, which prevented them being heard, and when you
and Miss Gertrude got down-stairs everything was quiet."

"But--Gertrude's story," I stammered.

"Miss Gertrude only brought forward her explanation the following
morning.  I do not believe it, Miss Innes.  It is the story of a loving
and ingenious woman."

"And--this thing to-night?"

"May upset my whole view of the case.  We must give the benefit of
every doubt, after all.  We may, for instance, come back to the figure
on the porch: if it was a woman you saw that night through the window,
we might start with other premises.  Or Mr. Innes' explanation may turn
us in a new direction.  It is possible that he shot Arnold Armstrong as
a burglar and then fled, frightened at what he had done.  In any case,
however, I feel confident that the body was here when he left.  Mr.
Armstrong left the club ostensibly for a moonlight saunter, about half
after eleven o'clock.  It was three when the shot was fired."

I leaned back bewildered.  It seemed to me that the evening had been
full of significant happenings, had I only held the key. Had Gertrude
been the fugitive in the clothes chute?  Who was the man on the drive
near the lodge, and whose gold-mounted dressing-bag had I seen in the
lodge sitting-room?

It was late when Mr. Jamieson finally got up to go.  I went with him to
the door, and together we stood looking out over the valley.  Below lay
the village of Casanova, with its Old World houses, its blossoming
trees and its peace.  Above on the hill across the valley were the
lights of the Greenwood Club.  It was even possible to see the curving
row of parallel lights that marked the carriage road.  Rumors that I
had heard about the club came back--of drinking, of high play, and
once, a year ago, of a suicide under those very lights.

Mr. Jamieson left, taking a short cut to the village, and I still stood
there.  It must have been after eleven, and the monotonous tick of the
big clock on the stairs behind me was the only sound.

Then I was conscious that some one was running up the drive.  In a
minute a woman darted into the area of light made by the open door, and
caught me by the arm.  It was Rosie--Rosie in a state of collapse from
terror, and, not the least important, clutching one of my Coalport
plates and a silver spoon.

She stood staring into the darkness behind, still holding the plate.  I
got her into the house and secured the plate; then I stood and looked
down at her where she crouched tremblingly against the doorway.

"Well," I asked, "didn't your young man enjoy his meal?"

She couldn't speak.  She looked at the spoon she still held--I wasn't
so anxious about it: thank Heaven, it wouldn't chip--and then she
stared at me.

"I appreciate your desire to have everything nice for him," I went on,
"but the next time, you might take the Limoges china It's more easily
duplicated and less expensive."

"I haven't a young man--not here."  She had got her breath now, as I
had guessed she would.  "I--I have been chased by a thief, Miss Innes."

"Did he chase you out of the house and back again?" I asked.

Then Rosie began to cry--not silently, but noisily, hysterically.

I stopped her by giving her a good shake.

"What in the world is the matter with you?" I snapped.  "Has the day of
good common sense gone by!  Sit up and tell me the whole thing."  Rosie
sat up then, and sniffled.

"I was coming up the drive--" she began.

"You must start with when you went DOWN the drive, with my dishes and
my silver," I interrupted, but, seeing more signs of hysteria, I gave
in.  "Very well.  You were coming up the drive--"

"I had a basket of--of silver and dishes on my arm and I was carrying
the plate, because--because I was afraid I'd break it. Part-way up the
road a man stepped out of the bushes, and held his arm like this,
spread out, so I couldn't get past.  He said--he said--'Not so fast,
young lady; I want you to let me see what's in that basket.'"

She got up in her excitement and took hold of my arm.

"It was like this, Miss Innes," she said, "and say you was the man.
When he said that, I screamed and ducked under his arm like this.  He
caught at the basket and I dropped it.  I ran as fast as I could, and
he came after as far as the trees.  Then he stopped.  Oh, Miss Innes,
it must have been the man that killed that Mr. Armstrong!"

"Don't be foolish," I said.  "Whoever killed Mr. Armstrong would put as
much space between himself and this house as he could.  Go up to bed
now; and mind, if I hear of this story being repeated to the other
maids, I shall deduct from your wages for every broken dish I find in
the drive."

I listened to Rosie as she went up-stairs, running past the shadowy
places and slamming her door.  Then I sat down and looked at the
Coalport plate and the silver spoon.  I had brought my own china and
silver, and, from all appearances, I would have little enough to take
back.  But though I might jeer at Rosie as much as I wished, the fact
remained that some one had been on the drive that night who had no
business there.  Although neither had Rosie, for that matter.

I could fancy Liddy's face when she missed the extra pieces of
china--she had opposed Rosie from the start.  If Liddy once finds a
prophecy fulfilled, especially an unpleasant one, she never allows me
to forget it.  It seemed to me that it was absurd to leave that china
dotted along the road for her to spy the next morning; so with a sudden
resolution, I opened the door again and stepped out into the darkness.
As the door closed behind me I half regretted my impulse; then I shut
my teeth and went on.

I have never been a nervous woman, as I said before.  Moreover, a
minute or two in the darkness enabled me to see things fairly well.
Beulah gave me rather a start by rubbing unexpectedly against my feet;
then we two, side by side, went down the drive.

There were no fragments of china, but where the grove began I picked up
a silver spoon.  So far Rosie's story was borne out:  I began to wonder
if it were not indiscreet, to say the least, this midnight prowling in
a neighborhood with such a deservedly bad reputation.  Then I saw
something gleaming, which proved to be the handle of a cup, and a step
or two farther on I found a V-shaped bit of a plate.  But the most
surprising thing of all was to find the basket sitting comfortably
beside the road, with the rest of the broken crockery piled neatly
within, and a handful of small silver, spoon, forks, and the like, on
top!  I could only stand and stare.  Then Rosie's story was true.  But
where had Rosie carried her basket?  And why had the thief, if he were
a thief, picked up the broken china out of the road and left it, with
his booty?

It was with my nearest approach to a nervous collapse that I heard the
familiar throbbing of an automobile engine.  As it came closer I
recognized the outline of the Dragon Fly, and knew that Halsey had come
back.

Strange enough it must have seemed to Halsey, too, to come across me in
the middle of the night, with the skirt of my gray silk gown over my
shoulders to keep off the dew, holding a red and green basket under one
arm and a black cat under the other.  What with relief and joy, I began
to cry, right there, and very nearly wiped my eyes on Beulah in the
excitement.



CHAPTER IX

JUST LIKE A GIRL

"Aunt Ray!" Halsey said from the gloom behind the lamps.  "What in the
world are you doing here?"

"Taking a walk," I said, trying to be composed.  I don't think the
answer struck either of us as being ridiculous at the time. "Oh,
Halsey, where have you been?"

"Let me take you up to the house."  He was in the road, and had Beulah
and the basket out of my arms in a moment.  I could see the car plainly
now, and Warner was at the wheel--Warner in an ulster and a pair of
slippers, over Heaven knows what.  Jack Bailey was not there.  I got
in, and we went slowly and painfully up to the house.

We did not talk.  What we had to say was too important to commence
there, and, besides, it took all kinds of coaxing from both men to get
the Dragon Fly up the last grade.  Only when we had closed the front
door and stood facing each other in the hall, did Halsey say anything.
He slipped his strong young arm around my shoulders and turned me so I
faced the light.

"Poor Aunt Ray!" he said gently.  And I nearly wept again.  "I--I must
see Gertrude, too; we will have a three-cornered talk."

And then Gertrude herself came down the stairs.  She had not been to
bed, evidently: she still wore the white negligee she had worn earlier
in the evening, and she limped somewhat.  During her slow progress down
the stairs I had time to notice one thing:  Mr. Jamieson had said the
woman who escaped from the cellar had worn no shoe on her right foot.
Gertrude's right ankle was the one she had sprained!

The meeting between brother and sister was tense, but without tears.
Halsey kissed her tenderly, and I noticed evidences of strain and
anxiety in both young faces.

"Is everything--right?" she asked.

"Right as can be," with forced cheerfulness.

I lighted the living-room and we went in there.  Only a half-hour
before I had sat with Mr. Jamieson in that very room, listening while
he overtly accused both Gertrude and Halsey of at least a knowledge of
the death of Arnold Armstrong.  Now Halsey was here to speak for
himself:  I should learn everything that had puzzled me.

"I saw it in the paper to-night for the first time," he was saying.
"It knocked me dumb.  When I think of this houseful of women, and a
thing like that occurring!"

Gertrude's face was still set and white.  "That isn't all, Halsey," she
said.  "You and--and Jack left almost at the time it happened.  The
detective here thinks that you--that we--know something about it."

"The devil he does!" Halsey's eyes were fairly starting from his head.
"I beg your pardon, Aunt Ray, but--the fellow's a lunatic."

"Tell me everything, won't you, Halsey?" I begged.  "Tell me where you
went that night, or rather morning, and why you went as you did.  This
has been a terrible forty-eight hours for all of us."

He stood staring at me, and I could see the horror of the situation
dawning in his face.

"I can't tell you where I went, Aunt Ray," he said, after a moment.
"As to why, you will learn that soon enough.  But Gertrude knows that
Jack and I left the house before this thing--this horrible
murder--occurred."

"Mr. Jamieson does not believe me," Gertrude said drearily. "Halsey, if
the worst comes, if they should arrest you, you must--tell."

"I shall tell nothing," he said with a new sternness in his voice.
"Aunt Ray, it was necessary for Jack and me to leave that night.  I can
not tell you why--just yet.  As to where we went, if I have to depend
on that as an alibi, I shall not tell.  The whole thing is an
absurdity, a trumped-up charge that can not possibly be serious."

"Has Mr. Bailey gone back to the city," I demanded, "or to the club?"

"Neither," defiantly; "at the present moment I do not know where he is."

"Halsey," I asked gravely, leaning forward, "have you the slightest
suspicion who killed Arnold Armstrong?  The police think he was
admitted from within, and that he was shot down from above, by someone
on the circular staircase."

"I know nothing of it," he maintained; but I fancied I caught a sudden
glance at Gertrude, a flash of something that died as it came.

As quietly, as calmly as I could, I went over the whole story, from the
night Liddy and I had been alone up to the strange experience of Rosie
and her pursuer.  The basket still stood on the table, a mute witness
to this last mystifying occurrence.

"There is something else," I said hesitatingly, at the last. "Halsey, I
have never told this even to Gertrude, but the morning after the crime,
I found, in a tulip bed, a revolver.  It--it was yours, Halsey."

For an appreciable moment Halsey stared at me.  Then he turned to
Gertrude.

"My revolver, Trude!" he exclaimed.  "Why, Jack took my revolver with
him, didn't he?"

"Oh, for Heaven's sake don't say that," I implored.  "The detective
thinks possibly Jack Bailey came back, and--and the thing happened
then."

"He didn't come back," Halsey said sternly.  "Gertrude, when you
brought down a revolver that night for Jack to take with him, what one
did you bring?  Mine?"

Gertrude was defiant now.

"No.  Yours was loaded, and I was afraid of what Jack might do.  I gave
him one I have had for a year or two.  It was empty."

Halsey threw up both hands despairingly.

"If that isn't like a girl!" he said.  "Why didn't you do what I asked
you to, Gertrude?  You send Bailey off with an empty gun, and throw
mine in a tulip bed, of all places on earth!  Mine was a thirty-eight
caliber.  The inquest will show, of course, that the bullet that killed
Armstrong was a thirty-eight.  Then where shall I be?"

"You forget," I broke in, "that I have the revolver, and that no one
knows about it."


But Gertrude had risen angrily.

"I can not stand it; it is always with me," she cried.  "Halsey, I did
not throw your revolver into the tulip bed. I--think--you--did
it--yourself!"

They stared at each other across the big library table, with young eyes
all at once hard, suspicious.  And then Gertrude held out both hands to
him appealingly.

"We must not," she said brokenly.  "Just now, with so much at stake,
it--is shameful.  I know you are as ignorant as I am. Make me believe
it, Halsey."

Halsey soothed her as best he could, and the breach seemed healed.  But
long after I went to bed he sat down-stairs in the living-room alone,
and I knew he was going over the case as he had learned it.  Some
things were clear to him that were dark to me.  He knew, and Gertrude,
too, why Jack Bailey and he had gone away that night, as they did.  He
knew where they had been for the last forty-eight hours, and why Jack
Bailey had not returned with him.  It seemed to me that without fuller
confidence from both the children--they are always children to me--I
should never be able to learn anything.

As I was finally getting ready for bed, Halsey came up-stairs and
knocked at my door.  When I had got into a negligee--I used to say
wrapper before Gertrude came back from school--I let him in. He stood
in the doorway a moment, and then he went into agonies of silent mirth.
I sat down on the side of the bed and waited in severe silence for him
to stop, but he only seemed to grow worse.

When he had recovered he took me by the elbow and pulled me in front of
the mirror.

"'How to be beautiful,'" he quoted.  "'Advice to maids and matrons,' by
Beatrice Fairfax!"  And then I saw myself.  I had neglected to remove
my wrinkle eradicators, and I presume my appearance was odd.  I believe
that it is a woman's duty to care for her looks, but it is much like
telling a necessary falsehood--one must not be found out.  By the time
I got them off Halsey was serious again, and I listened to his story.

"Aunt Ray," he began, extinguishing his cigarette on the back of my
ivory hair-brush, "I would give a lot to tell you the whole thing.
But--I can't, for a day or so, anyhow.  But one thing I might have told
you a long time ago.  If you had known it, you would not have suspected
me for a moment of--of having anything to do with the attack on Arnold
Armstrong.  Goodness knows what I might do to a fellow like that, if
there was enough provocation, and I had a gun in my hand--under
ordinary circumstances.  But--I care a great deal about Louise
Armstrong, Aunt Ray.  I hope to marry her some day.  Is it likely I
would kill her brother?"

"Her stepbrother," I corrected.  "No, of course, it isn't likely, or
possible.  Why didn't you tell me, Halsey?"

"Well, there were two reasons," he said slowly.

"One was that you had a girl already picked out for me--"

"Nonsense," I broke in, and felt myself growing red.  I had, indeed,
one of the--but no matter.

"And the second reason," he pursued, "was that the Armstrongs would
have none of me."

I sat bolt upright at that and gasped.

"The Armstrongs!" I repeated.  "With old Peter Armstrong driving a
stage across the mountains while your grandfather was war governor--"

"Well, of course, the war governor's dead, and out of the matrimonial
market," Halsey interrupted.  "And the present Innes admits himself he
isn't good enough for--for Louise."

"Exactly," I said despairingly, "and, of course, you are taken at your
own valuation.  The Inneses are not always so self-depreciatory."

"Not always, no," he said, looking at me with his boyish smile.
"Fortunately, Louise doesn't agree with her family.  She's willing to
take me, war governor or no, provided her mother consents.  She isn't
overly-fond of her stepfather, but she adores her mother.  And now,
can't you see where this thing puts me?  Down and out, with all of
them."

"But the whole thing is absurd," I argued.  "And besides, Gertrude's
sworn statement that you left before Arnold Armstrong came would clear
you at once."

Halsey got up and began to pace the room, and the air of cheerfulness
dropped like a mask.

"She can't swear it," he said finally.  "Gertrude's story was true as
far as it went, but she didn't tell everything.  Arnold Armstrong came
here at two-thirty--came into the billiard-room and left in five
minutes.  He came to bring--something."

"Halsey," I cried, "you MUST tell me the whole truth.  Every time I see
a way for you to escape you block it yourself with this wall of
mystery.  What did he bring?"

"A telegram--for Bailey," he said.  "It came by special messenger from
town, and was--most important.  Bailey had started for here, and the
messenger had gone back to the city.  The steward gave it to Arnold,
who had been drinking all day and couldn't sleep, and was going for a
stroll in the direction of Sunnyside."

"And he brought it?"

"Yes."

"What was in the telegram?"

"I can tell you--as soon as certain things are made public.  It is only
a matter of days now," gloomily.

"And Gertrude's story of a telephone message?"

"Poor Trude!" he half whispered.  "Poor loyal little girl! Aunt Ray,
there was no such message.  No doubt your detective already knows that
and discredits all Gertrude told him."

"And when she went back, it was to get--the telegram?"

"Probably," Halsey said slowly.  "When you get to thinking about it,
Aunt Ray, it looks bad for all three of us, doesn't it?  And yet--I
will take my oath none of us even inadvertently killed that poor devil."

I looked at the closed door into Gertrude's dressing-room, and lowered
my voice.

"The same horrible thought keeps recurring to me," I whispered.
"Halsey, Gertrude probably had your revolver: she must have examined
it, anyhow, that night.  After you--and Jack had gone, what if that
ruffian came back, and she--and she--"

I couldn't finish.  Halsey stood looking at me with shut lips.

"She might have heard him fumbling at the door he had no key, the
police say--and thinking it was you, or Jack, she admitted him.  When
she saw her mistake she ran up the stairs, a step or two, and turning,
like an animal at bay, she fired."

Halsey had his hand over my lips before I finished, and in that
position we stared each at the other, our stricken glances crossing.

"The revolver--my revolver--thrown into the tulip bed!" he muttered to
himself.  "Thrown perhaps from an upper window: you say it was buried
deep.  Her prostration ever since, her--Aunt Ray, you don't think it
was Gertrude who fell down the clothes chute?"

I could only nod my head in a hopeless affirmative.



CHAPTER X

THE TRADERS BANK

The morning after Halsey's return was Tuesday.  Arnold Armstrong had
been found dead at the foot of the circular staircase at three o'clock
on Sunday morning.  The funeral services were to be held on Tuesday,
and the interment of the body was to be deferred until the Armstrongs
arrived from California.  No one, I think, was very sorry that Arnold
Armstrong was dead, but the manner of his death aroused some sympathy
and an enormous amount of curiosity.  Mrs. Ogden Fitzhugh, a cousin,
took charge of the arrangements, and everything, I believe, was as
quiet as possible.  I gave Thomas Johnson and Mrs. Watson permission to
go into town to pay their last respects to the dead man, but for some
reason they did not care to go.

Halsey spent part of the day with Mr. Jamieson, but he said nothing of
what happened.  He looked grave and anxious, and he had a long
conversation with Gertrude late in the afternoon.

Tuesday evening found us quiet, with the quiet that precedes an
explosion.  Gertrude and Halsey were both gloomy and distraught, and as
Liddy had already discovered that some of the china was broken--it is
impossible to have any secrets from an old servant--I was not in a
pleasant humor myself.  Warner brought up the afternoon mail and the
evening papers at seven--I was curious to know what the papers said of
the murder.  We had turned away at least a dozen reporters.  But I read
over the head-line that ran half-way across the top of the Gazette
twice before I comprehended it.  Halsey had opened the Chronicle and
was staring at it fixedly.

"The Traders' Bank closes its doors!" was what I read, and then I put
down the paper and looked across the table.

"Did you know of this?" I asked Halsey.

"I expected it.  But not so soon," he replied.

"And you?" to Gertrude.

"Jack--told us--something," Gertrude said faintly.  "Oh, Halsey, what
can he do now?"

"Jack!" I said scornfully.  "Your Jack's flight is easy enough to
explain now.  And you helped him, both of you, to get away!  You get
that from your mother; it isn't an Innes trait. Do you know that every
dollar you have, both of you, is in that bank?"

Gertrude tried to speak, but Halsey stopped her.

"That isn't all, Gertrude," he said quietly; "Jack is--under arrest."

"Under arrest!" Gertrude screamed, and tore the paper out of his hand.
She glanced at the heading, then she crumpled the newspaper into a ball
and flung it to the floor.  While Halsey, looking stricken and white,
was trying to smooth it out and read it, Gertrude had dropped her head
on the table and was sobbing stormily.

I have the clipping somewhere, but just now I can remember only the
essentials.

On the afternoon before, Monday, while the Traders' Bank was in the
rush of closing hour, between two and three, Mr. Jacob Trautman,
President of the Pearl Brewing Company, came into the bank to lift a
loan.  As security for the loan he had deposited some three hundred
International Steamship Company 5's, in total value three hundred
thousand dollars.  Mr. Trautman went to the loan clerk and, after
certain formalities had been gone through, the loan clerk went to the
vault.  Mr. Trautman, who was a large and genial German, waited for a
time, whistling under his breath.  The loan clerk did not come back.
After an interval, Mr. Trautman saw the loan clerk emerge from the
vault and go to the assistant cashier: the two went hurriedly to the
vault.  A lapse of another ten minutes, and the assistant cashier came
out and approached Mr. Trautman.  He was noticeably white and
trembling.  Mr. Trautman was told that through an oversight the bonds
had been misplaced, and was asked to return the following morning, when
everything would be made all right.

Mr. Trautman, however, was a shrewd business man, and he did not like
the appearance of things.  He left the bank apparently satisfied, and
within thirty minutes he had called up three different members of the
Traders' Board of Directors.  At three-thirty there was a hastily
convened board meeting, with some stormy scenes, and late in the
afternoon a national bank examiner was in possession of the books.  The
bank had not opened for business on Tuesday.

At twelve-thirty o'clock the Saturday before, as soon as the business
of the day was closed, Mr. John Bailey, the cashier of the defunct
bank, had taken his hat and departed.  During the afternoon he had
called up Mr. Aronson, a member of the board, and said he was ill, and
might not be at the bank for a day or two.  As Bailey was highly
thought of, Mr. Aronson merely expressed a regret.  From that time
until Monday night, when Mr. Bailey had surrendered to the police,
little was known of his movements.  Some time after one on Saturday he
had entered the Western Union office at Cherry and White Streets and
had sent two telegrams.  He was at the Greenwood Country Club on
Saturday night, and appeared unlike himself.  It was reported that he
would be released under enormous bond, some time that day, Tuesday.

The article closed by saying that while the officers of the bank
refused to talk until the examiner had finished his work, it was known
that securities aggregating a million and a quarter were missing.  Then
there was a diatribe on the possibility of such an occurrence; on the
folly of a one-man bank, and of a Board of Directors that met only to
lunch together and to listen to a brief report from the cashier, and on
the poor policy of a government that arranges a three or four-day
examination twice a year.  The mystery, it insinuated, had not been
cleared by the arrest of the cashier.  Before now minor officials had
been used to cloak the misdeeds of men higher up.  Inseparable as the
words "speculation" and "peculation" have grown to be, John Bailey was
not known to be in the stock market.  His only words, after his
surrender, had been "Send for Mr. Armstrong at once." The telegraph
message which had finally reached the President of the Traders' Bank,
in an interior town in California, had been responded to by a telegram
from Doctor Walker, the young physician who was traveling with the
Armstrong family, saying that Paul Armstrong was very ill and unable to
travel.

That was how things stood that Tuesday evening.  The Traders' Bank had
suspended payment, and John Bailey was under arrest, charged with
wrecking it; Paul Armstrong lay very ill in California, and his only
son had been murdered two days before. I sat dazed and bewildered.  The
children's money was gone: that was bad enough, though I had plenty, if
they would let me share. But Gertrude's grief was beyond any power of
mine to comfort; the man she had chosen stood accused of a colossal
embezzlement--and even worse.  For in the instant that I sat there I
seemed to see the coils closing around John Bailey as the murderer of
Arnold Armstrong.

Gertrude lifted her head at last and stared across the table at Halsey.

"Why did he do it?" she wailed.  "Couldn't you stop him, Halsey? It was
suicidal to go back!"

Halsey was looking steadily through the windows of the breakfast-room,
but it was evident he saw nothing.

"It was the only thing he could do, Trude," he said at last. "Aunt Ray,
when I found Jack at the Greenwood Club last Saturday night, he was
frantic.  I can not talk until Jack tells me I may, but--he is
absolutely innocent of all this, believe me.  I thought, Trude and I
thought, we were helping him, but it was the wrong way.  He came back.
Isn't that the act of an innocent man?"

"Then why did he leave at all?" I asked, unconvinced.  "What innocent
man would run away from here at three o'clock in the morning?  Doesn't
it look rather as though he thought it impossible to escape?"

Gertrude rose angrily.  "You are not even just!" she flamed. "You don't
know anything about it, and you condemn him!"

"I know that we have all lost a great deal of money," I said.  "I shall
believe Mr. Bailey innocent the moment he is shown to be. You profess
to know the truth, but you can not tell me!  What am I to think?"

Halsey leaned over and patted my hand.

"You must take us on faith," he said.  "Jack Bailey hasn't a penny that
doesn't belong to him; the guilty man will be known in a day or so."

"I shall believe that when it is proved," I said grimly.  "In the
meantime, I take no one on faith.  The Inneses never do."

Gertrude, who had been standing aloof at a window, turned suddenly.
"But when the bonds are offered for sale, Halsey, won't the thief be
detected at once?"

Halsey turned with a superior smile.

"It wouldn't be done that way," he said.  "They would be taken out of
the vault by some one who had access to it, and used as collateral for
a loan in another bank.  It would be possible to realize eighty per
cent. of their face value."

"In cash?"

"In cash."

"But the man who did it--he would be known?"

"Yes.  I tell you both, as sure as I stand here, I believe that Paul
Armstrong looted his own bank.  I believe he has a million at least, as
the result, and that he will never come back.  I'm worse than a pauper
now.  I can't ask Louise to share nothing a year with me and when I
think of this disgrace for her, I'm crazy."

The most ordinary events of life seemed pregnant with possibilities
that day, and when Halsey was called to the telephone, I ceased all
pretense at eating.  When he came back from the telephone his face
showed that something had occurred. He waited, however, until Thomas
left the dining-room: then he told us.

"Paul Armstrong is dead," he announced gravely.  "He died this morning
in California.  Whatever he did, he is beyond the law now."

Gertrude turned pale.

"And the only man who could have cleared Jack can never do it!" she
said despairingly.

"Also," I replied coldly, "Mr. Armstrong is for ever beyond the power
of defending himself.  When your Jack comes to me, with some two
hundred thousand dollars in his hands, which is about what you have
lost, I shall believe him innocent."

Halsey threw his cigarette away and turned on me.

"There you go!" he exclaimed.  "If he was the thief, he could return
the money, of course.  If he is innocent, he probably hasn't a tenth of
that amount in the world.  In his hands! That's like a woman."

Gertrude, who had been pale and despairing during the early part of the
conversation, had flushed an indignant red.  She got up and drew
herself to her slender height, looking down at me with the scorn of the
young and positive.

"You are the only mother I ever had," she said tensely.  "I have given
you all I would have given my mother, had she lived--my love, my trust.
And now, when I need you most, you fail me.  I tell you, John Bailey is
a good man, an honest man.  If you say he is not, you--you--"

"Gertrude," Halsey broke in sharply.  She dropped beside the table and,
burying her face in her arms broke into a storm of tears.

"I love him--love him," she sobbed, in a surrender that was totally
unlike her.  "Oh, I never thought it would be like this. I can't bear
it. I can't."

Halsey and I stood helpless before the storm.  I would have tried to
comfort her, but she had put me away, and there was something aloof in
her grief, something new and strange.  At last, when her sorrow had
subsided to the dry shaking sobs of a tired child, without raising her
head she put out one groping hand.

"Aunt Ray!" she whispered.  In a moment I was on my knees beside her,
her arm around my neck, her cheek against my hair.

"Where am I in this?" Halsey said suddenly and tried to put his arms
around us both.  It was a welcome distraction, and Gertrude was soon
herself again.  The little storm had cleared the air. Nevertheless, my
opinion remained unchanged.  There was much to be cleared up before I
would consent to any renewal of my acquaintance with John Bailey.  And
Halsey and Gertrude knew it, knowing me.



CHAPTER XI

HALSEY MAKES A CAPTURE

It was about half-past eight when we left the dining-room and still
engrossed with one subject, the failure of the bank and its attendant
evils Halsey and I went out into the grounds for a stroll Gertrude
followed us shortly.  "The light was thickening," to appropriate
Shakespeare's description of twilight, and once again the tree-toads
and the crickets were making night throb with their tiny life.  It was
almost oppressively lonely, in spite of its beauty, and I felt a
sickening pang of homesickness for my city at night--for the clatter of
horses' feet on cemented paving, for the lights, the voices, the sound
of children playing.  The country after dark oppresses me.  The stars,
quite eclipsed in the city by the electric lights, here become
insistent, assertive.  Whether I want to or not, I find myself looking
for the few I know by name, and feeling ridiculously new and small by
contrast--always an unpleasant sensation.

After Gertrude joined us, we avoided any further mention of the murder.
To Halsey, as to me, there was ever present, I am sure, the thought of
our conversation of the night before.  As we strolled back and forth
along the drive, Mr. Jamieson emerged from the shadow of the trees.

"Good evening," he said, managing to include Gertrude in his bow.

Gertrude had never been even ordinarily courteous to him, and she
nodded coldly.  Halsey, however, was more cordial, although we were all
constrained enough.  He and Gertrude went on together, leaving the
detective to walk with me.  As soon as they were out of earshot, he
turned to me.

"Do you know, Miss Innes," he said, "the deeper I go into this thing,
the more strange it seems to me.  I am very sorry for Miss Gertrude.
It looks as if Bailey, whom she has tried so hard to save, is worse
than a rascal; and after her plucky fight for him, it seems hard."

I looked through the dusk to where Gertrude's light dinner dress
gleamed among the trees.  She HAD made a plucky fight, poor child.
Whatever she might have been driven to do, I could find nothing but a
deep sympathy for her.  If she had only come to me with the whole truth
then!

"Miss Innes," Mr. Jamieson was saying, "in the last three days, have
you seen a--any suspicious figures around the grounds? Any--woman?"

"No," I replied.  "I have a houseful of maids that will bear watching,
one and all.  But there has been no strange woman near the house or
Liddy would have seen her, you may be sure.  She has a telescopic eye."

Mr. Jamieson looked thoughtful.

"It may not amount to anything," he said slowly.  "It is difficult to
get any perspective on things around here, because every one down in
the village is sure he saw the murderer, either before or since the
crime.  And half of them will stretch a point or two as to facts, to be
obliging.  But the man who drives the hack down there tells a story
that may possibly prove to be important."

"I have heard it, I think.  Was it the one the parlor maid brought up
yesterday, about a ghost wringing its hands on the roof?  Or perhaps
it's the one the milk-boy heard: a tramp washing a dirty shirt,
presumably bloody, in the creek below the bridge?"

I could see the gleam of Mr. Jamieson's teeth, as he smiled.

"Neither," he said.  "But Matthew Geist, which is our friend's name,
claims that on Saturday night, at nine-thirty, a veiled lady--"

"I knew it would be a veiled lady," I broke in.

"A veiled lady," he persisted, "who was apparently young and beautiful,
engaged his hack and asked to be driven to Sunnyside. Near the gate,
however, she made him stop, in spite of his remonstrances, saying she
preferred to walk to the house.  She paid him, and he left her there.
Now, Miss Innes, you had no such visitor, I believe?"

"None," I said decidedly.

"Geist thought it might be a maid, as you had got a supply that day.
But he said her getting out near the gate puzzled him. Anyhow, we have
now one veiled lady, who, with the ghostly intruder of Friday night,
makes two assets that I hardly know what to do with."

"It is mystifying," I admitted, "although I can think of one possible
explanation.  The path from the Greenwood Club to the village enters
the road near the lodge gate.  A woman who wished to reach the Country
Club, unperceived, might choose such a method.  There are plenty of
women there."

I think this gave him something to ponder, for in a short time he said
good night and left.  But I myself was far from satisfied. I was
determined, however, on one thing.  If my suspicions--for I had
suspicions--were true, I would make my own investigations, and Mr.
Jamieson should learn only what was good for him to know.

We went back to the house, and Gertrude, who was more like herself
since her talk with Halsey, sat down at the mahogany desk in the
living-room to write a letter.  Halsey prowled up and down the entire
east wing, now in the card-room, now in the billiard-room, and now and
then blowing his clouds of tobacco smoke among the pink and gold
hangings of the drawing-room.  After a little I joined him in the
billiard-room, and together we went over the details of the discovery
of the body.

The card-room was quite dark.  Where we sat, in the billiard-room, only
one of the side brackets was lighted, and we spoke in subdued tones, as
the hour and the subject seemed to demand. When I spoke of the figure
Liddy and I had seen on the porch through the card-room window Friday
night, Halsey sauntered into the darkened room, and together we stood
there, much as Liddy and I had done that other night.

The window was the same grayish rectangle in the blackness as before.
A few feet away in the hall was the spot where the body of Arnold
Armstrong had been found.  I was a bit nervous, and I put my hand on
Halsey's sleeve.  Suddenly, from the top of the staircase above us came
the sound of a cautious footstep.  At first I was not sure, but
Halsey's attitude told me he had heard and was listening.  The step,
slow, measured, infinitely cautious, was nearer now.  Halsey tried to
loosen my fingers, but I was in a paralysis of fright.

The swish of a body against the curving rail, as if for guidance, was
plain enough, and now whoever it was had reached the foot of the
staircase and had caught a glimpse of our rigid silhouettes against the
billiard-room doorway.  Halsey threw me off then and strode forward.

"Who is it?" he called imperiously, and took a half dozen rapid strides
toward the foot of the staircase.  Then I heard him mutter something;
there was the crash of a falling body, the slam of the outer door, and,
for an instant, quiet.  I screamed, I think.  Then I remember turning
on the lights and finding Halsey, white with fury, trying to untangle
himself from something warm and fleecy.  He had cut his forehead a
little on the lowest step of the stairs, and he was rather a ghastly
sight.

He flung the white object at me, and, jerking open the outer door,
raced into the darkness.

Gertrude had come on hearing the noise, and now we stood, staring at
each other over--of all things on earth--a white silk and wool blanket,
exquisitely fine!  It was the most unghostly thing in the world, with
its lavender border and its faint scent. Gertrude was the first to
speak.

"Somebody--had it?" she asked.

"Yes.  Halsey tried to stop whoever it was and fell.  Gertrude, that
blanket is not mine.  I have never seen before."

She held it up and looked at it: then she went to the door on to the
veranda and threw it open.  Perhaps a hundred feet from the house were
two figures, that moved slowly toward us as we looked.

When they came within range of the light, I recognized Halsey, and with
him Mrs. Watson, the housekeeper.



CHAPTER XII

ONE MYSTERY FOR ANOTHER

The most commonplace incident takes on a new appearance if the
attendant circumstances are unusual.  There was no reason on earth why
Mrs. Watson should not have carried a blanket down the east wing
staircase, if she so desired.  But to take a blanket down at eleven
o'clock at night, with every precaution as to noise, and, when
discovered, to fling it at Halsey and bolt--Halsey's word, and a good
one--into the grounds,--this made the incident more than significant.

They moved slowly across the lawn and up the steps.  Halsey was talking
quietly, and Mrs. Watson was looking down and listening. She was a
woman of a certain amount of dignity, most efficient, so far as I could
see, although Liddy would have found fault if she dared.  But just now
Mrs. Watson's face was an enigma.  She was defiant, I think, under her
mask of submission, and she still showed the effect of nervous shock.

"Mrs. Watson," I said severely, "will you be so good as to explain this
rather unusual occurrence?"

"I don't think it so unusual, Miss Innes."  Her voice was deep and very
clear: just now it was somewhat tremulous.  "I was taking a blanket
down to Thomas, who is--not well to-night, and I used this staircase,
as being nearer the path to the lodge. When--Mr. Innes called and then
rushed at me, I--I was alarmed, and flung the blanket at him."

Halsey was examining the cut on his forehead in a small mirror on the
wall.  It was not much of an injury, but it had bled freely, and his
appearance was rather terrifying.

"Thomas ill?" he said, over his shoulder.  "Why, _I_ thought I saw
Thomas out there as you made that cyclonic break out of the door and
over the porch."

I could see that under pretense of examining his injury he was watching
her through the mirror.

"Is this one of the servants' blankets, Mrs. Watson?" I asked, holding
up its luxurious folds to the light.

"Everything else is locked away," she replied.  Which was true enough,
no doubt.  I had rented the house without bed furnishings.

"If Thomas is ill," Halsey said, "some member of the family ought to go
down to see him.  You needn't bother, Mrs. Watson.  I will take the
blanket."

She drew herself up quickly, as if in protest, but she found nothing to
say.  She stood smoothing the folds of her dead black dress, her face
as white as chalk above it.  Then she seemed to make up her mind.

"Very well, Mr. Innes," she said.  "Perhaps you would better go. I have
done all I could."

And then she turned and went up the circular staircase, moving slowly
and with a certain dignity.  Below, the three of us stared at one
another across the intervening white blanket.

"Upon my word," Halsey broke out, "this place is a walking nightmare.
I have the feeling that we three outsiders who have paid our money for
the privilege of staying in this spook-factory, are living on the very
top of things.  We're on the lid, so to speak.  Now and then we get a
sight of the things inside, but we are not a part of them."

"Do you suppose," Gertrude asked doubtfully, "that she really meant
that blanket for Thomas?"

"Thomas was standing beside that magnolia tree," Halsey replied, "when
I ran after Mrs. Watson.  It's down to this, Aunt Ray. Rosie's basket
and Mrs. Watson's blanket can only mean one thing: there is somebody
hiding or being hidden in the lodge.  It wouldn't surprise me if we
hold the key to the whole situation now.  Anyhow, I'm going to the
lodge to investigate."

Gertrude wanted to go, too, but she looked so shaken that I insisted
she should not.  I sent for Liddy to help her to bed, and then Halsey
and I started for the lodge.  The grass was heavy with dew, and,
man-like, Halsey chose the shortest way across the lawn.  Half-way,
however, he stopped.

"We'd better go by the drive," he said.  "This isn't a lawn; it's a
field.  Where's the gardener these days?"

"There isn't any," I said meekly.  "We have been thankful enough, so
far, to have our meals prepared and served and the beds aired. The
gardener who belongs here is working at the club."

"Remind me to-morrow to send out a man from town," he said.  "I know
the very fellow."

I record this scrap of conversation, just as I have tried to put down
anything and everything that had a bearing on what followed, because
the gardener Halsey sent the next day played an important part in the
events of the next few weeks--events that culminated, as you know, by
stirring the country profoundly.  At that time, however, I was busy
trying to keep my skirts dry, and paid little or no attention to what
seemed then a most trivial remark.

Along the drive I showed Halsey where I had found Rosie's basket with
the bits of broken china piled inside.  He was rather skeptical.

"Warner probably," he said when I had finished.  "Began it as a joke on
Rosie, and ended by picking up the broken china out of the road,
knowing it would play hob with the tires of the car." Which shows how
near one can come to the truth, and yet miss it altogether.

At the lodge everything was quiet.  There was a light in the
sitting-room down-stairs, and a faint gleam, as if from a shaded lamp,
in one of the upper rooms.  Halsey stopped and examined the lodge with
calculating eyes.

"I don't know, Aunt Ray," he said dubiously; "this is hardly a woman's
affair.  If there's a scrap of any kind, you hike for the timber."
Which was Halsey's solicitous care for me, put into vernacular.

"I shall stay right here," I said, and crossing the small veranda, now
shaded and fragrant with honeysuckle, I hammered the knocker on the
door.

Thomas opened the door himself--Thomas, fully dressed and in his
customary health.  I had the blanket over my arm.

"I brought the blanket, Thomas," I said; "I am sorry you are so ill."

The old man stood staring at me and then at the blanket.  His confusion
under other circumstances would have been ludicrous.

"What!  Not ill?" Halsey said from the step.  "Thomas, I'm afraid
you've been malingering."

Thomas seemed to have been debating something with himself.  Now he
stepped out on the porch and closed the door gently behind him.

"I reckon you bettah come in, Mis' Innes," he said, speaking
cautiously.  "It's got so I dunno what to do, and it's boun' to come
out some time er ruther."

He threw the door open then, and I stepped inside, Halsey close behind.
In the sitting-room the old negro turned with quiet dignity to Halsey.

"You bettah sit down, sah," he said.  "It's a place for a woman, sah."

Things were not turning out the way Halsey expected.  He sat down on
the center-table, with his hands thrust in his pockets, and watched me
as I followed Thomas up the narrow stairs.  At the top a woman was
standing, and a second glance showed me it was Rosie.

She shrank back a little, but I said nothing.  And then Thomas motioned
to a partly open door, and I went in.

The lodge boasted three bedrooms up-stairs, all comfortably furnished.
In this one, the largest and airiest, a night lamp was burning, and by
its light I could make out a plain white metal bed.  A girl was asleep
there--or in a half stupor, for she muttered something now and then.
Rosie had taken her courage in her hands, and coming in had turned up
the light.  It was only then that I knew.  Fever-flushed, ill as she
was, I recognized Louise Armstrong.

I stood gazing down at her in a stupor of amazement.  Louise here,
hiding at the lodge, ill and alone!  Rosie came up to the bed and
smoothed the white counterpane.

"I am afraid she is worse to-night," she ventured at last. I put my
hand on the sick girl's forehead.  It was burning with fever, and I
turned to where Thomas lingered in the hallway.

"Will you tell me what you mean, Thomas Johnson, by not telling me this
before?" I demanded indignantly.

Thomas quailed.

"Mis' Louise wouldn' let me," he said earnestly.  "I wanted to. She
ought to 'a' had a doctor the night she came, but she wouldn' hear to
it.  Is she--is she very bad, Mis' Innes?"

"Bad enough," I said coldly.  "Send Mr. Innes up."

Halsey came up the stairs slowly, looking rather interested and
inclined to be amused.  For a moment he could not see anything
distinctly in the darkened room; he stopped, glanced at Rosie and at
me, and then his eyes fell on the restless head on the pillow.

I think he felt who it was before he really saw her; he crossed the
room in a couple of strides and bent over the bed.

"Louise!" he said softly; but she did not reply, and her eyes showed no
recognition.  Halsey was young, and illness was new to him.  He
straightened himself slowly, still watching her, and caught my arm.

"She's dying, Aunt Ray!" he said huskily.  "Dying!  Why, she doesn't
know me!"

"Fudge!" I snapped, being apt to grow irritable when my sympathies are
aroused.  "She's doing nothing of the sort,--and don't pinch my arm.
If you want something to do, go and choke Thomas."

But at that moment Louise roused from her stupor to cough, and at the
end of the paroxysm, as Rosie laid her back, exhausted, she knew us.
That was all Halsey wanted; to him consciousness was recovery.  He
dropped on his knees beside the bed, and tried to tell her she was all
right, and we would bring her around in a hurry, and how beautiful she
looked--only to break down utterly and have to stop.  And at that I
came to my senses, and put him out.

"This instant!" I ordered, as he hesitated.  "And send Rosie here."

He did not go far.  He sat on the top step of the stairs, only leaving
to telephone for a doctor, and getting in everybody's way in his
eagerness to fetch and carry.  I got him away finally, by sending him
to fix up the car as a sort of ambulance, in case the doctor would
allow the sick girl to be moved.  He sent Gertrude down to the lodge
loaded with all manner of impossible things, including an armful of
Turkish towels and a box of mustard plasters, and as the two girls had
known each other somewhat before, Louise brightened perceptibly when
she saw her.

When the doctor from Englewood--the Casanova doctor, Doctor Walker,
being away--had started for Sunnyside, and I had got Thomas to stop
trying to explain what he did not understand himself, I had a long talk
with the old man, and this is what I learned.

On Saturday evening before, about ten o'clock, he had been reading in
the sitting-room down-stairs, when some one rapped at the door.  The
old man was alone, Warner not having arrived, and at first he was
uncertain about opening the door.  He did so finally, and was amazed at
being confronted by Louise Armstrong. Thomas was an old family servant,
having been with the present Mrs. Armstrong since she was a child, and
he was overwhelmed at seeing Louise.  He saw that she was excited and
tired, and he drew her into the sitting-room and made her sit down.
After a while he went to the house and brought Mrs. Watson, and they
talked until late.  The old man said Louise was in trouble, and seemed
frightened.  Mrs. Watson made some tea and took it to the lodge, but
Louise made them both promise to keep her presence a secret.  She had
not known that Sunnyside was rented, and whatever her trouble was, this
complicated things.  She seemed puzzled.  Her stepfather and her mother
were still in California--that was all she would say about them.  Why
she had run away no one could imagine.  Mr. Arnold Armstrong was at the
Greenwood Club, and at last Thomas, not knowing what else to do, went
over there along the path.  It was almost midnight. Part-way over he
met Armstrong himself and brought him to the lodge. Mrs. Watson had
gone to the house for some bed-linen, it having been arranged that
under the circumstances Louise would be better at the lodge until
morning.  Arnold Armstrong and Louise had a long conference, during
which he was heard to storm and become very violent.  When he left it
was after two.  He had gone up to the house--Thomas did not know
why--and at three o'clock he was shot at the foot of the circular
staircase.

The following morning Louise had been ill.  She had asked for Arnold,
and was told he had left town.  Thomas had not the moral courage to
tell her of the crime.  She refused a doctor, and shrank morbidly from
having her presence known.  Mrs. Watson and Thomas had had their hands
full, and at last Rosie had been enlisted to help them.  She carried
necessary provisions--little enough--to the lodge, and helped to keep
the secret.

Thomas told me quite frankly that he had been anxious to keep Louise's
presence hidden for this reason: they had all seen Arnold Armstrong
that night, and he, himself, for one, was known to have had no very
friendly feeling for the dead man.  As to the reason for Louise's
flight from California, or why she had not gone to the Fitzhughs', or
to some of her people in town, he had no more information than I had.
With the death of her stepfather and the prospect of the immediate
return of the family, things had become more and more impossible.  I
gathered that Thomas was as relieved as I at the turn events had taken.
No, she did not know of either of the deaths in the family.

Taken all around, I had only substituted one mystery for another.

If I knew now why Rosie had taken the basket of dishes, I did not know
who had spoken to her and followed her along the drive.  If I knew that
Louise was in the lodge, I did not know why she was there.  If I knew
that Arnold Armstrong had spent some time in the lodge the night before
he was murdered, I was no nearer the solution of the crime.  Who was
the midnight intruder who had so alarmed Liddy and myself?  Who had
fallen down the clothes chute?  Was Gertrude's lover a villain or a
victim?  Time was to answer all these things.



CHAPTER XIII

LOUISE

The doctor from Englewood came very soon, and I went up to see the sick
girl with him.  Halsey had gone to supervise the fitting of the car
with blankets and pillows, and Gertrude was opening and airing Louise's
own rooms at the house.  Her private sitting-room, bedroom and
dressing-room were as they had been when we came.  They occupied the
end of the east wing, beyond the circular staircase, and we had not
even opened them.

The girl herself was too ill to notice what was being done. When, with
the help of the doctor, who was a fatherly man with a family of girls
at home, we got her to the house and up the stairs into bed, she
dropped into a feverish sleep, which lasted until morning.  Doctor
Stewart--that was the Englewood doctor--stayed almost all night, giving
the medicine himself, and watching her closely.  Afterward he told me
that she had had a narrow escape from pneumonia, and that the cerebral
symptoms had been rather alarming.  I said I was glad it wasn't an
"itis" of some kind, anyhow, and he smiled solemnly.

He left after breakfast, saying that he thought the worst of the danger
was over, and that she must be kept very quiet.

"The shock of two deaths, I suppose, has done this," he remarked,
picking up his case.  "It has been very deplorable."

I hastened to set him right.

"She does not know of either, Doctor," I said.  "Please do not mention
them to her."

He looked as surprised as a medical man ever does.

"I do not know the family," he said, preparing to get into his top
buggy.  "Young Walker, down in Casanova, has been attending them.  I
understand he is going to marry this young lady."

"You have been misinformed," I said stiffly.  "Miss Armstrong is going
to marry my nephew."

The doctor smiled as he picked up the reins.

"Young ladies are changeable these days," he said.  "We thought the
wedding was to occur soon.  Well, I will stop in this afternoon to see
how my patient is getting along."

He drove away then, and I stood looking after him.  He was a doctor of
the old school, of the class of family practitioner that is fast dying
out; a loyal and honorable gentleman who was at once physician and
confidential adviser to his patients.  When I was a girl we called in
the doctor alike when we had measles, or when mother's sister died in
the far West.  He cut out redundant tonsils and brought the babies with
the same air of inspiring self-confidence.  Nowadays it requires a
different specialist for each of these occurrences.  When the babies
cried, old Doctor Wainwright gave them peppermint and dropped warm
sweet oil in their ears with sublime faith that if it was not colic it
was earache.  When, at the end of a year, father met him driving in his
high side-bar buggy with the white mare ambling along, and asked for a
bill, the doctor used to go home, estimate what his services were worth
for that period, divide it in half--I don't think he kept any
books--and send father a statement, in a cramped hand, on a sheet of
ruled white paper.  He was an honored guest at all the weddings,
christenings, and funerals--yes, funerals--for every one knew he had
done his best, and there was no gainsaying the ways of Providence.

Ah, well, Doctor Wainwright is gone, and I am an elderly woman with an
increasing tendency to live in the past.  The contrast between my old
doctor at home and the Casanova doctor, Frank Walker, always rouses me
to wrath and digression.

Some time about noon of that day, Wednesday, Mrs. Ogden Fitzhugh
telephoned me.  I have the barest acquaintance with her--she managed to
be put on the governing board of the Old Ladies' Home and ruins their
digestions by sending them ice-cream and cake on every holiday.  Beyond
that, and her reputation at bridge, which is insufferably bad--she is
the worst player at the bridge club--I know little of her.  It was she
who had taken charge of Arnold Armstrong's funeral, however, and I went
at once to the telephone.

"Yes," I said, "this is Miss Innes."

"Miss Innes," she said volubly, "I have just received a very strange
telegram from my cousin, Mrs. Armstrong.  Her husband died yesterday,
in California and--wait, I will read you the message."

I knew what was coming, and I made up my mind at once.  If Louise
Armstrong had a good and sufficient reason for leaving her people and
coming home, a reason, moreover, that kept her from going at once to
Mrs. Ogden Fitzhugh, and that brought her to the lodge at Sunnyside
instead, it was not my intention to betray her.  Louise herself must
notify her people.  I do not justify myself now, but remember, I was in
a peculiar position toward the Armstrong family.  I was connected most
unpleasantly with a cold-blooded crime, and my niece and nephew were
practically beggared, either directly or indirectly, through the head
of the family.

Mrs. Fitzhugh had found the message.

"'Paul died yesterday.  Heart disease,'" she read.  "'Wire at once if
Louise is with you.'  You see, Miss Innes, Louise must have started
east, and Fanny is alarmed about her."

"Yes," I said.

"Louise is not here," Mrs. Fitzhugh went on, "and none of her
friends--the few who are still in town--has seen her.  I called you
because Sunnyside was not rented when she went away, and Louise might
have, gone there."

"I am sorry, Mrs. Fitzhugh, but I can not help you," I said, and was
immediately filled with compunction.  Suppose Louise grew worse?  Who
was I to play Providence in this case?  The anxious mother certainly
had a right to know that her daughter was in good hands.  So I broke in
on Mrs. Fitzhugh's voluble excuses for disturbing me.

"Mrs. Fitzhugh," I said.  "I was going to let you think I knew nothing
about Louise Armstrong, but I have changed my mind. Louise is here,
with me."  There was a clatter of ejaculations at the other end of the
wire.  "She is ill, and not able to be moved.  Moreover, she is unable
to see any one.  I wish you would wire her mother that she is with me,
and tell her not to worry. No, I do not know why she came east."

"But my dear Miss Innes!" Mrs. Fitzhugh began.  I cut in ruthlessly.

"I will send for you as soon as she can see you," I said.  "No, she is
not in a critical state now, but the doctor says she must have absolute
quiet."

When I had hung up the receiver, I sat down to think.  So Louise had
fled from her people in California, and had come east alone! It was not
a new idea, but why had she done it?  It occurred to me that Doctor
Walker might be concerned in it, might possibly have bothered her with
unwelcome attentions; but it seemed to me that Louise was hardly a girl
to take refuge in flight under such circumstances.  She had always been
high-spirited, with the well-poised head and buoyant step of the
outdoors girl. It must have been much more in keeping with Louise's
character, as I knew it, to resent vigorously any unwelcome attentions
from Doctor Walker.  It was the suitor whom I should have expected to
see in headlong flight, not the lady in the case.

The puzzle was no clearer at the end of the half-hour.  I picked up the
morning papers, which were still full of the looting of the Traders'
Bank, the interest at fever height again, on account of Paul
Armstrong's death.  The bank examiners were working on the books, and
said nothing for publication: John Bailey had been released on bond.
The body of Paul Armstrong would arrive Sunday and would be buried from
the Armstrong town house.  There were rumors that the dead man's estate
had been a comparatively small one.  The last paragraph was the
important one.

Walter P. Broadhurst, of the Marine Bank, had produced two hundred
American Traction bonds, which had been placed as security with the
Marine Bank for a loan of one hundred and sixty thousand dollars, made
to Paul Armstrong, just before his California trip.  The bonds were a
part of the missing traction bonds from the Traders' Bank!  While this
involved the late president of the wrecked bank, to my mind it by no
means cleared its cashier.

The gardener mentioned by Halsey came out about two o'clock in the
afternoon, and walked up from the station.  I was favorably impressed
by him.  His references were good--he had been employed by the Brays'
until they went to Europe, and he looked young and vigorous.  He asked
for one assistant, and I was glad enough to get off so easily.  He was
a pleasant-faced young fellow, with black hair and blue eyes, and his
name was Alexander Graham.  I have been particular about Alex, because,
as I said before, he played an important part later.

That afternoon I had a new insight into the character of the dead
banker.  I had my first conversation with Louise.  She sent for me, and
against my better judgment I went.  There were so many things she could
not be told, in her weakened condition, that I dreaded the interview.
It was much easier than I expected, however, because she asked no
questions.

Gertrude had gone to bed, having been up almost all night, and Halsey
was absent on one of those mysterious absences of his that grew more
and more frequent as time went on, until it culminated in the event of
the night of June the tenth.  Liddy was in attendance in the sick-room.
There being little or nothing to do, she seemed to spend her time
smoothing the wrinkles from the counterpane.  Louise lay under a field
of virgin white, folded back at an angle of geometrical exactness, and
necessitating a readjustment every time the sick girl turned.

Liddy heard my approach and came out to meet me.  She seemed to be in a
perpetual state of goose-flesh, and she had got in the habit of looking
past me when she talked, as if she saw things. It had the effect of
making me look over my shoulder to see what she was staring at, and was
intensely irritating.

"She's awake," Liddy said, looking uneasily down the circular
staircase, which was beside me.  "She was talkin' in her sleep
something awful--about dead men and coffins."

"Liddy," I said sternly, "did you breathe a word about everything not
being right here?"

Liddy's gaze had wandered to the door of the chute, now bolted securely.

"Not a word," she said, "beyond asking her a question or two, which
there was no harm in.  She says there never was a ghost known here."

I glared at her, speechless, and closing the door into Louise's
boudoir, to Liddy's great disappointment, I went on to the bedroom
beyond.

Whatever Paul Armstrong had been, he had been lavish with his
stepdaughter.  Gertrude's rooms at home were always beautiful
apartments, but the three rooms in the east wing at Sunnyside, set
apart for the daughter of the house, were much more splendid.

From the walls to the rugs on the floor, from the furniture to the
appointments of the bath, with its pool sunk in the floor instead of
the customary unlovely tub, everything was luxurious. In the bedroom
Louise was watching for me.  It was easy to see that she was much
improved; the flush was going, and the peculiar gasping breathing of
the night before was now a comfortable and easy respiration.

She held out her hand and I took it between both of mine.

"What can I say to you, Miss Innes?" she said slowly.  "To have come
like this--"

I thought she was going to break down, but she did not.

"You are not to think of anything but of getting well," I said, patting
her hand.  "When you are better, I am going to scold you for not coming
here at once.  This is your home, my dear, and of all people in the
world, Halsey's old aunt ought to make you welcome."

She smiled a little, sadly, I thought.

"I ought not to see Halsey," she said.  "Miss Innes, there are a great
many things you will never understand, I am afraid.  I am an impostor
on your sympathy, because I--I stay here and let you lavish care on me,
and all the time I know you are going to despise me."

"Nonsense!" I said briskly.  "Why, what would Halsey do to me if I even
ventured such a thing?  He is so big and masterful that if I dared to
be anything but rapturous over you, he would throw me out of a window.
Indeed, he would be quite capable of it."

She seemed scarcely to hear my facetious tone.  She had eloquent brown
eyes--the Inneses are fair, and are prone to a grayish-green optic that
is better for use than appearance--and they seemed now to be clouded
with trouble.

"Poor Halsey!" she said softly.  "Miss Innes, I can not marry him, and
I am afraid to tell him.  I am a coward--a coward!"

I sat beside the bed and stared at her.  She was too ill to argue with,
and, besides, sick people take queer fancies.

"We will talk about that when you are stronger," I said gently.

"But there are some things I must tell you," she insisted.  "You must
wonder how I came here, and why I stayed hidden at the lodge.  Dear old
Thomas has been almost crazy, Miss Innes.  I did not know that
Sunnyside was rented.  I knew my mother wished to rent it, without
telling my--stepfather, but the news must have reached her after I
left.  When I started east, I had only one idea--to be alone with my
thoughts for a time, to bury myself here.  Then, I--must have taken a
cold on the train."

"You came east in clothing suitable for California," I said, "and, like
all young girls nowadays, I don't suppose you wear flannels."  But she
was not listening.

"Miss Innes," she said, "has my stepbrother Arnold gone away?"

"What do you mean?" I asked, startled.  But Louise was literal.

"He didn't come back that night," she said, "and it was so important
that I should see him."

"I believe he has gone away," I replied uncertainly.  "Isn't it
something that we could attend to instead?"

But she shook her head.  "I must do it myself," she said dully. "My
mother must have rented Sunnyside without telling my stepfather,
and--Miss Innes, did you ever hear of any one being wretchedly poor in
the midst of luxury?

"Did you ever long, and long, for money--money to use without question,
money that no one would take you to task about?  My mother and I have
been surrounded for years with every indulgence everything that would
make a display.  But we have never had any money, Miss Innes; that must
have been why mother rented this house.  My stepfather pays out bills.
It's the most maddening, humiliating existence in the world.  I would
love honest poverty better."

"Never mind," I said; "when you and Halsey are married you can be as
honest as you like, and you will certainly be poor."

Halsey came to the door at that moment and I could hear him coaxing
Liddy for admission to the sick room.

"Shall I bring him in?" I asked Louise, uncertain what to do. The girl
seemed to shrink back among her pillows at the sound of his voice.  I
was vaguely irritated with her; there are few young fellows like
Halsey--straightforward, honest, and willing to sacrifice everything
for the one woman.  I knew one once, more than thirty years ago, who
was like that: he died a long time ago.  And sometimes I take out his
picture, with its cane and its queer silk hat, and look at it.  But of
late years it has grown too painful: he is always a boy--and I am an
old woman.  I would not bring him back if I could.

Perhaps it was some such memory that made me call out sharply.

"Come in, Halsey."  And then I took my sewing and went into the boudoir
beyond, to play propriety.  I did not try to hear what they said, but
every word came through the open door with curious distinctness.
Halsey had evidently gone over to the bed and I suppose he kissed her.
There was silence for a moment, as if words were superfluous things.

"I have been almost wild, sweetheart,"--Halsey's voice.  "Why didn't
you trust me, and send for me before?"

"It was because I couldn't trust myself," she said in a low tone.

"I am too weak to struggle to-day; oh, Halsey, how I have wanted to see
you!"

There was something I did not hear, then Halsey again.

"We could go away," he was saying.  "What does it matter about any one
in the world but just the two of us?  To be always together, like this,
hand in hand; Louise--don't tell me it isn't going to be.  I won't
believe you."

"You don't know; you don't know," Louise repeated dully. "Halsey, I
care--you know that--but--not enough to marry you."

"That is not true, Louise," he said sternly.  "You can not look at me
with your honest eyes and say that."

"I can not marry you," she repeated miserably.  "It's bad enough, isn't
it?  Don't make it worse.  Some day, before long, you will be glad."

"Then it is because you have never loved me."  There were depths of
hurt pride in his voice.  "You saw how much I loved you, and you let me
think you cared--for a while.  No--that isn't like you, Louise.  There
is something you haven't told me.  Is it--because there is some one
else?"

"Yes," almost inaudibly.

"Louise!  Oh, I don't believe it."

"It is true," she said sadly.  "Halsey, you must not try to see me
again.  As soon as I can, I am going away from here--where you are all
so much kinder than I deserve.  And whatever you hear about me, try to
think as well of me as you can.  I am going to marry--another man.  How
you must hate me--hate me!"

I could hear Halsey cross the room to the window.  Then, after a pause,
he went back to her again.  I could hardly sit still; I wanted to go in
and give her a good shaking.

"Then it's all over," he was saying with a long breath.  "The plans we
made together, the hopes, the--all of it--over!  Well, I'll not be a
baby, and I'll give you up the minute you say 'I don't love you and I
do love--some one else'!"

"I can not say that," she breathed, "but, very soon, I shall marry--the
other man."

I could hear Halsey's low triumphant laugh.

"I defy him," he said.  "Sweetheart, as long as you care for me, I am
not afraid."

The wind slammed the door between the two rooms just then, and I could
hear nothing more, although I moved my chair quite close. After a
discreet interval, I went into the other room, and found Louise alone.
She was staring with sad eyes at the cherub painted on the ceiling over
the bed, and because she looked tired I did not disturb her.



CHAPTER XIV

AN EGG-NOG AND A TELEGRAM

We had discovered Louise at the lodge Tuesday night.  It was Wednesday
I had my interview with her.  Thursday and Friday were uneventful, save
as they marked improvement in our patient. Gertrude spent almost all
the time with her, and the two had grown to be great friends.  But
certain things hung over me constantly; the coroner's inquest on the
death of Arnold Armstrong, to be held Saturday, and the arrival of Mrs.
Armstrong and young Doctor Walker, bringing the body of the dead
president of the Traders' Bank.  We had not told Louise of either death.

Then, too, I was anxious about the children.  With their mother's
inheritance swept away in the wreck of the bank, and with their love
affairs in a disastrous condition, things could scarcely be worse.
Added to that, the cook and Liddy had a flare-up over the proper way to
make beef-tea for Louise, and, of course, the cook left.

Mrs. Watson had been glad enough, I think, to turn Louise over to our
care, and Thomas went upstairs night and morning to greet his young
mistress from the doorway.  Poor Thomas!  He had the faculty--found
still in some old negroes, who cling to the traditions of slavery
days--of making his employer's interest his.  It was always "we" with
Thomas; I miss him sorely; pipe-smoking, obsequious, not over reliable,
kindly old man!

On Thursday Mr. Harton, the Armstrongs' legal adviser, called up from
town.  He had been advised, he said, that Mrs. Armstrong was coming
east with her husband's body and would arrive Monday.  He came with
some hesitation, he went on, to the fact that he had been further
instructed to ask me to relinquish my lease on Sunnyside, as it was
Mrs. Armstrong's desire to come directly there.

I was aghast.

"Here!" I said.  "Surely you are mistaken, Mr. Harton.  I should think,
after--what happened here only a few days ago, she would never wish to
come back."

"Nevertheless," he replied, "she is most anxious to come.  This is what
she says.  'Use every possible means to have Sunnyside vacated.  Must
go there at once.'"

"Mr. Harton," I said testily, "I am not going to do anything of the
kind.  I and mine have suffered enough at the hands of this family.  I
rented the house at an exorbitant figure and I have moved out here for
the summer.  My city home is dismantled and in the hands of decorators.
I have been here one week, during which I have had not a single night
of uninterrupted sleep, and I intend to stay until I have recuperated.
Moreover, if Mr. Armstrong died insolvent, as I believe was the case,
his widow ought to be glad to be rid of so expensive a piece of
property."

The lawyer cleared his throat.

"I am very sorry you have made this decision," he said.  "Miss Innes,
Mrs. Fitzhugh tells me Louise Armstrong is with you."

"She is."

"Has she been informed of this--double bereavement?"

"Not yet," I said.  "She has been very ill; perhaps to-night she can be
told."

"It is very sad; very sad," he said.  "I have a telegram for her, Mrs.
Innes.  Shall I send it out?"

"Better open it and read it to me," I suggested.  "If it is important,
that will save time."

There was a pause while Mr. Harton opened the telegram.  Then he read
it slowly, judicially.

"'Watch for Nina Carrington.  Home Monday.  Signed F. L. W.'"

"Hum!" I said.  "'Watch for Nina Carrington.  Home Monday.'  Very well,
Mr. Harton, I will tell her, but she is not in condition to watch for
any one."

"Well, Miss Innes, if you decide to--er--relinquish the lease, let me
know," the lawyer said.

"I shall not relinquish it," I replied, and I imagined his irritation
from the way he hung up the receiver.

I wrote the telegram down word for word, afraid to trust my memory, and
decided to ask Doctor Stewart how soon Louise might be told the truth.
The closing of the Traders' Bank I considered unnecessary for her to
know, but the death of her stepfather and stepbrother must be broken to
her soon, or she might hear it in some unexpected and shocking manner.

Doctor Stewart came about four o'clock, bringing his leather satchel
into the house with a great deal of care, and opening it at the foot of
the stairs to show me a dozen big yellow eggs nesting among the bottles.

"Real eggs," he said proudly.  "None of your anemic store eggs, but the
real thing--some of them still warm.  Feel them!  Egg-nog for Miss
Louise."

He was beaming with satisfaction, and before he left, he insisted on
going back to the pantry and making an egg-nog with his own hands.
Somehow, all the time he was doing it, I had a vision of Doctor
Willoughby, my nerve specialist in the city, trying to make an egg-nog.
I wondered if he ever prescribed anything so plebeian--and so
delicious.  And while Doctor Stewart whisked the eggs he talked.

"I said to Mrs. Stewart," he confided, a little red in the face from
the exertion, "after I went home the other day, that you would think me
an old gossip, for saying what I did about Walker and Miss Louise."

"Nothing of the sort," I protested.

"The fact is," he went on, evidently justifying him self, "I got that
piece of information just as we get a lot of things, through the
kitchen end of the house.  Young Walker's chauffeur--Walker's more
fashionable than I am, and he goes around the country in a Stanhope
car--well, his chauffeur comes to see our servant girl, and he told her
the whole thing.  I thought it was probable, because Walker spent a lot
of time up here last summer, when the family was here, and besides,
Riggs, that's Walker's man, had a very pat little story about the
doctor's building a house on this property, just at the foot of the
hill.  The sugar, please."

The egg-nog was finished.  Drop by drop the liquor had cooked the egg,
and now, with a final whisk, a last toss in the shaker, it was ready, a
symphony in gold and white.  The doctor sniffed it.

"Real eggs, real milk, and a touch of real Kentucky whisky," he said.

He insisted on carrying it up himself, but at the foot of the stairs he
paused.

"Riggs said the plans were drawn for the house," he said, harking back
to the old subject.  "Drawn by Huston in town.  So I naturally believed
him."

When the doctor came down, I was ready with a question.

"Doctor," I asked, "is there any one in the neighborhood named
Carrington?  Nina Carrington?"

"Carrington?"  He wrinkled his forehead.  "Carrington?  No, I don't
remember any such family.  There used to be Covingtons down the creek."

"The name was Carrington," I said, and the subject lapsed.

Gertrude and Halsey went for a long walk that afternoon, and Louise
slept.  Time hung heavy on my hands, and I did as I had fallen into a
habit of doing lately--I sat down and thought things over.  One result
of my meditations was that I got up suddenly and went to the telephone.
I had taken the most intense dislike to this Doctor Walker, whom I had
never seen, and who was being talked of in the countryside as the
fiance of Louise Armstrong.

I knew Sam Huston well.  There had been a time, when Sam was a good
deal younger than he is now, before he had married Anne Endicott, when
I knew him even better.  So now I felt no hesitation in calling him
over the telephone.  But when his office boy had given way to his
confidential clerk, and that functionary had condescended to connect
his employer's desk telephone, I was somewhat at a loss as to how to
begin.

"Why, how are you, Rachel?" Sam said sonorously.  "Going to build that
house at Rock View?"  It was a twenty-year-old joke of his.

"Sometime, perhaps," I said.  "Just now I want to ask you a question
about something which is none of my business."

"I see you haven't changed an iota in a quarter of a century, Rachel."
This was intended to be another jest.  "Ask ahead: everything but my
domestic affairs is at your service."

"Try to be serious," I said.  "And tell me this: has your firm made any
plans for a house recently, for a Doctor Walker, at Casanova?"

"Yes, we have."

"Where was it to be built?  I have a reason for asking."

"It was to be, I believe, on the Armstrong place.  Mr. Armstrong
himself consulted me, and the inference was--in fact, I am quite
certain--the house was to be occupied by Mr. Armstrong's daughter, who
was engaged to marry Doctor Walker."

When the architect had inquired for the different members of my family,
and had finally rung off, I was certain of one thing. Louise Armstrong
was in love with Halsey, and the man she was going to marry was Doctor
Walker.  Moreover, this decision was not new; marriage had been
contemplated for some time. There must certainly be some
explanation--but what was it?

That day I repeated to Louise the telegram Mr. Warton had opened.

She seemed to understand, but an unhappier face I have never seen.  She
looked like a criminal whose reprieve is over, and the day of execution
approaching.



CHAPTER XV

LIDDY GIVES THE ALARM

The next day, Friday, Gertrude broke the news of her stepfather's death
to Louise.  She did it as gently as she could, telling her first that
he was very ill, and finally that he was dead.  Louise received the
news in the most unexpected manner, and when Gertrude came out to tell
me how she had stood it, I think she was almost shocked.

"She just lay and stared at me, Aunt Ray," she said.  "Do you know, I
believe she is glad, glad!  And she is too honest to pretend anything
else.  What sort of man was Mr. Paul Armstrong, anyhow?"

"He was a bully as well as a rascal, Gertrude," I said.  "But I am
convinced of one thing; Louise will send for Halsey now, and they will
make it all up."

For Louise had steadily refused to see Halsey all that day, and the boy
was frantic.

We had a quiet hour, Halsey and I, that evening, and I told him several
things; about the request that we give up the lease to Sunnyside, about
the telegram to Louise, about the rumors of an approaching marriage
between the girl and Doctor Walker, and, last of all, my own interview
with her the day before.

He sat back in a big chair, with his face in the shadow, and my heart
fairly ached for him.  He was so big and so boyish!  When I had
finished he drew a long breath.

"Whatever Louise does," he said, "nothing will convince me, Aunt Ray,
that she doesn't care for me.  And up to two months ago, when she and
her mother went west, I was the happiest fellow on earth.  Then
something made a difference: she wrote me that her people were opposed
to the marriage; that her feeling for me was what it had always been,
but that something had happened which had changed her ideas as to the
future.  I was not to write until she wrote me, and whatever occurred,
I was to think the best I could of her.  It sounded like a puzzle.
When I saw her yesterday, it was the same thing, only, perhaps, worse."

"Halsey," I asked, "have you any idea of the nature of the interview
between Louise Armstrong and Arnold the night he was murdered?"

"It was stormy.  Thomas says once or twice he almost broke into the
room, he was so alarmed for Louise."

"Another thing, Halsey," I said, "have you ever heard Louise mention a
woman named Carrington, Nina Carrington?"

"Never," he said positively.

For try as we would, our thoughts always came back to that fatal
Saturday night, and the murder.  Every conversational path led to it,
and we all felt that Jamieson was tightening the threads of evidence
around John Bailey.  The detective's absence was hardly reassuring; he
must have had something to work on in town, or he would have returned.

The papers reported that the cashier of the Traders' Bank was ill in
his apartments at the Knickerbocker--a condition not surprising,
considering everything.  The guilt of the defunct president was no
longer in doubt; the missing bonds had been advertised and some of them
discovered.  In every instance they had been used as collateral for
large loans, and the belief was current that not less than a million
and a half dollars had been realized.  Every one connected with the
bank had been placed under arrest, and released on heavy bond.

Was he alone in his guilt, or was the cashier his accomplice? Where was
the money?  The estate of the dead man was comparatively small--a city
house on a fashionable street, Sunnyside, a large estate largely
mortgaged, an insurance of fifty thousand dollars, and some personal
property--this was all.

The rest lost in speculation probably, the papers said.  There was one
thing which looked uncomfortable for Jack Bailey: he and Paul Armstrong
together had promoted a railroad company in New Mexico, and it was
rumored that together they had sunk large sums of money there.  The
business alliance between the two men added to the belief that Bailey
knew something of the looting.  His unexplained absence from the bank
on Monday lent color to the suspicion against him.  The strange thing
seemed to be his surrendering himself on the point of departure.  To
me, it seemed the shrewd calculation of a clever rascal.  I was not
actively antagonistic to Gertrude's lover, but I meant to be convinced,
one way or the other.  I took no one on faith.

That night the Sunnyside ghost began to walk again.  Liddy had been
sleeping in Louise's dressing-room on a couch, and the approach of dusk
was a signal for her to barricade the entire suite.  Situated as its
was, beyond the circular staircase, nothing but an extremity of
excitement would have made her pass it after dark.  I confess myself
that the place seemed to me to have a sinister appearance, but we kept
that wing well lighted, and until the lights went out at midnight it
was really cheerful, if one did not know its history.

On Friday night, then, I had gone to bed, resolved to go at once to
sleep.  Thoughts that insisted on obtruding themselves I pushed
resolutely to the back of my mind, and I systematically relaxed every
muscle.  I fell asleep soon, and was dreaming that Doctor Walker was
building his new house immediately in front of my windows: I could hear
the thump-thump of the hammers, and then I waked to a knowledge that
somebody was pounding on my door.

I was up at once, and with the sound of my footstep on the floor the
low knocking ceased, to be followed immediately by sibilant whispering
through the keyhole.

"Miss Rachel! Miss Rachel!" somebody was saying, over and over.

"Is that you, Liddy?" I asked, my hand on the knob.

"For the love of mercy, let me in!" she said in a low tone.

She was leaning against the door, for when I opened it, she fell in.
She was greenish-white, and she had a red and black barred flannel
petticoat over her shoulders.

"Listen," she said, standing in the middle of the floor and holding on
to me.  "Oh, Miss Rachel, it's the ghost of that dead man hammering to
get in!"

Sure enough, there was a dull thud--thud--thud from some place near.
It was muffled: one rather felt than heard it, and it was impossible to
locate.  One moment it seemed to come, three taps and a pause, from the
floor under us: the next, thud--thud--thud--it came apparently from the
wall.

"It's not a ghost," I said decidedly.  "If it was a ghost it wouldn't
rap: it would come through the keyhole."  Liddy looked at the keyhole.
"But it sounds very much as though some one is trying to break into the
house."

Liddy was shivering violently.  I told her to get me my slippers and
she brought me a pair of kid gloves, so I found my things myself, and
prepared to call Halsey.  As before, the night alarm had found the
electric lights gone: the hall, save for its night lamp, was in
darkness, as I went across to Halsey's room.  I hardly know what I
feared, but it was a relief to find him there, very sound asleep, and
with his door unlocked.

"Wake up, Halsey," I said, shaking him.

He stirred a little.  Liddy was half in and half out of the door,
afraid as usual to be left alone, and not quite daring to enter. Her
scruples seemed to fade, however, all at once.  She gave a suppressed
yell, bolted into the room, and stood tightly clutching the foot-board
of the bed.  Halsey was gradually waking.

"I've seen it," Liddy wailed.  "A woman in white down the hall!"

I paid no attention.

"Halsey," I persevered, "some one is breaking into the house. Get up,
won't you?"

"It isn't our house," he said sleepily.  And then he roused to the
exigency of the occasion.  "All right, Aunt Ray," he said, still
yawning.  "If you'll let me get into something--"

It was all I could do to get Liddy out of the room.  The demands of the
occasion had no influence on her: she had seen the ghost, she
persisted, and she wasn't going into the hall.  But I got her over to
my room at last, more dead than alive, and made her lie down on the bed.

The tappings, which seemed to have ceased for a while, had commenced
again, but they were fainter.  Halsey came over in a few minutes, and
stood listening and trying to locate the sound.

"Give me my revolver, Aunt Ray," he said; and I got it--the one I had
found in the tulip bed--and gave it to him.  He saw Liddy there and
divined at once that Louise was alone.

"You let me attend to this fellow, whoever it is, Aunt Ray, and go to
Louise, will you?  She may be awake and alarmed."

So in spite of her protests, I left Liddy alone and went back to the
east wing.  Perhaps I went a little faster past the yawning blackness
of the circular staircase; and I could hear Halsey creaking cautiously
down the main staircase.  The rapping, or pounding, had ceased, and the
silence was almost painful. And then suddenly, from apparently under my
very feet, there rose a woman's scream, a cry of terror that broke off
as suddenly as it came.  I stood frozen and still.  Every drop of blood
in my body seemed to leave the surface and gather around my heart.  In
the dead silence that followed it throbbed as if it would burst. More
dead than alive, I stumbled into Louise's bedroom.  She was not there!



CHAPTER XVI

IN THE EARLY MORNING

I stood looking at the empty bed.  The coverings had been thrown back,
and Louise's pink silk dressing-gown was gone from the foot, where it
had lain.  The night lamp burned dimly, revealing the emptiness of the
place.  I picked it up, but my hand shook so that I put it down again,
and got somehow to the door.

There were voices in the hall and Gertrude came running toward me.

"What is it?" she cried.  "What was that sound?  Where is Louise?"

"She is not in her room," I said stupidly.  "I think--it was she--who
screamed."

Liddy had joined us now, carrying a light.  We stood huddled together
at the head of the circular staircase, looking down into its shadows.
There was nothing to be seen, and it was absolutely quiet down there.
Then we heard Halsey running up the main staircase.  He came quickly
down the hall to where we were standing.

"There's no one trying to get in.  I thought I heard some one shriek.
Who was it?"

Our stricken faces told him the truth.

"Some one screamed down there," I said.  "And--and Louise is not in her
room."

With a jerk Halsey took the light from Liddy and ran down the circular
staircase.  I followed him, more slowly.  My nerves seemed to be in a
state of paralysis:  I could scarcely step.  At the foot of the stairs
Halsey gave an exclamation and put down the light.

"Aunt Ray," he called sharply.

At the foot of the staircase, huddled in a heap, her head on the lower
stair, was Louise Armstrong.  She lay limp and white, her dressing-gown
dragging loose from one sleeve of her night-dress, and the heavy braid
of her dark hair stretching its length a couple of steps above her
head, as if she had slipped down.

She was not dead: Halsey put her down on the floor, and began to rub
her cold hands, while Gertrude and Liddy ran for stimulants. As for me,
I sat there at the foot of that ghostly staircase--sat, because my
knees wouldn't hold me--and wondered where it would all end.  Louise
was still unconscious, but she was breathing better, and I suggested
that we get her back to bed before she came to.  There was something
grisly and horrible to me, seeing her there in almost the same attitude
and in the same place where we had found her brother's body.  And to
add to the similarity, just then the hall clock, far off, struck
faintly three o'clock.

It was four before Louise was able to talk, and the first rays of dawn
were coming through her windows, which faced the east, before she could
tell us coherently what had occurred.  I give it as she told it.  She
lay propped in bed, and Halsey sat beside her, unrebuffed, and held her
hand while she talked.

"I was not sleeping well," she began, "partly, I think, because I had
slept during the afternoon.  Liddy brought me some hot milk at ten
o'clock and I slept until twelve.  Then I wakened and--I got to
thinking about things, and worrying, so I could not go to sleep.

"I was wondering why I had not heard from Arnold since the--since I saw
him that night at the lodge.  I was afraid he was ill, because--he was
to have done something for me, and he had not come back.  It must have
been three when I heard some one rapping.  I sat up and listened, to be
quite sure, and the rapping kept up.  It was cautious, and I was about
to call Liddy.

"Then suddenly I thought I knew what it was.  The east entrance and the
circular staircase were always used by Arnold when he was out late, and
sometimes, when he forgot his key, he would rap and I would go down and
let him in.  I thought he had come back to see me--I didn't think about
the time, for his hours were always erratic.  But I was afraid I was
too weak to get down the stairs.

"The knocking kept up, and just as I was about to call Liddy, she ran
through the room and out into the hall.  I got up then, feeling weak
and dizzy, and put on my dressing-gown.  If it was Arnold, I knew I
must see him.

"It was very dark everywhere, but, of course, I knew my way.  I felt
along for the stair-rail, and went down as quickly as I could.  The
knocking had stopped, and I was afraid I was too late.  I got to the
foot of the staircase and over to the door on to the east veranda.  I
had never thought of anything but that it was Arnold, until I reached
the door.  It was unlocked and opened about an inch.  Everything was
black: it was perfectly dark outside.  I felt very queer and shaky.
Then I thought perhaps Arnold had used his key; he did--strange things
sometimes, and I turned around.  Just as I reached the foot of the
staircase I thought I heard some one coming.  My nerves were going
anyhow, there in the dark, and I could scarcely stand.  I got up as far
as the third or fourth step; then I felt that some one was coming
toward me on the staircase.  The next instant a hand met mine on the
stair-rail.  Some one brushed past me, and I screamed.  Then I must
have fainted."

That was Louise's story.  There could be no doubt of its truth, and the
thing that made it inexpressibly awful to me was that the poor girl had
crept down to answer the summons of a brother who would never need her
kindly offices again.  Twice now, without apparent cause, some one had
entered the house by means of the east entrance: had apparently gone
his way unhindered through the house, and gone out again as he had
entered.  Had this unknown visitor been there a third time, the night
Arnold Armstrong was murdered?  Or a fourth, the time Mr. Jamieson had
locked some one in the clothes chute?

Sleep was impossible, I think, for any of us.  We dispersed finally to
bathe and dress, leaving Louise little the worse for her experience.
But I determined that before the day was over she must know the true
state of affairs.  Another decision I made, and I put it into execution
immediately after breakfast.  I had one of the unused bedrooms in the
east wing, back along the small corridor, prepared for occupancy, and
from that time on, Alex, the gardener, slept there.  One man in that
barn of a house was an absurdity, with things happening all the time,
and I must say that Alex was as unobjectionable as any one could
possibly have been.

The next morning, also, Halsey and I made an exhaustive examination of
the circular staircase, the small entry at its foot, and the card-room
opening from it.  There was no evidence of anything unusual the night
before, and had we not ourselves heard the rapping noises, I should
have felt that Louise's imagination had run away with her.  The outer
door was closed and locked, and the staircase curved above us, for all
the world like any other staircase.

Halsey, who had never taken seriously my account of the night Liddy and
I were there alone, was grave enough now.  He examined the paneling of
the wainscoting above and below the stairs, evidently looking for a
secret door, and suddenly there flashed into my mind the recollection
of a scrap of paper that Mr. Jamieson had found among Arnold
Armstrong's effects.  As nearly as possible I repeated its contents to
him, while Halsey took them down in a note-book.

"I wish you had told me that before," he said, as he put the memorandum
carefully away.  We found nothing at all in the house, and I expected
little from any examination of the porch and grounds.  But as we opened
the outer door something fell into the entry with a clatter.  It was a
cue from the billiard-room.

Halsey picked it up with an exclamation.

"That's careless enough," he said.  "Some of the servants have been
amusing themselves."

I was far from convinced.  Not one of the servants would go into that
wing at night unless driven by dire necessity.  And a billiard cue!  As
a weapon of either offense or defense it was an absurdity, unless one
accepted Liddy's hypothesis of a ghost, and even then, as Halsey
pointed out, a billiard-playing ghost would be a very modern evolution
of an ancient institution.

That afternoon we, Gertrude, Halsey and I, attended the coroner's
inquest in town.  Doctor Stewart had been summoned also, it transpiring
that in that early Sunday morning, when Gertrude and I had gone to our
rooms, he had been called to view the body.  We went, the four of us,
in the machine, preferring the execrable roads to the matinee train,
with half of Casanova staring at us. And on the way we decided to say
nothing of Louise and her interview with her stepbrother the night he
died.  The girl was in trouble enough as it was.



CHAPTER XVII

A HINT OF SCANDAL

In giving the gist of what happened at the inquest, I have only one
excuse--to recall to the reader the events of the night of Arnold
Armstrong's murder.  Many things had occurred which were not brought
out at the inquest and some things were told there that were new to me.
Altogether, it was a gloomy affair, and the six men in the corner, who
constituted the coroner's jury, were evidently the merest puppets in
the hands of that all-powerful gentleman, the coroner.

Gertrude and I sat well back, with our veils down.  There were a number
of people I knew: Barbara Fitzhugh, in extravagant mourning--she always
went into black on the slightest provocation, because it was
becoming--and Mr. Jarvis, the man who had come over from the Greenwood
Club the night of the murder.  Mr. Harton was there, too, looking
impatient as the inquest dragged, but alive to every particle of
evidence. From a corner Mr. Jamieson was watching the proceedings
intently.

Doctor Stewart was called first.  His evidence was told briefly, and
amounted to this: on the Sunday morning previous, at a quarter before
five, he had been called to the telephone.  The message was from a Mr.
Jarvis, who asked him to come at once to Sunnyside, as there had been
an accident there, and Mr. Arnold Armstrong had been shot.  He had
dressed hastily, gathered up some instruments, and driven to Sunnyside.

He was met by Mr. Jarvis, who took him at once to the east wing. There,
just as he had fallen, was the body of Arnold Armstrong. There was no
need of the instruments: the man was dead.  In answer to the coroner's
question--no, the body had not been moved, save to turn it over.  It
lay at the foot of the circular staircase.  Yes, he believed death had
been instantaneous.  The body was still somewhat warm and rigor mortis
had not set in. It occurred late in cases of sudden death.  No, he
believed the probability of suicide might be eliminated; the wounds
could have been self-inflicted, but with difficulty, and there had been
no weapon found.

The doctor's examination was over, but he hesitated and cleared his
throat.

"Mr. Coroner," he said, "at the risk of taking up valuable time, I
would like to speak of an incident that may or may not throw some light
on this matter."

The audience was alert at once.

"Kindly proceed, Doctor," the coroner said.

"My home is in Englewood, two miles from Casanova," the doctor began.
"In the absence of Doctor Walker, a number of Casanova people have been
consulting me.  A month ago--five weeks, to be exact--a woman whom I
had never seen came to my office.  She was in deep mourning and kept
her veil down, and she brought for examination a child, a boy of six.
The little fellow was ill; it looked like typhoid, and the mother was
frantic.  She wanted a permit to admit the youngster to the Children's
Hospital in town here, where I am a member of the staff, and I gave her
one.  The incident would have escaped me, but for a curious thing.  Two
days before Mr. Armstrong was shot, I was sent for to go to the Country
Club: some one had been struck with a golf-ball that had gone wild.  It
was late when I left--I was on foot, and about a mile from the club, on
the Claysburg road, I met two people.  They were disputing violently,
and I had no difficulty in recognizing Mr. Armstrong.  The woman,
beyond doubt, was the one who had consulted me about the child."

At this hint of scandal, Mrs. Ogden Fitzhugh sat up very straight.
Jamieson was looking slightly skeptical, and the coroner made a note.

"The Children's Hospital, you say, Doctor?" he asked.

"Yes.  But the child, who was entered as Lucien Wallace, was taken away
by his mother two weeks ago.  I have tried to trace them and failed."

All at once I remembered the telegram sent to Louise by some one signed
F. L. W.--presumably Doctor Walker.  Could this veiled woman be the
Nina Carrington of the message?  But it was only idle speculation.  I
had no way of finding out, and the inquest was proceeding.

The report of the coroner's physician came next.  The post-mortem
examination showed that the bullet had entered the chest in the fourth
left intercostal space and had taken an oblique course downward and
backward, piercing both the heart and lungs. The left lung was
collapsed, and the exit point of the ball had been found in the muscles
of the back to the left of the spinal column.  It was improbable that
such a wound had been self-inflicted, and its oblique downward course
pointed to the fact that the shot had been fired from above.  In other
words, as the murdered man had been found dead at the foot of a
staircase, it was probable that the shot had been fired by some one
higher up on the stairs.  There were no marks of powder.  The bullet, a
thirty-eight caliber, had been found in the dead man's clothing, and
was shown to the jury.

Mr. Jarvis was called next, but his testimony amounted to little.

He had been summoned by telephone to Sunnyside, had come over at once
with the steward and Mr. Winthrop, at present out of town. They had
been admitted by the housekeeper, and had found the body lying at the
foot of the staircase.  He had made a search for a weapon, but there
was none around.  The outer entry door in the east wing had been
unfastened and was open about an inch.

I had been growing more and more nervous.  When the coroner called Mr.
John Bailey, the room was filled with suppressed excitement.  Mr.
Jamieson went forward and spoke a few words to the coroner, who nodded.
Then Halsey was called.

"Mr. Innes," the coroner said, "will you tell under what circumstances
you saw Mr. Arnold Armstrong the night he died?"

"I saw him first at the Country Club," Halsey said quietly.  He was
rather pale, but very composed.  "I stopped there with my automobile
for gasolene.  Mr. Armstrong had been playing cards. When I saw him
there, he was coming out of the card-room, talking to Mr. John Bailey."

"The nature of the discussion--was it amicable?"

Halsey hesitated.

"They were having a dispute," he said.  "I asked Mr. Bailey to leave
the club with me and come to Sunnyside over Sunday."

"Isn't it a fact, Mr. Innes, that you took Mr. Bailey away from the
club-house because you were afraid there would be blows?"

"The situation was unpleasant," Halsey said evasively.

"At that time had you any suspicion that the Traders' Bank had been
wrecked?"

"No."

"What occurred next?"

"Mr. Bailey and I talked in the billiard-room until two-thirty."

"And Mr. Arnold Armstrong came there, while you were talking?"

"Yes.  He came about half-past two.  He rapped at the east door, and I
admitted him."

The silence in the room was intense.  Mr. Jamieson's eyes never left
Halsey's face.

"Will you tell us the nature of his errand?"

"He brought a telegram that had come to the club for Mr. Bailey."

"He was sober?"

"Perfectly, at that time.  Not earlier."

"Was not his apparent friendliness a change from his former attitude?"

"Yes.  I did not understand it."

"How long did he stay?"

"About five minutes.  Then he left, by the east entrance."

"What occurred then?"

"We talked for a few minutes, discussing a plan Mr. Bailey had in mind.
Then I went to the stables, where I kept my car, and got it out."

"Leaving Mr. Bailey alone in the billiard-room?"

Halsey hesitated.

"My sister was there?"

Mrs. Ogden Fitzhugh had the courage to turn and eye Gertrude through
her lorgnon.

"And then?"

"I took the car along the lower road, not to disturb the household.
Mr. Bailey came down across the lawn, through the hedge, and got into
the car on the road."

"Then you know nothing of Mr. Armstrong's movements after he left the
house?"

"Nothing.  I read of his death Monday evening for the first time."

"Mr. Bailey did not see him on his way across the lawn?"

"I think not.  If he had seen him he would have spoken of it."

"Thank you.  That is all.  Miss Gertrude Innes."

Gertrude's replies were fully as concise as Halsey's.  Mrs. Fitzhugh
subjected her to a close inspection, commencing with her hat and ending
with her shoes.  I flatter myself she found nothing wrong with either
her gown or her manner, but poor Gertrude's testimony was the reverse
of comforting.  She had been summoned, she said, by her brother, after
Mr. Armstrong had gone.

She had waited in the billiard-room with Mr. Bailey, until the
automobile had been ready.  Then she had locked the door at the foot of
the staircase, and, taking a lamp, had accompanied Mr. Bailey to the
main entrance of the house, and had watched him cross the lawn.
Instead of going at once to her room, she had gone back to the
billiard-room for something which had been left there.  The card-room
and billiard-room were in darkness.  She had groped around, found the
article she was looking for, and was on the point of returning to her
room, when she had heard some one fumbling at the lock at the east
outer door.  She had thought it was probably her brother, and had been
about to go to the door, when she heard it open.  Almost immediately
there was a shot, and she had run panic-stricken through the
drawing-room and had roused the house.

"You heard no other sound?" the coroner asked.  "There was no one with
Mr. Armstrong when he entered?"

"It was perfectly dark.  There were no voices and I heard nothing.
There was just the opening of the door, the shot, and the sound of
somebody falling."

"Then, while you went through the drawing-room and up-stairs to alarm
the household, the criminal, whoever it was, could have escaped by the
east door?"

"Yes."

"Thank you.  That will do."

I flatter myself that the coroner got little enough out of me.  I saw
Mr. Jamieson smiling to himself, and the coroner gave me up, after a
time.  I admitted I had found the body, said I had not known who it was
until Mr. Jarvis told me, and ended by looking up at Barbara Fitzhugh
and saying that in renting the house I had not expected to be involved
in any family scandal.  At which she turned purple.

The verdict was that Arnold Armstrong had met his death at the hands of
a person or persons unknown, and we all prepared to leave.  Barbara
Fitzhugh flounced out without waiting to speak to me, but Mr. Harton
came up, as I knew he would.

"You have decided to give up the house, I hope, Miss Innes," he said.
"Mrs. Armstrong has wired me again."

"I am not going to give it up," I maintained, "until I understand some
things that are puzzling me.  The day that the murderer is discovered,
I will leave."

"Then, judging by what I have heard, you will be back in the city very
soon," he said.  And I knew that he suspected the discredited cashier
of the Traders' Bank.

Mr. Jamieson came up to me as I was about to leave the coroner's office.

"How is your patient?" he asked with his odd little smile.

"I have no patient," I replied, startled.

"I will put it in a different way, then.  How is Miss Armstrong?"

"She--she is doing very well," I stammered.

"Good," cheerfully.  "And our ghost?  Is it laid?"

"Mr. Jamieson," I said suddenly, "I wish you would do one thing: I wish
you would come to Sunnyside and spend a few days there. The ghost is
not laid.  I want you to spend one night at least watching the circular
staircase.  The murder of Arnold Armstrong was a beginning, not an end."

He looked serious.

"Perhaps I can do it," he said.  "I have been doing something else,
but--well, I will come out to-night."

We were very silent during the trip back to Sunnyside.  I watched
Gertrude closely and somewhat sadly.  To me there was one glaring flaw
in her story, and it seemed to stand out for every one to see.  Arnold
Armstrong had had no key, and yet she said she had locked the east
door.  He must have been admitted from within the house; over and over
I repeated it to myself.

That night, as gently as I could, I told Louise the story of her
stepbrother's death.  She sat in her big, pillow-filled chair, and
heard me through without interruption.  It was clear that she was
shocked beyond words: if I had hoped to learn anything from her
expression, I had failed.  She was as much in the dark as we were.



CHAPTER XVIII

A HOLE IN THE WALL

My taking the detective out to Sunnyside raised an unexpected storm of
protest from Gertrude and Halsey.  I was not prepared for it, and I
scarcely knew how to account for it.  To me Mr. Jamieson was far less
formidable under my eyes where I knew what he was doing, than he was of
in the city, twisting circumstances and motives to suit himself and
learning what he wished to know, about events at Sunnyside, in some
occult way.  I was glad enough to have him there, when excitements
began to come thick and fast.

A new element was about to enter into affairs: Monday, or Tuesday at
the latest, would find Doctor Walker back in his green and white house
in the village, and Louise's attitude to him in the immediate future
would signify Halsey's happiness or wretchedness, as it might turn out.
Then, too, the return of her mother would mean, of course, that she
would have to leave us, and I had become greatly attached to her.

From the day Mr. Jamieson came to Sunnyside there was a subtle change
in Gertrude's manner to me.  It was elusive, difficult to analyze, but
it was there.  She was no longer frank with me, although I think her
affection never wavered.  At the time I laid the change to the fact
that I had forbidden all communication with John Bailey, and had
refused to acknowledge any engagement between the two.  Gertrude spent
much of her time wandering through the grounds, or taking long
cross-country walks.  Halsey played golf at the Country Club day after
day, and after Louise left, as she did the following week, Mr. Jamieson
and I were much together.  He played a fair game of cribbage, but he
cheated at solitaire.

The night the detective arrived, Saturday, I had a talk with him.

I told him of the experience Louise Armstrong had had the night before,
on the circular staircase, and about the man who had so frightened
Rosie on the drive.  I saw that he thought the information was
important, and to my suggestion that we put an additional lock on the
east wing door he opposed a strong negative.

"I think it probable," he said, "that our visitor will be back again,
and the thing to do is to leave things exactly as they are, to avoid
rousing suspicion.  Then I can watch for at least a part of each night
and probably Mr. Innes will help us out.  I would say as little to
Thomas as possible.  The old man knows more than he is willing to
admit."

I suggested that Alex, the gardener, would probably be willing to help,
and Mr. Jamieson undertook to make the arrangement.  For one night,
however, Mr. Jamieson preferred to watch alone. Apparently nothing
occurred.  The detective sat in absolute darkness on the lower step of
the stairs, dozing, he said afterwards, now and then.  Nothing could
pass him in either direction, and the door in the morning remained as
securely fastened as it had been the night before.  And yet one of the
most inexplicable occurrences of the whole affair took place that very
night.

Liddy came to my room on Sunday morning with a face as long as the
moral law.  She laid out my things as usual, but I missed her customary
garrulousness.  I was not regaled with the new cook's extravagance as
to eggs, and she even forbore to mention "that Jamieson," on whose
arrival she had looked with silent disfavor.

"What's the matter, Liddy?" I asked at last.  "Didn't you sleep last
night?"

"No, ma'm," she said stiffly.

"Did you have two cups of coffee at your dinner?" I inquired.

"No, ma'm," indignantly.

I sat up and almost upset my hot water--I always take a cup of hot
water with a pinch of salt, before I get up.  It tones the stomach.

"Liddy Allen," I said, "stop combing that switch and tell me what is
wrong with you."

Liddy heaved a sigh.

"Girl and woman," she said, "I've been with you twenty-five years, Miss
Rachel, through good temper and bad--" the idea! and what I have taken
from her in the way of sulks!--"but I guess I can't stand it any
longer.  My trunk's packed."

"Who packed it?" I asked, expecting from her tone to be told she had
wakened to find it done by some ghostly hand.

"I did; Miss Rachel, you won't believe me when I tell you this house is
haunted.  Who was it fell down the clothes chute? Who was it scared
Miss Louise almost into her grave?"

"I'm doing my best to find out," I said.  "What in the world are you
driving at?"  She drew a long breath.

"There is a hole in the trunk-room wall, dug out since last night.
It's big enough to put your head in, and the plaster's all over the
place."

"Nonsense!" I said.  "Plaster is always falling."

But Liddy clenched that.

"Just ask Alex," she said.  "When he put the new cook's trunk there
last night the wall was as smooth as this.  This morning it's dug out,
and there's plaster on the cook's trunk.  Miss Rachel, you can get a
dozen detectives and put one on every stair in the house, and you'll
never catch anything.  There's some things you can't handcuff."

Liddy was right.  As soon as I could, I went up to the trunk-room,
which was directly over my bedroom.  The plan of the upper story of the
house was like that of the second floor, in the main.  One end,
however, over the east wing, had been left only roughly finished, the
intention having been to convert it into a ball-room at some future
time.  The maids' rooms, trunk-room, and various store-rooms, including
a large airy linen-room, opened from a long corridor, like that on the
second floor.  And in the trunk-room, as Liddy had said, was a fresh
break in the plaster.

Not only in the plaster, but through the lathing, the aperture
extended.  I reached into the opening, and three feet away, perhaps, I
could touch the bricks of the partition wall.  For some reason, the
architect, in building the house, had left a space there that struck
me, even in the surprise of the discovery, as an excellent place for a
conflagration to gain headway.

"You are sure the hole was not here yesterday?" I asked Liddy, whose
expression was a mixture of satisfaction and alarm.  In answer she
pointed to the new cook's trunk--that necessary adjunct of the
migratory domestic.  The top was covered with fine white plaster, as
was the floor.  But there were no large pieces of mortar lying
around--no bits of lathing.  When I mentioned this to Liddy she merely
raised her eyebrows.  Being quite confident that the gap was of unholy
origin, she did not concern herself with such trifles as a bit of
mortar and lath.  No doubt they were even then heaped neatly on a
gravestone in the Casanova churchyard!

I brought Mr. Jamieson up to see the hole in the wall, directly after
breakfast.  His expression was very odd when he looked at it, and the
first thing he did was to try to discover what object, if any, such a
hole could have.  He got a piece of candle, and by enlarging the
aperture a little was able to examine what lay beyond.  The result was
nil.  The trunk-room, although heated by steam heat, like the rest of
the house, boasted of a fireplace and mantel as well.  The opening had
been made between the flue and the outer wall of the house.  There was
revealed, however, on inspection, only the brick of the chimney on one
side and the outer wall of the house on the other; in depth the space
extended only to the flooring.  The breach had been made about four
feet from the floor, and inside were all the missing bits of plaster.
It had been a methodical ghost.

It was very much of a disappointment.  I had expected a secret room, at
the very least, and I think even Mr. Jamieson had fancied he might at
last have a clue to the mystery.  There was evidently nothing more to
be discovered: Liddy reported that everything was serene among the
servants, and that none of them had been disturbed by the noise.  The
maddening thing, however, was that the nightly visitor had evidently
more than one way of gaining access to the house, and we made
arrangements to redouble our vigilance as to windows and doors that
night.

Halsey was inclined to pooh-pooh the whole affair.  He said a break in
the plaster might have occurred months ago and gone unnoticed, and that
the dust had probably been stirred up the day before.  After all, we
had to let it go at that, but we put in an uncomfortable Sunday.
Gertrude went to church, and Halsey took a long walk in the morning.
Louise was able to sit up, and she allowed Halsey and Liddy to assist
her down-stairs late in the afternoon.  The east veranda was shady,
green with vines and palms, cheerful with cushions and lounging chairs.
We put Louise in a steamer chair, and she sat there passively enough,
her hands clasped in her lap.

We were very silent.  Halsey sat on the rail with a pipe, openly
watching Louise, as she looked broodingly across the valley to the
hills.  There was something baffling in the girl's eyes; and gradually
Halsey's boyish features lost their glow at seeing her about again, and
settled into grim lines.  He was like his father just then.

We sat until late afternoon, Halsey growing more and more moody.
Shortly before six, he got up and went into the house, and in a few
minutes he came out and called me to the telephone.  It was Anna
Whitcomb, in town, and she kept me for twenty minutes, telling me the
children had had the measles, and how Madame Sweeny had botched her new
gown.

When I finished, Liddy was behind me, her mouth a thin line.

"I wish you would try to look cheerful, Liddy," I groaned, "your face
would sour milk."  But Liddy seldom replied to my gibes. She folded her
lips a little tighter.

"He called her up," she said oracularly, "he called her up, and asked
her to keep you at the telephone, so he could talk to Miss Louise. A
THANKLESS CHILD IS SHARPER THAN A SERPENT'S TOOTH."

"Nonsense!" I said bruskly.  "I might have known enough to leave them.
It's a long time since you and I were in love, Liddy, and--we forget."

Liddy sniffed.

"No man ever made a fool of me," she replied virtuously.

"Well, something did," I retorted.



CHAPTER XIX

CONCERNING THOMAS

"Mr. Jamieson," I said, when we found ourselves alone after dinner that
night, "the inquest yesterday seemed to me the merest recapitulation of
things that were already known.  It developed nothing new beyond the
story of Doctor Stewart's, and that was volunteered."

"An inquest is only a necessary formality, Miss Innes," he replied.
"Unless a crime is committed in the open, the inquest does nothing
beyond getting evidence from witnesses while events are still in their
minds.  The police step in later.  You and I both know how many
important things never transpired.  For instance: the dead man had no
key, and yet Miss Gertrude testified to a fumbling at the lock, and
then the opening of the door.  The piece of evidence you mention,
Doctor Stewart's story, is one of those things we have to take
cautiously: the doctor has a patient who wears black and does not raise
her veil. Why, it is the typical mysterious lady!  Then the good doctor
comes across Arnold Armstrong, who was a graceless scamp--de
mortuis--what's the rest of it?--and he is quarreling with a lady in
black.  Behold, says the doctor, they are one and the same."

"Why was Mr. Bailey not present at the inquest?"

The detective's expression was peculiar.

"Because his physician testified that he is ill, and unable to leave
his bed."

"Ill!" I exclaimed.  "Why, neither Halsey nor Gertrude has told me
that."

"There are more things than that, Miss Innes, that are puzzling. Bailey
gives the impression that he knew nothing of the crash at the bank
until he read it in the paper Monday night, and that he went back and
surrendered himself immediately.  I do not believe it.  Jonas, the
watchman at the Traders' Bank, tells a different story.  He says that
on the Thursday night before, about eight-thirty, Bailey went back to
the bank.  Jonas admitted him, and he says the cashier was in a state
almost of collapse.  Bailey worked until midnight, then he closed the
vault and went away. The occurrence was so unusual that the watchman
pondered over it an the rest of the night.  What did Bailey do when he
went back to the Knickerbocker apartments that night?  He packed a
suit-case ready for instant departure.  But he held off too long; he
waited for something.  My personal opinion is that he waited to see
Miss Gertrude before flying from the country. Then, when he had shot
down Arnold Armstrong that night, he had to choose between two evils.
He did the thing that would immediately turn public opinion in his
favor, and surrendered himself, as an innocent man.  The strongest
thing against him is his preparation for flight, and his deciding to
come back after the murder of Arnold Armstrong.  He was shrewd enough
to disarm suspicion as to the graver charge?"

The evening dragged along slowly.  Mrs. Watson came to my bedroom
before I went to bed and asked if I had any arnica.  She showed me a
badly swollen hand, with reddish streaks running toward the elbow; she
said it was the hand she had hurt the night of the murder a week
before, and that she had not slept well since.  It looked to me as if
it might be serious, and I told her to let Doctor Stewart see it.

The next morning Mrs. Watson went up to town on the eleven train, and
was admitted to the Charity Hospital.  She was suffering from
blood-poisoning.  I fully meant to go up and see her there, but other
things drove her entirely from my mind.  I telephoned to the hospital
that day, however, and ordered a private room for her, and whatever
comforts she might be allowed.

Mrs. Armstrong arrived Monday evening with her husband's body, and the
services were set for the next day.  The house on Chestnut Street, in
town, had been opened, and Tuesday morning Louise left us to go home.
She sent for me before she went, and I saw she had been crying.

"How can I thank you, Miss Innes?" she said.  "You have taken me on
faith, and--you have not asked me any questions.  Some time, perhaps, I
can tell you; and when that time comes, you will all despise
me,--Halsey, too."

I tried to tell her how glad I was to have had her but there was
something else she wanted to say.  She said it finally, when she had
bade a constrained good-by to Halsey and the car was waiting at the
door.

"Miss Innes," she said in a low tone, "if they--if there is any attempt
made to--to have you give up the house, do it, if you possibly can.  I
am afraid--to have you stay."

That was all.  Gertrude went into town with her and saw her safely
home.  She reported a decided coolness in the greeting between Louise
and her mother, and that Doctor Walker was there, apparently in charge
of the arrangements for the funeral.  Halsey disappeared shortly after
Louise left and came home about nine that night, muddy and tired.  As
for Thomas, he went around dejected and sad, and I saw the detective
watching him closely at dinner.  Even now I wonder--what did Thomas
know?  What did he suspect?

At ten o'clock the household had settled down for the night. Liddy, who
was taking Mrs. Watson's place, had finished examining the tea-towels
and the corners of the shelves in the cooling-room, and had gone to
bed.  Alex, the gardener, had gone heavily up the circular staircase to
his room, and Mr. Jamieson was examining the locks of the windows.
Halsey dropped into a chair in the living-room, and stared moodily
ahead.  Once he roused.

"What sort of a looking chap is that Walker, Gertrude?" he asked!

"Rather tall, very dark, smooth-shaven.  Not bad looking," Gertrude
said, putting down the book she had been pretending to read.  Halsey
kicked a taboret viciously.

"Lovely place this village must be in the winter," he said
irrelevantly.  "A girl would be buried alive here."

It was then some one rapped at the knocker on the heavy front door.
Halsey got up leisurely and opened it, admitting Warner. He was out of
breath from running, and he looked half abashed.

"I am sorry to disturb you," he said.  "But I didn't know what else to
do.  It's about Thomas."

"What about Thomas?" I asked.  Mr. Jamieson had come into the hall and
we all stared at Warner.

"He's acting queer," Warner explained.  "He's sitting down there on the
edge of the porch, and he says he has seen a ghost.  The old man looks
bad, too; he can scarcely speak."

"He's as full of superstition as an egg is of meat," I said. "Halsey,
bring some whisky and we will all go down."

No one moved to get the whisky, from which I judged there were three
pocket flasks ready for emergency.  Gertrude threw a shawl around my
shoulders, and we all started down over the hill: I had made so many
nocturnal excursions around the place that I knew my way perfectly.
But Thomas was not on the veranda, nor was he inside the house.  The
men exchanged significant glances, and Warner got a lantern.

"He can't have gone far," he said.  "He was trembling so that he
couldn't stand, when I left."

Jamieson and Halsey together made the round of the lodge, occasionally
calling the old man by name.  But there was no response.  No Thomas
came, bowing and showing his white teeth through the darkness.  I began
to be vaguely uneasy, for the first time.  Gertrude, who was never
nervous in the dark, went alone down the drive to the gate, and stood
there, looking along the yellowish line of the road, while I waited on
the tiny veranda.

Warner was puzzled.  He came around to the edge of the veranda and
stood looking at it as if it ought to know and explain.

"He might have stumbled into the house," he said, "but he could not
have climbed the stairs.  Anyhow, he's not inside or outside, that I
can see."  The other members of the party had come back now, and no one
had found any trace of the old man.  His pipe, still warm, rested on
the edge of the rail, and inside on the table his old gray hat showed
that its owner had not gone far.

He was not far, after all.  From the table my eyes traveled around the
room, and stopped at the door of a closet.  I hardly know what impulse
moved me, but I went in and turned the knob. It burst open with the
impetus of a weight behind it, and something fell partly forward in a
heap on the floor.  It was Thomas--Thomas without a mark of injury on
him, and dead.



CHAPTER XX

DOCTOR WALKER'S WARNING

Warner was on his knees in a moment, fumbling at the old man's collar
to loosen it, but Halsey caught his hand.

"Let him alone?" he said.  "You can't help him; he is dead."

We stood there, each avoiding the other's eyes; we spoke low and
reverently in the presence of death, and we tacitly avoided any mention
of the suspicion that was in every mind.  When Mr. Jamieson had
finished his cursory examination, he got up and dusted the knees of his
trousers.

"There is no sign of injury," he said, and I know I, for one, drew a
long breath of relief.  "From what Warner says and from his hiding in
the closet, I should say he was scared to death. Fright and a weak
heart, together."

"But what could have done it?" Gertrude asked.  "He was all right this
evening at dinner.  Warner, what did he say when you found him on the
porch?"

Warner looked shaken: his honest, boyish face was colorless.

"Just what I told you, Miss Innes.  He'd been reading the paper
down-stairs; I had put up the car, and, feeling sleepy, I came down to
the lodge to go to bed.  As I went up-stairs, Thomas put down the paper
and, taking his pipe, went out on the porch. Then I heard an
exclamation from him."

"What did he say?" demanded Jamieson.

"I couldn't hear, but his voice was strange; it sounded startled.  I
waited for him to call out again, but he did not, so I went
down-stairs.  He was sitting on the porch step, looking straight ahead,
as if he saw something among the trees across the road.  And he kept
mumbling about having seen a ghost.  He looked queer, and I tried to
get him inside, but he wouldn't move.  Then I thought I'd better go up
to the house."

"Didn't he say anything else you could understand?" I asked.

"He said something about the grave giving up its dead."

Mr. Jamieson was going through the old man's pockets, and Gertrude was
composing his arms, folding them across his white shirt-bosom, always
so spotless.

Mr. Jamieson looked up at me.

"What was that you said to me, Miss Innes, about the murder at the
house being a beginning and not an end?  By jove, I believe you were
right!"

In the course of his investigations the detective had come to the inner
pocket of the dead butler's black coat.  Here he found some things that
interested him.  One was a small flat key, with a red cord tied to it,
and the other was a bit of white paper, on which was written something
in Thomas' cramped hand.  Mr. Jamieson read it: then he gave it to me.
It was an address in fresh ink--

            LUCIEN WALLACE, 14 Elm Street, Richfield.

As the card went around, I think both the detective and I watched for
any possible effect it might have, but, beyond perplexity, there seemed
to be none.

"Richfield!" Gertrude exclaimed.  "Why, Elm Street is the main street;
don't you remember, Halsey?"

"Lucien Wallace!" Halsey said.  "That is the child Stewart spoke of at
the inquest."

Warner, with his mechanic's instinct, had reached for the key. What he
said was not a surprise.

"Yale lock," he said.  "Probably a key to the east entry."

There was no reason why Thomas, an old and trusted servant, should not
have had a key to that particular door, although the servants' entry
was in the west wing.  But I had not known of this key, and it opened
up a new field of conjecture.  Just now, however, there were many
things to be attended to, and, leaving Warner with the body, we all
went back to the house.  Mr. Jamieson walked with me, while Halsey and
Gertrude followed.

"I suppose I shall have to notify the Armstrongs," I said.  "They will
know if Thomas had any people and how to reach them.  Of course, I
expect to defray the expenses of the funeral, but his relatives must be
found.  What do you think frightened him, Mr. Jamieson?"

"It is hard to say," he replied slowly, "but I think we may be certain
it was fright, and that he was hiding from something.  I am sorry in
more than one way:  I have always believed that Thomas knew something,
or suspected something, that he would not tell.  Do you know hour much
money there was in that worn-out wallet of his?  Nearly a hundred
dollars!  Almost two months' wages--and yet those darkies seldom have a
penny.  Well--what Thomas knew will be buried with him."

Halsey suggested that the grounds be searched, but Mr. Jamieson vetoed
the suggestion.

"You would find nothing," he said.  "A person clever enough to get into
Sunnyside and tear a hole in the wall, while I watched down-stairs, is
not to be found by going around the shrubbery with a lantern."

With the death of Thomas, I felt that a climax had come in affairs at
Sunnyside.  The night that followed was quiet enough. Halsey watched at
the foot of the staircase, and a complicated system of bolts on the
other doors seemed to be effectual.

Once in the night I wakened and thought I heard the tapping again.  But
all was quiet, and I had reached the stage where I refused to be
disturbed for minor occurrences.

The Armstrongs were notified of Thomas' death, and I had my first
interview with Doctor Walker as a result.  He came up early the next
morning, just as we finished breakfast, in a professional looking car
with a black hood.  I found him striding up and down the living-room,
and, in spite of my preconceived dislike, I had to admit that the man
was presentable.  A big fellow he was, tall and dark, as Gertrude had
said, smooth-shaven and erect, with prominent features and a square
jaw.  He was painfully spruce in his appearance, and his manner was
almost obtrusively polite.

"I must make a double excuse for this early visit, Miss Innes," he said
as he sat down.  The chair was lower than he expected, and his dignity
required collecting before he went on.  "My professional duties are
urgent and long neglected, and"--a fall to the every-day
manner--"something must be done about that body."

"Yes," I said, sitting on the edge of my chair.  "I merely wished the
address of Thomas' people.  You might have telephoned, if you were
busy."

He smiled.

"I wished to see you about something else," he said.  "As for Thomas,
it is Mrs. Armstrong's wish that you would allow her to attend to the
expense.  About his relatives, I have already notified his brother, in
the village.  It was heart disease, I think.  Thomas always had a bad
heart."

"Heart disease and fright," I said, still on the edge of my chair.  But
the doctor had no intention of leaving.

"I understand you have a ghost up here, and that you have the house
filled with detectives to exorcise it," he said.

For some reason I felt I was being "pumped," as Halsey says. "You have
been misinformed," I replied.

"What, no ghost, no detectives!" he said, still with his smile. "What a
disappointment to the village!"

I resented his attempt at playfulness.  It had been anything but a joke
to us.

"Doctor Walker," I said tartly, "I fail to see any humor in the
situation.  Since I came here, one man has been shot, and another one
has died from shock.  There have been intruders in the house, and
strange noises.  If that is funny, there is something wrong with my
sense of humor."

"You miss the point," he said, still good-naturedly.  "The thing that
is funny, to me, is that you insist on remaining here, under the
circumstances.  I should think nothing would keep you."

"You are mistaken.  Everything that occurs only confirms my resolution
to stay until the mystery is cleared."

"I have a message for you, Miss Innes," he said, rising at last.  "Mrs.
Armstrong asked me to thank you for your kindness to Louise, whose
whim, occurring at the time it did, put her to great inconvenience.
Also--and this is a delicate matter--she asked me to appeal to your
natural sympathy for her, at this time, and to ask you if you will not
reconsider your decision about the house.  Sunnyside is her home; she
loves it dearly, and just now she wishes to retire here for quiet and
peace."

"She must have had a change of heart," I said, ungraciously enough.
"Louise told me her mother despised the place.  Besides, this is no
place for quiet and peace just now.  Anyhow, doctor, while I don't care
to force an issue, I shall certainly remain here, for a time at least."

"For how long?" he asked.

"My lease is for six months.  I shall stay until some explanation is
found for certain things.  My own family is implicated now, and I shall
do everything to clear the mystery of Arnold Armstrong's murder."

The doctor stood looking down, slapping his gloves thoughtfully against
the palm of a well-looked-after hand.

"You say there have been intruders in the house?" he asked. "You are
sure of that, Miss Innes?"

"Certain."

"In what part?"

"In the east wing."

"Can you tell me when these intrusions occurred, and what the purpose
seemed to be?  Was it robbery?"

"No," I said decidedly.  "As to time, once on Friday night a week ago,
again the following night, when Arnold Armstrong was murdered, and
again last Friday night."

The doctor looked serious.  He seemed to be debating some question in
his mind, and to reach a decision.

"Miss Innes," he said, "I am in a peculiar position; I understand your
attitude, of course; but--do you think you are wise?  Ever since you
have come here there have been hostile demonstrations against you and
your family.  I'm not a croaker, but--take a warning.  Leave before
anything occurs that will cause you a lifelong regret."

"I am willing to take the responsibility," I said coldly.

I think he gave me up then as a poor proposition.  He asked to be shown
where Arnold Armstrong's body had been found, and I took him there.  He
scrutinized the whole place carefully, examining the stairs and the
lock.  When he had taken a formal farewell I was confident of one
thing.  Doctor Walker would do anything he could to get me away from
Sunnyside.



CHAPTER XXI

FOURTEEN ELM STREET

It was Monday evening when we found the body of poor old Thomas. Monday
night had been uneventful; things were quiet at the house and the
peculiar circumstances of the old man's death had been carefully kept
from the servants.  Rosie took charge of the dining-room and pantry, in
the absence of a butler, and, except for the warning of the Casanova
doctor, everything breathed of peace.

Affairs at the Traders' Bank were progressing slowly.  The failure had
hit small stock-holders very hard, the minister of the little Methodist
chapel in Casanova among them.  He had received as a legacy from an
uncle a few shares of stock in the Traders' Bank, and now his joy was
turned to bitterness: he had to sacrifice everything he had in the
world, and his feeling against Paul Armstrong, dead, as he was, must
have been bitter in the extreme.  He was asked to officiate at the
simple services when the dead banker's body was interred in Casanova
churchyard, but the good man providentially took cold, and a substitute
was called in.

A few days after the services he called to see me, a kind-faced little
man, in a very bad frock-coat and laundered tie.  I think he was
uncertain as to my connection with the Armstrong family, and dubious
whether I considered Mr. Armstrong's taking away a matter for
condolence or congratulation.  He was not long in doubt.

I liked the little man.  He had known Thomas well, and had promised to
officiate at the services in the rickety African Zion Church.  He told
me more of himself than he knew, and before he left, I astonished
him--and myself, I admit--by promising a new carpet for his church.  He
was much affected, and I gathered that he had yearned over his ragged
chapel as a mother over a half-clothed child.

"You are laying up treasure, Miss Innes," he said brokenly, "where
neither moth nor rust corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal."

"It is certainly a safer place than Sunnyside," I admitted.  And the
thought of the carpet permitted him to smile.  He stood just inside the
doorway, looking from the luxury of the house to the beauty of the view.

"The rich ought to be good," he said wistfully.  "They have so much
that is beautiful, and beauty is ennobling.  And yet--while I ought to
say nothing but good of the dead--Mr. Armstrong saw nothing of this
fair prospect.  To him these trees and lawns were not the work of God.
They were property, at so much an acre.  He loved money, Miss Innes.
He offered up everything to his golden calf.  Not power, not ambition,
was his fetish: it was money." Then he dropped his pulpit manner, and,
turning to me with his engaging smile:  "In spite of all this luxury,"
he said, "the country people here have a saying that Mr. Paul Armstrong
could sit on a dollar and see all around it.  Unlike the summer people,
he gave neither to the poor nor to the church.  He loved money for its
own sake."

"And there are no pockets in shrouds!" I said cynically.

I sent him home in the car, with a bunch of hot-house roses for his
wife, and he was quite overwhelmed.  As for me, I had a generous glow
that was cheap at the price of a church carpet.  I received less
gratification--and less gratitude--when I presented the new silver
communion set to St. Barnabas.

I had a great many things to think about in those days.  I made out a
list of questions and possible answers, but I seemed only to be working
around in a circle.  I always ended where I began. The list was
something like this:


Who had entered the house the night before the murder?

Thomas claimed it was Mr. Bailey, whom he had seen on the foot-path,
and who owned the pearl cuff-link.

Why did Arnold Armstrong come back after he had left the house the
night he was killed?

No answer.  Was it on the mission Louise had mentioned?

Who admitted him?

Gertrude said she had locked the east entry.  There was no key on the
dead man or in the door.  He must have been admitted from within.

Who had been locked in the clothes chute?

Some one unfamiliar with the house, evidently.  Only two people missing
from the household, Rosie and Gertrude.  Rosie had been at the lodge.
Therefore--but was it Gertrude?  Might it not have been the mysterious
intruder again?

Who had accosted Rosie on the drive?

Again--perhaps the nightly visitor.  It seemed more likely some one who
suspected a secret at the lodge.  Was Louise under surveillance?

Who had passed Louise on the circular staircase?

Could it have been Thomas?  The key to the east entry made this a
possibility.  But why was he there, if it were indeed he?

Who had made the hole in the trunk-room wall?

It was not vandalism.  It had been done quietly, and with deliberate
purpose.  If I had only known how to read the purpose of that gaping
aperture what I might have saved in anxiety and mental strain!

Why had Louise left her people and come home to hide at the lodge?

There was no answer, as yet, to this, or to the next questions.

Why did both she and Doctor Walker warn us away from the house?

Who was Lucien Wallace?

What did Thomas see in the shadows the night he died?

What was the meaning of the subtle change in Gertrude?

Was Jack Bailey an accomplice or a victim in the looting of the
Traders' Bank?

What all-powerful reason made Louise determine to marry Doctor Walker?


The examiners were still working on the books of the Traders' Bank, and
it was probable that several weeks would elapse before everything was
cleared up.  The firm of expert accountants who had examined the books
some two months before testified that every bond, every piece of
valuable paper, was there at that time.  It had been shortly after
their examination that the president, who had been in bad health, had
gone to California. Mr. Bailey was still ill at the Knickerbocker, and
in this, as in other ways, Gertrude's conduct puzzled me.  She seemed
indifferent, refused to discuss matters pertaining to the bank, and
never, to my knowledge, either wrote to him or went to see him.

Gradually I came to the conclusion that Gertrude, with the rest of the
world, believed her lover guilty, and--although I believed it myself,
for that matter--I was irritated by her indifference. Girls in my day
did not meekly accept the public's verdict as to the man they loved.

But presently something occurred that made me think that under
Gertrude's surface calm there was a seething flood of emotions.

Tuesday morning the detective made a careful search of the grounds, but
he found nothing.  In the afternoon he disappeared, and it was late
that night when he came home.  He said he would have to go back to the
city the following day, and arranged with Halsey and Alex to guard the
house.

Liddy came to me on Wednesday morning with her black silk apron held up
like a bag, and her eyes big with virtuous wrath.  It was the day of
Thomas' funeral in the village, and Alex and I were in the conservatory
cutting flowers for the old man's casket.  Liddy is never so happy as
when she is making herself wretched, and now her mouth drooped while
her eyes were triumphant.

"I always said there were plenty of things going on here, right under
our noses, that we couldn't see," she said, holding out her apron.

"I don't see with my nose," I remarked.  "What have you got there?"

Liddy pushed aside a half-dozen geranium pots, and in the space thus
cleared she dumped the contents of her apron--a handful of tiny bits of
paper.  Alex had stepped back, but I saw him watching her curiously.

"Wait a moment, Liddy," I said.  "You have been going through the
library paper-basket again!"

Liddy was arranging her bits of paper with the skill of long practice
and paid no attention.

"Did it ever occur to you," I went on, putting my hand over the scraps,
"that when people tear up their correspondence, it is for the express
purpose of keeping it from being read?"

"If they wasn't ashamed of it they wouldn't take so much trouble, Miss
Rachel," Liddy said oracularly.  "More than that, with things happening
every day, I consider it my duty.  If you don't read and act on this, I
shall give it to that Jamieson, and I'll venture he'll not go back to
the city to-day."

That decided me.  If the scraps had anything to do with the mystery
ordinary conventions had no value.  So Liddy arranged the scraps, like
working out one of the puzzle-pictures children play with, and she did
it with much the same eagerness.  When it was finished she stepped
aside while I read it.

"Wednesday night, nine o'clock.  Bridge," I real aloud.  Then, aware of
Alex's stare, I turned on Liddy.

"Some one is to play bridge to-night at nine o'clock," I said. "Is that
your business, or mine?"

Liddy was aggrieved.  She was about to reply when I scooped up the
pieces and left the conservatory.

"Now then," I said, when we got outside, "will you tell me why you
choose to take Alex into your confidence?  He's no fool.  Do you
suppose he thinks any one in this house is going to play bridge
to-night at nine o'clock, by appointment!  I suppose you have shown it
in the kitchen, and instead of my being able to slip down to the bridge
to-night quietly, and see who is there, the whole household will be
going in a procession."

"Nobody knows it," Liddy said humbly.  "I found it in the basket in
Miss Gertrude's dressing-room.  Look at the back of the sheet."  I
turned over some of the scraps, and, sure enough, it was a blank
deposit slip from the Traders' Bank.  So Gertrude was going to meet
Jack Bailey that night by the bridge!  And I had thought he was ill!
It hardly seemed like the action of an innocent man--this avoidance of
daylight, and of his fiancee's people.  I decided to make certain,
however, by going to the bridge that night.

After luncheon Mr. Jamieson suggested that I go with him to Richfield,
and I consented.

"I am inclined to place more faith in Doctor Stewart's story," he said,
"since I found that scrap in old Thomas' pocket.  It bears out the
statement that the woman with the child, and the woman who quarreled
with Armstrong, are the same.  It looks as if Thomas had stumbled on to
some affair which was more or less discreditable to the dead man, and,
with a certain loyalty to the family, had kept it to himself.  Then,
you see, your story about the woman at the card-room window begins to
mean something.  It is the nearest approach to anything tangible that
we have had yet."

Warner took us to Richfield in the car.  It was about twenty-five miles
by railroad, but by taking a series of atrociously rough short cuts we
got there very quickly.  It was a pretty little town, on the river, and
back on the hill I could see the Mortons' big country house, where
Halsey and Gertrude had been staying until the night of the murder.

Elm Street was almost the only street, and number fourteen was easily
found.  It was a small white house, dilapidated without having gained
anything picturesque, with a low window and a porch only a foot or so
above the bit of a lawn.  There was a baby-carriage in the path, and
from a swing at the side came the sound of conflict.  Three small
children were disputing vociferously, and a faded young woman with a
kindly face was trying to hush the clamor.  When she saw us she untied
her gingham apron and came around to the porch.

"Good afternoon," I said.  Jamieson lifted his hat, without speaking.
"I came to inquire about a child named Lucien Wallace."

"I am glad you have come," she said.  "In spite of the other children,
I think the little fellow is lonely.  We thought perhaps his mother
would be here to-day."

Mr. Jamieson stepped forward.

"You are Mrs. Tate?" I wondered how the detective knew.

"Yes, sir."

"Mrs. Tate, we want to make some inquiries.  Perhaps in the house--"

"Come right in," she said hospitably.  And soon we were in the little
shabby parlor, exactly like a thousand of its prototypes. Mrs. Tate sat
uneasily, her hands folded in her lap.

"How long has Lucien been here?" Mr. Jamieson asked.

"Since a week ago last Friday.  His mother paid one week's board in
advance; the other has not been paid."

"Was he ill when he came?"

"No, sir, not what you'd call sick.  He was getting better of typhoid,
she said, and he's picking up fine."

"Will you tell me his mother's name and address?"

"That's the trouble," the young woman said, knitting her brows. "She
gave her name as Mrs. Wallace, and said she had no address. She was
looking for a boarding-house in town.  She said she worked in a
department store, and couldn't take care of the child properly, and he
needed fresh air and milk.  I had three children of my own, and one
more didn't make much difference in the work, but--I wish she would pay
this week's board."

"Did she say what store it was?"

"No, sir, but all the boy's clothes came from King's.  He has far too
fine clothes for the country."

There was a chorus of shouts and shrill yells from the front door,
followed by the loud stamping of children's feet and a throaty "whoa,
whoa!"  Into the room came a tandem team of two chubby youngsters, a
boy and a girl, harnessed with a clothes-line, and driven by a laughing
boy of about seven, in tan overalls and brass buttons.  The small
driver caught my attention at once: he was a beautiful child, and,
although he showed traces of recent severe illness, his skin had now
the clear transparency of health.

"Whoa, Flinders," he shouted.  "You're goin' to smash the trap."

Mr. Jamieson coaxed him over by holding out a lead-pencil, striped blue
and yellow.

"Now, then," he said, when the boy had taken the lead-pencil and was
testing its usefulness on the detective's cuff, "now then, I'll bet you
don't know what your name is!"

"I do," said the boy.  "Lucien Wallace."

"Great!  And what's your mother's name?"

"Mother, of course.  What's your mother's name?"  And he pointed to me!
I am going to stop wearing black: it doubles a woman's age.

"And where did you live before you came here?"  The detective was
polite enough not to smile.

"Grossmutter," he said.  And I saw Mr. Jamieson's eyebrows go up.

"German," he commented.  "Well, young man, you don't seem to know much
about yourself."

"I've tried it all week," Mrs. Tate broke in.  "The boy knows a word or
two of German, but he doesn't know where he lived, or anything about
himself."

Mr. Jamieson wrote something on a card and gave it to her.

"Mrs. Tate," he said, "I want you to do something.  Here is some money
for the telephone call.  The instant the boy's mother appears here,
call up that number and ask for the person whose name is there.  You
can run across to the drug-store on an errand and do it quietly.  Just
say, 'The lady has come.'"

"'The lady has come,'" repeated Mrs. Tate.  "Very well, sir, and I hope
it will be soon.  The milk-bill alone is almost double what it was."

"How much is the child's board?" I asked.

"Three dollars a week, including his washing."

"Very well," I said.  "Now, Mrs. Tate, I am going to pay last week's
board and a week in advance.  If the mother comes, she is to know
nothing of this visit--absolutely not a word, and, in return for your
silence, you may use this money for--something for your own children."

Her tired, faded face lighted up, and I saw her glance at the little
Tates' small feet.  Shoes, I divined--the feet of the genteel poor
being almost as expensive as their stomachs.

As we went back Mr. Jamieson made only one remark:  I think he was
laboring under the weight of a great disappointment.

"Is King's a children's outfitting place?" he asked.

"Not especially.  It is a general department store."

He was silent after that, but he went to the telephone as soon as we
got home, and called up King and Company, in the city.

After a time he got the general manager, and they talked for some time.
When Mr. Jamieson hung up the receiver he turned to me.

"The plot thickens," he said with his ready smile.  "There are four
women named Wallace at King's none of them married, and none over
twenty.  I think I shall go up to the city to-night. I want to go to
the Children's Hospital.  But before I go, Miss Innes, I wish you would
be more frank with me than you have been yet.  I want you to show me
the revolver you picked up in the tulip bed."

So he had known all along!

"It WAS a revolver, Mr. Jamieson," I admitted, cornered at last, "but I
can not show it to you.  It is not in my possession."



CHAPTER XXII

A LADDER OUT OF PLACE

At dinner Mr. Jamieson suggested sending a man out in his place for a
couple of days, but Halsey was certain there would be nothing more, and
felt that he and Alex could manage the situation.  The detective went
back to town early in the evening, and by nine o'clock Halsey, who had
been playing golf--as a man does anything to take his mind away from
trouble--was sleeping soundly on the big leather davenport in the
living-room.

I sat and knitted, pretending not to notice when Gertrude got up and
wandered out into the starlight.  As soon as I was satisfied that she
had gone, however, I went out cautiously.  I had no intention of
eavesdropping, but I wanted to be certain that it was Jack Bailey she
was meeting.  Too many things had occurred in which Gertrude was, or
appeared to be, involved, to allow anything to be left in question.

I went slowly across the lawn, skirted the hedge to a break not far
from the lodge, and found myself on the open road.  Perhaps a hundred
feet to the left the path led across the valley to the Country Club,
and only a little way off was the foot-bridge over Casanova Creek.  But
just as I was about to turn down the path I heard steps coming toward
me, and I shrank into the bushes.  It was Gertrude, going back quickly
toward the house.

I was surprised.  I waited until she had had time to get almost to the
house before I started.  And then I stepped back again into the
shadows.  The reason why Gertrude had not kept her tryst was evident.
Leaning on the parapet of the bridge in the moonlight, and smoking a
pipe, was Alex, the gardener.  I could have throttled Liddy for her
carelessness in reading the torn note where he could hear.  And I could
cheerfully have choked Alex to death for his audacity.

But there was no help for it: I turned and followed Gertrude slowly
back to the house.

The frequent invasions of the house had effectually prevented any
relaxation after dusk.  We had redoubled our vigilance as to bolts and
window-locks but, as Mr. Jamieson had suggested, we allowed the door at
the east entry to remain as before, locked by the Yale lock only.  To
provide only one possible entrance for the invader, and to keep a
constant guard in the dark at the foot of the circular staircase,
seemed to be the only method.

In the absence of the detective, Alex and Halsey arranged to change
off, Halsey to be on duty from ten to two, and Alex from two until six.
Each man was armed, and, as an additional precaution, the one off duty
slept in a room near the head of the circular staircase and kept his
door open, to be ready for emergency.

These arrangements were carefully kept from the servants, who were only
commencing to sleep at night, and who retired, one and all, with barred
doors and lamps that burned full until morning.

The house was quiet again Wednesday night.  It was almost a week since
Louise had encountered some one on the stairs, and it was four days
since the discovery of the hole in the trunk-room wall.

Arnold Armstrong and his father rested side by side in the Casanova
churchyard, and at the Zion African Church, on the hill, a new mound
marked the last resting-place of poor Thomas.


Louise was with her mother in town, and, beyond a polite note of thanks
to me, we had heard nothing from her.  Doctor Walker had taken up his
practice again, and we saw him now and then flying past along the road,
always at top speed.  The murder of Arnold Armstrong was still
unavenged, and I remained firm in the position I had taken--to stay at
Sunnyside until the thing was at least partly cleared.

And yet, for all its quiet, it was on Wednesday night that perhaps the
boldest attempt was made to enter the house.  On Thursday afternoon the
laundress sent word she would like to speak to me, and I saw her in my
private sitting-room, a small room beyond the dressing-room.

Mary Anne was embarrassed.  She had rolled down her sleeves and tied a
white apron around her waist, and she stood making folds in it with
fingers that were red and shiny from her soap-suds.

"Well, Mary," I said encouragingly, "what's the matter?  Don't dare to
tell me the soap is out."

"No, ma'm, Miss Innes."  She had a nervous habit of looking first at my
one eye and then at the other, her own optics shifting ceaselessly,
right eye, left eye, right eye, until I found myself doing the same
thing.  "No, ma'm.  I was askin' did you want the ladder left up the
clothes chute?"

"The what?" I screeched, and was sorry the next minute.  Seeing her
suspicions were verified, Mary Anne had gone white, and stood with her
eyes shifting more wildly than ever.

"There's a ladder up the clothes chute, Miss Innes," she said. "It's up
that tight I can't move it, and I didn't like to ask for help until I
spoke to you."

It was useless to dissemble; Mary Anne knew now as well as I did that
the ladder had no business to be there.  I did the best I could,
however.  I put her on the defensive at once.

"Then you didn't lock the laundry last night?"

"I locked it tight, and put the key in the kitchen on its nail."

"Very well, then you forgot a window."

Mary Anne hesitated.

"Yes'm," she said at last.  "I thought I locked them all, but there was
one open this morning."

I went out of the room and down the hall, followed by Mary Anne. The
door into the clothes chute was securely bolted, and when I opened it I
saw the evidence of the woman's story.  A pruning-ladder had been
brought from where it had lain against the stable and now stood upright
in the clothes shaft, its end resting against the wall between the
first and second floors.

I turned to Mary.

"This is due to your carelessness," I said.  "If we had all been
murdered in our beds it would have been your fault."  She shivered.
"Now, not a word of this through the house, and send Alex to me."

The effect on Alex was to make him apoplectic with rage, and with it
all I fancied there was an element of satisfaction.  As I look back, so
many things are plain to me that I wonder I could not see at the time.
It is all known now, and yet the whole thing was so remarkable that
perhaps my stupidity was excusable.

Alex leaned down the chute and examined the ladder carefully.

"It is caught," he said with a grim smile.  "The fools, to have left a
warning like that!  The only trouble is, Miss Innes, they won't be apt
to come back for a while."

"I shouldn't regard that in the light of a calamity," I replied.

Until late that evening Halsey and Alex worked at the chute. They
forced down the ladder at last, and put a new bolt on the door.  As for
myself, I sat and wondered if I had a deadly enemy, intent on my
destruction.

I was growing more and more nervous.  Liddy had given up all pretense
at bravery, and slept regularly in my dressing-room on the couch, with
a prayer-book and a game knife from the kitchen under her pillow, thus
preparing for both the natural and the supernatural.  That was the way
things stood that Thursday night, when I myself took a hand in the
struggle.



CHAPTER XXIII

WHILE THE STABLES BURNED

About nine o'clock that night Liddy came into the living-room and
reported that one of the housemaids declared she had seen two men slip
around the corner of the stable.  Gertrude had been sitting staring in
front of her, jumping at every sound.  Now she turned on Liddy
pettishly.

"I declare, Liddy," she said, "you are a bundle of nerves.  What if
Eliza did see some men around the stable?  It may have been Warner and
Alex."

"Warner is in the kitchen, miss," Liddy said with dignity.  "And if you
had come through what I have, you would be a bundle of nerves, too.
Miss Rachel, I'd be thankful if you'd give me my month's wages
to-morrow.  I'll be going to my sister's."

"Very well," I said, to her evident amazement.  "I will make out the
check.  Warner can take you down to the noon train."

Liddy's face was really funny.

"You'll have a nice time at your sister's," I went on.  "Five children,
hasn't she?"

"That's it," Liddy said, suddenly bursting into tears.  "Send me away,
after all these years, and your new shawl only half done, and nobody
knowin' how to fix the water for your bath."

"It's time I learned to prepare my own bath."  I was knitting
complacently.  But Gertrude got up and put her arms around Liddy's
shaking shoulders.

"You are two big babies," she said soothingly.  "Neither one of you
could get along for an hour without the other.  So stop quarreling and
be good.  Liddy, go right up and lay out Aunty's night things.  She is
going to bed early."

After Liddy had gone I began to think about the men at the stable, and
I grew more and more anxious.  Halsey was aimlessly knocking the
billiard-balls around in the billiard-room, and I called to him.

"Halsey," I said when he sauntered in, "is there a policeman in
Casanova?"

"Constable," he said laconically.  "Veteran of the war, one arm; in
office to conciliate the G. A. R. element.  Why?"

"Because I am uneasy to-night."  And I told him what Liddy had said.
"Is there any one you can think of who could be relied on to watch the
outside of the house to-night?"

"We might get Sam Bohannon from the club," he said thoughtfully. "It
wouldn't be a bad scheme.  He's a smart darky, and with his mouth shut
and his shirt-front covered, you couldn't see him a yard off in the
dark."

Halsey conferred with Alex, and the result, in an hour, was Sam. His
instructions were simple.  There had been numerous attempts to break
into the house; it was the intention, not to drive intruders away, but
to capture them.  If Sam saw anything suspicious outside, he was to tap
at the east entry, where Alex and Halsey were to alternate in keeping
watch through the night.

It was with a comfortable feeling of security that I went to bed that
night.  The door between Gertrude's rooms and mine had been opened,
and, with the doors into the hall bolted, we were safe enough.
Although Liddy persisted in her belief that doors would prove no
obstacles to our disturbers.

As before, Halsey watched the east entry from ten until two. He had an
eye to comfort, and he kept vigil in a heavy oak chair, very large and
deep.  We went up-stairs rather early, and through the open door
Gertrude and I kept up a running fire of conversation.  Liddy was
brushing my hair, and Gertrude was doing her own, with a long free
sweep of her strong round arms.

"Did you know Mrs. Armstrong and Louise are in the village?" she called.

"No," I replied, startled.  "How did you hear it?"

"I met the oldest Stewart girl to-day, the doctor's daughter, and she
told me they had not gone back to town after the funeral. They went
directly to that little yellow house next to Doctor Walker's, and are
apparently settled there.  They took the house furnished for the
summer."

"Why, it's a bandbox," I said.  "I can't imagine Fanny Armstrong in
such a place."

"It's true, nevertheless.  Ella Stewart says Mrs. Armstrong has aged
terribly, and looks as if she is hardly able to walk."

I lay and thought over some of these things until midnight.  The
electric lights went out then, fading slowly until there was only a
red-hot loop to be seen in the bulb, and then even that died away and
we were embarked on the darkness of another night.

Apparently only a few minutes elapsed, during which my eyes were
becoming accustomed to the darkness.  Then I noticed that the windows
were reflecting a faint pinkish light, Liddy noticed it at the same
time, and I heard her jump up.  At that moment Sam's deep voice boomed
from somewhere just below.

"Fire!" he yelled.  "The stable's on fire!"

I could see him in the glare dancing up and down on the drive, and a
moment later Halsey joined him.  Alex was awake and running down the
stairs, and in five minutes from the time the fire was discovered,
three of the maids were sitting on their trunks in the drive, although,
excepting a few sparks, there was no fire nearer than a hundred yards.

Gertrude seldom loses her presence of mind, and she ran to the
telephone.  But by the time the Casanova volunteer fire department came
toiling up the hill the stable was a furnace, with the Dragon Fly safe
but blistered, in the road.  Some gasolene exploded just as the
volunteer department got to work, which shook their nerves as well as
the burning building.  The stable, being on a hill, was a torch to
attract the population from every direction.  Rumor had it that
Sunnyside was burning, and it was amazing how many people threw
something over their night-clothes and flew to the conflagration.

I take it Casanova has few fires, and Sunnyside was furnishing the
people, in one way and another, the greatest excitement they had had
for years.

The stable was off the west wing.  I hardly know how I came to think of
the circular staircase and the unguarded door at its foot.  Liddy was
putting my clothes into sheets, preparatory to tossing them out the
window, when I found her, and I could hardly persuade her to stop.

"I want you to come with me, Liddy," I said.  "Bring a candle and a
couple of blankets."

She lagged behind considerably when she saw me making for the east
wing, and at the top of the staircase she balked.

"I am not going down there," she said firmly.

"There is no one guarding the door down there," I explained. "Who
knows?--this may be a scheme to draw everybody away from this end of
the house, and let some one in here."

The instant I had said it I was convinced I had hit on the explanation,
and that perhaps it was already too late.  It seemed to me as I
listened that I heard stealthy footsteps on the east porch, but there
was so much shouting outside that it was impossible to tell.  Liddy was
on the point of retreat.

"Very well," I said, "then I shall go down alone.  Run back to Mr.
Halsey's room and get his revolver.  Don't shoot down the stairs if you
hear a noise: remember--I shall be down there.  And hurry."

I put the candle on the floor at the top of the staircase and took off
my bedroom slippers.  Then I crept down the stairs, going very slowly,
and listening with all my ears.  I was keyed to such a pitch that I
felt no fear: like the condemned who sleep and eat the night before
execution, I was no longer able to suffer apprehension.  I was past
that.  Just at the foot of the stairs I stubbed my toe against Halsey's
big chair, and had to stand on one foot in a soundless agony until the
pain subsided to a dull ache.  And then--I knew I was right.  Some one
had put a key into the lock, and was turning it.  For some reason it
refused to work, and the key was withdrawn.  There was a muttering of
voices outside: I had only a second.  Another trial, and the door would
open.  The candle above made a faint gleam down the well-like
staircase, and at that moment, with a second, no more, to spare, I
thought of a plan.

The heavy oak chair almost filled the space between the newel post and
the door.  With a crash I had turned it on its side, wedging it against
the door, its legs against the stairs.  I could hear a faint scream
from Liddy, at the crash, and then she came down the stairs on a run,
with the revolver held straight out in front of her.

"Thank God," she said, in a shaking voice.  "I thought it was you."

I pointed to the door, and she understood.

"Call out the windows at the other end of the house," I whispered.
"Run.  Tell them not to wait for anything."

She went up the stairs at that, two at a time.  Evidently she collided
with the candle, for it went out, and I was left in darkness.

I was really astonishingly cool.  I remember stepping over the chair
and gluing my ear to the door, and I shall never forget feeling it give
an inch or two there in the darkness, under a steady pressure from
without.  But the chair held, although I could hear an ominous cracking
of one of the legs.  And then, without the slightest warning, the
card-room window broke with a crash.  I had my finger on the trigger of
the revolver, and as I jumped it went off, right through the door.
Some one outside swore roundly, and for the first time I could hear
what was said.

"Only a scratch. . . .  Men are at the other end of the house. . . .
Have the whole rat's nest on us."  And a lot of profanity which I won't
write down.  The voices were at the broken window now, and although I
was trembling violently, I was determined that I would hold them until
help came.  I moved up the stairs until I could see into the card-room,
or rather through it, to the window.  As I looked a small man put his
leg over the sill and stepped into the room.  The curtain confused him
for a moment; then he turned, not toward me, but toward the
billiard-room door.  I fired again, and something that was glass or
china crashed to the ground.  Then I ran up the stairs and along the
corridor to the main staircase.  Gertrude was standing there, trying to
locate the shots, and I must have been a peculiar figure, with my hair
in crimps, my dressing-gown flying, no slippers, and a revolver
clutched in my hands I had no time to talk.  There was the sound of
footsteps in the lower hall, and some one bounded up the stairs.

I had gone Berserk, I think.  I leaned over the stair-rail and fired
again.  Halsey, below, yelled at me.

"What are you doing up there?" he yelled.  "You missed me by an inch."

And then I collapsed and fainted.  When I came around Liddy was rubbing
my temples with eau de quinine, and the search was in full blast.

Well, the man was gone.  The stable burned to the ground, while the
crowd cheered at every falling rafter, and the volunteer fire
department sprayed it with a garden hose.  And in the house Alex and
Halsey searched every corner of the lower floor, finding no one.

The truth of my story was shown by the broken window and the overturned
chair.  That the unknown had got up-stairs was almost impossible.  He
had not used the main staircase, there was no way to the upper floor in
the east wing, and Liddy had been at the window, in the west wing,
where the servants' stair went up.  But we did not go to bed at all.
Sam Bohannon and Warner helped in the search, and not a closet escaped
scrutiny.  Even the cellars were given a thorough overhauling, without
result.  The door in the east entry had a hole through it where my
bullet had gone.

The hole slanted downward, and the bullet was embedded in the porch.
Some reddish stains showed it had done execution.

"Somebody will walk lame," Halsey said, when he had marked the course
of the bullet.  "It's too low to have hit anything but a leg or foot."

From that time on I watched every person I met for a limp, and to this
day the man who halts in his walk is an object of suspicion to me.  But
Casanova had no lame men: the nearest approach to it was an old fellow
who tended the safety gates at the railroad, and he, I learned on
inquiry, had two artificial legs.  Our man had gone, and the large and
expensive stable at Sunnyside was a heap of smoking rafters and charred
boards.  Warner swore the fire was incendiary, and in view of the
attempt to enter the house, there seemed to be no doubt of it.



CHAPTER XXIV

FLINDERS

If Halsey had only taken me fully into his confidence, through the
whole affair, it would have been much simpler.  If he had been
altogether frank about Jack Bailey, and if the day after the fire he
had told me what he suspected, there would have been no harrowing
period for all of us, with the boy in danger.  But young people refuse
to profit by the experience of their elders, and sometimes the elders
are the ones to suffer.

I was much used up the day after the fire, and Gertrude insisted on my
going out.  The machine was temporarily out of commission, and the
carriage horses had been sent to a farm for the summer. Gertrude
finally got a trap from the Casanova liveryman, and we went out.  Just
as we turned from the drive into the road we passed a woman.  She had
put down a small valise, and stood inspecting the house and grounds
minutely.  I should hardly have noticed her, had it not been for the
fact that she had been horribly disfigured by smallpox.

"Ugh!" Gertrude said, when we had passed, "what a face!  I shall dream
of it to-night.  Get up, Flinders."

"Flinders?" I asked.  "Is that the horse's name?"

"It is."  She flicked the horse's stubby mane with the whip.  "He
didn't look like a livery horse, and the liveryman said he had bought
him from the Armstrongs when they purchased a couple of motors and cut
down the stable.  Nice Flinders--good old boy!"

Flinders was certainly not a common name for a horse, and yet the
youngster at Richfield had named his prancing, curly-haired little
horse Flinders!  It set me to thinking.

At my request Halsey had already sent word of the fire to the agent
from whom we had secured the house.  Also, he had called Mr. Jamieson
by telephone, and somewhat guardedly had told him of the previous
night's events.  Mr. Jamieson promised to come out that night, and to
bring another man with him.  I did not consider it necessary to notify
Mrs. Armstrong, in the village. No doubt she knew of the fire, and in
view of my refusal to give up the house, an interview would probably
have been unpleasant enough.  But as we passed Doctor Walker's white
and green house I thought of something.

"Stop here, Gertrude," I said.  "I am going to get out."

"To see Louise?" she asked.

"No, I want to ask this young Walker something."

She was curious, I knew, but I did not wait to explain.  I went up the
walk to the house, where a brass sign at the side announced the office,
and went in.  The reception-room was empty, but from the
consulting-room beyond came the sound of two voices, not very amicable.

"It is an outrageous figure," some one was storming.  Then the doctor's
quiet tone, evidently not arguing, merely stating something.  But I had
not time to listen to some person probably disputing his bill, so I
coughed.  The voices ceased at once: a door closed somewhere, and the
doctor entered from the hall of the house.  He looked sufficiently
surprised at seeing me.

"Good afternoon, Doctor," I said formally.  "I shall not keep you from
your patient.  I wish merely to ask you a question."

"Won't you sit down?"

"It will not be necessary.  Doctor, has any one come to you, either
early this morning or to-day, to have you treat a bullet wound?"

"Nothing so startling has happened to me," he said.  "A bullet wound!
Things must be lively at Sunnyside."

"I didn't say it was at Sunnyside.  But as it happens, it was. If any
such case comes to you, will it be too much trouble for you to let me
know?"

"I shall be only too happy," he said.  "I understand you have had a
fire up there, too.  A fire and shooting in one night is rather lively
for a quiet place like that."

"It is as quiet as a boiler-shop," I replied, as I turned to go.

"And you are still going to stay?"

"Until I am burned out," I responded.  And then on my way down the
steps, I turned around suddenly.

"Doctor," I asked at a venture, "have you ever heard of a child named
Lucien Wallace?"

Clever as he was, his face changed and stiffened.  He was on his guard
again in a moment.

"Lucien Wallace?" he repeated.  "No, I think not.  There are plenty of
Wallaces around, but I don't know any Lucien."

I was as certain as possible that he did.  People do not lie readily to
me, and this man lied beyond a doubt.  But there was nothing to be
gained now; his defenses were up, and I left, half irritated and wholly
baffled.

Our reception was entirely different at Doctor Stewart's.  Taken into
the bosom of the family at once, Flinders tied outside and nibbling the
grass at the roadside, Gertrude and I drank some home-made elderberry
wine and told briefly of the fire.  Of the more serious part of the
night's experience, of course, we said nothing.  But when at last we
had left the family on the porch and the good doctor was untying our
steed, I asked him the same question I had put to Doctor Walker.

"Shot!" he said.  "Bless my soul, no.  Why, what have you been doing up
at the big house, Miss Innes?"

"Some one tried to enter the house during the fire, and was shot and
slightly injured," I said hastily.  "Please don't mention it; we wish
to make as little of it as possible."

There was one other possibility, and we tried that.  At Casanova
station I saw the station master, and asked him if any trains left
Casanova between one o'clock and daylight.  There was none until six
A.M.  The next question required more diplomacy.

"Did you notice on the six-o'clock train any person--any man--who
limped a little?" I asked.  "Please try to remember: we are trying to
trace a man who was seen loitering around Sunnyside last night before
the fire."

He was all attention in a moment.

"I was up there myself at the fire," he said volubly.  "I'm a member of
the volunteer company.  First big fire we've had since the summer house
burned over to the club golf links.  My wife was sayin' the other day,
'Dave, you might as well 'a' saved the money in that there helmet and
shirt.'  And here last night they came in handy.  Rang that bell so
hard I hadn't time scarcely to get 'em on."

"And--did you see a man who limped?" Gertrude put in, as he stopped for
breath.

"Not at the train, ma'm," he said.  "No such person got on here to-day.
But I'll tell you where I did see a man that limped.  I didn't wait
till the fire company left; there's a fast freight goes through at four
forty-five, and I had to get down to the station.  I seen there wasn't
much more to do anyhow at the fire--we'd got the flames under
control"--Gertrude looked at me and smiled--"so I started down the
hill.  There was folks here and there goin' home, and along by the path
to the Country Club I seen two men.  One was a short fellow.  He was
sitting on a big rock, his back to me, and he had something white in
his hand, as if he was tying up his foot.  After I'd gone on a piece I
looked back, and he was hobbling on and--excuse me, miss--he was
swearing something sickening."

"Did they go toward the club?" Gertrude asked suddenly, leaning forward.

"No, miss.  I think they came into the village.  I didn't get a look at
their faces, but I know every chick and child in the place, and
everybody knows me.  When they didn't shout at me--in my uniform, you
know--I took it they were strangers."

So all we had for our afternoon's work was this: some one had been shot
by the bullet that went through the door; he had not left the village,
and he had not called in a physician.  Also, Doctor Walker knew who
Lucien Wallace was, and his very denial made me confident that, in that
one direction at least, we were on the right track.

The thought that the detective would be there that night was the most
cheering thing of all, and I think even Gertrude was glad of it.
Driving home that afternoon, I saw her in the clear sunlight for the
first time in several days, and I was startled to see how ill she
looked.  She was thin and colorless, and all her bright animation was
gone.

"Gertrude," I said, "I have been a very selfish old woman.  You are
going to leave this miserable house to-night.  Annie Morton is going to
Scotland next week, and you shall go right with her."

To my surprise, she flushed painfully.

"I don't want to go, Aunt Ray," she said.  "Don't make me leave now."

"You are losing your health and your good looks," I said decidedly.
"You should have a change."

"I shan't stir a foot."  She was equally decided.  Then, more lightly:
"Why, you and Liddy need me to arbitrate between you every day in the
week."

Perhaps I was growing suspicious of every one, but it seemed to me that
Gertrude's gaiety was forced and artificial.  I watched her covertly
during the rest of the drive, and I did not like the two spots of
crimson in her pale cheeks.  But I said nothing more about sending her
to Scotland: I knew she would not go.



CHAPTER XXV

A VISIT FROM LOUISE

That day was destined to be an eventful one, for when I entered the
house and found Eliza ensconced in the upper hall on a chair, with Mary
Anne doing her best to stifle her with household ammonia, and Liddy
rubbing her wrists--whatever good that is supposed to do--I knew that
the ghost had been walking again, and this time in daylight.

Eliza was in a frenzy of fear.  She clutched at my sleeve when I went
close to her, and refused to let go until she had told her story.
Coming just after the fire, the household was demoralized, and it was
no surprise to me to find Alex and the under-gardener struggling
down-stairs with a heavy trunk between them.

"I didn't want to do it, Miss Innes," Alex said.  "But she was so
excited, I was afraid she would do as she said--drag it down herself,
and scratch the staircase."

I was trying to get my bonnet off and to keep the maids quiet at the
same time.  "Now, Eliza, when you have washed your face and stopped
bawling," I said, "come into my sitting-room and tell me what has
happened."

Liddy put away my things without speaking.  The very set of her
shoulders expressed disapproval.

"Well," I said, when the silence became uncomfortable, "things seem to
be warming up."

Silence from Liddy, and a long sigh.

"If Eliza goes, I don't know where to look for another cook." More
silence.

"Rosie is probably a good cook."  Sniff.

"Liddy," I said at last, "don't dare to deny that you are having the
time of your life.  You positively gloat in this excitement. You never
looked better.  It's my opinion all this running around, and getting
jolted out of a rut, has stirred up that torpid liver of yours."

"It's not myself I'm thinking about," she said, goaded into speech.
"Maybe my liver was torpid, and maybe it wasn't; but I know this: I've
got some feelings left, and to see you standing at the foot of that
staircase shootin' through the door--I'll never be the same woman
again."

"Well, I'm glad of that--anything for a change," I said.  And in came
Eliza, flanked by Rosie and Mary Anne.

Her story, broken with sobs and corrections from the other two, was
this:  At two o'clock (two-fifteen, Rosie insisted) she had gone
up-stairs to get a picture from her room to show Mary Anne. (A picture
of a LADY, Mary Anne interposed.)  She went up the servants' staircase
and along the corridor to her room, which lay between the trunk-room
and the unfinished ball-room.  She heard a sound as she went down the
corridor, like some one moving furniture, but she was not nervous.  She
thought it might be men examining the house after the fire the night
before, but she looked in the trunk-room and saw nobody.

She went into her room quietly.  The noise had ceased, and everything
was quiet.  Then she sat down on the side of her bed, and, feeling
faint--she was subject to spells--("I told you that when I came, didn't
I, Rosie?"  "Yes'm, indeed she did!")--she put her head down on her
pillow and--

"Took a nap.  All right!" I said.  "Go on."

"When I came to, Miss Innes, sure as I'm sittin' here, I thought I'd
die.  Somethin' hit me on the face, and I set up, sudden. And then I
seen the plaster drop, droppin' from a little hole in the wall.  And
the first thing I knew, an iron bar that long" (fully two yards by her
measure) "shot through that hole and tumbled on the bed.  If I'd been
still sleeping"  ("Fainting," corrected Rosie) "I'd 'a' been hit on the
head and killed!"

"I wisht you'd heard her scream," put in Mary Anne.  "And her face as
white as a pillow-slip when she tumbled down the stairs."

"No doubt there is some natural explanation for it, Eliza," I said.
"You may have dreamed it, in your 'fainting' attack.  But if it is
true, the metal rod and the hole in the wall will show it."

Eliza looked a little bit sheepish.

"The hole's there all right, Miss Innes," she said.  "But the bar was
gone when Mary Anne and Rosie went up to pack my trunk."

"That wasn't all," Liddy's voice came funereally from a corner. "Eliza
said that from the hole in the wall a burning eye looked down at her!"

"The wall must be at least six inches thick," I said with asperity.
"Unless the person who drilled the hole carried his eyes on the ends of
a stick, Eliza couldn't possibly have seen them."

But the fact remained, and a visit to Eliza's room proved it.  I might
jeer all I wished: some one had drilled a hole in the unfinished wall
of the ball-room, passing between the bricks of the partition, and
shooting through the unresisting plaster of Eliza's room with such
force as to send the rod flying on to her bed.  I had gone up-stairs
alone, and I confess the thing puzzled me: in two or three places in
the wall small apertures had been made, none of them of any depth.  Not
the least mysterious thing was the disappearance of the iron implement
that had been used.

I remembered a story I read once about an impish dwarf that lived in
the spaces between the double walls of an ancient castle.  I wondered
vaguely if my original idea of a secret entrance to a hidden chamber
could be right, after all, and if we were housing some erratic guest,
who played pranks on us in the dark, and destroyed the walls that he
might listen, hidden safely away, to our amazed investigations.

Mary Anne and Eliza left that afternoon, but Rosie decided to stay.  It
was about five o'clock when the hack came from the station to get them,
and, to my amazement, it had an occupant. Matthew Geist, the driver,
asked for me, and explained his errand with pride.

"I've brought you a cook, Miss Innes," he said.  "When the message came
to come up for two girls and their trunks, I supposed there was
something doing, and as this here woman had been looking for work in
the village, I thought I'd bring her along."

Already I had acquired the true suburbanite ability to take servants on
faith; I no longer demanded written and unimpeachable references.  I,
Rachel Innes, have learned not to mind if the cook sits down
comfortably in my sitting-room when she is taking the orders for the
day, and I am grateful if the silver is not cleaned with scouring soap.
And so that day I merely told Liddy to send the new applicant in.  When
she came, however, I could hardly restrain a gasp of surprise.  It was
the woman with the pitted face.

She stood somewhat awkwardly just inside the door, and she had an air
of self-confidence that was inspiring.  Yes, she could cook; was not a
fancy cook, but could make good soups and desserts if there was any one
to take charge of the salads.  And so, in the end, I took her.  As
Halsey said, when we told him, it didn't matter much about the cook's
face, if it was clean.

I have spoken of Halsey's restlessness.  On that day it seemed to be
more than ever a resistless impulse that kept him out until after
luncheon.  I think he hoped constantly that he might meet Louise
driving over the hills in her runabout: possibly he did meet her
occasionally, but from his continued gloom I felt sure the situation
between them was unchanged.

Part of the afternoon I believe he read--Gertrude and I were out, as I
have said, and at dinner we both noticed that something had occurred to
distract him.  He was disagreeable, which is unlike him, nervous,
looking at his watch every few minutes, and he ate almost nothing.  He
asked twice during the meal on what train Mr. Jamieson and the other
detective were coming, and had long periods of abstraction during which
he dug his fork into my damask cloth and did not hear when he was
spoken to.  He refused dessert, and left the table early, excusing
himself on the ground that he wanted to see Alex.

Alex, however, was not to be found.  It was after eight when Halsey
ordered the car, and started down the hill at a pace that, even for
him, was unusually reckless.  Shortly after, Alex reported that he was
ready to go over the house, preparatory to closing it for the night.
Sam Bohannon came at a quarter before nine, and began his patrol of the
grounds, and with the arrival of the two detectives to look forward to,
I was not especially apprehensive.

At half-past nine I heard the sound of a horse driven furiously up the
drive.  It came to a stop in front of the house, and immediately after
there were hurried steps on the veranda.  Our nerves were not what they
should have been, and Gertrude, always apprehensive lately, was at the
door almost instantly.  A moment later Louise had burst into the room
and stood there bareheaded and breathing hard!

"Where is Halsey?" she demanded.  Above her plain black gown her eyes
looked big and somber, and the rapid drive had brought no color to her
face.  I got up and drew forward a chair.

"He has not come back," I said quietly.  "Sit down, child; you are not
strong enough for this kind of thing."

I don't think she even heard me.

"He has not come back?" she asked, looking from me to Gertrude. "Do you
know where he went?  Where can I find him?"

"For Heaven's sake, Louise," Gertrude burst out, "tell us what is
wrong.  Halsey is not here.  He has gone to the station for Mr.
Jamieson.  What has happened?"

"To the station, Gertrude?  You are sure?"

"Yes," I said.  "Listen.  There is the whistle of the train now."

She relaxed a little at our matter-of-fact tone, and allowed herself to
sink into a chair.

"Perhaps I was wrong," she said heavily.  "He--will be here in a few
moments if--everything is right."

We sat there, the three of us, without attempt at conversation. Both
Gertrude and I recognized the futility of asking Louise any questions:
her reticence was a part of a role she had assumed. Our ears were
strained for the first throb of the motor as it turned into the drive
and commenced the climb to the house.  Ten minutes passed, fifteen,
twenty.  I saw Louise's hands grow rigid as they clutched the arms of
her chair.  I watched Gertrude's bright color slowly ebbing away, and
around my own heart I seemed to feel the grasp of a giant hand.

Twenty-five minutes, and then a sound.  But it was not the chug of the
motor: it was the unmistakable rumble of the Casanova hack.  Gertrude
drew aside the curtain and peered into the darkness.

"It's the hack, I am sure," she said, evidently relieved. "Something
has gone wrong with the car, and no wonder--the way Halsey went down
the hill."

It seemed a long time before the creaking vehicle came to a stop at the
door.  Louise rose and stood watching, her hand to her throat.  And
then Gertrude opened the door, admitting Mr. Jamieson and a stocky,
middle-aged man.  Halsey was not with them.  When the door had closed
and Louise realized that Halsey had not come, her expression changed.
From tense watchfulness to relief, and now again to absolute despair,
her face was an open page.

"Halsey?" I asked unceremoniously, ignoring the stranger.  "Did he not
meet you?"

"No."  Mr. Jamieson looked slightly surprised.  "I rather expected the
car, but we got up all right."

"You didn't see him at all?" Louise demanded breathlessly.

Mr. Jamieson knew her at once, although he had not seen her before.
She had kept to her rooms until the morning she left.

"No, Miss Armstrong," he said.  "I saw nothing of him.  What is wrong?"

"Then we shall have to find him," she asserted.  "Every instant is
precious.  Mr. Jamieson, I have reason for believing that he is in
danger, but I don't know what it is.  Only--he must be found."

The stocky man had said nothing.  Now, however, he went quickly toward
the door.

"I'll catch the hack down the road and hold it," he said.  "Is the
gentleman down in the town?"

"Mr. Jamieson," Louise said impulsively, "I can use the hack. Take my
horse and trap outside and drive like mad.  Try to find the Dragon
Fly--it ought to be easy to trace.  I can think of no other way.  Only,
don't lose a moment."

The new detective had gone, and a moment later Jamieson went rapidly
down the drive, the cob's feet striking fire at every step.  Louise
stood looking after them.  When she turned around she faced Gertrude,
who stood indignant, almost tragic, in the hall.

"You KNOW what threatens Halsey, Louise," she said accusingly.  "I
believe you know this whole horrible thing, this mystery that we are
struggling with.  If anything happens to Halsey, I shall never forgive
you."

Louise only raised her hands despairingly and dropped them again.

"He is as dear to me as he is to you," she said sadly.  "I tried to
warn him."

"Nonsense!" I said, as briskly as I could.  "We are making a lot of
trouble out of something perhaps very small.  Halsey was probably
late--he is always late.  Any moment we may hear the car coming up the
road."

But it did not come.  After a half-hour of suspense, Louise went out
quietly, and did not come back.  I hardly knew she was gone until I
heard the station hack moving off.  At eleven o'clock the telephone
rang.  It was Mr. Jamieson.

"I have found the Dragon Fly, Miss Innes," he said.  "It has collided
with a freight car on the siding above the station.  No, Mr. Innes was
not there, but we shall probably find him.  Send Warner for the car."

But they did not find him.  At four o'clock the next morning we were
still waiting for news, while Alex watched the house and Sam the
grounds.  At daylight I dropped into exhausted sleep. Halsey had not
come back, and there was no word from the detective.



CHAPTER XXVI

HALSEY'S DISAPPEARANCE

Nothing that had gone before had been as bad as this.  The murder and
Thomas' sudden death we had been able to view in a detached sort of
way.  But with Halsey's disappearance everything was altered.  Our
little circle, intact until now, was broken.  We were no longer
onlookers who saw a battle passing around them. We were the center of
action.  Of course, there was no time then to voice such an idea.  My
mind seemed able to hold only one thought: that Halsey had been foully
dealt with, and that every minute lost might be fatal.

Mr. Jamieson came back about eight o'clock the next morning: he was
covered with mud, and his hat was gone.  Altogether, we were a
sad-looking trio that gathered around a breakfast that no one could
eat.  Over a cup of black coffee the detective told us what he had
learned of Halsey's movements the night before. Up to a certain point
the car had made it easy enough to follow him.  And I gathered that Mr.
Burns, the other detective, had followed a similar car for miles at
dawn, only to find it was a touring car on an endurance run.

"He left here about ten minutes after eight," Mr. Jamieson said. "He
went alone, and at eight twenty he stopped at Doctor Walker's.  I went
to the doctor's about midnight, but he had been called out on a case,
and had not come back at four o'clock. From the doctor's it seems Mr.
Innes walked across the lawn to the cottage Mrs. Armstrong and her
daughter have taken.  Mrs. Armstrong had retired, and he said perhaps a
dozen words to Miss Louise.  She will not say what they were, but the
girl evidently suspects what has occurred.  That is, she suspects foul
play, but she doesn't know of what nature.  Then, apparently, he
started directly for the station.  He was going very fast--the flagman
at the Carol Street crossing says he saw the car pass.  He knew the
siren.  Along somewhere in the dark stretch between Carol Street and
the depot he evidently swerved suddenly--perhaps some one in the
road--and went full into the side of a freight.  We found it there last
night."

"He might have been thrown under the train by the force of the shock,"
I said tremulously.

Gertrude shuddered.

"We examined every inch of track.  There was--no sign."

"But surely--he can't be--gone!" I cried.  "Aren't there traces in the
mud--anything?"

"There is no mud--only dust.  There has been no rain.  And the footpath
there is of cinders.  Miss Innes, I am inclined to think that he has
met with bad treatment, in the light of what has gone before.  I do not
think he has been murdered."  I shrank from the word.  "Burns is back
in the country, on a clue we got from the night clerk at the
drug-store.  There will be two more men here by noon, and the city
office is on the lookout."

"The creek?" Gertrude asked.

"The creek is shallow now.  If it were swollen with rain, it would be
different.  There is hardly any water in it.  Now, Miss Innes," he
said, turning to me, "I must ask you some questions. Had Mr. Halsey any
possible reason for going away like this, without warning?"

"None whatever."

"He went away once before," he persisted.  "And you were as sure then."

"He did not leave the Dragon Fly jammed into the side of a freight car
before."

"No, but he left it for repairs in a blacksmith shop, a long distance
from here.  Do you know if he had any enemies?  Any one who might wish
him out of the way?"

"Not that I know of, unless--no, I can not think of any."

"Was he in the habit of carrying money?"

"He never carried it far.  No, he never had more than enough for
current expenses."

Mr. Jamieson got up then and began to pace the room.  It was an
unwonted concession to the occasion.

"Then I think we get at it by elimination.  The chances are against
flight.  If he was hurt, we find no trace of him.  It looks almost like
an abduction.  This young Doctor Walker--have you any idea why Mr.
Innes should have gone there last night?"

"I can not understand it," Gertrude said thoughtfully.  "I don't think
he knew Doctor Walker at all, and--their relations could hardly have
been cordial, under the circumstances."

Jamieson pricked up his ears, and little by little he drew from us the
unfortunate story of Halsey's love affair, and the fact that Louise was
going to marry Doctor Walker.

Mr. Jamieson listened attentively.

"There are some interesting developments here," he said thoughtfully.
"The woman who claims to be the mother of Lucien Wallace has not come
back.  Your nephew has apparently been spirited away.  There is an
organized attempt being made to enter this house; in fact, it has been
entered.  Witness the incident with the cook yesterday.  And I have a
new piece of information."

He looked carefully away from Gertrude.  "Mr. John Bailey is not at his
Knickerbocker apartments, and I don't know where he is. It's a hash,
that's what it is.  It's a Chinese puzzle.  They won't fit together,
unless--unless Mr. Bailey and your nephew have again--"

And once again Gertrude surprised me.  "They are not together," she
said hotly.  "I--know where Mr. Bailey is, and my brother is not with
him."

The detective turned and looked at her keenly.

"Miss Gertrude," he said, "if you and Miss Louise would only tell me
everything you know and surmise about this business, I should be able
to do a great many things.  I believe I could find your brother, and I
might be able to--well, to do some other things."  But Gertrude's
glance did not falter.

"Nothing that I know could help you to find Halsey," she said
stubbornly.  "I know absolutely as little of his disappearance as you
do, and I can only say this: I do not trust Doctor Walker.  I think he
hated Halsey, and he would get rid of him if he could."

"Perhaps you are right.  In fact, I had some such theory myself. But
Doctor Walker went out late last night to a serious case in
Summitville, and is still there.  Burns traced him there.  We have made
guarded inquiry at the Greenwood Club, and through the village.  There
is absolutely nothing to go on but this.  On the embankment above the
railroad, at the point where we found the machine, is a small house.
An old woman and a daughter, who is very lame, live there.  They say
that they distinctly heard the shock when the Dragon Fly hit the car,
and they went to the bottom of their garden and looked over.  The
automobile was there; they could see the lights, and they thought
someone had been injured.  It was very dark, but they could make out
two figures, standing together.  The women were curious, and, leaving
the fence, they went back and by a roundabout path down to the road.
When they got there the car was still standing, the headlight broken
and the bonnet crushed, but there was no one to be seen."

The detective went away immediately, and to Gertrude and me was left
the woman's part, to watch and wait.  By luncheon nothing had been
found, and I was frantic.  I went up-stairs to Halsey's room finally,
from sheer inability to sit across from Gertrude any longer, and meet
her terror-filled eyes.

Liddy was in my dressing-room, suspiciously red-eyed, and trying to put
a right sleeve in a left armhole of a new waist for me.  I was too much
shaken to scold.

"What name did that woman in the kitchen give?" she demanded, viciously
ripping out the offending sleeve.

"Bliss.  Mattie Bliss," I replied.

"Bliss.  M. B.  Well, that's not what she has on he suitcase.  It is
marked N. F. C."

The new cook and her initials troubled me not at all.  I put on my
bonnet and sent for what the Casanova liveryman called a "stylish
turnout."  Having once made up my mind to a course of action, I am not
one to turn back.  Warner drove me; he was plainly disgusted, and he
steered the livery horse as he would the Dragon Fly, feeling uneasily
with his left foot for the clutch, and working his right elbow at an
imaginary horn every time a dog got in the way.

Warner had something on his mind, and after we had turned into the
road, he voiced it.

"Miss Innes," he said.  "I overheard a part of a conversation yesterday
that I didn't understand.  It wasn't my business to understand it, for
that matter.  But I've been thinking all day that I'd better tell you.
Yesterday afternoon, while you and Miss Gertrude were out driving, I
had got the car in some sort of shape again after the fire, and I went
to the library to call Mr. Innes to see it.  I went into the
living-room, where Miss Liddy said he was, and half-way across to the
library I heard him talking to some one.  He seemed to be walking up
and down, and he was in a rage, I can tell you."

"What did he say?"

"The first thing I heard was--excuse me, Miss Innes, but it's what he
said, 'The damned rascal,' he said, 'I'll see him in'--well, in hell
was what he said, 'in hell first.'  Then somebody else spoke up; it was
a woman.  She said, 'I warned them, but they thought I would be
afraid.'"

"A woman!  Did you wait to see who it was?"

"I wasn't spying, Miss Innes," Warner said with dignity.  "But the next
thing caught my attention.  She said, 'I knew there was something wrong
from the start.  A man isn't well one day, and dead the next, without
some reason.'  I thought she was speaking of Thomas."

"And you don't know who it was!" I exclaimed.  "Warner, you had the key
to this whole occurrence in your hands, and did not use it!"

However, there was nothing to be done.  I resolved to make inquiry when
I got home, and in the meantime, my present errand absorbed me.  This
was nothing less than to see Louise Armstrong, and to attempt to drag
from her what she knew, or suspected, of Halsey's disappearance.  But
here, as in every direction I turned, I was baffled.

A neat maid answered the bell, but she stood squarely in the doorway,
and it was impossible to preserve one's dignity and pass her.

"Miss Armstrong is very ill, and unable to see any one," she said.  I
did not believe her.

"And Mrs. Armstrong--is she also ill?"

"She is with Miss Louise and can not be disturbed."

"Tell her it is Miss Innes, and that it is a matter of the greatest
importance."

"It would be of no use, Miss Innes.  My orders are positive."

At that moment a heavy step sounded on the stairs.  Past the maid's
white-strapped shoulder I could see a familiar thatch of gray hair, and
in a moment I was face to face with Doctor Stewart.  He was very grave,
and his customary geniality was tinged with restraint.

"You are the very woman I want to see," he said promptly.  "Send away
your trap, and let me drive you home.  What is this about your nephew?"

"He has disappeared, doctor.  Not only that, but there is every
evidence that he has been either abducted, or--" I could not finish.
The doctor helped me into his capacious buggy in silence.  Until we had
got a little distance he did not speak; then he turned and looked at me.

"Now tell me about it," he said.  He heard me through without speaking.

"And you think Louise knows something?" he said when I had finished.
"I don't--in fact, I am sure of it.  The best evidence of it is this:
she asked me if he had been heard from, or if anything had been
learned.  She won't allow Walker in the room, and she made me promise
to see you and tell you this: don't give up the search for him.  Find
him, and find him soon.  He is living."

"Well," I said, "if she knows that, she knows more.  She is a very
cruel and ungrateful girl."

"She is a very sick girl," he said gravely.  "Neither you nor I can
judge her until we know everything.  Both she and her mother are ghosts
of their former selves.  Under all this, these two sudden deaths, this
bank robbery, the invasions at Sunnyside and Halsey's disappearance,
there is some mystery that, mark my words, will come out some day.  And
when it does, we shall find Louise Armstrong a victim."

I had not noticed where we were going, but now I saw we were beside the
railroad, and from a knot of men standing beside the track I divined
that it was here the car had been found.  The siding, however, was
empty.  Except a few bits of splintered wood on the ground, there was
no sign of the accident.

"Where is the freight car that was rammed?" the doctor asked a
bystander.

"It was taken away at daylight, when the train was moved."

There was nothing to be gained.  He pointed out the house on the
embankment where the old lady and her daughter had heard the crash and
seen two figures beside the car.  Then we drove slowly home.  I had the
doctor put me down at the gate, and I walked to the house--past the
lodge where we had found Louise, and, later, poor Thomas; up the drive
where I had seen a man watching the lodge and where, later, Rosie had
been frightened; past the east entrance, where so short a time before
the most obstinate effort had been made to enter the house, and where,
that night two weeks ago, Liddy and I had seen the strange woman.  Not
far from the west wing lay the blackened ruins of the stables.  I felt
like a ruin myself, as I paused on the broad veranda before I entered
the house.

Two private detectives had arrived in my absence, and it was a relief
to turn over to them the responsibility of the house and grounds.  Mr.
Jamieson, they said, had arranged for more to assist in the search for
the missing man, and at that time the country was being scoured in all
directions.

The household staff was again depleted that afternoon.  Liddy was
waiting to tell me that the new cook had gone, bag and baggage, without
waiting to be paid.  No one had admitted the visitor whom Warner had
heard in the library, unless, possibly, the missing cook.  Again I was
working in a circle.



CHAPTER XXVII

WHO IS NINA CARRINGTON?

The four days, from Saturday to the following Tuesday, we lived, or
existed, in a state of the most dreadful suspense.  We ate only when
Liddy brought in a tray, and then very little.  The papers, of course,
had got hold of the story, and we were besieged by newspaper men.  From
all over the country false clues came pouring in and raised hopes that
crumbled again to nothing. Every morgue within a hundred miles, every
hospital, had been visited, without result.

Mr. Jamieson, personally, took charge of the organized search, and
every evening, no matter where he happened to be, he called us by long
distance telephone.  It was the same formula. "Nothing to-day.  A new
clue to work on.  Better luck to-morrow."

And heartsick we would put up the receiver and sit down again to our
vigil.

The inaction was deadly.  Liddy cried all day, and, because she knew I
objected to tears, sniffled audibly around the corner.

"For Heaven's sake, smile!" I snapped at her.  And her ghastly attempt
at a grin, with her swollen nose and red eyes, made me hysterical.  I
laughed and cried together, and pretty soon, like the two old fools we
were, we were sitting together weeping into the same handkerchief.

Things were happening, of course, all the time, but they made little or
no impression.  The Charity Hospital called up Doctor Stewart and
reported that Mrs. Watson was in a critical condition.  I understood
also that legal steps were being taken to terminate my lease at
Sunnyside.  Louise was out of danger, but very ill, and a trained nurse
guarded her like a gorgon. There was a rumor in the village, brought up
by Liddy from the butcher's, that a wedding had already taken place
between Louise and Doctor Walkers and this roused me for the first time
to action.

On Tuesday, then, I sent for the car, and prepared to go out.  As I
waited at the porte-cochere I saw the under-gardener, an inoffensive,
grayish-haired man, trimming borders near the house.

The day detective was watching him, sitting on the carriage block.
When he saw me, he got up.

"Miss Innes," he said, taking of his hat, "do you know where Alex, the
gardener, is?"

"Why, no.  Isn't he here?" I asked.

"He has been gone since yesterday afternoon.  Have you employed him
long?"

"Only a couple of weeks."

"Is he efficient?  A capable man?"

"I hardly know," I said vaguely.  "The place looks all right, and I
know very little about such things.  I know much more about boxes of
roses than bushes of them."

"This man," pointing to the assistant, "says Alex isn't a gardener.
That he doesn't know anything about plants."

"That's very strange," I said, thinking hard.  "Why, he came to me from
the Brays, who are in Europe."

"Exactly."  The detective smiled.  "Every man who cuts grass isn't a
gardener, Miss Innes, and just now it is our policy to believe every
person around here a rascal until he proves to be the other thing."

Warner came up with the car then, and the conversation stopped.  As he
helped me in, however, the detective said something further.

"Not a word or sign to Alex, if he comes back," he said cautiously.

I went first to Doctor Walker's.  I was tired of beating about the
bush, and I felt that the key to Halsey's disappearance was here at
Casanova, in spite of Mr. Jamieson's theories.

The doctor was in.  He came at once to the door of his consulting-room,
and there was no mask of cordiality in his manner.

"Please come in," he said curtly.

"I shall stay here, I think, doctor."  I did not like his face or his
manner; there was a subtle change in both.  He had thrown of the air of
friendliness, and I thought, too, that he looked anxious and haggard.

"Doctor Walker," I said, "I have come to you to ask some questions.  I
hope you will answer them.  As you know, my nephew has not yet been
found."

"So I understand," stiffly.

"I believe, if you would, you could help us, and that leads to one of
my questions.  Will you tell me what was the nature of the conversation
you held with him the night he was attacked and carried off?"

"Attacked!  Carried off!" he said, with pretended surprise. "Really,
Miss Innes, don't you think you exaggerate?  I understand it is not the
first time Mr. Innes has--disappeared."

"You are quibbling, doctor.  This is a matter of life and death. Will
you answer my question?"

"Certainly.  He said his nerves were bad, and I gave him a prescription
for them.  I am violating professional ethics when I tell you even as
much as that."

I could not tell him he lied.  I think I looked it.  But I hazarded a
random shot.

"I thought perhaps," I said, watching him narrowly, "that it might be
about--Nina Carrington."

For a moment I thought he was going to strike me.  He grew livid, and a
small crooked blood-vessel in his temple swelled and throbbed
curiously.  Then he forced a short laugh.

"Who is Nina Carrington?" he asked.

"I am about to discover that," I replied, and he was quiet at once.  It
was not difficult to divine that he feared Nina Carrington a good deal
more than he did the devil.  Our leave-taking was brief; in fact, we
merely stared at each other over the waiting-room table, with its
litter of year-old magazines.  Then I turned and went out.

"To Richfield," I told Warner, and on the way I thought, and thought
hard.

"Nina Carrington, Nina Carrington," the roar and rush of the wheels
seemed to sing the words.  "Nina Carrington, N. C."  And I then knew,
knew as surely as if I had seen the whole thing. There had been an N.
C. on the suit-case belonging to the woman with the pitted face.  How
simple it all seemed.  Mattie Bliss had been Nina Carrington.  It was
she Warner had heard in the library.  It was something she had told
Halsey that had taken him frantically to Doctor Walker's office, and
from there perhaps to his death.  If we could find the woman, we might
find what had become of Halsey.

We were almost at Richfield now, so I kept on.  My mind was not on my
errand there now.  It was back with Halsey on that memorable night.
What was it he had said to Louise, that had sent her up to Sunnyside,
half wild with fear for him?  I made up my mind, as the car drew up
before the Tate cottage, that I would see Louise if I had to break into
the house at night.

Almost exactly the same scene as before greeted my eyes at the cottage.
Mrs. Tate, the baby-carriage in the path, the children at the
swing--all were the same.

She came forward to meet me, and I noticed that some of the anxious
lines had gone out of her face.  She looked young, almost pretty.

"I am glad you have come back," she said.  "I think I will have to be
honest and give you back your money."

"Why?" I asked.  "Has the mother come?"

"No, but some one came and paid the boy's board for a month.  She
talked to him for a long time, but when I asked him afterward he didn't
know her name."

"A young woman?"

"Not very young.  About forty, I suppose.  She was small and
fair-haired, just a little bit gray, and very sad.  She was in deep
mourning, and, I think, when she came, she expected to go at once.  But
the child, Lucien, interested her.  She talked to him for a long time,
and, indeed, she looked much happier when she left."

"You are sure this was not the real mother?"

"O mercy, no!  Why, she didn't know which of the three was Lucien.  I
thought perhaps she was a friend of yours, but, of course, I didn't
ask."

"She was not--pock-marked?" I asked at a venture.  "No, indeed. A skin
like a baby's.  But perhaps you will know the initials. She gave Lucien
a handkerchief and forgot it.  It was very fine, black-bordered, and it
had three hand-worked letters in the corner--F. B. A."

"No," I said with truth enough, "she is not a friend of mine." F. B. A.
was Fanny Armstrong, without a chance of doubt!

With another warning to Mrs. Tate as to silence, we started back to
Sunnyside.  So Fanny Armstrong knew of Lucien Wallace, and was
sufficiently interested to visit him and pay for his support. Who was
the child's mother and where was she?  Who was Nina Carrington?  Did
either of them know where Halsey was or what had happened to him?

On the way home we passed the little cemetery where Thomas had been
laid to rest.  I wondered if Thomas could have helped us to find
Halsey, had he lived.  Farther along was the more imposing
burial-ground, where Arnold Armstrong and his father lay in the shadow
of a tall granite shaft.  Of the three, I think Thomas was the only one
sincerely mourned.



CHAPTER XXVIII

A TRAMP AND THE TOOTHACHE

The bitterness toward the dead president of the Traders' Bank seemed to
grow with time.  Never popular, his memory was execrated by people who
had lost nothing, but who were filled with disgust by constantly
hearing new stories of the man's grasping avarice.  The Traders' had
been a favorite bank for small tradespeople, and in its savings
department it had solicited the smallest deposits.  People who had
thought to be self-supporting to the last found themselves confronting
the poorhouse, their two or three hundred dollar savings wiped away.
All bank failures have this element, however, and the directors were
trying to promise twenty per cent. on deposits.

But, like everything else those days, the bank failure was almost
forgotten by Gertrude and myself.  We did not mention Jack Bailey: I
had found nothing to change my impression of his guilt, and Gertrude
knew how I felt.  As for the murder of the bank president's son, I was
of two minds.  One day I thought Gertrude knew or at least suspected
that Jack had done it; the next I feared that it had been Gertrude
herself, that night alone on the circular staircase.  And then the
mother of Lucien Wallace would obtrude herself, and an almost equally
good case might be made against her.  There were times, of course, when
I was disposed to throw all those suspicions aside, and fix definitely
on the unknown, whoever that might be.

I had my greatest disappointment when it came to tracing Nina
Carrington.  The woman had gone without leaving a trace.  Marked as she
was, it should have been easy to follow her, but she was not to be
found.  A description to one of the detectives, on my arrival at home,
had started the ball rolling.  But by night she had not been found.  I
told Gertrude, then, about the telegram to Louise when she had been ill
before; about my visit to Doctor Walker, and my suspicions that Mattie
Bliss and Nina Carrington were the same.  She thought, as I did, that
there was little doubt of it.

I said nothing to her, however, of the detective's suspicions about
Alex.  Little things that I had not noticed at the time now came back
to me.  I had an uncomfortable feeling that perhaps Alex was a spy, and
that by taking him into the house I had played into the enemy's hand.
But at eight o'clock that night Alex himself appeared, and with him a
strange and repulsive individual.  They made a queer pair, for Alex was
almost as disreputable as the tramp, and he had a badly swollen eye.

Gertrude had been sitting listlessly waiting for the evening message
from Mr. Jamieson, but when the singular pair came in, as they did,
without ceremony, she jumped up and stood staring. Winters, the
detective who watched the house at night, followed them, and kept his
eyes sharply on Alex's prisoner.  For that was the situation as it
developed.

He was a tall lanky individual, ragged and dirty, and just now he
looked both terrified and embarrassed.  Alex was too much engrossed to
be either, and to this day I don't think I ever asked him why he went
off without permission the day before.

"Miss Innes," Alex began abruptly, "this man can tell us something very
important about the disappearance of Mr. Innes.  I found him trying to
sell this watch."

He took a watch from his pocket and put it on the table.  It was
Halsey's watch.  I had given it to him on his twenty-first birthday: I
was dumb with apprehension.

"He says he had a pair of cuff-links also, but he sold them--"

"Fer a dollar'n half," put in the disreputable individual hoarsely,
with an eye on the detective.

"He is not--dead?" I implored.  The tramp cleared his throat.

"No'm," he said huskily.  "He was used up pretty bad, but he weren't
dead.  He was comin' to hisself when I"--he stopped and looked at the
detective.  "I didn't steal it, Mr. Winters," he whined.  "I found it
in the road, honest to God, I did."

Mr. Winters paid no attention to him.  He was watching Alex.

"I'd better tell what he told me," Alex broke in.  "It will be quicker.
When Jamieson--when Mr. Jamieson calls up we can start him right.  Mr.
Winters, I found this man trying to sell that watch on Fifth Street.
He offered it to me for three dollars."

"How did you know the watch?" Winters snapped at him.

"I had seen it before, many times.  I used it at night when I was
watching at the foot of the staircase."  The detective was satisfied.
"When he offered the watch to me, I knew it, and I pretended I was
going to buy it.  We went into an alley and I got the watch."  The
tramp shivered.  It was plain how Alex had secured the watch.  "Then--I
got the story from this fellow.  He claims to have seen the whole
affair.  He says he was in an empty car--in the car the automobile
struck."

The tramp broke in here, and told his story, with frequent
interpretations by Alex and Mr. Winters.  He used a strange medley, in
which familiar words took unfamiliar meanings, but it was gradually
made clear to us.

On the night in question the tramp had been "pounding his ear"--this
stuck to me as being graphic--in an empty box-car along the siding at
Casanova.  The train was going west, and due to leave at dawn.  The
tramp and the "brakey" were friendly, and things going well.  About ten
o'clock, perhaps earlier, a terrific crash against the side of the car
roused him.  He tried to open the door, but could not move it.  He got
out of the other side, and just as he did so, he heard some one groan.

The habits of a lifetime made him cautious.  He slipped on to the
bumper of a car and peered through.  An automobile had struck the car,
and stood there on two wheels.  The tail lights were burning, but the
headlights were out.  Two men were stooping over some one who lay on
the ground.  Then the taller of the two started on a dog-trot along the
train looking for an empty.  He found one four cars away and ran back
again.  The two lifted the unconscious man into the empty box-car, and,
getting in themselves, stayed for three or four minutes.  When they
came out, after closing the sliding door, they cut up over the railroad
embankment toward the town.  One, the short one, seemed to limp.

The tramp was wary.  He waited for ten minutes or so.  Some women came
down a path to the road and inspected the automobile.  When they had
gone, he crawled into the box-car and closed the door again.  Then he
lighted a match.  The figure of a man, unconscious, gagged, and with
his hands tied, lay far at the end.

The tramp lost no time; he went through his pockets, found a little
money and the cuff-links, and took them.  Then he loosened the gag--it
had been cruelly tight--and went his way, again closing the door of the
box-car.  Outside on the road he found the watch.  He got on the fast
freight east, some time after, and rode into the city.  He had sold the
cuff-links, but on offering the watch to Alex he had been "copped."

The story, with its cold recital of villainy, was done.  I hardly knew
if I were more anxious, or less.  That it was Halsey, there could be no
doubt.  How badly he was hurt, how far he had been carried, were the
questions that demanded immediate answer.  But it was the first real
information we had had; my boy had not been murdered outright.  But
instead of vague terrors there was now the real fear that he might be
lying in some strange hospital receiving the casual attention commonly
given to the charity cases.  Even this, had we known it, would have
been paradise to the terrible truth.  I wake yet and feel myself cold
and trembling with the horror of Halsey's situation for three days
after his disappearance.

Mr. Winters and Alex disposed of the tramp with a warning.  It was
evident he had told us all he knew.  We had occasion, within a day or
two, to be doubly thankful that we had given him his freedom.  When Mr.
Jamieson telephoned that night we had news for him; he told me what I
had not realized before--that it would not be possible to find Halsey
at once, even with this clue.  The cars by this time, three days, might
be scattered over the Union.

But he said to keep on hoping, that it was the best news we had had.
And in the meantime, consumed with anxiety as we were, things were
happening at the house in rapid succession.

We had one peaceful day--then Liddy took sick in the night.  I went in
when I heard her groaning, and found her with a hot-water bottle to her
face, and her right cheek swollen until it was glassy.

"Toothache?" I asked, not too gently.  "You deserve it.  A woman of
your age, who would rather go around with an exposed nerve in her head
than have the tooth pulled!  It would be over in a moment."

"So would hanging," Liddy protested, from behind the hot-water bottle.

I was hunting around for cotton and laudanum.

"You have a tooth just like it yourself, Miss Rachel," she whimpered.
"And I'm sure Doctor Boyle's been trying to take it out for years."

There was no laudanum, and Liddy made a terrible fuss when I proposed
carbolic acid, just because I had put too much on the cotton once and
burned her mouth.  I'm sure it never did her any permanent harm;
indeed, the doctor said afterward that living on liquid diet had been a
splendid rest for her stomach.  But she would have none of the acid,
and she kept me awake groaning, so at last I got up and went to
Gertrude's door.  To my surprise, it was locked.

I went around by the hall and into her bedroom that way.  The bed was
turned down, and her dressing-gown and night-dress lay ready in the
little room next, but Gertrude was not there.  She had not undressed.

I don't know what terrible thoughts came to me in the minute I stood
there.  Through the door I could hear Liddy grumbling, with a squeal
now and then when the pain stabbed harder.  Then, automatically, I got
the laudanum and went back to her.

It was fully a half-hour before Liddy's groans subsided.  At intervals
I went to the door into the hall and looked out, but I saw and heard
nothing suspicious.  Finally, when Liddy had dropped into a doze, I
even ventured as far as the head of the circular staircase, but there
floated up to me only the even breathing of Winters, the night
detective, sleeping just inside the entry.  And then, far off, I heard
the rapping noise that had lured Louise down the staircase that other
night, two weeks before.  It was over my head, and very faint--three or
four short muffled taps, a pause, and then again, stealthily repeated.

The sound of Mr. Winters' breathing was comforting; with the thought
that there was help within call, something kept me from waking him.  I
did not move for a moment; ridiculous things Liddy had said about a
ghost--I am not at all superstitious, except, perhaps, in the middle of
the night, with everything dark--things like that came back to me.
Almost beside me was the clothes chute.  I could feel it, but I could
see nothing.  As I stood, listening intently, I heard a sound near me.
It was vague, indefinite.  Then it ceased; there was an uneasy movement
and a grunt from the foot of the circular staircase, and silence again.

I stood perfectly still, hardly daring to breathe.

Then I knew I had been right.  Some one was stealthily-passing the head
of the staircase and coming toward me in the dark.  I leaned against
the wall for support--my knees were giving way. The steps were close
now, and suddenly I thought of Gertrude.  Of course it was Gertrude.  I
put out one hand in front of me, but I touched nothing.  My voice
almost refused me, but I managed to gasp out, "Gertrude!"

"Good Lord!" a man's voice exclaimed, just beside me.  And then I
collapsed.  I felt myself going, felt some one catch me, a horrible
nausea--that was all I remembered.

When I came to it was dawn.  I was lying on the bed in Louise's room,
with the cherub on the ceiling staring down at me, and there was a
blanket from my own bed thrown over me.  I felt weak and dizzy, but I
managed to get up and totter to the door.  At the foot of the circular
staircase Mr. Winters was still asleep. Hardly able to stand, I crept
back to my room.  The door into Gertrude's room was no longer locked:
she was sleeping like a tired child.  And in my dressing-room Liddy
hugged a cold hot-water bottle, and mumbled in her sleep.

"There's some things you can't hold with hand cuffs," she was muttering
thickly.



CHAPTER XXIX

A SCRAP OF PAPER

For the first time in twenty years, I kept my bed that day. Liddy was
alarmed to the point of hysteria, and sent for Doctor Stewart just
after breakfast.  Gertrude spent the morning with me, reading
something--I forget what.  I was too busy with my thoughts to listen.
I had said nothing to the two detectives. If Mr. Jamieson had been
there, I should have told him everything, but I could not go to these
strange men and tell them my niece had been missing in the middle of
the night; that she had not gone to bed at all; that while I was
searching for her through the house, I had met a stranger who, when I
fainted, had carried me into a room and left me there, to get better or
not, as it might happen.

The whole situation was terrible: had the issues been less vital, it
would have been absurd.  Here we were, guarded day and night by private
detectives, with an extra man to watch the grounds, and yet we might as
well have lived in a Japanese paper house, for all the protection we
had.

And there was something else: the man I had met in the darkness had
been even more startled than I, and about his voice, when he muttered
his muffled exclamation, there was something vaguely familiar.  All
that morning, while Gertrude read aloud, and Liddy watched for the
doctor, I was puzzling over that voice, without result.

And there were other things, too.  I wondered what Gertrude's absence
from her room had to do with it all, or if it had any connection.  I
tried to think that she had heard the rapping noises before I did and
gone to investigate, but I'm afraid I was a moral coward that day.  I
could not ask her.

Perhaps the diversion was good for me.  It took my mind from Halsey,
and the story we had heard the night before.  The day, however, was a
long vigil, with every ring of the telephone full of possibilities.
Doctor Walker came up, some time just after luncheon, and asked for me.

"Go down and see him," I instructed Gertrude.  "Tell him I am out--for
mercy's sake don't say I'm sick.  Find out what he wants, and from this
time on, instruct the servants that he is not to be admitted.  I loathe
that man."

Gertrude came back very soon, her face rather flushed.

"He came to ask us to get out," she said, picking up her book with a
jerk.  "He says Louise Armstrong wants to come here, now that she is
recovering."

"And what did you say?"

"I said we were very sorry we could not leave, but we would be
delighted to have Louise come up here with us.  He looked daggers at
me.  And he wanted to know if we would recommend Eliza as a cook.  He
has brought a patient, a man, out from town, and is increasing his
establishment--that's the way he put it."

"I wish him joy of Eliza," I said tartly.  "Did he ask for Halsey?"

"Yes.  I told him that we were on the track last night, and that it was
only a question of time.  He said he was glad, although he didn't
appear to be, but he said not to be too sanguine."

"Do you know what I believe?" I asked.  "I believe, as firmly as I
believe anything, that Doctor Walker knows something about Halsey, and
that he could put his finger on him, if he wanted to."

There were several things that day that bewildered me.  About three
o'clock Mr. Jamieson telephoned from the Casanova station and Warner
went down to meet him.  I got up and dressed hastily, and the detective
was shown up to my sitting-room.

"No news?" I asked, as he entered.  He tried to look encouraging,
without success.  I noticed that he looked tired and dusty, and,
although he was ordinarily impeccable in his appearance, it was clear
that he was at least two days from a razor.

"It won't be long now, Miss Innes," he said.  "I have come out here on
a peculiar errand, which I will tell you about later. First, I want to
ask some questions.  Did any one come out here yesterday to repair the
telephone, and examine the wires on the roof?"

"Yes," I said promptly; "but it was not the telephone.  He said the
wiring might have caused the fire at the stable.  I went up with him
myself, but he only looked around."

Mr. Jamieson smiled.

"Good for you!" he applauded.  "Don't allow any one in the house that
you don't trust, and don't trust anybody.  All are not electricians who
wear rubber gloves."

He refused to explain further, but he got a slip of paper out of his
pocketbook and opened it carefully.

"Listen," he said.  "You heard this before and scoffed.  In the light
of recent developments I want you to read it again.  You are a clever
woman, Miss Innes.  Just as surely as I sit here, there is something in
this house that is wanted very anxiously by a number of people.  The
lines are closing up, Miss Innes."

The paper was the one he had found among Arnold Armstrong's effects,
and I read it again:


"----by altering the plans for----rooms, may be possible.  The best
way, in my opinion, would be to----the plan for----in one of
the----rooms----chimney."


"I think I understand," I said slowly.  "Some one is searching for the
secret room, and the invaders--"

"And the holes in the plaster--"

"Have been in the progress of his--"

"Or her--investigations."

"Her?" I asked.

"Miss Innes," the detective said, getting up, "I believe that somewhere
in the walls of this house is hidden some of the money, at least, from
the Traders' Bank.  I believe, just as surely, that young Walker
brought home from California the knowledge of something of the sort
and, failing in his effort to reinstall Mrs. Armstrong and her daughter
here, he, or a confederate, has tried to break into the house.  On two
occasions I think he succeeded."

"On three, at least," I corrected.  And then I told him about the night
before.  "I have been thinking hard," I concluded, "and I do not
believe the man at the head of the circular staircase was Doctor
Walker.  I don't think he could have got in, and the voice was not his."

Mr. Jamieson got up and paced the floor, his hands behind him.

"There is something else that puzzles me," he said, stepping before me.
"Who and what is the woman Nina Carrington?  If it was she who came
here as Mattie Bliss, what did she tell Halsey that sent him racing to
Doctor Walker's, and then to Miss Armstrong?  If we could find that
woman we would have the whole thing."

"Mr. Jamieson, did you ever think that Paul Armstrong might not have
died a natural death?"

"That is the thing we are going to try to find out," he replied.  And
then Gertrude came in, announcing a man below to see Mr. Jamieson.

"I want you present at this interview, Miss Innes," he said. "May Riggs
come up?  He has left Doctor Walker and he has something he wants to
tell us."

Riggs came into the room diffidently, but Mr. Jamieson put him at his
ease.  He kept a careful eye on me, however, and slid into a chair by
the door when he was asked to sit down.

"Now, Riggs," began Mr. Jamieson kindly.  "You are to say what you have
to say before this lady."

"You promised you'd keep it quiet, Mr. Jamieson."  Riggs plainly did
not trust me.  There was nothing friendly in the glance he turned on me.

"Yes, yes.  You will be protected.  But, first of all, did you bring
what you promised?"

Riggs produced a roll of papers from under his coat, and handed them
over.  Mr. Jamieson examined them with lively satisfaction, and passed
them to me.  "The blue-prints of Sunnyside," he said. "What did I tell
you?  Now, Riggs, we are ready."

"I'd never have come to you, Mr. Jamieson," he began, "if it hadn't
been for Miss Armstrong.  When Mr. Innes was spirited away, like, and
Miss Louise got sick because of it, I thought things had gone far
enough.  I'd done some things for the doctor before that wouldn't just
bear looking into, but I turned a bit squeamish."

"Did you help with that?" I asked, leaning forward.

"No, ma'm.  I didn't even know of it until the next day, when it came
out in the Casanova Weekly Ledger.  But I know who did it, all right.
I'd better start at the beginning.

"When Doctor Walker went away to California with the Armstrong family,
there was talk in the town that when he came back he would be married
to Miss Armstrong, and we all expected it. First thing I knew, I got a
letter from him, in the west.  He seemed to be excited, and he said
Miss Armstrong had taken a sudden notion to go home and he sent me some
money.  I was to watch for her, to see if she went to Sunnyside, and
wherever she was, not to lose sight of her until he got home.  I traced
her to the lodge, and I guess I scared you on the drive one night, Miss
Innes."

"And Rosie!" I ejaculated.

Riggs grinned sheepishly.

"I only wanted to make sure Miss Louise was there.  Rosie started to
run, and I tried to stop her and tell her some sort of a story to
account for my being there.  But she wouldn't wait."

"And the broken china--in the basket?"

"Well, broken china's death to rubber tires," he said.  "I hadn't any
complaint against you people here, and the Dragon Fly was a good car."

So Rosie's highwayman was explained.

"Well, I telegraphed the doctor where Miss Louise was and I kept an eye
on her.  Just a day or so before they came home with the body, I got
another letter, telling me to watch for a woman who had been pitted
with smallpox.  Her name was Carrington, and the doctor made things
pretty strong.  If I found any such woman loafing around, I was not to
lose sight of her for a minute until the doctor got back.

"Well, I would have had my hands full, but the other woman didn't show
up for a good while, and when she did the doctor was home."

"Riggs," I asked suddenly, "did you get into this house a day or two
after I took it, at night?"

"I did not, Miss Innes.  I have never been in the house before. Well,
the Carrington woman didn't show up until the night Mr. Halsey
disappeared.  She came to the office late, and the doctor was out.  She
waited around, walking the floor and working herself into a passion.
When the doctor didn't come back, she was in an awful way.  She wanted
me to hunt him, and when he didn't appear, she called him names; said
he couldn't fool her. There was murder being done, and she would see
him swing for it.

"She struck me as being an ugly customer, and when she left, about
eleven o'clock, and went across to the Armstrong place, I was not far
behind her.  She walked all around the house first, looking up at the
windows.  Then she rang the bell, and the minute the door was opened
she was through it, and into the hall."

"How long did she stay?"

"That's the queer part of it," Riggs said eagerly.  "She didn't come
out that night at all.  I went to bed at daylight, and that was the
last I heard of her until the next day, when I saw her on a truck at
the station, covered with a sheet.  She'd been struck by the express
and you would hardly have known her--dead, of course.  I think she
stayed all night in the Armstrong house, and the agent said she was
crossing the track to take the up-train to town when the express struck
her."

"Another circle!" I exclaimed.  "Then we are just where we started."

"Not so bad as that, Miss Innes," Riggs said eagerly.  "Nina Carrington
came from the town in California where Mr. Armstrong died.  Why was the
doctor so afraid of her?  The Carrington woman knew something.  I lived
with Doctor Walker seven years, and I know him well.  There are few
things he is afraid of.  I think he killed Mr. Armstrong out in the
west somewhere, that's what I think.  What else he did I don't
know--but he dismissed me and pretty nearly throttled me--for telling
Mr. Jamieson here about Mr. Innes' having been at his office the night
he disappeared, and about my hearing them quarreling."

"What was it Warner overheard the woman say to Mr. Innes, in the
library?" the detective asked me.

"She said 'I knew there was something wrong from the start.  A man
isn't well one day and dead the next without some reason.'"

How perfectly it all seemed to fit!



CHAPTER XXX

WHEN CHURCHYARDS YAWN

It was on Wednesday Riggs told us the story of his connection with some
incidents that had been previously unexplained.  Halsey had been gone
since the Friday night before, and with the passage of each day I felt
that his chances were lessening.  I knew well enough that he might be
carried thousands of miles in the box-car, locked in, perhaps, without
water or food.  I had read of cases where bodies had been found locked
in cars on isolated sidings in the west, and my spirits went down with
every hour.

His recovery was destined to be almost as sudden as his disappearance,
and was due directly to the tramp Alex had brought to Sunnyside.  It
seems the man was grateful for his release, and when he learned some
thing of Halsey's whereabouts from another member of his
fraternity--for it is a fraternity--he was prompt in letting us know.

On Wednesday evening Mr. Jamieson, who had been down at the Armstrong
house trying to see Louise--and failing--was met near the gate at
Sunnyside by an individual precisely as repulsive and unkempt as the
one Alex had captured.  The man knew the detective, and he gave him a
piece of dirty paper, on which was scrawled the words--"He's at City
Hospital, Johnsville."  The tramp who brought the paper pretended to
know nothing, except this: the paper had been passed along from a
"hobo" in Johnsville, who seemed to know the information would be
valuable to us.

Again the long distance telephone came into requisition.  Mr. Jamieson
called the hospital, while we crowded around him.  And when there was
no longer any doubt that it was Halsey, and that he would probably
recover, we all laughed and cried together.  I am sure I kissed Liddy,
and I have had terrible moments since when I seem to remember kissing
Mr. Jamieson, too, in the excitement.

Anyhow, by eleven o'clock that night Gertrude was on her way to
Johnsville, three hundred and eighty miles away, accompanied by Rosie.
The domestic force was now down to Mary Anne and Liddy, with the
under-gardener's wife coming every day to help out. Fortunately, Warner
and the detectives were keeping bachelor hall in the lodge.  Out of
deference to Liddy they washed their dishes once a day, and they
concocted queer messes, according to their several abilities.  They had
one triumph that they ate regularly for breakfast, and that clung to
their clothes and their hair the rest of the day.  It was bacon,
hardtack and onions, fried together.  They were almost pathetically
grateful, however, I noticed, for an occasional broiled tenderloin.

It was not until Gertrude and Rosie had gone and Sunnyside had settled
down for the night, with Winters at the foot of the staircase, that Mr.
Jamieson broached a subject he had evidently planned before he came.

"Miss Innes," he said, stopping me as I was about to go to my room
up-stairs, "how are your nerves tonight?"

"I have none," I said happily.  "With Halsey found, my troubles have
gone."

"I mean," he persisted, "do you feel as though you could go through
with something rather unusual?"

"The most unusual thing I can think of would be a peaceful night.  But
if anything is going to occur, don't dare to let me miss it."

"Something is going to occur," he said.  "And you're the only woman I
can think of that I can take along."  He looked at his watch.  "Don't
ask me any questions, Miss Innes.  Put on heavy shoes, and some old
dark clothes, and make up your mind not to be surprised at anything."

Liddy was sleeping the sleep of the just when I went up-stairs, and I
hunted out my things cautiously.  The detective was waiting in the
hall, and I was astonished to see Doctor Stewart with him.

They were talking confidentially together, but when I came down they
ceased.  There were a few preparations to be made: the locks to be gone
over, Winters to be instructed as to renewed vigilance, and then, after
extinguishing the hall light, we crept, in the darkness, through the
front door, and into the night.

I asked no questions.  I felt that they were doing me honor in making
me one of the party, and I would show them I could be as silent as
they.  We went across the fields, passing through the woods that
reached almost to the ruins of the stable, going over stiles now and
then, and sometimes stepping over low fences. Once only somebody spoke,
and then it was an emphatic bit of profanity from Doctor Stewart when
he ran into a wire fence.

We were joined at the end of five minutes by another man, who fell into
step with the doctor silently.  He carried something over his shoulder
which I could not make out.  In this way we walked for perhaps twenty
minutes.  I had lost all sense of direction: I merely stumbled along in
silence, allowing Mr. Jamieson to guide me this way or that as the path
demanded.  I hardly know what I expected.  Once, when through a
miscalculation I jumped a little short over a ditch and landed above my
shoe-tops in the water and ooze, I remember wondering if this were
really I, and if I had ever tasted life until that summer.  I walked
along with the water sloshing in my boots, and I was actually cheerful.
I remember whispering to Mr. Jamieson that I had never seen the stars
so lovely, and that it was a mistake, when the Lord had made the night
so beautiful, to sleep through it!

The doctor was puffing somewhat when we finally came to a halt. I
confess that just at that minute even Sunnyside seemed a cheerful spot.
We had paused at the edge of a level cleared place, bordered all around
with primly trimmed evergreen trees.  Between them I caught a glimpse
of starlight shining down on rows of white headstones and an occasional
more imposing monument, or towering shaft.  In spite of myself, I drew
my breath in sharply.  We were on the edge of the Casanova churchyard.

I saw now both the man who had joined the party and the implements he
carried.  It was Alex, armed with two long-handled spades.  After the
first shock of surprise, I flatter myself I was both cool and quiet.
We went in single file between the rows of headstones, and although,
when I found myself last, I had an instinctive desire to keep looking
back over my shoulder, I found that, the first uneasiness past, a
cemetery at night is much the same as any other country place, filled
with vague shadows and unexpected noises.  Once, indeed--but Mr.
Jamieson said it was an owl, and I tried to believe him.

In the shadow of the Armstrong granite shaft we stopped.  I think the
doctor wanted to send me back.

"It's no place for a woman," I heard him protesting angrily.  But the
detective said something about witnesses, and the doctor only came over
and felt my pulse.

"Anyhow, I don't believe you're any worse off here than you would be in
that nightmare of a house," he said finally, and put his coat on the
steps of the shaft for me to sit on.

There is an air of finality about a grave: one watches the earth thrown
in, with the feeling that this is the end.  Whatever has gone before,
whatever is to come in eternity, that particular temple of the soul has
been given back to the elements from which it came.  Thus, there is a
sense of desecration, of a reversal of the everlasting fitness of
things, in resurrecting a body from its mother clay.  And yet that
night, in the Casanova churchyard, I sat quietly by, and watched Alex
and Mr. Jamieson steaming over their work, without a single qualm,
except the fear of detection.

The doctor kept a keen lookout, but no one appeared.  Once in a while
he came over to me, and gave me a reassuring pat on the shoulder.

"I never expected to come to this," he said once.  "There's one thing
sure--I'll not be suspected of complicity.  A doctor is generally
supposed to be handier at burying folks than at digging them up."

The uncanny moment came when Alex and Jamieson tossed the spades on the
grass, and I confess I hid my face.  There was a period of stress, I
think, while the heavy coffin was being raised.  I felt that my
composure was going, and, for fear I would shriek, I tried to think of
something else--what time Gertrude would reach Halsey--anything but the
grisly reality that lay just beyond me on the grass.

And then I heard a low exclamation from the detective and I felt the
pressure of the doctor's fingers on my arm.

"Now, Miss Innes," he said gently.  "If you will come over--"

I held on to him frantically, and somehow I got there and looked down.
The lid of the casket had been raised and a silver plate on it proved
we had made no mistake.  But the face that showed in the light of the
lantern was a face I had never seen before.  The man who lay before us
was not Paul Armstrong!



CHAPTER XXXI

BETWEEN TWO FIREPLACES

What with the excitement of the discovery, the walk home under the
stars in wet shoes and draggled skirts, and getting up-stairs and
undressed without rousing Liddy, I was completely used up. What to do
with my boots was the greatest puzzle of all, there being no place in
the house safe from Liddy, until I decided to slip upstairs the next
morning and drop them into the hole the "ghost" had made in the
trunk-room wall.

I went asleep as soon as I reached this decision, and in my dreams I
lived over again the events of the night.  Again I saw the group around
the silent figure on the grass, and again, as had happened at the
grave, I heard Alex's voice, tense and triumphant:

"Then we've got them," he said.  Only, in my dreams, he said it over
and over until he seemed to shriek it in my ears.

I wakened early, in spite of my fatigue, and lay there thinking. Who
was Alex?  I no longer believed that he was a gardener.  Who was the
man whose body we had resurrected?  And where was Paul Armstrong?
Probably living safely in some extraditionless country on the fortune
he had stolen.  Did Louise and her mother know of the shameful and
wicked deception?  What had Thomas known, and Mrs. Watson?  Who was
Nina Carrington?

This last question, it seemed to me, was answered.  In some way the
woman had learned of the substitution, and had tried to use her
knowledge for blackmail.  Nina Carrington's own story died with her,
but, however it happened, it was clear that she had carried her
knowledge to Halsey the afternoon Gertrude and I were looking for clues
to the man I had shot on the east veranda. Halsey had been half crazed
by what he heard; it was evident that Louise was marrying Doctor Walker
to keep the shameful secret, for her mother's sake.  Halsey, always
reckless, had gone at once to Doctor Walker and denounced him.  There
had been a scene, and he left on his way to the station to meet and
notify Mr. Jamieson of what he had learned.  The doctor was active
mentally and physically.  Accompanied perhaps by Riggs, who had shown
himself not overscrupulous until he quarreled with his employer, he had
gone across to the railroad embankment, and, by jumping in front of the
car, had caused Halsey to swerve.  The rest of the story we knew.

That was my reconstructed theory of that afternoon and evening: it was
almost correct--not quite.

There was a telegram that morning from Gertrude.


"Halsey conscious and improving.  Probably home in day or so.
                                            GERTRUDE."


With Halsey found and improving in health, and with at last something
to work on, I began that day, Thursday, with fresh courage.  As Mr.
Jamieson had said, the lines were closing up. That I was to be caught
and almost finished in the closing was happily unknown to us all.

It was late when I got up.  I lay in my bed, looking around the four
walls of the room, and trying to imagine behind what one of them a
secret chamber might lie.  Certainly, in daylight, Sunnyside deserved
its name: never was a house more cheery and open, less sinister in
general appearance.  There was not a corner apparently that was not
open and above-board, and yet, somewhere behind its handsomely papered
walls I believed firmly that there lay a hidden room, with all the
possibilities it would involve.

I made a mental note to have the house measured during the day, to
discover any discrepancy between the outer and inner walls, and I tried
to recall again the exact wording of the paper Jamieson had found.

The slip had said "chimney."  It was the only clue, and a house as
large as Sunnyside was full of them.  There was an open fireplace in my
dressing-room, but none in the bedroom, and as I lay there, looking
around, I thought of something that made me sit up suddenly.  The
trunk-room, just over my head, had an open fireplace and a brick
chimney, and yet, there was nothing of the kind in my room.  I got out
of bed and examined the opposite wall closely.  There was apparently no
flue, and I knew there was none in the hall just beneath.  The house
was heated by steam, as I have said before.  In the living-room was a
huge open fireplace, but it was on the other side.

Why did the trunk-room have both a radiator and an open fireplace?
Architects were not usually erratic!  It was not fifteen minutes before
I was up-stairs, armed with a tape-measure in lieu of a foot-rule,
eager to justify Mr. Jamieson's opinion of my intelligence, and firmly
resolved not to tell him of my suspicion until I had more than theory
to go on.  The hole in the trunk-room wall still yawned there, between
the chimney and the outer wall.  I examined it again, with no new
result. The space between the brick wall and the plaster and lath one,
however, had a new significance.  The hole showed only one side of the
chimney, and I determined to investigate what lay in the space on the
other side of the mantel.

I worked feverishly.  Liddy had gone to the village to market, it being
her firm belief that the store people sent short measure unless she
watched the scales, and that, since the failure of the Traders' Bank,
we must watch the corners; and I knew that what I wanted to do must be
done before she came back.  I had no tools, but after rummaging around
I found a pair of garden scissors and a hatchet, and thus armed, I set
to work.  The plaster came out easily: the lathing was more obstinate.
It gave under the blows, only to spring back into place again, and the
necessity for caution made it doubly hard.

I had a blister on my palm when at last the hatchet went through and
fell with what sounded like the report of a gun to my overstrained
nerves.  I sat on a trunk, waiting to hear Liddy fly up the stairs,
with the household behind her, like the tail of a comet.  But nothing
happened, and with a growing feeling of uncanniness I set to work
enlarging the opening.

The result was absolutely nil.  When I could hold a lighted candle in
the opening, I saw precisely what I had seen on the other side of the
chimney--a space between the true wall and the false one, possibly
seven feet long and about three feet wide. It was in no sense of the
word a secret chamber, and it was evident it had not been disturbed
since the house was built.  It was a supreme disappointment.

It had been Mr. Jamieson's idea that the hidden room, if there was one,
would be found somewhere near the circular staircase. In fact, I knew
that he had once investigated the entire length of the clothes chute,
hanging to a rope, with this in view.  I was reluctantly about to
concede that he had been right, when my eyes fell on the mantel and
fireplace.  The latter had evidently never been used: it was closed
with a metal fire front, and only when the front refused to move, and
investigation showed that it was not intended to be moved, did my
spirits revive.

I hurried into the next room.  Yes, sure enough, there was a similar
mantel and fireplace there, similarly closed.  In both rooms the
chimney flue extended well out from the wall.  I measured with the
tape-line, my hands trembling so that I could scarcely hold it.  They
extended two feet and a half into each room, which, with the three feet
of space between the two partitions, made eight feet to be accounted
for.  Eight feet in one direction and almost seven in the other--what a
chimney it was!

But I had only located the hidden room.  I was not in it, and no amount
of pressing on the carving of the wooden mantels, no search of the
floors for loose boards, none of the customary methods availed at all.
That there was a means of entrance, and probably a simple one, I could
be certain.  But what?  What would I find if I did get in?  Was the
detective right, and were the bonds and money from the Traders' Bank
there?  Or was our whole theory wrong?  Would not Paul Armstrong have
taken his booty with him?  If he had not, and if Doctor Walker was in
the secret, he would have known how to enter the chimney room.
Then--who had dug the other hole in the false partition?



CHAPTER XXXII

ANNE WATSON'S STORY

Liddy discovered the fresh break in the trunk-room wall while we were
at luncheon, and ran shrieking down the stairs.  She maintained that,
as she entered, unseen hands had been digging at the plaster; that they
had stopped when she went in, and she had felt a gust of cold damp air.
In support of her story she carried in my wet and muddy boots, that I
had unluckily forgotten to hide, and held them out to the detective and
myself.

"What did I tell you?" she said dramatically.  "Look at 'em. They're
yours, Miss Rachel--and covered with mud and soaked to the tops.  I
tell you, you can scoff all you like; something has been wearing your
shoes.  As sure as you sit there, there's the smell of the graveyard on
them.  How do we know they weren't tramping through the Casanova
churchyard last night, and sitting on the graves!"

Mr. Jamieson almost choked to death.  "I wouldn't be at all surprised
if they were doing that very thing, Liddy," he said, when he got his
breath.  "They certainly look like it."

I think the detective had a plan, on which he was working, and which
was meant to be a coup.  But things went so fast there was no time to
carry it into effect.  The first thing that occurred was a message from
the Charity Hospital that Mrs. Watson was dying, and had asked for me.
I did not care much about going.  There is a sort of melancholy
pleasure to be had out of a funeral, with its pomp and ceremony, but I
shrank from a death-bed. However, Liddy got out the black things and
the crape veil I keep for such occasions, and I went.  I left Mr.
Jamieson and the day detective going over every inch of the circular
staircase, pounding, probing and measuring.  I was inwardly elated to
think of the surprise I was going to give them that night; as it turned
out, I DID surprise them almost into spasms.

I drove from the train to the Charity Hospital, and was at once taken
to a ward.  There, in a gray-walled room in a high iron bed, lay Mrs.
Watson.  She was very weak, and she only opened her eyes and looked at
me when I sat down beside her.  I was conscience-stricken.  We had been
so engrossed that I had left this poor creature to die without even a
word of sympathy.

The nurse gave her a stimulant, and in a little while she was able to
talk.  So broken and half-coherent, however, was her story that I shall
tell it in my own way.  In an hour from the time I entered the Charity
Hospital, I had heard a sad and pitiful narrative, and had seen a woman
slip into the unconsciousness that is only a step from death.

Briefly, then, the housekeeper's story was this:

She was almost forty years old, and had been the sister-mother of a
large family of children.  One by one they had died, and been buried
beside their parents in a little town in the Middle West. There was
only one sister left, the baby, Lucy.  On her the older girl had
lavished all the love of an impulsive and emotional nature.  When Anne,
the elder, was thirty-two and Lucy was nineteen, a young man had come
to the town.  He was going east, after spending the summer at a
celebrated ranch in Wyoming--one of those places where wealthy men send
worthless and dissipated sons, for a season of temperance, fresh air
and hunting.  The sisters, of course, knew nothing of this, and the
young man's ardor rather carried them away.  In a word, seven years
before, Lucy Haswell had married a young man whose name was given as
Aubrey Wallace.

Anne Haswell had married a carpenter in her native town, and was a
widow.  For three months everything went fairly well.  Aubrey took his
bride to Chicago, where they lived at a hotel.  Perhaps the very
unsophistication that had charmed him in Valley Mill jarred on him in
the city.  He had been far from a model husband, even for the three
months, and when he disappeared Anne was almost thankful.  It was
different with the young wife, however. She drooped and fretted, and on
the birth of her baby boy, she had died.  Anne took the child, and
named him Lucien.

Anne had had no children of her own, and on Lucien she had lavished all
her aborted maternal instinct.  On one thing she was determined,
however: that was that Aubrey Wallace should educate his boy.  It was a
part of her devotion to the child that she should be ambitious for him:
he must have every opportunity.  And so she came east.  She drifted
around, doing plain sewing and keeping a home somewhere always for the
boy.  Finally, however, she realized that her only training had been
domestic, and she put the boy in an Episcopalian home, and secured the
position of housekeeper to the Armstrongs.  There she found Lucien's
father, this time under his own name.  It was Arnold Armstrong.

I gathered that there was no particular enmity at that time in Anne's
mind.  She told him of the boy, and threatened exposure if he did not
provide for him.  Indeed, for a time, he did so.  Then he realized that
Lucien was the ruling passion in this lonely woman's life.  He found
out where the child was hidden, and threatened to take him away.  Anne
was frantic.  The positions became reversed.  Where Arnold had given
money for Lucien's support, as the years went on he forced money from
Anne Watson instead until she was always penniless.  The lower Arnold
sank in the scale, the heavier his demands became.  With the rupture
between him and his family, things were worse.  Anne took the child
from the home and hid him in a farmhouse near Casanova, on the
Claysburg road.  There she went sometimes to see the boy, and there he
had taken fever.  The people were Germans, and he called the farmer's
wife Grossmutter.  He had grown into a beautiful boy, and he was all
Anne had to live for.


The Armstrongs left for California, and Arnold's persecutions began
anew.  He was furious over the child's disappearance and she was afraid
he would do her some hurt.  She left the big house and went down to the
lodge.  When I had rented Sunnyside, however, she had thought the
persecutions would stop.  She had applied for the position of
housekeeper, and secured it.

That had been on Saturday.  That night Louise arrived unexpectedly.
Thomas sent for Mrs. Watson and then went for Arnold Armstrong at the
Greenwood Club.  Anne had been fond of Louise--she reminded her of
Lucy.  She did not know what the trouble was, but Louise had been in a
state of terrible excitement.  Mrs. Watson tried to hide from Arnold,
but he was ugly.  He left the lodge and went up to the house about
two-thirty, was admitted at the east entrance and came out again very
soon.  Something had occurred, she didn't know what; but very soon Mr.
Innes and another gentleman left, using the car.

Thomas and she had got Louise quiet, and a little before three, Mrs.
Watson started up to the house.  Thomas had a key to the east entry,
and gave it to her.

On the way across the lawn she was confronted by Arnold, who for some
reason was determined to get into the house.  He had a golf-stick in
his hand, that he had picked up somewhere, and on her refusal he had
struck her with it.  One hand had been badly cut, and it was that,
poisoning having set in, which was killing her.  She broke away in a
frenzy of rage and fear, and got into the house while Gertrude and Jack
Bailey were at the front door. She went up-stairs, hardly knowing what
she was doing. Gertrude's door was open, and Halsey's revolver lay
there on the bed.  She picked it up and turning, ran part way down the
circular staircase.  She could hear Arnold fumbling at the lock
outside.  She slipped down quietly and opened the door: he was inside
before she had got back to the stairs.  It was quite dark, but she
could see his white shirt-bosom.  From the fourth step she fired.  As
he fell, somebody in the billiard-room screamed and ran.  When the
alarm was raised, she had had no time to get up-stairs: she hid in the
west wing until every one was down on the lower floor.  Then she
slipped upstairs, and threw the revolver out of an upper window, going
down again in time to admit the men from the Greenwood Club.

If Thomas had suspected, he had never told.  When she found the hand
Arnold had injured was growing worse, she gave the address of Lucien at
Richfield to the old man, and almost a hundred dollars.  The money was
for Lucien's board until she recovered.  She had sent for me to ask me
if I would try to interest the Armstrongs in the child.  When she found
herself growing worse, she had written to Mrs. Armstrong, telling her
nothing but that Arnold's legitimate child was at Richfield, and
imploring her to recognize him.  She was dying: the boy was an
Armstrong, and entitled to his father's share of the estate.  The
papers were in her trunk at Sunnyside, with letters from the dead man
that would prove what she said.  She was going; she would not be judged
by earthly laws; and somewhere else perhaps Lucy would plead for her.
It was she who had crept down the circular staircase, drawn by a
magnet, that night Mr. Jamieson had heard some one there.  Pursued, she
had fled madly, anywhere--through the first door she came to.  She had
fallen down the clothes chute, and been saved by the basket beneath.  I
could have cried with relief; then it had not been Gertrude, after all!

That was the story.  Sad and tragic though it was, the very telling of
it seemed to relieve the dying woman.  She did not know that Thomas was
dead, and I did not tell her.  I promised to look after little Lucien,
and sat with her until the intervals of consciousness grew shorter and
finally ceased altogether.  She died that night.



CHAPTER XXXIII

AT THE FOOT OF THE STAIRS

As I drove rapidly up to the house from Casanova Station in the hack, I
saw the detective Burns loitering across the street from the Walker
place.  So Jamieson was putting the screws on--lightly now, but ready
to give them a twist or two, I felt certain, very soon.

The house was quiet.  Two steps of the circular staircase had been
pried off, without result, and beyond a second message from Gertrude,
that Halsey insisted on coming home and they would arrive that night,
there was nothing new.  Mr. Jamieson, having failed to locate the
secret room, had gone to the village.  I learned afterwards that he
called at Doctor Walker's, under pretense of an attack of acute
indigestion, and before he left, had inquired about the evening trains
to the city.  He said he had wasted a lot of time on the case, and a
good bit of the mystery was in my imagination!  The doctor was under
the impression that the house was guarded day and night.  Well, give a
place a reputation like that, and you don't need a guard at all,--thus
Jamieson.  And sure enough, late in the afternoon, the two private
detectives, accompanied by Mr. Jamieson, walked down the main street of
Casanova and took a city-bound train.

That they got off at the next station and walked back again to
Sunnyside at dusk, was not known at the time.  Personally, I knew
nothing of either move; I had other things to absorb me at that time.

Liddy brought me some tea while I rested after my trip, and on the tray
was a small book from the Casanova library.  It was called The Unseen
World and had a cheerful cover on which a half-dozen sheeted figures
linked hands around a headstone.

At this point in my story, Halsey always says:  "Trust a woman to add
two and two together, and make six."  To which I retort that if two and
two plus X make six, then to discover the unknown quantity is the
simplest thing in the world.  That a houseful of detectives missed it
entirely was because they were busy trying to prove that two and two
make four.

The depression due to my visit to the hospital left me at the prospect
of seeing Halsey again that night.  It was about five o'clock when
Liddy left me for a nap before dinner, having put me into a gray silk
dressing-gown and a pair of slippers.  I listened to her retreating
footsteps, and as soon as she was safely below stairs, I went up to the
trunk-room.  The place had not been disturbed, and I proceeded at once
to try to discover the entrance to the hidden room.  The openings on
either side, as I have said, showed nothing but perhaps three feet of
brick wall.

There was no sign of an entrance--no levers, no hinges, to give a hint.
Either the mantel or the roof, I decided, and after a half-hour at the
mantel, productive of absolutely no result, I decided to try the roof.

I am not fond of a height.  The few occasions on which I have climbed a
step-ladder have always left me dizzy and weak in the knees.  The top
of the Washington monument is as impossible to me as the elevation of
the presidential chair.  And yet--I climbed out on to the Sunnyside
roof without a second's hesitation.  Like a dog on a scent, like my
bearskin progenitor, with his spear and his wild boar, to me now there
was the lust of the chase, the frenzy of pursuit, the dust of battle.
I got quite a little of the latter on me as I climbed from the
unfinished ball-room out through a window to the roof of the east wing
of the building, which was only two stories in height.

Once out there, access to the top of the main building was rendered
easy--at least it looked easy--by a small vertical iron ladder,
fastened to the wall outside of the ball-room, and perhaps twelve feet
high.  The twelve feet looked short from below, but they were difficult
to climb.  I gathered my silk gown around me, and succeeded finally in
making the top of the ladder.

Once there, however, I was completely out of breath.  I sat down, my
feet on the top rung, and put my hair pins in more securely, while the
wind bellowed my dressing-gown out like a sail.  I had torn a great
strip of the silk loose, and now I ruthlessly finished the destruction
of my gown by jerking it free and tying it around my head.

From far below the smallest sounds came up with peculiar distinctness.
I could hear the paper boy whistling down the drive, and I heard
something else.  I heard the thud of a stone, and a spit, followed by a
long and startled meiou from Beulah. I forgot my fear of a height, and
advanced boldly almost to the edge of the roof.

It was half-past six by that time, and growing dusk.

"You boy, down there!" I called.

The paper boy turned and looked around.  Then, seeing nobody, he raised
his eyes.  It was a moment before he located me: when he did, he stood
for one moment as if paralyzed, then he gave a horrible yell, and
dropping his papers, bolted across the lawn to the road without
stopping to look around.  Once he fell, and his impetus was so great
that he turned an involuntary somersault. He was up and off again
without any perceptible pause, and he leaped the hedge--which I am sure
under ordinary stress would have been a feat for a man.

I am glad in this way to settle the Gray Lady story, which is still a
choice morsel in Casanova.  I believe the moral deduced by the village
was that it is always unlucky to throw a stone at a black cat.

With Johnny Sweeny a cloud of dust down the road, and the dinner-hour
approaching, I hurried on with my investigations.  Luckily, the roof
was flat, and I was able to go over every inch of it. But the result
was disappointing; no trap-door revealed itself, no glass window;
nothing but a couple of pipes two inches across, and standing perhaps
eighteen inches high and three feet apart, with a cap to prevent rain
from entering and raised to permit the passage of air.  I picked up a
pebble from the roof and dropped it down, listening with my ear at one
of the pipes. I could hear it strike on something with a sharp,
metallic sound, but it was impossible for me to tell how far it had
gone.

I gave up finally and went down the ladder again, getting in through
the ball-room window without being observed.  I went back at once to
the trunk-room, and, sitting down on a box, I gave my mind, as
consistently as I could, to the problem before me.  If the pipes in the
roof were ventilators to the secret room, and there was no trap-door
above, the entrance was probably in one of the two rooms between which
it lay--unless, indeed, the room had been built, and the opening then
closed with a brick and mortar wall.

The mantel fascinated me.  Made of wood and carved, the more I looked
the more I wondered that I had not noticed before the absurdity of such
a mantel in such a place.  It was covered with scrolls and panels, and
finally, by the merest accident, I pushed one of the panels to the
side.  It moved easily, revealing a small brass knob.

It is not necessary to detail the fluctuations of hope and despair, and
not a little fear of what lay beyond, with which I twisted and turned
the knob.  It moved, but nothing seemed to happen, and then I
discovered the trouble.  I pushed the knob vigorously to one side, and
the whole mantel swung loose from the wall almost a foot, revealing a
cavernous space beyond.

I took a long breath, closed the door from the trunk-room into the
hall--thank Heaven, I did not lock it--and pulling the mantel-door wide
open, I stepped into the chimney-room.  I had time to get a hazy view
of a small portable safe, a common wooden table and a chair--then the
mantel door swung to, and clicked behind me.  I stood quite still for a
moment, in the darkness, unable to comprehend what had happened.  Then
I turned and beat furiously at the door with my fists.  It was closed
and locked again, and my fingers in the darkness slid over a smooth
wooden surface without a sign of a knob.

I was furiously angry--at myself, at the mantel door, at everything.  I
did not fear suffocation; before the thought had come to me I had
already seen a gleam of light from the two small ventilating pipes in
the roof.  They supplied air, but nothing else.  The room itself was
shrouded in blackness.

I sat down in the stiff-backed chair and tried to remember how many
days one could live without food and water.  When that grew monotonous
and rather painful, I got up and, according to the time-honored rule
for people shut in unknown and ink-black prisons, I felt my way
around--it was small enough, goodness knows.  I felt nothing but a
splintery surface of boards, and in endeavoring to get back to the
chair, something struck me full in the face, and fell with the noise of
a thousand explosions to the ground.  When I had gathered up my nerves
again, I found it had been the bulb of a swinging electric light, and
that had it not been for the accident, I might have starved to death in
an illuminated sepulcher.

I must have dozed off.  I am sure I did not faint.  I was never more
composed in my life.  I remember planning, if I were not discovered,
who would have my things.  I knew Liddy would want my heliotrope
poplin, and she's a fright in lavender.  Once or twice I heard mice in
the partitions, and so I sat on the table, with my feet on the chair.
I imagined I could hear the search going on through the house, and once
some one came into the trunk-room; I could distinctly hear footsteps.

"In the chimney!  In the chimney!" I called with all my might, and was
rewarded by a piercing shriek from Liddy and the slam of the trunk-room
door.

I felt easier after that, although the room was oppressively hot and
enervating.  I had no doubt the search for me would now come in the
right direction, and after a little, I dropped into a doze.  How long I
slept I do not know.

It must have been several hours, for I had been tired from a busy day,
and I wakened stiff from my awkward position.  I could not remember
where I was for a few minutes, and my head felt heavy and congested.
Gradually I roused to my surroundings, and to the fact that in spite of
the ventilators, the air was bad and growing worse.  I was breathing
long, gasping respirations, and my face was damp and clammy.  I must
have been there a long time, and the searchers were probably hunting
outside the house, dredging the creek, or beating the woodland.  I knew
that another hour or two would find me unconscious, and with my
inability to cry out would go my only chance of rescue.  It was the
combination of bad air and heat, probably, for some inadequate
ventilation was coming through the pipes.  I tried to retain my
consciousness by walking the length of the room and back, over and
over, but I had not the strength to keep it up, so I sat down on the
table again, my back against the wall.

The house was very still.  Once my straining ears seemed to catch a
footfall beneath me, possibly in my own room.  I groped for the chair
from the table, and pounded with it frantically on the floor.  But
nothing happened: I realized bitterly that if the sound was heard at
all, no doubt it was classed with the other rappings that had so
alarmed us recently.

It was impossible to judge the flight of time.  I measured five minutes
by counting my pulse, allowing seventy-two beats to the minute.  But it
took eternities, and toward the last I found it hard to count; my head
was confused.

And then--I heard sounds from below me, in the house.  There was a
peculiar throbbing, vibrating noise that I felt rather than heard, much
like the pulsing beat of fire engines in the city. For one awful moment
I thought the house was on fire, and every drop of blood in my body
gathered around my heart; then I knew.  It was the engine of the
automobile, and Halsey had come back.  Hope sprang up afresh.  Halsey's
clear head and Gertrude's intuition might do what Liddy's hysteria and
three detectives had failed in.

After a time I thought I had been right.  There was certainly something
going on down below; doors were slamming, people were hurrying through
the halls, and certain high notes of excited voices penetrated to me
shrilly.  I hoped they were coming closer, but after a time the sounds
died away below, and I was left to the silence and heat, to the weight
of the darkness, to the oppression of walls that seemed to close in on
me and stifle me.

The first warning I had was a stealthy fumbling at the lock of the
mantel-door.  With my mouth open to scream, I stopped. Perhaps the
situation had rendered me acute, perhaps it was instinctive.  Whatever
it was, I sat without moving, and some one outside, in absolute
stillness, ran his fingers over the carving of the mantel and--found
the panel.

Now the sounds below redoubled: from the clatter and jarring I knew
that several people were running up the stairs, and as the sounds
approached, I could even hear what they said.

"Watch the end staircases!" Jamieson was shouting.  "Damnation--there's
no light here!"  And then a second later.  "All together now.
One--two--three--"

The door into the trunk-room had been locked from the inside.  At the
second that it gave, opening against the wall with a crash and
evidently tumbling somebody into the room, the stealthy fingers beyond
the mantel-door gave the knob the proper impetus, and--the door swung
open, and closed again.  Only--and Liddy always screams and puts her
fingers in her ears at this point--only now I was not alone in the
chimney room.  There was some one else in the darkness, some one who
breathed hard, and who was so close I could have touched him with my
hand.

I was in a paralysis of terror.  Outside there were excited voices and
incredulous oaths.  The trunks were being jerked around in a frantic
search, the windows were thrown open, only to show a sheer drop of
forty feet.  And the man in the room with me leaned against the
mantel-door and listened.  His pursuers were plainly baffled: I heard
him draw a long breath, and turn to grope his way through the
blackness.  Then--he touched my hand, cold, clammy, death-like.

A hand in an empty room!  He drew in his breath, the sharp intaking of
horror that fills lungs suddenly collapsed.  Beyond jerking his hand
away instantly, he made no movement.  I think absolute terror had him
by the throat.  Then he stepped back, without turning, retreating foot
by foot from The Dread in the corner, and I do not think he breathed.

Then, with the relief of space between us, I screamed, ear-splittingly,
madly, and they heard me outside.

"In the chimney!" I shrieked.  "Behind the mantel!  The mantel!"

With an oath the figure hurled itself across the room at me, and I
screamed again.  In his blind fury he had missed me; I heard him strike
the wall.  That one time I eluded him; I was across the room, and I had
got the chair.  He stood for a second, listening, then--he made another
rush, and I struck out with my weapon.  I think it stunned him, for I
had a second's respite when I could hear him breathing, and some one
shouted outside:

"We--Can't--get--in.  How--does--it--open?"

But the man in the room had changed his tactics.  I knew he was
creeping on me, inch by inch, and I could not tell from where. And
then--he caught me.  He held his hand over my mouth, and I bit him.  I
was helpless, strangling,--and some one was trying to break in the
mantel from outside.  It began to yield somewhere, for a thin wedge of
yellowish light was reflected on the opposite wall.  When he saw that,
my assailant dropped me with a curse; then--the opposite wall swung
open noiselessly, closed again without a sound, and I was alone.  The
intruder was gone.

"In the next room!" I called wildly.  "The next room!"  But the sound
of blows on the mantel drowned my voice.  By the time I had made them
understand, a couple of minutes had elapsed.  The pursuit was taken up
then, by all except Alex, who was determined to liberate me.  When I
stepped out into the trunk-room, a free woman again, I could hear the
chase far below.

I must say, for all Alex's anxiety to set me free, he paid little
enough attention to my plight.  He jumped through the opening into the
secret room, and picked up the portable safe.

"I am going to put this in Mr. Halsey's room, Miss Innes," he said,
"and I shall send one of the detectives to guard it."

I hardly heard him.  I wanted to laugh and cry in the same breath--to
crawl into bed and have a cup of tea, and scold Liddy, and do any of
the thousand natural things that I had never expected to do again.  And
the air!  The touch of the cool night air on my face!

As Alex and I reached the second floor, Mr. Jamieson met us.  He was
grave and quiet, and he nodded comprehendingly when he saw the safe.

"Will you come with me for a moment, Miss Innes?" he asked soberly, and
on my assenting, he led the way to the east wing. There were lights
moving around below, and some of the maids were standing gaping down.
They screamed when they saw me, and drew back to let me pass.  There
was a sort of hush over the scene; Alex, behind me, muttered something
I could not hear, and brushed past me without ceremony.  Then I
realized that a man was lying doubled up at the foot of the staircase,
and that Alex was stooping over him.

As I came slowly down, Winters stepped back, and Alex straightened
himself, looking at me across the body with impenetrable eyes.  In his
hand he held a shaggy gray wig, and before me on the floor lay the man
whose headstone stood in Casanova churchyard--Paul Armstrong.

Winters told the story in a dozen words.  In his headlong flight down
the circular staircase, with Winters just behind, Paul Armstrong had
pitched forward violently, struck his head against the door to the east
veranda, and probably broken his neck.  He had died as Winters reached
him.

As the detective finished, I saw Halsey, pale and shaken, in the
card-room doorway, and for the first time that night I lost my
self-control.  I put my arms around my boy, and for a moment he had to
support me.  A second later, over Halsey's shoulder, I saw something
that turned my emotion into other channels, for, behind him, in the
shadowy card-room, were Gertrude and Alex, the gardener, and--there is
no use mincing matters--he was kissing her!

I was unable to speak.  Twice I opened my mouth: then I turned Halsey
around and pointed.  They were quite unconscious of us; her head was on
his shoulder, his face against her hair.  As it happened, it was Mr.
Jamieson who broke up the tableau.

He stepped over to Alex and touched him on the arm.

"And now," he said quietly, "how long are you and I to play OUR little
comedy, Mr. Bailey?"



CHAPTER XXXIV

THE ODDS AND ENDS

Of Doctor Walker's sensational escape that night to South America, of
the recovery of over a million dollars in cash and securities in the
safe from the chimney room--the papers have kept the public well
informed.  Of my share in discovering the secret chamber they have been
singularly silent.  The inner history has never been told.  Mr.
Jamieson got all kinds of credit, and some of it he deserved, but if
Jack Bailey, as Alex, had not traced Halsey and insisted on the
disinterring of Paul Armstrong's casket, if he had not suspected the
truth from the start, where would the detective have been?

When Halsey learned the truth, he insisted on going the next morning,
weak as he was, to Louise, and by night she was at Sunnyside, under
Gertrude's particular care, while her mother had gone to Barbara
Fitzhugh's.

What Halsey said to Mrs. Armstrong I never knew, but that he was
considerate and chivalrous I feel confident.  It was Halsey's way
always with women.

He and Louise had no conversation together until that night. Gertrude
and Alex--I mean Jack--had gone for a walk, although it was nine
o'clock, and anybody but a pair of young geese would have known that
dew was falling, and that it is next to impossible to get rid of a
summer cold.

At half after nine, growing weary of my own company, I went downstairs
to find the young people.  At the door of the living-room I paused.
Gertrude and Jack had returned and were there, sitting together on a
divan, with only one lamp lighted.  They did not see or hear me, and I
beat a hasty retreat to the library.  But here again I was driven back.
Louise was sitting in a deep chair, looking the happiest I had ever
seen her, with Halsey on the arm of the chair, holding her close.

It was no place for an elderly spinster.  I retired to my upstairs
sitting-room and got out Eliza Klinefelter's lavender slippers.  Ah,
well, the foster motherhood would soon have to be put away in camphor
again.

The next day, by degrees, I got the whole story.

Paul Armstrong had a besetting evil--the love of money.  Common enough,
but he loved money, not for what it would buy, but for its own sake.
An examination of the books showed no irregularities in the past year
since John had been cashier, but before that, in the time of Anderson,
the old cashier, who had died, much strange juggling had been done with
the records.  The railroad in New Mexico had apparently drained the
banker's private fortune, and he determined to retrieve it by one
stroke. This was nothing less than the looting of the bank's
securities, turning them into money, and making his escape.

But the law has long arms.  Paul Armstrong evidently studied the
situation carefully.  Just as the only good Indian is a dead Indian, so
the only safe defaulter is a dead defaulter.  He decided to die, to all
appearances, and when the hue and cry subsided, he would be able to
enjoy his money almost anywhere he wished.

The first necessity was an accomplice.  The connivance of Doctor Walker
was suggested by his love for Louise.  The man was unscrupulous, and
with the girl as a bait, Paul Armstrong soon had him fast.  The plan
was apparently the acme of simplicity: a small town in the west, an
attack of heart disease, a body from a medical college dissecting-room
shipped in a trunk to Doctor Walker by a colleague in San Francisco,
and palmed off for the supposed dead banker.  What was simpler?

The woman, Nina Carrington, was the cog that slipped.  What she only
suspected, what she really knew, we never learned.  She was a
chambermaid in the hotel at C--, and it was evidently her intention to
blackmail Doctor Walker.  His position at that time was uncomfortable:
to pay the woman to keep quiet would be confession.  He denied the
whole thing, and she went to Halsey.

It was this that had taken Halsey to the doctor the night he
disappeared.  He accused the doctor of the deception, and, crossing the
lawn, had said something cruel to Louise.  Then, furious at her
apparent connivance, he had started for the station.  Doctor Walker and
Paul Armstrong--the latter still lame where I had shot him--hurried
across to the embankment, certain only of one thing.  Halsey must not
tell the detective what he suspected until the money had been removed
from the chimney-room. They stepped into the road in front of the car
to stop it, and fate played into their hands.  The car struck the
train, and they had only to dispose of the unconscious figure in the
road.  This they did as I have told.  For three days Halsey lay in the
box car, tied hand and foot, suffering tortures of thirst, delirious at
times, and discovered by a tramp at Johnsville only in time to save his
life.

To go back to Paul Armstrong.  At the last moment his plans had been
frustrated.  Sunnyside, with its hoard in the chimney-room, had been
rented without his knowledge!  Attempts to dislodge me having failed,
he was driven to breaking into his own house.  The ladder in the chute,
the burning of the stable and the entrance through the card-room
window--all were in the course of a desperate attempt to get into the
chimney-room.

Louise and her mother had, from the first, been the great
stumbling-blocks.  The plan had been to send Louise away until it was
too late for her to interfere, but she came back to the hotel at C--
just at the wrong time.  There was a terrible scene.  The girl was told
that something of the kind was necessary, that the bank was about to
close and her stepfather would either avoid arrest and disgrace in this
way, or kill himself.  Fanny Armstrong was a weakling, but Louise was
more difficult to manage.  She had no love for her stepfather, but her
devotion to her mother was entire, self-sacrificing.  Forced into
acquiescence by her mother's appeals, overwhelmed by the situation, the
girl consented and fled.

From somewhere in Colorado she sent an anonymous telegram to Jack
Bailey at the Traders' Bank.  Trapped as she was, she did not want to
see an innocent man arrested.  The telegram, received on Thursday, had
sent the cashier to the bank that night in a frenzy.

Louise arrived at Sunnyside and found the house rented.  Not knowing
what to do, she sent for Arnold at the Greenwood Club, and told him a
little, not all.  She told him that there was something wrong, and that
the bank was about to close.  That his father was responsible.  Of the
conspiracy she said nothing.  To her surprise, Arnold already knew,
through Bailey that night, that things were not right.  Moreover, he
suspected what Louise did not, that the money was hidden at Sunnyside.
He had a scrap of paper that indicated a concealed room somewhere.

His inherited cupidity was aroused.  Eager to get Halsey and Jack
Bailey out of the house, he went up to the east entry, and in the
billiard-room gave the cashier what he had refused earlier in the
evening--the address of Paul Armstrong in California and a telegram
which had been forwarded to the club for Bailey, from Doctor Walker.
It was in response to one Bailey had sent, and it said that Paul
Armstrong was very ill.

Bailey was almost desperate.  He decided to go west and find Paul
Armstrong, and to force him to disgorge.  But the catastrophe at the
bank occurred sooner than he had expected.  On the moment of starting
west, at Andrews Station, where Mr. Jamieson had located the car, he
read that the bank had closed, and, going back, surrendered himself.

John Bailey had known Paul Armstrong intimately.  He did not believe
that the money was gone; in fact, it was hardly possible in the
interval since the securities had been taken.  Where was it?  And from
some chance remark let fall some months earlier by Arnold Armstrong at
a dinner, Bailey felt sure there was a hidden room at Sunnyside.  He
tried to see the architect of the building, but, like the contractor,
if he knew of the such a room he refused any information.  It was
Halsey's idea that John Bailey come to the house as a gardener, and
pursue his investigations as he could.  His smooth upper lip had been
sufficient disguise, with his change of clothes, and a hair-cut by a
country barber.

So it was Alex, Jack Bailey, who had been our ghost.  Not only had he
alarmed--Louise and himself, he admitted--on the circular staircase,
but he had dug the hole in the trunk-room wall, and later sent Eliza
into hysteria.  The note Liddy had found in Gertrude's scrap-basket was
from him, and it was he who had startled me into unconsciousness by the
clothes chute, and, with Gertrude's help, had carried me to Louise's
room.  Gertrude, I learned, had watched all night beside me, in an
extremity of anxiety about me.

That old Thomas had seen his master, and thought he had seen the
Sunnyside ghost, there could be no doubt.  Of that story of Thomas',
about seeing Jack Bailey in the footpath between the club and
Sunnyside, the night Liddy and I heard the noise on the circular
staircase--that, too, was right.  On the night before Arnold Armstrong
was murdered, Jack Bailey had made his first attempt to search for the
secret room. He secured Arnold's keys from his room at the club and got
into the house, armed with a golf-stick for sounding the walls.  He ran
against the hamper at the head of the stairs, caught his cuff-link in
it, and dropped the golf-stick with a crash.  He was glad enough to get
away without an alarm being raised, and he took the "owl" train to town.

The oddest thing to me was that Mr. Jamieson had known for some time
that Alex was Jack Bailey.  But the face of the pseudo-gardener was
very queer indeed, when that night, in the card-room, the detective
turned to him and said:

"How long are you and I going to play our little comedy, MR. BAILEY?"

Well, it is all over now.  Paul Armstrong rests in Casanova churchyard,
and this time there is no mistake.  I went to the funeral, because I
wanted to be sure he was really buried, and I looked at the step of the
shaft where I had sat that night, and wondered if it was all real.
Sunnyside is for sale--no, I shall not buy it.  Little Lucien Armstrong
is living with his step-grandmother, and she is recovering gradually
from troubles that had extended over the entire period of her second
marriage. Anne Watson lies not far from the man she killed, and who as
surely caused her death.  Thomas, the fourth victim of the conspiracy,
is buried on the hill.  With Nina Carrington, five lives were
sacrificed in the course of this grim conspiracy.

There will be two weddings before long, and Liddy has asked for my
heliotrope poplin to wear to the church.  I knew she would. She has
wanted it for three years, and she was quite ugly the time I spilled
coffee on it.  We are very quiet, just the two of us.  Liddy still
clings to her ghost theory, and points to my wet and muddy boots in the
trunk-room as proof.  I am gray, I admit, but I haven't felt as well in
a dozen years.  Sometimes, when I am bored, I ring for Liddy, and we
talk things over.  When Warner married Rosie, Liddy sniffed and said
what I took for faithfulness in Rosie had been nothing but mawkishness.
I have not yet outlived Liddy's contempt because I gave them silver
knives and forks as a wedding gift.

So we sit and talk, and sometimes Liddy threatens to leave, and often I
discharge her, but we stay together somehow.  I am talking of renting a
house next year, and Liddy says to be sure there is no ghost.  To be
perfectly frank, I never really lived until that summer.  Time has
passed since I began this story. My neighbors are packing up for
another summer.  Liddy is having the awnings put up, and the window
boxes filled.  Liddy or no Liddy, I shall advertise to-morrow for a
house in the country, and I don't care if it has a Circular Staircase.





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