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Title: Final Proof - or the Value of Evidence
Author: Ottolengui, Rodrigues, 1861-1937
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 "Final Proof - or the Value of Evidence" ***

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                    BY RODRIGUES OTTOLENGUI


=An Artist in Crime.= 16^o, $1.00; paper, 50 cts.

=A Conflict of Evidence.= 16^o, $1.00; paper, 50 cts.

=A Modern Wizard.= 16^o, $1.00; paper, 50 cts.

=The Crime of the Century.= 16^o, $1.00; paper, 50 cts.

=Final Proof, or, the Value of Evidence.= 16^o, $1.00; paper, 50 cts.


                          G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS

                           NEW YORK & LONDON



                              FINAL PROOF
                         THE VALUE OF EVIDENCE


                                   BY
                             R. OTTOLENGUI


       AUTHOR OF "AN ARTIST IN CRIME," "A CONFLICT OF EVIDENCE,"
                    "THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY," ETC.


                             [Illustration]


                          G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS
                          NEW YORK AND LONDON
                        The Knickerbocker Press
                                  1898



                            Copyright, 1898
                                   BY
                          G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS
                  Entered at Stationers' Hall, London


                   The Knickerbocker Press, New York



                               PREFATORY


The first meeting between Mr. Barnes, the detective, and Robert Leroy
Mitchel, the gentleman who imagines himself to be able to outdo
detectives in their own line of work, was fully set forth in the
narrative entitled _An Artist in Crime_. Subsequently the two men
occupied themselves with the solution of a startling murder mystery, the
details of which were recorded in _The Crime of the Century_. The
present volume contains the history of several cases which attracted
their attention in the interval between those already given to the
world, the first having occured shortly after the termination of the
events in _An Artist in Crime_, and the others in the order here given,
so that in a sense these stories are continuous and interdependent.

                                                               R. O.



                                CONTENTS


                                                            PAGE

                                   I
        THE PHOENIX OF CRIME                                   1

                                   II
        THE MISSING LINK                                     132

                                  III
        THE NAMELESS MAN                                     151

                                   IV
        THE MONTEZUMA EMERALD                                169

                                   V
        A SINGULAR ABDUCTION                                 189

                                   VI
        THE AZTEC OPAL                                       210

                                  VII
        THE DUPLICATE HARLEQUIN                              230

                                  VIII
        THE PEARLS OF ISIS                                   261

                                   IX
        A PROMISSORY NOTE                                    294

                                   X
        A NOVEL FORGERY                                      325

                                   XI
        A FROSTY MORNING                                     341

                                  XII
        A SHADOW OF PROOF                                    365



                              FINAL PROOF

                                   OR

                         THE VALUE OF EVIDENCE



                              FINAL PROOF

                                   I

                          THE PHOENIX OF CRIME

                                   I


Mr. Mitchel was still at breakfast one morning, when the card of Mr.
Barnes was brought to him by his man Williams.

"Show Mr. Barnes in here," said he. "I imagine that he must be in a
hurry to see me, else he would not call so early."

A few minutes later the detective entered, saying:

"It is very kind of you to let me come in without waiting. I hope that I
am not intruding."

"Not at all. As to being kind, why I am kind to myself. I knew you must
have something interesting on hand to bring you around so early, and I
am proportionately curious; at the same time I hate to go without my
coffee, and I do not like to drink it too fast, especially good coffee,
and this is good, I assure you. Draw up and have a cup, for I observe
that you came off in such a hurry this morning that you did not get
any."

"Why, thank you, I will take some, but how do you know that I came off
in a hurry and had no coffee at home? It seems to me that if you can
tell that, you are becoming as clever as the famous Sherlock Holmes."

"Oh, no, indeed! You and I can hardly expect to be as shrewd as the
detectives of romance. As to my guessing that you have had no coffee,
that is not very troublesome. I notice three drops of milk on your coat,
and one on your shoe, from which I deduce, first, that you have had no
coffee, for a man who has his coffee in the morning is not apt to drink
a glass of milk besides. Second, you must have left home in a hurry, or
you would have had that coffee. Third, you took your glass of milk at
the ferry-house of the Staten Island boat, probably finding that you had
a minute to spare; this is evident because the milk spots on the tails
of your frock-coat and on your shoe show that you were standing when you
drank, and leaned over to avoid dripping the fluid on your clothes. Had
you been seated, the coat tails would have been spread apart, and
drippings would have fallen on your trousers. The fact that in spite of
your precautions the accident did occur, and yet escaped your notice, is
further proof, not only of your hurry, but also that your mind was
abstracted,--absorbed no doubt with the difficult problem about which
you have come to talk with me. How is my guess?"

"Correct in every detail. Sherlock Holmes could have done no better. But
we will drop him and get down to my case, which, I assure you, is more
astounding than any, either in fact or fiction, that has come to my
knowledge."

"Go ahead! Your opening argument promises a good play. Proceed without
further waste of words."

"First, then, let me ask you, have you read the morning's papers?"

"Just glanced through the death reports, but had gotten no further when
you came in."

"There is one death report, then, that has escaped your attention,
probably because the notice of it occupies three columns. It is another
metropolitan mystery. Shall I read it to you? I glanced through it in
bed this morning and found it so absorbing that, as you guessed, I
hurried over here to discuss it with you, not stopping to get my
breakfast."

"In that case you might better attack an egg or two, and let me read the
article myself."

Mr. Mitchel took the paper from Mr. Barnes, who pointed out to him the
article in question, which, under appropriate sensational headlines,
read as follows:

                   *       *       *       *       *

"The account of a most astounding mystery is reported to-day for the
first time, though the body of the deceased, now thought to have been
murdered, was taken from the East River several days ago. The facts are
as follows. On Tuesday last, at about six o'clock in the morning,
several boys were enjoying an early swim in the river near Eighty-fifth
Street, when one who had made a deep dive, on reaching the surface
scrambled out of the water, evidently terrified. His companions crowded
about him asking what he had seen, and to them he declared that there
was a 'drownded man down there.' This caused the boys to lose all
further desire to go into the water, and while they hastily scrambled
into their clothes they discussed the situation, finally deciding that
the proper course would be to notify the police, one boy, however, wiser
than the others, declaring that he 'washed his hands of the affair' if
they should do so, because he was not 'going to be held as no witness.'
In true American fashion, nevertheless, the majority ruled, and in a
body the boys marched to the station-house and reported their discovery.
Detectives were sent to investigate, and after dragging the locality for
half an hour the body of a man was drawn out of the water. The corpse
was taken to the Morgue, and the customary red tape was slowly unwound.
At first the police thought that it was a case of accidental drowning,
no marks of violence having been found on the body, which had evidently
been in the water but a few hours. Thus no special report of the case
was made in the press. Circumstances have developed at the autopsy,
however, which make it probable that New Yorkers are to be treated to
another of the wonderful mysteries which occur all too frequently in the
metropolis. The first point of significance is the fact, on which all
the surgeons agree, that the man was dead when placed in the water.
Secondly, the doctors claim that he died of disease, and not from any
cause which would point to a crime. This conclusion seems highly
improbable, for who would throw into the water the body of one who had
died naturally, and with what object could such a singular course have
been pursued? Indeed this claim of the doctors is so preposterous that a
second examination of the body has been ordered, and will occur to-day,
when several of our most prominent surgeons will be present. The third,
and by far the most extraordinary circumstance, is the alleged
identification of the corpse. It seems that one of the surgeons
officiating at the first autopsy was attracted by a peculiar mark upon
the face of the corpse. At first it was thought that this was merely a
bruise caused by something striking the body while in the water, but a
closer examination proved it to be a skin disease known as 'lichen.' It
appears that there are several varieties of this disease, some of which
are quite well known. That found on the face of the corpse, however, is
a very rare form, only two other cases having been recorded in this
country. This is a fact of the highest importance in relation to the
events which have followed. Not unnaturally, the doctors became greatly
interested. One of these, Dr. Elliot, the young surgeon who first
examined it closely, having never seen any examples of lichen before,
spoke of it that evening at a meeting of his medical society. Having
looked up the literature relating to the disease in the interval, he was
enabled to give the technical name of this very rare form of the
disease. At this, another physician present arose, and declared that it
seemed to him a most extraordinary coincidence that this case had been
reported, for he himself had recently treated an exactly similar
condition for a patient who had finally died, his death having occurred
within a week. A lengthy and of course very technical discussion ensued,
with the result that Dr. Mortimer, the physician who had treated the
case of the patient who had so recently died, arranged with Dr. Elliot
to go with him on the following day and examine the body at the Morgue.
This he did, and, to the great amazement of his colleague, he then
declared, that the body before him was none other than that of his own
patient, supposed to have been buried. When the authorities learned of
this, they summoned the family of the deceased, two brothers and the
widow. All of these persons viewed the corpse separately, and each
declared most emphatically that it was the body of the man whose funeral
they had followed. Under ordinary circumstances, so complete an
identification of a body would leave no room for doubt, but what is to
be thought when we are informed by the family and friends of the
deceased that the corpse had been cremated? That the mourners had seen
the coffin containing the body placed in the furnace, and had waited
patiently during the incineration? And that later the ashes of the dear
departed had been delivered to them, to be finally deposited in an urn
in the family vault, where it still is with contents undisturbed? It
does not lessen the mystery to know that the body in the Morgue (or the
ashes at the cemetery) represents all that is left of one of our most
esteemed citizens, Mr. Rufus Quadrant, a gentleman who in life enjoyed
that share of wealth which made it possible for him to connect his name
with so many charities; a gentleman whose family in the past and in the
present has ever been and still is above the breath of suspicion.
Evidently there is a mystery that will try the skill of our very best
detectives."

                   *       *       *       *       *

"That last line reads like a challenge to the gentlemen of your
profession," said Mr. Mitchel to Mr. Barnes as he put down the paper.

"I needed no such spur to urge me to undertake to unravel this case,
which certainly has most astonishing features."

"Suppose we enumerate the important data and discover what reliable
deduction may be made therefrom."

"That is what I have done a dozen times, with no very satisfactory
result. First, we learn that a man is found in the river upon whose face
there is a curious distinguishing mark in the form of one of the rarest
of skin diseases. Second, a man has recently died who was similarly
afflicted. The attending physician declares upon examination that the
body taken from the river is the body of his patient. Third, the family
agree that this identification is correct. Fourth, this second dead man
was cremated. Query, how can a man's body be cremated, and then be
found whole in the river subsequently? No such thing has been related in
fact or fiction since the beginning of the world."

"Not so fast, Mr. Barnes. What of the Phoenix?"

"Why, the living young Phoenix arose from the ashes of his dead
ancestor. But here we have seemingly a dead body re-forming from its own
ashes, the ashes meanwhile remaining intact and unaltered. A manifest
impossibility."

"Ah; then we arrive at our first reliable deduction, Mr. Barnes."

"Which is?"

"Which is that, despite the doctors, we have two bodies to deal with.
The ashes in the vault represent one, while the body at the Morgue is
another."

"Of course. So much is apparent, but you say the body at the Morgue is
another, and I ask you, which other?"

"That we must learn. As you appear to be seeking my views in this case I
will give them to you, though of course I have nothing but this
newspaper account, which may be inaccurate. Having concluded beyond all
question that there are two bodies in this case, our first effort must
be to determine which is which. That is to say, we must discover whether
this man, Rufus Quadrant, was really cremated, which certainly ought to
be the case, or whether, by some means, another body has been exchanged
for his, by accident or by design, and if so, whose body that was."

"_If_ it turns out that the body at the Morgue is really that of Mr.
Quadrant, then, of course, as you say, some other man's body was
cremated, and----"

"Why may it not have been a woman's?"

"You are right, and that only makes the point to which I was about to
call your attention more forcible. If an unknown body has been
incinerated, how can we ever identify it?"

"I do not know. But we have not arrived at that bridge yet. The first
step is to reach a final conclusion in regard to the body at the Morgue.
There are several things to be inquired into, there."

"I wish you would enumerate them."

"With pleasure. First, the autopsy is said to have shown that the man
died a natural death, that is, that disease, and not one of his
fellow-beings, killed him. What disease was this, and was it the same as
that which caused the death of Mr. Quadrant? If the coroner's physicians
declared what disease killed the man, and named the same as that which
carried off Mr. Quadrant, remembering that the body before them was
unknown, we would have a strong corroboration of the alleged
identification."

"Very true. That will be easily learned."

"Next, as to this lichen. I should think it important to know more of
that. Is it because the two cases are examples of the same rare variety
of the disease, or was there something so distinct about the location
and area or shape of the diseased surface, that the doctor could not
possibly be mistaken?--for doctors do make mistakes, you know."

"Yes, just as detectives do," said Mr. Barnes, smiling, as he made notes
of Mr. Mitchel's suggestions.

"If you learn that the cause of death was the same, and that the lichen
was not merely similar but identical, I should think that there could be
little reason for longer doubting the identification. But if not fully
satisfied by your inquiries along these lines, then it might be well to
see the family of Mr. Quadrant, and inquire whether they too depend upon
this lichen as the only means of identification, or whether, entirely
aside from that diseased spot, they would be able to swear that the body
at the Morgue is their relative. You would have in connection with this
inquiry an opportunity to ask many discreet questions which might be of
assistance to you."

"All of this is in relation to establishing beyond a doubt the identity
of the body at the Morgue, and of course the work to that end will
practically be simple. In my own mind I have no doubt that the body of
Mr. Quadrant is the one found in the water. Of course, as you suggest,
it will be as well to know this rather than merely to think it. But once
knowing it, what then of the body which is now ashes?"

"We must identify that also."

"Identify ashes!" exclaimed Mr. Barnes. "Not an easy task."

"If all tasks were easy, Mr. Barnes," said Mr. Mitchel, "we should have
little need of talent such as yours. Suppose you follow my advice,
provided you intend to accept it, as far as I have indicated, and then
report to me the results."

"I will do so with pleasure. I do not think it will occupy much time.
Perhaps by luncheon, I----"

"You could get back here and join me. Do so!"

"In the meanwhile shall you do any--any investigating?"

"I shall do considerable thinking. I will cogitate as to the possibility
of a Phoenix arising from those ashes."


                                   II

Leaving Mr. Mitchel, Mr. Barnes went directly to the office of Dr.
Mortimer, and after waiting nearly an hour was finally ushered into the
consulting-room.

"Dr. Mortimer," said Mr. Barnes, "I have called in relation to this
remarkable case of Mr. Quadrant. I am a detective, and the extraordinary
nature of the facts thus far published attracts me powerfully, so that,
though not connected with the regular police, I am most anxious to
unravel this mystery if possible, though, of course, I should do nothing
that would interfere with the regular officers of the law. I have
called, hoping that you might be willing to answer a few questions."

"I think I have heard of you, Mr. Barnes, and if, as you say, you will
do nothing to interfere with justice, I have no objection to telling
you what I know, though I fear it is little enough."

"I thank you, Doctor, for your confidence, which, I assure you, you
shall not regret. In the first place, then, I would like to ask you
about this identification. The newspaper account states that you have
depended upon some skin disease. Is that of such a nature that you can
be absolutely certain in your opinion?"

"I think so," said the doctor. "But then, as you must have found in your
long experience, all identifications of the dead should be accepted with
a little doubt. Death alters the appearance of every part of the body,
and especially the face. We think that we know a man by the contour of
his face, whereas we often depend, during life, upon the habitual
expressions which the face ever carries. For example, suppose that we
know a young girl, full of life and happiness, with a sunny disposition
undimmed by care or the world's worry. She is ever smiling, or ready to
smile. Thus we know her. Let that girl suffer a sudden and perhaps
painful death. In terror and agony as she dies, the features are
distorted, and in death the resultant expression is somewhat stamped
upon the features. Let that body lie in the water for a time, and when
recovered it is doubtful whether all of her friends would identify her.
Some would, but others would with equal positiveness declare that these
were mistaken. Yet you observe the physical contours would still be
present."

"I am pleased, Doctor, by what you say," said Mr. Barnes, "because with
such appreciation of the changes caused by death and exposure in the
water, I must lay greater reliance upon your identification. In this
case, as I understand it, there is something peculiar about the body, a
mark of disease called lichen, I believe?"

"Yes. But what I have said about the changes caused by death must have
weight here also," said the doctor. "You see I am giving you all the
points that may militate against my identification, that you may the
better judge of its correctness. We must not forget that we are dealing
with a disease of very great rarity; so rare, in fact, that this very
case is the only one that I have ever seen. Consequently I cannot claim
to be perfectly familiar with the appearance of surfaces attacked by
this disease, after they have suffered the possible alterations of
death."

"Then you mean that, after all, this spot upon which the identification
rests does not now look as it did in life?"

"I might answer both yes and no to that. Changes have occurred, but they
do not, in my opinion, prevent me from recognizing both the disease and
the corpse. To fully explain this I must tell you something of the
disease itself, if you will not be bored?"

"Not at all. Indeed, I prefer to know all that you can make intelligible
to a layman."

"I will use simple language. Formerly a great number of skin diseases
were grouped under the general term 'lichen,' which included all growths
which might be considered fungoid. At the present time we are fairly
well able to separate the animal from the vegetable parasitic diseases,
and under the term 'lichen' we include very few forms. The most common
is _lichen planus_, which unfortunately is not infrequently met, and is
therefore very well understood by the specialists. _Lichen ruber_,
however, is quite distinct. It was first described by the German, Hebra,
and has been sufficiently common in Europe to enable the students to
thoroughly well describe it. In this country, however, it seems to be
one of the rarest of diseases. White of Boston reported a case, and Fox
records another, accompanied by a colored photograph, which, of course,
aids greatly in enabling any one to recognize a case should it occur.
There is one more fact to which I must allude as having an important
bearing upon my identification. _Lichen ruber_, like other lichens, is
not confined to any one part of the body; on the contrary, it would be
remarkable, should the disease be uncontrolled for any length of time,
not to see it in many places. This brings me to my point. The seat of
the disease, in the case of Mr. Quadrant, was the left cheek, where a
most disfiguring spot appeared. It happened that I was in constant
attendance upon Mr. Quadrant for the trouble which finally caused his
decease, and therefore I saw this lichen in its incipiency, and more
fortunately I recognized its true nature. Now whether due to my
treatment or not, it is a fact that the disease did not spread; that is
to say, it did not appear elsewhere upon the body."

"I see! I see!" said Mr. Barnes, much pleased. "This is an important
point. For if the body at the Morgue exhibits a spot in that exact
locality and nowhere else, and if it is positively this same skin
disease, it is past belief that it should be any other than the body of
your patient."

"So I argue. That two such unique examples of so rare a disease should
occur at the same time seems incredible, though remotely possible. Thus,
as you have indicated, we have but to show that the mark on the body at
the Morgue is truly caused by this disease, and not by some abrasion
while in the water, in order to make our opinion fairly tenable. Both
Dr. Elliot and myself have closely examined the spot, and we have agreed
that it is not an abrasion. Had the face been thus marked in the water,
we should find the cuticle rubbed off, which is not the case.
Contrarily, in the disease under consideration, the cuticle, though
involved in the disease, and even missing in minute spots, is
practically present. No, I am convinced that the mark on the body at the
Morgue existed in life as the result of this lichen, though the
alteration of color since death gives us a much changed appearance."

"Then I may consider that you are confident that this mark on the body
is of the same shape, in the same position, and caused by the same
disease as that which you observed upon Mr. Quadrant?"

"Yes. I do not hesitate to assert that. To this you may add that I
identify the body in a general way also."

"By which you mean?"

"That without this mark, basing my opinion merely upon my long
acquaintance with the man, I would be ready to declare that Mr.
Quadrant's body is the one which was taken from the water."

"What, then, is your opinion as to how this strange occurrence has come
about? If Mr. Quadrant was cremated, how could----"

"It could not, of course. This is not the age of miracles. Mr. Quadrant
was not cremated. Of that we may be certain."

"But the family claim that they saw his body consigned to the furnace."

"The family believe this, I have no doubt. But how could they be sure?
Let us be accurate in considering what we call facts. What did the
family see at the crematory? They saw a closed coffin placed into the
furnace."

"A coffin, though, which contained the body of their relative."

Mr. Barnes did not of course himself believe this, but made the remark
merely to lead the doctor on.

"Again you are inaccurate. Let us rather say a coffin which once
contained the body of their relative."

"Ah; then you think that it was taken from the coffin and another
substituted for it?"

"No. I do not go so far. I think, nay, I am sure, that Mr. Quadrant's
body was taken from the coffin, but whether another was substituted for
it, is a question. The coffin may have been empty when burned."

"Could we settle that point by an examination of the ashes?"

The doctor started as though surprised at the question. After a little
thought he replied hesitatingly:

"Perhaps. It seems doubtful. Ashes from bone and animal matter would, I
suppose, bring us chemical results different from those of burned wood.
Whether our analytical chemists could solve such a problem remains to be
seen. Ordinarily one would think that ashes would resist all efforts at
identification." The doctor seemed lost in thoughtful consideration of
this scientific problem.

"The trimmings of the coffin might contain animal matter if made of
wool," suggested Mr. Barnes.

"True; that would certainly complicate the work of the chemist, and
throw doubt upon his reported results."

"You admitted, Doctor, that the body was placed in the coffin. Do you
know that positively?"

"Yes. I called on the widow on the night previous to the funeral, and
the body was then in the coffin. I saw it in company with the widow and
the two brothers. It was then that it was decided that the coffin should
be closed and not opened again."

"Whose wish was this?"

"The widow's. You may well understand that this lichen greatly
disfigured Mr. Quadrant, and that he was extremely sensitive about it.
So much so that he had not allowed any one to see him for many weeks
prior to his death. It was in deference to this that the widow expressed
the wish that no one but the immediate family should see him in his
coffin. For this reason also she stipulated that the coffin should be
burned with the body."

"You say this was decided on the night before the funeral?"

"Yes. To be accurate, about five o'clock in the afternoon, though at
this season and in the closed rooms the lamps were already lighted."

"Was this known to many persons? That is, that the coffin was not again
to be opened?"

"It was known of course to the two brothers, and also to the undertaker
and two of his assistants who were present."

"The undertaker himself closed the casket, I presume?"

"Yes. He was closing it as I escorted the widow back to her own room."

"Did the brothers leave the room with you?"

"I think so. Yes, I am sure of it."

"So that the body was left with the undertaker and his men, after they
knew that it was not to be opened again?"

"Yes."

"Did these men leave before you did?"

"No. I left almost immediately after taking the widow to her own room
and seeing her comfortably lying down, apparently recovered from the
hysterical spell which I had been summoned to check. You know, of
course, that the Quadrant residence is but a block from here."

"There is one more point, Doctor. Of what disease did Mr. Quadrant die?"

"My diagnosis was what in common parlance I may call cancer of the
stomach. This, of course, I only knew from the symptoms. That is to say,
there had been no operation, as the patient was strenuously opposed to
such a procedure. He repeatedly said to me, 'I would rather die than be
cut up.' A strange prejudice in these days of successful surgery, when
the knife in skilful hands promises so much more than medication."

"Still these symptoms were sufficient in your own mind to satisfy you
that your diagnosis was accurate?"

"I can only say in reply that I have frequently in the presence of
similar symptoms performed an operation, and always with the same
result. The cancer was always present."

"Now the coroner's autopsy on the body at the Morgue is said to have
shown that death was due to disease. Do you know what they discovered?"

"Dr. Elliot told me that it was cancer of the stomach."

"Why, then, the identification seems absolute?"

"So it seems. Yes."


                                  III

Mr. Barnes next called at the home of the Quadrants, and was informed
that both of the gentlemen were out. With some hesitation he sent a
brief note in to the widow, explaining his purpose and asking for an
interview. To his gratification his request was granted, and he was
shown up to that lady's reception-room.

"I fear, madame," said he, "that my visit may seem an intrusion, but I
take the deepest sort of interest in this sad affair of your husband,
and I would much appreciate having your permission and authority to
investigate it, with the hope of discovering the wrong-doers."

"I see by your note," said Mrs. Quadrant in a low, sad voice, "that you
are a detective, but not connected with the police. That is why I have
decided to see you. I have declined to see the regular detective sent
here by the police, though my husband's brothers, I believe, have
answered all his questions. But as for myself, I felt that I could not
place this matter in the hands of men whom my husband always distrusted.
Perhaps his prejudice was due to his politics, but he frequently
declared that our police force was corrupt. Thus you understand why I am
really glad that you have called, for I am anxious, nay, determined, to
discover if possible who it was who has done me this grievous wrong. To
think that my poor husband was there in the river, when I thought that
his body had been duly disposed of. It is horrible, horrible!"

"It is indeed horrible, madame," said Mr. Barnes sympathizingly. "But we
must find the guilty person or persons and bring them to justice."

"Yes! That is what I wish. That is what I am ready to pay any sum to
accomplish. You must not consider you are working, as you courteously
offer, merely to satisfy your professional interest in a mysterious
case. I wish you to undertake this as my special agent."

"As you please, madame, but in that case I must make one condition. I
would ask that you tell this to no one unless I find it necessary. At
present I think I can do better if I am merely regarded as a busybody
detective attracted by an odd case."

"Why, certainly, no one need know. Now tell me what you think of this
matter."

"Well, it is rather early to formulate an opinion. An opinion is
dangerous. One is so apt to endeavor to prove himself right, whereas he
ought merely to seek out the truth. But if you have any opinion, it is
necessary for me to know it. Therefore I must answer you by asking the
very question which you have asked me. What do you think?"

"I think that some one took the body of my husband from the coffin, and
that we burned an empty casket. But to guess what motive there could be
for such an act would be beyond my mental abilities. I have thought
about it till my head has ached, but I can find no reason for such an
unreasonable act."

"Let me then suggest one to you, and then perhaps your opinion may
be more useful. Suppose that some person, some one who had the
opportunity, had committed a murder. By removing the body of your
husband, and replacing it with that of his victim, the evidences of his
own crime would be concealed. The discovery of your husband's body,
even if identified, as it has been, could lead to little else than
mystification, for the criminal well knew that the autopsy would show
natural causes of death."

"But what a terrible solution this is which you suggest! Why, no one had
access to the coffin except the undertaker and his two men!"

"You naturally omit your two brothers, but a detective cannot make such
discrimination."

"Why, of course I do not count them, for certainly neither of them could
be guilty of such a crime as you suggest. It is true that Amos--but that
is of no consequence."

"Who is Amos?" asked Mr. Barnes, aroused by the fact that Mrs. Quadrant
had left her remark unfinished.

"Amos is one of my brothers--my husband's brothers, I mean. Amos
Quadrant was next in age, and Mark the youngest of the three. But, Mr.
Barnes, how could one of the undertakers have made this exchange which
you suggest? Certainly they could not have brought the dead body here,
and my husband's body never left the house prior to the funeral."

"The corpse which was left in place of that of your husband must have
been smuggled into this house by some one. Why not by one of these men?
How, is a matter for explanation later. There is one other possibility
about which you may be able to enlighten me. What opportunity, if any,
was there that this substitution may have occurred at the crematory?"

"None at all. The coffin was taken from the hearse by our own
pall-bearers, friends all of them, and carried directly to the room into
which the furnace opened. Then, in accordance with my special request,
the coffin, unopened, was placed in the furnace in full view of all
present."

"Were you there yourself?"

"Oh! no, no! I could not have endured such a sight. The cremation was
resorted to as a special request of my husband. But I am bitterly
opposed to such a disposition of the dead, and therefore remained at
home."

"Then how do you know what you have told me?--that there was no chance
for substitution at the crematory?"

"Because my brothers and other friends have related all that occurred
there in detail, and all tell the same story that I have told you."

"Dr. Mortimer tells me that you decided to have the coffin closed
finally on the evening prior to the funeral. With the casket closed, I
presume you did not consider it necessary to have the usual watchers?"

"Not exactly, though the two gentlemen, I believe, sat up through the
night, and occasionally visited the room where the casket was."

"Ah! Then it would seem to have been impossible for any one to enter the
house and accomplish the exchange, without being detected by one or both
of these gentlemen?"

"Of course not," said Mrs. Quadrant, and then, realizing the necessary
deduction, she hastened to add: "I do not know. After all, they may not
have sat up through all the night."

"Did any one enter the house that night, so far as you know?"

"No one, except Dr. Mortimer, who stopped in about ten as he was
returning from a late professional call. He asked how I was, and went
on, I believe."

"But neither of the undertakers came back upon any excuse?"

"Not to my knowledge."

At this moment some one was heard walking in the hall below, and Mrs.
Quadrant added:

"I think that may be one of my brothers now. Suppose you go down and
speak to him. He would know whether any one came to the house during the
night. You may tell him that you have seen me, if you wish, and that I
have no objection to your endeavoring to discover the truth."

Mr. Barnes bade Mrs. Quadrant adieu and went down to the parlor floor.
Not meeting any one, he touched a bell, and when the servant responded,
asked for either of the gentlemen of the house who might have come in.
He was informed that Mr. Mark Quadrant was in the library, and was
invited to see him there.

Mr. Mark Quadrant was of medium height, body finely proportioned, erect
figure, a well-poised head, keen, bright eyes, a decided blond, and wore
a Vandyke beard, close trimmed. He looked at Mr. Barnes in such a manner
that the detective knew that whatever he might learn from this man would
be nothing that he would prefer to conceal, unless accidentally
surprised from him. It was necessary therefore to approach the subject
with considerable circumspection.

"I have called," said Mr. Barnes, "in relation to the mysterious
circumstances surrounding the death of your brother."

"Are you connected with the police force?" asked Mr. Quadrant.

"No. I am a private detective."

"Then you will pardon my saying that you are an intruder--an unwelcome
intruder."

"I think not," said Mr. Barnes, showing no irritation at his reception.
"I have the permission of Mrs. Quadrant to investigate this affair."

"Oh! You have seen her, have you?"

"I have just had an interview with her."

"Then your intrusion is more than unwelcome; it is an impertinence."

"Why, pray?"

"You should have seen myself or my brother, before disturbing a woman in
the midst of her grief."

"I asked for you or your brother, but you were both away. It was only
then that I asked to see Mrs. Quadrant."

"You should not have done so. It was impertinent, I repeat. Why could
you not have waited to see one of us?"

"Justice cannot wait. Delay is often dangerous."

"What have you to do with justice? This affair is none of your
business."

"The State assumes that a crime is an outrage against all its citizens,
and any man has the right to seek out and secure the punishment of the
criminal."

"How do you know that any crime has been committed?"

"There can be no doubt about it. The removal of your brother's body from
his coffin was a criminal act in itself, even if we do not take into
account the object of the person who did this."

"And what, pray, was the object, since you are so wise?"

"Perhaps the substitution of the body of a victim of murder, in order
that the person killed might be incinerated."

"That proposition is worthy of a detective. You first invent a crime,
and then seek to gain employment in ferreting out what never occurred."

"That hardly holds with me, as I have offered my service without
remuneration."

"Oh, I see. An enthusiast in your calling! A crank, in other words.
Well, let me prick your little bubble. Suppose I can supply you with
another motive, one not at all connected with murder?"

"I should be glad to hear you propound one."

"Suppose that I tell you that though my brother requested that his body
should be cremated, both his widow and myself were opposed? Suppose that
I further state that my brother Amos, being older than I, assumed the
management of affairs, and insisted that the cremation should occur? And
then suppose that I admit that to thwart that, I removed the body
myself?"

"You ask me to suppose all this," said Mr. Barnes quietly. "In reply, I
ask you, do you make such a statement?"

"Why, no. I do not intend to make any statement, because I do not
consider that you have any right to mix yourself up in this affair. It
is my wish that the matter should be allowed to rest. Nothing could be
more repugnant to my feelings, or to my brother's, were he alive, poor
fellow, than all this newspaper notoriety. I wish to see the body
buried, and the mystery with it. I have no desire for any solution."

"But, despite your wishes, the affair will be, must be, investigated.
Now, to discuss your imaginary proposition, I will say that it is so
improbable that no one would believe it."

"Why not, pray?"

"First, because it was an unnatural procedure upon such an inadequate
motive. A man might kill his brother, but he would hardly desecrate his
brother's coffin merely to prevent a certain form of disposing of the
dead."

"That is mere presumption. You cannot dogmatically state what may
actuate a man."

"But in this case the means was inadequate to the end."

"How so?"

"If the combined wishes of yourself and the widow could not sway your
brother Amos, who had taken charge of the funeral, how could you hope
when the body should be removed from the river, that he would be more
easily brought around to your wishes?"

"The effort to cremate the body having failed once, he would not resist
my wishes in the second burial."

"That is doubtful. I should think he would be so incensed by your act,
that he would be more than ever determined that you should have no say
in the matter. But supposing that you believed otherwise, and that you
wished to carry out this extraordinary scheme, you had no opportunity to
do so."

"Why not?"

"I suppose, of course, that your brother sat up with the corpse through
the night before the funeral."

"Exactly. You suppose a good deal more than you know. My brother did not
sit up with the corpse. As the coffin had been closed, there was no need
to follow that obsolete custom. My brother retired before ten o'clock.
I myself remained up some hours longer."

Thus in the mental sparring Mr. Barnes had succeeded in learning one
fact from this reluctant witness.

"But even so," persisted the detective, "you would have found difficulty
in removing the body from this house to the river."

"Yet it was done, was it not?"

This was unanswerable. Mr. Barnes did not for a moment place any faith
in what this brother had said. He argued that had he done anything like
what he suggested, he would never have hinted at it as a possibility.
Why he did so was a puzzle. Perhaps he merely wished to make the affair
seem more intricate, in the hope of persuading him to drop the
investigation, being, as he had stated, honestly anxious to have the
matter removed from the public gaze, and caring nothing about any
explanation of how his brother's body had been taken from the coffin. On
the other hand, there was a possibility which could not be entirely
overlooked. He might really have been guilty of acting as he had
suggested, and perhaps now told of it as a cunning way of causing the
detective to discredit such a solution of the mystery. Mr. Barnes
thought it well to pursue the subject a little further.

"Suppose," said he, "that it could be shown that the ashes now in the
urn at the cemetery are the ashes of a human being?"

"You will be smart if you can prove that," said Mr. Quadrant. "Ashes
are ashes, I take it, and you will get little proof there. But since you
discussed my proposition, I will argue with you about yours. You say,
suppose the ashes are those of a human being. Very well, then, that
would prove that my brother was cremated after all, and that I have been
guying you, playing with you as a fisherman who fools a fish with
feathers instead of real bait."

"But what of the identification of the body at the Morgue?"

"Was there ever a body at the Morgue that was not identified a dozen
times? People are apt to be mistaken about their friends after death."

"But this identification was quite complete, being backed up by
scientific reasons advanced by experts."

"Yes, but did you ever see a trial where expert witnesses were called,
that equally expert witnesses did not testify to the exact contrary? Let
me ask you a question. Have you seen this body at the Morgue?"

"Not yet."

"Go and see it. Examine the sole of the left foot. If you do not find a
scar three or four inches long the body is not that of my brother. This
scar was the result of a bad gash made by stepping on a shell when in
bathing. He was a boy at the time, and I was with him."

"But, Mr. Quadrant," said Mr. Barnes, astonished by the new turn of the
conversation, "I understood that you yourself admitted that the
identification was correct."

"The body was identified by Dr. Mortimer first. My sister and my brother
agreed with the doctor, and I agreed with them all, for reasons of my
own."

"Would you mind stating those reasons?"

"You are not very shrewd if you cannot guess. I want this matter
dropped. Had I denied the identity of the body it must have remained at
the Morgue, entailing more newspaper sensationalism. By admitting the
identity, I hoped that the body would be given to us for burial, and
that the affair would then be allowed to die."

"Then if, as you now signify, this is not your brother's body, what
shall I think of your suggestion that you yourself placed the body in
the river?"

"What shall you think? Why, think what you like. That is your affair.
The less you think about it, though, the better pleased I should be. And
now really I cannot permit this conversation to be prolonged. You must
go, and if you please I wish that you do not come here again."

"I am sorry that I cannot promise that. I shall come if I think it
necessary. This is your sister's house, I believe, and she has expressed
a wish that I pursue this case to the end."

"My sister is a fool. At any rate, I can assure you, you shall not get
another chance at me, so make the most of what information I have given
you. Good morning."

With these words Mr. Mark Quadrant walked out of the room, leaving Mr.
Barnes alone.


                                   IV

Mr. Barnes stood for a moment in a quandary, and then decided upon a
course of action. He touched the bell which he knew would call the
butler, and then sat down by the grate fire to wait. Almost immediately
his eye fell upon a bit of white paper protruding from beneath a small
rug, and he picked it up. Examining it closely, he guessed that it had
once contained some medicine in powder form, but nothing in the shape of
a label, or traces of the powder itself, was there to tell what the drug
had been.

"I wonder," thought he, "whether this bit of paper would furnish me with
a clue? I must have it examined by a chemist. He may discern by his
methods what I cannot detect with the naked eye."

With this thought in his mind, he carefully folded the paper in its
original creases and deposited it in his wallet. At that moment the
butler entered.

"What is your name?" asked Mr. Barnes.

"Thomas, sir," said the man, a fine specimen of the intelligent New York
negro. "Thomas Jefferson."

"Well, Thomas, I am a detective, and your mistress wishes me to look
into the peculiar circumstances which, as you know, have occurred. Are
you willing to help me?"

"I'll do anything for the mistress, sir."

"Very good. That is quite proper. Now, then, do you remember your
master's death?"

"Yes, sir."

"And his funeral?"

"Yes, sir."

"You know when the undertaker and his men came and went, and how often,
I presume? You let them in and saw them?"

"I let them in, yes, sir. But once or twice they went out without my
knowing."

"At five o'clock on the afternoon before the funeral, I am told that
Mrs. Quadrant visited the room where the body was, and ordered that the
coffin should be closed for the last time. Did you know this?"

"No, sir."

"I understand that at that time the undertaker and two of his men were
in the room, as were also the two Mr. Quadrants, Mrs. Quadrant, and the
doctor. Now, be as accurate as you can, and tell me in what order and
when these persons left the house."

"Dr. Mortimer went away, I remember, just after Mrs. Quadrant went to
her room to lie down. Then the gentlemen went in to dinner, and I served
them. The undertaker and one of his men left together just as dinner was
put on table. I remember that because the undertaker stood in the hall
and spoke a word to Mr. Amos just as he was entering the dining-room.
Mr. Amos then turned to me, and said for me to show them out. I went to
the door with them, and then went back to the dining-room."

"Ah! Then one of the undertaker's men was left alone with the body?"

"I suppose so, unless he went away first. I did not see him go at all.
But, come to think of it, he must have been there after the other two
went away."

"Why?"

"Because, when I let out the undertaker and his man, their wagon was at
the door, but they walked off and left it. After dinner it was gone, so
the other man must have gone out and driven off in it."

"Very probably. Now, can you tell me this man's name? The last to leave
the house, I mean?"

"I heard the undertaker call one 'Jack,' but I do not know which one."

"But you saw the two men--the assistants, I mean. Can you not describe
the one that was here last?"

"Not very well. All I can say is that the one that went away with the
undertaker was a youngish fellow without any mustache. The other was a
short, thick-set man, with dark hair and a stubby mustache. That is all
I noticed."

"That will be enough. I can probably find him at the undertaker's. Now,
can you remember whether either of the gentlemen sat up with the corpse
that night?"

"Both the gentlemen sat in here till ten o'clock. The body was across
the hall in the little reception-room near the front door. About ten the
door-bell rang, and I let in the doctor, who stopped to ask after Mrs.
Quadrant. He and Mr. Amos went up to her room. The doctor came down in a
few minutes, alone, and came into this room to talk with Mr. Mark."

"How long did he stay?"

"I don't know. Not long, I think, because he had on his overcoat. But
Mr. Mark told me I could go to bed, and he would let the doctor out. So
I just brought them a fresh pitcher of ice-water, and went to my own
room."

"That is all, then, that you know of what occurred that night?"

"No, sir. There was another thing, that I have not mentioned to any one,
though I don't think it amounts to anything."

"What was that?"

"Some time in the night I thought I heard a door slam, and the noise
woke me up. I jumped out of bed and slipped on some clothes and came as
far as the door here, but I did not come in."

"Why not?"

"Because I saw Mr. Amos in here, standing by the centre-table with a
lamp in his hand. He was looking down at Mr. Mark, who was fast asleep
alongside of the table, with his head resting on his arm on the table."

"Did you notice whether Mr. Amos was dressed or not?"

"Yes, sir. That's what surprised me. He had all his clothes on."

"Did he awaken his brother?"

"No. He just looked at him, and then tiptoed out and went upstairs. I
slipped behind the hall door, so that he would not see me."

"Was the lamp in his hand one that he had brought down from his own
room?"

"No, sir. It was one that I had been ordered to put in the room where
the coffin was, as they did not want the electric light turned on in
there all night. Mr. Amos went back into the front room, and left the
lamp there before he went upstairs."

"Do you know when Mr. Mark went up to his room? Did he remain downstairs
all night?"

"No, sir. He was in bed in his own room when I came around in the
morning. About six o'clock, that was. But I don't know when he went to
bed. He did not come down to breakfast, though, till nearly noon. The
funeral was at two o'clock."

"That is all, I think," said Mr. Barnes. "But do not let any one know
that I have talked with you."

"Just as you say, sir."

As it was now nearing noon, Mr. Barnes left the house and hastened up to
Mr. Mitchel's residence to keep his engagement for luncheon. Arrived
there, he was surprised to have Williams inform him that he had received
a telephone message to the effect that Mr. Mitchel would not be at home
for luncheon.

"But, Inspector," said Williams, "here's a note just left for you by a
messenger."

Mr. Barnes took the envelope, which he found inclosed the following from
Mr. Mitchel:

"FRIEND BARNES:--

"Am sorry I cannot be home to luncheon. Williams will give you a bite. I
have news for you. I have seen the ashes, and there is now no doubt that
a body, a human body, was burned at the crematory that day. I do not
despair that we may yet discover whose body it was. More when I know
more."


                                   V

Mr. Barnes read this note over two or three times, and then folded it
thoughtfully and put it in his pocket. He found it difficult to decide
whether Mr. Mitchel had been really detained, or whether he had
purposely broken his appointment. If the latter, then Mr. Barnes felt
sure that already he had made some discovery which rendered this case
doubly attractive to him, so much so that he had concluded to seek the
solution himself.

"That man is a monomaniac," thought Mr. Barnes, somewhat nettled. "I
come here and attract his attention to a case that I know will afford
him an opportunity to follow a fad, and now he goes off and is working
the case alone. It is not fair. But I suppose this is another challenge,
and I must work rapidly to get at the truth ahead of him. Well, I will
accept, and fight it out."

Thus musing, Mr. Barnes, who had declined Williams's offer to serve
luncheon, left the house and proceeded to the shop of the undertaker.
This man had a name the full significance of which had never come home
to him until he began the business of caring for the dead. He spelled it
Berial, and insisted that the pronunciation demanded a long sound to the
"i," and a strong accent on the middle syllable. But he was constantly
annoyed by the cheap wit of acquaintances, who with a significant titter
would call him either Mr. "Burial," or Mr. "Bury all."

Mr. Barnes found Mr. Berial disengaged, undertakers, fortunately, not
always being rushed with business, and encountered no difficulty in
approaching his subject.

"I have called, Mr. Berial," said the detective, "to get a little
information about your management of the funeral of Mr. Quadrant."

"Certainly," said Mr. Berial; "any information I can give, you are
welcome to. Detective, I suppose?"

"Yes; in the interest of the family," replied Mr. Barnes. "There are
some odd features of this case, Mr. Berial."

"Odd?" said the undertaker. "Odd don't half cover it. It's the most
remarkable thing in the history of the world. Here I am, with an
experience in funerals covering thirty years, and I go and have a man
decently cremated, and, by hickory, if he ain't found floating in the
river the next morning. Odd? Why, there ain't any word to describe a
thing like that. It's devilish; that's the nearest I can come to it."

"Well, hardly that," said Mr. Barnes, with a smile. "Of course, since
Mr. Quadrant's body has been found in the river, it never was cremated."

"Who says so?" asked the undertaker, sharply. "Not cremated? Want to bet
on that? I suppose not. We can't make a bet about the dead. It wouldn't
be professional. But Mr. Quadrant was cremated. There isn't any question
about that point. Put that down as final."

"But it is impossible that he should have been cremated, and then
reappear at the Morgue."

"Just what I say. The thing's devilish. There's a hitch, of course. But
why should it be at my end, eh? Tell me that, will you? There's just as
much chance for a mistake at the Morgue as at the funeral, isn't there?"
This was said in a tone that challenged dispute.

"What mistake could have occurred at the Morgue?" asked Mr. Barnes.

"Mistaken identification," replied the undertaker so quickly that he had
evidently anticipated the question. "Mistaken identification. That's
your cue, Mr. Barnes. It's happened often enough before," he added, with
a chuckle.

"I scarcely think there can be a mistake of that character," said Mr.
Barnes, thinking, nevertheless, of the scar on the foot. "This
identification is not merely one of recognition; it is supported by
scientific reason, advanced by the doctors."

"Oh! doctors make mistakes too, I guess," said Mr. Berial, testily.
"Look here, you're a detective. You're accustomed to weigh evidence.
Now tell me, will you, how could this man be cremated, as I tell you he
was, and then turn up in the river? Answer that, and I'll argue with
you."

"The question, of course, turns on the fact of the cremation. How do you
know that the body was in the coffin when it was consigned to the
furnace?"

"How do I know? Why, ain't that my business? Who should know if I don't?
Didn't I put the body in the coffin myself?"

"Very true. But why could not some one have taken the body out after you
closed the coffin finally, and before the hour of the funeral?"

Mr. Berial laughed softly to himself, as though enjoying a joke too good
to be shared too soon with another. Presently he said:

"That's a proper question, of course; a very proper question, and I'll
answer it. But I must tell you a secret, so you may understand it. You
see in this business we depend a good deal on the recommendation of the
attending physician. Some doctors are real professional, and recommend a
man on his merits. Others are different. They expect a commission.
Surprises you, don't it? But it's done every day in this town. The
doctor can't save his patient, and the patient dies. Then he tells the
sorrowing friends that such and such an undertaker is the proper party
to hide away the result of his failure; failure to cure, of course. In
due time he gets his little check, ten per cent. of the funeral bill.
This seems like wandering away from the point, but I am coming back to
it. This commission arrangement naturally keeps me on the books of
certain doctors, and vicy versy it keeps them on mine. So, working for
certain doctors, it follows that I work for a certain set of people. Now
I've a Catholic doctor on my books, and it happens that the cemetery
where that church buries is in a lonesome place; just the spot for a
grave-robber to work undisturbed, especially if the watchman out there
should happen to be fond of his tipple, which I tell you, again in
confidence, that he is. Now, then, it has happened more than once,
though it has been kept quiet, that a grave filled up one afternoon
would be empty the next morning. At least the body would be gone. Of
course they wouldn't take the coffin, as they'd be likely to be caught
getting rid of it. You see, a coffin ain't exactly regular household
furniture. If they have time they fill the grave again, but often enough
they're too anxious to get away, because, of course, the watchman might
not be drunk. Well, these things being kept secret, but still pretty
well known in the congregation, told in whispers, I might say, a sort of
demand sprung up for a style of coffin that a grave-robber couldn't
open,--a sort of coffin with a combination lock, as it were."

"You don't mean to say--" began Mr. Barnes, greatly interested at last
in the old man's rather lengthy speech. He was interrupted by the
undertaker, who again chuckled as he exclaimed:

"Don't I? Well, I do, though. Of course I don't mean there's really a
combination lock. That would never do. We often have to open the coffin
for a friend who wants to see the dead face again, or for folks that
come to the funeral late. It's funny, when you come to think of it, how
folks will be late to funerals. As they only have this last visit to
make, you'd think they'd make it a point to be on time and not delay the
funeral. But about the way I fasten a coffin. If any grave-robber
tackles one of my coffins without knowing the trick, he'd be astonished,
I tell you. I often think of it and laugh. You see, there's a dozen
screws and they look just like ordinary screws. But if you work them all
out with a screw-driver, your coffin lid is just as tight as ever. You
see, it's this way. The real screw works with a reverse thread, and is
hollow on the top. Now I have a screw-driver that is really a screw.
When the screw-threaded end of this is screwed into the hollow end of
the coffin-bolt, as soon as it is in tight it begins to unscrew the
bolt. To put the bolt in, in the first place, I first screw it tight on
to my screw-driver, and then drive it in, turning backwards, and as soon
as it is tight my screw-driver begins to unscrew and so comes out. Then
I drop in my dummy screw, and just turn it down to fill the hole. Now
the dummy screw and the reverse thread of the real bolt is a puzzle for
a grave-robber, and anyway he couldn't solve it without one of my own
tools."

Mr. Barnes reflected deeply upon this as a most important statement. If
Mr. Quadrant's coffin was thus fastened, no one could have opened it
without the necessary knowledge and the special screw-driver. He
recalled that the butler had told him that one of Mr. Berial's men had
been at the house after the departure of the others. This man was
therefore in the position to have opened the coffin, supposing that he
had had one of the screw-drivers. Of this it would be well to learn.

"I suppose," said Mr. Barnes, "that the coffin in which you placed Mr.
Quadrant was fastened in this fashion?"

"Yes; and I put the lid on and fastened it myself."

"What, then, did you do with the screw-driver? You might have left it at
the house."

"I might have, but I didn't. No; I'm not getting up a combination and
then leaving the key around loose. No, sir; there's only one of those
screw-drivers, and I take care of it myself. I'll show it to you."

The old man went to a drawer, which he unlocked, and brought back the
tool.

"You see what it is," he continued--"double-ended. This end is just the
common every-day screw-driver. That is for the dummies that fill up the
hollow ends after the bolts are sent home. The other end, you see, looks
just like an ordinary screw with straight sides. There's a shoulder to
keep it from jamming. Now that's the only one of those, and I keep it
locked in that drawer with a Yale lock, and the key is always in my
pocket. No; I guess that coffin wasn't opened after I shut it."

Mr. Barnes examined the tool closely, and formed his own conclusions,
which he thought best to keep to himself.

"Yes," said he aloud; "it does seem as though the mistake must be in the
identification."

"What did I tell you?" exclaimed Mr. Berial, delighted at thinking that
he had convinced the detective. "Oh, I guess I know my business."

"I was told at the house," said Mr. Barnes, "that when you left, after
closing the coffin, one of your men stayed behind. Why was that?"

"Oh, I was hungry and anxious to get back for dinner. One of my men,
Jack, I brought away with me, because I had to send him up to another
place to get some final directions for another funeral. The other man
stayed behind to straighten up the place and bring off our things in the
wagon."

"Who was this man? What is his name?"

"Jerry, we called him. I don't know his last name."

"I would like to have a talk with him. Can I see him?"

"I am afraid not. He isn't working with me any more."

"How was that?"

"He left, that's all. Threw up his job."

"When was that?"

"This morning."

"This morning?"

"Yes; just as soon as I got here, about eight o'clock."

Mr. Barnes wondered whether there was any connection between this man's
giving up his position, and the account of the discoveries in regard to
Mr. Quadrant's body which the morning papers had published.


                                   VI

"Mr. Berial," said Mr. Barnes after a few moments' thought, "I wish you
would let me have a little talk with your man--Jack, I think you called
him. And I would like to speak to him alone if you don't mind. I feel
that I must find this other fellow, Jerry, and perhaps Jack may be able
to give me some information as to his home, unless you can yourself tell
me where he lives."

"No; I know nothing about him," said Mr. Berial. "Of course you can
speak to Jack. I'll call him in here and I'll be off to attend to some
business. That will leave you alone with him."

Jack, when he came in, proved to be a character. Mr. Barnes soon
discovered that he had little faith in the good intentions of any one in
the world except himself. He evidently was one of those men who go
through life with a grievance, feeling that all people have in some way
contributed to their misfortune.

"Your name is Jack," said Mr. Barnes; "Jack what?"

"Jackass, you might say," answered the fellow, with a coarse attempt at
wit.

"And why, pray?"

"Well, a jackass works like a slave, don't he? And what does he get out
of it? Lots of blows, plenty of cuss words, and a little fodder. It's
the same with yours truly."

"Very well, my man, have your joke. But now tell me your name. I am a
detective."

"The devil a much I care for that. I ain't got nothin' to hide. My
name's Randal, if you must have it. Jack Randal."

"Very good. Now I want to ask you a few questions about the funeral of
Mr. Quadrant."

"Ask away. Nobody's stoppin' you."

"You assisted in preparing the body for the coffin, I think?"

"Yes, and helped to put him in it."

"Have you any idea how he got out of it again?" asked Mr. Barnes
suddenly.

"Nit. Leastways, not any worth mentionin', since I can't prove what I
might think."

"But I should like to know what you think, anyway," persisted the
detective.

"Well, I think he was took out," said Randal with a hoarse laugh.

"Then you do not believe that he was cremated?"

"Cremated? Not on your life. If he was made into ashes, would he turn up
again a floater and drift onto the marble at the Morgue? I don't
think."

"But how could the body have gotten out of the coffin?"

"He couldn't. I never saw a stiff do that, except once, at an Irish
wake, and that fellow wasn't dead. No, the dead don't walk. Not these
days. I tell you, he was took out of the box. That's as plain as your
nose, not meanin' to be personal."

"Come, come, you have said all that before. What I want to know is, how
you think he could have been taken out of the coffin."

"Lifted out, I reckon."

Mr. Barnes saw that nothing would be gained by getting angry, though the
fellow's persistent flippancy annoyed him extremely. He thought best to
appear satisfied with his answers, and to endeavor to get his
information by slow degrees, since he could not get it more directly.

"Were you present when the coffin lid was fastened?"

"Yes; the boss did that."

"How was it fastened? With the usual style of screws?"

"Oh, no! We used the boss's patent screw, warranted to keep the corpse
securely in his grave. Once stowed away in the boss's patent screw-top
casket, no ghost gets back to trouble the long-suffering family."

"You know all about these patent coffin-screws?"

"Why, sure. Ain't I been working with old Berial these three years?"

"Does Mr. Berial always screw on the coffin lids himself?"

"Yes; he's stuck on it."

"He keeps the screw-driver in his own possession?"

"So he thinks."

"What do you mean?" asked Mr. Barnes, immediately attentive.

"Just what I say. Old Berial thinks he's got the only screw-driver."

"But you know that there is another?"

"Who says so? I don't know anything of the sort."

"Why, then, do you cast a doubt upon the matter by saying that Mr.
Berial thinks he has the only one?"

"Because I do doubt it, that's all."

"Why do you doubt it?"

"Oh, I don't know. A fellow can't always account for what he thinks, can
he?"

"You must have some reason for thinking there may be a duplicate of that
screw-driver."

"Well, what if I have?"

"I would like to know it."

"No doubt! But it ain't right to cast suspicions when you can't prove a
thing, is it?"

"Perhaps others may find the proof."

"Just so. People in your trade are pretty good at that, I reckon."

"Good at what?"

"Proving things that don't exist."

"But if your suspicion is groundless, there can be no harm in telling it
to me."

"Oh, there's grounds enough for what I think. Look here, suppose a case.
Suppose a party, a young female party, dies. Suppose her folks think
they'd like to have her hands crossed on her breast. Suppose a man, me,
for instance, helps the boss fix up that young party with her hands
crossed, and suppose there's a handsome shiner, a fust-water diamond, on
one finger. Suppose we screw down that coffin lid tight at night, and
the boss carts off his pet screw-driver. Then suppose next day, when he
opens that coffin for the visitors to have a last look at the young
person, that the other man, meanin' me, happens to notice that the
shiner is missin'. If no other person notices it, that's because they're
too busy grievin'. But that's the boss's luck, I say. The diamond's
gone, just the same, ain't it? Now, you wouldn't want to claim that the
young person come out of that patent box and give that diamond away in
the night, would you? If she come out at all, I should say it was in the
form of a ghost, and I never heard of ghosts wearin' diamonds, or givin'
away finger rings. Did you?"

"Do you mean to say that such a thing as this has occurred?"

"Oh, I ain't sayin' a word. I don't make no accusations. You can draw
your own conclusions. But in a case like that you would think there was
more than one of them screw-drivers, now, wouldn't you?"

"I certainly should, unless we imagined that Mr. Berial himself returned
to the house and stole the ring. But that, of course, is impossible."

"Is it?"

"Why, would you think that Mr. Berial would steal?"

"Who knows? We're all honest, till we're caught."

"Tell me this. If Mr. Berial keeps that screw-driver always in his own
possession, how could any one have a duplicate of it made?"

"Dead easy. If you can't see that, you're as soft as the old man."

"Perhaps I am. But tell me how it could be done."

"Why, just see. That tool is double-ended. But one end is just a common,
ordinary screw-driver. You don't need to imitate that. The other end is
just a screw that fits into the thread at the end of the bolts. Now old
Berial keeps his precious screw-driver locked up, but the bolts lay
around by the gross. Any man about the place could take one and have a
screw cut to fit it, and there you are."

This was an important point, and Mr. Barnes was glad to have drawn it
out. It now became only too plain that the patented device was no
hindrance to any one knowing of it, and especially to one who had access
to the bolts. This made it the more necessary to find the man Jerry.

"There was another man besides yourself who assisted at the Quadrant
funeral, was there not?" asked Mr. Barnes.

"There was another man, but he didn't assist much. He was no good."

"What was this man's name?"

"That's why I say he's no good. He called himself Jerry Morton, but it
didn't take me long to find out that his name was really Jerry Morgan.
Now a man with two names is usually a crook, to my way of thinkin'."

"He gave up his job here this morning, did he not?"

"Did he?"

"Yes. Can you tell why he should have done so? Was he not well enough
paid?"

"Too well, I take it. He got the same money I do, and I done twice as
much work. So he's chucked it, has he? Well, I shouldn't wonder if there
was good reason."

"What reason?"

"Oh, I don't know. That story about old Quadrant floatin' back was in
the papers to-day, wasn't it?"

"Yes."

"Very well. There you are."

"You mean that this man Morgan might have had a hand in that?"

"Oh, he had a hand in it all right. So did I and the boss, for that
matter. But the boss and me left him screwed tight in his box, and Jerry
he was left behind to pick up, as it were. And he had the wagon too.
Altogether, I should say he had the chance if anybody. But mind you, I
ain't makin' no accusations."

"Then, if Jerry did this, he must have had a duplicate screw-driver?"

"You're improvin', you are. You begin to see things. But I never seen
him with no screw-driver, remember that."

"Was he in Mr. Berial's employment at the time of the other affair?"

"What other affair?"

"The case of the young lady from whose finger the diamond ring was
stolen."

"Oh, that. Why, he might have been, of course, but then, you know, we
was only supposin' a case there. We didn't say that was a real affair."
Randal laughed mockingly.

"Have you any idea as to where I could find this man Morgan?"

"I don't think you will find him."

"Why not?"

"Skipped, I guess. He wouldn't chuck this job just to take a holiday."

"Do you know where he lived?"

"Eleventh Avenue near Fifty-fourth Street. I don't know the number, but
it was over the butcher shop."

"If this man Morgan did this thing, can you imagine why he did it?"

"For pay; you can bet on that. Morgan ain't the man as would take a risk
like that for the fun of the thing."

"But how could he hope to be paid for such an act?"

"Oh, he wouldn't hope. You don't know Jerry. He'd be paid, part in
advance anyway, and balance on demand."

"But who would pay him, and with what object?"

"Oh, I don't know. But let me tell you something. Them brothers weren't
all so lovin' to one another as the outside world thinks. In the fust
place, as I gathered by listenin' to the talk of the servants, the one
they called Amos didn't waste no love on the dead one, though I guess
the other one, Mark, liked him some. I think he liked the widow even
better." Here he laughed. "Now the dead man wanted to be cremated--that
is, he said so before he was dead. The widow didn't relish the idea, but
she ain't strong-minded enough to push her views. Now we'll suppose a
case again. I like that style, it don't commit you to anything. Well,
suppose this fellow Mark thinks he'll get into the good graces of the
widow by hindering the cremation. He stands out agin it. Amos he says
the old fellow wanted to be burned, and let him burn. 'He'll burn in
hell, anyway.' That nice, sweet remark he did make, I'll tell you that
much. Then the brothers they quarrel. And a right good row they did
have, so I hear. Now we'll suppose again. Why couldn't our friend, Mr.
Mark, have got up this scheme to stop the cremation?"

Mr. Barnes was startled to hear this man suggest exactly what Mark
himself had hinted at. Could it be only a coincidence or was it really
the solution of the mystery? But if so, what of the body that was really
cremated? But then again the only evidence in his possession on that
point was the bare statement in the note received from Mr. Mitchel. Two
constructions could be placed upon that note. First, it might have been
honestly written by Mr. Mitchel, who really believed what he wrote,
though, smart as he was, he might have been mistaken. Secondly, the note
might merely have been written to send Mr. Barnes off on a wrong clue,
thus leaving Mr. Mitchel a chance to follow up the right one. Resuming
his conversation with Randal, Mr. Barnes said:

"Then you imagine that Mr. Mark Quadrant hired this man Morgan to take
away the body and hide it until after the funeral?"

"Oh, I don't know. All I'll say is, I don't think Jerry would be too
good for a little job like that. Say, you're not a bad sort, as
detectives go. I don't mind givin' you a tip."

"I am much obliged, I am sure," said Mr. Barnes, smiling at the fellow's
presumption.

"Don't mention it. I make no charge. But see. Have you looked at the
corpse at the Morgue?"

"No. Why?"

"Well, I stopped in this morning and had a peep at him. I guess it's
Quadrant all right."

"Have you any special way of knowing that?"

"Well, when the boss was injectin' the embalmin' fluid, he stuck the
needle in the wrong place first, and had to put it in again. That made
two holes. They're both there. You might wonder why we embalmed a body
that was to be cremated. You see, we didn't know the family wasn't going
to let him be seen, and we was makin' him look natural."

"And you are sure there are two punctures in the body at the Morgue?"

"Dead sure. That's a joke. But that ain't the tip I want to give you.
This is another case of diamond rings."

"You mean that there were diamond rings left on the hand when the body
was placed in the coffin?"

"One solitaire; a jim dandy. And likewise a ruby, set deep like a
carbuncle, I think they call them other red stones. Then on the little
finger of the other hand there was a solid gold ring, with a flat top to
it, and a letter 'Q' in it, made of little diamonds. Them rings never
reached the Morgue."

"But even so, that does not prove that they were taken by the man who
removed the corpse from the coffin. They might have been taken by those
who found the body in the river."

"Nit. Haven't you read the papers? Boys found it, but they called in the
police to get it out of the water. Since then the police has been in
charge. Now I ain't got none too good an opinion of the police myself,
but they don't rob the dead. They squeeze the livin', all right, but not
the dead. Put that down. You can believe, if you like, that Jerry carted
that body off to the river and dumped it in, diamond rings and all. But
as I said before, you don't know Jerry. No, sir, if I was you, I'd find
them rings, and find out how they got there. And maybe I can help you
there, too,--that is, if you'll make it worth my while."

Mr. Barnes understood the hint and responded promptly:

"Here is a five-dollar bill," said he. "And if you really tell me
anything that aids me in finding the rings, I will give you ten more."

"That's the talk," said Randal, taking the money. "Well, it's this way.
You'll find that crooks, like other fly birds, has regular haunts. Now I
happen to know that Jerry spouted his watch, a silver affair, but a good
timer, once, and I take it he'd carry the rings where he's known,
'specially as I'm pretty sure the pawnbroker ain't over inquisitive
about where folks gets the things they borrow on. If I was you, I'd try
the shop on Eleventh Avenue by Fiftieth Street. It don't look like a
rich place, but that kind don't want to attract too much attention."

"I will go there. I have no doubt that if he took the rings we will find
them at that place. One thing more. How was Mr. Quadrant dressed when
you placed him in the coffin? The newspapers make no mention of the
clothing found on him."

"Oh, we didn't dress him. You see, he was to be burned, so we just
shrouded him. Nothin' but plain white cloth. No buttons or nothin' that
wouldn't burn up. The body at the Morgue was found without no clothes
of any kind. I'd recognize that shroud, though, if it turns up. So
there's another point for you."

"One thing more. You are evidently sure that Mr. Quadrant's body was
taken out of the coffin. Do you think, then, that the coffin was empty
when they took it to the crematory?"

"Why, sure! What could there be in it?"

"Suppose I were to tell you that another detective has examined the
ashes and declares that he can prove that a human body was burned with
that coffin. What would you say?"

"I'd say he was a liar. I'd say he was riggin' you to get you off the
scent. No, sir! Don't you follow no such blind trail as that."


                                  VII

As Mr. Barnes left the undertaker's shop he observed Mr. Burrows coming
towards him. It will be recalled that this young detective, now
connected with the regular police force of the metropolis, had earlier
in life been a _protégé_ of Mr. Barnes. It was not difficult to guess
from his being in this neighborhood that to him had been intrusted an
investigation of the Quadrant mystery.

"Why, hello, Mr. Barnes," Mr. Burrows exclaimed, as he recognized his
old friend. "What are you doing about here? Nosing into this Quadrant
matter, I'll be bound."

"It is an attractive case," replied Mr. Barnes, in non-committal
language. "Are you taking care of it for the office?"

"Yes; and the more I look into it the more complicated I find it. If you
are doing any work on it, I wouldn't mind comparing notes."

"Very well, my boy," said Mr. Barnes, after a moment's thought, "I will
confess that I have gone a little way into this. What have you done?"

"Well, in the first place, there was another examination by the doctors
this morning. There isn't a shadow of doubt that the man at the Morgue
was dead when thrown into the water. What's more, he died in his bed."

"Of what disease?"

"Cancer of the stomach. Put that down as fact number one. Fact number
two is that the mark on his face is exactly the same, and from the same
skin disease that old Quadrant had. Seems he also had a cancer, so I
take it the identification is complete; especially as the family say it
is their relative."

"Do they all agree to that?"

"Why, yes--that is, all except the youngest brother. He says he guesses
it's his brother. Something about that man struck me as peculiar."

"Ah! Then you have seen him?"

"Yes. Don't care to talk to detectives. Wants the case hushed up; says
there's nothing in it. Now I know there is something in it, and I am not
sure he tells all he knows."

"Have you formed any definite conclusion as to the motive in this
case?"

"The motive for what?"

"Why, for removing the body from the coffin."

"Well, I think the motive of the man who did it was money. What the
motive of the man who hired him was, I can't prove yet."

"Oh! Then you think there are two in it?"

"Yes; I'm pretty sure of that. And I think I can put my finger on the
man that made the actual transfer."

The two men were walking as they talked, Mr. Burrows having turned and
joined the older detective. Mr. Barnes was surprised to find his friend
advancing much the same theory as that held by Randal. He was more
astonished, however, at the next reply elicited. He asked:

"Do you mind naming this man?"

"Not to you, if you keep it quiet till I'm ready to strike. I'm pretty
sure that the party who carried the body away and put it in the river
was the undertaker's assistant, a fellow who calls himself Randal."

Mr. Barnes started, but quickly regained his self-control. Then he said:

"Randal? Why, how could he have managed it?"

"Easily enough. It seems that the coffin was closed at five on the
afternoon before the funeral, and the undertaker was told, in the
presence of this fellow Randal, that it would not be opened again. Then
the family went in to dine, and Berial and the other man, a fellow with
an alias, but whose true name is Morgan, left the house, the other one,
Randal, remaining behind to clear up. The undertaker's wagon was also
there, and Randal drove it to the stables half an hour or so later."

Mr. Barnes noted here that there was a discrepancy between the facts as
related by Mr. Burrows and as he himself had heard them. He had been
told by Berial himself that it was "Jack" who had left the house with
him, while Burrows evidently believed that it was Jack Randal who had
been left behind. It was important, therefore, to learn whether there
existed any other reason for suspecting Randal rather than Morgan.

"But though he may have had this opportunity," said Mr. Barnes, "you
would hardly connect him with this matter without corroborative
evidence."

"Oh, the case is not complete yet," said Mr. Burrows; "but I have had
this fellow Randal watched for three days. We at the office knew about
this identification before the newspapers got hold of it, be sure of
that. Now one curious thing that he has done was to attempt to destroy
some pawn-tickets."

"Pawn-tickets?"

"Yes. I was shadowing him myself last night, when I saw him tear up some
paper and drop the pieces in the gutter at the side of the pavement. I
let my man go on, for the sake of recovering those bits of paper. It
took some perseverance and no little time, but I found them, and when
put together, as I have said, they proved to be pawn-tickets."

"Have you looked at the property represented yet?"

"No. Would you like to go with me? We'll go together. I was about to
make my first open appearance at the undertaker's shop to face this
fellow, when you met me. But there's time enough for that. We'll go and
look at the rings if you say the word."

"Rings, are they?" said Mr. Barnes. "Why, I would like nothing better.
They might have been taken from the corpse."

"Haven't a doubt of it," said Mr. Burrows. "Here are the pawn-tickets.
There are two of them. Both for rings." He handed the two pawn-tickets
to Mr. Barnes. The pieces had been pasted on another bit of paper and
the two were consequently now on a single sheet. Mr. Barnes looked at
them closely and then said:

"Why, Burrows, these are made out in the name of Jerry Morgan. Are you
sure you have made no mistake in this affair?"

"Mistake? Not a bit of it. That fellow thinks he is smart, but I don't
agree with him. He imagines that we might guess that one of those who
had the handling of the body did this job, and when he pawned the rings
he just used the other fellow's name. It's an old trick, and not very
good, either."

Mr. Barnes was not entirely convinced, though the theory was possible,
nay, plausible. In which case, the tip which Randal had given to Mr.
Barnes was merely a part of his rather commonplace scheme of
self-protection at the expense of a fellow-workman. He was glad now that
he had met Burrows, for his possession of the pawn-tickets made it easy
to visit the pawnbroker and see the rings; while his connection with the
regular force would enable him to seize them should they prove to have
been stolen from the body of Mr. Quadrant. It was noteworthy that the
pawn-tickets had been issued by the man to whose place Randal had
directed him. Arrived there, Mr. Burrows demanded to see the rings, to
which the pawnbroker at first demurred, arguing that the tickets had
been torn, that they had not been issued to the one presenting them, and
that unless they were to be redeemed he must charge a fee of twenty-five
cents for showing the goods. To all of this Mr. Burrows listened
patiently and then showing his shield said meaningly:

"Now, friend Isaac, you get those rings out, and it will be better for
you. The Chief has had an eye on this little shop of yours for some
time."

"So help me Moses!" said the man, "he can keep both eyes on if he
likes."

But his demeanor changed, and with considerable alacrity he brought out
the rings. There were three, just as Randal had described to Mr. Barnes,
including the one with the initial "Q" set in diamonds.

"Who left these with you?" asked Mr. Burrows.

"The name is on the ticket," answered the pawnbroker.

"You are inaccurate, my friend. A name is on the ticket, yes, but not
the name. Now tell me the truth."

"It's all straight. I ain't hiding anything. Morgan brought the things
here."

"Morgan, eh? You are sure his name is Morgan? Quite sure?"

"Why, that's the name I know him by. Sometimes he goes by the name of
Morton, I've heard. But with me it's always been Morgan, Jerry Morgan,
just as it reads on the ticket."

"Oh, then you know this man Morgan?"

"No; only that he borrows money on security once in a while."

"Well, now, if his name is Morgan, did you think this ring with a 'Q' on
it was his? Does 'Q' stand for Morgan?"

"That's none of my affair. Heavens, I can't ask everybody where they get
things. They'd be insulted."

"Insulted! That's a good one. Well, when I get my hands on this chap
he'll be badly insulted, for I'll ask him a lot of questions. Now,
Isaac, let me tell you what this 'Q' stands for. It stands for Quadrant,
and that's the name of the man found in the river lately, and these
three rings came off his fingers. After death, Isaac; after death! What
do you think of that?"

"You don't say! I'm astonished!"

"Are you, now? Never thought your friend Morgan or Morton, who works out
by the day, and brought valuable diamonds to pawn, would do such a
thing, did you? Thought he bought these things out of his wages, eh?"

"I never knew he wasn't honest, so help me Moses! or I wouldn't have had
a thing to do with him."

"Perhaps not. You're too honest yourself to take 'swag' from a 'crook,'
even though you loan about one quarter of the value."

"I gave him all he asked for. He promised to take them out again."

"Well, he won't, Isaac. I'll take them out myself."

"You don't mean you're going to keep the rings? Where do I come in?"

"You're lucky you don't come into jail."

"May I ask this man a few questions, Burrows?" said Mr. Barnes.

"As many as you like, and see that you answer straight, Isaac. Don't
forget what I hinted about the Chief having an eye on you."

"Why, of course, I'll answer anything."

"You say you have known this man Morgan for some time?" asked Mr.
Barnes. "Can you give me an idea of how he looks?"

"Why, I ain't much on descriptions. Morgan is a short fellow, rather
stocky, and he's got dark hair and a mustache that looks like a
paintbrush."

Mr. Barnes recalled the description which the butler had given of the
man who had remained at the house when the others went away, and this
tallied very well with it. As Berial had declared that it was Morgan who
had been left at the house, and as this description did not fit Randal
at all, he being above medium height, with a beardless face which made
him seem younger than he probably was, it began to look as though in
some way Mr. Burrows had made a mistake, and that Randal was not
criminally implicated, though perhaps he had stolen the pawn-tickets,
and subsequently destroyed them when he found that a police
investigation was inevitable.

There was no object in further questioning the pawnbroker, who pleaded
that as the owners of the property were rich, and as he had "honestly"
made the loan, they might be persuaded to return to him the amount of
his advance, adding that he would willingly throw off his "interest."

Leaving the place, and walking together across town, Mr. Barnes said to
Mr. Burrows:

"Tom, I am afraid you are on a wrong scent. That man Randal stole those
pawn-tickets. He did not himself pawn the rings."

"Maybe," said the younger man, only half convinced. "But you mark my
word. Randal is in this. Don't believe all that 'fence' says. He may be
in with Randal. I fancy that Randal pawned the things, but made the Jew
put Morgan's name on them. Now that we ask him questions, he declares
that Morgan brought them to him, either to protect Randal, or most
likely to protect himself. Since there is a real Morgan, and he knew the
man, he had no right to write his name on those tickets for things
brought to him by some one else."

"But why are you so sure that Morgan is innocent? How do you know that
he was the one that went off with old Berial when they left the house?"

"Simply because the other man, Randal, took the wagon back to the
stables."

"Are you certain of that?"

"Absolutely. I have been to the stables, and they all tell the same
story. Randal took the wagon out, harnessing the horse himself, as he
often did. And Randal brought it back again, after six o'clock; of that
they are certain, because the place is merely a livery for express
wagons, trucks, and the like. The regular stable-boys go off between six
and seven, and there is no one in charge at night except the watchman.
The drivers usually take care of their own horses. Now the watchman was
already there when Randal came in with the wagon, and two of the
stable-boys also saw him."

"Now, Tom, you said that in your belief there was another man in this
case,--one who really was the principal. Have you any suspicion as to
that man's identity?"

"Here's my idea," said Mr. Burrows. "This fellow Randal was sounded by
the man who finally engaged him for the job, and, proving to be the
right sort, was engaged. He was to take the body out of the coffin and
carry it away. The man who hired Randal must have been one of the
brothers."

"Why?"

"It must have been, else the opportunity could not have been made, for,
mark me, it was made. See! The widow was taken to the room to see the
corpse, and then it was arranged that the coffin should be closed and
not opened again before the funeral. That was to make all sure. Then
came the closing of the coffin and the departure of two of the
undertakers. The third, Randal, remained behind, and while the family
lingered at dinner the job was done. The body was carried out to the
wagon and driven off. Now we come to the question, which of the brothers
did this?"

"Which have you decided upon?"

"Why, the object of this devilish act was to please the widow by
preventing this cremation to which she objected. The man who concocted
that scheme thought that when the body should be found it would then be
buried, which would gratify the widow. Now why did he wish to gratify
her? Because he's in love with her. She's not old, you know, and she's
still pretty."

"Then you think that Mark Quadrant concocted this scheme?"

"No! I think that Amos Quadrant is our man."

It seemed destined that Mr. Burrows should surprise Mr. Barnes. If the
older detective was astonished when he had heard Burrows suggest that
Randal had been the accomplice in this affair, he was more astounded now
to hear him accuse the elder brother of being the principal. For, had
not Mark Quadrant told him that it was Amos who had insisted upon the
cremation? And that Amos, being the elder, had assumed the control of
the funeral?

"Burrows," said Mr. Barnes, "I hope that you are not merely following
your impulsive imagination?"

Mr. Burrows colored as he replied with some heat:

"You need not forever twit me with my stupidity in my first case. Of
course I may be mistaken, but I am doing routine work on this affair. I
have not any real proof yet to support my theories. If I had I should
make an arrest. But I have evidence enough to make it my duty to go
ahead on definite lines. When the mystery clears a little, I may see
things differently."

"I should like to know why you think that Amos is in love with his
sister-in-law."

"Perhaps it would be safer to claim that he was once in love with her.
The past is a certainty, the present mere conjecture. I got the tip from
a slip of the tongue made by Dr. Mortimer, and I have corroborated the
facts since. I was speaking with Dr. Mortimer of the possibility of
there being any ill-feeling between the members of this family, when he
said: 'I believe there was some hard feeling between the deceased and
his brother Amos arising from jealousy.' When he had let the word
'jealousy' pass his lips, he closed up like a clam, and when I pressed
him, tried to pass it off by saying that Amos was jealous of his
brother's business and social successes. But that did not go down with
me, so I have had some guarded inquiries made, with the result that it
is certain that Amos loved this woman before she accepted Rufus."

"What if I tell you that I have heard that the younger brother, Mark, is
in love with the widow, and that it was he who opposed cremation, while
it was Amos who insisted upon carrying out the wishes of his brother?"

"What should I say to that? Well, I should say that you probably got
that yarn from Randal, and that he had been 'stuffing you,' as the
vernacular has it, hoping you'll excuse the vulgar expression."

It nettled Mr. Barnes to have his younger _confrère_ guess so accurately
the source of his information, and to hear him discredit it so
satirically. He recognized, however, that upon the evidence offered Mr.
Burrows had not yet made out his case, and that therefore the mystery
was yet far from solved.

"Look here, Burrows," said Mr. Barnes. "Take an older man's advice.
Don't go too fast in this case. Before you come to any conclusion, find
this man Jerry Morgan."

"Why, there won't be any trouble about that."

"Oh, then you know where he is?"

"Why, he is still with Berial. At least he was up to last night."

"Ah, now we come to it!" Mr. Barnes was gratified to find that Burrows
had not kept full control of his case. "Last night was many hours ago.
Morgan threw up his job this morning, and left."

"The devil you say!"

"Oh, yes," said Mr. Barnes, determined now to make Mr. Burrows a little
uncomfortable. "I have no doubt he intends to skip out, but, of course,
he cannot get away. You have him shadowed?"

"Why, no, I have not," said Mr. Burrows, dejectedly. "You see, I did not
connect him in my mind with----"

"Perhaps he is not connected with the case in your mind, Burrows, but he
is connected with it in fact. He is unquestionably the key to the
situation at present. With him in our hands we could decide whether it
was he or Randal who pawned those rings. Without him we can prove
nothing. In short, until you get at him the case is at a standstill."

"You are right, Mr. Barnes," said Mr. Burrows, manfully admitting his
error. "I have been an ass. I was so sure about Randal that I did not
use proper precautions, and Morgan has slipped through my fingers. But
I'll find his trail, and I'll track him. I'll follow him to the opposite
ocean if necessary, but I'll bring him back."

"That is the right spirit, Tom. Find him and bring him back if you can.
If you cannot, then get the truth out of him. Let me say one thing more.
For the present at least, work upon the supposition that it was he who
pawned those rings. In that case he has at least two hundred dollars for
travelling expenses."

"You are right. I'll begin at once without losing another minute."

"Where will you start?"

"I'll start where he started--at his own house. He's left there by now,
of course, but I'll have a look at the place and talk a bit with the
neighbors. When you hear from me again, I'll have Morgan."


                                  VIII

Mr. Barnes returned to his home that night feeling well satisfied with
his day's work. With little real knowledge he had started out in the
morning, and within ten hours he had dipped deeply into the heart of the
mystery. Yet he felt somewhat like a man who has succeeded in working
his way into the thickest part of a forest, with no certainty as to
where he might emerge again, or how. Moreover, though he had seemingly
accomplished so much during the first day, he seemed destined to make
little headway for many days thereafter. On the second day of his
investigation he ascertained one fact which was more misleading than
helpful. It will be recalled that Mark Quadrant had told him that his
brother had a scar on the sole of his foot made by cutting himself
whilst in swimming. Mr. Barnes went to the Morgue early, and examined
both feet most carefully. There was no such scar, nor was it possible
that there ever could have been. The feet were absolutely unmarred.
Could it be possible that, in spite of the apparently convincing proof
that this body had been correctly identified, nevertheless a mistake had
been made?

This question puzzled the detective mightily, and he longed impatiently
for an opportunity to talk with one of the family, especially with the
elder brother, Amos. Delay, however, seemed unavoidable. The police
authorities, having finally accepted the identification, delivered the
body to the Quadrants, and a second funeral occurred. Thus two more days
elapsed before Mr. Barnes felt at liberty to intrude, especially as it
was not known that he had been regularly retained by Mrs. Quadrant.

Meanwhile nothing was heard from Burrows, who had left the city, and, as
a further annoyance, Mr. Barnes was unable to catch Mr. Mitchel at home
though he called three times. Failing to meet that gentleman, and
chafing at his enforced inactivity, the detective finally concluded to
visit the cemetery in the hope of learning what had occurred when Mr.
Mitchel had inspected the ashes. Again, however, was he doomed to
disappointment. His request to be allowed to examine the contents of the
urn was refused, strict orders to that effect having been imposed by the
Chief of the regular detective force.

"You see," explained the superintendent, "we could not even let you look
into the urn upon the order of one of the family, because they have
claimed the body at the Morgue, and so they have no claim on these
ashes. If a body was burned that day, then there is a body yet to be
accounted for, and the authorities must guard the ashes as their only
chance to make out a case. Of course they can't identify ashes, but the
expert chemists claim they can tell whether a human body or only an
empty coffin was put into the furnace."

"And are the experts making such an analysis?" asked Mr. Barnes.

"Yes. The Chief himself came here with two of them, the day before
yesterday. They emptied out the ashes onto a clean marble slab, and
looked all through the pile. Then they put some in two bottles, and
sealed the bottles, and then put the balance back in the urn and sealed
that also. So, you see, there isn't any way for me to let you look into
that urn."

"No, of course not," admitted the detective, reluctantly. "Tell me, was
any one else present at this examination besides the Chief and the two
experts?"

"Yes. A gentleman they called Mitchel, I believe."

Mr. Barnes had expected this answer, yet it irritated him to hear it.
Mr. Mitchel had information which the detective would have given much to
share.

During the succeeding days he made numerous ineffectual efforts to have
an interview with Amos Quadrant, but repeatedly was told that he was
"Not at home." Mrs. Quadrant, too, had left town for a rest at one of
their suburban homes, and Mark Quadrant had gone with her. The city
house, with its closed shutters, seemed as silent as the grave, and the
secret of what had occurred within those walls seemed almost hopelessly
buried.

"What a pity," thought the detective, "that walls do not have tongues as
well as ears."

A week later Mr. Barnes was more fortunate. He called at the Quadrant
mansion, expecting to once more hear the servant say coldly, "Not at
home," in answer to his inquiry for Mr. Quadrant, when, to his surprise
and pleasure, Mr. Quadrant himself stepped out of the house as he
approached it. The detective went up to him boldly, and said:

"Mr. Quadrant, I must have a few words with you."

"Must?" said Mr. Quadrant with an angry inflection. "I think not. Move
out of my way, and let me pass."

"Not until you have given me an interview," said Mr. Barnes firmly,
without moving.

"You are impertinent, sir. If you interfere with me further, I will have
you arrested," said Mr. Quadrant, now thoroughly aroused.

"If you call a policeman," said Mr. Barnes, calmly, "I will have you
arrested."

"And upon what charge, pray?" said Mr. Quadrant, contemptuously.

"I will accuse you of instigating the removal of your brother's body
from the coffin."

"You are mad."

"There are others who hold this view, so it would be wise for you to
move carefully in this matter."

"Would you object to telling me what others share your extraordinary
opinion?"

"I did not say that it is my opinion. More than that, I will say that it
is not my opinion, not at present at all events. But it is the view
which is receiving close attention at police headquarters."

"Are you one of the detectives?"

"I am a detective, but not connected with the city force."

"Then by what right do you intrude yourself into this affair?"

Mr. Barnes knew that he must play his best card now, to gain his point
with this man. He watched him closely as he answered:

"I am employed by Mrs. Quadrant."

There was an unmistakable start. Amos Quadrant was much disturbed to
hear that his sister-in-law had hired a detective, and curiously enough
he made no effort to hide his feelings. With some show of emotion he
said in a low voice:

"In that case, perhaps, we should better have a talk together. Come in."

With these words he led the way into the house, and invited the
detective into the same room wherein he had talked with Mark Quadrant.
When they had found seats, Mr. Quadrant opened the conversation
immediately.

"What is your name?" he asked.

"John Barnes," was the reply.

"Barnes? I have heard of you. Well, Mr. Barnes, let me be very frank
with you. Above all things it has been my wish that this supposed
mystery should not be cleared up. To me it is a matter of no consequence
who did this thing, or why it was done. Indeed, what suspicions have
crossed my mind make me the more anxious not to know the truth. Feeling
thus, I should have done all in my power to hinder the work of the
regular police. When you tell me that my sister-in-law has engaged your
services, you take me so by surprise that I am compelled to think a bit
in order to determine what course to pursue. You can readily understand
that my position is a delicate and embarrassing one."

"I understand that thoroughly, and you have my sympathy, Mr. Quadrant."

"You may mean that well, but I do not thank you," said Mr. Quadrant,
coldly. "I want no man's sympathy. This is purely an impersonal
interview, and I prefer to have that distinctly prominent in our minds
throughout this conversation. Let there be no misunderstanding and no
false pretenses. You are a detective bent upon discovering the author of
certain singular occurrences. I am a man upon whom suspicion has
alighted; and, moreover, guilty or innocent, I desire to prevent you
from accomplishing your purpose. I do not wish the truth to be known. Do
we understand one another?"

"Perfectly," said Mr. Barnes, astonished by the man's manner and
admiring his perfect self-control and his bold conduct.

"Then we may proceed," said Mr. Quadrant. "Do you wish to ask me
questions, or will you reply to one or two from me?"

"I will answer yours first, if you will reply to mine afterwards."

"I make no bargains. I will answer, but I do not promise to tell you
anything unless it pleases me to do so. You have the same privilege.
First, then, tell me how it happened that Mrs. Quadrant engaged you in
this case."

"I called here, attracted merely by the extraordinary features of this
case, and Mrs. Quadrant granted me a short interview, at the end of
which she offered to place the matter in my hands as her
representative."

"Ah! Then she did not of her own thought send for you?"

"No."

"You told me that the regular detectives are considering the theory that
I instigated this affair. As you used the word instigated, it should
follow that some other person, an accomplice, is suspected likewise. Is
that the idea?"

"That is one theory."

"And who, pray, is my alleged accomplice?"

"That I cannot tell you without betraying confidence."

"Very good. Next you declared that you yourself do not share this view.
Will you tell me on what grounds you exculpate me?"

"With pleasure. The assumed reason for this act of removing your brother
from his coffin was to prevent the cremation. Now it was yourself who
wished to have the body incinerated."

"You are mistaken. I did not wish it. On the contrary, I most earnestly
wished that there should be no cremation. You see I incriminate myself."

He smiled painfully, and a dejected expression crossed his face. For an
instant he looked like a man long tired of carrying some burden, then
quickly he recovered his composure.

"You astonish me," said Mr. Barnes. "I was told by Mr. Mark that you
insisted upon carrying out your brother's wish in this matter of
disposing of his body."

"My brother told you that? Well, it is true. He and I quarrelled about
it. He wished to have a regular burial, contrary to our brother's
oft-repeated injunction. I opposed him, and, being the elder, I assumed
the responsibility, and gave the orders."

"But you have admitted that you did not wish this?"

"Do we always have our wishes gratified in this world?"

The detective, watching the man's face closely, again noted that
expression of weariness cross his features, and an instinctive feeling
of pity was aroused. Once more the skein became more entangled. His own
suspicion against Mark Quadrant rested upon the supposition that the act
was committed with the intent of making capital out of it with the
widow, and was based upon the theory that Amos wished to have his
brother incinerated. If now it should transpire that after all it was
Amos who managed the affair, his motive was a higher one, for, while
appearing to carry out the wishes of his deceased brother, he must have
aimed to gratify the widow, without admitting her to the knowledge that
his hand had gained her purpose. This was a higher, nobler love. Was
Amos Quadrant of this noble mould? The question crossing the detective's
mind met a startling answer which prompted Mr. Barnes to ask suddenly:

"Is it true that, speaking of this cremation, you said: 'Let him burn;
he'll burn in hell anyway'?"

Amos Quadrant flushed deeply, and his face grew stern as he answered:

"I presume you have witnesses who heard the words, therefore it would be
futile to deny it. It was a brutal remark, but I made it. I was
exasperated by something which Mark had said, and replied in anger."

"It is a sound doctrine, Mr. Quadrant," said the detective, "that words
spoken in anger often more truly represent the speaker's feelings than
what he says when his tongue is bridled."

"Well?"

"If we take this view, then it is apparent that you did not hold a very
high regard for your brother."

"That is quite true. Why should I?"

"He was your brother."

"And because of the accident of birth, I was bound to love him? A
popular fallacy, Mr. Barnes. He was equally bound, then, to love me, but
he did not. Indeed he wronged me most grievously."

"By marrying the woman you loved?"

Mr. Barnes felt ashamed of his question, as a surgeon often must be
sorry to insert the scalpel. To his surprise it elicited no retort. Mr.
Quadrant's reply was calmly spoken. All he said was:

"Yes, he did that."

"Did she know?" ventured the detective hesitatingly.

"No, I think not--I hope not."

There was a painful pause. Mr. Quadrant looked down at the floor, while
Mr. Barnes watched him, trying to decide whether the man were acting a
part with intent to deceive, as he had announced that he would not
hesitate to do; or whether he were telling the truth, in which case the
nobility of his character was brought more into perspective.

"Are you sure," said Mr. Barnes after a pause, "that the body taken from
the river was that of your brother Rufus?"

"Why do you ask that?" said Mr. Quadrant, on the defensive at once. "Can
there be any doubt?"

"Before I reply, let me ask you another question. Did your brother Rufus
have a scar on the sole of his foot?"

The other man started perceptibly, and paused some time before
answering. Then he asked:

"What makes you think so?"

"Mr. Mark Quadrant told me that his brother had such a scar, caused by
gashing his foot while in swimming."

"Ah, that is your source of information. Well, when Mark told you that
his brother had met with such an accident, he told you the truth."

"But did the accident leave a scar?" Mr. Barnes thought he detected a
carefully worded evasive answer.

"Yes, the cut left a bad scar; one easily noticed."

"In that case I can reply to your question. If, as you both say, your
brother had a scar on the sole of his foot, then there exists
considerable doubt as to the identification of the body which was at the
Morgue, the body which you have both accepted and buried as being that
of your relative. Mr. Quadrant, there was no scar on that body."

"Odd, isn't it?" said Mr. Quadrant, without any sign of surprise.

"I should say it is very odd. How do you suppose it can be explained?"

"I do not know, and, as I have told you before, I do not care. Quite the
reverse; the less you comprehend this case the better pleased I shall
be."

"Mr. Quadrant," said Mr. Barnes, a little nettled, "since you so frankly
admit that you wish me to fail, why should I not believe that you are
telling me a falsehood when you state that your brother told me the
truth?"

"There is no reason that I care to advance," said Mr. Quadrant, "why you
should believe me, but if you do not, you will go astray. I repeat, what
my brother told you is true."

It seemed to the detective that in all his varied experience he had
never met with circumstances so exasperatingly intricate. Here was an
identification for many reasons the most reliable that he had known, and
now there appeared to be a flaw of such a nature that it could not be
set aside. If the body was that of Mr. Quadrant, then both these men
had lied. If they told the truth, then, in spite of science, the
doctors, and the family, the identification had been false. In that case
Rufus Quadrant had been cremated after all, and this would account for
the statement in Mr. Mitchel's note that a human body had been
incinerated. Could it be that these two brothers were jointly implicated
in a murder, and had pretended to recognize the body at the Morgue in
order to have it buried and to cover up their crime? It seemed
incredible. Besides, the coincidence of the external and internal
diseases was too great.

"I would like to ask you a few questions in relation to the occurrences
on the day and evening preceding the funeral," said Mr. Barnes, pursuing
the conversation, hoping to catch from the answers some clue that might
aid him.

"Which funeral?" said Mr. Quadrant.

"The first. I have been told that you and your brother were present when
the widow last viewed the face of her husband, and that at that time,
about five o'clock, you jointly agreed that the coffin should not be
opened again. Is this true?"

"Accurate in every detail."

"Was the coffin closed at once? That is, before you left the room?"

"The lower part of the coffin-top was, of course, in place and screwed
fast when we entered the room. The upper part, exposing the face, was
open. It was this that was closed in my presence."

"I would like to get the facts here very accurately, if you are willing.
You say, closed in your presence. Do you mean merely covered, or was the
top screwed fast before you went out of the room, and, if so, by whom?"

"Mark took our sister away, but Dr. Mortimer and myself remained until
the screws were put in. Mr. Berial himself did that."

"Did you observe that the screws were odd? Different from common
screws?"

Mr. Barnes hoped that the other man would betray something at this
point, but he answered quite composedly:

"I think I did at the time, but I could not describe them to you now. I
half remember that Mr. Berial made some such comment as 'No one can get
these out again without my permission.'"

"Ah! He said that, did he? Yet some one must have gotten those screws
out, for, if your identification was correct, your brother's body was
taken out of that casket after the undertaker had put in those screws,
which he said could not be removed without his permission. How do you
suppose that was accomplished?"

"How should I know, Mr. Barnes, unless, indeed, I did it myself, or
instigated or connived at the doing? In either case, do you suppose I
would give you any information on such a point?"

"Did your brother Rufus have any rings on his fingers when placed in the
coffin?" asked Mr. Barnes, swiftly changing the subject.

"Yes--three: a diamond, a ruby, and a ring bearing his initial set in
diamonds."

"These rings were not on the body at the Morgue."

"Neither was that scar," said Mr. Quadrant, with a suppressed laugh.

"But this is different," said Mr. Barnes. "I did not find the scar, but
I have found the rings."

"Very clever of you, I am sure. But what does that prove?"

"It proves that your brother's body was taken from the coffin before the
coffin was placed in the crematory furnace."

"Illogical and inaccurate," said Mr. Quadrant. "You prove by the
recovery of the rings, merely that the rings were taken from the
coffin."

"Or, from the body after it was taken out," interjected Mr. Barnes.

"In either case it is of no consequence. You have rooted up a theft,
that is all. Catch the thief and jail him, if you like. I care nothing
about that. It is the affair of my brother's death and burial that I
wish to see dropped by the inquisitive public."

"Yes, but suppose I tell you that the theory is that the man who stole
the rings was your accomplice in the main matter? Don't you see that
when we catch him, he is apt to tell all that he knows?"

"When you catch him? Then you have not caught him yet. For so much I am
grateful." He did not seem to care how incriminating his words might
sound.

"One thing more, Mr. Quadrant. I understand that you retired at about
ten o'clock on that night--the night prior to the first funeral, I mean.
You left your brother Mark down here?"

"Yes."

"Later you came downstairs again."

"You seem to be well posted as to my movements."

"Not so well as I wish to be. Will you tell me why you came down?"

"I have not admitted that I came downstairs."

"You were seen in the hall very late at night, or early in the morning.
You took the lamp out of the room where the casket was, and came in here
and looked at your brother, who was asleep. Then you returned the lamp
and went upstairs. Do you admit now that you had just come downstairs?"

"I admit nothing. But to show you how little you can prove, suppose I
ask you how you know that I had just come downstairs? Why may it not be
that I had been out of the house, and had just come in again when your
informant saw me?"

"Quite true. You might have left the house. Perhaps it was then that the
body was taken away?"

"If it was taken away, that was certainly as good a time as any."

"What time?"

"Oh, let us say between twelve and two. Very few people would be about
the street at that hour, and a wagon stopping before a door would
attract very little attention. Especially if it were an undertaker's
wagon."

"An undertaker's wagon?" exclaimed Mr. Barnes, as this suggested a new
possibility.

"Why, yes. If, as you say, there was an accomplice in this case, the
fellow who stole the rings, you know, he must have been one of the
undertaker's men. If so, he would use their wagon, would he not?"

"I think he would," said Mr. Barnes sharply. "I thank you for the point.
And now I will leave you."


                                   IX

Mr. Barnes walked rapidly, revolving in his mind the new ideas which had
entered it during the past few minutes. Before this morning he had
imagined that the body of Rufus Quadrant had been taken away between
five and six o'clock, in the undertaker's wagon. But it had never
occurred to him that this same wagon could have been driven back to the
house at any hour of the day or night, without causing the policeman on
that beat to suspect any wrong. Thus, suddenly, an entirely new phase
had been placed upon the situation. Before, he had been interested in
knowing which man had been left behind; whether it had been Morgan or
Randal. Now he was more anxious to know whether the wagon had been taken
again from the stable on that night, and, if so, by whom. Consequently
he went first to the undertaker's shop, intending to interview Mr.
Berial, but that gentleman was out. Therefore he spoke again with
Randal, who recognized him at once and greeted him cordially.

"Why, how do you do," said he. "Glad you're round again. Anything turned
up in the Quadrant case?"

"We are getting at the truth slowly," said the detective, watching his
man closely. "I would like to ask you to explain one or two things to me
if you can."

"Maybe I will, and maybe not. It wouldn't do to promise to answer
questions before I hear what they are. I ain't exactly what you would
call a fool."

"Did you not tell me that it was Morgan who was left at the house after
the coffin was closed, and that you came away with Mr. Berial?"

"Don't remember whether I told you or not. But you've got it straight."

"But they say at the stables that it was you who drove the wagon back
there?"

"That's right, too. What of it?"

"But I understood that Morgan brought the wagon back?"

"So he did; back here to the shop. He had to leave all our tools and
things here, you see. Then he went off to his dinner, and I took the
horse and wagon round to the stables."

"Where do you stable?"

"Harrison's, Twenty-fourth Street, near Lex."

"Now, another matter. You told me about the loss of those rings?"

"Yes, and I gave you the tip where you might find them again. Did you go
there?"

"Yes; you were right. The rings were pawned exactly where you sent me."

"Oh, I don't know," said the fellow, airishly. "I ought to be on the
police force, I guess. I can find out a few things, I think."

"It isn't hard to guess what you know," said the detective, sharply.

"What do you mean?" Randal was on the defensive at once.

"I mean," said Mr. Barnes, "that it was you who pawned those rings."

"That's a lie, and you can't prove it."

"Don't be too sure of that. We have the pawn tickets."

This shot went home. Randal looked frightened, and was evidently
confused.

"That's another lie," said he, less vigorously. "You can't scare me. If
you have got them, which you haven't, you won't find my name on them."

"No; you used your friend Morgan's name, which was a pretty low trick."

"Look here, you detective," said Randal blusteringly, "I don't allow no
man to abuse me. You can't talk that way to me. All this talk of yours
is rot. That's what it is, rot!"

"Look here, Randal. Try to be sensible if you can. I have not yet made
up my mind whether you are a scoundrel or a fool. Suppose you tell me
the truth about those tickets. It will be safest, I assure you."

Randal looked at the detective and hesitated. Mr. Barnes continued:

"There is no use to lie any longer. You were shadowed, and you were seen
when you tore up the tickets. The pieces were picked up and put
together, and they call for those rings. Don't you see we have you fast
unless you can explain how you got the tickets?"

"I guess you're givin' it to me straight," said Randal after a long
pause. "I guess I better take your advice and let you have it right. One
afternoon I saw Morgan hide something in one of the coffins in the shop.
He tucked it away under the satin linin'. I was curious, and I looked
into it after he'd gone that night. I found the pawn tickets. Of course
I didn't know what they were for except that it was rings. But I guessed
it was for some stuff he'd stolen from the corpse of somebody. For it
was him took the other jewels I told you about, and I seen him with a
screw-driver the match to the boss's. So I just slipped the tickets in
my pocket thinkin' I'd have a hold on him. Next day I read about this
man bein' found in the river, and I stopped to the Morgue, and, just as
I thought, his rings was gone. I worried over that for an hour or two,
and then I thought I better not keep the tickets, so I tore them up and
threw them away."

"That, you say, was the night after this affair was published in the
papers?"

"No; it was the same night."

"That is to say, the night of that day on which I came here and had a
talk with you?"

"No, it was the night before. You're thinkin' about the mornin' papers,
but I seen it first in the afternoon papers."

This statement dispelled a doubt which had entered the mind of the
detective, who remembered that Mr. Burrows had told him that the
pawn-ticket incident had occurred on the evening previous to their
meeting. This explanation, however, tallied with that, and Mr. Barnes
was now inclined to credit the man's story.

"Very good," said he. "You may be telling the truth. If you have nothing
to do with this case, you ought to be willing to give me some
assistance. Will you?"

Randal had been so thoroughly frightened that he now seemed only too
glad of the chance to win favor in the eyes of Mr. Barnes.

"Just you tell me what you want, and I'm your man," said he.

"I want to find out something at the stable, and I think you can get the
information for me better than I can myself."

"I'll go with you right away. The boy can mind the shop while we're
gone. Charlie, you just keep an eye on things till I get back, will
you? I won't be out more'n ten minutes. Come on, Mr. Barnes, I'm with
you."

On the way to the stable Mr. Barnes directed Randal as to what he wished
to learn, and then at his suggestion waited for him in a liquor saloon
near by, while he went alone to the stable. In less than ten minutes
Randal hurried into the place, flushed with excitement and evidently
bubbling over with importance. He drew the detective to one side and
spoke in whispers.

"Say," said he, "you're on the right tack. The wagon was out again that
night, and not on any proper errand, neither."

"Tell me what you have learned," said Mr. Barnes.

"Of course the night watchman ain't there now, but Jimmy, the day
superintendent, is there, and I talked with him. He says there was some
funny business that night. First I asked him about the wagon bein' out
or not, and he slaps his hand on his leg, and he says: 'By George!' says
he, 'that's the caper. Didn't you put that wagon in its right place when
you brung it in that afternoon?' he says to me. 'Of course,' says I;
'where do you think I'd put it?' 'Well,' says he, 'next mornin' it was
out in the middle of the floor, right in the way of everything. The boys
was cussin' you for your carelessness. I wasn't sure in my own mind or I
would have spoke; but I thought I seen you shove that wagon in its right
place.' 'So I did,' says I, 'and if it was in the middle of the stable,
you can bet it was moved after I left. Now who moved it?' 'I don't
know,' says he, 'but I'll tell you another thing what struck me as odd.
I didn't have nothin' particular to do that night, and I dropped in for
an hour or so to be sociable like with Jack'--that's the night watchman.
'While I was there,' he goes on, 'while I was there, who should come in
but Jerry Morgan! He didn't stop long, but he took us over to the saloon
and balled us off'--that means he treated to drinks. 'Next day I come
round about six o'clock as usual,' says Jimmy, goin' on, 'and there was
Jack fast asleep. Now that's the fust time that man ever dropped off
while on watch, and he's been here nigh on to five years. I shook him
and tried every way to 'waken him, but it didn't seem to do no good.
He'd kind of start up and look about dazed, and even talk a bit, but as
soon as I'd let up, he'd drop off again. I was makin' me a cup of
coffee, and, thinkin' it might rouse him, I made him drink some, and, do
you know, he was all right in a few minutes. At the time I didn't think
much about it, but since then I have thought it over a good deal, and,
do you know what I think now?' 'No,' says I; 'what do you think?' 'I
think,' says he, 'I think that Jimmy was drugged, and if he was, Jerry
Morgan done the trick when he balled us off, and you can bet it was him
took that wagon out that night.' That's the story Jimmy tells, Mr.
Barnes, and it's a corker, ain't it?"

"It certainly is important," said Mr. Barnes.

Once more he had food for thought. This narrative was indeed important;
the drowsiness of the watchman and his recovery after drinking coffee
suggested morphine. The detective likewise recalled the story of the
butler who claimed that he had seen Mark Quadrant asleep while he was
supposed to be guarding the coffin. Then, too, there was the empty paper
which had once held some powder, and which he had himself found in the
room where Mark Quadrant had slept. Had he too been drugged? If so, the
question arose, Did this man Morgan contrive to mix the morphine with
something which he thought it probable that the one sitting up with the
corpse would drink, or had Amos given his brother the sleeping-potion?
In one case it would follow that Morgan was the principal in this
affair, while in the other he was merely an accomplice. If his hand
alone managed all, then it might be that he had a deeper and more potent
motive than the mere removal of the body to avoid cremation, the latter
being a motive which the detective had throughout hesitated to adopt
because it seemed so weak. If Morgan substituted another body for the
one taken from the coffin, then the statement of Mr. Mitchel that a body
had been cremated was no longer a discrepancy. There was but one
slightly disturbing thought. All the theorizing in which he now indulged
was based on the assumption that Randal was not deceiving. Yet how could
he be sure of that? Tom Burrows would have said to him: "Mr. Barnes,
that fellow is lying to you. His story may be true in all except that it
was himself and not Morgan who did these things." For while he had
thought it best to let Randal go alone to the stable to make inquiries,
this had placed him in the position of receiving the tale at
second-hand, so that Randal might have colored it to suit himself. For
the present, he put aside these doubts and decided to pursue this clue
until he proved it a true or false scent. He dismissed Randal with an
injunction to keep his tongue from wagging, and proceeded to the house
of the man Morgan, regretting now that he had not done so before.

The tenement on Eleventh Avenue was one of those buildings occupying
half a block, having stores on the street, with narrow, dark, dismal
hallways, the staircases at the farther end being invisible from the
street door, even on the sunniest days, without a match. Overhead, each
hallway offered access to four flats, two front and two back, the doors
being side by side. These apartments each included two or three rooms
and what by courtesy might be called a bathroom, though few indeed of
the tenants utilized the latter for the purpose for which it had been
constructed, preferring to occupy this extra space with such of their
impedimenta as might not be in constant use.

When one enters a place of this character asking questions, if he
addresses any of the adults he is likely to receive scant information in
reply. Either these people do not know even the names of their
next-door neighbors, or else, knowing, they are unwilling to take the
trouble to impart the knowledge. The children, however, and they are as
numerous as grasshoppers in a hayfield, not only know everything, but
tell what they know willingly. It is also a noteworthy fact that amidst
such squalor and filth, with dirty face and bare legs, it is not
uncommon to find a child, especially a girl, who will give answers, not
only with extreme show of genuine intelligence, but, as well, with a
deferential though dignified courtesy which would grace the
reception-rooms of upper Fifth Avenue.

It was from such an urchin, a girl of about twelve, that Mr. Barnes
learned that Jerry Morgan had lived on the fifth floor back.

"But he's gone away, I guess," she added.

"Why do you think so?" asked Mr. Barnes.

"Oh, 'cause he ain't been in the saloon 'cross the way for 'bout a week,
and he didn't never miss havin' his pint of beer every night 's long 's
he 's been here."

"Do you think I could get into his room?" asked Mr. Barnes.

"I could get you our key, an' you could try," suggested the girl. "I
reckon one key will open any door in this house. It's cheaper to get
locks in a bunch that way, I guess, an' besides, poor folks don't get
robbed much anyhow, an' so they ain't got no 'casion to lock up every
time they go out. What little they've got don't tempt the robbers, I
guess. Maybe the 'punushment fits the crime' too quick."

"'The punishment fits the crime,' you think," said Mr. Barnes with a
smile. "Where did you get that from?"

"Oh, I seen the Mikado oncet," said the girl rather proudly. "But I
didn't mean what you said; I said it fits 'too quick'; that's too snug,
you know, though sometimes it's 'quick' too. You see, I guess they don't
get enough out of flats like these to pay for the risk."

"You are quite a philosopher," said Mr. Barnes, approvingly. "Now run
and get the key, and we will see whether it fits or not."

She hurried upstairs, and was awaiting Mr. Barnes, with the key in her
hand, when he reached the third landing. This she gave to him, and then
followed him up the remaining flights, where she pointed out the door
which led into Morgan's flat. The key was not needed, as the door was
not locked, and the detective pushed it open and entered. The room
seemed bare enough, what little furniture there was being too evidently
the product of a second-hand furniture store. There seemed little hope
of finding anything helpful to his investigation in this room, yet the
detective, with his usual thoroughness, examined every drawer, and every
corner or crevice in which anything might have been hidden, or have been
accidentally dropped, and at last he did discover something which more
than repaid him.

In the darkest corner of the dark closet, where perhaps it had dropped
unperceived, he found an old vest, of no value in itself. But a search
of the pockets brought an exclamation of gratification to the
detective's lips, as from one of them he drew forth a folded paper still
containing a whitish powder. Mr. Barnes was certain that this powder was
morphine, and at length he felt his feet on solid ground in trailing the
criminal. No longer need he doubt Randal. His story of the probable
drugging of the night watchman at the stable now became not only
credible, but probable. Thinking that he might gain something by further
questioning the girl, Mr. Barnes said:

"Why, here is some medicine! Perhaps he was sick and has gone away for
his health."

With the keen intelligence of her class, the girl replied:

"Some folks go away for their health without bein' sick."

"How do you mean?"

"When it gets so it ain't healthy for them to stay in town, you know."

"You mean for fear of the police?"

"Sure! What else?"

"But do you think that this man Morgan would do anything that would make
him afraid of meeting a policeman?"

"Oh, I don't know. But 'birds of a feather flock together,' you know.
One of his pals was pinched, and he's workin' for the country now, on
the Island."

"Who was that?" Mr. Barnes did not regret the time spent in talking with
this observing youngster.

"I don't know his right name. They called him Billy the Red, over to the
saloon."

Mr. Barnes started. This was a clue indeed. This was a well-known
criminal whom she had named; one who had earned his sobriquet by killing
two men in a barroom fight, when he had been one of the celebrated Whyo
gang. If Morgan consorted with such as he, there could be little doubt
as to his social status.

"You say Billy the Red was one of Morgan's pals. Did he have any others
that you know of?" Mr. Barnes continued.

"Well, he used to be with him most till he went up, but lately he's been
travellin' with Tommy White."

"Where can I find him; do you know?"

"Better look him up on the Island, too, I guess. He ain't been round
here for quite some days."

"Perhaps he does not come because Morgan is away?"

"Oh, no, that can't be, 'cause he stopped showin' up before Morgan left.
The neighbors was beginnin' to wonder and talk, just 'bout the time
Morgan skipped. You see, Tommy White he lived right next door, in the
next flat, him and Nellie."

"Ah, he had a wife?"

"I don't know about that. She was his girl anyway, though some thought
Morgan was sweet on her too."

Mr. Barnes thought the fog was lifting.

"Where is this Nellie now?"

"You can search me! She's gone too. The hull three has skipped out."

"What, all three at the same time?"

"No, that's the funny part of it. That's what makes folks talk. You see,
we didn't see nothin' of Tommy White for two or three days, but Nellie
she was round all right. But when Morgan he cut it, Nellie she lit out
too."

"Let me get this right, my girl. And mind you make no mistake, for this
is important."

"I ain't makin' no mistakes, mister. I'm givin' it to you dead right,
and that's more 'n you'd get out of anybody else in this castle. But
I've got my reasons, and," this she added with a sly wink, "you ain't
fooled me any, you know. You're a detective, that's what you are."

"What makes you think so?"

"Oh, there ain't much to guess. People dressed like you don't come to a
place like this and nose into another man's rooms just for amusement.
Not much they don't. It's business with you."

"Well, never mind that. Tell me, are you sure that White disappeared
first, and that the girl was here afterwards, but that she has not been
seen since Morgan went away?"

"That's right. You got it straight the first time. Now what do you make
of it? I know my own opinion."

"Suppose you tell me your opinion first," said Mr. Barnes, anxious to
hear her answer.

"Well," said the girl, "it's very simple, what I think. I think Tommy's
been done for."

"Done for?" Mr. Barnes comprehended her meaning but preferred to have
her speak more plainly.

"Yes, done for, that's what I said. They've put him out of the way,
those two. And if that's right, it's a shame, 'cause Tommy was a good
fellow. It was him took me to the theatre, that time when I seen the
Mikado."

Evidently this one visit to a theatre had been an event in her weary
little life, and the man who had given her that bit of pleasure and had
afforded her that one glimpse of what she would have described as the
"dressed-up folks," had by that act endeared himself to her childish
heart. If he had been injured, her little soul longed for vengeance, and
she was ready to be the instrument which might lead Justice to her
victim.

Mr. Barnes began to believe that the solution of this mystery was near
at hand. He left the building, thanking the child for what she had told
him, and promising to find out what had become of her friend Tommy
White. Crossing the street he entered the saloon where the girl had told
him that Morgan had been in the habit of buying his daily pint of beer.
By talking with the bartender he hoped to elicit further information.

The gentlemanly dispenser of liquid refreshment, whose constant boast
was that he knew how to manufacture over three hundred different mixed
drinks without using any intoxicant, stood beside the mahogany counter,
polishing up the glasses, which he piled in an imposing pyramid on the
shelf at the back, where the display was made doubly attractive by the
plate mirror behind. His hair was scrupulously brushed and his short
white coat was immaculately clean. Fortunately there was no one else in
the place, so that the detective was afforded a good opportunity for
free conversation. He asked for a Manhattan cocktail, and admired the
dexterity with which the man prepared the drink. Raising it to his lips
and tasting it as a connoisseur might, Mr. Barnes said:

"Could not be better at the Waldorf."

"Oh, I don't know," said the fellow, deprecatingly, but pleased at the
implied compliment.

"Your face is very familiar to me," said Mr. Barnes; "have you ever met
me before?"

"Never in my life," said the bartender, without the slightest change of
expression.

"That's odd," said Mr. Barnes, pursuing the point with a purpose; "I am
pretty good at faces. I seldom forget one, and just as seldom make a
mistake. I would almost swear I have seen you before."

"I was tending bar at the Astor House for two years. Perhaps you saw me
there," suggested the man.

"Ah, that is it," said Mr. Barnes, pretending to accept this
explanation; "I often take my luncheon there. By the way, I suppose you
are pretty well acquainted around the neighborhood?"

"Oh, I know a few people," said the man, cautiously.

"You know Tommy White, of course?"

"Do I?"

"Don't you?"

"I might, without knowing his name. Our customers don't all leave their
cards when they buy a drink. I don't know your name, for instance."

"Yes, but I do not live in the neighborhood. White must come here
often."

"Well, he hasn't been in lately," said the bartender, and then stopped
short as he noted the slip that he had made. The detective did not
choose to appear to notice it, but asked:

"That is the point. Isn't it odd that he should have disappeared?"

"Oh, I don't know. A man can go out of town if he wants to, I guess."

"Do you know that White went out of town?"

"No."

"Have you seen Tommy White since Jerry Morgan skipped?"

"See here! what the devil are you asking me all these questions for? Who
are you, anyway, and what are you after?"

"I am Jack Barnes, detective, but I'm not after you, Joe Allen, alias
Fred Martin, alias Jimmy Smith, alias Bowery Bill, alias the Plug."

This sally left the man stolidly unmoved, but it affected his attitude
towards his questioner, nevertheless, as he sullenly answered:

"There's nothing you can get against me, so I don't scare even if you
know me. If you don't want me, what do you want?"

"Look here, Joe," said Mr. Barnes, in friendly, confidential tones, "a
bluff does not go with me, and you know it never did. Now why did you
not acknowledge that you knew me when I first came in?"

"What's the use of courtin' trouble? I wasn't sure you'd remember my
face. It's quite a time since we met."

"True. It is five years since that Bond Street affair, and you got three
years for that, if I remember rightly."

"Well, I served my time, didn't I? So that's ended, ain't it?"

"Yes. But what about that little business of the postage-stamp robbery
out in Trenton?"

"Why, I didn't have no hand in that."

"Well, two of your pals did, and when they were caught and sent up they
were square enough not to peach on you. The Mulberry Street crowd did
not know how thick you were with those boys, or you might have got into
trouble. But I knew, and you know that I knew."

"Well, what if you did? I tell you I wasn't in that."

"You would not like to be obliged to prove where you were that night,
would you?"

"Oh, I suppose it's always hard to prove I was one place, when fellows
like you go on the stand and swear I was somewhere else. So, as I said
before, what's the use of courtin' trouble?"

"Now you are sensible, and as I said, I am not after you. All I want is
some information. Give me another cocktail, and have one yourself."

"Thanks, I will. Go ahead with your catechism; I'll answer so long as
you don't try to make me squeal on any of my friends. I'd go up before
I'd do that. And you know that."

"That's all right. I know you're square, and that is why I feel sure you
would not be mixed up in a murder."

"Murder?"

This time the fellow was frightened. How could he be sure that this
detective was not trying to entrap him? How could he know positively
that he had not been accused by some pal who wished to shift
responsibility from himself to another? This is the Damocles sword that
ever hangs over the head of the wrong-doer. His most chosen companions
may either tell of what he has done, or accuse him of crime which he has
not committed.

"I am afraid so. But what are you worrying over? Did I not tell you that
you are not in it? Listen to me, Joe. This Jerry Morgan has skipped out
of town, and it looks as though he took Tommy White's girl Nellie with
him. Now, where is Tommy White?"

"I don't know a thing. I swear I don't."

"Yes, you do. You do not know what has become of him, but you know
something. Morgan isn't any pal of yours, is he?"

"No."

"Very well. Then why not tell me what you know? If he has done anything
to White, he ought not to go free, ought he? You do not stand in with
murder, do you?"

"No, I don't. But how do I know there's been any murder?"

"You don't know it, but since I suggested it to you, you think so. I see
that in your face. Now, what do you know?"

"Well, I don't know much, but what I know I don't want used to make
another fellow go to the chair."

"That is no affair of yours. You are not responsible for what the law
does. Come, I have no more time to waste. Tell me what you know, or say
right out that you will not. Then I will know what to do."

The implied threat decided the man, and without further attempt at
evasion he said:

"Well, I suppose there ain't any use my runnin' any risk for a man
that's nothin' to me. It's this way: Morgan's an old-time crook--I
suppose you know that?" Mr. Barnes nodded, although this was news to
him. Allen continued: "He's been at it since he was a kid. Was in the
reformatory, and learned more there about crooked work in a year than he
would have picked up in ten outside. He's never done time, though, since
he graduated from that institution. Learned enough, I guess, to keep
out of sight of your crowd. Two years ago he moved into this
neighborhood and since then I've seen him in here a good deal. He took
up with Tommy White--a young fellow that would have lived straight only
he was in bad company, and was railroaded with a gang for a job he
really had no hand in. That settled him. When he came out of Sing Sing
he wasn't likely to go for a straight job at a dollar a day, when he
could lay around idle and pick up a good thing every now and then that
would keep him going. I guess he and Morgan done a good many jobs
together; anyway, they never was short of money. One thing was funny
about those two--nobody ever seen them in the daytime. They used to say
they was 'workin',' but that didn't go with the crowd that hangs out
here. Neither Morgan nor White would work if they could help it. They
was just like brothers, those two, till White took up with this girl
Nellie. I think Morgan was jealous of his luck from the first, 'cause
the girl is a peach. One of your real blondes, without no bleachin'
stuff. She's got a skin like velvet, and hands and feet like a lady.
White soon found out that his pal was sweet on the girl, and many a time
they've rowed over her. Finally, about two weeks ago the two of them was
in here, and they was drinkin' pretty hard and just ready for a scrap,
when the girl comes in. Morgan goes up to her and puts his arm round her
and kisses her plump. White was mad in a minute, but he turned on her
instead of him and he says, says he: 'Nellie, I want you to hammer that
duffer over the head for doin' that,' and he picks up a beer glass and
hands it to her. Nellie she takes the glass, and she says: 'I've heard
of a kiss for a blow,' she says, 'but a blow for a kiss is a new one on
me. It ain't that way in the Bible, Tommy, so I guess if you want any
hammerin' done, you'd better do it yourself. I'm thinkin' of joinin' the
Salvation Army, you know.' This made Morgan and the crowd laugh, and
White got fierce. He snatched the glass out of Nellie's hand and made
for Morgan. But Morgan he ducks and lets White go by him, and he picks
up a beer glass too; then when White came for him again he landed a
terrible blow with the glass right back of White's ear. Tommy went down
in a heap and lay on the ground quiverin'. The whole thing happened so
quick nobody could interfere. Morgan got sober in a second, I tell you,
and he was scared. Everybody crowded round, and the girl she was a
wonder. You'd think bein' a woman she'd cry and make a fuss? Not a bit
of it. She got some ice and put it on White's head, and threw water in
his face, and she puts her ear down to his heart, and then she looks up
after a bit, and she says, as cool as could be: 'Boys, he's only
stunned. He'll come round all right. Some of you help get him home, and
I'll look after him. He'll sleep off his liquor and he won't know what
hurt him when he wakes in the mornin'.' Well, Morgan and the others they
did what she said. They took White up and carted him over to his flat,
and put him to bed. My! but he was limp, and his face was that blue it's
been before me ever since."

"Did White get over that blow?"

"That's the point. Nellie and Morgan said he did; that he was a bit sore
next day and had a headache. That was likely enough. But when you talked
about murder a while ago, I admit I got scared, cause White's never been
seen since that night."

"You are sure of that?"

"Dead sure. Nellie said he was gone out of town, and the boys swallowed
the story. But when both Morgan and Nellie skipped it looked bad, and
folks began to talk. As for me, I've been nervous for days. Why, when
that body was picked out of the river I just couldn't keep away from the
Morgue. I just had to have a peep at it. I was sure it would be White,
and that Morgan had pitched him over. My, but wasn't I glad to see it
was another man!"

Assuring Allen that his story would not be used in any way that would
bring him into conflict with the authorities, Mr. Barnes left the saloon
and went to his office, feeling that at last this problem had been
solved. Evidently White had died of his wound, and when Morgan learned
that the coffin of Mr. Quadrant was not to be opened before it was
consigned to the crematory, he had conceived one of the most ingenious
schemes ever devised for disposing of a murdered body. By placing White
in the coffin and allowing his body to be incinerated, all traces of
his crime would seem to have been obliterated. To accomplish this it was
necessary to have the use of the undertaker's wagon, and this he had
managed by drugging the watchman, as well as Mark Quadrant. The transfer
made, he was still left with the other body, and his disposition of that
was the most ingenious part of the plan. By throwing the corpse of Rufus
Quadrant into the water he apparently took little risk. It could not be
recognized as White of course, and if correctly identified a mystery
would be created that ought to baffle the detectives, however clever
they might be. Mr. Barnes felt that he had been fortunate, to learn so
much from such unpromising clues.

At his office he found a telegram and a letter, both bearing on the
case. The telegram was from Mr. Burrows, and informed him that Morgan
had been captured in Chicago, and would be in New York on the following
day. This was more than gratifying, and Mr. Barnes mentally praised the
young detective. The letter was from Mr. Mitchel, and read:

    "FRIEND BARNES:

    "At last I have fathomed the Quadrant mystery. Will drop in
    on you about noon to-morrow and tell you how the affair was
    managed. You will be surprised, I am sure.

                                                      "MITCHEL."

"Will I?" said Mr. Barnes to himself.


                                   X

Mr. Burrows arrived at the offices of Mr. Barnes about eleven o'clock on
the following morning, which much pleased the older detective, who
wished to have his case complete before the arrival of Mr. Mitchel.

"Well, Tom," said Mr. Barnes, cordially, "so you have caught your man
and brought him back?"

"Did I not promise you that I would?" replied Mr. Burrows.

"Yes, but even a cleverer man than yourself cannot always hope to keep
such a promise. Do you know that this fellow, Morgan, is a professional
crook who has never been caught at his work before?"

"So he has told me," said Mr. Burrows, modestly refraining from any
boastfulness.

"He told you the truth in that instance, and I trust you have also
succeeded in getting a confession from him as to his connection with
this Quadrant matter?"

"He has pretended to make a clean breast of it, but of course we must
verify his story. One cannot place too much faith in the confessions of
a crook."

"Does he admit that he took the rings?"

"Yes, it seems you were right there."

"Does he explain how and why he took the body from the coffin?"

"On the contrary, he denies having done so."

"Then he lies," said Mr. Barnes. "I have not been idle since you went
away, but my tale will keep. Let me hear first what Morgan's alleged
confession amounts to."

"He admits that he stole the rings. He has a duplicate of that
screw-driver of which old Berial is so fond of bragging, and when he was
left alone with the body, he opened the coffin and took the rings, and,
in keeping with his limited standard of morals, he offers a rather
ingenious excuse for his act."

"I should like to hear a good excuse for robbing the dead."

"That is his point exactly. He says that as the dead cannot own
property, the dead cannot be robbed. As the family had declared that the
coffin was not to be opened again, Morgan says he considered the rings
as practically consigned to the furnace, and then he asks, 'What was the
use of seeing stuff like that burned up, when it was good money to me?'
It is a nice point, Mr. Barnes. If the owner elects to throw away or
destroy his property, can we blame a man for appropriating the same?"

"We may not be able to blame him, but we certainly have the power to
punish him. The law will not accept such sophistry as palliation for
crime. What else does the fellow admit?"

"The rest of his tale is quite interesting, and I think would surprise
you, unless, indeed, you have discovered the truth yourself."

"I think I could make a shrewd guess," said Mr. Barnes.

"Well, I wish you would tell me your story first. You see, after all, I
am the legally employed investigator of this matter, and I should like
to hear your story before telling mine, that I may be absolutely certain
that your results have been arrived at by a different line of work,
though of course you understand that I do not for a moment imagine that
you would intentionally color your story after hearing mine."

"I understand you perfectly, Tom," said Mr. Barnes, kindly, "and I am
not at all offended. You are right to wish to have the two stories
independently brought before your reasoning faculties. Morgan tells you
that he stole the rings in the afternoon. Perhaps he did, and perhaps he
took them later. It does not now seem to be material. The subsequent
facts, as I deduce them from the evidence, are as follows: Morgan had a
pal, who was sweet on a girl called Nellie. By the way, did you get any
trace of her?"

"She was with Morgan when I found him and she has come back with us."

"Good. Very good, It seems that Morgan also admired the girl, and that
finally he and his pal had a saloon fight over her, during which Morgan
struck the other man with a beer glass. This man fell to the floor
unconscious, and was taken to his home in that condition. He has not
been seen in the neighborhood since. Now we come to another series of
events. Morgan admits taking the rings. Suppose we accept his story. He
then left the house and drove the wagon back to the shop. Randal took
it from there to the stables, but later in the evening Morgan visited
the stables and induced the night watchman to take a drink. That drink
was drugged, and the drug was morphine. The watchman slept soundly, and
there is little doubt that while thus unconscious Morgan took the
undertaker's wagon out of the stable on some errand. There is an
interesting series of links in this chain which convicts Morgan of using
morphine to accomplish his purpose. First, it is nearly certain that the
watchman was drugged; second, a witness will testify that he found Mr.
Mark Quadrant sound asleep, when he was supposed to be watching the
coffin; third, I have taken from the pocket of a vest found in Morgan's
rooms a powder which a chemist declares is morphine. Is not that fairly
good evidence?"

"It is good evidence, Mr. Barnes, but it does not prove that Morgan took
that body from the coffin."

"What, then, does it show?"

"It makes him an accomplice at least. He undoubtedly drugged the
watchman and took the wagon out of the stables, but beyond that you can
prove nothing. You have not offered any motive that would actuate him in
stealing the body."

"The motive is quite sufficient, I assure you. His pal, whom he struck
down with the beer glass, and who has not been seen by his neighbors
since that night, must have died from the blow. It was his body that was
cremated."

Mr. Burrows shook his head, and seemed sorry to upset the calculations
of his old friend.

"I am afraid you cannot prove that," said he. "Tell me, what was the
name of this pal? Have you learned that?"

"Yes; Tommy White."

"Do you know him by any other name?"

"No; but as he is unquestionably a crook he probably has a dozen
aliases."

"One will suffice at present. Tommy White is none other than your
disinterested informant, Jack Randal."

"What!" exclaimed Mr. Barnes, recognizing instantly that if this were
true his whole edifice tumbled to the ground.

"Yes. I think that Morgan has told me a clean-cut story, though, as I
said before, we must verify it. You see, he is a crook and ready to
acquire other people's property, but I think he has a wholesome dread of
the electric chair that will keep him out of murder. He was at one time
a pal of Billy the Red, now in Sing Sing. After that fellow was put away
he took up with Tommy White, alias Jack Randal. Randal, it seems,
induced Morgan to join him in his nefarious schemes. The undertaker has
told you, perhaps, as he has told me, that he invented his patent coffin
because of numerous grave robberies that had occurred in one of the
cemeteries. He little suspected that the robbers were his two
assistants. These fellows would steal from the dead, while preparing the
bodies for burial, if it seemed safe, as, for example, was the case with
Mr. Quadrant, where it was known that the coffin was not again to be
opened. In other cases they would visit the grave together. Sometimes
they merely appropriated what jewelry there might be, but in not a few
instances they stole the bodies as well, disposing of them to medical
students."

"What a diabolical partnership!"

"Yes, indeed. Now, coming to the saloon fight, you are correct enough
except as to the results. White, or Randal, was unconscious during the
greater part of the night, and in the morning had but a dim recollection
of what had occurred. He understood, however, that his injury had been
the result of a fight with Morgan, and also that the girl Nellie had
'thrown him over,' to adopt the vernacular. He therefore left the
neighborhood, and though the two men continued to work for Berial, they
did not resume their friendship. White evidently was nursing his
grievances, and only awaited an opportunity to make trouble for his old
pal Morgan. This he hoped to accomplish by the information which he gave
to you."

"You will hardly expect me to believe that Morgan gave up his position
and left town without some better reason than a mere quarrel with his
pal, and a petty theft?"

"Morgan did not give up his position, nor did he leave town of his own
volition. He was sent away."

"Sent away? By whom?"

"By the principal in this case. I told you from the first that there
were two in it. He has admitted to me what I did not know, but what I
believe now because you tell me the same story. He confesses that he
drugged the watchman at the stables and then drove the wagon away. But
he denies that he either took Quadrant's body from the coffin, or indeed
that he drove the wagon to the Quadrant house. In fact, he says he was
paid to get the wagon unknown to the watchman, and that he was furnished
with the powders with which he was to drug the man."

"Am I to understand that one of the dead man's brothers hired Morgan to
do this?"

Mr. Barnes was thinking of his conversation with Amos Quadrant, during
which that gentleman had suggested that an undertaker's wagon might
approach the house at any hour without attracting attention. He was
consequently astonished by the younger detective's reply.

"No," said Mr. Burrows; "he does not implicate either of the Quadrants.
He declares that it was old Berial who hired him to do his part of the
job."


                                   XI

New possibilities crowded into the thoughts of Mr. Barnes as he heard
this unexpected statement. Berial hired Morgan to procure the wagon! Did
it follow, then, that Berial was the principal, or was he in turn but
the tool of another? Amos Quadrant had confessed that secretly it had
not been his wish to have his brother cremated. Yet his was the
authority which had engaged the undertaker and directed the funeral. Had
he chosen to avoid the cremation without permitting the widow to know
that his will accomplished her wish, how easy for him to engage the
undertaker to carry out his purpose, oddly planned as it was! How
readily might the poor undertaker have been bribed by this wealthy man
to take the risk! After all, if this were the explanation, wherein lay
the crime? By what name would it be designated in the office of the
district attorney? Yet, even now, when all seemed known, two unexplained
facts stood out prominently. How was it that the foot of the deceased
Quadrant showed no scar? And what of the assertion made by Mr. Mitchel
that a human body had been cremated? Could it be that Berial, taking
advantage of the opportunity offered by his employer, had secretly
disposed of some other body, while merely supposed to have removed Rufus
Quadrant from his coffin? If so, whose body was it that had been
cremated, and how could identification be looked for among the ashes in
the urn at the cemetery? Mr. Barnes was chagrined to find such questions
in his mind with no answer, when Mr. Mitchel might arrive with his
promised surprise at any moment. Perhaps Morgan was lying when he
accused the undertaker.

"Have you been able yet," asked Mr. Barnes, "to verify any part of this
man's story?"

"Well, we only arrived at six this morning, but I may say yes, I have
found some corroborative evidence."

"What?"

"I have the shroud in which Rufus Quadrant was dressed in his coffin."

"That is important. Where did you find it?"

"In quite a suggestive place. It was locked up in old Berial's private
closet at the shop, which we searched this morning."

"That certainly is significant. But even so, Tom, how do we know that
this Morgan, who robs the dead and has duplicate screw-drivers for
opening patented coffin fastenings, would hesitate to place a shroud
where it would seem to substantiate his accusation of another?"

"We do not know positively, of course. We have not fully solved this
mystery yet, Mr. Barnes."

"I fear not, Tom," said Mr. Barnes, glancing at the clock as he heard a
voice asking for him in the adjoining office; "but here comes a man who
claims that he has done so."

Mr. Mitchel entered and saluted the two men cordially, after receiving
an introduction to the younger.

"Well, Mr. Barnes," said Mr. Mitchel, "shall I surprise you with my
story, or have you two gentlemen worked it all out?"

"I do not know whether you will surprise us or not," said Mr. Barnes.
"We do not claim to have fully solved this mystery; that much we will
admit at once. But we have done a great deal of work, and have learned
facts which must in the end lead to the truth."

"Ah, I see. You know some things, but not all. The most important fact,
of course, would be the identity of the body which is the centre of this
mystery. Do you know that much?"

"I have no doubt that it has been correctly identified," said Mr.
Barnes, boldly, though not as confident as he pretended. "It was the
corpse of Rufus Quadrant, of course."

"You are speaking of the body at the Morgue?"

"Certainly. What other?"

"I alluded to the body which was cremated," said Mr. Mitchel quietly.

"It has not been proven that any body was cremated," replied Mr. Barnes.

"Has it not? I think it has."

"Ah, you know that? Well, tell us. Who was the man?"

"The man in the coffin, do you mean?"

"Yes. The man who was cremated in place of Mr. Quadrant."

"Have you any suspicion?"

"I did have until an hour ago. I supposed that the criminal who managed
this affair had thus disposed of the remains of a pal whom he had killed
in a saloon row--a man called Tommy White."

"No, that is wrong. The body cremated was the corpse of a woman."

"Of a woman!" exclaimed both detectives in concert.

"Yes, gentlemen," said Mr. Mitchel, "it was a woman's body that was
placed in the furnace. I think, Mr. Barnes, that I suggested such a
possibility to you on the day when you first called my attention to this
affair?"

"Yes. You said it might be a woman as well as a man. But that was merely
a caution against hastily deciding as to the sex of the victim,
supposing that a murder had been committed and the criminal had thus
proceeded to hide his crime. But subsequent investigations have not
brought to us even a suspicion that any woman has been foully dealt
with, who could have been placed in the coffin by any who had the
opportunity."

"Which only proves," said Mr. Mitchel, "that as usual you detectives
have worked in routine fashion, and consequently, by beginning at the
wrong end, you have not reached the goal. Now I have reached the goal,
and I venture the belief that I have not done one half of the work that
either of you have been compelled to bestow upon your investigations."

"We cannot all be as intellectually brilliant as yourself," said Mr.
Barnes testily.

"Come, come, Mr. Barnes. No offense meant, I assure you. I am only
upholding the argument, which I have advanced previously, that the very
routine which gentlemen of your calling feel bound to follow often
hampers if it does not hinder your work. I am merely a tyro, but not
being professionally engaged on this case I was perhaps freer to see
things with eyes unblinded by traditional methods of work. It is just as
the onlooker often sees an opportunity to win, which the men playing a
game of chess overlook. The player has his mind upon many combinations
and sees much that the onlooker does not see. So here. You and Mr.
Burrows have probably discovered many things that I do not even suspect,
but it has been my luck to get at the truth. If you care to hear it, I
will describe in detail how I worked out the problem."

"Of course we wish to hear the truth," said Mr. Barnes reluctantly;
"that is, if indeed you have learned what it is."

"Very good. As I have said, hampered by the seeming necessity of
following your investigations along customary lines, you probably began
with the body at the Morgue. I pursued the opposite course. The case
seemed so unique that I was convinced that the motive would prove to be
equally uncommon. If the body at the Morgue were really that of Mr.
Quadrant, as seemed probable from the identifications by the family and
the doctor, I was sure that it had been taken from the coffin to make
room for the corpse of another. No other motive occurred to my mind
which appeared to be adequate. Consequently I thought that the first
essential in unravelling the mystery would be the establishment of the
fact that a human body had been cremated, and then, if possible, to
discover the identity of that body."

"In other words, to identify the ashes of a cremated body," interjected
Mr. Barnes, with a slight sneer.

"Just so. That in itself was a problem so novel that it attracted my
interest. It is usually considered that cremation has the objectionable
feature that it offers a means of hiding the crime of murder. This idea
has contributed not a little to thwart those who have endeavored to make
this means of disposing of the dead popular. Would it not be an
achievement to prove that incineration is not necessarily a barrier
against identification?"

"I should say so," said Mr. Barnes.

"So thought I, and that was the task which I set myself. I visited the
chief of the detective bureau, and soon interested him in my theories.
He even permitted me to be present at the examination of the ashes,
which was undertaken at my suggestion, an expert chemist and his
assistant going with us. At the cemetery the urn was brought forth and
its contents spread out on a clean marble slab. It was not difficult to
discern that a human being had been cremated."

"Why was it not difficult?"

"When one hears of the ashes of the dead, perhaps it is not unnatural to
think of these human ashes as similar to cigar ashes, or the ashes of a
wood fire. Where complete combustion occurs the residue is but an
impalpable powder. But this is not commonly the result in the cremation
of the dead, or at least it does not invariably occur. It did not in
this instance, and that is the main point for us. On the contrary, some
of the bones, and parts of others, sufficiently retained their form to
be readily distinguishable as having come from the human skeleton."

"As I have never examined a cremated body," said Mr. Barnes, "I must
admit that your statement surprises me. I had supposed that all parts of
the body would be brought to a similar state. But even if what you say
is true, and granting that from pieces of charred bone it could be
demonstrated that a human being had been burned, still I would like you
to explain how you could differentiate between man and woman."

"Perhaps it would be difficult, or even impossible, judging from the
charred bits of skeleton alone. But if we remember that a woman's garb
is different from the dress of a man, we might find a clue. For example,
if you saw what could unmistakably be recognized as parts of corset
steels, what would you think?"

"Of course the deduction would be that the body had been that of a
woman, but I should think it an odd circumstance to find that a body
prepared for burial had been corseted."

"The same thought occurred to me, and from it I drew an important
deduction, since substantiated by facts. I concluded from the corset
steels that the body had not been prepared for burial."

"I follow you," said Mr. Barnes, now thoroughly interested in Mr.
Mitchel's analytical method. "You mean that this woman was placed in the
coffin clothed as she had died?"

"Practically so, but I did not decide that she had necessarily died
clothed as she was when placed in the coffin. My conclusion was that it
must have been as essential to dispose of the clothing as of the body.
Thus the clothing would have been placed in the coffin with her, even
though perhaps not on her."

"A good point! A good point!" nodded the detective, approvingly.

"So, you see, the ashes of the dead had already revealed two clues. We
knew that a human being had been cremated, and we could feel reasonably
sure, though not absolutely positive, that it had been a woman. Next,
the question arose as to the identity. If cremation would hide that,
then the criminal might hope to escape justice by this means."

"It seems incredible that the ashes could be identified, unless indeed
some object, provably connected with a certain person, and which would
resist fire, had been placed in the coffin."

"No, that would not satisfy me. A false identification could thus be
planned by your thoughtful murderer. What I sought was some means of
identifying the actual remains of a cremated body. I have succeeded."

"You have succeeded?"

"Yes. I had a theory which has proven to be a good one. If some of the
bones of the body resist cremation, or at least retain their form though
calcined, it should follow that the teeth, being the most resistant
bones, and, moreover, protected by being imbedded in other bones, might
well be expected to remain intact. If not all, at least a sufficient
number of them might be found to serve the ends of justice."

"Even if you could find the teeth with shape undisturbed, I fail to see
how you could identify the remains by them."

"The method is as reliable as it is unique. In these days of advanced
dentistry, the people of this country have been educated up to such an
appreciation of their dental organs that, from the highest to the
lowliest, we find the people habitually saving their teeth by having
them filled. I knew by personal experience that it is a common practice
among dentists to register in a book of record all work done for a
patient. In these records they have blank charts of the teeth, and on
the diagram of each tooth, as it is filled, they mark in ink the size
and position of the filling inserted. Now while the teeth themselves
might resist the heat of the furnace, retaining their shapes, we would
not expect the fillings, whether of gold or other material, to do so.
Thus, I expected to find the teeth with cavities in them. I did find
fourteen of the teeth fairly whole, sufficiently so that we might
identify them, and know what position in the mouth they had occupied. No
less than ten of these teeth had cavities, which, from the regularity of
their outline, it was fair to assume had been filled. These I took to my
dentist for an opinion. He was at once interested, because it seems
that members of the dental profession have long urged upon the police
the reliance that may be placed upon the dentist in identifying living
criminals or unknown dead bodies. He examined the charred teeth, and
taking a blank chart of the mouth, he plotted out the size and positions
of the fillings which once had been present. Another very interesting
point was that we found two teeth, known as the central incisor and the
cuspid (the latter commonly called the eye-tooth), united together by a
staple of platinum. This staple had of course resisted the heat because
platinum melts at so high a temperature. My dentist pointed out to me
that this staple had been a foundation for what he called a bridge. One
end of the staple had been forced into the root of one tooth, the other
end passing similarly into the other. Thus the space was spanned, and an
artificial tooth had been attached to the bar, thus filling the space.
He also pointed out that the bar was covered with a mass which was
evidently the porcelain of the tooth which had melted in the furnace."

"This is very interesting," said Mr. Barnes, "but unless you could find
the man who did that work, you still could not identify the person
cremated."

"My dentist, as I have said, made out for me a chart of the person's
mouth, which you may examine. You will see that it is quite specific.
With that number of fillings, occupying definite positions in special
teeth, and coupled with the presence of the tooth bridged in and the
manner of making the bridge, it would be an unexampled coincidence to
find that two persons had obtained exactly similar dental services.
Would it not?"

[Illustration: Missing teeth marked with X--Of 14 teeth examined 10
contain cavities--16 in all.--Central incisor and cuspid united with
platinum bar, originally held by fillings.--Remains of porcelain
material fused on the bar.

CHART FURNISHED BY MR. MITCHEL'S DENTIST.]

"That is sound reasoning," said Mr. Barnes.

"Very well. I had a statement published in the four leading dental
magazines, accompanied by a _facsimile_ of the chart made by my dentist,
and I solicited correspondence with any dentist who could show a similar
chart in his records."

"That was a good method, provided, of course, the dentist who did the
work subscribed to one of these magazines."

"Of course the advertisement might not meet the eye of the dentist who
treated the dead woman, but even though he were not a subscriber he
might hear of this matter through some acquaintance, because, as I have
said, this subject of identification through dental work is one that
widely interests the dentists. However, success rewarded us. I received
a letter from a dentist in one of the New Jersey towns, stating that he
believed he could match my chart. I lost no time in visiting him, and,
after examining his book, was satisfied that the person who had been
cremated that day was an elderly, eccentric woman, named Miss Lederle,
Miss Martha Lederle."

"Mr. Mitchel, you have done a remarkably clever bit of work, and though
you have succeeded where I have failed, I must congratulate you. But
tell me, after learning the name of the woman how did you trace her to
this city?"

"I deserve no credit for that. It seems that Miss Lederle had long had
a little fleshy tumor on the inside of her cheek, which had had an
opportunity to grow because of the loss of a tooth. Her dentist often
advised her to have it removed, lest it might become cancerous. She put
it off from time to time, but recently it had grown more rapidly, and at
last she called on the dentist and asked him to recommend a surgeon. He
tells me that he gave her the names of three, one residing in Newark,
and two in this city. Of the New York men, one was Dr. Mortimer."

"By Jove! Doctor Mortimer!" exclaimed Mr. Barnes. "I begin to see
daylight. It was he who supplied the morphine powders, then?"

"Ah, then you know so much? Yes, Dr. Mortimer instigated the transfer of
bodies. As soon as I charged him with murder, he thought it safest to
tell me the truth and throw himself upon my mercy."

"Upon your mercy?" said Mr. Barnes, mystified.

"Yes; the man has not committed a crime, at least not the crime of
murder. It seems that on the afternoon of the day before that fixed for
the funeral of Mr. Quadrant, this Miss Lederle called at his office and
requested him to remove the tumor from her cheek. He consented, and
suggested the use of cocaine to deaden the parts. The woman insisted
that she must have chloroform, and the doctor explained that in the
absence of his assistant he would not care to undertake the
administration of an anæsthetic. But the woman was persistent; she
offered a liberal fee if the operation could be done immediately, since
it had required so much time for her to bring her courage to the point
of having the tumor removed; then the operation itself seemed so simple
that at last the surgeon was overruled, and proceeded. He did cause the
patient to remove her corset, and, her garments thoroughly loosened, she
was placed on the operating-table. He says he administered very little
chloroform, and had not yet attempted to operate when the patient
exhibited dangerous symptoms. In spite of his most untiring efforts she
succumbed, and he found himself in the dreadful position of having a
patient die under an operation, with no witnesses present. He closed and
locked his office and walked from the house in great mental agitation.
He called at the Quadrants', and heard there that the coffin would not
again be opened. Then a great temptation came to him. The woman had not
given him her address, nor had she stated who had sent her to Dr.
Mortimer, merely declaring that she knew him by reputation. There was no
way to communicate with the woman's relatives except by making the
affair public. He recalled that a similar accident to an old surgeon of
long-established reputation, where several assistants had been present,
had nevertheless ruined the man's practice. He himself was innocent of
wrong-doing, except, perhaps, that the law forbade him to operate alone,
and he saw ruin staring him in the face, just at a time, too, when great
prosperity had appeared to be within his grasp. The undertaker, Berial,
was an old acquaintance, indebted to him for many recommendations.

"The plan seemed more and more feasible as he thought of it, and finally
he sought out Berial, and confided to him his secret. For a liberal fee
the undertaker agreed to dispose of the body. Dr. Mortimer supplied him
with a drug with which to overcome the watchman at the stables, so that
the wagon could be taken out unknown. He himself visited the Quadrant
house, and, under the plea of relieving Mark Quadrant of a headache,
gave him also a dose of morphine. At the appointed time Berial arrived
at the doctor's office and took away the woman's body, first replacing
the corset, which, of course, they were bound to dispose of. Together
they went to the Quadrants', and there exchanged the bodies. Subsequent
events are known to you. Thus the truth has arisen, Phoenix-like, from
the ashes of the dead. The question remaining is, what claim has Justice
upon the doctor? Gentlemen, is it needful to disgrace that man, who
really is a victim of circumstances rather than a wrong-doer? He tells
me, Mr. Barnes, that he has not had a moment of mental rest since you
asked him whether ashes could be proven to be the residue of a human
body."

"I recall now that he started violently when I spoke to him. Perhaps,
had I been more shrewd, I might have suspected the truth then. The
difficulty of hushing this matter up, Mr. Mitchel, seems to be the
friends and relatives of the dead woman. How can they be appeased?"

"I will undertake that. I think the real estate which she leaves behind
will satisfy the one relative. I have already communicated with this
man, a hard, money-grubbing old skinflint, and I think that with the
assistance of Mr. Berial we can have one more funeral that will satisfy
the curiosity of the few neighbors."

And thus the matter was permitted to rest. There was yet one point which
puzzled Mr. Barnes, and which never was made clear to him.

"What of the scar that I could not find on Rufus Quadrant's foot?" he
often asked himself. But as he could not ask either of the brothers, he
never got a reply. Yet the explanation was simple. Mark Quadrant told
Mr. Barnes that his brother had such a scar, his object being to baffle
the detective by suggesting to him a flaw in the identification. The
idea occurred to him because his brother Amos really had such a scarred
foot, and he so worded his remark that he literally told the truth,
though he deceived Mr. Barnes. When the detective repeated this
statement to Amos, he noticed the care with which his brother had
spoken, and, in turn, he truthfully said that his brother had spoken
truthfully.



                                   II

                          THE MISSING LINK


"The object of my visit," began Mr. Barnes, "is of such grave importance
that I approach it with hesitation, and I may even say reluctance. Will
you give me your closest attention?"

"I understood from your note," replied Mr. Mitchel, "that you wished to
consult me in regard to some case which you are investigating. As you
are well aware, I take the keenest interest in the solving of criminal
problems. Therefore proceed. But first let me light a Havana. A good
cigar always aids my perception."

The two men were in the sumptuous library of Mr. Mitchel's new house,
which he had bought for his wife shortly after their marriage. It was
ten in the morning, and Mr. Mitchel, just from his breakfast-room, was
comfortably attired in a smoking-jacket. After lighting his cigar, he
threw himself into a large Turkish chair, rested his head upon the
soft-cushioned back, and extended his slippered feet towards the grate
fire, his legs crossed. As he blew little rings of smoke towards the
detective, he seemed absolutely unsuspicious of the story about to be
told.

Mr. Barnes, on the contrary, appeared ill at ease. He declined a cigar,
and, without removing his overcoat, he leaned his left arm on the low
marble mantel as he stood talking, his right being free for gestures
when he wished to emphasize a point.

After a brief pause he began:

"Whilst I am not officially connected with the regular police, my young
friend Burrows is, and is highly esteemed by the Chief. You will
remember him in connection with the Quadrant case. He called upon me
about noon on last Sunday. The story which he had to tell was the most
remarkable in some respects that I have heard. Briefly, it is as
follows: As you know, it is common practice among speculating builders
to erect a row of houses, finishing them at one end first, so that, not
infrequently, one or two of the row may be sold while the mechanics are
still at work on the other end. In this manner ten houses have been
built in this immediate vicinity."

"In the street just back of me," said Mr. Mitchel.

Mr. Barnes watched him closely at this moment, but he seemed entirely
composed and merely attentive. The detective proceeded.

"It appears that two of these houses have been sold and are already
occupied. The next four are completed, and the sign "For Sale" appears
in the windows. The others are still in the hands of the workmen. The
four which are for sale are in the care of a watchman. They are open for
inspection during the day, but he is supposed to lock all the doors
before going to his home in the evening, and to open them to the public
again on the following day. According to this man, he locked all the
doors of these four houses on Saturday night at six o'clock, and opened
them again at eight on Sunday morning. Between eight and nine he showed
two parties through one of the houses and, after dismissing the last,
was sitting on the stoop reading the morning paper, when he was startled
by hearing a scream. A moment later he saw two women rush out of the
house next to where he sat, and from their actions it was evident that
they were terribly frightened. It was some time before he could get any
lucid explanation from either, and when he did he understood them to
intimate that some one had been murdered in the house. He asked them to
show him to the spot, but they most positively declined. He therefore,
with unusual display of common sense, summoned a policeman, and with him
visited the room indicated by the frightened women, who made no attempt
to run away, though they again refused to go into the house, even with
the officer. What the two men found was horrible enough to account for
the women's actions. In the bathtub lay the body of a woman, the head,
hands, and feet having been cut off and removed."

"I should say that, under these circumstances, identification would be
most difficult," said Mr. Mitchel, "unless, indeed, the clothing might
afford some clue."

"The body was nude," said the detective.

"In that case, you have to deal with a man who has brains."

"Yes; the murderer has adopted just such methods as I imagine you would
pursue, Mr. Mitchel, were you in his predicament."

Mr. Mitchel frowned very slightly, and said:

"You offer me a doubtful compliment, Mr. Barnes. Proceed with your case.
It is interesting, to say the least."

"It grows more so as we proceed, for we have once more an evidence of
the futility of planning a crime which shall leave no clue behind."

"Ah, then you have found a clue?" Mr. Mitchel removed his cigar to
speak, and did not resume his smoking, but seemed more attentive.

"Listen," said the detective. "The policeman immediately notified his
superiors, and by ten o'clock Burrows was at the house, having been
detailed to make an examination. Having done so, and recognizing that he
was face to face with a crime of unusual importance, he hastened to
solicit my assistance, that I might be early upon the scene. I am
satisfied that I reached the house before any material alteration had
been made in any of those small and minute details which are overlooked
by the careless eye, but which speak volumes to one with experience."

"I suppose, then, that you can describe what existed, from your personal
investigation. That is more interesting than a report at second hand."

"I went over the ground thoroughly, as I think you will admit when I
have told you all. Here was one of those wonderful cases where the
criminal exercised extreme caution to obliterate all traces of the
crime. His actions could only be surmised through analytical and
deductive methods. There are some facts which cannot be hidden, and from
these a keen mind may trace backwards. For example, the head and
extremities had been removed, and a minute scrutiny of the remaining
parts might disclose many things."

"Ah, here we note the triumph of mind over matter." There was just a
slight sneer, which nettled the detective.

Mr. Barnes proceeded with some asperity. Indeed, he spoke more like
himself; that is, with less hesitancy, as though heretofore he had found
the story hard to tell, but that now his scruples had vanished.

"An examination of the stumps of the arms proved conclusively that a
sharp knife had been used, for not only had the tendons and vessels been
cleanly severed, but in two places the cartilage capping the ends of the
bone had been shaved off smoothly."

"Come, Mr. Barnes," said Mr. Mitchel, "do not dwell so upon unimportant
details."

"The weapon is always counted as a very important detail," said Mr.
Barnes, sharply.

"Yes, yes, I know," said Mr. Mitchel. "But you are above the ordinary
detective, and you surely perceive that it is a matter of no consequence
whether the knife used was sharp or dull. In either case it could be
hidden or destroyed, so that it could not be found to serve in
evidence."

"Oh, very well," said Mr. Barnes, testily. "I will come to the
deductions concerning the neck. Here there were several points of
interest. Again it was evident that a sharp knife was used, and in this
instance the condition of the edge of the knife becomes important."

"Indeed! How so?"

"The most minute scrutiny of the body disclosed no wound which could
have been the cause of death. Unless poison had been administered, there
are but three ways by which death could have been effected."

"And those are?"

"Suffocation, either by choking or otherwise; drowning, by holding the
head under water in the bathtub; or by some mortal wound inflicted about
the head, either by a blow, the use of a knife, or a pistol shot. I
doubted the pistol, because so careful a man as the assassin evidently
was, would have avoided the noise. A stab with a knife was possible, but
unlikely because of the scream which would surely result. A blow was
improbable, unless the man brought the weapon with him, as the house was
empty, and nothing would accidentally be found at hand. To drown the
woman, it would have been necessary to half fill the tub with water
before thrusting the victim in it, and such an action would have aroused
her suspicion. Besides, the clothes would have been wet, and this would
have interfered with burning them. Thus by exclusion I arrived at the
belief that the woman had been choked to death, a method offering the
least risk, being noiseless and bloodless."

"What has the sharpness of the knife to do with this?"

"It was, in my mind, important to decide whether the head had been
removed before or after death. A dull knife would not have aided me as a
sharp one did. With a sharp knife a severing of the carotid artery
before death would have resulted in a spurting of blood, which would
have stained the walls or floor, so that it would have been difficult,
or impossible, to wash away the telltale marks. But after death, or even
while the victim was unconscious, a cool hand, with a sharp blade, could
cut down upon the artery in such a way that the blood would flow
regularly, and, the body being in the bathtub, and water flowing from
the faucets, no stains would be left."

"Then you think that the woman was choked to death?"

"I have not a doubt of it. There was a terrible struggle, too, though in
an empty house we could find no such signs as would inevitably have been
made in a furnished apartment. But the woman fought for her life and
died hard. This I know because, despite the precaution of the assassin
in removing the head, there are two or three distinct marks on the neck,
made by the ends of his fingers and nails."

"Well, having discovered so much, you are as far as ever from the
identity of the criminal, or of the woman."

"Every point unravelled is so much gain," said Mr. Barnes, evasively.
"My next deduction was more important. Let us picture the scene of the
crime. For causes as yet unknown, this man wished to kill this woman. He
lures her into this empty house, and, choosing a favorable moment,
seizes her by the throat and strangles her to death. To prevent the
identification of the corpse, he decides to remove the head, hands, and
feet, parts which are characteristic. He takes off the clothes and burns
them. We found the ashes in the kitchen stove. He takes the body to the
bathroom, and, placing it in the porcelain tub, turns on the water, and
then proceeds with his diabolical scheme. Even though we suppose that he
first filled the tub with water, the better to avoid stains, when we
remember that he took away the severed parts it is inconceivable that
not a stain of blood, not a smudge of pinkish tint, would be left
anywhere. Granting that he might have endeavored to wash away any such
drippings, still it would be marvellous that not one stain should be
left."

"Yet you found none?" Mr. Mitchel smiled, and resumed his smoking.

"Yet I found none," said Mr. Barnes. "But this was a most significant
fact to me. It led me to a suspicion which I proceeded to verify. The
plumbing in this house is of the most approved pattern. Under the
porcelain bathtub there is a patent trap for the exclusion of
sewer-gas. This is so fashioned that some water always remains.
Supposing that bloody water had passed through it, I should find this
trap partly filled with water tinted in color. I removed the screw,
which enabled me to catch the water from the trap in a bowl. It was
perfectly clear. Not a trace of color."

"From which you deduced?" asked Mr. Mitchel.

"From which I deduced," said the detective, "that the woman had not been
killed, or dismembered, in the house where her body was found. By
examining the other houses and emptying the traps, I found one which
yielded water plainly colored with blood, and I also found a few smudges
about the bathtub; places where blood had splashed and been washed off.
The assassin thought that he had made all clean, but as so often happens
with porcelain, when dried there still remained a slight stain, which
even showed the direction in which it had been wiped."

"Very good! Very good indeed!" Mr. Mitchel yawned slightly. "Let me see.
You have discovered--what? That the knife was sharp. And that the woman
was killed in one house and carried to another. How does that help you?"

At this point Mr. Barnes gave Mr. Mitchel a distinct surprise. Instead
of answering the question, he asked suddenly:

"Mr. Mitchel, will you permit me to examine that watch-chain which you
are wearing?"

Mr. Mitchel sat straight up in his chair, and looked sharply at the
detective, as though trying to read his innermost thoughts. The
detective stared back at him, and both were silent a moment. Then
without speaking, Mr. Mitchel removed the chain, and handed it to Mr.
Barnes, who took it with him to the window, and there examined it
closely through a lens. Mr. Mitchel threw the remains of his cigar into
the fire, and, placing both hands behind his head as he lay back in his
chair, awaited developments. Presently Mr. Barnes returned to his place
by the mantel, and in resuming his narrative it was noticeable from his
tone of voice that he was more than ever troubled.

"You asked me," said he, "how my discoveries helped me. I say from the
bottom of my soul that they have helped me only too well. That I proceed
in this matter is due to the fact that I must follow the dictates of my
conscience rather than my heart."

"Brutus yielded up his son," suggested Mr. Mitchel.

"Yes. Well, to resume my story. The point of importance was this.
Imagine the assassin with both hands at the woman's throat--two things
were inevitable. The woman would surely struggle, with arms and legs,
and the murderer would be unable to resist, his own hands being
occupied. What more natural than that the arms of the dying woman should
be wrapped about the body of her assailant? That the hands should grasp
and rend the clothing? Might perhaps come into contact with a
watch-chain and tear it off, or break it?"

"And you are intending to examine all the watch-chains in the
neighborhood upon such a chance as that?" Mr. Mitchel laughed, but Mr.
Barnes took no notice of the intended taunt.

"I have examined the only chain I wished to look at. Deducing the
struggle, and the possible tearing off of some part of the assassin's
attire, I was glad to know which house was the scene of the crime.
Having satisfied myself in this direction, I proceeded to search for the
missing link in the chain of evidence, though I must confess that I did
not expect it to be truly a link, a part of a real chain. The idea that
a watch-chain might have been broken in the struggle did not occur to me
until I held the evidence in my hand."

"Oh; then you did find your missing link?"

"Yes. I personally swept every room, and the staircase, and at last I
found the link. But it would be more correct to say _your_ missing link,
than mine, Mr. Mitchel, for it was from this chain that it was broken."

"Indeed!"

Mr. Barnes was amazed at the imperturbable manner in which this
statement was received. Becoming slightly agitated himself, he
continued:

"As soon as I picked up that link, I was shocked at my discovery, for,
from its peculiar shape, I recognized it as similar to your chain, which
I had often observed. Still, I hoped that there might be some mistake;
that it might have fallen from some other man. But you permitted me to
examine this chain, and the last doubt is swept away. I note that every
alternate link is solid, the intermediate ones having a slit, by which
the links are joined into a chain. The wrench given by the dying woman
strained one of these links so that it opened, allowing the chain to
part, and later this particular link dropped off. Either you did not
observe it at once, or else, being small, you could not find it. If this
occurred as I have described, what would be the result? Your chain,
where parted, would terminate at each end with a solid link. Thus, to
unite the chain again, my lens shows me that you have sawed through one
link, and so rejoined your chain. And not only do I see the freshly
sawed link, but, as must necessarily be the case, we have two links
adjacent, each of which can be opened."

"And your next move will be?" asked Mr. Mitchel, still apparently
undisturbed.

"I have no recourse open to me except to arrest you. That is why I have
found this whole interview so painful."

"I understand your position, and sympathize with you thoroughly," said
Mr. Mitchel. "And yet, see how easily you might dismiss this whole
theory of yours. These houses are in my neighborhood, immediately back
of me, in fact. I am a householder. What more natural than my taking an
interest in property so near me? Why may I not have visited the houses
to examine them? Then what more possible than the chance that in passing
from one room to another, my chain should have caught on a door-knob,
and have been broken, the link dropping as you have suggested? My
repairing the damage would be but a natural sequence, and the subsequent
murder and your train of reasoning is resolved into a mere coincidence."

"That is ingenious, Mr. Mitchel. But some instinct tells me that I am
right, and that you did commit this crime."

"Intuition, which I suppose is what you mean by instinct, is not always
reliable, but, oddly enough, in this instance you are correct. I did
kill that creature. Moreover, the sequence of events was as you have
deduced. I commend you for your skill, for, believe me, I used every
precaution to prevent detection."

"Then you confess? My God! This is horrible!"

At the prospect of arresting Mr. Mitchel, a man who had won his most
ardent admiration, Mr. Barnes was so overcome that he sank into a chair
and stared blankly at his companion.

"Come! come!" said Mr. Mitchel. "Don't break down like that. The affair
is bad enough, I admit, but it might be worse."

"Might be worse!" ejaculated Mr. Barnes, amazed at the words as well as
the half-jocular tone.

"Why yes. Much worse. Why, Mr. Barnes, have you not had evidence of my
ability to thwart detectives before to-day? Do you suppose that I shall
permit myself to be detected, arrested, imprisoned in this affair?
Nothing is further from my mind, I assure you. True, you have, with
your uncommon skill, discovered a part of the truth. But that need not
trouble me, for no other detective will be so shrewd."

"Do you mean to suggest that I should shield you in this matter?"

"Well, yes. That is about what I expect from your friendship."

"Impossible! Impossible! I wish that I could do what you ask! But no! It
is impossible!"

"There. I have tried your patience long enough. Let me tell you the
whole story, and then you may decide as you please. A few years ago, in
Paris, a friend presented me with a poodle. French poodles, as you know,
are considered the most intelligent of all dogs, and this one seemed to
be the wisest of his species. My friend had already trained him to
perform many tricks, and these were done at command, without special
signals, so that I could but believe what my friend claimed, that the
dog actually understood what was said to him. Thinking this matter over
one day, it presented itself to me in a singular light.

"In the training of animals, man has always aimed to make the dumb brute
understand, and carry out, the master's wishes. No one, so far as I then
knew, had ever trained a dog to express his own wishes, in any way
intelligible to the master. This I undertook to do, and was fairly
successful. I printed words on cards, such as 'food,' 'drink,' 'yard,'
etc., and, by means which I need not recapitulate, I taught my dog to
bring me the special card which would represent his wishes. Thus, when
he was thirsty, he could ask for 'water,' or when he wished to leave the
house, he brought the card marked 'yard.' Imagine my astonishment when
one day a little sky-terrier, belonging to another lodger in the house,
came to me with the 'food' card in his mouth. At first I supposed it to
be merely an accident, but I soon discovered that the terrier understood
the cards as well as did the poodle. How, unless the poodle had taught
him? Do dogs, then, have a language by which they may communicate with
each other?

"This was a new thought, which attracted me more and more as I revolved
it in my mind. Then it occurred to me that if animals have a language,
monkeys would offer the best field for study, and I began investigating.
The discovery that the apes do have a language has been made by Mr.
Garner, and by him the fact has been published to the world. But I made
the discovery several years ago, though I kept it to myself, for reasons
which you shall hear.

"I practised upon the monkeys in the Zoölogical Gardens in Paris and
London, until I was a veritable crank on the subject of monkey language.
Nothing would satisfy me but a trip to Africa. Thither I went, and made
great progress, so that by the time I captured a fine chimpanzee on the
Congo, I was able to readily make him understand that I meant him no
harm. At first he received my overtures with hesitation, his previous
experience with my race rendering him skeptical as to my good
qualities. But after a time, we became good friends; I might even say
chums. After that I gave him his liberty, and we took strolls together.
He was a very sociable fellow when one really got to know him well, but
we found the resources of the monkey language inadequate to our needs.
The experiment with my dog recurred to me, and I undertook to teach him
a human tongue. I chose German as the best adapted to his limitations,
and he made such progress that in a few months we could converse with
tolerable ease.

"I decided to tell him something of the world of civilization, and one
day it occurred to me to expound to him the Darwinian theory. He
listened with an expression of learned thought upon his face which would
have well suited the countenance of a philosopher, but when I had
finished, he astounded me by announcing that he thought he could show me
that higher race of apes, which, being more humanly developed than any
species now known, might well be designated 'the missing link' which
connects the Simian race with man. I begged him to do so, and he
undertook the task, though he said that it involved a long journey. I
urged him to go, and he left me.

"A month had passed, and I had begun to think that my new-found friend
had deserted me, when one day he walked into camp, accompanied by the
most human-like ape I had ever seen. It was neither chimpanzee nor
gorilla, but a combination of both in those characteristics which were
most manlike. The most conspicuous advance beyond the anthropoid apes
now known, was the hairless skin. The hands and feet, too, were more
human in shape, though on the latter the hallux still retained its
prehensile character, which perhaps is necessary to a tree dweller. The
face was peculiarly human, though the jaws retained certain
distinguishing attributes of the ape, as, for example, the space between
the anterior and posterior teeth, and the fang-like canine teeth.

"As you must already suspect the sequel, I may hurry on to the end. The
creature was a female, and in the trip to our camp my chimpanzee friend
had become much attached to her; indeed, I may say he had fallen in love
with her. He had also begun her higher education, so that when we met
she was able to address a few words to me in German. As you may well
imagine, I was greatly interested in this animal, and did all in my
power to teach her. She made even more rapid progress than the
chimpanzee had, and I was thinking of the sensation I could produce in
Paris by sending cards of invitation to the nuptials of my monkey
friends, which I determined should occur in the great metropolis.

"Imagine my horror one morning, upon finding the chimpanzee dead. I did
not immediately comprehend the full significance of this, but upon
questioning the ape a few days later, she candidly confessed to me that
she had strangled the chimpanzee, her only reason being, that having
decided for the future to live as a human being, she deemed it wise to
destroy her companion, that he might not be able to divulge the secret
of her origin.

"Instantly my mind was awakened to a danger which menaced myself. I too
knew the secret of her savage ancestry, and the fact that she had not
slain me also was probably due to her hope that I would fulfil my
promise and take her with me to more civilized parts. Indeed, so certain
was I of this, that I took the first opportunity to foster that ambition
in her bosom. At the same time I carefully planned a secret departure,
and a few nights later succeeded in getting away unobserved, while the
ape slept. Throughout the journey to the coast I constantly feared
pursuit, but was fortunate enough to get safely on shipboard without
hearing more of the savage creature.

"At dusk on last Saturday, I was strolling through the next street,
when, to my amazement, I saw coming towards me what appeared to be a
woman, whose face however was so startlingly like the ape which I had
left in Africa that for a moment I was dazed. In the next instant,
realizing that if my suspicion was true, I might be in danger even after
the lapse of time, and hoping that it was merely a chance resemblance, I
quickly turned into one of the new houses still open for inspection. I
did not dare to look behind me, and even thought it a trick of my
excited imagination when I fancied that I heard steps following me as I
ascended to the second floor. I turned upon reaching the floor above,
and instantly with a savage cry the brute was upon me, her hands upon
my throat, making a desperate effort to strangle me. I gripped her neck
in a similar manner, scarcely hoping to save my life. Fortune favored
me, however, and, after a lengthy struggle, the ape lay dead at my feet.
I suppose that several years of life in civilization had sapped her
savage strength.

"My subsequent proceedings were actuated by two motives. In the first
place any public connection of my name with such a horrible encounter
would naturally have greatly annoyed my wife, and secondly I could not
resist my innate fondness for contending with detectives. I removed the
head, hands, and feet, to prevent identification, and also because with
them I can convince you that the animal was an ape, and not a woman. As
there is no law against the killing of an ape, you must see, Mr. Barnes,
that it would be futile to arrest me."

"You are right," replied Mr. Barnes, "and I am truly glad that your
explanation places you beyond the law. You must forgive me for my
suspicion."

The two men joined hands in a firm clasp, which cemented their
friendship, and guaranteed that the secret which they shared would never
be divulged by either.



                                  III

                            THE NAMELESS MAN


Mr. Barnes was sitting in his private room, with nothing of special
importance to occupy his thoughts, when his office boy announced a
visitor.

"What name?" asked Mr. Barnes.

"None," was the reply.

"You mean," said the detective, "that the man did not give you his name.
He must have one, of course. Show him in."

A minute later the stranger entered, and, bowing courteously, began the
conversation at once.

"Mr. Barnes, the famous detective, I believe?" said he.

"My name is Barnes," replied the detective. "May I have the pleasure of
knowing yours?"

"I sincerely hope so," continued the stranger. "The fact is, I suppose I
have forgotten it."

"Forgotten your name?" Mr. Barnes scented an interesting case, and
became doubly attentive.

"Yes," said the visitor; "that is precisely my singular predicament. I
seem to have lost my identity. That is the object of my call. I wish you
to discover who I am. As I am evidently a full-grown man, I can
certainly claim that I have a past history, but to me that past is
entirely blank. I awoke this morning in this condition, yet apparently
in possession of all my faculties, so much so, that I at once saw the
advisability of consulting a first-class detective, and, upon inquiry, I
was directed to you."

"Your case is most interesting--from my point of view, I mean. To you,
of course, it must seem unfortunate. Yet it is not unparalleled. There
have been many such cases recorded, and, for your temporary relief, I
may say that, sooner or later, complete restoration of memory usually
occurs. But now, let us try to unravel your mystery as soon as possible,
that you may suffer as little inconvenience as there need be. I would
like to ask you a few questions."

"As many as you like, and I will do my best to answer."

"Do you think that you are a New Yorker?"

"I have not the least idea whether I am or not."

"You say you were advised to consult me. By whom?"

"The clerk at the Waldorf Hotel, where I slept last night."

"Then, of course, he gave you my address. Did you find it necessary to
ask him how to find my offices?"

"Well, no, I did not. That seems strange, does it not? I certainly had
no difficulty in coming here. I suppose that must be a significant fact,
Mr. Barnes?"

"It tends to show that you have been familiar with New York, but we must
still find out whether you live here or not. How did you register at the
hotel?"

"M. J. G. Remington, City."

"You are quite sure that Remington is not your name?"

"Quite sure. After breakfast this morning I was passing through the
lobby when the clerk called me twice by that name. Finally, one of the
hall-boys touched me on the shoulder and explained that I was wanted at
the desk. I was very much confused to find myself called 'Mr.
Remington,' a name which certainly is not my own. Before I fully
realized my position, I said to the clerk, 'Why do you call me
Remington?' and he replied, 'Because you registered under that name.' I
tried to pass it off, but I am sure that the clerk looks upon me as a
suspicious character."

"What baggage have you with you at the hotel?"

"None. Not even a satchel."

"May there not be something in your pockets that would help us; letters,
for example?"

"I am sorry to say that I have made a search in that direction, but
found nothing. Luckily I did have a pocketbook, though."

"Much money in it?"

"In the neighborhood of five hundred dollars."

Mr. Barnes turned to his table and made a few notes on a pad of paper.
While so engaged his visitor took out a fine gold watch, and, after a
glance at the face, was about to return it to his pocket, when Mr.
Barnes wheeled around in his chair, and said:

"That is a handsome watch you have there. Of a curious pattern, too. I
am rather interested in old watches."

The stranger seemed confused for an instant, and quickly put up his
watch, saying:

"There is nothing remarkable about it. Merely an old family relic. I
value it more for that than anything else. But about my case, Mr.
Barnes; how long do you think it will take to restore my identity to me?
It is rather awkward to go about under a false name."

"I should think so," said the detective. "I will do my best for you, but
you have given me absolutely no clue to work upon, so that it is
impossible to say what my success will be. Still I think forty-eight
hours should suffice. At least in that time I ought to make some
discoveries for you. Suppose you call again on the day after to-morrow,
at noon precisely. Will that suit you?"

"Very well, indeed. If you can tell me who I am at that time I shall be
more than convinced that you are a great detective, as I have been
told."

He arose and prepared to go, and upon the instant Mr. Barnes touched a
button under his table with his foot, which caused a bell to ring in a
distant part of the building, no sound of which penetrated the private
office. Thus any one could visit Mr. Barnes in his den, and might leave,
unsuspicious of the fact that a spy would be awaiting him out in the
street who would shadow him persistently day and night until recalled by
his chief. After giving the signal, Mr. Barnes held his strange visitor
in conversation a few moments longer to allow his spy opportunity to get
to his post.

"How will you pass the time away, Mr. Remington?" said he. "We may as
well call you by that name, until I find your true one."

"Yes, I suppose so. As to what I shall do during the next forty-eight
hours, why, I think I may as well devote myself to seeing the sights. It
is a remarkably pleasant day for a stroll, and I think I will visit your
beautiful Central Park."

"A capital idea. By all means, I would advise occupation of that kind.
It would be best not to do any business until your memory is restored to
you."

"Business? Why, of course, I can do no business."

"No. If you were to order any goods, for example, under the name of
Remington, later on when you resume your proper identity you might be
arrested as an impostor."

"By George! I had not thought of that. My position is more serious than
I had realized. I thank you for the warning. Sight-seeing will assuredly
be my safest plan for the next two days."

"I think so. Call at the time agreed upon, and hope for the best. If I
should need you before then, I will send to your hotel."

Then, saying "Good morning," Mr. Barnes turned to his desk again, and,
as the stranger looked at him before stepping out of the room, the
detective seemed engrossed with some papers before him. Yet scarcely had
the door closed upon the retreating form of his recent visitor, when Mr.
Barnes looked up, with an air of expectancy. A moment later a very tiny
bell in a drawer of his desk rang, indicating that the man had left the
building, the signal having been sent to him by one of his employees,
whose business it was to watch all departures and notify his chief. A
few moments later Mr. Barnes himself emerged, clad in an entirely
different suit of clothing, and with such alteration in the color of his
hair that more than a casual glance would have been required to
recognize him.

When he reached the street the stranger was nowhere in sight, but Mr.
Barnes went to a doorway opposite, and there he found, written in blue
pencil, the word "up," whereupon he walked rapidly uptown as far as the
next corner, where once more he examined a door-post, upon which he
found the word "right," which indicated the way the men ahead of him had
turned. Beyond this he could expect no signals, for the spy shadowing
the stranger did not know positively that his chief would take part in
the game. The two signals which he had written on the doors were merely
a part of a routine, and intended to aid Mr. Barnes should he follow;
but if he did so, he would be expected to be in sight of the spy by the
time the second signal was reached. And so it proved in this instance,
for as Mr. Barnes turned the corner to the right, he easily discerned
his man about two blocks ahead, and presently was near enough to see
"Remington" also.

The pursuit continued until Mr. Barnes was surprised to see him enter
the Park, thus carrying out his intention as stated in his interview
with the detective. Entering at the Fifth Avenue gate he made his way
towards the menagerie, and here a curious incident occurred. The
stranger had mingled with the crowd in the monkey-house, and was
enjoying the antics of the mischievous little animals, when Mr. Barnes,
getting close behind him, deftly removed a pocket-handkerchief from the
tail of his coat and swiftly transferred it to his own.

On the day following, shortly before noon, Mr. Barnes walked quickly
into the reading-room of the Fifth Avenue Hotel. In one corner there is
a handsome mahogany cabinet, containing three compartments, each of
which is entered through double doors, having glass panels in the upper
half. About these panels are draped yellow silk curtains, and in the
centre of each appears a white porcelain numeral. These compartments are
used as public telephone stations, the applicant being shut in, so as to
be free from the noise of the outer room.

Mr. Barnes spoke to the girl in charge, and then passed into the
compartment numbered "2." Less than five minutes later Mr. Leroy Mitchel
came into the reading-room. His keen eyes peered about him, scanning
the countenances of those busy with the papers or writing, and then he
gave the telephone girl a number, and went into the compartment numbered
"1." About ten minutes elapsed before Mr. Mitchel came out again, and,
having paid the toll, he left the hotel. When Mr. Barnes emerged, there
was an expression of extreme satisfaction upon his face. Without
lingering, he also went out. But instead of following Mr. Mitchel
through the main lobby to Broadway, he crossed the reading-room and
reached Twenty-third Street through the side door. Thence he proceeded
to the station of the elevated railroad, and went uptown. Twenty minutes
later he was ringing the bell of Mr. Mitchel's residence. The "buttons"
who answered his summons informed him that his master was not at home.

"He usually comes in to luncheon, however, does he not?" asked the
detective.

"Yes, sir," responded the boy.

"Is Mrs. Mitchel at home?"

"No, sir."

"Miss Rose?"

"Yes, sir."

"Ah; then I'll wait. Take my card to her."

Mr. Barnes passed into the luxurious drawing-room, and was soon joined
by Rose, Mr. Mitchel's adopted daughter.

"I am sorry papa is not at home, Mr. Barnes," said the little lady, "but
he will surely be in to luncheon, if you will wait."

"Yes, thank you, I think I will. It is quite a trip up, and, being here,
I may as well wait a while and see your father, though the matter is not
of any great importance."

"Some interesting case, Mr. Barnes? If so, do tell me about it. You know
I am almost as interested in your cases as papa is."

"Yes, I know you are, and my vanity is flattered. But I am sorry to say
that I have nothing on hand at present worth relating. My errand is a
very simple one. Your father was saying, a few days ago, that he was
thinking of buying a bicycle, and yesterday, by accident, I came across
a machine of an entirely new make, which seems to me superior to
anything yet produced. I thought he might be interested to see it,
before deciding what kind to buy."

"I am afraid you are too late, Mr. Barnes. Papa has bought a bicycle
already."

"Indeed! What style did he choose?"

"I really do not know, but it is down in the lower hall, if you care to
look at it."

"It is hardly worth while, Miss Rose. After all, I have no interest in
the new model, and if your father has found something that he likes, I
won't even mention the other to him. It might only make him regret his
bargain. Still, on second thoughts, I will go down with you, if you will
take me into the dining-room and show me the head of that moose which
your father has been bragging about killing. I believe it has come back
from the taxidermist's?"

"Oh, yes. He is just a monster. Come on."

They went down to the dining-room, and Mr. Barnes expressed great
admiration for the moose's head, and praised Mr. Mitchel's skill as a
marksman. But he had taken a moment to scrutinize the bicycle which
stood in the hallway, while Rose was opening the blinds in the
dining-room. Then they returned to the drawing-room, and after a little
more conversation Mr. Barnes departed, saying that he could not wait any
longer, but he charged Rose to tell her father that he particularly
desired him to call at noon on the following day.

Promptly at the time appointed, "Remington" walked into the office of
Mr. Barnes, and was announced. The detective was in his private room.
Mr. Leroy Mitchel had been admitted but a few moments before.

"Ask Mr. Remington in," said Mr. Barnes to his boy, and when that
gentleman entered, before he could show surprise at finding a third
party present, the detective said:

"Mr. Mitchel, this is the gentleman whom I wish you to meet. Permit me
to introduce to you Mr. Mortimer J. Goldie, better known to the sporting
fraternity as G. J. Mortimer, the champion short-distance bicycle rider,
who recently rode a mile in the phenomenal time of 1.36, on a three-lap
track."

As Mr. Barnes spoke, he gazed from one to the other of his companions,
with a half-quizzical and wholly pleased expression on his face. Mr.
Mitchel appeared much interested, but the newcomer was evidently
greatly astonished. He looked blankly at Mr. Barnes a moment, then
dropped into a chair with the query:

"How in the name of conscience did you find that out?"

"That much was not very difficult," replied the detective. "I can tell
you much more; indeed, I can supply your whole past history, provided
your memory has been sufficiently restored for you to recognize my facts
as true."

Mr. Barnes looked at Mr. Mitchel, and winked one eye in a most
suggestive manner, at which that gentleman burst out into hearty
laughter, finally saying:

"We may as well admit that we are beaten, Goldie. Mr. Barnes has been
too much for us."

"But I want to know how he has done it," persisted Mr. Goldie.

"I have no doubt that Mr. Barnes will gratify you. Indeed, I am as
curious as you are to know by what means he has arrived at his quick
solution of the problem which we set for him."

"I will enlighten you as to detective methods with pleasure," said Mr.
Barnes. "Let me begin with the visit made to me by this gentleman two
days ago. At the very outset his statement aroused my suspicion, though
I did my best not to let him think so. He announced to me that he had
lost his identity, and I promptly told him that his case was not
uncommon. I said that in order that he might feel sure that I did not
doubt his tale. But truly, his case, if he was telling the truth, was
absolutely unique. Men have lost recollection of their past, and even
have forgotten their names. But I have never before heard of a man who
had forgotten his name, _and at the same time knew that he had done
so_."

"A capital point, Mr. Barnes," said Mr. Mitchel. "You were certainly
shrewd to suspect fraud so early."

"Well, I cannot say that I suspected fraud so soon, but the story was so
improbable that I could not believe it immediately. I therefore was what
I might call 'analytically attentive' during the rest of the interview.
The next point worth noting which came out was that, although he had
forgotten himself, he had not forgotten New York, for he admitted having
come to me without special guidance."

"I remember that," interrupted Mr. Goldie, "and I think I even said to
you at the time that it was significant."

"And I told you that it at least showed that you had been familiar with
New York. This was better proven when you said that you would spend the
day at Central Park, and when, after leaving here, you had no difficulty
in finding your way thither."

"Do you mean to say that you had me followed? I made sure that no one
was after me."

"Well, yes, you were followed," said Mr. Barnes, with a smile. "I had a
spy after you, and I followed you as far as the Park myself. But let me
come to the other points in your interview and my deductions. You told
me that you had registered as 'M. J. G. Remington.' This helped me
considerably, as we shall see presently. A few minutes later you took
out your watch, and in that little mirror over my desk, which I use
occasionally when I turn my back upon a visitor, I noted that there was
an inscription on the outside of the case. I turned and asked you
something about the watch, when you hastily returned it to your pocket,
with the remark that it was 'an old family relic.' Now can you explain
how you could have known that, supposing that you had forgotten who you
were?"

"Neatly caught, Goldie," laughed Mr. Mitchel. "You certainly made a mess
of it there."

"It was an asinine slip," said Mr. Goldie, laughing also.

"Now, then," continued Mr. Barnes, "you readily see that I had good
reason for believing that you had not forgotten your name. On the
contrary, I was positive that your name was a part of the inscription on
the watch. What, then, could be your purpose in pretending otherwise? I
did not discover that for some time. However, I decided to go ahead, and
find you out if I could. Next I noted two things. Your coat opened once,
so that I saw, pinned to your vest, a bicycle badge, which I recognized
as the emblem of the League of American Wheelmen."

"Oh! Oh!" cried Mr. Mitchel. "Shame on you, Goldie, for a blunderer."

"I had entirely forgotten the badge," said Mr. Goldie.

"I also observed," the detective went on, "little indentations on the
sole of your shoe, as you had your legs crossed, which satisfied me that
you were a rider even before I observed the badge. Now then, we come to
the name, and the significance thereof. Had you really lost your memory,
the choosing of a name when you registered at a hotel would have been a
haphazard matter of no importance to me. But as soon as I decided that
you were imposing upon me, I knew that your choice of a name had been a
deliberate act of the mind; one from which deductions could be drawn."

"Ah; now we come to the interesting part," said Mr. Mitchel. "I love to
follow a detective when he uses his brains."

"The name as registered, and I examined the registry to make sure, was
odd. Three initials are unusual. A man without memory, and therefore not
quite sound mentally, would hardly have chosen so many. Then why had it
been done in this instance? What more natural than that these initials
represented the true name? In assuming an alias, it is the most common
method to transpose the real name in some way. At least it was a working
hypothesis. Then the last name might be very significant. 'Remington.'
The Remingtons make guns, sewing-machines, typewriters, and bicycles.
Now, this man was a bicycle rider, I was sure. If he chose his own
initials as a part of the alias, it was possible that he selected
'Remington' because it was familiar to him. I even imagined that he
might be an agent for Remington bicycles, and I had arrived at that
point during our interview, when I advised him not to buy anything until
his identity was restored. But I was sure of my quarry when I stole a
handkerchief from him at the park, and found the initials 'M. J. G.'
upon the same."

"Marked linen on your person!" exclaimed Mr. Mitchel. "Worse and worse!
We'll never make a successful criminal of you, Goldie."

"Perhaps not. I shan't cry over it."

"I felt sure of my success by this time," continued Mr. Barnes, "yet at
the very next step I was balked. I looked over a list of L. A. W.
members and could not find a name to fit my initials, which shows, as
you will see presently, that, as I may say, 'too many clues spoil the
broth.' Without the handkerchief I would have done better. Next I
secured a catalogue of the Remingtons, which gave a list of their
authorized agents, and again I failed. Returning to my office I received
information from my spy, sent in by messenger, which promised to open a
way for me. He had followed you about, Mr. Goldie, and I must say you
played your part very well, so far as avoiding acquaintances is
concerned. But at last you went to a public telephone, and called up
some one. My man saw the importance of discovering to whom you had
spoken, and bribed the telephone attendant to give him the information.
All that he learned, however, was that you had spoken to the public
station at the Fifth Avenue Hotel. My spy thought that this was
inconsequent, but it proved to me at once that there was collusion, and
that your man must have been at the other station by previous
appointment. As that was at noon, a few minutes before the same hour on
the following day, that is to say, yesterday, I went to the Fifth Avenue
Hotel telephone and secreted myself in the middle compartment, hoping to
hear what your partner might say to you. I failed in this, as the boxes
are too well made to permit sound to pass from one to the other; but
imagine my gratification to see Mr. Mitchel himself go into the box."

"And why?" asked Mr. Mitchel.

"Why, as soon as I saw you, I comprehended the whole scheme. It was you
who had concocted the little diversion to test my ability. Thus, at
last, I understood the reason for the pretended loss of identity. With
the knowledge that you were in it, I was more than ever determined to
get at the facts. Knowing that you were out, I hastened to your house,
hoping for a chat with little Miss Rose, as the most likely member of
your family to get information from."

"Oh, fie! Mr. Barnes," said Mr. Mitchell; "to play upon the innocence of
childhood! I am ashamed of you!"

"'All's fair,' etc. Well, I succeeded. I found Mr. Goldie's bicycle in
your hallway, and, as I suspected, it was a Remington. I took the number
and hurried down to the agency, where I readily discovered that wheel
No. 5086 is ridden by G. J. Mortimer, one of their regular racing team.
I also learned that Mortimer's private name is Mortimer J. Goldie. I was
much pleased at this, because it showed how good my reasoning had been
about the alias, for you observe that the racing name is merely a
transposition of the family name. The watch, of course, is a prize, and
the inscription would have proved that you were imposing upon me, Mr.
Goldie, had you permitted me to see it."

"Of course; that was why I put it back in my pocket."

"I said just now," said Mr. Barnes, "that without the stolen
handkerchief I would have done better. Having it, when I looked over the
L. A. W. list I went through the 'G's' only. Without it, I should have
looked through the 'G's,' 'J's,' and 'M's,' not knowing how the letters
may have been transposed. In that case I should have found 'G. J.
Mortimer,' and the initials would have proved that I was on the right
track."

"You have done well, Mr. Barnes," said Mr. Mitchel. "I asked Goldie to
play the part of a nameless man for a few days, to have some fun with
you. But you have had fun with us, it seems. Though, I am conceited
enough to say, that had it been possible for me to play the principal
part, you would not have pierced my identity so soon."

"Oh, I don't know," said Mr. Barnes. "We are both of us a little
egotistical, I fear."

"Undoubtedly. Still, if I ever set another trap for you, I will assign
myself the chief _rôle_."

"Nothing would please me better," said Mr. Barnes. "But, gentlemen, as
you have lost in this little game, it seems to me that some one owes me
a dinner, at least."

"I'll stand the expense with pleasure," said Mr. Mitchel.

"Not at all," interrupted Mr. Goldie. "It was through my blundering that
we lost, and I'll pay the piper."

"Settle it between you," cried Mr. Barnes. "But let us walk on. I am
getting hungry."

Whereupon they adjourned to Delmonico's.



                                   IV

                         THE MONTEZUMA EMERALD


"Is the Inspector in?"

Mr. Barnes immediately recognized the voice, and turned to greet the
speaker. The man was Mr. Leroy Mitchel's English valet. Contrary to all
precedent and tradition, he did not speak in cockney dialect, not even
stumbling over the proper distribution of the letter "h" throughout his
vocabulary. That he was English, however, was apparent to the ear,
because of a certain rather attractive accent, peculiar to his native
island, and to the eye because of a deferential politeness of manner,
too seldom observed in American servants. He also always called Mr.
Barnes "Inspector," oblivious of the fact that he was not a member of
the regular police, and mindful only of the English application of the
word to detectives.

"Step right in, Williams," said Mr. Barnes. "What is the trouble?"

"I don't rightly know, Inspector," said Williams. "Won't you let me
speak to you alone? It's about the master."

"Certainly. Come into my private room." He led the way and Williams
followed, remaining standing, although Mr. Barnes waved his hand towards
a chair as he seated himself in his usual place at his desk. "Now then,"
continued the detective, "what's wrong? Nothing serious I hope?"

"I hope not, sir, indeed. But the master's disappeared."

"Disappeared, has he." Mr. Barnes smiled slightly. "Now Williams, what
do you mean by that? You did not see him vanish, eh?"

"No, sir, of course not. If you'll excuse my presumption, Inspector, I
don't think this is a joke, sir, and you're laughing."

"All right, Williams," answered Mr. Barnes, assuming a more serious
tone. "I will give your tale my sober consideration. Proceed."

"Well, I hardly know where to begin, Inspector. But I'll just give you
the facts, without any unnecessary opinions of my own."

Williams rather prided himself upon his ability to tell what he called
"a straight story." He placed his hat on a chair, and, standing behind
it, with one foot resting on a rung, checked off the points of his
narrative, as he made them, by tapping the palm of one hand with the
index finger of the other.

"To begin then," said he. "Mrs. Mitchel and Miss Rose sailed for
England, Wednesday morning of last week. That same night, quite
unexpected, the master says to me, says he, 'Williams, I think you have
a young woman you're sweet on down at Newport?' 'Well, sir,' says I, 'I
do know a person as answers that description,' though I must say to you,
Inspector, that how he ever came to know it beats me. But that's aside,
and digression is not my habit. 'Well, Williams,' the master went on, 'I
shan't need you for the rest of this week, and if you'd like to take a
trip to the seashore, I shan't mind standing the expense, and letting
you go.' Of course, I thanked him very much, and I went, promising to be
back on Monday morning as directed. And I kept my word, Inspector;
though it was a hard wrench to leave the young person last Sunday in
time to catch the boat; the moon being bright and everything most
propitious for a stroll, it being her Sunday off, and all that. But, as
I said, I kept my word, and was up to the house Monday morning only a
little after seven, the boat having got in at six. I was a little
surprised to find that the master was not at home, but then it struck me
as how he must have gone out of town over Sunday, and I looked for him
to be in for dinner. But he did not come to dinner, nor at all that
night. Still, I did not worry about it. It was the master's privilege to
stay away as long as he liked. Only I could not help thinking I might
just as well have had that stroll in the moonlight, Sunday night. But
when all Tuesday and Tuesday night went by, and no word from the master,
I must confess that I got uneasy; and now here's Wednesday noon, and no
news; so I just took the liberty to come down and ask your opinion in
the matter, seeing as how you are a particular friend of the family,
and an Inspector to boot."

"Really, Williams," said Mr. Barnes, "all I see in your story is that
Mr. Mitchel, contemplating a little trip off somewhere with friends, let
you go away. He expected to be back by Monday, but, enjoying himself,
has remained longer."

"I hope that's all, sir, and I've tried to think so. But this morning I
made a few investigations of my own, and I'm bound to say what I found
don't fit that theory."

"Ah, you have some more facts. What are they?"

"One of them is this cablegram that I found only this morning under a
book on the table in the library." He handed a blue paper to Mr. Barnes,
who took it and read the following, on a cable blank:

        "Emerald. Danger. Await letter."

For the first time during the interview Mr. Barnes's face assumed a
really serious expression. He studied the despatch silently for a full
minute, and then, without raising his eyes, said:

"What else?"

"Well, Inspector, I don't know that this has anything to do with the
affair, but the master had a curious sort of jacket, made of steel
links, so tight and so closely put together, that I've often wondered
what it was for. Once I made so bold as to ask him, and he said, said
he, 'Williams, if I had an enemy, it would be a good idea to wear that,
because it would stop a bullet or a knife.' Then he laughed, and went
on: 'Of course, I shan't need it for myself. I bought it when I was
abroad once, merely as a curiosity.' Now, Inspector, that jacket's
disappeared also."

"Are you quite sure?"

"I've looked from dining-room to garret for it. The master's derringer
is missing, too. It's a mighty small affair. Could be held in the hand
without being noticed, but it carries a nasty-looking ball."

"Very well, Williams, there may be something in your story. I'll look
into the matter at once. Meanwhile, go home, and stay there so that I
may find you if I want you."

"Yes, sir; I thank you for taking it up. It takes a load off my mind to
know you're in charge, Inspector. If there's harm come to the master,
I'm sure you'll track the party down. Good morning, sir."

"Good morning, Williams."

After the departure of Williams, the detective sat still for several
minutes, lost in thought. He was weighing two ideas. He seemed still to
hear the words which Mr. Mitchel had uttered after his success in
unravelling the mystery of Mr. Goldie's lost identity. "Next time I will
assign myself the chief _rôle_," or words to that effect, Mr. Mitchel
had said. Was this disappearance a new riddle for Mr. Barnes to solve?
If so, of course he would undertake it, as a sort of challenge which his
professional pride could not reject. On the other hand, the cable
despatch and the missing coat of mail might portend ominously. The
detective felt that Mr. Mitchel was somewhat in the position of the
fabled boy who cried "Wolf!" so often that, when at last the wolf really
appeared, no assistance was sent to him. Only Mr. Barnes decided that he
must chase the "wolf," whether it be real or imaginary. He wished,
though, that he knew which.

Ten minutes later he decided upon a course of action, and proceeded to a
telegraph office, where he found that, as he had supposed, the despatch
had come from the Paris firm of jewellers from which Mr. Mitchel had
frequently bought gems. He sent a lengthy message to them, asking for an
immediate reply.

While waiting for the answer, the detective was not inactive. He went
direct to Mr. Mitchel's house, and once more questioned the valet, from
whom he obtained an accurate description of the clothes which his master
must have worn, only one suit being absent. This fact alone, seemed
significantly against the theory of a visit to friends out of town.
Next, Mr. Barnes interviewed the neighbors, none of whom remembered to
have seen Mr. Mitchel during the week. At the sixth house below,
however, he learned something definite. Here he found Mr. Mordaunt, a
personal acquaintance, and member of one of Mr. Mitchel's clubs. This
gentleman stated that he had dined at the club with Mr. Mitchel on the
previous Thursday, and had accompanied him home, in the neighborhood of
eleven o'clock, parting with him at the door of his own residence. Since
then he had neither seen nor heard from him. This proved that Mr.
Mitchel was at home one day after Williams went to Newport.

Leaving the house, Mr. Barnes called at the nearest telegraph office and
asked whether a messenger summons had reached them during the week, from
Mr. Mitchel's house. The record slips showed that the last call had been
received at 12.30 A.M., on Friday. A cab had been demanded, and was
sent, reaching the house at one o'clock. At the stables, Mr. Barnes
questioned the cab-driver, and learned that Mr. Mitchel had alighted at
Madison Square.

"But he got right into another cab," added the driver. "It was just a
chance I seen him, 'cause he made as if he was goin' into the Fifth
Avenoo; but luck was agin' him, for I'd scarcely gone two blocks back,
when I had to get down to fix my harness, and while I was doin' that,
who should I see but my fare go by in another cab."

"You did not happen to know the driver of that vehicle?" suggested Mr.
Barnes.

"That's just what I did happen to know. He's always by the Square, along
the curb by the Park. His name's Jerry. You'll find him easy enough, and
he'll tell you where he took that fly bird."

Mr. Barnes went down town again, and did find Jerry, who remembered
driving a man at the stated time, as far as the Imperial Hotel; but
beyond that the detective learned nothing, for at the hotel no one knew
Mr. Mitchel, and none recollected his arrival early Friday morning.

From the fact that Mr. Mitchel had changed cabs, and doubled on his
track, Mr. Barnes concluded that he was after all merely hiding away for
the pleasure of baffling him, and he felt much relieved to divest the
case of its alarming aspect. However, he was not long permitted to hold
this opinion. At the telegraph office he found a cable despatch awaiting
him, which read as follows:

    "Montezuma Emerald forwarded Mitchel tenth. Previous owner
    murdered London eleventh. Mexican suspected. Warned
    Mitchel."

This assuredly looked very serious. Casting aside all thought of a
practical joke, Mr. Barnes now threw himself heart and soul into the
task of finding Mitchel, dead or alive. From the telegraph office he
hastened to the Custom-House, where he learned that an emerald, the
invoiced value of which was no less than twenty thousand dollars, had
been delivered to Mr. Mitchel in person, upon payment of the custom
duties, at noon of the previous Thursday. Mr. Barnes, with this
knowledge, thought he knew why Mr. Mitchel had been careful to have a
friend accompany him to his home on that night. But why had he gone out
again? Perhaps he felt safer at a hotel than at home, and, having
reached the Imperial, taking two cabs to mystify the villain who might
be tracking him, he might have registered under an alias. What a fool he
had been not to examine the registry, as he could certainly recognize
Mr. Mitchel's handwriting, though the name signed would of course be a
false one.

Back, therefore, he hastened to the Imperial, where, however, his search
for familiar chirography was fruitless. Then an idea occurred to him.
Mr. Mitchel was so shrewd that it would not be unlikely that, meditating
a disappearance to baffle the men on his track, he had registered at the
hotel several days prior to his permanently stopping there. Turning the
page over, Mr. Barnes still failed to find what he sought, but a curious
name caught his eye.

"Miguel Palma--City of Mexico."

Could this be the London murderer? Was this the suspected Mexican? If
so, here was a bold and therefore dangerous criminal who openly put up
at one of the most prominent hostelries. Mr. Barnes was turning this
over in his mind, when a diminutive newsboy rushed into the corridor,
shouting:

"Extra _Sun_! Extra _Sun_! All about the horrible murder. Extra!"

Mr. Barnes purchased a paper and was stupefied at the headlines:

                      ROBERT LEROY MITCHEL DROWNED!

              _His Body Found Floating in the East River._

                         A DAGGER IN HIS BACK.

                          _Indicates Murder._

Mr. Barnes rushed out of the hotel, and, quickly finding a cab,
instructed the man to drive rapidly to the Morgue. On the way, he read
the details of the crime as recounted in the newspaper. From this he
gathered that the body had been discovered early in the morning by two
boatmen, who towed it to shore and handed it over to the police. An
examination at the Morgue had established the identity by letters found
on the corpse and the initials marked on the clothing. Mr. Barnes was
sad at heart, and inwardly fretted because his friend had not asked his
aid when in danger.

Jumping from the cab almost before it had fully stopped in front of the
Morgue, he stumbled and nearly fell over a decrepit-looking beggar, upon
whose breast was a printed card soliciting alms for the blind. Mr.
Barnes dropped a coin, a silver quarter, into his outstretched palm, and
hurried into the building. As he did so he was jostled by a tall man who
was coming out, and who seemed to have lost his temper, as he muttered
an imprecation under his breath in Spanish. As the detective's keen ear
noted the foreign tongue an idea occurred to him which made him turn and
follow the stranger. When he reached the street again he received a
double surprise. The stranger had already signalled the cab which Mr.
Barnes had just left, and was entering it, so that he had only a moment
in which to observe him. Then the door was slammed, and the driver
whipped up his horses and drove rapidly away. At the same moment the
blind beggar jumped up, and ran in the direction taken by the cab. Mr.
Barnes watched them till both cab and beggar disappeared around the next
corner, and then he went into the building again, deeply thinking over
the episode.

He found the Morgue-keeper, and was taken to the corpse. He recognized
the clothing at once, both from the description given by Williams, and
because he now remembered to have seen Mr. Mitchel so dressed. It was
evident that the body had been in the water for several days, and the
marks of violence plainly pointed to murder. Still sticking in the back
was a curious dagger of foreign make, the handle projecting between the
shoulders. The blow must have been a powerful stroke, for the blade was
so tightly wedged in the bones of the spine that it resisted ordinary
efforts to withdraw it. Moreover, the condition of the head showed that
a crime had been committed, for the skull and face had been beaten into
a pulpy mass with some heavy instrument. Mr. Barnes turned away from the
sickening sight to examine the letters found upon the corpse. One of
these bore the Paris postmark, and he was allowed to read it. It was
from the jewellers, and was the letter alluded to in the warning cable.
Its contents were:

    "DEAR SIR:--

    "As we have previously advised you the Montezuma Emerald was
    shipped to you on the tenth instant. On the following day
    the man from whom we had bought it was found dead in Dover
    Street, London, killed by a dagger-thrust between the
    shoulders. The meagre accounts telegraphed to the papers
    here, state that there is no clue to the assassin. We were
    struck by the name, and remembered that the deceased had
    urged us to buy the emerald, because, as he declared, he
    feared that a man had followed him from Mexico, intending to
    murder him to get possession of it. Within an hour of
    reading the newspaper story, a gentlemanly looking man,
    giving the name of Miguel Palma, entered our store, and
    asked if we had purchased the Montezuma Emerald. We replied
    negatively, and he smiled and left. We notified the police,
    but they have not yet been able to find this man. We deemed
    it our duty to warn you, and did so by cable."

The signature was that of the firm from which Mr. Barnes had received
the cable in the morning. The plot seemed plain enough now. After the
fruitless murder of the man in London, the Mexican had traced the
emerald to Mr. Mitchel, and had followed it across the water. Had he
succeeded in obtaining it? Among the things found on the corpse was an
empty jewel-case, bearing the name of the Paris firm. It seemed from
this that the gem had been stolen. But, if so, this man, Miguel Palma,
must be made to explain his knowledge of the affair.

Once more visiting the Imperial, Mr. Barnes made inquiry, and was told
that Mr. Palma had left the hotel on the night of the previous Thursday,
which was just a few hours before Mr. Mitchel had undoubtedly reached
there alive. Could it be that the man at the Morgue had been he? If so,
why was he visiting that place to view the body of his victim? This was
a problem over which Mr. Barnes puzzled, as he was driven up to the
residence of Mr. Mitchel. Here he found Williams, and imparted to that
faithful servant the news of his master's death, and then inquired for
the address of the family abroad, that he might notify them by cable,
before they could read the bald statement in a newspaper.

"As they only sailed a week ago to-day," said Williams, "they're hardly
more than due in London. I'll go up to the master's desk and get the
address of his London bankers."

As Williams turned to leave the room, he started back amazed at the
sound of a bell.

"That's the master's bell, Inspector! Some one is in his room! Come with
me!"

The two men bounded up-stairs, two steps at a time, and Williams threw
open the door of Mr. Mitchel's boudoir, and then fell back against Mr.
Barnes, crying:

"The master himself!"

Mr. Barnes looked over the man's shoulder, and could scarcely believe
his eyes when he observed Mr. Mitchel, alive and well, brushing his hair
before a mirror.

"I've rung for you twice, Williams," said Mr. Mitchel, and then, seeing
Mr. Barnes, he added, "Ah, Mr. Barnes. You are very welcome. Come in.
Why, what is the matter, man? You are as white as though you had seen a
ghost."

"Thank God, you are safe!" fervently ejaculated the detective, going
forward and grasping Mr. Mitchel's hand. "Here, read this, and you will
understand." He drew out the afternoon paper and handed it to him.

"Oh, that," said Mr. Mitchel, carelessly. "I've read that. Merely a
sensational lie, worked off upon a guileless public. Not a word of truth
in it, I assure you."

"Of course not, since you are alive; but there is a mystery about this
which is yet to be explained."

"What! A mystery, and the great Mr. Barnes has not solved it? I am
surprised. I am, indeed. But then, you know, I told you after Goldie
made a fizzle of our little joke that if I should choose to play the
principal part you would not catch me. You see I have beaten you this
time. Confess. You thought that was my corpse which you gazed upon at
the Morgue?"

"Well," said Mr. Barnes, reluctantly, "the identification certainly
seemed complete, in spite of the condition of the face, which made
recognition impossible."

"Yes; I flatter myself the whole affair was artistic."

"Do you mean that this whole thing is nothing but a joke? That you went
so far as to invent cables and letters from Paris just for the trifling
amusement of making a fool of me?"

Mr. Barnes was evidently slightly angry, and Mr. Mitchel, noting this
fact, hastened to mollify him.

"No, no; it is not quite so bad as that," he said. "I must tell you the
whole story, for there is yet important work to do, and you must help
me. No, Williams, you need not go out. Your anxiety over my absence
entitles you to a knowledge of the truth. A short time ago I heard that
a very rare gem was in the market, no less a stone than the original
emerald which Cortez stole from the crown of Montezuma. The emerald was
offered in Paris, and I was notified at once by the dealer, and
authorized the purchase by cable. A few days later I received a despatch
warning me that there was danger. I understood at once, for similar
danger had lurked about other large stones which are now in my
collection. The warning meant that I should not attempt to get the
emerald from the Custom-House until further advices reached me, which
would indicate the exact nature of the danger. Later, I received the
letter which was found on the body now at the Morgue, and which I
suppose you have read?"

Mr. Barnes nodded assent.

"I readily located the man Palma at the Imperial, and from his openly
using his name I knew that I had a dangerous adversary. Criminals who
disdain aliases have brains, and use them. I kept away from the
Custom-House until I had satisfied myself that I was being dogged by a
veritable cutthroat, who, of course, was the tool hired by Palma to
rob, perhaps to kill me. Thus acquainted with my adversaries, I was
ready for the enterprise."

"Why did you not solicit my assistance?" asked Mr. Barnes.

"Partly because I wanted all the glory, and partly because I saw a
chance to make you admit that I am still the champion detective-baffler.
I sent my wife and daughter to Europe that I might have time for my
scheme. On the day after their departure I boldly went to the
Custom-House and obtained the emerald. Of course I was dogged by the
hireling, but I had arranged a plan which gave him no advantage over me.
I had constructed a pair of goggles which looked like simple smoked
glasses, but in one of these I had a little mirror so arranged that I
could easily watch the man behind me, should he approach too near.
However, I was sure that he would not attack me in a crowded
thoroughfare, and I kept in crowds until time for dinner, when, by
appointment, I met my neighbor Mordaunt, and remained in his company
until I reached my own doorway late at night. Here he left me, and I
stood on the stoop until he disappeared into his own house. Then I
turned, and apparently had much trouble to place my latch-key in the
lock. This offered the assassin the chance he had hoped for, and,
gliding stealthily forward, he made a vicious stab at me. But, in the
first place, I had put on a chain-armor vest, and, in the second,
expecting the attack to occur just as it did, I turned swiftly and with
one blow with a club I knocked the weapon from the fellow's hand, and
with another I struck him over the head so that he fell senseless at my
feet."

"Bravo!" cried Mr. Barnes. "You have a cool nerve."

"I don't know. I think I was very much excited at the crucial moment,
but with my chain armor, a stout loaded club in one hand and a derringer
in the other, I never was in any real danger. I took the man down to the
wine-cellar and locked him in one of the vaults. Then I called a cab,
and went down to the Imperial, in search of Palma; but I was too late.
He had vanished."

"So I discovered," interjected Mr. Barnes.

"I could get nothing out of the fellow in the cellar. Either he cannot
or he will not speak English. So I have merely kept him a prisoner,
visiting him at midnight only, to avoid Williams, and giving him rations
for another day. Meanwhile, I disguised myself and looked for Palma. I
could not find him. I had another card, however, and the time came at
last to play it. I deduced from Palma's leaving the hotel on the very
day when I took the emerald from the Custom-House, that it was
prearranged that his hireling should stick to me until he obtained the
gem, and then meet him at some rendezvous, previously appointed. Hearing
nothing during the past few days, he has perhaps thought that I had left
the city, and that his man was still upon my track. Meanwhile I was
perfecting my grand _coup_. With the aid of a physician, who is a
confidential friend, I obtained a corpse from one of the hospitals, a
man about my size, whose face we battered beyond description. We dressed
him in my clothing, and fixed the dagger which I had taken from my
would-be assassin so tightly in the backbone that it would not drop out.
Then one night we took our dummy to the river and securely anchored it
in the water. Last night I simply cut it loose and let it drift down the
river."

"You knew of course that it would be taken to the Morgue," said Mr.
Barnes.

"Precisely. Then I dressed myself as a blind beggar, posted myself in
front of the Morgue, and waited."

"You were the beggar?" ejaculated the detective.

"Yes. I have your quarter, and shall prize it as a souvenir. Indeed, I
made nearly four dollars during the day. Begging seems to be lucrative.
After the newspapers got on the street with the account of my death, I
looked for developments. Palma came in due time, and went in. I presume
that he saw the dagger, which was placed there for his special benefit,
as well as the empty jewel-case, and at once concluded that his man had
stolen the gem and meant to keep it for himself. Under these
circumstances he would naturally be angry, and therefore less cautious
and more easily shadowed. Before he came out, you turned up and stupidly
brought a cab, which allowed my man to get a start of me. However, I am
a good runner, and as he only rode as far as Third Avenue, and then took
the elevated railroad, I easily followed him to his lair. Now I will
explain to you what I wish you to do, if I may count on you?"

"Assuredly."

"You must go into the street, and when I release the man in the cellar,
you must track him. I will go to the other place, and we will see what
happens when the men meet. We will both be there to see the fun."

An hour later, Mr. Barnes was skilfully dogging a sneaking Mexican, who
walked rapidly through one of the lowest streets on the East Side, until
finally he dodged into a blind alley, and before the detective could
make sure which of the many doors had allowed him ingress he had
disappeared. A moment later a low whistle attracted his attention, and
across in a doorway he saw a figure which beckoned to him. He went over
and found Mr. Mitchel.

"Palma is here. I have seen him. You see I was right. This is the place
of appointment, and the cutthroat has come here straight. Hush! What was
that?"

There was a shriek, followed by another, and then silence.

"Let us go up," said Mr. Barnes. "Do you know which door?"

"Yes; follow me."

Mr. Mitchel started across, but, just as they reached the door,
footsteps were heard rapidly descending the stairs. Both men stood aside
and waited. A minute later a cloaked figure bounded out, only to be
gripped instantly by those in hiding. It was Palma, and he fought like a
demon, but the long, powerful arms of Mr. Barnes encircled him, and,
with a hug that would have made a bear envious, the scoundrel was soon
subdued. Mr. Barnes then manacled him, while Mr. Mitchel ascended the
stairs to see about the other man. He lay sprawling on the floor, face
downward, stabbed in the heart.



                                   V

                          A SINGULAR ABDUCTION


Mr. Barnes was alone in his sanctum when an elderly gentleman of
cultured manners was ushered in. The visitor sank into a seat and began
his appeal at once.

"Oh, Mr. Barnes," said he, "I am in great distress. I hardly dared to
hope that assistance was possible until I met my friend, Mr. Leroy
Mitchel. You know him?" Mr. Barnes assented with a smile. "Well,"
continued the old gentleman, "Mr. Mitchel said that you could surely
assist me."

"Certainly. I will do all that is in my power," said the detective.

"You are very kind. I hope you can aid me. But let me tell you the
story. I am Richard Gedney, the broker. Perhaps you have heard the
name?" Mr. Barnes nodded. "I thought so. 'Old Dick,' they call me on the
street, and sometimes 'Old Nick,' but that is only their joke. I do not
believe they really dislike me, though I have grown rich. I have never
cheated any one, nor wronged a friend in my life. But that is
immaterial, except that it makes it hard to understand how any one
could have done me the great injury of stealing my daughter."

"Stealing your daughter?" interrupted the detective. "Abduction?"

"Abduction I suppose is your technical term. I call it plain stealing.
To take a girl of fourteen away from her father's home is stealing,
plain and simple."

"When did this occur?"

"Two days ago. Tuesday morning we missed her, though she may have been
taken in the night. She was slightly ill on Monday evening, and her maid
sent for our doctor, who ordered her to be put to bed and kept there.
Next morning, that is, Tuesday, he called early, as he was going out on
his rounds. He was admitted by the butler and went straight up to her
room. He came down a few minutes later, rang the door-bell to call a
servant, and reported that the child was not in her room. He left word
that she must be put back to bed and that he would return in an hour.
The butler gave the message to her maid, who became alarmed, as she
supposed her mistress to be in bed. A search was begun, but the child
had vanished."

"How is it, Mr. Gedney, that the doctor did not speak to you personally
instead of to the servant?"

"I cannot too much condemn myself. You see, I am an old whist player,
and the temptation to play made me linger so late with some friends on
Monday night that I preferred to remain in Newark where I was, and so
did not reach home till ten o'clock Tuesday morning. By that time the
misfortune had occurred."

"Have you made no discoveries as to what has become of her?"

"None. We have sent to all of our friends in the vain hope that she
might have arisen early and gone out, but no one has seen her. She has
disappeared as thoroughly as though she had been swallowed by an
earthquake. Here, however, is a letter which reached me this morning. I
cannot tell whether there is anything in it, or whether it is merely a
cruel joke perpetrated by some crank who has heard of my loss." He
handed the letter to the detective, who read as follows:

"Your daughter is safe if you are sensible. If you want her back all you
have to do is to state your figures. Make them high enough, and she'll
be with you. Put a 'Personal' in the _Herald_ for D. M., and I will
answer."

"Mr. Gedney," said Mr. Barnes, "I am afraid this is a serious case. What
has been done has been so thoroughly well accomplished that I believe we
have no fool to deal with. His is a master hand. We must begin our work
at once. I will take this up personally. Come, we must go out."

They proceeded first to the _Herald_ uptown office, and Mr. Barnes
inserted the following advertisement:

    "D. M. Communicate at once, stating lowest terms. GEDNEY."

"Now we will go to your home, Mr. Gedney," said Mr. Barnes, and thither
they went.

Seating himself in a comfortable leather chair in the library, Mr.
Barnes asked that the butler should be called. The man entered the room,
and it was apparent at once that here was a good servant of the English
type.

"Moulton," began Mr. Barnes, "I am a detective. I am going to find out
where your young mistress has been taken."

"I hope so, sir," said the butler.

"Very well," said the detective. "Now answer a few questions explicitly,
and you may give me great assistance. On Tuesday morning you admitted
the doctor. At what time was it?"

"It was about eight o'clock, sir. We had just taken our seats at
breakfast in the servants' hall, when the bell rang. That is how I know
the hour. We are regular about meals in this house. We eat at eight and
the master at nine."

"What happened when you admitted the doctor?"

"He asked for Miss Nora, and I told him she was not down yet. He said he
supposed he could go up, and I said I supposed so, and he went."

"What did you do next?"

"I went back to my breakfast."

"Did you tell the maid that the doctor had called?"

"Not just then, sir, for she had not come into the breakfast-room."

"When did you tell her?"

"After I saw the doctor the second time. I heard the door-bell again and
went up, when, to my surprise, there was the doctor. He said he rang
because he did not know how else to call me. Then he said that Miss Nora
had left her room, which was against the orders he gave the night
before, and that I was to tell the maid to have her back to bed, and he
would call again. I went back to the breakfast-room. This time the maid
was there, and frightened she was when I gave her the message."

"How long was it after you admitted the doctor the first time, when you
answered his second ring?"

"I should think five minutes, sir; though it might have been ten."

"And during this five or ten minutes the maid was not in the
breakfast-room?"

"No, sir."

"Send her to me." The butler left the room, and, whilst waiting for the
maid, Mr. Barnes addressed Mr. Gedney.

"Mr. Gedney," said he, "you have not told me the name of the doctor."

"His name is Donaldson. Everybody knows Dr. Donaldson."

"Has he served you long?"

"Ever since I came to live in this neighborhood. About two years, I
should say. He has seemed to be very fond of Elinora. Why, he has been
here a half-dozen times asking for news of her since her disappearance.
He has a curious theory which I can hardly credit. He thinks she may
have wandered off in the night, asleep. But then he has not seen this
letter from 'D. M.' yet."

"I would like to speak to him about his somnambulistic idea. Do you
think he will drop in to-day?"

"He may be in at any moment, as he has not called yet this morning. Here
is my daughter's maid."

This directed the attention of Mr. Barnes to a young woman who at that
moment entered. She was evidently dreadfully alarmed at being summoned
to meet a detective, and her eyes showed that she had been weeping.

"Come, my girl," said Mr. Barnes, reassuringly, "you need not be
frightened. I am not an ogre. I only wish to ask you a few questions.
You are willing to help me find your mistress, are you not?"

"Oh, indeed, indeed yes, sir!"

"Then begin by telling me how she was on Monday night when you sent for
the doctor."

The girl composed herself with an effort, evidently satisfied that a
detective was just like any ordinary man, and replied:

"Miss Nora acted rather odd all Monday, and was melancholy like. She
would sit and stare out of the window and not answer when she was spoken
to. I thought perhaps something had bothered her, and so I left her
alone, meaning to speak to her father at dinner-time. But he sent a
telegram saying he had to go out of town. So when Miss Nora wouldn't
come down to dinner, and wouldn't answer me, but just kept staring out
of the window, I got scared a little, and thought it best to send for
Dr. Donaldson."

"What did he say when he came?"

"He talked to her, but she wouldn't answer him either. He patted her on
the head, and said she was sulky. Then he told me perhaps she was angry
because her father hadn't come home, but that she must not be allowed to
brood over trifles. He said I must put her to bed, and he gave her some
medicine that he said would put her to sleep."

"Did you have any trouble to get her to bed?"

"No, sir, though that was strange. She just stood still and let me do
everything. She did not help me or prevent me."

"When did you see her after that?"

"I never saw her after that," and she began to cry softly.

"Come, come, don't cry. Your mistress is all right. I will bring her
back. Now tell me why you did not see her again. Is it not your business
to attend her in the morning?"

"Yes, sir, but she only gets up about eight o'clock, and the doctor told
me he would call the first thing in the morning, and that I must not
disturb her till he came. He said he wanted to wake her himself and see
how she acted."

"You were not in the breakfast-room at eight o'clock," said the
detective, watching her closely; "where were you?"

The girl turned crimson, and stammered a few words inaudibly.

"Come, tell me where you were. You were somewhere, you know. Where were
you?"

"I was in the downstairs hallway," she said, slowly.

"Doing what?"

"I was talking to the policeman," she replied, more reluctantly.

"Your beau?" asked Mr. Barnes, significantly.

"No, sir. He is my husband." She tossed her head defiantly, now that her
secret was divulged.

"Your husband?" said Mr. Barnes, slightly surprised. "Why, then, did you
hesitate to tell me of him?"

"Because--because,"--she stammered, again much troubled,--"because,
maybe, if I hadn't been talking to him, Miss Nora wouldn't have been
carried off. He might have seen the thief."

"Just so," said Mr. Barnes. "Well, that will do." The girl retired only
too gladly.

Mr. Barnes asked to be shown the room where the missing girl had slept,
and made minute examinations of everything. Up in the room a thought
occurred to him, and he once more asked for the maid.

"Can you tell me," he asked, "whether your mistress took any of her
clothing with her?"

"Well, sir," she replied, "I miss the whole suit that she wore on
Monday. It looks as though she must have dressed herself."

Mr. Barnes made a few notes in his memorandum-book, and then with Mr.
Gedney returned to the library. Here they found Dr. Donaldson, who had
arrived whilst they were upstairs. Mr. Gedney introduced the doctor, a
genial, pleasant man, who shook Mr. Barnes cordially by the hand,
saying:

"I am delighted, Mr. Barnes, that my old friend Gedney has been sensible
enough to engage you to unravel this affair rather than call in the
police. The police are bunglers anyway, and only make scandal and
publicity. You have looked into the matter, eh? What do you think?"

"That is precisely the question, Doctor, which I wish to ask you. What
do you think? Mr. Gedney says you suggest somnambulism."

"I only said it might be that. I would not like to be too positive. You
know that I called to see the dear girl Monday night. Well, I found her
in a strange mood. In fact, thinking it over, I have almost convinced
myself that what we took for stubbornness--sulks, I think I called
it--was somnambulism. That, in fact, she was asleep when I saw her. That
would account for her not replying to questions, and offering no
resistance when her maid removed her clothing to put her to bed. Still
it is merely a guess. It is possible that she got up in the night and
wandered out of the house. I only venture it as a possibility, a chance
clue for you to work on."

"What do you think of this letter?" asked Mr. Barnes, handing the doctor
the anonymous communication from "D. M."

The doctor read it over twice, and then said:

"Looks more like somnambulism than ever. Don't you see? She dressed
herself in the night, and wandered off. Some scoundrel has found her and
taken her to his home. Knowing that her father has money, he holds her
for ransom."

"How do you know, Doctor," said Mr. Barnes, quietly, "that 'D. M.' is a
he? The communication is in typewriting, so that nothing can be learned
from the chirography."

"Of course I don't know it," said the doctor, testily. "Still I'll wager
that no woman ever concocted this scheme."

"Again, how should her abductor know that her father is rich?"

"Why, I suppose her name may be on her clothing, and once he discovered
her parentage, he would know that. However he found it out, it is plain
that he does know, or how could they, or he, or she, if you wish me to
be so particular, have written this letter?"

This was unanswerable, so Mr. Barnes remained silent.

"What move will you make first?" asked the doctor.

Mr. Barnes told him of the advertisement which he had inserted, and took
his departure, requesting that if Mr. Gedney received any answer he
should be notified at once.

About half-past ten the next morning, Mr. Gedney presented himself to
the detective and handed him the following letter:

    "I am glad you are sensible. Saw your advertisement, and I
    answer at once. I want twenty thousand dollars. That is my
    price. Now note what I have to say, and let me emphasize
    the fact that I mean every word. This is my first offer.
    Any dickering will make me increase my price, and I will
    never decrease it. To save time, let me tell you something
    else. I have no partner in this, so there is no one to
    squeal on me. No one on earth but myself knows where the
    girl is. Now for future arrangements. You will want to
    communicate with me. I don't mean you to have any chance to
    catch me with decoy letters or anything of that sort. I
    know already that you have that keen devil Barnes helping
    you. But he'll meet his match this time. Here is my plan.
    You, or your detective, I don't care which, must go to the
    public telephone station in the Hoffman House at two
    o'clock sharp. I will go to another, never mind where, and
    will ring you up. When you answer, I will simply say, 'D.
    M.' You will recognize the signal and can do the talking. I
    will not answer except by letter, because I won't even run
    the risk of that detective's hearing my voice, and some
    time in the future recognizing it. You see, I may need
    Barnes myself some day and wouldn't like to be deprived of
    his valuable services. I enclose a piece of the girl's
    cloth dress and a lock of her hair to show that I am
    dealing square.
                                                     "D. M."

"Mr. Gedney," said Mr. Barnes, "make your mind easy. Your daughter is
safe, at all events. I suppose this bit of cloth and the hair satisfy
you that the scoundrel really has her?"

"Yes, I am convinced of that. But how does that make the girl safe?"

"The fellow wants the money. It is to his interest to be able to restore
your daughter. My business shall be to get her without payment of
ransom, and to catch the abductor. I'll meet you at the Hoffman House at
two o'clock."

As soon as Mr. Gedney had gone, Mr. Barnes wrote the following note:

    "DR. DONALDSON:--

    "Dear Sir--I believe that I am on the right track, and all
    through the clue supplied by yourself. Please aid me a
    little further. I would like to know the exact size of the
    missing girl. As a physician, you will supply this even
    better than the father. Also inform me of any mark or
    peculiarity by which I might recognize her, alive or dead.
    Please answer at once.
                             "Yours truly,
                                                 "J. BARNES."

This he sent by a messenger, and received the following in reply:

    "MR. BARNES:--

    "Dear Sir--I hope you will succeed. Elinora is small and
    slim, being rather undersized for her age. I should say
    about four feet ten inches, or thereabout. I know of no
    distinctive mark whereby her body could be recognized, and
    hope that nothing of the sort seemingly suggested may be
    necessary.
                             "Yours truly,
                                     "ROBERT DONALDSON, M.D."

Mr. Barnes read this, and appeared more pleased than its contents seemed
to authorize. At the appointed time he went to the Hoffman House. He
found Mr. Gedney impatiently walking up and down the lobby.

"Mr. Gedney," said he, "at the beginning of this case you offered me my
own price for recovering your daughter. Now, supposing that you pay this
ransom, it would appear that you would have had little need of my
services. If, however, I get your daughter, and save you the necessity
of paying any ransom at all, I suppose you will admit that I have earned
my reward?"

"Most assuredly."

After this, Mr. Gedney was rather startled when he heard what the
detective said to "D. M." through the telephone. They shut themselves up
in the little box, and very soon received the call and then the signal
"D. M." as agreed. Mr. Barnes spoke to the abductor, who presumably was
listening.

"We agree to your terms," said he. "That is, we will pay twenty thousand
dollars for the return of the girl unharmed. You are so shrewd that we
suppose you will invent some scheme for receiving the money which will
protect you from arrest, but at the same time we must be assured that
the girl will be returned to us unharmed. In fact, she must be given to
us as soon as the money is paid. Notify us immediately, as the father is
in a hurry."

Mr. Barnes put up the instrument and "rang off." Then he turned to Mr.
Gedney and said:

"That may surprise you. But what may astonish you more is that you must
obtain twenty thousand dollars in cash at once. We will need it. Ask no
questions, but depend upon me and trust me."

On the next day Mr. Gedney received the following letter:

    "You have more sense than I gave you credit for. So has
    that Barnes fellow, for it was his voice I heard through
    the 'phone. You accept my terms. Very well. I'll deal
    square and not raise you, though I ought to have made it
    twenty-five thousand at least. Come to the 'phone to-day,
    same hour, and I'll ring you up, from a different station.
    Then you can tell me if you will be ready to-night, or
    to-morrow night. Either will suit me. Then here is the
    plan. You want to be sure the girl is all right. Then let
    the ambassador be your friend, Doctor Donaldson. He knows
    the girl and can tell that she is all right. Let him start
    from his house at midnight, and drive from his office up
    Madison Avenue rapidly till hailed by the signal 'D. M.' He
    must go fast enough to prevent being followed on foot. If
    there is no detective with him or following him, he will be
    hailed. Otherwise he will be allowed to pass. I will be in
    hiding with the girl. Warn the doctor that I will be armed,
    and will have a bead on him all the time. Any treachery
    will mean death. I will take the cash, give up the girl,
    and the transaction will be ended."

When this was shown to the detective, he proposed that he and Mr. Gedney
should call upon the doctor. This they did, and, after some argument,
persuaded him to undertake the recovery of the girl that same night.

"Mr. Gedney has decided to obtain his child at any sacrifice," said Mr.
Barnes, "and this scoundrel is so shrewd that there seems to be no way
to entrap him. No effort will be made to follow you, so you need have no
fear of any trouble from the thief. Only be sure that you obtain the
right girl. It would be just possible that a wrong one might be given to
you, and a new ransom demanded."

"Oh, I shall know Elinora," said the doctor. "I will do this, but I
think we ought to arrest the villain, if possible."

"I do not despair of doing so," said Mr. Barnes. "Get a glimpse of his
face if you can, and be sure to note where you receive the girl. When we
get her she may give me a clue upon which an arrest may be made. We will
wait for you at Mr. Gedney's house."

After midnight that night, Mr. Gedney paced the floor anxiously, while
Mr. Barnes sat at a desk looking over some memoranda. Presently he went
into the hall and had a long talk with the butler. One o'clock passed,
and still no news. At half-past, however, horses' hoofs sounded upon the
asphalt pavement, and a few minutes later the door-bell jingled. The
door was quickly opened, and the doctor entered, bearing little Elinora
asleep in his arms.

"My daughter!" exclaimed the excited father. "Thank God, she is restored
to me!"

"Yes," said the doctor, "here she is, safe and sound. I think, though,
that she has been drugged, for she has slept ever since I received her."

"Did you have any trouble?" asked Mr. Barnes, entering at this moment.
He had lingered outside in the hall long enough to exchange a word with
the butler.

"None," said the doctor. "At One Hundred and Second Street I heard the
signal and stopped. A man came out of the shadow of a building, looked
into the carriage, said 'All right,' and asked if I had the cash. I
replied affirmatively. He went back to the sidewalk and returned with
the child in his arms, but with a pistol pointed at me. Then he said,
'Pass out the money.' I did so, and he seemed satisfied, for he gave me
the child, took the package, and ran off. I saw his face, but I fear my
description will not avail you, for I am sure he was disguised."

"Very possibly your description will be useless," said Mr. Barnes; "but
I have discovered the identity of the abductor."

"Impossible!" cried the doctor, amazed.

"Let me prove that I am right," said Mr. Barnes. He went to the door and
admitted the butler, accompanied by the policeman who had been off his
beat talking with the maid. Before his companions understood what was
about to happen, Mr. Barnes said:

"Officer, arrest that man!" Whereupon the policeman seized the doctor
and held him as though in a vise.

"What does this outrage mean?" screamed the doctor, after ineffectually
endeavoring to release himself.

"Put on the manacles, officer," said Mr. Barnes; "then we can talk. He
is armed, and might become dangerous." With the assistance of the
detective this was accomplished, and then Mr. Barnes addressed himself
to Mr. Gedney.

"Mr. Gedney, I had some slight suspicion of the truth after questioning
the butler and the maid, but the first real clue came with the answer to
the 'Personal.' You brought that to me in the morning, and I noted that
it was postmarked at the main office downtown at six A.M. Of course, it
was possible that it might have been written after the appearance of the
newspaper, but if so, the thief was up very early. The doctor, however,
knew of the 'Personal' on the day previous, as I told him of it in your
presence. That letter was written in typewriting, and I observed a
curious error in the spelling of three words. I found the words
'emphasize,' 'recognize,' and 'recognizing.' In each, instead of the
'z,' we have a repetition of the 'i,' that letter being doubled. I
happen to know something about writing-machines. I felt certain that
this letter had been written upon a Caligraph. In that machine the bar
which carries the letter 'i' is next to that which carries the letter
'z.' It is not an uncommon thing when a typewriter is out of order for
two bars to fail to pass one another. Thus, in writing 'emphasize' the
rapid writer would strike the 'z' key before the 'i' had fully
descended. The result would be that the 'z,' rising, would strike the
'i' bar and carry it up again, thus doubling the 'i,' instead of writing
'iz.' The repetition of the mistake was evidence that it was a faulty
machine. I also noted that this anonymous letter was upon paper from
which the top had been torn away. I wrote to the doctor here, asking
about the 'size' of the girl, and for any marks whereby we might be able
to 'recognize' the body. I used the words 'size' and 'recognize,' hoping
to tempt him to use them also in reply. In his answer I find the word
'recognized' and also a similar word, 'undersized.' In both we have a
repetition of the double 'i' error. Moreover, the paper of this letter
from the doctor matched that upon which the anonymous communication had
been written, provided I tore off the top, which bore his letterhead.
This satisfied me that the doctor was our man. When the last letter
came, proposing that he should be the ambassador, the trick was doubly
sure. It was ingenious, for the abductor of course assured himself that
he was not followed, and simply brought the girl home. But I set another
trap. I secretly placed a cyclometer upon the doctor's carriage. He says
that to-night he drove to One Hundred and Second Street, and back here,
a total of ten miles. The cyclometer, which the butler obtained for me
when the doctor arrived a while ago, shows that he drove less than a
mile. He simply waited at his house until the proper time to come, and
then drove here, bringing the girl with him."

The doctor remained silent, but glared venomously at the man who had
outwitted him.

"But how did he get Elinora?" asked Mr. Gedney.

"That queer yarn which he told us about somnambulism first suggested to
me that he was possibly less ignorant than he pretended to be. I fear,
Mr. Gedney, that your daughter is ill. I judge from the description of
her condition, given by her maid, and admitted by this man, that she was
suffering from an attack of catalepsy when he was summoned. When he
called the next day, finding the girl still in a trance, he quickly
dressed her and took her out to his carriage. Then he coolly returned,
announced that she was not in her room, and drove away with her."

"It seems incredible!" exclaimed Mr. Gedney. "I have known the doctor so
long that it is hard to believe that he is a criminal."

"Criminals," said Mr. Barnes, "are often created by opportunity. That
was probably the case here. The case is most peculiar. It is a crime
which none but a physician could have conceived, and that one fact makes
possible what to a casual observer might seem most improbable. An
abduction is rarely successful, because of the difficulties which attend
the crime, not the least of which are the struggles of the victim, and
the story which will be told after the return of the child. Here all
this was obviated. The doctor recognized catalepsy at the first visit.
Perhaps during the night the possibility of readily compelling you to
pay him a large sum of money grew into a tremendous temptation. With the
project half formed, he called the next morning. Circumstances favored
the design. He found the girl unattended, and unresistant because of her
condition. He likewise knew that when he should have returned her, she
could tell nothing of where she had been, because of her trance. He
started downstairs with her. There was no risk. If he had met any one,
any excuse for bringing her from her room would have been accepted,
because uttered by the family physician. He placed her in the carriage
unobserved, and the most difficult part of the affair was accomplished.
Many men of high degree are at heart rascals; but through fear, either
of law or loss of position, they lead fairly virtuous lives. Temptation,
accompanied by opportunity, coming to one of these, compasses his
downfall, as has occurred in this instance. Criminals are recruited from
all classes."

The ransom money was recovered by searching the apartments of the
doctor, and his guilt was thus indubitably proven. Mr. Mitchel,
commenting upon the affair, simply said:

"I sent you to him, Mr. Gedney, because Mr. Barnes is above his kind. He
is no ordinary detective."



                                   VI

                              THE AZTEC OPAL


"Mr. Mitchel," began Mr. Barnes, after exchanging greetings, "I have
called to see you upon a subject which I am sure will enlist your
keenest interest, for several reasons. It relates to a magnificent
jewel; it concerns your intimate friends; and it is a problem requiring
the most analytical qualities of the mind in its solution."

"Ah, then you have solved it?" asked Mr. Mitchel.

"I think so. You shall judge. I have to-day been called in to
investigate one of the most singular cases that has fallen in my way. It
is one in which the usual detective methods would be utterly valueless.
The facts were presented to me, and the solution of the mystery could
only be reached by analytical deductions."

"That is to say, by using your brains?"

"Precisely. Now, as you have admitted that you consider yourself more
expert in this direction than the ordinary detective, I wish to place
you for once in the position of a detective, and then see you prove your
ability."

"Early this morning I was summoned, by a messenger, to go aboard of the
steam yacht _Idler_ which lay at anchor in the lower bay."

"Why, the _Idler_ belongs to my friend, Mortimer Gray!" exclaimed Mr.
Mitchel.

"Yes," replied Mr. Barnes; "I told you that your friends are interested.
I went immediately with the man who had come to my office, and in due
season I was aboard of the yacht. Mr. Gray received me very politely,
and took me to his private room adjoining the cabin. Here he explained
to me that he had been off on a cruise for a few weeks, and was
approaching the harbor last night, when, in accordance with his plans, a
sumptuous dinner was served, as a sort of farewell feast, the party
expecting to separate to-day."

"What guests were on the yacht?"

"I will tell you everything in order, as the facts were presented to me.
Mr. Gray enumerated the party as follows: besides himself and his wife,
there were his wife's sister, Mrs. Eugene Cortlandt, and her husband, a
Wall Street broker; also, Mr. Arthur Livingstone and his sister, and a
Mr. Dennett Moore, a young man supposed to be devoting himself to Miss
Livingstone."

"That makes seven persons, three of whom are women. I ought to say, Mr.
Barnes, that, though Mr. Gray is a club friend, I am not personally
acquainted with his wife, nor with the others. So I have no advantage
over you."

"I will come at once to the curious incident which made my presence
desirable. According to Mr. Gray's story, the dinner had proceeded as
far as the roast, when suddenly there was a slight shock as the yacht
touched a bar, and at the same time the lamps spluttered and then went
out, leaving the room totally dark. A second later the vessel righted
herself and sped on, so that, before any panic ensued, it was evident to
all that the danger had passed. The gentlemen begged the ladies to
resume their seats, and remain quiet till the lamps were lighted; this,
however, the attendants were unable to do, and they were ordered to
bring fresh lamps. Thus there was almost total darkness for several
minutes."

"During which, I presume, the person who planned the affair readily
consummated his design?"

"So you think that the whole series of events was prearranged? Be that
as it may, something did happen in that dark room. The women had started
from their seats when the yacht touched, and when they groped their way
back in the darkness some of them found the wrong places, as was seen
when the fresh lamps were brought. This was considered a good joke, and
there was some laughter, which was suddenly checked by an exclamation
from Mr. Gray, who quickly asked his wife, 'Where is your opal?'"

"Her opal?" asked Mr. Mitchel, in tones which showed that his greatest
interest was now aroused. "Do you mean, Mr. Barnes, that she was wearing
the Aztec Opal?"

"Oh, you know the gem?"

"I know nearly all gems of great value; but what of this one?"

"Mrs. Gray and her sister, Mrs. Cortlandt, had both donned _décolleté_
costumes for this occasion, and Mrs. Gray had worn this opal as a
pendant to a thin gold chain which hung around her neck. At Mr. Gray's
question, all looked towards his wife, and it was noted that the clasp
was open, and the opal missing. Of course it was supposed that it had
merely fallen to the floor, and a search was immediately instituted. But
the opal could not be found."

"That is certainly a very significant fact," said Mr. Mitchel. "But was
the search thorough?"

"I should say extremely thorough, when we consider it was not conducted
by a detective, who is supposed to be an expert in such matters. Mr.
Gray described to me what was done, and he seems to have taken every
precaution. He sent the attendants out of the _salon_, and he and his
guests systematically examined every part of the room."

"Except the place where the opal really was concealed, you mean."

"With that exception, of course, since they did not find the jewel. Not
satisfied with this search by lamplight, Mr. Gray locked the _salon_, so
that no one could enter it during the night, and another investigation
was made in the morning."

"The pockets of the seven persons present were not examined, I presume?"

"No. I asked Mr. Gray why this had been omitted, and he said it was an
indignity which he could not possibly show to a guest. As you have
asked this question, Mr. Mitchel, it is only fair for me to tell you
that when I spoke to Mr. Gray on the subject he seemed very much
confused. Nevertheless, however unwilling he may have been to search
those of his guests who are innocent, he emphatically told me that if I
had reasonable proof that any one present had purloined the opal, he
wished that individual to be treated as any other thief, without regard
to sex or social position."

"One can scarcely blame him, because that opal is worth a fabulous sum.
I have myself offered Gray twenty thousand dollars for it, which was
refused. This opal is one of the eyes of an Aztec idol, and if the other
could be found, the two would be as interesting as any jewels in the
world."

"That is the story which I was asked to unravel," continued Mr. Barnes,
"and I must now relate to you what steps I have taken towards that end.
It appears that, because of the loss of the jewel, no person has left
the yacht, although no restraint was placed upon anyone by Mr. Gray. All
knew, however, that he had sent for a detective, and it was natural that
no one should offer to go until formally dismissed by the host. My plan,
then, was to have a private interview with each of the seven persons who
had been present at the dinner."

"Then you exempted the attendants from your suspicions?"

"I did. There was but one way by which one of the servants could have
stolen the opal, and this was prevented by Mr. Gray. It was possible
that the opal had fallen on the floor, and, though not found at night, a
servant might have discovered and have appropriated it on the following
morning, had he been able to enter the _salon_. But Mr. Gray had locked
the doors. No servant, however bold, would have been able to take the
opal from the lady's neck."

"I think your reasoning is good, and we will confine ourselves to the
original seven."

"After my interview with Mr. Gray, I asked to have Mrs. Gray sent in to
me. She came in, and at once I noted that she placed herself on the
defensive. Women frequently adopt that manner with a detective. Her
story was very brief. The main point was that she was aware of the theft
before the lamps were relighted. In fact, she felt some one's arms steal
around her neck, and knew when the opal was taken. I asked why she had
made no outcry, and whether she suspected any special person. To these
questions she replied that she supposed it was merely a joke perpetrated
in the darkness, and therefore had made no resistance. She would not
name anyone as suspected by her, but she was willing to tell me that the
arms were bare, as she detected when they touched her neck. I must say
here, that although Miss Livingstone's dress was not cut low in the
neck, it was, practically, sleeveless; and Mrs. Cortlandt's dress had no
sleeves at all. One other significant statement made by this lady was
that her husband had mentioned to her your offer of twenty thousand
dollars for the opal, and had urged her to permit him to sell it, but
she had refused."

"So it was madame who would not sell? The plot thickens."

"You will observe, of course, the point about the naked arms of the
thief. I therefore sent for Mrs. Cortlandt next. She had a curious story
to tell. Unlike her sister, she was quite willing to express her
suspicions. Indeed, she plainly intimated that she supposed that Mr.
Gray himself had taken the jewel. I will endeavor to repeat her words.

"'Mr. Barnes,' said she, 'the affair is very simple. Gray is a miserable
old skinflint. A Mr. Mitchel, a crank who collects gems, offered to buy
that opal, and he has been bothering my sister for it ever since. When
the lamps went out, he took the opportunity to steal it. I do not think
this--I know it. How? Well, on account of the confusion and darkness, I
sat in my sister's seat when I returned to the table; this explains his
mistake. He put his arms around my neck, and deliberately felt for the
opal. I did not understand his purpose at the time, but now it is very
evident.'

"'Yes, madame,' said I, 'but how do you know it was Mr. Gray?'

"'Why, I grabbed his hand, and before he could pull it away I felt the
large cameo ring on his little finger. Oh, there is no doubt whatever.'

"I asked her whether Mr. Gray had his sleeves rolled up, and, though she
could not understand the purport of the question, she said 'No.' Next I
had Miss Livingstone come in. She is a slight, tremulous young lady,
who cries at the slightest provocation. During the interview, brief as
it was, it was only by the greatest diplomacy that I avoided a scene of
hysterics. She tried very hard to convince me that she knew absolutely
nothing. She had not left her seat during the disturbance; of that she
was sure. So how could she know anything about it? I asked her to name
the one who she thought might have taken the opal, and at this her
agitation reached such a climax that I was obliged to let her go."

"You gained very little from her, I should say."

"In a case of this kind, Mr. Mitchel, where the criminal is surely one
of a very few persons, we cannot fail to gain something from each
person's story. A significant feature here was that though Miss
Livingstone assures us that she did not leave her seat, she was sitting
in a different place when the lamps were lighted again."

"That might mean anything or nothing."

"Exactly. But we are not deducing values yet. Mr. Dennett Moore came to
me next, and he is a straightforward, honest man if I ever saw one. He
declared that the whole affair was a great mystery to him, and that,
while ordinarily he would not care anything about it, he could not but
be somewhat interested, because he thought that one of the ladies, he
would not say which one, suspected him. Mr. Livingstone also impressed
me favorably, in spite of the fact that he did not remove his cigarette
from his mouth throughout the whole of my interview with him. He
declined to name the person suspected by him, though he admitted that he
could do so. He made this significant remark:

"'You are a detective of experience, Mr. Barnes, and ought to be able to
decide which man amongst us could place his arms around Mrs. Gray's neck
without causing her to cry out. But if your imagination fails you,
suppose you inquire into the financial standing of all of us, and see
which one would be most likely to profit by thieving? Ask Mr.
Cortlandt.'"

"Evidently Mr. Livingstone knows more than he tells."

"Yet he told enough for one to guess his suspicions, and to understand
the delicacy which prompted him to say no more. He, however, gave me a
good point upon which to question Mr. Cortlandt. When I asked that
gentleman if any of the men happened to be in pecuniary difficulties, he
became grave at once. I will give you his answer.

"'Mr. Livingstone and Mr. Moore are both exceedingly wealthy men, and I
am a millionaire, in very satisfactory business circumstances at
present. But I am very sorry to say that though our host, Mr. Gray, is
also a distinctly rich man, he has met with some reverses recently, and
I can conceive that ready money would be useful to him. But for all
that, it is preposterous to believe what your question evidently
indicates. None of the persons in this party is a thief, and least of
all could we suspect Mr. Gray. I am sure that if he wished his wife's
opal, she would give it to him cheerfully. No, Mr. Barnes, the opal is
in some crack or crevice which we have overlooked. It is lost, not
stolen.'

"That ended the interview with the several persons present, but I made
one or two other inquiries, from which I elicited at least two
significant facts. First, it was Mr. Gray himself who had indicated the
course by which the yacht was steered last night, and which ran her over
a sand-bar. Second, some one had nearly emptied the oil from the lamps,
so that they would have burned out in a short time, even though the
yacht had not touched."

"These, then, are your facts. And from these you have solved the
problem. Well, Mr. Barnes, who stole the opal?"

"Mr. Mitchel, I have told you all I know, but I wish you to work out a
solution before I reveal my own opinion."

"I have already done so, Mr. Barnes. Here; I will write my suspicion on
a bit of paper. So. Now tell me yours, and you shall know mine
afterwards."

"Why, to my mind it is very simple. Mr. Gray, failing to obtain the opal
from his wife by fair means, resorted to a trick. He removed the oil
from the lamps, and charted out a course for his yacht which would take
her over a sand-bar, and when the opportune moment came he stole the
jewel. His actions since then have been merely to cover his crime by
shrouding the affair with mystery. By insisting upon a thorough search,
and even sending for a detective, he makes it impossible for those who
were present to accuse him hereafter. Undoubtedly Mr. Cortlandt's
opinion will be the one generally adopted. Now what do you think?"

"I think I will go with you at once, and board the yacht _Idler_."

"But you have not told me whom you suspect," said Mr. Barnes, somewhat
irritated.

"Oh, that is immaterial," said Mr. Mitchel, calmly preparing for the
street. "I do not suspect Mr. Gray, so if you are correct you will have
shown better ability than I. Come, let us hurry."

On their way to the dock from which they were to take the little steam
launch which was waiting to carry the detective back to the yacht, Mr.
Barnes asked Mr. Mitchel the following question:

"Mr. Mitchel," said he, "you will note that Mrs. Cortlandt alluded to
you as a 'crank who collects gems.' I must admit that I have myself
harbored a great curiosity as to your reasons for purchasing jewels
which are valued beyond a mere conservative commercial price. Would you
mind explaining why you began your collection?"

"I seldom explain my motives to others, especially when they relate to
my more important pursuits in life. But in view of all that has passed
between us, I think your curiosity justifiable, and I will gratify it.
To begin with, I am a very wealthy man. I inherited great riches, and I
have made a fortune myself. Have you any conception of the difficulties
which harass a man of means?"

"Perhaps not in minute detail, though I can guess that the lot of the
rich is not as free from care as the pauper thinks it is."

"The point is this: the difficulty with a poor man is to get rich, while
with the rich man the greatest trouble is to prevent the increase of his
wealth. Some men, of course, make no effort in that direction, and those
men are a menace to society. My own idea of the proper use of a fortune
is to manage it for the benefit of others, as well as one's self, and
especially to prevent its increase."

"And is it so difficult to do this? Cannot money be spent without
limit?"

"Yes; but unlimited evil follows such a course. This is sufficient to
indicate to you that I am ever in search of a legitimate means of
spending my income, provided that I may do good thereby. If I can do
this, and at the same time afford myself pleasure, I claim that I am
making the best use of my money. Now, I happen to be so constituted that
the most interesting studies to me are social problems, and of these I
am most entertained with the causes and environments of crime. Such a
problem as the one you have brought to me to-day is of immense
attractiveness to me, because the environment is one which is commonly
supposed to preclude rather than to invite crime. Yet we have seen that
despite the wealth of all concerned, some one has stooped to the
commonest of crimes,--theft."

"But what has this to do with your collection of jewels?"

"Everything. Jewels--especially those of great magnitude--seem to be a
special cause of crime. A hundred-carat diamond will tempt a man to
theft as surely as the false beacon on a rocky shore entices the mariner
to wreck and ruin. All the great jewels of the world have murder and
other crimes woven in their histories. My attention was first called to
this by accidentally hearing a plot at a ball to rob the lady of the
house of a large ruby which she wore on her breast. I went to her, and
told her enough to persuade her to sell the stone to me. I fastened it
into my scarf, where the plotters might see it if they remained at the
ball. By my act I prevented a crime that night."

"Then am I to understand that you buy jewels with that end in view?"

"After that night I conceived this idea. If all the great jewels in the
world could be collected together, and put in a place of safety,
hundreds of crimes would be prevented, even before they had been
conceived. Moreover, the search for, and acquirement of, these jewels
would necessarily afford me abundant opportunity for studying the crimes
which are perpetrated in order to gain possession of them. Thus you
understand more thoroughly why I am anxious to pursue this problem of
the Aztec Opal."

Several hours later Mr. Mitchel and Mr. Barnes were sitting at a quiet
table in the corner of the dining-room at Mr. Mitchel's club. On board
the yacht Mr. Mitchel had acted rather mysteriously. He had been
closeted a while with Mr. Gray, after which he had had an interview with
two or three of the others. Then, when Mr. Barnes had begun to feel
neglected, and tired of waiting alone on the deck, Mr. Mitchel had come
towards him, arm in arm with Mr. Gray, and the latter had said:

"I am very much obliged to you, Mr. Barnes, for your services in this
affair, and I trust the enclosed check will remunerate you for your
trouble."

Mr. Barnes, not quite comprehending it all, had attempted to protest,
but Mr. Mitchel had taken him by the arm, and hurried him off. In the
cab which bore them to the club the detective asked for an explanation,
but Mr. Mitchel only replied:

"I am too hungry to talk now. We will have dinner first."

The dinner was over at last, and nuts and coffee were before them, when
Mr. Mitchel took a small parcel from his pocket, and handed it to Mr.
Barnes, saying:

"It is a beauty, is it not?"

Mr. Barnes removed the tissue paper, and a large opal fell on the
table-cloth, where it sparkled with a thousand colors under the electric
lamps.

"Do you mean that this is----" cried the detective.

"The Aztec Opal, and the finest harlequin I ever saw," interrupted Mr.
Mitchel. "But you wish to know how it came into my possession?
Principally so that it may join the collection and cease to be a
temptation in this world of wickedness."

"Then Mr. Gray did not steal it?" asked Mr. Barnes, with a touch of
chagrin in his voice.

"No, Mr. Barnes. Mr. Gray did not steal it. But you are not to consider
yourself very much at fault. Mr. Gray tried to steal it, only he failed.
That was not your fault, of course. You read his actions aright, but you
did not give enough weight to the stories of the others."

"What important point did I omit from my calculations?"

"I might mention the bare arms which Mrs. Gray said she felt around her
neck. It was evidently Mr. Gray who looked for the opal on the neck of
his sister-in-law, but as he did not bare his arms before approaching
her, he would not have done so later."

"Do you mean that Miss Livingstone was the thief?"

"No. Being hysterical, Miss Livingstone changed her seat without
realizing it, but that does not make her a thief. Her excitement when
with you was due to her suspicions, which, by the way, were correct. But
let us return for a moment to the bare arms. That was the clue from
which I worked. It was evident to me that the thief was a man, and it
was equally plain that, in the hurry of the few moments of darkness, no
man would have rolled up his sleeves, risking the return of the
attendants with lamps, and the consequent discovery of himself in such a
singular disarrangement of costume."

"How do you account for the bare arms?"

"The lady did not tell the truth, that is all. The arms which encircled
her neck were not bare. Neither were they unknown to her. She told you
that lie to shield the thief. She also told you that her husband wished
to sell the Aztec Opal to me, but that she had refused. Thus she deftly
led you to suspect him. Now, if she wished to shield the thief, yet was
willing to accuse her husband, it followed that the husband was not the
thief."

"Very well reasoned, Mr. Mitchel. I see now where you are tending, but I
shall not get ahead of your story."

"So much I had deduced before we went on board the yacht. When I found
myself alone with Gray I candidly told him of your suspicions, and your
reasons for harboring them. He was very much disturbed, and pleadingly
asked me what I thought. As frankly, I told him that I believed that he
had tried to take the opal from his wife,--we can scarcely call it
stealing since the law does not,--but that I believed he had failed. He
then confessed; admitted emptying the lamps, though he denied running
the boat on the sand-bar. But he assured me that he had not reached his
wife's chair when the lamps were brought in. He was, therefore, much
astonished at missing the gem. I promised him to find the jewel upon
condition that he would sell it to me. To this he most willingly
acceded."

"But how could you be sure that you would recover the opal?"

"Partly by my knowledge of human nature, and partly because of my
inherent faith in my own abilities. I sent for Mrs. Gray, and noted her
attitude of defense, which, however, only satisfied me the more that I
was right in my suspicions. I began by asking her if she knew the origin
of the superstition that an opal brings bad luck to its owner. She did
not, of course, comprehend my tactics, but she added that she 'had heard
the stupid superstition, but took no interest in such nonsense.' I then
gravely explained to her that the opal is the engagement stone of the
Orient. The lover gives it to his sweetheart, and the belief is, that
should she deceive him even in the most trifling manner, the opal will
lose its brilliancy and become cloudy. I then suddenly asked her if she
had ever noted a change in her opal. 'What do you mean to insinuate?'
she cried out angrily. 'I mean,' said I, sternly, 'that if any opal has
ever changed color in accordance with the superstition, this one should
have done so. I mean that though your husband greatly needs the money
which I have offered him, you have refused to allow him to sell it, and
yet you permitted another to take it from you last night. By this act
you might have seriously injured if not ruined Mr. Gray. Why have you
done it?'"

"How did she receive it?" asked Mr. Barnes, admiring the ingenuity of
Mr. Mitchel.

"She began to sob, and between her tears she admitted that the opal had
been taken by the man whom I suspected, but she earnestly declared that
she had harbored no idea of injuring her husband. Indeed, she was so
agitated in speaking upon this point, that I believe that Gray never
thoroughly explained to her why he wished to sell the gem. She urged me
to recover the opal if possible, and purchase it, so that her husband
might be relieved from his pecuniary embarrassment. I then sent for the
thief, Mrs. Gray having told me his name; but would you not like to hear
how I had picked him out before he went aboard? I still have that bit of
paper upon which I wrote his name, in confirmation of what I say."

"Of course I know that you mean Mr. Livingstone, but I would like to
hear your reasons for suspecting him."

"From your account Miss Livingstone suspected some one, and this caused
her to be so agitated that she was unaware of the fact that she had
changed her seat. Women are shrewd in these affairs, and I was confident
that the girl had good reasons for her conduct. It was evident that the
person in her mind was either her brother or her sweetheart. I decided
between these two men from your account of your interviews with them.
Moore impressed you as being honest, and he told you that one of the
ladies suspected him. In this he was mistaken, but his speaking to you
of it was not the act of a thief. Mr. Livingstone, on the other hand,
tried to throw suspicion upon Mr. Gray."

"Of course that was sound reasoning after you had concluded that Mrs.
Gray was lying. Now tell me how you recovered the jewel."

"That was easier than I expected. When I got him alone, I simply told
Mr. Livingstone what I knew, and asked him to hand me the opal. With a
perfectly imperturbable manner, understanding that I promised secrecy,
he quietly took it from his pocket and gave it to me, saying:

"Women are very poor conspirators. They are too weak."

"What story did you tell Mr. Gray?"

"Oh, he would not be likely to inquire too closely into what I should
tell him. My check was what he most cared for. I told him nothing
definitely, but I hinted that his wife had secreted the gem during the
darkness, that he might not ask her for it again; and that she had
intended to find it again at a future time, just as he had meant to pawn
it and then pretend to recover it from the thief by offering a reward."

"One more question. Why did Mr. Livingstone steal it?"

"Ah; the truth about that is another mystery worth probing, and one
which I shall make it my business to unravel. I will venture a prophecy.
Mr. Livingstone did not steal it at all. Mrs. Gray simply handed it to
him in the darkness. There must have been some powerful motive to lead
her to such an act; something which she was weighing, and decided
impulsively. This brings me to a second point. Livingstone used the word
conspirators; that is a clue. You will recall that I told you that this
gem is one of a pair of opals, and that with the other, the two would
be as interesting as any jewels in the world. If anyone ever owns both
it shall be your humble servant, Leroy Mitchel, Jewel Collector."



                                  VII

                        THE DUPLICATE HARLEQUIN


One day about two weeks after the unravelling of the mystery of the opal
lost on board the yacht _Idler_, Mr. Barnes called upon Mr. Mitchel and
was cordially received.

"Glad to see you, Mr. Barnes. Anything stirring in the realm of crime?"

"'Stirring' would be a fitting adjective, I think, Mr. Mitchel. Ever
since the _Idler_ affair I have occupied myself with a study of the
problem, which I am convinced we have but partially solved. You may
recall that you gave me a clue."

"You mean that Livingstone, when he gave me the opal, remarked, 'Women
are poor conspirators.' Yes, I remember calling your attention to that.
Has your clue led to any solution?"

"Oh, I am not out of the maze yet; more likely just entering the most
intricate depths. Still, I flatter myself that I have accomplished
something; enough to satisfy me that 'mischief is brewing,' and that the
conspirators are still conspiring. Moreover, there is little doubt that
you are deeply concerned in the new plot."

"What! You insinuate that I am in this conspiracy?"

"Only as a possible victim. You are the object of the plot."

"Perhaps you think that I am in danger?" Mr. Mitchel smiled as though
the idea of danger were a pleasurable one.

"Were you any other man than yourself, I should say most decidedly that
you are in danger."

"But, being myself, you fancy that the danger will pass from me?"

"Being yourself, I anticipate that you will compel the danger to pass
from you."

"Mr. Barnes, you flatter me. Perhaps I may be able to thwart the
conspirators, now that you warn me; if I do, however, I must admit my
great indebtedness to you. To be forewarned is to have the fight half
won, and I candidly say that I was entirely unsuspicious of any lurking
danger."

"Exactly. With all your acumen, I was sure that your suspicions had not
been aroused. The conspirators are wary, and, I assure you, unusually
skilful. So, under all the circumstances, I felt it my duty to be on the
alert."

"Ah, I see," said Mr. Mitchel, in that tone peculiar to him, which made
it doubtful whether he spoke in earnest, or whether his words hid keen
satire. "The old cat being asleep, the kitten watches. That is very nice
of you. Really, it is quite a comforting thought that so skilful a
detective is ever guarding my person. Especially as I am the owner of
so many gems to which the covetous must ever look longingly."

"That is just how I reasoned it," said Mr. Barnes, eagerly, wishing to
justify his actions, which he began to suspect Mr. Mitchel might resent.
"You explained to me your reasons why you have purchased so many
valuable jewels. You claimed that almost every large gem has been the
cause, or rather the object, of crime. The Aztec Opal came into your
possession under most peculiar circumstances. In fact, you thwarted a
criminal just as he had come into possession of it. But this criminal is
a wealthy man. Not perhaps as rich as yourself, but rich enough to be
above stealing even such a valuable bauble. It could not have been the
intrinsic value of the opal which tempted him; it must have been that
some special reason existed; some reason, I mean, for his acquiring
possession of this particular opal. All this being true, it would be a
natural sequence that his efforts to get the opal would not cease merely
because it had changed hands."

"Your argument is most interesting, Mr. Barnes, especially as it is
without a flaw. As you say, from all this reasoning it was a natural
sequence that Mr. Livingstone would continue his quest for the opal.
This being so obvious, did you imagine that it had escaped me?"

Mr. Barnes was confused by the question. He really admired Mr. Mitchel
very much, and though he considered him quite conceited, he also
admitted that he had great analytical powers and remarkable acumen. He
also, more than anything else, desired a perpetuation of his friendship;
indeed, it had been with an idea of increasing the bond between them
that he had called. He had spent much of his time, time which could have
been occupied with other matters to better financial advantage, and all
with the purpose of warding off from his friend a danger which he had at
first considered as a distant possibility, but which later he looked
upon as certain, if nothing intervened to hinder the plot, which he knew
was rapidly approaching the moment of execution. He therefore hastened
to make further explanation:

"Not at all--not at all. I am merely indicating the steps by which I
reached my conclusions. I am giving you my reasons for what I fear you
now may consider my interference in your affairs. Yet I assure you I
meant it all----"

"For the best. Why, of course, my friend; did you suppose that I doubted
your good intent, merely because I spoke brusquely?" Mr. Mitchel held
out his hand cordially, and Mr. Barnes grasped it, glad to note the
altered demeanor of his companion. Mr. Mitchel continued: "Will you
never learn that my weakness is for antagonizing detectives? When you
come here to tell me that you have been 'investigating' my private
affairs, how could I resist telling you that I knew all about it, or
that I could take care of myself? I would not be Leroy Mitchel were it
otherwise."

"How do you mean that you know all about it?"

"Well, perhaps not all. I am not exactly omniscient. Still, I know
something. Let me see, now. How much do I know? First, then, you have
had this Livingstone watched. Second, you have introduced one of your
spies, a young woman, into the home of Mrs. Gray. In spite of your
alleged faith in Dennett Moore, you had him watched also, though for
only two or three days. Lastly, you have discovered Pedro Domingo,
and----"

"In Heaven's name, Mr. Mitchel, how do you know all this?" Mr. Barnes
was utterly dumbfounded by what he had heard.

"All this?" said Mr. Mitchel, with a suave smile; "why, I have mentioned
only four small facts."

"Small facts?"

"Yes, quite small. Let us run them over again. First, I stated that you
had Mr. Livingstone watched. That was not hard to know, because I also
had a spy upon his track."

"You?"

"Yes, I. Why not? Did you not just now agree that it was obvious that he
would continue his efforts to get the opal? Being determined that I
should never part with it whilst alive, it likewise followed that he
must kill me, or have me killed, in order to obtain it. Under these
circumstances it was only common caution to have the man watched.
Indeed, the method was altogether too common. It was _bizarre_. Still,
my spy was no common spy. In that, at least, my method was unique.
Secondly, I claimed that you had introduced a woman spy into the home of
Mrs. Gray. To learn this was even easier. I deduced it from what I know
of your methods. You played the same trick on my wife once, I think you
will recall. Supposing Mrs. Gray to be a conspirator (that was your
clue, I think), you would hardly watch Livingstone and neglect the
woman. Yet the actual knowledge came to me in a very simple manner."

"How was that?"

"Why, Mr. Gray told me."

"Mr. Gray told you?"

"Mr. Gray himself. You see, your assistants are not all so clever as
yourself, though I doubt not this girl may think that she is a genius.
You told her to seek a position in the house, and what does she do? She
goes straight to Mr. Gray and tells him her purpose; hints that it might
be well for him to know just what really actuated Mrs. Gray in the
curious affair on the yacht, and agrees to 'discover everything'--those
were her words--if he would give her the opportunity. Poor man, she
filled his mind with dire suspicions and he managed it so that she was
taken into service. Up to the present time she has discovered nothing.
At least, so she tells him."

"The little she-devil! You said that she explained her whole purpose. Do
you mean----"

"Oh, no. She did not implicate you, nor divulge her true mission. The
fun of the thing is that she claimed to be a 'private detective' and
that this venture was entirely her own idea. In fact, she is working
for Mr. Gray. Is not that droll?" Mr. Mitchel threw back his head and
laughed heartily. Mr. Barnes did not quite see the fun, and looked grim.
All he said was:

"She acted beyond her instructions, yet it seems that she has not done
any harm; and though she is like an untamed colt, apt to take the bit
between her teeth, still she is shrewd. But I'll curb her yet. Now as to
your third fact. How did you know that I had Mr. Moore watched, and only
for two or three days?"

"Why, I recognized one of your spies following him one day down
Broadway, and as Moore sailed for Europe two days after, I made the
deduction that you had withdrawn your watch-dog."

"Well, then," said Mr. Barnes, testily, "how did you know that I had, as
you declare, 'discovered Pedro Domingo'?"

"How did I know that? Why--but that can wait. You certainly did not call
this morning to ask me all these questions. You came, as I presume, to
convey information."

"Oh, you know so much, it is evidently unnecessary for me to tell you of
my trifling discoveries." Mr. Barnes was suffering from wounded pride.

"Come, come," exclaimed Mr. Mitchel, cheerily, "be a man; don't be
downcast and fall into the dumps merely because I surprised a few
trifling facts in your game, and could not resist the fun of guying you
a little. You see, I still admit that what I know are but trifling
facts; what you know, on the contrary, is perhaps of great importance.
Indeed, I am assured that without your information, without a full
knowledge of all that you have discovered, my own plans may go awry, and
then the danger at which you hint might be all too real. Do you not see
that, knowing that you are interested in this case, I have been only too
willing to let half the burden of the investigation fall upon you? That
to your skill I have intrusted all of that work which I knew you could
do so well? That in the most literal sense we have been silent partners,
and that I depended upon your friendship to bring you to me with your
news, just as it has brought you?"

This speech entirely mollified Mr. Barnes, and, with a brightening
countenance, he exclaimed:

"Mr. Mitchel, I'm an ass. You are right to laugh at me."

"Nonsense! I defy all other detectives, because Mr. Barnes works with
me."

"Bosh!" said the detective, deprecatingly, but pleased nevertheless by
the words of flattery. "Well, then, suppose I tell you my story from the
beginning?"

"From the beginning, by all means."

"In speaking of the woman whom I set to spy upon Mrs. Gray, you just now
mentioned that I had once played the same trick upon your wife. Very
true, and not only is this the same trick, but it is the same girl."

"What! Lucette?"

"The same. This is not the first time that she has chosen to resort to
her own devices rather than to follow strictly the orders given to her.
In this case, however, as I said before, she has done no harm, and on
the contrary, I think you would find her report, which I received an
hour ago, quite interesting."

"Ah, you have brought it with you?"

"Yes. I will read it to you. Of course it is not addressed to me,
neither is there any signature. No names are mentioned except by
initial. All this is the girl's own devising, so you see she is not
entirely stupid. She writes:

"'At last I have discovered everything.' You observe that she is not
unappreciative of her own ability. 'Mr. L. was right. Women are bad
conspirators. At least he is right as to Mrs. G. She has dropped the
conspiracy entirely, if she ever was a real conspirator, which I doubt,
for, though you may not suspect it, she loves her husband. How do I
know? Well, a woman has instincts about love. A man may swear eternal
devotion to a woman eight hours a day for a year, without convincing
her, when she would detect the true lover by the way he ties her
shoe-string, unasked. So here. I have not heard madame talking in her
sleep, neither has she taken her maid for a confidante, though I think
she might find a worse adviser. Still I say she loves her husband. How
do I know? When a woman is constantly doing things which add to the
comfort of a man, and for which she never receives thanks, because they
are such trifles, you may be sure the woman loves the man, and by
hundreds of such tokens I know that Mrs. G. is in love with her husband.
To reach the next point I must give you an axiom. A woman never loves
more than one man at a time. She may have many lovers in the course of a
lifetime, but in each instance she imagines that all previous affairs
were delusions, and that at last the divine fire consumes her. To this
last love she is constant until he proves unworthy, and ofttimes even
after. No, a man may be able to love two persons, but a woman's
affections are ever centred in a single idol. From which it is a logical
deduction that Mrs. G. does not and did not love Mr. L. Then why did she
give him the opal? A question which will puzzle you, and for which you
are at a loss for an answer.'"

"She is not complimentary," interrupted Mr. Mitchel.

"Not very," said Mr. Barnes, and then he continued reading:

"'This is a question at which I arrived, as you see, by logical mental
stages. This is the question to which I have found the reply. This is
what I mean when I say I have discovered all: Yesterday afternoon Mr. L.
called. Madame hesitated, but finally decided to see him. From her
glances in my direction, I was sure she feared I might accidentally find
it convenient to be near enough to a keyhole to overhear the
conversation which was about to ensue, and, as I did not wish her to
make such an "accident" impossible, I innocently suggested that if she
intended to receive a visitor, I should be glad to have permission to
leave the house for an hour. The trick worked to a charm. Madame seemed
only too glad to get rid of me. I hurried downstairs into the back
parlor, where, by secreting myself between the heavy portieres and the
closed folding-doors, my sharp ears readily followed the conversation,
except such few passages as were spoken in very low tones, but which I
am sure were unimportant. The details I will give you when I see you.
Suffice it to say that I discovered that madame's reason for refusing to
let her husband sell the jewel to that crank Mr. M. ----'"

"Ah; I see she remembers me," said Mr. Mitchel, with a smile.

"How could she forget your locking her in a room when she was most
anxious to be elsewhere? But let me finish this:

"'--to that crank Mr. M. was because Mr. L. was telling her how to make
a deal more money out of the jewel. It seems that he has the mate to it,
and that the two were stolen from an idol somewhere in Mexico, and that
a fabulous sum could be obtained by returning the two gems to the native
priests. Just how, I do not know.'"

"So she did not discover everything, after all," said Mr. Mitchel.

"No; but she is right in the main. Her report continues:

"'Madame, however, hesitated to go into the venture, partly because Mr.
L. insisted that the matter be kept secret from her husband, and more
particularly because the money in exchange was not to be forthcoming
immediately. On the yacht she changed her mind impulsively. The result
of that you know.'

"That is all," said Mr. Barnes, folding the paper and returning it to
his pocket.

"That is all you know?" asked Mr. Mitchel.

"No; that is all that Lucette knows. I know how the fabulous sum of
money was to be had in exchange for the two opals."

"Ah; that is more to our immediate purpose. How have you made this
discovery?"

"My spies learned practically nothing by shadowing Livingstone, except
that he has had several meetings with a half-breed Mexican who calls
himself Pedro Domingo. I decided that it would be best for me to
interview Señor Domingo myself, rather than to entrust him to a second
man."

"What a compliment to our friend Livingstone!" said Mr. Mitchel, with a
laugh.

"I found the Mexican suspicious and difficult to approach at first. So I
quickly decided that only a bold play would be successful. I told him
that I was a detective, and related the incident of the stealing of the
opal. At this his eyes glistened, but when I told him that the gem had
been sold to a man of enormous wealth who would never again part with
it, his eyes glared."

"Yes, Domingo's eyes are glary at times. Go on."

"I explained to him that by this I meant that it would now be impossible
for Mr. Livingstone to get the opal, and then I boldly asked him what
reward I might expect if I could get it."

"How much did he offer?"

"At first he merely laughed at me, but then I explained that you are my
friend, and that you merely buy such things to satisfy a hobby, and
that, having no especial desire for this particular jewel, I had little
doubt that I could obtain it, provided it would be of great financial
advantage to myself. In short, that you would sell to a friend what none
other could buy."

"Not bad, Mr. Barnes. What did Domingo say to that?"

"He asked for a day to think it over."

"Which, of course, you granted. What, then, is his final answer?"

"He told me to get the opal first, and then he would talk business."

"Bravo! Domingo is becoming quite a Yankee."

"Of course I watched the man during the interval, in order to learn
whether or not he would consult with Mr. L., or any other adviser."

"What did this lead to?"

"It led to Pasquale Sanchez."

"What! More Mexicans?"

"One more only. Sanchez lives in a house near where Domingo has his
room. He tells me that he comes from the same district as Domingo.
Although Domingo did not make a confidant of him, or even ask his
advice, his visit to his friend cleared up some things for me, for by
following Domingo I came upon Sanchez."

"What could he know, if, as you say, he was not in the confidence of
Domingo?"

"He knew some things which seem to be common knowledge in his native
land. He is even more Americanized than his friend, for he fully
appreciates a glass of whiskey, though I doubt not the habit was first
acquired at home. I should think it would take many years to acquire
such a--let me call it--capacity. I never saw a man who could swallow
such powerful doses without a change of expression. The only effect
seemed to be to loosen his tongue. It is needless to repeat all the
stages by which I approached my subject. He knew all about the Aztec
opals,--for really there are two of them,--except of course their
present whereabouts. I asked him if they would be valuable, supposing
that I could get possession of them. He was interested at once. 'You get
them, and I show you million dollars.' I explained to him that I might
see a million dollars any day by visiting the United States Treasury,
upon which, with many imprecations and useless interpolations of bad
Spanish, he finally made it clear to me that the priests who have the
idol from which the opals were obtained, have practically little power
over their tribe while the 'god is in heaven,' as has been explained to
the faithful, the priests not caring to exhibit the image without its
glowing eyes. These priests, it seems, know where the mine is from which
these opals were taken, and they would reveal this secret in exchange
for the lost opals, because, though this mine is said to be very rich,
they have been unable themselves to find any pieces sufficiently large
and brilliant from which to duplicate the lost gems."

"Then you think it was to obtain possession of this opal mine that Mr.
Livingstone sought to obtain Mrs. Gray's opal?"

"Undoubtedly. So certain am I of this that I would wager that he will
endeavor to get the opal from you."

"Let me read a letter to you, Mr. Barnes."

Mr. Mitchel took out a letter and read as follows:

    "'LEROY MITCHEL, Esq.:--

    "'Dear Sir--In my letter of recent date I offered to you the
    duplicate of the Aztec Opal which you recently purchased
    from Mr. Gray. You paid Gray twenty thousand dollars, and I
    expressed my willingness to sell you mine for five thousand
    dollars in advance of this sum. In your letter just
    received, you agree to pay this amount, naming two
    conditions. First, you ask why I consider my opal worth more
    than the other, if it is an exact duplicate. Secondly, you
    wish me to explain what I meant by saying on the yacht that
    "women are poor conspirators."

    "'In reply to your first question, my answer is, that
    however wealthy I may be I usually do business strictly on
    business principles. These opals separately are worth in the
    open market twenty thousand dollars each, which sum you paid
    to Gray. But considering the history of the gems, and the
    fact that they are absolute duplicates the one of the other,
    it is not too much to declare that as soon as one person
    owns both gems, the value is enhanced twofold. That is to
    say, that the pair of opals together would be worth seventy
    or eighty thousand dollars. This being true, I consider it
    fair to argue that whilst I should not expect more than
    twenty thousand dollars from any other person in the world,
    twenty-five thousand is a low sum for me to ask of the man
    who has the duplicate of this magnificent harlequin opal.

    "'In regard to my remark about the "conspirators," the
    conspiracy in which I had induced Mrs. Gray to take part was
    entirely honorable, I assure you. I knew of Gray's financial
    embarrassments and wished to aid him, without, however,
    permitting him to suspect my hand in the affair. He is so
    sensitive, you know. I therefore suggested to Mrs. Gray that
    she entrust her jewel to me, and promised to dispose of the
    two jewels together, thus realizing the enhanced value. I
    pointed out that in this manner she would be able to give
    her husband much more than he could possibly secure by the
    sale of the one stone.

    "'Trusting that I have fully complied with your conditions,
    I will call upon you at noon to-day, and will bring the opal
    with me. We can then complete the transaction, unless you
    change your mind in the interval. Cordially yours, etc.'

"So you see," said Mr. Mitchel, "he offers to sell me his opal, rather
than to purchase mine."

"It is strange," said Mr. Barnes, musingly. "Why should he relinquish
his hope of getting possession of that mine? I do not believe it. There
is some devilish trickery at work. But let me tell you the rest of my
story."

"Oh, is there more?"

"Why, certainly. I have not yet explained my reason for thinking you
might be in danger."

"Ah, to be sure. My danger. I had forgotten all about it. Pardon my
stupidity."

"In further conversation with this Sanchez I put this proposition to
him. 'Suppose,' said I, 'that your friend Domingo had one of these
opals, and knew the man who had the other. What would he do?' His answer
was short, but to the point. 'He get it, even if he kill.'"

"So you think that Domingo might try murder?"

"It is not impossible."

"But, Mr. Barnes, he does not want my life. He wants the opal, and as
that is, or rather has been until to-day, in the safety-vaults, how
could he get it, even by killing me?"

"You have just admitted that it is not in the vaults at present."

"But it is quite as much out of his reach in my safe here in this
room."

"But you might take it out of the safe. You might, in some manner, be
persuaded to do so, to show it to some one."

"Very true. In fact, that is why it is here. I must compare my opal with
the one which Mr. Livingstone offers for sale, before I part with
twenty-five thousand dollars. For you must remember that such a sum is a
fabulous price for an opal, even though, as you know, these are the
largest in the world."

"From a money standpoint, of course, your precaution is proper. But do
you not see that you are really making possible the very danger of which
I came to warn you?"

"You mean----"

"Murder in order to get possession of that accursed ill-luck stone. But
I fear my warning is not appreciated."

"Indeed, my friend, it is, and I am glad that you have come in person to
acquaint me with your anxiety in my behalf. This I will more thoroughly
explain to you later. For the present, I may say that I am glad to have
you here as a possible witness, in case murder, or any other crime,
should be attempted."

"What other crime do you anticipate as possible? Surely not theft?"

"Why not?"

"What! Steal that opal from you, while you are present to see the deed
committed? That is a joke." Mr. Barnes laughed heartily.

"Your laugh is a compliment," said Mr. Mitchel. "Yet that is exactly
what I most anticipate--theft. I am not sure that it may not be
undertaken before my very eyes. Especially as the thief did not hesitate
at a table filled with men and women. Sh! He is here."

The electric street-door bell had sounded. Mr. Mitchel arose, and spoke
hurriedly in a low tone.

"That is probably Mr. Livingstone come to sell his opal, or to steal
mine. We shall see. Especially I desire that you should see.
Consequently I have arranged matters in advance. Slip behind this
bookcase, which I have placed across the corner that you may have room
to breathe. The books on the top shelf have been removed, and the tinted
glass of the doors will not obstruct your view. From behind you will be
able to see through quite readily."

"Why, you seem to have expected me," said Mr. Barnes, getting into the
hiding-place.

"Yes, I expected you," said Mr. Mitchel, vouchsafing no further
explanation. "Remember now, Mr. Barnes, you are not to interfere,
whatever happens, unless I call you. All I ask is that you use your
eyes, and that good eyes will be required be sure, or I never should
have arranged to have an extra pair to aid me on this occasion."

A moment later Williams announced Mr. Livingstone.

"Ask Mr. Livingstone to come up here to the library," said Mr. Mitchel,
and a little later he greeted his guest.

"Ah, glad to see you, Mr. Livingstone. Take a seat here by my desk, and
we can get right to business. First, though, let me offer you a cigar."

Mr. Livingstone chose one from the box which Mr. Mitchel offered to him,
and lighted it as he sat down.

"What a companionable feeling steals over one as he puffs a fine cigar,
Mr. Mitchel! Who would accept such an offering as this and betray the
confidence of his host?"

"Who, indeed?" said Mr. Mitchel. "But why do you say that?"

"Why, I am not entirely a fool. You do not trust me. You are not sure in
your own mind whether or not I committed a theft on board of the yacht."

"Am I not?" Mr. Mitchel asked this in a tone that made Mr. Livingstone
look upon it in the light of a question, whereas Mr. Barnes, behind the
bookcase, considered it as an answer.

"Why, no," said Mr. Livingstone, replying. "Had you believed that the
opal changed hands honorably, even though secretly, under cover of the
darkness, you would not have asked me to explain my allusion to
'conspirators.' I trust, however, that my letter made it all clear to
you."

"Quite clear."

"Then you are still willing to make the purchase?"

"If you still desire to sell. A certified check for the amount is ready
for you. Have you brought the opal?"

"Yes. Have you the duplicate? It would be well to compare them before
you purchase."

"If you do not mind, I will do so."

Mr. Mitchel turned to his safe and brought out a box which Mr. Barnes
thought he recognized. Opening it he drew out a marvellous string of
pearls, which he laid aside, while he took from beneath, a velvet case
which contained the opal. Returning the pearls to the box he restored
that to the safe, which he locked.

"Now, if you will let me see your opal," said Mr. Mitchel, "I will
compare the gems."

"Here it is," said Mr. Livingstone, handing Mr. Mitchel his opal.

Mr. Mitchel took the two opals in his hand, and, as they lay side by
side, he examined them closely, observing the play of light as he turned
them in various positions. To his critical eye they were marvellously
beautiful; matchless, though matched. None could see these two and
wonder that the old priests in Mexico had searched in vain for a second
pair like them.

"Do you know why these opals are so exactly alike?" asked Mr.
Livingstone.

"I am not sure," said Mr. Mitchel, apparently absorbed in his scrutiny
of the opals. "I have heard many reasons suggested. If you know the true
explanation, suppose you tell me."

"Willingly. You will observe that in each opal red lights seem to
predominate on one side, while the blue and green are reflected from the
other. Originally, this was one great egg-shaped opal, and it was cut
in that shape, and then poised in the forehead of a single-eyed idol by
the priests of a thousand years ago. By an ingenious mechanism the eye
could be made to revolve in its socket, so that either the red or the
blue-green side would be visible, as it suited the purpose of the
priests, when overawing the tribesmen by pretended prophecies and other
miraculous performances. In more recent times, since the advent of the
Christians, one-eyed idols are not so plausible, and the priests cut the
opal in half, thus making it serve in what may be termed a modernized
idol."

"Yes, I have heard that tale before. In fact, I have a metal ring which
I was told would exactly encircle the two opals, if placed together to
form an egg."

"How could you have such a thing?" asked Mr. Livingstone, with genuine
surprise.

"The man who stole the jewels, so the story goes, wishing to enhance
their value as much as possible, arranged this as a scheme by which the
genuineness of the opals could be tested. He placed the opals together,
as before they were cut, and had a silver band made which would exactly
clasp them in that position. This band opens and shuts with a spring
catch, like a bracelet, and as, when closed, it exactly fits the opals,
holding the two firmly together, the owner of the band could easily tell
whether the true opals were before him, or not. In some way the opals
were next stolen without the band, and their whereabouts was unknown
when a dealer in Naples told me the story of the silver band, which he
offered to sell me. I scarcely credited his tale, but as all large
jewels might in time be offered to me, I thought it well to purchase the
band."

"Why, then, if you still have it, it would be interesting to make the
test, would it not?"

"Yes, I think so. I will get the band."

Mr. Mitchel placed the two opals on the desk before him and went over to
the safe, where he was occupied some time opening the combination lock.
While he was thus busy a strange thing seemed to occur. At least it
seemed strange to Mr. Barnes. He had marvelled to see Mr. Mitchel place
the two opals within easy reach of Mr. Livingstone, and then
deliberately turn his back while he opened the safe. But what seemed
more mysterious was Mr. Livingstone's action. Mr. Mitchel had scarcely
stooped before the safe when his guest leaned forward, with both arms
outstretched simultaneously; his two hands grasped the opals, the hands
then swiftly sought his vest pockets, after which he calmly puffed his
cigar. Thus he seemed to have taken the opals from the table and to have
placed them in his pockets. Yet how could he hope to explain their
absence to Mr. Mitchel? This thought flashed through Mr. Barnes's mind
as his eyes instinctively turned again to the desk, when, to his utter
astonishment, he saw the opals exactly where Mr. Mitchel had placed
them. Had the thought that he could not explain away the disappearance
caused the man to change his mind at the very moment when he had
impulsively clutched the treasures? Mr. Barnes was puzzled, and somewhat
worried too, for he began to fear that more had happened, or was
happening, than he comprehended.

"Here is the band," said Mr. Mitchel, returning to the desk, and
resuming his seat. "Let us see how it fits the opals. First, let me ask
you, are you confident that you are selling me one of the genuine Aztec
opals?"

"I am. I have a history which makes its authenticity indubitable."

"Then we will try our little test. There; the band clamps the two
perfectly. Look for yourself."

"Certainly; the test is complete. These are undoubtedly the Aztec opals.
Mr. Mitchel, you are to be congratulated upon gaining possession of such
unique gems."

Mr. Livingstone arose as though about to leave.

"One moment, Mr. Livingstone; the jewels are not mine, yet. I have not
paid you for yours."

"Oh, between gentlemen there is no hurry about such matters."

"Between gentlemen it may be as you say. But you said this was to be
strictly in accordance with business methods. I prefer to pay at once.
Here is my certified check. I will also ask you to sign this receipt."

Mr. Livingstone seemed to hesitate for a moment. Mr. Barnes wondered
why? He sat at the desk, however, and, after reading the receipt, he
signed it, and took the check, which he placed in his pocketbook,
saying:

"Of course we will be businesslike, if you insist, though I did not
anticipate that you would take me so literally. That being over, Mr.
Mitchel, I will bid you good morning."

"You may go, Mr. Livingstone, when the transaction is over, but not
before."

"What do you mean?" demanded Mr. Livingstone aggressively, as he turned
and faced Mr. Mitchel, who now stood close beside him.

"I mean that you have accepted my money. Now I wish you to give me the
opal."

"I do not understand. There are your opals, just where you placed them
on the table."

"We will have no quibbling, Mr. Livingstone. You have taken twenty-five
thousand dollars of my money, and you have given me in exchange a
worthless imitation. Not satisfied with that, you have stolen my genuine
opal."

"Damn you----"

Mr. Livingstone made a movement as though to strike, but Mr. Mitchel
stepped quickly back, and, quietly bringing forward his right arm, which
had been held behind his back, it became evident that he held in his
hand a revolver of large calibre. He did not raise the weapon, however,
but merely remarked:

"I am armed. Think before you act."

"Your infernal accusation astounds me," growled Mr. Livingstone. "I
hardly know what to say to you."

"There is nothing to say, sir. You have no alternative but to give me my
property. Yes, you have an alternative,--you may go to prison."

"To prison!" The man laughed, but it was not a hearty laugh.

"Yes, to prison. I believe that is the proper lodging-place for a
thief."

"Take care!" cried Mr. Livingstone, advancing upon Mr. Mitchel.

"Mr. Barnes," said Mr. Mitchel, still without raising his weapon. At
this the man stopped as quickly as he had when the weapon was first
shown. He seemed confounded when the detective stepped into view.

"Ah," he sneered; "so you have spies upon your guests?"

"Always, when my guests are thieves."

Again the words enraged him, and, starting forward, Mr. Livingstone
exclaimed:

"If you repeat those words, I'll strangle you in spite of your weapon
and your spy."

"I have no wish to use harsh language, Mr. Livingstone. All I want is my
property. Give me the two opals."

"Again I tell you they are on your desk."

"Where are the genuine opals, Mr. Barnes? Of course you saw him commit
the--that is, you saw the act."

"They are in his vest pocket, one in each," said the detective.

"Since you will not give them to me, I must take them," said Mr.
Mitchel, advancing towards Mr. Livingstone. That gentleman stood
transfixed, livid with rage. As his antagonist was about to touch his
vest pocket, his hand arose swiftly and he aimed a deadly blow at Mr.
Mitchel, but not only did Mr. Mitchel as swiftly lower his head, thus
avoiding the blow, but before another could be struck, Mr. Barnes had
jumped forward and grasped Mr. Livingstone from behind, pinioning his
arms and holding him fast by placing his own knee in his adversary's
back. Mr. Livingstone struggled fiercely, but almost instantly Mr.
Mitchel took the opals from his pockets, and then quietly remarked:

"Release him, Mr. Barnes. I have my property."

Mr. Barnes obeyed, and for an instant Mr. Livingstone seemed weighing
his chances, but evidently deciding that the odds were in all ways
against him, he rushed from the apartment and out of the house.

"Well, Mr. Mitchel," said Mr. Barnes, "now that the danger has passed,
an explanation seems to be in order. You seem to have four opals."

"Yes; but that is merely seeming. You will readily understand why I
wished your eyes, for without them I could not have taken my own off of
the opals even for an instant."

"Then you purposely turned your back when you went to get the silver
band?"

"Assuredly. Why could I not have taken out the band in the first
instance, and why did I lock the safe, making it necessary for me to
take time with the combination? Simply to give my man the opportunity
to do his trick. You see, I knew before he came here exactly what he
would do."

"How did you know?"

"You will recall that in his letter he offers to sell me the duplicate
opal. That made me smile when I read it, for I already had been notified
that he had had duplicates of his opal made."

"You had been notified?"

"Yes. This whole affair flatters my vanity, for I anticipated the event
in its minutest detail, and all by analytical deduction. You quite
correctly argued that Livingstone would not abandon his quest of the
opal. I also reached that point, and then I asked myself, 'How will he
get it, knowing that I would not sell?' I could find but one way. He
would offer to sell his, and during the transaction try to steal mine.
As he would need both opals in his Mexican mining venture, his only
chance of carrying both away with him would be to have two others to
leave in their stead. Thus I argued that he would endeavor to have two
duplicates of his opal made. Ordinarily, opals are not sufficiently
expensive to make it pay to produce spurious specimens. Consequently, it
has been little done; indeed, I doubt that the members of the trade in
this city have any idea that doublet opals have been made and sold in
this city. But I know it, and I know the man who made the doublets.
These were common opals, faced with thin layers of a fine quality of
'harlequin' which often comes in such thin layers that it is
practically useless for cutting into stones, though it has been utilized
for cameos and intaglios. This lapidary does his work admirably, and his
cement is practically invisible. I went to this man and warned him that
he might be called upon to duplicate a large and valuable opal, and I
arranged that he should fill the order, but that he should notify me of
the fact."

"Ah, now I understand. The genuine opals lay on the desk, and when you
turned to the safe Livingstone merely exchanged them for the spurious
doublets. But tell me why did he risk bringing the real opal here at
all? Why not offer you one of the doublets, and then merely have one
exchange to make?"

"He was too shrewd to risk that. In the first place, he knows I am an
expert, and that I would compare the two jewels before making the
purchase; he feared that under such close scrutiny I would discover the
deception. Secondly, the two genuine opals absolutely match each other.
So also the two doublets are actual mates. But the doublets only
approximately resemble the real opals."

"Mr. Mitchel, you have managed Livingstone admirably, but there still
remains the man Domingo. Until he is disposed of I still think there is
danger. Pardon my pertinacity."

"I told you at the beginning of this incident that I had a spy upon
Livingstone, but that though the method was commonplace, my choice of a
spy was unique. My spy was Livingstone's partner, Domingo."

"What! You were on intimate terms with Domingo?"

"Was not that my best course? I found the man, and at once explained to
him that as Livingstone never could get my opal, it would be best to
shift the partnership and aid me to get Livingstone's. Thus you see,
having, as it were, conceived the logical course for Livingstone to
pursue, I had his partner Domingo suggest it to him."

"Even the idea of the doublets?"

"Certainly. I gave Domingo the address of the lapidary, and Domingo
supplied it to Livingstone."

"Mr. Mitchel, you are a wonder as a schemer. But now you have Domingo on
your hands?"

"Only for a short time. Domingo is not such a bloodthirsty cutthroat as
your friend Sanchez made you believe. He readily admitted that the game
was up when I explained to him that I had one of the opals, a fact which
Livingstone had not communicated to him. I had little difficulty in
persuading him to become my assistant; money liberally applied often
proving a salve for blasted hopes. Besides, I have raised his hopes
again, and in a way by which he may yet become possessed of that opal
mine, and without a partner."

"Why, how do you mean?"

"I shall give him the doublets, and I have no doubt he can palm them off
on the old priests, who will not examine too closely, so anxious are
they to see the eyes of the idol restored."

"There is yet one thing that I do not fully understand. Sanchez told
me----"

"Sanchez told you nothing, except what he was instructed to tell you."

"Do you mean to say----"

"I mean that Sanchez's story of my danger was told to you so that you
would come here this morning. You noted yourself that I must have
expected you, when you found the bookcase arranged for you. I had an
idea that I might need a strong and faithful arm, and I had both. Mr.
Barnes, without your assistance, I must have failed."



                                  VIII

                           THE PEARLS OF ISIS


Mr. Barnes sat for a while in silence, gazing at Mr. Mitchel. The
masterly manner in which that gentleman had managed the affair
throughout won his admiration and elevated him more than ever in his
esteem. The dénouement was admirable. Before handing over the check Mr.
Mitchel had led Mr. Livingstone to state in the presence of a concealed
witness that the opal about to be sold was genuine, whereas, as a matter
of fact, the one on the desk at that moment was spurious. Then the
payment with a check and the exacting of a receipt furnished tangible
proofs of the nature of the transaction. Thus, even eliminating the
theft of the other opal, Mr. Mitchel was in the position to prove that
the man had obtained a large sum of money by false pretenses. The
recovery of the stolen opal practically convicted Mr. Livingstone of a
still greater crime, and with a witness to the various details of the
occurrence Mr. Mitchel had so great a hold upon him that it would be
most improbable that Mr. Livingstone would pursue his scheme further.
The second conspirator, Domingo, was equally well disposed of, for if
he returned to Mexico with the imitation opals, either the priests would
discover the fraud and deal with the man themselves, or, by their
failing to do so, he would gain possession of the opal mine.

In either event there would be no reason for him to return to trouble
Mr. Mitchel.

"I see the whole scheme," said Mr. Barnes at length, "and I must
congratulate you upon the conception and conduct of the affair. You have
courteously said that I have been of some assistance, and though I doubt
it, I would like to exact a price for my services."

"Certainly," said Mr. Mitchel. "Every man is worthy of his hire, even
when he is not aware of the fact that he has been hired, I presume. Name
your reward. What shall it be?"

"From my place of concealment, a while ago, I observed that before you
took out the opal, you removed from the box a magnificent string of
pearls. As you have claimed that all valuable jewels have some story of
crime, or attempted crime, attached to them, I fancy you could tell an
interesting tale about those pearls."

"Ah; and you would like to hear the story?"

"Yes; very much!"

"Well, it is a pretty old one now, and no harm can come, especially if
you receive the tale in confidence."

"Assuredly."

"They are beautiful, are they not?" said Mr. Mitchel, taking them up
almost affectionately, and handing them to Mr. Barnes. "I call them the
Pearls of Isis."

"The Pearls of Isis?" said Mr. Barnes, taking them. "An odd name,
considering that the goddess is a myth. How could she wear jewelry?"

"Oh, the name originated with myself. I will explain that in a moment.
First let me say a few words in a general way. You ask me for the story
of that string of pearls. If what is told of them in Mexico is true,
there is a pathetic tale for each particular pearl, aside from the many
legends that are related of the entire string."

"And do you know all of these histories?"

"No, indeed. I wish that I did. But I can tell you some of the legendry.
In Humboldt's _American Researches_ you will find an illustration
showing the figure of what he calls 'The Statue of an Aztec Priestess.'
The original had been discovered by M. Dupé. The statue was cut from
basalt, and the point of chief interest in it is the head-dress, which
resembles the calantica, or veil of Isis, the Sphinxes, and other
Egyptian statues. On the forehead of this stone priestess was found a
string of pearls, of which Humboldt says: 'The pearls have never been
found on any Egyptian statue, and indicate a communication between the
city of Tenochtitlan, ancient Mexico, and the coast of California, where
pearls are found in great numbers.' Humboldt himself found a similar
statue decorated with pearls in the ruins of Tezcuco, and this is still
in the museum at Berlin, where I have seen it. Humboldt doubted that
these statues represented priestesses, but thought rather that they were
merely figures of ordinary women, and he bases this view on the fact
that the statues have long hair, whereas it was the custom of the
tepanteohuatzin, a dignitary controlling the priestesses, to cut off the
tresses of these virgins when they devoted themselves to the services of
the temple. M. Dupé thought that this statue represented one of the
temple virgins, while, as I have said, Humboldt concluded that they had
no religious connection. My own view is that both of these gentlemen
were wrong, and that these and similar statues were images of the
goddess Isis."

"But I thought that Isis was an Old World goddess?"

"So she was, and the oldest world is this continent. We need not now
enter upon a discussion of the reasons upon which I base my belief.
Suffice it to say that I think I can prove to the satisfaction of any
good archæologist that both Isis and Osiris belong to Central America.
And as those pearls in your hand once adorned an Aztec basaltic statue
similar to those of Dupé and Humboldt, I have chosen to call them the
'Pearls of Isis.'"

"Ah; then it is from their origin that you imagine that so many stories
are connected with them. I have always heard that the priests of ancient
Mexico were a bloodthirsty lot, and as pearls are supposed by the
superstitious to symbolize tears, I can imagine the romances that might
be built around these, especially if they were guarded by virgin
priestesses."

"Now you are utilizing your detective instinct to guess my tale before
it is told. You are partly right. Many curious legends are to be heard
from the natives in Mexico, explanatory of these pearl-bedecked idols.
Two are particularly interesting, though you are not bound to accept
them as strictly true. The first was related to me personally by an old
man, who claimed a connection with the priesthood through a lineage of
priestly ancestors covering two thousand generations. This you will
admit is a long service for a single family in worshipful care of a lot
of idols, and it would at least be discourteous to doubt the word of
such a truly holy man."

"Oh, I shall not attempt to discredit or disprove the old fellow's
story, whatever it may be."

"That is very generous of you, considering your profession, and I am
sure the old Aztec would feel duly honored. However, here is his story.
According to him, there were many beautiful women among the Aztecs, but
only the most beautiful of these were acceptable to the gods as
priestesses. Their entrance into the service of the temple, I imagine,
must have been most trying, for he stated that it was only when the
women came before the priests with their chosen lovers to be married
that the priests were permitted to examine their faces in order to
determine whether they were beautiful enough to become temple virgins.
If, on such an occasion, the bride seemed sufficiently beautiful, the
priest, instead of uniting her to her lover, declared that the gods
demanded her as their own, and she was forthwith consecrated to the
service of the temple. They were then compelled to forswear the world,
and, under threats of mysterious and direful punishments, they promised
to guard their chastity, and devote their virgin lives to the gods. The
mysterious punishment meted out to transgressors the old priest
explained to me. Usually in such instances the girl would elope, most
often with the lover of whom she had been deprived at the altar. No
effort was made to recapture her. Such was the power of the priests, and
such the superstitious dread of the anger of the gods, that none would
hold communication of any kind with the erring couple. Thus isolated and
compelled to hide away in the forests, the unfortunate lovers would
eventually live in hourly dread of disaster, until either the girl would
voluntarily return to the priests to save her lover from the imagined
fury of the gods, or else to save himself he would take the girl back.
In either case the result would be the same. None ever saw her again.
But, shortly after, a new pearl would appear upon the forehead of the
idol."

"A new pearl? How?"

"The old priest, whose word you have promised not to doubt, claimed that
beneath the temple there was a dark, bottomless pool of water in which
abounded the shell-fish from which pearls were taken. These molluscs
were sacred, and to them were fed the bodies of all the human beings
sacrificed on their altars. Whenever one of the temple virgins broke her
oath of fidelity to the gods, upon her return she was dropped alive into
this pool, and, curious to relate, at the appearance of the next new
moon the tepanteohuatzin would invariably discover a pearl of marvellous
size."

"Why, then, each pearl would represent a temple virgin reincarnated, as
it were?"

"Yes; one might almost imagine that in misery and grief over her unhappy
love affair, she had wept until she had dissolved, and that then she had
been precipitated, to use a chemical term, in the form of a pearl.
Altogether the legend is not a bad one, and if we recall the connection
between Isis and the crescent moon, you must admit my right to call
these the Pearls of Isis."

"Oh, I promised to dispute nothing. But did you not say that there was
another legend?"

"Yes, and I am glad to say it has a much more fortuitous finale and is
altogether more believable, though this one was not told to me by a man
of God, or perhaps to be more accurate I should say a 'man of the gods.'
According to this rendition the temple virgins were chosen exactly as
related in the other narrative, but before actually entering upon their
duties there was a period of probation, a period of time covering 'one
moon.' You see we cannot escape the moon in this connection. During this
probationary period it was possible for the lover to regain his
sweetheart by paying a ransom, and this ransom was invariably a pearl
of a certain weight and quality. By placing these pearls on the forehead
of the goddess she was supposed to be repaid for the loss of one of her
virgin attendants. All of which shows that her ladyship, Isis, in her
love for finery, was peculiarly human and not unlike her sisters of
to-day."

"This second story is very easy to believe, if one could understand
where the pearls were to be found."

"Oh, that is easily explained. Humboldt was right in supposing that
there was a communication with the Californian coast. There was a
regular yearly journey to and from that place for the purposes of trade,
and many of the Aztecs travelled thither purposely to engage in fishing
for pearls. Whenever one of these fishers was fortunate enough to find a
pearl of the kind demanded by the priests, he would hoard it up, and
keep his good luck a secret. For with such a pearl could he not woo and
win one of the fairest daughters of his tribe? We can well imagine that
without such a pearl the more cautious of the beauties would turn a deaf
ear to lovers' pleadings, fearing to attract the eyes of the priests at
the altar. Verily, in those days beauty was a doubtful advantage."

"Yes, indeed. Now I understand what you meant when you said that each of
these pearls might have its own romance. For, according to the legends,
they are either the penalty or the price of love. But you have not told
me the particular story of these pearls."

"There may be as many as there are pearls, but I can tell you but one;
though as that involves a story of crime, it will interest you I am
sure. You will remember that when we were going to the yacht on that day
when we solved the first opal mystery, I explained to you my reasons for
buying up large gems. I think I told you of my first venture?"

"Yes; you overheard a plot to steal a ruby, and you went to the hostess
and bought the jewel, which you then stuck in your scarf, where the
plotters could see it and know that it had changed hands."

"That is the tale exactly. You will consider it a curious coincidence
when I tell you that these pearls came into my possession in an almost
similar manner."

"That is remarkable, I must say."

"And yet not so remarkable, either, all things considered. Crime, or
rather the method of committing a crime, is often suggested by previous
occurrences. A body is found in the river dismembered, and is a nine
days' wonder. Yet, even though the mystery may be solved, and the
murderer brought to justice, the police may scarcely have finished with
the case before another dismembered body is discovered. Often, too, the
second criminal goes unpunished; in imitating his predecessor he avoids,
or attempts to avoid, his mistakes. I suppose that is easier than
formulating an entirely new plan. So I imagine that the attempt to steal
the ruby, which I frustrated, and the stealing of the pearls, which was
successfully managed, may have some connection, more especially as both
affairs occurred in the same house."

"In the same house?"

"Yes, and within a month, or, to follow the legend, I might say in the
same 'moon.' I was in New Orleans at the time, and as it was in the
Mardi Gras season, masked balls were common occurrences. One who was
especially fond of this class of entertainment was Madame Damien. She
was a widow, not yet thirty, and as her husband, Maurice Damien, had
belonged to one of the wealthiest and most distinguished of the old
Creole families, there was no apparently good reason for denying her the
rightful privilege of mixing with and receiving the best people of the
city. Nevertheless, there were a few who declined to associate with her,
or to allow the younger members of their households to do so."

"What were their reasons?"

"Reasons there were, but of such an impalpable nature that even
those who most rigorously shunned her, ventured not to speak openly
against her. For reasons, it might have been said that she smoked
cigarettes--but other good women did likewise; she entertained often,
and served wine intemperately--others did the same; she permitted
card-playing in her rooms, even for money stakes,--but the same thing
occurred in other houses, though perhaps not so openly. Thus none of
these reasons, you see, was sufficiently potent. But there were others,
less easily discussed and more difficult to prove. It was whispered,
very low and only in the ears of most trustworthy intimates, that
Madame Damien permitted, nay, encouraged, young men to pay court to her.
If true, she managed her courtiers most admirably, for openly she was
most impartial in distributing her favors, while secretly--well, none
penetrated the secrets of Madame Damien. One thing was certainly in her
favor; there were no duels about her, and duelling was not uncommon in
those days."

"I should say she was a clever woman."

"Just the word. Some, who could say nothing more, said she was
altogether too clever. It was this woman who sold me the ruby."

"The first acquisition to your collection?"

"Yes. I may as well briefly give you the facts, for thus you may see the
connection between the two affairs. Land is not so valuable in our
southern country as it is here in New York, and the houses of the
wealthy are often in the midst of extensive gardens. Some of these not
only have beautiful flower-beds, but likewise palms, cacti, oleanders,
azaleas, and other tropical plants. Madame Damien's residence was in a
garden which might almost be called a miniature park. The paths were of
snow-white oyster shells, rolled and beaten until they resembled smooth
white marble. The hedges were of arbor vitæ cut with square top, except
here and there where the trees were trained to form arched gateways
through which the flower-beds could be reached. In places, often nearly
concealed by flowering plants, were little houses,--lovers' nooks they
are called,--made also of trained arbor vitæ. Of larger trees there
were the palmetto, the orange, and the magnolia. On fête nights these
beautiful grounds would be illuminated with Chinese lanterns,
sufficiently numerous to make the scene a veritable fairy picture, but
not shedding enough light to interfere with the walks of lovers who
sought the garden paths between the dances."

"Your description reminds one of Eden."

"The similarity is greater than you imagine, for the serpent lurked in
the rose bowers. At one of Madame Damien's masquerade fêtes I had left
the warm rooms for a breath of the perfume-laden air without, and was
walking along a path which led to the farthest end of the garden, when I
was attracted by a stifled cry. I stopped and listened, and as it was
not repeated I was just thinking that I had heard the mournful cry of a
dove, when a tug at my sleeve caused me to turn quickly. At my side was
a little creature in a green domino scarcely distinguishable from the
shrubbery that lined the walk. The girl stood on her toes, drew my head
down to hers, and in a frightened tone whispered:

"'The men. They mean mischief--to them--in there.'

"She pointed to one of the little arbor-vitæ houses near us, and turning
fled back along the path before I could restrain her.

"Much mystified, I stepped softly toward the little house, intending to
discover if possible who might be within, when I seemed to hear voices
behind me. Listening intently, I traced the sounds to the opposite side
of the hedge, and therefore I crept cautiously in that direction,
satisfied that here were the men to whom the girl had made allusion.
Here is what I heard:

"'As they come out, we must follow them. When I whistle, you jump on
madame; I will take care of him. I will undertake to hurt him enough to
make him squeal. That will alarm Madame, who will be so fearful lest her
precious lover be hurt that you will have no difficulty in getting the
ruby.'"

"Quite a neat little plot; only needs the detail of garroting to afford
us a perfect picture of the Spanish brigand," said Mr. Barnes.

"The men were undoubtedly professional thieves who considered the
masquerade a good opportunity. As soon as they mentioned the ruby, I
knew that the woman was none other than Madame Damien, who possessed a
stone of rare beauty which she frequently wore. The point of greatest
interest was that Madame seemed about to lose her usual good luck by
having one of her love affairs discovered. How could I warn her without
myself learning who was with her? Strange though it may seem, I had no
wish to know the name of her companion, so I hit upon an expedient.
Going to the door of the little house I called aloud:

"'Madame Damien! Will you allow me to speak to you a moment?' Of course
she did not reply. From the deathlike stillness of the place one might
have thought it empty. I was too sure, however, that she was there, so I
spoke again.

"'Madame, your very life is in danger, if you do not come out and speak
to me.' In an instant she was at my side, talking in a quick whisper.

"'Who are you? What do you mean?'

"'Pardon my intruding, but I was obliged to adopt this course, I assure
you.'

"I was speaking loudly enough to be heard by the men on the other side
of the hedge. 'I was passing here just now, with no suspicion that you
were here, alone,'--I purposely used the word, so that she might feel
easy about her companion,--'when I chanced to overhear the plotting of
two ruffians who are even now hidden in the hedge. They are lying in
wait for you, intending to rob you of your ruby.'

"'Steal my ruby? I don't understand.'

"'Had I not heard their plan, they would undoubtedly have partly
strangled you while they stole the jewel. It was to save you from the
danger of this encounter and the loss that I felt it my duty to call you
out to speak with me.'

"'What shall I do?'

"'I advise you to sell the stone to me.'

"'Sell it to you? How would that help matters?'

"'I have my check-book with me. You know who I am,--Leroy Mitchel. There
is light enough by this lantern to write, and I have a fountain-pen. If
you sell me the ruby, and take the check, you may safely go to the
house. The would-be thieves are listening and perhaps watching us.
Consequently, they will know of this transaction and will have no reason
to follow you.'

"'But yourself?'

"'I can take care of myself, especially as I am armed. I shall follow
you in a few moments, and I am sure no attack will be made upon me.'

"She hesitated a moment. She did not really wish to sell the stone, yet
her only other alternative was to inform me that as another man was
present we might go to the house together without fear. But not wishing
to disclose the presence of this other man, she decided to sell me the
stone, or rather to appear to do so, for her plan was to return my check
later and recover the ruby. This offer she made to me on the following
day, but I declined because the idea of forming my collection of rare
gems had entered my mind when I heard the plotters talking. Before
finally yielding she made one effort, being a plucky woman.

"'I need not sell you the ruby, Mr. Mitchel, for if, as you say, you are
armed, I have no fear of accepting your escort to the house.'

"This of course would have defeated my purpose, so I hastily explained
to her that I wished to stay behind because I intended to attempt to
capture one or both of the ruffians. Whether or not she might have found
some other means of avoiding my offer, she did not think of one then, so
she handed me the ruby and I gave her the check. After she had left me,
I cautiously searched the hedges but met no one. I was satisfied,
however, that the men had heard all that had passed, and I also believed
that they might still imagine that there would be a chance to get the
ruby, under the supposition that my purchase was but a pretense, and
that as soon as I should return to the parlors I would restore the
jewel. It was for this reason that I wore it conspicuously in my scarf."

"What of the little woman in the green domino? Did you see her again?"

"I caught a glimpse of her only, though I am sure she got a better view
of me. It was in the house. Here, also, there was a profusion of green,
the place being literally strewn with potted plants. I was standing near
a group of palms when I caught sight of my lady of the green domino,
gazing intently at me. As she saw that I had detected her presence, she
swiftly glided away, and I lost her in the throng. I was certain,
however, that she saw the ruby in my scarf, and so knew that I had
prevented the mischief of which she had warned me."

"It would have been interesting to discover her identity."

"All in good time, Mr. Detective. We come now to the story of the string
of pearls. It was just three weeks later. Madame was holding another
fête. Once more I was destined to play eavesdropper, though this time
with even still more startling results. I had been dancing a quadrille,
my unknown partner being charmingly dressed in a costume which at the
time I did not understand. I had noticed her several times during the
evening, standing always alone, apparently neglected by the young men.
So I asked her to be my partner, rather in the spirit of giving her
some of the pleasures of the evening, though you must understand that I
was at that time young myself and quite susceptible to the charms of the
opposite sex. She had seemed reluctant at first to dance with me, and
then, as though impulsively altering her mind, she had expressed her
willingness more in act than by any word, for she had not spoken.
Clutching my arm nervously, she had led me a little way across the
floor, and stopped where a couple was needed to fill a quadrille. _En
vis-à-vis_ was a couple who attracted her attention to such an extent
that I almost imagined that my partner had brought me into this set with
the purpose of watching them. The man was unmistakably dressed as Romeo,
while the costume of his partner was as mystifying to me as that of the
girl beside me. I afterwards learned that she was assuming the guise of
Helen of Troy."

"Your hostess, Madame Damien, I'll be bound."

"You make a good guesser, Mr. Barnes. Madame Damien it was, though,
truth to tell, I was so much interested in the silent, watchful girl
beside me that I paid little attention to the others. The quadrille had
just ended and I was wondering how best to make my little sphinx talk,
when a strange thing happened. The couple opposite to us crossed toward
us, and as they approached my partner swayed as though about to fall,
and then suddenly toppled over against me, and in a whisper she said:

"'I am dizzy. Take me out in the air.'

"Just then, 'Helen of Troy,' hanging on the arm of her 'Romeo,' passed
so close to us that the women's costumes touched. She looked
scrutinizingly at the girl with me, and I heard her say to her
companion,--

"'That girl is a sphinx.'

"Then they passed on. Her words startled me, for I had just used the
epithet in my own mind in connection with my partner. I thought of her
as a sphinx because of her silence. But now that some one else called
her a sphinx, I observed that she wore a curious head-dress which
reminded one of the great monument of the Eastern desert. Perhaps, then,
she was but playing the part which she had assumed with her costume. At
all events there seemed to be a mystery worthy of the effort at
penetration. So I hurried out into the air with my little sphinx, and
soon we were walking up one of the snow-white walks. I tried to induce
her to talk, but though she seemed willing to remain in my
companionship, she trembled a good deal but kept as mum as the stone
image to which I now likened her. I was wondering by what device I might
make her talk, when she utterly startled me by crying out:

"'I wish I dared to tell you everything. Perhaps you might help me.'

"'Tell me what you will, little one,' said I, 'and I will help you if I
can, and keep your secret besides.'

"'Oh, there is no secret,' she exclaimed; 'I am not so wicked as that.
But we cannot talk here. Come, I know a place.'

"I followed her as she hurried me on, more mystified than before. She
tells me 'there is no secret,' and that she is 'not as wicked as that.'
Why need she be wicked, to have a secret? I could not fathom it, but as
I was to know all, even though it were no secret, I was able to await
the telling. Oddly enough, as it seemed to me then, she led me to the
very lovers' nook in which I had found Madame Damien when I purchased
the ruby. Before entering, my little sphinx took the precaution to
extinguish the lanterns at the doorway, so that when we passed inside we
were in gloom as impenetrable as that of one of the passageways in the
pyramids. She seemed familiar with the place, for she took my hand and
led me away to one side, where there was a rustic bench. Here we sat
down, and after a few minutes she began.

"'You do not know me, of course,' said she.

"'Why, no,' I replied; 'how should I?'

"'I was afraid you might have recognized my voice. But then I haven't
spoken much to you, have I?'

"'No; but now I do recognize your voice at least. It was you who warned
me, here at this very spot, at the last fête. Was it not?'

"'Yes; I heard the men talking and I was afraid they might hurt--might
hurt some one. Then you came along, and so I told you. I recognized you
to-night because you have the same dress.'

"I began to suspect that the 'some one' whom she had shielded that night
was not our fair hostess, but rather the man who had been with her. I
was wondering whether it would be wise to ask her this question, or
whether to wait for her to tell her story in her own way, when I was
startled at feeling the softest of hands pressed tightly over my lips,
and to hear a whisper close to my ear.

"'Don't speak,' she said; 'they are coming--they are coming here.'

"I strained my ears and at first heard nothing, but love sharpens the
ears I suppose, for presently I did hear footsteps, and then low voices,
growing louder as though approaching, and finally the persons, evidently
a man and woman, actually entered our place of concealment. The
situation was embarrassing, especially as that little hand still rested
over my mouth as though warning me to do nothing. Luckily, the intruders
did not come to our side of the place, but took seats apparently
opposite. They were talking in earnest tones, the woman finishing a
sentence as they came in.

"'--my mind, whether to release you or not. At all events, I must know
more about this somewhat curious proposition of yours.'

"I recognized at once the voice of Madame Damien. It was evident,
therefore, that the man was her partner of the dance, and that it was he
who had been with her in this place on the other occasion seemed a
probability. He answered her as follows:

"'I do not think the proposition is a curious one. I only do what women
always do. Certainly my sex should have the same privileges in an
affair of this character.'

"'That is a question that philosophers might discuss,' said Madame
Damien, 'but we need not. Whether you have the right or not it is
evident that you choose to exercise it. And what is this right?'

"'The right to tell you the truth. The right to tell you that I do not
love you, that I have made a terrible blunder.'

"The little hand over my mouth trembled violently, and slipped away. I
could hear the girl next to me breathing so distinctly that it seemed
odd that the others did not hear also. Perhaps they were too much
occupied with their own affair.

"'The right to tell me that you do not love me,' repeated Madame; 'but
you have so often told me that you do love me, and you have told me of
your love so eloquently, that now when you come to me and say that you
have made a blunder, naturally I have the right to question you. Here
are two opposite statements. How am I to know which to believe?'

"'I am telling you the truth, now.'

"'Perhaps; you may be right. You may know your heart at last, and if
what you say is really true, of course I have no desire to try to keep
what you only supposed to be love, however eloquently you told about it,
however well you played the part. The awkward thing is that to-morrow,
next week, by the new moon perhaps, you may be at my feet again singing
the same old songs, old love songs. You will tell me that what you say
then is truth, but that what you are telling me now is false. How, then,
shall I know what to think?'

"'What I tell you now is true. I shall not tell you otherwise at any
time in the future.'

"'Of this you are quite sure?'

"'Quite sure!'

"Up to this point the woman had spoken softly, almost with love in her
voice. It sounded like a mother talking with her son who was confessing
a change of heart, or rather a change of sweethearts. Now, suddenly, all
was changed. When she spoke again it was in the voice of rage, almost of
hate. It was the woman spurned; more than that,--it was the woman
jealous of the rival who had replaced her in her lover's heart.

"'So you are quite sure that you will not make love to me again!' she
cried, with such ferocity that the girl beside me moved closer to me as
though seeking protection; 'you are sure of that? Then you love another.
There is no other test by which you could be so sure. Answer me, is it
true? Is it true, I say? Answer me at once; I want no lies.'

"'Well, and what if it is true,' said the man, angered by her speech.

"'What if it is true? You ask me that? Well, I'll answer. If it is true,
then the other girl is welcome to you. She may have you, with your
second-hand love. May she be happy in the love that changes with the
moon. So much for her. But with you. Ah, that must be different. You
wish to be released? Well, you shall pay for your liberty, my fickle
lover; you shall pay!'

"'I will pay you whatever you demand. What is it?'

"'So. You value your liberty so much that you promise before you know my
terms! Very well, then. You will bring me to-night, before an hour has
passed, the string of pearls that your mother wore on her wedding-day.'

"'My God, no! Not that! It is impossible!'

"'How quickly you make and break promises! Your ideas of honor are as
slim as your notions of love. And why is it impossible to give me the
pearls?'

"'They are not mine. Anything that is mine I will give. But the pearls
are not mine.'

"'If not yours whose are they, pray?'

"'Let me explain. They have been in my family for generations. They were
taken from an idol in Mexico by one of my ancestors who was with Cortez.
He gave them to his bride, and declared that they should descend to the
eldest sons for all time, to be given as a bridal present to their
wives. Moreover he declared that so long as this behest was strictly
followed, no dishonor should come to our house and name.'

"'What you tell me makes me only more determined to have the pearls.
Your ancestor was a good prophet. You dishonor your house when you offer
me your love and then withdraw from your contract. You asked me to be
your wife, and according to your ancestor's will the pearls should be
my bridal decoration. I could claim them in that manner, did I choose.'

"'What do you mean?'

"'I mean to have those pearls. No other woman shall wear them. If the
loss brings dishonor to your house, yours is the fault. But I have
talked long enough. I loathe myself for bartering with you. Now I give
you my command. Bring me those pearls within an hour.'

"She rose and started to leave the place. The man jumped up and called
after her:

"'What if I should refuse?'

"She paused for a moment to reply, and her words reminded me of the hiss
of a serpent.

"'If you do not obey, when my guests unmask to-night I will announce my
engagement, our engagement, and introduce you as my Romeo.'

"She laughed mockingly, and hurried away. The man did not wait, but went
out immediately. I felt about for my companion, but she seemed not to be
near me. I took out a match and struck it, only to find myself alone.
Seated nearer to the door than I, she must have slipped out without my
knowledge."

"Then you did not learn the secret of your sphinx maiden after all,"
said Mr. Barnes.

"Not immediately. But hear the sequel. You may be sure I was near our
hostess when midnight arrived and the moment came to unmask. Madame
Damien herself gave the signal, and then, standing at the end of the
room, she slowly unwound a thread-lace scarf which covered her head and
face, serving in place of a mask, and draped about her shoulders. The
shawl thrown aside revealed her bare neck, around which hung resplendent
the pearls in your hand. Madame made a sensation with her pearls. Though
she owned many jewels of rare price she often wore them, and her guests
were quite familiar with her usual display; but pearls she had never
worn before. And such pearls! What wonder there were whisperings and
guessings! I looked around for the other two actors in the romantic
drama, but neither Romeo nor my sphinx maiden was to be seen.

"Refreshments were served in several small rooms, and it was from one of
these that presently a cry was heard that startled all of the guests, so
that they rushed back into the main ballroom. There we found Madame
Damien, pale with rage, calling for her servants, who rushed from all
directions.

"'I have been robbed,' she cried; 'robbed of my pearls! They have been
taken from me within a minute! Let no one leave the house! Close and
lock the doors! No one shall leave this house, until my pearls are
restored!'

"Imagine the consternation and indignation which this aroused. Madame
was so enraged at the loss, and so wildly determined to recover the
jewels, her jealous fear lest her rival might obtain them so intense,
that she had entirely forgotten all the courtesy and duties of a hostess
to her guests. All that she knew, all that she cared for, was that the
person who had robbed her was still in the house, and she wished to
prevent escape.

"You may guess the hubbub that followed. Women and men congregated in
groups asking each other what it all meant. Some demanded their wraps
and the opportunity to leave instantly. Others declared that they were
quite willing, nay, anxious, to await the dénouement, which would
certainly prove interesting. 'At least it was well to know who of their
number might be a thief,' etc.

"In these circumstances, I undertook to relieve the tension and restore
tranquillity. I went up to Madame Damien, and said to her in a low tone:

"'If you will let me speak to you alone for two minutes I will recover
the lost pearls.'

"'What do you know? What can you do?' she asked eagerly. 'Come into this
room; we will be alone.'

"I followed her into an anteroom, and we stood as we talked. She was
laboring under such excitement that it was impossible for her to sit
quietly.

"'Tell me first just how the pearls were taken, Madame.'

"'That is the miserable part of it. To think that a thief could take
them from my neck! It is mortifying. All I know is that I was in one of
the refreshment-rooms, standing near the window that opens into the
ballroom. I knew nothing, felt nothing, until like a flash they were
twitched from my neck. I clutched at them, but too late. The thief had
stood in the ballroom, and passed her arm through the window, till she
reached and unlocked the clasp of the necklace. Then with one quick tug,
she had the pearls. I cried out, and the stupid people crowded about me
so that it was a whole minute, a precious minute, before I could get out
into the ballroom. It was empty, of course. The woman had hurried into
one of the small rooms. But she has not left the house and she shall
not, until the pearls are in my possession again.'

"'You allude to the thief as a woman. How did you discover that, since
from your account you could hardly have seen her?'

"'No; I saw no one. But I know it was a woman. Never mind how I know.
What, though, if it were--no! no! Impossible. He is not here; besides,
he would not dare.'

"Of course I understood that she referred to our friend Romeo, and I
might also have thought of him, had I not made sure that he was not
present after the unmasking.

"'If you did not see the thief, you cannot be sure it was a woman,' I
continued. 'Now, Madame, I have a proposal to make. I will purchase your
pearls.'

"'You will do nothing of the sort, Mr. Mitchel. You got my ruby, but you
will not get the pearls. Besides, I have not them to deliver, even if I
were willing to sell them to you.'

"'That is the attractive feature of my proposition. I will pay for the
pearls, their full value, and I will undertake to recover them.'

"'But I tell you I won't sell them. And besides, how could you recover
them?'

"'I will tell you nothing in advance, except that I guarantee to recover
them, and that, I imagine, is the main object with you.'

"'What do you mean? You talk in riddles.'

"'Listen. I will make my purpose clear to you. You obtained those pearls
to-night, and----'

"'How do you know that?'

"'And you obtained them for a purpose,' I went on, ignoring her
interruption. 'You made a man give them to you, because you were
determined that another woman should not have them.'

"'You are a magician,' she cried in wonder.

"'You are angry at the loss of the pearls, not so much because of their
value, as because you fear they may be restored to that other woman. You
even think that she herself is the thief.'

"'You are right; I do think that. What other woman would do such a thing
as to steal a string of pearls from a woman's very person?'

"'What if I tell you that she is not in the house?'

"'Ah, then you know her? Who is she? Tell me who she is and you may have
the pearls.' Madame spoke eagerly.

"'I will only tell you enough to convince you that she is not the thief.
You remember after one of the quadrilles passing a girl and saying,
"That girl is a sphinx"?'

"'Yes; was she----'

"'Yes. Now if you search your rooms you will not find her. I know this
because I have looked for her for half an hour.'

"'If not she, then the thief was some emissary of hers. Those pearls
shall never reach her. Never! never! never! I'll search every person in
this house first.'

"'And accomplish what? Nothing, except to ruin yourself before the
world. Remember, your guests have rights. Already you have insulted them
by having the doors locked. Come, we are wasting time. Sell me the
pearls, and I will promise you two things. First, I will satisfy your
guests and restore you to their good opinion. Secondly, I will recover
and keep those pearls. Your rival shall never wear them.'

"'My rival?'

"'Your rival. Why mince matters? Is it not evident to you that I know
all the details of this affair?'

"'You are a devil! Have your own way then. Take the pearls at your own
price, and pay for them when you like. All I demand is that you fulfil
your agreement. She must not have them. Good night. I cannot meet my
guests again. Explain things for me, will you?'

"She was nothing but a woman again--a conquered woman, relying upon the
chivalry of her conqueror.

"'Trust me,' I replied. 'Lean on me and I will escort you to the
stairway.'

"All eyes followed us as we crossed the ballroom, and Madame looked ill
enough to evoke pity. At any rate, my explanation was accepted
generously, and Madame was forgiven."

"I am curious to know," said Mr. Barnes, "how you recovered or expected
to recover those pearls?"

"It certainly was a unique bargain, to purchase stolen property while
yet in the possession of the thief. I will tell you what I did. After
leaving Madame in the care of her maids at the foot of the stairway, I
returned to the ballroom, and made a little speech. Addressing the
throng that crowded about me, I said:

"'Friends, I beg that you will forgive Madame Damien's hasty words. She
was overwrought, and spoke irresponsibly. She had just met with a
serious loss under most peculiar circumstances. Imagine her standing at
the refreshment table, while one of her guests intrudes an arm through
the window behind her, unclasps and removes from her neck a string of
pearls worth a fabulous sum of money. Naturally her first thought was to
recover the pearls, and to her distracted mind the only way seemed to be
to demand that no one should leave the house. Of course she now regrets
her words, for no loss can excuse such treatment of guests. But I am
sure you will forgive her, especially the ladies, who will appreciate
her feelings. Now, in regard to the pearls I may state that I have
undertaken to recover them. Fortunately I witnessed the theft, though
from a distance, so that I could not prevent it. But I know who took
the pearls, and who has them. Consequently it is unnecessary to cause
anyone any further annoyance in the matter. To the thief, I will say
that I understand the motive of the theft, and that I am in a position
to promise that that motive can be consummated if the pearls are
returned to me within three days. If they are not returned, it will be
necessary to have the person arrested and imprisoned.'"

"A bold stroke, and ingenious too," exclaimed Mr. Barnes. "The thief, of
course, could not know whether you saw the act or not, and if a person
of high social position it would be too great a risk not to return the
pearls."

"So I argued. Of course, had it been a man, he might have taken even
that risk, believing that my threat was a 'bluff,' as we say in poker.
But a woman--a woman would not take such a risk, especially as I
promised that her purpose could still be fulfilled."

"Now it is my turn to be mystified. Did you not say that your sphinx
maiden was absent? Who else could steal the pearls? What other woman, I
mean?"

"Why, no other woman, of course. Therefore it followed that my little
mysterious maiden must have been present, which merely means that as
soon as she found that Madame would insist upon having the pearls, she
boldly plotted to recover them. Her first move was to rush off and
change her costume. You see, I was the one she most feared. Others
might know her face, but they would not know her reasons for committing
such an act. I could do that but I could recognize her by her costume
only. Thus I was sure that she was still in the house, though
differently attired."

"How did your plan result?"

"Of course she brought me the pearls, though not until the third day.
She delayed action as long as she dared. Then she came to me openly and
confessed everything. It was really a pitiful tale. She was an orphan,
living with an aged aunt. She met the young man, and at once they loved.
After a time she began to suspect that he was not absolutely true to
her, and she followed him to the first masquerade to spy upon him. She
overheard enough that night to make her believe that the young man was
making a dupe of her. Then she also heard the men plotting the robbery,
and feared that he might be hurt. Seeing me she told me enough to
prevent that. Then she went home, and brooded over her sorrow until she
decided to go into a convent. Then came the second fête, and the
temptation once more to watch her fickle swain. This time what she heard
brought her happiness, for did he not give up the other woman for her?
Did he not even yield up his greatest family treasure, the pearls?

"She decided to recover the pearls, and she had the courage to carry out
her purpose. When compelled through fear of arrest to bring them to me,
she was delighted to know that they would not be restored to Madame
Damien. It was when I told her this, that she drew from her bosom the
pink pearl which is now in the centre of the string, but which does not
belong to the set as they came from the brow of the idol.

"'There is a story,' said she, 'that these pearls each represent the
price of a maiden's honor; the price of withdrawing from the service of
God's temple. So I will add this pearl to the string, for I had promised
to devote myself to God's work, and now I am going to my lover. This
pearl was worn by my mother, and it is said that her mother also wore
it, and that her blood stained it the color that it is. Her stupid
husband, my grandfather, doubted her wrongfully and stabbed her with a
dagger, so that she died. I think the pearl is worthy of a place among
the others.'

"I took the pink pearl, agreeing with her that it might better be with
the others. Then, as she turned to go, I asked her:

"'Why did you choose the costume of the Sphinx for the ball?'

"Her reply astonished me, as it will you. She said:

"'Why, I did not represent the Sphinx. I was dressed as Isis.'

"A strange coincidence, was it not?"



                                   IX

                           A PROMISSORY NOTE


Mr. Mitchel walked into the office of Mr. Barnes one afternoon as the
clock struck two.

"Here I am, Mr. Barnes," said he. "Your note asked me to be here at two,
sharp. If your clock is right, I have answered your summons to the
second."

"You are punctuality itself, Mr. Mitchel. Sit down. I am in a good
humor. I flatter myself that I have done a clever thing, and we are
going to celebrate. See, there is a cold bottle, and a couple of glasses
waiting your arrival."

"You have done something clever, you say? Some bright detective work, I
suppose. And you did not honor me this time by consulting me?"

"Oh, well," said the detective, apologetically, "I should not be always
bothering you with my affairs. It's business with me, and only amusement
with you. When I have a matter of grave importance I like to have your
assistance, of course. But this case, though interesting, very
interesting, in fact, was really quite simple."

"And you have solved it?"

"Oh, yes; it is completed. Wound it up at noon to-day; ended happily,
too. Let me fill your glass, and I'll tell you all about it."

"We will drink to your success. 'All's well that ends well,' you know,
and this case you say is ended?"

"Oh, yes; the tale is complete down to the word 'finis.' Let me see,
where shall I begin?"

"Why, at the beginning, of course. Where else?"

"Sounds like a reasonable suggestion, yet it is not always so easy to
tell just where a story does begin. I often wonder how the romance
writers get their stories started. Does a love story, for example, begin
with the birth of the lovers, with their meeting, with their
love-making, or with their marriage?"

"I am afraid that love stories too often end with the marriage. If yours
is a love story, perhaps you may as well begin with the meeting of the
lovers. We will take it for granted that they were born."

"So be it. I will transpose events slightly. Here is a document which
was forwarded to me by mail, and evidently the sender expected me to
receive it before the visit of a man who intended to consult me in a
serious case. Oddly enough, the man called before the package reached
me. Thus I had his story soonest; but perhaps it will be better for you
to read this first, after which you will better comprehend the purpose
of my client."

Mr. Mitchel took the type-written pages and read as follows:

    "MY DEAR MR. BARNES:--

    "Within a few hours after reading this statement you will
    receive a visit from a man who will introduce himself as
    William Odell, which is not his true name, a circumstance
    which, however, is of no consequence. He will ask you to
    interpose your reputed skill to save him from fate. I am
    ready to admit that you have great skill and experience, but
    it will be utterly useless for you to interfere in this
    matter, for, as I have said, the man is seeking to escape
    from a doom which is his fate. Who ever altered what was
    fated to be? We may philosophize a little and ask what it is
    that we mean, when we speak of 'fate'? My view is that fate,
    so called by men, is naught but the logical and necessary
    effect of a cause. Thus if the cause exists, the effect must
    follow. So it is with this man, whom we will call Odell. The
    cause exists, has existed for a number of years. The time
    for the effect is now approaching; he knows this; he knows
    that it is fate,--that he cannot escape. Yet, with the hope
    of a hopeless man, in his last extremity he will ask you to
    turn aside, or at least to defer, this fate. This you cannot
    do, and that you may understand the utter futility of
    wasting your time, which I presume is valuable, I send you
    this statement of the facts. Thus comprehending the
    incidents precedent to the present situation, you will
    appreciate the inevitable nature of the occurrence which
    this miserable man seeks with your aid to set aside."

                   *       *       *       *       *

"I thought you said this was a simple case, Mr. Barnes," said Mr.
Mitchel, interrupting his reading.

"I found it so," replied Mr. Barnes, sipping his wine.

"The writer says that the 'occurrence' was 'inevitable,' yet am I to
understand that you prevented it?"

"He thought it to be inevitable. I disagreed with him, and prevented
it."

"I hope you have not been over-confident."

"There is no danger. Did I not tell you that the affair ended?"

"So you did. I forgot that. This paper is entertaining. I will read on."

The statement went on as follows:

    "I was born and reared and spent all my life in Texas. In fact,
    you may consider me a cowboy, though it is long since I have
    thrown a lariat, and one would hardly count me a boy now. What a
    life do we lead down there on the Texas plains! Miles and miles
    of country stretching in easy undulations from the rising-place
    to the set of the sun. Day after day in the saddle, till one
    imagines himself a part of the animal which he bestrides. How
    often in play have I dropped a red bandana, and then picked it
    from the grass as I galloped my horse by at top speed!

    "One day I was riding along, free from all worldly care, happy,
    contented. My horse was going easily, though we had several
    miles yet to cover. Glancing carelessly ahead, neither seeking
    nor expecting adventure of any kind, I thought I saw, a hundred
    yards or more ahead of me, the bright red of a handkerchief in
    the grass. A bandana dropped by a cowboy perhaps. With nothing
    better to do, I touched my horse's flank, and with instant
    response his head was down and we charged the spot. Leaning so
    low on one side that I could have touched the ground easily with
    my hand, we rapidly neared that bit of color, and I was almost
    upon it before I realized that it was something more than a lost
    handkerchief,--that it was really a bundle of some sort. Yet in
    time I noted this, and therefore exerted enough strength when I
    clutched it to lift it firmly from the ground, though the weight
    of it astonished me. Swinging myself back upon my horse, I
    brought him to a walk, that I might better examine my prize.
    Imagine my feelings when I found that the little bundle
    contained a thing of life--a baby girl!

    "There is no need to extend this part of my tale. How the child
    got there I never learned. Whether it was dropped from a wagon
    travelling along the trail, or deposited there purposely by one
    of those fiends who accept the pleasures of life and shirk its
    responsibilities, I do not know. Indeed, at the time I took but
    a passing interest in the affair. I had picked up a baby on the
    plains. What of it? How could a cowboy like myself be expected
    to evince any great interest in a baby? My father was rich, and
    I had always been indulged in all things, though always held
    rigidly by what I was taught to consider the rules of honor. I
    had had a taste of the big world too, for I had been first at a
    military academy, and afterwards had graduated from Harvard.
    Then I had gone back to Texas, back to the life on horseback in
    the open air, the life that I loved best. So you can understand
    that women and babies had not yet come into my mind as necessary
    adjuncts to life.

    "The child was given into the care of the very negro mammy who
    had practically reared me, my mother having died when I was yet
    a boy. Thus it was not until Juanita--I forget how she got the
    name, but so she was called--was twelve, that I began to feel
    some personal responsibility in relation to her future. My
    father meantime had died, and I was master of the old home, the
    ranch and all the stock. Thus there was no lack of money to
    carry out whatever plan might seem best. I took counsel with
    some women of our town, and the end of it was that Juanita was
    sent as far north as Atlanta to boarding-school. Here she
    remained until she was sixteen, but she never really enjoyed
    herself. A child of the plains almost literally, one might say,
    living through her earlier girlhood with little if any
    restraint, the duties of the school-room were irksome to her,
    and she longed to be back in Texas. This yearning grew upon her
    so that at length she began to make references to her feelings
    in her letters. I had missed her from about the place more than
    I should have imagined possible, and the strong inclination was
    to grant her wishes and bring her back; but I knew the value of
    education, and felt in duty bound to urge her continuance of her
    studies. When first she went, it had been arranged that she
    should remain in Atlanta studying for eight years, but finally I
    offered as a compromise that she might come home at the end of
    six, at which time she would have been eighteen. You may guess
    my surprise when one morning on my return from a long ride after
    the cattle, I saw a horse dashing swiftly towards me, and when
    close enough, recognized Juanita on his back. Breathless she
    pulled up beside me, and before I could speak cried out:

    "'Now don't say you are going to send me back. Don't say it!
    Don't! Don't! Don't! It would break my heart!'

    "What could I do? There she was, exuberant in her happiness, all
    the wild energy of her animal spirits aroused by the
    exhilaration of that liberty for which she had so long yearned.
    Of course I thought a good deal, but I said nothing.

    "'Watch me!' she exclaimed. 'I haven't forgotten how to ride.
    See!'

    "Like a flash she was off towards a clump of bushes fifty yards
    away. I called after her, fearing that four years of school life
    would have left her less of a horsewoman than she imagined. But
    she only laughed, and when near the hedge raised her horse with
    the skill of an adept and cleared it by a foot.

    "During the next two years the whole tenor of my life was
    changed. Juanita went with me everywhere. Like myself she lived
    in the saddle, and soon she could throw a lariat or round up a
    herd of cattle as well as almost any of my men.

    "What wonder that I learned to love the girl? Philosophers tell
    us that two may meet, exchange glances, and love. Madness! That
    is admiration, magnetic attraction, passionate desire,--what you
    please,--it is not love. Love may spring from such beginning,
    but not in an instant, a day, an hour. Too many have been
    wrecked by that delusion, wedding while intoxicated with this
    momentary delirium, and awaking later to a realization of a
    dread future. For what can be worse misery than to be married
    and not mated? No, love thrives on what it feeds on. Daily
    companionship, hourly contact breeds a habit in a man's life,
    creates a need that can but be filled by the presence of the one
    who excites such heart longings. Thus we learn to love our horse
    or dog, and the possession of the animal satisfies us. So when
    we come to love a woman, to love her with that love which once
    born never dies, so, too, possession is the only salve, the only
    solution. After two years I realized this, and began to think of
    marrying my little one. 'Why not?' I asked myself. True, I was
    forty, while she was but eighteen. But I was young in heart,
    energy, and vitality. And who had a greater right to possess her
    than myself? None. Then a dreadful thought came to me. What if
    she did not love me in return? My heart turned cold, but I never
    dreamed of coercing her. I would tell her my wish, my hope, and
    as she should answer so should it be.

    "This was my determination. You will admit that I was honorable.
    Having formed my conclusion I sought a favorable moment for its
    execution. At this you may wonder. Were we not together daily,
    riding side by side, often alone with God and Nature for hours
    together? True! But I dreaded a mistake. Should I speak when her
    heart was not ready, the answer might blight my life.

    "So I waited day after day, no moment seeming more propitious
    than another. Yet when I did speak, it was all so simple, that I
    wondered at myself for my long anxiety. We had been riding
    together for three or four hours, when, reaching a shaded knoll
    in which I knew there was a cold spring where we might refresh
    ourselves and our horses, we stopped. As she jumped from her
    horse, Juanita stood a moment looking back and forth across the
    plains, and then, in full enjoyment of the scene, she exclaimed:

    "'Isn't it all grand! I could live here forever!'

    "My heart leaped, and my tongue moved unbidden:

    "'With me?' I cried. 'With me, Juanita?'

    "'Why, yes; with you, of course. With whom else?'

    "She turned and gazed into my eyes frankly, wondering at my
    question, and my hand burned as with a fever as I took hers in
    mine, and almost whispered:

    "'But with me, little one, as my own? As my very own? As my
    little wife, I mean?'

    "A dainty blush beautified her cheek, but she did not turn away
    her eyes as she answered:

    "'Why, yes. As your wife, of course. I have always thought you
    meant it should be. Always lately, I mean.'

    "So she had understood before I had known myself. She had been
    simply waiting, while I had been worrying. I had but to reach
    forth my hand and grasp my happiness. Well, I had been an ass
    not to know, but at last the joy was mine.

    "Be sure there was little further delay. The wedding was simple
    yet impressive. Cowboys came from miles around, and one and all
    they kissed the bride. We had a feast on the grass, the tables
    extending a quarter of a mile, and all were welcome. There were
    no cards of invitation; all within fifty miles were my
    neighbors, and all neighbors were expected at the cowboy's
    wedding. The ceremony was held out in the open air, and five
    hundred men stood with bared heads as the worthy father gave me
    my treasure and declared her mine before God and them.

    "Thus Juanita came to be mine own. First given to me by that
    Providence who rules the Universe, when the unguided steps of my
    horse carried me to the tiny bundle lying on a boundless plain,
    and lastly given to me with her own consent by the worthy man
    who united us in the name of the Father of us all. Was she not
    mine then, and thenceforward forever? Could any man rightly take
    her from me? You shall hear.

    "A year passed. A year of happiness such as poets prate of and
    ardent men and maids hope for, but rarely realize. Then the
    serpent entered my Eden. The tempter came, in the form of this
    man who tells you that his name is Odell, but who lies when he
    tells you so. He was from the North, and he had a fine form and
    a fair face. Fair, I mean, in the sense that it was attractive
    to women. He soon had the few young women of our neighborhood
    dangling after him, like captured fish on a blade of palmetto. I
    saw all this, and, seeing, had no suspicion that with the chance
    to choose from so many who were still unclaimed, he would seek
    to win my own dear one.

    "I cannot dwell on this. Indeed, I never knew the details, only
    the finale. The blow came as unsuspected as might an earthquake
    in a land where tranquillity had reigned for centuries. I had
    been away all day, and for once my wife had not ridden with me.
    I had myself bidden her remain at home, because of the intense
    heat of an August sun. She had begged to go with me, perhaps
    fearing to be left alone. But I knew nothing, suspected nothing
    of the ache and terror in her heart. When I got back, it was
    already dark, and having been away from Juanita all day, I
    called for her at once. The empty echoes of my voice coming back
    as the only answer to my cry struck my heart with a chill, and a
    nameless, hideous dread seized me. Had anything happened? Was
    she ill, or dead? Dead it must be, I thought, or she would have
    answered. I wandered through the house; I searched the whole
    place; I sprang back upon my horse and rode from house to house
    throughout that whole awful night. I discovered nothing. No one
    could tell me aught. At daybreak I returned fagged out, with a
    vague hope that perhaps I had made some blunder and that she was
    still at home. At last, in the room where I kept my accounts and
    transacted business, I found a note upon my desk which explained
    the horrible truth. Here is a copy of it. Note the hideous
    braggadocio. It read:

    "'I. O. U. One wife. (Signed) L---- R----.'

    "That you may fully appreciate how this taunt stung, I must
    remind you that, as I have said, my father had taught me to
    follow most rigidly the rules of honor. In transactions
    involving even very great sums of money, it was not uncommon
    amongst us cattlemen to acknowledge an indebtedness in this
    primitive, informal way,--simply writing upon a slip of paper,
    perhaps torn from the edge of a newspaper, 'I. O. U.', giving
    the amount, and adding the signature. No dates were really
    necessary, though sometimes added, because the possession of the
    paper proved the debt, the cancellation by payment always
    leading to the destruction of the I. O. U.

    "Thus this heartless young brute from the North had not only
    stolen from me my chief treasure, but he had left behind an
    acknowledgment of his debt in that form which was most binding
    among us.

    "Does it cause you surprise to have me say that I carefully
    preserved that bit of paper, and swore to make him meet the
    obligation when the day of reckoning might come? This explains
    to you that cause, which at the outset I said brings with it a
    result which now is, and always has been, inevitable.

    "Of course it is certain that had I been able to find my
    betrayer while my anger still raged, and my anguish yet at its
    most acute point, I would simply have shot the man on sight,
    recklessly, thoughtlessly. But I could not get trace of him, and
    so had time to think.

    "Too late I learned that I had made one dreadful error. I have
    told you my views of love, how engendered and how nourished. My
    mistake was in thinking that such a love is the necessary rather
    than merely the possible result of constant companionship
    between congenial spirits. In my own heart the fire of true love
    burned only too brightly, but with Juanita, poor child, it was
    but the glow reflected from my own inward fires that warmed her
    heart. She was happy with me, sharing my life, and when I asked
    her to marry me, mistook her calm friendship for what she had
    heard called love. Love she had never experienced. When later
    the younger man devoted himself to her, she was probably first
    merely intoxicated by an overpowering animal magnetism, which
    was nothing but passion. But even as I have admitted that this
    impulsive desire may drift into the truer, nobler quality of
    love, so, later, I found, must have been the case with my
    cherished one.

    "A full year passed before I had the least idea of the
    whereabouts of the elopers. Then one day the mail brought me a
    brief, plaintive note from her. All she wrote was, 'Dear one,
    forgive me. Juanita.' The date showed that it had been written
    on the anniversary of our wedding, and from this I knew that the
    day had brought to her remorseful memories of me. But the
    envelope bore a postmark, and I knew at last that they were in a
    suburb of the great metropolis.

    "I started for New York that very night, bent on vengeance. But
    one approaches a revengeful deed in a different spirit a year
    after the infliction of the wrong, and so by the time I reached
    my destination, my mind had attained a judicial attitude, and my
    purpose was tempered by the evident wisdom of investigating
    before acting. I had little difficulty in finding the nest to
    which my bird had flown, and a happy nest it appeared to be. It
    seems like yesterday, and the picture is distinct before my
    vision. I came cautiously towards the cottage, which was
    surrounded by a grassy lawn, and my heart came into my throat
    with a choking sensation as suddenly I saw her there, my little
    Juanita, lazily swinging in a hammock under a great elm,
    singing! Singing so merrily that I could not doubt that she was,
    for the moment at least, happy. So, then, she was happy--happy
    with him. The thought affected me in a twofold manner. I
    resented her happiness for myself, and gloried in it for her own
    sake. I did not venture to interrupt her life by intruding
    myself into it. I quietly prosecuted my inquiries, and learned
    that she was known as his wife, indeed that a regular marriage
    had taken place. Thus at least he gave her the apparent
    protection of his name. Moreover, I found that he was still kind
    to her, and that the two were counted a happy couple.

    "Therefore I returned to Texas, and never again set eyes upon my
    dear one, in life. But before leaving I perfected arrangements
    whereby I might receive regular communications, and so be in the
    position to know how it fared with Juanita, and I am bound to
    admit that the reports were ever favorable. So far as I know, he
    always treated her with loving kindness. In exchange for this,
    he must count that he has been left undisturbed by me. On that
    score, then, we are quits. But the paper on which he wrote that
    infamous I. O. U. remained, and so long as it was in my
    possession it was an obligation still to be met.

    "Five years elapsed, and then one day suddenly I was summoned by
    telegraph. Juanita was ill--was likely to die. I sped North as
    fast as the swiftest express train could travel, but I arrived
    three hours after her sweet spirit had flown. He did not
    recognize me as I mingled with the crowd in the house at the
    funeral, and so got a last glimpse of her face. But after the
    grave was filled, and the little mound was covered with flowers,
    the mound which held all that had stood between him and fate, I
    stepped forward and stood where his eyes must meet mine.

    "At first he did not recognize me, but presently he knew me, and
    the abject terror that came into his face brought to me the
    first sensation of pleasure that I had experienced since that
    hour in which I had found my home deserted. I stepped back into
    the crowd, and I saw him look about eagerly, and pass his hand
    across his eyes, as though brushing aside some horrible vision.
    But he was soon to learn that it was no spectral fancy, but
    myself with whom he had to deal.

    "I waited till nightfall and then sought him at his house, and
    told him my purpose. I showed him that bit of paper on which he
    had scrawled the words 'I. O. U. One wife,' and I told him that
    in exacting a settlement we would change the letter 'w' to the
    letter 'l.' That for my wife, I would expect his life, in
    return. I gave him a respite of a few days, but this he will
    explain to you. I know this, for twice have I seen him approach
    your offices, and then alter his mind and depart without going
    in. But his fate is now so near that by to-morrow, at the
    latest, he will no longer have the courage to delay. He will go
    to you. He will lie to you. He will endeavor to obtain your aid.
    Fool! Of what avail? He cannot escape even if you undertake to
    assist him. But after reading the truth, as here written, will
    you?"

Mr. Mitchel put down the last page of the statement, and, turning to Mr.
Barnes, he said:

"And you say you have thwarted this man's purpose?"

"Yes; absolutely. Of course, that tale of his makes me sympathize with
him, but the law does not grant a man the right to murder even when a
wife is stolen. Certainly not after the lapse of five years."

"I should think that the author of that document would be a man who
would carefully plan whatever scheme he might have decided upon, and if
you have really thwarted him, then you have been very clever. Very
clever, indeed. How was it?"

"To explain that," replied Mr. Barnes, "I must begin by telling you of
the visit of this man who calls himself Odell. You will note that the
Texan says that his adversary 'will explain,' etc. Thus he evidently
intended his communication to reach me before the visit of my client.
But it was otherwise. Mr. Odell, as we must call him, came here two days
ago, whereas that communication did not reach me until yesterday
morning."

"Did this man Odell tell you the same story as that sent to you by the
Texan?"

"Essentially the same, yet differing materially in some of the details.
He came into my office in a very nervous, excited frame of mind, and
even after I had asked him to be seated and to state his business he
seemed half inclined to go away. However, he finally concluded to
confide his trouble to me, though he began the conversation in a
singular manner.

"'I hardly know,' said he, 'whether you can help me or not. Your
business is to detect crimes after they have been committed, is it not?'

"'It is,' said I.

"'I wonder,' said he, 'whether you could prevent a crime?'

"'That would depend much upon the circumstances and the nature of the
crime.'

"'Let us say that a murder was contemplated. Do you think you might be
able to prevent it?'

"'Do you know who is threatened? Who is the person to be murdered?'

"'Myself.'

"'Yourself? Tell me the circumstances which lead you to believe that
such a danger threatens you.'

"'The circumstances are peculiar. I suppose I must tell you the whole
miserable story. Well, so be it. Some years ago I went into one of the
southern states, it matters not which, and there I met a young girl with
whom I fell madly in love. There is nothing out of the common about the
story except as regards her guardian. I suppose that is what he would be
called. This man was quite a wealthy ranchman, and it seems that he had
found the girl when an infant, on the open plains. He took her home, and
raised her. Of course he grew fond of her, but the fool forgot that he
was twenty years older than herself and fell in love with her.
Consequently I knew that it would be useless to ask his consent to our
marriage, so we eloped.'"

"That is a different version," interrupted Mr. Mitchel.

"Very different," said Mr. Barnes. "But when I heard it, it was the only
version known to me. I asked him how long a time had passed since the
elopement, and he replied:

"'Five years. I married the girl of course, and we have been living
until recently up the Hudson. A month ago she died, and in grief I
followed her body to the grave. The last sod had just been placed on the
mound, when looking up I saw the man, the guardian, let us call him,
standing glaring at me in a threatening manner. I was startled, and as a
moment later he seemingly disappeared, I was inclined to believe that it
had been merely a trick of the mind. This seemed not improbable, for if
the man harbored any ill-will, why had he not sought me out before?'

"'Perhaps he did not know where to find you,' I suggested.

"'Yes, he did. I know that, because my wife told me that she wrote to
him once. But it was not imagination, for that same night he came to my
house, and coolly informed me that now that the girl was dead, there was
nothing to delay longer his purpose to take my life.'

"'He told you this openly?'

"'He made the announcement as calmly as though he were talking of
slaying one of his steers. I don't know why, for I am not a coward, but
a terrible fear seized me. I seemed to realize that it would be useless
for me to make any resistance; whether he chose to take my life at that
moment or later, it seemed to me that I could and would make no effort
to save myself. In fact, I imagine I felt like a man in a trance, or it
might be in a dream-disturbed sleep wherein, while passing through
dreadful experiences, and wishing that some one might arouse me, yet I
myself was powerless to awaken.'

"'Perhaps the man had hypnotized you.'

"'Oh, no. I don't make any such nonsensical claim as that. I was simply
terrified, that is all,--I who have never known fear before. Worse than
all, I have not for an instant since been able to escape from my feeling
of helpless terror. He talked to me in the quietest tone of voice. He
told me that he had known of my whereabouts all the time, and that he
had spared me just so long as the girl was happy; that so long as her
happiness depended upon my living, just so long had he permitted me to
live. Throughout the interview he spoke of my life as though it belonged
to him; just as though, as I said before, I might have been one of his
cattle. It was awful.'

"'Did he say when or how he would murder you?'

"'He did worse than that. He did the most diabolical thing that the mind
of man could conceive. He explained to me that he considered me in his
debt, and that the debt could only be cancelled with my life. And then
he had the horrible audacity to ask me to give him a written
acknowledgment to that effect.'

"'How? I do not understand.'

"'He drew out a large sheet of paper on which were some written words,
and handed me the paper to read. This is what I saw: "On or before the
thirtieth day from this date I promise to pay my debt to the holder of
this paper."'

"'How very extraordinary!'

"'Extraordinary! Nothing like this has ever occurred in all the world.
The man asked me practically to give him a thirty-day note to be paid
with my life. Worse than that, I gave it to him.'

"'You gave it to him! What do you mean?'

"'At his dictation I copied those words on a similar sheet that he
furnished, and I signed the hellish document. Don't ask me why I did it.
I don't know, unless in my terror and despair I thought at the moment
only of getting rid of my visitor, and of gaining even the short respite
that here seemed held out to me. At all events I wrote the thing, and he
folded it carefully and put it in his pocket with a satanic smile. Then
he rose to go, but further explained to me that as the note said "on or
before" thirty days, he would feel at liberty to conclude the matter at
his own pleasure. This doubled the horror of the situation. What he said
next, however, seemed to offer a ray of hope, if hope might be sought
under such circumstances. He told me that if I could by any means manage
to live beyond the limitations of the note, he would return the paper to
me to be burned, and in that case I might consider the matter
terminated.'

"'Why, then, he did give you one chance of living.'

"'I have tried to make myself think so. But as I have thought it over,
sometimes I imagine that there is merely an added deviltry in
this,--that he held out this hope only to intensify my sufferings; for
total despair might have led me to suicide, thus shortening the period
of my mental agony. If this was his purpose, he succeeded only too well.
A dozen times I have been on the verge of blowing my brains out to
abbreviate the torture, when the thought has come to me that as another
day had passed finding me still alive, so might the remaining ones; that
I might escape after all. So I have lived and entered another day of
torment.'

"'But why have you allowed this affair to so prey upon your mind?'

"'Allowed it? How could I have escaped from it? You do not know the
expedients of that fiend. I will tell you a few of the things that have
made it impossible for me to forget. In the first place, every morning I
have received a postal-card on which would appear some figures,--"30
minus 1 equals 29,"--"30 minus 2 equals 28,"--"30 minus 3 equals 27,"
and so on. Can you imagine my feelings this morning when the card was
placed in my hand on which I found "30 minus 28 equals 2"?'

"'But why have you read these cards?'

"'Why? Why does the bird go to the snake that devours it? The cards have
exerted a fascination for me. In my mail I would look first to see if
one were there. Finding it, I would read it over and over, though of
course I would know in advance the ghoulish calculation that would be
there. But this is not all. On the third day I was about to smoke a
cigar, when its peculiar shape attracted my attention. I looked at it a
long time stupidly, and then broke it in half. Inside I found a slender
metal tube, which later I discovered was filled with some horribly
explosive preparation. I do not think that any other cigar of that
nature has reached me. But, my suspicions once aroused, I began opening
my cigars, to make sure, and in this manner, of course, they were
rendered useless. Why, I have been suspicious even of cigars offered to
me by some of my best friends. The more cordial the presentation, the
more certain I have felt that the man might be in the plot against me.
So I have been obliged to forego smoking, a great trial, as you may
imagine, in such a condition of mind as I have been in, when a sedative
would have been so acceptable.'

"'You might have used cigarettes,' suggested the detective.

"'Cigarettes? It seemed so at first. Of course not those ready-made, but
I might make them for myself. I made one. Just one! I rolled it, using
paper and tobacco that had been in my own room for over a month. When I
applied a match the thing sizzled like a firecracker. Whether or not
some powder had been dropped into my tobacco, I do not know. Undoubtedly
I could have obtained fresh tobacco and fresh paper, and thus have
enjoyed the longed-for smoke. But I tell you I have been unable to
think these things out. I have been as feeble-minded as any imbecile.
For a few days I obtained a little consolation out of liquor, but one
night after taking a drink I thought I noticed a sediment in the bottom
of the glass. I looked at it closer, and there it was. A whitish powder.
Undoubtedly arsenic.'

"'Why not sugar?' said Mr. Barnes.

"'I don't know. That never occurred to me. Perhaps it was. At all events
I have not had a drop of anything since, except water. No tea, no
coffee, no liquor that might hide a poison. Only clear water, drawn from
the hydrant with my own hands, into a cup that I carried about my
person, and washed out before every draught. I was determined that he
should not poison me except by poisoning the reservoir. This
necessitated adopting a plan for eating that would be equally safe. So I
have taken to eating at restaurants, a different one for every meal.'

"'You have allowed yourself to become morbid on this subject. I should
not be surprised if this man really has no intention of committing this
murder, but has taken this means of having revenge, by causing you a
month of mental suffering.'

"'I hardly think that. He has made several efforts to kill me already.'

"'In what manner?'

"'Well, twice, in my own house, I was shot at from without. I heard the
report of a pistol each time, and a ball passed close to me and entered
the wall at my side. After the second attempt I decided to change my
place of abode, and took a room at my club. The room had but one window,
and that opened on the interior court. I was particular that it should
not be exposed to the street. For several days nothing happened; then
one night, just as I was putting out my gas, and consequently standing
by the window, again I heard a pistol shot, and another bullet whistled
past me, all too close. The odd thing was that though I had an immediate
investigation made, it is certain that my enemy was not in the
building.'

"'In that case, the shot must have come in accidentally. Some one
opposite was probably handling his pistol and carelessly touched the
trigger, causing the explosion. Naturally, when he found that you had
nearly been shot, he chose not to make any explanations.'

"'However that may be, I thought it best to move again. This time I
found a room in a hotel, where the only ventilation is from a skylight
opening upon the roof. In there at least I have felt safe from intruding
bullets. But I am disturbed by the regularity with which those
postal-cards come to me. The address has always been changed as I have
moved from one place to another.'

"'Evidently your man keeps an eye upon you.'

"'Very evidently, though I have never set eyes upon him since his visit
on the night when he made me give him that diabolically conceived
promissory note. Now that is the story. Can you do anything for me?'

"'Let me see; according to the calculation on the card that reached you
this morning there are still two days of respite?'

"'Not of respite. There is no respite from my torture till the end
comes, be that what it may. But there are two days remaining of the
thirty.'

"That was the problem, Mr. Mitchel," said Mr. Barnes, "which I was
called upon to solve. Bearing in mind that I had not yet received the
other man's communication, you will, of course, concede that it was my
duty to endeavor to save this man?"

"Undoubtedly. It was your duty to save the man under any circumstances.
We should always prevent crime where we can. The question here was
rather _how_ you might be able to accomplish this."

"How would you have proceeded, had the case been in your care?"

"Oh, no, Mr. Barnes," said Mr. Mitchel, laughing. "You cannot be allowed
to get my advice after the affair is over. I must come in as principal
or spectator. In this instance I am merely a spectator."

"Very well. As you please. My plan, I think, was as ingenious as it was
simple. It was evident to me either that we had to deal with a man who
did not intend to kill his victim, in which case any course would save
him; or else the affair might be serious. If the man really was plotting
murder, the affair occupying so long a time was unquestionably
premeditated and thoroughly well planned. Whatever the scheme, it was
equally obvious that we could not hope to fathom it. The blow, if it
should come, would be swift and sure. Consequently but one course lay
before us."

"And that was?"

"To remove our man to such a place of safety that the blow, however well
conceived, could not by any possibility reach him."

"Ah, well argued! And could you find such a place?"

"Yes. A private room in a safe-deposit vault."

"Not bad. Not half bad. And you did this?"

"Without delay. I explained my purpose to the officers of one of these
institutions, and before another hour had passed I had Mr. Odell 'safely
deposited,' where none could reach him except myself."

"Of course you supplied him with eatables?"

"Yes, indeed, and liquor and cigars beside. Poor fellow! How he must
have enjoyed his cigars! When I visited him yesterday, on opening the
door of his room he looked like a spectre in a fog. Now I must further
remind you that I put Mr. Odell in this safety-vault before receiving
the letter from the Texan, firmly believing at the time that we were
taking unnecessary precautions. After reading the Texan's story I
altered my mind, becoming convinced that any other course would have
been fatal. Indeed so impressed was I with the determination of this man
to have Mr. Odell's life, that though I had the intended victim
absolutely safe, still I felt it my duty to make assurance doubly sure,
by remaining at the vault myself throughout the rest of the final
twenty-four hours, which terminated at noon to-day."

"Then you released your prisoner?"

"I did, and a happier man than he you never saw. He stood out in the
open air and took a long breath as eagerly as a drunkard drinks his
tipple."

"And then what?"

"Why, then we separated. He said he would go to his hotel for a good
sleep, for he had little rest in that vault."

"And that, you think, ends the case?"

A quizzical tone in Mr. Mitchel's voice attracted Mr. Barnes's keen
sense of hearing, and, slightly disturbed, he said:

"Why, yes. What do you think?"

"I think I would like to go to that man's hotel, and I think we cannot
get there too quickly."

"Why, what do you mean? Explain."

"I cannot explain. There is no time. Do not waste another minute, but
let us go at once and call on your client."

Mystified, Mr. Barnes jumped up, and the two men hurried out of the
building and up Broadway. They had only a few blocks to walk, and were
soon in the elevator of the hotel ascending to the top floor where was
that room whose only communication with the outer world was a skylight.
Reaching the door, Mr. Barnes tried the knob, but the door was locked.
He knocked first lightly and then more violently, but there was no
response.

"It is useless, Mr. Barnes," said Mr. Mitchel. "We must break in the
door, and I fear we may be too late."

"Too late?" said Mr. Barnes, wonderingly; but without losing more time
throwing his weight against the door it yielded and flew in. The two men
and the hall-boy entered, and pointing to the floor where lay the body
of a man, Mr. Mitchel said:

"See! we are too late."

They lifted the man to the bed, and hastily summoned medical aid, but he
was dead. While the hall-boy was gone to call the doctor, Mr. Barnes
ruefully said:

"This is incomprehensible to me. After reading that Texan's letter, I
was so assured that however vengeful he might be, still he was an
honorable man, that I felt positive he would keep his word, and that
this man would be safe at the expiration of the note."

"You were entirely right in your estimate of the Texan's character, Mr.
Barnes. Your fatal error was in regard to the expiration of the note."

"Why, the thirty days expired at noon to-day."

"Very true. But you have overlooked the usual three days' grace!"

"The devil."

"Just so; the devil,--in this instance the devil being the Texan.
Ordinarily the extra three days is an extension demanded by the maker of
the note, but in this instance it has been utilized by the deviser of
the scheme, who, knowing that his man would be on guard during the
thirty days, misled him by a promise of safety thereafter. But he did
more than that."

"What do you mean?"

"Why, how has he accomplished his purpose? How has he killed this man up
here in a locked room, which has no window through which a bullet might
be fired?"

"I do not know; that is another puzzle to be solved."

"I have already solved it. The promissory note is the vehicle of his
vengeance,--the means by which the opportunity was obtained, and the
means by which the end has been consummated. You will recall that Odell
told you that the Texan promised that if he should live beyond the
limitation of the note it would be returned so that he might burn it,
and he might then consider the matter terminated. These were very
suggestive words, and have wrought this man ruin. Evidently soon after
he reached this hotel, feeling that at last he had escaped his
threatened doom, an envelope was sent up to him, which contained the
so-called promissory note. It being too dark in here to read, he lighted
his gas. The reception of this paper caused him satisfaction because it
seemed to show that his adversary was keeping faith. It had been
suggested to him that he might 'burn' the note, and so 'terminate' the
affair. Therefore he set fire to the paper, which evidently had been
charged with an explosive substance. The explosion not only stunned if
it did not kill the man, but it extinguished the gas, leaving the jet
open, so that if not destroyed by the explosive he certainly must have
been asphyxiated by the escaping gas. Here on the floor is a bit of the
paper, and we can still see a few of the words which we know were
contained in the promissory note. Then there is the gas turned on, while
it is still daylight without. Am I right?"

"Unquestionably," said Mr. Barnes. "What a diabolical scheme from
conception to the final act! But suppose that Mr. Odell had not burned
that paper? Then the scheme must have failed."

"Not at all. You still overlook the three days of grace, of which but a
few hours have yet expired."



                                   X

                            A NOVEL FORGERY


Mr. Barnes was wondering whether he would soon have a case which would
require special mental effort in its solution. "Something that will make
me think," was the way he phrased it to himself. The same idea had
occupied him for some time. Not that he had been idle, but his "cases"
had all been of such a nature that with a little supervision it had been
safe to intrust them entirely to his subordinates. Nothing had occurred
to compel his personal investigation. On this morning, however, fate had
something peculiarly attractive for him. His office-boy announced a
visitor, who, when shown into the detective's sanctum, introduced
himself thus:

"I am Stephen West, cashier of the Fulton National Bank. Is this Mr.
Barnes?"

"Yes, sir," replied the detective. "Is your business important?"

"It is very important to me," said Mr. West. "I am interested to the
extent of forty thousand dollars."

"Forty thousand dollars! Forgery?" Receiving an assenting nod, Mr.
Barnes arose and closed the door of the office after instructing the boy
to prevent his being disturbed. Returning to his seat, he said: "Now
then, Mr. West, tell me the story. All of it, as far as you know it.
Omit no detail, however unimportant it may seem to you."

"Very good. My bank has been swindled out of forty thousand dollars in
the most mysterious manner. We have received four checks, each for ten
thousand dollars. These were signed with the name John Wood, one of our
best customers. In making up his monthly balance these checks were sent
to his house in the usual order of business. To-day Mr. Wood came to the
bank, and declared them to be forgeries."

"Were these checks paid by you personally?"

"Oh, no. We received them through the Clearing-House. They had been
deposited at the Harlem National Bank, and reached us in the routine
way. They were taken on four different days."

"Who was the depositor at the Harlem Bank?"

"There is a mystery there. His name is Carl Grasse. Inquiry at the
Harlem Bank shows that he has been a depositor for about a year. He had
a seemingly flourishing business, a beer-garden and concert place.
Recently he sold out and returned to his home in Germany. Before doing
so he drew out his deposits and closed his account."

"How is it that you did not yourself detect the forgeries? I supposed
you bank people were so expert nowadays that the cashing of a worthless
check would be impossible."

"Here are the forged checks, and here is one cashed by us since the
accounting, which is genuine. Compare them, and perhaps you will admit
that anyone might have been deceived."

Mr. Barnes examined the checks very closely, using a lens to assist his
eyes. Presently he laid them down without comment, and said:

"What do you wish me to do, Mr. West?"

"To me it seems like a hopeless task, but at least I should like to have
the forger arrested. I will gladly pay five hundred dollars as a
reward."

Mr. Barnes took up the checks again, examined them most carefully with
the lens, and once more laid them down. He strummed on his desk a moment
and then said suddenly:

"Mr. West, suppose that I not only arrest the guilty man, but recover
the forty thousand dollars?"

"You don't mean to say----" began Mr. West, rather astonished.

"I said 'suppose,'" interrupted Mr. Barnes.

"Why, in that case," said Mr. West, "I would gladly give a thousand
more."

"The terms suit me," said the detective. "I'll do my best. Leave these
checks with me, and I'll report to you as promptly as possible. One
moment," as Mr. West was about to depart; "I will make a memorandum of
something you must do yourself." He wrote a few lines on a sheet of
paper and handed it to Mr. West, saying, "Let me have those to-day, if
possible."

One week later Mr. West received the following note:

    "STEPHEN WEST, Esq.:--

    "Dear Sir--I have completed my investigation of your case.
    Please call at my office at four o'clock. If convenient, you
    may as well bring with you a check for fifteen hundred
    dollars, made payable to

                                              "JOHN BARNES."

"Great heavens!" ejaculated the cashier upon reading the above, "he
tells me to bring fifteen hundred dollars. That means he has recovered
the money. Thank God!" He dropped into his chair, overcome at the sudden
release from the suspense of the previous week, and a few tears trickled
down his cheek as he thought of his wife and little one who would not
now be obliged to give up their pretty little home to make good his
loss.

Promptly at four he was ushered into the presence of Mr. Barnes.
Impatient to have his hopes confirmed, he exclaimed at once:

"Am I right? You have succeeded?"

"Most thoroughly," said the detective. "I have discovered the thief, and
have him in prison. I also have his written confession."

"But the forty thousand dollars?"

"All safe and sound. Your bank does not lose a dollar--except the
reward." Mr. Barnes added the last after a pause and with a twinkle of
his eye.

"Oh, Mr. Barnes, that is a trifle compared to what I expected. But tell
me, how was this trick played on us? Who did it?"

"Suppose I give you a detailed account of my work in solving the riddle?
I am just in the humor for telling it, and besides you will be more
appreciative."

"That is just what I should most desire."

"Very well," began Mr. Barnes. "We will go back to the moment when,
after scrutinizing the checks, I asked what you would give for the
recovery of the money. I asked that because a suspicion had entered my
mind, and I knew that if it should prove to be correct, the arrest of
the criminal and the recovery of the money would be simultaneous. I will
not explain now why that should be a necessary sequence, as you will see
that I was right. But I will tell you what made me entertain the
suspicion. In the first place, as you know, of course, John Wood uses a
private special check. The forgeries were upon blanks which had been
stolen from his check-book. Thus the thief seemingly had access to it.
Next, as is commonly done nowadays, the amount of the check was not only
written, but also punched out, with the additional precaution of
punching a dollar mark before and after the figures. It would seem
therefore almost impossible that any alterations had been made after the
check was originally drawn. Such things have been done, the holes being
filled up with paper pulp, and new ones punched afterwards. But in this
case nothing of the sort had been attempted, nor indeed was any such
procedure necessary, for the checks were not raised from genuine ones,
but had been declared by Wood to be forgeries outright. That is, he
denied the signatures."

"Certainly. They were declared to be spurious."

"Exactly. Now that was all that I knew when you were here last except
that the signatures seemed to be very similar. It was possible that they
were tracings. The plain deduction from this was that the forger was
some one in John Wood's establishment; some one who could have access to
the checkbook, to the punch, and also have a chance to copy the
signature, if it was copied."

"All that is quite clear, but how to proceed?"

"I instructed you to send me a list of all the checks which had been
paid out on John Wood's account, giving their dates, numbers, and
amounts. I also asked you to procure for me from the Harlem National
Bank a similar list of checks paid on order of Carl Grasse. These two
lists you sent to me, and they have been very useful. As soon as you
left me, and whilst awaiting your lists, I tried some experiments with
the forged checks. First I argued that if the signatures were traced,
having been made, as it were, from a model, it would follow necessarily
that they would exactly coincide if superimposed the one upon the other.
Now whilst a man from habit will write his name very similarly a
thousand times, I doubt if in a million times he would, or could,
exactly reproduce his signature. The test of placing one over the other
and examining with transmitted light satisfied me that they were not
tracings. I compared each check with each of the others, and with the
genuine one which you also left with me. No two were exact counterparts
of one another. Still this did not completely prove that they were not
tracings, for an artistic criminal might have gone so far as to trace
each check from a different model, thus avoiding identity whilst
preserving similarity."

"Mr. Barnes," said Mr. West, admiringly, "you delight me with your care
in reasoning out your point."

"Mr. West, in speculating upon circumstantial evidence the most thorough
care must be used, if one would avoid arresting the innocent. Nothing,
to my mind, is stronger proof against a criminal than a complete chain
of circumstantial evidence, but again, nothing is so misleading if at
any stage a mistake, an omission, or a misconstruction be allowed to
occur. In this case, then, as I was starting out to prove what was
merely a suspicion, I determined to be most careful, for indeed I
dislike following up suspicion at any time. A suspicion is a
prejudgment, and may prove a hindrance to correct reasoning. Not
entirely satisfied, therefore, I took the next step. A tracing can be
made in either of two ways: with a lead-pencil, or with a stylus of
glass or agate. The former leaves a deposit of the lead, whilst the
latter makes an indentation upon the paper. In the first case the forger
will attempt to remove the lead with an erasing rubber, but will not
succeed thoroughly, because some of it will be covered by the ink, and
because of the danger of injuring the surface of the paper. In the
latter instance, if he be a very thoughtful man, he might undertake to
remove the indentation by rubbing the opposite side with the end of his
knife or with an ivory paper-cutter. In either case a careful scrutiny
with a strong glass would show the burnishing upon the reverse side. I
could find nothing of the sort. Taking one of the checks I applied a
solution to remove the ink. A thorough examination disclosed that there
was no sign either of the graphite, or of the indentation from the
stylus. In fact, I became satisfied that the signatures had not been
traced."

"But what did that prove? They might have been imitations made by a
clever penman."

"They might have been, but I doubted it; and since you ask, I will give
my reasons. In the first place, the signatures were accepted at your
bank not once, but four times. It would be a remarkably clever man to
deceive experts so well. However, I did not abandon this possibility
until further developments showed conclusively to my mind that it would
be a waste of time to follow up that line of research. Had it been
necessary to do so, I should have discovered who in the place had the
opportunity to do the work, and by examining their past I should have
received a hint as to which of these was most likely to be my man. For
any man who could have the ability to commit such a clever forgery must
have acquired it as a sequence of special skill and aptitude with his
pen of which his friends would be cognizant. Once I looked up such a
man, and found that as a boy he had forged his parents' names to excuses
for absences from school. Later he turned to higher things. In this
instance I was satisfied that the only person having the access to
materials, the knowledge of the financial condition of the concern, and
the ability to write the checks, was Mr. John Wood himself."

"John Wood!" exclaimed the cashier. "Impossible! Why, that would mean
that----"

"Nothing is impossible, Mr. West. I know what you would say. That it
involved his having an accomplice in this Carl Grasse? Well, that is
what I suspected, and that is why I asked for an additional reward for
the recovery of the funds. If I could prove that John Wood made the
checks himself, they ceased to be forgeries in one sense, and the bank
could rightfully charge the amounts against his account. But let me tell
you why I abandoned your theory that an expert penman was at work.
Observe that though you would have honored a check for forty thousand
dollars drawn by John Wood, yet the forgeries were four in number. That
showed that the man was not afraid of arousing your suspicion. The only
man who could feel absolutely sure upon that point was John Wood. But
there is another pretty point. These checks being spurious, and yet
being numbered, could arouse your suspicion in two ways. If the numbers
upon them greatly varied from those upon genuine checks coming in at the
same time, the fraud would have been detected quickly. On the other
hand, he could not give you correct numbers without being either in
collusion with his bookkeeper or else duplicating the numbering of other
checks. That the latter course was pursued, exempted the bookkeeper. All
the numbers on the forged checks were duplicates of those on genuine
ones."

"But, Mr. Barnes, that did not arouse our suspicion, because----"

"Just so," interrupted Mr. Barnes, "but let me tell you why, as the
_why_ is a very significant link in our chain. Your list of this man's
checks helped me there. About a year ago Carl Grasse appeared upon the
scene in Harlem, buying out a beer-garden, and starting an account in
the Harlem National Bank. Now observe that prior to that time, from the
first check sent to you by Wood, the strictest regularity as to
numbering obtained. There is not a break or a skip anywhere. But in
February, the month after Carl Grasse moved to Harlem, there is a
duplication in Wood's checks. Two have the same numbering, but both are
for trifling amounts, sixteen dollars in one instance and forty in the
other. You possibly passed it over. Next month, I find two duplications,
and from then on this apparent mistake happens no less than ten times."

"Mr. Barnes, the bookkeepers did notice this, and we spoke to Mr. Wood,
but he said it was simply a clerical error of his own due to haste in
business hours."

"Exactly, but he was paving the way for his big coup. He was disarming
you of suspicion. This one fact satisfied me that I was on the right
track, but your list gave me even better corroboration. On February 1st
I find that Wood cashed a check payable to himself for ten thousand and
fifty-nine dollars. On February 2d, Carl Grasse opened an account with
the Harlem Bank, depositing ten thousand dollars, paying in the amount,
in cash. This might seem but a coincidence, but by looking over the
books of the beer-garden, which is still in existence, Grasse having
sold it out, I find that on February 2d, Grasse paid his employees just
fifty-nine dollars. The difference, you see, between Wood's draft and
Grasse's deposit."

"It certainly seems to connect the two, when we remember that the final
forgeries were checks signed by Wood in favor of Grasse."

"Precisely, but follow this a little further. For several months there
is nothing to connect the two so far as their banking goes, but note
that during this lapse Grasse does not draw a single check in favor of
himself, nor does he deposit any checks from others. His transactions
with his customers are strictly cash, and his checks are all to dealers,
who supply him with his stock. None of these are for large amounts, and
his balance does not exceed twelve thousand dollars at any time. On
October 1st he deposited five thousand dollars in cash. On the day
before that, Wood drew that amount out of your bank. On the 12th, this
is repeated by both, and on the 14th, Grasse cashes a check for twelve
thousand dollars, taking cash. This goes through successfully, and the
Harlem Bank is made to see that Grasse commands large amounts and uses
large amounts. This is repeated in varying amounts in November, and
again in December, the bank by this time being quite ready to pay out
money to Grasse. On January 2d, Wood has his check account balanced. On
the 3d, Grasse deposits Wood's check for ten thousand dollars. This goes
through the Clearing-House, and is accepted by your bank. The Harlem
Bank is therefore satisfied of its authenticity. On the 5th, Grasse
deposits check number two, and at the same time cashes a check for ten
thousand dollars. The second spurious check goes through all right, and
on the 10th and 15th, the transactions are repeated. On the 20th, Grasse
explains to the Harlem Bank that he has sold his business, and is going
home to Germany. He closes his account, taking out his money, and
disappears from the scene. You are forty thousand dollars out by a
clever swindle, with nothing to prove your suspicions save a few
coincidences in the banking records of the two men."

"But assuredly, Mr. Barnes, enough evidence upon which to arrest Mr.
Wood?"

"To arrest him, yes. But to convict him? That is another affair. Without
conviction you do not recover your money. No, my work was by no means
finished. I first sought to follow Grasse. I did not have far to go. At
the Hamburg-American line I found him booked, but investigation showed
that he never sailed. The ticket which he bought has never been taken
up."

"Then the accomplice is still in this country?"

"No; the accomplice is not in this country," said Mr. Barnes, dryly.
"Don't get ahead of the story. At this stage of the game I made some
singular discoveries. I found, for example, that Carl Grasse slept over
his saloon, but that he frequently would be absent all night. I also
learned that when he did sleep there, he would leave about nine o'clock
in the morning for that mysterious realm, 'down-town.' When he slept
elsewhere, he usually reached the saloon at eight, and still went
'down-town' at nine. It was his general custom to get back about five in
the afternoon. Extending my researches in the direction of John Wood, I
learned that he was customarily at his office at ten o'clock, seldom
leaving before four. Moreover, at his apartment the janitor told me that
he frequently slept elsewhere, and that when he passed the night at that
place, he would leave about seven in the morning. Do you follow me?"

"Do you mean that John Wood and Carl Grasse are one and the same
person?"

"That idea entered my mind about this time. Up at the saloon I found
some other small evidences that this was a probability. You see, a man
may disguise his personal appearance, but it is difficult for him to
change his habits with his clothing. For example, I found that Mr. Wood
always uses Carter's writing fluid, and Mr. Grasse had the same
predilection, as the empty bottles attest. Moreover, the bottles are of
the same size in both places. Next I observe that both men used the same
make of stub pens. Again note that though Carl Grasse is a German name
and the man was keeping a beer saloon, he was never seen to drink beer
himself. John Wood has the same antipathy to malt. But most singular is
the fact that this man, who so carefully laid his plans, should have
actually bought a check-punching stamp of the same make and style of
figures as that used in the Wood establishment."

"Perhaps he did that so that he could make the spurious checks up-town
instead of down-town, where he might be discovered."

"More than likely, but he should have taken it away with him. There is
always some little detail of this kind that even the most skilful
overlooks. He probably thought that the similarity of the instruments
would never be detected, or made to count against him. It is nothing in
itself, but as a link in a chain it mends a break. There was one fact,
however, at wide variance with the theory of the identity of the two
men. Wood is of ordinary build, with black hair and smooth-shaven face.
Grasse is described as very stout, with red hair and whiskers. Of
course, following the theory of impersonation, if Wood transformed
himself into a stout man, totally different clothing would be needed
for the two parts which he played. I found that Wood always dressed in
the finest broadcloth, whilst Grasse wore conspicuous plaids. Supposing
that he wore a red wig and false whiskers, I determined to find the man
from whom he had procured them. I guessed that he would avoid any
well-known place, and I began my hunt in the costumers' shops on Third
Avenue. I went to several without obtaining any clue, when at last
fortune favored me. I found a place where, upon their books, in last
January was a record of 'red wig and whiskers' for the same customer.
Moreover, they had furnished this person with a 'make-up' for a fat
German, giving him the necessary 'pads,' as they are called, a suit of
underwear wadded so as to increase the proportion of the body. Can you
guess what I did next?"

"I think not."

"It was an inspiration. I ordered a similar outfit for myself, including
the plaid suit. This morning they were delivered to me, and, dressed in
them, I induced the costumer to go with me to Wood's place. As soon as I
was shown into his presence, I began to talk in a most excited, angry
tone. I said 'Mr. Wood, I come for satisfaction. I am Carl Grasse, the
man you have been personating up-town. I am the man whose name you
forged to the back of your own checks. And this is the costumer who sold
you the disguise. Am I not right?' This last speech I addressed to the
costumer, who, to my intense satisfaction, said, 'Yes, that is the
gentleman; but I did not know he was going to impersonate anybody.'"

"What happened then?" asked the cashier.

"Well," said Mr. Barnes, "I had better luck than I had expected, though,
in line with my hopes. You see, my sudden appearance before him, my
words, and my rapid speech, all tended to confuse him. He suddenly heard
himself accused of forging the name of 'Carl Grasse,' and for the moment
thought only of defending himself from that charge. He was utterly taken
back, and stammered out, 'I did not forge anybody's name. The checks had
my own signature, and the endorsement--that was "Carl Grasse." There is
no such person.' Then suddenly seeing that he was making a mistake and
incriminating himself, he exclaimed, 'Who the devil are you?'

"'I am a detective,' I answered, quickly seizing his arms and putting on
a pair of manacles, 'and I arrest you for swindling the Fulton Bank,
whether your offense be forgery or not.' That settled him. He wilted and
began to cry for mercy. He even offered me money to let him escape. I
delivered him to the Central Office officials, and since then the
Inspector has obtained a voluntary confession from him. Are you
satisfied, Mr. West?"

"I am more than satisfied. I am amazed. Mr. Barnes, you are a genius."

"Not at all, Mr. West, I am a detective."



                                   XI

                          A FROSTY MORNING.[A]

    [A] Copyright by Short Story Publishing Company. Republished
        from the _Black Cat_, by permission.


"Thank heaven, you have come," exclaimed Mr. Van Rawlston, as Mr.
Mitchel entered. "I have a thousand pounds on my mind, and----"

"Never heard of the disease," interrupted Mr. Mitchel. "If you consider
mind and brain to be synonymous, the locality is popularly supposed to
be inundated with water occasionally--but then, you mentioned a thousand
pounds, and, a pound being a pint, we would have a thousand pints, or
five hundred quarts, and--well, really, your head seems hardly large
enough, so----"

"I am talking of money," ejaculated Mr. Van Rawlston, sharply; "English
money. Pounds sterling."

"The deuce you are! Money, eh? Money on the brain! Oh, I've heard of
that. It is a very common disorder."

"Mitchel, I sent for you to help me. I am up to my ears in a mystery.
I've been in this room nearly all day trying to solve it. I've had your
friend Barnes working on it for several hours, yet we have made no
progress. In despair I thought of you; of your cool, keen, analytical
brain, and I decided that you could discover the truth, if any man can.
But if you are in a jesting humor, why----"

"A thousand pardons, old friend. That is one pardon for each of your
pounds. But, there, forgive me, and I will be serious. I received your
note late, because I did not reach home until dinner time. You asked me
to call here as soon as possible, and here I am within half an hour of
reading your message. Now, then, about this thousand pounds sterling.
Where are they, or is it, as you are most accustomed to speaking. The
plural or singular verb seems to be a matter of choice with large
amounts."

"The money is in this room."

"In this room? You know that, and yet cannot find it?"

"Therein lies the mystery. I had it in my hands this morning, and within
a few minutes it had vanished."

"Now, Mr. Van Rawlston, if you are presenting a problem for me to solve,
I beg of you to be minutely accurate in your statements. You say 'had
vanished.' That is manifestly an impossibility. I presume you mean
'seemed to have vanished.'"

"There was no seeming about it. It was a single bank-note, and I placed
it on this table. Five minutes later it had disappeared."

"'Disappeared' is a better word, by long odds. It passed out of your
sight, you mean. That I can believe. The question then arises, how was
this disappearance managed. I say managed, which is an intimation of my
belief that the note did not hide itself, but rather that it was hidden.
From this postulate I deduce that two or more persons, besides yourself,
were present at the time of said disappearance of said bank-note. Am I
correct?"

"You are, but really I can't see how you have guessed that there was
more than one person with me!"

"It could not be otherwise. Had there been but one person in this room
with you, you would not think, you would know absolutely that he took
the note. That you have a doubt as to the identity of the culprit, shows
that you suspect one of two or more persons."

"Mitchel, I am delighted that I sent for you. You are exactly the man to
recover this money."

"What about Barnes? I think you mentioned his name?"

"Yes. Naturally my first thought was to send for a detective, and I
remembered him in connection with that ruby robbery of yours, which
occurred at my house. He is now following a clue which he considers a
good one, and will report during the evening. But perhaps I should
relate the exact circumstances of this affair. The details are
strikingly curious, I assure you."

"Now that I know that Barnes is on the scent, I may say that I am eager
for the fray. Nothing would please me better than to succeed where he
fails. Every time I outwit him, it is a feather in my cap, and another
argument in favor of my theory that the professional detective is a much
over-rated genius. Allow me to light a cigar, and make myself
comfortable, in exchange for which privilege I will devote my undivided
attention to your tale of woe."

Mr. Mitchel drew forth a handsome gold case, which bore his monogram in
diamonds, and selected a choice Havana, which he puffed complacently as
Mr. Van Rawlston proceeded.

"Some thirty years ago, or more," began Mr. Van Rawlston, "there came
into my office a young Englishman, who introduced himself as Thomas
Eggleston. The object of his visit was curious. He wished to borrow four
thousand dollars upon collateral. Imagine my surprise when the security
offered proved to be an English bank-note for one thousand pounds. It
seemed odd that he should wish to borrow, when he could readily have
exchanged his note for American currency, but he explained that for
sentimental reasons he wished not to part with this note permanently. He
desired to redeem it in the future, and keep it as a memento--the
foundation of the fortune which he hoped to earn in this new land."

"A singular wish," interposed Mr. Mitchel.

"Singular indeed. So much so that my interest was keenly aroused. I
agreed to advance the sum demanded without charge. Moreover, I put him
in the way of some good speculations which paved his way to success at
the outset. It was not long before his thousand-pound note was back in
his possession. Since then we have been close friends, and I was not
surprised, when he died a few days ago, to find that I had been named as
executor of his estates. Now I must speak of three other persons. When
Eggleston came to this country he brought with him a sister. A few years
later she married a man named Hetheridge, a worthless scamp, who
supposed he was marrying money, and who soon abandoned his wife when he
learned that she was poor. I think he drank himself to death. Mrs.
Hetheridge did not survive him very long, but she left a little girl,
now grown to womanhood. Alice Hetheridge is one of the persons who was
present when the bank-note disappeared. A second was Arthur Lumley, of
whom I know little, except that he is in love with Alice, and that he
was here to-day. Robert Eggleston was also present. He is the nephew of
the deceased, and proved to be the heir to the bulk of the estate. He
has only been in this country a few months, and has lived in this house
during that time. Now I come to the events of to-day."

"Kindly be as explicit as possible," said Mr. Mitchel. "Omit no detail,
however trifling."

"My friend died very unexpectedly," continued Mr. Van Rawlston. "On
Saturday he was well, and on Monday dead. On Wednesday morning, the day
of the funeral, his man of business brought me his client's will. I
learned by it that I was chosen an executor, and I undertook to make its
contents known to the family. I appointed this morning for that purpose,
and when I came, I was surprised to find young Lumley present. Alice
took me aside, and explained that she had invited him, and so I was
silenced. I asked her to bring me a certain box described in the will,
which she did. It was locked, the key having been brought to me with the
will. I took from it a packet which contained a bank-note for a thousand
pounds; the same upon which I had once loaned Eggleston money. There
were also some government bonds, and railroad securities. Having
compared these with the list attached to the will, I then read aloud the
testament of my dear friend. A part of this I will read to you, as
possibly shedding some light upon the situation."

"One moment," interposed Mr. Mitchel. "You said that the packet taken
from the box contained the bank-note as well as the bonds and other
securities. Are you sure that the note was there?"

"Oh, yes. I found it first, and placed it on the table in front of me,
while I went through the other papers. When I looked for it again, it
had vanished. I say vanished, though you do not like the word, because
it seems incredible that one would dare to steal in the presence of
three others. But listen to an extract from the will. After bequeathing
all of his property to his nephew, Eggleston inserted this paragraph:

"'To my dear niece I must explain why she is not named as my heiress. My
father married twice. By his first wife he had a son, William, and by my
own mother, my sister and myself. When he died, my half-brother,
William, was ten years my senior, and had amassed a considerable
fortune, whereas I found myself penniless and dependent upon his bounty.
He was not a generous man, but he presented me a bank-note for a
thousand pounds, and paid my passage to this country. My first impulse,
after my arrival, was to make my way as rapidly as I could, and then to
return to William the identical bank-note which he had given me. For
this reason I used it as collateral, and borrowed money, instead of
changing it for American currency. By the time the note was again in my
possession my brother had given me another proof of his recognition of
our consanguinity, and I decided that it would be churlish to carry out
my intention. Recently William lost his entire fortune in unfortunate
speculations, and the shock killed him. Before he died he gave his son
Robert a letter to me, reminding me that all that I owned had been the
fruit of his bounty, and claiming from me a share of my fortune for his
son. I took Robert into my house, and I am bound to say that I have not
learned to love him. This, however, may be a prejudice, due to the fact
that he had come between me and my wish to make Alice my heiress. It may
be in recognition of the possibility of this prejudice that I feel
compelled to ease my conscience by bequeathing to William's son the
fortune which grew out of William's bounty. The original bank-note,
however, was a free gift to me, and I certainly may dispose of it as I
please. I ask my niece Alice to accept it from me, as all that my
conscience permits me to call my own.'"

"An interesting and curious statement," commented Mr. Mitchel. "Now tell
me about the vanishment of the note."

"There is my difficulty. I have so little to tell. After reading the
will, I laid it down, and reached out my hand, intending to give the
bank-note to Alice, whereupon I discovered that it had disappeared."

"Tell me exactly where each person was seated."

"We were all at this table, which, you see, is small. I sat at this end,
Alice at my right hand, young Eggleston at my left, and Lumley opposite
to me."

"So that all three were easily within reach of the bank-note when you
placed it upon the table? That complicates matters. Well, when you
discovered that you could not find the note, who spoke first, and what
comment was made?"

"I cannot be certain. I was stunned, and the others seemed as much
surprised as I was. I remember that Eggleston asked Alice whether she
had picked it up, adding, 'It is yours, you know.' But she made an
indignant denial. Lumley said nothing, but sat looking at us as though
seeking an explanation. Then I recall that Eggleston made a very
practical suggestion."

"Ah, what was that?"

"He laughed as he did so, but what he said was reasonable enough. In
substance it was, that if each person in the room were searched, and the
note not found, it would thus be proven that it had merely been blown
from the table by some draught, in which case a thorough search should
find it."

"Was his suggestion acted upon?"

"You may be sure of that. I declined once to allow my guests to be
searched when that fellow Thauret suggested it, at the time of the ruby
robbery. And you will remember that the scoundrel himself had the jewel.
That taught me a lesson. Therefore when Eggleston made his suggestion, I
began with him. The search was thorough, I assure you, but I found
nothing. I had as little success with Lumley, and I even examined my own
pockets, with the vague hope that I might have inadvertently put the
note in one of them. But all my looking was in vain."

"Might not one of these men have secreted the bank-note elsewhere, and
then have possessed himself of it after your search?"

"I took care to prevent that. As soon as I had gone through Eggleston, I
unceremoniously bundled him out of the room. I did the same with Lumley,
and neither has been allowed in here since."

"What about the young lady?"

"It would be absurd to suspect her. The note was her property. Still she
insisted upon my searching her, and I examined her pocket. Of course, I
found nothing."

"Ah, you only examined her pocket. Well, under the circumstances, I
suppose that was all you could do. Thus, having sent the three persons
out of the room, you think that the bank-note is still here. A natural
deduction, only I wish that the woman might have been more thoroughly
searched. I suppose you have looked about the room?"

"I sent for Mr. Barnes, and he and I made a most careful search."

"What view does he take of the case?"

Before Mr. Van Rawlston could reply there was a sharp ring at the
door-bell, and a moment later Mr. Barnes himself was ushered in.

"Speak of the Devil, and his imps appear," said Mr. Mitchel, jocularly.
"Well, Mr. Imp of Satan, what luck? Has your patron assisted you? Have
you had the Devil's own luck, and solved this problem before I fairly
got my wits upon it? You look flushed with victory."

"I did not know you were to be called in, Mr. Mitchel," replied Mr.
Barnes, "and I am sorry if you shall be disappointed, but really, I
think I can explain this affair. The truth is, it did not strike me as
very complex."

"Hear that," exclaimed Mr. Mitchel. "Not complex! The sudden vanishing
of a thousand-pound note, before the very eyes, and under the very
noses, as it were, of four persons, not complex! The Devil certainly
has sharpened your wits; eh, Mr. Barnes?"

"Oh, I don't mind your chaffing. Let me explain why I considered this
case simple. You will agree that the note was either mislaid or stolen?"

"Logical deduction number one," cried Mr. Mitchel, turning down a finger
of the right hand.

"It was not mislaid, or we would have found it. Therefore it was
stolen."

"A doubtful point, Mr. Barnes," said Mr. Mitchel, "but we will give you
the benefit of the doubt, and call it logical deduction number two." He
turned down another finger.

"If stolen the note was taken by one of three persons," pursued the
detective.

"He leaves you out of it, Van Rawlston. Well, I suppose I must give you
the benefit of the doubt this time. So there goes L. D. number three."
He dropped another finger.

"Of these three, one actually owned the note, and another had just heard
of the inheritance of a large fortune. The third, therefore, comes under
suspicion."

"Illogical deduction number one," said Mr. Mitchel, sharply, as he
turned down a finger of the left hand.

"Why illogical?" asked the detective.

"First, people have been known to steal their own goods; second, rich
men are often thieves. Mr. Lumley, being in love with the owner of the
note, was as unlikely to steal it as she was herself."

"Suppose that he had stolen it before he heard that his sweetheart was
to inherit it?"

"In that case, of course, he may have desired to return it, and yet not
have had the opportunity."

"Such was probably the fact. That he stole the note I am reasonably
certain."

"How did he get it out of this room?" asked Mr. Van Rawlston.

"He must have hidden it elsewhere than in his pockets," said Mr. Barnes.
"You overlooked the fact, Mr. Van Rawlston, that you cannot thoroughly
search a man in the presence of a lady."

"Good point," exclaimed Mr. Mitchel. "You have your wits about you
to-day, Mr. Barnes. Now tell us what you have learned in corroboration
of your theory."

"Lumley is in love with Miss Hetheridge. Up to a few hours ago, he was a
clerk, upon a salary not sufficient to permit him to marry. Curiously
enough, for one would hardly have thought him so foolish, when he left
this house he went direct to his employer and resigned his position.
Next, I traced him to a business agency, where he obtained an option to
purchase a partnership in a good concern, agreeing to pay five thousand
dollars for the same."

"Five thousand dollars! About one thousand pounds," said Mr. Mitchel,
thoughtfully.

"The scoundrel!" cried Mr. Van Rawlston. "Undoubtedly he is the thief. I
trust you have arrested him, Mr. Barnes?"

"No. He left the city by a train leaving the Grand Central an hour ago."

"Track him, Mr. Barnes. Track him to the end of the earth if necessary.
Spare no money. I'll pay the expense." Mr. Van Rawlston was excited.

"I do not know his destination," said the detective, "but, fortunately,
the train is a 'local,' and he cannot go far on it. I will do my best to
catch up with him. But no time is to be lost."

As he hurried out, Mr. Mitchel shouted after him:

"Luck, and the Devil go with you, Mr. Barnes." Then, turning to Mr. Van
Rawlston, he continued: "After all, shrewd detective though he be, Mr.
Barnes may be on the wrong scent. The note may still be in this house. I
do not like to say in this room, after your thorough search. Still, if
it could be managed, without the knowledge of Eggleston and Miss
Hetheridge, I would like to remain here to-night."

"You wish to make a search yourself, eh? Very good. I will arrange it.
By the way, I should tell you that there is to be an auction here
to-morrow. Eggleston had arranged a sale of his library before his
sudden death, and as the date was fixed and the catalogues sent to all
possible buyers, we have thought best to allow the sale to proceed. This
being the library, you will see the necessity for settling this mystery
before to-morrow, if possible."

"A crowd coming here to-morrow? Excellent. Nothing could be better. Rest
easy, Van Rawlston. If Barnes does not recover the bank-note, I will."

It was already nine o'clock in the evening, and Mr. Van Rawlston decided
to go to his own home. Upon inquiry he learned that Eggleston was not in
the house, and that Miss Hetheridge was in her room. He dismissed the
servant, and locked Mr. Mitchel in the library. Next he went up-stairs
to Miss Hetheridge, told her that he had thought best to lock the
library door, and bade her good-night. Passing out to the street, he
handed the door-key to Mr. Mitchel through the front window.

Left thus alone in a strange house, Mr. Mitchel dropped into an easy
chair and began to analyze the situation. He did not light the gas, as
that would have betrayed his presence, but the glowing grate-fire shed
light enough for him to see about him.

Mr. Eggleston had amassed a great collection of books, for the library
was a long room occupying the whole of one side of the house, the
parlors being on the opposite side of the hallway. Windows in front
overlooked the street, and at the back opened upon a small yard. Just
below these back windows extended a shed, the roof of an extension,
which served as a laundry.

Mr. Mitchel went over in his mind the incidents which had been related
to him, and two of his conclusions are worthy of note here:

"Barnes argues," thought he, "that Lumley may have taken the bank-note
before he knew that it had been bequeathed to his sweetheart. But the
same holds good with the girl herself, and might well explain her
stealing what was really her own property. That is one point worth
bearing in mind, but the best of all is my scheme for finding the note
itself. Why should I trouble myself with a search which might occupy me
all night, when by waiting I may see the thief take the note from its
present hiding-place, always supposing that it is in this room?
Decidedly, patience is a virtue in this instance, and I have only to
wait."

A couple of hours later, Mr. Mitchel started up from a slight doze, and
realized that he had been disturbed, though at first he could not tell
by what.

Then he heard a sound which indicated that someone was fitting a key
into the lock. Perhaps the thief was coming! This thought awakened him
to his full faculties, and he quickly hid among the folds of some heavy
draperies which served upon occasion to divide the room into two
apartments. The door opened, and he heard the stealthy tread of soft
footsteps, though at first the figure of the intruder was hidden from
his view by the draperies which surrounded him. In a few moments his
suspense was at an end. A young woman, of girlish figure, passed by him
and went over to the fireplace. She was in a dainty night-robe, her long
black hair hanging in rich profusion down her back. She leaned against
the mantel, and gazed into the fire without moving, for some minutes,
and then turning suddenly, crossed the room, going directly to one of
the book-shelves. Here she paused, then took down several books which
she placed upon a chair near by. Her back was towards Mr. Mitchel, but
he could see her reach into the recess with her arm, which was bared by
the act, the loose sleeve of her gown falling aside. Then there was a
clicking sound just perceptible to the ear, and Mr. Mitchel muttered to
himself:

"A secret closet, with a spring catch."

In another moment, the girl was replacing the books, and, this done, she
hurried from the library, locking the door after her. Mr. Mitchel
emerged from his hiding-place, and, going to the shelf where the girl
had been, removed the books and searched for the spring which would
unlock the secret compartment. It was not easily found, but Mr. Mitchel
was a patient and persistent man, and after nearly an hour discovered
the way of removing a sliding panel, and took an envelope from the
recess behind. Carrying this to the fireplace, he dropped to his knees,
and withdrawing its contents, held in his hand a Bank of England note
for one thousand pounds. He looked at it, smiled, and said in a low
tone:

"And Mr. Barnes was so certain that he would catch the thief!" Then he
smiled again, replaced the books on the shelf, decided that the large
sofa might serve as a comfortable bed, and so went to sleep.

He was awakened early, by a sense of cold. Starting up, for a moment
dazed by his unfamiliar surroundings, he gazed first at the gray ashes
of the dead fire in the grate, and then looked towards the windows
thickly covered with frost, and shivered. Remembering where he was, he
threw his arms about, and walked up and down the long room to start his
blood moving, and induce a little warmth. Presently he went to the back
windows and looked at the beautiful frosting, which resembled long fern
leaves. Suddenly he seemed unusually interested, and especially
attracted to one of the panes. He examined this closely, and taking a
note-book from his pocket made a rapid sketch of the pattern on the
glass. Then he raised the sash, looked out upon the shed, and emitted a
low whistle. Next he stepped out through the window, went down on his
hands and knees upon the tinned roof, and looked closely at something
which he saw there. Returning to the room, one would have said that his
next act was the most curious of all. He again opened the secret panel,
and replaced the envelope containing the bank-note. Then he went to the
table where Mr. Van Rawlston claimed that the note had vanished, and he
sat in the chair where Mr. Van Rawlston had been when he read the will.

Several hours later when Mr. Van Rawlston came in, Mr. Mitchel was
sitting in the same chair looking through a Bible.

"Well," said Mr. Van Rawlston. "How did you pass the night? Did the
thief pay you a visit?"

"I think so," replied Mr. Mitchel.

"Then you know who took the note?" asked Mr. Van Rawlston, eagerly.

"Perhaps; I do not like to jump to conclusions. This is a magnificent
Bible, Mr. Van Rawlston. Is it in the sale to-day? If so, I think I will
bid on it."

"Oh, yes; it is to be sold," replied Mr. Van Rawlston, testily. He
thought Mr. Mitchel merely wished to change the subject, and at that
moment he was more interested in bank-notes than in Bibles. He had no
idea that Mr. Mitchel really coveted the Bible. But then he did not know
that Mr. Mitchel collected books as well as gems. He was therefore much
astonished, some hours later, when the auction was in progress, to find
Mr. Mitchel not only bidding on the Bible, but bidding heavily.

At first the bidding was spiritless, and the price rose slowly until Mr.
Mitchel made an offer of five hundred dollars. After a moment's
hesitation young Eggleston bid fifty dollars more, and it was seen that
the contest was now between him and Mr. Mitchel. Bidding fifty dollars
at a time the price rose to nine hundred dollars, when Eggleston
remarked:

"I bid nine-fifty," then turned to Mr. Mitchel and added, "This is a
family relic, sir, and I hope you will not raise me again."

"This is an open sale, I believe," said Mr. Mitchel, bowing coldly. "I
offer a thousand dollars."

"One thousand and fifty," added Eggleston, quickly.

At this moment Mr. Barnes entered the room, accompanied by a short,
young man, and Mr. Mitchel's attention seemed attracted away from the
Bible. The auctioneer noticing this, called him by name, and asked if he
wished to bid again.

"One moment, please," said Mr. Mitchel. "May I look again at the
volume?"

It was passed to him, and he appeared to scrutinize it closely, started
slightly as though making a discovery, and handed it back, saying:

"I have made a mistake. I supposed that this was a genuine Soncino, but
I find that it is only a reprint." Then he turned to Eggleston with a
curious smile, and said, "You may have the family relic. I shall not bid
against you."

The auction over, the crowd dispersed, and when all strangers had
departed, Mr. Mitchel nodded meaningly to Mr. Barnes, and approached
young Eggleston, who was tying up the Bible in paper. Touching him upon
the arm, he said very quietly:

"Mr. Eggleston, I must ask the officer here to arrest you!"

Eggleston's hands quivered over the knot, and he seemed too agitated to
speak. The detective realizing that Mr. Mitchel had solved the problem,
quickly stepped closer to Eggleston.

"What does this mean?" asked Mr. Van Rawlston.

"Call Miss Hetheridge, and I will explain," said Mr. Mitchel.

"No, no! Not before her!" cried Eggleston, breaking down completely. "I
confess! I loved Alice, and wished to make it impossible for her to
marry Lumley. The note is here! Here, in the Bible. I stole it, and hid
it there!" With nervous fingers he tore off the wrappings, and rapidly
turning the pages searched for the note. "Heavens! It is not here!" He
looked at Mr. Mitchel inquiringly.

"No; it is not there. You paid too much for that Bible. Mr. Van
Rawlston, I prefer to have the lady called, if you please."

Mr. Van Rawlston left the room, and Mr. Mitchel addressed Mr. Barnes.

"By the way, Barnes, have you abandoned your theory?"

"I suppose I must now, though I had not up to a moment ago. I found Mr.
Lumley, and accused him of the theft. He would offer no explanation, but
willingly agreed to return with me."

"We seem to have arrived just in time," said Mr. Lumley, quietly.

"In the very nick of time, as you shall hear," said Mr. Mitchel. "Ah,
here is Miss Hetheridge. Will you be seated, please, Miss Hetheridge."
He bowed courteously as the young woman sat down, and then proceeded.

"I did not think that the bank-note had been removed from this room.
Why? Because I argued that the theft and the hiding must have
necessarily occupied but a moment; a chosen moment when the attention of
all three others was attracted away from the table where it lay. The one
chance was that Miss Hetheridge may have hidden it in the folds of her
gown. The men's pockets seemed too inaccessible. I agreed with Mr.
Barnes, that the lady would scarcely steal what was her own, though even
that was possible if she did not know that it was to be hers. For a
similar reason, I did not suspect Mr. Lumley, and thus by elimination
there was but one person left upon whom to fasten suspicion. I supposed
he would return here during the night to recover the bank-note, and I
remained in this room to watch for him."

At this Miss Hetheridge made a movement of her lips as though about to
speak, but no words escaped, and she shrank back in her chair.

"During the night," proceeded Mr. Mitchel, "Miss Hetheridge came into
this room, and hid something. After she had left the room, relocking the
door with a duplicate key, I found what she had hidden. It was a one
thousand-pound note."

There was silence for a moment, then Miss Hetheridge cried out:

"I can explain!"

"That is why I sent for you," said Mr. Mitchel.

"The note was my own," said the girl, speaking rapidly, "but after the
disappearance of the other, I was afraid to have it in my room lest it
be found, and seem to inculpate me. I only received it a few days before
my dear uncle died. He told me that his brother William had sent it as a
present to my mother upon her marriage, but as he had doubted the good
intentions of my father, he had kept the matter a secret. As both my
parents died, he had held the note in trust for me. He did not invest
it, because he thought that his own fortune would be an ample legacy to
leave me. A short time before he died, I passed my twenty-first
birthday, and he gave me the note. That is the whole truth."

"To which I can testify," interjected Mr. Lumley. "And I may now add
that Miss Hetheridge had not only promised to be my wife, but she
offered me the use of her money to buy the partnership, which to Mr.
Barnes seemed such a suspicious act."

"I have only to explain then," continued Mr. Mitchel, "how it was that I
decided that Miss Hetheridge was not the thief. This morning I found
heavy frost on the window-panes. Upon one, however, I noticed a
circular, transparent spot, where the pattern of the frosting had been
obliterated. Instantly I comprehended what had occurred. The thief, the
real thief, had come in the night, or rather in the morning, for I know
almost the hour. He stood upon the shed outside, and melted the frost by
breathing upon the pane, with his mouth close to the glass. Thus making
a peep-hole, he must have seen me asleep on the sofa, and so knew that
it would be useless for him to attempt an entrance. As the person who
did this trick stood upon the shed, I had but to measure the distance
from the shed to his peep-hole to be able to guess his height, which I
estimated to be more than six feet. Next, there was some very
interesting evidence in the frost on the tin roof. The marks made by the
man's feet, or his heels rather, for the frost was so light that only
the impressions of the nails in the heels would show. My own made
complete little horseshoe-shaped marks composed of dots. But those of my
predecessor were scarcely more than half a curve, which proved that he
walks on the side of his foot, thus slightly lifting the opposite side
from the ground, or roof, as it was in this instance. This much decided
me that Miss Hetheridge was not the thief, and I returned her bank-note
to the place where she had hidden it. Then I sat at the table where the
will was read, and studied the situation. The easiest way to hide the
note quickly seemed to be to slip it into the Bible which stood on the
table. Therefore I was not surprised when I found the bank-note which I
have here."

He drew forth the bank-note from his pocket and handed it to Mr. Van
Rawlston, who asked:

"But why, then, did you try to buy the Bible?"

"I had no idea of doing so. You forget that I had not seen Mr. Lumley.
He, too, might have been six feet high, and he, too, might have had the
habit of walking on the side of his heel, as I quickly observed that Mr.
Eggleston does. With only one of the men before me I decided to run up
the price of the Bible, knowing that if he were guilty he would bid over
me. Mr. Eggleston followed my lead, and I was almost sure of his guilt,
when he made the remark that he was buying a family relic. It was a
possible truth, and I was obliged to go on bidding, to see how anxious
he was to possess the volume. Then, as I said awhile ago, Mr. Lumley
arrived in the nick of time. One glance at his short stature, and I was
ready to let the Bible go."

"You said you could almost tell the hour at which this man peeped
through the window," said Mr. Barnes.

"Ah, I see! You wish me to teach you tricks in your own trade, eh? Well,
frost forms on a window-pane when the thermometer is near or below
thirty-two. On the wall here I found a recording thermometer, which
discloses the fact that at three o'clock this morning the temperature
was as high as forty-five, while at four it was below thirty. Frost
began to form between those hours. At five it was so cold, twenty
degrees, that I awoke. Our man must have come between half-past four and
five. Had he come before then, his peep-hole would have been fully
covered again with frost, whereas it was but thinly iced over, the mere
freezing of the water of the melted frost, there being no design, or
pattern, as there was over every other part of the window-pane. So I may
offer you a new version of an old saw, and say that, 'Frost shows which
way a thief goes.'"



                                  XII

                           A SHADOW OF PROOF

               (_Letter from Mr. Barnes to Mr. Mitchel_)


"MY DEAR MR. MITCHEL:--

"I am leaving town in connection with a matter of considerable
importance, and am thus compelled to abandon a little mystery unsolved.
It is not a very serious case, yet it presents certain unique features
which I fancy would make it attractive to you. I therefore take the
liberty of relating to you the occurrence as it was told to me by the
person who sought my aid, as well as such steps as have been taken by me
towards its elucidation. I must confess, however, at the outset, that
though I have learned some things, the knowledge thus gained appears to
me to complicate the affair, rather than otherwise.

"Two days ago a district messenger boy brought me a summons, on scented
paper. The writer was a woman, who explained that she wished to intrust
to me the investigation of 'a great mystery involving the honesty of one
or two of our society leaders.' I was urged to call without loss of
time, and was at the Madison Avenue mansion within an hour.

"In response to my card, I was shown up to the lady's boudoir, where I
found Mrs. Upton eager to unfold her story, which evidently to her mind
was of paramount consequence. I accepted an invitation to be seated, and
she began at once, assuming a low tone, which was almost a whisper, as
though she imagined that when talking with a detective the utmost
stealth and secrecy were essential.

"'Mr. Barnes' she began, 'this affair is simply awful. I have been
robbed, and the thief is a woman of my own social status. I am horrified
to discover that one of my set could stoop so low as to steal. And then
the thing itself was such a trifle. A diamond stud, worth two hundred
dollars at the outside valuation. What do you think of it?'

"Observe that she had told me little enough before asking for an
opinion. She seemed to be a woman of mediocre mental grasp, though
perhaps as bright as most of the butterflies that flit about the
fashionable ballrooms. I decided to treat her as though she were really
very shrewd, and by a little flattery I hoped perhaps to learn more than
she might otherwise be willing to confide to a detective, a class of
beings whom she too evidently looked upon as necessary evils. I answered
her in about these words:

"'Why, Mrs. Upton' said I,'if you really know the thief, and if, as you
say, she is a society woman and rich, it would seem to be possibly a
case of kleptomania.'

"'Kleptomania?' she exclaimed. 'Kleptomania? Rubbish! That is the
excuse all rich women give for what I call plain stealing. But your idea
is not new to me. I believe in being perfectly just in these matters. I
would not harm a flea, unless he had bitten me; but when he does bite
me, I kill him. There are no half-way measures that will suit me. No,
Mr. Barnes, there is to be no compromise in this case. I will not
condone theft, even if the thief be respectable and rich. And as for
kleptomania, as I've said before, I've looked that up. I find it is a
sort of insanity. Now there is no insanity in this case. Quite the
contrary, I assure you.'

"'You are very keen in your perceptions, Mrs. Upton,' I ventured. 'If we
set aside the kleptomania idea, why, then, do you imagine a rich woman
would steal a thing of such little value?'

"'Spite!' she snapped back without a moment's hesitation. 'Spite, Mr.
Barnes. Let that be your cue. But I must tell you just how this
happened. You see, I hold a somewhat influential position in the society
of "The Daughters of the Revolution," and because I do have some
influence, I am constantly bothered by people who could not become
members rightfully, if their titles were closely scrutinized; so they
undertake to gain their end through me. They grow suddenly attentive,
effusive, gushing. I am their "dearest friend," they think me "so
charming," "so beautiful," "so delightfully cosmopolitan and yet so
exclusive." To hear them talk you would be persuaded that I belong to
both Belgravia and Bohemia in the same moment. But I usually see
through their wiles, and long before they broach the subject I say to
myself, "My dear madame, you want one of our society badges to pin on
your breast; that is what _you_ are after." Then at last comes the note
asking for a "confidential interview," and when I grant it a lot of
documents are shown to me which are meant to uphold the candidate's
claim to membership. But there is always the little flaw, the bar
sinister as it were, which they hope to override through influence;
through my influence, which I may state, they never get.'

"'Ah, then, this lady, whom you suspect of taking your stud, had hoped
to join your society?'

"'I cannot answer that with a single word. I cannot say either yes or
no. You see, there are two women.'

"'Oh, I thought you knew the thief?'

"'So I do. I know it is one of two women. If I knew exactly which, of
course I should not need your help. But you have interrupted my story.
Where was I?'

"She evidently thought me an ass.

"'Oh, yes,' she resumed. 'I was telling you how people bother me to get
into our society. Well, a woman of that kind has been fairly running
after me all winter. She is a Mrs. Merivale. She was born an Ogden, and
some of the Ogden branch are fully entitled to membership. But,
unfortunately for her, she traces back to the brother of the
Revolutionary Ogden, and _her_ ancestor, far from fighting for our
independence, is said to have made quite a tidy fortune by observing a
shrewd neutrality; sometimes crying for England and sometimes the
reverse, according to the company present. Of course, that is not Mrs.
Merivale's fault; it all happened too long ago for her to have had any
influence. But, you see, she is not in the direct line, and we only
recognize the direct line. Heavens! if we did not, who knows where we
would end? No, collateral branches are out of it, so far as our society
is concerned, and I told her so plainly this morning. Of course, you can
see how she might be spiteful about it. It was a great disappointment to
her.'

"'Then you think this Mrs. Merivale took your stud just to annoy you?'

"'Dear me; how stupid you are! Did I not tell you there were two women?
The other is Mrs. Ogden Beaumont. You see she clings to the family name.
She also was an Ogden, and in the line. She is a member, and she had
considerable influence in our society at one time. But she lost it by
just such schemes as she is trying to persuade me into. She manoeuvred
till she had two or three of her friends elected, who have even less
claim than her cousin, Mrs. Merivale. Finally, it got so that if she
were to propose a name, the Membership Committee would be suspicious at
once. Now she wants Mrs. Merivale elected, and according to her little
plan I was to be the cat's paw. The scheming of those two women to get
into my good graces has been a source of amusement to me all winter,
and the climax came this morning, when I told them both very frankly
that I had seen through them from the start. Mrs. Merivale was horribly
disappointed, but she behaved like a lady. I must admit that, though she
said some bitter things, things she will be sorry for, I assure you. But
Mrs. Beaumont just lost all control of her temper. She stormed and
raged, and said vile things, all of which had as little effect on me as
a pea-shooter would against the rock of Gibraltar. So the two women went
off, and in less than five minutes I discovered that my diamond stud had
gone with them.'

"'Gone with them? Of that you are sure?'

"'Of course I am sure. Do you suppose I would make such a charge without
knowing that I am in the right? Come with me, and I will convince you.'

"She led the way into a little anteroom next to her boudoir. It was not
more than eight feet square, and not crowded with furniture. The floor
of hardwood, covered by one large silk rug, afforded little opportunity
to lose anything by dropping it. There were four chairs, a small
reading-lounge, a revolving case filled with novels, a handsome
piano-lamp, and a little tea-table with all requisites for making tea.

"'This is my little den where I retire when I am wearied by people and
things,' continued Mrs. Upton. 'Here I am surrounded by my friends, the
people that our best writers have created. I love my books, and I get as
fond of the characters as though they were all living; more, I think,
because I do not come into actual contact with them. I can admire the
nice people, and the mean ones may be as mean as they like without
affecting me. Well, I was lying here reading when these women were
announced, and as I was too comfortable to get up and dress, I thought I
would have them up and excuse my toilet on the plea of indisposition.
"Indisposed" is always a useful word; indisposed to be bothered by the
visitors, you know,--the nicest of all the white lies. So they came up
here and sat around my lounge and began to bring their all-winter's
scheme to a climax. After awhile, when I saw that the time had arrived
to disillusionize these women, I dismissed my headache and got up to
have a frank talk with them. As I arose my diamond stud dropped from the
collar of my waist which I had opened, and I picked it up and placed it
on that little tea-table. Then we had our little scene. It was as good
as a play. I kept my temper, as a hostess always must, but my guests
were not so self-possessed, and, as I have said, Mrs. Merivale said a
few things, and Mrs. Beaumont a great many more, that would not sound
pretty coming out of a phonograph. Then they left, and I walked to my
window and saw them jump into their carriage, Mrs. Beaumont slamming the
door herself with a bang that must have weakened the hinges. That is
all, except that I immediately remembered my stud and came here for it.
It was gone.'

"'I suppose, of course, you have searched this room, under the
possibility of its having dropped to the floor?' I inquired.

"'Yes, indeed,' she answered. 'I had my own maid up, and superintended
the search myself. But I took the precaution to see that nothing should
be removed from the room. I had the door closed, and then we took up the
rug carefully and shook it. Nothing fell from it, and the stud was not
on the floor or elsewhere. You can see yourself that it cannot be a
difficult matter to search this little room thoroughly. It has been done
without success, but if you like you may search again. I assure you that
nothing has been taken from the room. If one of those two women has not
taken that stud, you may count me an idiot.'

"'You have admitted that your maid was in this room, and that brings
another possibility into the case,' I said.

"'You mean that Janet might have taken it? Not at all a possibility. In
the first place she is devoted to me, as my people adopted her when she
was but a child, and she has been personally in my service for more than
ten years. No, Janet would not do such a thing, but even if she would,
she could not have done so. I took precautions.'

"'What precautions?' I asked.

"'Why, she would need one hand to pick it up, and I not only kept both
of her hands occupied, but I did not permit her to stoop to the floor.'

"'How could you keep her hands always occupied?' said I.

"'Why, most of the time she was handling the broom, and that requires
two hands. It was only when she shook the rug and moved the sofa that
her hands were otherwise occupied. I myself did the searching, and I am
absolutely certain that Janet had not the least opportunity to pick up
so much as a pin.'

"'And you think that one of your friends would do what you would not
attribute to your maid?'

"'Assuredly. In the first place these women are not friends of mine;
after to-day, I should rather say enemies. Moreover, I would trust Janet
as I would few of my real friends. You see I have not tested all my
friends, and I have tested Janet. She has had temptation enough and
opportunity enough to rob me a thousand times over, were she so
disposed. No, I tell you one of those two women has that diamond stud.'

"'Would you mind saying which one you are the more inclined to suspect?'
I asked.

"'Why, that is a hard question. Sometimes I think one, and then again
the other. Mrs. Beaumont showed so much venom that I can see more reason
to suspect her if I decide from motive alone. It is really her scheme to
get her cousin into the society. It is she who feels most thwarted,
because of her lost influence. On the other hand, I cannot remember
seeing her within reach of the tea-table, while Mrs. Merivale was near
it all the time. So Mrs. Merivale had the opportunity, while the
incentive through temper was with Mrs. Beaumont.'

"This was the little problem which I was asked to solve, and I think
that you will comprehend my meaning when I say that it was intricate
because of its very simplicity. Let me enumerate the facts so as to get
a sort of bird's-eye view of the situation.

"First, we have two women present when the missing property is placed on
a table accessible to at least one, and possibly to both. Second, a
small room, with floor devoid of cracks, and covered by a rug easily
moved and shaken. Third, only a few pieces of simple furniture in the
room. Fourth, the visitors depart, and the property is missed. Fifth, a
search without discovery, a third possible thief entering upon the
scene.

"We have apparently but four solutions; either one of the three women
took the stud, or else the alleged loser lies. I omit the possibility
that the stud was merely mislaid or accidentally out of sight in the
room; this, because I personally conducted a search, which was so
systematic as to make it absolutely assured that the stud was not in the
room when I looked for it.

"Of the four theories, then, I preferred first to consider that one
which the mistress declared to be ridiculous. I insisted upon seeing and
catechising the maid Janet, thereby deepening madame's doubts as to my
ability. After talking with this girl for half an hour, I felt so
convinced of her integrity that I mentally eliminated her from the case.
Next in order we had the two visitors, one of whom, according to Mrs.
Upton, had a motive while the other had the opportunity. The first
postulate always is that the guilty person must have both opportunity
and motive, unless indeed we are dealing with an insane person, when
motive may be eliminated, though frequently the insane are actuated by
quite intelligible motives. Thus we seemed obliged either to discover
that Mrs. Beaumont had an opportunity to obtain possession of the stud,
or else that Mrs. Merivale had a motive, except that the latter may have
simply acted upon the opportunity without motive, in which case we would
be dealing with the kleptomaniac. After due consideration I decided to
call separately upon these two ladies, and went to Mrs. Merivale first.

"She courteously received me, and as soon as I met her I was pleasantly
impressed by her personality. After five minutes' talk I was certain
that if she took the stud, it was, after all, the act of a kleptomaniac,
and that no petty motive of revenge would have tempted this high-born,
beautiful gentlewoman to descend to theft. She asked me the object of my
call, and looked at me so frankly that there was no chance for
subterfuge. Consequently I openly declared the purpose of my visit.

"'Madame,' said I, 'I regret very much the embarrassing nature of my
errand. But you visited Mrs. Upton this morning, I believe?'

"'I did, in company with my cousin, Mrs. Beaumont.'

"'Did you happen to notice that while you were there she placed a
diamond stud on the tea-table?'

"'Yes; I remember the circumstance perfectly, because of the impression
which it made upon me.'

"'Would you mind telling me what that impression was?'

"'Why, simply that it was very discourteous, or at least very untidy.
When we were shown to her room, she was lying down, with the collar of
her waist open. After a while she arose, the stud dropped to the floor,
and she picked it up and placed it on the little tea-table. I thought
that it would have shown a greater sense of propriety if she had
replaced it and fastened her collar.'

"'Do you recall whether the stud was still on the table when you left?'

"'Why, no! How should I? I paid no further attention to it whatever.'
Then as a new idea entered her mind, her eyes flashed, and the color
rose in her cheeks as she said to me sharply:

"'You cannot mean that Mrs. Upton dares to intimate----'

"'She intimated nothing,' I hastened to interject. 'Immediately after
your departure the stud was missed, and the most thorough search has
failed to discover it. In these circumstances Mrs. Upton sought my aid,
and I drew from her the details of her morning's experiences.'

"'I imagine you had little difficulty in drawing forth the details.' She
said this with a sneer, which made me understand how this woman could
say unpleasant things without forgetting her dignity.

"'I assure you,' I hastened to add, 'Mrs. Upton knows nothing of my
visit here. I have on my own responsibility called with the idea that if
I could obtain an account of your visit from yourself, there might be
some slight difference in the two stories which would show me how to
proceed.'

"'I know no more than I have told you, and as I am far from being
interested in Mrs. Upton's lost baubles, I must beg you to excuse me
from further discussion of the subject.'

"I was dismissed. It was courteously done, but done nevertheless. I
could do nothing but take leave. Still I made one venture,--

"'I must ask your pardon for intruding, but, as I have said, I thought
you might be able to supply a missing detail. For example, do you recall
whether Mrs. Upton's maid entered the room while you were there?'

"'I am sorry, Mr. Barnes,' said she in courteous but firm tones, 'but I
must decline to pursue this conversation further.'

"That was all. I had seen one of the suspected persons, and learned
nothing. Still an interview of this character is bound to leave an
impression, and in this case the impression was very strongly in favor
of Mrs. Merivale. Without irrefutable proof I could not believe that
this dignified, frank woman had stolen the stud. For the time at least I
also dismissed all theories of kleptomania.

"Thus my attention was directed toward the woman who had a motive, but
was reported to have lacked the opportunity. I called at once upon Mrs.
Beaumont.

"This lady is of quite a different mould from her cousin. Older by at
least ten years, she is still handsome, her beauty being, however,
physical in character only. She lacks the self-poise and dignity which
renders Mrs. Merivale's beauty so much more attractive. Moreover, she is
voluble, where the other is reserved, a trait which I welcomed as
affording me more opportunity to gain some possible clue to truth.

"She came into her reception-room where I awaited her, evidently brimful
of curiosity. I had sent in my card, and it seems she had heard of me in
connection with that somewhat famous wager of yours.

"'Mr. Barnes, the detective, I believe,' she said as she entered.

"'At your service, Madame,' I replied. 'May I have a few minutes'
conversation with you upon a trifling, yet quite puzzling matter?'

"'Why, certainly,' said she, 'but don't keep me in suspense. I am
burning with curiosity to know why a detective should call on me.'

"I thought that this woman might be caught by a sudden attack, and made
the venture.

"'A diamond stud was stolen from Mrs. Upton this morning, while you were
there!' I said, watching her closely. She did not flinch, but seemed
honestly not to comprehend the suggestiveness of my words.

"'I do not understand you,' said she.

"'It is not a serious matter, Madame, but Mrs. Upton placed a diamond
stud on her tea-table while you and Mrs. Merivale were with her, and
missed it a moment after you had left. Therefore----'

"This was plain enough, and she grasped the truth at a flash. In an
instant she gave me evidence of that temper against which I had been
warned by Mrs. Upton.

"'You dare to insinuate that I took her miserable little stud? I wish
my husband were at home; I would have you horsewhipped. No, I wouldn't
either. It is not you who suspect me, it is that self-sufficient
she-devil, Mrs. Upton. So she accuses me of being a thief, does she?
Well, mark me well, Mr. Detective, I shall make her pay dearly for
that insult. I have stood enough of that woman's impertinent
superciliousness. This is going too far. If she has a shadow of proof
against me, she can meet me in open court. Do you understand me? Go back
and tell Mrs. Upton, with my compliments, that she must either prove
that I stole her stud, or else I will sue her for libel. I'll let her
see with whom she is fooling.'

"'Really, Mrs. Beaumont,' said I as soon as I found a chance to speak,
'you have rather gotten ahead of my intentions. I assure you that no
accusation has been made against you.'

"'Indeed!' said she, scornfully uplifting her nose. 'And pray, then, why
have you called? Certainly Mrs. Upton cannot imagine that I would be
interested in the petty thieving that goes on in her house.'

"'The point is just this, Madame,' said I. 'The stud was placed on a
tea-table while you were present. Mrs. Merivale has told me that she
remembers this distinctly. When you had left, the stud was missed, and
the most thorough search has been made, not once but twice, without
finding it. Indeed, there is no place in the room where it could have
been lost. According to the story of Mrs. Upton, the affair, trifling as
it is, is a really puzzling problem. But I ventured to hope that either
Mrs. Merivale or yourself might remember some incident which might give
me a clue; such, for example, as the entrance of one of the house
servants.'

"'That is nothing but a smooth story invented by yourself,' said she,
'in order to pacify my righteous indignation. But you cannot deceive me.
Mrs. Upton has told you that I stole her stud, and you have come here to
endeavor to prove it.'

"'In justice to Mrs. Upton,' said I, 'I must state, on the contrary,
that she very distinctly told me that you could have had no opportunity
to take the stud, as you were not at any time near enough to the
tea-table to touch it.'

"'If she told you that, it shows how little observation she has. I don't
at all object to admitting that I had the thing in my hand.'

"'You had it in your hand!' I exclaimed, surprised.

"'Yes. It happened in this way, Mrs. Upton received us with her collar
unbuttoned, in the most slovenly fashion. After a while she got up from
the lounge, where she was feigning a headache because too lazy to
arrange her toilet before receiving guests. It was then that the stud
fell to the floor. She picked it up and placed it on the table. When we
were leaving she led the way out of the room, Mrs. Merivale following,
and I leaving the room last. As I passed, I thoughtlessly picked up the
stud and looked at it. I then put it back. I have a vague idea that it
rolled off and fell to the floor, but I can't be sure.'

"'That is singular,' said I; 'for if it fell to the floor it should have
been found.'

"'Undoubtedly. Very likely it has been found; I should say, by one of
the servants. You will never induce me to believe that Mrs. Upton took
the trouble to search for that stud without help. She is too lazy by
far.'

"I thought it best to keep discreetly silent, preferring not to mention
the fact that the maid had been in the room. It being evident to my mind
that this woman would adhere to this story, true or false, I deemed it
prudent to at least appear to believe her.

"'I am much indebted to you, Madame,' said I. 'You see that, after all,
my visit has led me to the truth, for we know that the stud probably
fell to the floor, and is therefore either still in the room, or else,
as you suggest, one of the servants may have picked it up.'

"'All that is very well, Mr. Barnes,' said she; 'and you are very clever
in shielding Mrs. Upton. But, as I said before, you do not deceive me.
This matter is more serious than you imagine. That woman has worked
systematically for two years to supplant me in our society, "The
Daughters of the Revolution." Just now she fancies that she has
triumphed over me; but in spite of that, she is jealous of my influence
with the members, and would go to any extreme to injure me socially. She
well knows that I did not take her stud, but she is quite willing to
allow this suspicion to drift out to the world, knowing that it would be
difficult to prove my innocence of a charge so vaguely circulated, and
that there might be some who would turn aside from me because of this
shadow. Now this I shall not permit. If she does not prove her charge, I
shall certainly sue her for libel, and have the whole matter cleared up
in the open tribunal of the law. You may tell her this from me. There
shall be no half-way measures. One thing more before you go. I must call
my maid.'

"She rang a bell, and a moment later her maid responded, and at her
mistress's orders went upstairs and brought down a jewel-case of large
size. This, Mrs. Beaumont opened, and taking out the contents strewed
them on the table.

"'There, do you see these?' said she with pride in her voice. 'These are
my jewels. Mrs. Upton perhaps is richer than I am, but I defy her to
show such jewelry as I have. Some of these things are two hundred years
old. Here is a necklace which one of my ancestors wore at the first
inauguration of Washington. Here is another which my grandmother wore at
the coronation of Queen Victoria. Here is an emerald ring, presented to
my own mother by Napoleon. And you see what the others are. Nearly all
have some history which adds to their intrinsic value. And with these in
my possession, to think that that woman would accuse me of stealing a
common little diamond stud! It makes my blood boil. But I have told you
what course I shall pursue, and you may warn Mrs. Upton.'

"This ended the interview. I had gained some information at least, for I
had learned that Mrs. Beaumont did have the opportunity to take the
stud, but, on the other hand, the motive for such an act seemed less
tenable. She certainly would not take it for its value, and in view of
her own magnificent array of jewels, she would be less likely to imagine
that she was giving Mrs. Upton any great annoyance by the petty theft.
Then, too, her assertion that Mrs. Upton is systematically seeking to
undermine her influence in their society connections, affords a possible
reason for our last theory, that Mrs. Upton lied in declaring that the
stud had been stolen. Thus the matter rests, as I have had no
opportunity to have another interview with Mrs. Upton. If you call on
her, I am sure that you will be well received because of the fact that
she knows all about your outwitting me in that wager matter. Trusting
that you may care to give this little affair some of your time and
attention, and with the belief that you will certainly unravel the
tangle if you do, I am

                                "Very sincerely yours,
                                                     "JACK BARNES."


               (_Letter from Mr. Mitchel to Mr. Barnes_)

"MY DEAR BARNES:--

"I read your letter with considerable interest. As you very truly say,
the case was intricate because of its simplicity. As you had followed up
three theories with apparently the result that you were at least
tentatively satisfied that neither held the key to the mystery, it
seemed proper to take up the affair where you had left it, and to
endeavor to learn whether or not Mrs. Upton had lied to you, and still
had the stud in her own possession. For this and other reasons I decided
to adopt your suggestion and call upon Mrs. Upton. I did so, and, as you
surmised, was cordially received. She met me first in her parlor, and I
at once stated to her the object of my visit.

"'Mrs. Upton,' said I, 'you are perhaps aware that I have a friendly
regard for Mr. Barnes, the detective, ever since the affair of my little
wager. I have received a letter from him this morning in which he states
that an important criminal case compels him suddenly to leave the city;
he has also given me a succinct statement of the few facts in relation
to the loss of your stud, and has asked me to interest myself in the
solution of this little mystery."

"'And you mean to do it?' she exclaimed, impulsively. 'Why, how
delightful! Of course you will find out all about it. To think that you,
Mr. Mitchel, the man who outwitted Mr. Barnes, will take up my case! I
am honored, I assure you.'

"I give you her exact words, though her flattery was somewhat
embarrassing. In the course of the conversation she referred to you in
terms which I repeat, though I do not at all share her poor estimate of
your ability.

"'Of course,' said I, 'I am not a detective, yet I do take a trifling
interest in these little problems, I find it mentally exhilarating to
measure minds, as it were, with these wrong-doers. Thus far I have
generally been successful, which, however, only proves my claim that
those who stoop to crime are not really ever sound mentally, and
consequently, either from too little or from too much care, some slight
detail is overlooked, which, once comprehended by the investigator,
leads unerringly to the criminal.'

"'Ah, how delightfully you talk!' said she. 'I am so glad you have taken
this up, for, do you know, I rather thought Mr. Barnes a little dull,
not to say stupid. Why, he actually suggested that my maid took the
stud!'

"Here, I thought, was an opportune moment to follow the method which you
employed with Mrs. Beaumont, and by a sudden, unexpected accusation, to
endeavor to surprise the truth from her. I said:

"'Oh, Mr. Barnes has given up that idea now, and has almost adopted one
even more startling. He thinks that perhaps you took the stud yourself."

"I had expected from your estimate of this woman's character, which you
recall was not very flattering to her mental calibre, that if indeed it
were true that she had concocted this little scheme to injure a society
rival, thus taken unawares she would feign great indignation. On the
contrary, she laughed so heartily, and spoke of your theory so lightly
that I was practically convinced that again we were on the wrong scent.
All she said by way of comment was:

"'Well, if that is the result of his investigation, he is a bigger fool
than I took him to be. It is certain, therefore, that he will never
discover the truth, and so I am doubly glad that he has gone out of
town, and that you have consented to take his place.'

"'You must not so quickly condemn Mr. Barnes,' said I, feeling bound to
defend you. 'He has really worked in this matter quite systematically,
and this final theory has been reached by exclusion.'

"'I do not understand,' said she, puzzled.

"'Well, first he accepted your assurance that the maid Janet was not
guilty because she had no opportunity. Then he called upon Mrs.
Merivale, and from his interview with her judged that she too must be
innocent, a view in which I must concur after reading his report of what
passed. Then he called upon Mrs. Beaumont, and though she admitted, what
you did not yourself observe, that she actually took the stud in her
hand when leaving the room, yet it seems equally certain that she
replaced it, as she says she did. Thus, if the stud is really not in the
room, there apparently could be no other explanation than that you are
misleading us.'

"'Us? Does that mean that you too held the view that I merely pretend
that the stud was lost?'

"'My dear Madame,' I replied: 'such an idea, of course, seems
preposterous, but a detective cannot set aside any theory without
thorough investigation. In an analysis of this character the personal
equation must have a secondary place. In this affair it could not help
us at all. Perhaps you will not understand my meaning. But do you not
see that it is just as inconceivable that either of the other ladies
should have stolen this stud of yours, as it is to believe that you
merely pretend that it is lost? From the view-point of the impartial
investigator there can be no choice between these propositions.'

"'I must say that you are not very flattering,' said she, troubled, as
she realized that social position could not protect her from suspicion
any more than it would the other women. 'Why, I have my enmities, of
course, and I frankly admit that I do not love either Mrs. Merivale or
Mrs. Beaumont, especially not the latter. Still, to concoct such a
scandalous calumny against an innocent woman would be awful. I could not
be so low as that.'

"'I believe you,' said I, and I did. 'But, on the other hand, would it
not be equally low for these ladies, your social equals, to stoop to
petty theft?'

"'I suppose you are right,' said she reluctantly; 'but how did the stud
disappear? Don't you see that I had strong evidence against one of them?
It was there when they were in the room, and gone when they had left.
There must be some explanation of that. What can it be?'

"'Of course,' said I, 'there must be, and there is, an explanation. The
most plausible seems to be the one suggested by Mrs. Beaumont, that it
rolled from the table to the floor when she put it back. It seems
incredible that two searches have failed to discover it, yet it is a
small object, and may be lying now in some crevice which you all have
over-looked.'

"'I think not,' said she, shaking her head dubiously. 'Suppose you come
up and see for yourself. You won't find any crevices. Why, we have even
run wires along the line where the seat and back of the lounge are
joined. No, the stud is not in that room.'

"And now, friend Barnes, we come to the finale, for I may as well tell
you at once that I have found the stud,--that, indeed, as soon as I
looked into the room, I suspected that it was within those four walls,
in a place where no one had thought of looking, though, to mystify you a
little more, I may say that it may not have been in the room when you
made your search.

"I inclose with this a sciagraph, that is to say, a picture taken with
the X-ray. You will observe that the skeleton of a small animal is
discernible surrounded by a faint outline which suggests the form of a
dog. If you understand something of anatomy, look where the stomach of
the dog should be, and you will notice a dark spot. This is the shadow
of the missing stud, which, as Mrs. Beaumont suggested, must have
dropped to the floor. There it evidently attracted the attention of Mrs.
Upton's pet dog, Fidele, who took it into his mouth, with the result
shown in the sciagraph. You will ask how I guessed this at once? In the
first place I had perfect confidence in the thoroughness of your search,
so when I saw the dog in the room, lying on a silk pillow, two pertinent
facts were prominent at once. First, the dog may not have been in the
room when you examined the place, and consequently you could not have
counted him in as a possible place of search. Secondly, he might easily
have been present when the two ladies called, and this was probable
since his mistress was lying down and the dog's sleeping-pillow was near
the head of the lounge. If you noted this, you may not have comprehended
its use; perhaps you took it for one which had slipped from the lounge.
At all events, I do not consider that you have been at all at fault. I
had better luck than you, that is all.

                                    "Very sincerely yours,
                                                  "ROBERT LEROY MITCHEL.

"P. S.--I do not myself believe in luck. I must also state that Mrs.
Upton has sent letters of apology to the other ladies. The dog, Fidele,
is to undergo an operation to-morrow. One of our most skilful surgeons
has agreed to regain the stud and preserve the life of the pet. A
laparotomy, I believe they, call it.--R. L. M."

                                THE END.



                          Transcriber's Note:

On the first page of advertisements, the "^o" represents a
superscripted "o". 16^o is for an abbreviation for sextodecimo,
which refers to the book size (6.75" x 4").

Throughout the document, the oe ligature was replaced with "oe".

Throughout the dialogues, there were words used to mimic accents of the
speakers. Those words were retained as-is.

Passages in italics were indicated by _underscores_.

Passages in bold were indicated by =equal signs=.

Small caps were replaced with ALL CAPS.

On the title page, a comma was placed after "A CONFLICT OF EVIDENCE".

On page 95, "but, as. well," was replaced with "but, as well,".

On page 122, the question mark after "It was
not difficult to discern that a human being had been
cremated" was replaced with a period.

On page 160, "moment" was replaced with "moments".

On page 177, "dimunitive" was replaced with "diminutive".

On page 178, "momnt" was replaced with "moment".

On page 187, "attacted" was replaced with "attracted".

On page 191, "in _Herald_ for D.M.," was replaced with "in the _Herald_
for D.M.,".

On page 226, a single quotation mark was added after "Why have you done
it?".

On page 230, "stiring" was replaced with "stirring".

On page 257, "Livingston" was replaced with "Livingstone".

On page 274, a single quotation mark was added before "Madame, your life
is in danger."

On page 319, a double quotation mark was deleted after "remaining of the
thirty.'".

On page 327, a double quotation mark was added after "I said
'suppose,'".

On page 329, a quotation mark was added after "will be more
appreciative".

On page 368, the double quotation mark after "yes," was replaced with a
single quotation mark.

On page 384, the double quotation mark after "this little
mystery." was replaced with a single quotation mark.

On page 386, the double quotation mark after "you took the stud
yourself." was replaced with a single quotation mark.





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