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Title: The Case of the Pool of Blood in the Pastor's Study
Author: Groner, Auguste
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.

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THE CASE OF THE POOL OF BLOOD IN THE PASTOR’S STUDY

By Grace Isabel Colbron and Augusta Groner



INTRODUCTION TO JOE MULLER

Joseph Muller, Secret Service detective of the Imperial Austrian police,
is one of the great experts in his profession. In personality he differs
greatly from other famous detectives. He has neither the impressive
authority of Sherlock Holmes, nor the keen brilliancy of Monsieur Lecoq.
Muller is a small, slight, plain-looking man, of indefinite age, and of
much humbleness of mien. A naturally retiring, modest disposition, and
two external causes are the reasons for Muller’s humbleness of manner,
which is his chief characteristic. One cause is the fact that in early
youth a miscarriage of justice gave him several years in prison, an
experience which cast a stigma on his name and which made it impossible
for him, for many years after, to obtain honest employment. But the
world is richer, and safer, by Muller’s early misfortune. For it was
this experience which threw him back on his own peculiar talents for
a livelihood, and drove him into the police force. Had he been able to
enter any other profession, his genius might have been stunted to a mere
pastime, instead of being, as now, utilised for the public good.

Then, the red tape and bureaucratic etiquette which attaches to every
governmental department, puts the secret service men of the Imperial
police on a par with the lower ranks of the subordinates. Muller’s
official rank is scarcely much higher than that of a policeman, although
kings and councillors consult him and the Police Department realises to
the full what a treasure it has in him. But official red tape, and his
early misfortune... prevent the giving of any higher official standing
to even such a genius. Born and bred to such conditions, Muller
understands them, and his natural modesty of disposition asks for no
outward honours, asks for nothing but an income sufficient for his
simple needs, and for aid and opportunity to occupy himself in the way
he most enjoys.

Joseph Muller’s character is a strange mixture. The kindest-hearted man
in the world, he is a human bloodhound when once the lure of the trail
has caught him. He scarcely eats or sleeps when the chase is on, he does
not seem to know human weakness nor fatigue, in spite of his frail body.
Once put on a case his mind delves and delves until it finds a clue,
then something awakes within him, a spirit akin to that which holds
the bloodhound nose to trail, and he will accomplish the apparently
impossible, he will track down his victim when the entire machinery of
a great police department seems helpless to discover anything. The high
chiefs and commissioners grant a condescending permission when Muller
asks, “May I do this? ... or may I handle this case this way?”
 both parties knowing all the while that it is a farce, and that the
department waits helpless until this humble little man saves its honour
by solving some problem before which its intricate machinery has stood
dazed and puzzled.

This call of the trail is something that is stronger than anything else
in Muller’s mentality, and now and then it brings him into conflict with
the department,... or with his own better nature. Sometimes his unerring
instinct discovers secrets in high places, secrets which the Police
Department is bidden to hush up and leave untouched. Muller is then
taken off the case, and left idle for a while if he persists in his
opinion as to the true facts. And at other times, Muller’s own warm
heart gets him into trouble. He will track down his victim, driven by
the power in his soul which is stronger than all volition; but when he
has this victim in the net, he will sometimes discover him to be a
much finer, better man than the other individual, whose wrong at this
particular criminal’s hand set in motion the machinery of justice.
Several times that has happened to Muller, and each time his heart got
the better of his professional instincts, of his practical common-sense,
too, perhaps,... at least as far as his own advancement was concerned,
and he warned the victim, defeating his own work. This peculiarity of
Muller’s character caused his undoing at last, his official undoing that
is, and compelled his retirement from the force. But his advice is often
sought unofficially by the Department, and to those who know, Muller’s
hand can be seen in the unravelling of many a famous case.

The following stories are but a few of the many interesting cases that
have come within the experience of this great detective. But they give
a fair portrayal of Muller’s peculiar method of working, his looking on
himself as merely an humble member of the Department, and the comedy
of his acting under “official orders” when the Department is in reality
following out his directions.



JOE MULLER: DETECTIVE



THE CASE OF THE POOL OF BLOOD IN THE PASTOR’S STUDY


The sun rose slowly over the great bulk of the Carpathian mountains
lying along the horizon, weird giant shapes in the early morning mist.
It was still very quiet in the village. A cock crowed here and there,
and swallows flew chirping close to the ground, darting swiftly about
preparing for their higher flight. Janci the shepherd, apparently the
only human being already up, stood beside the brook at the point where
the old bridge spans the streamlet, still turbulent from the mountain
floods. Janci was cutting willows to make his Margit a new basket.

Once the shepherd raised his head from his work, for he thought he heard
a loud laugh somewhere in the near distance. But all seemed silent and
he turned back to his willows. The beauty of the landscape about him was
much too familiar a thing that he should have felt or seen its
charm. The violet hue of the distant woods, the red gleaming of the
heather-strewn moor, with its patches of swamp from which the slow
mist arose, the pretty little village with its handsome old church and
attractive rectory--Janci had known it so long that he never stopped to
realise how very charming, in its gentle melancholy, it all was.

Also, Janci did not know that this little village of his home had once
been a flourishing city, and that an invasion of the Turks had razed
it to the ground leaving, as by a miracle, only the church to tell of
former glories.

The sun rose higher and higher. And now the village awoke to its daily
life. Voices of cattle and noises of poultry were heard about the
houses, and men and women began their accustomed round of tasks. Janci
found that he had gathered enough willow twigs by this time. He tied
them in a loose bundle and started on his homeward way.

His path led through wide-stretching fields and vineyards past a little
hill, some distance from the village, on which stood a large house. It
was not a pleasant house to look at, not a house one would care to live
in, even if one did not know its use, for it looked bare and repellant,
covered with its ugly yellow paint, and with all the windows secured
with heavy iron bars. The trees that surrounded it were tall and
thick-foliaged, casting an added gloom over the forbidding appearance
of the house. At the foot of the hill was a high iron fence, cutting off
what lay behind it from all the rest of the world. For this ugly yellow
house enclosed in its walls a goodly sum of hopeless human misery and
misfortune. It was an insane asylum.

For twenty years now, the asylum had stood on its hill, a source of
superstitious terror to the villagers, but at the same time a source of
added income. It meant money for them, for it afforded a constant and
ever-open market for their farm products and the output of their home
industry. But every now and then a scream or a harsh laugh would ring
out from behind those barred windows, and those in the village who could
hear, would shiver and cross themselves. Shepherd Janci had little fear
of the big house. His little hut cowered close by the high iron gates,
and he had a personal acquaintance with most of the patients, with all
of the attendants, and most of all, with the kind elderly physician who
was the head of the establishment. Janci knew them all, and had a kind
word equally for all. But otherwise he was a silent man, living much
within himself.

When the shepherd reached his little home, his wife came to meet him
with a call to breakfast. As they sat down at the table a shadow moved
past the little window. Janci looked up. “Who was that?” asked Margit,
looking up from her folded hands. She had just finished her murmured
prayer.

“Pastor’s Liska,” replied Janci indifferently, beginning his meal.
(Liska was the local abbreviation for Elizabeth.)

“In such a hurry?” thought the shepherd’s wife. Her curiosity would not
let her rest. “I hope His Reverence isn’t ill again,” she remarked after
a while. Janci did not hear her, for he was very busy picking a fly out
of his milk cup.

“Do you think Liska was going for the old man?” began Margit again after
a few minutes.

The “old man” was the name given by the people of the village, more as
a term of endearment than anything else, to the generally loved and
respected physician who was the head of the insane asylum. He had become
general mentor and oracle of all the village and was known and loved by
man, woman and child.

“It’s possible,” answered Janci.

“His Reverence didn’t look very well yesterday, or maybe the old
housekeeper has the gout again.”

Janci gave a grunt which might have meant anything. The shepherd was a
silent man. Being alone so much had taught him to find his own thoughts
sufficient company. Ten minutes passed in silence since Margit’s last
question, then some one went past the window. There were two people this
time, Liska and the old doctor. They were walking very fast, running
almost. Margit sprang up and hurried to the door to look after them.

Janci sat still in his place, but he had laid aside his spoon and with
wide eyes was staring ahead of him, murmuring, “It’s the pastor this
time; I saw him--just as I did the others.”

“Shepherd, the inn-keeper wants to see you, there’s something the matter
with his cow.” Count ---- a young man, came from the other direction
and pushed in at the door past Margit, who stood there staring up the
road.

Janci was so deep in his own thoughts that he apparently did not hear
the boy’s words. At all events he did not answer them, but himself asked
an unexpected question--a question that was not addressed to the others
in the room, but to something out and beyond them. It was a strange
question and it came from the lips of a man whose mind was not with his
body at that moment--whose mind saw what others did not see.

“Who will be the next to go? And who will be our pastor now?”

These were Janci’s words.

“What are you talking about, shepherd? Is it another one of your
visions?” exclaimed the young fellow who stood there before him. Janci
rubbed his hands over his eyes and seemed to come down to earth with a
start.

“Oh, is that you, Ferenz? What do you want of me?”

The boy gave his message again, and Janci nodded good-humouredly and
followed him out of the house. But both he and his young companion were
very thoughtful as they plodded along the way. The boy did not dare
to ask any questions, for he knew that the shepherd was not likely to
answer. There was a silent understanding among the villagers that no one
should annoy Janci in any way, for they stood in a strange awe of him,
although he was the most good-natured mortal under the sun.

While the shepherd and the boy walked toward the inn, the old doctor and
Liska had hurried onward to the rectory. They were met at the door by
the aged housekeeper, who staggered down the path wringing her hands,
unable to give voice to anything but inarticulate expressions of grief
and terror. The rest of the household and the farm hands were gathered
in a frightened group in the great courtyard of the stately rectory
which had once been a convent building. The physician hurried up the
stairs into the pastor’s apartments. These were high sunny and airy
rooms with arched ceilings, deep window seats, great heavy doors and
handsomely ornamented stoves. The simple modern furniture appeared still
more plain and common-place by contrast with the huge spaces of the
building.

In one of the rooms a gendarme was standing beside the window. The man
saluted the physician, then shrugged his shoulders with an expression of
hopelessness. The doctor returned a silent greeting and passed through
into the next apartment. The old man was paler than usual and his face
bore an expression of pain and surprise, the same expression that showed
in the faces of those gathered downstairs. The room he now entered was
large like the others, the walls handsomely decorated, and every corner
of it was flooded with sunshine. There were two men in this room, the
village magistrate and the notary. Their expression, as they held out
their hands to the doctor, showed that his coming brought great relief.
And there was something else in the room, something that drew the eyes
of all three of the men immediately after their silent greeting.

This was a great pool of blood which lay as a hideous stain on the
otherwise clean yellow-painted floor. The blood must have flowed from
a dreadful wound, from a severed artery even, the doctor thought, there
was such a quantity of it. It had already dried and darkened, making its
terrifying ugliness the more apparent.

“This is the third murder in two years,” said the magistrate in a low
voice.

“And the most mysterious of all of them,” added the clerk.

“Yes, it is,” said the doctor. “And there is not a trace of the body,
you say?--or a clue as to where they might have taken the dead--or dying
man?”

With these words he looked carefully around the room, but there was no
more blood to be seen anywhere. Any spot would have been clearly visible
on the light-coloured floor. There was nothing else to tell of the
horrible crime that had been committed here, nothing but the great,
hideous, brown-red spot in the middle of the room.

“Have you made a thorough search for the body?” asked the doctor.

The magistrate shook his head. “No, I have done nothing to speak of yet.
We have been waiting for you. There is a gendarme at the gate; no one
can go in or out without being seen.”

“Very well, then, let us begin our search now.”

The magistrate and his companion turned towards the door of the room but
the doctor motioned them to come back. “I see you do not know the house
as well as I do,” he said, and led the way towards a niche in the side
of the wall, which was partially filled by a high bookcase.

“Ah--that is the entrance of the passage to the church?” asked the
magistrate in surprise.

“Yes, this is it. The door is not locked.”

“You mean you believe--”

“That the murderers came in from the church? Why not? It is quite
possible.”

“To think of such a thing!” exclaimed the notary with a shake of his
head.

The doctor laughed bitterly. “To those who are planning a murder, a
church is no more than any other place. There is a bolt here as you see.
I will close this bolt now. Then we can leave the room knowing that no
one can enter it without being seen.”

The simple furniture of the study, a desk, a sofa, a couple of chairs
and several bookcases, gave no chance of any hiding place either for the
body of the victim or for the murderers. When the men left the room
the magistrate locked the door and put the key in his own pocket. The
gendarme in the neighbouring apartment was sent down to stand in the
courtyard at the entrance to the house. The sexton, a little hunchback,
was ordered to remain in the vestry at the other end of the passage from
the church to the house.

Then the thorough search of the house began. Every room in both stories,
every corner of the attic and the cellar, was looked over thoroughly.
The stable, the barns, the garden and even the well underwent a close
examination. There was no trace of a body anywhere, not even a trail
of blood, nothing which would give the slightest clue as to how the
murderers had entered, how they had fled, or what they had done with
their victim.

The great gate of the courtyard was closed. The men, reinforced by the
farm hands, entered the church, while Liska and the dairy-maids huddled
in the servants’ dining-room in a trembling group around the old
housekeeper. The search in the church as well as in the vestry was
equally in vain. There was no trace to be found there any more than in
the house.

Meanwhile, during these hours of anxious seeking, the rumour of another
terrible crime had spread through the village, and a crowd that grew
from minute to minute gathered in front of the closed gates to the
rectory, in front of the church, the closed doors of which did not open
although it was a high feast day. The utter silence from the steeple,
where the bells hung mute, added to the spreading terror. Finally the
doctor came out from the rectory, accompanied by the magistrate, and
announced to the waiting villagers that their venerable pastor had
disappeared under circumstances which left no doubt that he had met his
death at the hand of a murderer. The peasants listened in shuddering
silence, the men pale-faced, the women sobbing aloud with frightened
children hanging to their skirts. Then at the magistrate’s order, the
crowd dispersed slowly, going to their homes, while a messenger set off
to the near-by county seat.

It was a weird, sad Easter Monday. Even nature seemed to feel the
pressure of the brooding horror, for heavy clouds piled up towards noon
and a chill wind blew fitfully from the north, bending the young corn
and the creaking tree-tops, and moaning about the straw-covered roofs.
Then an icy cold rain descended on the village, sending the children,
the only humans still unconscious of the fear that had come on them all,
into the houses to play quietly in the corner by the hearth.

There was nothing else spoken of wherever two or three met together
throughout the village except this dreadful, unexplainable thing
that had happened in the rectory. The little village inn was full
to overflowing and the hum of voices within was like the noise of an
excited beehive. Everyone had some new explanation, some new guess, and
it was not until the notary arrived, looking even more important than
usual, that silence fell upon the excited throng. But the expectations
aroused by his coming were not fulfilled. The notary knew no more than
the others although he had been one of the searchers in the rectory.
But he was in no haste to disclose his ignorance, and sat wrapped in a
dignified silence until some one found courage to question him.

“Was there nothing stolen?” he was asked.

“No, nothing as far as we can tell yet. But if it was the gypsies--as
may be likely--they are content with so little that it would not be
noticed.”

“Gypsies?” exclaimed one man scornfully. “It doesn’t have to be gypsies,
we’ve got enough tramps and vagabonds of our own. Didn’t they kill the
pedlar for the sake of a bag of tobacco, and old Katiza for a couple of
hens?”

“Why do you rake up things that happened twenty years ago?” cried
another over the table. “You’d better tell us rather who killed Red
Betty, and pulled Janos, the smith’s farm hand, down into the swamp?”

“Yes, or who cut the bridge supports, when the brook was in flood, so
that two good cows broke through and drowned?”

“Yes, indeed, if we only knew what band of robbers and villains it is
that is ravaging our village.”

“And they haven’t stopped yet, evidently.”

“This is the worst misfortune of all! What will our poor do now that
they have murdered our good pastor, who cared for us all like a father?”

“He gave all he had to the poor, he kept nothing for himself.”

“Yes, indeed, that’s how it was. And now we can’t even give this good
man Christian burial.”

“Shepherd Janci knew this morning early that we were going to have a new
pastor,” whispered the landlord in the notary’s ear. The latter looked
up astonished. “Who said so?” he asked.

“My boy Ferenz, who went to fetch him about seven o’clock. One of my
cows was sick.”

Ferenz was sent for and told his story. The men listened with
great interest, and the smith, a broad-shouldered elderly man, was
particularly eager to hear, as he had always believed in the shepherd’s
power of second sight. The tailor, who was more modern-minded, laughed
and made his jokes at this. But the smith laid one mighty hand on the
other’s shoulder, almost crushing the tailor’s slight form under its
weight, and said gravely: “Friend, do you be silent in this matter.
You’ve come from other parts and you do not know of things that have
happened here in days gone by. Janci can do more than take care of his
sheep. One day, when my little girl was playing in the street, he said
to me, ‘Have a care of Maruschka, smith!’ and three days later the child
was dead. The evening before Red Betty was murdered he saw her in a
vision lying in a coffin in front of her door. He told it to the sexton,
whom he met in the fields; and next morning they found Betty dead. And
there are many more things that I could tell you, but what’s the use;
when a man won’t believe it’s only lost talk to try to make him. But
one thing you should know: when Janci stares ahead of him without seeing
what’s in front of him, then the whole village begins to wonder what’s
going to happen, for Janci knows far more than all the rest of us put
together.”

The smith’s grave, deep voice filled the room and the others listened
in a silence that gave assent to his words. He had scarcely finished
speaking, however, when there was a noise of galloping hoofs and rapidly
rolling wagon wheels. A tall brake drawn by four handsome horses dashed
past in a whirlwind.

“It’s the Count--the Count and the district judge,” said the landlord
in a tone of respect. The notary made a grab at his hat and umbrella and
hurried from the room. “That shows how much they thought of our pastor,”
 continued the landlord proudly. “For the Count himself has come and
with four horses, too, to get here the more quickly. His Reverence was a
great friend of the Countess.”

“They didn’t make so much fuss over the pedlar and Betty,” murmured
the cobbler, who suffered from a perpetual grouch. But he followed the
others, who paid their scores hastily and went out into the streets
that they might watch from a distance at least what was going on in
the rectory. The landlord bustled about the inn to have everything in
readiness in case the gentlemen should honour him by taking a meal,
and perhaps even lodgings, at his house. At the gate of the rectory the
coachman and the maid Liska stood to receive the newcomers, just as five
o’clock was striking from the steeple.

It should have been still quite light, but it was already dusk, for the
clouds hung heavy. The rain had ceased, but a heavy wind came up which
tore the delicate petals of the blossoms from the fruit trees and
strewed them like snow on the ground beneath. The Count, who was the
head of one of the richest and most aristocratic families in Hungary,
threw off his heavy fur coat and hastened up the stairs at the top of
which his old friend and confidant, the venerable pastor, usually came
to meet him. To-day it was only the local magistrate who stood there,
bowing deeply.

“This is incredible, incredible!” exclaimed the Count.

“It is, indeed, sir,” said the man, leading the magnate through the
dining-room into the pastor’s study, where, as far as could be seen, the
murder had been committed. They were joined by the district judge, who
had remained behind to give an order sending a carriage to the nearest
railway station. The judge, too, was serious and deeply shocked, for he
also had greatly admired and revered the old pastor. The stately rectory
had been the scene of many a jovial gathering when the lord of the manor
had made it a centre for a day’s hunting with his friends. The bearers
of some of the proudest names in all Hungary had gathered in the
high-arched rooms to laugh with the venerable pastor and to sample
the excellent wines in his cellar. These wines, which the gentlemen
themselves would send in as presents to the master of the rectory, would
be carefully preserved for their own enjoyment. Not a landed proprietor
for many leagues around but knew and loved the old pastor, who had now
so strangely disappeared under such terrifying circumstances.

“Well, we might as well begin our examination,” remarked the Count.
“Although if Dr. Orszay’s sharp eyes did not find anything, I doubt very
much if we will. You have asked the doctor to come here again, haven’t
you?”

“Yes, your Grace! As soon as I saw you coming I sent the sexton to the
asylum.” Then the men went in again into the room which had been the
scene of the mysterious crime. The wind rattled the open window and blew
out its white curtains. It was already dark in the corners of the room,
one could see but indistinctly the carvings of the wainscoting. The
light backs of the books, or the gold letters on the darker bindings,
made spots of brightness in the gloom. The hideous pool of blood in the
centre of the floor was still plainly to be seen.

“Judging by the loss of blood, death must have come quickly.”

“There was no struggle, evidently, for everything in the room was in
perfect order when we entered it.”

“There is not even a chair misplaced. His Bible is there on the desk, he
may have been preparing for to-day’s sermon.”

“Yes, that is the case; because see, here are some notes in his
handwriting.”

The Count and Judge von Kormendy spoke these sentences at intervals as
they made their examination of the room. The local magistrate was able
to answer one or two simpler questions, but for the most part he could
only shrug his shoulders in helplessness. Nothing had been seen or heard
that was at all unusual during the night in the rectory. When the old
housekeeper was called up she could say nothing more than this. Indeed,
it was almost impossible for the old woman to say anything, her voice
choked with sobs at every second word. None of the household force had
noticed anything unusual, or could remember anything at all that would
throw light on this mystery.

“Well, then, sir, we might just as well sit down and wait for the
detective’s arrival,” said the judge.

“You are waiting for some one besides the doctor?” asked the local
magistrate timidly.

“Yes, His Grace telegraphed to Budapest,” answered the district judge,
looking at his watch. “And if the train is on time, the man we are
waiting for ought to be here in an hour. You sent the carriage to the
station, didn’t you? Is the driver reliable?”

“Yes, sir, he is a dependable man,” said the old housekeeper.

Dr. Orszay entered the room just then and the Count introduced him to
the district judge, who was still a stranger to him.

“I fear, Count, that our eyes will serve but little in discovering the
truth of this mystery,” said the doctor.

The nobleman nodded. “I agree with you,” he replied. “And I have sent
for sharper eyes than either yours or mine.”

The doctor looked his question, and the Count continued: “When the news
came to me I telegraphed to Pest for a police detective, telling them
that the case was peculiar and urgent. I received an answer as I stopped
at the station on my way here. This is it: ‘Detective Joseph Muller from
Vienna in Budapest by chance. Have sent him to take your case.’”

“Muller?” exclaimed Dr. Orszay. “Can it be the celebrated Muller, the
most famous detective of the Austrian police? That would indeed be a
blessing.”

“I hope and believe that it is,” said the Count gravely. “I have heard
of this man and we need such a one here that we may find the source of
these many misfortunes which have overwhelmed our peaceful village for
two years past. It is indeed a stroke of good luck that has led a man
of such gifts into our neighbourhood at a time when he is so greatly
needed. I believe personally that it is the same person or persons who
have been the perpetrators of all these outrages and I intend once for
all to put a stop to it, let it cost what it may.”

“If any one can discover the truth it will be Muller,” said the district
judge. “It was I who told the Count how fortunate we were that this man,
who is known to the police throughout Austria and far beyond the borders
of our kingdom, should have chanced to be in Budapest and free to come
to us when we called. You and I”--he turned with a smile to the local
magistrate--“you and I can get away with the usual cases of local
brutality hereabouts. But the cunning that is at the bottom of these
crimes is one too many for us.”

The men had taken their places around the great dining-table. The old
housekeeper had crept out again, her terror making her forget her usual
hospitality. And indeed it would not have occurred to the guests to ask
or even to wish for any refreshment. The maid brought a lamp, which sent
its weak rays scarcely beyond the edges of the big table. The four men
sat in silence for some time.

“I suppose it would be useless to ask who has been coming and going from
the rectory the last few days?” began the Count.

“Oh, yes, indeed, sir,” said the district judge with a sigh. “For if
this murderer is the same who committed the other crimes he must live
here in or near the village, and therefore must be known to all and not
likely to excite suspicion.”

“I beg your pardon, sir,” put in the doctor. “There must be at least two
of them. One man alone could not have carried off the farm hand who was
killed to the swamp where his body was found. Nor could one man alone
have taken away the bloody body of the pastor. Our venerable friend was
a man of size and weight, as you know, and one man alone could not have
dragged his body from the room without leaving an easily seen trail.”

The judge blushed, but he nodded in affirmation to the doctor’s words.
This thought had not occurred to him before. In fact, the judge was more
notable for his good will and his love of justice rather than for his
keen intelligence. He was as well aware of this as was any one else,
and he was heartily glad that the Count had sent to the capital for
reinforcements.

Some time more passed in deep silence. Each of the men was occupied with
his own thoughts. A sigh broke the silence now and then, and a slight
movement when one or the other drew out his watch or raised his head to
look at the door. Finally, the sound of a carriage outside was heard.
The men sprang up.

The driver’s voice was heard, then steps which ascended the stairs lowly
and lightly, audible only because the stillness was so great.

The door opened and a small, slight, smooth-shaven man with a gentle
face and keen grey eyes stood on the threshold. “I am Joseph Muller,” he
said with a low, soft voice.

The four men in the room looked at him in astonishment.

“This simple-looking individual is the man that every one is afraid of?”
 thought the Count, as he walked forward and held out his hand to the
stranger.

“I sent for you, Mr. Muller,” said the magnate, conscious of his stately
size and appearance, as well as of his importance in the presence of a
personage who so little looked what his great fame might have led one to
expect.

“Then you are Count ----?” answered Muller gently. “I was in Budapest,
having just finished a difficult case which took me there. They told me
that a mysterious crime had happened in your neighbourhood, and sent me
here to take charge of it. You will pardon any ignorance I may show as a
stranger to this locality. I will do my best and it may be possible that
I can help you.”

The Count introduced the other gentlemen in order and they sat down
again at the table.

“And now what is it you want me for, Count?” asked Muller.

“There was a murder committed in this house,” answered the Count.

“When?”

“Last night.”

“Who is the victim?”

“Our pastor.”

“How was he killed?”

“We do not know.”

“You are not a physician, then?” asked Muller, turning to Orszay.

“Yes, I am,” answered the latter.

“Well?”

“The body is missing,” said Orszay, somewhat sharply.

“Missing?” Muller became greatly interested. “Will you please lead me to
the scene of the crime?” he said, rising from his chair.

The others led him into the next room, the magistrate going ahead with
a lamp. The judge called for more lights and the group stood around the
pool of blood on the floor of the study. Muller’s arms were crossed on
his breast as he stood looking down at the hideous spot. There was no
terror in his eyes, as in those of the others, but only a keen attention
and a lively interest.

“Who has been in this room since the discovery?” he asked.

The doctor replied that only the servants of the immediate household,
the notary, the magistrate, and himself, then later the Count and the
district judge entered the room.

“You are quite certain that no one else has been in here?”

“No, no one else.”

“Will you kindly send for the three servants?” The magistrate left the
room.

“Who else lives in the house?”

“The sexton and the dairymaid.”

“And no one else has left the house to-day or has entered it?”

“No one. The main door has been watched all day by a gendarme.”

“Is there but one door out of this room?”

“No, there is a small door beside that bookcase.”

“Where does it lead to?”

“It leads to a passageway at the end of which there is a stair down into
the vestry.”

Muller gave an exclamation of surprise.

“The vestry as well as the church have neither of them been opened on
the side toward the street.”

“The church or the vestry, you mean,” corrected Muller. “How many doors
have they on the street side?”

“One each.”

“The locks on these doors were in good condition?”

“Yes, they were untouched.”

“Was there anything stolen from the church?”

“No, nothing that we could see.”

“Was the pastor rich?”

“No, he was almost a poor man, for he gave away all that he had.”

“But you were his patron, Count.”

“I was his friend. He was the confidential adviser of myself and
family.”

“This would mean rich presents now and then, would it not?”

“No, that is not the case. Our venerable pastor would take nothing for
himself. He would accept no presents but gifts of money for his poor.”

“Then you do not believe this to have been a murder for the sake of
robbery?”

“No. There was nothing disturbed in any part of the house, no drawers or
cupboards broken open at all.”

Muller smiled. “I have heard it said that your romantic Hungarian
bandits will often be satisfied with the small booty they may find in
the pocket or on the person of their victim.”

“You are right, Mr. Muller. But that is only when they can find nothing
else.”

“Or perhaps if it is a case of revenge.

“It cannot be revenge in this case!”

“The pastor was greatly loved?”

“He was loved and revered.”

“By every one?”

“By every one!” the four men answered at once.

Muller was still a while. His eyes were veiled and his face thoughtful.
Finally he raised his head. “There has been nothing moved or changed in
this room?”

“No--neither here nor anywhere else in the house or the church,”
 answered the local magistrate.

“That is good. Now I would like to question the servants.”

Muller had already started for the door, then he turned back into
the room and pointing toward the second door he asked: “Is that door
locked?”

“Yes,” answered the Count. “I found it locked when I examined it myself
a short time ago.”

“It was locked on the inside?”

“Yes, locked on the inside.”

“Very well. Then we have nothing more to do here for the time being. Let
us go back into the dining-room.”

The men returned to the dining-room, Muller last, for he stopped to lock
the door of the study and put the key in his pocket. Then he began his
examination of the servants.

The old housekeeper, who, as usual, was the first to rise in the
household, had also, as usual, rung the bell to waken the other
servants. Then when Liska came downstairs she had sent her up to the
pastor’s room. His bedroom was to the right of the dining-room.
Liska had, as usual, knocked on the door exactly at seven o’clock and
continued knocking for some few minutes without receiving any answer.
Slightly alarmed, the girl had gone back and told the housekeeper that
the pastor did not answer.

Then the old woman asked the coachman to go up and see if anything
was the matter with the reverend gentleman. The man returned in a few
moments, pale and trembling in every limb and apparently struck dumb by
fright. He motioned the women to follow him, and all three crept up
the stairs. The coachman led them first to the pastor’s bed, which was
untouched, and then to the pool of blood in his study. The sight of the
latter frightened the servants so much that they did not notice at first
that there was no sign of the pastor himself, whom they now knew must
have been murdered. When they finally came to themselves sufficiently to
take some action, the man hurried off to call the magistrate, and Liska
ran to the asylum to fetch the old doctor; the pastor’s intimate friend.
The aged housekeeper, trembling in fear, crept back to her own room and
sat there waiting the return of the others.

This was the story of the early morning as told by the three servants,
who had already given their report in much the same words to the Count
on his arrival and also to the magistrate. There was no reason to doubt
the words of either the old housekeeper or of Janos, the coachman, who
had served for more than twenty years in the rectory and whose fidelity
was known. The girl Liska was scarcely eighteen, and her round childish
face and big eyes dimmed with tears, corroborated her story. When they
had told Muller all they knew, the detective sat stroking his chin, and
looking thoughtfully at the floor. Then he raised his head and said,
in a tone of calm friendliness: “Well, good friends, this will do for
to-night. Now, if you will kindly give me a bite to eat and a glass of
some light wine, I’d be very thankful. I have had no food since early
this morning.”

The housekeeper and the maid disappeared, and Janos went to the stable
to harness the Count’s trap.

The magnate turned to the detective. “I thank you once more that you
have come to us. I appreciate it greatly that a stranger to our part of
the country, like yourself, should give his time and strength to this
problem of our obscure little village.”

“There is nothing else calling me, sir,” answered Muller. “And the
Budapest police will explain to headquarters at Vienna if I do not
return at once.”

“Do you understand our tongue sufficiently to deal with these people
here?”

“Oh, yes; there will be no difficulty about that. I have hunted
criminals in Hungary before. And a case of this kind does not usually
call for disguises in which any accent would betray one.”

“It is a strange profession,” said the doctor.

“One gets used to it--like everything else,” answered Muller, with a
gentle smile. “And now I have to thank you gentlemen for your confidence
in me.”

“Which I know you will justify,” said the Count.

Muller shrugged his shoulders: “I haven’t felt anything yet--but it will
come--there’s something in the air.”

The Count smiled at his manner of expressing himself, but all four
of the men had already begun to feel sympathy and respect for this
quiet-mannered little person whose words were so few and whose voice was
so gentle. Something in his grey eyes and in the quiet determination of
his manner made them realise that he had won his fame honestly. With the
enthusiasm of his race the Hungarian Count pressed the detective’s hand
in a warm grasp as he said: “I know that we can trust in you. You will
avenge the death of my old friend and of those others who were killed
here. The doctor and the magistrate will tell you about them to-morrow.
We two will go home now. Telegraph us as soon as anything has happened.
Every one in the village will be ready to help you and of course you can
call on me for funds. Here is something to begin on.” With these words
the Count laid a silk purse full of gold pieces on the table. One more
pressure of the hand and he was gone. The other men also left the room,
following the Count’s lead in a cordial farewell of the detective. They
also shared the nobleman’s feeling that now indeed, with this man to
help them, could the cloud of horror that had hung over the village for
two years, and had culminated in the present catastrophe, be lifted.

The excitement of the Count’s departure had died away and the steps of
the other men on their way to the village had faded in the distance.
There was nothing now to be heard but the rustling of the leaves and the
creaking of the boughs as the trees bent before the onrush of the wind.
Muller stood alone, with folded arms, in the middle of the large room,
letting his sharp eyes wander about the circle of light thrown by the
lamps. He was glad to be alone--for only when he was alone could his
brain do its best work. He took up one of the lamps and opened the door
to the room in which, as far as could be known, the murder had been
committed. He walked in carefully and, setting the lamp on the desk,
examined the articles lying about on it. There was nothing of importance
to be found there. An open Bible and a sheet of paper with notes for the
day’s sermon lay on top of the desk. In the drawers, none of which were
locked, were official papers, books, manuscripts of former sermons, and
a few unimportant personal notes.

The flame of the lamp flickered in the breeze that came from the open
window. But Muller did not close the casement. He wanted to leave
everything just as he had found it until daylight. When he saw that it
was impossible to leave the lamp there he took it up again and left the
room.

“What is the use of being impatient?” he said to himself. “If I move
about in this poor light I will be sure to ruin some possible clue. For
there must be some clue left here. It is impossible for even the most
practiced criminal not to leave some trace of his presence.”

The detective returned to the dining-room, locking the study door
carefully behind him. The maid and the coachman returned, bringing in
an abundant supper, and Muller sat down to do justice to the many good
things on the tray. When the maid returned to take away the dishes
she inquired whether she should put the guest chamber in order for the
detective. He told her not to go to any trouble for his sake, that he
would sleep in the bed in the neighbouring room.

“You going to sleep in there?” said the girl, horrified.

“Yes, my child, and I think I will sleep well to-night. I feel very
tired.” Liska carried the things out, shaking her head in surprise at
this thin little man who did not seem to know what it was to be afraid.
Half an hour later the rectory was in darkness. Before he retired,
Muller had made a careful examination of the pastor’s bedroom. Nothing
was disturbed anywhere, and it was evident that the priest had not made
any preparations for the night, but was still at work at his desk in
the study when death overtook him. When he came to this conclusion, the
detective went to bed and soon fell asleep.

In his little hut near the asylum gates, shepherd Janci slept as sound
as usual. But he was dreaming and he spoke in his sleep. There was no
one to hear him, for his faithful Margit was snoring loudly. Snatches
of sentences and broken words came from Janci’s lips: “The hand--the big
hand--I see it--at his throat--the face--the yellow face--it laughs--”

Next morning the children on their way to school crept past the rectory
with wide eyes and open mouths. And the grown people spoke in lower
tones when their work led them past the handsome old house. It had once
been their pride, but now it was a place of horror to them. The old
housekeeper had succumbed to her fright and was very ill. Liska went
about her work silently, and the farm servants walked more heavily and
chattered less than they had before. The hump-backed sexton, who had not
been allowed to enter the church and therefore had nothing to do, made
an early start for the inn, where he spent most of the day telling what
little he knew to the many who made an excuse to follow him there.

The only calm and undisturbed person in the rectory household was
Muller. He had made a thorough examination of the entire scene of the
murder, but had not found anything at all. Of one thing alone was he
certain: the murderer had come through the hidden passageway from the
church. There were two reasons to believe this, one of which might
possibly not be sufficient, but the other was conclusive.

The heavy armchair before the desk, the chair on which the pastor was
presumably sitting when the murderer entered, was half turned around,
turned in just such a way as it would have been had the man who was
sitting there suddenly sprung up in excitement or surprise. The chair
was pushed back a step from the desk and turned towards the entrance
to the passageway. Those who had been in the room during the day had
reported that they had not touched any one of the articles of furniture,
therefore the position of the chair was the same that had been given it
by the man who had sat in it, by the murdered pastor himself.

Of course there was always the possibility that some one had moved the
chair without realising it. This clue, therefore, could not be looked
upon as an absolutely certain one had it stood alone. But there was
other evidence far more important. The great pool of blood was just
half-way between the door of the passage and the armchair. It was here,
therefore, that the attack had taken place. The pastor could not have
turned in this direction in the hope of flight, for there was nothing
here to give him shelter, no weapon that he could grasp, not even
a cane. He must have turned in this direction to meet and greet the
invader who had entered his room in this unusual manner. Turned to meet
him as a brave man would, with no other weapon than the sacredness of
his calling and his age.

But this had not been enough to protect the venerable priest. The
murderer must have made his thrust at once and his victim had sunk down
dying on the floor of the room in which he had spent so many hours of
quiet study, in which he had brought comfort and given advice to so many
anxious hearts; for dying he must have been--it would be impossible for
a man to lose so much blood and live.

“The struggle,” thought the detective, “but was there a struggle?” He
looked about the room again, but could see nothing that showed disorder
anywhere in its immaculate neatness. No, there could have been no
struggle. It must have been a quick knife thrust and death at once. “Not
a shot?” No, a shot would have been heard by the night watchman walking
the streets near the church. The night was quiet, the window open. Some
one in the village would have heard the noise of a shot. And it was not
likely that the old housekeeper who slept in the room immediately below,
slept the light sleep of the aged would have failed to have heard the
firing of a pistol.

Muller took a chair and sat down directly in front of the pool of blood,
looking at it carefully. Suddenly he bowed his head deeper. He had
caught sight of a fine thread of the red fluid which had been drawn
out for about a foot or two in the direction towards the door to the
dining-room. What did that mean? Did it mean that the murderer went out
through that door, dragging something after him that made this delicate
line? Muller bent down still deeper. The sun shone brightly on the
floor, sending its clear rays obliquely through the window. The sharp
eyes which now covered every inch of the yellow-painted floor discovered
something else. They discovered that this red thread curved slightly and
had a continuation in a fine scratch in the paint of the floor. Muller
followed up this scratch and it led him over towards the window and then
back again in wide curves, then out again under the desk and finally,
growing weaker and weaker, it came back to the neighbourhood of the pool
of blood, but on the opposite side of it. Muller got down on his hands
and knees to follow up the scratch. He did not notice the discomfort of
his position, his eyes shone in excitement and a deep flush glowed in
his cheeks. Also, he began to whistle softly.

Joseph Muller, the bloodhound of the Austrian police, had found a clue,
a clue that soon would bring him to the trail he was seeking. He did not
know yet what he could do with his clue. But this much he knew; sooner
or later this scratch in the floor would lead him to the murderer. The
trail might be long and devious; but he would follow it and at its end
would be success. He knew that this scratch had been made after the
murder was committed; this was proved by the blood that marked its
beginning. And it could not have been made by any of those who entered
the room during the day because by that time the blood had dried. This
strange streak in the floor, with its weird curves and spirals, could
have been made only by the murderer. But how? With what instrument?
There was the riddle which must be solved.

And now Muller, making another careful examination of the floor, found
something else. It was something that might be utterly unimportant or
might be of great value. It was a tiny bit of hardened lacquer which he
found on the floor beside one of the legs of the desk. It was rounded
out, with sharp edges, and coloured grey with a tiny zigzag of yellow
on its surface. Muller lifted it carefully and looked at it keenly.
This tiny bit of lacquer had evidently been knocked off from some convex
object, but it was impossible to tell at the moment just what sort of an
object it might have been. There are so many different things which are
customarily covered with lacquer. However, further examination brought
him down to a narrower range of subjects. For on the inside of the
lacquer he found a shred of reddish wood fibre. It must have been a
wooden object, therefore, from which the lacquer came, and the wood had
been of reddish tinge.

Muller pondered the matter for a little while longer. Then he placed his
discovery carefully in the pastor’s emptied tobacco-box, and dropped
the box in his own pocket. He closed the window and the door to the
dining-room, lit a lamp, and entered the passageway leading to the
vestry. It was a short passageway, scarcely more than a dozen paces
long.

The walls were whitewashed, the floor tiled and the entire passage shone
in neatness. Muller held the light of his lamp to every inch of it, but
there was nothing to show that the criminal had gone through here with
the body of his victim.

“The criminal”--Muller still thought of only one. His long experience
had taught him that the most intricate crimes were usually committed by
one man only. The strength necessary for such a crime as this did not
deceive him either. He knew that in extraordinary moments extraordinary
strength will come to the one who needs it.

He now passed down the steps leading into the vestry. There was no trace
of any kind here either. The door into the vestry was not locked. It was
seldom locked, they had told him, for the vestry itself was closed by
a huge carved portal with a heavy ornamented iron lock that could be
opened only with the greatest noise and trouble. This door was locked
and closed as it had been since yesterday morning. Everything in the
vestry was in perfect order; the priest’s garments and the censers
all in their places. Muller assured himself of this before he left the
little room. He then opened the glass door that led down by a few steps
into the church.

It was a beautiful old church, and it was a rich church also. It was
built in the older Gothic style, and its heavy, broad-arched walls, its
massive columns would have made it look cold and bare had not handsome
tapestries, the gift of the lady of the manor, covered the walls. Fine
old pictures hung here and there above the altars, and handsome stained
glass windows broke the light that fell into the high vaulted interior.
There were three great altars in the church, all of them richly
decorated. The main altar stood isolated in the choir. In the open space
behind it was the entrance to the crypt, now veiled in a mysterious
twilight. Heavy silver candlesticks, three on a side, stood on the
altar. The pale gold of the tabernacle door gleamed between them.

Muller walked through the silent church, in which even his light
steps resounded uncannily. He looked into each of the pews, into the
confessionals, he walked around all the columns, he climbed up into the
pulpit, he did everything that the others had done before him yesterday.
And as with them, he found nothing that would indicate that the murderer
had spent any time in the church. Finally he turned back once more to
the main altar on his way out. But he did not leave the church as he
intended. His last look at the altar had showed him something that
attracted his attention and he walked up the three steps to examine it
more closely.

What he had seen was something unusual about one of the silver
candlesticks. These candlesticks had three feet, and five of them were
placed in such a way that the two front feet were turned toward the
spectator. But on the end candlestick nearest Muller the single foot
projected out to the front of the altar. This candlestick therefore had
been set down hastily, not placed carefully in the order of things as
were the others.

And not only this. The heavy wax candle which was in the candlestick
was burned down about a finger’s breadth more than the others, for
these were all exactly of a height. Muller bent still nearer to the
candlestick, but he saw that the dim light in the church was not
sufficient. He went to one of the smaller side altars, took a candle
from there, lit it with one of the matches that he found in his own
pocket and returned with the burning candle to the main altar. The steps
leading up to this altar were covered by a large rug with a white ground
and a pattern of flowers. Looking carefully at it the detective saw a
tiny brown spot, the mark of a burn, upon one of the white surfaces.
Beside it lay a half used match.

Walking around this carefully, Muller approached the candlestick that
interested him and holding up his light he examined every inch of its
surface. He found what he was looking for. There were dark red spots
between the rough edges of the silver ornamentation.

“Then the body is somewhere around here,” thought the detective and came
down from the steps, still holding the burning candle.

He walked slowly to the back of the altar. There was a little table
there such as held the sacred dishes for the communion service, and the
little carpet-covered steps which the sexton put out for the pastor when
he took the monstrance from the high-built tabernacle. That was all that
was to be seen in the dark corner behind the altar. Holding his candle
close to the floor Muller discovered an iron ring fastened to one of the
big stone flags. This must be the entrance to the crypt.

Muller tried to raise the flag and was astonished to find how easily
it came up. It was a square of reddish marble, the same with which the
entire floor of the church was tiled. This flag was very thin and could
easily be raised and placed back against the wall. Muller took up his
candle, too greatly excited to stop to get a stick for it. He felt
assured that now he would soon be able to solve at least a part of the
mystery. He climbed down the steps carefully and found that they led
into the crypt as he supposed. They were kept spotlessly clean, as
was the entire crypt as far as he could see it by the light of his
flickering candle. He was not surprised to discover that the air was
perfectly pure here. There must be windows or ventilators somewhere,
this he knew from the way his candle behaved.

The ancient vault had a high arched ceiling and heavy massive pillars.
It was a subterranean repetition of the church above. There had
evidently been a convent attached to this church at one time; for here
stood a row of simple wooden coffins all exactly alike, bearing each one
upon its lid a roughly painted cross surrounded by a wreath. Thus were
buried the monks of days long past.

Muller walked slowly through the rows of coffins looking eagerly to each
side. Suddenly he stopped and stood still. His hand did not tremble but
his thin face was pale--pale as that face which looked up at him out of
one of the coffins. The lid of the coffin stood up against the wall and
Muller saw that there were several other empty ones further on, waiting
for their silent occupants.

The body in the open coffin before which Muller stood was the body of
the man who had been missing since the day previous. He lay there quite
peacefully, his hands crossed over his breast, his eyes closed, a line
of pain about his lips. In the crossed fingers was a little bunch of
dark yellow roses. At the first glance one might almost have thought
that loving hands had laid the old pastor in his coffin. But the red
stain on the white cloth about his throat, and the bloody disorder of
his snow-white hair contrasted sadly with the look of peace on the dead
face. Under his head was a white silk cushion, one of the cushions from
the altar.

Muller stood looking down for some time at this poor victim of a strange
crime, then he turned to go.

He wanted to know one thing more: how the murderer had left the crypt.
The flame of his candle told him, for it nearly went out in a gust of
wind that came down the opening right above him. This was a window about
three or four feet from the floor, protected by rusty iron bars which
had been sawed through, leaving the opening free. It was a small window,
but it was large enough to allow a man of much greater size than Muller
to pass through it. The detective blew out his candle and climbed up
onto the window sill. He found himself outside, in a corner of the
churchyard. A thicket of heavy bushes grown up over neglected graves
completely hid the opening through which he had come. There were thorns
on these bushes and also a few scattered roses, dark yellow roses.

Muller walked thoughtfully through the churchyard. The sexton sat
huddled in an unhappy heap at the gate. He looked up in alarm as he saw
the detective walking towards him. Something in the stranger’s face told
the little hunchback that he had made a discovery. The sexton sprang up,
his lips did not dare utter the question that his eyes asked.

“I have found him,” said the detective gravely.

The hunchback sexton staggered, then recovered himself, and hurried away
to fetch the magistrate and the doctor.

An hour later the murdered pastor lay in state in the chief apartment
of his home, surrounded by burning candles and high-heaped masses of
flowers. But he still lay in the simple convent coffin and the little
bunch of roses which his murderer had placed between his stiffening
fingers had not been touched.

Two days later the pastor was buried. The Count and his family led the
train of numerous mourners and among the last was Muller.

A day or two after the funeral the detective sauntered slowly through
the main street of the village. He was not in a very good humour, his
answer to the greeting of those who passed him was short. The children
avoided him, for with the keenness of their kind they recognised the
fact that this usually gentle little man was not in possession of his
habitual calm temper. One group of boys, playing with a top, did not
notice his coming and Muller stopped behind them to look on. Suddenly
a sharp whistle was heard and the boys looked up from their play,
surprised at seeing the stranger behind them. His eyes were gleaming,
and his cheeks were flushed, and a few bars of a merry tune came in
a keen whistle from his lips as he watched the spirals made by the
spinning top.

Before the boys could stop their play the detective had left the group
and hastened onward to the little shop. He left it again in eager haste
after having made his purchase, and hurried back to the rectory. The
shop-keeper stood in the doorway looking in surprise at this grown man
who came to buy a top. And at home in the rectory the old housekeeper
listened in equal surprise to the humming noise over her head. She
thought at first it might be a bee that had got in somehow. Then she
realised that it was not quite the same noise, and having already
concluded that it was of no use to be surprised at anything this strange
guest might do, she continued reading her scriptures.

Upstairs in the pastor’s study, Muller sat in the armchair attentively
watching the gyrations of a spinning top. The little toy, started at a
certain point, drew a line exactly parallel to the scratch on the floor
that had excited his thoughts and absorbed them day and night.

“It was a top--a top” repeated the detective to himself again and again.
“I don’t see why I didn’t think of that right away. Why, of course,
nothing else could have drawn such a perfect curve around the room,
unhindered by the legs of the desk. Only I don’t see how a toy like that
could have any connection with this cruel and purposeless murder. Why,
only a fool--or a madman--”

Muller sprang up from his chair and again a sharp shrill whistle came
from his lips. “A madman!--” he repeated, beating his own forehead. “It
could only have been a madman who committed this murder! And the
pastor was not the first, there were two other murders here within a
comparatively short time. I think I will take advantage of Dr. Orszay’s
invitation.”

Half an hour later Muller and the doctor sat together in a summer-house,
from the windows of which one could see the park surrounding the asylum
to almost its entire extent. The park was arranged with due regard to
its purpose. The eye could sweep through it unhindered. There were no
bushes except immediately along the high wall. Otherwise there were
beautiful lawns, flower beds and groups of fine old trees with tall
trunks.

As would be natural in visiting such a place Muller had induced the
doctor to talk about his patients. Dr. Orszay was an excellent talker
and possessed the power of painting a personality for his listeners.
He was pleased and flattered by the evident interest with which the
detective listened to his remarks.

“Then your patients are all quite harmless?” asked Muller thoughtfully,
when the doctor came to a pause.

“Yes, all quite harmless. Of course, there is the man who strangely
enough considers himself the reincarnation of the famous French
murderer, the goldsmith Cardillac, who, as you remember, kept all Paris
in a fervour of excitement by his crimes during the reign of Louis XIV.
But in spite of his weird mania this man is the most good-natured of
any. He has been shut up in his room for several days now. He was a
mechanician by trade, living in Budapest, and an unsuccessful invention
turned his mind.”

“Is he a large, powerful man?” asked Muller.

Dr. Orszay looked a bit surprised. “Why do you ask that? He does happen
to be a large man of considerable strength, but in spite of it I have no
fear of him. I have an attendant who is invaluable to me, a man of such
strength that even the fiercest of them cannot overcome him, and yet
with a mind and a personal magnetism which they cannot resist. He can
always master our patients mentally and physically--most of them are
afraid of him and they know that they must do as he says. There is
something in his very glance which has the power to paralyse even
healthy nerves, for it shows the strength of will possessed by this
man.”

“And what is the name of this invaluable attendant?” asked Muller with a
strange smile which the doctor took to be slightly ironical.

“Gyuri Kovacz. You are amused at my enthusiasm? But consider my position
here. I am an old man and have never been a strong man. At my age I
would not have strength enough to force that little woman there--she
thinks herself possessed and is quite cranky at times--to go to her own
room when she doesn’t want to. And do you see that man over there in the
blue blouse? He is an excellent gardener but he believes himself to
be Napoleon, and when he has his acute attacks I would be helpless to
control him were it not for Gyuri.”

“And you are not afraid of Cardillac?” interrupted Muller.

“Not in the least. He is as good-natured as a child and as confiding. I
can let him walk around here as much as he likes. If it were not for the
absurd nonsense that he talks when he has one of his attacks, and which
frightens those who do not understand him, I could let him go free
altogether.”

“Then you never let him leave the asylum grounds?

“Oh, yes. I take him out with me very frequently. He is a man of
considerable education and a very clever talker. It is quite a pleasure
to be with him. That was the opinion of my poor friend also, my poor
murdered friend.”

“The pastor?”

“The pastor. He often invited Cardillac to come to the rectory with me.”

“Indeed. Then Cardillac knew the inside of the rectory?”

“Yes. The pastor used to lend him books and let him choose them himself
from the library shelves. The people in the village are very kind to my
poor patients here. I have long since had the habit of taking some of
the quieter ones with me down into the village and letting the people
become acquainted with them. It is good for both parties. It gives
the patients some little diversion, and it takes away the worst of
the senseless fear these peasants had at first of the asylum and its
inmates. Cardillac in particular is always welcome when he comes, for he
brings the children all sorts of toys that he makes in his cell.”

The detective had listened attentively and once his eyes flashed and his
lips shut tight as if to keep in the betraying whistle. Then he asked
calmly: “But the patients are only allowed to go out when you accompany
them, I suppose?”

“Oh, no; the attendants take them out sometimes. I prefer, however, to
let them go only with Gyuri, for I can depend upon him more than upon
any of the others.”

“Then he and Cardillac have been out together occasionally?”

“Oh, yes, quite frequently. But--pardon me--this is almost like a
cross-examination.”

“I beg your pardon, doctor, it’s a bad habit of mine. One gets so
accustomed to it in my profession.”

“What is it you want?” asked Doctor Orszay, turning to a fine-looking
young man of superb build, who entered just then and stood by the door.

“I just wanted to announce, sir, that No. 302 is quiet again!

“302 is Cardillac himself, Mr. Muller, or to give him his right name,
Lajos Varna,” explained the doctor turning to his guest. “He is the
302nd patient who has been received here in these twenty years. Then
Cardillac is quiet again?” he asked, looking up at the young giant. “I
am glad of that. You can announce our visit to him. This gentleman wants
to inspect the asylum.”

Muller realised that this was the attendant Gyuri, and he looked at
him attentively. He was soon clear in his own mind that this remarkably
handsome man did not please him, in fact awoke in him a feeling of
repulsion. The attendant’s quiet, almost cat-like movements were in
strange contrast to the massivity of his superb frame, and his large
round eyes, shaped for open, honest glances, were shifty and cunning.
They seemed to be asking “Are you trying to discover anything about me?”
 coupled with a threat. “For your own sake you had better not do it.”

When the young man had left the room Muller rose hastily and walked up
and down several times. His face was flushed and his lips tight set.
Suddenly he exclaimed: “I do not like this Gyuri.”

Dr. Orszay looked up astonished. “There are many others who do not like
him--most of his fellow-warders for instance, and all of the patients.
I think there must be something in the contrast of such quiet movements
with such a big body that gets on people’s nerves. But consider, Mr.
Muller, that the man’s work would naturally make him a little different
from other people. I have known Gyuri for five years as a faithful
and unassuming servant, always willing and ready for any duty,
however difficult or dangerous. He has but one fault--if I may call it
such--that is that he has a mistress who is known to be mercenary and
hard-hearted. She lives in a neighbouring village.”

“For five years, you say? And how long has Cardillac been here?”

“Cardillac? He has been here for almost three years.”

“For almost three years, and is it not almost three years--” Muller
interrupted himself. “Are we quite alone? Is no one listening?” The
doctor nodded, greatly surprised, and the detective continued almost in
a whisper, “and it is just about three years now that there have
been committed, at intervals, three terrible crimes notable from
the cleverness with which they were carried out, and from the utter
impossibility, apparently, of discovering the perpetrator.”

Orszay sprang up. His face flushed and then grew livid, and he put his
hand to his forehead. Then he forced a smile and said in a voice
that trembled in spite of himself: “Mr. Muller, your imagination is
wonderful. And which of these two do you think it is that has committed
these crimes--the perpetrator of which you have come here to find?”

“I will tell you that later. I must speak to No. 302 first, and I must
speak to him in the presence of yourself and Gyuri.”

The detective’s deep gravity was contagious. Dr. Orszay had sufficiently
controlled himself to remember what he had heard in former days, and
just now recently from the district judge about this man’s marvellous
deeds. He realised that when Muller said a thing, no matter how
extravagant it might sound, it was worth taking seriously. This
realisation brought great uneasiness and grief to the doctor’s heart,
for he had grown fond of both of the men on whom terrible suspicion was
cast by such an authority.

Muller himself was uneasy, but the gloom that had hung over him for
the past day or two had vanished. The impenetrable darkness that had
surrounded the mystery of the pastor’s murder had gotten on his nerves.
He was not accustomed to work so long over a problem without getting
some light on it. But now, since the chance watching of the spinning
top in the street had given him his first inkling of the trail, he was
following it up to a clear issue. The eagerness, the blissful vibrating
of every nerve that he always felt at this stage of the game, was on him
again. He knew that from now on what was still to be done would be easy.
Hitherto his mind had been made up on one point; that one man alone was
concerned in the crime. Now he understood the possibility that there
might have been two, the harmless mechanician who fancied himself a
dangerous murderer, and the handsome young giant with the evil eyes.

The two men stood looking at each other in a silence that was almost
hostile. Had this stranger come to disturb the peace of the refuge for
the unfortunate and to prove that Dr. Orszay, the friend of all the
village, had unwittingly been giving shelter to such criminals?

“Shall we go now?” asked the detective finally.

“If you wish it, sir,” answered the doctor in a tone that was decidedly
cool.

Muller held out his hand. “Don’t let us be foolish, doctor. If you
should find yourself terribly deceived, and I should have been the means
of proving it, promise me that you will not be angry with me.”

Orszay pressed the offered hand with a deep sigh. He realised the
other’s position and knew it was his duty to give him every possible
assistance. “What is there for me to do now?” he asked sadly.

“You must see that all the patients are shut up in their cells so that
the other attendants are at our disposal if we need them. Varna’s room
has barred windows, I suppose?”

“Yes.”

“And I suppose also that it has but one door. I believe you told me that
your asylum was built on the cell system.”

“Yes, there is but one door to the room.”

“Let the four other attendants stand outside this door. Gyuri will be
inside with us. Tell the men outside that they are to seize and hold
whomever I shall designate to them. I will call them in by a whistle.
You can trust your people?”

“Yes, I think I can.”

“Well, I have my revolver,” said Muller calmly, “and now we can go.”

They left the room together, and found Gyuri waiting for them a little
further along the corridor. “Aren’t you well, sir?” the attendant asked
the doctor, with an anxious note in his voice.

The man’s anxiety was not feigned. He was really a faithful servant in
his devotion to the old doctor, although Muller had not misjudged him
when he decided that this young giant was capable of anything. Good and
evil often lie so close together in the human heart.

The doctor’s emotion prevented him from speaking, and the detective
answered in his place. “It is a sudden indisposition,” he said. “Lead
me to No. 302, who is waiting for us, I suppose. The doctor wants to lie
down a moment in his own room.”

Gyuri glanced distrustfully at this man whom he had met for the first
time to-day, but who was no stranger to him--for he had already learned
the identity of the guest in the rectory. Then he turned his eyes on his
master. The latter nodded and said: “Take the gentleman to Varna’s room.
I will follow shortly.”

The cell to which they went was the first one at the head of the
staircase. “Extremely convenient,” thought Muller to himself. It was a
large room, comfortably furnished and filled now with the red glow of
the setting sun. A turning-lathe stood by the window and an elderly man
was at work at it. Gyuri called to him and he turned and rose when he
saw a stranger.

Lajos Varna was a tall, loose-jointed man with sallow skin and tired
eyes. He gave only a hasty glance at his visitor, then looked at Gyuri.
The expression in his eyes as he turned them on those of the warder
was like the look in the eyes of a well-trained dog when it watches its
master’s face. Gyuri’s brows were drawn close together and his mouth
set tight to a narrow line. His eyes fairly bored themselves into the
patient’s eyes with an expression like that of a hypnotiser.

Muller knew now what he wanted to know. This young man understood how
to bend the will of others, even the will of a sick mind, to his own
desires. The little silent scene he had watched had lasted just the
length of time it had taken the detective to walk through the room and
hold out his hand to the patient.

“I don’t want to disturb you, Mr. Varna,” he said in a friendly tone,
with a motion towards the bench from which the mechanician had just
arisen. Varna sat down again, obedient as a child. He was not always so
apparently, for Muller saw a red mark over the fingers of one hand
that was evidently the mark of a blow. Gyuri was not very choice in the
methods by which he controlled the patients confided to his care.

“May I sit down also?” asked Muller.

Varna pushed forward a chair. His movements were like those of an
automaton.

“And now tell me how you like it here?” began the detective. Varna
answered with a low soft voice, “Oh, I like it very much, sir.” As he
spoke he looked up at Gyuri, whose eyes still bore their commanding
expression.

“They treat you kindly here?”

“Oh, yes.”

“The doctor is very good to you?”

“Ah, the doctor is so good!” Varna’s dull eyes brightened.

“And the others are good to you also?”

“Oh, yes.” The momentary gleam in the sad eye had vanished again.

“Where did you get this red scar?”

The patient became uneasy, he moved anxiously on his chair and looked up
at Gyuri. It was evident that he realised there would be more red marks
if he told the truth to this stranger.

Muller did not insist upon an answer. “You are uneasy and nervous
sometimes, aren’t you?”

“Yes, sir, I have been--nervous--lately.”

“And they don’t let you go out at such times?”

“Why, I--no, I may not go out at such times.”

“But the doctor takes you with him sometimes--the doctor or Gyuri?”
 asked the detective.

“Yes.”

“I haven’t had him out with me for weeks,” interrupted the attendant.
He seemed particularly anxious to have the “for weeks” clearly heard by
this inconvenient questioner.

Muller dropped this subject and took up another. “They tell me you are
very fond of children, and I can see that you are making toys for them
here.”

“Yes, I love children, and I am so glad they are not afraid of me.”
 These words were spoken with more warmth and greater interest than
anything the man had yet said.

“And they tell me that you take gifts with you for the children every
time you go down to the village. This is pretty work here, and it must
be a pleasant diversion for you.” Muller had taken up a dainty little
spinning-wheel which was almost completed. “Isn’t it made from the wood
of a red yew tree?”

“Yes, the doctor gave me a whole tree that had been cut down in the
park.”

“And that gave you wood for a long time?”

“Yes, indeed; I have been making toys from it for months.” Varna had
become quite eager and interested as he handed his visitor a number of
pretty trifles. The two had risen from their chairs and were leaning
over the wide window seat which served as a store-house for the wares
turned out by the busy workman. They were toys, mostly, all sorts
of little pots and plates, dolls’ furniture, balls of various sizes,
miniature bowling pins, and tops. Muller took up one of the latter.

“How very clever you are, and how industrious,” he exclaimed, sitting
down again and turning the top in his hands. It was covered with grey
varnish with tiny little yellow stripes painted on it. Towards the lower
point a little bit of the varnish had been broken off and the reddish
wood underneath was visible. The top was much better constructed than
the cheap toys sold in the village. It was hollow and contained in its
interior a mechanism started by a pressure on the upper end. Once set in
motion the little top spun about the room for some time.

“Oh, isn’t that pretty! Is this mechanism your own invention?” asked
Muller smiling. Gyuri watched the top with drawn brows and murmured
something about “childish foolishness.”

“Yes, it is my own invention,” said the patient, flattered. He started
out on an absolutely technical explanation of the mechanism of tops in
general and of his own in particular, an explanation so lucid and so
well put that no one would have believed the man who was speaking was
not in possession of the full powers of his mind.

Muller listened very attentively with unfeigned interest.

“But you have made more important inventions than this, haven’t you?” he
asked when the other stopped talking. Varna’s eyes flashed and his voice
dropped to a tone of mystery as he answered: “Yes indeed I have. But I
did not have time to finish them. For I had become some one else.”

“Some one else?”

“Cardillac,” whispered Varna, whose mania was now getting the best of
him again.

“Cardillac? You mean the notorious goldsmith who lived in Paris 200
years ago? Why, he’s dead.”

Varna’s pale lips curled in a superior smile. “Oh, yes--that’s
what people think, but it’s a mistake. He is still alive--I am--I
have--although of course there isn’t much opportunity here--”

Gyuri cleared his throat with a rasping noise.

“What were you saying, friend Cardillac?” asked Muller with a great show
of interest.

“I have done things here that nobody has found out. It gives me great
pleasure to see the authorities so helpless over the riddles I have
given them to solve. Oh, indeed, sir, you would never imagine how stupid
they are here.”

“In other words, friend Cardillac, you are too clever for the
authorities here?

“Yes, that’s it,” said the insane man greatly flattered. He raised his
head proudly and smiled down at his guest. At this moment the doctor
came into the room and Gyuri walked forward to the group at the window.

“You are making him nervous, sir,” he said to Muller in a tone that was
almost harsh.

“You can leave that to me,” answered the detective calmly. “And you will
please place yourself behind Mr. Varna’s chair, not behind mine. It is
your eyes that are making him uneasy.”

The attendant was alarmed and lost control of himself for a moment.
“Sir!” he exclaimed in an outburst.

“My name is Muller, in case you do not know it already, Joseph Muller,
detective. Gyuri Kovacz, you will do what I tell you to! I am master
here just now. Is it not so, doctor?”

“Yes, it is so,” said the doctor.

“What does this mean?” murmured Gyuri, turning pale.

“It means that the best thing for you to do is to stand up against that
wall and fold your arms on your breast,” said Muller firmly. He took a
revolver from his pocket and laid it beside him on the turning-lathe.
The young giant, cowed by the sight of the weapon, obeyed the commands
of this little man whom he could have easily crushed with a single blow.

Dr. Orszay sank down on the chair beside the door. Muller, now
completely master of the situation, turned to the insane man who stood
looking at him in a surprise which was mingled with admiration.

“And now, my dear Cardillac, you must tell us of your great deeds here,”
 said the detective in a friendly tone.

The unfortunate man bent over him with shining eyes and whispered: “But
you’ll shoot him first, won’t you?”

“Why should I shoot him?”

“Because he won’t let me say a word without beating me. He is so cruel.
He sticks pins into me if I don’t do what he wants.”

“Why didn’t you tell the doctor?”

“Gyuri would have treated me worse than ever then. I am a coward, sir,
I’m so afraid of pain and he knew that--he knew that I was afraid of
being hurt and that I’d always do what he asked of me. And because I
don’t like to be hurt myself I always finished them off quickly.”

“Finished who?”

“Why, there was Red Betty, he wanted her money.”

“Who wanted it?”

“Gyuri.”

The man at the wall moved when he heard this terrible accusation. But
the detective took up his revolver again. “Be quiet there!” he called,
with a look such as he might have thrown at an angry dog. Gyuri stood
quiet again but his eyes shot flames and great drops stood out on his
forehead.

“Now go on, friend Cardillac,” continued the detective. “We were talking
about Red Betty.”

“I strangled her. She did not even know she was dying. She was such a
weak old woman, it really couldn’t have hurt her.”

“No, certainly not,” said Muller soothingly, for he saw that the thought
that his victim might have suffered was beginning to make the madman
uneasy. “You needn’t worry about that. Old Betty died a quiet death. But
tell me, how did Gyuri know that she had money?”

“The whole village knew it. She laid cards for people and earned a lot
of money that way. She was very stingy and saved every bit. Somebody saw
her counting out her money once, she had it in a big stocking under her
bed. People in the village talked about it. That’s how Gyuri heard of
it.”

“And so he commanded you to kill Betty and steal her money?”

“Yes. He knew that I loved to give them riddles to guess, just as I did
in Paris so long ago.”

“Oh, yes, you’re Cardillac, aren’t you? And now tell us about the
smith’s swineherd.”

“You mean Janos? Oh, he was a stupid lout,” answered Varna scornfully.

“He had cast an eye on the beautiful Julcsi, Gyuri’s mistress, so of
course I had to kill him.”

“Did you do that alone?”

“No, Gyuri helped me.”

“Why did you cut the bridge supports?”

“Because I enjoy giving people riddles, as I told you. But Gyuri forbade
me to kill people uselessly. I liked the chance of getting out though.
The doctor’s so good to me and the others too. Gyuri is good to me
when I have done what he wanted. But you see, Mr. Muller, I am like a
prisoner here and that makes me angry. I made Gyuri let me out nights
sometimes.”

“You mean he let you out alone, all alone?”

“Yes, of course, for I threatened to tell the doctor everything if he
didn’t.”

“You wouldn’t have dared do that.”

“No, that’s true,” smiled Varna slyly. “But Gyuri was afraid I might
do it, for he isn’t always strong enough to frighten me with his
eyes. Those were the hours when I could make him afraid--I liked those
hours--”

“What did you do when you were out alone at night?”

“I just walked about. I set fire to a tree in the woods once, then the
rain came and put it out. Once I killed a dog and another time I cut
through the bridge supports. That took me several hours to do and made
me very tired. But it was such fun to know that people would be worrying
and fussing about who did it.”

Varna rubbed his hands gleefully. He did not look the least bit
malicious but only very much amused. The doctor groaned. Gyuri’s great
body trembled, his arms shook, but he did not make a single voluntary
movement. He saw the revolver in Muller’s hand and felt the keen grey
eyes resting on him in pitiless calm.

“And now tell us about the pastor?” said the detective in a firm clear
voice.

“Oh, he was a dear, good gentleman,” said No. 302 with an expression of
pitying sorrow on his face. “I owed him much gratitude; that’s why I put
the roses in his hand.”

“Yes, but you murdered him first.”

“Of course, Gyuri told me to.”

“And why?”

“He hated the pastor, for the old gentleman had no confidence in him.”

“Is this true?” Muller turned to the doctor.

“I did not notice it,” said Orszay with a voice that showed deep sorrow.

“And you?” Muller’s eyes bored themselves into the orbs of the young
giant, now dulled with fear.

Gyuri started and shivered. “He looked at me sharply every now and
then,” he murmured.

“And that was why he was killed?”

The warder’s head sank on his breast.

“No, not only for that reason,” continued No. 302. “Gyuri needed money
again. He ordered me to bring him the silver candlesticks off the
altar.”

“Murder and sacrilege,” said the detective calmly.

“No, I did not rob the church. When I had buried the reverend gentleman
I heard the cock crowing. I was afraid I might get home here too late
and I forgot the candlesticks. I had to stop to wash my hands in the
brook. While I was there I saw shepherd Janci coming along and I hid
behind the willows. He almost discovered me once, but Janci’s a
dreamer, he sees things nobody else sees--and he doesn’t see things that
everybody else does see. I couldn’t help laughing at his sleepy face.
But I didn’t laugh when I came back to the asylum. Gyuri was waiting for
me at the door. When he saw that I hadn’t brought the candlesticks he
beat me and tortured me worse than he’d ever done before.”

“And you didn’t tell anyone?”

“Why, no; because I was afraid that if I told on him, I’d never be able
to go out again.”

“And you, quite alone, could carry the pastor’s body out of his room?”

“I am very strong.”

“How did you arrange it that there should be no traces of blood to
betray you?”

“I waited until the body had stiffened, then I tied up the wound and
carried him down into the crypt.”

“Why did you do that?”

“I didn’t want to leave him in that horrid pool of blood.”

“You were sorry for him then?”

“Why, yes; it looked so horrid to see him lying there--and he had
always been so good to me. He was so good to me that very evening when I
entered his study.

“He recognised you?

“Certainly. He sprang up from his chair when I came in through the
passage from the church. I saw that he was startled, but he smiled at me
and reached out his hand to me and said: ‘What brings you here, my dear
Cardillac?’ And then I struck. I wanted him to die with that smile on
his lips. It is beautiful to see a man die smiling, it shows that he has
not been afraid of death. He was dead at once. I always kill that way--I
know just how to strike and where. I killed more than a hundred people
years ago in Paris, and I didn’t leave one of them the time for even a
sigh. I was renowned for that--I had a kind heart and a sure hand.”

Muller interrupted the dreadful imaginings of the madman with a
question. “You got into the house through the crypt?”

“Yes, through the crypt. I found the window one night when I was
prowling around in the churchyard. When I knew that the pastor was to be
the next, I cut through the window bars. Gyuri went into the church one
day when nobody was there and found out that it was easy to lift the
stone over the entrance to the crypt. He also learned that the doors
from the church to the vestry were never locked. I knew how to find the
passageway, because I had been through it several times on my visits to
the rectory. But it was a mere chance that the door into the pastor’s
study was unlocked.”

“A chance that cost the life of a worthy man,” said the detective
gravely.

Varna nodded sadly. “But he didn’t suffer, he was dead at once.”

“And now tell me what this top was doing there?” No. 302 looked at the
detective in great surprise, and then laid his hand on the latter’s arm.
“How did you know that I had the top there?” he asked with a show of
interest.

“I found its traces in the room, and it was those traces that led me
here to you,” answered Muller.

“How strange!” remarked Varna. “Are you like shepherd Janci that you can
see the things others don’t see?”

“No, I have not Janci’s gift. It would be a great comfort to me and a
help to the others perhaps if I had. I can only see things after they
have happened.”

“But you can see more than others--the others did not see the traces of
the top?”

“My business is to see more than others see,” said Muller. “But you have
not told me yet what the top was doing there. Why did you take a toy
like that with you when you went out on such an errand?”

“It was in my pocket by chance. When I reached for my handkerchief to
quench the flow of blood the top came out with it. I must have touched
the spring without knowing it, for the top began to spin. I stood still
and watched it, then I ran after it. It spun around the room and finally
came back to the body. So did I. The pastor was quite still and dead by
that time.”

“You have heard everything, Dr. Orszay?” asked the detective, rising
from his chair.

“Yes, I have heard everything,” answered the venerable head of the
asylum. He was utterly crushed by the realisation that all this tragedy
and horror had gone out from his house.

Varna rose also. He understood perfectly that now Gyuri’s power was
at an end and he was as pleased as a child that has just received a
present. “And now you’re going to shoot him?” he asked, in the tone a
boy would use if asking when the fireworks were to begin.

Muller shook his head. “No, my dear Cardillac,” he replied gravely. “He
will not be shot--that is a death for a brave soldier--but this man has
deserved--” He did not finish the sentence, for the warder sank to the
floor unconscious.

“What a coward!” murmured the detective scornfully, looking down at the
giant frame that lay prostrate before him. Even in his wide experience
he had known of no case of a man of such strength and such bestial
cruelty, combined with such utter cowardice.

Varna also stood looking down at the unconscious warder. Then he glanced
up with a cunning smile at the other two men who stood there. The
doctor, pale and trembling with horror, covered his face with his hands.
Muller turned to the door to call in the attendants waiting outside.
During the moment’s pause that ensued the madman bent over his
worktable, seized a knife that lay there and dropped on one knee beside
the prostrate form. His hand was raised to strike when a calm voice
said: “Fie! Cardillac, for shame! Do not belittle yourself. This man
here is not worthy of your knife, the hangman will look after him.”

Varna raised his loose-jointed frame and looked about with glistening
eyes and trembling lips. His mind was completely darkened once more.
“I must kill him--I must have his blood--there is no one to see me,” he
murmured. “I am a hangman too--he has made a hangman of me,” and again
he bent with uplifted hand over the man who had utilised his terrible
misfortune to make a criminal of him. But two of the waiting attendants
seized his arms and threw him back on the floor, while the other two
carted Gyuri out. Both unfortunates were soon securely guarded.

“Do not be angry with me, doctor,” said Muller gravely, as he walked
through the garden accompanied by Orszay.

Doctor Orszay laughed bitterly. “Why should I be angry with you--you
who have discovered my inexcusable credulity?”

“Inexcusable? Oh, no, doctor; it was quite natural that you should have
believed a man who had himself so well in hand, and who knew so well
how to play his part. When we come to think of it, we realise that
most crimes have been made possible through some one’s credulity, or
over-confidence, a credulity which, in the light of subsequent events,
seems quite incomprehensible. Do not reproach yourself and do not lose
heart. Your only fault was that you did not recognise the heart of the
beast of prey in this admirable human form.”

“What course will the law take?” asked Orszay. “The poor unfortunate
madman--whose knife took all these lives--cannot be held responsible,
can he?”

“Oh, no; his misfortune protects him. But as for the other, though his
hands bear no actual bloodstains, he is more truly a murderer than the
unhappy man who was his tool. Hanging is too good for him. There are
times when even I could wish that we were back in the Middle Ages, when
it was possible to torture a prisoner.

“You do not look like that sort of a man,” smiled the doctor through his
sadness.

“No, I am the most good-natured of men usually, I think--the meekest
anyway,” answered Muller. “But a case like this--. However, as I said
before, keep a stout heart, doctor, and do not waste time in unnecessary
self-reproachings.” The detective pressed the doctor’s hand warmly and
walked down the hill towards the village.

He went at once to the office of the magistrate and made his report,
then returned to the rectory and packed his grip. He arranged for its
transport to the railway station, as he himself preferred to walk the
inconsiderable distance. He passed through the village and had just
entered the open fields when he met Janci with his flock. The shepherd
hastened his steps when he saw the detective approaching.

“You have found him, sir?” he exclaimed as he came up to Muller. The men
had come to be friends by this time. The silent shepherd with the power
of second sight had won Muller’s interest at once.

“Yes, I found him. It is Gyuri, the warder at the asylum.”

“No, sir, it is not Gyuri--Gyuri did not do it.”

“But when I tell you that he did?”

“But I tell you, sir, that Gyuri did not do it. The man who did it--he
has yellowish hands--I saw them--I saw big yellowish hands. Gyuri’s
hands are big, but they are brown.”

“Janci, you are right. I was only trying to test you. Gyuri did not do
it; that is, he did not do it with his own hands. The man who held the
knife that struck down the pastor was Varna, the crazy mechanician.”

Janci beat his forehead. “Oh, I am a foolish and useless dreamer!” he
exclaimed; “of course it was Varna’s hands that I saw. I have seen them
a hundred times when he came down into the village, and yet when I saw
them in the vision I did not recognise them.”

“We’re all dreamers, Janci--and our dreams are very useless generally.”

“Yours are not useless, sir,” said the shepherd. “If I had as much
brains as you have, my dreams might be of some good.”

Muller smiled. “And if I had your visions, Janci, it would be a powerful
aid to me in my profession.”

“I don’t think you need them, sir. You can find out the hidden things
without them. You are going to leave us?”

“Yes, Janci, I must go back to Budapest, and from there to Vienna. They
need me on another case.”

“It’s a sad work, this bringing people to the gallows, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Janci, it is sometimes. But it’s a good thing to be able to avenge
crime and bring justice to the injured. Good-bye, Janci.”

“Good-bye, sir, and God speed you.”

The shepherd stood looking after the small, slight figure of the man
who walked on rapidly through the heather. “He’s the right one for the
work,” murmured Janci as he turned slowly back towards the village.

An hour later Muller stood in the little waiting-room of the railway
station writing a telegram. It was addressed to Count ----.

  “Do you know the shepherd Janci?  It would be a good thing to
  make him the official detective for the village.  He has high
  qualifications for the profession.  If I had his gifts combined
  with my own, not one could escape me.  I have found this one
  however.  The guards are already taking him to you.  My work
  here is done.  If I should be needed again I can be found at
  Police Headquarters, Vienna.
                                                  “Respectfully,
                                                  “JOSEPH MULLER.”

While the detective was writing his message--it was one of the rare
moments of humour that Muller allowed himself, and he wondered mildly
what the stately Hungarian nobleman would think of it--a heavy farm
wagon jolted over the country roads towards the little county seat.
Sitting beside the driver and riding about the wagon were armed
peasants. The figure of a man, securely bound, his face distorted by
rage and fear, lay in the wagon. It was Gyuri Kovacz, who had murdered
by the hands of another, and who was now on his way to meet the death
that was his due.

And at one of the barred windows in the big yellow house stood a
sallow-faced man, looking out at the rising moon with sad, tired eyes.
His lips were parted in a smile like that of a dreaming child, and he
hummed a gentle lullaby.

In his compartment of the express from Budapest to Vienna, Joseph Muller
sat thinking over the strange events that had called him to the obscure
little Hungarian village. He had met with many strange cases in his long
career, but this particular case had some features which were unique.
Muller’s lips set hard and his hands tightened to fists as he murmured:
“I’ve met with criminals who used strange tools, but never before have
I met with one who had the cunning and the incredible cruelty to utilise
the mania of an unhinged human mind. It is a thousand times worse than
those criminals who, now and then throughout the ages, have trained
brute beasts to murder for them. Truly, this Hungarian peasant, Gyuri
Kovacz, deserves a high place in the infamous roll-call of the great
criminals of history. A student of crime might almost be led to think
that it is a pity his career has been cut short so soon. He might have
gone far.

“But for humanity’s sake” (Muller’s eyes gleamed), “I am thankful that I
was able to discover this beast in human form and render him innocuous;
he had done quite enough.”





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