Saturday, October 13, 2007



This is the story of how a middle-aged spinster lost her mind,
deserted her domestic gods in the city, took a furnished house
for the summer out of town, and found herself involved in one of
those mysterious crimes that keep our newspapers and detective
agencies happy and prosperous. For twenty years I had been
perfectly comfortable; for twenty years I had had the windowboxes
filled in the spring, the carpets lifted, the awnings put
up and the furniture covered with brown linen; for as many
summers I had said good-by to my friends, and, after watching
their perspiring hegira, had settled down to a delicious quiet in
town, where the mail comes three times a day, and the water
supply does not depend on a tank on the roof.
And then--the madness seized me. When I look back over the
months I spent at Sunnyside, I wonder that I survived at all. As
it is, I show the wear and tear of my harrowing experiences. I
have turned very gray--Liddy reminded me of it, only yesterday,
by saying that a little bluing in the rinse-water would make my
hair silvery, instead of a yellowish white. I hate to be
reminded of unpleasant things and I snapped her off.
"No," I said sharply, "I'm not going to use bluing at my time of
life, or starch, either."
Liddy's nerves are gone, she says, since that awful summer, but
she has enough left, goodness knows! And when she begins to go
around with a lump in her throat, all I have to do is to threaten
to return to Sunnyside, and she is frightened into a semblance of
cheerfulness,--from which you may judge that the summer there was
anything but a success.
The newspaper accounts have been so garbled and incomplete--one
of them mentioned me but once, and then only as the tenant at the
time the thing happened--that I feel it my due to tell what I
know. Mr. Jamieson, the detective, said himself he could never
have done without me, although he gave me little enough credit,
in print.
I shall have to go back several years--thirteen, to be exact--to
start my story. At that time my brother died, leaving me his two
children. Halsey was eleven then, and Gertrude was seven. All
the responsibilities of maternity were thrust upon me suddenly;
to perfect the profession of motherhood requires precisely as
many years as the child has lived, like the man who started to
carry the calf and ended by walking along with the bull on his
shoulders. However, I did the best I could. When Gertrude got
past the hair-ribbon age, and Halsey asked for a scarf-pin and
put on long trousers--and a wonderful help that was to the
darning.--I sent them away to good schools. After that, my
responsibility was chiefly postal, with three months every summer
in which to replenish their wardrobes, look over their lists of
acquaintances, and generally to take my foster-motherhood out of
its nine months' retirement in camphor.
I missed the summers with them when, somewhat later, at boardingschool
and college, the children spent much of their vacations
with friends. Gradually I found that my name signed to a check
was even more welcome than when signed to a letter, though I
wrote them at stated intervals. But when Halsey had finished
his electrical course and Gertrude her boarding-school, and both
came home to stay, things were suddenly changed. The winter
Gertrude came out was nothing but a succession of sitting up late
at night to bring her home from things, taking her to the
dressmakers between naps the next day, and discouraging
ineligible youths with either more money than brains, or more
brains than money. Also, I acquired a great many things: to say
lingerie for under-garments, "frocks" and "gowns" instead of
dresses, and that beardless sophomores are not college boys, but
college men. Halsey required less personal supervision, and as
they both got their mother's fortune that winter, my
responsibility became purely moral. Halsey bought a car, of
course, and I learned how to tie over my bonnet a gray baize
veil, and, after a time, never to stop to look at the dogs one
has run down. People are apt to be so unpleasant about their
The additions to my education made me a properly equipped maiden
aunt, and by spring I was quite tractable. So when Halsey
suggested camping in the Adirondacks and Gertrude wanted Bar
Harbor, we compromised on a good country house with links near,
within motor distance of town and telephone distance of the
doctor. That was how we went to Sunnyside.
We went out to inspect the property, and it seemed to deserve its
name. Its cheerful appearance gave no indication whatever of
anything out of the ordinary. Only one thing seemed unusual to
me: the housekeeper, who had been left in charge, had moved from
the house to the gardener's lodge, a few days before. As the
lodge was far enough away from the house, it seemed to me that
either fire or thieves could complete their work of destruction
undisturbed. The property was an extensive one: the house on the
top of a hill, which sloped away in great stretches of green lawn
and clipped hedges, to the road; and across the valley, perhaps a
couple of miles away, was the Greenwood Club House. Gertrude and
Halsey were infatuated.
"Why, it's everything you want," Halsey said "View, air, good
water and good roads. As for the house, it's big enough for a
hospital, if it has a Queen Anne front and a Mary Anne back,"
which was ridiculous: it was pure Elizabethan.
Of course we took the place; it was not my idea of comfort, being
much too large and sufficiently isolated to make the servant
question serious. But I give myself credit for this: whatever
has happened since, I never blamed Halsey and Gertrude for taking
me there. And another thing: if the series of catastrophes there
did nothing else, it taught me one thing--that somehow,
somewhere, from perhaps a half-civilized ancestor who wore a
sheepskin garment and trailed his food or his prey, I have in me
the instinct of the chase. Were I a man I should be a trapper of
criminals, trailing them as relentlessly as no doubt my sheepskin
ancestor did his wild boar. But being an unmarried woman, with
the handicap of my sex, my first acquaintance with crime will
probably be my last. Indeed, it came near enough to being my
last acquaintance with anything.
The property was owned by Paul Armstrong, the president of the
Traders' Bank, who at the time we took the house was in the west
with his wife and daughter, and a Doctor Walker, the Armstrong
family physician. Halsey knew Louise Armstrong,--had been rather
attentive to her the winter before, but as Halsey was always
attentive to somebody, I had not thought of it seriously,
although she was a charming girl. I knew of Mr. Armstrong only
through his connection with the bank, where the children's money
was largely invested, and through an ugly story about the son,
Arnold Armstrong, who was reported to have forged his father's
name, for a considerable amount, to some bank paper. However,
the story had had no interest for me.
I cleared Halsey and Gertrude away to a house party, and moved
out to Sunnyside the first of May. The roads were bad, but the
trees were in leaf, and there were still tulips in the borders
around the house. The arbutus was fragrant in the woods under
the dead leaves, and on the way from the station, a short mile,
while the car stuck in the mud, I found a bank showered with tiny
forget-me-nots. The birds--don't ask me what kind; they all look
alike to me, unless they have a hall mark of some bright color--
the birds were chirping in the hedges, and everything breathed of
peace. Liddy, who was born and bred on a brick pavement, got a
little bit down-spirited when the crickets began to chirp, or
scrape their legs together, or whatever it is they do, at
The first night passed quietly enough. I have always been
grateful for that one night's peace; it shows what the country
might be, under favorable circumstances. Never after that night
did I put my head on my pillow with any assurance how long it
would be there; or on my shoulders, for that matter.
On the following morning Liddy and Mrs. Ralston, my own
housekeeper, had a difference of opinion, and Mrs. Ralston left
on the eleven train. Just after luncheon, Burke, the butler, was
taken unexpectedly with a pain in his right side, much worse when
I was within hearing distance, and by afternoon he was started
cityward. That night the cook's sister had a baby--the cook,
seeing indecision in my face, made it twins on second thought--
and, to be short, by noon the next day the household staff was
down to Liddy and myself. And this in a house with twenty-two
rooms and five baths!
Liddy wanted to go back to the city at once, but the milk-boy
said that Thomas Johnson, the Armstrongs' colored butler, was
working as a waiter at the Greenwood Club, and might come back.
I have the usual scruples about coercing people's servants away,
but few of us have any conscience regarding institutions or
corporations--witness the way we beat railroads and street-car
companies when we can--so I called up the club, and about eight
o'clock Thomas Johnson came to see me. Poor Thomas!
Well, it ended by my engaging Thomas on the spot, at outrageous
wages, and with permission to sleep in the gardener's lodge,
empty since the house was rented. The old man--he was whitehaired
and a little stooped, but with an immense idea of his
personal dignity--gave me his reasons hesitatingly.
"I ain't sayin' nothin', Mis' Innes," he said, with his hand on
the door-knob, "but there's been goin's-on here this las' few
months as ain't natchal. 'Tain't one thing an' 'tain't another--
it's jest a door squealin' here, an' a winder closin' there, but
when doors an' winders gets to cuttin' up capers and there's
nobody nigh 'em, it's time Thomas Johnson sleeps somewhar's
Liddy, who seemed to be never more than ten feet away from me
that night, and was afraid of her shadow in that great barn of a
place, screamed a little, and turned a yellow-green. But I am
not easily alarmed.
It was entirely in vain; I represented to Thomas that we were
alone, and that he would have to stay in the house that night.
He was politely firm, but he would come over early the next
morning, and if I gave him a key, he would come in time to get
some sort of breakfast. I stood on the huge veranda and
watched him shuffle along down the shadowy drive, with mingled
feelings--irritation at his cowardice and thankfulness at getting
him at all. I am not ashamed to say that I double-locked the
hall door when I went in.
"You can lock up the rest of the house and go to bed, Liddy," I
said severely. "You give me the creeps standing there. A woman
of your age ought to have better sense." It usually braces Liddy
to mention her age: she owns to forty--which is absurd. Her
mother cooked for my grandfather, and Liddy must be at least as
old as I. But that night she refused to brace.
"You're not going to ask me to lock up, Miss Rachel!" she
quavered. "Why, there's a dozen French windows in the drawingroom
and the billiard-room wing, and every one opens on a porch.
And Mary Anne said that last night there was a man standing by
the stable when she locked the kitchen door."
"Mary Anne was a fool," I said sternly. "If there had been a man
there, she would have had him in the kitchen and been feeding him
what was left from dinner, inside of an hour, from force of
habit. Now don't be ridiculous. Lock up the house and go to
bed. I am going to read."
But Liddy set her lips tight and stood still.
"I'm not going to bed," she said. "I am going to pack up, and
to-morrow I am going to leave."
"You'll do nothing of the sort," I snapped. Liddy and I often
desire to part company, but never at the same time. "If you are
afraid, I will go with you, but for goodness' sake don't try to
hide behind me."
The house was a typical summer residence on an extensive scale.
Wherever possible, on the first floor, the architect had done
away with partitions, using arches and columns instead. The
effect was cool and spacious, but scarcely cozy. As Liddy and I
went from one window to another, our voices echoed back at us
uncomfortably. There was plenty of light--the electric plant
down in the village supplied us--but there were long vistas of
polished floor, and mirrors which reflected us from unexpected
corners, until I felt some of Liddy's foolishness communicate
itself to me.
The house was very long, a rectangle in general form, with the
main entrance in the center of the long side. The brick-paved
entry opened into a short hall to the right of which, separated
only by a row of pillars, was a huge living-room. Beyond that
was the drawing-room, and in the end, the billiard-room. Off
the billiard-room, in the extreme right wing, was a den, or
card-room, with a small hall opening on the east veranda, and
from there went up a narrow circular staircase. Halsey had
pointed it out with delight.
"Just look, Aunt Rachel," he said with a flourish. "The
architect that put up this joint was wise to a few things.
Arnold Armstrong and his friends could sit here and play cards
all night and stumble up to bed in the early morning, without
having the family send in a police call."
Liddy and I got as far as the card-room and turned on all the
lights. I tried the small entry door there, which opened on the
veranda, and examined the windows. Everything was secure, and
Liddy, a little less nervous now, had just pointed out to me the
disgracefully dusty condition of the hard-wood floor, when
suddenly the lights went out. We waited a moment; I think Liddy
was stunned with fright, or she would have screamed. And then I
clutched her by the arm and pointed to one of the windows opening
on the porch. The sudden change threw the window into relief, an
oblong of grayish light, and showed us a figure standing close,
peering in. As I looked it darted across the veranda and out of
sight in the darkness.
Liddy's knees seemed to give away under her. Without a sound she
sank down, leaving me staring at the window in petrified
amazement. Liddy began to moan under her breath, and in my
excitement I reached down and shook her.
"Stop it," I whispered. "It's only a woman--maybe a maid of the
Armstrongs'. Get up and help me find the door." She groaned
again. "Very well," I said, "then I'll have to leave you here.
I'm going."
She moved at that, and, holding to my sleeve, we felt our way,
with numerous collisions, to the billiard-room, and from there to
the drawing-room. The lights came on then. and, with the long
French windows unshuttered, I had a creepy feeling that each one
sheltered a peering face. In fact, in the light of what happened
afterward, I am pretty certain we were under surveillance during
the entire ghostly evening. We hurried over the rest of
the locking-up and got upstairs as quickly as we could. I left
the lights all on, and our footsteps echoed cavernously. Liddy
had a stiff neck the next morning, from looking back over her
shoulder, and she refused to go to bed.
"Let me stay in your dressing-room, Miss Rachel," she begged.
"If you don't, I'll sit in the hall outside the door. I'm not
going to be murdered with my eyes shut."
"If you're going to be murdered," I retorted, "it won't make any
difference whether they are shut or open. But you may stay in
the dressing-room, if you will lie on the couch: when you sleep
in a chair you snore."
She was too far gone to be indignant, but after a while she came
to the door and looked in to where I was composing myself for
sleep with Drummond's Spiritual Life.
"That wasn't a woman, Miss Rachel," she said, with her shoes in
her hand. "It was a man in a long coat."
"What woman was a man?" I discouraged her without looking up,
and she went back to the couch.
It was eleven o'clock when I finally prepared for bed. In
spite of my assumption of indifference, I locked the door into
the hall, and finding the transom did not catch, I put a chair
cautiously before the door--it was not necessary to rouse Liddy--
and climbing up put on the ledge of the transom a small dressingmirror,
so that any movement of the frame would send it crashing
down. Then, secure in my precautions, I went to bed.
I did not go to sleep at once. Liddy disturbed me just as I was
growing drowsy, by coming in and peering under the bed. She was
afraid to speak, however, because of her previous snubbing, and
went back, stopping in the doorway to sigh dismally.
Somewhere down-stairs a clock with a chime sang away the hours--
eleven-thirty, forty-five, twelve. And then the lights went out
to stay. The Casanova Electric Company shuts up shop and goes
home to bed at midnight: when one has a party, I believe it is
customary to fee the company, which will drink hot coffee and
keep awake a couple of hours longer. But the lights were gone
for good that night. Liddy had gone to sleep, as I knew she
would. She was a very unreliable person: always awake and ready
to talk when she wasn't wanted and dozing off to sleep when
she was. I called her once or twice, the only result being
an explosive snore that threatened her very windpipe--then I got
up and lighted a bedroom candle.
My bedroom and dressing room were above the big living-room on
the first floor. On the second floor a long corridor ran the
length of the house, with rooms opening from both sides. In the
wings were small corridors crossing the main one--the plan was
simplicity itself. And just as I got back into bed, I heard a
sound from the east wing, apparently, that made me stop, frozen,
with one bedroom slipper half off, and listen. It was a rattling
metallic sound, and it reverberated along the empty halls like
the crash of doom. It was for all the world as if something
heavy, perhaps a piece of steel, had rolled clattering and
jangling down the hard-wood stairs leading to the card-room.
In the silence that followed Liddy stirred and snored again. I
was exasperated: first she kept me awake by silly alarms, then
when she was needed she slept like Joe Jefferson, or Rip,--they
are always the same to me. I went in and aroused her, and I give
her credit for being wide awake the minute I spoke.
"Get up," I said, "if you don't want to be murdered in your bed."
"Where? How?" she yelled vociferously, and jumped up.
"There's somebody in the house," I said. "Get up. We'll have to
get to the telephone."
"Not out in the hall!" she gasped; "Oh, Miss Rachel, not out in
the hall!" trying to hold me back. But I am a large woman and
Liddy is small. We got to the door, somehow, and Liddy held a
brass andiron, which it was all she could do to lift, let alone
brain anybody with. I listened, and, hearing nothing, opened the
door a little and peered into the hall. It was a black void,
full of terrible suggestion, and my candle only emphasized the
gloom. Liddy squealed and drew me back again, and as the door
slammed, the mirror I had put on the transom came down and hit
her on the head. That completed our demoralization. It was some
time before I could persuade her she had not been attacked from
behind by a burglar, and when she found the mirror smashed on the
floor she wasn't much better.
"There's going to be a death!" she wailed. "Oh, Miss Rachel,
there's going to be a death!"
"There will be," I said grimly, "if you don't keep quiet, Liddy
And so we sat there until morning, wondering if the candle would
last until dawn, and arranging what trains we could take back to
town. If we had only stuck to that decision and gone back before
it was too late!
The sun came finally, and from my window I watched the trees
along the drive take shadowy form, gradually lose their ghostlike
appearance, become gray and then green. The Greenwood Club
showed itself a dab of white against the hill across the valley,
and an early robin or two hopped around in the dew. Not until
the milk-boy and the sun came, about the same time, did I dare to
open the door into the hall and look around. Everything was as
we had left it. Trunks were heaped here and there, ready for the
trunk-room, and through an end window of stained glass came a
streak of red and yellow daylight that was eminently cheerful.
The milk-boy was pounding somewhere below, and the day had begun.
Thomas Johnson came ambling up the drive about half-past six, and
we could hear him clattering around on the lower floor, opening
shutters. I had to take Liddy to her room up-stairs,
however,--she was quite sure she would find something uncanny.
In fact, when she did not, having now the courage of daylight,
she was actually disappointed.
Well, we did not go back to town that day.
The discovery of a small picture fallen from the wall of the
drawing-room was quite sufficient to satisfy Liddy that the alarm
had been a false one, but I was anything but convinced. Allowing
for my nerves and the fact that small noises magnify themselves
at night, there was still no possibility that the picture had
made the series of sounds I heard. To prove it, however, I
dropped it again. It fell with a single muffled crash of its
wooden frame, and incidentally ruined itself beyond repair. I
justified myself by reflecting that if the Armstrongs chose to
leave pictures in unsafe positions, and to rent a house with a
family ghost, the destruction of property was their
responsibility, not mine.
I warned Liddy not to mention what had happened to anybody, and
telephoned to town for servants. Then after a breakfast which
did more credit to Thomas' heart than his head, I went on a short
tour of investigation. The sounds had come from the east
wing, and not without some qualms I began there. At first I
found nothing. Since then I have developed my powers of
observation, but at that time I was a novice. The small cardroom
seemed undisturbed. I looked for footprints, which is, I
believe, the conventional thing to do, although my experience has
been that as clues both footprints and thumb-marks are more
useful in fiction than in fact. But the stairs in that wing
offered something.
At the top of the flight had been placed a tall wicker hamper,
packed, with linen that had come from town. It stood at the edge
of the top step, almost barring passage, and on the step below it
was a long fresh scratch. For three steps the scratch was
repeated, gradually diminishing, as if some object had fallen,
striking each one. Then for four steps nothing. On the fifth
step below was a round dent in the hard wood. That was all, and
it seemed little enough, except that I was positive the marks had
not been there the day before.
It bore out my theory of the sound, which had been for all the
world like the bumping of a metallic object down a flight of
steps. The four steps had been skipped. I reasoned that an iron
bar, for instance, would do something of the sort,--strike
two or three steps, end down, then turn over, jumping a few
stairs, and landing with a thud.
Iron bars, however, do not fall down-stairs in the middle of the
night alone. Coupled with the figure on the veranda the agency
by which it climbed might be assumed. But--and here was the
thing that puzzled me most--the doors were all fastened that
morning, the windows unmolested, and the particular door from
the card-room to the veranda had a combination lock of which I
held the key, and which had not been tampered with.
I fixed on an attempt at burglary, as the most natural
explanation--an attempt frustrated by the falling of the object,
whatever it was, that had roused me. Two things I could not
understand: how the intruder had escaped with everything locked,
and why he had left the small silver, which, in the absence of a
butler, had remained down-stairs over night.
Under pretext of learning more about the place, Thomas Johnson
led me through the house and the cellars, without result.
Everything was in good order and repair; money had been spent
lavishly on construction and plumbing. The house was full of
conveniences, and I had no reason to repent my bargain, save
the fact that, in the nature of things, night must come again.
And other nights must follow--and we were a long way from a
In the afternoon a hack came up from Casanova, with a fresh relay
of servants. The driver took them with a flourish to the
servants' entrance, and drove around to the front of the house,
where I was awaiting him.
"Two dollars," he said in reply to my question. "I don't charge
full rates, because, bringin' 'em up all summer as I do, it pays
to make a special price. When they got off the train, I sez, sez
I, `There's another bunch for Sunnyside, cook, parlor maid and
all.' Yes'm--six summers, and a new lot never less than once a
month. They won't stand for the country and the lonesomeness, I
But with the presence of the "bunch" of servants my courage
revived, and late in the afternoon came a message from Gertrude
that she and Halsey would arrive that night at about eleven
o'clock, coming in the car from Richfield. Things were looking
up; and when Beulah, my cat, a most intelligent animal, found
some early catnip on a bank near the house and rolled in it
in a feline ecstasy, I decided that getting back to nature was
the thing to do.
While I was dressing for dinner, Liddy rapped at the door. She
was hardly herself yet, but privately I think she was worrying
about the broken mirror and its augury, more than anything else.
When she came in she was holding something in her hand, and she
laid it on the dressing-table carefully.
"I found it in the linen hamper," she said. "It must be Mr.
Halsey's, but it seems queer how it got there."
It was the half of a link cuff-button of unique design, and I
looked at it carefully.
"Where was it? In the bottom of the hamper?" I asked.
"On the very top," she replied. "It's a mercy it didn't fall out
on the way."
When Liddy had gone I examined the fragment attentively. I had
never seen it before, and I was certain it was not Halsey's. It
was of Italian workmanship, and consisted of a mother-of-pearl
foundation, encrusted with tiny seed-pearls, strung on horsehair
to hold them. In the center was a small ruby. The trinket was
odd enough, but not intrinsically of great value. Its
interest for me lay in this: Liddy had found it lying in the top
of the hamper which had blocked the east-wing stairs.
That afternoon the Armstrongs' housekeeper, a youngish goodlooking
woman, applied for Mrs. Ralston's place, and I was glad
enough to take her. She looked as though she might be equal to a
dozen of Liddy, with her snapping black eyes and heavy jaw. Her
name was Anne Watson, and I dined that evening for the first time
in three days.
I had dinner served in the breakfast-room. Somehow the huge
dining-room depressed me, and Thomas, cheerful enough all day,
allowed his spirits to go down with the sun. He had a habit of
watching the corners of the room, left shadowy by the candles on
the table, and altogether it was not a festive meal.
Dinner over I went into the living-room. I had three hours
before the children could possibly arrive, and I got out my
knitting. I had brought along two dozen pairs of slipper soles
in assorted sizes--I always send knitted slippers to the Old
Ladies' Home at Christmas--and now I sorted over the wools with a
grim determination not to think about the night before. But my
mind was not on my work: at the end of a half-hour I found I had
put a row of blue scallops on Eliza Klinefelter's lavender
slippers, and I put them away.
I got out the cuff-link and went with it to the pantry. Thomas
was wiping silver and the air was heavy with tobacco smoke. I
sniffed and looked around, but there was no pipe to be seen.
"Thomas," I said, "you have been smoking."
"No, ma'm." He was injured innocence itself. "It's on my coat,
ma'm. Over at the club the gentlemen--"
But Thomas did not finish. The pantry was suddenly filled with
the odor of singeing cloth. Thomas gave a clutch at his coat,
whirled to the sink, filled a tumbler with water and poured it
into his right pocket with the celerity of practice.
"Thomas," I said, when he was sheepishly mopping the floor,
"smoking is a filthy and injurious habit. If you must smoke, you
must; but don't stick a lighted pipe in your pocket again. Your
skin's your own: you can blister it if you like. But this house
is not mine, and I don't want a conflagration. Did you ever see
this cuff-link before?"
No, he never had, he said, but he looked at it oddly.
"I picked it up in the hall," I added indifferently. The old
man's eyes were shrewd under his bushy eyebrows.
"There's strange goin's-on here, Mis' Innes," he said, shaking
his head. "Somethin's goin' to happen, sure. You ain't took
notice that the big clock in the hall is stopped, I reckon?"
"Nonsense," I said. "Clocks have to stop, don't they, if they're
not wound?"
"It's wound up, all right, and it stopped at three o'clock last
night," he answered solemnly. "More'n that, that there clock
ain't stopped for fifteen years, not since Mr. Armstrong's first
wife died. And that ain't all,--no MA'M. Last three nights I
slep' in this place, after the electrics went out I had a token.
My oil lamp was full of oil, but it kep' goin' out, do what I
would. Minute I shet my eyes, out that lamp 'd go. There ain't
no surer token of death. The Bible sez, LET YER LIGHT SHINE!
When a hand you can't see puts yer light out, it means death,
The old man's voice was full of conviction. In spite of myself I
had a chilly sensation in the small of my back, and I left him
mumbling over his dishes. Later on I heard a crash from the
pantry, and Liddy reported that Beulah, who is coal black, had
darted in front of Thomas just as he picked up a tray of dishes;
that the bad omen had been too much for him, and he had
dropped the tray.
The chug of the automobile as it climbed the hill was the most
welcome sound I had heard for a long time, and with Gertrude and
Halsey actually before me, my troubles seemed over for good.
Gertrude stood smiling in the hall, with her hat quite over one
ear, and her hair in every direction under her pink veil.
Gertrude is a very pretty girl, no matter how her hat is, and I
was not surprised when Halsey presented a good-looking young man,
who bowed at me and looked at Trude--that is the ridiculous
nickname Gertrude brought from school.
"I have brought a guest, Aunt Ray," Halsey said. "I want you to
adopt him into your affections and your Saturday-to-Monday list.
Let me present John Bailey, only you must call him Jack. In
twelve hours he'll be calling you `Aunt': I know him."
We shook hands, and I got a chance to look at Mr. Bailey; he was
a tall fellow, perhaps thirty, and he wore a small mustache. I
remember wondering why: he seemed to have a good mouth and when
he smiled his teeth were above the average. One never knows why
certain men cling to a messy upper lip that must get into
things, any more than one understands some women building up
their hair on wire atrocities. Otherwise, he was very good to
look at, stalwart and tanned, with the direct gaze that I like.
I am particular about Mr. Bailey, because he was a prominent
figure in what happened later.
Gertrude was tired with the trip and went up to bed very soon. I
made up my mind to tell them nothing; until the next day, and
then to make as light of our excitement as possible. After all,
what had I to tell? An inquisitive face peering in at a window;
a crash in the night; a scratch or two on the stairs, and half a
cuff-button! As for Thomas and his forebodings, it was always my
belief that a negro is one part thief, one part pigment, and the
rest superstition.
It was Saturday night. The two men went to the billiard-room,
and I could hear them talking as I went up-stairs. It seemed
that Halsey had stopped at the Greenwood Club for gasolene and
found Jack Bailey there, with the Sunday golf crowd. Mr. Bailey
had not been hard to persuade--probably Gertrude knew why--and
they had carried him off triumphantly. I roused Liddy to get
them something to eat--Thomas was beyond reach in the lodge--and
paid no attention to her evident terror of the kitchen
regions. Then I went to bed. The men were still in the
billiard-room when I finally dozed off, and the last thing I
remember was the howl of a dog in front of the house. It wailed
a crescendo of woe that trailed off hopefully, only to break out
afresh from a new point of the compass.
At three o'clock in the morning I was roused by a revolver shot.
The sound seemed to come from just outside my door. For a moment
I could not move. Then--I heard Gertrude stirring in her room,
and the next moment she had thrown open the connecting door.
"O Aunt Ray! Aunt Ray!" she cried hysterically. "Some one has
been killed, killed!"
"Thieves," I said shortly. "Thank goodness, there are some men
in the house to-night." I was getting into my slippers and a
bath-robe, and Gertrude with shaking hands was lighting a lamp.
Then we opened the door into the hall, where, crowded on the
upper landing of the stairs, the maids, white-faced and
trembling, were peering down, headed by Liddy. I was greeted by
a series of low screams and questions, and I tried to quiet them.
Gertrude had dropped on a chair and sat there limp and shivering.
I went at once across the hall to Halsey's room and knocked; then
I pushed the door open. It was empty; the bed had not been
"He must be in Mr. Bailey's room," I said excitedly, and followed
by Liddy, we went there. Like Halsey's, it had not been
occupied! Gertrude was on her feet now, but she leaned against
the door for support.
"They have been killed!" she gasped. Then she caught me by the
arm and dragged me toward the stairs. "They may only be hurt,
and we must find them," she said, her eyes dilated with
I don't remember how we got down the stairs: I do remember
expecting every moment to be killed. The cook was at the
telephone up-stairs, calling the Greenwood Club, and Liddy was
behind me, afraid to come and not daring to stay behind. We
found the living-room and the drawing-room undisturbed. Somehow
I felt that whatever we found would be in the card-room or on the
staircase, and nothing but the fear that Halsey was in danger
drove me on; with every step my knees seemed to give way under
me. Gertrude was ahead and in the card-room she stopped, holding
her candle high. Then she pointed silently to the doorway
into the hall beyond. Huddled there on the floor, face down,
with his arms extended, was a man.
Gertrude ran forward with a gasping sob. "Jack," she cried, "oh,
Liddy had run, screaming, and the two of us were there alone. It
was Gertrude who turned him over, finally, until we could see his
white face, and then she drew a deep breath and dropped limply to
her knees. It was the body of a man, a gentleman, in a dinner
coat and white waistcoat, stained now with blood--the body of a
man I had never seen before.
Gertrude gazed at the face in a kind of g fascination. Then she
put out her hands blindly, and I thought she was going to faint.
"He has killed him!" she muttered almost inarticulately; and at
that, because my nerves were going, I gave her a good shake.
"What do you mean?" I said frantically. There was a depth of
grief and conviction in her tone that was worse than anything she
could have said. The shake braced her, anyhow, and she seemed to
pull herself together. But not another word would she say: she
stood gazing down at that gruesome figure on the floor, while
Liddy, ashamed of her flight and afraid to come back alone, drove
before her three terrified women-servants into the drawing-room,
which was as near as any of them would venture.
Once in the drawing-room, Gertrude collapsed and went from one
fainting spell into another. I had all I could do to keep Liddy
from drowning her with cold water, and the maids huddled in a
corner, as much use as so many sheep. In a short time, although
it seemed hours, a car came rushing up, and Anne Watson, who had
waited to dress, opened the door. Three men from the Greenwood
Club, in all kinds of costumes, hurried in. I recognized a Mr.
Jarvis, but the others were strangers.
"What's wrong?" the Jarvis man asked--and we made a strange
picture, no doubt. "Nobody hurt, is there?" He was looking at
"Worse than that, Mr. Jarvis," I said. "I think it is murder."
At the word there was a commotion. The cook began to cry, and
Mrs. Watson knocked over a chair. The men were visibly
"Not any member of the family?" Mr. Jarvis asked, when he had got
his breath.
"No," I said; and motioning Liddy to look after Gertrude, I led
the way with a lamp to the card-room door. One of the men gave
an exclamation, and they all hurried across the room. Mr. Jarvis
took the lamp from me--I remember that--and then, feeling
myself getting dizzy and light-headed, I closed my eyes. When I
opened them their brief examination was over, and Mr. Jarvis was
trying to put me in a chair.
"You must get up-stairs," he said firmly, "you and Miss Gertrude,
too. This has been a terrible shock. In his own home, too."
I stared at him without comprehension. "Who is it?" I asked with
difficulty. There was a band drawn tight around my throat.
"It is Arnold Armstrong," he said, looking at me oddly, "and he
has been murdered in his father's house."
After a minute I gathered myself together and Mr. Jarvis helped
me into the living-room. Liddy had got Gertrude up-stairs, and
the two strange men from the club stayed with the body. The
reaction from the shock and strain was tremendous: I was
collapsed--and then Mr. Jarvis asked me a question that brought
back my wandering faculties.
"Where is Halsey?" he asked.
"Halsey!" Suddenly Gertrude's stricken face rose before me the
empty rooms up-stairs. Where was Halsey?
"He was here, wasn't he?" Mr. Jarvis persisted. "He stopped at
the club on his way over."
"I--don't know where he is," I said feebly.
One of the men from the club came in, asked for the telephone,
and I could hear him excitedly talking, saying something about
coroners and detectives. Mr. Jarvis leaned over to me.
"Why don't you trust me, Miss Innes?" he said. "If I can do
anything I will. But tell me the whole thing."
I did, finally, from the beginning, and when I told of Jack
Bailey's being in the house that night, he gave a long whistle.
"I wish they were both here," he said when I finished. "Whatever
mad prank took them away, it would look better if they were here.
"Especially what?"
"Especially since Jack Bailey and Arnold Armstrong were
notoriously bad friends. It was Bailey who got Arnold into
trouble last spring--something about the bank. And then, too--"
"Go on," I said. "If there is anything more, I ought to know."
"There's nothing more," he said evasively. "There's just one
thing we may bank on, Miss Innes. Any court in the country will
acquit a man who kills an intruder in his house, at night. If
"Why, you don't think Halsey did it!" I exclaimed. There was a
queer feeling of physical nausea coming over me.
"No, no, not at all," he said with forced cheerfulness. "Come,
Miss Innes, you're a ghost of yourself and I am going to help you
up-stairs and call your maid. This has been too much for you."
Liddy helped me back to bed, and under the impression that I was
in danger of freezing to death, put a hot-water bottle over my
heart and another at my feet. Then she left me. It was early
dawn now, and from voices under my window I surmised that Mr.
Jarvis and his companions were searching the grounds. As for me,
I lay in bed, with every faculty awake. Where had Halsey gone?
How had he gone, and when? Before the murder, no doubt, but who
would believe that? If either he or Jack Bailey had heard an
intruder in the house and shot him--as they might have been
justified in doing--why had they run away? The whole thing was
unheard of, outrageous, and--impossible to ignore.
About six o'clock Gertrude came in. She was fully dressed, and I
sat up nervously.
"Poor Aunty!" she said. "What a shocking night you have had!"
She came over and sat down on the bed, and I saw she looked very
tired and worn.
"Is there anything new?" I asked anxiously.
"Nothing. The car is gone, but Warner"--he is the chauffeur--
"Warner is at the lodge and knows nothing about it."
"Well," I said, "if I ever get my hands on Halsey Innes, I shall
not let go until I have told him a few things. When we get this
cleared up, I am going back to the city to be quiet. One more
night like the last two will end me. The peace of the country--
fiddle sticks!"
Whereupon I told Gertrude of the noises the night before, and the
figure on the veranda in the east wing. As an afterthought I
brought out the pearl cuff-link.
"I have no doubt now," I said, "that it was Arnold Armstrong the
night before last, too. He had a key, no doubt, but why he
should steal into his father's house I can not imagine. He could
have come with my permission, easily enough. Anyhow, whoever it
was that night, left this little souvenir."
Gertrude took one look at the cuff-link, and went as white as the
pearls in it; she clutched at the foot of the bed, and stood
staring. As for me, I was quite as astonished as she was.
"Where did--you--find it?" she asked finally, with a desperate
effort at calm. And while I told her she stood looking out of
the window with a look I could not fathom on her face. It was a
relief when Mrs. Watson tapped at the door and brought me some
tea and toast. The cook was in bed, completely demoralized, she
reported, and Liddy, brave with the daylight, was looking for
footprints around the house. Mrs. Watson herself was a wreck;
she was blue-white around the lips, and she had one hand tied up.
She said she had fallen down-stairs in her excitement. It was
natural, of course, that the thing would shock her, having been
the Armstrongs' housekeeper for several years, and knowing Mr.
Arnold well.
Gertrude had slipped out during my talk with Mrs. Watson, and I
dressed and went down-stairs. The billiard and card-rooms were
locked until the coroner and the detectives got there, and the
men from the club had gone back for more conventional clothing.
I could hear Thomas in the pantry, alternately wailing for
Mr. Arnold, as he called him, and citing the tokens that had
precursed the murder. The house seemed to choke me, and,
slipping a shawl around me, I went out on the drive. At the
corner by the east wing I met Liddy. Her skirts were draggled
with dew to her knees, and her hair was still in crimps.
"Go right in and change your clothes," I said sharply. "You're a
sight, and at your age!"
She had a golf-stick in her hand, and she said she had found it
on the lawn. There was nothing unusual about it, but it occurred
to me that a golf-stick with a metal end might have been the
object that had scratched the stairs near the card-room. I took
it from her, and sent her up for dry garments. Her daylight
courage and self-importance, and her shuddering delight in the
mystery, irritated me beyond words. After I left her I made a
circuit of the building. Nothing seemed to be disturbed: the
house looked as calm and peaceful in the morning sun as it had
the day I had been coerced into taking it. There was nothing to
show that inside had been mystery and violence and sudden death.
In one of the tulip beds back of the house an early blackbird was
pecking viciously at something that glittered in the light.
I picked my way gingerly over through the dew and stooped down:
almost buried in the soft ground was a revolver! I scraped the
earth off it with the tip of my shoe, and, picking it up, slipped
it into my pocket. Not until I had got into my bedroom and
double-locked the door did I venture to take it out and examine
it. One look was all I needed. It was Halsey's revolver. I had
unpacked it the day before and put it on his shaving-stand, and
there could be no mistake. His name was on a small silver plate
on the handle.
I seemed to see a network closing around my boy, innocent as I
knew he was. The revolver--I am afraid of them, but anxiety gave
me courage to look through the barrel--the revolver had still two
bullets in it. I could only breathe a prayer of thankfulness
that I had found the revolver before any sharp-eyed detective had
come around.
I decided to keep what clues I had, the cuff-link, the golf-stick
and the revolver, in a secure place until I could see some reason
for displaying them. The cuff-link had been dropped into a
little filigree box on my toilet table. I opened the box and
felt around for it. The box was empty--the cuff-link had
At ten o'clock the Casanova hack brought up three men. They
introduced themselves as the coroner of the county and two
detectives from the city. The coroner led the way at once to the
locked wing, and with the aid of one of the detectives examined
the rooms and the body. The other detective, after a short
scrutiny of the dead man, busied himself with the outside of the
house. It was only after they had got a fair idea of things as
they were that they sent for me.
I received them in the living-room, and I had made up my mind
exactly what to tell. I had taken the house for the summer, I
said, while the Armstrongs were in California. In spite of a
rumor among the servants about strange noises--I cited Thomas--
nothing had occurred the first two nights. On the third
night I believed that some one had been m the house: I had heard
a crashing sound, but being alone with one maid had not
investigated. The house had been locked in the morning and
apparently undisturbed.
Then, as clearly as I could, I related how, the night before, a
shot had roused us; that my niece and I had investigated and
found a body; that I did not know who the murdered man was until
Mr. Jarvis from the club informed me, and that I knew of no
reason why Mr. Arnold Armstrong should steal into his father's
house at night. I should have been glad to allow him entree
there at any time.
"Have you reason to believe, Miss Innes," the coroner asked,
"that any member of your household, imagining Mr. Armstrong was a
burglar, shot him in self-defense?"
"I have no reason for thinking so," I said quietly.
"Your theory is that Mr. Armstrong was followed here by some
enemy, and shot as he entered the house?"
"I don't think I have a theory," I said. "The thing that has
puzzled me is why Mr. Armstrong should enter his father's house
two nights in succession, stealing in like a thief, when he
needed only to ask entrance to be admitted."
The coroner was a very silent man: he took some notes after this,
but he seemed anxious to make the next train back to town. He
set the inquest for the following Saturday, gave Mr. Jamieson,
the younger of the two detectives, and the more intelligent
looking, a few instructions, and, after gravely shaking hands
with me and regretting the unfortunate affair, took his
departure, accompanied by the other detective.
I was just beginning to breathe freely when Mr. Jamieson, who had
been standing by the window, came over to me.
"The family consists of yourself alone, Miss Innes?"
"My niece is here," I said.
"There is no one but yourself and your niece?"
"My nephew." I had to moisten my lips.
"Oh, a nephew. I should like to see him, if he is here."
"He is not here just now," I said as quietly as I could. "I
expect him--at any time."
"He was here yesterday evening, I believe?"
"Didn't he have a guest with him? Another man?"
"He brought a friend with him to stay over Sunday, Mr. Bailey."
"Mr. John Bailey, the cashier of the Traders' Bank I believe."
And I knew that some one at the Greenwood Club had told. "When
did they leave?"
"Very early--I don't know at just what time."
Mr. Jamieson turned suddenly and looked at me.
"Please try to be more explicit," he said. "You say your nephew
and Mr. Bailey were in the house last night, and yet you and your
niece, with some women-servants, found the body. Where was your
I was entirely desperate by that time.
"I do not know," I cried, "but be sure of this: Halsey knows
nothing of this thing, and no amount of circumstantial evidence
can make an innocent man guilty."
"Sit down," he said, pushing forward a chair. "There are some
things I have to tell you, and, in return, please tell me all you
know. Believe me, things always come out. In the first place,
Mr. Armstrong was shot from above. The bullet was fired at close
range, entered below the shoulder and came out, after passing
through the heart, well down the back. In other words, I
believe the murderer stood on the stairs and fired down. In the
second place, I found on the edge of the billiard-table a charred
cigar which had burned itself partly out, and a cigarette which
had consumed itself to the cork tip. Neither one had been more
than lighted, then put down and forgotten. Have you any idea
what it was that made your nephew and Mr. Bailey leave their
cigars and their game, take out the automobile without calling
the chauffeur, and all this at--let me see certainly before three
o'clock in the morning?"
"I don't know," I said; "but depend on it, Mr. Jamieson, Halsey
will be back himself to explain everything."
"I sincerely hope so," he said. "Miss Innes, has it occurred to
you that Mr. Bailey might know something of this?"
Gertrude had come down-stairs and just as he spoke she came in.
I saw her stop suddenly, as if she had been struck.
"He does not," she said in a tone that was not her own. "Mr.
Bailey and my brother know nothing of this. The murder was
committed at three. They left the house at a quarter before
"How do you know that?" Mr. Jamieson asked oddly. "Do you
KNOW at what time they left?"
"I do," Gertrude answered firmly. "At a quarter before three my
brother and Mr. Bailey left the house, by the main entrance. I--
"Gertrude," I said excitedly, "you are dreaming! Why, at a
quarter to three--"
"Listen," she said. "At half-past two the downstairs telephone
rang. I had not gone to sleep, and I heard it. Then I heard
Halsey answer it, and in a few minutes he came up-stairs and
knocked at my door. We--we talked for a minute, then I put on my
dressing-gown and slippers, and went down-stairs with him. Mr.
Bailey was in the billiard-room. We--we all talked together for
perhaps ten minutes. Then it was decided that--that they should
both go away--"
"Can't you be more explicit?" Mr. Jamieson asked. "WHY did
they go away?"
"I am only telling you what happened, not why it happened," she
said evenly. "Halsey went for the car, and instead of bringing
it to the house and rousing people, he went by the lower road
from the stable. Mr. Bailey was to meet him at the foot of the
lawn. Mr. Bailey left--"
"Which way?" Mr. Jamieson asked sharply.
"By the main entrance. He left--it was a quarter to three. I
know exactly."
"The clock in the hall is stopped, Miss Innes," said Jamieson.
Nothing seemed to escape him.
"He looked at his watch," she replied, and I could see Mr.
Jamieson's snap, as if he had made a discovery. As for myself,
during the whole recital I had been plunged into the deepest
"Will you pardon me for a personal question?" The detective was
a youngish man, and I thought he was somewhat embarrassed. "What
are your--your relations with Mr. Bailey?"
Gertrude hesitated. Then she came over and put her hand lovingly
in mine.
"I am engaged to marry him," she said simply.
I had grown so accustomed to surprises that I could only gasp
again, and as for Gertrude, the hand that lay in mine was burning
with fever.
"And--after that," Mr. Jamieson went on, "you went directly to
Gertrude hesitated.
"No," she said finally. "I--I am not nervous, and after I had
extinguished the light, I remembered something I had left in
the billiard-room, and I felt my way back there through the
"Will you tell me what it was you had forgotten?"
"I can not tell you," she said slowly. "I--I did not leave the
billiard-room at once--"
"Why?" The detective's tone was imperative. "This is very
important, Miss Innes."
"I was crying," Gertrude said in a low tone. "When the French
clock in the drawing-room struck three, I got up, and then--I
heard a step on the east porch, just outside the card-room. Some
one with a key was working with the latch, and I thought, of
course, of Halsey. When we took the house he called that his
entrance, and he had carried a key for it ever since. The door
opened and I was about to ask what he had forgotten, when there
was a flash and a report. Some heavy body dropped, and, half
crazed with terror and shock, I ran through the drawing-room and
got up-stairs--I scarcely remember how."
She dropped into a chair, and I thought Mr. Jamieson must have
finished. But he was not through.
"You certainly clear your brother and Mr. Bailey admirably," he
said. "The testimony is invaluable, especially in view of the
fact that your brother and Mr. Armstrong had, I believe,
quarreled rather seriously some time ago."
"Nonsense," I broke in. "Things are bad enough, Mr. Jamieson,
without inventing bad feeling where it doesn't exist. Gertrude,
I don't think Halsey knew the--the murdered man, did he?"
But Mr. Jamieson was sure of his ground.
"The quarrel, I believe," he persisted, "was about Mr.
Armstrong's conduct to you, Miss Gertrude. He had been paying
you unwelcome attentions."
And I had never seen the man!
When she nodded a "yes" I saw the tremendous possibilities
involved. If this detective could prove that Gertrude feared and
disliked the murdered man, and that Mr. Armstrong had been
annoying and possibly pursuing her with hateful attentions, all
that, added to Gertrude's confession of her presence in the
billiard-room at the time of the crime, looked strange, to say
the least. The prominence of the family assured a strenuous
effort to find the murderer, and if we had nothing worse to look
forward to, we were sure of a distasteful publicity.
Mr. Jamieson shut his note-book with a snap, and thanked us.
"I have an idea," he said, apropos of nothing at all, "that at
any rate the ghost is laid here. Whatever the rappings have
been--and the colored man says they began when the family went
west three months ago--they are likely to stop now."
Which shows how much he knew about it. The ghost was not laid:
with the murder of Arnold Armstrong he, or it, only seemed to
take on fresh vigor.
Mr. Jamieson left then, and when Gertrude had gone up-stairs, as
she did at once, I sat and thought over what I had just heard.
Her engagement, once so engrossing a matter, paled now beside the
significance of her story. If Halsey and Jack Bailey had left
before the crime, how came Halsey's revolver in the tulip bed?
What was the mysterious cause of their sudden flight? What had
Gertrude left in the billiard-room? What was the significance of
the cuff-link, and where was it?
When the detective left he enjoined absolute secrecy on everybody
in the household. The Greenwood Club promised the same thing,
and as there are no Sunday afternoon papers, the murder was not
publicly known until Monday. The coroner himself notified the
Armstrong family lawyer, and early in the afternoon he came out.
I had not seen Mr. Jamieson since morning, but I knew he had been
interrogating the servants. Gertrude was locked in her room with
a headache, and I had luncheon alone.
Mr. Harton, the lawyer, was a little, thin man, and he looked as
if he did not relish his business that day.
"This is very unfortunate, Miss Innes," he said, after we had
shaken hands. "Most unfortunate--and mysterious. With the
father and mother in the west, I find everything devolves on me;
and, as you can understand, it is an unpleasant duty."
"No doubt," I said absently. "Mr. Harton, I am going to ask you
some questions, and I hope you will answer them. I feel that I
am entitled to some knowledge, because I and my family are just
now in a most ambiguous position."
I don't know whether he understood me or not: he took of his
glasses and wiped them.
"I shall be very happy," he said with old-fashioned courtesy.
"Thank you. Mr. Harton, did Mr. Arnold Armstrong know that
Sunnyside had been rented?"
"I think--yes, he did. In fact, I myself told him about it."
"And he knew who the tenants were?"
"He had not been living with the family for some years, I
"No. Unfortunately, there had been trouble between Arnold and
his father. For two years he had lived in town."
"Then it would be unlikely that he came here last night to get
possession of anything belonging to him?"
"I should think it hardly possible," he admitted.
"To be perfectly frank, Miss Innes, I can not think of any reason
whatever for his coming here as he did. He had been staying at
the club-house across the valley for the last week, Jarvis tells
me, but that only explains how he came here, not why. It is a
most unfortunate family."
He shook his head despondently, and I felt that this dried-up
little man was the repository of much that he had not told me. I
gave up trying to elicit any information from him, and we went
together to view the body before it was taken to the city. It
had been lifted on to the billiard-table and a sheet thrown over
it; otherwise nothing had been touched. A soft hat lay beside
it, and the collar of the dinner-coat was still turned up. The
handsome, dissipated face of Arnold Armstrong, purged of its ugly
lines, was now only pathetic. As we went in Mrs. Watson appeared
at the card-room door.
"Come in, Mrs. Watson," the lawyer said. But she shook her head
and withdrew: she was the only one in the house who seemed to
regret the dead man, and even she seemed rather shocked than
I went to the door at the foot of the circular staircase and
opened it. If I could only have seen Halsey coming at his
usual hare-brained clip up the drive, if I could have heard the
throb of the motor, I would have felt that my troubles were over.
But there was nothing to be seen. The countryside lay sunny and
quiet in its peaceful Sunday afternoon calm, and far down the
drive Mr. Jamieson was walking slowly, stooping now and then, as
if to examine the road. When I went back, Mr. Harton was
furtively wiping his eyes.
"The prodigal has come home, Miss Innes," he said. "How often
the sins of the fathers are visited on the children!" Which left
me pondering.
Before Mr. Harton left, he told me something of the Armstrong
family. Paul Armstrong, the father, had been married twice.
Arnold was a son by the first marriage. The second Mrs.
Armstrong had been a widow, with a child, a little girl. This
child, now perhaps twenty, was Louise Armstrong, having taken her
stepfather's name, and was at present in California with the
"They will probably return at once," he concluded "sad part of my
errand here to-day is to see if you will relinquish your lease
here in their favor."
"We would better wait and see if they wish to come," I said.
"It seems unlikely, and my town house is being remodeled." At
that he let the matter drop, but it came up unpleasantly enough,
At six o'clock the body was taken away, and at seven-thirty,
after an early dinner, Mr. Harton went. Gertrude had not come
down, and there was no news of Halsey. Mr. Jamieson had taken a
lodging in the village, and I had not seen him since midafternoon.
It was about nine o'clock, I think, when the bell
rang and he was ushered into the living-room.
"Sit down," I said grimly. "Have you found a clue that will
incriminate me, Mr. Jamieson?"
He had the grace to look uncomfortable. "No," he said. "If you
had killed Mr. Armstrong, you would have left no clues. You
would have had too much intelligence."
After that we got along better. He was fishing in his pocket,
and after a minute he brought out two scraps of paper. "I have
been to the club-house," he said, "and among Mr. Armstrong's
effects, I found these. One is curious; the other is puzzling."
The first was a sheet of club note-paper, on which was written,
over and over, the name "Halsey B. Innes." It was Halsey's
flowing signature to a dot, but it lacked Halsey's ease. The
ones toward the bottom of the sheet were much better than the top
ones. Mr. Jamieson smiled at my face.
"His old tricks," he said. "That one is merely curious; this
one, as I said before, is puzzling."
The second scrap, folded and refolded into a compass so tiny that
the writing had been partly obliterated, was part of a letter--
the lower half of a sheet, not typed, but written in a cramped
"----by altering the plans for----rooms, may be possible. The
best way, in my opinion, would be to----the plan for----in one of
That was all.
"Well?" I said, looking up. "There is nothing in that, is there?
A man ought to be able to change the plan of his house without
becoming an object of suspicion."
"There is little in the paper itself," he admitted; "but why
should Arnold Armstrong carry that around, unless it meant
something? He never built a house, you may be sure of that. If
it is this house, it may mean anything, from a secret room--"
"To an extra bath-room," I said scornfully. "Haven't you a
thumb-print, too?"
"I have," he said with a smile, "and the print of a foot in a
tulip bed, and a number of other things. The oddest part is,
Miss Innes, that the thumb-mark is probably yours and the
footprint certainly."
His audacity was the only thing that saved me: his amused smile
put me on my mettle, and I ripped out a perfectly good scallop
before I answered.
"Why did I step into the tulip bed?" I asked with interest.
"You picked up something," he said good-humoredly, "which you are
going to tell me about later."
"Am I, indeed?" I was politely curious. "With this remarkable
insight of yours, I wish you would tell me where I shall find my
four-thousand-dollar motor car."
"I was just coming to that," he said. "You will find it about
thirty miles away, at Andrews Station, in a blacksmith shop,
where it is being repaired."
I laid down my knitting then and looked at him.
"And Halsey?" I managed to say.
"We are going to exchange information," he said "I am going to
tell you that, when you tell me what you picked up in the tulip
We looked steadily at each other: it was not an unfriendly
stare; we were only measuring weapons. Then he smiled a little
and got up.
"With your permission," he said, "I am going to examine the cardroom
and the staircase again. You might think over my offer in
the meantime."
He went on through the drawing-room, and I listened to his
footsteps growing gradually fainter. I dropped my pretense at
knitting and, leaning back, I thought over the last forty-eight
hours. Here was I, Rachel Innes, spinster, a granddaughter of
old John Innes of Revolutionary days, a D. A. R., a Colonial
Dame, mixed up with a vulgar and revolting crime, and even
attempting to hoodwink the law! Certainly I had left the
straight and narrow way.
I was roused by hearing Mr. Jamieson coming rapidly back through
the drawing-room. He stopped at the door.
"Miss Innes," he said quickly, "will you come with me and light
the east corridor? I have fastened somebody in the small room at
the head of the card-room stairs."
I jumped! up at once.
"You mean--the murderer?" I gasped.
"Possibly," he said quietly, as we hurried together up the
stairs. "Some one was lurking on the staircase when I went back.
I spoke; instead of an answer, whoever it was turned and ran up.
I followed--it was dark--but as I turned the corner at the top a
figure darted through this door and closed it. The bolt was on
my side, and I pushed it forward. It is a closet, I think." We
were in the upper hall now. "If you will show me the electric
switch, Miss Innes, you would better wait in your own room."
Trembling as I was, I was determined to see that door opened. I
hardly knew what I feared, but so many terrible and inexplicable
things had happened that suspense was worse than certainty.
"I am perfectly cool," I said, "and I am going to remain here."
The lights flashed up along that end of the corridor, throwing
the doors into relief. At the intersection of the small hallway
with the larger, the circular staircase wound its way up, as if
it had been an afterthought of the architect. And just around
the corner, in the small corridor, was the door Mr. Jamieson had
indicated. I was still unfamiliar with the house, and I did not
remember the door. My heart was thumping wildly in my ears, but
I nodded to him to go ahead. I was perhaps eight or ten feet
away--and then he threw the bolt back.
"Come out," he said quietly. There was no response. "Come--
out," he repeated. Then--I think he had a revolver, but I am not
sure--he stepped aside and threw the door open.
From where I stood I could not see beyond the door, but I saw Mr.
Jamieson's face change and heard him mutter something, then he
bolted down the stairs, three at a time. When my knees had
stopped shaking, I moved forward, slowly, nervously, until I had
a partial view of what was beyond the door. It seemed at first
to be a closet, empty. Then I went close and examined it, to
stop with a shudder. Where the floor should have been was black
void and darkness, from which came the indescribable, damp smell
of the cellars.
Mr, Jamieson had locked somebody in the clothes chute. As I
leaned over I fancied I heard a groan--or was it the wind?
I was panic-stricken. As I ran along the corridor I was
confident that the mysterious intruder and probable murderer had
been found, and that he lay dead or dying at the foot of the
chute. I got down the staircase somehow, and through the kitchen
to the basement stairs. Mr. Jamieson had been before me, and the
door stood open. Liddy was standing in the middle of the
kitchen, holding a frying-pan by the handle as a weapon.
"Don't go down there," she yelled, when she saw me moving toward
the basement stairs. "Don't you do it, Miss Rachel. That
Jamieson's down there now. There's only trouble comes of hunting
ghosts; they lead you into bottomless pits and things like that.
Oh, Miss Rachel, don't--" as I tried to get past her.
She was interrupted by Mr. Jamieson's reappearance. He ran up
the stairs two at a time, and his face was flushed and
"The whole place is locked," he said angrily. where's the
laundry key kept?"
"It's kept in the door," Liddy snapped. "That whole end of the
cellar is kept locked, so nobody can get at the clothes, and then
the key's left in the door? so that unless a thief was as blind
as--as some detectives, he could walk right in."
"Liddy," I said sharply, "come down with us and turn on all the
She offered her resignation, as usual, on the spot, but I took
her by the arm, and she came along finally. She switched on all
the lights and pointed to a door just ahead.
"That's the door," she said sulkily. "The key's in it."
But the key was not in it. Mr. Jamieson shook it, but it was a
heavy door, well locked. And then he stooped and began punching
around the keyhole with the end of a lead-pencil. When he stood
up his face was exultant.
"It's locked on the inside," he said in a low tone. "There is
somebody in there."
"Lord have mercy!" gasped Liddy, and turned to run.
"Liddy," I called, "go through the house at once and see who is
missing, or if any one is. We'll have to clear this thing at
once. Mr. Jamieson, if you will watch here I will go to the
lodge and find Warner. Thomas would be of no use. Together you
may be able to force the door."
"A good idea," he assented. "But--there are windows, of course,
and there is nothing to prevent whoever is in there from getting
out that way."
"Then lock the door at the top of the basement stairs," I
suggested, "and patrol the house from the outside."
We agreed to this, and I had a feeling that the mystery of
Sunnyside was about to be solved. I ran down the steps and along
the drive. Just at the corner I ran full tilt into somebody who
seemed to be as much alarmed as I was. It was not until I had
recoiled a step or two that I recognized Gertrude, and she me.
"Good gracious, Aunt Ray," she exclaimed, "what is the matter?"
"There's somebody locked in the laundry," I panted. "That is--
unless--you didn't see any one crossing the lawn or skulking
around the house, did you?"
"I think we have mystery on the brain," Gertrude said wearily.
"No, I haven't seen any one, except old Thomas, who looked for
all the world as if he had been ransacking the pantry. What have
you locked in the laundry?"
"I can't wait to explain," I replied. "I must get Warner from
the lodge. If you came out for air, you'd better put on your
overshoes." And then I noticed that Gertrude was limping--not
much, but sufficiently to make her progress very slow, and
seemingly painful.
"You have hurt yourself," I said sharply.
"I fell over the carriage block," she explained. "I thought
perhaps I might see Halsey coming home. He--he ought to be
I hurried on down the drive. The lodge was some distance from
the house, in a grove of trees where the drive met the county
road. There were two white stone pillars to mark the entrance,
but the iron gates, once closed and tended by the lodge-keeper,
now stood permanently open. The day of the motor-car had come;
no one had time for closed gates and lodge-keepers. The lodge at
Sunnyside was merely a sort of supplementary servants' quarters:
it was as convenient in its appointments as the big house and
infinitely more cozy.
As I went down the drive, my thoughts were busy. Who would it be
that Mr. Jamieson had trapped in the cellar? Would we find a
body or some one badly injured? Scarcely either. Whoever had
fallen had been able to lock the laundry door on the inside. If
the fugitive had come from outside the house, how did he get in?
If it was some member of the household, who could it have been?
And then--a feeling of horror almost overwhelmed me. Gertrude!
Gertrude and her injured ankle! Gertrude found limping slowly up
the drive when I had thought she was in bed!
I tried to put the thought away, but it would not go. If
Gertrude had been on the circular staircase that night, why had
she fled from Mr. Jamieson? The idea, puzzling as it was, seemed
borne out by this circumstance. Whoever had taken refuge at the
head of the stairs could scarcely have been familiar with the
house, or with the location of the chute. The mystery seemed to
deepen constantly. What possible connection could there be
between Halsey and Gertrude, and the murder of Arnold Armstrong?
And yet, every way I turned I seemed to find something that
pointed to such a connection.
At the foot of the drive the road described a long, sloping,
horseshoe-shaped curve around the lodge. There were lights
there, streaming cheerfully out on to the trees, and from an
upper room came wavering shadows, as if some one with a lamp was
moving around. I had come almost silently in my evening
slippers, and I had my second collision of the evening on the
road just above the house. I ran full into a man in a long coat,
who was standing in the shadow beside the drive, with his back to
me, watching the lighted windows.
"What the hell!" he ejaculated furiously, and turned around.
When he saw me, however, he did not wait for any retort on my
part. He faded away--this is not slang; he did--he absolutely
disappeared in the dusk without my getting more than a glimpse of
his face. I had a vague impression of unfamiliar features and of
a sort of cap with a visor. Then he was gone.
I went to the lodge and rapped. It required two or three
poundings to bring Thomas to the door, and he opened it only an
inch or so.
"Where is Warner?" I asked.
"I--I think he's in bed, ma'm."
"Get him up," I said, "and for goodness' sake open the door,
Thomas. I'll wait for Warner."
"It's kind o' close in here, ma'm," he said, obeying gingerly,
and disclosing a cool and comfortable looking interior. "Perhaps
you'd keer to set on the porch an' rest yo'self."
It was so evident that Thomas did not want me inside that I went
"Tell Warner he is needed in a hurry," I repeated, and turned
into the little sitting-room. I could hear Thomas going up the
stairs, could hear him rouse Warner, and the steps of the
chauffeur as he hurriedly dressed. But my attention was busy
with the room below.
On the center-table, open, was a sealskin traveling bag. It was
filled with gold-topped bottles and brushes, and it breathed
opulence, luxury, femininity from every inch of surface. How did
it get there? I was still asking myself the question when Warner
came running down the stairs and into the room. He was
completely but somewhat incongruously dressed, and his open,
boyish face looked abashed. He was a country boy, absolutely
frank and reliable, of fair education and intelligence--one of
the small army of American youths who turn a natural aptitude for
mechanics into the special field of the automobile, and earn good
salaries in a congenial occupation.
"What is it, Miss Innes?" he asked anxiously.
"There is some one locked in the laundry," I replied. "Mr.
Jamieson wants you to help him break the lock. Warner, whose bag
is this?"
He was in the doorway by this time, and he pretended not to hear.
"Warner," I called, "come back here. Whose bag is this?"
He stopped then, but he did not turn around.
"It's--it belongs to Thomas," he said, and fled up the drive.
To Thomas! A London bag with mirrors and cosmetic jars of which
Thomas could not even have guessed the use! However, I put the
bag in the back of my mind, which was fast becoming stored with
anomalous and apparently irreconcilable facts, and followed
Warner to the house.
Liddy had come back to the kitchen: the door to the basement
stairs was double-barred, and had a table pushed against it;
and beside her on the table was most of the kitchen
"Did you see if there was any one missing in the house?" I asked,
ignoring the array of sauce-pans rolling-pins, and the poker of
the range.
"Rosie is missing," Liddy said with unction. She had objected to
Rosie, the parlor maid, from the start. "Mrs. Watson went into
her room, and found she had gone without her hat. People that
trust themselves a dozen miles from the city, in strange houses,
with servants they don't know, needn't be surprised if they wake
up some morning and find their throats cut."
After which carefully veiled sarcasm Liddy relapsed into gloom.
Warner came in then with a handful of small tools, and Mr.
Jamieson went with him to the basement. Oddly enough, I was not
alarmed. With all my heart I wished for Halsey, but I was not
frightened. At the door he was to force, Warner put down his
tools and looked at it. Then he turned the handle. Without the
slightest difficulty the door opened, revealing the blackness of
the drying-room beyond!
Mr. Jamieson gave an exclamation of disgust.
"Gone!" he said. "Confound such careless work! I might have
It was true enough. We got the lights on finally and looked all
through the three rooms that constituted this wing of the
basement. Everything was quiet and empty. An explanation of how
the fugitive had escaped injury was found in a heaped-up basket
of clothes under the chute. The basket had been overturned, but
that was all. Mr. Jamieson examined the windows: one was
unlocked, and offered an easy escape. The window or the door?
Which way had the fugitive escaped? The door seemed most
probable, and I hoped it had been so. I could not have borne,
just then, to think that it was my poor Gertrude we had been
hounding through the darkness, and yet--I had met Gertrude not
far from that very window.
I went up-stairs at last, tired and depressed. Mrs. Watson and
Liddy were making tea in the kitchen. In certain walks of life
the tea-pot is the refuge in times of stress, trouble or
sickness: they give tea to the dying and they put it in the
baby's nursing bottle. Mrs. Watson was fixing a tray to be sent
in to me, and when I asked her about Rosie she confirmed her
"She's not here," she said; "but I would not think much of that,
Miss Innes. Rosie is a pretty young girl, and perhaps she has a
sweetheart. It will be a good thing if she has. The maids stay
much better when they have something like that to hold them
Gertrude had gone back to her room, and while I was drinking my
cup of hot tea, Mr. Jamieson came in.
"We might take up the conversation where we left off an hour and
a half ago," he said. "But before we go on, I want to say this:
The person who escaped from the laundry was a woman with a foot
of moderate size and well arched. She wore nothing but a
stocking on her right foot, and, in spite of the unlocked door,
she escaped by the window."
And again I thought of Gertrude's sprained ankle. was it the
right or the left?
"Miss Innes," the detective began, "what is your opinion of the
figure you saw on the east veranda the night you and your maid
were in the house alone?"
"It was a woman," I said positively.
"And yet your maid affirms with equal positiveness that it was a
"Nonsense," I broke in. "Liddy had her eyes shut--she always
shuts them when she's frightened."
"And you never thought then that the intruder who came later that
night might be a woman--the woman, in fact, whom you saw on the
"I had reasons for thinking it was a man," I said remembering the
pearl cuff-link.
"Now we are getting down to business. WHAT were your reasons
for thinking that?"
I hesitated.
"If you have any reason for believing that your midnight guest
was Mr. Armstrong, other than his visit here the next night, you
ought to tell me, Miss Innes. We can take nothing for granted.
If, for instance, the intruder who dropped the bar and scratched
the staircase--you see, I know about that--if this visitor was a
woman, why should not the same woman have come back the following
night, met Mr. Armstrong on the circular staircase, and in alarm
shot him?"
"It was a man," I reiterated. And then, because I could think of
no other reason for my statement, I told him about the pearl
cuff-link. He was intensely interested.
"Will you give me the link," he said, when I finished, "or, at
least, let me see it? I consider it a most important clue."
"Won't the description do?"
"Not as well as the original."
"Well, I'm very sorry," I said, as calmly as I could, "I--the
thing is lost. It--it must have fallen out of a box on my
Whatever he thought of my explanation, and I knew he doubted it,
he made no sign. He asked me to describe the link
accurately, and I did so, while he glanced at a list he took from
his pocket.
"One set monogram cuff-links," he read, "one set plain pearl
links, one set cuff-links, woman's head set with diamonds and
emeralds. There is no mention of such a link as you describe,
and yet, if your theory is right, Mr. Armstrong must have taken
back in his cuffs one complete cuff-link, and a half, perhaps, of
the other."
The idea was new to me. If it had not been the murdered man who
had entered the house that night, who had it been?
"There are a number of strange things connected with this case,"
the detective went on. "Miss Gertrude Innes testified that she
heard some one fumbling with the lock, that the door opened, and
that almost immediately the shot was fired. Now, Miss Innes,
here is the strange part of that. Mr. Armstrong had no key with
him. There was no key in the lock, or on the floor. In other
words, the evidence points absolutely to this: Mr. Armstrong was
admitted to the house from within."
"It is impossible," I broke in. "Mr. Jamieson, do you know what
your words imply? Do you know that you are practically
accusing Gertrude Innes of admitting that man?"
"Not quite that," he said, with his friendly smile. "In fact,
Miss Innes, I am quite certain she did not. But as long as I
learn only parts of the truth, from both you and her, what can I
do? I know you picked up something in the flower bed: you refuse
to tell me what it was. I know Miss Gertrude went back to the
billiard-room to get something, she refuses to say what. You
suspect what happened to the cuff-link, but you won't tell me.
So far, all I am sure of is this: I do not believe Arnold
Armstrong was the midnight visitor who so alarmed you by
dropping--shall we say, a golf-stick? And I believe that when he
did come he was admitted by some one in the house. Who knows--it
may have been--Liddy!"
I stirred my tea angrily.
"I have always heard," I said dryly, "that undertakers'
assistants are jovial young men. A man's sense of humor seems to
be in inverse proportion to the gravity of his profession."
"A man's sense of humor is a barbarous and a cruel thing, Miss
Innes," he admitted. "It is to the feminine as the hug of a bear
is to the scratch of--well;-- anything with claws. Is that
you, Thomas? Come in."
Thomas Johnson stood in the doorway. He looked alarmed and
apprehensive, and suddenly I remembered the sealskin dressing-bag
in the lodge. Thomas came just inside the door and stood with
his head drooping, his eyes, under their shaggy gray brows, fixed
on Mr. Jamieson.
"Thomas," said the detective, not unkindly, "I sent for you to
tell us what you told Sam Bohannon at the club, the day before
Mr. Arnold was found here, dead. Let me see. You came here
Friday night to see Miss Innes, didn't you? And came to work
here Saturday morning?"
For some unexplained reason Thomas looked relieved.
"Yas, sah," he said. "You see it were like this: When Mistah
Armstrong and the fam'ly went away, Mis' Watson an' me, we was
lef' in charge till the place was rented. Mis' Watson, she've
bin here a good while, an' she warn' skeery. So she slep' in the
house. I'd bin havin' tokens--I tol' Mis' Innes some of 'em--an'
I slep' in the lodge. Then one day Mis' Watson, she came to me
an' she sez, sez she, 'Thomas, you'll hev to sleep up in the
big house. I'm too nervous to do it any more.' But I jes'
reckon to myself that ef it's too skeery fer her, it's too skeery
fer me. We had it, then, sho' nuff, and it ended up with Mis'
Watson stayin' in the lodge nights an' me lookin' fer work at de
"Did Mrs. Watson say that anything had happened to alarm her?"
"No, sah. She was jes' natchally skeered. Well, that was all,
far's I know, until the night I come over to see Mis' Innes. I
come across the valley, along the path from the club-house, and I
goes home that way. Down in the creek bottom I almost run into a
man. He wuz standin' with his back to me, an' he was workin'
with one of these yere electric light things that fit in yer
pocket. He was havin' trouble--one minute it'd flash out, an'
the nex' it'd be gone. I hed a view of 'is white dress shirt an'
tie, as I passed. I didn't see his face. But I know it warn't
Mr. Arnold. It was a taller man than Mr. Arnold. Beside that,
Mr. Arnold was playin' cards when I got to the club-house, same's
he'd been doin' all day."
"And the next morning you came back along the path," pursued Mr.
Jamieson relentlessly.
"The nex' mornin' I come back along the path an' down where I dun
see the man night befoh, I picked up this here." The old man
held out a tiny object and Mr. Jamieson took it. Then he held it
on his extended palm for me to see. It was the other half of the
pearl cuff-link!
But Mr. Jamieson was not quite through questioning him.
"And so you showed it to Sam, at the club, and asked him if he
knew any one who owned such a link, and Sam said--what?"
"Wal, Sam, he 'lowed he'd seen such a pair of cuff-buttons in a
shirt belongin' to Mr. Bailey--Mr. Jack Bailey, sah."
"I'll keep this link, Thomas, for a while," the detective said.
"That's all I wanted to know. Good night."
As Thomas shuffled out, Mr. Jamieson watched me sharply.
"You see, Miss Innes," he said, "Mr. Bailey insists on mixing
himself with this thing. If Mr. Bailey came here that Friday
night expecting to meet Arnold Armstrong, and missed him--if, as
I say, he had done this, might he not, seeing him enter the
following night, have struck him down, as he had intended
"But the motive?" I gasped.
"There could be motive proved, I think. Arnold Armstrong and
John Bailey have been enemies since the latter, as cashier of the
Traders' Bank, brought Arnold almost into the clutches of the
law. Also, you forget that both men have been paying attention
to Miss Gertrude. Bailey's flight looks bad, too."
"And you think Halsey helped him to escape?"
"Undoubtedly. Why, what could it be but flight? Miss Innes, let
me reconstruct that evening, as I see it. Bailey and Armstrong
had quarreled at the club. I learned this to-day. Your nephew
brought Bailey over. Prompted by jealous, insane fury, Armstrong
followed, coming across by the path. He entered the billiardroom
wing--perhaps rapping, and being admitted by your nephew.
Just inside he was shot, by some one on the circular staircase.
The shot fired, your nephew and Bailey left the house at once,
going toward the automobile house. They left by the lower road,
which prevented them being heard, and when you and Miss Gertrude
got down-stairs everything was quiet."
"But--Gertrude's story," I stammered.
"Miss Gertrude only brought forward her explanation the following
morning. I do not believe it, Miss Innes. It is the story of a
loving and ingenious woman."
"And--this thing to-night?"
"May upset my whole view of the case. We must give the benefit
of every doubt, after all. We may, for instance, come back to
the figure on the porch: if it was a woman you saw that night
through the window, we might start with other premises. Or Mr.
Innes' explanation may turn us in a new direction. It is
possible that he shot Arnold Armstrong as a burglar and then
fled, frightened at what he had done. In any case, however, I
feel confident that the body was here when he left. Mr.
Armstrong left the club ostensibly for a moonlight saunter, about
half after eleven o'clock. It was three when the shot was
I leaned back bewildered. It seemed to me that the evening had
been full of significant happenings, had I only held the key.
Had Gertrude been the fugitive in the clothes chute? Who was the
man on the drive near the lodge, and whose gold-mounted dressingbag
had I seen in the lodge sitting-room?
It was late when Mr. Jamieson finally got up to go. I went with
him to the door, and together we stood looking out over the
valley. Below lay the village of Casanova, with its Old World
houses, its blossoming trees and its peace. Above on the hill
across the valley were the lights of the Greenwood Club. It was
even possible to see the curving row of parallel lights that
marked the carriage road. Rumors that I had heard about the club
came back--of drinking, of high play, and once, a year ago, of a
suicide under those very lights.
Mr. Jamieson left, taking a short cut to the village, and I still
stood there. It must have been after eleven, and the monotonous
tick of the big clock on the stairs behind me was the only sound.
Then I was conscious that some one was running up the drive. In
a minute a woman darted into the area of light made by the open
door, and caught me by the arm. It was Rosie--Rosie in a state
of collapse from terror, and, not the least important, clutching
one of my Coalport plates and a silver spoon.
She stood staring into the darkness behind, still holding the
plate. I got her into the house and secured the plate; then I
stood and looked down at her where she crouched tremblingly
against the doorway.
"Well," I asked, "didn't your young man enjoy his meal?"
She couldn't speak. She looked at the spoon she still held--I
wasn't so anxious about it: thank Heaven, it wouldn't chip--and
then she stared at me.
"I appreciate your desire to have everything nice for him," I
went on, "but the next time, you might take the Limoges china
It's more easily duplicated and less expensive."
"I haven't a young man--not here." She had got her breath now,
as I had guessed she would. "I--I have been chased by a thief,
Miss Innes."
"Did he chase you out of the house and back again?" I asked.
Then Rosie began to cry--not silently, but noisily, hysterically.
I stopped her by giving her a good shake.
"What in the world is the matter with you?" I snapped. "Has the
day of good common sense gone by! Sit up and tell me the whole
thing." Rosie sat up then, and sniffled.
"I was coming up the drive--" she began.
"You must start with when you went DOWN the drive, with my
dishes and my silver," I interrupted, but, seeing more signs of
hysteria, I gave in. "Very well. You were coming up the drive--
"I had a basket of--of silver and dishes on my arm and I was
carrying the plate, because--because I was afraid I'd break it.
Part-way up the road a man stepped out of the bushes, and held
his arm like this, spread out, so I couldn't get past. He said--
he said--`Not so fast, young lady; I want you to let me see
what's in that basket.'"
She got up in her excitement and took hold of my arm.
"It was like this, Miss Innes," she said, "and say you was the
man. When he said that, I screamed and ducked under his arm like
this. He caught at the basket and I dropped it. I ran as fast
as I could, and he came after as far as the trees. Then he
stopped. Oh, Miss Innes, it must have been the man that killed
that Mr. Armstrong!"
"Don't be foolish," I said. "Whoever killed Mr. Armstrong would
put as much space between himself and this house as he could. Go
up to bed now; and mind, if I hear of this story being repeated
to the other maids, I shall deduct from your wages for every
broken dish I find in the drive."
I listened to Rosie as she went up-stairs, running past the
shadowy places and slamming her door. Then I sat down and looked
at the Coalport plate and the silver spoon. I had brought my own
china and silver, and, from all appearances, I would have little
enough to take back. But though I might jeer at Rosie as much as
I wished, the fact remained that some one had been on the drive
that night who had no business there. Although neither had
Rosie, for that matter.
I could fancy Liddy's face when she missed the extra pieces of
china--she had opposed Rosie from the start. If Liddy once finds
a prophecy fulfilled, especially an unpleasant one, she never
allows me to forget it. It seemed to me that it was absurd to
leave that china dotted along the road for her to spy the next
morning; so with a sudden resolution, I opened the door again and
stepped out into the darkness. As the door closed behind me I
half regretted my impulse; then I shut my teeth and went on.
I have never been a nervous woman, as I said before. Moreover, a
minute or two in the darkness enabled me to see things fairly
well. Beulah gave me rather a start by rubbing unexpectedly
against my feet; then we two, side by side, went down the drive.
There were no fragments of china, but where the grove began I
picked up a silver spoon. So far Rosie's story was borne out: I
began to wonder if it were not indiscreet, to say the least, this
midnight prowling in a neighborhood with such a deservedly bad
reputation. Then I saw something gleaming, which proved to be
the handle of a cup, and a step or two farther on I found a Vshaped
bit of a plate. But the most surprising thing of all was
to find the basket sitting comfortably beside the road, with the
rest of the broken crockery piled neatly within, and a handful of
small silver, spoon, forks, and the like, on top! I could only
stand and stare. Then Rosie's story was true. But where had
Rosie carried her basket? And why had the thief, if he were a
thief, picked up the broken china out of the road and left it,
with his booty?
It was with my nearest approach to a nervous collapse that I
heard the familiar throbbing of an automobile engine. As it came
closer I recognized the outline of the Dragon Fly, and knew
that Halsey had come back.
Strange enough it must have seemed to Halsey, too, to come across
me in the middle of the night, with the skirt of my gray silk
gown over my shoulders to keep off the dew, holding a red and
green basket under one arm and a black cat under the other. What
with relief and joy, I began to cry, right there, and very nearly
wiped my eyes on Beulah in the excitement.
"Aunt Ray!" Halsey said from the gloom behind the lamps. "What
in the world are you doing here?"
"Taking a walk," I said, trying to be composed. I don't think
the answer struck either of us as being ridiculous at the time.
"Oh, Halsey, where have you been?"
"Let me take you up to the house." He was in the road, and had
Beulah and the basket out of my arms in a moment. I could see
the car plainly now, and Warner was at the wheel--Warner in an
ulster and a pair of slippers, over Heaven knows what. Jack
Bailey was not there. I got in, and we went slowly and painfully
up to the house.
We did not talk. What we had to say was too important to
commence there, and, besides, it took all kinds of coaxing from
both men to get the Dragon Fly up the last grade. Only
when we had closed the front door and stood facing each other in
the hall, did Halsey say anything. He slipped his strong young
arm around my shoulders and turned me so I faced the light.
"Poor Aunt Ray!" he said gently. And I nearly wept again. "I--I
must see Gertrude, too; we will have a three-cornered talk."
And then Gertrude herself came down the stairs. She had not been
to bed, evidently: she still wore the white negligee she had worn
earlier in the evening, and she limped somewhat. During her slow
progress down the stairs I had time to notice one thing: Mr.
Jamieson had said the woman who escaped from the cellar had worn
no shoe on her right foot. Gertrude's right ankle was the one
she had sprained!
The meeting between brother and sister was tense, but without
tears. Halsey kissed her tenderly, and I noticed evidences of
strain and anxiety in both young faces.
"Is everything--right?" she asked.
"Right as can be," with forced cheerfulness.
I lighted the living-room and we went in there. Only a half-hour
before I had sat with Mr. Jamieson in that very room,
listening while he overtly accused both Gertrude and Halsey of at
least a knowledge of the death of Arnold Armstrong. Now Halsey
was here to speak for himself: I should learn everything that
had puzzled me.
"I saw it in the paper to-night for the first time," he was
saying. "It knocked me dumb. When I think of this houseful of
women, and a thing like that occurring!"
Gertrude's face was still set and white. "That isn't all,
Halsey," she said. "You and--and Jack left almost at the time it
happened. The detective here thinks that you--that we--know
something about it."
"The devil he does!" Halsey's eyes were fairly starting from his
head. "I beg your pardon, Aunt Ray, but--the fellow's a
"Tell me everything, won't you, Halsey?" I begged. "Tell me
where you went that night, or rather morning, and why you went as
you did. This has been a terrible forty-eight hours for all of
He stood staring at me, and I could see the horror of the
situation dawning in his face.
"I can't tell you where I went, Aunt Ray," he said, after a
moment. "As to why, you will learn that soon enough. But
Gertrude knows that Jack and I left the house before this thing--
this horrible murder--occurred."
"Mr. Jamieson does not believe me," Gertrude said drearily.
"Halsey, if the worst comes, if they should arrest you, you
"I shall tell nothing," he said with a new sternness in his
voice. "Aunt Ray, it was necessary for Jack and me to leave that
night. I can not tell you why--just yet. As to where we went,
if I have to depend on that as an alibi, I shall not tell. The
whole thing is an absurdity, a trumped-up charge that can not
possibly be serious."
"Has Mr. Bailey gone back to the city," I demanded, "or to the
"Neither," defiantly; "at the present moment I do not know where
he is."
"Halsey," I asked gravely, leaning forward, "have you the
slightest suspicion who killed Arnold Armstrong? The police
think he was admitted from within, and that he was shot down from
above, by someone on the circular staircase."
"I know nothing of it," he maintained; but I fancied I caught
a sudden glance at Gertrude, a flash of something that died as it
As quietly, as calmly as I could, I went over the whole story,
from the night Liddy and I had been alone up to the strange
experience of Rosie and her pursuer. The basket still stood on
the table, a mute witness to this last mystifying occurrence.
"There is something else," I said hesitatingly, at the last.
"Halsey, I have never told this even to Gertrude, but the morning
after the crime, I found, in a tulip bed, a revolver. It--it was
yours, Halsey."
For an appreciable moment Halsey stared at me. Then he turned to
"My revolver, Trude!" he exclaimed. "Why, Jack took my revolver
with him, didn't he?"
"Oh, for Heaven's sake don't say that," I implored. "The
detective thinks possibly Jack Bailey came back, and--and the
thing happened then."
"He didn't come back," Halsey said sternly. "Gertrude, when you
brought down a revolver that night for Jack to take with him,
what one did you bring? Mine?"
Gertrude was defiant now.
"No. Yours was loaded, and I was afraid of what Jack might
do. I gave him one I have had for a year or two. It was empty."
Halsey threw up both hands despairingly.
"If that isn't like a girl!" he said. "Why didn't you do what I
asked you to, Gertrude? You send Bailey off with an empty gun,
and throw mine in a tulip bed, of all places on earth! Mine was
a thirty-eight caliber. The inquest will show, of course, that
the bullet that killed Armstrong was a thirty-eight. Then where
shall I be?"
"You forget," I broke in, "that I have the revolver, and that no
one knows about it."
But Gertrude had risen angrily.
"I can not stand it; it is always with me," she cried. "Halsey,
I did not throw your revolver into the tulip bed. I--think--
you--did it--yourself!"
They stared at each other across the big library table, with
young eyes all at once hard, suspicious. And then Gertrude held
out both hands to him appealingly.
"We must not," she said brokenly. "Just now, with so much at
stake, it--is shameful. I know you are as ignorant as I am.
Make me believe it, Halsey."
Halsey soothed her as best he could, and the breach seemed
healed. But long after I went to bed he sat down-stairs in the
living-room alone, and I knew he was going over the case as he
had learned it. Some things were clear to him that were dark to
me. He knew, and Gertrude, too, why Jack Bailey and he had gone
away that night, as they did. He knew where they had been for
the last forty-eight hours, and why Jack Bailey had not returned
with him. It seemed to me that without fuller confidence from
both the children--they are always children to me--I should never
be able to learn anything.
As I was finally getting ready for bed, Halsey came up-stairs and
knocked at my door. When I had got into a negligee--I used to
say wrapper before Gertrude came back from school--I let him in.
He stood in the doorway a moment, and then he went into agonies
of silent mirth. I sat down on the side of the bed and waited in
severe silence for him to stop, but he only seemed to grow worse.
When he had recovered he took me by the elbow and pulled me in
front of the mirror.
"`How to be beautiful,'" he quoted. "`Advice to maids and
matrons,' by Beatrice Fairfax!" And then I saw myself. I
had neglected to remove my wrinkle eradicators, and I presume my
appearance was odd. I believe that it is a woman's duty to care
for her looks, but it is much like telling a necessary
falsehood--one must not be found out. By the time I got them off
Halsey was serious again, and I listened to his story.
"Aunt Ray," he began, extinguishing his cigarette on the back of
my ivory hair-brush, "I would give a lot to tell you the whole
thing. But--I can't, for a day or so, anyhow. But one thing I
might have told you a long time ago. If you had known it, you
would not have suspected me for a moment of--of having anything
to do with the attack on Arnold Armstrong. Goodness knows what I
might do to a fellow like that, if there was enough provocation,
and I had a gun in my hand--under ordinary circumstances. But--I
care a great deal about Louise Armstrong, Aunt Ray. I hope to
marry her some day. Is it likely I would kill her brother?"
"Her stepbrother," I corrected. "No, of course, it isn't likely,
or possible. Why didn't you tell me, Halsey?"
"Well, there were two reasons," he said slowly.
"One was that you had a girl already picked out for me--"
"Nonsense," I broke in, and felt myself growing red. I had,
indeed, one of the--but no matter.
"And the second reason," he pursued, "was that the Armstrongs
would have none of me."
I sat bolt upright at that and gasped.
"The Armstrongs!" I repeated. "With old Peter Armstrong driving
a stage across the mountains while your grandfather was war
"Well, of course, the war governor's dead, and out of the
matrimonial market," Halsey interrupted. "And the present Innes
admits himself he isn't good enough for--for Louise."
"Exactly," I said despairingly, "and, of course, you are taken at
your own valuation. The Inneses are not always so selfdepreciatory."
"Not always, no," he said, looking at me with his boyish smile.
"Fortunately, Louise doesn't agree with her family. She's
willing to take me, war governor or no, provided her mother
consents. She isn't overly-fond of her stepfather, but she
adores her mother. And now, can't you see where this thing puts
me? Down and out, with all of them."
"But the whole thing is absurd," I argued. "And besides,
Gertrude's sworn statement that you left before Arnold Armstrong
came would clear you at once."
Halsey got up and began to pace the room, and the air of
cheerfulness dropped like a mask.
"She can't swear it," he said finally. "Gertrude's story was
true as far as it went, but she didn't tell everything. Arnold
Armstrong came here at two-thirty--came into the billiard-room
and left in five minutes. He came to bring--something."
"Halsey," I cried, "you MUST tell me the whole truth. Every
time I see a way for you to escape you block it yourself with
this wall of mystery. What did he bring?"
"A telegram--for Bailey," he said. "It came by special messenger
from town, and was--most important. Bailey had started for here,
and the messenger had gone back to the city. The steward gave it
to Arnold, who had been drinking all day and couldn't sleep, and
was going for a stroll in the direction of Sunnyside."
"And he brought it?"
"What was in the telegram?"
"I can tell you--as soon as certain things are made public. It
is only a matter of days now," gloomily.
"And Gertrude's story of a telephone message?"
"Poor Trude!" he half whispered. "Poor loyal little girl! Aunt
Ray, there was no such message. No doubt your detective already
knows that and discredits all Gertrude told him."
"And when she went back, it was to get--the telegram?"
"Probably," Halsey said slowly. "When you get to thinking about
it, Aunt Ray, it looks bad for all three of us, doesn't it? And
yet--I will take my oath none of us even inadvertently killed
that poor devil."
I looked at the closed door into Gertrude's dressing-room, and
lowered my voice.
"The same horrible thought keeps recurring to me," I whispered.
"Halsey, Gertrude probably had your revolver: she must have
examined it, anyhow, that night. After you--and Jack had gone,
what if that ruffian came back, and she--and she--"
I couldn't finish. Halsey stood looking at me with shut lips.
"She might have heard him fumbling at the door he had no key,
the police say--and thinking it was you, or Jack, she admitted
him. When she saw her mistake she ran up the stairs, a step or
two, and turning, like an animal at bay, she fired."
Halsey had his hand over my lips before I finished, and in that
position we stared each at the other, our stricken glances
"The revolver--my revolver--thrown into the tulip bed!" he
muttered to himself. "Thrown perhaps from an upper window: you
say it was buried deep. Her prostration ever since, her--Aunt
Ray, you don't think it was Gertrude who fell down the clothes
I could only nod my head in a hopeless affirmative.
The morning after Halsey's return was Tuesday. Arnold Armstrong
had been found dead at the foot of the circular staircase at
three o'clock on Sunday morning. The funeral services were to be
held on Tuesday, and the interment of the body was to be deferred
until the Armstrongs arrived from California. No one, I think,
was very sorry that Arnold Armstrong was dead, but the manner of
his death aroused some sympathy and an enormous amount of
curiosity. Mrs. Ogden Fitzhugh, a cousin, took charge of the
arrangements, and everything, I believe, was as quiet as
possible. I gave Thomas Johnson and Mrs. Watson permission to go
into town to pay their last respects to the dead man, but for
some reason they did not care to go.
Halsey spent part of the day with Mr. Jamieson, but he said
nothing of what happened. He looked grave and anxious,
and he had a long conversation with Gertrude late in the
Tuesday evening found us quiet, with the quiet that precedes an
explosion. Gertrude and Halsey were both gloomy and distraught,
and as Liddy had already discovered that some of the china was
broken--it is impossible to have any secrets from an old
servant--I was not in a pleasant humor myself. Warner brought up
the afternoon mail and the evening papers at seven--I was curious
to know what the papers said of the murder. We had turned away
at least a dozen reporters. But I read over the head-line that
ran half-way across the top of the Gazette twice before I
comprehended it. Halsey had opened the Chronicle and was
staring at it fixedly.
"The Traders' Bank closes its doors!" was what I read, and then I
put down the paper and looked across the table.
"Did you know of this?" I asked Halsey.
"I expected it. But not so soon," he replied.
"And you?" to Gertrude.
"Jack--told us--something," Gertrude said faintly. "Oh, Halsey,
what can he do now?"
"Jack!" I said scornfully. "Your Jack's flight is easy
enough to explain now. And you helped him, both of you, to get
away! You get that from your mother; it isn't an Innes trait.
Do you know that every dollar you have, both of you, is in that
Gertrude tried to speak, but Halsey stopped her.
"That isn't all, Gertrude," he said quietly; "Jack is--under
"Under arrest!" Gertrude screamed, and tore the paper out of his
hand. She glanced at the heading, then she crumpled the
newspaper into a ball and flung it to the floor. While Halsey,
looking stricken and white, was trying to smooth it out and read
it, Gertrude had dropped her head on the table and was sobbing
I have the clipping somewhere, but just now I can remember only
the essentials.
On the afternoon before, Monday, while the Traders' Bank was in
the rush of closing hour, between two and three, Mr. Jacob
Trautman, President of the Pearl Brewing Company, came into the
bank to lift a loan. As security for the loan he had deposited
some three hundred International Steamship Company 5's, in total
value three hundred thousand dollars. Mr. Trautman went to the
loan clerk and, after certain formalities had been gone
through, the loan clerk went to the vault. Mr. Trautman, who was
a large and genial German, waited for a time, whistling under his
breath. The loan clerk did not come back. After an interval,
Mr. Trautman saw the loan clerk emerge from the vault and go to
the assistant cashier: the two went hurriedly to the vault. A
lapse of another ten minutes, and the assistant cashier came out
and approached Mr. Trautman. He was noticeably white and
trembling. Mr. Trautman was told that through an oversight the
bonds had been misplaced, and was asked to return the following
morning, when everything would be made all right.
Mr. Trautman, however, was a shrewd business man, and he did not
like the appearance of things. He left the bank apparently
satisfied, and within thirty minutes he had called up three
different members of the Traders' Board of Directors. At threethirty
there was a hastily convened board meeting, with some
stormy scenes, and late in the afternoon a national bank examiner
was in possession of the books. The bank had not opened for
business on Tuesday.
At twelve-thirty o'clock the Saturday before, as soon as the
business of the day was closed, Mr John Bailey, the cashier
of the defunct bank, had taken his hat and departed. During the
afternoon he had called up Mr. Aronson, a member of the board,
and said he was ill, and might not be at the bank for a day or
two. As Bailey was highly thought of, Mr. Aronson merely
expressed a regret. From that time until Monday night, when Mr.
Bailey had surrendered to the police, little was known of his
movements. Some time after one on Saturday he had entered the
Western Union office at Cherry and White Streets and had sent two
telegrams. He was at the Greenwood Country Club on Saturday
night, and appeared unlike himself. It was reported that he
would be released under enormous bond, some time that day,
The article closed by saying that while the officers of the bank
refused to talk until the examiner had finished his work, it was
known that securities aggregating a million and a quarter were
missing. Then there was a diatribe on the possibility of such an
occurrence; on the folly of a one-man bank, and of a Board of
Directors that met only to lunch together and to listen to a
brief report from the cashier, and on the poor policy of a
government that arranges a three or four-day examination twice a
year. The mystery, it insinuated, had not been cleared by
the arrest of the cashier. Before now minor officials had been
used to cloak the misdeeds of men higher up. Inseparable as the
words "speculation" and "peculation" have grown to be, John
Bailey was not known to be in the stock market. His only words,
after his surrender, had been "Send for Mr. Armstrong at once."
The telegraph message which had finally reached the President of
the Traders' Bank, in an interior town in California, had been
responded to by a telegram from Doctor Walker, the young
physician who was traveling with the Armstrong family, saying
that Paul Armstrong was very ill and unable to travel.
That was how things stood that Tuesday evening. The Traders'
Bank had suspended payment, and John Bailey was under arrest,
charged with wrecking it; Paul Armstrong lay very ill in
California, and his only son had been murdered two days before.
I sat dazed and bewildered. The children's money was gone: that
was bad enough, though I had plenty, if they would let me share.
But Gertrude's grief was beyond any power of mine to comfort; the
man she had chosen stood accused of a colossal embezzlement--and
even worse. For in the instant that I sat there I seemed to
see the coils closing around John Bailey as the murderer of
Arnold Armstrong.
Gertrude lifted her head at last and stared across the table at
"Why did he do it?" she wailed. "Couldn't you stop him, Halsey?
It was suicidal to go back!"
Halsey was looking steadily through the windows of the breakfastroom,
but it was evident he saw nothing.
"It was the only thing he could do, Trude," he said at last.
"Aunt Ray, when I found Jack at the Greenwood Club last Saturday
night, he was frantic. I can not talk until Jack tells me I may,
but--he is absolutely innocent of all this, believe me. I
thought, Trude and I thought, we were helping him, but it was the
wrong way. He came back. Isn't that the act of an innocent
"Then why did he leave at all?" I asked, unconvinced. "What
innocent man would run away from here at three o'clock in the
morning? Doesn't it look rather as though he thought it
impossible to escape?"
Gertrude rose angrily. "You are not even just!" she flamed.
"You don't know anything about it, and you condemn him !"
"I know that we have all lost a great deal of money," I said. "I
shall believe Mr. Bailey innocent the moment he is shown to be.
You profess to know the truth, but you can not tell me! What am
I to think?"
Halsey leaned over and patted my hand.
"You must take us on faith," he said. "Jack Bailey hasn't a
penny that doesn't belong to him; the guilty man will be known in
a day or so."
"I shall believe that when it is proved," I said grimly. "In the
meantime, I take no one on faith. The Inneses never do."
Gertrude, who had been standing aloof at a window, turned
suddenly. "But when the bonds are offered for sale, Halsey,
won't the thief be detected at once?"
Halsey turned with a superior smile.
"It wouldn't be done that way," he said. "They would be taken
out of the vault by some one who had access to it, and used as
collateral for a loan in another bank. It would be possible to
realize eighty per cent. of their face value."
"In cash?"
"In cash."
"But the man who did it--he would be known?"
"Yes. I tell you both, as sure as I stand here, I believe that
Paul Armstrong looted his own bank. I believe he has a million
at least, as the result, and that he will never come back. I'm
worse than a pauper now. I can't ask Louise to share nothing a
year with me and when I think of this disgrace for her, I'm
The most ordinary events of life seemed pregnant with
possibilities that day, and when Halsey was called to the
telephone, I ceased all pretense at eating. When he came back
from the telephone his face showed that something had occurred.
He waited, however, until Thomas left the dining-room: then he
told us.
"Paul Armstrong is dead," he announced gravely. "He died this
morning in California. Whatever he did, he is beyond the law
Gertrude turned pale.
"And the only man who could have cleared Jack can never do it!"
she said despairingly.
"Also," I replied coldly, "Mr. Armstrong is for ever beyond the
power of defending himself. When your Jack comes to me, with
some two hundred thousand dollars in his hands, which is about
what you have lost, I shall believe him innocent."
Halsey threw his cigarette away and turned on me.
"There you go!" he exclaimed. "If he was the thief, he could
return the money, of course. If he is innocent, he probably
hasn't a tenth of that amount in the world. In his hands!
That's like a woman."
Gertrude, who had been pale and despairing during the early part
of the conversation, had flushed an indignant red. She got up
and drew herself to her slender height, looking down at me with
the scorn of the young and positive.
"You are the only mother I ever had," she said tensely. "I have
given you all I would have given my mother, had she lived--my
love, my trust. And now, when I need you most, you fail me. I
tell you, John Bailey is a good man, an honest man. If you say
he is not, you--you--"
"Gertrude," Halsey broke in sharply. She dropped beside the
table and, burying her face in her arms broke into a storm of
"I love him--love him," she sobbed, in a surrender that was
totally unlike her. "Oh, I never thought it would be like this.
I can't bear it. I can't."
Halsey and I stood helpless before the storm. I would have tried
to comfort her, but she had put me away, and there was something
aloof in her grief, something new and strange. At last, when her
sorrow had subsided to the dry shaking sobs of a tired child,
without raising her head she put out one groping hand.
"Aunt Ray!" she whispered. In a moment I was on my knees beside
her, her arm around my neck, her cheek against my hair.
"Where am I in this?" Halsey said suddenly and tried to put his
arms around us both. It was a welcome distraction, and Gertrude
was soon herself again. The little storm had cleared the air.
Nevertheless, my opinion remained unchanged. There was much to
be cleared up before I would consent to any renewal of my
acquaintance with John Bailey. And Halsey and Gertrude knew it,
knowing me.
It was about half-past eight when we left the dining-room and
still engrossed with one subject, the failure of the bank and its
attendant evils Halsey and I went out into the grounds for a
stroll Gertrude followed us shortly. "The light was thickening,"
to appropriate Shakespeare's description of twilight, and once
again the tree-toads and the crickets were making night throb
with their tiny life. It was almost oppressively lonely, in
spite of its beauty, and I felt a sickening pang of homesickness
for my city at night--for the clatter of horses' feet on cemented
paving, for the lights, the voices, the sound of children
playing. The country after dark oppresses me. The stars, quite
eclipsed in the city by the electric lights, here become
insistent, assertive. Whether I want to or not, I find myself
looking for the few I know by name, and feeling ridiculously
new and small by contrast--always an unpleasant
After Gertrude joined us, we avoided any further mention of the
murder. To Halsey, as to me, there was ever present, I am sure,
the thought of our conversation of the night before. As we
strolled back and forth along the drive, Mr. Jamieson emerged
from the shadow of the trees.
"Good evening," he said, managing to include Gertrude in his bow.
Gertrude had never been even ordinarily courteous to him, and she
nodded coldly. Halsey, however, was more cordial, although we
were all constrained enough. He and Gertrude went on together,
leaving the detective to walk with me. As soon as they were out
of earshot, he turned to me.
"Do you know, Miss Innes," he said, "the deeper I go into this
thing, the more strange it seems to me. I am very sorry for Miss
Gertrude. It looks as if Bailey, whom she has tried so hard to
save, is worse than a rascal; and after her plucky fight for him,
it seems hard."
I looked through the dusk to where Gertrude's light dinner dress
gleamed among the trees. She HAD made a plucky fight, poor
child. Whatever she might have been driven to do, I could
find nothing but a deep sympathy for her. If she had only come
to me with the whole truth then!
"Miss Innes," Mr. Jamieson was saying, "in the last three days,
have you seen a--any suspicious figures around the grounds?
"No," I replied. "I have a houseful of maids that will bear
watching, one and all. But there has been no strange woman near
the house or Liddy would have seen her, you may be sure. She has
a telescopic eye."
Mr. Jamieson looked thoughtful.
"It may not amount to anything," he said slowly. "It is
difficult to get any perspective on things around here, because
every one down in the village is sure he saw the murderer, either
before or since the crime. And half of them will stretch a point
or two as to facts, to be obliging. But the man who drives the
hack down there tells a story that may possibly prove to be
"I have heard it, I think. Was it the one the parlor maid
brought up yesterday, about a ghost wringing its hands on the
roof? Or perhaps it's the one the milk-boy heard: a tramp
washing a dirty shirt, presumably bloody, in the creek below the
I could see the gleam of Mr. Jamieson's teeth, as he smiled.
"Neither," he said. "But Matthew Geist, which is our friend's
name, claims that on Saturday night, at nine-thirty, a veiled
"I knew it would be a veiled lady," I broke in.
"A veiled lady," he persisted, "who was apparently young and
beautiful, engaged his hack and asked to be driven to Sunnyside.
Near the gate, however, she made him stop, in spite of his
remonstrances, saying she preferred to walk to the house. She
paid him, and he left her there. Now, Miss Innes, you had no
such visitor, I believe?"
"None," I said decidedly.
"Geist thought it might be a maid, as you had got a supply that
day. But he said her getting out near the gate puzzled him.
Anyhow, we have now one veiled lady, who, with the ghostly
intruder of Friday night, makes two assets that I hardly know
what to do with."
"It is mystifying," I admitted, "although I can think of one
possible explanation. The path from the Greenwood Club to the
village enters the road near the lodge gate. A woman who wished
to reach the Country Club, unperceived, might choose such a
method. There are plenty of women there."
I think this gave him something to ponder, for in a short time he
said good night and left. But I myself was far from satisfied.
I was determined, however, on one thing. If my suspicions--for I
had suspicions--were true, I would make my own investigations,
and Mr. Jamieson should learn only what was good for him to know.
We went back to the house, and Gertrude, who was more like
herself since her talk with Halsey, sat down at the mahogany desk
in the living-room to write a letter. Halsey prowled up and down
the entire east wing, now in the card-room, now in the billiardroom,
and now and then blowing his clouds of tobacco smoke among
the pink and gold hangings of the drawing-room. After a little I
joined him in the billiard-room, and together we went over the
details of the discovery of the body.
The card-room was quite dark. Where we sat, in the billiardroom,
only one of the side brackets was lighted, and we spoke in
subdued tones, as the hour and the subject seemed to demand.
When I spoke of the figure Liddy and I had seen on the porch
through the card-room window Friday night, Halsey sauntered
into the darkened room, and together we stood there, much as
Liddy and I had done that other night.
The window was the same grayish rectangle in the blackness as
before. A few feet away in the hall was the spot where the body
of Arnold Armstrong had been found. I was a bit nervous, and I
put my hand on Halsey's sleeve. Suddenly, from the top of the
staircase above us came the sound of a cautious footstep. At
first I was not sure, but Halsey's attitude told me he had heard
and was listening. The step, slow, measured, infinitely
cautious, was nearer now. Halsey tried to loosen my fingers, but
I was in a paralysis of fright.
The swish of a body against the curving rail, as if for guidance,
was plain enough, and now whoever it was had reached the foot of
the staircase and had caught a glimpse of our rigid silhouettes
against the billiard-room doorway. Halsey threw me off then and
strode forward.
"Who is it?" he called imperiously, and took a half dozen rapid
strides toward the foot of the staircase. Then I heard him
mutter something; there was the crash of a falling body, the slam
of the outer door, and, for an instant, quiet. I screamed,
I think. Then I remember turning on the lights and finding
Halsey, white with fury, trying to untangle himself from
something warm and fleecy. He had cut his forehead a little on
the lowest step of the stairs, and he was rather a ghastly sight.
He flung the white object at me, and, jerking open the outer
door, raced into the darkness.
Gertrude had come on hearing the noise, and now we stood, staring
at each other over--of all things on earth--a white silk and wool
blanket, exquisitely fine! It was the most unghostly thing in
the world, with its lavender border and its faint scent.
Gertrude was the first to speak.
"Somebody--had it?" she asked.
"Yes. Halsey tried to stop whoever it was and fell. Gertrude,
that blanket is not mine. I have never seen before."
She held it up and looked at it: then she went to the door on to
the veranda and threw it open. Perhaps a hundred feet from the
house were two figures, that moved slowly toward us as we looked.
When they came within range of the light, I recognized Halsey,
and with him Mrs. Watson, the housekeeper.
The most commonplace incident takes on a new appearance if the
attendant circumstances are unusual. There was no reason on
earth why Mrs. Watson should not have carried a blanket down the
east wing staircase, if she so desired. But to take a blanket
down at eleven o'clock at night, with every precaution as to
noise, and, when discovered, to fling it at Halsey and bolt--
Halsey's word, and a good one--into the grounds,--this made the
incident more than significant.
They moved slowly across the lawn and up the steps. Halsey was
talking quietly, and Mrs. Watson was looking down and listening.
She was a woman of a certain amount of dignity, most efficient,
so far as I could see, although Liddy would have found fault if
she dared. But just now Mrs. Watson's face was an enigma. She
was defiant, I think, under her mask of submission, and
she still showed the effect of nervous shock.
"Mrs. Watson," I said severely, "will you be so good as to
explain this rather unusual occurrence?"
"I don't think it so unusual, Miss Innes." Her voice was deep
and very clear: just now it was somewhat tremulous. "I was
taking a blanket down to Thomas, who is--not well to-night, and I
used this staircase, as being nearer the path to the lodge When--
Mr. Innes called and then rushed at me, I--I was alarmed, and
flung the blanket at him."
Halsey was examining the cut on his forehead in a small mirror on
the wall. It was not much of an injury, but it had bled freely,
and his appearance was rather terrifying.
"Thomas ill?" he said, over his shoulder. "Why, _I_ thought I
saw Thomas out there as you made that cyclonic break out of the
door and over the porch."
I could see that under pretense of examining his injury he was
watching her through the mirror.
"Is this one of the servants' blankets, Mrs. Watson?" I asked,
holding up its luxurious folds to the light.
"Everything else is locked away," she replied. Which was
true enough, no doubt. I had rented the house without bed
"If Thomas is ill," Halsey said, "some member of the family ought
to go down to see him. You needn't bother, Mrs. Watson. I will
take the blanket."
She drew herself up quickly, as if in protest, but she found
nothing to say. She stood smoothing the folds of her dead black
dress, her face as white as chalk above it. Then she seemed to
make up her mind.
"Very well, Mr. Innes," she said. "Perhaps you would better go.
I have done all I could."
And then she turned and went up the circular staircase, moving
slowly and with a certain dignity. Below, the three of us stared
at one another across the intervening white blanket.
"Upon my word," Halsey broke out, "this place is a walking
nightmare. I have the feeling that we three outsiders who have
paid our money for the privilege of staying in this spookfactory,
are living on the very top of things. We're on the lid,
so to speak. Now and then we get a sight of the things inside,
but we are not a part of them."
"Do you suppose," Gertrude asked doubtfully, "that she really
meant that blanket for Thomas?"
"Thomas was standing beside that magnolia tree," Halsey replied,
"when I ran after Mrs. Watson. It's down to this, Aunt Ray.
Rosie's basket and Mrs Watson's blanket can only mean one thing:
there is somebody hiding or being hidden in the lodge. It
wouldn't surprise me if we hold the key to the whole situation
now. Anyhow, I'm going to the lodge to investigate."
Gertrude wanted to go, too, but she looked so shaken that I
insisted she should not. I sent for Liddy to help her to bed,
and then Halsey and I started for the lodge. The grass was heavy
with dew, and, man-like, Halsey chose the shortest way across the
lawn. Half-way, however, he stopped.
"We'd better go by the drive," he said. "This isn't a lawn; it's
a field. Where's the gardener these days?"
"There isn't any," I said meekly. "We have been thankful enough,
so far, to have our meals prepared and served and the beds aired.
The gardener who belongs here is working at the club."
"Remind me to-morrow to send out a man from town," he said. "I
know the very fellow."
I record this scrap of conversation, just as I have tried to
put down anything and everything that had a bearing on what
followed, because the gardener Halsey sent the next day played an
important part in the events of the next few weeks--events that
culminated, as you know, by stirring the country profoundly. At
that time, however, I was busy trying to keep my skirts dry, and
paid little or no attention to what seemed then a most trivial
Along the drive I showed Halsey where I had found Rosie's basket
with the bits of broken china piled inside. He was rather
"Warner probably," he said when I had finished. "Began it as a
joke on Rosie, and ended by picking up the broken china out of
the road, knowing it would play hob with the tires of the car."
Which shows how near one can come to the truth, and yet miss it
At the lodge everything was quiet. There was a light in the
sitting-room down-stairs, and a faint gleam, as if from a shaded
lamp, in one of the upper rooms. Halsey stopped and examined the
lodge with calculating eyes.
"I don't know, Aunt Ray," he said dubiously; "this is hardly a
woman's affair. If there's a scrap of any kind, you hike
for the timber." Which was Halsey's solicitous care for me, put
into vernacular.
"I shall stay right here," I said, and crossing the small
veranda, now shaded and fragrant with honeysuckle, I hammered the
knocker on the door.
Thomas opened the door himself--Thomas, fully dressed and in his
customary health. I had the blanket over my arm.
"I brought the blanket, Thomas," I said; "I am sorry you are so
The old man stood staring at me and then at the blanket. His
confusion under other circumstances would have been ludicrous.
"What! Not ill?" Halsey said from the step. "Thomas, I'm afraid
you've been malingering."
Thomas seemed to have been debating something with himself. Now
he stepped out on the porch and closed the door gently behind
"I reckon you bettah come in, Mis' Innes," he said, speaking
cautiously. "It's got so I dunno what to do, and it's boun' to
come out some time er ruther."
He threw the door open then, and I stepped inside, Halsey close
behind. In the sitting-room the old negro turned with quiet
dignity to Halsey.
"You bettah sit down, sah," he said. "It's a place for a woman,
Things were not turning out the way Halsey expected. He sat down
on the center-table, with his hands thrust in his pockets, and
watched me as I followed Thomas up the narrow stairs. At the top
a woman was standing, and a second glance showed me it was Rosie.
She shrank back a little, but I said nothing. And then Thomas
motioned to a partly open door, and I went in.
The lodge boasted three bedrooms up-stairs, all comfortably
furnished. In this one, the largest and airiest, a night lamp
was burning, and by its light I could make out a plain white
metal bed. A girl was asleep there--or in a half stupor, for she
muttered something now and then. Rosie had taken her courage in
her hands, and coming in had turned up the light. It was only
then that I knew. Fever-flushed, ill as she was, I recognized
Louise Armstrong.
I stood gazing down at her in a stupor of amazement. Louise
here, hiding at the lodge, ill and alone! Rosie came up to the
bed and smoothed the white counterpane.
"I am afraid she is worse to-night," she ventured at last.
I put my hand on the sick girl's forehead. It was burning with
fever, and I turned to where Thomas lingered in the hallway.
"Will you tell me what you mean, Thomas Johnson, by not telling
me this before?" I demanded indignantly.
Thomas quailed.
"Mis' Louise wouldn' let me," he said earnestly. "I wanted to.
She ought to 'a' had a doctor the night she came, but she wouldn'
hear to it. Is she--is she very bad, Mis' Innes?"
"Bad enough," I said coldly. "Send Mr. Innes up."
Halsey came up the stairs slowly, looking rather interested and
inclined to be amused. For a moment he could not see anything
distinctly in the darkened room; he stopped, glanced at Rosie and
at me, and then his eyes fell on the restless head on the pillow.
I think he felt who it was before he really saw her; he crossed
the room in a couple of strides and bent over the bed.
"Louise!" he said softly; but she did not reply, and her eyes
showed no recognition. Halsey was young, and illness was new to
him. He straightened himself slowly, still watching her, and
caught my arm.
"She's dying, Aunt Ray!" he said huskily. "Dying! Why, she
doesn't know me!"
"Fudge!" I snapped, being apt to grow irritable when my
sympathies are aroused. "She's doing nothing of the sort,--and
don't pinch my arm. If you want something to do, go and choke
But at that moment Louise roused from her stupor to cough, and at
the end of the paroxysm, as Rosie laid her back, exhausted, she
knew us. That was all Halsey wanted; to him consciousness was
recovery. He dropped on his knees beside the bed, and tried to
tell her she was all right, and we would bring her around in a
hurry, and how beautiful she looked--only to break down utterly
and have to stop. And at that I came to my senses, and put him
"This instant!" I ordered, as he hesitated. "And send Rosie
He did not go far. He sat on the top step of the stairs, only
leaving to telephone for a doctor, and getting in everybody's way
in his eagerness to fetch and carry. I got him away finally, by
sending him to fix up the car as a sort of ambulance, in case the
doctor would allow the sick girl to be moved. He sent Gertrude
down to the lodge loaded with all manner of impossible
things, including an armful of Turkish towels and a box of
mustard plasters, and as the two girls had known each other
somewhat before, Louise brightened perceptibly when she saw her.
When the doctor from Englewood--the Casanova doctor, Doctor
Walker, being away--had started for Sunnyside, and I had got
Thomas to stop trying to explain what he did not understand
himself, I had a long talk with the old man, and this is what I
On Saturday evening before, about ten o'clock, he had been
reading in the sitting-room down-stairs, when some one rapped at
the door. The old man was alone, Warner not having arrived, and
at first he was uncertain about opening the door. He did so
finally, and was amazed at being confronted by Louise Armstrong.
Thomas was an old family servant, having been with the present
Mrs. Armstrong since she was a child, and he was overwhelmed at
seeing Louise. He saw that she was excited and tired, and he
drew her into the sitting-room and made her sit down. After a
while he went to the house and brought Mrs. Watson, and they
talked until late. The old man said Louise was in trouble, and
seemed frightened. Mrs. Watson made some tea and took it to the
lodge, but Louise made them both promise to keep her
presence a secret. She had not known that Sunnyside was rented,
and whatever her trouble was, this complicated things. She
seemed puzzled. Her stepfather and her mother were still in
California--that was all she would say about them. Why she had
run away no one could imagine. Mr. Arnold Armstrong was at the
Greenwood Club, and at last Thomas, not knowing what else to do,
went over there along the path. It was almost midnight. Partway
over he met Armstrong himself and brought him to the lodge.
Mrs. Watson had gone to the house for some bed-linen, it having
been arranged that under the circumstances Louise would be better
at the lodge until morning. Arnold Armstrong and Louise had a
long conference, during which he was heard to storm and become
very violent. When he left it was after two. He had gone up to
the house--Thomas did not know why--and at three o'clock he was
shot at the foot of the circular staircase.
The following morning Louise had been ill. She had asked for
Arnold, and was told he had left town. Thomas had not the moral
courage to tell her of the crime. She refused a doctor, and
shrank morbidly from having her presence known. Mrs. Watson and
Thomas had had their hands full, and at last Rosie had been
enlisted to help them. She carried necessary provisions--little
enough--to the lodge, and helped to keep the secret.
Thomas told me quite frankly that he had been anxious to keep
Louise's presence hidden for this reason: they had all seen
Arnold Armstrong that night, and he, himself, for one, was known
to have had no very friendly feeling for the dead man. As to the
reason for Louise's flight from California, or why she had not
gone to the Fitzhughs', or to some of her people in town, he had
no more information than I had. With the death of her stepfather
and the prospect of the immediate return of the family, things
had become more and more impossible. I gathered that Thomas was
as relieved as I at the turn events had taken. No, she did not
know of either of the deaths in the family.
Taken all around, I had only substituted one mystery for another.
If I knew now why Rosie had taken the basket of dishes, I did not
know who had spoken to her and followed her along the drive. If
I knew that Louise was in the lodge, I did not know why she was
there. If I knew that Arnold Armstrong had spent some time
in the lodge the night before he was murdered, I was no nearer
the solution of the crime. Who was the midnight intruder who had
so alarmed Liddy and myself? Who had fallen down the clothes
chute? Was Gertrude's lover a villain or a victim? Time was to
answer all these things.
The doctor from Englewood came very soon, and I went up to see
the sick girl with him. Halsey had gone to supervise the fitting
of the car with blankets and pillows, and Gertrude was opening
and airing Louise's own rooms at the house. Her private sittingroom,
bedroom and dressing-room were as they had been when we
came. They occupied the end of the east wing, beyond the
circular staircase, and we had not even opened them.
The girl herself was too ill to notice what was being done.
When, with the help of the doctor, who was a fatherly man with a
family of girls at home, we got her to the house and up the
stairs into bed, she dropped into a feverish sleep, which lasted
until morning. Doctor Stewart--that was the Englewood doctor--
stayed almost all night, giving the medicine himself,
and watching her closely. Afterward he told me that she had had
a narrow escape from pneumonia, and that the cerebral symptoms
had been rather alarming. I said I was glad it wasn't an "itis"
of some kind, anyhow, and he smiled solemnly.
He left after breakfast, saying that he thought the worst of the
danger was over, and that she must be kept very quiet.
"The shock of two deaths, I suppose, has done this," he remarked,
picking up his case. "It has been very deplorable."
I hastened to set him right.
"She does not know of either, Doctor," I said. "Please do not
mention them to her."
He looked as surprised as a medical man ever does.
"I do not know the family," he said, preparing to get into his
top buggy. "Young Walker, down in Casanova, has been attending
them. I understand he is going to marry this young lady."
"You have been misinformed," I said stiffly. "Miss Armstrong is
going to marry my nephew."
The doctor smiled as he picked up the reins.
"Young ladies are changeable these days," he said. "We thought
the wedding was to occur soon. Well, I will stop in this
afternoon to see how my patient is getting along."
He drove away then, and I stood looking after him. He was a
doctor of the old school, of the class of family practitioner
that is fast dying out; a loyal and honorable gentleman who was
at once physician and confidential adviser to his patients. When
I was a girl we called in the doctor alike when we had measles,
or when mother's sister died in the far West. He cut out
redundant tonsils and brought the babies with the same air of
inspiring self-confidence. Nowadays it requires a different
specialist for each of these occurrences. When the babies cried,
old Doctor Wainwright gave them peppermint and dropped warm sweet
oil in their ears with sublime faith that if it was not colic it
was earache. When, at the end of a year, father met him driving
in his high side-bar buggy with the white mare ambling along, and
asked for a bill, the doctor used to go home, estimate what his
services were worth for that period, divide it in half--I don't
think he kept any books--and send father a statement, in a
cramped hand, on a sheet of ruled white paper. He was an honored
guest at all the weddings, christenings, and funerals--yes,
funerals--for every one knew he had done his best, and there
was no gainsaying the ways of Providence.
Ah, well, Doctor Wainwright is gone, and I am an elderly woman
with an increasing tendency to live in the past. The contrast
between my old doctor at home and the Casanova doctor, Frank
Walker, always rouses me to wrath and digression.
Some time about noon of that day, Wednesday, Mrs. Ogden Fitzhugh
telephoned me. I have the barest acquaintance with her--she
managed to be put on the governing board of the Old Ladies' Home
and ruins their digestions by sending them ice-cream and cake on
every holiday. Beyond that, and her reputation at bridge, which
is insufferably bad--she is the worst player at the bridge club--
I know little of her. It was she who had taken charge of Arnold
Armstrong's funeral, however, and I went at once to the
"Yes," I said, "this is Miss Innes."
"Miss Innes," she said volubly, "I have just received a very
strange telegram from my cousin, Mrs. Armstrong. Her husband
died yesterday, in California and--wait, I will read you the
I knew what was coming, and I made up my mind at once. If Louise
Armstrong had a good and sufficient reason for leaving her
people and coming home, a reason, moreover, that kept her from
going at once to Mrs. Ogden Fitzhugh, and that brought her to the
lodge at Sunnyside instead, it was not my intention to betray
her. Louise herself must notify her people. I do not justify
myself now, but remember, I was in a peculiar position toward the
Armstrong family. I was connected most unpleasantly with a coldblooded
crime, and my niece and nephew were practically beggared,
either directly or indirectly, through the head of the family.
Mrs. Fitzhugh had found the message.
"`Paul died yesterday. Heart disease,'" she read. "`Wire at
once if Louise is with you.' You see, Miss Innes, Louise must
have started east, and Fanny is alarmed about her."
"Yes," I said.
"Louise is not here," Mrs. Fitzhugh went on, "and none of her
friends--the few who are still in town--has seen her. I called
you because Sunnyside was not rented when she went away, and
Louise might have, gone there."
"I am sorry, Mrs. Fitzhugh, but I can not help you," I said, and
was immediately filled with compunction. Suppose Louise
grew worse? Who was I to play Providence in this case? The
anxious mother certainly had a right to know that her daughter
was in good hands. So I broke in on Mrs. Fitzhugh's voluble
excuses for disturbing me.
"Mrs. Fitzhugh," I said. "I was going to let you think I knew
nothing about Louise Armstrong, but I have changed my mind.
Louise is here, with me." There was a clatter of ejaculations at
the other end of the wire. "She is ill, and not able to be
moved. Moreover, she is unable to see any one. I wish you would
wire her mother that she is with me, and tell her not to worry.
No, I do not know why she came east."
"But my dear Miss Innes!" Mrs. Fitzhugh began. I cut in
"I will send for you as soon as she can see you," I said. "No,
she is not in a critical state now, but the doctor says she must
have absolute quiet."
When I had hung up the receiver, I sat down to think. So Louise
had fled from her people in California, and had come east alone!
It was not a new idea, but why had she done it? It occurred to
me that Doctor Walker might be concerned in it, might possibly
have bothered her with unwelcome attentions; but it seemed
to me that Louise was hardly a girl to take refuge in flight
under such circumstances. She had always been high-spirited,
with the well-poised head and buoyant step of the outdoors girl.
It must have been much more in keeping with Louise's character,
as I knew it, to resent vigorously any unwelcome attentions from
Doctor Walker. It was the suitor whom I should have expected to
see in headlong flight, not the lady in the case.
The puzzle was no clearer at the end of the half-hour. I picked
up the morning papers, which were still full of the looting of
the Traders' Bank, the interest at fever height again, on account
of Paul Armstrong's death. The bank examiners were working on
the books, and said nothing for publication: John Bailey had been
released on bond. The body of Paul Armstrong would arrive Sunday
and would be buried from the Armstrong town house. There were
rumors that the dead man's estate had been a comparatively small
one. The last paragraph was the important one.
Walter P. Broadhurst, of the Marine Bank, had produced two
hundred American Traction bonds, which had been placed as
security with the Marine Bank for a loan of one hundred and sixty
thousand dollars, made to Paul Armstrong, just before his
California trip. The bonds were a part of the missing traction
bonds from the Traders' Bank! While this involved the late
president of the wrecked bank, to my mind it by no means cleared
its cashier.
The gardener mentioned by Halsey came out about two o'clock in
the afternoon, and walked up from the station. I was favorably
impressed by him. His references were good--he had been employed
by the Brays' until they went to Europe, and he looked young and
vigorous. He asked for one assistant, and I was glad enough to
get off so easily. He was a pleasant-faced young fellow, with
black hair and blue eyes, and his name was Alexander Graham. I
have been particular about Alex, because, as I said before, he
played an important part later.
That afternoon I had a new insight into the character of the dead
banker. I had my first conversation with Louise. She sent for
me, and against my better judgment I went. There were so many
things she could not be told, in her weakened condition, that I
dreaded the interview. It was much easier than I espected,
however, because she asked no questions.
Gertrude had gone to bed, having been up almost all night,
and Halsey was absent on one of those mysterious absences of his
that grew more and more frequent as time went on, until it
culminated in the event of the night of June the tenth. Liddy
was in attendance in the sick-room. There being little or
nothing to do, she seemed to spend her time smoothing the
wrinkles from the counterpane. Louise lay under a field of
virgin white, folded back at an angle of geometrical exactness,
and necessitating a readjustment every time the sick girl turned.
Liddy heard my approach and came out to meet me. She seemed to
be in a perpetual state of goose-flesh, and she had got in the
habit of looking past me when she talked, as if she saw things.
It had the effect of making me look over my shoulder to see what
she was staring at, and was intensely irritating.
"She's awake," Liddy said, looking uneasily down the circular
staircase, which was beside me. "She was talkin' in her sleep
something awful--about dead men and coffins."
"Liddy," I said sternly, "did you breathe a word about everything
not being right here?"
Liddy's gaze had wandered to the door of the chute, now bolted
"Not a word," she said, "beyond asking her a question or two,
which there was no harm in. She says there never was a ghost
known here."
I glared at her, speechless, and closing the door into Louise's
boudoir, to Liddy's great disappointment, I went on to the
bedroom beyond.
Whatever Paul Armstrong had been, he had been lavish with his
stepdaughter. Gertrude's rooms at home were always beautiful
apartments, but the three rooms in the east wing at Sunnyside,
set apart for the daughter of the house, were much more splendid.
From the walls to the rugs on the floor, from the furniture to
the appointments of the bath, with its pool sunk in the floor
instead of the customary unlovely tub, everything was luxurious.
In the bedroom Louise was watching for me. It was easy to see
that she was much improved; the flush was going, and the peculiar
gasping breathing of the night before was now a comfortable and
easy respiration.
She held out her hand and I took it between both of mine.
"What can I say to you, Miss Innes?" she said slowly. "To have
come like this--"
I thought she was going to break down, but she did not.
"You are not to think of anything but of getting well," I said,
patting her hand. "When you are better, I am going to scold you
for not coming here at once. This is your home, my dear, and of
all people in the world, Halsey's old aunt ought to make you
She smiled a little, sadly, I thought.
"I ought not to see Halsey," she said. "Miss Innes, there are a
great many things you will never understand, I am afraid. I am
an impostor on your sympathy, because I--I stay here and let you
lavish care on me, and all the time I know you are going to
despise me."
"Nonsense!" I said briskly. "Why, what would Halsey do to me if
I even ventured such a thing? He is so big and masterful that if
I dared to be anything but rapturous over you, he would throw me
out of a window. Indeed, he would be quite capable of it."
She seemed scarcely to hear my facetious tone. She had eloquent
brown eyes--the Inneses are fair, and are prone to a grayishgreen
optic that is better for use than appearance--and they
seemed now to be clouded with trouble.
"Poor Halsey!" she said softly. "Miss Innes, I can not marry
him, and I am afraid to tell him. I am a coward--a coward!"
I sat beside the bed and stared at her. She was too ill to argue
with, and, besides, sick people take queer fancies.
"We will talk about that when you are stronger," I said gently.
"But there are some things I must tell you," she insisted. "You
must wonder how I came here, and why I stayed hidden at the
lodge. Dear old Thomas has been almost crazy, Miss Innes. I did
not know that Sunnyside was rented. I knew my mother wished to
rent it, without telling my--stepfather, but the news must have
reached her after I left. When I started east, I had only one
idea--to be alone with my thoughts for a time, to bury myself
here. Then, I--must have taken a cold on the train."
"You came east in clothing suitable for California," I said,
"and, like all young girls nowadays, I don't suppose you wear
flannels." But she was not listening.
"Miss Innes," she said, "has my stepbrother Arnold gone away?"
"What do you mean?" I asked, startled. But Louise was literal.
"He didn't come back that night," she said, "and it was so
important that I should see him."
"I believe he has gone away," I replied uncertainly. "Isn't it
something that we could attend to instead?"
But she shook her head. "I must do it myself," she said dully.
"My mother must have rented Sunnyside without telling my
stepfather, and--Miss Innes, did you ever hear of any one being
wretchedly poor in the midst of luxury?
"Did you ever long, and long, for money--money to use without
question, money that no one would take you to task about? My
mother and I have been surrounded for years with every indulgence
everything that would make a display. But we have never had any
money, Miss Innes; that must have been why mother rented this
house. My stepfather pays out bills. It's the most maddening,
humiliating existence in the world. I would love honest poverty
"Never mind," I said; "when you and Halsey are married you
can be as honest as you like, and you will certainly be poor."
Halsey came to the door at that moment and I could hear him
coaxing Liddy for admission to the sick room.
"Shall I bring him in?" I asked Louise, uncertain what to do.
The girl seemed to shrink back among her pillows at the sound of
his voice. I was vaguely irritated with her; there are few young
fellows like Halsey--straightforward, honest, and willing to
sacrifice everything for the one woman. I knew one once, more
than thirty years ago, who was like that: he died a long time
ago. And sometimes I take out his picture, with its cane and its
queer silk hat, and look at it. But of late years it has grown
too painful: he is always a boy--and I am an old woman. I would
not bring him back if I could.
Perhaps it was some such memory that made me call out sharply.
"Come in, Halsey." And then I took my sewing and went into the
boudoir beyond, to play propriety. I did not try to hear what
they said, but every word came through the open door with curious
distinctness. Halsey had evidently gone over to the bed and I
suppose he kissed her. There was silence for a moment, as
if words were superfluous things.
"I have been almost wild, sweetheart,"--Halsey's voice. "Why
didn't you trust me, and send for me before?"
"It was because I couldn't trust myself," she said in a low tone.
"I am too weak to struggle to-day; oh, Halsey, how I have wanted
to see you!"
There was something I did not hear, then Halsey again.
"We could go away," he was saying. "What does it matter about
any one in the world but just the two of us? To be always
together, like this, hand in hand; Louise--don't tell me it isn't
going to be. I won't believe you."
"You don't know; you don't know," Louise repeated dully.
"Halsey, I care--you know that--but--not enough to marry you."
"That is not true, Louise," he said sternly. "You can not look
at me with your honest eyes and say that."
"I can not marry you," she repeated miserably. "It's bad enough,
isn't it? Don't make it worse. Some day, before long, you will
be glad."
"Then it is because you have never loved me." There were depths
of hurt pride in his voice. "You saw how much I loved you, and
you let me think you cared--for a while. No--that isn't like
you, Louise. There is something you haven't told me. Is it--
because there is some one else?"
"Yes," almost inaudibly.
"Louise! Oh, I don't believe it."
"It is true," she said sadly. "Halsey, you must not try to see
me again. As soon as I can, I am going away from here--where you
are all so much kinder than I deserve. And whatever you hear
about me, try to think as well of me as you can. I am going to
marry--another man. How you must hate me--hate me!"
I could hear Halsey cross the room to the window. Then, after a
pause, he went back to her again. I could hardly sit still; I
wanted to go in and give her a good shaking.
"Then it's all over," he was saying with a long breath. "The
plans we made together, the hopes, the--all of it--over! Well,
I'll not be a baby, and I'll give you up the minute you say `I
don't love you and I do love--some one else'!"
"I can not say that," she breathed, "but, very soon, I shall
marry--the other man."
I could hear Halsey's low triumphant laugh.
"I defy him," he said. "Sweetheart, as long as you care for me,
I am not afraid."
The wind slammed the door between the two rooms just then, and I
could hear nothing more, although I moved my chair quite close.
After a discreet interval, I went into the other room, and found
Louise alone. She was staring with sad eyes at the cherub
painted on the ceiling over the bed, and because she looked tired
I did not disturb her.
We had discovered Louise at the lodge Tuesday night. It was
Wednesday I had my interview with her. Thursday and Friday were
uneventful, save as they marked improvement in our patient.
Gertrude spent almost all the time with her, and the two had
grown to be great friends. But certain things hung over me
constantly; the coroner's inquest on the death of Arnold
Armstrong, to be held Saturday, and the arrival of Mrs. Armstrong
and young Doctor Walker, bringing the body of the dead president
of the Traders' Bank. We had not told Louise of either death.
Then, too, I was anxious about the children. With their mother's
inheritance swept away in the wreck of the bank, and with their
love affairs in a disastrous condition, things could scarcely be
worse. Added to that, the cook and Liddy had a flare-up over
the proper way to make beef-tea for Louise, and, of
course, the cook left.
Mrs. Watson had been glad enough, I think, to turn Louise over to
our care, and Thomas went upstairs night and morning to greet his
young mistress from the doorway. Poor Thomas! He had the
faculty--found still in some old negroes, who cling to the
traditions of slavery days--of making his employer's interest
his. It was always "we" with Thomas; I miss him sorely; pipesmoking,
obsequious, not over reliable, kindly old man!
On Thursday Mr. Harton, the Armstrongs' legal adviser, called up
from town. He had been advised, he said, that Mrs. Armstrong was
coming east with her husband's body and would arrive Monday. He
came with some hesitation, he went on, to the fact that he had
been further instructed to ask me to relinquish my lease on
Sunnyside, as it was Mrs. Armstrong's desire to come directly
I was aghast.
"Here!" I said. "Surely you are mistaken, Mr. Harton. I should
think, after--what happened here only a few days ago, she would
never wish to come back."
"Nevertheless," he replied, "she is most anxious to come. This
is what she says. `Use every possible means to have Sunnyside
vacated. Must go there at once.'"
"Mr. Harton," I said testily, "I am not going to do anything of
the kind. I and mine have suffered enough at the hands of this
family. I rented the house at an exorbitant figure and I have
moved out here for the summer. My city home is dismantled and in
the hands of decorators. I have been here one week, during which
I have had not a single night of uninterrupted sleep, and I
intend to stay until I have recuperated. Moreover, if Mr.
Armstrong died insolvent, as I believe was the case, his widow
ought to be glad to be rid of so expensive a piece of property."
The lawyer cleared his throat.
"I am very sorry you have made this decision," he said. "Miss
Innes, Mrs. Fitzhugh tells me Louise Armstrong is with you."
"She is."
"Has she been informed of this--double bereavement?"
"Not yet," I said. "She has been very ill; perhaps to-night she
can be told."
"It is very sad; very sad," he said. "I have a telegram for her,
Mrs. Innes. Shall I send it out?"
"Better open it and read it to me," I suggested. "If it is
important, that will save time."
There was a pause while Mr. Harton opened the telegram. Then he
read it slowly, judicially.
"`Watch for Nina Carrington. Home Monday. Signed F. L. W.'"
"Hum!" I said. "`Watch for Nina Carrington. Home Monday.' Very
well, Mr. Harton, I will tell her, but she is not in condition to
watch for any one."
"Well, Miss Innes, if you decide to--er--relinquish the lease,
let me know," the lawyer said.
"I shall not relinquish it," I replied, and I imagined his
irritation from the way he hung up the receiver.
I wrote the telegram down word for word, afraid to trust my
memory, and decided to ask Doctor Stewart how soon Louise might
be told the truth. The closing of the Traders' Bank I considered
unnecessary for her to know, but the death of her stepfather and
stepbrother must be broken to her soon, or she might hear it in
some unexpected and shocking manner.
Doctor Stewart came about four o'clock, bringing his leather
satchel into the house with a great deal of care, and opening it
at the foot of the stairs to show me a dozen big yellow eggs
nesting among the bottles.
"Real eggs," he said proudly. "None of your anemic store eggs,
but the real thing--some of them still warm. Feel them! Egg-nog
for Miss Louise."
He was beaming with satisfaction, and before he left, he insisted
on going back to the pantry and making an egg-nog with his own
hands. Somehow, all the time he was doing it, I had a vision of
Doctor Willoughby, my nerve specialist in the city, trying to
make an egg-nog. I wondered if he ever prescribed anything so
plebeian--and so delicious. And while Doctor Stewart whisked the
eggs he talked.
"I said to Mrs. Stewart," he confided, a little red in the face
from the exertion, "after I went home the other day, that you
would think me an old gossip, for saying what I did about Walker
and Miss Louise."
"Nothing of the sort," I protested.
"The fact is," he went on, evidently justifying him self, "I got
that piece of information just as we get a lot of things, through
the kitchen end of the house. Young Walker's chauffeur--Walker's
more fashionable than I am, and he goes around the country in a
Stanhope car--well, his chauffeur comes to see our servant
girl, and he told her the whole thing. I thought it was
probable, because Walker spent a lot of time up here last summer,
when the family was here, and besides, Riggs, that's Walker's
man, had a very pat little story about the doctor's building a
house on this property, just at the foot of the hill. The sugar,
The egg-nog was finished. Drop by drop the liquor had cooked the
egg, and now, with a final whisk, a last toss in the shaker, it
was ready, a symphony in gold and white. The doctor sniffed it.
"Real eggs, real milk, and a touch of real Kentucky whisky," he
He insisted on carrying it up himself, but at the foot of the
stairs he paused.
"Riggs said the plans were drawn for the house," he said, harking
back to the old subject. "Drawn by Huston in town. So I
naturally believed him."
When the doctor came down, I was ready with a question.
"Doctor," I asked, "is there any one in the neighborhood named
Carrington? Nina Carrington?"
"Carrington?" He wrinkled his forehead. "Carrington? No,
I don't remember any such family. There used to be Covingtons
down the creek."
"The name was Carrington," I said, and the subject lapsed.
Gertrude and Halsey went for a long walk that afternoon, and
Louise slept. Time hung heavy on my hands, and I did as I had
fallen into a habit of doing lately--I sat down and thought
things over. One result of my meditations was that I got up
suddenly and went to the telephone. I had taken the most intense
dislike to this Doctor Walker, whom I had never seen, and who was
being talked of in the countryside as the fiance of Louise
I knew Sam Huston well. There had been a time, when Sam was a
good deal younger than he is now, before he had married Anne
Endicott, when I knew him even better. So now I felt no
hesitation in calling him over the telephone. But when his
office boy had given way to his confidential clerk, and that
functionary had condescended to connect his employer's desk
telephone, I was somewhat at a loss as to how to begin.
"Why, how are you, Rachel?" Sam said sonorously. "Going to build
that house at Rock View?" It was a twenty-year-old joke of his.
"Sometime, perhaps," I said. "Just now I want to ask you a
question about something which is none of my business."
"I see you haven't changed an iota in a quarter of a century,
Rachel." This was intended to be another jest. "Ask ahead:
everything but my domestic affairs is at your service."
"Try to be serious," I said. "And tell me this: has your firm
made any plans for a house recently, for a Doctor Walker, at
"Yes, we have."
"Where was it to be built? I have a reason for asking."
"It was to be, I believe, on the Armstrong place. Mr. Armstrong
himself consulted me, and the inference was--in fact, I am quite
certain--the house was to be occupied by Mr. Armstrong's
daughter, who was engaged to marry Doctor Walker."
When the architect had inquired for the different members of my
family, and had finally rung off, I was certain of one thing.
Louise Armstrong was in love with Halsey, and the man she was
going to marry was Doctor Walker. Moreover, this decision was
not new; marriage had been contemplated for some time.
There must certainly be some explanation--but what was it?
That day I repeated to Louise the telegram Mr. Warton had opened.
She seemed to understand, but an unhappier face I have never
seen. She looked like a criminal whose reprieve is over, and the
day of execution approaching.
The next day, Friday, Gertrude broke the news of her stepfather's
death to Louise. She did it as gently as she could, telling her
first that he was very ill, and finally that he was dead. Louise
received the news in the most unexpected manner, and when
Gertrude came out to tell me how she had stood it, I think she
was almost shocked.
"She just lay and stared at me, Aunt Ray," she said. "Do you
know, I believe she is glad, glad! And she is too honest to
pretend anything else. What sort of man was Mr. Paul Armstrong,
"He was a bully as well as a rascal, Gertrude," I said. "But I
am convinced of one thing; Louise will send for Halsey now, and
they will make it all up."
For Louise had steadily refused to see Halsey all that day, and
the boy was frantic.
We had a quiet hour, Halsey and I, that evening, and I told him
several things; about the request that we give up the lease to
Sunnyside, about the telegram to Louise, about the rumors of an
approaching marriage between the girl and Doctor Walker, and,
last of all, my own interview with her the day before.
He sat back in a big chair, with his face in the shadow, and my
heart fairly ached for him. He was so big and so boyish! When I
had finished he drew a long breath.
"Whatever Louise does," he said, "nothing will convince me, Aunt
Ray, that she doesn't care for me. And up to two months ago,
when she and her mother went west, I was the happiest fellow on
earth. Then something made a difference: she wrote me that her
people were opposed to the marriage; that her feeling for me was
what it had always been, but that something had happened which
had changed her ideas as to the future. I was not to write until
she wrote me, and whatever occurred, I was to think the best I
could of her. It sounded like a puzzle. When I saw her
yesterday, it was the same thing, only, perhaps, worse."
"Halsey," I asked, "have you any idea of the nature of the
interview between Louise Armstrong and Arnold the night he was
"It was stormy. Thomas says once or twice he almost broke into
the room, he was so alarmed for Louise."
"Another thing, Halsey," I said, "have you ever heard Louise
mention a woman named Carrington, Nina Carrington?"
"Never," he said positively.
For try as we would, our thoughts always came back to that fatal
Saturday night, and the murder. Every conversational path led to
it, and we all felt that Jamieson was tightening the threads of
evidence around John Bailey. The detective's absence was hardly
reassuring; he must have had something to work on in town, or he
would have returned.
The papers reported that the cashier of the Traders' Bank was ill
in his apartments at the Knickerbocker--a condition not
surprising, considering everything. The guilt of the defunct
president was no longer in doubt; the missing bonds had been
advertised and some of them discovered. In every instance they
had been used as collateral for large loans, and the belief was
current that not less than a million and a half dollars had
been realized. Every one connected with the bank had been placed
under arrest, and released on heavy bond.
Was he alone in his guilt, or was the cashier his accomplice?
Where was the money? The estate of the dead man was
comparatively small--a city house on a fashionable street,
Sunnyside, a large estate largely mortgaged, an insurance of
fifty thousand dollars, and some personal property--this was all.
The rest lost in speculation probably, the papers said. There
was one thing which looked uncomfortable for Jack Bailey: he and
Paul Armstrong together had promoted a railroad company in New
Mexico, and it was rumored that together they had sunk large sums
of money there. The business alliance between the two men added
to the belief that Bailey knew something of the looting. His
unexplained absence from the bank on Monday lent color to the
suspicion against him. The strange thing seemed to be his
surrendering himself on the point of departure. To me, it seemed
the shrewd calculation of a clever rascal. I was not actively
antagonistic to Gertrude's lover, but I meant to be convinced,
one way or the other. I took no one on faith.
That night the Sunnyside ghost began to walk again. Liddy had
been sleeping in Louise's dressing-room on a couch, and the
approach of dusk was a signal for her to barricade the entire
suite. Situated as its was, beyond the circular staircase,
nothing but an extremity of excitement would have made her pass
it after dark. I confess myself that the place seemed to me to
have a sinister appearance, but we kept that wing well lighted,
and until the lights went out at midnight it was really cheerful,
if one did not know its history.
On Friday night, then, I had gone to bed, resolved to go at once
to sleep. Thoughts that insisted on obtruding themselves I
pushed resolutely to the back of my mind, and I systematically
relaxed every muscle. I fell asleep soon, and was dreaming that
Doctor Walker was building his new house immediately in front of
my windows: I could hear the thump-thump of the hammers, and then
I waked to a knowledge that somebody was pounding on my door.
I was up at once, and with the sound of my footstep on the floor
the low knocking ceased, to be followed immediately by sibilant
whispering through the keyhole.
"Miss Rachel! Miss Rachel!" somebody was saying, over and over.
"Is that you, Liddy?" I asked, my hand on the knob.
"For the love of mercy, let me in!" she said in a low tone.
She was leaning against the door, for when I opened it, she fell
in. She was greenish-white, and she had a red and black barred
flannel petticoat over her shoulders.
"Listen," she said, standing in the middle of the floor and
holding on to me. "Oh, Miss Rachel, it's the ghost of that dead
man hammering to get in!"
Sure enough, there was a dull thud--thud--thud from some place
near. It was muffled: one rather felt than heard it, and it was
impossible to locate. One moment it seemed to come, three taps
and a pause, from the floor under us: the next, thud--thud--
thud--it came apparently from the wall.
"It's not a ghost," I said decidedly. "If it was a ghost it
wouldn't rap: it would come through the keyhole." Liddy looked
at the keyhole. "But it sounds very much as though some one is
trying to break into the house."
Liddy was shivering violently. I told her to get me my slippers
and she brought me a pair of kid gloves, so I found my things
myself, and prepared to call Halsey. As before, the night alarm
had found the electric lights gone: the hall, save for its night
lamp, was in darkness, as I went across to Halsey's room. I
hardly know what I feared, but it was a relief to find him there,
very sound asleep, and with his door unlocked.
"Wake up, Halsey," I said, shaking him.
He stirred a little. Liddy was half in and half out of the door,
afraid as usual to be left alone, and not quite daring to enter.
Her scruples seemed to fade, however, all at once. She gave a
suppressed yell, bolted into the room, and stood tightly
clutching the foot-board of the bed. Halsey was gradually
"I've seen it," Liddy wailed. "A woman in white down the hall!"
I paid no attention.
"Halsey," I persevered, "some one is breaking into the house.
Get up, won't you?"
"It isn't our house," he said sleepily. And then he roused to
the exigency of the occasion. "All right, Aunt Ray," he
said, still yawning. "If you'll let me get into something--"
It was all I could do to get Liddy out of the room. The demands
of the occasion had no influence on her: she had seen the ghost,
she persisted, and she wasn't going into the hall. But I got her
over to my room at last, more dead than alive, and made her lie
down on the bed.
The tappings, which seemed to have ceased for a while, had
commenced again, but they were fainter. Halsey came over in a
few minutes, and stood listening and trying to locate the sound.
"Give me my revolver, Aunt Ray," he said; and I got it--the one I
had found in the tulip bed--and gave it to him. He saw Liddy
there and divined at once that Louise was alone.
"You let me attend to this fellow, whoever it is, Aunt Ray, and
go to Louise, will you? She may be awake and alarmed."
So in spite of her protests, I left Liddy alone and went back to
the east wing. Perhaps I went a little faster past the yawning
blackness of the circular staircase; and I could hear Halsey
creaking cautiously down the main staircase. The rapping, or
pounding, had ceased, and the silence was almost painful.
And then suddenly, from apparently under my very feet, there rose
a woman's scream, a cry of terror that broke off as suddenly as
it came. I stood frozen and still. Every drop of blood in my
body seemed to leave the surface and gather around my heart. In
the dead silence that followed it throbbed as if it would burst.
More dead than alive, I stumbled into Louise's bedroom. She was
not there!
I stood looking at the empty bed. The coverings had been thrown
back, and Louise's pink silk dressing-gown was gone from the
foot, where it had lain. The night lamp burned dimly, revealing
the emptiness of the place. I picked it up, but my hand shook so
that I put it down again, and got somehow to the door.
There were voices in the hall and Gertrude came running toward
"What is it?" she cried. "What was that sound? Where is
"She is not in her room," I said stupidly. "I think--it was
she--who screamed."
Liddy had joined us now, carrying a light. We stood huddled
together at the head of the circular staircase, looking down into
its shadows. There was nothing to be seen, and it was absolutely
quiet down there. Then we heard Halsey running up the
main staircase. He came quickly down the hall to where we were
"There's no one trying to get in. I thought I heard some one
shriek. Who was it?"
Our stricken faces told him the truth.
"Some one screamed down there," I said. "And--and Louise is not
in her room."
With a jerk Halsey took the light from Liddy and ran down the
circular staircase. I followed him, more slowly. My nerves
seemed to be in a state of paralysis: I could scarcely step. At
the foot of the stairs Halsey gave an exclamation and put down
the light.
"Aunt Ray," he called sharply.
At the foot of the staircase, huddled in a heap, her head on the
lower stair, was Louise Armstrong. She lay limp and white, her
dressing-gown dragging loose from one sleeve of her night-dress,
and the heavy braid of her dark hair stretching its length a
couple of steps above her head, as if she had slipped down.
She was not dead: Halsey put her down on the floor, and began to
rub her cold hands, while Gertrude and Liddy ran for stimulants.
As for me, I sat there at the foot of that ghostly staircase--
sat, because my knees wouldn't hold me--and wondered where
it would all end. Louise was still unconscious, but she was
breathing better, and I suggested that we get her back to bed
before she came to. There was something grisly and horrible to
me, seeing her there in almost the same attitude and in the same
place where we had found her brother's body. And to add to the
similarity, just then the hall clock, far off, struck faintly
three o'clock.
It was four before Louise was able to talk, and the first rays of
dawn were coming through her windows, which faced the east,
before she could tell us coherently what had occurred. I give it
as she told it. She lay propped in bed, and Halsey sat beside
her, unrebuffed, and held her hand while she talked.
"I was not sleeping well," she began, "partly, I think, because I
had slept during the afternoon. Liddy brought me some hot milk
at ten o'clock and I slept until twelve. Then I wakened and--I
got to thinking about things, and worrying, so I could not go to
"I was wondering why I had not heard from Arnold since the--since
I saw him that night at the lodge. I was afraid he was ill,
because--he was to have done something for me, and he had
not come back. It must have been three when I heard some one
rapping. I sat up and listened, to be quite sure, and the
rapping kept up. It was cautious, and I was about to call Liddy.
Then suddenly I thought I knew what it was. The east entrance
and the circular staircase were always used by Arnold when he was
out late, and sometimes, when he forgot his key, he would rap and
I would go down and let him in. I thought he had come back to
see me--I didn't think about the time, for his hours were always
erratic. But I was afraid I was too weak to get down the stairs.
The knocking kept up, and just as I was about to call Liddy, she
ran through the room and out into the hall. I got up then,
feeling weak and dizzy, and put on my dressing-gown. If it was
Arnold, I knew I must see him.
"It was very dark everywhere, but, of course, I knew my way. I
felt along for the stair-rail, and went down as quickly as I
could. The knocking had stopped, and I was afraid I was too
late. I got to the foot of the staircase and over to the door on
to the east veranda. I had never thought of anything but that it
was Arnold, until I reached the door. It was unlocked and opened
about an inch. Everything was black: it was perfectly dark
outside. I felt very queer and shaky. Then I thought perhaps
Arnold had used his key; he did--strange things sometimes, and I
turned around. Just as I reached the foot of the staircase I
thought I heard some one coming. My nerves were going anyhow,
there in the dark, and I could scarcely stand. I got up as far
as the third or fourth step; then I felt that some one was coming
toward me on the staircase. The next instant a hand met mine on
the stair-rail. Some one brushed past me, and I screamed. Then
I must have fainted."
That was Louise's story. There could be no doubt of its truth,
and the thing that made it inexpressibly awful to me was that the
poor girl had crept down to answer the summons of a brother who
would never need her kindly offices again. Twice now, without
apparent cause, some one had entered the house by means of the
east entrance: had apparently gone his way unhindered through the
house, and gone out again as he had entered. Had this unknown
visitor been there a third time, the night Arnold Armstrong was
murdered? Or a fourth, the time Mr. Jamieson had locked some one
in the clothes chute?
Sleep was impossible, I think, for any of us. We dispersed
finally to bathe and dress, leaving Louise little the worse for
her experience. But I determined that before the day was over
she must know the true state of affairs. Another decision I
made, and I put it into execution immediately after breakfast. I
had one of the unused bedrooms in the east wing, back along the
small corridor, prepared for occupancy, and from that time on,
Alex, the gardener, slept there. One man in that barn of a house
was an absurdity, with things happening all the time, and I must
say that Alex was as unobjectionable as any one could possibly
have been.
The next morning, also, Halsey and I made an exhaustive
examination of the circular staircase, the small entry at its
foot, and the card-room opening from it. There was no evidence
of anything unusual the night before, and had we not ourselves
heard the rapping noises, I should have felt that Louise's
imagination had run away with her. The outer door was closed and
locked, and the staircase curved above us, for all the world like
any other staircase.
Halsey, who had never taken seriously my account of the night
Liddy and I were there alone, was grave enough now. He examined
the paneling of the wainscoting above and below the stairs,
evidently looking for a secret door, and suddenly there flashed
into my mind the recollection of a scrap of paper that Mr.
Jamieson had found among Arnold Armstrong's effects. As nearly
as possible I repeated its contents to him, while Halsey took
them down in a note-book.
"I wish you had told me that before," he said, as he put the
memorandum carefully away. We found nothing at all in the house,
and I expected little from any examination of the porch and
grounds. But as we opened the outer door something fell into the
entry with a clatter. It was a cue from the billiard-room.
Halsey picked it up with an exclamation.
"That's careless enough," he said. "Some of the servants have
been amusing themselves."
I was far from convinced. Not one of the servants would go into
that wing at night unless driven by dire necessity. And a
billiard cue! As a weapon of either offense or defense it was an
absurdity, unless one accepted Liddy's hypothesis of a ghost, and
even then, as Halsey pointed out, a billiard-playing ghost would
be a very modern evolution of an ancient institution.
That afternoon we, Gertrude, Halsey and I, attended the coroner's
inquest in town. Doctor Stewart had been summoned also, it
transpiring that in that early Sunday morning, when Gertrude and
I had gone to our rooms, he had been called to view the body. We
went, the four of us, in the machine, preferring the execrable
roads to the matinee train, with half of Casanova staring at us.
And on the way we decided to say nothing of Louise and her
interview with her stepbrother the night he died. The girl was
in trouble enough as it was.
In giving the gist of what happened at the inquest, I have only
one excuse--to recall to the reader the events of the night of
Arnold Armstrong's murder. Many things had occurred which were
not brought out at the inquest and some things were told there
that were new to me. Altogether, it was a gloomy affair, and the
six men in the corner, who constituted the coroner's jury, were
evidently the merest puppets in the hands of that all-powerful
gentleman, the coroner.
Gertrude and I sat well back, with our veils down. There were a
number of people I knew: Barbara Fitzhugh, in extravagant
mourning--she always went into black on the slightest
provocation, because it was becoming--and Mr. Jarvis, the man who
had come over from the Greenwood Club the night of the
murder. Mr. Harton was there, too, looking impatient
as the inquest dragged, but alive to every particle of evidence.
From a corner Mr. Jamieson was watching the proceedings intently.
Doctor Stewart was called first. His evidence was told briefly,
and amounted to this: on the Sunday morning previous, at a
quarter before five, he had been called to the telephone. The
message was from a Mr. Jarvis, who asked him to come at once to
Sunnyside, as there had been an accident there, and Mr. Arnold
Armstrong had been shot. He had dressed hastily, gathered up
some instruments, and driven to Sunnyside.
He was met by Mr. Jarvis, who took him at once to the east wing.
There, just as he had fallen, was the body of Arnold Armstrong.
There was no need of the instruments: the man was dead. In
answer to the coroner's question--no, the body had not been
moved, save to turn it over. It lay at the foot of the circular
staircase. Yes, he believed death had been instantaneous. The
body was still somewhat warm and rigor mortis had not set in.
It occurred late in cases of sudden death. No, he believed the
probability of suicide might be eliminated; the wounds could have
been self-inflicted, but with difficulty, and there had been
no weapon found.
The doctor's examination was over, but he hesitated and cleared
his throat.
"Mr. Coroner," he said, "at the risk of taking up valuable time,
I would like to speak of an incident that may or may not throw
some light on this matter."
The audience was alert at once.
"Kindly proceed, Doctor," the coroner said.
"My home is in Englewood, two miles from Casanova," the doctor
began. "In the absence of Doctor Walker, a number of Casanova
people have been consulting me. A month ago--five weeks, to be
exact--a woman whom I had never seen came to my office. She was
in deep mourning and kept her veil down, and she brought for
examination a child, a boy of six. The little fellow was ill; it
looked like typhoid, and the mother was frantic. She wanted a
permit to admit the youngster to the Children's Hospital in town
here, where I am a member of the staff, and I gave her one. The
incident would have escaped me, but for a curious thing. Two
days before Mr. Armstrong was shot, I was sent for to go to the
Country Club: some one had been struck with a golf-ball that had
gone wild. It was late when I left--I was on foot, and
about a mile from the club, on the Claysburg road, I met two
people. They were disputing violently, and I had no difficulty
in recognizing Mr. Armstrong. The woman, beyond doubt, was the
one who had consulted me about the child."
At this hint of scandal, Mrs. Ogden Fitzhugh sat up very
straight. Jamieson was looking slightly skeptical, and the
coroner made a note.
"The Children's Hospital, you say, Doctor?" he asked.
"Yes. But the child, who was entered as Lucien Wallace, was
taken away by his mother two weeks ago. I have tried to trace
them and failed."
All at once I remembered the telegram sent to Louise by some one
signed F. L. W.--presumably Doctor Walker. Could this veiled
woman be the Nina Carrington of the message? But it was only
idle speculation. I had no way of finding out, and the inquest
was proceeding.
The report of the coroner's physician came next. The post-mortem
examination showed that the bullet had entered the chest in the
fourth left intercostal space and had taken an oblique course
downward and backward, piercing both the heart and lungs.
The left lung was collapsed, and the exit point of the ball had
been found in the muscles of the back to the left of the spinal
column. It was improbable that such a wound had been selfinflicted,
and its oblique downward course pointed to the fact
that the shot had been fired from above. In other words, as the
murdered man had been found dead at the foot of a staircase, it
was probable that the shot had been fired by some one higher up
on the stairs. There were no marks of powder. The bullet, a
thirty-eight caliber, had been found in the dead man's clothing,
and was shown to the jury.
Mr. Jarvis was called next, but his testimony amounted to little.
He had been summoned by telephone to Sunnyside, had come over at
once with the steward and Mr. Winthrop, at present out of town.
They had been admitted by the housekeeper, and had found the body
lying at the foot of the staircase. He had made a search for a
weapon, but there was none around. The outer entry door in the
east wing had been unfastened and was open about an inch.
I had been growing more and more nervous. When the coroner
called Mr. John Bailey, the room was filled with suppressed
excitement. Mr. Jamieson went forward and spoke a few words to
the coroner, who nodded. Then Halsey was called.
"Mr. Innes," the coroner said, "will you tell under what
circumstances you saw Mr. Arnold Armstrong the night he died?"
"I saw him first at the Country Club," Halsey said quietly. He
was rather pale, but very composed. "I stopped there with my
automobile for gasolene. Mr. Armstrong had been playing cards.
When I saw him there, he was coming out of the card-room, talking
to Mr. John Bailey."
"The nature of the discussion--was it amicable?"
Halsey hesitated.
"They were having a dispute," he said. "I asked Mr. Bailey to
leave the club with me and come to Sunnyside over Sunday."
"Isn't it a fact, Mr. Innes, that you took Mr. Bailey away from
the club-house because you were afraid there would be blows?"
"The situation was unpleasant," Halsey said evasively.
"At that time had you any suspicion that the Traders' Bank had
been wrecked?"
"What occurred next?"
"Mr. Bailey and I talked in the billiard-room until two-thirty."
"And Mr. Arnold Armstrong came there, while you were talking?"
"Yes. He came about half-past two. He rapped at the east door,
and I admitted him."
The silence in the room was intense. Mr. Jamieson's eyes never
left Halsey's face.
"Will you tell us the nature of his errand?"
"He brought a telegram that had come to the club for Mr. Bailey."
"He was sober?"
"Perfectly, at that time. Not earlier."
"Was not his apparent friendliness a change from his former
"Yes. I did not understand it."
"How long did he stay?"
"About five minutes. Then he left, by the east entrance."
"What occurred then?"
"We talked for a few minutes, discussing a plan Mr. Bailey
had in mind. Then I went to the stables, where I kept my car,
and got it out."
"Leaving Mr. Bailey alone in the billiard-room?"
Halsey hesitated.
"My sister was there?"
Mrs. Ogden Fitzhugh had the courage to turn and eye Gertrude
through her lorgnon.
"And then?"
"I took the car along the lower road, not to disturb the
household. Mr. Bailey came down across the lawn, through the
hedge, and got into the car on the road."
"Then you know nothing of Mr. Armstrong's movements after he left
the house?"
"Nothing. I read of his death Monday evening for the first
"Mr. Bailey did not see him on his way across the lawn?"
"I think not. If he had seen him he would have spoken of it."
"Thank you. That is all. Miss Gertrude Innes."
Gertrude's replies were fully as concise as Halsey's. Mrs.
Fitzhugh subjected her to a close inspection, commencing with her
hat and ending with her shoes. I flatter myself she found
nothing wrong with either her gown or her manner, but poor
Gertrude's testimony was the reverse of comforting. She had been
summoned, she said, by her brother, after Mr. Armstrong had gone.
She had waited in the billiard-room with Mr. Bailey, until the
automobile had been ready. Then she had locked the door at the
foot of the staircase, and, taking a lamp, had accompanied Mr.
Bailey to the main entrance of the house, and had watched him
cross the lawn. Instead of going at once to her room, she had
gone back to the billiard-room for something which had been left
there. The card-room and billiard-room were in darkness. She
had groped around, found the article she was looking for, and was
on the point of returning to her room, when she had heard some
one fumbling at the lock at the east outer door. She had thought
it was probably her brother, and had been about to go to the
door, when she heard it open. Almost immediately there was a
shot, and she had run panic-stricken through the drawing-room and
had roused the house.
"You heard no other sound?" the coroner asked. "There was no one
with Mr. Armstrong when he entered?"
"It was perfectly dark. There were no voices and I heard
nothing. There was just the opening of the door, the shot, and
the sound of somebody falling."
"Then, while you went through the drawing-room and up-stairs to
alarm the household, the criminal, whoever it was, could have
escaped by the east door?"
"Thank you. That will do."
I flatter myself that the coroner got little enough out of me. I
saw Mr. Jamieson smiling to himself, and the coroner gave me up,
after a time. I admitted I had found the body, said I had not
known who it was until Mr. Jarvis told me, and ended by looking
up at Barbara Fitzhugh and saying that in renting the house I had
not expected to be involved in any family scandal. At which she
turned purple.
The verdict was that Arnold Armstrong had met his death at the
hands of a person or persons unknown, and we all prepared to
leave. Barbara Fitzhugh flounced out without waiting to speak to
me, but Mr. Harton came up, as I knew he would.
"You have decided to give up the house, I hope, Miss Innes," he
said. "Mrs. Armstrong has wired me again."
"I am not going to give it up," I maintained, "until I understand
some things that are puzzling me. The day that the murderer is
discovered, I will leave."
"Then, judging by what I have heard, you will be back in the city
very soon," he said. And I knew that he suspected the
discredited cashier of the Traders' Bank.
Mr. Jamieson came up to me as I was about to leave the coroner's
"How is your patient?" he asked with his odd little smile.
"I have no patient," I replied, startled.
"I will put it in a different way, then. How is Miss Armstrong?"
"She--she is doing very well," I stammered.
"Good," cheerfully. "And our ghost? Is it laid?"
"Mr. Jamieson," I said suddenly, "I wish you would do one thing:
I wish you would come to Sunnyside and spend a few days there.
The ghost is not laid. I want you to spend one night at least
watching the circular staircase. The murder of Arnold Armstrong
was a beginning, not an end."
He looked serious.
"Perhaps I can do it," he said. "I have been doing something
else, but--well, I will come out to-night."
We were very silent during the trip back to Sunnyside. I watched
Gertrude closely and somewhat sadly. To me there was one glaring
flaw in her story, and it seemed to stand out for every one to
see. Arnold Armstrong had had no key, and yet she said she had
locked the east door. He must have been admitted from within the
house; over and over I repeated it to myself.
That night, as gently as I could, I told Louise the story of her
stepbrother's death. She sat in her big, pillow-filled chair,
and heard me through without interruption. It was clear that she
was shocked beyond words: if I had hoped to learn anything from
her expression, I had failed. She was as much in the dark as we
My taking the detective out to Sunnyside raised an unexpected
storm of protest from Gertrude and Halsey. I was not prepared
for it, and I scarcely knew how to account for it. To me Mr.
Jamieson was far less formidable under my eyes where I knew what
he was doing, than he was of in the city, twisting circumstances
and motives to suit himself and learning what he wished to know,
about events at Sunnyside, in some occult way. I was glad enough
to have him there, when excitements began to come thick and fast.
A new element was about to enter into affairs: Monday, or Tuesday
at the latest, would find Doctor Walker back in his green and
white house in the village, and Louise's attitude to him in the
immediate future would signify Halsey's happiness or
wretchedness, as it might turn out. Then, too, the return
of her mother would mean, of course, that she would
have to leave us, and I had become greatly attached to her.
From the day Mr. Jamieson came to Sunnyside there was a subtle
change in Gertrude's manner to me. It was elusive, difficult to
analyze, but it was there. She was no longer frank with me,
although I think her affection never wavered. At the time I laid
the change to the fact that I had forbidden all communication
with John Bailey, and had refused to acknowledge any engagement
between the two. Gertrude spent much of her time wandering
through the grounds, or taking long cross-country walks. Halsey
played golf at the Country Club day after day, and after Louise
left, as she did the following week, Mr. Jamieson and I were much
together. He played a fair game of cribbage, but he cheated at
The night the detective arrived, Saturday, I had a talk with him.
I told him of the experience Louise Armstrong had had the night
before, on the circular staircase, and about the man who had so
frightened Rosie on the drive. I saw that he thought the
information was important, and to my suggestion that we put an
additional lock on the east wing door he opposed a strong
"I think it probable," he said, "that our visitor will be back
again, and the thing to do is to leave things exactly as they
are, to avoid rousing suspicion. Then I can watch for at least a
part of each night and probably Mr. Innes will help us out. I
would say as little to Thomas as possible. The old man knows
more than he is willing to admit."
I suggested that Alex, the gardener, would probably be willing to
help, and Mr. Jamieson undertook to make the arrangement. For
one night, however, Mr. Jamieson preferred to watch alone.
Apparently nothing occurred. The detective sat in absolute
darkness on the lower step of the stairs, dozing, he said
afterwards, now and then. Nothing could pass him in either
direction, and the door in the morning remained as securely
fastened as it had been the night before. And yet one of the
most inexplicable occurrences of the whole affair took place that
very night.
Liddy came to my room on Sunday morning with a face as long as
the moral law. She laid out my, things as usual, but I missed
her customary garrulousness. I was not regaled with the new
cook's extravagance as to eggs, and she even forbore to mention
"that Jamieson," on whose arrival she had looked with silent
"What's the matter, Liddy?" I asked at last. "Didn't you sleep
last night?"
"No, ma'm," she said stiffly.
"Did you have two cups of coffee at your dinner?" I inquired.
"No, ma'm," indignantly.
I sat up and almost upset my hot water--I always take a cup of
hot water with a pinch of salt, before I get up. It tones the
"Liddy Allen," I said, "stop combing that switch and tell me what
is wrong with you."
Liddy heaved a sigh.
"Girl and woman," she said, "I've been with you twenty-five
years, Miss Rachel, through good temper and bad--"the idea! and
what I have taken from her in the way of sulks!--"but I guess I
can't stand it any longer. My trunk's packed."
"Who packed it?" I asked, expecting from her tone to be told she
had wakened to find it done by some ghostly hand.
"I did; Miss Rachel, you won't believe me when I tell you this
house is haunted. Who was it fell down the clothes chute?
Who was it scared Miss Louise almost into her grave?"
"I'm doing my best to find out," I said. "What in the world are
you driving at?" She drew a long breath.
"There is a hole in the trunk-room wall, dug out since last
night. It's big enough to put your head in, and the plaster's
all over the place."
"Nonsense!" I said. "Plaster is always falling."
But Liddy clenched that.
"Just ask Alex," she said. "When he put the new cook's trunk
there last night the wall was as smooth as this. This morning
it's dug out, and there's plaster on the cook's trunk. Miss
Rachel, you can get a dozen detectives and put one on every stair
in the house, and you'll never catch anything. There's some
things you can't handcuff."
Liddy was right. As soon as I could, I went up to the trunkroom,
which was directly over my bedroom. The plan of the upper
story of the house was like that of the second floor, in the
main. One end, however, over the east wing, had been left only
roughly finished, the intention having been to convert it into a
ball-room at some future time. The maids' rooms, trunk-room,
and various store-rooms, including a large airy linen-room,
opened from a long corridor, like that on the second floor. And
in the trunk-room, as Liddy had said, was a fresh break in the
Not only in the plaster, but through the lathing, the aperture
extended. I reached into the opening, and three feet away,
perhaps, I could touch the bricks of the partition wall. For
some reason, the architect, in building the house, had left a
space there that struck me, even in the surprise of the
discovery, as an excellent place for a conflagration to gain
"You are sure the hole was not here yesterday?" I asked Liddy,
whose expression was a mixture of satisfaction and alarm. In
answer she pointed to the new cook's trunk--that necessary
adjunct of the migratory domestic. The top was covered with fine
white plaster, as was the floor. But there were no large pieces
of mortar lying around--no bits of lathing. When I mentioned
this to Liddy she merely raised her eyebrows. Being quite
confident that the gap was of unholy origin, she did not concern
herself with such trifles as a bit of mortar and lath. No doubt
they were even then heaped neatly on a gravestone in the Casanova
I brought Mr. Jamieson up to see the hole in the wall, directly
after breakfast. His expression was very odd when he looked at
it, and the first thing he did was to try to discover what
object, if any, such a hole could have. He got a piece of
candle, and by enlarging the aperture a little was able to
examine what lay beyond. The result was nil. The trunk-room,
although heated by steam heat, like the rest of the house,
boasted of a fireplace and mantel as well. The opening had been
made between the flue and the outer wall of the house. There was
revealed, however, on inspection, only the brick of the chimney
on one side and the outer wall of the house on the other; in
depth the space extended only to the flooring. The breach had
been made about four feet from the floor, and inside were all the
missing bits of plaster. It had been a methodical ghost.
It was very much of a disappointment. I had expected a secret
room, at the very least, and I think even Mr. Jamieson had
fancied he might at last have a clue to the mystery. There was
evidently nothing more to be discovered: Liddy reported that
everything was serene among the servants, and that none of them
had been disturbed by the noise. The maddening thing,
however, was that the nightly visitor had evidently more than one
way of gaining access to the house, and we made arrangements to
redouble our vigilance as to windows and doors that night.
Halsey was inclined to pooh-pooh the whole affair. He said a
break in the plaster might have occurred months ago and gone
unnoticed, and that the dust had probably been stirred up the day
before. After all, we had to let it go at that, but we put in an
uncomfortable Sunday. Gertrude went to church, and Halsey took a
long walk in the morning. Louise was able to sit up, and she
allowed Halsey and Liddy to assist her down-stairs late in the
afternoon. The east veranda was shady, green with vines and
palms, cheerful with cushions and lounging chairs. We put Louise
in a steamer chair, and she sat there passively enough, her hands
clasped in her lap.
We were very silent. Halsey sat on the rail with a pipe, openly
watching Louise, as she looked broodingly across the valley to
the hills. There was something baffling in the girl's eyes; and
gradually Halsey's boyish features lost their glow at seeing her
about again, and settled into grim lines. He was like his father
just then.
We sat until late afternoon, Halsey growing more and more moody.
Shortly before six, he got up and went into the house, and in a
few minutes he came out and called me to the telephone. It was
Anna Whitcomb, in town, and she kept me for twenty minutes,
telling me the children had had the measles, and how Madame
Sweeny had botched her new gown.
When I finished, Liddy was behind me, her mouth a thin line.
"I wish you would try to look cheerful, Liddy," I groaned, "your
face would sour milk." But Liddy seldom replied to my gibes.
She folded her lips a little tighter.
"He called her up," she said oracularly, "he called her up, and
asked her to keep you at the telephone, so he could talk to Miss
"Nonsense!" I said bruskly. "I might have known enough to leave
them. It's a long time since you and I were in love, Liddy,
and--we forget."
Liddy sniffed.
"No man ever ,made a fool of me," she replied virtuously.
"Well, something did," I retorted.
Mr. Jamieson," I said, when we found ourselves alone after dinner
that night, "the inquest yesterday seemed to me the merest
recapitulation of things that were already known. It developed
nothing new beyond the story of Doctor Stewart's, and that was
"An inquest is only a necessary formality, Miss Innes," he
replied. "Unless a crime is committed in the open, the inquest
does nothing beyond getting evidence from witnesses while events
are still in their minds. The police step in later. You and I
both know how many important things never transpired. For
instance: the dead man had no key, and yet Miss Gertrude
testified to a fumbling at the lock, and then the opening of the
door. The piece of evidence you mention, Doctor Stewart's story,
is one of those things we have to take cautiously: the doctor has
a patient who wears black and does not raise her veil.
Why, it is the typical mysterious lady! Then the good doctor
comes across Arnold Armstrong, who was a graceless scamp--de
mortuis--what's the rest of it?--and he is quarreling with a
lady in black. Behold, says the doctor, they are one and the
"Why was Mr. Bailey not present at the inquest?"
The detective's expression was peculiar.
"Because his physician testified that he is ill, and unable to
leave his bed."
"Ill!" I exclaimed. "Why, neither Halsey nor Gertrude has told
me that."
"There are more things than that, Miss Innes, that are puzzling.
Bailey gives the impression that he knew nothing of the crash at
the bank until he read it in the paper Monday night, and that he
went back and surrendered himself immediately. I do not believe
it. Jonas, the watchman at the Traders' Bank, tells a different
story. He says that on the Thursday night before, about eightthirty,
Bailey went back to the bank. Jonas admitted him, and he
says the cashier was in a state almost of collapse. Bailey
worked until midnight, then he closed the vault and went away.
The occurrence was so unusual that the watchman pondered
over it an the rest of the night. What did Bailey do when he
went back to the Knickerbocker apartments that night? He packed
a suit-case ready for instant departure. But he held off too
long; he waited for something. My personal opinion is that he
waited to see Miss Gertrude before flying from the country.
Then, when he had shot down Arnold Armstrong that night, he had
to choose between two evils. He did the thing that would
immediately turn public opinion in his favor, and surrendered
himself, as an innocent man. The strongest thing against him is
his preparation for flight, and his deciding to come back after
the murder of Arnold Armstrong. He was shrewd enough to disarm
suspicion as to the graver charge?"
The evening dragged along slowly. Mrs. Watson came to my bedroom
before I went to bed and asked if I had any arnica. She showed
me a badly swollen hand, with reddish streaks running toward the
elbow; she said it was the hand she had hurt the night of the
murder a week before, and that she had not slept well since. It
looked to me as if it might be serious, and I told her to let
Doctor Stewart see it.
The next morning Mrs. Watson went up to town on the eleven
train, and was admitted to the Charity Hospital. She was
suffering from blood-poisoning. I fully meant to go up and see
her there, but other things drove her entirely from my mind. I
telephoned to the hospital that day, however, and ordered a
private room for her, and whatever comforts she might be allowed.
Mrs. Armstrong arrived Monday evening with her husband's body,
and the services were set for the next day. The house on
Chestnut Street, in town, had been opened, and Tuesday morning
Louise left us to go home. She sent for me before she went, and
I saw she had been crying.
"How can I thank you, Miss Innes?" she said. "You have taken me
on faith, and--you have not asked me any questions. Some time,
perhaps, I can tell you; and when that time comes, you will all
despise me,--Halsey, too."
I tried to tell her how glad I was to have had her but there was
something else she wanted to say. She said it finally, when she
had bade a constrained good-by to Halsey and the car was waiting
at the door.
"Miss Innes," she said in a low tone, "if they--if there is any
attempt made to--to have you give up the house, do it, if
you possibly can. I am afraid--to have you stay."
That was all. Gertrude went into town with her and saw her
safely home. She reported a decided coolness in the greeting
between Louise and her mother, and that Doctor Walker was there,
apparently in charge of the arrangements for the funeral. Halsey
disappeared shortly after Louise left and came home about nine
that night, muddy and tired. As for Thomas, he went around
dejected and sad, and I saw the detective watching him closely at
dinner. Even now I wonder--what did Thomas know? What did he
At ten o'clock the household had settled down for the night.
Liddy, who was taking Mrs. Watson's place, had finished examining
the tea-towels and the corners of the shelves in the coolingroom,
and had gone to bed. Alex, the gardener, had gone heavily
up the circular staircase to his room, and Mr. Jamieson was
examining the locks of the windows. Halsey dropped into a chair
in the living-room, and stared moodily ahead. Once he roused.
"What sort of a looking chap is that Walker, Gertrude?" he asked!
"Rather tall, very dark, smooth-shaven. Not bad looking,"
Gertrude said, putting down the book she had been pretending to
read. Halsey kicked a taboret viciously.
"Lovely place this village must be in the winter," he said
irrelevantly. "A girl would be buried alive here."
It was then some one rapped at the knocker on the heavy front
door. Halsey got up leisurely and opened it, admitting Warner.
He was out of breath from running, and he looked half abashed.
"I am sorry to disturb you," he said. "But I didn't know what
else to do. It's about Thomas."
"What about Thomas?" I asked. Mr. Jamieson had come into the
hall and we all stared at Warner.
"He's acting queer," Warner explained. "He's sitting down there
on the edge of the porch, and he says he has seen a ghost. The
old man looks bad, too; he can scarcely speak."
"He's as full of superstition as an egg is of meat," I said.
"Halsey, bring some whisky and we will all go down."
No one moved to get the whisky, from which I judged there were
three pocket flasks ready for emergency. Gertrude threw a
shawl around my shoulders, and we all started down over the hill:
I had made so many nocturnal excursions around the place that I
knew my way perfectly. But Thomas was not on the veranda, nor
was he inside the house. The men exchanged significant glances,
and Warner got a lantern.
"He can't have gone far," he said. "He was trembling so that he
couldn't stand, when I left."
Jamieson and Halsey together made the round of the lodge,
occasionally calling the old man by name. But there was no
response. No Thomas came, bowing and showing his white teeth
through the darkness. I began to be vaguely uneasy, for the
first time. Gertrude, who was never nervous in the dark, went
alone down the drive to the gate, and stood there, looking along
the yellowish line of the road, while I waited on the tiny
Warner was puzzled. He came around to the edge of the veranda
and stood looking at it as if it ought to know and explain.
"He might have stumbled into the house," he said, "but he could
not have climbed the stairs. Anyhow, he's not inside or outside,
that I can see." The other members of the party had come back
now, and no one had found any trace of the old man. His
pipe, still warm, rested on the edge of the rail, and inside on
the table his old gray hat showed that its owner had not gone
He was not far, after all. From the table my eyes traveled
around the room, and stopped at the door of a closet. I hardly
know what impulse moved me, but I went in and turned the knob.
It burst open with the impetus of a weight behind it, and
something fell partly forward in a heap on the floor. It was
Thomas--Thomas without a mark of injury on him, and dead.
Warner was on his knees in a moment, fumbling at the old man's
collar to loosen it, but Halsey caught his hand.
"Let him alone?" he said. "You can't help him; he is dead."
We stood there, each avoiding the other's eyes; we spoke low and
reverently in the presence of death, and we tacitly avoided any
mention of the suspicion that was in every mind. When Mr.
Jamieson had finished his cursory examination, he got up and
dusted the knees of his trousers.
"There is no sign of injury," he said, and I know I, for one,
drew a long breath of relief. "From what Warner says and from
his hiding in the closet, I should say he was scared to death.
Fright and a weak heart, together."
"But what could have done it?" Gertrude asked. "He was
all right this evening at dinner. Warner, what did he say when
you found him on the porch?"
Warner looked shaken: his honest, boyish face was colorless.
"Just what I told you, Miss Innes. He'd been reading the
paper down-stairs; I had put up the car, and, feeling sleepy, I
came down to the lodge to go to bed. As I went up-stairs, Thomas
put down the paper and, taking his pipe, went out on the porch.
Then I heard an exclamation from him."
"What did he say?" demanded Jamieson.
"I couldn't hear, but his voice was strange; it sounded
startled. I waited for him to call out again, but he did not, so
I went down-stairs. He was sitting on the porch step, looking
straight ahead, as if he saw something among the trees across the
road. And he kept mumbling about having seen a ghost. He looked
queer, and I tried to get him inside, but he wouldn't move. Then
I thought I'd better go up to the house."
"Didn't he say anything else you could understand?" I asked.
"He said something about the grave giving up its dead."
Mr. Jamieson was going through the old man's pockets, and
Gertrude was composing his arms, folding them across his white
shirt-bosom, always so spotless.
Mr. Jamieson looked up at me.
"What was that you said to me, Miss Innes, about the murder
at the house being a beginning and not an end? By jove, I
believe you were right!"
In the course of his investigations the detective had come to
the inner pocket of the dead butler's black coat. Here he found
some things that interested him. One was a small flat key, with
a red cord tied to it, and the other was a bit of white paper, on
which was written something in Thomas' cramped hand. Mr.
Jamieson read it: then he gave it to me. It was an address in
fresh ink--
LUCIEN WALLACE, 14 Elm Street, Richfield.
As the card went around, I think both the detective and I
watched for any possible effect it might have, but, beyond
perplexity, there seemed to be none.
"Richfield!" Gertrude exclaimed. "Why, Elm Street is the
main street; don't you remember, Halsey?"
"Lucien Wallace!" Halsey said. "That is the child Stewart spoke
of at the inquest."
Warner, with his mechanic's instinct, had reached for the key.
What he said was not a surprise.
"Yale lock," he said. "Probably a key to the east entry."
There was no reason why Thomas, an old and trusted servant,
should not have had a key to that particular door, although the
servants' entry was in the west wing. But I had not known of
this key, and it opened up a new field of conjecture. Just now,
however, there were many things to be attended to, and, leaving
Warner with the body, we all went back to the house. Mr.
Jamieson walked with me, while Halsey and Gertrude followed.
"I suppose I shall have to notify the Armstrongs," I said. "They
will know if Thomas had any people and how to reach them. Of
course, I expect to defray the expenses of the funeral, but his
relatives must be found. What do you think frightened him, Mr.
"It is hard to say," he replied slowly, "but I think we may be
certain it was fright, and that he was hiding from something. I
am sorry in more than one way: I have always believed that
Thomas knew something, or suspected something, that he would not
tell. Do you know hour much money there was in that worn-out
wallet of his? Nearly a hundred dollars! Almost two months'
wages--and yet those darkies seldom have a penny. Well--what
Thomas knew will be buried with him."
Halsey suggested that the grounds be searched, but Mr. Jamieson
vetoed the suggestion.
"You would find nothing," he said. "A person clever enough to
get into Sunnyside and tear a hole in the wall, while I watched
down-stairs, is not to be found by going around the shrubbery
with a lantern."
With the death of Thomas, I felt that a climax had come in
affairs at Sunnyside. The night that followed was quiet enough.
Halsey watched at the foot of the staircase, and a complicated
system of bolts on the other doors seemed to be effectual.
Once in the night I wakened and thought I heard the tapping
again. But all was quiet, and I had reached the stage where I
refused to be disturbed for minor occurrences.
The Armstrongs were notified of Thomas' death, and I had my first
interview with Doctor Walker as a result. He came up early
the next morning, just as we finished breakfast, in a
professional looking car with a black hood. I found him striding
up and down the living-room, and, in spite of my preconceived
dislike, I had to admit that the man was presentable. A big
fellow he was, tall and dark, as Gertrude had said, smooth-shaven
and erect, with prominent features and a square jaw. He was
painfully spruce in his appearance, and his manner was almost
obtrusively polite.
"I must make a double excuse for this early visit, Miss Innes,"
he said as he sat down. The chair was lower than he expected,
and his dignity required collecting before he went on. "My
professional duties are urgent and long neglected, and"--a fall
to the every-day manner--"something must be done about that
"Yes," I said, sitting on the edge of my chair. "I merely wished
the address of Thomas' people. You might have telephoned, if you
were busy."
He smiled.
"I wished to see you about something else," he said. "As for
Thomas, it is Mrs. Armstrong's wish that would allow her to
attend to the expense. About his relatives, I have already
notified his brother, in the village. It was heart disease, I
think. Thomas always had a bad heart."
"Heart disease and fright," I said, still on the edge of my
chair. But the doctor had no intention of leaving.
"I understand you have a ghost up here, and that you have the
house filled with detectives to exorcise it," he said.
For some reason I felt I was being "pumped," as Halsey says.
"You have been misinformed," I replied.
"What, no ghost, no detectives!" he said, still with his smile.
"What a disappointment to the village!"
I resented his attempt at playfulness. It had been anything but
a joke to us.
"Doctor Walker," I said tartly, "I fail to see any humor in the
situation. Since I came here, one man has been shot, and another
one has died from shock. There have been intruders in the house,
and strange noises. If that is funny, there is something wrong
with my sense of humor."
"You miss the point," he said, still good-naturedly. "The thing
that is funny, to me, is that you insist on remaining here,
under the circumstances. I should think nothing would keep you."
"You are mistaken. Everything that occurs only confirms my
resolution to stay until the mystery is cleared."
"I have a message for you, Miss Innes," he said, rising at
last. "Mrs. Armstrong asked me to thank you for your kindness to
Louise, whose whim, occurring at the time it did, put her to
great inconvenience. Also--and this is a delicate matter--she
asked me to appeal to your natural sympathy for her, at this
time, and to ask you if you will not reconsider your decision
about the house. Sunnyside is her home; she loves it dearly, and
just now she wishes to retire here for quiet and peace."
"She must have had a change of heart," I said, ungraciously
enough. "Louise told me her mother despised the place. Besides,
this is no place for quiet and peace just now. Anyhow, doctor,
while I don't care to force an issue, I shall certainly remain
here, for a time at least."
"For how long?" he asked.
"My lease is for six months. I shall stay until some
explanation is found for certain things. My own family is
implicated now, and I shall do everything to clear the mystery of
Arnold Armstrong's murder."
The doctor stood looking down, slapping his gloves
thoughtfully against the palm of a well-looked-after hand.
"You say there have been intruders in the house?" he asked.
"You are sure of that, Miss Innes?"
"In what part?"
"In the east wing."
"Can you tell me when these intrusions occurred, and what the
purpose seemed to be? Was it robbery?"
"No," I said decidedly. "As to time, once on Friday night a
week ago, again the following night, when Arnold Armstrong was
murdered, and again last Friday night."
The doctor looked serious. He seemed to be debating some
question in his mind, and to reach a decision.
"Miss Innes," he said, "I am in a peculiar position; I
understand your attitude, of course; but--do you think you are
wise? Ever since you have come here there have been hostile
demonstrations against you and your family. I'm not a
croaker, but--take a warning. Leave before anything occurs that
will cause you a lifelong regret."
"I am willing to take the responsibility," I said coldly.
I think he gave me up then as a poor proposition. He asked to be
shown where Arnold Armstrong's body had been found, and I took
him there. He scrutinized the whole place carefully, examining
the stairs and the lock. When he had taken a formal farewell I
was confident of one thing. Doctor Walker would do anything he
could to get me away from Sunnyside.
It was Monday evening when we found the body of poor old Thomas.
Monday night had been uneventful; things were quiet at the house
and the peculiar circumstances of the old man's death had been
carefully kept from the servants. Rosie took charge of the
dining-room and pantry, in the absence of a butler, and, except
for the warning of the Casanova doctor, everything breathed of
Affairs at the Traders' Bank were progressing slowly. The
failure had hit small stock-holders very hard, the minister of
the little Methodist chapel in Casanova among them. He had
received as a legacy from an uncle a few shares of stock in the
Traders' Bank, and now his joy was turned to bitterness: he had
to sacrifice everything he had in the world, and his feeling
against Paul Armstrong, dead, as he was, must have been bitter in
the extreme. He was asked to officiate at the simple
services when the dead banker's body was interred in Casanova
churchyard, but the good man providentially took cold, and a
substitute was called in.
A few days after the services he called to see me, a kind-faced
little man, in a very bad frock-coat and laundered tie. I think
he was uncertain as to my connection with the Armstrong family,
and dubious whether I considered Mr. Armstrong's taking away a
matter for condolence or congratulation. He was not long in
I liked the little man. He had known Thomas well, and had
promised to officiate at the services in the rickety African Zion
Church. He told me more of himself than he knew, and before he
left, I astonished him--and myself, I admit--by promising a new
carpet for his church. He was much affected, and I gathered that
he had yearned over his ragged chapel as a mother over a halfclothed
"You are laying up treasure, Miss Innes," he said brokenly,
"where neither moth nor rust corrupt, nor thieves break through
and steal."
"It is certainly a safer place than Sunnyside," I admitted. And
the thought of the carpet permitted him to smile. He stood
just inside the doorway, looking from the luxury of the house to
the beauty of the view.
"The rich ought to be good," he said wistfully. "They have so
much that is beautiful, and beauty is ennobling. And yet--while
I ought to say nothing but good of the dead--Mr. Armstrong saw
nothing of this fair prospect. To him these trees and lawns were
not the work of God. They were property, at so much an acre. He
loved money, Miss Innes. He offered up everything to his golden
calf. Not power, not ambition, was his fetish: it was money."
Then he dropped his pulpit manner, and, turning to me with his
engaging smile: "In spite of all this luxury," he said, "the
country people here have a saying that Mr. Paul Armstrong could
sit on a dollar and see all around it. Unlike the summer people,
he gave neither to the poor nor to the church. He loved money
for its own sake."
"And there are no pockets in shrouds!" I said cynically.
I sent him home in the car, with a bunch of hot-house roses for
his wife, and he was quite overwhelmed. As for me, I had a
generous glow that was cheap at the price of a church
carpet. I received less gratification--and less gratitude--when
I presented the new silver communion set to St. Barnabas.
I had a great many things to think about in those days. I made
out a list of questions and possible answers, but I seemed only
to be working around in a circle. I always ended where I began.
The list was something like this:
Who had entered the house the night before the murder?
Thomas claimed it was Mr. Bailey, whom he had seen on the footpath,
and who owned the pearl cuff-link.
Why did Arnold Armstrong come back after he had left the house
the night he was killed?
No answer. Was it on the mission Louise had mentioned?
Who admitted him?
Gertrude said she had looked the east entry. There was no key on
the dead man or in the door. He must have been admitted from
Who had been locked in the clothes chute?
Some one unfamiliar with the house, evidently. Only two people
missing from the household, Rosie and Gertrude. Rosie had been
at the lodge. Therefore--but was it Gertrude? Might it not have
been the mysterious intruder again?
Who had accosted Rosie on the drive?
Again--perhaps the nightly visitor. It seemed more likely some
one who suspected a secret at the lodge. Was Louise under
Who had passed Louise on the circular staircase?
Could it have been Thomas? The key to the east entry made this a
possibility. But why was he there, if it were indeed he?
Who had made the hole in the trunk-room wall?
It was not vandalism. It had been done quietly, and with
deliberate purpose. If I had only known how to read the purpose
of that gaping aperture what I might have saved in anxiety and
mental strain!
Why had Louise left her people and come home to hide at the
There was no answer, as yet, to this, or to the next questions.
Why did both she and Doctor Walker warn us away from the house?
Who was Lucien Wallace?
What did Thomas see in the shadows the night he died?
What was the meaning of the subtle change in Gertrude?
Was Jack Bailey an accomplice or a victim in the looting of the
Traders' Bank?
What all-powerful reason made Louise determine to marry Doctor
The examiners were still working on the books of the Traders'
Bank, and it was probable that several weeks would elapse before
everything was cleared up. The firm of expert accountants who
had examined the books some two months before testified that
every bond, every piece of valuable paper, was there at that
time. It had been shortly after their examination that the
president, who had been in bad health, had gone to California.
Mr. Bailey was still ill at the Knickerbocker, and in this, as in
other ways, Gertrude's conduct puzzled me. She seemed
indifferent, refused to discuss matters pertaining to the bank,
and never, to my knowledge, either wrote to him or went to see
Gradually I came to the conclusion that Gertrude, with the rest
of the world, believed her lover guilty, and--although I believed
it myself, for that matter--I was irritated by her indifference.
Girls in my day did not meekly accept the public's verdict as to
the man they loved.
But presently something occurred that made me think that under
Gertrude's surface calm there was a seething flood of emotions.
Tuesday morning the detective made a careful search of the
grounds, but he found nothing. In the afternoon he disappeared,
and it was late that night when he came home. He said he would
have to go back to the city the following day, and arranged with
Halsey and Alex to guard the house.
Liddy came to me on Wednesday morning with her black silk apron
held up like a bag, and her eyes big with virtuous wrath. It was
the day of Thomas' funeral in the village, and Alex and I were in
the conservatory cutting flowers for the old man's casket. Liddy
is never so happy as when she is making herself wretched, and now
her mouth drooped while her eyes were triumphant.
"I always said there were plenty of things going on here,
right under our noses, that we couldn't see," she said, holding
out her apron.
"I don't see with my nose," I remarked. "What have you got
Liddy pushed aside a half-dozen geranium pots, and in the space
thus cleared she dumped the contents of her apron--a handful of
tiny bits of paper. Alex had stepped back, but I saw him
watching her curiously.
"Wait a moment, Liddy," I said. "You have been going through the
library paper-basket again!"
Liddy was arranging her bits of paper with the skill of long
practice and paid no attention.
"Did it ever occur to you," I went on, putting my hand over the
scraps, "that when people tear up their correspondence, it is for
the express purpose of keeping it from being read?"
"If they wasn't ashamed of it they wouldn't take so much trouble,
Miss Rachel," Liddy said oracularly. "More than that, with
things happening every day, I consider it my duty. If you don't
read and act on this, I shall give it to that Jamieson, and I'll
venture he'll not go back to the city to-day."
That decided me. If the scraps had anything to do with the
mystery ordinary conventions had no value. So Liddy arranged the
scraps, like working out one of the puzzle-pictures children play
with, and she did it with much the same eagerness. When it was
finished she stepped aside while I read it.
"Wednesday night, nine o'clock. Bridge," I real aloud. Then,
aware of Alex's stare, I turned on Liddy.
"Some one is to play bridge to-night at nine o'clock," I said.
"Is that your business, or mine?"
Liddy was aggrieved. She was about to reply when I scooped up
the pieces and left the conservatory.
"Now then," I said, when we got outside, "will you tell me why
you choose to take Alex into your confidence? He's no fool. Do
you suppose he thinks any one in this house is going to play
bridge to-night at nine o'clock, by appointment! I suppose you
have shown it in the kitchen, and instead of my being able to
slip down to the bridge to-night quietly, and see who is there,
the whole household will be going in a procession."
"Nobody knows it," Liddy said humbly. "I found it in the basket
in Miss Gertrude's dressing-room. Look at the back of the
sheet." I turned over some of the scraps, and, sure enough,
it was a blank deposit slip from the Traders' Bank. So Gertrude
was going to meet Jack Bailey that night by the bridge! And I
had thought he was ill! It hardly seemed like the action of an
innocent man--this avoidance of daylight, and of his fiancee's
people. I decided to make certain, however, by going to the
bridge that night.
After luncheon Mr. Jamieson suggested that I go with him to
Richfield, and I consented.
"I am inclined to place more faith in Doctor Stewart's story," he
said, "since I found that scrap in old Thomas' pocket. It bears
out the statement that the woman with the child, and the woman
who quarreled with Armstrong, are the same. It looks as if
Thomas had stumbled on to some affair which was more or less
discreditable to the dead man, and, with a certain loyalty to the
family, had kept it to himself. Then, you see, your story about
the woman at the card-room window begins to mean something. It
is the nearest approach to anything tangible that we have had
Warner took us to Richfield in the car. It was about twenty-five
miles by railroad, but by taking a series of atrociously rough
short cuts we got there very quickly. It was a pretty little
town, on the river, and back on the hill I could see the
Mortons' big country house, where Halsey and Gertrude had been
staying until the night of the murder.
Elm Street was almost the only street, and number fourteen was
easily found. It was a small white house, dilapidated without
having gained anything picturesque, with a low window and a porch
only a foot or so above the bit of a lawn. There was a babycarriage
in the path, and from a swing at the side came the sound
of conflict. Three small children were disputing vociferously,
and a faded young woman with a kindly face was trying to hush the
clamor. When she saw us she untied her gingham apron and came
around to the porch.
"Good afternoon," I said. Jamieson lifted his hat, without
speaking. "I came to inquire about a child named Lucien
"I am glad you have come," she said. "In spite of the other
children, I think the little fellow is lonely. We thought
perhaps his mother would be here to-day."
Mr. Jamieson stepped forward.
"You are Mrs. Tate?" I wondered how the detective knew.
"Yes, sir."
"Mrs. Tate, we want to make some inquiries. Perhaps in the
"Come right in," she said hospitably. And soon we were in the
little shabby parlor, exactly like a thousand of its prototypes.
Mrs. Tate sat uneasily, her hands folded in her lap.
"How long has Lucien been here?" Mr. Jamieson asked.
"Since a week ago last Friday. His mother paid one week's board
in advance; the other has not been paid."
"Was he ill when he came?"
"No, sir, not what you'd call sick. He was getting better of
typhoid, she said, and he's picking up fine."
"Will you tell me his mother's name and address?"
"That's the trouble," the young woman said, knitting her brows.
"She gave her name as Mrs. Wallace, and said she had no address.
She was looking for a boarding-house in town. She said she
worked in a department store, and couldn't take care of the child
properly, and he needed fresh air and milk. I had three children
of my own, and one more didn't make much difference in the work,
but--I wish she would pay this week's board."
"Did she say what store it was?"
"No, sir, but all the boy's clothes came from King's. He has far
too fine clothes for the country."
There was a chorus of shouts and shrill yells from the front
door, followed by the loud stamping of children's feet and a
throaty "whoa, whoa!" Into the room came a tandem team of two
chubby youngsters, a boy and a girl, harnessed with a clothesline,
and driven by a laughing boy of about seven, in tan
overalls and brass buttons. The small driver caught my attention
at once: he was a beautiful child, and, although he showed traces
of recent severe illness, his skin had now the clear transparency
of health.
"Whoa, Flinders," he shouted. "You're goin' to smash the trap."
Mr. Jamieson coaxed him over by holding out a lead-pencil,
striped blue and yellow.
"Now, then," he said, when the boy had taken the lead-pencil and
was testing its usefulness on the detective's cuff, "now then,
I'll bet you don't know what your name is!"
"I do," said the boy. "Lucien Wallace."
"Great! And what's your mother's name?"
"Mother, of course. What's your mother's name?" And he
pointed to me! I am going to stop wearing black: it doubles a
woman's age.
"And where did you live before you came here?" The detective was
polite enough not to smile.
"Grossmutter," he said. And I saw Mr. Jamieson's eyebrows go
"German," he commented. "Well, young man, you don't seem to know
much about yourself."
"I've tried it all week," Mrs. Tate broke in. "The boy knows a
word or two of German, but he doesn't know where he lived, or
anything about himself."
Mr. Jamieson wrote something on a card and gave it to her.
"Mrs. Tate," he said, "I want you to do something. Here is some
money for the telephone call. The instant the boy's mother
appears here, call up that number and ask for the person whose
name is there. You can run across to the drug-store on an errand
and do it quietly. Just say, `The lady has come.'"
"`The lady has come,'" repeated Mrs. Tate. "Very well, sir, and
I hope it will be soon. The milk-bill alone is almost double
what it was."
"How much is the child's board?" I asked.
"Three dollars a week, including his washing."
"Very well," I said. "Now, Mrs. Tate, I am going to pay last
week's board and a week in advance. If the mother comes, she is
to know nothing of this visit--absolutely not a word, and, in
return for your silence, you may use this money for--something
for your own children."
Her tired, faded face lighted up, and I saw her glance at the
little Tates' small feet. Shoes, I divined--the feet of the
genteel poor being almost as expensive as their stomachs.
As we went back Mr. Jamieson made only one remark: I think he
was laboring under the weight of a great disappointment.
"Is King's a children's outfitting place?" he asked.
"Not especially. It is a general department store."
He was silent after that, but he went to the telephone as soon as
we got home, and called up King and Company, in the city.
After a time he got the general manager, and they talked for some
time. When Mr. Jamieson hung up the receiver he turned to me.
"The plot thickens," he said with his ready smile. "There are
four women named Wallace at King's none of them married, and none
over twenty. I think I shall go up to the city to-night.
I want to go to the Children's Hospital. But before I go, Miss
Innes, I wish you would be more frank with me than you have been
yet. I want you to show me the revolver you picked up in the
tulip bed."
So he had known all along!
"It WAS a revolver, Mr. Jamieson," I admitted, cornered at
last, "but I can not show it to you. It is not in my
At dinner Mr. Jamieson suggested sending a man out in his place
for a couple of days, but Halsey was certain there would be
nothing more, and felt that he and Alex could manage the
situation. The detective went back to town early in the evening,
and by nine o'clock Halsey, who had been playing golf--as a man
does anything to take his mind away from trouble--was sleeping
soundly on the big leather davenport in the living-room.
I sat and knitted, pretending not to notice when Gertrude got up
and wandered out into the starlight. As soon as I was satisfied
that she had gone, however, I went out cautiously. I had no
intention of eavesdropping, but I wanted to be certain that it
was Jack Bailey she was meeting. Too many things had occurred in
which Gertrude was, or appeared to be, involved, to allow
anything to be left in question.
I went slowly across the lawn, skirted the hedge to a break not
far from the lodge, and found myself on the open road. Perhaps a
hundred feet to the left the path led across the valley to the
Country Club, and only a little way off was the foot-bridge over
Casanova Creek. But just as I was about to turn down the path I
heard steps coming toward me, and I shrank into the bushes. It
was Gertrude, going back quickly toward the house.
I was surprised. I waited until she had had time to get almost
to the house before I started. And then I stepped back again
into the shadows. The reason why Gertrude had not kept her tryst
was evident. Leaning on the parapet of the bridge in the
moonlight, and smoking a pipe, was Alex, the gardener. I could
have throttled Liddy for her carelessness in reading the torn
note where he could hear. And I could cheerfully have choked
Alex to death for his audacity.
But there was no help for it: I turned and followed Gertrude
slowly back to the house.
The frequent invasions of the house had effectually prevented any
relaxation after dusk. We had redoubled our vigilance as to
bolts and window-locks but, as Mr. Jamieson had suggested, we
allowed the door at the east entry to remain as before,
locked by the Yale lock only. To provide only one possible
entrance for the invader, and to keep a constant guard in the
dark at the foot of the circular staircase, seemed to be the only
In the absence of the detective, Alex and Halsey arranged to
change off, Halsey to be on duty from ten to two, and Alex from
two until six. Each man was armed, and, as an additional
precaution, the one off duty slept in a room near the head of the
circular staircase and kept his door open, to be ready for
These arrangements were carefully kept from the servants, who
were only commencing to sleep at night, and who retired, one and
all, with barred doors and lamps that burned full until morning.
The house was quiet again Wednesday night. It was almost a week
since Louise had encountered some one on the stairs, and it was
four days since the discovery of the hole in the trunk-room wall.
Arnold Armstrong and his father rested side by side in the
Casanova churchyard, and at the Zion African Church, on the hill,
a new mound marked the last resting-place of poor Thomas.
Louise was with her mother in town, and, beyond a polite note of
thanks to me, we had heard nothing from her. Doctor Walker had
taken up his practice again, and we saw him now and then flying
past along the road, always at top speed. The murder of Arnold
Armstrong was still unavenged, and I remained firm in the
position I had taken--to stay at Sunnyside until the thing was at
least partly cleared.
And yet, for all its quiet, it was on Wednesday night that
perhaps the boldest attempt was made to enter the house. On
Thursday afternoon the laundress sent word she would like to
speak to me, and I saw her in my private sitting-room, a small
room beyond the dressing-room.
Mary Anne was embarrassed. She had rolled down her sleeves and
tied a white apron around her waist, and she stood making folds
in it with fingers that were red and shiny from her soap-suds.
"Well, Mary," I said encouragingly, "what's the matter? Don't
dare to tell me the soap is out."
"No, ma'm, Miss Innes." She had a nervous habit of looking first
at my one eye and then at the other, her own optics shifting
ceaselessly, right eye, left eye, right eye, until I found myself
doing the same thing. "No, ma'm. I was askin' did you want
the ladder left up the clothes chute?"
"The what?" I screeched, and was sorry the next minute. Seeing
her suspicions were verified, Mary Anne had gone white, and stood
with her eyes shifting more wildly than ever.
"There's a ladder up the clothes chute, Miss Innes," she said.
"It's up that tight I can't move it, and I didn't like to ask for
help until I spoke to you."
It was useless to dissemble; Mary Anne knew now as well as I did
that the ladder had no business to be there. I did the best I
could, however. I put her on the defensive at once.
"Then you didn't lock the laundry last night?"
"I locked it tight, and put the key in the kitchen on its nail."
"Very well, then you forgot a window."
Mary Anne hesitated.
"Yes'm," she said at last. "I thought I locked them all, but
there was one open this morning."
I went out of the room and down the hall, followed by Mary Anne.
The door into the clothes chute was securely bolted, and when I
opened it I saw the evidence of the woman's story. A pruningladder
had been brought from where it had lain against the
stable and now stood upright in the clothes shaft, its end
resting against the wall between the first and second floors.
I turned to Mary.
"This is due to your carelessness," I said. "If we had all been
murdered in our beds it would have been your fault." She
shivered. "Now, not a word of this through the house, and send
Alex to me."
The effect on Alex was to make him apoplectic with rage, and with
it all I fancied there was an element of satisfaction. As I look
back, so many things are plain to me that I wonder I could not
see at the time. It is all known now, and yet the whole thing
was so remarkable that perhaps my stupidity was excusable.
Alex leaned down the chute and examined the ladder carefully.
"It is caught," he said with a grim smile. "The fools, to have
left a warning like that! The only trouble is, Miss Innes, they
won't be apt to come back for a while."
"I shouldn't regard that in the light of a calamity," I replied.
Until late that evening Halsey and Alex worked at the chute.
They forced down the ladder at last, and put a new bolt on the
door. As for myself, I sat and wondered if I had a deadly enemy,
intent on my destruction.
I was growing more and more nervous. Liddy had given up all
pretense at bravery, and slept regularly in my dressing-room on
the couch, with a prayer-book and a game knife from the kitchen
under her pillow, thus preparing for both the natural and the
supernatural. That was the way things stood that Thursday night,
when I myself took a hand in the struggle.
About nine o'clock that night Liddy came into the living-room and
reported that one of the housemaids declared she had seen two men
slip around the corner of the stable. Gertrude had been sitting
staring in front of her, jumping at every sound. Now she turned
on Liddy pettishly.
"I declare, Liddy," she said, "you are a bundle of nerves. What
if Eliza did see some men around the stable? It may have been
Warner and Alex."
"Warner is in the kitchen, miss," Liddy said with dignity. "And
if you had come through what I have, you would be a bundle of
nerves, too. Miss Rachel, I'd be thankful if you'd give me my
month's wages to-morrow. I'll be going to my sister's."
"Very well," I said, to her evident amazement. "I will make out
the check. Warner can take you down to the noon train."
Liddy's face was really funny.
"You'll have a nice time at your sister's," I went on. "Five
children, hasn't she?"
"That's it," Liddy said, suddenly bursting into tears. "Send me
away, after all these years, and your new shawl only half done,
and nobody knowin' how to fix the water for your bath."
"It's time I learned to prepare my own bath." I was knitting
complacently. But Gertrude got up and put her arms around
Liddy's shaking shoulders.
"You are two big babies," she said soothingly. "Neither one of
you could get along for an hour without the other. So stop
quarreling and be good. Liddy, go right up and lay out Aunty's
night things. She is going to bed early."
After Liddy had gone I began to think about the men at the
stable, and I grew more and more anxious. Halsey was aimlessly
knocking the billiard-balls around in the billiard-room, and I
called to him.
"Halsey," I said when he sauntered in, "is there a policeman in
"Constable," he said laconically. "Veteran of the war, one arm;
in office to conciliate the G. A. R. element. Why?"
"Because I am uneasy to-night." And I told him what Liddy had
said. "Is there any one you can think of who could be relied on
to watch the outside of the house to-night?"
"We might get Sam Bohannon from the club," he said thoughtfully.
"It wouldn't be a bad scheme. He's a smart darky, and with his
mouth shut and his shirt-front covered, you couldn't see him a
yard off in the dark."
Halsey conferred with Alex, and the result, in an hour, was Sam.
His instructions were simple. There had been numerous attempts
to break into the house; it was the intention, not to drive
intruders away, but to capture them. If Sam saw anything
suspicious outside, he was to tap at the east entry, where Alex
and Halsey were to alternate in keeping watch through the night.
It was with a comfortable feeling of security that I went to bed
that night. The door between Gertrude's rooms and mine had been
opened, and, with the doors into the hall bolted, we were safe
enough. Although Liddy persisted in her belief that doors would
prove no obstacles to our disturbers.
As before, Halsey watched the east entry from ten until two.
He had an eye to comfort, and he kept vigil in a heavy oak chair,
very large and deep. We went up-stairs rather early, and through
the open door Gertrude and I kept up a running fire of
conversation. Liddy was brushing my hair, and Gertrude was doing
her own, with a long free sweep of her strong round arms.
"Did you know Mrs. Armstrong and Louise are in the village?" she
"No," I replied, startled. "How did you hear it?"
"I met the oldest Stewart girl to-day, the doctor's daughter, and
she told me they had not gone back to town after the funeral.
They went directly to that little yellow house next to Doctor
Walker's, and are apparently settled there. They took the house
furnished for the summer."
"Why, it's a bandbox," I said. "I can't imagine Fanny Armstrong
in such a place."
"It's true, nevertheless. Ella Stewart says Mrs. Armstrong has
aged terribly, and looks as if she is hardly able to walk."
I lay and thought over some of these things until midnight. The
electric lights went out then, fading slowly until there was only
a red-hot loop to be seen in the bulb, and then even that
died away and we were embarked on the darkness of another night.
Apparently only a few minutes elapsed, during which my eyes were
becoming accustomed to the darkness. Then I noticed that the
windows were reflecting a faint pinkish light, Liddy noticed it
at the same time, and I heard her jump up. At that moment Sam's
deep voice boomed from somewhere just below.
"Fire!" he yelled. "The stable's on fire!"
I could see him in the glare dancing up and down on the drive,
and a moment later Halsey joined him. Alex was awake and running
down the stairs, and in five minutes from the time the fire was
discovered, three of the maids were sitting on their trunks in
the drive, although, excepting a few sparks, there was no fire
nearer than a hundred yards.
Gertrude seldom loses her presence of mind, and she ran to the
telephone. But by the time the Casanova volunteer fire
department came toiling up the hill the stable was a furnace,
with the Dragon Fly safe but blistered, in the road. Some
gasolene exploded just as the volunteer department got to work,
which shook their nerves as well as the burning building. The
stable, being on a hill, was a torch to attract the
population from every direction. Rumor had it that
Sunnyside was burning, and it was amazing how many people threw
something over their night-clothes and flew to the conflagration.
I take it Casanova has few fires, and Sunnyside was furnishing
the people, in one way and another, the greatest excitement they
had had for years.
The stable was off the west wing. I hardly know how I came to
think of the circular staircase and the unguarded door at its
foot. Liddy was putting my clothes into sheets, preparatory to
tossing them out the window, when I found her, and I could hardly
persuade her to stop.
"I want you to come with me, Liddy," I said. "Bring a candle and
a couple of blankets."
She lagged behind considerably when she saw me making for the
east wing, and at the top of the staircase she balked.
"I am not going down there," she said firmly.
"There is no one guarding the door down there," I explained.
"Who knows?--this may be a scheme to draw everybody away from
this end of the house, and let some one in here."
The instant I had said it I was convinced I had hit on the
explanation, and that perhaps it was already too late. It seemed
to me as I listened that I heard stealthy footsteps on the east
porch, but there was so much shouting outside that it was
impossible to tell. Liddy was on the point of retreat.
"Very well," I said, "then I shall go down alone. Run back to
Mr. Halsey's room and get his revolver. Don't shoot down the
stairs if you hear a noise: remember--I shall be down there. And
I put the candle on the floor at the top of the staircase and
took off my bedroom slippers. Then I crept down the stairs,
going very slowly, and listening with all my ears. I was keyed
to such a pitch that I felt no fear: like the condemned who sleep
and eat the night before execution, I was no longer able to
suffer apprehension. I was past that. Just at the foot of the
stairs I stubbed my toe against Halsey's big chair, and had to
stand on one foot in a soundless agony until the pain subsided to
a dull ache. And then--I knew I was right. Some one had put a
key into the lock, and was turning it. For some reason it
refused to work, and the key was withdrawn. There was a
muttering of voices outside: I had only a second. Another trial,
and the door would open. The candle above made a faint
gleam down the well-like staircase, and at that moment, with a
second, no more, to spare, I thought of a plan.
The heavy oak chair almost filled the space between the newel
post and the door. With a crash I had turned it on its side,
wedging it against the door, its legs against the stairs. I
could hear a faint scream from Liddy, at the crash, and then she
came down the stairs on a run, with the revolver held straight
out in front of her.
"Thank God," she said, in a shaking voice. "I thought it was
I pointed to the door, and she understood.
"Call out the windows at the other end of the house," I
whispered. "Run. Tell them not to wait for anything."
She went up the stairs at that, two at a time. Evidently she
collided with the candle, for it went out, and I was left in
I was really astonishingly cool. I remember stepping over the
chair and gluing my ear to the door, and I shall never forget
feeling it give an inch or two there in the darkness, under a
steady pressure from without. But the chair held, although I
could hear an ominous cracking of one of the legs. And
then, without the slightest warning, the card-room window broke
with a crash. I had my finger on the trigger of the revolver,
and as I jumped it went off, right through the door. Some one
outside swore roundly, and for the first time I could hear what
was said.
"Only a scratch. . . . Men are at the other end of the
house. . . . Have the whole rat's nest on us." And a lot of
profanity which I won't write down. The voices were at the
broken window now, and although I was trembling violently, I was
determined that I would hold them until help came. I moved up
the stairs until I could see into the card-room, or rather
through it, to the window. As I looked a small man put his leg
over the sill and stepped into the room. The curtain confused
him for a moment; then he turned, not toward me, but toward the
billiard-room door. I fired again, and something that was glass
or china crashed to the ground. Then I ran up the stairs and
along the corridor to the main staircase. Gertrude was standing
there, trying to locate the shots, and I must have been a
peculiar figure, with my hair in crimps, my dressing-gown flying,
no slippers, and a revolver clutched in my hands I had no time to
talk. There was the sound of footsteps in the lower hall,
and some one bounded up the stairs.
I had gone Berserk, I think. I leaned over the stair-rail and
fired again. Halsey, below, yelled at me.
"What are you doing up there?" he yelled. "You missed me by an
And then I collapsed and fainted. When I came around Liddy was
rubbing my temples with eau de quinine, and the search was in
full blast.
Well, the man was gone. The stable burned to the ground, while
the crowd cheered at every falling rafter, and the volunteer fire
department sprayed it with a garden hose. And in the house Alex
and Halsey searched every corner of the lower floor, finding no
The truth of my story was shown by the broken window and the
overturned chair. That the unknown had got up-stairs was almost
impossible. He had not used the main staircase, there was no way
to the upper floor in the east wing, and Liddy had been at the
window, in the west wing, where the servants' stair went up. But
we did not go to bed at all. Sam Bohannon and Warner helped in
the search, and not a closet escaped scrutiny. Even the cellars
were given a thorough overhauling, without result. The door
in the east entry had a hole through it where my bullet had gone.
The hole slanted downward, and the bullet was embedded in the
porch. Some reddish stains showed it had done execution.
"Somebody will walk lame," Halsey said, when he had marked the
course of the bullet. "It's too low to have hit anything but a
leg or foot."
From that time on I watched every person I met for a limp, and to
this day the man who halts in his walk is an object of suspicion
to me. But Casanova had no lame men: the nearest approach to it
was an old fellow who tended the safety gates at the railroad,
and he, I learned on inquiry, had two artificial legs. Our man
had gone, and the large and expensive stable at Sunnyside was a
heap of smoking rafters and charred boards. Warner swore the
fire was incendiary, and in view of the attempt to enter the
house, there seemed to be no doubt of it.
If Halsey had only taken me fully into his confidence, through
the whole affair, it would have been much simpler. If he had
been altogether frank about Jack Bailey, and if the day after the
fire he had told me what he suspected, there would have been no
harrowing period for all of us, with the boy in danger. But
young people refuse to profit by the experience of their elders,
and sometimes the elders are the ones to suffer.
I was much used up the day after the fire, and Gertrude insisted
on my going out. The machine was temporarily out of commission,
and the carriage horses had been sent to a farm for the summer.
Gertrude finally got a trap from the Casanova liveryman, and we
went out. Just as we turned from the drive into the road we
passed a woman. She had put down a small valise, and stood
inspecting the house and grounds minutely. I should
hardly have noticed her, had it not been for the fact that she
had been horribly disfigured by smallpox.
"Ugh!" Gertrude said, when we had passed, "what a face! I shall
dream of it to-night. Get up, Flinders."
"Flinders?" I asked. "Is that the horse's name?"
"It is." She flicked the horse's stubby mane with the whip. "He
didn't look like a livery horse, and the liveryman said he had
bought him from the Armstrongs when they purchased a couple of
motors and cut down the stable. Nice Flinders--good old boy!"
Flinders was certainly not a common name for a horse, and yet the
youngster at Richfield had named his prancing, curly-haired
little horse Flinders! It set me to thinking.
At my request Halsey had already sent word of the fire to the
agent from whom we had secured the house. Also, he had called
Mr. Jamieson by telephone, and somewhat guardedly had told him of
the previous night's events. Mr. Jamieson promised to come out
that night, and to bring another man with him. I did not
consider it necessary to notify Mrs. Armstrong, in the village.
No doubt she knew of the fire, and in view of my refusal to
give up the house, an interview would probably have been
unpleasant enough. But as we passed Doctor Walker's white and
green house I thought of something.
"Stop here, Gertrude," I said. "I am going to get out."
"To see Louise?" she asked.
"No, I want to ask this young Walker something."
She was curious, I knew, but I did not wait to explain. I went
up the walk to the house, where a brass sign at the side
announced the office, and went in. The reception-room was empty,
but from the consulting-room beyond came the sound of two voices,
not very amicable.
"It is an outrageous figure," some one was storming. Then the
doctor's quiet tone, evidently not arguing, merely stating
something. But I had not time to listen to some person probably
disputing his bill, so I coughed. The voices ceased at once: a
door closed somewhere, and the doctor entered from the hall of
the house. He looked sufficiently surprised at seeing me.
"Good afternoon, Doctor," I said formally. "I shall not
keep you from your patient. I wish merely to ask you a
"Won't you sit down?"
"It will not be necessary. Doctor, has any one come to you,
either early this morning or to-day, to have you treat a bullet
"Nothing so startling has happened to me," he said. "A bullet
wound! Things must be lively at Sunnyside."
"I didn't say it was at Sunnyside. But as it happens, it was.
If any such case comes to you, will it be too much trouble for
you to let me know?"
"I shall be only too happy," he said. "I understand you have had
a fire up there, too. A fire and shooting in one night is rather
lively for a quiet place like that."
"It is as quiet as a boiler-shop," I replied, as I turned to go.
"And you are still going to stay?"
"Until I am burned out," I responded. And then on my way down
the steps, I turned around suddenly.
"Doctor," I asked at a venture, "have you ever heard of a child
named Lucien Wallace?"
Clever as he was, his face changed and stiffened. He was on his
guard again in a moment.
"Lucien Wallace?" he repeated. "No, I think not. There are
plenty of Wallaces around, but I don't know any Lucien."
I was as certain as possible that he did. People do not lie
readily to me, and this man lied beyond a doubt. But there was
nothing to be gained now; his defenses were up, and I left, half
irritated and wholly baffled.
Our reception was entirely different at Doctor Stewart's. Taken
into the bosom of the family at once, Flinders tied outside and
nibbling the grass at the roadside, Gertrude and I drank some
home-made elderberry wine and told briefly of the fire. Of the
more serious part of the night's experience, of course, we said
nothing. But when at last we had left the family on the porch
and the good doctor was untying our steed, I asked him the same
question I had put to Doctor Walker.
"Shot!" he said. "Bless my soul, no. Why, what have you been
doing up at the big house, Miss Innes?"
"Some one tried to enter the house during the fire, and was
shot and slightly injured," I said hastily. "Please don't
mention it; we wish to make as little of it as possible."
There was one other possibility, and we tried that. At Casanova
station I saw the station master, and asked him if any trains
left Casanova between one o'clock and daylight. There was none
until six A.M. The next question required more diplomacy.
"Did you notice on the six-o'clock train any person--any man--who
limped a little?" I asked. "Please try to remember: we are
trying to trace a man who was seen loitering around Sunnyside
last night before the fire."
He was all attention in a moment.
"I was up there myself at the fire," he said volubly. "I'm a
member of the volunteer company. First big fire we've had since
the summer house burned over to the club golf links. My wife was
sayin' the other day, `Dave, you might as well 'a' saved the
money in that there helmet and shirt.' And here last night they
came in handy. Rang that bell so hard I hadn't time scarcely to
get 'em on."
"And--did you see a man who limped?" Gertrude put in, as he
stopped for breath.
"Not at the train, ma'm," he said. "No such person got on here
to-day. But I'll tell you where I did see a man that limped. I
didn't wait till the fire company left; there's a fast freight
goes through at four forty-five, and I had to get down to the
station. I seen there wasn't much more to do anyhow at the
fire--we'd got the flames under control"--Gertrude looked at me
and smiled--"so I started down the hill. There was folks here
and there goin' home, and along by the path to the Country Club I
seen two men. One was a short fellow. He was sitting on a big
rock, his back to me, and he had something white in his hand, as
if he was tying up his foot. After I'd gone on a piece I looked
back, and he was hobbling on and--excuse me, miss--he was
swearing something sickening."
"Did they go toward the club?" Gertrude asked suddenly, leaning
"No, miss. I think they came into the village. I didn't get a
look at their faces, but I know every chick and child in the
place, and everybody knows me. When they didn't shout at me--in
my uniform, you know--I took it they were strangers."
So all we had for our afternoon's work was this: some one had
been shot by the bullet that went through the door; he had not
left the village, and he had not called in a physician. Also,
Doctor Walker knew who Lucien Wallace was, and his very denial
made me confident that, in that one direction at least, we were
on the right track.
The thought that the detective would be there that night was the
most cheering thing of all, and I think even Gertrude was glad of
it. Driving home that afternoon, I saw her in the clear sunlight
for the first time in several days, and I was startled to see how
ill she looked. She was thin and colorless, and all her bright
animation was gone.
"Gertrude," I said, "I have been a very selfish old woman. You
are going to leave this miserable house to-night. Annie Morton
is going to Scotland next week, and you shall go right with her."
To my surprise, she flushed painfully.
"I don't want to go, Aunt Ray," she said. "Don't make me leave
"You are losing your health and your good looks," I said
decidedly. "You should have a change."
"I shan't stir a foot." She was equally decided. Then, more
lightly: "Why, you and Liddy need me to arbitrate between you
every day in the week."
Perhaps I was growing suspicious of every one, but it seemed to
me that Gertrude's gaiety was forced and artificial. I watched
her covertly during the rest of the drive, and I did not like the
two spots of crimson in her pale cheeks. But I said nothing more
about sending her to Scotland: I knew she would not go.
That day was destined to be an eventful one, for when I entered
the house and found Eliza ensconced in the upper hall on a chair,
with Mary Anne doing her best to stifle her with household
ammonia, and Liddy rubbing her wrists--whatever good that is
supposed to do--I knew that the ghost had been walking again, and
this time in daylight.
Eliza was in a frenzy of fear. She clutched at my sleeve when I
went close to her, and refused to let go until she had told her
story. Coming just after the fire, the household was
demoralized, and it was no surprise to me to find Alex and the
under-gardener struggling down-stairs with a heavy trunk between
"I didn't want to do it, Miss Innes," Alex said. "But she was so
excited, I was afraid she would do as she said--drag
it down herself, and scratch the staircase."
I was trying to get my bonnet off and to keep the maids quiet at
the same time. "Now, Eliza, when you have washed your face and
stopped bawling," I said, "come into my sitting-room and tell me
what has happened."
Liddy put away my things without speaking. The very set of her
shoulders expressed disapproval.
"Well," I said, when the silence became uncomfortable, "things
seem to be warming up."
Silence from Liddy, and a long sigh.
"If Eliza goes, I don't know where to look for another cook."
More silence.
"Rosie is probably a good cook." Sniff.
"Liddy," I said at last, "don't dare to deny that you are having
the time of your life. You positively gloat in this excitement.
You never looked better. It's my opinion all this running
around, and getting jolted out of a rut, has stirred up that
torpid liver of yours."
"It's not myself I'm thinking about," she said, goaded into
speech. "Maybe my liver was torpid, and maybe it wasn't; but I
know this: I've got some feelings left, and to see you
standing at the foot of that staircase shootin' through the
door--I'll never be the same woman again."
"Well, I'm glad of that--anything for a change," I said. And in
came Eliza, flanked by Rosie and Mary Anne.
Her story, broken with sobs and corrections from the other two,
was this: At two o'clock (two-fifteen, Rosie insisted) she had
gone up-stairs to get a picture from her room to show Mary Anne.
(A picture of a LADY, Mary Anne interposed.) She went up the
servants' staircase and along the corridor to her room, which lay
between the trunk-room and the unfinished ball-room. She heard a
sound as she went down the corridor, like some one moving
furniture, but she was not nervous. She thought it might be men
examining the house after the fire the night before, but she
looked in the trunk-room and saw nobody.
She went into her room quietly. The noise had ceased, and
everything was quiet. Then she sat down on the side of her bed,
and, feeling faint--she was subject to spells--("I told you that
when I came, didn't I, Rosie?" "Yes'm, indeed she did!")--she
put her head down on her pillow and--
"Took a nap. All right!" I said. "Go on."
"When I came to, Miss Innes, sure as I'm sittin' here, I thought
I'd die. Somethin' hit me on the face, and I set up, sudden.
And then I seen the plaster drop, droppin' from a little hole in
the wall. And the first thing I knew, an iron bar that long"
(fully two yards by her measure) "shot through that hole and
tumbled on the bed. If I'd been still sleeping" ("Fainting,"
corrected Rosie) "I'd 'a' been hit on the head and killed!"
"I wisht you'd heard her scream," put in Mary Anne. "And her
face as white as a pillow-slip when she tumbled down the stairs."
"No doubt there is some natural explanation for it, Eliza," I
said. "You may have dreamed it, in your `fainting' attack. But
if it is true, the metal rod and the hole in the wall will show
Eliza looked a little bit sheepish.
"The hole's there all right, Miss Innes," she said. "But the bar
was gone when Mary Anne and Rosie went up to pack my trunk."
"That wasn't all," Liddy's voice came funereally from a corner.
"Eliza said that from the hole in the wall a burning eye looked
down at her!"
"The wall must be at least six inches thick," I said with
asperity. "Unless the person who drilled the hole carried his
eyes on the ends of a stick, Eliza couldn't possibly have seen
But the fact remained, and a visit to Eliza's room proved it. I
might jeer all I wished: some one had drilled a hole in the
unfinished wall of the ball-room, passing between the bricks of
the partition, and shooting through the unresisting plaster of
Eliza's room with such force as to send the rod flying on to her
bed. I had gone up-stairs alone, and I confess the thing puzzled
me: in two or three places in the wall small apertures had been
made, none of them of any depth. Not the least mysterious thing
was the disappearance of the iron implement that had been used.
I remembered a story I read once about an impish dwarf that lived
in the spaces between the double walls of an ancient castle. I
wondered vaguely if my original idea of a secret entrance to a
hidden chamber could be right, after all, and if we were housing
some erratic guest, who played pranks on us in the dark, and
destroyed the walls that he might listen, hidden safely away, to
our amazed investigations.
Mary Anne and Eliza left that afternoon, but Rosie decided
to stay. It was about five o'clock when the hack came from the
station to get them, and, to my amazement, it had an occupant.
Matthew Geist, the driver, asked for me, and explained his errand
with pride.
"I've brought you a cook, Miss Innes," he said. "When the
message came to come up for two girls and their trunks, I
supposed there was something doing, and as this here woman had
been looking for work in the village, I thought I'd bring her
Already I had acquired the true suburbanite ability to take
servants on faith; I no longer demanded written and unimpeachable
references. I, Rachel Innes, have learned not to mind if the
cook sits down comfortably in my sitting-room when she is taking
the orders for the day, and I am grateful if the silver is not
cleaned with scouring soap. And so that day I merely told Liddy
to send the new applicant in. When she came, however, I could
hardly restrain a gasp of surprise. It was the woman with the
pitted face.
She stood somewhat awkwardly just inside the door, and she had an
air of self-confidence that was inspiring. Yes, she could cook;
was not a fancy cook, but could make good soups and desserts if
there was any one to take charge of the salads. And so, in
the end, I took her. As Halsey said, when we told him, it didn't
matter much about the cook's face, if it was clean.
I have spoken of Halsey's restlessness. On that day it seemed to
be more than ever a resistless impulse that kept him out until
after luncheon. I think he hoped constantly that he might meet
Louise driving over the hills in her runabout: possibly he did
meet her occasionally, but from his continued gloom I felt sure
the situation between them was unchanged.
Part of the afternoon I believe he read--Gertrude and I were out,
as I have said, and at dinner we both noticed that something had
occurred to distract him. He was disagreeable, which is unlike
him, nervous, looking at his watch every few minutes, and he ate
almost nothing. He asked twice during the meal on what train Mr.
Jamieson and the other detective were coming, and had long
periods of abstraction during which he dug his fork into my
damask cloth and did not hear when he was spoken to. He refused
dessert, and left the table early, excusing himself on the ground
that he wanted to see Alex.
Alex, however, was not to be found. It was after eight when
Halsey ordered the car, and started down the hill at a pace that,
even for him, was unusually reckless. Shortly after, Alex
reported that he was ready to go over the house, preparatory to
closing it for the night. Sam Bohannon came at a quarter before
nine, and began his patrol of the grounds, and with the arrival
of the two detectives to look forward to, I was not especially
At half-past nine I heard the sound of a horse driven furiously
up the drive. It came to a stop in front of the house, and
immediately after there were hurried steps on the veranda. Our
nerves were not what they should have been, and Gertrude, always
apprehensive lately, was at the door almost instantly. A moment
later Louise had burst into the room and stood there bareheaded
and breathing hard!
"Where is Halsey?" she demanded. Above her plain black gown her
eyes looked big and somber, and the rapid drive had brought no
color to her face. I got up and drew forward a chair.
"He has not come back," I said quietly. "Sit down, child; you
are not strong enough for this kind of thing."
I don't think she even heard me.
"He has not come back?" she asked, looking from me to Gertrude.
"Do you know where he went? Where can I find him?"
"For Heaven's sake, Louise," Gertrude burst out, "tell us what is
wrong. Halsey is not here. He has gone to the station for Mr.
Jamieson. What has happened?"
"To the station, Gertrude? You are sure?"
"Yes," I said. "Listen. There is the whistle of the train now."
She relaxed a little at our matter-of-fact tone, and allowed
herself to sink into a chair.
"Perhaps I was wrong," she said heavily. "He--will be here in a
few moments if--everything is right."
We sat there, the three of us, without attempt at conversation.
Both Gertrude and I recognized the futility of asking Louise any
questions: her reticence was a part of a role she had assumed.
Our ears were strained for the first throb of the motor as it
turned into the drive and commenced the climb to the house. Ten
minutes passed, fifteen, twenty. I saw Louise's hands grow rigid
as they clutched the arms of her chair. I watched Gertrude's
bright color slowly ebbing away, and around my own heart I
seemed to feel the grasp of a giant hand.
Twenty-five minutes, and then a sound. But it was not the chug
of the motor: it was the unmistakable rumble of the Casanova
hack. Gertrude drew aside the curtain and peered into the
"It's the hack, I am sure," she said, evidently relieved.
"Something has gone wrong with the car, and no wonder--the way
Halsey went down the hill."
It seemed a long time before the creaking vehicle came to a stop
at the door. Louise rose and stood watching, her hand to her
throat. And then Gertrude opened the door, admitting Mr.
Jamieson and a stocky, middle-aged man. Halsey was not with
them. When the door had closed and Louise realized that Halsey
had not come, her expression changed. From tense watchfulness to
relief, and now again to absolute despair, her face was an open
"Halsey?" I asked unceremoniously, ignoring the stranger. "Did
he not meet you?"
"No." Mr. Jamieson looked slightly surprised. "I rather
expected the car, but we got up all right."
"You didn't see him at all?" Louise demanded breathlessly.
Mr. Jamieson knew her at once, although he had not seen her
before. She had kept to her rooms until the morning she left.
"No, Miss Armstrong," he said. "I saw nothing of him. What is
"Then we shall have to find him," she asserted. "Every instant
is precious. Mr. Jamieson, I have reason for believing that he
is in danger, but I don't know what it is. Only--he must be
The stocky man had said nothing. Now, however, he went quickly
toward the door.
"I'll catch the hack down the road and hold it," he said. "Is
the gentleman down in the town?"
"Mr. Jamieson," Louise said impulsively, "I can use the hack.
Take my horse and trap outside and drive like mad. Try to find
the Dragon Fly--it ought to be easy to trace. I can think of no
other way. Only, don't lose a moment."
The new detective had gone, and a moment later Jamieson went
rapidly down the drive, the cob's feet striking fire at every
step. Louise stood looking after them. When she turned around
she faced Gertrude, who stood indignant, almost tragic, in the
"You KNOW what threatens Halsey, Louise," she said
accusingly. "I believe you know this whole horrible thing, this
mystery that we are struggling with. If anything happens to
Halsey, I shall never forgive you."
Louise only raised her hands despairingly and dropped them again.
"He is as dear to me as he is to you," she said sadly. "I tried
to warn him."
"Nonsense!" I said, as briskly as I could. "We are making a lot
of trouble out of something perhaps very small. Halsey was
probably late--he is always late. Any moment we may hear the car
coming up the road."
But it did not come. After a half-hour of suspense, Louise went
out quietly, and did not come back. I hardly knew she was gone
until I heard the station hack moving off. At eleven o'clock the
telephone rang. It was Mr. Jamieson.
"I have found the Dragon Fly, Miss Innes," he said. "It has
collided with a freight car on the siding above the station. No,
Mr. Innes was not there, but we shall probably find him. Send
Warner for the car."
But they did not find him. At four o'clock the next morning
we were still waiting for news, while Alex watched the house and
Sam the grounds. At daylight I dropped into exhausted sleep.
Halsey had not come back, and there was no word from the
Nothing that had gone before had been as bad as this. The murder
and Thomas' sudden death we had been able to view in a detached
sort of way. But with Halsey's disappearance everything was
altered. Our little circle, intact until now, was broken. We
were no longer onlookers who saw a battle passing around them.
We were the center of action. Of course, there was no time then
to voice such an idea. My mind seemed able to hold only one
thought: that Halsey had been foully dealt with, and that every
minute lost might be fatal.
Mr. Jamieson came back about eight o'clock the next morning: he
was covered with mud, and his hat was gone. Altogether, we were
a sad-looking trio that gathered around a breakfast that no one
could eat. Over a cup of black coffee the detective told us what
he had learned of Halsey's movements the night before.
Up to a certain point the car had made it easy enough to follow
him. And I gathered that Mr. Burns, the other detective, had
followed a similar car for miles at dawn, only to find it was a
touring car on an endurance run.
"He left here about ten minutes after eight," Mr Jamieson said.
"He went alone, and at eight twenty he stopped at Doctor
Walker's. I went to the doctor's about midnight, but he had been
called out on a case, and had not come back at four o'clock.
From the doctor's it seems Mr. Innes walked across the lawn to
the cottage Mrs. Armstrong and her daughter have taken. Mrs.
Armstrong had retired, and he said perhaps a dozen words to Miss
Louise. She will not say what they were, but the girl evidently
suspects what has occurred. That is, she suspects foul play, but
she doesn't know of what nature. Then, apparently, he started
directly for the station. He was going very fast--the flagman at
the Carol Street crossing says he saw the car pass. He knew the
siren. Along somewhere in the dark stretch between Carol Street
and the depot he evidently swerved suddenly--perhaps some one in
the road--and went full into the side of a freight. We found it
there last night."
"He might have been thrown under the train by the force of the
shock," I said tremulously.
Gertrude shuddered.
"We examined every inch of track. There was--no sign."
"But surely--he can't be--gone!" I cried. "Aren't there traces
in the mud--anything?"
"There is no mud--only dust. There has been no rain. And the
footpath there is of cinders. Miss Innes, I am inclined to think
that he has met with bad treatment, in the light of what has gone
before. I do not think he has been murdered." I shrank from the
word. "Burns is back in the country, on a clue we got from the
night clerk at the drug-store. There will be two more men here
by noon, and the city office is on the lookout."
"The creek?" Gertrude asked.
"The creek is shallow now. If it were swollen with rain, it
would be different. There is hardly any water in it. Now, Miss
Innes," he said, turning to me, "I must ask you some questions.
Had Mr. Halsey any possible reason for going away like this,
without warning?"
"None whatever."
"He went away once before," he persisted. "And you were as sure
"He did not leave the Dragon Fly jammed into the side of a
freight car before."
"No, but he left it for repairs in a blacksmith shop, a long
distance from here. Do you know if he had any enemies? Any one
who might wish him out of the way?"
"Not that I know of, unless--no, I can not think of any."
"Was he in the habit of carrying money?"
"He never carried it far. No, he never had more than enough for
current expenses."
Mr. Jamieson got up then and began to pace the room. It was an
unwonted concession to the occasion.
"Then I think we get at it by elimination. The chances are
against flight. If he was hurt, we find no trace of him. It
looks almost like an abduction. This young Doctor Walker--have
you any idea why Mr. Innes should have gone there last night?"
"I can not understand it," Gertrude said thoughtfully. "I don't
think he knew Doctor Walker at all, and--their relations could
hardly have been cordial, under the circumstances."
Jamieson pricked up his ears, and little by little he drew from
us the unfortunate story of Halsey's love affair, and the fact
that Louise was going to marry Doctor Walker.
Mr. Jamieson listened attentively.
"There are some interesting developments here," he said
thoughtfully. "The woman who claims to be the mother of Lucien
Wallace has not come back. Your nephew has apparently been
spirited away. There is an organized attempt being made to enter
this house; in fact, it has been entered. Witness the incident
with the cook yesterday. And I have a new piece of information."
He looked carefully away from Gertrude. "Mr. John Bailey is not
at his Knickerbocker apartments, and I don't know where he is.
It's a hash, that's what it is. It's a Chinese puzzle. They
won't fit together, unless--unless Mr. Bailey and your nephew
have again--"
And once again Gertrude surprised me. "They are not together,"
she said hotly. "I--know where Mr. Bailey is, and my brother is
not with him."
The detective turned and looked at her keenly.
"Miss Gertrude," he said, "if you and Miss Louise would only tell
me everything you know and surmise about this business, I
should be able to do a great many things. I believe I could find
your brother, and I might be able to--well, to do some other
things." But Gertrude's glance did not falter.
"Nothing that I know could help you to find Halsey," she said
stubbornly. "I know absolutely as little of his disappearance as
you do, and I can only say this: I do not trust Doctor Walker. I
think he hated Halsey, and he would get rid of him if he could."
"Perhaps you are right. In fact, I had some such theory myself.
But Doctor Walker went out late last night to a serious case in
Summitville, and is still there. Burns traced him there. We
have made guarded inquiry at the Greenwood Club, and through the
village. There is absolutely nothing to go on but this. On the
embankment above the railroad, at the point where we found the
machine, is a small house. An old woman and a daughter, who is
very lame, live there. They say that they distinctly heard the
shock when the Dragon Fly hit the car, and they went to the
bottom of their garden and looked over. The automobile was
there; they could see the lights, and they thought someone had
been injured. It was very dark, but they could make out two
figures, standing together. The women were curious, and,
leaving the fence, they went back and by a roundabout path down
to the road. When they got there the car was still standing, the
headlight broken and the bonnet crushed, but there was no one to
be seen."
The detective went away immediately, and to Gertrude and me was
left the woman's part, to watch and wait. By luncheon nothing
had been found, and I was frantic. I went up-stairs to Halsey's
room finally, from sheer inability to sit across from Gertrude
any longer, and meet her terror-filled eyes.
Liddy was in my dressing-room, suspiciously red-eyed, and trying
to put a right sleeve in a left armhole of a new waist for me. I
was too much shaken to scold.
"What name did that woman in the kitchen give?" she demanded,
viciously ripping out the offending sleeve.
"Bliss. Mattie Bliss," I replied.
"Bliss. M. B. Well, that's not what she has on he suitcase. It
is marked N. F. C."
The new cook and her initials troubled me not at all. I put on
my bonnet and sent for what the Casanova liveryman called a
"stylish turnout." Having once made up my mind to a course
of action, I am not one to turn back. Warner drove me; he was
plainly disgusted, and he steered the livery horse as he would
the Dragon Fly, feeling uneasily with his left foot for the
clutch, and working his right elbow at an imaginary horn every
time a dog got in the way.
Warner had something on his mind, and after we had turned into
the road, he voiced it.
"Miss Innes," he said. "I overheard a part of a conversation
yesterday that I didn't understand. It wasn't my business to
understand it, for that matter. But I've been thinking all day
that I'd better tell you. Yesterday afternoon, while you and
Miss Gertrude were out driving, I had got the car in some sort of
shape again after the fire, and I went to the library to call Mr.
Innes to see it. I went into the living-room, where Miss Liddy
said he was, and half-way across to the library I heard him
talking to some one. He seemed to be walking up and down, and he
was in a rage, I can tell you."
"What did he say?"
"The first thing I heard was--excuse me, Miss Innes, but it's
what he said, `The damned rascal,' he said, `I'll see him in'--
well, in hell was what he said, `in hell first.' Then
somebody else spoke up; it was a woman. She said, `I warned
them, but they thought I would be afraid.'"
"A woman! Did you wait to see who it was?"
"I wasn't spying, Miss Innes," Warner said with dignity. "But
the next thing caught my attention. She said, `I knew there was
something wrong from the start. A man isn't well one day, and
dead the next, without some reason.' I thought she was speaking
of Thomas."
"And you don't know who it was!" I exclaimed. "Warner, you had
the key to this whole occurrence in your hands, and did not use
However, there was nothing to be done. I resolved to make
inquiry when I got home, and in the meantime, my present errand
absorbed me. This was nothing less than to see Louise Armstrong,
and to attempt to drag from her what she knew, or suspected, of
Halsey's disappearance. But here, as in every, direction I
turned, I was baffled.
A neat maid answered the bell, but she stood squarely in the
doorway, and it was impossible to preserve one's dignity and pass
"Miss Armstrong is very ill, and unable to see any one," she
said. I did not believe her.
"And Mrs. Armstrong--is she also ill?"
"She is with Miss Louise and can not be disturbed."
"Tell her it is Miss Innes, and that it is a matter of the
greatest importance."
"It would be of no use, Miss Innes. My orders are positive."
At that moment a heavy step sounded on the stairs. Past the
maid's white-strapped shoulder I could see a familiar thatch of
gray hair, and in a moment I was face to face with Doctor
Stewart. He was very grave, and his customary geniality was
tinged with restraint.
"You are the very woman I want to see," he said promptly. "Send
away your trap, and let me drive you home. What is this about
your nephew?"
"He has disappeared, doctor. Not only that, but there is every
evidence that he has been either abducted, or--" I could not
finish. The doctor helped me into his capacious buggy in
silence. Until we had got a little distance he did not speak;
then he turned and looked at me.
"Now tell me about it," he said. He heard me through without
"And you think Louise knows something?" he said when I had
finished. "I don't--in fact, I am sure of it. The best evidence
of it is this: she asked me if he had been heard from, or if
anything had been learned. She won't allow Walker in the room,
and she made me promise to see you and tell you this: don't give
up the search for him. Find him, and find him soon. He is
"Well," I said, "if she knows that, she knows more. She is a
very cruel and ungrateful girl."
"She is a very sick girl," he said gravely. "Neither you nor I
can judge her until we know everything. Both she and her mother
are ghosts of their former selves. Under all this, these two
sudden deaths, this bank robbery, the invasions at Sunnyside and
Halsey's disappearance, there is some mystery that, mark my
words, will come out some day. And when it does, we shall find
Louise Armstrong a victim."
I had not noticed where we were going, but now I saw we were
beside the railroad, and from a knot of men standing beside the
track I divined that it was here the car had been found. The
siding, however, was empty. Except a few bits of splintered
wood on the ground, there was no sign of the accident.
"Where is the freight car that was rammed?" the doctor asked a
"It was taken away at daylight, when the train was moved."
There was nothing to be gained. He pointed out the house on the
embankment where the old lady and her daughter had heard the
crash and seen two figures beside the car. Then we drove slowly
home. I had the doctor put me down at the gate, and I walked to
the house--past the lodge where we had found Louise, and, later,
poor Thomas; up the drive where I had seen a man watching the
lodge and where, later, Rosie had been frightened; past the east
entrance, where so short a time before the most obstinate effort
had been made to enter the house, and where, that night two weeks
ago, Liddy and I had seen the strange woman. Not far from the
west wing lay the blackened ruins of the stables. I felt like a
ruin myself, as I paused on the broad veranda before I entered
the house.
Two private detectives had arrived in my absence, and it was a
relief to turn over to them the responsibility of the house and
grounds. Mr. Jamieson, they said, had arranged for more to
assist in the search for the missing man, and at that time the
country was being scoured in all directions.
The household staff was again depleted that afternoon. Liddy was
waiting to tell me that the new cook had gone, bag and baggage,
without waiting to be paid. No one had admitted the visitor whom
Warner had heard in the library, unless, possibly, the missing
cook. Again I was working in a circle.
The four days, from Saturday to the following Tuesday, we lived,
or existed, in a state of the most dreadful suspense. We ate
only when Liddy brought in a tray, and then very little. The
papers, of course, had got hold of the story, and we were
besieged by newspaper men. From all over the country false clues
came pouring in and raised hopes that crumbled again to nothing.
Every morgue within a hundred miles, every hospital, had been
visited, without result.
Mr. Jamieson, personally, took charge of the organized search,
and every evening, no matter where he happened to be, he called
us by long distance telephone. It was the same formula.
"Nothing to-day. A new clue to work on. Better luck to-morrow."
And heartsick we would put up the receiver and sit down again to
our vigil.
The inaction was deadly. Liddy cried all day, and, because she
knew I objected to tears, sniffled audibly around the corner.
"For Heaven's sake, smile!" I snapped at her. And her ghastly
attempt at a grin, with her swollen nose and red eyes, made me
hysterical. I laughed and cried together, and pretty soon, like
the two old fools we were, we were sitting together weeping into
the same handkerchief.
Things were happening, of course, all the time, but they made
little or no impression. The Charity Hospital called up Doctor
Stewart and reported that Mrs. Watson was in a critical
condition. I understood also that legal steps were being taken
to terminate my lease at Sunnyside. Louise was out of danger,
but very ill, and a trained nurse guarded her like a gorgon.
There was a rumor in the village, brought up by Liddy from the
butcher's, that a wedding had already taken place between Louise
and Doctor Walkers and this roused me for the first time to
On Tuesday, then, I sent for the car, and prepared to go out. As
I waited at the porte-cochere I saw the under-gardener, an
inoffensive, grayish-haired man, trimming borders near the house.
The day detective was watching him, sitting on the carriage
block. When he saw me, he got up.
"Miss Innes," he said, taking of his hat, "do you know where
Alex, the gardener, is?"
"Why, no. Isn't he here?" I asked.
"He has been gone since yesterday afternoon. Have you employed
him long?"
"Only a couple of weeks."
"Is he efficient? A capable man?"
"I hardly know," I said vaguely. "The place looks all right, and
I know very little about such things. I know much more about
boxes of roses than bushes of them."
"This man," pointing to the assistant, "says Alex isn't a
gardener. That he doesn't know anything about plants."
"That's very strange," I said, thinking hard. "Why, he came to
me from the Brays, who are in Europe."
"Exactly." The detective smiled. "Every man who cuts grass
isn't a gardener, Miss Innes, and just now it is our policy to
believe every person around here a rascal until he proves to be
the other thing."
Warner came up with the car then, and the conversation
stopped. As he helped me in, however, the detective said
something further.
"Not a word or sign to Alex, if he comes back," he said
I went first to Doctor Walker's. I was tired of beating about
the bush, and I felt that the key to Halsey's disappearance was
here at Casanova, in spite of Mr. Jamieson's theories.
The doctor was in. He came at once to the door of his
consulting-room, and there was no mask of cordiality in his
"Please come in," he said curtly.
"I shall stay here, I think, doctor." I did not like his face or
his manner; there was a subtle change in both. He had thrown of
the air of friendliness, and I thought, too, that he looked
anxious and haggard.
"Doctor Walker," I said, "I have come to you to ask some
questions. I hope you will answer them. As you know, my nephew
has not yet been found."
"So I understand," stiffly.
"I believe, if you would, you could help us, and that leads to
one of my questions. Will you tell me what was the nature of the
conversation you held with him the night he was attacked and
carried off?"
"Attacked! Carried off!" he said, with pretended surprise.
"Really, Miss Innes, don't you think you exaggerate? I
understand it is not the first time Mr. Innes has--disappeared."
"You are quibbling, doctor. This is a matter of life and death.
Will you answer my question?"
"Certainly. He said his nerves were bad, and I gave him a
prescription for them. I am violating professional ethics when I
tell you even as much as that."
I could not tell him he lied. I think I looked it. But I
hazarded a random shot.
"I thought perhaps," I said, watching him narrowly, "that it
might be about--Nina Carrington."
For a moment I thought he was going to strike me. He grew livid,
and a small crooked blood-vessel in his temple swelled and
throbbed curiously. Then he forced a short laugh.
"Who is Nina Carrington?" he asked.
"I am about to discover that," I replied, and he was quiet at
once. It was not difficult to divine that he feared Nina
Carrington a good deal more than he did the devil. Our leavetaking
was brief; in fact, we merely stared at each other over
the waiting-room table, with its litter of year-old
magazines. Then I turned and went out.
"To Richfield," I told Warner, and on the way I thought, and
thought hard.
"Nina Carrington, Nina Carrington," the roar and rush of the
wheels seemed to sing the words. "Nina Carrington, N. C." And I
then knew, knew as surely as if I had seen the whole thing.
There had been an N. C. on the suit-case belonging to the woman
with the pitted face. How simple it all seemed. Mattie Bliss
had been Nina Carrington. It was she Warner had heard in the
library. It was something she had told Halsey that had taken him
frantically to Doctor Walker's office, and from there perhaps to
his death. If we could find the woman, we might find what had
become of Halsey.
We were almost at Richfield now, so I kept on. My mind was not
on my errand there now. It was back with Halsey on that
memorable night. What was it he had said to Louise, that had
sent her up to Sunnyside, half wild with fear for him? I made up
my mind, as the car drew up before the Tate cottage, that I would
see Louise if I had to break into the house at night.
Almost exactly the same scene as before greeted my eyes at
the cottage. Mrs. Tate, the baby-carriage in the path, the
children at the swing--all were the same.
She came forward to meet me, and I noticed that some of the
anxious lines had gone out of her face. She looked young, almost
"I am glad you have come back," she said. "I think I will have
to be honest and give you back your money."
"Why?" I asked. "Has the mother come?"
"No, but some one came and paid the boy's board for a month. She
talked to him for a long time, but when I asked him afterward he
didn't know her name."
"A young woman?"
"Not very young. About forty, I suppose. She was small and
fair-haired, just a little bit gray, and very sad. She was in
deep mourning, and, I think, when she came, she expected to go at
once. But the child, Lucien, interested her. She talked to him
for a long time, and, indeed, she looked much happier when she
"You are sure this was not the real mother?"
"O mercy, no! Why, she didn't know which of the three was
Lucien. I thought perhaps she was a friend of yours, but, of
course, I didn't ask."
"She was not--pock-marked?" I asked at a venture. "No, indeed.
A skin like a baby's. But perhaps you will know the initials.
She gave Lucien a handkerchief and forgot it. It was very fine,
black-bordered, and it had three hand-worked letters in the
corner--F. B. A."
"No," I said with truth enough, "she is not a friend of mine."
F. B. A. was Fanny Armstrong, without a chance of doubt!
With another warning to Mrs. Tate as to silence, we started back
to Sunnyside. So Fanny Armstrong knew of Lucien Wallace, and was
sufficiently interested to visit him and pay for his support.
Who was the child's mother and where was she? Who was Nina
Carrington? Did either of them know where Halsey was or what had
happened to him?
On the way home we passed the little cemetery where Thomas had
been laid to rest. I wondered if Thomas could have helped us to
find Halsey, had he lived. Farther along was the more imposing
burial-ground, where Arnold Armstrong and his father lay in the
shadow of a tall granite shaft. Of the three, I think Thomas was
the only one sincerely mourned.
The bitterness toward the dead president of the Traders' Bank
seemed to grow with time. Never popular, his memory was
execrated by people who had lost nothing, but who were filled
with disgust by constantly hearing new stories of the man's
grasping avarice. The Traders' had been a favorite bank for
small tradespeople, and in its savings department it had
solicited the smallest deposits. People who had thought to be
self-supporting to the last found themselves confronting the
poorhouse, their two or three hundred dollar savings wiped away.
All bank failures have this element, however, and the directors
were trying to promise twenty per cent. on deposits.
But, like everything else those days, the bank failure was almost
forgotten by Gertrude and myself. We did not mention Jack
Bailey: I had found nothing to change my impression of his guilt,
and Gertrude knew how I felt. As for the murder of the
bank president's son, I was of two minds. One day I thought
Gertrude knew or at least suspected that Jack had done it; the
next I feared that it had been Gertrude herself, that night alone
on the circular staircase. And then the mother of Lucien Wallace
would obtrude herself, and an almost equally good case might be
made against her. There were times, of course, when I was
disposed to throw all those suspicions aside, and fix definitely
on the unknown, whoever that might be.
I had my greatest disappointment when it came to tracing Nina
Carrington. The woman had gone without leaving a trace. Marked
as she was, it should have been easy to follow her, but she was
not to be found. A description to one of the detectives, on my
arrival at home, had started the ball rolling. But by night she
had not been found. I told Gertrude, then, about the telegram to
Louise when she had been ill before; about my visit to Doctor
Walker, and my suspicions that Mattie Bliss and Nina Carrington
were the same. She thought, as I did, that there was little
doubt of it.
I said nothing to her, however, of the detective's suspicions
about Alex. Little things that I had not noticed at the time now
came back to me. I had an uncomfortable feeling that
perhaps Alex was a spy, and that by taking him into the house I
had played into the enemy's hand. But at eight o'clock that
night Alex himself appeared, and with him a strange and repulsive
individual. They made a queer pair, for Alex was almost as
disreputable as the tramp, and he had a badly swollen eye.
Gertrude had been sitting listlessly waiting for the evening
message from Mr. Jamieson, but when the singular pair came in, as
they did, without ceremony, she jumped up and stood staring.
Winters, the detective who watched the house at night, followed
them, and kept his eyes sharply on Alex's prisoner. For that was
the situation as it developed.
He was a tall lanky individual, ragged and dirty, and just now he
looked both terrified and embarrassed. Alex was too much
engrossed to be either, and to this day I don't think I ever
asked him why he went off without permission the day before.
"Miss Innes," Alex began abruptly, "this man can tell us
something very important about the disappearance of Mr. Innes. I
found him trying to sell this watch."
He took a watch from his pocket and put it on the table. It
was Halsey's watch. I had given it to him on his twenty-first
birthday: I was dumb with apprehension.
"He says he had a pair of cuff-links also, but he sold them--"
"Fer a dollar'n half," put in the disreputable individual
hoarsely, with an eye on the detective.
"He is not--dead?" I implored. The tramp cleared his throat.
"No'm," he said huskily. "He was used up pretty bad, but he
weren't dead. He was comin' to hisself when I"--he stopped and
looked at the detective. "I didn't steal it, Mr. Winters," he
whined. "I found it in the road, honest to God, I did."
Mr. Winters paid no attention to him. He was watching Alex.
"I'd better tell what he told me," Alex broke in. "It will be
quicker. When Jamieson--when Mr Jamieson calls up we can start
him right. Mr. Winters, I found this man trying to sell that
watch on Fifth Street. He offered it to me for three dollars."
"How did you know the watch?" Winters snapped at him.
"I had seen it before, many times. I used it at night when I was
watching at the foot of the staircase." The detective was
satisfied. "When he offered the watch to me, I knew it, and I
pretended I was going to buy it. We went into an alley and I got
the watch." The tramp shivered. It was plain how Alex had
secured the watch. "Then--I got the story from this fellow. He
claims to have seen the whole affair. He says he was in an empty
car--in the car the automobile struck."
The tramp broke in here, and told his story, with frequent
interpretations by Alex and Mr. Winters. He used a strange
medley, in which familiar words took unfamiliar meanings, but it
was gradually made clear to us.
On the night in question the tramp had been "pounding his ear"--
this stuck to me as being graphic--in an empty box-car along the
siding at Casanova. The train was going west, and due to leave
at dawn. The tramp and the "brakey" were friendly, and things
going well. About ten o'clock, perhaps earlier, a terrific crash
against the side of the car roused him. He tried to open the
door, but could not move it. He got out of the other side,
and just as he did so, he heard some one groan.
The habits of a lifetime made him cautious. He slipped on to the
bumper of a car and peered through. An automobile had struck the
car, and stood there on two wheels. The tail lights were
burning, but the headlights were out. Two men were stooping over
some one who lay on the ground. Then the taller of the two
started on a dog-trot along the train looking for an empty. He
found one four cars away and ran back again. The two lifted the
unconscious man into the empty box-car, and, getting in
themselves, stayed for three or four minutes. When they came
out, after closing the sliding door, they cut up over the
railroad embankment toward the town. One, the short one, seemed
to limp.
The tramp was wary. He waited for ten minutes or so. Some women
came down a path to the road and inspected the automobile. When
they had gone, he crawled into the box-car and closed the door
again. Then he lighted a match. The figure of a man,
unconscious, gagged, and with his hands tied, lay far at the end.
The tramp lost no time; he went through his pockets, found a
little money and the cuff-links, and took them. Then he
loosened the gag--it had been cruelly tight--and went his way,
again closing the door of the box-car. Outside on the road he
found the watch. He got on the fast freight east, some time
after, and rode into the city. He had sold the cuff-links, but
on offering the watch to Alex he had been "copped."
The story, with its cold recital of villainy, was done. I hardly
knew if I were more anxious, or less. That it was Halsey, there
could be no doubt. How badly he was hurt, how far he had been
carried, were the questions that demanded immediate answer. But
it was the first real information we had had; my boy had not been
murdered outright. But instead of vague terrors there was now
the real fear that he might be lying in some strange hospital
receiving the casual attention commonly given to the charity
cases. Even this, had we known it, would have been paradise to
the terrible truth. I wake yet and feel myself cold and
trembling with the horror of Halsey's situation for three days
after his disappearance.
Mr. Winters and Alex disposed of the tramp with a warning. It
was evident he had told us all he knew. We had occasion, within
a day or two, to be doubly thankful that we had given him
his freedom. When Mr. Jamieson telephoned that night we had news
for him; he told me what I had not realized before--that it would
not be possible to find Halsey at once, even with this clue. The
cars by this time, three days, might be scattered over the Union.
But he said to keep on hoping, that it was the best news we had
had. And in the meantime, consumed with anxiety as we were,
things were happening at the house in rapid succession.
We had one peaceful day--then Liddy took sick in the night. I
went in when I heard her groaning, and found her with a hot-water
bottle to her face, and her right cheek swollen until it was
"Toothache?" I asked, not too gently. "You deserve it. A woman
of your age, who would rather go around with an exposed nerve in
her head than have the tooth pulled! It would be over in a
"So would hanging," Liddy protested, from behind the hot-water
I was hunting around for cotton and laudanum.
"You have a tooth just like it yourself, Miss Rachel," she
whimpered. "And I'm sure Doctor Boyle's been trying to take it
out for years."
There was no laudanum, and Liddy made a terrible fuss when I
proposed carbolic acid, just because I had put too much on the
cotton once and burned her mouth. I'm sure it never did her any
permanent harm; indeed, the doctor said afterward that living on
liquid diet had been a splendid rest for her stomach. But she
would have none of the acid, and she kept me awake groaning, so
at last I got up and went to Gertrude's door. To my surprise, it
was locked.
I went around by the hall and into her bedroom that way. The bed
was turned down, and her dressing-gown and night-dress lay ready
in the little room next, but Gertrude was not there. She had not
I don't know what terrible thoughts came to me in the minute I
stood there. Through the door I could hear Liddy grumbling, with
a squeal now and then when the pain stabbed harder. Then,
automatically, I got the laudanum and went back to her.
It was fully a half-hour before Liddy's groans subsided. At
intervals I went to the door into the hall and looked out, but I
saw and heard nothing suspicious. Finally, when Liddy had
dropped into a doze, I even ventured as far as the head of the
circular staircase, but there floated up to me only the even
breathing of Winters, the night detective, sleeping just
inside the entry. And then, far off, I heard the rapping noise
that had lured Louise down the staircase that other night, two
weeks before. It was over my head, and very faint--three or four
short muffled taps, a pause, and then again, stealthily repeated.
The sound of Mr. Winters' breathing was comforting; with the
thought that there was help within call, something kept me from
waking him. I did not move for a moment; ridiculous things Liddy
had said about a ghost--I am not at all superstitious, except,
perhaps, in the middle of the night, with everything dark--things
like that came back to me. Almost beside me was the clothes
chute. I could feel it, but I could see nothing. As I stood,
listening intently, I heard a sound near me. It was vague,
indefinite. Then it ceased; there was an uneasy movement and a
grunt from the foot of the circular staircase, and silence again.
I stood perfectly still, hardly daring to breathe.
Then I knew I had been right. Some one was stealthily-passing
the head of the staircase and coming toward me in the dark. I
leaned against the wall for support--my knees were giving way.
The steps were close now, and suddenly I thought of
Gertrude. Of course it was Gertrude. I put out one hand in
front of me, but I touched nothing. My voice almost refused me,
but I managed to gasp out, "Gertrude!"
"Good Lord!" a man's voice exclaimed, just beside me. And then I
collapsed. I felt myself going, felt some one catch me, a
horrible nausea--that was all I remembered.
When I came to it was dawn. I was lying on the bed in Louise's
room, with the cherub on the ceiling staring down at me, and
there was a blanket from my own bed thrown over me. I felt weak
and dizzy, but I managed to get up and totter to the door. At
the foot of the circular staircase Mr. Winters was still asleep.
Hardly able to stand, I crept back to my room. The door into
Gertrude's room was no longer locked: she was sleeping like a
tired child. And in my dressing-room Liddy hugged a cold hotwater
bottle, and mumbled in her sleep.
"There's some things you can't hold with hand cuffs, she was
muttering thickly.
For the first time in twenty years, I kept my bed that day.
Liddy was alarmed to the point of hysteria, and sent for Doctor
Stewart just after breakfast. Gertrude spent the morning with
me, reading something--I forget what. I was too busy with my
thoughts to listen. I had said nothing to the two detectives.
If Mr. Jamieson had been there, I should have told him
everything, but I could not go to these strange men and tell them
my niece had been missing in the middle of the night; that she
had not gone to bed at all; that while I was searching for her
through the house, I had met a stranger who, when I fainted, had
carried me into a room and left me there, to get better or not,
as it might happen.
The whole situation was terrible: had the issues been less vital,
it would have been absurd. Here we were, guarded day and night
by private detectives, with an extra man to watch the
grounds, and yet we might as well have lived in a Japanese paper
house, for all the protection we had.
And there was something else: the man I had met in the darkness
had been even more startled than I, and about his voice, when he
muttered his muffled exclamation, there was something vaguely
familiar. All that morning, while Gertrude read aloud, and Liddy
watched for the doctor, I was puzzling over that voice, without
And there were other things, too. I wondered what Gertrude's
absence from her room had to do with it all, or if it had any
connection. I tried to think that she had heard the rapping
noises before I did and gone to investigate, but I'm afraid I was
a moral coward that day. I could not ask her.
Perhaps the diversion was good for me. It took my mind from
Halsey, and the story we had heard the night before. The day,
however, was a long vigil, with every ring of the telephone full
of possibilities. Doctor Walker came up, some time just after
luncheon, and asked for me.
"Go down and see him," I instructed Gertrude. "Tell him I am
out--for mercy's sake don't say I'm sick. Find out what he
wants, and from this time on, instruct the servants that he is
not to be admitted. I loathe that man."
Gertrude came back very soon, her face rather flushed.
"He came to ask us to get out," she said, picking up her book
with a jerk. "He says Louise Armstrong wants to come here, now
that she is recovering"
"And what did you say?"
"I said we were very sorry we could not leave, but we would be
delighted to have Louise come up here with us. He looked daggers
at me. And he wanted to know if we would recommend Eliza as a
cook. He has brought a patient, a man, out from town, and is
increasing his establishment--that's the way he put it."
"I wish him joy of Eliza," I said tartly. "Did he ask for
"Yes. I told him that we were on the track last night, and that
it was only a question of time. He said he was glad, although he
didn't appear to be, but he said not to be too sanguine."
"Do you know what I believe?" I asked. "I believe, as firmly as
I believe anything, that Doctor Walker knows something about
Halsey, and that he could put his finger on him, if he wanted
There were several things that day that bewildered me. About
three o'clock Mr. Jamieson telephoned from the Casanova station
and Warner went down to meet him. I got up and dressed hastily,
and the detective was shown up to my sitting-room.
"No news?" I asked, as he entered. He tried to look encouraging,
without success. I noticed that he looked tired and dusty, and,
although he was ordinarily impeccable in his appearance, it was
clear that he was at least two days from a razor.
"It won't be long now, Miss Innes," he said. "I have come out
here on a peculiar errand, which I will tell you about later.
First, I want to ask some questions. Did any one come out here
yesterday to repair the telephone, and examine the wires on the
"Yes," I said promptly; "but it was not the telephone. He said
the wiring might have caused the fire at the stable. I went up
with him myself, but he only looked around."
Mr. Jamieson smiled.
"Good for you!" he applauded. "Don't allow any one in the house
that you don't trust, and don't trust anybody. All are not
electricians who wear rubber gloves."
He refused to explain further, but he got a slip of paper out of
his pocketbook and opened it carefully.
"Listen," he said. "You heard this before and scoffed. In the
light of recent developments I want you to read it again. You
are a clever woman, Miss Innes. Just as surely as I sit here,
there is something in this house that is wanted very anxiously by
a number of people. The lines are closing up, Miss Innes."
The paper was the one he had found among Arnold Armstrong's
effects, and I read it again:
"----by altering the plans for----rooms, may be possible. The
best way, in my opinion, would be to----the plan for----in one of
"I think I understand," I said slowly. "Some one is searching
for the secret room, and the invaders--"
"And the holes in the plaster--"
"Have been in the progress of his--"
"Or her--investigations."
"Her?" I asked.
"Miss Innes," the detective said, getting up, "I believe that
somewhere in the walls of this house is hidden some of the money,
at least, from the Traders' Bank. I believe, just as
surely, that young Walker brought home from California the
knowledge of something of the sort and, failing in his effort to
reinstall Mrs. Armstrong and her daughter here, he, or a
confederate, has tried to break into the house. On two occasions
I think he succeeded."
"On three, at least," I corrected. And then I told him about the
night before. "I have been thinking hard," I concluded, "and I
do not believe the man at the head of the circular staircase was
Doctor Walker. I don't think he could have got in, and the voice
was not his."
Mr. Jamieson got up and paced the floor, his hands behind him.
"There is something else that puzzles me," he said, stepping
before me. "Who and what is the woman Nina Carrington? If it
was she who came here as Mattie Bliss, what did she tell Halsey
that sent him racing to Doctor Walker's, and then to Miss
Armstrong? If we could find that woman we would have the whole
"Mr. Jamieson, did you ever think that Paul Armstrong might not
have died a natural death?"
"That is the thing we are going to try to find out," he
replied. And then Gertrude came in, announcing a man below to
see Mr. Jamieson.
"I want you present at this interview, Miss Innes," he said.
"May Riggs come up? He has left Doctor Walker and he has
something he wants to tell us."
Riggs came into the room diffidently, but Mr. Jamieson put him at
his ease. He kept a careful eye on me, however, and slid into a
chair by the door when he was asked to sit down.
"Now, Riggs," began Mr. Jamieson kindly. "You are to say what
you have to say before this lady."
"You promised you'd keep it quiet, Mr. Jamieson." Riggs plainly
did not trust me. There was nothing friendly in the glance he
turned on me.
"Yes, yes. You will be protected. But, first of all, did you
bring what you promised?"
Riggs produced a roll of papers from under his coat, and handed
them over. Mr. Jamieson examined them with lively satisfaction,
and passed them to me. "The blue-prints of Sunnyside," he said.
"What did I tell you? Now, Riggs, we are ready."
"I'd never have come to you, Mr. Jamieson," he began, "if it
hadn't been for Miss Armstrong. When Mr. Innes was spirited
away, like, and Miss Louise got sick because of it, I
thought things had gone far enough. I'd done some things for the
doctor before that wouldn't just bear looking into, but I turned
a bit squeamish."
"Did you help with that?" I asked, leaning forward.
"No, ma'm. I didn't even know of it until the next day, when it
came out in the Casanova Weekly Ledger. But I know who did it,
all right. I'd better start at the beginning.
"When Doctor Walker went away to California with the Armstrong
family, there was talk in the town that when he came back he
would be married to Miss Armstrong, and we all expected it.
First thing I knew, I got a letter from him, in the west. He
seemed to be excited, and he said Miss Armstrong had taken a
sudden notion to go home and he sent me some money. I was to
watch for her, to see if she went to Sunnyside, and wherever she
was, not to lose sight of her until he got home. I traced her to
the lodge, and I guess I scared you on the drive one night, Miss
"And Rosie!" I ejaculated.
Riggs grinned sheepishly.
"I only wanted to make sure Miss Louise was there. Rosie
started to run, and I tried to stop her and tell her some sort of
a story to account for my being there. But she wouldn't wait."
"And the broken china--in the basket?"
"Well, broken china's death to rubber tires," he said. "I hadn't
any complaint against you people here, and the Dragon Fly was a
good car."
So Rosie's highwayman was explained.
"Well, I telegraphed the doctor where Miss Louise was and I kept
an eye on her. Just a day or so before they came home with the
body, I got another letter, telling me to watch for a woman who
had been pitted with smallpox. Her name was Carrington, and the
doctor made things pretty strong. If I found any such woman
loafing around, I was not to lose sight of her for a minute until
the doctor got back.
"Well, I would have had my hands full, but the other woman didn't
show up for a good while, and when she did the doctor was home."
"Riggs," I asked suddenly, "did you get into this house a day or
two after I took it, at night?"
"I did not, Miss Innes. I have never been in the house before.
Well, the Carrington woman didn't show up until the night Mr.
Halsey disappeared. She came to the office late, and the
doctor was out. She waited around, walking the floor and working
herself into a passion. When the doctor didn't come back, she
was in an awful way. She wanted me to hunt him, and when he
didn't appear, she called him names; said he couldn't fool her.
There was murder being done, and she would see him swing for it.
"She struck me as being an ugly customer, and when she left,
about eleven o'clock, and went across to the Armstrong place, I
was not far behind her. She walked all around the house first,
looking up at the windows. Then she rang the bell, and the
minute the door was opened she was through it, and into the
"How long did she stay?"
"That's the queer part of it," Riggs said eagerly. "She didn't
come out that night at all. I went to bed at daylight, and that
was the last I heard of her until the next day, when I saw her on
a truck at the station, covered with a sheet. She'd been struck
by the express and you would hardly have known her--dead, of
course. I think she stayed all night in the Armstrong house, and
the agent said she was crossing the track to take the up-train to
town when the express struck her."
"Another circle!" I exclaimed. "Then we are just where we
"Not so bad as that, Miss Innes," Riggs said eagerly. "Nina
Carrington came from the town in California where Mr. Armstrong
died. Why was the doctor so afraid of her? The Carrington woman
knew something. I lived with Doctor Walker seven years, and I
know him well. There are few things he is afraid of. I think he
killed Mr. Armstrong out in the west somewhere, that's what I
think. What else he did I don't know--but he dismissed me and
pretty nearly throttled me--for telling Mr. Jamieson here about
Mr. Innes' having been at his office the night he disappeared,
and about my hearing them quarreling."
"What was it Warner overheard the woman say to Mr. Innes, in the
library?" the detective asked me.
"She said `I knew there was something wrong from the start. A
man isn't well one day and dead the next without some reason.'"
How perfectly it all seemed to fit!
It was on Wednesday Riggs told us the story of his connection
with some incidents that had been previously unexplained. Halsey
had been gone since the Friday night before, and with the passage
of each day I felt that his chances were lessening. I knew well
enough that he might be carried thousands of miles in the boxcar,
locked in, perhaps, without water or food. I had read of
cases where bodies had been found locked in cars on isolated
sidings in the west, and my spirits went down with every hour.
His recovery was destined to be almost as sudden as his
disappearance, and was due directly to the tramp Alex had brought
to Sunnyside. It seems the man was grateful for his release, and
when he learned some thing of Halsey's whereabouts from another
member of his fraternity--for it is a fraternity--he was prompt
in letting us know.
On Wednesday evening Mr. Jamieson, who had been down at the
Armstrong house trying to see Louise--and failing--was met near
the gate at Sunnyside by an individual precisely as repulsive and
unkempt as the one Alex had captured. The man knew the
detective, and he gave him a piece of dirty paper, on which was
scrawled the words--"He's at City Hospital, Johnsville." The
tramp who brought the paper pretended to know nothing, except
this: the paper had been passed along from a "hobo" in
Johnsville, who seemed to know the information would be valuable
to us.
Again the long distance telephone came into requisition. Mr.
Jamieson called the hospital, while we crowded around him. And
when there was no longer any doubt that it was Halsey, and that
he would probably recover, we all laughed and cried together. I
am sure I kissed Liddy, and I have had terrible moments since
when I seem to remember kissing Mr. Jamieson, too, in the
Anyhow, by eleven o'clock that night Gertrude was on her way to
Johnsville, three hundred and eighty miles away, accompanied by
Rosie. The domestic force was now down to Mary Anne and Liddy,
with the under-gardener's wife coming every day to help out.
Fortunately, Warner and the detectives were keeping bachelor hall
in the lodge. Out of deference to Liddy they washed their dishes
once a day, and they concocted queer messes, according to their
several abilities. They had one triumph that they ate regularly
for breakfast, and that clung to their clothes and their hair the
rest of the day. It was bacon, hardtack and onions, fried
together. They were almost pathetically grateful, however, I
noticed, for an occasional broiled tenderloin.
It was not until Gertrude and Rosie had gone and Sunnyside had
settled down for the night, with Winters at the foot of the
staircase, that Mr. Jamieson broached a subject he had evidently
planned before he came.
"Miss Innes," he said, stopping me as I was about to go to my
room up-stairs, "how are your nerves tonight?"
"I have none," I said happily. "With Halsey found, my troubles
have gone."
"I mean," he persisted, "do you feel as though you could go
through with something rather unusual?"
"The most unusual thing I can think of would be a peaceful
night. But if anything is going to occur, don't dare to let me
miss it."
"Something is going to occur," he said. "And you're the only
woman I can think of that I can take along." He looked at his
watch. "Don't ask me any questions, Miss Innes. Put on heavy
shoes, and some old dark clothes, and make up your mind not to be
surprised at anything."
Liddy was sleeping the sleep of the just when I went up-stairs,
and I hunted out my things cautiously. The detective was waiting
in the hall, and I was astonished to see Doctor Stewart with him.
They were talking confidentially together, but when I came down
they ceased. There were a few preparations to be made: the locks
to be gone over, Winters to be instructed as to renewed
vigilance, and then, after extinguishing the hall light, we
crept, in the darkness, through the front door, and into the
I asked no questions. I felt that they were doing me honor in
making me one of the party, and I would show them I could be as
silent as they. We went across the fields, passing through the
woods that reached almost to the ruins of the stable, going over
stiles now and then, and sometimes stepping over low fences.
Once only somebody spoke, and then it was an emphatic bit of
profanity from Doctor Stewart when he ran into a wire fence.
We were joined at the end of five minutes by another man, who
fell into step with the doctor silently. He carried something
over his shoulder which I could not make out. In this way we
walked for perhaps twenty minutes. I had lost all sense of
direction: I merely stumbled along in silence, allowing Mr.
Jamieson to guide me this way or that as the path demanded. I
hardly know what I expected. Once, when through a miscalculation
I jumped a little short over a ditch and landed above my shoetops
in the water and ooze, I remember wondering if this were
really I, and if I had ever tasted life until that summer. I
walked along with the water sloshing in my boots, and I was
actually cheerful. I remember whispering to Mr. Jamieson that I
had never seen the stars so lovely, and that it was a mistake,
when the Lord had made the night so beautiful, to sleep through
The doctor was puffing somewhat when we finally came to a halt.
I confess that just at that minute even Sunnyside seemed a
cheerful spot. We had paused at the edge of a level cleared
place, bordered all around with primly trimmed evergreen
trees. Between them I caught a glimpse of starlight shining down
on rows of white headstones and an occasional more imposing
monument, or towering shaft. In spite of myself, I drew my
breath in sharply. We were on the edge of the Casanova
I saw now both the man who had joined the party and the
implements he carried. It was Alex, armed with two long-handled
spades. After the first shock of surprise, I flatter myself I
was both cool and quiet. We went in single file between the rows
of headstones, and although, when I found myself last, I had an
instinctive desire to keep looking back over my shoulder, I found
that, the first uneasiness past, a cemetery at night is much the
same as any other country place, filled with vague shadows and
unexpected noises. Once, indeed--but Mr. Jamieson said it was an
owl, and I tried to believe him.
In the shadow of the Armstrong granite shaft we stopped. I think
the doctor wanted to send me back.
"It's no place for a woman," I heard him protesting angrily. But
the detective said something about witnesses, and the doctor only
came over and felt my pulse.
"Anyhow, I don't believe you're any worse off here than you would
be in that nightmare of a house," he said finally, and put his
coat on the steps of the shaft for me to sit on.
There is an air of finality about a grave: one watches the earth
thrown in, with the feeling that this is the end. Whatever has
gone before, whatever is to come in eternity, that particular
temple of the soul has been given back to the elements from which
it came. Thus, there is a sense of desecration, of a reversal of
the everlasting fitness of things, in resurrecting a body from
its mother clay. And yet that night, in the Casanova churchyard,
I sat quietly by, and watched Alex and Mr. Jamieson steaming over
their work, without a single qualm, except the fear of detection.
The doctor kept a keen lookout, but no one appeared. Once in a
while he came over to me, and gave me a reassuring pat on the
"I never expected to come to this," he said once. "There's one
thing sure--I'll not be suspected of complicity. A doctor is
generally supposed to be handier at burying folks than at digging
them up."
The uncanny moment came when Alex and Jamieson tossed the spades
on the grass, and I confess I hid my face. There was a
period of stress, I think, while the heavy coffin was being
raised. I felt that my composure was going, and, for fear I
would shriek, I tried to think of something else--what time
Gertrude would reach Halsey--anything but the grisly reality that
lay just beyond me on the grass.
And then I heard a low exclamation from the detective and I felt
the pressure of the doctor's fingers on my arm.
"Now, Miss Innes," he said gently. "If you will come over--"
I held on to him frantically, and somehow I got there and looked
down. The lid of the casket had been raised and a silver plate
on it proved we had made no mistake. But the face that showed in
the light of the lantern was a face I had never seen before. The
man who lay before us was not Paul Armstrong!
What with the excitement of the discovery, the walk home under
the stars in wet shoes and draggled skirts, and getting up-stairs
and undressed without rousing Liddy, I was completely used up.
What to do with my boots was the greatest puzzle of all, there
being no place in the house safe from Liddy, until I decided to
slip upstairs the next morning and drop them into the hole the
"ghost" had made in the trunk-room wall.
I went asleep as soon as I reached this decision, and in my
dreams I lived over again the events of the night. Again I saw
the group around the silent figure on the grass, and again, as
had happened at the grave, I heard Alex's voice, tense and
"Then we've got them," he said. Only, in my dreams, he said it
over and over until he seemed to shriek it in my ears.
I wakened early, in spite of my fatigue, and lay there thinking.
Who was Alex? I no longer believed that he was a gardener. Who
was the man whose body we had resurrected? And where was Paul
Armstrong? Probably living safely in some extraditionless
country on the fortune he had stolen. Did Louise and her mother
know of the shameful and wicked deception? What had Thomas
known, and Mrs. Watson? Who was Nina Carrington?
This last question, it seemed to me, was answered. In some way
the woman had learned of the substitution, and had tried to use
her knowledge for blackmail. Nina Carrington's own story died
with her, but, however it happened, it was clear that she had
carried her knowledge to Halsey the afternoon Gertrude and I were
looking for clues to the man I had shot on the east veranda.
Halsey had been half crazed by what he heard; it was evident that
Louise was marrying Doctor Walker to keep the shameful secret,
for her mother's sake. Halsey, always reckless, had gone at once
to Doctor Walker and denounced him. There had been a scene, and
he left on his way to the station to meet and notify Mr. Jamieson
of what he had learned. The doctor was active mentally and
physically. Accompanied perhaps by Riggs, who had shown himself
not overscrupulous until he quarreled with his employer, he had
gone across to the railroad embankment, and, by jumping in front
of the car, had caused Halsey to swerve. The rest of the story
we knew.
That was my reconstructed theory of that afternoon and evening:
it was almost correct--not quite.
There was a telegram that morning from Gertrude.
"Halsey conscious and improving. Probably home in day or so.
With Halsey found and improving in health, and with at last
something to work on, I began that day, Thursday, with fresh
courage. As Mr. Jamieson had said, the lines were closing up.
That I was to be caught and almost finished in the closing was
happily unknown to us all.
It was late when I got up. I lay in my bed, looking around the
four walls of the room, and trying to imagine behind what one of
them a secret chamber might lie. Certainly, in daylight,
Sunnyside deserved its name: never was a house more cheery and
open, less sinister in general appearance. There was not a
corner apparently that was not open and above-board, and
yet, somewhere behind its handsomely papered walls I believed
firmly that there lay a hidden room, with all the possibilities
it would involve.
I made a mental note to have the house measured during the day,
to discover any discrepancy between the outer and inner walls,
and I tried to recall again the exact wording of the paper
Jamieson had found.
The slip had said "chimney." It was the only clue, and a house
as large as Sunnyside was full of them. There was an open
fireplace in my dressing-room, but none in the bedroom, and as I
lay there, looking around, I thought of something that made me
sit up suddenly. The trunk-room, just over my head, had an open
fireplace and a brick chimney, and yet, there was nothing of the
kind in my room. I got out of bed and examined the opposite wall
closely. There was apparently no flue, and I knew there was none
in the hall just beneath. The house was heated by steam, as I
have said before. In the living-room was a huge open fireplace,
but it was on the other side.
Why did the trunk-room have both a radiator and an open
fireplace? Architects were not usually erratic! It was not
fifteen minutes before I was up-stairs, armed with a tape-measure
in lieu of a foot-rule, eager to justify Mr. Jamieson's
opinion of my intelligence, and firmly resolved not to tell him
of my suspicion until I had more than theory to go on. The hole
in the trunk-room wall still yawned there, between the chimney
and the outer wall. I examined it again, with no new result.
The space between the brick wall and the plaster and lath one,
however, had a new significance. The hole showed only one side
of the chimney, and I determined to investigate what lay in the
space on the other side of the mantel.
I worked feverishly. Liddy had gone to the village to market, it
being her firm belief that the store people sent short measure
unless she watched the scales, and that, since the failure of the
Traders' Bank, we must watch the corners; and I knew that what I
wanted to do must be done before she came back. I had no tools,
but after rummaging around I found a pair of garden scissors and
a hatchet, and thus armed, I set to work. The plaster came out
easily: the lathing was more obstinate. It gave under the blows,
only to spring back into place again, and the necessity for
caution made it doubly hard.
I had a blister on my palm when at last the hatchet went through
and fell with what sounded like the report of a gun to my
overstrained nerves. I sat on a trunk, waiting to hear Liddy fly
up the stairs, with the household behind her, like the tail of a
comet. But nothing happened, and with a growing feeling of
uncanniness I set to work enlarging the opening.
The result was absolutely nil. When I could hold a lighted
candle in the opening, I saw precisely what I had seen on the
other side of the chimney--a space between the true wall and the
false one, possibly seven feet long and about three feet wide.
It was in no sense of the word a secret chamber, and it was
evident it had not been disturbed since the house was built. It
was a supreme disappointment.
It had been Mr. Jamieson's idea that the hidden room, if there
was one, would be found somewhere near the circular staircase.
In fact, I knew that he had once investigated the entire length
of the clothes chute, hanging to a rope, with this in view. I
was reluctantly about to concede that he had been right, when my
eyes fell on the mantel and fireplace. The latter had evidently
never been used: it was closed with a metal fire front, and only
when the front refused to move, and investigation showed that it
was not intended to be moved, did my spirits revive.
I hurried into the next room. Yes, sure enough, there was a
similar mantel and fireplace there, similarly closed. In both
rooms the chimney flue extended well out from the wall. I
measured with the tape-line, my hands trembling so that I could
scarcely hold it. They extended two feet and a half into each
room, which, with the three feet of space between the two
partitions, made eight feet to be accounted for. Eight feet in
one direction and almost seven in the other--what a chimney it
But I had only located the hidden room. I was not in it, and no
amount of pressing on the carving of the wooden mantels, no
search of the floors for loose boards, none of the customary
methods availed at all. That there was a means of entrance, and
probably a simple one, I could be certain. But what? What would
I find if I did get in? Was the detective right, and were the
bonds and money from the Traders' Bank there? Or was our whole
theory wrong? Would not Paul Armstrong have taken his booty with
him? If he had not, and if Doctor Walker was in the secret, he
would have known how to enter the chimney room. Then--who had
dug the other hole in the false partition?
Liddy discovered the fresh break in the trunk-room wall while we
were at luncheon, and ran shrieking down the stairs. She
maintained that, as she entered, unseen hands had been digging at
the plaster; that they had stopped when she went in, and she had
felt a gust of cold damp air. In support of her story she
carried in my wet and muddy boots, that I had unluckily forgotten
to hide, and held them out to the detective and myself.
"What did I tell you?" she said dramatically. "Look at 'em.
They're yours, Miss Rachel--and covered with mud and soaked to
the tops. I tell you, you can scoff all you like; something has
been wearing your shoes. As sure as you sit there, there's the
smell of the graveyard on them. How do we know they weren't
tramping through the Casanova churchyard last night, and sitting
on the graves!"
Mr. Jamieson almost choked to death. "I wouldn't be at
all surprised if they were doing that very thing, Liddy," he
said, when he got his breath. "They certainly look like it."
I think the detective had a plan, on which he was working, and
which was meant to be a coup. But things went so fast there
was no time to carry it into effect. The first thing that
occurred was a message from the Charity Hospital that Mrs. Watson
was dying, and had asked for me. I did not care much about
going. There is a sort of melancholy pleasure to be had out of a
funeral, with its pomp and ceremony, but I shrank from a deathbed.
However, Liddy got out the black things and the crape veil
I keep for such occasions, and I went. I left Mr. Jamieson and
the day detective going over every inch of the circular
staircase, pounding, probing and measuring. I was inwardly
elated to think of the surprise I was going to give them that
night; as it turned out, I DID surprise them almost into
I drove from the train to the Charity Hospital, and was at once
taken to a ward. There, in a gray-walled room in a high iron
bed, lay Mrs. Watson. She was very weak, and she only opened her
eyes and looked at me when I sat down beside her. I was
conscience-stricken. We had been so engrossed that I had
left this poor creature to die without even a word of sympathy.
The nurse gave her a stimulant, and in a little while she was
able to talk. So broken and half-coherent, however, was her
story that I shall tell it in my own way. In an hour from the
time I entered the Charity Hospital, I had heard a sad and
pitiful narrative, and had seen a woman slip into the
unconsciousness that is only a step from death.
Briefly, then, the housekeeper's story was this:
She was almost forty years old, and had been the sister-mother of
a large family of children. One by one they had died, and been
buried beside their parents in a little town in the Middle West.
There was only one sister left, the baby, Lucy. On her the older
girl had lavished all the love of an impulsive and emotional
nature. When Anne, the elder, was thirty-two and Lucy was
nineteen, a young man had come to the town. He was going east,
after spending the summer at a celebrated ranch in Wyoming--one
of those places where wealthy men send worthless and dissipated
sons, for a season of temperance, fresh air and hunting. The
sisters, of course, knew nothing of this, and the young
man's ardor rather carried them away. In a word, seven years
before, Lucy Haswell had married a young man whose name was given
as Aubrey Wallace.
Anne Haswell had married a carpenter in her native town, and was
a widow. For three months everything went fairly well. Aubrey
took his bride to Chicago, where they lived at a hotel. Perhaps
the very unsophistication that had charmed him in Valley Mill
jarred on him in the city. He had been far from a model husband,
even for the three months, and when he disappeared Anne was
almost thankful. It was different with the young wife, however.
She drooped and fretted, and on the birth of her baby boy, she
had died. Anne took the child, and named him Lucien.
Anne had had no children of her own, and on Lucien she had
lavished all her aborted maternal instinct. On one thing she was
determined, however: that was that Aubrey Wallace should educate
his boy. It was a part of her devotion to the child that she
should be ambitious for him: he must have every opportunity. And
so she came east. She drifted around, doing plain sewing and
keeping a home somewhere always for the boy. Finally, however,
she realized that her only training had been domestic, and
she put the boy in an Episcopalian home, and secured the position
of housekeeper to the Armstrongs. There she found Lucien's
father, this time under his own name. It was Arnold Armstrong.
I gathered that there was no particular enmity at that time in
Anne's mind. She told him of the boy, and threatened exposure if
he did not provide for him. Indeed, for a time, he did so. Then
he realized that Lucien was the ruling passion in this lonely
woman's life. He found out where the child was hidden, and
threatened to take him away. Anne was frantic. The positions
became reversed. Where Arnold had given money for Lucien's
support, as the years went on he forced money from Anne Watson
instead until she was always penniless. The lower Arnold sank in
the scale, the heavier his demands became. With the rupture
between him and his family, things were worse. Anne took the
child from the home and hid him in a farmhouse near Casanova, on
the Claysburg road. There she went sometimes to see the boy, and
there he had taken fever. The people were Germans, and he called
the farmer's wife Grossmutter. He had grown into a beautiful
boy, and he was all Anne had to live for.
The Armstrongs left for California, and Arnold's persecutions
began anew. He was furious over the child's disappearance and
she was afraid he would do her some hurt. She left the big house
and went down to the lodge. When I had rented Sunnyside,
however, she had thought the persecutions would stop. She had
applied for the position of housekeeper, and secured it.
That had been on Saturday. That night Louise arrived
unexpectedly. Thomas sent for Mrs. Watson and then went for
Arnold Armstrong at the Greenwood Club. Anne had been fond of
Louise--she reminded her of Lucy. She did not know what the
trouble was, but Louise had been in a state of terrible
excitement. Mrs. Watson tried to hide from Arnold, but he was
ugly. He left the lodge and went up to the house about twothirty,
was admitted at the east entrance and came out again very
soon. Something had occurred, she didn't know what; but very
soon Mr. Innes and another gentleman left, using the car.
Thomas and she had got Louise quiet, and a little before three,
Mrs. Watson started up to the house. Thomas had a key to the
east entry, and gave it to her.
On the way across the lawn she was confronted by Arnold, who for
some reason was determined to get into the house. He had a
golf-stick in his hand, that he had picked up somewhere, and on
her refusal he had struck her with it. One hand had been badly
cut, and it was that, poisoning having set in, which was killing
her. She broke away in a frenzy of rage and fear, and got into
the house while Gertrude and Jack Bailey were at the front door.
She went up-stairs, hardly knowing what she was doing.
Gertrude's door was open, and Halsey's revolver lay there on the
bed. She picked it up and turning, ran part way down the
circular staircase. She could hear Arnold fumbling at the lock
outside. She slipped down quietly and opened the door: he was
inside before she had got back to the stairs. It was quite dark,
but she could see his white shirt-bosom. From the fourth step
she fired. As he fell, somebody in the billiard-room screamed
and ran. When the alarm was raised, she had had no time to get
up-stairs: she hid in the west wing until every one was down on
the lower floor. Then she slipped upstairs, and threw the
revolver out of an upper window, going down again in time to
admit the men from the Greenwood Club.
If Thomas had suspected, he had never told. When she found the
hand Arnold had injured was growing worse, she gave the
address of Lucien at Richfield to the old man, and almost a
hundred dollars. The money was for Lucien's board until she
recovered. She had sent for me to ask me if I would try to
interest the Armstrongs in the child. When she found herself
growing worse, she had written to Mrs. Armstrong, telling her
nothing but that Arnold's legitimate child was at Richfield, and
imploring her to recognize him. She was dying: the boy was an
Armstrong, and entitled to his father's share of the estate. The
papers were in her trunk at Sunnyside, with letters from the dead
man that would prove what she said. She was going; she would not
be judged by earthly laws; and somewhere else perhaps Lucy would
plead for her. It was she who had crept down the circular
staircase, drawn by a magnet, that night Mr. Jamieson had heard
some one there. Pursued, she had fled madly, anywhere--through
the first door she came to. She had fallen down the clothes
chute, and been saved by the basket beneath. I could have cried
with relief; then it had not been Gertrude, after all!
That was the story. Sad and tragic though it was, the very
telling of it seemed to relieve the dying woman. She did not
know that Thomas was dead, and I did not tell her. I
promised to look after little Lucien, and sat with her until the
intervals of consciousness grew shorter and finally ceased
altogether. She died that night.
As I drove rapidly up to the house from Casanova Station in the
hack, I saw the detective Burns loitering across the street from
the Walker place. So Jamieson was putting the screws on--lightly
now, but ready to give them a twist or two, I felt certain, very
The house was quiet. Two steps of the circular staircase had
been pried off, without result, and beyond a second message from
Gertrude, that Halsey insisted on coming home and they would
arrive that night, there was nothing new. Mr. Jamieson, having
failed to locate the secret room, had gone to the village. I
learned afterwards that he called at Doctor Walker's, under
pretense of an attack of acute indigestion, and before he left,
had inquired about the evening trains to the city. He said he
had wasted a lot of time on the case, and a good bit of the
mystery was in my imagination! The doctor was under
the impression that the house was guarded day and night. Well,
give a place a reputation like that, and you don't need a guard
at all,--thus Jamieson. And sure enough, late in the afternoon,
the two private detectives, accompanied by Mr. Jamieson, walked
down the main street of Casanova and took a city-bound train.
That they got off at the next station and walked back again to
Sunnyside at dusk, was not known at the time. Personally, I knew
nothing of either move; I had other things to absorb me at that
Liddy brought me some tea while I rested after my trip, and on
the tray was a small book from the Casanova library. It was
called The Unseen World and had a cheerful cover on which a
half-dozen sheeted figures linked hands around a headstone.
At this point in my story, Halsey always says: "Trust a woman to
add two and two together, and make six." To which I retort that
if two and two plus X make six, then to discover the unknown
quantity is the simplest thing in the world. That a houseful of
detectives missed it entirely was because they were busy trying
to prove that two and two make four.
The depression due to my visit to the hospital left me at the
prospect of seeing Halsey again that night. It was about five
o'clock when Liddy left me for a nap before dinner, having put me
into a gray silk dressing-gown and a pair of slippers. I
listened to her retreating footsteps, and as soon as she was
safely below stairs, I went up to the trunk-room. The place had
not been disturbed, and I proceeded at once to try to discover
the entrance to the hidden room. The openings on either side, as
I have said, showed nothing but perhaps three feet of brick wall.
There was no sign of an entrance--no levers, no hinges, to give a
hint. Either the mantel or the roof, I decided, and after a
half-hour at the mantel, productive of absolutely no result, I
decided to try the roof.
I am not fond of a height. The few occasions on which I have
climbed a step-ladder have always left me dizzy and weak in the
knees. The top of the Washington monument is as impossible to me
as the elevation of the presidential chair. And yet--I climbed
out on to the Sunnyside roof without a second's hesitation. Like
a dog on a scent, like my bearskin progenitor, with his spear and
his wild boar, to me now there was the lust of the chase, the
frenzy of pursuit, the dust of battle. I got quite a little
of the latter on me as I climbed from the unfinished ball-room
out through a window to the roof of the east wing of the
building, which was only two stories in height.
Once out there, access to the top of the main building was
rendered easy--at least it looked easy--by a small vertical iron
ladder, fastened to the wall outside of the ball-room, and
perhaps twelve feet high. The twelve feet looked short from
below, but they were difficult to climb. I gathered my silk gown
around me, and succeeded finally in making the top of the ladder.
Once there, however, I was completely out of breath. I sat down,
my feet on the top rung, and put my hair pins in more securely,
while the wind bellowed my dressing-gown out like a sail. I had
torn a great strip of the silk loose, and now I ruthlessly
finished the destruction of my gown by jerking it free and tying
it around my head.
From far below the smallest sounds came up with peculiar
distinctness. I could hear the paper boy whistling down the
drive, and I heard something else. I heard the thud of a stone,
and a spit, followed by a long and startled meiou from Beulah.
I forgot my fear of a height, and advanced boldly almost to
the edge of the roof.
It was half-past six by that time, and growing dusk.
"You boy, down there!" I called.
The paper boy turned and looked around. Then, seeing nobody, he
raised his eyes. It was a moment before he located me: when he
did, he stood for one moment as if paralyzed, then he gave a
horrible yell, and dropping his papers, bolted across the lawn to
the road without stopping to look around. Once he fell, and his
impetus was so great that he turned an involuntary somersault.
He was up and off again without any perceptible pause, and he
leaped the hedge--which I am sure under ordinary stress would
have been a feat for a man.
I am glad in this way to settle the Gray Lady story, which is
still a choice morsel in Casanova. I believe the moral deduced
by the village was that it is always unlucky to throw a stone at
a black cat.
With Johnny Sweeny a cloud of dust down the road, and the dinnerhour
approaching, I hurried on with my investigations. Luckily,
the roof was flat, and I was able to go over every inch of it.
But the result was disappointing; no trap-door revealed
itself, no glass window; nothing but a couple of pipes two inches
across, and standing perhaps eighteen inches high and three feet
apart, with a cap to prevent rain from entering and raised to
permit the passage of air. I picked up a pebble from the roof
and dropped it down, listening with my ear at one of the pipes.
I could hear it strike on something with a sharp, metallic sound,
but it was impossible for me to tell how far it had gone.
I gave up finally and went down the ladder again, getting in
through the ball-room window without being observed. I went back
at once to the trunk-room, and, sitting down on a box, I gave my
mind, as consistently as I could, to the problem before me. If
the pipes in the roof were ventilators to the secret room, and
there was no trap-door above, the entrance was probably in one of
the two rooms between which it lay--unless, indeed, the room had
been built, and the opening then closed with a brick and mortar
The mantel fascinated me. Made of wood and carved, the more I
looked the more I wondered that I had not noticed before the
absurdity of such a mantel in such a place. It was covered with
scrolls and panels, and finally, by the merest accident, I
pushed one of the panels to the side. It moved easily, revealing
a small brass knob.
It is not necessary to detail the fluctuations of hope and
despair, and not a little fear of what lay beyond, with which I
twisted and turned the knob. It moved, but nothing seemed to
happen, and then I discovered the trouble. I pushed the knob
vigorously to one side, and the whole mantel swung loose from the
wall almost a foot, revealing a cavernous space beyond.
I took a long breath, closed the door from the trunk-room into
the hall--thank Heaven, I did not lock it--and pulling the
mantel-door wide open, I stepped into the chimney-room. I had
time to get a hazy view of a small portable safe, a common wooden
table and a chair--then the mantel door swung to, and clicked
behind me. I stood quite still for a moment, in the darkness,
unable to comprehend what had happened. Then I turned and beat
furiously at the door with my fists. It was closed and locked
again, and my fingers in the darkness slid over a smooth wooden
surface without a sign of a knob.
I was furiously angry--at myself, at the mantel door, at
everything. I did not fear suffocation; before the thought
had come to me I had already seen a gleam of light from the two
small ventilating pipes in the roof. They supplied air, but
nothing else. The room itself was shrouded in blackness.
I sat down in the stiff-backed chair and tried to remember how
many days one could live without food and water. When that grew
monotonous and rather painful, I got up and, according to the
time-honored rule for people shut in unknown and ink-black
prisons, I felt my way around--it was small enough, goodness
knows. I felt nothing but a splintery surface of boards, and in
endeavoring to get back to the chair, something struck me full in
the face, and fell with the noise of a thousand explosions to the
ground. When I had gathered up my nerves again, I found it had
been the bulb of a swinging electric light, and that had it not
been for the accident, I might have starved to death in an
illuminated sepulcher.
I must have dozed off. I am sure I did not faint. I was never
more composed in my life. I remember planning, if I were not
discovered, who would have my things. I knew Liddy would want my
heliotrope poplin, and she's a fright in lavender. Once or twice
I heard mice in the partitions, and so I sat on the table,
with my feet on the chair. I imagined I could hear the search
going on through the house, and once some one came into the
trunk-room; I could distinctly hear footsteps.
"In the chimney! In the chimney!" I called with all my might,
and was rewarded by a piercing shriek from Liddy and the slam of
the trunk-room door.
I felt easier after that, although the room was oppressively hot
and enervating. I had no doubt the search for me would now come
in the right direction, and after a little, I dropped into a
doze. How long I slept I do not know.
It must have been several hours, for I had been tired from a busy
day, and I wakened stiff from my awkward position. I could not
remember where I was for a few minutes, and my head felt heavy
and congested. Gradually I roused to my surroundings, and to the
fact that in spite of the ventilators, the air was bad and
growing worse. I was breathing long, gasping respirations, and
my face was damp and clammy. I must have been there a long time,
and the searchers were probably hunting outside the house,
dredging the creek, or beating the woodland. I knew that another
hour or two would find me unconscious, and with my inability
to cry out would go my only chance of rescue. It was the
combination of bad air and heat, probably, for some inadequate
ventilation was coming through the pipes. I tried to retain my
consciousness by walking the length of the room and back, over
and over, but I had not the strength to keep it up, so I sat down
on the table again, my back against the wall.
The house was very still. Once my straining ears seemed to catch
a footfall beneath me, possibly in my own room. I groped for the
chair from the table, and pounded with it frantically on the
floor. But nothing happened: I realized bitterly that if the
sound was heard at all, no doubt it was classed with the other
rappings that had so alarmed us recently.
It was impossible to judge the flight of time. I measured five
minutes by counting my pulse, allowing seventy-two beats to the
minute. But it took eternities, and toward the last I found it
hard to count; my head was confused.
And then--I heard sounds from below me, in the house. There was
a peculiar throbbing, vibrating noise that I felt rather than
heard, much like the pulsing beat of fire engines in the city.
For one awful moment I thought the house was on fire, and every
drop of blood in my body gathered around my heart; then I
knew. It was the engine of the automobile, and Halsey had come
back. Hope sprang up afresh. Halsey's clear head and Gertrude's
intuition might do what Liddy's hysteria and three detectives had
failed in.
After a time I thought I had been right. There was certainly
something going on down below; doors were slamming, people were
hurrying through the halls, and certain high notes of excited
voices penetrated to me shrilly. I hoped they were coming
closer, but after a time the sounds died away below, and I was
left to the silence and heat, to the weight of the darkness, to
the oppression of walls that seemed to close in on me and stifle
The first warning I had was a stealthy fumbling at the lock of
the mantel-door. With my mouth open to scream, I stopped.
Perhaps the situation had rendered me acute, perhaps it was
instinctive. Whatever it was, I sat without moving, and some one
outside, in absolute stillness, ran his fingers over the carving
of the mantel and--found the panel.
Now the sounds below redoubled: from the clatter and jarring I
knew that several people were running up the stairs, and as
the sounds approached, I could even hear what they said.
"Watch the end staircases!" Jamieson was shouting. "Damnation--
there's no light here!" And then a second later. "All together
now. One--two--three--"
The door into the trunk-room had been locked from the inside. At
the second that it gave, opening against the wall with a crash
and evidently tumbling somebody into the room, the stealthy
fingers beyond the mantel-door gave the knob the proper impetus,
and--the door swung open, and closed again. Only--and Liddy
always screams and puts her fingers in her ears at this point--
only now I was not alone in the chimney room. There was some one
else in the darkness, some one who breathed hard, and who was so
close I could have touched him with my hand.
I was in a paralysis of terror. Outside there were excited
voices and incredulous oaths. The trunks were being jerked
around in a frantic search, the windows were thrown open, only to
show a sheer drop of forty feet. And the man in the room with me
leaned against the mantel-door and listened. His pursuers were
plainly baffled: I heard him draw a long breath, and turn to
grope his way through the blackness. Then--he touched my hand,
cold, clammy, death-like.
A hand in an empty room! He drew in his breath, the sharp
intaking of horror that fills lungs suddenly collapsed. Beyond
jerking his hand away instantly, he made no movement. I think
absolute terror had him by the throat. Then he stepped back,
without turning, retreating foot by foot from The Dread in the
corner, and I do not think he breathed.
Then, with the relief of space between us, I screamed, earsplittingly,
madly, and they heard me outside.
"In the chimney!" I shrieked. "Behind the mantel! The mantel!"
With an oath the figure hurled itself across the room at me, and
I screamed again. In his blind fury he had missed me; I heard
him strike the wall. That one time I eluded him; I was across
the room, and I had got the chair. He stood for a second,
listening, then--he made another rush, and I struck out with my
weapon. I think it stunned him, for I had a second's respite
when I could hear him breathing, and some one shouted outside:
"We--Can't--get--in. How--does--it--open?"
But the man in the room had changed his tactics. I knew he was
creeping on me, inch by inch, and I could not tell from where.
And then--he caught me. He held his hand over my mouth, and I
bit him. I was helpless, strangling,--and some one was trying to
break in the mantel from outside. It began to yield somewhere,
for a thin wedge of yellowish light was reflected on the opposite
wall. When he saw that, my assailant dropped me with a curse;
then--the opposite wall swung open noiselessly, closed again
without a sound, and I was alone. The intruder was gone.
"In the next room!" I called wildly. "The next room!" But the
sound of blows on the mantel drowned my voice. By the time I had
made them understand, a couple of minutes had elapsed. The
pursuit was taken up then, by all except Alex, who was determined
to liberate me. When I stepped out into the trunk-room, a free
woman again, I could hear the chase far below.
I must say, for all Alex's anxiety to set me free, he paid little
enough attention to my plight. He jumped through the opening
into the secret room, and picked up the portable safe.
"I am going to put this in Mr. Halsey's room, Miss Innes,"
he said, "and I shall send one of the detectives to guard it."
I hardly heard him. I wanted to laugh and cry in the same
breath--to crawl into bed and have a cup of tea, and scold Liddy,
and do any of the thousand natural things that I had never
expected to do again. And the air! The touch of the cool night
air on my face!
As Alex and I reached the second floor, Mr. Jamieson met us. He
was grave and quiet, and he nodded comprehendingly when he saw
the safe.
"Will you come with me for a moment, Miss Innes?" he asked
soberly, and on my assenting, he led the way to the east wing.
There were lights moving around below, and some of the maids were
standing gaping down. They screamed when they saw me, and drew
back to let me pass. There was a sort of hush over the scene;
Alex, behind me, muttered something I could not hear, and brushed
past me without ceremony. Then I realized that a man was lying
doubled up at the foot of the staircase, and that Alex was
stooping over him.
As I came slowly down, Winters stepped back, and Alex
straightened himself, looking at me across the body with
impenetrable eyes. In his hand he held a shaggy gray wig, and
before me on the floor lay the man whose headstone stood in
Casanova churchyard--Paul Armstrong.
Winters told the story in a dozen words. In his headlong flight
down the circular staircase, with Winters just behind, Paul
Armstrong had pitched forward violently, struck his head against
the door to the east veranda, and probably broken his neck. He
had died as Winters reached him.
As the detective finished, I saw Halsey, pale and shaken, in the
card-room doorway, and for the first time that night I lost my
self-control. I put my arms around my boy, and for a moment he
had to support me. A second later, over Halsey's shoulder, I saw
something that turned my emotion into other channels, for, behind
him, in the shadowy card-room, were Gertrude and Alex, the
gardener, and--there is no use mincing matters--he was kissing
I was unable to speak. Twice I opened my mouth: then I turned
Halsey around and pointed. They were quite unconscious of us;
her head was on his shoulder, his face against her hair. As it
happened, it was Mr. Jamieson who broke up the tableau.
He stepped over to Alex and touched him on the arm.
"And now," he said quietly, "how long are you and I to play
OUR little comedy, Mr. Bailey?"
Of Doctor Walker's sensational escape that night to South
America, of the recovery of over a million dollars in cash and
securities in the safe from the chimney room--the papers have
kept the public well informed. Of my share in discovering the
secret chamber they have been singularly silent. The inner
history has never been told. Mr. Jamieson got all kinds of
credit, and some of it he deserved, but if Jack Bailey, as Alex,
had not traced Halsey and insisted on the disinterring of Paul
Armstrong's casket, if he had not suspected the truth from the
start, where would the detective have been?
When Halsey learned the truth, he insisted on going the next
morning, weak as he was, to Louise, and by night she was at
Sunnyside, under Gertrude's particular care, while her mother had
gone to Barbara Fitzhugh's.
What Halsey said to Mrs. Armstrong I never knew, but that he was
considerate and chivalrous I feel confident. It was Halsey's way
always with women.
He and Louise had no conversation together until that night.
Gertrude and Alex--I mean Jack--had gone for a walk, although it
was nine o'clock, and anybody but a pair of young geese would
have known that dew was falling, and that it is next to
impossible to get rid of a summer cold.
At half after nine, growing weary of my own company, I went downstairs
to find the young people. At the door of the living-room
I paused. Gertrude and Jack had returned and were there, sitting
together on a divan, with only one lamp lighted. They did not
see or hear me, and I beat a hasty retreat to the library. But
here again I was driven back. Louise was sitting in a deep
chair, looking the happiest I had ever seen her, with Halsey on
the arm of the chair, holding her close.
It was no place for an elderly spinster. I retired to my upstairs
sitting-room and got out Eliza Klinefelter's lavender
slippers. Ah, well, the foster motherhood would soon have to be
put away in camphor again.
The next day, by degrees, I got the whole story.
Paul Armstrong had a besetting evil--the love of money. Common
enough, but he loved money, not for what it would buy, but for
its own sake. An examination of the books showed no
irregularities in the past year since John had been cashier, but
before that, in the time of Anderson, the old cashier, who had
died, much strange juggling had been done with the records. The
railroad in New Mexico had apparently drained the banker's
private fortune, and he determined to retrieve it by one stroke.
This was nothing less than the looting of the bank's securities,
turning them into money, and making his escape.
But the law has long arms. Paul Armstrong evidently studied the
situation carefully. Just as the only good Indian is a dead
Indian, so the only safe defaulter is a dead defaulter. He
decided to die, to all appearances, and when the hue and cry
subsided, he would be able to enjoy his money almost anywhere he
The first necessity was an accomplice. The connivance of Doctor
Walker was suggested by his love for Louise. The man was
unscrupulous, and with the girl as a bait, Paul Armstrong soon
had him fast. The plan was apparently the acme of
simplicity: a small town in the west, an attack of heart disease,
a body from a medical college dissecting-room shipped in a trunk
to Doctor Walker by a colleague in San Francisco, and palmed off
for the supposed dead banker. What was simpler?
The woman, Nina Carrington, was the cog that slipped. What she
only suspected, what she really knew, we never learned. She was
a chambermaid in the hotel at C--, and it was evidently her
intention to blackmail Doctor Walker. His position at that time
was uncomfortable: to pay the woman to keep quiet would be
confession. He denied the whole thing, and she went to Halsey.
It was this that had taken Halsey to the doctor the night he
disappeared. He accused the doctor of the deception, and,
crossing the lawn, had said something cruel to Louise. Then,
furious at her apparent connivance, he had started for the
station. Doctor Walker and Paul Armstrong--the latter still lame
where I had shot him--hurried across to the embankment, certain
only of one thing. Halsey must not tell the detective what he
suspected until the money had been removed from the chimneyroom.
They stepped into the road in front of the car to stop
it, and fate played into their hands. The car struck the train,
and they had only to dispose of the unconscious figure in the
road. This they did as I have told. For three days Halsey lay
in the box car, tied hand and foot, suffering tortures of thirst,
delirious at times, and discovered by a tramp at Johnsville only
in time to save his life.
To go back to Paul Armstrong. At the last moment his plans had
been frustrated. Sunnyside, with its hoard in the chimney-room,
had been rented without his knowledge! Attempts to dislodge me
having failed, he was driven to breaking into his own house. The
ladder in the chute, the burning of the stable and the entrance
through the card-room window--all were in the course of a
desperate attempt to get into the chimney-room.
Louise and her mother had, from the first, been the great
stumbling-blocks. The plan had been to send Louise away until it
was too late for her to interfere, but she came back to the hotel
at C-- just at the wrong time. There was a terrible scene. The
girl was told that something of the kind was necessary, that
the bank was about to close and her stepfather would either avoid
arrest and disgrace in this way, or kill himself. Fanny
Armstrong was a weakling, but Louise was more difficult to
manage. She had no love for her stepfather, but her devotion to
her mother was entire, self-sacrificing. Forced into
acquiescence by her mother's appeals, overwhelmed by the
situation, the girl consented and fled.
From somewhere in Colorado she sent an anonymous telegram to Jack
Bailey at the Traders' Bank. Trapped as she was, she did not
want to see an innocent man arrested. The telegram, received on
Thursday, had sent the cashier to the bank that night in a
Louise arrived at Sunnyside and found the house rented. Not
knowing what to do, she sent for Arnold at the Greenwood Club,
and told him a little, not all. She told him that there was
something wrong, and that the bank was about to close. That his
father was responsible. Of the conspiracy she said nothing. To
her surprise, Arnold already knew, through Bailey that night,
that things were not right. Moreover, he suspected what Louise
did not, that the money was hidden at Sunnyside. He had a scrap
of paper that indicated a concealed room somewhere.
His inherited cupidity was aroused. Eager to get
Halsey and Jack Bailey out of the house, he went up to the
east entry, and in the billiard-room gave the cashier what he had
refused earlier in the evening--the address of Paul Armstrong in
California and a telegram which had been forwarded to the club
for Bailey, from Doctor Walker. It was in response to one Bailey
had sent, and it said that Paul Armstrong was very ill.
Bailey was almost desperate. He decided to go west and find Paul
Armstrong, and to force him to disgorge. But the catastrophe at
the bank occurred sooner than he had expected. On the moment of
starting west, at Andrews Station, where Mr. Jamieson had located
the car, he read that the bank had closed, and, going back,
surrendered himself.
John Bailey had known Paul Armstrong intimately. He did not
believe that the money was gone; in fact, it was hardly possible
in the interval since the securities had been taken. Where was
it? And from some chance remark let fall some months earlier by
Arnold Armstrong at a dinner, Bailey felt sure there was a hidden
room at Sunnyside. He tried to see the architect of the
building, but, like the contractor, if he knew of the such a room
refused any information. It was Halsey's idea that John
Bailey come to the house as a gardener, and pursue his
investigations as he could. His smooth upper lip had been
sufficient disguise, with his change of clothes, and a hair-cut
by a country barber.
So it was Alex, Jack Bailey, who had been our ghost. Not only
had he alarmed--Louise and himself, he admitted--on the circular
staircase, but he had dug the hole in the trunk-room wall, and
later sent Eliza into hysteria. The note Liddy had found in
Gertrude's scrap-basket was from him, and it was he who had
startled me into unconsciousness by the clothes chute, and, with
Gertrude's help, had carried me to Louise's room. Gertrude, I
learned, had watched all night beside me, in an extremity of
anxiety about me.
That old Thomas had seen his master, and thought he had seen the
Sunnyside ghost, there could be no doubt. Of that story of
Thomas', about seeing Jack Bailey in the footpath between the
club and Sunnyside, the night Liddy and I heard the noise on the
circular staircase--that, too, was right. On the night before
Arnold Armstrong was murdered, Jack Bailey had made his first
attempt to search for the secret room. He secured Arnold's keys
from his room at the club and got into the house, armed with a
golf-stick for sounding the walls. He ran against the hamper at
the head of the stairs, caught his cuff-link in it, and dropped
the golf-stick with a crash. He was glad enough to get away
an alarm being raised, and he took the "owl" train to town.
The oddest thing to me was that Mr. Jamieson had known for some
time that Alex was Jack Bailey. But the face of the pseudogardener
was very queer indeed, when that night, in the cardroom,
the detective turned to him and said:
"How long are you and I going to play our little comedy, MR.
Well, it is all over now. Paul Armstrong rests in Casanova
churchyard, and this time there is no mistake. I went to the
funeral, because I wanted to be sure he was really buried, and I
looked at the step of the shaft where I had sat that night, and
wondered if it was all real. Sunnyside is for sale--no, I shall
not buy it. Little Lucien Armstrong is living with his stepgrandmother,
and she is recovering gradually from troubles that
had extended over the entire period of her second marriage.
Anne Watson lies not far from the man she killed, and who as
surely caused her death. Thomas, the fourth victim of the
conspiracy, is buried on the hill. With Nina Carrington,
five lives were sacrificed in the course of this grim conspiracy.
There will be two weddings before long, and Liddy has asked for
my heliotrope poplin to wear to the church. I knew she would.
She has wanted it for three years, and she was quite ugly the
time I spilled coffee on it. We are very quiet, just the two of
us. Liddy still clings to her ghost theory, and points to my wet
and muddy boots in the trunk-room as proof. I am gray, I admit,
but I haven't felt as well in a dozen years. Sometimes, when I
am bored, I ring for Liddy, and we talk things over. When Warner
married Rosie, Liddy sniffed and said what I took for
faithfulness in Rosie had been nothing but mawkishness. I have
not yet outlived Liddy's contempt because I gave them silver
knives and forks as a wedding gift.
So we sit and talk, and sometimes Liddy threatens to leave, and
often I discharge her, but we stay together somehow. I am
talking of renting a house next year, and Liddy says to be sure
there is no ghost. To be perfectly frank, I never really lived
until that summer. Time has passed since I began this story.
My neighbors are packing up for another summer. Liddy is having
the awnings put up, and the window boxes filled. Liddy or no
Liddy, I shall advertise to-morrow for a house in the country,
and I don't care if it has a Circular Staircase.

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