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Title: The White Alley
Author: Carolyn Wells
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1600831.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: July 2016
Date most recently updated: July 2016

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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: The White Alley
Author: Carolyn Wells

*

Contents

I. White Birches
II. Wilful Dorothy
III. May And December
IV. With Dancing Steps
V. Scolding Is Barred
VI. On a Balcony
VII. Missing!
VIII. The Search
IX. Not Found
X. Dorothy's Promise
XI. Flirtation
XII. A Check Stub
XIII. The Detective
XIV. Found!
XV. The Scarlet Sage
XVI. The Coroner's Questions
XVII. The Weapon
XVIII. The Inquest
XIX. Dorothy's Disclosures
XX. Fleming Stone
XXI. The Key Of The Mystery
XXII. The White Alley
XXIII. Confession

*

Chapter I
White Birches

Almost before the big motor-car stopped, the girl sprang out. Lap-robes
flung aside, veils flying, gauntlets flapping, she was the incarnation
of youth, gayety, and modernity.

"Oh, Justin," she cried, as she ran up the steps of the great portico,
"we've had such a time! Two punctures and a blow-out! I thought we'd
never get here!"

"There, there, Dorothy, don't be so--so precipitous. Let me greet your
mother."

Dorothy Duncan pouted at the rebuke, but stood aside as Justin Arnold
went forward to meet the older lady.

"Dear Mrs. Duncan," he said, "how do you do? Are you tired? Have you
had a bothersome journey? Won't you sit here?"

Mrs. Duncan took the seat offered, and then Arnold turned to Dorothy.
"Now it's your turn," he said, smiling at her. "I have to correct your
manners when you insist on being so unobservant of the preferment due
to your elders."

"Oh, Justin, don't use such long words! Are you glad to see me?"

Dorothy was unwinding yards of chiffon veiling from her head and neck,
and was becoming hopelessly entangled in its coils; but her lovely,
piquant face smiled out from the clouds of light blue gauze as from a
summer sky.

Arnold observed her gravely. "Why do you jerk at that thing so?" he
said. "You'll spoil the veil; and you're making no progress in removing
it, if that's your purpose."

"Justin! You're so tiresome! Why don't you help me, instead of
criticising? Oh, never mind, here's Mr. Chapin; he'll help me--won't
you?" The azure-framed face turned appealingly to a man who had just
come out of the house. No male human being could have refused that
request, and perhaps Ernest Chapin was among those least inclined.

"Certainly," he said, and with a few deft and deferential touches he
disentangled the fluttering folds, and was rewarded by a quick, lovely,
flashing smile. Then the girl turned again to Arnold.

"Justin," she said, "why can't you learn to do such things? How can I
go through life with a man who can't get my head out of a motor-veil?"

"Don't be foolish, Dorothy. I supposed you quite capable of adjusting
your own toggery."

"And must I always do everything I am capable of doing? 'Deed I won't!
By the way, Justin, you haven't kissed me yet."

She lifted her lovely, laughing face, and, a trifle awkwardly, Arnold
bent and kissed the rose-leaf cheek.

Justin Arnold was one of those men whose keynote seemed to be
restraint. Spontaneous motions were never his. Trifling, unmeant words
he never spoke; and to imagine him jesting was impossible. Equally
impossible to imagine him affectionate, or demonstrative. The kiss he
gave his fiancÚe was formal but significant, like the seal on a legal
document. It exasperated Dorothy, who was accustomed to have her very
glances sought for, her words treasured and her smiles breathlessly
awaited. To have a kiss almost ignored nearly took her off her feet!

"H'm," she said; "not very lover-like, but I suppose you're embarrassed
at the audience." She flashed another smile at Ernest Chapin, and then
said, "Come, Mother, let's go to our rooms and----Oh, there's Leila
Duane! Hello, girlie!"

Another motor came purring up, and a tall, graceful girl stepped out
and joined the party on the veranda. With a calm correctness of manner,
she greeted her host, Justin Arnold, and acknowledged an introduction
to his secretary, Ernest Chapin. Then, turning to Mrs. Duncan and
Dorothy, she chatted gayly after the manner of reunited friends.

"How heavenly to be here for a house party! But I thought we'd never
get in at those forbidding-looking gates. It's like a picnic in a
Bastille or something! Don't you just love it!"

"I love it with a lot of people around," returned Dorothy, "but it is
Bastille-ish,--in spots. However, as it's to be my life prison, I must
get used to it."

"A prison, Dorothy," said Arnold, sternly, "you look on it like that?"

"Of course I do! But you will be a gentle jailer, won't you, Justin,
and let me out once in a while to play by myself?"

"By yourself!" cried Leila; "imagine Dorothy Duncan playing by herself!
You mean with half a dozen of your grovelling slaves!"

"Half a dozen or one, as the case may be," and Dorothy laughed
carelessly; "I'm not sure I don't prefer one to a half dozen."

Arnold looked annoyed at the conversation, but only said, lightly, "Of
course you do; and as I'm the one, I'll attend to the half dozen."

"You'll have your hands full," said Leila, laughing; "are you sure, Mr.
Arnold, you can keep our Dorothy in bonds? You know she is a super-flirt."

"Was, you mean," corrected Arnold, calmly; "Dorothy's flirting days are
over."

Dorothy glanced at him, about to make a gay and saucy retort, but
something in his face deterred her, and she contented herself with a
side glance and smile at Ernest Chapin, which revealed small evidence
of her subscription to Arnold's statement.

"Where is Miss Wadsworth?" she asked; "such a dear, quaint thing,
Leila. You'll adore her! She's Justin's cousin, and, incidentally, his
model. He's enough like her to be his own cousin! Where is she, Just?"

"She will see you at tea-time," he replied. "She begs you will excuse
her until then."

Miss Duane nodded to her maid, who stood waiting, and, leading the
ladies into the great hall, Arnold left them in charge of the
housekeeper, who showed them to their rooms.

White Birches was one of the finest old places in America, and took its
name from the trees which covered a large part of its one-hundred-acre
estate.

The house, built by the grandfather of its present owner, was
old-fashioned without being antique, but it lent itself readily to modern
additions and improvements, and was entirely comfortable, if not
strictly harmonious in design. Its original over-ornateness had been
somewhat softened by time, and its heavy architecture and huge
proportions gave it a dignity of its own. Justin Arnold had added many
ells and wings during his occupancy, and the great spreading pile now
possessed a multitude of rooms and apartments furnished in the
magnificent style which had always represented the Arnold taste.

North of New York City, on Washington Heights, it was scarcely near
enough to the metropolis to be called a suburb; yet, easily accessible
by steam, trolley, or motor-car. White Birches was a delightful home
for its occupants, and most hospitable to the stranger within its
gates.

"Within its gates" is an appropriate phrase, for the only entrance to
White Birches was an immense stone archway provided with heavy iron
gates. The entire estate was enclosed by a high stone wall, on top of
which was further protection from intruders by means of broken glass
bottles embedded in cement. This somewhat foreign feature gave a
picturesque effect, and the old stone wall, built nearly a century
before, was partly covered with trailing vines and tangled shrubbery.
But it was intact and formed an effective barrier against burglars or
other marauders. The great gates were locked every night with almost as
much ceremony as the lord of an ancient castle would draw his
portcullis, and though this excessive precaution was rather because of
tradition than fear of present danger, Justin Arnold adhered wherever
possible to the customs of his ancestors.

His grandfather, perhaps because of the other manners of his times, had
an almost abnormal fear of burglars. His somewhat crude burglar-alarm
had been replaced in later years by Justin's father, and this in turn
by Justin himself, so that at present White Birches was fitted out with
the most elaborate and efficacious burglar-alarm that had yet been
invented. Every door and window, every cellar bulkhead and every
opening of any sort, was protected by the tentacles of this
far-reaching contrivance. The upper half of every window was further
protected by a heavy wire screen or grating, which permitted the upper
sash to be raised or lowered for ventilation without setting off the
alarm.

But when the alarm was set on, and this Justin Arnold attended to
himself every night, no external door or window, with the exception
noted, could be opened without the alarm being sounded all through the
house, in the stables and the garage, where several men-servants slept,
and in the gatekeeper's lodge. The great iron gates were also connected
with the alarm, and although the precaution seemed out of all
proportion to the possible danger, it was a tradition in the house of
Arnold, and was scrupulously observed.

Also there was a night watchman, who must needs punch his time-clocks
at various stations in the grounds every half-hour.

There were telegraph and telephone wires, all laid in underground
conduits, to prevent their being cut, and these gave quick
communication to the police or the fire department in case of need. But
though all this sounds complicated and ponderous, yet so complete and
perfectly adjusted was the alarm, that the master of the house could
turn it on in a moment just before retiring at night, and the butler
could turn it off in the morning, and thus it troubled nobody.

White Birches could scarcely be called a cheerful place, for the
grounds were densely wooded, the gardens broken up by ravines and rocky
gorges, and the tangle of undergrowth in many parts so thick and dark
that the whole effect was lacking in sunlight and cheer. But Dorothy
Duncan had firmly made up her mind that when she was mistress there, as
she would be soon, there would be a general clearing out on many of the
acres. In determining this, she reckoned without her host and future
husband; but Dorothy's was a sanguine nature, and she fully expected to
wind Justin Arnold around her dainty little finger--although as yet the
winding had made no progress.

As the guests followed Mrs. Garson, the housekeeper, upstairs, Dorothy
paused and detained Arnold a moment.

"It's lovely of you," she said, smiling and dimpling at him, "to make
this party for me. And I'm so glad I'm here first. I like to be first
part of a party."

"You're the party of the first part," said Arnold, smiling at his own
rather heavy attempt at wit.

"Oh, don't say that! It sounds so legal."

"Well, you don't want it to be illegal, do you?"

"Heavens, Justin! I didn't know you could even pronounce the word
illegal! You are the ultra-quintessence of legality! There! isn't that
a pretty speech?"

"No, it isn't, Dorothy, and you know it isn't. Why do you always make
fun of me?"

The big, soft, dark eyes opened wide. "Why, Jus-tin Ar-nold! Make fun
of you! I couldn't if I wanted to! Nobody could, not even Mark Twain,
or Mr. Dooley, or--or a Roof Garden Man! You're not the stuff that fun
is made on! You're a--a--"

"A what, Dorothy?"

But Dorothy Duncan knew and recognized that note in the man's voice
that warned her she had gone far enough. "A dear," she whispered softly,
and ran away upstairs.

Arnold brushed his hand across his forehead, as if to smooth off any
perturbation that the interview might have left, and returned to the
verandah to welcome other arriving guests.

The man was part and parcel of the old home. His fathers before him had
stood on the porch, as coaches rolled up the long drive from the gate,
and so he stood, to await the motors or station cabs that brought his
house-party guests.

It was early fall. October, in merry mood, was gaily pelting the flying
year with her red and gold leaves; showering them like confetti on a
bride. White Birches was looking its best, or one of its bests, for the
white of winter and the green of spring gave it different but no less
beautiful coloring.

But this season the leaves had chosen to turn superbly. No dead, rusty
brown, but the whole range of the latter half of the spectrum, from
gold to crimson and from orange to scarlet, rioted everywhere against
the vivid blue sky. The great surrounding wall had all its prison-like
grimness hidden by a blanket whose gorgeousness outrivalled a Navajo.
Above it towered the tall old trees, that waved their branches with
dignity rather than grace, as befitted the trees of the Arnold estate.

And as its present master stood, looking with proud content at the
majesty of his domain, he wondered for a moment if he had done wisely
in choosing a wife to whom dignity and majesty were as nothing. To whom
a gay chat, dance, or,--yes,--or flirtation summed up all that was worth
living for.

And then Dorothy's last words returned to his mind. "A dear,"--she had
called him a dear,--and the thought thrilled Justin Arnold's not very
susceptible pulses. After all, had his ancestors' wives been more
beautiful, more adorable than the witch girl he had chosen? And, too,
there returned his firm resolution that he had made before he had asked
the girl to marry him,--he was going to make her over. Yes, his strong,
firm, yet wise guidance would transform the witch girl into a calm,
gracious woman, such as he remembered his mother and grandmother, and
knew to-day in his Cousin Abby.

Miss Abby Wadsworth, a cousin of Justin Arnold's, was nominally the
head of the house. Although a capable housekeeper and a complete corps
of well-trained servants relieved her of all household cares, Miss Abby
felt and enjoyed the responsibility of her position.

Of course she would soon have to abdicate in favor of Dorothy Duncan,
but she was really glad that Justin was to be married at last. He was a
man of forty years, and had grown so confirmed in his bachelorhood that
Miss Abby had feared he would never succumb to any feminine charms. And
then he had met Dorothy Duncan, lovely, bewitching, coquettish Dorothy,
and he had immediately decided to marry her. He had no doubt as to her
willingness, for was he not the wealthy Justin Arnold, master of White
Birches, and scion of an aristocratic name and lineage? Nor had Miss
Duncan hesitated. Slightly dazzled by the wonderful good fortune that
had come to her, she had answered yes to his question, and now the
wedding day was only a few weeks hence.

Dorothy was twenty-two and intensely romantic; but if it ever seemed to
her that there was a discrepancy between her own age and that of her
lover, or if she ever felt that Justin was a little lacking in his
demonstrations of affection, she never shared her thoughts with any
one, and even her own mother had no reason to believe otherwise than
that Dorothy was supremely happy.

But Miss Abby Wadsworth wondered. Not to Justin; it was not the habit
of their family for the women to question or criticise the men's
decisions. But it was an uncertain outlook. Dorothy Duncan was too new,
too modern, for the old-fashioned setting. Not so much the house, that
had been remodelled and readjusted to suit other brides, but the
customs and traditions had always been handed down as intact and as
untarnished as the family plate or portraits. Ah, portraits! Dorothy
would hold her own with those fair women in the picture gallery.
Whatever Justin's bride might prove, she was a worthy chatelaine as to
looks. And so Miss Abby's ponderings usually wound up with the
reflection that Dorothy was a beauty, and, if she lacked dignity, she
would surely acquire that as Justin's wife. However, Miss Abby knew the
girl but slightly, and welcomed this house-party occasion to learn more
of her.

Chapter II
Wilful Dorothy

The week-end party at White Birches was partly by way of an
announcement, and partly because Dorothy had requested it. The girl
loved social gayety, and to be the central figure of this merry
occasion, yet without being the actual hostess of White Birches,
appealed to her.

In the stately apartment assigned her, she was making a bewildering
toilette, to do honor to her new position and also for sheer love of
seeing herself in pretty clothes.

She had decided on a soft satin, whose quivering draperies of deep
orange were veiled by a browner, thinner fabric, and whose velvet
girdle was gathered into a buckle of tawny gold. From the half-low,
rounded neck, her girl-throat rose in dimpled loveliness, and from the
soft curves of her exquisite chin to the lightly waved mass of her
dusky hair, her face was a sparkle of witching, tantalizing beauty.

From a huge bowlful in her room she selected a spray of golden-rod, and
thrust it in her sash. Then, with an approving nod at herself in the
long mirror, she went sedately downstairs.

Dorothy was nothing if not dramatic. She had waited to make her
appearance until all were gathered on the West Terrace for afternoon
tea. Partially enclosed with glass, yet with wide-open casements
framing the autumn landscapes, it was a most attractive setting for the
gay groups gathered round the tea-tables.

Crossing the big living-room, Dorothy paused and stood in the open
window-doors that gave on the terrace. Pensive, rather than smiling,
she looked at the group a moment, and Arnold, seeing her, went toward
her as a courtier to a queen.

Her hand in his, she stepped through the casement, and then, laughing,
she dropped her dignified air, and ran to take her place in a large
wooden swing, comfortably surrounded with scarlet cushions.

One dainty, slippered foot touched the floor now and then as she kept
the swing swaying, and, in gay mood, bandied repartee with the other
young people.

Leila Duane, the only other young girl present, was a complete foil for
Dorothy. Leila's fair beauty, her golden hair and blue eyes and her
pale blue crepe gown, set off vividly Dorothy's glowing type, her dark
hair, her flashing brown eyes and rosy cheeks.

Two young men, Emory Gale and Campbell Crosby, partners of a law firm,
and inseparable chums, sat near the girls and alternately teased and
complimented them.

Ernest Chapin, Arnold's secretary, was also in the group. Chapin was
looked upon quite as one of the family. He took care of Justin Arnold's
financial interests, planned and advised concerning additions or
improvements to the place, looked after the correspondence, and,
moreover, was often of help to Miss Wadsworth in her social duties and
responsibilities. Chapin was a clean-cut, good-looking young fellow,
though without the dash and fashionable nonchalance that characterized
Gale and Crosby.

These two men lived in Philadelphia, and conducted their law business
there. Incidentally, they were Justin Arnold's lawyers, and though he
had little legal business to be attended to, it was a convenient
pretext for them occasionally to visit White Birches.

Emory Gale was of a waggish type. He "jollied" everybody, he said
impertinent things under the guise of innocent candor, and he was
invariably good-natured and kind-hearted. But beneath his careless
manner was a shrewd aptitude for business, and as the senior member of
the firm he attended to the more important matters, letting Crosby do
the routine work.

Campbell Crosby was a cousin of Justin Arnold. Indeed, the two men were
the only ones left of the main branch of the family, and, though
several years younger, Crosby had always been intimate with his cousin,
and the two had always been warm friends. As children, they had been
much together, and Crosby had spent many happy summers at White
Birches, admiring and adoring Arnold, as a small boy often does admire
an older one.

The other guests were Mr. and Mrs. Fred Crane, he a naturalist devoted
to his cause, and his wife a pretty little woman with sharp eyes and a
sharp tongue, but whose brightness and vivacity made her an attractive
guest. She was a distant cousin of Justin Arnold, and the Cranes were
frequent visitors at White Birches.

But though all present were interesting or charming in their several
ways, all were dominated by the presence of that most important
personage, Miss Abby Wadsworth.

There are some women who possess the power of making their presence
felt, and that without any apparent effort. Miss Wadsworth was one of
these. She had only to sit in her accustomed easy-chair, and her very
presence demanded and received recognition and respect. She was perhaps
sixty years old, a cousin of Justin Arnold's father, and her manner
gave the impression that to be a Wadsworth was far more important than
to be an Arnold, or indeed any other name in any social register.

She did not wear the traditional black silk of the elderly cousin, but
wore modern and fashionable gowns of becoming color and of modish
though not extreme cut.

Everybody liked Miss Abby, and though occasionally she pronounced blunt
truths, yet she had a good sense of humor, and was easy enough to get
along with if allowed to dictate in all matters, whether they concerned
her or not.

"You two men are inseparable," said Dorothy to Mr. Gale and Mr. Crosby.
"I think I have never seen one of you without the other."

"You will, though," said Campbell Crosby. "Just for that, I'm going to
take you for a long walk around the grounds; and we may get lost in a
wildwood tangle and never come back!"

"Like the babes in the wood," said Leila Duane. "If you don't return
soon, Mr. Gale and I will go out and cover you with autumn leaves."

"But you may not find us," said Crosby. "We may fall into a deep, dank
tarn. I've no idea what a deep, dank tarn is, but I know there is one
on the place. I remember I used to play around it when I was a boy."

"Well, I'd like to see it," said Dorothy, jumping out of her swing.
"Come on, Mr. Crosby, and show it to me."

"Dorothy," interposed Justin Arnold, "stay where you are. Do you
suppose I will let you go walking with another man?"

"Do you suppose," retorted Dorothy, "that I will ask your permission,
if I choose to go?"

The lovely, laughing face was so merry that it took away all petulant
spirit from the question, and Dorothy's dark eyes flashed with fun as
she slowly went toward Crosby.

"If you want to see any part of the grounds of White Birches, I will
escort you myself," went on Arnold.

"Oh, come, now, Justin," said Crosby, "don't begrudge me a little
stroll with your girl. I'll bring her back safely."

"Let her go, Justin," dictated Cousin Abby. "She'll enjoy a walk with
Campbell, and goodness knows she'll see enough of you all the rest of
her life! It's only a few weeks to the wedding day, and after that she
can't go gadding about with young men. Run along, Dorothy, and flirt
with Campbell all you've a mind to."

"Yes, do," said Crosby, but whether it was the too eager look in his
eyes, or whether Dorothy suddenly decided to humor Justin, she refused
to go.

"All right," said Crosby gayly; "but don't think I don't know why you
refused. You just do it to pique me, and make me more crazy about you
than ever!"

As all present were accustomed to Crosby's outspoken remarks, they paid
little heed to this speech, but he murmured low in Dorothy's ear, "And
that's really true, and you know it And you'll take that walk with me,
see if you don't!"

"Hold there, Campbell!" cried Justin. "Stop whispering to my girl! I
declare, old man, if you don't let her alone, you and I will have to
revive the good old fashion of duelling!"

"Oh, I wish you would!" exclaimed Dorothy, clapping her hands. "Leila,
wouldn't you just love to see a real live duel?"

"Yes, if they all stayed alive afterward. But I shouldn't want any
fatal effects; they're so troublesome and unpleasant."

"Take me away, Mr. Crosby," cried Dorothy; "I won't stay where people
talk of such awful subjects!"

"Come along, then, and we'll look up that deep, dank tarn."

Dorothy rose from the swaying swing seat, and cast a slightly
apprehensive glance at Arnold. But he chanced to have his back turned
and did not see her. So with a beckoning smile at Crosby, she ran down
the steps and out on to the lawn. Gaily she ran across the wide
greensward and, rounding a clump of blue spruce trees, was lost to view
of those on the terrace.

Crosby, following, found her there on a stone garden seat.

"You'll catch it!" he said, looking down at the laughing face.

"Why?" innocently; "can't I stroll round my own grounds, if I like? At
least, they soon will be mine."

"Do you covet them so much, then?"

"Covet isn't a pretty word. Of course, I love White Birches. Though I
never would stay here in winter. And of course I should want to go away
in summer. But Justin says I may do whatever I wish."

"What portion of the year, then, will you spend in this old place you
love so well?"

Campbell Crosby was talking at random, merely for the pleasure of
looking down into the lovely face and watching the dimples come and go
as the red lips parted. And he had his wish, for a slow, sweet smile
curved the scarlet mouth as Dorothy answered:

"Only red and gold days in October; golden days--like--this."

Her voice was low and almost caressing in its sweetness, her glance
flashed to meet his, and then, with a divine blush, turned slowly away
toward the fading sunset.

"Is this a golden day? Is it--now?"

The thrill went out of Dorothy's voice, the faint blush disappeared,
but her dimples came into play, as, with a soft naturalness, she said,
"Yes, indeed! Did you ever see one more so? The golden trees, the
golden sunset, the very atmosphere is golden!"

"This hour is golden!" whispered Crosby; "you were good to give it to
me!"

"I didn't give it to you! You stole it! Stole it from Justin, and he'll
make you pay!"

"Suppose I make him pay? Pay ransom to get you back. I wonder at how
much he'd value you."

"He wouldn't need to ransom me. I'd go back of my own accord."

"Not if I won't let you! Come, let us find the tarn, and then,--I don't
know--I may throw you in."

"What is a tarn, really?" and Dorothy rose and walked with Crosby
toward the ravines.

Only about an acre of White Birches was lawn. Once off that, the
grounds became almost like woodland. There were brooks, tiny falls,
hillocks, and sometimes deep undergrowth. Much had been made by clever
landscape gardeners, but, wherever possible, the old natural beauties
were there. Dorothy had seen little of it all. One brief, previous
visit had shown her only the gardens and lawns near the house.

She said as much to Crosby, and he replied: "Then old Just will give it
to me, for sure!"

"Let's go back," said Dorothy, frightened as they found themselves
farther and farther from the house.

But Crosby walked slowly on, and answered her earlier remark.

"Don't you know what a tarn is? Don't you remember Tennyson's line, 'a
glen, gray bowlder and black tarn'?"

"No, but it sounds like Hallowe'en! Is it?"

Crosby laughed out. "You kiddy! Is that what that line makes you think
of? By Jove I wish it were Hallowe'en! Maybe I wouldn't try my fate
with you!"

"You couldn't; my fate is settled. But I'm going to make Justin let me
have a Hallowe'en party! Won't it be fun! Now, show me the tarn."

"That's it,--before you."

"Why, that's only a pool of water! Not clear water, at that."

"But that's all a tarn is,--a pool of water. But if it's deep and black
and generally shuddery-looking, it can be called a tarn."

"Well, I don't think much of your old tarn. Come on, let's go back."

"I know why. Because the sun has almost set, and the air is cool and
this place is gloomy, and so,--it makes you begin to think of how Justin
will scold you!"

Crosby's voice was almost triumphant, and Dorothy looked at him in
surprise.

"Why, one would think you were glad I'm to be scolded!"

"I am."

"You are! Why?"

"Because you are to be scolded for having run away with me. With me!"
Crosby added, exultantly. "I'd be glad to have you often scolded for
that!"

Dorothy turned and flashed her dark eyes at him. "Do you suppose for a
minute that Justin will really scold me? Indeed, he won't! Nobody
scolds me unless I choose to be scolded! If he tries; it, I shall smile
at him. You can't scold a smiling person, can you?"

Apparently Justin Arnold couldn't, for within five minutes of the
runaways' return, Dorothy was nestled into a cushioned settee, and her
fiancÚ was striving to please her somewhat capricious appetite for "icy
cakes,--the creamy-inside kind."

Chapter III
May And December

"I wish I were three people!" exclaimed Leila Duane; "I want to walk
and motor and play golf all at once."

It was after luncheon the next day, and the house-party congregated for
a moment on the terrace, before breaking up into smaller groups. The
air was full of that October warmth, so much more life-giving and
blood-stirring than even the early days of spring.

"It's utterly absurd, Dorothy," said Mabel Crane, "for you to think of
getting married! You look about fourteen to-day!"

Dorothy was in walking rig of greenish tweeds. She wore a white silk
blouse with a scarlet tie and a soft green felt hat with scarlet quill.
Her skirt was ankle length and her low russet shoes showed a glimpse of
scarlet stockings.

"I'm going to be fourteen as long as I can," she returned, smiling;
"soon enough I shall have to become Justin's age,--what is it, Just?
Sixty?"

"No, he's only forty," put in Miss Abby, seriously; "and you mustn't
tease him about it, Dorothy."

"Oh, is he sensitive?" and Dorothy pretended to be embarrassed. "Why,
I'm sure you look quite youthful, dear." And going to Arnold's side,
she laid her hand on his shoulder, and scrutinized his face. The
contrast was marked. Though a fairly handsome man, Justin Arnold looked
his full age, and his stern, set face looked old indeed, beside
Dorothy's laughing dimples and shining eyes. "And any way, when we're
married, I think I won't become Justin's age,--but make him become mine.
How'd you like to be twenty-two, Justy?"

"I'll be in my second childhood, if you say so," returned Arnold, and
Dorothy rewarded him for this pretty speech with a little tweak of his
graying hair.

"You seem to know how to manage him, all right," laughed Mrs. Crane,
"so I suppose you are old enough to be married, after all. What are you
going to wear at your wedding? A short skirt and Tam O'Shanter?"

"White, I suppose; but I do think it's awfully hackneyed! I wish I
could wear some bright color."

"Why, Dorothy, how you talk," exclaimed her mother, who was always
shocked at the slightest unconventionality.

"She's right," said Emory Gale; "one does get awfully tired of a
white-robed bride. Now a lot of gay colors,--Scotch plaid for
choice,--would be awfully fetching."

"How foolish men are," said Mrs. Crane, with an air of saying something
new; "of course your gown'll be white, Dorothy; ivory satin, I suppose,
with an embroidered train, and a priceless lace veil."

"I suppose so," said Dorothy, with a resigned air. "I say, Justin, if
I've got to have that wedding dress, and so soon, can't I run away and
play with Campbell just a little while? He has asked me to."

"Yes, go," said Arnold, frowning; "go and stay as long as you like!
What do I care?"

"Come on, then," said Dorothy, tucking her hand through Crosby's arm.

But now, perhaps because of his cousin's frown, Crosby did not seem so
anxious for the walk. "I was only fooling," he said.

"But I wasn't," persisted Dorothy; "well, if you won't go, who will
accompany me for a little stroll?"

Three men started toward her at once. Arnold himself was the first one;
Emory Gale stepped forward, smiling; and with a slightly hesitating
step, Ernest Chapin came toward Dorothy and bowed gravely.

"Why, Mr. Chapin," cried the little coquette, "I'd rather stroll with
you than anybody. Come on."

The two walked away, and Arnold's brow cleared. He was quite willing
Dorothy should walk with his quiet-mannered and rather dull secretary,
but he did not want her to go frisking about with gay young men of her
own set.

"She's a case," said Mrs. Crane to Miss Wadsworth, as they watched the
pair depart.

"A very sweet dear little case," returned Miss Abby, fairly bristling
in defence of Dorothy. "She's so pretty and attractive, she can't help
being a little coquettish; but she really does it to tease old Justin,
and it does him good, too. He's forty years old and she's only twenty-two.
That's too much difference altogether; but Dorothy knows what
she's about and she'll make that man younger by many years with her
pretty frivolities."

"I think it a little dangerous," said Mrs. Crane, who rarely hesitated
to say what she thought.

"Dangerous? How do you mean?" said Dorothy's mother, and the gleam that
came into her eye was markedly dangerous of itself.

Mrs. Crane quailed before it. "I didn't mean anything much," she said,
"but eighteen years is a big difference in age between husband and
wife. But I'm sure I hope they'll be happy."

"Of course they'll be happy," said Mrs. Duncan. "Mr. Arnold is of a
kind and lovable disposition. He's a true gentleman, and he is generous
and wise."

"He's a crank, that's what he is," said Miss Wadsworth, with an air of
settling the question; "a man can't be a bachelor of forty, without
having cranky ways, and as I know him pretty well, I know he isn't very
easy to get along with. But Dorothy can tame him, if anybody can, and
she's going about it just the right way. A patient Griselda couldn't do
anything with Justin, but a little witch like Dorothy can rule him with
a flash of her bright eye."

"Yes," said Mrs. Duncan, complacently, "that's what I think."

"But does she love him?" persisted Mrs. Crane, who never knew when to
stop asking questions.

"My daughter wouldn't marry a man she didn't love," and Mrs. Duncan put
on a superior air that silenced though it didn't convince Mabel Crane.

"Of course," said Miss Abby, "Dorothy loves Justin, and it's a fine
match for her from every point of view. A kind husband with lots of
money, and a beautiful big home like this, is better for any girl than
a foolish romance with some young whipper-snapper, with nothing but
poverty to look forward to."

This speech seemed to require no answer, and Mrs. Duncan smoothed the
silken folds of her gown complacently, while Mrs. Crane let her pretty
face assume a cynical expression.

"If Justin didn't marry," Mrs. Crane asked, "what would eventually
become of the property?"

"Campbell Crosby is really the next heir," said Miss Abby, "though he
belongs to a different branch of the family."

"But yourself?" went on Mrs. Crane, with some curiosity; "wasn't your
mother an Arnold?"

"Yes; but of course I wouldn't be the heir. Justin has made a will,
leaving me a big legacy, but except for that, and a few other legacies,
his whole estate, including White Birches, would go to Campbell."

"Campbell Crosby seems out of place in a home like this," commented
Mrs. Duncan; "it just suits Justin Arnold to be at the head of a big
country house, but that feather-brained young fellow seems better
adapted to city life."

"Yes, he always lives in a hotel in Philadelphia," said Miss Abby.
"Nothing would induce him, he has often said, to live the life of a
country gentleman. Many a time I've heard him tell Justin he didn't see
how any man could stand it to be mewed up inside these stone walls;
though he likes well enough to run down here for an occasional week-end.
But when he was a boy, he used to be here for months at a time. He
liked it then, well enough. Though eight years younger than Justin,
they were good comrades, and wherever Justin would go, Campbell would
follow. My! I've seen them climbing sloping turret roofs, and walking
around the tower battlements till it fairly made my hair stand on end.
They were harum-scarum boys. And Campbell is that still, though Justin
quieted down as he grew older."

"Yes, Justin seems very staid," said Mabel Crane, "though I dare say
his marriage to a bright young thing like Dorothy will have a
rejuvenating effect on him."

"I dare say," said Miss Abby, drily, "and of course it cuts Campbell
out of the inheritance. I've no doubt Justin will leave him a handsome
legacy in his will, but of course Dorothy will be his heir."

"My ears burn," said Crosby, walking toward the group of chatting
ladies; "Miss Duane has gone off skylarking with Gale, and, being left
alone, I tried to listen to what you fair ladies might be saying, and
was rewarded by hearing my own name."

"Yes," said Miss Abby, smiling at the pleasant face of the young man,
"we were saying that Justin's marriage will cut off your hopes of
inheriting his estate."

Crosby gave her a slightly reproachful glance.

"Dear Miss Abby," he said, "I don't think I've ever given you reason to
talk like that. I've never looked upon myself as heir to White Birches,
and I wouldn't want it anyway, though I don't mean that for 'sour
grapes.' I hope old Just will live heaps of years yet to enjoy it, and
Dorothy, too." His voice broke a little as he mentioned the girl's
name, and, as his hearers were well aware of his feeling toward her,
they quite understood.

Just then Arnold came by and paused to listen.

"No, old Just," and Crosby turned to his cousin, "I don't want your
fortune and I don't want this feudal castle of yours, but unless you're
pretty careful, I'll kidnap your girl and carry her off."

"You can't do it, Cam," and Arnold put his hand on the other man's
shoulder; "not only is Dad's old burglar alarm in good working order,
but I've added some modern contraptions, that make it impossible for
anyone to get in or out of White Birches unbeknownst."

"Love laughs at locksmiths," said Campbell, saucily; and Mrs. Duncan
observed, "And then, too, Mr. Crosby, you'd have to get Dorothy's
consent first; I hardly think she'd be willing to be kidnapped."

"Oh, kidnappers never ask permission of their victims," retorted
Crosby; "I should spirit her away without anyone knowing it."

Arnold looked at the speaker a little quizzically. "Then why didn't you
go to walk with her this afternoon?" he said.

Crosby looked him straight in the eye, and said, quietly, "Because you
didn't want me to."

"Good old man!" and Arnold's tone and expression betrayed the real
feeling he felt for this manly behavior.

"But I mightn't always be so punctilious," laughed Crosby, who was
determined not to treat the matter seriously; "another time I may take
her to walk, whether with your permission or without it."

"I'll trust you, old man." And this was corroborated by a hearty slap
on the shoulder. "By the way, Cam, I wish you'd come for a stroll with
me; I want to talk over some business matters."

Rightly guessing that it was in regard to the making of a new will,
Crosby sauntered off with his cousin.

"You see," Arnold said, "if I didn't marry, old chap, my fortune would
fall to your share eventually."

"Fiddlesticks!" returned his cousin. "Any one would think you were a
doddering old gentleman, and I your young and upstart heir. Please
remember I'm only eight years younger than you are, so I hold we're
contemporaries, and have little chance of inheriting from each other.
And, any way, Just, I wish you'd cut out that kind of talk. You know
perfectly well I don't want your riches nor this fortified old barracks
of yours, either. But I do wish you hadn't selected for your future
bride the only girl I ever loved."

"The latest, you mean," said Arnold, slightly smiling. "I remember
definitely about a score of those 'only girls you ever loved,' and I
think there are a few I've forgotten."

"Oh, come now, I never really loved any one but Dorothy."

"I'm truly sorry, old chap, but it can't be helped now. And I'd feel
sorrier still, but that I know you'll find another only girl to love,
now that Dorothy is out of the running. And now, Cam, I want you and
Gale to draw me up a new will. I'm going to leave a fairish little sum
to you, whether you want it or not; and a bunch to Cousin Abby, and a
good bit to Driggs and Peters."

"And the housekeeper?"

"Oh, yes, Mrs. Carson. But these legacies are the same as they stand in
my present will."

"Oh, cut it, Justin! You're only making this will because you think it
devolves on the head of the house of Arnold to do that sort of thing.
Don't bother about it for the present. You'll be married in a few
weeks, and then Dorothy will be your legal heir, and you can fix up
your will and that precious legacy to me afterwards."

"You're a good sort, Campbell. I have got a lot of things to attend to
before the wedding, so perhaps it would be as well to leave that matter
until afterward. Any way, I suppose I'd better take up the subject with
Gale. It might be less embarrassing, as I'm not going to leave him
anything. Or, if you prefer, I'll get another lawyer for the purpose."

"Do as you like, old chap; but I say, Just, I wish you'd let me off
from being your best man. Truly, I'm hard hit by that little black-eyed
witch, and, confound it! a fellow hates to stand tamely by and fairly
assist another fellow to marry the girl he cares for!"

"Why, Cam, I didn't know you were so serious as all that. Of course,
I'll let you off, if you insist. Chapin could be my best man, I
suppose--or Gale--or even Fred Crane. There are plenty of fellows, but I
expected to have you."

"Well, I'd rather you'd get some one else, if you will. I say, Justin,
do you remember the day we climbed that turret? Shinned up the outside!
We were a venturesome pair of kids, weren't we?"

"Yes; I expect there were mighty few places about this old house that
we didn't climb up or over or through."

"And you used to boost me up into all sorts of dark holes where you
were too big to get in yourself, and I felt honored to be used for such
a purpose! We never climbed over the wall, did we?"

"No, we never could manage that. That's a pretty good wall, Cam."

"Yes, as walls go. But I think it's a blot on the landscape. It's of no
earthly use; why don't you tear it down?"

"Tear it, down! I'd as soon think of razing the house to the ground!
It's a stunning old pile, isn't it?"

The two men stood on a knoll which gave one of the best views of the
old mansion. The additions that had been made from time to time were
not inharmonious, and though it was a rambling structure it was as a
whole pleasing to the eye.

"I shall make quite a lot of changes for Dorothy," Justin said; "I
think I'll put up a whole new wing, and let her have a suite of rooms
with every possible modern beauty of decoration and appointment."

"Do! You're a lucky dog, Just, to have the privilege of doing things
for that girl. Oh, well, it's all in a lifetime!"

The two men walked on in silence for a few minutes, and then as by a
common impulse, they turned and went back to the house to join the
others. But as everybody was dressing for dinner, the terrace was
deserted.

"There's a dance on to-night, old man," said Arnold; "just a small one,
but Dorothy wanted some amusement, so I invited a few of the
neighbors."

"All right," answered Crosby, and he went on to the smoking-room.

Chapter IV
With Dancing Steps

Dinner that night was a gay function. A few of the dance guests had
been invited to dine and more would come later.

Dorothy appeared in a daring little dancing frock of scarlet chiffon,
whose low bodice showed her girlish, dimpled shoulders and rounded,
baby-like arms. She was quite in her element, for by virtue of her
position she was queen of the occasion, and by virtue of her charms and
fascination she was easily belle of the ball.

Leila, in pale green, was beautiful, but her exquisite blonde beauty
faded and paled beside Dorothy's sparkling witchery.

Mrs. Duncan, shining in the reflected light of her daughter, was calmly
gracious of manner, and in her white silk clouded with black lace
looked charmingly attractive.

But far from being outshone by her younger guests, Miss Wadsworth
appeared in the full glory of a rose-colored satin, with much point
lace and many jewels.

"Don't come near me, child," she cried, as she saw Dorothy's scarlet
frills. "Why didn't you let me know you were going to wear red? Never
mind; keep the length of the room between us for this evening, and
hereafter we'll compare notes before we dress."

Dorothy laughed, and promised to stay away from Miss Wadsworth, and
keep near Mrs. Crane, who in pale corn-color harmonized with Dorothy's
brilliant garb.

But the red frock was not often seen beside the yellow one, for Dorothy
was beset on all sides by would-be partners. Her dances were divided,
and the intervals between them were carefully portioned out to eager
swains, some of whom met the little witch for the first time that
evening.

"Isn't this my dance?" said Arnold, coming up to her as she sat in a
window-seat with Emory Gale.

"I hope so," said Gale, "for perhaps you'll be able to keep this young
person in order. She's flirting desperately all over the place, and has
even tried her beguiling arts on me."

"Nothing of the sort," said Dorothy, pouting. "I shouldn't waste them
on you--you're too unappreciative!" Then, turning to Arnold, with an
exaggerated gesture of appeal, she said, "Let me fly with you, oh lord
of my life! Every one else bores me to extinction, and I live only in
hope of being again with you!"

Though these fervid words were uttered in deep, vibrant tones,
Dorothy's glances strayed wickedly toward Gale, and the humorous
twinkle in her eyes proved that her speech was merely a joke born of
her high spirits and love of foolery.

But Arnold grasped her arm and drew her almost roughly out of the
dancing-room, through the great hall, and out on a small veranda, where
they found themselves alone in the moonlight.

"Dorothy," he exclaimed, in angry accents, "what do you mean by guying
me like that? Don't you know I won't stand it?"

"I know you will," cooed Dorothy, as with her little finger-tips she
daintily patted his bronzed cheek.

The touch of those soft fingers put an end to scolding, as Dorothy knew
it would, but though Justin's arm went round her, and his voice became
tender and lover-like, he could not resist a little more plain
speaking.

"It's bad enough now, when we're only engaged, but if after we're
married you go flirting about with every Tom, Dick, and Harry, there'll
be trouble."

"There'll be trouble, any way, after I'm married;" and Dorothy drew
down the corners of her dimpled mouth with the expression of one who
foresees dire disaster.

"What do you mean by that?"

"Oh, Justin, you're so severe and hard and dictatorial! I just know you
won't let me do anything after we're married!"

"Then, why do you marry me?"

"Because I want to. But I do want you to be a little kinder to me, a
little more lenient, a little more gentle--"

Naughty Dorothy squeezed out a tear or two, which, as she had fully
intended, brought Arnold to his knees, figuratively. He did not
actually kneel, but he gathered the little witch in his arms, and said,
"Don't cry, dear. You shall have everything you want, and nothing you
don't want, after we're married! There, how does that suit your little
ladyship?"

"That's all right then;" and Dorothy smiled through what was left of
her two tears. "And now, Justin, you must take me back, for I've
promised this dance to Mr. Chapin."

"Chapin? I say, Dorothy, it's awfully good of you to give him a dance,
when you have so many more interesting men at your feet. Dance with him
all you like, dear, but don't dance much with Cam Crosby, will you?"

"Jealous of your own cousin! Fie, fie! I won't promise. He has asked me
for a whole heap of dances."

"I don't doubt that, but I give you fair warning: every time I see you
with him, I'm coming to take you away. I only wish I could dance
myself, and then no other man should have a single turn."

"You're an old fogy, Justin! You can't dance, and you can't play
bridge, and you can't do much of anything gay and jolly!" Then, as a
dark frown settled on her lover's face, she whispered, close to his
ear, "But I love you," and then turned quickly, to find Ernest Chapin
waiting for her.

"Don't let's dance; let's sit it out," he said, leading her back to the
very same little veranda where she had just been with Arnold. It was a
dear little nook, with moonlight gleaming through the tracery of vines,
which made weird black shadows on its light stone floor.

It was secluded from passers-by, and as Chapin paused and drew Dorothy
to him, in the dark of its shadows, he whispered passionately, "Dear, I
can't stand it! I can't see you with him, and see his air of ownership
of you!"

"But I'm going to marry him. Why shouldn't he show an air of
ownership?" Dorothy spoke coldly, but she was trembling, and her large
eyes lifted themselves to Chapin's face with a despairing glance.

He clasped her two little hands tightly in his own.

"You are selling yourself to him!" he exclaimed, in tense, low tones.
"You know you love me, and yet you are marrying Arnold because he is
rich."

"It is not so! You have no right to talk to me like that! I adore him;
I worship the ground he walks on!"

"You blessed baby!" said Chapin, putting his arm around her. "The very
emphasis you put on those ridiculous words proves how false they are.
Dorothy, dearest, tell me just once that you do love me, and I will let
you go."

"You must let me go, any way, Ernest. Don't hold me, please don't!
Justin may come back at any moment."

"I don't care. I wish he would! Dorothy, how can you marry that man,
almost old enough to be your father? How can you sell yourself for
wealth and high position?"

But Dorothy's senses had returned. "I'm not doing anything of the sort,
Mr. Chapin, and I command you to stop talking to me like that. As you
know, I never even saw you until after I was engaged to marry Mr.
Arnold. If I had met you sooner--" There was a little break in Dorothy's
voice, and Chapin whispered despairingly: "Oh, darling, if you only
had!"

"And now," Dorothy went on, "there is nothing more to be said on this
subject, now or ever. It is not honorable in you, Mr. Chapin, nor in
me. In a few weeks I shall marry Mr. Arnold, and I hope I may trust you
never to say anything of this nature to me again."

"I hope you may trust me, Dorothy," said the man brokenly, "but I know
I cannot trust myself."

"At least, we can try," said Dorothy, in a low voice, and then without
another word they returned to the dancing-room.

"Mine!" cried Emory Gale, as he caught sight of Dorothy, and went
toward her with open arms.

"What!" exclaimed Arnold, who was hovering near.

"Heavens, old man! don't kill me! I only meant this is my dance with
Miss Duncan."

"Oh," said Arnold, who was miserably jealous and couldn't hide it. He
dropped into a chair and watched the girl he loved enfolded in another
man's arms. Not being a dancer, Arnold couldn't look on such an embrace
impersonally. His reason told him that every girl on the dancing floor
was necessarily encircled by her partner's arms, but that didn't take
away his hatred of seeing Dorothy so close to Emory Gale. He would have
objected equally to any other man, but Gale was a daredevil, and Arnold
knew him better than Dorothy did. Still, he couldn't forbid her dancing
with one of his own house guests, and, incidentally, one of his own
lawyers. Gale and Crosby were the successors of the firm that had been
his father's lawyers, and so Justin employed them, although a firm
doing business in New York would often have been more convenient.

"Your little friend seems peeved," said Gale to Dorothy as they dipped
and sidestepped.

"Rather!" said Dorothy, carelessly; "he can't bear to see me dance. He
doesn't dance at all, you know, and he thinks it's a personal affront
to him when I do. Besides, these new dances are a sort of revelation to
him. When he was young, he saw the polka redowa and such things, he
tells me, and then he went into his shell and never came out till he
was engaged to me, and now these 'aesthetic' dances shock him all to
pieces."

"But he must be educated up to them," returned Gale, as he skilfully
piloted his light-footed partner among the maze of people.

"Yes," and Dorothy shook her pretty head decidedly; "for I expect to
dance as long as I live."

"Let's give him a benefit lesson now, then, and help his education
along as rapidly as possible!" Gale smiled into Dorothy's eyes, and the
girl understood. Both of them were excellent dancers and well versed in
all the newest and most intricate steps. Both knew how to exaggerate or
prune the effects of the more conspicuous dances, and Dorothy gleefully
consented to be led around toward the corner where Arnold waited for
her return. She was always ready for mischief and she liked Emory Gale,
but, too, she honestly wanted her future husband to realize that it was
her intention to dance all she chose and as she chose, both before and
after her marriage to him.

So, as they neared Arnold, their step became more daring, their pose
more relaxed, and though it meant nothing to the dancers, Arnold saw it
and went white with fury. Without looking at her fiancÚ, Dorothy kept
her earnest gaze on Gale, partly to watch his intended direction, and
as much to tease the man who looked angrily after her.

"He's madder'n hops," announced Gale, cheerfully; "shall we go round
again?"

Dorothy had lost her head a little in the whirling rhythm, and she only
whispered, "Yes," and went on dipping and swaying to the enticing
music.

"Let's do that last new 'Humoresque,'" murmured Gale, as they neared
Arnold, and as they passed him, both were engrossed in the intricacies
of the difficult dance.

Arnold, in his ignorance, mistook their absorption for interest in each
other, and ground his teeth in rage as they went by without a look
toward him.

The music stopped, and flushed and a little breathless, but
indescribably lovely, Dorothy, leaning on Gale's arm, sauntered to
Arnold's corner.

"There, Justy, how do you like our very latest achievement?" and
Dorothy bridled with pretty vanity.

If there was one thing Arnold hated it was to be called "Justy," and
Dorothy knew it. But her spirit of mischief was in the ascendant
to-night, and she couldn't resist adding fuel to the flame she had already
roused.

"It's absolutely disgraceful, Dorothy, and I forbid you ever to give
such an exhibition again!"

"Oh, come, now, old chap," said Gale, "don't be so old-fogy and
back-woodsy and hidebound--"

"And old-maidish," put in Dorothy, "and dog-in-the-mangerish! Just
because you can't dance, you needn't revile my skill in that
direction."

"And, by Jove, skill it is!" exclaimed Crosby, who had come up. "I say,
Dorothy, I never saw any one put that through as you did! The next is
ours, isn't it?"

"Indeed it isn't," laughed Dorothy, "the next is Mr. Gale's."

This was too much for Arnold. Taking Dorothy's arm a little firmly, he
led her into the next room, which was the big, cosy living-room.

"Help, help!" called Dorothy, laughing over her shoulder, and Gale and
Crosby followed the pair.

Unafraid of Arnold when there were others present, Dorothy flung
herself on a big sofa among a heap of cushions.

"Now scold," she said, looking up at her tortured lover.

Who could scold such a vision of loveliness? Her perfect arms extended
along the cushions, her dainty feet crossed, and her roguish, daring
face smiling with full assurance of her own power.

Arnold stood in front of her, and tried to steel himself against this
witchery.

"I am going to scold you, Dorothy," he began, but she interrupted, "No,
you're not!" and sprang up and faced him.

There was a tense, breathless moment, as if the two wills measured
against each other. Dorothy stood, one hand resting on a library table,
her parted lips matching her scarlet frock, her eyes and hair black as
night, and her compelling glance holding Arnold's own. Watching
closely, she saw his mouth relax a trifle and she knew she had won.

The reaction left her a little embarrassed, for both Gale and Crosby
were watching the scene. In her nervousness, Dorothy fingered the
articles on the table, and chanced to touch a Spanish dagger lying
there. It was a dangerous looking affair, and though there for the
purposes of a paper-cutter, it was rarely used, and even the parlormaid
touched it gingerly when dusting. Dorothy's face broke into smiles, and
grasping the thing, she struck an attitude like a miniature and very
modern Judith, and cried:

"Stop looking daggers at me, Justin, or I will return your glance
thus!"

With a mock-tragic gesture, she pointed the dagger at Arnold's heart,
and then, tossing it back on the table, she smiled and said:

"No, I'll punish you this way, instead," and rising on tip-toe she
kissed him lightly on the cheek.

Not yet accustomed to this volatility, Arnold looked first bewildered,
then pleased, then embarrassed. "Dorothy!" he mumbled, "before people!"

"Oh, these people don't mind; do you, boys?" and Dorothy smiled
carelessly at her audience of two. Then she picked up the dagger again.
"I love the feel of these things," she said, running her little
forefinger lightly along the blade. "I think my ancestors were pirates
and Spanish dancing girls! A stab in the dark!" and making a lunge
toward Gale, she assumed the attitude of a small but very ferocious
pirate.

"Dorothy! for heaven's sake, behave yourself!" cried Arnold; "put that
thing down!"

"All right," and Dorothy laid the dagger in its place; "but I do feel
dramatic. Mayn't I play tableaux, Justin?"

"Play whatever you like, if you don't touch that fiendish thing! I'll
have it thrown away!"

"No, don't!" cried Dorothy, "I just love it! Give it to me, won't you,
dear! For a wedding present? But you'll have to, if you give me 'all
your worldly goods.' Well, I still feel dramatic. If I can't play with
the dagger, I'll have to choose more simple themes. Mr. Gale, will you
play 'Living Pictures' with me?"

"Yes, if you'll show me how, I'm at your service. What must I do?"

Gale stepped forward and stood in a waiting position.

Dorothy looked at him thoughtfully, her head on one side, like a
perplexed connoisseur.

"Why," she said, laughing, "you look exactly like the man in that
foolish old picture of 'The Huguenot Lovers.' See, this way."

Dorothy caught up a light couch cover and draped it over Gale's
shoulder, and then, announcing, in showman-like voice, "The famous
painting, 'The Huguenot Lovers,'" she threw herself into Gale's arms
and assumed a most exaggerated look of despairing affection.

Gale quickly caught the allusion and cleverly took the pose shown in
the well-known picture. It was over in a moment, and laughing Dorothy
sprang back, saying, "I always thought I had dramatic talent; now I'm
sure of it! Why don't you applaud, Justin?"

"Never mind him," said Campbell Crosby, "he's got a grouch to-night.
Come, play a 'Living Picture' with me, Dorothy; what shall it be? Oh, I
know! Do you remember that fearful old thing called 'Alone at Last!'?"

"Yes!" said Dorothy, laughing, "it is in my great aunt's parlor. It's
like this."

Crosby, with clever caricature, reproduced the stilted pose of the hero
of the old classic, and Dorothy hung around his neck in a dragging way,
with a look of utter infatuation on her lovely face.

Arnold missed the burlesque effect and saw only the embrace. He rose
steadily, though he felt as if the earth were rocking beneath him.

"I've had enough of this," he said, in a low, even voice, and walked
slowly toward the door.

"Oh, wait, Justy," cried Dorothy, "I'm going to give 'The Conscript's
Departure' next, and I want you to act it with me."

"Thank you," said Arnold, not looking at her, "I have no talent for
that sort of thing. You have all the mummers you need."

"But you are acting a picture now!" called Dorothy, as he reached the
door; "you're giving a splendid representation of 'The Girl I Left
Behind Me'!"

Arnold strode away, and Gale said, curiously, "Aren't you afraid to
stir him up like that?"

"I'd be afraid not to," and Dorothy spoke without a smile; "I must get
him used to my foolishness, if I expect to have any fun at all after
I'm married."

"But will you be married, if you go much further in this mad career
that you're pursuing tonight?"

"Oh, yes, if I want to. I'll give Justin a little while to calm down
and then I'll go and 'make up.' I'm a great little old make-upper, I
am."

"But he's pretty mad, just now," said Crosby, who knew Arnold
thoroughly.

"No matter," and Dorothy tossed her curly head. "He's been pretty mad
lots of times, but I can manage him."

"I wish you weren't going to marry him," blurted out Crosby.

"So do I,--sometimes," and Dorothy drew a sigh that might have been
genuine, or merely for dramatic effect.

"If he ever scolds you I'll kill him!" Crosby declared, and Dorothy,
smiling, returned, "He'll never scold me. If he does, I'll kill him,
myself! Come on, there's the music again! Let's go and dance."

Chapter V
Scolding Is Barred

"There's no use talking, Justin, I have promised to be your wife, and I
will; but I will not be your slave, or submit to tyranny! It is to be
understood that after we are married I am to dance as much as I like
and with whom I like, and you are not to scold or be grumpy about it.
Do you agree?"

"But, Dorothy, these modern dances are improper."

"They are not! Everyone dances them. Do you suppose my mother would sit
by and see me, if I danced improperly? And, another thing, I wish you
wouldn't say, 'these modern dances,' as if you were of your
grandfather's generation! Aren't you modern, yourself? I am living
to-day, and so are you. You may have been born twenty years before I was,
but you are now living in the same era, and you've got to act so! Won't
you,--dear?"

It was the morning after the dance, and it was Sunday, and the pair
were strolling round the park. Dorothy, not in outing garb, but wearing
a dainty little house frock of pink linen, looked very dear and sweet.
She was "making up" with Arnold, and it was not a simple matter,--for
she was setting the pace for her future life. She had thought it over,
in her wise little head, and she knew that if she could get him to
agree to certain stipulations, he would never break his word.

"I do want to be all that you want me to be, darling," Arnold said,
looking troubled, "but you know,--you must know,--that there is a certain
dignity expected from a married woman that is imperilled by such
exhibitions as you gave last evening with Gale."

"Oh, Emory Gale! Isn't he the funniest man! I never thought a lawyer
could be so frivolous! Mr. Crosby isn't."

"No, Cam Crosby is more serious. By the way, do you like him, Dorothy?"

"Who? Mr. Crosby? Yes, rather. But I like all men, Justin. Why
shouldn't I? They're all so nice to me."

"Oh, child," Arnold groaned; "what can I do with you?"

"Love me," said pretty Dorothy, and held up her lovely lips for a kiss.

Rarely was she so spontaneously gracious, and Arnold caught her
passionately in his arms.

"You beauty! You love! Dorothy, you do love me, don't you?"

"Of course I do, when you're good to me,--and don't scold me."

"I'll never scold you! But, dearest, you don't care for Cam, do you?
He's mad about you!"

"Nonsense! He isn't. And I don't care two straws for him, if he is."

"Nor Gale?"

"Emory Gale! Why, Justin, he's in love with Leila."

"With Miss Duane? Is he?"

"Oh, neither of them have told me so, but--I know!" and Dorothy wagged
her pretty head like a wise, rosy-cheeked owl.

"Then there's one less man for me to be jealous of," and Arnold laughed
grimly.

"But what's one among a hundred?" and Dorothy smiled saucily at him.
"Don't be jealous, Just, it makes an awful lot of trouble. Oh, here are
the Cranes."

"Yes, here we are," said Fred Crane. "Sorry to interrupt a tete-a-tete."

"Not at all," said Mrs. Crane; "it's lucky we came, for I heard Dorothy
asking Justin not to be jealous! Take my advice, Dot; let him be
jealous. It keeps him in love with you."

"I don't care how jealous he is," said Dorothy, "if he won't scold me.
I just simply can't bear to be scolded! And I won't stand it!" She
stamped her little slippered foot, and looked at Arnold with such an
adorable pout, that he had to smile at her. But he said, staunchly,
"You'll never get scolded unless you deserve it, my dear."

"Well, that's something!" put in Mabel Crane, hastily, for the clouds
gathered on Dorothy's brow; "some poor wives get scolded whether they
deserve it or not."

"Not you!" and fat, good-natured Fred Crane looked smilingly at his
good-natured wife.

"There, Justin! See that!" cried Dorothy; "Mr. Crane wouldn't scold
Mabel, no matter what she did! Promise you won't scold me, ever."

"The Arnolds never make foolish promises, Dorothy; nor do the Arnolds
'scold.' If you ever deserve reprimand, I shall certainly give it to
you." Dorothy gave up the siege, for the time. "I won't, dear," she
said, in the meekest possible voice, but the smile she turned on Justin
was offset by the suspicion of a wink in Mabel Crane's direction.

"We've been hunting specimens," said Fred Crane, to divert the trend of
thought. He was in knickerbockers and carried a specimen case and
butterfly net.

"Get anything?" asked Arnold, perfunctorily.

"Several worthwhile bits. Almost had a fine white moth, but he got
away. By Jove, I should have had him, if I could have climbed your
confounded wall! In heaven's name, Arnold, why the broken glass? Didn't
your revered ancestors have any other place to put their old bottles?"

"Don't you make fun of Justin's revered ancestors," cried Dorothy;
"they're pretty nearly my ancestors! Will they be mine, Just, when we
are married? Do you endow me with them, along with your other worldly
goods? Or, aren't they worldly goods?"

"Don't talk like that, Dorothy," said Arnold, gently; "please show a
little reverence, for my sake, if not for your own."

"Oh, there's no pleasing my lord and master this morning! I think I'll
seek fresh fields and pastures new. Oh, look who's here! Mr. Gale!
Won't you come out and play wiz me?" and dancing up to Emory Gale, she
tucked her hand through his arm, and led him directly away from the
others.

"I know you were in search of Leila," she said, as soon as they rounded
the corner of the path through the wood. "And I'll take you to her in a
minute. But I want to borrow you just now."

"I am honored and proud at this favor. What can I do for you?"

"Flirt with me. No, not now; only when Justin can see us."

"What a rogue you are!" Gale had meant to say something harsher, but he
couldn't, with that dimpled face looking up into his.

"All's fair in love and war," said Dorothy, tossing her head. "I have
to train Justin in my own way, you see. But never mind me; let's talk
about Leila. I always try to interest my companions."

"And you think Miss Duane interests me?"

"Rath-er! And I don't wonder; Leila is a dear and a sweet."

"But do you think I interest her? That's more to the point."

"I think you do. But Leila's coy, and if you're going in to win, you
ought to make a braver attack. Now, I chance to know she's at this
moment on that little south balcony, and if you go right straight
there, you will have an excellent opportunity to discuss the weather
with her."

"And you?"

"I see Mr. Chapin approaching in the dim distance. Oh, I wouldn't
dismiss you until I had a perfectly good substitute! Hoo-hoo! Mr.
Chapin! Don't you want to take me to see the ducks?"

Ernest Chapin came forward eagerly. He said little, but his eyes shone
and his face glowed as he led Dorothy toward the duck pond, while Gale
went on his quest of Leila.

"Why don't you talk?" said Dorothy, a little frightened at the tense
silence.

Chapin stood still, turned her around, and looked deep in her eyes.
"Because I'm too happy. I've heard of a happiness too deep for words,
and now I know what it means."

"Don't," said Dorothy, weakly; "don't! I can't bear it! You promised
you wouldn't!"

"Oh, no, I didn't But if I did,--if I promised it a hundred times,--I
never could keep such a promise! To be with you,--alone with you! Oh,
Dorothy!"

"Hush, there's Miss Abby!" and the two composed themselves just in time
to smile at their hostess, who was sitting on a garden bench.

"Just the one I wanted to see!" called out Dorothy, gaily; "now you go
away, Mr. Chapin, this is going to be a meeting of the Woman's Club."
Chapin bowed and went on, and Dorothy sat down beside Miss Wadsworth
and patted her hand.

Now Miss Abby was far from dull, and she scented trouble in the girl's
manner. "Well," she said, drily, "have you quarrelled with Justin?"

"Aren't you the mind-reader!" and Dorothy looked honestly surprised.
"No, we haven't exactly quarrelled, but, oh, well, Miss Abby, we're
awfully different."

"Yes, you are, Dorothy, but I'm hoping your two natures will react on
each other to the benefit of both."

Dorothy looked relieved. "Oh, do you think so? I'm so glad, for I've
been wondering if I ought to marry him, when I'm so far from his ideal
of all a woman should be."

"I wondered too, at first, but I've concluded that Justin loves you, as
he never could love his 'ideal' if he had her."

"I know he loves me, but sometimes I feel so unworthy of his love. And,
Miss Abby, I don't mean that I feel myself unworthy, but I'm so afraid
he'll think I am."

The older woman smiled at this naive confession, but she said, "I
understand, dear. But I think you ought to try a little harder to do
and be as Justin wants you to. You love him, don't you?"

"I--I think so," faltered Dorothy, "but when he is so stern,--it makes me
hate him!"

"That's a good sign," and Miss Abby smiled. "Better hate him than be
indifferent. And I really think, my dear, that your love will grow
steadily and surely, the longer you live with him, and learn what a
really fine, true nature he has."

So Dorothy smoothed out her temper and patted her little soul on the
back, and resolved to be awfully good to old Justin and not to flirt
with other men to tease him, and especially never, never to let herself
be left alone with Ernest Chapin for one single little minute.

And all the rest of the day, she devoted herself to Arnold, and was so
sweet and docile and altogether angelic, that her lover concluded he
had at last learned the way to manage her!

Though the house-party had been asked only for the week-end, most of
the guests were easily persuaded to stay a few days longer.

Emory Gale and Campbell Crosby were the only ones who were unable to
accept their host's invitation to remain longer at White Birches.
Business called them, they declared, and they were obliged to leave at
noon on Monday for Philadelphia.

Dorothy and Leila gave way to protestations of great grief at parting
with them, and though the protestations were mere fooling, yet Crosby
looked longingly into Dorothy's eyes, while, unconscious of this, Gale
was pouring out his whole soul in a glance for Leila's benefit.

The girls had accompanied the departing guests in one of Justin's big
motor-cars as far as the Fordham Heights Station. From here the men
went to New York and later took the train for Philadelphia.

Though usually inclined to light and desultory chatter, Gale and Crosby
said little to each other during the first miles of their train ride.
But after they had smoked for awhile in silence, they grew a little
less taciturn and a little more inclined to be sociable.

"Hang it all!" said Gale, at last, "if I had time and opportunity, I
believe I could induce that sweet young thing to be all my very own!"

"What's the matter with you?" growled Crosby. "She's going to marry
Justin, and you'd better keep off!"

"Great snakes, man! I don't mean Dorothy! I mean the pretty one, the
lovely Leila."

"Oh, Miss Duane. Yes, she's pretty enough in her way, but she can't
hold a candle to that rosy little peach of a Dorothy."

"Dorothy is a beauty, all right, but she's too indiscriminating in her
favors. She'd flirt with anybody, whether she's engaged to him or not."

"I wish she'd flirt with me," said Crosby gloomily. "But never mind me.
Are you really hit by the Duane girl? She's a thoroughbred, I admit,
and I wish you luck, old man."

"But I never get a chance to see her. She lives 'way off in Ohio, or
somewhere, and she's just here for the wedding festivities."

"Well, be expeditious. We'll go to White Birches again before the
wedding, and she'll probably be there. I'll ask Cousin Abby to ask her,
if you like. And then at the time of the wedding we'll all be at the
Duncan house, I suppose, for a day or two, at least. I'm to be old
Justin's best man. I told him I didn't want to, but I suppose I will.
Oh, pshaw, man, if you've got any enterprise at all, you can find some
way to woo and win a fair lady, without having her thrown at your head.
I think she's ready to meet you half-way, anyhow."

Gale brightened up at this; but Crosby became more gloomy as he
realized that Gale had a fair fighting chance, while he had none.

It was about five o'clock when they reached the station in
Philadelphia.

"What are you doing to-night?" asked Gale, as they parted.

"Dunno. Depends mostly on what letters and stuff I find waiting for me.
We ought to get together and talk over that Herrmann case."

"Yes; where's that data I gave you to look over?"

"It's in my duffle, somewhere. I'll hunt it out when I get to the
hotel."

"All right; and you'd better drop in at the club to-night. I'm going to
dine there, and then I'll tell you if I've had any word from Herrmann.
There's lots of detail to be attended to in that case."

"I'll call you up and let you know what I can do, later. S'long, old
man."

They parted, and Crosby went directly to the hotel where he made his
home. Gale had rooms in a bachelor apartment-house, but Crosby declared
that a big hotel was the only place where a man could get decent
service and comfortable surroundings.

He nodded affably to the desk clerk, took his mail, and went directly
to an elevator and up to his rooms on the third floor. He usually went
up in the elevator, though, coming down, he oftener used the stairs.
However, as his particular elevator-boy did not suffer financially from
this state of things, no complaint was made.

Being expeditious by nature, and inherently opposed to what is known as
"lost motion," he had run through his letters and was ready for his
dinner at seven o'clock. As nothing in his mail offered him any more
attractive occupation for the evening, he thought of going to the club
to see Gale, and he telephoned him to this effect before going on to
the dining-room. Then, seated alone at his usual table, he opened the
evening paper and was soon lost in its contents.

A little before eight o'clock, he was called to the telephone, and
answered "Hello" to Gale's greeting.

"Old chap," Gale said, "don't come over here to-night, unless you
choose. I've promised to make up a rubber with some fellows, and I'm
going home early."

"O. K." returned Crosby; "I was half inclined to go to the Orchestra
Concert, and I believe I will. Haggensdorfer is on the programme, and I
simply can't stay away. Want to drop in there, later?"

"No, I believe not. I'll play around here for awhile and slide home
early. See that you get around to the office in some decent time
to-morrow morning, and bring that memo."

"All right; I will. Good-by."

"Good-by;" and Gale hung up the receiver, rather relieved than
otherwise at Crosby's defection, for he had made up his mind to write
to Leila Duane that evening, in pursuance of Crosby's suggestion that
he should hasten his wooing. And a letter like that required time and
concentration of thought.

However, Gale returned to his rooms fairly early, and was getting ready
to turn in for the night when, soon after eleven o'clock, his telephone
bell rang.

It was Crosby again, and he began his conversation with voluble praise
of the concert.

"Oh, let up," said Gale. "Tell me the rest in the morning. I'm off to
by-by."

"But hold on, Gale, that isn't all I wanted to say. I find I've left
that memo at White Birches--had it there last night, looking over it. I
had it with some other papers in an old wallet, and left the whole
business on the dresser in my bedroom."

"Oh, hang it, Crosby! You do beat the dickens with your forgetfulness!
How'm I ever going to make a lawyer out of you, unless you get over
your carelessness?"

"Don't scold, Emory. I didn't go for to do it. And, I say, I'll
telephone to Driggs right away, and he'll send it right bang over here
by registered mail and special delivery and all those things."

"You'd better wait till morning to telephone--they're probably having a
party or something; and I suppose we can get along without that stuff
tomorrow. But you do make me mad."

"Yes, I know I do," responded Crosby cheerfully. "Guess I'll say
good-night before you get any madder."

"Good-night," replied Gale shortly. "Get around to the office on time
to-morrow morning." He hung up the receiver with a jerk, for, though he
was fairly good-tempered, he did get tired of his partner's continual
forgetfulness. But he allowed his thoughts to return to Leila Duane,
and he soon forgot Crosby's deficiencies.

And when Crosby turned up Tuesday morning at nine o'clock, fully
fifteen minutes ahead of time, full of apologies for his carelessness,
Gale only said, "Never mind, old chap. Herrmann can wait a day or two
more."

"I telephoned Driggs this morning," said Crosby, "'long about eight
o'clock. He said he'd whack it right over here. Good boy, Driggs!"

"Did he--did he say--anything about--"

"About Miss Duane pining away because of your absence? No, he didn't."

"Oh, stuff!" said Gale. "Chuck it, and get to work, now that you're
here."

And then the two men really devoted their thoughts and efforts to the
business in hand.

Chapter VI
On A Balcony

After Gale and Crosby had left White Birches, much of the life of the
party seemed gone. Leila was plainly distrait. She had not failed to
notice that Mr. Gale had evinced an interest in her attractive self,
and she hated to have that interest cut off in its youth and beauty. As
for Dorothy, she had only her fiancÚ and his secretary to flash her
smiles at, and that was a beggarly portion of men for the unlimited
number of smiles she had at her disposal. And so when Leila attempted
to appropriate Ernest Chapin, Dorothy showed fight.

After all, it was the old situation. Dorothy cared for Ernest Chapin,
but he was poor. Justin Arnold was an old fogy, dictatorial, and a good
deal of a bore, but he was rich.

Perhaps Dorothy was neither more nor less mercenary than other girls,
but she had made up her mind to marry Justin Arnold, and she had no
intention of allowing her heart to interfere with her plans.

This, however, did not prevent her from smiling at Chapin, and
Dorothy's smiles were like fuel to a flame. And so fascinating was this
game, that Dorothy became more and more daring, more and more
interested in Ernest Chapin, until finally her mother interfered.

"Dorothy," she said straightforwardly, "you must stop flirting with Mr.
Arnold's secretary. Not only is it bad form and beneath your dignity,
but you are jeopardizing your whole future. Mr. Arnold won't stand it
much longer."

"How do you know, Mother?"

"I know from the way he looks at you when you're making those silly
grimaces at Mr. Chapin."

"I don't think they're silly grimaces," and Dorothy cast a casually
admiring glance at herself in a mirror; "and Mr. Chapin doesn't,
either."

"Indeed he doesn't! He's over head and ears in love with you, if that's
any satisfaction to your foolish, vain little heart! Dorothy, I wish
you had more dignity."

"Now, Mother, am I a dignified type?"

What mother could help smiling fondly at this question, put by a
dainty, saucy sprite, to whom the word "dignity" could not possibly be
applied? But she tried to hide her admiration, and said with would-be
sternness, "You must try to achieve a little, my dear, if you're going
to be Justin Arnold's wife."

"'I will be good, dear mother,' I heard a sweet child say," sang
Dorothy, with mischievous glances at her mother. "Honest and truly,
black and bluely, I will be good--if I can!"

And then with a parting kiss and a gentle little shake of her mother's
shoulders, Dorothy ran away to dress for dinner.

In a spirit of mischief, she determined to be very demure that night.
She put on a simple little white frock, with knots of light green
ribbon. She parted her hair, and brushing out its rebellious curls as
much as possible, she drew it down over her ears, and into a loose knot
at the nape of her neck, which had the effect of making her look like a
very mischievous Saint Cecilia.

She checked an impulse to dance downstairs, and walked down slowly,
with her hands hanging crossed in front of her, and, as she had fully
expected, she met Arnold in the hall.

"Good heavens, Dorothy! what have you been doing to yourself?"

"Don't you like me?" An angelic smile was on the face upturned to his,
and the corners of the dimpled mouth drooped in saintly fashion.

"Why, I don't know whether I do or not. What's it for? I never know
what you're up to."

"Oh, Justin, that's the trouble! you never know anything! Why don't you
have any perception or understanding, or inter--what do you call it
interospection?"

"Interospection! There's no such word."

"Yes, there is; I just made it myself. It's a lovely word and it means
if you love a little girl, you ought to understand what she means, even
when she doesn't mean anything."

"Dorothy," and Arnold looked at her, not entirely with approbation. "I
do believe there's nothing to you but frivolity!"

Dorothy pouted. "You wouldn't say that if you loved me."

"Of course I love you, but I'm not of a demonstrative sort, so you
needn't expect a foolish show of affection."

"I just love a show of foolish affection," murmured Dorothy, but Arnold
went on, unheeding.

"And I'm eighteen years older than you are, so you can't expect me to
imitate your childish ways."

"Oh, do imitate them, Justin, you'd look so funny! By the way, Justin,
did you ever love anyone else before you loved me?"

"Don't ask foolish questions, Dorothy."

"Then give me a sensible answer."

"Very well, I will. I see no reason for not telling you that I did love
somebody else, years ago; but she,--she didn't love me."

"I don't blame her much," said Dorothy, but she said it half under her
breath, and Arnold, whose thoughts had flown backward, didn't hear her.

And then the others joined them, and a few guests came, and the big
hall became a scene of merry laughter and gay chatter. The hall was
circular, and rooms rayed out from it in various directions. This plan
allowed of many queer-shaped little rooms or alcoves between the larger
apartments, and as, during the various improvement periods, some floors
or ceilings had been raised and others lowered, the whole house was a
delightful jumble of intricate and uncertain wanderings. Dorothy had
discovered and appropriated for her own many of these "flirting
corners" as she called them, but to-night she would have none of them.
She stood demurely by Arnold's side until dinner was announced, and
then walked with him straight to the dining-room, though usually they
had to institute a search for her at meal times.

During dinner and indeed all the evening, she kept up her role of
demure quietness, and her mother looked at her approvingly, for she
thought her admonitions had been heeded.

Later in the evening, and after the dinner guests had gone, Arnold took
Dorothy out for a little stroll around the grounds. The moonlight made
the white birch trees even more silvery of bark, and turned their
foliage to black velvet. Deep down in the ravines could be seen silver
lights on the black water, and the autumn wind murmuring in the trees
gave an added touch of solemn grandeur.

"It is a beautiful place," said Dorothy, a little thrilled as she stood
on the South Terrace and looked down into the dark tangles of the
woodland; "but not--not very cheerful, is it, Justin?"

"It is a magnificent place, Dorothy, but I fear you're incapable of
appreciating it. You would probably prefer Italian formal gardens and
great sweeps of sunny lawn, with gay-colored flower-beds here and
there."

"Well, yes," said Dorothy; "I think that would be pretty. But it
wouldn't fit White Birches, would it, Justin?"

"I should say not! I'm glad you can at least realize that. Why,
Dorothy, this is perhaps the finest old place in this country. That
stone wall is unique, and as for that great arched gateway, I doubt if
many English parks can match it. We Arnolds appreciate the grandeur and
dignity of our ancestral home, and I hope and trust, Dorothy, that you,
too, will learn to do so."

"Oh, Justin, you give me so much to learn! How can one little head hold
it all?"

"It doesn't seem much, dear, to expect you to love and reverence this
old place, that means so much to me."

"But, Just, it means such a lot to you, because you were born here and
have always lived here. Now, I wasn't, and so you see, it's very
different. My marrying you won't make me a born Arnold, you know."

"You're a born darling!" exclaimed Arnold, looking at her, as the
moonlight came through the leaves and illumined her exquisite face.

"Do you love me, really?" and Dorothy's voice was wistful and sweet.

"More than life itself! More than I ought to, a great deal!"

These phrases didn't at all please Miss Duncan's fastidious taste in
such matters. The first was hackneyed and meaningless, and the second
was grudging and not nice in its implication. However, she had "an ax
to grind," and she proposed to utilize the occasion.

"How dear you are," and her little fingers crept into his own. "I'm
afraid I'm not good enough for you, Justin." A soft little sigh
accompanied this mendacious speech.

"Dorothy, my angel! You're too good for me! I'm not sure I ought to
link your beautiful young life to mine. But I will try to make you
happy, dearest."

"Do you really desire my happiness?" Dorothy was in his arms now, her
soft cheek against his, and her sweet voice very gentle and tender.

"Yes; you shall have anything you want,--anything!"

"I don't want much, Just. Only I do want you to promise that we needn't
stay here at White Birches all the year round."

"Not stay here! Where would you stay?"

"Why, don't you think it would be nice to go to the mountains and
seashore in the summer time?"

"But this is a perfect summer home, Dorothy."

"Well, just for part of the time, you know. And then, in winter, it is
so bleak and drear here, I thought we could take a house in the city
for the coldest months."

"Why, darling, it is glorious up here in winter! Such air, such bright
crisp days, you wouldn't want to spend them in a smoky city!"

"Oh, the city isn't smoky, Justin. And then, I thought,--I hoped--you'd
take me abroad every spring."

"Every spring! Dear, you're crazy! I thought, myself, we'd go abroad
some time, but I'm very sure once will be enough for me!"

"Well, it won't for me; and you said I should have whatever I wanted!"

"Yes, in reason, dearest. But your talk is out of all reason!"

"And isn't your love for me out of all reason, too?" Dorothy's soft
arms stole round his neck, and her lips met his.

"No!" and he unclasped her hands and put her a little away from him.
"No; it is a true, strong, honest love, but it isn't unreasonable, nor
does it ask of you such utter absurdities as you are asking of me. I
think the moonlight has affected you. Let us go in, now; it is growing
chill."

Dorothy had failed, and she was furious. But she controlled herself,
determined not to show temper at Justin's attitude. She had amazed him,
and she knew it, but it was the entering edge of a wedge which might be
driven farther some other time. So she only said:

"Yes, let us go in. It is dignified and all that, but somehow, Justin,
it frightens me. The shadows are so weird, and those ghostly white
trees shiver in the wind like spectres of the departed Arnolds. Do you
suppose they're wagging their branches at me because they don't like
me?"

"Nonsense, Dorothy! You're enough to give a man the creeps. Come on
into the house."

As the ladies took up their bedroom candles and went upstairs, leaving
the men to spend a half-hour in the smoking-room, Dorothy called down
from the upper landing, "Don't forget to put on the burglar-alarm,
Justin. Somebody might come and carry me off."

It was characteristic of Arnold that he answered seriously, "I've never
forgotten it yet, Dorothy," and ignored the latter part of her speech.

The burglar-alarm was rather a standard joke among guests at White
Birches, but this had never interfered with Justin Arnold's systematic
observance of the old custom.

Dorothy paused at Leila's room for a good-night gossip. She was still
in a quiet mood, and Leila asked her frankly what was the matter.

"Nothing," said Dorothy, with a little sigh. "I'm going to try to give
a successful imitation of the dignity of the Arnolds for the rest of my
life. I must learn to behave like an Arnold if I'm going to be one."

"Perhaps," said Leila daringly, "you'd rather see than be one!"

"No, not that," said Dorothy thoughtfully. "Justin isn't very much to
see, you know."

"I think he's a very handsome man."

"Oh, handsome nothing! He has a face like a hawk, a disposition like an
iceberg, and not a bit of temper. I wish he had a temper!"

"He'll probably develop one after he marries you."

"It won't be my fault if he doesn't. But he is an old duck, and I'm
terribly fond of him. Now let's change the subject. How many letters
have you had from Mr. Gale?"

"What do you mean?" exclaimed Leila, blushing. "He only went away this
noon. He's hardly in Philadelphia yet."

"Oh, yes, he is. He reached there before six o'clock, and I've no doubt
he's spent the whole evening writing letters to you and tearing them
up, in a vain endeavor to strike just the right note of friendliness."

"Dorothy, you're a goose, and I wish you'd go on to bed."

"I am going, dearie, because I know you want to write to Emory Gale!"

Dodging the little white pillow that Leila threw at her, Dorothy flew
out into the hall and made for her own room.

As she turned a corner of the dimly lit corridor, she felt herself
suddenly grasped by a pair of strong arms and drawn quickly between
some heavy draped curtains, and out on to a tiny balcony.

"'Sh!" whispered Ernest Chapin's voice, close to her ear. "I've
kidnapped you! You said some one might, so I thought I'd be the one!"

"Unhand me, villain!" whispered Dorothy, giggling at the escapade. "I
decline to be drawn behind the arras and carried to who knows what
fearful fate!"

"No more fearful fate than to look at the moon for two minutes. It's
marvellous from this balcony, shining on that little dark pool. Come
and see."

Not entirely unwilling, Dorothy let herself be led out on the little
balcony, and, to do Chapin justice, the moonlight effect was quite all
he had claimed for it.

Dorothy knew perfectly well she ought not to be out there alone with
Ernest Chapin, but a sort of reaction had followed her demure mood, and
she murmured, "Just a minute, then. I won't give you but just exactly
one minute."

"Then, I shall make the most of it," said Chapin, quickly clasping her
in his arms. "Dorothy, my darling, I wouldn't do this, but I know, I
know, you love me. You don't love Arnold! And, oh, sweetheart, don't
marry him! Don't sell yourself for the Arnold fortune! Come to me,
dearest, for you know, you know, you love me."

The sweetness and nearness of Dorothy, and the maddening effect of the
moonlight, had caused Chapin to lose all caution, and, though low, his
deep tones were clear and distinct.

A cold, hard voice followed his own:

"Oh, no, she doesn't love you, Chapin. You're awfully mistaken! She may
be flirting with you--it's one of her bad habits--but she doesn't love
you."

"I do," declared Dorothy, irritated by Arnold's calm statements and
cutting manner.

"No, you don't, Dorothy. You're a little affected by the moonlight, but
you're not in love with a man who is beneath you socially, and who,
incidentally, is a coward, and a traitor to the man who employs him."

"Stop!" cried Dorothy, "you shan't talk so about the man I love!"

"You hear, Arnold," said Chapin, with a laugh that was a little
unsteady. He still held Dorothy in his arms, and as Arnold stepped out
on the balcony, the pair faced him.

"Go to your room, Dorothy," said Arnold, quietly; "I will settle this
matter with Mr. Chapin."

"I won't go, Justin, until I explain. It isn't Ernest's fault I asked
him to come out here."

Dorothy told her lie calmly, hoping to shield Chapin from the wrath she
saw blazing in Arnold's eyes.

"And since when have you called my secretary by his first name? That is
more than I do, myself."

"Perhaps he is more to me than he is to you!" Dorothy's voice shook and
she drew closer to Chapin, who held her to him.

"I can say nothing, Mr. Arnold," he said, and his tones were clear and
strong. "I deserve your scorn and reproach; I have acted the part of a
coward and a cad. My only excuse is that I love the same woman you do,
and she--"

"Yes," whispered Arnold, with dry lips, "and she--"

"I'll answer for myself," said Dorothy, suddenly, "I love you, Justin!"
She left Chapin's side, and nestled against Arnold. Her perfect face,
uplifted in the moonlight, thrilled him, and he put his arm round her.
Then as suddenly he withdrew it. "You don't!" he cried. "You are only
marrying me for my money! You are untrue, unfaithful;--a shallow-hearted
coquette! You never loved me! you have deceived me with your false
smiles and kisses, and as soon as my back is turned, you are caressing
some one else! Our betrothal is ended. I cast you off! No Arnold has
ever married a faithless woman. Go to your room. I will attend to this
cur who has betrayed me!"

Ernest Chapin said slowly and clearly, "I will answer those remarks to
you alone, Mr. Arnold."

"Yes; I think you will," Justin Arnold replied. "Go to your room,
Dorothy. I will discuss this little matter with you to-morrow."

"Good-night, Justin." said the girl, in a small, scared voice.
"Good-night, Mr. Chapin."

Neither of the men replied, and Dorothy, dazed at the situation, walked
slowly to her own room.

Chapter VII
Missing!

The next morning Leila Duane burst into Dorothy's room without the
formality of knocking.

"What's the matter?" asked Dorothy, fixing her large, dark eyes on her
friend's perturbed face. Dorothy's own face was not smiling. She looked
a little pale, and seemed weary, as if she had passed a restless and
wakeful night.

Leila looked at her silently for a minute.

"Dorothy," she began, "something strange has happened--at least, we
don't know whether it's strange or not."

"Well, do you know whether it's happened or not?" questioned Dorothy
rather satirically.

Whereupon Leila sat down on the edge of the bed and began to cry.
"Dorothy, don't be frivolous," she sobbed. "It may be something awful.
They can't find Mr. Arnold."

"Can't find Justin! What do you mean? Where is he?"

"Why, we don't know! Nobody knows. Only, he's gone."

"What nonsense, to get so excited over that! Justin's old enough to
take care of himself. He's probably gone to New York to buy my wedding
ring."

Leila got up to go away. "Dorothy," she said, "I advise you to stop
talking like that, and I advise you to get dressed and come downstairs
as soon as you can."

Dorothy rang for the maid, and proceeded to make a leisurely toilet.
Though not given to questioning servants, she asked the girl what she
knew about Mr. Arnold's absence.

"I don't know nothing, miss. I heard Peters say that Mr. Arnold wasn't
in the house or on the place, but Driggs he told us all not to say a
word to anybody, and, anyhow, I don't know nothing about it, miss."

"Never mind what Driggs told you,--you tell me all you know."

"Honest, miss, I don't know nothing."

"Then why is there such an excitement because Mr. Arnold has gone away
early somewhere? Has he never done such a thing before?"

"I don't know, ma'am; I've not been here very long."

"What has Driggs to do with it, anyway? It's not his business to look
after Mr. Arnold's movements. Why did he tell you not to say a word to
anybody?"

"I don't know, miss, but he was that particular about it!"

"Well, you don't seem to know anything! Finish hooking my frock and let
me go."

But before she left the room, Dorothy made another attempt.

"Cora," she said, coaxingly, "tell me what you know. I won't tell that
you told me. I'm--I'm afraid to go downstairs."

"Well, Peters said,--but I'll be discharged if I tell you, Miss Duncan.
Driggs said as how we should."

"Nonsense!" and Dorothy stamped her foot. "I tell you I won't let
anyone know that you told me. Go on; what did Peters say?"

"He said as how Mr. Arnold has been gone all night, because his bed
hasn't been slept in."

Dorothy turned white and leaned against the wall for a moment. Then she
went to the mirror, scrutinized herself carefully, and turned to the
maid.

"Do you think I look queer, Cora?"

"Not to say queer, miss, but sorta peakÚd-like."

"PeakÚd? I don't know what that means." And rubbing her cheeks, and
forcing a smile, Dorothy went slowly downstairs.

She found everybody assembled in the living-room, with Miss Abby
Wadsworth, as usual, conducting affairs.

Mrs. Duncan, with a very grave expression on her face, sat on a sofa,
and made room for Dorothy by her side. The girl felt her mother's arm
go round her, and she sat quietly, listening with the others.

"I can't understand it," Miss Abby was saying. "Peters, at what time
did you go to Mr. Arnold's room this morning?"

"Shortly after nine o'clock, ma'am."

"Why did you go?"

"Well, ma'am, you see, Mr. Arnold always rings for me promptly at
eight-thirty. And this morning he didn't ring, and I waited and waited
until after nine, and then I made bold to go and tap at his door. I
knocked three times, and he didn't answer, so I ventured to try the
door. It wasn't locked, and I went in. Mr. Arnold wasn't there, and his
bed hadn't been slept in. The covers were folded just as I always turn
them down for him every night. His clothes were not about, and there
was no sign of anybody."

"But this is very strange," pursued Miss Abby, quite as if it were
Peter's fault. "Why should Mr. Arnold sit up all night?"

"I don't know, ma'am. But if he did do that same, where is he now?"

"He must be somewhere about the place," said Miss Abby decidedly. "Of
course there is an explanation. He may have gone for a walk late last
night, and have fallen or met with some accident."

"Excuse me, ma'am," said Driggs, "but he couldn't get out of the
house."

"Why couldn't he?" inquired Mrs. Duncan.

"Because," explained Driggs, "Mr. Arnold always turns on the burglar-alarm
himself every night; and I turn it off every morning. When I look
at it in the morning, ma'am, the indicator would show if it had been
tampered with during the night."

"Are you sure?" asked Mr. Crane, with interest.

"Yes, sir; and if a window or door had been opened during the night
while that there alarm was set, there'd have been a ringin' of electric
bells all over this house, a-makin' such a din as nobody could have
slept through. No, sir, that alarm wasn't touched from the time Mr.
Arnold put it on last night, till I put it off this morning. And
between them times, they wasn't no door nor window opened or shut in
this whole house. Therefore, I says Mr. Arnold must be in the house,
because he couldn't get out."

In his intense earnestness, Driggs had almost forgotten his servility
of manner, and, looking straight at Mr. Crane, spoke as man to man, in
the face of a great mystery. Then he turned his gaze to Miss Wadsworth,
and, though she also was mystified, she nodded her head in
corroboration of Drigg's statements and his conclusion therefrom.

"It is so," she said. "Justin has often explained to me how perfectly
the alarm works, and how impossible it is to open an outside door or a
window without starting the bells to ringing."

"Might it not be temporarily out of order?" suggested Mr. Crane, who
had constituted himself Miss Abby's right-hand man and chief adviser.

"It never has been, sir," volunteered Driggs, "since I've been here,
and that's nigh on to forty years. I come here a young man, when Mr.
Justin was a baby; and his father was a crank, if I may say it, about
burglars. He had all the wiring done and the alarm put in in his day;
and, following his orders, Mr. Justin has kept the thing up, and has
added a good many new contraptions as fast as they were invented. No,
sir, wherever my master may be, and whatever his reason for hiding,
he's in this house! 'Cause why? 'Cause he couldn't get out, without
either turning off that alarm or raising a clatter; and neither of
those things was done."

"Then he must be in the house," said Mr. Crane. "This is a large and
rambling structure. May he not have gone into some one of the smaller
rooms, and perhaps suffered from some kind of a seizure or stroke?"

"Good gracious!" exclaimed Miss Abby. "Do you mean that Justin may be
alone and unconscious, perhaps suffering, under this very roof?"

"I only mean that it might be so."

"Then let us have a thorough search made," said Miss Abby excitedly.
"Peters, you know which rooms Mr. Arnold would be likely to go into--go
and search them all, at once. Take some of the other servants to help
you. Go all over the house, into every nook and cranny."

Peters departed, though the expression on his face showed that he
hardly thought this solution of the mystery probable.

"It isn't like Mr. Arnold," began Ernest Chapin, speaking slowly, "to
go into any unused room so late at night. As you know, Miss Wadsworth,
Mr. Arnold is most systematic in his habits. After turning on the
alarm, he invariably goes directly to his room and to bed."

"That is so," agreed Miss Abby; "but as we have to face an unusual
state of things, we must admit that Justin departed from his regular
systematic procedure, and we must assume an unusual occurrence of some
sort."

"But it all seems so ridiculous," spoke up Dorothy; "I'm sure Justin
has only gone out for a walk or a ride, and will bob in at any minute.
He might have started out after Driggs took off the alarm."

"But his bed has not been slept in," Miss Abby reminded her. "Peters
says he thinks Justin did not go to his room at all, as his brushes and
things have not been touched since Peters arranged them for the night."

"There seems to be nothing the matter except that Justin didn't sleep
in his own room," said Dorothy. "I don't think that's anything to make
such a fuss about. He must have gone to New York, or somewhere, late
last night, after the rest of us had all gone upstairs. Then, as he
knew he couldn't get in this house during the night, he stayed in New
York and he will come home on an early train."

Mabel Crane looked at Dorothy steadily. At first the girl did not see
her, then when she became aware of the close observation, she flushed
crimson and buried her face in her mother's shoulder.

"Who saw him last?" inquired Fred Crane, suddenly.

Dorothy lifted her head and stared at the speaker. Then she glanced
round the room. Everybody was looking at Crane as if waiting for him to
answer his own question.

Chapter VIII
The Search

"Why, I don't know," said Miss Wadsworth at last; "it must have been
some of the servants, I suppose. Let me see, we ladies all went
upstairs about midnight, and I suppose you men went to the
smoking-room--didn't you, Mr. Crane?"

"Yes; and we stayed there, I should think, some fifteen or twenty
minutes. There were only Arnold, Mr. Chapin, and myself. The night
before, Gale and Crosby were here, and we had a merrier time. But last
night we weren't very gay, and I went upstairs, I should say, about
twelve-thirty."

"That's right," said Mr. Chapin; "we went upstairs at half-past twelve.
When I left Mr. Arnold, he said he would make his tour of inspection of
the house, as he always did, set the alarm, and then turn in. He must
have done this, for he came upstairs not more than ten minutes after I
did."

As Ernest Chapin said all this, in a slow, clear, and careful voice, he
looked straight at Dorothy. The girl understood perfectly that he
intended to say nothing of the scene on the little balcony, or of Mr.
Arnold's appearance. She realized that he was doing this to screen her
from possible unkind criticisms, for while Justin Arnold's whereabouts
remained a mystery, it would be unpleasant to have a lovers' quarrel
affect the question.

Dorothy was grateful to Mr. Chapin for this consideration, and as of
course it was assumed that all the ladies had gone straight to their
rooms and stayed there, no further questions were asked about it.

But now that it was acknowledged that the disappearance was a mystery,
every one began to feel a vague uneasiness that was appalling because
of its very vagueness. The facts were so few and so contradictory:
Justin Arnold was missing; he could not get out of the house, and yet
he was not in the house. That was the case in a nutshell.

Peters returned from his search of the rooms, and announced that there
was no sign of the missing man, and no sign of anything unusual or
strange in any room.

"When did you see Mr. Arnold last, Peters?" inquired Mr. Crane of the
valet.

"When I laid out his dinner clothes, sir; or, rather, when I attended
him as he dressed for dinner."

"He seemed the same as usual?"

"Just the same, sir. I've been with Mr. Arnold for nearly ten years,
and he's always been the same. A kind master, but not given to talking
to his servants. As, indeed, why should he? But some masters chat a bit
now and then. After Mr. Arnold went down to dinner, I put his things in
order, turned down his bed, and laid out his night things, and that
always ends my duties for the day. Mr. Arnold never requires me when he
goes to bed. He says it only bothers him to have me about then. So my
evenings are my own."

"And when do you go to Mr. Arnold's room of a morning?" Mr. Crane had
taken upon himself the right to institute this investigation, and asked
his questions with the air of one in charge of a case.

"I never go, sir, until Mr. Arnold rings," Peters answered; "but he
always rings for me at half-past eight This morning he didn't; and as
it was the first time such a thing had ever happened, I was surprised.
I waited and waited, and then, something after nine o'clock, I went to
his room, and found he hadn't been there all night."

"He may have been there," objected Mr. Crane. "Well, sir, if he was, he
left no trace. Not a brush was touched, or anything on his dresser, or
in his bedroom or bath-room. Of course he may have been in the room and
gone away again, but he didn't sleep there last night. And"--Peters
paused impressively--"he isn't in this house now, sir. I'll swear to
that. I took two of the footmen, sir, and we've scoured the whole
house, and there's no sign of Mr. Arnold anywhere."

"Of course there isn't!" exclaimed Dorothy. "He wouldn't go and hide in
some cupboard, and, if he had a stroke of apoplexy or anything, he
couldn't have disappeared after it. I tell you he went out for some
perfectly sensible reason, and he'll come back when he gets ready. I
don't care anything about your burglar-alarm! If it's so clever and
ingenious, he probably had some equally clever way to turn it off and
on as he chose."

"But, Miss Duncan," said Driggs respectfully, "besides the burglar
alarm, every door and window is fastened on the inside. The doors have
heavy bolts and chains, and the windows have patent fastenings. These
were all intact this morning, when I came downstairs."

"All but one, Driggs," said Dorothy, smiling. "The one Mr. Arnold went
out at couldn't have been fastened this morning, although you think it
was."

Driggs said nothing, but looked unconvinced, and Mr. Crane suggested,
"He has so many clever mechanical contrivances, perhaps he could open a
door or window and then fasten it behind him."

"But there'd be no sense to it," said Ernest Chapin impatiently. "Why
should a man like Mr. Arnold leave his house secretly in the dead of
night? As his secretary, I am conversant with his business affairs, and
there is nothing among those that could call him away on a secret
errand. And if he had a secret errand, he was at liberty to go and
attend to it, unquestioned, in broad daylight."

"What, then, do you think is the solution of this mystery?" asked Mr.
Crane.

"I don't know," replied Chapin. "It seems to me that he must be in the
house, although, of course, Peters has made a thorough search."

"He can't be in the house," declared Miss Abby. "I don't care anything
about thorough searching; if Justin were in the house, he'd be in some
one of the rooms where he reasonably belongs. He went out of the house,
that's what he did!"

Every time this opinion was expressed, Driggs seemed to consider it an
imputation against his own fidelity and veracity. His long period of
service had given him certain privileges above those of an ordinary
butler, and he allowed himself to volunteer a remark.

"Miss Wadsworth," he began, "may I say that if Mr. Arnold did get out
of this house, which he couldn't do unbeknownst, the watchman must have
seen him do so? Would you, ma'am, call Malony and ask him?"

Glad of the new suggestion, Miss Wadsworth ordered that Malony be
summoned at once.

The big Irishman appeared, and, at a nod from Miss Abby, Mr. Crane
questioned him.

"You are the night watchman on the estate?"

"Yis, sor; I'm Malony, the night watchman. I've pathrolled these
grounds ivery night for manny years."

"Do you walk all round the place, systematically?"

"I do thot! It's me dooty to poonch the time-clocks ivery half-hour."

"And where are the time-clocks?"

"Well, sor, there's wan at the gatekeeper's lodge, wan at the shtables,
wan each at the four sides of the house and the four corners of the
grounds; betune 'em all, I'm all over the grounds all the time, and
nobody, least of all the masther, would be sthrollin' around without me
knowin' of it."

"But if he had left the house, Malony, when you were in a distant
corner of the grounds, you might not have seen him."

"Thrue for ye, sor; but thin, be the same token, I'd run across him
sooner or later, in me thrips, fer he couldn't get out of the grounds.
The big gate is locked and barred so strong that it wud take a
batterin'-ram to break it down. And this marnin' ivery one of thim
bolts and bars was jist as they should be. So I puts it to ye, sor: cud
anny man get out of that gate and bolt and bar it behind him? He cud
not! And cud he get over the wall? ye'll say. He cud not! The wall is
tin feet high, and the top av it is dekkyrated wid the foinest
collection of broken bottles to be found in the country. Their p'ints
stick up as jagged and sharp as so many swoord-blades, and if anny man
cud manage to climb over that wall, he'd be in ribbins when he kem down
on the other side! Would Mr. Arnold do thot? He wud not! And so it's
plain, sor, that Mr. Arnold did not come out av his house, which he
couldn't get out av; and did not purrood about his grounds, because,
forbye, he isn't there!"

Malony's voice, at the last, dropped to a mysterious and meaningful
whisper, so that Crane was moved to inquire, "What do you mean by
saying so emphatically that Mr. Arnold is nowhere on the grounds?"

"Becuz I searched iverywhere! Me and two of the gardeners and some of
the stable-b'ys, we've been scouring the grounds iver since we heard
Mr. Arnold was missin', and, though we've looked in ivery ravine and
holler, he jist ain't there!"

Mr. Crane rather prided himself on his "detective instinct," and he
caught at what he considered a point.

"If Mr. Arnold couldn't get out of the house, Malony, why did you go to
the trouble of making such a thorough search of the grounds?"

Malony's honest fact looked grave. "Perhaps it was raysonless, sor," he
said, "but them grounds is my special charge at night. And though Mr.
Arnold cuddent get out of the house without Driggs knowin' it, yet I
thought it was up to me to make sure that he wasn't in the grounds, in
case I shud be asked the question."

To more than one mind present, this was a slight indication of a
possible complicity on the part of Driggs. The only evidence that the
burglar-alarm had not been switched off and on again while Arnold went
out, was Driggs's word to that effect. But closely allied to that came
the thought that if Driggs were not telling the truth, Malony might be
equally mendacious!

However, there was no real reason to suspect these old servants. For
years they had been trusty and true, and any hypothesis leading toward
an idea that they connived at or assisted Justin Arnold's secret
departure from his own home was too melodramatic and absurd to be
considered for a moment.

The servants were dismissed, and the little group in the library looked
at one another blankly, while considering what to do next.

"Of course, only two things are possible," declared Fred Crane,
emphasizing his statement by pounding his right fist into his left
palm.

"What are they?" said his wife, as he seemed to be awaiting the
question.

"One is," and again came the emphatic pound, "that Arnold is on some
perfectly plausible and natural errand somewhere--"

"Which of course he is!" interrupted Dorothy, her eyes blazing as she
spoke.

"Or else," went on Crane, "those two men servants know where he is."

"Which two?" said Chapin.

"Driggs and Malony. Yes, and I will include Peters. If any harm has
come to Arnold, those men are responsible. For it is clear on the face
of it, Arnold couldn't leave the house or grounds without their
knowledge. And he has left,--that is also clear. Now the only question
is, why did he leave and where is he?"

"And I hold that it is none of our business," said Chapin. "If Mr.
Arnold chooses to go away without announcing his intention, he has
surely a right to do so. And if for any reason he wanted to preserve
secrecy, and for that end took his servants into his confidence, that,
too, is not our affair. For my part, I refuse to consider the matter a
mystery, unless he remains away an unreasonable length of time."

"I think you're wrong, Mr. Chapin," said Mabel Crane. "I'm sure Peters
was absolutely honest in his surprise at not finding his master in his
room, and I am equally sure that the other two men are not playing a
part."

"Yet what other conclusion can we come to?" said Chapin, a little
testily. "Have you anything else to offer? Personally I am not at all
sure that the servants connived at Mr. Arnold's departure. But it
doesn't matter. Mr. Arnold is not here, it is for us to await his
return, but not to speculate as to his whereabouts."

"I agree with you, Mabel," said Leila Duane, who had kept silence while
the others had discussed the matter. "I think any one could see at a
glance that those servants spoke the truth. If Mr. Arnold had gone away
secretly and told them not to tell, it would have been because of some
joke or little surprise for us, and the servants would have been
mysterious or enigmatical, but indifferent. Those men were scared,--that's
what they were,--scared. Now I tell you something has happened to
Mr. Arnold, and we ought to investigate at once. And even if I am
wrong, no harm can come of it."

Fred Crane looked at her. "Sensibly spoken, Leila!" he said; "but how
shall we go about an investigation? What can we do, more than has been
done?"

"Nothing has been done. To ask two or three servants to look over the
place is not investigating. Some one must take the lead, but surely I
am not the one to do it."

As head of the house, in Arnold's absence; Miss Wadsworth was looked to
for directions or suggestions. But the poor lady had no suggestions to
offer.

Ernest Chapin, as confidential secretary of the missing man, seemed
next in authority, but, like Miss Abby, he was agitated and unnerved at
the situation. Most of the time he sat with head bowed, as if deeply
depressed, and when spoken to he looked up with a start, and his face
expressed a horror of uncertainty that seemed to add a deeper tone to
the tragedy--if tragedy there were.

Dorothy Duncan persisted in treating the matter lightly. "I know Justin
better than any of you," she said; "and I know just what he would do
and what he would not do. And I know that he would not do any of the
absurd things that you people seem to think he has done. He would not
sneak out of his house at night, either with or without the assistance
of his servants, knowing that it would throw all of us into this state
of wonder and dismay. He would be too considerate of Miss Wadsworth and
of--of myself, to do such a thing!"

Chapter IX
Not Found

"Then, where is he?" spoke up Fred Crane crisply.

"I don't know where he is; but I know he is on some perfectly plausible
and commonplace errand. He has probably been delayed, but he will
return shortly, and as soon as he possibly can."

Fred Crane was a little disconcerted at this rational way of looking at
the matter, for already he had pictured himself doing clever detective
work in what gave promise of being a mystery, if not a tragedy.

Somewhat reassured by Dorothy's practical remarks, Miss Wadsworth began
to reason. "I really agree with you, Dorothy," she said, "or, rather, I
should do so if I did not know far better than you do, my child, about
the positive efficiency of the burglar-alarm. Why, once I went
downstairs, one hot summer night, and unfastened and opened a library
window. Scores of electric bells whirred all over the house, and the
servants seemed fairly to spring up out of the floor, they collected so
rapidly! I think with you that Justin did get out somehow, but not
unless that alarm had been turned off."

Fred Crane put on his thinking-cap at this. Could it be that Miss
Wadsworth suspected Driggs's veracity. But he hardly dared even hint at
this, so he rather cleverly made another suggestion.

"As so much seems to hinge on the evidence of that burglar-alarm," he
said, "why not send for an electrical expert of the right sort, and let
him examine it?"

"That is a fine idea!" exclaimed Miss Abby, who really had been forced
to let a suspicion of Driggs creep into her mind, though she fought
against it.

"And if I may make a suggestion," said Mrs. Duncan, in her quiet way,
"I propose that we send for Mr. Arnold's physician. I can't help
thinking that Justin may have had a stroke of some sort, and be
unconscious and helpless even now. His doctor could tell us if he were
subject to anything of the sort."

"I know he isn't subject to anything of the sort," said Miss Abby
thoughtfully, "but I think yours is a good idea, Mrs. Duncan. We will
send for Doctor Gaspard, and at least he can tell us if he ever feared
anything like that for Justin. Let us also send for an electrical
expert, or whoever it is that examines complicated machinery. Who would
such a man be? Do you know, Mr. Chapin?"

Ernest Chapin looked up with a start "Why, yes--yes," he said, as if
striving confusedly to bring his mind to bear on the question. "I--I
think, Miss Wadsworth, we might send direct to the firm who put the
alarm in, and ask them to send us a capable man for the purpose."

"Yes, do so," cried Fred Crane. "Let us telephone for him. We must make
search for Arnold, and we cannot do so intelligently until we
understand more about the working of that alarm. I'm sorry, but I
cannot believe, with Miss Duncan, that Arnold has gone off casually,
and will soon return. I think the mystery is deeper than that, and I
think, too, it is exceedingly wise to call in the family physician.
There are other things than strokes or seizures that work harm to a
man."

Then Mabel Crane spoke out, voicing the thought that had been secretly
in the mind of every one. "Oh, Fred," she cried, almost hysterically,
"you don't mean suicide!"

"Hush, hush, Mabel," admonished her husband. "We've no reason to think
of such a thing. Justin was happy, and on the eve of his marriage to
the girl he loved. Why should he dream of self-destruction just now, of
all times?" It had been in Mr. Crane's mind, but when his wife put it
into words, the idea seemed so impossible that he repudiated it at
once.

But, by a sudden mutual impulse, Dorothy and Ernest Chapin looked at
each other for the briefest moment, and then looked away again.

Mabel Crane intercepted the glance and they both saw her.

Dorothy flushed scarlet, but Chapin turned white. Then, apparently with
an effort, he drew himself together, and taking some letters from his
pocket he began to look them over.

Miss Wadsworth responded to Mabel's suggestion.

"No," she said, very decidedly, "the Arnolds do not commit suicide. Of
course there is no reason why Justin should do so, but if there were a
thousand reasons for it, he would not do it. I know him well, and a
stronger, braver, truer man does not live. You know this, Dorothy?"

"Y--yes," stammered the girl. "Yes, Miss Abby, of course I know--know it.
Justin is a splendid man,--a fine man," and then bursting into tears,
she again hid her face in her mother's arms.

"I don't see, Dorothy," said Mabel Crane, "if you are so positive
nothing has happened to Justin, why you are so overcome."

"And I don't see why it should interest you!" and Dorothy, sitting
upright, looked at Mrs. Crane almost angrily. "Of course, I know Justin
is all right, but you all drive me crazy with your talk about suicide,
and 'something happening'! I don't wonder I'm upset! You would be, too,
if people were looking at you and then looking at each other, and then
nodding their heads as if--as if--"

"As if what?" demanded Mrs. Crane, with spirit.

But Dorothy's anger faded. "Nothing, Mabel. Don't mind me. I don't know
what I'm saying."

"Then you'd better not say anything," and Mabel Crane looked sternly at
her.

At this juncture, Driggs returned to the library, and, going to Miss
Wadsworth, showed her a somewhat worn brown leather pocketbook.

"It's Mr. Crosby's, ma'am," said Driggs. "He left it in his bedroom,
ma'am, when he went away yesterday. And he telephoned me this morning,
ma'am, from Philadelphia, as how it contained valuable papers, and
would I ask Mr. Arnold to send it to him at once, by registered mail.
That would be about eight o'clock, ma'am, that he telephoned, and I
told, him I would tell Mr. Arnold. And then, ma'am, in the excitement,
I forgot all about the matter until just now. Will you send it to him,
ma'am, or will Mr. Chapin?"

"Certainly," replied Miss Abby, taking the pocketbook and handing it to
Ernest Chapin.

"Please attend to it, Mr. Chapin, and get it off as soon as possible.
The delay may trouble Mr. Crosby."

"Certainly," said Ernest Chapin, taking the wallet. But he sat fumbling
with it absentmindedly, as if his thoughts were far away.

"There's another thing," said Leila Duane: "as Mr. Crosby and Mr. Gale
are Mr. Arnold's lawyers, perhaps they may know something about him.
Perhaps he went to Philadelphia to see them."

"He didn't go to Philadelphia," said Fred Crane, a little weary of the
reiteration, "because he couldn't get out to go anywhere; but I think
Gale and Crosby ought to be notified about what has happened."

"There hasn't anything happened," insisted Dorothy. "At least, nothing
that ought not to happen. But I do believe that Justin did go to New
York to see a lawyer. Don't tell me he couldn't get out! He must have
gotten out! And there's just where he's gone! He told me he wanted a
will made, and he didn't want Mr. Crosby or Mr. Gale to draw it up."

"Why not?" asked Fred Crane, in astonishment. "They're his lawyers."

"Yes, I know; but you see, he wanted to leave Mr. Crosby quite a sum of
money, and he didn't want to leave Mr. Gale anything; you know Mr.
Crosby is related to him and Mr. Gale isn't. Well, anyway, he said it
would be less personally embarrassing to go to some other lawyer. He
spoke of some one in New York; I forget the name."

"I never heard of such nonsense!" declared Crane. "Gale couldn't expect
anything, and of course Crosby would."

"Justin was always sensitive about such matters," said Miss Abby; "it's
just like him."

"Well, whether it's like him or not," said Dorothy, "it's what he told
me he was going to do. I suppose he has a right to do as he chooses in
such matters!"

"Of course, child," said Crane; "don't flare up over it! No one is
blaming you. But granting all that, why would a man go off in the
middle of the night to get a will made? It's preposterous!"

"But what isn't preposterous as a solution of his disappearance?" said
Leila.

"I'm sure that's what he did do," persisted Dorothy. "He took a notion
to go to New York, and he went."

"Well, I advise notifying Mr. Gale and Mr. Crosby of the situation,"
said Crane. "I for one don't feel satisfied to sit and do nothing. I
may be mistaken, but I think we ought to stir around a little. And
perhaps Arnold has gone to Philadelphia to see his lawyers there."

"That's too ridiculous," said Dorothy; "why would he do that, when they
were just here yesterday?"

But she flushed as she spoke and her lip trembled. Then she tossed her
head defiantly, and said, "Do whatever you like. I'm sure I've no
objections to any investigation,--as you call it."

"Doing anything is better than doing nothing," declared Miss Abby. "Mr.
Crane and Mr. Chapin, I wish you would do all the telephoning, please.
Get the electrical man and the doctor, and then get a long distance to
Philadelphia and see if Mr. Gale knows anything about Justin."

"Better get Gale first," said Mr. Crane. "If Arnold is there, there's
no use of getting in experts of any sort."

"That's so," agreed Ernest Chapin, and the two men went away to
telephone.

"I shall hunt for a note," said Dorothy, jumping up; "come on, Leila,
let's see if we can't find one, and get ahead of all these smart
people."

But their search was unsuccessful. Though they looked in probable and
improbable places, no missive was found explaining the mysterious
absence of the man of the house. Imbued with the spirit of search the
girls wandered through the old mansion, peering into many unused rooms,
poking into dark closets and cupboards, and even going up into some of
the dusty old attics.

"Perhaps, like that Ginevra Lady, he hid in an old oak chest, and the
cover snapped shut, and he couldn't get out," suggested Leila, as she
lifted the lid of a dusty old chest that looked as if it had been
undisturbed for years; "don't you remember, Dorothy, how the girl did
that on her wedding eve, and they never found her for years afterward?"

"Oh, Leila, don't say such dreadful things!" exclaimed Dorothy,
shuddering.

"Why, you needn't care; you think he's just gone out for a walk, or
something. I think something dreadful has happened to him."

"What thing dreadful could happen to him?" and Dorothy sank limply down
on a dusty old hair trunk, for the forlorn and lonely dark attic with
its blackened beams and dark cobwebby corners got on her nerves. "Come
on, Leila, let's go downstairs, for pity's sake!" and Dorothy made a
rush for the staircase, catching Leila's hand and dragging her along
with her.

"What's the matter, Dorothy? Did you see a ghost?"

But this ill-timed suggestion only added to Dorothy's terror, and she
flew downstairs to the bright, beautiful library, and nestled close to
her mother's side on the sofa where Mrs. Duncan was still sitting.

"Have you heard from Mr. Crosby?" Dorothy asked, breathlessly.

"Or Mr. Gale?" supplemented Leila, and then, fearful lest she might be
thought to show too much personal interest, she added, "he's the senior
member of the firm, isn't he?"

This ruse deceived nobody, for all present knew that Leila and Mr. Gale
were more than interested in each other.

Mr. Crane answered both girls by saying, "Yes, we reached them by
telephone. I talked with Mr. Gale, and he said they had seen or heard
nothing of Arnold. He thinks the situation most extraordinary, and he
says they will both come here at once, as he thinks such a course
advisable."

"I'm glad of it," said Dorothy, "if they can help us in any way. But I
don't think we shall ever see Justin again."

"How silly you are, dearie," said her mother; "of course we shall see
him again, and I hope soon."

"When will Mr. Gale and Mr. Crosby arrive?" asked Leila, for she was
already considering in what gown she would better array herself.

"Gale said they'd leave on the three o'clock express. They can't get
here much before seven--just in good time for dinner," said Mr. Crane,
who had now definitely assumed the dictatorship. He was partly pushed
into this position by Ernest Chapin's inability to pull himself
together enough to be of any use. Indeed, the young secretary almost
acted as if tragedy had already befallen, instead of merely an unspoken
dread of it. He looked about with a vacant stare; when spoken to, he
started suddenly, and then replied at random. His eyes looked
frightened and vacant at the same time. He begged Mr. Crane to do the
required telephoning, for he said he really didn't feel up to it.

"Don't take it so hard, Chapin," Fred Crane had responded, "I don't
think anything untoward has happened to old Justin; but if that should
be the case, it can't affect you as deeply as it would Dorothy and Miss
Wadsworth. So brace up and do what you can to help."

Chapter X
Dorothy's Promise

But though the men from Philadelphia could not reach White Birches
until seven o'clock, the doctor and the electrical engineer arrived
during the afternoon hours.

Their information proved of no help in solving the mystery, but rather
deepened it.

After a thorough and careful examination of the burglar-alarm and all
its attachments, annunciators and indicators, the electrical expert
pronounced it the most marvellous affair of its kind he had ever seen.
He said that it was in perfect order, and that, owing to its wonderful
and ingenious mechanism, it was positively impossible that any one
should have gone out of the house between 12.30 a.m., when it was
turned on, and 7.30 a.m., when Driggs had turned it off. The man staked
his entire reputation as an electrical expert on the positiveness of
this statement; after which there was of course nothing to do but to
theorize that Justin Arnold was still under his own roof, although this
seemed equally impossible.

As to Doctor Gaspard, he simply pooh-poohed any suggestion that there
was any flaw in Arnold's physical constitution or mental equipment.
While, he said, a stroke of apoplexy or paralysis might happen to any
one, yet some were far more liable to it than others, and Justin Arnold
was the farthest possible removed from the type of constitution that
would indicate that sort of thing. He, too, was willing to stake his
professional reputation that whatever had happened to Arnold, if
anything, was not a physical seizure of any kind. Nor was it any
variety of mental derangement. Justin Arnold's brain was not of a sort
to give way in an emergency, or under mental pressure of any kind; and,
moreover, no emergency or mental pressure had transpired that would
even hint at such a condition.

"He is one of the soundest-minded men I know," concluded Doctor
Gaspard, "and while I agree with you all that it is most mysterious,
yet I must suspect the fallibility of a perfect machine before I can
admit a hypothesis implying sudden dementia on the part of Justin
Arnold."

"And that's where it stands," said Fred Crane, thoughtfully; "either
Arnold's strong, well-balanced brain gave way, or else his infallible
burglar device did. Both these things are pronounced impossible by
experts,--so what is there left to think?"

As the electrical expert was still present, he looked upon this speech
as a direct implication that he had misunderstood or misrepresented the
infallibility of the burglar-alarm. Being of a somewhat choleric
nature, he chose to take offence at this and remarked heatedly that for
his part he would sooner suspect the strongest mind in the strongest
body in the world, than the fallibility of a perfect machine!

"And a perfect machine it is," he went on, earnestly. "You ladies and
gentlemen who are unacquainted with the real working of such a
marvellous piece of ingenuity, cannot expect to understand how
wonderful and beautiful its various perfections are. But you may take
my word for it, as an experienced electrician, there never has been
anything finer made of its kind; and you may be convinced that it is a
physical impossibility for Mr. Arnold to have left this house secretly
while that alarm was on."

The old doctor sniffed, and the young electrician glared back at him.
Mr. Crane strove to reconcile the irreconcilable, by saying: "Then we
must conclude that since Arnold was sane and in his right mind, and
since he could not get out of this house, that he must still be in the
house, and that of his own knowledge and volition he is hiding himself
from us. We have searched the house thoroughly; but I suppose there is
a possibility of some secret passage or hiding place where he might be
hidden, though I can conceive of no reason for such an act."

Old Doctor Gaspard rose stiffly. "I cannot acquaint you with Mr.
Arnold's reasons for what seems to be an eccentric performance, but I
can assure you that whatever Mr. Arnold is doing, he knows perfectly
well why he is doing it. As I assume I cannot help you further in what
must necessarily now become a search for the missing man, I will ask
you to excuse me."

With a disdainful glance at the electrician, whom he considered his
rival in the mere question of expert evidence, Doctor Gaspard made his
adieux and went away.

The electrician, concluding that his usefulness was also at an end,
followed, and the members of the household were again left to confront
the ever deepening mystery of the disappearance of Justin Arnold.

Though appalled by the situation, Fred Crane was taking a lively
interest in this opportunity to test his detective powers, and though
he had as yet accomplished nothing positively, yet he had the negative
evidence of the two experts who had been called in, to work upon.

"It's just this way," he said. "Arnold must be somewhere. He couldn't
get out of the house, so he must be in the house. We've not been able
to find him, so we are forced to the conclusion that there is some kind
of a secret passage by which he has access to the outer world. This is
not an unprecedented case. In many old houses like this there are
secret and subterranean passages unsuspected by chance observers."

"But not in this country," remarked Mrs. Duncan. "I've never heard of
such thing's over here."

"But there is no other explanation, Mrs. Duncan," went on Crane,
earnestly; "the process of elimination leaves that the only possible
explanation of Justin's disappearance. He couldn't go up a chimney; he
didn't go out of any door or window, and since he is not in the house,
he must have left by some secret passage. Do you not agree with me?"

"I suppose so," said Mrs. Duncan, agreeing only because she had no
other possibility to suggest.

"Well, if that's true," put in Mabel, "I'll find that secret passage!
If there's one in this house, I'll find it. If there's anything in this
secret passage idea, then it must be that Justin went through his
secret door and the lock sprung, or something, and he couldn't get
back. But he isn't hiding on purpose; and if he's walled up anywhere,
I'll get him out if I have to pull the walls down!"

"Don't go to pulling the walls down, Mabel," said her husband; "when
Mr. Crosby comes, he can tell us if there's any secret passage. I've
often heard him say that he knows every nook and cranny of the whole
place."

"Yes, he does," said Miss Abby; "as a child he was always rummaging
around in the attics and cellars, and if there's any subterranean
passage he'll know of it."

"Then there's nothing to do but to wait until Mr. Crosby comes," said
Ernest Chapin, thoughtfully.

"But it seems awful to do nothing," said Fred Crane. "Suppose we
telephone for a detective."

"Oh, mercy, no!" exclaimed Miss Abby, "I have a perfect horror of
detectives! Do let us wait until Mr. Crosby and Mr. Gale come; I'm sure
they can do something."

"I'm sure I don't know what they can do more than we can," declared Mr.
Crane, who felt his own services unappreciated; "come, Mabel, let us go
for a walk through the grounds,--we may find something by way of a
clue."

The party dispersed, only to congregate again in small groups here and
there, to discuss the mystery.

Ernest Chapin asked Dorothy to go out on the South Terrace with him for
a little chat, and, after a moment's hesitation, the girl complied.
They found themselves alone on the terrace, and Dorothy said, "You
don't think, do you, Mr. Chapin, that Justin's absence has anything to
do with last night's scene?"

"What scene do you mean?" said Chapin, looking exceedingly perturbed.

"Why, the scene he made when he found you and me out on the little
balcony, looking at the moon."

"I wasn't looking at the moon," said Chapin, and he turned away his
eyes as he added in a low voice, "I was looking at you."

"Never mind what you were looking at," said Dorothy, blushing a little.
"He spied us while you were looking; and I'm asking you if you think
that circumstance had anything to do with his disappearance."

"How could it?" demanded Chapin savagely. "Do you suppose he went off
and hanged himself because he saw me kiss you?" And then he added
bitterly, "I only wish he had!"

"Oh, Mr. Chapin, how can you talk like that?" And Dorothy turned her
lovely, frightened face toward him.

"Forgive me, Dorothy; I oughtn't to have spoken like that. I don't know
what I'm saying. This thing has unnerved me."

"Then, you too think something awful has happened to Justin?"

"I don't see how anything could happen to him, but I can't believe in a
casual explanation of his absence. Can you?"

"No--if he were away on some errand, he would send word to me, somehow.
He wouldn't leave me in suspense all this time."

"Unless he is angry with you," suggested Chapin.

"Well, if he is, Mr. Chapin, it's all your fault!" and Dorothy's eyes
blazed with indignation.

"Then I'm glad of it," said Chapin exultantly. "If he's angry at you
because he saw us together last night, and has gone away for that
reason, I'm glad of it; and the longer he stays away, the better I'll
like it!"

This speech did not seem to rouse Dorothy's ire as it should have done.
Looking at Chapin gravely, she said, "What did Justin say to you last
night after I left you?"

For a long time Chapin did not reply, and then when the silence had
become almost unbearable he answered, "Nothing of any importance. And,
Dorothy, be advised by me in this matter: never mention to any living
soul that you and I were on the balcony last night, or that Arnold
discovered us there. Will you promise me this?"

"Why?" and Dorothy's face looked troubled; "it may have been imprudent,
but it wasn't a--a crime."

Chapin regarded her gravely. "Dorothy, dearest, I am very much in
earnest You must not,--you shall not tell anyone of that episode. I
forbid it!"

"I am not accustomed to being forbidden!"

"Then I beg it; I implore that you will give me your promise. Do,
Dorothy, do!"

The man's intensity of appeal startled her. "Why?" she asked again.

"Never mind why. This mystery of Mr. Arnold's disappearance is not to
be cleared up in a moment. And in his absence I am going to take care
of you."

"What do you mean?" and Dorothy's eyes were big and frightened.

"Don't ask me what I mean! Just promise what I ask!"

"Yes,--I promise;" she spoke in a whisper as if hypnotized by Chapin's
dominant personality. "Indeed, I have no wish to tell any one of that
scene. I went to,--I mean,--I meant to tell Justin this morning that such
a thing should never happen again."

"But it shall happen again!" said Chapin, and, though he spoke in low
tones, his voice had an exultant ring in it that startled Dorothy.

"What do you mean by that?" she breathed.

"I mean what I say! I told you last night you should never marry
Arnold, and you shan't! You are mine, mine, and, whether Arnold returns
or not, you shall never marry him, but you shall marry me! Because,
Dorothy, because--you love me!"

Disregarding the real tenor of his speech, Dorothy caught at a phrase.

"Whether Justin returns or not," she repeated. "Why do you say that?
Then, you do think something has happened to him!"

"I can't say," said Chapin, speaking more gently. "It's a mystery,
dear, a deep mystery. But I doubt if it is solved very soon."

And then Mrs. Duncan appeared, and carried Dorothy off to her room to
rest.

"What do you think, Mother?" asked the girl, when they were alone.

"I don't know, darling. There seems no explanation whatever; but of
course there must be one soon. Meantime, my child, I want you to be
more careful in your behavior. You must not flirt with that Mr. Chapin.
I know you don't mean anything--flirtation is second nature to you--but,
my dear child, it won't do! In Justin's absence I shall look after you
as carefully as he would if he were here, and I cannot allow you to
play at love-making with Mr. Chapin."

"It isn't playing, Mother," said Dorothy, in a low voice.

"What do you mean by that, Dorothy?"

"I mean that it isn't playing, because it's real. I do love him,
Mother, and I don't love Justin."

"Why, Dorothy, you do!"

"No, Mother, I don't. When I engaged myself to him, I thought I loved
him; or, at least, I liked him as well as anybody. But I hadn't met Mr.
Chapin then; and now--"

"Now you think you love him better than Justin! Dorothy, I'm not going
to scold you, because you don't know your own mind, and you really
imagine this state of things. But I'm going to forbid you ever to be
alone with Mr. Chapin, and I'm going to command you to stamp out
whatever affection you may think you feel for him. As Justin's'
promised wife, your faith and loyalty are due to him, and I know you
must see for yourself that it is unfaithful and disloyal to treat Mr.
Chapin as anything more than a mere acquaintance and your future
husband's secretary."

Dorothy nestled in her mother's embrace, feeling, as she always did,
the loving security of it.

"But suppose, Mother, that Justin never comes back."

"Dorothy! What an idea! Of course he'll come back! Why shouldn't he?"

"Well, but you know it's pretty queer. He couldn't have been kidnapped,
and wherever he is, he ought to telephone me--or--or something."

Dorothy flung herself on her bed, and burst into violent sobs.

"Now, Dorothy, sit up and be sensible. When we learn that something has
happened to Justin it is time enough for you to cry like that. Stop it,
now, and look forward to his return. Let me bathe your forehead with
violet water."

"I don't want any violet water! Go 'way, Mother! I want to be alone."

"Well, you can't be. I won't leave you like this. You're unstrung,
dearie, but a little nap will set you right."

Mrs. Duncan soothed Dorothy, stroking her brow gently, until the girl
did fall asleep. But she woke with a start, crying: "Oh, what will
Mother say when she knows!"

Mrs. Duncan was startled, but said, calmly, "There, there, dear, what
were you dreaming about?"

Dorothy sat up, her eyes wide and staring, her cheeks white.

"What did I say, Mother,--what did I say?" she asked, a little wildly.

"Nothing of importance," said her mother, smiling at her. "Now, dear,
you must conquer this nervousness, and get dressed. A refreshing bath
and a pretty frock will make you all over. What shall you wear? Pick
out a frock Justin likes, for I've no doubt he'll be home to dinner."

"Why, Mother, you speak as if he had only run down to New York on an
errand."

"And very likely that is just what he has done. Now mind, Dorothy, no
more flirtation with Mr. Chapin."

"I'll promise you that I'll never flirt with Ernest Chapin again; but
until Justin does come back, I must have somebody to talk to."

"You're a little rogue," said her mother, kissing her fondly, "and as
I'm here to look after you, I'm not much afraid that you'll do anything
very dreadful. But I forbid you ever to be alone with Mr. Chapin for a
moment, and I shall see to it myself that my commands are obeyed. Now
you must get dressed for dinner, dearie. What shall you wear?"

"I don't know," returned Dorothy thoughtfully. "I don't feel like
wearing bright colors, for it seems, somehow, as if Justin were dead."

"Don't talk like that," said Mrs. Duncan peremptorily. "Put on your
rose and silver. If we feel down-hearted, that's all the more reason we
should look as cheerful as possible. And probably Justin will come home
to dinner, any way, and he likes you in that dress."

"He likes me in anything; but he doesn't love me in anything. At least,
not what I call love."

As these words were half-muttered, Mrs. Duncan did not entirely catch
them, and she went away to her own room, leaving Dorothy to decide on
her costume for herself.

Chapter XI
Flirtation

Glancing from her window, Dorothy saw Mabel and Leila strolling across
the lawn deeply engrossed in conversation.

"Perhaps they've heard something!" she said to herself. "I'll get
dressed early and go down."

Had she heard what the two were saying, she might not have cared to go
down so soon, for they were talking of her.

"She's a dear," said Leila, "and I hate to realize what a little flirt
she is."

"She's so pretty, she can't help it," said Mabel. "But she ought to
have a little regard for the proprieties."

"Why, what has she done very dreadful?"

"Oh, it isn't so very dreadful, but it doesn't look well."

"What is it? Tell me."

"Well, don't you breathe it, but last night, awfully late, I saw her
creeping slyly downstairs."

"Why, she was in my room until we went to bed," and Leila looked
uninterested.

"Oh, I mean later than that. It was almost two o'clock."

"What!"

"Yes, it was. There was a window shade flapping in the hall, and it
kept me awake, and I got up to fix it, and I saw Dorothy in one of
those lovely negligees of hers, moving along the wall toward the
stairs."

"Did you see her go down?"

"Yes; she had her hair in two long braids and a rosebuddy little cap
on."

"What was she going down for?"

"I don't know, I'm sure. To flirt with somebody, I suppose. I didn't
tell Fred, he hates anything like eavesdropping, and I wasn't;--I just
saw her by the merest chance."

"I wonder who was down there," said Leila thoughtfully.

"Probably that Mr. Chapin. He's wild over Dorothy."

"Who isn't? She has more charm than any girl I ever saw."

"Who says she hasn't? I know how pretty and attractive she is. But that
doesn't excuse friskiness like that. She oughtn't to do it."

"Perhaps she went down for water, or to get a book, or something."

"Perhaps she didn't! You know the appointments of this house better
than that! And she wasn't in a kimono. It was one of those white, lacy
Parisian boudoir robes of hers, with a bunch of that scarlet sage she's
always wearing, stuck in her belt. Oh, she was on an escapade all
right!"

"A harmless one, I'm sure. Maybe she was going to see Justin."

"More likely Chapin. I tell you she's in love with him."

"I don't think so."

"Then you can't read signs. You watch them to-night. Well, it's
dressing time. I suppose those Philadelphia men will come soon. And I
do hope Justin will show up. I haven't the least fear about him, have
you?"

"I don't know whether I have or I haven't," and Leila looked anxious.
"It's awfully queer,--and yet I can't think there's anything wrong.
Goodness, there's Dorothy, all dressed. Doesn't she look lovely!"

And Dorothy did. The exquisite gown of rose satin and silver tulle
draped her dainty figure in a soft silhouette, and her rounded babyish
arms and neck needed no jewel or ornament to accent their loveliness.

She paused for a bit of gay banter with the two, and then, as they went
on, she turned toward the South Terrace, half hoping she'd find Ernest
Chapin there. For wilful Dorothy had not the slightest intention of
obeying her mother's injunctions regarding that young man.

Chapin, was not there, but Campbell Crosby was. He stood leaning
against the terrace rail, with folded arms, looking out across the
ravine. Dorothy went softly up to him, and stood by his side. As he
turned and saw her, his face lighted up with a glad smile of greeting,
and, taking both her hands in his, he said in a low tone, "Oh, I'm so
glad to be back--with you."

It was no new thing to Dorothy Duncan to learn that a man was glad to
come back to her, and she had long known that Campbell Crosby was
desperately in love with her. But the little coquette had truly given
her whole heart to Ernest Chapin, and since she had realized this she
had no room in that really true and loyal little heart for even the
shadow of any other man. But she could not change her innate spirit of
coquetry, and so she flashed a meaning glance from her dark eyes to
Crosby's, as she murmured, "Am I the real reason you're glad to be
back?"

"Yes," said Crosby, coming a step nearer, and forcibly repressing a mad
desire to take her in his arms; "and you know it, Dorothy!"

While not denying it, Dorothy assumed an expression of great gravity,
and said pleadingly, "Don't look at me like that. Remember the real
reason you are here--to help us find Justin. Oh, Mr. Crosby, where do
you think he can be?"

"I don't care where he is," said Crosby, flinging discretion to the
winds, "so long as he isn't here to forbid my looking at you."

Now, when Ernest Chapin said this sort of thing, Dorothy's heart was
glad, however much she might pretend to be offended. But aside from the
passing interest she felt in every man, she had no particular favor to
show to Campbell Crosby. And so she frowned as she answered, "Please
don't talk like that, Mr. Crosby. Do you know, I can't help thinking
something has happened to Justin."

"Nonsense! He'll turn up at dinner-time, hungry as a hunter, and with a
perfectly good explanation of where he's been and what he's been up
to."

"Oh, do you think so!" cried Dorothy, and a great wave of relief passed
over her. Somehow the assertion of this big lawyer man carried a sense
of security and safety.

"It's an ill wind that blows nobody good," went on Crosby. "Gale and I
have a most important case requiring our attention in Philadelphia just
now, but as soon as he heard the news this morning, he decreed that we
should come here at once--both of us. And you may be sure that I raised
no objection."

The admiring look that accompanied this speech gave a lead that Dorothy
followed almost unconsciously, so accustomed was she to this sort of
thing.

"I'm glad you didn't object too strongly," she answered, and the swift
rise and fall of her long lashes added a deeper meaning to the words
than they possessed. Indeed, they didn't possess any, and Dorothy was
really thinking of something else at the time, but this was her way
with a man.

"Does that mean you're glad I'm here? Oh, Dorothy, let it mean that!
Please do!"

Dorothy looked at him provokingly, tantalizingly. "Of course I'm glad
you're here. You and Mr. Gale will help us find Justin, won't you?"

"Do leave Justin out for a moment, and think only of me."

"I will--for a moment." Dorothy leaned against the vine-clad pillar and
gazed intently at the young man. There was a mocking smile in her eyes
that irritated, while it fascinated, him.

He returned her gaze steadily, and said in low, tense tones, "You think
it's just for a moment, don't you? Well, you're going to look at me
like that for the rest of your life!"

Dorothy burst into a merry laugh. Accustomed though she was to
admiration, and even to sudden proposals, this calm announcement of
Crosby's seemed the most audacious thing she had ever heard.

"Guess again," she said saucily. "As soon as you find Justin for me, I
shall reserve all my gazes for him, and for him only."

"But suppose," began Crosby, speaking slowly and very
seriously--"suppose Justin--"

"I know what you're going to say: suppose Justin never comes back? I
have begun to suppose that. I can't help it. It's very mysterious, but
it must be that something has happened to him. What could it be, Mr.
Crosby?"

"How should I know? He was all right when I left here yesterday. But,
Dorothy, listen to me a moment. If he should never return, if you are
freed from him forever, won't you let me--"

Dorothy interrupted him a little sharply. "Don't talk like that, Mr.
Crosby. This is no time for such a subject."

"But the time will come, and I can wait, my beautiful Dorothy!"

Campbell Crosby was a tall man, of fine physique and bearing. And as he
stood calmly looking down at little Dorothy, he gave an impression of
splendid power, and the girl looked at him with a new admiration. She
liked a masterful man, and, though she had never taken any special
interest in Campbell Crosby, she suddenly realized that he was a
worthwhile man. But then the thought of Ernest Chapin returned to her,
and she knew that, compared to him, all other men were as nothing to
her.

"Campbell," she said, sending a thrill through him as he heard her
pronounce his name, "you mustn't talk to me like that. I forbid it!"

But as the forbidding was accompanied by a snowflake of a hand laid
lightly on his arm, it wasn't absolutely successful.

Crosby laid his own hand over hers. "Well, haven't I just said I won't?
Or, at least,--that I will wait. Now, how do you want me to talk to
you?"

"Oh, any way, just to pass the time till the others come down."

"And I'm simply a stop-gap, am I! Very well, I'm content; but I warn
you I shall make the most of my time!"

"What are you going to do?" and Dorothy looked at him provokingly.

"Hold your hand, for one thing," and Crosby clasped it in both of his.
"And then, if I can get a real good chance, when no one is looking
I--may--kiss--"

"Mr. Crosby!"

"--may kiss your finger tips," went on Crosby, calmly.

"Oh!" and naughty Dorothy looked purposely disappointed. She smiled at
him, and the red lips so near his own, and the soft faint perfume of
her hair made his senses reel, and catching her in his arms he kissed
her madly, and then held her off at arms' length. "There!" he said,
lightly, "that's what little girls get when they come too near!"

"Was I too near?" and Dorothy put up the face of a rebuked cherub.

"Dorothy, stop! I can't stand it! Have you no mercy, child? But some
day, you shall be all my very own! You say this is no time to tell you
this, and so I will wait; but, the time will come, my little love.
When,--when Justin returns, I shall tell him you are mine,--not his!"

"Oh, I don't think so, Mr. Crosby," and Dorothy shrugged her dimpled
shoulders as she turned away. "A lady's consent is thought to be
necessary to such an arrangement."

"Not for me," and Crosby smiled gaily; "I'm a Cave Man, and I shall
carry off the lady I want, regardless of her wishes."

Crosby stood with folded arms, looking very big and handsome. Of
magnificent physique, and in splendid condition, he seemed quite
capable of picking up a maiden and running away with her.

The idea amused Dorothy. "When Cave Men carry off little girls," she
said, "do they throw them over their shoulders,--or just grabble them up
under their arms?"

Crosby considered. "There are various technical methods," he said; "if
it's a very big man and a very little girl, as in this case, he
just--well, I'll show you--"

"No, don't!" cried Dorothy; "here comes Mrs. Crane!"

"Some other time, then," murmured Crosby, and turned to greet Mabel.

"I'm so glad you came, dear," said Dorothy; "I've entertained Mr.
Crosby to the very limit of my powers. He's bored to death with me; so
you take him in charge while I run and play with Mr. Gale. Hello,
Emory! Here's me!"

Others came then, and soon there were several groups, all trying to
avoid the subject of Arnold's disappearance, but all coming back to it
sooner or later.

Mabel Crane did not hesitate. "Mr. Crosby," she said, at once, "they
tell me you know all about this place. Now I want to ask you something.
Is there any secret passage of any kind in this old house?"

"Secret passage! What do you mean?"

"Why, I'm determined to find Justin, myself, if possible. Now, they all
say he couldn't have gotten out of this house last night. But if there
is a secret passage that no one knows about, of course he could have
gone out that way. And they said that you would know if there was one."

"Who said that?" asked Crosby.

"Why, I don't know--Miss Wadsworth, I think. At any rate, they all
agreed that if any such thing exists, you would be likely to know about
it."

"Of course I should. I know every nook and corner of this house, both
the old original structure and the modern additions. You see, I always
spent my summers here as a boy, and Justin and I were everlastingly
exploring the place. No, there is no secret passage. Those things are
built in mediaeval castles, or sometimes in old English mansions, but I
fancy there are not many in America. At any rate, there are no sliding
panels or staircases in the wall at White Birches. Of that I'm
positive."

"I thought there couldn't be," said Mabel, "or we should have heard of
it before. But then, where is Justin, and how did he get out of the
house?"

Crosby passed his hand wearily across his brow. "Mrs. Crane," he said,
"I fear that question will be asked many times before it is answered.
Of course, my own theory--"

Some of the others joined them just then, and as Mabel took little
interest in theories, when she wanted to learn facts, she did not ask
Crosby to finish his sentence.

Conversation at dinner touched more or less upon the subject of the
mystery, but the talk was not general, and each one merely exchanged
views with his neighbor. The vacant chair at the head of the table cast
an atmosphere of gloom over the diners. Little was eaten, and all were
glad when Miss Wadsworth gave the signal to rise.

Nor was it long before the men drifted into the library, where the
women sat awaiting them.

"It seems to me," began Miss Wadsworth, "that the time has come to do
something more definite in our search for Justin. We have asked Mr.
Gale and Mr. Crosby, as lawyers, to advise us, but I think that we must
employ the services of some professional."

"You mean a detective?" asked Fred Crane. "I thought you seriously
objected to that."

"I did at first; but since I've talked with Mr. Gale I'm more
reconciled to the idea."

"I think the matter is a very grave one," said Emory Gale, tacitly
assuming an attitude of leading the discussion, somewhat to the
discomfiture of Mr. Crane, who himself coveted that position. "We have
few facts to work upon," continued Gale, "but they are startling ones
and apparently inexplicable. We are convinced that the extreme efficacy
of the burglar-alarm prevented Arnold from leaving the house; and yet
he is not to be found in the house. Of course I am assuming that the
search of the house has been thorough, as I am informed it has been.
There has been suggestion of a secret panel leading to a concealed
staircase or passage through the wall, but this idea seems to me
fanciful. Had there been such a thing, we doubtless would have known of
it, for Arnold was fond of exhibiting such features of the house as
were peculiar or interesting. Crosby, you know the house well. Does it
contain any secret doors or passages?"

"It does not," replied Crosby. "As boys, Justin and I explored every
part of the estate, both house and grounds, and no such secret passage
exists."

"Then we may eliminate that theory," went on Gale; "and so we are again
confronted by a blank wall of seeming contradictions. Arnold is not in
the house--yet he could not get out of the house. But there must be an
explanation, and, speaking theoretically, I can find but two possible
ones. Either he left the house by the assistance or connivance of some
one inside its walls, or else he had a means of exit unknown to
others."

Though these suggestions were somewhat veiled, every one understood
that what Gale really meant was that he suspected that some one in the
house either guest or servant, knew more than had been told.

But without enlarging on this point, the speaker went on: "However, if
he did leave the house, by any means whatever, I cannot think it
possible that he left the grounds; the only exit being the great gate,
and no human being could go out through that and fasten its chains and
bolts again on the inside Nor could he get over the absolutely
unscalable wall. So without advancing it as a theory exactly, I can't
help a vague impression that Arnold might have gone for a walk in the
grounds after midnight, and fallen by accident into some deep pool or
well, I know this sounds somewhat implausible, but I can't think of
anything else that will be a rational explanation of the man's
disappearance. And that he went away intending to mystify us all, I
shall never believe. So my advice, since it has been asked, is to put
the matter into professional hands. I myself should inform the police,
but Miss Wadsworth and Mrs. Duncan naturally shrink from giving the
affair so much publicity. So, to my mind, the next best plan is to send
at once for the best detective from the Central Office."

"I quite agree with you," observed Mr. Crane. "I'm sure it is a case
for a detective, but I warn you he will find it hard to discover any
clues. Mrs. Crane and I went over the grounds carefully this afternoon,
and we found no footprints, nor any suggestive indications of any
sort."

Mr. Crane spoke as if he were giving information of vast importance,
but Gale did not seem especially impressed. "One could hardly expect to
find footprints in this weather," he said. "It is clear and cold and
the ground is hard. Of course the gravel walks would show no
footprints, nor the stone pavements. I think a detective will scarcely
depend upon clues of that sort--though I must admit I can't see what he
will find to depend on. To me, the affair is entirely mysterious,
unless there has been foul play of some sort."

This was the first time foul play had been definitely mentioned, and
everybody started at the idea. Dorothy threw herself into her mother's
arms and began to cry. Leila Duane and Mabel Crane were whispering
together earnestly, while Miss Wadsworth sat bolt upright, her face
turning ashy white at the suggestion.

The men, too, all looked disturbed at the thought. All modern, up-to-date
men of the world, their minds immediately jumped to thoughts of
what it would mean if there were really tragedy, possibly crime, and
the unpleasant details of public exposure.

Mr. Crane, perhaps, had thought of this before, for he nodded his head
gravely, with an expression of superior sagacity; but the others seemed
appalled, and sat quiet, but deeply thoughtful.

"I've no wish to alarm you unnecessarily," pursued Gale, "but I am so
firmly convinced that it is foreign to Mr. Arnold's nature to do
anything erratic or purposely mysterious, that I am forced to the
conclusion, or rather to the suspicion, of wrongdoing on the part of
some one else."

"But how--but who--" began Miss Abby, helplessly.

"I don't know," said Gale; "I have no theory, not even an idea, further
than this: if Mr. Arnold is kept unwillingly away from home, it is
either by accident or force. If accident, we shall probably learn of it
in a short time. If force, it is our imperative duty to find him. We
have no idea which way to turn or what way to look, therefore, I advise
a clever and capable detective. Do not think, Miss Wadsworth, there is
anything sinister or fearful about a detective. He is perhaps no
cleverer or wiser than the men gathered here, but his training and
experience give him advantages that other citizens do not possess.
Employing a detective by no means implies a fear of tragedy or
disaster; it is merely the rational way to go about the solution of
what we must admit has become a real mystery. And, as I have said, if
there is no real mystery, if Mr. Arnold turns up safe and sound and
laughs at our fears, then there is no harm done. But to neglect or
delay our efforts, if they are necessary, is criminal on our part. I
don't want to dictate, but you called us over here to advise you, and
the advice I have just given, is, I am sure, the opinion of my partner
also. Isn't it, Crosby?"

"Certainly," and Campbell Crosby spoke with decision. "I think there is
nothing else to do, but act as you have suggested, Gale. I naturally
wish the affair might be kept as quiet as possible, for when my cousin
appears, as it is my belief he soon will, it would be best to have as
little notoriety about it all as possible."

Fred Crane was the only one who raised a definite objection. "I think,"
he began, "it is premature to call in a detective now. What can he do,
but pry round and investigate, and that we can do ourselves. I am of a
detective turn of mind, myself, and I am glad to offer my services in
the matter. While not precisely a Sherlock Holmes, I have a strong
deductive faculty, and I feel sure I could do all that a professional
could accomplish, the more so that I have a personal interest in the
matter, which he could not have."

"There's something in that," said Campbell Crosby, thoughtfully; "often
an amateur succeeds because of his personal note of determination,
where a professional is actuated only by thought of reward."

Emory Gale looked annoyed. "Of course you must all do as you choose,"
he said. "Miss Wadsworth, I look to you for orders. I am Mr. Arnold's
lawyer, and in his absence I defer to your wishes. What do you think
about the matter of engaging a detective?"

Miss Abby fidgeted. "I don't know," she said finally; "at first I was
terribly opposed to such a thing. But now I feel we ought to get one.
It is presentiment or premonition or something of that sort, perhaps,
but I do feel there's something wrong about Justin's absence. However,
I am not the only one to be consulted. As Justin's promised wife and as
future mistress of this place, I think Dorothy's wishes should be
considered. What do you think, dear?"

"Oh, don't ask me!" cried Dorothy, in an agonized voice; "not me, of
all people!"

"Why not, dear?" said her mother, gently. "Come, Dorothy, darling,
don't act like that. You have a certain responsibility, you must rise
to meet it."

"Oh, I can't! I can't! Don't ask me,--ask any one else--any one!"

Chapter XII
A Check Stub

And so as Miss Wadsworth seemed to be the only one to decide the
question, she did so by quietly directing that a professional detective
be engaged. "Don't think I don't appreciate your offer," she said to
Fred Crane; "but with all the willingness in the world, I don't think
you could do the work of a trained detective. And anyway, you can both
work together. No doubt the Central Office man will be glad of your
sympathetic interest and assistance."

Crane was not overly pleased at this, but he couldn't very well insist,
so he agreed to do all he could to help, vowing to himself that he
would accomplish some wonderful sleuthing that would make the real
detective "sit up and take notice."

As there was no reason for delay and there might be reason for
immediate action, Gale telephoned at once to the Central Office for a
first-class detective.

He was advised that James Wheeler would be sent the next morning and
that Mr. Wheeler was one of the best and cleverest men on the force.

"I think he might have come to-night," said Miss Abby; "if anything
dreadful has happened to Justin, every hour counts."

"He couldn't do anything to-night," Crosby assured her. "I've heard of
Wheeler, he's a very clever man, and I've no doubt when he comes he
will solve the mystery."

"And perhaps it will be but a simple solution," said Leila Duane,
hopefully, "and perhaps there isn't any dreadfulness about it at all."

"Then where's Justin?" demanded Dorothy, looking up with tearful eyes,
from her mother's embrace.

"We don't know yet, dear," returned Mrs. Duncan, gently; "we hope Mr.
Wheeler will find out."

"Meantime, let us be doing something by way of investigation," said
Gale, who was of an impatient nature. "What do you say, Miss Wadsworth,
do you think I'm justified in looking through the papers in Arnold's
desk or safe? I don't want to intrude, but mightn't we learn something,
perhaps, that way?"

Miss Abby considered. "As his lawyer, Mr. Gale, I think you have a
perfect right to look over his papers. As confidential secretary, Mr.
Chapin, also has a right. So if you and Mr. Crosby and Mr. Chapin
choose to go over his business papers, I'm sure I have no objections."
The three men went off on their errand, and if Mr. Crane felt any
chagrin at not being asked to accompany them, he successfully concealed
it.

Following Ernest Chapin, Gale and Crosby soon found themselves in the
pleasant room which Justin Arnold used as his business office, though
its elaborate appointments made such a name seen inappropriate.

Everything was in perfect order, for Arnold was methodical and
systematic in all his ways, and his secretary was no less so.

With professional rapidity, Gale and Crosby ran through the desk. There
was nothing in any of the business papers, letters, or books of
memoranda to indicate anything unusual or mysterious in the life or
habits of Justin Arnold.

At the request of the lawyers, Ernest Chapin opened the great safe,
which was built into the wall, and which was of modern and elaborate
device. Here too everything was in order. Certain bonds and deeds were
there, and memoranda told of others that were in banks or safety
deposit vaults.

The extent of their client's wealth was a slight surprise to both Gale
and Crosby, for though they had known Arnold to be a rich man, they did
not know the extent of his fortune. Emory Gale gave a low whistle as he
read some of the statements, but Crosby said frankly, "By George! I
didn't know old Justin had such a lot of money!"

"His investments for many years have turned out very favorably," said
Ernest Chapin, but he spoke in a dull, hard voice, and with a
preoccupied air, as if thinking of other matters.

"Well, there's certainly nothing here by way of a clue to steer us in
any direction," remarked Gale; "but I'm glad, Crosby, that we went
through these papers ourselves. Now there's no need of that detective
prying into them. We can assure him that there's absolutely nothing to
be found that would throw any light on Justin's disappearance."

"That's so," agreed Crosby. "Hello, Gale, here's his private check-book.
I suppose we ought to look through that, though it does seem
intrusive."

"Is it necessary?" asked Ernest Chapin, making a half-involuntary
movement, as if to take the book.

Campbell Crosby looked at him curiously. A flush had risen to Chapin's
temples, and a slight quiver in his voice showed an agitation he was
striving hard to control.

Crosby noted this, and said coolly, "Why, yes, I think it is
necessary." So saying, he opened the book and ran over the stubs. They
seemed innocent enough, and suggested nothing mysterious. The names on
the stubs were mostly such firms as tailors or hatters, with here and
there a friend's name or that of a charitable organization. About to
return it to its place, Crosby caught sight of the last entry, and he
stared at it in astonishment. "Why, Chapin, this last stub is for a
check made out to you, for five thousand dollars!" he said.

"Yes?" said Chapin, in a faint voice, while his face went white. "Is
it?"

"Is it," went on Crosby; "and, what's more, it's dated to-day. To-day,
October seventh! Have you seen Arnold to-day?"

"N-no," stammered Chapin; "well, that is, not exactly to-day."

"What nonsense are you talking?" demanded Gale. "What do you mean by
'not exactly to-day'? Why did Arnold give you a check for five thousand
dollars? You have seen him to-day? Where is he?"

This rapid fire of angry questions seemed to restore Chapin's
self-possession, and he answered coldly, "I resent the tone you use, Mr.
Gale, and I refuse to answer questions couched in such language As Mr.
Arnold's secretary, and in his confidence, I refuse to discuss any
expenditures he may have made, whether to myself or any one else."

"But, man alive," went on Gale, in amazement, "don't take that
attitude! Don't array yourself against us! Are we not all working for
the same end? Are we not all interested in finding Arnold? And if you
have seen him to-day, and this check is dated to-day, you must tell
us!"

"You have no right to say 'must' to me, Mr. Gale."

"Oh, don't quibble about words," said Crosby. "Explain it, Chapin, as
man to man. Have you the check that was torn from that stub?"

"Of course I have. Mr. Arnold gave it to me."

"When?"

"I must ask what right you gentlemen have to cross-question me. Am I on
trial?"

"You are not," said Gale coldly; "but if you persist in showing such
strong disinclination to answer questions bearing directly on the
business in hand, I am forced to think you ought to be on trial. I ask
you in a friendly manner to explain the peculiar circumstance of your
receiving a large check from Justin Arnold to-day, when nobody else
knows where the man is."

Chapin looked both injured and sullen. "The check is of a private and
personal nature," he said, at last "Mr. Arnold gave it to me last
night, here in this office. As it was after midnight when he drew the
check, of course he dated it to-day. As I have already declared, I left
Mr. Arnold here last night at about half-past twelve. That's what I
meant by saying I hadn't exactly seen him to-day. Of course, last night
after midnight was literally to-day, and it was before Mr. Arnold's
mysterious disappearance."

Emory Gale looked perturbed and a little suspicious. Campbell Crosby
looked frankly amazed. It might all be exactly as Chapin had said, and
Justin Arnold might have had ample reasons for presenting his secretary
with a sum of money probably equal to his year's salary; but it was a
peculiar coincidence that the man should disappear immediately
afterward. If Chapin had treated it lightly, and explained why he
received so large a sum at one time, and whether or not it was by way
of salary, the lawyers would have thought little of it. But when the
secretary was so evidently rattled, so unwilling to explain matters,
and so clearly annoyed at being questioned, it was but natural for the
two lawyers to feel some curiosity concerning the occurrence.

However, Emory Gale, who was perhaps more far-sighted than his junior
partner, said calmly, "You're right, Mr. Chapin; it isn't exactly in
our province to question you. Whatever conclusions we may draw from the
examination of the papers are of course our own affairs, as your
relations with your employer are yours."

Though spoken quietly, Mr. Gale's words seemed to have a deeper meaning
than was apparent on the surface, and the pallor that overspread Ernest
Chapin's face proved that he realized this. Leaving the agitated
secretary with the check-book in his hand, and the safe open beside
him, Mr. Gale and Mr. Crosby walked away.

"Deucedly queer development!" said Crosby; and Gale returned, "It's
more than that. To my mind, it implicates Chapin pretty deeply in the
matter. But it isn't up to us to probe the case. When the detective
comes to-morrow, he can do that. Any way, Chapin can't run away as long
as this place is guarded like a fortress. I wonder if they'll turn on
their precious burglar-alarm to-night."

"Of course they will. Old Driggs always did it when Justin was away,
so, naturally, he'll attend to it."

It was early the next morning that Dorothy came downstairs. That is, it
was early for her to make an appearance, though the other members of
the household had already assembled. But the girl was too anxious to
learn if there were any news to remain in her room as usual.

Absolutely nothing had been discovered concerning Arnold, and breakfast
was eaten in an atmosphere of almost gloomy silence. Now and then some
one would endeavor to make a cheerful remark, but it was not followed
up in the same spirit.

After breakfast, Dorothy strolled out to the terrace, where she was
immediately joined by Crosby and Chapin. It was not a congenial trio,
but Dorothy was accustomed to managing men who were at odds with each
other, and she found no difficulty in keeping them both in her company.

"Just think," she said, "of not knowing anything about where Justin may
be! Why, he might be drowned, or anything!"

"I think we ought to have the pools dragged," said Ernest Chapin, and
as he spoke directly to Dorothy, he evaded Crosby's searching glance.

"I think so, too," agreed the girl; "for I think we ought to do
everything that could possibly be of any use. But I can't seem to
imagine Justin walking out in the middle of the night, and falling into
one of his own pools."

"They're very deep," said Crosby.

"I know they are; that black one under the willows makes me shiver to
look at it; and that dark one down in that deepest ravine is positively
uncanny!"

Leila and Gale strolled past the group, saying they were going around
the grounds to hunt for clues.

Crosby looked after them, a little amusedly. "They won't see any clues,
if they stumble over them!" he said. "They don't know there's anything
in this world but each other."

"That's so," said Dorothy; "aren't they desperately in love? It must be
beautiful to be in love like that!"

It was almost unthinkingly that Dorothy spoke thus out of the fulness
of her heart. Though she did love Chapin, she had no intention of
confessing it or even letting it be suspected; for Ernest Chapin was a
poor man, and Dorothy Duncan was a girl who fully intended to marry
money.

But the two men who listened to this speech were both deeply in love
with her, and each determined then and there that she should yet be
desperately in love with him. How this desirable state of things was to
be brought about, neither knew, but each was none the less positive in
his intention.

A little later, Miss Wadsworth claimed Crosby's attention, and Ernest
Chapin was left alone with Dorothy.

"Listen to me," he said, without preamble. "That detective is coming at
ten o'clock, and I want to remind you, once more, to say nothing about
Arnold's seeing us on the balcony together. The detective will question
you, but no good can possibly come of your telling of that scene, and
it might result in harm."

"Well, I won't; but I want you to tell me what Justin said to you after
I left you."

"Nothing of any importance--as I told you before."

"Was he angry?"

"Yes, he was." And then, as if on a sudden impulse, Chapin whispered
earnestly to the girl, "Dorothy, darling, if you'll only admit you love
me--I know you do--I'll tell you everything about it. What Arnold said,
and all that happened. And you can confide in me, too."

Dorothy's eyes opened wide. "Ernest, you don't mean that you know
anything about Justin's going away!"

"I'll tell you nothing," he returned doggedly, "until you tell me what
I ask. Tell me, dear." Dorothy looked at him with a gentle tenderness.
"Ernest," she said softly, "this isn't the time or place for such a
question."

"Yes, it is, darling. There couldn't be a more beautiful place than
this terrace, with the bright sunshine and blue sky above, and no one
near to overhear us. Answer me, Dorothy. Crown my happiness of loving
you, by your dear confession that you love me."


Dorothy was strongly tempted to tell this man that she did love him.
She longed to see his eyes light up with the happiness that she knew
such an admission would bring. Then her glance roved out over the wide
domain spread out before her: the beautiful terrace on which they
stood, and the great mansion behind them. Could she give up all this
for her love of Ernest Chapin? It didn't seem to her that she could.
Then, at the intrusion of a sudden thought, she ignored her lover's
pleading, and said, "As Justin's secretary, Mr. Chapin, of course you
know all about his business matters. If he should--if he should never
come back, who would own White Birches?"

"I am not quite sure. If Mr. Arnold made no will, his whole estate will
go to Campbell Crosby; but if he made a will--and I'm quite sure he did,
though I've never seen it--of course the disposition of his fortune will
be in accordance with that. I do know that he intended to make a will
before his marriage, leaving everything to you, but whether he has done
so or not, I'm not sure."

"His lawyers will know, won't they?"

"Yes; unless he made merely a private memorandum, which, if signed,
will be valid. But, Dorothy, you talk as if he were dead! And, oh,
child, if he is, if he should be, you don't mean,--you can't mean, that
you want to know who inherits White Birches--to know where to turn your
affections next!"

Dorothy had the grace to look ashamed of herself, and, moved by
Chapin's evident misery, she said softly, "If Justin never returns,
there is only one place for my affections."

The look she gave Chapin left no doubt of her meaning, and, taking both
her hands in his, he said, "Oh, darling, you've admitted it at last!
You make me so happy, dear, and, whether Arnold returns or not, he
shall never claim you after that admission!"

"Oh, yes, he will! I'm bound to him, and of course he will return, and
of course I shall marry him. But now tell me what he said to you. You
promised you would."

"He wasn't at all nice, dear. He accused me of being a traitor to him,
and of acting dishonorably in loving the girl he was engaged to."

"Well, it isn't very honorable, is it?"

"All's fair in love and war. And, any way, if I could win you only
through dishonor, I would pause at no crime!"

"Oh, Ernest, what a dreadful speech! Don't say such things. You make me
shiver!"

"But it's true, Dorothy: I would hesitate at nothing, if you were the
reward."

Just then Gale and Leila returned from a walk through the grounds, and
though Dorothy greeted them casually, as if her conversation with
Chapin were most unimportant, the man could not so easily shake off a
feeling of self-consciousness. To hide it, he became glum and taciturn,
responding in monosyllables, when he spoke at all.

"We didn't find any clues around the place," said Leila. "Now we're
going to look through the house. Mr. Gale and I have discovered that we
both have the 'detective instinct,' and we're working together on this
case." It was clear to the most incurious observer that Gale and Leila
were more interested in their discoveries about each other than in
their "case," but Dorothy had affairs of her own on her mind, and
Chapin was uninterested, so the two amateur detectives passed on into
the house to continue their search.

In a few moments Leila came running back. "Dorothy," she cried, "did
you take a green sofa-pillow from the couch in the living-room? The one
embroidered in gold thread?"

"No, Leila, I haven't seen it. Why should I take a sofa-cushion from
its place?"

"Well, it's gone; and nobody knows anything about it, and we think it
is a clue!"

"Oh, Leila, how ridiculous! How could a missing sofa-pillow be a clue?
Probably one of the maids took it to mend it, or something."

"No," and Leila spoke positively; "it didn't need mending. It was a new
one, and it was so pretty that I was going to copy the embroidery.
That's the way I happened to miss it. It's gone, and nobody knows
anything about it!"

"It does seem queer," said Gale, who had followed Leila out.

"Fiddlesticks!" said Dorothy. "If you two people weren't so anxious to
make anything serve as a clue, you'd know that that sofa-pillow would
turn up somewhere. Do you suppose Justin kidnapped it and took it away,
or do you suppose a burglar came in through a keyhole, purposely to get
it?"

Ernest Chaplin looked thoughtful. "Did it have a thick gold cord all
round it, and tassels at one corner?" he asked.

"Yes," answered Leila eagerly. "Did you take it away, Mr. Chapin?"

"No," and Ernest Chapin spoke slowly; "I remember having seen it, that
is all."

Leila and Gale went away to make further search for the sofa-pillow,
and Chapin fell into a brown study, from which even Dorothy's chatter
failed to rouse him.

Chapter XIII
The Detective

"I know," said Leila, thoughtfully, her pretty blonde head on one side,
"that it seems silly to Dorothy, but I do believe that sofa-pillow has
something to do with the mystery."

"I'm sure it has," said Gale, who was approaching that point where if
Leila had said the phase of the moon was responsible for Arnold's
disappearance, he would have agreed with her. "But for the life of me,
I can't see how."

"Nor I," and Leila's straight brows contracted as she puzzled over the
matter. "But you know, Mr. Gale, it is queer that it should get away so
suddenly, and, too, detectives always find out things from some such
strange incident as that. When Mr. Wheeler comes, I've no doubt he'll
consider it a matter of importance, but I want to deduce for myself
what it means."

But Leila couldn't get any inkling of the sofa-cushion's present
whereabouts, nor could she form any theory of how it could possibly be
connected with Justin's absence.

"It's utterly absurd, Leila," said Fred Crane, "to imagine a
sofa-pillow as a clue! What part could it play in the mystery? You don't
suppose Justin took it with him?"

"No; of course he wouldn't do that. And yet, where is it? It was here
on Monday, for I was matching its colors to make one like it I've asked
the housekeeper and the servants."

"What did they say?" asked Crane, not much interested.

"Only Mrs. Garson and the parlor-maid remembered it at all. And they
said they knew nothing about it."

"Perhaps the parlor-maid stole it," volunteered Gale. "You say it was a
valuable one."

"Not valuable," corrected Leila, "but especially pretty. But Polly
wouldn't steal it. She seems a nice girl. Maybe she took it to copy it,
and was afraid to own up."

"That's probably it," said Crane. "But it can't possibly be connected
with Justin Arnold in any way."

The three were still discussing the sofa-cushion when Mr. Wheeler
arrived. The entire household assembled in the living-room to meet him.

While by no means a fine-looking or distinguished man, James Wheeler
gave an impression of capability. Rather short and of stocky build, his
alert air and quick movements invested him with a degree of importance,
and his shrewd eyes betokened an incisive intelligence and a good sense
of values. He was plain and straightforward in his methods. No sly and
subtle manoeuvring for him. Plain facts, and logical deductions
therefrom, constituted his stock-in-trade. His manner was a trifle
pompous, as fitted his calling, but he was courteous and deferential,
and liked quick action when once he set about his business.

He seated himself in a large chair at one end of the long room, and
seemed to take a hasty mental stock of the people grouped about before
he spoke at all. He glanced appraisingly at Miss Wadsworth, but as that
lady was exceedingly nervous and almost hysterical, the detective
looked further for a nominal head of the house.

Fred Crane read his thoughts and volunteered: "Mr. Wheeler, I daresay
you want some one to give you the principal facts of the matter in
hand, and I will do so. While by no means a detective in the technical
sense of the term, I am by nature of a reasoning mind, and I've no
doubt I can tell you the salient features more concisely than some of
the others present."

Wheeler looked at him. "Thank you, sir," he said, "but I'll not trouble
you. I may be peculiar, but I prefer to get at the facts in my own way.
Of course, I know that Mr. Arnold has mysteriously been absent since
Monday night, or rather Tuesday morning. For he may not have left the
house until after daylight. It is now Wednesday morning, and it seems
desirable to endeavor to learn where he may be. I will, if you please,
address my inquiries to one or another as I may be inclined, but if any
one knows of any important fact I trust he will state it when the
occasion calls for it."

Though the confidential secretary was perhaps the best informed as to
his employer's habits and customs, yet a glance at Chapin's gloomy and
forbidding face caused the detective to look in another direction. Mr.
Crane, he deemed too officious and too anxious to give information, so
he settled on the firm of lawyers, and chose Gale, as being the senior
member.

Mr. Wheeler did not say that he had thus made an intentional selection,
nor did it take him more than a moment to make up his mind. With a
quiet manner, that somehow held the rest listening in silence, he asked
some questions of Emory Gale. In a few moments he was in possession of
the main facts of the case as known. "Do you think Mr. Arnold could
have been drowned?" he asked abruptly.

"No," replied Gale; "I don't think that."

"Do you think he is, for any reason, hiding on purpose?"

"I do not," said Gale decidedly.

"He is not, then, a man who would do such a thing, say, as a practical
joke?"

"Decidedly not!" said Gale emphatically.

Wheeler nodded his head. "I understand," he proceeded, "that Mr. Arnold
was more or less in the habit of walking in his grounds at night. I
mean, when he had no guests, he was given to prowling about among the
trees."

"That is true," volunteered Miss Wadsworth, as Gale seemed a little
uncertain on this point.

"When he took such walks, did he usually wear hat and overcoat?"

"Yes," replied Miss Abby; "a coat according to the weather, but always
a hat. Justin never went out without a hat."

Remembering his fairly well advanced state of baldness, no one was
surprised at this.

"Then," went on Mr. Wheeler, "have you investigated his wardrobe, and
learned what hat and coat are missing?"

No one had thought to do this, and the valet was summoned to answer
questions.

"Peters," said Mr. Wheeler, "do you know all the hats and coats in Mr.
Arnold's possession?"

"Certainly, sir," said Peters, with the respectful assurance of the
well-trained servant.

"And could you tell if any were missing?"

"Yes, sir."

"And have you made any search?"

"Not to say, sir, exactly a search, but I couldn't help noticing that
all Mr. Arnold's hats and top-coats are in their places, and I
wondered, sir, what he might have worn on his head when he went away."

"You're positive, Peters, that there is no hat or overcoat missing?"

"I'm positive, sir."

"Has any guest present, or any of the servants, missed a hat or a cap?"

Investigation soon proved that nobody had missed any.

"Mr. Arnold was in evening dress when last seen?"

"Yes," answered Miss Abby; "Justin was always in evening dress after
six o'clock. He was most punctilious in that respect, like his father
before him."

"And that suit of evening clothes is not in his wardrobe, Peters?"

"No, sir."

"Nor his shoes, nor tie, nor any of the garments that he wore the last
time you assisted at his toilet?"

"No, sir; they are all missing from his wardrobe."

"And no other garments are missing?"

"No, sir."

"Then, we are justified in concluding," said Mr. Wheeler, turning to
the assembly, "that wherever Mr. Arnold may have gone, he wore the suit
of clothes he had on during the evening of his disappearance, and he
added no hat or outer garment. This, in addition to the fact that he
could not get out of this carefully protected house, leads me to
conclude that he is still in the house. Yes, I know you have searched
thoroughly, but you must have overlooked his hiding-place. It is
extremely improbable that, even if Mr. Arnold could have left the house
unseen, any emergency would have caused him to go bareheaded. But
before I proceed to work in accordance with my own theory, I will ask
if any one has any suggestion to offer, or any information, however
slight, to give that could throw light on the matter."

"It is not exactly information," said Fred Crane, "but it is a point to
remember, perhaps, that Mr. Arnold would not voluntarily go away from
home in evening clothes, without taking proper garments to wear on his
return. Had he gone anywhere voluntarily, he would have changed or he
would have carried a bag."

"Why do you say 'voluntarily,' Mr. Crane?" asked Wheeler. "Do you mean
to imply Mr. Arnold could have been forced to leave his home?"

"It is merely a suggestion," and Crane looked a little important at
having gained the detective's attention, "but I must say it seems
impossible."

"Of course it's impossible!" said Campbell Crosby. "Arnold couldn't get
out of this locked-up house or grounds alone, much less with some one
else. Malony would have known, too, if any stranger had arrived by
night."

"As there are few possibilities to consider, we have to discuss
impossibilities," said Crane, a little chagrined at Crosby's manner.

"Not impossibilities," said Wheeler, "but perhaps great
improbabilities. The case is baffling in its very limitations. There
have been no clues of any sort found, I suppose?"

"Mr. Wheeler," said Leila Duane, a little diffidently, "it may be of no
importance, but I discovered this morning that a sofa-pillow was
missing from the couch in this room. It was here, I am sure, day before
yesterday, and now it is gone. I have questioned the servants, and no
one knows anything about it."

There were half a dozen sofa pillows still on the broad-seated divan,
and the detective looked slightly amused, as if one pillow more or less
could really have no bearing on the case in hand.

"It may seem trivial," observed Gale, moved by a desire to lend
importance to Leila's suggestion, if possible, "but you must admit, Mr.
Wheeler, that a sofa-pillow couldn't get away of itself."

"No," agreed the detective gravely; "but I cannot think, Mr. Gale, that
its disappearance is in any way a clue to the disappearance of Mr.
Arnold. Unless he were demented, which I am informed he is not, he
would scarcely go out into the night with a sofa-pillow tied on his
head."

Leila looked a little chagrined at this summary dismissal of what she
had fondly considered a clue; or, at least, a mysterious circumstance
which might have a bearing on the greater mystery. But Mr. Wheeler made
no further reference to the green sofa-pillow. He said, thoughtfully,
"Who is the last one known to have seen Mr. Arnold on Monday night?"

Fred Crane, the irrepressible, spoke up. "Mr. Chapin and I were with
him later than any one else. We had been with him in the smoking-room
for a short time after the ladies had retired; and about half-past
twelve Mr. Chapin and myself bade Mr. Arnold good-night and went
upstairs, leaving him in the smoking-room. Didn't we, Chapin?"

Ernest Chapin lifted a haggard face. "Yes," he said in low tones.

"And no one here present saw Mr. Arnold after that?" inquired the
detective, his sharp eyes darting from one to another.

Nobody spoke. After a moment's silence, Mabel Crane looked at Dorothy.
But the girl's face was turned away, as she sat close to her mother's
side on the sofa. Then Mabel looked at Leila. But the glance was not
returned. Leila kept her head resolutely turned, and stared steadfastly
at a picture across the room. Mabel looked uncertain. Clearly, Dorothy
had no intention of telling of her nocturnal trip downstairs that
night, and Leila also was determined not to remember it.

"You look disturbed, Mrs. Crane," said the quick-sighted detective.
"Did you see anything of Mr. Arnold that night? Did you hear him on the
stairs or in the halls?"

"No,--oh, no!" and Mabel shook her head.

"You did not see him strolling in the garden, or hear any doors or
windows opened?"

"No, no, indeed!"

"Why are you so emphatic about it?"

Mr. Wheeler's quiet voice did not seem intrusive or overcurious, he
seemed to be merely pursuing his proper course, but Mabel became so
agitated that she rose and left the room. Her husband looked after her,
but did not follow. "She'll return shortly," he said; "poor girl, she's
very emotional, and a scene like this gets on her nerves."

And then Leila stole a glance at Dorothy. The girl was as white as
death, but she was not heeding either Leila or Mabel. Her eyes were
fixed on the face of the detective, and she seemed terrified yet
fascinated. She looked like one in a dream or trance, and seemed to be
breathlessly waiting for the next move.

Mr. Wheeler spent a moment or two in deep thought, and then said:

"Since Mr. Arnold could not get out, he must be in the house; and we
cannot say he is not, until we have made an exhaustive search of the
entire building. I cannot think the search that has already been made
was sufficiently thorough. I will, therefore, in my direction of this
case, request the assistance of such servants as I may desire to help
me, and any of the men of the household who wish to may also accompany
me. We will make a search that shall leave no foot of space
unexplored."

Mr. Wheeler selected two of the footmen to assist him in this
undertaking, and Mr. Crane volunteered also to accompany him.

Leila Duane declared that she would go, too, but Dorothy sat quietly by
her mother's side, and said that nothing would induce her to go into
those dark, dusky old attics again.

As a matter of course, therefore, Gale elected to accompany Leila, and
Campbell Crosby remained in the library, hovering near Dorothy. Ernest
Chapin, still looking gloomy as a thunder-cloud, also hovered near the
pathetic little figure of the girl he loved.

In accordance with his chosen methods, Mr. Wheeler began his search in
systematic order. Desiring to begin at the top of the house, he went
first of all to the roof, and made his preliminary examinations from
the outside. Although the servants showed him the way, he often skipped
ahead of them, and showed agility and despatch in accomplishing his
errands. Though they followed him to the roof, the others did not
follow his various trips from one gable to another as he scurried over
the various slopes and flats of tin or shingle. His definite motive was
to examine every possible exit from the house, no matter how improbable
it might seem. He peered down chimneys, he looked in at dormer windows,
he looked in at trap-doors and scuttles, jotting down in his note-book
into what rooms they opened.

"What does this old scuttle open into?" he asked, as he looked down
into pitch darkness beneath.

"I don't know exactly," answered a servant, "but I think it opens into
a little loft over an ell which contains some of the servants' rooms."

Again the detective peered down into the darkness.

"That's what it is," he said; "and I can see a door from the loft, but
it seems to be nailed up. I'll investigate it when we're inside the
attics."

The man's energy was indefatigable. He left nothing unexamined, even
looking down the leader-pipes and gutters. At last he expressed himself
satisfied with his investigation of the roof, and they returned through
the trap-door they had come up by, to the attics. These were numerous
and rambling, but not one was omitted in the search. Every dark corner
of every room, every cupboard under the eaves, every fireplace, was
thoroughly illuminated by electric torches and exhaustively searched.

The tiny loft over the ell into which Wheeler had peered from above was
found to have but one door, which was carefully nailed up; and, as
could be easily seen from its dust and cobwebs, it had not been
disturbed for decades, therefore it could not have been used recently
as an exit.

They found absolutely no trace or even possibility of Justin Arnold's
having left the house by means of a route through the attics.

Chapter XIV
Found!

"Awful rubbish!" Fred Crane whispered to Leila; "fancy Justin, in his
evening clothes, rambling around these musty old attics! He's too
fastidious to think of such a thing! You know how he hates a speck of
dust or dirt."

"I know," said Leila; "but I suppose Mr. Wheeler must be theorizing
that Justin was escaping from somebody or something."

"Nonsense! don't be melodramatic. What could he be fleeing from?"

"I don't know, I'm sure. If we knew that, we could soon solve the
mystery."

"I say," began Crane, addressing the detective, "this is all useless,
you know. Arnold simply couldn't be up here."

"Unless you can suggest where he could be, Mr. Crane, I must continue
this search in my own way."

"Oh, that's all right, no offence; but we're wasting good time, it
seems to me."

"And how would you propose putting in the time to better advantage?"

As Crane had nothing to offer by way of improvement on the detective's
methods, the tour of the attics continued.

In rotation, the other stories were searched with the same infinite
care. The detective was looking not only for the missing man, but for
any clue or indication that might point toward his whereabouts.

Leila grew a little weary of the delay occasioned by such excessive
minutiae of searching, but she would not listen to Gale's suggestion
that they return to the library and join the others, for she was
determined to follow the detective.

Of course a careful investigation was made in Arnold's own rooms, but
these were as unproductive as the rest of the house. The rooms on the
ground floor also yielded no clue, and, after a search of the kitchens
and servants' quarters, Mr. Wheeler started for the cellars.

Both Gale and Leila were interested in the appointments of the
basement, for many of its various rooms were fitted up with modern
household inventions and domestic appliances. Mr. Crane kept up a
running fire of comment on what he saw, and also gave choice bits of
unsolicited advice to the detective, whose mind was intent only on
letting no obscure bit of space elude his vigilance.

They came at last to the cellars under the oldest part of the house.
These, being built in the time of Justin's grandfather, and not having
been improved upon since, were quaint and interesting. They were
unused, and contained many kitchen utensils and pieces of antique
furniture that would have delighted the heart of a collector. But while
Gale and Leila paused to examine an old fireplace with a hinged crane,
or an old settle or churn, Mr. Wheeler darted from one small room to
another, flashing his electric torch everywhere.

"What a lot of old rubbish," exclaimed Crane, who had followed the
search through the whole house, futile though he considered it.

"It isn't exactly rubbish," said Leila, who liked antiques. "See this
old pewter lamp; this was used for what they called 'burning fluid.' I
think these things are interesting. And here's an old workbench, with
a,--what is this thing?--attached to it."

"That's a vise," replied Crane. "I suppose some one of Justin's old
ancestors used to amuse himself with carpentering now and then. But
we're not finding out anything. I believe I'll go back upstairs. I
daresay Mabel is looking for me."

But just as Crane turned toward the stairs, Detective Wheeler suddenly
appeared in the doorway of the room they were in.

"Miss Duane," he said peremptorily, and in a quick, excited voice, "go
upstairs at once."

"Why?" demanded Leila, in surprise, but a glance at Wheeler's face
impelled her to obey him.

"Don't ask why," he went on gravely. "Go back upstairs at once--and join
the others in the library, or wherever they are, and stay there. Mr.
Gale, please remain here."

Leila was already on the staircase, an old flight of wooden steps, and
Gale was about to follow her, when detained by Wheeler.

Realizing that ill news was impending, Gale waited only until Leila had
disappeared through the door at the head of the stairs, and had closed
it behind her, then, turning to Wheeler, he said, "Where is he?"

"Come," returned the detective, and led the way to the next room, where
the two footmen stood shivering and with horror-stricken faces. It was
a small apartment, with walls that had once been whitewashed, but were
now blackened with age. It contained one or two old tables and broken
chairs, and a large brick structure with an iron door. Although Gale
had only indefinite knowledge of such a thing, he knew at once it was
the door of an old-fashioned brick oven.

The oven was an enormous affair, built against the cellar wall, and in
shape not unlike a great safe. It was, of course, connected with the
chimney, and had doubtless baked the bread of the original Arnolds who
built the house. There was a big iron door to it, and a smaller one
below, where the fuel was put in.

"We have solved the mystery," said Mr. Wheeler, very gravely, "and it
is a tragedy. Be prepared for the worst."

He opened the door of the huge old bake-oven, and within Emory Gale saw
the bent body of a man, fully dressed.

"It is Justin!" he exclaimed. "It is murder! It cannot be suicide, can
it?"

"Not unless the man was really demented," said Wheeler. "I think, Mr.
Gale, we should send for the coroner at once, but I think it wiser to
take out the body and examine it first."

"But is it not forbidden to touch a body until the coroner arrives?"

"That is a fallacy believed in by many people, but untrue. I think, if
you agree, Mr. Gale, our wisest course is to learn any further detail
we may concerning Mr. Arnold's death--for he is certainly dead--before we
make a report upstairs."

In the excitement of the moment, both men had forgotten Fred Crane, who
stood in the background, as dumb with horror as were the two servants.

It was somewhat to Crane's credit that he offered no advice at this
juncture, but stepped forward and announced himself entirely at Mr.
Wheeler's orders, if he could be of any assistance.

The two footmen were practically useless, and it devolved on the others
to remove the body of Justin Arnold from the old oven and lay it upon a
table.

"Good heavens!" exclaimed Gale, with a little gasp, "there's the
sofa-pillow!"

The green silk sofa-pillow which had been missed by Leila lay against
Arnold's breast, and was bound about his body by its own gilt cord,
which had been torn from its edges.

With his usual swift, deft movements, Mr. Wheeler unbound the pillow,
and, turning to the others, said, "You see! Mr. Arnold was stabbed
through the heart, probably while in the library, for the murderer has
bound this pillow over the wound to staunch the flow of blood."

There was no doubt about it, and the detective's statement of facts
made the others realize that this was no time for emotion or grief, but
a stern situation to be met and coped with.

Suppressing a sob, Emory Gale said, "You are quite right, Mr. Wheeler;
there is no doubt poor old Justin has been murdered. It only remains
for us now to do all we can to break it gently to the others, and to
attend to the sad details for them. I thank you, Mr. Wheeler, for your
thoughtful tact in sending Miss Duane away before you disclosed the
tragedy."

"Yes, yes," returned Wheeler, his mind preoccupied with various details
of what his own duties now must be.

As the detective had now performed his task, and the case must go to
the coroner and the police, Emory Gale accepted, at least temporarily,
the directorship of the situation.

"You two men," he said to the shuddering footmen, "must stay here in
reverent charge of your master's body, until some official shall come
to relieve you. Mr. Wheeler, you must do whatever your judgment
dictates, and Mr. Crane and I will take upon ourselves the task of
informing the family."

"Yes, yes, quite right," said Wheeler; "quite a correct arrangement. I
will go upstairs with you, as of course you must know, gentlemen, that
after more immediate details are attended to we must find the wretch
who murdered Mr. Arnold."

"Who could it have been?" exclaimed Fred Crane, realizing for the first
time that they were in the presence of an even greater tragedy than
that of death.

"That's not a question to be asked now, and perhaps not to be answered
soon," replied Wheeler. "Come, let us go upstairs."

The three men went to the library, where all of the others were
assembled. Leila's sudden and frightened appearance among them had led
them to expect some startling development, but they were all unprepared
for the news they must hear.

Though a terrible ordeal, Emory Gale was obliged to tell the story, but
the audience had already read in the faces of the three men more than a
hint of a tragedy.

"What has become of Justin Arnold is no longer a mystery," Gale began,
and though he knew his deepest sympathies should be for Dorothy and
Miss Wadsworth, yet his glance wandered uncontrollably to Leila. "We
know what has happened to him; and it is the most tragic fate that
could overtake a man." He hesitated a moment, and then, realizing that
perhaps it were kinder to end the suspense, he added in a low tone, "He
has been killed."

To the credit of the nerves of the women present, not one of them
fainted or made any outcry. Dorothy put her head down on her mother's
shoulder and wept softly. Leila and Mabel Crane were stunned by the
news, but bore it with outward calm. Miss Wadsworth, with a manner
highly indicative of her own strength of character, sat bolt upright in
her chair and looked steadily at Gale. "I don't quite understand," she
said, and the tremble in her voice was pathetic. "What do you mean, Mr.
Gale?"

"I cannot bear to tell you the details, Miss Wadsworth," said Gale,
with a pitying glance at the old lady; "but the simple and dreadful
fact is that we have discovered Justin's body, and have learned that he
was murdered--by whom we do not know."

Miss Wadsworth almost fainted, as she at last realized what had
happened.

Ernest Chapin rose and went to her side, but as he sat down by her he
found himself unable to speak. Campbell Crosby, too, though he essayed
to say something, found his voice choked beyond utterance.

Chapter XV
The Scarlet Sage

Leila Duane spoke first. "Who did it?" she asked in a small, shocked
voice.

"We don't know yet," replied Mr. Wheeler. "It is a mystery. But the
murderer must be found and brought to justice. Had Mr. Arnold any
enemies?"

"No," said Campbell Crosby; "and if he had, they couldn't get into this
house in the night Do you know, Mr. Wheeler, how it is locked and
barred?"

"Yes. I've heard about it and tried the alarm, and all that. But, Mr.
Crosby, we must conclude somebody did force an entrance. Unless we
allow ourselves to suspect some member of the household or one of the
servants of this dreadful deed."

"Oh, no!" cried Mabel Crane. "That is unthinkable! Some one must have
gained entrance from outside, in some way or other."

Mr. Wheeler looked deeply thoughtful. "Although," he went on, "the work
for which I was employed is accomplished, I will, if I may, continue to
direct affairs here for a brief period. It is necessary that the
coroner be summoned at once, and as upon his arrival he will take full
charge of the case, I assume I may consider my services no longer
required."

But Miss Wadsworth was of a sort that could rise to an emergency.
Bravely striving to put aside her grief, she forced herself to consider
the immediate requirements of the case.

"Mr. Wheeler," she began, "you have indeed accomplished the work for
which you were employed, but; for my part, I do not feel ready to
dispense with your services. We have found my cousin"--here the old
voice trembled, but immediately became steady again--"now we must find
his murderer and avenge his death. An Arnold shall not be killed
without every effort being made to bring justice to the miserable
wretch who committed the deed! In so far as I have any authority, I
wish to employ you, Mr. Wheeler, to discover whose was the hand that
killed him."

Mr. Wheeler merely bowed in acknowledgment of this, for he was not
quite sure that Miss Wadsworth was sufficiently in authority to employ
him.

"Although I have been seemingly directing matters here," said Emory
Gale, "it is not now my province to continue. My partner, Mr. Crosby,
is Justin Arnold's cousin, and is naturally heir to his estate, unless
it be otherwise willed. Campbell Crosby therefore ought now to assume
his place as head of this house."

Crosby's handsome face looked disturbed and troubled. It seemed as if
he were unwilling to profit thus suddenly by his cousin's terrible
death. Indeed, all present were unnerved and bewildered by the shock
they had received, and it was difficult for any of them to think
coherently.

When Campbell Crosby spoke, it was not directly in reply to Gale's
suggestion.

"It seems to me," he said slowly, almost as if thinking aloud, "that,
even before notifying the coroner, we should send for Justin's family
physician.

"Of course," agreed Mr. Wheeler, in his quick way; "I should have
thought of that myself. But I'm unaccustomed to managing outside my own
field of labor, and I confess I did not think of it. Certainly we must
send for the doctor."

The men began to pull themselves together, and if Mr. Crane was perhaps
a little over-officious in his offers of assistance, those more nearly
related to the dead man were glad to have his aid.

So Mr. Crane telephoned for Doctor Gaspard, and took it upon himself to
go and notify the servants of the tragedy, incidentally taking the
opportunity to give them some orders on his own account. Mr. Crane
rarely had opportunity to give orders to a corps of trained servants,
and he thought it no harm to snatch his chance when it offered.

Meantime, Mr. Wheeler notified the coroner, and advised him to come as
soon as possible.

"It is perfectly clear," said Wheeler to Campbell Crosby, whom he now
looked upon as the head of the house, "that the murderer must have been
some one already in the house, as of course no one could get in after
the alarm was turned on. Therefore, Mr. Crosby, I'm sure you will agree
with me in thinking it was either one of the servants or some intruder
who was concealed in the house during the evening."

"I think your second theory is better," said Crosby thoughtfully. "I
cannot believe it of one of the servants. They are nearly all old and
trustworthy retainers. And he was such a kind master--who could have had
a motive?"

"I know so little about Mr. Arnold, I cannot yet judge," said the
detective, "but surely, with this sealed house, it cannot be difficult
to discover which of its inmates is guilty."

"It would seem so," agreed Crosby; "and yet sometimes what seem to be
the simplest cases turn out the most complex."

The two indulged in no further theorizing just then, for Doctor Gaspard
arrived. He immediately went downstairs to see what he could learn from
an examination of the body of Justin Arnold.

On his return he had little to report further than they already knew.

He said that Arnold had been killed by a stab from some long, pointed
instrument, probably a dagger. The deed must have been done so swiftly
that the victim could not even cry out. The fact of the body being
placed where the flue of the chimney made a continuous draft had caused
it to remain in a state of preservation. The sofa-pillow had been
placed immediately against Arnold's breast in order that no blood might
fall from the wound. It had then doubtless been bound to the body, by
its own cord, hastily torn off, and the body carried to the cellar.

The fact that the pillow had been used seemed to show that the murder
had been committed in the library, and the body taken downstairs for
the purpose of concealment. How the murderer came or went, of course
the doctor could not even suggest. That was a matter to be taken up
later by the detective.

Aside from his professional interest in the Arnold family, Doctor
Gaspard had always been a warm friend, both of Justin and his father.
The present tragedy almost unnerved the old gentleman, and, though he
remained to luncheon, he ate scarcely anything, and seemed unable to
shake off his depression.

Nor did the others have any appetite for the meal. The dreadful
happening seemed to have changed everything, and made even the ordinary
routine of the day seem strange and distorted. Dorothy's pretty face
looked white and drawn, and her dark eyes seemed twice their normal
size.

Leila, less personally interested, was excited by the strangeness and
mystery of it all. She wanted to set to work at once to discover the
criminal, and waited impatiently for the coroner and his hoped-for
revelations.

The farce of luncheon over, various groups gathered here and there to
talk about the subject that engrossed them all.

Just before he left the house, Doctor Gaspard looked about him in a
sort of bewildered way. He looked at Miss Wadsworth, and then shook his
head. He glanced at the detective, Mr. Wheeler, and started toward him
as he stood on the verandah, but just before the doctor reached him,
the detective turned hurriedly to speak to some one else.

"What is it, Doctor Gaspard," said Fred Crane; "can I do anything for
you?"

"It's only this." The doctor spoke undecidedly, and in low tones.

"Let us step down the path," said Crane, leading the other down the
steps and along the garden walk. "Now tell me."

"It's probably nothing of any account. But I want to tell somebody
about it. I tried to get hold of the detective."

"Tell me, doctor. I am helping Mr. Wheeler, and doubtless I can repeat
your message to him better than the others."

"Very well, Mr. Crane. It is this. When I made the examination of poor
Justin's body, and found the stab wound, I found nothing else
indicative or unusual, except this." Dr. Gaspard took from a pocketbook
a small sprig of scarlet sage. It was withered and crushed, but intact.
"This was tightly clasped in Justin's dead hand. I was about to throw
it away, when I thought it might be of value as evidence in hunting the
criminal. I know nothing of detective work, and 'clues' as they call
them, but I felt I must save this. Was it foolish?"

"Not at all," said Fred Crane, more to humor the old man than because
he thought the "clue" of any consequence. "If you will entrust it to
me, Doctor, I will see that Mr. Wheeler gets it, and I will tell him
where you found it."

"Thank you, Mr. Crane. Is Wheeler a smart man? Will he find Justin's
murderer, do you think?"

"I hope so, I'm sure. It's all so sudden, and such a shock, that we
none of us know which way to turn. But of course the murderer must be
found, and made to expiate his crime. I'm a sort of detective, myself,
and if Wheeler can't lay his finger on the criminal, I shall take the
case in hand. I've not interfered in his work, for it was not my place.
But my wife is a cousin of the Arnold family, and I shan't feel that
I'm doing my duty unless I help all I can to avenge this crime."

Doctor Gaspard went away, and Crane put the withered blossom in his own
pocketbook, smiling a little at the deed. "It's of no earthly use," he
thought. "To find the weapon the man was killed with is the thing to
do. I'm going to start in by looking for that. If I find it, I rather
guess old Wheeler will open his eyes."

Crane made at once for the cellar. The body of Justin Arnold was lying
on a table, covered with a sheet and guarded by the two white-faced
footmen. They stood immovable as sentries, and after a word with them,
Crane began his search. He hunted everywhere for a dirk or dagger,
looking behind benches and into cupboards and dark alcoves where it
might have been thrown.

Chapter XVI
The Coroner's Questions

Ernest Chapin found himself alone with Dorothy for a moment, on the
Terrace.

"I can't talk about it!" he exclaimed, as if in agony. "How can those
other men discuss it as if it were an every-day business affair? They
propose coroners and detectives as if they were ordering workmen
about."

"I feel as you do, Ernest," said Dorothy. "All this discussion drives
me frantic. I can't bring myself even to think about it calmly. And
Leila is crazy to do 'detective work,' as she calls it, and find out
who--who--"

"Don't try to say it, dear; and don't judge Leila too harshly. You know
she was not so close to Justin as you were."

For the moment, Chapin seemed to ignore his own love for Dorothy in his
rush of emotion for poor Arnold, but the next instant a realization
came to him of what Arnold's death really meant to her, and he took a
step toward her, whispering exultantly, "But you are now freed from
him, and you are mine!"

"Oh, Ernest, don't!" cried Dorothy, in accents almost of agony, and
then, leaving him abruptly, she almost ran back into the house.

Chapin stood leaning against a pillar, gazing out into vacancy across
the gardens, when a swift motorcar whizzed up the drive and two strange
men got out.

Instinctively, Chapin knew it was the coroner and his assistant and he
greeted them with forced courtesy.

"Coroner Fiske, I suppose?" he said, and, being answered in the
affirmative, he showed the men into the house, where they were met by
Crosby and Gale.

If Detective Wheeler's methods were systematic and expeditious, Coroner
Fiske's were even more so. Though told at once that Mr. Crosby was now
head of the house, he singled out Mr. Crane to answer his questions and
to act as his guide. This he did because Crane was neither a relative
nor so close a friend of the dead man as the others. Accompanied by the
aide he had brought, and led by Crane, he went at once to the cellar.
The official examination only corroborated what the doctor had already
said.

"Where is the weapon?" asked the coroner, but as nobody had seen it, or
even thought about it, he received no answer.

"That is enough," he said at last, and then gave directions that the
body of the late Justin Arnold be removed to a more fitting place.

Then Mr. Fiske went back rapidly to the library, and announced to
Campbell Crosby and Miss Wadsworth that he would hold a preliminary
investigation then and there.

"It isn't exactly an inquest," he explained, "but it will be a
searching investigation, and I must have every member of the
household--family, guests, and servants--present or within immediate
call."

In an incredibly short time all save a few of the servants had
assembled in the library, and the investigation was begun.

"As the circumstances are unusual," said Mr. Fiske, "and, as far as we
can see for the moment, the deed was probably committed by some one
already within the walls, I must ask every one of you to answer readily
and promptly any and all questions, without feeling in any case that
query means suspicion. It is necessary that every one should tell
everything he knows of the events of the night on which the murder was
committed; for an incident of seemingly slight importance sometimes
proves to be the very key to the mystery. Mr. Crosby, as present head
of the house, I will question you first. At what hour did you last see
Mr. Arnold on Monday night?"

Campbell Crosby started in amazement, and then realized that the
coroner was not in possession of all the circumstances.

"I was not here Monday night," he said. "I had been here spending the
week-end, but Mr. Gale and myself returned to Philadelphia on the
afternoon train. From there we were summoned here yesterday by the
tidings of my cousin's death."

"You were, then, in Philadelphia Monday evening. What were you doing?"

Crosby looked as if inclined to resent this absurd questioning of one
who was not present at the time of the crime, but the thought flashed
across him that, as he was his cousin's legal heir, perhaps he would be
subjected to close questioning.

"I dined at my hotel," he replied, "and afterward went to a concert."

"And after that?"

"It was fairly late when the concert was over, and I went back to the
hotel and turned in."

But though Crosby stood this questioning without comment, Gale was not
willing to do so.

"If you'll excuse me, Mr. Coroner," he said, "you are wasting your time
in asking questions concerning this matter of my partner or myself. Mr.
Crosby telephoned me three or four times during the evening, and as we
met at our law office Tuesday morning, and proceeded to our work for
the day, I think we need not be further cross-questioned in connection
with this matter."

"That is true, that is true," said Mr. Fiske, and he nervously tapped
his pencil on the table before him, while Leila with her quick-witted
intelligence immediately surmised that he was asking these questions by
way of killing time, because he dreaded getting to the real truth of
the matter. Leila had her own suspicions, and they were growing
stronger every minute, until to her they seemed almost a certainty, and
she wondered if every one else suspected the same culprit.

Coroner Fiske sighed, readjusted his spectacles, and turned next to
Miss Wadsworth.

"You are housekeeper here?" he inquired courteously.

"Not housekeeper exactly," said Miss Abby, tossing her head ever so
slightly. "Mrs. Garson has that position. I am Justin Arnold's cousin,
or, rather, his father's cousin. This has always been my home, and my
position is that of lady of the house."

"And will you please tell me the time and occasion of your last
interview with Mr. Arnold?"

"There was no especial interview," said Miss Abby, a little crisply,
for she had taken a dislike to the coroner. "After dinner Monday
evening we all sat in the drawing-room. Then the ladies of the party,
including myself, all went to their rooms at about twelve o'clock, I
should think. I fancy the men did not stay down much later, for I heard
them coming up about half-past twelve. Further than that, I can tell
you nothing of the events of Monday night."

Mrs. Duncan and Mrs. Crane were questioned next, but what they said was
merely a repetition of Miss Wadsworth's testimony.

Then the coroner's attention was turned to Dorothy. The girl was
desperately frightened, for Chapin had made her promise not to tell of
their meeting on the balcony, and if she kept this promise, she could
not be entirely truthful in her testimony.

So, in response to Mr. Fiske's inquiry, she asserted that she had gone
upstairs with the other ladies at twelve o'clock, and that she had
stopped for a short time in Miss Duane's room and had chatted there for
perhaps twenty minutes, when she went to her own room. "You heard
nothing of the gentlemen below-stairs?" asked the coroner.

"I may have heard their voices from the hall," said Dorothy carelessly;
"but I paid no attention to them, and went directly to my own room."

Leila Duane looked at Dorothy with such a meaning glance that Dorothy
realized at once that Leila knew she was telling an untruth. As a
matter of fact, Leila had heard Dorothy and Chapin conversing in low
tones, and had even heard their steps as they went out to the balcony.

But Leila said nothing either then or when, a few moments later, she
herself was called upon to answer questions. She simply repeated
Dorothy's story, and corroborated the statement that Dorothy left her
(Leila's) room at fifteen or twenty minutes past twelve.

Satisfied that the women could tell him nothing of importance, the
coroner turned to the men.

Mr. Gale and Mr. Crosby having already been questioned, Mr. Chapin was
next interviewed.

As confidential Secretary, he answered various questions about Justin
Arnold's financial affairs and personal habits. Being asked concerning
his last interview with Mr. Arnold, he merely said that after the
ladies had left them on Monday night, the men went for a short time to
the smoking-room. He said that he and Mr. Crane bade Justin Arnold
goodnight at about half-past twelve, and went at once to their own
rooms. He stated that they left Mr. Arnold in the smoking-room, as it
was his habit always to stay up after his guests retired.

"And you never saw Mr. Arnold alive again, after leaving him at that
time?" inquired the coroner.

"No," replied Chapin, but his voice was low, and he shot a furtive
glance at Dorothy, who dropped her own eyes before it.

However, there was no reason to doubt Mr. Chapin's statements, and Mr.
Crane, who was called next, corroborated them so far as his own
movements were concerned. He deposed that he had said good-night to his
host at half-past twelve, and went away with Chapin. Their ways
diverged, however, as they were quartered far apart in the big house.
Mr. Crane had gone directly to his own room, and had heard nothing
strange or unusual through the night.

"Then," said the coroner, by way of summing up, "I am informed that
none of the family or guests saw Mr. Arnold after half-past twelve on
Monday night. I will, therefore, now put some inquiries to the
servants."

"Excuse me," said Emory Gale. "I have no wish to seem intrusive or to
put any unnecessary query; but as the late Mr. Arnold's lawyer I claim
a right to assist in the investigation of this case. I have waited for
Mr. Arnold's secretary to make a statement which he has not made, but
which I cannot think he has any objection to making. Mr. Chapin has
previously informed me that Mr. Arnold drew a check to his, Chapin's,
order for a large amount of money. As this check was drawn after
midnight on Monday, it was dated Tuesday. As I was in Philadelphia that
night, I know little of the matter; but I wish to inquire if this check
was drawn while the gentlemen were in the smoking-room with Mr. Arnold
between twelve and twelve-thirty."

"It was not," quickly volunteered Fred Crane, who never could refrain
from giving information. "I was there all that time, and we were
telling stories and chatting, and no business matter of any kind was
brought up."

There was a dead silence, for everybody saw the implication. If Chapin
had received that check after twelve o'clock, and if it had not been
drawn while the men were in the smoking-room, then Chapin must have
returned for a further interview with Justin Arnold after leaving Crane
at twelve-thirty!

"Will you explain this apparent discrepancy in your statements, Mr.
Chapin?" asked the coroner coldly, but courteously enough.

"The explanation is," said Chapin sullenly, "that I did go back to
speak to Arnold for a moment, and he gave me the check. As it is
private business of my own, I cannot see that I need answer further
questions concerning it."

"Not concerning the business, Mr. Chapin," said the coroner; "but this
would seem to indicate that you are the last person known to have seen
Mr. Arnold alive."

Ernest Chapin's entire manner changed. His sullenness turned to wrath.
His eyes flashed, and a red spot burned in either cheek as he almost
shouted, "What do you mean by such an implication? Suppose I did see
Mr. Arnold again that night! I know nothing of his death or of his
murderer!"

"It would be wiser, Mr. Chapin," said Mr. Fiske coldly, "to show less
excitement over the statement of your innocence."

"Perhaps it would be wiser, but it is not easy to be wise, under such
unjust implications."

"Then if they are so unjust, why not tell us frankly why Mr. Arnold
gave you that large check."

"Because you have no right to ask, and I do not choose to tell. It has
no bearing on the question of Mr. Arnold's death; and I fail to see why
I should enlighten you regarding my private business affairs."

"But you quarrelled with Mr. Arnold."

"I do not admit that. But if we had a few high words, again you must be
satisfied to learn that the purport of them was entirely foreign to the
cause of this inquiry you are conducting."

Chapin's manner was not rude, but it was curt and gave no invitation
for further questioning. The coroner looked at him sternly for a moment
and then dismissed him as a witness. But it was plain to be seen Mr.
Fiske was by no means through with him, and would doubtless question
him further at the formal inquest next day.

There was a brief and not very pleasant silence. Everybody felt
uncomfortable at Chapin's attitude, and also at the coroner's hints.

While not a general favorite, Ernest Chapin was known and liked by all
present, and the idea of his being concerned in the crime was too
unthinkable.

Fred Crane at last created a divertisement. "Oh, I forgot something,"
he said, suddenly; "it may be a clue. Doctor Gaspard gave me this, Mr.
Fiske. He found it tightly clasped in Mr. Arnold's hand." As he spoke,
Crane gave the coroner the withered sprig of scarlet sage.

"Why was that not given to me?" inquired Detective Wheeler, abruptly.

"I forgot all about it," confessed Crane; "I can't see now that it
means anything."

"Of course it means something," said Wheeler; "it doubtless means that
the murderer of Mr. Arnold was wearing that flower in his buttonhole,
and the dying man clutched at it."

"Drawing a pretty long bow," said Campbell Crosby, doubtfully; "of
course that might be true, but so might lots of other conclusions, I
think."

"For instance?" inquired Wheeler, a little ironically.

"Why, lots of that flower is all about the house; Justin might easily
have had a bit in his hand, or, for that matter, it might have been in
his own buttonhole. He often wore it."

Mabel Crane looked up with startled eyes. She glanced at Leila Duane,
wondering if she remembered her story of seeing Dorothy go downstairs
late Monday night. Dorothy had worn a white gown and a bunch of scarlet
sage at her belt. Certainly Dorothy had been downstairs after the hour
at which Ernest Chapin said he went up, but with that little flirt,
there was no telling what she might have done.

And yet, Mabel couldn't bring herself to raise the question. She looked
at Dorothy, she even looked at her inquiringly, but the girl in no way
responded to her glances.

In fact, Dorothy sat like one turned to stone. Her great, dark eyes
were fixed on the coroner's face, and her whole form was rigid and
immovable. But her hands were clenched as if she were at the end of her
nervous strength.

Mr. Wheeler took the scarlet blossom and put it away in his pocketbook,
remarking that it might yet prove useful.

Then Mabel Crane, unable longer to keep silent, spoke out.

"As it can't possibly do any harm," she said, "I will tell of something
I saw. I saw Miss Duncan come downstairs at nearly two o'clock on
Monday night,--"

"I did not!" interrupted Dorothy; "you are mistaken."

"But I saw you, and you were wearing a bunch of that flower."

"Why, Mabel Crane! What do you mean! Are you saying I killed Justin?"
Dorothy looked like an avenging angel, and sat up straight, with a look
of horror and indignation on her beautiful face.

"No!" cried Mabel, in amazement, "certainly not! I only meant you might
have given Justin the flower, before the burglar, or whoever killed
him, came in."

"But I didn't come down at two o'clock," insisted Dorothy. "I was in
bed and asleep at that hour."

"But I saw you!" and Mabel looked puzzled. "Why should you deny it? Did
you see Mr. Chapin down here?"

"No, I did not! Because I didn't come down, I tell you! I went upstairs
with the rest of you, and I was in Leila's room for a while and then I
went to bed."

Coroner Fiske looked from one to the other of the speakers. Both were
so positive in their assertions, it was hard to tell which was telling
the truth. And yet one must be telling a falsehood. What motive could
Mrs. Crane have for doing so? And, if Dorothy did come down she must
know more than she had yet told. To connect her with the crime was not
possible, but she might have given the flower, and she might have seen
something that she wouldn't tell. Could she have seen Chapin, or some
intruder? Certainly she was concealing something.

But Mabel Crane was not satisfied to let the matter drop.

"Why, I told Leila Duane that I saw you! Didn't I, Leila?"

"Yes," returned Leila, unwillingly.

"You're mistaken," said Dorothy again, and the coroner asked nothing
further then.

Chapter XVII
The Weapon

Funeral services for Justin Arnold were to be held the next morning,
and the formal inquest would be begun Thursday afternoon.

Because of the painful circumstances, there would not be elaborate
obsequies, and the mourners at the funeral would comprise only the
household and a few personal friends and neighbors.

Wednesday evening was a trying time for everybody. The women were on
the verge of nervous breakdown, and the men were taciturn and gloomy.

The matter of Justin Arnold's will was discussed, and though the
instrument itself was in the safe of Gale & Crosby's office, the
lawyers knew its contents, and these they made known to the rest.

"The will provides," said Emory Gale, "a legacy of one hundred thousand
dollars to Miss Wadsworth; fifty thousand dollars to Ernest Chapin; and
good-sized bequests to all of the servants, the largest, of course, for
those who have been longest in Mr. Arnold's employ."

"I am positive," spoke up Fred Crane, "that the murderer is one of the
servants. In fact, it must be. Some one of them knew of the legacy
coming to him, and killed his master in order to obtain his money at
once."

"I'm sure that is so," said Dorothy eagerly, for she realized only too
well that dark thoughts had been directed toward Ernest Chapin, and she
welcomed a suggestion that the criminal might be one of the servants.

"To proceed with the terms of the will," went on Emory Gale, "after
some further bequests to a few relatives, friends, and charities, the
entire residuary estate, including White Birches, is left to Campbell
Crosby."

"Of course this is not a surprise to me," said Crosby, speaking
gravely, as one who had just incurred a great responsibility, "for
Justin made this will years ago, and as one of his lawyers I of course
knew of it. Moreover, as his next of kin, it was quite right that I
should inherit the property, at the time the will was made. But since
then Justin became engaged to Miss Duncan, and upon their marriage she
would have become his heir. Moreover, Justin told me only a short time
ago that he proposed making a new will, which should leave all his
property to his wife, irrespective of her legal rights thereto. I
thought it probable that my cousin had made a personal will or perhaps
a memorandum to that effect, which, if it were found, I should consider
as binding as a legally attested instrument. So far nothing of the sort
has been found, but it may yet come to light. As the one chiefly
interested, I should like to suggest that we leave the matter of
inheritance unconsidered for the present, paying from the estate such
minor legacies as may be deemed advisable."

This speech of Crosby's had a good effect upon them all. It seemed to
dispel a little the vague gloom of the atmosphere, and put matters upon
a more practical basis. As a matter of fact, though all felt the horror
of the crime, no one present felt a poignant sorrow at Arnold's death.
He had not been a lovable man, and though Miss Wadsworth had lived
peaceably with him, they had few interests in common, and their
relations were in no way affectionate.

As for Dorothy, she seemed to have awakened. She knew now she had never
loved Arnold, that she had promised to marry him only because she was
dazzled by his wealth and position. And now Campbell Crosby was his
heir, and Campbell Crosby was desperately in love with her, but fickle
little Dorothy knew her own heart at last, and knew that she had given
it irrevocably into Ernest Chapin's keeping. The facts that Chapin was
acting queerly, that he had not adhered strictly to truth in his
statements, and that men who had known him for years were already
thinking horrible thoughts about him,--all these things had no weight
with Dorothy. She knew that he had suppressed the story of the scene on
the balcony to shield her own good name. She knew that he had returned
downstairs with Arnold. What had then happened she would not dare to
think, but she would have no suspicion in her own mind of the man she
loved. And so, absorbed in her realization of these things, Dorothy did
not sincerely mourn Justin Arnold, though shocked and horrified by the
tragedy of his death.

However, if the men felt in any way uncertain of Chapin's integrity,
they did not show it by actual word or deed. Perhaps their manner was a
trifle constrained, and they did not ask his opinion or defer to his
judgment as much as they might have done.

Crosby, however, was an exception to this. He rather went out of his
way to be pleasant to Chapin, and seemed to indicate, that for his part
he had no ill thought of the man.

"I think," he said, speaking to the company in general, "that since the
inquest will be formally conducted to-morrow afternoon, it is advisable
for us to decide upon some uniform course of action. That coroner will
endeavor to make us express opinions in support of his own theories,
whether we entirely believe them or not. Mr. Fiske is shrewd, and
rather clever at suggesting answers to his own questions. Now,
personally, I do not for a moment believe that Justin was killed by any
of his servants, nor anyone else who was staying in the house that
night. I believe that some intruder or burglar effected an entrance and
killed my cousin. Don't ask me how he got in,--we have discussed that
question from all points. But I hold that some such outsider did get in
and did commit the crime. Now, if any of you can conscientiously agree
with me, I hope you will so frame your answers to the coroner's
questions that they will support that theory."

The others looked at him with varying expressions, as if considering
this mode of procedure.

"I know you're right!" exclaimed Dorothy; "and I for one shall tell Mr.
Fiske so in plain words!"

"I'm afraid, Dorothy, your plain words will have little effect on the
coroner's verdict," said Gale. He spoke listlessly, as if whatever
might be said by a preconcerted decision would have little weight with
the stern decision of justice.

Ernest Chapin said nothing in response to Crosby's suggestion, but he
moved about restlessly and finally left the room. Soon the rest of the
party broke up into smaller groups, and Leila made an opportunity for a
few words alone with Dorothy.

"Are you going to tell the truth when you're questioned to-morrow?"
Leila said, looking Dorothy straight in the eyes.

"What do you mean?" And Dorothy looked angrily at her friend.

"You know very well what I mean. When you left my room that night you
did not go at once to your own room. I heard you speak to Ernest Chapin
in the corridor; I heard you go out with him to the little balcony."

"Did you hear anything more?" and Dorothy's eyes grew wide with fear.

"No; I thought it was none of my business."

"That's exactly what I think!"

"But it will be my business if you give false evidence!"

"Gracious, Leila! don't talk like a professional detective! Suppose I
did flirt with Mr. Chapin, it wasn't the first time,--and it won't be
the last, either. But I see no reason why I should tell Mr. Fiske about
it."

"Tell Mr. Fiske about what?" asked Emory Gale, as he and Crosby joined
the girls in the alcove where they were standing.

Before Dorothy could reply, Leila, in her endeavor to prove to Gale her
detective ability, told the whole story.

Dorothy pouted; "I think you're mean, Leila, to tell that; but I really
don't suppose it makes any difference. Mr. Gale, do I have to tell the
coroner that I saw Mr. Chapin for a few minutes after he came upstairs
that night?"

Though the question was addressed to Gale, Crosby answered it "Of
course you don't, Dorothy," he said; "I suppose Chapin told you not to,
didn't he?"

"Yes, but how did you know that?"

"I only surmised it," said Crosby, smiling down at her startled face;
"now, it's perfectly clear that Chapin wants to suppress that bit of
information, because there's no earthly use of the fact being known
that you were indiscreet enough to meet him so late at night."

"It was only for a minute," pouted Dorothy.

"I know it, my dear child; and there's no harm done if you keep quiet
about it, which Chapin was quite right to ask you to do. I hope, Miss
Duane, you won't consider it your duty to make the story public.
Persuade her not to, Gale; Dorothy and I will give you opportunity."

Crosby took Dorothy by the arm and led her out to the South Terrace. He
caught up a wrap as they passed through the hall, and deftly flung it
round her shoulders, for the evening was chill.

In silence, he led her to the very end of the terrace, and they stood
looking at the moon, now slightly on its wane, and partly obscured by
passing clouds.

He drew the voluminous silken cape more closely round her, and, still
holding its fulness at her throat, he tilted her dainty chin until her
eyes looked into his own.

"Dorothy," he said, "darling, I can't wait! You must promise me now
that you will be mine; that you will marry me, after all these horrible
scenes are over. Promise me, darling, and then, if you insist, I will
wait patiently for a time. But let me have your dear promise, let me
know that there is hope for me--"

"But there isn't any, Campbell;" and Dorothy spoke very seriously,
while a troubled look came into her eyes.

"You don't mean that, darling;" and Crosby was very gentle and tender.
"You don't mean I mayn't hope, for I couldn't live without that! What
you really mean is that you can't think about it now; your dear little
heart is so perturbed by these dreadful scenes. I'm a brute even to
think you can tell me now what I want to know. But you will,
sweetheart, you will! And after a time we will be happy together,
Dorothy. White Birches is mine now, and I care, dear, only because I
can offer it to you."

Dorothy moved slightly aside from Crosby's nearness. "Campbell," she
said, in a faint little voice, "I've a good mind to confide in you."

"Why shouldn't you, dearest? Tell me anything you wish. It will be
perfectly safe with me."

"Well, Justin knew that Mr. Chapin and I were on the balcony that
night. He found us there together. And he was very angry. He sent me to
my room, and asked Mr. Chapin to go downstairs with him."

"Oh!" exclaimed Crosby, in a tone of surprise. "I begin to understand."

"But, Campbell--that didn't--that couldn't have had anything to do
with--with what happened to Justin!"

"Dorothy, hush!" and Crosby's voice was tense. "Never breathe such a
thing! Now, listen: I don't believe for one minute that Ernest Chapin
had anything to do with Justin's death, but I can tell you, dear, that
there's going to be a most fearful lot of circumstantial evidence piled
up against him. That evidence, Dorothy, you and I will fight!"

"Whether it's true or not?"

"Whether it's true or not."

"Oh, Campbell, even--I hate to say it, but even if Ernest Chapin was--did
do wrong, could you get him off? You're a lawyer, you know."

Crosby's face changed. He stepped nearer Dorothy and grasped her
shoulders. "Why do you say that?" he said hoarsely. "Why are you
desperately anxious to have him cleared of suspicion, Dorothy, it can't
be that you care for him!"

"That has nothing to do with it," said Dorothy haughtily.

"It has everything to do with it!" And Campbell clasped her almost
roughly in his arms. "Tell me--tell me this instant--do you really care
for that ordinary, uninteresting fellow, who is not really your own
class?"

"He isn't ordinary and uninteresting! You shan't say such things!"

"Then, you do care for him! Why, Dorothy he's beneath you in every
way!"

"Love levels all ranks," said the girl softly.

Crosby looked at her a moment, as if in despair. Then his face suddenly
changed, and he said exultantly, "I'm not afraid! I know you are a
fickle young person, and even though you think at the moment that
you're interested in that man partly because you think he's a martyr,
and because you never know your own mind two times in succession! But
I'm going to teach you, you beautiful little rogue, you, what it means
to be true and constant to one love only. My love for you is so big and
desperate that I will compel you to love me, and me alone! Do you hear
that, my beauty?"

Dorothy was really frightened at Crosby's vehemence, for, though she
had received impassioned declarations before, there was something in
this man's manner that made her feel his power over her. Under the
effect of it, she almost wavered for an instant in her loyalty to
Chapin; but Dorothy was beginning to find herself, and her new-born
loyalty to the man she really loved was already strong enough to
withstand temptation. But she knew instinctively that to declare
further her love for Chapin would enrage Crosby, and possibly cause him
to withhold whatever influence he might have toward clearing Ernest of
any possible suspicion. So she gently forbade Crosby to continue his
own pleadings at the present time, and with tender consideration he
changed the subject and again became his own debonair, interesting
self.

At last they went back into the house, and the sudden hush that fell on
the party assembled in the living-room told Dorothy they had been
talking about her. She knew they all suspected her of untruth regarding
her return downstairs the night of the murder. But Mabel Crane was kind
and pleasant as always. She ignored the subject of Dorothy's doings
that night and said little about the murder at all.

But her husband was not so reticent. All day he had been hunting the
house in an endeavor to find the weapon which had been used, and it
chanced to be just as Dorothy entered the room, that he sprang up and
grasped the Spanish dagger that lay on the library table. The large
room, which was both library and living-room, boasted several library
tables and desks, and each was amply furnished with writing
paraphernalia. On the others were ordinary paper-knives, of silver or
ivory, but on one lay the deadly-looking dagger that Dorothy had played
with on the night of the dance the week before.

"There's the weapon!" exclaimed Mr. Crane, and Dorothy turned pale. She
remembered how she had pointed it at Justin Arnold in play; and, too,
how she had expressed her liking for that sort of thing.

"How do you know it is?" she said with a gasping breath.

Crane looked at her curiously. Surely she was showing great excitement
over the matter.

"I don't know for certain, but it was here in this room that the murder
was doubtless committed. That is shown, in all probability, by the use
of the sofa-pillow. Well, if this dagger was right here handy, why not
suppose the murderer used it?"

"Let me see it," and Wheeler held out his hand for the knife.

"I see some stains near the handle," he said, slowly; "the blade was
wiped clean, but there is something in the joint that looks like
blood."

He took the dagger away with him for a careful test and returned
shortly, saying: "Yes, as I thought, that dagger is stained with
blood."

"It was cleaned on the sofa-pillow," said Crane; "I noticed the marks.
There is no doubt that the murderer used that paper cutter for his
awful deed. I'll put it away and show it to Fiske to-morrow."

"But it doesn't prove anything," said Dorothy, almost in a whisper.

All eyes were upon her. She was evidently under a great nervous strain,
and her eyes blazed and red spots burned in her cheeks. Emory Gale
shuddered as he remembered the words she had used when she playfully
threatened Arnold with the dagger. She had said if he ever scolded her
she would kill him! Had she come down late at night, as Mrs. Crane
insisted, and had Arnold scolded her, and had,--Nonsense! he well knew
Dorothy was capable of no such deed. But she had said she loved a
dagger; that her ancestors must have been pirates and Spanish dancing
girls! It was nonsense, of course, for Mrs. Duncan was a most
mild-mannered lady, but he had no idea what her father had been like.
Perhaps he had been of a murderous disposition,--pshaw! what foolishness
was he thinking! He glanced at Crosby. He, too, had heard Dorothy's
foolish talk that night, but fortunately, he said to himself, no one
else had,--that is, except poor old Arnold. Crosby was watching Dorothy
intently. Gale knew he must be thinking of the girl in connection with
the dagger.

But Gale was wrong in thinking no one else had heard that talk. For
Fred Crane that night had chanced to be standing just outside the
portiere and had been interested in Dorothy's gay banter.

A little later, Crane asked Dorothy to go with him for a stroll on the
verandah. Looking a little surprised and a little frightened, she
consented.

"Miss Duncan," Crane began, without preamble, "I am looking up the
truths in this case, and I hope to learn the identity of the murderer.
Now I'm sure if you know of anything that would help my investigations
you will not refuse to tell me. You are worried and nervous, and I
don't wonder you don't like to be questioned before the others. But if
you will just tell me what you know, I will promise you to be most
discreet in using that knowledge."

"I don't understand this request, Mr. Crane," and Dorothy flashed a
glance at him. "Perhaps if you will tell me of what you suspect me, I
will tell you whether I know anything at all of the matter or not."

"Suspect is too strong a word. I suspect you of nothing worse than
withholding knowledge."

"Oh, then you don't think I used that dagger last Monday night?"

"I shouldn't like to think so,--and yet," and Crane looked straight at
her; "I will tell you that I chanced to overhear you tell Arnold that
you would kill him if he scolded you! Also, that you loved to play with
a dagger! A strange admission from a young lady!"

"Eavesdropper!"

"Not at all. I merely happened to be on the other side of the curtain,
and hearing such extraordinary statements I was naturally interested
Then, my wife said she saw you come downstairs late that night Then,
Mr. Arnold was found clasping a sprig of scarlet sage, and according to
my wife, you were wearing a large bunch of that flower when you came
downstairs."

"And so you think me guilty of murder?"

"I do not. I repeat I do not. But I think you know something that ought
to be told in the interests of right and justice."

"And I suppose I don't care to confide to you, if I do have any such
knowledge."

"Then you will be obliged to tell it at the inquest. And if you tell me
now, it will be much easier for you on that more public occasion."

"Good-night, Mr. Crane," said Dorothy in an icy voice. And then,
turning from him she walked away with great dignity. Crane looked after
her astounded. He had thought to intimidate her at least, but she went
away like a tragedy queen.

Her enforced calm did not last long. She went straight to her own room
and throwing herself on the bed, gave way to a stormy crying fit. Her
mother came tapping at the locked door, but Dorothy told her to go
away, saying she had a headache and would see nobody. Her mother coaxed
for a time, but in vain, and then went away, leaving poor Dorothy to
herself.

Chapter XVIII
The Inquest

The next morning brought the harrowing hours of the funeral, and in the
afternoon began the no less disturbing experiences of the coroner's
inquest.

Mr. Fiske had impanelled a coroner's jury of six men, and the
proceedings began directly after luncheon was over.

The coroner had his programme mapped out, and his questions were
definite and to the point, bringing out the principal facts in logical
order. The informal testimony of the day before was repeated under
oath, and soon the jury were in possession of all the evidence given by
the members of the household.

Dorothy told her story exactly as she had the day before, excusing it
to herself by arguing that she had kept back only part of the truth and
had not told an actual falsehood.

Ernest Chapin repeated his story, admitting the receipt of a check of
five thousand dollars from Arnold, during an interview which took place
after half-past twelve o'clock on Monday night.

But he refused to tell the nature of the interview, or the reason for
the check, saying that it was a private matter between him and his
employer, and had no bearing upon the crime.

Without comment on Mr. Chapin's statements, Mr. Fiske next questioned
the servants.

From Driggs, the butler, the jury learned of Mr. Arnold's peculiar
precautions against burglars, of his personal habits, and of his
doings, so far as Driggs knew, on the night the crime was committed.

"When did you last see your master alive?" inquired the coroner.

"Just before I went to bed, sir, as I passed through the hall, I saw
Mr. Arnold in the library, sir."

"Was he alone?"

"No, sir."

"Who was with him?"

Driggs made so long a pause that the coroner repeated his question. The
butler was not apt in the art of deception, for he fidgeted nervously,
and cast many furtive glances at Ernest Chapin, then replied,
hesitatingly: "I couldn't rightly say, sir. The gentleman's back was
toward me."

"Was it a stranger to the house?"

"I--I don't think so, sir."

"You heard his voice?"

"And did you recognize that?"

"Why--yes, sir." At the end of his endurance, and unable longer to
withstand the coroner's insistence, Driggs fairly blurted out, "It was
Mr. Chapin, sir."

"As Mr. Chapin has already informed us that he had a late interview
with Mr. Arnold, you need not have been so reluctant to say that you
saw him," commented the coroner, coldly. "Did the conversation between
Mr. Arnold and Mr. Chapin seem to be of a friendly nature?"

"It did not;" Driggs's tone now indicated that he would withhold
nothing from his evidence.

"Were they apparently angry?"

"They were, sir."

"Very angry?"

"Very angry, sir."

"Did you overhear any words?"

"I'm not given to eavesdropping, sir."

"Did you overhear any words?" the coroner repeated, and his icy glance
seemed to fascinate Driggs.

"I did, then, sir. I heard Mr. Arnold say that many a man had killed
another for less than that."

"You heard nothing more?"

"Nothing more at all, sir."

"And then you went directly away to your own quarters?"

"Yes, sir."

"That will do;" and Driggs's testimony was ended.

Although to coroner and jury the butler's evidence had a certain
meaning, yet others present seemed disturbed by varying emotions.

Ernest Chapin's face turned scarlet, and he sat with his eyes cast
down, the picture of a troubled, despairing man.

Dorothy looked anxiously thoughtful. She knew that Arnold had seen her
in Chapin's embrace, and she hadn't the slightest doubt that the words
quoted by Driggs referred to that. But surely the quarrel between the
two men could not have had such a desperate result as murder, and if it
had, the roles of criminal and victim should have been reversed.

Both Gale and Crosby seemed deeply interested in Driggs's story.
Crosby's glance wandered often to Dorothy, and at times his compressed
lips showed his own anger at the thought of the girl he loved being the
subject of a quarrel between two other men.

As for Fred Crane, he had simply made up his mind that startling
developments were imminent, and he scribbled now and then in a
note-book as he sat breathlessly waiting further disclosures.

Jane, a chambermaid, was next to be questioned.

"What is your work in this house?" asked the coroner.

"I takes care of some of the bedrooms, sir. Not all of 'em."

"Do you take care of Mr. Arnold's bedroom?"

"Yes, I do that."

"Did you go to make up his room on Tuesday morning?"

"Yes, sir."

"And what did you find?"

"I found the bed just as it was after turnin' it down the night
before."

"It had not been slept in, you are sure?"

"I'm sure. It was just exactly as I'd turned it down Monday evenin'.
Mr. Arnold is a very particular man, sir; and I always turn his bed
most careful. It hadn't been touched since I did so, sir."

"What did you do then?"

"I just made it up smooth again, and put on the day counterpane and
roll bolster like I always fixes it for the day, sir."

"Didn't you think it strange that Mr. Arnold had not occupied his
room?"

"It's not my business to think, sir. I did my work there and went on."

"And his bath had not been used?"

"No, sir; the towels and sponges were all just as I had left 'em. Not a
thing had been touched."

"What did you do next?"

"I--I went next to make up Mr. Chapin's room, sir."

"Well, was there anything unusual there?"

"Unusual, sir?"

"You heard me! What was unusual about Mr. Chapin's room? Hadn't his bed
been slept in, either?"

"Yes, oh, yes, sir. It had. I went to work and made it up, sir."

"And then?"

"Then I put the room to rights and dusted it and--and tidied
everything."

"Jane, you are keeping something back. What was unusual about Mr.
Chapin's room? Never mind describing your daily work there? What did
you see that you didn't expect to see?"

"Well, sir, I saw a trunk and two bags all packed--"

"Wait! How do you know they were packed? Did you look into them?"

"Oh, no, sor! I mean they were strapped and set side by side like they
were to be taken away."

"And you think they contained Mr. Chapin's clothing?"

"I--think so, sir." Jane shuddered and crossed herself. Clearly she had
a fearsome, if undefined thought.

"Why do you think so?" went on Mr. Fiske.

"Because there was nothin' in the wardrobe or in the dresser drawers,
and all his brushes and things was gone."

"You received the impression, then," said Mr. Fiske, "that Mr. Chapin
had picked up his possessions during the night, with the intention of
departure from White Birches?"

"It seemed that way to me, sir," said Jane, casting a troubled glance
at Chapin, whose despairing aspect had not changed.

"But you then made up Mr. Chapin's room, as usual?"

"Yes, sir, just as usual."

"And when did you go to that room again?"

"Not until the next morning, sir. Peters looks after Mr. Chapin at
night, sir."

"And the next morning were Mr. Chapin's trunks still packed?"

"No, sir; they had been taken away, and everything was put back in its
place in the wardrobes and dresser."

"Apparently a change of plan," commented the coroner. "That will do,
Jane; you're excused. Mr. Chapin, will you tell us why you packed up
your belongings as if to go away?"

Ernest Chapin looked up with an effort. But in a steady, even voice he
replied, "I did intend leaving here Tuesday morning, permanently."

"Because of your quarrel with Mr. Arnold?"

"As a result of that, yes."

The jurymen wagged their heads at one another by way of comment on this
information.

"Why did you not carry out your intention, Mr. Chapin?"

"I learned Tuesday morning that Justin Arnold was missing, and I
decided to stay until the mystery of his disappearance should be
cleared up. As a matter of fact, Mr. Arnold and I severed our business
relations during the interview I had with him."

"You mean, he discharged you from the post of secretary?"

"I mean exactly that." Chapin's voice had now assumed the dead tone of a
man who has nothing more to hope for. Though his words were plausible,
though his eyes were steady and frank, his voice and manner showed
extreme dejection and a sort of final despair.

Without further consideration of Chapin's statements, Mr. Fiske called
Peters, the valet. His evidence was the same as he had given before;
with the exception of an added bit of information which seemed, to all
the hearers, of decided importance.

"What do you know of Mr. Chapin's packed luggage? Did you pack for
him?" said the coroner.

"No, sir."

"Did you unpack them?"

Peters fidgeted. He glanced at Chapin and seemed uncertain what to
answer.

"Did you?" repeated the coroner, sternly.

"Yes, sir," Peters blurted out.

"When?"

"On Tuesday, about noon, Mr. Chapin asked me to do so. He said he had
decided not to go away, and for me to put his clothes and things back
in their places."

"Did he reward you for this?"

"Well, sir, he gave me a bit of a fee same as any gentleman would."

"A bit of a fee? How much?"

"A--a goodish bit, sir."

"Why a large fee?"

"Well, sir,--he--Mr. Chapin, he told me not to say anything about his
having packed or unpacked."

"Not to say anything about it! To whom?"

"To anybody, sir."

"In a word," said the coroner, "Mr. Chapin bribed you to keep secret
the facts that he had concluded to go away suddenly and had afterward
changed his mind."

"If you put it that way, sir," agreed Peters.

"Have you any explanation to offer, Mr. Chapin, of these somewhat
curious proceedings?" Inquired the coroner.

But the worm had turned. Ernest Chapin sat bolt upright, his attitude
became one of haughty indifference, and he said curtly, "I never make
explanations concerning any fees I may choose to give servants."

"Then, let me ask you in a friendly way, Chapin," the coroner went on,
in a somewhat gentler voice, "to give us any explanations that you
will. For I may tell you frankly that what has been said here this
morning seems to indicate that explanations must be required of you. It
will be far wiser for you to volunteer them now than to be forced to
give them later."

"I have none to give," said Chapin coldly. "I had no hand in the murder
of Justin Arnold. I know nothing whatever about it. I had an unpleasant
interview with him late Monday night, and when we parted, although we
did so courteously, we were not good friends. But I did not kill him,
nor have I the slightest idea who did."

The words were frank, the manner was sincere, and yet very few of those
present believed Chapin's declaration. It was quite evident what the
coroner thought.

"Mr. Chapin," he said, "I must warn you that you have made some very
serious admissions. Without being more definite, I will say, that as
you are the last man known to have seen Mr. Arnold, on the night he was
killed, and as you have admitted quarrelling with him on that occasion,
and as you have confessed to packing a large trunk that night, and
bribing a servant to tell his own story of unpacking it, there is room
for a theory that--"

But Ernest Chapin interrupted him. "That I secreted the dead body in my
trunk! Mr. Coroner, your imagination is running away with you!"

"But we have only the word of a bribed servant and yourself that your
clothing was in that trunk. It was a very strange performance, at best.
A murderer could have secreted his victim's body in such a manner, and
then, next day, when discovery threatened, transferred the body, still
with the aid of that useful servant, to the place where it was
eventually found."

To Dorothy, the white, fixed face of Chapin was but a proof of his
horror at such a terrible charge. But to others it was the dismay and
terror of a tracked criminal.

Then Chapin spoke. His voice was tense and strained, almost inaudible,
and his lips quivered, but his words were clear.

"I have no reply to make to such a monstrous charge. It is for you to
bring proof. Quiz Peters and see if you can get him to admit any of the
sort."

"Peters is in your pay, and is not likely to betray you. He has himself
too much at stake to be trapped into an admission."

"Then do your worst!" cried Chapin, speaking now in a loud, defiant
tone, and flashing angry glances round the room as well as at the
coroner. "I am not on trial for any part in or knowing of Justin
Arnold's death. Prove me guilty if you can!"

His voice rang out and he squared his shoulders with the air of one
brought to bay, but determined to fight to the last. This attitude was
not in his favor, and the coroner looked at him sternly, as he said,
"That is all, Mr. Chapin."

Chapter XIX
Dorothy's Disclosures

There was an instant of quietness, and then there was almost a hubbub
in the room. Several spoke at once, and the coroner was obliged to
enforce order by rapping on the table.

As soon as quiet was restored, Dorothy spoke, and spoke rapidly and to
the point.

"Mr. Coroner," she said, "have I a right to be heard?"

"Certainly, Miss Duncan, if you have any information to give concerning
the case."

"I have." And then the girl's courage seemed to give out, and she sat,
fingering her handkerchief, while every one, including Chapin, looked
at her with breathless interest.

"Yes, Miss Duncan," said the coroner; "what is it?"

"Why, you see,--that is,--I didn't tell quite all the truth when I was
questioned, but--but I will tell it now."

She waited so long before proceeding, that Fiske prompted her again;
"And what is the truth, Miss Duncan?"

"Well, when I left Miss Duane's room on Monday night, I--I did not go
directly to my own room--I met Mr. Chapin in the hall, and I went out on
the balcony with him for a few minutes."

"And then?"

"And then, Mr. Arnold came upstairs and he--he saw us and he was very,
very angry, and told me to go to my room."

"And did you?"

"Yes, but before I went, I heard him ask Mr. Chapin to go downstairs
again with him, and Mr. Chapin did."

"And just why are you telling us this?"

"Because,--because, if those two men quarelled, it was--it was about me."
Dorothy looked adorable as she made this admission, and her big eyes
turned to Chapin with a glance of hope that her story would in some way
help him. "I think I ought to tell you, for Mr. Chapin refused to tell,
simply for the sake of shielding me."

"Shielding you from what?"

Dorothy looked surprised. "Why, from the disgrace of being the subject
of a quarrel. A man would do that, if he were,--if he were fond of
anybody."

This was more than Dorothy had meant to say, and she blushed hotly,
while Chapin looked genuinely distressed.

"Go on," said the coroner, abruptly.

"That is all," said Dorothy, now very dignified; "I wish to relieve Mr.
Chapin of any necessity of secrecy regarding the reason for his quarrel
with Mr. Arnold."

The coroner looked thoughtful. "This, then, Mr. Chapin, was the cause
of your quarrel with your employer, and the reason for his discharging
you?"

"It was," returned Chapin frankly. "Since Miss Duncan has told you of
the episode, I have no further reason to deny it. Mr. Arnold spoke to
me in such a manner as might be expected of a jealous man. He was both
just and generous, in the fact that he gave me a check for five
thousand dollars in lieu of notice, and requested that I should leave
White Birches at once. That is why I packed up on my return to my room.
The next day, in view of his unaccountable disappearance, I deemed it
best to stay here, in hope of being of some assistance.

The coroner looked but slightly impressed by these further
disclosures, and said, "You say Mr. Arnold was both just and generous
in his payment to you. Was he equally so in conversation?"

Chapin's face flushed. "He was not," he said. "On the contrary, he was
both unjust and ungenerous in his words to me; but since he is not here
to defend himself, I prefer to make no complaint of his attitude."

"Was not five thousand dollars a large sum to give you instead of the
usual month's notice?"

Again Chapin flushed painfully. It seemed as if he were continually
making ignominious admissions. "The reason for so large a parting gift
was because Mr. Arnold further informed me that he should erase from
his will a bequest he had made to me."

"Oh, then, Mr. Arnold intended to cut you out of his will?"

"So he told me."

"But since he fortuitously died before he could carry out that
intention, his bequest to you still stands in your name!"

"Oh, I say, that's too bad!" exclaimed Campbell Crosby, who was
watching Chapin writhe under the scathing irony of the coroner.

"Thank you, Crosby," said Chapin, nodding at the young man gratefully;
for it was the only hint of comradeship that had been given him during
his ordeal.

"I cannot see, Mr. Chapin," said the coroner curtly, "that what Miss
Duncan has told us, or what you have told us yourself, has any
favorable bearing on the matter. Indeed, to my mind, you have simply
added a plausible, if despicable, motive for wishing to be rid of
Justin Arnold, before he should have opportunity to cut off your
inheritance."

Chapin simply looked at the man. He seemed to understand that words
were useless, and he merely shrugged his shoulders and sat still.

And then Dorothy spoke again. "Mr. Coroner," she began.

"Yes, Miss Duncan; have you further disclosures to make?"

"Don't, Dorothy," said her mother, trying to calm the excited girl;
"don't talk any more. Come away to your room. You need to rest."

"Rest, mother! when I can tell the real truth about this thing! No, I
demand to be heard!" and Dorothy sat up very straight on the sofa while
her mother's arm still encircled her. Her cheeks were burning, and her
eyes shone like stars. Evidently she was keyed up for a great
disclosure.

"I can prove to you," she said, speaking low-but rapidly, "that Ernest
Chapin could have had no hand in this--this tragedy, because I, myself,
saw Justin Arnold alive and well after Mr. Chapin left him."

"It is true, then, that you came downstairs at two o'clock as has been
testified?" said Mr. Fiske.

"Not at two o'clock," corrected Dorothy, "but at a little after one.
Whoever says I came down at two, is mistaken. I watched from my door to
see Mr. Chapin come upstairs, and I saw him at just one o'clock."

"Did he see you?"

"No, I was peeping through the crack of my door. After he was out of
sight, I crept downstairs to speak to Mr. Arnold. Surely I had a right
to do so, as he was my fiancÚ."

"We are not discussing your rights, nor the conventions," said Mr.
Fiske, coldly; "what happened?"

"I had a short interview with Mr. Arnold and returned to my room."

"At what time?"

"At about half-past one."

The coroner turned to Mrs. Crane. "Did you not say you saw Miss Duncan
go downstairs at two o'clock?"

"I did think so," replied Mabel Crane, "but I have since learned that
my room clock was too fast, and it may well have been half an hour
earlier."

"Go on," said the coroner to Dorothy.

"Well, that's all. I was with Mr. Arnold for half an hour after Mr.
Chapin left him, which proves, you must admit, that Mr. Chapin did not
kill him."

"What was the purport of your interview with Mr. Arnold?"

"I went down to ask him to overlook my offence, and be friends again."

"And was he willing to do so?"

"No!" and Dorothy looked enraged; "he was not. He told me he had
discharged Mr. Chapin and I begged him to take him back, but he
wouldn't."

"And you quarrelled?"

"We did."

"Did you break your engagement?"

Dorothy looked up, fearfully; "N--not exactly."

"What do you mean by not exactly?"

"I mean I offered to break it, but Mr. Arnold would not agree to that
But he scolded me so terribly that I--"

Everybody looked frightened, for all knew how Dorothy regarded
scolding. Both Gale and Crosby remembered the night she had said she
would kill Arnold if he scolded her. And both Gale and Crosby
remembered the way she had pointed the dagger at Arnold in play, but
with a very real significance.

Ernest Chapin stared at her, in a dazed sort, of way. He seemed to
realize she was doing all this for him, and it fairly took his breath
away.

"I protest!" he cried; "Miss Duncan must not be allowed to proceed with
this testimony!"

"Lest she incriminate herself or you?" asked the coroner, unpleasantly.

"Neither! But Miss Duncan is under great stress of excitement, and is
not altogether responsible for what she is saying."

"I am, too!" cried Dorothy, "and I insist on being heard."

"Proceed," said Mr. Fiske. "But it is only right, Miss Duncan, that I
should warn you to be careful. Your story makes it appear that you were
the last one to see Mr. Arnold alive."

"Yes, and so I was, until the murderer, whoever he was, came."

"Did you give Mr. Arnold a spray of scarlet sage?"

"No, I did not."

"You were wearing some in your belt?"

"Yes, but I didn't give him any then; nor did he have any when I saw
him."

"Then you think the murderer brought it and placed it in his hand?"

Dorothy looked thoughtful. "I don't know," she said seriously; "that
doesn't seem plausible, and yet, where could it have come from?"

"There was none in the room?"

"Yes. I think there was, in vases on the tables. But Justin would
scarcely break off a spray for himself after I left him."

"Not likely! Might he not have snatched a bit from your belt as you,"
the coroner drove the shaft home, "as you stabbed him with that dagger,
in the mad passion of your rage?"

With a low moan, Dorothy fainted.

"Brute!" cried Leila Duane to the coroner, as Dorothy was carried from
the room.

But Mr. Fiske was not to be stopped. "She incriminated herself!" he
declared. "It has been told how Miss Duncan was inclined to use a
dagger if she were scolded or chided; and, given desperate provocation
and opportunity, she lost her head and struck what proved to be a fatal
blow."

"You lie!" said Ernest Chapin. "I killed Justin Arnold, myself. I
confess it. We quarrelled and I snatched up the dagger and drove it
home. The rest you know."

"I do not believe you, Mr. Chapin," said the coroner, looking at him,
intently. "I think you are saying that to shield Miss Duncan from
suspicion. Or it may be you are an accessory after the fact. Did Miss
Duncan strike the fatal blow, and, for of course she could not have
carried the body down to the cellar, did she come to you for help?"

The cruel face of Mr. Fiske was aglow with excitement. He was a man who
had no mercy, and once on a trail spared no one's feelings in his blunt
questions.

Ernest Chapin was a big man, but he looked a veritable giant as he
stood up and fairly thundered, "No! she did not! I tell you I killed
Arnold, and I alone! Miss Duncan had gone upstairs after her interview
with him, and I came down again to learn what had transpired. If he had
been unjust or unkind to her, I was quite ready to kill him,--and did!"

"What magnificent lying!" exclaimed Campbell Crosby. "But totally
unnecessary, my dear Chapin. We'll prove Dorothy's innocence without
your perjury, noble though it is, in intent."

"That will do, Mr. Crosby," interposed the coroner; "I am conducting
this case. Mr. Chapin, I accept your statements, for the moment, at
least. Did you, by any chance, have a sprig of the red flower in your
buttonhole?"

"I did," returned Chapin.

"Where did you get it?"

"Miss Duncan had given it to me earlier in the evening. In our
struggle,--for there was a struggle,--Arnold grasped at the flower,--it
had roused his jealousy in the first place,--and kept it clasped in his
hand."

"Good Lord! What lying!" exclaimed Crosby. "Did you do that, Dorothy?"

"Yes," said the girl. "But I gave a spray to Mr. Crane, too, and to
Justin, so that counts nothing.

"What did Mr. Arnold do with the flower you gave him?" asked Fiske.

"He threw it away, he was so angry at me."

"Miss Duncan," said the coroner, very gravely, "you are not guilty of
this murder, I am sure. But the evidence points strongly toward Mr.
Chapin. And I feel sure you know all about the facts. Are you willing
to tell truly what you know? There is no use in your making up
falsehoods, for they will not be believed."

Dorothy stared at him a moment, her face white as chalk, and her eyes
burning. Then she gave one quick glance at Chapin, and with a low,
deep-drawn sigh, she again fainted; this time in her mother's arms.

Chapter XX
Fleming Stone

What happened just after that, Dorothy Duncan never quite knew. She
knew that some dreadful officers took Ernest Chapin away, and she knew
that they called it being arrested, but that it meant going to jail.

But with her returning senses came a realization of it all, and a mad,
wild determination to conquer circumstances, to refute evidence, and to
save Chapin yet. How this was to be accomplished, she had no idea, but
never yet had Dorothy Duncan failed in an undertaking! To be sure, she
had never undertaken such a task as this, but, on the other hand, she
had never before felt the same power of strength and capability of
endeavor. From a merry butterfly of a girl, she had suddenly bloomed
into a single-hearted, loving woman, and she would save her lover from
his impending fate if a woman's will or a woman's wiles could do it!

Alone, in her own room, she came to these decisions, and went at once
in search of definite advice.

On the terrace she found Mr. Gale and Mr. Crosby.

"I want you to help me," she said simply, "both of you. In the first
place, Ernest never killed Justin. I know he didn't, but I can't prove
it to that horrid coroner man. Nor to that detective, either! He had a
spite against Ernest from the very beginning."

"But, Miss Duncan," began Gale, "you must admit--"

"I admit nothing! I know what you're going to say--'circumstantial
evidence,' and all that tomfoolery! I don't care for your opinion, Mr.
Gale--pardon me if I am rude, but I mean exactly what I say! I'm not
asking your opinion as to who killed Justin, for you don't know, and a
mere opinion is worth nothing. What I ask you is this: can you direct
me to the very best detective in the country? I don't mean what they
call a central-office man; I mean a detective who can detect
mysteries."

"Dorothy," said Crosby, looking at her closely, "don't talk like that;
you are excited, child. You can do nothing in this matter. It is not
work for a young girl."

"I'm a woman," said Dorothy, "and I demand consideration of what I have
to say. You said yourself, Campbell, that you didn't believe Ernest
committed the crime; now what are you going to do to find out who did
do it, and save an innocent man?"

"There's Stone, of course," said Gale thoughtfully. "He's the only one,
Dorothy, that I know of who can do miracles in detective work."

"Stone!" exclaimed Crosby. "Fleming Stone? For heaven's sake, don't get
him!"

"Why not?" said Gale.

"In the first place, he never takes any but the most important cases;
again he's outrageously expensive; and, any way, his services are so
difficult to procure as to be practically impossible."

Dorothy looked at the speaker gravely. "Campbell, this is an important
case. I'm sorry Mr. Stone's expensive, but I should think, as Justin's
heir, you would be glad to spend your money toward the rightful
avenging of his death! As to your third objection, that Mr. Stone's
services are hard to obtain, I myself will engage to secure him for our
case."

Gale looked in amazed admiration at this new Dorothy who had so
suddenly come into being. Her beauty seemed intensified by the woman's
soul that looked out of her eyes.

"By Jove! you're right!" exclaimed Gale. "Though I hate to believe it
of Chapin, somehow I can't see any loophole for the man. And, Miss
Duncan, if you want to appeal to the very highest possible talent in
the detective line, go to Fleming Stone, and I'll warrant you'll
persuade him to do your bidding. Shall I telephone him for you, and
make an appointment at his place in New York? You never could see him
any other way."

"Oh, do, please, Mr. Gale! I will keep any appointment he may make.
Mother will go with me at any time to see him."

Gale went away on this errand, and Crosby turned suddenly to Dorothy,
saying impulsively, "Don't let him do that, Dorothy! Run after him, and
ask him not to telephone!"

"Why?" and Dorothy turned her large, sad eyes full on Crosby. "If you
don't want to spend so much money, I will manage that part of it
myself. Mother has some, and I have a little of my own."

"Don't talk like that, dearest! You know all that I have is yours, if
you will accept it! Dorothy, will you promise to marry me if I will
free Ernest Chapin from all suspicion of this crime?"

"Can you do that?"

"If I take the case, I can do it. I'd be a poor lawyer otherwise. But
never mind that; will you promise to be mine if I succeed in setting
Chapin free?"

Dorothy looked at him curiously. "If you can set him free, you must
know something that you haven't yet told."

"Lawyers know lots of things they don't tell," said Crosby, almost
flippantly; "but you haven't promised yet."

"Campbell," and Dorothy's piquant face was very sweet and serious as
she spoke, "you may as well understand, once for all, that when Ernest
Chapin is free, I shall marry him, and nobody else."

"Then I wash my hands of the whole affair," said Crosby angrily; "and a
good time you and your precious Fleming Stone will have, trying to
clear your lover! After you have failed, you may be glad to reconsider
my offer."

"I may," said Dorothy, very gravely. "If Fleming Stone should fail, and
if I were positive that you could free Ernest, I would consent to marry
you--if you would not otherwise help him. But, Campbell Crosby, I would
never marry you for any reason except to save Ernest Chapin's life!"

Dorothy turned and left him to such cold comfort as he might get from
her parting speech. Going into the house, she met Gale, who said Mr.
Stone was exceedingly sorry, but he was so busy it would be impossible
for him to take up the case.

"Impossible!" cried Dorothy, in despair. "Oh, Mr. Gale, couldn't you
persuade him?"

"No, I tried my best, but he wouldn't even consider it."

"Then that settles it," and Dorothy went on her way upstairs.

It was late evening now, but with firm step and determined air Dorothy
went straight to a small telephone booth on the second floor. Finding
the number in the book, she called up Fleming Stone.

The great detective answered her kindly, when she made known her
errand, but repeated his assertions of inability to take up the matter.

And now Dorothy Duncan called upon her uttermost powers of cajolery to
help her persuade this man against his own will.

"Mr. Stone," she said in her most pleading voice, "won't you try to put
yourself in my place for a moment? The man I love is in prison, under
suspicion of a crime of which he is utterly innocent. Only you can save
him for me. I am a naughty little girl, I have been called a coquette
and a flirt all my life. Now has come my one love, the real love of my
life. Must it be a tragedy? Won't you help me to save that man, to
realize that love, and thereby make a woman, a true, loving woman, out
of a foolish, frivolous madcap girl?"

"Miss Duncan, if I could arrange to do this thing, I would; but you
must understand that other cases have prior claim on my time and
attention. It wouldn't be just or right to neglect them."

"Mr. Stone," and Dorothy's voice was very sober, "did you never in all
your life do a thing that was not just and right?"

"Why,--I think not willingly or premeditatedly."

"Then won't you, just this once? Oh, think what it means to me! Mr.
Stone, did you ever love anybody?"

Fleming Stone hesitated a moment before he answered, slowly, "Yes."

And in that instant's hesitation Dorothy knew that her cause was won!

"Very, very much?" she said softly.

Again the hesitant "Yes."

"Then," and Dorothy showed no triumph in her voice, only pleading,
"then, for her sake, won't you, oh, Mr. Stone, won't you help another
woman?"

"I will," said Fleming Stone. "You have my promise, Miss Duncan, to do
all I can for you. Can you come here to see me to-morrow morning? It
will help to have an interview before I go to your place."

"Yes, I will be there. At what time?"

"Shall we say ten?"

"Very well; at ten o'clock. I will be prompt And--I thank you, Mr.
Stone,--in her name."

Dorothy's tone was sweet and tender, and as Fleming Stone hung up his
receiver, he fell into a reverie which lasted a long time, and whose
visions were of a long time ago. Dorothy's instinct had led her to use
the only argument that would have prevailed with Fleming Stone, and
when he aroused himself from his waking dream, he found he would have
to work nearly all night to complete some work that must be done if he
were to accept this new commission.

Leaving the telephone table, Dorothy felt a strong desire to see no
one, but to go straight to her room for the night. But she knew she
must make arrangements for the trip to New York, so she went
downstairs.

She told no one what persuasions she had used, but she told of her
success in making an appointment with the famous detective.

"I'm mighty glad you've fixed it up," said Gale. "Miss Duane and I have
discussed the matter, and, though I frankly confess that things look
very black for Chapin, we have felt that he should have the benefit of
even a desire for doubt. And I assure you if Fleming Stone cannot find
the criminal, no one can."

Dorothy remembered Campbell Crosby's offer to free Chapin himself, and
concluded he meant to do it by legal chicanery; or else he merely made
the rash promise in the hope of persuading her to marry him.

In one of the swift motor-cars belonging to the garage of White
Birches, Dorothy and her mother started the next morning to see Mr.
Stone. Leila had begged to go, too, saying that she would not ask to be
present at the interview, but she wanted to see, at least, the
reception-room of the great detective. Of course, Leila's going implied
Gale's going also. So the four started off.

As in Gale's opinion it augured better success, Dorothy went into Mr.
Stone's presence alone, leaving the others in the reception-room.

Dorothy felt no embarrassment or shyness as she went into the inner
office, though office the room could scarcely be called. It was more
like a great library, but with a cosy, pleasant air as of a room loved
and lived in.

Fleming Stone regarded the girl with a grave interest. He made no
reference to their conversation of the night before, and, taking the
cue, Dorothy did not.

"Miss Duncan," said Stone, kindly, "what can I do for you?"

A week earlier Dorothy would have brought into play her whole
bewitching paraphernalia of smiles, blushes, dimples, and long,
drooping eyelashes. Now those wiles seemed to her trivial in the face
of her great tragedy, and, dropping into the seat Mr. Stone placed for
her, she looked straight in his face and said slowly, "You can do this
for me, Mr. Stone. The man I hope to marry has been arrested for a
murder he did not commit. But everybody believes he did it. Even the
lawyers say there is no loophole for him."

"And you want me to find a loophole?" said Fleming Stone, smiling
kindly at her as she paused.

"Oh, Mr. Stone, how good you are!" she cried, referring to his kindly
tone and reassuring smile. "No, I don't want you to find a loophole. I
want you to find the man who did kill Mr. Arnold."

"And this man under arrest, your friend, is judged guilty, I suppose,
because of circumstantial evidence so strong that it convinces
everybody."

"Yes; but I know he didn't do it."

"And you have only that knowledge, as you term it, born of your
affection for him, with which to refute this overwhelming tide of
evidence?"

If Dorothy had faltered then, had hesitated, or had suddenly realized
that her case was weak, she might not have roused Fleming Stone's
interest. But she said simply, "Yes, Mr. Stone, that is all; but it is
enough, for my knowledge is true, and the evidence is false--or not
false, perhaps, but misleading."

"Give me a slight outline of the circumstances," said Fleming Stone,
and, with a sigh of resignation, he pushed away the papers he had been
working on and settled himself to listen.

Straightforwardly Dorothy told the story. She omitted no important
detail, she did not gloss over the points that told against Chapin or
herself, and she made no effort to cajole Fleming Stone's sympathy by
any exhibition of sentiment or pathos.

He listened attentively, thought a few moments after she had finished,
and then said:

"As part of our problem, then, we have first a house-party in a house
that it is impossible to leave or enter during the night. We have a man
who is in love with Mr. Arnold's fiancÚe. We have this man see Mr.
Arnold at night, when they engage in angry altercation. We find Mr.
Arnold dead the next morning. We know of no one else who could have had
any motive or opportunity for the crime, and yet we are asked to prove
that this man in question did not do it."

Dorothy's heart fell like lead. The way in which Mr. Stone set forth
this sequence of arguments seemed to point so indubitably to Chapin--or,
at least, seemed to prove that Mr. Stone thought they did--that Dorothy
lost all hope of his assistance. But she said bravely, though in a
faint voice, "Yes, that's what we have to prove."

"Plucky little piece," was Fleming Stone's inward comment, but aloud he
said, "Then, Miss Duncan, if that's what we have to prove, the sooner
we set about it the better."

"Can you prove it, Mr. Stone?" and hope, suddenly roused by his words,
sent the color flying to Dorothy's cheeks, the light to her eyes, and a
tremulous smile to the corners of her mouth.

Being merely human, after all, Fleming Stone caught his breath at this
sudden vision of animated beauty, but he answered her query by saying,
"You think Mr. Chapin innocent, Miss Duncan?"

"I know him to be innocent, Mr. Stone."

"Then, you will not be so greatly surprised when I say I agree with
you."

Chapter XXI
The Key Of The Mystery

Dorothy gave a rapturous, almost inarticulate gasp, and, jumping up,
impulsively held out two little roseleaf hands that were as impulsively
clasped by Fleming Stone.

"You dear man!" she breathed, and the glory in her eyes seemed to dart
far beyond the enclosing walls of the room, penetrating, Stone felt
sure, even to the cell where her lover sat.

Unconscious, in her joy, of having acted unconventionally, Dorothy
resumed her seat, and Fleming Stone took up the conversation.

"It seems a baffling case," he said, "and doubtless you are too
inexperienced to know that often the baffling cases solve themselves
more readily than the simpler ones. To begin with, Miss Duncan, I
ignore all suspicion of you, either as accessory or as having any
guilty knowledge of the affair. I am positive you know no more than you
have so frankly told me."

"Why are you so sure?" Dorothy asked the question simply.

"Because I can read you and because it would be absurd for you to seek
my services, if there were any danger of finding evidence against you."

And Fleming Stone's glance gave Dorothy an unspoken assurance that he
knew no guilty person could have spoken to him as she did over the
telephone.

"Your play with the dagger is meaningless," he went on. "As you said,
you have a foolish attraction toward the picturesque weapon, but I am
sure I am safe in saying you are cured of that."

A sad little smile confirmed this statement, and Stone went on.

"You left Mr. Arnold alive and well, just as you have said; and, tell
me, was he wearing a boutonniere of the scarlet sage?"

"No, Mr. Stone. I had given him one earlier in the evening, but he had
thrown it away."

"You had given Mr. Chapin one?"

"Yes; but, Mr. Stone, I have given them to all the men all the week. I
decorated Mr. Crane every day. Also Mr. Gale and Mr. Crosby. When they
went away on Monday, I gave them each a sprig; and I even gave old Dr.
Gaspard one. It is my favorite flower, and I almost always wear it when
it is in season."

"Then it may not be a definite clue. I think, Miss Duncan, the
strongest argument against your faith in Mr. Chapin is his speech, of
which you told me yourself: that he said he didn't care what had become
of Mr. Arnold, and that he would be willing to commit crime to win
you."

Dorothy hesitated a moment, then she blushed a rosy red, and, as if
with sudden determination, she said, "But, Mr. Stone, Mr. Crosby said
that, too. He said he didn't care what had become of Justin if it left
me free to marry him. I know these are awfully conceited things for a
girl to tell, but I'm only trying to show you that a man doesn't always
mean the desperate things he says."

"Miss Duncan," said Stone, "I may as well confess I brought up that
point to see if you would not answer it in some such manner as you did.
I feel sure you have had a wide and varied circle of admirers, and I
know you have learned not to take all their remarks too literally. I'm
making this point because I want you to understand that I do not really
consider that speech of Mr. Chapin's as evidence against him. On the
contrary, if a man has murder in his heart, he's most careful, usually,
not to let such a thing creep into his speech. Now, another point, the
fact that Mr. Chapin packed up his clothing at night, after being
discharged by his employer, and unpacked it again the next day, is to
my mind distinctly in his favor. Whatever was his condition of mind
when he packed his boxes after his angry interview with Mr. Arnold, it
was changed when he learned that Mr. Arnold had disappeared. Had he
been the cause of that disappearance, he would not have been surprised
at the information, and would have had no reason to change his plans
accordingly."

"That is true!" cried Dorothy excitedly. "That horrid coroner was bound
to suspect Ernest, and he made every bit of evidence seem to be against
him, whether it was or not."

"It is a common mistake to theorize, and then insist on fitting the
facts to one's theory. Miss Duncan, I cannot promise you success, but I
can promise you my best endeavors to fasten this crime where it rightly
belongs, and I do not think now that the criminal's name is Chapin."

"Who do you think did it?" asked Dorothy quickly.

"I haven't an idea, though I have the least little, tiny glimmering of
a direction in which to look. Further than that, I cannot say, until I
can go to White Birches and examine the scene of the crime."

"But it is too late to find clues! To-day is Friday--that's four days
since--since it happened."

"Some clues are ineffaceable," said Stone gravely. "A living clue is
not lost sight of in four days."

Suddenly Dorothy felt enveloped in the mystery of this man's genius. He
knew nothing of the case save what she had told him. She had told him
nothing of the case save what had been heard by the jury who had
convicted Chapin; and yet here was this man implying that he considered
Ernest innocent, and talking about living clues, as if he already had
the criminal in mind!

"When will you come, Mr. Stone?"

"I will go to White Birches to-morrow morning, and remain there, if
necessary, over the week-end."

"And"--Dorothy hesitated, and stammered a little--"but--they tell me you
are very expensive, Mr. Stone."

"Much depends on circumstances, Miss Duncan. If Mr. Chapin is freed,
perhaps he will pay my not exorbitant fee out of his legacy."

Dorothy looked pained for a moment, and then she realized that if
Ernest were freed, and the real criminal discovered, there could be no
stigma attached to the bequest of Arnold.

After the briefest of good-byes, Mr. Stone held the door open for her,
and closed it immediately after her, so that Leila caught not even a
glimpse of the celebrated detective.

"'But you will see him, Leila, you will!" exclaimed Dorothy, as she
threw her arm around her mother's neck, in her gladness. "Oh, Mother,
he's coming to-morrow, and he knows Ernest didn't kill Justin, and he's
going to find out who did--though I think he knows that, too, already!"

"By Jove, Dorothy, you're a wonder!" exclaimed Emory Gale. "You must
have hypnotized him to think just what you wanted him to! I didn't
think he was that sort of man!"

"He isn't that sort of man," said Dorothy, smiling happily. "He just
thinks his own thoughts, but he thinks Ernest is innocent, and he's
going to make everybody else think so, too."

Fleming Stone arrived Saturday morning. His winning personality
appealed to them all, and though Leila was surprised that the great
detective should have the polished manner of the men of her own world,
she, with the others, fell under the thrall of his personal magnetism.

Mr. Stone did not desire the household to come together, so that he
might ask them questions officially. Instead, he wandered about the
house and grounds, conversing casually with the different ones, and
seemingly going about at random.

In fact, Emory Gale began to think that the man's powers had been
overrated, and that he was floundering, because he knew not in which
direction to look. Fred Crane was secretly disgusted at the detective's
methods; but Miss Abby Wadsworth sniffed openly, and said to Mrs.
Duncan that for her part she thought Mr. Wheeler had twice the brains
of Mr. Stone.

The detective whom she thus flattered, however, was of quite another
mind. James Wheeler, who had begged to be present, appreciated what
Fleming Stone was doing. He followed the great man about, furtively
watching every expression of his face and every direction of his eyes.
He listened to Mr. Stone's remarks--noting the vital questions veiled by
casual effects--and almost held his breath as he endeavored to trace the
workings of the subtle mind.

Fleming Stone was especially interested in the great wall and the gates
that guarded White Birches from intrusion.

"Can we find no loophole?" he asked as he searched the whole place.

"No," cried Fred Crane exultantly; "I have been round and round the
wall, inside and out, and there is no way a man could get under or over
or through!"

"What's this?" and Stone picked up a small key from the ground, quite
near the wall.

With the detective were Fred Crane, Mr. Wheeler and Malony. They all
examined the key.

"There's no doubt as to what it is," said Wheeler, "it's a prestolite
key. But where did it come from, and how did it get here?"

"What's a prestolite key?" asked Crane, who was not a motorist.

"A key to turn on the big motor searchlights that illumine the path
ahead at night," answered Stone. "Does it belong to you, Malony?"

"No, sor," and the old Irishman shook his head; "we have a different
shtyle from the likes o' thot. But how the divil, savin' yer prisince,
sor, cud thot thing iver get inside these walls?"

"That's the question," said Stone; "a motor could scarcely leap the
wall and drive about the grounds."

"Do they use such a key in an aeroplane?" inquired Wheeler, who had
been secretly nursing an airship theory for some time.

"I think not," returned Stone, who was gazing absently at the key and
then at the wall. "Curious to find it so near the wall, eh?"

Both Wheeler and Crane were overjoyed at the attitude of the famous
detective, who seemed to defer to them at every turn.

As a matter of fact, it was only seeming, for Fleming Stone kept his
real thoughts to himself, and made unimportant speeches to occupy his
hearers' attention while he was thinking.

He put the key in his pocket, and said in a most serious way: "I charge
you strictly, gentlemen, to say nothing of this key to any one. It may
be of no importance as a clue, but I fancy it is, and I must ask your
promise to divulge to no one,--no one at all, the fact of its being
found. You hear, Malony?"

"Yis, sor. I'll say nothin'. But, sor, av ye plaze, where did it come
from?"

"I don't know yet, for sure, Malony, but I think we shall find out
soon."

After not more than an hour at White Birches, Mr. Stone went away for
an interview with Ernest Chapin. At her earnest request, Dorothy was
allowed to accompany him.

The interview was brief but very much to the point.

"Mr. Chapin," said Fleming Stone, "I am going to begin by assuming that
you are innocent of this crime. But I should like your statement to
that effect."

"You shall have it," and Chapin spoke frankly, looking Stone square in
the eye. "I am innocent. Entirely so. I said I was guilty to shield
Miss Duncan from a possible suspicion which seemed to me to be hovering
very near her."

"You yourself did not believe Miss Duncan could be guilty?"

"I cannot tell you. I could not believe it in my heart, for I love her
too deeply; but I knew her quick impulsive nature, I knew her strange
infatuation for sharp weapons, and I knew her especial aversion to
being scolded. With this knowledge, while I could not and did not think
her guilty, I had to admit to myself the possibility of it; or at
least, I thought I did. And rather than run the slightest risk of her
being suspected, I willingly shouldered the crime. Now that you have
come, I am sure the truth will be brought to light, and so I declare
myself innocent."

"You had a stormy interview with Mr. Arnold?"

"It was, indeed. He was justly incensed because the woman he loved had
given her heart to me, and he had discovered it. I do not blame him for
feeling as he did. I was not very honorable and my only excuse is that
Miss Duncan did love me, and so blinded my honor, my judgment, and my
loyalty to my employer. For many years Mr. Arnold had been most kind to
me, and I did illy repay him to treat him as I did."

"Your words are true, Mr. Chapin, but that is all past now, and so
beyond ethical argument. It is to be hoped that you and Miss Duncan
have yet many years of happiness in store, and to gain that, we must
first discover the murderer of Justin Arnold."

"Have you any suspicion as to the identity of the criminal, Mr. Stone?"

Fleming Stone did not answer this direct question, but said: "At what
time did you leave Mr. Arnold?"

"At about one o'clock," replied Chapin.

"And you went downstairs, Miss Duncan?"

"At about ten minutes after one. I saw Mr. Chapin come up, and waited
for him to get to his room. I went down, partly to make peace with Mr.
Arnold, and partly to learn what he had said to Mr. Chapin."

"Then you went back upstairs at what time?"

"At about half-past one; perhaps twenty minutes of two."

"You saw no one about?"

"No."

"Did either of you hear Mr. Arnold come upstairs?"

"Why, no," returned Chapin; "as the presumption is he never came up."

"Did you hear any noise during the rest of the night?"

"No," said Dorothy, but Ernest Chapin said: "I heard some sounds, which
I assume to be the rats in the wall that the servants mentioned."

"Tell me of these sounds," said Stone with greatest interest.

"It was, I think, a little before two o'clock," said Chapin. "I had not
been to sleep, and I heard a sound in the wall at the head of my bed, a
sort of scratching sound as of something going up or down. When the
servants spoke of rats, I decided that was what it was, though I had
never heard them before. The sounds ceased, and I fell into a restless
doze, when I was awakened by a repetition of the same or similar
sounds. I looked at my watch and it was then about three o'clock. I
heard no more of them, but I was then so thoroughly wide awake I
couldn't lie still, so I got up and packed my clothing and belongings.
Mr. Arnold had discharged me from my position as his secretary, but he
hadn't told me to leave at once. However, I felt I could not stay, and
decided to leave early the next morning. When I learned of Mr. Arnold's
strange disappearance, I concluded to stay until the mystery was
cleared. So I told Peters to unpack my things. I did give him a fee, as
has always been my habit when he did extra services for me, and I did
ask him not to mention the matter; but the two incidents had no
connection, and it was not a case of bribery as has been charged."

"I believe you implicitly, Mr. Chapin," said Stone; "what interests me
most is those strange sounds in the wall. Why should rats appear
suddenly, when you have never heard them there before?"

"I don't know, I'm sure," said Chapin, wearily, "but I can't see that
it has any bearing on the crime. No secret passage exists in that wall
or any other, for I have examined the house myself, aside from the
searchings of the detective and Mr. Crane and the others."

"Thank you, Mr. Chapin," said Fleming Stone, as he left. "You have
helped me more than you know. I feel sure we shall unravel this tangled
thread of mystery in a few days, at most. Come, Miss Duncan, are you
ready to go?"

But even as he spoke, Fleming Stone turned aside to give the pair an
opportunity for a word alone, and at his nod the warden also waited a
moment.

And then the two visitors went away, and Chapin was left in his cell,
but with a heart full of hope and faith in the great detective's
powers.

Stone helped Dorothy into the car and got in beside her. She looked at
him appealingly; he replied at once to her unspoken question.

"Your faith is not misplaced, my dear child. Mr. Chapin is innocent of
the crime; and though he must remain where he is until the criminal is
discovered, it is fortunate that he has the knowledge of your love and
loyalty to cheer him. Moreover, he may yet owe his very life to your
insistence on his innocence; for I have never seen a more convincing
pile of circumstantial evidence against an innocent man."

"But how are you going to find the culprit, Mr. Stone?"

"There seems to be no direction in which to look. There are, in fact,
very few directions in which to look; but I'm sure you can understand
that the very limitations of the outlook must mean quick work."

Dorothy didn't quite understand this, but as Mr. Stone became silent
and seemed lost in thought, she said nothing further to him.

Chapter XXII
The White Alley

Once again at White Birches, Mr. Stone went systematically to work. He
asked for a footman to lead him to such portions of the house as he
wished to visit. But it was all done so quietly and unostentatiously
that most of the household returned to their own interests and paid no
attention to the wanderings of erratic genius.

Mr. Wheeler followed close in the footsteps of Fleming Stone, while
Dorothy hovered in the background, eagerly awaiting some development
that she might understand.

Stone went at once to the roofs, and glanced about at the trap-doors
and scuttles in much the way Wheeler had done before him, thereby
causing the heart of the lesser detective to swell with pride.

When Stone opened the scuttle that led to the small dark attic in the
old ell, Mr. Wheeler remarked, "There's no use looking in there, Mr.
Stone. That little loft has no outlet into the house. Its only door has
been nailed up for years."

"Thank you," said Fleming Stone, who had already half disappeared
through the scuttle. He went on down and remained in the attic for
several minutes, and, after returning to the roof, reentered the house
by the trap-door through which they had come up.

Stone's manner had changed somewhat. Though not discourteous in any
way, he was so absorbed in his own thoughts as to seem oblivious to all
about him. Descending from one story to another, he paused at certain
rooms and looked in. It was an old part of the house, occupied mostly
by the servants.

He next asked to speak with Jane and Peters, whose bedrooms he had
noticed especially.

"You remember the night your master disappeared?" he asked abruptly of
the two servants.

"Yes, sir," they replied.

"Did you hear any noise at all during the night?"

"No, sir."

"Not any noise at all? No usual noises?"

"Well, sir," said Jane, "there was the rats in the wall, sir."

"And most uncommon bad they was that night, sir," added Peters
reminiscently.

"Ah!" and Fleming Stone seemed deeply interested in the information.
"And do you often hear rats in the wall?"

"Now and again, sir; but that night they was worse than usual. This is
a very old part of the house, sir, and we can't seem to get altogether
rid of them."

"That will do."

Mr. Wheeler noticed the gleam in Fleming Stone's eye, and felt sure
that however inexplicable it might be, the rats in the wall had to do
with the mystery of White Birches!

Next Fleming Stone went straight to the cellar, with the footman
leading the way, and the faithful Wheeler and the eager Dorothy
following.

Stone carefully examined the old oven and the various small rooms in
that part of the cellar. An old work-bench stood against a white-washed
brick wall. This he pulled away, disclosing an opening into a space
behind the chimney. Though thick with dust and dirt and cobwebs, Mr.
Stone peered into it, and, stooping, picked up a pocket-knife, which he
pocketed without a glance. With a stick, he poked around in the
accumulated rubbish, and gave a sudden exclamation as he picked up a
small white marble. He gazed at it a moment with intense concentration,
and then, turning, he offered it to Dorothy.

"There's the clue," he said exultantly.

"What is it?" inquired the girl, as she took the marble, wonderingly.

"It is a white alley."

"What is it for?"

"It was made for boys to play with; but its present use is to clear
your lover from the unjust charge hanging over him. His is a narrow
chance, but he will yet make it. You'd better preserve that white
alley, for the time will come when you will realize its importance."

Though she fought against the conviction, Dorothy couldn't help an
impression that Fleming Stone was crazy. But James Wheeler stood as one
enthralled. Here was detective work such as he had dreamed of but never
accomplished! To pick up a common marble, a boy's marble, of the type
called an alley, and by its aid to discover the man who killed Justin
Arnold--this was wonderful work indeed! Not spectacular--Fleming Stone
could not be that--but an exhibition of the deduction made by genius
from logical observation and inference.

"How did it get there?" inquired Dorothy, for lack of a more
intelligent question to ask.

"It has probably been there for twenty years," replied Stone
carelessly, and with this unilluminating speech he turned and went
upstairs.

Mr. Stone seemed to look upon Miss Wadsworth as the head of the
somewhat disintegrated household, and he at once sought her presence.

"I have to go away now," he said to her. "I have done all that can be
accomplished here at present."

"But you have been here barely three hours, Mr. Stone."

"Much may be done in a short time if that time be not wasted. I must go
now, but I will return Monday morning, and I expect then to give you
the result of my inquiries into this case."

"Will you not stay to luncheon?" Miss Abby spoke coldly, for she did
not believe Mr. Stone had accomplished anything, and thought he only
wanted to get away.

"No, thank you. If you will send me back to New York in the motor, I
shall be glad to go at once." Though they did not know it, the very
fact that Fleming Stone's manner was a shade less affable than usual
was really a tribute to the fact that he was deeply engrossed in the
case.

Only to Dorothy did he smile, when he bade her good-by, and said
kindly, "Keep up a good heart, little girl. It will all come out right
for you and your lover, but the disclosure of the truth will be a sad
event for all."

"Well, for a story-book detective, he's the right sort," said Campbell
Crosby, with a supercilious laugh; "but they don't amount to much when
it comes to solving a real mystery."

"I think he will solve it," said Dorothy; "and he's coming back Monday
to tell us."

"Where is he going in the meantime, Dorothy?" said Crosby. "You seem to
be in his confidence more than the rest of us."

"I don't know, Campbell; but I don't think it has anything to do with
this case. He's an awfully busy man, and I think he has put us off
until Monday so he can attend to something else."

"I don't think so," volunteered Mr. Wheeler. "I think he's pretty much
interested in this case, and I think that, wherever he's going, it is
on business connected with it!"

"I don't," said Miss Abby disdainfully. "I think he's gone off
somewhere to a week-end party; and I doubt if we ever see him again!"

But Miss Wadsworth was wrong, for on Monday morning Fleming Stone
reappeared. He was courteous and charming, but exceedingly grave.

He asked the members of the household and the guests to assemble in the
library, but he advised that the servants be excluded.

"I have discovered," Mr. Stone began, "to my own satisfaction, the
assassin of Justin Arnold. But I will tell you the reasons I have for
my opinion, and you may conclude for yourselves if I am right. As you
know, a seemingly inexplicable problem confronted us. It appeared that
the man who killed Justin Arnold could not have gained entrance to
White Birches that night. This was based on the assumption that no
entrances were known except the ordinary ones. A search was made to
find such an entrance, but it was stopped too soon. Such an entrance
exists, and was used. Another direction in which to look is the old
principle of seeking him whom the crime will benefit; this too was also
done to a degree, but again the search stopped too soon.

"Let us reconstruct the situation. Mr. Arnold is left; alone in his
library, late at night. His secretary left him at one o'clock, and Miss
Duncan a half hour later. By, let us say, half-past one or soon there
after, the entire household was asleep, save Mr. Arnold. We may assume
this since he apparently did not go to his bedroom at all. Let us,
then, picture an intruder, who enters the house, goes directly to Mr.
Arnold in the library, and, after we know not what sort of an
interview, stabs him, prevents incriminating evidence of his deed by
the use of a pillow hastily snatched from a nearby couch, and then
carries the dead body of his friend to the cellar."

"Why do you say friend, Mr. Stone?" asked Mr. Wheeler, who had been
listening intently.

"Had it been other than a friend, Mr. Arnold would have raised an
outcry. I said an intruder, but I did not say a marauder. It must have
been a man whose unexpected appearance may have surprised but did not
alarm Mr. Arnold."

"And how did this intruder effect this entrance?" inquired Campbell
Crosby, thus voicing the question in everybody's mind.

"By means of the secret entrance of which I spoke."

"There is no sliding panel or secret stairway in this house," declared
Crosby, in tones of certainty.

"Not a secret passage of the sort built in old castles," said Fleming
Stone quietly, "but, none the less, a secret mode of entrance, unused
for years and almost undiscoverable. Suppose I tell you how I found it.
It was through the process of elimination. Your really thorough search
for such a means of entrance, I found, omitted only one thing; and that
was an exploration of the attic over the old ell. I believe you looked
down through the scuttle, but did not go in. Clearly, it was the only
place left to search, so I searched it. I found footprints in the dust
on the old floor, which, though of no especial use for identification,
proved that some one had been there recently. As you said, there is no
outlet from that attic into the house, the door being nailed up. But as
I stood there, looking about by the light of my pocket electric, I
noticed, besides the dry garret smell, the characteristic damp odor of
the cellar. I found it came up back of the chimney. Investigation
proved that the chimney, probably as a precaution against fire, had
been built more than a foot away from the external wall of the house.
This space or shaft, I concluded, must descend unimpeded to the cellar,
to account for that dampness and odor. As a test, I dropped my pocket
knife in it and heard it strike down below. I then turned to the roof,
and traced the direction of the shaft down through each story. On
reaching the cellar, I found, as I had expected, that this vacant space
behind the brick chimney extended directly from cellar to attic. I
found, moreover, large nails driven zigzag into the old wooden joists,
by means of which an agile person could climb up if he desired. I
picked up my pocket knife--which had proved the directness of the shaft
--and, poking about in the rubbish, I found a white alley. This seemed
to me to prove my theory that at some time, years ago, boys used to
hide here during their play in the old cellar. I had now found how the
intruder could get in and out of the house--if he knew of this shaft.
Which knowledge, by the way, would imply that he was one of the boys
who used to play in this cellar. By inquiring of the servants, I
learned that they heard, or thought they heard, unusually loud noises
that night, made by the rats in the walls. These unusual noises I take
to be due to the entrance and exit of the intruder, through the shaft
behind the chimney, by means of the long nails protruding from the
joists--in exactly the same fashion as when he was a boy."

There was intense silence in the room. No one looked at any one else,
each seemingly unwilling to breathe the first suggestion of suspicion.

But James Wheeler, absorbed in the technical work of the detective,
said breathlessly, "But how did the intruder get up to the roof of the
house, to enter at this scuttle? And, before that, how did he get over
the wall into the grounds?"

"Remember, Mr. Wheeler, that if my theory is the right one, this
intruder, when a boy, playing with marbles, must have been familiar
with every inch of the house and grounds. Moreover, if he made his
entrance and exit by that shaft of which I have told you, it
presupposes a man--for that boy must now be a man--of unusual ingenuity,
agility, athletic strength, and daring. I cannot tell you all the
details of his entrance from the outer world, but I can give you enough
of them to support my claims to plausibility. To begin, the intruder
arrived outside the wall, let us say, not long after one o'clock. He
brought with him, by way of paraphernalia, a slight rope-ladder, made
of fine, strong fish-line. Also a ball of fine fish-line and a weight,
very likely a fish-line sinker. Outside the wall, but near it, there is
a tree whose spreading branches should have been trimmed away by people
as cautious as the Arnold family. But I understand that their excessive
precaution is largely tradition, and so this tree has been allowed to
grow until it offers a fine point of vantage for one who wishes to note
the movements of the watchman, Malony. Our intruder, let us say,
climbed this tree and awaited such a time as the watchman should be at
his most distant point. Then, still from the branches of the tree, he
throws down a piece of rope-ladder or knotted rope inside the wall at
the top, hooking it over the sharp points of broken glass and mortar.
He then calmly places a board on these otherwise impassable points--I
know this because I have since examined the board--and climbs down his
rope-ladder or knotted rope inside the wall. This contrivance he leaves
on the wall, as there is no fear of its detection in the darkness. He
goes to the house and unrolls a much longer rope-ladder of the same
sort. To this is attached his ball of fish-line and sinker. With a good
aim he throws the sinker over the low ell of the house. Going around
the house and picking up the sinker, he proceeds to pull the line up
over the ridge-pole till the ladder reaches the roof, and then fastens
his line to a veranda pillar."

"Do you know he did this?" asked Campbell Crosby quietly.

"I know he did this," returned Fleming Stone, as quietly, "because I
found the mark in the turf where the weight struck it; I found a very
little fresh dirt near the veranda post; and I also found an end of the
fish-line left in the carving of the pillar, where it had hastily been
cut off short. On the other side of the house I found many scratches on
the painted clapboards, where the intruder had climbed his ladder, up
the side of the house.

"To resume, after climbing his ladder to the roof, he goes in through
the scuttle, down through the shaft, and up the cellar-stairs, to
Justin Arnold's library. After accomplishing his premeditated and
fiendish purpose, he disposes of the body of his friend, climbs the
shaft, and retraces his steps to the wall and over it. As his ingenious
rope-ladders, or whatever he may have used, have not been found, we may
conclude he carried them away with him; but the board that assisted him
over the wall, he was thoughtless enough to toss into some high grass
nearby, and that has been found."

"You looked for it?" exclaimed with staring eyes.

"I instructed a gardener to look and he found it. Now, granting all
this, it only remained to find out who this intruder was, and where he
came from. A few odd hints here and there had given me a suspicion and
I set to work on it. The finding of the prestolite key proved the real
key to the puzzle. This key," and Fleming Stone took if from his
pocket, "I found on the ground near the wall and near that part of the
wall where I discovered the intuder had entered. Therefore, I felt sure
our man had come in an automobile, and having this key in his pocket he
had lost it while climbing the wall. That climb was not an easy one at
best, and a small key could very well have slipped out of a coat
pocket."

"Let me see the key," said Emory Gale, and it was handed to him.

He looked at it a moment and handed it back without a word.

"As I told you," resumed Stone, "my suspicions had been aroused in a
certain quarter, and implicated a man in a motor-car. But where could
he leave his car while entering this place by means of the wall? There
is no public garage very near, so I assumed he left his car at a garage
in New York City, and came up here by subway or elevated railroad. At
any rate, I worked along this line. I did not search the city garages,
but further assuming that the man must needs cross the ferry to New
Jersey on his return trip, I reasoned that he would not miss his key
until on the Jersey side, or at least on the ferryboat. For it is not
allowed to show those blinding, brilliant lights in the limits of the
city, but immediately on striking the country roads they are
necessary."

"The Jersey roads, you said?" and Fred Crane leaned forward in his
eagerness.

"Yes, the man started for New Jersey, but his destination was beyond
that State. I crossed the ferry myself, assuming that as soon as the
missing key was needed, the owner would stop at some garage, and buy or
borrow one. Nor was I mistaken. At the third place I inquired, I
learned that a motorist did stop at about four o'clock Tuesday morning
and ask for the use of a key to turn on his lights, saying he had lost
his own."

"You got a description of this man?" asked Detective Wheeler.

"Certainly. An unmistakable description. He stayed but a moment and
then went on; but his own description and that of his car can be
verified by the garage keeper at any time. I have nothing more to add,
as I think it unnecessary to say the name of the one who benefits most
in a mercenary way by this crime; the one who has been familiar with
this whole place from boyhood; and the one who is athletic, of strong,
wiry build, and possessed of the cool daring and ingenuity required to
carry out such an enterprise."

Chapter XXIII
Confession

Though Campbell Crosby's face was white and set, it was with rage, not
fear.

"How dare you!" he exclaimed, as he fairly glared at Fleming Stone. "It
is impossible to ignore the fact that your dastardly accusations are
directed toward me! And I would deny them, but for the fact that they
are so ridiculously absurd as to need no denial! I am disinclined even
to take up the subject with you. But I will tell you, what every one
else present knows, that my connection with this case in any way is an
utter impossibility! The night it occurred I was in Philadelphia. I
left White Birches at noon the day before my cousin disappeared, and I
returned in the evening of the day after he disappeared."

"And you can give an account of yourself, Mr. Crosby, during that
interval of absence?" Fleming Stone's eyes had lost all their softness
now. They gleamed with stern justice as he looked at Campbell Crosby,
and they glittered ominously as Crosby replied:

"Every moment of it! My partner, Mr. Gale, is present and he will vouch
for the truth of my statements. Though the audacity of your accusation
makes me wish to treat it with the silent contempt it deserves!"

Emory Gale looked bewildered. "I cannot understand it at all, Mr.
Stone," he said. "Mr. Crosby was in my company almost continuously from
the time we left White Birches until we returned here together."

"Almost continuously, Mr. Gale," repeated Fleming Stone gravely. "What
were the hours that Mr. Crosby was not in your company?"

"Why, let me see. Only during the night, I think. We reached
Philadelphia about six, dined separately, and were to meet later, but
Crosby concluded to go to a concert, so I didn't see him again until he
came to the office next morning at the usual time."

"Then you saw him, let us say, at six o'clock Monday night, and next at
nine o'clock Tuesday morning?"

"Approximately that."

"And between those hours, Mr. Gale, Mr. Crosby returned to White
Birches, accomplished what he came for, and went back again to
Philadelphia, in time to reach the office as usual."

"You lie!" exclaimed Campbell Crosby, springing from his seat.

"No, I speak the truth, Mr. Crosby, and I must ask you to discuss the
matter more quietly."

"But, Mr. Stone," went on Emory Gale, looking puzzled, "there must be a
mistake somewhere, for Cam telephoned me two or three times Monday
evening; the last time just as I was retiring, at about eleven-thirty
o'clock. It would be a physical impossibility for him to make the trip
from Philadelphia to New York, visit White Birches, and get back again
to Philadelphia between eleven-thirty at night and seven in the
morning, for he telephoned me at seven o'clock in the morning regarding
a bit of special business."

"Yes, that's what it would be, a physical impossibility!" agreed Mr.
Wheeler, counting the hours on his fingers.

"Mr. Crosby did not accomplish a physical impossibility," said Fleming
Stone. "Where was he when he telephoned you at eleven-thirty o'clock,
Mr. Gale?"

"At his hotel."

"How do you know he was there?"

"He said so."

"Ah, he was not quite truthful. As a matter of fact, he telephoned you
at eleven o'clock on Monday night from Newark, New Jersey. I know, for
I have verified the long-distance call."

Perhaps not so much because of what Fleming Stone said, as because of
the calm certainty with which he said it, Campbell Crosby gave up.

"You have beaten me," he said to Mr. Stone.

"I did concoct and carry out a plan exactly as you have described it.
But I am too clever not to realize when I am cornered. My dear
friends"--and Crosby glanced round the room--"Mr. Fleming Stone is right.
I could supply to his story a few missing details concerning that
midnight trip, in a high-powered runabout. I could tell you of the
annoying delays in getting long-distance telephone connections, and
waiting for infrequent subway trains. But Mr. Stone has given you the
main truths of what happened. He cannot know, nor can anyone who did
not hear it, the provocation I received from Justin Arnold that night.
I came here intending to kill him, if he would not give up to me the
girl who had promised to marry him, although she did not love him. He
told me that he had about decided himself, that he would allow her to
break the engagement, as she had very shortly before told him she
wanted to, but, since my request, he had changed his mind and should
hold her to her promise. That enraged me, and I told him just what I
thought of him. Also he told me what he thought of me, and they were
not, either of them, beautiful thoughts. I had in my coat a sprig of
scarlet sage which Dorothy had placed there when I went away at noon.
It was faded, but I cherished it. Justin knew where I got it, and took
it from me. That was the last straw! I fought him for it, but he held
it tight in his hand, where it was,--at last,--found. In a blind fury I
grabbed up the dagger, intending merely to threaten him, but he taunted
me too far,--and the thing happened. I don't attempt to justify my deed,
but neither do I regret it. Justin Arnold was not a good man and could
never have made any woman happy. He was--"

Suddenly Crosby's bravado broke down. With a pathetic gesture of utter
despair, he looked straight at Dorothy, and said, "But, Dorothy, I did
it all for you. Perhaps you other men cannot understand what it means
to love a girl enough to commit a crime for her. Perhaps your finer
natures would not feel that crime could result from intense and
passionate love. But in my case it did. Ever since Dorothy became
engaged to Justin Arnold, I've wanted to kill Justin Arnold. I've lived
for it, and toward it. He had everything, and I nothing. He had
fortune, home, leisure, and added to those he had the promise of the
girl I love! I tried not to do this thing; I had long talks with
Justin, begging him to give up Dorothy, who never loved him. Had he
spoken kindly to me, or even frankly, as man to man, it might have been
different. But he taunted me with my poverty, with laziness, and with
general undesirableness. He even dared me to go ahead and win Dorothy
from him if I could, saying he knew I could not, because I had no
money. With his death, his money would all be mine, also his home, and
also--as I firmly believed--the girl that we both wanted. The
consequences you know. The further consequences you will now learn. I
have made a will--for I suppose that at the present moment the estate of
the late Justin Arnold is legally mine. At my death it will revert to
Dorothy Duncan. You probably think that my death in the near future is
probable. That is true, but the future is nearer than you think. While
making this confession to you I have, perhaps unnoticed, taken a deadly
poison which will inevitably accomplish its end in a short time. I have
made my confession, but I ask no forgiveness--I ask no pity or sympathy.
But, Dorothy, remember I did it all for you. For you, darling--but I
have failed."

With a last despairing look of love and longing at Dorothy, Crosby
folded his arms on the table before him, and dropped his head upon
them.

THE END


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