an ebook published by Project Gutenberg Australia

Title: Horror House
Author: Carolyn Wells
eBook No.: 2400071h.html
Language: English
Date first posted: March 2024
Most recent update: March 2024

This eBook was produced by: Walter Moore

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Horror House

Carolyn Wells




Chapter 1. - Mr. Bailey Calls On Fleming Stone
Chapter 2. - The Family At Cricklemere
Chapter 3. - The First Tragedy
Chapter 4. - Vengeance Is Mine
Chapter 5. - Fleming Stone Looks For Clews
Chapter 6. - Mr. Sheridan Gets Into The Game
Chapter 7. - Fleming Stone Horns In
Chapter 8. - The Beautiful Dumbbell
Chapter 9. - Mr. Bailey Concocts His Famous Punch
Chapter 10. - As To The Maximilian Armor
Chapter 11. - Duke Loses His Temper
Chapter 12. - Where Is John Kennedy?
Chapter 13. - What In The World Has Become Of Parke?
Chapter 14. - Parke Is Found!
Chapter 15. - Lolly And The Veronal
Chapter 16. - The Death Of Duke Bailey
Chapter 17. - How Could It Have Happened?
Chapter 18. - The Last Ditch


Chapter 1
Mr. Bailey Calls on Fleming Stone

“I won’t take a case with a girl in it,” Fleming Stone declared; “a girl is an appealing object, and I hate to be appealed to.”

His visitor and would-be client stared at him.

“There is a girl,” he said, looking a little puzzled, “but she isn’t really in the case. She is my daughter, twenty years old.”

“Isn’t she involved?”

“Nobody is involved, but myself. If you’ll let me, I’ll tell you, Mr. Stone—”

“That’s just what I want you to do,” the detective returned, but instead of settling himself quietly to listen, he drummed on his chair arm with his fingers, looked out the window and back again, uncrossed and recrossed his feet and was so positively restless that his caller began to fidget also.

As a matter of fact this was what Stone wanted. When a client was disposed to be overly self-possessed and secretive, Stone acted the part of the angel that troubled the waters, and stirred up a gentle, noiseless ripple of unrest that not infrequently produced indicative reactions.

But in this case the reactions were not immediately forthcoming. The object of Stone’s scrutiny seemed to have his own reasons for fidgeting and needed no spur of outside irritation.

He rose abruptly and walked slowly the length of the long room and back again.

A man who bore all the outward and ordinary signs of his calling, Owen Duke Bailey looked the part of the successful financier that he really was.

Not pompous of mien, not even self-assertive, he bore himself with simple dignity and a modest, almost shy air, as if endeavoring to justify to his own mind his presence in these unfamiliar surroundings.

He had come to Fleming Stone with no other introduction than a few words over the telephone making this appointment, which he had promptly kept.

Now, in the presence of the detective, the prospective client was apparently embarrassed, certainly incapable of immediate action.

Changing his tactics, Stone ceased drumming and fidgeting and sat motionless while he watched Bailey move slowly along his chosen path.

The long living room of the detective’s New York apartment was interesting in its furniture and appointments, but Owen Bailey paid slight attention to the pictures or objects of art as he passed them.

In front of a fine water color, signed by Detaille, he paused and his face lighted up as he noticed the beautiful work on both horse and man in The Chansseur.

Then he went on to the end of the room, turned and retraced his steps. He frowned a trifle as he came upon a picture that hung the least fraction of an inch askew. Carefully he straightened it to exactitude, then, seeming to come to a sudden determination, he stepped briskly up to Stone and stood in front of him as he said:

“Now, Mr. Stone, I am not the sort of man who falls into a blue funk, whatever that is, at the threatened approach of a bugaboo. When I have a baffling problem I puzzle it out; when I have a challenge, I meet it. But there are problems that cannot be solved, situations that cannot be met. I am up against one of these, and I have come to you.”

Bailey was again master of himself, he seemed to have walked off his nervous hesitation in his stroll round the room.

He resumed his seat and looked at Stone thoughtfully rather than apprehensively.

Yet the detective saw, or thought he saw, fear in the unwavering blue eyes, in the rather thin lips set in a straight line above a prominent and muscular jaw, and even in the slight quivering of the sensitive nostrils.

Clearly, the man was forcing an effect of calm decision which was artificial, but which Stone felt wiser to accept at its face value.

“Yes, Mr. Bailey,” he returned, his dark eyes smiling with a casual kindliness. “Now, let’s get at the matter in hand.”

The two men were an utter contrast. Stone, tall, well set up, entirely at ease, had put on his most urbane air to help his guest over what seemed about to prove the crucial difficulty of the introduction of the problem.

Bailey, vacillating between a dogged determination to state his case and an almost insuperable difficulty in doing so, showed perhaps at his worst.

A trifle under average height, a trifle under average weight, the captain of finance had little to recommend him physically.

And the indecision apparent on his plain-featured face added no hint of the strength of character which the man really possessed.

“I’m an old fool,” he said, suddenly, blurting the words out as if in surprised discovery.

“Then there’s nobody like you,” smiled Stone, glad to strike a lighter key. “Have you received a threatening letter?”

“W-what!” Bailey started forward in his chair. “How did you know?”

“Not too difficult,” returned the other, smiling. “When you back and fill about telling your troubles, and when you pat your pocket, every few minutes, to make sure the precious missive is safe—”

“Ah, yes, of course. I should have known. Now, with that for a starter I think I can forge ahead. Yes, Mr. Stone, I have had a threatening letter, and anonymous at that.”

“I didn’t know big business men paid any attention to anonymous communications. I thought they deposited them in the waste basket.”

“Big business men, or men with big business interests may have big private interests too.”

“Yes, that is true,” Stone spoke seriously, now. “And is your letter concerning such?”

“Yes, it is. It is not the first I have had. The first two did go into the waste basket, but this one—it came this morning—is so definite, so—so terrifying, that I have brought it to you. I am not a coward, Mr. Stone, I have never before asked aid, even of a friend. But— well, perhaps I am growing old.”

“Will you let me see your letter, Mr. Bailey? You have asked me to take up your case, and naturally I want to learn details.”

“Oh, yes, yes. Of course. Here it is. It arrived this morning.”

“Mailed yesterday. In New York city.”

Stone drew the letter from its envelope and read these lines:

“I have waited a fortnight to give you the added anguish of suspense and fear. Now, I am ready to act. Expect the final blow at any time now.”

“You have reason to think this serious?” Stone asked, looking straight at Owen Bailey.

“I have no reason to think otherwise,” was the low-spoken answer.

“You know who wrote it, then?”

“I am not sure. There are two men who figured in my past life. Either of those two may have written that note, or it may have been some one else altogether.”

“You don’t know the writing, then?”

“Not for a certainty. It looks as if it might be the writing of either of the two men I spoke of. But I have not heard from either for about ten years, and I have more or less forgotten their penmanship.”

“Just a few words, Mr. Bailey, of your life in general.” Stone spoke crisply. “As a business man, I am sure you want to tackle this matter in a business like way.”

“Yes, I do,” and Bailey nodded. As Stone assumed the man was more approachable in this way than by social amenities.

“You live in New York?” the detective asked.

“We have a Park Avenue apartment, but we only occupy it for a few months late in the winter. My family prefer our summer home, and we go there in early spring and stay till after the holidays.”

“And where is it?”

“In Connecticut, just over the border. Canterbury Ridge is the post office. Our place is Cricklemere, on Lake Nokomis, among the foothills of the Berkshires.”

“And you are staying there at present?”

“Yes, the children want to be there over the holidays. They have great sport at their Christmas parties.”

Owen Bailey’s face lightened up as he spoke of his children, and Stone felt a thrill of pity for this kindly father who was threatened by some evil-minded foe.

“You have a large family?”

“My wife, two sons, and a daughter. One son is married and he and his wife are with us much of the time. We are a most united, domestic lot, and, of course, not one of them knows that this trouble has come to me. I’m hoping that, somehow, it can be wiped out and they may never hear of it.”

The blue eyes looked at Stone with a troubled gaze, and Bailey ran his fingers through his thin hair. His hair, left long on top, was of that peculiar silvery shade that comes when fair hair turns gray, and when correctly adjusted added to his dignity; but when tousled, as he now left it, it gave him a boyish appearance, which Stone rather liked.

“We will certainly hope to wipe out the trouble,” the detective assured him. “Now, let us be methodical. When did you get the first of these missives?”

“It was about three weeks ago. I tore it into bits and threw it away, but I can repeat it almost word for word.”

“Please do.”

“It said, ‘For reasons of my own, I don’t care to show myself. I am going to kill you and then disappear again.’ That’s all. There was no signature.”

“Frightening enough, if you took it seriously,” Stone commented.

“Oh, I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t think then, of the men I now have in mind. I thought it was some crank, who would follow up with a demand for money. Then about two weeks ago, I received another letter. It ran like this, though I may not have it word for word. ‘Did you think I have forgotten? Are you not afraid? Well, you’d better be, for your life hangs by a thread.’ This time, too, I tore it up, but it clung to my thoughts. I began to wonder if it could be the work of some one I knew, some one who had motive other than the extortion of money. But I tried hard to forget it all, and almost succeeded, until this morning I got the note I brought to you.”

“Yes. I am not surprised at your present disturbance, Mr. Bailey, and I think your previous dismissal of the matter shows courage. Of course, I know, you financial magnates get this sort of thing often, but it must be more or less alarming.”

“Oh, it is,” Bailey spoke wearily, “but it is often lost sight of in the press and rush of business and frequently it has no sequel. Now, even this latest letter may be an idle threat, but I want advice on the subject, so I came to you. I put the thing unreservedly in your hands, I will give you all the information possible, and I hope and trust you can free me from my fears and apprehensions.”

“I will certainly try. Now, aside from the two men you have spoken of, and whom we will take up later, is there no one else you can suspect of sending these letters?”

“Absolutely no one. For ten years I have been in my present office, and associated with the same partner, Mr. Albert Sheridan. Our firm has an A 1 rating in every respect. We are brokers who deal in securities of only the highest order. But all that you can discover for yourself.”

“You are entirely friendly with your partner?”

“Oh, yes. That is, we never disagree. Of course, we are not congenial in every respect, but as a business partnership ours leaves nothing to be desired.”

“In what ways are you, then, uncongenial?”

“Mainly in our tastes. Sheridan is an out-doorsy man, while I like to sit by my study fire and read or look over my collections and all that.”

“Your family must be out-doorsy, to love the country home so much.”

“Yes, they are. Winter or summer, they love the lake, the hills, the drives, the gardens, all that makes country life worth while.”

“To return to the letters. You’ve had only the three?”

“Only the three.”

“All in the same handwriting and on similar paper?”

“Yes. There seems to be no attempt at disguise of penmanship.”

“That’s what surprises me. The paper, in this instance, is obviously the second half of a divided sheet of letter paper. Doubtless the first half bore an address.”

“Yes, that’s what I thought. Probably a hotel address. The other two were the same. A sheet torn in two and the second half used.”

“Decent paper, but not a superior sort. Well, now for your suspects.”

“I can scarcely call them suspects, yet I can think of nobody else. First there is John Kennedy. He was killed in the war, that is, he died in a French hospital. After his death I received a letter from him, written by the nurse, while Kennedy lay on his death bed. In this letter he accused me of treachery and threatened to take my life if he ever got out of the hospital, which he hoped to do. If not, the letter was to be sent to me, all the same. He didn’t get out, he died there, and later, I received the letter. I have kept it all these years for it seemed to me very curious. He had no reason to accuse me of wrong doing; I scarcely knew his wife, which was the subject that troubled him. After his death I helped her to get a secretarial position, but I never told her, nor any one else, of the letter he wrote me.”

“You have that letter?”

“I have it with me. It is one of the ‘documents in the case.’ But first I will tell you of the other man I have in mind. These two constitute my entire list of ‘enemies’ that I know of in my whole life.

“The other man is Arthur Dunbar, a much younger man than Kennedy. About four years ago, he became acquainted with my daughter Lolly—Lolita. Now, a young woman of twenty, she was then only sixteen and a mere child in her worldly knowledge. He made improper advances to her, and learning about it, I kicked him out of the house. He was about to start for Africa, on a big game hunting expedition, and he declared that on his return he would get even with me. I was told that he said he would kill me with as little compunction as he would kill an African lion. I have not heard of his return, but the time he planned to be away is up, and he may be back. I have no definite reason to suspect him, but I tell you of him, because he and Kennedy are the only ones in the world who have threatened to kill me that I know of.”

“The case is interesting, Mr. Bailey,” Stone said, with some enthusiasm, “and I congratulate you on your clear-cut way of telling your story.”

“But can you help me?” queried the other. “That’s what I’m after. I could be brave enough in an open fight, but I confess I am terrified at the thought that some one is waiting to waylay me and will strike at me from ambush.”

“To go back to Kennedy. If he died in the French hospital, how can you fear him? You don’t believe in spooks, do you?”

“No, indeed; though the letter said he would haunt me or curse me from his grave.”

“He won’t. Those post mortem curses are not really dangerous.”

“No,” and Bailey absently responded to Stone’s smile. “But it may well be that he didn’t die after all. Reports at that time were not always reliable. Names became mixed, and many a man has turned up alive after being listed as dead, and the other way round, too.”

“How old a man is this Kennedy, if alive?”

“About my own age. I am fifty-five.”

“And the other chap, Dunbar?”

“I suppose about thirty-five, or so. The men are very different. Kennedy is, or was, a fine chap. If he thought me interested in his wife, it was an honest belief, and he would at once see red, and seek to kill me. Dunbar, on the other hand is a brute. He, I am told, has no regard for the sanctity of a girl’s honor, but will lead them astray at his pleasure. Oh, of course, I know all about the ways and manners of the present ‘younger generation.’ I can’t be the father of an up-to-date family without being initiated into all the frankness and daring of the young people of to-day. But Dunbar is not of that sort, he is rather the type of the lounge lizard of ten years ago. However, I kicked him out of my house, literally, and if he still resents it, he may be after my scalp.”

“You would prefer it should be he, rather than Kennedy,” Stone said, quietly.

“Well, yes, though I don’t see how you know that. But I’d rather face a belligerent big game hunter than a snake in the grass. Yet, after all, Mr. Stone, what can we do? I’ve told you my suspects. It may be neither of them. I may be killed to-night, to-morrow, any time, and—I don’t want to die! I’m looking forward to the pleasantest part of my life. I’m thinking of retiring from business, and spending my days in quiet pursuits that would harm nobody. I am a good, peaceable citizen, ready to do my part in charitable and philanthropic works. Why must I be singled out to be murdered?”

“Have you told the police about this?”

“No, and I don’t want to. Unless you think it necessary. I put myself unreservedly into your hands and shall do whatever you advise. But what could the police do?”

“What can I do? They could give you armed protection, could be at your side every moment. I can only strive by my usual methods to find out who it is who is writing you these letters. And my discovery, if I make it, may come too late.”

Bailey’s light blue eyes looked troubled. Again he rumpled his sparse hair and again he rose and walked the length of the room and back.

“Yes, I know. But—oh, well, I suppose like everybody else, I have come to look upon a detective as a sort of a wizard. I expect I thought you would take these letters and at once deduce who wrote them, and have him behind bars by nightfall. However, Mr. Stone, I want you to have a try at it. You may put your finger on the villain at once, and clear up the whole matter without dragging in the thick-skinned and thick-headed gentlemen of the Force.”

“Let me see your old letter from Kennedy.”

From his pocket-book Bailey extracted a worn looking missive.

Mailed in France, about ten years ago, the letter was signed in a faltering almost illegible hand, John Kennedy. The pages were written in a neat clear script, entirely American in character.

Stone read it aloud, that their minds might travel in unison.

Bailey: Don’t think I don’t know of your miserable treachery. I know the whole story. If I ever get out of this damned place I will make a bee line for you, wherever you may be. And I’ll have my revenge. I’ll wait, I think, till you’re at the zenith of your wealth and power, and then I shall kill you. The nurse who is writing this for me is protesting, but I am making her go on with it. Well, that’s all. If I get well I shall kill you. If I die here, this will be sent to you, and I shall curse you from my grave so long as you live.
        John Kennedy

Stone scrutinized the letter. It was, beyond all doubt, genuine. The French paper, postmark and the worn appearance of the creased sheet all bore token that it was just what it seemed to be.

Then the detective compared the signature of John Kennedy with the letter just received by his client.

“It’s hard to tell,” he declared, “whether this note of to-day is in Kennedy’s hand or not. That trembling signature doesn’t amount to much.”

“Couldn’t an expert tell?” asked Bailey. “I thought they could learn lots from handwriting nowadays.”

“I’ll try it. But if this Kennedy is alive, it would seem there’s little to do but to catch him.”

Bailey smiled quietly.

“Kennedy is not so easily caught. If it’s John, if he is alive, then my life is indeed in danger. He is an implacable foe, a desperate devil. He is the sort to strike first and listen to explanations afterward. But I am hoping you can prove that it is not John Kennedy who is hounding me. I hope you can prove it is not his handwriting on the new letter, or prove that he is really and positively dead.”

“What became of his wife?”

“I don’t know. I assisted her to get a good position in a Chicago firm, but I’ve not heard from her or of her since. Of course, John’s idea that I took any personal interest in her was utterly a mistake. I have many faults but making up to other men’s wives is not among them.”

“Well, Mr. Bailey, I don’t deny you have given me a hard nut to crack. I make no promises and I hold out little assurance that I can solve your problem. It is so vague, there is so little to take hold on.”

“Yet surely, Mr. Stone, you must frequently have cases that hinge on anonymous letters with nothing at all to guide you to a conclusion.”

“Yes, that is true. Now, eliminating for the moment, these two suspects of whom you have told me, is there no one else?”

“I think not.”

“No, you do not think not, you think there is. But you do not wish to put a name to him.”

“Perhaps that is so,” Bailey said, thoughtfully. “How about your coming up to Cricklemere for a week-end? We could talk things over, and you could get a line on my friends and neighbors and possibly get a clew that never would occur to me.”

“But just what am I to do? I can’t guard you from a possible assassin, as police protection could.”

“No. And I can’t think there is a necessity for that just yet. I don’t believe this enemy means to strike at once, but he is playing for time. It may be, after all, just a roundabout way of making a money demand. He may soon inform me that for a goodly sum, he will cease all this threatening. Remember, I’ve no real reason to suspect the two I spoke of. It’s only that I can think of nobody else. Well, you’ll come up for a few days, won’t you?”

“What will your family think? Do they know of this at all?”

“Not a word. I wouldn’t have them know of it for anything. But I’ll merely say you’re a business friend of mine, up for the week-end, and ready for some skating, tobogganing and all that, as well as some hobnobbing by the fireside with me. We all invite whoever we choose, and we all welcome one another’s guests.”

“I’d enjoy it,” Stone agreed, with one of his courteous smiles. “When shall I come?”

“To-day is Thursday. I’m going up this afternoon. You come along to-morrow afternoon. Here, I’ll jot down directions. Plan to stay several days or a week. Longer, if you like it. Cricklemere, or Cricky as my children call it, is nothing if not hospitable. You’ll like it, and I’m sure you’ll like my people.”


Chapter 2
The Family At Cricklemere

Cricklemere, as an architectural proposition, was open to criticism.

But as the home of the Bailey family, it was comfortable and satisfactory, and, in their eyes, beautiful.

The house, its entrance flush with the level lawn, was of brick and stucco, and purported to be of Tudor design.

Owing to some alleged Connecticut characteristics, it had been called Nutmeg Tudor by some waggish neighbors, but the Baileys were a good-natured lot, and didn’t resent the jibe.

It faced a profusion of flower gardens, the center of which was an Italian sunken affair, but this was so surrounded by beds of larkspur and delphinium, dahlias and asters, that it all blended into a great mass of color, during the color season.

Now, in mid December, there were no flowers, no green, save for the conifers and laurels; but Brock, the capable and industrious gardener, turned his attention to the greenhouses, and always managed a supply of flowers for the home.

The house was very long, owing to additions that had been attached, as extra cars are added to a train.

Straight through, from front to back ran a wide hall. On the right of this was the living room, also full length, from front to back. Next to this room, was the library, in front, and Owen Bailey’s study, as he liked to call it, at the back. Beyond these was a cheerful enclosed terrace, with fireplace and many windows; a much favored spot in winter weather.

The other side of the hall provided a large dining room, with a billiard room in front of it. Next, the drawing room, and back of that a small breakfast room.

Beyond these, the sun parlor, all of glass and opening on delightful terraces, from which a few steps showed the way down to the lake.

Canterbury Ledge, though shelving enough to justify the name, was not a great ledge. It rolled away down to the lake in a series of small ridges not at all difficult to negotiate.

As the lake was used at all times, in summer by bathers, boaters, fishers, and in winter by skaters, ice-boaters and ice-cutters, it was a source of pleasure and profit to all who lived near it.

The lake was beautiful, as all Berkshire lakes are, and its wooded banks sloped gently up and away from the shining water.

All round it were homes, many of them belonging to city people, who, like the Baileys, spent more than half the year in this delightful country. So with congenial neighbors, it was not surprising that many families spent the Christmas holidays there, and had great festivity and wassail.

On the day he had had his interview with Fleming Stone, Owen Bailey motored up to Cricklemere, arriving about six o’clock.

The broker usually spent about two days of the week at his New York office, depending on his partner and the telephone for further exigencies.

He was happy, or nearly so, in his home, surrounded by his family, every member of which he admired and adored.

There was his wife, Blandena, just past the half century mark, but looking all three stipulations of fair, fat and forty.

She was a kindly woman, though of a critical disposition. Lacking entirely in business sense, she was a thorough housekeeper, wife and mother. So thorough, indeed, that she not only held the reins in all household affairs but drove at top speed over any obstacles that came in her way.

Yet she looked placid and unconcerned always, rather a “mistress of herself though China fall,” effect.

She loved her husband, but in a proprietary way, and in instances where she could not rule him with her rod of iron, she made things so uncomfortable for him that he almost wished he had let her do the ruling.

Not entirely, though, for Owen Bailey had a vein of self-esteem that now and then came to the surface, oftenest, however, to be subdued utterly by a glance of amused disdain from his wife.

The eldest son, Owen Duke Bailey, Jr., was called Duke by way of distinguishment. Perhaps because of the title, perhaps because of his position of eldest son, he lorded it over the entire household, even including his mother, who idolized him. But Duke was a good-natured chap, and unless definitely crossed in his wishes, he made no trouble for anybody. His own way he must have, but it was so much easier to let him have it than to combat him, that he was seldom dissatisfied with the way things went.

Thirty years of age, he had expressed scorn for a business career, and declared he was a creative genius. What he was to create had not yet been definitely decided, for though he had tried authorship, musical composition, painting and sculpture, none of these seemed the true medium for the expression of his creative ability.

He had married a beautiful girl, tall, slender and with wonderful brunette coloring. Naturally she became known as the Duchess, and perfectly she carried the title.

Parke Bailey, the second son, now twenty-three, was a merry boy, full of mischief and always smiling. He was supposed to work in his father’s office, but most of the time he was on vacation by reason of house guests or social carryings on of some sort.

Lolita, called Lolly, was the only girl, and so a spoiled and petted darling of both parents. She was a charming, witch-like young person, with topaz eyes and glinting bronze hair, which curled all over her head like baby ringlets.

She kept it short, refusing to bother with a bun at the nape of her neck, and she danced through life, making eyes at the boys and teasing her family as occasion offered.

This was the Bailey family, but another, and not altogether harmonious element in the household, was Miss Marigold Burt, a spinster, who had been a college chum of Mrs. Bailey’s.

She came one day to make a visit, and had been there ever since.

Nobody quite knew how it had come about, but Miss Marigold was a fixture and could no more be dislodged than the corner stone of the house itself.

Owen Bailey and his wife had talked it over and speculated as to how the intruder could be removed, but nothing ever came of their confabs any more than from the angry outbursts which the children gave voice to, now and then.

So, Miss Burt stayed on, and her tall, gaunt figure and large strong face continued to grace the Bailey home, whether in the country or the city.

Miss Burt’s features and expression bore a resemblance to those of George Eliot, and noting this, Lolly at once began to call her George, and, taken up by the others, it became an accepted nickname.

Marigold Burt was in no way remarkable for any talent or trait, but she was possessed of a courage and perseverance which can be expressed only by the word, indomitable. And a nature of this sort can easily withstand attacks from such easy-going, good-natured people as the Baileys.

But though the Baileys themselves were good natured, the two allied members of the household were scarcely to be described by that epithet.

Both Miss Burt and Mrs. Owen Duke Bailey, Jr., were possessed of decided opinions and had no hesitancy in airing them. This produced more or less friction and, like the continual dropping that wears away a stone, it had begun to react on the habitual good nature of the Baileys themselves, until the erosion became more or less evident.

Not that George and the Duchess ever sided with one another. If one espoused a cause or agreed to a proposition, the other promptly ranged herself on the other side.

And as, just now, there were most weighty questions before the house, and most important matters to be decided upon, the troubles arising from diversity of opinions were serious indeed.

For the matter was nothing more nor less than the refurnishing and redecorating of Cricklemere from top to bottom.

They planned to leave the country place soon after the holidays, and the work was to be all done and everything in order for their arrival the next summer.

But in order to accomplish this a uniform plan of furnishing must be agreed upon, and as a matter of fact, every member of the family had a distinct and different preference.

Blandena, who, it would be thought, would have the casting vote, was all for Colonial effects throughout.

Now, Owen was for this, too, but they differed in that Mr. Bailey wanted all the Colonial furniture to be real, authenticated antiques, while Blandena preferred reproductions. She defended herself by insisting that the real antiques were everlastingly dropping to pieces and falling apart, while the beautiful reproductions were firm and well glued and would last forever.

In vain the two discussed this situation, but could not seem to agree.

Yet it mattered little, for Duke declared that he proposed to have his way in this matter, as he would own and inhabit the house long after his seniors had been gathered to the rest of the departed ancestors.

Duke, mindful of the comfort of his various clubs, voted for comfortable furniture, large, soft easy chairs, big, roomy tables, and no gimcracks or gewgaws.

He scorned piecrust stands and Chippendale highboys, and voted for plain, substantial, but well made furniture.

He ran small chance, however, of success, as the Duchess had positively decided upon Spanish furnishings throughout, and was all set to be exceedingly disagreeable if her decision should be upset.

Parke and Lolly, though vociferous in their choice, really cared little about the matter. They clamored for their selections, but more because they wanted to be in the fray than because they had very strong convictions.

Parke stood out for French Empire stuff, because his latest inamorata told him that was what she liked. While Lolly said, disdainfully, that of course there was nothing used to-day, except modernistic appointments, though she supposed no one else present knew this.

Then Marigold Burt threw a bomb by declaring that after all, there was nothing so good or appropriate as staunch, strong mission furniture. Also, she knew a firm who would let her have it at half rates, which reduction she would share with the Baileys.

“Mission your eye!” remarked Lolly, dispassionately. “Why, George, you might as well have red plush patent rockers and onyx tables.”

“What do you know of those things, Baby?” asked her mother, smiling at her. “They passed while you were in your cradle.”

“Lot of ’em up in the attic this minute. I’ll have ’em brought down if George says so.”

It was at this point that Owen Bailey arrived.

“Hello, Dad,” Lolly called out. “Do come and settle this question. Put your foot down, for once, won’t you?”

“Certainly,” and Bailey stamped his foot with exaggerated ferocity, in attempt to be waggish.

But his byplay failed to make a hit.

His wife said, “Don’t try to clown, Owen, it doesn’t suit you.”

“Sit down, Dad, and act the tired but dignified business man,” advised Duke, “and keep out of this controversy. Your opinions won’t get you anywhere.”

“Yes, they will,” declared Lolly, perching on the arm of her father’s chair.

She was his acknowledged favorite. A sort of Oedipus complex bound her to him, and she understood him better even than his wife did.

Bailey was proud of his two sons, but he loved his daughter, even though he secretly deplored the “younger generation” ways that formed so large a part of her make-up.

Secretly, because if he spoke his feelings aloud he would be hooted at, he well knew. And it was one of Owen Bailey’s chief ends in life to avoid being hooted at.

“Well, well, what’s the racket now?” he inquired, jovially.

“Furncher,” Lolly informed him, as she twisted his long, sparse top locks into spirals and let them hang down on his brow. “Now, Dad, you know, you must know, being so up to date and beyond, as you are, you must feel convinced, that the modernistic craze is the only possible outlet for your own personality. Isn’t that so?

“He quite agrees,” she said, though she had waited for no answer. “He says you must all do just as I direct, and he will pay the bills without question.”

“Be quiet, Lolly,” adjured her mother. “Now, Owen, this matter must be settled. Do tell the children so.”

“Yes, children,” Bailey beamed around impartially, “as your mother says, this thing must be decided. Now, you all know my views—”

A deep groan from Parke interrupted him.

“We do,” he declared. “For Heaven’s sake don’t go over them again. Also, we know they’re out of the question. To collect enough real mahogany stuff to fill this house would take a life time. Better loot the Metropolitan Museum.”

“Better have beautiful reproductions,” urged Blandena. “Just as good to look at, and better in every other way.”

“I hate anything make-believe,” began Bailey, but Marigold Burt interrupted:

“It isn’t make-believe” she declared. “So long as you don’t pretend it’s real. A copy isn’t an imposture. If you don’t have Mission things I think Blandena’s suggestion is next best.”

“I’d rather have real—” Owen demurred. “Maximilian is real.”

A howl of laughter greeted this.

“Yes, he is” agreed Parke, “and he’s the only real thing in the house. Must we live up to him?”

“Yes,” said Owen Bailey, judicially, “that is a really fine acquisition of mine, and I think it must be remembered and considered.”

They referred to a magnificent suit of armor, which Bailey had bought at an exorbitant price while at an auction sale in New York of Maximilian armor.

It was truly the real thing, and the envy of all antiquarians who knew enough about such things to judge its worth.

Bailey, who was a student, and more or less of a scholar, revered it, and as it stood on the landing of the great staircase, he never failed to give it a nod of approval and pride as he passed up or down.

The children irreverently poked fun at it, called it old Max, and delighted to hang their hats or coats on it, but in their hearts they were proud of it, and enjoyed hearing connoisseurs praise it.

“You see,” Bailey went on, “having that valuable suit of armor as a starter, we could easily get an agent to find us some fine pieces to go with it. Then other bits could be added later—”

“Do hush, Owen,” said his wife. “You know, perfectly well, we’re going to do nothing of that sort. As mistress of this house, I assert my rights to dictate as to its furnishing. Any other proposition is absurd. Therefore, I—”

“Hold on, Mums,” put in Duke, lazily, “nobody’s disputing your right and all that sort of thing. But, we all know your taste isn’t really up to to-day’s standards and so we want to help you, not hinder you.”

Blandena took no offense at this, her firstborn couldn’t offend her, but she smiled as any mother might at a spoiled child, and said, with her most maternal air; “Mother knows best, son.”

“I think,” said Bailey, “that those sort of things—”

“Oh, Father,” Lolly reproached him, “how many times must I tell you? That sort of things!”

“I don’t see why. There’s a lot of things—”

“Yes, but only one sort. Now, remember, won’t you?”

“I’ll try, dear.”

“Oh, you’ll try! How many times have you tried, always to fail!”

“Well, well, Lolly, there are worse things in this world than mistakes in grammar.”

“Not in grammar, Father, in English.”

“Why not in grammar? Aren’t those mistakes in grammar?”

“No, there can’t be a mistake in grammar—oh, never mind, talk any way you want to!”

She left the arm of his chair and crossed the room to sit beside Parke on the couch.

Dejectedly, Owen Bailey looked round the circle.

Nobody was looking at him. He was a negligible quantity, merely the man who paid the bills.

He was, was he? Well, he’d show them!

“You may as well give over your discussion,” he said, putting all his determination into his voice, and as he had a lot of determination, it vibrated finely in his speech. “For I’ve made up my mind. And I suppose as I’m the one who is to pay for this refurbishing, it is no more than right that I should have the deciding vote as to what I am to pay for.”

A group of astonished faces looked at him.

“Bully for Pops!” cried Parke. “Who’d think he had it in him? But you’ve bit off more than you can chew, this time. You see, the mater has it all fixed up and has practically given the order.”

Bailey looked at his wife, who nodded, smilingly.

“That’s right,” she said, laughing at Bailey’s surprised face. “Don’t worry, Owen, you’ll like it when it’s all finished. I know you will. And as you pick up real antiques, we can dispose of the reproductions. See?”

With a graceful wave of her hand she dismissed the subject.

Miss Burt, following a habit she had, and a very annoying one, went to the piano and began to play and sing in a low voice, some old-fashioned songs.

This time it was Silver Threads Among the Gold, a special detestation of the younger generation.

They stood it for a few moments, then at a nod from Parke, and a whispered word, they broke into a loud and rollicking jazz song, that quite drowned out the plaintive notes of Miss Burt’s voice.

She rose from the piano and stood in front of her hostess.

“In my day,” she said, “children were not allowed to mock at a guest.”

“Were they mocking at you, George, dear? I didn’t know it. Don’t do it again, children.”

And Blandena resumed her air of peaceful indifference to the whole world.

Owen came over and sat by her side.

“About that furniture,” he began.

She gave him a playful tap on the arm.

“Not here,” she said, in a stage whisper. “A curtain lecture later, if you like. But not now. I’m tired of the subject.”

Bailey knew as well as if she had put it into words, that the subject was settled for all time.

He didn’t mind very much, in fact, he cared little about the furnishings, but he was continually playing a game with himself, a game which he never won.

The game was to see if he ever could get his own way, if it ran counter the wishes of any other member of the family.

He very seldom scored, and never in a matter of any importance.

But he was a fond husband and an indulgent parent, and he accepted his defeats in a philosophical spirit.

“What’s for dinner, Mother?” asked Duke, suddenly.

“I don’t know, son. I left it to Cooper.”

“Whew! I’d better see her!” and Duke hurried from the room.

“Bless the boy,” said his mother. “Hope there’s something he likes.”

“If not, he’ll soon see that there is,” the Duchess said, smiling, for Duke’s epicureanism was a well known trait, and if a meal was not to his liking the family dinner table was an uncomfortable place indeed.

“He’s in luck,” Bailey said, a little wistfully; “my tastes are never consulted as to the menu.”

“Oh, you poor, down-trodden worm!” cried Lolly, returning to her place on his chair arm, and patting his thin hand.

Although normally healthy and hale, Bailey was a thin wisp of a man, who looked far more frail than he really was. His usually uncertain and vacillating gestures aided this misconception, and he seldom got credit for the force of character which was really his.

“Worm, nothing!” he cried, stung by his daughter’s compassion. “If I want roast ox for my dinner, I can have it. Only I’d like to be asked my preference once in a while, that’s all.”

“I’ll ask you, Daddy,” Lolly promised him. “After this, I’ll ask you every day,—if I think of it.”

“Hey, Lolly,” sung out Parke, “if I were a psychoanalyst, I’d say you had a ‘father fixation.’”

“Young man,” Bailey said, sternly, “as you know, the term psychoanalysis is tabooed in this house!”

“Oh, Dad,” Lolly groaned, “taboo, not tabooed. It isn’t a verb.”

“I don’t care if it’s an ablative absolute! I’ll talk as I choose.”

“Oh, no, you won’t, not when your favorite daughter is trying her darndest to trim you up pretty as to your speech.”

“Oh, all right, I’ll try. Taboo, then. But cut out the psychoanalysis. I hate it.”

Duke returned, smiling broadly.

“It’s all right,” he said, gleefully. “It seems we’re to have a plain dinner, as the house party comes tomorrow. But there’s chicken livers en brochette for a starter, and then capon and broiled mushrooms and some cheerful salad and a spot of lemon meringue pie. ’Twill serve.”

His mother looked at him fondly.

“I’m glad it’s all right, Duke,” she said, with satisfaction.

“Hist!” said Parke, “I hear the stately tread of the Earl of Northumberland. What, think you—”

“Hush up,” said Lolly; “it’s the mail.”

Fuller, the butler, entered with some letters on a tray. These he gave to Owen Bailey, and departed again.

It was so like a stage entrance and exit that it brought a smile to all. Indeed, so dramatic was the whole physical effect of this pearl of butlers, that Parke had dubbed him the Earl of Northumberland.

“Anything for me?” clamored Lolly, and after running hastily over the letters, to be sure there was nothing for himself, her father handed her the lot.

The girl distributed them and then scurried over to a couch by a reading lamp to devour her own correspondence.

Marigold Burt, again at the piano, soft pedaled through “Only a Pansy Blossom” humming the words in a low tone.

While Owen Bailey sat silent, thinking over his interview with Fleming Stone, and wondering what courses the celebrated detective would pursue.


Chapter 3
The First Tragedy

The second story at Cricklemere, was portioned off in a series of large bedrooms, each with its own bath.

The great hall, which, downstairs, ran from front to back, was, upstairs, divided across the middle, and the rear half was Parke’s bedroom.

Next him, on the left, as one entered the house, were the two rooms of Duke and his wife, and in front of those, were two guest rooms, one of which, was occupied by Marigold Burt, the other, empty.

Cross corridors giving access to these rooms led to the main hall and staircase.

On the other side, over the living room, Lolly’s room was in front, and a guest room back. This left the rooms over the library and Owen Bailey’s study for himself and his wife.

Blandena’s room was in front and Owen’s at the back, with a boudoir between.

A spiral staircase led from the study up to Owen’s bedroom, and as the study opened on the covered terrace, Bailey had access to his rooms, if he chose, without going through the house at all.

This was in no sense clandestine, but when the place was full of racketing young people, or when his wife was entertaining an afternoon Bridge Club, it was a relief to the retiring disposition of the man to gain his own quarters unnoticed.

As a small house party was expected the next day, to spend the week-end, the whole family went early to bed on Thursday night.

Lolly, thinking of her prospective guests, dozed and woke intermittently, then, suddenly roused to wide awake attention, she sat up in her bed and listened.

Surely she had heard a car. Who could be coming around at midnight? She wondered, she even hoped it was some of the boys of the house party, who had come ahead of time, just for a lark.

She got out of bed and looked from the front window, down on the drive.

A good-looking car stood there, but there was no one in it, so far as she could see. A full moon, high in the heavens, made the place almost as light as day. She watched the car for a few moments, then drew back into her room.

“Don’t get it,” she said, to herself. “If it’s a burglar, he sure puts on side. And if not a burglar, why doesn’t he ring the bell or something. It isn’t Jack Campbell’s car, and anyway, he’d throw pebbles at my window, or something like that. Guess I’ll take a peep outside.”

She slipped on a kimono and slippers, and softly opened the door to the hall.

The house faced South, and consequently all the rooms on the front side were bathed in moonlight, quite bright enough to see everything clearly.

The broad staircase that came up from the first floor, branched both ways as it neared the top. On the landing, where the stairs branched, stood the splendid suit of armor that they called Max.

It shone like silver in the moonlight, an imposing and impressive figure.

They all loved it, and Lolly gazed at it admiringly. As she looked she thought the figure seemed to move.

Not at all frightened, but decidedly curious, she at once concluded the burglar was hiding behind the armor, and it was he who moved.

So she stared, and in a moment, some one came cautiously out from behind Max, and stood revealed, in the moonlight.

It was Marigold Burt, and Lolly nearly burst into laughter at sight of her.

“Poor old George,” she thought; “whatever is she up to?”

The girl shrank back out of sight, but watched Miss Burt slowly climb the stairs and disappear into her own room, which was opposite Lolly’s own.

“For the love of St. Michael,” Lolly pondered, “what can old George be up to? Had it anything to do with that car out front? And is the car still there?”

She ran to the window but there was no car in sight.

“Now, I didn’t dream that car,” she went on ruminating, “and I didn’t dream that I saw George, hiding behind Max. But it’s queer as any dream. Well, there can’t be anything wrong going on, unless George started to elope and suddenly thought better of it. George! It’s too absurd. I’ve a notion to go to her room and ask her what’s up. No, I’ll wait till morning, and have fun with her at breakfast time.”

So she snuggled back into bed and went to sleep at once.

At the breakfast table, next morning, she found only her father and Duke.

Blandena and the Duchess always had their breakfast in their rooms, and Parke was an uncertain proposition as to time and seasons.

But partly because she preferred it, and partly that her father might not run any chance of eating alone, Lolly always came down to breakfast.

George usually did, too, but this morning she had not put in an appearance.

With the amiable intention of teasing her, Lolly decided to make no mention of the doings of the night until George was present.

“Don’t fill up all the best guest rooms with your youngsters, Lolly,” her father said, as he consumed the waffles and sirup which Duke had thoughtfully ordered overnight.

“Why?” asked the girl, also intent on the waffles.

“I’m expecting a couple of men myself. One, a Mr. Stone, who must have a nice room, say the one next to mine. And also Sheridan is coming. He said either last night or this morning, so he’ll be along any time. Give him the corner front room.”

“Well, then I’ll have to take Grace Downing in with me. I don’t see why you always want to invite a pack of men when I’m throwing a house party.”

“I’m sorry, dear, but—well, they’re coming, and they must be properly looked after. If Sheridan doesn’t show up you can have the room—”

“Oh, blah! Of course, he’ll show up, and anyway, by the time we know it’ll be too late. I do wish, Dad, you’d show a little consideration for the rest of us, and not selfishly look out for your own interests.”

This was rank injustice, for Owen Bailey was always considerate of others and seldom obtruded his own wishes or plans on the family circle.

Moreover, he was patient under their tirades, and almost invariably bent his desires to theirs. If, occasionally he put his foot down, he took it up again quickly, at the behest of his wife or children, especially Lolly.

Indeed, she would probably have talked him into giving up the guest rooms in question to her convenience and allowing his friends to put up on the third floor, where the rooms were attractive, though smaller than those below.

But their conversation was interrupted by the entrance of the parlor maid, Agnes Ames, whose white face and quivering lips betokened disaster of some sort.

This girl had been aptly described by Duke as beautiful but dumb.

Her face was exquisite in its contour and coloring. Heart-shaped, Duke said it was, but Parke called her Kitten-face.

Not to her, of course; the Baileys were not the sort to take any personal interest in a servant, so Agnes, though lovely to look at was not looked at, save in her true relation.

Her hair was pure golden, with a soft, natural curl; her eyes of deepest violet were wide set, and fringed with incredibly long lashes. Her pink cheeks and pearly teeth were alluring, or would have been if the girl had had one spark of responsiveness, or even intelligence.

She looked and was absolutely dumb, in the sense of paying no attention to and taking no interest in anything that went on around her. Mrs. Cooper the cook, declared she couldn’t make her out. She had no realization of her own beauty, and no least trace of vanity or pride.

When the Duchess first came into the family, about two years ago, she kept sharp watch on her husband to see if he ever gave Agnes a sly glance.

But she soon proved to her own satisfaction, that Duke paid no more attention to the girl than if she had been plain. She was not about much, but always ready when summoned. In addition to her duties as parlor maid, she acted more or less as a personal maid to Mrs. Bailey and Lolly. Martha preferred to look after her own belongings.

It was a standing joke among the Baileys that young men, when guests at Cricklemere, sometimes tried to flirt with the dumb beauty. But, as they afterward acknowledged, one might as well try to cajole the suit of armor on the stairs. Agnes showed no more responsiveness than Max would.

She appeared now in the breakfast room door, her face, for perhaps the first time in their knowledge of it, showing emotion.

“Oh,” she breathed, in a whisper, “oh, please, Miss Lolly—”

“Yes, Agnes,” said Lolly, staring at her, “what is it?”

“Mrs. Bailey—Mrs. Bailey—she’s dead!” the last words came out in a shriek, and the terrified girl, turned and fled to the kitchen to the shelter of kindly Mrs. Cooper.

“Nonsense!” Duke said, rising, “something has scared the little fool. But I’ll go and see what’s up.”

He raced up the stairs two at a time, and knocked at the door of his mother’s room.

Getting no answer, he opened the door, but there was no one there. The bed covers were thrown back, but the room was empty.

Duke tapped on the closed door that led to the boudoir, but again there was no response.

By this time Mrs. Cooper had come up, and met Duke in the hall outside.

“Mrs. Bailey is in Mr. Bailey’s room,” she said. “Agnes told me. Will you look in there, sir?”

Mrs. Cooper had been with the Baileys over twenty years and Duke was the apple of her eye. As a boy she made cookies and turnovers for him, and even now, her greatest joy was in his praise of the viands she prepared.

Quickly Duke turned the knob of his father’s bedroom, and strode in. On the bed, robed in gay colored silk pajamas, lay the body of Blandena Bailey, with the hilt of a dagger protruding from her back.

Duke stopped still and gazed for a moment at the awful sight.

The body lay in a natural position, on its side, one arm beneath the head the other, outside the coverlets.

The face was calm and the eyes closed, as if she had died in her sleep.

The dagger, a handsome, ornate thing, showed clearly against the sheets. It had been driven to the hilt in the middle of Blandena’s back.

Duke’s eyes turned at once toward a group of trophies on the wall. These weapons had been there for years, a favorite possession of Owen Bailey’s, who liked to collect odd bits of arms or armor.

Obviously enough, one of the daggers was missing from the wall, and though not entirely familiar with his father’s curios, Duke had no doubt the dagger in his mother’s back had been taken from the wall for its deadly purpose.

“Touch her, Cooper,” he whispered, feeling he could not do it himself. “Is she surely dead?”

“Oh, yes, sir,” said the matter of fact, though sympathetic Cooper. “She’s stone cold,—poor thing. Agnes said she was. Who’ll tell Mr. Bailey?”

“I will, of course. You stay here, Cooper, till we can get the doctor up here.”

Duke went downstairs more slowly than he had come up. It was easy enough to say he’d tell his father, but a harder thing to do it.

“For Heaven’s sake, what’s the matter?” Lolly cried, as he entered the breakfast room.

“What’s the matter, son?” said Bailey, gently, as Duke seemed unable to reply. “You look like you’d seen a ghost!”

“As if, Dad, not like,” said Lolly, half absently. “I’ve told you that many times—”

“Oh, hush up, Loll,” Duke cried, his nerves giving way, “Mother’s dead—killed!”

“What?” Bailey started up from his chair, “what do you mean?”

“Just that, Father,” Duke said, his voice shaking. “Somebody has—has killed her with a dagger—”

“A dagger!” for a moment Owen Bailey looked almost as imbecile as the maid, Agnes.

Then, for he possessed a wonderful power of hiding his own emotion and sinking his own inclinations, he quickly left the room.

He hurried across the larger dining room, through the hall and up the stairs going directly to his own bedroom.

The faithful Cooper stood at the foot of the bed, her hands before her eyes to shut out the awful sight.

At sound of her master’s step, she looked up and saw him, as he stood looking at his dead wife, his clenched hands, the knuckles showing white, testifying to the grip he had on himself.

Indeed, so filled with horror and sorrow was he, that he well knew if he let himself go an inch he would go all to pieces. He must, he told himself, forget his own feelings and do what he could for his loved ones who were left to him.

He held out an arm as Lolly entered, and after one glance at her mother, the girl fell into her father’s embrace and gave way to deep sobs.

Duke went to tell his wife about it, and, after a moment or two, Owen Bailey gently led Lolly from the room. He took her to her own room and bade her lie down for a time.

Then he telephoned Fenn, the family doctor, asking him to come at once.

Then, his hand on the knob of Parke’s door, he faltered.

“But I must go through with it,” he told himself. “I must carry on till the authorities come, anyway.”

Though well known as an organizer and a director in his business relations, Owen had little experience of that sort in his home life. His suggestions were invariably rejected or ridiculed by the family. His help, if offered, was refused on the grounds that he was not competent. His wishes were seldom considered at all, and almost never granted.

He had become accustomed to this and only once in a great while did he resent it.

But now, this sudden thrusting upon him of grave responsibilities, found him a little frightened, a good deal embarrassed, but aware of a dogged determination to do what was clearly his duty.

He went into Parke’s room, waked him up and told him in a straightforward way what had happened.

“Who did it?” demanded Parke, not quite awake.

“We don’t know,” said his father, gently. “But we’ll find out, my boy, and justice shall be done.”

“You bet,” agreed Parke, getting more fully awake. “Go along, Dad, I’ll dress and come down in a jiffy. I want to help.”

“Of course. I depend on you and Duke for assistance.”

As he left Parke he bethought himself of Miss Burt.

He didn’t like the woman, never had liked her, and he found himself hoping that now Blandena was gone, she would betake herself away from the Bailey home. Still his sense of right decreed that Miss Burt be made acquainted with the tragedy, so he tapped at Lolly’s door.

She opened it, red eyed and disheveled looking.

“Dear child,” he said, drawing her to him, “bathe your eyes and come on downstairs. I’m sure you’ll feel better to be with us all, than up here, grieving alone. And, will you help me, daughter, by telling Miss Burt about it? It is right she should know—”

“Yes, of course I will, Dad. I’m a coward to stick up here. There’s lots to do. I must call off the party and all that. Yes, I’ll tell George, and I’ll soon come down, myself.”

“That’s my brave girl. Don’t give way, if you can help it. But on the other hand don’t try too hard to control yourself. That’s what I’m doing, and it’s nearly killing me.”

“Dear Daddy,” Lolly patted his lean, haggard cheek. “You are brave underneath. I always knew it. Well, I’ll be down soon.”

She turned back into her room and closed the door.

Bailey went on downstairs and met the doctor coming up.

Turning, he took the medical man to the room where the body of Blandena lay.

“A clean, swift drive,” Doctor Fenn declared, after some examination. “What is she doing in here? This is your bedroom.”

“Yes,” Bailey said. “But always at the full moon time, Blandena slept in here and I slept in her bed. Her windows face the South, and the moon shining at the full, kept her awake nights. So she usually, unless it was rainy weather, spent two or three nights in here every full moon. We were so accustomed to this habit, we thought nothing of it.”

“And she is wearing your pajamas.”

Bailey looked at the garment in question.

“Yes,” he agreed. “She did, sometimes. She’s large, you know, in fact, a bit heavier than I am, and if I had a set of pajamas that she admired, or liked the quality of the silk, or that, she didn’t hesitate to adopt them. We were like that, you know, small intimacies and jokes. She would laugh like a child when she cribbed my favorite belongings.”

“I know,” Doctor Fenn nodded, “she was like that. Well, Bailey, the police must be called, of course.”

“Yes, of course. Will you do it? I’m—I’m about at the end of my rope.”

“Poor chap, it all comes on you, I suppose. Where are the young people?”

“Dressing, mostly. But I’ll go through with it all, Fenn. I don’t want to bother the children. And they couldn’t help anyway. Unless Duke—but he’ll do anything he can. Who could have done this thing? And why?”

Bailey’s pale blue eyes and white, drawn face told Fenn how the man was suffering and he said, kindly;

“Go on downstairs. Take another cup of coffee, or something stronger, if you prefer. I’ll have Mrs. Cooper stay here till the police arrive, then she will be relieved.”

Bailey went on downstairs, pausing a moment as he passed Maximilian. He patted the back of one steel gauntleted hand, a favorite gesture of his, and went on quite unconscious of his action.

Reaching the hall, he turned off into the living room, and passed through that to his study.

Here he took up his private telephone and called Fleming Stone.

Getting the connection, he told Stone in a few words what had happened.

“Have you told any one else of what you told me yesterday?” asked Stone.

“No, not a soul. The local police haven’t come yet, but I don’t propose to confide in them.”

“No, don’t. Shall I continue to hold the case?”

“Yes, I want you to, more than ever. It’s a different case now.”

“Not necessarily.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Hard to tell you over the telephone. But I wish I’d gone along with you last night.”

“I wish to Heaven you had! This might have been prevented.”

“Well, this conversation is useless. Keep your own counsel as much as you can. Though, of course, you’ll have to answer questions. Don’t antagonize the official detective. He won’t like my interference, you know, but if you still want me, I’d be glad to go on with the case.”

“Indeed, I do want you. I suppose as things are now, you’ll come in your own personality.”

“Oh, well, I’ll use my own name, of course. But I doubt if your family or your guests will know who I am. Needn’t say much about it.”

“Very well. What time will you come?”

“Just as soon as I can make it. I’ll come in my own car, and drive myself. You can put me up?”

“Surely. Good-by, then.”


Bailey turned from the instrument to find Lolly looking and listening.

“Who’s your friend, Daddy?”

“Mr. Stone, a private detective, who is coming down to look into this case.”

Owen Bailey rarely told an untruth, and never unless, in his opinion, absolutely necessary.

“I’ve heard of him. He’s a super-detective.”

“Yes, so I’m told. Don’t advertise it, Lolly, Mr. Stone prefers the police should know no more than they have to.”

“All right, Dad. Trust me. But I’ve a story to tell. There was a car outside the house last night.”

“A car? Whose? At what time?”

“’Long about midnight. Dunno what make, but it was a smart, first class car, all right.”

“Who was in it?”

“The murderer, I suppose. I mean, I suppose he came in it. There was no one in it when I saw it. At that time he must have been in the house. Didn’t you hear anything, Dad?”

“Not a sound, dear. But, you know I sleep with my deaf ear up, and so it takes a loud sound to wake me.”

“Yes, I know. Were both the boudoir doors shut?”

“I think so. I know the one into the room I slept in was shut. It’s full moon, you know, so your mother took my room for a few nights.”

“Yes, I know. She always does—did. And she had on your pajamas.”

“Yes, she frequently wore them.”

“I don’t wonder. They’re stunning, and fitted her perfectly. But, Dad—I have a theory.”

“Tell it to me, Puss, but don’t go airing theories to the police, you’ll get yourself laughed at. Wait a moment. Did you tell Miss Burt, as I asked you to?”

“Yes. She nearly fainted. And that reminds me, Dad. Last night—”

“We’ll have a talk later, dear. I see the police coming, and I must meet them.”

“But Daddy, wait just a sec till I tell you my theory. Couldn’t it be that as mother was in your bed, and wearing your pajamas, and her hair is short and about the color of yours—couldn’t it be that the murderer was really gunning for you, and killed her thinking she was you?”

Owen Bailey looked at his daughter. Hoyden though she often was, Lolly now looked grave and serious. Her great topaz eyes gazed into her father’s face, and she waited, breathless, for his reply.

“Yes,” he said, after a moment’s thought. “Yes, Lolly, I agree with your theory. At least, I agree that it is a possibility, for I can think of no reason why anybody should want to kill your mother.”


Chapter 4
Vengeance Is Mine

Owen Bailey remained in his study, and the sheriff was brought to him there by Fuller.

The butler, more than ever, assumed his lordly manner, and ushered the men into the room with superb condescension.

Fuller was greatly perturbed. It was not in his scheme of things to have murder committed in the household to which he belonged, and the coming of the police was most disconcerting.

For the sheriff was accompanied by two other men, who proved to be the local constable and a smart young detective sergeant.

Sheriff Hunter was spokesman. He was a pompous sort, quite evidently feeling the dignity and responsibility of his position, but not quite certain what to do about it.

As a matter of fact, he had never been called upon to look after a murder case before, and he was a trifle vague as to the proper procedure, also as to the attitude he ought to take toward the family.

Bailey, himself nervous and anxious, felt a wave of reaction at sight of Hunter’s embarrassment, and bravely took the initiative.

“A terrible thing has happened, Sheriff,” he said, “and while, of course, you’ll have to pursue your usual routine, I want to ask you to spare my family as much as you can.”

“Certainly, certainly, Mr. Bailey, I understand.” Sheriff Hunter was a typical country politician of what has been called the cracker-box school. He had ambitions, and he looked to the influential citizens of his county for help. He had no least desire to antagonize or to trouble them, and he was more than willing to accede to any wish Mr. Owen Bailey might express.

A big, raw-boned chap he was, uncouth of manner and awkward of mien. His shrewd, small eyes were gray, and looked out from under bushy eyebrows that would have been better for a trimming.

“Certainly I understand,” he repeated, more to convince himself than his hearers, for his understanding was a limited one. “You mean me to question you instead of your children.”

“Yes, so far as you can conscientiously do that, that is what I mean,” agreed Owen Bailey. “If you have to talk to them, you must do so, but let me bear the brunt.”

“Yes, yes, I see. That’s your fatherly instinct. Yes, yes. Now, you see, we have here Constable Leary, you know him, I guess.”

“Oh, yes, we’re old friends,” and Bailey gave a faint smile and nod toward the constable.

“And also,” Sheriff Hunter spoke with some pride, “we have Sergeant Detective Whitney,—he’s from Hartford, just happened to be around here, and he’s going to take hold of the case. It’ll go hard with the villains who did this terrible thing when Whitney gets on their trail. We’re lucky to have his help.”

“I’m glad you’re here, Sergeant,” Bailey said, in a weary voice, “and I do hope you can clear up the mystery and put your hand on the criminal in short order.”

“That’s hoping a lot, Mr. Bailey,” the young man said, shaking his head. “A murder mystery is not often cleared up quickly,—sometimes not at all. But we’ll do our best.”

Whitney was an intelligent looking lad, whose earnest brown eyes betokened sincerity of purpose and a determined perseverance. His square, firm jaw was indicative of stubbornness, but a quick, ready smile redeemed his countenance from severity.

“Well,” said Bailey, still with that weary, harassed air, “get busy, then.”

As a matter of fact, Owen Bailey’s mind was full of uncertainty about the impending arrival of Fleming Stone. He didn’t want to apprise these local police as yet, that he had engaged a private detective, and yet, he had no wish to conceal such an important fact.

Yet he felt sure it would please Stone better if he came unannounced, and after that Bailey could follow his advices.

So, trusting that the present examination would not call for definite disclosures that he was unwilling to make, Owen Bailey settled himself for the ordeal. Constable Leary, feeling a trifle left out, spoke up.

“I think,” he said, “we should first view the body and the scene of the crime.”

“As you wish,” said Bailey, rising.

“No,” Whitney said, “we must get a little information first. Let me put a few questions. Mr. Bailey, when did you see your wife alive last?”

“Last evening, about eleven o’clock,” was the prompt reply.

“Was that the time you retired?”

“Yes. We all went upstairs about eleven. My wife and I have rooms in the East end of the house, hers is the Southeast corner room, and mine the Northeast. There is a boudoir between.”

“Then Mrs. Bailey was sleeping in her room—”

“No. It was always her habit to change rooms with me during the three or four nights of the full moon.”

“Why was that?”

“Because her windows, facing South, let in such a flood of bright moonlight that it kept her awake. She didn’t like drawn curtains, so we simply changed rooms during the full of the moon.”


“Well, usually. If it was a rainy spell or cloudy nights, she stayed in her own room.”

“I see. And last night she occupied your room?”

“Yes; she did the night before last also.”

“Then, Mr. Bailey, may we not wonder whether the murderer did not intend his dreadful act to be directed against yourself?”

“We certainly may. In fact, I think myself that was the case. For I cannot imagine any one being desirous of killing my wife. Mrs. Bailey had no enemies, she was beloved by all who knew her.”

“Doubtless. And have you any enemies?”

“That’s a hard question to answer. I suppose no man can reach middle life without knowing some men he cannot number among his friends. But there is no one I can definitely or positively suspect of wanting to kill me.”

“It may have been a burglar,” Hunter put in, “it probably was. Then, when he was surprised to find Mrs. Bailey in that room, and when, as is likely, she tried to scream, he killed her. What was the weapon used, Mr. Bailey?”

“A dagger, which was taken from a trophy on the wall of my bedroom.”

“A trophy?”

“By that I mean a semicircle of ornamental daggers, fastened to the wall. They are of various designs and are of value as curios.”

“And the dagger used was wrenched from its fastenings—”

“Not wrenched, merely lifted from the two small hooks that held it in place. But here comes Doctor Fenn, will you not refer this matter to him?”

Mercifully Fenn appeared then, and was quite willing to spare Owen Bailey the pain of describing the stroke that killed his wife.

“Yes,” the doctor said; “Mrs. Bailey was stabbed with a sharp dagger, about eight inches long. It passed between two ribs, straight to the heart and death was instantaneous. Doubtless it occurred while she slept, and she had no knowledge of an assailant.”

“Then it wasn’t a burglar,” declared Hunter. “Or at least, not a burglar alarmed for his safety.”

“Were any valuables taken, Mr. Bailey?” asked Hunter.

“Not to my knowledge, but I haven’t made a thorough search. However there was little or nothing of much value in my bedroom. My wife kept her jewelry in a safe in the boudoir, and my pearl studs and such of my belongings as could be called jewelry were also in that. Outside of that, I think there was nothing in my room worth stealing.”

“The antique daggers?”

“They are valuable to a connoisseur or collector of such things, but they have small intrinsic value. And anyway, I think they are undisturbed, save for the one that was used—”

Owen Bailey paused abruptly, evidently at the thought of the use the dagger was put to.

“Let us visit the room,” said Whitney. “We can judge more intelligently then.”

“Must I go with you?” asked Bailey, and noting his haggard face and trembling hands, Hunter said;

“No, it is not necessary, sir. Will you await us here?” Bailey nodded assent and the investigators left the room.

“They’ll find their way,” Doctor Fenn said, as Bailey looked inquiringly at him. “Don’t bother about them. Who do you think did the thing, Owen?”

“I can’t think of anybody. But I suppose,—I have to suppose the attack was meant for me. Poor Blandena, to take the stroke intended for me! I can’t stand it, Fenn, I’m all in!”

“Yes, I know, but you’ve got to stand it, you’ve got to face it all. There will be bothers, Lord knows, but after all, no one in the house can be suspected. Be thankful for that.”

“Oh, I am, of course, but—who will,—who can be suspected?”

“An outsider,—some marauder, after loot, doubtless. They’ll find him.”

“A marauder wouldn’t stab, even supposing he thought he was stabbing me, without any provocation. If he was after the jewelry, he must have known where the safe was—they say they always do?”

“Yes, they say so, but—oh, well, I’m no detective. Here they come back again.”

The three policemen trooped into the room again. “A strange case,” declared Whitney. “The lady was wearing a man’s pajamas.”

“Yes,” said Bailey, and once more explained that unusual feature of the case

“I understand that, then,” said Whitney, “but it makes it all the more likely that the killer thought he was striking at you.”

“I know it,” Bailey responded. “I think that, too. Now to find out who he was. There is surely no one in Canterbury Ledge who bears me ill will enough for such a deed.”

“Nor anywhere else,” put in Doctor Fenn. “Take it from me, Sheriff, Mr. Bailey has no enemy who would do such a thing. He is a most friendly man—”

“I know that,” declared Constable Leary. “I’ve known the family ever since they settled here. I’ve seen the children grow up, and a better, happier family I’ve never known. Now, mark my words, the killer was an intruder, who had other motives than murder. That came about of itself.”

“What do you mean, of itself?” demanded Hunter.

“I mean, he was scared into it, maybe by a noise, maybe by a sort of caution but it was unpremeditated. He just suddenly grabbed that dagger from the wall and jabbed it into his victim. Maybe he thought it was Mr. Bailey, and maybe he didn’t. Anyway, it was unpremeditated and so, he didn’t come here with murder in his mind.”

“And we can’t be sure that Mrs. Bailey was not awake,” said Whitney. “She may have opened her eyes and, frightened at what she saw, quickly closed them again, and then received her death blow.”

“Did you search the room?” asked Bailey. “Did you find any clew?”

“We searched it thoroughly,” Hunter said. “It didn’t take long. And we found only one thing, which may or may not be a clew.”

The sheriff held out a small strip of metal, perhaps three inches long by half an inch wide. It was neatly shaped, with curved ends and it bore, in raised letters, the words, Vengeance is Mine.

They all recognized it as a slip of aluminum, stamped by an apparatus sometimes found in ferry houses or Elevated stations, but more often at the pleasure beaches.

“I didn’t know these machines were to be found now,” said Doctor Fenn, gazing at the small strip. “I thought they were out of date.”

“There are some left,” Whitney told him, “especially at Coney Island and such places. And anyway, this needn’t have been made lately, it may be an old affair. Know anything about it, Mr. Bailey?”

“No,” Bailey returned, shaking his head. “I used to cut them out for the children, but that was years ago. I haven’t seen a stamping machine like that of late. But I don’t go to Coney Island. Where was this thing found?”

“On the chiffonier, beside the brushes. It was not hidden, yet neither was it very conspicuous. Now, since you know nothing of this, and if your people also have no knowledge of it, it is fairly probable it was left by the murderer, on purpose. If so, it is a message, and if a message, I think it is far more likely it refers to Mr. Bailey than to Mrs. Bailey. I may be all wrong, but it is imaginable that a murderer should wreak vengeance on a man, though hardly on a woman. My theory is that the man had a grievance and came here intending to kill Mr. Bailey. He made a mistake, whether he knew it or not, and he went away, leaving this message behind.”

“Then, he brought this with him,” said Hunter. “And if that is so, the murder was premeditated. You’re forging ahead too fast, Whitney.”

“That remains to be seen,” the detective said, with his amiable smile. “Now, Mr. Bailey, I assure you we will be most discreet and tactful, but we will have to interview the other members of the family. You may be present or not, as you prefer.”

“Oh, I’d rather stay, I may be of help to them in some way.”

But the affable detective found his plans somewhat rudely upset by the advent of a new element.

Coroner Hale presented himself, armed at all points and terrible as an army with banners.

He breezed into the room, and his frowning face tacitly accused everybody present of wrong-doing.

“Why wasn’t I called sooner?” he blustered. “Hunter, why didn’t you notify me at once?”

“I did,” said the imperturbable sheriff. “I sent Bill—”

“Oh, Bill! You might as well have sent a mud turtle, it would make better time! Well, what have you done to boggle up the case?”

“Now, now, Doctor Hale,” broke in Owen Bailey’s placating voice, “these gentlemen have been very kindly and—”

“They have, have they? Well, perhaps I shan’t be so kindly! A murder case is not a kindergarten. Tell me what you have learned, or think you have learned.” Sheriff Hunter, entirely unmoved by the coroner’s fiery temper, told him in a few terse phrases just what they had discovered. He voiced no theories, no opinions, but he stated the facts with a directness that left the coroner no chance to criticise the recital.

“All right, all right,” he said, hastily, “if that’s all you’ve done, it amounts to nothing, but perhaps you have done no great harm. Mr. Bailey, whom do you suspect of having committed this dastardly crime?”

Owen Bailey, terribly upset already, was almost thrown into a panic by this onslaught, and stared at the coroner, with shaking hands clutching his shaking knees.

“Come, come, sir, answer my question. Surely that’s not difficult.”

“No, it isn’t,” and Bailey suddenly faced the music, as was his way when cornered. “It is easily answered, as I have no slightest idea who the criminal is or can possibly be.”

“Oh, you haven’t! Don’t know anybody who has it in for you, eh? For, after all I’ve just heard, I make no doubt the fatal blow was meant for you, sir.”

“That may well be,” agreed Bailey, mildly. “I’ve said myself it’s much more likely that it was meant for me than for my wife. But as to the identity of the marauder, I can form no opinion whatever.”

“H’m,” said the coroner, “I wish you could.”

“No doubt you do,” said Whitney, dryly. “It would help you a lot.”

Hale turned to glare at him, but said no word of reply. Instead, he turned to Owen Bailey, and demanded that his eldest son be sent for.

Soon Duke appeared, looking handsome, debonair and very much at his ease. The sight of his attitude seemed to act as a tonic to his father, who immediately sat up straighter and let a look of courage steal into his face.

“You were, I understand, the first one to see your mother after her death?”

“All wrong,” returned Duke, pleasantly; “nothing like it.”

“Who was, then?”

“I don’t know, I’m sure. There may have been any number. The first one I know of was our parlor maid, named Agnes.”

“Call Agnes in,” thundered the coroner.

The maid was summoned, and came slowly and shrinkingly into the room.

She was pitiably shy, frightened and embarrassed, yet her beautiful face and exquisite little figure were as lovely as ever.

Her hands were clasped to her breast, and her great violet eyes seemed to implore kindness and gentle dealing.

Yet save for the detective Whitney, no one gave the girl a sympathetic look. So far as the two Bailey men were concerned, they paid no slightest attention to her, while the police only looked upon her as a sort of curiosity, and Doctor Fenn merely looked on with an amused interest.

“You found the body of your mistress?” the coroner shot at her.

“Y-yes,” and the frightened hands fluttered like broken-winged birds.

“Keep quiet. Control yourself. Tell of the finding.”

Unable to defy this monster, Agnes did her best to obey him.

“I went up with her coffee,” she began, and now, though faint, her voice was steady. “I knew she was in Mr. Bailey’s room, because she was there yesterday morning. She sleeps there at the full of the moon. I went in without knocking, those are my orders, and I saw Mrs. Bailey in the bed. At first, I didn’t—didn’t notice anything, and I touched her shoulder to wake her up. Those are my orders. Then I felt her cold—I could feel it through the silk—and then, I saw—I saw the knife in her back—”

“Was she facing you?”

“Not exactly. She was on her side like, and turned over a little frontwards besides. Like this.”

Agnes, put her head down on her hands, and rolled it a little sideways, indicating the position of Mrs. Bailey’s head on the pillow.

So beautiful she looked that Whitney fairly caught his breath, but no one else seemed to notice the picture she made.

Nor was the girl self-conscious. It was plain to be seen she had no intention of creating a sensation. She was intent on telling her story as that terrible coroner wanted and expected her to.

“Then what did you do?” went on the harsh, inexorable voice.

“I went straight downstairs to get somebody, anybody, to come up.

“And you found—?”

“Mr. Bailey and Mr. Duke and Miss Lolly were all in the breakfast room. I just told them Mrs. Bailey was dead, and then I went to the kitchen.”

“What for?”

“To tell Mrs. Cooper. I always tell her everything.”

“That will do. Go, and send in Mrs. Cooper.”

When the cook arrived, the coroner tried his ferocious glare on her, but the self-possessed woman failed to cringe under it.

“Tell what you know of the finding of Mrs. Bailey, this morning.”

“Certainly, sir. The maid Agnes came running to the kitchen saying that the mistress was dead. I scarcely thought it was true, I thought maybe she had fainted. But I hurried up to her room, and in the hall I saw Mr. Duke, who had come upstairs. I told him Mrs. Bailey was in Mr. Bailey’s room and we went in there. The poor lady was dead, with a dagger sticking out of her back. That’s all I know about it.”

“Now, you, Mr. Duke Bailey. What did you do?”

“I looked at my mother, and I asked Mrs. Cooper to touch her,” he shuddered, “and she did. She said my mother was dead, and the sight of the dagger left small room for doubt of that fact. I left Mrs. Cooper there and went downstairs and told my father. We sent for Doctor Fenn and he sent for the police. That’s all, I think.”

“And whom do you suspect of the deed?”

“I have no reason to suspect any one. I know of no one who would wish to kill my mother, nor do I know of any one who would desire my father’s death. I say this, for it has been suggested that the criminal may have thought it was my father who occupied that room.”

Lolly was called then, and Parke came in with her. The coroner raised no objections to the boy’s presence, so he stayed.

“Did you hear any unusual noise in the night?” Hale asked him.

“No,” Parke replied, “but I sleep like a log, and I never hear anything in the night.”

“I did,” put in Lolly. “I heard the murderer come and I saw his car.”

The coroner whirled on her.

“You did! How do you know it was the murderer’s car?”

“Whose else could it have been? We don’t have callers at midnight, and this was about twelve o’clock.”

“Where did you see this car?”

“Parked out on the drive, in front of the house.”

“Pretty conspicuous place for a murderer to leave his car. Was no one in it?”

“Not when I saw it. He must have been in the house then. When I looked out again, it was gone.”

“What were you doing in the meantime?”

“I? Doing? Why,—nothing.”

“Where were you?”

“Er—nowhere in particular.”

“But where? Just where?”

“Well, I peeked out in the hall to see if there was anything going on.”

“And was there?”


“There was. What was it?”

“Nothing, nothing at all.”

“You’d better tell the truth, Miss, or you’ll find yourself in trouble.”

“Tell the truth, dear,” said her father, gently.

“Well, I thought I saw somebody on the stairs, but when I looked again there was nobody there. That’s all.”


Chapter 5
Fleming Stone Looks For Clews

The Earl of Northumberland answered a ring at the front doorbell.

Outside stood a tall, distinguished looking man who eyed the butler appraisingly.

Fuller realized at once that this visitor was not greatly impressed by his courtly manner, and he said, respectfully, “Will you come in, sir? Do you wish to see Mr. Bailey?”

“Yes,” said Fleming Stone, entering. “Are the police here?”

Fuller smothered a gasp. Who was this, who knew of the tragedy without being told?

“Yes, sir. They are all in the study.”

“Take me there, then,” and Fleming Stone gave his coat and hat to a footman, who appeared opportunely.

He followed Fuller across the big living room, to the study, where Fuller tapped at the closed door.

Constable Leary opened it, and seeing a stranger, was about to close it again.

But Stone stepped forward, and going straight to Owen Bailey, held out his hand.

Bailey rose to greet him, with an effort. The man looked so dejected and forlorn, that even the arrival of the celebrated detective seemed to have no encouraging effect upon him.

“This is Mr. Stone,” he said, in a dull, strained voice. “Mr. Fleming Stone of New York City. He is here to visit me, and will take charge of the case.”

“Take charge of the case!” repeated Coroner Hale, unable to believe his ears. “Hardly that, I think.”

“No,” and Stone smiled slightly. “I think Mr. Bailey spoke thoughtlessly. What he means is, I’m sure, that since I am here, and I came for other reasons, I shall be glad to be of any help I can to you who have the case in charge. You are the coroner, sir?”

“Yes,” said Hale, mollified more by Stone’s manner than his words. “And this is Mr. Hunter, Sheriff of the county, and Detective Sergeant Whitney, from Hartford. Also, Police Constable Leary, of this village.” Stone acknowledged the introductions courteously and, sitting down beside Bailey, asked that the investigation be continued.

“I want next to talk to young Mr. Bailey’s wife,” Hale declared. He had taken the matter out of Hunter’s hands entirely, for which that worthy was profoundly grateful.

Whitney, the young detective, said nothing, but his alert eyes and intelligent face showed that he was missing no point of the inquiries.

“I am not sure my wife is downstairs yet,” Duke said, indifferently. “We never disturb her until she comes down.”

“Oh, you don’t,” and Hale’s voice was sharp. “Well, this morning will be an exception. Call her here at once.”

Something in his tone stirred Lolly to action.

“I’ll go for her,” she volunteered, rising.

“No, Miss, you stay right where you are,” Hale told her. “Leary, go outside and get some one to fetch the lady.”

The constable obeyed, and Stone spoke, in his most suave tones;

“May I have the main facts, Sheriff?”

“Hale will tell you, he’s the coroner,” returned Hunter, who was ill at ease in the presence of the city detective.

The coroner, quickly ran over the bare facts of the finding of Mrs. Bailey’s body, and Owen Bailey looked piteously at Stone.

He wanted to say, “You came too late,” or “I wish you had been here sooner,” but a look of warning in Stone’s eyes made him understand no word was to be spoken until they could be alone.

After what seemed a long wait, Martha Bailey appeared.

She looked very beautiful, and carried herself with the dignity and grace that is frequently called “the air of a duchess.”

Her natural bright coloring needed no artificial assistance, but it had been applied, artistically, yet noticeably.

She wore what is called a magpie dress,—a somewhat startling confection of black and white, rather bizarre of design, but well suited to her glowing beauty.

Duke didn’t rise at her entrance, but motioned her to a chair at his side, in which she seated herself deliberately and glanced unconcernedly about.

Members of the family were not surprised at her manner, for it was an open secret that she and her mother-in-law were not entirely congenial, and she could not be expected to show great grief.

But the policemen looked at her with curiosity, and wondered at her calm poise.

Fleming Stone was especially interested in her, and scarcely took his eyes off her, though so veiling his glance that it was unobtrusive.

“When did you last see Mrs. Bailey?” asked the coroner.

“Last evening, when we all said good night and went upstairs,” replied the Duchess, with a supercilious stare, meant to annihilate Hale, but which utterly failed of its intent.

“You are sure of that?”

Duke squirmed a little, and looked imploringly at his wife. However, she ignored him and said, quietly;

“Perfectly sure.”

“You did not go in to speak to Mrs. Bailey after she had retired to her bedroom or her boudoir?”


“Is this yours?”

Hale suddenly held out to her a small narrow strip of fine sandpaper, with straight edges and rounded ends.

“It may be. I cannot be certain. I have some like that.”

“What is its use?”

“It is from my case of manicure implements. It is for use on one’s fingertips.”

“And this may be yours?”

“It may.”

“It is yours, Mrs. Bailey. It has been identified by Agnes, the ladies’ maid—”

“Agnes is not a ladies’ maid. She is the parlor maid.”

“She tells me she often acts as maid to the ladies of this household.”

“Not to me.”

“At any rate, she informed me that you possess sandpaper strips like this and no one else in the house does. Those belonging to the late Mrs. Bailey and to Miss Bailey are of a different style and shape.”

“Well?” and Martha looked at him, a trifle insolently, “what of it? I said it might be mine.”

“It is yours, and it was found this morning under the edge of the dresser in the room which Mrs. Bailey occupied last night.”

“Oh,” she caught her breath quickly and her face paled save where the tinge of rouge showed on her cheeks. “Oh, yes, I remember now. I went in for a moment to speak to Mrs. Bailey, and as I was then doing my finger nails, I carried my kit along with me. We sometimes hobnobbed over our manicuring.”

She gave a slight laugh, a forced, artificial sound, that made both Stone and detective Whitney glance at her sharply.

In fact the alertness of the younger man drew Stone’s attention to him and he hoped for a talk with him soon.

Fleming Stone was almost always bored by the preliminary investigation of a sheriff or coroner. They seemed so roundabout of procedure, so slow of progress and so barren of results that he longed to take the questioning into his own hands. As this was manifestly impossible, he sat still and let his thoughts run over the strange situation.

Owen Bailey had come to him for help, fearing an attack on his own life. Having heard of the changed bedrooms, it was obvious that the attack had been made, the assailant supposing that he was thrusting a dagger into the back of Bailey himself, when really he stabbed Mrs. Bailey. It was not incredible, the moonlight in that room was not bright and the lady had worn her husband’s sleeping suit. Moreover, her hair was short and shingled, and so that, with her face turned away, the error was easily understood. Now, the thing was to find the criminal.

Though past the day when he hoped to find initialled handkerchiefs or broken cuff-links, Stone still had a hankering to search a room for clews, and it seemed to him this was a good time to do it. Whatever the coroner learned from the members of the family, Stone could get later, and he doubted if it would be much. Anyway, he was aching to see that room, and so, without a word save a low-murmured, “Excuse me, please,” he rose and went quietly from the study.

Of course, no one could stop him. He closed the door behind him and quickly crossed the living room to the hall.

There he found Fuller, alert and watchful.

Scarcely pausing on his way, Stone said, shortly;

“Mrs. Bailey’s room? That way?” He pointed toward the West end of the house.

“No, sir, the other way,” said Fuller, surprised into responsiveness, and Stone went on.

He mounted the broad staircase, and at the landing, where it branched, he paused to look at the gorgeous suit of armor.

“Maximilian!” he exclaimed, for he knew about such things, and Maximilian armor was seldom seen outside of museums.

“Oh,” exclaimed a rather shrill voice, “do you know him, then?”

Down the West branch of the staircase came a tall, strong-looking woman, with a face, it seemed to Stone, like a horse.

“Know him? No,” he said, in his pleasant way. “Do you?”

“But you called him Maximilian, and that is his name.”

“Named for his type, then. And a fine example he is. Are you one of the family, madam?”

People rarely took offense at Fleming Stone’s questions, unless he wished them to.

“Why, yes,” Marigold Burt replied, “yes, I may say I am.”

“And you’re just on your way to the study, where the coroner is asking questions. Go along, then, for all the family is supposed to be there.”

“Asking about—about Blandena—” her face turned ashy white and she looked more like George Eliot than ever.

“About the tragedy, yes. Have you any information to give out?”

“Why, I,—who are you? Police?”

“No, I’m a friend of Mr. Bailey’s, Stone is my name. And yours?”

“Oh, Mr. Stone! The great detective! Oh, my! Why, —me—I’m Miss Burt, Marigold Burt. I—I live here.”

“I see. And tell me,—what did you hear in the night —about midnight, you know?”

“Why,—I—nothing at all.”

“Where were you at that time?”

“I was in my bed.”

“Oh, come, come, Miss Burt, weren’t you out here on the stairs,—maybe hiding behind Maximilian, to see—”

“How dare you! What are you accusing me of? Sir—” So drawn and contorted with rage was her gaunt face, that Stone stepped back a pace or two.

He decided that the female of the species was sometimes a termagant and this was one of the times.

“Please be more quiet,” he urged, “at what time then were you out here, hiding behind the armor?”

“Not at all,—not at any time. I don’t know what you mean.”

But the massive frame of the big woman was quivering with fear, and her eyes stared at him from beneath their bushy brows, full of horror.

“Miss Burt, take my advice and let me be your friend.”

“Will you?” A shudder of relief passed and left her more calm.

“I will if you’ll tell the truth. Otherwise, no.”

“Truth about what?”

“About last night. You were here, at some time during the night.”

“No, positively not.”

“Then,” Stone bent down and picked up a bedroom slipper from under the edge of the huge pedestal that held the armor, “what is this doing here? Is it not yours? It’s too large for any of the other ladies of the family.”

It was large, a really enormous slipper, made of a sort of Turkish towelling, with a faded blue ribbon bow on it.

“Oh, yes, that’s mine. I dropped it somewhere two nights ago, and I couldn’t find it anywhere.”

“Two nights ago?”

“Yes, night before last. I went downstairs for my purse I had left down there, and when I reached my room again, I had on only one slipper. Thank you.”

She took the unbeautiful shoe from his hand, and folding it together, stuffed it into a capacious pocket of the green sweater she wore.

Then without another word, she passed him and went on downstairs.

Stone looked after her, a little smile wrinkling his brow.

“Queer sort,” he said to himself. “I don’t wonder Bailey has that put-upon look, with this she-dragon and that young duchess to boss him. To say nothing of the butler, who is the very essence of pomp and circumstance! Oh, well, great wealth brings its own disturbances. Now to visit the scene of the crime,—the spot where the body was found.”

Fleming Stone was not flippant in the face of a tragedy, but his converse with himself was often in a light, even frivolous vein.

He was not the sort of detective who has to have a subordinate to unload his theories and deductions upon. He communed only with himself, when he was thinking out a case.

He had often thought of setting up an assistant, and had once been interested in a young lad, but on the whole he concluded that he travels the fastest who travels alone, and Stone liked to travel fast.

He did have a cousin, who, he sometimes thought, might be useful, but that was as far as he had gone in the matter.

Reaching the top of the stairs, he saw the lovely parlor maid walking aimlessly along.

Her uniform told him she was a servant, but her angelic face seemed to him like a vision straight from Heaven.

“Only Greuze could paint such line and color,” he told himself. “Who are you, child?” he asked quietly.

“I’m Agnes, the maid,” she said, her eyes widening with fright.

“Don’t be afraid, you’ve nothing to fear. Which is Mrs. Bailey’s room?”

His gentle, cultured voice seemed to calm her, and she took him to the rooms of Duke and his wife, in the Northwest corner of the house.

“I suppose you mean Mr. Duke’s wife,” she said, calmly enough now. “This is her room, and this is Mr. Duke’s.”

“All right, thank you. Run along. I have an errand here.”

Fleming Stone had no errand in the Duchess’ room, had indeed, no real reason for wanting to enter it, but he was in an exploring mood, and thought it as well to take it in when occasion offered.

It was evident the chambermaid had not yet been her rounds. The bed was not made, and various articles of lingerie and toiletry lay scattered about.

Stone quite understood how the excitement in the household and the absence of its mistress would upset the routine of daily work, and was not surprised at it. He glanced about with slight interest, beyond a feeling of admiration for the beauty of the furnishings and appointments.

The only thing he noticed was the manicure case, which was upside down on the floor, the dainty implements of blue enamel and shining steel scattered all about.

He gazed for a moment and then left the room.

He gave a casual glance into Duke’s room, also into Parke’s room, of which the door was flung wide open.

Then, seeing his own hat and coat, also his bags in the next room, he concluded he must be domiciled there, and stepped inside.

The ubiquitous Fuller appeared, verified his assumption, and offered help in arranging his things.

“I’ll leave it all to you, Fuller. Put things away, but for the Lord’s sake, put ’em where I can find them! Don’t hide everything.”

“Very good, sir,” said the Earl of Northumberland.

“First, show me Mrs. Bailey’s room,—Mrs. Bailey, Senior.”

“Yes, sir. He opened a door at the East end of the hall. “This is her boudoir, sir. The room front is her room, and the room back is Mr. Bailey’s room.”

“All right, that will do, Fuller.”

Fleming Stone gazed thoughtfully round the boudoir. It was what might be expected; a charmingly furnished, dainty little apartment, with mirrors and pictures, chaise lounge and lace pillows, book rack and smoking stand, all of fine type and good taste.

A hasty but careful search showed no clew or unexpected finding, and Stone opened the door into Mrs. Bailey’s own bedroom. This had been occupied by Owen Bailey the night before and some of his belongings were still strewn about.

“Should think the housekeeper would get the maids to work on the bedrooms,” thought Stone, who was a tidy soul and had been brought up by a militant homemaker of a mother. “Maybe she didn’t have a housekeeper, but I thought all rich folks did.”

Despairing of picking up a few unconsidered trifles, he went across the boudoir to the room where the victim lay, the bedroom of Owen Bailey.

A young chap, assistant of the coroner, was in charge. He looked at Stone apathetically.

“Who’re you?” he asked.

“My name is Stone. You taking care of things here?”

“Yep. And if you ask me, I’d like to get clear of it. Not much fun to be shut up alone with that!”

“No, son, but if you’re aiming to be a coroner, some day, you have to get used to these things. Go out and walk up and down the hall, or, better yet, step out on that balcony for a breath of air. Do you good. I’ll call you back when I’m leaving. It’s all right. I’m a detective.”

“Gee! A detective from the city?”

“Yes. Why didn’t you say deteckative?”

“Shucks. I ain’t in a story book.”

“You’re all right,” Stone smiled. “What’s your name?”

“Jim. Jim Paddock. I’m Doc Hale’s driver.”

“All right, Jim, I’ll remember you. Now go out on the balcony.”

A wide balcony ran across the whole East end of the house, being over the covered terrace below. A spiral stair ran down from the bedroom of Owen Bailey to his study on the first floor.

This staircase opening into both Bailey’s rooms, had no door at top or bottom, but ended in the two rooms.

“H’m,” mused the interested detective, “then anybody could have got into the house, or, for that matter could have been in the house, and could have gone into Bailey’s study, up this stair, committed his crime, stepped down the stair again, and gone his way. Too easy!”

He turned to the still figure on the bed. As soon as the preliminary inquiry should be over, he was sure the body would be taken away. And he wanted to see it.

Yet he learned nothing from it.

The dagger had been driven into the back with a sure, strong thrust. Yet that did not necessarily presuppose a criminal with an accurate knowledge of anatomy. The average man had enough gumption to hit the heart of his victim. Yes, and since the war, the average woman, too.

Stone’s thoughts flew back to the strange woman he had met on the stairs.

She would make an ideal suspect. So perfect a one that he judged it was too good a theory to be true.

He looked pityingly at the dead face.

Blandena was pretty, and as is sometimes the case, the waxen pallor of death increased her beauty, and made it ethereal. Her hair was in tousled ringlets above her brow and her eyes were closed, the long lashes lying on her white cheeks.

The gay colored pajamas struck an inharmonious note, and Stone turned away from the none too pleasing picture.

He looked about the room. The gown and lingerie of Mrs. Bailey still lay where she had placed it on undressing, for the coroner had ordained that nothing be touched.

It told Stone nothing, however, for he knew why she was in that room, and it surely gave color to the theory that the fatal blow was meant for Owen Bailey and not for his wife.

Stone felt that he could do little or nothing until he could have a talk with Bailey. If this whole affair was the outcome of those letters the man had received, then it was indeed a pity Stone hadn’t arrived twenty-four hours sooner.

Yet, what could he have done? What could he do now? Suppose the enemy made another attempt on the life of Owen Bailey, and succeeded, how could Stone, or any one else stave it off? It would require an armed guard, a regiment of soldiers.

And even then, a clever villain could outwit them.

Yes, he must get an interview with Bailey as soon as possible.

Giving a last glance around, he saw on the floor, in a corner a small white lozenge. Not as small as an aspirin tablet, yet not quite so large as a dime.

He picked it up gingerly by its edge and laid it carefully in a scrap of paper which he put away in his pocketbook.

“Found sumpin?” asked an exultant voice, and Stone realized the bright eyes of Jimmy Paddock had been watching him all the time.

However, he had no objections, but he said to the boy, a little sharply;

“Jimmy, if we’re to be friends, you must do as I tell you.”

“You bet, Mr. Stone, I sure will!”

“Well, then, you’re not to tell any one that I picked up something from the floor, until I say you may.”

“O. K. Mr. Stone. Mum’s the word!”

“That’s right, Jimmy. Now, back to your post, I’m going downstairs.”


Chapter 6
Mr. Sheridan Gets Into The Game

As Stone reached the lower hall, he saw Fuller opening the front door to admit a man who bustled in as one familiar with the house.

“Ah, Fuller,” the newcomer said, in a hearty voice, “ah, sad news,—sad news indeed.”

“Yes, sir,” said the butler taking the other’s hat and coat. “They are all in the study. Will you go there, Mr. Sheridan?”

“Ah,” said Fleming Stone to himself, “Sheridan,— the partner.”

He stepped along the hall and spoke to the visitor. “Mr. Sheridan?” he said, extending a hand. “Mr. Bailey’s partner? I am Fleming Stone, here in Mr. Bailey’s interests. May I have a few words with you?”

“Yes, yes. Glad to, Mr. Stone. You arrived quickly on the scene. I’ve heard of you, and I’m sure you can clear this thing up if anybody can. Yes, yes. Where can we go, Fuller, and be alone a little time?”

“Anywhere you like, sir. Everybody is in the study. Perhaps the billiard room, Mr. Sheridan?”

“Yes, that will do. Come along, Stone. Now tell me a bit about it all. I know nothing at all, save that Mrs. Bailey is dead.”

“You just came from New York?” Stone nodded at the big car he could see from the window.

“Oh, no, no. I left New York last evening. I was a bit late getting started and I had the devil of a time with tire troubles. One thing after another delayed me, and I didn’t get to the Canterbury Ledge till about midnight. So, as this house was dark, I went right over to the Inn and put up there till morning. Not knowing, of course, that there was trouble here, I left orders not to be awakened, and when I woke myself, it was late indeed. You see, all that bother last night tired me out. I slept,—Lord, how I did sleep! Well, then, when I came downstairs at the Inn I was greeted with the terrible news from Cricky. I came right over, and here I am. Now, I want to see Bailey first of all.”

“Of course, Mr. Sheridan. I want to see him, too. But if we go back to the study, we’ll just have to sit and listen to a country constable and a county sheriff asking routine questions over and over.”

“I know—I know. Inane babble that gets nowhere.”

“Oh, well, they do get at the facts, but with so much repetition and circumlocution that it’s very slow work. However, they have one bright lad in there. A young detective from Hartford. That chap is a smart one, and I’m depending on him to get details of the inquiry later on. Now, here it is, Mr. Sheridan. I think a confab of you and Mr. Bailey and myself, would get us lined up as to our policy and our immediate action. Suppose we send for Mr. Bailey—”

“Just right. Just the thing. I don’t want to listen to that question and answer business, either.”

He leaned over and pushed a bell button, and when Fuller appeared, he said:

“Go to the study door, Fuller, and ask Mr. Bailey to come out here. If any objection is made, come back and report.”

“Very good, sir,” and the Earl of Northumberland walked majestically away.

In a few moments Owen Bailey appeared.

He looked fagged and worn, which did not surprise Stone, knowing the man.

It did surprise him, however, that Bailey showed no welcome in his face for his partner.

No smile of greeting or look of relief showed on his wearied face.

“Well, Sheridan,” he said, dully, “so here you are.”

“Yes, yes,” was the somewhat unnecessary response, “here I am. Now, I want to help. What can I do?”

“Nothing, here,” returned Bailey. “There’s more than enough to go around, in the way of detectives and police. All you can do to help, is to carry on at the office. So you may as well go back there, and keep things shipshape. I don’t know just when I can get back there.”

“All right, all right. I’ll do that. But I’ll stay here today. Can’t rush too much, and besides, I want to know how things are going. Who killed Blandena?”

Owen Bailey winced at the crudity of speech, but he replied:

“We don’t know. I’m sure I have no idea. The coroner grilled Martha unmercifully, but we know Martha didn’t do it. Of course, none of the family did. It was some outsider. And, of course, the stroke was meant for me. It’s by mere irony of fate that it descended on my poor wife. And the end is not yet. The people, whoever they are, who did the deed, will yet make good their error, and I shall follow Blandena. Not that I care— much.”

Owen Bailey looked the picture of despair.

Stone was truly sorry for him, but he couldn’t help feeling that a stronger character would have faced the situation differently.

The detective was more or less a reader of character, and he sized up Owen Bailey as a fine business man but one who showed a submissive and vacillating nature in his home life. This was to his credit, in a way, for he had always the welfare and happiness of his family at heart, and he would and did let them walk over him roughshod, if it suited their pleasure.

And now his family circle was broken, the one dearest to him had been snatched away, and it was in keeping with Bailey’s way of receiving and accepting blame for everything, that he should feel it was his fault that the fatal blow had reached the wrong victim.

“But she proposed sleeping in my room last night. I thought nothing of it, it was her habitual custom. She slept there the night before. Usually it is about three nights that the full moon troubles her. A harmless practice, surely. Who could dream it would bring this horror?”

“Now, now, Bailey,” Sheridan said, “it was in no way your fault. We all know of your wife’s habit. She’s been doing that for years. But the intruder, whoever he was, didn’t know of it, and thought he had it in for you. I say this because it’s inconceivable any one should want to kill Blandena.”

“Yes—that’s so,” returned Bailey, but Stone thought he detected a shade of doubt in his voice.

“We must look at all sides,” Stone said. “We can’t say so positively that the blow was meant for Mr. Bailey, though I agree that is the most likely supposition. But it won’t do to omit entirely the possibility of an intentional attack on Mrs. Bailey.”

“Oh, no!” and Owen Bailey’s eyes widened with horror. “Don’t raise such a suggestion. Don’t bring her name into it any further than need be.”

“It isn’t a question of names or of our wishes in the matter,” Stone told him. “Now, Mr. Bailey, knowing all you know now, as to conditions and evidence and all that, do you want me to continue to investigate the matter?”

“Oh, I do,—I certainly do! You know who did it, that is, you don’t know his name, nor do I, but you know it was the same hand that sent me those letters.”

“What letters?” asked Sheridan, quickly.

“Might as well tell him,” Bailey said, and in a few words he told his partner of the anonymous notes he had received.

“Anonymous letters!” Sheridan fairly snorted, “and you paid any attention to such things!”

“Not at first,” said Bailey, “but at last I had to. I went to Mr. Stone only yesterday,—my God, it was only yesterday! And he has the case in hand.”

“Well, well, that puts a different aspect on the matter,” said Sheridan, looking over the letter which was shown him.

Stone watched him carefully as he read it, though without seeming to do so.

“Can’t you have the writing traced?” Sheridan said, thoughtfully.

“It’s pen written,” said Stone. “A typewriter could be more easily traced, but unless we have a suspicion, how can we go about it to trace a bit of penmanship?”

“I suppose it couldn’t have been anybody in the house,” Sheridan mused.

“Were you in the house last night?” Bailey shot the question at him so suddenly that his partner fairly jumped.

“I! What are you talking about?”

“About you. Your car was here—nearly midnight, it was. Where were you, then?”

“Bailey, you’re losing your mind. This trouble has unsettled you. Otherwise, I should take offense, serious offense at your speech. Yes, I reached here from New York, about midnight, last night. I drove up to the front door and got out. I walked all round the house, to see if there was a light in any room. There was, in one or two bedrooms, but none downstairs. So, I concluded not to rouse the household and I went to the Inn for the night. I slept late this morning, and now, here I am, to help you, or to leave you, if you make another accusing speech.”

“I didn’t make an accusing speech.”

“The words were all right, it was the look on your face that offended me.”

“Forgive me, Albert. If you were as distraught as I am, you wouldn’t be able to control your facial muscles, either. I meant no accusation—how could I?”

“All right, Owen. Forget it. Now, Mr. Stone, perhaps you will tell me what, if anything, I can do to help.”

But just then, the door was flung open, and a small whirlwind, in the shape of Lolly Bailey came flying in, and came to anchor in the outstretched arms of her father.

“What is it, dear? What’s the matter?” he asked, smoothing her tumbled hair.

“Oh, Daddy, they’ve fastened it on Martha! On the Duchess! Think of it! How can they be so rotten? The Duchess and Mumsie didn’t always hit it off, I know, but she wouldn’t kill her!”

“No, of course not.” Owen Bailey tried to quiet the turbulent child. “Do you mean they really accuse Martha? Dear, dear, I must see about this.”

“Now, wait, Mr. Bailey,” urged Stone. “You can’t do any good by rushing in there, knowing no more than you know now. Tell us more, Miss Lolly. What is the evidence?”

“That’s just it. You know they found her sandpaper, and also, they found a shoe button, a pearl one, that they have proved came off one of Martha’s slippers. So, they say, she was the last one to be in the room with Mother last night, and they say there was a row, and she grabbed the dagger from the wall, and—oh, Mr. Stone, if you are any good at all, do go and straighten it out! Tell ’em the Duchess couldn’t,—just simply couldn’t do a thing like that! Mr. Sheridan, you know she couldn’t.”

“How do they know Mrs. Bailey Jr. was the last one in the room?” asked Stone, abruptly.

Lolly hesitated, then she said:

“Well, Parke helped that along. He says he was awake very late, reading a detective story in bed, and his door was open. And he says he saw the Duchess go to Dad’s room, he knew Mother was sleeping there, and he saw her come away again, Martha, I mean, about half an hour later. And he says nobody else passed his door all night.”

“But somebody could have come up the little stairs from the study—” said Bailey, slowly.

“Yes, of course,” agreed Lolly. “And that’s just what they did do. Now, I know something,—something I didn’t tell them. But if it’ll help Martha, I’ll tell it.”

“Tell us, dear,” her father said, “and let us judge whether you must tell the coroner or not. This girl is impulsive,” he smiled at Stone, “and not always to be trusted for strict accuracy.”

“Well, this is accurate enough,” and Lolly looked belligerent. “I heard a noise last night, about twelve o’clock, and I got up and looked out the window and there was your car, Mr. Sheridan. I didn’t know then whose car it was, but I thought it might be some of my friends, so I opened my door to the hall to listen for the doorbell. But I heard nothing.”

“How do you know now it was my car?” asked Sheridan, looking amusedly at the girl.

“Not being totally blind, I see it parked outside now,” Lolly said, scornfully. “I know it’s the same car. Well, as I say, I heard nothing, but I saw George, yes, George herself, parked behind Maximilian!”

She waited for expressions of surprise, but received only a query from Fleming Stone, who said, with a puzzled look, “Who is George?”

“Oh, I mean Miss Burt, a permanent guest of the family. She looks like George Eliot, so we call her George. Well, she stood, quiet like a mouse, behind Max,—that’s the armor on the stairs, Mr. Stone,—and while I was looking she slipped out and scuttled up to her own room. Now far be it from me to accuse old George of murder, but—well, I’d rather it’d be her than the Duchess!”

Overcome by the excitement of the occasion, Lolly put her head down on her father’s shoulder and sobbed.

Of all the family, Lolly best understood Owen Bailey’s nature. She could ballyrag him about his faulty English, she could chaff him about his shyness and his lack of what she called backbone, and he never resented it. But if the others attempted similar criticism, Bailey grew morose and sulky.

“Now, Lolly,” Bailey said, “stop crying. It isn’t up to you to discover who did this thing. Don’t try amateur detective work, for pity’s sake. Tell us all you know, and leave it to us to inform the authorities or not as we think best. As to George, you’re crazy to think of her in connection with crime. She was most likely going down to the library to get a book I loaned her.”

“Lent, Daddy,” said Lolly, raising her tear stained face. “There’s no verb to loan.”

“Isn’t there, dear?” said Bailey, absent. “Now, child, you run away, and Albert, I wish you’d clear out for a bit. I want to talk alone with Mr. Stone, and I’m going to have it. Sheridan, you’d better go and see the coroner, and tell about stopping here last night. If you don’t, they’ll dig it up and pin the crime on you. I know their powers of digging things up.”

“That’s right,” agreed Sheridan, showing no signs of fear.

He went away to join the group in the study and Lolly went with him.

“That girl is too active and energetic,” Bailey said, as he locked the door after her. “She’ll make trouble, unless we can curb her impetuosity. The idea of her lugging in poor Miss Burt. She is not a favorite of mine, but she is incapable of actual crime. So, too, is my daughter-in-law. But these preliminary suspicions will doubtless wear themselves out. Won’t they?”

“Perhaps, but not necessarily. Now, Mr. Bailey, don’t you propose to show your anonymous letter to the police?”

“I propose to do whatever you advise, Mr. Stone. I want you to take the case and handle it in your own way. I will do exactly as you tell me. But I held back all mention of my threatening letters until I could confer with you.”

“And you did right. Now, as I have implied, I have small use for the mental powers of the coroner, sheriff and constable. But the detective is a bright chap, and I shall be glad to work with him. Yet we must not antagonize the local powers that be, so we will treat them with all deference and consideration. And we must show them the letter you have, and tell them about the others that you destroyed. There must be no withholding of evidence, just where do your suspicions point, Mr. Bailey?”

“Only in one direction. To the writer of those letters. I’ve thought about them—indeed, I never stop thinking about them,—and I am sure the writer is one of those two men I told you of. Sometimes I think it is one of them, again I think it is the other. How can we find out?”

“Oh, we’ll find out. I shall put my agents on the track of the two men and I’m sure we can run to earth one or both of them in a short time.”

Fleming Stone was far from being as sure of this as he pretended. But he was sorry for his client, and deemed it a duty to say something in the way of encouragement.

“Then, you don’t think they’ll arrest my daughter-in-law?”

“Not yet, anyway. But were her relations with your wife unfriendly?”

“Oh, scarcely that, but they had differing opinions on most subjects. The Duchess is high-strung, temperamental and all that. My wife was easy-going comfort-loving, and hated turmoil of any sort. Now, Martha has positive genius for stirring up trouble and keeping things in hot water. At present she was standing out for a certain type of furnishings in the house, while my wife wanted another sort. They squabbled over it all the time. I’ve no doubt Martha was in my wife’s room,— that is, my room,—last night, rowing about the furniture. I’ve no doubt they both lost their temper, and had high words. But that Martha snatched a dagger from the wall and stabbed Blandena with it I cannot believe! Nobody could believe such a thing as that!”

“And as to Miss Burt?”

“Oh, well, as Lolly says, I’d rather believe it of her than of Martha.”

“But you can’t judge a criminal that way.”

“No, I suppose not.” Owen Bailey sighed. “Well, all I can say is, I don’t believe George did it, either. But there’s more possibility of her than of Duke’s wife.”

“Why?” Stone asked quickly.

To his surprise, Owen Bailey’s pale face showed a slowly rising blush.

“Oh, she’s a different type. More—er—strong-minded, you know.”

“You’ve other reasons. Now, look here, Mr. Bailey, if you’re not going to be perfectly and entirely frank with me, I drop this case right here. Tell me what you mean and all you mean.”

“I will, Mr. Stone, and I will be entirely frank. Miss Burt, then, does me the honor to be—well, enamored of me,—and while I do not return her sentiment in the slightest degree, yet one cannot be rude to a lady, a house guest and an old friend of my wife’s. So marked has—er—admiration become of late, that I have been frequently embarrassed, and really at my wits’ end.”

“Did Mrs. Bailey know of this?”

“Yes, to a degree. I mean she knew what she occasionally saw, and what I told her. But she only laughed, thinking it a great joke on me. Mrs. Bailey and I were absolutely congenial, and entirely in each other’s confidence. We had no spark of jealousy, for we both knew there was no reason for such a feeling. So, Mrs. Bailey, who was a bit of a tease, just laughed at Miss Burt’s liking for me and chaffed me unmercifully about it both in season and out of season. Of late, Miss Burt had begun to take offense at this open joking, and she had told Mrs. Bailey so. I was glad to learn this, for I thought it would stop my wife’s teasing, but, on the contrary, it seemed to egg her on. My family are all like that. They dearly love to get a rise out of one another, or mock at a fad or foible. I cannot hold my own in their encounters of wits, so I never take sides, but let them run on, and not infrequently they wind up with a real quarrel. But it always blows over quickly and is forgotten. I tell you all this that you may understand the household, and especially Marigold Burt.”

“Why was she on the stairs last night, hiding behind the armor?”

“Was she? I know of no real reason. I spoke of a book in the library, but it is more probable, Mr. Stone, that she was waiting there for me. This sounds rather fatuous and all that, I know. But I have promised you the truth, and it is true that she has, at times, waited on the stairs to say good night as I came up.”

Stone repressed the amusement he couldn’t help feeling. But the dejected looking man before him was so unattractive and so little like a gay Lothario, that it seemed impossible any woman, even a spinster like Marigold Burt, should try to vamp him.

“Yes, Mr. Bailey, tell me the truth always. As to this Burt affair, don’t take it too seriously. You know the results of repressed inhibitions in a woman and all that.”

“Now you’re in the realm of psycho-analysis, Mr. Stone, and let me tell you right out, I’ve no use for the so-called science.”

“All right, Mr. Bailey, I won’t annoy you, then, with such references. Now, to get back to practical details. I will look up the identification of your threatening correspondent. I will say, also, that now, though I know few of the details of last night’s tragedy, I feel convinced that the criminal was no member of your family or household, no chance burglar or marauder from outside, but was almost certainly the evil-minded villain who sent you those letters. If I am right, we can surely find him, though it may take some time.”

“And meantime, will they arrest any one—any innocent person?”

“I hope not, and I think not. But we have a lot to do, and we must work fast. I shall have a talk with Detective Whitney, and then I must go back to New York for a day’s work.”

“But, Mr. Stone,—suppose, after having made the mistake they made last night, they go on and—”

“And get the right one?” said Stone, but he did not smile. “There is indeed danger of that, Mr. Bailey. But don’t give way,” he added hastily, as his client showed signs of utter collapse. “Are you always so swayed by fear?”

“No, I never was before. I have never been noted for bravery, but I am not a coward. Yet this affair last night, has paralyzed me. My nerves are all on edge, I am shaken, stunned—”

“Yes, I see you are. Now, this won’t do. You must have a guard, a strong police guard, night and day.”

“Yes, yes, that is what I want! I may be cowardly, I may be over apprehensive, but I crave protection. And, Mr. Stone, it is not only for myself.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Hasn’t it occurred to you, that this fiendish enemy of mine, may not have made a mistake last night? May he not have known that he would pierce my very soul by killing my dear wife instead of myself?” And, Bailey’s voice sank to a whisper, “may he not strike at others of my family, before he reaches my miserable self?”

Now all this had been in Stone’s mind before Bailey voiced it, and he was amazed to hear it put into words.

“Oh, I hardly think that,” he said, a bit mendaciously. “But a guard you must have and I’ll see that such is provided. Now, brace up, Mr. Bailey, try to get back your normal poise. You have still the responsibility of your family on your shoulders, and you must rise to the occasion.

For answer, Owen Bailey did straighten up, physically, and showed a determination to obey Stone’s behest.

“You heard about the aluminum slip, didn’t you?” he said.

“Yes,” Stone replied. “That is our best clew. There are so few places nowadays, where that could have been stamped out, it is really helpful.”

“I hope so,” assented Bailey, “but, it’s a fearful message. ‘Vengeance is Mine,’ is not a joke, you know.”

“No, indeed, it isn’t,” solemnly agreed Fleming Stone.


Chapter 7
Fleming Stone Horns In

The coroner and the sheriff came to the door of the billiard room and knocked.

Fleming Stone admitted them, and Sheriff Hunter began at once, in his blustering way.

“There’s nothing more to be done just now, Mr. Bailey. I’ve questioned all the crowd, and unless the murderer was an intruder from outside, the evidence points in the direction of your daughter-in-law, Mrs. Duke Bailey.”

Owen Bailey’s face turned a deep red, and he exclaimed angrily:

“That’s utterly absurd! That girl couldn’t do such a thing!”

But Fleming Stone shook his head at him, and turning to Hunter, said;

“You’re having an inquest?”

“Sure. To-morrow morning. We’ll know for certain then. The body can be removed now, shall I call the mortician, Mr. Bailey, or will you do so?”

“You call the firm, Mr. Hunter, and I will see their representative, when he comes.”

“All right, I’ll do that. Of course, no one who was in the house last night may leave it to-day. That’s understood? Now, Mr. Stone how about you? You are determined to horn in on this?”

One of Fleming Stone’s rules, adopted from Holy Writ, was to answer a fool according to his folly.

So he quietly replied:

“I am, indeed. As Mr. Bailey’s friend and adviser, I hope to be of help to him.”

“Well, don’t interfere too much with young Whitney. He’s an official detective; none of your amatoor about him.”

These innuendoes annoyed Bailey more than they did Stone. He made allowance for the source of the slight, and deemed it of no importance.

“Yes, I liked the looks of Mr. Whitney,” he said, pleasantly. “I’m sure we can work together.”

“Probly there’s no work to be done. If that there uppish young woman stabbed the old lady, it’ll be easy to prove it on her. And it’s my opinion she did.”

“Well, it’s my opinion she didn’t,” Stone rejoined, still suave of tone.

Hunter glowered at him, and Coroner Hale, feeling left out, remarked:

“She’s a strong-arm dame. One of those tennis champs and golf shooters. She could drive a dagger if she wanted to. And she’s got a high temper.”

“That isn’t enough to convict her,” Stone observed, “nor enough to accuse her. Everybody in this house is probably a golf player and a tennis expert; they are all out-doorsy, athletic people. You’ll have to have more to go on than that, before you suspect Mrs. Duke Bailey.”

“Is that so?” Hunter broke in again. “Well, there’s another suspect waiting. How about that old maid, Miss Burt? She’s not only strong physically, but in her mind, too. Hatchet-faced, she is, and muscular besides.”

“But,” Bailey put in, impatiently, “you can’t accuse Miss Burt. She was devoted to my wife, an old school friend—”

“Oh, she was, was she? And how about her being devoted to you? How about her having plans that depended on the removal of your present wife?”

So meaningful was the look in Hunter’s eyes, so plainly evident the fact that he knew of Marigold’s feelings toward Bailey, that the latter collapsed utterly. He looked beseechingly at Stone, who took up the burden.

“You gathered that, I suppose, from the gossip of servants.” A surprised look on Hunter’s face told him he had guessed rightly.

“Servants often exaggerate,” Stone went on, “and I advise you to be careful. Miss Burt is an influential woman, and would certainly resent any libellous gossip. And if you got your information from that beautiful fool of a parlor maid, I may say that I wouldn’t trust her around the corner.”

“That dumbbell! She is good looking, but she doesn’t know enough to go in when it rains! No, I gathered no information from her!”

“I don’t care where you got it, it isn’t first hand. Have you talked with Miss Burt?”

“I tried to,” said Hunter, a little shamefacedly, “but I couldn’t get anything out of her. She was pert and in all ways a most unsatisfactory witness.”

“Oh, well, if you have your inquest to-morrow, you’ll doubtless get at the truth, or enough of the truth, to exonerate the family and its connections. Now, take a look at this letter.”

Stone produced the anonymous letter that Bailey had received, and both Hunter and Hale read it attentively.

“This puts a different face on the matter,” the sheriff said, “do you know who wrote this?”

“Not for certain,” Stone told him, and then showed him the old letter of ten years ago. He told him, too, of the two other letters that Owen Bailey had received recently.

“Yes, yes,” agreed the coroner, “this opens up new ways to look.”

“It does,” Stone said. “Now, go ahead with your inquest, but watch your step.”

“We’ll keep these,” Hunter said, as he returned the letters to their respective envelopes.

“As you like,” said Stone, carelessly. “I’m going to New York this afternoon, and I thought I’d refer them to a graphology expert—”

“A—a what?”

“A handwriting expert then. One who can tell if the ten year old letter and the recent one are written by the same person.”

“Oh,—can you do that? Then, perhaps you’d better. Bring them both back to me. When are you returning?”

“As soon as I can see about the letters and do one or two other errands. If I miss the inquest, I can hear all about it from you. You’ll adjourn it, of course. When will the funeral services be held, Mr. Bailey?”

“Saturday afternoon,” said Owen Bailey, with an effort.

“I may not be back in time to attend,” Stone told him, “but I will, if I possibly can.”

“I have to go to New York, to-day or to-morrow,” Bailey said to the sheriff. “There’s no objection to that, I suppose?”

“No, of course not, Mr. Bailey. Why don’t you go down with Mr. Stone?”

“Perhaps I will. I must go to the office to sign some important papers and give my secretaries some instructions. It will take but a few moments, but it must be done. I think I’ll go down to-morrow morning, and get back in time for the funeral. You won’t need me at the inquest, will you? And it upsets me horribly to listen to those questions and answers.”

“It can be managed. I’ll take your deposition, myself, and as Mr. Stone surmises, there will doubtless be an adjournment.”

The two uncultured and uncouth enforcers of law and order, went away, and at Stone’s request, the young detective, Whitney, came to talk to him.

Owen Bailey left them together, and went to talk things over with his children.

Whitney was a smooth-faced, clean-cut young man, with a deferential air toward Stone, but a manly attitude of self-respect manifest in his behavior.

“I am proud to be associated with you, Mr. Stone, and I hope you will let me help.”

“Glad to have you,” was the hearty response. “Now let us waste no words. Do you think the young Mrs. Bailey is the criminal?”

“Certainly not. If she were she couldn’t,—she simply couldn’t show such bravado, such indifference to the impression she is making.”

“Shrewd perception,” Stone nodded approval. “Who, then, is the next most likely one?”

“There’s much to be said for Miss Burt,” Whitney answered, slowly. “She is in love with Mr. Bailey, Senior.”

“How did you find that out?”

“From the servants; the cook and the butler both declare it’s true. They say, too, she hated Mrs. Bailey, and they frequently had pitched battles. It seems Mrs. Bailey was trying to get rid of her and Miss Burt wouldn’t leave. She installed herself here, and refused to budge. She’s a peculiar person, not a bad sort, I think, if taken the right way, but stubborn and eccentric. Well, there’s no real evidence against her—”

“How about this?” and Stone took from his pocket the lozenge he had picked up from the floor of the room where Mrs. Bailey had met her death.

Whitney stared at it.

“That’s one of Miss Burt’s tablets,” he said, “it’s a throat remedy. She has a chronic, hacking cough and she’s always eating those things for it.”

“You’ve learned a lot about her.”

“Oh, yes, it’s all in the day’s work. Where’d you get this?”

“On the floor in the room where Mrs. Bailey died.”

“Then, by golly, it was dropped there last night!”

“How do you know that?”

“Because, and I got this from that dumb bunny with the angel face, yesterday Miss Burt was entirely out of these lozenges, and Bunny had to run to the drug store to get her a supply.”

“At what time?”

“In the evening. After the dinner was over and cleared away.”

“Then it looks as if Miss Burt was in Mrs. Bailey’s room last evening. Did she admit it?”

“On the contrary, she denied it. Said she wasn’t there. That’s why I think she was.”

“Maybe. Now, Mr. Whitney, take a look at these letters.”

Tom Whitney gave his full attention to the letters Stone offered, and the explanations of them.

“Whew!” he exclaimed, “this fellow has it in for Mr. Bailey, whether he killed Mrs. Bailey or not. I’m ready to shift over to his side! I’ll lay off this family and go for Mr. Anon.”

“I’m going to see a handwriting expert this afternoon, and I think he can tell whether the new letter is written by John Kennedy or not.”

“That’ll be fine! What price Miss Burt being John Kennedy?”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, she’s so big and sort of masculine, you know, she might write like a man. Maybe she’s the nurse who wrote for Kennedy.”

“You’re all mixed up, man. This letter of ten years

ago, from John Kennedy was written by a nurse, but that’s no good as evidence. But Mr. Bailey has provided me with letters from John Kennedy and from another man, who is also his enemy, and we must match up with those, as to the penmanship.”

“Oh, I see. A bit complicated, isn’t it?”

“Not so much complicated as uncertain. I doubt if we can get definite information. Now, as to that aluminum strip. Where are those things made nowadays?”

“Only at the beaches, I think. I’m quite sure they’re not in the ferry houses or L Road stations any more.”

“Well, I’ll see what I can do. Now, one more thing. Did you see the slipper from which the shoe button fell that is held as evidence against Mrs. Duke Bailey?”

“I did, and there’s no doubt that it’s from her shoe.”

“Can you get them for me? The shoe and the stray button, both?”

“Oh, yes. They’re in my possession. Just a minute.” He hurried from the room, and quickly returned with a small gray suede shoe and a pearl shoe button.

As he had been told, Stone saw at once the button was the counterpart of the one still on the shoe, a two-strap slipper.

“Thank you,” he said, returning the shoe and the button to Whitney.

The younger man was disappointed at the absence of enthusiasm or comment, and wrapped the shoe again in its paper, tying it about with a string.

“So Mrs. Duke Bailey is innocent,” Stone said, ruminatively.

“Why? What do you mean by that?”

“Oh, it’s only my opinion. I think we shall have to look further. Well, failing our anonymous letter writer, there’s always Miss Burt to fall back on.”

“And the servants?” Whitney put forth this suggestion with some hesitation.

“Maybe. But the crime doesn’t seem to me like the work of a servant. And where’s the motive? Now, we know that Mrs. Bailey, Junior and Miss Burt were in that room last night after Mrs. Bailey went in there to sleep. Also, we know that an intruder from outside could easily gain admittance by the stair from the study up to that bedroom. I find that not half of the doors and windows are locked at night. They tell me nobody in New England locks up at night. Robbery seems to be a lost art up here.”

“That’s right. In the cities we lock up, but in the small towns they never do. Well, Mr. Stone, I’ll see you tomorrow, after you get back from New York. Now; I’ve a lot to do. I believe they’re putting a guard round the house, though what good that will do now, I don’t see.”

“Oh, yes, Whitney. If this thing is the work of the anonymous letter writer, he may try again to get at Mr. Bailey.”

“Well, then he’ll be caught. By the way, Mr. Stone, how much do you know about that Mr. Sheridan, partner of Mr. Bailey?”

“Not much, why?”

“Oh, just a hunch. But—shall you be at Mr. Bailey’s office in New York?”

“Perhaps so.”

“Then nose around a bit. See what you can pick up as to Friend Sheridan. I hear he’s been hitting it up on the horses.”

“More suspects? All right, Whitney, I’ll ask a question here and there.”

Whitney went off and the Earl of Northumberland, in his lordly fashion, summoned Fleming Stone to luncheon.

The family were already assembled at the table, and Owen Bailey apologized profusely because they had not waited for Stone.”

“Oh, fold up and put yourself away, Dad,” exclaimed Parke, weary of the repetition. “Mr. Stone doesn’t mind. He doesn’t want apologies.”

“Daddy’s a darling, Mr. Stone,” Lolly added. “He’s really a hundred per cent American Beauty, with an apology for a head.”

Owen Bailey looked at her and shook his apologetic head.

“How can you be frivolous, dearie, when we are all under this great sorrow? And don’t chatter. Maybe Mr. Stone wants to think.”

“Think about me, if you do, Mr. Stone,” said the Duchess, looking at him with her great dark eyes. “I’m the one who is in real trouble. That horrible, terrible sheriff person thinks I killed Mother Bailey! Well, I didn’t, but I scorned to harp on my innocence to that old shark!”

“Why are you so stubborn?” her husband said, despairingly. “You must take this thing seriously. Isn’t that so, Mr. Stone?”

“It is most emphatically so,” Stone replied. “Please realize it, Mrs. Bailey. I am sure of your innocence, all the family also feel sure of it, but if the coroner doesn’t he can make a lot of trouble for you at the inquest. Do put aside these resentful feelings of yours and consider the rest of the Baileys, if you have no thought for yourself.”

“Oh, fiddle-dee-dee,” cried the Duchess, tossing her lovely head, “I am not afraid. An innocent person can’t be accused.”

“No, an innocent person can’t,” said Marigold Burt, with such a note of venom in her tone, that everybody looked at her.

“Why, George,” drawled Parke, “how you do go on! Anybody’d think you had it in for our Duchess!”

“She has it in for herself!” Marigold retorted. “I saw her go into Blandena’s room last night. I saw her come out again, much later, looking angry and upset.”

“Yes, I was,” said the Duchess, calmly. “We had a fearful row. And all over that silly furniture! I’m sorry now I was so cross with her.”

“Cross!” Marigold almost shrieked the word. “You call it being cross to take a dagger from the wall and kill her!”

“Hush!” said Owen Bailey, in what he meant to be a stern voice, but which was more like the squeak of a frightened rabbit.

But Duke interposed.

“Be quiet, George,” he said, “and you, too, Martha. If either of you had anything to do with Mother’s death, it was Miss Burt, not my wife. But it was neither. Dad has enemies that you children don’t know about. Haven’t you, Dad?”

“Yes,—yes, indeed. Yet it says in the Bible, ‘a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.’ I have enemies, and I fear them, yet I would rather they did me harm than my own household.”

Bailey spoke in a low, hushed voice, that had the effect of quieting the quarrelsome women.

Lolly, who always understood her father’s mood, said, “So would I. It’s bad enough to have Mother gone, but it’s a thousand times worse to think anybody under this roof did it!”

“Don’t worry, Loll,” Parke cheered her up, “none of us did do it, we all know that. The inquest to-morrow will prove it, if George and the Duchess behave themselves, and I’m sure they will.”

“I’m sure of that, too,” said Fleming Stone. “And as I have had more experience in these things than the rest of you, I want to give you a solemn warning that levity or pertness is the very worst armor you can assume against the proceedings of the law.”

“Yes, children,” Owen Bailey said, “remember that. You are all so full of chaff and mockery here among yourselves, try to realize that it’s the worst possible policy to direct such chatter at police officials.”

“I liked the young guy,” Lolly said, “I mean to cultivate his acquaintance.”

Bailey shook his head at his incorrigible daughter and sighed as he pushed away his untasted dessert. “I’m not going to New York with you, Stone,” he said. “Hunter telephoned I’d better be here this afternoon. I’ll go down to-morrow morning. You carry on as you intended. And I do hope you can bring back some helpful information.”

So Stone went off to the city and the rest put in a dismal afternoon trying to find something to do.

Duke insisted that his wife should play some tennis, as he said she needed some outdoor exercise.

Lolly and Parke flatly refused to join the game and so they played singles.

Parke read a detective story, and Lolly awaited the coming of young Whitney, who had said he would come.

When he arrived Lolly at once adopted him, and led him to a favorite arbor in the rose garden.

“Tell me all you know,” she commanded.

“No,” he said, and smiled at her, “you tell me all you know.”

Nothing loth, Lolly began.

“I don’t know anything about these enemies of my father’s,” she confided, “but unless you can pin it on them, have a try at George—Miss Burt, you know. She’s sweet on Dad, and she always sort of felt that Mother stole him from her. You see, Dad knew Miss Burt first, and they were friends, when Mother came along, and cut her out entirely. Well, George was pretty sore and she and Mother didn’t speak for years. Then, all of a sudden, she came up here, made it up with Mother, who was always awfully good-natured, and planted herself here to stay. She’s still head over heels in love with Father, and so, of course, you can see now, that she had motive and nobody else around here has.”

“You think so?” Whitney looked at her oddly.

“Of course I think so. I know so. George—why, she was hiding on the stairs last night. I saw her.”

“Hiding on the stairs?”

“Yes, and that must have been either just before or just after she killed Mother. What time did the doctors say Mother died?”

“About midnight, but they can’t say for certain, you know.”

“No. Well, it was just about midnight that I saw George hiding behind Max, the knight in armor, you know.”

“Why was she hiding?”

“Oh, don’t you see? She was, as I said, either going or coming from Mother’s room. She went up through the study, by the little staircase, and came down the same way. She could do all that and make no sound on the thick rugs. We all close our room doors, except Parke, he never does.”

“Then, any one of you had equal opportunity with Miss Burt.”

“Why, yes, but nobody else wanted to kill Mother. She was so dear and gentle, who could want to kill her?”

“Why are you telling me all this, Miss Bailey?”

“Why—why, because I think I ought to.”

“No, that is not the reason.”

Lolly stared at him, but her eyes fell before his truth compelling gaze. Pretty Lolly, with her rumpled curls falling over her brow, her bowed head sinking lower on her breast, and now, big tears dropping from her hazel eyes, was on the verge of a tumultuous crying spell.

“Don’t, don’t!” begged the embarrassed detective, who had been egging her on for his own ends, and was now afraid he would have a case of hysterics on his hands.

“What is the reason, then?” Lolly’s mood changed to defiance, and Whitney welcomed the change. He could manage her now.

“The reason is, that you don’t believe all this,—all this you’ve been feeding me about Miss Burt. What you do believe is that your sister-in-law committed this murder, and you don’t want me to suspect it, so you over-do matters by dragging in poor Miss Burt, who may be, doubtless is, in love with your father, but who, I am sure, never killed your mother for that reason.”

“Yes, she did, she did! She was jealous of Mother and envious, too. Besides getting Father, Mother had this lovely home, she had her children, and she had plenty of money and everything she wanted. She was loved and looked up to by the whole neighborhood. What has George? Nothing at all! Of course, she was envious, and then, in addition, she was wild over Father, so she was jealous as well. Now, it seemed to her, perhaps she had worried over all this till she was nearly crazy, it seemed to her, that if Mother was out of the way, she could catch Dad on the rebound, and fall into this lap of luxury herself. It became an obsession with her, and then the homicidal instinct was born. Oh I know a lot of psychoanalysis, and that’s how it was!”

“Maybe it was, but you don’t think so. You’re trumping up this yarn to head me off of digging up more evidence against Mrs. Duke. You’re afraid I’ll find it. Aren’t you now?”

“Yes,” and then Lolly really did burst into tears.


Chapter 8
The Beautiful Dumbbell

The afternoon dragged along.

Lolly had, of course, sent word to the guests expected for her house party so nobody came. As the gloomy atmosphere of the house deepened, the young people grew more and more nervous and irritable.

Also they grew more apprehensive as to what the mysterious conditions an inquest might bring forth. Not one of them had ever attended an inquest and while Parke declared it would be just the same as the inquiry they had already been through, Duke insisted it would be much more of a grilling, and a very serious matter.

“You’re just saying that to scare me,” declared his wife. “But I don’t scare so easy. I didn’t kill Mother Bailey, I don’t know who did, and I decline to get stirred up over it. It’s a horrible thing, of course, but she’s dead, and all this police business can’t bring her back to life. I think it’s silly!”

“Now, Martha, don’t talk like that,” urged her father-in-law. “You must admit that Duke and I know more about these things than you do. That isn’t the kind of a daughter you ought to be to me.”

“Oh, Father,” Lolly exclaimed, “I do think the very worst error you make is saying ‘the kind of a daughter’! I’ve told you over and over,—leave out the a!”

“But I mean a daughter,” and Owen Bailey looked puzzled.

“You can’t say a if you say kind or sort. What kind of dog? That sort of girl. Not what kind of a dog? That sort of a girl!”

“Lolly, for Heaven’s sake, let up on those pedagogic parades while we have all these other troubles!” begged Parke. “You are enough to drive Dad crazy and you have no sympathy for him at all.”

“I have so! More than all the rest of you put together. I’m his favorite child. I’m the only one who understands him. I see through all his moods and I realize and appreciate him at his true worth, as none of you others do. I can discern his inhibitions—”

“Lolita,” only when Owen Bailey was very much in earnest did he call her that, “Lolita, have I not forbidden you to jabber that infernal psycho-rubbish in my hearing?”

“You have, Dad, but I keep forgetting, you see. I have an Oedipus Complex,—oh, there I go again! Forgive me, Daddums, I’ll stop.”

She crossed the room to sit by him, and petted him so affectionately, he left off scolding and smiled at her.

They were having tea in the big living room. Not that anybody wanted tea, but it helped fill up the long, blank hours. They tacitly avoided the dread subject that was uppermost in every mind, and as a result there were many long silences.

During one of these, Marigold Burt began to croon softly;

“What’s this dull world to me?
Robin’s not here—”

“Quit that!” shouted Duke. “If you must sing, George, make it Jazz and not a song about death!”

“You’re insulting, Duke,” and with a look of hatred at the young man, Miss Burt flounced out of the room.

“Good riddance,” said Duke, “I can breathe better in her absence.”

“Do you think she could have killed Mother?” said Parke, suddenly. “I’ve been reading a story where the criminal was a woman, and just the sort of woman,— no, Lolly, I didn’t say a woman,—George is. She hated Mother, we all know that.”

“Be quiet, Parke,” said his father, sternly. “I won’t allow such talk!”

“And she’s been growing worse of late,” Parke went on, paying no attention to his father’s admonition. “More touchy, and all that. Look how she skittled out just now. She didn’t use to be like that.”

“What would be her motive?” asked Duke, indifferently. “She wouldn’t kill Mother just because she had soured on her.”

“Oh, motive!” exclaimed Lolly. “Why Mother left her a lot of money in her will.”

“She did!” cried Duke, sitting up. “How do you know?”

“She told me herself.”

“Who? Mother?”

“No. George. She told me some time ago. That was when she was sweet on mums. Then they had a falling out, and George told me she was afraid Mummie would change her will.”

“Too easy,” growled Parke. “That’s the way all the detective stories work out. And it never is the one who was afraid of being disinherited.”

“You know so much about detectives,” jeered Duke, “what do you think about Dad’s friend Stone?”

“He’s a hummer,” Parke declared. “A regular A 1. But he’s more human than the story book chaps.”

“Well, he’s alive,” Duke informed him.

“Yes, and he has common sense. Also, he doesn’t play the violin, nor take snuff, so far as I know, and he doesn’t jabber hifalutin stuff out of books. I bet he finds our murderer.”

“I hope to Heaven he does,” echoed Owen Bailey. “Now, children, I have to go to New York in the morning. What do you advise in the way of flowers? We want something nice, without having it too ostentatious.”

The Baileys were always ready for a conference and the merits of crossed palms, blankets of violets and orchid showers were vigorously discussed.

The Duchess as usual, cast the deciding vote and Owen Bailey made a memorandum of her wishes.

Then she went off with Duke for a walk round the grounds until dinner time.

“Br-r-r, it’s cold,” she shivered, as she drew her great fur coat round her, “and isn’t it queer not to be allowed off the place!”

“Where do you want to go?” asked her husband.

“Nowhere at all, but since I can’t go outside the gates, I want to.”

“I suppose we could, if we explained to the patrolmen.”

“Oh, then if we could, I don’t want to.”

“What a contradictory lot you women are! Let’s go down and watch them cut ice in the lake.”

They went toward the icehouse, near which the ice cutting took place, but they were too late. The ice cutters had gone.

“I’m glad of it,” Martha said; “it always makes me cringe with the cold when I see them at work.”

“They don’t mind it,” Duke told her. “They work so hard and so fast, they keep warm.”

“Duke,” she said, “who did that stabbing act?”

“I don’t know,” he returned, speaking slowly. “I hate to think it was old George, but when Lolly said Mother had left her some money—”

“Well, it must have been George, unless, they dig up those old enemies of Father Bailey’s. You see, it all depends on whether she was mistaken for him or not.”

“Yes, and if she was, then, not having got him this time, they’ll try for him again.”

“Oh, I hope not!”

“Don’t hope it too hard. It may be the only thing that will save you from suspicion.”

“Oh, Duke, don’t say such horrid things!”

“Well, then, dear, change your attitude a little. Act more like a normal, innocent woman. First thing you know, you’ll find yourself arrested!”

“Hush your nonsense. I won’t listen to you. I’m going back to the house.”

Mrs. Cooper prepared an extra fine dinner, to which Duke did full justice, but the others merely picked at. Even Lolly and Parke, usually care-free and hungry, ate almost nothing and seemed unable to talk or smile.

After dinner, Owen Bailey shut himself into his study, Duke and his wife went to their rooms, Parke and Lolly chose separate corners of the library and tried to read, while Marigold Burt, wandered round the house, singing her old fashioned songs until she nearly drove crazy all who heard her.

Earlier than usual they all went to bed, and the moonlight fell unheeded on Owen Bailey, still sleeping in his wife’s room, and wondering whether he could ever go back to his own.

Stone had advised him not to occupy his own room for the present, and to lock his doors, wherever he slept.

Bailey, though nervously timorous, was not a physical coward, but, having promised Stone, he kept his word.

Nothing happened during the night, and the silvery Maximilian stood in the bright flood of moonlight, looking very militant and mediaeval.

Next morning Bailey left for New York, before the others were astir. He had to do this in order to get back in time for the funeral.

But the business at the office was imperative, and he made the fastest possible trip.

It was his habit much of the time to go to the office twice a week. If the weather permitted he went by motor, otherwise by train.

He found his employees respectfully sympathetic, and he spoke courteously to them as he told them the main facts of the tragedy.

Though not revered in his home, Bailey was looked up to by his office people, all of whom appreciated his great business ability and efficiency.

Of his private secretary, he asked a few questions. “Has Mr. Stone been here?”

“Yes, sir,” she answered, “yesterday afternoon.”

“What did he talk about?”

“The anonymous letters you have received.”

“What did you tell him?”

“All I knew. He said he had your authority for his inquiries.”

“That’s right, he had. And how much did you know, to tell him?”

“I told him when the first one came, and that thereafter, you had all the mail carried to you first.”

“Yes, I feared more of the things.”

“Then, I told him you had had three more,—of course, as you ran the letters over, I couldn’t help seeing them.”

“That’s all right, Miss Martin. You did exactly right. I just want to know how matters stand.”

“Then he asked some questions about Mr. Sheridan.” Bailey nodded. “Nothing intrusive, just about his habits and ways.”

“As to expenditures or extravagance?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I hope you answered to the best of your knowledge and belief.”

“Yes, I did. I said nothing about the races, until he did, and then, I admitted I had heard about that.”

“You’re a brick, Miss Martin, discreet, yet doing your duty. Thank you. Now, for to-day’s grist, and we will rush it as much as we can.”

And so it came about, that Fleming Stone finished up his business in the course of the morning and Owen Bailey did also, and they were both back at Cricklemere at nearly the same time.

They found a late lunch awaiting them, and then had more than an hour before time for the funeral.

So they foregathered in the study with Hale and Hunter and Detective Whitney to tell them about the inquest.

“Nothin’ much to tell,” said Coroner Hale, in a dissatisfied tone. “I still think there’s a lot more to learn from Mrs. Duke Bailey, but there was no gettin’ it out of her. And that there Miss Burt, I don’t get at all. She says one thing one minute and contradicts it the next, and then says she didn’t contradict.”

“What did you do, finally?”

“Adjourned, of course, there was nothin’ else to do. Adjourned for a week, by which time we’ll have to find out something.”

“I found out something,” Stone said, and Whitney began to look more interested.

“I went to see an eminent Graphologist,—a handwriting expert, you know, and I showed him the various letters. He was greatly interested, but he couldn’t do much. It’s a queer situation. He says,” Stone turned to Bailey, now, “he is positive that that latest letter you received was written by one or other of those two persons. I mean, Kennedy or Dunbar. There are definite and unmistakable evidences that point, or seem to point to both. He was greatly interested and wants a little more time to decide between the two writers. But he is sure that one of them did it.”

“And they are both supposed to be dead,” Owen Bailey said, fear again coming into his eyes.

“Yes, so we must investigate their history,” Stone went on. “If one is proved to be dead, that lightens our work.”

“And if they’re both dead?” asked Hunter.

“Then we’re all at sea,” Stone admitted.

“Well, I guess that’s where you are,” the Sheriff declared, with a frown. “I don’t cotton much to those skyentific rackets. Specially that handwriting business. I think that’s just his way of gettin’ out of it, sayin’ it’s like both of their fists. I thought handwriting was like fingerprints, no two alike. And here you got duplicates right off.”

“I think it is indicative to know that the characteristics of both these men show in the new note,” Stone said, a little stiffly, for he was himself a bit nonplused at the expert’s report. “However, we shall know more about that later on. Then I looked up the matter of the aluminum strip. I find there are no machines of that sort in the stations or waiting rooms of New York City. So it must have been stamped out down at Coney Island, or some such resort.”

“Not specially helpful,” grunted Sheriff Hunter. “Anything else?”

“Yes. I learned that Arthur Dunbar is alive, and is in Africa now, still engaged in exploration and big game hunting.”

“Good Lord, is that so!” exclaimed Bailey, his face showing stark amazement. “Then,” he added, quickly, “that leaves only the possibility of Kennedy. It must be Kennedy!”

He slumped down in his chair, looking as if the very last drop of courage had oozed away from his finger tips.

Fleming Stone felt pity for him, rather than scorn, for he knew that the inferiority feeling, which Bailey so often showed, could not be accompanied by great bravery and had little in common with the characteristic known as grit.

“Brace up, Mr. Bailey,” he said, cheerily. “This may make it the more easy for us to nail Kennedy.”

“I’d rather it had been the other way,” Bailey said, striving to show a bolder front, and succeeding to a degree.

“We’ll get him, Mr. Bailey,” the Sheriff promised. “Now that we know the feller you want, we’ll get him! Good work, Mr. Stone. How’d you manage it?”

“I went to Travel Bureaus and Lecture concerns and the Museum of Natural History, and got a little here and a little there and then pieced it together.”

“Well, we’re on our way now, but we’ll see you tomorrow about this Kennedy bird.”

The strong arms of the law departed, and Owen Bailey rose wearily.

“I’m doomed, Stone,” he said, dejectedly. “If Kennedy is alive and after me, he’ll never let up till he gets me.”

“Oh, take a brighter view of it than that,” urged Stone, with a cheerfulness that was entirely feigned, for he was himself downcast by the thought of the dreaded Kennedy.

“And, anyway,” Stone went on, “put Kennedy out of your mind for the present. You are going to your wife’s funeral, the last mark of respect you can pay the lady. Don’t let your soul be in a black torment of fear, because of your enemy. Let your thoughts dwell on higher and holier things, at least for this afternoon.”

This good advice struck an answering chord in Owen Bailey’s heart, and he went away to prepare for the services.

Stone had told him that he himself might be late at the church, and would drop into one of the rear seats.

The detective planned to be late, because he had some matters to attend to at Cricklemere before he went, if indeed, he went at all.

When the family had all gone and most of the servants, Stone started on a round of the bedrooms. He wanted to make a search on his own account, not relying entirely on others’ reports.

He concluded to start with the room in which Mrs. Bailey had died.

He went up the wide stairs, pausing a moment to admire Max, who was a type of antique that greatly appealed to Stone. He scrutinized the shining armor, from visor to spurs, and noted the immaculate condition of the polished metal.

Then he went on his way, and entered the room of the tragedy.

As was his habit he stepped softly, though he felt sure there was no one else in the house save for a few servants in the domestic offices.

But once inside the room, he was certain he heard a footstep in the next room, the boudoir.

Going near the closed door, he listened and heard some one moving about, then silence.

He flung open the door with a sudden gesture, and saw, reclining on the chaise lounge the small figure of Agnes the parlor maid.

Her lovely face was framed in a pile of lace pillows, and over her was drawn a silk and lace coverlet.

Her eyes were closed, but as Stone entered she opened them and gazed blankly at him.

“Did you want me, sir?” she asked rising on one elbow.

“I want to know what you are doing here! What do you mean by using Mrs. Bailey’s boudoir in this fashion?”

“Oh,—yes,—yes, sir. Certainly.”

Agnes rose from the couch, smoothed down her apron, and stood prettily at attention.

Stone looked at her closely.

Was she the absolute fool she seemed, or was she playing a part?

“You haven’t answered me,” he said, with a patient but persistent air. “What are you doing here in Mrs. Bailey’s boudoir, lying on her couch?”

“Why,—well, you see,—I thought it wouldn’t matter to anybody, and I—I just wanted to see how it would seem.”

The last words came out with a rush, and the lovely face flushed a soft pink.

Though not at all susceptible to woman’s wiles, Stone couldn’t take his eyes off the troubled little face, all the lovelier for its blush of embarrassment.

“And so that’s it. You just wanted to see how it felt?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, I suppose there’s no great harm in that. But take my advice and don’t do it again.”

“No, sir.”

“How old are you, Agnes?”

“Sixteen, sir.”

“Old enough to know better, then. Run along, and remember what I said about not cutting up that trick again.”

“Yes, sir.”

She spread the coverlet over the couch, and piled the pillows with loving care, patting each one into place. She showed no embarrassment, no self-consciousness, and utterly ignored Stone’s presence.

Then, all being arranged to her liking she quietly went away.

A tap at the window drew Stone’s attention.

Turning, he saw the boy, Jimmy Paddock, standing on the balcony outside.

“Lemmein,” he whispered, and Stone did so.

“Gee! It’s cold outside,” he exclaimed, blowing on his fingers.

“Sit down, Jimmy,” Stone bade him. “Put your hands near the radiator,—not on it. What are you doing here?”

“Well, I druv Doc Hale to the funeral, and I’m pokin’ around waitin’ fer him.”

“Why come up here, and how’d you get up?”

“Oh, I have ways of evadin’ the constabulario!” Jimmy chuckled. “Now, I’ll tell you, Mr. Stone. I spicioned as how that sassy brat of a Agnes was puttin’ one over on you, and I came along to put you wise.”

“Why, what’s the matter with Agnes?”

“Do you think she’s all there?”

“Well, since you ask me, I’ll say I am not quite sure she is.”

“Oh, you ain’t? Well, then, lemme tell you she’s very, very much all there! She’s as cute as they come.”

“Oh, now, Jimmy, they come pretty cute, you know.”

“No cuter’n Agnes Ames. She was up here for a purpose, she was.”

“What purpose, think you?”

“I don’t think, I know. She was seein’ could she adopt a few trifles of Mrs. Bailey’s belongin’s, that nobody’d miss.”

“How do you know?”

“I know Agnes.”

“Well, all this is outside my territory. I’m not here to watch the petty pilfering of parlor maids.”

“You’d better watch her. I’ve known her twenty-two years—”

“Go away! She just told me she was sixteen.”

“And you swallowed it, I s’pose! Well she was born the same year I was and I’m twenty-two. Her mother and my mother is cousins.”

“Oh, well, all women forget their age on occasion.”

“Oh, all right, if you don’t care.”

“But why should I care?”

“I dunno. Fergit it. Can I do anything for you, Mr. Stone?”

“Yes, Jimmy, drive me over to the church, if you will. I want to go to the funeral, even if I’m a bit late.”

“You won’t be very late, sir, come along.”

Stone reached the church in time for the last of the service, and sat in a rear pew, where he could watch the people as they went out.

He was surprised at the expression on Owen Bailey’s face. The look of fear was gone, and in its place was a peaceful calm that amazed the detective. He had been told that Bailey was a religious man, now he believed it.


Chapter 9
Mr. Bailey Concocts His Famous Punch

As might be expected, the evening at Cricklemere after the funeral was depressing.

They all gathered in the living room, each feeling a desire for the company of his fellows.

Sheridan was there for the week-end, and as he and Stone were the guests, they felt it incumbent on them to try to cheer up the others.

But their efforts failed, and at last Duke said:

“Why shirk the subject? We all want to talk about it, yet we refrain from bringing it up. Out with it, I say. Dad, you’re holding something back. Why don’t you tell us? If you’d rather, we’ll send the kids out of the room. I mean Parke and Lolly. The Duchess and I can stand anything you have to tell us, but I object to being kept in the dark.”

Owen Bailey looked uncertainly at Stone before he answered his son.

Immediately Lolly spoke up.

“I just guess you won’t send me out! I’m Daddy’s favorite child, and he wants me around all the time.”

“I don’t know where you get that pleasing fiction of yours about being a favorite,” Parke said, frowning at her, “but if you enjoy it, keep right on thinking it’s true. I’ve never heard Father say anything of the sort.”

“He doesn’t have to,” said Lolly, making a face at her brother. “Actions speak louder than words.”

She went over and sat by her father, who absent-mindedly put an arm round her.

“Be quiet, child,” he said, as she essayed to speak further. “Now, Mr. Stone, do you advise my telling Duke—”

“I see no reason against it,” Stone replied. “And it seems to me they may as well all know it. Parke and Miss Lolly are not children, really, and I think they are entitled to be in the know, as well as your elder son.”

“All right, then,” said Bailey, “you tell them, will you?”

So Fleming Stone told the story of the anonymous letters already received and the possibility of further ones. He told, too, of the two men who had enmity toward Bailey, and who had been supposed dead, though this was not a certainty.

The children listened, in shocked silence. Albert Sheridan, too, was hearing much of it for the first time, while Marigold Burt threatened to become hysterical.

She was in love with Owen Bailey, she did hope to win his affection now that Blandena was gone, but these revelations were so horrifying that she forgot all else in listening to Stone’s recital.

“And so,” the detective concluded his tale, “that is how the matter stands. The death of Mrs. Bailey, I feel sure, was an error, the murderer thinking he was attacking Mr. Bailey. This, of itself, is significant, as showing the murderer was some one unfamiliar with the ways and habits of this household. But, of course, it is not certain. It may be that the death blow was intended for Mrs. Bailey, and was dealt by some one who had a grievance or hatred against the lady. Now, sad-hearted though we are, we must turn our thoughts to the future. There may be another attack on Mr. Bailey. We must expect it and prepare for it. There is a guard on the place, but it is insufficient. I think it should be augmented by several more men. This place is so large, it is almost impossible to patrol it fully, but we must do all we can in the way of safety. I well know the scorn of anonymous letters shown by story books, but in real life, you will find that they are not always thrown in the waste basket. And these letters though unsigned, are traceable to these two enemies of Mr. Bailey’s earlier life. I don’t want you young people to feel unduly nervous or anxious, but I do think it wiser that you should know about it all.”

“Little they care,” said Marigold Burt, spitefully. “Duke and the Duchess there, wouldn’t shed a tear if their father was killed the same way Blandena was! Young people to-day have no love or respect for their elders, they have no thought for anything but their own silly pleasures and vices!”

“Why, why, George,” said Parke, who often averted a stormy scene by his frivolity, “how you do run on! And what a lot you know about us youngsters! I hoped we kept our pet vices hidden from your eagle eye, but I see I was mistaken. Say, dearie, why don’t you sing us a little song? How about Last Rose of Summer? I haven’t heard that for nearly two weeks.”

“Hush your noise, Parke, you’re a rude boy!” Miss Burt glared at him. “Owen, why don’t you make your children behave with common decency?”

“Yes, yes, children,” said Bailey, absently, “don’t rag at Marigold.”

“Well, then, make us some punch, will you, Dad?” Parke suggested. “Mr. Stone, you have never tasted anything like my father’s punch! It beats the nectar of the gods and all that sort of thing. He’s a past grand master at punch making. Shall I order up the stuff, Daddy?”

“Why, yes, if you like.”

Owen Bailey looked pleased at his boy’s compliments, and explained apologetically:

“It’s a family tradition, Mr. Stone, that my punch is extra fine. It isn’t really, but my children choose to think it is, so I humor their fancy.”

The Earl of Northumberland appeared in answer to Parke’s ring, and Bailey directed him to bring the ingredients for a bowl of punch.

They came soon, and seeing the wheeled cellarette, filled with myriad bottles, Stone began to think it would be indeed a potent brew.

“Don’t be alarmed, sir,” said Bailey, smiling at the detective’s look of surprise. “I shan’t use all these things, and only in small quantities, anyway.”

Then Bailey set himself to his task with a zest. He waited for a pot of tea, which, he said, must form the basis for every self-respecting punch. He scrutinized, selected and discarded various bottles of strange appearance and foreign labels. He rose and went to his study, returning with a green sirup that he said was a priceless absinthe, of which he should use but the merest dash.

The spirits of all began to rise, in anticipation of the cheering beverage in prospect, and Parke made up to Marigold for his rudeness by being especially kind and polite to her.

They were a nice lot, these Baileys, Stone concluded, and felt anew the poignant regret at the fate of the gentle mother who had been so tragically snatched away.

The concoction completed, Fuller brought a tray of glasses and some tiny sandwiches and cakes, and all partook of the celebrated punch.

It was pronounced fine, and the opinion was satisfactorily proved by the glasses passed for refilling.

“And there isn’t a headache in a carload,” said Bailey, as he let Lolly have a replenishing.

As might be expected, the punch enlivened the sad hearts and while the mirth was not hilarious, the conversation was light and cheery, even gay.

Sheridan told some good stories, Marigold Burt, at Parke’s urgent request sang “Father, dear father, come home with me now,” a number that always brought down the house.

At a fairly early hour they all went to bed, and by midnight quiet and silence had settled down on the house of Cricklemere.

The next day, being Sunday, everybody was late rising. Even the servants were granted an extra hour of sleep, and nobody else was awakened until he chose to rise of his own accord.

At nine o’clock, Owen Bailey was still in bed, but awake. He was in his wife’s bedroom, not yet feeling like returning to the other room, with its tragic associations. Indeed, he was thinking he would keep his present room permanently, as there was no reason why he should not do so.

He lay there, thinking he would get up in a few moments, when there was a knock on his door, followed by the entrance of Fuller with a letter on a tray. It was a Special Delivery letter which explained its arrival on Sunday.

Mechanically Bailey took it. It was not an unheard of thing for him to get a special delivery letter on Sunday, and the butler thought nothing of it.

“I signed for it, sir,” he said, and Bailey nodded a dismissal.

Alone again, he stared at the envelope. It was in the writing of the sender of the anonymous notes.

“I’ve a good notion to let Stone open it,” he thought, but decided against this, and taking a paper cutter from Blandena’s night table, he slit the envelope.

He read these lines:

“Well, I suppose you think you hoaxed me. But I will get you yet. Or it may be I will strike at you through your dear ones. Expect me soon.”

That was all, there was no signature.

Owen Bailey gave a deep sigh, and rose from his bed. Slowly he bathed and dressed, his thoughts all on the letter he had just read.

He was usually down to breakfast on Sunday morning at about half-past nine.

Lolly always joined him, she was thoughtful of her father’s pleasure, and Miss Burt generally appeared. The others were likely to sleep longer.

On this Sunday, he was rather later than usual. He stepped through the boudoir and through his own room and went down the spiral stair to the study.

Then on, through the living room, across the hall, and into the breakfast room.

Fleming Stone was there ahead of him, but no one else.

“Ah, we are the early birds,” Bailey said, as he took his seat. “Well Mr. Stone, I can sing the hymn, ‘Safely through another night,’ at any rate. Yet I may never see another dawn. I’ve had a letter this morning.”

“From the same?” Stone asked.

“From the same. But eat your breakfast, man. The letter will keep. After a while we can have a confab, by ourselves. Try Mrs. Cooper’s kidney omelette. They are always good.”

“Thank you, I will. But let me see the letter. What does it say?”

“All right, here it is. No, stop, here comes George! Wait till later.”

Bailey put the letter back in his pocket and Miss Burt came in.

She looked stolid and stupid, Stone thought. But when he greeted her, she responded pleasantly enough.

“Where’s Lolly?” she said, “she’s often the first one down.”

At that moment Lolly burst into the room.

“Daddy,” she cried, “oh, Daddy, Max’s hands are gone!”

“What, child? What are you talking about?”

“Max! On the stairs! His hands are gone, his gauntlets, you know. Where are they?”

“Hands gone? Gauntlets gone? I don’t understand. Stolen?”

“Oh, I don’t know, but they’re gone. Come and see!” She tried to drag him away from the table, but he smiled at her, saying:

“Eat your breakfast, Baby. We’ll see about Max afterward. Probably Fuller took them off to polish them or something. A rivet loose, maybe.”

“Oh, well, all right, then. But it scared me stiff. And he looks so funny without his hands!”

“Did you notice it, George?” Bailey asked of Miss Burt.

“No. But I hurried down the stairs, and it’s a dark day. I noticed nothing unusual.”

“Did you, Mr. Stone?”

“Yes, I did. I’m an observant chap, you know. But I assumed, as Mr. Bailey says, they had been taken away to be polished or something of the sort. That armor comes apart easily, you know. That is, well made armor does.”

“Max is certainly well made,” Owen Bailey declared, with the pride of the possessor.

Albert Sheridan appeared, but he said he had not looked at the armor at all, and the subject was dropped. Soon after, Duke’s voice was heard, calling from the floor above.

“Mr. Stone, will you come up here, please? Right away!”

Stone rose and hastened from the room, and ran up the stairs, to find Duke, fully dressed, standing outside the open door of his wife’s bedroom.

He was white as a ghost and trembling all over.

He tried to speak, but choked on the words. “She— Martha—she’s go—go in and look!”

Fleming Stone entered the room, and saw a sight which he was never able to forget as long as he lived.

The Duchess, the exquisite, beautiful Martha, lay dead in her bed, but by the hand of a fiend!

She had been strangled, but her torn and bleeding throat proved that something more brutal than human hands had done the awful deed. Nor was the truth hidden. Beside her, on the bed, lay the two gauntlets that were Maximilian’s hands! Some one had taken these from the armor, had donned them, and with them had crushed out the life of that lovely girl.

Fleming Stone’s first thought was that the humiliation of his life had come upon him! Of what use was his assistance? What had he done toward preventing this terrible thing? He had tacitly assumed that though tragedy might come, yet nothing serious would happen immediately. True, he had no reason for this assumption, no right to predicate a respite.

He knew now, with a sickening knowledge, he ought to have taken more precautions, had a stronger guard of police, a watchman in the house,—he ought to have stayed awake himself,—oh, there were a dozen things he could have done that might have staved off this horror!

He did not, he could not look again at the dreadful sight.

Nor could he say anything to Duke, who stood, dazed and trembling before him.

He held out his hand and shrank from the limp response.

“Come,” he said, and grasping Duke’s arm, he led him down the stairs. He took him into the living room, and seated him on the big davenport, then went himself to the breakfast room.

His absence from the room had been so short that no one had followed him.

All at the table turned startled faces toward him.

“Another blow has fallen,” Stone said, thinking it more merciful to tell the worst at once than to prolong the suspense. “Martha has been killed.”

With darting eyes he watched the expression on each face.

The Baileys, one and all shrank beneath the blow, but Stone fancied he caught a faint smile of triumph in Miss Burt’s eyes.

And also, he was almost certain that Albert Sheridan smothered a sudden gleam as he dropped his own eyes before Stone’s scrutiny.

What did it all mean? Surely, surely, none of these people was responsible for this death, or had any secret knowledge of it.

Fuller, who was in the shadow of the screen that hid the door of his pantry from those at table, stepped forward, with a properly solemn countenance.

But here, too, Stone had the vague but no less positive feeling that the butler was not overcome with grief at the death of the Duchess. He remembered that the brusque manners of Martha had not endeared her to the family and her overbearing ways with the servants had made them actively dislike her. But surely they would forget petty dislikes in the face of a tragedy such as this.

Then he remembered no one of them knew, as yet, how terrible the conditions were.

“It is very dreadful,” he went on, still feeling the worst must be told and it was better to get it over. “The brute who killed her, must have taken the gauntlets from the armor on the stairs, put them on himself and then strangled Mrs. Duke.”

A scream from Lolly brought Parke to her side.

“Keep still,” her brother whispered. “If you can’t control yourself, go to your room. Have a thought for Dad and Duke, don’t put all your sympathy on your silly self!”

Harsh words, but they served the purpose Parke intended.

Lolly stopped screaming as suddenly as she had begun, and flying to her father’s side, she sat quietly down and slipped her little hand into his.

Owen Bailey gripped her fingers until she nearly cried with pain, but she realized he didn’t know he was doing that, and she bore the hurt until she could wriggle loose.

“Who’s up there with the Duchess?” Parke said, in a frightened whisper

“No one,” Stone said. “There should be.”

“I’ll go,” Parke offered, which was real bravery on the boy’s part, for he had a fear of death.

No one seemed to want to go with him, so the lad went off alone.

“Some one else ought to go, too,” Stone said. “Shall I?”

“No,” Owen Bailey directed, “you stay here. This is your place. Marigold, go up and stay by Parke.”

Miss Burt would have gone down to Avernus if Owen Bailey had bade her go, so, though she hated the errand, she obeyed him. She left the room and joined Parke, who stood outside Martha’s door, not daring to go in.

Those left in the breakfast room, by common consent rose and went into the living room, where Duke sat, exactly as Stone had left him.

“Brace up, boy,” said his father sitting down beside him, and clasping his arm. “I’ve been through this, and now—you! Oh, my son!”

Owen Bailey’s voice shook, but Duke paid no attention to him. He seemed physically stunned, and Lolly ran back to the breakfast room and returned with a cup of strong coffee.

She bade Duke drink it, and still with that dazed, semi-conscious air, he did so, draining the cup.

Then he returned to his apathy, and Stone advised letting him alone for a time.

“I think, Mr. Bailey,” he said, “we would better hear the letter you received this morning.”

“Very well,” and taking it from his pocket, Bailey handed it to Stone.

The detective read it aloud:

“Well, I suppose you think you hoaxed me. But I will get you yet. Or it may be I will strike at you through your dear ones. Expect me soon.”

“That, I think settles it.” It was Duke who spoke, and to the surprise of all, he spoke in his own natural voice, and showed no trace now of the dazed air he had worn.

“There can be no doubt, Father, that it is those enemies, or one of them, you told us about. I suppose they will not stop till they have wiped out the family. It seems to me that it is up to you to go away from here.” The young man spoke slowly, clearly, but with a veiled ferocity that made his hearers shudder.

Stone thought he had never heard such concentrated hate in a human voice.

There was some excuse for Duke, when one remembered the fearful death of his wife, but it seemed to Stone even that horror scarcely justified Duke’s attitude toward his father.

“Go away from here,” said Owen Bailey, slowly, “so that they may kill me and leave you all in peace? Is that what you mean, Duke?”

“Yes,” Duke looked his father full in the face, “yes, that is what I mean.”

“Hush!” said Albert Sheridan, rising and going to Duke, “you shall not talk to your father like that in my presence, at any rate! You are an inhuman scoundrel!”

“That will do, Albert,” Owen Bailey interrupted him. “Duke is beside himself, and I don’t wonder. I’m not surprised, son, and I will go away.”

“Don’t discuss that now,” said Fleming Stone.

“There’s too much else to be done. Do you all realize this means a repetition of the police and the coroner and all that?”

“Oh, my heavens!” cried Lolly. “We may as well establish a resident jury.”

The girl did not mean to be flippant, but they were all so accustomed to persiflage and also her nerves were so taut, that she was liable to break out in any direction.

“Mr. Sheridan,” Stone said, wanting to get action, “will you telephone for Doctor Fenn. Tell him the case is urgent, but don’t give details over the wire. I shall go up and look at the body, but I don’t advise the rest of you to come—just now.”

What Stone really meant was to look at the room, he had seen the body all he cared to. But he felt he must get a survey of the room before the police came, in the hope of finding some real clew to these terrible murders.

He found Marigold and Parke outside the bedroom, neither of them willing to go inside after taking one brief glance.

Stone went in and closed the door.

The dead woman was just as he had before seen her. A closer inspection told him that while she may have been strangled, her throat was also cut and bruised by the cruel fingers of the steel gauntlets. How could any human brain conceive such a fiendish way of killing?

Automatically, it seemed to Stone, that precluded any member of the household having had a hand in it. No one under that roof could do such a Satanic deed.

His thoughts flew to the big game hunter. It could be imagined of him.

Or the other one, John Kennedy. His hatred of Bailey,—if he wrote those letters, was so deep and unending, he might stop at nothing to distress and grieve his enemy.

But that was for further investigation. Just now, he was all for searching this bedroom.

He looked all about and searched everywhere, but nothing could he find of the slightest use or information, save one thing.

That was a slip of aluminum, precisely like the one found before, and bearing the same words, “Vengeance is Mine.”

It lay on the toilet table, and Stone picked it up gingerly, by its edge in order to avoid marring possible finger prints.

“Though a murderer like this one will leave no finger marks,” he told himself. Nor could he see any on the surface of the aluminum.

“Brutal,” he said to himself, “callous, heartless and diabolically clever! Those are the characteristics of this Master Murderer. How much farther will he go? Until he gets Bailey, himself, of course. But the fiendish thing is killing all these innocent victims. This was no mistake, whether the death of the older Mrs. Bailey was or not.

“Well, my first failure has yet to come. I wonder if it is to be this case. I confess I don’t know which way to turn. But first of all the guard must be strengthened. Then these two men must be tracked down, either found or proved dead. And Bailey himself must be protected. He’s likely to be the next victim. Well, I have my work cut out for me. Can I complete it?

“This thing I vow.” He stepped to the side of the dead woman and raised his right hand. “If I do not discover and punish your murderer, I will never take up another case!”


Chapter 10
As to the Maximilian Armor

Fleming Stone went to his own room and locked himself in.

He felt he must have a few moments alone to consider this new tragedy. It totally upset a theory that had been forming in his mind, and opened out new possibilities of deviltry.

Stone thought back over the night. The murder must have been committed during the small hours. He was no doctor, but the condition of the body told him that much. Now why had he not heard any footstep in the hall? To be sure there were two large rooms, also some closets and bathrooms between his own room and the bedroom of Mrs. Duke, but he was sensitive to a prowling footstep, however light. And always, after he was ready to go to sleep, he set his room door ajar, for the purpose of hearing any unusual sound.

Yet, had he done this last night? He couldn’t quite remember, but it seemed to him that when he left his room to go to breakfast, he had to open the door.

Then—he thought deeply,—then he had been unusually sleepy last night, and had slept unusually soundly. This would explain his hearing no sound.

But why had he slept so well?

The punch! Yes, that was it. That punch had been very good, and he had taken more than one glass of it. Of course, it made him extra sleepy.

But, though abstemious enough, Stone was not a teetotaller, and often he had had a stronger night-cap than that, without any effect at all.

Was the punch drugged?

Not likely, for they all had it, and none of the family showed any dullness or lethargy in the morning.

Moreover, who would drug the stuff and why?

Stone, in his mind, ran rapidly over the lot, and found that the only ones who could possibly be suspect, were George and Duke, himself.

It was too terrible to think of Duke in connection with that brutal murder of his wife, but Fleming Stone was accustomed to looking his thoughts in the face, and he had heard rumors of the quarrels that were frequent between Duke and Martha.

Duke’s room was next to his wife’s, at the end of the long hall. If everybody was sleeping soundly, heavily, because of a drugged drink, Duke could easily go to the armor on the stairs, take the gauntlets from the figure and use them as a weapon.

Somebody had done it, and who else would have even the shadow of a motive?

Yes, there was Miss Burt. Big and strong enough to do the deed, hateful and vindictive enough to commit a crime, possessed of a fearful temper, of which he had been told, though he had never seen it manifested.

He balked at the thought of Miss Burt, yet who else was there?

Owen Bailey and the two youngsters were out of the question, and though his mind wandered to Albert Sheridan, there was no real reason to suspect him.

Yet it must have been somebody in the house, for the grounds outside were patrolled day and night.

Queer about that punch. He must make some discreet inquiries.

Then, hearing steps in the hall, he opened his door to see Doctor Fenn’s tall form striding along toward Martha’s room.

He followed, and went into the room with the doctor.

Parke, who had brought the doctor up, turned and fled from the scene. He had had all he wanted of this new horror.

“The most awful sight I have ever seen,” said Fenn, gravely, as he looked at the dead woman. “I have seen some awful deaths in my day, but nothing like this!”

He quickly completed the necessary examination, and then stood, fairly quivering with fury.

“Hanging is too good for this killer!” he exclaimed. “Electrocution is too merciful! The villain should be tortured! Mr. Stone, can you track him down, or are you at your wits’ end?”

“I don’t know yet,” Stone said, slowly. “Do you think he is a homicidal maniac, doctor?”

“No, I don’t. There’s no show of frantic or furious action. See, the coverlets are scarcely disturbed, the body is not distorted or tossed about. It looks as if he had come in silently, and with those gauntlets on his hands had quickly and quietly choked her to death. She died from strangulation, though those scratches and bleeding wounds are also the result of the murderer’s ferocity.”

“Could a woman have done it?”

Fenn looked at the detective.

“Yes,” he answered, slowly, “a strong, muscular woman could do it. Miss Burt could, but not Lolly or any of the women servants here.”

“How well do you know Miss Burt?”

“Well enough,” Fenn spoke in a short, crisp tone. “She is neurotic and self-repressed. An old maid, she realizes the fact, but is not reconciled to it. This brings about mental disorders, and makes her, at times, irresponsible.”

“Really irresponsible? Capable of an imperative impulse to crime—”

“Oh, I don’t go so far as that. It might be,—it could be possible, but without definite evidence I am not ready to say so.”

“No, nothing must be said, without evidence. But just between you and me, Doctor Fenn, do you know of any motive Miss Burt might have had for wanting both these women out of the way?”

“Mind you, Mr. Stone, I don’t want to be quoted, but in the interests of truth and justice, I feel I ought to say yes to that. Marigold Burt is very much in love with Owen Bailey, and she is also in love with Duke Bailey. It isn’t real love, you understand, it’s the result of her repressed, denied nature. She is at an age where these things reach a climax, she is naturally romantic and sentimental, she is tortured by jealousy and envy when she sees other women happy and contented with their homes and husbands and children, while she is denied all those things. Many unmarried women feel this way, but not all to the extent Marigold Burt does. So, as a medical man, I say she could commit murder, but I have no valid or definite reason to think she did. That’s all I can say, Mr. Stone.”

“All right, doctor, keep your eye on her, from your point of view, and I’ll watch her from mine. I, too, can’t really suspect her, but we have to leave no loopholes. The fact of two women being killed is odd of itself, unless a woman did it.”

Stone went downstairs, then, and found the living room crowded with people.

Sheriff Hunter, Constable Leary, Coroner Hale and Detective Whitney were all there, and in far less polite and deferential mood than they had been the day before.

“It’s plain on the face of it,” the sheriff was shouting, “that these murders are being done by some one in the house! We have the grounds patrolled, and now, we shall put a man in the house. Either a member of this family or one of the servants must be responsible for these two crimes, and no one here present is to leave the premises except by my express and individual permission.”

The four Baileys, Miss Burt and Albert Sheridan were grouped together in one end of the room, while the frightened servants huddled at the other end.

Except for the majestic calm shown by the Earl of Northumberland, the whole staff were white-faced and trembling.

Agnes, her ethereal beauty set off by her smart black dress and white cap and apron, kept close to Mrs. Cooper, with the others ranged in rows behind them.

The sheriff, his voice still raised to a loud pitch, stormed at Mrs. Cooper.

“Was that there figger on the stairs, all in order yesterday?” he bellowed.

“In order, sir? What do you mean?”

Mrs. Cooper was not at all afraid of him, and spoke in a quiet, low voice.

“I mean what I say! Was it all right? Shipshape? Hands, or gloves, or whatever you call ’em, in their right place?”

“Why, yes, so far as I know. It’s Agnes’ work to dust the stairs. Was Max all right, Agnes?”

“Yes, ma’am,” came in a whisper from the girl.

“Do them hands come off easy?” he went on, glaring round for whoever would, to answer him.

As nobody else spoke, Parke volunteered:

“Yes,” he said, undismayed at the sheriff’s truculence, “yes, you just give ’em a twist and off they come.”

“You seem to know all about it.”

“I do. I’ve lived with that chap for twenty years. I’ve had him all to pieces and put him together again, many a time. Why?”

“Did you take off those tin gloves last night and kill your sister-in-law with them?”

“Nixy. They’re not made of tin, and I didn’t do the killing.”

“Who did?”

Parke’s lightness vanished. He suddenly looked both anxious and menacing.

“I don’t know. I wish I did! I’d gladly use those gauntlets on his own beastly throat!”

The boy’s grave demeanor, and the concentrated wrath in his tone, robbed his speech of any effect of melodrama or bombast. He was so terribly in earnest that the sheriff was impressed, and became a little quieter in his procedure.

Stone, seeing that this same procedure was likely to be both long and slow, rose from his seat and went into the library. As he passed, he nodded to Whitney to follow him, which that young man gladly did.

“How many various and sundry sorts of fool that sheriff is,” Stone said, in a calm, dispassionate tone.

“He sure is,” agreed Whitney. “But what matter? A sheriff can’t unravel a mystery like this—”

“Nor a detective, either!” exclaimed Stone, whose nerves were a little frazzled this morning.

“Maybe not a detective,” Whitney smiled, “but how about two detectives? I have found out some few things, Mr. Stone, and I’d like to talk them over with you.”

“Go to it, boy. You can’t begin too soon! For the first time in my career, I feel really and truly up against it. And yet, it is a detective axiom, that the more unusual and bizarre the crime, the easier it is of solution.”

“Well, in the first place, I find on good authority that Duke Bailey and his wife were not on good terms.”

“But I’ve been here in the house with them a couple of days, and they seemed to me like turtle doves.”

“Oh, yes, before folks. But they were quarrelsome when alone, and—”

“How do you know? Who can say when they’re alone—”

“Well, I made up to that lily maid—”


“Yes, but I call her, to myself, ‘Elaine, the fair, Elaine, the lovable, Elaine, the lily maid of Astolat.’ Isn’t she like that?”

“In looks, yes. How does she talk?”

“Not at all, except what you drag out of her. I don’t get her at all. She has no idea of her own beauty. Not a particular of S. A. or even vanity. But if you hammer at her, you get some slow dribbles of information. Well, she is ladies’ maid—”

“Not to Mrs. Duke.”

“No, but sometimes she does some pressing or odd jobs for her, and when she has chanced to be with the Dukes when they were otherwise alone, she says they quarreled just awful.”

“Do you believe her?”

“Why, I see no reason not to. She’s no gossip or babbler, and I think when she does talk she tells the truth.”

“Do you think, for a minute, there was enough bad blood there for Duke to kill his wife?”

“I can’t say I think so yet, but I’m leaning that way. Anyway, I think somebody in the house did it.”

“That, then, is where you and I don’t agree. I think it was an outsider, one of those old time enemies of Mr. Bailey.”

“It may be. I bow, of course, to your superior judgment and greater experience. But how could the anonymous gentleman get in last night?”

“Well, the guard, though well-intentioned, is not large enough. A big place like this would need an army to patrol it thoroughly. I’ll bet I could go in and out without being seen.”

“Yes, so could I. And the house is never entirely locked up. I found that out from the under servants. The pompous Fuller is supposed to lock it all up every night, but he never does.”

“Well, then, the anonymous letter writer can come and go at his pleasure.”

“Yes, so long as he is quiet about it.”

“He was certainly quiet about it last night.” Stone looked thoughtful. “I am a very light sleeper, but I heard no footstep. Yet there must have been some.”

“The hall carpets are very thick and soft.”

“I know, but that doesn’t preclude my hearing a step. Or, perhaps it isn’t exactly hearing. I daresay I feel the vibration or the atmospheric movement or something. Anyhow, I didn’t last night.”

Then, remembering, he told Whitney about the punch.

“That would explain it,” the young detective said. “And it needn’t have been drugged. The mixed drink would be soporific.”

“Not in my case,” Stone persisted. “I still think it was doctored.”

“But Mr. Bailey mixed it.”

“Yes, but some one else could have added a mild narcotic. Merely a trace, for nobody was much affected. Say, just enough to make us all sleep soundly, yet not as if drugged. I say, Whitney, scoot up and take a look in the various medicine chests, will you? I don’t want to put myself on record as yet, but you can do it, in your official capacity.”

“Sure I will,” and the young man walked calmly across the living room, where the coroner was now conducting the inquiry, and went, unnoticed, up the stairs.

He paused to look at Maximilian, who, denuded of his steel gauntlets was a sorry sight.

Whitney went at his task, methodically, and swiftly, and soon rejoined Stone with his report.

“Not a smitch of anything of the sort in any medicine cabinet except Duke’s. His, in his bathroom, contained both sulphonal and veronal, either of which would do the trick.”

“Of course, they would. But that bathroom is Mrs. Duke’s as well.”

“Yes, I know. But we aren’t suspecting her. Probably the stuff was hers. It’s what women take when they can’t sleep. And a perfect vehicle for Duke’s purpose, if he just wanted to insure sound sleep for all last night.”

“Nothing of the sort in Miss Burt’s bathroom?”

“Nothing of the sort anywhere but where I told you. I looked thoroughly.”

“Good egg, but doesn’t it strike you that whoever used it, if anybody did, would destroy or hide the container? I think the fact that Duke left it there, in plain sight, rather lets him out?”

“Oh, no, I don’t think that. Let’s ask him and see how he reacts.”

“All right, later on. Besides, if Mrs. Duke had the stuff there, openly, anybody could take some, servants, family or guests.”

“Yes. But unlikely, except for the chambermaid or cleaners, who had occasion to go in that bathroom.”

“Well, maybe it wasn’t used at all,” Stone concluded. “Perhaps that mix-up of punch was enough to make us sleepy.”

“Now, here’s another thing I found out. As soon as I heard of this thing this morning, before I came over here, I telephoned to the Bailey’s lawyer, who is an uncle of mine. He didn’t want to tell me, but I made him, what the provisions of those two women’s wills are.”

“Did he tell you over the telephone?”

“He did not! But he said if I’d stop there, he’d tell me. So I stopped in a minute on my way. I just got the principal data, but it’s enlightening.”

“You’re a smart chap, Whitney. Well, out with it.”

“To begin with Mrs. Bailey’s will. I mean Mrs. Owen Bailey. It seems she had a lot of money and property, quite a fortune in her own right. Now, she left a good sum to Miss Burt, her old school friend. Then, if you please, she left quite a lump to be divided among the servants! Especially a wad to that lily-maid, Agnes. And then, her firstborn, our friend Duke, is residuary legatee, and a fine plum falls into his lap! I don’t know the figures, Uncle wouldn’t tell me, but there’s the situation. Now, what price Duke?”

“Or Marigold?”

“Oh, not a woman! But Fuller?”

“Or Agnes?”

“Don’t be silly! That mollusc couldn’t kill a gnat, I’d say!”

“Then, to get back to cases, let’s begin with the murder of the mother. Duke, Miss Burt and any of the servants can be said to have had a motive.”

“Yes, that is, if they knew the terms of the will.”

“Rest assured they did. Mrs. Bailey was of the babbling sort, I understand.”

“Yes, I’ve heard that, too. Well, it gives the possibility of a motive.”

“And motive, too, for Mrs. Duke to kill her mother-in-law. You know there’s evidence against her.”

“Evidence that she dropped a bit of sandpaper in the bedroom, but any number of people may have entered the room after that. However, there’s her shoe button.”

“No good, the shoe button.”

“What do you mean by that, Mr. Stone?”

“Just this, Whitney. That button didn’t drop off of Mrs. Duke’s slipper.

“But it matched the one left on the shoe!”

“And it had been on the shoe. But it didn’t drop off. It was cut off.”

“Cut off?”

“Exactly. I examined that slipper, and the button had been snipped off, leaving clean-cut ends of the thread that had held it.”

“But why—who—”

“I don’t know, yet. But that’s the fact. Now, somebody cut off that button and dropped it in that room, to incriminate Mrs. Duke. If any one in the house, it must have been Duke or Miss Burt. And even if the anonymous intruder committed the murder, some one in the house, afraid of being suspected, might have trumped up that evidence against Martha.”

“Meaning Miss Burt, now?”

“I don’t know.” Stone spoke dispiritedly. “It’s all so uncertain, so contradictory, that I don’t know where to begin. And—” his voice sank to a whisper, “I’m afraid there’ll be more murders!”

“Oh, no! If so, then it will be the outsider. If Duke or Miss Burt, for the old lady’s money, they are through now, but—oh, I say, that doesn’t explain the killing of Mrs. Duke!”

“It is not positively certain that the two murders are the work of the same hand,” Stone said. “Just suppose, for a moment, that Duke killed his mother to get his inheritance. Parricides are not absolutely unknown in the history of crime. This, then, automatically gave Marigold Burt her money. Suppose, then, she was in love with Duke, and wanted Martha out of the way, in hopes of marrying him.”

“Oh, tommy rot!”

“Not if you know your psychology.”

“I don’t and don’t want to, if it gives rise to such fiendish suggestions.”

“Martha’s death was fiendish. You can’t get away from that.”

“But Miss Burt is in love with old Bailey. That’s an open secret.”

“She’s in love with man,—not a man. And any doctor will explain to you that her case is not unique. But we won’t go into that now. You’ve given me something to think about, Whitney. I had a theory of my own, but it was so impossible of belief, I hated to tell it. Now, let’s go and see how far the coroner has progressed.”

“Wait a minute, Stone. What do you think about Mr. Sheridan?”

“As a suspect?”

“Well, yes, in the first murder. You know, he and Bailey are not very friendly.”

“No, I didn’t know that. Bailey’s attitude toward him seems all right.”

“Seems, yes. But they are at swords’ points.”

“Oh, come now—”

“Yes, they are. Sheridan plays the races, and uses the firm’s money.”

“Yes, I’ve heard that hinted.”

“Well, the two partners have left one another a big pile in their wills. Whoever lives longer will get a lot from the one who goes first.”

“Yes. Go on.”

“Then why not Sheridan, as the killer of the first Mrs. Bailey. Thinking of course, that he was jabbing the dagger into Owen Bailey himself.”

Stone thought back.

He remembered Lolly’s story of the car in front of the door.

He told this to Whitney, who said, quickly,

“Then that lets him out! A man isn’t coming into a house to commit murder, and leave his car parked out in front!”

“But, he may not have intended to murder when he left the car. He may have suddenly found the house dark and the way into the study open, and knowing Bailey’s bedroom was just above, perhaps he went up there to see him, socially. Then, finding him, as he thought, asleep in his own bed, knowing of the convenient dagger, assuming nobody else was awake, and remembering his money troubles, he may have given the fatal stroke and fled.”

“He would have seen it was Mrs. Bailey—”

“Not if he had no light but the moonlight. And that’s all he did have. For, had he snapped on an electric light somebody would have seen or heard it.”

“Maybe, maybe. I believe you’d rather think it was Sheridan than any of the Baileys.”

“Indeed, yes! I can’t bear to think it was Duke, or even Miss Burt. And—I don’t dare let my thoughts rest on Parke—”

“I know. I feel that way too. Parke, had no motive, so far as we know. But who can tell about a young man of to-day? He may be over head and ears in debt, he may have thought his mother was his father, he may have—”

“Well, never mind all that, it’s pure speculation. Come along, and let’s see how things are going.”


Chapter 11
Duke Loses His Temper

The sheriff and the coroner were still asking questions which led nowhere and drawing deductions that were even more futile, when Fleming Stone and Tom Whitney returned to the living room.

Lolly and Parke had gone for a walk round the place. The girl was faint with fatigue and excitement and the sheriff granted her a brief respite.

Hunter was now attacking the majestic Fuller.

“Were Mr. and Mrs. Duke Bailey ever at odds?” asked the truculent voice.

“At odds, sir?” and the impassive face of the butler was utterly blank.

“Yes. Did they quarrel—”

“Quarrel! Oh, no, sir.”

“You lie. They did. They quarreled like cats and dogs.”

“Is this language necessary, Mr. Hunter?” came the suave tones of Albert Sheridan.

“Anything is necessary that will drag the truth out of these dumb servants. I think they’ve been primed to keep secrets.”

“Primed, sir?” said Fuller, in that innocently inquiring way he had.

“Bribed, then. Paid to keep your mouth shut. Do you understand that?”

“I do,” Fuller looked pained, and omitted his “sir.”

“But you mistake. Servants at Cricklemere have never been offered bribes.”

“Is that so? Well, then, answer my question. Have you ever known Mr. and Mrs. Duke Bailey to have high words, what is known in common parlance as quarrel?”

“No, sir.”

“Oh, hush your nonsense, Fuller,” Duke broke in. “Of course, my wife and I have quarreled, Sheriff, not once, but many times. Both having high tempers and imperfect self-control, it is not surprising we should have ructions now and then.”

“Your butler, then, did not tell the truth?”

“Oh, I guess yes. He, like as not, never heard our best efforts. They were usually in the privacy of our own rooms.”

“On what subjects did you and your wife quarrel, Mr. Bailey?”

“Any subject that turned up. The color of my tie, the covering of the drawing room furniture, the idiosyncrasies of other members of the family,—dozens of subjects.”

“And was one of these subjects ever, by any chance, the men who admired your wife?”

“Since you ask that, I may say that it was. It was a fruitful subject of controversy.”

“And you quarreled about this matter last night?”

“Er—no, we didn’t quarrel last night.”

“While you were dressing for dinner?”

“No, we did not.”

“But you were overheard.”

“By one of the servants spying about, I suppose.”

“Yes, by one of the servants. Not necessarily spying, as your voices were raised to a high pitch.”

“That delicious mess, called Agnes, I suppose.”

“Yes, it was Agnes who overheard you.”

“Call her, let her repeat what we said.”

Hunter summoned Agnes, who came forward just as she would if answering an ordinary call.

She stood at attention, with no more expression on her face than if she had been a wax doll.

“You heard Mr. and Mrs. Duke Bailey quarreling last night?”

“Yes, sir,” said Agnes, with utter unconcern.

“What did they say?”

“He said, ‘If you have anything more to do with Hal Barclay, I’ll kill you.’ ”

“And what did she reply?”

“She said, ‘I’ll have to do with anybody I please.’ “

“That right, Mr. Bailey?”

“Why, yes,” Duke said, looking relieved, “but that’s nothing. We’ve often had far higher words than that. But they meant nothing. I didn’t kill her.”

“That remains to be seen. Did you hear anything about two or three o’clock this morning?”

“I did not! If I had I should have roused the house, and sent for somebody. Anybody but you. Numskull! Can’t you see you’re not getting anywhere? Not anywhere at all. Why don’t you ask some questions whose answers will mean something? Oh, well, go on! What do you want to know next? Why don’t you ask me right out if I killed my wife?”

“Did you?”

“I did not! But if I had do you suppose I’d tell you so? Now, are you going to find out who did kill her? I want to know. I want to kill him. I did quarrel with my wife when she smiled on any other man, that was because I loved her. I worshiped her! Kill her? I should say not! But somebody has got to find out who did. What good is your fool detective over there? What good is that super-detective my father engaged? Can they find who killed my wife and my mother? No, they hem and haw and ask silly questions. Then after a few days they give up the case. Oh, go on with your farce of inquiry. It doesn’t do any harm, I suppose, even though it doesn’t do any good.”

Duke had relapsed into a sullen, sulky mood, which was unpleasant to look upon but less alarming than his belligerent spasm.

“I think we will get at the truth, after all, Mr. Duke Bailey,” the sheriff said, with a superior smirk.

But Stone had heard enough. His straightforward nature was annoyed by this futile driveling of a country sheriff, and he preferred not to listen.

Moreover, he was formulating a new theory and he longed to get at some evidence or information that might help.

He rose and went over to Owen Bailey, to whom he spoke a few words.

Bailey rose, and excused himself to the sheriff, saying that if wanted he would be in his study.

Whitney looked at Stone beseechingly and as he passed him, Stone leaned down and whispered,

“Follow us in half an hour.”

The two men entered the study and Stone closed the door.

“Your son will get himself disliked,” he smiled, “if he lets himself run on like that.”

“I know it, Stone, but what can I do? The children are all willful and obstinate. I’ve tried to train them, but Lord, they pay no attention to me.”

“Were they always like that? When they were little?”

“Oh, yes, always. From babyhood they laughed at my rules and disobeyed my orders.”

“They obeyed their mother?”

“Oh, yes, Blandena made them do so. I don’t know how she managed it, but she did. I envied her that power of hers. But I couldn’t manage the little rascals. They listened to my tirades, laughed and ran away. Now, they’re grown up, but it’s the same. They never pay any attention to my advice or reproof. I don’t mind, of course, but sometimes I’d like to have the say in my own house.”

“I don’t blame you, Mr. Bailey. Perhaps it will be different now, that these sorrows have come to you all. They may bring your family more in accord. Now, tell me, have you any idea who killed Mrs. Duke?”

“I hadn’t, until just now when Duke was talking. Then a light seemed to break in on it. Could it not have been some of those beaux of Martha’s? She was a great belle, you now. She had many admirers, even since she has been Duke’s wife. Manners and morals are different now, you know, from what they were in my young days. Maybe Duke lost his head and was so insulting to some one of these young men that he came here and took his vengeance on her.”

“Or perhaps she was the one at fault. She might have lured an admirer on, to the top of his bent, then perhaps threw him over and laughed at him. That might make him want to kill her—”

“I thought of that, too, but it isn’t like Martha. A flirt, yes. A coquette? Of course. But not one to inflame a suitor’s passions until he was ready to kill her. Still it may be,—it may be.”

“But then, Mr. Bailey, supposing it was one of these young, importunate lovers, what about the aluminum slips? The two found in the two death chambers were exactly alike, you know. Now that must mean that the same hand that committed one murder, committed both.”

“It would seem so, yet, how could it be? Who could desire the death of my wife and my daughter-in-law? Or, granting my wife’s death was by mistake, who would want to kill both me and Martha?”

“If your first thought, of John Kennedy is the true one, it may be that he did both these crimes.”

“Yes, that is the only logical supposition. Now, Mr. Stone, I am in no way criticising your methods, but, I am sure you will pardon me if I say, you don’t seem to be getting anywhere.”

“Of course, I’ll pardon you, Mr. Bailey, the more readily that I know you can’t see what I am doing. I’m sorry, too, that I can’t tell you, just now, but the truth is, a word dropped at present might spoil all my plans for future success. I trust you will have patience a short time longer, or, if you prefer it, I will give up the case.”

“Oh, no, no, no. I don’t want anything of that sort. But I had hoped for more frankness, greater confidence.”

“Detectives do not work frankly, or confidentially. My plans are of necessity secret. But I assure you, I am not idle. Nor am I without results, even now.”

“Very well, Mr. Stone, I accept your explanation, and I certainly wish you to continue on the case. Now, answer me this. If my son Duke should get arrested, and should be in danger of trial, I want to save him. The only way I can think of is for me to confess to the crime,—to the two crimes,—and then disappear. I don’t want to be put to death for deeds I did not commit, but I am willing to sacrifice myself to the extent of permanently disappearing, for the sake of my son. Do you advise this, in the event of Duke’s arrest?”

“Your proposition takes my breath away,” Stone said, looking at the white-faced man. “Will you give me a little time to think it over? Duke will not be arrested to-day, I am sure. I doubt if he ever is. At any rate, until there is further sign of it, you need be in no hurry with your Quixotic scheme. So let us drop the matter for a day or so, anyway.”

“I agree, unless his arrest should come suddenly. In that case, I must carry out my plan.”

“Very well, Mr. Bailey. Let us hope there will be no such predicament. Here comes Mr. Whitney. I wish you would talk freely before him. He is a good detective and is working with me.”

Young Whitney came into the room, looking solemn. “They’ve shifted suspicion to Miss Burt,” he announced.

“My heavens!” cried Bailey. “We can’t let Marigold be arrested!”

“Now, Mr. Bailey,” Whitney said, “don’t try to stem the tide of justice. Let the coroner have his way, he will anyhow, and try to look at it in a logical manner.”

“What are you doing now, Dad, that Mr. Whitney is talking to you like that?”

Duke, who had flung open the door, strode into the study, where Owen Bailey sat with two detectives.

“Mr. Bailey was doing nothing reprehensible,” Stone defended him. “And Mr. Whitney was not reproving him either.”

“Oh, of course you’d stand up for him, since he’s paying your salary.”

“That’s true enough,” agreed Stone, who knew better than to get into a quarrel with Duke Bailey. He couldn’t admire the young man, yet there was something about him that the detective did like. But his treatment of his father was not one of them.

Fleming Stone deeply resented the way Owen Bailey was treated in his own house, and he never lost a chance to remark upon it, even though he felt sure it would do no good.

“You’re too ready, Mr. Duke, to assume your father was in the wrong.”

“Well, he almost always is,” Duke retorted. “How could I tell this was the unique instance in which he was right? How about it, Dad? ’Fess up, now. Weren’t you up to mischief?”

“No, not that. I wanted to go to Marigold’s assistance, but Mr. Whitney thought better not.”

“Better not? I’ll say so! Why, you’d only get the poor old girl in deeper. You know how your well meaning efforts turn sour on us. And, besides, it may be that she’s the one we’re after. You know, she detested Martha.”

“Hush, Duke. I won’t allow you to slander the poor girl like that.”

“Now, now, Father Bailey, just ’cause she’s intrigued by your manly charms—”

“Oh, hush, Duke,” ordered Stone, annoyed at the bad taste he displayed, yet secretly amused at the thought of a woman putting Owen Bailey on a pedestal. For while he liked the meek little man, and was sorry for him when his children failed to show him proper respect, yet he couldn’t see him as a hero of romance.

“And another thing,” Duke turned to Fleming Stone, and spoke seriously, “Mother’s will leaves a lot of kale to Marigold. Now, George wants money, and she was in the room with Mother that night, later than Martha was. Besides, we know now that Martha didn’t kill Mother. So, I say, it may well have been George in both cases.”

“Why would Marigold kill your wife?” asked Bailey, Senior.

“For the same reason, Dad, she would kill yours. I think she’s a what do you call it,—homicidal maniac.”

“Doctor Fenn says she isn’t,” Stone told him.

“Well, a doctor can be mistaken, or he may have his own reasons for saying that. Seems to me she has all the earmarks of that type of dementia. You know how queer she is, always singing around and all that. And if she weren’t queer, she couldn’t plump herself down in our midst and stay here for years with no invitation from anybody.”

“That does look outside of normal,” agreed Tom Whitney. “And she didn’t like your wife, Mr. Duke?”

“She certainly did not. Now, look here, you two,—I mean you two detectives,—I believe you are smart men and know your business. Now, I want you to get busy and ferret out the truth of these two murders. I inherit, I am told, quite a sum from my mother. I am willing to spend it all on the work of detecting the murderer of our people. The Baileys can’t let a crime,—two crimes, go unavenged. My father, while he did engage Mr. Stone, is apparently losing interest in the work, which is just what I expected of him. Now, I propose to take up the matter, and I empower you two to do whatever may be necessary, at any cost, but, as they say in the police station, bring in your man. If the criminal is one of those old chaps who has it in for Dad, all right, get him. Go to the ends of the earth, if you have to, but nab him. Will you do this?”

“I fail to see the necessity for your appeal, Mr. Bailey,” Stone said, “since your father has engaged my services in this case, I am not at liberty to take up any other offer. Moreover, as you both want the same thing, —the arrest and conviction of the man or men who murdered your two wives,—it seems to me your somewhat melodramatic speech is empty air.”

Fleming Stone well knew this would enrage Duke Bailey, but he didn’t care. He was so angry himself at the way Duke spoke of his father, and so sorry for the dejected-looking man who watched his son with saddened eyes and quivering lips, that he would willingly have fought Duke had he been called upon to do so.

But as often happens when a bully is called down, Duke collapsed like a punctured balloon, and quickly dropped the subject of engaging detectives.

“Well, you see,” he said, hurriedly, “if the man we want is one of those scallawags who is out for revenge on Dad, we want to get him. And if not, then we want to look elsewhere for our criminal.”

“True enough,” said Stone, who thought this a lame get out, but was willing to meet the offender half way. “Now, that you’re with us, Mr. Duke, may we ask you a few questions?”

“Assuredly, fire away.”

“Then, as you say you slept so soundly last night that you heard no sound in your wife’s room, will you say if you can think of any reason for your extra sound sleep?”

“It wasn’t extra sound. I always sleep like that. Nothing wakens me short of a thunder clap or fire alarm.”

“Do you think the punch we had last night served to make us sleep more soundly?”

“Not me. I slept peacefully, and woke this morning feeling fine. If it had been the punch, I’d had a bit of a headache, I’m sure.”

“How about you, Mr. Bailey?” he turned to Owen.

“Same here. What are you getting at, Mr. Stone? Did you think the punch very strong? I assure you it was not. The ingredients were all mild. I’ll give you the recipe if you like.”

“No, Mr. Bailey, it didn’t seem strong. Yet I slept more soundly than I have for years, and this morning, though I had no headache, my head felt a trifle heavy.”

“Well, I’m sorry, indeed. But truly, I can’t think it was the fault of the punch, for Parke had some and Lolly, and I wouldn’t give those children anything really strong.”

“No, of course not. It was doubtless owing to my worry over these troubles we are undergoing. Now, some more questions as to the servants. I suppose they are all beyond any thought of suspicion.”

“Yes,” Owen said, slowly, “I think we can say yes to that. Fuller is a bit eccentric, but he is honest and faithful, and I have no slightest doubt of his loyalty to the family. Mrs. Cooper has been with us more than twenty-five years and is like one of the family for trustworthiness.”

“And that queer but beautiful Agnes?” Stone asked.

“I know nothing about her,” Owen Bailey said, haughtily. “I never notice the maids or under-men. The principals I know and speak to. The underlings are engaged by Mrs. Cooper and mean nothing to me.”

“That’s so,” Duke declared. “Dad never sees the maids. That Agnes is as pretty as a valentine, but he wouldn’t know her from Jane, the waitress, who is of the type of beauty commonly ascribed to a mud fence. But none of the servants are in this thing, I’m sure, unless it should be Fuller. He is not a suspicious character to my mind, but he is mysterious. So I hope you two will look him up and see what you can find out about him.”

“Will the funeral of your wife be held here, Mr. Duke, or at the church?” asked Whitney.

Duke looked uncertain.

“I haven’t quite decided,” he said, after a pause. “I’d prefer it here at the house. You see, Martha is not like mother. She had few friends up here, yet I don’t want to take her down to the city.”

“Her relatives?” said Stone.

“She has no near ones. Her mother is dead, and her father is traveling abroad. He must be notified, of course. But I can’t do it, I shall ask his lawyers to attend to that.”

“There is so much to see to,” Owen Bailey said, with a sigh. “And Sheridan is no help at all.”

“He’ll look after the office, won’t he?” asked Duke.

“Yes, in his slipshod way.”

“Let him do it, any how, Mr. Bailey,” advised Stone, looking compassionately at the thin, loosely-hung frame of the man before him. “You have all you can manage with these troubles here at home.”

“Yes, I have. If I get one more of those letters from Kennedy,—I’m sure they are from Kennedy,—I think I’ll go mad.”

“Oh, no, you won’t,” Duke told him. “People of your type don’t go mad. They just sit around and wring their hands.”

“If we had any clews to work on,” put in Whitney, partly to change the subject and shut up the unfilial son.

“We have clews,” Stone said, slowly. “There are the two aluminum strips. I have a notion that those will lead to the murderer.”

“How is that possible?” asked Owen, showing interest.

“Well, you see they are not very available nowadays.”

“Oh, I see. Then you deduce the murderer must have been recently at the beaches or wherever they do have those machines?”

“Something like that,” Stone said.

“We have no finger prints,” lamented Whitney.

“No,” agreed Stone, “we have not. There wasn’t a sign of a finger print on the dagger that killed Mrs. Blandena Bailey. Nor was there any on the gauntlets of the armor.”

“A criminal like we have to deal with now is not going to be fool enough to leave finger prints or footprints either.”

“He is not,” agreed Stone. “The criminal in our case, for I feel certain there is only one, is the very acme of cleverness and wickedness both. He is absolutely callous to all human feeling. He is a brute, mentally and a fiend as well. It requires no powers of deduction to know these things. A man who could utilize those terrible steel gauntlets as a weapon, has no heart or soul.”

“If it is John Kennedy,” Owen said, thoughtfully, “we must remember he was shell-shocked in the war. May that have developed later into a mania and may he be half crazed, and not entirely responsible?”

“If that is so, he has no business to be at large,” Stone said. “I think Mr. Bailey, we must renew our efforts to locate this man. If we can have a stronger and better guard on this house I will go down to New York to-morrow and put some agents on the job.”

“Without meaning to be offensive, Mr. Stone,” Duke said, “I can’t see that you are doing any real good by staying here.”

But Fleming Stone was not to be drawn by this young whipper-snapper.

“I know you don’t, Mr. Duke,” he said, with a slight smile. “But that’s because you don’t know what I am doing. I can’t tell you, either at present. But rest assured, young man, I’m far from idle.”

“Sounds well,” said Duke with a burst of loud laughter.

Yet Stone refused to take offense, and merely looked at him with a half smile and a half frown of reproach.

Duke studied the face of the detective, then turned to Whitney.

“I suppose you are in the know,” he said.

“Oh, yes,” said Whitney, smiling, too, “Oh, my, yes!”

“That’s right,” Stone nodded approval. “Some day, Duke, you’ll know all about it.”

Chapter 12
Where Is John Kennedy?

Whitney’s assertion that he was “in the know” was airy persiflage. He said it on general principle of backing up Stone, and he was uncertain whether he did right or not.

But Stone reassured him, and then proved his confidence in the young man by going off to New York and leaving him in full charge of the case.

Of course, the police were officially in charge, but this second murder had simply paralyzed them. Both Hunter and Hale were at the end of their rope and though assistance had been sent from Hartford, no one seemed able to cope with the appalling circumstances.

The death of Mrs. Owen Bailey was adjudged to have been in error. All concerned agreed that the fatal blow had been meant for Owen Bailey himself.

But the death of young Mrs. Bailey put a different aspect on the case. She could not have been mistaken for her husband. Who ever killed her knew what he was doing. And the means and manner of her death were so horrible, so inhuman, that the whole countryside was stirred to the fighting point.

But there was no one to fight. Had there been a hint of suspicion against any known person, he would have been mobbed and lynched by the crowd.

Nor was the excitement confined to the neighborhood of Canterbury Ledge. The papers were, of course, full of the story, and reporters beset Cricklemere in droves.

The elder members of the household refused to see them, but Parke and Lolly were always ready to be interviewed, and to be photographed. Lolly was compiling an enormous scrap book of pictures, some of which, especially the landscapes, were really lovely.

The police were doing all they could, but though their efforts were untiring the results were pitifully meager.

They searched the house continually, in relays, until the Baileys, who had been really patient, began to revolt.

“I don’t so much mind going to my room, and finding a couple of detectives turning out the drawers of my chiffonier once more,” Duke growled, “but I am tired of their messing over Martha’s dainty belongings. They’ve worn out her manicure case and as to her lingerie, it’s in tatters from their pawing at it.”

“It’s a shame,” Lolly agreed. “I’m going to confiscate all her best duds. Can I have them, Duke?”

“Yes, so far as I’m concerned. But those detectives will be after you, if so much as a brassiere is missing.”

The armor on the stairs was repeatedly taken to pieces and put together again. Parke was usually called upon to do the putting together, as he understood Max better than strangers could.

The searching, Duke declared, was ad libitum and ad nauseam. Every bedroom, from Owen Bailey’s, down to the humblest scullery maid’s was raked over time and again.

“There ought to be a closed season for searching,” Parke complained. “I’m not suspected, yet they can’t let my things alone a whole day at a time.”

Yet everybody in the house was suspected.

When by themselves, the police detectives were loud in their insistence that the murderer was one of the family or servants or guests.

They suspected Owen Bailey Sr. and Owen Duke Bailey Jr. They hinted at the two younger children. They were loud in denunciation of Miss Burt, who was adjudged a virago and a termagant. They also suspected Mr. Sheridan, because a partner was a logical suspect.

For the same reason, Fuller came in for their doubts. A butler was, in the story books, frequently the villain, and Fuller was mysterious enough for anybody.

Mrs. Cooper, too, was adjudged a suspicious character, for the simple reason that she was the least likely one to suspect.

But all these theories were based entirely on imagination. Not a shred of individual evidence was forthcoming against anybody at all.

The dagger was tangible evidence, so were the great steel gauntlets, but against whom?

The sandpaper, shoe button, cough lozenge, all were clews, but were by no means positively accusing.

The aluminum strips, were definite enough as clews, but they pointed nowhere in particular.

And so the desultory investigation went on. Several days passed.

Martha’s funeral, a small, sad function, was held at the house, the searchers taking a few hours’ vacation from their labors.

The preliminary inquiries had been dragged through, and a definite and final inquest on both murders was set for Saturday, nearly a week after the Sunday morning when Martha’s death was discovered.

Fleming Stone had gone to New York on Monday, and was still there, it now being Friday afternoon.

The family had relapsed into a grim silence. When together, which was not often, they tried to keep up a forced conversation, but it was a ghastly failure.

Owen Bailey honestly endeavored to entertain his children and guests, but his attempts were met with scorn from the children and indifference on the part of Marigold Burt and Albert Sheridan.

Duke was usually in a definitely bad temper. He snapped at any one who spoke to him, and turned away from any word of sympathy or affection from any one.

Neighbors ventured to call occasionally, but few repeated the experiment.

Lolly and Parke, however, were not so gloomy as the rest.

Always avid of new experiences, they took deep interest in all the proceedings, followed the detectives as they searched, chatted with the guards at the gates, and even made friends with the surly sheriff and morose coroner.

And the reporters they considered their especial property. Indeed, the representatives of the press soon learned that, although the boy kid was fairly reliable, the girl kid would make up or exaggerate stories for the purpose of impressing her audience.

No more anonymous letters had arrived, and Duke opined that there would therefore be no further tragedy.

But his father shook his head, saying they would never let up until he himself had paid the supreme penalty.

He had explained to his sons the reason for John Kennedy’s enmity, and said further, that he had no doubt that shell shock or other war disaster, had rendered his brain irresponsible, and time and brooding had turned him into a homicidal maniac.

“But where is he, Dad?” asked Parke. “I agree with all you say, and I feel sure it must be Kennedy at the bottom of all this, but how does he manage it?”

“Of course, I don’t know that, my boy,” Owen answered, wearily, as one who is worn out wondering, “but as Mr. Stone says, these murders are the work of a diabolically clever criminal. They say a cunning brain and a callous heart can accomplish miracles of crime. If you boys want me to, I will go away. You hinted at it, Duke.”

“I know I did. But I didn’t really mean it. I don’t suppose, it would help you any. Personally, I don’t believe any more tragedies will happen.”

“Except to me,” said his father. “John Kennedy will never rest till he gets me. I am not pessimistic, I merely face the outlook. Mr. Stone thinks he can save me, but I confess I can’t see any reason for his opinion.”

“Nor I,” agreed Duke.

“Hold on there,” Parke put in. “That Stone chap is nobody’s fool. Just because he doesn’t blat out all he knows, you needn’t think he is ignorant or idle. Give him his chance.”

“I am doing so,” Owen returned. “But it’s all wearing on me. Now to-morrow’s the inquest. That’s an awful ordeal.”

“Oh, don’t feel so sorry for yourself, Dad,” Duke looked at him coldly. “There are others who feel these things just as keenly as you do. More so, perhaps. It’s going to ruin my career.”

Owen Bailey might have asked his son just what his career was, but he knew such a question would bring down vials of sarcastic wrath on his head, and he didn’t feel like any further contention.

“Me, too,” Parke said. “How can I go back to school as the son of the house of the Bailey murders. Why, the case is nation wide. The reporters say it’s on the front page from Maine to California.”

“It’ll be on again when I’m attacked,” Owen Bailey said, bitterly.

“Oh, you’re not such a national hero,” Duke scoffed. “You’re rich, and when that’s said, all’s said. Mother’s and Martha’s deaths were more important than yours can ever be.”

“Shut up, Duke,” exclaimed Parke, who often enough ballyragged his father himself, but hated to hear the others do it.

“It’s true enough,” Owen said. “I am practically a failure, except in the matter of making money. Well, it will all go to you boys soon, you two and Lolly.”

“Here comes Mr. Stone,” cried Duke, glad of a diversion. He was ashamed of his outbreak, but had no intention of admitting that.

Stone came into the study, where the three Bailey men sat, and greeted them cheerily.

“Find out anything, Mr. Stone? Anything of any importance?” asked Duke.

His words were decent enough but his sneering face was so offending that Stone couldn’t resist a whack at him.

“Oh, yes, Mr. Duke, but not for curiosity seekers. I report only to Mr. Bailey, Senior.”

Owen Bailey was about to protest that he was willing his sons should hear any news there was to be told, but a quick glance from Stone made him pause and he said nothing.

Duke, rather stunned by this overt act of Stone’s left the room in a huff, and Parke, too, faded away.

“There’s not so much to tell, Mr. Bailey,” Stone said, sitting down beside him, “but the reporters get so much from your children, I think we’d better be careful. As to the handwriting, first. I saw the experts, two experts, in fact, to make sure. They agreed that the writing of these lately received letters have characteristics that show in both Kennedy’s and Dunbar’s writing. Of course, it must be remembered that the letters from the two men, which you provided, were written ten years ago, and these notes were written lately. But the strange fact remains that definite peculiarities of both men’s penmanship show in these later notes.”

“I’m no expert,” Owen Bailey said, “but I noticed that to a small extent. For instance, Kennedy always made very large capital letters, and so does my present correspondent. Again, Dunbar had a way of separating a word in the middle, and that, too, is the case in these notes.”

“Yes, that’s just what I mean. And a professional graphologist, of course, found more such points. Now, what can we deduce from that?”

“I don’t know, Mr. Stone, I haven’t the analytical mind at all.”

“Did these two men know one another?”

“Oh, yes, very well. A long time ago.”

“Did each know the other was your enemy?”

“They did.”

“Then, I think, Mr. Bailey, that one of these two men wrote these anonymous notes, and purposely introduced the effects of the other’s handwriting in an attempt to put you on the wrong track.”

“You mean, that,—say it was Kennedy’s work,— that he used letter formations like Dunbar on purpose?”

“Just that. Is it not possible?”

“Quite possible. But I don’t see how you thought of that.” Bailey looked his admiration.

“It is obvious, I think. And the points that are apparently copied are salient peculiarities easily noticed. Of the lesser and more obscure characteristics none is visible.”

“Then, to which man do you ascribe the letters?”

“The two experts agreed, independently, on Kennedy. They seemed to have no doubt about it.”

“I thought so,” and Bailey drew a deep sigh. “You remember I told you I’d rather fight a brave big-game hunter, like Dunbar, than a poisonous snake in the grass like Kennedy.”

“Yes, but it is, in a way, a relief to know which one we have to look for.”

“In a way, yes,” Bailey smiled grimly, “but what a way!”

“Then,” Stone went on, “I turned my attention to the hunting of Kennedy. Everything goes to show the man is dead. The war records, hospital records and vital statistics all show that as a fact.”

“All the same, it isn’t a fact,” Bailey said, earnestly. “You know yourself how the records have been mistaken, and you know men have been reported dead and turned up alive, years later. I should indeed rejoice to know that John Kennedy is dead, but I can’t believe on the evidence of records. Then, too, these letters seem to me to argue the man very much alive.”

“Then where is he?”

“Mr. Stone, that proves his devilish cunning. And it is not normal cunning, but the warped and distorted cunning of an unbalanced mind. Kennedy, sane, was bad enough, but Kennedy, shell-shocked, half-demented, crazed by his obsession of revenge, is a desperate factor to deal with. I don’t know where he is, but I know he will never be found until he has accomplished my death, and probably not then. And, meanwhile, is he to attack more of my loved ones?”

The man’s face was pitiable. Stone looked with deepest compassion on the grief stricken features, and rising, said:

“I will redouble my exertions, Mr. Bailey. I will devote my best efforts, my very life itself to this case. And I shall solve its mystery.”

Without another word, he left the study and went up to his own room, pausing on the way to tell Fuller to send Mr. Whitney to him as soon as he arrived.

It was nearly dark now, and as Stone snapped on the electric lights of his bright, cheerful room, he wondered why the dire shadow of tragedy must enfold a home like this.

By the time he had freshened himself after his journey, Whitney appeared, smiling and eager, as always.

“Any news?” he burst out, as Stone gave him a chair and a cigar.

“Not much, but I thought we’d chat up here this time. I’m getting afraid of eavesdroppers. What do you know?”

Whitney hastily recounted the proceedings of the police and the detectives, and Stone told him about the graphology experts.

“So, it’s Kennedy,” Whitney mused.

“Looks so,” Stone agreed, “but after all, it makes little difference who it is if we can’t catch him.”

“Have you no hope of catching him?”

“Hope, yes. That’s what I ain’t got nothin’ else but! But hope doesn’t go far.”

“What else you got?” the younger detective smiled.

“Energy and perseverance, that’s about all.”

“Are they going to be enough?”

“I think so—”

“I knew it!” almost shouted Whitney. “I was certain—”

“For Heaven’s sake don’t yell so! Didn’t I bring you up here to keep things quiet? And then you raise the roof!”

“Excuse it, please! But I’m so bucked at what you say.”

“I haven’t said anything yet.”

“But you’re going to. Out with it!”

“You’re on the wrong track, Whitney. I haven’t any revelation to make.”

“You have a suspect!”

“I have, but I have no evidence, no clews, no reasons, no right to my suspect. And, too, the mere thought I have in my mind is so vague, so nebulous that it isn’t susceptible of proof, it isn’t even definite enough to put into words. It is just a fiendish, beastly proposition, that—oh, it can’t be true!”

“All of which sounds as if you were coming round to Miss Burt, who is, by the way, the favorite with our revered coroner. What he won’t do to her to-morrow on the witness stand!”

“Doesn’t Friend Hunter favor the lady?”

“Nix. He’s gunning for the boy.”


“Yep . . . Says he’s the only one on the premises who knows how to disjoint that tin woodman.”

“Oh, pshaw, I could do it myself.”

“Well, you’re not really a suspect, you know.”

“I suppose not, though I’d be as likely a one as Parke. The kid hasn’t it in him. He’s just a boy.”

“Don’t argue with me, I don’t suspect Parke.”

“Whom do you suspect?”

“Oh, like you, my suspicion is too terrible to put into words!”

The gleam in Whitney’s bright eyes told Stone this was merely guying him, and not a sincere statement. “Honest, Whitney, who’s your man?”

“Well, Fuller, then.”

“You’re wrong. Fuller isn’t in on this deal.”

“But the money. He wants cash badly. He wants to retire,—he has arterio-sclerosis coming on, and he wants to get a little place in the country and settle down.

“All right, but why did he do in Mrs. Duke, also?”

“She must have known of his guilt. She saw him, or heard him, and he feared her. He had opportunity to slip up to her room Sunday morning, when everybody slept late.”

“Well, well, you may be right, but you’ve no real evidence, any more than any one else has.”

“Anyway, it rests between him and Miss Burt. I don’t believe in this mythical Kennedy.”

“What about the letters?”

“You know, I think those experts are the bunk. They get a point or two, and then make up a fairy tale to fit it.”

“There’s more truth than poetry in that, Whitney. Now, clear out, will you, I have to dress for dinner.”

Half an hour later, Fleming Stone went downstairs, the picture of a well groomed, well mannered gentleman, without a care in the world.

The absence of the lady of the house, in no way interfered with the domestic arrangements at Cricklemere. Although Blandena was gone, Fuller and Mrs. Cooper carried on in the accustomed routine, and the table was as carefully appointed, the flowers as beautifully arranged as when the mistress presided.

Everybody dressed for dinner, it had never occurred to them to change their customs because of the changed household.

Stone went into the living room, where cocktails were being served by the Earl of Northumberland and one of his courtiers. Though the courtier, being shy by nature, was not scoring the same success as his superior.

Stone took a seat by Marigold Burt, and asked her regarding her health.

As he had foreseen, she launched into a detailed description of her nerves and nervousness, and, also as he had foreseen, he picked up a grain or two of information regarding the Baileys in general.

“Where’s Mr. Sheridan?” Stone asked, looking around. “And Parke?”

“I don’t know,” Marigold returned, disinterestedly. “Mr. Sheridan was out walking in the grounds, and came in late. Parke is often late.”

Sheridan showed up, and at Fuller’s announcement, they went out to dinner, not waiting for Parke.

“I don’t see why that kid must be always late,” Duke grumbled, and Lolly said, pertly, “What’s it to you?”

“None of your business,” retorted her brother. “Lolly always resents an inferred aspersion on Parke,” said Owen Bailey with a smile.

“Now, Father,” Lolly cried, in an exasperated tone, “I’ve told you and told you not to say inferred when you mean implied. You know better—”

“Quit it, Lolly,” said Duke, scowling at her. “If you must play schoolmarm to Dad, don’t do it at the table!”

“I’ll do what I like where I like!” the girl declared, not a bit ruffled at Duke’s reproof. “I say, I wonder where Parke can be. Is he in his room, Fuller?”

“I don’t know, Miss Lolly. Shall I go and see?”

“Go to see, Fuller, don’t go and see. Yes, go, anyway.”

The butler went and returned with the word that Parke was not in his room nor anywhere in the house, so far as he could say.

Lolly jumped up from the table and ran all over the house, calling, “Parke, Parke,” but received no reply.

“Queer,” Duke said. “Must be over to the Lawrences.”

“He wouldn’t be allowed to go there,” Lolly rejoined. “I’m going out to see the guards.

She was gone some time, and returned looking white and scared.

“They saw him cross the lawn about six o’clock,” she said, “but they haven’t seen him since. They don’t know where he is. He hasn’t left the grounds, for the guards are at both gates. Oh, I know he’s out there somewhere, dead!”

She ran to her father’s side, and he put an arm round her, while she sobbed on his shoulder.

“Let up, Lolly,” Duke said, harshly. “Don’t be a little fool. Parke’s all right—”

“Where is he, then?”

“He’ll turn up. Eat your dinner.”

But the boy didn’t turn up, that night nor the next day, nor the next.

No trace was found of him, that night, no word was heard of him, after the guards saw him walk across the lawn at six o’clock.


Chapter 13
What In The World Has Become Of Parke?

The meal continued in a depressing silence.

Fuller brought a chair for Lolly next her father and she sat close beside him, eating no more of Mrs. Cooper’s delicious viands.

Owen Bailey wanted no more to eat, either, though the others proceeded with the menu.

“Come on, Dad,” urged Lolly, as the dessert was finished, “let’s go out and look for him.”

“Yes, child, we will. Fuller get us some flashlights.”

“One for me,” said Stone, and, equipped, the three started out.

“No use my going,” Duke said, half apologetically, “you won’t need me.”

“You wouldn’t come if we did,” Lolly flung over her shoulder, in scorn.

They went first to the policeman at the front gate. He had been there since four in the afternoon, and he declared he had seen no sign of Mr. Parke Bailey, after he saw him stroll across the lawn about six o’clock.

He was sure the boy had not gone out of the gate he was guarding and he was equally positive he had not returned across the lawn.

“Yet you could not see him, if he had,” Stone said, “it would be too dark.”

“No, I have cats’ eyes,” the man said, with a faint smile. “I can see good after I get accustomed to the darkness. I’m sure he didn’t pass me but the once.”

“Oh, well, he strolled around by the lake and back to the house that way,” Stone suggested.

“Belike, sir,” returned the anxious guard. “Go you around that way.”

They walked back around by the lake, a peaceful sheet of ice now, but black, not silvery, for the moon had not yet risen.

“Go faster, Father,” urged Lolly. “I’m freezing, I didn’t know it was so cold.”

“Partly because you’re nervous and alarmed, dear,” her father said. “You run back to the house, Mr. Stone and I will search the place.”

“No, no, I have to stay, too. But walk quickly. I can tell if there’s any sign of Parke.”

“How can you tell?” asked Stone, curiously.

“Oh, I don’t know. But I’ll sort of sense his nearness, —if we find him.”

They neared the garage as they hastened along, and saw the door was open.

“The cars are gone,” Lolly said. “Both cars! Where are they, Dad?”

“I don’t know, Lolly. Where is Wyatt?”

“At his supper, most likely,” said the girl, absently. “But the cars, where can they be?”

“It can’t be that Wyatt is at his supper and the big car gone,” said Bailey, in a puzzled tone. “It’s his night off, he must have taken the car and gone to the pictures.”

“Is he allowed to do that?” asked Stone, a little surprised.

“No,” Bailey said, “but with things as they are at the house, the chauffeurs do pretty much as they like.”

“You have more than one chauffeur, then?”

“Two, but Booth is subordinate. Wyatt is most reliable and trustworthy.”

“Then might Booth have gone off with the second car?”

“No. The second car is Parke’s own car. Duke has one in town, but he doesn’t bring it up here. Parke never allows anybody to drive his car but himself. He is very choice of it.”

“Very,” repeated Lolly. “If Parke’s car is out, Parke is in it.”

“That’s it,” exclaimed Bailey. “The boy has gone for a spin. He has eluded the guards in some way, and got out under cover of the darkness. He’ll come home soon.”

“I don’t know,” Lolly demurred. “Let’s go to Wyatt’s house and see him.”

The chauffeur lived in a small cottage on the grounds, with his mother.

The mother was at home, but she said Wyatt had gone to the movies.

“Mr. Parke told him he might go,” the woman said. “It’s all right, isn’t it, Mr. Bailey?”

“Oh, yes, yes, Mrs. Wyatt, that’s all right, but we’re wondering where Mr. Parke is. Have you seen him?”

“No sir. Dick came running in here about six o’clock and said he wanted a bite to eat quick, ’cause he had the evening off with the car. He took his girl I expect.”

“That was six o’clock?” asked Stone.

“Or a bit later, sir. Has Mr. Parke taken his car, sir?”

“Yes,—at least it isn’t in the garage.”

“Then he took it, sir. Nobody ever takes Mr. Parke’s car but himself.”

“Oh, well,” Stone said, “then he’s all right. He’ll come back soon.”

But as they turned away, each felt a doubt as to whether this prediction would be fulfilled.

They went on toward the rear gate of the place. Although not walled all round, Cricklemere had many stretches of wall and also lengths of hedge. But there were also many wide openings and unwalled spaces, where a car could get out of the place without going by the main road.

At the rear gate, the tradesmen’s and servants’ entrance, they spoke to the man on guard there.

“I saw Mr. Parke, yes, sir. ’Long about six or a bit after. He was crossing the big lawn at a pretty good clip.”

“Headed for the garage?” asked Bailey.

“Going that way, yes, sir. I just saw him scoot by, that’s all. It was dark then, and it got darker fast, so I didn’t see him again. I don’t know when he went back to the house.”

“He hasn’t come back to the house at all.”

“Where is he, then?” the man turned a startled gaze at Parke’s father.

“We don’t know,” Stone put in, deeming it wise to let the policeman know the truth.

“But where can he be?”

“His car is gone,” Stone said, “could he get out without your knowledge?”

“Have you asked Niles, at the front gate?”

“Yes, he hasn’t seen him in his car at all.”

“Nor I didn’t, neither. But that lad could do it. He could sneak round by the lake shore, the banks are so high there we wouldn’t see him.”

“But wouldn’t you hear his car?”

“Wouldn’t notice it if I did. There’s dozens of cars comin’ and goin’ all the time. ’Course, most of ’em we don’t let in, but I mean we wouldn’t notice the sound of a car. I’d think Niles would tend to it, and he’d think I would.”

“Well, we’ll go back to the house. Keep your eye out for Mr. Parke’s car and if he drives it in himself, tell him to hurry to the house, we’re anxious about him.”

“Yes, sir. I will, sir.”

The three, very cold now, went back quickly to the house and sat down in front of the blazing log fire in the living room.

They gave their report, and little was said. It seemed absurd to fear anything sinister, just because Parke had taken his car out without letting the guards know it,—it was just like his daredevil ways.

After getting warmed, Lolly rose and left the room, going slowly upstairs.

“Poor child,” said Marigold, “she’s alarmed. I guess I’ll go up and comfort her.”

“You let her alone, George!” roared Duke. “Don’t you go near Lolly to-night. She doesn’t want you.”

“No, Marigold,” Owen said, “the child is all upset over Parke’s absence. Leave her to herself for a while, anyway.”

But in a moment more, Lolly came running down the stairs.

“I told you so!” she sobbed, and going straight to Fleming Stone, she handed him a strip of stamped aluminum, the duplicate of those they had found after the two tragic deaths.

“He’s dead!” she wailed. “Parke is dead. They got him somehow, and took him away. If he isn’t dead, he’s kidnaped, and that’s just as bad.”

“No, dear,” her father tried to soothe her. “They couldn’t kidnap Parke! He’s too smart for that.”

“Then where did that thing come from?” she demanded. “See, just the same exactly. ‘Vengeance is Mine’ just like the others. If it isn’t an act of vengeance, where did that thing come from?”

“It looks bad,” Albert Sheridan said. “You must call the police, Owen.”

Bailey buried his face in his hands.

“You do it, Albert, or you, Duke. I can’t stand another blow like this. Parke, my boy! Where are you?”

“Now, Owen,” Miss Burt went and sat by him, and tried to take his hand.

This was the last straw, and Bailey jerked his hand away and actually glared at her.

Then recollecting himself, he said:

“Forgive me, Marigold, but I am not quite myself. This new trouble has stunned me.”

“Maybe it’s no trouble at all,” she said, brightly. “Maybe Parke will come in soon, all hungry for his dinner.”

“Then did you put that lettered thing in his room?” demanded Lolly, stormily. “It lay on top of his chiffonier, just as the others did.”

“There is no doubt my boy’s disappearance is the work of the same man or men who are responsible for the other tragedies,” Bailey said, solemnly. “I am beginning to think it may be a gang, more than one person, I mean. Perhaps,” he looked at Stone, “perhaps Kennedy and Dunbar joined forces.”

“Don’t try to puzzle it out now, Mr. Bailey,” Stone advised. “The police will be here soon. Keep your nerve and be ready to tell them coherently all you or we know about it.”

They came.

Constable Leary and the sheriff this time.

Owen Bailey had obeyed Stone’s kindly advice, and greeted the men with composure.

He told them in as few words as possible that Parke was unaccountably missing.

“I should not feel so alarmed,” he went on, “except that my daughter discovered on the boy’s bureau a metal strip just like those that accompanied the deaths of my wife and daughter-in-law.”

“Another of them things!” exclaimed Hunter. “By golly, that looks bad! Wasn’t that young man supposed to stay on these premises?”

“Yes, and it may be that he did, so far as he was able. I mean it may be that he was carried off or lured away by the enemies that have already struck at my family.”

“Not lured away,” and Hunter shook his head. “No luring for Master Parke! And again, not likely he was carried off. He’d put up a hell of a fight. But chloroformed, mebbe—”

“Oh, hush!” Lolly cried, in desperation. “If you know what happened, tell it, but don’t run over a list of horrors just for the enjoyment of it!”

“Why, why, Miss Lolly,” the sheriff was honestly sorry, “now you know we got to think this thing out.” Lolly ran out of the room, crying bitterly.

This time Miss Burt followed her, and as Lolly entered her own room, Marigold slipped in too, flashed on the lights, and bustled about, talking rapidly.

“Now, dearie, you mustn’t give way like this. I don’t believe anything dreadful has happened to Parke, he can take care of himself.”

“Where is he, then?”

“Gone for a ride. He tired of hanging around in the house, and who can blame him? Shall I telephone over to the Lawrences’ and see if he’s there?”

“Mercy, no. Do talk sense, George, if you have to talk at all. I wish you’d clear out.”

“Oh, now, now, don’t be snippy. You know—”

“George, who is doing all these terrible things? Sometimes I have thought you had good sense and judgment. If you have prove it now. Tell me, honestly what you think about it all.”

“I think it’s Fuller,” said Marigold Burt, slowly. She stared at Lolly with her gray deep-set eyes. “He’s a queer Dick, always has been. He wanted his legacy from your mother, and I don’t know about Martha, but he must have had his reasons. Now, of course, he can’t be connected with Parke’s disappearance, and that’s why I say there’s nothing wrong with Parke. It was absurd to call the police in, when the boy hasn’t been gone two hours!”

“Yes, it’s more than that, but then, there was the ‘Vengeance’ strip. Who put that in Parke’s room?”

“Fuller, may be. If he’s the murderer, he has a lot of those silly strips and he put one in Parke’s room to stir things up.”

“That’s nonsense. And, besides, Fuller was in the dining room all the time.”

“Oh, not all the time. He was in and out. He could have run up to Parke’s room half a dozen times if he had wanted to, and nobody would have noticed.

“Yes, that’s so. Hark, who’s downstairs? Oh, it’s Wyatt! I’m going down.”

Lolly was out of her room and half way downstairs, before Marigold could pull herself together and follow.

She reached the living room, to find Lolly questioning the chauffeur.

“Answer me, Wyatt,” she was saying imperiously.

“Never mind anybody else. Did Mr. Parke tell you you could take the big car out?”

“He did, Miss Lolly. He came to the garage, and he said, ‘Wyatt, of course we shan’t need you this evening, take the big car and go to the village. Go to the movies and take your girl, if you like. Here’s the price of your tickets. He gave me two dollars, and then he walked off.”

“In a hurry?” asked Hunter.

“Not in a hurry, exactly, but fairly swift, too. I was that glad to get the treat, I hustled home for a bit of grub, and then I went off.”

“Did you go to your home in the big car?” Lolly asked him.

“Yes, Miss, to save the time going back after it. The show begins at seven, and I had to spruce up a bit.”

“You left Mr. Parke,—where?”

“I dunno, exactly. He turned away, and walked off, and it was pretty dark, and I was getting into the car, so I didn’t really see him again at all.”

“His car was in the garage when you left?”

“Oh, yes, ma’am. He must have come right back and taken it out. Decided to, sudden, I s’pose.”

“He can take his car out by himself, then, without assistance?” Stone inquired.

“Lord, yes, sir. Mr. Parke can do anything with a car, or with a boat.”

“Then, we must assume,” Stone proceeded, “that Parke crossed the lawn at about six, as the guards report. That he gave Wyatt permission to use the big car, that he then took his own car, and disappeared into the night. Now, Wyatt, how could he get out of the grounds without being seen?”

“It wouldn’t be easy, sir, but it could be done. He’d have to go down the ledge to the lake shore, and skirt along, till he could get up on the road again, without being noticed. In the dark, it would be mighty hard, and if he’d had his lights on, or if he’d used a flash, he’d been seen, sure. I don’t see, myself, how he managed, but Mr. Parke is a smart one.”

“I can understand all that,” Owen Bailey said, “Parke is smart enough to elude the guards, but why doesn’t he come home now? He must know we’d be alarmed, and it isn’t like the boy to alarm us. And, besides, what about the metal strip?”

“Could young Parke have done that for a joke?” asked the sheriff.

“No,” cried Lolly, angrily. “Parke isn’t a beast! We are all unruly, ungodly children, but not one of us would do such a low-down trick as that! I’d be sure Parke had just gone for a joy ride, except for that awful thing.”

“Any finger prints on it?” said Leary, who resented being left out of the discussion, as he usually was.

“No,” Hunter told him, with a pitying look. “Criminals don’t leave finger prints anymore, and anyway, this super criminal wouldn’t. Not one of these three alumininum—aluminum messages has shown any finger prints.” Hunter always had trouble with the unfamiliar word.

“Well, sheriff,” Fleming Stone said, “I think there’s no call to set a posse hunting for Parke Bailey, for unless we find his empty car, we must conclude he’s still in it, wherever he is. And the guards at the gates and the two chauffeurs can easily search the grounds for the car. If they don’t find it, we’ll have to conclude it is not on the premises, and we must await further developments.”

“That’s sense, sir,” Hunter agreed. “But I’ll get some state troopers on the job. The moon comes up late, and when it gives light enough, they can squint around a bit. You people here, go to bed and get some rest. You can’t do anything more to-night and to-morrow there’ll be the inquest, you know. Lord I never saw or heard of a case like this! And now that boy gone! But he’ll turn up. They don’t kidnap lively young men like him. Buck up, Mr. Bailey, you’ll see your wild son back soon, I’ll warrant.”

“He isn’t wild,” murmured Owen, resenting any aspersion on the absent boy.

“No, I didn’t mean that. Well, I’ll be getting along. Come on, Leary there’s lots to see to.”

They shuffled awkwardly out, not being versed in the polite exit from room, and Duke drew a long breath of relief.

“Gad!” he said, “if we have to have those creatures here once more, I shall move out.”

“It may be for you, next time,” said Lolly, solemnly, fixing her glittering topaz eyes on her brother. “If the whole family is to be wiped out—”

“Hush up, you little nuisance! Go to bed, can’t you? I believe you’re at the bottom of all this trouble!” Lolly stared at him until he began to wriggle nervously.

“And I believe you are,” she said, in a voice of concentrated hate. “I’ve thought all along, Duke, that you—”

“Oh, shut up, idiot! You make me tired!”

Duke scowled at her, then rose, with a little half laugh, and rang the bell for Fuller.

When that majestic functionary came, Duke ordered whisky and soda, and later, the trays were brought in.

“Wait a moment, Fuller,” Fleming Stone said, as the butler was about to depart, “you are in charge of the house, did you see any one,—any stranger come in while we were at dinner, or shortly before or after?”

“No, sir, no stranger can get to the house.”

“But somebody did, or who left that metal strip in Mr. Parke’s room? You don’t suspect any of the servants of disloyalty, do you, Fuller?”

“No, sir. Oh, no.”

“Yet they are the only ones who could have gone upstairs secretly—”

“They couldn’t, sir. I should have heard them or seen them.”

“Is there no back stairway?”

“Yes, sir, there is, but Mrs. Cooper would have an eye on that.”

“Then no servant could go upstairs unnoticed, except Mrs. Cooper or yourself.”

Without a flicker of an eyelash to show resentment at the implication, Fuller replied: “That is correct, sir.”

“And you didn’t?”

“No, sir.”

“Then she did.”

“No, no!” cried the butler, startled for once out of his calm. “No she never did such a thing!”

“But there’s no other solution. Nobody could go up but you two; you didn’t, therefore, she did.”

“Oh, no, she couldn’t have. And, anyway, the other servants will witness as to that.”

“Quit stalling, Fuller,” Stone said, crisply. “You know you went up just after we sat down to dinner, to see if Mr. Parke was in his room. Miss Lolly sent you up.”

The butler’s jaw dropped.

“I didn’t know you meant that time, sir.”

“I mean any time. If you had wanted to, you could have left an aluminum strip on Mr. Parke’s chiffonier then. And, according to your own story, nobody else had any possible opportunity to do such a thing.”

“But I didn’t—I didn’t!”

“I’m not saying you did, Fuller, but I do say that to clear yourself you’ll have to admit that somebody else could have gone upstairs, unnoticed.”

“It would seem so, sir.” Fuller’s confusion was increasing. “There must have been a moment, when I couldn’t command a view of the staircase—”

“Or else, when Mrs. Cooper couldn’t command the back stairs.”

“Yes, sir. Anyway, it wasn’t me—I, sir.”

“To tell you the truth, Fuller, I don’t think it was. But I do think you know who went upstairs, and you are determined not to tell.”

The red flush that rose on the man’s face, answered this.

“Come clean, now,” Stone advised. “And, unless you do, you will be suspected of knowing more than you should about those metal strips. And that will lead— well, Fuller, you must know to what dreadful suspicions that would lead!”

“But, Mr. Stone,” and Fuller looked honestly troubled, “must I incriminate a fellow servant?”

“Fuller, justice must be done. It is awful to tell on another, but you are not doing it solely to save your own skin. It is a time when truth must be told. Now, it is better for you to tell us, here, than to have it dragged out of you to-morrow at the inquest, as it most certainly will be.”


“Let me help you, Fuller.” Stone’s voice was kindly. “You hesitate to bring in the name of one so young and—”

The expression on the butler’s face proved to the detective that he had surmised rightly. He went on. “You saw Agnes go up the front stairs.”

“Yes,” the word was merely breathed.

Stone, not surprised, realized that Fuller was in love with the beautiful parlor maid.

“What did she go up for?” he asked.

“Her usual trick,” Fuller answered, with a distressed expression. “She goes up whenever she gets the chance, to loll in Mrs. Bailey’s boudoir.”

“I know,” Stone nodded his head, remembering the time he had found her doing just that. “Bad manners, but not a crime. You may go, Fuller.”


Chapter 14
Parke Is Found!

Nobody really suspected Agnes of wrong doing, further than the surreptitious visit to the boudoir. The girl was too lacking in sense they all thought, to have been responsible in any way for the two murders or the disappearance of Parke. Though of such exquisite beauty, the Baileys showed no personal interest in the otherwise unattractive personality. Stone had probed now and then, but had never received the faintest hint that any of the Bailey men were lured by that lovely face.

The fact that Fuller was under the spell, merely corroborated a notion Stone already held. Indeed, he thought, it would be strange if Fuller could see that angelic beauty day after day, and not succumb.

And to look upon Agnes as a possible tool or accomplice, was also out of the question. It ought to be looked into a bit, but Stone felt little curiosity in a quest he felt sure would be futile.

Albert Sheridan was the only one who leaned to the opinion that the dumbbell as she was often called, might be implicated.

But Sheridan knew little of the life of the Baileys. He was at Cricklemere more just at present than he had ever been before in his life. He was running the office almost entirely, for Owen Bailey went down to the city but seldom.

He was allowed to go and come as he chose, for the police knew that his business required his presence, but he had lost interest in his business affairs and declared that unless Sheridan could see to things they could go unseen to.

Duke, a little alarmed lest harm come to the Bailey fortunes remonstrated but his father, though listening courteously, paid no heed to his son’s advice.

Owen Bailey was a broken man. Never robust or athletic, he seemed to have shriveled and shrunken during these days of horror.

One of the more sensational reporters had dubbed Cricklemere Horror House, and the name had clung.

Lolly had asked Doctor Fenn to prescribe for her father, but beyond some simple advice as to diet and rest, Fenn could do nothing.

And now the disappearance of Parke was wearing on him, and Owen Bailey sometimes looked as if his life hung by a thread that might not wait to be severed by an assassin’s knife.

Sheridan chided his partner for taking so serious a view of the boy’s absence. He told Bailey that for a young man to go away in his car, and remain over night was not to be called a “disappearance.”

It was Saturday morning now, and the breakfast table, surrounded only by the three Baileys and their three guests, seemed lonesome and deserted.

Lolly presided at the head of the table, knowing that if she didn’t Marigold would, and she didn’t propose to have that. She would have preferred to sit by her father, but she was determined to hold the reins of household government.

She made Fuller and Cooper come to her for orders, knowing that if George got a foothold, she would soon run the place.

This morning they were all specially gloomy in anticipation of the coming inquest.

“I’m so tired of sheriffs and police and inquests,” Lolly wailed, “I don’t know what to do.”

“You’re lucky not to be a suspect,” Duke told her. “I’ve gathered that they’re going to suspect me next. Innocent me! Do they think I’d kill my darling.”

“You didn’t always darling her when she was alive,” Marigold said, spitefully. “The fights you two used to put up!”

“They meant nothing,” Duke growled, but he said no more.

“Seems to me Parke’s running away tantamount to a confession,” Sheridan observed, in acid tones.

“Oh, come now, Albert, you don’t mean that,” said Owen in his mild way.

“I do mean it, and his leaving the message behind him, proves it, to my mind.”

“Queer sort of mind you’ve got,” Duke flashed at him. “Parke is no more mixed up in this thing than I am, and that is not at all.”

“Come,” Lolly said, rising. “It’s nearly time for the Spanish Inquisition to begin. I mean to give those police a song and dance!”

“Now, Lolly dear,” her father began, but she interrupted him;

“Don’t ‘Lolly dear’ me! I shall do as I please, and you know it, Dad, or ought to know it by this time! Did you ever have any control over me, even in piping times of peace?”

“No,” Owen said, with a show of spirit. “No, I never did, but there was no such reason for it then as there is now.”

“Well, lay off, anyway. It won’t get you anywhere. Come on, everybody.”

Lolly was right, it was time for them to attend the inquest.

The great living room was filled with people, neighbors, reporters, officials and house servants, all seemed to Owen Bailey’s troubled gaze to be mixed in together.

They took the seats reserved for them and the queries began.

Coroner Hale was in his element. Vain and pompous, as many coroners are, he gloried in the fact that at last he was in the limelight, was at the head of the inquest on a great murder case, the greatest case New England had ever known.

His questions were of the cut and dried type. Witnesses were asked as to their vital statistics, their position or business and their knowledge of the Bailey tragedies. As this brought out little of interest and no new information Fleming Stone became very much bored and gave himself up to his own thoughts.

He wished very much he knew where Parke was. He had formed a tentative theory, founded on what seemed to him pure reason. But the strange disappearance of Parke had knocked it out of kilter. That is, if Parke had strangely disappeared. If the boy returned, unharmed, Stone felt he could revive his theory, but if Parke had been—but what could he have been? Kidnaping seemed absurd on the face of it. Accident was supposable, but what sort of accident? If his car had broken down or smashed up, there would be report of it however far away.

The theory that Parke had run away, had plenty to support it. In such case he would have put the misleading metal strip in his room. And if he were the murderer, he would have plenty of those strips.

The strips themselves puzzled Stone deeply. He had examined them over and over again, and come to no conclusion save that they were not new.

He had had his agents punch out similar strips from several machines at the beaches, and invariably the metal was brighter than these in question.

That was in Parke’s favor. The boy surely had not prepared these things some time ago, for future use.

Yet somebody had apparently done so, and that brought his mind back to the man Kennedy.

Clever chap, then. But the murderer was indubitably clever, more than clever. A genius, almost a magician.

And wicked! How could a human being be so lost to all humanity, all decency, as to take lives in that vile and brutal way?

Yet it had been done. Why marvel at the depraved creature that did it? Why not set to work and find him?

The motive must be colossal. Nobody is going to perform such acts of black deviltry save for a compelling reason. No commonplace hatred or ordinary revenge could account for those beastly degrading murders. The murderer must indeed be a monster, a very animal, without a soul.

Stone was roused from his reverie by the sound of an odd voice.

It was the beautiful Agnes, answering the coroner’s questions.

Her voice was monotonous, rather flat and yet with a certain musical quality. Like a xylophone struck only on a few low keys.

She was, apparently, not embarrassed, but entirely disinterested. It all seemed to mean nothing to her, and probably that was just what it did mean to her.

She gazed at Hale with her wonderful violet eyes, but it was an unseeing stare. She answered his queries, clearly and straightforwardly, but with a detached air that made her seem aloof from the scene.

The questions and answers got them exactly nowhere.

Stone kept on watching her, when a light flashed in his brain.

It was as if an unseen hand had pressed a switch, and a flood of light followed.

With some difficulty he controlled his facial expression, his quivering muscles, his throbbing pulses.

Had he solved the mystery? No, there were too many contradictions, too great difficulties. He must watch and wait, warily, craftily,—but, oh, if he should be right!

He looked round the crowd. Everybody was there. The Baileys, their guests, their servants, their neighbors, could it be that one of these sat there now with a black, guilty heart, acting the role of innocence?

Marigold Burt was called next.

“You live here?” the coroner asked, knowing full well the circumstances of her presence there.

“Yes, sir.” Miss Burt fairly simpered in her anxiety to please.

“By whose invitation?”

“My friend, Mrs. Bailey invited me. We were at school together.”

“She asked you to live here?”

“Well, maybe not quite that,—but to make an indefinite visit,—yes, an indefinite visit.” She repeated the phrase as if pleased with it.

“She is clever,” thought Stone, obsessed with his new theory, “but is she super humanly clever? Which is what my suspect must be.”

“And you propose to stay on here?” the coroner prodded.

“Yes, I hope so,” Marigold cast an appealing glance at Owen Bailey, who either did not see it, or feigned not to.

“Mrs. Bailey had grown a bit tired of your presence here, I understand.”

“You understood wrong,” said Marigold, brightly. “Mrs. Bailey, Senior, and I were the dearest friends. We were congenial in every way. She just loved to have me here.”

“No, I know better than that. Mrs. Bailey did not want you here but she knew no way to get rid of you.”

“Why, how you talk!” and Marigold smiled roguishly. “Somebody has been telling you tarradiddles, my dear sir.”

The coroner probed deeper.

“In fact so anxious was the lady of the house to have you go, and so determined were you to stay, that—was there no other way but to kill her?”

Hale shot the question at her, with the amiable intention of flustering, but George didn’t fluster easily.

“Oh, what a bad man!” she cried. “Poor little me! Why, I wouldn’t kill a fly!”

Lolly looked disgusted. She knew Marigold in this mood, and knew it was utterly impossible to get a sensible answer when she chose to affect the simpering innocent.

“Then, what were you doing on the stairs, hiding behind the armor, the night Mrs. Blandena Bailey was stabbed?”

“Oh, my dear man, we’ve been over all that before. What did I tell you the other time?”

“No matter, tell me the truth this time. Remember you are on oath.”

“Ooh! Must I tell the truth, really? Well, then, I was on the stairs waiting for Mr. Owen Bailey to come up.”

“Did he come?”

“No, he must have gone up the other stairs, from his study.”

“Why were you waiting for him?”

“Oh,— you do ask such embarrassing questions. Well, then,—sometimes, I like to see him alone to—to say good-night.”

Owen Bailey, well mannered man though he was, gave utterance to a sound that is colloquially known as a snort.

The coroner, feeling that this witness was a washout, asked her a few more unimportant questions.

But that smothered sound from Owen Bailey had apparently aroused the lady’s ire. She became vituperative, denounced the whole Bailey family, charged them with the murders, jointly and severally, and was so altogether abusive that the coroner dismissed her and advised her to leave the room.

She didn’t do this, but sat muttering and murmuring anathema all round.

Stone, unable to stand more of the inutile procedure rose quietly and went out of the room.

Whitney soon joined him, but the older detective said;

“I thought you’d stick it, boy. We must know what goes on.”

“Yes, but the minutes will tell us. That snail coroner will be days and days on the job.”

“All right,” Stone returned, moodily. “There’s nothing much to do till Parke gets back.”

“Parke will never come back,” said Whitney, solemnly.

“I know it,” returned Stone with equal gravity.

They left the house and walked about in the cold, crisp winter air.

“Nearly Christmas,” Whitney said. “The Baileys were going to have an enormous Christmas party.”

“I know it,” said Stone. “Poor little Lolly is going through deep waters.”

“Yes, she’s all broken up over Parke’s loss. They were like twins, with a sympathy that was almost telepathic.”

“Then why doesn’t she know where the boy is?”

“She says he is dead. She knows it.”

“I daresay he is. Otherwise he’d be back.”

“Not if he’s kidnaped. I think he’s held for ransom.”

“It may be. No use imagining. Are you game for a walk down to the lake? It’s awfully cold down there.”

“Come ahead. I’ll brave it for a time.”

They went down the gentle incline to the shore.

“I thought they were cutting ice,” Whitney said.

“I believe they finished yesterday,” Stone told him. “I heard Duke say the icehouse was filled.”

“A beautiful lake,” and Whitney gazed across the frozen expanse. “Wonderful skating.”

“Yes, or ice-boating. But I’m getting too old for such cold comforts. Let’s go back. I’m restless, Whitney. I can’t help feeling that the secret of this mystery is within my grasp but I can’t get the key to it.”

“That’s the right attitude. All great detectives have that feeling. I never read a story yet, where the sleuth didn’t have that obsession.”

“Go ’way with you! I’m in earnest. I can’t do anything here, I think I’ll go down to New York to-night, and see what I can do about Parke.”

“What can you do?”

“Broadcast it, for one thing. We ought to send a description of Parke and the car all over the country.”

“You can do that from up here. I think, Mr. Stone, you ought to stay here. I’d rather you would, anyway.” So Stone stayed, and he put in a dreary four days while the inquest dragged its slow length along.

No word came from or of Parke.

The Baileys agreeing, Stone had the matter broadcast practically all over the country. But there were no results.

He talked with the two chauffeurs, and learned from them that the matter was a most curious mystery.

“For,” said Wyatt, “if Mr. Parke had gone off of this place in his car, he’d have left a trace behind him.”

“Oh, no,” Stone objected, “the ground is altogether too hard for tire tracks.”

“Not altogether, sir. There’s lots of bits of ice and crusted snow, that would show a print in spots if a car passed over ’em. And, sayin’ he didn’t go out by the road, which, of course, he didn’t, where did he go out? I’ve been over every square foot of ground, not only once but several times, and Booth has, too, and we can’t see how he got out.”

“It’s a mystery,” Stone said.

“Mystery? It’s impossible!”

“But the car did go out! It isn’t here, is it? Well, it didn’t rise up in the air and fly out! So it had to go out on the ground. If it left no trace, that’s as I said, because of the hard ground.”

“Excuse me, sir, for bein’ so obstinate, but I’m a chauffeur, sir, and I know a lot about tire tracks. Why I can show you the tracks of every delivery car that comes here, on the road, or cross lots, as some of ’em do come. And I know the tracks of your car, and Mr. Sheridan’s car, and all the neighbors’ cars. And I can show you where lots of these cars have made spotty busted marks on the crusted snow, and on the ice, too. But is there a smitch of a trace of Mr. Parke’s car? There is not! That’s why I say it’s impossible, yet, there it is.”

Stone was impressed by Wyatt’s positive assertions, for he knew of his integrity and reliability.

“What are these great, deep ruts?” Stone asked, as he noticed them, leading away from the garage and down toward the lake.

“The ice wagons, sir,” Wyatt told him. “We cut enough ice for the icehouse here, and if there’s some left over, the ice men come and get it.”

“They’re not cutting now.”

“No, sir, done for the season. Well, Mr. Stone, you think over this car matter. I’m not making up fairy tales, sir. It’s God’s truth, that lad couldn’t get off this place, one way or another, without leaving a tire mark somewhere. And there’s been no snow to cover ’em up. And there’s been no sun to melt ’em. A little pale sunshine, but this cold snap discounts that and every track put here for the last week, is here now. Take it from me, Mr. Parke didn’t go out of these grounds, ’cause why? ’Cause he couldn’t, lessen he left his mark. And did he leave his mark? He did not!”

Stone told the chauffeur he would give most careful thought to all he had said, and bade him hunt still more assiduously for some prints, made by Parke.

“What type was his car?” he inquired, as he left the garage.

“A closed sedan, sir. Nice and warm he would be, no danger of freezing to death. And the car was in spick and span order, I always see to it myself.”

“All right, Wyatt, I’ll think it over.”

“A fine thing to think over!” he told himself, bitterly. “What can I think but that a roc flew down and grabbed up car and all!”

Yet the very next morning he revised his own suggestion of a roc.

He was sitting at the breakfast table, though he had finished his meal.

The others were there, all brooding and distrait. They had given up all semblance of polite conversation and often allowed long silences, which were wearing to the nerves, but perhaps better than the acrimonious talk they sometimes had instead.

Fuller brought a card to Stone, who looked at it with some amusement.

It was a cheap white card, with a name written on it in florid, ornate penmanship.

The name was Mr. James Paddock.

“Hello, it’s me,” Jimmy Paddock, announced, as Stone entered the library, where the boy had been told to wait.

“So I see,” agreed Stone, rather welcoming the sight of some one he could smile at. “What can I do for you?”

“Huh, I’m going to do something for you.”

“Fine, go ahead.”

“Well, Mr. Stone, I think I know where Parke Bailey is.”

“What!” Stone rose and closed the door. “Speak softly, Jimmy, until I know more about this thing.”

“Yes sir. Well, I’ve had a notion ever since he got lost that maybe—oh I s’pose there’s no sense to it. It’s going to sound silly when I tell it.”

“Rather go outside? In the open air?”

“Oh, yes, sir. Lot’s rather.”

Stone fetched his hat and coat, and the two went out the French window of the library, through the covered terrace, and Jimmy led their steps down toward the lake.

“Not really, Jimmy!” said Stone, looking curiously at the frozen surface ahead of them.

“Lemme tell you, Mr. Stone.”

“Yes, go ahead.”

“Well, I couldn’t get it outa my mind that the ice cutters was here that day for the last time. And they always go off, leaving a big open hole, of course. Well, sir, if Parke had,—if he had, in any way, gone down that hole car and all, it would have friz over again that night, —it was way below Zero you know,—and nobody would ever know.”

“Yes, but why—how—”

“Now. you wait a minute. Ever since that night, last Friday night it was, and now it’s Thursday morning, I been a watching this ice cuttin’ place every chanct I could get. And I was lucky that way, ’cause Doc Hale, he’s so het up with that inquest performance he don’t give me no work to do, while he’s performin’.”

They had reached the edge of the lake now, and Jimmy pointed to the faint discernible square which he said was the newly frozen over hole which the ice cut had made.

“Well, go on,” Stone said, not knowing whether to laugh at the boy or listen to him.

“You see,” Jimmy went on, earnestly, “I knew that if Parke’s car was down there, it’d show up.”

“Show up? What do you mean?”

“Just this. If a car is down there under the ice, it’s going to let some engine oil bubble up and sooner or later it’ll show. Well, sir, I waited, and—here’s her oil bubbles!”

Stone followed the pointing finger and saw clearly the dark stains on the ice patch.

“Are you sure?” he asked, his voice tense with excitement, “I mean sure of what this means?”

“Yes, sure. Now, it’s up to you to prove it.”

“Go and get Wyatt and Booth,” Stone directed, “and one of the police who are standing about.”

This was soon done, and when a hole was cut out in the ice and the spot explored with long poles and weighted ropes, they found something there which they concluded might be a car.

Stone concluded not to interrupt the inquest. He went back to the house and saw Duke and his father alone.

The Bailey men were frankly incredulous, but agreed that the matter must be investigated.

“It’s not a car down there,” Owen said. “That oil is from the ice cutters’ machinery, but all the same we must see about it.”

They went back to the lake, and Mr. Bailey directed that a derrick be obtained with all haste possible.

The delay in getting the derrick was nerve racking, and Stone wondered if the ramifications of this terrible case would ever end.

At any rate, if it should be Parke’s car down there, Wyatt’s opinion would be vindicated, for no tire tracks could be seen in among the great ruts made by the ice trucks.

At last the derrick arrived, and was put to use.

Slowly it worked but at last a car was brought to the surface.

It was Parke’s car, and in it sat the boy, frozen stiff, having been at the bottom of the lake, which was thirty-five feet deep at that spot, for nearly a week.

A doctor was summoned from the house, but his ministrations were addressed to Owen Bailey and not to the dead boy.

Examination proved that the emergency brake of the car was jammed on tight. It was evident Park had driven out on the lake after the ice cutters had stopped work for the day. Then, seeing open water, or thin ice ahead of him, he jammed on his brakes and stopped the wheels, but not the car, which slid forward like a sled and carried him to the bottom of the lake through the hole the ice cutters had made leaving no trace of what had happened, as the hole rapidly froze over again.


Chapter 15
Lolly and the Veronal

Unable to control his impatience and excitement, Jimmy Paddock ran back to the house to tell the astonishing news to Coroner Hale.

Unheeding murmured reproofs and reproaches, the boy reached Hale’s side and whispered to him.

The coroner’s amazement whetted the curiosity of the audience, and after a moment’s thought, Hale announced the finding of Parke’s car and its gruesome occupant.

Panic ensued.

The coroner could scarcely make his voice heard to adjourn the inquest.

In a moment there was no inquest to adjourn. The entire audience rushed out of doors to see for themselves if this shocking thing could be true.

Coroner Hale himself, knowing his duty, called to the sheriff to follow, and the two men were soon at the lake’s edge.

There was wild confusion, shouting and crowding, until more policemen appeared and reduced the mob to order.

The car, once landed on the thick ice, was easily pushed to the shore, and at last, by order of the coroner, the pathetic body of Parke Bailey was lifted out and carried to the house, where it was laid upon a couch in the library.

Lolly, sobbing hysterically, clung to the frozen corpse, and refused to leave it.

“Get the girl away,” the sheriff blustered, and as the family’s efforts were unavailing, Fleming Stone went to her and whispered, “Come with me, Lolly. I will help you.”

She rose to her feet, looked at him wonderingly, and let him lead her away.

He took her straight to her own room, led her inside, and closed the door behind them both.

“You said you’d help me!” she cried, stormily. “Did you mean it, and how are you going to do it?”

The high pitch of her voice and the staccato utterance proved she was still in the grip of hysteria.

“I can’t help you, my child, until you are more calm. I know it sounds absurd to you, but I’m going to ask you to lie down on your bed and rest a while and quiet your nerves. Then you and I will have a serious talk, which we cannot do now, while you are all on edge.”

He had expected an angry refusal, but to his great surprise, Lolly said;

“You are right, Mr. Stone. I can’t do anything until I quiet down. I will take a dose of veronal and that will make me sleep.”

“Drugs! No, no, child, you mustn’t do that!”

“Nonsense! I often do. Just a mild form,—why, veronal won’t hurt anybody. I have it right here.”

“Where did you get it? You oughtn’t to have such stuff around.”

“Pooh! It won’t hurt me. I’ll just take one teeny-weeny tablet.”

“Where did you get it?” He spoke sternly.

“I won’t tell you, if you’re cross.” Lolly smiled at him, then went quickly into her bathroom, slammed the door shut and locked it.

In a moment she returned, saying triumphantly, “Well, I won out, didn’t I?”

“What a headstrong little piece you are!” Stone exclaimed, sensing the fact that he couldn’t do anything in the matter of the opiate, and he certainly wanted to keep the girl’s friendship and confidence. “Tell me, where did you get it?”

“You harp on that string like a parrot! But it’s no secret. I found it among Mother’s things. She had lots of drugs. Oh, nothing really wicked, but sulphonal and veronal and such things to make her sleep. They’re harmless.”

“Not for a kid like you,” Stone shook his head. “Well, lie down then and have a nap. But don’t take any more of that stuff, will you?”

“No, I won’t. Cross my heart,” and he felt sure she meant it.

He left the room, and went slowly downstairs, uncertain whether he ought to send some one to look after her or not.

But Marigold Burt was so impossible as a nurse, and he didn’t know the servants well enough to choose one.

Surely that dumbbell beauty, would be worse than useless!

Moreover, he was anxious to learn anything he could regarding Parke’s tragic death, and he joined the police crowd, who, with Owen Bailey and Duke, were in the study.

Bailey, who had been looking ill before, was pitiable now. A physical wreck he seemed, his white, haggard face drawn and strained.

He looked up at Stone’s entrance.

“Tell me,” he whispered, in a voice barely audible, “was it an accident, or,—was it—Kennedy?”

“We don’t know yet,” Stone said, gently. “On the face of it, it looks like an accident.”

“Accident nothin’!” the sheriff grunted. “Parke Bailey ain’t the one to have a motor accident in any case. Least of all, would he head out on the lake and steer straight for the hole the ice cutters left, and which was only skimmed over with new ice!”

“No, sir,” Hale agreed. “Not Parke Bailey! He was an expert driver, and a live wire generally. It was no accident,—but it coulda been sooicide.”

“Musta been,” corroborated Hunter. “Couldn’t of been murder, this time.”

“Well, it could,” put in Jimmy Paddock, who, by reason of having discovered the truth, was in high favor, “if Parke had been in his car, near the edge of the lake, say, somebody could have given him a push and sent him scooting over the ice.”

“Well, nobody did, sonny,” Hunter told him, “ ’cause there was nobody round to do that little thing. If any intruder or marooder had busted in here, he woulda been seen by the guards at the gates.”

“Oh, guards at the gates!” Jimmy snorted. “They just look at the driveway. Anybody could sneak in between the bushes or through the hedge! My, land! Guards, is it? This place ain’t guarded no more’n the public highroad!”

“Then,” Duke looked incredulous, “do you mean to say you think somebody murdered Parke? Maybe the same one who did for the rest of the family!”

“May be,” agreed Hale, “that is if it ain’t sooicide. Now, I incline to that theory.”

“Rot!” Duke declared. “Why in the world would a youngster like that commit suicide?”

“He might have,” said Fleming Stone. “I think Parke has been greatly depressed by the two violent deaths in the house, and it worked on his mind so that he became despondent and—”

“No, no!” cried Duke. “He was shocked and excited, —knocked galley-west, in fact,—but despondent, to the extent of doing away with himself, no! A thousand times, no!”

“What do you think, Mr. Bailey?” Stone asked.

The man roused himself a little, looked at Stone with his tired, despairing eyes, and said:

“Oh, I don’t know what to think! I engaged you, Mr. Stone, to do my thinking for me, in these terrible matters. How do I know what to think? Like Duke, I can’t think the boy killed himself, by such horrible means— yet, how could a murderer accomplish the deed? Parke wasn’t the sort to obey unquestioning, the word of a stranger. How could any one have inveigled him out on that patch of thin ice?”

“But he did get out there,” said Stone, thoughtfully. “Somehow or other he did himself drive his car out there. And then, he went down, and the hole froze over again. Now, there are only three explanations; accident, suicide or murder. I incline to the last, because I think Parke was not the sort to take his own life, and I can think of no explanation for an accident. Can anybody?”

“There is none,” Duke said. “Parke was a daredevil, but he was not foolhardy. He might have skated over that patch of thin ice, to see if it would bear him, but I can’t imagine his deliberately going out on it in a car! And yet, the theory of murder is very improbable. How could that have been brought about?”

“It’s hard to say,” Stone mused. “We must assume Parke in his car,—willingly—”

“Why willingly?” Duke demurred. “Why not at the point of a pistol?”

“That could be!” exclaimed Hale, who could not imagine things for himself. “Say Parke was starting off for a bit of a ride, unknown to those bat-blind guards. Say, Mr. Murderer comes up to him, and orders him to head for the lake. Say Parke starts to yell and is shut up—there musta been more’n one against him,—and, well, if he won’t go out on the lake, say they push his car along, him in it and all, and when they get to that shelving beach, they give it a mighty shove, and off she goes!”

“It wouldn’t take such a mighty shove,” said Jim Paddock. “A mere push would do it. And that would explain the brakes. You see the wheels were stopped, but the car slid over the ice—”

“That’s what happened,” declared Hunter, “that’s the only way it could’ve happened. Now, to find the villains that did it!”

“You’ll have to be smarter than you have been so far, to find that out,” jeered Paddock. “Where’s that smart detec of yours? That Whitney feller?”

“That’s so, where is Whitney?” asked Duke.

A few moments later, Whitney appeared.

“It’s the queerest thing,” he declared, looking mystified, “I’ve been searching the grounds, with some troopers and some volunteers from the neighbors’ but we can’t find a trace of anybody having been here, either in a car or on foot.”

“Could you expect to,” asked Stone, “after nearly a week?”

“Well, yes, it hasn’t thawed at all. The ice and snow-crusted roads and fields would take tire tracks, or even footprints and hold them a long time. But it doesn’t matter whether they would or not, there aren’t any,— at least, none that we can find. That brings it back to accident or suicide.”

“Well, find out which it was!” Duke exclaimed. “For Heaven’s sake, do something! What are detectives good for, anyway? I don’t see as Mr. Whitney or Mr. Stone either has done a thing! I have heard that the more violent or bizarre a crime is, the more easy it is of solution. Surely the crimes in this family have been violent enough and bizarre enough! As a family we are being steadily and surely wiped out. I suppose it will be my turn next and then Dad and Lolly! Where is it to stop? If any! When I think of my wife’s cruel death, I could take those iron gloves and tear the murderer’s heart out of his breast! If it is a man! Sometimes I think only a woman could invent those fiendish killings! The female of the species is more deadly than the male! I wonder if—”

“I know what you are wondering!” The door from the hall flew open and Miss Burt fairly fell into the room.

“I’ve been listening at the keyhole! I heard you, Duke Bailey! I know you mean me! Well, you don’t suspect me a bit more than I suspect you! So, there now! You and Martha quarreled all the time. You wanted your mother’s money, and now, you want to do away with Parke and Lolly, so you’ll be the only heir! You know your poor old father can’t live long. Look at him! Ill already from your terrible crimes! Yet nobody drives it home to you. You pull wool over their eyes. You detectives, you see nothing,—nothing at all!”

“Oh, Marigold, do be quiet,” came in a wail from Owen Bailey.

The harassed man felt he could stand no more, and as Marigold had truly said, he looked ill from all the excitement and horror.

“I didn’t accuse you, George,” said Duke, looking at her with a half smile of contempt. “I doubt if you’d be able to put over such a series of really clever criminal deeds! If I referred to a woman, rest assured you are not the woman I had in my mind at all. Now, do the handsome, George, and say you didn’t really mean you suspected me, either.”

Duke was not at all in flippant mood, but he never had been able to take Marigold Burt seriously, and he never could resist an opportunity to give her a ragging.

She glared at him, not at all sure he hadn’t meant her after all. But she was not to be silenced, and she went on:

“Well, I don’t know, Duke. I wouldn’t put it past you, and anyway, it rests between you and Albert Sheridan.”

“Who?” cried Owen Bailey, shocked into sudden speech.

“Yes, your spick and span partner. Oh, you haven’t wit enough to suspect him, I know, but if you’d keep your eyes open a bit, you’d see reasons galore for his guilt.”

“Keep still, Dad,” said Duke, noting his father’s irate face and pulsing veins. “Do keep still,—you’ll have a stroke! Let me tackle Marigold. Speak up, now, George, what possible motive could Mr. Sheridan have for crime —our crimes?”

“He’s a deep one,” Marigold said, in a hollow, sepulchral voice, “he is a very deep one. He killed Blandena, of course, by mistake for Owen, then he decided to kill off the rest of the family, knowing that would bring about Owen’s own death. Nobody could live through many of these terrible scenes. Then, Albert can have his ambition gratified,—he will be at the head of the firm,—he will be the firm. He is in debt now,—oh, fearfully in debt. He can pay off his debts and have all the Bailey money besides.”

“Hush that nonsense, George!” Duke commanded. “I never heard such drivel.”

“Drivel, is it? I saw him myself, that first night, as he got out of his car and tried to come in at a front window. Where was he the night Martha was killed? Where was he the night Parke disappeared? Right here every time! No, Duke, a woman never committed those crimes, but it didn’t need a strong man to do them. Albert Sheridan, gentleman that he is, even dandy, could wield a dagger or a pair of steel gauntlets easily. And he is clever enough to entrap Parke in some way. I don’t know how it was done, but you all know of Albert’s ingenious mind.”

Owen was staring at her, almost as if impressed by her words.

Hunter and Hale were lapping it all up, and wondering where they could find Sheridan.

Whitney looked frankly incredulous, and Fleming Stone said, peremptorily,

“Send that woman out of the room. Whether her tirade has any sense to it or not, we have no time to consider now.”

Marigold went, when the sheriff told her to, and Hunter turned to Fleming Stone as if he were the only one who was in a position to advise the harried officers of the law.

“I’ve never been in anything like this before,” Hunter wailed. “I don’t know what to do!”

“Who has ever been in any such coil as this?” the coroner cried. “I don’t believe anybody ever has! I don’t believe there ever was another such case. Do you, Mr. Stone?”

“Not very many, I should say. Now, leaving for the moment, the solution of our mysteries, let us plan what to do. For one thing we must increase the guard. Much as I should like to do so, I cannot think this series of crimes is completed. Against my will, I have to admit that it seems to me there may be more terrible deeds. Perhaps not, in which case, we will all be grateful, but as a precaution I suggest more guards and more care in locking up and protecting this house at night.”

“But nobody came in at night to kill Parke,” said Duke.

“No, but somebody did in the cases of Mrs. Bailey, and your wife.”

“Yes, if it was an outsider,” Duke said, his thoughts flying back to Marigold, whom he did suspect, though he had so strenuously denied it. “I can’t take any stock in the Sheridan suggestion, can you?”

“No!” spoke up his father, angrily. “The idea of lugging in Albert’s name! Duke, can’t we get rid of that Burt woman? Get her out of the house, I mean.”

“Not until after these murders are cleared up, Mr. Bailey,” Hunter told him. “Now, don’t say, ‘when will that be?’ Have a heart. You know yourself we’re doing our best, but this is a most discouragin’ case,—or cases.”

“I know it is,” said Bailey, in a choked, faint voice. “And as I can’t help you any just at present, I think I’ll go to my room for a time, and rest. This new trouble is almost unbearable.”

“Let me go with you, Mr. Bailey,” and young Whitney sprang to assist the broken, weary looking man.

“I’m glad Dad’s gone,” Duke said, speaking in a low voice. “Now I want to say something. Do you suppose,” he looked from one to another, “do you suppose, for a minute, that Lolly can be at the bottom of all this? Now, listen,—before you bite my head off! I read a story, two or three stories, lately, where the criminal was a lovely young girl. It seems they have manias, that we know little about,—and—” he paused, silenced by the startled faces of his hearers.

“Duke Bailey,” Hunter fairly shouted at him, “one more such word as that, and I’ll clap you in jail myself! Nothing but your own guilt could make you hint at such a dastardly thing as you have done!”

“Now, now, Sheriff,” Stone said, placatingly, “a man has a right to voice his thoughts. Women,—yes, and young girls, have been known to be the most depraved and vicious criminals.”

“But Lolly!” Hunter repeated, his face aghast, “Lolly Bailey!”

“I know,” Stone soothed him, “I don’t say I subscribe to the theory, I don’t even admit it might be a true one, but I do say Duke has a right to suggest it. Remember Lolly’s hysterical nature. Her independent spirit. The free and easy ways of young people nowadays. And, most of all, remember that we have no logical suspect, no real criminal, against whom we have the slightest hint of evidence.”

“I’m not accusing Lolly,” Duke went on, “but—”

“She was at the table with us, the night Parke disappeared,” Stone said, reminiscently.

“Yes, I know,” Duke was impatient. “But she would have to have had an accomplice, of course.”

“Who?” Hale fairly shouted at him.

“Agnes, perhaps.”

Then Hunter broke into guffaws of laughter.

“Your theory was crazy enough, Duke,” he said, “without lugging in that nitwit. I guess we’ll dismiss it all now.”

“All right,” Duke said, “let me know when you get a better one.” He flung himself out of the room, and the others set to work in earnest to meet the conditions imposed upon them by the discovery of Parke’s death.

It took some hours, and all were appalled at the weary outlook.

Again the mortician and his men. Again the coroner’s inquest. Again the reporters coming, the neighbors’ visits, the stunned household, the demoralized servants.

The three Baileys, Miss Burt, and Mr. Sheridan all went to their rooms and stayed there, leaving Fleming Stone to represent them as best he could.

That bewildered detective was at his wits’ end. Not but what he had a suspicion, and a very definite one, as to who the criminal might be, but he had no least shred of evidence and no hint of anything like proof.

Yet he felt he must make a move, even if he turned out to be wrong in his surmises.

At dinner time the whole family reappeared. The rest had done them good, for though not cheerful, they were quiet and courteous, and seemingly trying to help one another to bear the cumulative troubles.

After dinner, they congregated in the living room. By common consent the subject of the murders was not touched upon at all.

Seeing that he was unlikely to gain any hints or bits of information, Stone excused himself and went early up to his room.

He locked himself in, and after reading for an hour or two, to divert his mind a little, he went to bed.

It was perhaps four o’clock when he awoke.

On an impulse, he rose and slipping on a dressing gown he noiselessly unlocked his door, and stepped out into the hall. There was no moonlight now, only the dim light of an ornamental electric lantern that hung from the ceiling.

He listened, but the silence was unbroken by the slightest sound.

He went along to the door of Duke’s bedroom, and put his ear to the panel.

Fleming Stone was blessed,—he sometimes called it cursed,—with very acute hearing, and he listened intently for the sound of breathing.

Not hearing it, he tapped lightly, and then softly called, “Duke, Duke!”

But no response came, and, with a determined gesture, he turned the knob of the door. But he found it locked, and though he called again and rapped more loudly, no answer did he receive from Duke Bailey’s room.


Chapter 16
The Death of Duke Bailey

Uncertain what to do, but determined to find out if anything were wrong, Stone stood outside Duke’s door, when the door directly opposite opened, and Miss Burt’s head appeared.

“What are you doing there?” she demanded. “Who are you, anyway?”

“I’m Stone,” he said, scanning the unlovely apparition, whose dark flannel robe and hair twisted in curl papers made a far from attractive ensemble. “Don’t raise the house, unless—unless it’s necessary, and I begin to think it is.”

“What’s the matter?” she said, crossing the hall and standing at his side.

“I can’t make Duke hear, and I’m a little anxious.”

“No wonder! I saw him going up to bed last night. Fuller followed, carrying a tray with a decanter and a siphon on it. I know what that means!”

“Oh, well, perhaps he’s a bit groggy, then. Shall we just leave him lay?”

“Yes, I guess so—oh, Mr. Stone, you don’t think,— do you—”

“I don’t think anything, Miss Burt, except that he must be very sound asleep—”

“But he’s really a light sleeper—generally. Parke slept like a log, but not Duke. Shall I get Fuller?” Stone came nearer liking the woman then, than he ever had before. She seemed more human, more helpful than he had ever known her.

“Why, yes, it can do no harm. Do you know where he sleeps?”

“Oh, yes. I’ll get him.”

She disappeared, toward a back staircase, and Stone turned back to the unresponsive door.

But his repeated summons brought no success, so he waited patiently for Fuller.

When the butler came, fully and properly attired, Stone explained the situation.

“I wouldn’t feel alarmed,” he said, “but for the cloud that seems to hang over this house.”

“Yes, sir, I understand. But, you see, Mr. Duke went to bed all right, about eleven or so, and he locked his door at once. Nobody could get at him, sir.”

“No, I suppose not. But I tell you, Fuller, I must get into that room. Now!”

“Very good, sir. Shall we break in the door, sir?”

“No! That is what they do in the story books. Invariably they smash through a door, breaking the fine old panels, when there are plenty of windows!”

“Windows, sir?”

“Yes, windows! Don’t be a fool, Fuller!”

“No, sir; what shall I do?”

“Get somebody, some strong chap, and tell him to get a long ladder. Is there one?”

“Oh, yes, sir, of course. It will be in the tool house.”

“Go to it, then.”

The Earl of Northumberland stalked majestically off, and Marigold reappeared, in a flowing robe of gold brocade. Her forehead was fringed with curls and she was ready for any amazement.

Stone bade her bring a chair, as they would probably have to wait for the slow movements of the servants.

Fuller returned for orders, and Stone went downstairs and out doors with him, leaving Marigold in charge.

He ordered the ladder put against the house at one of Duke’s windows, and himself ran up its rounds.

The window was open at the top, and Stone pushed up the lower sash, then the upper one, and stepped inside.

Finding the light switch he threw it on and the ensuing flood of light revealed the inert body of Duke Bailey lying on the bed.

Somewhat twisted and contorted, it was easy to see the poor fellow had died in severe pain of some sort.

Stone quickly felt his pulse and his heart, and finding the body cold, realized there was no hope of saving his life.

He leaned out of the window and spoke to Fuller:

“Put away the ladder again, and come up here.”

Then, before opening the door, he took a swift glance round the room.

The tray Fuller had brought up, was on the table, with a used glass beside it.

Stone smelled of the whisky in the decanter, but noticed nothing unusual about its odor.

“But,” he thought to himself, “all that will be investigated. I must notify Mr. Bailey. Oh, Lord, another one!”

Fleming Stone was deeply chagrined at his inability to solve the mystery of the Bailey murders.

Yet he had spared no effort, had omitted no detail of investigation or search. He could only ascribe his failure to the Machiavellian cunning of the criminal.

It seemed impossible that one man could compass all this villainy, yet Stone never for a moment doubted that there was but one author and instrument of the crimes.

He opened the door to the hall, and found Marigold there, her face filled with horror and apprehension.

“Another?” she whispered.

“Another,” Stone said, sadly.

It was nearing five o’clock now, and Stone concluded Owen Bailey ought to be informed.

He preferred to break the news himself, so he went directly to the room that had been Blandena’s and which Owen was still using.

Softly turning the knob and finding the door unlocked, he stepped inside.

A small night lamp was burning, and by its light Stone could see the face of the sleeping man as he lay on the pillow.

Very white and worn the face was, with deep hollows under the sunken eyes.

Stone felt a wave of pity for the tortured man, and wondered what the future held of happiness that might recompense him for all this sorrow, if indeed, he were not himself swept into the maelstrom of crime and death.

As he stood at the bedside, he sensed another presence and turned to see Lolly, a kimono over her pajamas, standing beside him.

“What are you doing here?” she whispered. “Don’t waken Father! He’s been restless all night, and only just now dropped off to sleep.”

“I must waken him,” Stone returned, softly. “Duke is dead.”

He told her the news thus suddenly on purpose to watch her reactions.

“Oh,” she cried, in a funny little squeal, which she tried to stifle with her hand against her lips.

But it wakened her father, who opened dazed eyes on them.

“What is it?” he said, for he was the sort that wakens at once alert and wide awake. “What are you two doing here? What time is it?”

“Nearly five,” Stone told him. “Mr. Bailey, they’ve —they’ve got Duke.”

“Oh, my God!” exclaimed the anguished man, dropping back on his pillow, and closing his eyes. “What— what happened?”

“I don’t know,” Stone said, “I haven’t investigated. I came straight to tell you. But you are ill, Mr. Bailey. Suppose you stay in bed, and—”

“No, no, indeed. I’ll get my gown,—I won’t stop to dress now—oh, my son,—my son!”

Seeming to fling off his lethargy by sheer will power, Owen pushed his bare feet into slippers and threw a dressing gown about him. Then without waiting for any one, he strode along the corridor to Duke’s room.

He saw the shocking sight, and turned his face away for a moment.

Then, controlling himself, he leaned over and looked at the contorted face.

“I don’t know—” he began, “does it look like—” he stopped short, and began to give orders.

“Fuller,” he said, seeing the butler hovering in the hall. “Go and telephone for Doctor Fenn. Then, I see you’re dressed, rouse the other servants. Tell them to make coffee and get a breakfast ready as soon as they can. Call Mr. Sheridan, and tell him what has happened. If he asks for details refer him to me or to Mr. Stone. He will probably want to get up, but if not, tell him to do as he pleases, and take him some coffee. Do those things, then report back here. Understand?”

“Yes, sir. Very good, sir.”

Bailey turned back into Duke’s room, and listened while Stone told him about having a ladder and climbing it himself.

“Good work,” Bailey said. “All nonsense breaking in a door. Better cut out a pane of glass if necessary.”

“Yes, that’s what I think. Tell me about last evening, after I came upstairs.”

“Yes. We didn’t any of us stay down long. Sheridan went to bed early and so did Marigold. Duke went up next, and Lolly and I talked a little and then we came up together. That’s all. I went to bed at once, but I slept very poorly. I had just fallen into a doze, I think, when you came along.”

“Yes, that’s what Lolly said. Now, Marigold says that Duke had Fuller bring up whisky and soda for him.”

“Yes, he often does. But Duke doesn’t drink much, he’s an abstemious chap.”

“Yet, he had a decanter and a siphon. Why not a glass full?”

“Oh, that’s Duke’s way. But, look, you can see for yourself the boy didn’t take much. Fuller will tell you the decanter was about half full. And it’s a third full now. Why, are you thinking he took too much?”

“No, not at all. I’m wondering what killed him.”

“For that we’ll have to wait for the doctor’s coming. By the way, I think I’ll take a drop of this whisky myself. I’m all in, Stone, with these horrors.”

“Do take a drink, Bailey, you need it. But hold on, maybe that is poisoned!”

“I don’t care. If it killed my boy, it can kill me!” Rinsing the glass in the adjoining bathroom, Bailey poured out a moderate drink and drained the glass.

“Better have some, Stone,” he said, after a moment. “I’m still alive!”

“No, I don’t want any just now. Look out, don’t lean too hard on that little table!”

But he spoke too late, the small table went over with a crash.

The whisky decanter was not on it, but the siphon of soda was, and it was broken by the fall.

“No matter,” Bailey said, picking up the larger pieces, and throwing them in the bathroom wash-basin. “Look, Stone, here’s nearly half the soda left in the lower part of the siphon. That will be enough for the coroner to examine, when he looks for poison. He can have the rest of this whisky, too, though my test of it ought to be enough. Shall we dress now, or wait till Fenn comes?”

“Dress now, while we have a chance. You go along, and take your time, Mr. Bailey. I’ll stay here until some one comes, who is really responsible. I want to look around a bit, anyway. Wait, tell me again about Duke’s coming upstairs last night. Was that the whisky and soda that we had before I came up?”

“Yes, the same whisky. Fuller brought another siphon, as there was so little of that left. You see, when Duke went up, there was no one left downstairs but Lolly and myself, and as I didn’t want another drink, I told Duke he could have it. So, Fuller fixed a tray and took it along. Do you suspect poisoning?”

“Of course. What else could it be? He died practically in convulsions.”

“I know, but how could he have been poisoned? Mightn’t it be acute indigestion? Duke ate an enormous dinner.”

“Yes, it might be. Doctor Fenn will decide all that. I can’t help feeling, Mr. Bailey, that I am disappointing you in my work. But I assure you I am doing all that is humanly possible. And, I must express my sympathy for you and my admiration of the way you meet these successive blows.”

“Meet them!” said Bailey, dejectedly. “I am crushed by them. If I seem to brace up and tackle the terrible situation, it is only from a sense of duty. I am broken in spirit and I am also breaking down physically."

“Don’t give way. You still have Lolly left to live for, and please God nothing must happen to her.”

“But it will,” and Bailey’s sunken eyes looked piteously at Stone. “She will go next, and then myself, and then John Kennedy will be satisfied.”

With a deep sigh, the stricken man went away to his own room.

As soon as his door closed after him, Lolly came from her room and joined Stone.

“I didn’t want to come while Dad was here,” she said, chokingly, “I just couldn’t stand it. Let me in, let me see Duke.”

“Better not, dear child,” said Stone, gently. “Why not remember him as you last saw him?”

“I’m not a child,” Lolly returned, “and if I were, these experiences would do away with all childhood for me. Oh, Mr. Stone, where will this thing end? Must I be the next?”

“No, Lolly, no! By God, you shall not be sacrificed, if I have to put you in a convent!”

“Almost as bad!” and she gave a faint little smile. “Now, I must see Duke.”

But one glance was enough, and the girl turned away, shuddering.

Without a word, she left the room, and Stone turned back to his occupation of scanning everything about in hope of a clew.

But he well knew, if Duke was really murdered, and if it was the work of the same hand as the others, he would find no clew,—save and except the one he fully expected to find, and which he did find, pushed partly beneath a clothes brush that lay on the chiffonier.

A strip of aluminum, the counterpart of the others, with the same legend, ‘Vengeance is Mine’ in raised letters.

“Then it is murder,” Stone concluded, “and by the same hand. Oh, why can’t I get a line on it? An inkling of the truth? Here was Duke, locked in his room, and poisoned, I can’t doubt, by something he ate or drank. Yet the drink is the same as the family and I, myself, partook of during the evening. And it can’t be a matter of acute indigestion, now that I’ve found the sign manual of the murderer.”

But though he hunted the bedroom and the bathroom, and the dressing room which had been shared by Duke and his wife, there was no unusual or indicative object to be found.

The whisky was dearly harmless, for Bailey had taken a fair portion, and had swallowed it neat.

The glass of the soda siphon, was almost intact, save that the metal spigot at the top had broken off, and this, with some bits of broken glass was still in the marble basin in the bathroom.

Going to examine them, Stone found the hot water faucet dripping, and a cloud of steam arising in consequence.

“Needs a washer,” the detective commented as he tried to turn the faucet entirely off.

But the remaining part of the container was more than half full of soda water and Stone knew analysis could be made from that.

Doctor Fenn came, followed quickly by young Whitney, whom the doctor had notified at once.

Stone tarried to listen to the doctor’s first reaction to the situation.

“Prussic acid,” Fenn said, as he stooped to smell of the dead man’s lips. “Now, how did that come about?” Stone stared at him.

“Are you sure? For I don’t see how it could have come about!”

“Oh, well, don’t quote me, till I investigate further. What about that whisky there?”

Stone told the doctor all he knew about the whisky and soda water, explaining that Bailey had upset the table in his nervous excitement.

“He’ll go next,” prophesied the doctor. “If not by the murderer’s hand, then by general collapse. He’s due for a stroke, in my opinion. But I must see about this chap. Lend a hand, Whitney.”

Fleming Stone went off to get dressed, but on reaching his own room, he dropped on the edge of the bed, and sat there fully ten minutes, lost in thought.

“It’s working out,” he said to himself, looking puzzled and worried. “If I could only get a scrap of evidence. If I only had one tangible and reliable clew. The metal strips are sure-fire clews, but they are not evidence. Yet the murderer must have a store of the things. I don’t believe he stamps out a new one for each victim. If he did that, they would be brighter. And, also, the machines nowadays, mostly print the silly things in pink letters on white backgrounds. I’ve found that out. But, oh, the things I haven’t found out! Now, how shall I stop this massacre? Somebody wants to wipe out the whole Bailey family and I must find out who it is! But every death is so different from the others. Last night, now, if Duke locked his door at once, as Fuller says he did, and if nobody from the house was admitted by Duke after that, then we have the familiar problem of the crime in the hermetically sealed room. That has been adjudged child’s play by the detective story fans! H’m, I’d like to see how said child would play with this case! Suppose that by questioning we are convinced that no member of the household did go to Duke’s room, after he locked the door, then it comes back to an intruder by the window. Which means a ladder! Gracious goodness, I must hop down and see if there are any other marks than those made by the ladder I climbed!”

Stone hurried through his toilet, greatly cast down at this new tragedy.

“I’m a fine detective!” he told himself, scornfully. “I ought to glance around Duke’s bedroom, and say ‘The murderer is five feet, ten inches tall, and weighs one hundred and sixty-three pounds. He has dark hair and’—oh, tush, all those fool stunts are back numbers now, along with the Trichinopoly cigar and the broken cuff-link. I’ve got to solve this mystery,—these mysteries, by pure reason, by absolute ratiocination. And I’m going to do it! I haven’t a clew, I haven’t a scrap of evidence, but I have a hunch,—and I don’t mean a fool hunch, like a policeman gets, I mean an intelligent, intellectual, inexorable hunch, that demands attention.

And it includes that beautiful doll, who has the misfortune to be a trifle shy on brains!”

He finished his dressing, while humming the old song:

“I once had a beautiful doll, dears,
The prettiest doll in the world”;

“And” he concluded, as he gave a final pat to his tie, “that beautiful doll is going to lead me in the way of truth and righteousness!”

All of which might argue that Fleming Stone was taking this affair in a light manner, but the argument would be unsound. He was more in earnest than he had ever been in his life, and more determined to achieve success, even a belated success, than ever before.

Leaving his room, he paused to note that the door of Duke’s room was closed, so he went on downstairs to breakfast.

Round the table, in the breakfast room, he found Sheridan, Marigold, Lolly and her father.

No one was eating the delicious food that Cooper had prepared, yet all were toying with it, and seemed bravely trying to keep up the lagging conversation.

Stone concentrated his gaze on Sheridan’s face, though careful not to seem to do so.

“You’re going down to New York, to-day, Mr. Sheridan?” he asked.

“I did expect to, but—” he paused and turned his glance on Owen Bailey.

“Yes, you’d better go, Albert,” Bailey said. “Those securities of Fowler and Co., must be looked after.”

“Well, I don’t know,” said a voice in the doorway, and Coroner Hale came into the room.

“I’m just here,” Hale went on. “May I have a cup of coffee, and will you people tell me a bit about this new trouble?”

“Certainly,” said Bailey. “Fuller, lay a place for Doctor Hale. Sit there, sir.”

The Earl of Northumberland tiptilted his haughty nose at the idea of the police at table with his employer, but he obeyed orders promptly.

Hale was terse and even abrupt in his queries.

“Who saw Duke last?” he flung out.

“Fuller, so far as we know,” Bailey said, and the coroner turned to the butler.

“Where?” he demanded.

“I went upstairs with Mr. Duke,” he began.

“Why did you?” shouted Hale, “wasn’t he able to walk up alone?”

“My man isn’t deaf, Doctor Hale,” said Bailey, pleasantly. “Don’t scream so.”

Hale glowered angrily, but lowered his voice a bit. “Answer my question,” he growled at Fuller.

“Yes, sir, Mr. Duke did walk upstairs alone. I followed with a tray for him.”

“What was on the tray?”

“A decanter of spirits, a siphon of soda water, and a highball glass. Also a couple of biscuit on a small plate.”

“And did Mr. Duke partake of these in your presence?”

“No, sir, he did not. I placed the tray on a small table and left him. I heard him lock his door as I crossed the hall.”

“We’ve only your word for all this, my man,” and the coroner looked at Fuller with an accusing stare.

“Yes, sir,” said the butler with his usual imperturbability.

“You have no one to corroborate it?”

“Only one or two of the other servants, who were in the servants’ sitting room when I came down. I told them—”

“I’ll learn what you told them. Which ones were they?”

“Mrs. Cooper and Miss Agnes, sir.”

“Ah,” thought Stone, “so the dumbbell has come to be called Miss Agnes. I wonder why.”

“Send for them,” commanded Hale, and promptly enough the two indicated appeared in the breakfast room.


Chapter 17
How Could It Have Happened?

“What did Mr. Fuller tell you last evening when he returned from taking Mr. Duke upstairs?”

The question was addressed to Mrs. Cooper, but the beautiful Agnes chose to answer it.

“He said he had taken all the drink up to Mr. Duke’s room, and he wondered if more would be wanted downstairs.”

“Speak when you’re spoken to, Miss,” Hale stormed at her. “I asked Mrs. Cooper, not you.”

The great lovely eyes filled with crystal tears, and Agnes looked like Guido Reni’s repentant Magdalen.

But no one at the table paid the least attention, and Stone marveled again that he had never seen any of the family in the slightest degree intrigued by the girl’s undeniable beauty.

To be sure, this morning they could not be expected to take an interest in anything, but it had been always the same.

Stone, at first, had fully expected to find either Duke or Parke a victim to this exquisite creature, but apparently, the Bailey men were above vulgar interest in a servant.

Further questioning brought no further information, and as Sheridan and Miss Burt said exactly the same thing, Stone concluded Bailey’s account had been true and accurate.

Stone had gone upstairs, first of all, the night before. Next had gone Sheridan and then, Marigold Burt.

Dismissing the two servants, suddenly Hale turned to Lolly.

“So you and your father were the last to remain downstairs last evening?” he said, letting a more gentle note creep into his harsh voice at the sight of her anguished face.

“Yes, she returned, “Dad and I sat here and talked for about half an hour.”

“What did you talk about?”

“About the terrible troubles we have been having.”

“Ask me, Hale,” said Owen Bailey, noticing how hard Lolly was trying to keep from sobbing aloud.

“Yes, do,” Lolly begged, “I c-can’t t-talk any more!” more!”

She buried her face in her handkerchief, and her whole frame shook with tumultuous sobs.

Marigold, who sat next her, tried to put an arm round her, but Lolly shook her off, impatiently.

“Very well,” Hale said. “After you and Miss Lolly talked awhile, you both went upstairs?”

“Yes,” Bailey stated. “Lolly went first. Then I went to the front door and looked outside. It’s a habit of mine, I do it every night. Then I closed the front door and locked it, and went upstairs to bed.”

“Did you see any one, then?”

“Only Lolly. As I passed her room, her door stood ajar, and she called out, ‘Good-night, Daddy,’ and I said, ‘Good-night, dear,’ and then I heard her door close, and I went in my room and closed my door. That’s all I know, until about five o’clock this morning, when Mr. Stone and my daughter waked me up and told me that Duke was dead.”

“After staying up to talk to your daughter, did you not feel a desire for another drink?”

Bailey looked at the coroner, with a show of hauteur. “No,” he said, “I am not addicted to spirits at all. I admit that during these crucial times, I have indulged oftener than is my usual habit. But I am not a drinking man, and last evening, I never thought of wanting any more. If I had I should have asked Fuller to bring it. He took the decanter up to Duke’s room, because it was there at hand, and I said I wanted no more. But my son was not at all given to over-indulgence. Like me, he has taken more than usual of late. It is not surprising in view of what we are going through. Duke frequently had spirits in his room, but he takes only a little. Fuller can tell you that.”

“Yes, sir,” the butler said, being asked, “Mr. Duke often had a decanter in his room, of nights, but sometimes he doesn’t touch it at all. Then again, he’ll take a drink, and once in a great while, maybe a couple of drinks. But more than that, never, sir. I know, because it’s my business to check up on the wine and liquors that are consumed.”

“And Mr. Bailey is also abstemious?”

“Oh, yes, sir,” Fuller declared. “Mr. Bailey didn’t hardly even touch whisky before these awful troubles began. Since then, he has taken it now and then, but in the greatest moderation, sir. I was not at all surprised when Mr. Bailey told me to take the decanter upstairs, and then asked for no more for himself. No, sir, I was not surprised a mite.”

Stone remembered Bailey’s taking a drink in Duke’s room that morning, and he, too, felt no surprise that the man should have felt the need of it.

Hale then turned to Fleming Stone, with his queries. “You were the first to find out what had happened, this morning, I believe,” he said.

“Yes,” Stone returned, and gave a succinct account of his discovery from start to finish.

“Now, about that broken siphon. How did that happen?”

“That was my fault,” put in Owen Bailey. “I upset the table on which the siphon stood. As a matter of fact, I was beside myself with grief and horror. I felt that a small drink would brace me up, if only temporarily. I am a most moderate drinker, but when I feel the real need of it, I do not hesitate to take it. Mr. Stone cried out to have a care, the whisky might be poisoned. But I was so desperately distressed at the sight of my dead boy, I didn’t care much whether it was poisoned or not. I swallowed a drink, unheeding, but as it did me no harm, I suppose we may conclude there was no poison in it.”

“That will be ascertained by chemical analysis, Mr. Bailey, but as you say, it cannot have been poisoned or it would have harmed you. Now, as to the soda water. Did you not use that?”

“No, I didn’t. As I said, I was nearly distracted, and I swallowed my drink neat. Then, perhaps the sudden dose of alcohol went to my head, I leaned upon the table so heavily that I tipped it over. I confess I scarcely knew what I was doing. But, fortunately the glass broke near the top, and much of the soda water remained in the container. So, that, too, can be analyzed. Soon after that, I went to my own room and dressed. My sudden dizziness passed off, and I felt none the worse for my indulgence. Indeed, it did brace me up, physically, as was only natural. That is all I know of the whole matter, Doctor Hale. But I hope that you and your detective, aided by my private detective here, can solve this mystery even if the others continue to baffle you. It would seem to my untrained mind that an intruder must have come in by the window.”

“And why does that seem so self-evident, Mr. Bailey?”

“Because it must have been so, or else the murderer was let in at the door by Duke himself. Now, I happen to know that the lock of Duke’s room is somewhat out of order. The key sticks and refuses to turn. It can be turned, if sufficient force is used, but it makes a loud, grating sound, which can be heard by any one, if the house is still. I think if Duke had unlocked his door, some one must have heard it. And, if not, then the intruder must have entered by the window.”

“But there is no balcony from his windows.”

“No. That would imply a ladder, would it not? I’m not telling you how to do your own work, Mr. Coroner, but common sense dictates what I have just said. I couldn’t hear the noise I speak of, because my room,— I’m still using my wife’s bedroom,—is too far away, and moreover, I have a deaf ear, which if I sleep on the other one, and I usually do, leaves me unable to hear any sounds.”

“I would have heard Duke’s door, if he had unlocked it,” Lolly said. “I know that sound Father means, I’ve heard it every night lately, when Duke locks his door. I expect that’s why Fuller heard that door locked. And I was awake all night, until after four, anyway. And I had my door ajar, because I was listening for Father to go to sleep. I can always tell when he stops tossing restlessly about and goes to sleep. And I was worried, because he has looked so ill, lately. So, I could hear anything that went on in the hall. And nothing did. Up to four o’clock, or half-past three, anyway, there was no sound of Duke’s door, or anybody else’s. I was in and out of the hall half a dozen times, listening at Father’s door, and wondering whether to go in and offer to read to him. Sometimes that quiets him. But I didn’t, and at last he fell asleep. Then I felt free to go to sleep myself, and I did. But I was wakened again when I heard some one go into Father’s room. It was Mr. Stone,—and, of course, I haven’t been asleep since.”

Lolly had recovered her calm and spoke in clear, level tones, that carried entire conviction.

Hale had no slightest doubt that the girl was telling the exact truth, and Fleming Stone, after listening a few moments to her straightforward narration, also believed her.

Stone took up the tale and related how he had gone to tell Owen Bailey of the new tragedy, how Lolly had joined him at her father’s bedside, and how Bailey, himself, had risen quickly and gone at once to Duke’s room.

Hale, then, with his customary circumlocution, questioned them all over again, this time giving Marigold her coveted chance.

Still wearing her gold brocade dressing gown, she preened herself as she stepped into the limelight.

But Hale cut her story short, and interrupted with his questions the elaborate descriptions she essayed, so her triumph was short lived.

Stone looked at her with utter contempt. He detested all forms of self-love, and he classed vanity and egotism among the worst of human faults.

Marigold was a mass of self-love, and simply eaten up with egotism, he decided after he had listened to her story.

But Hale made short work of her, and turned to Sheridan.

To this witness, Stone listened more carefully.

But Albert Sheridan declared he knew absolutely nothing of the night’s proceedings. He said he had gone to bed at once, on reaching his room. That he had slept well, though not uninterruptedly. That he had heard no sound of any sort or description in the house, nor outside, either, until Fuller had come and awakened him and told him the sad news.

Sheridan was a thorn in Stone’s flesh. He had no reason whatever to suspect Bailey’s partner of wrongdoing of any sort, yet the detective couldn’t help the feeling that Sheridan was not wholly truthful.

However, there was nothing to rouse doubt in his story, and apparently the coroner was entirely satisfied of Sheridan’s detachment from the case.

The weary details were all repeated.

The whole day was given over to what they called preliminary inquiry.

It would seem that what was said at the breakfast table was enough in that line, but there was more, much more, before the coroner was ready to betake himself away.

The family and guests were quizzed again, separately and in batches. The servants, indoors and outdoors, were questioned by the hour.

Detective Whitney, called on by the coroner to help, added his powers of querying, and the subject was worn threadbare.

Sheriff Hunter and Doctor Fenn, however, showed but slight interest in the coroner’s earnest work, and seemed to prefer to chat with Fleming Stone or Owen Bailey on the subject of the murders.

Bailey, though still looking shattered and ill, had pulled himself together in an evident determination to face the thing bravely and keep up his dignity as head of the house.

Stone admired the way the man had of rising to an emergency. He took up the reins of government and gave orders in a clear steady voice, though when alone with Stone or the family, he sank into an apathy from which he was only roused by some new necessity for his generalship.

By late afternoon, the autopsy had been performed, the contents of the decanter and siphon analyzed and the medical report completed.

Its simple facts were plainly stated and as plainly contradictory.

The autopsy proved beyond all possibility of doubt that Duke Bailey had died from the effect of the poison commonly called prussic acid, but known also as hydrocyanic acid. This had been taken into the stomach and had caused immediate, almost instant death.

But, the contradictory evidence of the analysis of the drinks was that the whisky remaining in the decanter was entirely free from poison or deleterious substance of any kind, and the soda water remaining in the glass container was equally pure and free from any taint.

In a word, there was no poison in the whisky or the soda, and if Duke had imbibed all of the liquid Fuller carried upstairs, it could not have caused his death, unless from alcoholism, which was not what he died of.

The means of his death was positively hydrocyanic poisoning. The way in which the poison was or could have been administered, was an absolute mystery.

They had carefully examined the ground beneath Duke’s windows, and could find no trace whatever of a ladder having been placed there, except the one ordered by Stone and brought by Fuller and his associates.

That ladder had left distinct traces on the ground and on the painted woodwork of the house. Had there been any other ladder, similarly used, it must have left its traces.

The intruder might have gained admission to the house in some way, but even so, it was unlikely he could have entered Duke’s room, with its noise-making lock, and not have wakened the sleeping man, who was acknowledged by all a light sleeper, even after a strong nightcap.

The doctor said that Duke had died about midnight, and up to that time, Lolly, Marigold and Stone himself declared they had been awake. The grating key must have been heard by some of them, had it been used.

Yet there it was, the inexplicable situation.

Detective Whitney was all for Fuller’s guilt.

That energetic young man took Stone aside and earnestly plead his cause.

“It must be Fuller,” he told Stone, “because it can’t be any one else. He saw Duke last, and then he heard Duke lock his door. Now, nobody else could get to Duke, secretly, so Fuller must have done the poisoning.”

“How?” said Stone, not greatly impressed.

“Why he put the poison in the glass, of course. Then, you see, there was no trace of poison in the whisky or the soda, but the glass held it, and when Duke put in the whisky and splashed in the soda,—there you are!”

“Ingenious, but implausible,” Stone told him. “Duke is no fool, and he wasn’t at all intoxicated. He would have smelled that stuff, prussic acid is pungent, it smells, you know, like bitter almonds.”

“Well, he didn’t smell it! I mean, however it was administered, and you have to admit it was administered, Duke didn’t smell it, at least, not to the extent of refusing to take it because of the odor.”

“Are you assuming that there was somebody there with him, giving him the stuff?”

“I don’t know, Mr. Stone. But it seems to me if we rule out Fuller there must have been. Unless we suggest suicide, and I don’t believe that, do you?”

“No, I do not. Duke Bailey had no reason for wanting to die. He and his wife were not an ideally happy couple, but at the same time, he wasn’t so cut up by her death, that he would take his own life.”

“No, of course not. Then, if nobody else was there with him, and since the whisky and soda both have been given clean bills of health, how did it come about?”

“It may be you are right, and the poison was put in the glass before Fuller took it upstairs. Though, mind you, even that doesn’t prove that Fuller did it. Another servant might have fixed the glass, the beautiful dumbbell, for instance.”

“Agnes! You don’t mean that!”

“No, not seriously. But get Fuller in here and let’s ask him a few things.”

They were in the library, and in answer to their ring, Fuller appeared.

Stone let Whitney do the questioning, and Fuller listened with his usual savoir faire.

He practically repeated the story as they had already heard it. Then Whitney said:

“Where did you get the glass you took up on Mr. Duke’s tray?”

“From my pantry,” returned the butler.

“Then you’re sure it was clean and empty?”

Fuller’s really fine eyebrows went up a trifle.

“There are only clean glasses in my pantry, sir. Yes, to my positive knowledge the glass on the tray in question was both immaculately clean and absolutely empty, when I left it in Mr. Duke’s room. Is that all, sir?”

“No,” said Whitney, not a bit awed by the butler’s hauteur, “you said you heard Mr. Duke turn the key in his lock.”

“I did, sir.”

“Where were you, then?”

“Going along the hall to the rear staircase.”

“Then it was immediately after you left him, or did you delay in the hall?”

“I did not delay. There was no reason to. I heard the door locked within a few seconds of my leaving the room.”

“Very well, that is all, Fuller. You may go.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.”

“He hates me,” said Whitney, smiling. “It nearly finished him to remember his manners to me. Well, how about it, now, Mr. Stone? What price Fuller for our hyper-criminal?”

“Not good enough,” Stone said, wearily. “I wish I could think so, Whitney, it would simplify matters a lot. But he isn’t our man.”



Tom Whitney had great respect for Stone’s superior knowledge and experience, but he still believed in his pet theory, so he dropped the subject and found plenty of other matters to talk about.

Owen Bailey drifted in then, and the two detectives welcomed him and bade him sit with them.

They all three mulled over the question of the whisky and soda, and Stone said, at last:

“I wonder if there was anything in that soda water that—well, say a volatile poison, that evaporated after the top was knocked off this morning, and before the analysis was made.”

Bailey smiled.

“I do think, Mr. Stone you are the most ingenious man I ever knew. That is a clever idea, though I doubt if any poison is as volatile as all that. But, while I’d be glad of any logical explanation of the mystery, I’ll have to put the kibosh on that. You see, I had a drink out of that siphon, just before Fuller carried it upstairs. No, I didn’t take any more whisky, I didn’t want it, but I splashed out a glass of soda, which I sipped while I was talking with Lolly. Both she and Fuller will corroborate this. Oh, I don’t mean that I think you will doubt my word, but in these investigations we must be very careful.”

“Then that settles the matter of the siphon,” Whitney said, triumphantly. “If Mr. Bailey had a drink from it, it couldn’t have been doctored before that. And if after that, it must have been done by Fuller, on his way upstairs.”

“Improbable,” said Bailey, after a pause. “I mean improbable that Fuller could manage such a thing, on his way upstairs with a well filled tray. Had he stopped en route, Duke would have noticed it. Moreover, I can’t think of the slightest reason Fuller could have had for killing Duke or anybody else.”

They talked long and earnestly, but came back always to the place whence they started, that the poisoning of Duke Bailey was an inexplicable and insoluble mystery.

And so it remained.

The preliminary inquiries, repeated again and again, brought no solution. The inquest, now turned into a double inquest, including both Parke’s and Duke’s deaths, brought no solution. The verdict of the long-suffering jury was necessarily what is called the open verdict. What else could it be?

The newspapers were rampant with their stories, true, partly true, and false.

Bailey had two of his secretaries sent down from the office to take charge of his enormous mail, much of it bringing advice as to how to find the murderer.

The press and the public had spoused the idea that there was but one murderer, a super-criminal, half man and half brute, with no heart or soul, but with a diabolically clever brain.

All the details of police routine were carried out. Guards were stationed everywhere. Detectives of all ranks infested the premises, each choosing his favorite case to investigate.

Some prowled along the lake edge seeking clews to Parke’s dreadful death. Others hunted evidence of some intruder who could have poisoned Duke. Some contented themselves with gazing, awed, at the armored figure on the stairs, though, except by special permission, few succeeded in getting past Fuller’s watchful presence.

The Homicide Bureau and the Detective Division of the State Headquarters used their utmost ingenuity and energy to help along, but no help availed, and a fortnight after Duke’s death, the whole problem of the murders was no further along than it was the day after Duke died.

The household machinery at Cricklemere went on as usual. The servants were so well trained, and the family so used to following their own traditions and customs, that there was little change.

Lolly and her father, the only Baileys left, seemed to cling together more closely than ever, and Fleming Stone wrestled with his great problem by day and by night.


Chapter 18
The Last Ditch

It was about a week after the holiday season.

Fleming Stone had gone away from Cricklemere over Christmas, saying he was wanted at a family gathering.

But really, he was working on the case, more earnestly and industriously than he had ever worked on a case before.

Now, he was returning to Cricklemere, where Owen Bailey wanted him to stay for some time longer.

Stone told his client, that he was not sure he could do any more than he had done toward clearing up the case, but Bailey insisted on his making further trial.

“I feel safer with you here,” Bailey had said. “Yes, I know you haven’t prevented any of these terrible tragedies, but that was in no way your fault. A clever devil, such as the one we are up against, is not to be brought to book easily. But I still hope that he has shot his last bolt, and if you’ll stay here a week or two longer, I think I can feel safe alone. But we’ll go down to the New York apartment, Lolly and I. And I shall sell this place. Surely we never want to come up here again.”

“What does Lolly say to that?” Stone asked.

“She agrees with me. She’s a good girl, Lolly. She always understood me, even when the others thought I was not worth listening to.”

“Oh, come, now, they didn’t think that.”

“Yes, they did. But I don’t hold it up against them. Young people now know it all, and they think all parents are old fogies. And Blandena always sided with the children. But Lolly, now,—little Lolly, stood up for me through thick and thin, except that she would bother the life out of me about the way I talked. Poor English, she called it. Pooh, what difference did it make whether I said ‘What kind of a dog, or what kind of dog?’ But Lolly holds it a crime to make the least slip. Well, the poor kiddy doesn’t think about it so much now. She has other troubles. It’s awful for her to lose all the Christmas parties and festivities round the neighborhood. But she won’t hear of attending any of them.”

“Of course not,” Stone said. “You couldn’t expect her to. Will they have the usual carnival on the lake?”

“No. Since Parke’s awful affair, they don’t use the lake at all. No ice-boating and almost no skating. Well, Stone, go to your people for Christmas, since you think you must, and come back here as soon as you can manage it. I shall stay here a while longer. I’ll go to New York only when absolutely necessary. Sheridan is running things—running them into the ground, I daresay, but I can’t help that. I’m an ill man. These troubles have shattered me, body and soul. Go on, as you have planned, and let me know when you are coming back.”

All this Bailey had said the week before Christmas, and now, at the end of the first week in January, Stone was returning.

He didn’t know everything he wanted to know, but he did know a lot more than when he went away.

He arrived about five o’clock of a cold, blustery day, and found Owen and Lolly waiting for him in the living room.

Marigold Burt was there, too, and Stone concluded Bailey’s efforts to oust her from his home circle, had so far, failed.

Miss Burt was clad in deepest mourning, as she had come to the conclusion such garb was proper.

But Lolly, though she wore a little black silk frock, had white frills round the half low neck and half short sleeves, and the costume was exceedingly becoming.

But the girl looked ill, Stone thought, or at least, wearied and worn.

She seemed listless and distraite, and the little hand she put into Stone’s hearty grasp was cold and trembling.

Owen Bailey, on the contrary seemed much improved in health. He was more quiet of mien and more smiling of countenance.

Stone set it down to the fact that the excitement of the murders had more or less subsided and the house was free of policemen and detectives.

“No new developments?” Stone asked, as he seated himself near the blazing fire.

He knew there were none, or he would have been informed, but he asked the question.

“No,” replied Bailey. “I think the police have decided to let the whole matter go as an unsolved mystery.

It doesn’t speak very well for our constabular but I feel sure they have done all they could.”

“Indeed they have,” Stone agreed. “As I have and you have. But all we can do is as nothing when we are pitted against a master criminal.”

“And he is that,” said Bailey, musingly. “I still think John Kennedy is at the root of the matter, but I think he has accomplices or emissaries, who do his bidding.”

“A master criminal is like that,” Stone told him. “He seldom works alone.”

Then they dropped the sorrowful subject, and by way of brightening the atmosphere Stone told stories of his Christmas holidays, and made himself amusing and entertaining.

He kept a sharp watch on his audience, without appearing to do so.

He noted that Marigold was nervously on edge and he ascribed this condition to her fear that she would be turned out on the cold world, when the Baileys left Cricklemere. However she had received her legacy from Blandena and was now financially independent.

Lolly however, worried him. The girl presided at the tea table, but though she strove to be natural and casual of speech, the quick eye of the detective saw that she was wrought up to a dangerous pitch, and he feared for her. Just what was wrong with her, he didn’t know, but he was sure it was something of recent occurrence and not alone the tragic sorrows she had suffered.

But Owen Bailey was decidedly on the mend. Stone had left him a broken down, terror stricken man. Now he seemed almost if not quite his normal self, better physically, and far more at ease mentally.

This puzzled Stone, for he knew of no reason for such a change.

But he was on the job again, and he had a few new clews, or, at least new directions in which to look for clews.

He fell into his old niche at Cricky and became, as always a welcome guest.

The servants all liked him, and the family were glad of his sympathetic presence and interesting chat.

He had the same room he had occupied before, and when Fuller accompanied him to it, and helped unpack his things, Stone talked a bit.

“How are they all, Fuller?” he said, with the pleasant air he always showed the servants.

“Upside down, Mr. Stone,” and Fuller came nearer and lowered his voice. “I don’t get it at all. Mr. Bailey he’s getting gay—”

“Getting what!”

“Well, he’s seemingly forgetting his troubles, and he’s more like he used to be long ago. But Miss Lolly, she’s pining—or worrying herself sick. What’s the matter, I dunno, but the child can’t live like she’s going on. She eats next to nothing, and she takes no exercise, and— I’m thinking she cries a whole lot. Can’t you help her, sir?”

If Fleming Stone had ever had a lingering suspicion of Fuller’s implication in the murders it was wiped out now. Surely, no wrong-doer could be so honestly and earnestly solicitous.

“Oh, yes, I’ll look after her,” Stone said, not wanting to seem to take the matter too seriously. “How about Miss Burt?”

“Much as usual, sir. As usual, I’d say. Troublesome, high-handed, hot-headed, general all-round nuisance.”

“But not a criminal, Fuller?”

“No, sir, not that.”

“And the beautiful dumbbell? Is she still with us?”

“Miss Agnes? Oh, yes.”

“Why do you call her Miss Agnes, Fuller. You used to say Agnes.”

“Oh, well, that’s because—” he stopped, with a queer expression, then finished, lamely, “well, just because.”

“I see,” Stone said, solemnly, “the best of reasons.” It was late that evening when Marigold declared she was in dire need of some fresh air, and begged of Owen that he accompany her for a walk.

Clearly the man didn’t want to go, but as certainly she was bound that he should, and after a short discussion, he capitulated, and the two went off for their stroll.

“She’s always doing that,” Lolly said, as she was left alone with Fleming Stone. “She’s setting her cap for Dad, you see, but,” she smiled, “I don’t think she’ll succeed. Now, Mr. Stone, we have a few moments and I must talk with you.”

“Do,” and Stone gave her his most friendly smile.

“I don’t know how to begin,” she said, hesitatingly. “But,—well, have you any idea who committed those terrible murders?”

“Have you?” he countered.

“I have, but it’s so impossible, so beyond all belief, I can’t put it into words.”

“Don’t try. Suppose for the sake of argument we make believe we have confided our suspicions to each other, and they both point to the same person.”

“Oh, but you can’t know—”

“No, I don’t know,—nor do you. But it may be.”

“Yes, it may be. And it would explain much.”

“It would explain everything.”

“Yes. You see, Mr. Stone, I am a little psychic—”

“Now, don’t spoil it all. Give over that sort of talk. Keep your feet on the ground.”

“Yes, I will. I understand.”

“Lolly, where did you keep that veronal or whatever it was you had after your mother died?”

“In the medicine closet in my own bathroom. Why?”

“Then anybody could get at it, if they were sly about it?”

“Yes, of course. Do you think any one did?”

“I know some one did. Don’t you know it?”

“I thought some one had been in there. The things were messed around a little.”

“Then it isn’t the one I mean. The person I have in mind would not leave things messed around!”

“But I caught her at it.”


The question was not answered, for at that moment Marigold and Owen returned and hastened to the fireside.

“Too cold to walk,” Marigold declared. “B-rr-r, it’s awful! I got all the fresh air I wanted in a very few minutes, I can tell you.”

“Yes, indeed,” agreed Bailey, “I’m chilled through. I think I’ll make a jorum of punch. Do us all good, and serve as a sort of celebration for Stone’s return. Ring the bell, Lolly.”

Stone felt amazed at the man’s light tone, and merry smile.

He had never known Bailey before the troubles had begun, and he was uncertain how to take him.

But he made no comment, and merely kept up his own end of the badinage and chat that followed.

The punch was concocted, pronounced fine and enjoyed by them all.

Owen partook sparingly, Lolly merely tasted hers, but Marigold and Stone liked the beverage and refilled their glasses.

As they went upstairs, all of them together, Lolly paused a moment in the hall.

“I must talk to you,” she whispered to Stone, “make a chance to-morrow.”

He nodded, unobtrusively, and went on to his own room.

Long that night he lay awake.

The punch did not make him sleepy as it had that other time.

“There was veronal in it—then,” he told himself, feeling sure of his statement. “Lolly could have put it in, Marigold could, Owen could, any of the servants could. Which gets me exactly nowhere. Also, Duke or Parke could but I don’t think either of them did. Oh, Lord, if I could just get one sure proof! That’s all I ask. But I can’t accuse on no evidence at all! If I did, I’d only upset all possibility of final success. I wonder what that Lolly child has up her sleeve. If she suspects Marigold —oh, well, I must find the nest! That’s what my old grandmother used to say when she was bothered with ants or other ‘varmints.’ Now there is a nest of those aluminum strips somewhere, and I’m going to find it.” All of which goes to prove that Fleming Stone’s suspicions were directed toward somebody in the house and not toward a rank outsider.

He slept well, and pleasantly, and awoke betimes with no heaviness of the head, though he had it of the heart.

“There’s just that one thing,” he mused as he made his toilette, “Owen Bailey’s taking that drink of whisky from the decanter in Duke’s room! That tears it!”

He went downstairs and stopped, surprised, on the threshold of the breakfast room.

A huge bunch of hothouse roses, and a number of tied up parcels were at Lolly’s place.

Bailey and Marigold were in their chairs, but Lolly had not yet appeared.

“It’s her birthday,” explained Bailey. “Those are her gifts.”

“Oh, wait a minute,” Stone exclaimed, “I have something for her, too.”

He ran quickly upstairs, but he did not go to his own room at once. Instead, he entered the room that had been Blandena’s, the room Owen now occupied.

The bed covers were thrown back, and the fresh cold air blew in at the open window.

Quickly Stone took a book from the well filled book case at one end of the room. It was an old fashioned family album, filled with pictures of children and grownups in costumes whose styles were nearly half a century old.

Scrutinizing a few of the photographs, pinching one or two of them, Stone hurriedly replaced the volume and hastened downstairs.

“I find I haven’t it with me, after all,” he said, in a vexed tone. “Just a little token for Lolly. But I must have left it in New York. I’ll give it to her some other time. Hark, here she comes!”

The slow, listless step was heard on the stairs, and Lolly came into the room.

“Ooh!” she exclaimed, seeing the flowers and parcels. “Who remembered it was my birthday?”

“We all did, dear,” said her father. “Sit here by me and untie your presents.”

Bravely, the girl tried to assume an air of pleased gayety, but it was hard work.

Stone helped by saying, “Lucky girl, to have so many generous friends. Think of them, Lolly, not of yourself.” She flashed him a faint smile and buried her face in the fragant roses.

“You ordered these, Daddy,” she said, “I know you did, ’cause you know how I love red roses. Oh, here’s a gift from Rosalie! How nice!”

Rapidly, and with some help she untied all the parcels, and looked almost happily on the array of gifts. She was touched at the attention of friends she had neglected of late, and glad to know they still loved her.

Her father’s gift was a diamond and platinum wrist watch, which she immediately put on and was enchanted with.

“Here’s something from Isabel Graham,” she said. “I haven’t heard from her in years. Nice of her to remember my birthday.”

It proved to be a silver bracelet, antique in appearance and evidently of fine silversmith’s work.

“Charming!” cried Marigold, and Lolly nodded her head.

“But not so nice as your bracelet, Dad,” she said, smiling down at the lovely wrist watch. “Still this is rare, I suppose.”

She started to push her hand through the bauble, when Fleming Stone gave a spring from his chair, and grasped her hands, snatching the antique bracelet from her fingers.

“Let go!” he cried, as she involuntarily clung to her property, and startled at his stern tone, she relaxed her hold.

“What’s the matter, Stone,” said Bailey, looking wonderingly at the detective.

“The matter is, that I’ve solved the problem of the Bailey murders.” Stone’s voice was low and awed. “The matter is that if Lolly had put on that bracelet, another murder would have been added to the list. Fuller, go to the telephone,—thank God we don’t need Doctor Fenn this time! Call Sheriff Hunter and tell him to hurry over here. Tell him to bring anybody he wants, but to hurry.”

“Good Heavens, Stone! Have you lost your mind?” cried Bailey, all his nervous, alarmed manner returning.

“No, I’ve found it!” Stone replied, in a tense voice. “Lolly, who is this Isabel? Why would she send you a poison bracelet,—a bracelet of the kind the Borgias used, a fiendish, deadly thing! One moment more, and it would have scratched your arm, with a scratch that meant inevitable, unavoidable death. Who is Isabel?”

“She—she’s a friend of mine,—she lives in Wyoming. She has sent me silver trinkets before. The Indians out there make them—”

“The Indians out there didn’t make this,” declared Stone, keeping hold of the bracelet in its box, and also the wrappings of the parcel.

“Let me see,” Lolly said, faintly. “Yes, that is Isabel’s writing, I know it well. And it is postmarked from her home town in Wyoming. Oh, Mr. Stone, she never meant to harm me!”

“No, she didn’t,” Stone said, half absently, it seemed. “There they are,” he almost shouted, as Hunter and Hale and three stalwart troopers came to the doorway.

“Take your man,” Stone said, solemnly. “I accuse Owen Bailey as the murderer of his wife and three children, and I accuse him of the attempted murder of his remaining child, here before us.”

Lolly gave a low moan, and for once turned to the open arms of Marigold rather than to her father.

Bailey looked like a man bereft of his senses. He was dazed, stunned, but he endeavored to deny the charge. “What does this mean?” he blustered.

Stone, who was standing, now, and with folded arms, gazing down on Bailey’s face, said:

“Suppose you tell us what it means. The jib is up, Owen Bailey. I have known for some time you were the criminal, but I could get no scrap of proof, no iota of evidence. Now I have them, now I can denounce you for the fiend incarnate who planned and carried out, alone and unaided these diabolical murders. Why? You tell them why, Bailey. I know, but you tell them. I fancy you’d like to.”

“Yes, I would,” Bailey said, his face clearing and gaining a look of what was strangely like pride.

“I did plan these killings all myself. And I’ll tell you why!” His voice was raised now, his eyes were blazing, his face was distorted with Satanic glee, and he went on in ringing tones. “Because they deserved it, all of them! Because I worked for them, slaved for them, gave my whole life to them, my whole mind, soul and body. I gave all my energy, all my strength, all my brains, everything—everything I possessed I gave to them. And all my love, all my affection—and what did they do? They scorned me, they made fun of me, they ragged me and mocked me. Even Lolly there never ceased hectoring me for the way I talked. My wife cared nothing for me, my sons had no respect, no reverence for me. I am a capable business man, everybody will tell you that. Because my success in that way was realized and appreciated. I could go on, doing my work, making my fortune, filling my position. But at home, where I wanted, I longed to be loved and appreciated, I received only snubs and mockery. Oh I tried,—I tried hard to overcome these habits of the family, and I tried to overcome my sensitiveness to them. But I couldn’t. It grew worse and worse as the years went on. If one of them had loved me, had helped me, had even respected me, I could have pulled through. Lolly came the nearest to understanding me, but she had that beastly way of correcting me until I nearly went crazy.

“Then came the desire for revenge. I had tried all I knew how, done all I could and the conditions only grew worse. So, in my brain the seeds of revenge began to terminate. It was a slow growth. For eight years I have been planning and plotting my revenge. It had to include them all for they all had scorned me. Yet during the eight years, many times I put aside my plan and made further attempt to win the hearts of my own family. Or, if not the hearts or affection, at least their recognizance of my right to live! But the result was always the same. My overtures were hooted at, ridiculed, turned down. I went on, planning. I had I thought looked out for every emergency. I had plotted the perfect crime,—series of crimes. I was not the weakling they deemed me, I was a power, I could wreak a terrible vengeance on those who had scoffed at me. I think there never was a crime planned more perfectly than mine, never was a plot laid more carefully, more meticulously as to dangers and accidents. And then, when it was all completed, I went to Fleming Stone and asked his help to protect me from impending trouble. How I laughed in my sleeve to see him worried and anxious over my safety! But I slipped up somewhere and I see now it was in employing so astute a detective. If I’d chosen more wisely I would have taken a less clever detective under my roof. How did you tumble to it, Stone? What put you wise?”

“Many things,” Stone returned, slowly. “In fact, Bailey, I have suspected you for a long time, but I could get no proof. You were clever, clever, too in your unusual and unexpected methods. Who could have dreamed what you would do to Parke? How you would do for Martha? And even yet, who knows how you killed Duke? But I know. I know it all, and here’s where you tripped, here’s the thing that gave you away.”

He held out the old photograph album, which he had secretly sent for.

Bailey went white at sight of the old volume and all wondered what it meant.

Stone opened the book, and from between two of the back to back photographs he drew an aluminum strip, exactly like the ones found in the death chamber.

“This is the ‘nest’ of them,” he said. “When I found these I knew I had found our murderer. He stabbed his wife himself, that first night. No one suspected him, of course. Then he softly went to the armor on the stairs, secured the steel gauntlets, and killed Martha. Again, nobody thought of him. Parke’s terrible death is too bestial to talk about. But I know that Bailey—”

“Yes, I did,” broke in the wretched criminal, full of his demented vanity. “I just told him to send Wyatt off and then meet me, in his car, by the lake. The rest was easy. I made up a plausible story about waiting to go to the edge of the lake, and before he could get my meaning clear, I pushed the car,—oh a gentle little push, and whee! he went straight across the ice, and down— down—”

“Take him away!” Stone ordered, seeing the man was almost a maniac.

“All right, all right,” came the cracked voice in reply, and a wild shrill burst of demoniac laughter, was the last they heard of him.

“You knew it, Lolly,” Stone said, gently, as the noise of the man’s foot steps died away.

“Yes,” she said, brokenly, “but only lately. You see, I understood Father, and I know something of psychoanalysis. He never wanted that word mentioned but that was because he knew he was a victim of the inferiority complex. Oh it isn’t nonsense, it’s fearful, dreadful sense. If I had realized sooner, I might have helped him. But he was so sly, so secretive that none of us dreamed what he was going through.”

“Never mind, Lolly,” Stone said, gently. “You have been saved from his maniacal wickedness, now, prove your gratitude to Providence, by forgetting all you can of the whole dreadful past. You can’t blot it out entirely but—”

“Of course, Isabel didn’t send me that bracelet,” she said, thoughtfully.

“No, of course not. She sent you some little gift, and your father opened the parcel and substituted the poison bracelet for her gift. Thank Heaven I was here! As to Duke, your father was uncanny in his cleverness. He did not poison the whisky nor the soda water, but he, after taking a glass full of the soda himself, smeared the inside of the spigot with hydrocyanic paste. I found it, when I retrieved the broken top of the spigot from the ashcan where it was thrown. It had lain in the wash basin with the hot water running, till it was almost cleansed. But I scraped off a bit of the poison, and the chemists backed me up. Still I couldn’t pin it on anybody until I had a link. The nest of metal strips is the link. Of course, he put a very little veronal in the punch that first night he made it. That was to insure our all sleeping soundly, yet not to have really a drugged sleep. Then he could carry out his brutal murder of Martha uninterrupted.

“It was all the most carefully prepared and wonderfully carried out crime I ever heard of, and I cannot feel surprised that I was unable to fix on the murderer. It was planned by a devil and carried out by a demon. I hope and trust I shall never be confronted with another such!

“Another thing that set me on the right track, was Mr. Bailey’s taking a drink from that decanter, that might have held poisoned whisky. That was a mistake on his part and it pointed straight to the truth. For, unless he knew that whisky was not poisoned, he wouldn’t have tasted it. And how could he know that, unless he knew the truth about the whole poisoning business. And how could he know that, except he was himself the poisoner. After that I went to New York and set up a definite search for the two men Bailey said he suspected. They were both dead, had positively been dead for years. All reports to the contrary were faked. Oh, a complicated case, but a fiendishly clever one. I found out, too, in the city, that about six years ago, Baiiey took a course of lessons in graphology. He became an expert forger, and also by his knowledge of the science of handwriting, could reproduce the peculiarity of the penmanship of Kennedy and Dunbar both. His anonymous letters were all written and ready long ago. His aluminum strips were punched out years ago, too. He prepared his campaign like a general, and put it over, up to the last ditch. I thank God I saved that catastrophe.”

“What was his final objective?” asked Whitney, who was still with them, listening to Stone’s story.

“I’m sorry to tell you, but he meant to get rid of all the family, Lolly included, and then—marry Agnes.”

“Agnes!” Marigold breathed in a low, tense whisper. “Yes. Though he was most careful, I did detect Bailey once or twice give the girl a fleeting glance that had meaning in it. Also, when I found her lounging in Mrs. Bailey’s boudoir, I sensed she had the effect of one getting used to coming glories. Then when, lately Fuller began to call her Miss Agnes, I was sure that Bailey had given orders to that effect. Especially as Fuller wouldn’t tell me why he did it.

“Now, I make no excuses for the awful work of Owen Bailey. I plead his cause not at all. But I do say he tried at first. He saved Parke’s life twice at the risk of his own. He rescued Duke from the clutches of a confidence man and from blackmail. He kept Lolly from an episode that would have been her ruin. He did give his life his work his love to his family and they did reject it.

“Let us, as they sometimes say, give the devil his due, though we can never forget that he was a devil.”


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