an ebook published by Project Gutenberg Australia

Title: The Clue of the Eyelash
Author: Carolyn Wells
eBook No.: 2400131h.html
Language: English
Date first posted: May 2024
Most recent update: May 2024

This eBook was produced by: Walter Moore

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The Clue of the Eyelash

Carolyn Wells




Chapter 1. - The Greencastle Home
Chapter 2. - Death Comes to the Master
Chapter 3. - The Police Arrive
Chapter 4. - Stone’s First Clue
Chapter 5. - A Wakeful Night
Chapter 6. - Various Testimony
Chapter 7. - As to Divorce
Chapter 8. - As to Eyelashes
Chapter 9. - Poor Little Dolly
Chapter 10. - More Inquiries
Chapter 11. - At the Swift House
Chapter 12. - Eyelashes Again
Chapter 13. - The Strange Photograph
Chapter 14. - The Cairn
Chapter 15. - Mixed Drinks
Chapter 16. - Fleming Stone Confers
Chapter 17. - An Engagement Announced
Chapter 18. - Confession


Chapter 1
The Greencastle Home

Nine times out of ten you read somewhere on the first pages of a mystery story that the detective is in appearance the very farthest removed from the description of the detective in fiction.

It is strange, in these circumstances, that the detective in fiction retains his conventional physiognomy and physique.

However, Fleming Stone was the perfect type of the detective of fiction. You’d know him in a minute by his aquiline features, his dark, deep-set eyes, his long, thin face, his chiseled lips. Even his tall, lean figure proclaimed him a detective, and save for the cocaine complex, he was a fairly good replica of his world-famous prototype.

He stood in the Long Island Division of the P. R. R. waiting for his train.

It was mid-afternoon of the Fourth of July, and he had concluded that a rail journey would be preferable to braving the tremendous motor traffic.

As was his unavoidable custom, he observed the faces of the crowd around him, reading them with slight interest, as he might glance at the papers hung on the newsstand.

But suddenly he saw a face, familiar through memory, yet unplaceable at first.

Then he recognized it, and stepping forward, said quietly;

“Trevor Cameron.”

The man with the dressy name turned quickly, smiled widely, and said;

“Fleming Stone, by all that’s lucky! Well, I am glad to see you. Going Long Island way?”

“Yes, to Golden Sands. An old crony of mine is there, at the Inn and—”

“Just where I’m headed for. Golden Sands, I mean, but not the Inn. A Fourth of July house party—with trimmings. Come along, here’s the train.”

A jolly looking chap, Cameron, about forty, but with a still boyish face and manner. Brown eyes, that never ceased twinkling during his waking hours and brown hair that curled abominably in the summer time, to his great annoyance.

Broad shoulders and an air of general capability made him a worthwhile looking man, and he rushed ahead and secured a seat for them both.

It was unusually cool for the Fourth, and they settled down to enjoy the ride and have an old-time powwow.

“I assume you’re up to your old tricks,” said Cameron, “though your name seldom creeps into the papers.”

“I do my best to keep it out. Mine is one of the few vocations that doesn’t court publicity.”

“Or need it, in your case. Are you always solving a mystery?”

“Most of the time. I’m going down to Long Island for a vacation,” Stone smiled, “but I’ve never yet started on a vacation that I didn’t get involved in a case.”

“Staying long?”

“As long as I like it. But I’m fussy about my quarters, and if I don’t like the Inn, I’ll try some of the other places I have up my sleeve. And you?”

“As to my quarters? Oh, they’ll be all right. I’m going to Greencastle so-called because it isn’t green and isn’t a castle. But it’s a jolly fine place. I say, what are you doing this evening?”

“Nothing. I know no one down there. I’m out after solitude, if you know what that means.”

“Not very well, but put it off till to-morrow, and come over to Greencastle this evening. I’ll speak to the Vanes about it, but their holiday parties are pretty available.”

“Who are they?”

“First class, simple, clever, and with more money than they know how to spend. I’ve known Wiley Vane for years—”

“Oh, Vane, the dilettante collector?”

“Yes. He is a master hand at it. His knowledge of old coins, rare books, and antique curios is marvelous. And he has wonderful collections, of course.”

“Care for them?”

“Me? Not much, to be honest. Funny how collections bore everybody but their owners.”

“And other collectors.”

“They bore them most of all. I’ve seen other collectors stalking about among Vane’s exhibits. They seem to be either scornful or envious of the things, and if they profess admiration, it’s false or perfunctory.”

“That’s how it impresses me. But Vane doesn’t see this?”

“Oh, Lord, no. He’s proud as Punch of his trinkets, and thinks everyone else is. He’s salt of the earth, really, full of kindness and generosity and all the Christian graces, but he has, too, a most villainous high temper. It’s seldom roused, but when it is, look out for breakers ahead!”

“And his wife?”

“Katherine? Very handsome woman. Charming, imperious, gracious, but don’t get too near her, she’ll gobble you up.”


“That she falls in love with Everyman, immediately and desperately.”

“Just her nature, I suppose. Temperament.”

“I suppose so. She’s the friend of the Beauty Parlors. If she hears of a new cosmetic or treatment or invention, she’s off at once to try it.”


“More or less. She’s not bad-looking, if she didn’t insist on thwarting Nature by trying to help her. I may as well tell you the rest of the family. If you come over to-night, there’ll be such a crowd, you won’t know the guests from the home folks. The Pride of the House is Sally, a dark-eyed little witch most merry and lovable. She’s the adopted daughter of the Vanes, but though Wiley adores her, Katherine doesn’t.”


“Dunno; jealous, probably. She’s a sweet thing, pretty, roguish, all smiles and joie de vivre. Then there’s old Aunt Miranda. Typical spinster aunt, thin-lipped and cynical, but wise as they come. Now you know them all, and when you come over to-night you won’t feel strange.”

“Don’t go to any trouble to get me invited, you know I’m not much of a mingler. What’s the house like? Greencastle sounds impressive.”

“Well, of course, it’s an imitation. Vane felt his treasures would be disgraced by being housed in a modern building, so he had a sort of mongrel copy made of an old castle, but he has had it so added to and improved as the years went by, it has no resemblance to a castle of any sort. Nor is it green, but Greencastle has always been a favorite name of his, and he uses it for his house. You must come over and see it by daylight. It looks as if it had been assembled rather than built. Suites, rooms, balconies, verandas, porches, turrets, all banked into a pile, not too unsightly, but odd—very odd.”

“Sounds so. But you are an amateur, and it may rub you the wrong way, while to me it might seem harmonious and palatial.”

Cameron laughed. “All right, Fleming, come over and see it. And here we are at the station. The Vane car will be here for me, but you’d better take the Inn Bus, and arrive in correct form.”

As Cameron anticipated, one of his host’s cars awaited him, and he blithely hopped in.

A popular New York doctor, he had many invitations to country houses, which he accepted whenever possible. Notwithstanding the gruesome sights and tasks he almost daily encountered, he kept intact his happy and light-hearted disposition, and left his work behind him when he went off for recreation.

As he settled himself in the car, he found he was to have a companion.

An enormous somewhat disgruntled looking man came along, nodded to the chauffeur, tossed him some baggage checks and got in beside Cameron.

“Fellow guests?” he said, in a civil way, yet with no smile of pleasure.

“Yes, I’m Cameron. You’ve been to Greencastle before?”

“Lots of times. I’m Murrell, Gregory Murrell. Naturally gruff, but my bark is worse than my bite.” He lapsed into a morose silence, and Cameron saw no reason to exert himself to entertain a self-announced grump.

But as they came in sight of Greencastle, Murrell brightened up a bit and said, “Spectacular place, eh?”

“Yes, indeed! Remembering, of course, that there are different sorts of spectacles.”

“The turrets look like silos. But all in all, it’s spacious and mighty comfortable. Know who’ll be there?”

“Not very many, I think. Katherine said informal.”

“Well, if Rose Kortz is there, I don’t care who else is. Know her?”

“Don’t think so.”

“You’d remember her if you had met her. Great big girl, and no end handsome. I’m for her. Don’t cut me out.”

“Promise. I like little girls. Such as Sally.”

“Oh, Sally! She’s a hundred per cent angel. I never saw a more beautiful face.”

“Nor I. And there she is!”

The car turned in at the open gates and as they neared the house, Sally Vane stood up on a porch rail, and waved a flag.

Truly she was beautiful. A veritable witch child, whose snapping brown eyes and flashing smile gave her a Puckish air that was irresistible. She sprang down from her perch, and gave a little brown hand to each of the men.

“How perfectly gorgeous to see you! Trevor, you’re handsomer than ever. Yes, Greg, Rose Quartz is here, jes’ a longin’ fer to see yeh! Do be kind to her. Come along this way, the bunch are on the terrace. Or, no, you’ve just time for a game of tennis. Scoot up to your rooms and get into your togs, and I’ll tell Dad to be ready. He does love a game, and it’s cool to-day. Here’s Hake, he’ll look after you.”

She started away, but Cameron stopped her.

“Wait a minute, Sally. You go along, Murrell. I say, girl, dear, I met a friend on the way up here. He’s over at the Inn now. Can’t we have him over for the evening?”

“Why, of course. Who is he?”

“Fleming Stone, the detective, you know. He’s on vacation.”

“You don’t mean the Fleming Stone! The Wizard of Woz! Oh, won’t he come to dinner? I’m mad to see him!”

“Don’t lose your head. I daresay he’d come to dinner if you ask him. Why do you want to see him?”

“Oh, he’s so marvelous! Is he at the Inn yet?”

“Yes, surely. Go and telephone him, if you like. He’s well-mannered, but nothing to have framed in plush.”

Sally ran off, and Cameron sprinted up to his rooms. The two newcomers soon reappeared, in tennis kit, and after greeting Katherine Vane and Aunt Randy, who were talking to a number of callers, they sought their host.

Wiley Vane was a good-looking man of fifty-five or so, and was possessed of really charming manners. He had been told he resembled Franz Hal’s portrait of The Laughing Cavalier, and being a bit proud of his fine face, he cultivated a turned up mustache and a small imperial to carry out the likeness. His dark hair was a bit long, and inclined to curl slightly, and though his raiment was not just the type of the Cavalier’s, he chose the gayest summer suitings that were permissible within the boundaries of good taste.

He welcomed his guests with gracious ease, and then presented Rob Kelsey, whom he declared, he had collected to complete their tennis four.

The game started off well, and Vane proved himself the equal of the others in skill and energy, in spite of his greater span of years.

Meantime, Sally, with her mother and Aunt Randy were receiving many guests.

Greencastle was the show place of Golden Sands, and few who received invitations failed to respond. The wide lawns and beautiful gardens were made even gayer by the groups of bright-garbed girls and flanneled men.

A great part of the estate ran down to the sandy beach and the spume and spindrift of the sea. Not many of the gay crowd chose to go for a dip on this festal occasion, but some did. One in especial was Rose Kortz, and when she appeared and ran down the sands, diving into a big breaker, that seemed to come to meet her, a cheer went up from her friends.

Her bathing suit was the very extreme of the mode; a saucy cap crowned her abundant mop of black hair, and her finger nails and toe nails were brightly enameled and polished to a brilliant scarlet. Strap sandals protected the soles of her feet, and she swam and dived with a grace that Leda’s swan might have envied.

Often she came out of the water and sat on the sand, bandying words with the gay crowd there, all of whom were Greencastle guests as the private beach was closed to strangers.

But if many were gay and festive that afternoon, there were some who were more seriously employed.

In the secretary’s office on the first floor, were a man and a girl hard at work. The man, Antony Meade, though not liking to work on a holiday, took it philosophically and even laughed as he noted the woebegone countenance of Dolly Day, the blond stenographer.

“It’s nothing to laugh at,” she stormed, angrily tapping her pretty little foot. “Never in my life have I ever before worked in a hot, stuffy old office on Fourth of July!”

“This room isn’t hot and it isn’t stuffy,” Meade informed her, truthfully. “It’s cool and pleasant, and a fine breeze is blowing—”

“Oh, hush up!” she cried; “you just make things worse, with that calm, superior indifference of yours. I don’t believe you care whether it’s hot or cold or wet or dry! But, I say, Mr. Meade, don’t you think it’s a shame we haven’t a holiday?”

“You know why that is. You know Mr. Vane wants to get this lot of books collated and ready to send to London by the first boat possible, and that’s to-morrow. I doubt if we can make it, anyway. I’ll have to work late to-night, and you’ll have to copy my notes tomorrow morning.”

“Of course I know all that. And I’ll do my best. I don’t want to lose this job. My Heavens! it’s five o’clock now!”

There was a branch of the house telephone, only available for use between the office where they sat, and Wiley Vane’s own office on the floor above.

Just now the bell gave a short sharp ring.

Meade took up the French instrument.

“Yes, Mr. Vane?” he said.

“You’re planning to work this evening, Meade?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Well, change your plans, my boy. I’ve decided not to get those books off this week, it makes things too hurried. You do up those few waiting letters, and give them to Miss Day, and then the two of you get along off to wherever you like to go. Step up here first, and I’ll tell you a point for the letter to Spoopendyke or whatever he calls himself. Tell Miss Day of her release, but she must wait to take the letters.”

“Very well, sir, I’ll be right up.”

Meade told pretty Dolly the joyful news of her release, and went at once up to his employer’s office. The room was at a far end of the house, and was elaborately furnished in old oak tables and chairs and desks that had undoubtedly taken their part in the signing of many documents of state or other even wider importance.

It had a broad porch, both screened and glazed, which also had desks and other office furniture. The inner room had a day bed, which Vane found most useful at times, for though not old, he was beginning to feel the effects of his really strenuous life.

“Here’s the memorandum, Meade,” Wiley Vane said, “copy the numbers carefully. I shall rest until time to dress for dinner. When you go out, hang up the Disturb card, and tell Hake to come up to my dressing-room at eight. Prout’s off duty, and I can’t bear to have Hake paw me over! I’ll be all ready, Mrs. Vane wants a spang-up party. I’m all right, only a trifle tired after tennis.”

Meade had a few more details of his work to inquire into, but he forbore to trouble his employer more than was necessary and soon he went away, being careful to hang out the Do Not Disturb sign as directed.

This sign was a printed notice such as are often seen in hotel bedrooms. Nor is there need to wonder at the similarity for it had been taken from a hotel bedroom and brought away in a suitcase. Not stolen, however, Wiley Vane had referred it to the manager, and had succeeded in being allowed to purchase the card. And it was a Medo-Persian law at Greencastle. When that card hung on the doorknob of Wiley Vane’s room, woe betide him who dared enter or attempt to enter.

Antony Meade hung the card on the outside doorknob of the screened porch, except through which the inner office was inaccessible. Then he went back to his own office on the ground floor. By an odd chance, Antony looked somewhat like Wiley Vane. Or rather, he had also a slight resemblance to the Laughing Cavalier, though, of course, clean shaven.

But Meade was seldom laughing. He was not of the merry sort, and he took his daily work seriously and performed it with utmost care. This, it was, that made him so valuable to the collector, whose every fine possession required the best and most skillful attention.

He went sedately down the stairs and rejoined Dolly Day.

“You’re to do three letters,” he told her, “and then you know you’re off for the evening.”

“Really!” Dolly’s big blue eyes stared at him. They had often stared at Antony Meade, but they never made any impression on him. As a matter of fact, the man was unimpressionable. No girl could be any prettier than Dolly, but no effect of her prettiness could be noticed on the secretary. She had tried and tried hard, but whatever he felt, he never gave her an unnecessary word or glance or smile. Courteous always, jocular very occasionally, but never cozy, chummy or even friendly.

Well, Dolly told herself, there were others. But, just because she couldn’t win him, she wanted him all the more.

And it wasn’t that he looked higher. For charming, bewitching little Sally had tried at times a playful bit of flirtation, but she might as well have made eyes at the statues in Central Park.

Well, after, all, he was only a humdrum secretary and didn’t really count anywhere. But Wiley Vane cherished him like the apple of his eye. No one could understand so quickly as Meade; no one could appreciate a book so truly, or value a coin so accurately, or rate old silver so perfectly.

And thus it had come to Vane, when he saw all the people enjoying themselves on his premises, that poor old Meade ought to have a little play spell too.

And if Meade, of course also Dolly. Hence the messages to the office.

But the impeccable Meade struck a snag. As he worked at his task he suddenly made an impatient exclamation.

Dolly Day looked up inquiringly. It was a rare occasion that a thing like that happened.

“Missed out on one point,” said Meade, in answer to her continued stare.

“Can I help you?”

“No, I’ll have to speak to Mr. Vane, and he’ll hate that. He’s got the Disturb card out. Well, it can’t be helped.”

Meade took up the house telephone, and after a moment, said:

“I’m sorry, Mr. Vane, but I’ll have to ask you for the address of that California chap named Gregg. I thought I had it, but I haven’t.”

A pause followed, while Meade listened, then said; “Oh, yes, sir. All right, sorry to trouble you.”

A moment later he spoke again, in answer.

“Yes, I’m going to New York. Start in a few minutes now. I’ve looked after all the items you mentioned, and I’m glad to have the evening. What is it I can do for you?”

“Oh, yes, I know the place. I’ll get it. No trouble at all. Good-by Mr. Vane.”

Putting down the telephone, he turned to Dolly. “That address is in the little book marked Americana. The brown one.”

“Yes, all right,” she said. “What else was he saying?”

“He wants me to get him some more of that medicine he’s been taking. He thinks it does him good.”

“He’s getting to be a regular hypodermist!”

“Hypochondriac, I suppose you mean.”

And then silence fell as the two skilled workers set about their business.

The door opened and Mrs. Vane looked in.

“Aren’t you two going to have any holiday?” she asked.

“Yes, indeed,” Dolly returned; “Mr. Vane has just telephoned down that we may, and we’re leaving in a few moments.”


“Certainly not,” and Dolly tossed her lovely head. “I’m going to my cousin’s in Far Rockaway, and I don’t know where Mr. Meade is off for.”

“New York,” Antony said, a little shortly. He greatly disliked having his plans questioned. “Mr. Vane kindly gave us both the evening off.”

“Not much of a gift,” said Katherine, “you ought to have had the day.”

“Things are very busy here just now,” Dolly said, with no trace of rancor in her tone. “Mr. Vane is negotiating for a big lot of valuable books.”

Katherine Vane looked at the girl. She was too lovely to be anybody’s secretary, and how Tony Meade could withstand her charm was difficult to understand. As to Wiley Vane, he frankly admitted that he adored her. But so far, Katherine had been able to take that speech jestingly, as she felt sure it was made that way.

Yet Dolly Day was enough to turn any man’s head. Of a pure blond type, the golden hair and periwinkle blue eyes were so enhanced by a translucent complexion and a heart-shattering smile, that ninety-nine men out of every hundred fell victims to her charm.

And her face showed intellect, too. Dolly Day was nobody’s fool, and she eyed Mrs. Vane with a gaze that showed interest but no trace of disrespect.

“Where is Mr. Vane?” Katherine said, “I want him at once.”

“He is in his study upstairs,” Meade told her. “He’s been playing tennis, and wants to rest till dinner time. He told me to put out the Disturb card.”

“But I want him,” Katherine went on, petulantly. “Some important people have come, and he must meet them. I think I’ll disregard the sign for once.”

“It can scarcely apply to you, Mrs. Vane,” and Meade smiled. “And he’s not busy, he’s only resting.”

“I’ll wake him then, if he’s asleep,” said Katherine, and she passed through the door Meade opened for her.

“She’ll catch it,” Dolly observed, “if she disregards that sign!”

“Well, she ought to. It’s a Medo-Persian law.”

“A what?”

“Nothing. Get on with your work.”


Chapter 2
Death Comes To The Master

Dinner at Greencastle was at eight o’clock. But a pleasant cocktail half hour preceded it, and family and guests began to gather earlier.

A favorite room was the big lounge, which ran straight through the house, with a door at either end. The front door facing the sea, and the other looked out on a garden. The floor was marble, with a few rugs and the furniture was of ornate wicker-work. Tall palms waved here and there, and a small fountain plashed in the center.

Aunt Miranda appeared first, and took her usual great chair, settling herself with complacency, although greatly bothered by the continual explosions of fireworks or firearms.

“They drive me frantic!” she exclaimed to Cameron, who just then came along; “really, Trev, there ought to be a law against them!”

“Maybe there is, I’m not much up on laws. Where’s Wiley? Hope we didn’t tire him out at tennis.”

“Oh, no. But he’s always the last one down. And Prout, his man has holiday, and he won’t let Hake touch him.”

“Why, what’s the matter with poor old Hake?”

“He isn’t old and he isn’t poor. Wiley just happens to dislike him, that’s all. How long can you stay down?”

“Just over the week-end. Rose is as scrumptious as ever, isn’t she?”

“Funny you like that girl! So many people don’t.”

“She’s odd, but very interesting. All temperament.”

“Nitwit, I call her.”

“Oh, no! She’s as sharp as they come. And beautiful to look upon. As you may see,” he added quickly, for Miss Kortz and Sally came together through a door at the other end.

“Major and minor,” cried Cameron as the two drew near. An apt comment, for the girls were both dark, both alert and merry, and both bubbling over with gayety and excitement.

But Rose was tall, large, and of a dominating type. Her hair was so dark a brown as to seem black, and her eyes large and dark, like a gazelle’s.

Sally was small, lithe and as graceful as a kitten. Her hair was a soft brown, and her eyes twinkling and sparkling at every word she spoke.

But their tastes were strikingly different. Rose wore Cardinal red silk, with a band of gilt stars round her massed black curls, while Sally was in soft, pale yellow chiffon, simply made and vastly becoming.

Murrell, coming along like a giant ogre, bore down on them, tossed them out of his way, and sitting down by Aunt Randy, devoted himself to her entertainment.

Other guests appeared in groups, for it was a large dinner, and Hopton the butler entered with Hake and his minions bearing cocktail trays.

Katherine appeared, late but unhurried, and greeted her guests, with now and then a murmured apology for Wiley.

“He’s in his rooms,” she said, “but he didn’t answer my tap. I didn’t go in, for it’s late and I came on down.”

Cameron came to her, bringing and introducing Fleming Stone.

“How good of you to come,” she said, cordially. “I’ve put you next to Mr. Vane, for I want him to have a good talk with you. I always give my husband any particularly good things that come my way.”

“Splendid,” said Stone. “And may I have a good talk with you after dinner? Or shall you be too busy?”

“No, indeed; we’ll hide on some veranda for a real pow-wow. I’m awfully interested in your sort of work. But here are a lot of young people waiting to stare at you. Sally, take care of Mr. Stone.”

Sally was quite capable of doing this bidding, and Stone played up to her with equal skill.

At last Sally said, looking anxious, “I can’t imagine why Dad doesn’t appear! He’s always late, but not so late as this. However, I know the reason, his man is out for the afternoon, and Daddy won’t let anyone substitute.”

It was then half past eight, and Hopton came to announce dinner.

But even with his utmost unobtrusive searching, he couldn’t discover Mrs. Vane. He went to Aunt Randy and asked quietly, if she knew where his mistress might have gone to.

“Possibly,” Randy said, “Mrs. Vane may be with her husband. She was amazed at his non-appearance and perhaps she went to speak to him. Has Prout returned yet?”

“He’s just come in, Miss Vane. He’s getting into his uniform.”

“Well, go up yourself, Hopton, or send Prout when he’s ready. I’m much surprised myself. Give them another round of cocktails.”

Keeping her poise, Randy chatted gayly with her friends, and waited for news from upstairs. The whole twenty dinner guests were present, except the host and hostess. It was queer.

Hopton returned, went to Miss Randy and said, in low tones;

“Mrs. Vane desires you to go up to Mr. Vane’s rooms at once, and then the dinner will proceed immediately.”

Relieved but mystified, the old lady rose and followed the butler from the room, dismissed him and went up the stairs alone.

She was Vane’s aunt, and though nearly seventy-five, was active and energetic. Disregarding the Do Not Disturb sign, she made her way through the screened porch and into the study.

There she found Katherine and the dead body of Wiley Vane.

Gazing steadily on the still form, Miranda said, in a cold, hard voice;

“Who did it?”

“I don’t know,” the wife returned, looking and sounding like a wooden image; “what are we to do?”

“We must think quickly,” returned Randy, as she brought her agile mind to bear on the situation downstairs. “You go down, Katherine, act as if nothing had happened, preside at the table, and as soon as things are going fairly, come back here and I’ll go down. Don’t say much, apologize for Wiley with a few meaningless words, and talk of other matters. We’ll have to have some help, so ask Trevor Cameron to come up here but only after things settle a bit. Put Sally in her father’s place, then she’ll be next to Mr. Stone. Can you manage all that?”

“Yes, I can do anything, I must do anything that will ease things off.”

“Go on, then, I’ll think this over, and leave a note here for you. I won’t break down if you don’t.”

“But there’s some law about not touching the body—”

“Nobody’s going to touch it, and I’ve no use for laws just now! Hurry away, do. Touch up your face as you go down the stairs. Let Hopton announce dinner as soon as you are back in the lounge, and carry it all off with a high hand. If you break once, you’re gone. We simply can’t have a scene! Go, now.”

Katherine went. She obeyed orders to the word. Everybody always obeyed Aunt Miranda. She used her compact on the way downstairs, and entered the lounge with a calm smile, looked up as Hopton told her dinner was served, and with Fleming Stone led the way to the dining room.

“I’ll have to deprive you of your talk with my husband,” she said, “as Mr. Vane is unable to be with us. So I’m giving you my daughter as a substitute, and I hope you like youngsters.”

“When they’re as good to look upon as Miss Vane, yes. I hope I shan’t bore her.”

“She’s only a baby, don’t bother about her. You’ll have Miss Kortz on your other side; she’s really intellectual.”

They separated then, and Katherine took her own place, while Sally sat at the other end of the table.

Half way through the first course, Katherine rose, unostentatiously, and with a slight smile and a murmured word of apology, left the room.

Fleming Stone, who was seated on Sally’s right hand, said, lightly, “Do you think I could be of any assistance? Is anything wrong?”

“Oh, goodness, no,” cried the girl. “Mummie has to go and pull Dad down half the time. We’ll collect the crowd after a bit. Aunt Randy is among the missing too, but that’s a comfort. Nothing can go wrong if she’s at the helm.”

“Wonderful old lady,” declared Stone. “I adore old ladies.”

“Better than youngsters?”

“Far, far better,” he teased her, “well,—except when the young ladies are nice looking.”

“Am I?” asked Sally, with a demure expression.

“Fairly so,” he replied, gazing at the pluperfect little face. “About as nice-looking as an houri,” he added as he noted an unspoken demand for something of that sort.

“I’m not sure I know just what an houri is,” she said, with a quick smile.

“Well, it’s something like an odalisque.”

“Mercy! And what’s that? It sounds like some sort of semi-precious stone.”

“Me, for instance?”

About to respond in kind, Sally stared at Aunt Miranda, who sailed into the room and took her chair with astonishing pomp and circumstance, a queer piece of business for the usually quiet-mannered lady.

No remarks were made concerning these comings and goings, and the dinner party made good and was all that a dinner party should be. Some curious guests wondered, and even put it down to preparations for the evening fireworks. Others assumed a sudden illness of their host, and necessary presence of the family. This supposition was strengthened when Trevor Cameron rose and left the room.

“Back in a minute,” he called out gayly, waving his hand. But his words were lost in the explosions of gunpowder outside, that grew louder and more frequent as the hour grew later.

He had been summoned from the table by Hopton’s whisper, and had no notion what for. The butler told him he was wanted in Mr. Vane’s room, but as Cameron professed ignorance of Vane’s quarters, Hopton escorted him, and then hastened back to the dining room.

So when Cameron entered the room of death, he found there only Katherine and her dead husband, with Prout hovering in the background.

“Help me, Trevor,” she cried, miserably. “Wiley is dead, someone has shot him, see, right through the forehead.” She removed a towel. “Now, I’m not going to give way, and selfishly nurse my own grief, I can’t have the dreadful scene that would ensue. No one knows but Hopton and Prout, and Aunt Randy and me. And now, you. Will you save me from the awful situation? Will you help me to keep it all secret until after the party is over? I shall stay here by Wiley. Prout will be with me. You are one of my oldest and dearest friends, will you keep the party going? Murrell will look after the fireworks, but it’s better he shouldn’t know of this. I can’t let the affair be spoiled for Sally and Rose! I can’t have the terrible scenes that would, that must ensue if we told it now! Don’t you see, Trevor, it must be hid for a time?”

Cameron looked at her, scarce believing he heard the words he thought he did. Yet he saw her point of view. Queen of society, she couldn’t face the fearful publicity this thing would mean if exposed now.

Yet, he was a doctor, and he couldn’t so insult his profession as to cover up a murder, even for a time; for murder it must be.

“Give me a few moments, Katherine,” he said. “Let me think, let me look things over. Go in another room for a bit, will you? Just step in the dressing-room.”

“No I’ll stay here. Do what you will, but I’ll remain.”

And sitting stiffly in a straight-backed chair, the newly made widow watched her dead husband.

Trevor Cameron watched him, too. Although a young doctor, he was both skilled and clever in his work, but he had had little or no experience with violent death. Of course, he knew the body must not be touched until the police could be summoned and arrive. That, then, was his first duty.

But, also, he appreciated the situation, and he knew how Katherine would hate the excitement and publicity such a move would make. Would it be so very wrong to hide the tragedy for a time, until the party could finish dinner and go out to see the fireworks? The dinner could be hurried, or stay, better than that, he could mark time by questioning the servants.

Without looking at Katherine, he called Prout in from the next room.

“What time did you get in, Prout?” he inquired, with the air of a coroner.

“A few minutes after eight, Dr Cameron. Hopton told me Mr. Vane was not yet down to dinner, and I hurried into my uniform and came right up here.”

“The Disturb sign was on the door?”

“Yes, sir, but that never applies to me. I am allowed to come in at any time.”

“Is there never occasion when Mr. Vane doesn’t want you to do so?”

“In that case he would lock the door.”

“May the Disturb sign be disregarded by anyone else?”

“Only by Mrs. Vane, sir.”

“Did you come in here Katherine, before you left the table to come up, a short time ago?”

“No, not until I was sent for by Prout.”

“Then you discovered Mr. Vane’s body?” and Cameron turned to the valet.

“Yes, sir. I changed my clothes, and then came right up here, to see if I could help Mr. Vane. Unheeding the sign, I walked right in. I saw him lying, just as he is now,, on the day bed. I was so overcome, I sat down for a few minutes to pull myself together. I almost collapsed, Dr Cameron, I’ve never seen a dead body before, except at a funeral.”

“How did you know he was dead?”

“How could I help knowing? With a fierce wound like that in his forehead, and him perf’ly quiet, what could he be but dead?”

“Did you touch him?”

“Oh, no, sir!”

“What did you do?”

“I went downstairs and told Hopton I must see Mrs. Vane at once. He said I couldn’t, but I said I must, and he went and found her. We came up here, and I had to tell her, of course—”

“Of course, Prout,” Katherine interrupted, “and from now on, Trevor, we won’t discuss the matter. Stay here, Prout, for we have to decide what to do,”

“I take it,” Cameron said, “that no one knows of this save us three,—and the murderer?”

“And Aunt Randy,” Katherine reminded. “She is a major general, you know, at taking care of trouble. She’s all for letting the dinner party go right on, and tell no one the truth until after the guests are gone.”

Cameron stared at her.

“Impossible,” he said, decidedly. “You must see for yourself, Katherine we can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“It’s against the law, and against all canons of civilization and decency.”

“You’re a good doctor, Trevor, but you’re not a lawyer. Are you sure it’s against the law?”

“Of course it is!”

“Is it, Prout?” said Katherine, thereby offending both men.

“I don’t know, Mrs. Vane,” the valet replied.

“I thought we were discussing this affair,” Cameron put in, shortly.

“I want to,” Katherine returned, “but you don’t discuss, you just lay down laws. Now advise me, help me, won’t you, Trevor?” Her voice was plaintive, and her face wistful. “I can’t go downstairs and break up the party and tell them the awful truth! You go down, or let Prout go, and say that Wiley is very ill, a sudden serious attack. But ask them to go on and finish dinner, and then go out to see the fireworks.”

“Katherine, you’re mad. A thing like that can’t be done, it simply can’t.”

“Say it is illegal, then. What would be the penalty? I’ll pay it.”

“I don’t know what it would be. Such a thing has never happened, it’s unheard of. Now, listen to me. We must follow the usual routine. We must call in the nearest policeman, the one on the beat, you know, and—”

“I won’t! I will not! Have a policeman bursting in on my dinner party? Never!”

“Well, here’s an idea. Call up Mr. Stone. I mean ask him to come up here from the dinner table. He’ll know a lot more than I do about the proper proceeding.”

“Oh, no! Not Mr. Stone!” and Katherine began to cry.

But Cameron was insistent.

“Yes, we must do it,” he said. “Forgive me, Katherine dear, but I cannot sit by, and see you get into trouble with the police. Prout, go down and tell Hopton to ask Mr. Stone to come up here. Tell Hopton to speak in a low voice, and then you bring Mr. Stone here.”

Getting no contradicting glance from Mrs. Vane, Prout went.

“Say very little, Katherine,” Cameron advised; “remember Stone is diabolically clever,—”

“What of that?” she interrupted. “I don’t propose to ask him to take the case—”

“There is no case as yet! Why did you use that expression?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Trevor, don’t torment me so! And don’t let Mr. Stone come in here. Call Prout back. I can’t stand all this!”

“Poor child. Look here, Katherine, you go to your own room, and I’ll discuss things with Stone. He can decide what to do, and do it, without bothering you.”

“No, indeed, you must be crazy! Of course, I’ll stay here. But if he proposes something I object to, I shall say so.”

“I’ll bet you will!” was Cameron’s thought, but he didn’t put it into audible words.

Shown in by Prout, Fleming Stone entered the room, and stretched out a sympathetic hand to Katherine Vane.

Then he turned to the dead man, and as Cameron raised the napkin laid over the face, Stone gave it a long, steady gaze, and motioned for the covering to be replaced.

“Can I help?” he said, wondering if Vane had been killed by an enemy.

“You can help me, Mr. Stone,” cried Katherine, her voice trembling with anxiety. “You can tell Doctor Cameron that it will be all right to defer the notification of the police until after my guests have gone.”

“Why, Mrs. Vane? I cannot understand such a request as that. Do you know who killed your husband?”

“How do you know he is my husband? You’ve never met him.”

“Prout told me, on the way upstairs. It cannot have been suicide, it is not likely an accident. Do you know who shot him?”

“Mercy, no. And it must be discovered. But, can’t we wait a short time,—an hour or so? Let the party come to a close without the guests knowing—”

“Without knowing Mr. Vane is dead? Do you mean that?”

Katherine Vane nodded emphatically.

“You see,” she went on, eagerly, “the knowledge would be such a shock, such a thunderbolt to the guests, that the excitement would be more than I could bear. Fix it somehow so that we can keep it all secret until they have gone, and then do what must be done.”

“No, that is not possible,” Stone said, quietly but positively; “how much longer will they stay? It’s well after ten o’clock now.”

“Oh, is it? Then they’ll be leaving soon for the fireworks, down on the lower terrace. Just, please, let them get away, and then—then what do you do, Mr. Stone?”

“Your doctor should be sent for.”

“I suppose so, but he is spending the summer abroad. Doctor Cameron is staying here in the house, and is, of course, a satisfactory substitute.”

“Of course. Then, I assume, Doctor Cameron will take up the routine work.”

“I am ready to do so,” Trevor responded, “but I am loth to proceed in a course that so distresses Mrs. Vane. I trust you, Mr. Stone, can persuade her of its necessity.”

“I shall not try to do that,” Stone said, somewhat coldly, “but I sincerely hope she will see for herself the advisability of it. It is playing with fire to omit any legal proprieties, especially in an apparent murder case. It is not my place to direct or advise, but you know yourself, Doctor Cameron, where your duty lies. Or the duty of somebody. I am not sufficiently familiar with the family to know who is at the head of it—”

“I am,” said Katherine Vane, “in the absence of my husband. And yet, it may well be that Mr. Vane’s sister, Miss Vane, may consider herself now the head.”

“May we not have her up here?” asked Stone, gently.

“Of course,” and Katherine bade Prout fetch Miss Randy.

She was glad to do this, for she felt sure Randy would be as averse as she was herself to any unpleasantness, and also, she would be glad of Randy’s strength to lean upon.

Miss Vane appeared, and immediately assumed the leadership. She seemed to be not only head of the house, but head of the present conference and pretty much head of everything.

“As my nephew’s widow,” she began, “Mrs. Vane is naturally mistress here, and I accept her as such. But as the last remaining scion of the house of Vane, I take it upon myself to attend to the obsequies of my nephew, and to direct or dictate whatever proceedings may be necessary. Was my nephew murdered?”

She seemed to fling the question at the two somewhat surprised looking men who faced her.

Fleming Stone, with a slight bow toward Doctor Cameron, waived his responsibility.

“Beyond doubt,” Trevor said; “he was shot through the forehead, in a way that precludes suicide, and cannot be a natural death. It is my duty to call the police, and I trust no objection will be raised to my doing so.”

“I should hope not!” Miss Randy exclaimed. “Do we not want to find out who committed this crime? Who murdered my loved nephew? Who could object? Not you, Katherine!”

“I want the police called, Randy,” Katherine said, “but I’d like to wait until the dinner is over and the guests gone. I cannot see what difference it would make. The police cannot bring Wiley back to life. A short delay will in no way alter matters. However, if you have made up your mind, it is useless for me to try to move you. You have no interest in what I may want”

“Fiddlesticks, don’t talk that way! I don’t know much of the law, but I do know that such an attitude on your part, will get you in trouble, sooner or later. Isn’t that so, Mr. Stone? Isn’t it, Trevor?”

Neither man answered the question directly, but Cameron gave some advice.

“You see, Aunt Randy, I’ve had little to do with murder cases. But Mr. Stone has had a great deal of experience. Let me advise you to do as he says.”


Chapter 3
The Police Arrive

“But I am in no position to advise,” Fleming Stone told them. “I am not employed on this case, I have not been asked to investigate it, and any effort on my part to solve its mystery, would be intrusion.”

“I understand that,” said Miranda, quickly. “And, as I say, I stand now in place of my nephew, as head of the family, and I ask that you take the case, and do all you can to discover the murderer. You agree, Katherine?”

“Oh, yes, yes; you will have your own way, anyhow. But I think it would be more gracious if you had asked me first if I agreed.”

“Don’t quibble,” begged Cameron. “I’m sure you two ladies can get along in peace and amity. Now, Mr. Stone, since you are formally employed by Mrs. and Miss Vane, will you get to work at once? Can anything be done to-night?”

“Much must be done to-night,” said the detective. “There has been too much delay. First, and immediately, send for the policeman on the beat. Bring him in here as quickly as possible.”

“Prout,” said Katherine Vane, and the valet stood at attention. “Go down at once and bring up policeman Grogan. What shall he tell him, Mr. Stone?”

Stone turned to the waiting man. “Just ask him to come, without knowing exactly what for. If he hesitates or objects, then tell him it’s a serious matter and he must come. Only if absolutely necessary, tell him it’s murder.”

Prout, looking very solemn, left the room.

“Wait, Prout,” said Katherine, “if there are still any guests around bring Grogan in the back way, and up the back staircase.”

“Yes, madam,” and the man departed.

“I wonder if we are safe in letting that one go,” said Dr Cameron, gravely. “Suppose he is implicated.”

“Oh, no!” exclaimed Katherine. “Prout was devoted to Wiley. He’s been with him for years. I’ll vouch for Prout.”

“You can’t vouch for anybody,” declared Aunt Randy, “among the servants, I mean.”

“Are there many servants?” asked Stone. “Any of them new ones?”

“Yes, new, old and all sorts,” Katherine told him. “But I can’t think any of them would do anything like this. They’re reliable and trustworthy.”

“So far as you know,” added Stone.

“Of course. But I’ve been mistress of this house for ten years, and not a mere figurehead either. I know all the staff, and I treat them kindly; I’m sure they appreciate it.”

“Is there any friction among them? Do you notice that?”

“Nothing to speak of,” Mrs. Vane said.

“Why, Katherine,” Randy interjected, “Prout and Hopton are at swords’ points, and two or three of the maids are at odds.”

“We won’t go into those matters at present,” Stone declared. “Let us collect what facts we know. Who saw Mr. Vane alive last?”

“The murderer,” exclaimed Randy.

“Of course. But since we don’t yet know his identity, who is the last known to have seen Mr. Vane?”

“Of course we all saw him at lunch time,” offered Miss Randy.

“All who were here,” corrected Cameron. “I wasn’t here then, nor Mr. Stone.”

“Yes, that’s so. Well, I saw him last after he played tennis. I met him in the hall. He looked very warm and tired.”

“He was,” said Katherine. “He enjoyed the game, but it was too much for him.”

“Was he ill?” asked Stone.

“Not exactly, but he was what they used to call po’ly.”

“Oh, hardly that,” Randy said; “he was just tired from the game.”

“Officer Grogan,” announced Prout, ushering in a big, blue-coated man.

“Mr. Vane!” exclaimed the policeman, at once recognizing the dead man in spite of the covered face.

“Yes,” said Stone, rising and removing the napkin for a moment. “He was shot, and presumably among the various explosions incident to the day, the sound was not noticed.”

“How much is known?” and Grogan looked at the faces about him.

“Almost nothing,” said Cameron. “I am a doctor, and though I didn’t find the body, I was one of the first to see it.”

“Who did find it?”

“Prout, the man who brought you up here.”

“Have the guests all gone, Prout?” Katherine inquired, eagerly.

“Yes, Mrs. Vane, there are a few still lingering on the terrace but they’re mostly gone.”

“When was this body found?” demanded Grogan.

For a moment no one spoke, and then Prout said, “I can’t exactly say. I had the afternoon off and when I do, I’m not expected back until about eight o’clock. I lay out my master’s clothes before I go out, and he dresses himself. He doesn’t mind that, if everything is at hand. Then he goes down to dinner, and when I come in, I tidy up the room and put out his night things.”

“And you don’t know what time you came in?”

“Well, no. It’s a holiday, you see, and great confusion everywhere. I paid no heed to the time.”

“Well, what’s the nearest you can come to it? You must have an idea.”

“Then, about eight o’clock, I suppose.”

“Oh, no, it was later than that,” Katherine said; “we waited until half past eight for Mr. Vane to come down.”

Prout turned pale, but said nothing.

“I must call Headquarters,” said Grogan. “There’s been enough delay already. It’ll be hard to get the men I want, on a holiday and all that, but I’ll do my best. Where’s a telephone?”

“Right here,” said Cameron, pushing forward a French instrument.

Grogan took it up, and soon put through connections.

“The Medical Examiner will come at once,” he reported, “and the Inspector and his aides soon after.”

“And then what will they do?” Katherine faltered.

“They will make preliminary investigation,” Grogan said, looking at her kindly. “Can’t you go to your room, Mrs. Vane, and have someone call you when you are needed?”

“I should be glad to do so. Call my maid, Prout, and ask her to see if the young ladies are in their rooms.”

“Yes, madam,” and the man left the room.

“We ought to keep an eye on him,” Grogan murmured uneasily.

“He’ll be right back,” Aunt Randy declared. “Can I go to my room?”

“You may all leave this room, but you may not leave the house. I shall call a few more men, things are quieting down in the streets, the holiday excitement is pretty well over.”

Officer Grogan went downstairs and out the front door. His whistle brought helpers, and he felt more comfortable when he had placed them.

But it was half past twelve before the Medical Examiner arrived.

At his very presence the matter put on a graver aspect.

He was followed by a detective and two aides.

The family group were sent down to the drawing-room, in charge of Inspector Rowland, and Police Detective Gillmore; except for Doctor Cameron, who remained with Medical Examiner Burton, in Wiley Vane’s rooms.

Fleming Stone hesitated as to which group he preferred to be with and concluded he would rather stay by the Medical Examiner, unless an objection were raised.

He felt himself in rather a peculiar position, and wondered that Cameron had not introduced him more fully. Then, seeing a tiny hair on the cheek of the dead man, he brushed it away carefully, just as Dr Burton turned toward him.

“What is that? What are you doing?” the Examiner said.

“Nothing,” said Stone, “a little hair. Want it?” He held out his hand in the palm of which was a very small crescent of dark hair.

“No,” and Burton smiled. “Who are you, anyway?”

“Stone is my name. I’m a dinner guest here.”

“He’s Fleming Stone, the detective,” said Cameron. “The case is in his hands.”

“Who put it there?” and Dr Burton looked decidedly surprised.

“Mrs. Vane and her aunt-in-law. Miss Vane, asked me to investigate,” Stone said, in a casual, commonplace way.

“I am glad to know you, Mr. Stone,” the Examiner said, still with a puzzled expression on his face. “Do you not think, however, that your place is with the Inspector?”

“Just as you say,” Stone returned. “Shall I go downstairs, then?”

“Perhaps it would be better. Report to Rowland, will you?”

Stone stared a little at this, but remembering he would get from Cameron all that occurred up here, he went down to the drawing-room.

He and the Inspector had been introduced before, and Stone well knew that Rowland was glad to meet him again.

He said, “With us, eh, Mr. Stone? We’ll indeed be glad of your valuable assistance.”

“I am engaged by the Vane ladies,” Stone said, glancing at Katherine and Miranda. “I know of your clever work, Inspector, and I’m sure we shall get on together famously.”

“Right, right Yes, indeed,” was the hearty response. The good-natured man was able and willing to work with anybody, providing he had brains, and he had heard often of Stone’s intellectual achievements.

Not so, however, Detective Gillmore. He openly frowned, and made a low voiced remark about too many cooks, or something to that effect.

“Glad to work with you again, Gillmore,” Stone said pleasantly. “We’ve been together before, you know.”

As the other time was an occasion when Stone pulled off a big success and Gillmore had an exceedingly minor part in it, it was unknown to those present.

Gillmore gave a meaningless grunt, and Rowland took up the conversation.

“Though I never had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Vane personally,” he began, “everyone of course, knew the prominent citizen that he was. Respected and looked up to by all, we shall bend our bravest efforts to avenge his death. Let us at once ask the questions that will bring out the salient points. Who is known to have last seen Mr. Vane alive?”

“We were speaking of that when you came in,” Stone replied, as the words seemed to be directed to him. “But so far, we have reached no positive knowledge.”

“What were his occupations through the day?” Katherine answered this.

“He spent the morning at his work, that is, writing and reading in his office. He was with us at luncheon, and afterward took a short nap. Then he played tennis for a couple of hours before dinner.”

“Strenuous tennis?” asked Fleming Stone.

“I’ll say it was,” replied Cameron, nodding his head.

“Yes, it was,” resumed Katherine. “I saw him afterward, and he was overheated and very tired. He went to his rooms for a rest, and I went with him, advising him to see no one until dinner time. He promised me he would not.”

“And he didn’t?”

“I’m sure he didn’t.”

“Then, Mrs. Vane, it would seem that you were the one to see him last.”

“Not necessarily, Mr. Rowland. Are you forgetting the murderer?”

“No, we are searching for the murderer. Can you suggest any enemy of Mr. Vane or anyone who wished his death?”

“Mercy, no!” and Katherine looked horrified. “Yet there must have been such. Somebody killed him.”

At that moment, Dr Burton, the Medical Examiner came downstairs and walked into the room. He was followed by Cameron and Prout.

“I have finished my work,” he said, “and I have left the body in charge of Collins, one of my plain clothes men. I shall call the morgue now, and have the remains taken there. Have you learned anything, Rowland?”

“Nothing definite. At what time did death take place?”

“Hard to say. Probably between seven and seven-thirty. Say seven-fifteen. He was shot straight through the forehead, but we can’t find the gun. Does anyone here own one?”

Katherine stared at him solemnly, and shook her head.

Aunt Randy spoke up sharply, and said;

“Certainly not! A gun in this house! We have had furious explosives go off all day to-day, but they were only cap pistols or firecrackers. And those big torpedoes, they make a frightful noise! But real guns or pistols, no!”

“How can you be sure of that, Aunt Randy?” Cameron asked. “If an intruder came in and shot Mr. Vane, we have no idea what kind of firearms he had.”

“You could gather no facts or inferences, Doctor Burton?” said Fleming Stone.

“No, Mr. Stone, there were no clues or bits of evidence to be found. But I must be going, Rowland, look after everything, will you?”

“Aren’t you all going?” asked Katherine, with such a disappointed face it was almost comical. “When you take Mr. Vane away, what do you remain for?” and she looked helplessly about.

“I’m afraid, Katherine dear,” Cameron said, “you must face an unpleasant situation. We shall all be questioned and the clearer and more intelligent we make our replies, the sooner the session will be over.”

“Questioned? Now? Here?”

“Yes, Mrs. Vane,” Rowland said, who was well-mannered, but had small patience with ignorance of civic affairs. “To return to the matter we were speaking of, so far as you know, do you think you were the last person we can justifiably assume to have been talking to Mr. Vane?”

“Why, I suppose so. I’ve no idea of time, ever, but I know I was with Mr. Vane in his room, directly he came up from the tennis courts.”

“Who else came up with him? Perhaps we can get an idea of the time that way.”

“I did,” said Cameron, promptly. “But my room is at the other end of the house, and as we parted at the top of the staircase, I never saw Mr. Vane again.”

“Had your husband any enemies, Mrs. Vane?”

“None that I know of. I suppose business men have unfriendly acquaintances, but I am sure Mr. Vane had none that would kill him!”

“Yet there must have been a motive. Were there any incidents in the past that might be revived or remembered, and cause ill feeling against him?”

“I know of no such matters.” Katherine’s eyes began to show a glow of antagonism toward the speaker.

“Why, yes, you do, Katherine,” spoke up Aunt Randy. “There’s Sally, you know.”

“Who is Sally?” Rowland said, quickly.

“She is the adopted daughter of the Vanes,” Randy told them. “She’s out at a dance, just now. She’ll be home soon, I’m sure.”

“Are there any more members of the family out?”

“Not of the family,” said Cameron, who always filled in the breach, “but there’s Mr. Vane’s secretary, Antony Meade.”

“And where is he?”

“I’ve no idea,” Katharine told them. “Mr. Vane gave him the afternoon for a holiday. I think he should have had the whole day.”

“Are there any more stray members of the family or household!”

“Perhaps a few lesser servants. Of course, Mr. Meade and Miss Day we consider as of the family.”

“Miss Day? Who is she?”

“Oh, she’s the stenographer, and a very superior girl. She’s spending the evening with her cousins, down in the town.”

“And who else?”

“That’s the lot,” declared Cameron, “there are no more, except Mr. Stone and myself, house guests.”

“You’re staying here, Mr. Stone?”

“Yes. I didn’t expect to, but Mrs. Vane has asked me to do so,—an invitation too kind to be refused.”

“Yes. Now, the secretary and the stenographer, when will they return?”

“The stenographer, Miss Day, not until to-morrow morning,” Cameron said. “She does not live here. But Mr. Meade does. He will be home about one-thirty or two-thirty according to which train he can catch from New York.”

“He is in the city, then?”

“Yes, he went in on the seven something train. Mr. Vane gave him the entire evening.”

“And that’s all. No more guests?”

“Why, of course!” Trevor cried; “there are two more, Rose and Murrell.”

“Of course,” agreed Katherine. “I can’t seem to remember anything to-night! And I don’t know where they are. Of course, they’re at some neighbor’s house, shooting off fireworks. But whose house, I’ve no idea.”

“With Miss Sally, perhaps?”

“Yes, most likely.”

“We must find them. Will you suggest some names as possibilities?”

“No, there are too many such,” Katherine said, sensibly. “But they will be here soon. Sally never stays out later than two, and seldom as late as that. To be sure, it is a holiday, but she will be in by two.”

Before the girls arrived, however, Antony Meade came in.

He entered the front door with his own key, and paused in amazement at the door of the drawingroom.

“Come in, Mr. Meade,” Katherine said, “we have tragedy in the house.”

“What is it?” Meade asked, speaking gently, as his face showed the deepest concern.

“Tell him, somebody,” Katherine begged, with a pathetic glance round the group.

“Mr. Vane has been shot,” Cameron said, taking up the difficult task of announcement. “Shot and killed,” he added, feeling it best to get the brunt of the news over.

Meade sat down in, the nearest chair. At that moment his dark eyes looked more than ever like the Cavalier picture, though by no means laughing.

With a glance of compassion at Katherine, he turned to Miss Randy, and looked at her in silent sympathy.

“Can I hear more details?” he asked.

Rowland took up the story.

“Mr. Vane did not appear at dinner,” he said, “and on going to look for him, his wife found him dead in his room,—his study, I believe,—or office.”

“Dead! Shot?” Meade seemed unable to realize it. “Who did it?”

“That we are trying to find out. When did you see him last, Mr. Meade?”

“I saw him last at five o’clock, or very soon after. He called me to his room to give me some instructions about my work. Then he asked me to hang out a card, on which is printed Do Not Disturb, such as they have in hotels, you know. Then I came downstairs, after putting out the card, as he asked, and returned to the downstairs office. But I soon found that I had omitted to get one address which it was imperative I should have. I hated to disturb Mr. Vane, but I had to have the address, so, thinking the house telephone would be less troublesome for him than for him to see me, I called him on that. He was not asleep, he said, and he told me the address. He also asked me to get him a certain medicine from New York. Then I said good-by and hung up the house telephone, and by hurrying with my work, I just caught the seven o’clock train.”

“To New York City?”

“Yes. I was with a friend all evening, and he brought me home in his car. He dropped me here just now.”

As Meade finished his story, a gay quartette ran in from the terrace.

“Well, you are late birds,” Sally exclaimed, and then stopped suddenly as she saw several strange men and a policeman in uniform. “What’s up?”

“Come here, dear,” Aunt Randy said, and drew the girl down beside her on the sofa. Rose sat beside Trevor Cameron, and as she did so, she introduced the young man who came home with them.

Herbert Nash, he was, and puzzled enough he looked as he gazed at the circle of people.

Inspector Rowland plunged into another telling of the story.

With real gentleness he explained his presence there, and put in as few words as he could the sorrowful tale.

Naturally, the two girls cried, but Sally’s was a sad little weeping, while Rose sobbed noisily and gave way to almost theatrical grief.

Waiting, now and then, for cessations of their tears, Rowland went steadily on, until all the facts were known to them and to Gregory Murrell, who looked jealously at Rose, as she let her hand creep into Trevor’s.

“May I go to my room?” Rose asked, her voice trembling with emotion.

“In a few moments, Miss Kortz. When did you last see Mr. Vane?”

“At lunch time. Directly afterward I went for a drive and later for a swim, while the others played tennis. Mr. Vane was in the tennis game, so I saw him then, but not to speak to. I haven’t spoken to him since luncheon.”

She began to cry again, and Rowland told her and Sally they might go to their rooms.

He found nothing of interest in questioning Herbert Nash, as that young man had not been at Greencastle for dinner, and had joined the party during the evening.

Rowland took down his address and dismissed him.

Gregory Murrell had little to tell, also. He was exceedingly quiet, and seemed annoyed that such an unpleasant occurrence should spoil his visit at Greencastle.

He went over and sat by Katherine, saying in a low voice that he would leave for the city in the morning, as his presence in the house of sorrow would be distressing to both hosts and guest.

But Rowland heard the low-spoken sentence, and said:

“No, Mr. Murrell, you cannot do that. Everyone now here must remain until dismissed. You do not seem to realize the seriousness of a murder case. It may be a short or a long time, but stay you must, until permission is given you to leave.”

“You let Herbert Nash go at once,” was the angry retort.

“Mr. Nash was not here at the time of Mr. Vane’s death. You were, and—”

“You’re not accusing me of murder, are you? It sounds very much so!”

“I’m not accusing anybody of anything. But you must abide by the law, as I think you know yourself.”

“Oh, of course. I’m not really raising objections. Perhaps I can be of assistance in finding the criminal.”

“That is, of course, possible. We shall be glad of any help in that direction.”

“Then I ally myself to Mr. Stone, and between us we may do fine work.”

Fleming Stone gave the youth a peculiar look, but he said only, “Thank you.”


Chapter 4
Stone’s First Clue

If Fleming Stone were pleased or otherwise by Murrell’s offer of assistance, no one could know it. The detective sat quietly in a comfortable chair, looking at the others but saying little.

The case interested him, and he fairly longed to get on with it. It seemed to him that so far, next to nothing had been done. Also, it seemed that nobody cared much whether anything were done or not. This he didn’t understand at all, and greatly wanted a talk with the Inspector that would give him some direct information.

Rowland was a good man and a clever one, but Stone couldn’t help feeling he would like to do a bit of questioning for himself. And he felt there was no reason that he shouldn’t have that privilege, since he had been engaged by the members of the family. However, he was satisfied, for to-night to listen, and he planned that next day, he would start out on his own lines.

Gregory Murrell interested him, and he told himself he should accept the young man’s offer of help, in order that he might learn some things he wanted greatly to know.

He roused himself from his thoughts to realize that Inspector Rowland was talking.

“It is my duty to inform you,” he was saying, “that this is by no means what is sometimes called an open and shut case. On the contrary, it looks to me like a complicated matter. Apparently, much investigation will have to be made, many facts learned, a great deal of routine work done as well as clues searched for and evidence sifted. All who were in the house at the approximate time of the murder, will be detained until excused by the police. I regret the inconvenience this will doubtless cause many of you, but it cannot be avoided. Now, if anyone present knows of any fact or even supposition that will be helpful, it is his duty to tell it frankly and at once. A detective may gather knowledge from a small bit of information that a layman would deem of no importance. We are fortunate in having Mr. Stone with us, for his superior detective work is well known.”

Detective Sergeant Gillmore frowned, as he usually did at any praise of Stone. And in a somewhat fretful voice, he remarked:

“Suppose Mr. Stone shows us some of his erudition and perspicacity, instead of sitting around, receiving compliments.”

“Good, Gillmore,” exclaimed Stone. “Nothing would please me better. I’ll begin with a straight-forward question. I would like to hear from everyone present, exactly where he or she was at six forty-five this evening. That is the probable time of the murder, according to the Medical Examiner, Dr Burton. Where were you, Mrs. Vane?”

“At six forty-five? That’s quarter to seven, isn’t it? Gracious, I never know the time! But, yes, I do remember this. I was looking for Mr. Vane about that time. He had finished his tennis game and left the court. The young people had gone to their rooms to dress for dinner, I think, and all of the afternoon crowd had gone. I went to Mr. Meade’s office to see if Mr. Vane was there—”

“Let me get these offices straight,” said Stone. “Mr. Meade has an office downstairs?”

“Yes, that is the principal office, as Mr. Meade will tell you.”

Meade was sitting silent, staring at the Inspector and Fleming Stone alternately.

“Yes,” he said, in a low dull voice, “the main office is on this floor, a large, fine room, I do all my work there, and Miss Day, the stenographer does hers. Then, upstairs, in his own apartment, Mr. Vane has— had a screened porch, with an inner office, which he used in pleasant weather. He had just been telephoning me, on the house telephone, when Mrs. Vane came to my office to inquire for him. We call the downstairs office mine, to distinguish them.”

“And about what time was this, Mr. Meade?”

“I can tell you that exactly, Inspector. I was to have the evening off, and I planned to spend it in New York. I wanted to take the seven o’clock train, and Mr. Vane had kindly ordered a car to take me to the station. I was about to go out to the car, when Mrs. Vane came to the office. Of course, I waited to hear what she said, and when she asked for Mr. Vane, I told her he was in his room, as I had just been talking to him on the telephone. You see, Mr. Vane’s private office is upstairs, in his own suite of rooms, and a private house telephone connects the two offices.”

“And then you went off in the car, Mr. Meade?”

“Yes, and barely caught the seven o’clock train. It was a few minutes late, or I’d have had to wait for the next one.”

“And what did you do, Mrs. Vane?” Stone took up the questioning again.

“Me? Let me see. Mr. Meade went off, I said good night to Miss Day, and I started upstairs. I intended to speak to my husband, although the Disturb card was out. But I changed my mind. He had been talking to Mr. Meade on an important business matter, and I concluded it would be better to let him rest. He has been a little under the weather the last few days, and I didn’t go to his rooms at all, but went to—to my own rooms.”

“You went directly there?”

“Almost. I met Mr. Murrell on the stair landing, and we talked a few minutes, then I went on to my rooms to dress for dinner.”

“At what time was dinner?”

“It was dated for eight o’clock, but some of us went down sooner, and gathered in the lounge for cocktail hour. And then, as Mr. Vane didn’t appear, we delayed dinner to wait for him.”

“Then, to come back to the original question, where were you at quarter to seven this evening?”

“As near as I can state, I was in Mr. Meade’s office, or just leaving it.”

“And you did not see Mr. Vane again, alive?”

“No, I did not,” said Katherine, turning white, and obviously holding herself together with difficulty.

“I will excuse you, Mrs. Vane. You may go to your room, and I trust you can sleep. I shall have to have a further interview with you in the morning.”

Dr Cameron rose to accompany her from the room, but the Inspector motioned him back, and asked that her maid be sent for.

Barclay appeared, and gently led her mistress from the room.

Inspector Rowland sighed.

“As you see, Mr. Stone,” he said, “very close questioning will be necessary. I suggest that we ask Miss Vane some things, and then, let the ladies retire for the night.”

“Do, do,” exclaimed Aunt Miranda, eagerly. “I suppose you want to know when I last saw my nephew, and where I was at six forty-five. I last saw him this afternoon, about two o’clock, I suppose, as it was directly after lunch. I met him in the hall and I said I was going to my room for a nap, as the noise of the firecrackers and giant torpedoes was wearing me out. He, too, expressed his annoyance at the continuance of the racket and said he was going to try to go to sleep, but he feared his inability to succeed. I never saw him alive again.”

“Was anyone with you?” Stone asked, gently.

“No, or, perhaps there was someone in the rear of the hall. I didn’t notice particularly.”

“And how did you spend the afternoon?”

“I succeeded in getting a short nap, after which I felt refreshed and went for a walk in the gardens.”

“And at six forty-five?”

“About that time I went to my room to dress for dinner. I like to dress slowly, especially in summer weather. Also, I like to be downstairs in good time to receive the guests. Also, I didn’t kill my nephew. It seems absurd to tell you that, but it is no more absurd than for you to ask me.”

“But I haven’t asked you that,” said Stone, with the shadow of a smile.

“Just the same,” she retorted. “When you ask anyone where he or she was at quarter to seven, it’s the same as asking if they committed the murder.”

“Then at quarter to seven you were in your own room, and you were preparing for dinner?”

“Exactly so. I hadn’t begun to dress, I was sitting by the window, enjoying the breeze that had just sprung up.”

“You hadn’t seen the family during the afternoon?”

“Oh, yes, as I walked in the garden I saw the young people here and there, Rose in a bathing suit, Sally in tennis togs. They were surrounded by young men and were in laughing mood. I saw nothing of Mr. or Mrs. Vane then.”

“I think, Miss Miranda, you had better go to bed now,” the Inspector said, in answer to a glance from Stone. “In fact I think we will leave all future inquiry until to-morrow morning. There is much to be done, and I must request the whole household to be ready to meet me at nine o’clock. That is doubtless early for you, but it is imperative that we push the investigation as rapidly as possible. Is this satisfactory to you, Mr. Stone?”

“Partly. Suppose we excuse Miss Vane and ask Mr. Murrell to remain a few moments longer.”

Rowland agreed, and Aunt Randy departed, leaving the men together.

“Now, Mr. Murrell,” Stone said, briskly, “if we could put this through to-night, it would be fine. But we can’t, so we may as well wait over till morning. I’m a firm believer in pencil and paper, and as you’ve offered me help, suppose we make a sort of schedule of facts as we know them. And if the Inspector is tired, as well he may be, suppose we excuse him, and tell him the result of our conference in the morning.”

This seemed acceptable all round, and Rowland went away, leaving his Detective Gillmore, and a few stationed guards to watch the house.

Murrell’s vaunted assistance proved of little aid. He made no original suggestions, his responses to Stone’s ideas were vague and valueless, and he was so fidgety and restless that Stone dismissed him and told him to get some rest.

“You too, Mr. Meade,” Stone said, pleasantly. “Or wait, you haven’t told us yet, just where you were at quarter to seven.”

“I was in the car speeding to the railroad station. Drake, the chauffeur was driving, and thanks to his skill I managed to get the seven o’clock train. To be sure, it was a bit late, but if it hadn’t been I think Drake would have spurred up and been in time. He is a skillful chauffeur, and both shrewd and fearless in dangerous traffic. We reached the station at seven ten, and the tardy train came along at seven ten instead of seven, its correct time.”

“And when had you seen Mr. Vane last?”

“He called me on the telephone about five, and I went up to his office to take some instructions. He asked me to put out the Disturb sign when I left his rooms, and I promised to do it.”

“Did you?”

“Yes, at about six-thirty or a bit sooner. Then, later, I found I had omitted to get one address that was absolutely necessary to have. I called up to Mr. Vane on the office telephone, and he told me, and then my work was done, and I rose to go. That was about six forty-five, and just then Mrs. Vane appeared at the door. She was looking for Mr. Vane and I told her he was in the upstairs office, for I had just been telephoning him. She said she would go there at once to see him. Whether she did or not, I do not know. I hurried off and Drake fairly flew to the station, and as I said I caught the train.”

“And spent the evening in New York?”

“Yes, do you want an account of my doings?”

“Not now; possibly to-morrow,” Stone said. “As you see, the matter gets more and more complicated, even mysterious.”

Feeling that he had made a day of it, Fleming Stone told Meade to go to bed, and asked the police detective what his plans were.

“I think I’ll go,” Gillmore replied. “I could sit here with you and talk things over, but it would amount to little, and would have to be gone over again to-morrow. Besides, I’ve pretty much concluded that we’ve got our man.”

“Who?” cried Dr Cameron, eagerly.

Gillmore shot a glance at Stone, and then, as if anxious to get in his opinion first, said quickly,

“Meade, of course. Isn’t it always the confidential secretary? And his alibi was glib as if well learned. Oh, yes, Tony’s the boy.”

Fleming Stone stared at him.

“And his motive?” he said.

“Oh, I don’t know that yet. But probably he has a goodly bit left him in the will, and perhaps he is in love with the beautiful widow.”

Trevor Cameron broke into laughter.

“Sorry to burst your bubble, Mr. Gillmore,” he said, “but Mrs. Vane is about fifteen years older than Tony Meade, and moreover, I’ve been here a great many times and I’ve never seen any indications of personal interest between them. He is an odd man, and one of his peculiarities is his lack of admiration for women. Even that little bunch of loveliness, Dolly Day, has no attraction for him.”

“You can’t be sure of that,” Stone observed, “sometimes the most ardent swains conceal their feelings.”

“Are you for Meade, then?” Cameron asked him. “I can’t say yet that I am, we’ve very little to work on. But if his timetable checks up, he has the corroboration of the chauffeur, the stenographer and Mrs. Vane, to say nothing of the railroad people. However, there are many stories yet to hear, and many to look into.”

“That’s true enough,” said Gillmore. “I think I’ll go home and sleep on it, and I advise you both to do the same. This case is going to be a teaser, by which I mean there are various wires pulling in different directions. Then, there are ladies in it who rank as important figures. Personally, I like best cases where the participants are all men.”

“Why?” said Stone.

“Their statements are more reliable and more truthful. If a woman wants to lie, she can do it more convincingly than a man, and also, if she merely tells her story it is so likely to be colored by her wishes or prejudices, she strays from the truth without realizing it.”

“True talk, Mr. Gillmore,” said Stone, a little surprised at the other’s insight. “Well, then, you go along home, and we’ll convene to-morrow morning at nine o’clock. You’re leaving the place in care of somebody?”

“Oh, yes,—it will be useless for you to try to escape in the night.”

“Then I shan’t try. Good night, Mr. Gillmore, and may you sleep well.”

The detective went away, and Cameron called Hopton soon after.

“Lock up the house as you usually do, and go to bed,” he told the butler. “There are officers in charge, and if they want anything they’ll tell you. I think I needn’t say that if you know anything bearing on the murder of Mr. Vane, it is your duty to tell it. I’ve known you a long time, Hopton, and I know Mr. Vane respected you and had full confidence in your integrity.”

“Yes, sir; thank you, sir. I don’t think I know anything that would be of help, but if I do, I’ll tell you gentlemen.”

“Where were you at six forty-five, Hopton?” Stone asked.

“In my pantry, sir, selecting china and glasses for dinner.”

“Were most of your under servants about then?”

“Most, yes, sir. Each one busy, of course. I remember Mr. Vane’s bell rang in my pantry a little after six. He wanted Prout. I suppose he forgot Prout was on his half holiday. So I sent Hake, hoping Mr. Vane wouldn’t keep him too long, as I needed him. There were still people at tea, the day was informal, and it was getting on for dinner time. Of course, I always know the time, sir. I have to.”

“I see. Well, now, Hopton, as far as I am concerned, you can go to bed. Doctor Cameron will call you when necessary.”

“Very good, sir,” said the butler, and Cameron dismissed him.

As Stone and Cameron went up the stairs and along the hall, they came to Stone’s rooms first.

“They’ve given me a rather luxurious suite,” the detective said, “come on in and have a nightcap, and a parting word.”

Nothing loth, Cameron accepted, and they sat down for a few moments.

“If we’re going to be more or less together in this moil,” Cameron said, “I wish you’d tell me just how far you want me to go as to talking to you about it. If you prefer I shouldn’t ask you any questions, I won’t. But if you’re willing to discuss things now and then, I’d be glad to know it.”

“It’s difficult to reply, Cameron,” Stone said, looking uncertain. “While in many instances I may be willing and glad to chat with you about it, I must also be free to refuse to answer questions or give opinions on some phases of the affair. As most of us agree, it is a difficult and perplexing case. There are so many people involved, so few obvious motives, such an apparent clash of stories, and such a high average of intellect, that mistakes are likely to be made, however carefully we consider. As you doubtless know, the most difficult crimes to discover are those committed by clever and highly educated people.”

“Yes, and upon highly educated victims as well.”

“That is equally true. It is a fascinating problem that faces us, but a deeply puzzling one. Have you any suggestions to offer?”

Cameron laughed.

“It is too absurd, to think of my offering suggestions to Fleming Stone! And yet, it might not be impossible that I might give you a useful hint. To be frank, without meaning anything definite, I can’t help thinking there may be some woman involved, of whom we know nothing.”

“I’ve been led to think Wiley Vane had little interest in women, except his own wife and daughter. Why did he adopt the girl?”

“I know nothing of it, save that the Vanes had no children, and greatly wished they had. So they adopted a girl child, when she was very small. Sally is the idol of Wiley Vane and always has been. But Katherine, while she likes the girl, is not so fond of her as the father was. Personally, I think that Katherine loved the girl as a child, but later years brought about such charm and beauty to Sally that the mother felt she was overshadowed, and gave way to a sort of jealousy. This is only my vague opinion, but it looks that way.”

“And it might well be so. A woman approaching middle age is often sensitive about it, and the sight of freshly blooming youth can increase that sensitiveness to a dangerous point. How, though, would that, even in extreme degree, bring about the doing away with Vane? How could his death help matters for Mrs. Vane?”

“Oh, I didn’t quite mean that. Or, if I did, it was a sort of notion that with Katherine at the helm, and the Vane property at her discretion, as well as the ordering of Sally’s life, she could have things more as she wanted them.”

“What are the terms of the will?”

“That in event of Wiley’s death, the whole estate remains at Katherine’s disposal until the girl is twenty-three, and then to be divided equally between the two.”

“And when will she be twenty-three?”

“Next October,—if she lives until then.”

“Does Inspector Rowland know all this?”

“I suppose so. It’s up to him to find it out.”

“It doesn’t ring true. If Mrs. Vane feels like that, why murder her husband? Why not put away the girl?”

“And be found out? No, we agreed this is a murder of and by clever people. If this theory of mine is right, Katherine is clever in getting rid of Wiley, and leaving only Sally to deal with.”

“You’re looking forward to another murder, then?”

“If necessary. Or, it may be, Katherine is looking forward to another husband.”

“You’re pretty gruesome, old chap.”

“You’ve had lots of experience. Do you run into many murders that are not gruesome?”

“Frankly, no. But this cold-blooded—”

“Yes, cold-blooded. But surely, you can’t see it as an unpremeditated, hot-blooded crime?”

“Not so far, unless the criminal is someone we’ve not yet seen or thought of. And why not? It isn’t necessarily positive that it was committed by someone staying in the house.”

“No, it may be by someone living near by and who had a grudge or claim against Vane, and chose this time to carry out his revenge.”

“It was a good time to choose anyway,” Stone said; “the cleverness you spoke of is shown in the selection of Fourth of July. Dozens of men could have been shot to-day, and not been heard, because of the celebrating gunpowder that was going off all the time.”

“How are you going about your investigation? I mean, hunting for clues, or using psychological methods?”

“Both, I daresay. While not a confirmed psychoanalyst, I find it useful, but never would I neglect a nice, fat clue, if one came my way. Material clues are dearer to me than immaterial analyses. Yet they are not to be looked down upon. Which do you prefer?”

“Hear the man! Talking to me as brother to brother! Well, then, since you’re crazy to know, I prefer the honest injun material clues. Of course, not the worn out ones, the broken cuff link, the initialed handkerchief, the shred of tweed torn from the criminal’s garment, but still, a visible piece of matter.”

“Have you any?”

“Goodness, no! If I had I should have stood and delivered long ago!”

“Well, I have, and as I told you, I do not feel under obligation to show it to you, it seems to me, if it is really indicative at all, it must point to a woman. I am more or less of a reader of character, and I know you are not the sort to beg me to tell you more, or to show you my treasure trove. I’m not often given to confiding as much as I have done to-night. But if I may tell you so, so far, you are the only person in this whole matter, who, as I see it, could not possibly be the criminal.”

“Thanks for the implied compliment, but to tell the truth, I’d rather be one of your suspects than to be crossed off the list so quickly.”


“Because, being innocent, I’d like to see how you attacked a suspect.”

“You’ll probably see enough of that. Are you staying long?”

“Until after the funeral, of course. And until the Inspector fires me. He may not judge me as kindly as you do.”

“Where were you at six forty-five?”

“I haven’t the slightest idea.”

“Then you’d better go to bed and think it over.”

“I’ll go, if you’ll tell me what that clue is you found.”

“I was sure you’d come back to that. But you’ll sit here all night if you wait for that. I’ll promise this, though. If it amounts to anything, I’ll tell you about it.”

“Has anyone seen it?”

“Oh, yes, I showed it to the police. They thought little of it.”

“I see I can’t persuade you. Good night, Fleming Stone.”

“Good night, Doctor, and placid dreams.”


Chapter 5
A Wakeful Night

And then, at last, Stone found himself in his own rooms alone.

He removed his coat and put on a tan-colored silk dressing gown of light weight. This, he often declared made him look more like a detective.

He sat down by a window in his pleasant sitting room, and began to straighten out his thoughts.

And his thoughts were all on Trevor Cameron. He thought of his reactions to Gillmore’s insistence that the confidential secretary was invariably the criminal. Of course, it might be Meade, but Stone’s experienced mind could find no motive for him. He was certainly not in love with Katherine Vane, for though a man could be in love with a woman and hide his passion, yet Stone was a good enough reader of character to feel sure that was not the case with Meade.

He came in the house and was told the startling news. He received it as any man would to whom the victim was a good friend but not a dear one. He cast a sympathetic glance at the widow, but offered no word of sympathy, and did not look at her again. This might or might not mean anything, but it seemed to Stone that it meant but a slight interest in Katherine Vane. He showed a more kindly sorrow for Miss Miranda, and shook his head sadly at the old lady.

In fact, Antony Meade had seemed rather at a loss what to say or do. He was not a man of suave or polished manners and he showed more a willingness to express sympathy than an ability to do so. Stone sized him up, and also had gathered his character from Cameron as a hard worker, and a man who kept much to himself. The fascinating, blue eyed stenographer Stone had not seen, but he felt sure if Meade could resist her blandishments, he was no Lothario.

The detective rather liked the case. This does not mean that he was cold-hearted or oblivious to the sorrow of the stricken family,—yet, stay, were they very deeply stricken, after all? Surely no unassuageable grief was shown on Katherine’s face, and even that delightful old aunt evinced no torture of woe.

Sally might be forgiven for lack of deep emotion, but after all, she was not a baby. Nearly twenty-three, he had been told, old enough to sorrow for a father, who, though adopted, had been kindness itself to her all her life with him.

Rose Kortz he knew nothing about. She attracted him not at all. Handsome, yes, but when you’d said that you’d said it all. He imagined she had a high temper, but he must wait to know her better before judging her.

He rather wondered that Sally liked Rose as a friend. The girls were so dissimilar, not only in appearance, but in most traits of character. Sally was merry and of gentle, correct manners. Rose was blunt, not very polite and of a petulant, spoiled disposition.

However, the girls were out of the question. Who could suspect gentle little Sally, and what motive had Rose?

He must get further data before building up any theories. His hopes were that his investigation would be confined to the house. And Lord knew there were enough suspects in the house.

Although, because a person was in the house, that didn’t necessarily make him or her a suspect.

And, too, though there were lots of suspects, suspicion against them was not very strong.

Say, some man wanted to do away with Vane, in order to secure Katherine for himself. That wouldn’t be Cameron, Stone knew him well, and he evinced no deep affection for her. It wouldn’t be Meade, it was clear to be seen there was no romance there. It might be Murrell, by the way, he had rather forgotten Murrell, but he was sure Murrell wanted a younger bride. Katherine must be over forty, and Murrell looked about thirty-five. Well, it was probably some man Stone had never seen or heard of, some neighbor, perhaps, who had been there in the afternoon.

The matter must wait, and Stone concluded to go to bed. About to do so, he heard a slight commotion outside, under one of his front windows.

He crossed the room, and saw a policeman parleying with a man in plain clothes. In a moment, he saw it was Murrell, and noticed he carried a small bag.

Clearly the officer was detaining him, when he wanted to get away.

“I tell you I’ve got to go,” Murrell stormed at him.

“You can’t, sir. You can’t and you know it.”

“I can if I put you out.”

“It’ll have to be something of a put-out, and besides, it will land you in far greater trouble than you’re in now. Now, go back in the house, like a good chap, and save a mighty unpleasant scene.”

Murrell hesitated, then, seeing someone moving behind a small group of shubbery, turned back, and said;

“Go along, you, and let me alone. I’ll go in the house in a minute, I promise you.”

“Very well,” and the man turned away. But his attention remained on the clump of bushes, and he saw Murrell make for the trees.

A girl ran out, and like a streak of lightning, crossed the lawn, ran to a low fence, sprang over it and disappeared.

“Who was that?” asked Brickell, the guard.

“I don’t know,” declared Murrell. “None of my acquaintances.”

“That’s not true. I heard you call out to her, in a low voice, to run.”

“Oh, no, you’re mistaken. Now, I’ll go back to bed, and you go stalk your girl. You’ll catch her.”

“I’ll not try. You’ll tell the Inspector about this tomorrow morning. Go back to bed, although I see you haven’t been to bed at all yet.”

He looked at Murrell, still in evening dress, and smiled.

“You must have known you couldn’t get out,” he said.

“Well, I know I don’t want to stay in.”

“Why not, Mr. Murrell? It’ll probably be all settled up to-morrow morning, and you can go home good and proper.”

“Think so? Don’t you believe I’ll be held here as a suspect?”

“Oh, that. Well, I dunno. It isn’t my part of the business. Who was that girl?”

“I told you I didn’t know.”

“And you told me an untruth.”

“Maybe so, maybe not.”

“Come along with me, Mr. Murrell; let’s go for a stroll in the gardens.”

It was Fleming Stone speaking. He had put on a coat, and had come down to where the two were standing.

“What for?” snapped Murrell.

“Oh, a pow-wow. What does anybody stroll about for?”

“At three o’clock in the morning?”

“The nicest time for a midsummer stroll.”

“I suppose you want to quiz me. All right, I’ll buy it.”

“On second thoughts, let’s go up to my room instead. We’ll find a different sort of damp.”

“I’m with you. Good night, officer.”

“Who was the girl?” began Stone.

“One of the maids, if you must know.”

“What’s her name?”


“A sweetheart of yours?”

“Oh, to a slight degree, yes. Come on, Mr. Stone.”

As they reached Stone’s suite, Murrell fidgeted a little, and guessed he wouldn’t go in.

“Oh, come ahead,” said the detective, “I’ll do tricks for you with a soda water bottle.”

“Who was the girl?” asked Stone, again, after they were seated with long amber drinks and cigarettes.

“Now, to be honest, Mr. Stone, I’d rather not tell you. It isn’t fair to her, when she had nothing to do with the matter.”

“Then it wasn’t one of the maids?”

“Of course not. And I hope you won’t insist on knowing, for it would only cause her embarrassment, without doing anybody any good.”

“Then let’s leave her out of it, and have a little hobnob of our own as to matters and things. Are you a relative of the family, in any way?”

“That’s good! How’d you guess it?”

“That’s my business, guessing.”

“I thought all detectives scorned guessing.”

“Not the best ones,” Stone gave a roguish smile. “We depend more on guessing than on anything else, except luck.”

“Where’s deduction come in?”

“More or less an exploded theory. Still you must know how to use it if it comes your way.”

“And psychoanalysis?”

“Two per cent help and the rest poppycock.”

“What, then, is your strongest line of work? “

“Observation, understanding and common sense.”

“Are you going to solve this Vane case?”

“What is this Vane case?”

“The mystery of who killed Wiley Vane?”

“There is no such thing as a mystery. What you call that, is only a lack of knowledge.”

“And then, to do what I call solve the mystery, you have to gain that knowledge?”


“Going to do it?”

“I hope so, I think so, and I suppose so.”

“Aren’t you going to quiz me? You’d get much better results up here alone, than down in a big room with a big audience.”

“Better results in some ways, but would they be truer results?”

“I think the answer to that, you’ll have to find out for yourself.”

“Well I’ll ask a few questions. Are you in love with anybody here?”

“Now, Mr. Stone! If I were, surely you could see it for yourself. If not, I can’t persuade you of that by telling you so.”

“Mr. Murrell, I begin to like you very much—”

“May I take that as freeing me from your suspicions?”

“You may not. Frequently, I like and admire a man I have just proved a criminal. If I ask another question, will you answer it truly?”

“Probably not. But you might try it. I daresay you are coming back to the matter of who that girl was who ran across the lawn.”

“Not at all. I know Miss Rose Kortz very well. What an odd name. Of course they call her Rose Quartz.”

“Of course. How did you guess?”

“Oh, I just guessed. Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to let you go. To-morrow will be another day. Good night.”

Still staring at his host, Murrell went through the door Stone held open, but did not see that when the door nearly closed, it stayed half an inch ajar, as Stone snapped off the light, and stood gazing through the small crack that remained.

Nor was he surprised to see Rose Kortz step cautiously out from a niche in the hall, and let herself be clasped silently and closely in Gregory Murrell’s arms.

“There’s a great deal of human nature in people,” he said, to himself, and went, at last, to bed.

But not to sleep.

As a rule, Fleming Stone’s nerves were proof against excitement or worry, but this case had gripped him from the start. He saw vistas running out in all directions, each with seemingly provocative leads to astonishing results. He wanted to follow all of them at once.

Katherine stood out foremost, and the tiny curl of dark hair found on the dead man’s cheek seemed a veritable signboard. He must have another look in that room before the police went over it again tomorrow.

He knew he couldn’t go at once, couldn’t prowl round the house without disturbing the sleepers, if any. But the time wore on and at three o’clock he could stand it no longer.

He got up, dressed in a quiet, dark suit and went softly down to the front door. Stepping out, he encountered, as he had expected, Officer Brickell.

“Round again, sir?” said the policeman. “What’re you after this time?”

“Fresh air and exercise,” Stone replied, with a grin. “But I’m going to take it inside the house. Look here, Brickell, I want to go into Mr. Vane’s rooms. I promise you, I’ll make no noise, but I may have to use my flashlight. I doubt anyone will see it, however. So, if you see me, pay no attention. I have a hunch—well, you know how you feel when you have a hunch.”

“I know, sir,” said Brickell, sympathetically, “can’t rest, can’t sleep, till you have it out with yourself.”

“That’s it, exactly. Now, if I get no results, I’ll give it up, go back to my rooms and stay put. See?”

“Yes, sir. Go to it. It’s all right, of course. Orders is, for you to do whatever you choose. It surprised me some, for I can tell you, the boss don’t cotton much to outside assistance, lugged in by the fam’ly.”

“I know. Most Police don’t. But I’ll make no trouble, I assure you.”

Stone went back into the house, and softly climbed the stairs. There was no creaking, and he made his way to the suite of the late master.

He had learned its situation. One long wing was devoted to the rooms of Mr. and Mrs. Vane. A great hall ran from front to back of the house, on the second floor. At the front end of this, a large screened porch faced the ocean, and formed a general lounge, but was for Mr. Vane’s use exclusively, whenever he desired it. It opened directly from his own main office, and though furnished in handsome wicker appointments, it also contained desks, filing cabinets and bookcases. Wiley Vane was the sort of man who appropriated all his belongings for his own use, yet frequently left them at the disposal of his family or guests. This screened porch opened into the main office, which was furnished with great beauty and taste, yet the utility and convenience of a well ordered office was never lost sight of. The most modern types of safes, desks and files were there in beautiful styles of workmanship and finish, with a few good pictures and bowls of flowers to add to the beauty of the room.

Next to this, was Vane’s dressing room and bath, and then his bedroom.

Followed Katherine’s apartments. Bedroom, then dressing boudoir and bath, the wing ending with a screened porch of marvelous beauty and charm.

Stone went swiftly through the large screened porch and into the main office. This was the room he wanted to look at, and he felt sure that as there were two rooms between that and Katherine’s bedroom, he would not waken her if he stepped carefully.

He softly closed the door between the office and Vane’s dressing room. Then he methodically and systematically searched the office. There were two safes, neither of which he could open. But this didn’t bother him. He knew they would sooner or later be opened by the police, and then he would know their contents. It was secret hiding places he was after. Places so well hidden that the police would overlook them, yet they would be quickly noted by Stone’s sharp eyes. But it seemed there were none of these in Vane’s office.

Nearly at the end of his patience, Stone stood before a large and very heavy piece of old mahogany furniture. It was a tall affair, consisting of a chest of drawers, above which was a marquetry desk, and above that several small drawers, each with an old fashioned lock. None of the drawers would open and no keys were to be seen. If the police managed to pry into the secrets of that container, Stone determined to be there to see.

With a sigh, he left the puzzle of the locked drawers, and very softly opened the next door that led to the dressing room and bath. Again he had reason to admire the appointments, all in perfect taste, though more elaborate than most men would like. The dressing room was really a lounge, and its comfortable chairs and divans, with beautiful appointments for smoking and other refreshments would tempt a sybarite.

But it hinted of no clues or evidence to Fleming Stone, and he went on to the bathroom. The place lacked the immaculate tidiness it always showed, because the police had forbidden any housemaids to go in, a command they were only too willing to obey.

Downhearted, Stone retraced his steps. He dared not go into Vane’s sleeping room, for he knew it adjoined that of his wife, and he had no wish to waken the lady. Softly, he went back to the office, and there, he stood once again, gazing intently on the tall desk. Clearly the desk was not in use, save as a cabinet. The working desk was a flat top mahogany one of entirely modern construction. Vane seldom combined furnitures of different types, but in this room he chose to do so.

Stone moved a light chair, and sat in front of the big desk, as if entreating the haughty looking piece of cabinet work to take pity on his curiosity.

Perhaps he was doing just that, and perhaps the old desk understood, for as the detective sat looking, the old piece of furniture, in some manner or by some means, gave a low creak, and a seam, apparently of its own accord, opened along the back corner of the upper part of the desk, and it parted a small fraction of an inch.

Stone darted toward it, to catch it lest it close up again, and, though painfully pinching his fingers, forced it open wider, until he could insert a cigarette lighter, which he drew from his pocket. Then, he found the catch and quickly understood the mechanism.

In his methodical way, he sat down in front of the panel he had swung open. He soon saw this was the only secret panel, and proceeded to investigate its contents at once. But he found little of interest. There were many old papers and documents, but they seemed to be ancient deeds and such matters, with no bearing on the present case.

There were sheaves of genealogical data, and Stone began to wonder about a missing heir. But after a while, he came to documents with more recent dates. The marriage certificate of the Vanes, the adoption papers of Sally, all the statement and proofs to be expected from the papers of an old family.

It seemed to Stone that the security of the seal should be greater, but after all he had been prying desperately. No one else would dig and delve into such worthless looking material.

Finally, there appeared the will of Wiley Vane.

This, and most of the other papers, Stone put back in their places. The lawyers had rights to such matters. His part was only to get some data as to who killed Vane and why.

There was nothing savoring of romance. No bundles of letters, tied with blue ribbon, no faded photographs or withered flowers.

A little disgruntled, Stone scowled at the old desk. It might have held so much!

Perhaps it did. Perhaps he, the transcendant detective, hadn’t looked deeply enough.

Well, then, it must be done over. And it was.

Another chair was drawn up, another small table chosen, and a more meticulous search was begun.

There were no interruptions, the house was quiet as the grave. But at last the patient searcher was rewarded, to at least a slight degree.

Fleming Stone found, what he had overlooked before, a smallish, old envelope containing a few clippings from old and yellowed newspapers. To his surprise, they were mostly in reference to some people named Murrell. This, of course, roused his curiosity, and he tucked them in his pocket and hunted for more.

He found a few further ones, and three books, marked on the fly leaf by some people named Murrell.

Wondering if the Murrells were connected with the Vanes, he stacked up his loot and with a last look prepared to go to his room.

But the last look held him again. There was a small photograph, at which he stared. It was of a girl, perhaps sixteen or so under which was written, “To Wiley, from his Booful.”

Clearly Wiley Vane was not entirely a misogynist.

This picture was added to his loot, and making sure that he understood the working of the safe, Stone left the office and went to his own rooms.

By his door, he met Brickell, who cautioned to silence as the two silently tiptoed into Stone’s room.

“Lot o’ loot, Mr. Stone?” asked the officer, with a half tone of authority.

“Yes,” said the detective, coolly placing the armfull in a drawer and locking it. “I hope it will bring out some worthwhile facts. It took long enough to get it.”

“Where was it?”

“Have a heart, Brickell. I’m all in. You run along now, and I’ll tell you lots of pretty stories in the morning. By the way, do you know when the funeral will be?”

“I’m not sure, sir, but I think, on Monday. Good night, sir.” And with a last longing look at the tempting bundle of papers, Brickell departed.

Fleming Stone looked into the papers a bit, but failed to see anything of sufficient importance to keep him up any later, so he went to bed just as the dawn was breaking.

He had a vivid dream which hinted to him the guilt of Katherine Vane in connection with her husband’s death.

This, however, was superseded by another dream, which represented Miss Miranda as the criminal. This woke him up exclaiming, “Well, I knew it was one or the other of them! They both had motive!”

When this dream waked him, he gave up all thought of going to sleep again and lay, in idle restfulness, thinking over the two dreams.

As the dawn grew brighter, so did his mind become more active, and he wondered what could have been the reasons he accepted in his dream.

Katherine could only have had a love affair of some sort for her motive but Aunt Randy couldn’t have had even that.

Still, Miss Randy mustn’t be left out of his cogitations. She was of a hardy sort, and she was capable of many things usually unattributed to women.

Suppose she had some motive that seemed to her a duty, women did have such ideas, perhaps she had felt a religious mission to perform, in that case, although he knew the lady but slightly, he felt sure she would carry it through.

He must look into that phase of it,—yes,—look into—

And at last, the ever active brain of Fleming Stone drifted away into the oblivion of sleep.


Chapter 6
Various Testimony

Stone was awakened by a tap at his door and found Hopton there, with a message that Inspector Rowland would like him to attend the conference in the office.

With a spring from his pillows, the detective smiled to find how he had overslept, and told the butler to say that he would be with the Inspector in a few minutes, adding that he wanted no breakfast.

However a small tray was sent him with coffee and rolls, and he ate a bit while dressing.

Even so, he found only Rowland and Gillmore awaiting, and he asked where the other members of the conference might be. The police had no answer for this and they sat in a somewhat moody silence, which Stone felt he had no reason for breaking.

At last, Rowland said, mildly, “Did the night bring you counsel, Mr. Stone?”

“No, I can’t say that it did. I had two odd dreams, early this morning, but I can’t see that they are in any way helpful.”

“You spent some time in these quarters of Mr. Vane’s. Wasn’t that helpful, either?”

Stone smiled. “How do you know I was in here?”

“It is said that no person can enter and leave a room, without leaving traces of his presence there.”

“It is said, but it is not true. Were I to guess, I should say that Officer Brickell told you I was in here.”

Rowland’s crestfallen face proved the truth of Stone’s guess, and he said frankly, “That’s right, he did. Well, did you learn anything?”

“Now, Inspector, you’ve been treating me white all along, and I want to do the same by you. But we must have a compact. If I tell you everything I learn in connection with the matter, will you tell me everything you learn?”

The Inspector’s face fell a little.

“Well,” he said, “I’m not sure I can promise that. You see,—”

Fleming Stone listened closely, for he was anxious to know what he should see, but he was not destined to find out, as at the moment Trevor Cameron and Mrs. Vane came into the room together.

And they were followed at short intervals by others of those staying in the house, Sally and Rose, sleepy-eyed, bringing up the rear.

Not caring to join in their small chat, Stone turned to a window and watched some men working at something down by the entrance gate.

“What are they doing?” he asked of Rose Kortz, who had sidled up to him.

“They’re building a cairn. Do you know how to build one?”

“No, indeed! Do you?”

“Of course not. They’re awfully hard to build. Mr. Meade knows how, though, and he oversees it, and gives advice to the workmen.”

“I don’t believe it’s such a complicated process,” said Stone, and then they turned to find the rest all seated and the Inspector frowning at them.

Stone went over and sat by Rowland and Gillmore, while Rose shared a small settee with Gregory Murrell.

Miss Miranda, whose costume had been concocted by her clever maid, from a gown more decorated than she desired, looked the picture of deep woe, but the others seemed to show curiosity more than sorrow, and interest rather than grief.

Fleming Stone knew, however, that in the small group were several who could dissemble their feelings, and probably were doing so.

The Inspector wasted no further time, and said, brusquely;

“Now, first of all, we want to fix definitely the time when Mr. Vane was last seen. From the questions you answered me last night, the matter was left somewhat uncertain. He was seen by many while playing his game of tennis, but what we want is to hear from someone who saw him after that.”

There was no response to his implied query, and at last Fleming Stone said, “May it not be he went into the office downstairs, to speak to his secretaries?”

“It may well be so,” exclaimed Rowland, hopefully; “why are those secretaries not here?”

Gillmore murmured something about not knowing they were wanted, and stepped to the door where Hopton stood, waiting for orders.

He was sent for the missing ones, and they came promptly from the office downstairs, where they had been waiting a summons.

Dolly Day, the stenographer was not only a perfect blonde, but had the most winsome face, with merry dimples now discreetly hidden.

Antony Meade followed her into the room, and Hopton gave them places.

“As you are the only one I have not seen before, Miss Day,” Rowland said, politely, “I will question you first. Please tell me when last you saw Mr. Vane.”

“It was in the morning, Inspector. About eleven or twelve, he came to Mr. Meade’s office to give him some instructions for his work. He spoke to me casually, in passing, and I have never seen him since.”

“He seemed quite as usual, Miss Day?”

“Entirely so. He said he was sorry to keep us at work on a holiday, but the work he wanted done was of greatest importance, and he would make up our missing vacation some other time.”

Those present who were unacquainted with the girl, gazed at her spellbound. Gregory Murrell, especially, seemed to be unable to take his eyes from her face. It was also quite evident that Dolly noticed and appreciated the admiration she received, but paying little attention to any of them, she nonchalantly powdered her nose, and reddened her lips as if unaware of observers or admirers.

“You talked with him on the telephone, I understand?”

The big blue eyes opened wider.

“No sir, I didn’t. Mr. Meade did.”

“What was the subject of their conversation?”

“They talked twice. First, Mr. Vane called Mr. Meade, and next, Mr. Meade called Mr. Vane. But of course, I only heard one side of the conversation, I only heard what Mr. Meade said. Why don’t you ask Mr. Meade himself about it?”

With almost anybody else Rowland would have said he was not asking for advice, but nobody could have spoken sharply to Dolly Day.

He turned to Meade, and said, “Please tell us of the telephoning, Mr. Meade.”

“There is a room to room telephone between the two offices,” Meade said, “and Mr. Vane often called me on that. He did so, yesterday afternoon,—”

And then Antony Meade told the story of the afternoon just as he had told it the night before to the Inspector.

“You corroborate Mr. Meade’s words, Miss Day?” Rowland asked.

“Yes, sir, so far as I heard his talk in the office.”

“Did you feel annoyed at having no holiday on the Fourth of July?”

“I felt sorta mad, but Mr. Vane was always good to us, and I’d do most anything for him. I had the evening, anyway, and evenings count the most.”

“What did you do in the evening?”

“I spent the evening and night with my cousin in Far Rockaway, but I don’t see what that has to do, with the matter.”

“Nothing at all, probably,” and the Inspector reddened a bit, because he knew he asked the question to get another smile from the lovely face.

“What time did you leave here?” he went on.

“Just after Mr. Meade went, about seven, I should say.”

“And didn’t return till this morning?”

“That’s right! And here I come at nine, as per usual. And what do I find? The Devil to pay, and no pitch hot!”

The girl shifted her chewing gum to the other side of her face, making such an unpleasant performance of it, that Miss Miranda asked her quietly to remove it, which Dolly as quietly did.

“So that’s all I know, Mr. Inspector, may I go back to my work?”

“No, not yet, Miss Day. At what time did Mr. Meade receive the telephone message asking him to come upstairs?”

“Oh, ’long ’bout five o’clock, I guess. I’m not the walking clock that Mr. Meade is; he and Hopton always know the time.”

“What time was it, Mr. Meade?” Rowland turned to the secretary.

“I’m not sure to the minute, but certainly between five and five-fifteen.”

“What did he want with you?”

“He was expecting two rare and valuable books, by registered mail. Not from the same place. One was coming from Chicago and one from Boston.”

“When you say valuable, just what do you mean?”

“Why, just that. Valuable books may be priced from a thousand dollars to a hundred thousand.”

“And were these books worth any such sum?”

“I can’t answer that,” said Meade, slowly. “I am —was, Mr. Vane’s confidential secretary, and as such, I do not feel at liberty to disclose information concerning his private financial affairs. Of course, if I am ordered to—”

“Not at all, I understand. That’s all right, Mr. Meade. And Mr. Vane wished to consult you about these rare volumes?”

“About the delay in their arrival. He wished me to write at once to the dealers who held the books, and I did so, as soon as I left him.”

“Were you with him long?”

“About half or three-quarters of an hour. He gave me several directions as to some small matters, and told me to hurry along, and do them up, so I could catch the seven o’clock train.”

“Which you did?”

“Yes, because it was late. Had it been on time, I should have had to wait for the next one.”

“And how did you spend the evening?”

“With a chum of mine, Jim Carpenter. We went to the Waldorf for dinner, and then to a Revue.”

“You will tell us please, the address of your friend, the name of the theater and the play, and which room you sat in at the hotel.”

“Certainly,” Meade acquiesced, and gave these, while the sergeant wrote them down.

“You are interested in the cairn being built outside?”

Meade looked bewildered a moment and then said, “Oh, yes, the cairn. I am greatly interested, for I want it to be a good one.”

“What constitutes a good one?’”

The secretary smiled for the first time during his questionnaire, and said, “It’s a little hard to explain. Do you remember the man who said it was easy to build a brick fence, you only had to lay one brick on another. And a bystander said, ‘No, you have to lay one brick on two others.’ A cairn is like that, only more complicated. You have to lay rounded stones, not bricks, in such a way that they will never roll apart.”

“I get the idea,” said Rowland, and Fleming Stone looked interested in the matter.

“Next time you’re working on it,” he said to Meade, “I’ll stop by, and take a look.”

Meade smiled a little and nodded his head, at the suggestion.

“Well, I think that finishes up your quiz,” Rowland said, to Meade, “and Miss Day also. You two may be excused and go to your work. Do not leave the premises without my knowing it.”

“You may both stay, if you prefer,” put in Gillmore, who felt he was not sufficiently in the limelight.

“I’d like to stay a while,” Meade said, but Dolly was already out of the room and flying down the stairway.

“Now, who of you,” asked Rowland, “entered this room after Mr. Meade left it?”

“I did,” said Katherine. “That is, I passed by, and I tapped on the door of the office, calling out to Wiley to make haste and come downstairs for a while before dinner.”

“Why did you want him to do that?”

“Because we were having a tea and many guests came who wanted to greet Mr. Vane. And as I did so, I saw Hake coming from the back staircase toward Wiley’s rooms.”

“Who is Hake?”

“He is a handy man about the house, and he often takes the place of any servant who is ill or absent.”

“Where is this Hake?”

“Hopton will get him for you.”

Hopton did so, and the man came into the room. “What is your name and your position here?” the Inspector asked.

“I’m Hake,” he replied, with a touch of pride. “I’m second butler, after Mr. Hopton.”

“Right?” Rowland asked of the butler.

“Yes, sir,” Hopton replied, indulgently. “Hake’s a good reliable chap.”

“Did you visit your master’s rooms, yesterday afternoon?”

“I did, sir.”

“On what errand?”

“Mr. Vane called me, sir.”

“On the office telephone?”

“On the house telephone. The one what runs to the pantries. They’s a mort o’ telephones in this here house.”

Here Hopton interrupted. “Mr. Vane was really a callin’ Prout, sir. Prout was Mr. Vane’s valley, and it was his day off, so Hake was doing his jobs.”

“I’m interviewing Hake, if you please. Did you answer the telephone, Hake?”

“Yessir. And Mr. Vane said was it Prout, and I said, no, it was me. And he said come right along up, quick. So I went up, and the Disturb sign was on the door, but our orders is not to heed that when the master calls us, so in I goes. Mr. Vane he was a settin’ in his porch place, him havin’ on a brown silk robe-like dressin’ gown. An’ his hood on his head, for he was mighty ’fraid of a chilly evenin’. The hood was part of the gown, you see, and he often pulled it up, specially since he began to get bald, sir.”

Hake rolled all this off in a monotonous voice, and was about to begin another sentence, when Rowland stopped him.

“Don’t talk so much, man. Just answer my questions shortly.”

“Very good, short-like it is, sir.”

“Mr. Vane sat in the screened porch. Were the lights on?”

“Oh, my, no, sir. ’Twasn’t more’n sumpin more’n six—”

“Can’t you be more specific than that about the time?”

“No, sir, I can’t. I never saw such a worry over the time! What time is it now, sir?”

Several smiled as the Inspector’s face grew red. There was no clock that he could see, and he was not a good guesser.

“About quarter to eleven, Hake,” said Fleming Stone, quietly.

Stone had a knack of knowing the time, a trick which many people have and find useful.

“Right you are, sir. Me, I can always tell to within a few minutes. I don’t look at a time piece three times a day.”

“Then you ought to be able to tell just when you went in at Mr. Vane’s door.”

“Yes, I orta be,—but, somehow I ain’t.”

“Well, go on,” said Rowland, crossly; “what did Mr. Vane want you for?”

“He told me to see to it that if there was lobster in any course of the dinner, to have a bit of sweetbread served to him instead. He wasn’t feelin’ any too good inside him.”

“Was that all? Didn’t he say anything more?”

“Sure he did. You told me not to rush things.”

“All right. What else then?”

“Oh, well, only that I could go, then, and that I could go off for my evenin’ out, as soon as Prout come, which oughta be about eight or so. And he said, most partic’ler, to see the Disturb sign was in place, and I said must I sit out in the hall, then, and he said, no, but chase up once in a while, to see he wasn’t disturbed. He didn’t fool me any though, I knew what he meant.”

“What did he mean?”

“Only that he didn’t want me to help him dress. Funny, now, he’ll let Prout scrub him and put his clo’es on him, but if it’s me, why, it’s get the hell outa here! Yes, sir, what was you askin’ sir?”

“Then you left him sitting there in the porch?”

“I did, yes, sir. Is that all for now?”

“Wait a moment,” Stone put in. “When you left Mr. Vane, sitting in the closed porch, and went through the hall and downstairs, did you see anyone about?”

“Well, yes, I did. Only a few, though. Miss Kortz and Mr. Murrell, they was in the curtained window seat at the end of the hall, the oriole, they calls it—”

“Right, Miss Kortz?” interrupted Stone.

“Y—yes, of course”; returned Rose, “that is, we were not sitting. I chanced along, just as Mr. Murrell came from the other end of the hall, the Vanes’ end, you know.”

“Yes, that’s right,” Murrell put in; “I found Miss Rose there in the oriel window, and we came along downstairs together.”

“For the tea party?”

“Yes. We thought we’d better go to it, at least for a short time and then dress for dinner.”

“See anyone else, Hake?” inquired Stone, with his quizzical glance.

“Lemme see, now,” Hake was warming up to the game, “well, sir, there was Mrs. Vane, and I guess that’s all. She was justa comin’ out of Doctor Cameron’s room—”

“Mistaken there, Hake,” said Katherine, not angrily, but as if amused.

“But I saw you, ma’am,” Hake insisted. “You had somethin’ in your hand, wrapped up in a hank-chief.

“Oh, yes, I remember. I tapped at Wiley’s door, and when he made no response, I hated to disturb him—”

“And the Disturb sign on, too,” suggested Gillmore.

“That never applies to me,” said Katherine, haughtily; “but I knew he was tired after his tennis, and I wanted him to get some rest. I was after his bottle of Witch Hazel for my sunburn. And I was sure Doctor Cameron would have some, and I stopped in there for it.”

“Yes, I gave it to you,” assented Cameron, indifferently.

“Then where did you go, Mrs. Vane?” Rowland spoke a bit more curtly.

“Back to my own room, to use the Witch Hazel,” she said, but she had a furtive glance for Hake, who immediately began to speak, without looking at her.

“No, ma’am,” he said, earnestly trying to set things right: “you went right downstairs, don’t you remember?”

“Oh, so I did, Hake,” and she smiled. “I’m getting confused, Inspector, can’t you give me a little rest?”

“Of course, Mrs. Vane. Sit right still, and let that nice breeze refresh you.”

She lay back in the easy chair, and Rowland turned to Miss Randy, who had been fidgeting ever since the querying began.

“Can you give us any points about this matter, that we haven’t yet heard?” Rowland asked. “Any new evidence, or clue?”

Miss Randy was a little crestfallen. She had looked forward to telling a long story, in her own words, of which she had many and various styles.

And here she was asked for some new tale! Where was she to get it? Did they want her to make it up?

“I think, Mr. Inspector,” she began with air of a seeress, “you are not looking at this thing from the right angle.” This was a phrase she had picked up from her late nephew, and she was proud of it. “It seems to me you should try another angle.”

“Yes, Miss Vane, and what angle would you advise trying?”

“You are looking for my nephew’s murderer among the dear ones of his family, and his friendly guests. Now, you know, you must know, it is an enemy who brought him to his fearful end. An enemy and a stranger within our gates.”

“Having any individual in view?”

“ Yes, I have. But I shall not divulge the name. Far be it from me to hint at one who may be entirely blameless. Yet, if it is true this one is the criminal, should it not become known?”

“By all means, Miss Vane, and not only that but you are committing a crime yourself in not revealing what you know.”

“Merciful Heavens! A crime? Me!”

“Yes,” and Fleming Stone spoke to her more gently. “If you know anything that will help our work, you must tell it, or be accessory before or after the crime, or both.”

“What is that? Accessory? What do you mean?”

Stone told her in a short, concise summary, just what he did mean.

She looked more startled than frightened; more amazed than fearful.

Having started, Stone chose to keep on questioning her, for it was his right as well as the Inspector’s.

“Do you know anything definite, anything especial, that will give us what you call a new angle?”

She buried her face in her hands, peeping out between her spread fingers, like a roguish child.

“Of course I do,” she said, solemnly, “of course I do, and you do, too.”

“I?” and Stone began to think she was out of her mind.

“Yes, you. Who went to my nephew’s rooms in the dead of night? Who took away with him a suitcase or more than one? Tell me that!”

“Oh, I did,” and Stone smiled. “They are in my clothes closet. Will you send for them?”

Hopton, accompanied by Gillmore went to Stone’s rooms, and returned quickly, bringing the bags.

Stone directed they be placed before the Inspector, saying he had not had time before to broach the subject.

“Perhaps this is a most interesting bit,” Stone said, picking up a photograph, signed, “To Wiley, from his Booful.”

“I intended to show it to you, Inspector, alone, first. But it doesn’t matter. Whose writing is this?”

“Dolly Day’s, the little hussy!” cried Miss Randy. “Of course she killed him, then!”

“Of course she didn’t!” declared Katherine, “she loved him.”


Chapter 7
As To A Divorce

“But each man kills the thing he loves,—” murmured Cameron, who was a poetry lover.

“Well, each woman doesn’t,” declared Rowland, curtly. “It strikes me as a woman’s crime. A woman, perhaps, is not generally associated with firearms, but these later days bring changes, and many a woman can shoot and shoot well. Moreover, it is like a woman’s cleverness to choose Fourth of July for the deed, knowing a shot would not be noticed in the general use of gunpowder.”

“A man might have that much gumption,” observed Murrell. “Any other evidence pointing toward feminine gunplay?”

“Well, we’re just looking at the ‘Booful’ picture.”

“Oh, that baby couldn’t have shot anybody,” cried Cameron. “I doubt if she could kill a fly.”

“But after all, somebody shot him,” Stone said; “and you must all know that the younger generation nowadays is capable of pretty much anything. Who knows anything about Miss Day? Anything really, I mean. She must be twenty, I’d say. Has she a past, known of?”

“Not by me,” said Katherine, promptly. “It’s an open secret that my husband admired her greatly, but as that meant nothing to me, I don’t see why it should to anyone else.”

“Why does it mean nothing to you, Mrs. Vane?” asked Stone, quietly.

“Because I know my husband’s character. He often admired lovely girls or beautiful women, but it was admiration such as one would feel for a picture—”

“Or statue,” murmured Murrell.

“Yes,” returned Katherine, calmly, “as any work of art. I had no jealousy of my husband. He was a fine, true, loyal man.”

“Of the dead, nothing but good,” remarked Randy, sententiously; “I, too was fond of my nephew, but I cannot look on him as a paragon of all the virtues. I happen to know that he was a great admirer of his charming young stenographer, and whatever the outcome, I think her connection with the case ought to be investigated.”

“You’re right, Miss Vane,” Rowland said, “and it shall be done. You may remember that Mr. Stone asked about her past.”

“That I know nothing about,” said Katherine, with spirit; “I know she is a pure, innocent young girl, and I’ll stand up for her at any time.”

“That isn’t enough, Mrs. Vane,” Stone told her. “Do you know definitely of her birth and bringing up?”

“No, I don’t,” said Katherine, a little snappishly, “nor do I know of yours, or of Inspector Rowland’s.”

Stone saved the situation by laughing heartily, but he wondered at this remarkable loyalty to Dolly Day.

“Mother is a little nutty about Dolly,” put in Sally, with a slight smile. “We all are. She surely is the prettiest thing that ever happened.”

“You know nothing about her?” asked Stone.

“Not a thing,” declared Sally, “except that she’s as lovely of nature as of face, and to suspect her of anything criminal, is too absurd! My goodness gracious!”

The exclamation was brought forth by a paper Sally had plucked from the mass in the suitcase.

“What have you found?”

“A letter from Dad to Mother. I’ll bet it’s an old love letter! Oh, no, it isn’t! Listen! No, my dear, I refuse to give you a—”

Sally stopped perforce, as Katherine reached over and took the letter from her hand, saying smilingly, “Little girls shouldn’t read Mamma’s letters. Naughty, naughty!”

“I think I’ll have to ask you for that letter, Mrs. Vane,” said the Inspector, holding out his hand.

“I think not,” returned Katherine, and though speaking slowly, a quick gesture brought the corner of it in touch with the tiny flame of a cigarette lighter on the table, and before Rowland could get it, the whole letter was aflame.

Katherine held it gingerly, until nearly gone and dropped the last bit in an ash tray, where it burned away.

“A private matter of my own,” she said, carelessly, showing no embarrassment; “I wonder why in the world Wiley saved that note.”

“What had you asked him to give you?” said Rowland.

“An old curio I admired. It was valuable, but he gave me far more expensive ones when I asked for them.”

“Why did he write to you about it?”

“I was in the New York house at the time, and he was down here. The thing is still in his possession. It is a little Tanagra figurine. Very lovely and a real antique. I just took a fancy to it.”

“Please get it, will you. I wish to see it.”

“I’ve no idea where it is. You’ll doubtless run across it when you search his rooms. Are we all to suffer that indignity?”

“It will be necessary to make search, yes.” Rowland didn’t add that the search had already begun.

“Inspector,” said Sally, earnestly, “oughtn’t people to tell the truth when you question them?”

“Yes, Miss Vane. Have you not done so?”

But Sally suddenly lost courage, and would say no more.

“I know what she means,” said Rose, rather timidly, for her, “I saw the letter she was reading, and it wasn’t about a statuette, at all. It was—”

“Stop!” cried Katherine, glaring at Rose, but even as she spoke, Rose finished her sentence, “a divorce he refused to give Katherine. There!”

“What nonsense,” was Katherine’s response, “you read it wrong, Rose.”

With a calm smile, as of utter indifference to the subject, she lighted for herself a fresh cigarette, and turned to smile at the Inspector.

“Did your husband ever ask you for divorce?” said Stone, slowly.

“Never in earnest, Mr. Stone. We were the best of friends, besides being lovers. But it was his joke to speak of divorce in a playful way.”

“And was there a playful reference on the subject in the letter you just destroyed?”

“There was no reference in it to divorce at all. As I told you it had to do with the Tanagra figurine.”

Luncheon was announced then, and the conference was dismissed, with permission to all to do what they chose.

Fleming Stone turned to Cameron and said; “I’m going out to look at the cairn. I love such things. Want to come along?”

“All right; lunch’ll keep,” was the reply, and the two walked down to the place where the workmen were busily engaged.

“Everything going well?” asked Cameron, pleasantly.

“Not so good, sir,” replied a worried looking chap. “There’s a stone somewhere as isn’t quite right.”

“Which one?” asked Stone, interested.

“That one,” and the man pointed out a large stone which seemed to the detective to be as perfectly fitted as all the rest.

“Looks all right to me.”

“Yes, sir, but you’re not an expert, or, are you?”

“No, I’m not,” the detective confessed. “Are you, Trevor?”

“Lord, no, I don’t know anything about such doin’s. Don’t see what anybody wants of a heap of stones, anyway. We used to have one, called it a rockery. But it went out of style and my mother had it taken away. Are they in style again?”

“I don’t think so. Well, I’ve seen all I want of it. Let’s go.”

“Can’t you help me out, Mister?” and the man looked anxiously at Stone.

“Sorry, but I know little about such matters. I thought Mr. Meade was superintending it.”

“Him!” the tone was distinctly scornful. “Oh, he’s good enough, but he ain’t a patch on what Mr. Vane was. Howsumever, we’ll have to get along with Mr. Meade, and after all, he ain’t so bad.”

“Indeed he isn’t,” declared Cameron. “Meade is good at the job, I’ve often heard Mr. Vane say so.”

The two men went back to the house.

“You go on in to the lunch table, Cameron,” said Stone, “I want to chase upstairs a few minutes. Don’t say anything about me.”

Stone chased upstairs, and made straight for the Vanes’ suite.

He went to Katherine’s boudoir first, and no one being present, he made swift search of her cosmetic table, a dainty though elaborate affair, and noted the names of the makers or vendors on the bottles and boxes there. He pulled open the little drawers, and in one found two or three cards with advertisements of Beauty Parlors and cosmetic shops.

Then hastily exploring her desk, he found two or three receipted bills from which he copied the addresses, and then hastened down the stairs.

“Not big shops,” he ruminated, “or they wouldn’t return receipts. They don’t nowadays. More likely, choice little specialty shops. Well, I got what I wanted.”

He entered the dining room with the air of a man of leisure, and greeted those at table, a little surprised to find only men there. It seemed that Aunt Randy and Katherine were having trays in their rooms and Sally and Rose had, with Rowland’s permission, gone for a swim.

Meade and Dolly had been there, but had made a short meal and gone away again.

“Did they say anything about the case?” asked Stone, as he noted their absence.

“They didn’t say anything about anything,” replied Murrell. “Did you like the cairn, Mr. Stone?”

“Yes, in an ignorant way. I realize they are of more value and character than I thought.”

“They certainly mean a lot of hard work. The stones have to be matched in type and color, and graduated as to size. Wiley always wanted one, and now, poor chap, he’ll never see it completed.”

“Will it be completed?” asked Stone.

“I don’t know, I’m sure. That’s up to Katherine.”

Rowland rose from the table. “Excuse me, please. I’ve some matters to see to. Please meet me in the office at three o’clock.”

“Now, Inspector, have a heart!” cried Cameron. “You don’t need us this afternoon,—anyhow, you don’t need all of us. Pick out a few, excluding me, and let the rest of us run and play.”

“All must attend the meeting at three o’clock,” reiterated Rowland, “except those I have personally excused.”

“That’s what I’m saying,” went on Trevor. “Do personally excuse me, can’t you?”

“No, I can’t, Dr Cameron. Sorry,” and Rowland smiled at the young man, who was so anxious to have a free afternoon.

“All right, all right,” Cameron gave in. “I suppose you can’t help being overseer-like. It’s orders, like as not.”

“Orders, yes, sir.”

Rowland left the room and the others soon followed, realizing there was not much time.

They gathered in the screened porch, and awaited the summons to the office.

Rowland soon came and with him, Katherine and Aunt Randy.

“Oh, let us stay here,” Miss Vane cried, as they entered the screened porch. “It’s lovely here, much pleasanter than the inner office.”

Rowland agreed to this, sent for Meade and Dolly and the somewhat desultory questioning was renewed. It was warmer than in the morning, and the novelty had rather worn off, and all were tired of it.

“Make it snappy, Inspector, can’t you?” said Cameron. “Don’t you ever want to go home yourself?”

“I have had that impulse,” and the Inspector smiled, “we can’t always do as we’d like. Here you are, Miss Day. Sit here, please. And Mr. Meade over there. We’re staying outside.”

“Get at that burned letter business first,” Gillmore jogged his chief’s memory.

“Yes,” and Rowland turned severe eyes on Katherine. “Mrs. Vane, we want the truth as to that question of divorce. Was such a possibility being discussed between you and your husband?”

“I told you no to that query this morning, Inspector.”

Katherine looked very handsome and very defiant. Though no longer young, she was exceedingly well preserved, and her henna-dyed head was held high and her fine eyes were scornful. She was of an aristocratic type, and looked fearless and at ease.

But Fleming Stone noted a nervous twisting of her fingers and a continual tapping of her slender foot, as she forced herself to be calm.

“You will answer it now, please, Mrs. Vane.”

“Well, then, there was no such possibility under discussion between Mr. Vane and myself.”

“And if I should tell you I doubt your word?”

“I should make no reply.”

“You assert, then, that the matter of a divorce has never been mentioned seriously, between your husband and yourself?”

“I do.”

“Mr. Meade, you are in a position to state to the contrary?”

“I am in such a position, yes,—but I should be most sorry to do so.”

“And why should you be sorry to do so?”

“Because as Mr. Vane’s confidential secretary, I was aware of many of his private affairs, which I would never discuss during his lifetime, and hesitate to do so after his death.”

“But you know that the law will not accept any such excuse as that for not answering my question.” Antony Meade was considerably put out.

Yet to Stone it was easily evident that his disinclination to talk was not because of consideration for Katherine’s feelings, but because of a staunch loyalty to his late employer. The more Stone studied the attitudes of Meade and Katherine, the more he felt sure Meade was not the least in love with her. As to her feeling for Meade, Stone was not at all sure.

Katherine Vane was a strange woman, even a mysterious woman, and Stone was trying to puzzle her out. She was a psychological problem, and while Stone was no fanatic on the subject, he admitted to a certain interest in it.

Meade was still silent, and sat, looking straight at Rowland, with a frown of uncertainty on his face.

“It’s this way, Inspector,” he said, at last, “I know only what Mr. Vane felt obliged to tell me regarding the matter, and I know that neither he nor Mrs. Vane would want it repeated. Unless ordered by the law to do so, I cannot tell you what you ask.”

Stone noticed the sincerity in Meade’s brown eyes, and expressed his opinion.

“You are ordered by the law, Mr. Meade, but your telling need not be here or now. Suppose we let the matter lay over.”

A significant glance at Rowland brought his acquiescence, and the subject was dropped.

“As to your description of your whereabouts last evening, Mr. Meade,” the Inspector went on, “I have checked up on them, and I find them entirely correct. Several of the trainmen saw you get on the delayed seven o’clock train to New York, and some men on the station spoke to the chauffeur after you left the motor. Your chum in the city gave an account of the evening which coincided with yours in every particular. He brought you home here in his car, just as you said. I have therefore, no reason for detaining you further, and this other matter of which we have been speaking, will be duly taken up. You will remain here for the present, but you are under no restrictions.”

“Miss Day,” Stone, answering Rowland’s bow of permission, turned to the girl, “had you any knowledge of this state of things between Mr. and Mrs. Vane? I mean a question of divorce?”

“Oh, yes,” answered Dolly, bridling her pretty head. “I knew all about it.”

“From taking letters, I suppose.”

“Well, no,” she smiled and dimpled, “Mr. Vane told me, himself.”

“For what reason?” Stone looked at her more sternly.

“So I’d know.” The lovely face gave no hint of jesting, the girl spoke most seriously.

“Why should you know?”

“Well—well, now is that hardly fair?” The eyes of periwinkle blue looked hurt, then grieved, and then, giving Stone the faintest suggestion of a wink, the lids fell on the pink cheeks, and Dolly sat demurely gazing downward.

“Mrs. Vane,” Rowland said, “not long ago you were praising this young lady. Do you still feel the same admiration for her?”

“I cannot think, Inspector, that your question is relevant.”

“It is asked, Mrs. Vane, and I should like you to answer it.”

“Very well, then. No, I do not feel the same toward her. She has implied a certain friendliness with my husband, that no woman would accept calmly. Moreover, since she has done so, I think she should be made to retract or explain her hints.”

“I think so, too,” agreed Stone. “Miss Day, were you in love with your employer?”

“Kinda sorta.”

“Was he in love with you?”

“Well, was he! I’ll tell the wall-eyed world he was!”

“And if he had succeeded in obtaining a divorce from his wife, he proposed to marry you?”

“My Heavens! but you’re some guesser! That was precisely the big idea!”

Katherine Vane’s calm eyes traveled over Dolly’s face and figure, until the girl began to squirm.

Then, with a slight but very unpleasant smile, the elder woman said;

“Marry you! I have admired your beauty, Dolly, but I never dreamed your conceit would carry you to such heights! Wiley Vane would no more have married you than just nothing at all! And you knew it, and that’s why you killed him. You knew he adored your baby face, but you knew, too, that never could you make him marry you! Absurd!”

“You know a lot, don’t you?” flamed Dolly, when Rowland spoke sternly;

“Be quiet, Miss Day. Mrs. Vane, have you anything further to say on this subject?”

Katherine looked surprised.

“I didn’t have anything to say in the first place,” she observed, calm now again. “You insisted on dragging these things out.”

“And better so. We may be getting nearer the truth. Dr Cameron, did you know the Vanes were considering divorce?”

“No, and I don’t know it yet. Mrs. Vane has not so stated, and I can scarcely take the babblings of a silly child as truth. Vane flirted with her, of course, but he meant nothing serious.”

“What do you think, Mr. Murrell?”

“I think there’s a good deal in this, Inspector. Since you ask me, I’ll say that I do think the Vanes contemplated divorce, and that it would have come about had Wiley lived.”

“Oh, you do, young man, do you?”

It was Miss Miranda who spoke, in a cynical, sarcastic tone, and Murrell, though annoyed, was forced to laugh at it.

“Yes, Aunt Randy,” he said, “and well you know it. I shouldn’t be at all surprised if you knew more about this divorce business than the rest of us; more, maybe, than Katherine herself. Have you been digging in that suitcase of papers? Answer up, now!”

“Yes, I have, though it’s none of your business.”

“Very well, Miss Vane,” Rowland took the helm again, “since you know the details, tell us them.”

“Oh, I don’t know things like that. I only know Katherine wanted a divorce and Wiley wouldn’t grant it.”

“Why, we knew all that before,” and Stone looked scornful of her news, feeling sure that was the way to pique her to further disclosures, if she had any.

But Miss Miranda was too old a bird to be caught with chaff, and smiling a little at Stone, she closed her lips in a straight line, and sat back in silence.

On a sudden impulse, Rowland dismissed the conference until next day. That would be Sunday, and he proposed to learn a few facts in the meantime.

The funeral of Wiley Vane would be held on Monday, so Rowland was planning to finish up the case next week, feeling fairly sure he had it well in hand, even now.

Glad to be released, the people fled toward various recreations, and under promise of not leaving the estate, they disappeared.

Fleming Stone, with the two policemen, remained on the office porch, having sent word to Meade and Miss Day, that they could stop work.

“Where do we stand now, Stone?” asked Rowland, who had grown chummy with the private detective. “Is Mrs. Vane satisfied with your reports?”

“I think she has forgotten she engaged me,” said the other. “She is one of the oddest women I ever met. What do you think of her?”

“Odd, just as you say?”

“But is she a murderess?”

“She’s the only one that has the ghost of a motive so far as I can see,” and Rowland shook his head.

“Motive, certainly,” Stone agreed. “Most women would be tearing that baby doll’s yellow hair out by the roots.”

“Not Mrs. Vane. She didn’t care two cents for her husband.”

“No, that’s plain. But for whom did she care?”

“Anybody, everybody. She’d marry Doctor Cameron gladly; Murrell, willingly; Meade, as a last resort,—”

“Where do I come in?” asked Stone.

“A, number one, if you don’t watch your step.”

“She’ll have to get busy then. On Monday I’m going to New York to track down my clue.”

“Didn’t know you had one.”

“Well, I have. I’ll tell you about it after I know a few things myself.”

“Then you won’t be here for the funeral?”

“Why should I? I didn’t know the man. And I detest funerals. They smell so of flowers.”

“So do gardens.”

“Different flowers, though.”

“Yes. Well, to-morrow I hope to learn all there is to know as to that divorce.”

“I’m with you there. Good luck to us both,”

On Monday morning, Fleming Stone went to New York.


Chapter 8
As To Eyelashes

Already Greencastle was scented with the heavy odors of the blossoms used for funerals, and the warm weather made the fragrance almost stifling. The detective started early, and reaching the city, went first of all to his own apartment, to look after some matters.

Then, finding that his own doctor was in his office at the moment, he went to see him.

“I’ll not keep you long, Doctor Goffe,” he said. “Just a question or two.”

“All right, old chap, fire away.”

“Do you know anything about hair?”

“Some, yes.”

With greatest care Stone drew a note-book from his pocket, and showed the doctor the tiny hair he had picked up from the dead face of Wiley Vane.

“H’m, h’m,” and the doctor gazed interestedly at the small crescent. “Not a hair at all,—or, rather, —that is,—a hair, yes, of course, a hair, but not a—”

“Oh, get on with it!” exclaimed Stone, “a hair— not a hair,—what is it, a piece of wire?”

“Don’t be impatient now! It is a hair, but not from the head, or, yes, certainly from the head—in fact, it is an eyelash.”

“Well, good gracious, why make such a row about it? Just an eyelash, eh?”

“Well, yes, but I don’t mean an eyelash, you know, not an eyelash that grows on one’s eyelid.”

“Oh, no! Grows on the lobe of one’s ear, I suppose.”

“Hush your noise! This is—”

Stone kept silent, for he knew he would be told now.

“This is an artificial eyelash.”

“Gosh! Are you sure?”

“Of course I’m sure. Who do you think I am?”

“The greatest doctor in the world! Tell me more.”

“I don’t know any more. Lots of girls wear artificial eyelashes now. They’re easy to put on, though mostly they don’t stay on. But a girl who is clever at sticking them in place, can work the dodge.”

“How are they fastened on?”

“Stuck, I just told you. You see, a real eyelash would have a follicle at the end, like any grown hair. This has none, moreover, it has been cut at either end.”

“It ought to be stubby, then, not pointed.”

“It is stubby, but it is such a fine hair, the blunt end can’t be noticed. You see, she stuck it on with the stuff that comes for the purpose, and it failed to stay stuck.”

“Do they always do that?”

“Come off? Oh, no, they’re supposed to be proof against all liquids, tears, cosmetics, mascara, any old stuff. But if well put on, they stand a lot of hard knocks, and are supposed to add greatly to the charm of the wearer. Do you know of any good cosmetic shop?”

“I do,” Stone replied, remembering the bunch of addresses he had collected from Katherine’s room.

“Go to ’em, then. I’ve no more time to bother with you. And they’ll give you full directions.”

Stone went away, all unresenting of his old friend’s raillery.

He went first to what seemed to be the daintiest and most attractive of the little specialty shops.

At the first one, he was well waited on. A dapper, perfumed young gentleman was immediately intrigued by the strange errand this grave and dignified man offered him.

“Oh, yes, sir,” he said, “we have eyelashes, all colors. This is,” he held it up with small tweezers, “a medium brown—”

“Be careful,” warned Stone, “don’t drop that! It’s more valuable than you may think!”

“Don’t be worried, I never dropped an eyelash in my life, except my own. This is an ordinary lash, of good quality, but nothing remarkable. Well, yes, now I look again, I’ll say it’s French, a real imported article. What about it?”

“Let me see some, will you?”

“Sure, here you are.”

The trim salesman took some boxes from the shelf.

“Explain things, will you?” asked Stone. “This is a new one on me, and I want to know all about it.”

“Not much to explain. All you need is a bright light and a steady hand. Oh, well, here’s all directions in this little book. Are you buying any?”

“Yes,” Stone said, quickly. “My girl really ought to have them, but she’s too shy to ask for them herself.”

“Bring her with you next time. And with these directions she can just go ahead by herself.”

“But these hairs are so long,” Stone objected, as he noted the little box of fine curved hairs, that must have measured nearly an inch.

“Sure; but after they’re stuck on and dry they have to be trimmed, you see. You better trim ’em for her, unless she’s got a steady hand.”

Amused, but also deeply interested, Stone paid for the outfit and took it away with him, after thanking the clerk for his patience and kindness.

“By the way,” he said, turning back from the door, “do you sell many of these?”

“Yes, just now. They’re a new fad. Soon they’ll die down, and the demand won’t be so great. Do you know you didn’t say what color you wanted?”

Stone started. “What did you give me?” he said.

“Oh, medium brown. They most all take that. That or henna.”

“Give me a henna, too, will you? And may I look at your order book?”

“You may. I have a hunch you’re a deep one. Help yourself.”

A book was pushed across the counter to Stone, who floundered helplessly in its pages.

“Here let me help you,” the clerk said. “And tell me what you’re after. I won’t tell. I know you’re a detective.”

Fleming Stone laughed outright. This was a shrewd young man, indeed.

He took him into confidence sufficiently to gain his point.

The clerk, whose name was Levin, told him at once that he had sold goods to the Vane people, and turned to the charge account.

It was of large and varied orders.

All charged to Wiley Vane, there were cosmetics and toiletries of every description, from gray transformations for Aunt Randy to henna eyelashes for Katherine and creams and powders for Sally.

The name of the firm was one that had occurred oftenest on Katherine’s bottles of dyes and lotions, so Stone felt he was on the right track.

But, he thought, as he came out of the shop, what had he gained after all? Only that there was a mere possibility that Katherine had killed her husband, and had left an eyelash in proof thereof.

Still, that was something. But, stay, the eyelash was medium brown, not henna. How about it?

Back to the shop.

“One more word,” he said to Levin. “Any of the other ladies in the Vane family, twiddle with eyelashes?”

“Not the old maid,” was the smiling reply. “But two harum scarum girls ran in a week or so ago, and bought some. Miss Vane, the old man’s daughter, you know, and her friend, a big, handsome Juno-like person.”

“What color?”

“Medium brown for Miss Vane and black for Miss Kortz. I showed ’em how they worked.”

And then the interview was really over.

Fleming Stone was pretty well disgusted with himself.

Here he had been two or three days in close contact with three or four women, who wore false eyelashes, and he had never noticed the fact.

To be sure, had he been hunting for such a thing, he would probably have found it, but he must have been unobservant to overlook the circumstance.

So much time had he used up that he was amazed to find the lateness of the hour. He stopped in at a favorite restaurant for lunch, and after ordering, he gave himself up to an examination of the women about him, trying to note which ones wore false eyelashes.

He had no trouble in discerning them, and he was too clever at such dodges to get caught. But he was surprised at the lack of skilled workmanship. Many girls and young women chatted gayly, quite unaware that an eyelash was sticking out at right angles from the others, or that a stray eyelash was calmly reposing on a rouged cheek.

However, Stone ruminated, it was exceedingly doubtful if they would have cared much if they had known it, for the detective knew his younger generation, and was familiar with their careless disregard of convention.

By the time he had finished his meal, he was fairly well grounded in the especial subject he had been investigating, and felt he could give cards and spades to many of the young people actually wearing the things of which he carried two boxes in his pockets.

And where, he soberly asked himself was it leading him? Whom was he now to suspect, because of his newly acquired knowledge?

Katherine? Of course, she stood out most plainly, but she wouldn’t leave a brown eyelash on Wiley’s face, had she leant over him. And, too, the hair need not have been dropped at the time of Vane’s death.

There was much to think out, and Stone deliberately put it all from his mind as he attended to his other errands and returned to Golden Sands.

He was deeply interested in the case, had been so from the beginning. He couldn’t, as yet, bring himself to think Katherine Vane shot her husband, but his mind was trending that way.

He had begun to believe in the divorce idea, though Rowland had, so far, not been able to dig up any evidence. But he was sure Katherine had no love for her husband, and he had no way of knowing the depths of Vane’s affection for her.

It occurred to him, he had not been diligent enough in questioning Miss Randy, and he concluded to quiz, her farther.

The funeral, he hoped would be over when he reached the house, if not, he concluded to call at the Inn to see his chum there.

Why hadn’t he done so before? Peter might have learned a lot from the guests of the Inn. Of course there was gossip going on.

So he went there before going to Greencastle.

Peter Shaw upbraided him for not coming to see him sooner, but Stone bade him be quiet about that, and tell him anything he could about Wiley Vane.

“Dunno much,” Shaw declared. “Vane is always well spoken of, I’ve never heard a word against him. Socially, being residents, they have little to do with the Inn people, though they deem themselves a better class.”

“Do they express any opinion as to the murderer?”

“Nothing but. They’ve attributed the crime to everybody but the stable boy, if they have such a thing nowadays. Are they good people? Do you like them?”

“Good people and murderers?” asked Stone, quizzically.

“Well, you don’t need more than one murderer, and the rest can be good people. Do they seem so to you?”

“It’s not easy to judge such things as that. Of course, I can’t help a suspicion here and there, but I haven’t settled on any one person as the criminal.”

“There are plenty of people over there, aren’t there?”

“Yes, too many. And no motives. I haven’t found a real good motive for anyone.”

“Proves your murderer’s cleverness, then. You know there are only—”

“Stop there, Pete. If you’re going to tell me there are only three motives for murder, or four, or six— our pow-wow stops right here.”

“Why for?”

“Oh, because those trite sayings are so silly. They say a murder must be because of love, greed or revenge.”

“And isn’t that right?”

“As far as it goes, yes. But there’s also fear, prudence, hate, convenience,—heaps of side issues.”

“And you can’t find one for the Greencastle case?”

“Haven’t yet. There’s the wife, but she’s not in love with any known adorer. The old aunt, but there’s no motive to fit her. She was fond of Vane. Three suspectable men, but none has a real reason for murder, in the way of inheritance or revenge. Everybody liked Vane, and his family was a harmonious lot.”


“I must say they haven’t been very carefully looked after. Still, there’s nothing pointing to any of them, and they seem a reliable, faithful bunch. The second man is a villainous looking person, but that isn’t a real bit of evidence.”

“No. Well, what about the doctor or the private secretary?”

“The doctor’s in the house, and he’s a friend of mine. Trev Cameron, remember him?”

“Yes, slightly. And the sec?”

“He’s an odd chap, but we can’t pin anything on him.”

“In love with the widow?”

“Positively not. Absolutely indifferent to her, and to all other women.”

“So far as you know.”

“So far as I know. But you can’t mistake a man’s face when he’s in love. He never looks up with any interest when she comes in the room, or answers a question from her with any show of eagerness. It may be dissembling, but if so, it’s a marvelous imitation of the real thing.”

“You ducked the funeral, then?”

“Yes, the boss policeman let me off. Wonder if it’s over.”

“Long ago. The procession passed here just before you came.”

“Lordy! Why didn’t you tell me? I must fly. Want to come over some time?”

“No, guess not. I’m loafing. You step over here when you feel like it.”

Stone went off and walked briskly over to Greencastle. He looked at the great pile as he neared it, and thought of the owner and builder of it, cut off in the prime of life, just as he was beginning to enjoy the fruits of his labors.

The big house was not the type Stone would have chosen, but it was like its neighbors all around, and it was by no means unsightly or discreditable.

He found the rooms deserted and was told by Hopton that everyone had gone to the library to hear the will read.

He entered quietly, for already the sonorous tones of Lawyer Brewster were rolling out the preliminary sentences of the legal document.

The reading completed, the gist of the will was that one half of Wiley Vane’s estate was left to his wife, one quarter to his legally adopted daughter, and one quarter to his aunt, Miss Miranda Vane.

This, of course, after certain smaller legacies and bequests were bestowed on friends, servants and relatives.

To Antony Meade was left five thousand dollars, to Dolly Day, five thousand dollars, and to Prout one thousand dollars.

An odd clause was that any house guests, visiting at his home at the time of his death, should receive five thousand dollars each.

Rose Kortz leant back and closed her eyes in silent bliss at this unexpected boon, and Cameron and Murrell were equally pleased, though better hiding their feelings.

Murrell also was recognized as a relative, though distant, and had a small legacy.

The question as to who was head of the house, was thus settled, for Katherine, with her lion’s share of the fortune, and her position as the dead man’s widow, was naturally in full charge.

Miss Randy sat quietly, seemingly not greatly interested in the disposal of Wiley’s fortune, and indeed, the old lady cared little for money, save for the new house she wanted to build.

But Dolly Day was furious.

“There’s cheating going on somewhere,” she stormed; “Mr. Vane promised to leave me a big fortune! He had sent for Mr. Brewster to change his will in my favor. Hadn’t he, Mr. Lawyer Brewster?”

The lawyer paid no attention to her question, and moved his papers about, as he began to speak of other matters.

“Hadn’t he, Mr. Brewster?” she repeated, her voice raising to higher tones, “speak the truth.”

“Yes, then, he had, Miss Day. But since he didn’t do it, there is no change in his will that can now be made.”

Dolly grew hysterical, and burst into a torrent of tears.

Brewster, who was an impatient type, spoke sternly;

“Either control yourself, Miss Day, or leave the room. I want some memoranda copied. If you are not able to do it, I will ask Mr. Meade to oblige me.”

“I’ll do it,” said Dolly, sniffling, but determined to be in the caucus.

Brewster calmly finished the lists he had been compiling and gave them to Dolly, almost regretting his severity as he looked at her lovely flushed cheeks and still tearful eyes.

“Don’t feel so bad, dearie,” said Aunt Mandy, “I’ll give you a little present, and maybe somebody else will, too.”

Dolly forced a smile, and taking the papers, started to go to the office to type them.

“One moment, Miss Day,” called out Stone, and then turned to Rowland to say, “you can wait a few minutes?”

“Oh, yes,” the Inspector agreed, and Stone went on;

“You see, I have what may or may not be a clue to our problem. I went to New York this morning to follow a lead concerning it, and I want to give the story to all of you, in a hope that someone may gather a hint of the truth from it. Therefore, I should be glad of Miss Day’s presence. It will take only a few moments.”

Rowland was quite willing to delay matters to learn of Stone’s information, and Dolly seated herself again with whetted curiosity.

“First,” the detective began, “do all of you here, know of the existence of false eyelashes?”

“Sure,” said Dr Cameron, while the other men in the audience merely looked blankly doubtful.

“Of course,” said Katherine, scornfully, “all women know of them. Not all women wear them, for it is a trick to make them stay on, but a certain knack and careful practice will do it.”

Perhaps nobody in the room except Fleming Stone had noticed Dolly’s sudden startled gesture as she flung her roseleaf hand to her mouth, with a mere murmur of exclamation.

In two seconds she was calm again, but her blue eyes had darted a swift look round the room, resting on no one, looking at nobody, but taking in every member of the group.

“You wear them, Miss Day?” Stone asked.

“I do not, Mr. Stone, I don’t need them. But some people here have them on now.”

The girl looked at nobody in particular, if she had anyone in mind, she failed to show it.

Sally smiled. “Let’s own up, Rose,” she said. “We both have them on, Mr. Stone, we had nothing to do this morning and we stuck lashes. We’ve only tried it a few times, and this time they’re doing nicely.”

Then, Stone mused, the times they hadn’t stuck so well, might have been occasions when they went into Vane’s room after he was dead, and the clue meant nothing after all. If little Sally had leaned over her father’s body, and a tearwet eyelash had dropped on his cheek, she would not have noticed it, or remembered it. And who could suspect that child of murder?

Still less, Rose Kortz. Of course, she was a far more vigorous, energetic girl than Sally, but she had no motive to kill Sally’s father.

Stay, though, had she not? Suppose Rose had, in some way, learned that a visiting guest at the time of Wiley Vane’s death would receive a bequest, might it not be possible—pshaw, impossible,—but it must be looked into.

Rose was a good marksman, he had heard that, and the younger generation of to-day, were said to be fearless, bold and daring. Yes, Rose was a possibility.

However, Katherine was even more of a possibility. She was a strange personality, a wayward nature, and a willful, stubborn disposition.

Suddenly, Miss Miranda spoke, slowly.

“Mr. Stone, I wear false eyelashes, sometimes. Not always, they’re too much trouble. Also, Katherine’s maid wears them, and, well, I fancy nearly every woman in this household does so. Does this ruin your clue, sir?”

“I’m afraid it does, Miss Vane,” Stone told her, with a rueful glance. “You see, the things were entirely novel to me, and I am surprised to learn they are in such general use. However, there are other clues to point the way.”

“They don’t seem very numerous,” said Murrell, a bit snappishly.

“Good clues never are,” agreed Stone. “I’m sorry my eyelash seems useless as evidence—”

“Where was it found?” Cameron inquired.

Stone saw no reason to evade the question.

“On the cheek of the dead face. As if someone had leant over Mr. Vane, taking a farewell glance, and dropped the lash on his face.”

“And doubtless that’s just what happened,” declared Rowland. “I’m sorry to destroy your air castle, Mr. Stone, but I fear there’s nothing in it.”

“It looks that way,” said Stone, with a sigh. “That’s all, so far as I am concerned, Miss Day. May she go, Rowland?”

“Oh, yes. Run along, please, and type those lists.” So Dolly started again, and went slowly out of the room toward the office, and in a moment they heard the typewriter clicking, under the girl’s skillful fingers.

“She’ll have to look for another position, I suppose, Katherine,” Cameron said.

“I don’t know yet,” was the answer. “I hope Mr. Meade can stay for a time to settle up Wiley’s affairs, and doubtless he would prefer Dolly’s assistance to having a new stenographer.”

“As you wish, Mrs. Vane,” Meade said, replying to her inquiring look. “I am at your service as long as you need me.”

Again Stone noted there was no enthusiasm, no apparent desire to stay on, and no glance of interest in Katherine. Meade spoke as he would to a man about to take him on, a stranger, whom he had never seen before. Was this make-believe? Were they secretly in love, but cleverly concealing it? He thought not, and Fleming Stone’s thoughts were usually true ones.

He well knew love to be a potent factor in a murder mystery, but for the life of him he could find no signs of it in the Greencastle case.


Chapter 9
Poor Little Dolly

Yet, beginning to keep a more careful outlook on the actors in the Vane drama, Stone noticed Katherine was now and then coyly smiling at Gregory Murrell. This perplexed Stone, who was more and more inclined to put this case among his group of amatory motives.

Not that Katherine was doing anything that seemed disloyal to the memory of her late husband, but she was simply of a nature that couldn’t help showing a wistful and appealing manner toward the man who happened to be nearest her.

Stone had concluded she favored Tony Meade, but he was changing that opinion, for who could care for a man who was as consistently indifferent to her as Meade was.

And the detective was not easily fooled. He could read men and women, and he determined to do a little investigating on his own account.

The next morning he went in to Meade’s office, and dropped into a chair. “Time for a few words?” he asked.

“Of course,” Meade responded, pleasantly, though not cordially. “Shall we dismiss Miss Day?”

“Oh, no; but instead of that, let’s walk round the terrace.”

They stepped out on the picturesque terrace, and sauntered along toward the sea. It was one of those cool spells that come sometimes in early July, and the sea breeze was brisk and invigorating.

“Enjoy this weather while you have it,” advised Meade, “it won’t last much longer.”

“Mind if I ask you a personal question, Meade?” said the detective, looking straight at him.

“Not a bit, though I don’t promise to answer it.”

“Are you in love with Mrs. Vane?”

“Whew! That is a bit personal, I’ll say.”

“You don’t have to reply, you know.”

“Oh, I’d just as lief. No, I’m not in love with the lady. As a matter of fact, I’m not of the falling in love sort.”

“A woman-hater?”

“Goodness, no! Not as bad as that. But I’m in no position to marry, and I’m not flirtatious, so it seems to me the course of wisdom to let the fair sex alone. Very few of them appeal to me, anyway, and I have grave doubts about my appealing to them.”

“You’re not even bowled over by that dream of beauty who is in your office all day?”

“Dolly? Well, there are times when I feel a bit drawn to her, she’s such a peach, you know. However, she thinks I’m an old codger, far too aged for her young charms. But why the quiz on this subject? Are you leading up to anything?”

“Yes, to Mrs. Vane. Can you see yourself pining away for her?”

Meade gave the other a comical glance.

“Since you put it that way, I must answer no. Sorry, and all that, but the lady is not and can never be my choice. This may be rude of me and unkind, but I cannot think she would care, if she knew it.”

“I can’t agree with you, Meade. I think she is most kindly inclined toward you—”

“What? Mrs. Vane! Me? Man, you’re crazy. Put it out of your head at once. Why, it would seem disloyal to Mr. Vane, and beside—”

“Go on.”

“And beside, I have no personal interest in the lady.”

“She has in you.”

Meade paused, turned and gave his companion a straightforward look.

“I think this conversation in poor taste. If you want to ask me direct questions about the crime, do so, but please give over this unpleasant and unnecessary conversation.”

Stone’s expression changed. “You’re right,” he said, heartily. “I have no reason to pry into your feelings, and you do well to reprove me. But, truly, Meade, I’m up against it. I’ve never before felt so at a loss regarding a case. There seem to be no clues, no evidence, and,—I’m sorry to say this,—no, or very little care or concern as to who committed the murder or why.”

“Mr. Stone,” Meade spoke very seriously, “I don’t know whether you agree with me or not, but I’m pretty well convinced that few people care as much about death as used to. I don’t mean murder, now, that is always shocking and fearful, but I’ve seen many members of families pass away, and the remaining ones show little if any deep grief or real sorrow. Look at Mr. Vane’s death. Has there been much exhibition of real distress? I don’t mean I want the family to go about in trailing black robes, or with brimming eyes, but I, for one, have not seen any expressions of woe. Even Miss Randy is already planning her new home and is entirely wrapped up in her plans.”

“Then you’re not crazy about Sally, either?” and Stone returned to his former subject.

Meade smiled.

“You’re a sticker!” he said. “No, to put it a bit crudely, I don’t care a rap in an affectionate way for Sally or Rose or Mrs. Vane or Miss Vane. They are kindly and pleasant people to me, but I wouldn’t care if I never saw one of them again.”

“You want to stay here?”

“If they want me. If not, I can doubtless get another place just as good. I have learned a lot here, about rare books and curios. I am grateful for that, but it has been quid pro quo. I’ve done my best for Mr. Vane and he was appreciative of my work. Any more of this idle if enjoyable chat?”

“No,” and Stone smiled, pleasantly. “Not just now. Perhaps some other time.”

“Always ready,” and Meade nodded politely and turned off in the other direction.

Stone stood watching him go. Entirely without being distinguished, Meade had a brisk, business-like way with him, but Stone often thought it was a pity he so lacked the evidences of culture.

At that moment, Katherine and Murrell came along, arm in arm, and paused to speak.

“What do you think about Mr. Meade?” Katherine asked of Stone. “Shall I keep him on, or dismiss him?”

“Why dismiss him? I thought he was such a good secretary.”

“He is—” Katherine hesitated; “but, somehow, he’s a wet blanket. He’s so morose and silent—”

“Small wonder,” said Stone, indignantly. “He shows a feeling of respect and reverence for his late employer’s death, at least.”

Katherine let this go by unnoticed.

“He’s a fine man,” she said, with a sigh, “and he did greatly admire Wiley. I suppose I’d better keep him for a while. What is going to happen, Mr. Stone? I mean, if you and Inspector Rowland don’t decide on the criminal, then what do you do?”

“I think we shall decide on the criminal, and that right soon,” Stone said, gravely. “Surely you don’t think, because we don’t broadcast our findings, we don’t make any!”

“Now, that’s just what we do think,” said Murrell, with a smile. “I’ve often heard of people who pretend to know a lot, but who—”

“There, there, Gregory, don’t say such things.” Katherine tapped his shoulder, and gave him a warning glance.

Murrell shrugged his shoulders, and grunted an unintelligible sound.

“He’s in a tantrum this morning,” and Katherine smiled, “I have to coax him up a bit.”

They wandered off, and once again Stone was alone. But he had garnered a few stray bits, and by good luck, they were just what he wanted.

The detective turned his steps around toward the back of the house, and was delighted with its appearance. So often the back yards and drying courts were unsightly, even those belonging to fine houses, but Greencastle had pleasant and tidy grounds as well as delightful recreation spots for the army of servants employed.

Both Stone and Rowland, though they had interrogated the servants more than once, had come to the mutual conclusion that their true quarry lay in another direction.

Taking a seat in a pleasant arbor, Stone spoke to the ever present Hopton, who was an ideal butler, and who had taken an immediate liking to the detective.

“Do you know anything more than you’ve told, Hopton?” Stone demanded, in a stern voice.

“No, sir, that I don’t.”

“Would you tell it if you did?”

“I’d tell it to you, sir.”

“Well, tell it then, for I know you have something up your sleeve.”

Hopton coughed.

“Only a mere trifle, sir,” he said.

“About somebody in love with somebody else?” Stone sent this shaft at random, more with the idea of impressing the man with his knowledge than anything else.

Hopton stared, and Stone saw he had made a hit. “Go on,” he said, impatiently.

“Well, it’s something like that, sir.”

“And who?”

“Mrs. Vane, sir. She’s gone on that visiting gentleman, Mr. Murrell.”

“Nonsense, she can’t be. I just met the pair of them in the garden. But, Hopton, Mrs. Vane wouldn’t fall in love so soon after her husband’s death.”

“No, sir, of course not.”

“Well, then, what do you mean?”

“Why, she was in love before he died, sir.”

“Before Mr. Vane died?”

“Sure, sir. And so, then, Mr. Murrell, he killed Mr. Vane, so’s he might marry the lady.”

Stone stared at him.

“Hopton, you’re crazy! Are you a detective, or am I?”

A slow smile crept over the butler’s face.

“We both are, sir. And we both believe this same thing as I’m telling you. You’ll see. Mrs. Vane will be engaged or married to Mr. Murrell in a few weeks, I’m tellin’ you.”

“How do you know?”

“Well, Mr. Stone, you ain’t so dumb. You know, you must know, that the servants in a big house know just about all there is to know. The maids get all the news of the ladies, and the men get all about the gentlemen. Are you kiddin’ me, Mr. Stone?”

“No, not exactly. But I don’t think you’re right.”

“No? Well, prove it for yourself. The two of ’em, walkin’ in the gardens by moonlight, swimmin’ together in the mornin’ and—oh, well, when ain’t they together?”

“Look here, Hopton, since we’ve gone so far, what about Mr. Meade?”

Hopton stared. “Him! The secreterry? Well! For some reason, Mr. Stone, he don’t like her, and by the same token, neither does Doctor Cameron.”

“Clear out now, Hopton, and send me Hake.”

“Yes, sir, but take Hake with a grain of salt, as they say.”

The butler went off and Hake shortly turned up. “You want me, sir?”

“Yes, just a few minutes, Hake. Let your mind go back to the night you found Mr. Vane dead.”

“I didn’t find him dead, sir. Prout did.”

Stone knew this, but was testing Hake.

“However, you were called to Mr. Vane’s room shortly before he died?”

“Well, so far’s I know. ’Pears to me everybody has that man a-dyin’ at a different time. Howsumever, sir, Mr. Vane’s bell rang, and he wanted Prout. Old Smarty hadn’t come home yet, so Mr. Hopton, he sent me up to the master. I knew that’d make him grouchy, but o’ course, I hadda go.”

“And was he grouchy?”

“No, sir, he was nice as pie. I was that surprised.”

“What did he want of you?”

“To tell me he didn’t like lobster.” Hake looked distinctly scornful. “As if I didn’t know that! Everybody in Queens County knows it!”

“Did it make him ill?”

“Oh, I s’pose so. He’s ill to his stummick most of the time, anyhow.”

“Speak a little more respectfully of your late master, Hake. Tell me all about the interview.”

“There’s nothin’ much to tell. I agreed to see that if there was lobster goin’, I’d see to it he had sweetbreads. That’s all.”

“Where was he?”

“Out in his porch place. Lovely, it was, and the rockets just beginnin’ to whiz!”

“What was he wearing?”

“Mercy! I dunno. His reg’lar day clo’es, I expect. He hadn’t begun to dress for dinner. Oh, yes, he had on his brown silk dressin’ gown, it was some chilly, and he had drug his hood up over his head. An’ he spoke nice, oh, Mr. Vane wasn’t so bad, ’cept when he was riled. He was a lookin’ at the rockets, too, they was beautiful.”

“And that was the last time you ever saw Mr. Vane alive?”

“The very last. When it was time to call him to dinner, Prout was on the job.”

“And Mr. Vane dismissed you without further word?”

“Yes, sir. I was glad of it, too.”


“Oh, it was so much gayer and pleasanter downstairs. Everybody was dressed up and runnin’ around, and the band out on the lawn was playin’ and the ladies was so gay an’ pretty. Just fine it was, sir.”

“But Mr. Vane didn’t want to go down to see it all?”

“He was pretty sick, sir. Just over-doin’ his tennis game and eatin’ too much, that’s all ailed him. I offered to fix him to lay down and rest a spell, but he cleared me out, and I went.”

“About what time was that?”

“Oh, Lordy! Time again! Well I s’pose it was like about sixish, maybe more.”

“Look here, Hake,” said Stone, in a low voice, “had you people in the kitchen had any—any refreshment that day?”

“Well, now, Mr. Stone, how’d you guess that? We sure had! Not a bit too much, you know, sir, but just a trifle of celebration.”

“Yeah! I see. Well, I daresay that’s about all you know about it, eh, Hake?”

“Just about, sir. Am I dismissed, sir?”

“Yes, if there’s nothing you know that you haven’t told me?”

“Not a thing, sir.”

“Then be off with you.”

But Stone was left with no look of disappointment on his thoughtful face. On the other hand, he seemed decidedly pleased with what he had heard from the under-butler.

Beyond doubt, urged to it by curiosity, Barclay, Katherine’s maid, strolled past Stone just then.

“No time like the present,” he thought, and called to her, “Barclay, just a minute, please.”

She turned back, bridling, and looked at him, interrogatorily.

“Come here a minute, will you?” he asked her, and reddening a little, she sat on the bench beside him, as he indicated.

“Barclay, why does such a good-looking young miss as you are, think it necessary to wear false eyelashes?”

“Why, Mr. Stone, we don’t wear ’em ’cause we think it’s necessary, but ’cause everybody’s doin’ it, you see.”

She had a pleasant smile, and a winsome face, and Stone liked her frank ways.

“Miss Day doesn’t,” he said, knowing she would like to be classed with the beauty.

“Miss Day? Why, yes, she does. Not always, but when she feels like it.”

“Why in the world does she do it?” asked Stone, honestly curious.

“I dunno. Same reason, I guess. Everybody’s doin’ it.”

Stone left her rather abruptly. He went to the office where Dolly Day was busily typing some lists of books.

“Out, out, Mr. Stone,” she cried, gayly. “I’m fearfully busy and I must get these book-lists done by lunch time.”

“Are you so hurried, now that you have no boss?”

“No Boss? Let me tell you Mr. Meade is far more of a slave driver than Mr. Vane ever was!”

She gave Meade a glance half teasing and half provocative.

He did not smile at her, but turned to Stone, asking him to sit down.

“No, everybody seems to be busy to-day, and I must get busy myself. Miss Day, do you wear artificial eyelashes?”

“I do sometimes. Why?”

“What do you wear them for?”

“Oh, it’s just a girl’s foolishness, I suppose. Lots of girls do it, and also lots are shocked by it. But I’ll tell you a funny thing—”

“There’s the luncheon bell!” exclaimed Stone, “and you’re busy. Wait till some other time.”

He hurried away anathematizing the way time fled. The other two remained talking a few minutes, and then followed him.

“I call the conference early this afternoon,” announced Rowland, as they rose from the table. “We have an important matter to discuss.”

All nodded their heads, but few responded vocally. However, they convened slowly, and Rowland grew impatient before they were all in place.

“There is still much to be done,” the Inspector said, “but some of it is routine work, and some will take a fairly long time, because visits have to be made at various places. Detective-Sergeant Gillmore has already gone to Chicago on some such matters.”

“I wondered where he was,” said Katherine; “any more going, Inspector?”

“Possibly, I’m not quite sure. Now, who is there that wants to go?”

As it turned out, very few really wanted to go. Gregory Murrell said he’d like to stay a while longer, and Rose said she greatly desired to do so.

Cameron declared he was a fixture until the mystery was solved, and Katherine said nothing could make her go elsewhere.

So, as it seemed Miss Randy was the only one anxious to get away immediately, and she was determined to go.

“Why the great haste, Miss Vane?” asked Rowland.

“I want to get to work on my house,” was the reply. “Now that I have my nephew’s money, I can go right on with the building. Some of you may think this is cold-hearted, but you must realize I’ve but a short time to live, compared to you all, and I want to have some use of my home while I have my health and faculties.”

“I think you are quite right, Miss Vane,” Stone told her, and the others murmured agreement.

“One or two lists I want copied,” Randy went on, “will you do them, Dolly? Right away, I mean, and then I’ll be able to tell you just what the cost will be.”

“Surely, Miss Vane,” and Dolly took the papers and left the room.

They were talking in the library, and Stone inquired what would become of the great and valuable collection of rare books and manuscripts.

“They are mine, I suppose,” Katherine said; “I’m not a fanatic on those things, and I shall sell them. If there are any special volumes you want, Aunt Randy, for your new house, just select them and take them for your own.”

“Be careful how you scatter them so freely, Mrs. Vane,” Stone said. “Some of them are exceedingly valuable.”

“Not to me,” Katherine reiterated, with the carelessness of those who have no knowledge of rare and antique volumes.

“The library ought to be sold en bloc, if at all,” said Meade, looking at the great bookcases full of choice rarities.

“What does that mean?” asked Sally.

“As a whole, not broken up,” Meade told her. “There’s a beautiful little set of Hawthorne’s ‘Grandfather’s Chair’ stories, that’s easily worth twice as much, the three all together, as if separated.”

“Is that in the library?” said Doctor Cameron, with enthusiasm. “Oh, will you let me see it?”

“Some other time,” said Rowland.

“It’s right in the office, just a step,” Meade told him, and left the room. “I’ll be back in a second.”

He was almost as good as his word, and was right back with the books. He handed them to Cameron, and laid another on the table by Rowland’s side.

“Look at that, when you’ve leisure,” he said. “It’s a First Edition of Paradise Lost, in excellent condition.”

Rowland, who was no bibliophile, but who loved to learn new things, drew it nearer to him and kept it in sight all the afternoon.

And then the talk was resumed and over and over again, they argued and wondered and compared opinions.

Aunt Randy pored over her maps and plans, the Inspector discussed his known facts and his probable evidence. Fleming Stone, saying little, watched the others closely and began to fear that at last it might be possible he was going to fall down on a case!

At last, Aunt Randy, ready for further data, asked why that blue-eyed baby didn’t bring back those lists, declaring they were both few and short.

Two or three of the men present rose to go in search of Dolly, but Stone stepped ahead of them all, and declared he would go himself.

He did so, and was absent so long that Cameron said, jestingly, “Guess now we’ll have to send somebody to find Mr. Stone.”

“No,” said a voice from the hall, “it is not necessary. I am here. There has been a serious accident to Miss Day. Trevor, come with me, will you? Inspector, let nobody else leave this room till we return.”

“Oh, what is the matter?” cried Randy, hysterically. “Tell me,—tell me quickly. Something has happened to little Dolly! I’m sure of it!”

“Yes, you are right,” and Stone spoke sadly, “something has happened. Little Miss Day is—dead.”


Chapter 10
More Inquiries

The three men went to the downstairs office, which, though on the same floor, was some distance from the library.

Dolly Day sat at her desk, her head fallen forward on her typewriter and the handle of a dagger protruding from the middle of her back. Her dimpled elbows were shrunk against her sides, and her rose leaf finger-tips still on the keyboard.

“Look her over,” Rowland said to Cameron. “We must call Burton, of course, you’d better not touch her. But see what you can.”

“Little to see,” said Cameron, “and small need for it. Somebody jabbed her through the heart, from the back. The one blow killed her.”

“But who?” asked Stone, “and why? There was no suspicion against Dolly in connection with Vane, was there?”

“I think there was,” Cameron declared. “Don’t forget the photograph, signed, ‘Booful,’ in the suitcase. You fellows must know there was something between Wiley and his stenographer.”

“But even at that, why should anyone kill her?”

“That must be ferreted out,” Stone said, “and we must get to work. Rowland, will you call the Medical Examiner? Cameron, you go back and tell the crowd in the library. See that everybody is there. If not, chase them up, and hold them. It’s easy to be seen where the weapon came from.”

He pointed to a circle of daggers, pointing inward, which were arranged on the wall just above Wiley Vane’s desk, for Vane often worked in this office with his helpers. One dagger was missing, and the one sticking from Dolly’s back, had a similar appearance to the rest.

“Can’t be sure,” Stone went on, “but the dagger used looks greatly like those either side the empty space in the circle.”

“What an awful bunch of junk to keep around!” Rowland exclaimed.

Then the Inspector went to a hall telephone to call the Examiner, Cameron went to the library and Stone quickly made a hurried search of the room.

Without moving the head of the dead girl, he saw an eyelash on the desk, very near the telephone. Drawing a pair of tweezers from his pocket, and congratulating himself that he always carried them now, he picked up the tiny hair and put it in his pocket book. He knew it might be unethical, but he proposed to examine that eyelash before Rowland did. It was possible it was dropped by the same criminal that killed Wiley Vane, though it did not seem probable.

Anyway, it must be looked into. He looked longingly at Dolly’s pretty little handbag, feeling that his engagement by Katherine gave him privileges above Rowland, but, after all, the order about the Examiner always stood.

Stone sighed, but let matters alone.

The room contained one outside door and three French windows. All of these stood open, and Stone scrutinized the porch floor outside for footprints.

But footprints are not so obligingly present in fact as in fiction, and Stone could find none. Stay, there were a few at the open door. Stone got a rug and laid it lightly over them for protection. Of course, anyone from the house, coming in, would come through the inner doors and on rugs.

Stone glanced at Vane’s desk, neat with the neatness a trained servant alone can give. Meade’s desk, neat, also, but obviously kept in order by its occupant. Dolly’s desk was in a turmoil, as always. She never cleared it up, never put it in order, yet her work was always perfection.

Why, why was she there, dead, and who killed her?

Suicide was in Stone’s mind, but from the position of the weapon, suicide was impossible.

The crowd from the library came softly into the room.

Katherine and Aunt Randy came first, both awe stricken and tearful. The rest followed, all more or less bewildered and shocked painfully at the sight of the beautiful girl, lifeless and still.

Her face could not be seen, but the sunlight curls as Sally called them, glinted in real sunshine no fairer than their own.

“Now you’re all here, tell me what you know of the time,” said Rowland.

“I knew it!” groaned Rose, “time again! I’ve no idea of the time the whole afternoon!”

“Dolly came in here about three,” Katherine said. “I’m pretty sure of that.”

“So’m I,” agreed Sally. “I was wondering if we’d get off in time for a swim.”

“Can I go out of the room?” asked Rose. “I can’t stand it!”

“You may all leave the room, but not the house,” Rowland told her. “I suppose you all understand, we have much the same routine to go through, that we went through in Mr. Vane’s case.”

“I say,” Murrell said suddenly, “oughtn’t we to send word to Dolly’s people?”

“Of course,” replied Rowland. “Has she people here?”

“Oh, yes,” Katherine replied, “you know she spent the evening of Fourth of July with her cousin. Her parents live in New York.”

“Have you the telephone call?”

“It must be here somewhere. I don’t know their name—do you, Mr. Meade?”

“No—but I can find it.” He spoke hesitatingly.

“Please do so then,” directed Rowland.

Meade stammered a bit, as he answered, “It is in Mr. Vane’s private telephone book.”

“I have that,” returned the Inspector, coolly, and looking through his case of papers, drew forth the little book and opened it.

“Who knows the name?” he asked, and Sally replied, “I do. I’ve heard Dolly mention it. It’s Swift, he’s her uncle. John Swift, on Greenwich Street.”

“Here we are then. Who’d better telephone?”

No one volunteered, and Fleming Stone offered to do it.

“We can do nothing until Burton comes,” Rowland said, and he began to examine the room.

“I mean, of course,” he added, “regarding the girl herself. There seem to be lots of her things round here.”

He picked up Dolly’s hat and light scarf that hung on the rack, and Stone, sauntering by, picked up the girl’s handbag.

“Anything in that?” the Inspector inquired, and the detective replied, “Only what you’d expect to find there.” He passed over the bag and Rowland looked, finding merely a selection of toiletries, some small change, a handkerchief or two, and a little picture, evidently a snapshot of Wiley Vane.

“Poor girl,” Murrell said, “perhaps that photograph is a clue to her death.”

“Is it, Mr. Stone?” asked Meade, turning to the detective.

“Can’t tell yet, but it may be. I don’t see how, but you never can tell.”

“He probably gave it to her,” said Katherine, calmly, and then the Medical Examiner came, and they were all herded back to the library.

Doctor Burton could make quicker work than with the Vane case, and he could speak to his audience by name.

“Who saw Miss Day alive last?” he asked.

“Pretty much all of us,” Stone told him. “She was with us in the library, when she was sent in to the office to copy some lists.”

“I sent her,” said Aunt Randy; “I was in a hurry for some lists I wanted, and she was quite willing to do them.”

“Lists of what?”

“Estimates for my new house.”

“Very well,” Doctor Burton said, “I’ll make the examination now, and see you all in the library later.”

They all went back to the library, Rose Kortz and Gregory Murrell in taciturn mood, but the others all either sad or in deep curiosity.

“What will happen next!” Katherine exclaimed. “I must leave this house,—I can’t live here!”

“I, too!” stormed Rose. “Will that terror of an Examiner keep me here another two weeks! I won’t stand it!”

“We’re all in the same boat,” complained Murrell. “I wish I could get away!”

And then they were summoned to the office again, where Dolly now lay on a spacious couch, designed for Wiley Vane’s use when weary.

Beautiful, indeed, she looked. The dreadful dagger out of sight, the exquisite face, pale but lovely as ever, and the golden curls clustering round the well-shaped little head.

Every man present drew a choked breath, and all the women shed heartfelt tears.

“Now, and here,” said Stone, “in the solemn presence of death, can anyone falsely proclaim innocence of this crime? Can anyone deny his or her part in this second tragedy that has come to Greencastle?”

Yet, thus asked together, and again, separately, everyone in the room denied his or her knowledge of the criminal.

“You discovered the dead girl, Mr. Stone?” Burton asked.

But before that first question could be answered, three people came, tremblingly into the room.

The man who seemed to be leader, made the first speech.

“I am the uncle of Dolly Day,” he said. “Where is she?”

The stern tone he used was remindful of the historic query, “Where is thy brother Abel?”

But even as he spoke, he saw the waxen figure on the couch, and cried out in his grief.

“I am John Swift,” he said, “Dolly’s uncle. These ladies are her aunt and cousin, my wife and daughter. What has happened to our girl?”

The Medical Examiner stepped forward.

“She has been stabbed, Mr. Swift,” he said; “stabbed by some wretched criminal, to her death. It happened here in this room, we believe, but that does not mean it was the act of anyone in this house.” Burton added the last phrase quickly, for he saw in Swift’s menacing eyes such vengeance as is rarely shown by mortals.

“And how comes you know that, sir?” he said, glowering at Dr. Burton. “Can you swear to that? Not the act of anyone in this house, eh? By whom, then was the fearful deed committed?”

“That we have to find out, Mr. Swift. Pray be more calm. This whole family is in deep trouble, as you know. Rest assured we will yet solve the mystery of your niece’s death, and—”

“You will! Yes, you will! Have you solved the mystery of Mr. Vane’s death? Do you know who killed him?”

“No, not yet. But you must remember it takes time as well as effort to do these difficult things.”

He turned to the weeping aunt and cousin who sat beside the couch.

“Mrs. Swift,” he said, gently, “I must ask you a few questions, which I trust you will have no reason to resent. Has your niece been in any way downhearted of late? Saddened, perhaps, because of Mr. Vane’s death, or for any other cause?”

“Not that I know of,” was the rather sullen answer.

But John Swift contradicted this.

“She has been sad and queer of late, Dolly has,” he asserted, staring at his wife; “ever since Mr. Vane was killed she has been different from her usual happy manners. I don’t know anything about Mr. Vane, but I know he was kind and good to our Dolly.”

“Too kind and too good,” said Miss Randy, sighing.

“I don’t see what that has to do with Dolly’s being killed,” Katherine declared. “My husband was kind or not to people, as he chose, but that couldn’t affect the present matter. What is your report, Dr Burton?”

“That Miss Day was certainly killed by a stab wound in the back. It must have been done by a right-handed person, who may or may not have had medical knowledge. A blow of the sort that killed Miss Day, may be given by anyone strong enough and determined enough to drive the dagger. The blade entered at the left side, and struck the heart, or, perhaps the lungs, or some other vital part.”

“Wouldn’t the girl scream out?” asked John Swift.

“This handkerchief lay on the desk beside her typewriter,” Dr Burton returned. “As you see, it is stained with lipstick. That convinces me that the handkerchief belonged to Dolly herself, or to some woman who killed her.”

“If it belonged to her, why not suicide?” asked Gregory Murrell.

“She could not have possibly stuck herself with a dagger in that spot,” Cameron said, “and if a woman killed her, why would she use her own initialed handkerchief, and leave it as a souvenir?”

“Is it marked?” asked Katherine, “does that tell you nothing?”

“It is marked with an initial B,” said Dr. Burton. “Does anyone here claim it?”

Every woman present shuddered at the idea, but Mrs. Swift spoke up bravely, “It is Dolly’s,” she said. “Mr. Vane gave her a box of a dozen marked B.”

“Why B?” inquired the Examiner.

Mrs. Swift reddened a little, but went on; “Because Mr. Vane called her Booful for a nickname.”

“We cannot conclude from this that any of Miss Day’s admirers were jealous of his attentions to her, yet there may be some such connection. If, then, this handkerchief was Miss Day’s own property, and since there is no question of suicide, this handkerchief may have played a part in the tragedy.”

“Just what part would you assign to it, Dr Burton?” asked Murrell, a little quizzically.

Owing to its touch of sarcasm, the Examiner ignored this query, but Fleming Stone took up the subject.

“I think Dr Burton is assuming,” he said, “that the murderer, standing as he or she was, behind the victim, may have used Miss Day’s handkerchief to hold to her lips in order, if necessary, to stop a scream. This can be partially determined by testing the stain to see if it came from Miss Day’s own lipstick.”

Dr Burton looked at the speaker in some surprise. “That is just what I had in mind, Mr. Stone,” he returned. “We will have that test made.” He took the handkerchief, a pale colored chiffon one and placed it in his wallet. “Does anyone know?” he went on, “of any enemy Miss Day had? Any envious girl or jealous man? Was she a temperamental sort?”

“I fancy no one present, except her own relatives knew her so well as Mr. Meade,” said Katherine, “by reason of his necessarily being here with her every day and all day.”

Tony Meade made no reply to this, until the Examiner asked him if it were true.

“True that I worked in this room with her much of the time, yes,” he said; “true that I knew her well, no. I don’t suppose Miss Day and I exchanged more than two remarks any day, except those called for by the business we were engaged on at the moment.”

“She was a very beautiful girl.”

Meade looked at the speaker with a trace of scorn, but made no reply, as if the subject were of no interest to him.

In fact, beyond a general feeling of pity that the exquisite piece of humanity should be put out of existence so cruelly, no one of the Greencastle people felt deeply bereaved.

“Do you know of anyone who would be likely to come in this room while Miss Day was here alone, working on those lists?”

“We are fairly sure no one did,” Rowland told him, “for I had the crowd convened in the library, and they were all present there. Miss Day, also, until she was sent to copy the lists.”

“Did no one of you leave the room after she did?”

“I did,” Katherine said, “I was called to see a friend about a charity bazaar she is planning. I was gone but a few minutes.”

“Yes,” said Aunt Randy, “only a very short time. I noticed.”

“Did you go out of the room, Miss Vane?”

“Let me see. I think not. Oh, yes, I was called to the telephone.”

“Miss Sally Vane?”

“Sure. Aunt Randy’s telephoning put it in my head, and I went to telephone. Anything to get out of that eternal conference!”

Cameron and Murrell confessed to one absence each and stated it was to get a drink.

“Where did that errand take you?” Dr Burton asked of Cameron.

“To the dining room, and Hopton,” he said, while Murrell declared he went to his own room for his.

But they all said they had not gone in the direction of the office where Dolly was, nor had they been near it.

“Call Hopton,” said the Examiner, shortly.

Hopton appeared, and Dr Burton asked him if he had seen Miss Day at all that afternoon.

“Yes, sir,” the butler said, “I saw her come from the library and go into the office ’long ’bout three o’clock.”

“Did she speak to you?”

“No, sir, just merely nodded her head, with a gay little smile, like she often did.”

“Who else did you see come from the library?”

“Pretty much all of ’em, off and on like. Miss Randy, she went into the office to speak to Miss Dolly—”

“You didn’t tell me this!” Dr Burton scowled at Miss Vane.

“You didn’t ask me,” she retorted. “But you’re welcome to the knowledge. I went to see how Dolly was getting on, and to take the lists she had done.”

“Had she many done?”

“About as many as I expected. Dolly was a very rapid typist and a very good one. Never a mistake, you know.”

“At what time was this, Miss Vane?”

“I should say something like pretty near four o’clock,—”

“Excuse me, Miss Randy, it was quarter of four,” came Hopton’s low, well-trained voice.

“There you are,” Miss Randy said. “You can always depend on Hopton for time.”

“It is my conviction that Miss Day was stabbed at four o’clock, or thereabouts,” went on Dr Burton. “Her death was instantaneous, and I surmise that her murderer stood behind her, and therefore, she did not see him, or else he was some stranger she never had seen before. In that case, it would be natural for him to clasp her mouth with a handkerchief, lest she scream out, and also natural, if hers lay on the desk to use that.”

“Do you see it that way, Mr. Stone?” asked Murrell of the detective.

“It seems to me Dr Burton has reconstructed the crime skillfully and truly. If the lipstick corresponds to that Miss Day was in the habit of using we may take it as hers, though, to be sure, with so many varieties of that cosmetic, it may be uncertain.”

“And the weapon?” Gregory Murrell put in.

“Here it is, sir,” and Doctor Burton took it from a desk drawer. “There are no fingerprints on it, which is odd of itself, showing premeditation. Also showing that the murderer wore gloves or used his own handkerchief to protect the handle. You can all readily see where it came from, as this circle of dirks, with one missing makes it obvious. These instruments can be easily taken from the wall, and quickly used. I think we have practically found the method and the means. Now, to discover the motive and the murderer. If you approve, Mr. Swift and Mrs. Swift, I will send the body of your niece to the local morgue for an autopsy, and then you may use your option as to its disposal.”

Mrs. Swift burst into such a flood of tears, that Katherine led her from the room, and the Examiner turned to the young girl who had come with her parents.

“You probably know your cousin’s affairs,” he said, in a kindly way, “tell me if she had a little affair with Mr. Vane.”

“I don’t know,” the girl said, timidly, and Burton was about to take her words for truth, when Fleming Stone turned to her, and said, sternly, “That won’t do, Edna! Don’t think you can put those baby ways over on us. You’re no Dolly Day, and it isn’t worth while to try to model yourself on her ways. You know all about Mr. Vane and Dolly, now tell it!”

“I only know he liked her and thought she was pretty.”

“Oh, he did! He must have had eyes in his head. What did he do to show he liked her?”

“He took her riding sometimes.”

“Oh, well, I’m not questioning you now, Edna. But Dr Burton is and you see that you tell him the truth.”

“Yes, sir,” but her down-dropped eyes and low voice did not deceive Fleming Stone, for he knew her of old.

“Oh, wait a minute,” he said, as the girl fished around in her hand bag. “Did Dolly use the same lipstick that you do?”

“About the same; she fancied a little different perfume.”

“Have you some of yours with you?”

Edna took a tiny container from her bag, and handed it to him.

“Let me keep this,” he said. “Will that pay for it?”

He dropped in her open bag sufficient money to pay for the cosmetic two or three times over.

Edna smiled at him. Her tube was nearly empty, anyhow. She rather liked this slow smiling, freehanded gentleman.

And then, in a Greencastle car, the three Swifts and Dr Burton went over to the home of Dolly Day.

Fleming Stone went too, in another car, and Inspector Rowland was left in charge of the Vane household.

At the Swift house, Stone calmly got out of his car and presented himself.

John Swift himself refused to go in the house, preferring to go to the morgue and stay by Dolly while he might. Already he was uncertain as to how he should tell this gruesome story to his sister, whose child Dolly was. He was allowed to have his own way, and so Stone accompanied Mrs. Swift and Edna inside.

It was the usual type of small seaside cottage, and though Stone looked about he could see nothing in the living room to give any hints of Dolly’s home life or guests.

Leaving Burton and Mrs. Swift together, the detective beckoned Edna out into the hall.


Chapter 11
At The Swift House

“Take me up to Dolly’s room,” he whispered, and as Edna hesitated, he reminded her that trouble for her would ensue, unless she obeyed.

Not long before, Edna had been accused of a petty theft. Because of her youth she had escaped with a reprimand, but had been warned against a repetition of the occurrence. It was better for her not to have the subject referred to.

Stone followed her up the stairs, and into the small bedroom which had been Dolly’s.

A few quick glances about the room showed nothing of interest, and the detective went to the dresser which, doubtless held the girl’s clothing and small properties.

“Her letters and trinkets are in the top drawer,” volunteered Edna. “All the other drawers hold her langery.”

“How do you know?” asked Stone. “Were you two cousins on intimate terms?”

“You don’t have to be, to know where a girl keeps her things. No, we weren’t intimate much, but of course, two girls in the same house are bound to chin together more or less.”

By this time Stone had opened the top drawer, and was looking things over.

“Had she jewelry?” he asked.

“Oh, yes, but I guess none of it is real. There’s her jewel box.”

Sure enough, the “jewel box” contained only strings of fancy beads and imitation pearls. “Costoom joolry,” Edna called it.

“Where are the pieces Mr. Vane gave her?”

“Oh, you know that?” Edna seemed surprised, but obediently opened a box tucked under a pile of handkerchiefs.

“Running true to form,” murmured Stone. “Why do women always hide things under a pile of something? Don’t they know it’s the first place a detective or a burglar looks?”

He drew out a small jewelry box, and opened it. Under the cotton he found five tiny figures, of fine workmanship and very beautiful. There was a bicycle, a dog, a motor car, a weather vane and an exquisite miniature flag, made of rubies, sapphires and diamonds.

“What are these for?” asked Stone. “What was she going to do with them?”

“Hang them on a bangle bracelet. You know how the girls do. But more often they have imitation stones. These are beautiful, though of course, very small; they have to be. The flag was the last gift from Mr. Vane. He gave it to her Fourth of July morning, and at the time he promised to have the bracelet made the next day. Poor chap, he never saw her again.”

“Why poor Mr. Vane? Why not, poor Dolly?”

“Well, of course—now— Do you know, Mr. Stone, I sort of had a notion Dolly killed him.”

“Why, Miss Swift! You startle me! How can you think that?”

“Well, you see, she had lost interest in him.”

“Were they lovers?”

“Oh, mercy, no! But when Dolly was so pretty, and Mr. Vane a really attractive man, it was small wonder that they flirted a little. He called her Booful, and she called him Willow.”


“Oh, some song that goes, Willow, Willow, Wiley.”

Stone smiled. “Well, then what happened?”

“You see, she thought he was going to get divorced from his wife and marry her. Dolly was gullible that way.”

“So, who did kill him?”

“As I told you, I thought she did. But now it doesn’t look so. Unless, Dolly killed him because he wouldn’t fix things so he could marry her, and Mrs. Vane suspected that, and killed her off in a sort of revenge. But that sounds too ridiculous. Mrs. Vane has always been very kind to Dolly, and I don’t think she minded her little flirtation with Mr. Vane a bit.”

“Unless she learned that Mr. Vane thought of getting a divorce—”

“Yes, there’s that. I’ve thought that might be the way of it. Oh, I don’t know. I don’t see how you detectives ever get at the truth of things,—if you do.”

“A very sapient observation, Miss Swift.”

“What does sapient mean?”

“Wise, true, correct. Well, you don’t know of any more little objects Dolly left tucked away?”

“No, I don’t, but are you taking those away? Dolly always said if she died, her things were to be mine.”

“Don’t be alarmed, if that is so, those will all come back to you. Did she leave a will?”

“Oh, yes. It’s in her desk.”

Edna fished about in a mess of papers and letters, and finally discovered a somewhat worn and soiled paper, stating in informal terms, that all money or property of which Miss Dorothea Day died possessed, was to be given to her cousin, Edna Swift.

This also, Stone confiscated, and then continued to search the desk.

He was rewarded by two or three notes from Vane, signed Willow, and a little book of amatory verses, bearing Vane’s bookplate.

The notes didn’t amount to much, as far as Stone could see, but he took them along to show to Dr Burton.

And, indeed, just then, Dr Burton, accompanied by Mrs. Swift, came up the stairs and into Dolly’s room.

“Hello, Stone, the day after the fair, am I? Have you fine-combed the place?”

“Pretty much so, Doctor. But all I’ve taken, not much, I’ll show when we get home. The rest here is at your disposal.”

“Oh, don’t disturb Dolly’s things,” cried Mrs. Swift. “We never touch her belongings.”

“She’ll not need them again,” Stone said, gently, “and we may find something that will help us learn who killed her.”

But Dr Burton’s quick search revealed no clue, nor anything that hinted at help for them, and he turned to go down the stairs.

Mrs. Swift bade them a few words of good-by, and went to her own room, leaving Edna to show the gentlemen out.

A quick drive brought the two detectives to Greencastle, and Dr Burton went at once in search of Hopton, to make arrangements for staying at the house as long as he might find it necessary.

Important as was the Vane murder, its prominence would be doubled by the added murder of the beautiful girl. Few would believe there was no connection between the two deaths, and the growing mystery needed to be quickly solved.

Hopton arranged matters without disturbing his mistress, for the Medical Examiner was not a guest, but a prominent exponent of the law, who announced himself, without waiting for an invitation.

He then went to the library to await the lady of the house. It had been settled amicably, that Katherine, the wife, ranked ahead of Miranda, the aunt. This, largely, because both women preferred it that way. Randy would leave soon, even before her new house was done, for she wanted to superintend its building.

Indeed, there were people who truly suspected Miss Randy had killed her nephew, in order to get the money at once for her building.

But many absurd theories were held, or reported to be held, and there was little if any truth among them.

Katherine came in from the sun porch, where she had been sitting with Gregory Murrell.

“You stroll around outside, Greg,” she said, “I’m going to have a little talk with Doctor Burton. I’ll rejoin you later.”

“Don’t be too long, dear,” said Murrell, and Dr Burton and Fleming Stone glanced at each other, quickly.

“You want to see me, Doctor Burton,” said Katherine, looking very well groomed in her plain black chiffon, and a few white roses thrust through her belt.

“Yes, Mrs. Vane. I shall have to stay for a time in Golden Sands, and as I can’t stand the thought of staying at the Swift home, and I detest a hotel or Inn, I’m going to ask you to take me on here.”

“But most certainly, Dr Burton. We look upon Dolly as one of ourselves and I hope you will discount as largely exaggeration, the stories about her and Mr. Vane. With such a pretty girl, there would be some gossip, of course.”

“I understand, ma’am. Assuming your assent, I allowed Hopton to give me a couple of rooms, and I must ask for entire freedom of going or coming.”

“That is of course granted. Now tell me what you learned at the Swifts’ house.”

“May we leave that until after dinner, and then have a conference of all? You promised a quick return to your companion.”

“Oh, so I did. Dinner at eight, Doctor,” and Katherine ran back to the waiting Murrell.

“We must have a long talk, Mr. Stone,” and the Examiner looked gravely at the great detective.

“Yes, that is so. But there’s one tangle here that I haven’t yet been able to unravel. With whom is Mrs. Vane in love?”

“That has puzzled me, too. But we’re not classing her among the criminal possibilities, are we?”

“We can’t class criminal possibilities, if you will pardon my saying so. Every human being on the sphere has, we must admit, possibility, even in this case. But, naturally, limiting our surmises to the people in the house, which I do, even though it might have been an outsider, I feel that a love affair lurks in the background.”

“It is certainly probable. And also probable, more than one affair.”

“Yes.” Stone nodded his head, as in decided agreement. “To begin with, as I think I hinted, with whom is our hostess in love?”

“Are you asking for information, or to see if I agree with your opinion?”

“Both,” and Stone smiled. “That is, I hope to get one or the other.”

“Whom have we to choose from?”

“She is flirting now with Mr. Murrell.”

“Count him one, then. Next?”

“There’s Meade, but I fancy her looking higher than a secretary.”

“Still he may be her choice. He’s number two.”

“There’s no one else but Trevor Cameron.”

“He’s my choice and I think he is hers. She flouts him a little, which is her way. You’re leaving yourself out?”

“Yes, I think so. I feel no thrill when she looks at me, not even a hint that she wants me to feel a thrill. I fear I am out of it.”

“Very likely. Some people think our calling not of the nobility.”

“You’ve noticed that? But a doctor can always put it over, it’s the detective or the dentist who can’t.”

“Don’t rob me of my title of detective! It’s my joy and my pride! I hope it is also yours?”

“Oh, yes, I love the work; but so many look down upon it. No, I’m not the snob you think, but I know the value of my work, and I like to see it recognized.”

“It seldom is. Now, you’ll be here at dinner tonight. Pick up anything you can by way of information about Dolly. I can’t dine, I have to go back to the morgue now. But I’ll be back here by nine-thirty or so, and then I want to see them all together.”

Soon after the Examiner left him, Fleming Stone was a little surprised to see Antony Meade enter the library. Always ready to take an opportunity when it offered itself, he greeted the secretary cordially, and asked him to sit down and talk over things.

“Has it ever occurred to you,” Stone said, slowly, “to think that there was a possibility of Dolly Day having killed Mr. Vane?”

“Mercy, no!” exclaimed Meade, genuinely startled. “Have you any such thought?”

“Only vaguely, as I have many others. I tell you, Meade, this is the case of uncertain issues. There is almost nothing that we know positively. Do you not feel that it is now up to you to tell of some matters that you have held back because of their implicating Dolly?”

“I suppose so,” and Meade looked troubled. “Yes, I suppose so, Mr. Stone; and yet, I fancy you already know of them.”

“But even so, I require corroboration. How deeply was Wiley Vane implicated with Dolly Day?”

“Oh, merely as a middle-aged man would be attracted by such a lovely child. There were no roadhouse visits, or surf-bathing together, if that is what you mean.”

“Yet he gave her valuable presents.”

“If so, I know nothing about them. You see, Mr. Stone, I am in this house but not of it. Especially with the ladies of the family, I try to have as little to do as possible. I am deeply interested in my work, I am learning much about rare books, and I hope Mrs. Vane will keep me on till the catalogue I am now working on is finished. After that, I suppose I shall be dismissed. She will probably sell the collection, and I shall certainly try my best to get taken on by the new possessor. But it is unlikely I can do that, as everyone has some friend or relative who wants the job.”

“And you never noticed over-intimacy between Mr. Vane and his stenographer?”

“It’s hard to answer that meticulously. He may have held her coat for her a little too closely, now and then, or clasped her hand a long time at saying good-by, but I can recollect nothing more definite than that.”

“You’re as indefinite as all else connected with the case. Now, you agreed there were a few things you could tell. Tell me one.”

“Ask me questions, rather.”

“Very well. Is it a possibility, in your mind, that Dolly could have shot Mr. Vane?”

“It is.”

“And her motive?”

“To get the bequest left her in his will. She thought it was larger than it turned out to be.”

“As to opportunity?”

“Well, I talked to Mr. Vane on the office telephone. Dolly was in my office then, but departed soon after. Couldn’t she have slipped up to his office, right afterward, and committed the deed, and then, slipped away without anyone noticing? I don’t know anything about the time details and all that, but I’ve wondered. And I’ve heard you say you suspected it was a woman.”

“Does Dolly Day use artificial eyelashes?”

Meade smiled. “The proper retort to that is,” he said, “how should I know? But I can’t say that, for it was her habit to be everlastingly at her face. Pretty as it was, she thought it needed continuous care, and a dozen times a day, she went over it with her foolish paraphernalia.”

“Eyelashes, too?”

“Yes, she fancied her lashes were too light, although, of course, they matched her hair. But she chose to intersperse some dark lashes among her own with an idea of toning down their light tint.”

“Did she succeed?”

“That I can’t tell you. She asked me to comment on her efforts, but I was not interested and did not respond.”

“I take it, Mr. Meade, the young lady endeavored to vamp you.”

“You take it quite right. I would not admit this, were she alive, but it is the truth, and I see no reason to deny it now.”

“You were a brave man to defy her advances.”

“I daresay you think so, but she had no appeal for me.”

“What is your ideal type of woman?”

“Is this a necessary conversation? I don’t mind telling you I prefer the purely intellectual type, with some truly womanly traits as well. But such are rarely seen, as you doubtless know.”

“Probably it is your genuine indifference that makes the women admire you.”

Antony Meade gave Stone a quizzical look and broke into laughter.

“My dear sir, I don’t know what you are trying to pull off, but if you can make me think the ladies admire me, you are surely the wizard they sometimes call you!”

The man’s mirth was so indubitably sincere, that Stone laughed with him, and then they went off to dress for dinner.

By Katherine’s request the whole subject of Dolly Day and her tragic death was avoided at table.

One after another volunteered a subject of possible pleasantry, and a fair amount of success was achieved.

And after dinner, they gathered in the library to await Dr Burton’s inquiries.

“I don’t see why we have to be here,” Rose complained. “We had nothing to do with that girl’s death, and I don’t see why Sally and I can’t go off by ourselves.”

“And me,” added Murrell, but seeing Katherine’s frown, he added, “me wants to stay here.”

It was noticeable, but it served its purpose, for Katherine smiled again and all was well.

Dr Burton arrived, and cheered some of their hearts by saying he meant to put this case through quickly, and if that could be done, it would greatly hasten the solution of the mystery of Vane’s death. He didn’t say just how, and Fleming Stone wondered if he had anything new up his sleeve.

He recounted, shortly, the conditions at the Swift home, stating that while Mr. Swift was practical and helpful, Mrs. Swift was nearly in hysterics. He then asked Katherine questions, mostly regarding the relationship between Dolly and Mr. Vane, and her own attitude toward them.

Katherine was dignified, calm and collected, answered courteously, if briefly, and left the Medical Examiner just about as wise as when he came.

Nor was Miss Randy any more satisfactory.

She said she knew nothing of her nephew’s love affairs, nor did she want to know. All she desired was to have the whole matter settled up and let her get away to her new home. She had always thought the Day girl too pretty to be anybody’s stenographer, and if Wiley had fallen in love with her, she didn’t blame him. As to Dolly’s having shot Vane, it was too absurd. And as to who killed Dolly, she didn’t know, and, by implication, she didn’t much care. And that was all she had to say about it.

Whereupon, Dr Burton began to think that maybe Miss Vane killed her nephew, to get her money and start her new house.

So he quizzed her over and over, until she became so wearied, that she rose and left the room, saying she was going to bed, and would let him interview her further the next morning.

The girls, though Rose insisted they knew nothing of the matter, were closely questioned. Sally was tearful, for she had loved pretty Dolly, but Rose was testy and snapped out her replies with a rasping tone.

“You knew Miss Day, personally?” Burton inquired.

“Yes, I did,” Rose informed him.

“For how long?”

“Since the day I came down here, a few days before the Fourth of July.”

“You liked her?”

“Very much, but, naturally, I saw little of her.”

“You know anything of the affair, if any, between her and her employer?”

“Well, yes, but only a little.”

“Such as what?”

“Well, Fourth of July morning, Dolly showed me a little trinket Mr. Vane had given her. And she said, she was to see him at ten o’clock that night and he would give her another, the last, and then he would have the bracelet made up for her.”

“The last?”

“I mean, it was to be a bracelet with six pendants, and she already had five.”

“What was the last one to be?” asked Stone, carelessly.

“I don’t know, I don’t think Dolly knew herself.”

“Are these bracelets a fad with the girls?” Burton inquired.

“Oh, yes,” Rose replied, “and the real ones are lovely. Some of the imitation ones are, too.”

Sally came next, and her testimony added nothing to the grist of Dr Burton.

She practically echoed Rose’s chatter, and declared that of her own knowledge, Dolly was a dear, sweet girl, and had no hand in the killing of her employer.

She admitted that Dolly was in love with Vane, but said it was the lightest, most trivial of flirtations. As to the bangle bracelet, everybody had them, and she believed Dolly’s to be, for the most part, imitations.

Stone had left the room, when Sally began to speak.

He now returned, and laying on the table, in front of the Examiner, a small object, said, slowly:

“May not that be the sixth and last trinket for Miss Day’s bangle?”

“Of course it is,” cried Sally and Rose, together. “Where did you find it?”

“I found it in Mr. Vane’s upstairs office.”

“Where he was killed?” asked Burton.

“Where we suppose he was killed,” Stone said.

The trinket was a beauty.

A tiny representation of Cupid, his arrow aimed, his curly head exquisitely beautiful, all formed of very small stones, but which sparkled with a brilliant light.

“That’s the newest one,” said Rose. “Oh, isn’t it lovely?”

“Where was it concealed, Mr. Stone?” said the Examiner, gravely.

“I found it in the crevice of the day couch on which Mr. Vane lay when he was found dead.”

“In his upper office, you mean?”

“Yes, Doctor Burton. Down between the back and the seat. I just happened to think it might be there.”


Chapter 12
Eyelashes Again

“You happened to think it might be there! That seems queer, doesn’t it?” the Medical Examiner asked of Stone.

“Perhaps. A fact, though. Doubtless somebody found it and put it there for safe keeping.”

“Seems odd to me. Who is in charge of the rooms formerly occupied by Mr. Vane?”

“Prout, his man, is still staying on,” Katherine told him. “He is in charge.”

“Please have him called.”

Prout appeared at a summons, and stood, waiting. “Ever see that little gadget before, Prout?” the Examiner asked him.

“Yes, sir.”


“On the floor of Mr. Vane’s office, sir.”


“Yesterday afternoon.”

“What were you doing in Mr. Vane’s rooms?”

Prout looked supercilious. “It is in my routine work, sir. I raise and lower the shades, and keep all shipshape.”

“I see. And you found the little jewel on the floor? What did you do with it?”

“I laid it on a tray on the table, sir. Those are my orders.”

“When did you next see it, Prout?” said Fleming Stone, interrupting curtly. “Careful, now!”

“I saw Miss Kortz taking it away.”

“When was that?”

“This evening, as she went down to dinner.”

“And that’s all you know about the matter, Prout?”

“That’s all, sir.”

“You may go,” and Dr Burton sternly dismissed the man, and turned to Rose, again. “You admit all Prout said, Miss Kortz,” he asked.

“I see no occasion for the word, ‘admit.’ I went in the office, on my way down to dinner, to look at the surf a moment. I saw the little Cupid on the table, and thinking it was a sort of clue, I brought it along to show it to Mr. Stone or Dr Burton.”

“Yet you did not do so.”

“Because I gathered from their conversation that the matter was more serious than I had thought. So I slipped back upstairs, and stuck it down in the cushions of the couch. I felt it would be safe there, until I could ask Mr. Stone what to do about it.”

Rose spoke calmly enough, but her trembling lips and twisting fingers showed the nervous tension she was under.

“You are telling all you know about this incident?” the Examiner inquired, gravely. “It would be better not to omit any point.”

“I have not done so. I have told all I know.”

“Very well, Miss Kortz, but next time you make a discovery, of any sort, report it at once to the authorities. We want the facts as soon as they are known.”

“Just why, Miss Kortz,” Fleming Stone said, slowly, “when you found out the matter was more serious than you thought, why did you run upstairs and hide the bauble in the couch, instead of handing it over to us at once?”

Rose fairly glowered at him; “Because, Mr. Stone, I didn’t want to be mixed up in it. You detectives are so suspicious, so insistent, so generally unpleasant in your manner, that I felt I preferred to keep away from the ridiculous questions you would probably hurl at me!”

“Am I hurling questions now, Miss Rose?” and Stone smiled at her.

“Yes, Mr. Stone, you are. I am not entirely lacking in common sense, and though you may lighten your voice a little, and show a faint smile, you are firing questions at me, which, you hope, may lead to some knowledge that you want, but I do not want to give you.”

“Have you any such knowledge, Miss Kortz?”

“No, I have not, but if I had, I’m not sure I should give it to you. Why don’t you come out flatly and ask what you want to know?”

“Oh, very well, I will. I state, then, that you were in Mr. Vane’s room and saw the little Cupid on the table, where Prout had laid it, after finding it on the floor. You thought it a lovely trifle, and on an impulse, you put it in your bag, and came on downstairs with it.”

“You saw me!” Rose’s handsome face blazed, and she looked half ashamed and half relieved that the secret was out.

“No, I did not, but when I stopped in the room after you and found the Cupid was gone, and when you turned rosy whenever the bangle was mentioned, I suspected the truth. Then, going up again, I found it in the couch seat, where it had not been before, I concluded you had taken it,—not to show to me, but to keep. Oh, Miss Kortz, you are an innocent child, but you can’t put over such stuff on old detectives.”

“I see I can’t!” Rose smiled again. “I’m truly glad it’s all out, and I’m freed from suspicion.”

“I haven’t said that, Miss Kortz,” and Doctor Burton didn’t smile as he looked at her. “Where has the trinket been ever since Mr. Vane has been dead?”

“In my possession,” returned Rose, calmly. “I have hidden it in various places, and often been tempted to give it up to you, but, it is so pretty, and—oh, well, I was just tempted,—that’s all.”

The girl seemed to consider the matter disposed of, and Stone gazed at her, musing as to how much of her talk was true.

“Now, that we have all the ladies of the household together,” Stone said, apparently dropping the matter of Rose and the Cupid, “I’d like to ask a question and I want a truthful answer from each one. Time was when my question would have been considered too personal, but those days are gone. I want to know how many of the ladies here use or rather, wear, artificial eyelashes.”

Rose giggled outright and Sally smiled. The two older women looked displeased and a trifle embarrassed.

“That’s what I call hurling questions at us, Mr. Stone,” declared Rose. “As you see, we girls, Sally and I, don’t mind it a bit, but Katherine and Aunt Randy are pretty mad.”

Rose’s mischievous smile did more to make the two older ladies angry than Stone’s query had.

“I’ll tell you that one, Mr. Stone,” Sally said, without embarrassment, “we all do. It’s a fad that came up suddenly, and caught on like wildfire. Why, even Dolly with her lovely curling golden lashes, added some darker ones to bring out the effect, she said. My goodness, think of that girl wanting any more ‘effect’ than she had, all her own! But hers never stayed on. They’d drop off in the soup or any old place. She didn’t care, she was always shedding eyelashes around. Now, I have the ‘Stiktite’ and they never come off.”

“There aren’t any that never come off,” said Aunt Randy, shaking her head seriously. “As you say, Sally, everybody talks about such things nowadays, so it’s all right. My, when I was a girl—”

“You didn’t have false lashes to talk about!” declared Rose. “Speak up Katherine, what’s your experience?”

“I dislike the subject. I am as up to date as the rest of you, but I do not approve of discussing toilet appurtenances in the presence of men. I’m not old fashioned, but I do draw the line somewhere.”

“And I agree with Mrs. Vane,” said Gregory Murrell. “There’s nothing wrong about eyelashes, real or false, but you wouldn’t want to hear us men set up a dissertation on shaving.”

“Yet, in so far as this subject must be brought to our investigation, it must be mentioned,” declared Doctor Burton. “I’m willing to confess the habit is a new one to me, but I shall learn more about it. Then, I take it, you, Miss Vane and Mrs. Vane, and you two younger ladies, all wear these, to me, astonishing appurtenances to beauty.”

“Yes, we do,” said Sally, complacently. “And having confessed that heinous crime, may we not be excused? It’s too bad, the way you men steal our evenings!”

“I don’t think, Sally,” Miss Randy said, “you ought to go out so much evenings, when your father died so recently.”

“He wasn’t really my father, Aunt Randy, and, truly, Rose and I must have some recreation. We don’t go to large parties, you know.”

Sally looked so sweet and dear, the men present would have forgiven her any breach of etiquette, but Katherine said;

“I agree with Aunt Randy. Sally, you should stay in the house more.”

“I wish you would keep to the subject,” complained Dr Burton, who was as wax in any woman’s hands.

“Meaning eyelashes?” asked Rose, looking bored.

“Yes, until I have learned what I want to know. Do any two of you wear exactly the same kind?”

“Sally and I do,” Rose said, “because I steal hers to use. Mine are always all gone.”

“And yours, Mrs. Vane?”

“Mine are of a superior kind. Imported. The girls have a domestic article.”

“So do I,” said Aunt Randy. “Just as good, and a whole lot cheaper.”

“Do any of your higher servants use them? Your maid, for instance, Mrs. Vane?”

“Yes, Barclay does. I saw no reason she shouldn’t. But she is the only one. I forbade Cook to use them, for obvious reasons. Also, the waitresses and housemaids. They’re too uncertain, except the best ones.”

“That is all, then, about eyelashes,” and Doctor Burton closed his note-book, where he had been recording the subject. “And, therefore, you ladies may be excused. Please meet me here to-morrow morning, early,—say, nine o’clock. I have to go to New York before noon.”

“Is anybody from here going to Dolly Day’s funeral?”

Fleming Stone asked this and Sally answered him. “I am, Mr. Stone. Rose and I have errands in the city anyway, and we sort of thought we ought to go to the services. Are you going?”

“I’m not sure. Perhaps.”

The girls went away to telephone some of their friends, and Katherine and Murrell went out by separate doors, but met at once and walked away on the terrace, going toward the garden.

“Well, we seem to be the Old Guard, left here,” Burton said, as Miss Vane with a pretty curtsy, backed out of the room.

“She’s the gem of the collection,” said Stone, closing the doors after her. “Fancy her gluing on those silly eyebrows!”

“Lashes, not brows,” said Cameron. “False eyebrows would look like an old-fashioned disguise.”

“Lashes, then. Now, Mr. Examiner, let’s get right down to brass tacks. I’ll call Hopton to fix us up a bit, and for Heaven’s sake, do let’s try to get somewhere.”

“I don’t feel so very far back,” Burton said, slowly. “I’ve picked up a good bit of information here tonight.”

“So have I,” said Stone, “but I say that, so you won’t all think the Examiner is getting ahead of me. Here’s Hopton, let’s each give him a clue as to what would solve certain problems for us.”

“Here’s the way I look at it,” Dr Burton said, after Hopton had arranged a side table and left the room. “Rowland here, and myself represent the police. Mr. Stone, let us say, represents a super-police.” The pleasant smile that accompanied this speech took away all tinge of sarcasm. “Now I want you two, Mr. Meade and Doctor Cameron, to represent the House of Vane. I mean, answer questions about the family, to the best of your ability, and volunteer any information that you may have, that we do not yet know. We take it for granted that you are as anxious as we to learn the truth concerning these two murders, and both ready and willing to disclose all you know about them. I am aware that you have been questioned before, but I intend to question you further, and, possibly, learn more.”

“Go to it,” said Cameron, draping his long legs over the arm of his chair, while Meade, though maintaining a more conventional position, nodded agreement.

“Very well, then,” and Dr Burton looked mildly at Cameron, “are you in love with your hostess here?”

“Yes,” was the reply, “but are you sure it’s necessary to go into that?”

“We’re not going into it very deeply. Are you engaged to her?”

“No, not definitely. She’s picked up Murrell, for some unknown reason, and I fear he has cut me out.”

“Mr. Meade, are you in love with Mrs. Vane?”

“With no intent of rudeness, I must say, I am not.”

“You would like to continue your position here, however?”

“I would very much like to, but I have no reason to think it contingent in any way on my personal attitude toward Mrs. Vane.”

“Nor have I. But I have reason to think she thinks so.”

“Good Lord!” exclaimed Meade, “I suppose I may as well give up the job and forget it. I want very much to continue my work on the Vane library, in fact, it will be a serious detriment to the catalogue if it is put into other hands at its present stage. This is not a boast on my part, but a simple statement of fact. Now, you are implying, without actually saying, that my further work depends in some vague way on my attitude toward Mrs. Vane. Unless I get this thing made clear to me, I shall resign the library engagement, and leave Greencastle.”

“Now, now, don’t get wrathy. Have you not been impressed with the fact that Mrs. Vane is of friendly feelings toward you?”

“No more than I should expect from the wife, or widow, of my employer. There has never been a word spoken between us that all the world might not hear.”

“By you, let us say. But, by her?”

Tony Meade colored suddenly, and Stone saw that his eyelids flickered a trifle, but he controlled himself at once, and said;

“Yes, Dr Burton, I have had that experience. I cannot blame myself for it, as I in no way invited it. I am not an attractive man to the ladies, and why Mrs. Vane should seem to take an interest in me I don’t know. But since you, and perhaps others,” he looked about him, “have noticed it, I think the only thing for me to do, is to resign my position here and look for another situation.”

“You do not care for ladies’ society, then?”

“Not when I am employed by them or by their husbands. I admire the ladies, I trust I am chivalrous and courteous, but I have not yet met my ideal woman. But I am deeply, intensely interested in the study of old and rare books, and the only other position I shall consider when I leave here, is one of the same sort. And, too, Mr. Vane’s collection is so fine, so well chosen, it is a pity to turn it over to one who understands it less well than I do. Yet if matters are as you hint, regarding Mrs. Vane, I have no choice in the matter.”

Meade sighed, and then, sitting up straighter and squaring his shoulders, he folded his arms, and awaited further advices.

They came.

“It seems to me, Mr. Meade,” Stone said, “that you could let Mrs. Vane know, by a coolness in your manner, or a manifest distaste for her attentions that your sole interest in Greencastle is its library and your work on the books.”

Meade gave the detective a comprehensive glance. “I cannot think you are in earnest, Mr. Stone,” he said, “for you would not be the famous detective you are, if you believe what you have just expressed. You must know that if Mrs. Vane is not showing me any special favor, I would be an egregious ass to act as if I thought she were. And if she is, to ignore or flout her advances would only add fuel to the fire. No, as I see it, I must leave.”

“Don’t be in too great a hurry, Mr. Meade,” and the Examiner spoke heartily. “It is not unlikely that things may yet be arranged so that you can keep your position in the library work.”

“I’d like to ask further, sir, that some arrangements may be made, for the protection of the books. Too many people go in and out of the room, take down and handle the books, carry them to other rooms, without returning them at all and thus, important volumes are missing. There is one,” he pointed to a small volume on the table, “that was brought here from Miss Day’s room at her aunt’s house. It is a beautiful copy of some old poems, and while not so valuable in itself, it is one of a set that should not be broken. To a book lover, these things are actual pain.”

“That’s right,” agreed Cameron. “I don’t know much about the scarce old tomes, but I do see Meade’s point, and whatever is to become of Wiley’s library, it ought to be looked after. And nobody can look after it as Meade can, and beside, I don’t want him mixed up with Katherine. I care for her myself.”

“Well, Mr. Meade, I trust you’ll look to Dr Cameron’s rights in the matter of our mutual hostess, and I surely hope you’ll keep on taking care of these books, even if they are sold to a new owner. Now, as the preachers say, one more word and I am done. Who, in your opinion, killed Mr. Vane?”

“That’s a point I’ve thought a lot about, Dr Burton,” Meade replied, speaking seriously. “Not forgetting the injunction to speak only good of the dead, I can’t help suspecting Dolly Day. As you know, I had little to do with the girl, but she felt that Vane’s attentions to her meant far more than they did. I happen to know that Mr. Vane had left to her a far larger bequest at first, than he did finally. He frequently changed his will. He told her that owing to the depression he had to leave her less, but she knew it was really because his interest in her had begun to wane. And as she usually had to write at his dictation, the letters to the lawyers, about his will, she knew all about it. And, of late, she had caught on to the fact that he had met up with another girl, who was likely to usurp Dolly’s place. I couldn’t help knowing these things, because I was there at my desk whenever Dolly and Mr. Vane were discussing, and I know, for a fact, that the little beauty was pretty sore against her Willow, as she called him.”

“And who was, or is, this usurper, this supplanter of Miss Dolly?”

“I’ve no idea. I never tried to find out, not being bothered much by petty curiosity, but I daresay if things had gone on, I should have known, because I couldn’t help knowing. As is, however, I know nothing of the lovely Dolly’s successor, nor am I sure there is any successor.”

“But you’ve enough faith in Dolly’s knowledge of her to believe that Dolly was the murderer of her employer?”

“I believe she may have been, although I cannot quite bring myself to say I believe she was. She had a high temper which manifested itself in sudden frantic exhibitions of wrath. But these blew over as fast as they appeared, and she was sunny and sweet again. Of course, I saw these things only as an unwilling onlooker, but it couldn’t be helped. I couldn’t get up and leave the room because she was about to stage a petting match or a stormy quarrel with the man who was our boss. And knowing her fierce jealousy, I sometimes think that on Fourth of July, she was offended or insulted beyond pardon, and snatching a convenient chance, went to Mr. Vane’s upstairs office, where she always had entrance, and shot him. As to where she obtained a weapon, or how she got away unnoticed, I’ve no idea. She was as clever as the devil, and I sometimes watched, in sheer amusement, the way she would put it over Vane, when he didn’t know it.”

“Yet she liked him?”

“Oh, like all those pretty little gold-diggers, she liked him,—loved him, I suppose, as long as he cared for her. And that’s the part I don’t understand. Dolly Day could have had any position she cared to take, with any man she chose, yet she stuck to Wiley Vane as if he were a god. That’s why I think there must be more back of it all than I know about, and I don’t care to know about it, either, if it wasn’t for those missing books. Can’t you find out, Dr Burton, or Mr. Stone, if any other of the Wiley Library books are over there at the Swift house, or at Dolly’s home in New York? Or give me permission to do so?”

“Yes, Mr. Meade,” Burton promised, “I’ll see to it that you are allowed to search either house,—both houses, for books. You may go now, I’m sure you must be tired. Oh, I say, if you see Mrs. Vane and Mr. Murrell, send them in here, will you?”

Meade assented and went off. Apparently, his errand was successful for in a few moments the pair Burton desired to see, appeared.

“You want us?” asked Katherine, as they entered.

“Just a few moments. It’s a shame, I know,” Burton told them, “but some things are pressing. Mrs. Vane, what are your plans regarding the disposition of your husband’s library?”

“Why, I don’t know, Dr Burton. Must I decide to-night? I thought the trustees of the estate would attend to all such matters as that.”

“Who are the trustees?” asked Gregory Murrell.

“There are no trustees of the estate; Mrs. Vane and Miss Randy Vane are the executors of the will.”

“And a fine pair!” exclaimed Katherine, smiling. “If anyone in the world knows less than I do about business matters, it is Randy; and vice versa.”

“I believe you!” declared Murrell. “Want any help, Kathy? I’m a lawyer, you know.”

“You tell me, Mr. Stone,” and Katherine looked at him seriously, “you always make things so easy to understand. What about the library?”

“Do you want to keep it, Mrs. Vane, and add books to it, and watch it grow, as a real bibliophile would?”

“Gracious, no! I’m not one of those Biblio things! I’d rather sell it and have the money.”

“That can be done, it is a valuable collection. But you must have an expert to take care of the sale and all that.”

“Well, there’s Mr. Meade, isn’t he expert enough? Wouldn’t he do it, if I paid him enough?”

“Yes, I think so. You’re sure you don’t want to keep it for a while, any way, and let Mr. Meade finish the cataloguing?”

“Would he do that?” she inquired, looking thoughtful.

“I think so, though I can’t answer for him definitely. Why don’t you speak to him yourself, about it?”

“I! Oh, I can’t!” And with a cry of real distress, Katherine burst into tears, and fled from the room and up the stairs.

“Now you have done it!” said Murrell. “Why stir up the poor thing like that?”

“Why not?” said Fleming Stone.


Chapter 13
The Strange Photograph

Fleming Stone went to New York next day, the day of Dolly’s funeral, but he did not go to the services, which were held at the home of the girl’s parents, a small West Side apartment.

He went to the house, however, and armed with a warrant, which Dr Burton had procured for him, he asked to be shown Dolly’s room.

“She hadn’t rightly any room here,” Mrs. Day told him. “You see, being employed at Golden Sands, she lived down there with my brother, Mr. Swift. It was near Greencastle, and the girls liked being together,— her cousin, I mean.”

Mrs. Day was a commonplace looking little woman, and Fleming Stone concluded the Booful must have inherited her beauty from the paternal side.

“I shall be but a few moments,” he said, ingratiatingly, “and I need not interrupt you, as I am sure you are busy with arrangements for the funeral.” He spoke sympathetically, but not in a way to induce conversation, for which he had no time.

So Mrs. Day checked the tears that were all too ready to fall, and opened the door to the next room. “This is the room she used when she was here, but we took down the bed—”

“Yes, I see,” said Stone, “now don’t let me bother you any more. I’ll tell you when I’m leaving.”

He gently but definitely pushed her outside and turned the key inside the lock. Then hastily he went ever the contents of the room. It was evidently a small sitting room, and was now arranged to hold part of the expected crowd. Many vases of flowers stood about, the heavy odor of which was misery to Stone, who detested strongly scented blossoms.

Few of Dolly’s things were about. Only a desk and a table drawer contained anything that might be recognized as probably hers.

But away back, in the depths of the desk, he discovered a box of eyelashes. He looked at it wonderingly. How those things pursued him! Glancing at the box and seeing it was the imported kind, he thrust it in his pocket and went on.

He found next a long envelope in which were some newspaper clippings, two or three brief notes, without envelopes, a few faded snapshots, and what seemed to be a photograph of a man, someone whom Stone had never seen, or, at any rate had forgotten.

It was an ordinary card mounted picture, perhaps four by six inches in size, and it seemed at first, that the face had been cut out and pasted in again. Further looking, though, showed him that, really, the face of the photograph had been cut out, and another photographed face had been substituted.

A queer thing, to be sure. Stone wrapped the picture carefully in paper, and stowed it in his pocket.

He found nothing more to interest him except a few old books, which stood on the shelves above the writing desk section of the secretary.

These shelves had glass doors, which were lined with a thin, green material, and were almost filled with books. Though by no means an expert, Stone knew a bit about rare book values, and he spotted several, which, he felt almost certain, were of antique value, and found, moreover six or eight small volumes which contained Wiley Vane’s bookplates.

It might be all right, of course, Vane might have given these books to Dolly, but it seemed unlikely. They were not the sort of reading that would interest a young girl, but if the young girl knew the value of them and had opportunity to abstract them from the Vane library, might she not have done so?

Stone went out to the other room, and was startled to find the casket there and the sweet, marvelously lovely face of Dolly Day, looking almost as in life, so deftly had the embalmer’s art retained its beauty.

Mrs. Day joined him, and at his whispered word, returned with him to the other room.

“I don’t know,” she told him, regarding the books; “They were Dolly’s of course, but I’m not sure whether Mr. Vane gave them to her or lent them. They’ve been there ’most all the time since Dolly worked in the Vane library. If they are Mr. Vane’s books, you’d better take ’em along, or are there too many?”

“No, I’ll manage them. And if I find they are really your daughter’s property, you shall have them back.”

“Oh, land, I don’t want ’em, I’m sure. Take ’em along, but can’t you get them out before anybody comes to the services?”

“Yes, indeed; I’ll telephone for a messenger to help me with them.”

He turned to the telephone, and gave a message that brought two lads and a taxicab in record time.

Stone had the books sorted out, and with the ones he wanted, and a few others he and his assistants were at once driven down to Golden Sands.

Reaching Greencastle and feeing his minions generously, he found himself at last, in his own room, surrounded by some choice volumes that the British Museum would have welcomed with open arms.

He listed their titles and then stacked them away on a deep shelf in his own closet, where, with bandboxes in front of them, they were well hidden.

He called Prout, who valeted him, and told him those books were not to be touched except by definite order.

Alone again, he settled down to a study of the strange photograph.

It puzzled him, and Fleming Stone was seldom puzzled. He often had problems, he had to answer grave questions, he enjoyed solving difficult propositions, but a puzzle, to him, meant a clash of wits.

He went at it with a zest, with no doubt of his own ability, but with a fear that perhaps his opponent hadn’t played fair.

First of all, was the substitute face inserted in the card for a real reason, or in idle jest?

As a boy, he had done such things, taking say, a postcard of an equestrian Napoleon, cutting out the face and substituting his own youthful features.

Once he cut the face from the picture of a ballet dancer and replaced it with his mother’s, bringing down upon him the worst punishment his father ever gave him.

But this didn’t seem quite the same as those examples. This had been, apparently, a photograph of an up-to-date man of to-day, wearing a correct, but by no means unusual suit of clothing, a four-in-hand tie and simple pin.

His face had been very carefully cut out, and in its place had been put another face, that had been cut to fit the aperture. Indeed, so closely did it fit, that Stone thought at first, it might be the original face restored.

But a shade of difference in the color and a slight discrepancy here and there in the cutting, decided him against this.

No, somebody had cut out the first face and then he, or somebody else had cut out the other face and fitted it in. It was not pasted, it merely held itself in place by its irregularity of outline.

The substituted face was strange to Stone, yet he felt a very slight familiarity about the whole picture. However, the business suit of one man is so like that of another, that he gave up trying to recognize the set of the collar on the shoulders.

He studied the face long. He took it from its surrounding cardboard and viewed it by itself.

He put it back, and studied it again.

But it was of no use, he could not get a single iota of suggestion as to its identity. He vowed to study all the men in the house, but reflected that there was only the ghost of a chance of learning anything that way.

He locked it away, and went for a swim. Unacknowledged, even to himself, he had a vague hope he might recognize those shoulders in the surf.

But he didn’t.

Later, properly clothed, and, as he hoped, in his right mind, he went down to the big lounge hall for a rest and a smoke.

Meade sauntered through, and paused, with a smile.

“Pleasant day in the city?” he asked Stone.

“Yes,—that is, not too suffocatingly hot. But no such breeze as we get down here. I say, Meade, do you remember saying you were now ready to tell some things that might have implicated Dolly Day, had she lived?”

“I believe I said something of the sort. Have you anything special in mind? I don’t want to—”

“I know,—I understand all that. But here’s the point. Now that the girl is dead, and can’t be harmed by this, tell me, can you imagine her taking,—dishonestly, I mean, a valuable book from the Vane collection?”

Antony Meade moved around a bit uneasily in his wicker chair.

“I can imagine almost anything,” he said, slowly. “But that wouldn’t make my imaginations become facts.”

“No, but they may be facts all the same. Come now, could she do that?”

“Oh, pshaw, how you persist! Why, yes, I suppose that, tempted enough, she might do so.”

“Perhaps she achieved that book I found in the Swift home in that way.”

“Perhaps. I don’t know.”

“But have you no means of knowing it, if a rare book is stolen or, er—borrowed?”

“That depends. You see, I’ve not finished my cataloguing. If the book in question is among the ones I have finished with, I think nobody could get away with it. But if it is not thoroughly catalogued yet, there are such possibilities, though it would be a difficult matter.”

“But anyone in the house, familiar with your work, could size up such an opportunity and make the most of it.”

“Meaning Dolly?”

“Yes, not to put too fine a point upon it, meaning Dolly.”

“Oh, of course she could. I mean, she assists me so much in that work, numbering, listing and all, she could catch on to values enough to know what to pinch if she wanted to.”

“Do you think she ever did?”

“I don’t want to think so, and I’m not sure that I do think so, but—some books have most curiously disappeared.”

“Is Hyperion one of them?”

Meade looked startled. “Yes,” he said, “have you run across it?”

“With Mr. Vane’s bookplate in it?”

“Certainly, if it’s his copy you’re talking about.”

“And Evangeline?

Meade turned almost white in his excitement.

“Oh, Mr. Stone, Evangeline! Don’t keep me in suspense! Have you found that?”

“Is it lost?”

“It’s been lost for a month or more. Tell me, have you found it?”

“I think so, I hope so. Come up to my room with me.”

The two men went up to Stone’s suite, and the detective took from his closet several of the books he had hidden there.

Antony Meade was almost dumb with gratitude.

“Oh, if Mr. Vane could have known this!” he exclaimed. “Where did they come from?”

“From Dolly Day’s home in New York City,—not her home here with her relatives.”

But Meade scarcely heard him. He was looking through the pages of the restored books, with smiles of joy.

“How did you get them?” he asked, at last, having made sure, beyond all doubt the precious volumes were intact and uninjured.

Stone told him the whole story, and Meade nodded his belief and appreciation.

“Of course, they are Mr. Vane’s books,” he said. “And there’s no explanation for what you tell me, save that Dolly purloined them. One or two at a time, doubtless, and safe, in her own home because of her knowledge that her mother would have no idea of their value.”

“And some of them disappeared before Mr. Vane’s death?”

“Oh, yes, quite a number.”

“Making it possible, therefore, that Dolly’s theft was discovered, that she was threatened by Mr. Vane, one way or another, and that—”

“That she killed him.” Meade nodded his head with that affirmative little gesture he often used, and Stone nodded a silent agreement.

“As you know, Mr. Stone, I have been loth to accuse Dolly of this, I have hesitated to believe it myself, but now,—what else can I think?”

“It is obvious, Mr. Meade. Now, shall we report this, or keep it to ourselves?”

“Oh, report it, I should say. You know more about such things than I do, but I should suppose it was my duty to report it.”

“Yes, it is. Then we’ll tell Burton this evening, and show him the books. Also, it must raise the question of Dolly’s graver crime.”

“Yes, I suppose so. What a wicked little thing she must have been,—and that angelic face!”

“I doubt she considered this taking of the books as great a piece of wrong-doing as it seems to us.”

“Yes, I doubt that, too. Anyway, I’m glad to have them back!”

And Meade caressed the prodigal volumes with an affectionate, almost reverent hand.

Stone called Hopton and with the butler’s assistance, Meade took the precious books away to the library.

Then, locking himself in, Stone turned his attention to his puzzle, the mutilated photograph.

But the longer he stared at it, the more inexplicable it became.

He closed his eyes, and then opened them quickly, in an endeavor to catch the fleeting likeness that clung to the picture. All in vain. A mere ghost of a memory haunted him, which would not be caught or identified. At last he concluded the resemblance he sought to find was in the body rather than the face. There was something about the short, thick neck, and the—Wiley Vane! Of course it was! The very sloping shoulders, which, yet, were not fat, but capable of shaking with laughter.

True, Fleming Stone had never seen Vane alive, but he had studied the dead form and features, with extra care for that very reason.

And he had collected several other photographs of the man. He had studied paintings, which, though less true than photographs, gave an idea of color and style.

Then, it all fitted in. Vane did not want the little stenographer to have his picture, so he or she had cut the face out and replaced it by some other countenance. Perhaps she had retained the face of the original, to gaze on, when all alone, and leave the card, with its substitute face, when she was away from home. And when she was in Golden Sands, she didn’t need the photographed face, for, apparently she had the real man at her side, much of the time.

Any way, he accepted the solution of the puzzling card.

A photograph of Wiley Vane, that Dolly had stolen, or that Vane had given her; the face cut out and replaced by another; date of picture about a year ago, they wore that model of tie then.

Yet, after all, where did it get him?

Not very far, but at the same time, it showed a real romance between Dolly and Vane, and secret intimacies, too.

Remembering in this connection, the books, found in Dolly’s home, he began to think she had abstracted those from the library herself.

Vane might give her, or lend her old books of amatory verse, or even mild Curiosa, but he wouldn’t turn over to her for any reason, the scarce First of Evangeline, or even Hyperion.

Dolly Day was assuming a startling prominence in the detective’s considerations and deductions, and Stone meant to track her further.

He brought out the box of eyelashes.

Except for the ones he had bought himself, he had seen no others in bulk.

These, imported, were far more beautifully made than the cheaper sort, and Stone was not surprised to find that they matched the one he had picked from the cheek of the dead Wiley Vane.

He was rather disgusted with himself. Here he had carried round a hair, which he hoped would be a clue, for more than a week and had read nothing definite from it.

But he was rather startled to see that the eyelash he had so carefully collected from Dolly’s desk, the day she was killed, also matched those in the box he had brought from Dolly’s room in New York.

Now, where was he being led?

Granting Dolly had killed Vane, and dropped an eyelash on his cheek, she couldn’t also kill herself, and leave her own lash on her table.

No, but the lash could have dropped there from her eye, as the criminal drove the sharp blade in her slender back.

It was time, he judged, that he put all this question up to the Medical Examiner. Not that the detective was lying down on the job, or wanted to admit himself floored. Personally, he would much rather go on on his own. But he had discovered a lot of more or less important evidence, and he felt it his duty to turn it over to the authorities.

To be sure, he had offered them the eyelash, that meant so much to him, only to have it rejected with scorn. But now, he had learned that it meant something, or seemed to, and he must play the game.

After dinner, therefore, when Dr Burton called his conference, Stone took with him his exhibits and joined the group.

The funeral of Dolly Day was touched on briefly, by those who had attended the services, and expressions of pity for the poor girl were sincerely voiced. Then Fleming Stone said, gravely;

“As you know, Dr Burton and Inspector Rowland, we have, in a somewhat indefinite manner, referred to Miss Day as a possible criminal in this case. Suppose we take up that theory a bit more carefully. Has anyone present any testimony or evidence to offer?” No one spoke, but as Stone’s eyes darted from one of his hearers to another, he read on their faces only blank amazement or frank incredulity.

“I have with me,” Stone went on, “what seems to me a clue, pointing toward the implication of Miss Day in this affair, without stating that I believe her criminally involved.”

“We shall be glad to hear what you have to tell us, Mr. Stone,” said Dr Burton, a little pompously.

“My clue, if I may call it that,” Stone began, “is of a tiny size, and I must request you all to be careful in touching it.”

“A real Sherlock Holmes clue!” exclaimed Murrell, in a sarcastic tone.

“Well, yes,” Stone agreed, “I think we may let it go at that. This is it.”

He laid on the table an eyelash, carefully placed between two small squares of glass and bound round with narrow adhesive tape.

“That,” he said, “is the eyelash, which I saw lying on the cheek of Wiley Vane, after he was dead.”

“Why did you touch it?” asked Burton in surprise. “Don’t you know—”

“Of course I know,” and Stone smiled. “But I feared the tiny thing would be lost, and I thought it might be a clue, if saved. Also, I showed it to the police, who were with me at the time. I offered it to them, but it was refused with scorn. However, let’s not take up that just now. I saved it and learned that it was an artificial eyelash, such as some ladies wear—”

He ran his eyes round the room, with a smile.

“We all do,” said Randy, complacently. “We know all about eyelashes if the men don’t.”

“That’s why I want to enlighten them just a bit,” and the detective nodded at the men present, who still looked uncertainly at the small crescent of hair.

“Women wear these,” he went on, “to add to the thickness of their own lashes, or, because it is a present fad. There are various sorts and qualities. Some are imported, some domestic.”

“What holds the things on?” asked Murrell.

“A specially prepared gum,” Stone told him. “Now, to get on. Finding one on Wiley Vane’s dead face could only mean that it was dropped there by a woman. That it was dropped by the murderer at the time of the crime, or by some other woman, who crept into the room to take fond leave of the dead man, and who lost an eyelash in doing so. The well made ones hang on through many sorts of fluid, yielding, I am told, to tears or certain soaps, but not to ordinary water. By tracing carefully, I have found this eyelash is of the imported kind, more or less used by the ladies of this house, and therefore implicating most of the feminine members of the household and service.”

“This should have been laid before me sooner,” Dr Burton said, sternly.

“But it couldn’t be,” spoke up Miss Randy, “when the police people wouldn’t take any notice of Mr. Stone’s finding it on Wiley’s face.”

Answering her with a slight, kindly nod, Stone proceeded.

“I have investigated the matter, and I find that these finer and more expensive ones are used in this house by Mrs. Vane and her sister. The young ladies use a cheaper grade, as they do it more as a jest than in earnest. Now, Miss Dolly Day also used a very expensive, imported brand, but they were of a different make from Mrs. Vane’s.

“Careful comparison and analysis, shows that the lash found on Mr. Vane’s dead cheek, and those in Miss Day’s box, discovered in her home, are the same variety. Also, there was an eyelash lying on her desk at the time Miss Day was killed. I have that, and it also is of the same imported variety.

“I give you these facts, Dr. Burton, I offer you proofs in these eyelashes found on the scenes of the two deaths, I give you these material clues, but I beg of you to handle them carefully, for I am thoroughly convinced that on the right reading of this evidence depends our solution of the double crime we are endeavoring to solve.”

“Don’t worry, Mr. Stone, I assure you they will be properly cared for. I could wish you had given them to me sooner—”


“Oh,—so I might have—er,—might have looked them up—”

“I looked them up,” Stone said, “and I assure you nothing could be done, until the source of supply of the eyelashes used in this house, of that special make, was found.”

“And you found it?”

“Presumably. I found this box, more than half full, over at Miss Day’s New York home, this afternoon, just before the funeral. Her mother allowed me to take it, and as the police are uninterested in this whole matter, perhaps I may be allowed to keep it.”

“I dismiss all of you except Mr. Stone and Inspector Rowland,” said Burton, already reaching out his hand for Stone’s box.


Chapter 14
The Cairn

“Then,” Dr Burton said, at the end of a long conference, “I arrive at the conclusion that Wiley Vane was killed by Miss Day, his stenographer, and a week later Miss Day herself was stabbed to death by a person or persons unknown, but presumably not any member of this household.”

“Pretty much presumable,” grunted Rowland, who was dissatisfied with the scanty evidence.

“Nothing definite to work on,” Stone said, musingly, “except those two tiny hairs. But, they link the two crimes, in my mind. Who will scour the Beauty Parlors again to find the seller of those expensive eyelashes? Can’t you have it done as routine work, Inspector? I’m tired of toddling around to the cosmetic shops.”

“Yes, I’ll have that attended to.”

“Put it in the hands of a bright chap. If he finds the goods, he must find out who purchased them. Get the names of all who bought them.”

“Yes, yes, that will be done. Now, to find the wretch who did for the girl. That must be looked into at once. Will her relatives, the Swifts, know about her affairs?”

“Probably not,” said Burton. “They seem to know little if anything about Miss Day. Better, I think, to inquire of her mother. But all lines must be tried.”

“I incline to the mother, too,” Stone said. “She knows little enough about the girl, but what she knows she is sure of. Still, Miss Day’s boy-friends were more likely down here at Golden Sands than in the city.”

“Needle in a haystack, seems to me,” Rowland grunted. “Got to get at it though. Somebody came into the office and whacked that dagger in the girl’s spine, and it don’t seem to me it was one of the Vane crowd.”

Dr Burton stretched a mighty yawn and declared it was too late to think any more, and they must all go to bed.

They separated, and seeing Trevor Cameron’s door ajar, Stone tapped lightly, and pushed his way in.

“Come on in, old chap,” cried Cameron. “For goodness’ sake tell me how things are going, if any. I thought the whole business was about to be dropped.”

“Oh, no. Our Medical Examiner has only just now begun to think he’s getting busy on the Dolly Day case.”

“Settled the Vane one, then?”

“Well, he says Dolly shot Vane, and then one of Dolly’s beaux showed what he thought of her by killing Dolly. Pretty much mixed up mess, but not so much so as some I’ve seen. Look here, Trevor, I don’t like to tell those not overly brilliant policemen all I know. And any way, you would be a better judge. Whose picture is this?”

He handed over the mutilated and mended photograph, and watched Cameron’s face.

Its expression at first was blank and then uncertain, but at last, came the exclamation;

“Nobody I know. The face has been cut out and pasted in.”

“Of course! That’s obvious. But whose face is it?”

“I don’t know; I tell you I never saw him.”

“Well, then, let’s take out the face.” Stone slipped away the cardboard features, leaving the background and the shoulders of the original subject visible. “Now can you recognize it?”

“No, of course not. But—well, wait a minute, it could be—is it? Wiley Vane? It looks like his neck.”

“Well, you knew him and I didn’t. I think myself it may be he. I just want to know how it strikes anyone who knew him.”

“I couldn’t swear to it. Nobody could be sure from a collar and a pair of shoulder seams. Hello, though —wait a minute—that pin. Yes, of course, that’s Vane’s pin,—a little lighthouse, I remember it perfectly. Well, I’d say it’s Vane’s photograph. The set of the head is his and the pin, and of course, everyone wore that sort of collar and tie about two years ago. What next?”

“That’s all, I guess. If that is, or was, Vane’s portrait, it helps a lot.”

“And if not?”

“If not, then it helps even more. We must find out where that picture was taken. Want to try your hand at it? There’s no photographer’s name on it. Cut off, with the other mangling, I suppose.”

“Yes, I’ll take it on. How do I go about it?”

“Comb New York for places that have cards of that style. By good luck, though the name and address are gone, the fine ruling round the edge remains, see, two fine gold lines and a heavy one,—any photographer will recognize that if it is his.”

“Oh, I see. That’ll be rather fun. Do I take the inset?”

“No, I think not. I’ll keep that. If you find the right shop, find out all about it. The sitter, name and address, the date taken, and any other details you can. Don’t suggest Mr. Vane as the subject, unless you feel it’s better to do so. Let the photographer name his bird first.”

“All right, I’ll go over to-morrow morning. Better turn in now.”

They separated, and Stone went to bed at once, for he was beginning to feel the strain of his work, which was so much more wearing and grilling on his nerves than other people realized.

Next morning, he concluded to trace another clue, or possible clue, which was haunting his memory.

“Meade,” he said, speaking to the secretary, as they left the breakfast room, “what would you think if I tore down that beautiful cairn of yours?”

“I should think you were crazy,” Meade responded, calmly; “but it isn’t my cairn. I have no claim on it, it is, I suppose the property of Mrs. Vane.”

“I suppose it is. But, as I want to take it apart, I felt I’d like to ask you first.”

“Well, so far as I have anything to say in the matter, I am quite willing you should tear it down. But I won’t agree to see to its restoration. To build a thing like that is more work than you’d think, and, except at the direct orders of Mrs. Vane, I wouldn’t do it over.”

“Did you build it?”

“I superintended the placing of every stone in it. It is a knack, I suppose, but as a boy, I learned while on the farm to build stone fences and paths, and later, I learned about cairns. However, go to it, and if Mrs. Vane or Miss Randy want it restored, of course I’ll do it.”

“Why don’t you ask me what I want to do it for?”

“Well, that would be rather an idle question,” and Meade smiled. “What could be your reason, except that you are hunting for something that is inside it?”

Stone stared at him, wondering if he heard aright. “What is inside it?” he said, carelessly.

“Nothing, that I know of, except the stones it is composed of. But why else tear it down? Unless someone thinks it an eyesore. I do, myself.”

“So do I,” Stone agreed. “But I haven’t spoken to Mrs. Vane about it yet. She may put the kibosh on my plans.”

“Oh, she’ll let you do it, if you want to. When you going to begin?”

“After a day or two. Think I’ll wait till it gets cooler.”

“All right. Let me know if I can help in any way. Say, Mr. Stone, have you come to any real conclusion as to who killed Mr. Vane? If I’ve no business to ask, just tell me so.”

“We’ve arrived at a tentative conclusion that Wiley Vane was killed by his stenographer, Miss Day.”

“Oh! poor little Dolly? Well, maybe you’re right. I don’t know.”

“You know nothing of her affiliation with her employer?”

“Nothing definite or positive. That girl would cut up with a graven image. It was all I could do to keep out of her pussy-cat clutches.”

“Why try? Why not have a little fun as one goes along? You’re a sober chap, Meade.”

“Yes, I guess I am. By the same token, aren’t you, too?”

“I s’pose so. But if I were placed in a room with that goldilocks girl, day in and day out, I fear I’d succumb.”

“But that’s just the reason I didn’t. Had I seen her occasionally, I might have liked her better; but seeing her right along, day in and day out, she got on my nerves, and I almost disliked her. Not quite, for she was a good-natured little piece, but she tried so hard to make me make love to her, I just couldn’t do it. I bore her no ill will, and I can’t quite think she really shot Vane, but—well, maybe she did.”

“Maybe,” said Stone, and then went off to see Katherine about the cairn.

“My heavens, no!” she said, wonderingly, “I don’t care if you tear the thing down and never put it up again. Wiley was crazy about it, but to me it seemed old-fashioned and silly. Tear it down and have the stones carted away whenever you like. Tell Hopton to take charge.”

“What do you think, Mrs. Vane, of the new theory that Dolly Day killed your husband?”

“I think it is absurd, and I don’t see how you, as a great detective can stand for it.”

“I haven’t yet said I do stand for it. Now, one word more, about the eyelashes. You are sure the foreign name I showed you, is not the same as the one on the box you use?”

“Oh, positive! I’m not using them any more, anyway. They’re troublesome at best, and they don’t add much to one’s grooming.”

“Strange, how they’re wound in and out of this case.”

“Well, they’re not, really. You have half a dozen women in this house and they all wear those silly things. So you think they’re all implicated in Wiley’s death. Why, my maid, Barclay adored my husband, and no doubt went in there for a last look at him, and dropped a wet eyelash on his cheek. Maybe she kissed him,—I don’t know. Wiley had a way with the women, and Barclay is a pretty girl. If I were you, I’d let go of the eyelash subject, and get hold of something more tangible.”

“Such as what?”

“Well, people with motives,—Randy, Rose, even me! That eyelash on Wiley’s cheek only meant a snooper or a griever—”

She was interrupted by the entrance of Miss Randy.

“What you talking ’bout, Kathy? Me murderin’ Wiley. Well, no, Mr. Stone, I didn’t, but I’ve seen times when I wanted to.”

“What for?”

“Same old reason, ’cause he wouldn’t give me the money to go ahead with my new house. He might just as well have! So, you see, we all had motives, me and Katherine, and poor little Dolly,—oh, yes, and Rose. All except our Sally, she had no motive, and she wouldn’t kill anybody anyway.

“And now, what’s this? You goin’ to pull down that cairn?”

“I’m thinking of it.”

“Do it, do it, Mr. Stone. You’ll find something to reward your work, I’ll bet a penny! When you goin’ to begin? Get at it, why don’t you?”

“Hush, Aunt Randy, don’t talk on what you know nothing about!”

“Hush, yourself, Katherine, I know more about it than you do.”

“Do you know of anything concealed in the cairn?” asked Stone.

“I know what I know,” and the old lady closed her lips in a hard straight line.

“That doesn’t mean a thing,” said Katherine, smiling as Aunt Randy marched stiffly out of the room. “She doesn’t know anything about the cairn. When are you going to do it? Why not now?”

“Now, if you like. Will you notify Hopton, and ask him to give me carte blanche with the other servants, the out-door ones, especially.”

“I’ll tell him to put the whole staff at your disposal. Come on, let’s go alone. Why have them all traipsing along?”

But by the time Hopton had been notified, and had told some other servants and had collected the head gardener and his helpers, the girls had caught on and Rose and Sally came flying out, followed almost as rapidly by Aunt Randy.

“Somebody get Mr. Meade,” Fleming Stone said, “We want his help.”

Meade came with tolerant smile, and asked what he was to do.

“Just make sure that you don’t want to rebuild the monument, or, if you do, have the stones cared for.”

“You don’t care to have it replaced, do you, Mrs. Vane?” Meade asked, and as she shook her head decidedly, the secretary turned to the workmen.

“Start there,” he said, indicating, “and work round toward the left.”

Then turning to the others, he went on, “It does seem rather a pity, for Mr. Vane was really fond of the thing. But as no one else cares for it, why let it stand?”

“I think it’s lovely,” Rose said. “Can’t we keep the stones and you set it up for me in my garden, Mr. Meade?”

“We may as well keep the stones, anyway,” Meade suggested. “Have them put in the gardener’s shed, Hopton.”

“Very good, sir.”

The pile was demolished in far less time than it took to build it, and as they neared the lower levels of the cairn, a glint of steel caught the sunlight and winked up at them from the depths.

“Oh, there’s something!” cried Sally. “What is it? Look out, Hopton, don’t kick it!”

Meade leaned down among the stones and picked up the glittering thing, which proved to be a pistol, the automatic kind and of 36 caliber.

“That’s the pistol that shot Vane,” cried Murrell, who had joined the crowd.

“We can’t quite say that,” Stone corrected him, “but it is the same kind and size.”

“But how did it get there?” Antony Meade said, wonderingly. “Oh, yes, I see! The cairn was built about this far up at the time of the Fourth of July party. Whoever used this weapon,—or, at least, whoever put it in here, did so to hide it, thinking the cairn would be built on up, and the thing not noticed. Clever dodge!”

“And was the cairn built on up?” asked Stone. “I mean did no one give it the once over, before work was resumed after the holiday?”

“I don’t know,” and Meade looked thoughtful. “Let me see,—I came home late, and found you people all in the drawing-room, with the police there. At first, I couldn’t find out what had happened, when I did, I was so excited and bewildered, I thought of nothing but the tragedy. I shouldn’t have thought of the cairn, anyway, at that time of night.”

“Then, the next morning, wasn’t it, we all went out to see it?” Stone asked, and the others nodded. “Couldn’t you have noticed, Meade, if something had been put in among the stones that didn’t belong there?”

“No, I never thought of such a thing. I remember, when we all came out here to look at it, I saw the men had added stones since I saw it, but they had had their orders and the stones seemed to be laid all right. They worked on it all day that day, I remember inspecting it several times.”

“Then,” Stone said, “I must conclude whoever put the pistol in here, did so, after using it on Mr. Vane and before the workmen came here again.”

“That lets Dolly out!” cried Sally. “That child never came out here in the night and hid a pistol in this brick heap!”

“On the contrary,” said Meade, slowly, “Dolly Day is the only woman in this house who could have done such a thing. She knew more about the cairn than most of you. She listened when I gave orders to the workmen, and she often went out with me, when I measured and checked up on the proportions.”

“But good Lord, Meade,” said Murrell, “anybody could hide a pistol in a pile of stones without technical knowledge of building a cairn.”

“Not so easily, Murrell,” declared Fleming Stone. “I don’t know much about such things, but I know those workmen were trained enough to notice a foreign body in their layers. Right, Meade?”

“Yes, Mr. Stone. Somebody who knew at least, a little about building placed the pistol. A more awkward job would have been discovered at once.”

“Well, then we have the two weapons for our two murders,” Katherine said. “What caliber is it?”

“Automatic, 36,” Stone said, a little curtly. “Are you familiar with firearms, Mrs. Vane?”

“Oh, more or less,” she returned, a bit flippantly. “But I didn’t shoot my husband, and if I had, I surely should not have run out here to hide the weapon, in full view of a house full of people!”

“It seems to me it narrows down the possibilities,” Stone said, musingly. “Of course, the pistol was not put in the cairn until some time after the shooting. Nobody would be so foolish as to run right out with it. But to place it there later, was a grand idea, and could have been done by anybody, whether a skilled bricklayer or not. Just when did Miss Day have opportunity to do the shooting?”

“Lots of time,” Katherine said; “after Mr. Meade went off to the train and before Dolly went home. Then, say, she took the pistol home with her, and came back later in the evening to hide it. She could leave her boy friend outside the hedge, and not be a minute at her work. And, as Mr. Meade says, she knew about the peculiar way of building and could slip the pistol in just at the right place.”

“You know a lot about it yourself, Kathy,” and Aunt Randy nodded a belligerent old head at her. Of late, Randy was showing her temper more and more. Matters were not going quite to suit her, in regard to the remittances made to her, and she was inclined to be nettlesome.

“Well,” Stone summed up, “we must put all this before the Examiner, and see where we stand.”

“Why did you think the pistol was there, Mr. Stone?” asked Meade.

“Oh, I didn’t exactly think so, but I’m trying every possible hint I can get to work on.”

“If every one turns out as well as this one, you ought to get to the end of your quest pretty soon.”

“It’s a long road sometimes before you get to the turning. But we’ll hope for a signboard here and there.”

The group separated, for there was no further interest in the cairn, now that the detective had gained his point. Stone had chosen a time when the police officials were away, for he wanted to note the reactions on some of the interested ones, and they might speak more freely if not under surveillance.

He walked back to the house with Katherine, and he detained her as they passed an arbor overlooking the sea.

“Just a minute,” he said, “sit here with me, will you?”

“As long as you wish,” she returned gayly, with a sideways look of the sort Stone had learned to fear.

At once he drew from his pocket the photograph with the substituted face.

“Know that man?” he said, carelessly.

“No, never saw him. Who is he?”

“Look more closely, I think you have seen him.”

“Oh, it’s some trick thing. What do I do next?”

“No it isn’t a trick card. This face doesn’t belong, however. Now,” he removed the face, “do you know him better?”

“Nonsense, how could anybody know a pair of shoulders. They’re not Wiley’s. I know that. But they are a little like his. However, he never wore a collar of that type—or a tie like that.”

Katherine’s voice remained steady, but something had jarred her. Her face paled, in spite of its rouge, and her lips trembled a little as she looked closely at the card again.

Then, pulling herself together, she said, “No, Mr. Stone, that is not a picture of my husband, with the face cut out. At first I thought it might be, but now, I see clearly it is not.”

“Who is it, then?”

“I’ve no idea. As I told you at first, it is no one I know.”

“But the pin, Mrs. Vane, you recognize the pin?” Again she paled, and took longer than before to regain her calm, as Stone inexorably awaited her reply.

“No, Mr. Stone, I do not recognize that pin. It is so small I can scarcely see it. What is the design?”

“A lighthouse, a tiny gold lighthouse.”

“No, silver,” she said, looking at it again.

“How do you know it is silver if you never saw it before?”

“Oh, lots of people wore that model, it was a fad for a short time. Wiley had one, but I didn’t like it, it looked cheap, I thought, so I made him stop wearing it.”

“What did he do with it?”

“He gave it to me?”

“You have it still, then?”

“I—I think so. But I’m not sure,—I may have given it away. It was of small value.”

“If, as you say, you did give it away, to whom did you give it?”

“I’ve no idea. You see I disliked it so, I probably gave it to the first person I met.”

“Is that your custom?”

“To give away things? Oh, yes. I often give away trinkets I am wearing. Ask Rose! I’ve given her lots.”

“Inexpensive trifles, I suppose you mean?”

“Yes, and nice things, too. Anyway, I haven’t that lighthouse pin now, I’m certain. Why do you want it?”

“Well, I think this cut card was once a picture of Mr. Vane.”

“And what if it was? I have many photographs of him. I’ll give you any you want.”

“You haven’t any just as this would be if it had never been cut?”

“No: and I tell you that isn’t Mr. Vane and never was Mr. Vane, cut or not cut!”

“Very well, then, it wasn’t. I only wanted to know. I’m working in your interests, you know.”

As Stone’s voice softened, Katherine’s face also became more gentle and tender.

“You are working in my interests, aren’t you?” she said, “you care for my interests, don’t you?”

She leaned toward him dangerously, and with a pretense of having heard his own private telephone bell, Stone gathered up his papers and the cut out picture and departed.


Chapter 15
Mixed Drinks

After luncheon, the men gathered in the library, and the matter of the cairn was laid before the Examiner and the Inspector.

Dr Burton seemed to think the finding of the pistol of no great importance.

“We knew he was shot with a 36 Automatic,” he said, “and now that we have the weapon, how are we going to connect it up with anybody. Any fingerprints on it, Rowland?”

“Of course not, after lying two weeks in a brick-pile. The damp and heat of this awful July weather would muss them all up.”

“Better have that matter looked into, all the same,” Burton advised, and laid the pistol carefully in a table drawer. “Now, who could have done the shooting and secreted the weapon? Who had time?”

“The shooting iron needn’t have been hidden at the time the murder was committed,” Stone remarked, quietly. “In fact, it needn’t have been secreted in the cairn by the murderer at all.”

“Oh?” said Murrell, “somebody shielding somebody else, eh?”

“Yes,” said Burton, “or somebody trying to incriminate somebody else.”

“Come down to cases, Meade,” said Murrell, “You know cairn language. Could anyone have hidden that pistol in the stone pile, slick enough so the workmen could have gone on building without noticing it?”

“As I’ve stated before, it could certainly be done. But more likely it would have made a bad place in the brickwork.”

“Well, I don’t see when they could have done it. Say Vane was shot at seven o’clock, or whenever it was, it was pretty light then, and none of the family nor a guest could have run out there and fussed around in those stones without being noticed by somebody. Especially, one of the women, and I believe you’re banking on the women now.”

“If, as Mr. Meade says,” Stone observed, “Miss Day had the best knowledge of the cairn, and as she seems to have had motive enough in her mix-up with Mr. Vane, why not conclude she was the criminal?”

“I only said,” Meade put in, “that Dolly was familiar with the setting of the stones; and that would mean she could hide an object among them less clumsily than someone who knew nothing of the knack.”

“Then she and you were the only ones here who had that peculiar knack?” Rowland inquired.

“So far as I know, yes,” replied Meade, “except of course, the workmen.”

“But you have a perfect alibi, have you not, Mr. Meade?” the Examiner asked.

Antony Meade’s smile broadened, until he looked more than ever like the picture of The Laughing Cavalier. But as the police gentlemen were unfamiliar with that masterpiece, it did not impress them.

“You know,” he said, “if I were a detective, the first man I should suspect would be the man with the perfect alibi. Miss Day or Mrs. Vane or both were with me in my office up to the time I left this house, a few minutes before seven, that evening. The chauffeur was with me all the way to the station, and on the platform several people who have testified to seeing me there and on the train, which was late. But I suppose that is all on record. Now, Mr. Vane telephoned me in my office, as Miss Day corroborated and as my time after that is entirely accounted for by witnesses, I think I may say I have what you call a perfect alibi. I didn’t feel that I wanted one nor did I realize that I had one, until the investigators so informed me, but there it is. I certainly had no chance to run upstairs, shoot Mr. Vane, and then hide the automatic in the cairn.”

“But Miss Day did have such a chance?”

“Yes, Dr Burton, she did, or at least, she may have. I left her in the office when I left the house, and I didn’t see her again until the next day.”

“And then, Mr. Meade, how did the girl seem? Nervous and hysterical, or calm and quite as usual?”

“I noticed no hysterical effect, Dr Burton. In fact, I noticed the girl scarcely at all. I was kept busy answering telephone calls and telegrams from Mr. Vane’s friends and business acquaintances.”

“There was business pending?”

“A great deal, and some that only I could take care of. I am still busy with important matters, and if I can be of no further use—”

“Are you staying on in your secretarial position, Mr. Meade?”

“I wish I knew that myself. I greatly want to stay, but nobody seems ready to engage me definitely.”

“Oh, I think Mrs. Vane intends to keep you—”

What Rowland thought was interrupted by Murrell, who said, flatly, “Well, I think she doesn’t! Why don’t you ask her and be sure?”

“Guess I will,” returned Meade, smiling, and then at a nod of the Examiner’s head, he left the room.

“Stout fella,” exclaimed Murrell, “I can’t help admiring his determination. And there’s no sense in suspecting him, for he’s nothing to gain and everything to lose by Wiley Vane’s death. He’s lost or fears he has, a fine position here, he lost a good friend in Wiley, and for the life of me I can’t see a glimmer of a motive for him.”

“Who said there was?” asked Rowland, who was getting a bit nervy over the lack of motives for everybody but Dolly Day. “Mrs. Vane ought to have a motive, but I can’t see that she has any,—unless it’s you.” He glared at Murrell.

“Mercy goodness, man! Don’t scare me to death! I never killed anybody, and I’m not going to begin at my time of life!”

“But you admit you might have been a motive for Mrs. Vane’s committing the crime?”

“I admit nothing of the sort! You must be crazy! I’m in love with Katherine, everybody knows that, but I wouldn’t commit murder to get her!”

“What do you love her for?” asked Fleming Stone, with a quizzical glance at Murrell.

“For her money,” and Murrell looked him squarely in the face. “And this is no disparagement to Mrs. Vane. I admire her for her many good qualities. I think her a splendid woman. But I am not blind to her possession of Wiley’s wealth and his valuable belongings.”

“You speak frankly, Mr. Murrell,” Dr Burton said. “Few in your case would be so outspoken.”

“You think it will get me in bad? Think it will presume my guilt, perhaps? Well, you just try to break my alibi!”

“I shall bear it in mind. But we’re not investigating the matter of Mr. Vane’s death now, but Miss Day’s.”

“I consider them more or less interdependent,” said Stone, seriously, “And I think Mr. Murrell’s expatiation on his feelings toward Mrs. Vane is out of place and in poor taste.”

“Good for you, Stone, old dear!” cried Murrell, grinning widely. “I quite agree with you. And I’ll shut up. I deserved your reproof. I brought it on myself, and I apologize to anyone who’s hankering for an apology.”

They laughed, as everybody always did at Murrell.

All except Rowland, who scowled at the frivolous chat, and began to turn his thoughts back to Murrell’s alibi, and reconsider the question of his motive.

Trevor Cameron came in, having returned from his trip to the New York photographers.

“Cards on the table?” he asked of Stone.

The detective nodded, and Cameron pulled the cut out card from his pocket.

“Who’s that?” he demanded, throwing it on the table.

They all reached for it, and seeing what it was, paid little attention to it.

Murrell thumbed it idly, and said the subject had an open countenance.

One or two said it was impossible to identify any man without his features.

Others said it was easy enough, but, even so, they failed.

At last, Rowland said, “It looks like Mr. Vane, a little.”

“Of course,” Cameron cried, “that’s just who it is.”

He went on then, to tell of the errand on which Stone had sent him. He recounted his adventures, which consisted mainly of going up and down stairs, in and out of small photograph galleries, which one and all denied ever having taken the picture in question, or if they had they couldn’t recognize it as it was now.

“Couldn’t you get at it by the edges of the card?” asked Stone.

“Well, not precisely. In fact the day was a total failure, except one place I went to. There, the man seemed to remember the occasion of taking the picture of a man who came with a very lovely young lady. The photographer was far more anxious to take the girl than the man, but they were both very decided and very curt of manner, so he did as he was bid. He was well paid to finish up the pictures quickly and did so.”

“How come he recognized the picture without the face?” Stone asked with interest.

“Why, he did the whole trick. They wanted him to cut out the face carefully, and find another face among his old pictures that could be made to fit in the opening.”

“How long ago did all this happen?”

“About a year or so. The photographer was greatly amused by the whole business and did all he could to be of help. He cut the two faces so they would be interchangeable. The customers were giggling and shaking with laughter, at times, then again they were anxious and worried seeming.”

“Then you didn’t find out whose face was in the original picture, after all?” Stone spoke disappointedly.

Cameron flared up.

“Of course not!” he cried. “Of course, it’s Vane, we can see enough of his shoulders for that. And of course, he wouldn’t give his right name. As I see it, Dolly begged for a photograph, and Vane had none he could give her so they went and had this taken, on the sly. Then, cleverly enough, Vane had the man fix it up, so Dolly could have the other face in when she wanted to, probably putting in Vane’s face only when she was alone. Good work, I call it!”

“It’s all that,” Stone agreed, “if you’re sure of your people. How do you feel so sure of that?”

“Here you are, mister,” and Cameron played his ace, “I showed Mr. Photographer a newspaper picture of our Dolly, and he said that was the girl who came with the man who had his picture taken! And, I ask you, could anyone mistake our Dolly?”

“All right, Cameron,” and Stone smiled approvingly on his helper. “You done noble, and you have all my gratitude. You deserve more than that. You deserve a drink, and I’m going to see that you get one. Oh, hello, Meade,” he called out, as the secretary passed through the hall, “won’t you tell Hopton to tell Prout to tell Hake to tell—oh, well, get something cold and wet along here as soon as they can. And then you come your ways in and help us consume it.”

Meade went for a servant, and as he returned, he saw the cut out face card on the table.

“A new trick?” he asked; “do we guess who was cut out?”

“No, who was put in,” and Stone slipped in the stranger’s face.

“I never saw that guy before,” said Meade staring at the unfamiliar face. “Who is he?”

“Nobody knows and nobody cares,” Stone returned, carelessly. “But, as you see, it’s a substitute countenance, not the one that was taken in the original picture.”

Interestedly, Meade took the face out of the card and put it back again, as a child playing with it.

“There’s an old family album on the shelf there,” Stone said. “See if you can find our little stranger in it. I’m going to stir up old Hopton.”

As the detective left the room, he touched Cameron’s arm. Recognizing the gesture as a command to follow, Trevor rose, and dawdled out to the hall.

Stone silently beckoned him, and the two men went into the butler’s office.

“Vanish just a minute, will you Hop?” said Stone good-naturedly. “Come back when I summon you, in about one minute.”

Hopton disappeared and Stone shut the door and locked it.

“Now, watch me, Cameron,” he said. “Don’t say a word, don’t make any exclamation at anything I may do, but watch me and make a note of it.”

Fleming Stone was an abstemious man, an occasional highball being his limit, and Trevor Cameron looked on in stupefied silence, when he saw the detective take up a decanter of Scotch whisky and a tumbler, and pour a brimming glass of the amber liquid. Then Stone tossed off the whole glassful neat, set down the tumbler and said, “Come along,” as he unlocked the door.

“Remember, Trev, not a word. And here’s another thing, when I have my highball, notice who hands it to me, Murrell or Meade, or one of the police chaps. Come on.”

Still dazed, Cameron followed Stone as he walked into the library, as steady as a drum major.

“Ah, here we are,” he said, sitting on the edge of the large table, while the others fussed about the small table Hopton had arranged for them, “now for our toast to Cameron, though I can’t exactly remember why he’s having one. Fix me a nice Scotch and soda, not too strong, somebody.” He left the table and sat in a large easy chair, where, after a moment’s delay, Murrell brought him his glass.

“Thank you, Buddy,” Stone said, in an unusually gay voice for him, “all right, boys, here’s to old Trevor—good old Trevor!”

He drained his glass, and lay back in his chair, breathing a bit heavily.

Meade stepped forward to take the glass from his shaking hand, but Cameron was ahead of him. He took the empty glass and unostentatiously put it in his pocket.

He imagined he saw Meade looking about for it, but of this he was not sure. However, at that moment, Stone’s eyes brightened, he sat up straighter, saying, “What you looking for, Murrell? Want another drink? These glasses are small. Who’s bartender here? Oh, you, Greg? Well help yourself,—and me, too. Come, mix me a good one.”

“I’ll do it, Mr. Stone,” and Meade picked up the decanter. “I know just how you like it.”

“All right, Tony, go to it.”

Even Meade himself looked up in surprise at the familiar “Tony,” and they all smiled at Stone’s unusual good fellowship.

The detective toyed with his second glass, seeming less eager for it than the first. He took a small sip now and again, but he evinced a desire to get back to the work in hand.

“Did you find a duplicate of that face in the album, Meade?”

“No, Mr. Stone, though I hadn’t time to look all through it. Shall I do it now?”

“Oh, no. It must be some card from the photograph shop. I suppose the man picked up any old picture that would fill the opening. Queen piece of work, the whole thing. But I think we must all agree it is a photograph of Mr. Vane. I’ve never seen him, of course, in life, but judging from his other pictures, and the set of his shoulders as I saw him after death, it is probably his picture. And who else could it be? And whom else would little Miss Day go there with? Whom else would she want a picture of? And she’s the sort of girl, from what I’ve heard who would love a secret like that, a picture all her own, of which there was no duplicate. What are you staring at, Meade?”

For the secretary was gazing at the detective as if in the greatest surprise.

“Oh, nothing,” he said, showing some embarrassment, “I’m only wondering how you size her up so well, when you didn’t really know her.”

“Oh, I knew her pretty well, old boy,” and Fleming Stone gave a small wink, as he smiled at Meade. “You know, if one wants to, one can easily get to know a girl like Dolly Day. And if we’ve settled on her as the murderer of her good and kind employer, we can’t have much real sympathy for her.”

“It isn’t necessary, is it?” said Cameron, “to bring the deed back to her? I mean, now the poor child is dead, need the fact that she killed Vane be made public?”

“That’s up to the authorities,” Stone said, glancing at Dr Burton and the Inspector.

“We haven’t yet taken up the question,” Burton said, wearily. “There are so many angles to this problem, so many ways to look at the evidence, that we can’t decide too quickly.”

“Then there’s the automatic,” Meade said; “Can’t you get anything from that? Was there no name on it? No initials?”

“Oh, didn’t you look at it?” asked Rowland, not remembering that Meade was seldom included in the more important conferences. “No, it shows no name or initials.”

“Nor fingerprints?”

“No, but that could hardly be expected.”

“I suppose not. And can’t you get at the ownership of the pistol at all?”

“Not positively.” Rowland shook his head. He always regarded his headshake as the end of a discussion. But not everybody agreed with him as to that.

Dr Burton shook his head, too, and expressed it as his opinion that fingerprints were greatly overrated.

“They are interesting,” he said, “but where do they lead? They have been brought to the highest type of perfection in the taking, but how often do they disclose anything worthwhile?”

“Besides,” said Stone, “what do we want of them? We say Miss Day shot Mr. Vane. Then, we know that whoever stabbed Miss Day, cannot be apprehended by fingerprints. The handle of that dagger is far too deeply embossed to make a fingerprint from it possible, or, at least, practicable.”

“That’s true enough,” Meade said, musingly; “I always thought fingerprints would solve any murder.” He still looked at Stone as he spoke, not casually, but with an inquiring, even a wondering gaze, that made others follow his example.

“They are useful,” Rowland declared, “in some cases very useful, but I’ve not found much occasion to profit by them in the two crimes we are investigating.”

“No,” said Murrell, “but what have you found occasion to profit by? I thought investigators always dug up a lot of clues.”

“We do,” and Stone looked directly at Gregory, “but we don’t always exhibit what we dig up.”

“Oho! A lot of stuff up your sleeves, eh? Well, can’t you shake it down and give us a sniff at it?”

“We’d be right glad of a sniff,” said Dr Burton, genially. “Among my colleagues I am called a diehard, but I confess I’m more stumped over these two murders at Greencastle, than I’ve been in the whole course of my career.”

“Just what do you want to know about them, Dr Burton?” said Fleming Stone, genially.

“Oh, only who committed them and why.”

“You’re not satisfied then, that Dolly Day shot Mr. Vane? Why not?”

“I am satisfied that she shot him, but I have no positive proof of it. We are pretty sure it was his own pistol that was used, but we can’t prove that, unless finding it hidden on these premises is proof. We agree that Miss Day had motive and opportunity, we have more or less clues and bits of evidence that incriminate her, yet, somehow, I can’t feel sure of her guilt.”

“Because of her beautiful face?”

Dr Burton delayed his answer a moment, and then said, slowly; “It may be that, partly. I don’t say I wouldn’t feel differently about a less marvelous specimen of humanity. But more because of her smallness, and daintiness, and general inability for such a deed.”

“I think you mean,” Stone said, gently, “your general inability to think her capable of such a deed. Yet, we must all agree she was capable of crime, in the sense that all human beings are capable of it. I, myself am not quite sure of her guilt, but not because I think she was too pretty a girl to kill anybody.”

“And what is your reason?”

“I think she would be afraid to commit such a crime. The girl was nobody’s fool, and she knew what awaited her if she were suspected.”

“Nothing very terrible did await her. In fact she was scarcely suspected.”

“But she would have been, later on.”

“I hardly think so. We’re suspecting her now, because of that silly picture. Had she remained alive, that never would have been found.”

“What are you people doing?” cried Rose, as she and Sally came into the room together. “We’ve had a wonderful swim, and wanted you men along, but Hopton wouldn’t let us disturb you.”

“We’ve been most terbul busy,” Murrell smiled at her. “But I think the worst is over. I’ll go for a swim with you.”

Rose eyed him scornfully. “I just told you I’d been in. I don’t go twice in one afternoon. I’ll go for a walk, if you like.”

“No,” said Sally, dictatorially. “It’s time for cocktail hour, and we must rally round. Katherine was displeased that so many deserted her yesterday, or the day before, or whenever it was.”

“All right,” agreed Stone, “then we’ll stand by the colors. And how about calling a halt on discussing our problems, while we discuss our cocktails?”

“I’m for it,” declared Murrell. “I must admit I’m fed up with clues and evidence, especially as they don’t get us anywhere.”

“They may not get us anywhere, but they put us on the way. What sort of eyelashes are you wearing today, Rose? The usual, or have you corralled somebody’s imported truck?”

“If this is the way you keep off a subject, I’m going to run away to the neighbors’! I think I shall, anyway.”

“No, don’t,” and for once in his life Fleming Stone let himself roll his big gray eyes at her appealingly.

“Oh, Mr. Stone, you’re just heavenly, when you want to be, aren’t you?”

“Of course, I’m everything I want to be, when I really want it.”

“Or when other people want you to be,” and Rose gave him an arch but highly intelligent glance. “And here are Katherine and Aunt Randy. But you stay by me, won’t you?”

“Can’t,” and Stone rose and crossed the room, to take a seat by Katherine.

“I thought you’d never come,” he whispered as he reached her side.

And she beamed and smiled and settled back in her chair, content, as always, with either real or apparent admiration.


Chapter 16
Fleming Stone Confers

Fleming Stone seldom was amused at himself, though often greatly amused at his fellow human beings.

But just now, he was secretly laughing at his own behavior.

At Randy’s request they had left the library and congregated in the great lounge, where the ocean breeze whirled through gayly, setting the tall palms waving, tossing the flowers in their vases, and sometimes prankish enough to upset some of the smaller bouquets.

Randy apparently had a bone to pick with someone, for she was restless and fluttery, and finally demanded when Dr Burton would return.

“Not at all, I think,” Meade told her. “He and the Inspector went for a swim, saying they so seldom got an opportunity.”

“Opportunity, bah!” Miss Randy said, scornfully. “They have all the time they want, and can take all there is. Do they expect to spend their life on this case? Of course, I want Wiley’s death cleared up, but we’re sure now, Dolly killed him, and she is beyond our power to punish. So, I say, give them notice and let them go. Pay them what you agreed,—”

“Good Lord, Aunt Randy, we don’t pay the police! What are taxes for?”

“That’s so, Trevor,—I s’pose I was thinking of Mr. Stone, here. Well, pay him, and a good bit, too! I’m willing you’d make out your bill, Mr. Stone, and wind up all this shilly-shallying.”

“I’m not altogether flattered at the way you express it, Miss Randy,” Stone said, smiling at her, “But if you want me to go, it’s mine not to reason why, and all that. However, I’m not sure it was you who engaged me; as I recollect it, it was Mrs. Vane, and to her I owe my reports, and my resignation,—if any.”

He gave Katherine his best smile, and his gray eyes sent her a gleam of admiration, which, if not entirely sincere, was largely so. A very handsome woman, Katherine was charming in the filmy black gowns she now wore. Colors did not so well become her, but today, in black chiffon, with floating sash ends and her rope of pearls, she was delightful to the eye.

Moreover, her manner was more graceful and gentle than of yore, and Rose had been heard to declare that Wiley’s death had had a grand effect on Katherine.

“I don’t want any resignation from you, quite yet, Mr. Stone,” she smiled, “and for one reason, because you haven’t done your work yet. Shall you complete it soon?”

Stone took her seriously.

“I trust so, Mrs. Vane. I feel sure I am now on the right track, the track that will lead eventually to the identification of the criminal.”

“You have a suspect, then?”

“For Mr. Vane’s murder? Haven’t we all decided on Miss Day?”

“But you haven’t shown up anything that is real proof of that.”

“It will be difficult to show such proof.” Stone spoke slowly and seriously. “The girl had such exceptional opportunity. She could come and go about the dreadful business, and no one would know it.”

“It’s all nonsense,” Katherine cried out, almost angrily. “That child never did such a deed! Preposterous!”

“Look here,” Murrell said, “I thought we agreed not to discuss this at cocktail hour. It’s awfully bad for the digestion to let the emotions get stirred up, isn’t it, Cameron?”

“Fearful! But we might settle the question of breaking up this all too delightful house party. I can’t stay on forever. I’ve my career to build, you see.”

“My Heavens!” said Murrell, “I’d no idea you had any such plans! Architect of your own fortune, eh?”

“Can’t get anybody else to take over the job, needs must when the devil drives.”

“Well, don’t let’s discuss that either,” Murrell insisted. “Let’s plan, something pleasant, some little trip or that—”

“How you do go on,” drawled Rose. “Your plans are delectable, but do you think for a minute you’d be let to carry them out?”

“I’d like to leave,” Aunt Randy said, plaintively. So much so, that Sally came over and kissed her.

“You shall, old dear,” she promised. “I’ll see those two curmudgeons about it myself. If I can’t vamp ’em into it, nobody can.”

“You’ll need help, Sally, call on me,” said Rose, “I’m the world’s champ vamp.”

“You bet you are,” declared Murrell, who to pique Katherine, sat with his arm round Rose.

“Truly,” Sally went on, “it’s a shame for Aunt Randy to be kept out of her fun. So long she’s been waiting to begin on her new house, and now it’s ’most finished, she’s locked up down here by some old dragons, who must know she isn’t a bluggy moiderer! I’ll get you off, Randy dear, leave it to your Sally.”

“I wish you would, dear,” said the old lady, hopefully, and taking advantage of the chorus of voices that promised to help her, Stone made occasion to slip from the room and go softly up the stairs.

Seeing he was not followed, he went to Antony Meade’s room, and after listening further for sounds, he began hurriedly to search the drawers of a chest, which had a desk and shelves above.

The task was too great. There were many drawers and each had many packages of lists, held by rubber bands.

“Can I help you?” said a pleasant voice and Stone looked up to see Antony Meade standing before him. So absorbed had the detective been in his work, he had not heard the other’s entrance.

“Oh, if you only would,” said Stone. “I suppose I ought to apologize for being here, but a detective’s lot is not a happy one.”

“Oh, don’t apologize, nothing like that, but I say, Stone, I’d like a talk with you.”

“A heart to hearter?”

“Yes, if you like, or just a straightforward business pow-wow.”

“Go to it, I’m right here.”

“What are you here for?”

“Can’t you see? To make sure I didn’t leave anything unexplored when I last searched this room?”

“Or to make sure nothing has arrived here since last accounts?”

“All the same. I just want to keep the home fires burning. Now, for your gabfest. What’s it all about?”

“About the murders, of course. Why do you suspect me?”

“Who said I did?”

“You say it yourself, when you look at me; you say it by being up here snooping—I beg your pardon, investigating, this room in my supposed absence. Are you looking for anything in particular?”

“No”; Stone sighed. “There’s nothing in particular to look for. I say, Meade, you’re a bright chap, help me along, do. You’re not under suspicion, you know that perfectly well. But you do know things you won’t tell me. Who killed Dolly Day?”

“My guess is one of the boy friends who were always following her about. They waited down by the gate, nights, until she appeared.”

“And waited patiently about till Mary did appear.”

“Just that. She liked them, too, but she was spoiled by attentions here.”

“From whom? There was only Vane—and you.”

“Count me out. All I’ve told you about that sort of thing is true. I don’t want the girls, but they won’t let me alone. No, don’t laugh, it’s the nuisance of my life. But there were others, you see. Why every man guest who has ever been here has made love to Dolly before he went home. If he couldn’t manage it here, he’d go down to the Swift house and wait for her.”

“I don’t blame them much. And the servants?”

“All crazy about her, but she never so much as noticed them. Dolly was a high stepper, always. It was the boy friends on the beach that I was afraid of. I thought they’d have it in for Dolly sooner or later. She was enough to raise the devil with any man.”

“She sure was. Well, have you no individual boy in view?”

“No, I haven’t. I never knew them even by name, but Mr. Vane did and he used to curse them black and white. If he found them hanging around by the gates, he’d give them such a talking to, threatening all sorts of terrible things if they didn’t keep off the premises. Didn’t bother the lads much. They’d just move a hitch farther away, and continue their waiting.”

“But what did Mr. Vane want? He couldn’t marry the girl—”

“Well, he thought he could.”

“Thought he could, how?”

“By divorcing the present lady of the manor, and taking on the baby doll.”

“I see. Well, now, just supposing it wasn’t one of those friendly boys who did for Dolly, who’s your next best guess?”

Meade hesitated, then, looking Stone straight in the face, he replied; “Murrell.”


“Wants Mrs. Vane and her money. Didn’t he say so?”

“People don’t always tell the truth.”

“He did. Now, about me. I didn’t kill either of those perfectly good citizens, but you think I did. How come?”

Stone smiled; “I suppose because in the story books it’s always the private secretary,” he said.

“Well, it isn’t this time. And anyway, I’m not a private secretary at all. Properly speaking, I’m a librarian. And it’s my close attention to my work that keeps me so much to myself and so little in with the crowd. You don’t believe it, I can’t make anybody believe it, but I am absorbed in those old books. I love to work on them. I seldom read them, for I can’t get the time but I am getting them wonderfully well into shape, and my lists and catalogues are well and carefully done.”

“And what are we proving by this?”

Fleming Stone’s tone had changed. Whether influenced by Meade’s straightforward manner and honest, though troubled eyes, or for what cause, the detective had lost his air of resentment and suspicion.

Meade went on; “we’re proving that I devoted my time and interests to Mr. Vane and his books; and that, because I admired and respected the man, and loved the books, it is a wicked shame that I should be suspected of disloyalty and of crime, when there is no reason for it.”

“Look here, Meade, how do you get that way? Who has expressed a word of suspicion of you, who were, as we all know, Mr. Vane’s friend and assistant, and spent your time in hard work for him?”

“I can’t name the traitors, but there are some who are making my life miserable and my existence almost unbearable. If I didn’t hate to be separated from the library, I’d walk out. But I want to stay, if I can, long enough to see the whole lot sold to one buyer, and myself engaged to continue my work on it. I can do it.” The man’s face lit up with an almost fanatical look at thought of the library, and Stone watched him with an unwilling admiration.

“Of course you can,” and Stone’s voice was soothing and cheerful. “And you’re not as suspected as you think.”

“I hope so,” and Meade sighed. “But, I say, Mr. Stone, why don’t they get somewhere? They just mull over the same old problems—”

“Oh, come now, Meade, you’re hypercritical. Tell me, what would you do if you had the case in hand?”

“I’d put each one through a third degree—, now, wait a minute,—I don’t mean a ruff-scuff official third degree, but a straightforward line of questioning that must be quickly and truly answered. You could get a lot that way, but Burton asks a question, and then slews off to another subject.”

Stone had to smile, for his opinion had sometimes run in the same direction.

“That’s true, to a degree. Now, look here, I think your idea of a polite third degree is a good one. I’ll try it on you. Do you expect to marry Mrs. Vane?”

“Not if I can help it. She rather fancies the idea, but it doesn’t appeal to me at all. If it weren’t for the library, I’d run away from her wiles and advances. But the lure of the books is too strong, and though I know I’m in danger, I stay here, hoping the situation will clear itself up somehow.”

“You’re sure it isn’t your overweening vanity that makes you think she is after you?”

“Overweening is a lovely word, and I’ve never heard it used except with vanity, but, no, by dear Mr. Stone, it isn’t that that makes me sure the lady is inclined my way. I regret it, indeed, but I cannot be blind to her advances, and, if you were any sort of detective, neither could you.”

Stone knew this well, for he had kept sharp notice of Katherine’s wiles, and he knew that they were distasteful to Meade, who, however, was careful not to show it.

“Well, you see, my friend, that your proposed third degree doesn’t get us anywhere, after all.”

“Sorry. You asked me, I believe, if I expected to marry the lady, and I said, not if I can help it. Now, that’s the exact truth. It is not probable, but it is possible that I might surrender at discretion, because of the books. But I hardly think so. And anyway, the problem is far ahead, as yet. Mrs. Vane is exceedingly conventional, and she, I am sure, would not marry anyone, until the proper season of mourning is accomplished. So, I doubt if I can decide that point until later. If she’ll only keep me on as secretary and librarian, that’s all I ask. What I’d like best would be to have the family go back to the New York house in the fall, and leave me here alone to do my work. I could fend for myself.”

Antony Meade sat gazing out of the window with a rapt expression on his face. He seemed to see ecstatic visions of working alone, with no one to interrupt him.

“Are the books down here?”

“Many of them. Mr. Vane had a special truck built, with shelves, to carry the volumes back and forth. I could handle the matter easily, by going up to New York about once a fortnight. It would be an ideal plan.”

“You’re a queer chap, Meade. Take off those amber-tinted glasses. What do you wear them for? A disguise?”

“No,” and Meade laughed. “But I can’t go without them, except on cloudy days. The oculist is strenuous about that. Of course, I can shed them for a minute.”

Meade turned round till he had his back to the light, and then took off the horn-rimmed glasses.

Stone merely glanced at him and then said, rather dictatorially, “Close your eyes.”

As Meade obeyed the singular command, Stone pulled from his pocket a small atomizer, holding a delicate perfume.

Lightly he squeezed the rubber bulb, and a small cloud of fragrant vapor floated against Meade’s eyelids.

“Better keep ’em shut,” Stone said, “I’m going to do it again.”

Meade sprang toward him, angrily, but meeting another and somewhat heavier vapor cloud, he sank into a big easy chair and buried his eyes in his handkerchief.

“Look out there,” warned Stone, “is that spandy clean? You don’t want any infection.”

“What did you do? Why did you do it?” and Meade, his face drawn and contorted, glared redly.

“Oh, it’s just a simple eye lotion, it can’t harm you and it may do your eyes a lot of good. What ails them, anyway?”

“Nothing ails them.” Meade was striving to hold on to his temper, but he was angry all through, as Stone could see. “I’m not the sort that cares for practical jokes. Now, I’m going to ask you to go out while I fix my eyes up. I thought you were throwing acid!” Meade was laughing now, but he was not entirely restored to his normal tranquillity.

“Practical joke! My dear fellow, I assure you it is a healing lotion. I knew you wouldn’t try it if I asked you to, so I applied it willy-nilly.”

“I’ll say you did! Is it the nilly that smarts so?”

“You’re a good sort, Tony,” and Stone gave him a nod of real admiration.

“Go or stay, as you like,” and Meade looked out of his handkerchief with one eye, as he disappeared into his bathroom, and Stone heard him lock the door.

The detective began to whistle carelessly, but he kept one eye on the bathroom door, as he scrutinized the table at which the two had been sitting.

At last, with a satisfied nod of his head, he carefully took his own handkerchief, and dusted the portion of the table at which Meade had sat, and then, calling a cheerful good-by through the bathroom door, he went off to his own room.

Locked in, he spread a large sheet of clean white paper on his table, and on that he carefully shook the crumpled handkerchief he took from his pocket.

Just then a tap at his door, brought Prout, with the message that the ladies wanted Mr. Stone to go for a swim with them, and, rolling up his handkerchief and tossing it in a drawer, which he locked, Stone went to keep the appointment.

“It’s a shame,” he said to himself, though he was broadly smiling; “a mean, low-down trick, but what else could I do?”

Then, assuring himself he could do nothing else, he permitted himself one more grin, and straightened out his aquiline features to greet his friends.

“Where you been?” demanded Rose, “and where’s Mr. Meade?”

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” asked Stone. “I was in his room for a while, but not when Prout came for me. Glorious day for the surf. Come on, Sally, I’ll race you to the beach.”

Meantime Mr. Antony Meade sat on the painted chair in his painted bathroom, silently but deeply swearing. He had hunted the place thoroughly, and though there are few hiding places in a bathroom, he had investigated every one of them, and his work had been futile. He could find no slightest trace of what he was looking for, and again he mentally accused that devilish detective of having put one over on him.

However, Antony Meade was a diehard, and if he could get back gracefully at Fleming Stone, he sure meant to do it.

It ought not to be so very hard. A little ingenuity, now; some ordinary accident—such as—what?

But earnest thought often wins out, and after some careful workmanship Meade stood bedecked, a small light gray patch over one eye, made of delicate silk and so neatly adjusted, that it was not at all ugly to look at, and really almost becoming.

Well pleased with his work and in cheerful good humor, he went down to his office to attend to some book lists.

He sorely missed the helpful assistance of Dolly Day. She had been one of the best little workers he ever knew. Rapid, neat, accurate, she seemed possessed of all the attributes a stenographer needs.

He had not tried yet to get a substitute. That would be a difficult matter, and too, he doubted if the police wanted him to undertake it.

So, he was shifting for himself, and naturally was more or less overworked. That was his own fault, however, for nobody else in the house cared whether the old books were catalogued or not.

Hake came to him, before he was fairly settled at work, asking if he might do anything for him. Being a well trained servant, the man said nothing about the patch on Meade’s eye, but the secretary himself mentioned it.

“I bumped into that heavy light figure at the end of the bathtub,” he said; “you know the one with the low lamp—”

“Yes, sir, I know—did you hurt your eye, sir?”

“Only a trifle, but it’s a bit bloodshot and unsightly. I think I’ll dine in my room.”

“Very good, sir. Will you have something now, sir?”

“Yes, I think I need a bracer. Bring me a small Scotch and soda.”

Hake went off and returned shortly with the drink. Meade took it gratefully, realizing for the first time, that he had suffered a shock.

“Hake,” he said, “wait a minute,” and the footman paused. “That night, you know, the night Mr. Vane died, you were called up to him soon before the er— before death occurred, weren’t you?”

“Yes, sir.”

“For some directions about dinner?”

“Yes, sir, that was it, sir.”

“Tell me how Mr. Vane seemed at the time. Yes, I know you’ve answered this question before, and I know what you said. But tell me a little more. He acted just as usual, did he?”

“He did, sir. Barrin’ he seemed a wee bit—well, I don’t know how to say it—”


“No, sir, not that at all. More the opposite.”

“More excited—”

“Yes, sir, that’s it, excited, like he thought something was going to happen?”

“Something pleasant?”

“I can’t say that, sir, but all keyed up, as they say.”

“Now, see here, Hake, you were a bit keyed up yourself, you know.”

The man looked troubled.

“I know that, sir; it’s still botherin’ me. You don’t think it’ll get me in bad, yet, do you, Mr. Meade?”

“What do you remember doing or saying to Mr. Vane that might get you in wrong?”

“Oh, nothing sir. It’s more like he seemed to be doing things—”

“Such as what?”

“Well, sort of movin’ around, somehow, with— well—with different motions from what he gen’ally made.”

“You must have been well keyed up, Hake. Now I saw Mr. Vane only a short time before you did, and he was exactly as he always was, in manner and speech.”

“Yes, sir, I daresay, sir.”

“Run along now, Hake and don’t say to anyone else you thought Mr. Vane was unusual, unless you want to get yourself in trouble.”

“No, sir, thank you, sir.”

And Hake departed, pondering on his own foolishness.


Chapter 17
An Engagement Announced

Katherine herself went to Meade’s room to see why he was not coming down to dinner.

When he opened his locked door, she exclaimed, “Let me come in a moment, pray, do! I must see you!”

“Why, of course, Mrs. Vane, come right in,” and Antony stood aside for her to enter his pleasant sitting room.

“Who has been here? What have you been doing?”

The table was bare at one end, while at the other end all the things were jumbled into an untidy stack. Fleming Stone’s dusting with his handkerchief had cut a wide swath.

He placed a seat for her, and then, smiling, took a chair himself.

“What have you done to your eye?” she demanded, looking at the gray silk patch.

“Oh, it’s nothing. I hit it against a light fixture in the bathroom. It will be all right by to-morrow, but I don’t want to face the music to-night.”

“Nonsense, that patch isn’t at all unsightly. Come along down; I missed you at cocktail hour.”

“No, really, I’d rather not. And I have a stack of work to do that must be done to-night.”

“Why must it be done to-night?” Katherine said, bending nearer to him, until he was conscious of the exquisite perfume she always used. “You are always so hurried with your work! Who is your slave driver?”

“Not you,—but I wish you were—”

“Oh, I wish so too! I do, Tony. Why can’t I be? Why can’t I—”

“Be my boss, in Mr. Vane’s place?” put in Meade, quickly, hoping to save himself from the consequences of his impulsive sentence, by which he had only intended a mere business connection, but which Katherine had evidently misunderstood. “Yes, that’s what I mean. The library is yours now, Can’t you decide what you’re going to do with it? And if you sell it, won’t you give me a ‘reference’? Say that I’m honest and industrious, and that I can be trusted with valuable books, and that I am familiar with them in a general way, and all that. Oh, Mrs. Vane, you could write me a splendid reference—”

“Oh, I could, dear,—I surely could!” She drew nearer to him and laid her soft white hand on his arm. “But I would write it to myself,—and then I would engage you to—” she drew nearer still, and whispered, “to love, honor and obey—”

“Why, why,” cried Antony, laughing, “what sort of talk is this? Are we rehearsing for a play? You hadn’t told me about it. But seriously, now, Mrs. Vane, do let me know soon what you’re going to do about the books.”

“You care for the books?”

“I love them.”

“I go with the books. Do you love me, too?”

The gentle high-bred air that distinguished Katherine, kept her question from banality, and her whimsical smile, made it seem almost a jest, but her deep, dark eyes belied the thought, and her caressing hand, now clasping Meade’s, proved her words spoken in all earnestness.

For all her forty years, Katherine Vane was winsome and very beguiling.

Dressed for dinner, her still lovely neck and straight white throat rising from her black velvet hostess gown, she fascinated her prey, like a soft and sinuous serpent, and her low, purring voice so charmed Antony Meade that he involuntarily clasped her in his arms and kissed her in the most approved movie style.

When the last gong sounded, she cried, “I’d no idea it was so late. Come you must go down now, I won’t let you off. You needn’t dress, I’ll make excuses on account of your eye. Come, now.”

She opened the door to the hall, cast a quick glance around it, found it empty. “Come,” she cried, tapping her foot, impatiently.

“No,” said Meade, “you said I could be your boss, you know. And I won’t go down as I am, and I haven’t time to dress, and I’ve ordered my dinner sent up. Run along now, and just say I’m too busy to dine.”

Something in Meade’s voice, something in the way he gently pushed her through his door, made Katherine feel that the better part of valor just then, called for discretion and lots of it.

So, blowing him a kiss from the tips of her fingers, she ran off with a playfulness not quite abreast of her years.

“Now I have done it!” thought Antony, as he returned to his easy-chair. “First Stone and then Katherine! Two jolts in one day, I’ve had. Well, whatever is to be will happen, whether it ever comes to pass or not.”

“Yes,” said Katherine, as she led the way to the dinner table, “poor Mr. Meade is laid by for the evening. He hit his head on the skylight or something and banged his eye out,—or in, I don’t know which.”

“You heartless creature!” cried sympathetic Aunt Randy. “I’m going up to coddle him!”

“Sit down,” commanded Katherine, as she took her own seat, “he doesn’t want to see anybody. I spoke to him through the door.”

Fleming Stone who had happened to be behind a large column in the upper hall, half smiled at the recollection of that “speaking through the door,” but nobody else knew the tale wasn’t quite veracious.

“He’s all right,” Stone said, casually, speaking of Meade. “I saw him for a while this afternoon, and he had hit his eye, but it’s nothing serious. Really, he has a lot of work he wants to get done.”

“Oh, very well,” said Rose, saucily, “he promised me—oh, Something very nice, for this evening. And now look at the horrid man!”

“I’ll give you the nice something, what is it?” Murrell smiled at her.

“No, you can’t. It’s something only Mr. Meade can give me.” She looked at Katherine, anxious to find out which plagued her more, appropriation of Meade or Murrell. It was a difficult question, for Katherine resented interference from anybody as to any of her men friends.

In the mean time, the subject of their discussion was walking slowly along the hall toward Katherine’s room. Listening a moment at the door and hearing nothing, he slowly turned the knob and went in.

He was met by a questioning Barclay, who, recognizing him, smiled pleasantly. “What is it, Mr. Meade? Mrs. Vane has gone down to dinner. Can I help you?”

This last after seeing his patched eye.

“Why, yes, Barclay, if you will. Just find me a bit of silk a trifle lighter than this. I hit my eye, and it will be all right in a day or two, but it’s not so good looking now. Just a little piece, you know.”

“Yes, sir, certainly, sir. Just a minute, now.” Barclay vanished into the next room and Meade waited.

Not idly, though, he crossed the room with the silence of a cat, and opened a drawer of Katherine’s toilet table. Quickly selecting a small box, he took a bit of its contents, stuffed it in his waistcoat pocket, and closed box and drawer so quickly it seemed like legerdemain.

Then taking the bit of silk from Barclay and kindly rejecting her offer to make him a patch, he turned back, as he started to leave the room.

“What do you think I want to know, Barclay?” he asked, as he gave her a pleading sort of look.

“What, sir?”

“Why, just what it is that you’re holding back. You know something about Mr. Vane’s murder, that you haven’t told to anyone, not even Mrs. Vane. Now, I think, Barclay, for your own safety, it would be better for you to tell it, whatever it is. If you can’t tell Mrs. Vane, tell me, I promise to keep it secret, unless the iron demands of justice make it necessary to divulge it.”

“Lordy, Mr. Meade, I can’t choke down them big words, that I can’t. But since you ask me,—well,— maybe there is something I ought to tell about and I’ve been thinking whether to talk to you or Mr. Stone about it.”

“Do as you like, Barclay, far be it from me to advise you. But you’ve known me a long time, much longer than you have that detective, and you know that my interests and intentions are all for the good of the Vane family. So do as you like, but really, you’d better tell one or other of us. Maybe you don’t know that to hold back any knowledge of that sort, can be punished by law, and I advise you to keep out of the hands of the law. Is it too long a story to tell me now?”

“Oh, yes, sir. How can I get a chance alone with you?”

“I’ll make a chance, to-morrow. It’s not a secret, you understand, but better not say anything about it till I’ve had a chance to hear it.”

“Yes, sir, I’ll do just as you say.”

“Very well, I’ll make an appointment.”

Meade went back to his own room, into his bathroom, and in less than half an hour emerged with his face free of blemish or wound of any kind. In fact, his mirror showed him such a pleasant, beaming countenance that he decided to dress and go downstairs.

He did so, and found the people scattered round in various places.

“Oh, there you are,” Katherine welcomed him, “come right over here by me.”

“No,” called out Rose, from a darkened corner of the lounge, “come and sit here by me.”

“Since I can’t sit by you both,” laughed Meade, “I’ll go and sit by Sally. I hope she won’t forbid it.”

“No, indeed,” said the girl, “if you’ll promise to sit quietly. Mr. Stone is going to tell me stories of his,—well, he calls ’em cases,—I like to call ’em exploits. Any way I want to hear the stories, and you mustn’t butt in.”

“Why, Sally,” and Meade pretended to look deeply hurt, “as if I’d say a word when you didn’t want me to. I’ll listen as quiet as a lamb.”

“All right, then; go ahead, Mr. Stone.”

“I’d be only too glad to, but meseems I hear footsteps approaching. Flat-foot steps, I might say.”

“You may well say so, Mr. Stone,” and the Medical Examiner and the Inspector came into the lounge, where the rest were gathered.

“We will now hold a conference. All in the library, if you please. Sorry to interrupt your pleasant evening, but this is a case of must be.”

Sally pouted, but she knew there was no use of raising any objections to Dr Burton’s dictum, and, too, the grave face of Inspector Rowland betokened a crisis of some kind, and Sally knew enough to keep still.

She sat up a little more closely to Fleming Stone, toward whom she felt a sort of affectionate respect, and Stone, though not fond of young people as a rule, felt a tenderness and pity for the girl, who seemed to have no one who really cared for her.

They trooped into the library, some of them feeling a hope that perhaps this meant a final chapter was about to be shown forth, and others conscious of a foreboding of evil of some sort.

At last, when they were all seated, Doctor Burton, in his pompous way, began his speech.

From the very impressive sound of his voice, and the high-flown phrases that he used, Fleming Stone was at once convinced that he had nothing to say, of any especial importance.

And yet it touched on a subject that had been more or less in Stone’s mind for days.

The man, Hake.

It seemed to the detective that Hake was one of the servants who hadn’t been sufficiently questioned, and yet he was the last person known to see Vane alive.

Burton declared his belief that the footman knew more than he had as yet divulged, and while it might not be of great importance, yet again it might.

So Hake was sent for, and came, a bit unwillingly, but preserving a correct demeanor.

Stone glanced round the room as the man entered, and noticed no particular interest on the part of anyone. Hake was such a fixture, such a commonplace part of the day’s routine, it was scarcely possible to feel much wonder as to his connection with the murder. To be sure, he had told over and over about his short interview with Mr. Vane, on his porch, but it seemed unlikely he had anything to add to it.

Yet the Examiner’s questions brought a sudden shock.

“You saw Mr. Vane sitting on his screened porch?”

“Yessir, but for the Lord’s sake, don’t ask me what time it was, for I don’t know,—see, I don’t know!”

“Don’t get excited, Hake. We’re not bothering you about the time. But I believe you have stated that Mr. Vane seemed queer—”

“No, sir, not queer—”

“Well, then what?”

“Why, sort of—just kind of—”

“Odd?” asked Stone.

“No, sir, not that—but just—”

“Unlike himself,” suggested Rowland.

“That’s it,” and Hake removed his frown. “He seemed unlike himself,—yes, unlike himself.”

“In what way?” asked Dr Burton, slowly, lest he confuse his witness.

“That’s what I can’t say.” Hake’s puzzlement returned to him. “But somehow he wasn’t like himself.”

Stone made another effort. “What did he do that was most unlike himself?”

Hake meditated, and then his eyes brightened, and he said: “Why, of course, the way he got up out of his chair. You know he always got up slow, his hands on the chair arms. That night he got up spry-like, as if he was extra lively. And he wasn’t; when he was talking, he was all decrepit like, and then when he dismissed me, he almost jumped up, spry as anybody, and—”

“Look here, Hake,” Stone said, “you testified you left Mr. Vane still sitting in his chair. Now, you say he jumped up—”

“Oh, land, sir, I can’t be choosin’ and pickin’ my words so strenuous! I s’pose I forgot it, but he did jump up as I was leavin’ him, or got up, anyway, and it seemed to me I never saw him so spruce.”

“I don’t wonder,” said Katherine, interested; “I can’t imagine Wiley jumping up!”

“Rheumatism?” inquired Rowland.

“No, muscular stiffness of his hip joints,” said Cameron. “Wiley was a fairly well man, but he had a few errors of thought, as he liked to call them.”

“Now, Hake,” went on the Examiner, “are you sure you went away when Mr. Vane jumped up?”

“Yes, sir,—why not, sir?”

“Why not, indeed. Can you swear to it?”

“That I went away then? Sure. Why, Mrs. Vane saw me in the hall.”

“That was after you left the porch. Now, didn’t Mr. Vane go into his office while you were there, and—”

“Aha!” and Hake’s none too good looking face took on an ugly scowl. “I get you! Tryin’ to pin the crime on me, that’s what you’re doin’ now! Well, you can’t do it, see? I came right away from there, and where Mr. Vane went to, I don’t know. And I’d no reason to kill him. Wasn’t he my meal ticket? Why for would I be killin’ him!”

“But you had recently had a quarrel with him.”

“Quarrel nothin’. Mr. Vane and me, we had a word now and then like, but quarrel, no, sir! I’d ’a’ laid down my life for Mr. Vane, and he knew it!”

“That’s a pretty strong statement, Hake,” said Dr Burton, “but we’ll let it pass at its face value. Now, listen: aside from the fact that Mr. Vane got up rather hurriedly, for him, was there any other strange thing about him? His speech, say, was that just as usual?”

Hake ruminated. “Yes, sir,” he said, at last, “I guess it was him all right.”

“I didn’t ask you as to his identity—”

“I know you didn’t, sir, but that’s what you been drivin’ at all along.”

“How do you know that? Unless you have some doubt as to the identity of that man you saw on the porch, and talked with?”

“Him? Oh, that was Mr. Vane. Haven’t I said so all the time?”

“Then whose identity are you doubtful of?”

“Nobody as I know, sir. You’re the one as is questionin’ identities.”

“Look here, Hake,” and Doctor Burton spoke sternly, “can you swear that the man in the tan colored silk gown, with the hood pulled up, was positively Mr. Vane? Can you swear that on oath?”

Hake pondered. “Well, sir,” he said, at last, “if you put it that way, I don’t like to be so darned positive.”

“What!” and Rowland stared at him, “you’ve been perjuring yourself all this time?”

“No, sir, I ain’t. But you gentlemen never put it quite that way before. Swearing on your oath, you know,—that’s some serious.”

“It is, Hake, and you’d better remember it. Are you sure now, that you can swear the man on the porch was not Mr. Vane?”

“No, sir, I can’t swear to that, nuther. You see,—”

“Let me help you out, Hake,” and Tony Meade gave a little smile. “You see, Mr. Rowland, it was Fourth of July, and below stairs, it was—well, sort of ‘merry in hall, when beards wagged all.’ You get me?”

“Yes, Mr. Meade. Is that it, Hake? Were you under the influence of—”

“Oh, no, sir! Oh, no! We had had a sort of celebration of Independence Day, but—why, Hopton will tell you it didn’t amount to shucks, sir,—not to shucks!”

“Sit down, Hake. And keep quiet. Hopton, send for Barclay.”

Barclay was duly produced, and Stone spoke to her first.

“Barclay,” he said, smiling at the pretty, frightened girl, “You and I planned to have a little confab. We’ll have it now, instead. Tell us all what is that bit of information you’ve been saving up for us.”

Barclay bridled. She was not at all averse to the limelight, but she was not sure what she had to say would be welcomed by her mistress. Mrs. Vane was a lovely lady, but you never could tell for sure, what she was going to approve. However, there was no sense in trying to hoodwink that Mr. Stone, so Barclay spoke out.

“It was just only what Hake’s been a saying. I was in the hall when he came outa Mr. Vane’s porch place, and he said, that Mr. Vane was—was mighty queer.”

“Go on, Barclay,” directed the inexorable Stone, “what else did he say? Tell the truth, now, or you’ll have much to regret.”

“He—he said,—” the girl fingered her dainty black silk apron, and then burst out, explosively, “he said, he didn’t believe it was Mr. Vane.”

“Rubbish!” exclaimed Dr Burton, thoroughly angry at such idiocy, “nonsense! If it wasn’t Mr. Vane, who was it? And where was Mr. Vane? And how did he get back to his office and get murdered in the next half hour or so? And why would anyone don Mr. Vane’s robe and hood? And what did Mr. Vane put on in place of them? These questions are unanswerable. It is my opinion that these two servants like to be prominent in this matter, and have exaggerated, if not made up entirely, this story of Vane’s strange behavior. If Hake appeared before his master in an inebriated condition, which, from his own story it would seem he did do, it is not surprising that Mr. Vane reproved him, and quite possibly jumped up from his chair to be more emphatic.”

“Let them go,” urged Katherine’s soft voice, which seemed to have a faint chuckle in it, as she watched the two crestfallen witnesses leave the room after the Examiner’s nod.

“They’re no murderers,” Trevor Cameron said, “they’re two superior-complex critters, who aimed to be made much of, and it would not do, the game fell through. However, there’s Stone’s eyelash. I’m told Barclay wears that imported kind.”

“She wears some of mine,” Katherine said, “and of course, they’re imported.”

“I’ll show you some imported ones,” said Stone, as he rose and walked lazily across the room. “Shut your eyes, Tony.”

As he spoke, he gently but quickly pulled off Meade’s pale amber spectacles, and taking the tiny atomizer from his pocket, he squeezed it toward the secretary’s eyes.

Meade gave a cry, and Rowland sprang forward, to help.

“Keep quiet,” said Cameron, grabbing the Inspector’s arm. “Stone knows what he’s about.”

The “healing lotion” was weaker than when he used it before, but just as efficacious. And even before Meade could grasp for his own handkerchief Stone had produced a sterilized clean one, and applied it to Meade’s smarting eyes.

“Drastic work, Mr. Stone,” said Dr Burton with grave disapproval in his tone.

“Drastic, yes, but necessary,” Stone said, coolly. “Now, look here, Doctor Burton,” he spread open his handkerchief on a table, and picked up a reading glass. “What are these?”

“Eyelashes!” exclaimed the Examiner, in an awed voice. “From Mr. Meade’s eyes?”

“Exactly,” agreed Stone. “Merely to prove that not all the artificial eyelashes in the world are worn by women.”

“Look up here, Meade,” and Dr Burton stared at the man.

Antony Meade showed no trace of fear or even of embarrassment.

“Yes, I am obliged to wear them,” he said, “and why Mr. Stone chose to attack me so brutally, I do not know. My eye was injured, and I was forced to undergo plastic surgery. This caused the destruction of the follicles of the eyelashes for about a half inch distance of the eyelid. As you see, it gives a most unsightly effect, and I cannot tell why I should be blamed for wearing artificial lashes to restore my normal appearance. The glasses are of plain glass, merely to protect the lashes, which are greatly endangered by my work among the books. This unwarranted attack by Mr. Stone, I resent not only for the pain he has caused me, but because it implies his disbelief in my integrity.”

“Had I not done this to-night,” Stone remarked, carelessly, “I could not have done it at all. You intended leaving to-night,—”

Something like a long, black whirlwind flew across the room, and took harbor in Meade’s none too willingly outstretched arms.

It was Katherine, and she cried out hysterically; “Indeed, he’s not going away to-night, or any other night! Tony and I are engaged.”

Perhaps only Fleming Stone noticed the amazed expression on Meade’s face at this moment. Everybody else was staring at Katherine, who stood like a statue of Victory, and then drooped her head on Antony Meade’s breast, and he had to clasp her to him, or let her fall.


Chapter 18

“Katherine!” Aunt Randy fairly screamed; “What are you doing? What do you mean?”

Katherine raised her face from Meade’s shoulder, “We’re engaged; aren’t we, Tony?”

“Y-Yes,” he said, a bit unenthusiastically. “Yes— of course.”

“Then that calls for a celebration!” cried Trevor Cameron.

“Hush!” said Aunt Randy. “Katherine, I am ashamed of you. What do you mean by such wickedness? Engaged, and your husband scarce cold in his grave!”

“Oh, we’re not going to be married just yet,” Katherine said, smiling coyly at Meade, “but we’re betrothed, and after a time we’ll be married.”

“I think it’s awful,” declared Sally; “surely you can’t mean it!”

“Be quiet, miss,” Katherine frowned at the girl. “You’ve no grief at your father’s death, either.”

“He wasn’t my father,” Sally returned; “but he was your husband.”

Cameron pushed the bell and Hopton appeared.

“Bring some wet stuff, Hopton,” he said; “any kind, and especially champagne.”

Hopton went on his errand, and Fleming Stone and Cameron slipped from the room. Up to Cameron’s room they went, and this time Stone downed a brimming tumbler of rye whisky, straight.

“Don’t see how you can do it,” and Cameron watched him admiringly.

“It will be a show,” declared Stone, standing very still for a moment.

The two men entered the library by different doors, and Cameron went to the small table, where Tony Meade was already mixing drinks.

Stone sat down by Doctor Burton, saying, in a low voice, “Keep your eyes open.”

Then he called out, “Fix me an easy one, Tony. Or you, Murrell, or anybody.” And Meade, his missing eyelashes almost concealed by his pale amber glasses, turned to carry out Stone’s orders.

“You’ve made me a lot of trouble, Mr. Stone, but I’ll be good to you. I suppose you’re going to make out that it was one of my lashes found on Wiley Vane’s cheek.”

“Just exactly my intention, Mr. Meade. Well, give me my drink yourself, and we’ll let bygones be bygones.”

“All right, you’re a good sort. Here you are, I know your taste.”

He carried a glass across the room and gave it to Stone. Few in the room had heard the conversation, but the police, Cameron and Rose had been deeply interested in it.

Stone took the glass, sipped it at first, and then drank most of it down. Meade still stood beside him, looking fascinated.

“What’s the matter, Meade?” said Cameron. “Hypnotized?”

“Er—oh,—no, of course not! What do you mean?”

“Why, you stand there staring at Mr. Stone, as if—”

He didn’t complete the sentence, for Stone suddenly gave a spasmodic jerk, and then fell back in his chair with closed eyes. Almost immediately he pulled himself upright, stared round the room, and then gave another of those convulsive shudders, his arms and legs shooting out and drawing back in horrible contortions.

At the sight, Antony Meade stared, and turned back to the table to get something to calm his own nerves.

Already Doctor Burton had gone to Stone, and was about to give him some medicine, when the detective sat up, smiled a little, and said, “All right, Doc, I don’t want any of your dope. You see, I’ve been poisoned with strychnine, but it’s having no effect on me. Those spasms I showed off, were fancy work, I did ’em on purpose. Now, who put strychnine in my highball?”

“Nobody,” said Murrell. “If there’d been strychnine in it you wouldn’t be sitting up there talking!”

“All the same, there was strychnine in it, and a good bit of it, too. Here’s the glass.”

He picked it up from the table at his side, and handed it to Dr Burton, who sniffed at it, and said; “Strychnine it is, sure as fate!”

Cameron took it, smelled and tasted it, and declared, “Of course it is! You’ve no business to be alive, Stone!”

“Well, I am alive, and I’ve had enough of this backing and filling. This is the second attempt that has been made to kill me by poison, and unless the one who did it cares to say so, I shall tell his name myself.”

“Perhaps,” Inspector Rowland said, looking interested, “first, you’d better explain how you took two doses of poison and it had, it would seem, no effect on you.”

“I will,” said Stone, quietly. “I thought you would know yourself, I’m sure Dr Burton knows, and I have told Cameron, but I’ll tell you. It has very recently come to the knowledge of some of the medical profession, that if a man drink a full glass of strong spirits, neat, just before taking what is called a fatal dose of strychnine, the poison will have no effect on him.”

“I don’t believe that!” and Rowland looked belligerent. “It isn’t true, it can’t be true, is it, Burton?”

“What about two proofs by Mr. Stone?” was the retort.

“You see, Inspector,” Stone said, “it is not generally known to be the truth, but very soon now, it will be revealed in the medical journals and all may read it.* It will be a jolt to the profession, but nevertheless, they will recognize it as truth as soon as the matter is duly set forth. I do not know all the particulars, but my doctor in New York explained it to me and I have such confidence in his skill and wisdom that I dared make the experiment on his assurance. Twice has someone been so anxious to be rid of me, that poison was put in my drink. Each time I was on to the enemy, knew it was to be done, and frustrated it by drinking a tumbler full of whisky beforehand. I am not a drinking man, and I didn’t especially care for the program, but it had to be carried through, so I went ahead.”


“If you say all that, and if Dr Burton and Dr Cameron agree, who am I to raise objections?” Rowland said. “Now, who is it among us who is so anxious to be rid of you?”

“Naturally, the murderer of Wiley Vane—and,— Dolly Day.”

“Are they present in this room?”

“Don’t say they, say he. Only one person is responsible for those two murders, and he is a man. I am engaged here, to discover who it is, and I have done so, to my own knowledge and belief, but his confession would, of course, be in his favor.”

For a time nobody spoke.

Katherine, now seated on a couch beside Meade, still clung to him, though it was apparent to all that he tried to push her away.

At last Meade spoke.

“From the way some of this group are looking at me,” he said, “I can’t help a consciousness that they think I am the criminal. This, in itself does not trouble me, knowing, as I do, my own innocence. But, circumstances have been and are against me, and perhaps I’d better explain a little. As most of you know, Gregory Murrell is really the murderer of Mr. Vane. In his fright and fear of discovery, he has cleverly built up a case against me. This case, if properly handled, would break down in a moment, but Murrell, as a friend and visitor of the family gains credence which a mere secretary cannot hope to attain.”

“Never mind, dearest, you have won me,” whispered Katherine, in a low but audible tone.

Meade gave her no direct reply, but he drew her closer to him, with a caress and a glance of affection.

“To prove this, I can tell you,” Meade went on, “that on both these occasions Mr. Stone speaks of, the strychnine was put in his glass by Murrell, and if anyone looks in his pocket now, he will find a small parcel of the drug.”

“I’ll look myself,” said Murrell, coolly, felt in his pocket and drew forth a small box containing tiny tablets, which Cameron and Burton at once declared were strychnine.

“But,” Murrell continued, “I didn’t place them there. That box was planted on me by the man who mixed the poison in Mr. Stone’s drink. Find him and you have your murderer.”

“Then, Mr. Murrell,” said Stone, “you do not confess to the murder of Mr. Vane?”

“Certainly not, since I am innocent thereof.”

“Nor do you confess to it, Mr. Meade?”

“Certainly not, since I am innocent thereof. That’s a fine line, Murrell, I must remember it for future use.”

“Don’t trouble,” Stone said, scathingly, “you are not likely to need it. Well, then, Mr. Meade, since you proclaim yourself innocent, you’ll have no objection to answering a few questions!”

“Not in the least. Go to it.”

“I will. To being with I have learned it was your face on the picture that was cut from that photograph that Dolly Day had.”

“Well, what of it?”

“Only that you denied all knowledge of who it was. But while the neck and shoulders did look like Mr. Vane’s they were also like those of The Laughing Cavalier, the picture by Franz Hals. Consequently they were like yours, as it has often been remarked how much you are like that picture, and Mr. Vane was too.”

“Well, to repeat, what of it?”

“Only this; you denied knowledge of the photograph, when it was your own. You had it taken for Dolly Day, had the substitute face arranged, that she might keep your face hidden. Proving that you and Miss Day were far more intimate than you would have us believe.”

“She was a beauty!” murmured Meade, and Katherine looked at him reproachfully.

“You gave her, too,” Stone went on, remorselessly, “your box of eyelashes,—why did you do that?”

“She wanted ’em,” said Meade, easily. “So I let her have ’em. She couldn’t get that kind.”

“You had them yourself, for a perfectly legitimate purpose. Why did you not state frankly your use of artificial lashes, and your reason for it?”

“And have you fellows pounce on me as the murderer, when I was an innocent man?”

“Finding an eyelash on Mr. Vane’s cheek doesn’t proclaim you a wrong-doer, but keeping still about it does.”

“Is that so?”

“It is. And then you gave the box to Miss Day, so it wouldn’t incriminate you.”

“She didn’t mind.”

“She wanted it, because she wanted those imported lashes. You gave it to her to get rid of it.”

“How do you know so much?”

Antony Meade had turned white and was nervously twirling his fingers.

He had moved farther away from Katherine, on the couch, and as he stared through his glasses, his missing lashes gave him a weird look.

“You don’t know anything!” he said, in a low, tense voice. “You’re making this stuff all up!”

“Hardly,” and Stone smiled. “You fooled me a long time with those eyelashes. I admit it didn’t occur to me that a man could use them, unless some foppish, dandified person, which you certainly are not. I never thought of your needing them. If you had said frankly why you had to use them, you would have been let alone, and perhaps would have put your plans over.”

“I had no plans to put over, Mr. Stone. As I say, you are romancing. None of this fairy tale is true, you can prove nothing.”

“That’s your mistake, Meade,” Stone looked at him rather sorrowfully. “You are like the ostrich, you think you hide your intentions, when you don’t at all.”

“Don’t talk rubbish,” Meade began to get angry. “I suppose you have forgotten that I was on the train to New York when Mr. Vane was killed.”

“I knew you’d finally bank on that alibi. I don’t blame you, it’s a clever one. But it won’t do. It clears you apparently only. For you murdered Wiley Vane, not at six-thirty, or six-forty-five, but at five o’clock or shortly after, when he called you up to his rooms for conference.”

“What rubbish! That statement is impossible! I came down from that conference and worked in my office after that. Also Mr. Vane talked on the telephone to me an hour after that. Dolly witnessed that, before she died.”

“No, Mr. Meade, Mr. Vane did not talk to you during that telephone conversation. It was a monologue. You talked, but nobody answered you. You pretended Mr. Vane answered, and pretended to hear him, but he was not talking to you,—he was dead.”

Katherine gave a little scream, and moved farther away from Meade.

“If Miss Day supposed Mr. Vane was talking to you, she did not then know of his death, but I am strongly of the opinion that she did know that, and did know that you were holding a one-sided conversation.”

“You’re mistaken, as usual, Mr. Stone. Mr. Vane was alive, and talking to me, as I said. Also, you’ve forgotten that Mr. Vane called for Prout after I left him, and Hake was sent instead. Mr. Vane was not dead when Hake talked to him and took orders about his dinner. I was downstairs again then.”

“No, Mr. Meade, you were not. Nor did Hake talk to Mr. Vane on the screened porch at all! He talked to you, disguised as Mr. Vane, and you had already killed Mr. Vane. You had donned his tan silk gown, had pulled the hood up over your head, stuck on a mustache and Imperial, and with Hake in the slightly befuddled condition that he was, he took you for Mr. Vane. Afterward, he expressed doubts that the man he talked to was Mr. Vane, and I gathered the truth when he said that the man jumped up quickly from his chair. We all know Mr. Vane could not do that, and that speech of Hake’s put me on the right track.”

“Damn Hake,” remarked Antony Meade, dispassionately. “Looks like you’d got me, Stone. That Hake has been my undoing. Why did I ever trust him? He’s drunk half the time and half-witted all the time.”

“Mr. Meade,” said Doctor Burton, “then you admit all the charges Mr. Stone has brought against you? You killed a good and kind employer, and a young girl, who was innocent, save that, presumably, she knew too much about you.”

“I’ll say she did! I was a worse fool to let Dolly in than I was to trust Hake. Well, I’ve sure made a mess of it, and I suppose I might as well disperse like a rebel and lay down my arms.”

“I’ll ask you not to treat the matter humorously, if you please. Do you want to make a confession?”

“Might as well. The jig is up, the goose is cooked, and my air castle is in ruins. Want to hear the whole story?”

“Yes, but briefly and seriously. Kindly refrain from your would-be witticisms.”

“And tell the truth,” added Fleming Stone, “for I have you pretty well checked up.”

“Well, I’ll just tell you how the thing started, ’cause that is really interesting. Long ago when I was a mere lad, I came to the conclusion that a glorious crime could be committed by going about it the right way. And my brilliant idea was to get employed by a man who looked like myself. I hunted about a good while, and I had some short term positions and then I ran across Wiley Vane. He looked a lot like me, he was said to be like Hals’ Cavalier, and at college the chaps had always said that of me. So I wangled the job of secretary to Mr. Vane, and gosh, how I loved it! You brainless chaps, I mean without bookish brains, can never know the joys of a librarian among worthwhile books. And is the Vane library worthwhile? I’ll say it is!

“Now the rest of my great plan was simple. It was merely to put the owner of the books out of existence, marry his widow, thereby getting his wealth and his library, and then,—get rid of her. All I wanted was the books and solitude. My disinclination toward social doings was all real, not feigned. But I admit when Dolly Day sailed into the game, I fell. I would have killed the whole world for her. I pretended otherwise, but—Dolly,—oh, my! However, it was not to be. Dolly, somehow caught on to my wicked ways, and I suppose I babbled too much, anyhow she knew too much to remain on the same earth with me, and she had to go. Poor little thing. I hated to do it, but it was her life or mine.”

“How did you manage it?” asked Dr Burton, looking at Meade as he might at a poisonous snake.

“Too easy. I went to my office for a book,—Paradise Lost, it was,—and there she sat, typing. She didn’t look up, if she had I couldn’t have done it,—I just picked a dagger off the wall, put my hand over her mouth and stabbed her. Calm and collected,—I suppose I’m a homicidal maniac, or, maybe not, anyway, I went back to the crowd as if nothing had happened.

“What followed, you all know. Well, then, to carry out my program, I had to marry Mrs. Vane, and afterward, put her out of the way. I’m not sure I could have brought myself to do harm to her,—but I don’t know.”

“I don’t think you need tell us any more of your bestial plans,” said Dr Burton. “You will now answer a few questions, and then submit to arrest. The rare books that were found by Mr. Stone, in Miss Day’s home, were given her by you?”

“Well, yes, they were.”

“What for?”

“You wouldn’t let me tell the rest of my plan. But you can figure it out for yourself. If I had married Katherine, and so had become owner of Vane’s library and fortune, wouldn’t I rather have a pretty young wife like Dolly than—” he gave Katherine an appraising look.

“Leave this house!” she screamed rising. “I never supposed such a monster existed on this earth! Go, at once!”

“There, there, Mrs. Vane,” said the Inspector, soothingly. “Perhaps you and the other ladies better go to your rooms. We must get some more information from Mr. Meade, but the ordeal will soon be over, and then you need never see him again.”

Aunt Randy and the two girls went away, but Katherine, seated now by Gregory Murrell, stayed on.

“Were you not afraid you’d be discovered as the author of the crime?” Burton went on.

“No, I took you fellows for a lot of boobs. That was my mistake. And then I had hard luck. I thought they’d suspect everybody in the house. Everybody had a motive. Miss Randy wanted to build her house. Katherine was plumb fed up with Wiley. Lots of people were awaiting legacies, and even the girls were—well, they were all right. But I thought such a lot of suspects would make such a mix-up, that I’d slip out of it scot free. And odds and ends of things kept turning up.

“Like Rose stealing the diamond trinket, and all that eyelash business. And other things that didn’t belong to the affair at all. It amused me. And nobody would ever have dreamed of its being me if that old Stone man hadn’t butted in. Oh I acknowledge his smartness, I take off my hat to him. I don’t believe I could have done better myself, if I’d been the detective and he the criminal.”

“And just why did you kill Miss Day?” pursued Burton.

“Well, between Stone and the rest of you, and her own natural smartness, Dolly caught on to a lot about me that I didn’t want her to know. But know it she did, and she was just ready to spill the whole business. So, she had to go, and—what a pity!”

“Now, the pistol in the cairn?”

“Oh, I put it there, of course. Early the morning after the Fourth of July. I never dreamed Smarty Stone would be on to that! I certainly have to hand it to him! And when we all went out and had the cairn torn down, he knew what was coming as well as I did.

“You see, what helped me a lot, was the mess you all made of the time. You medical chaps mulled over the rigor mortis and all that, none of you realizing that a hot day and vigorous exercise made a difference about that troublesome rigor mortis. Except Stone. He said “Very strenuous tennis?” and I knew what he was driving at. I know a bit about physiology myself—

“Oh, well, as Gilbert sang;

‘But it would not do,
The scheme fell through,’

and now I suppose I have to face the consequences.”

“That’s what you have to do,” said Fleming Stone. “I’m sorry for you, Meade, but I hope that as long as I live my efforts may be devoted to frustrating schemes like yours.”


Project Gutenberg Australia