an ebook published by Project Gutenberg Australia

Title: All at Sea
Author: Carolyn Wells
eBook No.: 2300961h.html
Language: English
Date first posted: 2023
Most recent update: 2023

This eBook was produced by: Walter Moore

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All at Sea

Carolyn Wells



Chapter 1. - The Bathers
Chapter 2. - The Man Who Went Under
Chapter 3. - A Few Queries
Chapter 4. - How It Happened
Chapter 5. - Anastasia Arrives
Chapter 6. - What The People Knew
Chapter 7. - Antique Weapons
Chapter 8. - Miss Folsom’s Detective
Chapter 9. - Croydon Sears
Chapter 10. - French Dolls
Chapter 11. - The Memorandum Book
Chapter 12. - Tite Riggs
Chapter 13. - Father and Son
Chapter 14. - Sears Calls Help
Chapter 15. - A Conference
Chapter 16. - All at Sea
Chapter 17. - As to Carmelita
Chapter 18. - The Criminal Found


Chapter 1
The Bathers

Of all scenes of sheer gaiety, of relaxed conventionality, of absolute and utter freedom from responsibility, care or trouble, there is no spot on land or sea to compare with an ocean bathing beach.

The wine-dark sea may stretch its dangerous depths to the far horizon in one direction, the land, with its seething spots of civilization may yawn with equal dangers on the other side, but at the joining, the foam-fringed bit of No Man’s Land between earth and water, all is merriment and abandon.

The Lotus Eaters were a serious-minded lot compared to the crowds that throng the beach, on each side of that last lacy rim of salt water that traces itself along the sand.

Bars are let down, restraint flies, caste is forgotten, and high and low, good and bad, real and imitation are made free and equal by the one touch of salt water that makes the whole world kin.

Among the beaches best adapted for sea dipping are those on the coast of New Jersey, and of those, one of the finest is the great resort called Ocean Town.

Its habitues contend that nowhere else does the lion-like surf roar as gently as a sucking dove, as gently as any nightingale; that nowhere else is the temperature of the water always as it should be, and the adjustment of the sun’s rays a counsel of perfection.

Year after year, the lovers of the place return with joy and leave with regret.

July opened auspiciously. Everything was in readiness for an enormous celebration of the national holiday, and those who could do so, came a few days ahead of the crowds, to get, as it were, a running start.

The noonday sun shone down on hundreds of human hands in long straight rows, human fists, rather, as each tightly clasped itself round the hard, thick rope that shot its way far out into the ocean.

With many the sea bath consisted in a continuous frantic clutch on this comforting and comfortable lifeline, while others, more adventurous spirits, dared let go, and buffet the spent waves near the shore.

Others still, and these were the ones that turned grey the hair of the Life Guards, were possessed to swim out far beyond their depths, far, even beyond all bounds of wisdom or safety. But the lure of the surf is a subtle spell and its danger seems negligible when the great waves call.

On the other side of the last lace-edged frill of the combers, the beach groups sat about in utter bliss of contentment.

Here, a family from an inner county of the state; there a small crowd from the Middle West; yonder a gay bunch from New York City itself.

One could distinguish them, most often, from their costumes, especially those of the women.

A quiet, sophisticated-looking group of five consisted of three men, a young woman and a girl.

The girl wore a modish swimming suit of wool jersey, flowered in quiet colors, with a rubberized silk bathing cap and hemp-soled sandals.

Her lithe eagerness proclaimed her a swimmer, and she was manifestly impatient to start.

The other woman, only slightly older, was garbed in an elaborate bathing costume of flowered crepe de Chine, with a coquettish beret that fell over to one side of her curly bobbed hair. Clearly, she had no intention of dampening her newly marcelled locks. Her frock was ruffled and sashed, and a smart beach cape of flowered silk fell from her shoulders.

Her lovely face was alight with fun, her eyes dancing with laughter, when suddenly catching sight of some men and women approaching, she gave a stifled, startled exclamation, and swung the gay parasol she was holding round till it shielded her face.

“What’s the matter, Maddy?” cried the girl by her side; “coy?”

“Sun in my eyes,” was the reply, but when the parasol was again pushed aside, the dark eyes, with their heavy brows, lacked all hint of laughter, and the red lips paled beneath their red, and called for a fresh application from the enamelled vanity case she carried.

The oldest of the three men rose and shook himself like a big dog.

“Come on, people,” he said; “what are we waiting for? I suppose, Robin, you and Angelica will take your life in your hands, as usual—”

“Yes, rather,” and the girl in the swimming suit scrambled to her feet. “Today, we’re going way— way out—farther than ever before.”

“Fools!” growled the older man. “I wouldn’t mind, only it’s so expensive to subsidize a Guard to pay exclusive attentions to you two idiots. Well, go to it.”

They all rose then, the beautiful Madeline Barron, in her French costume, and her adoring husband, Ned Barron, the Copper King.

The pretty girl, Angelica Fair, was her friend and guest, and the other two, father and son, were Croydon Sears and his boy, Robin.

But, about to start, Madeline was delayed by the appearance of her three-year-old daughter, with her nurse.

The baby was in bathing rompers and gleeful at the prospect of going in paddling. Both parents stopped and sat down on the sand again.

“Go ahead, you people,” Barron sang out. “We’ll come along in a minute. We want to play with Popsy.”

So the others went on, Robin and Angelica, who were expert swimmers, to brave the waves out to a daring distance, and Croydon Sears to stand at the rope and jump up and down until the Barrons joined him.

Another group on the beach that morning was keyed to a somewhat different pitch.

The dominating spirit was Carmelita Valdon, a beauty as exotic and luring as her name.

Though not quite bizarre, her beach pajamas were distinctly Parisian and a step or two ahead of American fashions.

But then Carmelita was a step or two ahead of most things and most people, and her Oriental costume and Japanese parasol made a picture that was as attractive as it was colorful.

Her woman companion made a perfect foil, for Mrs. Barnaby was fair, fat and forty, and dressed the part.

Also she was of great importance socially and possessed of a sharp tongue, so her favorites fawned on her, while her enemies gave her a wide berth.

“Duchess,” said Carmelita, in those languid accents of hers, “aren’t you going in this morning?”

“Of course,” returned Mrs. Barnaby, who bore the noble nickname, “shall we toddle now?”

“No hurry,” put in Garrett Folsom, “I only came yesterday, you know. I want to look about a few minutes.”

He was a big man, and his bathing costume of worsted shirt and trunks was becoming to him. The color was a silver-grey, with three black stripes across the chest, and a white belt with black stripes.

Perhaps fifty, his hair was grey at the temples, but his face was unlined and his eyes clear and bright.

Deep-set, dark eyes they were, that had looked upon much of this world, for better and for worse, and whose shrewd appraisals were rarely at fault.

Now, he was observing the beach crowd, the young girls and women in their alluring costumes and the men in their scarcely scantier garb.

“The bathing suits grow prettier every year,” he said, with an appreciative glance at the passing throng, and then at the two women in his own party.

“Oh, come on,” said Neville, the other member of their quartette, “you can look at them in the shop windows on the Boardwalk later. I assure you, Garry, they have some stunning rigs on show.”

“But perhaps it isn’t only the garment that pleases the eye of Mr. Folsom,” Carmelita Valdon suggested, wishing now she had worn a more decollete effect than her chic pajama suit.

“Everything pleases me,” he declared, smilingly, and rose, stretching himself luxuriously as he feasted his eyes on the gorgeous scene. “I haven’t been down here for three years, and the place is renewing its charm for me. I always did revel in it. I only wish I could swim in the surf. Look at those chaps way out beyond the breakers! That’s the stuff.”

“Don’t you swim?” asked the Duchess. “I’m glad, for then you’ll stay with us. I hate men who get me clutched to the rope and then say ‘Excuse me a moment,’ and next thing you know they’re out beyond the three-mile limit!”

“Nothing like that!” Folsom smiled at her. “I can swim all day in still water, but not in the surf. Probably could, after a little practice—”

“Don’t practise, stay with us,” smiled Mrs. Valdon, and Folsom agreed to do so.

So the four of them grasped the rope, and, like puppets on a string, jumped up and down, sprang at the oncoming waves, choked and laughed as the salt water dashed over them and behaved generally like irresponsible children in a big bathtub.

Growing braver, they now and then let go the rope, only to grasp at it again as a great roller came tumbling in.

Now and then they were knocked down, and scrambling up, with or without help, again found a place in the line.

Sometimes they met friends, and essayed greetings, but were usually interrupted by the advent of a wave.

Roger Neville, unable to resist the call of the surf, swam away, took an incoming breaker head on, and came up smiling on top of it.

“Get into the game, Garry,” he called out. “It’s great, really, and there’s almost no undertow today. If you’re carried off there are scores of Life Guards about, who’ll pick you up.”

“Oh, I’m not exactly timid!” returned Folsom, scoffingly, as Neville came near enough to hear him. “But I promised these ladies I’d stand by—”

“You did so!” insisted Carmelita, who stood next to him, and who laid a detaining hand on his own, as it grasped the rope next to hers. “If you want to swim, choose some other time. Just now you are a squire of dames. Isn’t he, Duchess?”

“You bet he is!” exclaimed Mrs. Barnaby, wiping salt water out of her eyes with the back of one hand, while hanging on to the rope with the other. “If he deserts us, me for the dry land! I know I’m going to be swept out to sea by this next wave. Oh, mercy! here it comes! It’s like a wall of water!”

It was a wall of water, and it engulfed the party as well as hundreds of other bathers near them. But after its passing, all heads bobbed up from the inundation and laughing faces proved the enjoyment of the deluge.

The Duchess coughed and sputtered, but gamely held her ground.

Carmelita took advantage of her friend’s bewilderment to slip from her place on the rope, and exchange with the Duchess, thus bringing herself next to Folsom, a position she had coveted from the first.

“How’s Mrs. Barnaby? She all right?” Folsom asked, bending over to see the lady in question.

“All right, yes!” growled the Duchess, “but that snipjack slid into my place! Now I shall be drowned, I’m sure!”

But her words were lost in the roar of another approaching wave, and she gave over talking and devoted all her attention to preserving her equilibrium, and keeping her hold on the rope.

Far out, beyond the rough and tumble of the breakers, the two expert swimmers sat on an anchored raft.

“You’re a marvel, Robin,” the girl said; “I’m glad fate sent me a life-mate who loves swimming. I believe you could swim all the way across!”

“Probably not,” returned Robin Sears, modestly. “But I’d get as far as the next fellow, I’ll bet on that! And, too, Angel, endurance isn’t the only test.”

“No, but you’d pass all the rest, too. You can swim every way, can’t you?”

“Of course. Sideways, on my back, under water, any old way. You’re a bit of a wonder yourself, you know. For a girl—”

“Oh, yes, for a girl, I’m all right. Not every girl could get out here with you. But I can’t do any trick swimming.”

“You can learn. I’ll teach you. But no more today. You’re a bit winded, and we must be getting back, or we’ll be late for luncheon.

Diving gracefully, Angelica came up beside Robin, and with long capable strokes they made for the shore.

“There they are,—I see Maddy’s cap!” the girl cried as they came nearer the lines of rope clingers. “Let’s go there.”

Assisted by a friendly wave, they reached their goal and scrambled to their feet, seeking a vacant space on the rope. But it was crowded, so they laughingly moved over toward the next rope.

“Better go in now,” Ned Barron called to them, and a wave of her hand told him that Angelica had heard and acquiesced.

“Wonderful swimmers, your two young friends,” said a voice next him, and Barron turned to see a stranger smiling at him.

“Yes,” he replied, a little curtly, for he had a deeply rooted aversion to making friends in the ocean.

But the friendly stranger wouldn’t accept rebuff, and went on, affably:

“Haven’t been here for some years. Quite a lot of change. Mostly in the women’s bathing suits,— for the better, of course.”

The speech grated on Ned Barron’s taste, but the voice was cultured and the man’s appearance both civil and correct.

A clubman and a gay one, Barron sized him up at once, but not a bounder.

“From the West?” he said, with more perspicacity than tact.

“Yep. That is, Chicago. You alone?”

As he spoke, he leaned forward to see Barron’s next neighbor. It was his wife, Madeline, and Ned leaned his own big body forward to intercept the stranger’s regard.

“No, not alone, my wife is with me,” he said, and perhaps no such short sentence ever carried greater weight of advice.

The curtness of the speech, combined with a direct glance straight into the other man’s eyes, carried understanding, challenge and a note of warning that was unmistakable and definite. Only a dumb brain would have failed to grasp Ned Barron’s intent, and Garrett Folsom’s brain was anything but dumb.

“Where’s Roger?” he asked, turning back to his own party, which was at his right hand.

“There he is,” and Carmelita Valdon glanced admiringly at Neville, swimming with long, clean strokes toward them. “I know you’re just dying to swim away, Mr. Folsom. Go ahead, if you like. I’ll stand guard over the Duchess.”

A smile of gratitude thanked her for this, and Folsom let go the rope and swam into an oncoming wave.

But he quickly returned.

“It’s too hard on me,” he exclaimed, laughing, while he puffed and panted for breath. “I must get used to it by degrees. I’m not as well in condition as I ought to be.”

She had saved his place on the rope for him, and he slipped in between her and Barron again.

“Who’s this chap on my left?” he said to her. “Do you know?”

“I know him slightly, yes. He’s a Mr. Barron, from New York, I think,—or near New York. Why?”

“No reason at all. Idle curiosity. I thought I saw him at our hotel last evening.”

“Yes, they’re staying there. A party of several. Don’t you think we’d better be getting along home now? I’ve had about enough.”

“Yes, let’s collect Neville and get out. Whoo-oo, Roger!”

But no one responded to his summons, and Mrs. Barnaby began to fret.

“Let’s go on out, anyway,” she said. “That’s Roger all over. He always runs clear off, just when we want him most. Come, Mr. Folsom, help me to shore. I’ll have to let go the rope, it’s so full of bathers this morning. I never saw such a crowd on this beach before!”

“Oh, yes,” Carmelita said, “often and often. But these days just before Fourth of July bring extra hordes of people.”

“Wonderful sight!” and once more Garrett Folsom gave himself over to admiring it. “I’ve bathed on nearly every beach in Europe, but none of them can touch this for magnitude.”

“Not at all exclusive, though,” and the Duchess gave a fastidious little sniff. “All sorts and conditions of men, I call it.”

“That’s part of its charm,” laughed Folsom. “I like to rub shoulders with the proletariat now and then. Especially when I can’t tell them from the patricians! And who can, in the ocean?”

Ocean Town was not exclusive. It held out welcoming arms to anybody and everybody who could pay its prices and would behave properly.

But its very indiscrimination gave it a delightful air of unbounded hospitality and democracy.

And this atmosphere made for welcome, not only to those who were part of it, but to thoughtful onlookers of the scene who were in it but not of it.

As a spectacle, as an enigma, it invited attention, and with something of the lure of a cross-word puzzle, it intrigued the imagination of those who saw it as a form of mental entertainment.

One man in particular, never tired of watching the ocean show from the coign of vantage which was his chosen resting spot.

The great Hotel Majusaca had, in common with its neighboring hostelries, a large deck, as it was called, the same being an enormous veranda or platform extending partly out over the Boardwalk and providing an ideal lounging place as well as giving a perfect view of the kaleidoscopic scenes on land and sea immediately beneath.

Titus Riggs, known to all his own world as Tite, spent his mornings here, in one of the great rockers provided for indolent guests, and let his gaze wander idly over the bathers and land-lubbers in turn.

Though not at all a misanthrope or a hermit, he was not a sociable sort, and seldom made new friends.

His vocation was that of an architect, his avocation to view quietly and unostentatiously his fellow men.

For a holiday, he chose to come down to Ocean Town, where the architecture was among the worst on earth.

It helped him, he said, to get away from shop, shop talk and shop thought.

So day in and day out, Riggs forgot plans and blue prints and revelled in imagination and speculation concerning the crowds or individuals who caught his eye or held his attention.

On this Saturday morning, filled with sheer joy because of the blue of the sky and the fresh transparency of the air, Riggs sat in his great rocker, slumped down in a somewhat ungainly heap, and watched the bathers and the Boardwalkers alternately.

Later on, he would go for a ride in the rolling chairs. After that he would play a round of golf, and, with suitable intervals of refreshment, would then return to his rocker and slump again to pleased consideration of the absorbing scene.

Being observant and of a retentive memory, Riggs usually could recognize in the ocean or on the Boardwalk those who were guests of the same hotel as himself.

Perhaps not the very largest in Ocean Town, the Majusaca was one of the best hotels, and large enough to provide every newest comfort or convenience for its favored guests. Its great reception hall was always filled with choicest flowers and plants, its dances of an evening showed most elaborate costumes and marvellous jewels, and its cuisine was conceded to be the finest on the beach.

The guests comprised the best and richest people of the country, and if those adjectives are not synonymous, the clientele of the Majusaca made them seem so.

Wherefore, as might be expected, the deck of this fine hotel was the last word in hotel decks.

And in the most comfortable chair, in the most desirable location, Tite Riggs sat and contemplated the bright-colored figures of the ocean-bathing population.

Aided at times by a pair of field glasses, Riggs watched, enthralled, the scene. He was not looking for, or expecting anything to happen—anything unusual, that is—he was content just to look at the moving picture spread out before his eyes.

And then, something did happen, or rather, something had happened.

As he looked he saw people in the sea, gathering in a huddle at one spot. He saw one and then another of the big, strong Life Guards stride to the ever enlarging group, and he saw them fairly fling the bathers aside as they concentrated their attention on whatever or whoever had caused the commotion.

Riggs took up his field glasses, and by their aid soon saw that the excitement was caused by the sudden illness or cramp of a bather.

The guards carried from the crashing waves the helpless form of a man—a large man in a grey bathing suit—and laid their burden on the beach.

“That’s the chap who arrived here yesterday,” Riggs said to himself, “wonder who he is and what ails him.”

Though convinced that the man had been seized with a cramp or some such disaster, Riggs kept on watching closely.

And from the actions of the Life Guards, he was forced to the conclusion that something a bit more serious had occurred.

For the man looked lifeless, at least, he was utterly still and seemed unconscious.

And then another man from the ocean, a man in bathing costume also, came at the call of the Guard and bent over the stricken one.

Riggs could hear no word, but he gathered from the look of finality on the face of this man who made an examination, that the victim of cramp or whatever the trouble was, was past help.

It was a strange scene. Without doubt the investigating man was a doctor, also, without doubt he had pronounced the other man dead. No other hypothesis could explain the helpless, hopeless appearance of those nearest the unconscious man, and no other meaning could be read into the faces of the shocked crowd.

Not often did Tite Riggs give way to curiosity.

Usually his wanderings were kept to himself, usually his speculations were his own private affair. He would ask no one for news or information.

But in this instance he rose and went down the steps, crossed the Boardwalk and walked out on the beach.


Chapter 2
The Man Who Went Under

As Titus Riggs drew near the crowd on the beach, he found himself restrained from further progress by the order of a stalwart policeman, who forbade him to advance another step.

“Who is it?” he asked, and so pleasantly intimate was Riggs’ manner, that the strong arm of the law unbent enough to answer.

“Garrett Folsom, they say,” he replied, and Tite Riggs ejaculated, “Good Lord!” Though whether the words were an expression of pious gratitude or merely an exclamation of astonishment was not obvious.

“Is he dead?” Riggs pursued.

“As a door-nail!” the policeman responded, feeling he was committing no breach of discipline in admitting a self-evident fact.

“Cramp? Stroke?”

“How do I know,” returned the other, for his knowledge of the matter was indeed exhausted. “Anyway, they gotta get him offen the beach!”

“I should think so. Is that a doctor bending over him?”

“Guess so. He seems to be giving orders. Though it ain’t up to him to say what to do.”

“Who is it up to?”

“I don’t rightly know. But I s’pose the Life Guards will take him to his hotel and they’ll see to him there.”

A further commotion among the group of humanity nearest the stricken man resulted in the fulfilment of the policeman’s prophecy.

The Life Guard bore the body through the crowds, two or three uniformed officers making a way, and though followed by a horde of curiosity seekers, most of the beach population went back to the surf or the sands.

Roger Neville and the two women who had been the bathing companions of the dead man conferred quickly as they stood on the beach.

“You’d better go straight to your bath houses and dress,” he told the others, “and I’ll do the same. Then hurry to the hotel; we’ll all be asked for.”

“Why?” inquired the Duchess, her eyes wide with amazement. “We had nothing to do with his stroke, or whatever it was. I’m not going to get into the papers as a friend of Garrett Folsom’s.”

“Why not?” asked Mrs. Valdon. “There are lots of worse people than that man.”

“Oh, not that, but I object to publicity, and I won’t be interviewed—”

“Don’t worry,” Neville said. “Folsom’s an important man in some ways, but his death won’t make a dent down here. What does Ocean Town care for a sudden death more or less?”

“I suppose that’s so,” the Duchess said, with a relieved air. “Well, I’ll get dressed anyhow. Come along, Carmy, it’s spoiled our swim for today.”

“Don’t be so heartless,” said the other, “I’m all upset. I think a sudden death is fearful. And we will be in the limelight, I don’t care what Roger says. I think I’ll go straight back home. Do you suppose his sister will come here?”

“Didn’t know he had a sister.”

“Well, he has. A Tartar. One of those strong-minded persons that make you think of Zenobia or Xantippe or anybody beginning with Z.”

They disappeared into their respective bath houses and dressed as rapidly as they could in the cramped and uncomfortable quarters.

Although the bath houses belonging to the Hotel Majusaca were roomy compared with some, they were not luxurious dressing-rooms, and when the two women at last emerged they both expressed a desire to reach their own bedrooms unnoticed.

This they accomplished and set to work to repair the ravages of an ocean bath and a hurried toilette.

But though they had reached a quiet haven, there was anything but quiet down in the hotel lobby, several floors beneath them.

The suave and impassive gentlemen who had the wellbeing of the hotel in their charge were upset one after another with terrific suddenness and swiftness.

The pompous doorman was the first to be affected. He was a large person, whose eyes protruded and whose chest protruded much like the Frog Footman portrayed in “Alice in Wonderland,” and he was minded at first to refuse admittance to the sinister looking procession that brought a covered, still form on a stretcher to a portal which swung usually only to the exit or entrance of happy, merry humanity which walked on its own two legs.

But his half-hearted objections were promptly overruled, and the ghastly burden was carried to the office of the hotel and the presence of the manager was called for.

The manager not being present for the moment, the Room Clerk stepped forward, closely followed by the vigilant hotel detective.

These two were promptly bowled over, as the doorman had been, by the information that the body they bore was one of the hotel’s guests and must receive immediate attention.

“Who is it?” asked the flabbergasted Room Clerk, losing for once his imperial air and omnipotent demeanor.

“Garrett Folsom,” he was told, and thereupon lost his last remnant of self-possession.

“You’ll have to take him away,” he almost screamed. “We can’t have anything like that here! The guests won’t stand for it! The hotel can’t have it! Take him to the morgue or the undertaker’s—or—somewhere!”

“Wait a minute,” said the hotel detective, who was named Dixon. “What has happened?”

One of the Life Guards answered him.

“Mr. Folsom had a stroke or a fit of some sort, and died in the ocean or just after his being brought to the beach,—I don’t know which. Where’s Mr. Pelham, the manager?”

“Mr. Pelham is at his lunch, he’ll be here in a minute. I’ve sent a boy for him,” Dixon returned, keeping his head, as the Room Clerk grew more and more excited and frantically begged the bearers of the stretcher to take it away from the Desk, at least.

And then Pelham came, and though greatly perturbed, lost none of his customary calm as he heard the scant details of the tragedy.

“I see,” he said, using his favorite expression of acceptance of a situation. “Now, will you men please take the body to Room J, next my office over there.”

He indicated a room across the lobby, and his directions were at once carried out.

He beckoned to the hotel detective and called a clerk to his aid, then followed the men who bore the gruesome burden.

As they turned back the covering blanket, Pelham saw the well-formed figure in its bathing suit of grey jersey, with three black stripes across the chest and a belt striped black and white.

The face was calm and lifelike, the hair, though touselled by the waves, was orderly enough, and the man looked as if merely unconscious rather than dead.

But Pelham’s questing hand told him the heart had ceased to beat, and the briefest examination was enough to show that life had gone forever.

“Stroke, of course,” the manager said, looking at Dixon. “But we must have a doctor—”

“One looked at him down on the beach,” the Guard volunteered. “Doctor Manning, he was—he’s in the hotel here—and he said as how Mr. Folsom was dead.”

“Dead? Of course he’s dead. But we must have a certificate and all that. Has Doctor Manning come up from the beach yet?”

Inquiry proved he had not, and saying, “that can wait, then,” Pelham turned his mind to more immediate errands.

“Who’s in this man’s party?” he asked Dixon.

“Nobody. He’s alone,—or I believe he has a valet —but no one else in his suite.”

“Has he a suite? A good one?”

“One of the best. Two rooms and bath. His valet sleeps on the same floor, but not in a connecting room.”

“I see. Send for the valet. Why isn’t he already here?”

“We’ve only just come in, Mr. Pelham,” said the Life Guard, who was in a way spokesman, and who was most anxious to get out of it all. “Will you take the matter in charge now? Can we go? We belong on the beach, you see.”

“Yes, yes, go on. I’ll attend to this. Leave your names with Mr. Dixon, in case he wants to see you again. Be off, now.”

He rang a bell for the Room Clerk, and that exalted one, almost entirely restored to his pristine glory, appeared.

“Tuttle,” the manager said to him, “was no one with Mr. Folsom here?”

“Only his valet, a man named Ross.”

“Send for him. Who were Mr. Folsom’s friends or associates?”

“Mr. Neville, and two ladies were with him last evening. He only came yesterday afternoon.”

“I thought he was new. Neville’s been here longer?”

“Oh, yes, a week or more. The ladies a few days —nearly a week.”

“I see. Get the man, Ross, but don’t disturb Mr. Folsom’s friends just yet. Were they in the water with him?”

“Yes,” said Dixon, “the Guard told me so. They’ll probably show up soon.”

“They’ll have to. We must learn from them as to Mr. Folsom’s home and people.”

A clerk appeared then, bringing a quiet-mannered, middle-aged man with him.

“This is Ross, the valet,” he said, and giving the man an introductory push into the room, he went out and closed the door behind him.

Clearly, few desired to stay in that room of death unless obliged to do so.

“Is—is that my master, sir?” Ross said, looking timorously at the shrouded figure.

“We assume it is,” Dixon returned, gently, for he was of a kindly nature. “Isn’t it?”

He turned back the blanket, and with a slight shudder, Ross looked at the dead man.

“Yes,” he said. “Yes, sir, that is Mr. Folsom. I am his man. What happened to him?”

“We only know that he died while in bathing. Was he subject to cramp or acute indigestion, or any sudden illness?”

“No, sir. That is, not to say subject to such. But he has had a cramp in the water, and he has also had indigestion attacks. But never what I would call serious. Are you—are you sure he’s—gone, sir? He looks so lifelike, you see.”

“There’s no hope, my man. He is surely dead. Are you here alone with him?”

“Yes, sir. We came yesterday afternoon. Got in about four.”

“From where?”

“From New York City last. But Mr. Folsom lives in Chicago.”

“I know. Now, we may want to question you further later. But just now, we have to do the most necessary things first. Who are Mr. Folsom’s friends here?”

“Mr. Roger Neville, sir, is his friend and they’re associated in business, too. I suppose he’ll—er—take charge of everything, sir.”

“Yes, I suppose so. Has Mr. Folsom left a wife— a widow?”

“Oh, no, sir, he wasn’t married. He has a sister in Chicago, that’s all his relatives,—except a nephew.”

“How long have you been with Mr. Folsom?”

“Nearly four years.”

“Have you been down here with him before?”

“Yes, sir. Three years ago. Not since that.”

“Where were you this morning when Mr. Folsom went in bathing?”

“I was in the ocean too, part of the time. Mr. Folsom told me to take a dip when he did but to be back in time to wait on him when he came in. So I’ve been up in his rooms waiting for him. Somebody just telephoned up there and when I answered, told me to come down here. So here I am. What must I do, sir?”

Though Ross addressed himself mostly to Pelham, the manager of the hotel, it was really Dixon the detective who was conducting the whole affair. He was a more capable and quick-witted man than Pelham, and better fitted to cope with the unusual situation the management now found itself in.

So Dixon gave Ross his orders.

“There’s not much for you to do at the moment, Ross,” he said. “But I think the first thing for you to look after is the clothing that Mr. Folsom wore this morning. It is, I suppose, in his bath house.”

“It must be, sir. Shall I go for it? Where is the key?”

“Why, I don’t know, I’m sure. Probably with the Bathing Master, since it is not on the body. Though at that, he may have it round his neck or wrist.”

“I think not. I think Mr. Folsom usually left it at the Bathing Master’s office. He disliked the bother of it round his neck.”

“Well, hunt it out, if you can, and get the clothes and belongings from the bath house. Have you the key to Mr. Folsom’s suite?”

“I have one and Mr. Folsom had one. I daresay his is in the pocket of his coat, unless he left it at the desk.”

“It will turn up then. You go, now, and get his clothes, there may be jewelry or valuable papers that ought to be secured. If so, turn them in at the desk and have them put in the safe. You seem to have been in Mr. Folsom’s confidence.”

“Oh, yes, sir. He often said I was his confidential clerk as well as his man servant. He didn’t mean that exactly, but—oh, well, sir, he trusted me.”

The dignity and simplicity of this statement carried weight and after a gaze of deep scrutiny Dixon concluded that though he showed little grief at the sudden taking off of his master, the man was beyond all doubt, faithful and honest.

Pelham agreed silently with this conclusion and Ross went off on his errand.

It was just as he departed that Roger Neville came, looking nervous and excited.

“May I come in?” he asked, as he paused at the door.

“Do. You’re the man we want,” Pelham said. “You are a friend of Mr. Folsom’s?”

“Yes, I’ve known him for years. What really happened to him? I mean, was it death by drowning, or some sort of heart attack?”

“We’re not sure yet,” Pelham said; “we’re waiting for Doctor Manning.”

“Meanwhile,” put in Dixon, “will you please tell us of Mr. Folsom’s people and advise us as to what to do with the body.”

“As to his people, he has a sister in Chicago, who will, of course, be the one most interested. I suppose it would be best to telegraph her and await her reply. Then, doubtless the body will have to be sent to his Chicago home.”

“Probably,” agreed Dixon. “He was a rich man?”

“Off and on,” said Neville, with a dry smile. “He was a lawyer, but he had various other interests. And he was the sort of man who makes a fortune one day and loses it the next.”


“Yes. Stock gambling. But he was an important man, and he must be looked after properly. I am ready to do anything I can, of course, but I confess I don’t want to send the wire to Miss Folsom, telling her of her brother’s death. Can’t the hotel do that?”

“Yes, certainly. Who else here was a friend of Mr. Folsom’s?”

“He only came yesterday, you know, and though I daresay plenty of people here in the hotel knew him, or knew of him, I’m not sure I can name any.”

“You were with him this morning. Who else was of the party?”

Reluctantly, Neville gave the names of Mrs. Barnaby and Mrs. Valdon. He knew they would resent this, for it might lead to unpleasant publicity, but he could see no way out.

“Why do you hesitate, Mr. Neville?” asked the astute Dixon. “Surely these ladies can have no objection to announcing their friendship with Mr. Folsom.”

“No, not that,” Neville responded, “but they naturally shrink from the idea of being interviewed by reporters, and all that—”

“Oh, I don’t believe Mr. Folsom is such a widely known character that his death will make a great stir so far away from his home.”

Pelham, the hotel manager, said this with a sudden return of his dignity and pride in his house, which, he felt, had harbored too many celebrities to be greatly concerned with the death of a Chicago lawyer.

“Well,” Dixon said, “I’ll send the telegram to the sister,—what is her address, Mr. Neville? And would it be better to send it to some one else, a brother lawyer or business friend, and let him tell the lady?”

“No,” Neville told him, “don’t try to break it gently. Miss Folsom is not that sort. Tell her the straight facts. She will take it standing, and unless I miss my guess, she will come here by the first possible train.”

“I hope she will,” Pelham said. “That will relieve us of all responsibility. Meantime, I think we can send the body to the undertaker.”

“After we get the doctor’s certificate,” Dixon amended. “Were you at Mr. Folsom’s side when he went under, Mr. Neville?”

“Oh, no, I was some distance away. Mr. Folsom was holding on to the rope.”

“Who was next to him? The ladies of your party?”

“I suppose so. I’m not sure.”

“I must see them. It is necessary to learn more of the particulars of his death, if possible.”

Dixon pushed a button and a bellboy appeared at the door.

“Oh, it’s you, Tubby, is it? Well, hike yourself up to these two room numbers, and ask the two ladies to come down here immediately.”

“Yessir,” and the fat youngster took the slip that Dixon handed him.

“Isn’t that a little imperative, Mr. Dixon?” said Neville, with a look of astonishment.

“It’s the only way. I’ve tried too many times, asking ladies to come when convenient, and it means a long wait. They can’t resent a definite summons in an emergency like this.”

“No, I suppose not,” Neville agreed, and sure enough, it was but a few moments before the two came in.

“Oh, oh!” exclaimed Mrs. Barnaby, as she caught sight of the blanketed form, “can’t we go somewhere else? That awful—oh, oh—”

She covered her face with her hands and sat moaning.

“Hush, hush, Duchess,” her companion whispered. “Don’t make such a fuss.”

“I can’t help it! Oh, Mr. Pelham, do let us go out of here! Mr. Neville, beg him to let me go! I must go!”

She rose and made for the door, with such evident determination, that Dixon thought best to humor her.

“All right,” he said, kindly, “we’ll go into another room. Come, please, Mrs. Valdon, and you, too, Mr. Neville.”

There were several near-by rooms used more or less as offices, and into one of them, Dixon ushered his little crowd of people.

Pelham remained behind, waiting for the appearance of the doctor, who had been sent for, with an urgent request to make haste.

The whole affair was most distasteful to Mr. Pelham. To be sure no hotel manager could be blamed for having one of his guests drop dead, but it made an unpleasant commotion, and try as he would, it seemed impossible to keep the affair secret.

The bellboys were staring; the elevator attendants were on the alert; the clerks at the desk, though outwardly calm, were wide-eyed and listening.

The news had, of course, spread, and some of the guests in the great foyer were frankly curious, and were even beginning to ask questions.

They saw the two women, accompanied by the hotel detective and Roger Neville, go into the room and close the door.

Yet the conversation in there was in no way alarming or even interesting.

Relieved of the sight of the still, shrouded form of Garrett Folsom, Mrs. Barnaby became herself again, and answered readily enough all the questions put to her.

Too readily, indeed, for she was a voluble sort, and once started, she loved to hear the sound of her own voice.

“Oh, yes, of course I knew Mr. Folsom,” she returned to Dixon’s question. “No, I didn’t know him until last evening, but, you see, he’s the kind of man you feel acquainted with at once. My friend, Mrs. Valdon, introduced him to me, and I took to him that very minute. A delightful man,—oh, what a pity he is gone!”

“Then, if you never knew Mr. Folsom until last evening, you can’t tell me much about him,” Dixon said, a little curtly. “Mrs. Valdon, you have known him for a longer time?”

“Yes,” Carmelita Valdon replied, her great dark eyes filling with tears. “I have known Mr. Folsom for several years. He was my lawyer and my friend as well. I was rejoiced when I heard he was down here, and we planned many things to do by way of entertainment. I knew Mrs. Barnaby would like him, and I was not surprised when I found the liking mutual.”

“And you three,” Dixon took in the trio, “with Mr. Folsom were the whole of your party to go in bathing this morning?”

“Yes,” Mrs. Barnaby said, unable to keep out of the conversation. “And I was so glad I had my new bathing suit, it just came yesterday. And Mrs. Valdon, too, —we were the best dressed crowd on the beach. Oh, I can’t believe he is gone!”

“Who stood next Mr. Folsom at the rope?” Dixon asked, ignoring the talkative one, “you, Mrs. Valdon?”

“Yes,” Carmelita began, but Mrs. Barnaby interrupted.

“I was next but one,” she said: “I mean I was next to Carmelita and she was next to Mr. Folsom. But I can tell you what happened, for I was looking right at him.”

Clearly, Dixon thought, it was best to let her tell it, as she was far more willing to talk than the others.

“Why, we were all standing there, taking the waves,” she said, “and laughing, and just after a big breaker passed, Mr. Folsom sort of loosened his grip on the rope and then his hands fell away from the rope and he just sank down under the water. That’s all. Then, everybody seemed to scream and another wave came, and then, I saw the Life Guards come and get hold of Mr. Folsom and carry him out of the water up onto the beach. That’s all.”


Chapter 3
A Few Queries

“You were next Mr. Folsom, I believe, Mrs. Valdon,” Dixon said turning to Carmelita, “you saw the scene Mrs. Barnaby has just described?”

“Why, yes,” was the reply, “that is, I suppose it must have been that way. But I was not looking at him at all, I had all I could do to keep my feet. The surf was very high and the waves pounded so, I paid no attention to any one else, I just clung to the rope to keep from being knocked down myself. If Mr. Folsom had even a slight cramp, it is not surprising he was drawn under by the waves.”

“You were off the rope, Mr. Neville,” and Dixon turned to him.

“Yes, I hate to be hanging to a rope. I take the big waves head on, and if they fling me up on the beach, that is the sort of sport I enjoy. Folsom liked it, too, but he felt he must stay with the ladies. He broke away once or twice and then went back.”

“Yes, but he was glad to get back,” Mrs. Barnaby told them. “He isn’t much used to surf bathing, and he seemed to get winded easily.”

“You noticed that, too, Mrs. Valdon?” pursued the questioner.

“Not specially,” she said. “But as I told you, I was busy looking out for myself. I think I was never so buffeted by the waves as we were this morning. They were ferocious!”

“Who stood on the other side of Mr. Folsom?” Dixon inquired, and as Neville and Mrs. Barnaby shook their heads in negation, he turned to Mrs. Valdon for a reply.

“It was Mr. Barron,” she said. “I know, because Mr. Folsom asked me who he was and I leaned over to see. That was just before we decided to come out of the water. We couldn’t find Mr. Neville, so we said we’d go out anyway. Then a big wave came, and it was right after that that Mr. Folsom went under.”

“Where were you then, Mr. Neville?”

“In the water, not far from our crowd. I saw Mrs. Barnaby’s black and yellow cap and she waved her hand toward shore, so I gathered we were all to go in and I started toward the land. But there was a crowd, and before I could get to shore, I saw the men carrying a man in, and I saw at once that it was Folsom.”

“And you followed them?”

“Of course. And stood by until they started to bring him here, then I went to my bath house and dressed as quickly as I could.”

“Well,” said Dixon, “I think that’s about all you people can tell me, then. I just wanted to get the details of the drowning. Hello, here comes the valet, Ross.”

The man came into the room and stood at attention.

Though evidently stirred with excitement, he preserved a calm demeanor, and except for a nervous twitching of his fingers, showed no sign of perturbation.

“You have been to the bath house, Ross?” asked Dixon, straightforwardly.

“Yes, sir.”

“You found Mr. Folsom’s clothes there?”

“Yes sir. The key was with the Bathing Master, he gave it to me, and I brought Mr. Folsom’s clothes back here and put them in his room.”

“They were all in order, then,—nothing missing?”

“Why, yes, sir. I suppose so. I didn’t look in the pockets, sir, and Mr. Folsom never wears any valuable jewelry when he goes to bathe. Just a collar button and cuff links. And his watch,—that was all right, sir.”

“Well, of course, I didn’t anticipate any molestation of his belongings. The Bathing Master wouldn’t give up the key to a stranger. How did he come to give it to you?”

“I don’t know, sir. I just told him the circumstances and said I was Mr. Folsom’s man.”

“All right, Ross. Did you put the clothes away?”

“No, sir, I just left them in a pile on the couch in the sitting room. The chambermaid is in the bedroom, doing it up, and I thought I’d better report to you at once, sir.”

“You did just right. Now, Ross, consider yourself in charge of Mr. Folsom’s effects until we can get advices from his sister. We are going to telegraph to her. Perhaps you would do it?”

“Just as you say, sir. If I do it, I will ask her for orders.”

“Not a bad idea. Go, then, and send the telegram in your own way.”

Ross went off, and Neville said, thoughtfully; “Going some, to leave that man in charge of all Folsom’s belongings—”

“I know,” returned the detective. “I watched his face for a gleam of satisfaction at the prospect, but he seemed to take it as a matter of course.”

“Oh, it’s all right, I know how Folsom trusted him, as a servant and as a general right-hand man. But, somehow it seems—”

“It certainly does,” put in Carmelita Valdon. “It seems wrong to leave a mere valet in charge of a rich man’s goods.”

“His valuables are in the safe,” said Dixon. “I’ve already ascertained that. Late last night he brought two or three sealed envelopes to the Desk and took a receipt for them. As to jewelry or money, I suppose the valet is honest.”

“Oh, yes,—that,” said Neville. “I was thinking more of letters or private papers, not of a value to be put in the safe, but which ought not to be left around loose.”

“Indeed they ought not!” said Mrs. Valdon, with decision. “I should think as Mr. Neville is a great friend of Mr. Folsom and more or less associated with him in business—”

“Were you partners?” asked Dixon, directly.

“No,” Neville returned. “Not partners, but we worked together on many cases, and I think I may say I know more of his private affairs than any one else.”

“It would seem then, Mr. Neville, that you are the one to take charge of the whole matter. Will you take the keys then from Ross and consider yourself the responsible one?”

“Not quite that,” Neville said, his face a little perplexed. “Suppose you let Ross keep his key, and let me take the room key that Mr. Folsom carried. Then either of us can have access to the rooms.”

“Yes, that is a good plan,” and relieved at the settlement of the question, Dixon rose to go.

“I can’t see that we have anything more to do until Miss Folsom comes or wires,” Neville went on. “If you want to consult with me when the doctor comes, I’ll be somewhere around the hotel.”

“Very well, Mr. Neville,” Dixon said, and bowed out the three guests with a feeling of satisfaction that the interview was over.

“As a matter of fact,” he thought to himself, “I’d trust that honest looking valet fellow before I would the gentlemanly Neville,—but it’s all none of my business. If these people are friends of the dead man, it’s up to them to care for his interests. Hello, there’s Mr. Barron, I suppose I ought to ask him a question or two.” So he stepped up to the party of five, who had just come into the lobby.

“A word or two, if you please, Mr. Barron,” he said, in a low tone, and as Ned Barron looked amazed, Dixon went on;

“Nothing much, only I want to know if you were acquainted with the gentleman who died in the water this morning? Mr. Garrett Folsom?”

“No, I was not,” said Barron, a little shortly.

“But I’m told you were talking to him just before he had his heart attack, or whatever it was.”

“You were misinformed,—that is, he was talking to me, but I cannot say I was talking to him. Except to return short answers to his unasked-for remarks, I said nothing to him at all.”

“You were annoyed by him?”

“Oh, it’s going too far to call it annoyed. But I never like to have a stranger address me in the ocean, and that is what he did.”

“You were unacquainted with him?”

“Entirely so. I never saw him before, and, presuming on the informality of the sea, I suppose, he began to chat. I was decently polite, but in no way did I encourage his conversation.”

“None of your party was acquainted with him, then?”

“No,—that is, I don’t think any of them were. I’ll inquire.”

Ned Barron turned back toward the people who had come in with him, and who stood waiting while the detective spoke to him.

“I say, Sears,” he beckoned to his friend, “you didn’t know that man Folsom, did you?”

“Not socially,” Croydon Sears replied, stepping closer to them. “I’ve had a little business with him once or twice, but it was some time ago,—I doubt if he remembered me at all. Why?”

“Mr. Dixon wants to know. How about you, Robin?” he turned to Sears’ son. “Did you know Folsom?”

“No; never heard of him, till the commotion on the beach. Somebody told me his name then.”

“And the ladies?” Dixon turned to the two women of the party.

But both Madeline Barron and her young friend, Miss Fair, asserted that they had never before heard of Garrett Folsom, and so Dixon concluded the interview with an apology for the intrusion.

“Rotten business,” he told himself. “Don’t see why I should pester any more people about it. The hotel will get a bad name if we don’t hush the thing up as soon as we can.”

Whereupon Dixon saw to it that strict orders were given to all employees to say nothing whatever on the subject of Mr. Folsom’s death, which orders were publicly obeyed and privately disregarded.

The elevator men refused any information asked of them by curious passengers and the bellboys told patrons that they knew nothing of the circumstances, but somehow the news flew about and knots of talkative chambermaids gathered in the halls and waiters in the pantries whispered unceasingly.

On the Deck, after luncheon, many of the guests of the hotel sat about and those who had seen the affair at the beach in the morning eagerly told the story to those who had not been present.

Roger Neville, who felt in a way conspicuous as being a friend of Folsom’s, would have preferred to absent himself from the crowded scene.

But both Mrs. Barnaby and Mrs. Valdon insisted on his presence and he couldn’t well desert them.

“My Heavens!” exclaimed the Duchess, “don’t you dare leave us alone! Why, we’d be besieged by gossip-mongers and what in the world could we say to them?”

“What can I say to them, my dear lady?” asked Neville. “Suppose we go for a ride in the wheeled chairs. Don’t you think it would do you both good?”

“No,” returned Carmelita. “It would not do to go away now. The manager might want to see us, and too, I want to be here when word comes from Miss Folsom.”

“You know her, don’t you?” said Neville.

“I’ve met her a few times, and, between you and me, I didn’t take to her at all.”

Neville laughed. “Who could take to her? Anastasia is not an attractive person, I’ll admit.”

“Anastasia!” exclaimed the Duchess, “what an intriguing name! I’d love to meet somebody named Anastasia!”

Helen Barnaby was the careless, heedless type of talker, who says things without meaning them and forgets them the next minute.

Everybody liked her, nobody loved her. Her gilded hair was bobbed, and her smart clothes were too girlish for her years, but she was a comfortable sort and her friendship with the beautiful Carmelita was advantageous to both.

They had been intimates for years, but this was the first time they had been away from home in company.

Fairly well to do, the Duchess cared only for her own comfort and ease. Men were of secondary consideration, save as they entertained or amused her. Carmelita Valdon, on the other hand, was a born coquette and a siren. With very little money, she contrived to dress well and her beauty and charm did the rest.

At heart she was an adventuress, but so careful was she of her reputation that no breath of scandal or even reproach had ever touched her.

Yet she schemed to meet and attract rich men and women and usually succeeded in making friends with them.

Garrett Folsom she had known for some years, and though they were friendly, it could not be said that he was in love with her. Roger Neville, too, was an old-time friend, but not an adorer, so while at Ocean Town, Carmelita had endeavored to find a new friend who would be a devoted slave.

There were many who would readily accept such a position, but the lady was exigent in her requirements and she flouted those who were not sufficiently generous or who did not amuse her.

“We can’t take up with anybody,” she told her friend. “I won’t have to do with ordinary men. I must have my friends among the especial ones of earth.”

“Yes,” said the Duchess, only slightly interested. “But you can get any one you go after, Carmy. What about that sandy-haired chap who sits around all day on the Deck? He seems exclusive—”

“And he is! That’s Titus Riggs, he’s an eccentric millionaire. If we could annex him, we’d be right in the heart of everything!”

“He isn’t popular.”

“That’s his own fault, then. Everybody is crazy  to know him, but he won’t meet many people.”

This conversation had happened some days ago, and since then, though Carmelita had secured an introduction, she had not succeeded in drawing Titus Riggs into her net. He had been polite but that was all. Never did he seek out the lovely Carmelita and her jolly friend.

So they were both surprised and pleased when, as they sat with Neville on the hotel Deck, Riggs rose from his chair and sauntered over to them.

“Oh, Mr. Riggs,” said Carmelita, “do cheer us up a bit. We’re feeling so sad over the morning’s tragedy. You know, Mr. Folsom was our friend.”

“Yes, I know,” Riggs said. “Do you mind talking about it?”

“No,” Carmelita returned, her eyes filling with tears, “not to some one who is sympathetic. Did you know Mr. Folsom?”

“Only slightly. But here comes a bellboy. He’s looking for you, I think, Mr. Neville.”

It was the plump youngster, called Tubby, and he stepped up to Neville with his little chest puffed out, full of importance.

“Mr. Tuttle sends you this, sir,” he said, and held out his tray on which lay a telegram that had already been opened.

It was addressed to John Ross, and with a murmur of apology, Neville read it.

“It’s from Miss Folsom,” he said, “to Ross, the valet. It says: ‘Carry on till I arrive. Am starting at once,’ and it is signed A. Folsom. And it is from New York City.”

“Then she ought to get here tonight,” Titus Riggs said.

“Yes, she probably will,” Carmelita agreed “Roger, will you come for a little walk with me? I feel I must have some exercise.”

Neville rose at once, and leaving Riggs to the tender mercies of Helen Barnaby, the pair walked away together.

“Very stunning woman,” said Tite Riggs, looking after Carmelita, and the unmistakable sincerity in his tone robbed the words of all hint of rudeness.

“Yes,” agreed the Duchess. “Very clever, too. And a most staunch and loyal friend.”

“Yes, she seems so. But I’m sure all your friends are that.”

“Now, now, Mr. Riggs, you mustn’t flatter me as you would a school girl!”

“Why not? Is there a distinction to be made in flattery?”

“I think there ought to be. A school girl can be taken in by insincere compliments—”

“And can’t you?”

The Duchess laughed. “Of course I can! Any woman can. You’re clever, Mr. Riggs.”

“Yes, I am. That’s my only claim to a life worth living.”

“Have you no other virtues or graces?”

“None that count. But my cleverness I really bank on.”

“What do you do with it—mostly?”

And then they settled down for a talk about ideals and ambitions which was mere airy persiflage on both sides, but which was amusing and gave Helen Barnaby a respite from the sadness brought about by the death of the morning.

But Carmelita was indulging in no light chatter with Roger Neville.

“Roger,” she said, as soon as they were well away from the hotel, “I want you to lend me the key of Garrett Folsom’s room.”

“What for?” he asked, bluntly.

“I want to go in there,—and before his sister comes.”

“You’re crazy! You can’t do a thing like that!”

“I must! He has something—something of mine— that I must have. I must get—”


“Something important—never mind what. Just let me take the key for half an hour. I’ll bring it right back to you. Oh, Roger,—do give it to me, I must have it!”

“Carmelita, you don’t realize what you’re asking. I’m willing, more than willing to let you have the key, but think how it would look—for you to go into his room!”

“Nobody will see me,—I’ll be very careful.”

“I’ll get you what you want. Tell me what it is? Did you leave something in there? When?”

“Oh, no! Nothing like that! I’ve never been in his rooms. But he had something of mine—oh, Roger, don’t torment me! Give me the key, do!”

Though they were on the crowded Boardwalk, Carmelita’s tones were low, and her manner quiet. But Neville could see the underlying excitement and he feared an outbreak if he refused longer.

Unwillingly he drew a key from his pocket.

“At least, let me go with you. Or let me stand guard outside the rooms.”

“No, that would be far worse, if any one saw us, than for me to go alone. I must do this, Roger. I must! Don’t worry. I’ll make sure where Ross is first and then I can slip in and out again in a few minutes.”

So Neville perforce acquiesced, and after escorting her back to the hotel he put her in an elevator and himself strolled outdoors again.

Carmelita, went straight to the rooms that Folsom had occupied. She did not find out first where Ross was, thinking if he were in the room she would make some excuse to ask about Miss Folsom’s arrival.

There was no one in the halls, and she slipped the key in the door and turned it.

Then she went in and closed the door behind her.

She found herself in the sitting room, and her quick ears told her she was not alone. She felt sure she had heard a hurried footstep as she entered.

But a hasty investigation showed no other person present, and even though she looked in the bedroom and the bathroom and all the closets and wardrobes she could see no sign of any human being but herself.

So she set to work on the search she had come for. She quickly ran through the papers and letters in the desk in the sitting room. There were not many, and the merest glance at most of them proved they were not what she sought.

With a sigh of despair, she turned to the large trunk,

but it was locked, and she well knew only its own key would open it.

She hurriedly ran through the contents of two or three suitcases and kitbags, but was not rewarded with the treasure she sought.

About to depart, she again heard that faint sound as of somebody in the room. This time she went so far as to look under the bed, and there she saw a long slim leg, in a pale colored stocking and a low shoe.

She grasped it and pulled vigorously, and a muffled voice said;

“Ouch, don’t do that! I’ll come out!”

And out from beneath the bed came a tousled-headed girl, in the uniform of the hotel chambermaids.

“What in the world are you doing here?” Carmelita cried, amazed at the sight.

“What are you?” said the girl, saucily.

“Don’t be impertinent,” Carmelita said, with a stern frown, “suppose I report you to the housekeeper.”

“Don’t do that, lady,” the girl begged, earnestly. “I didn’t mean no harm. I was dustin’ about, and I heard you comin’ so I—I hid.”

“That won’t do. You—what’s your name?”

“Myrtle, ma’am.”

“Well, Myrtle, you were up to some mischief. You never were dusting, or you would have kept right on when any one came in.”

“Well, ma’am,” Myrtle fingered her apron, “let’s make a trade. You don’t tell I was here, and I won’t tell you was. Heh?”

Carmelita stood appalled. It was disastrous, indeed, to think of this girl telling that she was in there. But was it not worse to make a compact of silence with her?”

Steps in the hall outside, decided her.

“All right, Myrtle,” she said, “that’s agreed. Now, can we get out unseen?”

“Yes’m, come this way,” and the girl led her to a door in the bedroom that communicated with an adjoining room, and which her master key easily unlocked. They slipped through just as Ross unlocked the door and entered the sitting room.

With no word further to the girl, Carmelita entered a descending elevator and went downstairs.

Neville met her, and a look of relief came to his face as he saw her.

“You haven’t been in his rooms, have you?” he whispered, eagerly.

“No,” said Carmelita, sensing from his excited speech that something had happened. Could Miss Folsom have arrived?

“Good! Don’t go in, for Heaven’s sake! Give me the key, quickly.”

She slipped the key to him, unseen, and said:

“What is it? Why are you so upset?”

“The doctor has come,” he said, “he has made an examination, and he says Folsom didn’t die of a stroke or anything like that. He—he was murdered.”

“Murdered! Killed in the water! Impossible!”

“Yes, he was. Come, sit down here and I will tell you all I know about it.”


Chapter 4
How It Happened

With a scared, white face, Carmelita sank down on a divan in the lobby, beside Neville, who began to talk to her in low tones.

It was late afternoon now, and the guests of the hotel were coming in from golf or from dancing on the piers or riding in the wheeled chairs.

Groups of gay and laughing people stood about, strains of low music could be heard as the orchestra in the Palm room pursued its programme, and the pleasant scent from the potted plants gave charm to the atmosphere.

Few knew or cared about the tragedy that had taken place that morning and that even now was developing a dark and sinister side.

The management strove to keep the matter secret, for of all things to be avoided in a summer hotel is any hint of gruesomeness or crime. Death is bad enough and must be hidden as carefully as possible, but murder! The mere hint of violent death would send many of the best patrons scurrying from the place, and would cast a gloom over the house that would ruin its prospects for the whole season.

And yet, already the watchful Tuttle could note signs of curiosity and apprehension on the faces of some of the onlookers. Though most of the groups in the lobby appeared as carefree and light-hearted as usual, yet other faces showed a restlessness and an effect of suspicion that all was not well.

Somehow, a breath of mystery had made itself felt, somehow, a hint of tragedy was in the air, and minds sensitive to fleeting impressions attuned themselves to vague doubts and fears.

And then, before Neville had scarce begun to tell Carmelita Valdon the story he had promised, Tubby came to them and delivered a message from Mr. Pelham asking for their presence in Room J.

This particular bellboy was a favorite with the management, because of his ready and willing service as well as his native wit and understanding. Already the manager was planning to train the little chap up in the way he should go to become later a valuable clerk in the hotel.

The only objection that could be raised against the boy was his overweight.

This, his superiors endeavored to reduce by advising the little gourmand against overeating and under-exercising. So far, they had not effected much improvement, but they persevered hopefully, and meantime they called on Tubby, whose census name was Thomas Riordan, for any errand that required a dash of brains.

A little unwillingly, but perforce, Neville rose to obey the summons, and they followed the boy to the room designated.

“We’re sorry to seem persistent in our appeals to you, Mr. Neville,” Pelham said, apologetically, “but there is no one in the hotel who knew Mr. Folsom so well as you seem to. Wherefore, I see no other way but to ask your advice,—or, rather, your approval of my procedure. After all, it is merely a matter of form, for there is no choice possible on my part. Doctor Manning, here, informs me that Mr. Folsom was killed while in the ocean. Therefore, I am bound to report the matter to the authorities at once. But I deemed it wise to tell you of this, for until Mr. Folsom’s sister can get here, I know of no one who is in any way concerned in his interests.”

“You did just right, Mr. Pelham,” Carmelita returned, not waiting for Neville to speak. “Mr. Neville is the only real friend of Mr. Folsom’s here,— that we know of. And surely, if any one else knew him, he would come forward and say so. At any rate, Mr. Neville will take charge in any way he can, until Miss Folsom comes. Will you tell me how Mr. Folsom was killed?”

But Pelham had many matters on his mind. Chief among them was to get out and mingle with the guests of his hotel, in a hope that he could set at rest the seething interest that was already making itself noticeable.

“Doctor Manning will tell you all,” he said, rather nervously. “And Mr. Dixon, here, will do whatever is necessary.”

He slipped through the door, and Dixon immediately assumed leadership.

“Doctor Manning saw Mr. Folsom this morning as he was carried from the ocean and laid on the beach. As nothing was asked of Doctor Manning except whether or not Mr. Folsom was dead at the time, he pronounced life extinct, and then left the matter entirely in charge of the beach authorities. The body was brought here at once, and as Doctor Manning had a luncheon engagement elsewhere, it is only just now that he has returned and responded to our call for a death certificate. But here and now, having made a further examination of Mr. Folsom’s body, Doctor Manning tells us that death was not due to natural causes. Perhaps, Doctor, you will tell Mr. Neville the facts of the matter.”

Manning was of small stature, and so, possessed of the pompous dignity and sense of personal importance that small men always seem to exhibit.

He cleared his throat and, raising his hand, shook an impressive forefinger as he said;

“Mind you, I was not called this morning in any official, or even professional capacity. I was merely asked, as the nearest medical man, whether the man carried in from the surf was dead or alive. This question I answered at once, as life was positively extinct. Then, no further responsibility devolving on me, I went my way, not dreaming of any other reason for the man’s demise than some natural cause. But as I had not been asked to determine this cause, I saw no reason for obtruding my further services, and I went about my business. As it chanced, I went away from the hotel for luncheon, and I have only just returned. The management had not called in any other doctor, as there was no thought of foul play, and so they merely waited for my return to ask for a certificate of natural death. But when I examined the body, I found at once that the man had been done to death.”

Though neither of the absorbed listeners spoke a word, their faces asked the unuttered question, and the doctor went on.

“It is not only a mysterious case, but a most unusual, probably unique one. Mr. Folsom was killed by a stab wound in the abdomen.”

Still no word was spoken by the silent hearers. Dixon, his eyes glued to the faces of the pair who listened, and Tuttle, who was standing by, watching also, said afterward, that both Mr. Neville and Mrs. Valdon seemed amazed and astounded beyond all power of speech.

“Naturally, I did not know of this when I looked at the dead man down on the beach,” the doctor went on, with an apologetic note in his voice, “because the man’s form was covered with a blanket, and I saw only his head and shoulders. But on examination just now, I find that he was stabbed with a long, sharp knife or dagger, and that the blade pierced the abdominal aorta, causing instant death.”

“Why was this not discovered until your return?” asked Neville, his silence suddenly broken. “Has the blanket not been moved?”

“Probably not,” said Doctor Manning, “and too, it would have been possible for it to have been moved and yet the fact of the stab wound not have been discovered.”

“Why not?”

“Because, you see, the stroke was delivered swiftly and straight,—from all appearances. Then, it seems, the instrument of death was immediately withdrawn, and as a result, the water of the ocean washed away all stain of blood from the garment Mr. Folsom wore, and anyway, there was very little blood outside. The hemorrhage was entirely internal, and though death was instantaneous there was no evidence of it on the body save for a small clean incision, that in the absence of any blood stains was almost indiscernible even to my practised eye.”

“How extraordinary!” exclaimed Neville.

“That is the word, sir,” declared the doctor. “Extraordinary, indeed! Not the fact of the inconspicuous wound, that is accounted for by the water of the ocean, which precluded any crimson stain. But the extraordinary thing is the possibility of an assailant finding opportunity and time to drive that blow unseen and unnoticed by the scores of people crowding about him!”

“An assailant!” cried Roger Neville. “You mean he was murdered!”

“Of course, my dear sir. I thought you realized that. It would be a sheer impossibility for a man to kill himself in that manner. So, as there is no doubt as to the fatal wound, what other theory can you suggest?”

“An—an accident?” stammered Neville, floundering in his speech.

“Scarcely imaginable,” the doctor shook his head. “Ocean bathers do not go in for a dip carrying sharp-pointed instruments which accidentally kill their neighbors. No, there is no room for doubt. Mr. Folsom was stabbed by some one who went into the ocean armed with a knife and who had premeditated the murder.”

“It is too incredible!” Neville sighed deeply. “What can we do?”

“It isn’t what can we do, but what must we do? The inevitable procedure is to communicate with the police at once. But Mr. Pelham requested me to tell you about it first, as the nearest friend of the victim present.”

“Yes,” Neville spoke heavily, and as one agreeing under protest. “I know enough of these things to realize that it must be so. Go ahead, then; so far as I have any reason to sanction your procedure, I do so. But I claim no real responsibility in Mr. Folsom’s affairs. I am only doing what I can, in the interests of friendship, and also, to be able to report to Miss Folsom, when she arrives, what has been done in the matter.”

“Yes,” said Dixon, nodding his head. “That is all we want of you, Mr. Neville. And Mrs. Valdon, also a friend of Mr. Folsom’s sister, will tell her that we, —the management,—have done all we can to obey the law, and also keep the matter as—er—private as possible.”

Carmelita Valdon smiled a little.

“Personally, I should thank you, Mr. Dixon,” she said, “for keeping things quiet. But, I may as well tell you, that Miss Folsom is not like that. She is— how shall I put it?—rather given to publicity, rather fond of—er—notoriety. I do not mean that she would make capital of her brother’s death to bring herself into the limelight, but she is not at all averse to prominence in print.”

“You amaze me, Mrs. Valdon,” Dixon said. “I had pictured the sister as a shrinking, retiring sort—”

Dixon hadn’t pictured the lady at all, but he was cleverly getting all the sidelights he could on this darkly mysterious affair.

“Oh, no,” Carmelita exclaimed. “Anastasia Folsom is one of the most decided characters I have ever known. She is fearless and out-spoken to a degree. And you can count on her for help, if needed, in solving the mystery of her brother’s death. I suppose it is a mystery?”

“The most mysterious case I have ever heard of,” Dixon assured her. “Too big for me to tackle, but it may be the police will make short work of it.”

“How can they?” asked Neville. “Granted that Folsom was stabbed in the ocean that gives about a thousand possible suspects to choose from!”

“Oh, come now, Mr. Neville, we can’t consider those who were too far away from him. But even taking the near-by ones, there may well be a hundred or more who can be said to have had opportunity.”

“Surely. Then, you have to look for motive. Now, there’s the trouble. The man who had motive, is an unknown quantity and will, of course, remain so. I don’t see where your police are going to make a start.”

“I confess I don’t see clearly myself,” Dixon agreed. “But that’s up to them. Now, Mr. Neville, since things are as they are, the matter passes out of your hands,—at least to this extent. I’ll ask you to hand over to me the key of Mr. Folsom’s rooms. I shall give it to the police and of course, no one will be allowed access to the suite.”

“What about Ross, the valet?”

“I’ve sent for him, and shall, of course, take the key he has also. The pass-keys of the service will be attended to.”

The hotel detective dismissed them just as Ross appeared, led by the redoubtable Tubby.

The valet, his face drawn with emotion, but otherwise calm, came into the room, and Dixon closed the door.

“You have heard,” Dixon said, watching him closely, “that your master did not die of any natural cause?”

“Not quite that, sir, but the bellboy was so excited and queer, that I quizzed him a bit on the way down here, and I couldn’t help thinking there was something to be told more than I had already heard. Then I learned that the doctor was here, and I was sure that there was more to be told than had yet been made known.”

Dixon looked at him curiously.

“You’re a strange man, Ross. Where were you educated?”

“At public schools, sir. I’ve no store of book learning, but I’ve knocked round a bit with Mr. Folsom, and I’ve picked up some wisdom here and there.”

“Knocked round with him,—where?”

“Travelling about. For three years I’ve been with him out of America. In England, mostly, but sometimes on trips to Egypt and the Orient, sir.”

“I see. You’re a travelled man, then.”

“As Mr. Folsom’s servant, sir. But he was a kind master, and he gave me many advantages. Will you tell me what killed him, sir?”

“Yes, it’s your due. Mr. Folsom was murdered.”

“What!” Ross was startled out of his conventional manner as well as out of his usual calm.

“Yes. He was stabbed while in bathing.”

“Stabbed? I don’t understand.”

Doctor Manning then took up the tale and told the astounded looking valet what had happened to Garrett Folsom.

“But—but who could have done it, sir?” the man asked, as the tale came to its close. “Almost nobody down here knew Mr. Folsom at all, and those who did were his friends.”

“Was Roger Neville his friend?”

Though said in a quiet voice, the query was flung out suddenly, and purposely, with an intent to take Ross off his guard.

“Why—why, yes, sir,—so far as I know.”

“None of that, Ross, you know about all there is to know of your late master’s friends or enemies. A man of your mental calibre can’t be ignorant of the relationships between man and man.”

“Then, if this is an examination, sir, I can only say, that so far as I have ever seen or noticed, Mr. Neville had only friendly feelings toward Mr. Folsom, personally.”

“Why did you add ‘personally’? Had they other relationships than personal?”

“They had business connections, sir, that may or may not have been always serene. I know nothing of those, for they were conducted at offices, of course. But of my own knowledge, having seen Mr. Folsom and Mr. Neville together repeatedly, in friendly and as I put it, personal surroundings, I call them tried and trusted friends. If you’re suspecting Mr. Neville of—”

“Hush. Nobody has mentioned the idea of suspicion! Don’t overstep your place.”

“No, sir,” and Ross again put on his look of quiet, respectful servitude.

Dixon said little more to him. He asked for the key of Mr. Folsom’s suite, and Ross immediately produced it from his pocket and passed it over.

The detective wanted to quiz him further, for he had a feeling that this man knew his master’s secrets, but he felt it was premature for him to hold any sort of an investigation that belonged, by right, to the police.

And then, the police came.

Just as Dixon was about to dismiss the valet, a low knock at the door of Room J heralded the appearance of Inspector Babcock, a lieutenant detective and a medical examiner.

Partly because he greatly wanted to remain, and partly because, in his excitement, Dixon forgot to tell him to go, Ross stayed in the room, and inconspicuously sat in a corner, while the preliminary questions were asked.

The two doctors conferred above the dead body, while the Inspector listened to the story as related by Dixon.

The police detective, Jepson, seeing no chance for hunting down clues in this room, sat silent, listening to the doctors in turn with the talk between the Inspector and Dixon.

“Who is this man?” asked Jepson, as matters proceeded.

“Oh, he’s Ross, the valet of the dead man,” Dixon said.

“What’s he doing here?”

“Nothing. I had been questioning him, and finished just as you people came in.”

Ross, not being addressed, said no word, and made no move to go.

“Well,” Jepson remarked, “as questions must begin somewhere, I’ll start in with Ross. Maybe it’s a good plan at that.”

He began with the usual request for names and dates and places.

Ross answered intelligently and respectfully, and soon Jepson had a neat list of Garrett Folsom’s activities of late and data of his life in a general way.

“Well, that’s all I can get from this chap,” Jepson said. “Let him go. What are you going to do, my man? You’ve no master now.”

“No, sir. I have no plans, either. I suppose I shall just wait around till Miss Folsom comes, and then I’ll do whatever she tells me to.”

“Oh, yes, of course. The sister. Well, stay in the hotel, for we may want to see you now and then.” Ross departed, and Jepson summed him up as, “well-trained, but wooden.”

Then he listened to the doctors who had agreed entirely in their diagnosis and decisions.

“But it’s preposterous, all the same,” declared Doctor Potter, the medical examiner. “In all my life I’ve never heard of such a thing! Why, whoever stabbed that man must have stood directly at his side.”

“Or in front of him,” amended Manning.

“Yes, for choice, in front of him. The stab stroke entered straight from the front, went clean and swift through the abdominal aorta and of course, he bled to death internally, and immediately. It’s too incredible! How could any one strike so truly and accurately in that tossing water?”

“Looks like the work of some one who knew anatomy?” suggested Manning.

“Not necessarily,” said Potter. “Maybe, but it may have been by accident that the blow struck where it did. More likely the assassin aimed at the heart, but struck lower than he aimed. You see the tumbling water would divert any aim.”

“He may have aimed several times,—I mean aimed futilely, without striking his victim at all, at first.”

“Yes, that is possible,—probable, even. But in any case, he did hit him finally and with a swift deadly aim that hit true and sure.”

“Where’s the weapon?” asked Jepson.

“The murderer carried it off with him,” Potter said, promptly. “He never let go of it. Stabbed and then drew it out and nobody knew a thing about it.”

“Some nerve!” commented Dixon.

“Well, no,” Inspector Babcock put in. “If it had been on land, it would have required nerve. But in the water, the weapon hidden, the deed done out of sight, there was little or no danger of being seen or noticed by the busy crowd of bathers.”

“That’s the secret of it all,” Jepson declared. “Whoever the murderer was, he was mighty cute. He knew he had a cinch, if he kept his head and drove his blow straight. But we’ve got our job to pick him out from a hundred others. It could have been anybody in that part of the ocean, and I confess I don’t know which way to look.”

“Hold on, Jep,” said the Inspector. “It must have been somebody near the victim, to start with. He could have hurried away afterward, and mingled with a group on some other rope, or he might have gone right out of the water and started for home. But before the fatal jab, that man had to be near the victim and must have been seen by somebody.”

“All very well, Inspector, but a needle in a haystack is good hunting compared to finding your man out of a bunch of bathers in the Atlantic Ocean!”

“Then begin at the other end. Seek a motive and a possible enemy and all that. But those things will keep, and if you’re going to get evidence from people who stood near the scene you’d better get at it at once. For after twenty-four hours, innocent people will have forgotten the circumstances and guilty people will have cooked up an alibi.”

“That’s all true, chief,” Jepson said, with a long-drawn sigh. “We don’t have a murder case often down here at Ocean Town, but now that we have, I wish it had happened in the Town instead of in the Ocean.”

“It would have been easier to solve in some ways,” Babcock admitted, “but in other ways, I think the scene of the crime will be helpful.”

“Wish I could see how.”

“Well, for one thing, you know that most of the people who stood near the victim of the attack were guests of this hotel.”

“Oh, my land!” groaned Dixon, “then you’re going to pull on that string! That’s just what Mr. Pelham doesn’t want!”

“Sorry,” and Babcock almost smiled, “but we can’t consider the wishes of a hotel keeper when a murder case is on. Now, Doctor Potter, I suppose you’re for getting the body off to the morgue and making arrangements for an autopsy?”

“Yes. It must be done, but it will show no further details that will interest you, than you already know. Just go ahead, knowing that the death was caused by a stab wound received while bathing in the ocean and causing instant death by internal hemorrhage. That’s all. If anything should appear during the postmortem to add to that report I’ll let you know at once. But I think you want to get busy collecting witnesses and arranging an inquest—”

“Don’t have the inquest here,” begged Dixon, knowing how this would distress the manager.

“No,” the Inspector assured him, “the inquest won’t be here, but we may have to call a lot of your guests to testify. There’s a long case ahead of us, I’m thinking. That is, unless some stroke of fate or some bit of good luck sends us an unexpected flash of fortune. I mean if somebody confesses, or if somebody else was an eyewitness to the crime.”

“There’s always a hope of something of that sort,” Jepson said. “But it’s not very likely. The probabilities are we’ll have to dig and scratch for evidence and get very little. And as to clues,—well, we can’t expect to find those in the Atlantic Ocean!”

“Most unsatisfactory outlook,” and Babcock shrugged his big shoulders. “But our duty is plain. Go to it, Jepson. Question everybody who knew the dead man, even slightly, and get from them hints of others who knew him and won’t tell.”

“Yes, sir,” Jepson said, obediently, “I’ll go to it.”


Chapter 5
Anastasia Arrives

Garrett Folsom’s sister, Miss Anastasia, blew into the Hotel Majusaca that evening.

She made such an entrance as the Queen of Sheba might have made on her historic visit to Solomon. And to carry Scripture analogies still further, she was terrible as an army with banners.

Accompanied by a maid and followed by a string of porters carrying her hand luggage, she strode up to the desk and demanded the manager.

Tuttle, the suave Room Clerk, stepped forward and proffered his services.

“I am Miss Folsom,” announced the new arrival. “I want the best rooms you can give me. Or, better yet, let me have the suite my brother occupied, that is sure to be the best in the house.”

“I can’t give you that just now, madam,” Tuttle told her, “for the police have it in charge. But I feel sure it can be arranged that you may occupy it while you are here. If you will take another room for the night—”

“No, I will not. Get hold of the police and tell them I insist on having those rooms. Who else could have them? And why let them go to waste? They’re good rooms, aren’t they?”

“Very good—”

“Then I want them and I mean to have them. Lord, I’ve enough trouble ahead of me, without being put into an uncomfortable bed! Paxton, take this bag, and take my coat.”

She turned to the woman at her side, who obediently helped her off with her travelling coat.

Miss Anastasia wriggled herself out of the enveloping folds and stood, a militant, belligerent figure, before the desk as she waited for her keys.

She was tall, heavy, and of a commanding presence. She would have been ungainly, save that she possessed a certain air of sophistication and good breeding that was accentuated by her clothes.

These, though of a pronounced masculine cut, were perfectly tailored and fitted exactly the muscular, vigorous shape.

An ensemble of black cloth, with trimming bands of black Bengaline, was of the latest mode and its lines adapted to make the very best of her somewhat difficult figure.

A close, small hat of black Bengaline covered almost entirely her bobbed hair, which escaped in front in little curls of mingled black and grey.

Altogether, as to manner and garb, Miss Folsom was correct, even chic, but her face was of the type that has long had the reputation of interfering with the motive power of a timepiece.

It was large and long. The high cheek bones were prominent, the nose, though undeniably aristocratic, was large and aquiline. The eyes were grey and glinting and darted about in angry impatience. And the mouth, a snapping, thin-lipped affair, promised unpleasant consequences to those who incurred the lady’s disapproval.

Yet her maid seemed to evince no fear of her stern-visaged mistress.

Nonchalantly she took the coat flung at her, carelessly she accepted the bag, and then stood waiting, but scanning with interest the gay scenes about her.

Those nearest were at once observant of Miss Folsom, for no one could be near her and not notice her.

Already she was leaning over the desk, adding admonitory gestures to her spoken insistence on immediate service.

“But, Miss Folsom,” Tuttle implored, “please realize I can’t do this thing in a minute. I will confer with the police, over the telephone, and if possible I will give you your brother’s rooms tonight. But it will take a few minutes, at least. Will you be good enough to step in a reception room, until I can get the connection?”

“No, I’ll stay here. Get about it at once. Paxton, you sit there.”

She indicated a near-by divan, and the maid sat down.

“Pile the bags there, and clear out,” Miss Folsom further ordered the laden porters, and then made a careless gesture which Paxton interpreted as an order to fee them as they went away.

Looking about the gay scene in the great reception hall, the women in evening dress, the flowers and lights, Miss Folsom gave a sniff of bored disdain and held out her hand to the maid.

Evidently used to silent orders Paxton opened a bag, and drew forth a cigarette case, and as Miss Folsom took one and tapped it on the back of her hand the maid provided a lighted match.

Calmed a little by the first whiffs of nicotine, Miss Folsom sat down to wait. She crossed her legs gracefully, exposing only the conventional amount of her pale colored silk stockings, and smoked thoughtfully, with an entire absence of self-consciousness or embarrassment.

It was not long before Tuttle reappeared and told her that Detective Jepson of the police force would arrive in a few moments, and he thought there was no reason why she should not take possession of her brother’s rooms that night.

“Very well,” snapped the lady. “There are two rooms?”

“Yes, madam. A bedroom and sitting room.”

“Then arrange to have a bed put in the sitting room for my maid. Or can you give me another adjoining room?”

“I’ll find out,” said Tuttle, hastily disappearing, for he dreaded further talk with the explosive personage who had invaded his quiet and decorous domain.

And then Miss Folsom remembered her brother’s man. He would be of help, surely.

“Where’s Ross?” she demanded, rising suddenly and pouncing on a clerk at the desk.

“Ma’am?” he responded, startled by her peremptory manner.

“Ross,—the valet of Mr. Garrett Folsom. Where is he? Get him at once!”

“Yes,—yes, ma’am. I’ll—I’ll see about it—”

“Don’t see about it! Get him! Now,—immediately!”

But assistance came from an unexpected quarter.

Tubby, passing, heard the demand, and his quick mind leaped to the conclusion that here was the sister of the dead man, and therefore a possible chance for services on his part that might bring welcome emolument. The Folsoms were rich, and the lady was evidently anxious.

“You Miss Folsom?” he inquired, with his seraphic smile. “I’ll find Ross for you.”

“Oh, Heavens, boy! Can you? Do then. Get him and bring him here.”

But Tubby was gone even before she finished speaking.

And he returned in a very short time with the man in question.

“Oh, Ross,” and in her stress of emotion, Miss Folsom grasped his hand. “Isn’t it awful! What shall we do?”

“Awful, yes, ma’am,” Ross agreed, keeping his poise and proper attitude, even though Miss Anastasia seemed on the verge of hysterics.

And indeed, the poor woman lost her nerve at sight of the familiar figure of her brother’s valet. Hitherto, the strange sights and sounds had so diverted her mind that her personal loss was more or less submerged, but Ross’s well known face and voice brought back the realities of her life and she almost collapsed.

“Now, now, Miss Stasia,” Ross said, in a low tone, “you must brace up you know. And don’t stay here, ma’am. There’s so many people about, and they’re all so curious. Won’t you—”

“What do I care?” she cried, angrily. “Did I ever notice people, Ross?”

“But they notice you, ma’am, and it’s not so good. I make no doubt you can go into one of the offices of the management—”

“Of course I can! I can go where I like! But I prefer to stay here. I thought I’d see Mr. Neville before this—oh, there he is, now!”

And even as she spoke, Roger Neville approached, holding out his hand in greeting.

“Miss Folsom,” he cried. “Why are you here? Haven’t you got a room yet? Come, you can go to Mrs. Valdon’s apartments. You mustn’t stay here—”

“Why not? Why does everybody want me to hide? I am here to investigate my brother’s death. And, remember, Roger Neville, I know, as yet, none of the details. I had only the telegram that Garrett was dead. Then I come here and I find his rooms are in the charge of the police! I sent for Ross, but before I could ask him about it all, you came. I had no wish to ask the hotel people, so—perhaps you will tell me the facts.”

“Of course, dear Miss Folsom, but not here, I beg of you! See,” he spoke low, “see, many are already clustering around us. They pretend to be talking among themselves, but you can see they are greedily listening.”

Anastasia Folsom raised her head high and gave the curious onlookers a stare.

“You are right, Roger,” she said. “I was a fool to stay here as long as I have. Let Paxton and Ross bring my things, and take me anywhere, anywhere that we can talk.”

Relieved at her docility, Neville led her quickly through the throngs to the elevator and took her to the suite occupied by Mrs. Valdon and Mrs. Barnaby.

The arrival was not unexpected, for Neville had gone in search of Anastasia with orders to bring her back with him.

“You poor dear thing!” cried Carmelita, as she opened the door. “Come right in and let me take care of you.”

“I’m not the kind to be taken care of,” was the response, but the tone was independent rather than ungrateful. “Who is this?”

It was a strange thing, but the speeches of Anastasia Folsom, though often rude of words were accompanied by a smile of good nature that seemed to take away their sting. Her glance at the Duchess was one of admiration, though her question was brusque.

“This is my dear friend, Mrs. Barnaby,” Carmelita introduced, “usually called the Duchess, because of her—”

“Her noble air and bearing,” interrupted Miss Folsom, holding out her hand. “I like you, Duchess, you’re all right.”

“Goody!” and Helen Barnaby smiled one of her wide, vapid smiles. “It’s so nice to be liked.”

“Well, that’s that,” and Miss Folsom turned from the Duchess as if entirely through with her. “Now, Carmelita Valdon, tell me all there is to tell about Garrett’s death. Roger, you can speak when I speak to you, but I want Carmy to tell the story.”

She pulled off her hat and flung it across the room, where Paxton picked it up and poked it back into shape.

“And you stay, too, Ross,” Miss Folsom went on, as she held out her hand to Paxton and received a cigarette. “Stay, at any rate, until I hear the main facts.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Ross said, and stood at attention. Then Mrs. Valdon gave a straightforward and concise account of the death of Garrett Folsom. She told all there was to tell of his bath in the ocean with them, of his sudden sinking beneath the waves, of his being carried to shore by two of the Life Guards, accompanied or assisted by several men who chanced to be near.

She told how they had all assumed that death was due to natural causes, until informed by Doctor Manning that it was not, but was the result of a murderous attack.

“Who did it?” cried Miss Anastasia, at this point. But her question received no answer.

“Who did it?” she repeated. “Roger, who murdered my brother?”

A quick glance passed from one to another of her hearers, saying as plainly as words could do that she was hysterical and must be calmed.

Neville rose and sat beside her, taking her hand and gently soothing her.

“That we don’t know, my dear. That we have yet to find out—”

“We certainly have! Garrett was my beloved brother! The only human being on the face of the earth I cared for. I shall devote my life henceforth to finding the fiend who killed him and avenging his death! Ross, who killed him?”

She turned to the valet, and glared at him, with the glittering eyes of a mad woman.

“I don’t know, Miss Folsom,” the man replied, his voice sad, but with the respectful tone of a servant.

“Where were you at the time of his death?”

“In Mr. Folsom’s rooms, waiting for his return.”

“Then you can’t be suspected! So, you can help me in my investigations. I will keep you on, for the present, Ross. You will be useful here and after we go back home. You may go, now, and hold yourself at my orders.”

“Yes, Miss Folsom,” and Ross departed.

“I’m glad to have him,” she said, “he is dependable and capable in every way. Now, tell me more. Who was nearest my brother when he—when he fell over?”

“Our own crowd,” Neville told her, “and several strangers.”

“Your own crowd being?”

“These two ladies and myself,” he said.

“Well, I don’t suspect any of you,” but the hawklike, eyes rested sternly on them all in turn. “Who were the strangers? Do you know?”

“Some of them. Next to Garrett there stood a man named Barron, a chap from New York.”

“Barron? Know anything about him?”

“Nothing at all. It seems Garry talked to him, just casually you know, as lots of people do, in the ocean. But he wasn’t at all responsive, and gave Garry rather the cold shoulder.”

“Then, if he was an utter stranger, we can scarcely suspect him.”

“No, but Anastasia, you can’t suspect anybody yet. It’s all in the hands of the police—”

“Indeed it isn’t! It’s in my hands. I am the one who will find out my brother’s murderer and bring him to justice. Police, bah! Do they ever accomplish anything?”

“Of course they do,” said Neville, with spirit. “You mustn’t talk like that—”

“Don’t you tell me how I must or mustn’t talk! I talk as I choose!”

“Yes, yes, dearie, so you shall,” and Mrs. Valdon put an arm round the excited woman. “Do hush, Roger, you only make matters worse when you talk. Now, Anastasia, dear, I’m going to put Roger out and I’m going to give you a kimono and slippers and let you relax a little. Then you must get to bed—”

Anastasia Folsom gave her a comical look and then burst into a short laugh.

“I thought you knew me better!” she said. “I say, Duchess,” she turned to Mrs. Barnaby, “do I look like a slippers and kimono person? Do I, now?”

And certainly the strong, forceful personality had in it no hint of the type of woman who loves to relax in deshabille.

“Besides,” Miss Folsom went on, more quietly now, “the man from the police place is coming tonight.”

“Here?” cried the Duchess. “Up here?” She whipped out her vanity case, and dabbed vigorously at her powder and rouge.

“Up here or anywhere,” said Anastasia, carelessly. “I don’t care where, so long as I see him. There he is now, likely.”

For a swift sharp rap on the door seemed to indicate an important caller.

It was Jepson, ushered up by Tuttle, and introduced by him to the group.

“I’m glad to see you, Mr. Jepson,” and Miss Folsom’s welcome was quite evidently sincere if not cordial.

“You’re the man to whom I look for help in finding the murderer of my brother.”

“I certainly hope to do that, Miss Folsom.”

“I don’t expect you to do it, I expect to do it myself. I said I look to you for help.”

A slight warning glance from Roger Neville was caught by Jepson’s quick eye and, understanding, he agreed tacitly with the speaker and said:

“Very well, Miss Folsom, we will put it that way, then.”

“We will. But you wouldn’t have agreed so easily if Mr. Neville hadn’t given you the wink. Now, you may as well understand, once for all, Mr. Jepson, that I am at the head of this whole affair. I am the one who has lost a dear relative, I am the one who is investigating his death, and it is to me that you are to report and from me you are to take instructions. I suppose until I came, Mr. Neville was by way of being in charge, but that is so no longer. Now, Mr. Neville, though my friend and my brother’s friend, has no authority of any sort and is not to be consulted in any way.”

Whatever he may have felt at this exceedingly straightforward speech, Roger Neville said no word, merely shrugging his shoulders and nodding as if in acquiescence.

“My Heavens!” exclaimed the Duchess, who was outspoken herself, “I should think you’d be glad of help, Miss Folsom. And Mr. Neville was your brother’s confidential friend, I know. Why do you flout him like that?”

Anastasia turned on her, and seemed about to launch forth another angry speech. Then, with a sudden smile that transfigured her homely face and made it almost attractive, she said:

“I’m running this, Duchess, dear. Don’t butt in!”

“Now, tell me, Miss Folsom,” Jepson began, fearing he was losing his whip hand of the situation, “is there any one—any one in the world, whom you would suspect of having any motive for wishing your brother’s death?”

“Many,” she said, looking at him, squarely. “My brother was a man of wide and varied interests. He was a man of independent nature and strong will. He usually got whatever he wanted, irrespective of obstacles that stood or seemed to stand in his way. In these proceedings he not infrequently made enemies, or at least severed friendships and caused ill feeling, even hatred, on the part of those who had once liked him. I tell you this, frankly, that you may know what manner of man he was. But I never thought that any of these enemies he made were so desperately angry with him as to kill him! Yet that has come about, and so, as I said, it is now my life work to seek out that murderer and hang him.”

Though speaking positively, Miss Folsom’s voice was controlled and her manner quiet. Her rage seemed to have spent itself, and when she announced her intention of avenging her brother’s death she looked like a great and majestic goddess of Fate, and her eyes, no longer snapping with anger, were somber and deep with intensity of purpose and righteous wrath.

“You are quite right, Miss Folsom,” Jepson said, a little awed by this strange person, but endeavoring not to show it. “I am told,” he went on, “that you wish to occupy your brother’s rooms—”

“I do,” she said, “and I’d like to go there at once. We are doing nothing here, of course, and I want to get started.”


“Certainly tonight. Police don’t go to bed at curfew, do they? If you please, Mr. Jepson, we will go to the rooms at once, and then, we can get a real start.”

Already Miss Folsom had risen, and was picking up her hat and putting it on.

“Come, Paxton,” she said, “bring the things that are here, and you can call the porters to bring up the rest. Good night, Duchess, good night, Carmelita. Roger Neville, I thank you for what you have already done for my brother and for me and I excuse you from further responsibility. No, thank you, I need no other escort than Mr. Jepson and my maid.”

Majestically, she stalked out of the door, and the trio disappeared down the hall toward the elevator.

“My word!” exclaimed the Duchess, “isn’t she a caution.”

“I told you so,” Carmelita said, as she lighted a cigarette. “Clear out, Roger, I’m done up, and we’re going to bed.”

“All right, Carmy. Good night. But—I don’t like it.”

“Neither do I,” said Carmelita Valdon.

The three who entered the suite of the late Garrett Folsom were struck with the attractiveness of the rooms.

“What charming atmosphere,” exclaimed Miss Anastasia. “But it’s easily seen why. There are lots of Garry’s personal belongings about. And flowers and oh, my goodness! Look at the dolls!”

There were several of the quaint and curious French dolls, so much affected by smart society people.

These dolls were not entirely a novelty to Miss Folsom, but they had never appealed to her strongly, and she had never owned any.

“Bless his heart!” she said, with feeling, “to think of Garry liking these puppets! I wish I’d known, I’d given him one on his birthday.”

“They’re very beautiful dolls, ma’am,” said Paxton, picking up one and examining its costume.

“Yes, and they have that wonderfully human look, that only these real French dolls have. Why, that one, looks like—well, I can’t think who it is, but she looks just like some one I know. Now, Mr. Jepson, don’t wait for any sort of preliminaries. Just sit down there at that table, and tell me what you propose to do.”

The detective had never before been up against a proposition of this sort but he realized not only that it was necessary for him to obey orders, but that this strange woman might be of real benefit to him in his investigations.

“I don’t believe, Miss Folsom, that you quite understand how soon it is to expect any real work to be done yet. You see, the inquest has not yet been held.”

“No. When will that be done?”

“I don’t know—”

“Oh, you don’t. Then I will tell you. It will be held tomorrow afternoon. It would be tomorrow morning, but it will not be possible to get the witnesses together by that time. But tonight, as soon as you leave me, you will get posters printed and have them up by sunrise, all over this part of the beach and Boardwalk. They will summon to the inquest every one in Ocean Town who can give the slightest bit of information or evidence concerning the death of Garrett Folsom.”

And, after a short but intensive session, Jepson departed to carry out the lady’s orders.


Chapter 6
What The People Knew

As somebody or other has pithily said, the way to do some things is to do them.

This was the dogmatic belief of Anastasia Folsom, and on this principle, to her way of thinking, hung all the law and the prophets.

So, she brought it about that when the guests of the Hotel Majusaca opened their eyes the next morning, they were greeted by the sight of an envelope stuck under their bedroom door.

The circular message was to the effect that any one knowing personally the late Garrett Folsom, or any one knowing any fact that bore upon his tragic death must immediately communicate with the management of the hotel.

In the minds of most of the readers of this notification, there was aroused only curiosity and the sort of excited interest that the news of a murder usually stirs up.

Yet there were many who felt themselves called upon to respond to the summons.

Some, to be sure, were merely urged to such a course by a morbid desire to mix into the matter. Some from a pride that lured them to the limelight under any pretense. And some, who felt conscientiously bound to tell what they knew in the cause of right and justice.

Wherefore, a goodly number of the hotel’s guests presented themselves at the desk, and were directed to Room J where they were met by Mr. Pelham himself.

A group of people sat on the Deck, and watched the kaleidoscopic crowd already assembling on the Boardwalk and the beach.

One of these was Ned Barron, who had stood next to Garrett Folsom at the time of his sudden collapse.

“Of course I must report, Maddy,” he was saying to his wife. “I stood next to Mr. Folsom, I had been talking with him. As I had never seen or heard of the man before, my evidence can be of no help, but I must offer it.”

“I wish you wouldn’t,” Madeline Barron said, thoughtfully. “I see your point of view, of course, and it is logical, in a way. But, as you say, it can be of no help, and it would get you a most unpleasant notoriety. Why, they may even think you knew the dead man, and they will call on you for testimony at the inquest and,—and all sorts of horrid things!”

“Bless your heart, child, what a fearsome picture you draw! I can’t feel, though, that I shall be greatly inconvenienced, except that it may cut into my time a little. But duty is duty, and I certainly was next the man—”

“I, too, advise you to keep out of it, Ned.”

It was Croydon Sears who spoke, who, with his son and Miss Fair, completed the party.

“I don’t think it is your duty,” Sears went on. “You know nothing of the man, you have no personal interest in the affair, and since you can be of no possible help, why mix in?”

“That’s all right, Dad,” Robin Sears said. “But these notices ask any guest of the hotel who knows anything about the matter—”

“There you are,” returned his father. “Barron doesn’t know anything about the matter. Hello, here’s Tite Riggs. Let him advise us. Come here, Tite, sit down and given us some words of wisdom. Ned, here, thinks he ought to announce to a waiting world that he stood next Mr. Folsom, who was, they say, killed while in bathing.”

“I saw you talking to him,” said Riggs, sitting down near them, “I assumed from that, that you knew him.”

“Well, I didn’t,” said Barron, shortly. “And I wasn’t talking to him, he was talking to me.”

“A distinction with a difference?”

“Very much of a difference. I detest being addressed by strangers, especially those who have a rooted conviction that ocean bathing constitutes an introduction. It’s too absurd! Because you stand next to another man at the rope, or bump into him by reason of a buffeting wave, does that mean sudden friendship?”

“No,” Madeline said, decidedly. “And, Ned is foolish to give the matter a thought—”

“Oh, I know my duty, even though it is not in line with my inclinations. You agree, don’t you, Tite, that I am bound to tell the management,—after these notices we all received this morning,—that I stood next to this victim of a tragic death? Even though I was annoyed at his unconventionality, my duty as a good citizen is plain. And, too, if only to clear myself from possible suspicion—”

“Clear yourself!” his wife exclaimed. “On the contrary, you will put yourself in a position to be suspected!”

“Nonsense, Maddy, you’re overexcited about this thing. Tell her, Tite, that I’ve no choice in the matter.”

“I think so,” Riggs said, slowly, looking at Madeline with an apologetic air. “It seems to me it would be better in every way for Ned to go at once to the management and make his report.”

“And be subpoenaed as a material witness—”

“Good Heavens, Maddy,” cried her husband, “I didn’t know you even knew there was such a thing as a material witness or a subpoena? Where did you learn such terms?”

Madeline Barron smiled. Always lovely, when she smiled she was beautiful. Her small, dark face lighted up with a touch of roguery, her expressive dark eyes shone, as she said;

“Oh, I read detective stories, now and then. Who doesn’t, nowadays?”

“You do!” Croydon Sears seemed surprised. “I know most men do, but I didn’t think those yarns appealed to women.”

“I love ’em,” Madeline declared, and Tite Riggs smiled his sympathy.

“So do I,” he said. “And any one, man or woman, could do a lot worse in a literary way than to read detective fiction.”

“Yes, I know,” Barron said, carelessly, “presidents, prime ministers,—I know. But tell me, Riggs, don’t you think I ought to—”

“I sure do, Barron. Of course you ought to,—you must report, and the sooner, the quicker. Come on, now. I’ll go with you, if you like.”

“Do. Not that I need bolstering up, but I know your own curiosity is the urge.”

“Let me go, too, will you?” asked Robin Sears. “I’m a born detective—”

“Hush your nonsense, boy,” said his father. “No, you are not to go. I don’t want you dragged into this business, too. You’ve no duty calling you, have you?”

“No, Angel and I were far out in the surf when it all happened. But I want to go, I’d like to see how the thing works—”

“Yes, I know. Your inordinate curiosity, your—”

An interruption came in the person of Miss Anastasia Folsom.

Tall, majestic and quiet-mannered, she approached the group and as the men rose, she announced herself, speaking to all, and yet, as her quick eyes darted from one to another, fastening themselves on Madeline, she seemed to regard her as the one to be addressed.

“I am Miss Folsom,” she said, “and I am the sister of the man who was murdered down here, yesterday. I have been told that, so far as is known, Mr. Barron was the last one to talk to my brother before he collapsed, and so—”

Immediately Madeline Barron was on the defensive.

“Miss Folsom,” she said, rising, to emphasize her words, “you have been misinformed. My husband spoke to Mr. Folsom shortly before Mr. Folsom fell down into the water. But others spoke to him after that. I know, because I stood at the other side of Mr. Barron, and I had opportunity of observing.”

“I am glad to learn, Mrs. Barron, that you were observant. Your testimony may be of value. As nearly as I can find out, you and Mr. Barron were on one side of my brother, and two ladies, known to me, were at his other side. Now, will you tell me, please, who, since you were noticing, was also near him? Not necessarily on the rope, but near by in the water.”

Madeline thought. She was most anxious to remember those who were near by as every other possible suspect helped to fend off thought of her husband. She knew that Ned never knew the dead man, and had no possible personal interest in him, but she knew, too, how, in the stories she had read, an innocent man was frequently put in most unpleasant situations with no real reason therefor.

“Mr. Sears was not far off,” said Madeline Barron, at last. “But nearer still I remember now, were Mr. and Mrs. Tracy. Yes, they were very close to Mr. Folsom, and doubtless can tell you something of the circumstances.”

“There’s not much to tell,” said Miss Folsom, her lips set in a grim line. “Nobody, except the man who stabbed him, was paying any particular attention to him. Why would they? In the ocean, each individual is looking out for himself or for some one in his care. Few are watching their neighbors. So, as somebody certainly did kill my brother, with a knife or a dagger, that person came into the water prepared to do the deed, and of course, centered his whole energy on accomplishing his fiendish plan unobserved. That’s why I care little for the evidence or testimony of those who chanced to be near the unfortunate victim of this tragedy. Yet, as there is always a chance that an observer might have seen some suspicious circumstance, some indicative move on the part of some one else, I am asking those who were nearest for any information they can give.”

Miss Folsom’s voice was low, her manner quiet and on the whole, she made a favorable impression on those who heard her.

Except for two of them.

Tite Riggs, watching closely, saw a hint of the iron hand under the velvet glove, and felt sure that the lady was politely plausible in her manner because she deemed it policy and not because she was entirely sincere in her statements.

And Robin Sears, who felt the conviction of his innate detective instinct, noted searchingly the unconscious movements of Anastasia Folsom, and ascribed her involuntary facial expressions or instinctive gestures to an unacknowledged suspicion or doubt of something or somebody unmentioned.

These two men thought deeply, and were suddenly brought to attention by the decided tones of Miss Folsom, as she said,

“Well, then, I’ll ask you, Mr. Barron, and you, Mr. Sears, to go with me at once to the office and give your depositions.

It was clear from the glance of the speaker that she meant Croydon Sears and not his son.

But Robin, eager for the opportunity of seeing the investigation carried on, said, quickly, “Come on, Dad. I’m going with you.”

“And I, of course,” Tite Riggs added, which left only Madeline and Miss Fair behind.

“You girls better go up to your rooms,” Barron said, glancing at his wife. “Run along Maddy, and take Angel with you.”

“I will, Ned. Come to us there, as soon as you can get away.”

Miss Folsom seemed to marshal her crowd along the way, and led them to Room J where already a crowd was besieging the door.

Tite Riggs and Robin Sears fell behind and the elder man said, “Sister is certainly on the warpath! I shouldn’t care to be the villain of the piece if she is hunting him down!”

“No. And she will hunt him down and convict him, before she is through.”

“But she can’t do that all on her own,” Riggs returned. “The Judge and jury will have something to say.”

Young Sears smiled. “I’ve been reading ‘Alice In Wonderland’ to the Barron kiddy,” he said, “and Sister reminds me much of one of the jingles:

‘I’ll be judge, I’ll be jury,’
Said cunning old Fury,
‘I’ll try the whole cause, and condemn you to death! ’

Somehow, Miss Folsom seems to me very like cunning old Fury.”

“Yes, that just expresses her. I’m much interested to see what she makes out of the mystery.”

They entered Room J to find it almost filled with would-be witnesses.

It was amazing to see how many people had suddenly bethought themselves of knowledge they possessed concerning the behavior of Garrett Folsom while in bathing the day before.

Detective Jepson and the hotel detective, Dixon, were at their wits’ end, to decide which ones were important to be listened to, and which should be summarily dismissed with scant attention.

Men and women both, nearly all with an air of mysterious knowledge, thronged the place and more or less insistently tried to pour forth their stories.

Tite Riggs was deeply interested, and found himself a place near the interlocutors, where he might get the drift of the examinations going on.

He was surprised at the deft handling of the crowd by the experienced Jepson, whose knowledge of the value of testimony enabled him to dismiss many with a few words, and hold others while he put leading questions to them.

But, after all, little was told of any real help to the investigation.

Most of the reports were merely from those who had seen Garrett Folsom in the water, and had perhaps heard him speak a few words to his companions.

Others told of seeing him on the beach before he entered the surf, but none could tell of any one who might have attacked him with murderous intent.

“All right, all right,” Jepson would say to the more garrulous ones, “this isn’t an inquest. I’ll take your name and if wanted you will be called for.”

It really seemed as if many gave their scant evidence from a desire to get called to the inquest and by that route reach the desired goal of newspaper publicity.

As Miss Folsom and her companions entered the room, Jepson was talking to Mr. and Mrs. Tracy, who were, as many witnesses asseverated, near Mr. Folsom when he died, though not holding the rope.

“Yes, sir,” Mr. Tracy declared, “we were within what you might call a stone’s throw of him. Yes, sir, a stone’s throw.”

“Yes, as close as that!” his wife corroborated. “We were nearer at first, but a big wave came—”

“That was the wave that took him under,” Tracy put in, but Mrs. Tracy said,

“No, it wasn’t a wave took him under. He was stabbed, you know—”

“Yes,” and Miss Folsom turned her piercing eyes on the speaker, “that’s what I want to know. You saw him stabbed?”

“Mercy, no!” almost screamed the frightened Mrs. Tracy. “ ’Course I didn’t know he was stabbed, then! But he musta been, for that’s when he let go the rope and went under. I saw him go under, but at first, I thought nothing of it. We all go under when a big wave comes, and if we lose hold of the rope, we grab for it again. But he didn’t seem to grab for it, and then, next thing I knew, he was being brought up by the Life Guards, and by some men who stood near.”

“What men? Who?” asked Miss Folsom, sharply. “Come, madam, out with it! Was your husband one of these men who assisted?”

“No, I wasn’t,” Tracy spoke up for himself. “I had my wife to look after and there was plenty of help about if the man was in any danger.”

“You, Mr. Barron?” Miss Folsom’s voice was tense. “Did you assist the rescuers?”

“No,” replied Ned Barron. “I, too, had my wife in my charge, and as the surf was very strong I didn’t relax my hold on her arm. I saw the commotion about Mr. Folsom, but I took no part in it. Had my help seemed necessary, I should, of course, have offered it. But with two able Life Guards and several quite evidently helpful bystanders, I saw no reason for mixing in.”

“Where were you, Mr. Sears?” and Miss Folsom looked directly at Croydon Sears.

“Swimming about,” he returned in a disinterested voice. “I was not far away, but not near enough to hear any words that were said. So, though I saw a sort of excitement there, I had no reason to think of any tragedy, until I saw them carrying Mr. Folsom out to the beach. And then, I assumed that it was a case of cramp or something like that.”

“You knew my brother?” The words were shot at him, almost accusingly.

“I had met him a few times in business. I never met Mr. Folsom socially.”

“No, but I have some letters you have written him.”

“Yes?” the monosyllable was a mere murmur of courtesy and carried no invitation to further disclosures.

“Yes. You will be so good as to appear at the inquest and explain those letters.”

“Certainly,” said Croydon Sears.

Robin had looked up anxiously at the beginning of this conversation, but as he noted his father’s complete indifference to the remarks of the lady, he breathed freely again, and returned his attention to the scene before him.

Although the detectives gave Miss Folsom precedence in the matter of questioning the willing witnesses, they kept a supervision of the affair in their own hands, and made a list of the ones whom they wanted to talk with later. If it pleased the sister of the dead man to feel that she was in charge of the solution of the mystery of her brother’s death, they were willing it should be so, especially as it seemed to them that help might come through just that arrangement.

And so the procedure continued. One after another the voluble witnesses were weighed and more often than not, found wanting. Their stories were vague and uncertain, their impressions were imaginative and sometimes fictitious, their statements were contradictory and unverified.

So, after a morning’s work, a mere handful of witnesses had been instructed to present themselves that afternoon at the inquest.

It would not have been held that afternoon, but that Miss Folsom’s peremptory orders could not be disregarded without exceeding difficulty.

“Have the inquest,” she ordained. “Then, if you don’t get anywhere, you can always adjourn for further investigation.”

So it was set for two o’clock, and at that time the Coroner’s office was filled to overflowing and many disappointed would-be auditors were turned away.

The first witness called was, of course, Dr. Manning.

He testified that he was in the ocean for his daily salt-water bath. That he heard a commotion near him—

“Just what was the commotion?” the Coroner asked. “Describe it, please.”

“It’s not easy to describe,” Doctor Manning said, thinking deeply. “For the roar of the surf drowned most other noises or distorted them beyond discernment. But, as nearly as I can recollect, I heard two or three people scream, in what seemed to me a different way from the hilarious shouts of the bathers. Then as I looked toward the noise I heard, I saw two of the Life Guards swimming vigorously that way. They seemed to be intent on some errand, so I watched them. They went directly toward the rope and diving beneath the surf came up immediately bearing what seemed to be the unconscious body of a man. Though naturally somewhat interested, it is not unusual to see an unconscious bather carried up on the beach, and I paid little attention to it. But a moment later, one of the Guards came down to the edge of the water and called out,

‘Doctor,—is there a doctor here?’

“Realizing the need of immediate medical service, I hurried to the beach and found the man who had been carried there wrapped in a blanket and lying on the sand. I saw at a glance that he was dead. I felt of his heart, and his pulse and then, assured that life was entirely extinct, I told them so, and as there was no further request for my services, I went back into the ocean. Then, after my bath, as I had a luncheon engagement, I went away and did not return until late in the afternoon. Then, the management of the hotel asked me for a certificate of death. This, of course, necessitated a more thorough examination, and then, I discovered that death had followed a stab in the abdomen of the deceased man.”

“With what sort of weapon, Doctor Manning?” asked the Coroner.

“So far as I can judge it was a long sharp-bladed knife or dagger. I should say a knife, because the incision that it made is wider at one end than at the other. This incision is rather more than an inch, proving a sharp instrument, whose blade was a little over an inch wide. The incision is a clean, straight cut, but one end of it is perhaps an eighth of an inch, and the other of no width at all. This shows, apparently, a blade like a knife blade, with only one cutting edge. Not like a dagger blade, which has two sharp sides.”

“Could this have been the instrument of death, Doctor Manning?”

The Coroner held out to him a long sharp knife, much the size and shape of a carving knife, a small one, such as is known as a steak carver.

Doctor Manning took the weapon in his hand and examined it closely. “So far as I can judge,” he said, “that is precisely the kind of knife that would make the incision I discovered on the dead man.”

A breathless silence fell on the audience.

“This knife,” the Coroner proceeded, “was brought to me a few moments before this inquest was opened. It was given me by a man who is now before me. Mr. Tracy, will you tell of finding this knife?”

A little embarrassed Stephen Tracy stepped forward. He was the man to whom Miss Folsom had talked that morning, but who then had said nothing of the knife.

“I stood near Mr. Folsom, when he went under yesterday,” Tracy said, “and not long after that, I felt something on the sand under my feet. I stooped down and picked it up, and it was that knife. I didn’t turn it in at once, for at first there was no thought of the gentleman being stabbed. Then later, when I heard what had happened to him,—I thought—I thought that might be the weapon that was used. It’s a—a carving knife, I suppose.”

“No, Mr. Tracy,” Jepson informed him, “it is not a carving knife. At least, I have never seen a carver of that kind of steel, or with such workmanship. And the handle, or hilt. If you notice you will see that it is of ivory carved with a design and an inscription. Carving knives are not like that. This weapon, Mr. Tracy, is a pichaq.”

“A pickaxe!” cried the bewildered witness.

“No. A pichaq, which is a dagger of rarity and value, from some Persian or Turkish country.”

There was a stir in the back of the room, and a man rose in his place.

“May I interrupt,” he said, in a low, clear voice, “to ask if the pichaq in question will fit this scabbard?”

Stepping forward, he handed to the Coroner a scabbard of metal and covered with worn velvet of a violet color. The metal, copper, was repoussé with a floral design and the pichaq, as it was called, fitted it so perfectly there could be no doubt they were made for one another.


Chapter 7
Antique Weapons

James Hubbard, the Coroner, experienced a decided feeling of satisfaction as he inserted the wicked looking blade into the ornate scabbard and found them a perfect fit.

“At last,” he thought to himself, “we have a clue.” Aloud, he said;

“Will you give me your name, sir?”

“Certainly,” returned the man who had produced the scabbard. “I am Everard Meeker, of Portland, Maine. I am staying at the Victoria Hotel, in Ocean Town. I have been here a fortnight or so.”

“And where did you get the scabbard you have just handed me?”

“I found it in the ocean, yesterday, soon after Mr. Folsom had been carried ashore.”

“Near where Mr. Folsom had been standing by the rope?”

“Not very near that spot. Perhaps a hundred feet away.”

Mr. Meeker was a tall, portly gentleman, with the general effect of a prosperous business man. He had a pleasant address, and a genial twinkle in his eye. Although he seemed to realize the gravity of the situation, he also seemed to enjoy the mild sensation he was creating. His interested gaze swept the crowd of attentive faces as he stood with one hand on the Coroner’s table.

“You found this in the ocean?”

“Yes. I chanced to step on it, in much the same way, I suppose, as Mr. Tracy stepped on the knife that belongs to it. As has been said, Mr. Coroner, that knife or dagger is the weapon known as a pichaq and is of Oriental manufacture. Now, personally, I can tell you no more of the matter than that, except that I can tell you where that dagger came from.”

“Please do so, Mr. Meeker.”

A hush fell over the assembly as they awaited the first real information regarding the weapon, that, in all probability was the one that had killed Garrett Folsom.

Miss Folsom stared at the witness, until it almost seemed her eyes would bore into his very soul. She looked like an avenging Fate as her strong, stern face set itself into an expression of accusation.

Yet it was obvious that the man, Meeker, could not have been implicated in the crime, or he would not have offered the scabbard of the weapon as evidence.

“It came,” Everard Meeker stated, “from a shop on the Boardwalk. It was sold there Thursday evening, at an auction of Oriental curios. I was at the auction, as I am, in a small way, a collector of rare objects of art, and especially interested in Oriental metal work.”

“And you know this dagger and its scabbard, together, were sold there that night?” Hubbard eagerly inquired.

“I know it was in the collection that was sold that night. I examined the whole collection before the sale, and I remember perfectly well that pichaq, with its carved ivory hilt and its worn violet velvet scabbard. A pichaq, as you may or may not know, is a weapon shaped almost exactly like a small carving knife. It has a straight blade, not curved, and is a type made in India, Persia or Turkey in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Any collector of arms would recognize it at once, but to the layman, it looks astonishingly like a steak carver.”

“Your information, Mr. Meeker, is of the greatest importance. Have you any idea who bought this— er—pichaq?”

“No, it was sold after I left the auction room. I went there for the express purpose of acquiring an Indian Parade Dagger, that I desired. I bought it within the price I had set as my limit, and greatly pleased with my purchase, I went home.”

“Then,” said the Coroner, “our next step is to find out who did buy this particular weapon. What is the address of the shop, Mr. Meeker?”

“It isn’t exactly a shop, it is an auction room. A place where auctions are held of various stocks or consignments carried there for that purpose.”

“Yes, I understand. Well, doubtless, the proprietors can give us the information we want. Jepson, you’d better go there yourself, and now, and learn all you can of the matter.”

The detective went off at once, and the Coroner, with a sigh, returned to his investigation.

“I am in rather a strange predicament,” he said, frankly. “Never before have I had to conduct an inquiry with so little evidence to work upon. The question before us is, how did Mr. Folsom come by his death? What weapon was used? and who used it? Those are the only matters that affect us. With the private life of the gentleman we have no concern, unless it can be shown that it has to do with his tragic death. There is nobody under suspicion in the case, but it is undoubtedly murder, and was apparently committed with premeditated intent. There is little question of motive or opportunity, which are usually the first matters to be taken up. But as you can readily see, every one in the ocean at the time of Mr. Folsom’s death may be said to have had opportunity, and so far as we have been able to learn, nobody has shown any evidence of having had a motive. This makes the affair most mysterious, for men are not murdered without motive. And so, gentlemen of the jury, I will call on those who knew Mr. Folsom personally, and you may gather what knowledge you may from their depositions.”

Hubbard was naturally a little verbose and stilted of diction, but in this case he was more so, by reason of his own uncertainty how to proceed. It seemed absurd to call on the people who knew Garrett Folsom, for they were the ones most interested in learning the truth, and the ones least likely to be implicated in the crime.

However, it was the only thing to be done, and Miss Folsom, as the nearest relative of the dead man, was called next.

Her testimony was, of course, only to the effect that she had been summoned to Ocean Town by the telegram announcing her brother’s death. This message had been sent to her Chicago home, but as she was in New York, it had been forwarded to her there and she had immediately started for the seashore resort.

She answered the Coroner’s questions as to her brother’s business and habits of life, but nothing she could tell had any bearing on the subject of his death. In addition to the information required of her, she reiterated her determination to bring the murderer to justice, and declared herself willing to spend so much of her fortune as might be necessary in order to succeed in her quest.

There was something about Anastasia Folsom that made her hearers respect her, though none of them would have cared to make any effort to become better acquainted with her. She was not attractive, she rather repelled people, yet none could say she was not sincere and determined in her effort to solve the mystery of her brother’s death.

The next witness was Ross, the dead man’s valet.

But he had no more of importance to communicate than had Miss Folsom.

“You have been with Mr. Folsom some time?” Hubbard asked, a bit perfunctorily.

“Four years, sir,” replied Ross.

“He was a good master?”

“In every way, sir. He was kind always, though to please him, everything must be in strict accordance with his orders.”

“And you came here with him,—when?”

“Day before yesterday,—that is to say, Thursday, sir. We arrived in the afternoon and went to the Hotel Majusaca.”

“And what did Mr. Folsom do on Thursday, after reaching here?”

“As soon as we arrived, he left me to put away his clothing and belongings, and he went out for a stroll on the Boardwalk. I didn’t see him again until he came in to dress for dinner. After he was dressed, he told me I could have the evening to myself. He advised me to go for a stroll on the Boardwalk or to take a ride in the chairs or to go to a Movie Show.”

“Which did you do?”

“I did all three. The gay scenes were most interesting and I had a pleasant evening.”

“You’re wasting time, talking to Ross,” Miss Folsom put in with an annoyed shake of her head. “I’ve known the man for years, he was my brother’s trusted assistant. Get what he can tell of Garrett’s doings the morning he died, and then get at some more important witnesses.”

Coroner Hubbard was not accustomed to receiving advice from his audience as to how to proceed, but Miss Folsom’s suggestion was eminently sensible and he showed no resentment.

“Tell us, then, Ross,” he said, “what did Mr. Folsom do the morning that he met his death. Tell the story of the day.”

“He rose early, as he always does, sir. I mean about eight o’clock, earlier than most men on holiday. He went downstairs and breakfasted in the dining room. Mr. Folsom was never one to have meals in his room. Then he came back to his rooms about, maybe ten o’clock, and told me to get out his bathing suit and the bag of toilet things that he always carried with him to the bath house. I did this, and very soon he picked up the bag and started off. He turned back to tell me that I could go for an ocean dip while he was gone, but to be back by one o’clock, as he would return about that time.”

“And you went in the ocean, then?”

“Yes, sir, for a short time. I didn’t stay in long because I wanted to be sure to be back in Mr. Folsom’s rooms by one o’clock.”

“And were you?”

“Oh, yes, some time before one. By half past twelve or thereabouts.”

“You saw or heard nothing of the commotion caused by Mr. Folsom’s death while you were in the water or on the beach?”

“Oh, no. I was told Mr. Folsom was—was hurt at about half past twelve o’clock. At that time I was in his rooms, or just going there.”

“Your own room is on the same floor with Mr. Folsom’s?”

“Yes, at the back of the house. Mr. Folsom’s rooms are on the ocean front.”

“Yes. Now, Ross, think carefully, do you know of anybody who could have any reason or any intent to wish for Mr. Folsom’s death?”

“No, sir. Not anybody.”

“Who will benefit by his decease?”

“Benefit, sir?”

“Yes, financially, I mean.”

“I’m sure I don’t know, sir.”

“Don’t ask those questions of Ross, Mr. Hubbard,” interrupted Miss Folsom, with asperity. “I will tell you of my brother’s business affairs. Though I don’t see what they have to do with the inquiry into his death.”

“They might have a great deal to do with it, Miss Folsom. Who, then, will receive the bulk of Mr. Folsom’s fortune?”

“That I can tell you, in a general way. The will of my brother leaves some minor bequests, but the main part of his estate is divided approximately into thirds, one of which will be my portion, another will go to a nephew of mine and the other to Mr. Roger Neville, my brother’s friend and business associate.”

“Who is this nephew? Where is he?”

“His name is Pelton—Daniel Pelton. He is just now in New York City. I was with him the evening before I came down here.”

“Thursday evening, that is?”

“Yes. Night before last. Now, Mr. Hubbard, get on with your inquiry, for I want to learn all I can of these matters before I engage my own detective to ferret out the mystery.”

The Coroner glared at her, but as she, of course, had a right to engage a private detective, if she chose, he made no response to her irritating speech.

“I would like to hear from those who were in conversation with Mr. Folsom just before he went into the ocean,” said Hubbard. “Mr. Neville, you were in his party?”

“Yes,” Neville said, stepping forward in response to the Coroner’s gesture. “We went in the water together.”

“There were others with you?”

“Two ladies, Mrs. Barnaby and Mrs. Valdon.”

“Yes. And tell me, now, did you notice anything unusual about Mr. Folsom’s manner or deportment? Anything apprehensive or as if fearing trouble?”

“Absolutely nothing of the sort. Mr. Folsom was in the best of spirits, in a gay mood, and ready to enjoy his ocean dip with the rest of us.”

“You and he are business partners, I am told.”

“Not partners, we are in the same company.”

“What company is that, Mr. Neville?”

“The Royal Realty Company. But Mr. Folsom was President, I am merely Vice-President.”

“Ah, yes. Real Estate?”

“Yes, a Chicago concern. Now that Mr. Folsom is dead, much of the business will devolve on me.”

“Naturally. And you are one of Mr. Folsom’s heirs?”

“Yes, as Miss Folsom stated.”

“Now, Mr. Neville, will you recount as exactly as you can the circumstances of Mr. Folsom’s death. Tell the minutest details, as you saw them.”

“As a matter of fact, I saw very little. I was at some distance from our party, and whenever I endeavored to speak to them, a wave came and either bowled me over, or swept away all sound of my voice, so I gave up the attempt and merely swam around in the surf, by myself.”

“You swim, then?”

“Yes, I can swim well in still water, and passably in the ocean.”

“Then what was the first intimation you had of anything having happened to Mr. Folsom?”

“Naturally, I glanced toward our own crowd now and then, and as I looked I failed to see Folsom. I thought nothing of that at the moment, as he now and then left the rope, but I next saw one or two Life Guards come to the rope and then people got between us and I couldn’t see what was going on. But then I saw the two Guards carrying some one ashore and I recognized at once that it was Garrett Folsom.”

“You were near enough to see him, then?”

“I didn’t see his face, but I recognized his bathing suit, grey with black stripes, and I felt sure it was he. I went immediately to where the ladies of our party stood, holding the rope, and they were almost overcome with fear that Mr. Folsom had suffered a stroke or an attack of some sort. I advised them to go ashore at once, and suggested that we all go to our bath houses and dress in order to be of any possible assistance to our friend.”

“And that is what you did?”

“Yes. They agreed that was the best thing to do, and we were soon dressed and back to the hotel, where we heard the news of his death and later of his murder.”

“Thank you, Mr. Neville. Now, as his business associate and as co-official in his company, are you in charge of Mr. Folsom’s papers and letters that are down here with him?”

Before Roger Neville could answer, Miss Folsom spoke up quickly:

“Indeed he is not. I am in charge of my brother’s effects, including his money, letters, papers and personal belongings.”

She sat upright and glowered at the Coroner as if he had offered her a deadly insult.

“Oh, I beg your pardon, I’m sure. Are you, then, the executor of Mr. Folsom’s estate?”

“No, his lawyer, in Chicago, is his executor. But as nearest of kin, I am in charge of his property, and I propose to remain so.”

“You have his rooms at the hotel?”

“I have.”

“Has anything been touched?”

She gave him a glance that was almost pitying. “Everything has been touched,” she said. “Last night, before I slept, I went over every one of his letters and papers as well as all his clothes and personal property of all kinds.”

“And you found no papers or letters that could in any way give any hint as to the possible identity of the criminal?”

Again that look of utter scorn mixed with the tolerance one might show to a small child or an irresponsible mentality.

“Had there been any such,” Anastasia Folsom informed him, “I should not now be here listening to this futile querying, but I should be after the suspect and getting him behind bars! No, I found no letter or paper that gave the least hint of which way to look for his murderer. But that in no way deters me from continuing the search. I shall proceed with my hunt, and I shall yet track down the villain and shall see to it that just retribution is meted out!”

“You will hold those papers and letters subject to the investigation of the police, madam. We will send our detectives to examine them shortly.”

“You may, sir. No one will be more glad than I, if your sleuths can find any hint of a way to look for light on the matter.”

“Mrs. Barnaby,” was the next witness called, and the Duchess, though trembling with nervousness and embarrassment, walked steadily up to the designated chair.

“There is no use in repeating testimony,” Coroner Hubbard said, speaking gently, as he noticed her quivering lip and trembling hands. “Just tell me if you noticed anything about Mr. Folsom’s manner or speech that was unlike himself, or betrayed fear or nervousness of any sort.”

“No, I did not,” the Duchess replied, relieved at the easy question. “But I knew Mr. Folsom only slightly, not so well as the other members of our little party. You see, he was a friend of the others, I only met him the night before—before last.”

“You stood next him in the ocean?”

“Not at the time he—he went under. I was next him but one, then.”

“Who was next him?”

“Mrs. Valdon.”

“And on the other side?”

“I am told a Mr. Barron was. But I do not know Mr. Barron.”

“That will do, Mrs. Barnaby. Mrs. Valdon next!” Carmelita came forward, looking so beautiful that many present gave an involuntary gasp of admiration. Though in no way overdressed, her bright colored beach cape falling from her graceful shoulders gave her the look of a Spanish princess. Indeed, the beach cape was made from a Spanish shawl, whose gorgeous embroidered flowers shone out lustrously from a black background.

“Mrs. Valdon, will you add anything you can to the story of Mr. Folsom’s death in the ocean yesterday?”

“How can I add anything? I do not even know that he died in the ocean, except by hearsay.”

While not exactly flippant, Carmelita’s manner was distinctly disinterested, and the Coroner was a little at a loss how to treat her.

But he felt it was best to “give it to her straight,” as he expressed it to himself, and he said, sternly, “Do not attempt to quibble. You know now how and when Mr. Folsom met his death. Can you tell me anything in the way of detailed description of what you saw during his last moments?”

“No, I can’t,” said Carmelita, not pertly, but with a look of sadness, as of one thinking back over a harrowing scene.

“Yet you stood next him.”

“I did, but to stand next a person on dry land is one thing. And in the rolling, tumbling surf it is quite another thing. I was entirely occupied with the difficulty of keeping on my feet against the onrush of the waves, to notice or think about any one else. There was a big wave rolling in, and after it had passed, I noticed that Mr. Folsom had disappeared. But I gave it no second thought, assuming,—in so far as I noticed at all,—that he had been swept off his feet, and would right himself in a moment.”

“And then, what did you see next?”

“Then, I saw the Life Guards coming our way. But even then, I didn’t think of their being after any of our own party, until I saw them dive or stoop down and come up with Mr. Folsom in their arms.”

“The two men?”

“That I don’t know,—if you mean did they both carry Mr. Folsom. I have only a confused memory of somebody raising Mr. Folsom from the water and hearing a few stifled screams from women near by.”

“And then, Mrs. Valdon?”

“Then, I saw Mr. Neville coming our way, and he told us to come on out of the water. I asked him what ailed Mr. Folsom, but he didn’t reply. He was helping Mrs. Barnaby along, and he turned to ask if I was all right. I said, yes, and then we all went out on the beach and found a great crowd gathered. Mr. Neville told us Mr. Folsom had had a stroke or something and for us all to go to our bath houses and dress. So we did, and when I was dressed and out again, they had taken Mr. Folsom up to the hotel, and Mr. Neville told us to come along too.”

“Thank you, Mrs. Valdon, a clear, straightforward account of the scene. Now, Mr. Barron.”

Ned Barron went forward with a visible reluctance. He was in no way disagreeable, but he was clearly disgruntled at the summons and took no pains to hide his feelings.

“You stood next Mr. Folsom at the rope?” Hubbard asked him.

“Yes, next to him.”

“You knew him?”

“I had never seen him before to my knowledge. I am told he arrived at our hotel the night before, but I had not noticed him, and had no idea who he was.”

“You talked with him?”

“He addressed a few observations to me, which I naturally answered but I made no further conversation with him.”

“What were his observations about?”

“To the effect that he had not been in Ocean Town for some years. That the fashion in bathing suits had changed in that time. And, that’s about all I can remember of his chatter.”

“And soon after that he went under the water?”

“Yes, but at that time I was turned in the other direction and I did not see him fall.”

“Thank you, Mr. Barron, that is all.”


Chapter 8
Miss Folsom’s Detective

Jepson returned from his errand to the shop of the auctioneer, with some details of the sale of curios that took place on Thursday evening.

He responded to the Coroner’s inquiries by saying that the proprietor of the place had been most willing and anxious to be of assistance in the matter, but that his information had been of little real value.

“Could you find out if this dagger was sold that evening?”

“Yes, it was, but it was not possible to learn who bought it.”

Everard Meeker asked to be allowed to interrupt and stated that as a frequenter of auction rooms, he was sure the name and address of buyers was always made a matter of record.

“Mr. Hirsch,” Jepson responded, “for that is the name of the man who owns the business, tells me, that it is customary in large and important sales to note the names of buyers. But he says that the sales conducted in his establishment are often of goods of slight value, and that fully half of the items sold are merely paid for at the moment and the purchasers carry them off.”

“But the sale Thursday night included many really valuable curios,” Meeker insisted, “and the prices, in many instances, ran fairly high.”

“Yes,” Jepson agreed, “that is true. But it seems this,—what do you call it?—pichaq, is not of great value and was among the last to be sold, and it is not certain that the address of the buyer was noted.”

“Not certain!” cried Miss Folsom, who was devouring with her eyes the police detective. “Then it may be they have his address?”

“It is possible, they told me. You see, I didn’t have the dagger with me, and though I thought I recognized it on the list they showed me, yet I could not be positive. It seems the rare pieces were sold first, and after that the lesser valued ones were put up. Sometimes in lots of more than one article.”

“Yes,” said Meeker, nodding his head. “I stayed myself until all the worthwhile stuff had been put up, and as the cheaper junk came along, I went home. The items I had bought were sent to me next morning.”

“Do you notice anybody here, Mr. Meeker,” the Coroner inquired, “who was also at that auction on Thursday night?”

“Oh, yes, I see several men in this room who were present there.”

The Coroner turned to the audience.

“Will anybody in this room, who was at that auction, please rise,” he said. Two or three men straggled to their feet, but it was with obvious reluctance.

“Don’t hesitate to acknowledge your presence there,” Hubbard advised. “To have been at an auction sale in no way invites suspicion. In fact, only the withholding of the information can be questionable procedure.”

Whereupon several more men arose, and among them was Croydon Sears.

Inquiry proved that none of these men had bought Oriental weapons except Sears, and he had, he stated, bought two daggers, one, a Japanese Hara Kari, and the other a Malay Kris, of the seventeenth century.

“Where are these weapons now?” asked Hubbard, and Croydon Sears informed him that they were in his room at the hotel.

“Why did you buy them?”

“To add to my collection of antique weapons. I own about thirty or forty such, and it is one of my hobbies to collect them at any opportunity.”

“Yes,” corroborated Meeker, “I sat next this gentleman at the auction sale and we were both greatly interested in the collection that was being dispersed.”

“You are acquaintances, then?’

“We had not been so previously,” Mr. Meeker smiled, “but a similar taste in collecting is a great help toward friendship, and we chatted as easily as old friends about the weapons shown.”

“And neither of you stayed until the less desirable numbers were put up for sale?”

“No,” Meeker said, “we left the place together. We parted just outside, for Mr. Sears said he was returning to his hotel, while I had an errand farther along the Boardwalk.”

“And you went directly to the Majusaca, Mr. Sears?” said Hubbard, who showed no trace of suspicion in glance or manner, but whose tone was a little curt.

“Very shortly,” Croydon Sears said, his face flushing with annoyance. “I took a turn or two up and down the Boardwalk, watching the crowds, and then I went to the hotel and straight up to my room.”

“Carrying your purchases with you?”

“No, leaving them to be sent to me the next day,— as Mr. Meeker did.”

“You didn’t return to the auction room?”

“I most certainly did not!”

“You visited any other shops?”

“No,—no other shops.”

But there was a decided hesitation of speech, and more than one face turned curiously on Croydon Sears as he made his denial.

The Coroner said no more, and as a glance at Miss Folsom showed no desire on her part to have this witness examined further, Sears was dismissed.

But though his calm demeanor seemed to be unruffled, one who knew him well, realized only too fully that underneath the calm there was a seething tumult.

Robin Sears adored his father, and he knew every expression of that well loved face, every telltale motion or gesture of that familiar personality, and he saw that for some reason or another his dad was very much upset.

“What the dickens ails him?” young Robin put the question to himself. “Surely he isn’t going to get mixed up in that auction business, if that nice Meeker person was right there with him all the time.”

Coroner Hubbard proceeded with his questioning, and though he called on everybody he could hear of or learn of who might be of any use, he discovered practically nothing of importance. Nothing that would offer a direction in which to look for the murderer of Garrett Folsom.

He had no wish to adjourn the inquest for he thought it more than doubtful that any further evidence would ever come to light. He was sure that the murderer had laid his plans too well and covered his tracks too carefully to leave any clue that a detective might take hold upon.

So he turned the case over to the jury, and they made short work of their decision.

Their verdict was that Garrett Folsom was willfully murdered by an unknown hand, and that the weapon used was probably the antique dagger that had been found in the ocean after the crime had been committed.

No one was surprised at this verdict, for no one had expected anything different, and indeed, what other could have been rendered?

Anastasia Folsom seemed in no way disturbed or disappointed, and her first remark, as the audience filed out, was to the effect that now they could get at the real work.

“First,” she said, turning to the detective, Jepson, “first, I shall arrange for my brother’s funeral.”

“You—you will take him to Chicago?” he asked, not at all unwilling to see the last of this uncomfortable woman.

“By no means. I expect my nephew tonight or tomorrow. Then we shall have a small and informal service in the Funeral Chapel here. My brother’s remains will be sent to Chicago, but I stay here until I have either ferreted out the solution of the mystery, and discovered the criminal, or, until I have concluded that I cannot accomplish that desired end.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Jepson acquiesced.

“And you are to do your part,” she further admonished him. “Don’t think because that stereotyped verdict was pronounced, that the case is finished.”

“No, ma’am,” said Jepson.

Miss Anastasia Folsom was as good as her word. She at once set about investigating the mystery of her brother’s death and she chose her own manner of procedure.

Her first step was to demand an interview with Manager Pelham, of the hotel.

She summoned him to her apartment, which was, of course, the suite her brother had occupied.

“Mr. Pelham,” she began in her domineering way, “you are in duty bound to help me in any way you can, in the work I am now undertaking. I propose to discover and bring to justice the man who killed my brother, and I am assuming that you will lend me all possible assistance.”

“Miss Folsom,” the manager began, and some sort of clairvoyance told her what he was about to say.

“There’s no use telling me,” she said sharply, “that you prefer to hush it all up. That it is not good for your hotel business to keep up an investigation, that your guests object to hearing the subject mentioned, and all that. I am here and here I stay, until I have solved the problem or feel obliged to give it up. If you make any difficulty for me, or in any way hinder my progress, I shall accuse you of obstructing the processes of the law, and you may find yourself in serious trouble. I also expect the assistance of your hotel detective, Mr. Dixon, and what is more, I expect him to work under my supervision and obey my directions.”

“I understand, Miss Folsom, and while I see your position and sympathize with your endeavor, I hope and trust you can achieve your purpose speedily, for as you rightly assumed, it is not at all pleasant for my guests to have this investigation going on.”

“Fiddle-dee-dee! they need know little about it. I don’t propose to shout from the housetops the progress that I make. I shall observe proper decorum, even secrecy, but I am telling you all this, in order that you may not raise objections should I find it necessary to question certain of your employees or even your guests.”

Pelham sighed. He prided himself on always putting the well-being of his guests ahead of every other consideration in life, and he didn’t know where this eccentric lady might attack the quiet prosperity of his hotel atmosphere.

“And of course,” the determined woman went on, “I shall find it necessary to question you, now and again. And to begin with, tell me frankly, Mr. Pelham, do you think the police have done all they can in this matter?”

But Pelham was getting on his feet again, diplomatically, and his suave dignity returned as he replied, “Without doubt, Miss Folsom. What more could they do?”

“What more?” she fairly snorted. “Why, they haven’t done anything yet! And I know why. Because somebody has headed them off. Has advised them to drop the matter—”

“You are making definite accusation?” he asked, calmly. “Or, do you merely mean that looking at their work superficially, it seems that way to you?”

“Oh, well, put it that way, if you like,” she said, after a glance of close scrutiny. “I’m not libeling anybody, if that’s what you mean. But I propose to do the work that it seems to me the police have left undone. To make the investigation that they certainly have not made. And, I hope, to attain results that they assuredly have made no effort to attain. So, Mr. Pelham, I am saying all this to you, because I want to enlist, if not your help, at least your understanding of my position and of my purpose.”

“I do understand, Miss Folsom, and I assure you that you may count on me to do all I can to assist you. And, I make bold to ask, that in so far as you find it possible you will keep your work and its results as quiet as you can, and avoid all unnecessary publicity.”

And Miss Folsom, having attained her ends, promised to grant this not unreasonable request.

After the departure of the manager, she sent a message to Mr. Titus Riggs and asked him to favor her with a call.

Somewhat to her surprise, Riggs came immediately, and expressed himself as glad to be of service, if possible.

“Well, you see, Mr. Riggs,” Miss Folsom began, “I want a detective.”

“But, dear lady, I am not a detective.”

“You can be one. You have all the requirements, and it doesn’t need a special course of study to take up the business.”

“You mean for me to make a business of it?”

“I certainly do, and it will pay you better than the business you are already engaged in.”

Tite Riggs stared.

His manners, usually correct and proper, gave way before this astonishing woman, who said astonishing things.

“You know my business, then?”

“Certainly, you are an architect,—but not a very prominent one.”

“True enough, oh, oracle. And you offer—”

“I offer you a chance to make money surely, and fame, perhaps, if you will accept my proposition.”

“Which is?”

“That you become a detective, or act as one, and help me to discover and bring to punishment the murderer of my brother.”

“And why do you think I can do this?”

“Don’t be silly. I’ve heard you talk, and that’s all I need to understand anybody. Now, if you agree, I will give you whatever salary you demand, within reason—”

“Your reason or mine?”

Miss Folsom looked at him a moment, and then said, calmly:


“Very well. I accept, for as long as you are satisfied with my services. You to be free to dismiss me whenever you wish.”

“That’s all right, then. We’ll waste no more time over it just now. First of all, have you the slightest idea of any individual whom you could consider responsible for my brother’s death?”

“No, I haven’t, except to say that any one near him in the ocean that morning might be the murderer.”

“Yes, that goes without saying. But we can’t hale to court all the bathers in the ocean at that time. We must get at it some other way.”

“That is true. And perhaps the logical way is through the motive.”

“Now that’s a sensible remark. Of course we must work through the motive. And that’s just what I can’t conceive of. How could any one want to kill my brother? Why, Garrett was the best man in the world. The finest character,—the kindest, dearest brother! He had all the virtues, and no vices—”

“Now, now, dear lady, I make all allowances for the devotion of an affectionate sister, but you mustn’t idealize the man.”

“But it’s true. Every one who knew him will tell you the same. He was a remarkable man,—a man of a thousand.”

Titus Riggs had heard much about Garrett Folsom since the unfortunate man’s death, and most of what he had heard was greatly at variance with his sister’s opinions. Yet, he felt a hesitancy about disturbing her ideals too rudely.

So he only said:

“It stands to reason, Miss Folsom, that somebody must have looked upon your brother with a less kindly eye than your own. Unless, that is, Mr. Folsom was killed by mistake.”

“Do you think that probable?”

“Frankly, I don’t. Though it is possible. But if we’re to find out the truth, we can’t depend on imaginings or vague suppositions. We must get down to facts. To true evidence and proved testimony.”

“That’s just it!” and Anastasia’s face brightened at this, to her, hopeful speech. “But, so far as I can see, we have no evidence and no testimony, of any account.”

“That’s pretty nearly true. Therefore, we must try to achieve some. First of all, what about the man, Ross? Is he absolutely unsuspectable?”

“Absolutely. I wish, in one way, I could suspect Ross. I mean, it would be a logical way to look. But he can’t possibly be at fault. He is utterly respectable and quiet-lived, he has always been devoted to Garrett’s well-being, and he is, in all respects, the ideal servant, with no underhanded ways or ulterior motives.”

“Does he gain anything from Mr. Folsom’s will?”

“There is a bequest to him, of a thousand dollars. But that would never tempt him to murder his master, for I happen to know Ross has a good sized bank account of his own. My brother gave him a generous salary, and paid all his living expenses, even to clothes and a small motor car. No, Ross had nothing to gain by Garrett’s death, and much to lose.”

“What about other servants?”

“They are all at our home in Chicago.”

“They receive bequests under Mr. Folsom’s will?”

“Two or three do. But they are small legacies. Oh, the servants are out of the question.”

“Who does benefit by the will?”

“Only myself, Mr. Pelton, my nephew, and Mr. Roger Neville. We each get about one-third of Garrett’s estate.”

“And as I exclude you, because you loved your brother, and I exclude Mr. Pelton, because you tell me he was in New York at the time, that leaves only Mr. Neville to be discussed. What about him?”

“I can’t believe Roger Neville killed Garrett,—I’ve no reason to think he did,—but that is one of the things we must find out. As you know, the man who did kill him, must be some one who knew him, and for some reason wanted to put him out of the way. Now, I know of no reason for Roger Neville desiring Garrett’s death, yet I suppose, that side of it must be looked into.”

“She suspects Neville,” Titus Riggs assured himself, but aloud, he said only,

“That is right, Miss Folsom. We must view it from every angle. Had your brother any romance in his life? Especially, any unhappy one?”

“Not to my knowledge,” she replied, after a moment’s hesitation. “He may have had such, of which I was ignorant. There, again, is a road to be followed.”

“Yes, certainly. Now,—but I’m sure Mr. Folsom was in no way financially embarrassed, or wanting for money.”

“He positively was not. He had plenty, and of late had had some good fortune of some sort, that had brought or was about to bring him in an immense sum. All these things you can find out when you investigate his business,—but, I feel sure our way does not lie in such paths. I think it was some personal enemy, or some miserable cowardly villain who killed him in some spirit of petty revenge or imagined injury.”

“Was he—excuse me,—but was Mr. Folsom ever, to your knowledge, a victim of blackmail?”

“I am not offended,—never hesitate to speak frankly to me. So far as I know, he never was annoyed in that way, but it may have been. Innocent men are blackmailed, I’ve no doubt.”

“They surely are. So we must try every trail we can think of. Mr. Folsom has travelled a lot, hasn’t he?”

“Yes. And he has lately spent three years abroad. He has been back from that trip only a short time.”

“Then, for all we know, this tragedy may be the result of some episode or trouble that happened while he was abroad.”

“It well may be. But that seems to render it hopeless, doesn’t it?” and Anastasia looked deeply discouraged.

“Oh, maybe not. That may help to simplify matters. Perhaps Ross can tell us something indicative.”

“No, I’ve asked him. If he knew anything, he’d tell. But I’m hoping you can pin the crime on to some one in America,—some one down here.”

“At any rate, we must try to do so. There’s the dagger, you know. That ought to be a clue—”

“I doubt it. I know how these auctions down here are run. I mean auction sales of unimportant goods. If that had been a really valuable Oriental curio, of course, a record would have been made of the buyer and the price and all that. But there are thousands of cheap items sold at auction, that are not recorded, and no reason why they should be.”

“All true enough. And with the ocean to clean it, there’s no chance of any finger prints on the knife. No, it doesn’t seem hopeful as a clue. Yet, the first principle of detection is investigation of the weapon used.”

“Well, it’s been investigated, and where did that get you?”

“Nowhere,” Riggs admitted. “But there must be other evidence, and that’s what we’re going to dig up.”

“Of course we are. I’m not unreasonable, Mr. Riggs. I don’t expect you to work miracles. But I do want you to use your common sense, which is more than some detectives do, and work with me, and see if we can’t succeed in our quest.”

“I’ll do that. I accept your proposition, Miss Folsom, and we’ll leave your very generous offer as to salary open for the time being. When I prove to be of some real use to you, then we can talk of remuneration. I know, as well as you do, that it seems absurd for a man to try detective work without any training or experience of any sort. But you can also employ skilled detectives, and if I fall down on the job, they may be able to carry on.”

“I shan’t call in any one else until I see how you get on. But of course if the police continue the search, I shall be interested. Also, the hotel detective here, is rather a clever sort. So, I want amity and unity of purpose among you all. And rest assured, I shall not be idle myself. I may not be able to do a man’s work, but there are kinds of detection where a woman’s intuition and quiet cleverness may be of service.”

“That is certainly so, and I hope we shall supplement and complement each other’s efforts. Now, first of all, Miss Folsom, may I look into Mr. Folsom’s luggage and papers?”

“Of course, that’s what I want you to do. But I can’t feel that you can find anything of evidential value, where I have failed to do so. I’ve hunted all through his belongings, and though I found a lot of things I don’t understand, I saw nothing that seemed, in the least, a straw to show which way the wind blows.”

“No, I suppose not, or you would have told me. What do you make of these dolls?”

“They surprise me. Of course I know that they are a fad, just now. And I know that the dolls here are of the best and finest French variety. They doubtless came from Paris Restaurants of the highest class. But they don’t suggest anything to me,—do they to you?”

“No, I can’t say that they do. But it is a strange taste for a man of Mr. Folsom’s type. I can understand his having them in Paris,—but to bring them home with him, and then to bring them down here— did he cart them about wherever he went?”

“Yes, some of them. Ross told me that four or five of them were always packed with his luggage when he went away.”

“Queer, to say the least,” commented Riggs.


Chapter 9
Croydon Sears

Dan Pelton arrived about noon on Sunday.

He went straight to his aunt’s apartment, and found her there awaiting him. Paxton, the maid, was hovering about, and Miss Folsom dismissed her as she rose to greet her nephew.

“Clear out, Paxton,” she said, curtly. “How are you, Dan? Sit over there. Smoke, if you like. Now, there’s small use in your talking, you’ve nothing to say of interest. I’ll tell you all there is to know.”

Whereupon, she launched into a full and complete recital of the circumstances of Folsom’s death, as she knew them, of the inquest and the verdict, and then proceeded to outline her plans for the future.

“I’m going to find the brute who killed Garrett, if it takes my whole lifetime and my whole fortune as well. My brother was my idol, the only person on earth I loved or cared for, and I shall avenge his death to the fullest degree. I don’t believe you care two cents about it all! You sit there like a bump on a log, saying nothing!”

“You said for me not to talk,” observed Pelton, composedly.

He was a tall, slender young chap, about twenty-seven, and of good address, though far from handsome. His pale blue eyes were a trifle prominent, his pale brown hair was scanty and his long, thin fingers had a way of moving restlessly about, as if his nervous temperament demanded some physical outlet.

Yet he was calmly at ease, except for his ceaselessly moving fingers, and he looked at his aunt with a nod of comprehension.

“And you’re not far out,” he told her, “when you say I don’t care much. About Uncle Garry’s loss, I mean. I’m shocked and all that, at the manner of his taking off, but as you know, there was no love lost between us.”

“I know it, and I resent it, and I resent your presence here—”

“Of course you do, and you resent my inheritance under Uncle’s will, and you resent my being alive at all! But, you know, Aunt Stasia, all that doesn’t cut any ice with me. We Folsoms are all pretty much alike, each devoted to his own interests. Uncle Garrett was like that—”

“Hush! Not a word against that blessed man! A saint on earth, if ever there was one! I tell you, Dan Pelton, you’ll be sorry if you take that attitude—”

“I’m not taking any attitude. I’ve never had but one feeling toward Uncle Garrett, and that is in no way changed by his death. But, this talk is useless, Aunt, and as I only came down for the funeral, I’ll stay for that and then I’ll go back to New York.”

“You’ll stay here as long as I want you to, and no longer. Come, now, Dan, be nice to me. I’m very sad and lonesome and terribly upset.”

“I know it, Aunt Stasia, and I really want to help you, for I’m fond of you, but you know Uncle and I never hit it off, and you can’t expect me to change all at once.”

“No, but you can and must help me, if possible, to find and punish his murderer. You are the man of the family, now,—in fact you and I are the only members of the family left, and we must not quarrel.”

“No, you’re right. Well, I’ll do all I can. I say, what are all the dolls for? Are they yours?”

“No, they were Garrett’s.”

“Whew! Did he cart them around with him? For they don’t look like the sort that grow down here.”

“They are Parisian, that’s clear. But they could have been bought here at that. Few things can’t be achieved in Ocean Town. However, he did bring these with him, Ross says he usually took them wherever he went.”

“Oh, Ross, that first-class man he had. I don’t see why I shouldn’t fall heir to Ross. Where is he?”

“Here. He’s in my employ, now, but if he’s willing you can take him over. I’ve no real use for a man servant, except as a sort of courier to look after my luggage, and that’s scarcely necessary. You know, Dan, you will have about a third of Garry’s money—”

“You bet I know it! And you have a third, and old Neville has a third. Aunt, why does Roger Neville get so much?”

“They planned it, Dan. Their wills were made at the same time, and whichever one of them lived longer, inherited a third of the other’s fortune.”

“Then what price Neville as the murderer?”

“Don’t be absurd. Well, as I was saying, now that you have a fair fortune if you like to take on Ross, do so.”

“All right, and I’ll take these rooms, Aunt. You can get others to suit you. And I suppose I can have Uncle Garry’s personal belongings, I mean his mannish traps,—the ones that you can’t use.”

Pelton gave a quick, appraising glance at his aunt, realizing suddenly, that with her own mannish effects, there might well be a few of her brother’s things that she could use.

But she gave little heed to the subject and easily acquiesced in his plans for getting herself another suite.

“But you’re to help me, Dan, in my quest,” she said, gravely. “If you don’t I shall cut you out of my will, and then the day will come when you’ll regret it.”

“You bet I would,” he exclaimed, fervently. “I don’t want you to step off, Aunt Stasia, for I’m really fond of you. But when you do, I most certainly expect to be your sole heir.”

“You’re a cold-blooded brute, Dan, but your prospects depend entirely on your meeting my wishes so long as I am alive to express them.”

“Here goes, then. What do you want me to do first?”

Dan Pelton was not really the brute he seemed, but he had thoroughly disliked his uncle, while he was friendly with his aunt. Money was his god, and at heart he was glad that circumstances had sent him a windfall. But he also looked forward to the time when his aunt’s fortune should be his too, though not with such greedy anticipation that he desired her immediate death.

And he was humanly shocked at his uncle’s fate, and more than willing to help his aunt in her efforts, so long as it didn’t interfere too much with his own comfort.

“You see,” he said, seriously, “all Ocean Town has risen as one man in indignation at this outrage. Oh, I don’t mean the bathing population, the frivolous beach crowd, but the important people, city fathers, landholders, hotel men and all that. And the police, though up against it, are trying to do their best to get at the truth of the matter.”

“How do you know all this?” asked his aunt in surprise. “You’ve only just arrived.”

“Oh, I pick up news by instinct,” Pelton returned, lighting another cigarette, and walking about the room, as he took up and scrutinized one doll after another. “I suppose I can have these toys, Auntie?”

“Yes, of course. Lord knows I don’t want them. But where did you hear about the people being so interested?”

“Heard it on the train, coming down here. On the stage contraption that brought me from the station. In the lobby as I came through. At the desk as I waited to hear from you,—oh, the tongues are wagging all around.”

“Did you—did they suggest any names—”

“There seem to be names in the air,—the Tracys, who are they?”

“Nonsense, they’re people who stood by. They only knew Garry slightly, if at all. But gossip means nothing. I have a detective engaged,—that is, he’s not a detective, but I propose to make him over into one.”

“Fine plan!” said her nephew with obvious sarcasm.

“Yes, it is,” said Miss Folsom, quite unconcerned at his sneer. “I want you to know him,—Riggs is his name. Now, Dan, first of all, if you’re going to take these rooms of Garry’s, and I think it’s a good idea,— help me find another suite, for me and Paxton, and you get hold of Ross to help us move.”

“Good, Auntie. How do I get hold of Ross?”

The valet was summoned, and seemed willing enough to take service for the present with the nephew of his late master.

“We’ve met before, Mr. Pelton,” Ross said, “though not often. And I’m glad to stay here, hoping I may be of some use in helping Miss Folsom find the villain who used that dagger.”

“Yes, we’re all going to do all we can in that line,” Dan agreed, and then they set themselves to the matter of getting more rooms.

“What sort of comments do they make on my uncle, Ross?” Pelton asked, casually, as they were at last by themselves, and Ross was unpacking his new master’s belongings.

“Well, Mr. Pelton, that’s a hard question, because I dislike to say hard things of Mr. Folsom, even if they’re only the speech of others. But he was not highly spoken of by many, sir.”

“Yet few down here knew him.”

“More than you’d think, sir. Many a man knew him or knew of him, who has only said so since he’s gone.”

“You liked him, Ross?”

“He was a good master, sir. Strict, indeed, and insistent on his orders being carried out to the letter. But just and fair, and liberal enough.”

“In money ways, you mean?”

“That, yes, sir, and also in the matter of time off and vacations and amusements. Whenever he was to be out himself, he’d bid me go out for a bit of an outing.”

“I see. And you were in bathing the morning he was killed.”

“Yes, sir. I went in soon after he did, and I took care to be out and dressed in time to be here when he came in. Shall you bathe today, sir?”

“No,—I think not. I’d like a dip, but I think my aunt would object. You know, Ross, the funeral will be tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir, but not exactly a funeral, is it, sir?”

“Not like it would be if we were in Chicago. But I daresay it’ll be all the services my poor uncle will have read over him. For my aunt plans to stay here on the job of tracking down the murderer. What do you think about it, Ross? Any idea who did for my uncle?”

“No, Mr. Pelton, I’ve no idea. Mr. Folsom did have some,—well, what I suppose might be called enemies, sir, but they were not down here. I mean men in Chicago, business men and such.”

“Yes, that’s just the way I look at it. Yet he was killed down here. But pshaw, any or all of those Chicago business men might have been down here and no one suspect their presence in the crowds on the beach and in the ocean.”

Dan Pelton joined his aunt for luncheon, and they sat in the public dining room, quite indifferent to the curious eyes that watched them and the busy tongues that wagged in gossip about them.

They had reached the stage of coffee and cigarettes when Roger Neville came into the room, accompanied by Mrs. Valdon.

The pair at once came over to the table where Miss Folsom sat, and renewed their acquaintance with Pelton.

Dan was glad to talk to Neville, and proposed that they all go up on the Deck for a chat.

The others, who had lunched already, assented, and they went, joined en route by Mrs. Barnaby, who had not before met Pelton.

She annexed him at once as she did any available man, and exclaimed, admiringly:

“I declare, the more I see of the Folsom family, the better I like them! Poor, dear Mr. Folsom was such a darling, and Miss Folsom is truly magnificent. And now, you, Mr. Pelton! You’re the son of another sister?”

“Yes, my parents died years ago, and my aunt and uncle have looked after me.”

“Fortunate boy! Except, of course, this terrible tragedy. But we won’t talk of it, shall we? For you must have some relaxation from the nerve strain and sorrow of the occasion.”

“That’s just it, Mrs. Barnaby,—how you do understand.”

“Oh, call me Duchess, they all do.”

“Glad to. Suits you, too. How well Mrs. Valdon is looking.”

“Carmelita. Yes, she’s in great form this summer. You’re staying?”

“As long as you will be kind to me.”

“Why, you little rascal! I do believe you’re a flirt!”

Pelton was a flirt, so much so, that he said frivolous things without thinking, and always without meaning. It was second nature to him to compliment women, and young or old, he used the same jargon.

But he suddenly became aware that a sort of council was about to convene.

Anastasia, intent on her one pursuit, had found Tite Riggs in his usual corner of the Deck, and she pounced upon him, dragging the rest of her flock with her.

“Now, we must talk,” she decreed. “We are secluded here, and I have gathered the ones I want about me. Who is this young man, may I ask?”

Anastasia had a way with her that often robbed of rudeness remarks that would have been insufferable in another. She looked benignly, as she spoke, on Robin Sears, who had only a moment before paused to speak to Riggs, whom he knew.

“This is Mr. Sears,” she was told, and as Robin was about to pass on, Miss Folsom laid a detaining hand on his shoulder.

“Please stay,” she said, a little peremptorily. “You are the son of the Mr. Sears who bought daggers at the auction last Thursday night?”

“Yes, Miss Folsom; does that interest you?” Robin responded.

One of Anastasia Folsom’s characteristics, and perhaps one of her besetting sins, was a quickness to take offence.

She did so in this instance, and retorted, sharply:

“Very much. Will you be good enough to grant me a short interview?”

“Of course he will,” Tite Riggs answered for him, and a little bewildered, Robin sat down.

With a gesture that seemed to fling the rest of her crowd into near-by seats, Miss Folsom, sitting directly in front of Robin, began a fire of questions.

She was not at all unkindly, but she was straightforward and direct of speech and her eyes flashed with a sort of veiled warning.

“Your father bought several daggers at that auction?”

“Two, madam,” said Robin, quietly.

“What for?”

“As he stated at the inquest, to add to his collection.”

“Yes, I heard him. Why did he go out late, on a stormy night, to buy daggers for his collection?”

“Because that was the night on which the auction was held. Mr. Meeker also bought daggers at that sale.”

“I know that. But Mr. Meeker was not acquainted with my brother. Your father was.”

“I don’t think he was, Miss Folsom, though I am not sure. But, even so, he had a perfect right to buy antique curios, if he chose.”

“Oh, yes, a perfect right. That is, if he bought them for antique curios. But if he bought them for use as deadly weapons, his right is not so unquestionable.”

Robin had had about all he could stand.

Naturally courteous, he hesitated to speak sternly to a woman, yet he felt the time had come.

Tite Riggs was watching him closely, so was Pelton. Neville and the two women with him, had taken chairs near by, and were curiously listening to this dialogue.

Anastasia Folsom was regarding Robin with an eager gaze that held in it not so much of enmity as inquiry, almost as if she hoped for some plausible and satisfactory explanation.

But Robin was at the end of his rope. The words “deadly weapons” had so roused his ire, that he felt a direct response was called for.

“Miss Folsom,” he said, “my father did buy those daggers for his collection. But your insinuation is too definite to be ignored, and I think I must ask you to cross to the other side of the Deck and say to him what you have said to me.”

“I shall be very glad to do so,” Anastasia said, rising at once. “Come with me, Dan. And you, too, Mr. Riggs. No one else.”

And led by Robin, white-faced and flashing-eyed, they crossed to where Croydon Sears sat reading a newspaper.

“Dad,” Robin said, “will you put down your paper, please.”

It was a secluded corner, and no one was within earshot, if words were low-spoken.

“Surely,” said Sears, rising as Miss Folsom drew near.

She spoke at once.

“I am here to ask you, Mr. Sears,” she began, “about the daggers you bought at the auction last Thursday night.”

“Yes, Miss Folsom; what about them?”

Croydon Sears was what is often called a gentleman of the old school. He had a fine old-fashioned courtesy, and though not an old man, he showed a polite deference in conversation, not generally seen in today’s social intercourse.

“You bought two, that were among the finer specimens of the lot, I understand.”

“You have been correctly informed,—I did.”

“Then, you left the sale room, in company with Mr. Meeker?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Then where did you go?”

“I walked a bit on the Boardwalk.”

“Up or down?”

“Oh, both ways. Just a stroll back and forth. Then home to my hotel.”

“Not going into the sale room again?”

“No, Miss Folsom.”

The quiet tone carried an impression of veracity and composure, but a close observer might have seen a slight quiver of Sears’ lips, a slight throbbing of a pulse in his cheek, and a nervous movement of his hands.

At any rate, his son saw these things and marvelled, for he knew they meant his father was disturbed in some way, and he failed to connect it with Miss Folsom’s catechizing.

“Mr. Sears,” the insistent lady went on, “I have no reason to suspect you of any complicity in my brother’s death. I have no motive to attribute to you, no evidence to point your way, and no clue that suggests you. But I am investigating every possible avenue of inquiry, and so, since you can have no object in refusing to answer, I ask you where you were in the ocean at the time my brother met his death.”

Croyden Sears looked at her calmly.

“My dear madam,” he said, “I am truly sorry for you. I know how anxious you are to learn the slayer of your brother, and I am glad to be of any help I can. I do not resent your questions, for I know they are the desperate efforts of an anguished heart. As to my position in the ocean that morning, I can only say I was bathing in the midst of a crowd of people a long distance away from the spot where your brother met his death. As many near me can testify, I was standing near the next rope, fully fifty feet away from the rope at which Mr. Folsom was standing. It would therefore have been impossible for me to have committed that crime, even if it had been one of my daggers which was used,—and, as you know, it was not mine.”

At that moment, Ned Barron, in search of his friend, Croydon Sears, came up to the group.

Seeing the earnest discussion in progress, he paused, uncertain whether or not to interrupt.

Then he gathered a few words that told him of Miss Folsom’s attitude toward Sears, and also catching sight of Robin’s anxious face, he stepped forward.

“Can I help?” he said, pleasantly. “Is this another inquest?”

“No, Ned,” Sears said, soberly, “but you may as well corroborate my statement that I was fifty feet or more away down the beach from Mr. Folsom at the time he was stabbed with the dagger.”

“Why—er—were you? Yes, so you were.”

Clearly Ned Barron had no recollection of Sears’ whereabouts at the moment in question, but he was quite evidently willing and anxious to assist his friend, and ready to back up his word.

“You remember then,” Miss Folsom said quickly, “that Mr. Sears was some distance up the beach when my brother fell under the water?”

“Yes, yes,—I remember perfectly.”

“By the next rope, up the beach,—that is, North,” went on the inexorable voice, and staring into her face, almost as if hypnotized, Barron repeated, “Yes, up the beach,—North.”

“No, Ned,” Sears said, “I was down the beach, toward the South. I fear your observation was not at its best.”

“I think your corroboration is worthless,” Miss Folsom said, contemptuously.

“And I think we are on the verge of a revelation,” said Dan Pelton, taking up the gauntlet. “Mr. Sears, I am here to help my aunt in her endeavors to find the man who stabbed my uncle. Like her, I have no reason to suspect you of any hand in the crime. But I am ready to say that your answers to her questions just now have not been very satisfactory, and your friend’s backing up, though nobly attempted, fell down badly.”

“Let me in on this,” said Tite Riggs, in his suave fashion. “I make no doubt, Mr. Sears, that you can prove an alibi, and do not let that phrase frighten you. Any innocent person can prove an alibi, it is the guilty man who makes up one that he can’t prove. Now, will you tell us who were near you, as you were in the ocean at a point, say, about fifty feet away from Mr. Folsom, to the South?

“Why, yes, certainly. Let me see, there was—it’s strange, but I can’t for the moment think of any one I know. You see, I know so few people down here, and my son had just left me to swim far out into the breakers, with—”

“Yes, with whom?”

“I should prefer to leave the lady’s name out of it, but it was his fiancee.”

“That’s all right,” said Miss Folsom, impatiently; “we’re not concerned with Mr. Robin Sears or the girl he’s engaged to. It’s Mr. Croydon Sears who interests me, and I want some one who will verify his statement that he was not near my brother when he died. Surely that is not too much to ask, when I am so deeply concerned in my quest for the truth.”

“No, Miss Folsom, that is not too much to ask,” and Tite Riggs’ lips shut tight together, a habit of his when much perplexed. “But, of course, Mr. Sears, you can satisfy the lady’s requirement. There must have been some one about whom you knew. Or some one you can describe, even if you are unaware of his name.”

“Oh, yes,” cried Croydon Sears, at that. “I distinctly remember a man in a bright green bathing suit. Shirt and trunks, both of bright, grass green. It struck me as unusual, and so I noticed it.”


Chapter 10
French Dolls

There were but few who gathered at the funeral service of Garrett Folsom.

Of course, Miss Folsom and Dan Pelton were the chief mourners. They were attended by Paxton and Ross, who behaved as proper servants should, and watched for any opportunity of ministering to the wants of their employers.

Tite Riggs and Robin Sears attended, for they had the case well in hand now, and Riggs, like a hunter keen for prey, lost no possible chance to glean any bit of information. He scarce hoped to pick up any at the funeral, but there might be some hint or suggestion in the attitudes of the dead man’s relatives that would be enlightening.

And there were some who dropped in out of mere idle curiosity, and others who were there because they chanced to be in the neighborhood.

Pelton had locked the door of his suite and thrown the key on the office Desk as he came downstairs. But that did not keep intruders from his rooms. Scarcely had he left the hotel, in company with his aunt, than two smiling young people, with shrewd eyes watching out for spies, slipped quietly along the corridor and one of them, the girl, produced a key and quickly gained entrance to the locked rooms.

“Here we are, Tubby,” Myrtle said, as they reached their goal and locked the door behind them.

But after all their errand was of no more sinister intent than to look at the French dolls, which still sat, in a gorgeous row on the sofa.

At least, that was what Myrtle wanted. Tubby, his alert mind longing for something more exciting, was opening and shutting the drawers of the chiffonier.

“Hey, Tubby, don’t you do that!” the girl cried out. “It’s no harm for me to feast my eyes on these dolly-babies, but I won’t stand for your snooping around in any of the rooms that I have charge of.”

“Gee, Myrt, don’t be a lemon. I ain’t doing a bit of harm. You play with your dolls and lemme alone.”

“They’re not my dolls, I wish they were! Oh, if Mr. Pelton would only give me one of them!”

“Pinch it. I don’t believe he’d ever miss it.”

“No, I’m scared to do that. And the one I want—”

“Which one do you want?”

“This. This dark-haired beauty. Oh, my, but she’s a peach! Not the prettiest of all, maybe—”

“Not much, she isn’t! That yellow-top puts it all over her!”

“Well, I don’t know. This was Mr. Folsom’s favorite. He used to talk to this one.”

“Did he? What would he say?”

“Why, he talked to it almost as if it was alive! He’d say, ‘I’ll have you yet, my beauty. I’ll have you again,—and soon!’ You’d think he was talkin’ to his Sweetie!”

Tubby honored the doll with a short scrutiny. “Looks like somebody I’ve seen, but I dunno who. Say, Myrt, I wish I dast go through Mr. Pelton’s suitcases.”

“No, Tub, don’t do it. Don’t make me sorry I let you in here. You said you wanted to see the dolls.”

“Huh, I only said that to make you let me in! I don’t want to see those silly things! They make me sick!”

“Then we’ve got to get out. I’ll never believe you again! But I’m afraid to come in here alone, and of course, if any one is here, I can’t touch the dolls. Oh, you lovely! You beauty!”

She caressed and patted the dolls, and arranged them in coquettish attitudes on the sofa and chairs.

“Does Mr. Pelton fall for ’em the way Mr. Folsom did?” asked Tubby.

“No; he seems to like them a little, but Mr. Folsom, he acted like they were real girls.”

“Then I bet Mr. Pelton would give you one. Or ask the old girl. She’d do it.”

“I dunno. Miss Folsom is nice some ways, then again she’s a terror.”

Taking advantage of Myrtle’s absorption in the dolls, Tubby had opened a suitcase of Dan Pelton’s and was rummaging among its contents. They were almost all papers and letters, and as she heard the rustle, Myrtle turned on the daring bellboy.

“Here you! Stop that! I told you I wouldn’t allow that! I’m in charge of these rooms, I’m chambermaid and I’m responsible—”

“You responsible! That’s a good one! Don’t be silly, Myrt. I’ll bet I could find sumpin’ in those papers that might help solve the big mystery.”

“Oho! You a detective? Hello, Mr. Picklock Holmes! Now, if that’s your lay, here’s where you get off! March!”

Tubby’s rotund form was propelled toward the door by the agile and vigorous Myrtle, who, egged on by her indignation at the bellboy’s abuse of her favor in letting him see the dolls, was exceedingly insistent on his immediate departure.

Tubby was loth to go, but he had to do so, or make a scene, which might call the attention of the chief of the chambermaids and get a sound berating for Myrtle if not for himself.

He made one last plea.

“Aw, lemme stay here a little minute more, Myrt, and I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll ask the old girl myself to give you one of the dolls. Or I’ll ask Mr. Pelton. He sorter likes me.”

“He won’t like you if he hears you’ve been digging into his luggage! And I’ll tell him, if you don’t clear outa here! Wait till I see if the way’s safe.”

Cautiously Myrtle opened the door a crack, saw that the hall was empty and then pushing Tubby through she followed and locked the door with her pass-key.

Myrtle was one of the most trustworthy chambermaids on the staff, and she was trusted with the keys of the rooms she had in charge. And never had she been false to the trust, nor ever had entered a room except on her legitimate errands, until she had fallen under the spell of the wonderful dolls. Why they fascinated her so, she couldn’t have told, but she was far from being alone in her adoration of the siren faces and bewitching garb of the puppets.

She had almost made up her mind to ask Mr. Folsom for one, for he had smiled on Myrtle in a way that she understood to imply his favor. Then came his sudden and terrible death, and from that time on, the girl had snatched any opportunity she could get to hang over and fuss with the dolls.

Yet she was too afraid of the vague horror that seemed to hang round Garrett Folsom’s rooms to venture in there alone. True, she had done so, the time that Carmelita caught her hiding there. But the intrusion of that lady had so scared Myrtle that never again had she gone into the rooms alone.

And now, she vowed never again to take Tubby in there, or anybody else. People were too curious, too snoopy. No, she would ask either Miss Folsom or Mr. Pelton for a doll, which ever of the two seemed more amenable.

Also, there were Paxton and Ross. Perhaps she could get at the matter through one of those. Well, she would think it over.

And, still thinking of those glorious human-looking fairies, she went about her regular routine of work.

Later, she was startled to receive a summons from Dan Pelton himself.

“Well, Myrtle,” that gentleman said, a little sharply, “so you spent your time in here while I was at my uncle’s funeral.”

“No, sir,” she said, glibly. “Not that, Mr. Pelton. I came in here with the fresh towels, but I didn’t spend my time here.”

“Didn’t hang round a bit?”

“Only to look at the dolls,” she said, thinking it might be her opportunity. “Oh, Mr. Pelton, aren’t they beautiful? Oh, I do love ’em so!”

The sincerity of her tones precluded all idea of mendacity, and the enthralled looks she cast at the dolls proved her words true.

“Do you? Well, well, perhaps I’ll have to give you one. But, see here, girl, didn’t you meddle with anything but the dolls? Didn’t you pry into my belongings—my suitcase?”

“No, sir,” and Myrtle’s eyes, raised to his face, fairly shone with truth. “No, sir, I didn’t touch your luggage or your things at all. I did pick up the dolls and pet them, but, honestly, I didn’t touch another single thing.”

Myrtle was telling the truth, of course, and it rang in her voice, and Dan Pelton believed her.

“If there’s one thing I can do,” he said, “I can always tell when people speak truthfully. And I know you did. So, that’s that.”

“How queer. Can you always tell, Mr. Pelton?”

“Yes. I seem to divine it. Nobody can lie to me, and get away with it.”

“And—and did you say—something about—” her courage gave out and she looked at the dolls in mute appeal.

“Did I say I’d give you a dolly?” he laughed. “Well, I half said so, didn’t I? Which one do you like best?”

“This one,” and Myrtle pointed to the dark-eyed one, the one with the lure of a siren in her sweet, haunting face. “That’s the one Mr. Folsom liked the best.”

“Oh, he did, did he? Then, take it! I’m glad to be rid of it. Take it, girl, and now, clear out. Don’t look so hesitant. I’ve a right to give away the doll. They’re all mine now. Take that one, and go.”

“Yes, sir. Thank you, sir, very much.”

And clasping her precious gift to her heart, Myrtle hurried away, almost afraid the donor might regret his act, and ask the doll back again.

As ill luck would have it, she met Miss Folsom just coming toward her nephew’s rooms.

“Here you,” the lady said, sternly, “what are you doing with that doll? It is my brother’s doll.”

“Mr. Pelton gave it to me, ma’am. He—he told me to take it.”

“Well, you come back here with me, till I make sure of that.”

Her sharp knock gained her immediate entry, and Dan Pelton scowled to see Myrtle and the doll back again.

“Get out,” he cried, crossly. “What are you doing back here?”

“Hush, Dan,” said Miss Folsom. “I brought the girl back. She says you gave her that doll.”

“Yes, I did. Now I’m sick and tired of hearing about the doll. Go away, Myrtle. Come in, Aunt Stasia. Yes, I gave the poor child the doll, as she seemed to want it so much. I don’t suppose she ever had a doll in her life.”

“She never had one like that, surely. Why, Dan, those dolls cost an awful lot.”

“I don’t care. I don’t admire them myself, and if you want the rest of the bunch, you’re welcome to them.”

“Well, I’ll see about them later, but don’t give any more away to servants. She didn’t select the best one.”

“No, she said she’d choose the one Uncle Garry used to like the best. Fancy her being sweet on Uncle!”

“I don’t believe she was. But she thought it must be the most valuable.”

Meantime, the astute Tubby, who had long ago learned to distinguish between the sides of buttered bread, was out on the hotel Deck hanging around the chair that contained the portly person of Mr. Titus Riggs.

Privileged in many ways, Tubby was allowed free access to the Deck, but he was not supposed to speak to the guests unless on an errand.

At last Riggs noticed the uneasy little chap, and called him to his side.

“What’s it all about, Sonny? What do you want to say to me?”

“How do you know?” and Tubby gaped his admiration.

“Oh, well, when a boy looks as if he’d just naturally bust if he didn’t get something off his chest, I assume that it’s a weighty matter. And when the said boy looks at me furtively now and then, yet with the expression of a dying fish, why, then, I just call him over and demand the truth.”

“Well, you see, Mr. Riggs, I know sumpin’.”

“You do! Really?”

“Now, don’t kid me. I mean, about this here now murder business.”

Tite Riggs became grave at once. “That’s no matter for jesting, son.”

“I know it, I ain’t jestin’, sir.”

“Well, then, what is it that you know? And why haven’t you told before?”

“Well, I didn’t know it before. And I dunno as I know it now. It’s just a—a—”

“A suspicion?”

“Not even that. More like a—a—”

“A surmise? An indication—”

“No, no. I mean more, a hint, a clue, a—a way to look.”

“Ah, a way to look! That’s fine, Tubby. Now, careful, tell me about it.”

They were in a corner by themselves, and with lowered voices ran small chance of being overheard. “Yes,—but, Mr. Riggs,—if—if it is any good,—if it does help you—”

“Will you be paid? Yes, Tubby, you will. But only if it’s good evidence or a real clue. Or a true way to look.”

“Yes, sir. But if it is all those things, will you—”

“Yes,” a little impatiently, “yes, I’ll see to it, that you get paid. My Lord, Tubby, what a school for young grafters a big hotel is! Well, go ahead.”

“It’s only this. You’ve been all through Mr. Folsom’s papers and letters, ain’t you?”

“Pretty much. There’s some of that work still to be done. Why?”

“Oh, only that Mr. Pelton has a big suitcase full of papers and letters and important looking documents—”

“And you think they’re connected with Mr. Folsom’s estate?”

“They’s lots of ’em addressed to Mr. Folsom, and some of ’em in Mr. Folsom’s writing.”

“This is interesting. Where is this suitcase?”

“Up in Mr. Pelton’s rooms. The rooms Mr. Folsom used to park in.”

“How did you come to spy them out?”

Tubby looked duly and properly insulted.

“Nothin’ like that, sir. I saw them when I took up some ice water.”

“Oh, I see. I beg your pardon. Very careless of Mr. Pelton to have them in sight when you came in. Well, never mind, you did right to mention it, Tubs, and if anything comes of it, I’ll remember you.”

“Yes, sir, thank you, sir.” And the bellhop went off and left Riggs to his cogitations.

It was a pleasant place to muse. The comfortable chair was placed just at a point where Riggs could command the Boardwalk or could let his gaze go farther afield, and view the wide expanse of blue ocean.

But with a little sigh of regret, he rose from the big wicker rocker, and betook himself up to Dan Pelton’s rooms, having first acquired information by telephone that he was there and alone.

“I thought at first, I’d go for a confab with your aunt,” Riggs said, as he took the seat and the cigar that Pelton offered. “But I felt that these first hours after the services for her brother, she ought to be left in peace.”

“I see you don’t know Aunt Stasia,” Pelton responded, with a little smile. “She could go to the funerals of all her relatives and still be fit for any sort of interview with anybody. Shall I call her, or shall we go to see her?”

“Presently. Perhaps we might have a little chat by ourselves first. You’re with us, Pelton? I mean with your aunt and me in this search for her brother’s murderer?”

“Of course, Riggs,—sure I’m with you, in that I want you to find him, if you can. But I’m not so keen to have him found as Aunt Anastasia is.”

“Why not?”

“For a very simple reason. Because I fear if the motive for Uncle Garrett’s death, or the identity of his murderer should be discovered, it—well, it might react unpleasantly on the—er—the family dignity, if not—honor.”

“Then,—I shall have to speak plainly,—you don’t place your late uncle on quite so high a pedestal as his sister does?”

“No,—to be equally frank,—I don’t. I never liked my uncle, but aside from that, I always felt he was— oh, pshaw, I hate to say it, was a little—”

“Go on.”

“Well, underhanded. I mean I thought, I feared, rather, that there were some transactions in which he was engaged that wouldn’t stand the light.”


“Not in the generally accepted sense of that word, no. But, dishonorable,—oh, I don’t know just how to express it.”

“Have you any proofs of these accusations—”

“Oh, they’re not really accusations. But I always suspected Uncle was up to some deviltry, and after I got Aunt’s wire about his death, I nipped down to his room, where he was staying in New York, and I found a bag full of papers and letters, and I brought it along here with me. Now,—well, Mr. Riggs,—those documents go to prove that my respected uncle was deserving of very little respect, and that whoever did him in, really rid the world of a pretty black old scoundrel.”

“And so, you think it might be better to let sleeping dogs lie—”

“Yes, just that. I’m sure that to open up the hidden life of Garrett Folsom would bring to light truths of such a nature that my aunt would sink under the load of guilt and shame that would attach to his memory.”

“You’re not exaggerating this, Mr. Pelton?”

“No, I don’t think so. I daresay you can guess the sort of nefarious business he carried on.

“From what you say, or, rather from what you don’t say, I can’t help thinking it must be some form of blackmail.”

“Yes, that’s right. But not any common, ordinary blackmail, or any small jobs. It’s merely that he knew a few secrets concerning the lives of several people, mostly his friends,—I mean, apparent friends,—and over these he had such a fearful hold, that they were forced to pay him his price or be exposed.”

“This is strong talk, Mr. Pelton.”

“But it is true talk. And I have proofs,—that is, some proofs, which, however, I hesitate to bring forth, because any of them would suffice to throw suspicion on a man who may be entirely innocent.”

“And, too, for your aunt’s sake, you hesitate to bring forth this new side to the tragedy.”

“Oh, partly for Aunt’s sake, but more because I feel this way about it. It seems to me that the men my uncle made miserable suffered enough, without being brought to the bar to answer for a murder that they didn’t commit. For, naturally, only one man stabbed him, and to let loose a lot of facts that would bring suspicion hot upon the heels of a dozen others, seems a terrible thing to do.”

“All this is logical and even ethical from the standpoint of your uncle’s victims. But, on the other hand, he was murdered, and his murder ought to be avenged. No matter how great a villain Garrett Folsom had been, it doesn’t exculpate the man who killed him.”

“I suppose not, but as I said, I’d hate to bring unjust suspicion on a lot of innocent men, and even then, perhaps not strike the right man among them.”

“It’s a big question, and it will require some thinking over before we can settle it. Look here, isn’t Roger Neville an associate in business with your uncle?”

“He was,—in some ways. You see, Uncle Garrett had several lines of business and many varied interests all of which brought in money. Neville is with him in some of these schemes. But I’ve no reason to think or assume that Roger Neville had any part in or even any knowledge of these things I speak of.”

“Well, we must ask Neville.”

“Do it guardedly, for if he knows nothing about it all, we don’t want to enlighten him.”

“Then again, would it not be wise to let your aunt in on this secret? To be sure, she would be dismayed to learn of your uncle’s wrong-doing, but as you have said yourself, Miss Folsom can stand shocks with fortitude. And it may be she would rather know the truth, however bad, than to be kept in ignorance of it.”

“I daresay it may be so. But my aunt so reveres and cherishes her brother’s memory, that it would go hard with her to learn he was less than she thought him.”

“Well, leaving that question for the moment, let us get down to brass tacks. You see, your aunt has engaged me to investigate this case for her. She has told me to spare no expense and no effort to discover the murderer. Now, have I a right to lie down on the job, because it seems to be leading into an unpleasant field? Moreover, is there not a possibility that you are mistaken, at least as to the extent or weight of these judgments your uncle held over his victims’ heads? May it not be that they were really wrongdoers, that they deserve the punishment he gave or threatened to give them?”

“You don’t see it quite straight, Riggs. I have reason to believe that my uncle, while not what may be called a professional blackmailer, yet had a few victims whose secrets he knew, and whom he ground down to the last degree in his fearful power over them. I believe that any one of these,—say half a dozen,—would have murdered him gladly, cheerfully, if they had thought they could do it without getting caught. And now, one of these has accomplished the deed, one of them did murder him and get away with it, and to bring forward the evidence I speak of would be to arouse suspicion of the whole six,—though that’s only an approximate number,—and lay a black accusation for life on the great majority of innocent ones. And, at the same time, probably not get the real criminal at all.”

“How many of these victims you speak of are down here at Ocean Town?”

“That’s just the worst of it. I know of two or three, but there may easily be more whom I do not know. Any one of which may be the murderer.”

“Complicated situation. I think myself it does seem a pity, after these six, let us say, have suffered from your uncle, perhaps for years, now to be unjustly suspected of his murder! And yet, have we a choice in the matter? Must we not follow where the way is pointed out? Are we not bound to investigate any and every clue that offers itself to our attention? At any rate, old man, I guess you’ll have to let me look through those letters you speak of.”

“Yes, I suppose that is the thing to do.”


Chapter 11
The Memorandum Book

Tite Riggs chuckled to himself at the thought that Tubby’s precious secret was thus openly announced by Pelton.

Riggs had looked forward to a diplomatic effort on his part to get the nephew of the dead man to exhibit his uncle’s papers. And here he was fairly thrusting them on Riggs’ attention.

Was he, though? Was he the ingenuous, straightforward character he appeared to be?

His attitude about wanting to shield his uncle’s memory as far as possible, was all right, but could Riggs be sure that the letters and documents he was now about to inspect were intact as when Pelton had found them, or had he tampered with the lot and abstracted any he chose?

It was largely imagination or instinct, but Tite Riggs did not trust Pelton. He didn’t suspect him of having had any hand in his uncle’s death, but he did think the nephew was glad to inherit his legacy, and that if he could further feather his nest in any cleverly concealed way, he would not be averse to such a procedure.

So, together, the two men went through the suitcase full of letters and papers.

But it was a thankless task. Mostly the documents were of no great importance and of no evidently suspicious character. It was plain to be seen that Garrett Folsom had packed the lot while in Chicago and brought them to New York, to be attended to there.

For there were various matters that concerned New York business men, and some contracts and estimates that had to do with New York firms.

But of anything touching on a nefarious pursuit, or unlawful bribery or corruption, they found no trace.

That is, until, at the very last, after Dan Pelton had actually turned the little suitcase upside down and given it a final shake, when an inconspicuous pocket in the lining flipped open and out dropped a small memorandum book.

It was old and worn, and had evidently been hidden in the pocket purposely.

The two men pounced upon it, and found it to be full of various notes and dates, which obviously referred to private matters.

“Whatever it’s all about,” Pelton said, “it’s not meant for the general public. But many of the entries date far back and many of the notes are crossed out. I fancy he had this book in use for years.”

“Looks so,” agreed Riggs, “but I can’t see as it’s going to mean much to us, unless we can make out who the people are.”

“Well, here’s one that seems familiar. Towards the last, note the initials C. R. S. And repeated several times.”

“And who may C. R. S. be?”

“That’s just it. He may be, possibly, Croydon Rochester Sears.”

“Croydon Sears! Impossible! That man’s white clear through. I don’t know him very well, but I do know him, and I know nothing but good of him.”

“That doesn’t count, Riggs. If there was a black spot on his past, you wouldn’t know it,—but Garrett Folsom might have.”

“You’re painting your uncle a bit dark, himself.”

“I can’t help it. It’s a true bill against him. He was dark; at least, he had dark spots. And I’m not the sort to whitewash him as Aunt Stasia does.

“Can you get head or tail to these notes about C. R. S.?”

“They are vague, and yet they are definite, too. Definite in expression, that is, though vague in meaning or allusion.”

“Such as?”

“One says, ‘C. R. S. Keep on tenterhooks.’ Another, ‘screw a little tighter.’ And another ‘Refer to secret, but lightly.’ It seems to me such notes can only mean that Uncle held a club over the head of Mr. Sears.”

“Do you know Sears well?”

“Not so very. But I’ve known him in a general way for years. And I’d back him to the last ditch. His reputation is unassailable. But Uncle Garry may have known of some blot on his ’scutcheon. Early indiscretion, or something. There’s no use pretending Uncle was perfect, just because he’s dead.”

“No, and there’s no use accusing him of being a blackmailer, when we have no real evidence.”

“Good Heavens, Tite, one would think I was the detective, and you the defender! I don’t want to darken Uncle’s name, but I do want facts.”

“There we are at one. All I ask is facts, and I’ll do my own deducing. You see, Pelton, you use the word blackmail with a light, careless touch. It isn’t a light matter at all. It’s a dangerous and uncertain game. More than in most ventures, if you push your victim too far, you come a cropper yourself.”

“Well, Garrett Folsom wasn’t the man to come croppers. If that’s the case, then I’ll bet he never pushed a victim too far.”

“He did,—if he was murdered for doing so.”

Pelton stared.

“Meaning, in plain English, the suggestion that he was hounding Sears about this ‘secret’ which unquestionably existed, and that in consequence, Sears bumped him off?”

“Meaning that it is certainly among the possibilities.”

“Then, I say, as I said from the start, I’d rather let sleeping dogs lie, drop the investigation, and let the bones of Garrett Folsom rest in peace.”

“The investigation will not be dropped!” cried a strident voice, and Miss Folsom stamped into the room. “I heard what you said, Dan, as I neared the door. And it’s not up to you to say what shall be done. I engaged Mr. Riggs, he is working for me, and I forbid you to interfere in any manner!”

“Oh, come, now, Aunt Stasia,” said Pelton, placatingly, yet gravely, “you don’t want to uncover a lot of stuff that would reflect on Uncle Garrett’s character, do you?”

“Nothing like that can be unearthed! There is nothing in my brother’s life that may not be shown to the light of day! Don’t you suppose I knew my brother! And he has been murdered, and for some reason or other, you are trying to hush things up! First thing you know, you’ll get yourself suspected!”

“Good Lord, Auntie, how you do go on!”

Even in this serious situation, Dan was amused, as he always was, at his aunt’s vehemence.

For she talked with her hands, her elbows, her head, and put in emphasis with her foot.

“I’ll thank you, Dan, to keep out of it all. You can’t help, and if you could, you wouldn’t. Now, take your finger out of the pie, and leave the investigation to those who are capable of conducting it.”

Her scorn, as shown on her haughty face, might have withered one less used to it, but it was old stuff to Dan Pelton.

“All right,” he said, “but don’t blame me when you find you have brought public ignominy and shame on the memory of the man you love so well.”

This gave her pause, and she said, uneasily;

“What do you mean?”

He looked at Riggs and shrugged his shoulders.

“You see, madam,” and Tite Riggs concluded frankness was his duty, “we’ve run across some notes and papers that seem to show Mr. Folsom had some people at his mercy.”

“At his mercy? What do you mean by that?”

“That their reputations were at his mercy. That he knew their secrets and it gave him a hold over them.”

“My brother knew the secrets of many people. He was the confidant and counsellor of many. If that gave him a hold over them it was the hold of gratitude and thankfulness for his assistance.”

“Aunt, you’re priceless! I think, Riggs, you’d better tell her all.”

“Mr. Riggs will most certainly tell me all.”

Miss Folsom’s eyes began to glitter and her voice took on a dominating tone, that had, nevertheless, Dan noted, a slight tinge of fear in it.

“Then, Miss Folsom, to put the matter in a few words, we have found some papers—”

“You told me that before.”

“Some papers that indicate transactions or arrangements of a nature far from creditable to Mr. Folsom.”

“Speak out more plainly. What are they?”

“I’ll read you some, instead.”

He opened the worn notebook and read:

“ ‘F. L. Positive of the perjury matter.’ ‘J. N. S. No doubt of the truth of K’s report.’ ‘T. C. Have absolute proof of his guilt.’

“Now, I’m sorry to hurt you further, but on another page a series of large numbers would seem to indicate sums paid by these individuals, as the figures are opposite the initials we have noted, and the dates are consecutive—and recent.”

“I think, Mr. Riggs, you read a meaning into those notes to suit yourself. I think, if truth were known, they represent the friends who, as I told you, consulted my brother and he advised and helped them. The figures, of course, we cannot understand, but none of it is one iota of proof or even an indication that my brother had any wrong hold over these people.”

“I have not seen such great faith, no, not in all Israel!” murmured Pelton, who was fond of quotation.

“Be quiet, Dan,” said his aunt. “Now, Mr. Riggs, you seem extraordinarily blind to facts, as you call them. If these are facts, I mean in the way you interpret them, then it is clear that my brother’s murderer must have been one of these victims, as you put it, of his tyranny. If so, I want that man found and hanged, and I will accept the consequences of any opprobrium that it may bring to my brother’s name. For I know, that when all is clear and all the circumstances laid bare, my brother’s part in these matters will be proved noble and generous; however black it may look now, because of your own inability to understand it.”

“Then, you want me to go ahead and investigate these notes, if possible, irrespective of the outcome?”

“Go ahead, full steam!” declared Miss Folsom. “Stop at nothing. Tell any one who cares to know, the fullest details of Garrett Folsom’s life. Show him up entirely, and you will be pleased with the result. I haven’t lived with that man half a century for nothing. He was as incapable of conscious wrong-doing as I am myself. And I assure you I would do an injustice to no one.”

“I believe you, implicitly, Miss Folsom, but I want to warn you once more, that you may be mistaken. That, blinded by love for your brother, you may have misread some signs or indications, and that, also, in his love for you, he may have kept from you some details of his life that must have distressed you.”

“You make him out worse with every word you utter. If you are working for me, Mr. Riggs, you are working at my orders, and those are for to go on the lines I lay down for you, and no others. Will you do this?”

“I will,” said Tite Riggs, gravely, “now that I have carefully warned you of the dangers you brave and the calamities you invite.”

“They are my dangers and my calamities. I will meet them, should they come. First, then, Mr. Riggs, you will investigate fully such cases as you can get further details about from that notebook—”

“There are many definite dates and names of places, Miss Folsom. Shall I go right through the list?”

“By all means.”

“Hold on, Auntie. You may get yourself involved in libel suits and all sorts of horrible things.”

“I shall bring the libel suits, not the other way. For Heaven’s sake, Dan, remember that I ordered you to keep out of this. You have no regard for your uncle’s good name, no care for his unjust arraignment, but at least, you may keep quiet and let me go my own way.”

“As if I could stop you!”

Pelton gazed at his formidable relative with something of admiration.

“And here’s another thing,” the lady went on. “As I came in you two mentioned the name of Croydon Sears. Is he in your precious book?”

“The initials C. R. S. occur a few times,” Riggs told her.

“Very well. That’s Mr. Sears. And, of course, he is the murderer. Don’t you remember he was at the auction where that knife was sold?”

“But he didn’t buy it!”

“We don’t know that he didn’t. He’s the man, I tell you.”

“Then, you must admit that Folsom had such a stranglehold on him that Sears went to the length of murder to be free from him!” exclaimed Pelton.

“Shut up!” said his aunt. “Oh, Dan, do go way! Go and bathe or something, I can’t stand another minute of you!”

Dan went.

“Now, Mr. Riggs,” his employer continued, “will you get busy on Croydon Sears at once?”

“I will, Miss Folsom, but I must work in my own way. You’ve laid down laws, which I will obey. Now, I must make stipulations which you must regard. You are not to take any active or open part in this investigation. I am not a professional detective. I am not in need of money. But I do like to see justice done, and I like, so far as I can, to assist that justice. But, also, I like the game, if I may call it that without offending you. I enjoy the solving of any riddle, from a mathematical puzzle to a crime mystery. This is my real interest in this matter, and as you have given me carte blanche in the matter of investigation and exposure, I shall go at once to work, following your directions and adding some of my own.”

“Then you don’t work by clues and such things as the regular detectives use?”

“Perhaps I don’t depend on them as much as some do, but I by no means scorn or ignore them. Are the regular detectives, as you call them, making headway?”

“I doubt if they’re doing anything. The police are on what they call a still hunt, but I think it will be kept so still we never shall hear of it at all.”

“Very likely. I heard Mr. Neville say he thought the affair would blow over as an unsolved mystery.”

“Oh, he did, did he? Well, it will do nothing of the sort! It may be an unsolved mystery, for we may not succeed, but it won’t blow over! It will take more than Roger Neville to blow over any enterprise on which I am embarked! Go to it, Mr. Riggs. Do your darndest!”

Tite Riggs was always amused at the sudden lapses from dignified diction to less formal phrases, and walked smilingly away.

Left alone in her brother’s rooms, Anastasia Folsom devoted her attention to the dolls.

For the first time she regarded them with interest, and as she gazed at them, her interest increased.

“My Heavens and earth!” she ejaculated. “That one is the very image of Jeanie Frew! Poor little Jeanie. Garry wasn’t very good to her. But, bless his heart, he couldn’t be tangled up with a stenographer! I wonder if he bought that doll, because it looked so like Jeanie!

“And that one,” she went on, communing with herself, “is Kitty Leigh to the life! I believe the boy did buy these puppets when they looked like the girls he admired. For that blonde one is enough like May Farmer to be made for her. Yes, and this is like Loo Bailey,—though not so much so. Well, Garry dear, you were always a boy! How well I remember you as a baby. Fond of dolls, even then. Yet you grew up such a big, strong manly boy,—and a wonder man. A superman, as they call them. Well, old chap, your sister is still here and still on the job. Whoever bumped you off shall be found and bumped off, too, if it’s within human possibility.”

Miss Folsom’s somewhat mixed style was due to her having absorbed, quite unconsciously, her brother’s phrases.

And as she looked at the dolls, and pictured him gathering them together she was touched by this little side light on his character.

For her loving eyes saw only an innocent exhibition of romance,—but it was romance that had represented to Folsom’s mind the number and quality of his conquests.

He had had many and various sorts of “romances” and when he could find a doll which looked like one of his favorites, past or present, he bought it.

And this occurred more often than one might think likely, and there were at least a dozen dolls in his collection, though not all here present.

And then Miss Folsom had another thought. A gruesome one.

Had,—was it possible her darling brother had had any—unpleasantness or,—you know,—upset, with any of the girls he had known, and that such a one had killed him?

But it seemed to her too preposterous,—she knew so little of that sort of thing. Garrett had been her idol and the sole human interest in her life.

The only love she had ever given had been to him; the only jealousy she had suffered had been of him.

So she knew naught of any other varieties or degrees of love or jealousy, and the thought of a girl murderer was vague indeed.

She ranged the dolls on a sofa, in a straight, even line, all sitting in prim, decorous positions, which spectacle sent Myrtle off in peals of laughter next time she entered the room.

Not all were recognized by Miss Folsom, but at least six she was sure of, two, pretty confident, and the others reminded her of no one she knew.

Tite Riggs went from the presence of his employer, as he amusedly called Miss Folsom, and sought the society of Robin Sears.

He found him idle, and proposed a stroll on the Boardwalk which Robin accepted gleefully.

“Where’s the inamorata?” asked Riggs, with the freedom of intimacy.

“Dunno,” Robin said. “She’s getting sort of elusive.”

“Had a mad?”

“No, nothing of the sort. But Madeline is weedy. They want to go home, at least Maddy does, and what she wants, Angel generally wants too.”

“And Barron?”

“He’s all for staying down. Says the weather is perfect and the kiddy is doing fine, and there’s no place where there are more diversions and wetter water and rollier chairs and no mosquitoes, and he just wants to stay. So, whatever Madeline wanted or however much she craved it, she’d give in to old Ned.”

“So they’re staying on?”

“For another week or two. My old man loves it, too. Dad is in his element down here. He loves the water, and even more he loves to putter about the shops.

“Odd taste, that.”

“Oh, I don’t mean the catchpennies. He never bothers with cheap stuff. But you know the Boardwalk has displays in some instances that are among the best ever. Why, the girls say the lace fiddle-de-dees they love are most choice, or too dear for words, or similar diction.”

“Yes, I know it. Robin Adair, you have dropped out of our detective collaboration?”

“Are you still at that?” He looked his surprise. “Why I thought it was past history. The inquest—”

“Oh, the inquest isn’t the be-all and end-all of a murder case.”

“You workin’ on it? What can I do to help?”

“Nothing, if you ask in that lackadaisical way.”

“Now there’s a word I’ve always enjoyed. Don’t know how to spell it, don’t know how to pronounce it, but I just adore that word.”

“Stalling!” Riggs thought to himself, amazed. Whatever ailed the chap?

Unostentatiously, he steered their steps to the shop where the antique auctions were held.

“Come on,” Robin said, drawing away.

“Wait a minute, can’t you? I want to see what they’ve on, today.”

“Oh, all right,” and Robin lit a cigarette and showed no interest in the window exhibit.

“I say, Robs, there’s hijacks,—I mean pichaqs like the chap was done in with.”

“I don’t want to look at it, come along, Tite.”

“No, I want to look at it, if you don’t. Humor me, dear.”

“I can’t think what you see to look at in a mess of old junk.”

“Valuable antiques, you mean. Funny about that dagger, wasn’t it. Sold the very night your father was in here. Wish it had been while he was here. With his keen notice of anything of the sort, he might have remembered what the man looked like who bought it.”

“But he didn’t,” the boy almost groaned. Then he went on, earnestly. “You see, Tite, Dad came out long before that jigger was put up, and he was up and down the Boardwalk all the rest of the time till he went home to bed.”

“Yes, I know. I was only wishin’. He might have given us a steer.”

“Not he. Dad has an eye for good pieces, but that tin stabber wouldn’t hold him for a minute.”

“Oh, come now, it wasn’t so bad.”

“Yes, it was. Dad said so afterward. He knew all about it. But then he knows all such things, as you and I know jazz music.”

“I waive the palm to you in that matter, Robin. Where were you that night?”

“Dancing with Angel, in the Majusaca. Oh, Riggs, that girl dances like a—”

“Like a thistledown, a wave of the sea, a gossamerwinged fairy, a—”

“Oh, shut up, girls don’t dance like that nowadays. She dances like—oh, well, like most all of ’em do. Only it’s nicer to dance with her than the others.”

“What time did you turn in?”

“My word! Is this an inquiry meeting? ’Long about one, I guess. Not much later anyway. We’re not the real thing in Night Club work, you see. Madeline wouldn’t stand for it. She’s conservative and correct, first, last and all the time.”

“Mighty fine woman. Well, you’re not much good, Robbie, as a helper on the great problem.”

“No. I say, Tite, why don’t you chuck it? You’ll never get at the truth, and why do you want to?”

“Why do I want to!” Tite Riggs stared.

“You heard me.”

“I sure did. Well, I want to, ostensibly for the sake of justice. And that’s a big part of my reason. But also because I love the game.”

“Hounding down a man?”

“Yes, if he’s a murderer.”

“If,” said Robin Sears.


Chapter 12
Tite Riggs

Threatening clouds had sent many people scurrying indoors, and the Lounge of the Majusaca was like a great cauldron of color, sound, and fragrance.

Under the tall palms sat groups of laughing, chattering young people; among the massed flowers stood smiling, happy pleasure seekers; here and there sat those who quietly listened to the music drifting in from the next room, where there was dancing.

Tea tables were all about, and though a few bored, weary faces might be seen, for the most part, all was life, light and laughter.

Tite Riggs and young Sears made their way to a table where Robin’s searching eye had at once spied Angelica Fair.

“Blessed Boy,” she called out, “we have missed you at home, we have missed you. Where you been?”

“What a speech! When you fired me yourself. Said you had to stay with Maddy.”

This was an unfortunate remark, and Robin should have known better than to make it.

Madeline Barron turned on him with quick resentment.

“Nothing of the sort!” she said. “Angel insisted she didn’t want to go out this afternoon. It looked like rain, she said.”

“Did look like rain, too,” Angel said, gaily, determined not to stir up a discussion. “We both wanted to rest. Now, I’m fit again, and dying to dance. Come along, Bobbin.”

The two went off toward the dancing room, and Tite Riggs dropped into the chair the girl vacated.

“Flirt with Maddy,” she turned back to say to him. “She wants to go home and the bad, naughty crowd she has with her won’t agree. Help us out, Mr. Riggs. Get her a new Sheik or buy her a doll or something!” The pair went off, laughing, and Riggs gazed after the lovely vision.

“How did they know enough to name that girl Angel?” he said. “And Angel Fair, of all things.”

“Yes, it just suits her,” and Madeline Barron looked affectionately after her friend. “They couldn’t help the ‘Fair,’ of course, and it was clever to add the other. Though, as she was christened Angelica—”

“All the same, and of course, they must have known she’d be called Angel. She looks like a doll. And by that I mean no disparagement. The dolls of today are often more lifelike than some human beings.”

Riggs had no thought in his mind save an intent to amuse or divert Madeline, who certainly did look what Robin called “weedy.”

Beautiful as ever, perfectly dressed, as always, she had a new look in her eyes, a sort of restlessness that he had never seen there before. And then, to his amazement, she spoke with real pettishness;

“Don’t harp on dolls! The world seems mad on the subject!”

“Don’t you like them? That settles it. Suppose I try Angel’s other bit of advice, and find you somebody new to flirt with. Hello, Pelton, come over here.”

Laughing at Madeline’s sudden start, Riggs motioned Dan Pelton, who chanced to be passing, to a chair at their tea table and nodded to a waiter.

The man was an utter stranger to her, and as a natural reaction, she braced and smiled cordially, when he was presented.

And then, the observant Tite saw a queer look come into Pelton’s eyes.

It passed in a moment; so quickly, that Riggs doubted it had been there at all, but, he thought afterward, there was certainly a surprise of some kind that brought about that expression.

The two had never met before, that was quite evident, and also it was evident that they were congenial.

Pelton appeared to better advantage than Riggs had hitherto seen him, and Madeline revived under his compliments and seemed almost gay again.

She was beautiful in an almost opposite way from Angel.

Ned Barron’s wife was dark, olive-skinned, and brown-eyed. Her hair showed the newest thing in bobs, and her clothes were inconspicuous, so perfectly did she dominate them by her own personality.

Vivacious yet quiet, charming,—luring even,—yet reserved.

Somehow, Riggs found himself comparing her to Carmelita Valdon, whom he also admired.

But Tite Riggs’ admiration of women was entirely superficial. He regarded them as pictures, meritorious or otherwise, only as they pleased his eye and his taste.

Carmelita was far more provocative, far more self-conscious, but Madeline was of a higher type of attractiveness and Riggs almost gasped as he turned suddenly to find her smiling at Dan Pelton, as if with a new interest in life.

“Good Heavens!” thought the apprehensive bachelor, “she mustn’t fall in love with him!” and then laughed at himself for the fleeting whim, for the devotion of the Barrons was the jest of their merry friends.

“But I don’t get it,” he went on with his ruminations, finding his participation in the talk was not necessary. “There’s something wrong with Madeline,—something more than homesickness, and it can’t be that, as Angel said, a new Sheik to flirt with is going to cure it!”

Nor was that anywhere near the truth. As a matter of fact, Madeline Barron took not the slightest interest in the man before her, she had merely responded to his pleasant courtesy, and felt a momentary relief in the way he picked up the responsibility of the situation.

Intuitive himself, Dan saw her gaiety was superficial, and wondered what ugly fears had stirred her soul’s depths.

For he had read fear in the haunted eyes, apprehension in the quivering lips, and realized that whatever else she was, Madeline Barron was a strong, self-controlled woman, who was in deep mental distress.

“I wonder if you’d like to meet my aunt,” he said, they had been talking of eccentricities in general. “She is the most eccentric person I know, and the strangest combination of gentleness and ferocity.”

“That sounds delightful,” Madeline smiled; “rather like the lion and the lamb in one identity.”

“That’s just what she is. Here she comes now—”

“Why that’s Miss Folsom!” said Madeline, astounded.

“Yes, she’s my aunt. Hello, Aunt Stasia, take my place. This is Mrs. Barron, Miss Folsom.”

“Oh, we’re not entire strangers,” Anastasia Folsom said, sitting down. “How do you do Mr. Riggs? Now I bet you two’ll march off—see!”

And they all laughed, for even as she spoke, Tite had risen and he and Pelton were just about to fade away.

They had the grace to redden a little, but Madeline Barron only laughed.

“Let them go, we don’t want them,” she said. “It’s quite all right, Miss Folsom. A man wants to talk to a woman about so long, then he wants his own kind again.”

She smiled gaily, and Anastasia Folsom nodded her head.

“True enough, Mrs. Barron, and you must be a woman of discernment and perspicacity to see it!”

“Oh, no, only common sense and an appreciation of relative values.”

“That’s it, and that’s a trait not many possess.”

Meantime, Dan Pelton was asking, excitedly;

“Good Heavens, Riggs, who is that woman, and how did you happen to run me up against her?”

“You ran yourself, I didn’t do it.”

“Well, who is she?”

“Mrs. Edward Barron. If you think she’s mixed up in the case, she isn’t. Her husband stood next your uncle at the rope, when your uncle went under. And Mrs. Barron stood the other side of her husband. But neither of them knew Mr. Folsom or had ever seen him before. That all came out at the inquest. Not picking her for the murderer, are you?”

“No, don’t be silly. But I’ve seen her before, only I can’t place her. Seen her, under some strange circumstances or in some queer surroundings.”

“Not questionable, I hope.”

“Of course not.” Pelton spoke quite seriously. “I mean, when I saw her—it was her and yet it wasn’t her.”

“Your English might be improved, but I suppose in the stress of—”

“Oh, hush. Her face haunts me—”

“It would. She is a raving beauty, you know.”

“Go away and let me alone. I want to think this thing out.”

“All right, Pelton. I suppose you know your own business.”

Tite Riggs walked away, marvelling at the way things were going.

Miss Folsom tete-a-tete with Maddy Barron. Dan Pelton stirred up over some memory or reminiscence, mistaken or otherwise, of Maddy.

Madeline herself, upset and worried, taking a short respite of gaiety when Pelton proved entertaining, but sad at heart for some reason.

Could it, he wondered, could it all hark back to Croydon Sears?

For the Searses and the Barrons were always together, and Madeline was fond of the older man in a gentle, motherly way. Could she be alarmed for him?

Was she just clever enough to try to learn a little from the relatives of the dead man, whom she had just now met by chance?

For she and Miss Folsom were certainly hitting it off. He turned to look back at them, and they were hobnobbing over their tea like neighbors.

Tite Riggs was astute, and clear-headed, but sometimes he let his vivid imagination run away with him.

He came to port next at a table where sat the Duchess and Carmelita, with Roger Neville.

“Come home, truant,” the Duchess bade him. “You’ve deserted us, and one more absence from school makes you liable to expulsion.”

He sat beside her and began to pay her compliments.

“I say, Riggs,” Roger Neville said, abruptly. “What’s doing in the Folsom matter?”

“Not much,” was the guarded reply. “By the way, do you know anything of Garrett Folsom’s private business, or only the ones where you were more or less partners?”

And this time Carmelita Valdon gave a sudden quick movement, that in a less graceful woman would be called a start, but with her was a mere sinuous quiver, such as a beautiful python might make.

Riggs glanced at her.

What ailed the women today? Madeline Barron all upset, Angel Fair disturbed sympathetically, and now Carmy Valdon throwing a shiver!

She was in black, with an enormous black hat, for when not on the beach or Boardwalk, Mrs. Valdon affected picture costumes. The touch of contrast was supplied by some large jade buckles, on both hat and gown, and the simplicity of the get-up, left the wearer’s beauty thrown in high relief.

Her brilliant coloring, not all due to her make-up box, was accelerated by her quite evident agitation at Riggs’ question.

He resolved to take it boldly.

“What’s the matter, Mrs. Valdon?” he asked, smiling at her. “You look as if some one had kissed you!”

“I wish I looked like that!” cried the Duchess, trying to look wistful.

“Can I help?” said Riggs, solicitously, bending so near that the Duchess moved back in alarm, while the others laughed.

Apparently, Carmelita, too, resolved on a bold stroke. “Do you, Mr. Riggs?” she said, in a low, steady voice. “Do you know anything of the private business of Garrett Folsom?”

“Why,—I do,” he said, slowly. “Suppose we have an exchange of confidences all around.”

He looked straight at Neville, who said, simply, “It would be no confidence on my part, I mean no betrayal of confidence. Whatever I know about Folsom and his business is, and always has been, at the disposal of those investigating his death. It is an utter mystery to me, and I’d be glad to give any information I can, as well as to get any I can.”

Tite Riggs looked at him. His words were fine. His manner and tone were unassailable, yet Tite wondered if he spoke the truth.

“What I want to know,” Carmelita’s soft, low voice went on, “is whether I can find,—can regain possession of, some letters of mine that he had. While not of the sort that is termed by the reporters ‘incriminating,’ they are not the sort that I wish to have fall into alien hands.”

“What do you mean by alien?” asked Riggs, with his disarming smile.

“Nothing, exactly,” and Carmy pouted, “but any hands other than my own, I consider alien in this situation. It’s only that they were—well, that is—” she hesitated, and the Duchess said, placidly;

“Let’s say indiscreet.”

“But that’s just what they weren’t,” protested Mrs. Valdon, “and unless you take that back, Duchess, I shall cry.”

“Where do you think those letters are?” asked Riggs, determined to press his advantage.

“I have reason to think he brought them down here with him,” and Carmelita, also, seemed determined to get the matter over with.

“Then wouldn’t they have been found among his things?”

“That’s just it; I’m afraid they were.”

Tite Riggs laughed. “Then set your mind at rest, dear lady. If they had been indiscreet, or incriminating, or any of those awful things that begin with in-, rest assured you would have heard of the matter before this. Either he did not have them here, or the authorities who went through his papers considered them only the regulation mash notes—”

Riggs had used the annoying term for the sheer purpose of rousing Carmelita’s ire, and he succeeded, beyond his intentions.

Without a word, she rose, gracefully, as always, gathered up her scarf and strolled away.

She evinced no anger, made no quick or peevish motion, but as she went off, the Duchess observed, “She’s mad clear through. See it sticking out of her back!”

“She’ll get over it,” said Neville, carelessly. “Now, Riggs, cards on the table. Want the Duchess to stay?”

“As she wishes.”

“I’ll go, then,” and Mrs. Barnaby rose, with an air of relief. “Had you wanted me to go, I should have stayed, and I know I’d be bored to death.”

With her wide, seemingly vapid, but really wise smile, she followed the direction Carmelita had taken.

“Great little old woman,” and Neville looked at Riggs.

“Does she know anything?”


“I don’t mean generally speaking. I mean about the Folsom murder.”

“Good Lord, no! How should she?”

“I don’t know how she should, but that doesn’t argue that she doesn’t.”

“She may for all I can say. I’ve really not talked to her about it.”

Tite Riggs watched his man, for in a sense, Neville was his man, for the moment. Riggs didn’t actually suspect him, but a number of vague vapors had begun to crystallize suddenly and all at once, and Tite wanted to be sure.

“Have you talked much about it, Neville?” he said. “I mean, have you heard or gathered anything that would help me in my search? For you must be interested in getting at the truth—”

“I dare say I ought to be,” the other cut in. “But I’m not. I don’t look at these things as some people do. I’d rather let poor old Garry lie. To dig into that man’s past would not only mean a lot of reproach to his memory but of trouble and annoyance for other people who, whatever they may be, are innocent of any complicity in his death.”

Ignoring what really most interested him in this speech, Riggs said;

“Complicity? How can you think more than one person acted? Even the Coroner’s jury said at the ‘hand of a person unknown,’ omitting the alternative plural.”

“I used the word carelessly, but even so, there may have been complicity of intent with an individual action. I don’t suggest this at all, I’m only defending my English.”

He smiled. Neville was a man of charm, and the more Riggs looked at him the more he felt certain that the charm was of a sort that could expand into tact, even policy, even deception.

“Well,” he said, after a moment’s pause, “I believe ‘cards on the table’ was your phrase. Spread your hand.”

“Why, my dear fellow, I meant your cards. I haven’t any. I’m not in this, as I told you. What I meant was, spread your cards, so I may know what you’re after from me, and give it to you if I can.”

“I’ve practically asked you all I am trying to learn from you, that’s as to Garrett Folsom’s side lines. Straight goods, now, do you know of his being conversant with details of other people’s lives, that said people would give almost anything not to have known?”


“And did give almost anything?”


“Yourself among them?”


“You know of others?”

“If I do, I don’t propose to tell of it.”

“Very well, and thank you for your frankness. This is not news to me, of course. But I will not ask you for any more than you want to tell.”

“You’ve reached your limit, then.”

Tite Riggs smiled. He began to like the man, though against his better judgment.

“What became of that valet of Folsom’s, that Ross?” Neville asked.

Again Riggs smiled. He could so often read silent connective thought.

“You mean, he knew about his master’s business?”

“Gee, Riggs, you’re uncanny! That’s early Doyle work.”

“Only to a mild degree. Why the nephew, Dan Pelton, one of your co-heirs, accumulated Ross as part of his inheritance. I suppose he had a right to.”

“Oh, hardly a question of right. Yes, I do rather think that Ross knows a lot about Garry’s doings under the rose, as well as out in the moonlight.”

“But faithful and loyal, as I see it.”

“All of that. Old Ross is salt of the earth, if you ask me. And I don’t believe you could get him to squeal on Folsom to the extent of one single sentence.”

“That’s the conclusion I’ve come to, after several attempts. Now, for a parting shot, what do you know of Croydon R. Sears?”

“Nothing but good.”

“I hate that expression, ‘nothing but good.’ There’s no man of whom that can truthfully be said.”

“No, I suppose not. But Sears is then, we’ll put it, the average,—or above average, as you like,—honorable, upright citizen. The square business man, the courteous gentleman, and the man of intellect,—with a hobby.”

“The hobby is of no interest save as it impinges upon the case we have in hand. Could he have done in Garry Folsom?”

“Not for a minute! He didn’t buy that wicked old knife.”

“How do you know he didn’t?”

“He said so.”

“Wouldn’t you have said so, if you had been the murderer?”

“Like a shot! But Sears? Why, he had no motive.”

“Look here, Neville, if these things we’ve just spoken of are true bills, about ‘other people’s secrets,’ any man may have a motive.”

“Y—yes, I suppose so.”

“Or Carmelita Valdon.”

“Oh, don’t take that too seriously. Carmy’s notes were—just what you called them.”

“To come back to Sears, then. Doesn’t the mere fact that the weapon used was an antique curio, seem to have a bearing?”

“Not a definite one,—at least, not to me. Besides, as I understand it, Sears was a hundred feet or more away from Folsom.”

“We’ve only Sears’ word for that.”

“By the Lord Harry, Riggs, you make me darned uncomfortable! You may like this sort of probing, but I don’t! If you suspect Croydon Sears, go and tell him so, but let me alone!”

Neville was on the verge of being angry, so, being a diplomatic man, Tite Riggs made some laughing retort and sauntered away.

Seeing Sears and Ned Barron, who had returned together, he went to speak to them.

“Might as well put it through,” he told himself.

“Been in?” he asked, noting the vigorous glow that seems to follow, as an aftermath, the salt water dip.

“Rather!” answered Barron. “None of the timider sex along, and we swam,—how far did we swim, Croy?”

“A million miles, at a rough guess. And uphill all the way.”

“You look it! You two ought to pose for an advertisement picture of Somebody’s—”

“Soap?” laughed Barron.

“No, salt, I guess.”

“I suppose we look like a pair of Lot’s wives. And there’s my own wife,” and Barron left them abruptly to go toward Madeline, who had just come in sight.

Riggs snatched his chance.

“Great old swimmers, you chaps,” he said, heartily. “Can you give me a bit of help in my work, Mr. Sears? That young hopeful of yours has lain down on the job.”

“Why—that is, I don’t see how I can, Mr. Riggs. I know nothing about it, you see. I was ’way off, I didn’t see the thing at all.”

“Yes, I know, but,—I’m checking up facts,—who was the man in the green bathing suit, who stood near you?”

“I haven’t an idea, and—excuse me, sir,—I shouldn’t tell you if I had,” and Croydon Rochester Sears, with a slight, formal bow, turned and walked away to where the Barrons were standing.

Tite Riggs looked critically at Mr. Sears’ back, and said, “Whew!”


Chapter 13
Father And Son

“Angel,” and Robin looked at her with a sort of dumb misery in his clear young eyes, “my little girl, Angel.”

“Yes, Robin; and I suppose that serious tone betokens a hint of new trouble.”

“Hit it first time, my discerning young friend.”

They sat on the sand, the girl in her modish and very charming bathing costume, wrapped in a Beach cape to match, and young Sears, in his swimming suit.

“Well, what is it, dear?”

“Only that I can’t find the man with the green bathing suit.”

“That all? Then, we’ll have to pull through without him.”

“Yes, that’s what we’ll have to do. But it’s going to be hard pulling.”

“What’s the new development?”

Angelica Fair, with all her blush-rose loveliness and innocent, almost babyish face, was no empty-pated doll.

Nor was she a serious-minded young person. She was just a wholesome, happy American girl, with a love of pleasure natural to her age and surroundings and an avid enjoyment of her life and her love.

She had been engaged to Robin Sears for a year and the autumn would bring their wedding day.

They were joyously in love, their tastes were similar and the seashore holiday they were enjoying together was full of a deep contentment for both.

And then clouds had arisen on the scene, and now each was disturbed.

Angel was anxious about Madeline, who for some reason was nervous and apparently troubled.

Maddy herself denied this, and showed always a gaiety and merriment that were so palpably forced as to deceive no one who knew her well.

Ned Barron, big, hearty, happy chap that he was, professed himself willing to go home, or to go anywhere on the face of the earth that his wife favored.

But as soon as she had won him over to going, she changed her mind and wanted to stay.

It was unlike her to be whimsical or dissatisfied. Devoted to her husband and her baby, Madeline Barron stood, one would have said, for a high type of normal, modern woman. And it was only of late that the faintest wave of unrest had been observable on her sunny calm.

Angelica pondered over it and wondered if she ought to speak to Ned.

For Barron worshipped his wife, but he was of the happy-go-lucky, take-it-for-granted sort, who assumed everything was all right and quite as usual.

He was blind to small or slight evidences of nerves or temperament, and as Maddy had never emphasized these feminine belongings, naturally he didn’t look for them or pay much attention to their appearance.

But Angel saw, and with quick intuition knew that something was wrong, and set about finding out what it was, though so far without success.

And now, Robin, too, was stirred up, and also vicariously.

He had confided to Angel that old Dad was bothered.

“Bothered, that’s what he is,” Robin had said. “And when my Dad gets bothered, it means there’s something gone wrong.”

“Yes,” said the girl, “I’ve understood that was the significance of that word.”

Robin flicked a handful of sand at her and went on.

“You see, I know him so well, that though he looks and acts just the same as ever, I can see the difference. And it’s so queer. I’d as soon look for upsettedness in the Washington monument.”

“How does he show it? Jumpy?”

“No, not a bit. The other way. Absorbed. Quiet. Brown study effect.”

“I haven’t noticed it, but of course he wouldn’t show it out before folks. If you see it, Robin, it must be there. It’s just like what I notice in Madeline and Ned doesn’t seem to see it at all. But Ned’s such a dear old blind sheep, he wouldn’t notice the house was on fire unless some one insisted upon it. Of course the two cases can’t have any connection?”

“Don’t see how. I can’t think the two are planning an elopement. Dad admires Maddy, but he’s not much impressed by women’s charms, except your own. He adores you, Angel.”

“Sure. Now, Robin, have you spoken to him about this?”

“Not yet, but I think I shall. And, absurd as it seems, I believe it all comes back to the murder of that man.”

“Mr. Folsom? Why, your father scarcely knew him!”

“So he says, but—”

“Your father wouldn’t lie! He’s a gentleman.”

“My father is the most gentleman I ever knew in one piece. But don’t make any mistake, Angel. Gentlemen prefer lies, sometimes.”

“Oh, well, I suppose to shield some erring woman or to preserve the honor of the regiment. Oh, I’ve read short stories. But, what about the man in the green suit? And there’s a fine short story title for you!”

“Isn’t it! Sounds like a detective story.”

“We’re in a detective story. You know that Tite person is working very hard on the Folsom case.”

“I know it,—I should say I did know it! That’s where the trouble began. And, Angel, he—well, I won’t say suspects,—but he is what I believe they call ‘looking into,’ my Dad!”

“Much good that’ll do him, for you and I know he can’t find anything there but the best.”

“We know it, but he doesn’t. And if that’s what’s upsetting Dad, then—well, then, I’ve got to find the green suit man.”

“You’ve tried?”

“In the few ways I can think of. I’ve asked all the Life Guards, and all the bathhouse keepers, but of course, only the ones around this locality. That man may have belonged to a hotel way down the beach, and just happened to swim here and then went back.”

“Yes, of course. What about advertising?”

“I don’t know. It doesn’t seem very practicable. Men who wear green bathing suits don’t read the papers much.”

“Naturally not. In fact, they’re not much worn. And that ought to make it easier to find him.”

“Ought to. But it doesn’t seem to. Let’s walk along the beach and see if we can’t spot him ourselves.”

“Have you asked your father much about this eccentric dresser?”

“He’s funny about it. He says ‘Don’t know any more than I’ve told you. Inquiry closed,’ or something like that. Laughingly, you know, yet decidedly, too. There’s something at the back of his mind, dear old chap, and little Robin is going to work it out.”

“With Angel’s help,” the girl said, rising. “Hello, there’s Mr. Riggs.”

Titus came alongside. He was in civilian dress, for he never went in the surf, and he dared the damp sands to speak to the pair.

“I say, youngsters,” he called out, cheerily, but Robin detected the hesitant note in his voice, “just a minute, eh?”

“All the time you can use,” said Robin, looking at him keenly.

“Yes, boy,” Riggs said, quietly, “you’ve guessed it. I have something to say. And I may as well speak out. There is a definite feeling of what may at least be called suspicion forming toward your father, and I thought you’d rather I’d tell you than not. I know you don’t mind my speaking before Miss Fair.”

“Rather not!” Robin braced himself as for a blow. “What’s the new clue?”

“The police finally dragged it out of the auction room people that your father returned there later that night and bought a third dagger. As we know, he admitted two, but said nothing about a third.”

“Then my father had a good reason for not mentioning the third,” Robin said, promptly. “And is that third weapon the one that pierced the body of Garrett Folsom, when my father was several hundred feet away?”

“Now, Robin,” Angel said, her eyes full of understanding, but her lips setting themselves in a firm line, “don’t take it that way. I mean, we all know and appreciate your resentment and your indignation, but they won’t get us anywhere. Let’s hear all Mr. Riggs can tell us, and then go to work on this new evidence.”

Tite Riggs looked at her admiringly.

“Atta girl!” he said, and from a man who seldom used slang, it denoted high praise.

“You’re right,” said Robin, his eyes suddenly opened. “That’s Dad’s attitude,—high and mighty, scornful, above-suspicion gesture. All right, Riggs, just how far is this suspicion voiced and by whom?”

“The police don’t voice it audibly, but it’s like a distant rumble of thunder and all that sort of thing. They are gathering a little more evidence and then they propose to come out in the open and declare their beliefs.”

“That my father killed Mr. Folsom?”

“It may come to that.”

“And the motive?”

“They expect to get that later. You see, if they get circumstantial evidence pretty firmly established, they go ahead.”

Robin thought a moment, then he said;

“Then I have two things to do,—I mean right now. I must hunt that green bather and I must interview the auction man. Which will you do, Angel?”

Tite Riggs smiled at the absolute rapport of these two.

“I’ll go along the beach,” she said, at once, “and see if I see our verdant friend. You get dressed and take up the auction end of it, and we’ll meet at luncheon.”

“Right,” said Robin, “good hunting.”

The girl swung off down the beach, a shining figure in her bright-colored garb, and Robin turned to Riggs.

“I don’t get it,” he said, simply, “but Angel’s right. It’s no time to stand around and say, ‘How dare you, sir!’ It’s time for action.”

“Why not go straight to your father and put it to him?”

“Well, you see,” Robin smiled, “Angel hasn’t spoken to him as she did to me, and he’s still in the high hat stage. He’d say, ‘My son, we Searses don’t commit murder,’ and let it go at that. No, I know my Dad, and I’ve pretty well sounded him out on this thing, and for the moment, anyway, I’ve got to do a little sleuthing on my own. Take me back on the force, will you?”

His sunny smile was a little crooked at the corners, for after all, Robin was only twenty-six, and to have the honor of the whole Sears line on his shoulders was a responsibility.

“Glad to,” said Riggs. “Now, I do think that you’re the one to go to see Barchester, that’s the auctioneer.”

“What an impressive name.”

“Very. Shall I go with you?”

“I’m not afraid of the beetle, but I think whatever transpires between us should be before a witness. So come along.”

Meantime, Angelica, not at all averse to her part of the game, hiked merrily along, noting with darting eyes the suit of every man she passed. Though a striking figure in her bright colored garb, her gay Beach Cape was voluminous and, blown by the breeze, gave her more the effect of a sea nymph returning to her native element, than a mortal in search of a man.

Moreover as there were many thousand bathing suits more conspicuous than hers and some less so, she was not so noticeable as might appear.

At last, a sixth sense seemed to apprise her that she was being followed.

She turned, quickly and suddenly, and found she was right, but the follower was Ross, the valet of the murdered man, and the servant of his nephew.

Angel had seen him at the inquest, and once or twice since had seen him talking to Tite Riggs on the Boardwalk.

She looked at him with questioning eyes but a calm absence of fear or even indignation.

“Well?” she said.

“Pardon me, Miss Fair. I may have been presumptuous, but I saw you walking alone, and I followed, because—”

“Yes, because?” she spoke evenly and looked straight at him.

He met her gaze squarely.

“I will tell you, ma’am. Because I saw some men looking after you, and you were alone, and I feared there might be a possibility of their speaking to you.”

His face, honest, earnest and sincere, carried its own guaranty, and while he stood, in the conventional attitude of the well trained servant, he seemed to show almost a fatherly care for the perhaps imprudent girl who had wandered so far alone.

“You are right, Ross,—your name is Ross, isn’t it? And it was because of my eagerness to accomplish a certain purpose that I have come farther than I meant to. I wonder if you can help me,” she said, suddenly, for the man was in his bathing suit. “Have you seen in bathing, a man in a green suit?”

“A green suit?” and the puzzled face broke into a smile. “No, Miss. Is that what you are looking for?”

“Yes, I am. Have you seen one on anybody? Not today,—but, well, any time. I say, Ross, walk along the beach with me toward home. I want to talk with you.”

Garrett Folsom’s valet was too well trained and too experienced to be surprised at anything his superiors asked or ordered, and he fell into step with her at once and escorted her with an air which partook of the effects of a footman and a police dog in about equal proportions.

“And keep your eye out for a man in a green bathing suit,” she added, as they went on.

Angel was pleased at meeting this man, for she suddenly realized that it was better to have an attendant and also, because, as he was so closely connected with the tragedy of the hour, he might tell her something about it.

But the man was not communicative. Respectfully he answered her questions, carefully he guarded her footsteps, but outside that, he was the wooden-faced, obsequious servant that Garrett Folsom had trained him to be.

“Where were you at the time your master was killed?” she asked, at last, more because she could think of nothing else to say about it, than anything.

“In his apartment, waiting for him, Miss Fair,” he replied, and a tone of sadness in his voice made her think that after all, this wooden man had loved the man he had attended.

“You were fond of Mr. Folsom,” she said, gently, and he returned;

“As fond as a man may be of his master who employs him.”

“Dumbbell!” she remarked to herself. But aloud, she said;

“Ross, who killed Mr. Folsom?”

If she had hoped to scare him into a more lifelike demeanor, she failed for he only said, gravely;

“I don’t know, Miss Fair. There were many who had motive, there were many thousands who had opportunity, but from them all I can make no selection. I supposed, though, the detectives would do so, before this.”

“Have you any reason to think it was Mr. Sears?”

“Mr. Sears?”

“Yes, Mr. Croydon Sears?”

“No, Miss Fair, I’ve no reason to think so.”

“Do you know Mr. Sears?”

“I have seen him, of course, but I don’t know him,— not as I may say I know Mr. Neville, or the more intimate friends of my late master.”

“I suppose, naturally, you knew only the men who came to Mr. Folsom’s home, not his business friends?”

“Yes, Miss Fair.”

“Then,” she turned on him, “then, Mr. Sears must have been at his home. Was he?”

Ross looked surprised at her excitement.

“Why, yes,—I think he was.”

“You think! Don’t you know? Don’t you know whether Croydon Sears was ever at Mr. Folsom’s home?”

“He was once, to my knowledge.”

“What was the occasion?”

“It was a sort of reception, Miss Fair. Mr. Folsom was having a small exhibition of his art treasures. You know, Mr. Folsom travelled a lot and collected many things such as interest Mr. Sears. I remember seeing him at that time, but I’m not sure of any other time, Miss.”

“Oh, well, I don’t suppose it matters. I don’t believe I know much about detective work. And anyway, I don’t believe Mr. Sears killed Mr. Folsom, do you?”

“I shouldn’t think so, ma’am,” and with that they were in sight of the Majusaca and Angel scurried off to her bathhouse.

* * * * * * * * *

As the two inquirers entered the auction room, it was Robin who took the lead.

Demanding the proprietor, in a tone which brought him a warning nudge from Riggs, he asked for a private interview.

On learning who he was, this was readily granted, and Mr. Giddings, who represented the absent Mr. Barchester, took them into a private office.

“I’d like to know,” Robin began, “if you’d be good enough to tell me, of all the knives or daggers my father has bought here.”

“I can tell you of most of them,” was the reply, “but some small items are sold in bundles, as we call them, and so are not recorded individually.”

“I should think an antique dagger was of sufficient importance to be recorded,” Robin said, and as the fire in his eye was growing brighter, under the irritation of the other’s suavity, Riggs took a hand.

“Never mind the value or importance of the sale,” he suggested, “just tell us what your records charge to Mr. Croydon Sears.”

The list was interesting, though not long, and the net result of information was that Croydon Sears had bought in all, six daggers of antique Oriental workmanship.

Robin was amazed, for he knew of only the two that were acknowledged at the inquest.

But he preserved a quiet sternness now; indeed, the young face grew more composed as the situation seemed to acquire seriousness.

“The police have interviewed you as to all this?” he asked of Mr. Giddings.

“Many times, especially in the last twenty-four hours.”

“Why so much questioning?” put in Riggs.

“Because they want to be sure that it was Mr. Sears who bought the dagger that killed Mr. Folsom,” Giddings replied, straightforwardly. “Of course, that needn’t mean that Mr. Sears used it,” he added, quickly, as he noted Robin’s face.

“No, it needn’t,” said that young man, with quiet simplicity.

“And have the police assured themselves?” asked Riggs.

“We can’t be positive,” Giddings returned. “When Mr. Sears came the second time that evening, he was not so much interested, for the sales were of small lots or single pieces of small value. But he did pick up two or three numbers, one of which contained an old pichaq.”

“Then why isn’t that positive?” broke in Robin, quickly.

“Because there was another bundle or lot sold, which also contained an old pichaq, and no one can say which was the weapon later exhibited at the inquest.”

“I see,” said Robin, thoughtfully. “And who bought the other bundle?”

“That we can’t say. It was a stranger, and his name, though given, has been found to be fictitious.”

“Then he’s your murderer!” cried Robin. “Of course, he’d give a fictitious name, and, on the other hand, do you suppose my father would be such a fool as to buy a dagger, here where he is well known, and then go out and kill somebody with it?”

Mr. Giddings only murmured polite words that sounded well, but meant nothing and the two went away, and walked slowly toward home.

“You see,” began Robin, eagerly, but the other stopped him.

“Listen here, boy,” Riggs said. “Say all you like to me, or to your father or to your sweetheart, but don’t air your views on detection in public.”

“Why not?”

“Just for one reason, that they are invariably wrong. For instance, the buyer of that bundle, giving a fictitious name doesn’t write him down a murderer at all. He may be an antique dealer in a small way, who, if he gave his real name and had his purchases traced could not put upon them the exorbitant prices which he no doubt plans to do. Next, granting your father bought that dagger, and subsequently chose to use it on somebody, that would not prove him a fool, because, whoever did that killing depended on the sea to hide forever the weapon of his guilt, not realizing that it would almost inevitably be found.”

“Then he was a fool.”

“No, I should have thought myself that the heavy metal would have been ground into the sand forever, not that it would have proved flotsam and jetsam like an ordinary bit of wood.”

“Next, Riggs, old man,” Robin said, his jaws set like a fighter, “we go straight to Croydon Rochester Sears with this tale.”


“Yes, sir, we.”

And so, on reaching the Hotel Majusaca, two somewhat harassed looking sleuths demanded and obtained audience with C. R. S.

“Why the length of face?” Sears asked, looking at his son.

“Be seated, my friend, and I’ll tell you,” returned Robin, looking back at him affectionately.

They all sat down, and now and then prompted or corrected by Tite Riggs, Robin gave his father a strict and full account of the interview with the auctioneer.

As the tale finished, Croydon Sears sat a full five minutes thinking.

Then, reaching out his hand for a yellow pad of telegram forms which was in a pigeonhole of the desk, he wrote out a message.

“Take it down to the desk, Robin boy, and send it off. Leave Tite here. Read the thing as you go down.”

Robin did as bidden, and was more than slightly mystified to find the message was to his father’s private secretary, and said:

“Rush Fleming Stone here as soon as possible.”


Chapter 14
Sears Calls Help

Implicitly confident as Robin was of his father’s innocence, it was a satisfaction to note how the elder man had looked as he grasped the situation.

To be sure, he had waited a few moments to consider, to be sure he had sent a hurry call for a great and famous detective, but his fine, clear eyes had shown no hint of fear or shame and his face, though grave, was calm and serene as he looked at his son.

“I’ve sent for Stone,” Croydon Sears told Riggs.

“Fleming Stone!”

“Yes. Not every one could command his services so quickly, but he and I are old friends, and, too, I happen to know he is on vacation and I’m sure he will not only be glad to come to my assistance but he will enjoy a few days down here.”

“Your assistance?” and Tite Riggs looked frankly curious.

“Yes, just that. No, Tite, I didn’t murder Garrett Folsom, not that. But there are reasons, strong reasons, why I want the murderer found, the mystery solved.”

“Then you know the police are interested in your—”

“My activities in the auction room? Yes, I know it. And I can’t wonder at it. I prowl around buying antique weapons and first thing you know a chap is killed with one of them, or a similar one. Why wouldn’t the average detective link up the two facts?”

“But lots of other people bought those old stickers. Meeker, for instance.”

“But Meeker had no reason to kill Folsom.”

“Had you?”

“Depends on what constitutes a reason. How do you differentiate between reason and motive? But that’s splitting hairs. I’ll tell you what, Riggs, if you’ll leave your question to be answered until after my friend Stone gets here, I’ll give you some sort of answer then. How’d you like to sit in on our conferences and see what we can do, all working together, about the Folsom affair?”

“I’d like it first rate, of course reminding you that I’m working for Miss Folsom. At least, she says I am, but I’ve not done much yet, except to stir up things.”

“Good to have things stirred up. Easier, maybe, for Fleming Stone to settle.”

Robin, meantime, having handed in his telegram, went out on the Deck in search of Angel.

She was there, with the Barrons, in their favorite corner, and he joined the group.

Near by, Miss Anastasia Folsom was talking with Mrs. Barnaby, and Carmelita Valdon.

“You see, Duchess,” the spinster was saying, for she had become rather fond of these two women, “things are not moving fast enough to suit me. I have faith in that nice Mr. Riggs, and I know he’s doing all he can, but I don’t like the way he’s heading.”

“What way is that?” asked Carmelita.

“I won’t exactly mention names, but he has Garry’s notebook, and just because it’s full of a lot of mysterious names and initials, Mr. Riggs proposes to run down all those people and see if any of them are implicated.”

“Just because they are in his notebook?” cried the Duchess; “why, my goodness, they might be the merest business matters, or—”

“Of course they might,” agreed Anastasia. “Dan wants to drop the whole question, says it can’t help Garry to have somebody swing for him, but I don’t look at it like that. A Folsom has been murdered, and if the man who killed him doesn’t pay the penalty it won’t be my fault. One third of Garry’s money is mine now, and I’ll spend every cent of it before I’ll stop chasing the wretch who jabbed him!”

“Don’t they say,” the Duchess asked, “one must always suspect those who are benefited?”

“Oh, yes. But that amounts to nothing. Of course, the minor beneficiaries might be thought of, but they’re only servants and a few old friends. No, the motive for this crime was a deep one, and the method was planned and carefully carried out. It was no sudden impulse, it was premeditated and so, we must look for a motive of big import and a murderer of deep brain and wide cunning. And I’m going to get him! He shall not escape my clutches! I say he,—but do you know, I sometimes think it may have been a woman. The cleverness of that stab under the water, somehow suggests a woman’s ingenuity. What do you think?”

“No,” Carmelita said, emphatically. “The idea may have been a woman’s, but the criminal was a man. A woman, even if she had strength enough to drive that blow, couldn’t have managed it in that tossing sea. It was awfully rough, you know. We were knocked about by the waves—”

“Pooh,” said Miss Folsom, “the woman of today is as lithe and muscular as a man. And that’s what it required,—that and cleverness in taking the exact moment for the rush of the wave—”

“What it required,” the Duchess declared, “was determination. Either a man or a woman could have struck that blow, had it been inspired by a hate or revenge strong enough. There wasn’t such a lot of physical force needed, it was a question of aim and of choosing just the right moment. I shouldn’t wonder if more than one attempt had to be made.”

“Oh, do stop talking about it!” cried Carmelita, her face drawn with emotion and her long slender fingers twining tightly about themselves.

“I shan’t stop talking about it,” Miss Folsom announced, “if you don’t like it, you needn’t listen. Oh, there’s Mrs. Barron,—good morning, my dear.”

Anastasia had taken a fancy to Madeline from the first, perhaps because they were so different in type. While the liking was not fully returned, Madeline was faintly amused by the spinster’s odd ways, and was fascinated for some inexplicable reason by her society.

“All right, this morning?” she asked, breezily, and she came toward Madeline. “Going in?”

“No,” Madeline returned, “the sun is too hot.”

“Seem to’ve lost your taste for bathing,” Miss Folsom nodded, sympathetically. “And Lord knows I don’t wonder! Why, you stood next to Garry, when he was killed, didn’t you?”

Miss Anastasia was not one for euphemisms. If her friends died, she never said they passed away. And of her brother’s death, she never said “when he fell” or “when he went under,” as many others did.

Madeline shuddered.

“I wish you wouldn’t talk about it,” she said, almost petulantly, “no, I wasn’t next to him.”

“What ails all the women?” exclaimed Miss Folsom, grimly. “Can’t bear to hear about anything unpleasant! I just guess if any one you loved had been stabbed you’d—”

“I wouldn’t talk about it to strangers!” said Madeline, losing her temper at last, and rising, she went into the hotel.

Ned Barron at once threw himself into the breach. “Please pardon my wife’s abruptness,” he said to Miss Folsom, with his big, pleasant smile. “She is not feeling any too well.”

“What’s the matter with her?” demanded Anastasia, with a fine abruptness of her own.

“Nothing especially. But I think she is tired of the seashore, and too, she is nervously sensitive about— about your brother’s death. You must see, Miss Folsom, that though to you the subject is naturally of the deepest interest, it is nerve-wracking for a woman, to have a strange man killed,—almost at her very side—”

“Was he an utter stranger?”

Anastasia Folsom gave Barron a long, keen glance from under her heavy eyebrows.

“Surely!” he exclaimed. “You didn’t think they were acquainted, did you? Why, we never saw or heard of Mr. Folsom until that morning.”

“No,” said the lady. “I’m glad you appreciate, Mr. Barron, my own deep interest and anxiety, and I do see how it is a very unpleasant memory for your wife to have in mind. Enough to spoil anybody’s summer vacation.”

With one of her sudden, abrupt gestures, she turned and walked away.

Angel, too, rose, and without a word, even to Robin, disappeared into the hotel.

Straight to the Barrons’ apartments she went, and, not entirely to her surprise, found Madeline, with her face buried in the pillows, sobbing tensely.

“Dearest,” and Angel smoothed the short, ruffled locks, “don’t mind that horrid woman. I don’t wonder she gets on your nerves. Forget her; she isn’t worth worrying about.”

“I know it,” Madeline said, raising her head a little, “I know it,—b-b-but oh, Angel, I wish she’d go away from here—or else that w-w-we could.”

“She won’t go,—you couldn’t expect that. But we can all go. Ned will say yes to that in a minute if you ask him.”

“I know it,—bless his dear old darling heart. But he loves it here,—oh, Angel, I am so miserable.”

“Why, Maddy, dear,” and the girl was truly puzzled, “what is it? You can’t be so deeply affected by that man’s death—a stranger to you—”

“I know. No, it isn’t that—oh, never mind, Angel. Don’t let’s discuss it. Just help me pull myself together and get into shape.”

Glad at this opportunity to help, Angel brushed her friend’s hair, and brought her makeup box, and a fresh handkerchief and soon a transformation had been wrought that resulted in a very lovely and serene Mrs. Ned Barron, who went downstairs again ready for her luncheon.

Dan Pelton crossed the room and paused at the table, where Carmelita and the Duchess sat with Roger Neville.

“Golf today?” he inquired, for he had rather decidedly attached himself to the train of the beautiful Carmelita.

“Yes, if you like,” she smiled at him, and then invited him to sit with them for luncheon.

“I will, gladly,” he said, taking the fourth chair..

“My adored aunt has gone off with friends, and I’m a waif and a stray.”

Even as he seated himself, he saw Madeline enter the dining room and join her own group of friends.

“Yes, she is lovely,” said Carmelita, intercepting his glance, “but you’re not to concentrate on her. We’re here.”

“Very much here,” insisted the Duchess, gaily. “It’s a strange thing, as soon as a man is in the company of two of the most beautiful women in the place, his attention immediately wanders to some other woman!”

“For an instant only,” and Pelton laughed as he devoted himself to his companions.

It was not long before the talk drifted to the Folsom case.

“But perhaps the subject bores or pains you, Duchess,” Dan said, as he and Neville began to discuss it.

“No,” she returned, smiling faintly, “not if you don’t keep it up too long.”

“Just a minute. You see, Mr. Neville, it’s this way. The police people and—well, some others, are beginning to whisper the name of Croydon Sears, in connection with the taking off of my uncle. Oh, I know that’s putting it rather baldly, but like my revered aunt, I usually call a spade a spade. Or at least, some other folks are doing so. Now, Mr. Riggs tells me, that you assured him that so far as you knew, Sears had no dealings with my uncle, save one or two of the merest business transactions, that could by no possibility have had any reason to cause ill feeling between the two men.”

“You are putting the statement a trifle too strong, Mr. Pelton, but I believe Mr. Riggs and I did have a slight conversation on the subject of C. R. S.”

“Didn’t you give the assurance I spoke of?”

“Not assurance, no. How could I? There may have been all sorts of connections between those two men of which I knew nothing.”

“Weren’t you Uncle Garry’s partner?”

“In some of his business pursuits, yes. In others, no. Mr. Folsom was a man of various and sundry lines of activity.”

“So I am finding out.” Dan Pelton looked gravely serious. “And I’m asking you now, as man to man, if you did know of any,—I will be plain,—of any secret shared by my uncle and Mr. Sears that might, at any time in their lives, have caused unfriendliness between them.”

“It is palpably evident,” Roger Neville said, slowly, “that you have somehow learned that your late uncle did share secrets with some of his—clients—that might, in certain circumstances, cause unfriendliness—”

“Or more.”

“Or more. Such things are not entirely unknown in lawyers’ relationships, but it is often unwise to place too much stress on them. I am quite sure Mr. Sears could have had no secrets, shared by Mr. Folsom, that would or possibly could have brought about the tragedy that took place.”

“You can’t be sure of that, Roger,” Carmelita Valdon exclaimed. “No one can say for sure who did or didn’t or could or couldn’t be implicated in that affair.”

“Of course not,” said the Duchess, vaguely, for she had a sudden feeling that she was being left out of the conversation, “why for all these men know, you or I might have killed the man, Carmy.”

“Don’t talk rot!” Carmelita cried, with a reproving glare at her friend.

“ ’Tisn’t rot,” the Duchess returned, placidly. “At least, it may be for me, for I’m sure I couldn’t let go of the rope even with one hand to make that stab. But you could, Carmy,—you’re so brave in the water.”

Carmelita gave the speaker a sudden glance of withering anger, and then as suddenly broke into a smile.

“You’re too absurd, Helen!” she said. “I am brave enough for anything, but I couldn’t stab a man in the ocean without being seen by those near me,—if they were all as lynx-eyed as you, dear. You can swear I didn’t do it, can’t you?”

“Oh, lord, honey, I didn’t mean you did it, I only meant—”

“You haven’t the faintest idea what you meant,” and Dan Pelton laughed at the bewildered look on the Duchess’s round pink face. “Well, all I’m asking of you, Neville, is whether you can suggest a motive for Croydon Sears, or whether you can’t.”

“I can’t,” said Roger Neville, shortly, yet his harassed eyes seemed to belie the frankness of his assertion.

“I suppose you know it’s your duty to tell anything you can.”

“Yes, but it’s not my duty to surmise or imagine. I do know that Folsom had certain dealings or business with Sears that neither side wanted to make public, and that’s all I can say about it.”

“You’ll say more if the authorities ask you.”

“They haven’t asked yet,” said Roger Neville.

Lacking the initiative that had led Tite Riggs to investigate for himself the possibilities or probabilities of Sears’ connection with the Folsom case, Dan Pelton put the matter from his mind, and devoted his afternoon to golf. And after that to other amusements or occupations, and so he was not on the Deck when a tall, dark-eyed man appeared there, and immediately made himself at home in a certain pleasant corner, which Robin Sears had held against other would-be occupants for this very purpose.

Secluded corners of the Deck of the Hotel Majusaca were greatly liked by individuals or small groups who wished to be alone, and when at last Croydon Sears and his guest arrived, Robin was relieved, for he had been the target for envious glances from those who considered him selfishly inclined.

He had met Fleming Stone before, though not recently, and he looked with interest at the grave-faced, quietly moving man, whose eyes, however, darted about everywhere, and took in everything.

With Croydon Sears and the detective came also Tite Riggs, who was deeply impressed with Stone’s charm, having expected a much more prosaic and business-like personage.

For Fleming Stone was one who, to a marked degree, took color from his surroundings.

And now, at sight of the sea, and the intervening Boardwalk, with its blare of color and sound, as well as the gay bustle of the immediate crowd on the hotel Deck, Stone’s rather careworn air dropped from him, and he smiled with the delight of a child at the spectacle.

“Never been here before,” he explained, taking it all in rapidly, as he seated himself. “I’ve been to the New England coast resorts and the Southern and Western ones. But never before chanced on New Jersey’s shores. Most attractive, too. Well, I suppose that’s the spot where the body was found,” and he swept his arm vaguely toward the wide expanse of sea.

“That’s about it,” agreed Croydon Sears. “But, I say, old man, if you’d rather take holiday today and not even consider the ‘case’ until tomorrow, just say so.”

“Oh, no, I’d rather hear the details right off, then, we can have a sea-food dinner, and then we can have a bout at the bright lights, or whatever they offer by way of evening entertainment. Then, we can come back here and settle down to the real work in hand.”

Stone’s pleasant smile rested on Robin and all at once the boy felt confidence and surety that there was no further trouble in store for his father, with a man like that at the helm.

So, with a light heart he went off in search of Angel, and the three men settled down to consideration of their case.

“Don’t think I’m mind-wandering if I gaze about,” Stone said, smiling. “I love to absorb these sights and sounds and instead of distracting my attention they help to concentrate it.”

“You know, of course, the main details of the Folsom murder?” said Sears.

“Yes. All that was in the papers, and all that I could piece out myself from the newspaper reports. That’s all. What else can you tell me?”

“I,” Sears said, “will tell you my own personal and individual connection with the matter, and then Riggs will tell you what he knows or thinks about other people.”

“You have a personal and individual connection with it, then?” Stone asked.

“Yes, or I shouldn’t have called you down here in such haste. I’ve no desire to be arrested, and it’s a thing that may easily come about. Unless we head off the energetic and truth-seeking policemen.”

“Who are after you?”

“Very much after me. You see, Fleming, I lied.”

“Did it pay?”

“It begins to look as if it didn’t, but that’s for you to pass opinion on. You see, the inquiry naturally hinges largely on the question of the weapon.”

“They know about that, don’t they?”

“Yes; that is, they assume, and doubtless truly, that the pichaq found in the ocean is the one that killed Folsom. Now, they know also, that I bought two daggers that night in the same place that the deadly weapon was, presumably, bought. They know that I have those two daggers here in my possession, and they have no further interest in them. But they have a deep interest in the man who bought what is called a bundle at the same shop later the same evening.”

“They don’t know who he was?”

“No; and of late, they have come to the conclusion that it was I.”

“It wasn’t?”

“No, it wasn’t, I mean the murderer wasn’t. But I did return to that shop later that evening, and I did buy a bundle that contained two odd, insignificant daggers. And when they asked me at the inquest if I had returned to the shop that night, I said no.”

“H’m.” Fleming Stone looked at his friend with a glance of affection and trust. Not for a moment did he question the good faith of Sears toward himself whatever he might have done on the witness stand.

“I did it,” Sears went on, “because if I had said I went back there, they would have at once assumed that it was one of my daggers that killed Folsom, and it wasn’t.”

“And to have the matter brought into question would have wrought harm to some one else,” Stone said, understandingly.

“Exactly. A harm and a some one else, that I couldn’t allow.”

“No. Well, it got you into a snarl?”

“It has begun to look that way. Here’s the truth. You listen in, Riggs. Garrett Folsom had a pleasant little way of making capital out of other people’s secrets.”

“It has been done, I’ve heard,” remarked Stone.

“Yes. Well, he didn’t make a big business of this, he only used a few choice secrets belonging to a few choice friends, or enemies, of his. And I was honored with a place among these. The secret of mine that he knew, had to do with my family tree. It is not of a disgraceful nature but it is unfortunate. It is a blot on the Sears ’scutcheon, which, if left alone, will never be brought into the limelight, and can harm no one. If exposed and misunderstood, as it would be, it would mean a shadow, not deep, because of its very vagueness, but a hint of blackness that would mar the future of my boy—that would perhaps stand in the way of the happiness of my son, Robin. I am willing to be more explicit, I am willing to tell you the whole story, but not at this moment.”

“Nor ever,” said Fleming Stone, while Riggs nodded in assent. “Go on Croy. You felt that if you were questioned at all, this thing would come out.”

“Yes, just that. I knew I was innocent of Folsom’s death, but those hounds of the law, would think, and with reason, that as I had bought more daggers that night, I must of necessity be the one who had made the fatal stab. So, I denied having returned and let my case rest on the daggers I had bought while with Meeker, who could vouch for the truth of my story.”

“Why didn’t they know you when you went back and bought the last lot?”

“I don’t know. I chanced to buy them from a man I didn’t know, but the other clerks stood about. It’s a big shop. But the point is that somebody else did go there about the same time I did, and did buy the bundle that held the dagger that killed Garrett Folsom. That’s the man we’re to find.”

“That’s the man we’re to find,” said Fleming Stone.


Chapter 15
A Conference

The programme Stone had suggested was carried out, and as a result it was late in the evening before the conference took place.

In the meantime, the detective had observed the principals of the case, as pointed out to him by Sears at dinner time, and also, had gathered side lights from the remarks and comments of the rest of their immediate party.

The Barrons liked Stone at once, for no one could do otherwise, when that magnetic personality exerted itself at all.

Fleming Stone was of a type that could command interest if he chose, or if it better suited his purpose could make himself so inconspicuous, so insignificant that he attracted no attention whatever.

On this occasion he was charming, a man of the world, a good talker, a polite guest, and both receptive and responsive to the moods of the others.

Madeline Barron, at first embarrassed at thought of meeting the celebrated detective, soon found herself at ease in his presence, and meeting his chaff with a gaiety of her own.

Angel, too, was fascinated by the newcomer, and Robin declared she had forgotten his very existence in her attention to this new rival.

Ned Barron, in his big, hearty way, smiled genially on them all, but took little part in the light banter.

Barron was a simple-minded, single-hearted man, whose only interest, outside his business life, was his devotion to his wife and child. Several years older than Madeline he worshipped her, as one might adore an idol, and if she sometimes sacrificed her wishes or preferences to his, it was not with his knowledge or consent. In the present instance, though she would have gladly gone away from the scene of this tragedy that had so disturbed her peace of mind, she knew of his liking for the place, and took care not to let him know she would rather be elsewhere.

Fleming Stone, his dark eyes alight with enjoyment of the whole scene, missed no point or detail of the conversation, and realized that, though the matter of Garrett Folsom’s death was not entirely taboo, yet it was not openly discussed.

This might have been merely because it was no fit subject for table talk, but to Stone that did not seem the truth. He sensed a deeper reason, a subtler cause for the avoidance of the matter, or for a quick, decided change of subject if it chanced to be touched upon.

This impressed him, and he set to work to find out who were the ones most disinclined to refer to the business which had brought him down there.

And a few moments’ consideration proved it to be Madeline Barron and her friend, Miss Fair.

This surprised Stone, until he realized that they were the only women present, and naturally, the feminine nature revolts from thoughts of gruesomeness or crime.

Yet it was impossible to keep away from the subject entirely.

On the entrance of Miss Anastasia and her nephew, they were, of course, pointed out to Stone as the relatives of Garrett Folsom.

When Roger Neville and two beautiful women appeared, they too were remarked as being of the party to which Folsom had belonged.

“What do you mean, a party?” Stone asked. “The ladies are not here with Neville?”

“No,” Barron told him. “They are by themselves, the older one as a sort of duenna for the beautiful Carmelita. But Folsom and Neville were here together and they rather attached themselves, so that the quartette was a congenial one. Then after the tragedy, Neville still remained attached, at least to the extent of sharing their table in the dining room, and acting as general cavalier.”

“He was Folsom’s partner?” Stone asked, watching Madeline from the corner of his eye, and noting her restlessness.

“In some things. But Garrett Folsom had lots of interests and I doubt if Neville had anything to do with most of them.”

Titus Riggs always sat alone at his table in the dining room. Often, however, his dinner over, he would saunter to the table of some friends and have his coffee with them.

He came now to the Barrons’ table and was welcomed there.

“I bring a message,” he said, as he accepted a cup of coffee, “from Miss Folsom. She has learned who our visitor is, and she demands an interview at the earliest possible moment.

“Demands?” and Stone raised his eyebrows a trifle.

“Yes, but Miss Folsom always demands. It’s one of her little ways. What shall I tell her?”

“Tell her,” Fleming Stone said, “that I will grant her demand, but in my own good time. Tell her that I propose to have a ride in those chair things,—one of them at least, and that when I return, I will keep any appointment she may make. We must see her, Sears, and her nephew, too, as soon as may be.”

Stone’s manner changed suddenly from gay banter to a serious tone, and then he invited the whole party to go on a chair ride, stipulating that he was to have Mrs. Barron as his companion.

He caught a faint flash of unwillingness in her eyes, but she accepted his invitation gracefully and they started off.

The night was pleasantly cool, and the gay Boardwalk, with its colors and lights, seemed to be the edge of the world, against the black abyss of sea beyond.

After a few casual remarks, Stone said, quietly,

“You know why I am here, Mrs. Barron. You know I must ask questions of any one from whom I think I can gain information.”

“But you can’t get any from me!” Madeline spoke almost hysterically. “Oh, Mr. Stone, don’t talk to me about it!”

“That’s why I brought you out here, so I could talk to you alone. For I’m sure it will be easier for you to tell me anything you have to tell, without other listeners.”

“But I haven’t anything to tell.”

“Then why are you so troubled about it all? Why are you so nervously sensitive to a tragedy that is dreadful, to be sure, but is of no personal grief to you? Or is it?”

“Oh, no, no! I had no personal interest in Mr. Folsom, I didn’t know him, you see. But now, I have come to know his sister and his nephew—”

“That isn’t it. Pardon me, Mrs. Barron, but truly, it will be better for you to tell me just why you are so deeply concerned in the affair.”

Madeline Barron turned slightly until she faced her companion. Her eyes looked big and dark, for her face was white and her cheeks paled beneath her light touch of rouge.

For a moment she hesitated, then said;

“I will tell you. I am anxious,—worried, because I fear there is suspicion being cast on Mr. Sears. His son, you know, is engaged to Miss Fair, who is my dearest friend. Should any trouble come to Croydon Sears, it will of course, reflect on Robin.”

“You mean,” Stone said, gravely, “that you fear Croydon Sears is the murderer of Garrett Folsom?”

“Oh, don’t put it like that!” and Madeline gasped. “But I—yes, I am afraid he will be suspected of that.”

“I see,” Stone said, speaking slowly. “And I understand. Now, Mrs. Barron, he is already suspected. Is there anything, anything at all, that you can tell me, that has any bearing on the question of his guilt or innocence?”

“He is suspected?” Madeline spoke in a whisper, but her lips quivered and she showed a face of utter distress.

“Perhaps suspected is too strong a word at present, but the police are narrowing things down, and they have what they consider pretty direct evidence against him.”

“And the motive?”

“It has come to their ears somehow, that Mr. Folsom had a hold of some sort over Croydon Sears, and that he was about to use it.”

“What nonsense! As if a man like Croydon Sears could be afraid of anybody!”

“A man may be fearless on his own account, and yet be disturbed on the account of others, who are dear to him.”

“Yes, that is true. You mean Robin, of course. Well, Mr. Stone, I wish I could help you. If I knew anything I would most certainly tell you. But I can only assert my faith in Croydon Sears and his innocence, by reason of my respect and admiration for the man, and my knowledge of his general fineness of character and integrity.”

“And your knowledge of Garrett Folsom?”

“Is only what I have heard of him since his death. And that runs the entire gamut, from the exalted opinions of his sister to the far less eulogistic expressions of his nephew.”

“Young Pelton had small love for his uncle?”

“It would seem so. Though I know little of these things save as I have heard them discussed by others. Why do you select me for your questioning, Mr. Stone?”

A sudden touch of resentment gave a sharp tone to Madeline’s voice, and she looked steadily at Stone as if demanding an answer.

“I mean to question everybody concerned, Mrs. Barron,” he told her. “I talk to you alone, only because I think it less distasteful to you than to be asked questions before others.”

“You say everybody concerned. I am not concerned,—in any definite way.”

“No; but you stood next the man at the time of the—”

“Not next to him. My husband was between us.”

“Oh, yes. And you had both been talking to him?”

“Not I. He addressed Mr. Barron, who, of course, had to reply.”

“I see. And you, then, never spoke to Garrett Folsom?”


“You never saw him until that morning?”

“I saw him the night before, in the lounge of the hotel. But I did not meet him.”

“Now, just one more thing. You know Mrs. Valdon?”


“You are not friends?”

“Merely acquaintances. She is very beautiful, but she is not the type of woman I make friends with. I like her companion, Mrs. Barnaby, better.”

“You know nothing of Mrs. Valdon to her disadvantage? I’m sorry to be so plain-spoken, but I know that we both have at heart only the cause of Croydon Sears, and any possible side light I can get on this matter may help us.”

“Then I will answer frankly. I know nothing of Mrs. Valdon, to her definite detriment, except that she tries to bribe the servants to let her go into the rooms that were occupied by Mr. Folsom.”

“She did do that. Do you mean she continues to do so?”

“Yes. My nurse knows her chambermaid, and I insisted on her telling me.”

“That is helpful and you have done right in letting me know. Rest assured such information will only be used in furthering the cause of justice, and it is through some such chance knowledge that we often reach the facts.”

The whole party arrived back at the hotel about the same time, and though the gay scene in the lounge and dancing rooms was attractive, Stone declared his readiness to meet Miss Folsom and her nephew and have a conference on the business that had brought him down.

The Barrons were excused from attendance and Robin and Angel were sent away to dance.

Then Croydon Sears and the detective accepted an invitation, brought them by Tite Riggs, to hold the session in the rooms that had been Folsom’s and were now occupied by Dan Pelton.

This suited Stone and they went there at once.

“I am glad you are here, Mr. Stone,” Anastasia said, in her straightforward way. “I wish I might have engaged you,—I have one detective already,” she glanced at Riggs, “and I find no fault with him. But he has not your experience, whatever talent he may possess. Now, I hope you two will work together, for there is much to be done. I know, as well as you do, that Mr. Sears is coming into notice, and if ever there was a ridiculous suspect, he is it!”

“Why?” and Stone looked at her gravely. “I came down here, Miss Folsom, to save my friend, Croydon Sears, from a possible false accusation, and if you so lightly toss aside the danger of such, I shall think I came unnecessarily.”

“Maybe unnecessarily for that effort, but there is still the question of who killed my brother. That has to be answered, Mr. Stone, and if you will take it upon yourself to solve the mystery, I will gladly pay any bill you may present.”

“To my mind, Miss Folsom,” Stone said, “the best and surest way to save Mr. Sears’ name from unmerited accusation is to find the real murderer. In this, I am quite sure you agree with me.”

“Yes, indeed,” was the emphatic response. “And, the way it looks to me, we are just starting out on a new investigation, or rather, on a new phase of the investigation, but better equipped for an intelligent inquiry.”

Fleming Stone looked at the speaker with evident admiration.

“A wise judge could not put the matter more accurately,” he said, “and I am glad to work with and for you and your colleagues.”

“And for Heaven’s sake, get somewhere,” said Pelton, who, while saying little, had been listening to Stone and his aunt. “I’m no detective, myself, but I think if I were, I’d work harder and faster than most.”

“He’s hitting me,” Tite Riggs said, with no display of annoyance. “But we know, don’t we, Mr. Stone, that the great intellects of the true detectives work slowly? That the snap judgments and hasty conclusions of the amateurs are of little worth compared to the astounding results of our deliberation and meditation.”

The classing of himself with the famous Stone was forgivable because of Riggs’ whimsical tone and good-humored smile.

“We’ll try to compass both,” Stone said; “we’ll hope to get the speedy results Mr. Pelton so much desires, together with the astounding results promised by Mr. Riggs. And now to business. Mr. Pelton, your part will be to show me all the papers of your late uncle’s that have any bearing on the matter of his death. Or better still, all the papers of his you have down here, for it’s easy to be mistaken as to the bearing of a document.”

“All right, Mr. Stone,” was the reply, but the observant eye of the detective noted a disinclination to comply with the request.

“Perhaps that will be our first step,” Stone went on, determined to push this matter, since Pelton was so obviously averse to it.

Yet it was not a lengthy procedure. After the neat bundles of letters and papers were brought from the desk and looked over, Miss Folsom directed her nephew to produce the suitcase that he had brought from New York, with additional data in it.

To this Pelton showed unmistakable unwillingness. He said he had mislaid the key to the suitcase, but his aunt brought him up with a round turn.

“Nonsense!” she exclaimed. “You haven’t done anything of the sort, and if you have, it doesn’t matter. We can break it open. You bring out that suitcase, Dan.”

Pelton went to the closet to get it, and before he returned, he could be heard opening the catch.

“Bring it just as it is, please,” said Fleming Stone, calmly, wondering if Dan Pelton was, after all, concerned in the affair.

“Don’t you dare meddle with it,” cried Miss Anastasia, jumping up and going to her nephew. “Whatever ails you, Dan? What monkey tricks you up to now?”

“Nothing of the sort,” he returned. “I had put some of my own letters in here too,—that’s all.”

As he talked he had set the small case on a table, and flinging it open was looking amazedly at its contents. Apparently something surprised him, but in a moment he gave a sigh of relief, and said;

“There you are, Mr. Stone. I didn’t put mine in there after all. I thought I did.”

“Forgetful youth,” Stone said, lightly. “Well, here goes for these, then.”

But no more evidential documents were found in this lot than in the other, and Stone’s suspicions of Dan Pelton took a new lease of life. The young man acted nervous and anxious until the suitcase was opened, then he was calm and at ease. What had he expected that he didn’t find?

Stone began to see this affair had ramifications that he hadn’t heretofore suspected. And if Dan Pelton was a factor in the case, it behooved an investigator to walk delicately, for Pelton had the whip hand in his possession of all documents and letters.

The more Stone thought about it, the more sure he was that something had been abstracted from the suitcase during Pelton’s absence from the room, and that whatever it was had given Pelton satisfaction rather than otherwise. Therefore, it was something that Pelton did not want him to see. Therefore, it was something that incriminated Pelton or somebody Pelton desired to shield.

This was one of those swift flashes of intuition and sudden enlightenment that come at times, and Stone was quick to act upon it. He determined to find out if any one friendly to Pelton had accomplished this act, whatever it was, that had changed him from a spirit of apprehension and fear to a satisfied, contented mood.

“Has any one meddled with these things since you saw them last?” Stone said, in a most matter of fact tone.

“No,” said Pelton, looking up in surprise, but turning red. “Who would do so, and why?”

“I don’t know, I’m sure,” and Stone turned it off lightly. “Was that suitcase locked?”

“It should have been,” Pelton examined the catch, “but it wasn’t. It seems to be a little out of order.”

“How about that man of yours?” Stone said, suddenly.

“Ross? He wouldn’t touch it, I’m sure.”

“Call him in, please,” Stone said.

A moment later the imperturbable valet stood before them.

“Just a few questions, my man,” Stone said, affably, and though Ross looked a little startled, he stood quietly at attention, ready to reply.

“I know you’ve been through this a dozen times,” Stone said, pleasantly, “but just once again, please. Where were you when your master, a Mr. Folsom, was killed?”

“Here in this room, sir,” said Ross, his lips twitching a little with emotion, but otherwise calm.

“Waiting for his return, I’m told.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Where were you sitting?”

“I wasn’t sitting, sir. I stood at that window, looking down at the crowds, and yet listening for Mr. Folsom’s step in the hall.”

“I see. You didn’t see the commotion attendant on the bringing of Mr. Folsom’s body from the water?”

“No, sir. It is not visible from these windows. Or if it is, I didn’t see it. If I had I should have rushed out there, sir.”

“Of course, yes. Now, Ross, you have another good master in Mr. Pelton.”

“Yes, sir.”

“And he is confidential with you, as Mr. Folsom was.”

“Yes, sir.” The man looked at his interlocutor with a mild wonder, as if not understanding the drift, but paying attention to the words.

“When he leaves the room, he doesn’t lock up things from you?”

“It is not necessary, sir,” and Ross’ attitude was that of Caesar’s wife at her best.

“No. I’m sure of that. Well, then, this evening, while Mr. Pelton was out who could have come in here and meddled with his belongings?”

“I don’t know, sir, I’m sure,” and Ross showed no embarrassment or even undue interest.

“Yet somebody did so.”

“I know nothing of it, sir.”

“Nor I!” exclaimed Dan Pelton, unable to keep still longer. “What are you driving at, Mr. Stone? Who said any one came in here and rummaged my things?”

“You said it yourself, though not in so many words,” replied Stone, calmly. “Is it not the truth?”

“Truth? That somebody rummaged—nonsense! Of course it is not the truth.”

“And you don’t care to admit it, nor tell me who the intruder was?” Stone went on, quite as if Pelton had said yes to his queries instead of no.

“Of course I don’t! That is,—” Pelton stumbled in his speech, “of course, nobody came in.”

“You may go, Ross,” Stone said to the man, “and as you go, send me the chambermaid.”

These orders were obeyed, and in a short time, Myrtle arrived.

She came in, pluming herself as with a sense of her own importance, but when she saw the crestfallen look and downhearted appearance of Dan Pelton, she, too, began to look frightened.

This sequence of events was not lost upon Stone, who said, rather curtly; “You are the maid of these rooms?”

“Yes, sir,” said Myrtle, her air of bravado melting before that direct eye.

“You have been in here this evening?”

“I always come, sir, to turn down the bed, and bring fresh towels.”

“I know that. At what time did you come for that purpose?”

“I dunno. ’Bout eight, I guess.”

“And at what time did you come later? Come to let some one else in? Because you were well paid for it!”

At each sentence Stone looked a little more menacing, and spoke in a little sterner tone. At the climax, his voice, though not loud, was of a cold, deadly inflection and scared Myrtle nearly out of her wits, as was the detective’s amiable intention.

She began to cry and Stone said, shortly;

“Cry all you like, my girl, but before you begin, tell me who it was you let into this room. Quick, now,— out with it!”

“Mrs. Valdon,” said Myrtle, impelled by the inexorable voice, and then she ran from the room.


Chapter 16
All At Sea

“And so,” Stone said, as the door closed, none too gently after Myrtle, “and so, Mr. Pelton, your desire to shield Mrs. Valdon is so great, that you clog the wheels of justice in order to gratify it.”

“That’s about how it stands,” and Dan Pelton looked embarrassed, but far from penitent.

Miss Anastasia sighed.

“That’s Dan all over!” she said, “he’d always do anything to save a woman from annoyance.”

“But he hasn’t saved her,” and Stone looked indignant. “In fact, he has probably made more trouble for her than if he had been frank in the first place.”

“What do you mean by that?” and Dan Pelton’s voice held a great fear.

This did not escape Stone’s alert attention, and he pressed the point.

“The facts are self-evident,” he said. “Garrett Folsom had letters or papers that in some way incriminated or at least bothered Mrs. Valdon, and she was determined to get them. Mr. Pelton knew more or less about these papers, and he had possession of them, he supposed, in that suitcase full of papers. Right so far, Mr. Pelton?”

“Yes,” was the answer, growled rather than spoken.

“Do you know the nature or contents of the papers in question?”

“I do not.”

“I thought so. Well, the papers disappeared from the suitcase, without Mr. Pelton’s knowledge, for it was easily seen that he was relieved when he opened the case to find that the papers were not there. He spoke of some letters of his own but that was scarcely plausible.”

“Then it was that woman, after all!” and Anastasia Folsom’s voice rang out in triumph. “I knew you’d find out, Mr. Stone. And I knew it was a woman who killed Garry! She looks the adventuress,—you can see it sticking out all over her—”

“Oh, hush, Aunt Stasia! Don’t be ridiculous—” began Pelton, but Tite Riggs interrupted:

“It isn’t ridiculous, except that it’s not wise to jump at conclusions so rapidly. But I have felt all along that Mrs. Valdon knows more than she has admitted, and that she is a woman of—”

“Of murderous impulses and of desperate passions and capable of any crime!” Miss Folsom ranted on.

“I knew her sort the moment I set eyes on her, and that was some years ago. She made a dead set for my brother, and they had an affair, which she thought would end in Garry’s marrying her,—but it didn’t. Garry was just a little too smart for that! But there was a bit of a scandal, and somehow or other Garry kept the whip hand. Since then, Carmy and I have been friends outwardly, and she and Garry were seemingly friends, but she was afraid of him.”

“Not afraid of him,” amended Pelton, “but he had some letters of hers, which were perhaps a bit indiscreet. These, she naturally wanted to get back, after his death. No woman wants her letters flaunted to the public. So, not unnaturally, she tried to get them. She knew it would be useless to appeal to the police, and she doubted the wisdom of asking my aunt for them,

“You know a lot about it, Dan,” said his aunt, with an accusing glance.

“I do, Aunt Stasia, and I’m telling all I know, because,—well, because, Mr. Stone rather implied that openness was the best way out.”

“I’m not sure I implied all that,” Stone said, and his face was grave. “Much depends on the nature of those letters. If they were merely indiscreet love letters, they might bring no suspicion on Mrs. Valdon. But if they were of a threatening nature, or proved a real intent for revenge—”

“They couldn’t be as bad as that,” Pelton said, and was stopped by his aunt.

“Shut up, Dan,” she advised. “You’ve fallen for that woman, as you do for every specimen of that siren type. Given a low, wailing voice and a pair of dark, love-hungry eyes, and any woman can vamp you! Now, drop her, before you get in too deep. Before you get the reward your uncle Garry got! I suppose she begged you for that packet of letters,—by the way, where has it been all the time? I haven’t seen it.”

“I took care of it,” Pelton said, obstinately.

“I know you did. But where did you find it? In the suitcase?”

“Yes. And I just laid it aside, for the moment. I knew she never killed Uncle. How could she?”

“Why couldn’t she?” retorted his aunt. “She stood next him at the rope, that we know. Stood at his right-hand side. So she had motive and opportunity,—yes, I’ve learned from the detectives those are the things a criminal needs most. As to the weapon, we’ve no real reason to assume it must have been one of those antique things. It may have been a hotel carving knife. Any woman clever enough to plan and carry out such a scheme of murder, would be quite clever enough to manage the weapon part of the business. Now, Mr. Stone, there’s your criminal, go and get her!”

Had the case been less serious, Fleming Stone would have been amused at the emphatic declarations of Miss Folsom.

She was striding up and down the room, her bobbed hair, escaped from the influence of brilliantine, waving in quivering tufts. Her black lace evening gown was short and the great red rose at her shoulder shook on its stem as she gesticulated with her bare arm, which was held, now aloft, like the Statue of Liberty, and now straight out, as she pointed, in emphasis, at one or another of her hearers.

Interested hearers, too, for Tite Riggs was getting a new light on the beautiful Carmelita; Croydon Sears was beginning to see a way out for himself; and Fleming Stone was hearing and weighing this information so freely given, and rapidly assigning it to its true place in his collection of evidence.

“Gently, gently, Miss Folsom,” he said, looking at her kindly. “I know you think you have discovered the one who killed your brother, and it excites your sense of justice, but, remember, we haven’t proved anything and, indeed, have little to bank on. A packet of love letters, and a position next to Mr. Folsom on the rope in the ocean. I see no more than that, and that, dear lady, is not enough.”

“It’s enough for me!” Anastasia Folsom’s eyes snapped.

She snatched up one of the dolls that was perched on the mantel.

“That’s the type she is!” she exclaimed as she waved the puppet in the very face of Fleming Stone. “That’s the type of Carmelita Valdon, a woman with a serpent’s soul!”

The doll, a superior specimen of French art, did indeed look like Carmelita, so much so that it was surprising. But it had a sly, even sinister expression beneath the luring smile, and the exquisite features, while fascinating, were those of a wicked, designing nature.

Fleming Stone was interested.

“It does look like Mrs. Valdon,” he declared.

“Of course it does,” Miss Folsom said, scornfully. “My brother was a fool about women, or rather, they made a fool of him. So, whenever he could find a doll who reminded him of one of his favorites he bought it. All of these represent his sweethearts.”

Anastasia was a strange mixture of scorn for these amours of her brother and of staunch loyalty and love for the man himself, whatever he might do.

“Why pick on that doll then?” Tite Riggs said, thoughtfully. “Maybe the human prototype of some of these other dolls was the guilty person.”

“No,” and Anastasia took his suggestion seriously. “You see, I know many of these. I don’t mean personally, but I happen to know more or less about them. No doll here is the image of a person down here, except that one.”

“I gave a doll to the girl, Myrtle,” said Pelton, thoughtfully. “She chose it herself,—said it was Uncle Garry’s favorite. Maybe she’s the—”

“Oh, nonsense about the dolls!” Miss Folsom cried, impatiently. “I’m not using that point to fasten this thing on Carmelita Valdon. I only say she had the real reason to want Garry out of the way, and she had the nerve and the wicked soul necessary to the deed.”

“And the opportunity,” put in Riggs.

“Those things are all required,” Stone said, smiling a little at the glib repetition of the hackneyed terms, “but there are other things to be considered. A murder such as this one we are considering, is the result of careful planning and preparation. Your ordinary bather does not carry a sharp knife around in his pocket on the chance of wanting to kill somebody in a hurry. Nor is that sharp knife easily come by or easily carried about. It means premeditation and that means a long time and definite purpose. Now, Mr. Folsom only arrived here the night before, so whoever killed him, prepared for it in a hurry. I mean, in a hurry at the last. I insist that the motive existed long before. To me, it seems that some one, who had the murder in his heart, was already down here and learned that evening that Mr. Folsom had arrived. That he then laid his plans and the next morning carried them out with such cleverness that he left no clue.

“The knife?” said Croydon Sears, who, saying little, was listening to Stone.

“That,—and I think it was bought at the auction room,—was a clever dodge. “I am not sure it was one of the knives bought that night, it may have been bought at any time, or, indeed, brought here from elsewhere. But it does seem to indicate a lover or collector of the antique, and that may or may not be a clue. Probably not, for to my mind, a collector would use any weapon rather than one of his own curios.”

“Yes,” agreed Croydon Sears, “I certainly should have done so.”

Stone smiled at him, affectionately.

“I’m excluding Mr. Sears as a possible suspect,” he said, “because he didn’t do it. But the police are not so sure of that as I am, and so, to prove my point I must find the real murderer.”

“Who is,” Sears appended, “the man who bought a bundle of junk at the auction room late in the evening the night before the murder.”

“And who,” Anastasia broke in, “bought it for Carmelita Valdon. Oh, it wasn’t necessary for her to go out and buy it herself. She is a woman who has others to do her underhand work. And, I’ve listened to all you’ve said, Mr. Stone, and it all comes back to her. For who else knew in advance that my brother was coming down here? No one knew it except the Valdon crowd.”

“That includes Roger Neville,” said Stone, thoughtfully. “Has no breath of suspicion been wafted his way?”

“No,” Tite Riggs said. “It hasn’t. I’ve wondered why, but nobody seems to think of him in that way.”

“Certainly not,” snapped Miss Folsom. “Roger Neville is no saint, but he and Garry were intimate friends. They were fond of one another, and though they quarreled now and then, they were really devoted. Why, they both made wills leaving large sums to the other. Had Roger died first, Garry would have come into quite a fortune.”

“Which he didn’t need,” suggested Stone.

“Oh, no. My brother was a rich man. Well, Mr. Stone, I suppose it’s too late for you to do anything further tonight. I hope you’ll get busy in the morning and round up that Carmelita woman! Remember, she’s about the only one in all Ocean Town who knew beforehand that my brother was coming down here.”

With this parting bit of suggestion, Miss Folsom went off to her own room, and the men remained for a few more words.

“My aunt is a strange personage,” Pelton said, thoughtfully, rather than by way of apology, “but she’s nobody’s fool. And her arguments against Mrs. Valdon are just plausible enough to catch the attention of the police if they are brought to their notice. So, Mr. Stone,—while I don’t ask you to ignore Aunt Anastasia’s suspicions and suggestions, I do ask you to look into the matter yourself before you give it much publicity.”

“I shall certainly do that, Mr. Pelton,” Stone said, “and if it is of any comfort to you, and I daresay it is, I can tell you, that I think there is, so far, very little evidence against Mrs. Valdon.”

“Bless you for that!” said Dan Pelton, so earnestly, that Stone was touched. “Yes,” he went on, noticing Stone’s quick glance, “as my aunt says, I have fallen for that woman. To me she is a waif of fortune, a toy of fate, but not the scheming adventuress my aunt would make her seem. Nor is she a murderess! The very idea is unthinkable! But my uncle did have a hold over her, did have letters from her, and she did try to get them without the knowledge of the sensation-seeking police. Those things I know. What was in the letters or whether she did finally get them, I don’t know. But they were here, in the suitcase, right on top, and they’re not here now. I am frank, Mr. Stone, because I want the matter cleared up as well as my aunt does, and if you can get at the real truth, you can do away with all hint of suspicion of Mrs. Valdon.”

Stone looked at him a little quizzically.

“I had but two legitimate suspects,” he said, with pretended ruefulness. “Sears here, and Mrs. Valdon. If you deprive me of both, at one fell swoop, what, pray, am I to do?”

“Get the real one,” said Tite Riggs, rising to go. “I can’t do it, I haven’t a glimmer of a notion what way to look, but I’ll bet you manage it, Mr. Stone.”

“I’ll bet he does,” agreed Pelton, but the anxious eyes of Croydon Sears did not echo their assurance.

“I’ll have a try at it,” Stone told them. “But I don’t mind admitting that at the present, I’ve no evidence to work on, no clue to follow up. I’m all at sea.”

“Then you’re right on the spot,” said Pelton, with a flash of his irrepressible gaiety, “for that’s where the crime was committed!”

“A strange case,” Stone said to Sears as they left the room, and went toward their own apartments. “I’ve never before heard of a murder in the ocean. It is clever, I’ll say that for it. Just think, Croy, no finger prints, no clues left lying about, no witnesses, no evidence to be drawn from the scene of the crime, and I feel sure the murderer thought there would be no weapon found. Why, there’s nothing material to work on. Nothing to consider but the mental attitudes of the victim and his possible enemies. And of those I know almost nothing. Small wonder I’m all at sea!”

“True enough, old man. But, for Heaven’s sake get me out of it! Do you know, since you’ve come and the thing is getting into shape as you see it, I’m more than ever certain my part in the matter must come out.”

“Probably not, Croy. But if it is necessary, you’ll have to buck up and stand it. Better have the thing lanced than to let it fester.”

“Yes, I know. And if it comes to that, I’ll stand up to it, of course. If it were not for Robin, I’d make a clean breast of the whole matter, but the boy—and Angelica—”

“I know. Don’t think about it at present. We’ll likely get a new line on it all tomorrow. Big hotel, isn’t it?”

“Yes, the Majusaca is one of the newest and finest on the beach. Well, here’s your room, do get a little sleep.”

Fleming Stone didn’t require much sleep, but the sea air made for drowsiness and he put in a good night’s rest before he joined Croydon Sears at breakfast.

Robin was there, too, and Ned Barron, the girls having their breakfast in their rooms.

“Did the night bring any counsel?” Barron inquired, his big voice toned down to a discreet pitch.

“Some,” Stone returned, smiling. “But as I told Sears, I’m all at sea, unless I can get a straw to show which way the wind may, can or must be blowing.”

“You can’t make bricks without straws, can you?” Robin smiled, and added, “I’ll bet you’ve crossed my Dad off the list of possibles.”

“I’ll bet I haven’t,” Stone said, “but that’s because he never was on it. And, it’s a very small, faint list, anyway. However, we’re only starting in, and no telling what favoring winds may blow us to port sooner than we expect.”

“Who’s at the top of your list?” Barron asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.

“A beautiful lady,” Stone said. “Don’t ask her name yet, for something tells me she’ll be crossed off speedily. Indeed, so far, it’s all a blank mystery. I’m lost in a fog of hovering possibilities, none of which will take shape or tangibility. The only straight facts are that Garrett Folsom was stabbed, and that somebody stabbed him.”

“Couldn’t have been suicide?” asked Barron.

“Not a chance. The doctors agree on that, and— by the way, you stood next to him. Can you see a suicide act?”

“No indeed,” Ned Barron shrugged his shoulders. “I was paying no attention to him, for I wanted to discourage his attempts at conversation, but as I look back and visualize the scene, I seem to see his two hands grasping the rope next to my own.”

“You saw him go under?”

“No, for I was turned away, speaking to Madeline. But I saw and heard a commotion and next thing I knew they were carrying him out. I didn’t notice it much, assuming it was a case of cramp. It happens so often.”

“Well, your testimony doesn’t help me any. You didn’t know him at all?”

“Not at all. Never heard of him before that day. It was the merest chance that we stood near him.”

“Well, it’s a puzzle,” sighed Stone. “I’ve nothing to work on but people’s prejudices, a dagger and a few dolls! That doesn’t seem much for an able-bodied detective!”

“Dolls!” exclaimed Robin, “what dolls?”

Stone amused them all with his description of the dolls that had belonged to Garrett Folsom.

“It’s not so surprising,” said Sears, with a twinkle in his eye, “a born collector will choose the strangest lines! I collect antique weapons, another collects dolls. I’m not sure the dolls aren’t more admirable. At least, they’re less dangerous.”

“I’d like to see those dolls,” Robin said. “Angel adores them.”

“Well, the Folsom lot are among the finest. They must be imported, I never saw any more beautiful ones, —if one is fond of dolls.”

Breakfast over, and it being too early to expect to see Carmelita Valdon, Stone betook himself to the auction rooms.

A confab with the principals there brought about a more exhaustive inquiry into the sales made the night before the murder of Garrett Folsom.

And it was pretty well established that as the auction drew to a close that night, the attendants somewhat hastily gathered odds and ends of their wares into bundles and sold them rapidly, taking, in most instances, the first bid made.

This, though done without the sanction of the proprietors, was not unprecedented, for thus the counters were cleared and the way made ready for next day’s enterprises.

Few of the salespeople could remember definitely the customers who had bought these bundles, but at last one clerk came forward with a story of a man who had purchased the very last one.

“I remember,” he said, “because the chap only bid five dollars, but I let him take it, partly to get rid of the last lot, and partly because the buyers had thinned out so, I didn’t think there’d be another bid.”

“What did he look like?” Stone asked.

“He had a white moustache,—that’s all I remember specially. He was just an ordinary looking fellow, not rich but not poor, either. Don’t remember his clothes at all, but I couldn’t help seeing that white moustache and I thought he was old. But his voice didn’t sound very old,—more middle-aged, like. I didn’t see his hair, he kept his hat on. He paid cash for his bundle and took it along with him. Didn’t seem embarrassed or flustered, just sort of quiet like and indifferent.”

“A collector?”

“No, I don’t think so. But you can’t tell, always. A real collector is foxy and pretends he isn’t a collector at all. So you can’t tell.”

“No, I suppose not. And this bundle, this last sale, had a pichaq in it?”

“Yes, sir. An old one, with a worn-out velvet scabbard, just like the one the police have.”

“What else was in it?”

“Trash, mostly. Nothing of the same era. A Chinese ink-holder and a Japanese incense-burner. But not valuable or in good condition. He paid all the lot was worth.”

“And you can’t think of any other distinguishing trait he had?”

“Not one. He was just like any one of a hundred guys who come in here every day. It was only that white moustache that made him stick in my memory at all.”

“He’s the man,” Fleming Stone told himself, as he left the shop and turned his steps back toward the Majusaca.

Yet he had not entirely put the idea of Carmelita out of his considerations. And as he puzzled over it, it came to him, that somebody had said the night before that she had human tools to work for her.

Was the man with the white moustache one of these? Had he bought the old weapon for Carmelita’s use, either ignorant of her purpose or cognizant thereof?

Who could he have been? And where was any man with a white moustache? Such a facial adornment was enough of a rarity nowadays to be conspicuous, even among the hordes of people at Ocean Town.

And then it came to him. A false moustache, of course!

There is no easier, simpler and yet more effective disguise than a false moustache, particularly a noticeable one.

Granting this, then, the disguise was intentional, and the purchase was made with the expectation of using the deadly weapon for a dastardly purpose!

So, the man was not necessarily old, probably not at all so, and the next step was to learn his identity.

Not an easy matter, as there seemed to be nothing to go upon but that assumption of a false moustache.

But aside from the dolls and the dagger, it was the only material clue in sight and Fleming Stone set to work to make it yield up its secret.

As he neared the hotel, he met Robin Sears.

“Hullo,” said the youth, “we’ve found the man in the green bathing suit.”

“Who is he?” asked Stone.

“His name is Preston, he’s a stuffy old coot, and he doesn’t remember Dad at all! Cheerful outlook!”

“Never mind,” Stone told him, “we’ve got a nice white moustache to work on.”


Chapter 17
As To Carmelita

Fleming Stone walked along the Boardwalk toward the Hotel Majusaca, thinking deeply. Yet his absorption in thought did not prevent his enjoyment of his surroundings. Though he cared little for surf bathing, the sights and sounds of the crowds of merrymakers pleased his senses as a whole, rather than in any detail. The rolling chairs with their human freight and their varied types of pushers interested and amused him, and though he looked at nothing closely, he saw it all as a huge moving picture and he reveled in it.

Yet all the time his reason was working on the case in hand.

He had not the slightest doubt that the man with the white moustache was the agent for some one else, and that the moustache was a disguise.

But why was the man not a principal? he asked himself. Why not the murderer himself?

If so, it must have been one of the men already mixed up with the affair.

Of course it might have been an entire stranger, but Stone’s experience led him to think that this was unlikely. For usually, a murderer is sooner or later shown to be acquainted with his victim, if only by the casual testimony or evidence of bystanders or onlookers.

If, and there was always the possibility, if Garrett Folsom had been murdered by some one that his surviving friends and relatives knew nothing of, that fact must also be proved. But the immediate business in hand for Stone, was to prove that Croydon Sears had nothing to do with the crime, and this necessitated the investigation of all toward whom the finger of suspicion pointed.

Robin’s report that the man in the green bathing suit had been found must be looked into later. At present, Stone’s thoughts centered on one figure, that of Carmelita Valdon.

“Just the one for the part,” the detective pondered. “The right type for a murderess, and proved already to have had motive, opportunity and—if the white mustached chap was her emissary,—she had a way to get the weapon.

How she could carry the knife into the ocean unobserved, Stone did not stop to think. For, he knew whoever killed Folsom had carried the knife into the water, and, clearly, it would be easier for a woman to conceal such a thing in her bathing costume than for a man.

In fact, Stone thought, that point scored heavily in favor of a woman criminal. For with the more or less elaborate suits they wore nowadays, ample opportunity was offered for the concealment of a knife, while a man, with his simple one- or two-piece suit, had small chance to hide anything of the sort.

Reaching the Majusaca, he found Mrs. Valdon on the Deck, exquisitely arrayed in a chic morning costume appropriate to the beach.

“Not going in this morning?” he said, after Pelton, who was with her, had made introductions.

“Not until later,” she told him, “about noon, I think, today.”

“Then you’ve time for a chair ride with me. Do take pity on my loneliness and come for a ride. The chairs fascinate me and I hate to go alone.”

It was not the habit of Carmelita Valdon to turn down anything in the shape of attention from any presentable man. And Fleming Stone was decidedly presentable. Moreover, when he chose to exert his personal charm, almost any woman would find him irresistible.

So Carmelita smiled on him, and declared she’d love to go.

“See you when I come back, Dan,” she said, gaily to Pelton, who watched the pair depart, uncertain whether he wanted Stone to interview her or not.

“Be good to her,” he called out, as a warning to the detective, who answered with a smile and a nod, and then glanced at Carmelita.

“I fancy everybody is good to you,” he said, in his gentle voice, so full of subtle flattery and yet impersonal, too.

“Yes,” she said, slowly, “everybody but Fate.”

“And Fate is cruel?”

They were slowly rolling along the Boardwalk, the sun not yet high enough to be unpleasantly warm, the sea-breeze coming in, crisp and cool, and the stolid half-asleep negro pushing them, utterly oblivious, if indeed he could hear their conversation.

“Yes, Mr. Stone,” and Carmelita turned a grave countenance to his own. “Fate is nearly always cruel to a woman.”

“Oh, what a sweeping assertion! And what an untrue one! Surely you don’t mean that,—you, with the world at your feet,—with all the gifts Nature can bestow—”

“Never mind that sort of talk. And it is we who have—as you say,—Nature’s gifts, looks, charm, power,—all the feminine arts, who oftenest get cruel blows from Fate, that are none the less terrible, because unknown to the world at large.”

Without appearing to do so, Stone scrutinized her keenly. Either this woman was all Miss Folsom had painted her, and she was deliberately setting out to fascinate him, or, Pelton was right, and she was troubled, but not by reason of a guilty conscience regarding Folsom’s murder.

“I think, Mrs. Valdon,” he said, gently, “it would be better if we talked plainly to one another. You know, I daresay, that I am down here to investigate the death of Garrett Folsom. There are reasons why I should ask you some questions and I have chosen this way to do it, thinking it would be the least annoying to you.”

Carmelita thanked him with one of her best smiles.

“You are good,” she said, with a ring of sincerity in her tone. “Let us talk plainly, then. In the first place, I did not kill Mr. Folsom.”

“But you are glad he is dead,” Stone said, quietly. She gave him a startled glance.

“I hate to put it so baldly,” she said, as if thinking this over, “but, well, I am not really sorry. Or, to come nearer the truth, I’m glad only for one reason. Otherwise, I wish the man were still alive.”

“You’re glad he’s dead, because that gave you opportunity to retrieve your letters which he held.”

“You must have been told that,” she said, looking straight at him, “and nobody could have told you but Dan Pelton. Yes, I did get my letters back, and I never could have done that, so long as Garrett Folsom was alive.”

“And so, you are suspected, in some quarters, of having killed him, in order to accomplish that end.”

“Some quarters, meaning his sister, I suppose. Does any one else suspect me, Mr. Stone?”

“That I don’t know. But it would not be out of the question for Miss Folsom to spread such a suspicion.”

“I know it wouldn’t. She hates me,—I wonder why.”

“Partly because you two are so diametrically opposed in character and type and partly because she really thinks you killed her brother.”

“My dear Mr. Stone, I couldn’t kill anybody. I really couldn’t. Miss Folsom might, she’s the killer sort. But I’m not—”

“That’s no argument, Mrs. Valdon. To kill a man, one doesn’t have to perform the actual deed oneself.”

Fleming Stone had dropped his charming manner, and now he spoke with the steely glance and low, hard voice that had so often struck terror to the heart of a wrong-doer.

“Oh,” Carmelita gave a little gasp, “you mean—”

“That some one else could have done it—at your bidding. Who was the man with the white moustache?”

At once Stone saw he had drawn blank.

Purposely he had sprung this question suddenly, feeling sure he could tell by her reaction whether she knew of the man or not.

Clearly, she did not. For her uncomprehending look and her surprised voice were so indubitably sincere that the detective was forced to believe her.

“The man with the white moustache? I’ve not the slightest idea. But he most certainly was no agent of mine! And I tell you, Mr. Stone, I had no hand in Garrett Folsom’s death. Either directly or indirectly.”

“But as soon as he was dead, you hastened to get your letters.”

“I did, indeed! And a hard time I had of it! I subsidized servants, I begged keys from friends, I tried every way I could think of,—and, I finally got them. Now they are burned up, and if the police accuse me of murder because of it, they will have to prove it. But they can’t get the letters!”

Her smile of triumph went further toward convincing Stone of her innocence regarding the murder than any asseverations could have done. To his mind it was clear that she was so anxious to get her letters, and so relieved at having secured them, that the thought of a more serious accusation had not yet sunk very deeply into her mind. And this, of course, for the reason that she had no guilty knowledge of the crime itself.

“The letters were so very important, then?” he asked, casually.

“Important to me, because of their disclosure of some facts in my past life which I wish kept secret. Facts which would be of small interest to the general public but which were of enough importance to give Garrett Folsom a hold over me, that he never let me forget. Now, they are destroyed, and my soul is at peace.”

She was silent a moment and then turned to him, with a really lovely smile, and said, “My soul couldn’t be at peace if I had killed him, could it?”

“No, Mrs. Valdon,” Stone said, giving her a keen look, “I think it could not. I’m not prepared to say I can tell a criminal by looking at one, but I will say that I think I can tell by talking to one. And my judgment, my experience and my instinct all shout to me your innocence in the matter of Folsom’s death. Now, the question of those letters need never be brought up, never be even mentioned, if we can find out who did kill Folsom. That’s all his sister wants, that’s all the police want,—that’s all I want, to learn the identity of the murderer. No one had any justifiable concern with your letters or their import, if you are not connected with the crime.”

“What are you leading up to?” she asked, gravely.

“Just this. You know,—probably from some evidence you ran across while getting your own letters, —you know something you have not yet told. Something that is a clue or a bit of evidence of a definite sort.”

Carmelita stared at him.

Her great dark eyes seemed to grow luminous with fear, and then they became sphinx-like and inscrutable.

“You startled me,” she said, with a light laugh. “I thought you meant it.”

“I did mean it,—I do mean it. You learned something that you have kept to yourself. You discovered something that leads you to a definite suspicion. This thing you must tell, or you will find yourself in serious trouble.”

“Oh, no, not so bad as that.”

Carmelita Valdon was again mistress of herself. Her instant of fear had passed, she had come through the inquisition about her letters, and it had caused her no alarm. Now, she had nothing further to say, and she determined to say nothing.

“Yes, Mrs. Valdon,” all at once, Stone found himself on the losing side of the argument. “Yes, serious trouble,” he ended up, a little lamely.

She looked at him, and smiled.

“Shot all your arrows, have you, Mr. Stone?” she bantered. “Well, what next?”

Stone wanted to shake her. Never before had he felt so baffled by a woman’s wit. He knew, he was certain, that she had no connection of any sort with the death of Garrett Folsom. But, he knew, too, that she had a shred of knowledge, a clue of some kind, however slight, that he would give worlds to learn.

But it was so vague, so purely imaginary on his part, that he couldn’t think, at the moment, of any way to force her hand.

And she was so impossible. In a light, almost merry mood, she was a different person from the sad-faced woman who had confessed to stealing her own letters, and had admitted her relief at the death of Folsom.

That was part of Carmelita’s charm. Her power of changing her mood so quickly as to leave an observer breathless and amazed.

Now, her eyes shining, her red lips smiling, her whole being full of vivacity and charm, she leaned closer to him and whispered,

“Don’t shoot any more arrows at me. I haven’t done anything wrong.”

“But you know who has!” he said, sternly, angry at himself for being swayed by her beauty and lure.

And then, with another of her sudden changes, she became wistful, even pathetic, and tears actually appeared in her eyes, as she said;

“No. Merely a faint, slight possibility. Nothing that I can tell you.”

“Very well, Mrs. Valdon,” and Stone gave himself a mental shake. “I take that statement as a true one, and I shall say nothing more to you about it, until— until, I too, discover that same slight possibility.”

And at that, he had the satisfaction of seeing her look very perplexed indeed.

They returned to the hotel, and as it was the bathing hour, Carmelita hurried away to keep an appointment, and Stone sat on the Deck, by himself, to think things over.

As a result of his cogitations, he went up to Dan Pelton’s suite.

Ross was just leaving the rooms, having finished his work there.

“Going in the surf?” Stone said, pleasantly.

“No, sir,” Ross returned. “I can’t seem to bear the sight of the ocean since—Mr. Folsom—”

“Yes, I know,” Stone said, understandingly. “I wish we could get at the truth, Ross.”

“I wish so, too, sir,—but it is all so mysterious. If it had been on land, now—”

“That’s just it. A murder on land gives at least some chance of clues left on the scene, but in the ocean —not a showing.”

“Not a showing, sir. You have no—no suspicions, sir?”

“No. I say, Ross, have you?” He looked at the man closely.

But he saw nothing save the immobile face of the servant, with a sad look in the eyes that told him only of a natural grief at the death of a respected, if not a loved master.

“I wish I could suspect him,” Stone thought, whimsically. “It would help along a lot.”

“Wait a minute, Ross,” he said, aloud, and the man paused.

“You know a heap about your late master’s private affairs, and you needn’t hesitate to speak out before me. Is there anybody you know of, who could have had reason to do this job? I mean do you know of any one over whom Mr. Folsom had a strong enough hold to make a motive for murder?”

“That’s a big question, sir,” Ross said, speaking very seriously. “Too big for me to answer. By which I mean that, though I saw a few things, now and then, or heard a few words now and then, I haven’t enough real knowledge or real reason for what you might call suspicion. If I had, I should have told you of it at first, sir.”

“Yes, that’s right. I say, Ross, you don’t think it was one of his lady friends did it?”

“Killed him?” Ross looked amazed. “Good Lord, no, sir! Why, there wasn’t any of ’em down here.”

“Oh, you mean his chorus girl friends. I suppose he had lots of those.”

“Not so many, but now and then one. He was no saint, Mr. Folsom wasn’t.”

“No, though his sister thinks he was.”

“She does that, Mr. Stone. Miss Folsom thinks Mr. Garrett was almost a Puritan, and—he wasn’t, sir.”

“No,” agreed Stone. “Well, go along, Ross, I see you can’t help me out. Call down for some ice water, will you, and tell them to send that fat child with it.”

“Tubby? Yes, sir.”

Ross did Stone’s bidding, and departed, and shortly the rotund bellboy appeared with the water.

“You wanted me, special, Mr. Stone?” he asked, with the air of importance that he loved to assume.

“Well, yes. But only to ask you a few questions that you have doubtless answered already a dozen times.”

“Then a dozen more won’t hurt. Snap into it.”

Tubby was of an intuitive sort, and knew by instinct when he could indulge in a bit of familiarity or impertinence and when it was wiser not to.

And as Stone also, knew what he was about, the understanding between these two needed no superfluous words.

“What I’m getting at is this, Tubby,” the detective said, straightforwardly. “I want to get all the side lights I can on Mr. Garrett Folsom. I’ve learned a lot from his friends and from the police and all that. But there may be some bit of information you can give me that nobody else could. Think so?”

“I wish I could, sir, but I’m darned if I can think of anything. Got anything particular in mind?”

“No, I’m just floundering. Did you see Mr. Folsom when he arrived here? When he first came in?”

“Yes, sir, I did. I was near the desk, and I seen him arrive. Oh, yes, he came in very important like—”


“Not fool swaggering, sir. Just like a man who’s big and knows it. No shoddy work. And his man, Ross, you know, looking after everything quiet and proper.”

“I suppose you mean, he made an entrance like one of the best people might be expected to do.”

“Just that, Mr. Stone. I know all about entrances, I’ve seen thousands.”

Tubby stood waiting, hoping he could tell something of importance, but utterly at a loss to do so, and well knowing that nothing fictitious would go with this man.

“Well, that’s that,” Stone informed him. “Did he look about at the people before he went up to his rooms?”

“He did just that,” and Tubby saw a chance. “He stood quite a few minutes looking at the crowds in the lounge. He hadn’t been here in some time, and he was awful interested. His eyes shined and he laughed in sort of glee—see? ’sif he was terrible glad to be here again.”

“Did he notice anybody in particular?”

Tubby reflected.

“Well, he did. You see, his own crowd, Mr. Neville and those ladies, weren’t around just then, but just as Mr. Folsom was about to go up in the elevator the Searses and Barrons came down in the next elevator and Mr. Folsom looked at them like he was surprised all to pieces.”

“Why, he didn’t know them, except Mr. Sears, slightly.”

“Well, I don’t know anything about that, but he waited over for another car while he looked at them. They didn’t see him, they were laughing and talking together, but he couldn’t ’a’ been more kerflummuxed if he’d seen the Old Nick hisself.”

“Was he unpleasantly surprised?”

“I don’t think so, sir. He didn’t seem either glad or sorry, especially, only just struck. That’s all.”

“Well, that doesn’t seem to amount to much,” Stone sighed, wearily. “Hello, here’s Myrtle. We seem to get clean towels every hour on the hour.”

“That isn’t why Myrt shows up so frequent,” Tubby said, and laughing, he went away, the richer by a pleasant douceur from Stone.

“Myrtle,” the detective said, “I suppose you know nothing of Mr. Folsom that you haven’t told, do you?”

“Not a spick-speck,” declared the girl. “Wish I did. I’d be rich if I could answer the questions that’s been fired at me ever since the poor man died.”

“He was nice to you?”

“He was a puffick gentleman, Mr. Folsom was. He was nice, if you mean generous with his money and polite-mannered. But if you mean anything like petting or silly talk, he wasn’t there at all.”

“Still, you only saw him once or twice.”

“That’s all, sir, but we girls size up a man in less time than that. And Mr. Folsom, he wasn’t the sort to be silly that way. The only silly ways he had was this doll racket.”

She looked around on the dolls, still scattered about the room, and going to one of them, changed its position, to what she deemed a more picturesque pose.

“You’re fond of them?” Stone said, smiling at her gaze of adoration, as she fingered the short skirts and long slim legs of the doll.”

“I love ’em,” she declared. “As a baby I was always crazy about dolls. I had dozens of them, though none, of course, except cheap ones. And even as I grew older I didn’t outgrow my love for dolls. Then, a few years ago, these began to be the rage. I have two or three, but they are not the expensive kind like these. You know, they make imitations that are quite dear, but nothing of this sort is made over here. These are all French dolls,—or, imported ones, anyway.”

As Myrtle talked, she caressed and played with the dolls, and Stone watched her curiously.

Yet it was only the admiration of a child who loved dolls, mingled with the natural feminine delight in exquisite fabrics and harmonious colors.

“Pelton gave you one of these dolls, I hear,” he said. “Was it as pretty as these?”

“Beautiful!” Myrtle turned rapt eyes to him. “It was the one Mr. Folsom loved best. Mr. Pelton let me take my choice and so I took that one. Oh, it’s beautiful.”

“Will you let me see it, Myrtle? Where is it?”

“In my room. Yes, sir, I’ll get it.”

She went away and returned with the doll.

“This is my hour off,” she explained. “Mr. Pelton said he didn’t mind if I came in here and played with the dolls, so long as I don’t touch anything else. This is the one he gave me. Isn’t she lovely?”

Fleming Stone took the doll in his hands and stared at it.

For a moment he was speechless. Then he said; “Did you tell me this was Mr. Folsom’s favorite?”

“Yes, sir. I think it reminded him of somebody he loved. For he talked to it and said; ‘You’re mine,— you shall be mine again—and forever!’ or some such words as that. Oh, yes, he loved this one best.”

And Stone saw that the doll was the very image of Madeline Barron.


Chapter 18
The Criminal Found

“Go away now, Myrtle,” Stone said, speaking, as she said afterward, like a man in a dream. “Go away, Myrtle. Here, take your doll. I daresay Mr. Pelton will give you another,—if he doesn’t I will. But go away now.”

Myrtle glanced at him sharply. What had happened? This man was not the sort to have sudden fits of illness, nor did he look ill. But there was no choice for her. Stone said go, and naturally, she went. Then Fleming Stone began to piece things together.

Garrett Folsom had dolls who looked like the women he had loved.

The one he had declared he loved best, was the exact image of Madeline Barron.

Moreover, Folsom had, Myrtle averred, and she would have no reason to invent the story, declared that this doll, the one that looked like Mrs. Barron, was his best love, and that he had said he would yet have her for his own again.

This implied that he had formerly loved her and —

Where was it all leading?

Clearly, Myrtle had never connected the appearance of this doll with the beautiful Mrs. Barron. But then, Myrtle doubtless did not know Madeline. The Barrons’ rooms were not on Myrtle’s floor, and the girl had no way of seeing her, as her duties never took her to the lounge or dining room.

Tubby might perceive the resemblance, but a boy would not notice such things.

For a moment Stone was so shocked, so upset by the vistas opening out before his troubled imagination, that he was tempted to call Myrtle back, buy the doll from her and burn it up.

Yet, he could not, in honesty, suppress such a definite clue.

He shrank from the job of piecing things together, but it had to be done.

First he thought up everything he knew about Madeline Barron. It wasn’t much, but it was definite.

To begin with, he remembered her unwillingness to talk on the subject of Folsom’s death. When he had asked her a few simple questions about it, she had become so nervously excited as to be almost hysterical.

Then, when he had taxed her with this, she had declared it was because she was sympathetic with Folsom’s sister and nephew.

But further probing had brought out an assertion that her unrest was because of worry lest Croydon Sears be suspected of the crime.

Then too, she had stated that she had absolutely no acquaintance with Garrett Folsom, and knew nothing of him save what she had heard since his tragic death. She had deeply resented his queries, so deeply that it began now to seem she could scarcely have been so annoyed at inquiries about a real stranger.

Then, his thoughts ran on, Madeline had wanted to go away from Ocean Town. This he had learned from the Sears youngster and his sweetheart, who were both afraid Madeline would go, and they wanted to stay. Barron wanted to stay, too, and so Madeline had stayed, sacrificing herself for her loved ones, as, so Miss Fair had told him, she often did.

Well, none of this meant much, but it all went to prove that Madeline Barron had a secret trouble that was not shared by her husband or her nearest friends.

Also the doll that Garrett Folsom said was like his best lost love, was a striking image of Mrs. Barron.

Anyway, it had to be looked into, and perhaps,—and Stone hoped,—it would turn out to mean nothing and the doll’s resemblance to the lady be the merest chance.

A brisk hike on the Boardwalk seemed to be indicated, and with a sigh, Stone went out to take it.

As he passed the squad of empty chairs at the great hotel entrance a sudden thought struck him.

He turned to the group of idle but alertly watchful chair-pushers, and said;

“Listen sharp here, boys. Did any of you take Mr. Folsom out in a chair the night he was here? You know, the man who was killed in the ocean.”

“Nope,” and “No, sir,” came from various disinterested hearers, and Stone was about to go on his way, when the sight of his hand suggestively in his pocket stirred the memory of one of the pushmen.

“I say, Boss,” he volunteered, “that Mr. Folsom, he didn’t go out in no chair that night, but he came home on one.”

“What?” Stone’s hand sank deeper in his pocket and some coins clinked pleasantly. “Don’t make up anything, now, that won’t do.”

“No, sir,” and the earnest voice betokened truth, “but that gentleman, he came right here to this door, about the middle of the evening. Say ’bout ten o’clock.”

“Was he alone?”

“Yes, sir, all alone.”

“There’s a dollar, my man, and if you can find for me the chairman who brought him here, I’ll double it.”

“I know him,—it was Bill Bramber.”

“Can you take me to him—now?”

“Guess so,—if you’ll fix it with the boss.”

Stone fixed it and they went forth.

His guide soon located Bill Bramber, who chanced to be idle, and was by no means averse to telling anything he knew—for a consideration.

And he knew a lot.

“Yes, sir,” he said, “I remember the matter well. You see, a lady was my passenger, a real swell one—”


“Yes, sir, all alone. Said she just wanted a breath of air and a little rest from folks, or sumpin’ like that. They often do that. Well, I rolled her along, and then a gentleman stopped me, and he got in with the lady, and told me to roll on. As the lady made no objection, it was none of my business, so I pushed ’em down to the end of the route, and then turned back again. We’d nearly reached the Majusaca, when the gentleman called out for me to stop, and then the lady got out and got into another chair, and he stayed in and I rolled him on to the hotel, and he got out there,—at the Majusaca.”

“You know who he was?”

“I didn’t then, Mister, but next day, I found it was the very chap what was murdered in the ocean!”

“Why did you never tell this to any one?”

“Nobody asked me anything about it, and I’d no reason to say anything. I couldn’t see as it had any bearin’s on the murder and I’d no wish to drag in the lady.”

“Do you know who she was?”

“I didn’t that night,—but I’ve found out since.”

“Well, who was she?”

“Her name is Mrs. Barron, sir.”

“Bramber,” Stone said, “you did right to keep this matter quiet. Now continue to do so. I am authority, and you’ll get in no trouble if you say nothing. But peep one word of it, and you’ll be in such trouble as you’ve never dreamed of. See?”

Bramber saw, and egged on by a monetary influence, willingly agreed to keep his own counsel.

“What a revelation,” thought Stone as he walked away. “Madeline Barron secretly riding in a chair with Folsom that night, and sneaking into the hotel by herself. Looks pretty positive, but nothing’s positive till it’s proved.”

Had the astute sleuth but known it his suspicions were at that very moment being proved up to the hilt.

The Barrons, in their own suite, were dressing for luncheon, when Madeline’s composure gave way.

“Ned,” she cried, in a sort of broken wail, “I can’t stand it! I can’t!”

“Of course, you can’t, darling. I’ve only been waiting for this breakdown to come. I knew it must come, but I didn’t want to force it. My darling girl, don’t you suppose I’ve seen every bit of your struggle, followed every step of your way, for the last few days! I know you so well, sweetheart, every tone of your voice, every look in your dear eyes,—and now, are you ready to tell me all about it?”

But Madeline, her whole form shaking with sobs, was unable to speak.

Barron took her in his arms and drew her down to the couch, while he petted and soothed her.

“Pretty bad, is it, dear? Well, wait till you’re ready to talk.”

The great, enveloping love that was hers, instead of helping Madeline seemed rather to make her distress greater, but the wise and good man beside her only held her gently to him, and now and then whispered an encouraging word.

“Dear little Maddy,” he said, “say what you want to, when you feel like it, only remember, dearest, no matter what it is, no matter what you have to tell me, nothing can shake my love for you the least tiniest mite. And, remember, too, that I am here, for you to lean on. Here to protect you, to save you, from any danger or any trouble. Got that? Well, then, aren’t you nearly ready to begin?”

“It’s about—about—”

“Yes, Madeline, about Garrett Folsom.”

“How did you know?”

“I didn’t know. But when you go white if his name is mentioned and are nervous and restless ever since that tragedy, I can’t help knowing there’s some connection.”

“There is,” Madeline suddenly sat up straight and looked at him. “There is, Ned, and I’m going to tell you all about it and then you can do with me as you see fit.”

“Before you begin, dear, let me assure you that you needn’t tell me. I don’t need to know details. You were, in some way, treated badly by him, and now it’s all past and over with. Shall we just let it go at that?”

“I’m afraid we can’t, Ned. I think I shall have to tell you.”

“Very well, then. We’ll skip luncheon for the present, anyway, and get this over first. Go on, now.”

He held her in his arms, his lips pressed to the top of her curly, bobbed head, and though his heart was torn with apprehension he listened steadily and quietly while she spoke.

“You didn’t know me long ago, Ned,” she said, slowly, “but I was a stenographer—”

“Oh, I knew that. It never bothered me either. You’re not one now.”

“No. Well, I was stenographer to Garrett Folsom.” His clasp tightened a little convulsively, but he said no word.

“And—he—he married me—”

“Married you—”

“No, that’s it,—he didn’t. But he pretended to—”

“Madeline what are you talking about? Have you lost your mind?”

“I wish I had. But I haven’t. Keep still, Ned, and let me get this over. He took me away with him and pretended to marry me, but it was a mock marriage. And then,—then father came and rescued me—just in time. He, Mr. Folsom I mean, didn’t know father, and didn’t see him, and father got me away from the place—”

“You hadn’t been alone with him—”

“Not for a minute!” Madeline looked straight into her husband’s eyes and he read truth there. “Father wanted to kill him, but he realized that any revenge or punishment would only bring my name into it and make it worse for me than it already was. So father took me home, and we moved away to New York, and —and then, I met you.”

“My precious, darling little girl, and you’ve been bearing this all alone ever since! Put it out of your mind, sweetheart, once and for all. I only love you better because of your brave effort to tell me the truth. I wish you had done it long ago, and saved your own dear self these years of secret sorrow. For I know it has been a sorrow to you. Now, Madeline is that all?”

“Yes, Ned, that’s all. I didn’t kill him, if that’s what you mean—”

“I know you didn’t, darling. My brave girl who can tell me all this is not a cowardly heart who could kill— and the idea is too absurd! The notion of your killing anybody! But that’s why he kept looking over at you, in the ocean that morning?”

“Yes; oh, Ned, when I saw him come in the night before, I thought I should scream. And then, I went out, as you know, for a chair ride by myself, I sometimes did that, you know.”

“Yes, I liked to see you do it once in a while. It always seemed to give you a new outlook or something.”

“Yes, I did it, when I needed to bring myself up with a round turn. Well, that night I went out, never dreaming he would follow, and he did, and he got into my chair—”

“Go on, dearest,” and Barron kissed her tenderly.

“And he said, unless I left you and went away with him he would publish to the world the story of my going away with him. And he said nobody would believe that father came and took me away before we were alone a moment.”

“And still you didn’t kill him, Maddy?”

“No, but I think I would have done so if I could have accomplished it. But how was I to go about it, Ned? Well, he gave me twenty-four hours to think it over, and told me I must make up my mind to go away with him or he would not only tell you, but he would see to it that it was put in the papers and would be the biggest sort of scandal imaginable.”

“And you didn’t tell me that night?”

“I couldn’t. I tried, but I couldn’t. I was going to tell you the next day, and then,—you know what happened.”

“Yes. Who killed him, dear?”

“Don’t ask me, Ned. I don’t know, really, and yet — I fear—”

“But from now on, my girl, there’s to be no shadow of a secret between us. No tiniest film of shadow, no faintest trace of reserve. So, come on, out with it.”

And Madeline told him, but he couldn’t believe it.

* * * * * * * * *

Now, had Miss Anastasia Folsom known all this, she would not have done perhaps, what she did do.

She had finished her luncheon and had repaired to her room to rest and to think over matters pertaining to her brother’s death.

The new detective, she felt sure, was going to ferret out the truth. He hadn’t told her much yet, but she knew intuitively that he would succeed in finding Garry’s murderer and bringing him to justice.

And to her, impelled only by mere curiosity, came Myrtle the chambermaid.

The girl had been deeply impressed by Stone’s surprise and excitement at the sight of the doll Pelton had given her, and she was deeply desirous of knowing who it was that the doll looked like and who was, therefore, Garrett Folsom’s best girl.

So, without much concern, she presented herself to Miss Folsom with the inevitable clean towels, and with her doll slung over her arm.

“This is the doll Mr. Pelton gave me,” she vouchsafed, for Miss Folsom was of a chatty sort when in the mood.

“Is it?” and Anastasia took the lovely doll in her hands.

And then, to Myrtle’s secret delight, Miss Folsom showed much the same amazement and agitation that Stone had done.

But only for an instant. Then she was her quiet, dignified self again, and said, carelessly,

“A beautiful doll, Myrtle. Do be careful with it, it is a very expensive one.”

“Do you think it looks like any one you know, ma’am?”

“No, of course not. Go away now, you bother me.”

Myrtle went, and as she departed, Miss Folsom went to the telephone and called for Fleming Stone.

And when the gentleman presented himself, she told the story of Myrtle and the doll.

“So you noticed the resemblance, too,” Stone said, his deep eyes sad and his whole face somber.

“Of course. And so she was Garry’s best love, and so she had some secret affair with him, and so she is the one who killed him.”

“Oh, Miss Folsom, don’t go so fast,” he implored.

But she was adamant.

“Fast! I’m going straight up to her room and confront her with it. Then if she is innocent there’s no harm done. You may go with me or not, as you like but I’m going and I’m going now.”

And rather than have her go without him, Stone accompanied her.

They found the Barrons, once more getting ready to go down to luncheon, and again that plan was frustrated.

For Barron, seeing that the matter was of grave import, decided to have the whole thing out then and there.

“Come in,” he said, as the visitors appeared. “I think you have some matters of importance to discuss.”

And in that instant, Fleming Stone realized that whatever the truth was about Madeline Barron, her husband knew it.

“Yes, we have,” said Anastasia Folsom, who was spokesman by her own election. “And there’s no use mincing matters. Mrs. Barron, you were acquainted with my brother in the past, although you have denied it, since his death.”

“I will answer for my wife,” Barron said, quietly. “Yes, she was, Miss Folsom.”

This took the wind slightly out of Anastasia’s sails, but she went steadily on.

“You were in love with him, Mrs. Barron?”

“He was in love with her,” Ned Barron answered, inexorably determined to do the talking himself. “And, Miss Folsom, it was not an honorable love.”

“My brother could do nothing dishonorable.”

“He did, in this instance. He lured the girl, not twenty years old then, away, under false pretence of marriage. By which I mean he had a marriage ceremony performed which the girl thought genuine but which was only a mock marriage. After the ceremony, he laughed at her, and—but I need not go into details; by good luck the girl was rescued from his clutches in time by her father.”

Now, devoted though Anastasia was to her brother, there was one thing toward which she had absolutely no mercy. And that was the wrong-doing of a man toward a woman. Perhaps her own spinsterhood made her even more bitter, but if she were convinced that her brother had really wronged a woman, that would be to her a blot on his ’scutcheon that could not be wiped out.

“I suppose you can prove this,” she said, slowly.

“Yes,” and Madeline spoke quickly. “Mr. Folsom had with him down here some letters I wrote him—”

Like a flash, it came to Stone. Carmelita had taken those letters with her own. Dan Pelton had missed them and was glad they were gone. After all, Pelton was a good sort, and Carmelita, too.

But though Anastasia Folsom was gently inclined toward the victim of her brother’s passions, that could not condone murder.

“I don’t wonder you wanted to kill him,” she began, but Barron interrupted;

“My wife did not kill Garrett Folsom,” he declared. “Who did kill him, I do not know. But I am on the job now, and I will hunt down the murderer, even if it means an exposure of my wife’s past history.”

There was a knock at the door, and when it was opened, Ross stepped into the room.

“I have intruded, gentlemen,” he said, looking from Stone to Barron and back again, “because I have been listening at the door and it is time I should have my say.”

“I’m sure you can have nothing to say, Ross, on the subject we are discussing,” Madeline said to him. “Please leave the room. I urge you to do so.”

Stone stared at her, but the man, Ross, gave her what seemed to be a meaning look.

“I must speak, madame,” he said, “for I have a confession to make. I killed Garrett Folsom.”

“You, Ross!” Miss Anastasia said, in utter bewilderment. “Now, why in the world would you kill him?”

“I cannot tell my reasons for it,” Ross said, with a dogged look. “I only say I confess to the murder and I want to give myself up.”

“But, it’s too absurd, Ross,” Miss Folsom went on. “You were in the hotel at the time he was killed.”

“No, madame, I spoke falsely as to that. I was in the ocean.”

“But you were at the other end of the hotel beach. You were far away.”

“I can swim under water, madame, as well as any other way. I did so, and I killed my master, and then dressed and returned to the hotel quickly, so that I might not be suspected.”

“And why are you making your confession now?” asked Stone, who was beginning to see through some dark places.

“To save the innocent from being suspected. It is possible that Mrs. Barron may be charged with this thing, and I want to forestall such a possibility. I assure you, Mr. Stone, you will find I am telling the truth.”

“Then you are the man with the white moustache, who bought the antique dagger late that night,” Stone said.


“I can scarcely believe it, Ross,” Miss Folsom said, “but if it is true, then our quest is at an end. You shall pay the penalty and my brother’s murder will be avenged.”

“Yes, madame,” said Ross.

“He shan’t! He shall not!” cried Madeline Barron, wildly. “Listen! That man you call Ross, is my father. He saved me from the wrong Garrett Folsom would have done me. Then, for Mr. Folsom did not know him, he gave up his own career, and went to be valet to Mr. Folsom so he could keep watch of him. He meant to keep him from further molestation of me, and devoted his life to that. He went with Garrett Folsom wherever he went, he never let him out of his sight, and when they came down here,—tell them, father, what Mr. Folsom said.”

“He said,” the man they called Ross stated, gravely, “that he had seen here at the hotel the only woman he wanted. He said, he meant to get her, too. He had no idea I was her father, and he declared he would manage it. He said he should confront her in the ocean and claim acquaintance, and then he would be guided by circumstances what course to pursue, but he would get her away from her husband and would have her for himself. This he told me with a leering chuckle, that night he arrived, as he was dressing for dinner. So I knew the time had come when I must strike, whatever the consequences might be. I had no weapon, but I went for a walk and saw the auctions here and there, and realized I could get one of those old daggers. The white moustache I always carried around, thinking I might some day meet Madeline and it might be necessary that she shouldn’t recognize me. As a minor precaution I put it on, before I bought the knife, and the rest I think you all know. I have no regrets. I rid the world of a scoundrel; I am sorry, Miss Folsom, to speak thus of the brother you adored, but I knew him better than you did, and he would have ruined my girl’s life had he been allowed to live.”

Then Anastasia Folsom spoke.

“Ross,” she said, and her voice was gentle, but it sounded full of heart-break, “you are right. I am, perhaps, a strange woman, and I worshipped my brother. But I see now it was an imaginary man I worshipped. If he did these things you tell of, and I cannot doubt what I have heard, then you did right. I don’t mean I am glad you killed Garry, for I loved him so, but I can see it from your point of view, and I can understand what you have been through these years of watchful servitude to a man you hated. I can appreciate it all, including Mrs. Barron’s agony of spirit, and I withdraw all charges and I wish the investigation stopped. I don’t know what must be done, exactly, but you, Mr. Stone and Mr. Barron, will know how to arrange matters. Only I want Ross to go free, to be unsuspected by any one at all. I want the police to be told that the mystery will remain forever unsolved. I want Croydon Sears exonerated, and—oh, I don’t know about these details, but I want them all attended to. This does not mean that I condone the killing of my brother, but that I exonerate the man who killed him, because I understand. To me there is no sin on earth, like the sin against a woman’s virtue. And since my brother was guilty of that, I forgive the man who took the law into his own hands and who saved the daughter he loved.”

And Ross, with no thought of melodramatic effect, knelt down and kissed the hem of Miss Anastasia’s smartly tailored frock.


Project Gutenberg Australia