"Yes, ma'am, I sure will. And now I'll move on."
"Oh, no, you must wait for a cup of tea; we'll have it brought at once."
Eunice left the room for a moment. Aunt Abby in dudgeon, refused to talk to the disappointing visitor. But the three men quickly engaged him in conversation and Hanlon told some anecdotes of his past experiences that kept them interested.
Ferdinand brought in the tea things, and Eunice, with her graceful hospitality, saw to it that her guest was in no way embarrassed or bothered by unaccustomed service.
"I've had a right good time," he said in his boyish way, as he rose to go. "Thank you, ma'am, for the tea and things. I liked it all."
His comprehensive glance that swept the room and its occupants was a sincere compliment and after he had gone there was only kindly comment on his personality.
Except from Aunt Abby.
"He's an ignorant boor," she announced.
"Now, now," objected Eunice, "you only say that because he upset your favorite delusions. He punctured your bubbles and pulled down your air-castles. Give it up, Aunt Abby, there's nothing in your' Voice of Isis' racket!"
"Permit me to be the judge of my own five senses, Eunice, if you please."
"That's just it, Miss Ames," spoke up Hendricks. "Is your psychic information, or whatever it is, discernible to your five senses, or any of them?"
"Of course, or how could I realize the presence of the psychic forces?"
"I don't know just what those things are, but I supposed they were available only to a sort of sixth sense—or seventh! Why, I have five senses, but I don't lay claim to any more than that."
"You're a trifler, and I decline to discuss the subject seriously with you. You've always been a trifler, Alvord—remember, I've known you from boyhood, and though you've a brilliant brain, you have not utilized it to the best advantage."
"Sorry, ma'am," and the handsome face put on a mock penitence, "but I'm too far advanced in years to pull up now."
"Nonsense! you're barely thirty! That's a young man."
"Not nowadays. They say, after thirty, a man begins to fall to pieces, mentally."
"Oh, Al, what nonsense!" cried Eunice. "Why, thirty isn't even far enough along to be called the prime of life!"
"Oh, yes, it is, Eunice, in this day and generation. Nobody thinks a man can do any great creative work after thirty. Inventing, you know, or art or literature—honestly, that's the attitude now. Isn't it, Mason?"
Elliott looked serious. "It is an opinion recently expressed by some big man," he admitted. "But I don't subscribe to it. Why, I'd be sorry to think I'm a down-and-outer! And I'm in the class with you and Embury."
"You're none of you in the sere and yellow," declared Eunice, laughing at the idea. "Why, even Aunt Abby, in spite of the family record, is about as young as any of us."
"I know I am," said the old lady, serenely. "And I know more about my hobby of psychic lore in a minute than you young things ever heard of in all your life! So, don't attempt to tell me what's what!"
"That's right, Miss Ames, you do!" and Mason Elliott looked earnestly at her. "I'm half inclined to go over to your side myself. Will you take me some time to one of your seances—but wait, I only, want to go to one where, as you said, the psychic manifestations are perceptible to one or more of the five well-known senses. I don't want any of this talk of a mysterious sixth sense."
"Oh, Mason, I wish you would go with me! Madame Medora gives wonderful readings!"
"Mason! I'm ashamed of you!" cried Eunice, laughing. "Don't let him tease you, Aunt Abby; he doesn't mean a word he says!"
"Oh, but I do! I want to learn to read other people's thoughts —not like our friend Hanlon, but really, by means of my senses and brain."
"You prove you haven't any brain, when you talk like that!" put in Hendricks, contemptuously.
"And you prove you haven't any sense," retorted Elliott "I say, who's for a walk? I've got to sweep the cobwebs out of the place where my brain ought to be—even if it is empty, as my learned colleague avers."
"I'll go," and Eunice jumped up. "I want a breath of fresh air. Come along, San?"
"Nixy I've got to look over some papers in connection with my coming election as president of a big club."
"Your coming election may come when you're really in the prime of life," Hendricks laughed, "or, perhaps, not till you strike the sere and yellow, but if you refer to this year's campaign of the Athletic Club, please speak of my coming election."
"Oh, you two deadly rivals!" exclaimed Eunice. "I'm glad to be out of it, if you're going to talk about those eternal prize-fights and club theatres! Come on, Mason, let's go for a brisk walk in the park."
Eunice went to her room, and came back, looking unusually beautiful in a new spring habit. The soft fawn color suited her dark type and a sable scarf round her throat left exposed an adorable triangle of creamy white flesh.
"Get through with your squabbling, little boys," she said, gaily, with a saucy smile at Hendricks and a swift, perfunctory kiss on Embury's cheek, and then she went away with Mason Elliott.
They walked a few blocks in silence, and then Elliott said, abruptly: "What were you and Sanford quarreling about?"
"Aren't you a little intrusive?" but a smile accompanied the words.
"No, Eunice; it isn't intrusion. I have the right of an old friend—more than a friend, from my point of view—and I ask only from the best and kindest motives."
"Could you explain some those motives?" She tried to make her voice cold and distant, but only succeeded in making it pathetic.
"I could—but I think it better, wiser and more honorable not to. You know, dear, why I want to know. Because I want you to be the happiest woman in the whole world—and if Sanford Embury can't make you so—"
"Nobody can!" she interrupted him, quickly. "Don't, Mason," she turned a pleading look toward him; "don't say anything we may both regret. You know how good Sanford is to me; you know how happy we are together"
"Were," he corrected, very gravely.
"Were—and are," she insisted. "And you know, too—no one better—what a fiendish temper I have! Though I try my best to control it, it breaks out now and then, and I am helpless. Sanford thinks he can tame it by giving me as good as I send —by playing, as he calls it, Petruchio to my Katherine—but, somehow, I don't believe that's the treatment I need."
Her dark eyes were wistful, but she did not look at him.
"Of course it isn't!" Elliott returned, in a low voice. "I know your nature, Eunice; I've known it all our lives. You need kindness when you are in a tantrum. The outbursts of temper you cannot help—that I know positively—they're an integral part of your nature. But they're soon over—often the fiercer they are, the quicker they pass,—and if you were gently managed, not brutally, at the time they occur, it would go far to help you to overcome them entirely. But—and I ask you again—what were you discussing to-day when I came?"
"Why do you want to know?"
"I think I do know—and forgive me, if I offend you—I think I can help you."
"What do you mean? "Eunice looked up with a frightened stare.
"Don't look like that—oh, Eunice, don't! I only meant—I know you want money—ready money—let me give it to you—or lend it to you—do, Eunice—darling!"
"Thank you, Mason," Eunice forced herself to say, "but I must refuse your offer. I think—I think we—we'll go home now."
A SLAMMED DOOR
"Don't you call her 'that Desternay woman'!"
"I'll call her what I please! And without asking your permission, either. And I won't have my wife playing bridge at what is practically a gambling house!"
"Nothing of the sort! A party of invited guests, in a private house is a social affair, and you shall not call it ridiculous names! You play for far higher stakes at your club than we ever do at Fifi Desternay's."
"That name is enough! Fancy your associating with a woman who calls herself Fifi!"
"She can't help her name! It was probably wished on her by her parents in baptism—"
"It probably was not! She was probably christened Mary Jane!"
"You seem to know a lot about her."
"I know all I want to; and you have reached the end of your acquaintance with her and her set. You are not to go there, Eunice, and that's all there is about it."
The Emburys were in Eunice's bedroom. Sanford was in evening dress and was about to leave for his club. Eunice, who had dined in a negligee, was donning an elaborate evening costume. She had dismissed her maid when Embury came into the room, and was herself adjusting the finishing touches. Her gown of henna-colored chiffon, with touches of gold embroidery, was most becoming to her dark beauty, and some fine ornaments of ancient carved gold gave an Oriental touch to her appearance. She stood before a long mirror, noting the details of her gown, and showed an irritating lack of attention to Embury's last dictum.
"You heard me, Eunice?" he said, caustically, his hand on the doorknob.
"Not being deaf, I did," she returned, without looking toward him.
"And you will obey me?" He turned back, and reaching her side, he grasped her arm with no uncertain touch. "I demand your obedience!"
"Demands are not always granted!"
She gave him a dazzling smile, but it was defiant rather than friendly.
"I make it a request, then. Will you grant me that?"
"Why should I grant your requests, when you won't grant mine?"
"Good Lord, Eunice, are you going to harp on that allowance string again?"
"I am. Why shouldn't I, when it warps my whole life—"
"Oh, come, cut out the hifalutin' talk!" "Well, then, to come down to plain facts, there isn't a day that I'm not humiliated and embarrassed by the lack of a little cash."
"Bad as that?"
"Yes, quite as bad as that! Why, the day we went out to Newark I didn't have five cents to buy Aunt Abby a newspaper, and she had to get along without one!"
"She seemed to live through it."
"Sanford, you're unbearable! And to-day, at Mrs, Garland's, a woman talked, and then they took up a collection for the 'Belgian Home Fires,' and I didn't have a cent to contribute."
"Who is she? I'll send a check."
"A check! You answer everything by a check! Can't you understand? Oh, there's no use explaining; you're determined you won't understand! So, let us drop the subject. Is to-night the club election?"
"No, to-morrow night. But to-night will probably decide it in my mind. It practically hinges on the Meredith set—if they can be talked over—"
"Oh, Sanford, I do hope they can!" Eunice's eyes sparkled and she smiled as she put her hands on her husband's shoulders. "And, listen, dear, if they are—if you do win the election, won't you —oh, San, won't you give me an allowance?"
"Eunice, you're enough to drive a man crazy! Will you let up on that everlasting whine? No, I won't! Is that plain?"
"Then I shall go and get it for myself!"
"Go to the devil for all I care!"
Sanford flung out of the room, banging the door behind him. Eunice heard him speaking to Ferdinand, rather shortly, and as he left the apartment, she knew that he had gone to the club in their motor car, and if she went out, she would have to call a cab.
She began to take off her gown, half deciding to stay at home. She had never run counter to Embury's expressed orders and she hesitated to do so now.
And yet—the question of money, so summarily dismissed by her husband, was a very real trouble to her. In her social position, she actually needed ready cash frequently, and she had determined to get it. Her last hope of Sanford failed her, when he refused to grant her wish as a sort of celebration of his election, and she persuaded herself that it was her right to get some money somehow.
Her proposed method was by no means a certain one, for it was the hazardous plan of winning at bridge.
Although a first-rate player, Eunice often had streaks of bad luck, and, too, inexpert partners were a dangerous factor. But, though she sometimes said that winnings and losings came out about even in the long run, she had found by keeping careful account, her skill made it probable for her to win more than she lost, and this reasoning prompted her to risk high stakes in hope of winning something worth-while.
Fifi Desternay was a recent acquaintance of hers, and not a member of the set Eunice looked upon as her own. But the gatherings at the Desternay house were gay and pleasant, a bit Bohemian, yet exclusive too, and Eunice had already spent several enjoyable afternoons there.
She had never been in the evening, for Embury wouldn't go, and had refused to let her go without him. Nor did she want to, for it was not Eunice's way to go out alone at night.
But she was desperate and, moreover, she was exceedingly angry. Sanford was unjust and unkind. Also, he had been cross and ugly, and had left her in anger, a thing that had never happened before.
And she wanted some money at once. A sale of laces was to be held next day at a friend's home, and she wanted to go there, properly prepared to purchase some bits if she chose to.
Her cheeks flushed as she remembered Mason Elliott's offer to give or lend her money, but she smiled gently, as she remembered the true friendliness of the man, and his high-mindedness, which took all sting from his offer.
As she brooded, her anger became more fierce, and finally, with a toss of her head, she rose from the chair, rang for the maid, and proceeded to finish her toilette.
"Lend me some money, will you, Aunt Abby?" she asked, as, all ready to go, she stepped into the livingroom.
She had no hesitancy in making this appeal. If she won, she would repay on her return. If she lost, Aunt Abby was a good-natured waiter, and she knew Eunice would pay later.
"Bridge?" said the old lady, smiling at the lovely picture Eunice made, in her low gown and her billowy satin wrap. "I thought Sanford took the car."
"He did. I'm going in a taxi. What a duck you are to let me have this," as she spoke she stuffed the bills in her soft gold mesh-bag. "Don't sir up, dear, I'll be out till all hours."
"Where are you going?"
"To the end of the rainbow—where there's a pot of gold! You read your spook books, and then go to bed and dream of ghosts and specters!"
Eunice kissed her lightly, and gathering up her floating draperies, went out of the room with the faithful and efficient Ferdinand.
On his way to the club, Embury pursued that pleasing occupation known as nursing his wrath. He was sorry he had left Eunice in anger—he realized it was the first time that had ever happened— and he was tempted to go back, or, at least to telephone back, that he was sorry. But that would do little good, he knew, unless he also said he was willing to accede to her request for an allowance, and that he was as sternly set against as ever.
He couldn't quite have told himself why he was so positive in this matter, but it was largely owing to an instinctive sense of the fitness of having a wife dependent on her husband for all things. Moreover, it seemed to him that unlimited charge accounts betokened a greater generosity than an allowance, and he felt an aggrieved irritation at Eunice's seeming ingratitude.
The matter of her wanting "chicken-feed" now and then seemed to him too petty to be worthy of serious consideration. He really believed that he gave her money whenever she asked for it, and was all unaware how hard he made it for her to ask.
The more he thought about it, the more he saw Eunice in the wrong, and himself an injured, unappreciated benefactor.
He adored his wife, but this peculiarity of hers must be put an end to somehow. Her temper, too, was becoming worse instead of better; her outbreaks were more frequent, more furious, and he had less power to quell them than formerly.
Clearly, he concluded, Eunice must be taught a lesson, and this occasion must be made a test case. He had left her angrily, and it might turn out that it was the best thing he could have done. Poor girl, she doubtless was sorry enough by now; crying, probably. His heart softened as he conjured up the picture of his wife alone, and in tears, but he reasoned that it would do her good, and he would give her a new jewel to make up for it, after the trouble was all over.
So he went on to the club, and dove into the great business of the last possible chance of electioneering.
Though friendly through all this campaign, the strain was beginning to tell on the two candidates, and both Embury and Hendricks found it a little difficult to keep up their good feeling.
"But," they both reasoned, "as soon as the election is over, we'll be all right again. We're both too good sports to hold rancor, or to feel any jealousy."
And this was true. Men of the world, men of well-balanced minds, clever, logical and just, they were fighting hard, each for his own side, but once the matter was decided, they would be again the same old friends.
However, Embury was just as well pleased to learn that Hendricks was out of town. He had gone to Boston on an important business matter, and though it was not so stated, Embury was pretty sure that the important business was closely connected with the coming election.
In his own endeavor to secure votes, Embury was not above playing the, to him, unusual game of being all things to all men.
And this brought him into cordial conversation with one of the younger club members, who was of the type he generally went out of his way to avoid.
"Try to put yourself in our place, Mr. Embury," the cub was saying. "We want this club to be up-to-date and beyond. Conservatism is all very well, and we all practiced it 'for the duration,' but now the war's over, let's have some fun, say we!"
"I know, Billy, but there is a certain standard to be maintained—"
"We, the people of the United States—and tiddle tya—tya—tya! Why, everybody's doing it! The women—bless 'em!—too. I just left your wife at a table with my wife, and the pile of chips between 'em would make some men's card-rooms hide their diminished walls!"
"That so? You saw my wife this evening? Where?"
"As if you didn't know! But, good heavens! perhaps you didn't! Have I been indiscreet?"
"Not at all. At Mrs, Desternay's, wasn't it?"
"Yes, but you gave me a jolt. I was afraid I'd peached."
"Not at all. They're friends."
"Well, between you and me, they oughtn't to be. I let Gladys go, under protest—I left her there myself—but it's never again for her! I shall tell her so to-night."
Embury changed the subject and by using all his self-control gave no hint of his wrath. So Eunice had gone after all! After his expressly forbidding it! It was almost unbelievable!
And within an hour of his receiving information, Sanford Embury, in his own car, stopped at the Desternay house.
Smiling and debonair as he entered the drawingroom, he greeted the hostess and asked for his wife.
"Oh, don't disturb her, dear Mr. Embury," begged the vivacious Fifi; "she's out for blood! She's in the den, with three of our wizards and the sky's their limit!"
"Tut, tut! What naughtiness!" Embury's manner was just the right degree of playful reproach, and his fine poise and distinguished air attracted attention from many of the players.
The rooms were filled, without being crowded, and a swift mental stock-taking of the appointments and atmosphere convinced the newcomer that his preconception of the place was about right.
"I must take her away before she cleans out the bunch," he laughed, and made progress toward the 'den.'
"Here you are," he said lightly, as he came upon Eunice, with another woman and two men, all of whom were silently concentrating on what was quite evidently a stiff game.
"Yes, here I am," she returned; "don't speak please, until I finish this hand."
Eunice was playing the hand, and though her face paled, and a spot of bright color appeared on either cheek she did not lose her head, and carried the hand through to a successful conclusion.
"Game and rubber!" she cried, triumphantly, and the vanquished pair nodded regretfully.
"And the last game, please, for my wife," Embury said, in calm, courteous tones. "You can get a substitute, of course. Come, Eunice!"
There was something icy in his tones that made Eunice shiver, though it was not noticeable to strangers, and she rose, smiling, with a few gay words of apology.
"Perfectly awful of me to leave, when I'm winning," she said, "but there are times, you know, when one remembers the 'obey' plank in the matrimonial platform! Dear Fifi, forgive me—"
She moved about gracefully, saying a word or two of farewell, and then disappeared to get her wrap, with as little disturbance as possible of the other players.
"You naughty man!" and Mrs, Desternay shook her finger at Embury; "if you weren't so good-looking I should put you in my black books!"
"That would at least keep me in your memory," he returned, but his smile was now quite evidently a forced one.
And his words of farewell were few, as he led Eunice from the house and down to the car.
He handed her in, and then sat beside her, as the chauffeur turned homeward.
Not a word was spoken by either of them during the whole ride.
Several times Eunice decided to break the silence, but concluded not to. She was both angry and frightened, but the anger predominated.
Embury sat motionless, his face pale and stern, and when they arrived at their own house, he assisted her from the car, quite as usual, dismissed the chauffeur, with a word of orders for the next day, and then the pair went into the house.
Ferdinand met them at their door, and performed his efficient and accustomed services.
And then, after a glance at her husband, Eunice went into her own room and closed the door.
Embury smoked a cigarette or two, and at last went to his room.
Ferdinand attended him, and the concerned expression on the old servant's face showed, though he tried to repress it, an anxiety as to the very evident trouble that was brewing.
But he made no intrusive remark or implication, though a furtive glance at his master betokened a resentment of his treatment of Eunice, the idol of Ferdinand's heart.
Dismissed, he left Embury's room, and closed the door softly behind him.
The door between the rooms of Embury and his wife stood a little ajar, and as his hand fell on it to shut it, he heard a stifled gasp of "Sanford!"
He looked in, and saw Eunice, in a very white heat of rage. In all their married life he had never seen her so terribly angry as she looked then. Speechless from very fury, she stood, with clenched hands, trying to command her voice.
She looked wonderfully beautiful like some statue of an avenging angel—he almost fancied he could see a flaming sword!
As he looked, she took a step toward him, her eyes burning with a glance of hate. Judith might have looked so, or Jael. Not exactly frightened, but alarmed, lest she might fly into a passion of rage that would really injure her, Embury closed the door, practically in her very face. Indeed, practically, he slammed it, with all the audible implication of which a slammed door is capable.
The next morning Ferdinand waited for the usual summons from Embury's bedroom. The tea tray was ready, the toast crisp and hot, but the summons of the bell was unusually delayed.
When the clock pointed to fifteen minutes past the hour Ferdinand tapped on Embury's door. A few moments later he tapped again, rapping louder.
Several such attempts brought no response, and the valet tried the door. It would not open, so Ferdinand went to Eunice's door and knocked there.
Jumping from her bed, and throwing a kimono round her, Eunice opened her own door.
Ferdinand started at sight of her white face, but recovered himself, and said, "Mr. Embury, ma'am. He doesn't answer my knock. Can he be ill?"
"Oh, I guess not," Eunice tried to speak casually, but miserably failed. "Go through that way." She pointed to the door between her room and her husband's.
Ferdinand hesitated. "You open it, Mrs, Embury, please," he said, and his voice shook.
"Why, Ferdinand, what do you mean? Open that door!"
"Yes, ma'am," and turning the knob, Ferdinand entered.
"Why, he's still asleep!" he exclaimed. "Shall I wake him?"
"Yes—that is—yes, of course! Wake him up, Ferdinand."
The door on the other side of Eunice's room opened, and Aunt Abby put her head in.
"What's the matter? What's Ferdinand doing in your room, Eunice? Are you ill?"
"No, Aunt Abby—" but Eunice got no further. She sank back on her bed, and buried her face in the pillows.
"Get up, Mr. Embury—it's late," Ferdinand was saying, and then he lightly touched the arm of his master.
"He—he—oh, Miss Eunice! Oh, my God! Why, ma'am—he—he looks to be dead!"
With a shriek, Eunice raised her head a moment and then flung it down on the pillows again, crying, "I don't believe it! You don't know what you're saying! It can't be so!"
"Yes, I do, ma'am—he's—why, he's cold!"
"Let me come in!" ordered Aunt Abby, as Ferdinand tried to bar her entrance; "let me see, I tell you! Yes, he is dead! Oh, Eunice—now, Ferdinand, don't lose your head! Go quickly and telephone for Doctor—what's his name? I mean the one in this building—on the ground floor—Harper—that's it—Doctor Harper. Go, man, go!"
Ferdinand went, and Aunt Abby leaned over the silent figure.
"What do you suppose ailed him, Eunice? He was perfectly well, when he went to bed, wasn't he?"
"Yes," came a muffled reply.
"Get up, Eunice; get up, dear. That doctor will be here in a minute. Brush up your hair, and fasten your kimono. You won't have time to dress. I must put on a cap."
Aunt Abby flew to her bedroom, and returned quickly, wearing a lace cap Eunice had given her, and talking as she adjusted it.
"It must be a stroke—and yet, people don't have strokes at his age. It can't be apoplexy—he isn't that build—and, too, he's such an athlete; there's nothing the matter with him. It can't be—oh, mercy gracious! it can't be—Eunice! Sanford wouldn't kill himself, would he?"
"No! no! of course not!"
"Not just now before the election—no, of course he wouldn't! But it can't be-oh, Lord, what can it be?"
"I have never been so mystified in all my life!" Dr. Harper spoke in a perplexed, worried way, and a puzzled frown drew his shaggy eyebrows together. Though the family physician of most of the tenants of the large, up-to-date apartment house, he was of the old school type and had the kindly, sociable ways of a smalltown practitioner.
"I know Sanford Embury, bone, blood and muscle," he said; "I've not only been his physician for two years, but I've examined him, watched him and kept him in pink of condition for his athletic work. If I hadn't looked after him, he might have overdone his athletics—but he didn't—he used judgment, and was more than willing to follow my advice. Result—he was in the most perfect possible physical shape in every particular! He could no more have had a stroke of apoplexy or paralysis than a young oak tree could! And there's no indication of such a thing, either. A man can't die of a stroke of any sort without showing certain symptoms. None of these are present—there's nothing present to hint the cause of his death. There's no cut, scratch or mark of any description; there's no suggestion of strangulation or heart failure—well, it's the strangest thing I ever ran up against in all my years of practice!"
The doctor sat at the Embury breakfast table, heartily partaking of the dishes Ferdinand offered. He had prescribed aromatic ammonia for Eunice, and a cup of coffee for Miss Ames, and then he had made a careful examination of Sanford Embury's mortal body.
Upon its conclusion he had insisted that the ladies join him at breakfast and he saw to it that they made more than a pretense of eating.
"You've a hard day ahead of you," he said, in his gentle, paternal way, "and you must be fortified as far as possible. I may seem harsh, Mrs, Embury, but I'm going to ask you to be as brave as you can, right now—at first—as I may say—and then, indulge in the luxury of tears later on. This sounds brutal, I daresay, but I've a reason, dear madam. There's a mystery here. I don't go so far as to say there's anything wrong—but there's a very mysterious death to be looked into, and as your physician and your friend, I want to advise—to urge you to keep up your strength for what may be a trying ordeal. In the first place, I apprehend an autopsy will be advisable, and I trust you will give your consent to that."
"Oh, no!" cried Eunice, her face drawn with dismay, "not that!"
"Now, now, be reasonable, Mrs, Embury. I know you dislike the idea—most people do—but I think I shall have to insist upon it."
"But you can't do it, unless I agree, can you?" and Eunice looked at him sharply.
"No—but I'm sure you will agree."
"I won't! I never will! You shan't touch Sanford! I won't allow it."
"She's right!" declared Aunt Abby. "I can't see, doctor, why it is necessary to have a postmortem. I don't approve of such things. Surely you can, somehow discover what Mr. Embury died of—and if not, what matter? He's dead, and nothing can change that! It doesn't seem to me that we have to know—"
"Pardon me, Miss Ames, it is necessary that I should know the cause of the death. I cannot makea report until—"
"Well you can find out, I should think."
"I never heard of a doctor who couldn't determine the cause of a simple, natural death of one of his own patients!" Eunice's glance was scathing and her tones full of scorn.
But the doctor realized the nervous tension she was under, and forbore to take offense, or to answer her sharply.
"Well, well, we'll see about it," he temporized. "I shall first call in Marsden, a colleague of mine, in consultation. I admit I'm at the end of my own knowledge. Tell me the details of last evening. Was Mr. Embury just as usual, so far as you noticed?"
"Of course he was," said Eunice, biting the words off crisply. "He went to the Athletic Clubhe's a candidate for the presidency—"
"I know—I know—"
"And I—I was at a party. On his way from the club he called for me and brought me home in our car. Then he went to bed almost at once-and so did I. That's all."
"You heard no sound from him whatever during the night?"
"As nearly as I can judge, he died about daybreak. But it is impossible to say positively as to that. Especially as I cannot find the immediate cause of death. You heard nothing during the night, Miss Ames?"
"I did and I didn't," was the strange reply.
"Just what does that mean? "and Doctor Harper looked at her curiously.
"Well," and Aunt Abby spoke very solemnly, "Sanford appeared to me in a vision, just as he died—"
"Oh, Aunt Abby," Eunice groaned, "don't begin that sort of talk! Miss Ames is a sort of a spiritualist, doctor, and she has hallucinations."
"Not hallucinations—visions," corrected the old, lady. "And it is not an unheard of phenomenon to have a dying person appear to a friend at the moment of death. It was the passing of Sanford, and I did see him!"
Eunice rose and left the table. Her shattered nerves couldn't stand this, to her mind, foolishness at the moment.
She went from the dining-room into the livingroom, and stood, gazing out of the window, but seeing nothing.
Dr. Harper pushed back his chair from the table.
"Just a word more about that, Miss Ames," he said. "I'm rather interested in those matters myself. You thought you saw Mr. Embury?"
"I did see him. It was a vague, shadowy form, but I recognized him. He came into my room from Eunice's room. He paused at my bedside and leaned over me, as if for a farewell. He said nothing—and in a moment he disappeared. But I know it was Sanford's spirit taking flight."
"This is interesting, but I can't discuss it further now. I have heard of such cases, but never so directly. But my duty now is to Mrs, Embury. I fear she will have a nervous breakdown. May I ask you, Miss Ames, not to talk about you—your vision to her? I think it disturbs her."
"Don't you tell me, doctor, what to talk to Eunice about, and what not to! I brought up that girl from a baby, and I know her clear through! If it upsets her nerves to hear about my experience last night, of course, I shall not talk about it to her, but trust me, please, to know what is best to do about that!"
"Peppery women—both of them!" was Dr. Harper's mental comment; but he only nodded his head pleasantly and went to Eunice.
"If you've no objections, I'll call Marsden here at once," he said, already taking up the telephone.
Eunice listlessly acquiesced, and then the doctor returned to Embury's bedroom.
He looked carefully about. All the details of the room, the position of clothing, the opened book, face down, on the night table, the half-emptied water-glass, the penciled memorandum on the chiffonier—all seemed to bear witness to the well, strong man, who expected to rise and go about his day as usual.
"Not a chance of suicide," mused the doctor, hunting about the room and scrutinizing its handsome appointments. He stepped into Embury's bathroom, and could find nothing that gave him the least hint of anything unusual in the man's life. A chart near the white, enameled scale showed that Embury had recorded his weight the night before in his regular, methodical way. The written figures were clear and firm, as always. Positively the man had no premonition of his swiftly approaching end.
What could have caused it? What could have snapped short the life thread of this strong, sound specimen of human vitality? Dr. Harper could find no possible answer, and he was glad to hear Ferdinand's voice as he announced the arrival of Dr. Marsden. The two men held earnest consultation.
The newcomer was quite as much mystified as his colleague, and they marveled together.
"Autopsy, of course," said Marsden, finally; "the widow must be brought to consent. Why does she object so strongly?"
"I don't know of any reason except the usual dislike the members of the family feel toward it. I've no doubt she will agree, when you advise it."
Eunice Embury did agree, but it was only after the strenuous insistence of Dr. Marsden.
She flew into a rage at first, and the doctor, who was unacquainted with her, wondered at her fiery exhibition of temper.
And, but for the arrival of Mason Elliott on the scene, she might have resisted longer.
Elliott had telephoned, wishing to consult Embury on some matter, and Ferdinand's incoherent and emotional words had brought out the facts, so of course Elliott had come right over to the house.
"What is it, Eunice?" he asked, as he entered, seeing her fiercely quarreling with the doctors. "Let me help you—advise you. Poor child, you ought to be in bed."
His kindly, assertive voice calmed her, and turning her sad eyes to him, she moaned, plaintively, "Don't let them do it—they mustn't do it."
"Do what? "Elliott turned to the doctors, and soon was listening to the whole strange story.
"Certainly an autopsy!" he declared; "why, it's the only thing to do. Hush, Eunice, make no further objection. It's absolutely necessary. Give your consent at once."
Almost as if hypnotized, Eunice Embury gave her consent, and the two doctors went away together.
"Tell me all about it," said Elliott; "all you know—" And then he saw how weak and unnerved Eunice was, and he quickly added, "No, not now. Go and lie down for a time—where's Miss Ames?"
"Here," and Aunt Abby reappeared from her room. "Yes, go and lie down, Eunice; Maggie has made up our rooms, and your bed is in order. Go, dear child."
"I don't want to," and Eunice's eyes looked unusually large and bright. "I'm not the sort of woman who can cure everything by 'lying down'! I'd rather talk. Mason, what happened to Sanford?"
"I don't know, Eunice. It's the strangest thing I ever heard of. If you want to talk, really, tell me what occurred last night. Did you two have a quarrel?"
"Yes, we did—" Eunice looked defiant rather than penitent. "But that couldn't have done it! I mean, we didn't quarrel so violently that San burst a blood-vessel—or that sort of thing!"
"Of course not; in that case the doctors would know. That's the queerest thing to me. A man dies, and two first-class physicians can't say what killed him!"
"But what difference does it make, Mason? I'm sure I don't care what he died of—I mean I don't want him all cut up to satisfy the curiosity of those inquisitive doctors!"
"It isn't that, Eunice; they have to know the cause, to make out a death certificate."
"Why do they have to make it out? We all know he's dead."
"The law requires it. The Bureau of Vital Statistics must be notified and must be told the cause of death. Try to realize that these matters are important—you cannot put your own personal preferences above them. Leave it to me, Eunice; I'll take charge and look after all the details. Poor old San—I can't realize it! He was so big and strong and healthy. And so full of life and vitality. And, by Jove, Eunice, think of the election!"
Though a warm friend of Embury, it was characteristic of Elliott that his thoughts should fly to the consequences of the tragic death outside the family circle. He was silent as he realized that the removal of the other candidate left Alvord Hendricks the winner in the race for president of the club.
That is, if the election should be held. It was highly probable that it would be postponed—the club people ought to be notified at once—Hendricks ought to be told.
"I say, Eunice, there's lots of things to do. I think I ought to telephone the club, and several people. Do you mind?"
"No; of course not. Do whatever is right, Mason. I'm so glad to have you here, it takes a load of responsibility off of me. You're a tower of strength."
"Then do what you can to help me, Eunice. Try, won't you, to be quiet and calm. Don't get so wrought up over these things that are unpleasant but unavoidable. I don't underrate your grief or your peculiarly hard position. The nervous shock is enough to make you ill—but try to control yourself—that's a goody girl."
"I will, Mason. Honest I will."
Soon after noon Hendricks arrived. He had returned from Boston on an early morning train, and hearing of the tragedy, came at once to the Embury home.
At sight of his grave, sympathetic face, Eunice burst into tears, the first she had been able to shed, and they were a real relief to her overburdened heart.
"Oh, Alvord," she cried, hysterically, "now you can be president!"
"Hush, hush, Eunice, dear," he soothed her; "don't let's speak of that now. I'm just in from Boston—I hurried over as soon as I heard. Tell me, somebody—not you, Eunice—you tell me, Aunt Abby, how it happened."
"That's the strange part," said Elliott, who was sitting at the telephone, and was, at the moment, waiting for a response to a call, "the doctors can't tell what ailed Sanford!"
"What! Can't tell what made him die!"
"No;" Aunt Abby took up the tale, as Elliott turned hack to the telephone; "and I think it's very queer. Did you ever know a man to die, Alvord, and nobody be able to tell what killed him?"
"I certainly never did! What had he eaten?"
"Oh, it's nothing like that," Eunice spoke up; "it must be that something gave way—his heart, or lungs—"
"Never! Sanford was a sound as a dollar!"
"That's what Dr. Harper says. They're—they're going to have an autopsy."
"Of course. We'd never be satisfied without that. They'll find the cause that way, of course. Dear Eunice, I'm so sorry for you."
"It's awful for Eunice," said Aunt Abby "the excitement and the mystery—oh, Alvord, do let me tell you what I saw!"
"What?" he asked, with interest.
"Why, it was almost dawn—just beginning to be daylight, and, you know—Dr. Harper says Sanford died about daybreak—he thinks—and I was sort of between asleep and awake—don't you know how you are like that sometimes—"
"And I saw—"
"Aunt Abby, if you're going to tell that yarn over again, I'll go away! I can't stand it!"
"Go on, Eunice," and Aunt Abby spoke gently. "I wish you would go to your room and lie down for awhile. Even if you don't want to, it will rest your nerves."
To her surprise, Eunice rose and without a word went to her own room.
Aunt Abby sent Maggie to look after her, and resumed her story.
"I'm going to tell you, Alvord, for I must tell somebody, and Eunice won't listen, and Mason is busy telephoning—he's been at it all day—off and on—"
"Fire away, Aunt Abby, dear," Hendricks said. He had small desire to hear her meandering tales, but he felt sorry for the pathetic face she showed and listened out of sheer charity.
"Yes, it was near dawn, and I was sort of dozing but yet, awake, too—and I heard a step—no, not a step, just a sort of gliding footfall, like a person shufing in slippers.
"And then, I saw a vague shadowy shape—like Sanford's—and it passed slowly through the room—not stepping, more like floating —and it stopped right at my bedside, and leaned over me—"
"You saw this!"
"Well, it was so dark, I can't say I saw it—but I was—I don't know how to describe it—I was conscious of its presence, that's all!"
"And you think it was Sanford's ghost?"
"Don't put it that way, Al. It was Sanford's spirit, leaving the earth, and bidding me good-by as it wafted past."
"Why didn't he bid his wife good-by?" Hendricks was blunt, but he deemed it best to speak thus, rather than to encourage the ghost talk.
"He probably tried to, but Eunice must have been asleep. I don't know as to that—but, you know, Alvord, it is not an uncommon thing for such experiences to happen—why, there are thousands of authenticated cases—"
"Your scorn doesn't alter the truth. I saw him, I tell you, and it was not a dream, or my imagination. I really saw him, though dimly."
"What did he have on?"
"That's the queer part. Not his usual clothes, but that sort of a jersey he wears when he's doing his exercise."
"Oh, his gym suit? You saw it plainly?"
"Not so very plainly—but—I felt it!"
"Felt it! What are you talking about?"
"I did, I tell you. He leaned over me, and I put out my hand and touched his arm, and I—I think I felt a tight woolen jersey sleeve."
"Oh, you think you did! Well, that's all right, then, but you mustn't say you felt a ghost. They're not material, you know."
"You're making fun of me, Alvord, but you mustn't. I know more about these things than you do. Why shouldn't I? I've made a study of them—I've read lots of books, and been to lots of seances, and lectures—oh, I know it was a manifestation of San himself!"
"Well, Aunt Abby, if it gives you any comfort to think it was, why, just keep right on thinking. I don't say there aren't such happenings. I only say I don't believe there are. I don't doubt your word, you understand, but I can't make my hard common sense take it in. My mind isn't built that way. Did you hear anything?"
"I heard—" Aunt Abby paused, and blushed a little—"you'll laugh, I know, but I heard—his watch ticking!"
"Oh, come now, Aunt Abby, that's a little too much! I can't help smiling at that! For I'm sure ghosts don't carry watches, and anyway not in a gymnasium suit!"
"I knew you'd jeer at it, but I did hear the ticking, all the same."
"Wasn't your own watch under your pillow?"
"Oh, all right. I haven't a word to say."
"But it wasn't any watch I heard—it was a different sort of tick."
"Yes, of course it was. Ghosts' watches have a peculiar tick of their own—"
"Alvord, stop! It's mean of you to poke fun at me!"
"Forgive me, do; I apologize. It was mean, and I'll stop. What else happened?"
"Nothing," Aunt Abby was clearly piqued.
"Yes, tell me. What became of the—the figure?"
"Why, it disappeared. Gradually you know—just seemed to float away into nothingness."
"He gave you no message?"
"Not in words, no. They rarely do. But the appearance, the visibility is the usual way of manifestation. I'm glad it occurred. Oh, I'm awfully sorry Sanford is dead—I didn't mean that but, since he had to go, I'm glad he bade me good-by, as he passed on."
"Well, I'm glad, too, if it is any comfort to you. Are you sure Eunice had no such experience?"
"Oh, no—if she had she'd have told me. She hates all such ideas. I suppose if she had seen Sanford—as I did—she would have become a believer—but I'm sure she didn't."
"Poor Eunice. She is terribly broken up."
"Yes, of course. They were so devoted. They had a tiff now and then, but that was because of Eunice's quick temper. She flares up so easily," Aunt Abby sighed. "San couldn't manage her at times."
"I know. Poor girl, I don't blame her for those spasms of rage. She can't help it, you know. And she's improving every day."
"That's what Sanford said. He thought he helped her, and I dare say he did. But sometimes he had to speak pretty sharply to her. Just as one would to a naughty child."
"That's what she is, bless her heart! Just a naughty child. We must be very considerate of her now, Aunt Abby, mustn't we?"
"Yes, indeed. She is sorely to be pitied. She adored Sanford. I don't know what she will do."
When after the autopsy, Dr. Harper announced that it was necessary to send for the Medical Chief Examiner, Eunice cried out, "Why, what do you mean? He's the same as a Coroner!"
"He takes the place of the Coroner, nowadays," rejoined Harper, "and in Dr. Marsden's opinion his attendance is necessary."
"Do you mean Sanford was murdered?"
Eunice whispered, her face white and drawn.
"We can't tell, Mrs, Embury. It is a most unusual case. There is absolutely no indication of foul play, but, on the other hand, there is no symptom or condition that tells the reason of his death. That is your finding, Dr. Marsden?"
"Yes," agreed the other. "Mr. Embury died because of a sudden and complete paralysis of respiration and circulation. There is nothing we can find to account for that and by elimination of all other possible causes we are brought to the consideration of poison. Not any known or evident poison, but a subtle, mysteriously administered toxic agent of some sort—"
"You must be crazy!" and Eunice faced him with scornful glance and angry eyes. "Who would poison my husband? How could any one get at him to do it? Why would they, anyway?"
Dr. Marsden looked at her curiously. "Those questions are not for me, madame," he said, a little curtly. "I shall call Examiner Crowell, and he will take charge of the case."
"He's the same as a coroner! I won't have him!" Eunice declared.
"It isn't for you to say," Dr. Marsden was already at the telephone. "The course of events makes it imperative that I should call Dr. Crowell. He is not a coroner. He is, of course, a Civil Service appointee, and as such, in authority. You will do whatever he directs."
Eunice Embury was silent from sheer astonishment. Never before had she been talked to like this. Accustomed to dictate, to give orders, to have her lightest word obeyed, she was dumfounded at being overruled in this fashion.
The men took in the situation more clearly.
"Medical Examiner!" exclaimed Hendricks. "Is it a case for him?"
"Yes," returned Marsden, gravely. "At least, it is a very mysterious death. Mystery implies wrong—of some sort. Had Mr. Embury been a man with a weak heart, or any affected organ, I should have been able to make a satisfactory diagnosis. But his sound, perfect condition precludes any reason for this sudden death. It must be looked into. It may be the Examiner will find a simple, logical cause, but I admit I can find none—and I am not inexperienced."
"But if he were poisoned," began Hendricks, "as you have implied, surely, you could find some trace."
"That's just the point," agreed Marsden. "I certainly think I could. And, since I can't, I feel it my duty to report it as a mysterious and, to me, inexplicable death."
"You're right," said Elliott. "If you can't find the cause, for heaven's sake get somebody who can! I don't for a minute believe it's a murder, but the barest suspicion of such a thing must be set at rest once and for all! Murder! Ridiculous! But get the Examiner, by all means!"
So Eunice's continued objections were set aside and Dr. Crowell was called in.
A strange little man the Examiner proved to be. He had sharp, bird-like eyes, that darted from one person to another, and seemed to read their very thoughts. On his entrance, he went straight to Eunice, and took her hand.
"Mrs, Embury? "he said, positively, rather than interrogatively. "Do not fear me, ma'am. I want to help you, not annoy you."
Impressed by his magnetic manner and his encouraging handclasp, Eunice melted a little and her look of angry scorn changed to a half-pleased expression of greeting.
"Miss Ames—my aunt," she volunteered, as Dr. Crowell paused before Aunt Abby.
And then the newcomer spoke to the two doctors already present, was introduced to Elliott and Hendricks, who were still there, and in a very decided manner took affairs into his own hands.
"Yes, yes," he chattered on; "I will help you, Mrs, Embury. Now, Dr. Harper, this is your case, I understand? Dr. Marsden—yours, too? Yes, yes—mysterious, you say? Maybe so—maybe so. Let us proceed at once."
The little man stood, nervously teetering up and down on his toes, almost like a schoolboy preparing to speak a piece. "Now—if you please—now—" he looked eagerly toward the other doctors.
They all went into Embury's room and closed the door.
Then Eunice's temporary calm forsook her.
"It's awful!" she cried. "I don't want them to bother poor Sanford. Why can't they let him alone? I don't care what killed him! He's dead, and no doctors can help that! Oh, Alvord, can't you make them let San alone?"
"No, Eunice; it has to be. Keep quiet, dear. It can do no good for you to get all wrought up, and if you'd go and lie down—"
"For heaven's sake, stop telling me to go and lie down! If one more person says that to me I shall just perfectly fly!"
"Now, Eunice," began Aunt Abby, "it's only 'for your own good, dear. You are all excited and nervous—"
"Of course, I am! Who wouldn't be? Mason," she looked around at the concerned faces, "I believe you understand me best. You know I don't want to go and lie down, don't you?"
"Stay where you are, child," Elliott smiled kindly at her. "Of course, you're nervous and upset—all you can do is to try to hold yourself together—and don't try that too hard, either—for you may defeat your own ends thereby. Just wait, Eunice; sit still and wait."
They all waited, and after what seemed an interminable time the Examiner reappeared and the other two doctors with him.
"Well, well," Crowell began, his restless hands twisting themselves round each other. "Now, be quiet, Mrs, Embury—I declare, I don't know how to say what I have to say, if you sit there like a chained tiger—"
"Go on!" Eunice now seemed to usurp something of Crowell's own dictatorship. "Go on, Dr. Crowell!"
"Well, ma'am, I will. But there's not much to tell. Our principal evidence is lack of evidence—"
"What do you mean? "cried Eunice. "Talk English, please!"
"I am doing so. There is positively no evidence that Mr. Embury was poisoned, yet owing to the absolute lack of any hint of any other means of death, we are forced to the conclusion that he was poisoned."
"By his own hand?" asked Hendricks, his face grave.
"Probably not. You see, sir, with no knowledge of how the poison was administered—with no suspicion of any reason for its being administered—we are working in the dark—"
"I should say so!" exclaimed Elliott; "black darkness, I call it. Are you within your rights in assuming poison?"
"Entirely; it has to be the truth. No agent but a swift, subtle poison could have cut off the victim's life like that."
Crowell was now walking up and down the room. He was a restless, nervous man, and under stress of anxiety he became almost hysterical.
"I don't know!" he cried out, as one in an extremity of uncertainty. "It must be poison—it must have been—murder!"
He pronounced the last word in a gasping way—as if afraid to suggest it but forced to do so.
Hendricks looked at him with a slight touch of contempt in his glance, but seeing this, Dr. Harper interjected:
"The Examiner is regretting the necessity of thrusting his convictions upon you, but he knows it must be done."
"Yes," said Crowell, more decidedly now, "I have had cases before where murder was committed in such an almost undiscoverable way as this. Never a case quite so mysterious, but nearly so."
"What is your theory of the method?" asked Elliott, who was staggered by the rush of thoughts and conclusions made inevitable by the Examiner's report.
"That's the greatest mystery of all," Crowell replied. He was quite calm now—apparently it was concern for the family that had made him so disturbed.
"Poison was not taken by way of the stomach, that is certain. Therefore, it must have been introduced through some other channel. But we find no trace of a hypodermic needle—"
"How utterly ridiculous!" Eunice exclaimed, her eyes blazing with scorn. "How could any one get in to poison my husband? Why, we lock all our doors at night—we always have."
"Yes'm—exactly, ma'am," Crowell began, rubbing his hands again; "and now, please tell me of the locking up last night. As usual, ma'am, as usual?"
"Precisely. Our sleeping rooms are those three," she pointed to the bedrooms. "When they are locked, they form a unit by themselves, quite apart from the rest of the apartment."
Dr. Crowell looked interested.
The apartment faced on Park Avenue, and being on the corner had also windows on the side street.
Front, enumerating from the corner and running south, were the dining-room, the large living-room, and the good-sized reception hall.
Directly back of these, and with windows on a large court, were the three bedrooms, Eunice's in the middle, Sanford's back of the hall, and Aunt Abby's back of the dining-room. Aunt Abby's room was ordinarily Eunice's boudoir and dressing-room, but was used as a guest chamber on occasion.
These three bedrooms, as was shown to Examiner Crowell, when locked from the inside were shut off by themselves, although allowing free communication from one to another of them.
"Lock with keys?" he asked.
"No," Eunice replied. "There are big, strong, snap-locks on the inside of the doors. I mean locks that fasten themselves when you shut the door, unless you have previously put up the catch."
"Yes, I see," and Crowell looked into the matter for himself. "Spring catches, and mighty strong ones, too. And these were always fastened at night?"
"Always," Eunice declared. "Mr. Embury was not afraid of burglars, but it was his life-long habit to sleep with a locked door, and he couldn't get over it."
"Then," and the bird-like little eyes darted from one to another of his listeners and paused at Aunt Abby; "then, Miss Ames, you were also locked in, each night with your niece and her husband, safe from intruders."
"Yes," and Aunt Abby looked a little startled at being addressed. "I don't sleep with my door locked at home, and it bothered me at first. But, you see, my room has no outlet except through Mrs, Embury's bedroom, so as the door between her room and mine was never locked, it really made little difference to me."
"Oh, is that the way of it?" and Dr. Crowell rose in his hasty manner and dashed in at Eunice's door. This, the middle room, opened on the right to the boudoir, and on the left to Embury's room.
The latter door was closed, and Crowell turned toward the boudoir—now Aunt Abby's bedroom. A small bed had been put up for her there, and the room was quite large enough to be comfortable. It was luxuriously furnished and the appointments were quite in keeping with the dainty tastes of the mistress of the house.
Crowell darted here and there about the room. He looked out of the rear windows, which faced on the court; out of a window that faced on the side street, peeped into the bathroom, and then hurried back to Eunice's own room. Here he observed the one large window, which was a triple bay, and which, of course, opened on the court.
He glanced at Embury's closed door, and then returned to the living-room, and again faced his audience.
"Nobody came in from the outside," he announced. "The windows show a sheer drop of ten stories to the ground. No balconies or fire-escapes. So our problem resolves itself into two possibilities— Mr. Embury was given the poison by someone already inside those locked doors—or, the doors were not locked."
The restless hands were still now. The Examiner bore the aspect of a bomb-thrower who had exploded his missile and calmly awaited the result. His darting eyes flew from face to face, as if he were looking for a criminal then and there. He sat motionless —save for his constantly moving eyeballs—and for a moment no word was spoken by anyone.
Then Eunice said, with no trace of anger or excitement, "You mean some intruder was concealed in there when we went to bed?"
Crowell turned on her a look of undisguised admiration. More, he seemed struck with a sudden joy of finding a possible loophole from the implication he had meant to convey.
"I never thought of that," he said, slowly, piercing her with his intent gaze; "it may be. But Mrs, Embury—in that case, where is the intruder now? How did he get out?"
"Rubbish!" cried Miss Ames, caustically. "There never was any intruder—I mean, not in our rooms. Ridiculous! Of course, the doors were not locked—they were unintentionally left open—I don't believe they're locked half the time!—and your intruder came in through these other rooms."
"Yes," agreed Hendricks; "that must have been the way of it. Dr. Crowell, if you're sure this is a—a—oh, it isn't! Who would kill Embury? Your theory presupposes a motive. What was it? Robbery? Is anything missing?"
Nobody could answer this question, and Ferdinand, as one familiar with his master's belongings was sent into the room of death to investigate.
Unwillingly, and only after a repeated order, the man went.
"No, ma'am," he said, on his return, addressing Eunice. "None of Mr. Embury's things are gone. All his pins and cuff-links are in their boxes and his watch is on the chiffonier where he always leaves it.
"Then," resumed Hendricks, "what motive can you suggest, Dr. Crowell?"
"It's not for me, sir, to go so far as that. I see it this way: I'm positive that the man was killed by foul means. I'm sure he was poisoned, though I can't say how. I—you see, I haven't been Medical Examiner very long—and I never had such a hard duty to perform before. But it is my duty and I must do it. I must report to headquarters."
"You shan't!" Eunice flew across the room and stood before him, her whole body quivering with intense rage. "I forbid it! I am Sanford Embury's wife, and as such I have rights that shall not be imposed upon! I will have no police dragged into this matter. Were my husband really murdered—which, of course, he was not—I would rather never have the murderer discovered or punished, than to have the degradation, the horrors of—a police case!"
The infinite scorn with which she brought out the last phrase showed her earnestness and her determination to have the matter pushed no further.
But Examiner Crowell was by no means the inefficient little man he looked. His eyes took on a new glitter, and narrowed as they looked at the angry woman before him.
"I am sorry, Mrs, Embury," he said, gently, but with a strong decision in his tone, "but your wishes cannot be considered. The law is inexorable. The mystery of this case is deepened rather than lessened by your extraordinary behavior and I must—"
But his brave manner quailed before the lightning of Eunice's eyes.
"What!" she cried; "you defy me! You will call the police against my desire—my command! You will not, sir! I forbid it!"
Crowell looked at her with a new interest. It would seem he had discovered a new species of humanity. Doubtless he had never seen a woman like that in his previous experience.
For Eunice was no shrew. She did not, for a moment, lose her poise or her dignity. Indeed, she was rather more imperious and dominating in her intense anger than when more serene. But she carried conviction. Both Elliott and Hendricks hoped and believed she could sway the Examiner to her will.
Aunt Abby merely sat nodding her head, in corroboration of Eunice's speeches. "Yes—yes—that's so!" she murmured, unheeding whether she were heard or not.
The Examiner, however, paid little attention to the decrees of the angry woman. He looked at Eunice, curiously, even admiringly, and then went across the room to the telephone.
Eunice flew after him and snatched the instrument from his hand.
"Stop!" she cried, fairly beside herself with fury. "You shall not!"
Both Elliott and Hendricks sprang from their chairs, and Dr. Harper rose to take care of Eunice as an irresponsible patient, but Crowell waved them all back.
"Sit down, gentlemen," he said; "Mrs, Embury, think a minute. If you act like that you will—you inevitably will—draw suspicion on yourself!"
"I don't care!" she screamed; "better that than the—the publicity—the shame of a police investigation! Oh, Sanford—my husband!"
It was quite clear that uppermost in her disturbed mind was the dread of the disgrace of the police inquiry. This had dulled her poignant grief, her horror, her sadness—all had been lost in the immediate fear of the impending unpleasantness.
"And, too," the Examiner went on, coldly, "It is useless for you to rant around like that! I'll simply go to another telephone."
Eunice stepped back and looked at him, more in surprise than submission. To be told that she was "ranting around" was not the way in which she was usually spoken to! Moreover, she realized it was true, that to jerk the telephone away from Dr. Crowell could not permanently prevent his sending his message.
She tried another tack.
"I beg your pardon, doctor," she said, and her expression was that of a sad and sorry child. "You're right, I mustn't lose my temper so. But, you know, I am under a severe mental strain—and something should be forgiven me—some allowance made for my dreadful position—"
"Yes, ma'am—oh, certainly, ma'am—" Crowell was again nervous and restless. He proved that he could withstand an angry woman far better than a supplicating one. Eunice saw this and followed up her advantage.
"And, so, doctor, try to appreciate how I feel—a newlymade widow—my husband dead, from some unknown cause, but which I know is not—murder," after a second's hesitation she pronounced the awful word clearly—"and you want to add to my terror and distress by calling in the police—of all things, the police!"
"Yes, ma'am, I know it's too bad—but, my duty, ma'am—"
"Your duty is first, to me!" Eunice's smile was dazzling. It had been a callous heart, indeed, that would not be touched by it!
"To you, ma'am?" The Examiner's tone was innocence itself.
"Yes," Eunice faltered, for she began to realize she was not gaining ground. "You owe me the—don't they call it the benefit of the doubt?"
"What doubt, ma'am?"
"Why, doubt as to murder. If my husband died a natural death you know there's no reason to call the police. And as you're not sure, I claim that you must give me the benefit of your doubt and not call them."
"Now, ma'am, you don't put that just right. You see, the police are the people who must settle that doubt. It's that very doubt that makes it necessary to call them. And, truly, Mrs, Ernbury, it won't be any such horrible ordeal as you seem to anticipate. They're decent men, and all they want to get at is the truth."
"That isn't so!" Eunice was angry again. "They're horrible men! rude, unkempt, low-down, common men! I won't have them in my house! You have no right to insist on it. They'll be all over the rooms, prying into everything, looking here, there and all over! They'll ask impertinent questions; they'll assume all sorts of things that aren't true, and they'll wind up by coming to a positively false conclusion! Alvord, Mason, you're my friends—help me out! Don't, let this man do as he threatens!"
"Listen, Eunice," Elliott said, striving to quiet her; "we can't help the necessity Dr. Crowell sees of notifying the police. But we can help you. Only, however, if you'll be sensible, dear, and trust to our word that it can't be helped, and you must let it go on quietly."
"Oh, hush up, Mason; your talk drives me crazy! Alvord, are you a broken reed, too? Is there nobody to stand by me?"
"I'll try," and Hendricks went and spoke to Dr. Crowell in low tones. A whispered colloquy followed, but it soon became clear that Hendricks' pleas, of whatever nature, were unsuccessful, and he returned to Eunice's side.
"Nothing doing," he said, with an attempt at lightness. "He won't listen to reason—nor to bribery and corruption—" this last was said openly and with a smile that robbed the idea of any real seriousness.
And then Dr. Crowell again lifted the telephone and called up Headquarters.
Of the two detectives who arrived in response to the Examiner's call, one almost literally fulfilled Eunice's prophecy of a rude, unkempt, common man. His name was Shane and he strode into the room with a bumptious, self-important air, his burly frame looking especially awkward and unwieldy in the gentle surroundings.
His companion, however, a younger man named Driscoll, was of a finer type, and showed at least an appreciation of the nature of the home which he had entered.
"We're up from the homicide bureau," Shane said to Dr. Crowell, quite ignoring the others present. "Tell us all you know."
In the fewest possible words the Medical Examiner did this, and Shane paid close attention.
Driscoll listened, too, but his glance, instead of being fixed on the speaker, darted from one to another of the people sitting round.
He noted carefully Eunice's beautiful, angry face, as she sat, looking out of a window, disdaining any connection with the proceedings. He watched Miss Ames, nervously rolling her handkerchief into a ball and shaking it out again; Mason Elliott, calm, grave, and earnestly attentive; Alvord Hendricks, alert, eager, sharply critical.
And in the background, Ferdinand, the well-trained butler, hovering in the doorway.
All these things Driscoll studied, for his method was judging from the manners of individuals, whereas, Shane gathered his conclusions from their definite statements.
And, having listened to Dr. Crowell's account, Shane turned to Eunice and said bluntly, "You and your husband good friends?"
Eunice gasped. Then, after one scathing glance, she deliberately turned back to the window, and neglected to answer.
"That won't do, ma'am," said Shane, in his heavy voice, which was coarse and uncultured but not intentionally rude. "I'm here to ask questions and you people have got to answer 'em. Mebbe I can put it different. Was you and Mr. Embury on good terms?"
"Certainly." The word was forced from Eunice's scornful lips, and accompanied by an icy glance meant to freeze the detective, but which utterly failed.
"No rows or disagreements, eh? "Shane's smile was unbearable, and Eunice turned and faced him like an angry thing at bay.
"I forbid you to speak to me," she said, and looked at Shane as if he were some miserable, crawling reptile. "Mason, will you answer this man for me?"
"No, no, lady," Shane seemed to humor her. "I must get your own word for it. Don't you want me to find out who killed your husband? Don't you want the truth known? Are you afraid to have it told? Hey?"
Shane's secret theory was that of a sort of third degree applied at the very beginning often scared people into a quick confession of the truth and saved time in the long run.
Driscoll knew of this and did not approve.
"Let up, Shane," he muttered; "this is no time for such talk. You don't know anything yet."
"Go ahead, you," returned Shane, not unwillingly, and Driscoll did.
"Of course we must ask questions, Mrs, Embury," he said, and his politeness gained him a hearing from Eunice.
She looked at him with, at least, toleration, as he began to question her.
"When did you last see Mr. Embury alive, ma'am?"
"Last night," replied Eunice, "about midnight, when we retired."
"He was in his usual health and spirits?"
"You have two bedrooms?"
"Open or shut—after you said good-night to Mr. Embury?"
"Who shut it."
"Did he bang it shut? Slam it?"
"Mr. Embury was a gentleman."
"Yes, I know. Did he slam that door?"
"He did," and Driscoll nodded his head, as if not minding Eunice's stammered denial, but not believing it, either.
"Now, as he closed that door with a bang, ma'am, I gather that you two had a—well, say, a little tiff—a quarrel. Might as well own up, ma'am,—it'll come out, and it's better you should tell me the truth."
"I am not accustomed to telling anything else!" Eunice declared, holding herself together with a very evident effort. "Mr. Embury and I had a slight difference of opinion, but not enough to call a quarrel."
"What about?" broke in Shane, who had been listening intently.
Eunice did not speak until Elliott advised her. "Tell all Eunice—it is the best way."
"We had a slight discussion," Eunice said, "but it was earlier in the evening. We had spent the evening out—Mr. Embury at his club, and I at the house of a friend. We came home together—Mr. Embury called for me in our own car. On reaching home, we had no angry words—and as it was late, we retired at once. That is all. Mr. Embury closed the door between our bedrooms, and that is the last I ever saw of him until—this morning—"
She did not break down, but she seemed to think she had told all and she ceased speaking.
"And then he was dead," Shane mused. "What doctor did you call?"
Dr. Crowell took up the narrative and told of Dr. Harper and Dr. Marsden, who were not now present. He told further of the mysterious and undiscoverable cause of the death.
"Let me see him," said Shane, rising suddenly.
Most of this man's movements were sudden—and as he was in every respect awkward and uncouth, Eunice's dislike of him grew momentarily.
"Isn't he dreadful!" she cried, as the two detectives and the Medical Examiner disappeared into Embury's room.
"Yes," agreed Hendricks, "but, Eunice, you must not antagonize him. It can't do any good—and it may do harm."
"Harm? How?" and Eunice turned her big, wondering eyes on Hendrick.
"Oh, it isn't wise to cross a man like that. He's a common clod, but he represents authority—he represents the law, and we must respect that fact, however his personal manner offends us."
"All right, Alvord, I understand; but there's no use in my seeing him again. Can't you and Mason settle up things and let Aunt Abby and me go to our rooms?"
"No, Eunice," Hendricks' voice was grave. "You must stay here. And, too, they will go through your room, searching."
"My room! My bedroom! They shan't! I won't have it! Mason, must I submit to such horrible things?"
"Now, Eunice, dear," Mason Elliott spoke very gently, "we can't blink matters. We must face this squarely. The police think Sanford was murdered. They're endeavoring to find out who killed him. To do their duty in the matter they have to search everywhere. It's the law, you know, and we can't get away from it. So, try to take it as quietly as you can."
"Oh, my! oh, my!" wailed Aunt Abby; "that I should live to see this day! A murder in my own family! No wonder poor Sanford's troubled spirit paused in its passing to bid me farewell."
Eunice shrieked. "Aunt Abby, if you start up that talk, I shall go stark, staring mad! Hush! I won't have it!"
"Let up on the spook stuff, Miss Ames," begged Hendricks. "Our poor Eunice is just about at the end of her rope."
"So am I!" cried Aunt Abby. "I'm entitled to some consideration! Here's the whole house turned upside down with a murder and police and all that, and nobody considers me! It's all Eunice!" Then, with a softened voice, she added, "And Lord knows, she's got enough to bear!"
"Yes, I have!" Eunice was composed again, now. "But I can bear it. I'm not going to collapse! Don't be afraid for me. And I do consider you, Aunt Abby. It's dreadful for you—for both of us."
Eunice crossed the room and sat by the cider lady, and they comforted one another.
Shane came back to the living-room.
"Here's the way it is," he said, gruffly. "Those three bedrooms all open into each other; but when their doors that open out into these here other rooms are locked they're quite shut off by themselves, and nobody can get into 'em. Now that last room, the one the old lady sleeps in, that don't have a door except into Mrs, Embury's room. What I'm gettin' at is, if Mr. and Mrs, Embury's room doors is locked—not meanin' the door between—then those three people are locked in there every night, and can't get out or in, except through those two locked doors.
"Well, this morning—where's that butler man?"
"Here, sir," and Ferdinand appeared promptly, and with his usual correct demeanor.
"Yes, you. Now, this morning, those two doors to the sleeping rooms was locked, I understand?"
"Yes, sir. They were."
"What—what happens, sir?"
"Yes; what's your first duty in the morning? Does Mr. Embury call you—or ring for you?"
"Oh, that, sir. Why, generally Mr. Embury unlocked his door about eight o'clock—"
"And you went to help him dress?"
"No, sir. Mr. Embury didn't require that. I valeted his clothes, like, and kept them in order, but he dressed by himself. I took him some tea and toast—he had that before the regular breakfast—"
"And this morning—when he didn't ring or make any sound, what did you do?"
"I waited a little while and then I rapped at Mrs, Embury's door."
"Yes; and she—now, be careful, man—" Shane's voice was impressive. "How did she act? Unusual, or frightened in any way?"
"Not a bit, sir. Mrs, Embury was surprised, and when I said Mr. Embury didn't answer my knock, she let me go through her room to his."
"Exactly. And then you found your master dead?"
"Now-what is your name?"
"Yes. Now, Ferdinand, you know Mr. and Mrs, Embury had a quarrel last night."
The trap had worked! Shane had brought about the admission from the servant that Eunice had refused to make. A smile of satisfaction settled on his ugly features, as he nodded his head and went on.
"At what time was this?"
"Ferdinand, be quiet," said Eunice, her own voice low and even, but her face was ablaze with wrath. "You know nothing of such things!"
"That's right, sir, I don't."
Clearly, the butler, restored to his sense of the responsibilities of his position, felt he had made a misstep and regretted it.
"Be quiet, madam!" Shane hurled at Eunice, and turning to the frightened Ferdinand, said: "You tell the truth, or you'll go to jail! At what time was this quarrel that you have admitted took place?"
Eunice stood, superbly indifferent, looking like a tragedy queen. "Tell him, Ferdinand; tell all you know, but tell only the truth."
"Yes, ma'am. Yes, sir; why, it was just before they went out."
"Ah, before. Did they go out together?"
"No, sir. Mrs, Embury went later—by herself."
"I told you that!" Eunice interposed. "I gave you a detailed account of the evening."
"You omitted the quarrel. What was it about?"
"It was scarcely important enough to call a quarrel. My husband and I frequently disagreed on trifling matters. We were both a little short-tempered, and often had altercations that were forgotten as soon as they occurred."
"And that's true," put in Miss Ames. "For two people who loved each other to distraction, I often thought the Emburys were the most quarrelsome I ever saw."
Shane looked sharply at the old lady. "Is that so?" he said. "Did you hear this particular quarrel, ma'am?"
"Not that I remember. If I did, I didn't take' much notice of it."
"What was it about?"
"Oh, the same old subject. Mrs, Embury wanted—"
"Aunt Abby, hush! What are you talking about! Leave me to tell my own secrets, pray!"
"Secrets, ma'am?" Shane's cold blue eyes glistened. "Who's talking of secrets?"
"Nobody," offered Hendricks. "Seems to me, Shane, you're trying to frighten two nervous women into a confession—"
"Who said anything about a confession? What's to be confessed? Who's made any accusations?"
Hendricks was silent. He didn't like the man Shane at all, but he saw plainly that he was a master of his craft, and depended on his sudden and startling suggestions to rouse antagonism or fear and so gather the facts he desired.
"I'm asking nobody's secrets," he went on, "except in so far as I'm obliged to, by reason of my duty. And in that connection, ma'am, I ask you right here and now, what you meant by your reference to secrets?"
Eunice looked at him a moment in silence. Then she said, "You have, I daresay, a right to ask that. And I've not the least objection to answering. Mr. Embury was the kindest of husbands, but it did not suit his ideas to give me what is known as an allowance. This in no way reflects on his generosity, for he insisted that I should have a charge account at any shops I wished. But, because of a whim, I often begged that I be given a stated and periodical allowance. This, I have no reason for not admitting, was the cause of most of our so-called 'quarrels.' This is what I should prefer to keep 'secret' but not if it is for any reason a necessary admission."
Shane looked at her in undisguised admiration.
"Fine!" he ejaculated, somewhat cryptically. "And you quarreled about this last night?"
"Last evening, before we went out."
"Not after you came home?"
"No; the subject was not then mentioned."
"H'm. And you two were as friendly as ever? No coolness—sorta left over, like?"
"No!" Eunice spoke haughtily, but the crimson flood that rose to her cheeks gave the lie to her words.
Driscoll came in.
"I've found out what killed Mr. Embury," he said, in his quiet fashion.
"What?" cried the Examiner and Shane, at the same time.
"Can't tell you—just yet. I'll have to go out on an errand. Stay here—all of you—till I get back."
The dapper little figure disappeared through the hall door, and Shane turned back to the group with a grunt of satisfaction.
"That's Driscoll, all over," he said. "Put him on a case, and he don't say much, and he don't look like he's doing anything, and then all in a minute he'll bring in the goods."
"I'd be glad to hear the cause of that death," said Dr. Crowell, musingly. "I'm an old, experienced practitioner, and I've never seen anything so mysterious. There's absolutely no trace of any poison, and yet it can be nothing else."
"Poison's a mighty sly proposition," observed Shane. "A clever poisoner can put over a big thing."
"Perhaps your assumption of murder is premature," said Hendricks, and he gave Shane a sharp look.
"Maybe," and that worthy nodded his head. "But I'm still standing pat. Now, here's the proposition. Three people, locked into a suite—you may say—of three rooms. No way of getting in from this side—those locks are heavy brass snap-catches that can't be worked from outside. No way, either, of getting in at the windows. Tenth-story apartment, and the windows look straight down to the ground, no balconies or anything like that. Unless an aryoplane let off its passengers, nobody could get in the windows. Well, then, we have those three people shut up alone there all night. In the morning one of 'em is dead —poisoned. What's the answer?"
He stared at Eunice as he talked. It was quite evident he meant to frighten her—almost to accuse her.
But with her strange contradictoriness, she smiled at him.
"You have stated a problem, Mr. Shane, to which there can be no answer. Therefore, that is not the problem that confronts us."
"Fine talk—fine talk, lady, but it won't get you anywhere. To the unbiased, logical mind, the answer must be that it's the work of the other two people."
"Then yours is not a logical or unbiased mind," Hendricks flared out, "and I object to your making implications. If you are making accusations, do so frankly, and let us know where we stand I If not, shut up!"
Shane merely looked at him, without resenting this speech. The detective appeared to be marking time as he awaited the return of his partner.
And Driscoll returned, shortly. His manner betokened success in his quest, whatever it may have been, and yet he looked distressed, too.
"It's a queer thing," he said, half to himself, as he fell into a chair Shane pushed toward him. "Mrs, Embury, do you keep an engagement book?"
"Why, yes," replied Eunice, amazed at the question put to her.
"Let me see it, please."
Eunice went for it, and, returning, handed the detective a finely bound volume.
Hastily he ran over the dates, looking at notes of parties, concerts and theatres she had attended recently. At last, he gave a start, read over one entry carefully, and closed the book.
Abruptly, then, he went back to Embury's room, asking Dr. Crowell to go with him.
When they reappeared, it was plain to be seen the mystery was solved.
"There is no doubt," said the Medical Examiner, "that Sanford Embury met his death by foul play. The means used was the administering of poison—through the ear!"
"Through the ear!" repeated Elliott, as one who failed to grasp the sense of the words.
"Yes; it is a most unusual, almost a unique case, but it is proved beyond a doubt. The poison was inserted in Mr. Embury's ear, by means—"
He paused, and Driscoll held up to view a small, ordinary glass medicine dropper, with a rubber bulb top. In it still remained a portion of a colorless liquid.
"By means of this," Driscoll declared. "This fluid is henbane —that is the commercial name of it—known to the profession, however, as hyoscyamus or hyoscyamine. This little implement, I found, in the medicine chest in Miss Ames' bathroom "
"No! no!" screamed Aunt Abby. "I never saw it before!"
"I don't think you did," said Driscoll, quietly. "But here is a side light on the subject. This henbane was used, in this very manner, we are told, in Shakespeare's works, by Hamlet's uncle, when he poisoned Hamlet's father. He used, the play says, distilled hebenon, supposed to be another form of the word henbane. And this is what is, perhaps, important: Mrs, Embury's engagement book shows that about a week ago she attended the play of Hamlet. The suggestion there received—the presence of this dropper, still containing the stuff, the finding of traces of henbane in the ear of the dead man—seem to lead to a conclusion—"
"The only possible conclusion! It's an openand—shut case!" cried Shane, rising, and striding toward Eunice. "Mrs, Embury, I arrest you for the wilful murder of your husband!"
"Don't you dare touch me!" Eunice Embury cried, stepping back from the advancing figure of the burly detective. "Go out of my house—Ferdinand, put this person out!"
The butler appeared in the doorway, but Shane waved a dismissing hand at him.
"No use blustering, Mrs, Embury," he said, gruffly, but not rudely. "You'd better come along quietly, than to make such a fuss."
"I shall make whatever fuss I choose—and I shall not 'come along,' quietly or any other way! I am not intimidated by your absurd accusations, and I command you once more to leave my house, or I will have you thrown out!"
Eunice's eyes blazed with anger, her voice was not loud, but was tense with concentrated rage, and she stood, one hand clenching a chair-back while with the other she pointed toward the door.
"Be quiet, Eunice," said Mason Elliott, coming toward her; "you can't dismiss an officer of the law like that. But you can demand an explanation. I think, Shane, you are going too fast. You haven't evidence enough against Mrs, Embury to think of arrest! Explain yourself!"
"No explanation necessary. She killed her husband, and she's my prisoner."
"Hush up, Shane; let me talk," interrupted Driscoll, whose calmer tones carried more authority than those of his rough partner.
"It's this way, Mr. Elliott. I'm a detective, and I saw at once, that if the doctors couldn't find the cause of Mr. Embury's death, it must be a most unusual cause. So I hunted for some clue or some bit of evidence pointing to the manner of his death. Well, when I spied that little medicine dropper, half full of something, I didn't know what, but—" Here he paused impressively. "But there was no bottle or vial of anything in the cupboard, from which it could have been taken. There was no fluid in there that looked a bit like the stuff in the dropper. So I thought that looked suspicious—as if some one had hidden it there. I didn't see the whole game then, but I went around to a druggist's and asked him what was in that dropper. And he said henbane. He further explained that henbane is the common name for hyoscyamin, which is a deadly poison. Now, the doctors were pretty sure that Mr. Embury had not been killed by anything taken into the stomach, so I thought a minute, and, like a flash, I remembered the play of 'Hamlet' that I saw last week.
"I guess everybody in New York went to see it—the house was crowded. Anyway, I've proved by Mrs, Embury's engagement book that she went—one afternoon, to a matinee—and what closer or more indicative hint do you want? In that play, the murder is fully described, and though many people might think poison could not be introduced through the intact ear in sufficient quantity to be fatal, yet it can be—and I read an article lately in a prominent medical journal saying so. I was interested, because of the Hamlet play. If I hadn't seen that, I'd never thought of this whole business. But, if I'm wrong, let Mrs, Embury explain the presence of that dropper in her medicine chest."
"I don't know anything about the thing! I never saw or heard of it before! I don't believe you found it where you say you did!" Eunice faced him with an accusing look. "You put it there yourself—it's what you call a frame-up! I know nothing of your old dropper!"
"There, there, lady," Shane put in; "don't get excited—it only counts against you. Mr. Driscoll, here, wouldn't have no reason to do such a thing as you speak of! Why would he do that, now?"
"But he must have done it," broke in Miss Ames. "For I use that bathroom of Eunice's and that thing hasn't been in it, since I've been here."
"Of course not," and Shane looked at her as at a foolish child; "why should it be? The lady used it, and then put it away."
"Hold on, there, Shane," Hendricks interrupted. "Why would any one do such a positively incriminating thing as that?"
"They always slip up somewhere," said Driscoll, "after committing a crime, your criminal is bound to do something careless, that gives it all away. Mrs, Embury, how did that dropper get in that medicine chest in your bathroom?"
"I scorn to answer!" The cold tones showed no fear, no trepidation, but Eunice's white fingers interlaced themselves in a nervous fashion.
"Do you know anything about it, Miss Ames?"
"N—no," stammered Aunt Abby, trembling, as she looked now at the detectives and then at Eunice.
"Well, it couldn't have put itself there," went on Driscoll. "Who else has access to that place?"
Eunice gave no heed to this speech. She gave no heed to the speaker, but stared at him, unseeingly, her gaze seeming to go straight through him.
"Why, the maid," said Aunt Abby, with a helpless glance toward Elliott and Hendricks, as if beseeching assistance.
"The servants must be considered," said Hendricks, catching at a straw. "They may know something that will help."
"Call the maid," said Shane, briefly, and, as neither of the women obeyed, he turned to Ferdinand, who hovered in the background, and thundered: "Bring her in—you!"
Maggie appeared, shaken and frightened, but when questioned, she answered calmly and positively.
"I put that dropper in the medicine closet," she said, and every one looked toward her.
"Where did you get it?" asked Shane.
"I found it—on the floor."
"On the floor? Where?"
"Beside Miss Ames' bed." The girl's eyes were cast down; she looked at nobody, but gave her answers in a dull, sing-song way, almost as if she had rehearsed them before.
"This morning—when I made up her room."
"Had you ever seen it before?"
"Why did you think it belonged to Miss Ames?"
"I didn't think anything about it. I found it there, and I supposed it belonged to Miss Ames, and I put it away."
"Why did you put it in the medicine chest?"
The girl looked up, surprised.
"That seemed to me the proper place for it. Whenever I find a bottle of camphor or a jar of cold cream—or anything like that —I always put it in the medicine chest. That's where such things belong. So I thought it was the right place for the little dropper. Did I do wrong?"
"No, Maggie," Driscoll said, kindly, "that was all right. Now tell us exactly where you found it."
"I did tell you. On the floor, just beside Miss Ames' bed. Near the head of the bed."
"Well, Miss Ames—I guess it's up to you. What were you doing with this thing?"
"I didn't have it at all! I never saw it before!"
"Come, come, that won't do! How could it get there?"
"I don't know, but I didn't put it there." The old lady trembled pitifully, and looked from one to another for help or guidance.
"Of course, she didn't!" cried Eunice. "You sha'n't torment my aunt! Cease questioning her! Talk to me if you choose—and as you choose—but leave Miss Ames alone!"
She faced her inquisitors defiantly, and even Shane quailed a little before her scornful eyes.
"Well, ma'am, as you see, I ain't got much choice in the matter. Here's the case. You and your aunt and Mr. Embury was shut in those three rooms. Nobody else could get in. Come morning, the gentleman is dead—murdered. One of you two done it. It's for us to find out which—unless the guilty party sees fit to confess."
"I do! I confess!" cried Aunt Abby. "I did it, and I'm willing to go to prison!" She was clearly hysterical, and though her words were positive, they by no means carried conviction.
"Now, that's all bosh," declared Shane. "You're sayin' that, ma'am, to shield your niece. You know she's the murderer and—"
Eunice flew at Shane like a wild thing. She grasped his arm and whirled him around toward her as she glared into his face, quivering with indignation.
"Coward!" she flung at him. "To attack two helpless women—to accuse me—me, of crime! Why, I could kill yon: where you stand —for such an insinuation!"
"Say, you're some tiger!" Shane exclaimed, in a sort of grudging admiration. "But better be careful of your words, ma'am! If you could kill me—ah, there!"
The last exclamation was brought forth by the sudden attack of Eunice, as she shook the big man so violently that he nearly lost his balance.
"Say, you wildcat! Be careful what you do! You are a tiger!"
"Yes," Aunt Abby giggled, nervously. "Mr. Embury always called her 'Tiger'."
"I don't wonder!" and Shane stared at Eunice, who had stepped back but who still stood, like a wild animal at bay, her eyes darting angry fire.
"Now, Mrs, Embury, let's get down to business. Who's your lawyer?
"I am," declared Alvord Hendricks. "I am her counsel. I represent Mrs, Embury. Eunice, say nothing more. Leave it to me. And, first, Shane, you haven't enough evidence to arrest this lady. That dropper thing is no positive information against her. It might be the work of the servants—or some intruder. The story of that housemaid is not necessarily law and gospel. Remember, you'd get in pretty bad if you were to arrest Mrs, Sanford Embury falsely! And my influence with your superiors is not entirely negligible. You're doing your duty, all right, but don't overstep your authority—or, rather, don't let your desire to make a sensational arrest cloud your judgment."
"That's what I think, Mr. Hendricks," said Driscoll, earnestly; "we've found the method, but I'm by no means sure we've found the criminal. Leastways, it don't look sure to me. Eh, Shane?"
"Clear enough to me," the big man growled; but he was quite evidently influenced by Hendricks' words. "However, I'm willing to wait—but we must put Mrs, Embury under surveillance—"
"Under what!" demanded Eunice, her beautiful face again contorted by uncontrollable anger. "I will not be watched or spied upon!"
"Hush, Eunice," begged Elliott. "Try to keep yourself calm. It does no good to defy these men—they are not really acting on their own initiative, but they are merely carrying out their duty as they see it."
"Their duty is to find out who killed my husband!" and Eunice gave Shane another stormy glare. "They cannot do that by accusing two innocent women!"
"If you two women can be proved innocent, nobody will be more glad than me," Shane announced, in a hearty way, that was really generous after Eunice's treatment of him. "But it beats me to see how it can be proved. You admit, ma'am, nobody could get into Mr. Embury's room, except you and Miss Ames, don't you?"
"I don't admit that at all, for the murderer DID get in—and DID commit the murder—therefore, there must be some means of access!"
"Oho! And just how can you suggest that an intruder got in, and got out again, and left those doors fastened on the inside?"
"That I don't know—nor is it my business to find out."
"Maybe you think a flyin' machine came at the window, ma'am! For nothin' else could negotiate a ten-story apartment."
"Don't talk nonsense! But I have heard of keys that unlock doors from the outside—skeleton keys, I think they are called."
"Yes, ma'am, there are such, sure! But they're keys—and they unlock doors. These doors of yours have strong brass catches that work only on the inside, snap-bolts, they are. And when they're fastened, nothing from the other side of the door could undo 'em. But, I say—here you, Ferdinand!"
The butler came forward, his face surprised rather than alarmed, and stood at attention.
"What do you know of events here last night? "Shane asked him.
"Nothing, sir," and Ferdinand's face was blankly respectful.
"You'd better tell all you know, or you'll get into trouble."
"Could you—could you make your question a little more definite?"
"I will. When Mr. and Mrs. Embury came home last night, were they in good humor?"
"I don't know, sir."
"You do know! You know your employers well enough to judge by their manner whether they were at odds or not. Answer me, man!"
"Well, sir, they were, I should judge, a little at odds."
"Oh, they were! In what way did they show it? By quarreling?"
"By not saying anything. But it's not uncommon for them to be at odds, sir—"
"Speak when you're spoken to! After Mr. Embury went to his room, did you attend him?"
"I was in his room, yes."
"Mrs, Embury was in her own room then?"
"Her outer door was closed?"
"And, therefore, fastened by the snap-bolt?"
"Yes, I suppose so."
"Don't you know so? Don't you know that it must have been?"
"And then—then, when you left Mr. Embury's room—when you left him for the night-did you close his door?"
"And that, of itself, locked that door?"
"Yes, I suppose so."
"Stop saying you suppose so. You know it did! You've lived in this house two years; you know how those doors work—you know your closing that door locked it? Didn't it?"
"Yes, it did. I turned the knob afterward to make sure. I always do that."
Ferdinand now seemed to be as discursive as he was reticent before. "And I know Miss Eunice's—Mrs, Embury's door was locked, because she had to unbolt it before I could get in this morning."
"But look here," Driscoll broke in, "are these doors on that snap-bolt all day? Isn't that rather an inconvenience?"
"Not all day," vouchsafed Ferdinand. "They can be turned so the bolt doesn't catch, and are turned that way in the daytime, usually."
"But," and Driscoll looked at him intently, "you can swear that the bolts were on last night?"
"You can't!" Hendricks shot at him. The lawyer had been listening in silence, but he now refuted Ferdinand. "You don't KNOW that Mrs, Embury put on the catch of her door when she closed it."
"I do, sir; I heard it click."
"You are very observant," said Shane; "peculiarly so, it seems to me."
"No, sir," and Ferdinand looked thoughtful; "but, you see, it's this way. Every night I hear the click of those locks, and it sort of seems natural to me to listen for it. If it should be forgotten, I'd think it my duty to call attention to it."
"A most careful butler, on my word!" Shane's tone was a little sneering.
"He is, indeed!" Eunice defended; "and I can assert that it is because of his faithfulness and efficiency that we have always felt safe at night from intrusion by marauders."
"And you did lock your door securely last night, Mrs, Embury?"
"I most assuredly did! I do every night. But that does not prove that I killed my husband. Nor that Miss Ames did."
"Then your theory—"
"I have no theory. Mr. Embury was killed—it is for you detectives to find out how. But do not dare to say—or imply —that it was by the hand of his wife—or his relative!"
She glanced fondly at Miss Ames, and then again assumed her look of angry defiance toward the two men who were accusing her.
"It is for you to find out how," said Mason Elliott, gravely. "It is incredible that Mrs, Embury is the guilty one, though I admit the incriminating appearance of the henbane. But I've beet thinking it over, and while Mr. Driscoll's surmise that the deed can possibly be traced to one who recently saw the play of 'Hamlet,' yet he must remember that thousands of people saw that play, and that therefore it cannot point exclusively toward Mrs, Embury."
"That's so," agreed Driscoll. "Who went with you to the play, Mrs, Embury?"
"My aunt, Miss Ames; also a friend, Mrs, Desternay. And, I understand you went yourself, Mr. Driscoll. Why single out me for a suspect?"
The haughty face turned to him was quite severely critical.
"True, Mrs, Embury, why should I? The answer is, motive. You must admit that I had neither motive nor opportunity to kill your husband. Mrs, Desternay, let us say, had neither opportunity nor motive. Miss Ames had opportunity but no motive. And so you, we must all admit, are the only human being who had both opportunity—and motive."