HotFreeBooks.com
The Further Adventures of Quincy Adams Sawyer and Mason's Corner Folks
by Charles Felton Pidgin
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5
Home - Random Browse

"Quincy," said she, "I would go, if I were you."

"Are you not happy here?"

"Yes, and no. Happy to be near my son, and relatives and friends; no, because your business takes you away so much that I see little of you. If you take the mission, I shall have you with me all the time. I am selfish, I know, but it is my love for you that makes me so."

The Hon. Quincy Adams Sawyer was nominated and confirmed as Ambassador to Austria-Hungary. Alice had made the selection.

"Let us go to Vienna, Quincy. It was there we met after our long separation—and, this is purely a personal matter, I wish to study the scenes of my story, 'The Son of Sergius,' at close range."

Before Quincy's departure it had been decided to lease the Beacon Street house for four years. Maude was given her choice but preferred the house in Mount Vernon Street where she had lived since her marriage.

Young Quincy was obliged to take bachelor quarters which he found at Norumbega Chambers.

His suite consisted of a sitting-room, two sleeping rooms each with bath, and a small room intended for a library or study, and which was utilized by him as an office.

Quincy went down the harbour with his father and mother on the ocean liner, returning on the tug with Tom. On the way back young Quincy took a small envelope from his pocket and extracted a short note which he had read at least a dozen times since its receipt. It was from Miss Mary Dana and informed him that she had returned to Boston and would be pleased to see him, the next day, at her office with the Isburn Detective Bureau.

It was a cold, raw day in the early part of April and when they reached the city Quincy was taken with a chill. When they reached Norumbega Chambers the chill had turned to a fever, and Tom suggested sending for a doctor. Quincy stoutly protested against any such action being taken, but Tom summoned one despite his objections. In this way, Quincy became acquainted with John Loring Bannister, M. D.

Dr. Bannister was unknown to his patient when he paid his first visit, and was professionally non-communicative, but he told him afterwards, when their acquaintance had ripened to such an extent that the names Quincy and Jack took the place of more formal designations, that it had always seemed a wonder to him that he had survived. Quincy, with no intention of indulging in flattery, replied that if a certain physician had not been called in he, probably, would not have done so.

Quincy's condition on the second day was so low, indeed, that Dr. Bannister told Tom if his friend had not made a will he had better do so. Tom's first thought was to send for Mr. Merry, but he decided that might lead to a charge of family influence, and he appealed to the doctor.

Dr. Bannister told Tom he was well acquainted with a young lawyer and that he would send him up to see Mr. Sawyer. Quincy was in such a condition when Lawyer Edward Everett Colbert made his first visit, that if he had been asked the name of the principal beneficiary he would probably have told the lawyer to let it go to the Devil. The second time that Mr. Colbert called, Quincy's physical will had resumed control and he had no need of any other.

When convalescing Quincy said to Tom, when the nurse was absent, "If you thought I was going to die, why didn't you send for Aunt Maude, and—and—you know whom I mean—Miss Dana?"

"I saw them every day, but you were too weak to see them, but if— they would have been summoned."

"Tom, your head is so level that a plane couldn't make a shaving."

Tom was obliged to be away daytimes, the buying for twenty stores requiring much travel.

Dr. Bannister and Lawyer Colbert were occasional visitors and Quincy received a manifest mental exhilaration from his intercourse with them. His sickness had led him to think about the future. Was he to live and die as the treasurer of a grocery company? Had he no higher ideal?

A story told by Jack and Ned, which they knew to be true, because they were the principal actors therein, led Quincy to give himself up to some mighty thinking.

The story was related one evening in the sitting-room when Tom was present.

"What I'm going to tell," began Ned, "will include much more than I saw or knew myself, but it all comes from authentic sources. I shall omit names, since they are unessential.

"Among my clients was an old gentleman, over seventy years of age, but still erect and vigorous. One morning I received a letter requesting me to call at his house. I found him in bed feeling all tired out. He said he had never had a doctor in his life.

"The doctor, here, assures me that those people who never need a doctor until they are well advanced in life are not likely to require a physician's services more than once. The next call is for the undertaker."

"That's so," broke in Jack; "it's the person who is continually calling upon a doctor for every little ailment who lives to an old age, for instead of letting disease creep upon him, he calls for medical assistance as soon as he experiences any derangement of his physical system. If all the people would follow this plan, it would increase the longevity of the human race."

"And materially increase the income of the medical profession," added Quincy.

"It proved to be the old gentleman's first and last sickness. In order that you may fully understand the wonderful event which took place the night he died, I shall have to give you a history of his family."

Quincy consulted his watch. "It is now but a few minutes past seven. I will give you until midnight, my usual time for retiring."

"I have an engagement at ten or thereabouts," said Jack, "but it's a matter of life instead of death."

Ned continued: "My client had a son and daughter, both married. They were good children and loved their father on the American plan. The son had married an avaricious woman, while the daughter was married to a man who was not so avaricious as his sister-in-law. The old gentleman was very wealthy and like all good children they were thinking of the time when the property would be divided."

"I see signs of a family squabble," remarked Quincy.

"It came to pass," said Ned. "The French have a maxim which says it is advisable to search for the woman in all mysterious cases. In this instance, the woman did not wait to be searched for but came of her own accord. She insisted upon having the card bearing the name of Mrs. James Bliss sent up to the sick man; when he saw it he, in turn, insisted upon seeing the woman. The family wished to be present at the interview but my client demanded a private conversation which lasted for an hour.

"Jack had been in daily attendance as a physician, but I was not sent for until the day following Mrs. Bliss's visit. He had told his son that he wished to make his will, and the son told the other members of the family. They wished him to make a will, of course, but they were afraid that woman had exercised undue influence. As the son expressed it, the better way would be to let the law make the decision.

"My client insisted upon seeing me alone. He told me the woman's story. Many years before, when my client was a poor man, her father had set him up in business. He had told his daughter of the loan before his death, and her visit was to ask for payment as she was a widow and poor, with three children to support.

"My client directed me to put her in the will for fifty thousand dollars, saying the original loan at six per cent, would amount to fully that amount.

"The son, when told the story by me made no objection to the bequest but the son's wife and the son-in-law declared that the note she had was outlawed and that she shouldn't have a cent. The son-in-law put a private detective on her track who learned that Mrs. Bliss was a test and trance medium, and that she gave materialization seances at private houses. The whole family then declared her to be a fraud and impostor, and declared their intention of breaking the will if it was signed.

"Now we are getting to the lively part of the story. The will was ready for signing. It was about five minutes past six when I was admitted and I went right up to my client's room. I had been there about five minutes when Jack came in. He was followed by the entire family, the son-in-law having been chosen to prevent the signing of the will.

"Then occurred a sensational episode. Mrs. Bliss came to inquire about my client's condition and the unsuspecting nurse admitted her. She came directly to the room where we were all assembled."

"A strong situation for a play," remarked Quincy.

"They played it," said Ned. "The son-in-law took Mrs. Bliss into an adjoining room and ordered her to stay there. Then he returned. This was to be a Waterloo but he was the Wellington.

"My client was propped up in bed, a pen placed in his hand, while the document rested on a large book which Jack held.

"The son-in-law began the oratory. 'I protest,' he screamed. 'This sacrilege, this injustice shall not be done with my consent.' What was it you said to him, Jack?"

"I told him unless he stopped talking in such an excited manner, and made less noise, it would have a very prejudicial effect upon my patient's health.

"The son-in-law then denounced Mrs. Bliss as an adventuress, and that she had no legal claim upon his father-in-law. His loud voice and violent gestures were too much for the invalid. The pen dropped from his nerveless fingers and he fell back exhausted. I think you had better take it up now, Ned."

"All right. You gave me a chance to rest my voice. Yes, thank you," as Tom passed him a glass of water.

Ned resumed, "The door was opened and Mrs. Bliss looked in. 'Has he signed?' she asked.

"'No, he hasn't,' yelled the son-in-law, 'and while I live he never shall' Now you come in again, Jack."

"'Ladies and gentlemen.' said I, 'this excitement must stop. As medical adviser I order you all to leave the room.' They objected, but I told them if they didn't, I should resign charge of the case and refuse to give a death certificate unless there was an inquest. That frightened them, and they all went out, the son-in-law escorting Mrs. Bliss."

"We propped up the patient again, and I gave him some brandy. He said, 'I must sign.' He took the pen and made a ragged, disjointed capital 'T.'

"The pen dropped from his hand and he fell back upon the pillow. Ned put the unsigned will in his pocket. I found that the end was very near and I told Ned to call the family. Now, it's your turn, Ned."

"I told the family they had better go to their father's room at once. Mrs. Bliss arose with the intention of following them but I told her she was not one of the family; that she could remain with me as my services were no longer needed. She turned to me and asked: 'Was it signed?' I shook my head. Without a word she sank upon the nearest chair and buried her face in her arms.

"I stood irresolute. The spectacle of this silent woman, speechless because she was to be deprived of what was justly due her, was a situation with which I did not know how to deal. I was saved the necessity of saying or doing anything by the sudden entrance of Jack who cried: 'Ned, it's all over; he's dead.'"

"Now comes the wonderful, inexplainable, part of the story. There was a single gas-burner alight in the room. It was turned down low; faces were discernible, but the room was only half lighted. Hearing a movement, Jack and I turned towards Mrs. Bliss. She had lifted her head from the table and was gazing directly at us. Her eyes were open, but they had a glassy look. Then it seemed as though the room was gradually becoming darker and darker, until the darkness became intense.

"My first thought was that Mrs. Bliss had put out the gas. Before I had time to question her, Jack and I caught sight of a white spot that was approaching us from the corner of the room nearest the doorway which led into the hallway. This light, which was no larger than a man's hand at first, increased in size and intensity until it covered a space at least two feet wide and six feet high. I must admit that my hair was inclined to stand on end."

"And mine too," exclaimed Jack.

"Suddenly," said Ned, "the light, which was nebulous, began to fall away in places and assume a shape like the form of a man. Then the portion where a man's head ought to be, assumed the appearance of one. Jack and I clasped hands and retreated to the farther corner of the room. This act on our part was purely voluntary. If I had possessed a Remington rifle, six Colt's revolvers, and a dynamite bomb, I should have backed out just the same.

"We could not remove our eyes from the glittering, moving, thing; and now a most surprising change took place. The light seemed to leave the figure, so that it was not visible as a light, and yet it filled the room with a radiant glow.

"Who was that who stood before us? Could we believe our eyes? Were they playing us a trick? Were we the victims of a too active imagination? No, there could be no mistake. The form that stood before us was that of the man who lay dead in the next room.

"Turning towards us, from the form came the words distinctly spoken— 'It must be signed!' The figure pointed to the table near which Mrs. Bliss still sat in an apparently unconscious state. I took the will from my pocket, opened it, advanced to the table, and laid it thereon. The figure reached out its right hand and beckoned. The thought came to me that he wanted a pen. There was none in the room. Jack divined the situation as quickly as I did and took his stylographic pen from his visiting book, fitted it for use, and laid it on the table beside the will. The form advanced, took up the pen, joined a small letter to the capital 'T' already written, and finished out the name in full.

"The form then laid the pen upon the table and pointed to the places set apart for witnesses. I wrote my name, Edward Everett Colbert, and Jack put his,—John Loring Bannister, under mine."

"Did the form sit down?" asked Quincy.

"No. The only chair near the table was the one in which Mrs. Bliss sat. I could not resist the inclination to whisper in Jack's ear: 'What do you think of that?' We both turned with the intention of taking another look at 'That,' but it had disappeared and the gas was burning at about half-light.

"Mrs. Bliss arose from her seat with a pleasant smile on her face. 'You said that he had signed it—I understood you to say so, did I not?' I said nothing, but drew the will from my pocket and pointed to the signatures. Then Jack said it was his duty to see the sorrowing family and for me to escort Mrs. Bliss to a car.

"Jack and I took dinner together in a private room at Young's the next day. We decided that it was my duty to present the will for probate. Although it is presumed by the statutes of this Commonwealth that a will is signed by a living man, I was unable to find anything in said statutes to prevent a dead man, if he were so disposed and able, or enabled, doing so."

"Of course the will was presented for probate," said Quincy.

"It was," replied Ned, "and despite the energetic efforts of the avaricious son-in-law, was admitted. His lawyer brought up the point that the will should have had three witnesses, but I showed him the note, told him Mrs. Bliss's story, and declared that I would fight the case up to the Supreme Court if necessary.

"There was no doubt in the mind of the registrar as to the authenticity of the will for was it not duly signed and witnessed by Dr. Bannister, a physician of the highest repute, and Lawyer Colbert, a bright and shining light of the legal profession?"

"Your story taxes my credulity," said Quincy, "but I will not allow it to break our friendship. Tom, kindly ring for that supper to be sent up." He looked at his watch. "Doctor, you've time to spare. 'Tis only nine-thirty."



CHAPTER XXXI

THE GREAT ISBURN RUBY

Mr. Irving Isburn, the proprietor of the great detective bureau was over seventy years of age, and, although he still had a general supervision over the business, and was in his office for a short time anyway, nearly every day, he was leaving the details more and more to his subordinates. From the very beginning Mary Dana had made wonderful improvement in her detective work, and the results of her last case, on which she had been kept in the West for several months, were so satisfactory that she was given practically the entire management of the Bureau.

One day, shortly after her return from the West, Mr. Isburn called her into his private office. He took great interest in electrical inventions, and had one in his office of a decidedly novel design. Back of his office chair, standing against the wall, just behind the door that led into the hallway, was a mahogany bookcase fully seven feet in height. Upon the top were several valuable statuettes, but the most noticeable object was a rosy-cheeked apple. It was not really an apple—only an imitation of one—made of brass. Using the stem as a handle, the upper portion of the apple could be lifted off, forming a cover. The apple was fastened firmly to the top of the bookcase.

While talking over the case in hand with her employer, Miss Dana chanced to fix her eyes upon the brass apple.

"Mr. Isburn, why do you keep that peculiar ornament on the top of your bookcase?"

"Oh, you mean the apple. It contains something that is very valuable. The method of opening it is a secret, but as somebody may succeed in doing so some day I will show you its contents, for otherwise I might be unable to prove that it contained anything."

He opened a secret drawer in his desk, inserted his forefinger and, apparently, pressed a button. The doors of the bookcase flew open as if by magic, and, at the same time, a bell inside the bookcase rang sharply. Miss Dana watched each motion of her employer intently.

"That is all done by electricity," said he. "But it does something else—opens the apple."

He reached up and lifted the cover. Then he removed something from the apple and placed it in Miss Dana's hand.

"Oh, how lovely!" she exclaimed.

It was a ring made of the finest gold and containing an immense ruby.

"That," said her employer, "I call the Isburn Ruby. It belonged to my mother, and it is precious to me, both on account of its great intrinsic value, and as an heirloom."

He dropped it into the brass apple, replaced the cover, and shut the doors of the bookcase.

"That cover can only be removed when the bookcase doors are open; they can only be opened by touching the button in the secret drawer in my desk, and, even then, a notice of the opening is given by the electric bell. I think the ruby is well protected, but if anybody steals it I shall call upon you to find the thief."

Miss Dana said, laughingly, that she feared she would never have a chance to distinguish herself in that direction.

About a fortnight later, Mr. Isburn sat at his desk one morning opening his mail. He was so preoccupied with an interesting letter containing an account of the very mysterious disappearance of a young woman, that he was not aware, for some time, of the presence of a person who stood beside his desk.

He looked up, suddenly, and saw a pretty girl, dressed in picturesque Italian costume, holding a basket filled with roses, pinks, and other cut flowers. Mr. Isburn was passionately fond of flowers and kept a vase filled with them upon his desk. He selected a large bunch of flowers made up of the different kinds.

At that moment the door was opened and a clerk appeared: "Mr. Isburn, there is a call for you on the long distance telephone."

"I will be back in a moment," he said to the flower girl, as he went into an adjoining room. The telephone bell was being rung continuously, and he called "Hello" several times before the tintinnabulation ceased.

The call was from a town some fifty miles away. The operator informed him that No. 42 wished her to tell him that she had a valuable clue in case T 697 and would not return for several days. Mr. Isburn knew that No. 42 was Miss Dana.

He returned to his office. The young Italian girl still stood by his desk holding the basket of flowers. He gave her more than the amount she asked for, and, bowing low and smiling, she left the office: Referring to his call index, he found that T 697 was that of a young man, Tarleton, belonging to a wealthy family, who was the buyer for a manufactory of electrical machines. In their construction, a large quantity of platinum was used, a metal more valuable, weight for weight, than gold. His purchases had been very heavy, but a checking up of stock used showed that not half of it had been applied to actual construction. The question was—"What had become of the missing metal?" and that question it was No. 42's business to answer.

Mr. Isburn was a frequenter of clubs and social functions, partly because he enjoyed them, but, principally, because many valuable clues had been run across while attending them.

He had been invited to be a guest at a reception tendered to an Indian Maharajah. He knew that the East Indian princes were profuse in their use of gems and he decided to wear the ruby, for it was a beautiful stone and would be sure to attract the Maharajah's attention. On opening the brass apple he found, to his astonishment, that the ring was gone. Three days later Miss Dana returned and made her report on the Tarleton case. The young man had stolen the platinum, sold it, and lost the money in speculation. His rich father had made good the company's loss, and there would be no prosecution.

"He'll be a bigger criminal some day," remarked Mr. Isburn.

"Money saved him," said Miss Dana. "While I was in the town a workman stole a pound of brass screws—he is a poor inventor and needed them to complete a model, and he got six months in jail."

"Miss Dana, what punishment would be adequate for the thief who stole my ruby?"

She laughed, and said: "Anybody smart enough to do it, should have a reward."

"The reward," said he, "will go to the one who finds and returns it."

"You are joking, Mr. Isburn."

"I wish I were. No, it is gone. I cannot imagine how it was possible for any one to get possession of that ring. Only you and I knew how to open the bookcase doors, and I would as soon suspect myself as you."

"I am glad that you have that opinion," said Miss Dana. "I have thought several times that I was sorry that you told me about it, for I have felt that if anything happened I should be an object of suspicion."

"Oh, no," cried Mr. Isburn. "No such suspicion ever entered my mind. I could not be so mean and ungenerous as to think such a thing. The only person I suspect is an Italian girl who came in here to sell some flowers. It was the day I received the long distance telephone message from you in regard to the Tarleton case. I was only out of the room a few minutes, and when I came back she was standing just where I left her."

"It would be like looking for a needle in a haystack to find that girl," said Miss Dana.

"Yes, those Italian girls look very much alike. She was one of medium height, as a great many women are. You are of medium height, Miss Dana, so that is a very poor clue to work upon. She had dark hair."

"Mine is light," remarked Miss Dana.

"I did not notice the colour of her eyes—probably black."

"Mine are blue."

"Her complexion was dark."

"Well, I surely have not a dark complexion."

"What do you mean?" asked Mr. Isburn.

"You talk as though you were, in some way, connected with this affair."

"But I am."

"How so?" and Mr. Isburn's voice betrayed his astonishment.

"Don't you remember saying if the ring was lost or stolen that you should call upon me to recover it?"

"Why, yes, I do remember. If you find it, you shall have a big reward. If found, I am going to give the ring to a young lady."

"Who is she? Pardon my hasty inquisitiveness."

"My niece, Rose Isburn. She is my only brother's daughter. He has just died and left her in my charge. Nothing has happened since I began my professional career that has so puzzled and disgusted me as the loss of that ring. I thought myself acute, and I am outwitted by a chit of a girl. I think I'll sell out, take my niece to Europe and marry her off to a Prince or a Duke."

"Don't do it!" laughed Miss Dana. "Leave her your money, and let her choose some honest, clean, young American."

"Well, I think you are right," answered Mr. Isburn, laughing at Mary's half serious, half comic air, "but I must first sell my business. Will you find me a purchaser? I want to travel, and loaf the rest of my life. I've had my fill of adventure and excitement."

"Perhaps you can find a purchaser while I'm finding the ring. As you say, your description of her is very meagre. But she was a flower girl and that is one point gained."

"But she may be selling oranges or dragging a hand-organ to-day."

"True," replied Miss Dana, "and she may be selling flowers again to- morrow," and the conversation dropped.

About a week later, Miss Dana entered Mr. Isburn's private office. There was a smile upon her face, as she cried:

"I have been successful!"

"You usually are," Mr. Isburn remarked, not comprehending to what she alluded.

"You will be somewhat surprised, no doubt, when I tell you—that I have recovered the ruby!"

Mr. Isburn sprang to his feet.

"I know that you are a truthful young woman, Miss Dana, but, pardon me, I shall disbelieve your statement, until the ruby is once more in my hands."

"I have not only recovered the ruby, but I have induced the Italian girl who took it—"

"By George!" cried Isburn, "I always suspected her."

"I have induced the culprit, Mr. Isburn, to come here and place it in your hands."

"Well, you're a wonder, Miss Dana. You should give up being a detective and become a teacher of morals."

Miss Dana ignored his suggestion. "I have her in my office and the door is locked. You see, I have the key here," and she held it up for his inspection.

"She is quite overcome at being discovered. I am going to talk with her for a few minutes. You may come, say, in ten minutes. The door will be unlocked if she is ready. I shall be with her to witness the restitution of your property."

Never did ten minutes pass so slowly as did those to Mr. Isburn. He placed his watch upon his desk and watched each minute as it slowly ticked away. When the time was up, he went to the door of Miss Dana's office. He turned the knob—the door opened at a slight pressure, and he entered. In a chair by the window, with her head bowed, sat a young Italian girl. As Isburn approached her; he glanced about the room, but Miss Dana was not present.

"Signorita," he said, "I am informed that you have come to restore the ring which you took from me." Then he noticed by her side was the same basket in which she had brought the flowers, but this time it was empty.

She rose to her feet and looked into his eyes with a glance of mute appeal. She took up the basket, and walked towards the door, beckoning to him to follow. Without resenting the incongruity of the situation, he did so. They passed through the hallway and into his private office.

She lifted the cover of one side of the basket and took from it a small parcel. She removed the tissue paper disclosing a bunch of cotton wool. From this she extracted the jewel that he prized so highly.

He reached forward to take it, but she drew back. She first shut down the cover of the basket. Then she went to the desk, opened the private drawer and pressed the button. The bookcase doors flew open. Her next move was to place the basket in front of the bookcase. Stepping upon it, which enabled her to reach the apple, she removed the cover, and dropped the ring into its receptacle, replaced the cover, stepped down and took up her basket, then closed the bookcase doors.

"And that's how you did it," ejaculated Isburn, greatly astonished at her coolness and audacity. "But how did you find out how to open the bookcase doors?"

"You told me," said the girl in good English, the first words she had spoken.

"I told you?" he cried.

The Italian girl had a fit of uncontrollable laughter.

"Have you forgotten the old adage, Mr. Isburn, that it is a good plan to set a thief to catch a thief?"

Isburn sank into a chair. "Can I believe my ears? Miss Dana?"

"Exactly," said the young woman. "This is one of my make-ups. This is what I wore when I discovered the clue that led to the arrest of Corona in that Italian murder case."

"But I don't understand yet," cried Isburn. "How could you be here as an Italian flower girl when you telephoned me from a place more than fifty miles away?"

"Money will do a great deal," replied Miss Dana, "but you must tell your subordinates what to do for the money. I induced the operator in that little country town to give you to understand that I was still there. The fact was, I left the noon before, located young Tarleton, turned him over to the police, and was in the city by 8 o'clock. I told the operator to keep on ringing until you came for you were very deaf. Pardon me for that, but I was afraid you would hear the bell when the bookcase doors opened. Now, you know all, and I await my discharge."

Mr. Isburn looked serious. "Miss Dana, I see but one matter to be arranged now, and that is your half-interest in the business. You know I told you that if you found the ruby I would take you as a partner."

"Oh, that's all a joke," cried Miss Dana. "What I did was for fun. I only wished to show you how the thing could be done, and I beg your pardon for causing you so many hours of uneasiness on account of the supposed loss of your valuable ring."

"Yes," said Mr. Isburn, "I feel as though you should make some atonement for the disquietude you have caused me. I shall insist upon going to Europe with Rose, and you must manage the business while we are gone, as full partner."

"The staff won't take orders from a woman." "Yes, they will, if you tell them how you fooled me. If they object then, call for their resignations and engage a new force."



CHAPTER XXXII

"IT WAS SO SUDDEN"

The Hotel Cawthorne was, in some respects, a correct designation but in others a misnomer. It had rooms to let, or rather suites, and it had a clerk. So far, a hostelry. It had no dining room, no bar, no billiard room, no news-stand, no barber shop, no boot-black, no laundry—and in these respects, at least, it belied its name.

Some childless couples, some aged ones with married children, many young men, a few confirmed old bachelors, and a few unmarried women roomed therein. On stormy days, or when their inclinations so prompted, the tenants could have meals served in their rooms at a marked increase over hotel rates.

But the "Cawthorne" was exclusive, and for that reason, principally, Miss Dana had chosen it as her city domicile. Tenants were not introduced to each other, and one could live a year within its walls without being obliged to say good morning to any one, with the possible exceptions of the housekeeper, or the elevator man, but that was not compulsory, but depended upon the tenant's initiative.

Every hotel has an "out"; at the "Cawthorne" it was an "in." The "in" was Mr. Lorenzo Cass, the clerk and general factotum. His besetting sin was inordinate curiosity, but it was this oftentime disagreeable quality which particularly commended him to the ex-Rev. Arthur Borrowscale, the owner of the "Cawthorne."

Mr. Borrowscale had not given up the ministry on account of advanced age, for he was only forty; nor on account of physical infirmity, for he was a rugged specimen of manhood and enjoyed the best of health. His critics, and all successful men have them, declared that he had forsaken the service of God for that of Mammon. While officiating, he had received a large salary. Being a bachelor, he had lived economically and invested his savings in real estate. He was the owner of six tenement houses—models of their kind, and the "Cawthorne." Before leaving college, he had loved a young girl named Edith Cawthorne. She had died, and at her grave he had parted with her,—and love of women, but, that sentiment was not wholly dead within him, the name of his hotel attested.

He had another attribute; he was intensely moral. The "Cawthorne" was his pride, but he had a constant fear that some undesirable—that is, immoral—person would find lodgment in his caravansary. For certain reasons, Mr. Cass was indispensable. He had been a "high roller" until he came under the Rev. Mr. Borrowscale's tutelage.

"Mr. Cass, you know the bad when you see it—I do not. The reputation of my house must be like Caesar's ghost—above suspicion."

He had said "ghost." He had seen but two plays—"Hamlet" and "Julius Caesar," and for that reason his dramatic inaccuracy may be excused.

So Mr. Cass became a moral sleuth, and woe betide an applicant for rooms, and occasional board, who could not produce unimpeachable references, and point to an unsullied record in the past.

Miss Dana's respectability and social standing had been abundantly vouched for, and her financial responsibility had been demonstrated by monthly payments in advance.

It was the first evening Quincy had been out since his illness.

"Is Miss Dana in?" asked Quincy as he presented his card to Mr. Cass.

"I am quite positive she is. I am strengthened in this belief by the fact that she had her supper sent up to her room. A fine specimen of womanhood, and a remarkable appetite for so lovely a creature."

Quincy had an inclination to brain him with the telephone stand, but restrained his murderous impulse.

"Will you please send up my card?" was his interrogatory protest against further enumeration of Miss Dana's charms and gastronomic ability. "No need to do so, Mr. Sawyer," for he had inspected the card carefully. "We have a private telephone in each room. Will you await her in the public parlour?"

"Hasn't she more than one room?"

"Oh, yes; a three room suite, sitting-room, boudoir, which I am sure she uses more as a study, a chamber—and private bath."

Quincy said, "I would prefer to see her in her sitting-room."

"Oh, certainly," replied Mr. Cass. "Our rules are only prohibitive in the case of single chambers or alcove suites, when the caller and tenant are of opposite sexes. The proprietor—he was formerly a clergyman—is tenacious on certain points."

"And so am I," was Quincy's response, for his temper was rising, "and you will oblige me by communicating with Miss Dana at once, and informing her of my desire to see her."

"Oh, certainly," replied Mr. Cass, "but my employer, who, as I have said, was formerly a clergyman, is tenacious on another point; all tenants who receive visitors in their rooms must have their names entered in a book prescribed for the purpose, and also the names of their callers."

Quincy's murderous instinct was again aroused, but Mr. Cass was unmindful of his danger and made the required entry. The humourous side of the affair then struck Quincy, and taking a memorandum book from his pocket, he said:

"I, too, am tenacious on one point. I never visit a hotel for the first time without writing down the name of the clerk. Will you oblige me?"

"Oh, certainly. Cass, Mr. Lorenzo Cass."

"Do you spell it with a 'C'?" asked Quincy, innocently, as he pretended to write.

"Oh, certainly. C-a-s-s-."

"Thank you," said Quincy.

"We make it a rule, or rather my employer does, that tenants and their callers shall be treated with civility and their wants attended to promptly."

Again Quincy eyed the telephone stand with a view to its use as a weapon.

"Ting-a-ling! Ting-a-ling! Miss Dana—yes, Mr. Cass—Mr. Quincy Adams Sawyer, Junior, wishes to call upon you in your sitting-room. Is it agreeable to you? Very well, he will come right up."

Mr. Cass replaced the receiver with deliberation, first unwinding a tangled coil in the cord.

"Take the elevator—third floor—number 42—she insisted upon taking that suite for some personal reason—"

Quincy waited to hear no more but started for the elevator. Mr. Cass reached it as soon as he did, and motioned for the elevator man to postpone the ascent until he had finished his remarks.

"The outside door is locked at eleven, Mr. Sawyer, but you have only to turn the upper handle to insure an exit."

"Your clerk is quite loquacious," remarked Quincy as they slowly mounted upward.

"What's that?"

"He has a sore tongue," said Quincy, as the elevator door was closed behind him.

After cordial greetings on both sides, for they had not seen each other for nearly a year, Quincy exclaimed, as he sank into a proffered easy chair: "Mary, I am a murderer at heart."

"That is not strange, Quincy. I have read that the friends of police officers and detectives often imbibe, or rather absorb, criminal propensities. Who is the intended victim, and how do you expect to escape arrest, conviction, and punishment, after incriminating yourself by a confession to a licensed detective?"

"If I had killed your hotel clerk it would have been due to emotional insanity, and I should expect an acquittal—and, perhaps, a testimonial."

"I got a testimonial to-day from Mr. Isburn. He said I was a wonder."

"I agree with him."

Miss Dana flushed perceptibly.

"He had what he considered a good reason for his compliment. I am afraid yours rests on unsupported grounds."

"Not at all. Have I not known you since you were a child? Can he say as much? Did I not work with you on Bob Wood's case? The help yon were to me in trying to solve the mystery of the return of my father's bill of exchange I will never forget," and for a long time Quincy and Mary talked over the miraculous return of his father.

Finally Quincy said, "I interrupted you. You said that Mr. Isburn considered he had good reasons for complimenting you. Will you tell me what they were?"

"It is a long story."

"I'm all attention."

"Then I'll begin at once. If you need a stimulant at any stage of the narrative, just signify your want and I'll ring for it."

"Is there a bar?"

"No, but there's a cellar."

"I may need some Apollinaris," said Quincy, as he settled himself more comfortably in the easy chair; "as my flesh is again strong, I always take my spirit very weak."

Mary had that sweetest of woman's charm—a low-pitched voice, and as she told the story of the loss of the great Isburn ruby and its recovery Quincy's thoughts were less on the words that he heard than the woman who uttered them. In his mind he was building a castle in which he was the Lord and the story-teller was the Lady.

He was awakened from his dream by Mary's query:

"Didn't I fool him nicely?"

"You certainly did. And so he's going to give you a half-interest in the business. If he keeps his word"—

"Which I very much doubt," interrupted Mary.

"I'll buy the other half and we'll be partners."

He came near adding "for life," but decided that such a declaration would be inopportune. "Why should you engage in business, Quincy? You are not obliged to work."

"That's the unfortunate part of it. I wish I were. I have so much money that I don't know what to do with it, except let it grow. But, speaking seriously, I've no intention of remaining a do-nothing. I'm treasurer of my father's grocery company but I have no liking for mercantile business. I can give away, but can neither buy nor sell— to advantage. I heard a story not long ago that set me thinking."

"I told you my story, Quincy, why not tell me yours?"

"I will. It's a mystery—unsolved, and, I think, unsolvable. But I feel that my vocation will be the solving of mysteries. My mother wrote detective stories and I must have inherited a mania for mysteries and criminal problems. But I'll tell you what set me thinking."

Then he related the story that had been told him by Jack and Ned. As he concluded, he asked: "Do you think it was signed?"

"Of course it was, but not by the dead man."

"By whom, then?" "By Mrs. Bliss. She materialized the form by her mediumistic prowess, but she signed the will."

"But Jack and Ned saw the form, as they called it, take the pen and write his name."

"They thought they did. She hypnotized them so they saw whatever she impressed upon their minds."

"Can sensible, highly educated people be so influenced?"

"The bigger the brain the more easily influenced. She couldn't have so impressed an idiot, or an illiterate, unreceptive man. Let me tell you how a hundred people were fooled lately."

"I should be delighted to hear you tell it."

"You should have sympathy for them, after your spiritualistic experience," said Mary with a smile.

"There is a married couple in this city whom we will call Mr. and Mrs. Cartwright, because those are not their names. They have been married less than two years. He is 68 and she 28, so you see it was what they call a December and May union. It was worse. He is a bank president and his god is money—his diversion sitting in his elegant library and reading de luxe editions of the world's literary masterpieces. She is young, and beautiful, and craves society, attention, admiration.

"She didn't get the last two at home, but society furnished them. He attended her to parties and receptions and then went back to his library until it was time to escort her home.

"One night when he went for her she could not be found. No one had seen her leave—she had mysteriously disappeared. Mr. Isburn gave me the case. I'll make the story short for it is eleven o'clock." "I know how to get out. Mr. Cass told me." "Your knowledge of a method of egress does not warrant an extension of your visit to midnight, does it?" asked Mary laughingly.

"Considering the attractions presented, I think they do," replied Quincy, banteringly.

She resumed her story.

"There was a man in the case, young, handsome, and wealthy. Just such a man as she should have married. They had planned an elopement to Europe. Not together. She was to go to Liverpool, he was to follow later to Paris, and there meet her. Quite ingenious, wasn't it? Our agent at Liverpool was called to locate her and prevent her inamorata from communicating with her, at the same time using his influence to induce her to return to Boston without meeting her lover. His powers of persuasion, I mean our agent's, must have been great, for she consented.

"A month later she attended a reception next door to the house from which she disappeared, and silenced the tongue of scandal by saying that she had been hastily summoned to the bedside of a sick friend, her chum at Wellesley, and had returned home only the day previous. Her last statement was true. Good detective work by a good detective, and a great, big white lie fooled her friends and acquaintances, but if I were her husband she would not lack attention or admiration in the future, and I would furnish it."

"When I get married, I will bear your admonition in mind."

"I have another admonition. If you meet Mr. Cass when you go down, be nice to him. Why, when you know him, he is a treasure. I can bear his inquisitiveness, for it shields me from others. This is my sanctuary, and Mr. Cass protects me from the literary wolves—the reporters. He thinks I am a writer because I have so many books, and, to him, an author is next to an angel. Was he rude to you? You must forgive him, for he is my Saint George who protects me from the Dragon."

Quincy was mollified to a certain extent. "Do I look like a Dragon? If I am one, history came near being reversed, for at one time your Saint George's hold on life was frail."

Late in the afternoon of the next day Quincy made another call on Mary. He had telephoned and learned that she was in her room. Mr. Cass was temporarily absent from his desk and Quincy went at once to the elevator.

"I axed Mr. Cass about his tongue," said the elevator man.

"Was it better?" asked Quincy.

"He said I was labourin' under a misapprihinsion. What's that?"

"He meant that it was improving," said Quincy, as he hurried from the elevator.

"How did you get home last night?" was Mary's salutation as he entered.

"I groped my way down two flights of stairs in the dark. When I opened the front door by the upper handle as Mr. Cass had kindly instructed me to do, I found that gentleman on the steps. 'Quite late,' said he. 'Not for me,' said I. At that moment my auto drew up at the curb."

"A narrow escape from a Cass-trophe," exclaimed Miss Dana. "Pardon the pun, but sometimes he is insufferably loquacious."

Quincy smiled grimly. "He wasn't through with me. He followed me. 'My employer.' he began, 'is very tenacious on several points, and one of them is the acceleration of matrimonial preliminaries, commonly called courting, in the house which he owns and successfully conducts with my humble assistance. Will you allow me to ask you a question?'

"Alexander had opened the auto door, and I stood with one foot on the step."

Quincy was silent for a moment. Miss Dana's curiosity was excited.

"What did he ask you to do?"

"His question was—'are you going to marry Miss Dana?'"

"Preposterous!" cried Miss Dana. "I shall leave the 'Cawthorne' to- morrow. What answer did you give to so impertinent a question?"

"I said, not to-night. Not until to-morrow. Then I jumped in, slammed the door, and off we went leaving Mr. Cass fully informed as to my intentions."

Mary thought, under the circumstances, that a change of subjects was necessary.

"I am working on the Harrison case. I don't believe he poisoned his wife. I think the law killed an innocent man."

"Another Robert Wood affair? Have you seen your little namesake, Mary Wood?"

"Yes. I am going to spend to-morrow in the laboratory making toxic analyses."

"I've been very busy to-day."

"Not working?"

"No, getting ready to. I've bought out an established business."

"You said you disliked business."

"Not this kind. You were right about Isburn. He didn't mean what he said about giving you a half-interest in the agency."

"I'm not disappointed. I didn't think he did. Why should he pay me for returning what I took from him as a professional joke?"

"Well I fixed it up with him, and he will sail for Europe with his niece as soon as we can take charge."

"We? Why, what do you mean, Mr. Sawyer?"

"I mean that I've engaged to pay Mr. Isburn one hundred thousand dollars for his agency, a one-half interest to become mine and the other half to be transferred to my wife as soon as I am married, which will be soon."

"Then you will be my employer," and Mary's blue eyes were opened as wide as they could be.

"Within a week, I shall be Mr. Isburn. I shall not use my own name."

His manner changed instantly.

"This morning I met an old college friend. He was doing the historical points of old Boston with his father and his father's friend, a Rev. Mr. Dysart of Yonkers, New York."

Miss Dana started, and exclaimed, involuntarily, "Mr. Dysart—not Mr. Octavius Dysart?"

"Yes, that was the name. Why, do you know him? I'll be honest, I know you do."

"My mother was born in Yonkers, and Mr. Dysart was the clergyman who officiated at my father's wedding. He used to call on us whenever he came to Boston. But how did he know that you knew me?"

"He said he was going to Fernborough to see your father, and I availed myself of the opportunity to mention my acquaintance with you. He wished you could come and see him."

"Where is he? Of course I will go."

"He is staying with Mr. Larned, my college mate's father, who lives in Jamaica Plain, but he will not be there until this evening. He's attending a religious conference this afternoon and goes to Fernborough early to-morrow."

"Then I can't see him."

"Why not? I'm going out this evening—small party invited—entirely informal—half my auto is at your service."

"Will you get me back to the hotel before the doors are closed? I shall pack up to-morrow."

"I promise," said Quincy. "I will come for you at seven sharp."

Punctually at seven, a closed auto stopped before the "Cawthorne" and Quincy alighted. Mary stepped from the elevator, wearing a new spring costume and a marvellous aggregation of flowers upon her hat, walked to the door without looking at Mr. Cass, and before he could frame one of his employer's tenacious points and follow her, she had been handed into the auto and whirled swiftly away.

"Is Alexander driving?" she asked. "No. He's asleep—up too late last night. We have a strange chauffeur. I selected him for that reason."

"Why, what do you mean?"

"I didn't wish anybody to know where we had gone."

"Why not, pray?"

"I mean, what we'd gone for."

"Nonsense. Why, a friendly call—what more?"

"Are your gloves on?"

"No, I didn't have time. I'll put them on now."

"No hurry—plenty of time. You are agitated. Allow me to feel your pulse."

"You are funny to-night, Quincy."

"Not funny—just happy."

Quincy took forcible possession of her half-resisting hand and slipped a diamond solitaire on the proper finger.

"Why, what are you doing? Isn't it a beauty? Is this the great Sawyer diamond? Whose is it?"

"It's yours. It is an engagement ring. It's the first step towards keeping my promise to Mr. Cass, and he's tenacious, you know. I told you all about it when I called this afternoon. So, please don't say 'this is so sudden.'"

"Are you crazy, Quincy?"

"No, sane. Delightfully so. I told Mr. Cass I couldn't marry you until to-day. I got the license this noon."

They were passing through a dimly-lighted street, but, occasionally, the street lamps threw flashes across two earnest faces. She endeavoured to remove the ring.

"Mary," said Quincy, "if you allow the ring to remain, I shall be a very happy man, dear,—for I love you. I have loved you ever since the day that I thrashed Bob Wood, and when I lay exhausted, you looked down at me with those beautiful blue eyes and said 'all for me!' I am all for you,—are you for me?"

He put his arm about her and drew her towards him; their lips met. A bright light shone in the auto windows—but they were sitting erect— they even looked primly.

"It is a long ride," she ventured.

"Too short," he replied, "and yet, I wish we were there."

Again she spoke: "This is a most unprecedented affair. Can it be real, or are we actors?"

"We are detectives, and they always do unexpected and unprecedented things."

"What will your father say—you a multimillionaire and I a poor girl who works for a living?"

"My mother was poor and blind when my father married her."

"Yes, I know; but she wrote a book and became famous."

"You're a 'wonder' now, and you will become famous."

"What will your friends say?"

"If they wish to remain my friends they will either say nothing, or congratulate me. How shall we be married—in church? I'll spend a hundred thousand on our wedding, if you say so."

"No. As little publicity as possible. Use the money to help those poor creatures who are sick with the disease called crime; that is the symptom. The cause is often bad environment, and the poverty which prevents improvement."

"What a philosopher you are. That simple ceremony suits me exactly, Mary. What a sweet name you have. Why not have Mr. Dysart perform the ceremony? We'll be married with a ring."

Mary laughed: "Where will you get yours?"

"Detectives are always prepared for emergencies. I bought them this noon, after I procured the license. They seemed to go together."

"Well, Quincy, I think you are the most presumptuous mortal in existence. How dared you do such a thing—so many things, I mean?"

"Was not the prize worth even more of an endeavour? I have always thought Young Lochinvar was a model lover. But here we are."

The Rev. Mr. Dysart received them with pleasant words of welcome, and reminiscences of life in Yonkers, and memories of Mary's mother, held Cupid in abeyance for an hour. Quincy passed the license to the clergyman who read it and looked up inquiringly.

"It's all right, isn't it?" Quincy asked.

"Why yes,—but—I never supposed—why, of course—but when?"

"Now, at once," said Quincy. "We must be home by eleven, for they lock the doors."

The simple ceremony was soon over.

"Can you give Mrs. Sawyer a certificate, Mr. Dysart?"

"Fortunately, yes. I bought some to-day, for I needed them."

He went into an adjoining room to fill it out.

"Mary, my darling, I am a rich man—richer than I deserve to be, for I have created nothing—but I would give every dollar of my fortune rather than lose you. Does your wedding ring fit? Mine is all right."

"It ought to be—you had a chance to try yours on."

"I am a designing villain, Mary. While you were telling that story last night, you will remember that I walked about the room. One of your rings was on the mantelpiece and I tried it on."

When the clergyman handed Mrs. Sawyer the certificate, Quincy passed him his fee.

"You've made a mistake, Mr. Sawyer. This is a hundred dollar bill."

"It ought to be a thousand. I'll send you a check for the difference to-morrow—for yourself, or your church, as you prefer."

As they descended the steps, the clergyman raised his hands.

"I wish you both long life and prosperity, and may Heaven's blessing fall upon you."

"Back to the 'Cawthorne,'" said Quincy, as he pressed a small roll of paper into the chauffeur's hand—which roll of paper a friendly street light showed to be a five dollar bill.

"What will that horrid Mr. Cass say?"

"I'll fix him," replied Quincy. "Just await developments, patiently, my dear."

It was a quarter of eleven when they reached the hotel. Mr. Cass was at his desk, the light turned down in anticipation of the closing hour.

"The certificate, darling," Quincy whispered.

"Please turn up the light, Mr. Cass, and read that."

Mr. Cass adjusted his pince-nez. Quincy was relentless. His turn had come.

"Is that in proper form, Mr. Cass? I know your rules are strict, and that your employer holds you to them tenaciously," and there was a strong accent on the last word.

"Would your reverend employer object to your harbouring a newly- married couple for one night? Show him your wedding ring, Mrs. Sawyer. We must satisfy his moral scruples."

Mr. Cass regarded them attentively. Then he said, slowly: "I anticipated such a result, but wasn't it rather sudden?"

"We shall lose the elevator," cried Mary. "It shuts down at eleven."

"Shall we go on a tour?" asked Quincy the next morning.

"I can't leave the Harrison case. I must follow a clue this morning."

"Where shall we live, Mary? In grandfather's house on Beacon Street, or shall I build a new one? I'll make it a palace, if you say so."

"Well, I sha'n't say so—but let's live anywhere but here."

"We'll bid Mr. Cass a long farewell—but I admire his tenacity. He's a sort of moral bull-dog. I might use him in my business."

"Our business, Quincy."

"That's so—we are partners professionally, and lovers ever."

As she disengaged herself from his embrace, Mary exclaimed: "I've planned a model honeymoon for us, Quincy. You must go over the Harrison case with me. I'm sure we can prove that he was an innocent man, and—"

"We'll find the real criminal, Mary, and bring him to justice."

"It will be a long and tedious investigation. I may have to visit every drug store in the city."

"That's easy. I'll buy you a touring car—I will act as chauffeur—"

"Why a touring car—why not a runabout just for two?"

"As you say, my dear. Your word is law—or the next thing to it. By the way, Mary, we must live on Beacon Street."

"Why, must?"

"Because Mr. Strout has bought a house on Commonwealth Avenue, and we must keep the line drawn sharp between the old families and the nou- veaux riches!"

THE END.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5
Home - Random Browse