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Title: The Millbank Case: A Maine Mystery of To-day

Author: George Dyre Eldridge

Illustrator: Eliot Keen

Release date: August 12, 2021 [eBook #66051]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: Henry Holt and Company, 1905

Credits: Sue Clark and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This book was produced from images made available by the HathiTrust Digital Library.)


The Millbank Case



The Millbank Case


With a Frontispiece in Colour
By Eliot Keen



Copyright, 1905

Published May, 1905



I. A Statement of the Case 1
II. Mrs. Parlin Testifies 14
III. Alive at Midnight 33
IV. Trafford Gets an Assurance 51
V. The Weapon is Produced 67
VI. Mrs. Matthewson and Trafford 85
VII. Hunting Broken Bones 101
VIII. A Man Disappears 119
IX. “You are My Mother” 133
X. A Second Murder? 153
XI. Already One Attempt 167
XII. At the Drivers’ Camp 185
XIII. The Priest’s Story 199
XIV. A Duel 212
XV. In Matthewson’s Chambers 227
XVI. The Range 16 Scandal 243
XVII. The Story of the Papers 259
XVIII. The Man is Found 275
XIX. The Last of the Papers 290



A Statement of the Case

THEODORE WING had no known enemy in the world. He was a man of forty; “well-to-do,” as they say in New England; a lawyer by profession, and already “mentioned” for a county judgeship. He was unmarried, but there were those who had hopes, and there was scarce a spinster in Millbank who hadn’t a kindly word and smile for him—at times. He was not a church member, but it was whispered that his clergyman was disposed to look leniently on this shortcoming, for Wing was a regular attendant at service and liberal with money for church purposes, which, shrewd guessers said, some of the church members were not.

Wing lived in the River Road, just at the top of Parlin’s Hill. He was from “over East, somewheres,”2 and had come to Millbank as a law student, when old Judge Parlin was at the head of the Maine bar. He became in turn chief clerk, junior partner, and finally full partner to the judge, and when the latter died—of disappointment, it was said, due to failure to secure the chief justiceship—Wing became the head of the firm, and finally the firm itself; for he had a dislike for partnerships, and at forty his office associates were employés associated in particular cases, not partners in the general business.

Judge Parlin was less than sixty years of age when he died and left a widow, the Parlin homestead, and an estate of private debts, that seemed to breed as Wing attempted to untangle affairs. For years his income had been large and his expenses small. His townsmen had rated him as their richest man who was not of the great Millbank logging firms. There was not a man but would have considered it an insult to the town to hint that Judge Parlin was worth less than a hundred thousand dollars. His investments turned out the veriest cats and dogs; and even in cases where the security might have been ample, the papers were often executed3 with such carelessness that collection rested on the honesty of the borrower and not on sufficiency of documentary evidence. In fact, the debts outvalued the resources two to one—that is, they seemed to, until it was announced that the Parlin homestead had been sold for a sum sufficient to pay all obligations and leave the widow a life income of five hundred dollars a year. People understood when it was learned that Wing himself was the purchaser.

Mrs. Parlin was fifty years of age at the time of her husband’s death—a woman to whom stateliness had come with white hairs and the growth of ambition. From the hour of the judge’s death, the devotion she had given him living turned to the protection of his good name. In a distant, cold way she had always shown a regard for Wing, which changed to more marked affection, when his interposition provided the means to meet the last of her husband’s debts. She harboured no suspicion that the price paid for the homestead was beyond value. Not only had it been her home throughout her married life, but the judge had always spoken of its value in the large terms that were habitual with him in dealing4 with personal matters, and, from the moment when Wing discovered the condition of the estate, he held before her constantly the idea that the homestead would bring a price sufficient to cover the indebtedness. Indeed, she felt that she was making a sacrifice, when she consented to waive her dower rights, and chiefly she rejoiced that the purchaser was Wing and not a stranger.

It is possible that some suspicion attached in her mind to the purchase of the annuity, and this may have been confirmed by Wing’s insistence that he would consent to occupy the homestead only on condition that she should make it her home for her lifetime. If, however, this was so, she proved herself large-minded enough to understand that her happiness—so far as this was possible to her now dwarfed life—was the best acknowledgment she could make to such a man, and during the five years since the judge’s death, she had been the mistress of Wing’s home.

The house stands at the crown of Parlin’s Hill. The estate embraces twenty acres, divided nearly equally between farm land, meadow, and woodland.5 The portion lying west of River Road is an apple orchard, covering the slope of the hill from the road to the river. The roll of the land is to the southwest, where all through the summer days the sun lies in warm splendour, that seems to live in the heart and juices of the red and yellow fruit, which is the pride of Millbank. To have apples from the Parlin orchard, is to have the best that Millbank can give.

The house is near the road on the easterly side. The winter snows are too deep to warrant building far from the travelled roads, and for the same reason the buildings are connected one with another, under a continuous roof, so that the breaking of roads and paths is unnecessary for access to stock. The house is large and square, with a long wing stretching to the ample woodshed, through which one passes to the barns. The body of the buildings is white, and the shutters green. A drive runs to the south of the house, leading from the road to the doors of the great barn. It passes the side door of the main house, the door to the wing and the woodshed, and the buildings shelter it from the fierce northern6 winds. In the flower-beds that border this drive, under the shelter of the house, the earliest flowers bloom in spring and the latest in autumn.

Between the road and the front of the house is an enclosure of about half an acre—the “front yard,” as Millbank names it. A footpath runs from the front gate to the main door of the house, dividing the enclosure into two nearly equal parts. This enclosure is crowded with flower-beds and shrubbery; the paths are bordered with box hedges, while a few great evergreens tower above the roof, and make the place somewhat gloomy on dull days. In midsummer, however, when the sun turns the corner and thrusts strongly into the enclosure, the deep shadows of the great trees are cool and inviting.

From the principal door, the main hall, broad and unencumbered, makes back until it is cut by the narrower hall from the south-side door. This side hall carries the stairs, and east of it are the dining room, kitchens, and pantries. The main hall goes on, in narrowed estate, between the dining room on the south and kitchens on the north, to the woodsheds. To the left, as one enters the house, is the great parlour,7 seldom used, and a sitting room, the gloomiest room on the floor, for it has a northern outlook only.

In the angle of the two halls is the great room which Wing used as his library. It is some twenty-four by thirty-six feet, high-posted, and has a warm, sunny outlook to the south and west. It is lined with books and pictures; a great desk stands in the centre front, and lounges and easy chairs are scattered about in inviting confusion. The room above was his bedchamber, adjoining which is a bathroom, in its day the wonder and challenge of Millbank. An iron spiral stairway leads from the lower to the upper room, so that the occupant has the two rooms at his command independent of the remainder of the house. This was Wing’s special domain. Outside these two rooms, Mrs. Parlin ruled as undisputed as during her thirty years of wifehood. Within, Wing held control, and while no small share of his personal work was done here, the great room saw much of his private life of which his everyday acquaintances had little suspicion. The cases contained many a volume that belongs to literature8 rather than law, and here he found that best of rest from the onerous demands of a constantly growing practice—complete change in matter and manner of thought.

On the night of the 10th of May, 1880, the light burned late in Lawyer Wing’s library. It was the scandal of Millbank that this occurred often. The village was given to regarding the night as a time when no man should work. “Early to bed and early to rise” was its motto, and though an opposite practice had left Theodore Wing with more of health, wealth, and wisdom than most Millbankians possessed, he had never succeeded in reconciling his townsmen to his methods. But to-night conditions were more outrageous than usual. Mrs. Merrick, from the bed of an ailing grandchild, glanced up the hill at midnight and saw the light still burning. Old Doctor Portus, coming villageward from a confinement case, an hour later, saw the light as he passed the house and shook his head with dire prognostications. If Wing should be sick, old Doctor Portus would certainly not be called in attendance, and therefore he could measure this outrage of nature’s9 laws with a mind uninfluenced by personal bias.

At four o’clock, however, a farmer’s son, who had yielded the night to Millbank’s temptations, hurrying farmward to his morning chores, saw no light growing dim in the first flush of the spring morning to attract his attention to a scene that later knowledge revealed. At six, the hired man came down the back stairs and went through the woodshed to the barns. Turning the heavy wooden bar that held the great doors fast, he swung them open and let in the soft morning air.

Then, his eye travelled along the stretch of house and he saw something that startled him. The side door was standing ajar—half open—and on the stone step was a huddled mass that looked strangely like a man, half lying and half crouching. Before the hired man had passed half the distance to the door, he knew that the huddled mass was Theodore Wing. His head and right arm rested on the threshold and held the door from closing; his body was on the stone step. There was blood spattered on the white of the westerly door-post, and the left10 temple of the man, which was upward as he lay, showed a spot around which the flesh was blackened as if powder-burnt, while between the head and the threshold a thin stream of blood still flowed and fell drop by drop on the stone below. The eyes were wide open and the look in them seemed to say that, suddenly as death had come, it had not come too suddenly for the man to realise that here had fallen the end of his hopes and ambitions, his strivings and accomplishments, in a form that left him powerless to strike a blow in his own behalf.

This murder was the most tragic event that had ever happened in the history of Millbank. It caused the more terror in that, so far as any one could understand, it was absolutely without motive. It was not known that Theodore Wing had an enemy in the world. Millbank was proud of him with a wholesome, kindly pride, which found much of self-gratulation in having such a citizen. Yet this man had been struck down by a murderer’s hand, so silently that no sound had been heard, and the murderer had gone as he had come, without leaving trace of his coming or going.

11 Contrary to expectation aroused by the first news, the house seemed not to have been entered. The whole of the crime was evidenced in the dead man on the stone step. Apparently, there had been a ring at the bell and a shot from a pistol, held close to the head of the man, as he stood in the doorway, by some one who had stationed himself at the easterly end of the doorstep, and who, his purpose accomplished, slipped into the darkness which had opened to give him way for this deed. It was uncanny in the extreme and gave a sense of insecurity to life that an ordinary murder, due to traceable causes, would have failed utterly to give.

The closest inspection furnished no clue. There was no footprint on the drive, and the grass at the end of the step, where the murderer must have stood, gave no token. And yet—here was another fearsome fact—the deed had been done by some one who knew the house and its peculiarities. The door had two bell-pulls, one on either door-post. Originally there had been only the one on the right or easterly post, and this was the general bell. When Wing took the library as his special room, he had a12 change made and the bell transferred to that room, so that his personal visitors could come and go without disturbing the house. In a little time, however, this proved very annoying, because most visitors came to this door, and he gave an order for a general bell to be put in. This he intended should also have a pull on the right-hand post, but the workman, who seemed to have no conception that one post could carry two pulls, put it on the left. Thus the post nearest Wing’s room carried the general bell, and the further post his own, and neither of the bells could be heard on the premises devoted to the other. At first, this condition gave rise to troublesome mistakes, and Wing talked often of a change, but gradually the visitors to the house became accustomed to the condition and the need of a change disappeared.

It was clear, therefore, that whoever the murderer was, he had rung the bell which alone could be heard by the lawyer at his desk, and therefore must have been acquainted with the peculiarity of the bell-pulls. Had the lawyer had any cause to fear? Apparently not, for the shade to the window nearest his desk was raised and he evidently had answered the13 bell as a matter of course, not even taking with him a light. But, if he was seated at his desk, as seemed clearly the case, the man must have seen him as he came up the drive and might easily have shot him through the window. Why, then, had he called him to the door? The body had not been disturbed after it fell; the watch was in the fob, and money in the pocket. Murder was evidently the murderer’s purpose; yet he had summoned his victim, when clearly he had him in his power without so doing.


Mrs. Parlin Testifies

IN addition to the ill-fated lawyer, there were but three people in the Parlin household—the widow; a general house girl, Mary Mullin; and the hired man, Jonathan Oldbeg, a nephew of the Mullin woman. Oldbeg was about thirty, and his aunt forty. The widow’s room was in the northwest corner of the second floor, while that of the Mullin woman was over the kitchen. The hired man slept over the woodshed. All the windows of the three rooms gave to the north, excepting two in Mrs. Parlin’s room, which opened to the west, overlooking the orchard and the river.

Mrs. Parlin was a tall, striking woman who carried her head, crowned with waves of white hair, with an air that some named queenly, and others by that terrible New England word “conceited.” The death of her husband had been a terrible blow to her soaring ambitions; but this she had outlived, at least15 to outward seeming. Childless, as well as husbandless, the dormant maternal instinct, which is a part of every true woman, had stirred to life under the care lavished upon her by Wing, whose years were sufficiently less than her own to give a natural tone to the pseudo relation of mother and son. Nevertheless, there had been something of the maternal in her relationship to the judge—of that phase of the maternal which gives to natural weakness courage for defence. It was not in personal finance alone that the judge was a grown-up boy. The sense of fear was so little developed as to amount scarce to caution. Scrupulous in duty, he gave no thought to the enemies or enmities he created, while she saw in these not alone threats to his professional career, but as well danger of a personal nature. Even she, standing guard as she did, had not been able to save him from enemies who defeated his noble ambition and would, as she believed, as readily have destroyed him. As the intensity of her grief softened with time, the solicitude with which she had followed her husband’s career, was transferred to Wing, but with less of the factor of self than it possessed of old, with16 the result that she grew more lovable and companionable, and gained a friendly interest from the village which had not been hers during the judge’s lifetime.

To this recovered peace of mind the tragic death of Wing came as a crushing blow, the full weight of which few realised until the broken, haggard woman was seen of the public for the first time at the inquest. Years seemed to have left their impress upon her, and there were many who noted that the immediate physical effect was as much more marked than that following the judge’s death, as Wing’s death had been the more tragic. Her husband’s death left to her the responsibility of protecting his name, in co-operation with his partner and friend. Wing’s death snatched away the last prop and stay of her years. Husbandless and childless, to her life had no further meaning, and while the community was whispering that she was again rich—for it was known that she was the principal legatee of the dead lawyer’s will—she was looking down the years with a dread that made hope impossible.

Her testimony was of the briefest. She had said17 “good-night” to Wing at half-past nine. She had gone to the library for that purpose, as was her custom evenings when he did not sit with her in her own sitting room till her early bedtime.

“Was it his custom to spend the evening in your sitting room or the library?” the coroner asked.

“Two or three evenings a week he spent in my sitting room. The other evenings in the library, when he was at home.”

“Was he away much, evenings?”

“Only when he was at court in Augusta or Portland. When he had cases at Norridgewock he always drove home at night.”

“At what time did you have supper?”

“At six.”

“On the night of the murder?”

The witness nodded, too much affected to speak her answer.

“Who was present at supper?”

“Theodore and myself.”

“Mary Mullin and Oldbeg did not eat with you?”

This was a sore spot in Millbank’s estimate of the widow Parlin. The town still held it a Christian18 duty for “help” to eat at the same table with their employers. Every departure from this primitive rule was occasion for heart-burnings and recriminations.

“They ate by themselves in the kitchen.”

There was a slight raising of the head, a shadow, as it were, of the old self-assertive pride, which in other days would have made itself manifest in answering this question. So deep was Millbank in the tragedy that the audience almost lost the weight of the heinous fact confessed in this answer.

“Did you go directly to your sitting room after supper?”

“No, we went out into the front yard, to look at the flower-beds, and then crossed the road to the orchard and walked through that to the river-bank.”

“From there you returned to the house?”


“Where did you go on your return?”

“To my sitting room. He lighted my lamp and then excused himself, because of some work he had to do.”

19 “When did you see him again?”

“At half-past nine, when I went to bid him good-night.”

“Are you certain of the time?”

“Yes; for I stopped to wind the clock as I went through the hall, and noticed that it was exactly half-past nine.”

“There are two doors to the library, are there not—one from the main hall and one from the side?”


“By which one did you enter the library?”

“By the one from the side hall.”

“Which is near the side door of the house?”

Again she had to nod assent. This was the door through which Wing had passed to his death.

“Did you knock at the door before entering?”


Again that slight suggestive raising of the head.

“Did he open the door for you?”

“Yes. He knew my knock, and always came to open the door.”

20 “Did you notice anything peculiar about him or the room?”

“I did not.”

“Was there anything to indicate whether he was writing or reading when you knocked?”

“He had a book in his left hand and the light was on a small table by his reading chair.”

“This reading chair and table, where were they in the room?”

“Before the fireplace, about the centre of the north side.”

“Was there a fire in the fireplace?”

“Yes; there were a few wood coals.”

“Was it a cold night?”

“No; but he was very fond of a wood fire and when the evening was not too warm had one, even if he had to have a window open.”

“Was the window open that night?”

“Yes; the one nearest the River Road, overlooking the driveway.”

“That was the nearest window to the desk?”

“The nearest of the south windows. The desk stood between the two west windows.”

21 “Did you notice whether the shades were drawn?”

“They were drawn to the west windows, but were raised to all four of the south windows.”

“Were you long in the room?”

“Only long enough to say ‘good-night’ and ask him not to read too late.”

“What did he say to this?”

“Laughed, as he always did, when I spoke of his sitting up late, and,” in a voice that was almost a sob; “said, ‘You know, mother, I can’t get over my bad habits, but really to-night I’m only going to read a chapter or two more, for I must write a letter and then go to bed. I’ve got a busy day to-morrow.’”

“Was that all he said?”

“Excepting ‘good-night.’”

“Do you recall anything in his manner, tone, or words that indicated trouble or apprehension of any kind?”

“Nothing. He was, as always, cheerful and, seemingly, happy, and laughed quite carelessly when he spoke of his bad habit.”

22 “When did you next see him?”

The question came with a suddenness that startled every one who heard it, including the witness. She grew white and for a moment swayed as if she would fall. Dr. Rogers, her physician, stepped towards her, but before he could reach her side, she recovered by what seemed a supreme effort of the will, and, raising her head, answered:

“In the morning, a little after six, lying dead on the threshold of the south door.”

Then her head dropped on the table in front of her, and her face was hidden from the gaze of her curious neighbours, but not a sob was heard. She had spent her tears long before.

At an adjourned session, she testified that she had heard no unusual noise during the night. She was a sound sleeper and did not wake easily. She had fallen asleep soon after hearing the clock strike ten. She did not recall awaking until aroused by the noise made by Mary Mullin knocking at her door, soon after six o’clock, to tell her of the discovery of the murder.

“Do you believe that a pistol shot could have been23 fired at your side door and you not hear it?” the coroner asked, with that sudden sharpness he had at times.

“I am compelled to believe that it did occur;” and there was to more than one onlooker an air of defiance in the answer.

“In advance of this, would you believe it possible?” he demanded.

She looked at him as if weighing the question and its purpose, and then said deliberately:


The answer manifestly accorded with the sense of the spectators, among whom there were sundry exchanges of glances not all friendly to the witness. But the coroner was speaking again:

“Mrs. Parlin, what do you know of the parentage of the late Theodore Wing?”

Every head was bent towards the witness to catch the answer to what the veriest dullard suspected was the most important question thus far asked. The witness grew pale—paler than she had been at any time, and there came into her bearing a touch of defiance rather felt than seen. She was apparently24 arming herself against coroner and spectators.

“He was the son of Judge Parlin.”

If she had aimed at sensation, she could not have hoped for greater success. A murmur of surprise ran about the room, and the confusion rose to a height that for a time defied the efforts of the coroner to preserve order. Curiosity to hear further questions and answers came to his aid, and silence was restored.

“By a former marriage?”

“No. He was born out of wedlock.”

“When did you first learn of this?”

“On the eleventh of this month.”

“The day succeeding the murder?”


“How did you learn of it?”

“From a paper in the judge’s handwriting, found in Theodore’s desk, and enclosed in an envelope addressed ‘Mrs. Amelia Parlin; Mr. Theodore Wing; to be opened and read by the survivor, in event of the death of either, and until such death to remain unopened.’”

25 “Was this inscription also in the handwriting of your late husband?”

Now many noted that she had said “Judge Parlin,” and not “my late husband,” as if she would remind them from the start of the public’s share in his acts, rather than of her own.

“It was.”

“Please produce that paper.”

The witness drew forth a large square envelope and handed it to the coroner, who said to the jury:

“I regret that I am compelled to read to you a paper which was evidently intended for one person’s reading only, and that Mrs. Parlin or Mr. Wing, according as the one or the other should be the longest-lived. The circumstances of the death which placed this in the hands of the other for perusal, leaves no alternative. Before reading, let me say, I was a townsman of Judge Parlin: I had the honour to know him intimately, and notwithstanding what I am about to read you, I still hold it an honour. He was an able lawyer, an upright judge, a good citizen, and, I may add, a noble man. If he sinned, who of us is there that is without sin? If there be such, let26 him cast the first stone. I am not entitled to do so.”

The widow sat with head held high, as if there had come to her again the old strength that so many felt was gone forever. When her husband was in question, her courage had no limit. She flinched from no eye that was turned towards her, but there was that in her own which seemed to resent even the kindly words of the coroner, as if in protest that they implied wrong in her husband’s past which she would not for one instant admit. It was not for them to accuse, still less to excuse. What he had done was a thing that concerned him and his God alone, and her look said more plainly than words, “neither do I accuse him!” The instinct of defence covered her as a shield.

Meantime the coroner read:

“‘There were three persons who had the right to know what I am about to write. One died many years ago. Until another dies, these words are not to be read. In the course of nature, it is probable that the reading will fall to Theodore, not to my wife. If so, I believe that when Theodore reads27 them, I will already have been reunited to my wife and will have told her all that I write here, and so told it that she will feel my sincerity more clearly than I can make it felt by any written words.

“‘Although born and raised in Millbank, I read law in the office of Judge Murdock in Bangor. My father had a great admiration for the judge and, dying early, before he had seen me admitted to the bar, asked his friend to take me into his office. If I have attained anything of note in my profession, I owe it largely to the fidelity with which Judge Murdock discharged his trust.

“‘While in his office and shortly before I returned to Millbank, I became involved with a young woman of Bangor, who became by me the mother of the man now known as Theodore Wing—he will find his name legally established by action of the Legislature in 1841. Unfortunately, I can say little that is good of her; I will say nothing otherwise, if I can avoid it. I shirk no part of the responsibility for the wrong done. God alone knows that if she failed in true womanhood, then or after, it was not I who was wholly to blame. Thus much I can say, she was and28 is a woman of brilliant mind and shrewd resources, which have carried her far socially.

“‘Fortunately I did not lack money, and so was able to provide comfortably for the woman and her child. As a matter of justice, I offered marriage, but she made it a condition that her child should be placed in some institution, urging that it would otherwise always be a stigma upon us. To this I would not consent, and her election to forego the vindication of marriage put me on my guard, for I could not believe that a woman of her temperament would deliberately elect to go through life encumbered with an unfathered child. The event proved me right, for within three months she had placed the infant in an institution for orphans, and returned to Bangor with a plausible tale accounting for her absence.

“‘She, of course, counted safely on my silence, but I did not hesitate to make it a condition that I should take possession of the child for whom I provided, rearing him in such a way that he has taken a place in the world equal to that of his parents, and as untrammelled by his unsuspected birth as it is possible for one to be. My marriage has never been29 blessed with children, and thus to him and my wife of thirty years, the two on earth whose claim upon me is most sacred, I am able to leave all that I have accumulated.

“‘He has been to me all that a son could be. Let this narrative be to him, if he ever reads it, an explanation of anything in which I have been less than a father to him.

“‘I see no necessity for continuing this narrative further, save that it may be to my son a relief to know something more of his mother, and to my wife a joy to know that my wrong did not bring a woman to misery and worldly ruin. Within a year of her desertion of my son, I attended her wedding to a man of equal social rank, who has since risen to wealth and political power. She has been a notable aid to him, and her name is well-nigh as often pronounced in connection with his fortunes as is his own. She is the mother of children who have taken good social positions, and some of whom seem to have inherited their mother’s brilliance of mind and unflinching purpose and their father’s ability in money and power getting. To say more than this, even to30 the two dear ones, of whom one alone is to read these lines, would be an injustice to the woman herself and to her children. To her influence, exerted against me, I attribute my failure to secure the chief justiceship. As great as was the disappointment, I can write the fact to-day without bitterness toward her and without purpose to accuse her of injustice. If by meeting the penalty of my sin, I can avert it from others, I am content.’”

Unless one knew the unbending spirit of the man in matters of right and wrong, he must fail to understand the keenness of feeling covered by the apparently cold, formal statement of fact to which Judge Parlin had confined his written words. To the witness on the witness rack, however, those words were as if the living man spoke again and laid bare a heart torn with the humiliation of self-condemnation, more terrible to him than the judgment of any human tribunal. Realising the bitterness of spirit in which he had spoken, she was stirred anew by that long-dead instinct of protection, which had made her weakness a shield in the past to his strength, and held high her head, too proud of her dead to allow31 any one to find in her the faintest blame for this strong spirit whose words she, and she alone, read to their last meaning.

The hush that followed the reading was that strong suspension of every function which betokens deep emotion. Before the mass had recovered, the coroner’s voice broke harshly upon them:

“When did you first know of the existence of this paper?”

“The paper itself on the eleventh. I saw the envelope and its address by accident a week or ten days before.”

“Can you fix the exact date?”

“I cannot. I saw it by accident, as I have said, and I assumed it related to something Judge Parlin had desired done in the event named on the envelope. I asked no questions regarding it.”

“Will you state on oath that you knew nothing of the contents of this paper until after the death of Mr. Theodore Wing?”

The white head went up, and there was a sting of rebuke in the tone in which the answer came:

“I was under oath when I gave my testimony. I32 stated then that I first learned of this paper and its contents on May eleventh. I can add nothing to that.”

“Did you ever suspect the relationship of your husband to Mr. Wing prior to the eleventh of this month, when you saw this paper?”

“I did not.”

“Would a knowledge of that relationship, if you had known it while he was living, have changed in any way your feeling towards Mr. Wing?”

The witness paused as if she would question her own heart before answering, and the coroner waited patiently, with apparent understanding of the need. A hush fell on the room, like that which had followed the reading of the remarkable paper. Then Mrs. Parlin looked directly at the coroner and answered distinctly and without a tremor in her voice:

“I think it would.”

“Thank you,” said the coroner. “I am sorry if I have in any way disturbed you unnecessarily in this examination. I know that you believe I have aimed simply at my duty.”


Alive at Midnight

AN hour after the close of the day’s session, Mrs. Parlin was in her sitting room, with the door closed and the shades lowered. On the opposite side of the small light-stand sat a rather undersized man, plainly dressed, and of somewhat insignificant aspect. Distinctly, the woman in her was disappointed.

“I have sent for you, Mr. Trafford,” she said, slowly and apparently reluctantly, “because both my husband and Theodore—Mr. Wing—had the utmost confidence in your ability. I want you to find Mr. Wing’s murderer. It’s not a matter of cost—I simply want him found.”

As she spoke, she gathered confidence, and the tone of her final words almost evidenced a belief that he could do what she asked. She stopped speaking, and the insignificance of the man’s appearance was again more real to her and sent a chill over her earnestness.

34 “If you entrust the case to me,” he said, in a tone singularly winning for a man in his station and of his personal appearance, “I shall do my best to sustain the confidence Judge Parlin and Mr. Wing gave me; but let me warn you, in my profession there is no royal road. I have no instinct that enables me to scent a murderer or other criminal. I reach results by hard work, close attention to details, and perseverance. I make it a condition of undertaking any case that nothing shall be concealed from me. I must start with at least the knowledge that my principal possesses.”

“I’ve told everything to the coroner. If I’m not mistaken, you’ve heard the testimony.” She spoke with dignity, almost with hostility, in her voice.

“I heard the testimony,” he said, “but are you sure you’ve told everything? There’s sometimes things that we know which aren’t facts—that is, not facts as the term is understood when one is giving testimony.”

“For instance?”

“You have impressions of what led up to this tragedy.” There was nothing of question in his35 tone. It was as if he stated what was indisputable.

The statement seemed to strike her and to arouse a new train of thought. She was silent for some time, and he sat watching anxiously, but without a sign of impatience. At last she looked up and answered:

“You are mistaken; I’m absolutely in the dark. There’s nothing to point in any direction.”

He accepted the disappointment, but accepted it as absolute. He evidently had striven by the assertion so positively made to surprise her into new thought, with the hope that it might hit on something that in his skilled hands would have meaning. He saw not only that he had not succeeded, but that there was no ground for success.

“That, in itself,” he said, “is significant. It shows that we must dig deeper in his life than we have yet done. The motive; we want the motive!”

“There was no motive,” she said. “It was motiveless. There are men who do murder for murder’s sake.” Under sting of her life experience, she spoke with keen bitterness.

36 He leaned across the table, and for the instant she saw something in the man she had not seen before; something that flashed like a gleam of new intelligence and was gone with its very birth.

“There are no motiveless crimes,” he said. “In this case, of all others, you may be sure a motive existed, and that when we put our hands on it, we shall find it a tremendous one—that is, tremendous in its imperative force.”

“But what could be the motive—against a man like him?”

“Because he was such a man, we may be the more certain of motive,” he said. “Under other conditions it might have been Judge Parlin.” He spoke at hazard—perhaps; but the effect was something startling. She grew pale as at the inquest before she answered as to the first knowledge of Wing’s death, and her companion expected for the moment that she would faint. But she was a woman equal to noteworthy sudden efforts, and even as he watched she overcame the momentary weakness. Yet it was with pale lips she stammered:

“I understand. It might have been the judge.”

37 Trafford waited, seemingly expecting something more, but when the pause grew awkward, he continued, “He told you he had a letter to write before he went to bed. Had he written it?”

“I don’t know. It’s a thing we never shall know.”

“It’s a thing that we will know, and that in a very short time. Who entered the room first that morning?” and there was a sense of action in his tone that caused her to look up with sudden interest.

“I did. Mary told me expressly that she hadn’t dared open the door until I came, and Jonathan was by the body, outside.”

“Was the door closed?”


“Who closed it?”

“I have never asked. I supposed it hadn’t been open.”

“It was open,” he said. “He came to the door without a light when the bell rang. Naturally, he left the door open so that the light from the room would shine through. He would leave it wide open, to get the full light. Somebody shut that door!”

38 Mary and Jonathan were called and questioned. The latter set the matter at rest. When he discovered the body he stooped over it to make certain that Mr. Wing was dead. Then, remembering to have heard that you must not touch a murdered man until the coroner comes, he arose without touching him and as he did so saw through the outer door that the door to the library was closed.

“The outer door was wide open?” Trafford said.

“No, sir, ’twant neither. ’Twas against Mr. Wing’s head and arm. If it hadn’t been fur them, it would ’a’ shut too.”

After the two had gone, Trafford declared he would see the room, but proposed first to do so alone. He entered from the main hall, set his light on the lamp-mat on the writing-desk, and took his station in front of the door from the side hall. Here he stood for at least ten minutes studying the room. Then he walked to a medium-sized safe that stood to the right of the fire-jamb and was partially hidden by book-shelves near the door from the side hall.

Having studied this for some time, he made a minute examination of every part of the room, including39 the blotting paper in the writing-pad on the desk, which he finally lifted carefully and held before the mirror to examine the few ink-marks it showed. Of these he took note in a small memorandum book. They seemed to be the only things that struck his attention particularly. Then he rang and told Mary to ask Mrs. Parlin to come to the library.

“Is that the blotting-pad that was here that night?” he asked. “And you were the first one who came to this desk in the morning?” when she had answered him as to the identity of the pad. “And there was no letter on the desk?”


“Then, evidently he had not written the letter he told you of?”

“Evidently not,” she assented.

“Then he must have been killed before he had time to write?”

“It would seem so.”

“And, therefore, probably very soon after you left him?”

“I can see no other conclusion, unless he changed his mind and didn’t write,” she assented.

40 “Now we come to one of the impressions which you could not testify to as a fact, but which may be of far more value. Did he say he had a letter to write in a way that makes you think he may have changed his mind?”

“No,” she said. “I understood, from the way in which he said it, that it was the important thing he had to do before going to bed. I went away satisfied that he would write the letter early and then get to bed. He certainly meant that the next day was to be a busy one.”

“Then he probably was killed, very soon, since he had not written the letter.”

“I think so.”

“Now, if you please, let me send for Jonathan again.”

When the hired man came, he glanced over his shoulder in an uneasy way, as if he did not more than half like the room. Trafford motioned him to a chair and without any preliminaries suddenly demanded:

“At what hour are you going to testify that you went to bed that night?”

41 Thus far Oldbeg had simply been called upon to testify to the finding of the body. The remainder of his testimony was to be given later.

“About nine o’clock; not more’n five minutes one way or ’tother.”

“What were you doing on Canaan Street at five minutes after midnight?”

Oldbeg looked frightened, and Mrs. Parlin showed considerable anxiety in the look she cast on the two men.

“Come,” said Trafford sharply. “If I can find out you were there, I can find out why you were there. I’d rather hear it from you.”

“I was comin’ from the twelve-o’clock train. My cousin, Jim Shepard, went to Portland to work an’ I saw him off.”

“Be careful,” Trafford warned him. “If you were coming from the station, you’d have come up Somerset Street, not Canaan.”

“Why, ye see,” the man explained, placed at once at his ease in having something to tell of which he had knowledge; “Jim, he was spendin’ the evenin’ with his gal, Miss Flanders, in Canaan Street, an’42 I was to call fur him thar; an’ he was so late we couldn’t get round to the station, an’ so we made a short cut through Gray’s Court an’ jest catched the train, an’ that was all. We had to run, or he’d ’a’ missed it any way. So I come back that way, instead o’ through Somerset Street.”

“Then you came through Canaan Street to River Road——”

“No, I didn’t,” the other interrupted. “I cut across lots back o’ Burgess, ’cause ’twas shorter, an’ struck River Road down in front of Miller’s.”

“Yes; and then came up to the driveway and so into the house?”


“You must have got in about ten minutes after twelve.”

“Jest to a dot!” he exclaimed in evident admiration of the other’s shrewdness. “Jest to a dot. I looked to my watch an’ ’twas jest ten minutes arter midnight.”

“Then you must have passed close to the side-door step?”

43 “Yess’r; fact, ye might say, I hit agin it, for I did knock my toe agin it as I passed.”

“Was Mr. Wing’s body there then?” The demand was quick and imperative.

“No, siree! Do you s’pose I’d ’a’ waited till mornin’ to rout ’em out ef it had ben? Mr. Wing was in this ere room.”

“How do you know?”

“I saw his shadder on the curtain. He was walkin’ up an’ down. I seed him turn as I come up the drive.”

“But why didn’t you see him? The shade was up to that window, when he was found in the morning.”

“Yep; but they was all down when I come up the drive, an’ I saw his shadder agin ’em.”

Further questioning elicited no added information from the man, excepting the statement that as his cousin Jim swung on to the rear end of the car, another man had swung on to the front end, suddenly rushing out of the darkness. Jonathan did not know who it was; indeed, had hardly given the matter a thought, so anxious had he been lest Jim should be44 left. When he had gone, Trafford turned to Mrs. Parlin and asked:

“When do you think Mr. Wing intended writing that letter, if he hadn’t written it at ten minutes after midnight?”

“He must have changed his mind, after all,” she answered.

“Evidently, he did,” he said.

Then he took up the matter of Judge Parlin’s confession.

“I do not wish to pain you,” he said, “but I would not be justified in letting that drop without going into it further. Have you any suspicion who Theodore’s mother was—or is, since she is still living, or was between five and six years ago?”

“I haven’t the faintest suspicion,” she said. “But surely this has been raked open enough. You can let that wound heal.”

“I can let nothing heal,” he said. “I don’t for the life of me see how that can have anything to do with this murder, but that’s no reason I may not find that it has lots to do with it. At any rate, I must find her out.”

45 “Can you do it on the feeble clue we have?” she asked.

He smiled.

“On such a clue, I’ll trace her in a week and not half try. Your husband intended to shield her from discovery, and but for these untoward circumstances, we would be bound to respect his wishes. As it is, I must know the identity of the woman. I hope I’ll find nothing to compel me to go farther. In the meantime, I’m going to take with me this blotting-pad, and I want you to examine it so that you can identify it beyond question, blotter and all. It’s too important for any mistake.”

Just then Mary Mullin brought word that Mr. McManus had come in response to a message sent earlier in the evening by Mr. Trafford. Mr. McManus had been with Mr. Wing for a number of years, and held the most confidential relation to his principal of any in the office. Since the murder he had naturally taken charge of his personal affairs. He was a man of thirty, tall and lithe, with a nervous force about him that was held well in control by strong will-power.

46 “Do you know what special engagements Mr. Wing had for the eleventh, that caused him to expect a particularly busy day?” the detective asked.

“None connected with office matters. It must have been a personal engagement.”

“Did you open this safe the day after the murder?”


“Was it properly closed and locked?”

“So far as I could see.”

“I’d have given a hundred dollars if I’d been here,” Trafford said earnestly.

McManus looked at him in surprise.

“Certainly,” he said, “you don’t suspect robbery?”

“I don’t suspect anything,” Trafford replied, somewhat brusquely. “Of all things, I avoid suspicion and guesses. I’d like you to open the safe again.”

McManus knelt, drew from his pocket a paper with a series of figures written on it, and following these with the turnings of the knob, threw open the door. Within was revealed a small iron door surrounded47 by pigeon-holes, the divisions of wood. Trafford dropped on his knees and gave peculiar scrutiny to the door, and especially the lock. Then he turned towards McManus:

“These two empty pigeon-holes on the left; they were empty when you first opened the safe?”

“Every paper is in the exact place I found it,” McManus answered sharply. “My profession has taught me some things!”

“And this door?”

“It was closed and locked. Here is the key.”

Trafford opened the door, revealing packages of letters, filling about half the space above the small drawer which was at the lowest portion.

“You have examined these letters?”

“Only sufficiently to be able to identify them. They relate to certain logging interests of firms employing Mr. Wing.”

“And the drawer?”

“You have the key: there’s nothing there but trinkets and a little personal jewelry.” There was a personal tone of resentment over the failure to48 recognise the distance between a detective and an attorney.

Trafford opened the drawer mechanically, then closed it and took out indifferently one of the packages of letters. These he returned and closed and locked the door, which he examined again with care. Then he pushed to the heavy outer door, turning the knob slowly and as if he was studying the fall of the wards.

“If it had been planned to leave no trace,” he said, as if to himself, “it would be a success. Have you a suspicion of the motive for this murder, Mr. McManus?”

“So far as I can see, it was motiveless,” McManus answered. “I can only conclude that it was the work of a lunatic, or a mere murder fiend. It was, in my opinion, merely an accident that it was Mr. Wing and not some one else.”

“I hadn’t thought of that aspect of the case,” Trafford said. “Is there any unfortunate creature of that kind about here?”

“No, not that I know of; but might it not be a stranger that has wandered here?”

49 “Did you ever hear of one of that class that was content with mere killing? It’s mutilation that characterises all such crimes. Its absence in this case is one of the most prominent features. By the bye: was the night of the tenth windy?”

“On the contrary, it was a very still night.”

“Not wind enough to blow that door shut?” pointing to the door into the side hall.

“Certainly not.”

Trafford walked around to the different windows and finally pulled down the shades and placed the lamp on the writing-desk. Then he went outside and studied the reflection on the shades. When he returned, he said:

“I shall be absent a few days. Will you see to it, Mr. McManus, that the coroner doesn’t reconvene the inquest until I can be here? Until we find a motive for this crime, we’re going to make slow headway in finding the criminal.”

“So long as you have charge of the case,” McManus answered, “I shall follow your wishes; but you may as well understand that I’m not going to be content with failure on any one’s part. You’re50 after the pay; I’m after punishment for the murderer. As long as our wishes run in the same line——”

Trafford interrupted him:

“When a case is placed in your hands, you expect to manage it, I assume. This case has been placed in my hands, and as long as it remains there, I shall conduct it in my own way. That doesn’t mean I won’t take advice; it simply means, I’ll be the one to decide what I’ll do with it.”

The two men faced each other for the moment almost with hostility. Then McManus’s face lightened and he held out his hand without a word of apology:

“You’ll do, I guess. If the fellow escapes you, he’d deserve to—if he’d killed anybody but Theodore Wing. Whatever I can do to aid, call on me day or night. At the least, keep me posted.”


Trafford Gets an Assurance

TRAFFORD sat in his room in the hotel at Bangor the next evening and studied the copy of Judge Parlin’s statement.

“Her brilliancy of mind has carried her far,” he said; “has aided her husband politically; and it was this influence that defeated him for the chief justiceship. It’s so easy that I can’t believe the solution. By George! I wonder if the old judge ever wrote that paper? I wish I’d examined the original more critically. If I’d been one of your inspired detectives, such as you find in novels, I’d probably have caught a forgery the first thing!”

None the less, he put himself to the task of untangling the threads of the statement, with a result that set him to deep thinking. Bangor was not the direction from which had come opposition to the judge’s nomination. On the contrary, Judge Parlin had been rather a favourite than otherwise in52 Bangor, and his cause had received substantial aid. But the statement did not assert that Wing’s mother had remained in Bangor, or that it was there that she aided her husband politically. The most hostile influence that Judge Parlin had encountered was popularly credited to an ex-Governor, Matthewson, an Eastern Maine man, who at present held no office, but without whose countenance few men ventured even to aspire to office.

“If it should prove that Matthewson’s wife is a Bangor woman, ’twould be so easy as to be absurd,” Trafford mused. “The old judge wasn’t silly enough to believe that what he wrote could conceal her identity. Either he meant it should be known to Wing or Mrs. Parlin, or—but what possible object could there be in forging such a paper?”

Suddenly he sat bolt upright and stared at the document in blank amazement. Then, with a low whistle, he folded it into his pocketbook.

“I’ll find Mrs. Matthewson Bangor-born, I’ll bet ten cents to a leather button!” he declared.

Whatever had brought Trafford to this sudden conclusion, it proved absolutely correct, and the details53 given of her brilliance and her aid to her husband fitted exactly to the character of the woman. This fact naturally raised the question, was it safe to go farther and, if so, how much farther? Mrs. Matthewson at least had been put on her guard by the published statement, and she was not a woman to remain in ignorance of any steps taken in consequence of that statement, or of the man who took them. The family was powerful and not credited with scrupulosity as to means employed to ends. On the other hand, it was manifest that if there was such an episode in her past, her husband was ignorant of it and she would stop at nothing to keep him so. The secret might be dangerous, but it might be valuable as well.

Beyond this, however, was the joy of the chase, which is absent from no man and least of all from the trained detective. There was a problem to solve, and, danger or no danger, it was as impossible for Trafford to refuse to solve it as to refuse to breathe. Whatever use he was or was not to make of it, he would know the truth.

He was not, however, so intent upon this one54 feature of the case as to neglect Jim Shepard. The second day, he slipped over to Portland and found that young countryman at work and exceedingly homesick in what was, to his narrow experience, a great city. Finding that Trafford knew Millbank, he threw his heart open to him and talked as freely as he would to Oldbeg himself. Trafford let him talk. There was a flood of irrelevant matter, but the detective’s experience was too broad for him to decide in advance what might and what might not be valuable. On the whole, however, it was a dreary waste, until he touched on the night he left Millbank.

“I wasn’t the only feller,” he said; “that nigh missed that train. Jest as ’twas startin’, a feller rushed out from behind Pettingill’s ’tater storehouse and caught the front end of the car. I thought he was goin’ to miss an’ I swung back to see him drop off; but he clung like a good one an’ finally got his foot on the step. I tell you, he was nigh clean tuckered out when he came into the car, fur he was a swell an’ warn’t used to using his arms that-a-way.”

55 “Queer place for him to come from,” said the other.

“Wall, ye see, if he’d come from Somerset Street way an’ out through ’tween Neil’s store and the post-office, he’d ’a’ come out jest thar; but he’d ’a’ had to know the lay o’ the land to done it. Ef he’d ben a stranger, he couldn’t help missing it an’ not half try.”

“But you say he was a stranger and a swell,” Trafford suggested.

“He was a swell, fast enough. City rig; kid gloves—one on ’em bust, hangin’ on to the rail, and got up in go-to-meetin’ style; but he must ’a’ knowed the way. He’d ben thar before, you bet!”

“You seem to have got a pretty good look at him.”

“Wall, ye see he took the seat two in front o’ me, and every time I woke up—say, them air seats hain’t made to sleep comfortable in, be they—thar he was, till all of a sudden I woke up an’ he warn’t thar.”

“Then you don’t know where he got off,” Trafford said, keeping the disappointment out of his voice.

56 “No. Ye see, when we pulled out of ’Gusta, he was thar, an’ I didn’t wake up ag’in till we got to Brunswick, an’ he warn’t thar. I meant to see whar he went to, but arter ’Gusta, I guessed he must be from Portland and that’s whar I got left.”

“I suppose you hear from Millbank—from Oldbeg, for instance.”

“Wall,” he said, blushing a fiery red, “Jonathan hain’t no great hand to write: but I du hear sometimes. Say, du you s’pose a body could ’a’ heerd that thar shot from Parlin’s house down onto Canaan Street?”

“I don’t know,” said the detective carelessly, hiding his eagerness. “A still night, it might be; why?”

“’Cause, a letter I got says that thar night she’d jest got to sleep when she woke up sudden, as if she’d heerd so’thing like a shot. She got up, but didn’t hear nothin’ more an’ so went back to bed. But the next mornin’ she guessed ’twas the shot she heerd from Parlin’s.”

“Did she say what time it was?”

“Nope: only she’d ben asleep about half a hour,57 an’ thet night she didn’t get to bed ’fore twelve o’clock. Fact, I guess she didn’t go till she heerd the train leave.”

“But about this swell,” Trafford interposed. “Would you know him again if you saw him?”

“I guess I would; leastwise ef I could see the top of his head. He took his hat off, an’ thar was the funniest little bald spot, jest the shape of a heart. ’Twas funny, an’ he warn’t more’n thirty years old. Say, when he gets to be fifty, he won’t hev no more hair’n I’ve got on the back o’ my hand.”

The next afternoon, a card was brought to Charles Matthewson, Esq., in his inner office in Augusta, and on the card he read, printed in small square letters:


“What in thunder does Trafford want of me?” he asked himself. “He can’t possibly know!”

He sat and looked at the card, while the boy waited and finally coughed to remind him he was still there. Matthewson looked up with a puzzled58 air. Evidently he did not care to see the man whose name was on the card, and as evidently he did not dare refuse him. Finally he said:

“Show him in in five minutes.”

When Trafford entered, in the very act of bowing, he cast a quick glance at the top of Matthewson’s head. There was the odd bald spot, shaped, as Jim Shepard had said, “Jest like a heart.”

“What can I do for you, Mr. Trafford?” Matthewson asked, with the air of a busy man.

“I want about ten minutes’ talk with you,” the detective answered, drawing a chair close to the desk.


“Yes;—my profession.”

The lawyer started. He was provoked with himself for doing so, but it was beyond his control. Trafford was not a man with whom it was comfortable to talk professionally—that is, from the standpoint of his profession.

“Well, be quick about it, then. I’m busy, and it’ll be a favour to cut it as short as you can.”

“You were in Millbank the evening of the tenth.”

59 “Well, you are short and to the point. Suppose I was?”

“What were you there for?”

“None of your business.”

Trafford chuckled. He was getting on. It was just the answer he expected.

“Now let’s stick right to the point, as you wanted me to. If I have to whip round to get to it again, you mustn’t blame me.”

“Come, Mr. Trafford; you can’t deal with every one the same way. If you want to find out anything from me, you mustn’t go at it as if I was a country bumpkin whom your very name would scare.”

“Bless you, I don’t,” said Trafford. “Now if you were a country bumpkin, as you are pleased to put it, I’d lead up to the matter gently and so have it all out of you before you knew what I was at. Not being a country bumpkin, I come at you fair and square to save your time and mine too. What were you doing in Millbank on the evening of the tenth? You weren’t at any of the hotels. You weren’t seen by any of the men who were likely to see you.”

60 “So you’ve peddled it all over Millbank that I was there that night, have you?” demanded the other, angrily.

Trafford looked at him with a mixture of amusement and spleen. At last he answered:

“That isn’t the way I do my work. I don’t need to give away what I know to find out what other folks know. There’s nobody in Millbank any the wiser for the enquiries I’ve made.”

“Well, if you know so much and are so cunning, you know that I got there at eight o’clock and left at midnight——”

“Dropping off at the Bridge stop before the train crossed the river, and swinging on to the front end of the second car as the train was pulling out of the station, coming out of the shadow of Pettingill’s potato warehouse to do so, so as not to be seen and recognized,” Trafford continued.

The first part was a shrewd guess, but evidently it hit the mark, for the lawyer wheeled about and faced him before saying:

“The devil! To what am I indebted for such close surveillance?”

61 “Well,” drawled Trafford, with an irritating air of indifference, that he could at times assume, “perhaps you don’t know that a matter of some importance happened in Millbank that night and has led to our looking up all the strangers that were in town, especially those who did not seem to want to be seen.”

“You refer, of course, to the Wing murder.”

“I refer, of course, to the Wing murder.”

“I regret Mr. Wing’s tragic death,” said the lawyer coldly; “and especially deplore the commission of such a crime. At the same time, I don’t think it as important as Millbank naturally thinks it, and I imagine the State will manage to wag along in spite of the great loss it has sustained.”

It was not so much the words, ill-timed and out-of-taste as they were, as the air with which they were uttered, that constituted their significance. It was as if in the mind that originated them there was a lurking bitterness, that the speaker would willingly conceal, which yet was so intense that it must find vent. There was a cruel hardness in the tone that made the words themselves all but meaningless.62 Was it possible, Trafford asked himself, that the man was able to read the meaning of Judge Parlin’s story and knew that Wing was his half-brother? He dismissed the question with the asking, satisfied that something of which he was still ignorant was at the foundation of this outbreak. It was to be a question of the comparative shrewdness of the two men, whether he still remained ignorant when the interview closed.

“You certainly don’t suppose that I shot Millbank’s leading citizen, do you?” the lawyer demanded, after a moment’s pause. It was, perhaps, an effort to recover what the lawyer could not fail to see that he had lost.

“On the contrary, I’ve every reason to believe that he was still alive when you left town, and I still further believe that your visit had nothing to do, remotely or directly, with his death.”

What was that odd flash that passed over the other’s face as Trafford said these last words? Seemingly, Trafford was not looking at the other’s face at the moment and it might have escaped him. Still, he would have been interested if he had seen it.

63 “Thanks: but, in that event, what are you here for?”

“I can’t let my beliefs or disbeliefs interfere with my investigation of facts. Here is something most unusual occurring, almost at the moment of the murder. It don’t make any difference whether I believe it has anything to do with it or not. It’s my business to know, and that’s what I’m here to do.”

“And if I say I’ve nothing to tell you?”

“The coroner’s enquiry will be public, while mine may remain private.”

“What do you want to know?”

“I simply want your assurance that your visit to Millbank had nothing to do, directly or remotely, with Theodore Wing.”

“I can’t see what value such an assurance can have. If I went there to hire somebody to shoot him, I should, of course, not hesitate to give you the assurance—and probably you wouldn’t fail to find out the truth of the matter inside a week.”

“That’s my business,” said Trafford. “If I’m64 content with your assurance, I don’t see why you should object to my being.”

“Because there’s no certainty you’ll remain content with it. It’s one of those things where you could come back to-morrow with ‘newly discovered testimony’ that would upset the whole agreement.”

“Oh, as for that,” said Trafford, “I propose to agree to nothing. As matters stand, the inquest ’ll go on within a day or two. I know you were in Millbank the night of the murder, and with no assurance from any one that your visit had nothing to do with the murder, I’m compelled, absolutely compelled, to ask the coroner to summons you. On the other hand, if I’m satisfied, there’s no reason for me to tell any one that I know you were there, and nothing to induce the coroner to summons you. At the same time, I don’t agree to anything as to the future. That must depend upon facts, and you know better than I do now whether there are any that would call for you.”

“Humph!” grunted Matthewson; “then it’s this: I assure you what you ask and I’m not to be65 summoned until you see fit to summon me, and if I don’t, you see fit to summon me at once.”

“That’s about it,” assented Trafford.

Matthewson sat for a few minutes thinking, and Trafford sat watching him. He was tall and slim, with a rather prepossessing face—well-dressed, in fact, a “swell,” as Jim Shepard had said. His face was far from a dull one. His mother had evidently given him something of her personality. Yet, a man less on his guard against impressions than the detective might find something in his face that he did not like,—a look of cunning lurking in the half-closed eyes, a want of feeling in the lines of the mouth. He was a man who would go far to accomplish his ends, but would not be willingly cruel, perhaps because he could not understand that to be cruel which was for his own interest. Yet, what of a fight that involved life and honour? Trafford at least knew that it is only then that the hidden forces come to the surface and the man himself stands complete. Suddenly Matthewson turned, and with a side glance at the waiting detective said:

“I assure you that my visit to Millbank had66 nothing to do directly or indirectly with Mr. Wing’s death.”

“That’s all I want,” the detective said.

“I gave him credit for being sharper than that,” Matthewson said to himself, as the door closed behind his visitor.

“Now I’ve got to find out,” Trafford noted, “how that visit did concern Wing. I’ll test Matthewson’s conclusion before I accept it.”


The Weapon is Produced

THE inquest reconvened with an increase rather than a decrease of interest on the part of the public. This was due in part to the renewed attention aroused by the funeral, which had been one of the most imposing ever had in Millbank; and in part to the rewards for the detection of the murderer offered by Mrs. Parlin and the selectmen of the town.

In addition, the County Court had instructed the county attorney to be present at further sittings, to assist the coroner, and the town had employed its own counsel for the same purpose.

Mary Mullin was the first witness.

“You are the help at Mrs. Parlin’s?” the coroner asked.

“I be.”

“How long have you been so employed?”

68 “Twenty-five year this coming July.”

“You were at the house the evening and night of the tenth of May?”


“Did you wait on the table at supper that evening?”

“I passed the victuals, ef that’s what ye mean by wait;” with an air of defiance.

“Who were at supper?”

“Mis Parlin an’ Mr. Wing.”

“Did either of them seem to you depressed or preoccupied?”


“The meal was pleasant as usual, and both seemed in good spirits?”


“Were you in the dining room when they left it?”

“Nope; I left ’em thar an’ went back arter they were through an’ cleaned up the table.”

“When did you next see Mr. Wing?”

“As he and Mis Parlin come back from the orchard.”

69 “Did everything seem pleasant between them then?”

“Why shouldn’t it?”

“I asked you if it did?”

“I’d scorn to answer sech a question, ef I warn’t under oath to answer what you axed. Yep!”

“When did you see him next?”

“Lyin’ a dead corpse on the doorstep at ten minutes arter six the next mornin’!”

“You are certain you did not see him from the time he returned from the orchard, until you saw him dead?”

“Didn’t I swear it?”

“I asked you if you are certain?”

“Yep!” indignantly.

“Did you eat your supper before or after your mistress ate hers?”

“What may ye mean by mistress?”

“I mean, did you eat your supper before or after Mrs. Parlin ate hers?”


She testified that she and Jonathan ate together; that she went to her room at nine o’clock, after70 shutting up the house “all but the front part,” and that she went at once to bed.

“Did you at any time during the night hear a pistol or gun shot or any sound resembling one?”

“I did not.”

“Are you a sound sleeper?”

“After I git to sleep, ye might carry me off an’ I’d never know it till mornin’.”

“Then you think a pistol might have been fired at the south door of the house in the middle of the night without your hearing it, although that door was open?”

“I think that one was.”

“But do you believe, aside from what you think regarding what happened that night, that a pistol so fired would wake you?”

“No, nor a cannon, ef ’twan’t too big.”

Jonathan Oldbeg testified practically to what he had told Trafford, the detective, though with some amplification of details. On the question of the absolute recognition of the shadow on the window shades as that of Mr. Wing, he grew very positive, affirming that he knew the stoop of the shoulders71 and the movement of his head. The county attorney and the town counsel were quite strong at this point and suggested questions which finally confused the witness, though in the end he clung to his positive identification.

The coroner seemed disposed to pass to the next witness, when Trafford handed up a paper, after reading which the coroner turned again to the witness and asked:

“On the shades of which windows did you see the shadow?”

“On all three of ’em.”

“On which was it the highest and largest?”

The witness paused as he began his answer and seemed in deep thought. Once he raised his head with a blank expression and then dropped it again. Finally he looked up and said:

“On the curtain nighest the door.”

“And the smallest?”

“On the curtain nighest the road.”

“The witness will step down a moment and Mr. Isaac Trafford will take the stand.”

All necks were craned to see the detective, and72 every ear intent for his testimony. It was most disappointing.

“Have you made any experiments,” the coroner asked; “as to the shadow thrown on the shades of Mr. Wing’s library, with relation to the position of the light?”

“I have.”

“With what results?”

“If the light is on the writing-desk, the highest and largest shadow is thrown on the shade nearest the street and none is thrown on the shade nearest the door. If the light is on the reading-table in front of the fireplace, or in the centre of the mantel over the fireplace, the highest and largest shadow is on the shade of the centre window. If the light is on the mantel near the safe, the largest and highest shadow is on the shade nearest the door, and the smallest and lowest on the shade nearest the road. If the light is on the safe itself, or on the stand near the safe, no shadow is thrown on the shade nearest the street.”

“You have heard the testimony of the last witness as to the shadows he saw?”

73 “I have.”

“What is your conclusion from that testimony as to the position of the light at the time the witness passed up the drive?”

“That it was on the mantel nearly above the safe.”

“Have you made any experiments to determine in what position any one would place the light, if he had the safe open and desired the best light on its contents?”

“I have.”

“With what result?”

“That he would place it on the mantel about a foot or a foot and a half west of the safe.”

“Then the testimony of the witness and the result of your experiments would lead you to conclude that at the time the witness passed up the drive, the occupant of the room had the safe open and the light so placed that he could best see into it?”

“It is entirely compatible with that assumption.”

Mr. Trafford was dismissed and Oldbeg recalled. There was a buzz in the room.

74 “What do you s’pose that was fur?” one man asked another.

“For impression. It shows how mighty cute Trafford is, an’ lets folks know that there’s somebody arter ’em as knows what’s what.”

“Onless Trafford got it up hisself fur advertisin’,” suggested the other, a hard-headed Yankee to whom shrewdness was a natural instinct.

“Do you own a pistol?” demanded the coroner, as Oldbeg settled himself to his examination.

Every eye turned towards the witness, who fidgeted before answering, as if he was in doubt what to say. At last, when attention was at its keenest, he found his tongue and said:


“Yet you bought a thirty-two calibre one on May eighth.”

It had already been testified that the fatal shot was fired from a thirty-two calibre revolver. Every person present was alive with the thought that a critical moment in the inquest had come.

“Yep; but I gave it away.”


75 “The night o’ May tenth.”

“To whom?”

“To Jim Shepard. Jest as he was jumpin’ on the train, I took it out o’ my pocket an’ put it in his’n.”

“Do you call that giving it away?”

“Yep! That’s what I bought it fur. I don’t need one here; leastwise, I didn’t think so then; but he’s goin’ to a tarnel big place, an’ I thought he ought to had one, so I bought it an’ took it to the train with me that night an’ put it in his pocket.”

“Did you say anything to him about it?”

“I didn’t hev no time. I was goin’ to give it to him, but we hed to run for the train, an’ I clean forgot it till, jest as he struck the bottom step, I thought on it. All I could do was to chuck it into his pocket, whar his coat swung back.”

“Did you see it go in?”

“Nope: ’twas too dark.”

“Was it loaded?”

“All but one bar’l. I fired that off up in the woods that day an’ furgot to load it again.”

“Call James Shepard.”

Oldbeg started, and when his cousin came from a76 door back of the coroner, stood as one struck dumb. It was difficult to say what emotion was expressed in his face. Trafford watched him and acknowledged his own uncertainty.

“Do you desire to change your testimony last given?” asked the coroner.

“I’ve told the truth; I hain’t got nothin’ to change,” he said sulkily.

James Shepard gave his testimony regarding his leaving Millbank and answered the questions put to him with reference to the stranger who took the same train, which, of course, simply led up to his disappearance somewhere between Augusta and Brunswick. Then came the question which all were awaiting:

“Did your cousin give you a pistol the night you left Millbank?”

“Not that I knows on. It’s the fust time I ever heerd about it.”

“Do you own a pistol?”

“Nope. I hain’t got no use fur a pistol an’ never had.”

“Call William Buckworth.”

77 A stout, elderly man, head of the firm of Buckworth & Tompson, notion dealers, came to the stand. After the preliminary questions, the coroner took from a drawer a pistol and handed it to the witness.

“What is that?”

“A thirty-two calibre Woodruff revolver.”

“Did you ever see it before?”

“Yes. I sold it on the eighth of May to Jonathan Oldbeg.”

“Are you certain of the identity?”

The witness then proceeded to the identification, which was absolute.

“Are the chambers charged?”

“Four are. One is empty and has recently been fired.”

“Isaac Trafford will take the stand.

“Do you recognize this pistol, Mr. Trafford, as one you have before seen?”

“I do.”

“State the circumstances.”

“I found it on the morning of the twelfth of May hidden in the box hedge in the front yard of78 the Parlin house. It was in the box nearest the fence that separates the front yard from the driveway, and about twelve feet from the house.”

“Was it in the same condition then as now?”

“It was wet with dew and the rust is deeper now than then; otherwise it is in the same condition.”

“Call Margaret Flanders.”

At the name, Jim Shepard, who had taken a seat in the main room upon concluding his testimony, turned the colour of a peony and a giggle was started among a group of boys near him.

Margaret Flanders, a buxom, healthy lass of about twenty, tripped into the room as if in enjoyment of the sensation she was creating. In answer to questions, her testimony ran:

She lived at home, with her parents, on Canaan Street; the left-hand side as you went from River Road. Jim Shepard came sometimes to see her and was with her the evening of May tenth. He was going to Portland to work and he was to take the midnight train. He stayed till his cousin Jonathan Oldbeg called for him. It was then so late that she was afraid he would miss his train. Indeed,79 there was only five minutes to spare when he left the house. She waited on the front stoop till she heard the train go and then went to her room, which was on the second floor in the northwest corner, the nearest River Road and the Parlin house. She went right to bed, was in bed by quarter-past twelve, probably, and went right to sleep. Had slept a few minutes when she was wakened by a sound like a pistol shot. She jumped out of bed and went to the window, which was open, for she always liked plenty of fresh air; but saw nothing and heard nothing. There was a light in the Parlin house and she thought it was in the library, but could not tell certainly. She was at the window only a few minutes, when the clock struck one, but whether it was half-past twelve or one o’clock she could not tell. Then she went back to bed and fell asleep, and heard nothing more to disturb her that night.

The coroner announced that this closed his witnesses, but at the request of the county attorney he recalled Mrs. Parlin. The county attorney put his questions through the coroner.

80 “Have you ever had any question as to the genuineness of the statement which purports to be in the handwriting of your husband?”

“None whatever.”

“Was your husband accustomed to leave important papers without date or signature?”

“This paper is in Judge Parlin’s handwriting.”

“I hand you a letter here with the signature turned down. Can you identify the handwriting?”

“I think it is the handwriting of Theodore Wing.”

“Can you state positively?”

“I cannot: but I have little doubt.”

“I hand you another. Whose handwriting is that?”

“Judge Parlin’s.”

“Are you positive?”


“Are you certain that the first letter is not in the handwriting of your late husband?”

“It may possibly be; but I think it is in Mr. Wing’s handwriting.”

81 “There was then a very strong resemblance between the handwriting of your late husband and that of Mr. Wing?”

“A very strong resemblance. Theodore always admitted that he had tried to write like the judge, and of late years the resemblance was very close.”

“Still you are confident as to the handwriting of the statement that has been produced here?”

“Absolutely confident.”

“When you hold this statement up to the light, do you discover any water-mark?”

“Yes, a sheaf of something that looks like wheat with a circle around it.”

“I hand you a blank sheet of paper. Has that any water-mark?”

“It has the same water-mark.”

“That will do. Mr. Trafford will take the stand.

“I hand you this blank sheet of paper, which Mrs. Parlin has just stated contains the same water-mark as that on which the purported statement of Judge82 Parlin is written. Have you ever seen this sheet before?”

“Yes. I took it from Mr. Theodore Wing’s writing-desk on the morning of May twelfth. It was one of a number of similar sheets I found there.”

“Call Mr. Marmaduke.

“You are the head of the stationery firm of Marmaduke & Co.?”

“I am.”

“Did you supply the late Theodore Wing with writing paper?”

“I did.”

“Is this a sheet of the paper you furnished him?”

“It is a sheet of the paper I furnished him for his home use. I never furnished it to him for office use.”

“How long have you sold paper with this water-mark?”

“About four years.”

“Never before that?”

“Never. I do not think it was made with that83 water-mark until about four years ago. At least, I never heard of it.”

“Did you furnish paper to the late Judge Parlin, for home or office?”

“For both.”

“Did you ever furnish him, either for home or office, with paper bearing this water-mark?”

“Never. I didn’t have paper with that water-mark for sale until nearly a year after Judge Parlin’s death. I got it at the special request of Mr. Wing, and that was after Judge Parlin’s death.”

After consultation, the inquest was again adjourned. There was a general expectation that a warrant would issue for Oldbeg’s arrest, but neither the coroner nor the county attorney felt justified in so overt an act. The public might try, condemn, and all but execute a man on mere suspicion, but larger responsibility rested on the officers of the law. In consultation, Trafford was appealed to and agreed fully with the decision reached. He was not wholly pleased with the coroner’s haste in bringing out certain facts that in his opinion could have been84 left with safety to the adjourned session. The strength of his own work lay in minimising, rather than exaggerating, the importance of unsupported facts, which were almost sure to lead to wrong conclusions.


Mrs. Matthewson and Trafford

THE wife of former Governor Matthewson was prominent—that is, respectably prominent—in church matters, as in all good works, and the booth over which she presided at the May Church Festival was one of the most attractive and profitable, albeit there was many another that had proved a centre for the younger men and larger boys. Mrs. Matthewson sat in the curtained space behind the main booth, for she was really tired. She was a tall woman, of commanding presence, who had just touched her sixtieth year and upon whom the consciousness of power, and ability to wield it, had left the impress of dignity and strength.

The crowd was mainly in front of the booths, but occasionally some one strayed away to the quieter nooks shut off by the booths themselves. Of these were two men, one small and rather unimpressive in appearance, the other larger and more commanding,86 but with a strange deference towards his companion. The two passed where by accident, apparently, the smaller man had a view of the resting woman, without being too plainly seen himself. The larger man was speaking:

“Public opinion is settling on the paper as a forgery.”

“Has it discovered a motive?” There was almost a sneer in the tone.

“No; nor for the crime; but it firmly believes that the woman never existed.”

“It would think me mad or a liar then if I should affirm that she did exist; that she does exist; that in fact I could at a moment’s notice put my hand on Theodore Wing’s mother.”

The other smiled.

“One might almost imagine you thought her in this room.”

“Stranger things have happened;” and the two moved on.

If the woman had taken note of the conversation, there was nothing in her manner to indicate it. Had there been, Trafford would have felt keen disappointment,87 for he had observed her somewhat carefully, and had formed a higher opinion of her capabilities. At the same time, he had not so poor a conception of his own powers of observation as to doubt the correctness of his impression of a slight lifting of the eyebrows and critical scanning of his own face by Mrs. Matthewson, as he loitered slowly back towards the throng in front. He intended, if it was her wish to be able to recognise him again, that she should have the opportunity.

After he had passed, she waited a sufficient time not to seem precipitate, then rose and sauntered slowly into the front part of the hall, whence came a constant babble of voices. She was a woman who had seen too many things to be afraid; but as well she was a woman too shrewd to neglect a warning and go on to punishment. She knew she had her warning; she knew that the man who had given it was prepared to deal with her, or he would not have given it; and she knew that boldness would secure the best terms. She had no question that blackmail was at the bottom of the affair.

The public had generally accepted the statement88 as a forgery and was laughing at its clumsiness; but there would come a waking time when it realised that as a forgery it had no bearing upon the solution of the murder mystery, and that would be the moment of danger. She found her son, Charles Matthewson, and taking his arm went to the refreshment room.

“You’re dead tired, mother,” he said. “A man of iron couldn’t stand these affairs.”

“No,” she said. “It requires something finer than iron. Your man of iron is a poor simile for strength. It’s got to be better than that.”

“By George; I only hope when I’m sixty, I can stand as much as you!”

“Is that your tact, Charles, to mention a woman’s age in public? I know the people know my age, but I object to their knowing that I know.”

“Much you care, mother. You can leave such stuff as that to the silly herd.”

A man passed by and took his seat at a table out of ear range. He did not look in her direction as he passed, and she did not even glance in his; but she felt his presence, and knew also that Charles had89 seen him and recognised him. She ran on with her light chat, seemingly taking no note of her son’s distraught manner and absent-minded replies; but after she had let things go on for a safe space, she suddenly looked up with:

“Really, Charles, I might as well save my foolishness for somebody who is less occupied than you seem to be. I should say you were more interested in that man over there than in me.”

“Was I really giving attention to him?” the son demanded.

“Most really, and I’m simply wondering where you learned your self-control, that you can do a thing so apparent to a whole roomful.” She had not asked a word regarding the man, certain as she was that he would tell her all he knew.

“Do you know who that man is?” her son asked.

“No; really,” she said, putting up her glasses, “I had simply noticed him as a man from whom you did not seem able to keep your eyes. Now I look at him, I don’t see anything particularly worth noticing.”

90 “It’s Trafford, the detective. He’s said to be on this Wing murder case.”

“Oh, is that so?” she said, raising her glasses again. “In that case, I suppose one’s permitted to look at him, since that’s largely his stock in trade. He doesn’t look smart.”

“That’s his stock in trade too,” said Charles, a trifle impatiently for the son of such a woman. “If he looked half as smart as he is, he’d look too smart for his work, and if he was really as dull as he looks, he’d be too stupid.”

“And they depend on him to unravel the Wing murder?” she asked.

“Oh, the Wing murder,” echoed an acquaintance who was passing. “Why didn’t that stupid coroner arrest that fellow Oldman—if that was his name? My husband says if he takes the opportunity to run away, it may be interesting for the coroner. Of course, nobody has a doubt that he’s the murderer. You think so, Mr. Matthewson, don’t you?”

“I think it will be a great wrong if such a wanton murder goes unpunished,” he answered.

“Yes,” said the mother carelessly; “but the motive?91 Did he murder him because he was an illegitimate son of Judge Parlin?”

“Oh, pshaw, Mrs. Matthewson, nobody believes that story. Why, they tell me Judge Parlin was a real nice man. He wouldn’t have had anything to do with such a woman as she would have been, if the story was true.”

A crowd gathered and, in spite of Charles Matthewson’s efforts to change the subject, persisted in discussing the murder, which was still a live topic wherever Judge Parlin and Lawyer Wing had been known. To Matthewson’s increased annoyance, he noted that Trafford had moved to a nearer table, where he could catch the talk.

“What kind of man would Judge Parlin have been, if the story were true?” Mrs. Matthewson asked listlessly.

“Oh, yes; but you know that’s not the same. He was a mere youngster, and a designing woman you know can do anything with a man. Oh, no: it would be bad enough in him, but the woman—why, she’d be simply abominable; simply abominable.”

“Well, if there was such a woman, she’s undoubtedly92 dead long ago,” Mrs. Matthewson said. “We might at least not begrudge her a grave. We came near making Judge Parlin chief justice.”

Charles was uneasy. His mother was not accustomed to losing her head, but he had his suspicions at this moment, and tried again to draw her away; but she seemed not to notice his efforts, and showed herself not loath to go on with the conversation.

“If the thing isn’t true,” broke in a woman who was fearful she might not make herself felt in the presence of the overbearing Mrs. Matthewson, “my husband says it’s a forgery; but what could that nice Mr. Wing have forged such a story as that for? Do you see, Mr. Matthewson?”

“You must excuse me from expressing any opinion one way or the other,” he said, thus distinctly appealed to. “Murders and forgeries are not in my line, and I don’t think my opinion would have the value it might if I was a criminal lawyer or a detective.”

“Oh, a detective!” some one interrupted. “What a dreadful nasty set of men detectives must be! It93 makes me crawl to think of their having anything to do with me.”

“Then you mustn’t be a murderer or permit any one to murder you. It’s the only way I know to steer clear of the gang.”

“Come, Charles,” interposed his mother. “Aren’t you a little hard? As long as we have criminals, we must have criminal catchers. We can’t spare them.”

“But we needn’t make them our heroes, as some people do,” he replied, wondering in secret why his mother was chiming into his mood so completely. “I object to having them dragged into my company—almost as much as I’d object to being dragged into theirs.”

It would have troubled Mrs. Matthewson to say why she felt a savage pleasure in thus baiting the detective, but she did feel it, and was too proud to deny the fact, even as she was too proud to deny that the fact was unworthy her own measure of herself.

An hour later Charles had handed her into her carriage and gone back to the hall, as she bade him,94 to stand for the family during the remainder of the evening. A carriage in front blocked the way and a voice almost at her elbow, but on the side opposite that at which she had entered, said:

“May I have the honour of calling in the morning?”

She did not even turn her head, as she flung back the answer:

“If it’s necessary.”

“I think it necessary.”

“At half-past ten, then.”

She did not look to see, but knew that the place was vacant. None the less she yielded no whit, but held her upright position, as if she were already on trial before the world and bade it defiance.

It was the same in the morning. She entered the small parlour as if it were she and not her visitor who was to ask explanations, and he, with his quick adaptation of himself to moods and conditions, not alone humoured her, but throughout bore himself with a courtesy and deference that went as far as anything could to salve her wounded pride.

“I assume it is not necessary for me to explain95 who I am and why I have asked this interview,” he said, as an approach to a knowledge of the footing on which they stood.

“It is not necessary,” she returned. “You are Isaac Trafford, detective: you are engaged in ferreting out the murder of Theodore Wing, and you think I am able to give you information that may aid you. I am sorry to say that I cannot. I am sorry for the crime: I’m always sorry for crime; but it can have no particular sting for me, because of the man who is its victim.”

“I thought it might be otherwise,” he said quite simply.

“You are mistaken.”

“None the less,” he said, “you have read the statement left by Judge Parlin.”

“I have read the statement purporting to be left by Judge Parlin,” she corrected him.

“It is absolutely true from beginning to end. There can be no doubt that Judge Parlin left it, for only he and one other person at that time knew the facts.”

“And that other person?” The question was96 without a tremor. Trafford felt like rising and saluting the woman, as her words came clean-cut and passionless.

“Theodore Wing’s mother.”

“She is, then, still alive?”

“She is still alive,” he said; “and unless concerned in this recent tragedy, as safe as if the knowledge of the facts had remained locked in her breast, as they were at the time of Judge Parlin’s death. If she was concerned in this tragedy, then it is that, and not the fact that another has learned the truth, that destroys her safety.”

Even at so serious a moment, she could not avoid playing with the subject:

“Do you think her concerned in the murder?”

“It is what I am not certain of,” he said frankly. “It is the murder that has revealed this—misfortune. I can find no motive that can account for her connection with the affair.”

“I am of the opinion she had nothing to do with it,” she said, quite positively. “If all this is true, she would naturally have no love for the child of her mistake; but you surely cannot think on that97 account that she was guilty of murder—the cruelest murder one could imagine under the circumstances! Certainly, if there was anything to tempt to murder, anything that would have advantaged her, it passed long ago.”

“I have thought of that,” he said, “but is it not possible that something may have occurred recently that alarmed her—something that made her feel it necessary to go to extremes to which, naturally, she would be unwilling to resort, excepting under the direst necessity?”

“I do not think,” she said, lifting her head with some imperiousness, “that such a woman is likely to be alarmed. She would have lived that down long since. More than that, she would have brains enough to see that a crime, more than all else, would endanger her secret. This woman could not have been brainless.”

“Far from it,” he assured her. “I am inclined to rate her as the ablest woman I have ever met.”

She bowed as recognising a personal compliment.

“You have met her, then?”

“Yes,” he said. “I have met her.”

98 “Would you mind telling me the impression she made on you—that is, as regards her possible connection with this crime? My curiosity is roused.”

“I think she is now incapable of it,” he said. “That she might not have been at one time, I am less certain; but if there was such a time, it has passed. Success had mollified resentment and increased the feeling of safety. Still, if she believed herself in danger, I do not think she would hesitate at any extreme. It would, however, take much to arouse a conviction of danger.”

“I am inclined to think your judgment sound,” she said. “What can you tell me of the man who now shares with her the knowledge of the facts in the case?”

“That he would not assert such knowledge unless he possessed every detail and was absolutely able to identify every person connected with the affair and verify every date and place. You may take his assertion that he knows, as absolute evidence of this. His only object in searching this matter out was the unravelling of the mystery of a crime. If he99 thought for one instant that the revelation of the facts would aid in unravelling that crime, he would not hesitate at the revelation. Convinced that it would not aid, the secret is as safe with him as if it did not exist. At present the secret, as far as he is concerned, does not exist.”

“Of course,” she said; “the woman would prefer, greatly prefer, that the secret should have died with the man who shared it with her. Failing that, she could not feel safer than to have it in the hands of such a man as you describe. There is, however, I should think, one further assurance that she might desire.”

“I think if it were a possible thing to promise, the man as I know him would be disposed to promise.”

“It is that if at any time in the future it should seem to him that the woman was concerned in the crime, if there arise any circumstances that call for explanation, he will come to her and first submit them to her. I think under these circumstances, he might largely rely upon her telling him the truth—at least, upon her not telling him a falsehood.”

100 “Of course,” he said, “I speak only of my impression, but that is that she may rely absolutely upon his adopting this course.”

“I trust this enables us to end this interview,” she said, with no relaxation of her dignity.


Hunting Broken Bones

MILLBANK cherished its tragedy as something that gave it pre-eminence among its neighbours, and half the male population turned detectives on the spot. To many members of the community, however, the affair bore a most serious aspect, heightened by the conviction that no actual progress had been made towards the solution of the mystery. Such men as McManus, the county attorney, and the town counsel, looked upon the testimony which tended to implicate Oldbeg as a concession to the public demand that something should be done, and as covering rather than revealing the serious business of the investigation. They were inclined to be indignant at what they regarded as the direction of unjust suspicion against an innocent person, and the more so when they saw how public sentiment was roused against the unfortunate man.

In fact, there were whispers among the least responsible102 that if the law was to interpose delays, it might become the duty of the citizens to take the execution of justice into their own hands. It was the county judge who first called attention to the danger to the town and county that lurked in such loose talk, indulged in at the start by idle men and boys, but working as a leaven that might finally affect the entire community.

“There’s just the material down there to give your town a blacker tragedy than it’s had yet,” he said to McManus one day after court. “The guilty had better go unpunished than be punished through violation of the law.”

McManus turned sharply, with that nervous quickness that made him forget the judge in the speaker:

“The guilty! The guilty! No man is guilty till the law has found him so! How long since suspicion was proof?”

The judge, who appreciated the strain which the death of his partner and friend had thrown upon McManus, let the brusqueness of the answer pass, but still was insistent:

103 “It’s no time for refinements or phrasings. It isn’t the idle alone who expect impossibilities. Most of your people think Trafford’s failed before he’s had time to begin. There’s got to be something done to feed their impatience and gain time. A Yankee’s substitute for doing something is to hold a public meeting.”

McManus shook his head.

“With the chances that it would end in a hanging-bee,” he said.

When, however, McManus returned to Millbank from the county town, he found affairs so far more menacing than he had anticipated as to lead him to take counsel with the more prominent citizens. Naturally almost the first man to whom he broached the matter was Charles Hunter, the head of the leading logging firm.

Hunter was a man who at the age of thirty-five was already recognised as the first business man of the town. Succeeding to a business built up by his father, he had doubled it and doubled it again. Its operations extended over the entire northern part of the State, and into Canada, and were closely interlocked104 with the immense logging interests of the Penobscot and the Androscoggin. President of the Millbank National Bank, he was also on the Board of leading banks in Augusta, Bangor, and Portland, and as a member of the Governor’s staff he had attained the rank of colonel—that warlike title which so many exceedingly peaceful gentlemen parade with pride. In fact, his operations had touched all interests save politics, for his title had more of a social than a political significance.

“Undoubtedly,” he said, “Trafford is entitled to make a show for the money he’s getting, and we can understand his giving us some horse-play; but it’s going too far when he endangers an innocent man, to say nothing of the good name of the town. The episode of the revolver found twenty-four hours after the murder is mere child’s play. I shouldn’t have thought it would have taken for a moment.”

“You think Trafford put it there?”

“I think he knew when to look for it and when not to. He looked for it at the right time, at any rate.”

105 “I don’t think Trafford’s so much to blame for producing the pistol as Coroner Burke,” McManus said. “I was watching him at the time, and I thought him annoyed at the question.”

“Whoever is to blame,” Hunter answered, with the positiveness of a man accustomed to rely much on his own judgment and to have others do the same, “the mischief’s done. Half the town is certain that Oldbeg is the murderer. It’s being whispered that Mrs. Parlin hired him to do it, so she could have the money, and the fact that she doesn’t discharge the man is held to be proof of the fact. Then, with the logic of dolts, they declare that she hired Trafford because she was afraid of him.”

A look of horror showed in McManus’s face at this statement of the public attitude. Surely, Mrs. Parlin had suffered enough without having to bear this injustice.

“But don’t they see,” he remonstrated, “if this was the case, Trafford would have been the last to turn suspicion upon Oldbeg?”

“They don’t see anything!” exclaimed Hunter impatiently. “They’re simply hanging-mad. They106 believe Trafford too smart not to have solved this thing in a fortnight, and at the same time they believe him a big enough fool to have sold himself. They think Oldbeg guilty, because there’s nobody else in sight, and because they think him guilty, they must believe that Trafford and Mrs. Parlin are protecting him. Therefore, Mrs. Parlin must be guilty too, and therefore, again, Trafford must be trying to cover up the facts.”

Hunter expressed in his somewhat querulous tone much of the feeling that prevailed in the business community. Men felt it a disgrace that an unprovoked murder could occur under their very eyes, as it were, and remain without the slightest progress towards solution for more than a fortnight. In a large community, the police would have come in for sneers and ridicule. In this case, the detective had to bear the brunt of the complaints.

Hunter, intent for the good name of the town, suggested finally that a subscription reward be offered in addition to that of the county and town and that offered by Mrs. Parlin. He was willing to guarantee a substantial sum.

107 “I think also,” he said, “we should put another detective to work. I can’t see any harm if Trafford is on the square, and it may do a lot of good if he isn’t.”

“It’s against all principle to put a case into two men’s hands,” McManus objected. “We certainly ought to dismiss the one before we hire a second.”

“We haven’t hired the first yet,” Hunter answered roughly. “We can’t object to Mrs. Parlin employing a detective, if she wants to; but she as certainly can’t object to our doing the same thing. If, however, we put a man to work, let him keep his hands off that statement of Judge Parlin’s.”

McManus started.

“You think it genuine?”

Hunter looked as if the question tired him. He was a tall dark man, with an unusually expressive face, and was not accustomed to concealing his feelings.

“That’s more of your horse-play. Whether the paper’s genuine or not can’t have any bearing on the murder. It isn’t to be imagined, if it’s a forgery, that there was a purpose to make it public after the108 principals in the affair were dead. It’s a false scent and meant to be a false scent.”

On the very evening on which Charles Hunter urged the employment of an additional detective, Trafford was handed a telegram telling him that Charles Matthewson had left Augusta on the late afternoon train up the river. It had been an easy matter to ascertain that he had not left the train either at the main station in Millbank or at the Bridge-stop, but none the less the detective had an uneasy feeling that the man might be in town. If so, whom did he come to see and why did he come and go so mysteriously? He could see no possible connection between the relationship of Wing with Matthewson and the murder, and yet he could not divest his mind of the impression that there was some mystery going on before his very eyes which he had not fathomed, but which, if fathomed, would bear upon the discovery of the murderer.

A half-hour or so before the down train was due to leave the Millbank station, he left the hotel and walked down Canaan Street to its junction with Somerset Street and the covered and enclosed109 bridge that spans the river at that point. Here, upon the very brink of the river, fifty feet above the water, stood the small brick building of the Millbank National Bank. The bridge and the bank lay in shadow, for it was a moonless night and the street lamp at the entrance of the bridge was not lighted. Above the bridge was the dash and roar of the falls; below, the steady murmur of the narrowed current, between its rocky walls that rise more than fifty feet from the water’s edge.

“Thunder!” he thought, “there are some creepy places around this town, especially when they can’t sponge on the moon for light. If I was an inspired detective, I’d know whether there was any danger in that bridge. As I ain’t, I guess I’ll take the centre.”

He advanced into the darkness of the drive, which was pitchy black, solid plank walls dividing it from the footwalk on either hand. He was half-way through, when he suddenly felt the presence of some one near him, though he could see or hear nothing. He stopped, and absolute stillness reigned, save the tumult of the water above and below. He had110 walked close to the wall on the down-river side, so that his form might not be outlined against the opening of the bridge, and he was conscious that he was as completely concealed, since he had advanced a rod into the darkness, as were his companions. It was a question of endurance, and in that his training gave him the advantage.

Softly there came out of the darkness a noise as of the moving of a tired leg. Inch by inch Trafford crept close to the board wall, until now it was at his back, with one of the heavy timbers protecting his left arm. His right was free for defence. The sound indicated a man within a few feet of him on his left.

Suddenly there was the sharp swish of a club in the air, and the thud of contact with a living body, followed by a loud cry of pain and

Sacré; c’est moi, Pierre!

Mon dieu! Où est le chien?

Two men rushed past toward the Millbank end, with a jabber of Canadian French, from which Trafford learned that the assailed feared that his shoulder was broken.

111 “One marked for identification,” he chuckled, as he slid along in the deep shadow toward the farther end.

He had satisfied himself of one thing he was anxious about, and with another at hand had no time to waste on a man who could be found in the morning for the mere asking. He was too keen on the question whether Charles Matthewson was in Millbank, to allow a needless diversion. If Matthewson was in town, it showed a terrible uneasiness at the bottom of his wanderings—an uneasiness that forbade his trusting to others for information and yet demanded information at first hands, so imperatively that he was willing to take enormous risks to obtain it.

“It would have been a coincidence, if I’d been murdered to-night,” said Trafford, in his wonted confidential talk with himself; “with Matthewson in town as he was the night of the other murder.”

Trafford crossed the railroad bridge and so attained the Millbank station without attracting attention. He saw every one of the half-dozen passengers who boarded the train, but found no trace of the man112 he was seeking. As the train slowed up for the Bridge stop, he swung off into the dark in time to catch sight of a figure swinging on from the same dark side. It was not Matthewson, and he was just turning away, when suddenly he changed his purpose and as the train moved off was again on the rear platform. He rode there to the next station, and then changed his quarters to the baggage car. He had identified his man; now he was after his destination.

This proved to be Waterville. A private carriage was waiting, and into it the man jumped, driving away rapidly. There was but one way to follow and keep the carriage in sight, and Trafford made a half-mile in quick time, clinging to the back-bar and resting his weight on his hands and arms. He dropped to the ground and crept away as the carriage turned into the driveway of an extensive country place, which the detective recognised as that of Henry Matthewson, a younger brother of Charles, and a man largely interested in the logging business.

“Humph,” he said. “This time he comes part way and they bring him the news. Well; it ain’t of113 my murder, though some folks may wish it was before many hours have passed.”

Before daylight, he had his operatives on hand while he himself took the early train back to Millbank. The delicate work just now was to be done there, and this he would trust to no one save himself. His appreciation of the importance of the case and the sensation that would be produced when it was finally unravelled, had increased immensely since he crossed Millbank Bridge, and he had no purpose to see it botched by clumsy handling.

After breakfast he went directly to Mr. Wing’s office and sought an interview with Mr. McManus.

“I want,” he said, “to go through all the papers again in Wing’s safe and, if you have any private papers of his, through those as well. So far, we are absolutely adrift and we have a double task on our hands, for we’ve got to clear Oldbeg of suspicion as well as discover the real murderer.”

“Then you dismiss all suspicion that Oldbeg had anything to do with the murder?”

“If you can dismiss an idea you never entertained. In a certain sense every man in town was114 under suspicion—Oldbeg no more than another. This job, however, was not the work of a clumsy man like Oldbeg. When we find the murderer, you’ll find a man of quick motions, delicacy of touch, strong purpose, assured position, and considerable refinement. You’ll find a man to whom murder is repugnant and who resorted to it only as a last desperate chance. You’ll find therefore a man who was desperate, whose all was at stake, and who knew that Wing’s continued living meant the loss of that all. Now, if you can tell me where there is such a man, I’ll give you proof of his guilt so conclusive before night that no one will hesitate to approve his arrest.”

As he spoke, McManus grew pale. Something brought a terrible picture before his eyes. As never before, he realised the desperate chase in which they were involved.

“It was, then, in your opinion no mere desire for sordid gain that impelled to the crime?”

“Who has gained by it? Some one that by it has been saved from loss, and tremendous loss. Don’t fool yourself. Don’t look for any common criminal,115 and above all don’t flatter yourself for one moment that the criminal will stop at any additional crime to prevent detection. If detected, he’s lost everything. He can’t lose any more with twenty murders to his charge.”

McManus glanced over his shoulder, as if he expected to see the murderer rise out of vacancy in his own defence.

“What connection then has Judge Parlin’s statement with the crime?” he asked uneasily.

“It’s a mere incident—an accident, as you might say, that holds its place by its own sensational character and the tensity of nervous interest aroused in the public mind by the crime itself. It had nothing to do with the crime, or the cause that led up to it. I don’t believe the murderer knew of its existence. At the same time it’s one of those accidents that may lead to things to which it’s in no way related. It may be the very thing that’ll ultimately set us on the right track. Don’t lose sight of it for a moment.”

McManus looked as if the caution were wholly uncalled for. There was not much danger of his116 losing sight of anything that had to do with the murder. One might have suspected from his looks that he wished he could.

After making an appointment for three in the afternoon to examine papers, Trafford left the office and went to a little dingy room, in Gray’s Inn Lane, where he was joined almost immediately by a tall, seedy-looking man, evidently of Canadian stock, whose French was only a trifle worse than his English. He was a man whom few men would have trusted and whom Trafford had always found absolutely trustworthy. The man shook his head, with many a gestured negative. Not a man was missing from Little Canada; every man who was open to suspicion was accounted for, and not one of them showed a broken collar-bone or a shattered arm.

“But there are other Canucks in town, outside Little Canada,” said Trafford.

The report included all. The man had determined the whereabouts of every Canadian of sixteen years of age and upwards, and there was not one who bore marks of the blow delivered on the bridge the night before.

117 “But he was a Canuck,” said Trafford, with positiveness that admits no question; “and it’s a bigger miracle than any of their relics ever performed before, if he don’t carry a broken bone to-day. There’s somebody missing.”

The man shook his head. He had accounted for the last of them.

“Do you think it was a dream or a nightmare?” Trafford demanded, with some asperity.

The man shrugged and lifted his shoulders, in deprecation of the tone of the demand.

“All right,” said Trafford at last. “Take the afternoon train to Augusta and resume your work there. I’ll give this personal attention.”

The man hesitated a moment and then, coming close to him and lowering his voice, spoke rapidly and anxiously.

“You are taking risks, Mr. Trafford. This is no ordinary case. You can’t tell what you’ve got against you. Two men can go safely where one can’t.”

“And one can go safely sometimes where two are a danger. I’ve taken risks all my life—it’s my118 business to take ’em. You don’t suppose I chose this business because of its freedom from danger, do you?”

“A brave man doesn’t court danger; he simply meets it bravely when it comes.”

“Well, I’ll try to meet it that way if it comes. At present Millbank looks like a fairly safe place. I don’t think I’ll get my throat cut here.”

“But you aren’t going to stay here,” the man urged. “You know you aren’t. You’re going——”

“We’ll dispense with information as to where I’m going,” Trafford interrupted. “It’s probably safe to state, but it’s possibly not. We’ll keep on the absolutely safe side as long as possible. Your train leaves in fifteen minutes.”

The gesticulating Canadian reappeared on the instant. Discipline asserted itself, and the man prepared to obey without further remonstrance.


A Man Disappears

TRAFFORD sent a hasty note to McManus, postponing the afternoon appointment, and made ready to visit the logging drives at work along the Kennebec. It was certain that no physician in Millbank had set a broken shoulder or arm within the twenty-four hours; no man of the character sought had left by any of the trains or stages, and the river afforded the only unguarded means of escape. A canoe or river-driver’s boat could easily come and go unnoticed, and it tallied with other points in hand that the assailants were connected with the logging interests. Another point in the case was that, in almost all the large gangs of drivers, there was sure to be some one roughly skilled in surgery, who could attend to minor accidents and even, temporarily, to those of a severer nature, such as are apt to occur, often at points far distant from skilled practitioners. Such a man could, under120 emergency, even possibly have set the arm or shoulder, and could certainly have cared for it until a surgeon at Norridgewock or farther up the river was reached. As yet the logging drives were all above Millbank Falls, so that Trafford’s search pointed entirely in that direction.

Every schoolboy or farmer’s lad is a walking directory to any logging drive within five miles, and Trafford had no difficulty in learning that the nearest drive was at the Bombazee Rips, above Norridgewock. Here he found the ordinary gang of a dozen men, with boats and the implements of their trade, at work on the logs which were beginning to jam against those that had first grounded on the ledge at the head of the rips. Full half of the gang were French Canadians, small, dark men of wonderful litheness and agility, men with a tenacity of life that seems to bid defiance to the wet and exposure of their trade. It was hard work by day, hard sleep by night, often in clothes soaked with the river water; yet cheerful, healthful good humour was evidenced in the loud chatter that came with every lull in the work. It was here that the grown lads of the121 Chaudière, Megantic, and St. François valleys secured that schooling in the English tongue from which race jealousy barred them at home.

A roughly constructed shanty of pine slabs, the earth bountifully spread with clean straw, served for sleeping; while in front was an immense fire of logs, which served double purpose, for warmth in the evening and cooking in the daytime. An old woodsman, whose driving days were past, acted as cook and general camp care-taker. A group of boys flittered about the fire, shanty, and boats. The older ones made ventures upon the logs, and sometimes lent a hand to a driver, handling a pick or cant-hook, a feat that made one a hero with his fellows for the remainder of the day.

It was entirely permissible for a countryman, such as Trafford appeared, on curiosity bent, to enter the sleeping-place or seat himself by the fire. Indeed, at mealtime he would scarcely fail, by virtue of his age, of an invitation to share in the coarse food, a privilege which the boys viewed with keen envy. These boys were unconscious spies, upon the sharpness of whose eyes Trafford counted much.122 They went everywhere and saw everything, and if there was an injured man in camp, it would take skill to keep him concealed from them.

Trafford chatted pleasantly with the cook and joked the boys, before he opened in a general way the subject of accidents—of which he seemed to stand in apprehension, declaring that log-driving was in his opinion the most dangerous of trades. At that the boys raised a shout of derision and extolled the trade to the skies. There was not one of them but was consumed with desire for a driver’s life, exactly as he would be for any other life of freedom and activity whose claims for the moment were pressed upon him.

The old man, on the other hand, admitted the element of danger, and thrilled his hearers with accounts of hairbreadth escapes which he had witnessed in the long years that he had been on the river. There had been deaths, too; deaths from drowning and from crushing in the log jams. Still, the life was a grand one for the man who was not afraid of hard work, and if he had his to live over, he would live it on the river again. There had been123 no accidents as yet, the jams were light and easily moved. It was only here and there with this water that any serious troubles were had. Oh, yes; Millbank Falls; that, of course, was different. There was a hard drive, and when they got there in the course of the next week, they would have a lively tussle.

From camp to camp, Trafford worked up to the Forks of the River and then up the Dead River branch, and again across to the main river and up into the Megantic woods. Nowhere was there any trace of an injured man or a hint of knowledge of one. Wherever the camp was near a village, so that boys gathered around, they were of material aid in giving him information. In spite, however, of every device, he came back down the river unsuccessful and depressed. He had a feeling of defeat, as if in every camp some one were laughing at him as outwitted. He knew the unreason of the feeling and yet could not escape it.

Nor was there, when he reached Millbank, any information from the lower part of the river or from any of the surgeons whom, within a radius of124 thirty miles, he had caused to be interrogated. It was if the earth had opened and swallowed up the man—or—and he stood above the falls and looked at the water rushing over them, as if he would question it and wrest an answer from it. It was certain that the man—a man, whose personality he could merely guess at—had disappeared. It was like ridding himself of a nightmare to throw off the uneasiness that oppressed him.

Immediately on his return, Trafford sought an interview with Mrs. Parlin. The time was coming when the inquest must be reconvened, and as yet there was nothing of advance since the hour when it had adjourned. Even he was grown impatient and he could not marvel that a woman, under the nervous strain of his employer, should be fast becoming irritably so.

“We have no right,” she said, “to leave an innocent man under suspicion as Jonathan has been left. If we can’t find the murderer, we can at least prove that it isn’t he.”

“Unfortunately, until we find the man, the majority will believe him guilty,” Trafford replied.

125 “What right had you to throw suspicion on him?” she demanded.

“The right of the coroner to know every fact that bears on the case. It would have been as unjustifiable to conceal Oldbeg’s purchase of a revolver, as it would to conceal the finding of the weapon.”

“Why wasn’t it there the morning of the eleventh?” she asked.

“My dear madam,” he said with a gentle smile, “if we knew that, we’d know who the murderer is. We’d know it, that is: but possibly not in a way that we could prove.”

“Precious little good that would do us,” she answered.

“So much good that the chances are ninety-nine in a hundred that the proof would be forthcoming. There are few men who are shrewd enough to cover every trace.”

“But these seem to be of the few,” she said.

“We are not through with them yet,” he replied; and then suddenly: “Has the new detective, employed by Hunter and his friends, been here?”

He had, and had made a critical examination of126 the house from cellar to attic; had been through the papers in the desk and safe, and had taken away a number of scraps from the former.

“He didn’t get the writing-pad, though,” he said.

“No; that disturbed him; especially when I told him you had it.”

“The—deuce you did!” he exclaimed. “I wish—you hadn’t!”

“I had no right to conceal so important a fact,” she said.

Trafford bit his lip over this turn of his own argument, but made no retort. He recognised in this second detective a graver impediment than the cunning of the criminal—if, indeed, it was not the cunning of the criminal that had interjected the second detective into the affair. Working independently, it was scarcely possible that they could do otherwise than thwart each other. He had the feeling that the case was his and that no other had a professional right to throw himself into it. If he had been on the verge of success, he would have withdrawn from the case. As it was, the same professional127 pride that resented intrusion, forbade his taking such a course.

For the twentieth time he asked:

“He certainly did a large amount of work at home and must have had papers connected with the work here?”

“Why, certainly,” she said. “He always had a lot of professional papers here.”

Trafford looked at her as if doubting whether he should ask the question that hung on his lips. But he must have facts, and here if anywhere was the information he needed. Could he trust the woman? Finally he came and stood over her chair, as if he was afraid of the walls even, and asked:

“Was this always his habit?”

“No,” she answered; “not while the judge was living, and never indeed until about two years ago. Yes, it began about two years ago.”

“It was not a habit learned from the judge, then?”

“Oh, no! Of course, he brought papers home at times, and so did Theodore; but he never kept them at home until within the last two years.”

128 “Did Cranston ask you about this?” Trafford demanded.

“No,” she said, “no, he did not.”

“If he does, avoid answering him, if possible.” Then he stopped as if he had gone too far, and she, seeing his embarrassment, checked the answer that came to her lips.

He sat for some time silent, and then glanced up to intercept a look that she bent upon him.

“What is it?” he asked.

“Have you talked with Mr. Hunter—the one who was in Theodore’s office, I mean?”

“Is he of the same family as Mr. Hunter who owns the great logging interests?”

“His brother.”

“How long has he been in the office?” he asked carelessly—so carelessly that she forgot he had not answered her question.

“About two and a half years. I think Theodore thought him an acquisition and had great confidence in his ability.”

“A good stock,” he said, “for pushing.” Then he added after a short pause:

129 “Mrs. Parlin, at the inquest you expressed in the strongest terms your confidence that the statement presented was actually written by your husband. Have you had any cause since to change your mind?”

“Not the slightest,” she said. “On the contrary, the facts there stated account for many things that were strange to me before. There is no question as to the facts, and none as to his having written them.”

“That being the case, they can have nothing to do with the murder. The only other person who knew these facts was directly interested in keeping them concealed. Even admitting, as might be possible, that in order effectually to prevent exposure, she had been capable of killing or having her son killed, would she find any likelihood of this in a murder that would centre on him the interest of the entire State? Of course, she did not know of the existence of this paper, and she could not know that the murder would make the case public, but she would know that if he knew the facts, and had any interest in their publicity, he would have acted long ago.130 She would also know that if you knew the facts, your interest was that of secrecy, the chance of which would be diminished in the excitement of a murder case. Now that’s my reasoning, and through it I reach the conclusion that the facts revealed in that statement have nothing to do with the murder. I have since confirmed this by facts outside those from which I reasoned. I haven’t told a soul this before, not even McManus. I don’t want a soul save you to know it now; not even McManus. But now I’m going to ask you a question, which I believe has some bearing upon the causes of the murder, and that is: Why, if Mr. Wing had for two years been keeping many of his business papers at home, was there not one of them in his desk or safe the morning the murder was discovered?”

“No papers in his desk or safe?” she said, while a look almost of terror came over her face. “You must be mistaken! Why, there was a package on his desk, lying right on the writing-pad, when I bade him good-night.”

“Would you recognise it again if you saw it?”


131 “Then look through the safe and see if you can find it.”

He opened the safe and she went through it package by package, while he waited with that patience that comes of long training, until, the search finished, she looked up and said:

“It isn’t here!”

“It was here at nine o’clock on the night of the tenth; it wasn’t here at six on the morning of the eleventh. What do you make of that?”

“It had been stolen!” she gasped, looking pale and perplexed.

“There might be one other explanation,” he interposed; “and we are bound to look at that carefully. Mr. Wing might have burned them. He had a fire that evening.”

“Yes,” she said, “he might.”

“I made sure on that point,” he then explained, “the morning of the murder. Not from any suspicion that papers were missing, but on the principle of taking note of everything, even the most trivial. I can assure you that there were no papers of any amount burned in the fireplace the night before.132 We could scarcely expect it; but it would have been a stroke of genius if the thief had burned some papers to throw us off the track.”

“The thief!” she repeated.

“You must see,” he said, “that the theft of the papers presupposes a thief. I have been certain from the start that some one was in the room after the murder. What he was after I haven’t known until now. He was at the safe, which he must have found open. Some one who wanted those papers wanted them enough to induce him to commit this murder, and then to enter the room and search the safe, while the dead man lay at the door. It was a terrible risk—as terrible as that of the murder itself. Suppose Oldbeg had been a half-hour later in coming home. He would unquestionably have found the murdered man with the murderers in the room. By just that narrow margin this perplexing mystery escaped proving a mere blundering crime.”


“You are My Mother”

THREE men sat in conference in the small library at Henry Matthewson’s residence at Waterville, the morning after the bridge incident. These were Henry Matthewson himself, three years younger than his brother Charles, opposite whom was the man who had come from Millbank by the midnight train, Frank Hunter, brother of Charles Hunter and himself an attorney in the late Mr. Wing’s office.

“The papers are not in the office,” Hunter was saying. “I was nearly certain he did not keep them there, but I made the search carefully.”

“How about his private safe at home?” Henry Matthewson asked.

“Of course I’ve had no opportunity to examine that——”

“You should have made one,” said Charles Matthewson sternly.

134 The remark threw a chill over the talk, that made it a little difficult to break the embarrassed silence that followed. At last, Hunter said:

“It was too dangerous to risk turning any general question in that direction. Besides, Trafford had the first shy at that.”

“Mr. Hunter is right,” Henry Matthewson said, with that tone that men described as “masterful,” and which generally prevailed with Charles, in part because it so much resembled his mother’s. “It would have been too much risk.”

“What are you going to do?” demanded Charles; “let the papers fall into Trafford’s hands, to be used against us, or sold back to us at an enormous price? Wing’s death came at a strangely opportune time; are we going to throw the chance away?”

“If there were papers,” Henry affirmed, “McManus or Trafford had them almost before we heard of the murder. We want to know whether there were papers or not, but we don’t want to advertise their existence. If we get a chance to buy, we may think ourselves lucky.”

“Trafford!” said Hunter with a touch of scorn135 in his voice. “We owe them thanks for putting him on to the job.”

“Are you certain of your grounds for judgment, Mr. Hunter?” Charles Matthewson asked. “I’m a little afraid you underrate his ability.”

“Why, what’s he found out in his fortnight’s work?” demanded Hunter.

“That’s just what I’d like to find out, but can’t,” said Matthewson. “Whatever he’s after, he acts as if he’d get it first and do his crowing afterwards.”

“Trafford’s at the top, so far as ability is concerned,” said Henry; “and the next best man’s Cranston. If you’re going to set a man at work, you’d better take him. There are two things for him to do: First, keep track of Trafford and let him give us notice quick if he hears of the papers; second, work up the story of Wing’s birth. We’ve got to keep that more in the public eye. I can’t for the life of me see anything in it to lead to the murder, but the public think there’s some connection between the two, and we mustn’t let them lose sight of it.”

136 “But there must have been some motive in the murder,” Hunter affirmed.

“If we can get hold of the papers, we’ll let the motive take care of itself,” Charles interposed. “To think, I was in Millbank that very night—almost at the very moment! If I’d known—I’d have found out what was in that room before any detective had a chance!”

He looked at Hunter with an implication of failure. He would gladly have defended himself, but he remembered that he might have been on the scene before McManus, and that he had dawdled over his breakfast and let the opportunity slip. No one would have refused him admission any more than McManus had been refused. How many anxious hours he might have saved himself!

As a result of the conference, Cranston was sent for and put on the case. He listened to his instructions and then said:

“I’ve got to know what you want, if I’m to work with any advantage to you or myself. You want to find out who Wing’s mother was—but that’s incidental. You want to know who murdered137 Wing—but that’s incidental. What is it I’m to do really?”

Again Henry Matthewson showed his superior masterfulness by deciding and acting.

“Mr. Wing had been for some time at work upon a matter that concerns materially the logging interests of this State. We simply know the fact, for he took no one into his confidence, and was so secretive as to keep the papers about him or in his private safe in his library. Without knowing what the papers contain, we believe if they should fall into the hand of a less scrupulous man than Mr. Wing, they might become dangerous—that is, a source of blackmail. We want to locate those papers, and if possible get possession of them.”

“How far am I warranted in going in order to get hold of them?” he asked.

“Only to locate them and report to me. We will decide then on the safe course.” It was Henry Matthewson who spoke, as always when prompt decision was demanded.

“If they had not already been removed,” said Cranston, “Trafford and McManus have had a138 chance long since to secure them. I’m like to find them in their hands.”

“Excepting that they might not know their value,” said Charles Matthewson.

Cranston looked at the speaker quizzically.

“I don’t know about your Mr. McManus,” he said. “He’s a lawyer. But as to Trafford, I can answer. If he’s had his hands on those papers, he knows their value.”

“I don’t think,” said Hunter, after the detective had received his instructions and gone, “that my brother would quite approve time spent in discovering Wing’s mother. He doesn’t believe that affair had anything to do with the murder.”

“How can any sensible man?” Henry Matthewson demanded impatiently; “but we don’t know where the enquiry is going to land us nor what help we may want before we’re through. If the judge’s statement is true, this woman has a high position to lose and has great influence with her husband, who holds a strong place politically. It can’t be a matter of much trouble to unravel that part of the affair, and it may give us some one whom we can139 use advantageously in case of an emergency. It may bring to our aid a force that naturally would be glad to crush us. I’ll take the risk at any rate!”

“All right,” said Hunter. “I’m agreeable, though I thought it proper to state my brother’s position.”

Cranston entered upon his work at once and with zeal. His first visit was to Millbank and the Parlin house, where, as has been said, he searched from top to bottom. He plied Mrs. Parlin with questions that finally got from her the story of the package of papers, which she was not conscious of having seen until his questions stirred her memory to recall a picture of the room the night before the murder. Then came out clearly and distinctly the package of papers lying on the desk. It was, however, equally certain that they were gone, and of this he was able to satisfy himself without letting Mrs. Parlin understand that he attached any importance to the matter. The task was left him of ascertaining whether Trafford or McManus had them. The episode of the writing-pad convinced him that Trafford was the man, and that the pad140 was simply a cover to the removal of the papers that were resting on it. It was this that caused the annoyance to which Mrs. Parlin had referred.

He went over the ground under the consciousness that eyes at least as capable of seeing as his own had preceded him, and that there was little chance that anything had escaped them and less chance that, if there had, he would be able to discover it. It irritated him that men who wanted real service should call him in at so late an hour, and then seem to take it for granted that they had done all that was necessary.

“Oldbeg has been here a good many years,” he said carelessly to Mrs. Parlin, who insisted on attending him in his investigation.

“He’s been with us about six years; one year before the judge died.”

“You have always found him faithful?”

“There has been nothing particular to complain of. He’s been steady and has worked hard and usually shown good temper.”

“Usually,” Cranston repeated. “Then sometimes he hasn’t.”

141 “He has his off-days, the same as the rest of us; days when things don’t go right and he gets surly. But those spells pass quickly and he’s always sorry for them, seemingly. There aren’t any of us smooth-feathered all the time.”

“When did he have one of these ‘off-days,’ as you call them, last?” The tone was careless, as if Cranston did not attach much importance to the enquiry, and yet made it, as in duty bound.

“On the Sunday before——”

“May ninth,” interrupted Cranston.

“Yes. In the afternoon he was dressed up to go visiting. Theodore sent for him to put his driving horse into the light buggy, so he could drive to Norridgewock. Jonathan didn’t like it and said if he couldn’t have Sunday afternoons, he’d find some place where he could.”

“Was that all there was to it?” Cranston asked, after waiting a moment for Mrs. Parlin to continue.

“Why, about all. It’s all too silly to repeat.”

“I’d rather judge of that,” Cranston said, more shortly perhaps than he intended.

142 Mrs. Parlin grew cold and distant, with that poise of the head that, to her friends, at least, told of offence taken.

“It was only irritation and he didn’t even mean that Theodore should hear him, but Theodore did and answered pretty sharply and——”

“Please, what did he say?”

“That he could go any time it suited him, and that, while he intended to give a man all the privileges he could, he intended also to have his services when he wanted them. Jonathan said if he wanted a man to work like a nigger, he’d better get one; and Theodore told him if he heard another word from him, he’d discharge him on the spot.” Mrs. Parlin had spoken formally and distantly, as if to assert the compulsion under which she complied with his demand.

“Was that the end of it?” he asked.

“Why, of course. Neither of them meant it, and the easiest way was to let it pass. Theodore understood that and didn’t refer to it again. It’s sometimes the best way to get along with hasty folks.”

143 “But did Oldbeg forget it?” Cranston asked significantly.

“Possibly not. He knew he was wrong and it made him uneasy, but of course, it all went when the terrible murder was discovered.”

Cranston looked at her with a puzzled expression, and then smiled as he realised that she had not understood his question. He was glad that it was so, and at once passed to other matters.

To Frank Hunter, however, that night he reported his conviction that the evidence pointed more strongly to Oldbeg as the murderer than he had supposed.

“In fact,” he said, “there’s enough to justify his arrest, and with that I feel pretty certain he’ll break down and we’ll get the truth.”

“But the papers,” said Hunter, impatiently. “Oldbeg could have had no knowledge of them, but they’re what we’re first of all interested in.”

“Oh, as for them, Trafford’s got them beyond doubt. They were last seen on the writing-pad, and he made quite a show of taking that. It was nothing but a cover for the papers, of course.144 You’ve got to open negotiations with him for their purchase, but you can’t do that so long as he thinks they may have something to do with the murder. When the question of the murder’s out of the way, then the papers ’ll simply be papers and you can make quick work of ’em: another reason why you ought to arrest Oldbeg and get that settled.”

“But my brother’s positive Oldbeg had nothing to do with the murder, and whatever his interest may be, he’s not going to let an innocent man suffer an unjust arrest. I’m confident, unless you can give him positive proofs in the matter, he’ll not allow it to be done.”

“Well,” said the man sulkily, “I’m in your employ and shall obey orders, but if I was working on the case as a public matter, I’d have the arrest made and made quick.”

Mr. Charles Hunter was obdurate. He declared that enough injustice had already been done in turning public suspicion against the man without a shred to hang it on, and he was not going to be a party to keeping it up.

“It’ll take the man years to recover from it now,”145 he affirmed; “and an arrest would down him forever. Oh, yes, I know you bring in a motive in a petty fuss that occurred on Sunday—a thing that might happen anywhere and to any one. A man going to see his girl gets miffed because he has to harness a horse and is impertinent, and you conclude that that’s reason for his shooting his employer. It’s against all reason and common sense, and I won’t insult my intelligence by considering it.”

“Most murders are against reason and common sense,” said the detective; “at least, that’s my experience, and more than that, nine murders out of ten are for absolutely trivial causes. Before you get through with this case, you’ll see Oldbeg arrested, or I’ll miss my guess.”

“Well, I shan’t be responsible for it,” the other retorted.

Thwarted in this part of his search, Cranston turned his attention to tracing Wing’s mother, to which both Hunter and the Matthewsons appeared to attach considerable importance—more, in fact, than he could find in it. Confessedly, it was a cover146 or subterfuge and meant the unearthing of a secret that might ruin a woman’s good name for a mistake made forty years before. It seemed to him a strange twist of conscience, which revolted at the arrest of a man for a crime of which circumstances tended to show him guilty, while it gave willing assent to bringing to light that which might have been lived down years before and redeemed by a clean life during more years than any of these men had lived.

As soon, however, as he took up the matter, the spirit of the quest possessed him, and this grew strong as the facts unearthed began to point in a certain direction, while wonder and a low greed found seeds in the case as it unfolded. At last, with the truth before him, he was at the point where paths separated, with insistent necessity for him to take one or the other. Should he go to the woman and demand his price for silence; or should he give the sons the facts and make them the purchasers? Whichever he decided on, he would deal honestly as a man should, and he would not pit one against the other. Hence, the importance of the decision,147 for once made it barred him from negotiations with any one else. Preferably, he would keep the matter a secret from the sons, save that he had a shrewd suspicion that they were in a better position to pay the price than was the mother. On the other hand, the mother might prove the more defiant, especially if she credited his unwillingness to go to others. It was at best a delicate question, but fortunately it would “keep” and be as valuable a month hence as now. He could, therefore, wait and let development lead him in his decision.

Then came the thought of Trafford. Trafford had, of course, followed up this clue and, equally of course, had unearthed the facts. He, therefore, was in the market, with the danger that he might not prove as “honourable” as Cranston purposed being, and, therefore, might damage the price that the latter had expected to obtain. Indeed, it was an awkward predicament for a man who had a valuable secret to sell and natural purchasers at hand, yet wished at the same time to shape his course to the demands of fair dealing and honour. Still, before he moved, it was necessary that he should ascertain,148 if possible, whether Trafford had approached either of the persons interested and if so, what he had done.

It was the day on which Trafford returned from his fruitless visit to the logging drives. Charles Matthewson, uneasy and anxious, found his office more conducive to nervousness than work, and finally, throwing down his pen, had reached for his hat for a turn out of doors, when the door opened and his mother entered.

“Why, mother,” he said, rising to meet her, and striving to stifle the apprehension her presence brought, “this is an unusual honour. It’s a pleasure I would not deny myself, yet I would have spared you the trouble if you had sent for me.”

“I came to talk with you, Charles,” she said, as she took the proffered chair by the window; “and it was better and easier to talk here than at home.”

“It is a matter of moment, mother?” he asked anxiously.

Endowed though Charles Matthewson was with that relentless persistence, that knows no conscience save success in the pursuit of a purpose, which had149 carried the family so far, there was a gentler side to his nature that was wanting in his younger brother. The development of this was peculiarly in his relationship with his mother, who in turn gave him a tenderness of affection of which few dreamed her capable. A desire, born of all that was womanly in her masculine nature, had been fed by this son’s love, which was in strong contrast to the awe and deference accorded her by most of her relatives. It was no easy task for her to turn for aid to any one, but if she was forced to do so, it was naturally to Charles she would go. On the other hand, he knew her well enough to know that an appeal struck its roots deep before it could bring her to such a course.

“Is it you, Charles, who are having this woman hunted down?”

“What woman, mother?” he asked in surprise.

She seemed to find difficulty in answering; but after a struggle, raised her head almost defiantly, and said in a hard, cold voice:

“The mother of Theodore Wing.”

150 His face hardened in turn to a strange resemblance to her own.

“You have nothing to do with such a woman as that, mother.”

“Every woman has to do with another who is being oppressed and wronged. Why is the dead past of that woman to be laid bare to the world? Are the years since her wrongdoing to count for nothing? Is this generation, that has grown up since all this happened, to be the judge of what she did before it was born? Is my son to be the one to allow the wrong?”

This new phase of his mother’s character struck him strangely and not pleasantly. She was not wont to show large sympathy with her sex, though he would be far from accusing her of hardness or cruelty. Still she had left with him the impression of sympathies and feelings that were rather masculine than feminine; the impressions of one who, accepting the task of fighting her own way in the world, felt it no injustice or wrong to impose the same on others.

“I have no wish, mother, to hunt down this or151 any other woman; but a terrible murder has been committed, a murder the more terrible because of its motiveless and mysterious character. I have been called in as counsel to those who are seeking to unravel this mystery and punish the murderer, and it’s my duty to use every means to accomplish this end.”

“Then you are hunting this woman out and will expose her nakedness to the world!” The words were a cry, that had its force even more in the tone than in the words themselves.

“I am certainly endeavouring to discover the woman. I could do no less under the circumstances. I think I have a fair prospect of success.”

She rose from her chair and looked at him strangely and despairingly. Then she turned towards the door.

“I will go,” she said. “This is no place for me. I will go.”

He looked at her coldly, almost repellantly, as he said, checking her:

“Mother, what does this mean?”

No man who had once seen it, could forget the152 look she gave him. There was heartbreak in it; there was more than that, there was the crushing back of a life-long pride.

“What can it mean?” she asked.

His head fell on his breast. He had never guessed before the bitterness that life can have, that a moment of time can bring. She never took her eyes from his. Whatever the sentence, she would meet it as became her past. Slowly his head came up; slowly the misery in his eyes rose to hers. Then he came and laid his lips on her forehead and said:

“You are my mother: I shall obey your wish.”


A Second Murder?

MR. McMANUS,” said Trafford, after they had completed the re-examination of Wing’s private papers at the office and in his safe at home, “was Mr. Wing of a peculiarly secretive disposition?”

“If he had a fault,” McManus answered, “and since he was human, he must have had, it was his excessive frankness and openness.”

“And yet we find him lugging papers on some affair, which he shared with no one, back and forth from office to house, and when not so doing, keeping them locked in a safe in his library to which only he had access. How do you account for this?”

McManus glanced over his shoulder before answering and then dropped his voice almost to a whisper, although they were sitting in the very centre of the great library at the Parlin house, with the door closed.

154 “I think he was afraid.”

“Afraid!” repeated Trafford, almost thrown off his guard, but instinctively lowering his tone in sympathy with his companion. “Afraid of what?”

“Just about two years ago, he found one morning that his desk at the office had been ransacked. Papers were turned topsy-turvy and packages of papers had been opened and tied up again hastily. The thoroughness with which the search was made showed that the person had a well-shaped purpose, while the fact that a considerable amount of money, which was loose in a drawer, was not touched, proved that it was not robbery. We made every effort to find out the culprit, but without success. We had at one time suspicion of an office-boy, but nothing positive, and Mr. Wing wouldn’t let him be discharged under circumstances that would do him a grave injustice if he were innocent. So we retained him.”

“And he repeated the performance,” Trafford said in a tone of conviction.

McManus looked at him, questioning whether this155 assertion came from knowledge of the affair or was merely a shrewd guess. Failing to satisfy himself, he went on:

“The performance was repeated, but under conditions that made it impossible for the boy to be guilty. He was away on his vacation.”

“Not shrewd of the culprit. You are certain it was some one in the office?”

“Yes; but we never discovered his identity.”

“And from that time Mr. Wing began carrying these papers back and forth and keeping them in this safe.”

McManus nodded.

“And the desk was never troubled again.”

“How do you know?”

“Was it?”


Trafford nodded his satisfaction and proceeded to elucidate:

“When the object was removed and the watcher knew it, he would repeat the search only to cover his identity. Shrewd as he was, he either wasn’t156 shrewd enough for that or was indifferent. He gave away the fact that he was some one who knew of the removal of the papers.”

“Then you think these papers were what he was after?”

“Most assuredly.”

“And that the removal of them——”

“Became Wing’s death warrant,” Trafford completed the sentence. McManus hesitated and grew pale.

“My God, Trafford; do you see what that leads to?”

“I see what you think it leads to. You think it leads to the conclusion that Wing was murdered by somebody in your office, somebody who has been there at least two years. I think that’s what you lawyers call a non sequitur.”

“At the office, the papers might be stolen; here they could be stolen only after the murder of Wing. Why shouldn’t the thief be one and the same in both cases?”

“Because many a man will steal where only one will commit murder. It is possible, of course, that157 the two may be the same. The probabilities, however, are against it.”

“What follows then?” demanded McManus.

“That the actor in at least one case, and possibly in both, was not the principal; and that the more there are engaged in the affair, the better chance we have of discovery. It is the one-man affair that baffles.”

None the less, when McManus was gone, Trafford summed up the successes of three weeks and found them mortifyingly few. A package of papers missed and not found; an innocent man under suspicion; a woman of prominence proved the mother of an illegitimate child; a thwarted attempt upon his own life; a wounded Canadian apparently wiped off the earth; and a respectable citizen traced on a midnight visit to another respectable citizen at Waterville. It was not on such achievements as these that he had built his reputation.

With the thought of the missing Canadian, his anxiety returned. It was impossible that he had been spirited away to Canada, yet it was undeniable that he was gone. He went out and looked at the158 river. After two weeks of dry weather the water was falling. On the edge of the falls, rocks showed that a week before were under water. In eddies and shallow places he could see, as with his physical eye, drift and débris collecting, and sometimes in this drift and débris strange matter was thrown up. He had hesitated to do it, but he felt that he had no right to hesitate longer, and so he gave directions for a careful search of the river banks and shallow places from Millbank to Pishon’s Ferry. It was the last chance, and he had refused to consider it until it would be criminal to refuse longer.

That was the physical part of the task, which he could set others to do; but there was another part, and that he took with him to his room in the hotel and spent much of the night with it. All the evening he turned and re-turned it, looking at every side and phase, and then went to bed and to sleep, with the knowledge that more than once that which the most earnest thought fails to unravel becomes by some strange alchemy clear under the magic of sleep. Would it be so with this?

159 To that query, which came involuntarily, he answered with a doubt.

“I’m fighting my conviction,” he said, almost plaintively, “instead of giving myself up to its free course. I can’t expect to be helped as long as I do that; but I can’t, I won’t believe. A man in my mood can’t solve anything!”

So it came to pass that the night brought him no help, and he rose in the morning without that sense of rest which a single hour’s sleep brings under the stimulus of success.

About noon, a country lad on horseback brought a message from a point some six miles below the village. Obeying the message, he started at once with the coroner and physician.

On a tiny meadow that lay as a crescent of green along the border of cove where the current of the river sweeps in as an eddy, something was drawn up from the water and lay covered in an unrecognizable mass, which none the less had a strange repulsiveness about it. Back of the meadow great trees rose toward the early June sky; before it the river flashed in the June sunshine, and across its160 waters, the brown earth, dotted with the young corn, stretched away in the beauty of early summer. A few men and boys stood about the covered thing in strange silence, that seemed almost of fear; yet all pressed nearer when, by order of the coroner, the covering cloth was removed.

Trafford and the doctor stooped and made a close examination of the hideous thing. No one spoke above his breath as they waited the report, yet by some strange magic the story of the finding went from man to man. At last the two men rose and went down to the river to wash their soiled hands. The coroner followed them:

“What do you make of it?” he asked.

Trafford waited until the doctor was forced to speak:

“Plainly a Canuck, and I should say a log-driver. Certainly a working man. Been drowned a week and has come from above the Falls. You can see that by the way he’s battered up. That’s when he was whirled round under the Falls. Several bones broken, probably by the rocks, but that smashing of the collar bone came from a blow from above and161 before he was dead. It may have been that that knocked him into the water. Unless you find some particular mark on him, you won’t be able to identify him, he’s so smashed up. Better send up the river and see if any driver has been missing about a week. Beg pardon, Mr. Trafford, I fear I’m taking the words out of your mouth.”

“Not at all,” the other answered. “I couldn’t have covered my findings better myself, excepting I was less certain about the breaking of the collar bone, whether it was before or after death. If he had gone over the Falls, for instance, head first, might he not have struck a rock and broken his collar bone, so as to give the appearance of its being shattered by a blow dealt from above?”

“It’s not simply that,” said the doctor. “There’s the swelling of the living flesh that could not take place if the blow occurred after death. The injury must have occurred long enough before death to produce this effect.”

“Then it could hardly have been the blow that knocked him into the water?”

The doctor started at the question and, without162 answering, walked back to the body and re-examined the broken bone and some of the other bruises. Then he came back to where Trafford and the coroner waited him.

“There can’t be any question that the broken clavicle antedates death, and antedates it some few hours. The man may have been injured at some distance from any one and have taken a boat to go for assistance and not been able to control it.”

“He might have done any one of a dozen things,” Trafford interposed impatiently; “but the thing is to find out which one he did do. How did he get this injury, and how did he come to his drowning after the injury; for I take it you’ll admit when death came, it did come through drowning.”

“I think we’ll have to admit that,” the doctor returned.

“Then we have an injury, one, two, perhaps three hours before death; and then death by drowning. If all this was the result of accident, don’t you think he was having more than his fair share, crowded into a pretty small space of time?” It was Trafford’s question.

163 “You mean,” demanded the coroner, a trifle uneasily, “that we’ve got another murder on our hands before the first one is cleared up?”

“I mean,” said Trafford; “that if we have, it may prove easier to unravel two murders than one.”

They walked slowly back and looked at the face that was gashed beyond human recognition. Was this he who had cried so piteously on Millbank Bridge, “Sacré; c’est moi, Pierre!”? If so, what had been the history of the few hours that elapsed before he plunged into the river to the death meant for Trafford? How was that plunge made? Where was the Pierre who had struck the blow on the bridge, and who must be able to tell the story of the man’s drowning? These were the questions which were dinning themselves in Trafford’s brain and imperiously demanding an answer.

The news of the finding of the body spread rapidly through Millbank, but with comparatively trifling sensation. Men were drowned each year in the river. The driving business was full of risks and men fell victims to it each spring. It was not like a murder—a blow from no one knew where, falling164 no one knew why. This drowning was a thing people were accustomed to expect. They shrugged, wondered if he had a family, and thought little more of an accident that left them “one less Canuck.” A solitary priest, poor and hard-worked, spent the night in prayers for the dead; for these men who come from the North to drive the river are almost without exception faithful children of the Church, which, through her ministry, mourns her bereavement and assails the gates of heaven for admission of the departed soul.

Trafford sat alone in his room at the hotel. He had no doubt that this was the man on whom had fallen the blow which was intended for him. Disabled, so that he could not be concealed or taken away without discovery and recognition, it had been worth the while of those who had failed in their attempt on his own life, to murder the poor wretch, rather than take the chances of his being seen and questioned. Disabled as he was, his condition should have appealed to the hardest heart. He had tried to do faithfully the work given him and, failing, had been done to death for his fidelity. What was this165 hideous thing that played with murder, rather than let itself be discovered?

As Trafford asked himself the question, he glanced uneasily at his windows. It was here, in this very town, within a stone’s throw of the very place where he sat, that murder stalked—murder that had once sought him as a victim and then had destroyed its own instrument, not trusting the man it had employed. It seemed like a lowering menace, ready to fall without warning, and almost for the first time since he had taken up this profession, he was conscious of the sense of personal fear. This merciless, unseen something, impressed him as standing just beyond the line of sight, watching with unseen eyes, to strike at him again. If it could be uncovered, what would it prove itself, to justify so desperate a chance? If it could not be uncovered, where was safety for himself or for any one who stood as a menace to its purposes?

That the men who had committed these two murders and had tried a third—for he did not for one instant separate them—would stop at no chance, was beyond dispute or question. They had watched and166 waited on Wing for two years and, apparently, had not struck until every other means of securing what they wanted had failed. When they did strike, they had struck pitilessly and effectively. But they were still on their guard, as the assault on the Bridge and this wanton murder of a wounded man proved. They had gone so far; certainly they would not now retire from the game, nor would they show a scrupulousness they had failed to feel before they had so far committed themselves that retreat was impossible. It was a struggle to the death, with an unseen foe, by a man who at all times stood out as a plain mark. He had the sensation of one who stands with a lamp in his hands and peers into the deeper dark, to catch a glimpse of a foe that he simply knows lies in wait for him unseen.


Already One Attempt

I WON’T consent to any further chasing of this woman.”

It was Charles Matthewson who spoke, standing in front of his brother in the library at Waterville, where the original interview regarding Cranston had taken place. It was a long time since Charles had spoken so positively to Henry, and the latter looked up half amused and half irritated, yet with an ugly expression on his face.

“You have suddenly become very much concerned for this—woman. I’ll use your polite term,” he said.

“I’ve suddenly become concerned for myself,” the other replied hotly. “I know, as you do, that she and her—misfortune have nothing to do with this murder; and I know, as you do, if you’ll stop to think a moment, that it’s a cowardly piece of business for men to engage in to hunt down a woman,168 simply because they may do so with the approval of the hunters.”

Henry gave a low whistle.

“Who’s been talking to you? You’ve got a sudden conversion as to this woman’s—misfortune.” He gave an ugly slur to that last word. “Time was when you’d call it by another name.”

“Well, whether I would or not, Cranston’s got to be called off from that line: and he’s got to be called off quick!”

“But Frank Hunter has been very insistent on this point. He seems to have some reason for thinking it important,” Henry answered.

“Because he thinks that a sensation there will stop folks asking questions nearer home. If he can raise a dust behind which he can negotiate for those papers, he’s got all he’s looking for just now.”

“Perhaps you don’t feel any interest in those papers,” Henry answered.

“Interest or no interest, I’m not going to skulk any longer behind a petticoat. I’m ashamed to have done it so long.”

“Good boy,” Henry said, making a motion as if169 to pat him on the shoulder. “I ask again, who’s been stirring up your conscience?”

“Our mother,” said Charles simply.

Henry stopped in his act, and a new look came over his face.

“Does she think it unmanly?” he asked.

“She thinks it cowardly and mean,” Charles said strongly.

Not a sign of anger at these stinging words came into Henry’s face, but instead the look of a child justly reproved.

“I guess she’s right, Charles,” he said. “I guess she’s right. I hadn’t thought of it before, but it is mean and cowardly. I’ll call Cranston off at once.”

“And Hunter?” Charles asked in his turn.

“He can find something else to raise a dust, or he can come out into the open and fight; but he shan’t fight longer behind this woman’s petticoat. I wish we hadn’t done it at all!”

“I’d give more than I can tell,” Charles answered, giving cry to that bitterness of shame which, hidden in his heart, he dared not uncover.

170 “Yes,” said Henry; “to think that mother should call our act mean and cowardly! I’d rather the old papers——” Then he stopped short.

“Has it ever occurred to you that the papers may have had something to do with Wing’s death?” Charles asked.

“Hush up!” exclaimed Henry roughly. “There are some things a man shouldn’t even dare think, much less say.”

“But—by God,” Charles answered, “there are some things a man can’t help thinking and perhaps saying. I tell you, I’m not so certain I wouldn’t have shot Wing myself for the sake of getting hold of those papers!”

“And if you’re going to keep on talking this way, you might as well have done it,” Henry answered bitterly. “I wouldn’t trust myself to think such things as you’re saying.”

“But, Henry, think, just think——”

“I won’t,” the other shouted in a wild passion. “I won’t think, and I forbid you to ask me to! The man is dead and the Lord only knows into whose hands those papers have fallen. There’s171 only one thing I keep thinking—thinking all the time,” and his voice dropped, while he looked anxiously over his shoulder, as if he feared the very walls of his library: “and that is that it was safer to have those papers in his hands, so long as we knew that they were there, than it is to have them in the hands of somebody—we don’t know who, for a purpose, we don’t know what.”

Charles grew paler than Henry had ever seen him. There was a gasp in his voice, as if he found breathing difficult, and he almost clutched at his brother as he said:

“That means that you are afraid, as I am, that the papers had some connection with his death, and you are trying to persuade yourself to the contrary. A month ago, you’d have jumped at the chance of somebody else having them, no matter who that somebody else might be: yet to-day you try to make me think that you believe it has increased the danger. You know better. I don’t care whose hands they’re in, we’re safer than we were when Wing had them. Now it’s only a question of money.”

“Then why don’t we hear from them?”

172 “It would be so safe, with matters as they are, for any one to offer to sell Wing’s papers,” sneered Charles.

“Suppose whoever’s got them makes copies of them?” Henry suggested.

“And you tell me not to think of these things!” Charles cried.

Henry Matthewson at once called Cranston off from the Bangor matter and then sent for Frank Hunter. The latter came in the early evening, uneasy, restless, and irritable. The mood was confirmed when he discovered what had been done.

“It’s that, or let him go to Millbank and keep excitement alive there,” he said. “Trafford strikes me as entirely capable of doing enough of that.”

“As matters stand,” demanded Henry, regardless of the caution he had given his brother, “do you know who were most likely to profit by Wing’s death?”

“We were,” answered Frank coldly. “Do you think I’ve ever failed to recognise that fact? I don’t do business that way.”

“Then you mean to say that you have seen from173 the first that if men looked for motives, they’d fasten on us?”

“I mean to say exactly that,” Frank Hunter answered; “and unless we can dig up something that shows that somebody else was in as bad a position as we, it will go hard with us, unless we can tire the detectives out and make them give it up as a bad job.”

It was Henry Matthewson’s turn to look and feel uneasy. Born to affluence, raised in wealth, and encouraged to high ambition, he had already gone far for a young man, and it seemed a piteous thing that in his own house, with his wife and children almost within call of his voice, he should be told that unless men could be made to forget and so abandon their interest in the Wing murder, it might go hard with him—that he might become an object of suspicion.

“I don’t mean,” Hunter said, “that we are in any danger of being convicted of Wing’s murder, or even of being arrested for it. That’s way beyond reason. But how much better off would we be, if the community should take up the suspicion that we were interested in Wing’s death; that we procured174 it? The public is an unreasoning brute. Look at poor Oldbeg!”

“Poor Oldbeg!” repeated Matthewson. “What in the name of thunder makes you so tender of Oldbeg?”

“It is Charles more than I,” Hunter said, referring to his brother. “He insists that the man is innocent; that there’s not a scintilla of proof against him, and he won’t consent that the unreasoning whim of the people shall do such injustice; and in fact, when I think that our time may come at any moment, I can’t help feeling a good deal that way myself.”

In the shrubbery outside the window a man, who had followed Hunter from Millbank, listened and watched. He could hear nothing and see as little, but hour after hour he kept his post, with dogged patience, using a night to catch a single hint. Had Hunter known how closely he was followed and watched, he would have been still more uneasy and disturbed.

“What is it about this new corpse that’s been found at Millbank?” Matthewson asked.

175 “Oh, merely a drowned logger. Nobody knows him and he’s been unceremoniously put under ground. Nobody’d have thought anything of it at any other time, for there’s never a spring that one or more of them don’t turn up; but just now we are living on sensations, and it added to the interest that Trafford was on hand and almost the first on the spot.”

“Wasn’t it one of Trafford’s men who found it?” the other asked.

“So it’s said.”

“Was he looking for it, or for something else?” Matthewson persisted.

“What do you mean?”

“Why should Trafford have sent men to search the lower river, if he didn’t expect to find something? Had some one disappeared? You say a mere logger. What might Trafford say?”

“I believe you see a bogy every time you turn round,” Hunter said impatiently.

“‘’Tis conscience doth make cowards of us all,’” Matthewson answered. “I don’t like to be in this position. I don’t dare move to find the papers, for176 fear in doing so I stir suspicions concerning Wing’s death. I don’t dare leave the papers in the uncertain hands where they are, lest they arouse the very same suspicions. It’s a nice position for an innocent man to be in.”

The curiosity of the public, no longer fed on rumours and inquests, had begun to flag, giving place to the inevitable sneers at the police and detective force, with renewed predictions daily made that the murder would remain an unsolved mystery. But for the occasional sight of Trafford, and the expectation that the inquest might be reconvened at almost any time, the village would already have begun to forget the murdered man, so easily does a sensation fade into the commonplace.

But Trafford remained, or at least reappeared at unexpected moments, like an uneasy spirit that found no rest. He was working now on two murders, confident that if he found the perpetrator of the one, he would solve both. It was an aid to him that the public accepted the second as an accident, he alone having knowledge of the attempted murder of himself which, unaccomplished, had brought this fate on177 the unhappy wretch who was to be himself a murderer.

About this time, however, he had proof that he had not ceased to interest some one. On returning to his room at the hotel one evening, he found that it had been entered during his absence and a thorough search of all his papers and luggage made. At first, he was inclined to complain to the landlord, but this purpose passed as quickly as it came, resulting in his taking apparently no notice of the affair.

It called to mind very forcibly, however, the tale that McManus had told him of the rifling of Wing’s desk, and caused him to take a professional view of the incident. He had said at the time that a pair of trained eyes would have seen something of importance. He was thus placed on his mettle to prove his boast. In fact, there was little to see. It was evident that the intruder had come by a window opening on to the roof of a long porch. A dusty footprint on the carpet under the window, pointing inward, proved this, and Trafford was able to find traces along the roof to a hall window, but the returning178 tracks were not traceable. He was not so much offended at the liberty taken with his property as by the implication on his sagacity, in the expectation of finding anything he preferred should remain unfound.

He had his suspicions as to the person who had ransacked Wing’s desk, and it was a satisfaction to be given an opportunity to test that suspicion by this later act. If he could bring it home to the possible culprit in the former case, he felt that a very considerable advance would be made. It was true that the method smacked a trifle of seeking facts with which to sustain a preconceived opinion, rather than permitting facts to lead up to judgment; but strict adherence to rule was not always possible, and this appeared a case in which exception was to be made.

Because, however, of this yielding to temptation, possibly, it troubled him more to discover that the assumed trespasser on Wing’s desk could by no means be the culprit in the present case, for it was beyond controversy that the suspected individual had not been within many miles of the Millbank hostelry179 at the hour of the intrusion. It might be a touch of cunning, but the alibi was not to be questioned. None the less, here was the fact that Wing’s desk was broken open because he was believed to be in possession of certain papers of a compromising character, and that when it was believed that these papers had come into the possession of the detective, his room and papers were in turn ransacked. That there was connection of cause and effect between the facts was scarcely to be doubted, even though it was not as simple as he had at first supposed to establish it.

Uncertainty as to the nature of the missing papers, and his inability to secure any definite information, were the tantalising features of the case. He questioned McManus only to find that his knowledge of the matter was no less hazy. These papers had been seen by no one in the office excepting in package. Whether they had been received by Wing from Judge Parlin or not was unknown. There was a general understanding that they had come from the judge, and that Wing had given a great deal of attention to them, so that they had grown materially180 in his hands. The scandal of the ransacking of the desk had caused a great deal of excitement in the office and no little discussion, but this had brought out no facts bearing on the subject-matter. That it involved some one was guessed, but even this guess was wild and general, rather than specific.

“Unless something of certainty is arrived at,” Trafford said, “it will be impossible to delay the re-opening of the inquest more than a week longer, and in the present temper of the public mind a verdict implicating Oldbeg would not be impossible.”

He said it half musingly, as if rather talking to himself than otherwise, and yet there was a look under the eyelids that would not have been quite reassuring to a close observer. McManus did not seem to note it, but took up the matter rather with Trafford’s own manner.

“But there the papers stand as the insurmountable difficulty. Oldbeg could have no object in stealing them. He could scarcely have known of their existence—that is, as papers of value. If the connection could be made, it would be serious for him.”

181 “But it can’t be made,” Trafford said, as if he were waking from his lethargic condition. “I’ve told you what kind of a man it was that did this murder, and when the murderer is discovered, as discovered he will be, you’ll find I’ve described him correctly. Those papers caused this murder and caused it because they were a menace to some one. That some one couldn’t have been Oldbeg——”

“Yet the public mind is impressed with Oldbeg’s guilt and, if I mistake not, the jury is as well.”

“You overlook the fact that nothing regarding these papers has appeared in the testimony.”

McManus looked up suddenly as the fact was recalled to him.

“That’s so,” he said. “We’ve discussed them so much that I had entirely lost sight of the fact. Of course, that’ll free Oldbeg when it is brought out in testimony.”

“If it is brought out,” Trafford said.

“But surely,” McManus urged; “you will not let so important a matter pass—let alone the fact that it is the cause of injustice to Oldbeg, who surely has suffered enough already.”

182 “Mr. McManus,” said Trafford solemnly; “I’m at work to find the murderer of Mr. Wing. That’s the one purpose I have before me, and it is what the best interests of the public demand. If Oldbeg or another suffers unjustly for the moment, it is that the guilty man may suffer in the end. I’m sorry for Oldbeg, but I’m not responsible for the turn matters have taken. At present, the parties who are interested in these papers believe I have them, and the work I’m doing requires them to continue so to believe. I don’t conceive it to be my duty to produce at the inquest testimony that will undeceive them.”

“Aren’t you taking a tremendous responsibility?” McManus asked.

“It’s my business to take responsibility. I’ve taken it often to the extent of risking my life—I may do so again; but when there’s a murderer at large and I’m set to find him, I don’t stop because my life is endangered or because another is put to inconvenience. If Oldbeg’s held for the murder, it’ll be inconvenient for him, but not so inconvenient as it would be for me to be murdered because I’m on the track of the right man.”

183 “And you are on the track of the right man?” McManus demanded.

“I’ve been on his track from the moment I entered that library and knew that it had been searched by the man who fired the fatal bullet. I’ve been on his track from that day to this, and I shall keep on it until I catch up with him or he kills me; but as surely as that last happens, he’ll swing. It isn’t given to any man to commit murder twice and cover his tracks. If I go down, it’ll end in his going up.”

“But really, Mr. Trafford, you take this thing more seriously than I imagined. You’re not in earnest in this talk of an attempt to murder you!”

“So much in earnest that I never go out without thinking I may not come back.”

“But why?”

“Because already one attempt has been made.”

“You astound me!” McManus exclaimed. “I agreed at the start to co-operate with you so long as you had the case in hand, but, certainly, I’m entitled to know something! Why do you say it’s because you are supposed to have the papers? Might it not be simply to shield the murderer? You leave184 the thing in a cloud that is”—he seemed searching for a word—“disturbing.”

Trafford, however, refused to say more; but after McManus left, he sat for a few moments as if asking himself if he had done wisely, and then rousing up muttered:

“We’ll see how far that’ll carry!”


At the Drivers’ Camp

TWO days later a message came which necessitated a trip up the Dead River branch, traversing the ground over which Trafford had gone ten days before. Already, however, the camps he had visited were deserted, the drivers having followed the body of logs moving towards the river itself. At the Forks, Trafford was joined by the assistant who had warned him that morning in Millbank. They had a long conference, in which there appeared no small amount of differing opinion. The assistant had tracked from a camp on Moosehead, to a cabin beyond the Madison Beeches above Millbank, two Canadians, who had left the lake suddenly on May 12. He was certain he had located one of the men, a great powerful fellow, in one of the Dead River driving gangs.

“And the other?”

“I can get no trace of him. They separated at Millbank—perhaps forever.”

186 “And this fellow’s name—here on Dead River?”

“Pierre Duchesney.”

“And the other?”

“Victor Vignon.”

“It can scarcely have any bearing,” Trafford asserted after some thought. “Nothing definite in the way of plans could have been formed so promptly. The murder was only twenty-four hours old then.”

“But they went to Millbank; spent four days in the old Indian hut back of Madison Beeches, and were not seen in Millbank during the entire time. Then, no one knows how, the one appears at Parlin Pond, and works from there over to Dead River. He’s a big, strapping fellow; the other one was medium height and size—much the slighter made of the two.”

“But I tell you,” Trafford affirmed; “if they were called to Millbank, the call must have come before the murder was known—they came for something else than to assault the man supposed to have those papers.”

“And were at hand conveniently to assault the187 man who was supposedly in possession of the papers, when it was found that they had involuntarily changed hands.”

This view struck Trafford and he gave it some little thought, while the other waited as if for his final judgment.

“As long as we’re here, we may as well have a look at your man,” said Trafford.

The next day found them guests of the drive at the camp above the first rapids of Dead River, where use was being had of the last of the spring flow to get the tail of the winter’s cut into the main channel. Already the advance guard of the summer army was making its appearance, adventurous souls who love to see the year at its birth, and the presence of strangers excited no especial comment. They made it so apparent that they sought an invitation for the night that it became unavoidable, and so with the falling of dusk and the leap of the great flames of the camp fire among the trees, they came on to the time for the experiment agreed upon.

Trafford had watched Pierre Duchesney at his work, a great, strong-limbed giant whose blow, intentional188 or not, could well work the crushing of lesser bones, and admitted that their purpose was well-nigh foolhardy. To take such a man, surrounded as he was by friends, was scarcely to be thought of, and in fact would not have been thought of, but for a chance remark that he was not going below the first rapids. When the jam was started here, he was to strike across to the head waters of the Androscoggin, which Trafford’s companion, intent in his belief that this was the man they wanted, interpreted as a purpose to bury himself in the wilds of the Canadian wilderness about Megantic.

Trafford, himself, while yet in doubt as to the identity of the man, admitted that even if they lost him, it would be much gained if they could prove him, and so consented to the plan his assistant outlined, determined to take his chances in the matter of an actual capture.

The men were stretched about the blazing logs, smoking, sleeping, chatting. Trafford among them watched the leap of the flames and the gradual reddening of the great logs into coals. The other stranger had left the circle some time before. Involuntarily189 Trafford kept his eye on Pierre’s huge form, where it was stretched in the full blaze and warmth of the logs, his eyes closed in a pleasant after-feeding doze. Suddenly out of the dark came a sharp Canadian voice, calling:

Sacré, c’est moi, Pierre!

Every one glanced up enquiringly, but the effect on Pierre Duchesney was startling in the extreme. His eyes stared wide from a face of ashy grey; he leaped to his feet, shaking as one with the ague. Trafford had sprung to his side at the instant of his leap from his recumbent position, and in time to catch from his blanched lips the convicting words:

Mon dieu; Victor!

Trafford’s hand was on his pistol, which he drew, with the sharp demand:

“Quick, seize the man; he’s wanted for the murder of Victor Vignon!”

At the word “murder,” the men drew back from the circle of light. They lived free and easy lives in the woods, and had little of the fear of the law before them in their fastnesses, but with murder and the murderer they had no share. All the other laws190 of God and man, they might violate, but to that one, “Thou shalt do no murder,” they bowed, the very defencelessness of their lives making murder doubly terrible to them. So, strong men as they were, they gazed wild-eyed on the scene, and some of the bravest trembled.

On Pierre, the word acted like magic. No less pale he was than before, but it was a paleness in which the sense of self-preservation was awake, looking from his eyes, as it looks from those of hunted wild creatures brought suddenly to bay. He attempted no plea; he made no denial; but his form grew compact with the compactness of one about to spring. Trafford, wondering what course the others would take, brought his pistol to a steady aim, and said clearly and sharply:

“Surrender, or I’ll shoot! Throw up your arms!”

He felt, rather than saw, that on the edge of the light stood his assistant also covering the man with his revolver. The man moved as if to obey the order to throw up his arms, and then, with a quickness of which none guessed him capable, struck Trafford’s191 arm a blow that caused it to drop numbly by his side, sending the pistol’s discharge into the earth. With the same movement the man crouched half to earth, and thus escaped the other’s shot. Without rising, he darted, crouching, for the shelter of trees beyond the fire, but not so quickly as to save his right arm from the second shot by the assistant. Trafford, meantime, had changed his revolver into his left hand and was firing at the fleeing shadow that the man became before disappearing. With his second shot, he heard his assistant at his side.

“You know now, but we’ve lost him.”

“Into the woods; into the woods,” Trafford cried, seizing a blazing pine knot. “Quick, we’ll get him yet.”

Not a man stirred save Trafford, and he made only a step or two. Glancing back, he saw the drivers huddled in an excited and gesticulating group that looked startlingly like mischief. Ahead was the heavy blackness of dense trees. Then he realised that the man had escaped.

Meantime the men were aroused from the stupor of their first surprise and were in a dangerous mood,192 the active qualities of which were quieted by the gleam of Trafford’s badge, which he felt was the best introduction to the explanation to which they were clearly entitled. They listened patiently, but simply tolerantly, and their coolness was in marked contrast to their friendliness of a brief quarter of an hour earlier. There was no denial to Trafford and his companion of the hospitality of the camp, but they were made to feel that they were unwelcome guests, and they waited anxiously and impatiently for the first touch of morning to be on their way, as well from a desire to leave their surly companions, as from impatience to be where they could make use of their newly acquired information.

They were not more than a mile from camp, after a hasty breakfast eaten amid strange silence, when, from the woods lying between the track they were following and the river, a lad of about sixteen years, whom they had seen in camp the night before, overhauled them. He had evidently run most of the way, and was anxious to get back before his absence attracted attention, but he was also intent on information. The conversation with him was carried on193 partly in the lad’s imperfect English, and partly in the French of Canada with Trafford’s companion, and by him translated to Trafford:

“Victor Vignon: my cousin. You say, murdered—dead?”

Trafford nodded.

Non. He go big lake. Go by Aten’s stage.”

“Who told you so?” demanded Trafford.

“Pierre—Pierre Duchesney. When he come, he say: Victor, he go big lake: he go by Aten’s stage.”

“Well, he killed him. Drowned him in the river at Millbank, where the big Falls are.”

“What for he kill him?” demanded the boy.

“Who sent for your cousin at the big lake when he and Pierre went away?” Trafford demanded, and then, it being evident that the lad had not sufficient command of English to master this question, his companion repeated it in French.

The lad’s face brightened as he heard his native tongue, and from that time he carried his part of the conversation mostly in that tongue.

“The boss.”

On questioning, it developed that the “boss” had194 said the “big man” had sent for Pierre and Victor; had said that they were to go to the Forks of the River and meet a gang, but when they got there the gang was gone and they had word to go somewhere else, and it was when Pierre came back and Victor had gone to the big lake, that the lad was told this by Pierre. The lad did not know where it was that Victor had gone, but he was to see him again when the drive was over and they were ready to go back to Canada before the feast of St. John.

Oh, yes; the “big man” was somebody who lived down where the water went over the big Falls, and owned all the trees, and sent the boss money to pay them. He didn’t know his name, but he was a great big man—as big as the Seigneur at Rigaud-Vandreuil, the biggest man the lad had ever seen.

“A bigger man than the boss?”

Oh, yes; for he sent the boss money to pay them and owned the trees, while the boss wasn’t as big a man as Louis Blanchet, the notary, whom he, the lad, had often seen and talked with, and once had thrown mud at when he was drunk.

No, he didn’t know the big man’s name; he had195 said that before, but anybody could tell them; anybody who knew, for he owned the trees; and the “boss” could tell them; his name was Kennett, Georges Kennett; not the boss here, for his name was Jean Busque, he was Canadian; but the other boss, the one who told Pierre and Victor to go to the Forks of the River.

But he must go back, because the boss, the one here, would be angry and make him lose some of his money. He had heard them say something about Victor being killed, and he wanted to ask them and tell them it couldn’t be Victor, because he had gone to the big lake, as Pierre had said. What would Victor’s wife do if he was dead? The good God—le bon Dieu—and the good Saint Anne—la bonne sainte Anne—wouldn’t let him be dead, when there was Victor’s wife and three little ones and another coming in the summer, as Victor had told him. They must know that Victor couldn’t be dead, and if they saw him, they were to tell him that he—Étienne Vignon—had said this and would meet him at the big Falls to go back to la Beauce before the feast of Saint John, as Victor had promised196 Étienne’s mother when he took him away to go on the drive. And with these words, the lad dashed into the woods for his mile run back to camp.

Trafford caught himself perilously near a sigh, as the lad disappeared among the trees.

“It’s as plain as the nose on your face—that part of it,” he said. “Hunter sent for these men; had them go to the forks to join a pretended gang, and word was left there for ’em to go on to the hut back of the Madison Beeches.”

“Hunter?” his companion asked.

“Certainly. Isn’t he the man who owns the trees to such a simple lad as that? He don’t know the name—but we do, Charles Hunter of Millbank.”

“Then he’s concerned in the murder?”

“If you knew the things that aren’t to be seen as well as you do the things that you see, you’d beat us all,” Trafford answered. “If he was in the murder, he’d know where those papers are and wouldn’t have needed these men. His very desperation to get them shows he isn’t the murderer.”

“Then Charles Hunter’s the man who’s afraid197 of those papers,” the other repeated, as if half dazed by the revelation.

“One of ’em,” said Trafford. “I’ve known that much a long time.”

“But if the men who are afraid of the papers aren’t the men who murdered him haven’t you knocked out the motive for the murder? That’s the thing that’s bothered all the time, and now that we’ve got hold of one, it’s a pity to lose it again.”

“Beware of clues,” half laughed Trafford. “That’s the lesson you haven’t learned yet. I’ve said Hunter was one of the men who’s afraid of the papers. I haven’t said there weren’t others. Then it doesn’t follow that the only people who wanted to get the papers were those who were afraid of ’em. Given the papers, there’s a dozen things that might make ’em the motive of the murder besides being afraid of them.”

After a silence that lasted some time, the other turned to Trafford and demanded:

“Did you know Hunter was in this thing when you set me to hunting Canucks round Millbank?”

“Certainly,” answered Trafford. “I’ve known198 it since a half-hour after the attack was made on me at the bridge. Why?”

“Thunder! Hunter was one of the men of whom I thought it safe to make open enquiries about Canucks I was looking for.”

“It’s never safe,” Trafford said, “to make enquiries of any one, unless you are willing that everybody should know, or anxious that one man should. In this case, ’twas just as well Hunter should know that we were on the track. He’s a man who makes his false slips when he’s the most anxious to escape.”


The Priest’s Story

THEY had their dinner that day at Nic’khal’s, at the Forks, eating in the shed that later in the season becomes the “summer kitchen.” The meal was primitive in material and cooking, but the sauce was hunger. An elderly priest, weary-looking and sad, was their sole companion, and he watched them through the meal, with a look that Trafford read as expressive of a desire to have talk with him. So, after the eating was over, Trafford put himself in the way of the clergyman, who quickly availed himself of the chance:

“You are from above?” he asked, and Trafford assented.

“Did you pass the logging camp at the first rapids?”

“I spent the night there,” Trafford answered.

“Was the night disturbed?”

“An attempt was made to arrest a murderer, who200 escaped into the woods, but not without a severe wound, I think.”

“I have a message for the man who attempted to make the arrest.”

“You can deliver it to me,” said Trafford.

“You say the man was a murderer. I have no wish to know his name; but I am charged only to speak to one man, and I shall know him by a name. You can give it me?”

“If it’s my name you want, it’s Trafford. The murderer attempted first to rob or murder me in the covered bridge at Millbank, before he committed the actual murder,” answered the detective.

“I did not doubt before,” the priest answered, with something of stateliness; “only when a trust is given, one must be certain. The message is that the man who was drowned was not murdered. It was an accident, in which the one barely escaped and was unable to save the other.”

“Even so,” Trafford retorted, “the other might have had a chance to escape, if it hadn’t been for a broken collar-bone, and for that the man who denies the murder was responsible.”

201 “But it was by mistake he inflicted it,” the priest answered.

“By mistake, because he missed the man he intended to strike and hit his associate in crime. He was in the bridge to rob and probably to murder, and if the death of his companion was directly accidental, it came through a violation of the law and that makes it murder.”

“In the eyes of the law, possibly,” the priest said; “but we look to the intent. The man did not intend to kill his associate. He died as the result of an accident.”

“Are you permitted to give me details?” Trafford asked, wisely avoiding a discussion that might return again and again on itself without actual progress.

“A wounded man found me asleep in a hut where he sought shelter, guided by the Blessed Virgin, I doubt not. I heard his confession. On that is the seal of the Church. He begged me to find you and give you this message, and what he said in that I will strive faithfully to repeat. It is all that I can say. He was not in the bridge to202 murder the man at whom he struck, but to seize him and take from his person certain papers. He struck in the dark in the direction of a noise made, as he supposed, by the man. He may have struck harder than he intended. At the least, he struck his companion and not the man, and with force sufficient to break the collar-bone. What they had been set to do, they were to do and then return to the woods without being seen. He had now the fear earned by failure, and the certainty that the man, having escaped, would call on the authorities, and he and his companion would be betrayed by the latter’s wound. He, therefore, persuaded him to bear his pain until they could get to a place of safety, and not daring to travel the roads, where they could be tracked, they struck to the river banks above the Falls, and followed these until they found a boat into which they got, turning its head upstream.

“He had only an old and broken oar with which to paddle, but a driver can paddle with a single pole, and they easily reached the middle of the river. Here he turned at a groan from his companion203 and failed to see a floating log which struck their boat, and, worse still, knocked the oar out of his hand. Before he could recover himself, the boat was in the rapid current above the Falls, and rushing downstream with increasing force. His companion, roused at the growing roar of the waters, seemed to think that it was with intention that this was happening. He begged to be spared, and called loudly for help. The other told him what had happened and that he was powerless to prevent the boat going over the Falls, whereupon the wounded man sprang to his feet, with a prayer to the Virgin and Saint Anne, and leaped overboard, just as the boat touched the white water above the plunge. The other ran to the bow, which was shooting straight out, and stood there for a second of time until he felt it tremble for the dip, at which instant he jumped for the deeper water below the Falls, and by a miracle escaped the rocks at the very base of the plunge. As you know, the water there is very deep, so that although he sank, he did not touch bottom. He floated through the cañon and succeeded in landing just above the railroad bridge.204 He knew there was no use in looking for boat or companion, and so crept up the bank around the Falls, secured another boat, and finally towards morning landed just below the Bombazee Rips. He set the boat afloat and plunged into the woods. That is all I am permitted to tell you.”

“But it is not all you know,” Trafford said.

“It is all I know. If I heard anything more, I heard it under the seal of confession and know naught of it.”

Trafford pondered on the story for some time, without speaking. The habits born of his profession held him, warning him to avoid hasty conclusion as well for the man as against him. It was his business to get the truth, not to find a confirmation or refutation of a previously formed opinion.

The priest waited without a sign of impatience. At last Trafford raised his head and said:

“I do not think it could have been done.”

“What?” asked the priest.

“The leap from the boat over the falls.”

“I have been told by eye-witnesses that it has been done,” declared the priest.

205 “I have seen it done,” Trafford said; “but it was in broad daylight, when the man could see, and determine the exact instant for the leap. The boat was a very long one, so that before it dipped, it had shot far out; the man was extremely powerful, and it was, after all, a mere matter of luck.”

“We do not talk of luck,” the priest said, with a touch of sternness in his tone. “We will leave that. You admit it possible, because it has been done. Your man was extremely strong. This man seems to me such also. Your man had daylight to show him the tossing of the waters about him; the anxious faces peering at him; the vanishing shores, and the coming danger. This man had all his senses active and single to the work before him. The flash of white foam was enough to show him, even in the night, where he was. To that his sight was turned, for there was nothing to distract his full attention. He was leaping for life. Instinct would come to his aid. It was possible for the man you saw. I believe it was possible for this man.”

Suddenly a thought struck Trafford. This priest206 could not reveal the secrets of the confessional; but neither could he prevent what he had heard in confession affecting his attitude towards this man and his story. He looked the priest full in the face and asked, solemnly, almost sternly:

“Do you fully and absolutely credit this tale?”

Without a shadow of hesitation or delay, the priest answered:

“I do, absolutely and fully. In the story I bring you I have not a doubt that you have heard the truth, so far as it goes. You know how the death of the man you thought murdered actually occurred.”

To Trafford’s mind there was left no ground for doubt.

“I accept your story,” he said, “as the story of what actually occurred. Where is the man who told it to you?”

The priest smiled and raised his hand in a sweep of the northern horizon:

“I cannot track the wilderness. If you want him, you must ask the woods to give him up.”

“There is a lad in the gang at the first rapids,”207 Trafford said, “who came with Victor Vignon from Beauce. Victor, who was his cousin, was to take him back before the Feast of St. John. He relies absolutely on this, and would not believe Victor dead. His name is Étienne Vignon and he needs comfort and help.”

“I will go to him,” said the priest. “The thought is a kind one.”

If the priest dreamed that he was thus finished with the detective, it was because he did not know the nature of the creature.

“From Beauce I think you said the wounded man came,” said Trafford carelessly.

If Trafford thought to surprise the priest, it was proof that he too was ignorant.

“I do not recall having said so,” the priest answered.

“But he was, wasn’t he?” demanded Trafford.

“I did not ask him.”

On the matter of the wound the priest talked freely. It was painful, but not serious. The small bone of the lower right arm was broken, but he had set it and was confident it would improve.

208 “If the man has been unjustly accused, I hope it may prove so,” Trafford said. “He goes directly home, of course.”

The priest smiled.

“I did not expect to see him again, so had no occasion to know.”

Convinced that the other was absolutely on guard, and that even if he knew anything beyond what he had told—of which Trafford felt considerable doubt—it was not to be extracted from him, Trafford again commended the lad Étienne to his care, and turned to the matter of a conveyance to Carrytunk on the road to Millbank. At parting, he said:

“If I accept your assurance as to the innocence of this man, it is none the less true that some one employed him to rob me, and his companion lost his life because of the attempt. He could not have told of this without telling who that was.”

The priest smiled, but not in a way that encouraged Trafford to hope for information, and the event proved him wise not to do so.

“If he told me aught that I have not repeated,” the other answered, “it was to obtain God’s pardon,209 not to invoke man’s punishment on any. Its object accomplished, the words passed as they came to the priest and not to the man.”

So Trafford was forced to let him go, none the wiser beyond what the priest chose that he should be; but as they hurried towards Millbank, he tried hard to look at all sides of the story and at last asked his companion:

“What do you think of it?”

“A batch of lies, told to a gossiping priest to be peddled out to us again,” was the curt judgment.

Even this Trafford weighed carefully before commenting on it.

“You evidently think the fellow a shrewd chap.”

“No; any one can see he’s a stupid lout; just the kind of a thing to be used for a dirty job.”

“Yet he had a long enough head to cheat the priest.”

“Then you think the priest believed him?”

“I haven’t a doubt of it,” said Trafford.

Trafford’s judgments had something of the weight of oracles with this man, who was able to see things but not to form opinions; and this curt210 declaration was to the point and not to be mistaken. For the time being, and for present purposes, it was to be accepted, and having accepted it, the other had nothing to say. But it was not so easy for Trafford. He had, perhaps, to convince some budding doubt that had not found expression either in tone or words.

“To doubt the truth of the fellow’s story, is to believe that he reasoned out the chance of the priest finding us and then deliberately employed what he regards as a sacrament—that is confession—to put in circulation a concocted story for the purpose of deceiving us. I don’t believe he’s that smart; and I don’t believe, with his belief in the Church, he’d dare do it.”

“We seem to be in the business of acquitting everybody,” the other said in a surly tone.

“It’s certainly not our business to convict, but to find out the truth,” Trafford answered. “We aren’t prosecuting attorneys.”

“But our work lies in pointing out the guilty.”

“Yes; but unless we do it as much for the sake of proving the innocence of the innocent as the guilt211 of the guilty, we only do half the work that we ought to do. I’d rather any time clear a man who is unjustly charged than prove a man, thought innocent, guilty,” answered Trafford.

“Maybe so, but that isn’t the kind of work the world gives you most credit for. If you can hang a man, it thinks you’ve done something big; but if you stop them from hanging a man, they think they’ve been cheated.”

“Well, I guess when all’s said and done, it’s more a question of what we think about the kind of work we’re doing, than what the world thinks of it, that counts. When I’m satisfied with myself—right down honestly satisfied—I find I can let the world think what it’s a mind to.”


A Duel

MRS. MATTHEWSON entered the little parlour, where she had met Trafford, for the purpose of keeping another appointment—one that she had not wanted to make and which she had not yet dared refuse. When she visited her son, she knew the name of the man who, under his direction, was hunting down Theodore Wing’s mother, but she did not know the man. Now she was to meet him face to face. She was afraid, and she bore herself with the air of a queen about to grant a favour to her humblest subject.

Cranston felt her imperiousness in the very air as he entered, and rebel as he would, it daunted him and took a share of his bravado from him. She returned his salutation, but with the evident purpose not to aid him in the slightest in the delivery of his errand.

213 “I regret the necessity,” he said, “of troubling you.”

She bowed stiffly, but without other answer. He apparently had not struck the line of least resistance.

“I have been employed,” he began, “upon the Wing murder case.” Then, at the look in her eyes, as if of all things on earth the Wing murder case had the least possible interest to her, he added desperately: “Among those who employed me were your sons.”

“Then you should report to them.” These were the first words she had spoken and the tone was beyond measure forbidding, but they were at the least words and a recognition that she was taking part in the interview. As such they helped the man who, in spite of his experience, was floundering woefully.

“I thought it in your interest that I should first report to you,” he said.

“There’s nothing in which any one can serve me in the Wing murder case,” she said, not sparing herself even the word “murder.”

214 He looked at her as if he would say that that was a very proper bluff for her to put up, but that he knew the facts and was not to be fooled thereby.

“In doing thoroughly my work,” he floundered on; “it has been impossible for me to overlook the remarkable paper left by Judge Parlin.”

Even as she caught the full import of his words, she had a consciousness of the hopeless bungling of this man, in comparison with the other man, Trafford. No less surely had Trafford told her that he had learned the history of her early life; but he had, with a natural instinct, taken from the telling every sting that was not ineffaceable. This man was so intent upon the telling as not to have a thought for her.

She made no acknowledgment, save that frigid bend of the head that was less acknowledgment than repulsion, and which he felt as disdain. It stung him to more brutal speech than he had intended:

“You would have me, perhaps, report my discoveries in that connection to your sons.”

If he had expected her to shrink or lose self-control, his was the disappointment. She had lived too215 long with the possibility of meeting thus her past, to allow it to come with the shock of the unexpected. There had been no hour for forty years when these words might not be spoken to her. She did not even make the mistake of showing irritation in her answer:

“I would know why you have sought this interview, that it may be ended. As to the results of your employment, they concern your employers, not me.”

“I know who was the mother of Theodore Wing.” He spoke somewhat insistently, and not without a touch of menace in his voice. He had foreseen an easier task. He had a sense of personal wrong, in that she was making it so hard for him.

“It is her secret,” she said, with just enough force to betoken impersonal indignation; “neither you nor the world have the right to drag it to the surface.”

“I am willing it should remain a secret,” he answered.

“Then you should never have told any one you knew it.”

216 “You are the only one I have told,” he said; “and that was necessary.”

Clearly he expected her to ask, “Necessary to what?” but she did not make the mistake. She remained silent and left him to reknit the broken strand of discourse.

“The moment of real danger to her will come,” he said, after waiting vainly for her to speak, until waiting became a palpable embarrassment; “when Wing’s murderer is put on trial.” Then, as with a sudden change of his line of attack, he continued: “Have you ever thought why your sons employed me in this case?”

“No; nor cared,” she said.

He had expected her to deny that she had known.

“Because they know who the murderer is.”

It was a relief to the tension upon her that she could show resentment without personal defence.

“Your remark is insulting,” she said. “I do not know the object of this visit, but whatever it is, that remark must be withdrawn before it can proceed.”

“It is the last remark you should desire withdrawn,217 madam,” he said, with a calm significance of utterance; “for it is true.”

She rose to dismiss him—rose haughtily and uncompromisingly, as if she had not the slightest suspicion of the drift of his purpose. There was a dangerous gleam in her eye; one that should have been a warning to the man, telling him to shield himself in some way and not carry out the threatened purpose. To this woman, that purpose was a cause of almost mastering terror, but this the will behind it controlled, leaving her seemingly strong to master the situation. He was compelled to decide quickly, yet with knowledge that anything that was tinctured with apology was a weakening of his position.

“I am not implying guilt on their part,” he said; “nor am I speaking of knowledge that would be proof in court, but of that moral knowledge which makes one certain in mind, without being able to give evidence to justify such certainty. To make a public accusation based on such knowledge, would be to do the greatest wrong.”

She remained standing, seemingly weighing this218 remark. In reality she was feeling the keen disappointment of having lost excuse for terminating the interview which she had supposed was hers.

“I am averse,” she said, “to discussing questions bearing on this murder. I condemn the crime. Beyond that, it has no interest to me.”

She knew that in thus speaking she was weakening the position she had taken at first. It was the natural sequence of having the ground cut from under her by Cranston’s half-apology. The other eagerly seized the opening presented:

“Until Mr. Wing’s murderer is discovered and punished, nothing and no one in any way connected with his past will be spared. I have said that I know who is his mother.”

She had resumed her seat and again had herself under full control, but with some loss of vantage.

“What one man has discovered,” she said, “any other man may discover. The mere fact that it can be discovered, is the end of secrecy.”

“There are innumerable things that can be discovered,” he said, “compared with the number of people who can discover them. There are hundreds219 who would like to know this one matter, but among them not more than one who knows how to find it out. If his mouth is closed, the secret is as safe as if it did not exist.”

“The mere knowledge that a secret exists is revelation,” she answered. “A man who will sell himself once, simply waits a higher bidder to sell himself again.”

“Possibly, if in concealing the identity of this woman, one concealed a fact bearing upon the discovery of the murderer. I can assure you that her identity has no bearing whatever upon the other question.”

“Then why not let it drop into the oblivion from which you have dragged it?”

She knew the danger of exchanging question and answer with him, but human endurance has its limit, and even she could not carry indifference beyond the breaking point. Still, she was not unconscious of the gleam of satisfaction in his face.

“Because,” he said, “this woman has grown strong, powerful, and rich. Safety is doubly precious220 to her. There is no reason why she should not pay for it.”

“You mean,” she said, and her eyes snapped, “blackmail!”

She had not been the active partner for thirty-five years of a politician who had climbed from obscurity to the control of the State, without knowing what this word meant, nor without knowing the infinite deeps that yawn for the man or woman who shows the first sign of weakness to the blackmailer.

“You are mistaken,” he said. He was on ground now that he had gone over in his mind again and again, in his preparation for this interview. “The essence of blackmail is threat. I make no threat. I have not said that I will expose you, if you do not pay me. I expressly disclaim any such intention. But safety is worth something to you; you are rich and have high social position. I offer you protection in your riches and position, and, for giving it, I ought to have recompense—simply a fair equivalent for what I do. Nothing more; but that much is fair; I think you cannot deny its fairness.”

He knew he was sliding off into inanity; that all221 had been said that he purposed saying, and that he was simply repeating himself and repeating himself weakly. He stopped and waited her answer.

On her part she held herself under restraint, resolved not to interrupt him until he had said all he had to say. His change from impersonal to personal, which he thought she did not notice, simply impressed her as unimportant. She felt fully the weakness and embarrassment of his final words, and even with the stress under which she waited, his feeble maudlinism affected her with a sense of pity.

“Have you finished?” she asked, when he spoke no further.

“I think there should be no need of saying more,” he answered.

She did not even bend in assent to his proposition. She simply pointed to the door, and said:

“Then you may go!”

The change in tone and manner startled him, trained as he was to surprises. He had foreseen a storm and indignation, and was prepared to treat that as simulated. This impressed him as genuine—so genuine that he was forced to ask himself222 hastily if he could have made any mistake, and this notwithstanding he was absolutely certain of all the facts.

“But——” he began, hesitatingly.

“Go!” she said, permitting no further utterance, now that he had said what he had come to say. A passionate joy in her ability to deal harshly with him, regardless of the personal risk to herself in so doing, seized her. She had not subjected her line of action to the scrutiny of judgment. For once thoroughly a woman, in that she discarded the masculine caution which she had cultivated as a habit, she gave head to instinct, which carried her past all doubt, all weighing of chances, to the least dangerous course that, in her situation, was open to her.

Almost an insane fury to send one final shaft that should sting in the breast of this woman seized this man who, by all of his traditions, should have held himself the better together, the farther his plans miscarried. Moving toward the door, he cried:

“Shall I report to my employers—your sons?”

To this she had the single word, “Go!”

223 When he was gone, she did not break under the relaxation of strain; but rather held herself more proudly, as if to do otherwise would be to admit to herself, the most important individual concerned, the danger in which she stood. Under the calm surface, raged a storm of irritable impatience, aroused by the thought that time must elapse before she could be called upon to face publicly the charges this man would make. She wanted to do it, at this moment. It seemed as if she must rush forth and cry:

“See; here am I—I, against whom this thing is charged! Look on me and feast your eyes on me and roll the sweet morsel under your tongue! Of course, you believe it; want to believe it; but I dare you to say other than that it is a slander!”

If she could have done this, it seemed to her that she would have happiness again; but to wait; not to know when the blow would fall; to hold herself ready to meet it at any instant and to have no power to hasten it,—that was the madness of the situation, that the terror it had for her.

224 She rose and stood before a long mirror and looked at herself; as if to see if this was a different manner of woman than she who had stood there the day before. To her eyes, looking into the reflected depths of the room, her own image was representative of the world, and in facing it she seemed to taste something of that defiance of public knowledge of the scandal for which she so longed.

No thought disturbed her of her future relations to her husband or sons. For more than a third of a century, the lives of her husband and herself had flowed together, each relying on the other, each confident in the other. Breakage was not possible or to be thought of. He would not even ask her of this matter, and while that very fact would lay on her the greater weight of responsibility to tell him, the necessity did not put her under that fear which would have been the greatest burden to an ordinary woman. By this she did not mean that he would not feel the wound—feel it cruelly; but they had passed the crown of the road, their way lay downward, and she had no more doubt of him than she would have had of herself, if to him and not to her225 the parentage of Theodore Wing were brought home.

Her bulwark with the public would be the loyalty of her husband and sons, and if it smacked of selfishness and unfeeling to rely on them and not give a fair portion of thought to the suffering which would be hidden by their calm exterior, it must be remembered that during the entire period of her wife- and mother-hood she had lived with this thing, which had grown dimmer and dimmer as the years receded, until it had come to have for her, and it seemed to her necessarily for these others, a different aspect than it would have borne in the days before she had given to husband and children the pledge of her long devotion.

Before these years she would have reasoned of her husband’s attitude toward such a tale from the sense of outrage, not tempered by long possession and intimate association. No, she had no fear there, save of the inward sense of humiliation under which she had gone to her son’s office, and for fighting which she now faced her own reflection, as representative of the world of public opinion.226 She had become accustomed to make demands of the world, not requests, and the world had yielded. It should do so still. This thing had not destroyed the years of loyalty and work that buttressed her present position. It should not do so. She stood there to make her defiance, and the world should heed. But oh, the waiting! The waiting! That was the cruelty of the situation.


In Matthewson’s Chambers

CHARLES MATTHEWSON read with impatience the name on the card just brought him—Isaac Trafford. It was a breach of the understanding between them, that this man should trouble him further. He was on the point of refusing to see him, when he recalled Trafford’s possession of the papers taken from Theodore Wing’s desk after his murder. This he had not known at the time of their previous interview. It was possible that here was the opening of negotiations for their sale. He ordered him admitted. Still he could not avoid resenting the intrusion.

“I understood you were not to trouble me further.”

“Until I became satisfied that your visit to Millbank had something to do with Wing’s murder,” the detective answered.

228 “Then I may take this visit as evidence that you are satisfied that it had to do with the murder!”

Trafford nodded.

“Why don’t you arrest me then?”

“Because I am satisfied you did not murder him, but can tell me who did,” Trafford answered.

“A sort of accessory after the fact?” Matthewson demanded.

“No,” said Trafford. “I’m inclined to think you never suspected that you knew anything about it or that you could tell me. At the same time, I’m almost certain you saw the murderer and talked with him that night.”

Matthewson started at this statement of the matter. He had not the nerve of either his mother or brother, and his power of concealing his emotions was greatly less than that of either. However, he quickly recovered himself.

“I refuse to be put in the position of laying accusations. I’ve no objection to aid in convicting a criminal, but I don’t purpose holding one end of a drag-net, for the mere sake of catching some one who may or may not be guilty.”

229 Trafford did not deem it best to answer this directly, but instead went on, as if nothing had been said of objection:

“You saw Charles Hunter and his brother Frank—but were they all?”

Matthewson drummed on his desk and looked out of the window. What was there, he asked himself, that was drawing him into this tragedy, of which he really knew nothing? Did this man know also what Cranston had discovered? Was there, after all, to grow out of this murder, of which he knew nothing, a scandal that was to overwhelm his family, and finally destroy the great influence they exercised in the State?

While he asked these questions of himself Trafford waited, the model of patience. If he had anything to disturb his mind, he did not show it. Evidently, Matthewson could take his time and be sure that the other would be there to receive his answer, when he was ready to give it. Finally Matthewson turned to the detective and said:

“I was in Millbank on my own private business. I saw the men whom that business concerned and no230 others. The men whom I saw are one and all as incapable of committing this murder as I am. I must decline to subject any of them to the annoyance I am now subjected to.”

“I don’t know whether you are incapable of committing murder or not. I shouldn’t want to affirm it of any one—not even myself. I am convinced that you saw and talked with Wing’s murderer that night. I must know the name of every man you saw while in Millbank, and if I can’t find it out in one way, I will in another.”

“It pleases you to threaten,” Matthewson said, not wholly unconscious of an uneasy feeling.

“Not to threaten, but simply to show you that I am in earnest,” Trafford assured him. “Still, I may appeal to you on another ground. I have named two men whom you saw. If I am to suppose they were the only ones, then I must regard one or the other as the real murderer, and this because you persist in concealing from me the name of the man who may be guilty. Have you a right to do this?”

“As much right,” retorted Matthewson hotly,231 “as you have to throw suspicion on these gentlemen, simply because of the coincidence of my meeting them during a hasty visit to Millbank on the night that Wing was murdered. It would be just as reasonable to suspect me of the murder.”

“It is possible that I do,” said Trafford.

“Come,” exclaimed Matthewson, “this is going a trifle far. It’s not five minutes since you said you were satisfied I did not murder him.”

“But that was before you refused to tell me whom you met.”

Just at that moment a loud voice was heard in the outer room, demanding to see Mr. Matthewson. He rose and turned the key in the door, notwithstanding a movement on Trafford’s part to stop him. As he turned to his desk, Trafford asked:

“Do you recognise the voice?”

“No,” said the other, shortly and indignantly; “but I propose to finish this matter here and now, so that there will be no need to reopen it.”

“That’s Cranston, the detective whom you, your brother, and Charles Hunter have hired,” said Trafford. 232 “I advise you to see him, and let me be in a cupboard or behind a screen while he is here.”

“Superb!” said Matthewson, with a vicious sneer. “You’ll know all he’s found out—steal his thunder! Excellent!”

“Mr. Matthewson,” Trafford said, with a touch of dignity in his voice that his companion could but note, “I would be justified in resenting such a remark, and you are not justified in making it. Cranston has discovered nothing that I haven’t known for weeks; but he’s been in Bangor, and I know what he could find out there. You sent him there and made a cruel mistake when you did it. I would have stopped it, if I could. He’s here now to tell you and, if I mistake not, to demand a price for his silence. If I’m wrong, no harm can come from my hearing. If I’m right, you’re the man who wants me to hear; it’ll be the best protection you can have in the future.”

At the mention of Bangor, Matthewson turned pale and then flushed. That it was made with the purpose of informing him that the detective knew the secret of his mother’s early life, he could not 233 doubt. There was but one thing that he ought to do, and that was to pitch the man out of his room. He would have done it, but for the man on the other side of the door, to whose presence he was recalled by the turning of the door-knob. In which of these men did he place the greater trust? He had only to ask the question to let it answer itself. But this new menace? He would know it at its worst. That was beyond question.

“Pass through this door, into the next room,” he said. “There you will find the door of a closet, which has a second door opening into this alcove. After he has entered and looked into that alcove, as he may, come out of the closet and—listen.”

Cranston, on entering, did exactly what Matthewson had predicted; he examined the alcove before taking the chair to which Matthewson pointed him.

“There’s no one in there,” Matthewson said.

“I can’t take any chances,” said the other insolently. “What I’ve got to say wants to be between us two—you’ll want it to be when you hear it.”

234 Matthewson flushed and an angry retort leaped to his lips. This, however, he suppressed and made necessity to ask the cause of the visit.

“I’ve come to report,” said Cranston. Then, as the other waited, he added:

“I’ve been at work in Bangor.” Then, after another pause: “I’ve learned things in Bangor that you ought to know.”

“It relates to the murder?”

“No, not directly. It relates to Theodore Wing’s mother.” He said it defiantly; as if he was throwing down the gage of battle.

It required a mighty effort on Matthewson’s part to control himself, and yet he knew that to fail meant that this terrible thing, which as yet remained unspoken, would be uttered in words and that he must hear it.

“I have become satisfied,” he said slowly and with an effort to control himself and appear dispassionate, “that the identity of Wing’s mother has no bearing on the murder or on the discovery of the murderer. You will, therefore, drop that part of the investigation and confine yourself to the other235 features. In this all who were concerned in employing you are agreed.”

“How long since?” the man demanded insolently.

“That is of no consequence,” Matthewson said. “You are now informed of the fact, so that your new instructions date from this moment.”

“It’s too late for you to accomplish anything by that dodge,” he said. “I’ve found out who Wing’s mother is. The story’s worth money. I’ll give you the first chance to buy. Do you want it?”

Matthewson trembled, as he realised the full significance of this demand. More than his mother possibly could, he knew how such a story would be received; how impossible it would be, once set afloat, to stop it or overcome it. Still, he put on a bold front.

“Whatever you may have learned, it was while you were under our pay. The information belongs to us and you can’t afford to make it a matter of barter.”

“What I’ve found out,” Cranston returned defiantly,236 “is worth so much that I can afford to take some risks. If you want it, you can have it for a price. If not, the highest bidder gets it, and in a State where ex-Governor Matthewson’s got as many enemies as he’s got in Maine, there won’t be any trouble about finding buyers.”

“There’s no need to drag in my father’s name,” Matthewson replied.

“How do you know there ain’t?” the other demanded. “Maybe you’ll be surprised at the names that are dragged in before we’re through.”

It was Matthewson’s impulse to throw the man out of doors, without regard to consequences; but before him came a face that had watched him lovingly and tenderly from his earliest memory—a face that he had seen only a few days before pleading to him, as he had never dreamed a woman’s face could plead. His hands clutched nervously; but for the sake of that face and that love, he held himself in restraint.

“Well, to end this matter,” he said, “what do you want for this precious information?”

“Hadn’t you better know first what it is?” demanded237 the other. “Oh,” he said, as he saw on Matthewson’s face what he regarded as a protest; “it won’t spoil the goods to show ’em. I’d just as lief tell you before as after. It’s silence I’m selling; not facts.”

“I don’t need you to repeat your talk; and what’s more, it won’t be safe for you to,” Matthewson said. “I know perfectly well what it would be; but I warn you not to dare speak it.”

The man in the alcove almost betrayed himself as he heard this astounding acknowledgment. After all, had he mistaken what he had seen, and was this the real secret he had been trying to unravel? Cranston was speaking again:

“Threatened men live long. You’ll get just as much for as little money, if you keep a civil tongue. I’ve got silence to sell; but I’m just blamed fool enough, if you get me mad, to refuse to sell at any price.”

“Then your proposition is that if I pay you your price, you’ll keep silence regarding your discovery as to Theodore Wing’s mother; and that if I do not, you’ll sell your information to any one who will238 pay you for it, regardless of the injury it may do me or any one connected with me?”

“That’s about it, in plain English.”

“It’s it, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it’s it.”

“And you think that this information, if made public, would do me and those connected with me harm.”

“I don’t know what you call harm, if it wouldn’t. ’Twould be the end of the Matthewson family, socially and politically. They’d have to find another boss for Maine after this thing got out.”

“It’s just as well,” said the lawyer, “to keep within bounds in your remarks; they’re as likely to accomplish your purpose.”

But Cranston was smarting under his previous failure. He had tried to deal squarely with Mrs. Matthewson and had met refusal and insult. There was the possibility that, had he adopted a higher tone, he would have succeeded. He was resolved not to fail from the same cause this time.

“I’m answering questions,” he said, “and I’ll answer239 ’em in my own way. If you don’t like it, you don’t need to.”

It required a terrible effort on Matthewson’s part to prevent his openly resenting this insolence, and he was conscious of a distinctive loss of self-respect that he did not at once pitch the fellow out of the room.

“Let’s get through with this thing and be done with it,” he said. “How much will your silence cost me?”

“Twenty-five thousand dollars,” answered Cranston.

Mr. Matthewson was startled at the figure.

“Why, man, you’re crazy!” he exclaimed.

“I know it,” said Cranston. “I ought to have a hundred, but I ain’t going to be hard. I’ve set my price at twenty-five.”

“And you’ll take five,” retorted Matthewson.

“I wouldn’t take twenty-four thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine dollars and ninety-nine cents,” answered Cranston. “I’ve fixed my price, and it’s that or nothing.”

240 “I guess that’s right,” sneered Matthewson. “And how do you want this easy money?”

“In good, crisp bank-notes that one can feel; and before I leave this room.”

“Of course you’ll give a receipt when it’s paid over, setting out the terms of the bargain?”

“Of course, I won’t!” retorted Cranston. “You’ll have to trust to my honour; that’ll be your protection.”

“Then the bargain is, if I give you twenty-five thousand dollars, you’ll keep this story quiet. If I don’t, you’ll use it to my injury——”

“To your ruin,” interrupted Cranston. “I’ll drive you and your family out of the State; I’ll destroy every shred of your influence, and I’ll do it with this story!”

“There are no other terms; no other means by which I can stop you?”

“You bet there isn’t; and if this gabble goes on much longer, I’ll double my price.”

“Then we’ll stop it right here. I buy safety for twenty-five thousand dollars, and here’s five dollars to bind the bargain. I’m to send out and get the241 rest and pay to you before you leave. Are those the terms?”

“Those are the terms, if you get the money quick enough.”

“Then you can get out of this office, you skulking, blackmailing scoundrel, or I’ll throw you out of the window. Go, and don’t be slow about it, for my fingers are itching to get hold of you. I’m through with you!”

For an instant, Cranston was dumbfounded by the sudden revulsion of position. He had believed the money practically in his grasp, and instead he encountered this dismissal of contempt and abuse. But his surprise was only for an instant. Then a flood of senseless anger, verging on madness, seized him. He had but one impulse and that was to punish the man who had led him on, only to throw him down. There was a flash of a pistol in his hand as he said:

“But I’m not through with you, by God!”

“You don’t need that to send you to State’s prison,” said a voice behind him, as a hand, seemingly of steel, grasped his and wrenched away the242 pistol. He turned and saw Trafford standing behind him.

“By God, this is a dirty, contemptible trick, Trafford,” he gasped.

“I guess that’s so, too,” Trafford answered, coolly, as he drew the charges from the revolver, before handing it back to Cranston; “but unfortunately there are some situations in life that can’t be reached by anything else, and this seems to be one of ’em.”

“Now will you go?” demanded Matthewson, “while I’ve a notion to let you?”

“I’ll go,” the man muttered; “but you aren’t through with me yet!”

“When you feel a particular desire for free quarters at Thomaston, just meddle with my affairs again,” retorted Matthewson. “Until you do feel that way, you’d better let them alone.”


The Range 16 Scandal

I GUESS I didn’t make any mistake in staying,” said Trafford, more to break the embarrassing silence which followed Cranston’s withdrawal, than with any definite purpose.

Matthewson glanced up with the air of a man who had half lost consciousness of surrounding circumstances in a line of painful thought.

“I am under deep obligation to you,” he said slowly; and then, apparently tracking back to his thoughts before Trafford spoke, he added, as it seemed, irrelevantly:

“You said he could tell nothing you did not already know.”

The pain which manifested itself in his face would have shown a far less keen man what the speaker had in mind, yet was not willing more directly to name.

244 “He has not,” said Trafford quietly. “All that he hinted at I’ve known for weeks.”

“Did you know it when you saw me before?”

Trafford nodded.

“Why did you conceal it?”

“It’s not concealment not to talk of a thing. There was no call to talk of it so long as it had nothing to do with the murder.”

“But are you certain,” the words came hard and with a painful ring, “that it did have nothing to do with the murder?”

The question showed Trafford how far pain and numbing anguish had carried the man who, loyal even to the death of honour to the mother who bore him, on that very account was the deeper sufferer.

“Absolutely!” Trafford threw into the word an intense depth of conviction. “On that point you may exclude every doubt.”

Matthewson gave him a look of intense relief. He was reasonably certain as to Cranston; but if there was a chain of circumstances, as there well might be, between this story and the recent murder, what was to save them?

245 “I owe you more than I can say,” he went on. “I won’t waste my gratitude in words. The only thing I can do now, that I see, is to answer your question of a half-hour ago. You’re entitled to that.”

He wrote some names on a slip of paper and passed it over to Trafford. He watched him as he read, to detect, if possible, any movement of surprise, for this question of the murder, from a matter of comparative indifference, save as it touched the possession of certain papers, was growing into a vital thing, that seemed to meet him at every turn, filling him with alarm for the moment when it should uncover in all its hideous nakedness. But there was nothing to indicate that he had told anything which the other did not know already, until Trafford himself spoke. Then, even, the tone was most commonplace:

“You have saved me the time and trouble it would have taken to complete the list.” He evidently had no question of his ability to do so. “I hope you’ll add to the obligation by answering one or two questions. Did you meet these men separately or together?”

246 “I met the first two separately and the other alone.”

“And discussed with the two the papers which were in Wing’s possession.” While pursuing the matter in apparently the most commonplace way, Trafford did not fail to note the quick air of sudden interest on Matthewson’s part which followed this reference to the mysterious papers. It was not a look that betokened fear, but rather eagerness, if the detective could read aright. He went on:

“Was it on the same matter you saw the third man?”

“Certainly,” answered Matthewson, as if eager now to give the information he had before withheld. “There was only one thing that took me to Millbank, and that was the papers.”

“Did you see him before or after you saw the others?”

“Before and after, both.”

“Did they know you had seen him or were to see him?”

“No. Rightly or wrongly, I suspected cross-purposes between them and was after a second247 string to my bow. They thought I took an earlier train, but I met him by arrangement. I’d sent him to see Wing and met him to get the report.”

“Then he was with Wing during the evening?”

“Did you not know it?” demanded Matthewson, turning cross-examiner.

“A question does not always imply ignorance,” said Trafford, smiling, “but sometimes the bolstering up of knowledge not yet in the form we want it. I don’t hesitate to tell you that I knew Wing had a visitor that evening. This man was with him till late?”

“He left him at eleven o’clock and met me. I parted with him in the shadow of Pettingill’s potato storehouse, when I ran to jump on the train.”

“You sent him to try to get those papers from Wing, and he failed.”

“Miserably failed. It was a desperate chance I took, of course; but I could do no less than take it. In fact it was a desperate thing to use this man, but it was my last hope, and I had no choice.”

“Yet he’s square—if I’m rightly informed. No danger from him.”

248 “I don’t mean that. I mean he’s not the kind of man to use in such a thing. He’s what you might call too high-toned—not given to that kind of work—that is, in a successful way. He wouldn’t take chances that another man might. I guess you know better than I can tell you what I mean.”

“I know. I understand the type of man. He gave you no hope of securing the papers?”

“None whatever. Wing positively refused every suggestion in regard to them, and left the impression on his mind that further attempt was useless. While I felt that another man might have done better, I was certain that his effort had uncovered Wing’s exact position; that Wing was determined to hold on to the papers and use them. He was convinced of the same thing.”

“Still you urged him to make another effort.”

“No. I was so convinced that it didn’t seem worth while—at least along those lines. While we were talking, I heard the warning bell and we hurried, turning off Somerset Street between Neil’s store and the post-office. As I left him, I remember saying that I’d give the man who would put249 those papers in my hands a hundred thousand dollars.”

“A hundred thousand dollars!” repeated Trafford, for once at least showing his surprise.

“Yes,” answered Matthewson, a strange hopefulness coming into his eyes; “I’ll give you that sum for the papers this minute.”

“I wish I had ’em,” said Trafford, in a tone half regretful and half as if he was groping in his memory for something that bore on the matter.

“Why, haven’t you got them?” demanded Matthewson, between incredulity and fear.

“I!” exclaimed Trafford. “I got them! I’ve never even seen them. The man who fired the shot that killed Wing has got those papers. Find him, and you’re on the track of the papers.”

Matthewson grew pale with revulsion of feeling. That Trafford had the papers, he had had no question. He believed that all this had been merely leading up to an offer and he had shaped his course, as he thought, shrewdly, to the naming of a sum which would make the man eager to deal. Instead, he was told in a tone that carried conviction,250 that not only had Trafford not got the papers, but that they were in the possession of an unknown man for whom the law was hunting. If he was found, the papers would pass into the possession of the State and the public!

“In other words, we don’t know where they are?”

“We do know,” answered Trafford, with the solemnity of a man who feels that he is approaching accomplished purpose, “that these papers were the cause of Wing’s death. Tell me the man who was most concerned in getting possession of these papers and I’ll give Wing’s murderer to the hangman—or would, if you hadn’t abolished the hangman in Maine.”

Never had the case stood so naked before Matthewson as these words stripped it. For the murder itself he had felt comparative indifference, his interest in the papers overtopping all else. Since he was aware that the murdered man was his half-brother, he had been conscious of an approach to a feeling of relief that he was dead. Now, for the first time, he saw, as by lightning’s flash, the strife251 for the papers and the murder as cause and effect. The one danger grew into another, and each took fearfulness from the other. No effort of the will could quite quiet the nervous tremor which the realisation of this fact brought. His face was drawn with pain as he answered:

“There can be no man more concerned than I to get these papers.”

“Fortunately I know you were on the train when the shot was fired.”

The answer implied that but for this Trafford would suspect him, and Matthewson so understood it; but his anxiety was too great for him even to resent the implication. His brother was no less interested than himself in the papers. He must warn him, warn him instantly. This man was pitiless when a task was set before him; Henry must not let himself be drawn into a trap.

“We have supposed,” Matthewson said, as much to ease the situation, as from any particular bearing of the remark on the matter under discussion, “that you had taken the papers under cover of taking the blotter from the desk.”

252 “I know,” nodded Trafford. “That was the reason you had me attacked in the bridge at Millbank. I would have been robbed of the papers—thrown into the river, perhaps. For the moment, I assumed that it was the same men who committed the murder. I saw my mistake, however, very quickly.”

He added the last words, as it were, as an apology for the mistake itself. As a matter of fact, Matthewson had known nothing of the assault until some days after it took place, but he scorned a denial that must seem like an effort to escape responsibility, and so said nothing to disabuse the other’s mind of the belief that he had helped plan the assault.

“The most serious aspect of that affair,” Trafford continued, “was the death of the Canuck—Victor Vignon.”

But Matthewson was not in a mood to feel keenly the death of a mere logger, whom he had never seen and whose importance, in comparison with the good name and continued power of the Matthewson family, was as nothing. He did not care even to assume an interest for the sake of appearance. He was thinking, thinking fast, and only half hearing253 what Trafford was saying. Suddenly his attention was again aroused.

“What is the nature of these papers?” the other was asking. “With knowledge of that, I could narrow the circle of interest, so that I would have to deal with only a few men.”

“It can’t be the men who are interested in the papers by reason of their contents who did the murder,” said Matthewson, speaking rapidly. “I know them and can answer for every one of them—that is, so far as they knew of the existence of the papers. It is some one who regards them from the point of their saleability. It’s their money value.”

Trafford had seen this possibility already, but it did not satisfy him. He felt that he could form a sounder judgment than this man, but to do it he must have the facts and this man must give them to him.

“If you are correct,” he said, “you must see that you narrow the line of enquiry to three men. I must know what the papers were to determine which of these three is the man. I have asked you before, what is the nature of the papers?”

254 “Do not think me ungrateful, if I decline to answer. I would trust you with everything, but the secret belongs to others no less than myself.”

“Mr. Matthewson,” said Trafford seriously, “it is not pleasant to have to play hide and seek with you. I’ve had to remind you once before that the inquest is public. If I have this question asked there, you’ll have to answer or——”

“Go to jail,” Matthewson said, completing the sentence. “I know. I’ve thought of that. I shouldn’t answer.”

Matthewson drummed on the table and looked at his companion. Even his political power could not shield him from the consequence of a refusal to answer a question put to him at the inquest on such a murder as this. Surely the cause must be a serious one that induced him even to think of such an act. Trafford took up another line:

“Have you thought that if you were summoned and refused to testify, it would be necessary for the government to supply as best it could the want of your testimony. Have you thought that in doing so, it could not be dainty as to means, and that it255 would not be impossible in such an event that it might stumble on the story that Cranston tried to sell you to-day?”

“In other words, you would become the pedlar of scandal,” sneered Matthewson.

“In other words, that justice might not fail, I’d get at the facts, even if they involved my own—brother. Don’t you see, Mr. Matthewson, I’m giving you a chance? If, with a knowledge of all the facts, I can bring this crime home to the murderer without bringing you into it, I’ll do so. If I can’t, I simply know in advance what all the world is bound to know finally. You’ve your chance. You can take it or leave it.”

“You’re pressing your advantage. I’m to tell, or you’ll find out. Let me suggest you’ve been on the case some time and the sum of your finding is not large.”

“So large, Mr. Matthewson, that I can make my arrest within twenty-four hours and, I’m certain, convict my man.”

Matthewson started. There was no mistaking the tone. Still he would not yield.

256 “In that event, you don’t need my answer.”

“I must have your answer to shape my proof. You’ll give it to me here or on the witness stand. I’ll leave it to you to decide which.”

Matthewson faced him like a man at bay; then, as he saw his unflinching purpose, he yielded and answered:

“The papers purport to impugn titles to a million dollars’ worth of land and two millions’ worth of stumpage. They impugn too the honour of the men who hold those titles.”

It was Trafford’s turn for surprise. The words took him back to the great scandal of the Public Lands Office, before and while Matthewson was Governor—the one storm that it had seemed for a time even his political resources could not weather. Then came the sudden collapse of the attack and the disappearance of documents that were relied on to support it. He recalled that Judge Parlin had been retained to prosecute the case, and that it was said that papers had been stolen from his office which it had never been possible to replace.

“You mean,” he said, “the Range 16 scandal.”

257 “I believe it was so called,” said Matthewson doggedly.

“But it was said these papers had been stolen; it was supposed they had been destroyed. How came they in Wing’s hands?”

“It is said they were stolen; but if so, not all. Parlin never was able to fill the place of those that were taken; but this man Wing, with devilish ingenuity and persistence, had worked and dug and pieced together until—well, until he had got enough to make us uneasy.”

“And so you tried the old game a second time?”

“We tried to get them out of his hands. The main thing we hope now is that as the price paid for them this time was murder, the man who got them has destroyed them, for fear their possession would betray him.”

Trafford was silent for a few minutes, and then said:

“Don’t hope. They’re not destroyed. The man who committed murder to get them, will not part with its price so easily. The man who holds papers that would ruin Governor Matthewson, his258 sons, Charles and Frank Hunter, and the Lord knows who else, knows that those papers would be his surest means of escape, if his identity was discovered. Those papers are in existence;” and he added to himself, “if I can’t convict without them, I won’t get out of the next assault so easy.”


The Story of the Papers

TRAFFORD went back to Millbank more seriously alarmed than at any time in his whole professional career. Matthewson would unquestionably inform the others that he had not the papers; and as certainly warn them he was after them, with the determination to secure them. It was well within reason that they would regard it as safer that they remained in the hands of a murderer whom they protected, than that they should fall into those of a detective, who would use them to convict and thus make them public. He felt that he must act promptly and energetically and bring to his aid every influence possible.

Now, however, there was another matter tugging at him. Few men in Maine ever attained to the possession of a hundred thousand dollars. The income on such a sum would equal his average yearly earnings. He believed that if he could put his hands on260 the papers, they would yield him that sum or more. If he was in danger, he had but to let it be known in a certain quarter that on obtaining these papers, he would deliver them intact, and the danger disappeared. He was satisfied that the man who made public the facts relating to Range 16 scandal would never live to see the result. He was satisfied that if the papers were once located in any person’s possession, there would now be no further time wasted in negotiation, as there had been with Wing; but that effective steps would be taken to prevent their publicity.

On arriving at Millbank, Trafford waited only to receive the report of his assistant, who had been left on guard, and then went at once to the Parlin homestead. He found Mrs. Parlin showing marks of the strain upon her of the last few weeks. Life had brought her many sorrows, and Wing’s tragic death had seemingly broken the last tie of joy. Trafford’s feverish impatience, rather than the trained restraint of his profession, spoke in the haste he showed to get at real issues.

“Mrs. Parlin,” he began, as soon as formal261 greetings were over, “what can you tell me of the Range 16 affair and the papers relating thereto?”

To his surprise Mrs. Parlin grew suddenly white and seemed on the point of fainting. He turned to her assistance, but by a strong effort she recovered a part of her usual self-possession, though the colour did not come back to her cheeks.

“Nothing,” she said. “It is a matter on which I can’t talk. You must not; you shall not torture me with it.”

“I would not willingly distress you in any way, Mrs. Parlin,” he said, with less abruptness; “but it is my duty to insist and I think it your duty to comply. Our whole search for Mr. Wing’s murderer may turn upon your answer.”

“Oh, has that come up to curse us again! has that come up!” she cried, wringing her hands. “I can’t bear it; I can’t bear it!”

Trafford was astounded at her growing agitation, and was half disposed to forego further questions, at least for the time; but behind him was the impulsion of his dread of, he scarcely knew what, driving him on to reckless impatience.

262 “It has come up and we can’t rid ourselves of it. Those papers were the cause of Mr. Wing’s death.”

“Those papers!” she repeated, with open lips, which scarcely moved as she spoke. “Those papers! But I hid them; no one knew where they were. Theodore did not even know of their existence.”

“You hid them!” exclaimed Trafford, thunderstruck at the statement. “They were stolen, I understand. How could you hide them?”

“Yes,” she said, like a bewildered child, admitting a fault; “they were stolen. I stole them.”

It was Trafford’s turn to sit dazed beyond the power of clear thought. She had stolen the papers to which her husband had given long months of work and thought, and on which he had hoped to build a reputation that should overpass the bounds of the State and outlive his years. She was the thief; and if report said truly, that theft had hastened his death and added bitterness to his last days!

“You can’t mean this, Mrs. Parlin,” he said gently. “I refer to the papers that were stolen from your husband’s desk some five years before he died;263 the papers that related to the Public Lands Office and the timber land and stumpage in Range 16; the papers that involved some men very high in the State and in the party—I won’t name them, if you please.”

She nodded assent to each of his propositions, and when he had finished said:

“Yes; those are the papers I mean. I stole them from his desk and hid them. I was going to destroy them; but I thought sometime they might be of use and not so dangerous, and so I hid them.”

“Where did you hide them?”

“First in the attic, then in the cellar, and finally under the bricks of the hearth in the parlour.”

“It’s easy, then, to find if they’re still there.”

Ten minutes sufficed to raise the bricks and show the hiding-place—a hollow cavity which had been devised in the early days for hiding purposes—empty.

“They are gone!” she cried as she glanced into the hole.

“Yes,” said Trafford, replacing the bricks and leading her back to Wing’s library, where they were264 less apt to be overheard, “they’re gone. Mr. Wing found them and, realising the alarm it would be to you to know that they were found, did not tell you. It was those papers that brought about his death.”

When Mrs. Parlin was sufficiently calm, Trafford set himself to the task of extracting the details of the affair; letting her at first tell it in her own way, and later asking questions that completed the story. Condensed to the facts, it ran as follows:

Nearly twelve years before, her husband, in the course of some investigation of a land title in the Public Lands Office, came across what appeared an error in an important entry. He was on the point of calling attention to it, so that it could be corrected, when a critical examination convinced him that it was not a mere error, but a carefully made change that involved the title to timber-land that was just becoming exceedingly valuable. Acting on the hint thus given, he went to work cautiously, but determinately, and personally got together a number of documents that revealed what seemed a systematic series of forgeries, relating to immense tracts of land that were formerly public. In some cases, the265 title to the land itself was involved; in others, that to the stumpage only.

It was impossible to carry on these investigations without attracting attention, especially when they had gone so far as to show that in every case where the title was suspicious, the benefit accrued to the Matthewsons and to the Hunters at Millbank. Mr. Matthewson was then Governor, but he had formerly been at the head of the Public Lands Office, and his financial prosperity had appeared to date from about the time he held that position.

A prying reporter got an inkling that something was going on, and in pursuing his enquiry revealed the hints he had discovered to Henry Matthewson. A position of financial importance was suddenly offered the reporter in a Western city and the story never was printed. But the Matthewsons were, from that moment, on their guard. A few months later, a fire broke out in the record room of the Public Lands Office and valuable records were destroyed. This did not attract especial attention, for the press had repeatedly called public attention to the existence of this very danger, and merely contented266 itself with shouting “I told you so,” with a great deal of strenuousness.

What was not known, save to Judge Parlin and, probably, some of the office force, was the extreme discrimination shown by the fire in destroying the very books on which proof of the forgeries depended. Certain remarks incautiously dropped by Judge Parlin let out facts from which the scandal took shape, with charges freely made by political opponents of the Matthewsons, which could now be proved only by papers in Judge Parlin’s hands, since the destruction of the original books. This was the Range 16 Scandal in its original form.

Up to this time, Judge Parlin had not even taken his wife into his confidence, but as the matter took more and more of public form, he deemed it necessary that she should know, especially as he had begun to suspect that the men who were against him would hesitate at nothing—not even murder, to conceal the truth. It was an incautious hint dropped by him to this effect that first alarmed her, and this alarm was speedily increased to terror by threats that were conveyed to the judge from time to time,267 though as to the source he was never able to reach a solution. “He laughed at them,” she said, telling of these threats; “but that is a man’s way. A woman sits and thinks and dreads, because she cannot act. In the dead night, I heard footsteps prowling about the place—or thought I did, and I lay in an agony of terror—not for myself, but because it was not for me that the danger threatened. When he was at Norridgewock at court and would drive home after dark, I sat and trembled until I had him again in my arms and knew that once more the chance had passed him by. If there came a ring at the bell late at night, I would plead that he let me answer it, until I wrought myself into a nervous terror that I cannot even now remember without a shudder. It was the worse because he was so brave and never for a moment felt afraid. When he laughed at the threats, I grew cold to my very heart, for my fear for him told me that the danger he scorned was so real that some day it would fall and crush him. A woman’s love knows some things that a man’s brain can’t compass!”

It seemed, however, that he attached importance268 of one kind to these threats, such as to induce him to guard the papers carefully, pending the time when he could duplicate them and place one set where they could not possibly be reached. But before this was even undertaken, Mrs. Parlin had become so alarmed that she urged her husband to abandon the matter and destroy the papers and let this be known where it would cause a cessation of the annoyance to which they were both subjected. But here she found him inflexible, and at last her terror reached such a pitch that she determined herself to steal and destroy the papers.

It was some time before she was able to carry this resolve into execution, and during the delay she reached a point of terror little short of insanity. At last, under the impulse of fear intensified by a particularly boldly expressed threat, she took desperate chances and, as desperate chances will do at times, succeeded. She took the papers from her husband’s desk almost under his very eyes, and ever after had the cruel pain of knowing that the trust she had betrayed was so great that no suspicion of the betrayal had ever crossed his mind.

269 Once in possession of the papers, she had, as she told Trafford, failed in the courage to destroy them, and had easily persuaded herself that they might at some time be an actual means of protection to her husband. Therefore she had hidden them, as stated, and thus finally they had passed into Theodore Wing’s hands to prove his death warrant.

The judge was much broken over the loss of the papers, the facts in regard to which could not be kept from the public. For a time, the scandal blazed up and the Matthewsons had to meet charges which could be proved by no one and which, therefore, they were the more bold in denying. Then public interest was turned to other issues, only to be aroused again for a time by Judge Parlin’s candidacy for the highest State court and his defeat, which he did not long survive.

“But when,” she demanded, “could Theodore have found these papers?”

“About two years ago, I should say; perhaps a little earlier,” said Trafford. “At least, it was then known that he had found them, for on no other theory can we explain the ransacking of his desk.270 He then began to carry them about with him, and the interests involved, which had rested quiet since your husband’s loss, and especially since his death, became disturbed again and active.”

“Then it must be the Matthewsons or Hunters who murdered him,” exclaimed the woman, under a sudden breaking in of light.

“It would seem a fair conclusion,” answered Trafford; “and yet I have evidence that satisfies me that they did not murder him and do not know who did. I don’t mean to say that they wouldn’t have done it finally; but they didn’t this time, and are not only puzzled, but much disturbed, over the mystery of the murder. We have gone so far on this matter that I can tell you in a word why they are disturbed. Whoever murdered him took the papers, and they are alarmed as to where they’ll turn up next.”

Mrs. Parlin had by the act of telling her story recovered her self-control and power to think, and saw as clearly as Trafford the meaning of this uncertainty.

“But who,” she asked, “could have done it, if they did not?”

271 “Some one who knew he had the papers. Some one who knew something of their value, and some one who knows the safety there is in boldness, and had the nerve to carry through an affair that might break down at any point. I knew long since that some one was with Mr. Wing in the evening after you left him, and that the visitor stayed very late. I also know that, contrary to what was generally supposed, this room was visited after the murder. Some one passed over his dead body, entered the room, and took the papers. The question is, who was bold enough to commit the theft under such conditions?”

The picture that Trafford drew of the murder and the theft stirred Mrs. Parlin, already wrought upon by the interview, to a state of nervous excitement that was most distressing. Too late, the detective realised that in such a state she was scarcely a safe custodian for the secret he had given into her keeping. She walked the room, wringing her hands and asking herself:

“Why didn’t I burn them; why didn’t I burn them? I might at least have saved Theodore! I am his murderer.”

272 It was late when Trafford had quieted her so that he dared trust her even with Mary Mullin. Even this he did not do, without first giving her a stern warning as to the necessity of self-restraint.

“We’re on the last stretch now,” he said. “What’s done must be done quickly and silently. These men haven’t committed murder yet, but they wouldn’t hesitate to, if they were once convinced that safety lay in that direction. In forty-eight hours they’ll see that it’s safer for this murder to remain a mystery, and then it’ll be dangerous to move—it may mean death. Can you keep still on this subject two days?”

“I kept still for eight years while I saw my husband crushed,” she said reproachfully.

As he was turning away, oppressed with the thought that he was pitted against men who would hesitate at nothing and who, as soon as a conference was had, must see that their interests lay in thwarting his efforts, she caught him by the coat and drew him towards her.

“There’s been blood enough shed,” she said. “These papers killed my husband, though I stole273 them in the hope of saving his life. They’ve killed Theodore. Don’t let them kill any more folks. Burn them, burn them, when you get hold of them!”

“But you want me to catch Mr. Wing’s murderer, don’t you? You want him sent to Thomaston?”

“Yes; yes!” Her eyes blazed with the desire of revenge. “Don’t let him escape! But burn the papers!”

He lingered still, though he felt that he was wasting precious time. He seemed to be in the one place of safety, and a strange dread, which he knew foreign to his nature and profession, assailed him. He had never experienced it before and it seemed a premonition of coming evil. As he turned finally to go, she said again:

“Don’t move alone. You can’t do better than take Mr. McManus’s advice. The judge had every confidence in him, and so, I think, had Theodore. You’ll be safer if some one knows what you are doing. Tell him everything and keep somebody by you all the time. Catch Theodore’s murderer, and274 when you get him and the papers, burn the papers: don’t let them cause any more bloodshed.”

“I shan’t move without Mr. McManus,” he assured her. “He is cool-headed and resourceful. I’ll catch Mr. Wing’s murderer and I’ll put an end to the mischief those papers can do.”

Nevertheless, there was the sense of oppression and danger hanging over him. He was doubting himself—doubting himself, from the moment Matthewson had assured him that he would give a hundred thousand dollars for the papers. Suppose he should find them, would he have strength to put that offer from him? As he asked this question, he realised that the fear that weighed on him was rather the fear born of a sense of moral degradation than fear of bodily harm. He knew as absolutely as if the thing was done that, if once he was in possession of the papers, he would sell them to Matthewson; and while he knew it and hated himself for being capable of doing it, he went steadily on the course which could have no other ending.


The Man is Found

McMANUS was unmarried and lived at the Millbank Hotel, where he indulged in the extravagance of two rooms, a sitting room and a bedroom. Trafford saw him at supper and arranged for an evening interview.

“I’ll come to your room,” he said. “I’ve got nothing but a six by nine closet on the highest floor.”

Supper over, he went for a short walk, to pass the time until the hour of appointment. He walked out on the river road where Charles Hunter’s great house stood, and found himself running over items of expense in maintaining such an establishment, all directed to the question whether a man on the income derivable from one hundred thousand dollars could afford a home like it. Disgusted with a train of thought he could not control, he hastened on, until at the top of Parlin Hill he saw the Parlin homestead and quite unexpectedly began asking276 himself if Mrs. Parlin was not likely to sell it and move into a smaller house.

Whipped with the lash of his now ungovernable thoughts, he returned to the hotel and was confronted by Frank Hunter, whom he would dearly have liked to arrest and bind over to keep the peace. He was in what he called a “blue funk,” and did not regain his self-control until he found himself in McManus’s room, where a sense of security seemed to seize him.

“I’ll put this window on to the porch down and draw the shades,” he said, suiting the action to the word. “I’ve got some things to say that mustn’t be overheard.”

They were at the table with cigars lighted, before McManus responded with reference to the affair in hand:

“Have you made any progress?”

“I’ve got the thing down to a dot,” he answered; “with the one exception—you’ll say important—of the man. I can tell you how that murder was committed, and when I have, I think you’ll agree with my prediction of a fortnight ago as to the277 characteristics of the man who committed it. What I want of you is that when the thing is told, you’ll help me put my hands on the man.”

“I’ll do my best,” replied McManus; “but don’t forget you are giving me the point on which you confess yourself at a loss.”

Trafford laughed.

“Isn’t that where we all want help?”

“Yes; but not always where we get it.”

“On the evening of May 10, a man came from somewhere below on the train due here at eight o’clock. He dropped off at the Bridge station, instead of coming into Millbank, and met another man, apparently by appointment, about half-way between the railroad and covered bridges. They talked about ten minutes——”

“Hold on,” interrupted McManus; “you go too fast. Was the man he met a Millbank man?”

“Oh, I forgot. It was Frank Hunter.”

“Frank Hunter!” exclaimed McManus. “You’re still pointing to our office, as I said before. It’s a grave responsibility you’re taking, Mr. Trafford.”

“I’m taking no responsibility. I’m simply giving278 you facts. Whoever was the murderer, I’m certain it wasn’t Frank Hunter. I’ll give you that for your comfort. As I was saying, they talked about ten minutes and then separated. Hunter went to his brother’s house and the stranger turned back, crossed the railroad bridge, and went down Somerset Street, meeting a man about a quarter of a mile below the Catholic church, where the street runs through the heavy maple grove. You know the spot?”

McManus nodded, attempting no other interruption.

“It was now about quarter to nine, and the two were together full half an hour. The stranger then came back up Somerset Street and went directly to Charles Hunter’s house. Ten minutes after, a man, who might have been the one whom the stranger met, crossed Eddy Street to Bicknell, came up Bicknell to Canaan, crossed Canaan to River Road, and went directly up River Road to the Parlin homestead. He reached there between half-past nine and quarter before ten and went to the side door, where he rang the right-hand bell, showing that he was279 acquainted with the peculiar arrangement of the bells. Mr. Wing came to the door and the two went into the library.”

“Now,” continued Trafford after a pause, to enable McManus to grasp all of the details, “as to the time; it was nine-thirty when Mrs. Parlin left the room. Wing had not written his letter, so that we have got the time pretty closely fixed. He stayed with Wing until nearly eleven-thirty. The stranger seems to have left Hunter’s house under pretence of catching the freight that leaves at eleven, but in reality he went to Somerset Street and walked up and down that street until a quarter to twelve, when he was joined by a man, presumably the one who had come from Wing’s library. It was a pretty hazardous thing to do, this loafing up and down Somerset Street, but up to now I haven’t found a single person whose attention he particularly attracted and certainly not one who pretends to have recognised him, though I feel certain he has many acquaintances in this town.”

“If the two Hunters saw him, why don’t you get his identity from them?” McManus demanded.

280 “That’ll come in time. I’ve not wanted to take too many into my confidence, and there’s no danger of their running away. Of course, if there’d been any possibility that this visitor was the murderer, ’twould be different, but as you’ll see, there isn’t.”

“But he may have instigated the murder, without actually firing the shot,” said McManus. “You must pardon me, Mr. Trafford; but I can’t help feeling you’ve shown yourself somewhat derelict in this important matter.”

“I hope I’ll be able to exonerate myself before I finish,” said Trafford. “At any rate, let me go on. The matters these men had to discuss were of such interest that the visitor came near missing the midnight train, which might have subjected me to the necessity of having him arrested, since he would then have been in town when the murder occurred. As it was, by hurrying through the alley between the post-office and Neil’s store, they got the train, the stranger coming from behind the potato warehouse, as has been testified. His companion remained there, or he might have been recognised by Oldbeg.”

281 Trafford seemed disposed to muse over the possible result of such an event and as well over another matter to which he referred a moment later:

“It would be a curious thing to know just what was said behind the storehouse, where they had their last words. It might throw a flood of light on things.”

“Yes,” answered McManus, showing a feverish desire for the continuance of the narrative; “but you might as well try to guess where yesterday’s winds have blown to. You seem to have facts enough, without speculating on conversations.”

“I suppose that’s true,” returned Trafford; “yet that last talk has a fascination for me. Who knows that it wasn’t just that that sealed Wing’s fate? You say this man may have instigated the murder. If so, may not that have been the moment of instigation?”

“Scarcely possible,” returned McManus, as it were drawn against his will into the discussion. “If he did anything so important, he wouldn’t leave it for the last word and last moment.”

“There I don’t agree with you,” Trafford282 retorted, showing a disposition to argue, which caused McManus a nervous irritation he could not conceal. “From my experience, that’s just what he would do. He’d hesitate to take the plunge; he’d wait to shape a phrase and then, at the last moment, when it had to be done, he’d throw it off in any form it presented itself. Actually, I’d give more to know what was said in that two minutes, before the stranger jumped for the train, than for all the talk of the whole evening.”

“Well; have your own way,” said McManus brusquely; “but you can’t know. Let it rest there, and let’s go on to what happened next—if you know.”

Trafford watched him intently, as he was speaking, but when he had finished seemed to find nothing in the speech, so he went on:

“After the train pulled out, the man behind the storehouse waited some few minutes, till the station was closed, and the men had left, and then he stepped out and picked up something that he saw lying on the ground and had watched from the moment it had caught his eye. It was a revolver, one chamber283 of which had been discharged. We know now how it came there, and don’t need to go over that part. He skulked back through Gray’s Court, keeping in the shadows when he crossed Canaan Street, and so came again into River Road. A feverish haste had now taken control of him, and when he reached the driveway of the Parlin homestead, the light was still burning in the library—in fact, Mr. Wing was at his desk, just finishing the letter which he had intended to write early in the evening, and which the visit of this unknown man had prevented him from writing.”

“There’s not the first thing,” interrupted McManus, who seemed now watchful of every detail as the tale approached its climax, “to show that he ever wrote that letter!”

“There’s been no evidence yet produced,” replied Trafford; “but the evidence exists, and I can prove that it was written and the person to whom it was addressed. I can prove too that it never reached that person.”

“Go on,” said McManus.

“The man felt that what he had to do must be284 done quickly. Perhaps he knew that if he took time for thought, he wouldn’t have the courage or resolution to do the work. He went to the door where he had rung early in the evening, and rang the same bell. Then he stepped on to the grass east of the doorstep and waited, with the pistol he had found ready in his hand.”

“Are you certain on that point?” demanded McManus.

Trafford stopped and looked at McManus, as if pondering that question. Finally he answered:

“I think so. He probably had a pistol of his own, but I’m confident he used the one he’d found. Everything points to his being a shrewd, keen man, and naturally he would not use his own pistol when he had another in his pocket.”

McManus nodded, indicating that Trafford was to take up the story.

“Wing came to the door, as before. He did not bring a lamp, but left the doors open behind him. Seeing no one, he stepped out on to the door-stone, when the man in hiding pressed the pistol against his temple and drew the trigger at the same instant.285 Wing fell in a heap on the step and threshold—his death was instantaneous.”

McManus had listened to these last words as if fascinated by the terrible details so briefly stated. When Trafford paused on the last word, he seemed to catch his breath with the movement of one who in the last minute had forgotten everything but the picture before him.

“If your tale is true,” he said, breathing deeply, “your description of the man is the man himself—a man of quick movements, strong purpose, assured position, and absolute control of nerves. The man must have been iron—at least while he was doing the job.”

“And he needed to be adamant to complete it. There was nothing to him in Wing’s death, as a mere death. It saved him from nothing, though it might save others. It was positive, not negative, gain he was after. Perhaps, on the whole, he would rather Wing had lived. He felt it simply a necessity, and an unpleasant one at that, that he should die. But he was after something, and Wing’s death was only the preliminary to securing it. Having waited to make certain the shot had aroused no one,286 he stepped over the dead body and entered the library. He closed the door behind him, went to the safe, which was still open, and took from the upper left-hand pigeon hole a package of papers. Then he closed the safe and turned the knob, probably mechanically, showing that he was a man accustomed to deal with keyless safes. He went to the desk and took from it the letter which Wing had just sealed and directed——”

“To whom?” interrupted McManus.

“To the Governor, asking for an appointment for the following Thursday, the thirteenth.”

McManus nodded and Trafford went on:

“Then he put out the light, raised the shade of one window to make sure the coast was clear, and returned the way he had come. In doing so, he closed the library door behind him and drew the outer door to until it was stopped by the body of the dead man. Thus, you see, with all his shrewdness, he made four mistakes; he closed and locked the safe; he put out the light; he closed the library door, and he attempted to close the outer door.”

“How mistakes?” asked McManus.

287 “If he had left the safe open, it would have been supposed mere robbery was the purpose. If he had left the lamp burning, and the library and outer doors open, there would have been nothing to show that some one had visited the room after the murder.”

“There was the missing letter,” suggested McManus, who seemed to be thinking with Trafford’s thoughts.

“Yes,” replied Trafford; “that was mistake number five.”

“But, of course,” went on McManus, “he had no means of knowing what was in it. If it had been still unsealed, it would have been different. As it was, he could not risk it; there was nothing else for him to do.”

“Exactly,” replied Trafford; “still, I think we can count it a mistake. The package of papers was what he really wanted. He should have been content with that.”

“But how did he know that he had got all in that single package? Would he not be likely to examine the safe, especially the cupboard?”

288 “How would he have got at it? It was locked.”

“Unless Wing’s keys were in the lock. That might have been. He would have taken them out when he closed the safe; it would not have closed otherwise. I understand they were found on the mantel.”

“Who testified to that?” asked Trafford, as if trying to recall the fact.

“I don’t remember,” said McManus. “Some one at the inquest, I think.”

“I think it would have been natural for him to open the cupboard, though he must have seen the package when he was there early in the evening, and so knew what he was after. However, whether he examined further or not, he did not remain long. The next day he cleaned the chamber of the revolver and filled it, thus leaving only one empty, and during the night found opportunity to throw it over on to the box hedge in the front yard.”

Trafford stopped as if he had finished his story, and McManus sat like one in a deep reverie. Suddenly, he looked up and asked:

289 “Where then are the papers which were the cause of this tragedy?”

“The man has not dared use them; he keeps them concealed until it is safe to sell them for the hundred thousand dollars which was offered for them.”

“My God! man, how do you know these things?” demanded McManus, his face ghastly as that of a week-old corpse.

“Do you dare deny one of them?” retorted Trafford.

“What do you mean by that?” asked the other.

That you are the man who murdered Wing!


The Last of the Papers

McMANUS had sprung to his feet as the accusation came from Trafford’s lips. His left hand was in the side pocket of his sack coat, and as Trafford also rose, there rang out the report of a pistol, fired without removing it from the pocket. The bullet just missed Trafford, cutting the sleeve of his coat.

“Throw up your hands, or I’ll shoot,” came from the window, and there stood Trafford’s assistant, with pistol drawn and aimed at McManus.

At the very beginning of the story, he had raised the window and had since been listening to the conversation. McManus glanced at Trafford, who was also covering him with a pistol.

“I yield,” he said, “to force. You will find it all a hideous mistake before you get through.”

“Handcuff him.” Trafford gave the order. “I’ll keep my pistol on him.”

291 McManus turned toward the man who approached from the window. He seemed to have recovered his composure, and a puzzling smile was on his lips. Then, suddenly, the hand came up, without leaving the pocket, which was lifted with it; there was a slight turn of the hand seen through the cloth and the muffled report of the pistol. McManus fell, shot through the heart by his own hand.

“A damned bungling piece of work, to let that be done,” said Trafford. “There ’re steps on the stairs. Don’t open the door for a minute.”

He rushed into the bedroom, and seizing a tin box that stood on a stand by the bed, dropped it from the window into a dense mass of shrubbery that grew beneath. He was back in the room to answer the first knock at the door.

Millbank slept but little that night. The streets were thronged with people, and the story of the tragedy, the discovery of the murderer and his suicide, was repeated and re-repeated, with new details at every repetition. Before midnight it was surprising to know how many people had all along suspected292 McManus and felt certain that he “was no better than he should be.”

Frank Hunter came among the very first and went back and forth from the sitting room to the bedroom, with an uneasy air of searching for something and yet striving to conceal the fact. Trafford watched him with a curious expression on his face, as if he enjoyed the man’s awkwardness and embarrassment.

When Charles Matthewson arrived on the latest train and went directly to the Hunter house, Trafford was instantly informed and at once made up his mind to his line of action. McManus’s suicide was confession, and the possession of the papers was no longer necessary to conviction. Trafford determined to have them off his hands at the earliest possible moment, and with Matthewson in town, that promised to be before daylight. At the first opportunity he stole out, recovered possession of the box, and hid it in a less exposed place.

About midnight, matters had so quieted down that he was able to respond to Mrs. Parlin’s message begging him to come to her and, if possible, remain293 in the house the balance of the night. He took with him the box, containing what he now regarded as his fortune and his reward for work done in discovering the murderer.

Mrs. Parlin was eager to hear the story, and it was some time after midnight before she left him and he was at liberty to follow his purpose. His judgment dictated waiting until morning, which would be a matter of but a few hours, but the box and its papers had become a growing burden, leaving him but one thought and that to be rid of them. From the library window he could see that a light still burned in the Hunter house. He was resolved to complete the matter before he slept.

Leaving the house cautiously, with the box under his arm, he hurried down the hill, at the foot of which lay the heavy shadows of the great Lombardy poplars. It seemed to him that he had never seen the shadows so black as they were to-night. As he entered the blackness, he quickened his pace almost to a run, and was almost in the light again when there came what seemed to him a flash of flame, then deeper darkness and oblivion.

294 How long he lay on the walk under the poplars he did not know, excepting that his first sensation of returning consciousness was of the soft white light that comes before the sun steals up from behind the earth. The next was of a heaviness of the head and a numbness that was giving way to pain. He put up his hand feebly, and brought it down again wet with blood.

Then came the thought of the box. He reached out his hand and, groping, it fell upon it. He had barely strength enough yet to draw it to him, but at last succeeded, though not without much pain. He lifted it feebly and the lid fell back, showing the breakage where it had been wrenched from its hinges. With a paroxysm of strength born of terror, he sat upright and looked into the box. It was empty; not even a shred of paper remaining. For one instant he gazed in uncomprehending stupidity, and then, as the truth flashed on him, he fell again to the earth, and lost in temporary unconsciousness alike the sense of pain and the power to follow his interrupted quest.

Almost at the very moment when Trafford discovered295 the loss of the papers, Henry Matthewson slipped through the grounds of the Hunter home, coming from the direction of the river, and entered by a side door. He went directly to the library, where his brother and the two Hunters had been in uneasy conference for some hours. As he entered, the three men started to their feet, first in surprise at his presence, and then in greater surprise at his appearance. His face was white and set, like the face of a man who has passed through some terrible struggle and has conquered or been conquered. One, looking at the inscrutable face, could not have decided which.

“You!” exclaimed Charles Matthewson. “I have been trying to reach you all night.”

“How could you reach here at this hour?” said Frank Hunter. “There’s no train.”

Charles Hunter said nothing, but his quick understanding of men, and, perhaps, a quality in him that would have dared all that man could dare in a desperate case, told him more than either of his companions saw. For a moment he hesitated and then, seeing no denial in the face of the newcomer, said:

296 “You have found the papers.”

The others started and looked at the two men whom, instinctively, they knew to be stronger than themselves.

“Yes,” said Henry Matthewson.

“Where are they?” asked Charles Matthewson and Frank Hunter, in a breath.

The other did not answer. Then Charles repeated the question:

“Where are they?”

“Where would they be now, if they had come into your hands a half-hour ago?” demanded Matthewson.

“Destroyed!” said Charles Hunter unhesitatingly.

“They are where they will never menace us or ours again,” said Henry Matthewson, “unless the river gives them up. I dropped them from the bridge into the pool below the Falls a half-hour ago.”

“But where did you find them?” was Frank Hunter’s question.

Charles Hunter looked again at the other’s face, and said:

297 “How serious is the matter?”

“The man is merely stunned,” said Henry. “I think some one should find him, under the poplars at the foot of the hill——”

“Henry! My God!” exclaimed Charles Matthewson, stepping hastily forward. “You haven’t——”

“I have done what was necessary to obtain the papers and save ourselves and—our mother. I hope there is no one here who would have done less. I accept full responsibility for acting where none but a coward could hesitate.”

“Pray God, Trafford’s not dead!” exclaimed Charles Matthewson.

“Amen,” said Henry, and then added; “but be that as it may, the papers are.”


Two Noteworthy Detective Stories by Burton E. Stevenson

The Marathon Mystery

With five scenes in color by Eliot Keen

4th printing. $1.50

This absorbing story of New York and Long Island to-day has been republished in England. Its conclusion is most astonishing.

N. Y. Sun: “Distinctly an interesting story—one of the sort that the reader will not lay down before he goes to bed.”

N. Y. Post: “By comparison with the work of Anna Katharine Green ... it is exceptionally clever ... told interestingly and well.”

N. Y. Tribune: “The Holladay Case was a capital story of crime and mystery. In The Marathon Mystery the author is in even firmer command of the trick. He is skillful in keeping his reader in suspense, and every element in it is cunningly adjusted to preserving the mystery inviolate until the end.”

Boston Transcript: “The excellence of its style, Mr. Stevenson apparently knowing well the dramatic effect of fluency and brevity, and the rationality of avoiding false clues and attempts unduly to mystify his readers.”

Boston Herald: “This is something more than an ordinary detective story. It thrills you and holds your attention to the end. But besides all this the characters are really well drawn and your interest in the plot is enhanced by interest in the people who play their parts therein.”

Town and Country: “The mystery defies solution until the end. The final catastrophe is worked out in a highly dramatic manner.”

The Holladay Case

With frontispiece by Eliot Keen

7th printing. $1.25

A tale of a modern mystery of New York and Etretat that has been republished in England and Germany.

N. Y. Tribune: “Professor Dicey recently said, ‘If you like a detective story take care you read a good detective story.’ This is a good detective story, and it is the better because the part of the hero is not filled by a member of the profession.... The reader will not want to put the book down until he has reached the last page. Most ingeniously constructed and well written into the bargain.

Henry Holt and Company

Publishers New York

Noteworthy Books by ARTHUR COLTON and what some authorities say of them.

The Belted Seas

A story of the wild voyages of the irrepressible Captain Buckingham in Southern seas. 12mo, $1.50

Evening Post: “A whimsical Odyssey.... What Jacobs has done for the British seaman, Colton has done for the Yankee sailor.”

Cincinnati Enquirer: “Never has the peculiar brand of humor which South America affords been more skilfully exploited than by Arthur Colton in The Belted Seas.... It is a joyous book, and he were a hardened reader indeed who would not chortle with satisfaction over Kid Sadler’s adventures at Portate.... Many of the stories are uproariously funny and recall Stockton at his best.”

Port Argent

12mo, $1.50

A romance of a few weeks in an Ohio city “with growing pains.”

Critic: “A story of breathless events and of remarkable concentration.”

Bookman: “Mr. Colton’s work is particularly worthy of praise.”

Life: “Arthur Colton is a writer with a remarkably individual outlook. Port Argent is bright and full of characteristic Coltonisms.”

San Francisco Chronicle: “A quiet story told with such restraint that it is only after laying down the volume that one realizes the bigness of the problems presented, in breadth and richness of thought, and the power of its action.”


12mo, $1.25

Mr. Colton here depicts a gallery of very varied Americans. Tioba was a mountain which meant well but was mistaken.

Bookman: “He is always the artist observer, adding stroke upon stroke with the surest of sure pens, ... an author who recalls the old traditions that there were once such things as good writing and good story-telling.”

Critic: “In each of these stories he has presented some out-of-the-way fragment of life with faithfulness and power.... He has the artist’s instinct.”

Henry Holt and Company

Publishers New York


The Lightning Conductor

The Strange Adventures of a Motor Car


12mo. $1.50

The love story of a beautiful American and a gallant Englishman, who stoops to conquer. Two almost human automobiles, the one German, heavy and stubborn, and the other French, light and easy-going, play prominent parts. There is much humor. Picturesque scenes in Provence, Spain and Italy pass before the reader’s eyes in rapid succession.

Twenty printings of this novel have been called for.

Nation: “Such delightful people, and such delightful scenes.... It should be a good, practical guide to those about to go over the same course, while its charming descriptions of travel afford an ample new fund of pleasure, tinged with envy here and there to the stay-at-homes.”

N. Y. Sun: “A pleasant and felicitous romance.”

Springfield Republican: “Wholly new and decidedly entertaining.”

Chicago Post: “Sprightly humor ... the story moves.”

The Pursuit of Phyllis


With two illustrations by H. Latimer Brown

12mo. $1.25

A humorous love story with scenes in England, France, China and Ceylon.

Boston Transcript: “A bright and entertaining story of up-to-date men and women.”

N. Y. Tribune: “Very enjoyable.... Its charm consists in its naturalness and the sparkle of the dialogue and descriptions.”

N. Y. Evening Post: “The story is brisk, buoyant and entertaining.”

Bookman: “Sparkling in fun, clean-cut and straightforward in style as the young hero himself.”

Henry Holt and Company

New York Chicago

2d printing of “A novel in the better sense of a word much sinned against.... It is decidedly a book worth while.”

The Transgression of
Andrew Vane


12mo. $1.50.

Times’ Saturday Review:—“A strong and original story; ... the descriptions of conditions in the American colony [in Paris] are convincingly clever. The story from the prologue—one of exceptional promise in point of interest—to the climax ... is full of action and dramatic surprise.”

N. Y. Tribune:—“The surprising developments we must leave the reader to find out for himself. He will find it a pleasant task; ... the surprise is not brought forward until precisely the right moment, and one is carried from the first chapter to the last with curiosity, and concern for the hero’s fate kept well alive.”

N. Y. Evening Sun:—“Everybody who likes clever fiction should read it.”

Literary World:—“The prologue is as skilful a handling of a repellent theme as has ever been presented. The book is distinctly not one for the young person, but neither is it for the seeker after the risqué or the erotic.... In this novel are poured into a consistent and satisfying whole more of those vivid phases of Paris at which the author has shown himself a master hand.”

Chicago Evening Post:—“The reader stops with regret in his mind that Guy Wetmore Carryl’s story-telling work is done.”

Chicago Tribune:—“A brilliant piece of work.”

Washington Star:—“A more engaging villain has seldom entered the pages of modern fiction; ... sparkles with quotable epigrams.”

Buffalo Express:—“The sort of a story which one is very apt to read with interest from beginning to end. And, moreover, ... very bright and clever.”

New Haven Journal:—“By far the most ambitious work he undertook, and likewise the most brilliant.”

Henry Holt and Company

29 W. 23d St. NEW YORK

From any point of view it is an unusual novel, as much better than some of the ‘best sellers’ as a painting is better than a chromo.”—World’s Work.


The Divine Fire



6th printing of The story of a London poet.

Mary Moss in the Atlantic Monthly: “Certain it is that in all our new fiction I have found nothing worthy to compare with ‘The Divine Fire,’ nothing even remotely approaching the same class.”

New York Globe: “The biggest surprise of the whole season’s fiction ... you never once stop to question its style, or its realism, or the art of its construction. You simply read right on, deaf to everything and everybody outside of the compelling magic of its pages.”

Dial: “A full-length study of the poetic temperament, framed in a varied and curiously interesting environment, and drawn with a firmness of hand that excites one’s admiration.... Moreover, a real distinction of style, besides being of absorbing interest from cover to cover.”

Catholic Mirror: “One of the noblest, most inspiring and absorbing books we have read in years.”

Owen Seaman in Punch (London): “I find her book the most remarkable that I have read for many years.”

The Diary of a Musician


With decorations and illustrations by Charles Edward Hooper and H. Latimer Brown


Authorities agree that no particular musical celebrity is described or satirized; all review the book with enthusiasm, though some damn while others praise.

Times Review: “Of extraordinary interest as a study from the inside of the inwardness of a genius.”

Bookman: “Much of that exquisite egotism, the huge, artistic Me and the tiny universe, that gluttony of the emotions, of the whole peculiar compound of hysteria, inspiration, vanity, insight and fidgets, which goes to make up that delightful but somewhat rickety thing which we call the artistic temperament is reproduced.... The ‘Diary of a Musician’ does what most actual diaries fail to do—writes down a man in full.”

Henry Holt and Company

Publishers New York


The House of the Black Ring


A story oddly combining humor and horror. It tells of the squire, a sort of feudal lord, his enemies, his fate and of his daughter and how she would have her way in love. The weird influence of The House of the Black Ring dominates the little “pocket” in the Seven Mountains of Pennsylvania.

The Washington Star: “An unusual combination of the weird and the humorous ... absorbing and often thrilling tale.... A forest fire ... is a dramatic episode which does Mr. Pattee exceptional credit in the restraint of his treatment and the effectiveness of his climaxes.”

N. Y. Evening Sun: “An interesting story ... piques the reader’s curiosity and keeps him reading till the mystery is solved.”

Red-Headed Gill

By RYE OWEN. 4th printing. $1.50

Red-Headed Gill is a splendid young country gentlewoman of Cornwall. Under a weird East Indian influence she is forced to live over again part of the life of a beauty of the days of Queen Bess—the famous Gill Red-Head.

New York Sun: “A charming girl whom the reader will watch with interest to the end. The author manages to transport her back into the life of her Tudor ancestress over and again naturally, and with great effect.”

New York Times Review: “There is much originality in the plot. The reader’s attention is at once enlisted, and is not allowed to flag.”

In the Dwellings of the Wilderness


A ghost story so plausibly told that many may, like one of the chief characters, think it might all be explained by natural causes after all. It tells the astonishing adventures of three American engineers, excavating in the heart of an Egyptian desert.

Boston Transcript: “The impression on the reader is so strong that he finds his grip on the book grow strained in spite of himself.”

N. Y. Globe: “Strikes a note of weird horror, and sustains that note page after page.... A vividness that makes it difficult to banish the picture from your memory for many a day.”

Henry Holt and Company

Publishers New York

Transcriber’s Note:

Punctuation has been standardised except spaces before ’ll and ’re have been retained as they appear in the original publication. Hyphenation and spelling have also been retained as published, except as follows:

The title page refers to a colour frontispiece. Unfortunately, a colour version could not be found at the time this eBook was prepared.