The After House
Mary Roberts Rinehart
Part 3 out of 4
instruments put out of sight.
His condition was good. The men carried him to the tent, where
Jones sat beside him, and the other men stood outside, uneasy and
watchful, looking in.
The operating-case, with its knives, came in for its share of
scrutiny, and I felt that an explanation was due the men. To tell
the truth, I had forgotten all about the case. Perhaps I swaggered
just a bit as I went over to wash my hands. It was my first
opportunity, and I was young, and the Girl was there.
"I see you looking at my case, boys," I said. "Perhaps I'm a little
late explaining, but I guess after what you've seen you'll understand.
The case belonged to my grandfather, who was a surgeon. He was in
the war. That case was at Gettysburg."
"And because of your grandfather you brought it on shipboard!" Clarke
"No. I'm a cub doctor myself. I'd been sick, and I needed the sea
and a rest."
They were not so impressed as I had expected - or perhaps they had
known all along. Sailors are a secretive lot.
"I'm thinking we'll all be getting a rest soon," a voice said. "What
are you going to do with them knives?"
I had an inspiration. "I'm going to leave that to you men," I said.
"You may throw them overboard, if you wish - but, if you do, take
out the needles and the silk; we may need them."
There followed a savage but restrained argument among the men.
Jones, from the tent, called out irritably: -
"Don't be fools, you fellows. This happened while Leslie was asleep.
I'll swear he never moved after he lay down."
The crew reached a decision shortly after that, and came to me in
"We think," Oleson said, "that we'll lock them in the captain's
cabin, with the axe."
"Very well," I said. "Burns has the key around his neck."
Clarke, I think it was, went into the tent, and came out again
"There's no key around his neck," he said gruffly.
"It may have slipped around under his back."
"It isn't there at all."
I ran into the tent, where Jones, having exhausted the resources of
the injured man's clothing, was searching among the blankets on which
he lay. There was no key. I went out to the men again, bewildered.
The dawn had come, a pink and rosy dawn that promised another
stifling day. It revealed the disarray of the deck - he basins, the
old mahogany amputating-case with its lock plate of bone, the stained
and reddened towels; and it showed the brooding and overcast faces of
"Isn't it there?" I asked. "Our agreement was for me to carry the
key to Singleton's cabin and Burns the captain's."
Miss Lee, by the rail, came forward slowly, and looked up at me.
"Isn't it possible," she said, "that, knowing where the key was,
some one wished to get it, and so -" She indicated the tent and
I knew then. How dull I had been, and stupid! The men caught her
meaning, too, and we tramped heavily forward, the girl and I leading.
The door into the captain's room was open, and the axe was gone from
the bunk. The key, with the cord that Burns had worn around his neck,
was in the door, the string torn and pulled as if it had been jerked
away from the unconscious man. Later on we verified this by finding,
on the back of Bums's neck an abraded line two inches or so in length.
It was a strong cord - the kind a sailor pins his faith to, and uses
indiscriminately to hold his trousers or his knife.
I ordered a rigid search of the deck, but the axe was gone. Nor was
it ever found. It had taken its bloody story many fathoms deep into
the old Atlantic, and hidden it, where many crimes have been hidden,
in the ooze and slime of the sea-bottom.
That day was memorable for more than the attack on Burns. It marked
a complete revolution in my idea of the earlier crimes, and of the
Two things influenced my change of mental attitude. The attack on
Burns was one. I did not believe that Turner had strength enough to
fell so vigorous a man, even with the capstan bar which we found
lying near by. Nor could he have jerked and broken the amberline.
Mrs. Johns I eliminated for the same reason, of course. I could
imagine her getting the key by subtlety, wheedling the impressionable
young sailor into compliance. But force!
The second reason was the stronger.
Singleton, the mate, had become a tractable and almost amiable
prisoner. Like Turner, he was ugly only when he was drinking, and
there was not even enough liquor on the Ella to revive poor Burns.
He spent his days devising, with bits of wire, a ring puzzle that he
intended should make his fortune. And I believe he contrived,
finally, a clever enough bit of foolery. He was anxious to talk,
and complained bitterly of loneliness, using every excuse to hold
Tom, the cook, when he carried him his meals. He had asked for a
Bible, too, and read it now and then.
The morning of Bums's injury, I visited Singleton.
The new outrage, coming at a time when they were slowly recovering
confidence, had turned the men surly. The loss of the axe, the
handle of which I had told them would, under skillful eyes, reveal
the murderer as accurately as a photograph, was a serious blow.
Again arose the specter of the innocent suffering for the guilty.
They went doggedly about their work, and wherever they gathered
there was muttered talk of the white figure. There was grumbling,
too, over their lack of weapons for defense.
The cook was a ringleader of the malcontents. Certain utensils
were allowed him; but he was compelled at night to lock them in the
galley, after either Burns's inspection or mine, and to turn over
the key to one of us.
On the morning after the attack, therefore, Tom, carrying Singleton's
breakfast to him, told him at length what had occurred in the night,
and dilated on his lack of self-defense should an attack be directed
Singleton promptly offered to make him, out of wire, a key to the
galley door, so that he could get what he wanted from it. The cook
was to take an impression of the lock. In exchange, Tom was to fetch
him, from a hiding place which Singleton designated in the forward
house, a bottle of whiskey.
The cook was a shrewd mulatto, and he let Singleton make the key.
It was after ten that morning when he brought it to me. I was
trying to get the details of his injury from Burns, at the time, in
"I didn't see or hear anything, Leslie," Burns said feebly. "I
don't even remember being hit. I felt there was some one behind me.
That was all."
"There had been nothing suspicious earlier in the night?"
He lay thinking. He was still somewhat confused.
"No - I think not. Or - yes, I thought once I saw some one standing
by the mainmast -- behind it. It wasn't."
"How long was Mrs. Johns on deck?"
"Did she ask you to do something for her?"
Pale as he was, he colored; but he eyed me honestly.
"Yes. Don't ask me any more, Leslie. It had nothing to do with
"What did she ask you to do?" I persisted remorselessly.
"I don't want to talk; my head aches."
"Very well. Then I'll tell you what happened after I went off watch.
No, I wasn't spying. I know the woman, that's all. She said you
looked tired, and wouldn't it be all right if you sat down for a
moment and talked to her."
"No; she said she was nervous."
"The same thing - only better. Then she persisted in talking of
the crime, and finally she said she would like to see the axe. It
wouldn't do any harm. She, wouldn't touch it."
He watched me uneasily.
"She didn't either," he said. "I'll swear to that, Leslie. She
didn't go near the bunk. She covered her face with her hands, and
leaned against the door. I thought she was going to faint."
"Against the door, of course! And got an impression of the key.
The door opens in. She could take out the key, press it against a
cake of wax or even a cake of soap in her hand, and slip it back
into the lock again while you - What were you doing while she was
doing all that?"
"She dropped her salts. I picked them up."
"Exactly! Well, the, axe is gone."
He started up on his elbow.
"Thrown overboard, probably. It is not in the cabin."
It was brutal, perhaps; but the situation was all of that. As Burns
fell back, colorless, Tom, the cook, brought into the tent the wire
key that Singleton had made.
That morning I took from inside of Singleton's mattress a bunch of
keys, a long steel file, and the leg of one of his chairs, carefully
unscrewed and wrapped at the end with wire a formidable club. One
of the keys opened Singleton's door.
That was on Saturday. Early Monday morning we sighted land.
A BAD COMBINATION
We picked up a pilot outside the Lewes breakwater a man of few words.
I told him only the outlines of our story, and I believe he half
discredited me at first. God knows, I was not a creditable object.
When I took him aft and showed him the jolly-boat, he realized, at
last, that he was face to face with a great tragedy, and paid it the
tribute of throwing away his cigar.
He suggested our raising the yellow plague flag; and this we did,
with a ready response from the quarantine officer. The quarantine
officer came out in a power-boat, and mounted the ladder; and from
that moment my command of the Ella ceased. Turner, immaculately
dressed, pale, distinguished, member of the yacht club and partner
in the Turner line, met him at the rail, and conducted him, with a
sort of chastened affability, to the cabin.
Exhausted from lack of sleep, terrified with what had gone by and
what was yet to come, unshaven and unkempt, the men gathered on the
forecastle-head and waited.
The conference below lasted perhaps an hour. At the end of that
time the quarantine officer came up and shouted a direction from
below, as a result of which the jolly-boat was cut loose, and,
towed by the tug, taken to the quarantine station. There was an
argument, I believe, between Turner and the officer, as to allowing
us to proceed up the river without waiting for the police. Turner
prevailed, however, and, from the time we hoisted the yellow flag,
we were on our way to the city, a tug panting beside us, urging
the broad and comfortable lines of the old cargo boat to a
semblance of speed.
The quarantine officer, a dapper little man, remained on the boat,
and busied himself officiously, getting the names of the men, peering
at Singleton through his barred window, and expressing disappointment
at my lack of foresight in having the bloodstains cleared away.
"Every stain is a clue, my man, to the trained eye," he chirruped.
"With an axe, too! What a brutal method! Brutal! Where is the axe?"
"Gone," I said patiently. "It was stolen out of the captain's cabin."
He eyed me over his glasses.
"That's very strange," he commented. "No stains, no axe! You
fellows have been mighty careful to destroy the evidence, haven't
All that long day we made our deliberate progress up the river.
The luggage from the after house was carried up on deck by Adams
and Clarke, and stood waiting for the customhouse.
Turner, his hands behind him, paced the deck hour by hour, his
heavy face colorless. His wife, dark, repressed, with a look of
being always on guard, watched him furtively. Mrs. Johns, dressed
in black, talked to the doctor; and, from the notes he made, I
knew she was telling the story of the tragedy. And here, there,
and everywhere, efficient, normal, and so lovely that it hurt me
to look at her, was Elsa. Williams, the butler, had emerged from
his chrysalis of fright, and was ostentatiously looking after the
family's comfort. No clearer indication could have been given of
the new status of affairs than his changed attitude toward me. He
came up to me, early in the afternoon, and demanded that I wash
down the deck before the women came up.
I smiled down at him cheerfully.
"Williams," I said, "you are a coward -- a mean, white-livered
coward. You have skulked in the after house, behind women, when
there was man's work to do. If I wash that deck, it will be with
you as a mop."
He blustered something about speaking to Mr. Turner and seeing that
I did the work I was brought on board to do, and, seeing Turner's
eye on us, finished his speech with an ugly epithet. My nerves were
strained to the utmost: lack of sleep and food had done their work.
I was no longer in command of the Ella; I was a common sailor, ready
to vent my spleen through my fists.
I knocked him down with my open hand.
It was a barbarous and a reckless thing to do. He picked himself
up and limped away, muttering. Turner had watched the scene with
his cold blue eyes, and the little doctor with his near-sighted ones.
"A dangerous man, that!" said the doctor.
"Dangerous and intelligent," replied Turner. "A bad combination!"
It was late that night when the Ella anchored in the river at
Philadelphia. We were not allowed to land. The police took charge
of ship, crew, and passengers. The men slept heavily on deck, except
Burns, who developed a slight fever from his injury, and moved about
It seemed to me that the vigilance of the officers was exerted
largely to prevent an escape from the vessel, and not sufficiently
for the safety of those on board. I spoke of this, and a guard was
placed at the companionway again. Thus I saw Elsa Lee for the last
time until the trial.
She was dressed, as she had been in the afternoon, in a dark cloth
suit of some sort, and I did not see her until I had spoken to the
officer in charge. She turned, at my voice, and called me to join
her where she stood.
"We are back again, Leslie."
"Yes, Miss Lee."
"Back to -what? To live the whole thing over again in a courtroom!
If only we could go away, anywhere, and try to forget!"
She had not expected any answer, and I had none ready. I was
thinking - Heaven help me - that there were things I would not forget
if I could: the lift of her lashes as she looked, up at me; the few
words we had had together, the day she had told me the deck was not
clean; the night I had touched her hand with my lips.
"We are to be released, I believe," she said, "on our own - some
legal term; I forget it."
"Yes. You do not know law as well as medicine?"
"I am sorry - no; and I know very little medicine."
"But you sewed up a wound!"
"As a matter of fact," I admitted, "that was my initial performance,
and it is badly done. It - it puckers."
She turned on me a trifle impatiently.
"Why do you make such a secret of your identity?" she demanded.
"Is it a pose? Or - have you a reason for concealing it?"
"It is not a pose; and I have nothing to be ashamed of, unless
"Of course not. What do you mean by poverty?"
"The common garden variety sort. I have hardly a dollar in the
world. As to my identity, - if it interests you at all, -, I
graduated in medicine last June. I spent the last of the money
that was to educate me in purchasing a dress suit to graduate in,
and a supper by way of celebration. The dress suit helped me to
my diploma. The supper gave me typhoid."
"So that was it!"
"Not jail, you see."
"And what are you going to do now?"
I glanced around to where a police officer stood behind us watchfully.
"Now? Why, now I go to jail in earnest."
"You have been very good to us," she said wistfully. "We have all
been strained and nervous. Maybe you have not thought I noticed or
- or appreciated what you were doing; but I have, always. You have
given all of yourself for us. You have not slept or eaten. And now
you are going to be imprisoned. It isn't just!"
I tied to speak lightly, to reassure her.
"Don't be unhappy about that," I said. "A nice, safe jail, where
one may sleep and eat, and eat and sleep - oh, I shall be very
comfortable! And if you wish to make me exceedingly happy, you
will see that they let me have a razor."
But, to my surprise, she buried her face in her arms. I could not
believe at first that she was crying. The policeman had wandered
across to the other rail, and stood looking out at the city lights,
his back to us. I put my hand out to touch her soft hair, then
drew it back. I could not take advantage of her sympathy, of the
hysterical excitement of that last night on the Ella. I put my
hands in my pockets, and held them there, clenched, lest, in spite
of my will, I reach out to take her in my arms.
I TAKE THE STAND
And now I come, with some hesitation, to the trial. Hesitation,
because I relied on McWhirter to keep a record. And McWhirter,
from his notes, appears to have been carried away at times by
excitement, and either jotted down rows of unintelligible words,
or waited until evening and made up his notes, like a woman's
expense account, from a memory never noticeable for accuracy.
At dawn, the morning after we anchored, Charlie Jones roused me,
"Friend of yours over the rail, Leslie," he said. "Wants to take
I knew no one in Philadelphia except the chap who had taken me
yachting once, and I felt pretty certain that he would not
associate Leslie the football player with Leslie the sailor on
the Ella. I went reluctantly to the rail, and looked down. Below
me, just visible in the river mist of the early morning, was a
small boat from which two men were looking up. One was McWhirter!
"Hello, old top," he cried. "Or is it you behind that beard? "
"It's I, all right, Mac," I said, somewhat huskily. What with seeing
him again, his kindly face behind its glasses, the cheerful faith in
me which was his contribution to our friendship, - even the way he
shook his own hand in default of mine, - my throat tightened. Here,
after all, was home and a friend.
He looked up at the rail, and motioned to a rope that hung there.
"Get your stuff and come with us for breakfast," he said. "You look
as if you hadn't eaten since you left."
"I'm afraid I can't, Mac."
"They're not going to hold you, are they?"
"For a day or so, yes."
Mac's reply to this was a violent resume of the ancestry and present
lost condition of the Philadelphia police, ending with a request
that I jump over, and let them go to the place he had just designated
as their abiding-place in eternity. On an officer lounging to the
rail and looking down, however, he subsided into a low muttering.
The story of how McWhirter happened to be floating on the bosom of
the Delaware River before five o'clock in the morning was a long one
- it was months before I got it in full. Briefly, going home from
the theater in New York the night before, he had bought an "extra"
which had contained a brief account of the Ella's return. He seems
to have gone into a frenzy of excitement at once. He borrowed a
small car, - one scornfully designated as a "road louse," - and
assembled in it, in wild confusion, one suit of clothes for me, his
own and much too small, one hypodermic case, an armful of newspapers
with red scare-heads, a bottle of brandy, a bottle of digitalis, one
police card, and one excited young lawyer, of the same vintage in
law that Mac and I were in medicine. At the last moment, fearful
that the police might not know who I was, he had flung in a scrapbook
in which he had pasted - with a glue that was to make his fortune -
records of my exploits on the football field!
A dozen miles from Philadelphia the little machine had turned over
on a curve, knocking all the law and most of the enthusiasm out of
Walters, the legal gentleman, and smashing the brandy-bottle.
McWhirter had picked himself up, kicked viciously at the car, and,
gathering up his impedimenta, had made the rest of the journey by
foot and street-car.
His wrath at finding me a prisoner was unbounded; his scorn at
Walters, the attorney, for not confounding the police with law
enough to free me, was furious and contemptuous. He picked up the
oars in sullen silence, and, leaning on them, called a loud and
defiant farewell for the benefit of the officer.
"All right," he said. "An hour or so won't make much difference.
But you'll be free today, all right, all right. And don't let
them bluff you, boy. If the police get funny, tackle them and
throw 'em overboard, one by one. You can do it."
He made an insulting gesture at the police, picked up his oars, and
rowed away into the mist.
But I was not free, that day, nor for many days. As I had expected,
Turner, his family, Mrs. Johns, and the stewardess were released,
after examination. The rest of us were taken to jail. Singleton as
a suspect, the others to make sure of their presence at the trial.
The murders took place on the morning of August 12. The Grand jury
met late in September, and found an indictment against Singleton.
The trial began on the 16th of November.
The confinement was terrible. Accustomed to regular exercise as I
was, I suffered mentally and physically. I heard nothing from Elsa
Lee, and I missed McWhirter, who had got his hospital appointment,
and who wrote me cheering letters on pages torn from order-books or
on prescription-blanks. He was in Boston.
He got leave of absence for the trial, and, as I explained, the
following notes are his, not mine. The case was tried in the United
States Court, before Circuit Judge Willard and District judge
McDowell. The United States was represented by a district attorney
and two assistant attorneys. Singleton had retained a lawyer
named Goldstein, a clever young Jew.
I was called first, as having found the bodies.
"When and where were you born?"
"November 18, 1887, in Columbus, Ohio."
"When did you ship on the yacht Ella?"
"On July 27."
"When did she sail?"
"Are you a sailor by occupation?"
"No; I am a graduate of a medical college."
"What were your duties on the ship?"
"They were not well defined. I had been ill and was not strong.
I was a sort of deck steward, I suppose. I also served a few meals
in the cabin of the after house, when the butler was incapacitated."
"Where were you quartered?"
"In the forecastle, with the crew, until a day or so before the
murders. Then I moved into the after house, and slept in a
"Why did you make the change?"
"Mrs. Johns, a guest, asked me to do so. She said she was nervous."
"Who slept in the after house?"
"Mr. and Mrs. Turner, Miss Lee, Mrs. Johns, and Mr. Vail. The
stewardess, Mrs. Sloane, and Karen Hansen, a maid, also slept there;
but their room opened from the chartroom."
A diagram of the after house was here submitted to the jury. For
the benefit of the reader, I reproduce it roughly. I have made no
attempt to do more than to indicate the relative positions of rooms
\ bath \ |_____| / /
\___ ___\ |_____| /Turner's/
Mrs.\ \ /room_ __/
John's\ /____/ /
room \ \ Main Cabin / / /
\___ ___\ / /_ _/bath
Mrs. \ \ / Vail's /room
Turner's \___ \ /________/
room \ \ / ______/linen
\ \____\ /__/store/
bath \ \ \ /__ room /
\ \ \ /___/____/
\__\ /general /
Miss \ \ /supplies/
Lee's \ \ /________/
room \_______\______ _____/________/butler's
\_maid's\ Chart Room / pantry
\\ room used as library /
bunk---\\ ___ \ and lounge____ /
"State what happened on the night of August ii and early morning of
"I slept in the storeroom in the after house. As it was very hot, I
always left the door open. The storeroom itself was a small room,
lined with shelves, and reached by a passageway. The door was at
the end of the passage. I wakened because of the heat, and found the
door locked on the outside. I lit a match, and found I could unscrew
the lock with my knife. I thought I had been locked in as a joke by
the crew. While I was kneeling, some one passed outside the door."
"How did you know that?"
"I felt a board rise under my knee as if the other end had been trod
on. Shortly after, a woman screamed, and I burst open the door."
"How long after you felt the board rise?"
"Perhaps a minute, possibly two."
"Just after, the ship's bell struck six - three o'clock. The main
cabin was dark. There was a light in the chart-room, from the
binnacle light. I felt my way to Mr. Vail's room. I heard him
breathing. His door was open. I struck a match and looked at him.
He had stopped breathing."
"What was the state of his bunk?"
"Disordered -horrible. He was almost hacked to pieces."
"I ran back and got my revolver. I thought there had been a mutiny-"
"Confine yourself to what you saw and did. The court is not
interested in what you thought."
"I am only trying to explain what I did. I ran back to the
storeroom and got my revolver, and ran back through the chart-room
to the after companion, which had a hood. I thought that if any
one was lying in ambush, the hood would protect me until I could
get to the deck. I told the helmsman what had happened, and ran
forward. Mr. Singleton was on the forecastle-head. We went below
together, and found the captain lying at the foot of the forward
companion, also dead."
"At this time, had you called the owner of the ship?"
"No. I called him then. But I could not rouse him."
"Explain what you mean by that."
"He had been drinking."
There followed a furious wrangle over this point; but the
prosecuting attorney succeeded in having question and answer stand.
"What did you do next?"
"The mate had called the crew. I wakened Mrs. Turner, Miss Lee,
and Mrs. Johns, and then went to the chart-room to call the women
there. The door was open an inch or so. I received no answer to
my knock, and pulled it open. Karen Hansen, the maid, was dead
on the floor, and the stewardess was in her bunk, in a state of
"State where you found the axe with which the crimes were committed."
"It was found in the stewardess's bunk."
"Where is this axe now?"
"It was stolen from the captain's cabin, where it was locked for
safe keeping, and presumably thrown overboard. At least, we didn't
"I see you are consulting a book to refresh your memory. What is
"The ship's log."
"How does it happen to be in your possession?"
"The crew appointed me captain. As such, I kept the log-book. It
contains a full account of the discovery of the bodies, witnessed
by all the men."
"Is it in your writing?"
"Yes; it is in my writing."
"You read it to the men, and they signed it?"
"No; they read it themselves before they signed it."
After a wrangle as to my having authority to make a record in the
log-book, the prosecuting attorney succeeded in having the book
admitted as evidence, and read to the jury the entry of August 13.
Having thus proved the crimes, I was excused, to be recalled later.
The defense reserving its cross-examination, the doctor from the
quarantine station was called next, and testified to the manner of
death. His testimony was revolting, and bears in no way on the
story, save in one particular - a curious uniformity in the
mutilation of the bodies of Vail and Captain Richardson - a sinister
similarity that was infinitely shocking. In each case the forehead,
the two arms, and the abdomen had received a frightful blow. In
the case of the Danish girl there was only one wound - the injury
on the head.
HENRIETTA SLOANE was called next.
"Are you married?"
"When and where were you born?"
"Isle of Man, December 11 1872."
"How long have you lived in the United States?"
"Since I was two."
"Your position on the yacht Ella?"
"On the Baltic, between Liverpool and New York. That was how I met
"Where was your room on the yacht Ella?"
"Off the chartroom."
"Will you indicate it on this diagram?"
"It was there." (Pointing.)
The diagram was shown to the jury.
"There are two bunks in this room. Which was yours?"
"The one at the side - the one opposite the door was Karen's."
"Tell what happened on the night of August 11 and morning of the
"I went to bed early. Karen Hansen had not come down by midnight.
When I opened the door, I saw why. Mr. Turner and Mr. Singleton
were there, drinking."
The defense objected to this but was overruled by the court.
"Mr. Vail was trying to persuade the mate to go on deck, before
the captain came down."
"Did they go?"
"What comment did Mr. Singleton make?"
"He said he hoped the captain would come. He wanted a chance to
get at him."
"What happened after that?"
"The captain came down and ordered the mate on deck. Mr. Vail
and the captain got Mr. Turner to his room."
"How do you know that?"
"I opened my door."
"Karen came down at 12.30. We went to bed. At ten minutes to
three the bell rang for Karen. She got up and put on a wrapper
and slippers. She was grumbling and I told her to put out the
light and let me sleep. As she opened the door she screamed and
fell back on the floor. Something struck me on the shoulder, and
I fainted. I learned later it was the axe."
"Did you hear any sound outside, before you opened the door?"
"A curious chopping sound. I spoke of it to her. It came from
"When the girl fell back into the room, did you see any one beyond
"I saw something - I couldn't say just what."
"Was what you saw a figure?"
"I - I am not certain. It was light - almost white."
"Can you not describe it?"
"I am afraid not - except that it seemed white."
"How tall was it?"
"I couldn't say."
"As tall as the girl?"
"Just about, perhaps."
"Think of something that it resembled. This is important, Mrs.
Sloane. You must make an effort."
"I think it looked most like a fountain."
Even the jury laughed at this, and yet, after all, Mrs. Sloane
was right - or nearly so!
"That is curious. How did it resemble a fountain?"
"Perhaps I should have said a fountain in moonlight white, and
misty, and - and flowing."
"And yet, this curious-shaped object threw the axe at you, didn't it?"
There was an objection to the form of this question, but the court
"I did not say it threw the axe. I did not see it thrown. I felt
"Did you know the first mate, Singleton, before you met on the Ella?"
"We were on the same vessel two years ago, the American, for Bermuda."
"Were you friends?"
"Yes" - very low.
"Were you engaged to marry him at one time?"
"Why did you break it off?"
"We differed about a good many things."
After a long battle, the prosecuting attorney was allowed to show
that, following the breaking off of her relations with Singleton,
she had been a witness against him in an assault-and-battery case,
and had testified to his violence of temper. The dispute took so
long that there was only time for her cross-examination. The
effect of the evidence, so far, was distinctly bad for Singleton.
His attorney, a young and intelligent Jew, cross-examined Mrs. Sloane.
Attorney for the defense: "Did you ever write a letter to the
defendant, Mrs. Sloane, threatening him if he did not marry you?"
"I do not recall such a letter."
"Is this letter in your writing?"
"I think so. Yes."
"Mrs. Sloane, you testify that you opened your door and saw Mr. Vail
and the captain taking Mr. Turner to his room. Is this correct?"
"Why did they take him? I mean, was he not able, apparently, to
"He was able to walk. They walked beside him."
"In your testimony, taken at the time and entered in the ship's
log, you say you 'judged by the sounds.' Here you say you 'opened
the door and saw them.' Which is correct?"
"I saw them."
"You say that Mr. Singleton said he wished to 'get at' the captain.
Are those his exact words?"
"I do not recall his exact words."
"Perhaps I can refresh your mind. With the permission of the court,
I shall read from the ship's log this woman's statement, recorded by
the man who was in charge of the vessel, and therefore competent to
make such record, and signed by the witness as having been read and
approved by her: -
"'Mr. Singleton said that he hoped the captain would come, as he and
Mr. Turner only wanted a chance to get at him . . . . There was a
sound outside, and Karen thought it was Mr. Turner falling over
something, and said that she hoped she would not meet him. Once or
twice, when he had been drinking, he had made overtures to her, and
she detested him . . . . She opened the door and came back into the
room, touching me on the arm. "That beast is out there," she said,
"sitting on the companion steps. If he tries to stop me, I'll call
The reading made a profound impression. The prosecution, having
succeeded in having the log admitted as evidence, had put a trump
card in the hands of the defense.
"What were the relations between Mr. Turner and the captain?"
"I don't know what you mean."
"Were they friendly?"
"No - not very."
"Did you overhear, on the night of August 9, a conversation between
Mr. Turner and Mr. Vail?"
"What was its nature?"
"They were quarreling."
"What did Williams, the butler, give you to hide, that night?"
"Mr. Turner's revolver."
"What did he say when he gave it to you?"
"He - said to throw it overboard or there would be trouble."
"Mrs. Sloane, do you recognize these two garments?"
He held up a man's dinner shirt and a white waistcoat. The
stewardess, who had been calm enough, started and paled.
"I cannot tell without examining them." (They were given to her,
and she looked at them.) "Yes, I have seen them."
"What are they?"
"A shirt and waistcoat of Mr. Turner's."
"When did you see them last?"
"I packed them in my trunk when we left the boat. They had been
forgotten when the other trunks were packed."
"Had you washed them?"
"Were they washed on shipboard?"
"They look like it. They have not been ironed."
"Who gave them to you to pack in your trunk?"
"What did you do with them on reaching New York?"
"I left them in my trunk."
"Why did you not return them to Mr. Turner?"
"I was ill, and forgot. I'd like to know what right you have going
through a person's things - and taking what you want!"
The stewardess was excused, the defense having scored perceptibly.
It was clear what line the young Jew intended to follow.
Oleson, the Swede, was called next, and after the usual formalities: -
"Where were you between midnight and 4 A.M. on the morning of
"In the crow's-nest of the Ella."
"State what you saw between midnight and one o'clock."
"I saw Mate Singleton walking on the forecastle-head. Every now
and then he went to the rail. He seemed to be vomiting. It was
too dark to see much. Then he went aft along the port side of the
house, and came forward again on the starboard side. He went to
where the axe was kept."
"Where was that?"
"Near the starboard corner of the forward house. All the Turner
boats have an emergency box, with an axe and other tools, in easy
reach. The officer on watch carried the key."
"Could you see what he was doing?"
"No; but he was fumbling at the box. I heard him."
"Where did he go after that?"
"He went aft."
"You could not see him?"
"I didn't look. I thought I saw something white moving below me,
and I was watching it."
"This white thing - what did it look like?" "Like a dog, I should
say. It moved about, and then disappeared."
"I don't understand."
"Over the rail?"
"Oh - no, sir. It faded away."
"Had you ever heard talk among the men of the Ella being a haunted
"Yes - but not until after I'd signed on her!"
"Was there some talk of this 'white thing'?"
"Before the murders?"
"No, sir; not till after. I guess I saw it first."
"What did the men say about it?"
"They thought it scared Mr. Schwartz overboard. The Ella's been
unlucky as to crews. They call her a 'devil ship.'"
"Did you see Mr. Singleton on deck between two and three o'clock?"
The cross-examination was very short: -
"What sort of night was it?"
"Would the first mate, as officer on watch, be supposed to see that
the emergency case you speak of was in order?"
"Did the officer on watch remain on the forecastle-head?"
"Mr. Schwartz did not; Mr. Singleton did, mostly except when he went
back to strike the bells."
"Could Mr. Singleton have been on deck without you seeing him?"
"Yes, if he did not move around or smoke. I could see his pipe
"Did you see his pipe that night?"
"If you were sick, would you be likely to smoke?"
This question, I believe, was ruled out.
"In case the wheel of the vessel were lashed for a short time, what
"Depends on the weather. She'd be likely to come to or fall off
"Would the lookout know it?"
"The sails would show it, sir."
That closed the proceedings for the day. The crowd seemed reluctant
to disperse. Turner's lawyers were in troubled consultation with
him. Singleton was markedly more cheerful, and I thought the
prosecution looked perturbed and uneasy. I went back to jail that
night, and dreamed of Elsa - not as I had seen her that day, bending
forward, watching every point of the evidence, but as I had seen her
so often on the yacht, facing into the salt breeze as if she loved
it, her hands in the pockets of her short white jacket, her hair
blowing back from her forehead in damp, close-curling rings.
"A BAD WOMAN"
Charlie Jones was called first, on the second day of the trial. He
gave his place of birth as Pennsylvania, and his present shore
address as a Sailors' Christian Home in New York. He offered,
without solicitation, the information that he had been twenty-eight
years in the Turner service, and could have been "up at the top,"
but preferred the forecastle, so that he could be an influence to
His rolling gait, twinkling blue eyes, and huge mustache, as well
as the plug of tobacco which he sliced with a huge knife, put the
crowd in good humor, and relieved somewhat the somberness of the
"Where were you between midnight and 4 A.M. on the morning of
"At the wheel."
"You did not leave the wheel during that time?"
"When was that?"
"After they found the captain's body. I went to the forward
companion and looked down."
"Is a helmsman permitted to leave his post?"
"With the captain lying dead down in a pool of blood, I should
"Never mind thinking. Is he?"
"What did you do with the wheel when you left it?"
"Lashed it. There are two rope-ends, with loops, to lash it with.
When I was on the Sarah Winters -"
"Stick to the question. Did you see the mate, Mr. Singleton, during
"Every half-hour from 12.30 to 1.30. He struck the bells. After
that he said he was sick. He thought he'd been poisoned. He said
he was going forward to lie down, and for me to strike them."
"Who struck the bell at three o'clock?"
"I did, sir."
"When did you hear a woman scream?"
"Just before that."
"What did you do?"
"Nothing. It was the Hansen woman. I did n't like her. She was
a bad woman. When I told her what she was, she laughed."
"Were you ever below in the after house?"
"No, sir; not since the boat was fixed up."
"What could you see through the window beside the wheel?"
"It looked into the chart-room. If the light was on, I could see
all but the floor."
"Between the hours of I A.m. and 3 A.m., did any one leave or
enter the after house by the after companion?"
"Yes, sir. Mr. Singleton went down into the chart-room, and came
back again in five or ten minutes."
"At what time?"
"At four bells - two o'clock."
"No one else?"
"No, sir; but I saw Mr. Turner -"
"Confine yourself to the question. What was Mr. Singleton's manner
at the time you mention?"
"He was excited. He brought up a bottle of whiskey from the
chart-room table, and drank what was left in it. Then he muttered
something, and threw the empty bottle over the rail. He said he
was still sick."
The cross-examination confined itself to one detail of Charlie
"Did you, between midnight and 3 A.M., see any one in the chart-room
besides the mate?"
"Yes - Mr. Turner."
"You say you cannot see into the chart-room from the wheel at night.
How did you see him?"
"He turned on the light. He seemed to be looking for something."
"Was he dressed?"
"Can you describe what he wore?"
"Yes, sir. His coat was off. He had a white shirt and a white vest."
"Were the shirt and vest similar to these I show you?"
"Most of them things look alike to me. Yes, sir."
The defense had scored again. But it suffered at the hands of Burns,
the next witness. I believe the prosecution had intended to call
Turner at this time; but, after a whispered conference with Turner's
attorneys, they made a change. Turner, indeed, was in no condition
to go on the stand. He was pallid and twitching, and his face was
covered with sweat.
Burns corroborated the testimony against Singleton - his surly
temper, his outbursts of rage, his threats against the captain.
And he brought out a new point: that Jones, the helmsman, had been
afraid of Singleton that night, and had asked not to be left alone
at the wheel.
During this examination the prosecution for the first time made
clear their position: that the captain was murdered first; that Vail
interfered, and, pursued by Singleton, took refuge in his bunk,
where he was slaughtered; that the murderer, bending to inspect his
horrid work, had unwittingly touched the bell that roused Karen
Hansen, and, crouching in the chartroom with the axe, had struck her
as she opened the door.
The prosecution questioned Burns about the axe and its disappearance.
"Who suggested that the axe be kept in the captain's cabin?"
"Leslie, acting as captain."
"Who had the key?"
"I carried it on a strong line around my neck."
"Whose arrangement was that?"
"Leslie's. He had the key to Mr. Singleton's cabin, and I carried
this one. We divided the responsibility."
"Did you ever give the key to any one?"
"Did it ever leave you?"
"Not until it was taken away."
"When was that?"
"On Saturday morning, August 22, shortly before dawn."
"Tell what happened."
"I was knocked down from behind, while I was standing at the port
forward corner of the after house. The key was taken from me while
I was unconscious."
"Did you ever see the white object that has been spoken of by the
"No, sir. I searched the deck one night when Adams, the lookout,
raised an alarm. We found nothing except -"
"He threw down a marlinespike at something moving in the bow. The
spike disappeared. We couldn't find it, although we could see where
it had struck the deck. Afterwards we found a marlinespike hanging
over the ship's side by a lanyard. It might have been the one we
"A cord - a sort of rope."
"It could not have fallen over the side and hung there?"
"It was fastened with a Blackwell hitch."
"Show us what you mean."
On cross-examination by Singleton's attorney, Burns was forced to
relate the incident of the night before his injury - that Mrs. Johns
had asked to see the axe, and he had shown it to her. He maintained
stoutly that she had not been near the bunk, and that the axe was
there when he locked the door.
Adams, called, testified to seeing a curious, misty-white object on
the forecastle-head. It had seemed to come over the bow. The
marlinespike he threw had had no lanyard.
Mrs. Turner and Miss Lee escaped with a light examination. Their
evidence amounted to little, and was practically the same. They
had retired early, and did not rouse until I called them. They
remained in their rooms most of the time after that, and were busy
caring for Mr. Turner, who had been ill. Mrs. Turner was good
enough to say that I had made them as safe and as comfortable as
The number of witnesses to be examined, and the searching grilling
to which most of them were subjected, would have dragged the case
to interminable length, had it not been for the attitude of the
judges, who discouraged quibbling and showed a desire to reach the
truth with the least possible delay. One of the judges showed the
wide and unbiased attitude of the court by a little speech after an
especially venomous contest.
"Gentlemen," he said, "we are attempting to get to a solution of
this thing. We are trying one man, it is true, but, in a certain
sense, we are trying every member of the crew, every person who
was on board the ship the night of the crime. We have a curious
situation. The murderer is before us, either in the prisoner's
dock or among the witnesses. Let us get at the truth without
Mrs. Johns was called, following Miss Lee. I watched her carefully
on the stand. I had never fathomed Mrs. Johns, or her attitude
toward the rest of the party. I had thought, at the beginning of
the cruise, that Vail and she were incipient lovers. But she had
taken his death with a calmness that was close to indifference.
There was something strange and inexplicable in her tigerish
championship of Turner - and it remains inexplicable even now. I
have wondered since - was she in love with Turner, or was she only
a fiery partisan? I wonder!
She testified with an insolent coolness that clearly irritated the
prosecution - thinking over her replies, refusing to recall certain
things, and eyeing the jury with long, slanting glances that set
them, according to their type, either wriggling or ogling.
The first questions were the usual ones. Then:
"Do you recall the night of the 3 1st of July
"Can you be more specific?"
"I refer to the night when Captain Richardson found the prisoner
in the chart-room and ordered him on deck."
"I recall that, yes."
"Where were you during the quarrel?"
"I was behind Mr. Vail."
"Tell us about it, please."
"It was an ordinary brawl. The captain knocked the mate down."
"Did you hear the mate threaten the captain?"
" No. He went on deck, muttering; I did not hear what was said."
"After the crimes, what did you do?"
"We established a dead-line at the foot of the forward companion.
The other was locked."
"Was there a guard at the top of the companion?"
"Yes; but we trusted no one."
"Where was Mr. Turner?"
"Ill, in his cabin."
"Very. He was delirious."
"Did you allow any one down?"
"At first, Leslie, a sort of cabin-boy and deck steward, who seemed
to know something of medicine. Afterward we would not allow him,
"We did not trust him."
"This Leslie -why had you asked him to sleep in the storeroom?"
"I - was afraid."
"Will you explain why you were afraid?"
"Fear is difficult to explain, isn't it? If one knows why one is
afraid, one - er - generally isn't."
"That's a bit subtle, I'm afraid. You were afraid, then, without
"Had you a revolver on board?'"
"Whose revolver was kept on the cabin table?"
"Mine. I always carry one."
"Then - have you one with you now?"
"When you asked the sailor Burns to let you see the axe, what did
you give as a reason?"
"The truth - curiosity."
"Then, having seen the axe, where did you go?"
"Please explain the incident of the two articles Mr. Goldstein
showed to the jury yesterday, the shirt and waistcoat."
"That was very simple. Mr. Turner had been very ill. We took
turns in caring for him. I spilled a bowl of broth over the garments
that were shown, and rubbed them out in the bathroom. They were
hung in the cabin used by Mr. Vail to dry, and I forgot them when
we were packing."
The attorney for the defense cross-examined her:
"What color were the stains you speak of?"
"Darkish - red-brown."
"What sort of broth did you spill?"
"That's childish, isn't it? I don't recall."
"You recall its color."
"It was beef broth."
"Mrs. Johns, on the night you visited the forward house and viewed
the axe, did you visit it again?"
"The axe, or the forward house?"
She made one of her long pauses. Finally: -
"Between three and four o'clock."
"Who went with you?"
"I went alone."
"Why did you go beyond the line that was railed off for your safety?"
(Sharply.) "Because I wished to. I was able to take care of myself."
"Why did you visit the forward house?"
"I was nervous and could not sleep. I thought no one safe while
the axe was on the ship."
"Did you see the body of Burns, the sailor, lying on the deck at
"He might have been there; I did not see him."
"Are you saying that you went to the forward house to throw the
"Yes - if I could get in."
"Did you know why the axe was being kept?"
"Because the murders had been committed with it."
"Had you heard of any finger-prints on the handle?"
"Did it occur to you that you were interfering with justice in
disposing of the axe?"
"Do you mean justice or law? They are not the same."
"Tell us about your visit to the forward house."
"It was between two and three. I met no one. I had a bunch of
keys from the trunks and from four doors in the after house. Miss
Lee knew I intended to try to get rid of the axe. I did not need
my keys. The door was open --wide open. I - I went in, and -"
Here, for the first time, Mrs. Johns's composure forsook her. She
turned white, and her maid passed up to her a silver smelling-salts
"What happened when you went in?"
"It was dark. I stood just inside. Then something rushed past me
and out of the door, a something - I don't know what - a woman, I
thought at first, in white."
"If the room was dark, how could you tell it was white?"
"There was a faint light -enough to see that. There was no noise
- just a sort of swishing sound."
"What did you do then?"
"I waited a moment, and hurried back to the after house."
"Was the axe gone then?"
"I do not know."
"Did you see the axe at that time?"
"Did you touch it?"
"I have never touched it, at that time or before."
She could not be shaken in her testimony and was excused. She had
borne her grilling exceedingly well, and, in spite of her flippancy,
there was a ring of sincerity about the testimony that gave it weight.
Following her evidence, the testimony of Tom, the cook, made things
look bad for Singleton, by connecting him with Mrs. Johns's intruder
in the captain's room. He told of Singleton's offer to make him a
key to the galley with wire. It was clear that Singleton had been
a prisoner in name only, and this damaging statement was given weight
when, on my recall later, I identified the bunch of keys, the file,
and the club that I had taken from Singleton's mattress. It was plain
enough that, with Singleton able to free himself as he wished, the
attack on Burns and the disappearance of the axe were easily enough
accounted for. It would have been possible, also, to account for
the white figure that had so alarmed the men, on the same hypothesis.
Cross-examination of Tom by Mr. Goldstein, Singleton's attorney,
brought out one curious fact. He had made no dark soup or broth for
the after house. Turner had taken nothing during his illness but
clam bouillon, made with milk, and the meals served to the four women
had been very light. "They lived on toast and tea, mostly," he said.
That completed the taking of evidence for the day. In spite of the
struggles of the clever young Jew, the weight of testimony was
against Singleton. But there were curious discrepancies.
Turner went on the stand the neat morning.
"Marshall Benedict Turner."
"West 106th Street, New York City."
"Member of the firm of L. Turner's Sons, shipowners. In the coast
"Do you own the yacht Ella?"
"Do you recognize this chart?"
"Yes. It is the chart of the after house of the Ella."
"Will you show where your room is on the drawing?" ,
"And Mr. Vail's?"
"Next, connecting through a bath-room."
"Where was Mr. Vail's bed on the chart?"
"Here, against the storeroom wall."
"With your knowledge of the ship and its partitions, do you think
that a crime could be committed, a crime of the violent nature of
this one, without making a great deal of noise and being heard in
Violent opposition developing to this question, it was changed in
form and broken up. Eventually, Turner answered that the
partitions were heavy and he thought it possible.
"Were the connecting doors between your room and Mr. Vail's
generally locked at night?"
"Yes. Not always."
"Were they locked on this particular night?"
"I don't remember."
"When did you see Mr. Vail last?"
"At midnight, or about that. I - I was not well. He went with me
to my room."
"What were your relations with Mr. Vail?"
"We were old friends."
"Did you hear any sound in Mr. Vail's cabin that night?"
"None. But, as I say, I was - ill. I might not have noticed."
"Did you leave your cabin that night of August 11 or early morning
of the 12th?"
"Not that I remember."
"The steersman has testified to seeing you, without your coat, in
the chart-room, at two o'clock. Were you there?"
"I may have been - I think not."
"Why do you say you 'may have been - I think not'?"
"I was ill. The next day I was delirious. I remember almost
nothing of that time."
"Did you know the woman Karen Hansen?"
"Only as a maid in my wife's employ."
"Did you hear the crash when Leslie broke down the door of the
"No. I was in a sort of stupor."
"Did you know the prisoner before you employed him on the Ella?"
"Yes; he had been in our employ several times."
"What was his reputation - I mean, as a ship's officer?"
"Do you recall the night of the 31 st of July?"
"Please tell what you know about it."
"I had asked Mr. Singleton below to have a drink with me. Captain
Richardson came below and ordered him on deck. They had words, and
he knocked Singleton down."
"Did you hear the mate threaten to 'get' the captain, then or later?"
"He may have made some such threat."
"Is there a bell in your cabin connecting with the maids' cabin off
"No. My bell rang in the room back of the galley, where Williams
slept. The boat was small, and I left my man at home. Williams
looked after me."
"Where did the bell from Mr. Vail's room ring?"
"In the maids' room. Mr. Vail's room was designed for Mrs. Turner.
When we asked Mrs. Johns to go with us, Mrs. Turner gave Vail her
room. It was a question of baths."
"Did you ring any bell during the night?"
"Knowing the relation of the bell above Mr. Vail's berth to the bed
itself, do you think he could have reached it after his injury?"
(Slowly.) "After what the doctor has said, no; he would have had to
raise himself and reach up."
The cross-examination was brief but to the point:
"What do you mean by 'ill'?"
"That night I had been somewhat ill; the next day I was in bad shape."
"Did you know the woman Karen Hansen before your wife employed her?"
"A previous witness has said that the Hansen woman, starting out of
her room, saw you outside and retreated. Were you outside the door
at any time during that night?"
"Only before midnight."
"You said you 'might have been' in the chart-room at two o'clock."
"I have said I was ill. I might have done almost anything."
"That is exactly what we are getting at, Mr. Turner. Going back to
the 30th of July, when you were not ill, did you have any words with
"We had a few. He was exceeding his authority."
"Do you recall what you said?"
"I was indignant."
"Think again, Mr. Turner. If you cannot recall, some one else
"I threatened to dismiss him and put the first mate in his place.
I was angry, naturally."
"And what did the captain reply?"
"He made an absurd threat to put me in irons."
"What were your relations after that?"
"They were strained. We simply avoided each other."
"Just a few more questions, Mr. Turner, and I shall not detain you.
Do you carry a key to the emergency case in the forward house, the
case that contained the axe?"
Like many of the questions, this was disputed hotly. It was
finally allowed, and Turner admitted the key. Similar cases were
carried on all the Turner boats, and he had such a key on his ring.
"Did you ever see the white object that terrified the crew?"
"Never. Sailors are particularly liable to such hysteria."
"During your delirium, did you ever see such a figure?"
"I do not recall any details of that part of my illness."
"Were you in favor of bringing the bodies back to port?"
"I -yes, certainly."
"Do you recall going on deck the morning after the murders were
"What were the men doing at that time?"
"I believe - really, I do not like to repeat so often that I was
ill that day."
"Have you any recollection of what you said to the men at that time?"
"Let me refresh your memory from the ship's log
(Reading.) "'Mr. Turner insisted that the bodies be buried at sea,
and, on the crew opposing this, retired to his cabin, announcing
that he considered the attitude of the men a mutiny."'
"I recall being angry at the men - not much else. My position was
rational enough, however. It was midsummer, and we had a long
voyage before us."
"I wish to read something else to you. The witness Leslie testified
to sleeping in the storeroom, at the request of Mrs. Johns".
(reading), "'giving as her reason a fear of something going wrong,
as there was trouble between Mr. Turner and the captain.'"
Whatever question Mr. Goldstein had been framing, he was not
permitted to use this part of the record. The log was admissible
only as a record on the spot, made by a competent person and
witnessed by all concerned, of the actual occurrences on the Ella.
My record of Mrs. Johns's remark was ruled out; Turner was not on
Turner, pale and shaking, left the stand at two o'clock that day,
and I was recalled. My earlier testimony had merely established
the finding of the bodies. I was now to have a bad two hours. I
was an important witness, probably the most important. I had heard
the scream that had revealed the tragedy, and had been in the main
cabin of the after house only a moment or so after the murderer. I
had found the bodies, Vail still living, and had been with the
accused mate when he saw the captain prostrate at the foot of the
All of this, aided by skillful questions, I told as exactly as
possible. I told of the mate's strange manner on finding the bodies;
I related, to a breathless quiet, the placing of the bodies in the
jolly-boat; and the reading of the burial service over them; I told
of the little boat that followed us, like some avenging spirit,
carrying by day a small American flag, union down, and at night a
white light. I told of having to increase the length of the
towing-line as the heat grew greater, and of a fear I had that the
rope would separate, or that the mysterious hand that was the author
of the misfortunes would cut the line.
I told of the long nights without sleep, while, with our few
available men, we tried to work the Ella back to land; of guarding
the after house; of a hundred false alarms that set our nerves
quivering and our hearts leaping. And I made them feel, I think,
the horror of a situation where each man suspected his neighbor,
feared and loathed him, and yet stayed close by him because a known
danger is better than an unknown horror.
The record of my examination is particularly faulty, McWhirter
having allowed personal feeling to interfere with accuracy. Here
and there in the margins of his notebook I find unflattering
allusions to the prosecuting attorney; and after one question, an
impeachment of my motives, to which Mac took violent exception, no
answer at all is recorded, and in a furious scrawl is written: "The
little whippersnapper! Leslie could smash him between his thumb
I found another curious record - a leaf, torn out of the book, and
evidently designed to be sent to me, but failing its destination,
was as follows: "For Heaven's sake, don't look at the girl so much!
The newspaper men are on."
But, to resume my examination. The first questions were not of
particular interest. Then:
"Did the prisoner know you had moved to the after house?"
"I do not know. The forecastle hands knew."
"Tell what you know of the quarrel on July 31 between Captain
Richardson and the prisoner."
"I saw it from a deck window." I described it in detail.
"Why did you move to the after house?"
"At the request of Mrs. Johns. She said she was nervous."
"What reason did she give?"
"That Mr. Turner was in a dangerous mood; he had quarreled with the
captain and was quarreling with Mr. Vail."
"Did you know the arrangement of rooms in the after house? How the
"In a general way."
"What do you mean by that?"
"I knew Mr. Vail's room and Miss Lee's."
"Did you know where the maids slept?"
"You have testified that you were locked in. Was the key kept in
"Would whoever locked you in have had only to move the key from one
side of the door to the other?"
"Was the key left in the lock when you were fastened in?"
"Now, Dr. Leslie, we want you to tell us what the prisoner did that
night when you told him what had happened."
"I called to him to come below, for God's sake. He seemed dazed
and at a loss to know what to do. I told him to get his revolver
and call the captain. He went into the forward house and got his
revolver, but he did not call the captain. We went below and
stumbled over the captain's body."
"What was the mate's condition?"
"When we found the body?"
"His general condition."
"He was intoxicated. He collapsed on the steps when we found the
captain. We both almost collapsed."
"What was his mental condition?"
"If you mean, was he frightened, we both were."
"Was he pale?"
"I did not notice then. He was pale and looked ill later, when the
crew had gathered."
"About this key: was it ever found? The key to the storeroom?"
"That same morning."
"Where? And by whom?"
"Miss Lee found it on the floor in Mr. Turner's room."
The prosecution was totally unprepared for this reply, and
proceedings were delayed for a moment while the attorneys consulted.
On the resumption of my examination, they made a desperate attempt
to impeach my character as a witness, trying to show that I had
sailed under false pretenses; that I was so feared in the after
house that the women refused to allow me below, or to administer
to Mr. Turner the remedies I prepared; and, finally, that I had
surrendered myself to the crew as a suspect, of my own accord.
Against this the cross-examination threw all its weight. The
prosecuting attorneys having dropped the question of the key, the
shrewd young lawyer for the defense followed it up: -
"This key, Dr. Leslie, do you know where it is now?"
"Yes; I have it."
"Will you tell how it came into your possession?"
"Certainly. I picked it up on the deck, a night or so after the
murders. Miss Lee had dropped it." I caught Elsa Lee's eye, and
she gave me a warm glance of gratitude.
"Have you the key with you?"
"Yes." I produced it.
"Are you a football player, Doctor?"
"I thought I recalled you. I have seen you play several times.
In spite of our friend the attorney for the commonwealth, I do not
believe we will need to call character witnesses for you. Did you
see Miss Lee pick up the key to the storeroom in Mr. Turner's room?"
"Did it occur to you at the time that the key had any significance?"
"I wondered how it got there."
"You say you listened inside the locked door, and heard no sound,
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