The Case of the Registered Letter
Grace Isabel Colbron and Augusta Groner
The Case of the Registered Letter
by Grace Isabel Colbron and Augusta Groner
INTRODUCTION TO JOE MULLER
Joseph Muller, Secret Service detective of the Imperial Austrian
police, is one of the great experts in his profession. In
personality he differs greatly from other famous detectives. He
has neither the impressive authority of Sherlock Holmes, nor the
keen brilliancy of Monsieur Lecoq. Muller is a small, slight,
plain-looking man, of indefinite age, and of much humbleness of
mien. A naturally retiring, modest disposition, and two external
causes are the reasons for Muller's humbleness of manner, which
is his chief characteristic. One cause is the fact that in early
youth a miscarriage of justice gave him several years in prison,
an experience which cast a stigma on his name and which made it
impossible for him, for many years after, to obtain honest
employment. But the world is richer, and safer, by Muller's
early misfortune. For it was this experience which threw him
back on his own peculiar talents for a livelihood, and drove him
into the police force. Had he been able to enter any other
profession, his genius might have been stunted to a mere pastime,
instead of being, as now, utilised for the public good.
Then, the red tape and bureaucratic etiquette which attaches to
every governmental department, puts the secret service men of the
Imperial police on a par with the lower ranks of the subordinates.
Muller's official rank is scarcely much higher than that of a
policeman, although kings and councillors consult him and the
Police Department realises to the full what a treasure it has in
him. But official red tape, and his early misfortune ... prevent
the giving of any higher official standing to even such a genius.
Born and bred to such conditions, Muller understands them, and
his natural modesty of disposition asks for no outward honours,
asks for nothing but an income sufficient for his simple needs,
and for aid and opportunity to occupy himself in the way he most
Joseph Muller's character is a strange mixture. The
kindest-hearted man in the world, he is a human bloodhound when
once the lure of the trail has caught him. He scarcely eats or
sleeps when the chase is on, he does not seem to know human
weakness nor fatigue, in spite of his frail body. Once put on
a case his mind delves and delves until it finds a clue, then
something awakes within him, a spirit akin to that which holds
the bloodhound nose to trail, and he will accomplish the apparently
impossible, he will track down his victim when the entire machinery
of a great police department seems helpless to discover anything.
The high chiefs and commissioners grant a condescending permission
when Muller asks, "May I do this? ... or may I handle this case
this way?" both parties knowing all the while that it is a farce,
and that the department waits helpless until this humble little
man saves its honour by solving some problem before which its
intricate machinery has stood dazed and puzzled.
This call of the trail is something that is stronger than anything
else in Muller's mentality, and now and then it brings him into
conflict with the department, ... or with his own better nature.
Sometimes his unerring instinct discovers secrets in high places,
secrets which the Police Department is bidden to hush up and leave
untouched. Muller is then taken off the case, and left idle for
a while if he persists in his opinion as to the true facts. And
at other times, Muller's own warm heart gets him into trouble. He
will track down his victim, driven by the power in his soul which
is stronger than all volition; but when he has this victim in the
net, he will sometimes discover him to be a much finer, better man
than the other individual, whose wrong at this particular criminal's
hand set in motion the machinery of justice. Several times that
has happened to Muller, and each time his heart got the better of
his professional instincts, of his practical common-sense, too,
perhaps, ... at least as far as his own advancement was concerned,
and he warned the victim, defeating his own work. This peculiarity
of Muller's character caused his undoing at last, his official
undoing that is, and compelled his retirement from the force. But
his advice is often sought unofficially by the Department, and to
those who know, Muller's hand can be seen in the unravelling of
many a famous case.
The following stories are but a few of the many interesting cases
that have come within the experience of this great detective.
But they give a fair portrayal of Muller's peculiar method of
working, his looking on himself as merely an humble member of the
Department, and the comedy of his acting under "official orders"
when the Department is in reality following out his directions.
THE CASE OF THE REGISTERED LETTER
by Grace Isabel Colbron and Augusta Groner
"Oh, sir, save him if you can - save my poor nephew! I know he is
The little old lady sank back in her chair, gazing up at Commissioner
von Riedau with tear-dimmed eyes full of helpless appeal. The
commissioner looked thoughtful. "But the case is in the hands of
the local authorities, Madam," he answered gently, a strain of pity
in his voice. "I don't exactly see how we could interfere."
"But they believe Albert guilty! They haven't given him a chance!"
"He cannot be sentenced without sufficient proof of his guilt."
"But the trial, the horrible trial - it will kill him - his heart
is weak. I thought - I thought you might send some one - some one
of your detectives - to find out the truth of the case. You must
have the best people here in Vienna. Oh, my poor Albert - "
Her voice died away in a suppressed sob, and she covered her face
to keep back the tears.
The commissioner pressed a bell on his desk. "Is Detective Joseph
Muller anywhere about the building?" he asked of the attendant who
appeared at the door.
"I think he is, sir. I saw him come in not long ago."
"Ask him to come up to this room. Say I would like to speak to him."
The attendant went out.
"I have sent for one of the best men on our force, Madam," continued
the commissioner, turning back to the pathetic little figure in the
chair. "We will go into this matter a little more in detail and see
if it is possible for us to interfere with the work of the local,
authorities in G-"
The little old lady gave her eyes a last hasty dab with a dainty
handkerchief and raised her head again, fighting for self-control.
She was a quaint little figure, with soft grey hair drawn back
smoothly from a gentle-featured face in which each wrinkle seemed
the seal of some loving thought for others. Her bonnet and gown
were of excellent material in delicate soft colours, but cut in the
style of an earlier decade. The capable lines of her thin little
hands showed through the fabric of her grey gloves. Her whole
attitude bore the impress of one who had adventured far beyond the
customary routine of her home circle, adventured out into the world
in fear and trembling, impelled by the stress of a great love.
A knock was heard at the door, and a small, slight man, with a kind,
smooth-shaven face, entered at the commissioner's call. "You sent
for me, sir?" he asked.
"Yes, Muller, there is a matter here in which I need your advice,
your assistance, perhaps. This is Detective Muller, Miss -" (the
commissioner picked up the card on his desk) "Miss Graumann. If
you will tell us now, more in detail, all that you can tell us about
this case, we may be able to help you."
"Oh, if you would," murmured Miss Graumann, with something more of
hope in her voice. The expression of sympathetic interest on the
face of the newcomer had already won her confidence for him. Her
slight figure straightened up in the chair, and the two men sat down
opposite her, prepared to listen to her story.
"I will tell you all I know and understand about this matter,
gentlemen," she began. "My name is Babette Graumann, and I live
with my nephew, Albert Graumann, engineering expert, in the village
of Grunau, which is not far from the city of G-. My nephew Albert,
the dearest, truest -" sobs threatened to overcome her again, but
she mastered them bravely. "Albert is now in prison, accused of
the murder of his friend, John Siders, in the latter's lodgings
"Yes, that is the gist of what you have already told me," said the
commissioner. "Muller, Miss Graumann believes her nephew innocent,
contrary to the opinion of the local authorities in G-. She has
come to ask for some one from here who could ferret out the truth
of this matter. You are free now, and if we find that it can be
done without offending the local authorities -"
"Who is the commissioner in charge of the case in G-?" asked Muller.
"Commissioner Lange is his name, I believe," replied Miss Graumann.
"H'm!" Muller and the commissioner exchanged glances.
"I think we can venture to hear more of this," said the commissioner,
as if in answer to their unspoken thought. "Can you give us the
details now, Madam? Who is, or rather who was, this John Siders?"
"John Siders came to our village a little over a year ago," continued
Miss Graumann. "He came from Chicago; he told us, although he was
evidently a German by birth. He bought a nice little piece of
property, not far from our home, and settled down there. He was a
quiet man and made few friends, but he seemed to take to Albert and
came to see us frequently. Albert had spent some years in America,
in Chicago, and Siders liked to talk to him about things and people
there. But one day Siders suddenly sold his property and moved to G-.
Two weeks later he was found dead in his lodgings in the city,
murdered, and now - now they have accused Albert of the crime."
"On what grounds? - oh, I beg your pardon, sir; I did not mean -"
"That's all right, Muller," said the commissioner. "As you may
have to undertake the case, you might as well begin to do the
"They say" - Miss Graumann's voice quavered - "they say that Albert
was the last person known to have been in Sider's room; they say that
it was his revolver, found in the room. That is the dreadful part
of it - it was his revolver. He acknowledges it, but he did not
know, until the police showed it to him, that the weapon was not in
its usual place in his study. They tell me that everything speaks
for his guilt, but I cannot believe it - I cannot. He says he is
innocent in spite of everything. I believe him. I brought him up,
sir; I was like his own mother to him. He never knew any other
mother. He never lied to me, not once, when he was a little boy,
and I don't believe he'd lie to me now, now that he's a man of
forty-five. He says he did not kill John Siders. Oh, I know, even
without his saying it, that he would not do such a thing."
"Can you tell us anything more about the murder itself?" questioned
Muller gently. "Is there any possibility of suicide? Or was there
"They say it was no suicide, sir, and that there was a large sum of
money missing. But why should Albert take any one else's money?
He has money of his own, and he earns a good income besides - we
have all that we need. Oh, it is some dreadful mistake! There is
the newspaper account of the discovery of the body. Perhaps Mr.
Muller might like to read that." She pointed to a sheet of newspaper
on the desk. The commissioner handed it to Muller. It was an
evening paper, dated G-, September 24th, and it gave an elaborate
account, in provincial journalese, of the discovery that morning of
the body of John Siders, evidently murdered, in his lodgings. The
main facts to be gathered from the long-winded story were as follows:
John Siders had rented the rooms in which he met his death about
ten days before, paying a month's rent in advance. The lodgings
consisted of two rooms in a little house in a quiet street. It was
a street of simple two-story, one and two family dwellings, occupied
by artisans and small tradespeople. There were many open spaces,
gardens and vacant lots in the street. The house in which Siders
lodged belonged to a travelling salesman by the name of Winter. The
man was away from home a great deal, and his wife, with her child
and an old servant, lived in the lower part of the house, while the
rooms occupied by Siders were in the upper story. Siders lived
very quietly, going out frequently in the afternoon, but returning
early in the evening. He had said to his landlady that he had many
friends in G-. But during the time of his stay in the house he had
had but one caller, a gentleman who came on the evening of the 23rd
of September. The old maid had opened the door for him and showed
him to Mr. Siders' rooms. She described this visitor as having a
full black beard, and wearing a broad-brimmed grey felt hat. Nobody
saw the man go out, for the old maid, the only person in the house
at the time, had retired early. Mrs. Winter and her little girl
were spending the night with the former's mother in a distant part
of the city. The next morning the old servant, taking the lodger's
coffee up to him at the usual hour, found him dead on the floor of
his sitting-room, shot through the heart. The woman ran screaming
from the house and alarmed the neighbours. A policeman at the
corner heard the noise, and led the crowd up to the room where the
dead man lay. It was plain to be seen that this was not a case of
suicide. Everywhere were signs of a terrible struggle. The
furniture was overturned, the dressing-table and the cupboard were
open and their contents scattered on the floor, one of the window
curtains was torn into strips, as if the victim had been trying to
escape by way of the window, but had been dragged back into the
room by his murderer. An overturned ink bottle on the table had
spattered wide, and added to the general confusion. In the midst
of the disorder lay the body of the murdered man, now cold in the
rigour of death.
The police commissioner arrived soon, took possession of the rooms,
and made a thorough examination of the premises. A letter found
on the desk gave another proof, if such were needed, that this was
not a case of suicide. This letter was in the handwriting of the
dead man, and read as follows:
I appreciate greatly all the kindness shown me by yourself and your
good wife. I have been more successful than I thought possible in
overcoming the obstacles you know of. Therefore, I shall be very
glad to join you day after to-morrow, Sunday, in the proposed
excursion. I will call for you at 8 A.M. - the cab and the
champagne will be my share of the trip. We'll have a jolly day
and drink a glass or two to our plans for the future.
With best greetings for both of you,
Your old friend,
G-, Friday, Sept. 23rd.
An envelope, not yet addressed, lay beside this letter. It was
clear that the man who penned these words had no thought of suicide.
On the contrary, he was looking forward to a day of pleasure in the
near future, and laying plans for the time to come. The murderer's
bullet had pierced a heart pulsing with the joy of life.
This was the gist of the account in the evening paper. Muller
read it through carefully, lingering over several points which
seemed to interest him particularly. Then he turned to Miss Babette
Graumann. "And then what happened?" he asked.
"Then the Police Commissioner came to Grunau and questioned my
nephew. They had found out that Albert was Mr. Siders' only friend
here. And late that evening the Mayor and the Commissioner came
to our house with the revolver they had found in the room in G-,
and they - they - " her voice trembled again, "they arrested my dear
boy and took him away."
"Have you visited him in prison? What does he say about it himself?"
"He seems quite hopeless. He says that he is innocent - oh, I know
he is - but everything is against him. He acknowledges that it was
he who was in Mr. Siders' room the evening before the murder. He
went there because Siders wrote him to come. He says he left early,
and that John acted queerly. He knows they will not believe his
story. This worry and anxiety will kill him. He has a serious heart
trouble; he has suffered from it for years, and it has been growing
steadily worse. I dare not think what this excitement may do for
him." Miss Graumann broke down again and sobbed aloud. Muller laid
his hands soothingly on the little old fingers that gripped the arm
of the chair.
"Did your nephew send you here to ask for help?" he inquired very
"Oh, no" The old lady looked up at him through her tears. "No, he
would not have done that. I'm afraid that he'll be angry if he
knows that I have come. He seemed so hopeless, so dazed. I just
couldn't stand it. It seemed to me that the police in G- were
taking things for granted, and just sitting there waiting for an
innocent man to confess, instead of looking for the real murderer,
who may be gone, the Lord knows where, by now!" Miss Graumann's
faded cheeks flushed a delicate pink, and she straightened up in
her chair again, while her eyes snapped defiance through the tears
that hung on their lashes.
A faint gleam twinkled up in Muller's eyes, and he did not look at
his chief. Doctor von Riedau's own face glowed in a slowly mounting
flush, and his eyes drooped in a moment of conscious embarrassment
at some recollection, the sting of which was evidently made worse
by Muller's presence. But Commissioner von Riedau had brains enough
to acknowledge his mistakes and to learn from them. He looked across
the desk at Miss Graumann. "You are right, Madam, the police have
made that mistake more than once. And a man with a clear record
deserves the benefit of the doubt. We will take up this case.
Detective Muller will be put in charge of it. And that means, Madam,
that we are giving you the very best assistance the Imperial Police
Miss Babette Graumann did not attempt to speak. In a wave of
emotion she stretched out both little hands to the detective and
clasped his warmly. "Oh, thank you," she said at last. "I thank
you. He's just like my own boy to me; he's all the child I ever
had, you know."
"But there are difficulties in the way," continued the commissioner
in a business-like tone. "The local authorities in G- have not
asked for our assistance, and we are taking up the case over their
heads, as it were. I shall have to leave that to Muller's diplomacy.
He will come to G- and have an interview with your nephew. Then he
will have to use his own judgment as to the next steps, and as to
how far he may go in opposition to what has been done by the police
"And then I may go back home?" asked Miss Graumann. "Go home with
the assurance that you will help my poor boy?"
"Yes, you may depend on us, Madam. Is there anything we can do for
you here? Are you alone in the city?"
"No, thank you. There is a friend here who will take care of me.
She will put me on the afternoon express back to G-."
"It is very likely that I will take that train myself," said Muller.
"If there is anything that you need on the journey, call on me."
"Oh, thank you, I will indeed! Thank you both, gentlemen. And now
good-bye, and God bless you!"
The commissioner bowed and Muller held the door open for Miss
Graumann to pass out. There was silence in the room, as the two men
looked after the quaint little figure slowly descending the stairs.
"A brave little woman," murmured the commissioner.
"It is not only the mother in the flesh who knows what a mother's
love is," added Muller.
Next morning Joseph Muller stood in the cell of the prison in G-
confronting Albert Graumann, accused of the murder of John Siders.
The detective had just come from a rather difficult interview with
Commissioner Lange. But the latter, though not a brilliant man, was
at least good-natured. He acknowledged the right of the accused and
his family to ask for outside assistance, and agreed with Muller
that it was better to have some one in the official service brought
in, rather than a private detective whose work, in its eventual
results, might bring shame on the police. Muller explained that
Miss Graumann did not want her nephew to know that it was she who
had asked for aid in his behalf, and that it could only redound to
his, Lange's, credit if it were understood that he had sent to
Vienna for expert assistance in this case. It would be a proof of
his conscientious attention to duty, and would insure praise for
him, whichever way the case turned out. Commissioner Lange saw the
force of this argument, and finally gave Muller permission to handle
the case as he thought best, rather relieved than otherwise for his
own part. The detective's next errand was to the prison, where he
now stood looking up into the deep-set, dark eyes of a tall,
broad-shouldered, black-bearded man, who had arisen from the cot at
his entrance. Albert Graumann had a strong, self-reliant face and
bearing. His natural expression was somewhat hard and stern, but it
was the expression of a man of integrity and responsibility. Muller
had already made some inquiries as to the prisoner's reputation and
business standing in the community, and all that he had heard was
favourable. A certain hardness and lack of amiability in Graumann's
nature made it difficult for him to win the hearts of others, but
although he was not generally loved, he was universally respected.
Through the signs of nagging fear, sorrow, and ill-health, printed
clearly on the face before him, Muller's keen eyes looked down into
the soul of a man who might be overbearing, pitiless even, if
occasion demanded, but who would not murder - at least not for the
sake of gain. This last possibility Muller had dismissed from
his mind, even before he saw the prisoner. The man's reputation
was sufficient to make the thought ridiculous. But he had not made
up his mind whether it might not be a case of a murder after a
quarrel. Now he began to doubt even this when he looked into the
intelligent, harsh-featured face of the man in the cell. But Muller
had the gift of putting aside his own convictions, when he wanted
his mind clear to consider evidence before him.
Graumann had risen from his sitting position when he saw a stranger.
His heavy brows drew down over his, eyes, but he waited for the
other to speak.
"I am Detective Joseph Muller, from Vienna," began the newcomer,
when he had seen that the prisoner did not intend to start the
"Have you come to question me again?" asked Graumann wearily. "I
can say no more than I have already said to the Police Commissioner.
And no amount of cross-examination can make me confess a crime of
which I am not guilty - no matter what evidence there may be against
me." The prisoner's voice was hard and determined in spite of its
note of physical and mental weariness.
"I have not come to extort a confession from you, Mr. Graumann,"
Muller replied gently, "but to help you establish your innocence,
if it be possible."
A wave of colour flooded the prisoner's cheek. He gasped, pressed
his hand to his heart, and dropped down on his cot. "Pardon me,"
he said finally, hesitating like a man who is fighting for breath.
"My heart is weak; any excitement upsets me. You mean that the
authorities are not convinced of my guilt, in spite of the evidence?
You mean that they will give me the benefit of the doubt - that they
will give me a chance for life?"
"Yes, that is the reason for my coming here. I am to take this
case in hand. If you will talk freely to me, Mr. Graumann, I may
be able to help you. I have seen too many mistakes of justice
because of circumstantial evidence to lay any too great stress
upon it. I have waited to hear your side of the story from
yourself. I did not want to hear it from others. Will you tell it
to me now? No, do not move, I will get the stool myself."
Graumaun sat back on the cot, his head resting against the wall.
His eyes had closed while Muller was speaking, but his quieter
breathing showed that he was mastering the physical attack which
had so shaken him at the first glimpse of hope. He opened his eyes
now and looked at Muller steadily for a moment. Then he said: "Yes,
I will tell you: my life and my work have taught me to gauge men.
I will tell you everything I know about this sad affair. I will
tell you the absolute truth, and I think you will believe me."
"I will believe you," said Muller simply.
"You know the details of the murder, of course, and why I was
"You were arrested because you were the last person seen in the
company of the murdered man?"
"Exactly. Then I may go back and tell you something of my
connection with John Siders?"
"It would be the very best thing to do."
"I live in Grunau, as you doubtless know, and am the engineering
expert of large machine works there. My father before me held an
important position in the factory, and my family have always lived
in Grunau. I have traveled a great deal myself. I am forty-five
years old, a childless widower, and live with my old aunt, Miss
Babette Graumann, and my ward, Miss Eleonora Roemer, a young lady
of twenty-two." Muller looked up with a slight start of surprise,
but did not say anything. Graumann continued:
"A little over a year ago, John Siders, who signed himself as coming
from Chicago, bought a piece of property in our town and came to
live there. I made his acquaintance in the cafe and he seemed to
take a fancy to me. I also had spent several years in Chicago, and
we naturally came to speak of the place. We discovered that we had
several mutual acquaintances there, and enjoyed talking over the
old times. Otherwise I did not take particularly to the man, and
as I came to know him better I noticed that he never mentioned that
part of his life which lay back of the years in Chicago. I asked a
casual question once or twice as to his home and family, but he
evaded me every time, and would not give a direct answer. He was
evidently a German by birth and education, a man with university
training, and one who knew life thoroughly. He had delightful
manners, and when he could forget his shyness for a while, he could
be very agreeable. The ladies of my family came to like him, and
encouraged him to call frequently. Then the thing happened that I
should not have believed possible. My ward, Miss Roemer, a quiet,
reserved girl, fell in love with this man about whom none of us
knew anything, a man with a past of which he did not care to speak.
"I was not in any way satisfied with the match, and they seemed to
realise it. For Siders managed to persuade the girl to a secret
engagement. I discovered it a month or two ago, and it made me very
angry. I did not let them see how badly I felt, but I warned Lora
not to have too much to do with the boy, and I set about finding
out something regarding his earlier life. It was my duty to do this,
as I was the girl's guardian. She has no other relative living, and
no one to turn to except my aunt and myself. I wrote to Mr. Richard
Tressider in Chicago, the owner of the factory in which I had been
employed while there. John had told me that Tressider had been his
client during the four years in which he practiced law in Chicago.
I received an answer about the middle of August. Mr. Tressider had
been able to find out only that John was born in the town of Hartberg
in a certain year. This was enough. I took leave of absence for a
few days and went to Hartberg, which, as you know, is about 140 miles
from here. Three days later I knew all that I wanted to know. John
Siders was not the man's real name, or, rather, it was only part of
his name. His full name was Theodor John Bellmann, and his mother
was an Englishwoman whose maiden name was Siders. His father was a
county official who died at an early age, leaving his widow and the
boy in deepest poverty. Mrs. Bellmann moved to G- to give music
lessons. Theodor went to school there, then finally to college, and
was an excellent pupil everywhere. But one day it was discovered
that he had been stealing money from the banker in whose house he
was serving as private tutor to the latter's sons. A large sum of
money was missing, and every evidence pointed to young Bellmann as
the thief. He denied strenuously that he was guilty, but the
District Judge (it was the present Prosecuting Attorney Schmidt in
G-) sentenced him. He spent eight months in prison, during which
time his mother died of grief at the disgrace. There must have been
something good in the boy, for he had never forgotten that it was
his guilt that struck down his only relative, the mother who had
worked so hard for him. He had atoned for this crime of his youth,
and during the years that have passed since then, he had been an
honest, upright man."
Graumann paused a moment and pressed his hand to his heart again.
His voice had grown weaker, and he breathed hard. Finally he
continued: "I commanded my ward to break off her engagement, as I
could not allow her to marry a man who was a freed convict. Siders
sold his property some few weeks after that and moved to G-.
Eleonora acquiesced in my commands, but she was very unhappy and
allowed me to see very little of her. Then came the events of the
evening of September 23rd, the events which have turned out so
terribly. I will try to tell you the story just as it happened,
so far as I am concerned. I had seen nothing of John since he left
this town. He had made several attempts before his departure for
G- to change my opinion, and my decision as to his marriage to my
ward. But I let him see plainly that it was impossible for him to
enter our family with such a past behind him. He asserted his
innocence of the charges against him, and declared that he had been
unjustly accused and imprisoned. I am afraid that I was hard
towards him. I begin to understand now, as I never thought I
should, what it means to be accused of crime. I begin to realise
that it is possible for every evidence to point to a man who is
absolutely innocent of the deed in question. I begin to think now
that John may have been right, that possibly he also may have been
accused and sentenced on circumstantial evidence alone. I have
thought much, and I have learned much in these terrible days."
The prisoner paused again and sat brooding, his eyes looking out
into space. Muller respected his suffering and sat in equal
silence, until Graumann raised his eyes to his again. "Then came
the evening of the 23rd of September?"
"Yes, that evening - it's all like a dream to me." Graumann began
again. "John wrote me a letter asking me to come to see him on that
evening. I tore up the letter and threw it away - or perhaps, yes,
I remember now, I did not wish Eleonora to see that he had written
me. He asked me to come to see him, as he had something to say to
me, something of the greatest importance for us both. He asked me
not to mention to any one that I was to see him, as it would be
wiser no one should know that we were still in communication with
each other. There was a strain of nervous excitement visible in his
letter. I thought it better to go and see him as he requested; I
felt that I owed him some little reparation for having denied him
the great wish of his heart. It was my duty to make up to him in
other ways for what I had felt obliged to do. I knew him for a
nervous, high-strung man, overwrought by brooding for years on what
he called his wrongs, and I did not know what he might do if I
refused his request. It was not of myself I thought in this
connection, but of the girl at home who looked to me for protection.
"I had no fear for myself; it never occurred to me to think of
taking a weapon with me. How my revolver - and it is undoubtedly
my revolver, for there was a peculiar break in the silver
ornamentation on the handle which is easily recognisable - how this
revolver of mine got into his room, is more than I can say. Until
the Police Commissioner showed it to me two or three days ago, I
had no idea that it was not in the box in my study where it is
ordinarily kept." Graumann paused again and looked about him as
if searching for something. He rose and poured himself out a glass
of water. "Let me put some of this in it," said Muller. "It will
do you good." From a flask in his pocket he poured a few drops of
brandy into the water. Graumann drank it and nodded gratefully.
Then he took up his story again.
"I never discovered why Siders had sent for me. When I arrived at
the appointed time I found the door of the house closed. I was
obliged to ring several times before an old servant opened the door.
She seemed surprised that it had been locked. She said that the
door was always unlatched, and that Mr. Siders himself must have
closed it, contrary to all custom, for she had not done it, and
there was no one else in the house but the two of them. Siders
was waiting for me at the top of the stairs, calling down a noisy
"When I asked him finally what it was so important that he wanted
to say to me, he evaded me and continued to chatter on about
commonplace things. Finally I insisted upon knowing why he had
wanted me to come, and he replied that the reason for it had already
been fulfilled, that he had nothing more to say, and that I could go
as soon as I wanted to. He appeared quite calm, but he must have
been very nervous. For as I stood by the desk, telling him what I
thought of his actions, he moved his hand hastily among the papers
there and upset the ink stand. I jumped back, but not before I had
received several large spots of ink on my trousers. He was profuse
in his apologies for the accident, and tried to take out the spots
with blotting paper. Then at last, when I insisted upon going, he
looked out to see whether there was still a light on the stairs, and
led me down to the door himself, standing there for some time
looking after me.
"I was slightly alarmed as well as angry at his actions. I believe
that he could not have been quite in his right mind, that the strain
of nervousness which was apparent in his nature had really made him
ill. For I remember several peculiar incidents of my visit to him.
One of these was that he almost insisted upon my taking away with me,
ostensibly to take care of them, several valuable pieces of jewelry
which he possessed. He seemed almost offended when I refused to do
anything of the kind. Then, as I parted from him at the door, not
in a very good humour I will acknowledge, he said to me: 'You will
think of me very often in the future-more often than you would
"This is all the truth, and nothing but the truth, about my visit
to John Siders on the evening of September 23rd. As it had been
his wish I said nothing to the ladies at home, or to any one else
about the occurrence. And as I have told you, I destroyed his
letter asking me to come to him.
"The following day about noon, the Commissioner of Police from
G- called at my office in the factory, and informed me bluntly that
John Siders had been found shot dead in his lodgings that morning.
I was naturally shocked, as one would be at such news, in spite of
the fact that I had parted from the man in anger, and that I had no
reason to be particularly fond of him. What shocked me most of all
was the sudden thought that John had taken his own life. It was a
perfectly natural thought when I considered his nervousness, and his
peculiar actions of the evening before. I believe I exclaimed,
'It was a suicide!' almost without realising that I was doing so.
The commissioner looked at me sharply and said that suicide was out
of the question, that it was an evident case of murder. He
questioned me as to Siders' affairs, of which I told only what every
one here in the village knew. I did not consider it incumbent upon
me to disclose to the police the disgrace of the man's early life.
I had been obliged to hurt him cruelly enough because of that, and
I saw no necessity for blackening his name, now that he was dead.
Also, as according to what the commissioner said, it was a case of
murder for robbery, I did not wish to go into any details of our
connection with Siders that would cause the name of my ward to be
mentioned. After a few more questions the commissioner left me.
I was busy all the afternoon, and did not return to my home until
later than usual. I found my aunt somewhat worried because Miss
Roemer had left the house immediately after our early dinner, and
had not yet returned. We both knew the girl to be still grieving
over her broken engagement, and we dreaded the effect this last
dreadful news might have on her. We supposed, however, that she
had gone to spend the afternoon with a friend, and were rather
glad to be spared the necessity of telling her at once what had
happened. I had scarcely finished my supper, when the door bell
rang, and to my astonishment the Mayor of Grunau was announced,
accompanied by the same Police Commissioner who had visited me
in my office that morning. The Mayor was an old friend of mine
and his deeply grave face showed me that something serious had
occurred. It was indeed serious! and for some minutes I could
not grasp the meaning of the commissioner's questions. Finally I
realised with a tremendous shock that I - I myself was under
suspicion of the murder of John Siders. The description given by
the old servant of the man who had visited Siders the evening
before, the very clothes that I wore, my hat and the trousers
spotted by the purple ink, led to my identification as this
mysterious visitor. The servant had let me in but she had not
seen me go out.
"Then I discovered - when confronted suddenly with my own revolver
which had been found on the floor of the room, some distance from
the body of the dead man, that this same revolver had been identified
as mine by my ward, Eleonora Roemer, who had been to the police
station at G- in the early afternoon hours. Some impulse of loyalty
to her dead lover, some foolish feminine fear that I might have
spoken against him in my earlier interviews with the commissioner
had driven the girl to this step. A few questions sufficed to draw
from her the story of her secret engagement, of its ending, and of
my quarrel with John. I will say for her that I am certain she did
not realise that all these things were calculated to cast suspicion
on me. The poor girl is too unused to the ways of police courts, to
the devious ways of the law, to realise what she was doing. The
sight of my revolver broke her down completely and she acknowledged
that it was mine. That is all. Except that I was arrested and
brought here as you see. I told the commissioner the story of my
visit to John Siders exactly as I told it to you, but it was plain
to be seen that he did not believe me. It is plain to be seen also,
that he is firmly convinced of my guilt and that he is greatly
satisfied with himself at having traced the criminal so soon."
"And yet he was not quite satisfied," said Muller gently. "You see
that he has sent to the Capital for assistance on the case." Muller
felt this little untruth to be justified for the sake of the honour
of the police force.
"Yes, I'm surprised at that," said Graumann in his former tone of
weariness. "What do you think you will be able to do about it?"
"I must ask questions here and there before I can form a plan of
campaign," replied Muller. "What do you think about it yourself?
Who do you think killed Siders?"
"How can I know who it was? I only know it is not I," answered
"Did he have any enemies?"
"No, none that I knew of, and he had few friends either."
"You knew there was a sum of money missing from his rooms?"
"Yes, the sum they named to me was just about the price that he
had received for the sale of his property here. They did me the
honour to believe that if I had taken the money at all, I had done
so merely as a blind. At least they did not take me for a thief
as well as a murderer. If the money is really missing, it was for
its sake he was murdered I suppose."
"Yes, that would be natural," said Muller. "And you know nothing
of any other relations or connections that the man may have had?
Anything that might give us a clue to the truth?"
"No, nothing. He stood so alone here, as far as I knew. Of course,
as I told you, his actions of the evening before having been so
peculiar - and as I knew that he was not in the happiest frame of
mind - I naturally thought of suicide at once, when they told me
that he had been found shot dead. Then they told me that the
appearance of the room and many other things, proved suicide to have
been out of the question. I know nothing more about it. I cannot
think any more about it. I know only that I am here in danger of
being sentenced for the crime that I never committed - that is
enough to keep any man's mind busy." He leaned back with an intense
fatigue in every line of his face and figure.
Muller rose from his seat. "I am afraid I have tired you, Mr.
Graumann," he said, "but it was necessary that I should know all
that you had to tell me. Try and rest a little now and meanwhile
be assured that I am doing all I can to find out the truth of this
matter. As far as I can tell now I do not believe that you have
killed John Siders. But I must find some further proofs that will
convince others as well as myself. If it is of any comfort to you,
I can tell you that during a long career as police detective I have
been most astonishingly fortunate in the cases I have undertaken.
I am hoping that my usual good luck will follow me here also. I am
hoping it for your sake."
The man on the cot took the hand the detective offered him and
pressed it firmly. "You will let me know as soon as you have found
anything - anything that gives me hope?"
"I will indeed. And now save your strength and do not worry. I
will help you if it is in my power.
After leaving the prison, Muller took the train for the village of
Grunau, about half an hour distant from the city. He found his way
easily to Graumann's home, an attractive old house set in a large
garden amid groups of beautiful old trees. When he sent up his card
to Miss Graumann, the old lady tripped down stairs in a flutter of
"Did you see him?" she asked. "You have been to the prison? What
do you think? How does he seem?"
"He seems calm to-day," replied Muller, "although the confinement
and the anxiety are evidently wearing on him."
"And you heard his story? And you believe him innocent?"
"I am inclined to do so. But there is more yet for me to investigate
in this matter. It is certainly not as simple as the police here
seem to believe. May I speak to your ward, Miss Roemer? She is at
"Yes, Lora is at home. If you will wait here a moment I will send
Muller paced up and down the large sunny room, casting a glance
over the handsome old pieces of furniture and the family portraits
on the wall. It was evidently the home of generations of well-to-do,
well-bred people, the narrow circle of whose life was made rich by
congenial duties and a comfortable feeling of their standing in the
While he was studying one of the portraits more carefully, he became
aware that there was some one in the room. He turned and saw a tall
blond girl standing by the door. She had entered so softly that
even Muller's quick ear had not heard the opening of the door.
"Do you wish to speak to me?" she said, coming down into the room.
"I am Eleonora Roemer"
Her face, which could be called handsome in its even regularity of
feature and delicate skin, was very pale now, and around her eyes
were dark rings that spoke of sleepless nights. Grief and mental
shock were preying upon this girl's mind. "She is not the one to
make a confidant of those around her," thought Muller to himself.
Then he added aloud: "If it does not distress you too much to talk
about this sad affair, I will be very grateful if you will answer
a few questions."
"I will tell you whatever I can," said the girl in the same low
even tone in which she had first spoken. "Miss Graumann tells me
that you have come from Vienna to take up this case. It is only
natural that we should want to give you every assistance in our
" What is your opinion about it?" was Muller's next remark, made
rather suddenly after a moment's pause.
The directness of the question seemed to shake the girl out of her
enforced calm. A slow flush mounted into her pale cheeks and then
died away, again leaving them whiter than before. "I do not know
- oh, I do not know what to believe."
"But you do not think Mr. Graumann capable of such a crime, do you?"
"Not of the robbery, of course not; that would be absurd! But has
it been clearly proven that there is a robbery? Might it not have
been - might they not have - "
"You mean, might they not have quarreled? Of course there is
that possibility. And that is why I wanted to speak to you. You
are the one person who could possibly throw light on this subject.
Was there any other reason beyond the dead man's past that would
render your guardian unwilling to have you marry him?"
Again the slow flush mounted to Eleonora Roemer's cheeks and her
"I fear it may be painful for you to answer this," said Muller
gently, "and yet I must insist on it in the interest of justice."
"He - my guardian - wished to marry me himself," the girl's words
came slowly and painfully.
Muller drew in his breath so sharply that it was almost like a
whistle. "He did not tell me that; it might make a difference."
"That ... that is ... what I fear," said the girl, her eyes
looking keenly into those of the man who sat opposite. "And then,
it was his revolver."
"Then you do believe him guilty?"
"It would be horrible, horrible - and yet I do not know what to
There was silence in the room for a moment. Miss Roemer's head
drooped again and her hands twisted nervously in her lap. Muller's
brain was very busy with this new phase of the problem. Finally
"Let us dismiss this side of the question and talk of another phase
of it, a phase of which it is necessary for me to know something.
You would naturally be the person nearest the dead man, the one, the
only one, perhaps, to whom he had given his confidence. Do you know
of any enemies he might have had in the city?"
"No, I do not know of any enemies, or even of any friends he had
there. When the terrible thing happened that clouded his past,
when he had regained his freedom, after his term of imprisonment,
there was no one left whom he cared to see again. He does not seem
to have borne any malice towards the banker who accused him of the
theft. The evidence was so strong against him that he felt the
suspicion was justified. But there was hatred in his heart for one
man, for the Justice who sentenced him, Justice Schmidt, who is now
Attorney General in G-."
"The man who, in the name of the State, will conduct this case?"
asked Muller quickly.
"Yes, I believe it is so. Is it not an irony that this man, the
only one whom John really hated, should be the one to avenge him
"H'm! yes. But did you know of any friends in G-?"
"No, none at all."
"No friends whom he might have made while he was in America and
then met again in Germany?"
"No, he never spoke of any such to me. He told me that he made few
friends. He did not seek them for he was afraid that they might
find out what had happened and turn from him. He was morbidly
sensitive and could not bear the disappointment"
"Why did he return to Germany?"
"He was lonely and wanted to come home again. He had made money
in America - John was very clever and highly educated - but his
heart longed for his own tongue and his own people."
Muller took a folded piece of paper from his pocket. "Do you know
Miss Roemer read the few lines hastily and her voice trembled as
she said: "This is John's handwriting. I know it well. This is
the letter that was found on the table?"
"Yes, this letter appears to be the last he had written in life.
Do you know to whom it could have been written? The envelope, as
I suppose you know from the newspaper reports, was not addressed.
Do you know of any friends with whom he could have been on terms
of sufficient intimacy to write such a letter? Do you know what
these plans for the future could have been? It would certainly be
natural that he should have spoken to you first about them."
"No; I cannot understand this letter at all," replied the girl. "I
have thought of it frequently these terrible days. I have wondered
why it was that if he had friends in the city, he did not speak to
me of them. He repeatedly told me that he had no friends there at
all, that his life should begin anew after we were married."
"And did he have any particular plans, in a business way, perhaps?"
"No; he had a comfortable little income and need have no fear for
the future. John was, of course, too young a man to settle down
and do nothing. But the only definite plans he had made were that
we should travel a little at first, and then he would look about
him for a congenial occupation. I always thought it likely he
would resume a law practice somewhere. I cannot understand in the
slightest what the plans are to which the letter referred."
"And do you think, from what you know of his state of mind when
you saw him last, that he would be likely so soon to be planning
pleasures like this?"
"No, no indeed! John was terribly crushed when my guardian insisted
on breaking off our engagement. Until my twenty-fourth birthday I
am still bound to do as my guardian says, you know. John's life and
early misfortune made him, as I have already said, morbidly sensitive
and the thought that it would be a bar to anything we might plan in
the future, had rendered him so depressed that - and it was not the
least of my anxieties and my troubles - that I feared ... I feared
anything might happen."
"You feared he might take his own life, do you mean?"
"Yes, yes, that is what I feared. But is it not terrible to think
that he should have died this way - by the hand of a murderer?"
"H'm! And you cannot remember any possible friend he may have
found - some schoolboy friend of his youth, perhaps, with whom he
had again struck up an acquaintance."
"Oh, no, no, I am positive of that. John could not bear to hear
the names even of the people he had known before his misfortune.
Still, I do remember his once having spoken of a man, a German he
had met in Chicago and rather taken a fancy to, and who had also
returned to Germany."
"Could this possibly have been the man to whom the letter is
"No, no. This friend of John's was not married; I remember his
saying that. And he lived in Germany somewhere - let me think - yes,
"And do you remember the man's name?"
"No, I cannot, I am sorry to say. John only mentioned it once. It
was only by a great effort that I could remember the incident at all."
"And has it not struck you as rather peculiar that this friend, the
one to whom the cordial letter was addressed, did not come forward
and make his identity known? G- is a city, it is true, but it is
not a very large city, and any man being on terms of intimate
acquaintance with one who was murdered would be apt to come forward
in the hope of throwing some light on the mystery."
"Why, yes, I had not thought of that. It is peculiar, is it not?
But some people are so foolishly afraid of having anything to do
with the police, you know."
"That is very true, Miss Roemer. Still it is a queer incident and
something that I must look into."
"What do you believe?" asked the girl tensely.
"I am not in a position to say as yet. When I am, I will come to
you and tell you."
"Then you do not think that my guardian killed John - that there
was a quarrel between the men?"
"There is, of course, a possibility that it may have been so. You
know your guardian better than I do, naturally. Our knowledge of
a man's character is often a far better guide than any circumstantial
"My guardian is a man of the greatest uprightness of character. But
he can be very hard and pitiless sometimes. And he has a violent
temper which his weak heart has forced him to keep in control of
"All this speaks for the possibility that there may have been a
quarrel ending in the fatal shot. But what I want to know from
you is this - do you think it possible, that, this having happened,
Albert Graumann would not have been the first to confess his
unpremeditated crime? Is not this the most likely thing for a man
of his character to do? Would he so stubbornly deny it, if it had
The girl started. "I had not thought of that! Why, why, of course,
he might have killed John in a moment of temper, but he was never
a man to conceal a fault. He is as pitiless towards his own
weakness, as towards that of others. You are right, oh, you must
be right. Oh, if you could take this awful fear from my heart!
Even my grief for John would be easier to bear then."
Muller rose from his chair. "I think I can promise you that this
load will be lifted from your heart, Miss Roemer."
"Then you believe - that it was just a case of murder for robbery?
For the money? And John had some valuable jewelry, I know that."
"I do not know yet," replied Muller slowly, "but I will find out,
I generally do."
"Oh, to think that I should have done that poor man such an
injustice! It is terrible, terrible! This house has been ghastly
these days. His poor aunt knows that he is innocent - she could
never believe otherwise - she has felt the hideous suspicion in my
mind - it has made her suffering worse - will they ever forgive me?"
"Her joy, if I can free her nephew, will make her forget everything.
Go to her now, Miss Roemer, comfort her with the assurance that you
also believe him to be innocent. I must hasten back to G- and go
on with this quest."
The girl stood at the doorway shaded by the overhanging branches of
two great trees, looking down the street after the slight figure of
the detective. "Oh, it is all easier to hear, hard as it is, easier
now that this horrible suspicion has gone from my mind - why did I
not think of that before?"
Alone in the corner of the smoking compartment in the train to G-,
Muller arranged in his mind the facts he had already gathered. He
had questioned the servants of John Siders' former household, had
found that the dead man received very few letters, only an
occasional business communication from his bank. Of the few others,
the servants knew nothing except that he had always thrown the
envelopes carelessly in the waste paper basket and had never seemed
to have any correspondence which he cared to conceal. No friend
from elsewhere bad ever visited him in Grunau, and he had made few
friends there except the Graumann family.
The facts of the case, as he knew them now, were such as to make it
extremely doubtful that Graumann was the murderer. Muller himself
had been inclined to believe in the possibility of a quarrel
between the two men, particularly when he had heard that Graumann
himself was in love with his handsome ward. But the second thought
that came to him then, impelled by the unerring instinct that so
often guided him to the truth, was the assurance that in a case of
this kind, in a case of a quarrel terminating fatally, a man like
Albert Graumann would be the very first to give himself up to the
police and to tell the facts of the case. Albert Graumann was a
man of honour and unimpeachable integrity. Such a man would not
persist in a foolish denial of the deed which he had committed in
a moment of temper. There would be nothing to gain from it, and
his own conscience would be his severest judge. "The disorder in
the room?" thought Muller. "It'll be too late for that now. I
suppose they have rearranged the place. I can only go by what the
local detectives have seen, by the police reports. But I do not
understand this extreme disorder. There is no reason why there
should be a struggle when the robber was armed with a pistol. If
Siders was supposed to have been interrupted when writing a letter,
interrupted by a thief come with intent to steal, a thief armed
with a revolver, the sight of this weapon alone would be sufficient
to insure his not moving from his seat. I can understand the open
drawers and cupboard; that is explained by the thief's hasty search
for booty. But the torn window curtain and the overturned chairs
"Of course there is always a possibility that the thief might have
entered one room while Siders was in the other; that the latter
might have surprised the robber in his search for money or valuables,
and that there might have been a hand-to-hand struggle before the
intruder could pull out his revolver. Oh, if I could only have seen
the body! This is working under terrific difficulties. The marks
of a hand-to-hand struggle would have been very plain on the clothes
and on the person of the murdered man. But this letter? I do not
understand this letter at all. It is the dead man's handwriting,
that we know, but why did not the friend to whom it was addressed
come forward and make himself known? As far as I can learn from the
police reports in G-, there was no personal interest shown, no
personal inquiries made about the dead man. There was only the
natural excitement that a murder would create. Now a family,
expecting to make a pleasure excursion with a friend in a day or
two and suddenly hearing that this friend had been found murdered
in his lodgings, would be inclined to take some little personal
interest in the matter. These people must have been in town and at
home, for the excursion spoken of in the letter was to occur two
days after the murder. Miss Roemer's remark about the dread that
some people have as to any connection with the police, is true to
a limited extent only. It is true only of the ignorant mind, not
of a man presumably well-to-do and properly educated. I do not
understand why the man to whom this letter was addressed has not
made himself known. The only explanation is - that there was no
such man!" A sudden sharp whistle broke from the detective's lips.
"I must examine the dead man's personal effects, his baggage, his
papers; there may be something there. His queer letter to Graumann
- his desire that the latter's visit should be kept secret - a visit
which apparently had no cause at all, except to get Graumann to the
house, to get him to the house in a way that he should be seen
coming, but should not be seen going away. What does this mean?
"Graumann was the only person against whom Siders had an active
cause of quarrel for the moment. There was one other man whom he
hated, and this other man was the prosecuting attorney who would
conduct any case of murder that came up in the town of G-.
"Now John Siders is found murdered - is found killed, in his
lodgings, the morning after he has arranged things so that his
antagonist, his rival in love, Albert Graumann, shall come under
suspicion of having murdered him..
"What evidence have we that this man did not commit suicide? We
have the evidence of the disorder in the room, a disorder that
could have been made just as well by the man himself before he ended
his own life. We have the evidence of a letter to some unknown,
making plans for pleasure during the next days, and speaking of
further plans, presumably concerning business, for the future. In
a town the size of G-, where every one must have read of the murder,
no one has come forward claiming to be the friend for whom this
letter was written. Until this Unknown makes himself known, the
letter as an evidence points rather to premeditated suicide than to
the contrary. Oh, if I could only have seen the body! They tell
me the pistol was found some little distance from the body. Is it
at all likely that a murderer would go away leaving such evidence
behind him? If Graumaun had killed Siders in a hasty quarrel, he
might possibly, in his excitement, have left his revolver. But I
have already disposed of this possibility. A man of sufficient
brains to so carefully plan his suicide as to conceal every trace
of it and cast suspicion upon the man who had made him unhappy, such
a one would be quite clever enough to throw the pistol far away
from his body and to leave no traces of powder on his coat or any
such other evidence.
"If I were to say now what I think, I would say that John Siders
deliberately took his own life and planned it in such a way as to
cast suspicion upon Albert Graumann. But that would indeed be a
terrible revenge. And I must have some tangible proof of it before
any court will accept my belief. This proof must be hidden
somewhere. The thing for me to do is to find it."
The evidence gathered at the time of the death went to show that
Siders had been paid a considerable sum in cash for the sale of
his property at Grunau. And there was no trace of his having
deposited this sum in any bank in G- or in Grunau, in both of
which places he had deposited other securities. Therefore the
money had presumably been in his room at the time of his death.
A search had been made for this money in every possible place of
concealment among the dead man's belongings, and it had not been
found. Muller asked the Police Commissioner to give him the key
to the rooms, which were still officially closed, and also the
keys to the dead man's pieces of baggage. Commissioner Lange
seemed to think all this extra search quite unnecessary, as it
did not occur to him that anything else was to be looked for
except the money.
It was quite late when Muller began his examination of the dead
man's effects. He was struck by the fact that there was scarcely
a bit of paper to be found anywhere, no letters, no business papers,
except bank books showing the amount of his securities in the bank
in G- and in Grunau, and giving facts about some investments in
Chicago. There was nothing of more recent date and no personal
correspondence whatever. The same was true of the pockets of the
suit Siders had been wearing at the time of his death. A man of
any property or position at all in the world gathers about him so
much of this kind of material that its absence shows premeditation.
The suit Siders had been wearing when he was killed was lying on
the table in the room. It was a plain grey business suit of good
cut and material. The body had been prepared for burial in a
beseeming suit of black. Muller made a careful examination of the
clothes, and found only what the police reports showed him had
already been found by the examination made by the local authorities.
Upon a second careful examination, however, he found that in one of
the vest pockets there was a little extra pocket, like a change
pocket, and in it he found a crumpled piece of paper. He took it
out, smoothed and read it. It was a post office receipt for a
registered letter. The date was still clear, but the name of the
person to whom the letter had been addressed was illegible. The
creases of the paper and a certain dampness, as if it had been
inadvertently touched by a wet finger, had smeared the writing.
But the letter had been sent the day before the death of John
Siders, and it had been registered from the main post office in
G-. This was sufficient for Muller. Then he turned to the desk.
Here also there was nothing that could help him. But a sudden
thought, came to him, and he took up the blotting pad. This, to
his delight, was in the form of a book with a handsome embroidered
cover. It looked comparatively new and was, as Muller surmised, a
gift from Miss Roemer to her betrothed. But few of the pages had
been used, and on two of them a closely written letter had been
blotted several times, showing that there had been several sheets
of the letter. Muller held it up to the looking-glass, but the
repeated blotting had blurred the writing to such an extent that it
was impossible to decipher any but a few disconnected words, which
gave no clue. On a page further along on the blotter, however, he
saw what appeared to be the impression of an address. He held it
up to the glass and gave a whistle of delight. The words could be
plainly deciphered here:
MR. LEO PERNBURG,
"FRANKFURT AM MAIN,
and above the name was a smear which, after a little study, could
be deciphered as the written word "Registered."
With this page of the blotter carefully tucked away in his
pocketbook, Muller hurried to the post office, arriving just at
closing hour. He made himself known at once to the postmaster, and
asked to be shown the records of registered letters sent on a
certain date. Here he found scheduled a letter addressed to Mr.
Leo Pernburg, Frankfurt am Main, sent by John Siders, G-, Josef
Muller then hastened to the telegraph office and despatched a
lengthy telegram to the postal authorities in Frankfurt am Main.
When the answer came to him next morning, he packed his grip and
took the first express train leaving G-. He first made a short
visit, however, to Albert Graumann's cell in the prison. Muller
was much too kind-hearted not to relieve the anxiety of this man,
to whom such mental strain might easily prove fatal. He told
Graumann that he was going in search of evidence which might throw
light on the death of Siders, and comforted the prisoner with the
assurance that he, Muller, believed Graumann innocent, and believed
also that within a day or two he would return to G- with proofs
that his belief was the right one.
Three days later Muller returned to Grunau and went at once to the
Graumann home. It was quite late when he arrived, but he had
already notified Miss Roemer by telegram as to his coming, with a
request that she should be ready to see him. He found her waiting
for him, pale and anxious-eyed, when he arrived. "I have been to
Frankfurt am Main," he said, "and I have seen Mr. Pernburg - "
"Yes, yes, that is the name; now I remember," interrupted the girl
eagerly. "That is the name of John's friend there."
"I have seen Mr. Pernburg and he gave me this letter." Muller laid
a thick envelope on the girl's lap.
She looked down at it, her eyes widening as if she had seen a ghost.
"That - that is John's writing," she exclaimed in a hoarse whisper.
"Where did it
"Pernburg gave it to me. The day before his death John Siders sent
him this letter, requesting that Pernburg forward it to you before
a certain date. When I explained the circumstances to Mr. Pernburg,
he gave me the letter at once. I feel that this paper holds the
clue to the mystery. Will you open it?"
With trembling hands the girl tore open the envelope. It enclosed
still another sealed envelope, without an address. But there was
a sheet of paper around this letter, on which was written the
My beloved Eleonore:
Before you read what I have to say to you here I want you to promise
me, in memory of our love and by your hope of future salvation, that
you will do what I ask you to do.
I ask you to give the enclosed letter, although it is addressed to
you, to the Judge who will preside in the trial against Graumann.
The letter is written to you and will be given back to you. For
you, the beloved of my soul, you are the only human being with whom
I can still communicate, to whom I can still express my wishes.
But you must not give the letter to the Judge until you have assured
yourself that the prosecuting attorney insists upon Graumann's guilt.
In case he is acquitted, which I do not think probable, then open
this letter in the presence of Graumann himself and one or two
witnesses. For I wish Graumann, who is innocent, to be able to
prove his innocence.
You will know by this time that I have determined to end my life by
my own hand. Forgive me, beloved. I cannot live on without you
- without the honour of which I was robbed so unjustly.
God bless you.
One who will love you even beyond the grave,
Remember your promise. It was given to the dead.
"Oh, what does it all mean?" asked Eleonora, dropping the letter
in her lap.
"It is as I thought," replied Muller. "John Siders took his own
life, but made every arrangement to have suspicion fall upon
"But why? oh, why?"
"It was a terrible revenge. But perhaps - perhaps it was just
retribution. Graumaun would not understand that Siders could have
been suspected of, and imprisoned for, a theft he had not committed.
He must know now that it is quite possible for a man to be in danger
of sentence of death even, for a crime of which he is innocent."
"Oh, my God! It is terrible." The girl's head fell across her
folded arms on the table. Deep shuddering sobs shook her frame.
Muller waited quietly until the first shock had passed. Finally
her sobs died away and she raised her head again. "What am I to
do?" she asked.
"You must open this letter to-morrow in the presence of the Police
Commissioner and Graumaun."
"But this promise? This promise that he asks of me - that I should
wait until the trial?"
"You have not given this promise. Would you take it upon yourself
to endanger your guardian's life still more? Every further day
spent in his prison, in this anxiety, might be fatal."
"But this promise? The promise demanded of me by the man to whom
I had given my love? Is it not my duty to keep it?"
Muller rose from his chair. His slight figure seemed to grow
taller, and the gentleness in his voice gave way to a commanding
tone of firm decision.
"Our duty is to the living, not to the dead. The dead have no right
to drag down others after them. Believe me, Miss Roemer, the
purpose that was in your betrothed's mind when he ended his own
life, has been fulfilled. Albert Graumann knows now what are the
feelings of a man who bears the prison stigma unjustly. He will
never again judge his fellow-men as harshly as he has done until
now. His soul has been purged in these terrible days; have you
the right to endanger his life needlessly?"
"Oh, I do not know! I do not know what to do."
"I have no choice," said Muller firmly. "It is my duty to make
known the fact to the Police Commissioner that there is such a
letter in existence. The Police Commissioner will then have to
follow his duty in demanding the letter from you. Mr. Pernburg,
Sider's friend, saw this argument at once. Although he also had
a letter from the dead man, asking him to send the enclosure to
you, registered, on a certain date, he knew that it was his duty
to give all the papers to the authorities. Would it not be better
for you to give them up of your own free will?" Muller took a
step nearer the girl and whispered: "And would it not be a noble
revenge on your part? You would be indeed returning good for evil."
Eleonora clasped her hands and her lips moved as if in silent
prayer. Then she rose slowly and held out the letters to Muller.
"Do what you will with them," she said. "My strength is at an end."
The next day, in the presence of Commissioner Lange and of the
accused Albert Graumann, Muller opened the letter which he had
received from Miss Roemer and read it aloud. The girl herself,
by her own request, was not present. Both Muller and Graumann
understood that the strain of this message from the dead would
be too much for her to bear. This was the letter:
G.- September 21st.
When you put this letter in the hands of the Judge, I will have
found in death the peace that I could never find on earth. There
was no chance of happiness for me since I have realised that I love
you, that you love me, and that I must give you up if I am to remain
what I have always been - in spite of everything - a man of honour.
Albert Graumann would keep his word, this I know. Wherever you
might follow me as my wife, there his will would have been before
us, blasting my reputation, blackening the flame which you were to
I could not have endured it. My soul was sick of all this secrecy,
sick at the injustice of mankind. In spite of worldly success, my
life was cold and barren in the strange land to which I had fled.
My home called to me and I came back to it.
I kissed the earth of my own country, and I wept at my mother's
grave. I was happy again under the skies which had domed above my
childhood. For I am an honest man, beloved, and I always have been.
One day I sat at table beside the man - the Judge who condemned me,
here in G- in those terrible days. He naturally did not know me
again. I, myself, brought the conversation around to a professional
subject. I asked him if it were not possible that circumstantial
evidence could lie; if the entire past, the reputation of the
accused would not be a factor in his favour. The Judge denied it.
It was his opinion, beyond a doubt, that circumstantial evidence was
sufficient to convict anyone.
My soul rose within me. This infallibility, this legal arrogance,
aroused my blood. "That man should have a lesson!" I said to
But I had forgotten it all - all my anger, all my hatred and
bitterness, when I met you. I dare not trust myself to think of
you too much, now that everything is arranged for the one last
step. It takes all my control to keep my decision unwavering while
I sit here and tell you how much your love, your great tenderness,
your sweet trust in me, meant to me.
Let me talk rather of Albert Graumann. I will forgive him for
believing in my guilt, but I cannot forgive him that he, the man
of cultivation and mental grasp, could not believe it possible for
a convicted thief to have repented and to have lived an honest life
after the atonement of his crime. I still cannot believe that this
was Graumann's opinion. I am forced to think that it was an excuse
only on his part, an excuse to keep us apart, an excuse to keep you
You are lost to me now. There is nothing more in life for me. If
the injustice of mankind has stained my honour beyond repair, has
robbed me of every chance of happiness at any time and in any place,
then I die easily, beloved, for there is little charm in such a
life as would be mine after this.
But I do not wish to die quite in vain. There are two men who have
touched my life, who need the lesson my death can teach them. These
men are Albert Graumann and the prosecuting attorney Gustav Schmidt,
the man who once condemned me so cruelly. His present position
would make him the representative of the state in a murder trial,
and I know his opinions too well not to foresee that he would declare
Graumann guilty because of the circumstantial evidence which will be
against him. My letter, given to the Presiding Judge after the
Attorney has made his speech, will cause him humiliation, will ruin
his brilliant arguments and cast ridicule upon him.
Do not think me hard or revengeful. I do not hate anyone now that
death is so near. But is it inhuman that I should want to teach
these two men a lesson? a lesson which they need, believe me, and
it is such a slight compensation for the torture these last eight
years have been to me!
And now I will explain in detail all the circumstances. I have
arranged that Albert Graumann shall come to me on the evening of
September 23rd between 7 and 8 o'clock. I asked him to do so by
letter, asking him also to keep the fact of his visit to me a secret.
To-night, the 22nd of September, I received his answer promising
that he would come. Therefore I can look upon everything that is
to happen, as having already happened, for now there need be no
further change in my plans. I will send this letter this evening
to my friend Pernburg in Frankfurt am Main. In case anything should
happen that would render impossible for me to carry out my plans,
I will send Pernburg another letter asking him not to carry out
the instructions of the first.
I can now proceed to tell you what will happen here to-morrow
evening, the 23rd of September.
Albert Graumann will come to me, unknown to his family or friends,
as I have asked him to come. I will so arrange it that the old
servant will see him come in but will not see him go out. My
landlady will not be in my way, for she has already told me that
she will spend the night of the 23rd with her mother, in another
part of the city. It is to be a birthday celebration I believe,
so that I can be certain her plans will not be changed.
Graumann and I will be alone, therefore, with no reliable witnesses
near. I will keep him there for a little while with commonplace
conversation, for I have nothing to say to him. If he moves near
the desk I will upset the inkbottle. The spots on his clothes will
be another evidence against him. I will endeavour to get him to
keep my jewelry which is, as you know, of considerable value. I
will tell him that I am going away for a while and ask him to take
charge of it for me. I, myself, will take him down to the door and
let him out, when I have satisfied myself that the old servant is
in bed or at least at the back of the house. The revolver which
shall end my misery is Graumann's property. I took it from its
place without his knowledge.
The 10,000 gulden which I told my landlady were still in the house,
and which would therefore be thought missing after my death, I have
deposited in a bank in Frankfort in your name. Here is the
certificate of deposit.
I will endeavour not to hold the revolver sufficiently close to have
the powder burn my clothes. And I will exert every effort of mind
and body to throw it far from me after I have fired the fatal shot.
I think that I will be able to do this, for I am a very good shot
and I have no fear of death. One thing more I will do, to turn
aside all suspicion of suicide. I will write a letter to some
person who does not exist, a letter which will make it appear as if
I were in excellent humour and planning for the future.
And now, good-bye to life. People have called me eccentric, they
may be right. This last deed of mine at least, is out of the
ordinary. No one will say now that ended my life in a moment of
darkened mind, in a rush of despair. My brain is perfectly clear,
my heart beats calmly, now that I have arranged everything for my
departure from this world of falsehood and unreality. My last deed
shall go to prove to the world how little actual, apparent facts
can be trusted.
The one thing real, the one thing true in all this world of
falsehood was your love and your trust. I thank you for it.
Joseph Muller refuses to take any particular credit for this case.
The letter would have come in time to prevent Graumann's conviction
without his assistance, he says. The only person whose gratitude he
has a right to is Prosecuting Attorney Gustav Schmidt. He managed
to have the Police Commissioner in G- read the letter in detail to
the attorney. But Muller himself knows that it failed of its effect,
so far as that dignitary was concerned. For nothing but open
ridicule could ever convince a man of such decided opinions that he
is not the one infallible person in the world.
But Albert Graumann had learned his lesson. And he told Muller
himself that the few days of life which might remain to him were a
gift to him from the detective. He felt that his weak heart would
not have stood the strain and the disgrace of an open trial, even
if that trial ended in acquittal. Two months later he was found
dead in his bed, a calm smile on his lips.
Before he died he had learned that it was the Undaunted courage of
his timid little old aunt that had brought Muller to take charge of
the case and to free her beloved nephew from the dreaded prison.
And the last days that these two passed together were very happy.
But as aforesaid, Muller refuses to have this case included in the
list of his successes. He did not change the ultimate result, he
merely anticipated it, he says.
Back to Full Books