The Master Detective
Percy James Brebner
Part 4 out of 6
"The same idea occurred to Paul Renaud," I said. "I can find no evidence
that Sir Charles went to Maidenhead that day, and at three o'clock in the
afternoon he was certainly at his club."
"Did he telephone to madame or attempt to communicate with her in any
way?" Quarles asked.
"He says not."
"But you do not altogether believe him, eh?"
"My opinion is in abeyance," I returned. "It is only fair to say that Sir
Charles suggested that Paul Renaud may have seen her at the shop in
Regent Street. They are suspicious of each other. Renaud was certainly on
the premises at the time she was there. Personally I do not attribute
much weight to these suspicions. I believe both men are genuine lovers,
and would be the last persons in the world to do the dancer any harm."
"Or the first," said Zena quickly. "Jealousy is a most usual motive
"I think the child strikes a true note there, Wigan," said Quarles. "We
must keep the idea of jealousy before us--that is, if we are compelled to
believe there has been foul play. Now, one would have expected Sir
Charles to telephone to madame; that he did not do so is strange."
"His disappointment had put him in a temper."
"That hardly appeals to me as a satisfactory explanation," Quarles
returned; "but there is indirect evidence in Sir Charles's favor. Had
Madame Vatrotski intended to return to her rooms at once she would almost
certainly have taken such a small parcel as her purchases made with her.
That she did not do so suggests she had another appointment to keep.
Have you a list of madame's admirers, Wigan?"
"I am only human, professor, and you ask for the impossible," I said,
smiling. "I have a few names here, and I think they may be dismissed from
our calculations. One of the strangest points in the case is the lack of
reticence amongst her dupes."
"Dupes!" said Zena.
"I think the term is justified," I went on. "They all seem quite proud of
having been allowed to pay for sumptuous dinners and expensive presents.
Usually one expects a shrinking from publicity in these affairs, but in
this case there is nothing of the kind. I have never seen Madame
Vatrotski, but she must have had a peculiar fascination."
"I have not seen her either," said Quarles; "but I was at the Academy
yesterday, and saw Musgrave's portrait of her. Go and see it, Wigan. I
consider Musgrave the greatest portrait painter we have, or ever have
had, perhaps. His opinion of the dancer might be useful. Judging from his
canvases he must have a strange insight into character."
My opinion of pictures is worth nothing, and, to speak truthfully, I saw
little remarkable in Musgrave's portrait of Madame Vatrotski. The mystery
had caused a large number of people to linger round the portrait, and so
far as I could gather the general impression was that it did not do her
justice. Some even called it a caricature.
"You never can tell what a woman is really like across the footlights," I
overheard one man say to his companion.
"Perhaps not," was the answer; "but I have seen her out of the theater.
I dropped in at Forbes's studio the other day. He was finishing a bust
of her, and she was giving him a sitting. It is a jolly good bust, but
"Is she pretty?" asked the other.
"Upon my word, I don't know; what I do know is that I wanted to look
at her all the time, and when she had gone life seemed to have left
I did not know the speaker, but I did not lose sight of him until I
had tracked him to a club in Piccadilly and discovered that his name
was Tenfield, and that he was a partner in a firm of art dealers in
When I repeated this conversation to Quarles he wondered why I had taken
so much trouble over the art dealer.
"Looking for a clue," I answered.
Quarles shrugged his shoulders.
"What did you think of the portrait?"
"Frankly, not much."
"But you got an impression of Madame Vatrotski's character."
"I cannot say I got any great enlightenment. It made me wonder why she
had made such a great reputation."
"The fact that it made you wonder at all shows there is something in the
portrait," said Quarles. "Let us argue indirectly from the picture. You
will agree that the lady was fascinating, since she had so many admirers,
but in the portrait you discern nothing to account for that fascination.
We may conclude that the painter saw the real woman underneath the
superficial charm. She could not hide herself from him as she did from
others. Now in that portrait I see rather a commonplace woman,
essentially bourgeoise and vulgar, not naturally artistic. I can imagine
her the wife of a small shopkeeper, or a girl given to cheap finery on
holidays. I think she would be capable of any meanness to obtain that
finery. Her face shows a decided lack of talent, but it also shows
tremendous greed. The critics have said that her dancing was a pose and
not in good taste."
"They are practically unanimous on this point. It was beyond her to
appeal to the artistic sense, so she appealed to the lower nature, and
therein lay her fascination. Just consider who the men are to whom she
appealed. A millionaire with an unsavory reputation. To two or three
peers who, even by the wildest stretch of imagination, cannot be
considered ornaments of their order. To some younger sons of the Nut
description who are ready to pay anything to be seen with a popular
actress, and to the kind of fools who are always ready to offer marriage
to a divorcee, or to a husband murderer when she comes out of prison. She
appeals to a man like Paul Renaud, whose outlook upon life is disgusting,
and who would not be able to keep a decent girl on his premises were it
not for the fact that the whole management of the business is in the
hands of his two partners. Sir Charles Woodbridge I do not understand. He
is a decent man. I could easily imagine his killing her in a revulsion of
feeling after being momentarily fascinated. Honestly, I have wondered
whether this may not be the solution of the case."
"You are suspicious of Sir Charles?" I asked.
"I do not give that as my definite opinion. She may not be dead.
Perchance some particularly mean exploit has made her afraid and she has
gone into hiding; but if she is dead, I think we must look for her
murderer--I had almost said her executioner--amongst the decent men who
have been caught for a while in her toils."
"The only decent man seems to be Sir Charles," said Zena.
"And I am convinced he was genuinely in love with her," I said.
"Well, we are at a dead end," said Quarles. "I think I should go and see
Musgrave and ask his opinion of her. It may help us."
I went simply because there was nothing else to do, and I felt that I
must; be doing something. The authorities seemed to think that I was
making a great muddle over a very ordinary affair, possibly because
rather contemptuous comments in the press had annoyed them, while the
letters from amateur detectives had been more abundant than usual. Oh,
those amateur detectives!
I found Musgrave quite willing to talk about Madame Vatrotski, and before
I had been with him ten minutes I discovered that his opinion of her very
nearly coincided with Quarles's.
He put it differently, but it came to the same thing.
"To tell you the truth, she rather appealed to me when I first saw her,"
he said. "It was at an artists' affair in Chelsea. She came there with a
man named Renaud, who has a big shop in Regent Street, and had spent
money on her, I imagine. She was interesting because she was something
new in the way of vulgarity. It was for this man Renaud that I did the
portrait, but when it was finished he repudiated the bargain. He said it
wasn't a bit like her. You see, I was not looking at her with his eyes"
"Had she no beauty, then?"
"I cannot say that," Musgrave answered. "She had a beautiful figure, and
her face--well, I painted it as I saw it. Renaud said it wasn't in the
least like her, and I am bound to admit that most of the people who knew
her and have seen the portrait in the Academy agree with him."
"You claim that you show her character, I suppose?"
"No; I merely say I painted what I saw."
"Can you account for the fascination she exerted?" I asked.
"I answer that question by asking you another. Can you account for the
fascination which sin exerts over a vast number of people in the world?
See sin as it really is, and it repels you; but sin seldom lets you see
the reality, that is why it is so successful. A man requires grace to see
sin as it really is, and that is his salvation. I was in a detached
position when I painted Madame Vatrotski's portrait, and you have seen
the result; had I been under her spell the result would undoubtedly have
been different. I should have painted only the mask of the moment, and
that would have satisfied her admirers, I imagine. I suppose you know
that my ideas of the true functions of art have caused many people to
call me a crank?"
"I know little of the artistic world," I answered; "but any man who takes
himself seriously always appeals to me."
Musgrave smiled. I fancy he was about to favor me with his ideas, but
concluded I was not worth the trouble. I had not got much out of my visit
beyond the knowledge that Quarles was not alone in his estimate of Madame
The professor's opinion combined with the artist's influenced me, and
gave me a kind of rough theory. A man might be fascinated, then
repelled, the repulsion being far stronger than the attraction.
To make this possible the man must normally be decent, and because Sir
Charles Woodbridge seemed the only person who fitted all the conditions I
gave his movements a considerable amount of my attention during the next
few days. He had certainly been amongst the most assiduous of her
admirers, and I discovered that he had put a private detective on to the
business who was chiefly concerned in shadowing Paul Renaud.
Sir Charles was evidently convinced that Renaud was at the bottom of
Nearly a month went by, and, except to those chiefly concerned, interest
in the dancer's disappearance was fading out, when it was suddenly
revived by the notice of a picture exhibition in Bond Street, at the
gallery belonging to the firm in which Tenfield was a partner.
The pictures were the work of French artists of the cubist school, but
also on view was a portrait bust of Madame Vatrotski by Lovet Forbes. It
was evidently the bust I had overheard Tenfield speak about that day in
the Academy, and I discovered that his firm had bought it as a
Lovet Forbes had been only a vague name until a few days ago, when a
symbolic group of his had been placed in the entrance hall of the
Agricultural Institution, and had at once attracted attention. The
critics spoke of him as a new force in art, and a bust of the famous
dancer by him was therefore, under the circumstances, an event.
"People will go to see it who wouldn't cross the road to look at a
cubist's picture," said Quarles. "It is for sale, no doubt, and the
dealers may clear a very nice little profit over it. Not a bad
speculation, I should say; I wonder how much they paid the artist. We
will go and have a look at it, Wigan."
The three of us went on the opening day. Zena in a dress I had not seen
before, which suited her to perfection. She was much more interesting to
me than Forbes's bust of Madame Vatrotski.
Quarles was right in his prophecy; the gallery was full, and the cubists
were not the attraction. Sir Charles was there, so was Renaud, and many
others whose names had been mentioned more or less prominently in this
case, including the managing director of the Olympic; and before I got a
view of the bust I heard whispers of the prices which had been offered
for it; rather fabulous prices they were.
"But she is perfectly beautiful!" Zena exclaimed, when at last we stood
before the bust.
She was right, and there was evidently something wrong somewhere. The
difference between Musgrave's picture and Forbes's marble was tremendous,
and yet they were unmistakably the same woman.
Where the essential likeness was I cannot say, nor can I explain where
the difference lay, but the marble was charming, while the painting
"Rather a surprise, eh, Wigan?" said the professor.
"Very much so."
"I hear Forbes is about somewhere. I should like to see him. He is one of
the lucky ones; this mystery has helped him to fame."
"But his work is good, isn't it?"
"Yes; slightly meretricious, perhaps. I shall want to see more of his
work before I express a definite opinion. I think we must go and see what
he has done for the Agricultural Institute."
We not only saw Forbes, but had a talk with him. He was a man well on in
the forties, carelessly dressed, a Bohemian, and not particularly elated
at his success apparently. He smiled at the prices which were being
offered for his work.
"It is the dancer they are paying for, not my genius," he said. "She
seems to have fooled men in life; she is fooling them in death, if
she is dead."
"Ah, that is the question," said Quarles. "I have my doubts."
"She is safer dead, at any rate, if only half they say of her is true,"
"How came she to sit for you?" I asked.
"Vanity. I was introduced to her one night at an Artists' Ball--the
Albert Hall affair, you know--and I told her she had the figure of a
Venus. I was consciously playing on her vanity for a purpose. In the
thing I have done for the Agricultural Institute there is a recumbent
figure, and I wanted the perfect model for it. The right woman is more
difficult to get than you would imagine. Of course she agreed with me as
to the perfectness of her figure, and then I began to doubt it. That
settled the business. She fell into my trap and agreed to be the model."
"Posing in the nude?" I asked.
"Oh, that did not trouble her at all," answered Forbes. "I shouldn't be
surprised if she had been a model in Paris studios before she blossomed
out as a dancer. She spoke Russian, but I am inclined to think France had
the honor of giving her birth. In return for her complaisance I promised
to do a portrait bust of her for herself. That is it. If she is alive and
comes to claim it I shall have to do her another one."
"She was evidently a very beautiful woman," said Quarles, glancing in the
direction of the bust.
"Beautiful and bad, I fancy. Curiously enough, I did not hear of her
disappearance until I telephoned to her flat two days after it had
happened. She had broken an appointment to give me a final sitting, and I
wanted to know why she hadn't come."
"Was the final sitting for the Agricultural group?" Quarles asked.
"No; for the bust there. I had to leave it as it was, but there is
something in the line of the mouth which does not please me. What has
become of her, do you suppose?"
"Possibly some one or something she is afraid of has caused her to go
into hiding," said Quarles.
"Afraid! I doubt if she had any fear of devil or man. Have you seen
Musgrave's portrait of her?"
The professor nodded, and I thought it was curious that the Academy
picture should be referred to so persistently.
"She was like that," said Forbes. "Musgrave's is a wonderful piece of
Involuntarily I glanced at the bust, and he noticed my surprise.
"Oh, she was like that too at times," he said.
"I should doubt if Musgrave ever saw her as you have represented her,"
"Perhaps not. He claims to paint character; possibly I might succeed in
chiseling character, but give me a beautiful model, and as a rule I am
content to show the surface only. Besides, the bust was for her, and I
made the best of my subject."
"And in the Agricultural piece?" asked Quarles.
"Naturally I idealized her."
"I suppose he is not the born artist that Musgrave is?" I said, when
Forbes had left us.
"I don't know," returned Quarles. "We will go and have another look at
the bust, and I think on the way home we might drop in and have another
look at Musgrave's picture."
"That portrait bothers me," I said. "One might suppose it was the key to
"I am not sure that it isn't," Quarles answered.
Further acquaintance with the Academy picture had rather a curious effect
upon me. I do not think I lost anything of my original sense of
repulsion, but I was strangely conscious that there was something
attractive in the face. I was astonished to find what a likeness there
was between the portrait and the bust. The impression created by one
became mingled with the impression made by the other.
I said as much to Quarles.
"That is tantamount to saying they are both fine pieces of work,"
"And means, I suppose, that the real woman was somewhere between the
two," said Zena.
"Possibly, but with Musgrave's idea the predominant truth," said Quarles.
"Why?" asked Zena.
Quarles shrugged his shoulders. He had no answer to give.
"The day after to-morrow, Wigan, we will go to the Agricultural
"Why not to-morrow?"
"To-morrow I am busy. Did you know I was writing an article for a
On the following evening I took Zena to a theater--to the Olympic. I
suppose I chose the Olympic with a sort of idea that I was keeping in
touch with the case I had in hand, that if any one chanced to see me
there they would conclude that I was following up some clue. It is
hateful to feel that there is nothing to be done, more hateful still that
people should imagine you are beaten or are neglecting your work.
Zena told me the professor had been out all day, but she did not know
what business he was about. He was certainly not engaged in writing
The Olympic was by no means full that night; the disappearance of the
dancer was evidently having a disastrous effect upon the receipts.
The next day I went to the Agricultural Institute with Quarles. He had
got a card of introduction to the secretary.
The building had recently been enlarged, and at the top of the first
flight of the staircase stood a group representing the triumph of
Standing or crouching, and full of energy, were figures symbolic of
science and machinery, while in the foreground was a recumbent figure
from whose hands the sickle had fallen.
The woman was sleeping, her work done; yet she suggested that there was
beauty in those old methods which, for all their utility, was lacking
in the new.
"It is probably the best work that Lovet Forbes has done," said the
secretary, who came round with us.
"He is the coming man, they say," Quarles remarked.
"He has surely arrived," was the answer, "for the critics are unanimous
as to the beauty of this."
"Yes, it is remarkable in idea and execution. I am told the famous
dancer, who has recently disappeared, was the model for the
"So I understand. The figure is the gem of the whole composition."
Quarles was not inclined to endorse this opinion, and the secretary was
nothing loath to argue the point.
The discussion led to a close examination of the figure, Quarles arguing
that it was out of proportion in comparison with the standing figures, a
comment which the secretary met with some learned words on the laws
relating to perspective.
They were both a little out of their depth, I thought, and after a few
moments I did not pay much attention to them. My thoughts had gone back
to Musgrave's picture and to Forbes's bust of Madame Vatrotski. Zena had
said that the real woman was probably somewhere between the two, and as I
looked at the figure for which the dancer had been the model I felt she
I suppose the limbs were perfect, but it was the face which chiefly
interested mo. It was like Musgrave's picture, but it was more like
Forbes's bust, with something in it which differed entirely from the bust
and from the picture.
It was a beautiful figure, and I think the face was beautiful, but I
am not sure.
The secretary had just measured the figure, and the result seemed to have
established the fact that Quarles's contention was right. This evidently
pleased him, and he was inclined to give way on minor points of
"No doubt the sculptor's perspective has something to do with it," he
said; "but we must not forget that the group is symbolic. I should not
be surprised if the figure in the foreground is larger to illustrate
the fact that modern methods are of yesterday, while the sickle has
reaped the harvests of the world from old time. The sickle is not
broken, you observe, and the artist may mean that it will be used
again in the time to come."
"You may be right," said the secretary. "I shall take an early
opportunity of asking Forbes."
Soon afterwards, we left, and had got a hundred yards from the
building when the professor suddenly found he had left his gloves
behind in the library.
"I shall only be a minute or two, Wigan. Stop a taxi in the meantime."
He was longer than that, but he came back triumphant, waving the gloves,
an old pair hardly worth returning for. He seemed able to talk of nothing
but the symbolism of the group, finding many points in it which had
escaped me entirely.
"It has given me an idea, Wigan."
"About Madame Yatrotski?"
"Yes; but we will wait until we get home."
We went straight to that empty room. Zena could not persuade the old man
to have some tea first.
"Tea! I am not taking tea to-day. Bring me a little weak brandy and
water, my dear."
"Don't you feel well?"
"Yes, but I am a little exhausted by talking to a man who thinks he
understands art and doesn't."
"Oh, Murray doesn't pretend to understand it."
"Murray is not such a fool as he pretends to be, even in art; but I was
thinking of the secretary, not Murray."
The brandy was brought, and then the professor turned to me.
"You suggested that perhaps Forbes was not the born artist that Musgrave
is. What is your opinion now, Wigan?"
"I am chiefly impressed with the fact that Zena was right when she
said the real woman was probably between Forbes's bust and
"And I am chiefly impressed with the fact that they are both great
artists," said Quarles. "I said Musgrave was, but I reserved my opinion
of Forbes until I had seen this group. It has convinced me. Now, for my
idea concerning the dancer. The first germ was in the notion that in
Musgrave's picture lay the key to the mystery. Knowing something of the
painter's power and ideals, I felt that the portrait must be true from
one point of view. What was his standpoint? He explained it to you. He
was detached, unbiased, putting on to his canvas that which he saw behind
the mere outer mask. When I saw Forbes's bust, one of two things was
certain: either he was incapable of seeing below the surface, or in this
particular case he was incapable of doing so. I could not decide until I
had seen other work of his. To-day I know he is as capable with his
chisel as Musgrave is with his brush. You have only to study the standing
and crouching figures in the group to see how virile and full of insight
he can be."
"But the recumbent figure--" I began.
"You remember that he said it was idealized," Quarles said. "It is
undoubtedly full of--of strength, but for the moment I am more interested
in the bust. Why does it differ so widely from Musgrave's portrait? Well,
I think Forbes was only capable of seeing Madame Vatrotski like that, and
we have to discover the reason."
"Temperament," I suggested. "He said himself he was content as a rule to
show the beautiful exterior."
"He also said one or two other interesting things," said Quarles, "For
instance, he was certain she was dead, or he would hardly have sold the
bust he had executed specially for her. Why was he so certain? Again, he
suggested she was French and not Russian, scorned the idea of her being
afraid of any one, and altogether he showed rather an intimate knowledge
of her, which makes one fancy that she had been more open with him than
she had been with others."
"The fact that she was sitting to him might account for that," said Zena.
"One would also expect that it would have made him come forward and give
what help he could in clearing up the mystery." Quarles answered; "but he
does nothing of the kind. We do not hear that he has used her as a model
for his Agricultural group until we hear it casually on the day the bust
was exhibited, and he tells us that he did not know of her disappearance
until he telephoned to her rooms two days afterwards. Does that sound
quite a likely story, Wigan?"
"I think you are building a theory on a frail foundation, Professor."
"It has served its purpose; I have built my theory--the artistic mind
fascinated and becoming revengeful in a moment of repulsion. I think
Madame Vatrotski had an appointment with Forbes that day, and more, that
she kept it."
"At his studio. It may have been to give him a final sitting, or it may
have been a lovers' meeting. Forbes could only see her beauty and
fascination; he put what he saw into the bust. He loved her with all the
unreasoning power that was in him; it is possible that in her limited way
she loved him, that he was more to her than all the rest. Then came the
sudden revulsion, perhaps because stories concerning her had reached
Forbes, stories he was convinced were true. She was alone with him in the
studio, and--well, I do not think she left it alive."
"But the body?" I said.
"Always the great difficulty," Quarles returned. "Yesterday I spent an
interesting day in Essex, Wigan, watching the various processes used in
making artificial stone, from its liquid and plastic state to its setting
into a hard block. I was amazed at what can be done with it."
"You mean that--"
"It is impossible!" Zena exclaimed.
"It is not a very difficult matter to treat a body so as to preserve it,
but to cover it with a preparation and with such precision that when it
is set you shall see nothing but a stone figure is, of course, only
possible to an artist."
"But she had sat for him, the figure must have been far advanced
before--before she disappeared."
"I have no doubt it was, Wigan; but, far advanced as it was, that
stone figure was removed and replaced by one that only superficially
"I do not believe it. It is absurd."
"Measurement proved that the recumbent figure was out of proportion in
comparison with the other figures, accounted for by the stone casing. Of
course with the secretary there I could not look too closely."
"No, or you would have found--"
"You seem to forget that I went back for my gloves," said Quarles. "I
left them on purpose. I ran up to the library; no one was about. I had a
chisel and hammer with me. By this time some one may have discovered
that the group has been chipped. There are the pieces."
He took from his pocket some fragments of stone, pieces of a stone
mold, in fact.
"Whether they will realize what it is that is disclosed where that piece
is missing is another matter, but we know, Wigan. It is the body of
Madame Vatrotski. Can you wonder, my dear Zena, that I felt more like a
little brandy and water than tea?"
How far Quarles was right in his idea of the relations between Forbes and
the dancer no one will ever know. When the police went to arrest him he
was found dead in his studio. He had shot himself. How had he heard of
Quarles's discovery? How did he know that his ingenious method of
concealing the body had been found out?
It was so strange that I asked Quarles whether he had warned him.
"Do you think I should be likely to do such a thing?" was his answer.
He would give me no other answer, and all I can say positively is that he
has never actually denied it.
THE MYSTERY OF THE MAN AT WARBURTON'S
Two days later Zena went to visit friends in the country, and for some
weeks I did not go near Chelsea. Quarles was busy with some Psychological
Society which was holding a series of meetings in London, and was quite
pleased, no doubt, to be without my society for a while.
Except when I have a regular holiday, my leisure hours are limited, but I
was taking a night off. It was not because I had nothing to do, but
because I had so many things to think of that my brain had become
hopelessly muddled in the process, and a few blank hours seemed to be
advisable. When this kind of retreat becomes necessary, I invariably find
my way to Holborn, to a very plain-fronted establishment there over which
is the name Warburton. If you are a gastronomic connoisseur in any way
you may know it, for Warburton's is a restaurant where you can get an
old-fashioned dinner cooked as nowhere else in London, I believe, and
enjoy an old port afterwards which those delightful sinners, our
grandfathers, would have sat over half the night, and been pulled out
from under the table in the morning perchance. I am not abnormally
partial to the pleasures of the table, but I have found a good dinner in
combination with first-rate port, rationally dealt with, an excellent
tonic for the brain.
I do not suppose any one knew my name at Warburton's, and I have always
prided myself on not carrying my profession in my face. The man who
dined opposite to me that night possibly began by taking me for a
prosperous city man, to whom success had come somewhat early, or perhaps
for a barrister, not of the brilliant kind, but of the steady plodders
who get there in the end by sheer force of sticking power. I was not in
the least interested in him until he spoke to me--asked me to pass the
Worcester sauce, in fact. His voice attracted me, and his hands. It was a
voice which sounded out of practise, as if it were seldom used, and his
hands were those of an artist. I made some casual remark, complimentary
to Warburton's, and we began to talk. He seemed glad to do so, but he
spoke with hesitation, not as one who has overcome an impediment in his
speech, but as one who had forgotten part of his vocabulary. The reason
leaked out presently.
"I wonder whether there is something--how shall I put it?--_simpatica_
between us?" he said suddenly.
"Why the speculation?" I asked.
"Otherwise I cannot think why I am talking so much," he said with a
nervous laugh. "I live alone, I hardly know a soul, and all I say in the
course of a week could be repeated in two minutes, I suppose."
"Not a healthy existence," I returned.
"It suits me. I dine here most nights; the journey to and fro forms my
daily constitutional. You are not a regular customer here?"
"No, an occasional one only. I should guess that you are engaged in
artistic work of some kind."
"Right!" he said with a show of excitement. "And when I tell you I live
in Gray's Inn do you think you could guess what kind of work it is?"
"That is beyond me," I laughed. "Gray's Inn sounds a curious place for
"I am an illuminator, not for money, but for my own pleasure. Do you
"At least you know that some of the old monks spent their hours in
wonderful work of this kind, carefully illuminating the texts of works
with marvelous design and color. Now and then some special genius arose
and became a great fresco painter. Fra Angelico painted pictures for the
world to marvel over, while some humbler brother pored over his
illuminating. You will find some of this work in the British Museum."
Evidently my newly acquired friend was an eccentric, I thought.
"Pictures have no particular interest for me," he went on; "these
illuminated texts have. I am an expert worker myself. First in Italy, now
in Gray's Inn."
"And there is no market for such work?" I enquired.
"I believe not. I have never troubled to find out. I have no need of
money, and if I had I could not bring myself to part with my work."
"You interest me. I should like to see some of your work."
"Why not? It is a short walk to Gray's Inn. To me you are rather
wonderful. I have not felt inclined to talk to a stranger for years, and
now I am anxious to show you what I have done. We will go when you like."
I had not bargained for this. Had I foreseen that I should have a
conversation forced upon me to-night I should have avoided Warburton's;
even now I was inclined to excuse myself, but curiosity got the upper
hand. I finished my wine and we went to Gray's Inn.
On the way, I told him my name, but, apparently, he had never heard it,
nor did he immediately tell me his. I purposely called him Mr. ---- and
paused for the information.
"Parrish," he said. "Bather a curious name," and then he went on talking
about illuminating, evidently convinced that I was intensely interested.
It was the man who interested me, not his work, and the interest was
heightened when I entered his rooms. He occupied two rooms at the top of
a dreary building devoted to men of law. The rooms were well enough in
themselves, but the furniture was in the last stage of dilapidation,
there were holes in the carpet, and everything looked forlorn and
poverty-stricken. I glanced at my companion. Certainly, his clothes were
a little shabby, but quite good, and he was oblivious to the decayed
atmosphere of his surroundings. He drew me at once to a large table,
where lay the work he was engaged upon. Of its kind, it was marvelous
both in design and execution, reproducing the color effects of the old
illuminators so exactly that it was almost impossible to tell it from
that of the old monks. This is not my opinion, but that of the expert
from the British Museum when he pronounced upon the work later.
"Wonderful," I said. "And there is no sale for it?"
He shrugged his shoulders. Environment seemed to have an effect upon
him, for his conversation was mostly by signs after we entered his room.
Without a word he took finished work from various drawers and put it on
the table for my inspection. I praised it, asked questions to draw him
out, but failed to get more than a lift of the eyebrows, or an
occasional monosyllable. It was not exhilarating, and as soon as I could
I took my leave.
"Come and see me again soon," he said, parting with me at the top of
"Thanks," I answered, as I went down, but I made no promise as I looked
up at him silhouetted against the light from his open door. Little did I
guess how soon I was to climb those stairs again.
Next morning I was conscious that the night off, although not spent
exactly as I had intended, had done me good. Some knotty points in a case
I was engaged upon had begun to unravel themselves in my mind, and I
reached the office early to find that the chief was already there and
wanted to see me.
"Here is a case you must look after at once, Wigan," he said, passing me
the report of the murder of a man named Parrish, in Gray's Inn.
Now, one of the essentials in my profession is the ability to put the
finger on the small mistakes a criminal makes when he endeavors to cover
up his tracks. I suppose nine cases out of ten are solved in this way,
and more often than not the thing left undone, unthought of, is the very
one, you would imagine, which the criminal would have thought of first. I
fancy the reason lies in the fact that the criminal does not believe he
will be suspected. I said nothing to my chief about my visit to Gray's
Inn last night. Experience has shown me the wisdom of a still tongue, and
knowledge I have picked up casually has often led to a solution which has
startled the Yard. The Yard was destined to be startled now, but not
quite in the way I hoped.
When I arrived at Gray's Inn, a small crowd had collected before the
entrance door of the house, as if momentarily expecting some
information from the constable who stood on duty there--a man I did not
happen to know.
"That's him! That's him!"
A boy pointed me out excitedly to the constable, who looked at me
quickly. I smiled to find myself recognized, but I was laboring under
"Yes, that's the man," said a woman standing on the edge of the crowd.
The explanation came when the constable understood who I was.
"Both of them declare they saw the dead man in company with another man
last night, described him, and now--"
"I saw you with him," said the boy. "I never saw him with any one before,
that's why I took particular notice."
The woman nodded her agreement.
"Better take the names and addresses, constable."
"I've already done that, sir."
I entered the house inclined to smile, but the inclination vanished as I
went upstairs. No doubt these two had seen me last night, and it was
fortunate, perhaps, that I was a detective, and not an ordinary
individual. And yet a detective might commit murder. It was an unpleasant
thought, unpleasant enough to make me wish I had mentioned last night's
adventure to the chief.
A constable I knew was on the top landing, and entered the rooms with me.
Parrish had not been moved. He was lying by the table; had probably
fallen forward out of his chair.
A thin-bladed knife had been driven downwards, at the base of the neck,
apparently by some one who had stood behind him. I judged, and a doctor
presently confirmed my judgment, that he had been dead some hours; must
have met his death soon after I had left him. As far as I could tell,
the papers on the table were in exactly the same position as I had seen
them, and the finished work which he had taken out of his drawers to
show me had not been replaced. The fact seemed to add to the awkwardness
of my position.
The first thing I did was to telegraph to Christopher Quarles. I do not
remember ever being more keen for his help. I occupied the time of
waiting in a careful examination of the rooms and the stairs, and in
making enquiries in the offices in the building.
The first thing I told Quarles, on his arrival, was my adventure
last night, and the awkward fact that two people had recognized me
"Then we mustn't fail this time, Wigan," he said gravely. "It is a pity
you did not mention the adventure to your chief."
"You'd suspect a man with less evidence against him," Quarles answered
quickly. "We'll look at the rooms, and the dead man, then you had better
go back to the Yard and tell your chief all about it."
Our search revealed very little. It was evident that Parrish had lived a
lonely life, as he had told me. His evening dinner at Warburton's
appeared to have been his only real meal of the day. There was a
half-empty tin of biscuits in the cupboard, and some coffee and tea, but
no other food whatever, nor evidence that it was ever kept there. I have
said the clothes he was wearing were shabby, but there was a shabbier
suit still lying at the bottom of a drawer, and his stock of shirts and
underclothing reached the minimum. Practically, there were no papers,
only a few receipted bills for material for his work, a few
advertisements still in their wrappers, and two letters which had not
"We will examine these later, Wigan," said Quarles. "I want to get an
impression before anything definite puts me on the wrong road. What
about his work?" and the professor examined it with his lens. "Good, of
its kind, I should imagine, and what is more to the point, requiring
expensive materials. These bills show a good many pounds spent in less
than four months. He was not poverty-stricken, in spite of shabby
clothes, and holes in the carpet. Where did he get his money from? There
is no check book here, no money except a few shillings in his pocket.
That is a point to remember."
"The murderers may have taken it," I said.
"This doesn't look like a place ordinary thieves would come to."
There was a shelf in one corner, with books on it, perhaps a score in
all. Quarles took down every one of them, and opened them.
"John Parrish. Did you know his name was John?"
"No. He didn't mention his Christian name."
"Here it is, written in every book," said Quarles as he deliberately tore
a fly-leaf out of one and began to put down on it the titles of some of
the books. "Evidently he did not read much, the dust here is thick. Did
he open his door with a key when you came in with him last night?"
"I couldn't swear to it."
"You see it does not lock of itself. He might have left it merely closed.
Did he go into the bedroom while you were here?"
"Then the murderer may have been there while you were with him. You have
made enquiries about him in this building, of course?"
"About his personal appearance and habits, I mean. You see, Wigan, your
own idea of him is not sufficient. He may have deceived you entirely
regarding his character, assuming eccentricity for some purpose. Think
the affair out from that point of view, and when you have been to the
Yard, come to Chelsea. If you do not mind I will take these two unopened
letters. We will look at them together presently."
As a matter of fact, Quarles had opened them before I saw him; indeed,
their contents took him out of town, and I did not see him for three
days. They were very trying days for me, for the chief took me off the
case when he had heard my story. He could not understand why I had not
mentioned at once that I had been with the dead man on the previous
night, and his manner suggested that my being the criminal was well
within the bounds of possibility. I suppose every one likes to have a cut
at a successful man occasionally, but I am bound to admit he had some
reason for his action. He showed me a halfpenny paper in which an
enterprising scribbler, under the headline "Murder in Gray's Inn," had
heightened the sensation by another headline, "Strange recognition of a
well-known detective by a woman and a boy."
"We mustn't give the press any reason to suppose that we want to
thwart justice for the purpose of shielding an officer," the chief
said. "Cochran will take charge of the case, and I am letting the
press know this."
There was nothing to be said, and I left him feeling very much like a
criminal, and very conscious of being in an awkward position. Unless the
case were satisfactorily cleared up there would be plenty of people to
Quarles, when at last we foregathered in the empty room, was sympathetic
but not surprised; Zena, who had come back to town immediately on
receiving a letter from me, was furious that I should be suspected.
"I have been busy," said the professor. "I opened those letters, Wigan.
Of course Zena's first question on her arrival was why Mr. Parrish had
not opened them. Her second question was: Why did he live the life of a
recluse in Gray's Inn? How would you answer those questions?"
"I see no reason why a recluse should not live in Gray's Inn," I
answered, "and an eccentric person, obsessed with one idea in life, might
throw letters aside without opening them."
"Quite a good answer," said Quarles. "Now, here are the letters. This one
is dated eighteen months ago, postmark Liverpool, written at Thorn's
Hotel, Liverpool. 'Dear Jack,--Back again like the proverbial bad penny.
Health first class; luck medium. Pocket full enough to have a rollick
with you. Shall be with you the day after to-morrow.--Yours, C.M.' Your
friend Parrish was not a man you would expect to rollick, I imagine?''
"So either he entirely deceived you or had changed considerably since
'C.M.' had seen him. Here is the other letter. Postmark Rome, dated three
years ago, but no address. Just a message in indifferent English: 'Once
more you do me good and I repay in interest. B. knows and comes to you.
"Parrish told me he was in Italy for some time," I said.
"The first letter took me to Liverpool," Quarles went on. "Thorn's Hotel
is third-rate, but quite good enough for a man who does not want to burn
money. 'C.M.' stands for Claude Milne. That was the only name with those
initials in the hotel books on that date. He had come from New York, and
he left an address to which letters were to be forwarded, an hotel in
Craven Street. I traced him there. He stayed a week, and, I gather, spent
a rollicking time, mostly returning to bed in the early hours not too
sober. No friends seem to have looked him up. He appears to have gone
"And it is eighteen months ago," I said.
"Exactly. We will remember that," said Quarles. "The other letter is
older still. It is evidently a warning. The writer believed Parrish to be
in danger from this 'B.' who was coming to England. Now, was it B. who
found him the other night after three years' search?"
"The name is on the door and in the directory," I answered.
"That is another point to remember, Wigan. Now, I daresay you have learnt
from your inquiries in the building that very little was known about
Parrish. Some of the tenants did not remember there was such a name on
the door. I have interviewed the agents who receive the rent, and they
tell me that until about three years ago they received Parrish's rent by
check, always sent from Windsor, and on a bank at Windsor; but since then
they have received it in cash, promptly, and sent by messenger boy, the
receipt always being waited for. They inform me that at one time, at any
rate, Parrish did not use his chambers much, was a river man in the
summer, and in the winter was abroad a great deal. The letter sent with
the cash was merely a typed memorandum. There was no typewriter in
Parrish's chambers, I think?"
Quarles took from some papers the fly-leaf he had torn from one of
"That is Parish's signature," said Quarles. "The agents recognize it, the
bank confirms it; the account is not closed, but has not been used for
three years. The rooms he occupied in Windsor are now in other hands, and
nothing is known of him there. Inspector Cockran made these inquiries at
Windsor. You see, as you are off the case I am helping him. Having no
official position in the matter I must attach myself to some one to
facilitate my investigation. Cockran thinks I am an old fool with lucid
moments, during which I may possibly say something which is worth
"He is generally looked upon as a smart man," I said.
"Oh, perhaps he is right in his opinion of me, also in his
judgment of you."
"What has he got to say about me?"
"He says very little, but as far as I can gather his investigations are
based on the assumption that you killed Parrish. Don't get angry, Wigan.
It is really not such an outrageous point of view, and for the present I
am shaking my head with him and am inclined to his opinion."
"It is a disgraceful suspicion," said Zena.
"Those who plead not guilty always say that, but it really does not count
for much with the judge," Quarles answered. "We will get on with the
evidence. I jotted down on this fly-leaf the names of some of the books
on that shelf, Wigan. Nothing there, you see, bears any reference to his
"Are you suggesting it was a blind?"
"No, I haven't got as far as that yet, but it is curious that none of his
books should relate to his hobby in any way. I have ascertained that he
always bought his materials personally, never wrote for them. From the
postman I discover that it was seldom they had to go to the top floor;
the advertisements and letters we have found may be taken to be all the
communications he has received through the post. At the same time we have
evidence that he had command of money, since he paid his rent promptly,
bought expensive materials, and dined every night at Warburton's. Since
he did not sell his work, where did the money come from?"
"Some annuity," I suggested.
"Exactly, which he must have collected himself, since he received no
letters, and taken away in cash, since he had given up using a banking
account. Cockran has made inquiries at the insurance offices, and in the
name of Parrish there exists no such annuity, apparently. It was,
therefore, either in another name or came from a private source."
"So we draw blank," I said.
"In one sense we do, in another we do not," returned Quarles. "We come
back to the letters and to Zena's questions. First, why did he live the
life of a recluse in Gray's Inn? The answer does not seem very difficult
to me. He had something to hide, something which made him cut himself
off from the world, and that something had its beginning about three
years ago, when he ceased paying his rent by check, when he gave up his
rooms at Windsor; in short, when he entirely became a changed character.
We may take 'C.M.'s' letter, with its talk of rollicking, as confirming
"But he did not open either letter. He did not see Emanuele's
warning," I said.
"True, but I believe, Wigan, the first two words in Emanuele's letter
should stand by themselves; that the letter should read thus: 'Once
more. You do me good, I repay, etc,' I think there was a previous letter
which Parrish did see."
"A far-fetched theory," I returned.
"The key to it is in Zena's question: Why didn't Parrish open his
"Why, indeed?" I said. "He might throw 'C.M.'s' letter aside, but if
there had been a previous letter warning him that danger threatened him
from Italy, do you imagine he would have failed to open one with the Rome
postmark on it?"
"That does seem to knock the bottom out of my argument," said Quarles.
"I am afraid the theory is too elaborate altogether," I went on. "Parrish
was an eccentric. I was not deceived. I am astonished there should ever
have been an episode in his life which should necessitate a warning from
Emanuele. Probably the Italian exaggerated the position. That B. is
stated to have come to England three years ago, and the murder has only
just occurred, would certainly confirm this view."
"It does, but you throw no light on the mystery, and the fact remains
that Parrish was murdered. You have not knocked the bottom out of my
theory, and with Cockran's help I am going to put it to the test. For
the moment there is nothing more to be done. I must wait until I hear
from Cockran. I will wire you some time to-morrow. You must meet me
without fail wherever I appoint. I think Cockran is fully persuaded
that I am helping him to snap the handcuffs on to your wrists. The
capture of a brother detective would be a fine case to have to his
credit, wouldn't it?"
"I hope you are not doing anything risky, dear," said Zena.
"What! Is your faith in Murray growing weak, too?" laughed Quarles.
I was not in the mood to enjoy a joke of this kind--my position was far
too serious--and I left Chelsea in a depressed condition. Perhaps it was
being so personally concerned in the matter which made me especially
critical of Quarles's methods, but it certainly did not seem to me that
his arguments had helped me in the least. They only served to emphasize
how poor our chance was of finding the criminal.
Next afternoon I received a wire from the professor telling me to meet
him at the Yorkshire Grey. I found him waiting there and thought he
looked a little anxious.
"We are going to have a tea-party at a quiet place round the corner in
Gray's Inn Road," he said; "at least Cockran and I are, while you are
going to look on. You are going to be conspicuous by your absence, and
under no circumstances must you attempt to join us. When it is all
over and we have gone, then you can leave your hiding-place and come
He would answer no questions as we went to the third-rate tea-rooms, but
he was certainly excited. The woman greeted him as an old friend. He had
evidently been there before.
"This is the gentleman I spoke of," said Quarles, and then the woman led
us into a back room.
"Ah, you've put the screen in that corner, I see. An excellent
arrangement; couldn't be better. You quite understand that this room is
reserved for me and my guests for as long as I may require it. Good. Now,
Wigan, your place is behind this screen. There is a chair, so you can be
seated, and there is also a convenient hole in the screen which will
afford you a view of our table yonder. It is rather a theatrical
arrangement, but I have a score to settle with Cockran if I can. He
thinks I am an old fool, and when it does not suit my purpose I object to
any one having that idea."
When Cockran arrived it so happened that I had some little difficulty in
finding the slit in the screen; when I did I saw that he had a woman
with him. By the time I had got a view of the room she had seated
herself at the tea-table and her back was toward me. It did not seem to
me the kind of back that would make a man hurry to overtake to see what
the face was like.
Quarles talked commonplaces while the tea was being brought in, and then,
when the proprietress had gone out, he said, leaning toward the woman:
"Do you constantly suffer from the result of your accident?"
"Accident!" she repeated.
"I notice that you limp slightly."
"Oh, it was a long time ago. I don't feel anything of it now."
Quarles handed her some cake.
"It is very good of you to come," he went on, "and I hope you are going
to let us persuade you to be definite."
She nodded at Cockran.
"I have told him that I am not sure. I am going to stick to that."
"The fact is, we are especially anxious to solve this mystery," Quarles
went on, "and I believe you are the only person who can help us. Now,
from certain inquiries which I have been making I have come to the
conclusion that Mr. Parrish is not dead."
"Not dead!" the woman exclaimed.
I saw Cockran look enquiringly at Quarles, but he did not say anything.
The professor had evidently persuaded the inspector to let him carry out
this investigation in his own way.
"Of course, a man has been killed," he went on, "but it wasn't Parrish, I
fancy. He lived in Parrish's chambers; was a lonely man with a hobby, and
if the people who saw him about liked to think his name was Parrish,
well, it didn't trouble him. You didn't happen to know the real Parrish,
"Of course not."
"No, I didn't expect you would," said Quarles, "but tell me how it was
you so promptly recognized the man we are after."
"I am not sure it was the same man."
"But you were when the boy recognized him."
"I say now I am not sure."
"Oh, but you are," returned Quarles. "You could not possibly be mistaken.
From the inner room of Parrish's chambers you must have watched both the
men for the best part of an hour."
A teaspoon clattered in a saucer as the woman sprang to her feet, and I
saw she was the woman who had pointed me out to the constable when I
had entered Gray's Inn on the morning after the murder. Cockran's face
was a study.
"You made a mistake," Quarles went on quietly. "I have worked it all out
in my own mind and I daresay there are some details missing. I will tell
you how I explain the mystery. Parrish, when in Italy, wronged some one
dear to you. You only heard of it afterwards. Personally you did not know
Parrish, but you found out what you could about him: that he was
connected with the law, that he lived in London, in one of the places
where lawyers do live. You determined to come to England for revenge. I
do not say you were not justified. I do not know the circumstances. That
was three years ago. An accident--was it the one at Basle, which occurred
about that time?--detained you, laid you aside for some months, perhaps.
You had not much money, you had to live, so your arrival in England was
delayed. When you got here, you took a post as waitress in Soho. Only in
your leisure time could you look for Mr. Parrish. At first, probably, you
knew nothing about the London Directory, and when you did, looked for the
name in the wrong part of it, and, of course, you would not ask questions
of any one. That might implicate you later on. At last you found him; saw
the name on the door. Possibly you have been waiting your opportunity for
some little time, but the other night it came. Of course, you could not
know there was a mistake. You heard Parrish speak of Italy, and when the
other man had departed you crept from your hiding place and struck your
blow; but you did not kill Parrish. Three years ago he was warned of his
danger, and got out of your way. He was warned that you had started for
England by Emanuele. Do you know him?"
The woman had stood tense and rigid, listening to this story of the
crime; now she collapsed.
"Emanuele!" she cried.
"I see you do know him," Quarles said. "You have my sympathy. It is
possible that the man Parrish deserved his fate, only it happens that
another has suffered in his place."
"It was my sister he wronged," said the woman.
"Was it fear that some evidence might be found against you which made you
point out a man whom you knew was innocent?" said Quarles.
She nodded, still sobbing.
"The rest is for you to manage," said Quarles, turning to the
inspector. "I suppose you are not likely to make any further mistakes.
This would all have been cleared up days ago if Wigan had not been
taken off the job."
I suppose Cockran felt a fool, as the professor intended he should.
There was little to be explained when I went to Chelsea later. Quarles's
reconstruction of the crime had showed me the lines along which he had
worked. The unopened letter from Rome had set him speculating with a view
to proving that the dead man was not Parrish; and whilst I had only
considered the change in character, he had had before him the possibility
of a separate identity.
"Still, I do not understand how you came to suspect the woman," I said.
"Her recognition of you was too prompt to carry conviction under the
circumstances," he answered. "The boy, who is in an office in Gray's Inn,
might have met you together. I have no doubt he did; but since the woman
had no business there, and if my theory were right, was concealed in
Parrish's chambers at the time, she could not have seen you, except in
the way I explained to her. Poor soul! I feel rather a cur for trapping
her, but you were in a tight hole, Wigan, and I had to get you out."
Evidence showing that Parrish was a heartless scoundrel, the jury found
extenuating circumstances for the woman, in spite of the fact that she
had murdered an innocent man, so she escaped the extreme penalty. I was
glad, although the strict justice of the verdict may be questioned. From
Italy, from Emanuele, who was the woman's cousin, we learnt that when
Parrish was in Italy he had a friend with him, an eccentric artist named
Langford. We found that an insurance company had an annuity in this name
which was not afterwards claimed. This fact, and the officials'
description of the man, left no doubt that the murdered man was Langford.
Emanuele had written two letters, as Quarles had surmised, and the first
had caused Parrish to get out of harm's way. Wishing to keep up his
chambers, he allowed Langford to occupy them; had perhaps left him the
money to pay the rent, the idea of danger to his friend probably never
occurring to him.
Naturally, Langford had not opened his letters, and, being an eccentric
and a recluse, had allowed people to call him Parrish without denying the
name when it happened that any one had to call him anything.
Since Parrish has never returned, even though the danger is past, it is
probable, I think, that he died abroad.
THE STRANGE CASE OF DANIEL HARDIMAN
Not infrequently I am put in charge of cases which are of small
importance and might well be left to a less experienced man. I thought
the mystery of Daniel Hardiman was such a case. I even went further and
imagined that it was given to me because I was a bit under a cloud over
the Parrish affair. Quarles jeered at my imagination and was interested
from the outset, perhaps because he had had rather more of the
Psychological Society than was good for him. Anyway, he traveled north
with me to meet the liner _Slavonic_.
On the passenger list was the name Daniel Hardiman. He had come on board
at Montevideo in company with his man, John Bennett, who appeared to be
half servant, half companion. They had only a small amount of personal
luggage, one trunk each, but several stout packing-cases of various sizes
had been stored away in the hold. Hardiman had a first-class cabin to
himself; his man traveled second-class, but spent much of his time in his
master's cabin; indeed, for the first few days of the voyage Hardiman was
not seen except at meal times.
It was said amongst the crew--probably the servant had mentioned the
fact--that they were returning to England after an absence of many years,
during which time they had lived much alone; and amongst the passengers
it was agreed that there was something curious about the pair. There was
speculation upon the promenade deck and in the smoking-room; the gossip
was a pleasant interlude in the monotony of a long voyage. At the end of
a week, however, Mr. Hardiman no longer stayed in his cabin. At first he
paced the deck, thoughtfully, only in the early morning or late in the
evening, but later was to be found in a deck-chair, either gazing fixedly
at the horizon or interested in the games of the children on board. One
sturdy youngster, when recovering a ball which had rolled to Hardiman's
feet, spoke to him. All the answer he got was a nod of the head, but the
boy had broken the ice, and two men afterwards scraped acquaintance with
the curious traveler. One was a Mr. Majendie, who was going to England on
business; the other Sir Robert Gibbs, a Harley Street specialist, who had
broken down with hard work, and was making the round trip for the benefit
of his health.
By wireless, when the ship was two days from Liverpool, came the news
that Hardiman had been murdered by his man-servant, and it was in
consequence of this message that Christopher Quarles and I had gone north
to meet the boat on its arrival.
When we went on board the captain gave us the outline of Hardiman's
behavior during the voyage as I have here set it down. Quarles asked him
at once whether he thought that all the passengers, after landing, could
be traced if necessary. The captain seemed to consider this rather a tall
order, but thought all those who could possibly have had access to Mr.
Hardiman might be traced.
"It is a pity we cannot forbid any one to land until we like," said the
"There is not so much mystery about it as all that," said the captain,
"although it isn't quite plain sailing. One of our passengers, a swell
doctor, who examined the body with our ship's doctor directly after the
discovery, will give you the benefit of his opinion, and I am detaining
another passenger, a Mr. Majendie."
"Then there is some doubt as to the servant's guilt?" I said.
"I don't think so, but you shall hear the whole story."
"First, we should like to see the body," said Quarles. "We might be
influenced unconsciously by your tale. It is well to come to the heart of
the matter with an open mind."
The captain sent for the ship's doctor and a stewardess, and with them we
went to the cabin, which had been kept locked.
The body, which lay in the berth where it had been found, an upper berth
with a porthole, had been washed and attended to by the stewardess. The
lower berth had been used by the traveler for some of his clothes--they
were still there, neatly folded. The dead man's trunk was on a sofa on
the opposite side of the cabin, a sofa which could be made into a third
berth if necessary. Except that the body had been attended to, the cabin
was just as it had been found.
"I took the stained sheets away," said the stewardess, "but I thought it
would be wiser not to move him from the upper berth."
"It is a pity he couldn't have been left just as he was," Quarles
answered; "you have no doubt washed away all the evidence."
He was a long time examining the wound, a particularly jagged one in the
neck, a stab rather than a cut, but with something of both in it.
"Has the--the knife been found?" Quarles asked.
"No," answered the captain. "You hesitate in your question a little. You
are certain it was a knife, I suppose?"
"Yes, why do you ask?"
"His man says it was a bullet."
"A bullet!" and Quarles looked back at the wound.
"The servant Bennett does not deny that he killed his master," said the
doctor; "but he persists in saying that he had no knife."
"Has a revolver been found?" I asked.
"No, and no one heard any report," said the captain. "I cannot make this
fellow Bennett out. He seems to me rather mad. Besides, there are one or
two curious points. Would you like to hear them now?"
"Please," said Quarles.
With sailor-like directness the story was told in a straightforward
narrative, destitute of trimmings of any kind. A steward had gone to Mr.
Hardiman's cabin to take him a weak brandy-and-water; he had done the
same first thing every morning during the voyage. He saw Hardiman lying
with his face toward the cabin, one arm hanging over the side of the
berth. There was no sign of a struggle. The clothes were not thrown back,
but there was a considerable quantity of blood. Curiously enough, the
porthole had been unscrewed and was open. The steward fetched Dr.
Williams, the ship's doctor, who said death had probably occurred five or
six hours previously, a statement Sir Robert Gibbs corroborated. There
was no knife anywhere.
"The time of death is important," the captain went on. "Bennett has
occupied a second-class cabin with a man named Dowler, and on the night
of the murder Dowler, having taken something which disagreed with him,
was awake all night, and he declares that Bennett never stirred out of
his bunk. If the doctors are right, then Dowler's evidence provides
Bennett with an alibi, of which, however, he shows no anxiety to take
advantage. This cabin trunk, Mr. Quarles"--and the captain lifted up the
lid as he spoke--"this trunk is all Mr. Hardiman's cabin luggage. There
are some papers, chiefly in a kind of shorthand, which you will no doubt
examine presently, and these stones, merely small chunks of rock, as far
as I can see, although Sir Robert Gibbs suggests they may have value.
There are similar stones in Bennett's trunk. There is a curious incident
in connection with these bits of stone. On the night after the murder one
of the middle watch saw a man come on deck and hastily fling something
overboard. At least, that was the intention, apparently, but as a fact,
either through agitation or a bad aim, the packet did not go overboard,
but landed on a coil of rope on the lower deck forward. It proved to be a
small canvas bag containing seven of these bits of rock, or, at any rate,
pieces like them. Now, the man on the watch is not inclined to swear to
it, but he believes the thrower was Majendie. Majendie denies it."
"You are an excellent witness, Captain," said Quarles as he took up two
or three of the bits of rock and looked at them. "Is Mr. Majendie annoyed
at not being allowed to land at once?"
"On the contrary, he is keen to give us all the help in his power. He is
a fairly well-known man on the other side, has means and position, and,
personally, I have little doubt that the watch was mistaken. You see, the
servant does not deny his guilt."
"Would Bennett be likely to be in the place where the watch saw this
man?" I asked.
"Not under ordinary circumstances, but if he had been trying to get into
the locked cabin he would be."
"I think if we could have a few words with Sir Robert Gibbs it would be
useful," said Quarles. "Have you the canvas bag of stones?"
"Yes, locked up in my cabin. I will send and ask Sir Robert to join
"And could you get a knife?" asked the professor. "Any old knife will do,
a rusty one for preference."
A few minutes later we were in the captain's cabin, and on the table was
the bag of stones and a rusty and much-worn table-knife. Dr. Williams
had just explained to us his reasons for fixing the time of death when
Sir Robert entered. He was a man with a pronounced manner, inclined to
take the lead in any company in which he found himself, and was very
certain of his own opinion. On the way to the cabin Quarles had
whispered to me to take the lead in asking questions, and to leave him
in the background as much as possible, so after the captain's short
introductions I began at once:
"I may take it, Sir Robert, that you agree with Dr. Williams as to the
time Hardiman had been dead when you saw the body?"
"And in your opinion the wound could not, under any circumstances, have
been caused by a bullet?"
"Certainly not," and he smiled at the futility of the question.
"The bullet might have been a peculiar one," I suggested, "different from
any with which we are familiar. The servant, who does not deny his guilt,
says it was a bullet."
"And I say it was not," Sir Robert answered. "No kind of bullet could
make such a wound. A knife with a point to it was used. The action would
be a stab and a pull sideways. I am of the opinion that the blow was
struck while the victim was in a deep sleep. I think Dr. Williams
agrees with me."
"You would otherwise have expected to find some signs of a
struggle?" I said.
"I should. It is quite possible, I think, that at times Mr. Hardiman had
recourse to a draught or a tablet to induce sleep."
"I understand that you had some conversation with Mr. Hardiman during the
voyage, Sir Robert. Were you struck by any peculiarity in him?"
"He was an eccentric man, but a man of parts undoubtedly. He told me very
little about himself, but I gathered that he had traveled extensively,
and out of the beaten track. I put down his difficulty in sustaining a
conversation to this fact. He seemed in good health--one of those wiry
men who can stand almost anything."
"Sir Robert, could it possibly have been a case of suicide?" Quarles
asked, suddenly leaning forward.
"Have you examined the wound carefully?" asked the doctor.
"If you will try to stab yourself like that you will see how impossible
it is. Besides, you forget that no knife has been found, and in a case of
suicide it would have been. I may add that the knife used was not in the
least like the one I see on the table there."
"It must have had a point, you think?" said Quarles.
"I do not think--I am certain."
"Did Mr. Hardiman ever say anything about these bits of rock to you?"
"Never," answered the doctor. "I think I suggested to the captain
that they might be valuable. I have no knowledge on the point, but I
cannot conceive a man like Hardiman carrying them about unless they
were of value."
"I take it he is a geologist," Quarles said carelessly.
Sir Robert would like to have been present throughout our inquiry, but
the professor firmly but courteously objected. He said it would not be
fair to those chiefly concerned, and he appealed to me to endorse his
opinion. The doctor had raised a spirit of antagonism in him. They were
both too dogmatic to agree easily.
The sailor of the watch was next interviewed, a good, honest seaman who
evidently had a wholesome dread of the law in any form. He thought it
was Mr. Majendie he had seen on the deck that night, but he would, not
swear to it.
"Are you sure it wasn't Bennett?" I asked.
"Ay, sir, I'm pretty sure of that."
"What is it that particularly makes you think it was Mr. Majendie?"
"I just think it, sir; I can't rightly say why."
"What did he do, exactly?" said Quarles. "Just show me--show me his
action. Here are the bits of rock in the bag; take the bag up and pretend
to pitch it into the sea, as he did."
The sailor took up the bag and did so. His pantomime was quite realistic.
"I note that you turn your back to us," said Quarles.
"Ay, sir, because his back was turned to me. It wasn't until he made the
action of throwing--just like that, it was--that I knew he had anything
in his hand."
"Did you call out to him?"
"No; he was there and gone directly."
"It was a bad throw, too?"
"Ay, sir, it was; he did it awkward, something like women throws when
they ain't used to throwing."
"That good fellow would feel far more uncomfortable in the witness-box
than most criminals do in the dock," said Quarles when the sailor had
gone. "He is as certain that it was Mr. Majendie as he is certain of
anything, but he is not going to commit himself. Shall we have a talk
with Mr. Majendie next? Let me question him, Wigan."
Majendie's appearance was in his favor. He might be a villain, but he
didn't look it. There was Southern warmth in his countenance and temper
in his dark eyes, but his smile was prepossessing.
"A sailor's absurd mistake has put you to great inconvenience, I fear,"
"The inconvenience is nothing," was the answer. "I court enquiry."
"Of course you were not on the deck that night?"
"It is Mr. Hardiman's past I want to get at," said the professor. "You
had some talk with him during the voyage; what did you think was his
business in life?"
"He was a traveler. I think he had been where no other civilized man has
been. He did not directly tell me so, but I fancy he had wandered in the
interior of Patagonia."
"Should you say he was a geologist?"
"No," said Majendie with a smile. "He showed me some pieces of rock he
had with him; indeed, I am suspected of flinging some of these bits of
rock away in that canvas bag I see there. Is it likely I should do
anything so foolish? It is part of my business to know something of bits
of rock and blue clay and the like, and unless I am much mistaken those
bits of rock are uncut diamonds."
"Diamonds!" I exclaimed.
"Yellow diamonds of a kind that are very rarely found," Majendie
answered. "I may be mistaken, but that is my opinion. If I am right, the
actual gem, when cut, would be comparatively small. It is enclosed, as it
were, in a thick casing of rock."
"Did Hardiman know this?" Quarles asked.
"I am not sure. In the course of conversation I told him that I knew
something about diamonds, and he asked me into his cabin to show me some
bits of rock he had in his trunk. He spoke of them as bits of rock, but
he may have known what they really were."
"Did he give you this invitation quite openly?" asked Quarles.
"Oh, yes. There were others sitting near us who must have overheard it. I
went with him, and gave him my opinion as I have given it to you. Of
course, there may not be a jewel at the heart of every bit of rock; no
doubt there are a great many quite useless bits in Hardiman's
"This is very interesting," said Quarles. "Would you look at the pieces
in that bag and tell us if any of them are useless."
Majendie spent some minutes in examining them, and then gave it as his
opinion that they all contained a jewel.
"Now that knife--"
"I thought no knife had been found," said Majendie.
"That has just been found on the ship," said Quarles. "It is an absurd
question, but as a matter of form I must ask it. Have you ever seen that
Majendie took it up and looked at it.
"Hardiman was apparently stabbed with a rusty knife," Quarles remarked.
"Stabbed! You could not stab any one with this, and certainly I have
never seen it before."
I did not understand why Quarles was passing this off as the real
weapon. He took it up, grasped it firmly, and stabbed the air with it.
"I don't know, it might--"
He shook his head and put the knife on the table again. Majendie took it
up and in his turn stabbed the air with it.
"Utterly impossible," he said. "This could not have been the knife used;
besides, there would surely be stains on it."
"I am inclined to think you are right," said Quarles. "You must forgive
the captain for detaining you, Mr. Majendie, and of course you can land
this afternoon. The captain wishes us to lunch on board; perhaps you
will join us?"
"With pleasure. So long as I am in London to-night no harm is done."
When he had gone Quarles turned to the captain.
"Pardon my impudence, but we must not lose sight of Majendie. You must
follow him this afternoon, Wigan, and locate him in London. You must
have him watched until we get to the bottom of this affair. Now let us
The man-servant proved to be a bundle of nerves, and it was hardly to be
wondered at if the story he told was true. A question or two set him
talking without any reticence apparently.
Time seemed to have lost half its meaning for him. He could not fix how
long he and his master had been away from England; many years was all he
could say. They had traveled much in South America, latterly in the wilds
of Patagonia. There they had fallen into the hands of savages, and for a
long time were not sure of their lives from hour to hour. Always Mr.
Hardiman seemed able to impress their captors that he was a dangerous
man to kill; fooled them, in fact, until they came to consider him a god.
Master and man were presently lodged in a temple, and were witnesses of
some horrible rites which they dared not interfere with. Finally, at a
great feast, Hardiman succeeded in convincing them that he was their
national and all-powerful deity, and that he had come to give them
victory over all their enemies. By his command the wooden figure of one
of their gods was taken from the temple, and, together with two curious
drums used for religious purposes, and other sacred things, was carried
through the forest to a certain spot which Hardiman indicated. The whole
company was then to go back three days' march, spend seven days in
religious feasting, and return. In the meanwhile he and his servant must
be left quite alone with these sacred things.
"I suppose they returned," Bennett went on, "but they did not find us.
They did not find anything. The spot my master had fixed upon was within
a day's march of help. We set out as soon as those devils had left us,
and, having got assistance, my master would go back and fetch the wooden
figure and the other things. They are in the cases in this ship."
"What was the main object of your master's travels?" I asked.
"He was writing a book about tribes and their customs."
"And he took a great interest in stones and bits of rock?"
"That was only recently, and I never understood it, sir. He put some in
my trunk and some in his own, but what they were for I do not know. I
don't suppose he did himself. He was always peculiar."
"Always or recently, do you mean?" Quarles asked.
"Always, but more so lately. Can you wonder after all we went through?
You can't imagine the horrors that were done in that heathen temple."
He told us some of them, but I shall not set them down here. It is enough
to say that human sacrifices were offered. The mere remembrance of
Bennett's narrative makes me shudder.
"It is a wonder it did not drive you both mad," said Quarles.
"That is what the master was afraid of," was the answer, "and it is the
cause of all this trouble. He did not seem to think it would affect me,
but he was very much afraid for himself."
"He told you so?"
"He did more than that. He said that if I saw he was going mad I was to
shoot him, and so--"
"Wait a minute," said Quarles, "when did he say this to you?"
"The first time was when we got those things from the place in the forest
where they had been left. Then he said it two or three times during the
voyage. The last time was when I was cutting his nails."
"Cutting his nails?" I said.
"Yes, sir. Mr. Hardiman could never cut the nails on his right hand. He
was very helpless with his left hand in things like that, always was. On
this particular day he said his hand was growing stronger, and declared
it all was because of will-power. He was quite serious about it, and then
he was suddenly afraid he was growing mad. 'Shoot me if I am going mad,
Bennett.' That is what he said."
"And how were you to know?" asked Quarles.
"He said I should know for certain when it happened, and I did. The next
evening he began telling me that we were bringing a lot of diamonds back
to England. He promised me more money than I had ever heard of. I should
have shot him then, only I wasn't carrying a revolver."
"So you did it later in the evening?"
"I cannot tell you exactly when I did it," the man answered. "I knew the
time had come, but I do not remember the actual doing of it. Only one
thing I am certain of--I didn't use a knife. He was always particular to
tell me to shoot him."
"You are sure you did kill him?" I said.
"Shot him--yes. I did not stab him. That is a mistake."
"Do you know that your cabin companion says you did not leave your bunk
at all that night?" said Quarles.
"That must be another mistake," was the answer.
When he had gone the professor remarked that John Bennett was far nearer
an asylum than a prison.
"If Hardiman had been shot I should think the servant had shot him, but
he was not shot. You see, Captain, the case is not so easy. These bits of
rock complicate it, and we must keep an eye on Majendie."
There was a man I knew well attached to the Liverpool police, and I was
fortunate enough to get hold of him to follow Majendie to London that
afternoon. Bennett, having virtually confessed to the crime, was kept in
custody, and I was free to remain with Quarles and examine the cases
which Hardiman had brought to England. After certain formalities had been
complied with, we carried out this examination in one of the shipping
company's sheds. There were many things of extreme interest of which I
could write a lengthy account, but they had no bearing on our business.
The things which concerned us were the Patagonian relics.
The two drums did not interest the professor much, but the figure of the
god did. It was about three-quarters life size, roughly carved into a
man's shape. The wood was light in weight and in color, but had been
smeared to a darker hue over the breast and loins. One arm hung by the
figure's side, was, indeed, only roughly indicated; but the other,
slightly bent, was stretched out in front of the figure. There was
nothing actually horrible about the image, but, remembering Bennett's
description of some of the rites performed in that temple, it became
sinister enough. Quarles's inspection took a long time, and during it I
do not think he uttered a word.
"I think we may go back to Chelsea, Wigan," he said at last.
Late on the following night we were in the empty room. At the professor's
suggestion I repeated the whole story for Zena's benefit, although I
fancy Quarles wanted to have a definite picture before his mind, as it
were, and to find out whether any particular points had struck me. Zena's
comment when I had finished was rather surprising.
"This Mr. Majendie must be a clumsy thrower," she said.
Quarles sat up in his chair as if his interest in the conversation had
only become keen at that moment.
"She hits the very heart of the mystery, Wigan."
"There is no certainty that it was Majendie," I replied.
"Whether it was or not is immaterial for the moment. The fact remains
that some one who was anxious to get rid of incriminating evidence was so
clumsy that he threw it where any one could pick it up. Not one man in a
thousand would have done that, no matter what state of agitation he was
in. The packet was deliberately thrown away, remember; it was not done in
a moment of sudden fear."
"I am all attention to hear what theory you base upon it," I returned.
"We will begin with the wound," said Quarles. "Sir Robert Gibbs and Dr.
Williams agree that it could not have been self-inflicted. Sir Robert
suggested that I should try to stab myself in the same way and see how
impossible it was. Remember it was a stab and a pull of the blade to one
side. It was impossible for a right-handed man, difficult even for a
left-handed one, but not impossible. That was the first point I made a
mental note of."
"Why did you not speak of the possibility?"
"Chiefly, I think, because I was convinced that Sir Robert expected me to
do so, was waiting for me to do so, in fact. He is far too cute a man not
to have considered the possibility, and was prepared to prove that
Hardiman was a right-handed man, as we know he was from his servant. In
all probability Sir Robert knew that Bennett had to cut his master's
nails. I was not disposed to give the doctor such an opening as that,
although no doubt he thought me a fool for not thinking of it."
"Then we do away with the theory of suicide?" I said.
"Well, the absence of any weapon appears to do that," said Quarles. "What
was the weapon? A knife of some kind, a rusty knife and rather jagged, I
fancy. The wound suggested that it was jagged, and in spite of the
washing my lens revealed traces of rust. Rather a curious knife to commit
murder with. That was my second mental note. We had to be prepared for a
curious personality somewhere in the business."
"Mr. Majendie," I said.
"He is hardly such an abnormal individual as the servant Bennett. We will
consider Bennett first. His story is a straightforward one, nervously
told, dramatically told. We might easily assume that imagination had much
to do with that story were it not for the contents of those
packing-cases. They are corroborative evidence. We may grant that the
man's recent experiences have had their effect upon him, have laid bare
his nerves, as it were, but since the most unlikely part of his story is
true we may assume that the rest of it is. We need not go over it again
in detail. The man was evidently attached to his master, and was prepared
to shoot him if he exhibited signs of madness. Considering the state of
his own nerves, I can believe that Bennett watched for these signs, and
felt convinced of his master's madness when he spoke of a wealth of
diamonds. Bennett knew they had no diamonds in their possession. He only
knew of those bits of rock. So he determined to shoot Hardiman. However,
I am convinced that he did not leave his cabin that night. Sleep
prevented his carrying out the intention, but when in the morning he
found that his master was dead--murdered--he immediately translated his
intention into action, and concluded that he had done it. There was no
one else who would be likely to murder him. That he should do it was
natural under the circumstances. He would not look upon it as a crime. He
had only carried out his instructions to the letter, as I have little
doubt he has been accustomed to do for years."
"It is a theory, of course, but--"
"Oh, it is more than a theory now," said Quarles, interrupting me. "He
admits his guilt, yet we know that Hardiman was stabbed, not shot. We
conclude, therefore, that Bennett, although he fully intended to kill
his master, did not do so."
"So we come to Majendie," I said.
"Yes, and to the yellow diamonds which Bennett knew nothing about. I
admit that Majendie was a distinct surprise to me. He had to prove that
the sailor of the watch was mistaken, that he was not the person who
threw the stones away. How does he do it? By asking whether he, an expert
in diamonds, would be likely to throw away what he knew to be valuable.
This was a very ingenious argument. He did not deny that he knew Hardiman
had these stones in his possession, because he believed that people must
have seen him go into Hardiman's cabin. We have his statement that
Hardiman invited him to do so, and that the invitation was given in the
hearing of others. So he asked a perfectly simple question to show that
the sailor was mistaken."
"Evidently you do not believe that the sailor was mistaken."
"We will go on considering Majendie," said Quarles. "Now, when he took up
the knife and imitated my action of stabbing the air with it I made a
discovery. He did so with his left hand. Since my first mental note
concerned a left-handed man the coincidence is surprising. The sailor in
his pantomime had used the right hand. Majendie's action was unexpected,
and for a time I did not see its significance. But let us suppose for a
moment that Majendie did throw the bag of stones away. He might argue
that some one might possibly see the action, and would note that it was
done by a left-handed man, so used his right hand to deceive any one who
might be there. Hence his bad aim."
I shook my head.
"Wait," said Quarles. "Some one had stolen those bits of rock, else how
came they in that canvas bag, and why were they thrown away? Majendie
told us that only certain of those stones had at the heart of them a
diamond, yet he also said that all those in the bag had. That looks as if
they had been picked out and stolen by an expert, and when we remember
that Hardiman had shown him the contents of the trunk suspicion points
very strongly to Majendie as the thief. Of course, when Hardiman was
found dead, he would get rid of evidence which must incriminate him. We
must see Majendie, Wigan, and ask him a few questions."
"Then he did not kill Hardiman?" said Zena.
"I do not think so."
"Nobody. Hardiman was mad and committed suicide, and in a particular way.
Think of Bennett's description of that Patagonian temple, Wigan. Those
savages were persuaded that Hardiman was a god; possibly human sacrifices
were offered to him, and he dared not interfere. That was sufficient to
start a man on the road to madness. That wooden god he brought home tells
us something. It was the left arm which was stretched out, and in the
closed fist was a hole into which a knife had been fixed, a symbol of
vengeance and sacrifice, a symbol, mind you, not a weapon which was
actually used. I imagine that time had caused it to become rusty and
jagged. Now, I think Hardiman removed that knife before packing the
figure, kept it near him, because obsessed with it; went mad, in short.
We know from Bennett that he believed his left hand was becoming
stronger, and I believe his madness compelled him to practise his left
hand until it became strong enough to grasp the knife firmly and strike
the blow. Since the god was left-handed, his priests were probably so
too, and the victims would be slain with the left hand. There was some
religious significance attached to the fact, no doubt, and Hardiman's
madness would compel him to be exact."
"But what became of the knife?" I asked.
"The porthole was found open," said Quarles. "I think he deliberately put
it out of the porthole, his madness suggesting to him that no one should
know how he died. He would have strength enough to do this, for he died
quietly, bled to death, in fact, and gradually fell into a comatose
condition, hence no sign of a struggle. It is impossible to conceive what
devilish power may lurk about those things which have been used for
devilish purposes. I am very strong on this point, as you know, Wigan."
Of course it was quite impossible to prove whether Quarles was right
about the knife, but he was correct as regards Majendie, who had hoped to
get possession of a few of these stones without Hardiman missing them,
and then, when the unexpected tragedy happened, had tried to get rid of
them, using his right hand to throw them away. Amongst the dead man's
papers there was a will providing amply for his servant Bennett--who, I
may add, recovered his normal health after a time--and leaving his relics
to different museums, and any other property he was possessed of to
charities. I believe the yellow diamonds proved less valuable than
Majendie imagined, but at any rate the various charities benefited
THE CRIME IN THE YELLOW TAXI
One's last adventure is apt to assume the place of first importance, the
absorption in the details is so recent and the gratification at solving
the problems still fresh. Used to his methods as I had become, Quarles's
handling of the Daniel Hardiman case was constantly in my mind until I
had become acquainted with the yellow taxi. I will not say his
deductions in the taxi affair were more clever--you must judge that--but
I am sure they were more of a mental strain to him, for he lost his
temper with Zena.
We had been arguing various points, and seemed to have exhausted all
"Give a dog a bad name and hang him," said Zena, breaking the silence
which had seemed to indicate that our discussion was at an end.
"I repeat that had he been in a different position he would have been
arrested at once," said Quarles testily; "but because he happens to be a
prominent Member of Parliament, goes everywhere which is anywhere, and
knows everybody who is anybody, it suits people to forget he is a
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