The Woman in the Alcove
Anna Katharine Green
Part 4 out of 4
Both listened, Mr. Grey with his head turned toward the launch
and Sweetwater with his eye on the cavernous space, sharply
outlined by the piles, which the falling tide now disclosed under
each contiguous building. Goods had been directly shipped from
these stores in the old days. This he had learned in the village.
How shipped he had not been able to understand from his previous
survey of the building. But he thought he could see now. At low
tide, or better, at half-tide, access could be got to the floor
of the extension and, if this floor held a trap, the mystery
would be explainable. So would be the hovering boat--the
signal-light and--yes! this sound overheard of steps on a
"I hear nothing," whispered Mr. Grey from the other end. "The
boat is still there, but not a man has dipped an oar."
"They will soon," returned Sweetwater as a smothered sound of
clanking iron reached his ears from the hollow spaces before him.
"Duck your head, sir; I'm going to row in under this portion of
Mr. Grey would have protested and with very good reason. There
was scarcely a space of three feet between them and the boards
overhead. But Sweetwater had so immediately suited action to word
that he had no choice.
They were now in utter darkness, and Mr. Grey's thoughts must
have been peculiar as he crouched over the stern, hardly knowing
what to expect or whether this sudden launch into darkness was
for the purpose of flight or pursuit. But enlightenment came
soon. The sound of a man's tread in the building above was every
moment becoming more perceptible, and while wondering, possibly,
at his position, Mr. Grey naturally turned his head as nearly as
he could in the direction of these sounds, and was staring with
blank eyes into the darkness, when Sweetwater, leaning toward
"Look up! There's a trap. In a minute he'll open it. Mark him,
but don't breathe a word, and I'll get you out of this all
Mr. Grey attempted some answer, but it was lost in the prolonged
creak of slowly-moving hinges somewhere over their heads. Spaces,
which had looked dark, suddenly looked darker; hearing was
satisfied, but not the eye. A man's breath panting with exertion
testified to a near-by presence; but that man was working without
a light in a room with shuttered windows, and Mr. Grey probably
felt that he knew very little more than before, when suddenly,
most unexpectedly, to him at least, a face started out of that
overhead darkness; a face so white, with every feature made so
startlingly distinct by the strong light Sweetwater had thrown
upon it, that it seemed the only thing in the world to the two
men beneath. In another moment it had vanished, or rather the
light which had revealed it.
"What's that? Are you there?" came down from above in hoarse and
none too encouraging tones.
There was none to answer; Sweetwater, with a quick pull on the
oars, had already shot the boat out of its dangerous harbor.
MOONLIGHT--AND A CLUE
"Are you satisfied? Have you got what you wanted?" asked
Sweetwater, when they were well away from the shore and the voice
they had heard calling at intervals from the chasm they had left.
"Yes. You're a good fellow. It could not have been better
managed." Then, after a pause too prolonged and thoughtful to
please Sweetwater, who was burning with curiosity if not with
some deeper feeling: "What was that light you burned? A match?"
Sweetwater did not answer. He dared not. How speak of the
electric torch he as a detective carried in his pocket? That
would be to give himself away. He therefore let this question
slip by and put in one of his own.
"Are you ready to go back now, sir? Are we all done here?" This
with his ear turned and his eye bent forward; for the adventure
they had interrupted was not at an end, whether their part in it
was or not.
Mr. Grey hesitated, his glances following those of Sweetwater.
"Let us wait," said he, in a tone which surprised Sweetwater. "If
he is meditating an escape, I must speak to him before he reaches
the launch. At all hazards," he added after another moment's
"All right, sir--How do you propose--"
His words were interrupted by a shrill whistle from the direction
of the bank. Promptly, and as if awaiting this signal, the two
men in the rowboat before them dipped their oars and pulled for
the shore, taking the direction of the manufactory.
Sweetwater said nothing, but held himself in readiness.
Mr. Grey was equally silent, but the lines of his face seemed to
deepen in the moonlight as the boat, gliding rapidly through the
water, passed them within a dozen boat-lengths and slipped into
the opening under the manufactory building.
"Now row!" he cried. "Make for the launch. We'll intercept them
on their return."
Sweetwater, glowing with anticipation, bent to his work. The boat
beneath them gave a bound and in a few minutes they were far out
on the waters of the bay.
"They're coming!" he whispered eagerly, as he saw Mr. Grey
looking anxiously back. "How much farther shall I go?"
"Just within hailing distance of the launch," was Mr. Grey's
Sweetwater, gaging the distance with a glance, stopped at the
proper point and rested on his oars. But his thoughts did not
rest. He realized that he was about to witness an interview whose
importance he easily recognized. How much of it would he hear?
What would be the upshot and what was his full duty in the case?
He knew that this man Wellgood was wanted by the New York police,
but he was possessed with no authority to arrest him, even if he
had the power.
"Something more than I bargained for," he inwardly commented.
"But I wanted excitement, and now I have got it. If only I can
keep my head level, I may get something out of this, if not all I
Meantime the second boat was very nearly on them. He could mark
the three figures and pick out Wellgood's head from among the
rest. It had a resolute air; the face on which, to his evident
discomfiture, the moon shone, wore a look which convinced the
detective that this was no patent-medicine manufacturer, nor even
a caterer's assistant, but a man of nerve and resources, the
same, indeed, whom he had encountered in Mr. Fairbrother's house,
with such disastrous, almost fatal, results to himself.
The discovery, though an unexpected one, did not lessen his sense
of the extreme helplessness of his own position. He could
witness, but he could not act; follow Mr. Grey's orders, but
indulge in none of his own. The detective must continue to be
lost in the valet, though it came hard and woke a sense of shame
in his ambitious breast.
Meanwhile Wellgood had seen them and ordered his men to cease
"Give way, there," he shouted. "We're for the launch and in a
"There's some one here who wants to speak to you, Mr. Wellgood,"
Sweetwater called out, as respectfully as he could. "Shall I
mention your name?" he asked of Mr. Grey.
"No, I will do that myself." And raising his voice, he accosted
the other with these words: "I am the man, Percival Grey, of
Darlington Manor, England. I should like to say a word to you
before you embark."
A change, quick as lightning and almost as dangerous, passed over
the face Sweetwater was watching with such painful anxiety; but
as the other added nothing to his words and seemed to be merely
waiting, he shrugged his shoulders and muttered an order to his
rowers to proceed.
In another moment the sterns of the two small craft swung
together, but in such a way that, by dint of a little skilful
manipulation on the part of Wellgood's men, the latter's back was
toward the moon.
Mr. Grey leaned toward Wellgood, and his face fell into shadow
"Bah!" thought the detective, "I should have managed that myself.
But if I can not see I shall at least hear."
But he deceived himself in this. The two men spoke in such low
whispers that only their intensity was manifest. Not a word came
to Sweetwater's ears.
"Bah!" he thought again, "this is bad."
But he had to swallow his disappointment, and more. For presently
the two men, so different in culture, station and appearance,
came, as it seemed, to an understanding, and Wellgood, taking his
hand from his breast, fumbled in one of his pockets and drew out
something which he handed to Mr. Grey.
This made Sweetwater start and peer with still greater anxiety at
every movement, when to his surprise both bent forward, each over
his own knee, doing something so mysterious he could get no clue
to its nature till they again stretched forth their hands to each
other and he caught the gleam of paper and realized that they
were exchanging memoranda or notes.
These must have been important, for each made an immediate
endeavor to read his slip by turning it toward the moon's rays.
That both were satisfied was shown by their after movements.
Wellgood put his slip into his pocket, and without further word
to Mr. Grey motioned his men to row away. They did so with a
will, leaving a line of silver in their wake. Mr. Grey, on the
contrary, gave no orders. He still held his slip and seemed to be
dreaming. But his eye was on the shore, and he did not even turn
when sounds from the launch denoted that she was under way.
Sweetwater; looking at this morsel of paper with greedy eyes,
dipped his oars and began pulling softly toward that portion of
the beach where a small and twinkling light defined the
boat-house. He hoped Mr. Grey would speak, hoped that in some
way, by some means, he might obtain a clue to his patron's
thoughts. But the English gentleman sat like an image and did not
move till a slight but sudden breeze, blowing in-shore, seized
the paper in his hand and carried it away, past Sweetwater, who
vainly sought to catch it as it went fluttering by, into the
water ahead, where it shone for a moment, then softly
Sweetwater uttered a cry, so did Mr. Grey.
"Is it anything you wanted?" called out the former, leaning over
the bow of the boat and making a dive at the paper with his oar.
"Yes; but if it's gone, it's gone," returned the other with some
feeling. "Careless of me, very careless,--but I was thinking of--
He stopped; he was greatly agitated, but he did not encourage
Sweetwater in any further attempts to recover the lost
memorandum. Indeed, such an effort would have been fruitless; the
paper was gone, and there was nothing left for them but to
continue their way. As they did so it would have been hard to
tell in which breast chagrin mounted higher. Sweetwater had lost
a clue in a thousand, and Mr. Greywell, no one knew what he had
lost. He said nothing and plainly showed by his changed manner
that he was in haste to land now and be done with this doubtful
When they reached the boat-house Mr. Grey left Sweetwater to pay
for the boat and started at once for the hotel.
The man in charge had the bow of the boat in hand, preparatory to
pulling it up on the boards. As Sweetwater turned toward him he
caught sight of the side of the boat, shining brightly in the
moonlight. He gave a start and, with a muttered ejaculation,
darted forward and picked off a small piece of paper from the
dripping keel. It separated in his hand and a part of it escaped
him, but the rest he managed to keep by secreting it in his palm,
where it still clung, wet and possibly illegible, when he came
upon Mr. Grey again in the hotel office.
"Here's your pay," said that gentleman, giving him a bill. "I am
very glad I met you. You have served me remarkably well."
There was an anxiety in his face and a hurry in his movements
which struck Sweetwater.
"Does this mean that you are through with me?" asked Sweetwater.
"That you have no further call for my services?"
"Quite so," said the gentleman. "I'm going to take the train
to-night. I find that I still have time."
Sweetwater began to look alive.
Uttering hasty thanks, he rushed away to his own room and,
turning on the gas, peeled off the morsel of paper which had
begun to dry on his hand. If it should prove to be the blank end!
If the written part were the one which had floated off! Such
disappointments had fallen to his lot! He was not unused to them.
But he was destined to better luck this time. The written end had
indeed disappeared, but there was one word left, which he had no
sooner read than he gave a low cry and prepared to leave for New
York on the same train as Mr. Grey.
The word was--diamond.
I indulged in some very serious thoughts after Mr. Grey's
departure. A fact was borne in upon me to which I had hitherto
closed my prejudiced eyes, but which I could no longer ignore,
whatever confusion it brought or however it caused me to change
my mind on a subject which had formed one of the strongest bases
to the argument by which I had sought to save Mr. Durand. Miss
Grey cherished no such distrust of her father as I, in my
ignorance of their relations, had imputed to her in the early
hours of my ministrations. This you have already seen in my
account of their parting. Whatever his dread, fear or remorse,
there was no evidence that she felt toward him anything but love
and confidence: but love and confidence from her to him were in
direct contradiction to the doubts I had believed her to have
expressed in the half-written note handed to Mrs. Fairbrother in
the alcove. Had I been wrong, then, in attributing this scrawl to
her? It began to look so. Though forbidden to allow her to speak
on the one tabooed subject, I had wit enough to know that nothing
would keep her from it, if the fate of Mrs. Fairbrother occupied
any real place in her thoughts.
Yet when the opportunity was given me one morning of settling
this fact beyond all doubt, I own that my main feeling was one of
dread. I feared to see this article in my creed destroyed, lest I
should lose confidence in the whole. Yet conscience bade me face
the matter boldly, for had I not boasted to myself that my one
desire was the truth?
I allude to the disposition which Miss Grey showed on the morning
of the third day to do a little surreptitious writing. You
remember that a specimen of her handwriting had been asked for by
the inspector, and once had been earnestly desired by myself. Now
I seemed likely to have it, if I did not open my eyes too widely
to the meaning of her seemingly chance requests. A little pencil
dangled at the end of my watch-chain. Would I let her see it, let
her hold it in her hand for a minute? it was so like one she used
to have. Of course I took it off, of course I let her retain it a
little while in her hand. But the pencil was not enough. A few
minutes later she asked for a book to look at--I sometimes let
her look at pictures. But the book bothered her--she would look
at it later; would I give her something to mark the place--that
postal over there. I gave her the postal. She put it in the book
and I, who understood her thoroughly, wondered what excuse she
would now find for sending me into the other room. She found one
very soon, and with a heavily-beating heart I left her with that
pencil and postal. A soft laugh from her lips drew me back. She
was holding up the postal.
"See! I have written a line to him! Oh, you good, good nurse, to
let me! You needn't look so alarmed. It hasn't hurt me one bit."
I knew that it had not; knew that such an exertion was likely to
be more beneficial than hurtful to her, or I should have found
some excuse for deterring her. I endeavored to make my face more
natural. As she seemed to want me to take the postal in my hand I
drew near and took it.
"The address looks very shaky," she laughed. "I think you will
have to put it in an envelope."
I looked at it,--I could not help it,--her eye was on me, and I
could not even prepare my mind for the shock of seeing it like or
totally unlike the writing of the warning. It was totally unlike;
so distinctly unlike that it was no longer possible to attribute
those lines to her which, according to Mr. Durand's story, had
caused Mrs. Fairbrother to take off her diamond.
"Why, why!" she cried. "You actually look pale. Are you afraid
the doctor will scold us? It hasn't hurt me nearly so much as
lying here and knowing what he would give for one word from me."
"You are right, and I am foolish," I answered with all the spirit
left in me. "I should be glad--I am glad that you have written
these words. I will copy the address on an envelope and send it
out in the first mail."
"Thank you," she murmured, giving me back my pencil with a sly
smile. "Now I can sleep. I must have roses in my cheeks when papa
And she bade fair to have ruddier roses than myself, for
conscience was working havoc in my breast. The theory I had built
up with such care, the theory I had persisted in urging upon the
inspector in spite of his rebuke, was slowly crumbling to pieces
in my mind with the falling of one of its main pillars. With the
warning unaccounted for in the manner I have stated, there was a
weakness in my argument which nothing could make good. How could
I tell the inspector, if ever I should be so happy or so
miserable as to meet his eye again? Humiliated to the dust, I
could see no worth now in any of the arguments I had advanced. I
flew from one extreme to the other, and was imputing perfect
probity to Mr. Grey and an honorable if mysterious reason for all
his acts, when the door opened and he came in. Instantly my last
doubt vanished. I had not expected him to return so soon.
He was glad to be back; that I could see, but there was no other
gladness in him. I had looked for some change in his manner and
appearance,--that is, if he returned at all,--but the one I saw
was not a cheerful one, even after he had approached his
daughter's bedside and found her greatly improved. She noticed
this and scrutinized him strangely. He dropped his eyes and
turned to leave the room, but was stopped by her loving cry; he
came back and leaned over her.
"What is it, father? You are fatigued, worried--"
"No, no, quite well," he hastily assured her. "But you! are you
as well as you seem?"
"Indeed, yes. I am gaining every day. See! see! I shall soon be
able to sit up. Yesterday I read a few words."
He started, with a side glance at me which took in a table near
by on which a little book was lying.
"Oh, a book?"
"Yes, and--and Arthur's letters."
The father flushed, lifted himself, patted her arm tenderly and
hastened into another room.
Miss Grey's eyes followed him longingly, and I heard her give
utterance to a soft sigh. A few hours before, this would have
conveyed to my suspicious mind deep and mysterious meanings; but
I was seeing everything now in a different light, and I found
myself no longer inclined either to exaggerate or to misinterpret
these little marks of filial solicitude. Trying to rejoice over
the present condition of my mind, I was searching in the hidden
depths of my nature for the patience of which I stood in such
need, when every thought and feeling were again thrown into
confusion by the receipt of another communication from the
inspector, in which he stated that something had occurred to
bring the authorities round to my way of thinking and that the
test with the stiletto was to be made at once.
Could the irony of fate go further! I dropped the letter half
read, querying if it were my duty to let the inspector know of
the flaw I had discovered in my own theory, before I proceeded
with the attempt I had suggested when I believed in its complete
soundness. I had not settled the question when I took the letter
up again. Re-reading its opening sentence, I was caught by the
word "something." It was a very indefinite one, yet was capable
of covering a large field. It must cover a large field, or it
could not have produced such a change in the minds of these men,
conservative from principle and in this instance from discretion.
I would be satisfied with that word something and quit further
thinking. I was weary of it. The inspector was now taking the
initiative, and I was satisfied to be his simple instrument and
no more. Arrived at this conclusion, however, I read the rest of
the letter. The test was to go on, but under different
conditions. It was no longer to be made at my own discretion and
in the up-stairs room; it was to be made at luncheon hour and in
Mr. Grey's private dining-room, where, if by any chance Mr. Grey
found himself outraged by the placing of this notorious weapon
beside his plate, the blame could be laid on the waiter, who,
mistaking his directions, had placed it on Mr. Grey's table when
it was meant for Inspector Dalzell's, who was lunching in the
adjoining room. It was I, however, who was to do the placing.
With what precautions and under what circumstances will presently
Fortunately, the hour set was very near. Otherwise I do not know
how I could have endured the continued strain of gazing on my
patient's sweet face, looking up at me from her pillow, with a
shadow over its beauty which had not been there before her
And that father! I could hear him pacing the library floor with a
restlessness that struck me as being strangely akin to my own
inward anguish of impatience and doubt. What was he dreading?
What was it I had seen darkening his face and disturbing his
manner, when from time to time he pushed open the communicating
door and cast an anxious glance our way, only to withdraw again
without uttering a word. Did he realize that a crisis was
approaching, that danger menaced him, and from me? No, not the
latter, for his glance never strayed to me, but rested solely on
his daughter. I was, therefore, not connected with the
disturbance in his thoughts. As far as that was concerned I could
proceed fearlessly; I had not him to dread, only the event. That
I did dread, as any one must who saw Miss Grey's face during
these painful moments and heard that restless tramp in the room
At last the hour struck,--the hour at which Mr. Grey always
descended to lunch. He was punctuality itself, and under ordinary
circumstances I could depend upon his leaving the room within
five minutes of the stroke of one. But would he be as prompt
to-day? Was he in the mood for luncheon? Would he go down stairs
at all? Yes, for the tramp, tramp stopped; I heard him
approaching his daughter's door for a last look in and managed to
escape just in time to procure what I wanted and reach the room
below before he came.
My opportunity was short, but I had time to see two things:
first, that the location of his seat had been changed so that his
back was to the door leading into the adjoining room; secondly,
that this door was ajar. The usual waiter was in the room and
showed no surprise at my appearance, I having been careful to
have it understood that hereafter Miss Grey's appetite was to be
encouraged by having her soup served from her father's table by
her father's own hands, and that I should be there to receive it.
"Mr. Grey is coming," said I, approaching the waiter and handing
him the stiletto loosely wrapped in tissue paper. "Will you be
kind enough to place this at his plate, just as it is? A man gave
it to me for Mr. Grey; said we were to place it there."
The waiter, suspecting nothing, did as he was bidden, and I had
hardly time to catch up the tray laden with dishes, which I saw
awaiting me on a side-table, when Mr. Grey came in and was
ushered to his seat.
The soup was not there, but I advanced with my tray and stood
waiting; not too near, lest the violent beating of my heart
should betray me. As I did so the waiter disappeared and the door
behind us opened. Though Mr. Grey's eye had fallen on the
package, and I saw him start, I darted one glance at the room
thus disclosed, and saw that it held two tables. At one, the
inspector and some one I did not know sat eating; at the other a
man alone, whose back was to us all, and who seemingly was
entirely disconnected with the interests of this tragic moment.
All this I saw in an instant,--the next my eyes were fixed on Mr.
He had reached out his hand to the package and his features
showed an emotion I hardly understood.
"What's this?" he murmured, feeling it with wonder, I should
almost say anger. Suddenly he pulled off the wrapper, and my
heart stood still in expectancy. If he quailed--and how could he
help doing so if guilty--what a doubt would be removed from my
own breast, what an impediment from police action! But he did not
quail; he simply uttered an exclamation of intense anger, and
laid the weapon back on the table without even taking the
precaution of covering it up. I think he muttered an oath, but
there was no fear in it, not a particle.
My disappointment was so great, my humiliation so unbounded,
that, forgetting myself in my dismay, I staggered back and let
the tray with all its contents slip from my hands. The crash that
followed stopped Mr. Grey in the act of rising. But it did
something more. It awoke a cry from the adjoining room which I
shall never forget. While we both started and turned to see from
whom this grievous sound had sprung, a man came stumbling toward
us with his hands before his eyes and this name wild on his lips:
Mrs. Fairbrother's name! and the man--
Was he Wellgood? Sears? Who? A lover of the woman certainly; that
was borne in on us by the passion of his cry:
But how here? and why such fury in Mr. Grey's face and such
amazement in that of the inspector?
This question was not to be answered offhand. Mr. Grey,
advancing, laid a finger on the man's shoulder. "Come," said he,
"we will have our conversation in another room."
The man, who, in dress and appearance looked oddly out of place
in those gorgeous rooms, shook off the stupor into which he had
fallen and started to follow the Englishman. A waiter crossed
their track with the soup for our table. Mr. Grey motioned him
"Take that back," said he. "I have some business to transact with
this gentleman before I eat. I'll ring when I want you."
Then they entered where I was. As the door closed I caught sight
of the inspector's face turned earnestly toward me. In his eyes I
read my duty, and girded up my heart, as it were, to meet--what?
In that moment it was impossible to tell.
The next enlightened me. With a total ignoring of my presence,
due probably to his great excitement, Mr. Grey turned on his
companion the moment he had closed the door and, seizing him by
the collar, cried:
"Fairbrother, you villain, why have you called on your wife like
this? Are you murderer as well as thief?"
Fairbrother! this man? Then who was he who was being nursed back
to life on the mountains beyond Santa Fe? Sears? Anything seemed
possible in that moment.
Meanwhile, dropping his hand from the other's throat as suddenly
as he had seized it, Mr. Grey caught up the stiletto from the
table where he had flung it, crying: "Do you recognize this?"
Ah, then I saw guilt!
In a silence worse than any cry, this so-called husband of the
murdered woman, the man on whom no suspicion had fallen, the man
whom all had thought a thousand miles away at the time of the
deed, stared at the weapon thrust under his eyes, while over his
face passed all those expressions of fear, abhorrence and
detected guilt which, fool that I was, I had expected to see
reflected in response to the same test in Mr. Grey's equable
The surprise and wonder of it held me chained to the spot. I was
in a state of stupefaction, so that I scarcely noted the broken
fragments at my feet. But the intruder noticed them. Wrenching
his gaze from the stiletto which Mr. Grey continued to hold out,
he pointed to the broken cup and saucer, muttering:
"That is what startled me into this betrayal--the noise of
breaking china. I can not bear it since--"
He stopped, bit his lip and looked around him with an air of
"Since you dropped the cups at your wife's feet in Mr. Ramsdell's
alcove," finished Mr. Grey with admirable self-possession.
"I see that explanations from myself are not in order," was the
grim retort, launched with the bitterest sarcasm. Then as the
full weight of his position crushed in on him, his face assumed
an aspect startling to my unaccustomed eyes, and, thrusting his
hand into his pocket he drew forth a small box which he placed in
Mr. Grey's hands.
"The Great Mogul," he declared simply.
It was the first time I had heard this diamond so named.
Without a word that gentleman opened the box, took one look at
the contents, assumed a satisfied air, and carefully deposited
the recovered gem in his own pocket. As his eyes returned to the
man before him, all the passion of the latter burst forth.
"It was not for that I killed her!" cried he. "It was because she
defied me and flaunted her disobedience in my very face. I would
do it again, yet--"
Here his voice broke and it was in a different tone and with a
total change of manner he added: "You stand appalled at my
depravity. You have not lived my life." Then quickly and with a
touch of sullenness: "You suspected me because of the stiletto.
It was a mistake, using that stiletto. Otherwise, the plan was
good. I doubt if you know now how I found my way into the alcove,
possibly under your very eyes; certainly, under the eyes of many
who knew me."
"I do not. It is enough that you entered it; that you confess
Here Mr. Grey stretched his hand toward the electric button.
"No, it is not enough." The tone was fierce, authoritative. "Do
not ring the bell, not yet. I have a fancy to tell you how I
managed that little affair."
Glancing about, he caught up from a near-by table a small brass
tray. Emptying it of its contents, he turned on us with
drawn-down features and an obsequious air so opposed to his
natural manner that it was as if another man stood before us.
"Pardon my black tie," he muttered, holding out the tray toward
The room turned with me. It was he, then, the great financier,
the multimillionaire, the husband of the magnificent Grizel, who
had entered Mr. Ramsdell's house as a waiter!
Mr. Grey did not show surprise, but he made a gesture, when
instantly the tray was thrown aside and the man resumed his
"I see you understand me," he cried. "I who have played host at
many a ball, passed myself off that night as one of the waiters.
I came and went and no one noticed me. It is such a natural sight
to see a waiter passing ices that my going in and out of the
alcove did not attract the least attention. I never look at
waiters when I attend balls. I never look higher than their
trays. No one looked at me higher than my tray. I held the
stiletto under the tray and when I struck her she threw up her
hands and they hit the tray and the cups fell. I have never been
able to bear the sound of breaking china since. I loved her--"
A gasp and he recovered himself.
"That is neither here nor there," he muttered. "You summoned me
under threat to present myself at your door to-day. I have done
so. I meant to restore you your diamond, simply. It has become
worthless to me. But fate exacted more. Surprise forced my secret
from me. That young lady with her damnable awkwardness has put my
head in a noose. But do not think to hold it there. I did not
risk this interview without precautions, I assure you, and when I
leave this hotel it will be as a free man."
With one of his rapid changes, wonderful and inexplicable to me
at the moment, he turned toward me with a bow, saying courteously
"We will excuse the young lady."
Next moment the barrel of a pistol gleamed in his hand.
The moment was critical. Mr. Grey stood directly in the line of
fire, and the audacious man who thus held him at his mercy was
scarcely a foot from the door leading into the hall. Marking the
desperation of his look and the steadiness of his finger on the
trigger, I expected to see Mr. Grey recoil and the man escape.
But Mr. Grey held his own, though he made no move, and did not
venture to speak. Nerved by his courage, I summoned up all my
own. This man must not escape, nor must Mr. Grey suffer. The
pistol directed against him must be diverted to myself. Such
amends were due one whose good name I had so deeply if secretly
insulted. I had but to scream, to call out for the inspector, but
a remembrance of the necessity we were now under of preserving
our secret, of keeping from Mr. Grey the fact that he had been
under surveillance, was even at that moment surrounded by the
police, deterred me, and I threw myself toward the bell instead,
crying out that I would raise the house if he moved, and laid my
finger on the button.
The pistol swerved my way. The face above it smiled. I watched
that smile. Before it broadened to its full extent, I pressed the
Fairbrother stared, dropped his pistol, and burst forth with
these two words:
The tone I can never convey.
Then he made for the door.
As he laid his hand on the knob, he called back:
"I have been in worse straits than this!"
But he never had; when he opened the door, he found himself face
to face with the inspector.
THE GREAT MOGUL
Later, it was all explained. Mr. Grey, looking like another man,
came into the room where I was endeavoring to soothe his startled
daughter and devour in secret my own joy. Taking the sweet girl
in his arms, he said, with a calm ignoring of my presence, at
which I secretly smiled:
"This is the happiest moment of my existence, Helen. I feel as if
I had recovered you from the brink of the grave."
"Me? Why, I have never been so ill as that."
"I know; but I have felt as if you were doomed ever since I
heard, or thought I heard, in this city, and under no ordinary
circumstances, the peculiar cry which haunts our house on the eve
of any great misfortune. I shall not apologize for my fears; you
know that I have good cause for them, but to-day, only to-day, I
have heard from the lips of the most arrant knave I have ever
known, that this cry sprang from himself with intent to deceive
me. He knew my weakness; knew the cry; he was in Darlington Manor
when Cecilia died; and, wishing to startle me into dropping
something which I held, made use of his ventriloquial powers (he
had been a mountebank once, poor wretch!) and with such effect,
that I have not been a happy man since, in spite of your daily
improvement and continued promise of recovery. But I am happy
now, relieved and joyful; and this miserable being,--would you
like to hear his story? Are you strong enough for anything so
tragic? He is a thief and a murderer, but he has feelings, and
his life has been a curious one, and strangely interwoven with
ours. Do you care to hear about it? He is the man who stole our
My patient uttered a little cry.
"Oh, tell me," she entreated, excited, but not unhealthfully;
while I was in an anguish of curiosity I could with difficulty
Mr. Grey turned with courtesy toward me and asked if a few family
details would bore me. I smiled and assured him to the contrary.
At which he settled himself in the chair he liked best and began
a tale which I will permit myself to present to you complete and
from other points of view than his own.
Some five years before, one of the great diamonds of the world
was offered for sale in an Eastern market. Mr. Grey, who stopped
at no expense in the gratification of his taste in this
direction, immediately sent his agent to Egypt to examine this
stone. If the agent discovered it to be all that was claimed for
it, and within the reach of a wealthy commoner's purse, he was to
buy it. Upon inspection, it was found to be all that was claimed,
with one exception. In the center of one of the facets was a
flaw, but, as this was considered to mark the diamond, and rather
add to than detract from its value as a traditional stone with
many historical associations, it was finally purchased by Mr.
Grey and placed among his treasures in his manor-house in Kent.
Never a suspicious man, he took delight in exhibiting this
acquisition to such of his friends and acquaintances as were
likely to feel any interest in it, and it was not an uncommon
thing for him to allow it to pass from hand to hand while he
pottered over his other treasures and displayed this and that to
such as had no eyes for the diamond.
It was after one such occasion that he found, on taking the stone
in his hand to replace it in the safe he had had built for it in
one of his cabinets, that it did not strike his eye with its
usual force and brilliancy, and, on examining it closely, he
discovered the absence of the telltale flaw. Struck with dismay,
he submitted it to a still more rigid inspection, when he found
that what he held was not even a diamond, but a worthless bit of
glass, which had been substituted by some cunning knave for his
For the moment his humiliation almost equaled his sense of loss;
he had been so often warned of the danger he ran in letting so
priceless an object pass around under all eyes but his own. His
wife and friends had prophesied some such loss as this, not once,
but many times, and he had always laughed at their fears, saying
that he knew his friends, and there was not a scamp amongst them.
But now he saw it proved that even the intuition of a man
well-versed in human nature is not always infallible, and,
ashamed of his past laxness and more ashamed yet of the doubts
which this experience called up in regard to all his friends, he
shut up the false stone with his usual care and buried his loss
in his own bosom, till he could sift his impressions and recall
with some degree of probability the circumstances under which
this exchange could have been made.
It had not been made that evening. Of this he was positive. The
only persons present on this occasion were friends of such
standing and repute that suspicion in their regard was simply
monstrous. when and to whom, then, had he shown the diamond last?
Alas, it had been a long month since be had shown the jewel.
Cecilia, his youngest daughter, had died in the interim;
therefore his mind had not been on jewels. A month! time for his
precious diamond to have been carried back to the East! Time for
it to have been recut! Surely it was lost to him for ever, unless
he could immediately locate the person who had robbed him of it.
But this promised difficulties. He could not remember just what
persons he had entertained on that especial day in his little
hall of cabinets, and, when he did succeed in getting a list of
them from his butler, he was by no means sure that it included
the full number of his guests. His own memory was execrable, and,
in short, he had but few facts to offer to the discreet agent
sent up from Scotland Yard one morning to hear his complaint and
act secretly in his interests. He could give him carte blanche to
carry on his inquiries in the diamond market, but little else.
And while this seemed to satisfy the agent, it did not lead to
any gratifying result to himself, and he had thoroughly made up
his mind to swallow his loss and say nothing about it, when one
day a young cousin of his, living in great style in an adjoining
county, informed him that in some mysterious way he had lost from
his collection of arms a unique and highly-prized stiletto of
Startled by this coincidence, Mr. Grey ventured upon a question
or two, which led to his cousin's confiding to him the fact that
this article had disappeared after a large supper given by him to
a number of friends and gentlemen from London. This piece of
knowledge, still further coinciding with his own experience,
caused Mr. Grey to ask for a list of his guests, in the hope of
finding among them one who had been in his own house.
His cousin, quite unsuspicious of the motives underlying this
request, hastened to write out this list, and together they pored
over the names, crossing out such as were absolutely above
suspicion. When they had reached the end of the list, but two
names remained uncrossed. One was that of a rattle-pated youth
who had come in the wake of a highly reputed connection of
theirs, and the other that of an American tourist who gave all
the evidences of great wealth and had presented letters to
leading men in London which had insured him attentions not
usually accorded to foreigners. This man's name was Fairbrother,
and, the moment Mr. Grey heard it, he recalled the fact that an
American with a peculiar name, but with a reputation for wealth,
had been among his guests on the suspected evening.
Hiding the effect produced upon him by this discovery, he placed
his finger on this name and begged his cousin to look up its
owner's antecedents and present reputation in America; but, not
content with this, he sent his own agent over to New York--
whither, as he soon learned, this gentleman had returned. The
result was an apparent vindication of the suspected American. He
was found to be a well-known citizen of the great metropolis,
moving in the highest circles and with a reputation for wealth
won by an extraordinary business instinct.
To be sure, he had not always enjoyed these distinctions. Like
many another self-made man, he had risen from a menial position
in a Western mining camp, to be the owner of a mine himself, and
so up through the various gradations of a successful life to a
position among the foremost business men of New York. In all
these changes he had maintained a name for honest, if not
generous, dealing. He lived in great style, had married and was
known to have but one extravagant fancy. This was for the unique
and curious in art,--a taste which, if report spoke true, cost
him many thousands each year.
This last was the only clause in the report which pointed in any
way toward this man being the possible abstractor of the Great
Mogul, as Mr. Grey's famous diamond was called, and the latter
was too just a man and too much of a fancier in this line himself
to let a fact of this kind weigh against the favorable nature of
the rest. So he recalled his agent, double-locked his cabinets
and continued to confine his display of valuables to articles
which did not suggest jewels. Thus three years passed, when one
day he heard mention made of a wonderful diamond which had been
seen in New York. From its description he gathered that it must
be the one surreptitiously abstracted from his cabinet, and when,
after some careful inquiries, he learned that the name of its
possessor was Fairbrother, he awoke to his old suspicions and
determined to probe this matter to the bottom. But secretly. He
still had too much consideration to attack a man in high position
without full proof.
Knowing of no one he could trust with so delicate an inquiry as
this had now become, he decided to undertake it himself, and for
this purpose embraced the first opportunity to cross the water.
He took his daughter with him because he had resolved never to
let his one remaining child out of his sight. But she knew
nothing of his plans or reason for travel. No one did. Indeed,
only his lawyer and the police were aware of the loss of his
His first surprise on landing was to learn that Mr. Fairbrother,
of whose marriage he had heard, had quarreled with his wife and
that, in the separation which had occurred, the diamond had
fallen to her share and was consequently in her possession at the
This changed matters, and Mr. Grey's only thought now was to
surprise her with the diamond on her person and by one glance
assure himself that it was indeed the Great Mogul. Since Mrs.
Fairbrother was reported to be a beautiful woman and a great
society belle, he saw no reason why he should not meet her
publicly, and that very soon. He therefore accepted invitations
and attended theaters and balls, though his daughter had suffered
from her voyage and was not able to accompany him. But alas! he
soon learned that Mrs. Fairbrother was never seen with her
diamond and, one evening after an introduction at the opera, that
she never talked about it. So there he was, balked on the very
threshold of his enterprise, and, recognizing the fact, was
preparing to take his now seriously ailing daughter south, when
he received an invitation to a ball of such a select character
that he decided to remain for it, in the hope that Mrs.
Fairbrother would be tempted to put on all her splendor for so
magnificent a function and thus gratify him with a sight of his
own diamond. During the days that intervened he saw her several
times and very soon decided that, in spite of her reticence in
regard to this gem, she was not sufficiently in her husband's
confidence to know the secret of its real ownership. This
encouraged him to attempt piquing her into wearing the diamond on
this occasion. He talked of precious stones and finally of his
own, declaring that he had a connoisseur's eye for a fine
diamond, but had seen none as yet in America to compete with a
specimen or two he had in his own cabinets. Her eye flashed at
this and, though she said nothing, he felt sure that her presence
at Mr. Ramsdell's house would be enlivened by her great jewel.
So much for Mr. Grey's attitude in this matter up to the night of
the ball. It is interesting enough, but that of Abner Fairbrother
is more interesting still and much more serious.
His was indeed the hand which had abstracted the diamond from Mr.
Grey's collection. Under ordinary conditions he was an honest
man. He prized his good name and would not willingly risk it, but
he had little real conscience, and once his passions were aroused
nothing short of the object desired would content him. At once
forceful and subtle, he had at his command infinite resources
which his wandering and eventful life had heightened almost to
the point of genius. He saw this stone, and at once felt an
inordinate desire to possess it. He had coveted other men's
treasures before, but not as he coveted this. What had been
longing in other cases was mania in this. There was a woman in
America whom he loved. She was beautiful and she was
splendor-loving. To see her with this glory on her breast would
be worth almost any risk which his imagination could picture at
the moment. Before the diamond had left his hand he had made up
his mind to have it for his own. He knew that it could not be
bought, so he set about obtaining it by an act he did not
hesitate to acknowledge to himself as criminal. But he did not
act without precautions. Having a keen eye and a proper sense or
size and color, he carried away from his first view of it a true
image of the stone, and when he was next admitted to Mr. Grey's
cabinet room he had provided the means for deceiving the owner
whose character he had sounded.
He might have failed in his daring attempt if he had not been
favored by a circumstance no one could have foreseen. A daughter
of the house, Cecilia by name, lay critically ill at the time,
and Mr. Grey's attention was more or less distracted. Still the
probabilities are that he would have noticed something amiss with
the stone when he came to restore it to its place, if, just as he
took it in his hand, there had not risen in the air outside a
weird and wailing cry which at once seized upon the imagination
of the dozen gentlemen present, and so nearly prostrated their
host that he thrust the box he held unopened into the safe and
fell upon his knees, a totally unnerved man, crying:
"The banshee! the banshee! My daughter will die!"
Another hand than his locked the safe and dropped the key into
the distracted father's pocket.
Thus a superhuman daring conjoined with a special intervention of
fate had made the enterprise a successful one; and Fairbrother,
believing more than ever in his star, carried this invaluable
jewel back with him to New York. The stiletto--well, the taking
of that was a folly, for which he had never ceased to blush. He
had not stolen it; he would not steal so inconsiderable an
object. He had merely put it in his pocket when he saw it
forgotten, passed over, given to him, as it were. That the risk,
contrary to that involved in the taking of the diamond, was far
in excess of the gratification obtained, he realized almost
immediately, but, having made the break, and acquired the curio,
he spared himself all further thought or the consequences, and
presently resumed his old life in New York, none the worse, to
all appearances, for these escapades from virtue and his usual
course of fair and open dealing.
But he was soon the worse from jealousy of the wife which his new
possession had possibly won for him. She had answered all his
expectations as mistress of his home and the exponent of his
wealth; and for a year, nay, for two, he had been perfectly
happy. Indeed, he had been more than that; he had been
triumphant, especially on that memorable evening when, after a
cautious delay of months, he had dared to pin that unapproachable
sparkler to her breast and present her thus bedecked to the smart
set--her whom his talents, and especially his far-reaching
business talents, had made his own.
Recalling the old days of barter and sale across the pine counter
in Colorado, he felt that his star rode high, and for a time was
satisfied with his wife's magnificence and the prestige she gave
his establishment. But pride is not all, even to a man of his
daring ambition. Gradually he began to realize, first, that she
was indifferent to him, next, that she despised him, and, lastly,
that she hated him. She had dozens at her feet, any of whom was
more agreeable to her than her own husband; and, though he could
not put his finger on any definite fault, he soon wearied of a
beauty that only glowed for others, and made up his mind to part
with her rather than let his heart be eaten out by unappeasable
longing for what his own good sense told him would never be his.
Yet, being naturally generous, he was satisfied with a
separation, and, finding it impossible to think of her as other
than extravagantly fed, waited on and clothed, he allowed her a
good share of his fortune with the one proviso, that she should
not disgrace him. But the diamond she stole, or rather carried
off in her naturally high-handed manner with the rest of her
jewels. He had never given it to hen She knew the value he set on
it, but not how he came by it, and would have worn it quite
freely if he had not very soon given her to understand that the
pleasure of doing so ceased when she left his house. As she could
not be seen with it without occasioning public remark, she was
forced, though much against her will, to heed his wishes, and
enjoy its brilliancy in private. But once, when he was out of
town, she dared to appear with this fortune on her breast, and
again while on a visit West,--and her husband heard of it.
Mr. Fairbrother had had the jewel set to suit him, not in
Florence, as Sears had said, but by a skilful workman he had
picked up in great poverty in a remote corner of Williamsburg.
Always in dread of some complication, he had provided himself
with a second facsimile in paste, this time of an astonishing
brightness, and this facsimile he had had set precisely like the
true stone. Then he gave the workman a thousand dollars and sent
him back to Switzerland. This imitation in paste he showed
nobody, but he kept it always in his pocket; why, he hardly knew.
Meantime, he had one confidant, not of his crime, but of his
sentiments toward his wife, and the determination he had secretly
made to proceed to extremities if she continued to disobey him.
This was a man of his own age or older, who had known him in his
early days, and had followed all his fortunes. He had been the
master of Fairbrother then, but he was his servant now, and as
devoted to his interests as if they were his own,--which, in a
way, they were. For eighteen years he had stood at the latter's
right hand, satisfied to look no further, but, for the last
three, his glances had strayed a foot or two beyond his master,
and taken in his master's wife.
The feelings which this man had for Mrs. Fairbrother were
peculiar. She was a mere adjunct to her great lord, but she was a
very gorgeous one, and, while he could not imagine himself doing
anything to thwart him whose bread he ate, and to whose rise he
had himself contributed, yet if he could remain true to him
without injuring he; he would account himself happy. The day came
when he had to decide between them, and, against all chances,
against his own preconceived notion of what he would do under
these circumstances, he chose to consider her.
This day came when, in the midst of growing complacency and an
intense interest in some new scheme which demanded all his
powers, Abner Fairbrother learned from the papers that Mr. Grey,
of English Parliamentary fame, had arrived in New York on an
indefinite visit. As no cause was assigned for the visit beyond a
natural desire on the part of this eminent statesman to see this
great country, Mr. Fairbrother's fears reached a sudden climax,
and he saw himself ruined and for ever disgraced if the diamond
now so unhappily out of his hands should fall under the eyes of
its owner, whose seeming quiet under its loss had not for a
moment deceived him. Waiting only long enough to make sure that
the distinguished foreigner was likely to accept social
attentions, and so in all probability would be brought in contact
with Mrs. Fairbrother, he sent her by his devoted servant a
peremptory message, in which he demanded back his diamond; and,
upon her refusing to heed this, followed it up by another, in
which he expressly stated that if she took it out of the safe
deposit in which he had been told she was wise enough to keep it,
or wore it so much as once during the next three months, she
would pay for her presumption with her life.
This was no idle threat, though she chose to regard it as such,
laughing in the old servant's face and declaring that she would
run the risk if the notion seized her. But the notion did not
seem to seize her at once, and her husband was beginning to take
heart, when he heard of the great ball about to be given by the
Ramsdells and realized that if she were going to be tempted to
wear the diamond at all, it would be at this brilliant function
given in honor of the one man he had most cause to fear in the
Sears, seeing the emotion he was under, watched him closely. They
had both been on the point of starting for New Mexico to visit a
mine in which Mr. Fairbrother was interested, and he waited with
inconceivable anxiety to see if his master would change his
plans. It was while he was in this condition of mind that he was
seen to shake his fist at Mrs. Fairbrother's passing figure; a
menace naturally interpreted as directed against her, but which,
if we know the man, was rather the expression of his anger
against the husband who could rebuke and threaten so beautiful a
creature. Meanwhile, Mr. Fairbrother's preparations went on and,
three weeks before the ball, they started. Mr. Fairbrother had
business in Chicago and business in Denver. It was two weeks and
more before he reached La Junta. Sears counted the days. At La
Junta they had a long conversation; or rather Mr. Fairbrother
talked and Sears listened. The sum of what he said was this: He
had made up his mind to have back his diamond. He was going to
New York to get it. He was going alone, and as he wished no one
to know that he had gone or that his plans had been in any way
interrupted, the other was to continue on to El Moro, and,
passing himself off as Fairbrother, hire a room at the hotel and
shut himself up in it for ten days on any plea his ingenuity
might suggest. If at the end of that time Fairbrother should
rejoin him, well and good. They would go on together to Santa Fe.
But if for any reason the former should delay his return, then
Sears was to exercise his own judgment as to the length of time
he should retain his borrowed personality; also as to the
advisability of pushing on to the mine and entering on the work
there, as had been planned between them.
Sears knew what all this meant. He understood what was in his
master's mind, as well as if he had been taken into his full
confidence, and openly accepted his part of the business with
seeming alacrity, even to the point of supplying Fairbrother with
suitable references as to the ability of one James Wellgood to
fill a waiter's place at fashionable functions. It was not the
first he had given him. Seventeen years before he had written the
same, minus the last phrase. That was when he was the master and
Fairbrother the man. But he did not mean to play the part laid
out for him, for all his apparent acquiescence. He began by
following the other's instructions. He exchanged clothes with him
and other necessaries, and took the train for La Junta at or near
the time that Fairbrother started east. But once at El Moro--once
registered there as Abner Fairbrother from New York--he took a
different course from the one laid out for him,--a course which
finally brought him into his master's wake and landed him at the
same hour in New York.
This is what he did. Instead of shutting himself up in his room
he expressed an immediate desire to visit some neighboring mines,
and, procuring a good horse, started off at the first available
moment. He rode north, lost himself in the mountains, and
wandered till he found a guide intelligent enough to lend himself
to his plans. To this guide he confided his horse for the few
days he intended to be gone, paying him well and promising him
additional money if, during his absence, he succeeded in
circulating the report that he, Abner Fairbrother, had gone deep
into the mountains, bound for such and such a camp.
Having thus provided an alibi, not only for himself, but for his
master, too, in case he should need it, he took the direct road
to the nearest railway station, and started on his long ride
east. He did not expect to overtake the man he had been
personating, but fortune was kinder than is usual in such cases,
and, owing to a delay caused by some accident to a freight train,
he arrived in Chicago within a couple of hours of Mr.
Fairbrother, and started out of that city on the same train. But
not on the same car. Sears had caught a glimpse of Fairbrother on
the platform, and was careful to keep out of his sight. This was
easy enough. He bought a compartment in the sleeper and stayed in
it till they arrived at the Grand Central Station. Then he
hastened out and, fortune favoring him with another glimpse of
the man in whose movements he was so interested, followed him
into the streets.
Fairbrother had shaved off his beard before leaving El Moro.
Sears had shaved his off on the train. Both were changed, the
former the more, owing to a peculiarity of his mouth which up
till now he had always thought best to cover. Sears, therefore,
walked behind him without fear, and was almost at his heels when
this owner of one of New York's most notable mansions, entered,
with a spruce air, the doors of a prominent caterer.
Understanding the plot now, and having everything to fear for his
mistress, he walked the streets for some hours in a state of
great indecision. Then he went up to her apartment. But he had no
sooner come within sight of it than a sense of disloyalty struck
him and he slunk away, only to come sidling back when it was too
late and she had started for the ball.
Trembling with apprehension, but still strangely divided in his
impulses, wishing to serve master and mistress both, without
disloyalty to the one or injury to the other, he hesitated and
argued with himself, till his fears for the latter drove him to
Mr. Ramsdell's house.
The night was a stormy one. The heaviest snow of the season was
falling with a high gale blowing down the Sound. As he approached
the house, which, as we know, is one of the modern ones in the
Riverside district, he felt his heart fail him. But as he came
nearer and got the full effect of glancing lights, seductive
music, and the cheery bustle of crowding carriages, he saw in his
mind's eye such a picture of his beautiful mistress, threatened,
unknown to herself, in a quarter she little realized, that he
lost all sense of what had hitherto deterred him. Making then and
there his great choice, he looked about for the entrance, with
the full intention of seeing and warning her.
But this, he presently perceived, was totally impracticable. He
could neither go to her nor expect her to come to him; meanwhile,
time was passing, and if his master was there-- The thought made
his head dizzy, and, situated as he was, among the carriages, he
might have been run over in his confusion if his eyes had not
suddenly fallen on a lighted window, the shade of which had been
inadvertently left up.
Within this window, which was only a few feet above his head,
stood the glowing image of a woman clad in pink and sparkling
with jewels. Her face was turned from him, but he recognized her
splendor as that of the one woman who could never be too gorgeous
for his taste; and, alive to this unexpected opportunity, he made
for this window with the intention of shouting up to her and so
attracting her attention.
But this proved futile, and, driven at last to the end of his
resources, he tore out a slip of paper from his note-book and, in
the dark and with the blinding snow in his eyes, wrote the few
broken sentences which he thought would best warn her, without
compromising his master. The means he took to reach her with this
note I have already related. As soon as he saw it in her hands he
fled the place and took the first train west. He was in a
pitiable condition, when, three days later, he reached the small
station from which he had originally set out. The haste, the
exposure, the horror of the crime he had failed to avert, had
undermined his hitherto excellent constitution, and the symptoms
of a serious illness were beginning to make themselves manifest.
But he, like his indomitable master, possessed a great fund of
energy and willpower. He saw that if he was to save Abner
Fairbrother (and now that Mrs. Fairbrother was dead, his old
master was all the world to him) he must make Fairbrother's alibi
good by carrying on the deception as planned by the latter, and
getting as soon as possible to his camp in the New Mexico
mountains. He knew that he would have strength to do this and he
went about it without sparing himself.
Making his way into the mountains, he found the guide and his
horse at the place agreed upon and, paying the guide enough for
his services to insure a quiet tongue, rode back toward El Moro
where he was met and sent on to Santa Fe as already related.
Such is the real explanation of the well-nigh unintelligible
scrawl found in Mrs. Fairbrother's hand after her death. As to
the one which left Miss Grey's bedside for this same house, it
was, alike in the writing and sending, the loving freak of a very
sick but tender-hearted girl. She had noted the look with which
Mr. Grey had left her, and, in her delirious state, thought that
a line in her own hand would convince him of her good condition
and make it possible for him to enjoy the evening. She was,
however, too much afraid of her nurse to write it openly, and
though we never found that scrawl, it was doubtless not very
different in appearance from the one with which I had confounded
it. The man to whom it was intrusted stopped for too many warming
drinks on his way for it ever to reach Mr. Ramsdell's house. He
did not even return home that night, and when he did put in an
appearance the next morning, he was dismissed.
This takes me back to the ball and Mrs. Fairbrother. She had
never had much fear of her husband till she received his old
servant's note in the peculiar manner already mentioned. This,
coming through the night and the wet and with all the marks of
hurry upon it, did impress her greatly and led her to take the
first means which offered of ridding herself of her dangerous
ornament. The story of this we know.
Meanwhile, a burning heart and a scheming brain were keeping up
their deadly work a few paces off under the impassive aspect and
active movements of the caterer's newly-hired waiter. Abner
Fairbrother, whose real character no one had ever been able to
sound, unless it was the man who had known him in his days of
struggle, was one of those dangerous men who can conceal under a
still brow and a noiseless manner the most violent passions and
the most desperate resolves. He was angry with his wife, who was
deliberately jeopardizing his good name, and he had come there to
kill her if he found her flaunting the diamond in Mr. Grey's
eyes; and though no one could have detected any change in his
look and manner as he passed through the room where these two
were standing, the doom of that fair woman was struck when he saw
the eager scrutiny and indescribable air of recognition with
which this long-defrauded gentleman eyed his own diamond.
He had meant to attack her openly, seize the diamond, fling it at
Mr. Grey's feet, and then kill himself. That had been his plan.
But when he found, after a round or two among the guests, that
nobody looked at him, and nobody recognized the well-known
millionaire in the automaton-like figure with the
formally-arranged whiskers and sleekly-combed hair, colder
purposes intervened, and he asked himself if it would not be
possible to come upon her alone, strike his blow, possess himself
of the diamond, and make for parts unknown before his identity
could be discovered. He loved life even without the charm cast
over it by this woman. Its struggles and its hard-bought luxuries
fascinated him. If Mr. Grey suspected him, why, Mr. Grey was
English, and he a resourceful American. If it came to an issue,
the subtle American would win if Mr. Grey were not able to point
to the flaw which marked this diamond as his own. And this,
Fairbrother had provided against, and would succeed in if he
could hold his passions in check and be ready with all his wit
when matters reached a climax.
Such were the thoughts and such the plans of the quiet, attentive
man who, with his tray laden with coffee and ices, came and went
an unnoticed unit among twenty other units similarly quiet and
similarly attentive. He waited on lady after lady, and when, on
the reissuing of Mr. Durand from the alcove, he passed in there
with his tray and his two cups of coffee, nobody heeded and
It was all over in a minute, and he came out, still unnoted, and
went to the supper-room for more cups of coffee. But that minute
had set its seal on his heart for ever. She was sitting there
alone with her side to the entrance, so that he had to pass
around in order to face her. Her elegance and a certain air she
had of remoteness from the scene of which she was the glowing
center when she smiled, awed him and made his hand loosen a
little on the slender stiletto he held close against the bottom
of the tray. But such resolution does not easily yield, and his
fingers soon tightened again, this time with a deadly grip.
He had expected to meet the flash of the diamond as he bent over
her, and dreaded doing so for fear it would attract his eye from
her face and so cost him the sight of that startled recognition
which would give the desired point to his revenge. But the tray,
as he held it, shielded her breast from view, and when he lowered
it to strike his blow, he thought of nothing but aiming so truly
as to need no second blow. He had had his experience in those old
years in a mining camp, and he did not fear failure in this. What
he did fear was her utterance of some cry,--possibly his name.
But she was stunned with horror, and did not shriek,--horror of
him whose eyes she met with her glassy and staring ones as he
slowly drew forth the weapon.
Why he drew it forth instead of leaving it in her breast he could
not say. Possibly because it gave him his moment of gloating
revenge. When in another instant, her hands flew up, and the tray
tipped, and the china fell, the revulsion came, and his eyes
opened to two facts: the instrument of death was still in his
grasp, and the diamond, on whose possession he counted, was gone
from his wife's breast.
It was a horrible moment. Voices could be heard approaching the
alcove,--laughing voices that in an instant would take on the
note of horror. And the music,--ah! how low it had sunk, as if to
give place to the dying murmur he now heard issuing from her
lips. But he was a man of iron. Thrusting the stiletto into the
first place that offered, he drew the curtains over the staring
windows, then slid out with his tray, calm, speckless and
attentive as ever, dead to thought, dead to feeling, but aware,
quite aware in the secret depths of his being that something
besides his wife had been killed that night, and that sleep and
peace of mind and all pleasure in the past were gone for ever.
It was not he I saw enter the alcove and come out with news of
the crime. He left this role to one whose antecedents could
better bear investigation. His part was to play, with just the
proper display of horror and curiosity, the ordinary menial
brought face to face with a crime in high life. He could do this.
He could even sustain his share in the gossip, and for this
purpose kept near the other waiters. The absence of the diamond
was all that troubled him. That brought him at times to the point
of vertigo. Had Mr. Grey recognized and claimed it? If so, he,
Abner Fairbrother, must remain James Wellgood, the waiter,
indefinitely. This would require more belief in his star than
ever he had had yet. But as the moments passed, and no
contradiction was given to the universally-received impression
that the same hand which had struck the blow had taken the
diamond, even this cause of anxiety left his breast and he faced
people with more and more courage till the moment when he
suddenly heard that the diamond had been found in the possession
of a man perfectly strange to him, and saw the inspector pass it
over into the hands of Mr. Grey.
Instantly he realized that the crisis of his fate was on him. If
Mr. Grey were given time to identify this stone, he, Abner
Fairbrother, was lost and the diamond as well. Could he prevent
this? There was but one way, and that way he took. Making use of
his ventriloquial powers--he had spent a year on the public stage
in those early days, playing just such tricks as these--he raised
the one cry which he knew would startle Mr. Grey more than any
other in the world, and when the diamond fell from his hand, as
he knew it would, he rushed forward and, in the act of picking it
up, made that exchange which not only baffled the suspicions of
the statesman, but restored to him the diamond, for whose
possession he was now ready to barter half his remaining days.
Meanwhile Mr. Grey had had his own anxieties. During this whole
long evening, he had been sustained by the conviction that the
diamond of which he had caught but one passing glimpse was the
Great Mogul of his once famous collection. So sure was he of
this, that at one moment he found himself tempted to enter the
alcove, demand a closer sight of the diamond and settle the
question then and there. He even went so far as to take in his
hands the two cups of coffee which should serve as his excuse for
this intrusion, but his naturally chivalrous instincts again
intervened, and he set the cups down again--this I did not see--
and turned his steps toward the library with the intention of
writing her a note instead. But though he found paper and pen to
hand, he could find no words for so daring a request, and he came
back into the hall, only to hear that the woman he had
contemplated addressing had just been murdered and her great
The shock was too much, and as there was no leaving the house
then, he retreated again to the library where he devoured his
anxieties in silence till hope revived again at sight of the
diamond in the inspector's hand, only to vanish under the
machinations of one he did not even recognize when he took the
false jewel from his hand.
The American had outwitted the Englishman and the triumph of evil
Or so it seemed. But if the Englishman is slow, he is sure.
Thrown off the track for the time being, Mr. Grey had only to see
a picture of the stiletto in the papers, to feel again that,
despite all appearances, Fairbrother was really not only at the
bottom of the thefts from which his cousin and himself had
suffered, but of this frightful murder as well. He made no open
move--he was a stranger in a strange land and much disturbed,
besides, by his fears for his daughter--but he started a secret
inquiry through his old valet, whom he ran across in the street,
and whose peculiar adaptability for this kind of work he well
The aim of these inquiries was to determine if the person, whom
two physicians and three assistants were endeavoring to nurse
back to health on the top of a wild plateau in a remote district
of New Mexico, was the man he had once entertained at his own
board in England, and the adventures thus incurred would make a
story in itself. But the result seemed to justify them. Word came
after innumerable delays, very trying to Mr. Grey, that be was
not the same, though he bore the name of Fairbrother, and was
considered by every one around there to be Fairbrother. Mr. Grey,
ignorant of the relations between the millionaire master and his
man which sometimes led to the latter's personifying the former,
was confident of his own mistake and bitterly ashamed of his own
But a second message set him right. A deception was being
practised down in New Mexico, and this was how his spy had found
it out. Certain letters which went into the sick tent were sent
away again, and always to one address. He had learned the
address. It was that of James Wellgood, C--, Maine. If Mr. Grey
would look up this Wellgood he would doubtless learn something of
the man he was so interested in.
This gave Mr. Grey personally something to do, for he would trust
no second party with a message involving the honor of a possibly
innocent man. As the place was accessible by railroad and his
duty clear, he took the journey involved and succeeded in getting
a glimpse in the manner we know of the man James Wellgood. This
time he recognized Fairbrother and, satisfied from the
circumstances of the moment that he would be making no mistake in
accusing him of having taken the Great Mogul, he intercepted him
in his flight, as you have already read, and demanded the
immediate return of his great diamond.
And Fairbrother? We shall have to go back a little to bring his
history up to this critical instant.
When he realized the trend of public opinion; when he saw a
perfectly innocent man committed to the Tombs for his crime, he
was first astonished and then amused at what he continued to
regard as the triumph of his star. But he did not start for El
Moro, wise as he felt it would be to do so. Something of the
fascination usual with criminals kept him near the scene of his
crime,--that, and an anxiety to see how Sears would conduct
himself in the Southwest. That Sears had followed him to New
York, knew his crime, and was the strongest witness against him,
was as far from his thoughts as that he owed him the warning
which had all but balked him of his revenge. When therefore he
read in the papers that "Abner Fairbrother" had been found sick
in his camp at Santa Fe, he felt that nothing now stood in the
way of his entering on the plans he had framed for ultimate
escape. On his departure from El Moro he had taken the precaution
of giving Sears the name of a certain small town on the coast of
Maine where his mail was to be sent in case of a great emergency.
He had chosen this town for two reasons. First, because he knew
all about it, having had a young man from there in his employ;
secondly, because of its neighborhood to the inlet where an old
launch of his had been docked for the winter. Always astute,
always precautionary, he had given orders to have this launch
floated and provisioned, so that now he had only to send word to
the captain, to have at his command the best possible means of
Meanwhile, he must make good his position in C--. He did it in
the way we know. Satisfied that the only danger he need fear was
the discovery of the fraud practised in New Mexico, he had
confidence enough in Sears, even in his present disabled state,
to take his time and make himself solid with the people of
C--while waiting for the ice to disappear from the harbor. This
accomplished and cruising made possible, he took a flying trip to
New York to secure such papers and valuables as he wished to
carry out of the country with him. They were in safe deposit, but
that safe deposit was in his strong room in the center of his
house in Eighty-sixth Street (a room which you will remember in
connection with Sweetwater's adventure). To enter his own door
with his own latch-key, in the security and darkness of a stormy
night, seemed to this self-confident man a matter of no great
risk. Nor did he find it so. He reached his strong room, procured
his securities and was leaving the house, without having suffered
an alarm, when some instinct of self-preservation suggested to
him the advisability of arming himself with a pistol. His own was
in Maine, but he remembered where Sears kept his; he had seen it
often enough in that old trunk he had brought with him from the
Sierras. He accordingly went up stairs to the steward's room,
found the pistol and became from that instant invincible. But in
restoring the articles he had pulled out he came across a
photograph of his wife and lost himself over it and went mad, as
we have heard the detective tell. That later, he should succeed
in trapping this detective and should leave the house without a
qualm as to his fate shows what sort of man he was in moments of
extreme danger. I doubt, from what I have heard of him since, if
he ever gave two thoughts to the man after he had sprung the
double lock on him; which, considering his extreme ignorance of
who his victim was or what relation he bore to his own fate, was
Back again in C--, he made his final preparations for departure.
He had already communicated with the captain of the launch, who
may or may not have known his passenger's real name. He says that
he supposed him to be some agent of Mr. Fairbrother's; that among
the first orders he received from that gentleman was one to the
effect that he was to follow the instructions of one Wellgood as
if they came from himself; that he had done so, and not till he
had Mr. Fairbrother on board had he known whom he was expected to
carry into other waters. However, there are many who do not
believe the captain. Fairbrother had a genius for rousing
devotion in the men who worked for him, and probably this man was
To leave speculation, all was in train, then, and freedom but a
quarter of a mile away, when the boat he was in was stopped by
another and he heard Mr. Grey's voice demanding the jewel.
The shock was severe and he had need of all the nerve which had
hitherto made his career so prosperous, to sustain the encounter
with the calmness which alone could carry off the situation.
Declaring that the diamond was in New York, he promised to
restore it if the other would make the sacrifice worth while by
continuing to preserve his hitherto admirable silence concerning
him: Mr. Grey responded by granting him just twenty-four hours;
and when Fairbrother said the time was not long enough and
allowed his hand to steal ominously to his breast, he repeated
still more decisively, "Twenty-four hours."
The ex-miner honored bravery. Withdrawing his hand from his
breast, he brought out a note-book instead of a pistol and, in a
tone fully as determined, replied: "The diamond is in a place
inaccessible to any one but myself. If you will put your name to
a promise not to betray me for the thirty-six hours I ask, I will
sign one to restore you the diamond before one-thirty o'clock on
"I will," said Mr. Grey.
So the promises were written and duly exchanged. Mr. Grey
returned to New York and Fairbrother boarded his launch.
The diamond really was in New York, and to him it seemed more
politic to use it as a means of securing Mr. Grey's permanent
silence than to fly the country, leaving a man behind him who
knew his secret and could precipitate his doom with a word. He
would, therefore, go to New York, play his last great card and,
if he lost, be no worse off than he was now. He did not mean to
But he had not calculated on any inherent weakness in himself,--
had not calculated on Providence. A dish tumbled and with it fell
into chaos the fair structure of his dreams. With the cry of
"Grizel! Grizel!" he gave up his secret, his hopes and his life.
There was no retrieval possible after that. The star of Abner
Fairbrother had set.
Mr. Grey and his daughter learned very soon of my relations to
Mr. Durand, but through the precautions of the inspector and my
own powers of self-control, no suspicion has ever crossed their
minds of the part I once played in the matter of the stiletto.
This was amply proved by the invitation Mr. Durand and I have
just received to spend our honeymoon at Darlington Manor.
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