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The window at the white cat

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Title:TheWindowattheWhiteCat
Author:MaryRobertsRinehart
ReleaseDate:October2,2010[EBook#34020]
Language:English

***STARTOFTHISPROJECTGUTENBERGEBOOKTHEWINDOWATTHEWHITECAT***

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TheWINDOWattheWHITECAT


ByMARYROBERTSRINEHART

TRIANGLEBOOKSNEWYORK
TRIANGLEBOOKSEDITIONPUBLISHEDSEPTEMBER1940
REPRINTEDDECEMBER1940
REPRINTEDFEBRUARY1941
TRIANGLEBOOKS,14WestForty-ninthStreet,
NewYork,N.Y.
PRINTEDANDBOUNDINTHEUNITEDSTATESOF
AMERICA
BYTHEAMERICANBOOK—STRATFORDPRESS,INC.,N.
Y.C.


CONTENTS
CHAPTERI.SENTIMENTANDCLUES
CHAPTERII.UNEASYAPPREHENSIONS
CHAPTERIII.NINETY-EIGHTPEARLS
CHAPTERIV.ATHIEFINTHENIGHT
CHAPTERV.LITTLEMISSJANE
CHAPTERVI.AFOUNTAINPEN
CHAPTERVII.CONCERNINGMARGERY
CHAPTERVIII.TOOLATE
CHAPTERIX.ONLYONEEYECLOSED
CHAPTERX.BREAKINGTHENEWS
CHAPTERXI.ANIGHTINTHEFLEMINGHOME
CHAPTERXII.MYCOMMISSION
CHAPTERXIII.SIZZLINGMETAL
CHAPTERXIV.AWALKINTHEPARK
CHAPTERXV.FINDTHEWOMAN
CHAPTERXVI.ELEVENTWENTY-TWOAGAIN
CHAPTERXVII.HISSECONDWIFE
CHAPTERXVIII.EDITH'SCOUSIN
CHAPTERXIX.BACKTOBELLWOOD
CHAPTERXX.ASSOCIATIONOFIDEAS
CHAPTERXXI.APROSCENIUMBOX
CHAPTERXXII.INTHEROOMOVERTHEWAY
CHAPTERXXIII.ABOXOFCROWNDERBY
CHAPTERXXIV.WARDROP'SSTORY
CHAPTERXXV.MEASUREFORMEASURE
CHAPTERXXVI.LOVERSANDALETTER



THEWINDOWATTHEWHITECAT


CHAPTERI
SENTIMENTANDCLUES
Inmycriminalworkanythingthatwearsskirtsisalady,untilthelawprovesher
otherwise. From the frayed and slovenly petticoats of the woman who owns a
poultry stand in the market and who has grown wealthy by selling chickens at
twelveouncestothepound,orthesilksweepofMamieTracy,whosediamonds
have been stolen down on the avenue, or the staidly respectable black and
middle-aged skirt of the client whose husband has found an affinity partial to
lacesandfripperies,andhasrunoffwithher—allthewearersareladies,andas
suchannouncedbyHawes.Infact,hecarriesittoexcess.Hespeaksofhiswash
lady,withahusbandwhoisanashmerchant,andheannouncedonedayinsome
excitement, that the lady who had just gone out had appropriated all the loose
changeoutofthepocketofhisovercoat.
So when Hawes announced a lady, I took my feet off my desk, put down the
brief I had been reading, and rose perfunctorily. With my first glance at my
visitor,however,Ithrewawaymycigar,andIhaveheardsince,settledmytie.
Thatthisclientwasdifferentwasborneinonmeatoncebythewaysheentered
theroom.Shehadpoiseinspiteofembarrassment,andherfacewhensheraised
herveilwaswhite,refined,andyoung.
"Ididnotsendinmyname,"shesaid,whenshesawmeglancingdownforthe
cardHawesusuallyputsonmytable."ItwasadviceIwanted,andI—Ididnot
thinkthenamewouldmatter."
She was more composed, I think, when she found me considerably older than
herself.Isawherlookingfurtivelyatthegrayingplacesovermyears.Iamonly
thirty-five, as far as that goes, but my family, although it keeps its hair, turns
grayearly—abusinessassetbutasocialhandicap.
"Won'tyousitdown?"Iasked,pushingoutachair,sothatshewouldfacethe
light, while I remained in shadow. Every doctor and every lawyer knows that
trick. "As far as the name goes, perhaps you would better tell me the trouble
first.Then,ifIthinkitindispensable,youcantellme."
She acquiesced to this and sat for a moment silent, her gaze absently on the


windows of the building across. In the morning light my first impression was
verified. Only too often the raising of a woman's veil in my office reveals the
ravagesoftears,orrouge,ordissipation.Mynewclientturnedfearlesslytothe
windowanunlinedface,withaclearskin,healthilypale.FromwhereIsat,her
profile was beautiful, in spite of its drooping suggestion of trouble; her first
embarrassmentgone,shehadforgottenherselfandwasintentonhererrand.
"Ihardlyknowhowtobegin,"shesaid,"butsuppose"—slowly—"supposethata
man, a well-known man, should leave home without warning, not taking any
clothesexceptthosehewore,andsayinghewascominghometodinner,andhe
—he—"
Shestoppedasifhervoicehadfailedher.
"Andhedoesnotcome?"Iprompted.
Shenodded,fumblingforherhandkerchiefinherbag.
"How long has he been gone?" I asked. I had heard exactly the same thing
before,buttoleaveawomanlikethat,hardlymorethanagirl,andlovely!
"Tendays."
"I should think it ought to be looked into," I said decisively, and got up.
Somehow I couldn't sit quietly. A lawyer who is worth anything is always a
partisan, Isuppose,andInever hear ofamandesertinghiswifethatI amnot
indignant,thevirtuousscornoftheunmarriedman,perhaps."Butyouwillhave
totellmemorethanthat.Didthisgentlemanhaveanybadhabits?Thatis,didhe
—er—drink?"
"Nottoexcess.Hehadbeenforbiddenanythingofthatsortbyhisphysician.He
played bridge for money, but I—believe he was rather lucky." She colored
uncomfortably.
"Married,Isuppose?"Iaskedcasually.
"Hehadbeen.HiswifediedwhenI—"Shestoppedandbitherlip.Thenitwas
notherhusband,afterall!Oddlyenough,thesuncameoutjustatthatmoment,
spilling a pool of sunlight at her feet, on the dusty rug with its tobacco-bitten
scars.
"Itismyfather,"shesaidsimply.Iwasabsurdlyrelieved.


ButwiththerealizationthatIhadnotacaseofdesertiononmyhands,Ihadto
viewthesituationfromanewangle.
"Youareabsolutelyatalosstoaccountforhisdisappearance?"
"Absolutely."
"Youhavehadnowordfromhim?"
"None."
"Heneverwentawaybeforeforanylengthoftime,withouttellingyou?"
"No.Never.Hewasawayagreatdeal,butIalwaysknewwheretofindhim."
Hervoicebrokeagainandherchinquivered.Ithoughtitwisetoreassureher.
"Don'tletusworryaboutthisuntilwearesureitisserious,"Isaid."Sometimes
the things that seem most mysterious have the simplest explanations. He may
have written and the letter have miscarried or—even a slight accident would
account—" I saw I was blundering; she grew white and wide-eyed. "But, of
course,that'sunlikelytoo.Hewouldhavepaperstoidentifyhim."
"His pockets were always full of envelopes and things like that," she assented
eagerly.
"Don't you think I ought to know his name?" I asked. "It need not be known
outsideoftheoffice,andthisisasortofconfessionalanyhow,orworse.People
tellthingstotheirlawyerthattheywouldn'tthinkoftellingthepriest."
Hercolorwasslowlycomingback,andshesmiled.
"My name is Fleming, Margery Fleming," she said after a second's hesitation,
"andmyfather,Mr.AllanFleming,istheman.Oh,Mr.Knox,whatarewegoing
todo?Hehasbeengoneformorethanaweek!"
Nowondershehadwishedtoconcealtheidentityofthemissingman.SoAllan
Flemingwaslost!Agoodmanyhighlyrespectablecitizenswouldhopethathe
might never be found. Fleming, state treasurer, delightful companion, polished
gentlemanandsuccessfulpoliticianofthecriminaltype.Outsideinthecorridor
the office boy was singing under his breath. "Oh once there was a miller," he
sang, "who lived in a mill." It brought back to my mind instantly the reform
meetingatthecityhallayearbefore,whereforafewhourswehadblownthe
feeble spark of protest against machine domination to a flame. We had sung a


songtothatverytune,andwiththiswhite-facedgirlacrossfromme,itswords
came back with revolting truth. It had been printed and circulated through the
hall.
"Oh,oncetherewasacapitol
Thatsatonahill,
Asit'stoobigtostealaway
It'sprobablytherestill.
Thering'shandinthetreasury
AndFlemingwithasack.
Theytakeitoutinwagonloads
Andneverbringitback."
Iputthesongoutofmymindwithashudder."Iammorethansorry,"Isaid.I
was,too;whateverhemayhavebeen,hewasher father."Andofcoursethere
are a number of reasons why this ought not to be known, for a time at least.
After all, as I say, there may be a dozen simple explanations, and—there are
exigenciesinpolitics—"
"Ihatepolitics!"shebrokeinsuddenly."Theverynamemakesmeill.WhenI
readofwomenwantingto—tovoteandallthat,Iwonderiftheyknowwhatit
means to have to be polite to dreadful people, people who have even been
convicts, and all that. Why, our last butler had been a prize fighter!" She sat
uprightwithherhandsonthearmsofthechair."That'sanotherthing,too,Mr.
Knox.Thedayafterfatherwentaway,Carterleft.Andhehasnotcomeback."
"Carterwasthebutler?"
"Yes."
"Awhiteman?"
"Oh,yes."
"Andheleftwithoutgivingyouanywarning?"
"Yes.Heservedluncheonthedayafterfatherwentaway,andthemaidssayhe
wentawayimmediatelyafter.Hewasnottherethateveningtoservedinner,but
—he came back late that night, and got into the house, using his key to the
servants entrance. He slept there, the maids said, but he was gone before the
servantswereupandwehavenotseenhimsince."


Imadeamentalnoteofthebutler.
"We'llgobacktoCarteragain,"Isaid."Yourfatherhasnotbeenill,hashe?I
meanrecently."
Sheconsidered.
"Icannotthinkofanythingexceptthathehadatoothpulled."Shewasquickto
resentmysmile."Oh,IknowI'mnothelpingyou,"sheexclaimed,"butIhave
thought over everything until I can not think any more. I always end where I
begin."
"Youhavenotnoticedanymentalsymptoms—anylackofmemory?"
Hereyesfilled.
"Heforgotmybirthday,twoweeksago,"shesaid."Itwasthefirstonehehad
everforgotten,innineteenofthem."
Nineteen!Nineteenfromthirty-fiveleavessixteen!
"What I meant was this," I explained. "People sometimes have sudden and
unaccountable lapses of memory and at those times they are apt to stray away
fromhome.Hasyourfatherbeenworriedlately?"
"Hehasnotbeenhimselfatall.Hehasbeenirritable,eventome,andterribleto
theservants.OnlytoCarter—hewasneveruglytoCarter.ButIdonotthinkit
wasalapseofmemory.WhenIrememberhowhelookedthatmorning,Ibelieve
that he meant then to go away. It shows how he had changed, when he could
thinkofgoingawaywithoutaword,andleavingmetherealone."
"Thenyouhavenobrothersorsisters?"
"None.Icametoyou—"thereshestopped.
"Pleasetellmehowyouhappenedtocometome,"Iurged."Ithinkyouknow
thatIambothhonoredandpleased."
"Ididn'tknowwheretogo,"sheconfessed, "soItookthetelephonedirectory,
the classified part under 'Attorneys,' and after I shut my eyes, I put my finger
haphazardonthepage.Itpointedtoyourname."
I am afraid I flushed at this, but it was a wholesome douche. In a moment I
laughed.


"Wewilltakeitasanomen,"Isaid,"andIwilldoallthatIcan.ButIamnota
detective,MissFleming.Don'tyouthinkweoughttohaveone?"
"Not the police!" she shuddered. "I thought you could do something without
callinginadetective."
"Supposeyoutellmewhathappenedthedayyourfatherleft,andhowhewent
away.Tellmethelittlethingstoo.Theymaybestrawsthatwillpointinacertain
direction."
"Inthefirstplace,"shebegan,"weliveonMonmouthAvenue.Therearejustthe
twoofus,andtheservants:acook,twohousemaids,alaundress,abutleranda
chauffeur.Myfatherspendsmuchofhistimeatthecapital,andinthelasttwo
years,sincemyoldgovernesswentbacktoGermany,atthosetimesIusuallygo
tomother'ssistersatBellwood—MissLetitiaandMissJaneMaitland."
Inodded:IknewtheMaitlandladieswell.Ihaddrawnfourdifferentwillsfor
MissLetitiainthelastyear.
"My father went away on the tenth of May. You say to tell you all about his
going,butthereisnothingtotell.Wehaveamachine,butitwasbeingrepaired.
Fathergotupfrombreakfast,pickeduphishatandwalkedoutofthehouse.He
wasirritatedataletterhehadreadatthetable—"
"Couldyoufindthatletter?"Iaskedquickly.
"Hetookitwithhim.Iknewhewasdisturbed,forhedidnotevensayhewas
going.Hetookacar,andIthoughthewasonhiswaytohisoffice.Hedidnot
come home that night and I went to the office the next morning. The
stenographer said he had not been there. He is not at Plattsburg, because they
have been trying to call him from there on the long distance telephone every
day."
InspiteofhercandidfaceIwassureshewasholdingsomethingback.
"Whydon'tyoutellmeeverything?"Iasked."Youmaybekeepingbacktheone
essentialpoint."
She flushed. Then she opened her pocket-book and gave me a slip of rough
paper.Onit,incarelessfigures,wasthenumber"eleventwenty-two."Thatwas
all.


"I was afraid you would think it silly," she said. "It was such a meaningless
thing. You see, the second night after father left, I was nervous and could not
sleep.IexpectedhimhomeatanytimeandIkeptlisteningforhisstepdownstairs.Aboutthreeo'clockIwassureIheardsomeoneintheroombelowmine
—therewasacreakingasifthepersonwerewalkingcarefully.Ifeltrelieved,for
Ithoughthehadcomeback.ButIdidnothearthedoorintohisbedroomclose,
andIgotmoreandmorewakeful.FinallyIgotupandslippedalongthehallto
hisroom.ThedoorwasopenafewinchesandIreachedinandswitchedonthe
electric lights. I had a queer feeling before I turned on the light that there was
someonestandingclosetome,buttheroomwasempty,andthehall,too."
"Andthepaper?"
"When I saw the room was empty I went in. The paper had been pinned to a
pillow on the bed. At first I thought it had been dropped or had blown there.
WhenIsawthepinIwasstartled.IwentbacktomyroomandrangforAnnie,
thesecondhousemaid,whoisalsoasortofpersonalmaidofmine.Itwashalfpast three o'clock when Annie came down. I took her into father's room and
showedherthepaper.Shewassureitwasnottherewhenshefoldedbackthe
bedclothesforthenightatnineo'clock."
"Eleventwenty-two,"Irepeated."Twiceelevenistwenty-two.Butthatisn'tvery
enlightening."
"No,"sheadmitted."Ithoughtitmightbeatelephonenumber,andIcalledupall
theeleventwenty-twosinthecity."
Inspiteofmyself,Ilaughed,andafteramomentshesmiledinsympathy.
"Wearenotbrilliant,certainly,"Isaidatlast."Inthefirstplace,MissFleming,if
IthoughtthethingwasveryseriousIwouldnotlaugh—butnodoubtadayor
twowillseeeverythingstraight.But,togobacktothiseleventwenty-two—did
yourousetheservantsandhavethehousesearched?"
"Yes,AnniesaidCarterhadcomebackandshewenttowakenhim,butalthough
hisdoorwaslockedinside,hedidnotanswer.AnnieandIswitchedonallthe
lightsonthelowerfloorfromthetopofthestairs.Thenwewentdowntogether
andlookedaround.Everywindowanddoorwaslocked,butinfather'sstudy,on
thefirstfloor,twodrawersofhisdeskwerestandingopen.Andinthelibrary,
thelittlecompartmentinmywriting-table,whereIkeepmyhousemoney,had
beenbrokenopenandthemoneytaken."


"Nothingelsewasgone?"
"Nothing. The silver on the sideboard in the dining-room, plenty of valuable
thingsinthecabinetinthedrawing-room—nothingwasdisturbed."
"It might have been Carter," I reflected. "Did he know where you kept your
housemoney?"
"Itispossible,butIhardlythinkso.Besides,ifhewasgoingtosteal,therewere
somanymorevaluablethingsinthehouse.Mymother'sjewelsaswellasmy
ownwereinmydressing-room,andthedoorwasnotlocked."
"Theywerenotdisturbed?"
Shehesitated.
"They had been disturbed," she admitted. "My grandmother left each of her
childrensomeunstrungpearls.Theywereahobbywithher.AuntJaneandAunt
Letitianeverhadtheirsstrung,butmymother'sweremadeintodifferentthings,
allold-fashioned.Ileftthemlockedinadrawerinmysitting-room,whereIhave
always kept them. The following morning the drawer was unlocked and partly
open,butnothingwasmissing."
"Allyourjewelrywasthere?"
"Allbutonering,whichIrarelyremovefrommyfinger."Ifollowedhereyes.
Underherglovewastheoutlineofaring,asolitairestone.
"Nineteenfrom—"Ishookmyselftogetherandgotup.
"Itdoesnotsoundlikeanordinaryburglary,"Ireflected."ButIamafraidIhave
noimagination.Nodoubtwhatyouhavetoldmewouldbemeatanddrinktoa
personwithananalyticalturnofmind.Ican'tdeduct.Nineteenfromthirty-five
leavessixteen,accordingtomymentalprocess,althoughIknowmenwhocould
makethedifferencenothing."
IbelieveshethoughtIwasalittlemad,forherfacetookonagainitsdespairing
look.
"Wemust find him, Mr. Knox," she insisted as she got up. "If you know of a
detective that you can trust, please get him. But you can understand that the
unexplained absence of the state treasurer must be kept secret. One thing I am
sureof:heisbeingkeptaway.Youdon'tknowwhatenemieshehas!Menlike


Mr.Schwartz,whohavenoscruples,noprinciple."
"Schwartz!"Irepeatedinsurprise.HenrySchwartzwasthebossofhispartyin
the state; the man of whom one of his adversaries had said, with the distinct
approvalofthevotingpublic,thathewassolowinthescaleofhumanitythatit
wouldrequireaspecialdispensationofHeaventoraisehimtotheleveloftotal
degradation.ButheandFlemingweregenerallysupposedtobecaptainandfirst
mateofthepiratecraftthatpassedwithusfortheshipofstate.
"Mr. Schwartz and my father are allies politically," the girl explained with
heightenedcolor,"buttheyarenotfriends.Myfatherisagentleman."
TheinferenceIallowedtopassunnoticed,andasifshefearedshehadsaidtoo
much,thegirlrose.Whensheleft,afewminuteslater,itwaswiththepromise
that she would close the Monmouth Avenue house and go to her aunts at
Bellwood, at once. For myself, I pledged a thorough search for her father, and
beganitbywatchingthescarletwingonherhatthroughthetopoftheelevator
cageuntilithaddescendedoutofsight.
IamafraiditwasaqueerhodgepodgeofcluesandsentimentthatIpouredoutto
Hunter,thedetective,whenhecameuplatethatafternoon.
HunterwasquietwhenIfinishedmystory.
"They're rotten clear through," he reflected. "This administration is worse than
thelast,anditwasapeach.TherehavebeenmoresuicidesthanIcouldcounton
my two hands, in the last ten years. I warn you—you'd be better out of this
mess."
"What do you think about the eleven twenty-two?" I asked as he got up and
buttonedhiscoat.
"Well,itmightmeanalmostanything.Itmightbethatmanydollars,orthetime
a train starts, or it might be the eleventh and the twenty-second letters of the
alphabet—k—v."
"K—v!"Irepeated,"WhythatwouldbetheLatincave—beware."
Huntersmiledcheerfully.
"You'dbettersticktothelaw,Mr.Knox,"hesaidfromthedoor."Wedon'tuse
Latininthedetectivebusiness."



CHAPTERII
UNEASYAPPREHENSIONS
Plattsburgwasnotthenameofthecapital,butitwilldoforthisstory.Thestate
doesn't matter either. You may take your choice, like the story Mark Twain
wrote, with all kinds of weather at the beginning, so the reader could take his
pick.
WewillsaythatmyhomecityisManchester.Ilivewithmymarriedbrother,his
wifeandtwoboys.FredisolderthanIam,andheisanexceptionalbrother.On
thedayhecamehomefromhisweddingtrip,Iwentdownwithmytrapsona
hansom, in accordance with a prearranged schedule. Fred and Edith met me
insidethedoor.
"Here's your latch-key, Jack," Fred said, as he shook hands. "Only one
stipulation—remember we are strangers in the vicinity and try to get home
beforetheneighborsareup.Wehaveourreputationstothinkof."
"Thereisnohourforbreakfast,"Edithsaid,asshekissedme."Youhaveabath
ofyourown,anddon'tsmokeinthedrawing-room."
Fredwasalwaysaluckydevil.
Ihadbeenthere nowfor six years.Ihad helpedtoraisetwoyoungKnoxes—
bullyyoungsters,too:theoldestonecoulduseboxing-gloveswhenhewasfour
—andthefinestcolliepupinourendofthestate.Iwantedtoraiseotherthings
—theboyslikedpets—butEdithwaslikeallwomen,shedidn'tcareforanimals.
Ihadarabbit-hutchbuiltandstockedinthelaundry,andadove-coteontheroof.
Iusedthegeneralbath,andgaveupmytubtoayoungalligatorIgotinFlorida,
andeverySundaytheyoungstersandIhadagreattimetryingtoteachittodo
tricks.IhavealwaystakenitalittlehardthatEdithtookadvantageofmygetting
the measles from Billy, to clear out every animal in the house. She broke the
newstomegently,thedaytherashbegantofade,maintainingthat,havinglost
onecookthroughthealligatorescapingfromhistubandbeingmistaken,inthe
gloom of the back-stairs, for a rubber boot, and picked up under the same
misapprehension,shecouldnotriskanothercook.


OnthedaythatMargeryFlemingcametomeaboutherfather,Iwenthomeina
stateofmixedemotion.Dinnerwasnotaquietmeal:FredandItalkedpolitics,
generally,andasFredwasononesideandIontheothertherewasalwaysan
argumenton.
"WhataboutFleming?"Iaskedatlast,whenFredhaddeclaredthatinthesedays
ofcorruption,nomatterwhatthegovernmentwas,hewas"forninst"it."Hasn't
hebeenfrightenedintoreform?"
"Badegg,"hesaid,jabbinghispotatoasifithadbeenapolitician,"andthere's
nowaytoimproveabadeggexcepttoholdyournose.That'swhatthepublicis
doing;holdingitsnose."
"Hasn'theadaughter?"Iaskedcasually.
"Yes—alovelygirl,too,"Edithassented."Itishisonlyredeemingquality."
"Flemingisarascal,daughterornodaughter,"Fredpersisted."Eversinceheand
hisganggotpoorButlerintotroubleandthenlefthimtokillhimselfastheonly
way out, I have felt that there was something coming to all of them—Hansen,
Schwartzandtherest.IsawFlemingonthestreetto-day."
"What!"Iexclaimed,almostjumpingoutofmychair.
Fredsurveyedmequizzicallyoverhiscoffeecup.
"'Hasn'thea daughter!'"hequoted."Yes,Isawhim,Jack, thisvery day, in an
unromanticfour-wheeler,andhewasswearingatapoliceman."
"Wherewasit?"
"ChestnutandUnion.Hiscabhadbeenstruckbyacar,andbadlydamaged,but
the gentleman refused to get out. No doubt you could get the details from the
corner-man."
"Look here, Fred," I said earnestly. "Keep that to yourself, will you? And you
too,Edith?It'saqueerstory,andI'lltellyousometime."
Asweleftthedining-roomEdithputherhandonmyshoulder.
"Don't get mixed up with those people, Jack," she advised. "Margery's a dear
girl,butherfatherpracticallykilledHenryButler,andHenryButlermarriedmy
cousin."


"You needn't make it a family affair," I protested. "I have only seen the girl
once."
ButEdithsmiled."IknowwhatIknow,"shesaid."Howextravagantofyouto
sendBobbythatenormoushobby-horse!"
"Theboyhastolearntoridesometime.Infouryearshecanhaveapony,andI'm
goingtoseethathehasit.He'llbeeightbythattime."
Edithlaughed.
"Infouryears!"shesaid,"Why,infouryearsyou'll—"thenshestopped.
"I'llwhat?"Idemanded,blockingthedoortothelibrary.
"You'll be forty, Jack, and it's a mighty unattractive man who gets past forty
withoutbeingsoughtandwonbysomewoman.You'llbebuying—"
"Iwillbethirty-nine,"Isaidwithdignity,"andasfarasbeingsoughtandwon
goes,IamsooverwhelmedbyFred'smiserythatIdon'tintendtomarryatall.If
Ido—ifIdo—it will be to some girl who turns and runs the other way every
timesheseesme."
"The oldest trick in the box," Edith scoffed. "What's that thing Fred's always
quoting: 'A woman is like a shadow; follow her, she flies; fly from her, she
follows.'"
"Uponmyword!"Isaidindignantly."Andyouareawoman!"
"I'mdifferent,"sheretorted."I'monlyawifeandmother."
InthelibraryFredgotupfromhisdeskandgathereduphispapers."Ican'tthink
withyoutwowhisperingthere,"hesaid,"I'mgoingtotheden."
As he slammed the door into his workroom Edith picked up her skirts and
scuttledafterhim.
"Howdareyourunawaylikethat?"shecalled."Youpromisedme—"Thedoor
closedbehindher.
Iwentoverandspokethroughthepanels.
"'Follow her, she flies; fly from her, she follows'—oh, wife and mother!" I
called.


"ForHeaven'ssake,Edith,"Fred'svoiceroseirritably."IfyouandJackaregoing
totalkallevening,goandsitonhiskneeandletmealone.Thewayyoutwoflirt
undermynoseisascandal.Doyouhearthat,Jack?"
"Goodnight,Edith,"Icalled,"Ihaveleftyouakissontheupperlefthandpanel
of the door. And I want to ask you one more question: what if I fly from the
womanandshedoesn'tfollow?"
"Thank your lucky stars," Fred called in a muffled voice, and I left them to
themselves.
I had some work to do at the office, work that the interview with Hunter had
interrupted, and half past eight that night found me at my desk. But my mind
strayedfromthepapersbeforeme.Afterauselessefforttoconcentrate,Igaveit
upasuseless,andbyteno'clockIwasonthestreetagain,myeveningwasted,
thepapersinthelibelcaseoftheStaragainsttheEagleuntouchedonmydesk,
and I the victim of an uneasy apprehension that took me, almost without
volition,totheneighborhoodoftheFleminghouseonMonmouthAvenue.Forit
hadoccurredtomethatMissFlemingmightnothaveleftthehousethatdayas
she had promised, might still be there, liable to another intrusion by the
mysteriousindividualwhohadakeytothehouse.
Itwasarelief,consequently,whenIreacheditscorner,tofindnolightsinthe
building. The girl had kept her word. Assured of that, I looked at the house
curiously. It was one of the largest in the city, not wide, but running far back
alongthesidestreet;asmallyardwithalowironfenceandagarage,completed
the property. The street lights left the back of the house in shadow, and as I
stoppedintheshelterofthegarage,IwaspositivethatIheardsomeoneworking
witharearwindowoftheemptyhouse.Amomentlaterthesoundsceasedand
muffledfootstepscamedownthecementwalk.Theintrudermadenoattemptto
open the iron gate; against the light I saw him put a leg over the low fence,
follow it up with the other, and start up the street, still with peculiar
noiselessnessofstride.Hewasashort,heavy-shoulderedfellowinacap,andhis
silhouetteshowedaprodigiouslengthofarm.
Ifollowed,Idon'tmindsayinginsomeexcitement.Ihadavisionofgrabbing
himfrombehindandleadinghim—orpushinghim,underthecircumstances,in
triumph to the police station, and another mental picture, not so pleasant, of
beingfoundonthepavementbysomepasser-by,withasmallpunctuationmark
ending my sentence of life. But I was not apprehensive. I even remember


wondering humorously if I should overtake him and press the cold end of my
silvermountedfountainpenintothenapeofhisneck,ifhewouldthrowuphis
handsandsurrender.Ihadreadsomewhereofaburglarheldupinasimilarway
withashoe-horn.
Ourpacewaseasy.Oncethemanjustaheadstoppedandlightedacigarette,and
theodorofaveryfairTurkishtobaccocamebacktome.Heglancedbackover
his shoulder at me and went on without quickening his pace. We met no
policemen,andafterperhapsfiveminuteswalking,whenthestrainwasgrowing
tense,mygentlemanoftherubber-soledshoesswungabruptlytotheleft,and—
enteredthepolicestation!
I had occasion to see Davidson many times after that, during the strange
developmentoftheFlemingcase;Ihadthepeculiarexperiencelaterofhaving
himfollowmeasIhadtrailedhimthatnight,andIhadoccasiononcetotestthe
strengthofhislongarmswhenhehelpedtothrustmethroughthetransomatthe
WhiteCat,butInevermethimwithoutarecurrenceofthesheepishfeelingwith
which I watched him swagger up to the night sergeant and fall into easy
conversationwiththemanbehindthedesk.Standingintheglarefromtheopen
window,Ihadmuchthelostprideandselfcontemptofawetcatsittinginthe
sun.
Two or three roundsmen were sitting against the wall, lazily, helmets off and
coatsopenagainstthewarmthoftheearlyspringnight.Inabackroomothers
were playing checkers and disputing noisily. Davidson's voice came distinctly
throughtheopenwindows.
"The house is closed," he reported. "But one of the basement windows isn't
shutteredandthelockisbad.Icouldn'tfindShields.He'dbetterkeepaneyeon
it."Hestoppedandfishedinhispocketswithagrin."Thiswastiedtotheknob
ofthekitchendoor,"hesaid,raisinghisvoiceforthebenefitoftheroom,and
holdingaloftapieceofpaper."ForShields!"heexplained,"andsigned'Delia.'"
Themengatheredaroundhim,eventhesergeantgotupandleanedforward,his
elbowsonhisdesk.
"Readit,"hesaidlazily."Shieldshasgotawife;andhernameain'tDelia."
"Dear Tom," Davidson read, in a mincing falsetto, "We are closing up
unexpected,soIwon'tbehereto-night.IamgoingtoMamieBrennan'sandif
youwanttotalktomeyoucangetmebycallingupAnderson'sdrug-store.The


clerkisagentlemanfriendofmine.Mr.Carter,thebutler,toldmebeforeheleft
he would get me a place as parlor maid, so I'll have another situation soon.
Delia."
The sergeant scowled. "I'm goin' to talk to Tom," he said, reaching out for the
note."He'sgotanicefamily,andthingslikethat'rebadfortheforce."
Ilightedthecigar,whichhadbeenmyexcuseforloiteringonthepavement,and
wenton.Itsoundedinvolvedforanovice,butifIcouldfindAnderson'sdrugstoreIcouldfindMamieBrennan;throughMamieBrennanIwouldgetDelia;
and through Delia I might find Carter. I was vague from that point, but what
MissFleminghadsaidofCarterhadmademesuspiciousofhim.Underanarc
light I made the first note in my new business of man-hunter and it was
somethinglikethis:
Anderson'sdrug-store.
AskforMamieBrennan.
FindDelia.
AdviseDeliathatapolicemanwithafamilyisabadbet.
LocateCarter.
ItwaslatewhenIreachedthecornerofChestnutandUnionStreets,whereFred
hadsaidAllanFleminghadcometogriefinacab.Butthecorner-manhadgone,
and the night man on the beat knew nothing, of course, of any particular
collision.
"There's plinty of 'em every day at this corner," he said cheerfully. "The
departmentsindsawagonhereeverynighttogatherupthepieces,autymobiles
mainly.Thattrolleypoleovertherehasbeenslicedoffcleanthreetimesinthe
lastmonth.Theysayafellowain'tagraduateoftheautymobileschooltillhecan
goarounditonthesidewalkwithouthittin'it!"
Ilefthimlookingreminiscentlyatthepole,andwenthometobed.Ihadmade
noheadway,Ihadlostconceitwithmyselfandadayandeveningattheoffice,
andIhadgainedthecertaintythatMargeryFlemingwassafeinBellwoodand
the uncertain address of a servant who might know something about Mr.
Fleming.


I was still awake at one o'clock and I got up impatiently and consulted the
telephone directory. There were twelve Andersons in the city who conducted
drug-stores.
When I finally went to sleep, I dreamed that I was driving Margery Fleming
alongastreetinabrokentaxicab,andthatallthebuildingswerepharmaciesand
numberedeleventwenty-two.


CHAPTERIII
NINETY-EIGHTPEARLS
After such a night I slept late. Edith still kept her honeymoon promise of no
breakfasthourandshehadgoneoutwithFredwhenIcamedown-stairs.
Ihave a greatadmirationforEdith,forhertolerancewithmyuncertainhours,
for hercheerybreakfast-room, andthe smilinggoodnatureoftheservantsshe
engages. I haveatheory that, showmeasullenservantandIwillshowyoua
sullenmistress,althoughEdithherselfdisclaimsallresponsibilityandlayscredit
forthesmilewithwhichKatiebringsinmyeggsandcoffee,tolargessonmy
part.Bethatasitmay,Katieisasmilingandpersonableyoungwoman,andIam
convincedthathadshepickedupthealligatorontheback-stairsandlostpartof
theendofherthumb,shewouldhavetoldEdiththatshecutitoffwiththebread
knife,andthushavesavedtousBessietheBelovedandherfascinatingtrickof
takingtheendofhertailinhermouthandspinning.
Onthatparticularmorning,Katiealsobroughtmealetter,andIrecognizedthe
crampedandratheruncertainwritingofMissJaneMaitland.
"DEARMR.KNOX:
"Sister Letitia wishes me to ask you if you can dine with us to-night,
informally. She has changed her mind in regard to the Colored Orphans'
Home,andwouldliketoconsultyouaboutit.
"Verytrulyyours,
"SUSANJANEMAITLAND."
Itwasaverycommonplacenote:Ihadhadonelikeitaftereveryboard-meeting
oftheorphans'home,MissMaitlandbeingonprincipleanaggressiveminority.
Also, having considerable mind, changing it became almost as ponderous an
operationasmovingabarn,althoughnotnearlysostable.
(Fredaccusesmehereofaverybadpun,andremindsme,quiteundeservedly,
thatthepunisthelowestformofhumor.)


IcameacrossMissJane'slettertheotherday,whenIwasgatheringthematerial
forthisnarrative,andIsatforatimewithitinmyhandthinkingoveragainthe
chainofeventsinwhichithadbeenthefirstlink,aseriesofstrangehappenings
that began with my acceptance of the invitation, and that led through ways as
darkandtricksasvainasBretHarte'sHeathenChineeeverdreamedof,tothe
finalsceneattheWhiteCat.WiththeletterIhadfiledawayahalfdozenarticles
andIrangedthemallonthedeskinfrontofme:theletter,thebitofpaperwith
eleventwenty-twoonit,thatMargerygavemethefirsttimeIsawher;anotebook filled with jerky characters that looked like Arabic and were newspaper
shorthand; a railroad schedule; a bullet, the latter slightly flattened; a cubeshaped piece of chalk which I put back in its box with a shudder, and labeled
'poison,' and a small gold buckle from a slipper, which I—at which I did not
shudder.
Ididnotneedtomaketheclimaxesofmystory.Theylaybeforeme.
Iwalkedtotheofficethatmorning,andonthewayIfoundandinterviewedthe
corner-man at Chestnut and Union. But he was of small assistance. He
rememberedtheincident,butthegentlemaninthetaxicabhadnotbeenhurtand
refused to give his name, saying he was merely passing through the city from
onerailroadstationtoanother,anddidnotwishanynotoriety.
Ateleveno'clockHuntercalledup;hesaidhewasgoingaftertheaffairhimself,
butthatitwashardtostickadipnetintothepoliticalpuddlewithoutpullingout
alotmorethanyouwentafter,orthanitwashealthytoget.Hewasinclinedto
be facetious, and wanted to know if I had come across any more k. v's.
Whereupon I put away the notes I had made about Delia and Mamie Brennan
andIheardhimchuckleasIrangoff.
IwenttoBellwoodthatevening.Itwasasuburbantownadozenmilesfromthe
city,withapicturesquestation,surroundedbylawnsandcementwalks.Streetcarshadsofarfailedtospoilitstree-borderedstreets,anditwasexclusivetothe
pointofstagnation.TheMaitlandplacewasattheheadofthemainstreet,which
hadatonetimebeenitsdrive.MissLetitia,whowasseventy,hadhadsufficient
commercial instinct, some years before, to cut her ancestral acres—their
ancestral acres, although Miss Jane hardly counted—into building lots, except
perhaps an acre which surrounded the house. Thus, the Maitland ladies were
reputedtobeextremelywealthy.Andastheyneverspentanymoney,nodoubt
theywere.


The homestead as I knew it, was one of impeccable housekeeping and
unmitigatedgloom.Therewasachillthatrushedfromtheold-fashionedcenter
halltogreetthenew-comerontheporch,andthatseemedtofreezeupwhatever
inhimwasspontaneousandcheerful.
IhadtakendinneratBellwoodbefore,andthememorywasnothilarious.Miss
Letitia was deaf, but chose to ignore the fact. With superb indifference she
would break into the conversation with some wholly alien remark that
necessitated a reassembling of one's ideas, making the meal a series of mental
gymnastics.MissJane,throughlongpractice,andbecausesheonlyskimmedthe
surfaceofconversation,tookhercerebralflightseasily,butIammoreunwieldy
ofmind.
NorwasMissLetitia'sdominancewhollyconversational.HersisterJanewasher
creature, alternately snubbed and bullied. To Miss Letitia, Jane, in spite of her
sixty-fiveyears,wasstillachild,andsometimesabadone.Indeed,manyachild
oftenismoresophisticated.MissLetitiagaveherexpurgatedbookstoread,and
forbade her to read divorce court proceedings in the newspapers. Once, a
recreanthousemaidpresentingtheestablishmentwithahealthymaleinfant,Jane
wassenttothecountryforamonth,andwasonlybroughtbackwhenthehouse
hadbeenfumigatedthroughout.
PoorMissJane!Shemetmewithflutteringcordialityinthehallthatnight,safe
inbeingherselfforonce,withtheknowledgethatMissLetitiaalwaysreceived
mefromathrone-likehorsehairsofainthebackparlor.Sheworeanewlacecap,
andwastwitteringlyexcited.
"Ournieceishere,"sheexplained,asItookoffmycoat—everythingwas"ours"
withJane;"mine"withLetitia—"andwearehavinganiceatdinner.Pleasesay
thaticesarenotinjurious,Mr.Knox.MysisterissoopposedtothemandIhad
tobegforthis."
"Onthecontrary,thedoctorshaveorderedicesformyyoungnephews,"Isaid
gravely,"andIdoteonthemmyself."
Miss Jane beamed. Indeed, there was something almost unnaturally gay about
thelittleoldladyallthatevening.Perhapsitwasthenewlacecap.Later,Itried
toanalyzehermanner,torecallexactlywhatshehadsaid,torememberanything
thatcouldpossiblyhelp.ButIcouldfindnocluetowhatfollowed.
Miss Letitia received me as usual, in the back parlor. Miss Fleming was there


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