The Case of The Pocket Diary Found in the Snow

Standard
Joseph Muller, Secret Service detective of the Imperial Austrian police, is one of the great experts in his profession. In personality he differs greatly from other famous detectives. He has neither the impressive authority of Sherlock Holmes, nor the keen brilliancy of Monsieur Lecoq. Muller is a small, slight, plain-looking man, of indefinite age, and of much humbleness of mien. A naturally retiring, modest disposition, and two external causes are the reasons for Muller’s humbleness of manner, which is his chief characteristic. One cause is the fact that in early youth a miscarriage of justice gave him several years in prison, an experience which cast a stigma on his name and which made it impossible for him, for many years after, to obtain honest employment. But the world is richer, and safer, by Muller’s early misfortune. For it was this experience which threw him back on his own peculiar talents for a livelihood, and drove him into the police force. Had he been able to enter any other profession, his genius might have been stunted to a mere pastime, instead of being, as now, utilised for the public good.
Then, the red tape and bureaucratic etiquette which attaches to every governmental department, puts the secret service men of the Imperial police on a par with the lower ranks of the subordinates. Muller’s official rank is scarcely much higher than that of a policeman, although kings and councillors consult him and the Police Department realises to the full what a treasure it has in him. But official red tape, and his early misfortune… prevent the giving of any higher official standing to even such a genius. Born and bred to such conditions, Muller understands them, and his natural modesty of disposition asks for no outward honours, asks for nothing but an income sufficient for his simple needs, and for aid and opportunity to occupy himself in the way he most enjoys.
Joseph Muller’s character is a strange mixture. The kindest-hearted man in the world, he is a human bloodhound when once the lure of the trail has caught him. He scarcely eats or sleeps when the chase is on, he does not seem to know human weakness nor fatigue, in spite of his frail body. Once put on a case his mind delves and delves until it finds a clue, then something awakes within him, a spirit akin to that which holds the bloodhound nose to trail, and he will accomplish the apparently impossible, he will track down his victim when the entire machinery of a great police department seems helpless to discover anything. The high chiefs and commissioners grant a condescending permission when Muller asks, “May I do this? … or may I handle this case this way?” both parties knowing all the while that it is a farce, and that the department waits helpless until this humble little man saves its honour by solving some problem before which its intricate machinery has stood dazed and puzzled.
This call of the trail is something that is stronger than anything else in Muller’s mentality, and now and then it brings him into conflict with the department,… or with his own better nature. Sometimes his unerring instinct discovers secrets in high places, secrets which the Police Department is bidden to hush up and leave untouched. Muller is then taken off the case, and left idle for a while if he persists in his opinion as to the true facts. And at other times, Muller’s own warm heart gets him into trouble. He will track down his victim, driven by the power in his soul which is stronger than all volition; but when he has this victim in the net, he will sometimes discover him to be a much finer, better man than the other individual, whose wrong at this particular criminal’s hand set in motion the machinery of justice. Several times that has happened to Muller, and each time his heart got the better of his professional instincts, of his practical common-sense, too, perhaps,… at least as far as his own advancement was concerned, and he warned the victim, defeating his own work. This peculiarity of Muller’s character caused his undoing at last, his official undoing that is, and compelled his retirement from the force. But his advice is often sought unofficially by the Department, and to those who know, Muller’s hand can be seen in the unravelling of many a famous case.
The following stories in DM du Jour are but a few of the many interesting cases that have come within the experience of this great detective. But they give a fair portrayal of Muller’s peculiar method of working, his looking on himself as merely an humble member of the Department, and the comedy of his acting under “official orders” when the Department is in reality following out his directions.

wk73 CHAPTER ONE. THE DISCOVERY IN THE SNOW

A quiet winter evening had sunk down upon the great city. The clock in the old clumsy church steeple of the factory district had not yet struck eight, when the side door of one of the large buildings opened and a man came out into the silent street.

It was Ludwig Amster, one of the working-men in the factory, starting on his homeward way. It was not a pleasant road, this street along the edge of the city. The town showed itself from its most disagreeable side here, with malodorous factories, rickety tenements, untidy open stretches and dumping grounds offensive both to eye and nostril.

Even by day the street that Amster took was empty; by night it was absolutely quiet and dark, as dark as were the thoughts of the solitary man. He walked along, brooding over his troubles. Scarcely an hour before he had been discharged from the factory because of his refusal to submit to the injustice of his foreman.

The yellow light of the few lanterns show nothing but high board walls and snow drifts, stone heaps, and now and then the remains of a neglected garden. Here and there a stunted tree or a wild shrub bent their twigs under the white burden which the winter had laid upon them. Ludwig Amster, who had walked this street for several years, knew his path so well that he could take it blindfolded. The darkness did not worry him, but he walked somewhat more slowly than usual, for he knew that under the thin covering of fresh-fallen snow there lay the ice of the night before. He walked carefully, watching for the slippery places.

He had been walking about half an hour, perhaps, when he came to a cross street. Here he noticed the tracks of a wagon, the trace still quite fresh, as the slowly falling flakes did not yet cover it. The tracks led out towards the north, out on to the hilly, open fields.

Amster was somewhat astonished. It was very seldom that a carriage came into this neighbourhood, and yet these narrow wheel-tracks could have been made only by an equipage of that character. The heavy trucks which passed these roads occasionally had much wider wheels. But Amster was to find still more to astonish him.

In one corner near the cross-roads stood a solitary lamp-post. The light of the lamp fell sharply on the snow, on the wagon tracks, and—on something else besides.

Amster halted, bent down to look at it, and shook his head as if in doubt.

A number of small pieces of glass gleamed up at him and between them, like tiny roses, red drops of blood shone on the white snow. All this was a few steps to one side of the wagon tracks.

“What can have happened here—here in this weird spot, where a cry for help would never be heard? where there would be no one to bring help?”

So Amster asked himself, but his discovery gave him no answer. His curiosity was aroused, however, and he wished to know more. He followed up the tracks and saw that the drops of blood led further on, although there was no more glass. The drops could still be seen for a yard further, reaching out almost to the board fence that edged the sidewalk. Through the broken planks of this fence the rough bare twigs of a thorn bush stretched their brown fingers. On the upper side of the few scattered leaves there was snow, and blood.

Amster’s wide serious eyes soon found something else. Beside the bush there lay a tiny package. He lifted it up. It was a small, light, square package, wrapped in ordinary brown paper. Where the paper came together it was fastened by two little lumps of black bread, which were still moist. He turned the package over and shook his head again. On the other side was written, in pencil, the lettering uncertain, as if scribbled in great haste and in agitation, the sentence, “Please take this to the nearest police station.”

The words were like a cry for help, frozen on to the ugly paper. Amster shivered; he had a feeling that this was a matter of life and death.

The wagon tracks in the lonely street, the broken pieces of glass and the drops of blood, showing that some occupant of the vehicle had broken the window, in the hope of escape, perhaps, or to throw out the package which should bring assistance—all these facts grouped themselves together in the brain of the intelligent working-man to form some terrible tragedy where his assistance, if given at once, might be of great use. He had a warm heart besides, a heart that reached out to this unknown who was in distress, and who threw out the call for help which had fallen into his hands.

He waited no longer to ponder over the matter, but started off at a full run for the nearest police station. He rushed into the room and told his story breathlessly.

They took him into the next room, the office of the commissioner for the day. The official in charge, who had been engaged in earnest conversation with a small, frail-looking, middle-aged man, turned to Amster with a question as to what brought him there.

“I found this package in the snow.”

“Let me see it.”

Amster laid it on the table. The older man looked at it, and as the commissioner was about to open it, he handed him a paper-knife with the words: “You had better cut it open, sir.”

“Why?”

“It is best not to injure the seals that fasten a package.”

“Just as you say, Muller,” answered the young commissioner, smiling. He was still very young to hold such an office, but then he was the son of a Cabinet Minister, and family connections had obtained this responsible position for him so soon. Kurt von Mayringen was his name, and he was a very good-looking young man, apparently a very good-natured young man also, for he took this advice from a subordinate with a most charming smile. He knew, however, that this quiet, pale-faced little man in the shabby clothes was greater than he, and that it was mere accident of birth that put him, Kurt von Mayringen, instead of Joseph Muller, in the position of superior.

The young commissioner had had most careful advice from headquarters as to Muller, and he treated the secret service detective, who was one of the most expert and best known men in the profession, with the greatest deference, for he knew that anything Muller might say could be only of value to him with his very slight knowledge of his business. He took the knife, therefore, and carefully cut open the paper, taking out a tiny little notebook, on the outer side of which a handsome monogram gleamed up at him in golden letters.

“A woman made this package,” said Muller, who had been looking at the covering very carefully; “a blond woman.”

The other two looked at him in astonishment. He showed them a single blond hair which had been in one of the bread seals.

“How I was murdered.” Those were the words that Commissioner von Mayringen read aloud after he had hastily turned the first few pages of the notebook, and had come to a place where the writing was heavily underscored.

The commissioner and Amster were much astonished at these words, but the detective still gazed quietly at the seals of the wrapping.

“This heading reads like insanity,” said the commissioner. Muller shrugged his shoulders, then turned to Amster. “Where did you find the package?”

“In Garden street.”

“When?”

“About twenty minutes ago.”

Amster gave a short and lucid account of his discovery. His intelligent face and well-chosen words showed that he had observation and the power to describe correctly what he had observed. His honest eyes inspired confidence.

“Where could they have been taking the woman?” asked the detective, more of himself than of the others.

The commissioner searched hastily through the notebook for a signature, but without success. “Why do you think it is a woman? This writing looks more like a man’s hand to me. The letters are so heavy and—”

“That is only because they are written with broad pen,” interrupted Muller, showing him the writing on the package; “here is the same hand, but it is written with a fine hard pencil, and you can see distinctly that this is a woman’s handwriting. And besides, the skin on a man’s thumb does not show the fine markings that you can see here on these bits of bread that have been used for seals.”

The commissioner rose from his seat. “You may be right, Muller. We will take for granted, then, that there is a woman in trouble. It remains to be seen whether she is insane or not.”

“Yes, that remains to be seen,” said Muller dryly, as he reached for his overcoat.

“You are going before you read what is in the notebook?” asked Commissioner von Mayringen.

Muller nodded. “I want to see the wagon tracks before they are lost; it may help me to discover something else. You can read the book and make any arrangements you find necessary after that.”

Muller was already wrapped in his overcoat. “Is it snowing now?” He turned to Arnster.

“Some flakes were falling as I came here.”

“All right. Come with me and show me the way.” Muller nodded carelessly to his superior officer, his mind evidently already engrossed in thoughts of the interesting case, and hurried out with Amster. The commissioner was quite satisfied with the state of affairs. He knew the case was in safe hands. He seated himself at his desk again and began to read the little book which had come into his hands so strangely. His eyes ran more and more rapidly over the closely written pages, as his interest grew and grew.

When, half an hour later, he had finished the reading, he paced restlessly up and down the room, trying to bring order into the thoughts that rushed through his brain. And one thought came again and again, and would not be denied in spite of many improbabilities, and many strange things with which the book was full; in spite, also, of the varying, uncertain handwriting and style of the message. This one thought was, “This woman is not insane.”

While the young official was pondering over the problem, Muller entered as quietly as ever, bowed, put his hat and cane in their places, and shook the snow off his clothing. He was evidently pleased about something. Kurt von Mayringen did not notice his entrance. He was again at the desk with the open book before him, staring at the mysterious words, “How I was murdered.”

“It is a woman, a lady of position. And if she is mad, then her madness certainly has method.” Muller said these words in his usual quiet way, almost indifferently. The young commissioner started up and snatched for the fine white handkerchief which the detective handed him. A strong sweet perfume filled the room. “It is hers?” he murmured.

“It is hers,” said Muller. “At least we can take that much for granted, for the handkerchief bears the same monogram, A. L., which is on the notebook.”

Commissioner von Mayringen rose from his chair in evident excitement. “Well?” he asked.

It was a short question, but full of meaning, and one could see that he was waiting in great excitement for the answer. Muller reported what he had discovered. The commissioner thought it little enough, and shrugged his shoulders impatiently when the other had finished.

Muller noticed his chief’s dissatisfaction and smiled at it. He himself was quite content with what he had found.

“Is that all?” murmured the commissioner, as if disappointed.

“That is all,” repeated the detective calmly, and added, “That is a good deal. We have here a closely written notebook, the contents of which, judging by your excitement, are evidently important. We have also a handkerchief with an unusual perfume on it. I repeat that this is quite considerable. Besides this, we have the seals, and we know several other things. I believe that we can save this lady, or if it be too late, we can avenge her at least.”

The commissioner looked at Muller in surprise. “We are in a city of more than a million inhabitants,” he said, almost timidly.

“I have hunted criminals in two hemispheres, and I have found them,” said Muller simply. The young commissioner smiled and held out his hand. “Ah, yes, Muller—I keep forgetting the great things you have done. You are so quiet about it.”

“What I have done is only what any one could do who has that particular faculty. I do only what is in human power to do, and the cleverest criminal can do no more. Besides which, we all know that every criminal commits some stupidity, and leaves some trace behind him. If it is really a crime which we have found the trace of here, we will soon discover it.” Muller’s editorial “we” was a matter of formality. He might with more truth have used the singular pronoun.

“Very well, then, do what you can,” said the commissioner with a friendly smile.

The older man nodded, took the book and its wrappings from the desk, and went into a small adjoining room.

The commissioner sent for an attendant and gave him the order to fetch a pot of tea from a neighbouring saloon. When the tray arrived, he placed several good cigars upon it, and sent it in to Muller. Taking a cigar himself, the commissioner leaned back in his sofa corner to think over this first interesting case of his short professional experience. That it concerned a lady in distress made it all the more romantic.

In his little room the detective, put in good humour by the thoughtful attention of his chief, sat down to read the book carefully. While he studied its contents his mind went back over his search in the silent street outside.

He and Amster had hurried out into the raw chill of the night, reaching the spot of the first discovery in about ten or fifteen minutes. Muller found nothing new there. But he was able to discover in which direction the carriage had been going. The hoof marks of the single horse which had drawn it were still plainly to be seen in the snow.

“Will you follow these tracks in the direction from which they have come?” he asked of Amster. “Then meet me at the station and report what you have seen.”

“Very well, sir,” answered the workman. The two men parted with a hand shake.

Before Muller started on to follow up the tracks in the other direction, he took up one of the larger pieces’ of glass. “Cheap glass,” he said, looking at it carefully. “It was only a hired cab, therefore, and a one-horse cab at that.”

He walked on slowly, following the marks of the wheels. His eyes searched the road from side to side, looking for any other signs that might have been left by the hand which had thrown the package out of the window. The snow, which had been falling softly thus far, began to come down in heavier flakes, and Muller quickened his pace. The tracks would soon be covered, but they could still be plainly seen. They led out into the open country, but when the first little hill had been climbed a drift heaped itself up, cutting off the trail completely.

Muller stood on the top of this knoll at a spot where the street divided. Towards the right it led down into a factory suburb; towards the left the road led on to a residence colony, and straight ahead the way was open, between fields, pastures and farms, over moors, to another town of considerable size lying beside a river. Muller knew all this, but his knowledge of the locality was of little avail, for all traces of the carriage wheels were lost.

He followed each one of the streets for a little distance, but to no purpose. The wind blew the snow up in such heaps that it was quite impossible to follow any trail under such conditions.

With an expression of impatience Muller gave up his search and turned to go back again. He was hoping that Amster might have had better luck. It was not possible to find the goal towards which the wagon had taken its prisoner—if prisoner she was—as soon as they had hoped. Perhaps the search must be made in the direction from which she had been brought.

Muller turned back towards the city again. He walked more quickly now, but his eyes took in everything to the right and to the left of his path. Near the place where the street divided a bush waved its bare twigs in the wind. The snow which had settled upon it early in the day had been blown away by the freshening wind, and just as Muller neared the bush he saw something white fluttering from one twig. It was a handkerchief, which had probably hung heavy and lifeless when he had passed that way before. Now when the wind held it out straight, he saw it at once. He loosened it carefully from the thorny twigs. A delicate and rather unusual perfume wafted up to his face. There was more of the odour on the little cloth than is commonly used by people of good taste. And yet this handkerchief was far too fine and delicate in texture to belong to the sort of people who habitually passed along this street. It must have something to do with the mysterious carriage. It was still quite dry, and in spite of the fact that the wind had been playing with it, it had been but slightly torn. It could therefore have been in that position for a short time only. At the nearest lantern Muller saw that the monogram on the handkerchief was the same in style and initials as that on the notebook. It was the letters A. L.

CHAPTER TWO. THE STORY OF THE NOTEBOOK

It was warm and comfortable in the little room where Muller sat. He closed the windows, lit the gas, took off his overcoat—Muller was a pedantically careful person—smoothed his hair and sat down comfortably at the table. Just as he took up the little book, the attendant brought the tea, which he proceeded at once to enjoy. He did not take up his little book again until he had lit himself a cigar. He looked at the cover of the dainty little notebook for many minutes before he opened it. It was a couple of inches long, of the usual form, and had a cover of brown leather. In the left upper corner were the letters A. L. in gold. The leaves of the book, about fifty in all, were of a fine quality of paper and covered with close writing. On the first leaves the writing was fine and delicate, calm and orderly, but later on it was irregular and uncertain, as if penned by a trembling hand under stress of terror. This change came in the leaves of the book which followed the strange and terrible title, “How I was murdered.”

Before Muller began to read he felt the covers of the book carefully. In one of them there was a tiny pocket, in which he found a little piece of wall paper of a noticeable and distinctly ugly pattern. The paper had a dark blue ground with clumsy lines of gold on it. In the pocket he found also a tramway ticket, which had been crushed and then carefully smoothed out again. After looking at these papers, Muller replaced them in the cover of the notebook. The book itself was strongly perfumed with the same odour which had exhaled from the handkerchief.

The detective did not begin his reading in that part of the book which followed the mysterious title, as the commissioner had done. He began instead at the very first words.

“Ah! she is still young,” he murmured, when he had read the first lines. “Young, in easy circumstances, happy and contented.”

These first pages told of pleasure trips, of visits from and to good friends, of many little events of every-day life. Then came some accounts, written in pencil, of shopping expeditions to the city. Costly laces and jewels had been bought, and linen garments for children by the dozen. “She is rich, generous, and charitable,” thought the detective, for the book showed that the considerable sums which had been spent here had not been for the writer herself. The laces bore the mark, “For our church”; behind the account for the linen stood the words, “For the charity school.”

Muller began to feel a strong sympathy for the writer of these notices. She showed an orderly, almost pedantic, character, mingled with generosity of heart. He turned leaf after leaf until he finally came to the words, written in intentionally heavy letters, “How I was murdered.”

Muller’s head sank down lower over these mysterious words, and his eyes flew through the writing that followed. It was quite a different writing here. The hand that penned these words must have trembled in deadly terror. Was it terror of coming death, foreseen and not to be escaped? or was it the trembling and the terror of an overthrown brain? It was undoubtedly, in spite of the difference, the same hand that had penned the first pages of the book. A few characteristic turns of the writing were plainly to be seen in both parts of the story. But the ink was quite different also. The first pages had been written with a delicate violet ink, the later leaves were penned with a black ink of uneven quality, of the kind used by poor people who write very seldom. The words of this later portion of the book were blurred in many places, as if the writer had not been able to dry them properly before she turned the leaves. She therefore had had neither blotting paper nor sand at her disposal.

And then the weird title!

Was it written at the dictation of insanity? or did A. L. know, while she wrote it, that it was too late for any help to reach her? Did she see her doom approaching so clearly that she knew there was no escape?

Muller breathed a deep breath before he continued his reading. Later on his breath came more quickly still, and he clinched his fist several times, as if deeply moved. He was not a cold man, only thoroughly self-controlled. In his breast there lived an unquenchable hatred of all evil. It was this that awakened the talents which made him the celebrated detective he had become.

“I fear that it will be impossible for any one to save me now, but perhaps I may be avenged. Therefore I will write down here all that has happened to me since I set out on my journey.” These were the first words that were written under the mysterious title. Muller had just read them when the commissioner entered.

“Will you speak to Amster; he has just returned?” he asked.

Muller rose at once. “Certainly. Did you telegraph to all the railway stations?”

“Yes,” answered the commissioner, “and also to the other police stations.”

“And to the hospitals?—asylums?”

“No, I did not do that.” Commissioner von Mayringen blushed, a blush that was as becoming to him as was his frank acknowledgment of his mistake. He went out to remedy it at once, while Muller heard Amster’s short and not particularly important report. The workingman was evidently shivering, and the detective handed him a glass of tea with a good portion of rum in it.

“Here, drink this; you are cold. Are you ill?” Amster smiled sadly. “No, I am not ill, but I was discharged to-day and am out of work now—that’s almost as bad.”

“Are you married?”

“No, but I have an old mother to support.”

“Leave your address with the commissioner. He may be able to find work for you; we can always use good men here. But now drink your tea.” Amster drank the glass in one gulp. “Well, now we have lost the trail in both directions,” said Muller calmly. “But we will find it again. You can help, as you are free now anyway. If you have the talent for that sort of thing, you may find permanent work here.”

A gesture and a look from the workingman showed the detective that the former did not think very highly of such occupation. Muller laid his hand on the other’s shoulder and said gravely: “You wouldn’t care to take service with us? This sort of thing doesn’t rate very high, I know. But I tell you that if we have our hearts in the right place, and our brains are worth anything, we are of more good to humanity than many an honest citizen who wouldn’t shake hands with us. There—and now I am busy. Goodnight.”

With these words Muller pushed the astonished man out of the room, shut the door, and sat down again with his little book. This is what he read:

“Wednesday—is it Wednesday? They brought me a newspaper to-day which had the date of Wednesday, the 20th of November. The ink still smells fresh, but it is so damp here, the paper may have been older. I do not know surely on what day it is that I begin to write this narrative. I do not know either whether I may not have been ill for days and weeks; I do not know what may have been the matter with me—I know only that I was unconscious, and that when I came to myself again, I was here in this gloomy room. Did any physician see me? I have seen no one until to-day except the old woman, whose name I do not know and who has so little to say. She is kind to me otherwise, but I am afraid of her hard face and of the smile with which she answers all my questions and entreaties. ‘You are ill.’ These are the only words that she has ever said to me, and she pointed to her forehead as she spoke them. She thinks I am insane, therefore, or pretends to think so.

“What a hoarse voice she has. She must be ill herself, for she coughs all night long. I can hear it through the wall—she sleeps in the next room. But I am not ill, that is I am not ill in the way she says. I have no fever now, my pulse is calm and regular. I can remember everything, until I took that drink of tea in the railway station. What could there have been in that tea? I suppose I should have noticed how anxious my travelling companion was to have me drink it.

“Who could the man have been? He was so polite, so fatherly in his anxiety about me. I have not seen him since then. And yet I feel that it is he who has brought me into this trap, a trap from which I may never escape alive. I will describe him. He is very tall, stout and blond, and wears a long heavy beard, which is slightly mixed with grey. On his right cheek his beard only partly hides a long scar. His eyes are hidden by large smoked glasses. His voice is low and gentle, his manners most correct—except for his giving people poison or whatever else it was in that tea.

“I did not suffer any—at least I do not remember anything except becoming unconscious. And I seem to have felt a pain like an iron ring around my head. But I am not insane, and this fear that I feel does not spring from my imagination, but from the real danger by which I am surrounded. I am very hungry, but I do not dare to eat anything except eggs, which cannot be tampered with. I tasted some soup yesterday, and it seemed to me that it had a queer taste. I will eat nothing that is at all suspicious. I will be in my full senses when my murderers come; they shall not kill me by poison at least.

“When I came to my senses again—it was the evening of the day before yesterday—I found a letter on the little table beside my bed. It was written in French, in a handwriting that I had never seen before, and there was no signature.

“This strange letter demanded of me that I should write to my guardian, calmly and clearly, to say that for reasons which I did not intend to reveal, I had taken my own life. If I did this my present place of sojourn would be exchanged for a far more agreeable one, and I would soon be quite free. But if I did not do it, I would actually be put to death. A pen, ink and paper were ready there for the answer.

“‘Never,’ I wrote. And then despair came over me, and I may have indeed appeared insane. The old woman came in. I entreated and implored her to tell me why this dreadful fate should have overtaken me. She remained quite indifferent and I sank back, almost fainting, on the bed. She laid a moist cloth over my face, a cloth that had a peculiar odour. I soon fell asleep. It seemed to me that there was some one else besides the woman in the room with me. Or was she talking to herself? Next morning the letter and my answer had disappeared. It was as I thought; there was some one else in my room. Some one who had come on the tramway. I found the ticket on the carpet beside my bed. I took it and put it in my notebook!!!!!

“I believe that it is Sunday to-day. It is four days now since I have been conscious. The first sound that I remember hearing was the blast of a horn. It must come from a factory very near me. The old windows in my room rattle at the sound. I hear it mornings and evenings and at noon, on week days. I did not hear it to-day, so it must be Sunday. It was Monday, the 18th of November, that I set out on my trip, and reached here in the evening—(here? I do not know where I am), that is, I set out for Vienna, and I know that I reached the Northern Railway station there in safety.

“I was cold and felt a little faint—and then he offered me the tea—and what happened after that? Where am I? The paper that they gave me may have been a day or two old or more. And to-day is Sunday—is it the first Sunday since my departure from home? I do not know. I know only this, that I set out on the 18th of November to visit my kind old guardian, and to have a last consultation with him before my coming of age. And I know also that I have fallen into the hands of some one who has an interest in my disappearance.

“There is some one in the next room with the old woman. I hear a man’s voice and they are quarrelling. They are talking of me. He wants her to do something which she will not do. He commands her to go away, but she refuses. What does he mean to do? I do not want her to leave me alone. I do not hate her any more; I know that she is not bad. When I listened I heard her speaking of me as of an insane person. She really believes that I am ill. When the man went away he must have been angry. He stamped down the stairs until the steps creaked under his tread: I know it is a wooden staircase therefore.

“I am safe from him to-day, but I am really ill of fright. Am I really insane? There is one thing that I have forgotten to write down. When I first came to myself I found a bit of paper beside me on which was written, ‘Beware of calling in help from outside. One scream will mean death to you.’ It was written in French like the letter. Why? Was it because the old woman could not read it? She knew of the piece of paper, for she took it away from me. It frightens me that I should have forgotten to write this down. Am I really ill? If I am not yet ill, this terrible solitude will make me so.

“What a gloomy room this is, this prison of mine. And such a strange ugly wall-paper. I tore off a tiny bit of it and hid it in this little book. Some one may find it some day and may discover from it this place where I am suffering, and where I shall die, perhaps. There cannot be many who would buy such a pattern, and it must be possible to find the factory where it was made. And I will also write down here what I can see from my barred window. Far down below me there is a rusty tin roof, it looks like as if it might belong to a sort of shed. In front and to the right there are windowless walls; to the left, at a little distance, I can see a slender church spire, greenish in colour, probably covered with copper, and before the church there are two poplar trees of different heights.

“Another day has passed, a day of torturing fear! Am I really insane? I know that I see queer things. This morning I looked towards the window and I saw a parrot sitting there! I saw it quite plainly. It ruffled up its red and green feathers and stared at me. I stared back at it and suddenly it was gone. I shivered. Finally I pulled myself together and went to the window. There was no bird outside nor was there a trace of any in the snow on the window sill. Could the wind have blown away the tracks so soon, or was it really my sick brain that appeared to see this tropical bird in the midst of the snow? It is Tuesday to-day; from now on I will carefully count the days—the days that still remain to me.

“This morning I asked the old woman about the parrot. She only smiled and her smile made me terribly afraid. The thought that this thing which is happening to me, this thing that I took to be a crime, may be only a necessity—the thought fills me with horror! Am I in a prison? or is this the cell of an insane asylum? Am I the victim of a villain? or am I really mad? My pulse is quickening, but my memory is quite clear; I can look back over every incident in my life.

“She has just taken away my food. I asked her to bring me only eggs as I was afraid of everything else. She promised that she would do it.

“Are they looking for me? My guardian is Theodore Fellner, Cathedral Lane, 14. My own name is Asta Langen.

“They took away my travelling bag, but they did not find this little book and the tiny bottle of perfume which I had in the pocket of my dress. And I found this old pen and a little ink in a drawer of the writing table in my room.

“Wednesday. The stranger was here again to-day. I recognised his soft voice. He spoke to the woman in the hall outside my room. I listened, but I could catch only a few words. ‘To-morrow evening—I will come myself—no responsibility for you.’ Were these words meant for me? Are they going to take me away? Where will they take me? Then they do not dare to kill me here? My head is burning hot. I have not dared to drink a drop of liquid for four days. I dare not take anything into which they might have put some drug or some poison.

“Who could have such an interest in my death? It cannot be because of the fortune which is to be mine when I come of age; for if I die, my father has willed it to various charitable institutions. I have no relatives, at least none who could inherit my money. I had never harmed any one; who can wish for my death?

“There is somebody with her, somebody was listening at the door. I have a feeling as if I was being watched. And yet—I examined the door, but there is no crack anywhere and the key is in the lock. Still I seem to feel a burning glance resting on me. Ah! the parrot! is this another delusion? Oh God, let it end soon! I am not yet quite insane, but all these unknown dangers around me will drive me mad. I must fight against them.

“Thursday. They brought me back my travelling bag. My attendant is uneasy. She was longer in cleaning up the room than usual to-day. She seemed to want to say something to me, and yet she did not dare to speak. Is something to happen to-day then? I did not close my eyes all night. Can one be made insane from a distance? hypnotised into it, as it were? I will not allow fear alone to make me mad. My enemy shall not find it too easy. He may kill my body, but that is all—”

These were the last words which Asta Langen had written in her notebook, the little book which was the only confidant of her terrible need. When the detective had finished reading it, he closed his eyes for a few minutes to let the impression made by the story sink into his mind.

Then he rose and put on his overcoat. He entered the commissioner’s room and took up his hat and cane.

“Where are you going, Muller?” asked Herr Von Mayringen.

“To Cathedral Lane, if you will permit it.”

“At this hour? it is quarter past eleven! Is there any such hurry, do you think? There is no train from any of our stations until morning. And I have already sent a policeman to watch the house. Besides, I know that Fellner is a highly respected man.

“There is many a man who is highly respected until he is found out,” remarked the detective.

“And you are going to find out about Fellner?” smiled the commissioner. “And this evening, too?”

“This very evening. If he is asleep I shall wake him up. That is the best time to get at the truth about a man.”

The commissioner sat down at his desk and wrote out the necessary credentials for the detective. A few moments later Muller was in the street. He left the notebook with the commissioner. It was snowing heavily, and an icy north wind was howling through the streets. Muller turned up the collar of his coat and walked on quickly. It was just striking a quarter to twelve when he reached Cathedral Lane. As he walked slowly along the moonlit side of the pavement, a man stepped out of the shadow to meet him. It was the policeman who had been sent to watch the house. Like Muller, he wore plain clothes.

“Well?” the latter asked.

“Nothing new. Mr. Fellner has been ill in bed several days, quite seriously ill, they tell me. The janitor seems very fond of him.”

“Hm—we’ll see what sort of a man he is. You can go back to the station now, you must be nearly frozen standing here.”

Muller looked carefully at the house which bore the number 14. It was a handsome, old-fashioned building, a true patrician mansion which looked worthy of all confidence. But Muller knew that the outside of a house has very little to do with the honesty of the people who live in it. He rang the bell carefully, as he wished no one but the janitor to hear him.

The latter did not seem at all surprised to find a stranger asking for the owner of the house at so late an hour. “You come with a telegram, I suppose? Come right up stairs then, I have orders to let you in.”

These were the words with which the old janitor greeted Muller. The detective could see from this that Mr. Theodore Fellner’s conscience must be perfectly clear. The expected telegram probably had something to do with the non-appearance of Asta Langen, of whose terrible fate her guardian evidently as yet knew nothing. The janitor knocked on one of the doors, which was opened in a few moments by an old woman.

“Is it the telegram?” she asked sleepily.

“Yes,” said the janitor.

“No,” said Muller, “but I want to speak to Mr. Fellner.”

The two old people stared at him in surprise.

“To speak to him?” said the woman, and shook her head as if in doubt. “Is it about Miss Langen?”

“Yes, please wake him.”

“But he is ill, and the doctor—”

“Please wake him up. I will take the responsibility.”

“But who are you?” asked the janitor.

Muller smiled a little at this belated caution on the part of the old man, and answered. “I will tell Mr. Fellner who I am. But please announce me at once. It concerns the young lady.” His expression was so grave that the woman waited no longer, but let him in and then disappeared through another door. The janitor stood and looked at Muller with half distrustful, half anxious glances.

“It’s no good news you bring,” he said after a few minutes.

“You may be right.”

“Has anything happened to our dear young lady?”

“Then you know Miss Asta Langen and her family?”

“Why, of course. I was in service on the estate when all the dreadful things happened.”

“What things?”

“Why the divorce—and—but you are a stranger and I shouldn’t talk about these family affairs to you. You had better tell me what has happened to our young lady.”

“I must tell that to your master first.”

The woman came back at this moment and said to Muller, “Come with me, please. Berner, you are to stay here until the gentleman goes out again.”

Muller followed her through several rooms into a large bed-chamber where he found an elderly man, very evidently ill, lying in bed.

“Who are you?” asked the sick man, raising his head from the pillow. The woman had gone out and closed the door behind her.

“My name is Muller, police detective. Here are my credentials.”

Fellner glanced hastily at the paper. “Why does the police send to me?”

“It concerns your ward.”

Fellner sat upright in bed now. He leaned over towards his visitor as he said, pointing to a letter on the table beside his bed, “Asta’s overseer writes me from her estate that she left home on the 18th of November to visit me. She should have reached here on the evening of the 18th, and she has not arrived yet. I did not receive this letter until to-day.”

“Did you expect the young lady?”

“I knew only that she would arrive sometime before the third of December. That date is her twenty-fourth birthday and she was to celebrate it here.”

“Did she not usually announce her coming to you?”

“No, she liked to surprise me. Three days ago I sent her a telegram asking her to bring certain necessary papers with her. This brought the answer from the overseer of her estate, an answer which has caused me great anxiety. Your coming makes it worse, for I fear—” The sick man broke off and turned his eyes on Muller; eyes so full of fear and grief that the detective’s heart grew soft. He felt Fellner’s icy hand on his as the sick man murmured: “Tell me the truth! Is Asta dead?”

The detective shrugged his shoulders. “We do not know yet. She was alive and able to send a message at half past eight this evening.”

“A message? To whom?”

“To the nearest police station.” Muller told the story as it had come to him.

The old man listened with an expression of such utter dazed terror that the detective dropped all suspicion of him at once.

“What a terrible riddle,” stammered the sick man as the other finished the story.

“Would you answer me several questions?” asked Muller. The old gentleman answered quickly, “Any one, every one.”

“Miss Langen is rich?”

“She has a fortune of over three hundred thousand guldens, and considerable land.”

“Has she any relatives?”

“No,” replied Fellner harshly. But a thought must have flashed through his brain for he started suddenly and murmured, “Yes, she has one relative, a step-brother.”

The detective gave an exclamation of surprise.

“Why are you astonished at this?” asked Fellner.

“According to her notebook, the young lady does not seem to know of this step-brother.”

“She does not know, sir. There was an ugly scandal in her family before her birth. Her father turned his first wife and their son out of his house on one and the same day. He had discovered that she was deceiving him, and also that her son, who was studying medicine at the time, had stolen money from his safe. What he had discovered about his wife made Langen doubt whether the boy was his son at all. There was a terrible scene, and the two disappeared from their home forever. The woman died soon after. The young man went to Australia. He has never been heard of since and has probably come to no good.”

“Might he not possibly be here in Europe again, watching for an opportunity to make a fortune?”

Fellner’s hand grasped that of his visitor. The eyes of the two men gazed steadily at each other. The old man’s glance was full of sudden helpless horror, the detective’s eyes shone brilliantly. Muller spoke calmly: “This is one clue. Is there no one else who could have an interest in the young lady’s death?”

“No one but Egon Langen, if he bear this name by right, and if he is still alive.”

“How old would he be now?”

“He must be nearly forty. It was many years before Langen married again.”

“Do you know him personally?”

“Have you a picture of Miss Langen?”

Fellner rang a bell and Berner appeared. “Give this gentleman Miss Asta’s picture. Take the one in the silver frame on my desk;” the old gentleman’s voice was friendly but faint with fatigue. His old servant looked at him in deep anxiety. Fellner smiled weakly and nodded to the man. “Sad news, Berner! Sad news and bad news. Our poor Asta is being held a prisoner by some unknown villain who threatens her with death.”

“My God, is it possible? Can’t we help the poor young lady?”

“We will try to help her, or if it is—too late, we will at least avenge her. My entire fortune shall be given up for it. But bring her picture now.”

Berner brought the picture of a very pretty girl with a bright intelligent face. Muller took the picture out of the frame and put it in his pocket.

“You will come again? soon? And remember, I will give ten thousand guldens to the man who saves Asta, or avenges her. Tell the police to spare no expense—I will go to headquarters myself to-morrow.”

Fellner was a little surprised that Muller, although he had already taken up his hat, did not go. The sick man had seen the light flash up in the eyes of the other as he named the sum. He thought he understood this excitement, but it touched him unpleasantly and he sank back, almost frightened, in his cushions as the detective bent over him with the words “Good. Do not forget your promise, for I will save Miss Langen or avenge her. But I do not want the money for myself. It is to go to those who have been unjustly convicted and thus ruined for life. It may give the one or the other of them a better chance for the future.”

“And you? what good do you get from that?” asked the old gentleman, astonished. A soft smile illumined the detective’s plain features and he answered gently, “I know then that there will be some poor fellow who will have an easier time of it than I have had.”

He nodded to Fellner, who had already grasped his hand and pressed it hard. A tear ran down his grey beard, and long after Muller had gone the old gentleman lay pondering over his last words.

Berner led the visitor to the door. As he was opening it, Muller asked: “Has Egon Langen a bad scar on his right cheek?”

Berner’s eyes looked his astonishment. How did the stranger know this? And how did he come to mention this forgotten name.

“Yes, he has, but how did you know it?” he murmured in surprise. He received no answer, for Muller was already walking quickly down the street. The old man stared after him for some few minutes, then suddenly his knees began to tremble. He closed the door with difficulty, and sank down on a bench beside it. The wind had blown out the light of his lantern; Berner was sitting in the dark without knowing it, for a sudden terrible light had burst upon his soul, burst upon it so sharply that he hid his eyes with his hands, and his old lips murmured, “Horrible! Horrible! The brother against the sister.”

The next morning was clear and bright. Muller was up early, for he had taken but a few hours sleep in one of the rooms of the station, before he set out into the cold winter morning. At the next corner he found Amster waiting for him. “What are you doing here?” he asked in astonishment.

“I have been thinking over what you said to me yesterday. Your profession is as good and perhaps better than many another.”

“And you come out here so early to tell me that?”

Amster smiled. “I have something else to say.”

“Well?”

“The commissioner asked me yesterday if I knew of a church in the city that had a slender spire with a green top and two poplars in front of it.”

Muller looked his interest.

“I thought it might possibly be the Convent Church of the Grey Sisters, but I wasn’t quite sure, so I went there an hour ago. It’s all right, just as I thought. And I suppose it has something to do with the case of last night, so I thought I had better report at once. I was on my way to the station.”

“That will do very well. You have saved us much time and you have shown that you are eminently fitted for this business.”

“If you really will try me, then—”

“We’ll see. You can begin on this. Come to the church with me now.” Muller was no talker, particularly not when, as now, his brain was busy on a problem.

The two men walked on quickly. In about half an hour they found themselves in a little square in the middle of which stood an old church. In front of the church, like giant sentinels, stood a pair of tall poplars. One of them looked sickly and was a good deal shorter than its neighbour. Muller nodded as if content.

“Is this the church the commissioner was talking about?” queried Amster.

“It is,” was the answer. Muller walked on toward a little house built up against the church, which was evidently the dwelling of the sexton.

The detective introduced himself to this official, who did not look over-intelligent, as a stranger in the city who had been told that the view from the tower of the church was particularly interesting. A bright silver piece banished all distrust from the soul of the worthy man. With great friendliness he inquired when the gentlemen would like to ascend the tower. “At once,” was the answer.

The sexton took a bunch of keys and told the strangers to follow him. A few moments later Muller and his companion stood in the tiny belfry room of the slender spire. The fat sexton, to his own great satisfaction, had yielded to their request not to undertake the steep ascent. The cloudless sky lay crystal clear over the still sleeping city and the wide spread snow-covered fields which lay close at hand, beyond the church. On the one side were gardens and the low rambling buildings of the convent, and on the other were huddled high-piled dwellings of poverty.

Muller looked out of each of the four windows in turn. He spent some time at each window, but evidently without discovering what he looked for, for he shook his head in discontent. But when he went once more to the opening in the East, into which the sun was just beginning to pour its light, something seemed to attract his attention. He called Amster and pointed from the window. “Your eyes are younger than mine, lend them to me. What do you see over there to the right, below the tall factory chimney?” Muller’s voice was calm, but there was something in his manner that revealed excitement. Amster caught the infection without knowing why. He looked sharply in the direction towards which Muller pointed, and began: “There is a tall house near the chimney, to the right of it, one wall touching it. The house is crowded in between other newer buildings, and looks to be very old and of a much better sort than its neighbours. The other houses are plain stone, but this house has carvings and statues on it, which are white with snow. But the house is in bad condition, one can see cracks in the wall.”

“And its windows?”

“I cannot see them. They must be on the other side of the house, towards the courtyard which seems to be hemmed in by the blank walls of the other houses.”

“And at the front of the house?”

“There is a low wall in front which shuts off the courtyard from a narrow, ill-kept street.”

“Yes, I see it myself now. The street is bordered mainly by gardens and vacant lots.”

“Yes, sir, that is it.” Muller nodded as if satisfied. Amster looked at him in surprise, still more surprised, however, at the excitement he felt himself. He did not understand it, but Muller understood it. He knew that he had found in Amster a talent akin to his own, one of those natures who once having taken up a trail cannot rest until they reach their goal. He looked for a few moments in satisfaction at the assistant he had found by such chance, then he turned and hastened down the stairs again.

“We’re going to that house?” asked Amster when they were down in the street. Muller nodded.

Without hesitation the two men made their way through a tangle of dingy, uninteresting alleys, between modern tenements, until about ten minutes later they stood before an old three-storied building, which had a frontage of four windows on the street. “This is our place,” said the detective, looking up at the tall, handsome gateway and the rococo carvings that ornamented the front of this decaying dwelling. It was very evidently of a different age and class from those about it.

Muller had already raised his hand to pull the bell, when he stopped and let it sink again. His eye caught sight of a placard pasted up on the wall of the next house, and already half torn off by the wind. The detective walked over, and raising the placard with his cane, read the words on it. “That’s right,” he said to himself. Amster gave a look on the paper. But he could not connect the contents of the notice with the case of the kidnapped lady, and he shook his head in surprise when Muller turned to him with the words: “The lady we are looking for is not insane.” On the paper was announced in large letters that a reward would be offered to the finder of a red and green parrot which had escaped from a neighbouring house.

Muller rang the bell and they had to wait some few minutes before the door opened with great creakings, and the towsled head of an old woman peered out.

“What do you want?” she asked hoarsely, with distrustful looks.

“Let us in, and then give us the keys of the upstairs rooms.” Muller’s voice was friendly, but the woman grew perceptibly paler.

“Who are you?” she stammered. Muller threw back his overcoat and showed her his badge. “But there is nobody here, the house is quite empty.”

“There were a lady and gentleman here last evening.” The woman threw a frightened look at Muller, then she said hesitatingly: “The lady was insane and has been taken to an asylum.”

“That is what the man told you. He is a criminal and the police are looking for him.”

“Come with me,” murmured the woman. She seemed to understand that further resistance was useless. She carefully locked the outside door. Amster remained down stairs in the corridor, while Muller followed the old woman up the stairs. The staircase to the third story was made of wood. The house was evidently very old, with low ceilings and many dark corners.

The woman led Muller into the room in which she had cared for the strange lady at the order of the latter’s “husband.” He had told her that it was only until he could take the lady to an asylum. One look at the wall paper, a glance out of the window, and Muller knew that this was where Asta Langen had been imprisoned. He sat down on a chair and looked at the woman, who stood frightened before him.

“Do you know where they have taken the lady?”

“No, sir.

“Do you know the gentleman’s name?”

“No, sir.

“You did not send the lady’s name to the authorities?” *

“No, sir.”

* Any stranger taking rooms in a hotel or lodging house must
be registered with the police authorities by the proprietor
of the house within forty-eight hours of arrival.

“Were you not afraid you would get into trouble?”

“The gentleman paid me well, and I did not think that he meant anything bad, and—and—”

“And you did not think that it would be found out?” said Muller sternly.

“I took good care of the lady.”

“Yes, we know that.”

“Did she escape from her husband?”

“He was not her husband. But now tell me all you know about these people; the more truthful you are the better it will be for you.”

The old woman was so frightened that she could scarcely find strength to talk. When she finally got control of herself again she began: “He came here on the first of November and rented this room for himself. But he was here only twice before he brought the lady and left her alone here. She was very ill when he brought her here—so ill that he had to carry her upstairs. I wanted to go for a doctor, but he said he was a doctor himself, and that he could take care of his wife, who often had such attacks. He gave me some medicine for her after I had put her to bed. I gave her the drops, but it was a long while before she came to herself again.

“Then he told me that she had lost her mind, and that she believed everybody was trying to harm her. She was so bad that he was taking her to an asylum. But he hadn’t found quite the right place yet, and wanted me to keep her here until he knew where he could take her. Once he left a revolver here by mistake. But I hid it so the lady wouldn’t see it, and gave it to the gentleman the next time he came. He was angry at that, though I couldn’t see why, and said I shouldn’t have touched it.”

The woman had told her story with much hesitation, and stopped altogether at this point. She had evidently suddenly realised that the lady was not insane, but only in great despair, and that people in such a state will often seek death, particularly if any weapon is left conveniently within their reach.

“What did this gentleman look like?” asked Muller, to start her talking again. She described her tenant as very tall and stout with a long beard slightly mixed with grey. She had never seen his eyes, for he wore smoked glasses.

“Did you notice anything peculiar about his face?”

“No, nothing except that his beard was very heavy and almost covered his face.”

“Could you see his cheeks at all?”

“No, or else I didn’t notice.”

“Did he leave nothing that might enable us to find him?”

“No, sir, nothing. Or yes, perhaps, but I don’t suppose that will be any good.”

“What was it? What do you mean?”

“It gave him a good deal of trouble to get the lady into the wagon, because she had fainted again. He lost his glove in doing it. I have it down stairs in my room, for I sleep down stairs again since the lady has gone.”

Muller had risen from his chair and walked over to the old writing desk which stood beside one window. There were several sheets of ordinary brown paper on it and sharp pointed pencil and also something not usually found on writing desks, a piece of bread from which some of the inside had been taken. “Everything as I expected it,” he said to himself. “The young lady made up the package in the last few moments that she was left alone here.”

He turned again to the old woman and commanded her to lead him down stairs. “What sort of a carriage was it in which they took the lady away?” he asked as they went down.

“A closed coupe.”

“Did you see the number?”

“No, sir. But the carriage was very shabby and so was the driver.”

“Was he an old man?”

“He was about forty years old, but he looked like a man who drank. He had a light-coloured overcoat on.”

“Good. Is this your room?”

“Yes, sir.”

They were now in the lower corridor, where they found Amster walking up and down. The woman opened the door of the little room, and took a glove from a cupboard. Muller put it in his pocket and told the woman not to leave the house for anything, as she might be sent for to come to the police station at any moment. Then he went out into the street with Amster. When they were outside in the sunlight, he looked at the glove. It was a remarkably small size, made for a man with a slender, delicate hand, not at all in accordance with the large stout body of the man described by the landlady. Muller put his hand into the glove and found something pushed up into the middle finger. He took it out and found that it was a crumpled tramway ticket.

“Look out for a shabby old closed coupe, with a driver about forty years old who looks like a drunkard and wears a light overcoat. If you find such a cab, engage it and drive in it to the nearest police station. Tell them there to hold the man until further notice. If the cab is not free, at least take his number. And one thing more, but you will know that yourself,—the cab we are looking for will have new glass in the right-hand window.” Thus Muller spoke to his companion as he put the glove into his pocket and unfolded the tramway ticket. Amster understood that they had found the starting point of the drive of the night before.

“I will go to all coupe stands,” he said eagerly.

“Yes, but we may be able to find it quicker than that.” Muller took the little notebook, which he was now carrying in his pocket, and took from it the tramway ticket which was in the cover. He compared it with the one he had just found. They were both marked for the same hour of the day and for the same ride.

“Did the man use them?” asked Amster. The detective nodded. “How can they help us?”

“Somewhere on this stretch of the street railroad you will probably find the stand of the cab we are looking for. The man who hired it evidently arrived on the 6:30 train at the West Station—I have reason to believe that he does not live here,—and then took the street car to this corner. The last ticket is marked for yesterday. In the car he probably made his plans to hire a cab. So you had better stay along the line of the car tracks. You will find me in room seven, Police Headquarters, at noon to-day. The authorities have already taken up the case. You may have something to tell us then. Good luck to you.”

Muller hurried on, after he had taken a quick breakfast in a little cafe. He went at once to headquarters, made his report there and then drove to Fellner’s house. The latter was awaiting him with great impatience. There the detective gathered much valuable information about the first marriage of Asta Langen’s long-dead father. It was old Berner who could tell him the most about these long-vanished days.

When he reached his office at headquarters again, he found telegrams in great number awaiting him. They were from all the hospitals and insane asylums in the entire district. But in none of them had there been a patient fitting the description of the vanished girl. Neither the commissioner nor Muller was surprised at this negative result. They were also not surprised at all that the other branches of the police department had been able to discover so little about the disappearance of the young lady. They were aware that they had to deal with a criminal of great ability who would be careful not to fall into the usual slips made by his kind.

There was no news from the cab either, although several detectives were out looking for it. It was almost nightfall when Amster ran breathlessly into room number seven. “I have him! he’s waiting outside across the way!” This was Amster’s report.

Muller threw on his coat hastily. “You didn’t pay him, did you? On a cold day like this the drivers don’t like to wait long in any one place.”

“No danger. I haven’t money enough for that,” replied Amster with a sad smile. Muller did not hear him as he was already outside. But the commissioner with whom he had been talking and to whom Muller had already spoken of his voluntary assistant, entered into a conversation with Amster, and said to him finally: “I will take it upon myself to guarantee your future, if you are ready to enter the secret service under Muller’s orders. If you wish to do this you can stay right on now, for I think we will need you in this case.”

Amster bowed in agreement. His life had been troubled, his reputation darkened by no fault of his own, and the work he was doing now had awakened an interest and an ability that he did not know he possessed. He was more than glad to accept the offer made by the official.

Muller was already across the street and had laid his hand upon the door of the cab when the driver turned to him and said crossly, “Some one else has ordered me. But I am not going to wait in this cold, get in if you want to.”

“All right. Now tell me first where you drove to last evening with the sick lady and her companion?” The man looked astonished but found his tongue again in a moment. “And who are you?” he asked calmly.

“We will tell you that upstairs in the police station,” answered Muller equally calmly, and ordered the man to drive through the gateway into the inner courtyard. He himself got into the wagon, and in the course of the short drive he had made a discovery. He had found a tiny glass stopper, such as is used in perfume bottles. He could understand from this why the odour of perfume which had now become familiar to him was still so strong inside the old cab. Also why it was so strong on the delicate handkerchief. Asta Langen had taken the stopper from the bottle in her pocket, so as to leave a trail of odour behind her.

CHAPTER THREE. THE LONELY COTTAGE

Fifteen minutes after the driver had made his report to Commissioner Von Mayringen, the latter with Amster entered another cab. A well-armed policeman mounted the box of this second vehicle. “Follow that cab ahead,” the commissioner told his driver. The second cab followed the one-horse coupe in which Muller was seated. They drove first to No. 14 Cathedral Lane, where Muller told Berner to come with him. He found Mr. Fellner ready to go also, and it was with great difficulty that he could dissuade the invalid, who was greatly fatigued by his morning visit to the police station, from joining them.

The carriages then drove off more quickly than before. It was now quite dark, a gloomy stormy winter evening. Muller had taken his place on the box of his cab and sat peering out into the darkness. In spite of the sharp wind and the ice that blew against his face the detective could see that they were going out from the more closely built up portions of the city, and were now in new streets with half-finished houses. Soon they passed even these and were outside of the city. The way was lonely and dreary, bordered by wooden fences on both sides. Muller looked sharply to right and to left.

“You should have become alarmed here,” he said to the driver, pointing to one part of the fence.

“Why?” asked the man.

“Because this is where the window was broken.”

“I didn’t know that—until I got home.”

“H’m; you must have been nicely drunk.”

The driver murmured something in his beard.

“Stop here, this is your turn, down that street,” Muller said a few moments later, as the driver turned the other way.

“How do you know that?” asked the man, surprised.

“None of your business.”

“This street will take us there just the same.”

“Probably, but I prefer to go the way you went yesterday.”

“Very well, it’s all the same to me.” They were silent again, only the wind roared around them, and somewhere in the distance a fog horn moaned.

It was now six o’clock. The snow threw out a mild light which could not brighten the deep darkness around them. About half an hour later the first cab halted. “There’s the house up there. Shall I drive to the garden gate?”

“No, stop here.” Muller was already on the ground. “Are there any dogs here?” he asked.

“I didn’t hear any yesterday.”

“That’s of no value. You didn’t seem to hear much of anything yesterday.” Muller opened the door of the cab and helped Berner out. The old man was trembling. “That was a dreadful drive!” he stammered.

“I hope you will be happier on the drive back,” said the detective and added, “You stay here with the commissioner now.”

The latter had already left his cab with his companion. His sharp eyes glanced over the heavily shaded garden and the little house in its midst. A little light shone from two windows of the first story. The men’s eyes looked toward them, then the detective and Amster walked toward a high picket fence which closed the garden on the side nearest its neighbours. They shook the various pickets without much caution, for the wind made noise enough to kill any other sound. Amster called to Muller, he had found a loose picket, and his strong young arms had torn it out easily. Muller motioned to the other three to join them. A moment later they were all in the garden, walking carefully toward the house.

The door was closed but there were no bars at the windows of the ground floor. Amster looked inquiringly at the commissioner and the latter nodded and said, “All right, go ahead.”

The next minute Amster had broken in through one pane of the window and turned the latch. The inner window was broken already so that it was not difficult for him to open it without any further noise. He disappeared into the dark room within. In a few seconds they heard a key turn in the door and it opened gently. The men entered, all except the policeman, who remained outside. The blind of his lantern was slightly opened, and he had his revolver ready in his hand.

Muller had opened his lantern also, and they saw that they were in a prettily furnished corridor from which the staircase and one door led out.

The four men tiptoed up the stairway and the commissioner stepped to the first of the two doors which opened onto the upper corridor. He turned the key which was in the lock, and opened the door, but they found themselves in a room as dark as was the corridor. From somewhere, however, a ray of light fell into the blackness. The official stepped into the room, pulling Berner in after him. The poor old man was in a state of trembling excitement when he found himself in the house where his beloved young lady might already be a corpse. One step more and a smothered cry broke from his lips. The commissioner had opened the door of an adjoining room, which was lighted and handsomely furnished. Only the heavy iron bars across the closed windows showed that the young lady who sat leaning back wearily in an arm-chair was a prisoner.

She looked up as they entered. The expression of utter despair and deep weariness which had rested on her pale face changed to a look of terror; then she saw that it was not her would-be murderer who was entering, but those who came to rescue. A bright flush illumined her cheeks and her eyes gleamed. But the change was too sudden for her tortured soul. She rose from her chair, then sank fainting to the floor.

Berner threw himself on his knees beside her, sobbing out, “She is dying! She is dying!”

Muller turned on the instant, for he had heard the door on the other side of the hall open, and a tall slender man with a smooth face and a deep scar on his right cheek stood on the threshold looking at them in dazed surprise. For an instant only had he lost his control. The next second he was in his room again, slamming the door behind him. But it was too late. Amster’s foot was already in the crack of the door and he pushed it open to let Muller enter. “Well done,” cried the latter, and then he turned to the man in the room. “Here, stop that. I can fire twice before you get the window open.”

The man turned and walked slowly to the centre of the room, sinking down into an arm-chair that stood beside the desk. Neither Amster nor Muller turned their eyes from him for a moment, ready for any attempt on his part to escape. But the detective had already seen something that told him that Langen was not thinking of flight. When he turned to the desk, Muller had seen his eyes glisten while a scornful smile parted his thin lips. A second later he had let his handkerchief fall, apparently carelessly, upon the desk. But in this short space of time the detective’s sharp eyes had seen a tiny bottle upon which was a black label with a grinning skull. Muller could not see whether the bottle was full or empty, but now he knew that it must hold sufficient poison to enable the captured criminal to escape open disgrace. Knowing this, Muller looked with admiration at the calmness of the villain, whose intelligent eyes were turned towards him in evident curiosity.

“Who are you and who else is here with you?” asked the man calmly.

“I am Muller of the Secret Service,” replied his visitor and added, “You must put up with us for the time being, Mr. Egon Langen. The police commissioner is occupied with your step-sister, whom you were about to murder.”

Langen put his hand to his cheek, looking at Muller between his lashes as he said, “To murder? Who can prove that?”

“We have all the proofs we need.”

“I will acknowledge only that I wanted Asta to disappear.”

Muller smiled. “What good would that have done you? You wanted her entire fortune, did you not? But that could have come to you only after thirty years, and you are not likely to have waited that long. Your plan was to murder your step-sister, even if you could not get a letter from her telling of her intention to commit suicide.”

Langen rose suddenly, but controlled himself again and sank back easily in his chair. “Then the old woman has been talking?” he asked.

Muller shook his head. “We knew it through Miss Langen herself.”

“She has spoken to no one for over ten days.”

“But you let her throw her notebook out of the window of the cab.”

“Ah—”

“There, you see, you should not have let that happen.”

Drops of perspiration stood out on Langen’s forehead. Until now, perhaps, he had had some possible hope of escape. It was useless now, he knew.

As calmly as he had spoken thus far Muller continued. “For twenty years I have been studying the hearts of criminals like yourself. But there are things I do not understand about this case and it interests me very much.”

Langen had wiped the drops from his forehead and he now turned on Muller a face that seemed made of bronze. There was but one expression on it, that of cold scorn.

“I feel greatly flattered, sir, to think that I can offer a problem to one of your experience,” Langen began. His voice, which had been slightly veiled before, was now quite clear. “Ask me all you like. I will answer you.”

Muller began: “Why did you wait so long before committing the murder? and why did you drag your victim from place to place when you could have killed her easily in the compartment of the railway train?”

“The windows of the compartment were open, my honoured friend, and it was a fine warm evening for the season, because of which the windows in the other compartment were also open. There was nothing else I could do at that time then, except to offer Asta a cup of tea when she felt a little faint upon leaving the train. I am a physician and I know how to use the right drugs at the right time. When Asta had taken the tea, she knew nothing more until she woke up a day later in a room in the city.”

“And the piece of paper with the threat on it? and the revolver you left so handy for her? oh, but I forgot, the old woman took the weapon away before the lady could use it in her despair,” said Muller.

“Quite right. I see you know every detail.”

“But why didn’t you complete your crime in the room in the old house?” persisted Muller.

“Because I lost my false beard one day upon the staircase, and I feared the old woman might have seen my face enough to recognise me again. I thought it better to look for another place.”

“And then you found this house.”

“Yes, but several days later.”

“And you hired it in the name of Miss Asta Langen? Who would then have been found dead here several days after you had entered the house?”

“Several days, several weeks perhaps. I preferred to wait until the woman who rented the house had read in the papers that Asta Langen had disappeared and was being sought for. Somebody would have found her here, and her identity would have easily been established, for I knew that she had some important family documents with her.”

Muller was silent a moment, with an expression of deep pity on his face. Then he continued: “Yes, someone would have found her, and her suicide would have been a dark mystery, unless, of course, malicious tongues would have found ugly reasons enough why a beautiful young lady should hide herself in a lonely cottage to take her own life.”

Muller had spoken as if to himself. Egon Langen’s lips, parted in a smile so evil that Amster clenched his fists.

“And you would not have regretted this ruining the reputation as well as taking the life of an innocent girl?” asked the detective low and tense.

“No, for I hated her.”

“You hated her because she was rich and innocent. She was very charitable and would gladly have helped you if you were in need. Beside this, you were entitled to a portion of your father’s estate. It is almost thirty thousand guldens, as Mr. Fellner tells me. Why did you not take that?”

“Fellner did not know that I had already received twenty thousand of this when my father turned me out. He probably would have heard of it later, for Berner was the witness. I did not care for the remaining ten thousand because I would have the entire fortune after Asta’s death. I would have seen the official notice and the call for heirs in Australia, and would have written from there, announcing that I was still alive. If you had come several days later I should have been a rich man within a year.”

His clenched fist resting on his knee, the rascal stared out ahead of him when he ended his shameless confession. In his rage and disappointment he had not noticed that Muller’s hand dropped gently to the desk and softly took a little bottle from under the handkerchief. Langen came out of his dark thoughts only when Muller’s voice broke the silence. “But you miscalculated, if you expected to inherit from your sister. She is still a minor and your father’s will would have given you only ten thousand guldens.

“But you forget that Asta will be twenty-four on the third of December.”

“Ah, then you would have kept her alive until then.”

“You understand quickly,” said Langen with a mocking smile.

“But she disappeared on the eighteenth of November. How could you prove that she died after her birthday, therefore in full possession of her fortune and without leaving any will?”

“That is very simple. I buy several newspapers every day. I would have taken them up to the fourth and fifth of December and left them here with the body.”

“You are more clever even than I thought,” said the detective dryly as he heard the commissioner’s steps behind him. Muller put a whistle to his lips and its shrill tone ran through the house, calling up the policeman who stood by the door.

Egon Langen’s face was grey with pallor, his features were distorted, and yet there was the ghost of a smile on his lips as he saw his captors enter the door. He put his hand out, raised his handkerchief hastily and then a wild scream echoed through the room, a scream that ended in a ghastly groan.

“I have taken your bottle, you might as well give yourself up quietly,” said Muller calmly, holding his revolver near Langen’s face. The prisoner threw himself at the detective but was caught and overpowered by Amster and the policeman.

A quarter of an hour later the cabs drove back toward the city. Inside one cowered Egon Langen, watched by the policeman and Amster. Berner was on the box beside the driver, telling the now interested man the story of what had happened to his dear young lady. In the other cab sat Asta Langen with Kurt von Mayringen and Muller.

“Do you feel better now?” asked the young commissioner in sincere sympathy that was mingled with admiration for the delicate beauty of the girl beside him, an admiration heightened by her romantic story and marvelous escape.

Asta nodded and answered gently: “I feel as if some terrible weight were lifted from my heart and brain. But I doubt if I will ever forget these horrible days, when I had already come to accept it as a fact that—that I was to be murdered.”

“This is the man to whom you owe your escape,” said the commissioner, laying his hand on Muller’s knee. Asta did not speak, but she reached out in the darkness of the cab, caught Muller’s hand and would have raised it to her lips, had not the little man drawn it away hastily. “It was only my duty, dear young lady,” he said. “A duty that is not onerous when it means the rescue of innocence and the preventing of crime. It is not always so, unfortunately—nor am I always so fortunate as in this case.”

This indeed is what Muller calls a “case with a happy ending,” for scarcely a year later, to his own great embarrassment, he found himself the most honoured guest, and a centre of attraction equally with the bridal couple, at the marriage of Kurt von Mayringen and Asta Langen. Muller asserts, however, that he is not a success in society, and that he would rather unravel fifty difficult cases than again be the “lion” at a fashionable function.

NEXT WEEK

Joseph Muller
Secret Service detective of the Imperial Austrian Police
&
The Case of the Lamp That Went Out

DGG fur DMdJ

The Case of the Registered Letter

Standard
Joseph Muller, Secret Service detective of the Imperial Austrian police, is one of the great experts in his profession. In personality he differs greatly from other famous detectives. He has neither the impressive authority of Sherlock Holmes, nor the keen brilliancy of Monsieur Lecoq. Muller is a small, slight, plain-looking man, of indefinite age, and of much humbleness of mien. A naturally retiring, modest disposition, and two external causes are the reasons for Muller’s humbleness of manner, which is his chief characteristic. One cause is the fact that in early youth a miscarriage of justice gave him several years in prison, an experience which cast a stigma on his name and which made it impossible for him, for many years after, to obtain honest employment. But the world is richer, and safer, by Muller’s early misfortune. For it was this experience which threw him back on his own peculiar talents for a livelihood, and drove him into the police force. Had he been able to enter any other profession, his genius might have been stunted to a mere pastime, instead of being, as now, utilised for the public good.
Then, the red tape and bureaucratic etiquette which attaches to every governmental department, puts the secret service men of the Imperial police on a par with the lower ranks of the subordinates. Muller’s official rank is scarcely much higher than that of a policeman, although kings and councillors consult him and the Police Department realises to the full what a treasure it has in him. But official red tape, and his early misfortune… prevent the giving of any higher official standing to even such a genius. Born and bred to such conditions, Muller understands them, and his natural modesty of disposition asks for no outward honours, asks for nothing but an income sufficient for his simple needs, and for aid and opportunity to occupy himself in the way he most enjoys.
Joseph Muller’s character is a strange mixture. The kindest-hearted man in the world, he is a human bloodhound when once the lure of the trail has caught him. He scarcely eats or sleeps when the chase is on, he does not seem to know human weakness nor fatigue, in spite of his frail body. Once put on a case his mind delves and delves until it finds a clue, then something awakes within him, a spirit akin to that which holds the bloodhound nose to trail, and he will accomplish the apparently impossible, he will track down his victim when the entire machinery of a great police department seems helpless to discover anything. The high chiefs and commissioners grant a condescending permission when Muller asks, “May I do this? … or may I handle this case this way?” both parties knowing all the while that it is a farce, and that the department waits helpless until this humble little man saves its honour by solving some problem before which its intricate machinery has stood dazed and puzzled.
This call of the trail is something that is stronger than anything else in Muller’s mentality, and now and then it brings him into conflict with the department,… or with his own better nature. Sometimes his unerring instinct discovers secrets in high places, secrets which the Police Department is bidden to hush up and leave untouched. Muller is then taken off the case, and left idle for a while if he persists in his opinion as to the true facts. And at other times, Muller’s own warm heart gets him into trouble. He will track down his victim, driven by the power in his soul which is stronger than all volition; but when he has this victim in the net, he will sometimes discover him to be a much finer, better man than the other individual, whose wrong at this particular criminal’s hand set in motion the machinery of justice. Several times that has happened to Muller, and each time his heart got the better of his professional instincts, of his practical common-sense, too, perhaps,… at least as far as his own advancement was concerned, and he warned the victim, defeating his own work. This peculiarity of Muller’s character caused his undoing at last, his official undoing that is, and compelled his retirement from the force. But his advice is often sought unofficially by the Department, and to those who know, Muller’s hand can be seen in the unravelling of many a famous case.
The following stories in DM du Jour are but a few of the many interesting cases that have come within the experience of this great detective. But they give a fair portrayal of Muller’s peculiar method of working, his looking on himself as merely an humble member of the Department, and the comedy of his acting under “official orders” when the Department is in reality following out his directions.

Muller3

“Oh, sir, save him if you can—save my poor nephew! I know he is innocent!”

The little old lady sank back in her chair, gazing up at Commissioner von Riedau with tear-dimmed eyes full of helpless appeal. The commissioner looked thoughtful. “But the case is in the hands of the local authorities, Madam,” he answered gently, a strain of pity in his voice. “I don’t exactly see how we could interfere.”

“But they believe Albert guilty! They haven’t given him a chance!”

“He cannot be sentenced without sufficient proof of his guilt.”

“But the trial, the horrible trial—it will kill him—his heart is weak. I thought—I thought you might send some one—some one of your detectives—to find out the truth of the case. You must have the best people here in Vienna. Oh, my poor Albert—”

Her voice died away in a suppressed sob, and she covered her face to keep back the tears.

The commissioner pressed a bell on his desk. “Is Detective Joseph Muller anywhere about the building?” he asked of the attendant who appeared at the door.

“I think he is, sir. I saw him come in not long ago.”

“Ask him to come up to this room. Say I would like to speak to him.” The attendant went out.

“I have sent for one of the best men on our force, Madam,” continued the commissioner, turning back to the pathetic little figure in the chair. “We will go into this matter a little more in detail and see if it is possible for us to interfere with the work of the local, authorities in G—.”

The little old lady gave her eyes a last hasty dab with a dainty handkerchief and raised her head again, fighting for self-control. She was a quaint little figure, with soft grey hair drawn back smoothly from a gentle-featured face in which each wrinkle seemed the seal of some loving thought for others. Her bonnet and gown were of excellent material in delicate soft colours, but cut in the style of an earlier decade. The capable lines of her thin little hands showed through the fabric of her grey gloves. Her whole attitude bore the impress of one who had adventured far beyond the customary routine of her home circle, adventured out into the world in fear and trembling, impelled by the stress of a great love.

A knock was heard at the door, and a small, slight man, with a kind, smooth-shaven face, entered at the commissioner’s call. “You sent for me, sir?” he asked.

“Yes, Muller, there is a matter here in which I need your advice, your assistance, perhaps. This is Detective Muller, Miss—” (the commissioner picked up the card on his desk) “Miss Graumann. If you will tell us now, more in detail, all that you can tell us about this case, we may be able to help you.”

“Oh, if you would,” murmured Miss Graumann, with something more of hope in her voice. The expression of sympathetic interest on the face of the newcomer had already won her confidence for him. Her slight figure straightened up in the chair, and the two men sat down opposite her, prepared to listen to her story.

“I will tell you all I know and understand about this matter, gentlemen,” she began. “My name is Babette Graumann, and I live with my nephew, Albert Graumann, engineering expert, in the village of Grunau, which is not far from the city of G—. My nephew Albert, the dearest, truest—” sobs threatened to overcome her again, but she mastered them bravely. “Albert is now in prison, accused of the murder of his friend, John Siders, in the latter’s lodgings in G—.”

“Yes, that is the gist of what you have already told me,” said the commissioner. “Muller, Miss Graumann believes her nephew innocent, contrary to the opinion of the local authorities in G—. She has come to ask for some one from here who could ferret out the truth of this matter. You are free now, and if we find that it can be done without offending the local authorities—”

“Who is the commissioner in charge of the case in G—?” asked Muller.

“Commissioner Lange is his name, I believe,” replied Miss Graumann.

“H’m!” Muller and the commissioner exchanged glances.

“I think we can venture to hear more of this,” said the commissioner, as if in answer to their unspoken thought. “Can you give us the details now, Madam? Who is, or rather who was, this John Siders?”

“John Siders came to our village a little over a year ago,” continued Miss Graumann. “He came from Chicago; he told us, although he was evidently a German by birth. He bought a nice little piece of property, not far from our home, and settled down there. He was a quiet man and made few friends, but he seemed to take to Albert and came to see us frequently. Albert had spent some years in America, in Chicago, and Siders liked to talk to him about things and people there. But one day Siders suddenly sold his property and moved to G—. Two weeks later he was found dead in his lodgings in the city, murdered, and now—now they have accused Albert of the crime.”

“On what grounds?—oh, I beg your pardon, sir; I did not mean—”

“That’s all right, Muller,” said the commissioner. “As you may have to undertake the case, you might as well begin to do the questioning now.”

“They say”—Miss Graumann’s voice quavered—”they say that Albert was the last person known to have been in Siders’ room; they say that it was his revolver, found in the room. That is the dreadful part of it—it was his revolver. He acknowledges it, but he did not know, until the police showed it to him, that the weapon was not in its usual place in his study. They tell me that everything speaks for his guilt, but I cannot believe it—I cannot. He says he is innocent in spite of everything. I believe him. I brought him up, sir; I was like his own mother to him. He never knew any other mother. He never lied to me, not once, when he was a little boy, and I don’t believe he’d lie to me now, now that he’s a man of forty-five. He says he did not kill John Siders. Oh, I know, even without his saying it, that he would not do such a thing.”

“Can you tell us anything more about the murder itself?” questioned Muller gently. “Is there any possibility of suicide? Or was there a robbery?”

“They say it was no suicide, sir, and that there was a large sum of money missing. But why should Albert take any one else’s money? He has money of his own, and he earns a good income besides—we have all that we need. Oh, it is some dreadful mistake! There is the newspaper account of the discovery of the body. Perhaps Mr. Muller might like to read that.” She pointed to a sheet of newspaper on the desk. The commissioner handed it to Muller. It was an evening paper, dated G—, September 24th, and it gave an elaborate account, in provincial journalese, of the discovery that morning of the body of John Siders, evidently murdered, in his lodgings. The main facts to be gathered from the long-winded story were as follows:

John Siders had rented the rooms in which he met his death about ten days before, paying a month’s rent in advance. The lodgings consisted of two rooms in a little house in a quiet street. It was a street of simple two-story, one and two family dwellings, occupied by artisans and small tradespeople. There were many open spaces, gardens and vacant lots in the street. The house in which Siders lodged belonged to a travelling salesman by the name of Winter. The man was away from home a great deal, and his wife, with her child and an old servant, lived in the lower part of the house, while the rooms occupied by Siders were in the upper story. Siders lived very quietly, going out frequently in the afternoon, but returning early in the evening. He had said to his landlady that he had many friends in G—. But during the time of his stay in the house he had had but one caller, a gentleman who came on the evening of the 23rd of September. The old maid had opened the door for him and showed him to Mr. Siders’ rooms. She described this visitor as having a full black beard, and wearing a broad-brimmed grey felt hat. Nobody saw the man go out, for the old maid, the only person in the house at the time, had retired early. Mrs. Winter and her little girl were spending the night with the former’s mother in a distant part of the city. The next morning the old servant, taking the lodger’s coffee up to him at the usual hour, found him dead on the floor of his sitting-room, shot through the heart. The woman ran screaming from the house and alarmed the neighbours. A policeman at the corner heard the noise, and led the crowd up to the room where the dead man lay. It was plain to be seen that this was not a case of suicide. Everywhere were signs of a terrible struggle. The furniture was overturned, the dressing-table and the cupboard were open and their contents scattered on the floor, one of the window curtains was torn into strips, as if the victim had been trying to escape by way of the window, but had been dragged back into the room by his murderer. An overturned ink bottle on the table had spattered wide, and added to the general confusion. In the midst of the disorder lay the body of the murdered man, now cold in the rigour of death.

The police commissioner arrived soon, took possession of the rooms, and made a thorough examination of the premises. A letter found on the desk gave another proof, if such were needed, that this was not a case of suicide. This letter was in the handwriting of the dead man, and read as follows:

Dear Friend:

I appreciate greatly all the kindness shown me by yourself and your good wife. I have been more successful than I thought possible in overcoming the obstacles you know of. Therefore, I shall be very glad to join you day after to-morrow, Sunday, in the proposed excursion. I will call for you at 8 A.M.—the cab and the champagne will be my share of the trip. We’ll have a jolly day and drink a glass or two to our plans for the future.

With best greetings for both of you,

Your old friend,

John

G——, Friday, Sept. 23rd.

An envelope, not yet addressed, lay beside this letter. It was clear that the man who penned these words had no thought of suicide. On the contrary, he was looking forward to a day of pleasure in the near future, and laying plans for the time to come. The murderer’s bullet had pierced a heart pulsing with the joy of life.

This was the gist of the account in the evening paper. Muller read it through carefully, lingering over several points which seemed to interest him particularly. Then he turned to Miss Babette Graumann. “And then what happened?” he asked.

“Then the Police Commissioner came to Grunau and questioned my nephew. They had found out that Albert was Mr. Siders’ only friend here. And late that evening the Mayor and the Commissioner came to our house with the revolver they had found in the room in G—, and they—they—” her voice trembled again, “they arrested my dear boy and took him away.”

“Have you visited him in prison? What does he say about it himself?”

“He seems quite hopeless. He says that he is innocent—oh, I know he is—but everything is against him. He acknowledges that it was he who was in Mr. Siders’ room the evening before the murder. He went there because Siders wrote him to come. He says he left early, and that John acted queerly. He knows they will not believe his story. This worry and anxiety will kill him. He has a serious heart trouble; he has suffered from it for years, and it has been growing steadily worse. I dare not think what this excitement may do for him.” Miss Graumann broke down again and sobbed aloud. Muller laid his hands soothingly on the little old fingers that gripped the arm of the chair.

“Did your nephew send you here to ask for help?” he inquired very gently.

“Oh, no” The old lady looked up at him through her tears. “No, he would not have done that. I’m afraid that he’ll be angry if he knows that I have come. He seemed so hopeless, so dazed. I just couldn’t stand it. It seemed to me that the police in G—— were taking things for granted, and just sitting there waiting for an innocent man to confess, instead of looking for the real murderer, who may be gone, the Lord knows where, by now!” Miss Graumann’s faded cheeks flushed a delicate pink, and she straightened up in her chair again, while her eyes snapped defiance through the tears that hung on their lashes.

A faint gleam twinkled up in Muller’s eyes, and he did not look at his chief. Doctor von Riedau’s own face glowed in a slowly mounting flush, and his eyes drooped in a moment of conscious embarrassment at some recollection, the sting of which was evidently made worse by Muller’s presence. But Commissioner von Riedau had brains enough to acknowledge his mistakes and to learn from them. He looked across the desk at Miss Graumann. “You are right, Madam, the police have made that mistake more than once. And a man with a clear record deserves the benefit of the doubt. We will take up this case. Detective Muller will be put in charge of it. And that means, Madam, that we are giving you the very best assistance the Imperial Police Force affords.”

Miss Babette Graumann did not attempt to speak. In a wave of emotion she stretched out both little hands to the detective and clasped his warmly. “Oh, thank you,” she said at last. “I thank you. He’s just like my own boy to me; he’s all the child I ever had, you know.”

“But there are difficulties in the way,” continued the commissioner in a business-like tone. “The local authorities in G—— have not asked for our assistance, and we are taking up the case over their heads, as it were. I shall have to leave that to Muller’s diplomacy. He will come to G—— and have an interview with your nephew. Then he will have to use his own judgment as to the next steps, and as to how far he may go in opposition to what has been done by the police there.”

“And then I may go back home?” asked Miss Graumann. “Go home with the assurance that you will help my poor boy?”

“Yes, you may depend on us, Madam. Is there anything we can do for you here? Are you alone in the city?”

“No, thank you. There is a friend here who will take care of me. She will put me on the afternoon express back to G—.”

“It is very likely that I will take that train myself,” said Muller. “If there is anything that you need on the journey, call on me.”

“Oh, thank you, I will indeed! Thank you both, gentlemen. And now good-bye, and God bless you!”

The commissioner bowed and Muller held the door open for Miss Graumann to pass out. There was silence in the room, as the two men looked after the quaint little figure slowly descending the stairs.

“A brave little woman,” murmured the commissioner.

“It is not only the mother in the flesh who knows what a mother’s love is,” added Muller.

Next morning Joseph Muller stood in the cell of the prison in G—— confronting Albert Graumann, accused of the murder of John Siders.

The detective had just come from a rather difficult interview with Commissioner Lange. But the latter, though not a brilliant man, was at least good-natured. He acknowledged the right of the accused and his family to ask for outside assistance, and agreed with Muller that it was better to have some one in the official service brought in, rather than a private detective whose work, in its eventual results, might bring shame on the police. Muller explained that Miss Graumann did not want her nephew to know that it was she who had asked for aid in his behalf, and that it could only redound to his, Lange’s, credit if it were understood that he had sent to Vienna for expert assistance in this case. It would be a proof of his conscientious attention to duty, and would insure praise for him, whichever way the case turned out. Commissioner Lange saw the force of this argument, and finally gave Muller permission to handle the case as he thought best, rather relieved than otherwise for his own part. The detective’s next errand was to the prison, where he now stood looking up into the deep-set, dark eyes of a tall, broad-shouldered, black-bearded man, who had arisen from the cot at his entrance. Albert Graumann had a strong, self-reliant face and bearing. His natural expression was somewhat hard and stern, but it was the expression of a man of integrity and responsibility. Muller had already made some inquiries as to the prisoner’s reputation and business standing in the community, and all that he had heard was favourable. A certain hardness and lack of amiability in Graumann’s nature made it difficult for him to win the hearts of others, but although he was not generally loved, he was universally respected. Through the signs of nagging fear, sorrow, and ill-health, printed clearly on the face before him, Muller’s keen eyes looked down into the soul of a man who might be overbearing, pitiless even, if occasion demanded, but who would not murder—at least not for the sake of gain. This last possibility Muller had dismissed from his mind, even before he saw the prisoner. The man’s reputation was sufficient to make the thought ridiculous. But he had not made up his mind whether it might not be a case of a murder after a quarrel. Now he began to doubt even this when he looked into the intelligent, harsh-featured face of the man in the cell. But Muller had the gift of putting aside his own convictions, when he wanted his mind clear to consider evidence before him.

Graumann had risen from his sitting position when he saw a stranger. His heavy brows drew down over his, eyes, but he waited for the other to speak.

“I am Detective Joseph Muller, from Vienna,” began the newcomer, when he had seen that the prisoner did not intend to start the conversation.

“Have you come to question me again?” asked Graumann wearily. “I can say no more than I have already said to the Police Commissioner. And no amount of cross-examination can make me confess a crime of which I am not guilty—no matter what evidence there may be against me.” The prisoner’s voice was hard and determined in spite of its note of physical and mental weariness.

“I have not come to extort a confession from you, Mr. Graumann,” Muller replied gently, “but to help you establish your innocence, if it be possible.”

A wave of colour flooded the prisoner’s cheek. He gasped, pressed his hand to his heart, and dropped down on his cot. “Pardon me,” he said finally, hesitating like a man who is fighting for breath. “My heart is weak; any excitement upsets me. You mean that the authorities are not convinced of my guilt, in spite of the evidence? You mean that they will give me the benefit of the doubt—that they will give me a chance for life?”

“Yes, that is the reason for my coming here. I am to take this case in hand. If you will talk freely to me, Mr. Graumann, I may be able to help you. I have seen too many mistakes of justice because of circumstantial evidence to lay any too great stress upon it. I have waited to hear your side of the story from yourself. I did not want to hear it from others. Will you tell it to me now? No, do not move, I will get the stool myself.”

Graumaun sat back on the cot, his head resting against the wall. His eyes had closed while Muller was speaking, but his quieter breathing showed that he was mastering the physical attack which had so shaken him at the first glimpse of hope. He opened his eyes now and looked at Muller steadily for a moment. Then he said: “Yes, I will tell you: my life and my work have taught me to gauge men. I will tell you everything I know about this sad affair. I will tell you the absolute truth, and I think you will believe me.”

“I will believe you,” said Muller simply.

“You know the details of the murder, of course, and why I was arrested?”

“You were arrested because you were the last person seen in the company of the murdered man?”

“Exactly. Then I may go back and tell you something of my connection with John Siders?”

“It would be the very best thing to do.”

“I live in Grunau, as you doubtless know, and am the engineering expert of large machine works there. My father before me held an important position in the factory, and my family have always lived in Grunau. I have traveled a great deal myself. I am forty-five years old, a childless widower, and live with my old aunt, Miss Babette Graumann, and my ward, Miss Eleonora Roemer, a young lady of twenty-two.” Muller looked up with a slight start of surprise, but did not say anything. Graumann continued:

“A little over a year ago, John Siders, who signed himself as coming from Chicago, bought a piece of property in our town and came to live there. I made his acquaintance in the cafe and he seemed to take a fancy to me. I also had spent several years in Chicago, and we naturally came to speak of the place. We discovered that we had several mutual acquaintances there, and enjoyed talking over the old times. Otherwise I did not take particularly to the man, and as I came to know him better I noticed that he never mentioned that part of his life which lay back of the years in Chicago. I asked a casual question once or twice as to his home and family, but he evaded me every time, and would not give a direct answer. He was evidently a German by birth and education, a man with university training, and one who knew life thoroughly. He had delightful manners, and when he could forget his shyness for a while, he could be very agreeable. The ladies of my family came to like him, and encouraged him to call frequently. Then the thing happened that I should not have believed possible. My ward, Miss Roemer, a quiet, reserved girl, fell in love with this man about whom none of us knew anything, a man with a past of which he did not care to speak.

“I was not in any way satisfied with the match, and they seemed to realise it. For Siders managed to persuade the girl to a secret engagement. I discovered it a month or two ago, and it made me very angry. I did not let them see how badly I felt, but I warned Lora not to have too much to do with the boy, and I set about finding out something regarding his earlier life. It was my duty to do this, as I was the girl’s guardian. She has no other relative living, and no one to turn to except my aunt and myself. I wrote to Mr. Richard Tressider in Chicago, the owner of the factory in which I had been employed while there. John had told me that Tressider had been his client during the four years in which he practiced law in Chicago. I received an answer about the middle of August. Mr. Tressider had been able to find out only that John was born in the town of Hartberg in a certain year. This was enough. I took leave of absence for a few days and went to Hartberg, which, as you know, is about 140 miles from here. Three days later I knew all that I wanted to know. John Siders was not the man’s real name, or, rather, it was only part of his name. His full name was Theodor John Bellmann, and his mother was an Englishwoman whose maiden name was Siders. His father was a county official who died at an early age, leaving his widow and the boy in deepest poverty. Mrs. Bellmann moved to G——to give music lessons. Theodor went to school there, then finally to college, and was an excellent pupil everywhere. But one day it was discovered that he had been stealing money from the banker in whose house he was serving as private tutor to the latter’s sons. A large sum of money was missing, and every evidence pointed to young Bellmann as the thief. He denied strenuously that he was guilty, but the District Judge (it was the present Prosecuting Attorney Schmidt in G—) sentenced him. He spent eight months in prison, during which time his mother died of grief at the disgrace. There must have been something good in the boy, for he had never forgotten that it was his guilt that struck down his only relative, the mother who had worked so hard for him. He had atoned for this crime of his youth, and during the years that have passed since then, he had been an honest, upright man.”

Graumann paused a moment and pressed his hand to his heart again. His voice had grown weaker, and he breathed hard. Finally he continued: “I commanded my ward to break off her engagement, as I could not allow her to marry a man who was a freed convict. Siders sold his property some few weeks after that and moved to G—. Eleonora acquiesced in my commands, but she was very unhappy and allowed me to see very little of her. Then came the events of the evening of September 23rd, the events which have turned out so terribly. I will try to tell you the story just as it happened, so far as I am concerned. I had seen nothing of John since he left this town. He had made several attempts before his departure for G—— to change my opinion, and my decision as to his marriage to my ward. But I let him see plainly that it was impossible for him to enter our family with such a past behind him. He asserted his innocence of the charges against him, and declared that he had been unjustly accused and imprisoned. I am afraid that I was hard towards him. I begin to understand now, as I never thought I should, what it means to be accused of crime. I begin to realise that it is possible for every evidence to point to a man who is absolutely innocent of the deed in question. I begin to think now that John may have been right, that possibly he also may have been accused and sentenced on circumstantial evidence alone. I have thought much, and I have learned much in these terrible days.”

The prisoner paused again and sat brooding, his eyes looking out into space. Muller respected his suffering and sat in equal silence, until Graumann raised his eyes to his again. “Then came the evening of the 23rd of September?”

“Yes, that evening—it’s all like a dream to me.” Graumann began again. “John wrote me a letter asking me to come to see him on that evening. I tore up the letter and threw it away—or perhaps, yes, I remember now, I did not wish Eleonora to see that he had written me. He asked me to come to see him, as he had something to say to me, something of the greatest importance for us both. He asked me not to mention to any one that I was to see him, as it would be wiser no one should know that we were still in communication with each other. There was a strain of nervous excitement visible in his letter. I thought it better to go and see him as he requested; I felt that I owed him some little reparation for having denied him the great wish of his heart. It was my duty to make up to him in other ways for what I had felt obliged to do. I knew him for a nervous, high-strung man, overwrought by brooding for years on what he called his wrongs, and I did not know what he might do if I refused his request. It was not of myself I thought in this connection, but of the girl at home who looked to me for protection.

“I had no fear for myself; it never occurred to me to think of taking a weapon with me. How my revolver—and it is undoubtedly my revolver, for there was a peculiar break in the silver ornamentation on the handle which is easily recognisable—how this revolver of mine got into his room, is more than I can say. Until the Police Commissioner showed it to me two or three days ago, I had no idea that it was not in the box in my study where it is ordinarily kept.” Graumann paused again and looked about him as if searching for something. He rose and poured himself out a glass of water. “Let me put some of this in it,” said Muller. “It will do you good.” From a flask in his pocket he poured a few drops of brandy into the water. Graumann drank it and nodded gratefully. Then he took up his story again.

“I never discovered why Siders had sent for me. When I arrived at the appointed time I found the door of the house closed. I was obliged to ring several times before an old servant opened the door. She seemed surprised that it had been locked. She said that the door was always unlatched, and that Mr. Siders himself must have closed it, contrary to all custom, for she had not done it, and there was no one else in the house but the two of them. Siders was waiting for me at the top of the stairs, calling down a noisy welcome.

“When I asked him finally what it was so important that he wanted to say to me, he evaded me and continued to chatter on about commonplace things. Finally I insisted upon knowing why he had wanted me to come, and he replied that the reason for it had already been fulfilled, that he had nothing more to say, and that I could go as soon as I wanted to. He appeared quite calm, but he must have been very nervous. For as I stood by the desk, telling him what I thought of his actions, he moved his hand hastily among the papers there and upset the ink stand. I jumped back, but not before I had received several large spots of ink on my trousers. He was profuse in his apologies for the accident, and tried to take out the spots with blotting paper. Then at last, when I insisted upon going, he looked out to see whether there was still a light on the stairs, and led me down to the door himself, standing there for some time looking after me.

“I was slightly alarmed as well as angry at his actions. I believe that he could not have been quite in his right mind, that the strain of nervousness which was apparent in his nature had really made him ill. For I remember several peculiar incidents of my visit to him. One of these was that he almost insisted upon my taking away with me, ostensibly to take care of them, several valuable pieces of jewelry which he possessed. He seemed almost offended when I refused to do anything of the kind. Then, as I parted from him at the door, not in a very good humour I will acknowledge, he said to me: ‘You will think of me very often in the future—more often than you would believe now!’

“This is all the truth, and nothing but the truth, about my visit to John Siders on the evening of September 23rd. As it had been his wish I said nothing to the ladies at home, or to any one else about the occurrence. And as I have told you, I destroyed his letter asking me to come to him.

“The following day about noon, the Commissioner of Police from G—— called at my office in the factory, and informed me bluntly that John Siders had been found shot dead in his lodgings that morning. I was naturally shocked, as one would be at such news, in spite of the fact that I had parted from the man in anger, and that I had no reason to be particularly fond of him. What shocked me most of all was the sudden thought that John had taken his own life. It was a perfectly natural thought when I considered his nervousness, and his peculiar actions of the evening before. I believe I exclaimed, ‘It was a suicide!’ almost without realising that I was doing so. The commissioner looked at me sharply and said that suicide was out of the question, that it was an evident case of murder. He questioned me as to Siders’ affairs, of which I told only what every one here in the village knew. I did not consider it incumbent upon me to disclose to the police the disgrace of the man’s early life. I had been obliged to hurt him cruelly enough because of that, and I saw no necessity for blackening his name, now that he was dead. Also, as according to what the commissioner said, it was a case of murder for robbery, I did not wish to go into any details of our connection with Siders that would cause the name of my ward to be mentioned. After a few more questions the commissioner left me. I was busy all the afternoon, and did not return to my home until later than usual. I found my aunt somewhat worried because Miss Roemer had left the house immediately after our early dinner, and had not yet returned. We both knew the girl to be still grieving over her broken engagement, and we dreaded the effect this last dreadful news might have on her. We supposed, however, that she had gone to spend the afternoon with a friend, and were rather glad to be spared the necessity of telling her at once what had happened. I had scarcely finished my supper, when the door bell rang, and to my astonishment the Mayor of Grunau was announced, accompanied by the same Police Commissioner who had visited me in my office that morning. The Mayor was an old friend of mine and his deeply grave face showed me that something serious had occurred. It was indeed serious! and for some minutes I could not grasp the meaning of the commissioner’s questions. Finally I realised with a tremendous shock that I—I myself was under suspicion of the murder of John Siders. The description given by the old servant of the man who had visited Siders the evening before, the very clothes that I wore, my hat and the trousers spotted by the purple ink, led to my identification as this mysterious visitor. The servant had let me in but she had not seen me go out.

“Then I discovered—when confronted suddenly with my own revolver which had been found on the floor of the room, some distance from the body of the dead man, that this same revolver had been identified as mine by my ward, Eleonora Roemer, who had been to the police station at G—— in the early afternoon hours. Some impulse of loyalty to her dead lover, some foolish feminine fear that I might have spoken against him in my earlier interviews with the commissioner had driven the girl to this step. A few questions sufficed to draw from her the story of her secret engagement, of its ending, and of my quarrel with John. I will say for her that I am certain she did not realise that all these things were calculated to cast suspicion on me. The poor girl is too unused to the ways of police courts, to the devious ways of the law, to realise what she was doing. The sight of my revolver broke her down completely and she acknowledged that it was mine. That is all. Except that I was arrested and brought here as you see. I told the commissioner the story of my visit to John Siders exactly as I told it to you, but it was plain to be seen that he did not believe me. It is plain to be seen also, that he is firmly convinced of my guilt and that he is greatly satisfied with himself at having traced the criminal so soon.”

“And yet he was not quite satisfied,” said Muller gently. “You see that he has sent to the Capital for assistance on the case.” Muller felt this little untruth to be justified for the sake of the honour of the police force.

“Yes, I’m surprised at that,” said Graumann in his former tone of weariness. “What do you think you will be able to do about it?”

“I must ask questions here and there before I can form a plan of campaign,” replied Muller. “What do you think about it yourself? Who do you think killed Siders?”

“How can I know who it was? I only know it is not I,” answered Graumann.

“Did he have any enemies?”

“No, none that I knew of, and he had few friends either.”

“You knew there was a sum of money missing from his rooms?”

“Yes, the sum they named to me was just about the price that he had received for the sale of his property here. They did me the honour to believe that if I had taken the money at all, I had done so merely as a blind. At least they did not take me for a thief as well as a murderer. If the money is really missing, it was for its sake he was murdered I suppose.”

“Yes, that would be natural,” said Muller. “And you know nothing of any other relations or connections that the man may have had? Anything that might give us a clue to the truth?”

“No, nothing. He stood so alone here, as far as I knew. Of course, as I told you, his actions of the evening before having been so peculiar—and as I knew that he was not in the happiest frame of mind—I naturally thought of suicide at once, when they told me that he had been found shot dead. Then they told me that the appearance of the room and many other things, proved suicide to have been out of the question. I know nothing more about it. I cannot think any more about it. I know only that I am here in danger of being sentenced for the crime that I never committed—that is enough to keep any man’s mind busy.” He leaned back with an intense fatigue in every line of his face and figure.

Muller rose from his seat. “I am afraid I have tired you, Mr. Graumann,” he said, “but it was necessary that I should know all that you had to tell me. Try and rest a little now and meanwhile be assured that I am doing all I can to find out the truth of this matter. As far as I can tell now I do not believe that you have killed John Siders. But I must find some further proofs that will convince others as well as myself. If it is of any comfort to you, I can tell you that during a long career as police detective I have been most astonishingly fortunate in the cases I have undertaken. I am hoping that my usual good luck will follow me here also. I am hoping it for your sake.”

The man on the cot took the hand the detective offered him and pressed it firmly. “You will let me know as soon as you have found anything—anything that gives me hope?”

“I will indeed. And now save your strength and do not worry. I will help you if it is in my power.”

After leaving the prison, Muller took the train for the village of Grunau, about half an hour distant from the city. He found his way easily to Graumann’s home, an attractive old house set in a large garden amid groups of beautiful old trees. When he sent up his card to Miss Graumann, the old lady tripped down stairs in a flutter of excitement.

“Did you see him?” she asked. “You have been to the prison? What do you think? How does he seem?”

“He seems calm to-day,” replied Muller, “although the confinement and the anxiety are evidently wearing on him.”

“And you heard his story? And you believe him innocent?”

“I am inclined to do so. But there is more yet for me to investigate in this matter. It is certainly not as simple as the police here seem to believe. May I speak to your ward, Miss Roemer? She is at home now?”

“Yes, Lora is at home. If you will wait here a moment I will send her in.”

Muller paced up and down the large sunny room, casting a glance over the handsome old pieces of furniture and the family portraits on the wall. It was evidently the home of generations of well-to-do, well-bred people, the narrow circle of whose life was made rich by congenial duties and a comfortable feeling of their standing in the community.

While he was studying one of the portraits more carefully, he became aware that there was some one in the room. He turned and saw a tall blond girl standing by the door. She had entered so softly that even Muller’s quick ear had not heard the opening of the door.

“Do you wish to speak to me?” she said, coming down into the room. “I am Eleonora Roemer”

Her face, which could be called handsome in its even regularity of feature and delicate skin, was very pale now, and around her eyes were dark rings that spoke of sleepless nights. Grief and mental shock were preying upon this girl’s mind. “She is not the one to make a confidant of those around her,” thought Muller to himself. Then he added aloud: “If it does not distress you too much to talk about this sad affair, I will be very grateful if you will answer a few questions.”

“I will tell you whatever I can,” said the girl in the same low even tone in which she had first spoken. “Miss Graumann tells me that you have come from Vienna to take up this case. It is only natural that we should want to give you every assistance in our power.”

“What is your opinion about it?” was Muller’s next remark, made rather suddenly after a moment’s pause.

The directness of the question seemed to shake the girl out of her enforced calm. A slow flush mounted into her pale cheeks and then died away, again leaving them whiter than before. “I do not know—oh, I do not know what to believe.”

“But you do not think Mr. Graumann capable of such a crime, do you?”

“Not of the robbery, of course not; that would be absurd! But has it been clearly proven that there is a robbery? Might it not have been—might they not have—”

“You mean, might they not have quarreled? Of course there is that possibility. And that is why I wanted to speak to you. You are the one person who could possibly throw light on this subject. Was there any other reason beyond the dead man’s past that would render your guardian unwilling to have you marry him?”

Again the slow flush mounted to Eleonora Roemer’s cheeks and her head drooped.

“I fear it may be painful for you to answer this,” said Muller gently, “and yet I must insist on it in the interest of justice.”

“He—my guardian—wished to marry me himself,” the girl’s words came slowly and painfully.

Muller drew in his breath so sharply that it was almost like a whistle. “He did not tell me that; it might make a difference.”

“That… that is… what I fear,” said the girl, her eyes looking keenly into those of the man who sat opposite. “And then, it was his revolver.”

“Then you do believe him guilty?”

“It would be horrible, horrible—and yet I do not know what to think.”

There was silence in the room for a moment. Miss Roemer’s head drooped again and her hands twisted nervously in her lap. Muller’s brain was very busy with this new phase of the problem. Finally he spoke.

“Let us dismiss this side of the question and talk of another phase of it, a phase of which it is necessary for me to know something. You would naturally be the person nearest the dead man, the one, the only one, perhaps, to whom he had given his confidence. Do you know of any enemies he might have had in the city?”

“No, I do not know of any enemies, or even of any friends he had there. When the terrible thing happened that clouded his past, when he had regained his freedom, after his term of imprisonment, there was no one left whom he cared to see again. He does not seem to have borne any malice towards the banker who accused him of the theft. The evidence was so strong against him that he felt the suspicion was justified. But there was hatred in his heart for one man, for the Justice who sentenced him, Justice Schmidt, who is now Attorney General in G—.”

“The man who, in the name of the State, will conduct this case?” asked Muller quickly.

“Yes, I believe it is so. Is it not an irony that this man, the only one whom John really hated, should be the one to avenge him now?”

“H’m! yes. But did you know of any friends in G—?”

“No, none at all.”

“No friends whom he might have made while he was in America and then met again in Germany?”

“No, he never spoke of any such to me. He told me that he made few friends. He did not seek them for he was afraid that they might find out what had happened and turn from him. He was morbidly sensitive and could not bear the disappointment.”

“Why did he return to Germany?”

“He was lonely and wanted to come home again. He had made money in America—John was very clever and highly educated—but his heart longed for his own tongue and his own people.”

Muller took a folded piece of paper from his pocket. “Do you know this handwriting?”

Miss Roemer read the few lines hastily and her voice trembled as she said: “This is John’s handwriting. I know it well. This is the letter that was found on the table?”

“Yes, this letter appears to be the last he had written in life. Do you know to whom it could have been written? The envelope, as I suppose you know from the newspaper reports, was not addressed. Do you know of any friends with whom he could have been on terms of sufficient intimacy to write such a letter? Do you know what these plans for the future could have been? It would certainly be natural that he should have spoken to you first about them.”

“No; I cannot understand this letter at all,” replied the girl. “I have thought of it frequently these terrible days. I have wondered why it was that if he had friends in the city, he did not speak to me of them. He repeatedly told me that he had no friends there at all, that his life should begin anew after we were married.”

“And did he have any particular plans, in a business way, perhaps?”

“No; he had a comfortable little income and need have no fear for the future. John was, of course, too young a man to settle down and do nothing. But the only definite plans he had made were that we should travel a little at first, and then he would look about him for a congenial occupation. I always thought it likely he would resume a law practice somewhere. I cannot understand in the slightest what the plans are to which the letter referred.”

“And do you think, from what you know of his state of mind when you saw him last, that he would be likely so soon to be planning pleasures like this?”

“No, no indeed! John was terribly crushed when my guardian insisted on breaking off our engagement. Until my twenty-fourth birthday I am still bound to do as my guardian says, you know. John’s life and early misfortune made him, as I have already said, morbidly sensitive and the thought that it would be a bar to anything we might plan in the future, had rendered him so depressed that—and it was not the least of my anxieties and my troubles—that I feared… I feared anything might happen.”

“You feared he might take his own life, do you mean?”

“Yes, yes, that is what I feared. But is it not terrible to think that he should have died this way—by the hand of a murderer?”

“H’m! And you cannot remember any possible friend he may have found—some schoolboy friend of his youth, perhaps, with whom he had again struck up an acquaintance.”

“Oh, no, no, I am positive of that. John could not bear to hear the names even of the people he had known before his misfortune. Still, I do remember his once having spoken of a man, a German he had met in Chicago and rather taken a fancy to, and who had also returned to Germany.”

“Could this possibly have been the man to whom the letter is addressed?”

“No, no. This friend of John’s was not married; I remember his saying that. And he lived in Germany somewhere—let me think—yes, in Frankfort-on-Main.”

“And do you remember the man’s name?”

“No, I cannot, I am sorry to say. John only mentioned it once. It was only by a great effort that I could remember the incident at all.”

“And has it not struck you as rather peculiar that this friend, the one to whom the cordial letter was addressed, did not come forward and make his identity known? G—— is a city, it is true, but it is not a very large city, and any man being on terms of intimate acquaintance with one who was murdered would be apt to come forward in the hope of throwing some light on the mystery.”

“Why, yes, I had not thought of that. It is peculiar, is it not? But some people are so foolishly afraid of having anything to do with the police, you know.”

“That is very true, Miss Roemer. Still it is a queer incident and something that I must look into.”

“What do you believe?” asked the girl tensely.

“I am not in a position to say as yet. When I am, I will come to you and tell you.”

“Then you do not think that my guardian killed John—that there was a quarrel between the men?”

“There is, of course, a possibility that it may have been so. You know your guardian better than I do, naturally. Our knowledge of a man’s character is often a far better guide than any circumstantial evidence.”

“My guardian is a man of the greatest uprightness of character. But he can be very hard and pitiless sometimes. And he has a violent temper which his weak heart has forced him to keep in control of late years.”

“All this speaks for the possibility that there may have been a quarrel ending in the fatal shot. But what I want to know from you is this—do you think it possible, that, this having happened, Albert Graumann would not have been the first to confess his unpremeditated crime? Is not this the most likely thing for a man of his character to do? Would he so stubbornly deny it, if it had happened?”

The girl started. “I had not thought of that! Why, why, of course, he might have killed John in a moment of temper, but he was never a man to conceal a fault. He is as pitiless towards his own weakness, as towards that of others. You are right, oh, you must be right. Oh, if you could take this awful fear from my heart! Even my grief for John would be easier to bear then.”

Muller rose from his chair. “I think I can promise you that this load will be lifted from your heart, Miss Roemer.”

“Then you believe—that it was just a case of murder for robbery? For the money? And John had some valuable jewelry, I know that.”

“I do not know yet,” replied Muller slowly, “but I will find out, I generally do.”

“Oh, to think that I should have done that poor man such an injustice! It is terrible, terrible! This house has been ghastly these days. His poor aunt knows that he is innocent—she could never believe otherwise—she has felt the hideous suspicion in my mind—it has made her suffering worse—will they ever forgive me?”

“Her joy, if I can free her nephew, will make her forget everything. Go to her now, Miss Roemer, comfort her with the assurance that you also believe him to be innocent. I must hasten back to G—— and go on with this quest.”

The girl stood at the doorway shaded by the overhanging branches of two great trees, looking down the street after the slight figure of the detective. “Oh, it is all easier to hear, hard as it is, easier now that this horrible suspicion has gone from my mind—why did I not think of that before?”

Alone in the corner of the smoking compartment in the train to G—, Muller arranged in his mind the facts he had already gathered. He had questioned the servants of John Siders’ former household, had found that the dead man received very few letters, only an occasional business communication from his bank. Of the few others, the servants knew nothing except that he had always thrown the envelopes carelessly in the waste paper basket and had never seemed to have any correspondence which he cared to conceal. No friend from elsewhere had ever visited him in Grunau, and he had made few friends there except the Graumann family.

The facts of the case, as he knew them now, were such as to make it extremely doubtful that Graumann was the murderer. Muller himself had been inclined to believe in the possibility of a quarrel between the two men, particularly when he had heard that Graumann himself was in love with his handsome ward. But the second thought that came to him then, impelled by the unerring instinct that so often guided him to the truth, was the assurance that in a case of this kind, in a case of a quarrel terminating fatally, a man like Albert Graumann would be the very first to give himself up to the police and to tell the facts of the case. Albert Graumann was a man of honour and unimpeachable integrity. Such a man would not persist in a foolish denial of the deed which he had committed in a moment of temper. There would be nothing to gain from it, and his own conscience would be his severest judge. “The disorder in the room?” thought Muller. “It’ll be too late for that now. I suppose they have rearranged the place. I can only go by what the local detectives have seen, by the police reports. But I do not understand this extreme disorder. There is no reason why there should be a struggle when the robber was armed with a pistol. If Siders was supposed to have been interrupted when writing a letter, interrupted by a thief come with intent to steal, a thief armed with a revolver, the sight of this weapon alone would be sufficient to insure his not moving from his seat. I can understand the open drawers and cupboard; that is explained by the thief’s hasty search for booty. But the torn window curtain and the overturned chairs are peculiar.

“Of course there is always a possibility that the thief might have entered one room while Siders was in the other; that the latter might have surprised the robber in his search for money or valuables, and that there might have been a hand-to-hand struggle before the intruder could pull out his revolver. Oh, if I could only have seen the body! This is working under terrific difficulties. The marks of a hand-to-hand struggle would have been very plain on the clothes and on the person of the murdered man. But this letter? I do not understand this letter at all. It is the dead man’s handwriting, that we know, but why did not the friend to whom it was addressed come forward and make himself known? As far as I can learn from the police reports in G—, there was no personal interest shown, no personal inquiries made about the dead man. There was only the natural excitement that a murder would create. Now a family, expecting to make a pleasure excursion with a friend in a day or two and suddenly hearing that this friend had been found murdered in his lodgings, would be inclined to take some little personal interest in the matter. These people must have been in town and at home, for the excursion spoken of in the letter was to occur two days after the murder. Miss Roemer’s remark about the dread that some people have as to any connection with the police, is true to a limited extent only. It is true only of the ignorant mind, not of a man presumably well-to-do and properly educated. I do not understand why the man to whom this letter was addressed has not made himself known. The only explanation is—that there was no such man!” A sudden sharp whistle broke from the detective’s lips.

“I must examine the dead man’s personal effects, his baggage, his papers; there may be something there. His queer letter to Graumann—his desire that the latter’s visit should be kept secret—a visit which apparently had no cause at all, except to get Graumann to the house, to get him to the house in a way that he should be seen coming, but should not be seen going away. What does this mean?

“Graumann was the only person against whom Siders had an active cause of quarrel for the moment. There was one other man whom he hated, and this other man was the prosecuting attorney who would conduct any case of murder that came up in the town of G—.

“Now John Siders is found murdered—is found killed, in his lodgings, the morning after he has arranged things so that his antagonist, his rival in love, Albert Graumann, shall come under suspicion of having murdered him.

“What evidence have we that this man did not commit suicide? We have the evidence of the disorder in the room, a disorder that could have been made just as well by the man himself before he ended his own life. We have the evidence of a letter to some unknown, making plans for pleasure during the next days, and speaking of further plans, presumably concerning business, for the future. In a town the size of G—, where every one must have read of the murder, no one has come forward claiming to be the friend for whom this letter was written. Until this Unknown makes himself known, the letter as an evidence points rather to premeditated suicide than to the contrary. Oh, if I could only have seen the body! They tell me the pistol was found some little distance from the body. Is it at all likely that a murderer would go away leaving such evidence behind him? If Graumaun had killed Siders in a hasty quarrel, he might possibly, in his excitement, have left his revolver. But I have already disposed of this possibility. A man of sufficient brains to so carefully plan his suicide as to conceal every trace of it and cast suspicion upon the man who had made him unhappy, such a one would be quite clever enough to throw the pistol far away from his body and to leave no traces of powder on his coat or any such other evidence.

“If I were to say now what I think, I would say that John Siders deliberately took his own life and planned it in such a way as to cast suspicion upon Albert Graumann. But that would indeed be a terrible revenge. And I must have some tangible proof of it before any court will accept my belief. This proof must be hidden somewhere. The thing for me to do is to find it.”

The evidence gathered at the time of the death went to show that Siders had been paid a considerable sum in cash for the sale of his property at Grunau. And there was no trace of his having deposited this sum in any bank in G—— or in Grunau, in both of which places he had deposited other securities. Therefore the money had presumably been in his room at the time of his death. A search had been made for this money in every possible place of concealment among the dead man’s belongings, and it had not been found. Muller asked the Police Commissioner to give him the key to the rooms, which were still officially closed, and also the keys to the dead man’s pieces of baggage. Commissioner Lange seemed to think all this extra search quite unnecessary, as it did not occur to him that anything else was to be looked for except the money.

It was quite late when Muller began his examination of the dead man’s effects. He was struck by the fact that there was scarcely a bit of paper to be found anywhere, no letters, no business papers, except bank books showing the amount of his securities in the bank in G—— and in Grunau, and giving facts about some investments in Chicago. There was nothing of more recent date and no personal correspondence whatever. The same was true of the pockets of the suit Siders had been wearing at the time of his death. A man of any property or position at all in the world gathers about him so much of this kind of material that its absence shows premeditation. The suit Siders had been wearing when he was killed was lying on the table in the room. It was a plain grey business suit of good cut and material. The body had been prepared for burial in a beseeming suit of black. Muller made a careful examination of the clothes, and found only what the police reports showed him had already been found by the examination made by the local authorities. Upon a second careful examination, however, he found that in one of the vest pockets there was a little extra pocket, like a change pocket, and in it he found a crumpled piece of paper. He took it out, smoothed and read it. It was a post office receipt for a registered letter. The date was still clear, but the name of the person to whom the letter had been addressed was illegible. The creases of the paper and a certain dampness, as if it had been inadvertently touched by a wet finger, had smeared the writing. But the letter had been sent the day before the death of John Siders, and it had been registered from the main post office in G—. This was sufficient for Muller. Then he turned to the desk. Here also there was nothing that could help him. But a sudden thought, came to him, and he took up the blotting pad. This, to his delight, was in the form of a book with a handsome embroidered cover. It looked comparatively new and was, as Muller surmised, a gift from Miss Roemer to her betrothed. But few of the pages had been used, and on two of them a closely written letter had been blotted several times, showing that there had been several sheets of the letter. Muller held it up to the looking-glass, but the repeated blotting had blurred the writing to such an extent that it was impossible to decipher any but a few disconnected words, which gave no clue. On a page further along on the blotter, however, he saw what appeared to be the impression of an address. He held it up to the glass and gave a whistle of delight. The words could be plainly deciphered here:

“MR. LEO PERNBURG,
“FRANKFURT AM MAIN,
“MAINZER LANDSTRASSE.”

and above the name was a smear which, after a little study, could be deciphered as the written word “Registered.”

With this page of the blotter carefully tucked away in his pocketbook, Muller hurried to the post office, arriving just at closing hour. He made himself known at once to the postmaster, and asked to be shown the records of registered letters sent on a certain date. Here he found scheduled a letter addressed to Mr. Leo Pernburg, Frankfurt am Main, sent by John Siders, G—, Josef Street 7.

Muller then hastened to the telegraph office and despatched a lengthy telegram to the postal authorities in Frankfurt am Main. When the answer came to him next morning, he packed his grip and took the first express train leaving G—. He first made a short visit, however, to Albert Graumann’s cell in the prison. Muller was much too kind-hearted not to relieve the anxiety of this man, to whom such mental strain might easily prove fatal. He told Graumann that he was going in search of evidence which might throw light on the death of Siders, and comforted the prisoner with the assurance that he, Muller, believed Graumann innocent, and believed also that within a day or two he would return to G—— with proofs that his belief was the right one.

Three days later Muller returned to Grunau and went at once to the Graumann home. It was quite late when he arrived, but he had already notified Miss Roemer by telegram as to his coming, with a request that she should be ready to see him. He found her waiting for him, pale and anxious-eyed, when he arrived. “I have been to Frankfurt am Main,” he said, “and I have seen Mr. Pernburg—”

“Yes, yes, that is the name; now I remember,” interrupted the girl eagerly. “That is the name of John’s friend there.”

“I have seen Mr. Pernburg and he gave me this letter.” Muller laid a thick envelope on the girl’s lap.

She looked down at it, her eyes widening as if she had seen a ghost. “That—that is John’s writing,” she exclaimed in a hoarse whisper. “Where did it come from?”

“Pernburg gave it to me. The day before his death John Siders sent him this letter, requesting that Pernburg forward it to you before a certain date. When I explained the circumstances to Mr. Pernburg, he gave me the letter at once. I feel that this paper holds the clue to the mystery. Will you open it?”

With trembling hands the girl tore open the envelope. It enclosed still another sealed envelope, without an address. But there was a sheet of paper around this letter, on which was written the following:

My beloved Eleonore:

Before you read what I have to say to you here I want you to promise me, in memory of our love and by your hope of future salvation, that you will do what I ask you to do.

I ask you to give the enclosed letter, although it is addressed to you, to the Judge who will preside in the trial against Graumann. The letter is written to you and will be given back to you. For you, the beloved of my soul, you are the only human being with whom I can still communicate, to whom I can still express my wishes. But you must not give the letter to the Judge until you have assured yourself that the prosecuting attorney insists upon Graumann’s guilt. In case he is acquitted, which I do not think probable, then open this letter in the presence of Graumann himself and one or two witnesses. For I wish Graumann, who is innocent, to be able to prove his innocence.

You will know by this time that I have determined to end my life by my own hand. Forgive me, beloved. I cannot live on without you—without the honour of which I was robbed so unjustly.

God bless you.

One who will love you even beyond the grave, Remember your promise. It was given to the dead.

JOHN.

“Oh, what does it all mean?” asked Eleonora, dropping the letter in her lap.

“It is as I thought,” replied Muller. “John Siders took his own life, but made every arrangement to have suspicion fall upon Graumann.”

“But why? oh, why?”

“It was a terrible revenge. But perhaps—perhaps it was just retribution. Graumaun would not understand that Siders could have been suspected of, and imprisoned for, a theft he had not committed. He must know now that it is quite possible for a man to be in danger of sentence of death even, for a crime of which he is innocent.”

“Oh, my God! It is terrible.” The girl’s head fell across her folded arms on the table. Deep shuddering sobs shook her frame.

Muller waited quietly until the first shock had passed. Finally her sobs died away and she raised her head again. “What am I to do?” she asked.

“You must open this letter to-morrow in the presence of the Police Commissioner and Graumaun.”

“But this promise? This promise that he asks of me—that I should wait until the trial?”

“You have not given this promise. Would you take it upon yourself to endanger your guardian’s life still more? Every further day spent in his prison, in this anxiety, might be fatal.”

“But this promise? The promise demanded of me by the man to whom I had given my love? Is it not my duty to keep it?”

Muller rose from his chair. His slight figure seemed to grow taller, and the gentleness in his voice gave way to a commanding tone of firm decision.

“Our duty is to the living, not to the dead. The dead have no right to drag down others after them. Believe me, Miss Roemer, the purpose that was in your betrothed’s mind when he ended his own life, has been fulfilled. Albert Graumann knows now what are the feelings of a man who bears the prison stigma unjustly. He will never again judge his fellow-men as harshly as he has done until now. His soul has been purged in these terrible days; have you the right to endanger his life needlessly?”

“Oh, I do not know! I do not know what to do.”

“I have no choice,” said Muller firmly. “It is my duty to make known the fact to the Police Commissioner that there is such a letter in existence. The Police Commissioner will then have to follow his duty in demanding the letter from you. Mr. Pernburg, Sider’s friend, saw this argument at once. Although he also had a letter from the dead man, asking him to send the enclosure to you, registered, on a certain date, he knew that it was his duty to give all the papers to the authorities. Would it not be better for you to give them up of your own free will?” Muller took a step nearer the girl and whispered: “And would it not be a noble revenge on your part? You would be indeed returning good for evil.”

Eleonora clasped her hands and her lips moved as if in silent prayer. Then she rose slowly and held out the letters to Muller. “Do what you will with them,” she said. “My strength is at an end.”

The next day, in the presence of Commissioner Lange and of the accused Albert Graumann, Muller opened the letter which he had received from Miss Roemer and read it aloud. The girl herself, by her own request, was not present. Both Muller and Graumann understood that the strain of this message from the dead would be too much for her to bear. This was the letter:

G—— September 21st.

My beloved:

When you put this letter in the hands of the Judge, I will have found in death the peace that I could never find on earth. There was no chance of happiness for me since I have realised that I love you, that you love me, and that I must give you up if I am to remain what I have always been—in spite of everything—a man of honour.

Albert Graumann would keep his word, this I know. Wherever you might follow me as my wife, there his will would have been before us, blasting my reputation, blackening the flame which you were to bear.

I could not have endured it. My soul was sick of all this secrecy, sick at the injustice of mankind. In spite of worldly success, my life was cold and barren in the strange land to which I had fled. My home called to me and I came back to it.

I kissed the earth of my own country, and I wept at my mother’s grave. I was happy again under the skies which had domed above my childhood. For I am an honest man, beloved, and I always have been.

One day I sat at table beside the man—the Judge who condemned me, here in G—— in those terrible days. He naturally did not know me again. I, myself, brought the conversation around to a professional subject. I asked him if it were not possible that circumstantial evidence could lie; if the entire past, the reputation of the accused would not be a factor in his favour. The Judge denied it. It was his opinion, beyond a doubt, that circumstantial evidence was sufficient to convict anyone.

My soul rose within me. This infallibility, this legal arrogance, aroused my blood. “That man should have a lesson!” I said to myself.

But I had forgotten it all—all my anger, all my hatred and bitterness, when I met you. I dare not trust myself to think of you too much, now that everything is arranged for the one last step. It takes all my control to keep my decision unwavering while I sit here and tell you how much your love, your great tenderness, your sweet trust in me, meant to me.

Let me talk rather of Albert Graumann. I will forgive him for believing in my guilt, but I cannot forgive him that he, the man of cultivation and mental grasp, could not believe it possible for a convicted thief to have repented and to have lived an honest life after the atonement of his crime. I still cannot believe that this was Graumann’s opinion. I am forced to think that it was an excuse only on his part, an excuse to keep us apart, an excuse to keep you for himself.

You are lost to me now. There is nothing more in life for me. If the injustice of mankind has stained my honour beyond repair, has robbed me of every chance of happiness at any time and in any place, then I die easily, beloved, for there is little charm in such a life as would be mine after this.

But I do not wish to die quite in vain. There are two men who have touched my life, who need the lesson my death can teach them. These men are Albert Graumann and the prosecuting attorney Gustav Schmidt, the man who once condemned me so cruelly. His present position would make him the representative of the state in a murder trial, and I know his opinions too well not to foresee that he would declare Graumann guilty because of the circumstantial evidence which will be against him. My letter, given to the Presiding Judge after the Attorney has made his speech, will cause him humiliation, will ruin his brilliant arguments and cast ridicule upon him.

Do not think me hard or revengeful. I do not hate anyone now that death is so near. But is it inhuman that I should want to teach these two men a lesson? a lesson which they need, believe me, and it is such a slight compensation for the torture these last eight years have been to me!

And now I will explain in detail all the circumstances. I have arranged that Albert Graumann shall come to me on the evening of September 23rd between 7 and 8 o’clock. I asked him to do so by letter, asking him also to keep the fact of his visit to me a secret. To-night, the 22nd of September, I received his answer promising that he would come. Therefore I can look upon everything that is to happen, as having already happened, for now there need be no further change in my plans. I will send this letter this evening to my friend Pernburg in Frankfurt am Main. In case anything should happen that would render impossible for me to carry out my plans, I will send Pernburg another letter asking him not to carry out the instructions of the first.

I can now proceed to tell you what will happen here to-morrow evening, the 23rd of September.

Albert Graumann will come to me, unknown to his family or friends, as I have asked him to come. I will so arrange it that the old servant will see him come in but will not see him go out. My landlady will not be in my way, for she has already told me that she will spend the night of the 23rd with her mother, in another part of the city. It is to be a birthday celebration I believe, so that I can be certain her plans will not be changed.

Graumann and I will be alone, therefore, with no reliable witnesses near. I will keep him there for a little while with commonplace conversation, for I have nothing to say to him. If he moves near the desk I will upset the inkbottle. The spots on his clothes will be another evidence against him. I will endeavour to get him to keep my jewelry which is, as you know, of considerable value. I will tell him that I am going away for a while and ask him to take charge of it for me. I, myself, will take him down to the door and let him out, when I have satisfied myself that the old servant is in bed or at least at the back of the house. The revolver which shall end my misery is Graumann’s property. I took it from its place without his knowledge.

The 10,000 gulden which I told my landlady were still in the house, and which would therefore be thought missing after my death, I have deposited in a bank in Frankfort in your name. Here is the certificate of deposit.

I will endeavour not to hold the revolver sufficiently close to have the powder burn my clothes. And I will exert every effort of mind and body to throw it far from me after I have fired the fatal shot. I think that I will be able to do this, for I am a very good shot and I have no fear of death. One thing more I will do, to turn aside all suspicion of suicide. I will write a letter to some person who does not exist, a letter which will make it appear as if I were in excellent humour and planning for the future.

And now, good-bye to life. People have called me eccentric, they may be right. This last deed of mine at least, is out of the ordinary. No one will say now that ended my life in a moment of darkened mind, in a rush of despair. My brain is perfectly clear, my heart beats calmly, now that I have arranged everything for my departure from this world of falsehood and unreality. My last deed shall go to prove to the world how little actual, apparent facts can be trusted.

The one thing real, the one thing true in all this world of falsehood was your love and your trust. I thank you for it.

THEODOR BELLMANN,
known as
JOHN SIDERS.

Joseph Muller refuses to take any particular credit for this case. The letter would have come in time to prevent Graumann’s conviction without his assistance, he says. The only person whose gratitude he has a right to is Prosecuting Attorney Gustav Schmidt. He managed to have the Police Commissioner in G—— read the letter in detail to the attorney. But Muller himself knows that it failed of its effect, so far as that dignitary was concerned. For nothing but open ridicule could ever convince a man of such decided opinions that he is not the one infallible person in the world.

But Albert Graumann had learned his lesson. And he told Muller himself that the few days of life which might remain to him were a gift to him from the detective. He felt that his weak heart would not have stood the strain and the disgrace of an open trial, even if that trial ended in acquittal. Two months later he was found dead in his bed, a calm smile on his lips.

Before he died he had learned that it was the undaunted courage of his timid little old aunt that had brought Muller to take charge of the case and to free her beloved nephew from the dreaded prison. And the last days that these two passed together were very happy.

But as aforesaid, Muller refuses to have this case included in the list of his successes. He did not change the ultimate result, he merely anticipated it, he says.

TOMORROW

The Case of the Golden Bullet

Standard
Joseph Muller, Secret Service detective of the Imperial Austrian police, is one of the great experts in his profession. In personality he differs greatly from other famous detectives. He has neither the impressive authority of Sherlock Holmes, nor the keen brilliancy of Monsieur Lecoq. Muller is a small, slight, plain-looking man, of indefinite age, and of much humbleness of mien. A naturally retiring, modest disposition, and two external causes are the reasons for Muller’s humbleness of manner, which is his chief characteristic. One cause is the fact that in early youth a miscarriage of justice gave him several years in prison, an experience which cast a stigma on his name and which made it impossible for him, for many years after, to obtain honest employment. But the world is richer, and safer, by Muller’s early misfortune. For it was this experience which threw him back on his own peculiar talents for a livelihood, and drove him into the police force. Had he been able to enter any other profession, his genius might have been stunted to a mere pastime, instead of being, as now, utilised for the public good.
Then, the red tape and bureaucratic etiquette which attaches to every governmental department, puts the secret service men of the Imperial police on a par with the lower ranks of the subordinates. Muller’s official rank is scarcely much higher than that of a policeman, although kings and councillors consult him and the Police Department realises to the full what a treasure it has in him. But official red tape, and his early misfortune… prevent the giving of any higher official standing to even such a genius. Born and bred to such conditions, Muller understands them, and his natural modesty of disposition asks for no outward honours, asks for nothing but an income sufficient for his simple needs, and for aid and opportunity to occupy himself in the way he most enjoys.
Joseph Muller’s character is a strange mixture. The kindest-hearted man in the world, he is a human bloodhound when once the lure of the trail has caught him. He scarcely eats or sleeps when the chase is on, he does not seem to know human weakness nor fatigue, in spite of his frail body. Once put on a case his mind delves and delves until it finds a clue, then something awakes within him, a spirit akin to that which holds the bloodhound nose to trail, and he will accomplish the apparently impossible, he will track down his victim when the entire machinery of a great police department seems helpless to discover anything. The high chiefs and commissioners grant a condescending permission when Muller asks, “May I do this? … or may I handle this case this way?” both parties knowing all the while that it is a farce, and that the department waits helpless until this humble little man saves its honour by solving some problem before which its intricate machinery has stood dazed and puzzled.
This call of the trail is something that is stronger than anything else in Muller’s mentality, and now and then it brings him into conflict with the department,… or with his own better nature. Sometimes his unerring instinct discovers secrets in high places, secrets which the Police Department is bidden to hush up and leave untouched. Muller is then taken off the case, and left idle for a while if he persists in his opinion as to the true facts. And at other times, Muller’s own warm heart gets him into trouble. He will track down his victim, driven by the power in his soul which is stronger than all volition; but when he has this victim in the net, he will sometimes discover him to be a much finer, better man than the other individual, whose wrong at this particular criminal’s hand set in motion the machinery of justice. Several times that has happened to Muller, and each time his heart got the better of his professional instincts, of his practical common-sense, too, perhaps,… at least as far as his own advancement was concerned, and he warned the victim, defeating his own work. This peculiarity of Muller’s character caused his undoing at last, his official undoing that is, and compelled his retirement from the force. But his advice is often sought unofficially by the Department, and to those who know, Muller’s hand can be seen in the unravelling of many a famous case.
The stories that follow in DM du Jour are but a few of the many interesting cases that have come within the experience of this great detective. But they give a fair portrayal of Muller’s peculiar method of working, his looking on himself as merely an humble member of the Department, and the comedy of his acting under “official orders” when the Department is in reality following out his directions.

Muller1 “Please, sir, there is a man outside who asks to see you.”

“What does he want?” asked Commissioner Horn, looking up.

“He says he has something to report, sir.”

“Send him in, then.”

The attendant disappeared, and the commissioner looked up at the clock. It was just striking eleven, but the fellow official who was to relieve him at that hour had not yet appeared. And if this should chance to be a new case, he would probably be obliged to take it himself. The commissioner was not in a very good humour as he sat back to receive the young man who entered the room in the wake of the attendant. The stranger was a sturdy youth, with an unintelligent, good-natured face. He twisted his soft hat in his hands in evident embarrassment, and his eyes wandered helplessly about the great bare room.

“Who are you?” demanded the commissioner.

“My name is Dummel, sir, Johann Dummel.”

“And your occupation?”

“My occupation? Oh, yes, I—I am a valet, valet to Professor Fellner.”

The commissioner sat up and looked interested. He knew Fellner personally and liked him. “What have you to report to me?” he asked eagerly.

“I—I don’t know whether I ought to have come here, but at home—”

“Well, is anything the matter?” insisted Horn.

“Why, sir, I don’t know; but the Professor—he is so still—he doesn’t answer.”

Horn sprang from his chair. “Is he ill?” he asked.

“I don’t know, sir. His room is locked—he never locked it before.”

“And you are certain he is at home?”

“Yes, sir. I saw him during the night—and the key is in the lock on the inside.”

The commissioner had his hat in his hand when the colleague who was to relieve him appeared. “Good and cold out to-day!” was the latter’s greeting. Horn answered with an ironical: “Then I suppose you’ll be glad if I relieve you of this case. But I assure you I wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t Fellner. Good-bye. Oh, and one thing more. Please send a physician at once to Fellner’s house, No. 7 Field Street.”

Horn opened the door and passed on into the adjoining room, accompanied by Johann. The commissioner halted a moment as his eyes fell upon a little man who sat in the corner reading a newspaper. “Hello, Muller; you there? Suppose I take you with me? You aren’t doing anything now, are you?”

“No, sir.

“Well, come with me, then. If this should turn out to be anything serious, we may need you.”

The three men entered one of the cabs waiting outside the police station. As they rattled through the streets, Commissioner Horn continued his examination of the valet. “When did you see your master last?”

“About eleven o’clock last evening.”

“Did you speak with him then?

“No, I looked through the keyhole.”

“Oh, indeed; is that a habit of yours?”

Dummel blushed deeply, but his eyes flashed, and he looked angry.

“No, it is not, sir,” he growled. “I only did it this time because I was anxious about the master. He’s been so worked up and nervous the last few days. Last night I went to the theatre, as I always do Saturday evenings. When I returned, about half-past ten it was, I knocked at the door of his bedroom. He didn’t answer, and I walked away softly, so as not to disturb him in case he’d gone to sleep already. The hall was dark, and as I went through it I saw a ray of light coming from the keyhole of the Professor’s study. That surprised me, because he never worked as late as that before. I thought it over a moment, then I crept up and looked through the keyhole.”

“And what did you see?”

“He sat at his desk, quite quiet. So I felt easy again, and went off to bed.”

“Why didn’t you go into the room?”

“I didn’t dare, sir. The Professor never wanted to be disturbed when he was writing.”

“Well, and this morning?”

“I got up at the usual time this morning, set the breakfast table, and then knocked at the Professor’s bedroom door to waken him. He didn’t answer, and I thought he might want to sleep, seeing as it was Sunday, and he was up late last night. So I waited until ten o’clock. Then I knocked again and tried the door, but it was locked. That made me uneasy, because he never locked his bedroom door before. I banged at the door and called out, but there wasn’t a sound. Then I ran to the police station.”

Horn was evidently as alarmed as was the young valet. But Muller’s cheeks were flushed and a flash of secret joy, of pleasurable expectation, brightened his deep-set, grey eyes. He sat quite motionless, but every nerve in his body was alive and tingling. The humble-looking little man had become quite another and a decidedly interesting person. He laid his thin, nervous hand on the carriage door.

“We are not there yet,” said the commissioner.

“No, but it’s the third house from here,” replied Muller.

“You know where everybody lives, don’t you?” smiled Horn.

“Nearly everybody,” answered Muller gently, as the cab stopped before an attractive little villa surrounded by its own garden, as were most of the houses in this quiet, aristocratic part of the town.

The house was two stories high, but the upper windows were closed and tightly curtained. This upper story was the apartment occupied by the owner of the house, who was now in Italy with his invalid wife. Otherwise the dainty little villa, built in the fashionable Nuremberg style, with heavy wooden doors and lozenged-paned windows, had no occupants except Professor Fellner and his servant. With its graceful outlines and well-planned garden, the dwelling had a most attractive appearance. Opposite it was the broad avenue known as the Promenade, and beyond this were open fields. To the right and to the left were similar villas in their gardens.

Dummel opened the door and the three men entered the house. The commissioner and the valet went in first, Muller following them more slowly. His sharp eyes glanced quickly over the coloured tiles of the flooring, over the white steps and the carpeted hallway beyond. Once he bent quickly and picked up something, then he walked on with his usual quiet manner, out of which every trace of excitement had now vanished.

The dull winter sun seemed only to make the gloom of the dark vestibule more visible. Johann turned up the light, and Horn, who had visited the Professor several times and knew the situation of the rooms, went at once to the heavy, carved and iron trimmed door of the study. He attempted to open the door, but it resisted all pressure. The heavy key was in the inner side of the big lock with its medieval iron ornamentation. But the key was turned so that the lower part of the lock was free, a round opening of unusual size. Horn made sure of this by holding a lighted match to the door.

“You are right,” he said to the valet, “the door is locked from the inside. We’ll have to go through the bedroom. Johann, bring me a chisel or a hatchet. Muller, you stay here and open the door when the doctor comes.”

Muller nodded. Johann disappeared, returning in a few moments with a small hatchet, and followed the commissioner through the dining-room. It was an attractive apartment with its high wooden panelling and its dainty breakfast table. But a slight shiver ran through the commissioner’s frame as he realised that some misfortune, some crime even might be waiting for them on the other side of the closed door. The bedroom door also was locked on the inside, and after some moments of knocking and calling, Horn set the hatchet to the framework just as the bell of the house-door pealed out.

With a cracking and tearing of wood the bedroom door fell open, and in the same moment Muller and the physician passed through the dining-room. Johann hurried into the bedroom to open the window-shutters, and the others gathered in the doorway. A single look showed each of the men that the bed was untouched, and they passed on through the room. The door from the bedroom to the study stood open. In the latter room the shutters were tightly closed, and the lamp had long since gone out. But sufficient light fell through the open bedroom door for the men to see the figure of the Professor seated at his desk, and when Johann had opened the shutters, it was plain to all that the silent figure before them was that of a corpse.

“Heart disease, probably,” murmured the physician, as he touched the icy forehead. Then he felt the pulse of the stiffened hand from which the pen had fallen in the moment of death, raised the drooping head and lifted up the half-closed eyelids. The eyes were glazed.

The others looked on in silence. Horn was very pale, and his usually calm face showed great emotion. Johann seemed quite beside himself, the tears rolled down his cheeks unhindered. Muller stood without a sign of life, his sallow face seemed made of bronze; he was watching and listening. He seemed to hear and see what no one else could see or hear. He smiled slightly when the doctor spoke of “heart disease,” and his eyes fell on the revolver that lay near the dead man’s hand on the desk. Then he shook his head, and then he started suddenly. Horn noticed the movement; it was in the moment when the physician raised up the sunken figure that had fallen half over the desk.

“He was killed by a bullet,” said Muller.

“Yes, that was it,” replied the doctor. With the raising of the body the dead man’s waistcoat fell back into its usual position, and they could see a little round hole in his shirt. The doctor opened the shirt bosom and pointed to a little wound in the Professor’s left breast. There were scarcely three or four drops of blood visible. The hemorrhage had been internal.

“He must have died at once, without suffering,” said the physician.

“He killed himself—he killed himself,” murmured Johann, as if bewildered.

“It’s strange that he should have found time to lay down the revolver before he died,” remarked Horn. Johann put out his hand and raised the weapon before Horn could prevent him. “Leave that pistol where it was,” commanded the commissioner. “We have to look into this matter more closely.”

The doctor turned quickly. “You think it was a murder?” he exclaimed. “The doors were both locked on the inside—where could the murderer be?”

“I don’t pretend to see him myself yet. But our rule is to leave things as they are discovered, until the official examination. Muller, did you shut the outer door?”

“Yes, sir; here is the key.”

“Johann, are there any more keys for the outer door?”

“Yes, sir. One more, that is, for the third was lost some months ago. The Professor’s own key ought to be in the drawer of the little table beside the bed.”

“Will you please look for it, Muller?”

Muller went into the bedroom and soon returned with the key, which he handed to the commissioner. The detective had found something else in the little table drawer—a tortoise-shell hairpin, which he had carefully hidden in his own pocket before rejoining the others.

Horn turned to the servant again. “How many times have you been out of the apartment since last night?”

“Once only, sir, to go to the police station to fetch you.”

“And you locked the door behind you?”

“Why, yes, sir. You saw that I had to turn the key twice to let you in.”

Horn and Muller both looked the young man over very carefully. He seemed perfectly innocent, and their suspicion that he might have turned the key in pretense only, soon vanished. It would have been a foolish suspicion anyway. If he were in league with the murderer, he could have let the latter escape with much more safety during the night. Horn let his eyes wander about the rooms again, and said slowly: “Then the murderer is still here—or else—”

“Or else?” asked the doctor.

“Or else we have a strange riddle to solve.”

Johann had laid the pistol down again. Muller stretched forth his hand and took it up. He looked at it a moment, then handed it to the commissioner. “We have to do with a murder here. There was not a shot fired from this revolver, for every chamber is still loaded. And there is no other weapon in sight,” said the detective quietly.

“Yes, he was murdered. This revolver is fully loaded. Let us begin the search at once.” Horn was more excited than he cared to show.

Johann looked about in alarm, but when he saw the others beginning to peer into every corner and every cupboard, he himself joined in the man-hunt. A quarter of an hour later, the four men relinquished their fruitless efforts and gathered beside the corpse again.

“Doctor, will you have the kindness to report to the head Commissioner of Police, and to order the taking away of the body? We will look about for some motive for this murder in the meantime,” said Horn, as he held out his hand to the physician.

Muller walked out to the door of the house with the doctor.

“Do you think this valet did it?” asked the physician softly.

“He? Oh, dear, no,” replied the detective scornfully.

“You think he’s too stupid? But this stupidity might be feigned.”

“It’s real enough, doctor.”

“But what do you think about it—you, who have the gift of seeing more than other people see, even if it does bring you into disfavour with the Powers that Be?”

“Then you don’t believe me yet?”

“You mean about the beautiful Mrs. Kniepp?

“And yet I tell you I am right. It was an intentional suicide.”

“Muller, Muller, you must keep better watch over your imagination and your tongue! It is a dangerous thing to spread rumours about persons high in favor with the Arch-duke. But you had better tell me what you think about this affair,” continued the doctor, pointing back towards the room they had just left.

“There’s a woman in the case.”

“Aha! you are romancing again. Well, they won’t be so sensitive about this matter, but take care that you don’t make a mistake again, my dear Muller. It would be likely to cost you your position, don’t forget that.”

The doctor left the house. Muller smiled bitterly as he closed the door behind him, and murmured to himself: “Indeed, I do not forget it, and that is why I shall take this matter into my own hands. But the Kniepp case is not closed yet, by any means.”

When he returned to the study he saw Johann sitting quietly in a corner, shaking his head, as if trying to understand it all. Horn was bending over a sheet of writing paper which lay before the dead man. Fellner must have been busy at his desk when the bullet penetrated his heart. His hand in dying had let fall the pen, which had drawn a long black mark across the bottom of the sheet. One page of the paper was covered with a small, delicate handwriting.

Horn called up the detective, and together they read the following words:

“Dear Friend:—

“He challenged me—pistols—it means life or death. My enemy is very bitter. But I am not ready to die yet. And as I know that I would be the one to fall, I have refused the duel. That will help me little, for his revenge will know how to find me. I dare not be a moment without a weapon now—his threats on my refusal let me fear the worst. I have an uncanny presentiment of evil. I shall leave here to-morrow. With the excuse of having some pressing family affair to attend to, I have secured several days’ leave. Of course I do not intend to return. I am hoping that you will come here and break up my establishment in my stead. I will tell you everything else when I see you. I am in a hurry now, for there is a good deal of packing to do. If anything should happen to me, you will know who it is who is responsible for my death. His name is—”

Here the letter came to an abrupt close.

Muller and Horn looked at each other in silence, then they turned their eyes again toward the dead man.

“He was a coward,” said the detective coldly, and turned away. Horn repeated mechanically, “A coward!” and his eyes also looked down with a changed expression upon the handsome, soft-featured face, framed in curly blond hair, that lay so silent against the chair-back. Many women had loved this dead man, and many men had been fond of him, for they had believed him capable and manly.

The commissioner and Muller continued their researches in silence and with less interest than before. They found a heap of loose ashes in the bedroom stove. Letters and other trifles had been burned there. Muller raked out the heap very carefully, but the writing on the few pieces of paper still left whole was quite illegible. There were several envelopes in the waste-basket, but all of them were dated several months back. There was nothing that could give the slightest clue.

The letter written by the murdered man was sufficient proof that his death had been an act of vengeance. But who was it who had carried out this secret, terrible deed? The victim had not been allowed the time to write down the name of his murderer.

Horn took the letter into his keeping. Then he left the room, followed by Muller and the valet, to look about the rest of the house as far as possible. This was not very far, for the second story was closed off by a tall iron grating.

“Is the house door locked during the daytime?” asked Horn of the servant.

“The front door is, but the side door into the garden is usually open.”

“Has it ever happened that any one got into the house from this side door without your knowing it?”

“No, sir. The garden has a high wall around it. And there is extra protection on the side toward the Promenade.”

“But there’s a little gate there?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Is that usually closed?”

“We never use the key for that, sir. It has a trick lock that you can’t open unless you know how.”

“You said you went to the theatre yesterday evening. Did your master give you permission to go?”

“Yes, sir. It’s about a year now that he gave me money for a theatre ticket every Saturday evening. He was very kind.”

“Did you come into the house last night by the front door, or through the garden?”

“Through the garden, sir. I walked down the Promenade from the theatre.”

“And you didn’t notice anything—you saw no traces of footsteps?”

“No, sir. I didn’t notice anything unusual. We shut the side door, the garden door, every evening, also. It was closed yesterday and I found the key—we’ve only got one key to the garden door—in the same place where I was told to hide it when I went out in the evening.”

“What place was that?”

“In one of the pails by the well.”

“You say you were told to hide it there?”

“Yes, sir; the Professor told me. He’d go out in the evening sometimes, too, I suppose, and he wanted to be able to come in that way if necessary.”

“And no one else knew where the key was hidden?”

“No one else, sir. It’s nearly a year now that we’ve been alone in the house. Who else should know of it?”

“When you looked through the keyhole last night, are you sure that the Professor was still alive?”

“Why, yes, sir; of course I couldn’t say so surely. I thought he was reading or writing, but oh, dear Lord! there he was this morning, nearly twelve hours later, in just the same position.” Johann shivered at the thought that he might have seen his master sitting at his desk, already a corpse.

“He must have been dead when you came home. Don’t you think the sound of that shot would have wakened you?”

“Yes, sir, I think likely, sir,” murmured Johann. “But if the murderer could get into the house, how could he get into the apartment?”

“There must have been a third key of which you knew nothing,” answered Horn, turning to Muller again. “It’s stranger still how Fellner could have been shot, for the window-shutters were fastened and quite uninjured, and both doors were locked on the inside.”

As he said these words, Horn looked sharply at his subordinate; but Muller’s calm face did not give the slightest clue to his thoughts. The experienced police commissioner was pleased and yet slightly angered at this behaviour on the part of the detective. He knew that it was quite possible that Muller had already formed a clear opinion about the case, and that he was merely keeping it to himself. And yet he was glad to see that the little detective had apparently learned a lesson from his recent mistake concerning the death of Mrs. Kniepp—that he had somewhat lost confidence in his hitherto unerring instinct, and did not care to express any opinion until he had studied the matter a little closer. The commissioner was just a little bit vain, and just a little bit jealous of this humble detective’s fame.

Muller shrugged his shoulders at the remark of his superior, and the two men stood silent, thinking over the case, as the Chief of Police appeared, accompanied by the doctor, a clerk, and two hospital attendants. The chief commissioner received the report of what had been discovered, while the corpse was laid on a bier to be taken to the hospital.

Muller handed the commissioner his hat and cane and helped him into his overcoat. Horn noticed that the detective himself was making no preparations to go out. “Aren’t you coming with us?” he asked, astonished.

“I hope the gentlemen will allow me to remain here for a little while,” answered Muller modestly.

“But you know that we will have to close the apartment officially,” said Horn, his voice sharpening in his surprise and displeasure.

“I do not need to be in these rooms any longer.”

“Don’t let them disturb you, my dear Muller; we will allow your keenness all possible leeway here.” The Head of Police spoke with calm politeness, but Muller started and shivered. The emphasis on the “here” showed him that even the head of the department had been incensed at his suggestion that the beautiful Mrs. Kniepp had died of her own free will. It had been his assertion of this which, coming to the ears of the bereaved husband, had enraged and embittered him, and had turned the power of his influence with the high authorities against the detective. Muller knew how greatly he had fallen from favour in the Police Department, and the words of his respected superior showed him that he was still in disgrace.

But the strange, quiet smile was still on his lips as, with his usual humble deference, he accompanied the others to the sidewalk. Before the commissioners left the house, the Chief commanded Johann to answer carefully any questions Muller might put to him.

“He’ll find something, you may be sure,” said Horn, as they drove off in the cab.

“Let him that’s his business. He is officially bound to see more than the rest of us,” smiled the older official good-naturedly. “But in spite of it, he’ll never get any further than the vestibule; he’ll be making bows to us to the end of his days.”

“You think so? I’ve wondered at the man. I know his fame in the capital, indeed, in police circles all over Austria and Germany. It seems hard on him to be transferred to this small town, now that he is growing old. I’ve wondered why he hasn’t done more for himself, with his gifts.”

“He never will,” replied the Chief. “He may win more fame—he may still go on winning triumphs, but he will go on in a circle; he’ll never forge ahead as his capabilities deserve. Muller’s peculiarity is that his genius—for the man has undeniable genius—will always make concessions to his heart just at the moment when he is about to do something great—and his triumph is lost.”

Horn looked up at his superior, whom, in spite of his good nature, he knew to be a sharp, keen, capable police official. “I forgot you have known Muller longer than the rest of us,” he said. “What was that you said about his heart?”

“I said that it is one of those inconvenient hearts that will always make itself noticeable at the wrong time. Muller’s heart has played several tricks on the police department, which has, at other times, profited so well by his genius. He is a strange mixture. While he is on the trail of the criminal he is like the bloodhound. He does not seem to know fatigue nor hunger; his whole being is absorbed by the excitement of the chase. He has done many a brilliant service to the cause of justice, he has discovered the guilt, or the innocence, of many in cases where the official department was as blind as Justice is proverbially supposed to be. Joseph Muller has become the idol of all who are engaged in this weary business of hunting down wrong and punishing crime. He is without a peer in his profession. But he has also become the idol of some of the criminals. For if he discovers (as sometimes happens) that the criminal is a good sort after all, he is just as likely to warn his prey, once he has all proofs of the guilt and a conviction is certain. Possibly this is his way of taking the sting from his irresistible impulse to ferret out hidden mysteries. But it is rather inconvenient, and he has hurt himself by it—hurt himself badly. They were tired of his peculiarities at the capital, and wanted to make his years an excuse to discharge him. I happened to get wind of it, and it was my weakness for him that saved him.”

“Yes, you brought him here when they transferred you to this town, I remember now.”

“I’m afraid it wasn’t such a good thing for him, after all. Nothing ever happens here, and a gift like Muller’s needs occupation to keep it fresh. I’m afraid his talents will dull and wither here. The man has grown perceptibly older in this inaction. His mind is like a high-bred horse that needs exercise to keep it in good condition.”

“He hasn’t grown rich at his work, either,” said Horn.

“No, there’s not much chance for a police detective to get rich. I’ve often wondered why Muller never had the energy to set up in business for himself. He might have won fame and fortune as a private detective. But he’s gone on plodding along as a police subordinate, and letting the department get all the credit for his most brilliant achievements. It’s a sort of incorrigible humbleness of nature—and then, you know, he had the misfortune to be unjustly sentenced to a term in prison in his early youth.”

“No, I did not know that.”

“The stigma stuck to his name, and finally drove him to take up this work. I don’t think Muller realised, when he began, just how greatly he is gifted. I don’t know that he really knows now. He seems to do it because he likes it—he’s a queer sort of man.”

While the commissioners drove through the streets to the police station the man of whom they were speaking sat in Johann’s little room in close consultation with the valet.

“How long is it since the Professor began to give you money to go to the theatre on Saturday evenings?”

“The first time it happened was on my name day.”

“What’s the rest of your name? There are so many Johanns on the calendar.”

“I am Johann Nepomuk.”

Muller took a little calendar from his pocket and turned its pages. “It was May sixteenth,” volunteered the valet.

“Quite right. May sixteenth was a Saturday. And since then you have gone to the theatre every Saturday evening?”

“Yes, sir.”

“When did the owner of the house go away?”

“Last April. His wife was ill and he had to take her away. They went to Italy.”

“And you two have been alone in the house since April?”

“Yes, sir, we two.”

“Was there no janitor?”

“No, sir. The garden was taken care of by a man who came in for the day.”

“And you had no dog? I haven’t seen any around the place.”

“No, sir; the Professor did not like animals. But he must have been thinking about buying a dog, because I found a new dog-whip in his room one day.”

“Somebody might have left it there. One usually buys the dog first and then the whip.”

“Yes, sir. But there wasn’t anybody here to forget it. The Professor did not receive any visits at that time.”

“Why are you so sure of that?”

“Because it was the middle of summer, and everybody was away.”

“Oh, then, we won’t bother about the whip. Can you tell me of any ladies with whom the Professor was acquainted?”

“Ladies? I don’t know of any. Of course, the Professor was invited out a good deal, and most of the other gentlemen from the college were married.”

“Did he ever receive letters from ladies?” continued Muller.

Johann thought the matter over, then confessed that he knew very little about writing and couldn’t read handwriting very well anyway. But he remembered to have seen a letter now and then, a little letter with a fine and delicate handwriting.

“Have you any of these envelopes?” asked Muller. But Johann told him that in spite of his usual carelessness in such matters, Professor Fellner never allowed these letters to lie about his room.

Finally the detective came out with the question to which he had been leading up. “Did your master ever receive visits from ladies?”

Johann looked extremely stupid at this moment. His lack of intelligence and a certain crude sensitiveness in his nature made him take umbrage at what appeared to him a very unnecessary question. He answered it with a shake of the head only. Muller smiled at the young man’s ill-concealed indignation and paid no attention to it.

“Your master has been here for about a year. Where was he before that?”

“In the capital.”

“You were in his service then?”

“I have been with him for three years.”

“Did he know any ladies in his former home?”

“There was one—I think he was engaged to her.”

“Why didn’t he marry her?”

“I don’t know.”

“What was her name?”

“Marie. That’s all I know about it.”

“Was she beautiful?”

“I never saw her. The only way I knew about her was when the Professor’s friends spoke of her.”

“Did he have many friends?”

“There were ever so many gentlemen whom he called his friends.”

“Take me into the garden now.”

“Yes, sir.” Muller took his hat and coat and followed the valet into the garden. It was of considerable size, carefully and attractively planned, and pleasing even now when the bare twigs bent under their load of snow.

“Now think carefully, Johann. We had a full moon last night. Don’t you remember seeing any footsteps in the garden, leading away from the house?” asked Muller, as they stood on the snow-covered paths.

Johann thought it over carefully, then said decidedly, “No. At least I don’t remember anything of the kind. There was a strong wind yesterday anyway, and the snow drifts easily out here. No tracks could remain clear for long.”

The men walked down the straight path which led to the little gate in the high wall. This gate had a secret lock, which, however, was neither hard to find nor hard to open. Muller managed it with ease, and looked out through the gate on the street beyond. The broad promenade, deserted now in its winter snowiness, led away in one direction to the heart of the city. In the other it ended in the main county high-road. This was a broad, well-made turnpike, with footpath and rows of trees. A half-hour’s walk along it would bring one to the little village clustering about the Archduke’s favourite hunting castle. There was a little railway station near the castle, but it was used only by suburban trains or for the royal private car.

Muller did not intend to burden his brain with unnecessary facts, so with his usual thoroughness he left the further investigation of what lay beyond the gate, until he had searched the garden thoroughly. But even for his sharp eyes there was no trace to be found that would tell of the night visit of the murderer.

“In which of the pails did you put the key to the side door?” he asked.

“In the first pail on the right hand side. But be careful, sir; there’s a nail sticking out of the post there. The wind tore off a piece of wood yesterday.”

The warning came too late. Muller’s sleeve tore apart with a sharp sound just as Johann spoke, for the detective had already plunged his hand into the pail. The bottom of the bucket was easy to reach, as this one hung much lower than the others. Looking regretfully at the rent in his coat, Muller asked for needle and thread that he might repair it sufficiently to get home.

“Oh, don’t bother about sewing it; I’ll lend you one of mine,” exclaimed Johann. “I’ll carry this one home for you, for I’m not going to stay here alone—I’d be afraid. I’m going to a friend’s house. You can find me there any time you need me. You’d better take the key of the apartment and give it to the police.”

The detective had no particular fondness for the task of sewing, and he was glad to accept the valet’s friendly offering. He was rather astonished at the evident costliness of the garment the young man handed him, and when he spoke of it, the valet could not say enough in praise of the kindness of his late master. He pulled out several other articles of clothing, which, like the overcoat, had been given to him by Fellner. Then he packed up a few necessities and announced himself as ready to start. He insisted on carrying the torn coat, and Muller permitted it after some protest. They carefully closed the apartment and the house, and walked toward the centre of the city to the police station, where Muller lived.

As they crossed the square, it suddenly occurred to Johann that he had no tobacco. He was a great smoker, and as he had many days of enforced idleness ahead of him, he ran into a tobacco shop to purchase a sufficiency of this necessity of life.

Muller waited outside, and his attention was attracted by a large grey Ulmer hound which was evidently waiting for some one within the shop. The dog came up to him in a most friendly manner, allowed him to pat its head, rubbed up against him with every sign of pleasure, and would not leave him even when he turned to go after Johann came out of the shop. Still accompanied by the dog, the two men walked on quite a distance, when a sharp whistle was heard behind them, and the dog became uneasy. He would not leave them, however, until a powerful voice called “Tristan!” several times. Muller turned and saw that Tristan’s master was a tall, stately man wearing a handsome fur overcoat.

It was impossible to recognise his face at this distance, for the snowflakes were whirling thickly in the air. But Muller was not particularly anxious to recognise the stranger, as he had his head full of more important thoughts.

When Johann had given his new address and remarked that he would call for his coat soon, the men parted, and Muller returned to the police station.

The next day the principal newspaper of the town printed the following notice:

THE GOLDEN BULLET

It is but a few days since we announced to our readers the sad
news of the death of a beautiful woman, whose leap from her
window, while suffering from the agonies of fever, destroyed
the happiness of an unusually harmonious marriage. And now we
are compelled to print the news of another equally sad as well
as mysterious occurrence. This time, Fate has demanded the
sacrifice of the life of a capable and promising young man.
Professor Paul Fellner, a member of the faculty of our college,
was found dead at his desk yesterday morning. It was thought at
first that it was a case of suicide, for doors and windows were
carefully closed from within and those who discovered the corpse
were obliged to break open one of the doors to get to it. And
a revolver was found lying close at hand, upon the desk. But
this revolver was loaded in every chamber and there was no other
weapon to be seen in the room. There was a bullet wound in the
left breast of the corpse, and the bullet had penetrated the
heart. Death must have been instantaneous.

The most mysterious thing about this strange affair was
discovered during the autopsy. It is incredible, but it is
absolutely true, as it is vouched for under oath by the
authorities who were present, that the bullet which was found
in the heart of the dead man was made of solid gold. And yet,
strange as is this circumstance, it is still more a riddle how
the murderer could have escaped from the room where he had shot
down his victim, for the keys in both doors were in the locks
from the inside. We have evidently to do here with a criminal
of very unusual cleverness and it is therefore not surprising
that there has been no clue discovered thus far. The only
thing that is known is that this murder was an act of revenge.

The entire city was in excitement over the mystery, even the police station was shaken out of its usual business-like indifference. There was no other topic of conversation in any of the rooms but the mystery of the golden bullet and the doors closed from the inside. The attendants and the policeman gathered whispering in the corners, and strangers who came in on their own business forgot it in their excitement over this new and fascinating mystery.

That afternoon Muller passed through Horn’s office with a bundle of papers, on his way to the inner office occupied by his patron, Chief of Police Bauer. Horn, who had avoided Muller since yesterday although he was conscious of a freshened interest in the man, raised his head and watched the little detective as he walked across the room with his usual quiet tread. The commissioner saw nothing but the usual humble business-like manner to which he was accustomed—then suddenly something happened that came to him like a distinct shock. Muller stopped in his walk so suddenly that one foot was poised in the air. His bowed head was thrown back, his face flushed to his forehead, and the papers trembled in his hands. He ran the fingers of his unoccupied hand through his hair and murmured audibly, “That dog! that dog!” It was evident that some thought had struck him with such insistence as to render him oblivious of his surroundings. Then he finally realised where he was, and walked on quickly to Bauer’s room, his face still flushed, his hands trembling. When he came out from the office again, he was his usual quiet, humble self.

But the commissioner, with his now greater knowledge of the little man’s gifts and past, could not forget the incident. During the afternoon he found himself repeating mechanically, “That dog—that dog.” But the words meant nothing to him, hard as he might try to find the connection.

When the commissioner left for his home late that afternoon, Muller re-entered the office to lay some papers on the desk. His duties over, he was about to turn out the gas, when his eye fell on the blotter on Horn’s desk. He looked at it more closely, then burst into a loud laugh. The same two words were scribbled again and again over the white surface, but it was not the name of any fair maiden, or even the title of a love poem; it was only the words, “That dog—”

Several days had passed since the discovery of the murder. Fellner had been buried and his possessions taken into custody by the authorities until his heirs should appear. The dead man’s papers and affairs were in excellent condition and the arranging of the inheritance had been quickly done. Until the heirs should take possession, the apartment was sealed by the police. There was nothing else to do in the matter, and the commission appointed to make researches had discovered nothing of value. The murderer might easily feel that he was absolutely safe by this time.

The day after the publication of the article we have quoted, Muller appeared in Bauer’s office and asked for a few days’ leave.

“In the Fellner case?” asked the Chief with his usual calm, and Muller replied in the affirmative.

Two days later he returned, bringing with him nothing but a single little notice.

“Marie Dorn, now Mrs. Kniepp,” was one line in his notebook, and beside it some dates. The latter showed that Marie Dorn had for two years past been the wife of the Archducal Forest-Councillor, Leo Kniepp.

And for one year now Professor Paul Fellner had been in the town, after having applied for his transference from the university in the capital to this place, which was scarce half an hour’s walk distant from the home of the beautiful young woman who had been the love of his youth.

And Fellner had made his home in the quietest quarter of the city, in that quarter which was nearest the Archducal hunting castle. He had lived very quietly, had not cultivated the acquaintance of the ladies of the town, but was a great walker and bicycle rider; and every Saturday evening since he had been alone in the house, he had sent his servant to the theatre. And it was on Saturday evenings that Forest-Councillor Kniepp went to his Bowling Club at the other end of the city, and did not return until the last train at midnight.

And during these evening hours Fellner’s apartment was a convenient place for pleasant meetings; and nothing prevented the Professor from accompanying his beautiful friend home through the quiet Promenade, along the turnpike to the hunting castle. And Johann had once found a dog-whip in his master’s room-and Councillor Leo Kniepp, head of the Forestry Department, was the possessor of a beautiful Ulmer hound which took an active interest in people who wore clothes belonging to Fellner.

Furthermore, in the little drawer of the bedside table in the murdered man’s room, there had been found a tortoise-shell hairpin; and in the corner of the vestibule of his house, a little mother-of-pearl glove button, of the kind much in fashion that winter, because of a desire on the part of the ladies of the town to help the home industry of the neighbourhood. Mrs. Marie Kniepp was one of the fashionable women of the town, and several days before the Professor was murdered, this woman had thrown herself from the second-story window of her home, and her husband, whose passionate eccentric nature was well known, had been a changed man from that hour.

It was his deep grief at the loss of his beloved wife that had turned his hair grey and had drawn lines of terrible sorrow in his face—said gossip. But Muller, who did not know Kniepp personally although he had been taking a great interest in his affairs for the last few days, had his own ideas on the subject, and he decided to make the acquaintance of the Forest Councillor as soon as possible—that is, after he had found out all there was to be found out about his affairs and his habits.

Just a week after the murder, on Saturday evening therefore, the snow was whirling merrily about the gables and cupolas of the Archducal hunting castle. The weather-vanes groaned and the old trees in the park bent their tall tops under the mad wind which swept across the earth and tore the protecting snow covering from their branches. It was a stormy evening, not one to be out in if a man had a warm corner in which to hide.

An old peddler was trying to find shelter from the rapidly increasing storm under the lea of the castle wall. He crouched so close to the stones that he could scarcely be seen at all, in spite of the light from the snow. Finally he disappeared altogether behind one of the heavy columns which sprang out at intervals from the magnificent wall. Only his head peeped out occasionally as if looking for something. His dark, thoughtful eyes glanced over the little village spread out on one side of the castle, and over the railway station, its most imposing building. Then they would turn back again to the entrance gate in the wall near where he stood. It was a heavy iron-barred gate, its handsome ornamentation outlined in snow, and behind it the body of a large dog could be occasionally seen. This dog was an enormous grey Ulmer hound.

The peddler stood for a long time motionless behind the pillar, then he looked at his watch. “It’s nearly time,” he murmured, and looked over towards the station again, where lights and figures were gathering.

At the same time the noise of an opening door was heard, and steps creaked over the snow. A man, evidently a servant, opened the little door beside the great gate and held it for another man to pass out. “You’ll come back by the night train as usual, sir?” he asked respectfully.

“Yes,” replied the other, pushing back the dog, which fawned upon him.

“Come back here, Tristan,” called the servant, pulling the dog in by his collar, as he closed the door and re-entered the house.

The Councillor took the path to the station. He walked slowly, with bowed head and uneven step. He did not look like a man who was in the mood to join a merry crowd, and yet he was evidently going to his Club. “He wants to show himself; he doesn’t want to let people think that he has anything to be afraid of,” murmured the peddler, looking after him sharply. Then his eyes suddenly dimmed and a light sigh was heard, with another murmur, “Poor man.” The Councillor reached the station and disappeared within its door. The train arrived and departed a few moments later. Kniepp must have really gone to the city, for although the man behind the pillar waited for some little time, the Councillor did not return—a contingency that the peddler had not deemed improbable.

About half an hour after the departure of the train the watcher came out of his hiding place and walked noisily past the gate. What he expected, happened. The dog rushed up to the bars, barking loudly, but when the peddler had taken a silk muffler from the pack on his back and held it out to the animal, the noise ceased and the dog’s anger turned to friendliness. Tristan was quite gentle, put his huge head up to the bars to let the stranger pat it, and seemed not at all alarmed when the latter rang the bell.

The young man who had opened the door for the Councillor came out from a wing of the castle. The peddler looked so frozen and yet so venerable that the youth had not the heart to turn him away. Possibly he was glad of a little diversion for his own sake.

“Who do you want to see?” he asked.

“I want to speak to the maid, the one who attended your dead mistress.”

“Oh, then you know—?”

“I know of the misfortune that has happened here.”

“And you think that Nanette might have something to sell to you?”

“Yes, that’s it; that’s why I came. For I don’t suppose there’s much chance for any business with my cigar holders and other trifles here so near the city.”

“Cigar holders? Why, I don’t know; perhaps we can make a trade. Come in with me. Why, just see how gentle the dog is with you!”

“Isn’t he that way with everybody? I supposed he was no watchdog.”

“Oh, indeed he is. He usually won’t allow anybody to touch him, except those whom he knows well. I’m astonished that he lets you come to the house at all.”

They had reached the door by this time. The peddler laid his hand on the servant’s arm and halted a moment. “Where was it that she threw herself out?”

“From the last window upstairs there.”

“And did it kill her at once?”

“Yes. Anyway she was unconscious when we came down.”

“Was the master at home?”

“Why, yes, it happened in the middle of the night.”

“She had a fever, didn’t she? Had she been ill long?”

“No. She was in bed that day, but we thought it was nothing of importance.”

“These fevers come on quickly sometimes,” remarked the old man wisely, and added: “This case interests the entire neighbourhood and I will show you that I can be grateful for anything you may tell me—of course, only what a faithful servant could tell. It will interest my customers very much.”

“You know all there is to know,” said the valet, evidently disappointed that he had nothing to tell which could win the peddler’s gratitude. “There are no secrets about it. Everybody knows that they were a very happy couple, and even if there was a little talk between them on that day, why it was pure accident and had nothing to do with the mistress’ excitement.”

“Then there was a quarrel between them?”

“Are people talking about it?”

“I’ve heard some things said. They even say that this quarrel was the reason for—her death.”

“It’s stupid nonsense!” exclaimed the servant. The old peddler seemed to like the young man’s honest indignation.

While they were talking, they had passed through a long corridor and the young man laid his hand on one of the doors as the peddler asked, “Can I see Miss Nanette alone?”

“Alone? Oho, she’s engaged to me!”

“I know that,” said the stranger, who seemed to be initiated into all the doings of this household. “And I am an old man—all I meant was that I would rather not have any of the other servants about.”

“I’ll keep the cook out of the way if you want me to.”

“That would be a good idea. It isn’t easy to talk business before others,” remarked the old man as they entered the room. It was a comfortably furnished and cozily warm apartment. Only two people were there, an old woman and a pretty young girl, who both looked up in astonishment as the men came in.

“Who’s this you’re bringing in, George?” asked Nanette.

“He’s a peddler and he’s got some trifles here you might like to look at.”

“Why, yes, you wanted a thimble, didn’t you, Lena?” asked Nanette, and the cook beckoned to the peddler. “Let’s see what you’ve got there,” she said in a friendly tone. The old man pulled out his wares from his pack; thimbles and scissors, coloured ribbons, silks, brushes and combs, and many other trifles. When the women had made their several selections they noticed that the old man was shivering with the cold, as he leaned against the stove. Their sympathies were aroused in a moment. “Why don’t you sit down?” asked Nanette, pushing a chair towards him, and Lena rose to get him something warm from the kitchen.

The peddler threw a look at George, who nodded in answer. “He said he’d like to see the things they gave you after Mrs. Kniepp’s death,” the young man remarked,

“Do you buy things like that?” Nanette turned to the peddler.

“I’d just like to look at them first, if you’ll let me.”

“I’d be glad to get rid of them. But I won’t go upstairs, I’m afraid there.”

“Well, I’ll get the things for you if you want me to,” offered George and turned to leave the room. The door had scarcely closed behind him when a change came over the peddler. His old head rose from its drooping position, his bowed figure started up with youthful elasticity.

“Are you really fond of him?” he asked of the astonished Nanette, who stepped back a pace, stammering in answer: “Yes. Why do you ask? and who are you?”

“Never mind that, my dear child, but just answer the questions I have to ask, and answer truthfully, or it might occur to me to let your George know that he is not the first man you have loved.”

“What do you know?” she breathed in alarm.

The peddler laughed. “Oho, then he’s jealous! All the better for me—the Councillor was jealous too, wasn’t he?” Nanette looked at him in horror.

“The truth, therefore, you must tell me the truth, and get the others away, so I can speak to you alone. You must do this—or else I’ll tell George about the handsome carpenter in Church street, or about Franz Schmid, or—”

“For God’s sake, stop—stop—I’ll do anything you say.”

The girl sank back on her chair pale and trembling, while the peddler resumed his pose of a tired old man leaning against the stove. When George returned with a large basket, Nanette had calmed herself sufficiently to go about the unpacking of the articles in the hamper.

“George, won’t you please keep Lena out in the kitchen. Ask her to make some tea for us,” asked Nanette with well feigned assurance. George smiled a meaning smile and disappeared.

“I am particularly interested in the dead lady’s gloves,” said the peddler when they were alone again.

Nanette looked at him in surprise but was still too frightened to offer any remarks. She opened several boxes and packages and laid a number of pairs of gloves on the table. The old man looked through them, turning them over carefully. Then he shook his head: “There must be some more somewhere,” he said. Nanette was no longer astonished at anything he might say or do, so she obediently went through the basket again and found a little box in which were several pair of grey suede gloves, fastened by bluish mother-of-pearl buttons. One of the pairs had been worn, and a button was missing.

“These are the ones I was looking for,” said the peddler, putting the gloves in his pocket. Then he continued: “Your mistress was rather fond of taking long walks by herself, wasn’t she?”

The girl’s pale face flushed hotly and she stammered: “You know—about it?”

“You know about it also, I see. And did you know everything?”

“Yes, everything,” murmured Nanette.

“Then it was you and Tristan who accompanied the lady on her walks?”

“Yes.”

“I supposed she must have taken some one into her confidence. Well, and what do you think about the murder?”

“The Professor?” replied Nanette hastily. “Why, what should I know about it?”

“The Councillor was greatly excited and very unhappy when he discovered this affair, I suppose?”

“He is still.”

“And how did he act after the—let us call it the accident?”

“He was like a crazy man.”

“They tell me that he went about his duties just the same—that he went away on business.”

“It wasn’t business this time, at least not professional business. But before that he did have to go away frequently for weeks at a time.”

“And it was then that your mistress was most interested in her lonely walks, eh?”

“Yes.” Nanette’s voice was so low as to be scarcely heard.

“Well, and this time?” continued the peddler. “Why did he go away this time?”

“He went to the capital on private business of his own.”

“Are you sure of that?”

“Quite sure. He went two different times. I thought it was because he couldn’t stand it here and wanted to see something different. He went to his club this evening, too.”

“And when did he go away?”

“The first time was the day after his wife was buried.”

“And the second time?”

“Two or three days after his return.”

“How long did he stay away the first time?”

“Only one day.”

“Good! Pull yourself together now. I’ll send your George in to you and tell him you haven’t been feeling well. Don’t tell any one about our conversation. Where is the kitchen?”

“The last door to the right down the hall.”

The peddler left the room and Nanette sank down dazed and trembling on the nearest chair. George found her still pale, but he seemed to think it quite natural that she should have been overcome by the recollection of the terrible death of her mistress. He gave the old man a most cordial invitation to return during the next few days. The cook brought the peddler a cup of steaming tea, and purchased several trifles from him, before he left the house.

When the old man had reached a lonely spot on the road, about half way between the hunting castle and the city, he halted, set down his pack, divested himself of his beard and his wig and washed the wrinkles from his face with a handful of snow from the wayside. A quarter of an hour later, Detective Muller entered the railway station of the city, burdened with a large grip. He took a seat in the night express which rolled out from the station a few moments later.

As he was alone in his compartment, Muller gave way to his excitement, sometimes even murmuring half-aloud the thoughts that rushed through his brain. “Yes, I am convinced of it, but can I find the proofs?” the words came again and again, and in spite of the comfortable warmth in the compartment, in spite of his tired and half-frozen condition, he could not sleep.

He reached the capital at midnight and took a room in a small hotel in a quiet street. When he went out next morning, the servants looked after him with suspicion, as in their opinion a man who spent most of the night pacing up and down his room must surely have a guilty conscience.

Muller went to police headquarters and looked through the arrivals at the hotels on the 21st of November. The burial of Mrs. Kniepp had taken place on the 20th. Muller soon found the name he was looking for, “Forest Councillor Leo Kniepp,” in the list of guests at the Hotel Imperial. The detective went at once to the Hotel Imperial, where he was already well known. It cost him little time and trouble to discover what he wished to know, the reason for the Councillor’s visit to the capital.

Kniepp had asked for the address of a goldsmith, and had been directed to one of the shops which had the best reputation in the city. He had been in the capital altogether for about twenty-four hours. He had the manner and appearance of a man suffering under some terrible blow.

Muller himself was deep in thought as he entered the train to return to his home, after a visit to the goldsmith in question. He had a short interview with Chief of Police Bauer, who finally gave him the golden bullet and the keys to the apartment of the murdered man. Then the two went out together.

An hour later, the chief of police and Muller stood in the garden of the house in which the murder had occurred. Bauer had entered from the Promenade after Muller had shown him how to work the lock of the little gate. Together they went up into the apartment, which was icy cold and uncanny in its loneliness. But the two men did not appear to notice this, so greatly were they interested in the task that had brought them there. First of all, they made a most minute examination of the two doors which had been locked. The keys were still in both locks on the inside. They were big heavy keys, suitable for the tall massive heavily-panelled and iron-ornamented doors. The entire villa was built in this heavy old German style, the favourite fashion of the last few years.

When they had looked the locks over carefully, Muller lit the lamp that hung over the desk in the study and closed the window shutters tight. Bauer had smiled at first as he watched his protege’s actions, but his smile changed to a look of keen interest as he suddenly understood. Muller took his place in the chair before the desk and looked over at the door of the vestibule, which was directly opposite him. “Yes, that’s all right,” he said with a deep breath.

Bauer had sat down on the sofa to watch the proceedings, now he sprang up with an exclamation: “Through the keyhole?”

“Through the keyhole,” answered Muller.

“It is scarcely possible.”

“Shall we try it?”

“Yes, yes, you do it.” Even the usually indifferent old chief of police was breathing more hastily now. Muller took a roll of paper and a small pistol out of his pocket. He unrolled the paper, which represented the figure of a French soldier with a marked target on the breast. The detective pinned the paper on the back of the chair in which Professor Fellner had been seated when he met his death.

“But the key was in the hole,” objected Bauer suddenly.

“Yes, but it was turned so that the lower part of the hole was free. Johann saw the light streaming through and could look into the room. If the murderer put the barrel of his pistol to this open part of the keyhole, the bullet would have to strike exactly where the dead man sat. There would be no need to take any particular aim.” Muller gazed into space like a seer before whose mental eye a vision has arisen, and continued in level tones: “Fellner had refused the duel and the murderer was crazed by his desire for revenge. He came here to the house, he must have known just how to enter the place, how to reach the rooms, and he must have known also, that the Professor, coward as he was—”

“Coward? Is a man a coward when he refuses to stand up to a maniac?” interrupted Bauer.

Muller came back to the present with a start and said calmly, “Fellner was a coward.”

“Then you know more than you are telling me now?”

Muller nodded. “Yes, I do,” he answered with a smile. “But I will tell you more only when I have all the proofs in my own hand.”

“And the criminal will escape us in the meantime.”

“He has no idea that he is suspected.”

“But—you’ll promise to be sensible this time, Muller?”

“Yes. But you will pardon me my present reticence, even towards you? I—I don’t want to be thought a dreamer again.”

“As in the Kniepp case?”

“As in the Kniepp case,” repeated the little man with a strange smile. “So please allow me to go about it in my own way. I will tell you all you want to know to-morrow.”

“To-morrow, then.”

“May I now continue to unfold my theories?” Bauer nodded and Muller continued: “The criminal wanted Fellner’s blood, no matter how.”

“Even if it meant murder,” said Bauer.

Muller nodded calmly. “It would have been nobler, perhaps, to have warned his victim of his approach, but it might have all come to nothing then. The other could have called for help, could have barricaded himself in his room, one crime might have been prevented, and another, more shameful one, would have gone unavenged.”

“Another crime? Fellner a criminal?”

“To-morrow you shall know everything, my kind friend. And now, let us make the trial. Please lock the door behind me as it was locked then.”

Muller left the room, taking the pistol with him. Bauer locked the door. “Is this right?” he asked.

“Yes, I can see a wide curve of the room, taking in the entire desk. Please stand to one side now.”

There was deep silence for a moment, then a slight sound as of metal on metal, then a report, and Muller re-entered the study through the bedroom. He found Bauer stooping over the picture of the French soldier. There was a hole in the left breast, where the bullet, passing through, had buried itself in the back of the chair.

“Yes, it was all just as you said,” began the chief of police, holding out his hand to Muller. “But—why the golden bullet?”

“To-morrow, to-morrow,” replied the detective, looking up at his superior with a glance of pleading.

They left the house together and in less than an hour’s time Muller was again in the train rolling towards the capital.

He went to the goldsmith’s shop as soon as he arrived. The proprietor received him with eager interest and Muller handed him the golden bullet. “Here is the golden object of which I spoke,” said the detective, paying no heed to the other’s astonishment. The goldsmith opened a small locked drawer, took a ring from it and set about an examination of the two little objects. When he turned to his visitor again, he was evidently satisfied with what he had discovered. “These two objects are made of exactly the same sort of gold, of a peculiar old French composition, which can no longer be produced in the same richness. The weight of the gold in the bullet is exactly the same as in the ring.”

“Would you be willing to take an oath on that if you were called in as an expert?”

“I am willing to stand up for my judgment.”

“Good. And now will you read this over please, it contains the substance of what you told me yesterday. Should I have made any mistakes, please correct them, for I will ask you to set your signature to it.”

Muller handed several sheets of close writing to the goldsmith and the latter read aloud as follows: “On the 22nd of November, a gentleman came into my shop and handed me a wedding ring with the request that I should make another one exactly like it. He was particularly anxious that the work should be done in two days at the very latest, and also that the new ring, in form, colour, and in the engraving on the inside, should be a perfect counterpart of the first. He explained his order by saying that his wife was ill, and that she was grieving over the loss of her wedding ring which had somehow disappeared. The new ring could be found somewhere as if by chance and the sick woman’s anxiety would be over. Two days later, as arranged, the same gentleman appeared again and I handed him the two rings.

“He left the shop, greatly satisfied with my work and apparently much relieved in his mind. But he left me uneasy in spirit because I had deceived him. It had not been possible for me to reproduce exactly the composition of the original ring, and as I believed that the work was to be done in order to comfort an invalid, and I was getting no profit, but on the contrary a little extra work out of it, I made two new rings, lettered them according to the original and gave them to my customer. The original ring I am now, on this seventh day of December, giving to Mr. Joseph Mullet, who has shown me his legitimation as a member of the Secret Police. I am willing to put myself at the service of the authorities if I am called for.”

“You are willing to do this, aren’t you?” asked Muller when the goldsmith had arrived at the end of the notice.

“Of course.”

“Have you anything to add to this?”

“No, it is quite complete. I will sign it at once.”

Several hours later, Muller re-entered the police station in his home town and saw the windows of the chief’s apartment brilliantly lighted. “What’s going on,” he asked of Bauer’s servant who was just hurrying up the stairs.

“The mistress’ birthday, we’ve got company.”

Muller grumbled something and went on up to his own room. He knew it would not be pleasant for his patron to be disturbed in the midst of entertaining his guests, but the matter was important and could not wait.

The detective laid off his outer garments, made a few changes in his toilet and putting the goldsmith’s declaration, with the ring and the bullet in his pocketbook, he went down to the first floor of the building, in one wing of which was the apartment occupied by the Chief. He sent in his name and was told to wait in the little study. He sat down quietly in a corner of the comfortable little room beyond which, in a handsomely furnished smoking room, a number of guests sat playing cards. From the drawing rooms beyond, there was the sound of music and many voices.

It was all very attractive and comfortable, and the solitary man sat there enjoying once more the pleasant sensation of triumph, of joy at the victory that was his alone and that would win him back all his old friends and prestige. He was looking forward in agreeable anticipation to the explanations he had to give, when he suddenly started and grew pale. His eyes dimmed a moment, then he pulled himself together and murmured: “No, no, not this time. I will not be weak this time.”

Just then the Chief entered the room, accompanied by Councillor Kniepp.

“Won’t you sit down here a little?” asked the friendly host. “You will find it much quieter in this room.” He pulled up a little table laden with cigars and wine, close to a comfortable armchair. Then, noticing Muller, he continued with a friendly nod: “I’m glad they told you to wait in here. You must be frozen after your long ride. If you will wait just a moment more, I will return at once and we can go into my office. And if you will make yourself comfortable here, my dear Kniepp, I will send our friend Horn in to talk with you. He is bright and jovial and will keep you amused.”

The chief chattered on, making a strenuous endeavour to appear quite harmless. But Kniepp, more apt than ever just now to notice the actions of others, saw plainly that his genial host was concealing some excitement. When the latter had gone out the Councillor looked after him, shaking his head. Then his glance fell by chance on the quiet-looking man who had risen at his entrance and had not sat down again.

“Please sit down,” he said in a friendly tone, but the other did not move. His grey eyes gazed intently at the man whose fate he was to change so horribly.

Kniepp grew uneasy under the stare. “What is there that interests you so about me?” he asked in a tone that was an attempt at a joke.

“The ring, the ring on your watch chain,” murmured Muller.

“It belonged to my dead wife. I have worn it since she left me,” answered the unhappy man with the same iron calm with which he had, all these past days, been emphasizing his love for the woman he had lost. Yet the question touched him unpleasantly and he looked more sharply at the strange man over in the corner. He saw the latter’s face turn pale and a shiver run through his form. A feeling of sympathy came over Kniepp and he asked warmly: “Won’t you take a glass of this wine? If you have been out in the cold it will be good for you.” His tone was gentle, almost cordial, but the man to whom he offered the refreshment turned from him with a gesture that was almost one of terror.

The Councillor rose suddenly from his chair. “Who are you? What news is it you bring?” he asked with a voice that began to tremble.

Muller raised his head sharply as if his decision had been made, and his kind intelligent eyes grew soft as they rested on the pale face of the stately man before him. “I belong to the Secret Police and I am compelled to find out the secrets of others—not because of my profession—no, because my own nature compels me—I must do it. I have just come from Vienna and I bring the last of the proofs necessary to turn you over to the courts. And yet you are a thousand times better than the coward who stole the honour of your wife and who hid behind the shelter of the law—and therefore, therefore, therefore—” Muller’s voice grew hoarse, then died away altogether.

Kniepp listened with pallid cheeks but without a quiver. Now he spoke, completing the other’s words: “And therefore you wish to save me from the prison or from the gallows? I thank you. What is your name?” The unhappy man spoke as calmly as if the matter scarcely concerned him at all.

The detective told him his name.

“Muller, Muller,” repeated the Councillor, as if he were particularly anxious to remember the name. He held out his hand to the detective. “I thank you, indeed, thank you,” he said with the first sign of emotion he had shown, and then added low: “Do not fear that you will have trouble on my account. They can find me in my home.” With these words he turned away and sat down in his chair again. When Bauer entered the room a few moments later, Kniepp was smoking calmly.

“Now, Muller, I’m ready. Horn will be in in a moment, friend Kniepp; I know you will enjoy his chatter.” The chief led the way out of the room through another door. He could not see the ghastly pale face of the guest he left behind him, for it was almost hidden in a cloud of thick smoke, but Muller turned back once more at the threshold and caught a last grateful glance from eyes shadowed by deep sadness, as the Councillor raised his hand in a friendly gesture.

“Dear Muller, you take so long to get at the point of the story! Don’t you see you are torturing me?” This outburst came from the Chief about an hour later. But the detective would not permit himself to be interrupted in spinning out his story in his own way, and it was nearly another hour before Bauer knew that the man for whose name he had been waiting so long was Leo Kniepp.

The knowledge came as a terrible surprise to him. He was dazed almost. “And I,—I’ve got to arrest him in my own house?” he exclaimed as if horrified. And Muller answered calmly: “I doubt if you will have the opportunity, sir.”

“Muller! Did you, again—”

“Yes, I did! I have again warned an unfortunate. It’s my nature, I can’t seem to help it. But you will find the Councillor in his house. He promised me that.”

“And you believe it?”

“That man will keep his promise,” said Muller quietly.

Councillor Kniepp did keep his promise. When the police arrived at the hunting castle shortly after midnight, they found the terrified servants standing by the body of their master.

“Well, Muller, you had better luck than you deserved this time,” Bauer said a few days later. “This last trick has made you quite impossible for the service. But you needn’t worry about that, because the legacy Kniepp left you will put you out of reach of want.”

The detective was as much surprised as anybody. He was as if dazed by his unexpected good fortune. The day before he was a poor man bowed under the weight of sordid cares, and now he was the possessor of twenty thousand gulden. And it was not his clever brain but his warm heart that had won this fortune for him. His breast swelled with gratitude as he thought of the unhappy man whose life had been ruined by the careless cruelty of others and his own passions. Again and again he read the letter which had been found on Kniepp’s desk, addressed to him and which had been handed out to him after the inquest.

My friend:—

You have saved me from the shame of an open trial. I thank you
for this from the very depth of my heart. I have left you a
part of my own private fortune, that you may be a free man, free
as a poor man never can be. You can accept this present for it
comes from the hand of an honest man in spite of all. Yes, I
compelled my wife to go to her death after I had compelled her
to confess her shame to me, and I entered her lover’s house with
the knowledge I had forced from her. When I looked through the
keyhole and saw his false face before me, I murdered him in cold
blood. Then, that the truth might not be suspected, I continued
to play the sorrowing husband. I wore on my watch chain the ring
I had had made in imitation of the one my wife had worn. This
original ring of hers, her wedding ring which she had defiled,
I sent in the form of a bullet straight to her lover’s heart.
Yes, I have committed a crime, but I feel that I am less criminal
than those two whom I judged and condemned, and whose sentence I
carried out as I now shall carry out my own sentence with a hand
which will not tremble. That I can do this myself, I have you to
thank for, you who can look into the souls of men and recognise
the most hidden motives, you who have not only a wonderful brain
but a heart that can feel. You, I hope, will sometimes think
kindly of your grateful

LEO KNIEPP.

Muller kept this letter as one of his most sacred treasures.

The “Kniepp Case” was really, as Bauer had predicted, the last in Muller’s public career. Even the friendliness of the kind old chief could not keep him in his position after this new display of the unreliability of his heart. But his quiet tastes allowed him to live in humble comfort from the income of his little fortune.

Every now and then letters or telegrams will come for him and he will disappear for several days. His few friends believe that the police authorities, who refused to employ him publicly owing to his strange weakness, cannot resist a private appeal to his talent whenever a particularly difficult case arises.

The Case of The Pool of Blood in the Pastor’s Study

Standard
Joseph Muller, Secret Service detective of the Imperial Austrian police, is one of the great experts in his profession. In personality he differs greatly from other famous detectives. He has neither the impressive authority of Sherlock Holmes, nor the keen brilliancy of Monsieur Lecoq. Muller is a small, slight, plain-looking man, of indefinite age, and of much humbleness of mien. A naturally retiring, modest disposition, and two external causes are the reasons for Muller’s humbleness of manner, which is his chief characteristic. One cause is the fact that in early youth a miscarriage of justice gave him several years in prison, an experience which cast a stigma on his name and which made it impossible for him, for many years after, to obtain honest employment. But the world is richer, and safer, by Muller’s early misfortune. For it was this experience which threw him back on his own peculiar talents for a livelihood, and drove him into the police force. Had he been able to enter any other profession, his genius might have been stunted to a mere pastime, instead of being, as now, utilised for the public good.
Then, the red tape and bureaucratic etiquette which attaches to every governmental department, puts the secret service men of the Imperial police on a par with the lower ranks of the subordinates. Muller’s official rank is scarcely much higher than that of a policeman, although kings and councillors consult him and the Police Department realises to the full what a treasure it has in him. But official red tape, and his early misfortune… prevent the giving of any higher official standing to even such a genius. Born and bred to such conditions, Muller understands them, and his natural modesty of disposition asks for no outward honours, asks for nothing but an income sufficient for his simple needs, and for aid and opportunity to occupy himself in the way he most enjoys.
Joseph Muller’s character is a strange mixture. The kindest-hearted man in the world, he is a human bloodhound when once the lure of the trail has caught him. He scarcely eats or sleeps when the chase is on, he does not seem to know human weakness nor fatigue, in spite of his frail body. Once put on a case his mind delves and delves until it finds a clue, then something awakes within him, a spirit akin to that which holds the bloodhound nose to trail, and he will accomplish the apparently impossible, he will track down his victim when the entire machinery of a great police department seems helpless to discover anything. The high chiefs and commissioners grant a condescending permission when Muller asks, “May I do this? … or may I handle this case this way?” both parties knowing all the while that it is a farce, and that the department waits helpless until this humble little man saves its honour by solving some problem before which its intricate machinery has stood dazed and puzzled.
This call of the trail is something that is stronger than anything else in Muller’s mentality, and now and then it brings him into conflict with the department,… or with his own better nature. Sometimes his unerring instinct discovers secrets in high places, secrets which the Police Department is bidden to hush up and leave untouched. Muller is then taken off the case, and left idle for a while if he persists in his opinion as to the true facts. And at other times, Muller’s own warm heart gets him into trouble. He will track down his victim, driven by the power in his soul which is stronger than all volition; but when he has this victim in the net, he will sometimes discover him to be a much finer, better man than the other individual, whose wrong at this particular criminal’s hand set in motion the machinery of justice. Several times that has happened to Muller, and each time his heart got the better of his professional instincts, of his practical common-sense, too, perhaps,… at least as far as his own advancement was concerned, and he warned the victim, defeating his own work. This peculiarity of Muller’s character caused his undoing at last, his official undoing that is, and compelled his retirement from the force. But his advice is often sought unofficially by the Department, and to those who know, Muller’s hand can be seen in the unravelling of many a famous case.
The stories that follow in DM du Jour are but a few of the many interesting cases that have come within the experience of this great detective. But they give a fair portrayal of Muller’s peculiar method of working, his looking on himself as merely an humble member of the Department, and the comedy of his acting under “official orders” when the Department is in reality following out his directions.

Muller2

The sun rose slowly over the great bulk of the Carpathian mountains lying along the horizon, weird giant shapes in the early morning mist. It was still very quiet in the village. A cock crowed here and there, and swallows flew chirping close to the ground, darting swiftly about preparing for their higher flight. Janci the shepherd, apparently the only human being already up, stood beside the brook at the point where the old bridge spans the streamlet, still turbulent from the mountain floods. Janci was cutting willows to make his Margit a new basket.

Once the shepherd raised his head from his work, for he thought he heard a loud laugh somewhere in the near distance. But all seemed silent and he turned back to his willows. The beauty of the landscape about him was much too familiar a thing that he should have felt or seen its charm. The violet hue of the distant woods, the red gleaming of the heather-strewn moor, with its patches of swamp from which the slow mist arose, the pretty little village with its handsome old church and attractive rectory—Janci had known it so long that he never stopped to realise how very charming, in its gentle melancholy, it all was.

Also, Janci did not know that this little village of his home had once been a flourishing city, and that an invasion of the Turks had razed it to the ground leaving, as by a miracle, only the church to tell of former glories.

The sun rose higher and higher. And now the village awoke to its daily life. Voices of cattle and noises of poultry were heard about the houses, and men and women began their accustomed round of tasks. Janci found that he had gathered enough willow twigs by this time. He tied them in a loose bundle and started on his homeward way.

His path led through wide-stretching fields and vineyards past a little hill, some distance from the village, on which stood a large house. It was not a pleasant house to look at, not a house one would care to live in, even if one did not know its use, for it looked bare and repellant, covered with its ugly yellow paint, and with all the windows secured with heavy iron bars. The trees that surrounded it were tall and thick-foliaged, casting an added gloom over the forbidding appearance of the house. At the foot of the hill was a high iron fence, cutting off what lay behind it from all the rest of the world. For this ugly yellow house enclosed in its walls a goodly sum of hopeless human misery and misfortune. It was an insane asylum.

For twenty years now, the asylum had stood on its hill, a source of superstitious terror to the villagers, but at the same time a source of added income. It meant money for them, for it afforded a constant and ever-open market for their farm products and the output of their home industry. But every now and then a scream or a harsh laugh would ring out from behind those barred windows, and those in the village who could hear, would shiver and cross themselves. Shepherd Janci had little fear of the big house. His little hut cowered close by the high iron gates, and he had a personal acquaintance with most of the patients, with all of the attendants, and most of all, with the kind elderly physician who was the head of the establishment. Janci knew them all, and had a kind word equally for all. But otherwise he was a silent man, living much within himself.

When the shepherd reached his little home, his wife came to meet him with a call to breakfast. As they sat down at the table a shadow moved past the little window. Janci looked up. “Who was that?” asked Margit, looking up from her folded hands. She had just finished her murmured prayer.

“Pastor’s Liska,” replied Janci indifferently, beginning his meal. (Liska was the local abbreviation for Elizabeth.)

“In such a hurry?” thought the shepherd’s wife. Her curiosity would not let her rest. “I hope His Reverence isn’t ill again,” she remarked after a while. Janci did not hear her, for he was very busy picking a fly out of his milk cup.

“Do you think Liska was going for the old man?” began Margit again after a few minutes.

The “old man” was the name given by the people of the village, more as a term of endearment than anything else, to the generally loved and respected physician who was the head of the insane asylum. He had become general mentor and oracle of all the village and was known and loved by man, woman and child.

“It’s possible,” answered Janci.

“His Reverence didn’t look very well yesterday, or maybe the old housekeeper has the gout again.”

Janci gave a grunt which might have meant anything. The shepherd was a silent man. Being alone so much had taught him to find his own thoughts sufficient company. Ten minutes passed in silence since Margit’s last question, then some one went past the window. There were two people this time, Liska and the old doctor. They were walking very fast, running almost. Margit sprang up and hurried to the door to look after them.

Janci sat still in his place, but he had laid aside his spoon and with wide eyes was staring ahead of him, murmuring, “It’s the pastor this time; I saw him—just as I did the others.”

“Shepherd, the inn-keeper wants to see you, there’s something the matter with his cow.” Count —— a young man, came from the other direction and pushed in at the door past Margit, who stood there staring up the road.

Janci was so deep in his own thoughts that he apparently did not hear the boy’s words. At all events he did not answer them, but himself asked an unexpected question—a question that was not addressed to the others in the room, but to something out and beyond them. It was a strange question and it came from the lips of a man whose mind was not with his body at that moment—whose mind saw what others did not see.

“Who will be the next to go? And who will be our pastor now?”

These were Janci’s words.

“What are you talking about, shepherd? Is it another one of your visions?” exclaimed the young fellow who stood there before him. Janci rubbed his hands over his eyes and seemed to come down to earth with a start.

“Oh, is that you, Ferenz? What do you want of me?”

The boy gave his message again, and Janci nodded good-humouredly and followed him out of the house. But both he and his young companion were very thoughtful as they plodded along the way. The boy did not dare to ask any questions, for he knew that the shepherd was not likely to answer. There was a silent understanding among the villagers that no one should annoy Janci in any way, for they stood in a strange awe of him, although he was the most good-natured mortal under the sun.

While the shepherd and the boy walked toward the inn, the old doctor and Liska had hurried onward to the rectory. They were met at the door by the aged housekeeper, who staggered down the path wringing her hands, unable to give voice to anything but inarticulate expressions of grief and terror. The rest of the household and the farm hands were gathered in a frightened group in the great courtyard of the stately rectory which had once been a convent building. The physician hurried up the stairs into the pastor’s apartments. These were high sunny and airy rooms with arched ceilings, deep window seats, great heavy doors and handsomely ornamented stoves. The simple modern furniture appeared still more plain and common-place by contrast with the huge spaces of the building.

In one of the rooms a gendarme was standing beside the window. The man saluted the physician, then shrugged his shoulders with an expression of hopelessness. The doctor returned a silent greeting and passed through into the next apartment. The old man was paler than usual and his face bore an expression of pain and surprise, the same expression that showed in the faces of those gathered downstairs. The room he now entered was large like the others, the walls handsomely decorated, and every corner of it was flooded with sunshine. There were two men in this room, the village magistrate and the notary. Their expression, as they held out their hands to the doctor, showed that his coming brought great relief. And there was something else in the room, something that drew the eyes of all three of the men immediately after their silent greeting.

This was a great pool of blood which lay as a hideous stain on the otherwise clean yellow-painted floor. The blood must have flowed from a dreadful wound, from a severed artery even, the doctor thought, there was such a quantity of it. It had already dried and darkened, making its terrifying ugliness the more apparent.

“This is the third murder in two years,” said the magistrate in a low voice.

“And the most mysterious of all of them,” added the clerk.

“Yes, it is,” said the doctor. “And there is not a trace of the body, you say?—or a clue as to where they might have taken the dead—or dying man?”

With these words he looked carefully around the room, but there was no more blood to be seen anywhere. Any spot would have been clearly visible on the light-coloured floor. There was nothing else to tell of the horrible crime that had been committed here, nothing but the great, hideous, brown-red spot in the middle of the room.

“Have you made a thorough search for the body?” asked the doctor.

The magistrate shook his head. “No, I have done nothing to speak of yet. We have been waiting for you. There is a gendarme at the gate; no one can go in or out without being seen.”

“Very well, then, let us begin our search now.”

The magistrate and his companion turned towards the door of the room but the doctor motioned them to come back. “I see you do not know the house as well as I do,” he said, and led the way towards a niche in the side of the wall, which was partially filled by a high bookcase.

“Ah—that is the entrance of the passage to the church?” asked the magistrate in surprise.

“Yes, this is it. The door is not locked.”

“You mean you believe—”

“That the murderers came in from the church? Why not? It is quite possible.”

“To think of such a thing!” exclaimed the notary with a shake of his head.

The doctor laughed bitterly. “To those who are planning a murder, a church is no more than any other place. There is a bolt here as you see. I will close this bolt now. Then we can leave the room knowing that no one can enter it without being seen.”

The simple furniture of the study, a desk, a sofa, a couple of chairs and several bookcases, gave no chance of any hiding place either for the body of the victim or for the murderers. When the men left the room the magistrate locked the door and put the key in his own pocket. The gendarme in the neighbouring apartment was sent down to stand in the courtyard at the entrance to the house. The sexton, a little hunchback, was ordered to remain in the vestry at the other end of the passage from the church to the house.

Then the thorough search of the house began. Every room in both stories, every corner of the attic and the cellar, was looked over thoroughly. The stable, the barns, the garden and even the well underwent a close examination. There was no trace of a body anywhere, not even a trail of blood, nothing which would give the slightest clue as to how the murderers had entered, how they had fled, or what they had done with their victim.

The great gate of the courtyard was closed. The men, reinforced by the farm hands, entered the church, while Liska and the dairy-maids huddled in the servants’ dining-room in a trembling group around the old housekeeper. The search in the church as well as in the vestry was equally in vain. There was no trace to be found there any more than in the house.

Meanwhile, during these hours of anxious seeking, the rumour of another terrible crime had spread through the village, and a crowd that grew from minute to minute gathered in front of the closed gates to the rectory, in front of the church, the closed doors of which did not open although it was a high feast day. The utter silence from the steeple, where the bells hung mute, added to the spreading terror. Finally the doctor came out from the rectory, accompanied by the magistrate, and announced to the waiting villagers that their venerable pastor had disappeared under circumstances which left no doubt that he had met his death at the hand of a murderer. The peasants listened in shuddering silence, the men pale-faced, the women sobbing aloud with frightened children hanging to their skirts. Then at the magistrate’s order, the crowd dispersed slowly, going to their homes, while a messenger set off to the near-by county seat.

It was a weird, sad Easter Monday. Even nature seemed to feel the pressure of the brooding horror, for heavy clouds piled up towards noon and a chill wind blew fitfully from the north, bending the young corn and the creaking tree-tops, and moaning about the straw-covered roofs. Then an icy cold rain descended on the village, sending the children, the only humans still unconscious of the fear that had come on them all, into the houses to play quietly in the corner by the hearth.

There was nothing else spoken of wherever two or three met together throughout the village except this dreadful, unexplainable thing that had happened in the rectory. The little village inn was full to overflowing and the hum of voices within was like the noise of an excited beehive. Everyone had some new explanation, some new guess, and it was not until the notary arrived, looking even more important than usual, that silence fell upon the excited throng. But the expectations aroused by his coming were not fulfilled. The notary knew no more than the others although he had been one of the searchers in the rectory. But he was in no haste to disclose his ignorance, and sat wrapped in a dignified silence until some one found courage to question him.

“Was there nothing stolen?” he was asked.

“No, nothing as far as we can tell yet. But if it was the gypsies—as may be likely—they are content with so little that it would not be noticed.”

“Gypsies?” exclaimed one man scornfully. “It doesn’t have to be gypsies, we’ve got enough tramps and vagabonds of our own. Didn’t they kill the pedlar for the sake of a bag of tobacco, and old Katiza for a couple of hens?”

“Why do you rake up things that happened twenty years ago?” cried another over the table. “You’d better tell us rather who killed Red Betty, and pulled Janos, the smith’s farm hand, down into the swamp?”

“Yes, or who cut the bridge supports, when the brook was in flood, so that two good cows broke through and drowned?”

“Yes, indeed, if we only knew what band of robbers and villains it is that is ravaging our village.”

“And they haven’t stopped yet, evidently.”

“This is the worst misfortune of all! What will our poor do now that they have murdered our good pastor, who cared for us all like a father?”

“He gave all he had to the poor, he kept nothing for himself.”

“Yes, indeed, that’s how it was. And now we can’t even give this good man Christian burial.”

“Shepherd Janci knew this morning early that we were going to have a new pastor,” whispered the landlord in the notary’s ear. The latter looked up astonished. “Who said so?” he asked.

“My boy Ferenz, who went to fetch him about seven o’clock. One of my cows was sick.”

Ferenz was sent for and told his story. The men listened with great interest, and the smith, a broad-shouldered elderly man, was particularly eager to hear, as he had always believed in the shepherd’s power of second sight. The tailor, who was more modern-minded, laughed and made his jokes at this. But the smith laid one mighty hand on the other’s shoulder, almost crushing the tailor’s slight form under its weight, and said gravely: “Friend, do you be silent in this matter. You’ve come from other parts and you do not know of things that have happened here in days gone by. Janci can do more than take care of his sheep. One day, when my little girl was playing in the street, he said to me, ‘Have a care of Maruschka, smith!’ and three days later the child was dead. The evening before Red Betty was murdered he saw her in a vision lying in a coffin in front of her door. He told it to the sexton, whom he met in the fields; and next morning they found Betty dead. And there are many more things that I could tell you, but what’s the use; when a man won’t believe it’s only lost talk to try to make him. But one thing you should know: when Janci stares ahead of him without seeing what’s in front of him, then the whole village begins to wonder what’s going to happen, for Janci knows far more than all the rest of us put together.”

The smith’s grave, deep voice filled the room and the others listened in a silence that gave assent to his words. He had scarcely finished speaking, however, when there was a noise of galloping hoofs and rapidly rolling wagon wheels. A tall brake drawn by four handsome horses dashed past in a whirlwind.

“It’s the Count—the Count and the district judge,” said the landlord in a tone of respect. The notary made a grab at his hat and umbrella and hurried from the room. “That shows how much they thought of our pastor,” continued the landlord proudly. “For the Count himself has come and with four horses, too, to get here the more quickly. His Reverence was a great friend of the Countess.”

“They didn’t make so much fuss over the pedlar and Betty,” murmured the cobbler, who suffered from a perpetual grouch. But he followed the others, who paid their scores hastily and went out into the streets that they might watch from a distance at least what was going on in the rectory. The landlord bustled about the inn to have everything in readiness in case the gentlemen should honour him by taking a meal, and perhaps even lodgings, at his house. At the gate of the rectory the coachman and the maid Liska stood to receive the newcomers, just as five o’clock was striking from the steeple.

It should have been still quite light, but it was already dusk, for the clouds hung heavy. The rain had ceased, but a heavy wind came up which tore the delicate petals of the blossoms from the fruit trees and strewed them like snow on the ground beneath. The Count, who was the head of one of the richest and most aristocratic families in Hungary, threw off his heavy fur coat and hastened up the stairs at the top of which his old friend and confidant, the venerable pastor, usually came to meet him. To-day it was only the local magistrate who stood there, bowing deeply.

“This is incredible, incredible!” exclaimed the Count.

“It is, indeed, sir,” said the man, leading the magnate through the dining-room into the pastor’s study, where, as far as could be seen, the murder had been committed. They were joined by the district judge, who had remained behind to give an order sending a carriage to the nearest railway station. The judge, too, was serious and deeply shocked, for he also had greatly admired and revered the old pastor. The stately rectory had been the scene of many a jovial gathering when the lord of the manor had made it a centre for a day’s hunting with his friends. The bearers of some of the proudest names in all Hungary had gathered in the high-arched rooms to laugh with the venerable pastor and to sample the excellent wines in his cellar. These wines, which the gentlemen themselves would send in as presents to the master of the rectory, would be carefully preserved for their own enjoyment. Not a landed proprietor for many leagues around but knew and loved the old pastor, who had now so strangely disappeared under such terrifying circumstances.

“Well, we might as well begin our examination,” remarked the Count. “Although if Dr. Orszay’s sharp eyes did not find anything, I doubt very much if we will. You have asked the doctor to come here again, haven’t you?”

“Yes, your Grace! As soon as I saw you coming I sent the sexton to the asylum.” Then the men went in again into the room which had been the scene of the mysterious crime. The wind rattled the open window and blew out its white curtains. It was already dark in the corners of the room, one could see but indistinctly the carvings of the wainscoting. The light backs of the books, or the gold letters on the darker bindings, made spots of brightness in the gloom. The hideous pool of blood in the centre of the floor was still plainly to be seen.

“Judging by the loss of blood, death must have come quickly.”

“There was no struggle, evidently, for everything in the room was in perfect order when we entered it.”

“There is not even a chair misplaced. His Bible is there on the desk, he may have been preparing for to-day’s sermon.”

“Yes, that is the case; because see, here are some notes in his handwriting.”

The Count and Judge von Kormendy spoke these sentences at intervals as they made their examination of the room. The local magistrate was able to answer one or two simpler questions, but for the most part he could only shrug his shoulders in helplessness. Nothing had been seen or heard that was at all unusual during the night in the rectory. When the old housekeeper was called up she could say nothing more than this. Indeed, it was almost impossible for the old woman to say anything, her voice choked with sobs at every second word. None of the household force had noticed anything unusual, or could remember anything at all that would throw light on this mystery.

“Well, then, sir, we might just as well sit down and wait for the detective’s arrival,” said the judge.

“You are waiting for some one besides the doctor?” asked the local magistrate timidly.

“Yes, His Grace telegraphed to Budapest,” answered the district judge, looking at his watch. “And if the train is on time, the man we are waiting for ought to be here in an hour. You sent the carriage to the station, didn’t you? Is the driver reliable?”

“Yes, sir, he is a dependable man,” said the old housekeeper.

Dr. Orszay entered the room just then and the Count introduced him to the district judge, who was still a stranger to him.

“I fear, Count, that our eyes will serve but little in discovering the truth of this mystery,” said the doctor.

The nobleman nodded. “I agree with you,” he replied. “And I have sent for sharper eyes than either yours or mine.”

The doctor looked his question, and the Count continued: “When the news came to me I telegraphed to Pest for a police detective, telling them that the case was peculiar and urgent. I received an answer as I stopped at the station on my way here. This is it: ‘Detective Joseph Muller from Vienna in Budapest by chance. Have sent him to take your case.'”

“Muller?” exclaimed Dr. Orszay. “Can it be the celebrated Muller, the most famous detective of the Austrian police? That would indeed be a blessing.”

“I hope and believe that it is,” said the Count gravely. “I have heard of this man and we need such a one here that we may find the source of these many misfortunes which have overwhelmed our peaceful village for two years past. It is indeed a stroke of good luck that has led a man of such gifts into our neighbourhood at a time when he is so greatly needed. I believe personally that it is the same person or persons who have been the perpetrators of all these outrages and I intend once for all to put a stop to it, let it cost what it may.”

“If any one can discover the truth it will be Muller,” said the district judge. “It was I who told the Count how fortunate we were that this man, who is known to the police throughout Austria and far beyond the borders of our kingdom, should have chanced to be in Budapest and free to come to us when we called. You and I”—he turned with a smile to the local magistrate—”you and I can get away with the usual cases of local brutality hereabouts. But the cunning that is at the bottom of these crimes is one too many for us.”

The men had taken their places around the great dining-table. The old housekeeper had crept out again, her terror making her forget her usual hospitality. And indeed it would not have occurred to the guests to ask or even to wish for any refreshment. The maid brought a lamp, which sent its weak rays scarcely beyond the edges of the big table. The four men sat in silence for some time.

“I suppose it would be useless to ask who has been coming and going from the rectory the last few days?” began the Count.

“Oh, yes, indeed, sir,” said the district judge with a sigh. “For if this murderer is the same who committed the other crimes he must live here in or near the village, and therefore must be known to all and not likely to excite suspicion.”

“I beg your pardon, sir,” put in the doctor. “There must be at least two of them. One man alone could not have carried off the farm hand who was killed to the swamp where his body was found. Nor could one man alone have taken away the bloody body of the pastor. Our venerable friend was a man of size and weight, as you know, and one man alone could not have dragged his body from the room without leaving an easily seen trail.”

The judge blushed, but he nodded in affirmation to the doctor’s words. This thought had not occurred to him before. In fact, the judge was more notable for his good will and his love of justice rather than for his keen intelligence. He was as well aware of this as was any one else, and he was heartily glad that the Count had sent to the capital for reinforcements.

Some time more passed in deep silence. Each of the men was occupied with his own thoughts. A sigh broke the silence now and then, and a slight movement when one or the other drew out his watch or raised his head to look at the door. Finally, the sound of a carriage outside was heard. The men sprang up.

The driver’s voice was heard, then steps which ascended the stairs lowly and lightly, audible only because the stillness was so great.

The door opened and a small, slight, smooth-shaven man with a gentle face and keen grey eyes stood on the threshold. “I am Joseph Muller,” he said with a low, soft voice.

The four men in the room looked at him in astonishment.

“This simple-looking individual is the man that every one is afraid of?” thought the Count, as he walked forward and held out his hand to the stranger.

“I sent for you, Mr. Muller,” said the magnate, conscious of his stately size and appearance, as well as of his importance in the presence of a personage who so little looked what his great fame might have led one to expect.

“Then you are Count ——?” answered Muller gently. “I was in Budapest, having just finished a difficult case which took me there. They told me that a mysterious crime had happened in your neighbourhood, and sent me here to take charge of it. You will pardon any ignorance I may show as a stranger to this locality. I will do my best and it may be possible that I can help you.”

The Count introduced the other gentlemen in order and they sat down again at the table.

“And now what is it you want me for, Count?” asked Muller.

“There was a murder committed in this house,” answered the Count.

“When?”

“Last night.”

“Who is the victim?”

“Our pastor.”

“How was he killed?”

“We do not know.”

“You are not a physician, then?” asked Muller, turning to Orszay.

“Yes, I am,” answered the latter.

“Well?”

“The body is missing,” said Orszay, somewhat sharply.

“Missing?” Muller became greatly interested. “Will you please lead me to the scene of the crime?” he said, rising from his chair.

The others led him into the next room, the magistrate going ahead with a lamp. The judge called for more lights and the group stood around the pool of blood on the floor of the study. Muller’s arms were crossed on his breast as he stood looking down at the hideous spot. There was no terror in his eyes, as in those of the others, but only a keen attention and a lively interest.

“Who has been in this room since the discovery?” he asked.

The doctor replied that only the servants of the immediate household, the notary, the magistrate, and himself, then later the Count and the district judge entered the room.

“You are quite certain that no one else has been in here?”

“No, no one else.”

“Will you kindly send for the three servants?” The magistrate left the room.

“Who else lives in the house?”

“The sexton and the dairymaid.”

“And no one else has left the house to-day or has entered it?”

“No one. The main door has been watched all day by a gendarme.”

“Is there but one door out of this room?”

“No, there is a small door beside that bookcase.”

“Where does it lead to?”

“It leads to a passageway at the end of which there is a stair down into the vestry.”

Muller gave an exclamation of surprise.

“The vestry as well as the church have neither of them been opened on the side toward the street.”

“The church or the vestry, you mean,” corrected Muller. “How many doors have they on the street side?”

“One each.”

“The locks on these doors were in good condition?”

“Yes, they were untouched.”

“Was there anything stolen from the church?”

“No, nothing that we could see.”

“Was the pastor rich?”

“No, he was almost a poor man, for he gave away all that he had.”

“But you were his patron, Count.”

“I was his friend. He was the confidential adviser of myself and family.”

“This would mean rich presents now and then, would it not?”

“No, that is not the case. Our venerable pastor would take nothing for himself. He would accept no presents but gifts of money for his poor.”

“Then you do not believe this to have been a murder for the sake of robbery?”

“No. There was nothing disturbed in any part of the house, no drawers or cupboards broken open at all.”

Muller smiled. “I have heard it said that your romantic Hungarian bandits will often be satisfied with the small booty they may find in the pocket or on the person of their victim.”

“You are right, Mr. Muller. But that is only when they can find nothing else.”

“Or perhaps if it is a case of revenge.

“It cannot be revenge in this case!”

“The pastor was greatly loved?”

“He was loved and revered.”

“By every one?”

“By every one!” the four men answered at once.

Muller was still a while. His eyes were veiled and his face thoughtful. Finally he raised his head. “There has been nothing moved or changed in this room?”

“No—neither here nor anywhere else in the house or the church,” answered the local magistrate.

“That is good. Now I would like to question the servants.”

Muller had already started for the door, then he turned back into the room and pointing toward the second door he asked: “Is that door locked?”

“Yes,” answered the Count. “I found it locked when I examined it myself a short time ago.”

“It was locked on the inside?”

“Yes, locked on the inside.”

“Very well. Then we have nothing more to do here for the time being. Let us go back into the dining-room.”

The men returned to the dining-room, Muller last, for he stopped to lock the door of the study and put the key in his pocket. Then he began his examination of the servants.

The old housekeeper, who, as usual, was the first to rise in the household, had also, as usual, rung the bell to waken the other servants. Then when Liska came downstairs she had sent her up to the pastor’s room. His bedroom was to the right of the dining-room. Liska had, as usual, knocked on the door exactly at seven o’clock and continued knocking for some few minutes without receiving any answer. Slightly alarmed, the girl had gone back and told the housekeeper that the pastor did not answer.

Then the old woman asked the coachman to go up and see if anything was the matter with the reverend gentleman. The man returned in a few moments, pale and trembling in every limb and apparently struck dumb by fright. He motioned the women to follow him, and all three crept up the stairs. The coachman led them first to the pastor’s bed, which was untouched, and then to the pool of blood in his study. The sight of the latter frightened the servants so much that they did not notice at first that there was no sign of the pastor himself, whom they now knew must have been murdered. When they finally came to themselves sufficiently to take some action, the man hurried off to call the magistrate, and Liska ran to the asylum to fetch the old doctor; the pastor’s intimate friend. The aged housekeeper, trembling in fear, crept back to her own room and sat there waiting the return of the others.

This was the story of the early morning as told by the three servants, who had already given their report in much the same words to the Count on his arrival and also to the magistrate. There was no reason to doubt the words of either the old housekeeper or of Janos, the coachman, who had served for more than twenty years in the rectory and whose fidelity was known. The girl Liska was scarcely eighteen, and her round childish face and big eyes dimmed with tears, corroborated her story. When they had told Muller all they knew, the detective sat stroking his chin, and looking thoughtfully at the floor. Then he raised his head and said, in a tone of calm friendliness: “Well, good friends, this will do for to-night. Now, if you will kindly give me a bite to eat and a glass of some light wine, I’d be very thankful. I have had no food since early this morning.”

The housekeeper and the maid disappeared, and Janos went to the stable to harness the Count’s trap.

The magnate turned to the detective. “I thank you once more that you have come to us. I appreciate it greatly that a stranger to our part of the country, like yourself, should give his time and strength to this problem of our obscure little village.”

“There is nothing else calling me, sir,” answered Muller. “And the Budapest police will explain to headquarters at Vienna if I do not return at once.”

“Do you understand our tongue sufficiently to deal with these people here?”

“Oh, yes; there will be no difficulty about that. I have hunted criminals in Hungary before. And a case of this kind does not usually call for disguises in which any accent would betray one.”

“It is a strange profession,” said the doctor.

“One gets used to it—like everything else,” answered Muller, with a gentle smile. “And now I have to thank you gentlemen for your confidence in me.”

“Which I know you will justify,” said the Count.

Muller shrugged his shoulders: “I haven’t felt anything yet—but it will come—there’s something in the air.”

The Count smiled at his manner of expressing himself, but all four of the men had already begun to feel sympathy and respect for this quiet-mannered little person whose words were so few and whose voice was so gentle. Something in his grey eyes and in the quiet determination of his manner made them realise that he had won his fame honestly. With the enthusiasm of his race the Hungarian Count pressed the detective’s hand in a warm grasp as he said: “I know that we can trust in you. You will avenge the death of my old friend and of those others who were killed here. The doctor and the magistrate will tell you about them to-morrow. We two will go home now. Telegraph us as soon as anything has happened. Every one in the village will be ready to help you and of course you can call on me for funds. Here is something to begin on.” With these words the Count laid a silk purse full of gold pieces on the table. One more pressure of the hand and he was gone. The other men also left the room, following the Count’s lead in a cordial farewell of the detective. They also shared the nobleman’s feeling that now indeed, with this man to help them, could the cloud of horror that had hung over the village for two years, and had culminated in the present catastrophe, be lifted.

The excitement of the Count’s departure had died away and the steps of the other men on their way to the village had faded in the distance. There was nothing now to be heard but the rustling of the leaves and the creaking of the boughs as the trees bent before the onrush of the wind. Muller stood alone, with folded arms, in the middle of the large room, letting his sharp eyes wander about the circle of light thrown by the lamps. He was glad to be alone—for only when he was alone could his brain do its best work. He took up one of the lamps and opened the door to the room in which, as far as could be known, the murder had been committed. He walked in carefully and, setting the lamp on the desk, examined the articles lying about on it. There was nothing of importance to be found there. An open Bible and a sheet of paper with notes for the day’s sermon lay on top of the desk. In the drawers, none of which were locked, were official papers, books, manuscripts of former sermons, and a few unimportant personal notes.

The flame of the lamp flickered in the breeze that came from the open window. But Muller did not close the casement. He wanted to leave everything just as he had found it until daylight. When he saw that it was impossible to leave the lamp there he took it up again and left the room.

“What is the use of being impatient?” he said to himself. “If I move about in this poor light I will be sure to ruin some possible clue. For there must be some clue left here. It is impossible for even the most practiced criminal not to leave some trace of his presence.”

The detective returned to the dining-room, locking the study door carefully behind him. The maid and the coachman returned, bringing in an abundant supper, and Muller sat down to do justice to the many good things on the tray. When the maid returned to take away the dishes she inquired whether she should put the guest chamber in order for the detective. He told her not to go to any trouble for his sake, that he would sleep in the bed in the neighbouring room.

“You going to sleep in there?” said the girl, horrified.

“Yes, my child, and I think I will sleep well to-night. I feel very tired.” Liska carried the things out, shaking her head in surprise at this thin little man who did not seem to know what it was to be afraid. Half an hour later the rectory was in darkness. Before he retired, Muller had made a careful examination of the pastor’s bedroom. Nothing was disturbed anywhere, and it was evident that the priest had not made any preparations for the night, but was still at work at his desk in the study when death overtook him. When he came to this conclusion, the detective went to bed and soon fell asleep.

In his little hut near the asylum gates, shepherd Janci slept as sound as usual. But he was dreaming and he spoke in his sleep. There was no one to hear him, for his faithful Margit was snoring loudly. Snatches of sentences and broken words came from Janci’s lips: “The hand—the big hand—I see it—at his throat—the face—the yellow face—it laughs—”

Next morning the children on their way to school crept past the rectory with wide eyes and open mouths. And the grown people spoke in lower tones when their work led them past the handsome old house. It had once been their pride, but now it was a place of horror to them. The old housekeeper had succumbed to her fright and was very ill. Liska went about her work silently, and the farm servants walked more heavily and chattered less than they had before. The hump-backed sexton, who had not been allowed to enter the church and therefore had nothing to do, made an early start for the inn, where he spent most of the day telling what little he knew to the many who made an excuse to follow him there.

The only calm and undisturbed person in the rectory household was Muller. He had made a thorough examination of the entire scene of the murder, but had not found anything at all. Of one thing alone was he certain: the murderer had come through the hidden passageway from the church. There were two reasons to believe this, one of which might possibly not be sufficient, but the other was conclusive.

The heavy armchair before the desk, the chair on which the pastor was presumably sitting when the murderer entered, was half turned around, turned in just such a way as it would have been had the man who was sitting there suddenly sprung up in excitement or surprise. The chair was pushed back a step from the desk and turned towards the entrance to the passageway. Those who had been in the room during the day had reported that they had not touched any one of the articles of furniture, therefore the position of the chair was the same that had been given it by the man who had sat in it, by the murdered pastor himself.

Of course there was always the possibility that some one had moved the chair without realising it. This clue, therefore, could not be looked upon as an absolutely certain one had it stood alone. But there was other evidence far more important. The great pool of blood was just half-way between the door of the passage and the armchair. It was here, therefore, that the attack had taken place. The pastor could not have turned in this direction in the hope of flight, for there was nothing here to give him shelter, no weapon that he could grasp, not even a cane. He must have turned in this direction to meet and greet the invader who had entered his room in this unusual manner. Turned to meet him as a brave man would, with no other weapon than the sacredness of his calling and his age.

But this had not been enough to protect the venerable priest. The murderer must have made his thrust at once and his victim had sunk down dying on the floor of the room in which he had spent so many hours of quiet study, in which he had brought comfort and given advice to so many anxious hearts; for dying he must have been—it would be impossible for a man to lose so much blood and live.

“The struggle,” thought the detective, “but was there a struggle?” He looked about the room again, but could see nothing that showed disorder anywhere in its immaculate neatness. No, there could have been no struggle. It must have been a quick knife thrust and death at once. “Not a shot?” No, a shot would have been heard by the night watchman walking the streets near the church. The night was quiet, the window open. Some one in the village would have heard the noise of a shot. And it was not likely that the old housekeeper who slept in the room immediately below, slept the light sleep of the aged would have failed to have heard the firing of a pistol.

Muller took a chair and sat down directly in front of the pool of blood, looking at it carefully. Suddenly he bowed his head deeper. He had caught sight of a fine thread of the red fluid which had been drawn out for about a foot or two in the direction towards the door to the dining-room. What did that mean? Did it mean that the murderer went out through that door, dragging something after him that made this delicate line? Muller bent down still deeper. The sun shone brightly on the floor, sending its clear rays obliquely through the window. The sharp eyes which now covered every inch of the yellow-painted floor discovered something else. They discovered that this red thread curved slightly and had a continuation in a fine scratch in the paint of the floor. Muller followed up this scratch and it led him over towards the window and then back again in wide curves, then out again under the desk and finally, growing weaker and weaker, it came back to the neighbourhood of the pool of blood, but on the opposite side of it. Muller got down on his hands and knees to follow up the scratch. He did not notice the discomfort of his position, his eyes shone in excitement and a deep flush glowed in his cheeks. Also, he began to whistle softly.

Joseph Muller, the bloodhound of the Austrian police, had found a clue, a clue that soon would bring him to the trail he was seeking. He did not know yet what he could do with his clue. But this much he knew; sooner or later this scratch in the floor would lead him to the murderer. The trail might be long and devious; but he would follow it and at its end would be success. He knew that this scratch had been made after the murder was committed; this was proved by the blood that marked its beginning. And it could not have been made by any of those who entered the room during the day because by that time the blood had dried. This strange streak in the floor, with its weird curves and spirals, could have been made only by the murderer. But how? With what instrument? There was the riddle which must be solved.

And now Muller, making another careful examination of the floor, found something else. It was something that might be utterly unimportant or might be of great value. It was a tiny bit of hardened lacquer which he found on the floor beside one of the legs of the desk. It was rounded out, with sharp edges, and coloured grey with a tiny zigzag of yellow on its surface. Muller lifted it carefully and looked at it keenly. This tiny bit of lacquer had evidently been knocked off from some convex object, but it was impossible to tell at the moment just what sort of an object it might have been. There are so many different things which are customarily covered with lacquer. However, further examination brought him down to a narrower range of subjects. For on the inside of the lacquer he found a shred of reddish wood fibre. It must have been a wooden object, therefore, from which the lacquer came, and the wood had been of reddish tinge.

Muller pondered the matter for a little while longer. Then he placed his discovery carefully in the pastor’s emptied tobacco-box, and dropped the box in his own pocket. He closed the window and the door to the dining-room, lit a lamp, and entered the passageway leading to the vestry. It was a short passageway, scarcely more than a dozen paces long.

The walls were whitewashed, the floor tiled and the entire passage shone in neatness. Muller held the light of his lamp to every inch of it, but there was nothing to show that the criminal had gone through here with the body of his victim.

“The criminal”—Muller still thought of only one. His long experience had taught him that the most intricate crimes were usually committed by one man only. The strength necessary for such a crime as this did not deceive him either. He knew that in extraordinary moments extraordinary strength will come to the one who needs it.

He now passed down the steps leading into the vestry. There was no trace of any kind here either. The door into the vestry was not locked. It was seldom locked, they had told him, for the vestry itself was closed by a huge carved portal with a heavy ornamented iron lock that could be opened only with the greatest noise and trouble. This door was locked and closed as it had been since yesterday morning. Everything in the vestry was in perfect order; the priest’s garments and the censers all in their places. Muller assured himself of this before he left the little room. He then opened the glass door that led down by a few steps into the church.

It was a beautiful old church, and it was a rich church also. It was built in the older Gothic style, and its heavy, broad-arched walls, its massive columns would have made it look cold and bare had not handsome tapestries, the gift of the lady of the manor, covered the walls. Fine old pictures hung here and there above the altars, and handsome stained glass windows broke the light that fell into the high vaulted interior. There were three great altars in the church, all of them richly decorated. The main altar stood isolated in the choir. In the open space behind it was the entrance to the crypt, now veiled in a mysterious twilight. Heavy silver candlesticks, three on a side, stood on the altar. The pale gold of the tabernacle door gleamed between them.

Muller walked through the silent church, in which even his light steps resounded uncannily. He looked into each of the pews, into the confessionals, he walked around all the columns, he climbed up into the pulpit, he did everything that the others had done before him yesterday. And as with them, he found nothing that would indicate that the murderer had spent any time in the church. Finally he turned back once more to the main altar on his way out. But he did not leave the church as he intended. His last look at the altar had showed him something that attracted his attention and he walked up the three steps to examine it more closely.

What he had seen was something unusual about one of the silver candlesticks. These candlesticks had three feet, and five of them were placed in such a way that the two front feet were turned toward the spectator. But on the end candlestick nearest Muller the single foot projected out to the front of the altar. This candlestick therefore had been set down hastily, not placed carefully in the order of things as were the others.

And not only this. The heavy wax candle which was in the candlestick was burned down about a finger’s breadth more than the others, for these were all exactly of a height. Muller bent still nearer to the candlestick, but he saw that the dim light in the church was not sufficient. He went to one of the smaller side altars, took a candle from there, lit it with one of the matches that he found in his own pocket and returned with the burning candle to the main altar. The steps leading up to this altar were covered by a large rug with a white ground and a pattern of flowers. Looking carefully at it the detective saw a tiny brown spot, the mark of a burn, upon one of the white surfaces. Beside it lay a half used match.

Walking around this carefully, Muller approached the candlestick that interested him and holding up his light he examined every inch of its surface. He found what he was looking for. There were dark red spots between the rough edges of the silver ornamentation.

“Then the body is somewhere around here,” thought the detective and came down from the steps, still holding the burning candle.

He walked slowly to the back of the altar. There was a little table there such as held the sacred dishes for the communion service, and the little carpet-covered steps which the sexton put out for the pastor when he took the monstrance from the high-built tabernacle. That was all that was to be seen in the dark corner behind the altar. Holding his candle close to the floor Muller discovered an iron ring fastened to one of the big stone flags. This must be the entrance to the crypt.

Muller tried to raise the flag and was astonished to find how easily it came up. It was a square of reddish marble, the same with which the entire floor of the church was tiled. This flag was very thin and could easily be raised and placed back against the wall. Muller took up his candle, too greatly excited to stop to get a stick for it. He felt assured that now he would soon be able to solve at least a part of the mystery. He climbed down the steps carefully and found that they led into the crypt as he supposed. They were kept spotlessly clean, as was the entire crypt as far as he could see it by the light of his flickering candle. He was not surprised to discover that the air was perfectly pure here. There must be windows or ventilators somewhere, this he knew from the way his candle behaved.

The ancient vault had a high arched ceiling and heavy massive pillars. It was a subterranean repetition of the church above. There had evidently been a convent attached to this church at one time; for here stood a row of simple wooden coffins all exactly alike, bearing each one upon its lid a roughly painted cross surrounded by a wreath. Thus were buried the monks of days long past.

Muller walked slowly through the rows of coffins looking eagerly to each side. Suddenly he stopped and stood still. His hand did not tremble but his thin face was pale—pale as that face which looked up at him out of one of the coffins. The lid of the coffin stood up against the wall and Muller saw that there were several other empty ones further on, waiting for their silent occupants.

The body in the open coffin before which Muller stood was the body of the man who had been missing since the day previous. He lay there quite peacefully, his hands crossed over his breast, his eyes closed, a line of pain about his lips. In the crossed fingers was a little bunch of dark yellow roses. At the first glance one might almost have thought that loving hands had laid the old pastor in his coffin. But the red stain on the white cloth about his throat, and the bloody disorder of his snow-white hair contrasted sadly with the look of peace on the dead face. Under his head was a white silk cushion, one of the cushions from the altar.

Muller stood looking down for some time at this poor victim of a strange crime, then he turned to go.

He wanted to know one thing more: how the murderer had left the crypt. The flame of his candle told him, for it nearly went out in a gust of wind that came down the opening right above him. This was a window about three or four feet from the floor, protected by rusty iron bars which had been sawed through, leaving the opening free. It was a small window, but it was large enough to allow a man of much greater size than Muller to pass through it. The detective blew out his candle and climbed up onto the window sill. He found himself outside, in a corner of the churchyard. A thicket of heavy bushes grown up over neglected graves completely hid the opening through which he had come. There were thorns on these bushes and also a few scattered roses, dark yellow roses.

Muller walked thoughtfully through the churchyard. The sexton sat huddled in an unhappy heap at the gate. He looked up in alarm as he saw the detective walking towards him. Something in the stranger’s face told the little hunchback that he had made a discovery. The sexton sprang up, his lips did not dare utter the question that his eyes asked.

“I have found him,” said the detective gravely.

The hunchback sexton staggered, then recovered himself, and hurried away to fetch the magistrate and the doctor.

An hour later the murdered pastor lay in state in the chief apartment of his home, surrounded by burning candles and high-heaped masses of flowers. But he still lay in the simple convent coffin and the little bunch of roses which his murderer had placed between his stiffening fingers had not been touched.

Two days later the pastor was buried. The Count and his family led the train of numerous mourners and among the last was Muller.

A day or two after the funeral the detective sauntered slowly through the main street of the village. He was not in a very good humour, his answer to the greeting of those who passed him was short. The children avoided him, for with the keenness of their kind they recognised the fact that this usually gentle little man was not in possession of his habitual calm temper. One group of boys, playing with a top, did not notice his coming and Muller stopped behind them to look on. Suddenly a sharp whistle was heard and the boys looked up from their play, surprised at seeing the stranger behind them. His eyes were gleaming, and his cheeks were flushed, and a few bars of a merry tune came in a keen whistle from his lips as he watched the spirals made by the spinning top.

Before the boys could stop their play the detective had left the group and hastened onward to the little shop. He left it again in eager haste after having made his purchase, and hurried back to the rectory. The shop-keeper stood in the doorway looking in surprise at this grown man who came to buy a top. And at home in the rectory the old housekeeper listened in equal surprise to the humming noise over her head. She thought at first it might be a bee that had got in somehow. Then she realised that it was not quite the same noise, and having already concluded that it was of no use to be surprised at anything this strange guest might do, she continued reading her scriptures.

Upstairs in the pastor’s study, Muller sat in the armchair attentively watching the gyrations of a spinning top. The little toy, started at a certain point, drew a line exactly parallel to the scratch on the floor that had excited his thoughts and absorbed them day and night.

“It was a top—a top” repeated the detective to himself again and again. “I don’t see why I didn’t think of that right away. Why, of course, nothing else could have drawn such a perfect curve around the room, unhindered by the legs of the desk. Only I don’t see how a toy like that could have any connection with this cruel and purposeless murder. Why, only a fool—or a madman—”

Muller sprang up from his chair and again a sharp shrill whistle came from his lips. “A madman!—” he repeated, beating his own forehead. “It could only have been a madman who committed this murder! And the pastor was not the first, there were two other murders here within a comparatively short time. I think I will take advantage of Dr. Orszay’s invitation.”

Half an hour later Muller and the doctor sat together in a summer-house, from the windows of which one could see the park surrounding the asylum to almost its entire extent. The park was arranged with due regard to its purpose. The eye could sweep through it unhindered. There were no bushes except immediately along the high wall. Otherwise there were beautiful lawns, flower beds and groups of fine old trees with tall trunks.

As would be natural in visiting such a place Muller had induced the doctor to talk about his patients. Dr. Orszay was an excellent talker and possessed the power of painting a personality for his listeners. He was pleased and flattered by the evident interest with which the detective listened to his remarks.

“Then your patients are all quite harmless?” asked Muller thoughtfully, when the doctor came to a pause.

“Yes, all quite harmless. Of course, there is the man who strangely enough considers himself the reincarnation of the famous French murderer, the goldsmith Cardillac, who, as you remember, kept all Paris in a fervour of excitement by his crimes during the reign of Louis XIV. But in spite of his weird mania this man is the most good-natured of any. He has been shut up in his room for several days now. He was a mechanician by trade, living in Budapest, and an unsuccessful invention turned his mind.”

“Is he a large, powerful man?” asked Muller.

Dr. Orszay looked a bit surprised. “Why do you ask that? He does happen to be a large man of considerable strength, but in spite of it I have no fear of him. I have an attendant who is invaluable to me, a man of such strength that even the fiercest of them cannot overcome him, and yet with a mind and a personal magnetism which they cannot resist. He can always master our patients mentally and physically—most of them are afraid of him and they know that they must do as he says. There is something in his very glance which has the power to paralyse even healthy nerves, for it shows the strength of will possessed by this man.”

“And what is the name of this invaluable attendant?” asked Muller with a strange smile which the doctor took to be slightly ironical.

“Gyuri Kovacz. You are amused at my enthusiasm? But consider my position here. I am an old man and have never been a strong man. At my age I would not have strength enough to force that little woman there—she thinks herself possessed and is quite cranky at times—to go to her own room when she doesn’t want to. And do you see that man over there in the blue blouse? He is an excellent gardener but he believes himself to be Napoleon, and when he has his acute attacks I would be helpless to control him were it not for Gyuri.”

“And you are not afraid of Cardillac?” interrupted Muller.

“Not in the least. He is as good-natured as a child and as confiding. I can let him walk around here as much as he likes. If it were not for the absurd nonsense that he talks when he has one of his attacks, and which frightens those who do not understand him, I could let him go free altogether.”

“Then you never let him leave the asylum grounds?

“Oh, yes. I take him out with me very frequently. He is a man of considerable education and a very clever talker. It is quite a pleasure to be with him. That was the opinion of my poor friend also, my poor murdered friend.”

“The pastor?”

“The pastor. He often invited Cardillac to come to the rectory with me.”

“Indeed. Then Cardillac knew the inside of the rectory?”

“Yes. The pastor used to lend him books and let him choose them himself from the library shelves. The people in the village are very kind to my poor patients here. I have long since had the habit of taking some of the quieter ones with me down into the village and letting the people become acquainted with them. It is good for both parties. It gives the patients some little diversion, and it takes away the worst of the senseless fear these peasants had at first of the asylum and its inmates. Cardillac in particular is always welcome when he comes, for he brings the children all sorts of toys that he makes in his cell.”

The detective had listened attentively and once his eyes flashed and his lips shut tight as if to keep in the betraying whistle. Then he asked calmly: “But the patients are only allowed to go out when you accompany them, I suppose?”

“Oh, no; the attendants take them out sometimes. I prefer, however, to let them go only with Gyuri, for I can depend upon him more than upon any of the others.”

“Then he and Cardillac have been out together occasionally?”

“Oh, yes, quite frequently. But—pardon me—this is almost like a cross-examination.”

“I beg your pardon, doctor, it’s a bad habit of mine. One gets so accustomed to it in my profession.”

“What is it you want?” asked Doctor Orszay, turning to a fine-looking young man of superb build, who entered just then and stood by the door.

“I just wanted to announce, sir, that No. 302 is quiet again!

“302 is Cardillac himself, Mr. Muller, or to give him his right name, Lajos Varna,” explained the doctor turning to his guest. “He is the 302nd patient who has been received here in these twenty years. Then Cardillac is quiet again?” he asked, looking up at the young giant. “I am glad of that. You can announce our visit to him. This gentleman wants to inspect the asylum.”

Muller realised that this was the attendant Gyuri, and he looked at him attentively. He was soon clear in his own mind that this remarkably handsome man did not please him, in fact awoke in him a feeling of repulsion. The attendant’s quiet, almost cat-like movements were in strange contrast to the massivity of his superb frame, and his large round eyes, shaped for open, honest glances, were shifty and cunning. They seemed to be asking “Are you trying to discover anything about me?” coupled with a threat. “For your own sake you had better not do it.”

When the young man had left the room Muller rose hastily and walked up and down several times. His face was flushed and his lips tight set. Suddenly he exclaimed: “I do not like this Gyuri.”

Dr. Orszay looked up astonished. “There are many others who do not like him—most of his fellow-warders for instance, and all of the patients. I think there must be something in the contrast of such quiet movements with such a big body that gets on people’s nerves. But consider, Mr. Muller, that the man’s work would naturally make him a little different from other people. I have known Gyuri for five years as a faithful and unassuming servant, always willing and ready for any duty, however difficult or dangerous. He has but one fault—if I may call it such—that is that he has a mistress who is known to be mercenary and hard-hearted. She lives in a neighbouring village.”

“For five years, you say? And how long has Cardillac been here?”

“Cardillac? He has been here for almost three years.”

“For almost three years, and is it not almost three years—” Muller interrupted himself. “Are we quite alone? Is no one listening?” The doctor nodded, greatly surprised, and the detective continued almost in a whisper, “and it is just about three years now that there have been committed, at intervals, three terrible crimes notable from the cleverness with which they were carried out, and from the utter impossibility, apparently, of discovering the perpetrator.”

Orszay sprang up. His face flushed and then grew livid, and he put his hand to his forehead. Then he forced a smile and said in a voice that trembled in spite of himself: “Mr. Muller, your imagination is wonderful. And which of these two do you think it is that has committed these crimes—the perpetrator of which you have come here to find?”

“I will tell you that later. I must speak to No. 302 first, and I must speak to him in the presence of yourself and Gyuri.”

The detective’s deep gravity was contagious. Dr. Orszay had sufficiently controlled himself to remember what he had heard in former days, and just now recently from the district judge about this man’s marvellous deeds. He realised that when Muller said a thing, no matter how extravagant it might sound, it was worth taking seriously. This realisation brought great uneasiness and grief to the doctor’s heart, for he had grown fond of both of the men on whom terrible suspicion was cast by such an authority.

Muller himself was uneasy, but the gloom that had hung over him for the past day or two had vanished. The impenetrable darkness that had surrounded the mystery of the pastor’s murder had gotten on his nerves. He was not accustomed to work so long over a problem without getting some light on it. But now, since the chance watching of the spinning top in the street had given him his first inkling of the trail, he was following it up to a clear issue. The eagerness, the blissful vibrating of every nerve that he always felt at this stage of the game, was on him again. He knew that from now on what was still to be done would be easy. Hitherto his mind had been made up on one point; that one man alone was concerned in the crime. Now he understood the possibility that there might have been two, the harmless mechanician who fancied himself a dangerous murderer, and the handsome young giant with the evil eyes.

The two men stood looking at each other in a silence that was almost hostile. Had this stranger come to disturb the peace of the refuge for the unfortunate and to prove that Dr. Orszay, the friend of all the village, had unwittingly been giving shelter to such criminals?

“Shall we go now?” asked the detective finally.

“If you wish it, sir,” answered the doctor in a tone that was decidedly cool.

Muller held out his hand. “Don’t let us be foolish, doctor. If you should find yourself terribly deceived, and I should have been the means of proving it, promise me that you will not be angry with me.”

Orszay pressed the offered hand with a deep sigh. He realised the other’s position and knew it was his duty to give him every possible assistance. “What is there for me to do now?” he asked sadly.

“You must see that all the patients are shut up in their cells so that the other attendants are at our disposal if we need them. Varna’s room has barred windows, I suppose?”

“Yes.”

“And I suppose also that it has but one door. I believe you told me that your asylum was built on the cell system.”

“Yes, there is but one door to the room.”

“Let the four other attendants stand outside this door. Gyuri will be inside with us. Tell the men outside that they are to seize and hold whomever I shall designate to them. I will call them in by a whistle. You can trust your people?”

“Yes, I think I can.”

“Well, I have my revolver,” said Muller calmly, “and now we can go.”

They left the room together, and found Gyuri waiting for them a little further along the corridor. “Aren’t you well, sir?” the attendant asked the doctor, with an anxious note in his voice.

The man’s anxiety was not feigned. He was really a faithful servant in his devotion to the old doctor, although Muller had not misjudged him when he decided that this young giant was capable of anything. Good and evil often lie so close together in the human heart.

The doctor’s emotion prevented him from speaking, and the detective answered in his place. “It is a sudden indisposition,” he said. “Lead me to No. 302, who is waiting for us, I suppose. The doctor wants to lie down a moment in his own room.”

Gyuri glanced distrustfully at this man whom he had met for the first time to-day, but who was no stranger to him—for he had already learned the identity of the guest in the rectory. Then he turned his eyes on his master. The latter nodded and said: “Take the gentleman to Varna’s room. I will follow shortly.”

The cell to which they went was the first one at the head of the staircase. “Extremely convenient,” thought Muller to himself. It was a large room, comfortably furnished and filled now with the red glow of the setting sun. A turning-lathe stood by the window and an elderly man was at work at it. Gyuri called to him and he turned and rose when he saw a stranger.

Lajos Varna was a tall, loose-jointed man with sallow skin and tired eyes. He gave only a hasty glance at his visitor, then looked at Gyuri. The expression in his eyes as he turned them on those of the warder was like the look in the eyes of a well-trained dog when it watches its master’s face. Gyuri’s brows were drawn close together and his mouth set tight to a narrow line. His eyes fairly bored themselves into the patient’s eyes with an expression like that of a hypnotiser.

Muller knew now what he wanted to know. This young man understood how to bend the will of others, even the will of a sick mind, to his own desires. The little silent scene he had watched had lasted just the length of time it had taken the detective to walk through the room and hold out his hand to the patient.

“I don’t want to disturb you, Mr. Varna,” he said in a friendly tone, with a motion towards the bench from which the mechanician had just arisen. Varna sat down again, obedient as a child. He was not always so apparently, for Muller saw a red mark over the fingers of one hand that was evidently the mark of a blow. Gyuri was not very choice in the methods by which he controlled the patients confided to his care.

“May I sit down also?” asked Muller.

Varna pushed forward a chair. His movements were like those of an automaton.

“And now tell me how you like it here?” began the detective. Varna answered with a low soft voice, “Oh, I like it very much, sir.” As he spoke he looked up at Gyuri, whose eyes still bore their commanding expression.

“They treat you kindly here?”

“Oh, yes.”

“The doctor is very good to you?”

“Ah, the doctor is so good!” Varna’s dull eyes brightened.

“And the others are good to you also?”

“Oh, yes.” The momentary gleam in the sad eye had vanished again.

“Where did you get this red scar?”

The patient became uneasy, he moved anxiously on his chair and looked up at Gyuri. It was evident that he realised there would be more red marks if he told the truth to this stranger.

Muller did not insist upon an answer. “You are uneasy and nervous sometimes, aren’t you?”

“Yes, sir, I have been—nervous—lately.”

“And they don’t let you go out at such times?”

“Why, I—no, I may not go out at such times.”

“But the doctor takes you with him sometimes—the doctor or Gyuri?” asked the detective.

“Yes.”

“I haven’t had him out with me for weeks,” interrupted the attendant. He seemed particularly anxious to have the “for weeks” clearly heard by this inconvenient questioner.

Muller dropped this subject and took up another. “They tell me you are very fond of children, and I can see that you are making toys for them here.”

“Yes, I love children, and I am so glad they are not afraid of me.” These words were spoken with more warmth and greater interest than anything the man had yet said.

“And they tell me that you take gifts with you for the children every time you go down to the village. This is pretty work here, and it must be a pleasant diversion for you.” Muller had taken up a dainty little spinning-wheel which was almost completed. “Isn’t it made from the wood of a red yew tree?”

“Yes, the doctor gave me a whole tree that had been cut down in the park.”

“And that gave you wood for a long time?”

“Yes, indeed; I have been making toys from it for months.” Varna had become quite eager and interested as he handed his visitor a number of pretty trifles. The two had risen from their chairs and were leaning over the wide window seat which served as a store-house for the wares turned out by the busy workman. They were toys, mostly, all sorts of little pots and plates, dolls’ furniture, balls of various sizes, miniature bowling pins, and tops. Muller took up one of the latter.

“How very clever you are, and how industrious,” he exclaimed, sitting down again and turning the top in his hands. It was covered with grey varnish with tiny little yellow stripes painted on it. Towards the lower point a little bit of the varnish had been broken off and the reddish wood underneath was visible. The top was much better constructed than the cheap toys sold in the village. It was hollow and contained in its interior a mechanism started by a pressure on the upper end. Once set in motion the little top spun about the room for some time.

“Oh, isn’t that pretty! Is this mechanism your own invention?” asked Muller smiling. Gyuri watched the top with drawn brows and murmured something about “childish foolishness.”

“Yes, it is my own invention,” said the patient, flattered. He started out on an absolutely technical explanation of the mechanism of tops in general and of his own in particular, an explanation so lucid and so well put that no one would have believed the man who was speaking was not in possession of the full powers of his mind.

Muller listened very attentively with unfeigned interest.

“But you have made more important inventions than this, haven’t you?” he asked when the other stopped talking. Varna’s eyes flashed and his voice dropped to a tone of mystery as he answered: “Yes indeed I have. But I did not have time to finish them. For I had become some one else.”

“Some one else?”

“Cardillac,” whispered Varna, whose mania was now getting the best of him again.

“Cardillac? You mean the notorious goldsmith who lived in Paris 200 years ago? Why, he’s dead.”

Varna’s pale lips curled in a superior smile. “Oh, yes—that’s what people think, but it’s a mistake. He is still alive—I am—I have—although of course there isn’t much opportunity here—”

Gyuri cleared his throat with a rasping noise.

“What were you saying, friend Cardillac?” asked Muller with a great show of interest.

“I have done things here that nobody has found out. It gives me great pleasure to see the authorities so helpless over the riddles I have given them to solve. Oh, indeed, sir, you would never imagine how stupid they are here.”

“In other words, friend Cardillac, you are too clever for the authorities here?

“Yes, that’s it,” said the insane man greatly flattered. He raised his head proudly and smiled down at his guest. At this moment the doctor came into the room and Gyuri walked forward to the group at the window.

“You are making him nervous, sir,” he said to Muller in a tone that was almost harsh.

“You can leave that to me,” answered the detective calmly. “And you will please place yourself behind Mr. Varna’s chair, not behind mine. It is your eyes that are making him uneasy.”

The attendant was alarmed and lost control of himself for a moment. “Sir!” he exclaimed in an outburst.

“My name is Muller, in case you do not know it already, Joseph Muller, detective. Gyuri Kovacz, you will do what I tell you to! I am master here just now. Is it not so, doctor?”

“Yes, it is so,” said the doctor.

“What does this mean?” murmured Gyuri, turning pale.

“It means that the best thing for you to do is to stand up against that wall and fold your arms on your breast,” said Muller firmly. He took a revolver from his pocket and laid it beside him on the turning-lathe. The young giant, cowed by the sight of the weapon, obeyed the commands of this little man whom he could have easily crushed with a single blow.

Dr. Orszay sank down on the chair beside the door. Muller, now completely master of the situation, turned to the insane man who stood looking at him in a surprise which was mingled with admiration.

“And now, my dear Cardillac, you must tell us of your great deeds here,” said the detective in a friendly tone.

The unfortunate man bent over him with shining eyes and whispered: “But you’ll shoot him first, won’t you?”

“Why should I shoot him?”

“Because he won’t let me say a word without beating me. He is so cruel. He sticks pins into me if I don’t do what he wants.”

“Why didn’t you tell the doctor?”

“Gyuri would have treated me worse than ever then. I am a coward, sir, I’m so afraid of pain and he knew that—he knew that I was afraid of being hurt and that I’d always do what he asked of me. And because I don’t like to be hurt myself I always finished them off quickly.”

“Finished who?”

“Why, there was Red Betty, he wanted her money.”

“Who wanted it?”

“Gyuri.”

The man at the wall moved when he heard this terrible accusation. But the detective took up his revolver again. “Be quiet there!” he called, with a look such as he might have thrown at an angry dog. Gyuri stood quiet again but his eyes shot flames and great drops stood out on his forehead.

“Now go on, friend Cardillac,” continued the detective. “We were talking about Red Betty.”

“I strangled her. She did not even know she was dying. She was such a weak old woman, it really couldn’t have hurt her.”

“No, certainly not,” said Muller soothingly, for he saw that the thought that his victim might have suffered was beginning to make the madman uneasy. “You needn’t worry about that. Old Betty died a quiet death. But tell me, how did Gyuri know that she had money?”

“The whole village knew it. She laid cards for people and earned a lot of money that way. She was very stingy and saved every bit. Somebody saw her counting out her money once, she had it in a big stocking under her bed. People in the village talked about it. That’s how Gyuri heard of it.”

“And so he commanded you to kill Betty and steal her money?”

“Yes. He knew that I loved to give them riddles to guess, just as I did in Paris so long ago.”

“Oh, yes, you’re Cardillac, aren’t you? And now tell us about the smith’s swineherd.”

“You mean Janos? Oh, he was a stupid lout,” answered Varna scornfully.

“He had cast an eye on the beautiful Julcsi, Gyuri’s mistress, so of course I had to kill him.”

“Did you do that alone?”

“No, Gyuri helped me.”

“Why did you cut the bridge supports?”

“Because I enjoy giving people riddles, as I told you. But Gyuri forbade me to kill people uselessly. I liked the chance of getting out though. The doctor’s so good to me and the others too. Gyuri is good to me when I have done what he wanted. But you see, Mr. Muller, I am like a prisoner here and that makes me angry. I made Gyuri let me out nights sometimes.”

“You mean he let you out alone, all alone?”

“Yes, of course, for I threatened to tell the doctor everything if he didn’t.”

“You wouldn’t have dared do that.”

“No, that’s true,” smiled Varna slyly. “But Gyuri was afraid I might do it, for he isn’t always strong enough to frighten me with his eyes. Those were the hours when I could make him afraid—I liked those hours—”

“What did you do when you were out alone at night?”

“I just walked about. I set fire to a tree in the woods once, then the rain came and put it out. Once I killed a dog and another time I cut through the bridge supports. That took me several hours to do and made me very tired. But it was such fun to know that people would be worrying and fussing about who did it.”

Varna rubbed his hands gleefully. He did not look the least bit malicious but only very much amused. The doctor groaned. Gyuri’s great body trembled, his arms shook, but he did not make a single voluntary movement. He saw the revolver in Muller’s hand and felt the keen grey eyes resting on him in pitiless calm.

“And now tell us about the pastor?” said the detective in a firm clear voice.

“Oh, he was a dear, good gentleman,” said No. 302 with an expression of pitying sorrow on his face. “I owed him much gratitude; that’s why I put the roses in his hand.”

“Yes, but you murdered him first.”

“Of course, Gyuri told me to.”

“And why?”

“He hated the pastor, for the old gentleman had no confidence in him.”

“Is this true?” Muller turned to the doctor.

“I did not notice it,” said Orszay with a voice that showed deep sorrow.

“And you?” Muller’s eyes bored themselves into the orbs of the young giant, now dulled with fear.

Gyuri started and shivered. “He looked at me sharply every now and then,” he murmured.

“And that was why he was killed?”

The warder’s head sank on his breast.

“No, not only for that reason,” continued No. 302. “Gyuri needed money again. He ordered me to bring him the silver candlesticks off the altar.”

“Murder and sacrilege,” said the detective calmly.

“No, I did not rob the church. When I had buried the reverend gentleman I heard the cock crowing. I was afraid I might get home here too late and I forgot the candlesticks. I had to stop to wash my hands in the brook. While I was there I saw shepherd Janci coming along and I hid behind the willows. He almost discovered me once, but Janci’s a dreamer, he sees things nobody else sees—and he doesn’t see things that everybody else does see. I couldn’t help laughing at his sleepy face. But I didn’t laugh when I came back to the asylum. Gyuri was waiting for me at the door. When he saw that I hadn’t brought the candlesticks he beat me and tortured me worse than he’d ever done before.”

“And you didn’t tell anyone?”

“Why, no; because I was afraid that if I told on him, I’d never be able to go out again.”

“And you, quite alone, could carry the pastor’s body out of his room?”

“I am very strong.”

“How did you arrange it that there should be no traces of blood to betray you?”

“I waited until the body had stiffened, then I tied up the wound and carried him down into the crypt.”

“Why did you do that?”

“I didn’t want to leave him in that horrid pool of blood.”

“You were sorry for him then?”

“Why, yes; it looked so horrid to see him lying there—and he had always been so good to me. He was so good to me that very evening when I entered his study.

“He recognised you?

“Certainly. He sprang up from his chair when I came in through the passage from the church. I saw that he was startled, but he smiled at me and reached out his hand to me and said: ‘What brings you here, my dear Cardillac?’ And then I struck. I wanted him to die with that smile on his lips. It is beautiful to see a man die smiling, it shows that he has not been afraid of death. He was dead at once. I always kill that way—I know just how to strike and where. I killed more than a hundred people years ago in Paris, and I didn’t leave one of them the time for even a sigh. I was renowned for that—I had a kind heart and a sure hand.”

Muller interrupted the dreadful imaginings of the madman with a question. “You got into the house through the crypt?”

“Yes, through the crypt. I found the window one night when I was prowling around in the churchyard. When I knew that the pastor was to be the next, I cut through the window bars. Gyuri went into the church one day when nobody was there and found out that it was easy to lift the stone over the entrance to the crypt. He also learned that the doors from the church to the vestry were never locked. I knew how to find the passageway, because I had been through it several times on my visits to the rectory. But it was a mere chance that the door into the pastor’s study was unlocked.”

“A chance that cost the life of a worthy man,” said the detective gravely.

Varna nodded sadly. “But he didn’t suffer, he was dead at once.”

“And now tell me what this top was doing there?” No. 302 looked at the detective in great surprise, and then laid his hand on the latter’s arm. “How did you know that I had the top there?” he asked with a show of interest.

“I found its traces in the room, and it was those traces that led me here to you,” answered Muller.

“How strange!” remarked Varna. “Are you like shepherd Janci that you can see the things others don’t see?”

“No, I have not Janci’s gift. It would be a great comfort to me and a help to the others perhaps if I had. I can only see things after they have happened.”

“But you can see more than others—the others did not see the traces of the top?”

“My business is to see more than others see,” said Muller. “But you have not told me yet what the top was doing there. Why did you take a toy like that with you when you went out on such an errand?”

“It was in my pocket by chance. When I reached for my handkerchief to quench the flow of blood the top came out with it. I must have touched the spring without knowing it, for the top began to spin. I stood still and watched it, then I ran after it. It spun around the room and finally came back to the body. So did I. The pastor was quite still and dead by that time.”

“You have heard everything, Dr. Orszay?” asked the detective, rising from his chair.

“Yes, I have heard everything,” answered the venerable head of the asylum. He was utterly crushed by the realisation that all this tragedy and horror had gone out from his house.

Varna rose also. He understood perfectly that now Gyuri’s power was at an end and he was as pleased as a child that has just received a present. “And now you’re going to shoot him?” he asked, in the tone a boy would use if asking when the fireworks were to begin.

Muller shook his head. “No, my dear Cardillac,” he replied gravely. “He will not be shot—that is a death for a brave soldier—but this man has deserved—” He did not finish the sentence, for the warder sank to the floor unconscious.

“What a coward!” murmured the detective scornfully, looking down at the giant frame that lay prostrate before him. Even in his wide experience he had known of no case of a man of such strength and such bestial cruelty, combined with such utter cowardice.

Varna also stood looking down at the unconscious warder. Then he glanced up with a cunning smile at the other two men who stood there. The doctor, pale and trembling with horror, covered his face with his hands. Muller turned to the door to call in the attendants waiting outside. During the moment’s pause that ensued the madman bent over his worktable, seized a knife that lay there and dropped on one knee beside the prostrate form. His hand was raised to strike when a calm voice said: “Fie! Cardillac, for shame! Do not belittle yourself. This man here is not worthy of your knife, the hangman will look after him.”

Varna raised his loose-jointed frame and looked about with glistening eyes and trembling lips. His mind was completely darkened once more. “I must kill him—I must have his blood—there is no one to see me,” he murmured. “I am a hangman too—he has made a hangman of me,” and again he bent with uplifted hand over the man who had utilised his terrible misfortune to make a criminal of him. But two of the waiting attendants seized his arms and threw him back on the floor, while the other two carted Gyuri out. Both unfortunates were soon securely guarded.

“Do not be angry with me, doctor,” said Muller gravely, as he walked through the garden accompanied by Orszay.

Doctor Orszay laughed bitterly. “Why should I be angry with you—you who have discovered my inexcusable credulity?”

“Inexcusable? Oh, no, doctor; it was quite natural that you should have believed a man who had himself so well in hand, and who knew so well how to play his part. When we come to think of it, we realise that most crimes have been made possible through some one’s credulity, or over-confidence, a credulity which, in the light of subsequent events, seems quite incomprehensible. Do not reproach yourself and do not lose heart. Your only fault was that you did not recognise the heart of the beast of prey in this admirable human form.”

“What course will the law take?” asked Orszay. “The poor unfortunate madman—whose knife took all these lives—cannot be held responsible, can he?”

“Oh, no; his misfortune protects him. But as for the other, though his hands bear no actual bloodstains, he is more truly a murderer than the unhappy man who was his tool. Hanging is too good for him. There are times when even I could wish that we were back in the Middle Ages, when it was possible to torture a prisoner.

“You do not look like that sort of a man,” smiled the doctor through his sadness.

“No, I am the most good-natured of men usually, I think—the meekest anyway,” answered Muller. “But a case like this—. However, as I said before, keep a stout heart, doctor, and do not waste time in unnecessary self-reproachings.” The detective pressed the doctor’s hand warmly and walked down the hill towards the village.

He went at once to the office of the magistrate and made his report, then returned to the rectory and packed his grip. He arranged for its transport to the railway station, as he himself preferred to walk the inconsiderable distance. He passed through the village and had just entered the open fields when he met Janci with his flock. The shepherd hastened his steps when he saw the detective approaching.

“You have found him, sir?” he exclaimed as he came up to Muller. The men had come to be friends by this time. The silent shepherd with the power of second sight had won Muller’s interest at once.

“Yes, I found him. It is Gyuri, the warder at the asylum.”

“No, sir, it is not Gyuri—Gyuri did not do it.”

“But when I tell you that he did?”

“But I tell you, sir, that Gyuri did not do it. The man who did it—he has yellowish hands—I saw them—I saw big yellowish hands. Gyuri’s hands are big, but they are brown.”

“Janci, you are right. I was only trying to test you. Gyuri did not do it; that is, he did not do it with his own hands. The man who held the knife that struck down the pastor was Varna, the crazy mechanician.”

Janci beat his forehead. “Oh, I am a foolish and useless dreamer!” he exclaimed; “of course it was Varna’s hands that I saw. I have seen them a hundred times when he came down into the village, and yet when I saw them in the vision I did not recognise them.”

“We’re all dreamers, Janci—and our dreams are very useless generally.”

“Yours are not useless, sir,” said the shepherd. “If I had as much brains as you have, my dreams might be of some good.”

Muller smiled. “And if I had your visions, Janci, it would be a powerful aid to me in my profession.”

“I don’t think you need them, sir. You can find out the hidden things without them. You are going to leave us?”

“Yes, Janci, I must go back to Budapest, and from there to Vienna. They need me on another case.”

“It’s a sad work, this bringing people to the gallows, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Janci, it is sometimes. But it’s a good thing to be able to avenge crime and bring justice to the injured. Good-bye, Janci.”

“Good-bye, sir, and God speed you.”

The shepherd stood looking after the small, slight figure of the man who walked on rapidly through the heather. “He’s the right one for the work,” murmured Janci as he turned slowly back towards the village.

An hour later Muller stood in the little waiting-room of the railway station writing a telegram. It was addressed to Count ——.

“Do you know the shepherd Janci? It would be a good thing to
make him the official detective for the village. He has high
qualifications for the profession. If I had his gifts combined
with my own, not one could escape me. I have found this one
however. The guards are already taking him to you. My work
here is done. If I should be needed again I can be found at
Police Headquarters, Vienna.

Respectfully,
JOSEPH MULLER.”

While the detective was writing his message—it was one of the rare moments of humour that Muller allowed himself, and he wondered mildly what the stately Hungarian nobleman would think of it—a heavy farm wagon jolted over the country roads towards the little county seat. Sitting beside the driver and riding about the wagon were armed peasants. The figure of a man, securely bound, his face distorted by rage and fear, lay in the wagon. It was Gyuri Kovacz, who had murdered by the hands of another, and who was now on his way to meet the death that was his due.

And at one of the barred windows in the big yellow house stood a sallow-faced man, looking out at the rising moon with sad, tired eyes. His lips were parted in a smile like that of a dreaming child, and he hummed a gentle lullaby.

In his compartment of the express from Budapest to Vienna, Joseph Muller sat thinking over the strange events that had called him to the obscure little Hungarian village. He had met with many strange cases in his long career, but this particular case had some features which were unique. Muller’s lips set hard and his hands tightened to fists as he murmured: “I’ve met with criminals who used strange tools, but never before have I met with one who had the cunning and the incredible cruelty to utilise the mania of an unhinged human mind. It is a thousand times worse than those criminals who, now and then throughout the ages, have trained brute beasts to murder for them. Truly, this Hungarian peasant, Gyuri Kovacz, deserves a high place in the infamous roll-call of the great criminals of history. A student of crime might almost be led to think that it is a pity his career has been cut short so soon. He might have gone far.

“But for humanity’s sake” (Muller’s eyes gleamed), “I am thankful that I was able to discover this beast in human form and render him innocuous; he had done quite enough.”

Ossip Schubin ~ Nobl’ Zwilk

Standard

DMdJ Neu1It was in Vienna, in the Ring-Strasse, at the house of Frau Von —- I forget her name, but they used to call her “Madame Necker,” because she was married to a banker, thought a great deal of her manners, had a weakness for celebrities, and two jours fixes every week. Wednesday was for the gens d’esprit, and Friday was for the gens bêtes.

It was Wednesday evening, and the salon of “Madame Necker” was almost empty. Excepting her husband, who, to provide against possible misunderstandings, always showed himself there on the clever peoples’ day, there was no one present but a celebrated poet, a celebrated poetess, a celebrated orientalist, and a harmless little freethinking idealist, not at all celebrated but much in fashion.

The conversation turned on social prejudices, and the hostess, whose fad for the moment was for belles-lettres pure and simple, and who took no account of aristocracy, could not think of enough scornful words for a certain Frau von Sterzl, who was spending her life in the vain effort to balance a seven-pointed coronet, to which she had no right, on her worried head.

The orientalist looked thoughtful. He was a retired cavalry officer. Some years before he had accompanied a friend to Cairo, and on the strength of that, had sent some articles about the Museum of Bulac to an illustrated journal.

“Not to come of a good family,” said he, “is no misfortune and yet, under certain circumstances, it can cause a social discomfort, which those who suffer from, deny, and for which not one of them is consoled.”

“This discomfort is shared with so many famous men that I should be inclined to regard it as a distinction,” cried the young idealist, with much ardor and little logic, as usual.

“That’s as much as to say you would like to be descended from a tailor because Goethe was,” said the general, dryly. Not thinking of any answer to this, the young man said “Hem!” and pulled his moustache. “And you would like to wear a hump, because Æsop did,” smiled the general.

“My dear general,” put in the poet, “what has a hump to do with low birth?”

“Nothing intrinsically, and yet these two things do meet at one point. The first is an imaginary evil, while the other is a positive one; but they are alike in the bad influence which they may exert on the character.”

“Oh, general!” laughed the hostess.

“With your permission,” he went on, “I will tell you a story to illustrate my paradox, which I see you don’t accept at present: a very simple story, of something which I witnessed myself.”

“We are all ears,” simpered the host, and passed a fat hand over the two pomaded cupid’s wings, which stuck up on either side his head. “Very interesting, I am sure,” said the hostess, in the politely condescending manner of her great prototype. The poet and the poetess made satirical faces, the idealist craned his neck forward, eager to listen.

The general gazed thoughtfully before him for a while, then he began, speaking slowly:

“He went by the name of Zwilk: by rights it was Zwilch; but after he was promoted for some brilliant deed of arms or other, he never called himself anything but Zwilk von Zwilneck. He liked the title so much that he wrote it on all his books, and bought books that he never read, in order to write it on them.

“No one knew anything about his origin. Sometimes he passed for the son of a crowned head and a dancer. I think he set this story going himself. Sometimes he passed for the son of a sacristan in Reichenhall. He never mentioned his family; he never went home; he received no letters, excepting those which came from comrades in the regiment. Only once did a letter arrive for him, which was plainly not from a brother officer. It was a narrow, greenish, forlorn-looking missive, with the address written zigzag, and the sealing wax spattered all over the cover. They brought it to him in the coffeehouse, and he turned quite red when the waiter presented it ‘Ah, yes,’ he said, stiffly, through his nose. ‘A letter from my old nurse.’ Heaven knows why we didn’t believe much in that old nurse.

“Whatever Zwilk’s origin might have been, his tastes were severely aristocratic. He never would let himself be introduced to a woman unless she belonged in ‘Society.’

“Others of the corps recognized his exclusiveness by nicknaming him the ‘Countess’s Zwilk,’ ‘the Nobl’ Zwilk,’ and ‘Batiste.’ These were not very good jokes, but they never lost their charm for us, and we laughed at them just as much the hundredth time as the first. Zwilk laughed with us: his laugh used to make me nervous; it sounded like a bleat, and seemed to come out of his nose and ears. He was undeniably a handsome man, tall, blonde, broad-shouldered, stiff and slender, with a regular profile and a thick blonde beard.

“He had great success with women: that is, with young widows and elderly pensioners, and the blowsy provincial beauties, to whom, as I said, he would never be presented, but with whom he danced, all the same, at balls in the early morning hours.

“You might think these ladies would consider his pompous impertinence an insult. On the contrary they were greatly impressed by his ‘exclusiveness,’ and when he waltzed with one of them she talked about it for a fortnight afterward.

“He wore his uniforms too tight, and his cuffs too long, and he used to pull the latter down over his knuckles. Those hands of his were incurably coarse, in spite of all the care they got, and he was always fussing with them. Sometimes he trimmed the flat, uneven nails in public; sometimes he crooked the little fingers with graceful ease. His manners were stiff, and his German was florid, but ungrammatical. He spoke like a dancing master, who, having ‘had a great deal to do with society,’ feels obliged, for that reason, to pronounce the most teutonic words with a French accent.

“He was at home in danger. Not only did he distinguish himself by reckless bravery in the field, but he showed in duels a cold indifference, which gave him great advantage over those of his opponents, who, though his equals in courage and his superiors in skill, were yet unable wholly to control a certain sentimental nervousness. The superior officers all praised him, for he was able, and he knew how to obey as well as to command. But he was very unpopular with his subordinates, to whom he showed himself extremely harsh, and with whom he never exchanged a joke, or a bit of friendly chat about their families, as the rest of us liked to do.

“As much audacity as he showed in great matters, just so little did he possess in small ones. Nothing could have induced him to tell a prince who said a horse had five legs, that it only had four.

“I am aware that this manner of judging him is retrospective. In those days, while we were in service together it hardly occurred to us, with our Austrian good humor, easy going, and perhaps a little bit superficial, to examine critically him or his failings. If we found him uncongenial, we hardly confessed it among ourselves, still less would we have acknowledged it to a civilian.

“He had one pronounced enemy in the corps, and that was little Toni Truyn, cousin of Count Erich Truyn, the Truyn von Rantschin. Poor Toni! He was the black sheep, the Karl Moor of his distinguished family, and if he never got so far as to turn incendiary and robber-chief, that was from lack of energy and of genius. The requisite number of paternal letters were not wanting.

“His family had a right to lecture Toni, for he had cruelly disappointed all their hopes. Destined from infancy to the Church, he suddenly, in his eighteenth year, developed religious scruples. His family regarded these as a symptom of nervous derangement, arising from too rapid growth, and they sent him to Rome to be scared back into an orthodox frame of mind by the hierarchy. To help matters, they provided him with an Abbé as a traveling companion.

“In less than a month, Toni, having quarreled with his Abbé, was going up and down in Rome, proclaiming his contempt for Popish superstitions, and raving about heathen gods and goddesses like a Renaissance Cardinal. He neither presented himself at the Austrian Embassy, nor sought the customary Papal blessing: he wandered about with mad artist-folk, ate in hostelries, danced extravagantly at models’ balls, where he gave the Italian females lessons in Austrian Choregraphy, which caused them to open their eyes, and ended by falling in love with a market-girl from the Trastevere. When he came home, he brought his Trasteverina along, with the naïve intention of marrying her. His father, not unnaturally declined this connection, Toni had still less mind to the Church, so they put him in the army.

“Found fault with by his superiors, idolized by his subordinates, cordially liked by the rest of us, he remained to the end, a middling officer and a splendid comrade. He rode round-shouldered and was incurably careless about his accoutrements, and because of his harmless cynicism, and his easy-going, half rustic unmannerliness, we christened him the Peasant Count and Farmer Toni.

“There was a legend that his Majesty, one day at a hunt or a race, or some one of those occasions that serve to bring the monarch a little nearer to his subjects, condescended to ask Toni’s father, old Count Hugo, ‘How is your family, and what are your sons doing?’ ‘The eldest,’ said Count Truyn, ‘is serving your Majesty in the Foreign Office, and the second is in the army.’ ‘He is here,’ added the count, looking about for Toni. He discovered him not far off, leaning against a tree, whistling, his hands in his pockets, his cap dragged down over his ears, oblivious of kaisers.

“The old count was so upset by this sight, that he pointed out another man, in a great hurry, and that man happened to be Zwilk. The kaiser asked no more questions, and nothing came of it, but when the peasant-count told us this story afterward, amid shouts of laughter, he added, ‘Now you know why I can’t bear Zwilk. I envy him his distinction.’

“One hot summer day,–it was in Vienna, and we were riding home from the manœuvres, through a suburb,–in a deserted street, full of sweepings and gamins, smelling of soap boiling and leather curing, Farmer Toni’s eyes fell on the dirty sign of a miserable little shop, ‘Anton Zwilch, Tin-man.’ Resting one hand on his horse’s croup, Toni leaned over, and said with that soft, winning voice of his, which was in such true aristocratic contrast to his rough-and-ready manners, ‘Batiste, is that your cousin?’ And Zwilk replied with a forced smile, through his nose, ‘Non, mon cher, that must be another line. We write our name with a k: Zwilk von Zwilnek.’

“Next day in Café Daum, the farmer-count perfidiously seized on a general lull in the conversation, and called across several tables to his particular friend. First Lieutenant Schmied.

“‘Du, Schmied! Is the brewer at Hitzing, a relative of yours?’ And the other called back affectedly, ‘Non, mon cher, that must be another line, we spell ourselves with an ie.’

“This feeble joke was repeated at intervals after that, to the edification of Toni and his friend, and the great embarrassment of all the rest. Zwilk pretended not to hear it.

“About this time our corps was enriched by the arrival of Count Erich Truyn, Toni’s cousin. He had got himself exchanged from the Cuirassiers because of some love affair or other. He was blonde, handsome as a picture, chivalrous, aristocrat through and through. Like all the Truyns, excepting Toni, Erich was conservative, even reactionary. Nevertheless, perhaps exactly for that reason, he was most considerate toward people who were less well born than himself. When Toni and Schmied served up their stale joke about ‘the other line,’ Count Erich always grew restless, and at last, one day when I was present, he remonstrated with his cousin. ‘You are really too unfeeling, Toni,’ he said. ‘How is it possible for you to jeer at a poor devil who can’t help his extraction, and no doubt has to suffer enough from it. Look here–I–Hm–it would annoy me very much to have this go any further, but I have heard that poor Zwilk was once a waiter at Lamm.’

“‘Whatever he was would make no difference if he were a decent man now, but he isn’t!’ broke out Toni. ‘He’s a low fellow; heartless canaille!’

“‘You ought not to speak that way of a comrade,’ said Count Erich, much shocked, ‘of a man with whom you stand on terms of Du and Du.’

“‘I say Du to his uniform, not to him,’ muttered Toni. Count Erich burst out laughing,–‘And I took you for a Red!’ he cried.

“Soon after this we were sent to Salzburg; there Zwilk saw his best days. He became the intimate friend of Prince Bonbon Liscat, a very limited person, between ourselves, whom they had shoved into the army to keep him occupied, until they could arrange a marriage for him, to provide his line with heirs.

“Spoiled by priests and women, like so many scions of our highest nobility, wrapped in cotton from his birth, nurtured in arrogance, Prince Liscat as a child could never endure the equally pampered arrogance of his young peers, and always chose his playmates from among the toadies and fags. Now, true to this taste of his youth, he liked no company so well as that of Zwilk. Zwilk must dine with him, must drive with him, Zwilk must accompany him on the piano while he poured forth elegies on the French horn,–on the tortoise-shell comb, for anything I know.

“As for Zwilk, he existed for Bonbon: he bathed in aromatic vinegar like Bonbon: he went to confession; he abused the liberal journals; he raved about Salvioni’s legs, all like Bonbon. He acquired a complete aristocratic jargon, talking of ‘Bougays,’ ‘Table do,’ and ‘Orschestre.’ Prince Liscat was the last to correct him. It would have been quite too revolutionary for Zwilk to pronounce French as well as he did himself.

“Zwilk’s Bonbon had an ancient uncle, Prince Schirmberg, who lived in a curious old rococo Chateau, about an hour out of Salzburg. He was a bachelor, once very gay, now very pious; the first in accordance with family tradition, the latter from fear of future punishment. He suffered from spinal complaint, and, being paralyzed in both legs, he spent his time between a rolling chair and a landau. Before the latter walked four large cream-colored steeds, in slow solemnity, as if it was a funeral.

“All the cab drivers and private coachmen reined in as soon as they overtook the serene equipage, and fell behind, the whole cavalcade then proceeding at a snail’s pace. It would never do to pass the prince, and it would never do to stir up the princely cream colors by a too lively example, lest evil befall the princely spinal column.

“Only Toni Truyn wickedly rushed past now and then, at the full speed of his thoroughbreds. Then the big cream colors before the old-fashioned landau would give an excited jump or two, and poor Prince Schirmberg would call out, ‘Damn that Truyn!’

“His serene highness certainly hated Toni, who returned it with good-natured contempt and a number of bad jokes. Some one came and told Prince Schirmberg that Toni had said he was nothing but a bundle of prejudices done up in old parchment. This the prince took very ill, without in the least understanding it. ‘Prejudice,’ he knew, from reading the ‘Neue Freie Presse’ was the liberal word for principles: and ‘Parchment’ was simply an aristocratic kind of leather.

“The prince had a sister, Auguste. All the little girl babies in Salzburg were named after her. We used to call her the May-Beetle, because she had a little head and a broad, round back, and always dressed in a black cap and a frock of Carmelite brown.

“She occupied herself with heraldry and charity. That is, she painted the Schirmberg coat-of-arms on every object that would hold it, and she engaged all their evening visitors, who were not playing whist with her brother, in cutting little strips of paper to stuff hospital pillows. For their reward she used to have them served at ten o’clock with weak tea and hard biscuits, but, as even the best families in Salzburg still keep up the barbarous custom of dining at one o’clock, the guests found their supper rather meagre.

“When she wanted to give them a special treat, she read to them in a thin voice out of an old Chronicle about the deeds of the Schrimbergs.

“She had a marked weakness for Zwilk. He cut papers with enthusiasm: he listened to the Chronicles with ecstasy: he fell on one knee to kiss her hand when she graciously extended it at leave-taking.

“It was Sylvester Day, in the yard of the Riding School. The cold winter sun fell dazzlingly on the hard, white snow. Long, strangely twisted icicles hung from the snow-covered roofs, against the gloomy sides of the buildings which surrounded the court.

“We had given our recruits a good dressing down in the Riding School, and now we were standing about in little groups chatting, cheerful and hungry, in the cold court. I heard Erich Truyn behind me, speaking in that polite, pleasant tone which he kept especially for poor country priests, and scared women of the lower classes. He was saying, ‘I’m sorry, but First Lieutenant Zwilch is engaged at present. Shall I send for him?’ I turned round. There in the old, grey archway stood handsome Truyn, blonde, slender, careless, easy, correct without pedantry; from head to foot what a cavalier ought to be. Beside him, square, clumsy, tufts of grey hair over his ears, a grey beard under his chin, face mottled red and blue from the cold, mouth and eyes surrounded by fine wrinkles, cheeks rough and seamed like the shell of an English walnut,–an old man, a stranger.

“He wore very poor clothes, half town, half country make, a short sheepskin, high boots, from which green worsted stockings protruded, a long faded scarf with a grey fringe twisted round his neck. He had a little bundle tied up in a red handkerchief squeezed under one arm, and he was kneading nervously in his two hands a shabby old fur cap, as he looked up with an expression half frightened, half confiding to Count Erich.

“That usually so self-possessed young gentleman was much embarrassed, and was making visible efforts to hide it, while he strove at the same time to encourage the old stranger.

“‘Shall I send for him?’ he asked a second time. ‘Oh! please, I can wait, please,’–stammered the old man in his gemüthlich Upper-Austrian dialect.

“I took him for a small mechanic; he was too diffident for a peasant, and not shabby enough for a day laborer.

“‘I can wait,’ he repeated. ‘Have already waited, long, very long, Herr Lieutenant.’

“‘As you will, but won’t you sit down?’ said Erich, hesitating, divided between fear of giving the old man a cold, and fear of not showing him proper attention.

“Right and left of me our comrades were chatting. ‘Sylvester,’ cried Schmied, ‘it’s the stupidest day of the year. It makes me think of punch, and cakes, and cousins.’

“‘It makes me think of my tailor and my governor,’ laughed Farmer Toni.

“The peasant-count was sitting on a bale of hay: Schmied stood over against him, leaning on the side of a forage wagon. Toni wore a short white riding coat; his chin was in his hands, his elbows were on his knees.

“‘To the first I owe a bill,’ he went on, ‘And to the latter I owe congratulations. Schmied, do you think he’d be satisfied with “Best Wishes for the New Year,” on a card?’

‘”Are you going to Schirmberg’s to-night?’ asked another officer coming up.

“‘Must,’ said Toni, laconically. ‘And you?’

“‘I don’t know. Perhaps I can plead another engagement. It will be deadly dull at Schirmberg’s.’

“‘I hear they are going to serve champagne and a prince of the blood,’ said Schmied.

“‘Hello! What’s old Gusti up to?’ laughed Toni: ‘Big soirées are not in her line.’

“‘It’s all for Zwilk,’ answered Schmied. ‘You know he is going to be made adjutant to Prince Schirmberg.’

“‘Adjutant to a prince!’ It was the old stranger who cried out, proud, excited, turning his head from one to the other.

“Erich had continued to do the honors with all the courtesy of your true aristocrat to the plebeian who has not as yet stretched out a hand toward any of his prerogatives. The little old man had grown quite confiding: he looked up now in Erich’s face and asked, ‘You know him well?’

“‘He is my comrade,’ answered Truyn. ‘I wish I could call myself as admirable an officer as he is. He is one of the best in the service, and he has a brilliant career before him.’

“Truyn liked Zwilk as little as the rest of us, but he wanted to give the old man pleasure, and that he could do without falsehood.

“The stranger stripped off his mittens, and put his knuckles to his wet eyes.

“‘I thank you, I thank you,’ he sobbed like a child. ‘He’s my son. I wanted to see him, long, long, but he was so far away and he never could come home,–but he wrote,–such beautiful letters. The priest, himself, couldn’t beat them; and,–and–now, I was going to surprise him, but–will he–will he like it, Herr Lieutenant, after all? Look you,–I’m afraid,–he such a grand gentleman, and I’–

“Zwilk’s voice sounded from within, hard and merciless, rating a common soldier: then he walked into the yard.

“Arm in arm with Prince Liscat, varnished, laced, buckled, strapped, affected and arrogant, one hand on his moustache, he simpered through his teeth:

“‘You’re much too good, Bonbon. You don’t know how to treat the canaille. The Pleb must be trodden on, else he will grow up over our heads.’

“Then his eyes met those of the old stranger. He turned deathly pale; the old man shook in every limb. Handsome Truyn, very red in the face, stammered:

“‘Your father has come to see you: it gives me much pleasure to make his acquaintance,’ or some well-meant awkwardness of that kind.

“But Zwilk smiled, his upper lip drawing tight under his nose, showing his teeth, large, square and white, like piano keys.

“‘Der papa?’ he simpered, elegantly, looking all over the court, as if searching for him; then, as the old man, stretching out his trembling hands, ‘Loisl!’ Zwilk fixed him with a cold stare and said, ‘I don’t know the man; he must be crazy.’

“Ashamed, confused, the stranger let fall his hands; he caught his breath, then looking anxiously from one to the other of us, he stammered:

“‘It is not my son. I was mistaken: a very grand gentleman. Not my son.’

“‘Never mind,’ strutted Zwilk, and clapped him jovially on the shoulder. ‘There, drink my health,’ and he reached him a silver gulden.

“The old man took it with an indescribable, hesitating gesture; looked again in a scared way around on us all, lifted his eyes sadly, as if begging forgiveness, to the face of the Nobl’ Zwilk, and turned away, repeating, ‘Not my son!’

“He was blind with grief. He struck against the sharp corner of the stone gatepost, recoiled, felt about with his hands for support, and disappeared.

“We were dumb. There came the ring of a coin on the pavement without, a half-choked sob, then nothing more.

“‘Dost thou dine at the Austrian Court to-day?’ inquired Zwilk, with cheerful effrontery of his friend Bonbon, whose arm he took.

“Farmer Toni hawked and spat slowly and deliberately at Zwilk’s feet, but Zwilk had the presence of mind not to see it, and left the place on Liscat’s arm, still smiling.

“We looked at each other. Count Erich’s eyes were full of tears. Schmied’s fists were clenched, and his lip trembled. All of us felt a tightness in our throat. We longed to rush after the disowned man; to surround him with respectful attentions; to pour out kind words and consolation,–if we could have found consolation. But it was one of those moments when fine feeling lays a restraining hand on sympathy, and we pass the sufferer blindly by, not daring even to uncover our heads.

“In the square before the barracks, a silver gulden sparkled on the pavement in the cold winter sun.

* * * * *

“New Year had come in when the party broke up at Prince Schirmberg’s, and we rode homeward by a narrow, snow-covered path across the fields, a short cut, by which the heavy equipages of the other guests could not follow us.

“The soirée had been a great success. The prince of the blood had shown himself, as usual, all affability, and Zwilk, warmly recommended to favor, had been graciously distinguished by His Royal Highness.

“The slightly faded Countess Schnick had looked very pretty. Zwilk had been courting her since autumn, and to-night she had been very encouraging to the future adjutant of Prince Schirmberg. And Zwilk, after the departure of His Royal Highness, had beamed and twinkled, and shone as if varnished all over with good fortune, patronizing everybody, even his friend Bonbon. Now he rode, sunk in pleasant reveries, a little apart from us, at the head of our cavalcade.

“The moon shone clear. Sown with countless stars, the sky blue and cloudless arched above an endless expanse of snow. Everything around us was of a blinding whiteness, an unearthly purity, and still as death. Only now and again, at long intervals, a light shudder trembled through the silence, a swift rushing, a deep sigh,–then once more silence.

“‘It is a parting soul,’ said Erich Truyn, listening, much moved. Erich was a little superstitious.

“‘Nonsense,’ grumbled Schmied, ‘it is a tree letting fall its burden of snow.’

“‘Everything is so strangely pure, one is afraid of meeting an angel,’ said Toni.

“‘Yes, it makes one ashamed of being a man,’ muttered Schmied. Then we all ceased talking. We thought of home. The New Year’s night, so still and peaceful, brought us all memories of long-forgotten childhood. Presently Schmied spoke out in his deep bass voice, to Toni.

“‘I must see if I can’t get leave and give my old governor a surprise for Twelfth Night. He’s awfully pleased when Hopeful turns up.’

“‘Wish I could say the same of my Herr Papa,’ sighed Toni. ‘But it’s all up in that quarter. I’m simply a lightning rod for him. When his steward bothers him, he sits down and writes me an abusive letter. But it’s partly my own fault,’ he added, regretfully.

“Count Erich, who had lost his father shortly before, looked straight ahead, his brows meeting, his eyes winking unsteadily.

“Proudly the Nobl’ Zwilk rode at the head of our little troop, rocking himself in dreams of gratified vanity. All at once his horse reared, so violently and unexpectedly that he was thrown. He kept hold of the bridle, and was back in the saddle next moment, punishing his horse furiously, and cursing so loud that Schmied, who rode nearest him, called out ‘Restrain yourself’: and pointed to a small wayside shrine, on the edge of the path. It held an image of the Virgin, and a half extinguished lamp, burning dimly before it, sent a red ray into the blue white of the moonbeams.

“Then, on the spot where Zwilk’s horse had shied, Schmied’s Gaudeamus began to back and tremble, to our amazement, for Schmied’s horses were reputed as phlegmatic as their master. Next Truyn’s Coquette jumped to one side, and Toni’s Lucretia began swinging herself backward and forward like a wooden rocking horse.

“‘I think the brutes have entered into a conspiracy to make us stop here and say our prayers,’ said Toni. But Schmied sprang down.

“‘What is it?’ we called. ‘Some one frozen,’ he answered. ‘Perhaps some one drunk,’ lisped Prince Liscat. Erich and his cousin with the rest of us were already dismounted. Two sleepy grooms held our horses.

“There on the chapel steps, crouched a human form, in the attitude of one who has fled to God with a great burden.

“We stretched him out on the snow. His limbs cracked gruesomely. His hands were hard as stone: he must have been dead for hours. The cold moon shone on his face. It was old and wrinkled, the frost of frozen tears glimmered on his cheeks and around his mouth. The dead drawn mouth kept the expression of weeping.

“‘It’s the poor devil who came to us yesterday morning in the Riding-School,’ said Erich, and bowed his head reverently.

“‘Better so,’ muttered Schmied, in a shaky voice. ‘Better for him.’ The little peasant-count kneeled in the snow, rubbing the stiff hands and sobbing.

“‘We had better take ourselves off. We can’t do any good here, and there will be trouble with the police.’

“It was Zwilk who spoke, standing by with white, strangely smiling face: his voice was hoarse and hurried.

“Then Toni sprang to his feet. ‘You hound!’ he cried, and struck him across the face with a riding-whip.”

The speaker paused a few seconds, then went on quietly.

“Of course Zwilch left the army. He and Toni fought with pistols. Zwilch came off extremely well, and Toni extremely ill, being badly wounded in the hip. He lay in bed six months, but during that time he was reconciled to his family, and shortly after he got well he married a pretty little cousin. He lives in the country, overseeing an estate of his father’s. He has grown steady, has a great many children and preserves the most touching affection for his old comrades.

“We gave the poor old stranger a grand funeral, which the whole officer’s corps attended. We buried him in St. Peter’s Churchyard, and put him up a fine monument.

“The Nobl’ Zwilk vanished utterly. For a long time I expected to see him turn up as a fencingmaster somewhere. But far from it: I ran across him lately in Venice, married to a rich widow from Odessa. His servants call him Eccelenza; things prosper with him.”

The old general paused, and looked about him. He had told his story in a voice of much feeling, and now he evidently looked for some signs of sympathy.

The celebrated poet remarked, with a grin, that the story would make a good subject for a comedy, if you changed the ending a little. The celebrated poetess said she didn’t feel much interest in stories that hadn’t any love in them. The hostess inquired if the widow whom Zwilch married was a person of good reputation. The host remarked that that was what came of letting the rabble into the same regiment with respectable people.

Only the youthful idealist had been so much moved that he was afraid to speak for fear of showing it. But at last he pulled himself together and broke out with these enigmatical words–

“After all, it’s our own fault.”

“How do you mean?” asked the hostess.

He blushed and stammered. “I mean, that if there were no Prince Liscat, there would be no Nobl’ Zwilk.”

MBMoon

Victor Hugo ~ Gavroche and the Elephant

Standard

DMdJ Neu2The forest has a bird. Paris a child. The bird is called a sparrow. The child—a gamin. This little being is joyous; he has not food every day; no shoes on his feet; not much clothing on his body. He runs, he swears like a convict, he haunts all the wine shops, knows all the thieves—but he has no evil in his heart. Little Gavroche was one of these. He had been dispatched into life with a kick and had simply taken flight. The pavements were less hard to him than his mother’s heart.

One evening, little Gavroche was skipping along an alley, hands in his pockets and singing merrily, when he came upon a young man who had a wild, happy look in his eye, but no hat on his head.

“Whoa there, monsieur, where’s your roof? You’ve got enough light in them blinkers of yours to light up my apartments—say, monsieur, you’re either crazy or you’ve had an awful good time!”

“Be off with you, imp.”

“Say, did you know there wus a goin’ ter be war in this town in a few days and I’m goin’ to enlist as general of the army—Forward—March—Say, monsieur, I believe I know you, yes, sir, I’ve seen you down in that Napoleon meetin’ way down there in that cellar—”

“Oh, be off with you, imp!”

“Yes, sir, I’m goin’ now. Sorry I can’t walk with you further, but business calls me in the other direction.

“Good evenin’, monsieur—Watch out there. Can’t ye[Pg 346] see where yer goin’? Little more an’ ye’d been eatin’ the dandelions! Good evenin’, monsieur!”

A little further down the street, Gavroche was standing scrutinizing a shop window, when two little children came up to him crying.

“What’s the matter with you, brats?”

“Boo-hoo—we—ain’t got no place to sleep.”

“The idea a bawlin’ about that. Come along with me, I’ll give ye a place to sleep. Say, hev ye got any shiners?”

“Boo-hoo—no—sir!”

“Well, come along with me. I’m rich. Ye can’t hear ’em rattle, but all is not gold that rattles.”

“Monsieur, we—boo-hoo—we asked that barber man over there to let us get warm in his store and—and—he wouldn’t do—it—boo-hoo!”

“Well, now, don’t bawl about that. He don’t know no better. He’s an Englishman. But I’ll jes’ take a note of that insult. [Takes paper from his pocket and writes.]—Get even with Barber at 63 Rue Saint Antoine. Too mean to occupy space here below. There now! that’ll fix ’em. Hurry along here now or my hotel will be closed.—Say, brats, you stay here a minute. There is a poor little girl what’s cold and she ain’t got nothin’ around her. You stay here till I gits back.

“There, little girl, take my scarf and put around you. This kind of life is alright fer boys but it’s pretty tough on girls. Brr! it’s rather chilly. And I’ll eat a piece out o’ Hades if it ain’t re-raining again.”

“Monsieur, boo-hoo—we—ain’t had nothin’ to eat—since—morning.”

“Well, now don’t bawl about that. Let me see—oh, here’s a shop. Shovel in here.

“Boy, give us five centimes worth o’ bread.”

“For how many?”

“Well, there seem to be two uv ’em.

“Here—now take that—brat senior, and you take that, brat junior—now grub away. Ram that into your muzzle. Don’t you understand? Well, classically speaking—eat. Well, I thought ye knew how to do that. [Whistles Marseillaise until they have finished, then stops suddenly and says to the boy behind the counter.]—Say, ain’t them two nice specimens to be bawlin’ jes’ ’cause they ain’t got no home?

“Hey there, are ye through? Well, shovel out, then. We’ve got to hurry or the elephant will have closed down his ears. Hey there, Montparnasse! See my two kids?”

“Well, where did you get them, Gavroche?”

“Oh, a gentleman made me a present of ’em, down the street—say, they’ve got hides like linseed plasters, hain’t they?”

“Where are you taking them, Gavroche?”

“To my lodging—the Elephant.”

“The Elephant!”

“Yes—the El-e-phant. Any complaints?”

“You don’t mean Napoleon’s monument?”

“I mean Napoleon’s monument—You see when Napoleon left for Elba, he put me in charge of the Elephant. Forward, march, there, brats! Good evenin’, Montparnasse.”

On arriving at the Elephant, Gavroche climbed up and then invited his friends to come up.

“Hey, there, brat senior—see that ladder? Well, put your foot on—Now ye ain’t agoin’ ter be afraid are ye? Here, give me your hands—Now—up—There, you stand still now, till I git yer little brother up—Here, brat junior. Oh, can’t you reach that ladder? Well, step on the Elephant’s corn then—That’s the way—Now—up—There! Now, gentlemen, you’re on the inside of the Elephant. Don’t ye feel something like Jonah? But stop yer talkin’ now fer we’re goin’ straight ter bed. This way to yer sleepin’ apartments—Here, brat junior, we’ll wrap you up in this blanket.”

“O, thank you, sir. It’s so nice and warm.”

“Well, that’s what the monkeys thought. Here, senior, you take this mattress. Ye see, I stole these from the Jardin de Plants. But I told the animals over there that they were fer the Elephant and they said that was all right. Are ye in bed? Now I am goin’ ter suppress de candelabra. [Blows out candle.] Whew! listen to it rain. How the rain do be runnin’ down the legs of this here house. That’s first class thunder too. Whew! that’s no slouch uv a streak uv lightnin’ nuther. Here, calm down there, gentlemen, or ye’ll topple over this edifice. Time ter sleep now, good-night. Shut yer peepers!”

“Oh, sir?”

“Hey?”

“What’s that noise?”

“Why—it’s—rats.”

“Oh, sir.”

“Hey?”

“What is rats?”

“Oh—rats—is—mice.”

“Sir?”

“Hey?”

“Why don’t you get a cat?”

“Oh—I—I did have—a cat and—and the rats eat ‘er up.”

“Boo-hoo. Will they eat us up too?”

“Ah—no—they won’t eat you. You ain’t got enough meat on you. Besides I got ’em all screened off with a wire. They can’t get at ye. See here—Ef yer goin’ ter be afraid, take hold er my hand an’ I’ll lay down long side o’ yer and go ter sleep—Now I fergot ter tell you gentlemen that when ye wake up—I’ll be gone, fer business calls me early, but ye’re to make this yer home jes’ as long as yer wants ter and come here jes’ whenever yer wants ter. Now fer the last time—good-night!”

dm11