Adventures of Madelyn Mack: Detective
HUGH C. WEIR
2—The Missing Bridegroom
TWO million dollars and the most beautiful girl in the county were to be Norris Endicott’s in another twenty-five minutes.
He was emphatically in love with Bertha Van Sutton, but cared nothing for her millions, in spite of the remembrance of his own uncertain income as a struggling architect. The next half hour was to bring him all that a reasonable man could ask in this uncertain world.
This was his position and outlook at the Van Sutton home at seven-forty p.m. Some one has said that a moment can change the course of a battle.
Also it can revolutionize a man’s life — perhaps end it altogether — and pitchfork him into another. At five minutes past eight —the hour that Endicott was to have made Bertha V an Sutton his wife—he had vanished from “The Maples” as completely and mysteriously as though the balmy earth outside had opened and swallowed him.
The expectant bridegroom literally had been whisked into ob-
At twenty minutes before eight o’clock, Williard White, glancing into his room, found Endicott pacing the floor, his tall, closely knit figure showing to excellent advantage in his evening clothes, a quiet smile, as of anticipation, on his face as he held a match to his cigarette.
“Nervous, old man?” White called banteringly, holding the door a-jar.
Endicott turned with a laugh. “Nerv-
ous? When the best girl in the world is about to be mine— all mine? Of course I’m nervous, but it’s because I am so happy I can hardly keep my feet on the ground!” (Which was a somewhat hysterical, but thoroughly human remark, you would agree, had you ever worshipped at the shrine of Bertha Van Sutton!)
At five minutes past eight the orchestra shifted the music of Mendelssohn’s “ Wedding March ” to their racks, the leader cleared his throat, in expectation of the signal to raise his baton, and the chattering throng of guests, scattered through the lavishly decorated house from the conservatory to the veranda, swept into the long red-and-gold drawing-room, with the bower of palms and orchids at the end drawing admiring exclamations even from the most cynical dowagers. Adolph Van Sutton’s millions assuredly had set a fit stage for the most talked-of wedding of the season.
Outside, Adolph, himself, was fumbling nervously with his cuffs as the bridal party ranged itself in whispering ranks for the entry. Bertha Van Sutton had just appeared with Ethel Allison, her chief bridesmaid and chum since boardingschool days. As she took the arm of her father, she made a picture to justify the half-audible sighs of envy from the bevy of attendants. With the folds of her long veil reaching almost to the hem of
her gown and the sweep of her train, her figure looked almost regal in spite of her girlish slenderness. Her dark hair, piled in a great, loose coil, heightened the impression, which might have given her the suggestion of haughtiness had it not been for the magnetism of her smile.
The smile was bubbling in her eyes as she glanced around with the surprised question, “Where’s Norris?”
Her father looked up quickly, but it was Ethel Allison who answered, “Willard White has just gone after him, Bert. Here he comes now!”
The best man came hurriedly through the door. As he paused, he wiped his forehead with his handkerchief.
“Where’s Norris, Willard?” Miss Allison asked impatiently.
“Gone!” The bridesmaid’s voice rose to a shrill falsetto.
The best man shook his head in a sort of blind bewilderment. “He’s gone,” he repeated, mechanically.
The bride whirled. Adolph Van Sutton strode forward and seized White by the arm.
“What, under Heaven, are you giving us, man?”
White stiffened his shoulders as though the sharp grasp had awakened him from his daze.
“Norris Endicott is not in this house, sir!” he cried, as if realizing for the first time the full import of his announcement.
In the drawing-room, the orchestraleader, with a final look at the empty door, lowered his baton with a snort of disgust and plumped sullenly back in his chair. The jewel-studded ranks of the crowding guests elevated their eyebrows in polite wonder. In the corner, the palms that were to have sheltered the bride beckoned impatiently.
On the velvet carpet, outside, lay a white, silent figure. It was Bertha Van Sutton who had fallen, an unconscious heap in the folds of her wedding finery.
Up-stairs in the groom’s apartment, a circle of disheveled men were staring at one another in tongue-tied bewilderment. Norris Endicott might have vanished into thin air, evaporated. The man who was to wed the Van Sutton heiress had been blotted out, eliminated.
As the group edged uneasily toward the door, a stray breeze, fragrant with the evening odors of the flower-lined lawn below, swept through the open window. A small object, half-buried in the curtain folds, fell with a soft thud to the floor. The nearest man stooped toward it almost unconsciously. It was a silver ball, perhaps three-quarters of an inch in diameter. With a shrug, he passed it to Adolph Van Sutton. The latter dropped it mechanically into his pocket.
'T' HE five o’clock sun was splashing its waning glow down on to the autumnthinned trees when I pushed open the rustic gate of “The Rosary” the next afternoon to carry the somber problem that was beyond me to the wizard skill of Madelyn Mack.
I was frankly tired after the day’s buffetings. And there was a soothing rest-
fulness in the velvet green of the closecropped lawn, with its fat box hedges and the scarlet splashes of its canna beds, that brought me to an almost involuntary pause lest I break the spell. Madelyn Mack’s rose garden beyond was a wreck of shriveled bushes, but my pang at the memory of its faded glories was softened by the banks of asters and cosmos marshalled before it as though to hide its emptiness. The snake-like coil of a black hose was pouring a playful spray into a circle of scarlet sage at the side of the graveled path, with the gaunt figure of Andrew Bolton crouching, hatless, near it, trimming a ragged line of grass with a pair of long shears.
With a sigh I turned toward the quaint chalet nestling ahead. I might have been miles from the rumble of the work-a-day world.
I smiled—somewhat cynically, I will confess—as I pulled the old-fashioned knocker. There were few persons yet who knew, as I did, the shadows surrounding the wedding-night vanishing of Norris Endicott. Could Madelyn solve the problem that had already taken rank as the most baffling police case of five years?
The sphinx-like face of Susan Bolton greeted me on the other side of the door. She was dressed for the street in her prim bonnet and black silk gown.
“Miss Madelyn said you would be here, Miss Noraker,” she greeted me. “I though I might meet you on my way to the Missionary Tea.”
Crime and a Missionary Tea ! I smiled at the incongruity as I protested, “But I never told her I was coming! How in the world—”
Susan threw up her mittened hands. “Law child, don’t you know she has a way of finding out things?”
A sudden laugh and the friendly bark of a dog sounded from the end of the hall. A slight figure in black stepped toward me with her two hands extended. At her heels, Peter the Great trotted lazily.
“I am glad you came before six!” she said, as she seized and held both of my hands, a distinctively Madelyn Mack habit. “I was afraid you would be delayed. The trolley service to the Van Sutton place is abominable!”
“But why did you want me before six?” I cried. “And how did you know I was coming at all? And how—”
Madelyn released my hands with a. smile. “Really, you must give me time to catch my breath! Come into the den with Peter the Great, and toast yourself while we cross-examine each other.”
It was not until she was drawn up before the crackling log in the great open fireplace, with the dog curled contentedly on the jaguar skin at her feet, that she spoke again, and then it was in the rapidfire fashion that showed me she was “hot on a winding trail,” as she would express it.
“I will answer your questions first,” she began, as she rested her chin on her left hand in her favorite attitude and peered across at me, her eyes glowing with the restless energy of her mood. “I telephoned the Bugle office this morning and was told that you had just left ‘The Maples.’ Of course I knew that Nora Noraker, the star reporter, would be put
on the Van Sutton case at once, and I had a shrewd idea from past experience that you would bring the problem to me before night. As I am to meet Adolph Van Sutton here at six, I was anxious to review the field with you before his arrival. I was retained in the case this afternoon, as I rather expected to be, after I had read the early editions of the papers and saw that the police would have to abandon their obvious theory.”
I raised my eyebrows. “What is that?” She shrugged her shoulders. “Murder! I had not read half a dozen paragraphs before I saw that this, of course, was absurd, and that even the police would have to admit as much before night.”
“But they haven’t!” I cut in triumphantly. “Detective Wiley gave out an interview just before I left—said there was no doubt that Endicott had been made away with ! ”
“Then the more fool he!” Madelyn stirred the gnarled log in the fireplace until a shower of yellow sparks went dancing up the chimney. “I could show him his mistake in three sentences.”
For a moment she sat staring at me, with her long lashes veiling a slow
“Do they use gas or electricity at ‘The Maples’?” she asked, abruptly.
I thought for a moment. “Both,” I answered. “Why?”
“Was either burning in Endicott’s room at the time of his disappearance?” I shook my head with a helpless smile. Madelyn rubbed her hands gently through the long, shaggy hair of Peter the Great. We both sat staring into the fire for quite five minutes. “Did Endicott dress at ‘The Maples’ for the ceremony?” she demanded suddenly. “Or did he dress before he appeared at the house?” I could feel her eyes studying me as I pondered the question.
I looked up finally with an expression of rueful bewilderment.
“Oh, Nora! Nora!” she cried, with a little stamp of her foot. “Where are your eyes and your ears? And you at the house all day!”
“I rather flattered myself that I had found out all there was to find.” I answered somewhat petulantly.
Madelyn reached over to the divan by her elbow and selected a copy of the Bugle from the stack of crumpled papers that it contained. It was not until she had read slowly through the five-column report of the Van Sutton mystery—two columns of which I had contributed myself—that she looked up. “I presume you have mentioned here everything of importance?”
I nodded. “Norris Endicott was above suspicion—morally and financially. He had few friends—that is, close friends —but no enemies. There was absolutely no one who wished him ill, no one who might have a reason for doing so, unless—”
Madelyn noted my hesitation with a swift flash. “You mean his defeated rivals for Miss Van Sutton’s hand?”
“You have taken the words out of my mouth. There were two of them, and both were present at the wedding—that didn’t take place. Curiously enough, one
of the two was Endicott’s best man, Willard White. The other, he also knew more or less intimately—Richard Bainbridge, the civil engineer.” I gazed across at her as I paused. To my disappointment, she was studying the carpet, with her thoughts obviously far away. “That is all, I think,” I finished rather lamely.
The log in the fireplace fell downward with a shower of fresh sparks. Peter the Great growled uneasily. Madelyn took the dog’s head in her lap, and was silent so long I thought she had forgotten me.
Suddenly she leaned back in her chair and her eyes half closed.
“One more question, Nora, if you please. I believe you said in your report that, when the group of searchers were leaving Endicott’s vacant room, a small, silver ball rolled from the sill to the floor. Do you happen to know whether the ball is solid or hollow?”
I smiled. “It is hollow. I examined it this afternoon. But surely such a trivial incident—”
Madelyn pushed back her chair with a quick gesture of satisfaction. “How often must I tell you that nothing is trivial—in crime? That answer atones for all of your previous failures, Nora. You may go to the head of the class ! No, not another word !” she interrupted as I stared at her. “I don’t want to think or talk—now. I must have some music to clear my brain if I am to scatter these cobwebs !”
I sank back with a sigh of resignation and watched her as she stepped across to the phonograph, resting on the cabinet of records in the corner. I knew from experience that she had veered into a mood in which I would have'gained an instant rebuke had I attempted to press the case farther. Patiently or impatiently, I must await her pleasure to reopen our discussion.
“What shall it be?” she asked almost gaily, with her nervous alertness completely gone as she stooped over the record-case. “How would the quartet from ‘Rigoletto’ strike your mood? I think it would be ideal, for my part.” From Verdi we circled to Donizetti’s “Lucia,” and then, in an odd whim, her hand drew forth a haphazard selection from “William Tell.” It was the latter part of the ballet music, and the record was perhaps half completed when the door opened—we had not heard the bell —and Susan announced Adolph Van Sutton.
Madelyn rose, but she did not stop the machine. Mr. Van Sutton plumped nerv-
ously into the seat that she extended to him, gazing with obvious embarrassment at her radiant face as she stood with her head bent forward and a faint smile on her lips, completely under the sway of Rossini’s matchless music.
She stopped the machine sharply at the end of the record. When she whirled back toward us, “William Tell” had been forgotten. She was again the sharpeyed, sharp-questioning ferret, with no thought beyond the problem of the moment. I think the transformation astonished our caller even more than the glimpse of her unexpected mood at his entrance. I could imagine that his matterof-fact, commercial mind was floundering in the effort to understand the remarkable young woman before him.
Madelyn changed her seat to one almost directly opposite her nervous client. She was about to speak when she noted his eyes turned questioningly in my direction.
“This is my friend, Miss Noraker, Mr. Van Sutton,” she announced formally. “I believe you have met before.”
Mr. Van Sutton polished his glasses with his handkerchief as he responded somewhat dubiously. “Miss Noraker is a—a reporter, I believe? Don’t you think, Miss Mack, that our conversation should be, er—private?”
I had already risen when Madelyn motioned to me to pause. “Miss Noraker is not here in her newspaper capacity. She is a personal friend who has accompanied me in so many of my cases that I look upon her almost as a lieutenant. You can rest assured that nothing which you or I would wish kept silent will be published!”
Mr. Van Sutton’s face cleared, and he bowed to me as if in apology. “Very well, Miss Mack. I am sure I can rely upon your discretion perfectly.”
Continued on Page 113.
Continued from Page 19.
I resumed my chair at a sign from Madelyn, and our visitor stared out into the grey dusk, with the lines of his cleanshaven face showing the uneasiness and worry of the past twenty-four houis.
Madelyn was the first to speak. “Will you tell me candidly, Mr. Van Sutton, why you objected so persistently to your daughter’s marriage?”
Our caller swung around in his chañas though a shot had been fired at his elbow. “What do you mean, young woman?”
Madelyn dropped her chin on to her hand and the fleeting twinkle I know so well flashed into her eyes. “Six months ago, you positively refused to consider Norris Endicott as your daughter’s suitor. Three months ago he approached you again and you refused him a second time. It was only four weeks ago, that you gave your consent—a somewhat grudging one, if I must be plain—and the date of the wedding was fixed almost immediately.”
Adolph Van Sutton stared across at Madelyn with widening eyes. The flush faded from his cheeks, leaving them a dull white.
“I employed you, Miss Mack, to trace Norris Endicott, not to burrow into my personal affairs!”
Madelyn stepped toward the door. “I will send in the bill for my services within the week, Mr. Van Sutton. Did you leave your hat in the hall?”
“Am I to understand that you are throwing up the case?”
Adolph Van Sutton thrust his hands restlessly into his pockets. “I—I beg your pardon, Miss Mack! Please sit down, and overlook a nervous man’s excitability. You can hardly understand the strain I am under. You were asking me—what was it you were asking me? Ah, you were inquiring into my relations with young Endicott!”
Mr. Van Sutton rolled his handkerchief into a ball between his hands as Madelyn coldly resumed her chair. “There is really nothing to tell you. You are a woman of the world, Miss Mack. I objected to Mr. Endicott as a husband for my daughter because, frankly, he was a poor man—and Bertha has hardly been raised in a manner that would teach her economy. Have I made myself clear?” He dropped his handkerchief into his pocket and his lips tightened. “Bertha had her own way in the end—as she generally does-—and I gave in. Is there anything more?”
“I believe that personally you preferred Willard White as a son-in-law. Am I right?”
“What of it?”
Madelyn gave a little sigh. “Nothing —nothing! You have been very patient, Mr. Van Sutton. I am going to ask you just one question, more—before we leave for ‘The Maples.’ Does the second story veranda under Mr. Endicott’s window extend along the entire side of the house?”
I think that we both stared at her.
“The second story veranda?” repeated Mr. Van Sutton. “I thought you told me that you had never been to my home!”
Madelyn snapped her fingers with a suggestion of impatience. “I know there must be such a veranda! There could be no other way—” She bit her sentence through as though checking an unspoken thought. “Unless I am mistaken, it extends from the front entirely to the rear. Am I correct?”
“You are, but—”
Madelyn pressed the bell at her elbow. “I see you have brought your automobile. I will take the liberty of asking you to share our dinner here. Then we can start for ‘The Maples’ immediately afterward. With luck we should reach there shortly after eight. Is that agreeable to you ?”
“Really, Miss Mack—”
But Madelyn waved her hand, and the matter was settled.
'T' HE clock was exactly on the stroke of eight when our machine whirled through the broad gate of “The Maples,” after an invigorating dash through the New Jersey shadows. At the end of the driveway we saw the colonial mansion, whose wedding night festivities had been so abruptly shattered.
If we had expected a house buried in the gloom of mystery we were disappointed. “The Maples” was a blaze of light from cellar to attic. It was not until the automobile stopped at the front veranda, and the solemn face of the butler presented itself with its mutely questioning glance, that we found our first hint of crime or tragedy.
Mr. Van Sutton conducted us at once to the library—a long, high, massively furnished room toward the end of the central hall extending entirely through the house. At the door, he turned with a short bow.
“It is needless to say, of course, that the house and its inmates are at your service. I am completely ignorant of your methods, Miss Mack. If you will let me know—”
He stopped, for Madelyn had walked over to one of the long dormer windows and stood staring out into the darkness, with her hands beating a low tattoo on the glass.
“Is Mr. Endicott’s room on this side?” she asked without turning.
“Almost directly overhead.”
“And the drawing-room—where the ceremony was to have been performed —I take it, is on the other side?”
There was a faraway note in her voice, which told me that she hardly heard Mr. Van Sutton’s formal assent.
For perhaps three minutes she remained peering out into the shadowy lawn, as oblivious to our presence as though she had been alone. Our host was pacing back and forth over the polished floor when she whirled.
“Will you take me up to Mr. Endicott’s room now, please?”
Mr. Van Sutton strode to the door with an air of relief. “I, myself, will escort you.”
Madelyn did not speak during the ascent to the upper floor. Once Mr. Van Sutton ventured a remark, but she made no effort to reply, and he desisted with a shrug. She did not even break her silence when he threw open the door of a chamber at the end of the corridor, and we realized that we were in the room of the missing bridegroom.
For a moment we paused at the threshold, as our guide found the switch and turned on the electric lights. It was a large, airy apartment, with a small alcove at one end containing a bed, and a door at the other end opening into a marbletiled bathroom. An effort had been made } to preserve the contents exactly as they had been found on the previous evening. The dressing table was still strewn with a varied assortment of toilet articles, as though they had just been dropped. The curtain of one window was jerked to the top, while its companion hung decorously to the sill.
Madelyn darted merely a cursory glance at the room. Stepping across to the writing table, she seized the waste paper basket leaning against its side. It was empty. In spite of this fact, she lifted it to the table and whipped out a j small magnifying glass from her handbag. For fully five minutes she bent over it, studying the woven straw with as much eagerness as a miner searching for ; gold dust.
When she straightened, her eyes flashed uncertainly around the walls. Directly opposite was an asbestos grate of gas logs. She sank on to her knees before it, the magnifying glass again to her eyes.
“Is there anything I can do for you, Miss Mack?” Mr. Van Sutton asked ! impatiently.
She did not even glance in our direction. Rising to her feet, she stepped back to the writing-table where two ash trays were resting. “Were these Mr. Endicott’s?”
“I—I suppose so. Why?”
Madelyn carried the trays nearer to the light. One held a litter of ashes ; the second tray both ashes and crumbling cigarette stubs. I caught a curious flicker of satisfaction in her eyes.
“Mr. Endicott must have been something of a smoker, wasn’t he?” she asked, as though mentioning a self-evident fact.
■ “On the contrary, he was not!” retorted Mr. Van Sutton.
“Good!” she cried so heartily that we both stared at her. As she returned the trays, her abstraction vanished. I even caught the fragment of a tune under her breath when she threw open the door of the roomy closet at the other side of the room. It was Schumann’s “Träumerei.”
A man’s light grey street suit was hanging from the row of clothes hooks on the wall. On the floor, a pair of shoes had been tossed. It did not need our ' host’s terse comment to tell us that they belonged to Norris Endicott.
“You will find nothing there, Miss ; Mack,” he volunteered. “The police have
had the pockets inside out half a dozen times!”
A cry from Madelyn interrupted him. She had passed the suit with a shrug and had seized the discarded shoes.
“What is it?” Mr. Van Sutton demanded, pressing forward.
Madelyn tossed the shoes back to the floor. Closing the door, she stood tapping her jade bracelet. Again I thought that I heard the strains of “Träumerei.” “I was once asked to name a detective’s first rule of guidance,” she said irrelevantly. “I answered to remember always that nothing is trivial—in crime.” She paused. “Every day I find something new to prove the correctness of my rule!” “But surely you have discovered nothing—”
Madelyn gazed at the owner of “The Maples” with her peculiar twinkle. “There are two persons in this house with whom I would like a few moments’ conversation. They are the butler and Miss Van Sutton’s maid. Could you have them sent to the library?”
“Certainly. Is there anything else?” Madelyn reached absently across to the ash trays again. There seemed a peculiar fascination for her in their prosaic litter.
“Could I also have the honor of a short interview with your daughter?” Mr. Van Sutton inclined his head and stepped into the hall. As I followed him, the door was closed sharply behind us. I whirled around and heard the key turn. Madelyn had locked herself in.
Mr. Van Sutton straightened with a frown. Then, without a word, he spun about on his heels and strode toward his daughter’s boudoir. I descended the stairs alone.
It was almost a quarter of an hour later that Madelyn rejoined me. She nodded briefly to the butler, who was sitting on the edge of a chair as stiffly erect as a ramrod. But she did not pause. Hardly deigning a glance at me, she stepped over to the long shelves of books, built higher than her arms could reach, and her hand zigzagged along the rich leather bindings and gilt letters. Selecting a massive morocco volume from one of the central rows, she dropped into the nearest seat. The book was an encyclopedia, extending from the letter “H” to the letter “N.”
As she spread it open in her lap, apparently for the first time she recalled the butler. She glanced up.
“You will excuse me?”
“I will be through in a moment!” “Yes, madam!”
Jenkins’ face resumed its stolidness, and Madelyn’s gaze dropped to her book. She could not have read a dozen lines, however, when she closed it and sprang to her feet. She paced across the library, her hands behind her back.
“I have only one question to ask, Jen-
“Yes, madam !”
“I wish to know whether Mr. Endicott ordered a tray of ashes brought up to his room last night?”
Jenkins’ eyes widened and his hands dropped to his sides. “A tray of ashes?” he stammered.
“I believe that is what I said?”
With a visible effort Jenkins recovered his composure. His twenty years’ training had not been in vain. “No, madam!” he answered in a rather dubious tone.
“Are you absolutely sure? I may tell you that a great deal depends upon your answer!”
Jenkins’ voice recovered its steadiness. “I am quite sure!”
“Is it possible that you would not
“I am confident that I would know!”
Madelyn sank into the leather rocker by her side, with an expression of the most genuine disappointment that I have ever seen her exhibit. In the silence that followed, the ticking of the colonial clock in the corner sounded with harsh distinctness. Outside in the hall I fancied I heard a repressed cough. Miss Van Sutton’s maid evidently was awaiting her turn. Madelyn’s slight, black-garbed figure had fallen back in her chair, and her right hand was pressed over her
“Would you mind leaving the room for a few moments, Nora? No, Jenkins, I wish that you would stay. I find that I have another question for you.”
Annette, the maid, was walking back and forth in the hall as I opened the door. She glanced toward me, but did not speak. I had hardly noted the details of her figure, however, when the door of the library opened again and the butler followed me. Dull wonder was written on his face as he nodded shortly to the girl to take his place.
My thoughts were broken by the swish of skirts on the stairs. The next moment I faced Adolph Van Sutton and his daughter. This was the first time during the day that I had seen the latter. She had remained locked in her room since morning, denying all interviewers, and only giving Detective Wiley a scant five minutes after his third request. I had expected to find evidences of a pronounced strain after her prostration of the previous evening, but I was startled by her pallor as her father took her arm and led her down the hall.
Of all the heart-broken women, whether of cottage or mansion, with whom my newspaper career has brought me in contact, there was no figure more pathetic than that of the heiress of the Van Sutton millions as she swayed toward me on that eventful night.
Bertha Van Sutton crosed wearily into the library as the maid emerged. “I have one favor to request, Miss Mack, and if you have ever suffered in your life-time, you will grant it. Please be as brief as possible!”
“Do you want me here?” her father asked.
Madelyn had walked over to the book shelves, and was again delving into the pages of the morocco encyclopedia. “I would prefer not!” she answered without looking up.
It was well toward half-past nine (I had glanced at my watch a dozen times) when the two women in the library emerged. The form of Bertha Van Sutton was bent even more than before, and it was evident at a glance that the strain
of the interview had brought her almost to the point of a collapse.
As I started forward, the light flashed for an instant on a round gleaming object in Madelyn Mack’s hand. It was the small silver ball that had been found in Norris Endicott’s room.
At that moment, the front bell tinkled through the house. There was a shoi't conversation in the vestibule, and then Jenkins ushered a tall, loosely jointed figure into the hall. It was Detective Wiley of the Newark headquarters. (Of course the affair at “The Maples” had come under the jurisdiction of the New Jersey police.)
The detective’s ruddy face, with its stubble of beard, was flushed with an unusual excitement, and his stiff, sandy moustache stood out in two bristling lines from his mouth. He received Madelyn’s bow with a short, half contemptuous nod, as he snapped out, “I’m right after all, Mr. Van Sutton! It’s murder—nothing more nor less!”
“Murder!” The gasp came from Bertha Van Sutton. For an instant I thought she was about to faint.
Wiley glanced around the group with a suggestion of conscious importance which did not leave him, even in the tension of the moment.
“We have found Mr. Endicott’s clothes in Thompson’s Creek—and the coat is covered with blood!”
Madelyn Mack gently led Bertha Van Sutton to the chair I had vacated. One hand was stroking the girl’s temples as she turned.
“You are wrong, Mr. Wiley!” she said quietly. “For the peace of mind of this household, I am willing to stake my reputation that you are wrong.”
Detective Wiley whirled with a sneer. “Really, you astound me, my lady policeman ! May I humbly inquire how your pink tea wisdom deduces so much?”
Madelyn smoothed the folds of her coat as she straightened. “I have promised Miss Van Sutton that if she and her father will call at ‘The Rosary’ tomorrow afternoon at four, I will give them a complete explanation of this unfortunate affair! You may call also if you are interested, Mr. Wiley—and don’t arrest the murderer in the meantime! Will you kindly loan us your motor for the trip back to town, Mr. Van Sutton?”
T CONFESS that I approached Madeln lyn Mack’s chalet the next day with pronounced skepticism. The morning papers of both New York and Newark had been crammed with the discovery of Norris Endicott’s blood-stained garments, and were full of hysterical praise for the “masterly work” of Detective Joseph Wiley.
Some one had found that Madelyn Mack had also been retained in the case, and the reporters had tried in vain to obtain an interview. In the face of her silence, the applause for the police had become even more emphasized.
She was alone when I entered; but, as I pointed to the clock just on the verge of four, she held up her hand. The bell
sounded through the house, and the next moment Susan conducted Adolph Van Sutton and his daughter into the room.
In the confusion of the greeting, the signs of nervous strain on Madelyn’s face struck me sharply. It did not need her weary admission to tell me that she had spent a racking day, nor that she had had frequent recourse to the stimulant of her cola berries. Even her hair, about whose arrangement she generally was precise to the point of nervousness, was dishevelled, and once, when Peter the Great thrust his nose in her lap, she ordered him impatiently away.
The Van Suttons had hardly seated themselves when there was a step in the hall and the last guest of the afternoon made his appearance. There was not the slightest hint of ill humor in Madelyn’s greeting as Detective Wiley somewhat awkwardly took the hand that she extended to him.
“Have you traced the murderer yet, Mr. Wiley?”
“No, but I expect to have him in custody within the next twenty-four hours!” Detective Wiley dropped heavily into his chair and crossed his knees.
“May I ask if you have found the body?”
“I can’t say that we have, but we have certain information which—”
Madelyn walked over to the end of the room where she could face the entire group. She was the only one of us who was standing.
“Then I am more fortunate than you
The detective bounded from his seat, his sandy moustache—the barometer of his emotions—bristling. “I am not a man to trifle with, Miss Mack. Do you mean to tell me—”
“That I have discovered the body of Norris Endicott? You have caught my meaning exactly!”
Wiley stood staring at her in a sort of tongue-tied amazement. A gasp recalled me to the other occupants of the room. Bertha Van Sutton was devouring Madelyn’s face as though pleading with her to end her suspense. Her father was stroking her hand.
Madelyn stepped to the door and threw it open. On the threshold stood a young man in a brown tweed suit, with a purple lump showing just at the edge of his hair. He stared at us as though he were dazed by a sudden light.
Bertha Van Sutton darted across the room, with a cry, and threw herself into his arms.
It was Norris Endicott.
Madelyn sprang to her side, with a query intensely practical—and intensely feminine. “Has she fainted?”
“I—think so.” Norris Endicott stood gazing down at his burden helplessly.
“We must carry her into the next room then—take hold of her shoulders, please ! No, the rest of you stand back! It needs a woman to take care of a woman!”
Detective Wiley strode over to the desk telephone and called police headquarters. He had just turned from the instrument when the door opened and Madelyn returned.
“She is all right, I assure you!” she cried hastily, as Adolph Van Sutton
started from his chair. “I have left her with Mr. Endicott. On the whole, he is the best nurse we could find. Sit down, Mr. Wiley. You will find that rocker more comfortable, Mr. Van Sutton. It is not a long story that I have to tell, but it contains its tragedy—and we have to thank Providence that it isn’t a double one!” She paused, as though marshalling her thoughts. Detective Wiley surveyed her uneasily.
“I am sorry to inform you, Mr. Van Sutton, that your daughter is a widow! Or perhaps—as I wish to be entirely frank—I should say that I am glad to convey this announcement to you!” Her slight, black figure bent forward. “Your daughter’s husband was one of the greatest scamps that ever went unpunished!” “But my daughter never had a husband, Miss Mack! You forget—”
“I forget nothing! Has it ever occurred to you that there might be a chapter in Miss Van Sutton’s life unknown to you? Pray keep your seat, my dear sir! You are a man of the world and a father. You have the knowledge of the one and the heart of the other. When I tell you that during your daughter’s college days— Nora, will you kindly pour Mr. Van Sutton a little of that brandy? Thank you !”
Madelyn did not change her position as the owner of “The Maples” gulped down the liquor. She waited until he had finished, chin still on her hand, her eyes never shifting.
“Let me give you the explanation of our mystery in a few words, Mr. Van Sutton. The wedding ceremony of Wednesday night was not performed—because your daughter was already a wife! Norris Endicott disappeared from ‘The Maples’ —eliminated himself—to save her from one of the most agonizing alternatives that ever confronted a woman !”
Behind me, I heard Detective Wiley give a cry of sudden comprehension.
“Incredible, impossible as it may seem, Miss Van Sutton did not know of the barrier to her marriage until the ceremony was less than an hour distant. What she would have done under other circumstances I don’t know. It was the man, who was waiting to lead her to the altar, who came to her rescue!”
Madelyn spoke in as emotionless a tone as though she were discussing the weather. There was even a bored note in her voice as though the glamor of the problem had left her—with its solution.
“To understand the situation, we must go back quite five years. When Miss Van Sutton was a senior at Vassar she fell in love with the matinee idol of a New York stock company. Reginald Winters was a man with a character as shallow as his heart. Bluntly, he knew of your wealth, and schemed to gain a part of it. You don’t find the situation unusual, do you? In the end, he persuaded Miss Bertha to elope with him. But he made a slight error. He did not investigate your disposition until after the marriage.
“He was too shrewd to risk an open avowal and a paternal storm. Rather a canny villain, as a matter of fact! He set on foot a series of inquiries which showed him, too late, that, rather than accept him
in your house, you would lose your
“A disinherited heiress did not appeal to him. Less than a week after the elopement, your daughter awoke to the fact that she was deserted. Mr. Van Sutton, you must calm yourself! I warn you I will not relate the sequel unless you do!
“Fate plays us queer pranks. Or is it Fate? I come now to the first suggestion of the fantastic. A year later, Miss Van Sutton read in a report of a wreck—somewhere in the West, I believe—that Reginald Winters had been killed. I don’t know what her emotions were. I imagine she was like the prisoner who inhales his first breath of freedom.
“I think you can guess the next chapter? Am I verging too much on the lines of the woman novelist? It was not until the evening which was to have made her the bride of Norris Endicott, that she discovered her ghastly mistake—which another hour would have made still more ghastly.
“Reginald Winters not only was living, but he had followed her to her father’s door. To make our melodrama complete, in a characteristic note he reminded her of the disagreeable fact that she was his wife.”
Madelyn’s eyes closed wearily. When she opened them, the lines of strain on her face seemed more intense than ever—in contrast to her light tone.
“In a novel, the bride driven to desperation, would have killed her Nemesis. But women of real life seldom have the desperation of those of romance. Bertha Van Sutton turned to the last refuge in the world that the woman in the novel would have sought. She carried her burden and her problem to the man who was waiting to place his wedding ring on her finger.
“She dismissed her maid, bolted the door of her room, and stepped out on the veranda below, with a dark cloak thrown over her white dress. Once at Norris Endicott’s apartment, it was a matter of only an instant to bring him to the window.
“He comprehended the situation in a flash. Of course, it was obvious enough— after the first shock. The marriage could not take place. But how could it be prevented? The girl could have told the truth, of course. Was there no other way? And then Endicott made his decision. He must disappear—until he could find and reckon with the man who was threatening her. A Don Quixotic plan? Could you have made a better one? He sent Miss Van Sutton back to her room, and made his preparations for flight.
“It was not until the clock struck eight, however, that he nerved himself to the crucial step, and swung out from the veranda to the lawn below. It was a drop of perhaps twelve feet, and he made it without accident. While Willard White was calling his name through the room, he was watching him from the shadows of the yard.
“Now we come again to the unkindness of Fate. He was threading his way through the shrubbery adjoining Thompson’s Creek when his foot caught in a vine and he was thrown to the ground. His head struck on a stone and for nearly
an hour he lay unconscious. When he struggled to his feet, his coat and collar were matted with blood.
“Without a though of possible consequences, he dropped them into the water.
I believe that is where you found them, Mr. Wiley. It was nearly daylight when he reached his rooms, almost exhausted.
“He had but one coherent thought. He must find Reginald Winters—without de! lay and without publicity. The note, which the actor had written to Miss Van Sutton, contained the address of his hotel —an obscure Fourth Avenue boardingiouse in New York. It was easy enough o find the hotel—but the man was out.
“All of that day and night he watched ,he building, like a hungry dog watches a jone. It was not until this morning that SVinters returned. Then he reappeared n the street so quickly that Endicott had 10 time to follow him up to his room.
“The actor swung off toward Broadway, with Endicott stubbornly following lim. At Thirty-fourth Street and Sixth Avenue, there was a tie-up of the surface ars, and the crossing was jammed. I ee you are anticipating what followed. Vinters plunged into the swarm of ■ehicles, absorbed in his thoughts. Just lefore he reached the curb, a dray swayed | iefore him. He dodged—too late. The earing team crushed him to the pave] rent.
“When they picked him up he was quite each
“It was over his body that Norris Endij ott and I met for the first time—with the ealization that Bertha Van Sutton was ree.
“As a matter of fact, I had been shadowing’ Mr. Endicott, as you would xpress it, Mr. Wiley, for several hours.” ladelyn pushed back her chair and miked across the room, drawing long, | eep breaths.
“Have I made myself quite clear?” “Are you a woman or a wizard?” asped Adolph Van Sutton.
Detective Wiley sprang to his feet. I’m doing what I never though I would ave to do, Miss Mack.” He held out his and. “Apologizing to a petticoat deîctive! But I don’t see how on earth you id it!”
Madelyn shrugged. “Now we are defending to the commonplace.” She ianed against the mantel with a yawn, dolph Van Sutton thrust an unlighted gar into his mouth.
“Have you done me the honor to reember a certain maxim of mine—that jthing is trivial in crime? But—this is ot a lecture on deduction!
“Miss Van Sutton’s connection with the fair really was plain after that first iwspaper report. By the way, Nora, did iu write the description of the bride’s ec’ding dress? I thought I recognized >ur style. May I congratulate you? rom the viewpoint—”
“Aren’t we veering from the subject, iss Mack?” Detective Wiley broke in ipatiently.
“Do you think so?” Madelyn’s eyes sted on his florid face. “I was particurly interested, Nora, in your account the bride’s coiffure. I agree with you at it was decidedly becoming. I rememr that you mentioned that her point
d’esprit veil was fastened by two loni pins, each with a sterling silver ball as ;
A sudden light broke over me. “An' the silver ball that was found in Norri Endicott’s room was one of those, o
Madelyn smiled. “Your peneratio: amazes me! It was your own report o the case that gave me my first and mos important clue before we left this houst
“I think you will agree that my infer ence was plain enough. Miss Van Sutto had visited Norris Endicott’s room afte she was dressed for the ceremony—con sequently just before his disappearanct She had kept the fact secret—and she wa so agitated that she did not miss the los of a valuable hair ornament. Why?
“There was another question that I pu to myself. How had she reached th room? The discovery of the silver ball o the sill suggested, of course, the windov What was under the window? Here found that a second-storey veranda e> tended along the entire side of the houst Miss Van Sutton then had only to step or of her own window to find a channel c communication ready for her. You see had a fairly good working foundation bt fore we entered ‘The Maples.’
“You may recall that I found much ii terest in Endicott’s ash trays. Have yc ever studied the relation of tobacco 1 human emotions. Mr. Wiley? You wi find it a singularly suggestive field t thought, I assure you.
“The number of cigarette-ends ir pressed you, perhaps, as it did me. I don know whether you noticed that, in near every case, the cigarette had only bes half consumed—and was so torn at crushed as to suggest that it had bes thrown aside in disgust. What was tl natural conclusion? Obviously, that man in an extreme state of nervous e citement had been smoking. Now, wh could agitate Norris Endicott so remar ably? Not his approaching wedding, sur ly! Then what? How about the sudds necessity of eliminating himself from th wedding?
“In the closet, you may remember, found a pair of the bridegroom’s shot In their way, their presence was excee ingly remarkable. On the hooks, aboi was the street suit which Endicott h; taken off in preparing for the ceremon The shoes, however, were the thin-solt expensive foot-wear that a man would u only on dress occasions. What had t come of the street shoes that you wou expect to find in the closet? My course reasoning was simple. After Endicc had dressed for the wedding, somethh had occurred which forced him to chan back to his heavier boots. What? T knowledge, of course, that he was abo to leave the house on a rough trip. \ now have the conclusion that he vanish of his own volition, that he knew whe and why he was going, and that he ma certain plans for leaving.
“It was the next point which I fou the most baffiing—and which led me ir my first error.” Madelyn came to a par by the rug of Peter the Great. The d rose, yawning, to his feet and thrust I nose into her hand.
“Perhaps you are wondering, Mr. V
Sutton, why I locked myself into the room after you and Miss Noraker had left? Frankly, I was not satisfied with my investigation—and I wanted to be alone. For instance, there was an object on Mr. Endicott’s dressing table that puzzled me greatly. Under ordinary circumstances I might not have noticed it. It was the second tray of ashes.
“They were not tobacco ashes. It didn’t need a second glance to tell me that they had come from a wood fire. Certainly there had not been a wood fire in that room—and, if there had been, why the necessity of preserving so small a part of the ashes?
“I will admit frankly that I was about to give up the problem in disgust when I remembered my examination of the waste paper basket and the grate. I had reasoned that Mr. Endicott’s flight had been made necessary after he entered the house. By what? What more likely than a message, perhaps a note, perhaps a telegram? In nine cases out of ten, a nervous man would have burned or destroyed such a message; but, in spite of my closest search, I found no traces of it. It was not until I was moving away from my saucer of ashes that my search was rewarded. In the tray was a single torn fragment of white paper.
“There were no others. Either the shreds had been carefully gathered up after the message was destroyed—which was hardly likely—or the fragment before me had been torn from a corner in a moment of agitation. But why had I found it in the ashes?”
Madelyn glanced up at Mr. Van Sutton with an abrupt turning of the subject. “Do you ever read ‘Ovid’?”
The owner of “The Maples” gazed at her with a frown of bewilderment.
“Really, you are missing a decided treat, Mr. Van Sutton. There is a quaint charm about those early Greek poets for which I have looked in vain in our modern literature. Ovid’s verses on love, for instance, and his whimsical letters to maidens who have fallen early victims to the divine passion—”
“Are you joking or torturing me, Miss Mack?”
Madelyn’s face grew suddenly grave.
“I am sorry. Believe me, I beg your pardon ! But—it was Ovid who showed me the purpose of the tray of ashes! In one of his most famous verses there is a recipe for sympathetic ink, designed to assist in the writing of discreet love letters, I believe.
“It is astonishingly simple. No mysterious chemicals, no visits to a pharmacist. Instead of ink, you write your letters in—milk! Of course, the words are invisible. Apparently you are leaving no trace on the paper. Rub the sheet with wood ashes, however, and your message is perfectly legible! I don’t know where Ovid found the recipe. It has survived, though, for seventeen hundred years. There is only one caution in its use. Make sure that the milk is not skimmed !
“A letter in invisible ink, you will admit, was thoroughly in keeping with the other details of our mystery. The encyclopedia in the library convinced me that I had made no mistake in my recipe—and then I turned to the butler, and my theory
received its first jar. Mr. Endicott had ordered no saucer of ashes. Moreover, no note, no telegram, not even a telephone call had come for him.
“For a moment, I was absolutely hopeless. Then I sent you from the room, Nora, so that Jenkins would not feel constrained to silence—and put the question which solved the problem.
“It was not Jenkins, however, who gave me my answer. It was Miss Van Sutton’s maid. The tray of ashes had not been ordered by the groom. It had been ordered—by the bride.
“I may as well add here that Miss Van Sutton explained to me later that this had been the method of communication between her and Reginald Winters. She had suggested it herself in her college days when Ovid was almost her daily companion. It was Winter’s custom to scribble his initial on the corner of the paper. This was her clue, of course, that the apparently blank sheet contained a communication.”
Madelyn stooped over the shaggy form of Peter the Great, and his tongue caressed her hand.
“It was at this juncture that Miss Van Sutton was ushered into the library. I did not ask her for the note. I was well enough acquainted with my sex to know that this would be useless. I told her what was in it—and requested her to tell me if I was wrong.”
Madelyn walked back to her chair, and, for the first time during her recital, the lines in her face relaxed.
“She gave me the note—I believe that is all. Of course, Winters’ address told me where I would find Norris Endicott, and I located him this morning. Is there anything else?”
There was no answer.
“Nora,” said Madelyn, turning to me. “Would you mind starting the phonograph? I think that Rubenstein’s ‘Melody in F’ would suit my mood perfectly. Thank you !”
Early in the following week the postponed wedding of Norris Endicott and Bertha Van Sutton was quietly performed, and the couple departed on a tour of Europe. The bride did not see the body of Reginald Winters. Months afterward, however, I learned that she had bought a secluded grave-lot for the man who had so nearly brought disaster to her life.
In Madelyn Mack’s relic case to-day. there are two objects of peculiar interest to me. One is a small, silver ball, perhaps three-quarters of an inch in diameter. The other is an apparently blank sheet oJ paper-—except for a bold, dashing “W’ in the upper right-hand corner.
Alan Sullivan's powerful story “Tht Things That Count,” will be concluded ir the September number. On announcing this feature in our July number we said: “The clear insight into the workings o¡ the human mind, the masterly handling o) throbbing, thrilling situations, that Mr Sullivan has displayed, make one mentall% compare this story ivith the best of dt Balzac.” Read the first installment w this number and judge if our appraisement has not been amply borne out.