PEARLS AND CORPUSCLES
THE FIRST of a series of mystifying detective stories, adventures of Donegal Dawn
IT WAS quite useless to attempt to disguise the fact that Jimmy Peyson’s house party was a flivver. As he tramped restlessly up and down by my side in the moonlight of Barney Hollow it was quite obvious that the strain was beginning to tell.
“For Heaven’s sake, Brad, be a good fellow,” he exclaimed. “Try to think of something to interest this oddmatched dozen. It isn’t that I care so much myself, but if they should fall out and have a general row before the end of the week, Lucy’s reputation as a hostess is gone.” “It seems tome,” I suggested, “thatyou have been coddling your misfits long enough. You have tried out everything in the line of amusement. Now. . .why not give them a jolt of some kind?”
Jimmy Peyson stopped quite suddenly, and stared at me for a time through the moonbeams.
“Something in the way of a shock, excitement... . ” I resumed; but Peyson’s thoughts, it seemed, had flitted far away. For the time being, I was totally out of it; but when he finally returned to earth, his manner was more brisk, confident even, and there was the suggestion of a smile about his lips.
“I’ll do it,” he declared, as though the matter were already accomplished. “We’ll get that wizard friend of yours, Donegal Dawn, to come down here to solve the mystery, and if that odd-matched dozen house-partyites don’t get a thrill out of it, then I miss my guess. We’ll stage a bill such as they never saw before. Brad, that was a wonderful
For a moment I merely stared at Jimmy Peyson, wondering if he had taken this absurd house party of his too seriously after all.
“Dawn?” I exclaimed, at length. “What does Dawn have to do with it? He is too busy solving murders and mysteries to come down here. . .. ”
“Exactly,” Jimmy broke in hurriedly. “That is just why we need Mr. Donegal Dawn. To-night we are going to have a burglary; and it will take all his skill to solve it.” A glimmer of mental light began to steal through. “Sounds easy,” I was forced to admit. “But whois going to be the burglar, and what is he going to steal?”
Jimmy tapped his chest sharply, in sudden decision. “I’m it,” he declared, “the best little porch-climber that ever twigged a sparkler. I’ll just lift Lucy’s rope of pearls. Panic in the morning; a house full of cackling excitement! And when it is over they’ll vote us the best little entertainers they ever came across.”
' I 'HOSE pearls of Lucy Peyson’s! Great, glimmering, translucent things, peering at one almost like human eyes. Almost did I fancy that I could see them glittering through the moonlight. There could be no doubt of it that they were worth a modest fortune; they were just the lure to tempt a daring burglar, and so at the same time they would lend true color to Peyson’s theft.
They were magnificent things. They had no right at all to be at Barney Hollow; for any summer home is not the place for a rope of pearls which could so easily kindle in the desires of man the fires of possession.
So I shook my head slowly.
“It could be done, Jimmy,” I conceded in a whisper, “but you mustn’t do it. It wouldn’t be right to shock Lucy in that way; besides, I don’t feel like getting Dawm down here on a fake case.”
Just there was the psychological moment, where either sanity or its converse must triumph; and for the instant I was quite certain that sanity was to have its way. I am convinced that Jimmy’s judgment would have prevailed, had it not been that a dark form suddenly separated itself from a cluster of ilex, and began to move in our direction.
Plainly it was the figure of a man; and when he stepped out into the moonlight, Peyson shrugged his shoulders nervously.
“I say, Peyson, old top, you mustn’t mind my listen-
ing in on you fellows; but the voice, even the way you chaps were talking, carries the deuce of a way on a night like this.” The words at once betrayed the man as Phillips, even had I not already recognized him. Phillips was one of those odd-matched pieces in Peyson’s unharmonious human design. I knew nothing about him, except that he had arrived two nights before; and all Jimmy himself had been able to say was that Phillips had come with a letter of introduction from one of his big British mercantile customers, and that the man was knocking about in the hope of shaking off a lingering fever or something of that sort which he had picked up in India.
“You mustn’t mind me,” Phillips went on, since Jimmy merely stared at him. “But I say, where do I come into it?”
Peyson failed fully to understand, and he said as much, though in the politest manner possible. Phillips laughed, rather musically.
“But don’t you see, old top, that you’re knocking the excitement right out from under me,” he explained, “I couldn’t help but hear the plot, and it’s a capital one; but since I know it’s a fake, the fun’s all gone for me.”
pHILLIPS, though seemingly a perfect gentleman, said -*• it in a slightly peevish manner, with the vaguest suggestion of the child who has had some toy snatched from its fingers; but that, however, was merely indicative of the temper of the whole household.
“Do you mean you want to help with the burglary?” Jimmy asked flatly.
But Phillips threw out his hand in a deprecating gesture.
“May the fates forbid!” he exclaimed. “But you’re a decent chap, Peyson, so I thought you wouldn’t mind putting up a little wager. I’ll take that chappie Dawn’s side of il—tha' i¡. ¿_ts you inside twenty-four hours.”
That, of course, turned the tide from judgment to insanity; and I remember that it was slightly after midnight when he finally entered the summer palace with an ironclad agi eement that Jimmy was to do the burglary alone,
that I was to be awakened early in the morning in order to wire to Donegal Dawn; that I was to be as neutral as conditions permitted; and that neither of the two was to do a single thing either to aid or to hinder Dawn in his investigations. The wager was for a thousand dollars.
When we entered the main living-room, it was no surprise to find a litter of cocktail glasses about the tables, for Peyson, in his desperation, had overlooked nothing which was even remotely related to the duties of an ideal host; nor was it a surprise to find another of those oddlymatched pieces of guesthood dallying near the fireplace with a half-emptied glass near one hand and a reversed magazine in the other.
For that was typical of Francis LeRoy; except that now the man really seemed unconscious of the fact that the magazine was upside down and that he was drowsing just a bit too conspicuously to be proper in a polite guest. LeRoy was not popular with the men. That was obvious from the inconsiderate manner in which Peyson stamped into the room; but it had been most noticeable during the past week that whatever LeRoy lacked in popularity among his male associates, he made up by the attention he received from the women.
Undoubtedly, LeRoy was a ladies’ man, and the one real masculine thing about him was this nightly habit of dallying by the fireplace after the ladies had withdrawn to their rooms.
Only to-night, LeRoy appeared to have gone just a trifle farther than usual; so that Peyson had to stamp three times before the man finally blinked and stretched himself erect.
“Pardon me, frightfully drowsy, you know,” LeRoy muttered a vague apology, “I’ll be toddling along now.”
T^VEN Phillips noticed the man’s disheveled air as he made his unsteady way across the room and up the broad steps to the bed-room suites above, and he shook his head in disapproval.
“You know, you shouldn’t let them do that, Peyson,” -he rebuked. “Who is the man, anyway?”
Jimmy stared somewhat blankly.
“Blowed if I can tell you,” he admitted in the end. “Lucy found him somewhere, and he makes a fair pet cat for the ladies to stroke on rainy days.... By gad, come to think of it, there should be a fellow-feeling between you two boys. He was down South last winter, and from what they tell me, he is still toting a pretty husky cjse of malaria....Have a swig?”
Phillips didn’t object; neither did I. One needs an occasional bracer after a week at a house-party of that type.
We had both practically drained our glasses before we put them down and glanced at each other in wonder.
“What’s the matter?” Jimmy demanded.
“Home brew?” Phillips laughed a bit harshly. “It’s bitter, anyway.”
1 Peyson tasted the stuff, and promptly wrinkled his lips.
“Dregs,” he pronounced. “Too near the bottom, that’s all. You can’t get the kind of stuff you used to. Wait, I’ll get another bottle.” Yet, before Peyson returned from the cellar,I must admit that a certain drowsiness was stealing about me; the hour was late and I was quite indifferent to further cocktails. As Phillips seemed to be in the same mood, we left Jimmy Peyson there, and I can remember quite distinctly seeing him pouring the dregs back into a bottle and storing it away in the buffet.
WHEN I came out of some sort of a frantic struggle with myself, I found Jimmy Peyson’s face leaning over me, and there was a worried scowl marring the smoothness of his forehead.
“What the deuce is wrong with this household anyway?” Jimmy demanded, as he shook me again.
“You’re the second one I’ve had to shake awake this morning, and the dickens only knows how many more there will be, .the way things are running. Don’t you know that there’s been a burglary, and that you’ve got to send a wire off to get the wizard here?”
Even then it required a stiff effort on my part before my brain would function.
“It’s nine o’clock; you should have been up an hour ago,” Jimmy spoke again. “As a matter of fact, you were such a laggard that I sent the telegram and signed your name to it.
You had better get down there and do a little advance work for Donegal Dawn, or every footprint will be tramped out of sight. The gardener has lost his head.”
There was, as Jimmy had said, need for my presence, if anything in the way of even the thinnest of clues was to be saved for Donegal Dawn. For Phillips, two or three of the women guests, Lucy Peyson and almost as many servants were fluttering about with rather more marked traces of excitement than even Peyson could have hoped for.
“They’re gone, every one of them, the whole string of pearls,” Mrs. Grudgerhastened to inform me in a flurried manner. “Poor Lucy! But she is taking it very well, don’t you think? Oh, Mr. Phillips, you were the last man downstairs last night, they tell me.
Did you see anybody strange about?”
There are occasions such as that when drama means more to the souls of people than do pearls; and I could tell instantly from a glance at Jimmy Peyson, that he was being amply repaid for his trouble. Whát I could not be entirely certain about was whether or not he had told Lucy the truth. At any rate, she was outwardly calm.
“It must have happened this way,” Peyson informed me, in the hearing of all, simply because I chanced to be the latest to arrive.
■“The burglar must have broken through this library window, and after that it was easy to find his way upstairs and get the pearls. He must have gone out of one of the side doors, for I found it unlatched this morning.”
My duty, of course, was to save all I possibly could for Donegal Dawn to work upon, and in that I was only partially successful.
For the mere fact that Peyson announced that a famous criminologist had been sent for to solve the case only added to my difficulties. Every precious member of the house party insisted upon searching for his own clues; there were at least a half-dozen who bloomed into professional detectives on the spot, and some were even willing to gamble on the color of the burglar’s hair.
So it was with considerable effort that I finally succeeded in barricading off a portion of the library and placing two maids on guard with absolute instructions that not another thing should be touched. I took up my own position with Barney, the gardener, just outside the broken window.
'T'HAT house party was experiencing a keen thrill such A as few groups of the kind ever feel, and it was only when I discovered a few red stains upon the grass under the window that I was able to start them off over various portions of the grounds searching for traces of blood.
It was just following the beginning of that Search that Jimmy Peyson really startled me.
“That person LeRoy isn’t up yet,” he informed me, with a feeble attempt at unconcern. “Rankin, the butler, says he hasn’t been able to make him hear, and it’s nearly eleven o’clock. Do you think the poor beggar could have taken too much last night? He isn’t at all well, you know; and that malaria, or whatever else it was he caught down South last winter, hangs to a person like the very mischief.” “It seems to me that everybody slept late, if what I hear is true,” I replied indifferently, for I had enough troubles without worrying about LeRoy.
“It’s dashed funny,” Jimmy agreed, and I could see that there was something upon his mind which he had not yet confided to me. “Everybody did oversleep, except myself and the servants. But—Hello, what’s this?”
The object of Peyson’s interest was an automobile which -dashed off the main road up the driveway, and which, I •could be quite certain, totally thrust all thought of the ■somnolent LeRoy into the background.
“It’s Dawn,” I declared, with considerable gratitude. “Thank goodness he’s here. I’ve had enough of this watchdog stuff. He must have made a fast run from the city.” Donegal Dawn, it appeared, had instructed the chauffeur that the speed regulations had been temporarily suspended for his benefit; and that, he explained instantly, was because of the peculiarly strong wording of my telegram. So, to hide my confusion, I took possession of his .grip; and it was only a matter of brief minutes before IDawn had heard the preliminary statements and was
going about his investigations in his own way. For there had been but two short stories to be told. Rankin, the butler, recited in detail how he had found the broken library window and the unlatched side door, and of how he had immediately notified Mr. Peyson; but beyond that he had no information to give. Peyson’s statement was but little more illuminative.
“Rankin wakened me quite early,” Jimmy informed Dawn. “I called to Mrs. Peyson, and when she didn’t answer, I went into her room. I saw instantly that her jewel box was open and that the pearls were gone. . . .” “You looked for the pearls at once?” Dawn interrupted. “Yes. Rankin had been somewhat excited. He told me the house had been burglarized, so naturally I thought first of Mrs. Peyson’s pearls. They were the only really valuable piece of jewelry in the house, and I w as quite certain that if a burglar had entered the place, it must have been the pearls he was after. When I had succeeded in waking Mrs. Peyson, I knew at once that the string had been stolen.”
DONEGAL DAWN, as was characteristic of him on those scattered occasions when I had previously seen him at work, broke off suddenly, as though no longer interested in Jimmy’s statement. He walked briskly toward the broken window around which I had managed to hold the human barricade; and it was strange to see the keen interest which his every movement aroused. They were flocking about like eager ring-side spectators, and as Jimmy Peyson noticed this, I could see a keener light in his eyes.
“Got them on a common ground at last,” he whispered, in passing, “and that is curiosity.”
But there was no opportunity for me to answer, since Donegal Dawn was claiming my full attention.
“Good work, Bradly,” he complimented. “You may have saved me a lot of work by guarding this window. Now, Brad, if you will kindly open that grip and be ready to hand me anything I may need.”
With that, he dropped upon his knees before the window, plucked a blade of grass and held it up to the sun. It was one of those which I had already seen was stained with red.
“W’e’ve been searching all over the grounds for more blood,” Mrs. Grudger called out excitedly, “I think we’ve found a couple of drops behind the garage.”
“Thank you,” Dawn returned succinctly, “Brad, detail somebody to guard it.”
This lot fell to the husband of Mrs. Grudger, who, being the lady to discover the clue, w-as manifestly unwilling that the honor should pass from the family. From that moment, Dawn worked mechanically, almost as though unconscious of the strange cluster of excited spectators about him.
“Please reach me some of that dilute hydrochloric acid, Brad,” Dawn spoke barely above a whisper; and as he scraped the red coating from the blade of grass and dropped it into the liquid, even the more excited ones appreciated that the criminologist was making some test just a trifle beyond their comprehension.
It was Phillips who seemed to grasp the meaning of that test.
“Is it blood?” he asked, and his voice sounded unnatural through the silence.
Dawn mumbled some vague reply, which was his way; then rose quickly to his feet.
“The compass, please,” he muttered again. “These winding roads have me all mixed up in my directions.”
The compass, it appeared, occupied some place in his chain of investigations, for he abruptly walked completely round the house, with the cluster of spectators behind him, and in his slow progress he appeared to be studying each window and doorway carefully, and noting at the same time all its surroundings.
“That, mob, I suppose, has been chasing all over the grounds all morning?” Dawn grumbled. “They had three hours the start of me, and in that time they must have trampled everything out of sight. Still there may be a footprint somewhere.”
THIS time Dawn remained upon his hands and knees below the broken window for a considerable length of time, and since the past had taught me something of the man’s mannerisms, I was conscious that he had discovered something of interest. Again he took out the compass, as though doubtful of the former reading; then abruptly he shot a question across his shoulder.
“Was it moonlight here last night?” “Perfect moonlight,” Phillips answered; instantly Dawn appeared to lose all interest in that point.
Almost before Phillips had replied, he was upon his feet again, examining the broken pane of glass. The window,
I had observed, was of the swinging variety, normally held fast by a catch inside; and it was just above this catch that the glass had been broken -away. But Dawn, I could see, was examining the inner surface of the glass with great interest; then just as abruptly his interest in that vanished, and he beckoned to me.
“We will take a look over the inside of that room, Brad,” he remarked casually. "Bring along the grip, • please. The rest, if you please, will remain outside.”
The library of Barney Hollow was one of those spacious roc ms elegantly fitted up with furniture far beyond the reeds of any summer home; and just here, as we were passing through the main doorway of the house on the way to the library, Donegal Dawn made an astonishing remark.
“Don’t you think Peyson is a bit extravagant to fit up this place with garpike leather cushions?” heasked so casually that, trained though I was to look for the unexpected, I could net help staring in amazement.
“Yes, they’re in the main living-room,” I managed to gasp. “But how in the world did you know? It is just across from the library, and you couldn t possibly have seen from the library.”
“I didn’t see,” he returned calmly. “Now please help me, Brad. What I want is one of those leather cushions whose surface has recently been cut or scratched. Don t miss one of them.”
Though considerably mystified by this apparent digression from the purpose of Dawn's visit, I still searched carefully through the living-room, for the kind of a cushion which Dawn wanted. In the end, however, he found it himself; and just there I was slightly humiliated to notice that it was one of those cushions which I myself had previously examined.
But Dawn had a microscope upon ils surface, and was working through the tiny scratches and punctures with a pair of tweezers. Just as I reached him. he gave a satisfiet exclamation, and rose to his feet again.
“I would like to meet Mrs. I'evson." he remarked, “Please introduce me.”
Continued on page 50
Continued from page 25
' I 'HE introduction, it was obvious, occasioned considerable heartburning among those who were overlooked; and,strangely enough, Dawn signified that he, Mrs. Peyson and I should take a stroll about the grounds. The thing seemed aimless, for the whole conversation was devoted to drawing out Lucy Peyson into a description of her magnificent jewels. To me it seemed absurd, and yet I knew that on such occasions Donegal Dawn made never a move without a motive.
Finally, we three were alone on the side of the house opposite the broken window; and just there Dawn seemed to forget all about his case, and to give himself up to the admiration of Mrs. Peyson’s wonderful borderings of flowers which skirted that full length of the house. There were some magnificent rhododendrons just breaking into bloom, and Dawn was conversing fluently about their culture when he stopped abruptly in front of a French window whose entrance was completely blocked by a handsome bank of this floral beauty. That window, I recalled, faced upon the main living room.
Dawn took hold of one of the most handsome blooms, and made as though to jerk it rudely from the stem.
Lucy Peyson’s breath caught sharply, and she reached forward, as though to save some cherished treasure; then instantly she laughed, like one who is slightly ashamed of some impulsive action.
“I see you are unusually fond of your rhododendrons,” Dawn laughed easily.
“Pick it, Mr. Dawn, if you care for one,” Lucy Peyson now went to the other extreme, “I am too fond of these blooms, I fear; at least Jimmy says so, and he teases me about it. But there are times when I almost feel that they know me.”
Dawn nodded in understanding, and by the manner in which he now led the way back to the curious group, I knew that some purpose had been served.
We had gone but a few yards before Mrs. Peyson gave a little muttered exclamation.
"Mr. LeRoy seems to have recovered,” she declared, “and I am so glad. I feared that something serious might be wrong with him.”
“Recovered from what?” Dawn asked, with that habit of his of overlooking not even the least of seeming clues.
“I hardly know,” Mrs. Peyson laughed, “Rankin, the butler, told me that it was extremely difficult to waken Mr. LeRoy this morning.” Then just there the woman paused, and her eyes grew noticeably wider. “I wonder, Mr. Dawn, if that could have anything to do with the robbery. There is another mystery here, for there seems to have been a perfect epidemic of over-sleeping this morning. Now I wonder. . . .”
So did Donegal Dawn wonder. His brightening eyes told that.
“What could possibly account for it?” he murmured.
“I am sure I don’t know,” Mrs. Peyson replied in a puzzled way, “I have been trying to think what we were doing yesterday, but it was just the ordinary things, and I am certain none of us took more than the one cocktail last night. You may think we are daring, Mr. Dawn, but we do that here; perhaps, out of spite.”
TT APPEARED, however, that it was not *■ the motive which interested Donegal Dawn; for it became quite obvious to me that he had suddenly grown weary of the woman’s company. The moment we were alone, he asked:
“Say, Brad, what was that stuff they were drinking last night? Did you have any of it?”
“A little, I am afraid,” I confessed.
“Is there any of it left?”
“There is. At least I saw Peyson put a bottle away in the buffet. There was an inch of it left.”
That, I felt, was not betraying my trust; nor did I think I was exceeding my duty when I showed Dawn where the liquor had been placed. Yet when he opened the door of the compartment which I had indicated, he gave a little exclamation of astonishment.
The bottle, it was plain now, was perfectly empty.
“I’ll take it with me,” he said.
After that, Dawn had no comments to make. After a trip to the garage, where
he inspected the red splashings on the ground and even climbed into the loft, he signified that he must be alone.
“I want to lock over Mrs. Peyson’s room without all that tribe tracking after ’ me,” he explained. “So just be a good fellow, Brad, and keep them away.”
“Have you found any valuable clues?”
I could not help but ask; but Dawn merely smiled in his baffling way.
It was an hour before he came down again, and this time he was carrying something under one arm, carefully wrapped in paper, while in the other hand was the inevitable grip. His eyes, I could see, were unusually bright, and while that looked bad for Jimmy Peyson, the man refused to divulge so much as a single word as to his findings.
"You can stand on guard now, outside the library,” was the best he could do for me; but that best, as may be imagined, was quite enough to keep that oddly-matched dozen straining forward and plying me with all manner of strange questions.
In that hour during which I remained the official guard over Donegal Dawn’s secret operations, I am quite certain that the burglary was solved in a dozen ways. But what amused me the most was the manner in which some of the guests began to look with strange glances at each other, as though implying things which they dare not put, into words; and in that hour I came to appreciate that our psychology for shocking the ill-mated dozen into mutual understanding was built up on a foundation of the most crumbly sand, and was likely to split them wider than ever.
It was with thankfulness, therefore, that I finally heard Dawn’s summons from the inside.
TAONEGAL DAWN ran his glance ^ slowly and measuringly over the whole gathering; then he turned calmly aside to finger for a moment some of the paraphernalia of his wizard trade, as it lay spread out upon the library table.
“You are quite certain, Mr. Peyson, that no person is missing,” he asked, “Not so much as a single servant?”
There was something in his manner which caused a slight shiver of anticipation to pass through the gathering. Perhaps it was the spectacle of one of two queer instruments which lay upon the table; either that, or Dawn’s casual confidence.
“We are all here,” Jimmy Peyson nodded, and I could see that he was beginning to enjoy himself hugely.
“It is, of course, an inside job,” Dawn spoke suddenly.
For a moment only, Dawn toyed with the mechanism of an instrument which I recognized as a spectroscope; then the keen eye which he turned upon the audience seemed to be full reward for all Jimmy Peyson’s trouble.
“The case has been very interesting,” he remarked, “chiefly because of its inconsistencies, and while there are still some of the burglar’s motives which I do not pretend to understand, it is rather satisfying to know that he is with us at this moment. Bradley, will you kindly keep guard upon the doorway!”
From the queer glances which swept about the room, it became evident that this odd-matched gathering was at last getting its thrill; but Dawn gave them scant time for restlessness.
“In the first place,” he began distinctly, “the entrance through the library window was a fake.”
Peyson’s features sobered swiftly.
“How do you know that?” he demanded.
“Possibly the burglar did not know that dilute hydrochloric acid will dissolve red paint, because of the iron in it, but that it will not dissolve blood,” Dawn explained. “The paint stains were fresh, which meant, on the face of it, that some person had gone to some trouble to make an investigator think it was blood. Therefore, as a premise, I had the presumption that there was a fake somewhere. I found my proof of the fake in those little pebbly marks which you see on the inside of the window pane which was partly broken. Those marks are also quite distinct on
the broken glass: and you can make them at any time by taking a window which is slightly dusty, open it from a warm room into a cool night, and hold a patterned cushion against it. The sudden gathering of moisture on the dusty surface of the glass makes a fine background for leaving the pattern of the cushion. That is what happened last night; but the strange part of it is this . How, Mr. Peyson, could a person hold a cushion from the inside of the house up against the inner surface of the window pane, in order to deaden the noise while he broke the pane from the outside?”
Jimmy Peyson gave a slight start of amazement.
“Gad! I don’t know,” he exclaimed.
“Here is the cushion he used, with glass still in it, and the answer is quite simple,” Dawn resumed. “It was an inside job, and the man merely left the broken window though it was crudely done, and the paint marks, as false clues. Later in the day, I strengthened that theory by discovering that the paint marks behind the garage had been made while the man was climbing into the loft to conceal the paint can.
;«X TEXT, knowing it was an inside job,
lN I made a very puzzling discovery, and it presents a problem which, I must admit, I have not yet solved. The compass, of course, told me that the library window was facing the South. It was full moon last night. Therefore, the person who broke that window chose to do his work out in the open glare of the moonlight, where he could be seen by any person passing along the roadway, instead of breaking in on the darkened side of the house where he could not be seen. There had to be some motive for that; for not even a burglar will act without a motive. I did not discover why the man took the extra chance, until I noticed that wonder ful bank of rhododendrons along the North side of the house, and found out that Mrs. Peyson is unusually fond of them.”
Lucy Peyson rose partly to her feet, in a swift motion.
“What can you possibly mean?” she demanded. “You don’t mean that I . . .?”
“Certainly not, my dear lady,” Dawn interrupted. “All I mean is that the burglar has a strange streak of sentiment within him. Rather than ruin any of your rhododendrons, he takes an extra chance of being caught. Which means, on the face of it, that he must have known of your fondness for those flowers. Another proof, by the way, that it was an inside job; yet the inconsistency of the man who would save your rhododendrons and steal your pearls is the point which I do not understand.”
Dawn began to stroll slowly back and forth before the library table. Jimmy Peyson laughed suddenly.
“You haven’t named the man,” he said, rather sharply.
“He is named. . there!” Dawn waved his hand towards the spectroscope. “For, having learned that this work in the library was a fake, I naturally searched elsewhere. I was fortunate enough to find the proofs of the actual burglary on the balcony outside Mr. Peyson’s room; so if yeu will wait a moment, Mr. Peyson, we will let this spectroscope of mine name the person. It never lies.”
Dawn was so casual that Jimmy Peyson laughed again, with a harsh note in his
“You mean it was one of the servants?” he demanded.
“Or one of the guests,” Dawn enlarged the criminal range. “The thing is perfectly simple. You see this bottle?”
' I 'HE object which Dawn held before their gaze was the empty cocktail bottle which I had retrieved from the buffet.
“You may be interested to know,” he explained, “that the bitter taste in your cocktails last night was caused by veronal, a drug which likewise accounted for this morning’s epidemic of over-sleeping. The veronal, of course, was placed in the liquor by some person who knows the habits of the household.”
“And a stiff dose I got of it,” the man LeRoy interposed.
“Precisely,” Dawn returned. “I have no doubt even that the man who put it
there took some himself. Indications are that he was clever enough for that.”
Glances, I could see, shifted sideways at Francis LeRoy; and Dawn, perceiving that, hurried on to another point.
“But that does not matter now,” he declared. “For the microscope and the spectroscope tell the story of the burglary. Fortunately I found a smear of blood on a lower outside panel of the French window leading from Mrs. Peyson’s room to the balcony. Entrance to the room was made by a man who knows his-business. An extremely fine hole was bored in the window glass below the catch, and a wire was thrust through that to open the window; but that glass-boring instrument is dangerous. A smear of blood was left. It answers the Teichmann test; and, Mr. Peyson, it tells a peculiar story...”
Peyson, somewhat sobered, stepped forward to the library table; it was obvious that the strain of an unnatural tension was holding the gathering in its grip.
“Science is an interesting thing,” Dawn resumed. "It tells us that the blood corpuscles of the human being are round. It gives us other proofs, of course, of human blood. This smear which I found upon Mrs. Peyson’s window answered all tests, except the one of the round corpuscles. In this case they were slightly oval.
“You appreciate now how the identity of the criminal becomes a simple thing; for corpuscles in the human blood, other than the round, are due only to a certain well-defined cause.
“It merely remains for us to find the person in this room who has those slightlyoval blood corpuscles.”
Dawn glanced around the nervous cluster of guests and servants as though searching the face of each for something which was plain to him, but which remained a secret to others. Just now the silence was hanging above them, almost like a cloud.
“The finding of such corpuscles is one of the minor problems of science,” Dawn went on more slowly. “For there are certain diseases which produce them. Chief among them is yellow fever; so if there is any person here who has suffered recently from any of those tropical fevers, he or she was the person who took Mrs. Peyson’s pearls.”
The nervous tension among the guests, I could see, was increasing.
LEROY had suddenly gone [white, and now he sat down as though weakening under some secret drain upon his energies.
Peyson, it was plain, was uncertain whether to be amused or worried. He glanced, a trifle maliciously, I thought, at Phillips: but when the latter shifted nervously, Jimmy turned his eyes away again.
Then Jimmy laughed once more with a touch of restlessness.
“You’re wrong, Dawn,” he exclaimed, “Even if your theory were right, it might have been any person recovering from fever, and not one of the persons here.” Donegal Dawn’s smile was cold and confident.
“The spectroscope which I have before me answers that, if the veronal did not,” he declared. “The mere use of veronal indicates a knowledge of household habits; but the spectroscope tells us something even more peculiar than did the microscope. It is an extremely valuable instniment in such cases; and while it is quite technical, I will tell you simply that it is used extensively for forming and analyzing the spectra of the rays emitted by various bodiep and substances. But. .. .” Dawn paused quite naturally to make an adjustment to the instrument, and through the silence I could hear the restless shuffling of feet and hands.
“......its chief value in this case lies
in the fact that a person accustomed to the use of the spectroscope can tell quite readily by the examination of a blood stain the number of days since it was made. The age of the stain is betrayed by the arrangement of the dark absorption bands in the spectrum; but we need not go into that here. It is enough for you to know that I have located the approximate date on which that hole was cut through Mrs. Peyson’s window.”
Through the new silence which followed, it became evident to me that Jimmy Peyson was struggling between astonishment and the desire to laugh; but that struggle ended with an abrupt question.
“Well, when did the burglar make his plans?” he asked, with another glance at Phillips which made the man wince. There was something almost of alarm in Phillips’ manner, and that must have been apparent to Dawn as he glanced about the strange circle.
“At least a week ago,” Dawn informed. “The microscope tells us the burglar was a man with yellow fever. The spectroscope tells us that he has been around the household at least a week. No outsider would have waited a week when he could have robbed at once. So the trail has narrowed down......to someone now be-
Individuals and groups, caught under strain, re-act in different ways. These people sat quite still, staring straight before them, as though each instant were a precious thing; and I could not help but notice that they no longer glanced cur-, iously at Francis LeRoy.
“If the person chooses to admit it, things would be simplified,” Dawn still spoke in his passionless voice.
For a moment, no one moved.
THEN Jimmy Peyson sat down upon the edge of the library table, quite at his ease.
“It has been unusual,” he spoke evenly. “But we had better stop it. You are quite right, Mr. Dawn, about that fake entrance through the library window, but when it comes to tracking the burglary down to one of my guests, that is going too far. For I did it myself; here are the pearls!” Peyson jerked the string of jewels from his pocket, and I could tell instantly, from the swift shade of disappointment which crossed Dawn’s face, that he was deeply depressed by this sudden dénouement. Yet strangely enough, it was some queer streak in the case, rather than the annoyance of it, which engrossed his thoughts.
Dawn took the pearls from Peyson’s outstretched hand, and allowed them to slip slowly through his fingers; and while he studied them, as though searching for some missing link in his theory, Jimmy began to talk swiftly.
“You mustn’t feel cut up about it, Mr. Dawn. We just did it to provide a little variety of entertainment for the guests. I presumed on your good nature, I know; but......”
When Dawn looked up again, I could see that he had scarcely heard a word of Peyson’s apology.
“The burglar, as I said, must be one of the household,” he resumed. “These things which I hold in my hand are admirably done; but, Mr. Peyson, they are not pearls. They are paste!”
Jimmy sprang to his feet in wonder. “They are not the pearls?”
Lucy Peyson hurried forward, and after a quick examination, she sank back into a chair weakly.
“No. They are not the pearls,” she pronounced.
“Gad!” Jimmy’s eyes roved about in amazement; then at last he found words. “So they have been stolen, after all?” “So it would seem,” Dawn agreed.
If the silence at early times had been tense, it now became electric.
“What are we going to do about it?” Jimmy asked, in a strange voice.
Dawn’s manner had suddenly become dominating; and when he spoke his voice was crisp with command.
“We will take a probing of blood from each person here,” he decided. “It should be an easy matter to find those oval corpuscles......”
This time there was a break in the tension. It came in the form of a muttered groan. A woman screamed, and for a moment there was fluttering confusion.
“It’s all right,” Phillips’ voice sounded, at length. “I.eRoy has fainted, that is all. Can’t we carry him out into the air?” Donegal Dawrn nodded sharply.
“Of course,” he agreed. “The blood tests nowLwould seem unnecessary.”
NOW that matters have smoothed out again, one can look back upon the incidents with greater calm. Dawn still refers occasionally to the case as an interesting one, chiefly, as he puts it, from its inconsistencies; and he agrees that it was quite the proper thing that Jimmy Peyson should be merciful towards Francis LeRoy.
“It isn’t the same as though the beggar actually got away with the pearls,” Dawn explained. “Besides, he isn’t a professional. He left the country quietly, and I doubt if we ever hear of him again. But I have been wondering. . . When is Jimmy Peyson| going to hold his next house party?”