Hand and Ring, by Anna Katharine Green

40. In the Prison.

The jury passing on the prisoner’s life,

May in the sworn twelve have a thief or two

Guiltier than him they try.

Measure for Measure.

Such welcome and unwelcome things at once

’Tis hard to reconcile.

Macbeth.

MR. MANSELL sat in his cell, the prey of gloomy and perturbed thought. He knew Mr. Orcutt was dead; he had been told of it early in the morning by his jailer, but of the circumstances which attended that death he knew nothing, save that the lawyer had been struck by a limb falling from a tree in his own garden.

The few moments during which the court had met for the purpose of re-adjournment had added but little to his enlightenment. A marked reserve had characterized the whole proceedings; and though an indefinable instinct had told him that in some mysterious way his cause had been helped rather than injured by this calamity to his counsel, he found no one ready to volunteer those explanations which his great interest in the matter certainly demanded. The hour, therefore, which he spent in solitude upon his return to prison was one of great anxiety, and it was quite a welcome relief when the cell door opened and the keeper ushered in a strange gentleman. Supposing it to be the new counsel he had chosen at haphazard from a list of names that had been offered him, Mr. Mansell rose. But a second glance assured him he had made a mistake in supposing this person to be a lawyer, and stepping back he awaited his approach with mingled curiosity and reserve.

The stranger, who seemed to be perfectly at home in the narrow quarters in which he found himself, advanced with a frank air.

“My name is Gryce,” said he, “and I am a detective. The District Attorney, who, as you know, has been placed in a very embarrassing situation by the events of the last two days, has accepted my services in connection with those of the two men already employed by him, in the hope that my greater experience may assist him in determining which, of all the persons who have been accused, or who have accused themselves, of murdering Mrs. Clemmens, is the actual perpetrator of that deed. Do you require any further assurance of my being in the confidence of Mr. Ferris than the fact that I am here, and in full liberty to talk with you?”

“No,” returned the other, after a short but close study of his visitor.

“Very well, then,” continued the detective, with a comfortable air of ease, “I will speak to the point; and the first thing I will say is, that upon looking at the evidence against you, and hearing what I have heard from various sources since I came to town, I know you are not the man who killed Mrs. Clemmens. To be sure, you have declined to explain certain points, but I think you can explain them, and if you will only inform me ——”

“Pardon me,” interrupted Mr. Mansell, gravely; “but you say you are a detective. Now, I have no information to give a detective.”

“Are you sure?” was the imperturbable query.

“Quite,” was the quick reply.

“You are then determined upon going to the scaffold, whether or no?” remarked Mr. Gryce, somewhat grimly.

“Yes, if to escape it I must confide in a detective.”

“Then you do wrong,” declared the other; “as I will immediately proceed to show you. Mr. Mansell, you are, of course, aware of the manner of Mr. Orcutt’s death?”

“I know he was struck by a falling limb.”

“Do you know what he was doing when this occurred?”

“No.”

“He was escorting Miss Dare down to the gate.”

The prisoner, whose countenance had brightened at the mention of his lawyer, turned a deadly white at this.

“And — and was Miss Dare hurt?” he asked.

The detective shook his head.

“Then why do you tell me this?”

“Because it has much to do with the occasion of my coming here, Mr. Mansell,” proceeded Mr. Gryce, in that tone of completely understanding himself which he knew so well how to assume with men of the prisoner’s stamp. “I am going to speak to you without circumlocution or disguise. I am going to put your position before you just as it is. You are on trial for a murder of which not only yourself, but another man, was suspected. Why are you on trial instead of him? Because you were reticent in regard to certain matters which common-sense would say you ought to be able to explain. Why were you reticent? There can be but one answer. Because you feared to implicate another person, for whose happiness and honor you had more regard than for your own. Who was that other person? The woman who stood up in court yesterday and declared she had herself committed this crime. What is the conclusion? You believe, and have always believed, Miss Dare to be the assassin of Mrs. Clemmens.”

The prisoner, whose pallor had increased with every word the detective uttered, leaped to his feet at this last sentence.

“You have no right to say that!” he vehemently asseverated. “What do you know of my thoughts or my beliefs? Do I carry my convictions on my sleeve? I am not the man to betray my ideas or feelings to the world.”

Mr. Gryce smiled. To be sure, this expression of silent complacency was directed to the grating of the window overhead, but it was none the less effectual on that account. Mr. Mansell, despite his self-command, began to look uneasy.

“Prove your words!” he cried. “Show that these have been my convictions!”

“Very well,” returned Mr. Gryce. “Why were you so long silent about the ring? Because you did not wish to compromise Miss Dare by declaring she did not return it to you, as she had said. Why did you try to stop her in the midst of her testimony yesterday? Because you saw it was going to end in confession. Finally, why did you throw aside your defence, and instead of proclaiming yourself guilty, simply tell how you were able to reach Monteith Quarry Station in ninety minutes? Because you feared her guilt would be confirmed if her statements were investigated, and were willing to sacrifice every thing but the truth in order to save her.”

“You give me credit for a great deal of generosity,” coldly replied the prisoner. “After the evidence brought against me by the prosecution, I should think my guilt would be accepted as proved the moment I showed that I had not left Mrs. Clemmens’ house at the time she was believed to be murdered.”

“And so it would,” responded Mr. Gryce, “if the prosecution had not seen reason to believe that the moment of Mrs. Clemmens’ death has been put too early. We now think she was not struck till some time after twelve, instead of five minutes before.”

“Indeed?” said Mr. Mansell, with stern self-control.

Mr. Gryce, whose carelessly roving eye told little of the close study with which he was honoring the man before him, nodded with grave decision.

“You could add very much to our convictions on this point,” he observed, “by telling what it was you saw or heard in Mrs. Clemmens’ house at the moment you fled from it so abruptly.”

“How do you know I fled from it abruptly?”

“You were seen. The fact has not appeared in court, but a witness we might name perceived you flying from your aunt’s door to the swamp as if your life depended upon the speed you made.”

“And with that fact added to all the rest you have against me, you say you believe me innocent?” exclaimed Mr. Mansell.

“Yes; for I have also said I believe Mrs. Clemmens not to have been assaulted till after the hour of noon. You fled from the door at precisely five minutes before it.”

The uneasiness of Mr. Mansell’s face increased, till it amounted to agitation.

“And may I ask,” said he, “what has happened to make you believe she was not struck at the moment hitherto supposed?”

“Ah, now,” replied the detective, “we come down to facts.” And leaning with a confidential air toward the prisoner, he quietly said: “Your counsel has died, for one thing.”

Astonished as much by the tone as the tenor of these words, Mr. Mansell drew back from his visitor in some distrust. Seeing it, Mr. Gryce edged still farther forward, and calmly continued:

“If no one has told you the particulars of Mr. Orcutt’s death, you probably do not know why Miss Dare was at his house last evening?”

The look of the prisoner was sufficient reply.

“She went there,” resumed Mr. Gryce, with composure, “to tell him that her whole evidence against you had been given under the belief that you were guilty of the crime with which you had been charged; that by a trick of my fellow-detectives, Hickory and Byrd, she had been deceived into thinking you had actually admitted your guilt to her; and that she had only been undeceived after she had uttered the perjury with which she sought to save you yesterday morning.”

“Perjury?” escaped involuntarily from Craik Mansell’s lips.

“Yes,” repeated the detective, “perjury. Miss Dare lied when she said she had been to Mrs. Clemmens’ cottage on the morning of the murder. She was not there, nor did she lift her hand against the widow’s life. That tale she told to escape telling another which she thought would insure your doom.”

“You have been talking to Miss Dare?” suggested the prisoner, with subdued sarcasm.

“I have been talking to my two men,” was the unmoved retort, “to Hickory and to Byrd, and they not only confirm this statement of hers in regard to the deception they played upon her, but say enough to show she could not have been guilty of the crime, because at that time she honestly believed you to be so.”

“I do not understand you,” cried the prisoner, in a voice that, despite his marked self-control, showed the presence of genuine emotion.

Mr. Gryce at once went into particulars. He was anxious to have Craik Mansell’s mind disabused of the notion that Imogene had committed this crime, since upon that notion he believed his unfortunate reticence to rest. He therefore gave him a full relation of the scene in the hut, together with all its consequences.

Mr. Mansell listened like a man in a dream. Some fact in the past evidently made this story incredible to him.

Seeing it, Mr. Gryce did not wait to hear his comments, but upon finishing his account, exclaimed, with a confident air:

“Such testimony is conclusive. It is impossible to consider Miss Dare guilty, after an insight of this kind into the real state of her mind. Even she has seen the uselessness of persisting in her self-accusation, and, as I have already told you, went to Mr. Orcutt’s house in order to explain to him her past conduct, and ask his advice for the future. She learned something else before her interview with Mr. Orcutt ended,” continued the detective, impressively. “She learned that she had not only been mistaken in supposing you had admitted your guilt, but that you could not have been guilty, because you had always believed her to be so. It has been a mutual case of suspicion, you see, and argues innocence on the part of you both. Or so it seems to the prosecution. How does it seem to you?”

“Would it help my cause to say?”

“It would help your cause to tell what sent you so abruptly from Mrs. Clemmens’ house the morning she was murdered.”

“I do not see how,” returned the prisoner.

The glance of Mr. Gryce settled confidentially on his right hand where it lay outspread upon his ample knee.

“Mr. Mansell,” he inquired, “have you no curiosity to know any details of the accident by which you have unexpectedly been deprived of a counsel?”

Evidently surprised at this sudden change of subject, Craik replied:

“If I had not hoped you would understand my anxiety and presently relieve it, I could not have shown you as much patience as I have.”

“Very well,” rejoined Mr. Gryce, altering his manner with a suddenness that evidently alarmed his listener. “Mr. Orcutt did not die immediately after he was struck down. He lived some hours; lived to say some words that have materially changed the suspicions of persons interested in the case he was defending.”

“Mr. Orcutt?”

The tone was one of surprise. Mr. Gryce’s little finger seemed to take note of it, for it tapped the leg beneath it in quite an emphatic manner as he continued: “It was in answer to a question put to him by Miss Dare. To the surprise of every one, she had not left him from the moment they were mutually relieved from the weight of the fallen limb, but had stood over him for hours, watching for him to rouse from his insensibility. When he did, she appealed to him in a way that showed she expected a reply, to tell her who it was that killed the Widow Clemmens.”

“And did Mr. Orcutt know?” was Mansell’s half-agitated, half-incredulous query.

“His answer seemed to show that he did. Mr. Mansell, have you ever had any doubts of Mr. Orcutt?”

“Doubts?”

“Doubts as to his integrity, good-heartedness, or desire to serve you?”

“No.”

“You will, then, be greatly surprised,” Mr. Gryce went on, with increased gravity, “when I tell you that Mr. Orcutt’s reply to Miss Dare’s question was such as to draw attention to himself as the assassin of Widow Clemmens, and that his words and the circumstances under which they were uttered have so impressed Mr. Ferris, that the question now agitating his mind is not, ‘Is Craik Mansell innocent, but was his counsel, Tremont Orcutt, guilty?’”

The excited look which had appeared on the face of Mansell at the beginning of this speech, changed to one of strong disgust.

“This is too much!” he cried. “I am not a fool to be caught by any such make-believe as this! Mr. Orcutt thought to be an assassin? You might as well say that people accuse Judge Evans of killing the Widow Clemmens.”

Mr. Gryce, who had perhaps stretched a point when he so unequivocally declared his complete confidence in the innocence of the man before him, tapped his leg quite affectionately at this burst of natural indignation, and counted off another point in favor of the prisoner. His words, however, were dry as sarcasm could make them.

“No,” said he, “for people know that Judge Evans was without the opportunity for committing this murder, while every one remembers how Mr. Orcutt went to the widow’s house and came out again with tidings of her death.”

The prisoner’s lip curled disdainfully.

“And do you expect me to believe you regard this as a groundwork for suspicion? I should have given you credit for more penetration, sir.”

“Then you do not think Mr. Orcutt knew what he was saying when, in answer to Miss Dare’s appeal for him to tell who the murderer was, he answered: ‘Blood will have blood!’ and drew attention to his own violent end?”

“Did Mr. Orcutt say that?”

“He did.”

“Very well, a man whose whole mind has for some time been engrossed with defending another man accused of murder, might say any thing while in a state of delirium.”

Mr. Gryce uttered his favorite “Humph!” and gave his leg another pat, but added, gravely enough: “Miss Dare believes his words to be those of confession.”

“You say Miss Dare once believed me to have confessed.”

“But,” persisted the detective, “Miss Dare is not alone in her opinion. Men in whose judgment you must rely, find it difficult to explain the words of Mr. Orcutt by means of any other theory than that he is himself the perpetrator of that crime for which you are yourself being tried.”

“I find it difficult to believe that possible,” quietly returned the prisoner. “What!” he suddenly exclaimed; “suspect a man of Mr. Orcutt’s abilities and standing of a hideous crime — the very crime, too, with which his client is charged, and in defence of whom he has brought all his skill to bear! The idea is preposterous, unheard of!”

“I acknowledge that,” dryly assented Mr. Gryce; “but it has been my experience to find that it is the preposterous things which happen.”

For a minute the prisoner stared at the speaker incredulously; then he cried:

“You really appear to be in earnest.”

“I was never more so in my life,” was Mr. Gryce’s rejoinder.

Drawing back, Craik Mansell looked at the detective with an emotion that had almost the character of hope. Presently he said:

“If you do distrust Mr. Orcutt, you must have weightier reasons for it than any you have given me. What are they? You must be willing I should know, or you would not have gone as far with me as you have.”

“You are right,” Gryce assured him. “A case so complicated as this calls for unusual measures. Mr. Ferris, feeling the gravity of his position, allows me to take you into our confidence, in the hope that you will be able to help us out of our difficulty.”

“I help you! You’d better release me first.”

“That will come in time.”

If I help you?”

“Whether you help or not, if we can satisfy ourselves and the world that Mr. Orcutt’s words were a confession. You may hasten that conviction.”

“How?”

“By clearing up the mystery of your flight from Mrs. Clemmens’ house.”

The keen eyes of the prisoner fell; all his old distrust seemed on the point of returning.

“That would not help you at all,” said he.

I should like to be the judge,” said Mr. Gryce.

The prisoner shook his head.

“My word must go for it,” said he.

The detective had been the hero of too many such scenes to be easily discouraged. Bowing as if accepting this conclusion from the prisoner, he quietly proceeded with the recital he had planned. With a frankness certainly unusual to him, he gave the prisoner a full account of Mr. Orcutt’s last hours, and the interview which had followed between himself and Miss Dare. To this he added his own reasons for doubting the lawyer, and, while admitting he saw no motive for the deed, gave it as his serious opinion, that the motive would be found if once he could get at the secret of Mr. Orcutt’s real connection with the deceased. He was so eloquent, and so manifestly in earnest, Mr. Mansell’s eye brightened in spite of himself, and when the detective ceased he looked up with an expression which convinced Mr. Gryce that half the battle was won. He accordingly said, in a tone of great confidence:

“A knowledge of what went on in Mrs. Clemmens’ house before he went to it would be of great help to us. With that for a start, all may be learned. I therefore put it to you for the last time whether it would not be best for you to explain yourself on this point. I am sure you will not regret it.”

“Sir,” said Mansell, with undisturbed composure, “if your purpose is to fix this crime on Mr. Orcutt, I must insist upon your taking my word that I have no information to give you that can in any way affect him.”

“You could give us information, then, that would affect Miss Dare?” was the quick retort. “Now, I say,” the astute detective declared, as the prisoner gave an almost imperceptible start, “that whatever your information is, Miss Dare is not guilty.”

“You say it!” exclaimed the prisoner. “What does your opinion amount to if you haven’t heard the evidence against her?”

“There is no evidence against her but what is purely circumstantial.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because she is innocent. Circumstantial evidence may exist alike against the innocent and the guilty; real evidence only against the guilty. I mean to say that as I am firmly convinced Miss Dare once regarded you as guilty of this crime, I must be equally convinced she didn’t commit it herself. This is unanswerable.”

“You have stated that before.”

“I know it; but I want you to see the force of it; because, once convinced with me that Miss Dare is innocent, you will be willing to tell all you know, even what apparently implicates her.”

Silence answered this remark.

“You didn’t see her strike the blow?”

Mansell roused indignantly.

“No, of course not!” he cried.

“You did not see her with your aunt that moment you fled from the house immediately before the murder!”

“I didn’t see her.”

That emphasis, unconscious, perhaps, was fatal. Gryce, who never lost any thing, darted on this small gleam of advantage as a hungry pike darts upon an innocent minnow.

“But you thought you heard her,” he cried; “her voice, or her laugh, or perhaps merely the rustle of her dress in another room?”

“No,” said Mansell, “I didn’t hear her.”

“Of course not,” was the instantaneous reply. “But something said or done by somebody — a something which amounts to nothing as evidence — gives you to understand she was there, and so you hold your tongue for fear of compromising her.”

“Amounts to nothing as evidence?” echoed Mansell. “How do you know that?”

“Because Miss Dare was not in the house with your aunt at that time. Miss Dare was in Professor Darling’s observatory, a mile or so away.”

“Does she say that?”

“We will prove that.”

Aroused, excited, the prisoner turned his flashing blue eyes on the detective.

“I should be glad to have you,” he said.

“But you must first tell me in what room you were when you received this intimation of Miss Dare’s presence?”

“I was in no room; I was on the stone step outside of the dining-room door. I did not go into the house at all that morning, as I believe I have already told Mr. Ferris.”

Very good! It will all be simpler than I thought. You came up to the house and went away again without coming in; ran away, I may say, taking the direction of the swamp.”

The prisoner did not deny it.

“You remember all the incidents of that short flight?”

The prisoner’s lip curled.

“Remember leaping the fence and stumbling a trifle when you came down?”

“Yes.”

“Very well; now tell me how could Miss Dare see you do that from Mrs. Clemmens’ house?”

“Did Miss Dare tell you she saw me trip after I jumped the fence?”

“She did.”

“And yet was in Professor Darling’s observatory, a mile or so away?”

“Yes.”

A satirical laugh broke from the prisoner.

“I think,” said he, “that instead of my telling you how she could have seen this from Mrs. Clemmens’ house, you should tell me how she could have seen it from Professor Darling’s observatory.”

“That is easy enough. She was looking through a telescope.”

“What?”

“At the moment you were turning from Mrs. Clemmens’ door, Miss Dare, perched in the top of Professor Darling’s house, was looking in that very direction through a telescope.”

“I— I would like to believe that story,” said the prisoner, with suppressed emotion. “It would ——”

“What?” urged the detective, calmly.

“Make a new man of me,” finished Mansell, with a momentary burst of feeling.

“Well, then, call up your memories of the way your aunt’s house is situated. Recall the hour, and acknowledge that, if Miss Dare was with her, she must have been in the dining-room.”

“There is no doubt about that.”

“Now, how many windows has the dining-room?”

“One.”

“How situated?”

“It is on the same side as the door.”

“There is none, then, which looks down to that place where you leaped the fence?”

“No.”

“How account for her seeing that little incident, then, of your stumbling?”

“She might have come to the door, stepped out, and so seen me.”

“Humph! I see you have an answer for every thing.”

Craik Mansell was silent.

A look of admiration slowly spread itself over the detective’s face.

“We must probe the matter a little deeper,” said he. “I see I have a hard head to deal with.” And, bringing his glance a little nearer to the prisoner, he remarked:

“If she had been standing there you could not have turned round without seeing her?”

“No.”

“Now, did you see her standing there?”

“No.”

“Yet you turned round?”

“I did?”

“Miss Dare says so.”

The prisoner struck his forehead with his hand.

“And it is so,” he cried. “I remember now that some vague desire to know the time made me turn to look at the church clock. Go on. Tell me more that Miss Dare saw.”

His manner was so changed — his eye burned so brightly — the detective gave himself a tap of decided self-gratulation.

“She saw you hurry over the bog, stop at the entrance of the wood, take a look at your watch, and plunge with renewed speed into the forest.”

“It is so. It is so. And, to have seen that, she must have had the aid of a telescope.”

“Then she describes your appearance. She says you had your pants turned up at the ankles, and carried your coat on your left arm.”

Left arm?”

“Yes.”

“I think I had it on my right.”

“It was on the arm toward her, she declares. If she was in the observatory, it was your left side that she saw.”

“Yes, yes; but the coat was over the other arm. I remember using my left hand in vaulting over the fence when I came up to the house.”

“It is a vital point,” said Mr. Gryce, with a quietness that concealed his real anxiety and chagrin. “If the coat was on the arm toward her, the fact of its being on the right ——”

“Wait!” exclaimed Mr. Mansell, with an air of sudden relief. “I recollect now that I changed it from one arm to the other after I vaulted the fence. It was just at the moment I turned to come back to the side door, and, as she does not pretend to have seen me till after I left the door, of course the coat was, as she says, on my left arm.”

“I thought you could explain it,” returned Mr. Gryce, with an air of easy confidence. “But what do you mean when you say that you changed it at the moment you turned to come back to the side door? Didn’t you go at once to the dining-room door from the swamp?”

“No. I had gone to the front door on my former visit, and was going to it this time; but when I got to the corner of the house I saw the tramp coming into the gate, and not wishing to encounter any one, turned round and came back to the dining-room door.”

“I see. And it was then you heard ——”

“What I heard,” completed the prisoner, grimly.

“Mr. Mansell,” said the other, “are you not sufficiently convinced by this time that Miss Dare was not with Mrs. Clemmens, but in the observatory of Professor Darling’s house, to tell me what that was?”

“Answer me a question and I will reply. Can the entrance of the woods be seen from the position which she declares herself to have occupied?”

“It can. Not two hours ago I tried the experiment myself, using the same telescope and kneeling in the same place where she did. I found I could not only trace the spot where you paused, but could detect quite readily every movement of my man Hickory, whom I had previously placed there to go through the motions. I should not have come here if I had not made myself certain on that point.”

Yet the prisoner hesitated.

“I not only made myself sure of that,” resumed Mr. Gryce, “but I also tried if I could see as much with my naked eye from Mrs. Clemmens’ side door. I found I could not, and my sight is very good.”

“Enough,” said Mansell; “hard as it is to explain, I must believe Miss Dare was not where I thought her.”

“Then you will tell me what you heard?”

“Yes; for in it may lie the key to this mystery, though how, I cannot see, and doubt if you can. I am all the more ready to do it,” he pursued, “because I can now understand how she came to think me guilty, and, thinking so, conducted herself as she has done from the beginning of my trial. All but the fact of her denouncing herself yesterday; that I cannot comprehend.”

“A woman in love can do any thing,” quoth Mr. Gryce. Then admonished by the flush of the prisoner’s cheek that he was treading on dangerous ground, he quickly added: “But she will explain all that herself some day. Let us hear what you have to tell me.”

Craik Mansell drooped his head and his brow became gloomy.

“Sir,” said he, “it is unnecessary for me to state that your surmise in regard to my past convictions is true. If Miss Dare was not with my aunt just before the murder, I certainly had reasons for thinking she was. To be sure, I did not see her or hear her voice, but I heard my aunt address her distinctly and by name.”

“You did?” Mr. Gryce’s interest in the tattoo he was playing on his knee became intense.

“Yes. It was just as I pushed the door ajar. The words were these: ‘You think you are going to marry him, Imogene Dare; but I tell you you never shall, not while I live.’”

“Humph!” broke involuntarily from the detective’s lips, and, though his face betrayed nothing of the shock this communication occasioned him, his fingers stopped an instant in their restless play.

Mr. Mansell saw it and cast him an anxious look. The detective instantly smiled with great unconcern. “Go on,” said he, “what else did you hear?”

“Nothing else. In the mood in which I was this very plain intimation that Miss Dare had sought my aunt, had pleaded with her for me and failed, struck me as sufficient. I did not wait to hear more, but hurried away in a state of passion that was little short of frenzy. To leave the place and return to my work was now my one wish. When I found, then, that by running I might catch the train at Monteith, I ran, and so unconsciously laid myself open to suspicion.”

“I see,” murmured the detective; “I see.”

“Not that I suspected any evil then,” pursued Mr. Mansell, earnestly. “I was only conscious of disappointment and a desire to escape from my own thoughts. It was not till next day ——”

“Yes — yes,” interrupted Mr. Gryce, abstractedly, “but your aunt’s words! She said: ‘You think you are going to marry him, Imogene Dare; but you never shall, not while I live.’ Yet Imogene Dare was not there. Let us solve that problem.”

“You think you can?”

“I think I must.”

“How? how?”

The detective did not answer. He was buried in profound thought. Suddenly he exclaimed:

“It is, as you say, the key-note to the tragedy. It must be solved.” But the glance he dived deep into space seemed to echo that “How? how?” of the prisoner, with a gloomy persistence that promised little for an immediate answer to the enigma before them. It occurred to Mansell to offer a suggestion.

“There is but one way I can explain it,” said he. “My aunt was speaking to herself. She was deaf and lived alone. Such people often indulge in soliloquizing.”

The slap which Mr. Gryce gave his thigh must have made it tingle for a good half-hour.

“There,” he cried, “who says extraordinary measures are not useful at times? You’ve hit the very explanation. Of course she was speaking to herself. She was just the woman to do it. Imogene Dare was in her thoughts, so she addressed Imogene Dare. If you had opened the door you would have seen her standing there alone, venting her thoughts into empty space.”

“I wish I had,” said the prisoner.

Mr. Gryce became exceedingly animated. “Well, that’s settled,” said he. “Imogene Dare was not there, save in Mrs. Clemmens’ imagination. And now for the conclusion. She said: ‘You think you are going to marry him, Imogene Dare; but you never shall, not while I live.’ That shows her mind was running on you.”

“It shows more than that. It shows that, if Miss Dare was not with her then, she must have been there earlier in the day. For, when I left my aunt the day before, she was in entire ignorance of my attachment to Miss Dare, and the hopes it had led to.”

“Say that again,” cried Gryce.

Mr. Mansell repeated himself, adding: “That would account for the ring being found on my aunt’s dining-room floor ——”

But Mr. Gryce waved that question aside.

“What I want to make sure of is that your aunt had not been informed of your wishes as concerned Miss Dare.”

“Unless Miss Dare was there in the early morning and told her herself.”

“There were no neighbors to betray you?”

“There wasn’t a neighbor who knew any thing about the matter.”

The detective’s eye brightened till it vied in brilliancy with the stray gleam of sunshine which had found its way to the cell through the narrow grating over their heads.

“A clue!” he murmured; “I have received a clue,” and rose as if to leave.

The prisoner, startled, rose also.

“A clue to what?” he cried.

But Mr. Gryce was not the man to answer such a question.

“You shall hear soon. Enough that you have given me an idea that may eventually lead to the clearing up of this mystery, if not to your own acquittal from a false charge of murder.”

“And Miss Dare?”

“Is under no charge, and never will be.”

“And Mr. Orcutt?”

“Wait,” said Mr. Gryce —“wait.”

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Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 22:17