“A blonde, you say, sir?”
“Yes, Sweetwater; not of the usual type, but one of those frail, ethereal creatures whom we find it so hard to associate with crime. He, on the contrary, according to Miss Butterworth’s description (and her descriptions may be relied upon), is one of those gentlemanly athletes whose towering heads and powerful figures attract universal attention. Seen together, you would be apt to know them. But what reason have we for thinking they will be found together?”
“How were they dressed?”
“Like people of fashion and respectability. He wore a brown-checked suit apparently fresh from the tailor; she, a dove-colored dress with white trimmings. The parasol shows the color of her hat and plumes. Both were young, and (still according to Miss Butterworth) of sensitive temperament and unused to crime; for she was in a fainting condition when carried from the house, and he, with every inducement to self-restraint, showed himself the victim of such powerful emotion that he would have been immediately surrounded and questioned if he had not set his burden down in the vestibule and at once plunged with the girl into the passing crowd. Do you think you can find them, Sweetwater?”
“Have you no clews to their identity beyond this parasol?”
“None, Sweetwater, if you except these few faded rose leaves picked up from the floor of Mr. Adams’s study.”
“Then you have given me a problem, Mr. Gryce,” remarked the young detective dubiously, as he eyed the parasol held out to him and let the rose-leaves drop carelessly through his fingers. “Somehow I do not feel the same assurances of success that I did before. Perhaps I more fully realize the difficulties of any such quest, now that I see how much rests upon chance in these matters. If Miss Butterworth had not been a precise woman, I should have failed in my former attempt, as I am likely to fail in this one. But I will make another effort to locate the owner of this parasol, if only to learn my business by failure. And now, sir, where do you think I am going first? To a florist’s, with these faded rose-leaves. Just because every other young fellow on the force would make a start from the parasol, I am going to try and effect one from these rose-leaves. I may be an egotist, but I cannot help that. I can do nothing with the parasol.”
“And what do you hope to do with the rose-leaves? How can a florist help you in finding this young woman by means of them?”
“He may be able to say from what kind of a rose they fell, and once I know that, I may succeed in discovering the particular store from which the bouquet was sold to this more or less conspicuous couple.”
“You may. I am not the man to throw cold water on any one’s schemes. Every man has his own methods, and till they are proved valueless I say nothing.”
Young Sweetwater, who was now all nerve, enthusiasm, and hope, bowed. He was satisfied to be allowed to work in his own way.
“I may be back in an hour, and you may not see me for a week,” he remarked on leaving.
“Luck to your search!” was the short reply. This ended the interview. In a few minutes more Sweetwater was off.
The hour passed; he did not come back; the day, and still no Sweetwater. Another day went by, enlivened only by an interchange of notes between Mr. Gryce and Miss Butterworth. Hers was read by the old detective with a smile. Perhaps because it was so terse; perhaps because it was so characteristic.
Dear Mr. Gryce:
I do not presume to dictate or even to offer a suggestion to the New York police, but have you inquired of the postman in a certain district whether he can recall the postmark on any of the letters he delivered to Mr. Adams?
His, on the contrary, was perused with a frown by his exacting colleague in Gramercy Park. The reason is obvious.
Dear Miss Butterworth:
Suggestions are always in order, and even dictation can be endured from you. The postman delivers too many letters on that block to concern himself with postmarks. Sorry to close another thoroughfare.
Meanwhile, the anxiety of both was great; that of Mr. Gryce excessive. He was consequently much relieved when, on the third morning, he found Sweetwater awaiting him at the office, with a satisfied smile lighting up his plain features. He had reserved his story for his special patron, and as soon as they were closeted together he turned with beaming eyes toward the old detective, crying:
“News, sir; good news! I have found them; I have found them both, and by such a happy stroke! It was a blind trail, but when the florist said that those petals might have fallen from a bride rose — well, sir, I know that any woman can carry bride roses, but when I remembered that the clothes of her companion looked as though they had just come from the tailor’s, and that she wore gray and white — why, it gave me an idea, and I began my search after this unknown pair at the Bureau of Vital Statistics.”
“Brilliant!” ejaculated the old detective. “That is, if the thing worked.”
“And it did, sir; it did. I may have been born under a lucky star, probably was, but once started on this line of search, I went straight to the end. Shall I tell you how? Hunting through the list of such persons as had been married within the city limits during the last two weeks, I came upon the name of one Eva Poindexter. Eva! that was a name well-known in the house on —— Street. I decided to follow up this Eva.”
“A wise conclusion! And how did you set about it?”
“Why, I went directly to the clergyman who had performed the ceremony. He was a kind and affable dominie, sir, and I had no trouble in talking to him.”
“And you described the bride?”
“No, I led the conversation so that he described her.”
“Good; and what kind of a woman did he make her out to be? Delicate? Pale?”
“Sir, he had not read the service for so lovely a bride in years. Very slight, almost fragile, but beautiful, and with a delicate bloom which showed her to be in better health than one would judge from her dainty figure. It was a private wedding, sir, celebrated in a hotel parlor; but her father was with her ——”
“Her father?” Mr. Gryce’s theory received its first shock. Then the old man who had laughed on leaving Mr. Adams’s house was not the father to whom those few lines in Mr. Adams’s handwriting were addressed. Or this young woman was not the person referred to in those lines.
“Is there anything wrong about that?” inquired Sweetwater.
Mr. Gryce became impassive again.
“No; I had not expected his attendance at the wedding; that is all.”
“Sorry, sir, but there is no doubt about his having been there. The bridegroom ——”
“Yes, tell me about the bridegroom.”
“Was the very man you described to me as leaving Mr. Adams’s house with her. Tall, finely developed, with a grand air and gentlemanly manners. Even his clothes correspond with what you told me to expect: a checked suit, brown in color, and of the latest cut. Oh, he is the man!”
Mr. Gryce, with a suddenly developed interest in the lid of his inkstand, recalled the lines which Mr. Adams had written immediately before his death, and found himself wholly at sea. How reconcile facts so diametrically opposed? What allusion could there be in these lines to the new-made bride of another man? They read, rather, as if she were his own bride, as witness:
I return your daughter to you. She is here. Neither she nor you will ever see me again. Remember Evelyn!
There must be something wrong. Sweetwater must have been led astray by a series of extraordinary coincidences. Dropping the lid of the inkstand in a way to make the young man smile, he looked up.
“I’m afraid it’s been a fool chase, Sweetwater. The facts you relate in regard to this couple, the fact of their having been married at all, tally so little with what we have been led to expect from certain other evidences which have come in ——”
“Pardon me, sir, but will you hear me out? At the Imperial, where they were married, I learned that the father and daughter had registered as coming from a small place in Pennsylvania; but I could learn nothing in regard to the bridegroom. He had not appeared on the scene till the time for the ceremony, and after the marriage was seen to take his bride away in one carriage while the old gentleman departed in another. The latter concerned me little; it was the young couple I had been detailed to find. Employing the usual means of search, I tracked them to the Waldorf, where I learned what makes it certain that I have been following the right couple. On the afternoon of the very day of Mr. Adams’s death, this young husband and wife left the hotel on foot and did not come back. Their clothes, which had all been left behind, were taken away two days later by an elderly gentleman who said he was her father and whose appearance coincides with that of the person registering as such at the Imperial. All of which looks favorable to my theory, does it not, especially when you remember that the bridegroom’s name ——”
“You have not told it.”
“Is Adams, Thomas Adams. Same family as the murdered man, you see. At least, he has the same name.”
Mr. Gryce surveyed the young man with admiration, but was not yet disposed to yield him entire credence.
“Humph! I do not wonder you thought it worth your while to follow up the pair, if one of them is named Adams and the other Eva. But, Sweetwater, the longer you serve on the force the more you will learn that coincidences as strange and unexpected as these do occur at times, and must be taken into account in the elucidation of a difficult problem. Much as I may regret to throw cold water on your hopes, there are reasons for believing that the young man and woman whom we are seeking are not the ones you have busied yourself about for the last two days. Certain facts which have come to light would seem to show that if she had a husband at all, his name would not be Thomas Adams, but Felix, and as the facts I have to bring forward are most direct and unimpeachable, I fear you will have to start again, and on a new tack.”
But Sweetwater remained unshaken, and eyed his superior with a vague smile playing about his lips.
“You have not asked me, sir, where I have spent all the time which has elapsed since I saw you last. The investigations I have mentioned did not absorb more than a day.”
“Very true. Where have you been, Sweetwater?”
“To Montgomery, sir, to that small town in Pennsylvania from which Mr. Poindexter and his daughter registered.”
“Ah, I see! And what did you learn there? Something directly to the point?”
“I learned this, that John Poindexter, father of Eva, had for a friend in early life one Amos Cadwalader.”
“Amos!” repeated Mr. Gryce, with an odd look.
“Yes, and that this Amos had a son, Felix.”
“You see, sir, we must be on the right track; coincidences cannot extend through half a dozen names.”
“You are right. It is I who have made a mistake in drawing my conclusions too readily. Let us hear about this Amos. You gathered something of his history, no doubt.”
“All that was possible, sir. It is closely woven in with that of Poindexter, and presents one feature which may occasion you no surprise, but which, I own, came near nonplussing me. Though the father of Felix, his name was not Adams. I say was not, for he has been dead six months. It was Cadwalader. And Felix went by the name of Cadwalader, too, in the early days of which I have to tell, he and a sister whose name ——”
“Sweetwater, you are an admirable fellow. So the mystery is ours.”
“The history, not the mystery; that still holds. Shall I relate what I know of those two families?”
“At once: I am as anxious as if I were again twenty-three and had been in your shoes instead of my own for the last three days.”
“Very well, sir. John Poindexter and Amos Cadwalader were, in their early life, bosom friends. They had come from Scotland together and settled in Montgomery in the thirties. Both married there, but John Poindexter was a prosperous man from the first, while Cadwalader had little ability to support a family, and was on the verge of bankruptcy when the war of the rebellion broke out and he enlisted as a soldier. Poindexter remained at home, caring for his own family and for the two children of Cadwalader, whom he took into his own house. I say his own family, but he had no family, save a wife, up to the spring of ‘80. Then a daughter was born to him, the Eva who has just married Thomas Adams. Cadwalader, who was fitted for army life, rose to be a captain; but he was unfortunately taken prisoner at one of the late battles and confined in Libby Prison, where he suffered the tortures of the damned till he was released, in 1865, by a forced exchange of prisoners. Broken, old, and crushed, he returned home, and no one living in the town at that time will ever forget the day he alighted from the cars and took his way up the main street. For not having been fortunate enough, or unfortunate enough, perhaps, to receive any communication from home, he advanced with a cheerful haste, not knowing that his only daughter then lay dead in his friend’s house, and that it was for her funeral that the people were collecting in the green square at the end of the street. He was so pale, broken, and decrepit that few knew him. But there was one old neighbor who recognized him and was kind enough to lead him into a quiet place, and there tell him that he had arrived just too late to see his darling daughter alive. The shock, instead of prostrating the old soldier, seemed to nerve him afresh and put new vigor into his limbs. He proceeded, almost on a run, to Poindexter’s house, and arrived just as the funeral cortège was issuing from the door. And now happened a strange thing. The young girl had been laid on an open bier, and was being carried by six sturdy lads to her last resting place. As the father’s eye fell on her young body under its black pall, a cry of mortal anguish escaped him, and he sank on his knees right in the line of the procession.
“At the same minute another cry went up, this time from behind the bier, and John Poindexter could be seen reeling at the side of Felix Cadwalader, who alone of all present (though he was the youngest and the least) seemed to retain his self-possession at this painful moment. Meanwhile the bereaved father, throwing himself at the side of the bier, began tearing away at the pall in his desire to look upon the face of her he had left in such rosy health four years before. But he was stopped, not by Poindexter, who had vanished from the scene, but by Felix, the cold, severe-looking boy who stood like a guard behind his sister. Reaching out a hand so white it was in itself a shock, he laid it in a certain prohibitory way on the pall, as if saying no. And when his father would have continued the struggle, it was Felix who controlled him and gradually drew him into the place at his own side where a minute before the imposing figure of Poindexter had stood; after which the bearers took up their burden again and moved on.
“But the dramatic scene was not over. As they neared the churchyard another procession, similar in appearance to their own, issued from an adjoining street, and Evelyn’s young lover, who had died almost simultaneously with herself, was brought in and laid at her side. But not in the same grave: this was noticed by all, though most eyes and hearts were fixed upon Cadwalader, who had escaped his loathsome prison and returned to the place of his affections for this.
“Whether he grasped then and there the full meaning of this double burial (young Kissam had shot himself upon hearing of Evelyn’s death), or whether all explanations were deferred till he and Felix walked away together from the grave, has never transpired. From that minute till they both left town on the following day, no one had any word with him, save Poindexter, whom he went once to see, and young Kissam’s mother, who came once to see him. Like a phantom he had risen upon the sight of the good people of Montgomery, and like a phantom he disappeared, never to be seen by any of them again, unless, as many doubt, the story is true which was told some twenty years ago by one of the little village lads. He says (it was six years after the tragic scene I have just related) that one evening as he was hurrying by the churchyard, in great anxiety to reach home before it was too dark, he came upon the figure of a man standing beside a grave, with a little child in his arms. This man was tall, long-bearded, and terrifying. His attitude, as the lad describes it, was one of defiance, if not of cursing. High in his right hand he held the child, almost as if he would hurl him at the village which lies under the hill on which the churchyard is perched; and though the moment passed quickly, the boy, now a man, never has forgotten the picture thus presented or admitted that it was anything but a real one. As the description he gave of this man answered to the appearance of Amos Cadwalader, and as the shoe of a little child was found next morning on the grave of Cadwalader’s daughter, Evelyn, it has been thought by many that the boy really beheld this old soldier, who for some mysterious reason had chosen nightfall for this fleeting visit to his daughter’s resting-place. But to others it was only a freak of the lad’s imagination, which had been much influenced by the reading of romances. For, as these latter reasoned, had it really been Cadwalader, why did he not show himself at John Poindexter’s house — that old friend who now had a little daughter and no wife and who could have made him so comfortable? Among these was Poindexter himself, though some thought he looked oddly while making this remark, as if he spoke more from custom than from the heart. Indeed, since the unfortunate death of Evelyn in his house, he had never shown the same interest in the Cadwaladers. But then he was a man much occupied with great affairs, while the Cadwaladers, except for their many griefs and misfortunes, were regarded as comparatively insignificant people, unless we except Felix, who from his earliest childhood had made himself feared even by grown people, though he never showed a harsh spirit or exceeded the bounds of decorum in speech or gesture. A year ago news came to Montgomery of Amos Cadwalader’s death, but no particulars concerning his family or burial place. And that is all I have been able to glean concerning the Cadwaladers.”
Mr. Gryce had again become thoughtful.
“Have you any reason to believe that Evelyn’s death was not a natural one?”
“No, sir. I interviewed the old mother of the young man who shot himself out of grief at Evelyn’s approaching death, and if any doubt had existed concerning a matter which had driven her son to a violent end, she could not have concealed it from me. But there seemed to have been none. Evelyn Cadwalader was always of delicate health, and when a quick consumption carried her off no one marvelled. Her lover, who adored her, simply could not live without her, so he shot himself. There was no mystery about the tragic occurrence except that it seemed to sever an old friendship that once was firm as a rock. I allude to that between the Poindexters and Cadwaladers.”
“Yet in this tragedy which has just occurred in —— Street we see them brought together again. Thomas Adams marries Eva Poindexter. But who is Thomas Adams? You have not mentioned him in this history.”
“Not unless he was the child who was held aloft over Evelyn’s grave.”
“Humph! That seems rather far-fetched. What did you learn about him in Montgomery? Is he known there?”
“As well as any stranger can be who spends his time in courting a young girl. He came to Montgomery a few months ago, from some foreign city — Paris, I think — and, being gifted with every personal charm calculated to please a cultivated young woman, speedily won the affections of Eva Poindexter, and also the esteem of her father. But their favorable opinion is not shared by every one in the town. There are those who have a good deal to say about his anxious and unsettled eye.”
“Naturally; he could not marry all their daughters. But this history you have given me: it is meagre, Sweetwater, and while it hints at something deeply tragic, does not supply the key we want. A girl who died some thirty years ago! A father who disappeared! A brother who, from being a Cadwalader, has become an Adams! An Eva whose name, as well as that of the long-buried Evelyn, was to be heard in constant repetition in the place where the murdered Felix lay with those inscrutable lines in his own writing, clinched between his teeth! It is a snarl, a perfect snarl, of which we have as yet failed to pull the right thread. But we’ll get hold of it yet. I’m not going to be baffled in my old age by difficulties I would have laughed at a dozen years ago.”
“But this right thread? How shall we know it among the fifty I see entangled in this matter?”
“First, find the whereabouts of this young couple — but didn’t you tell me you had done so; that you know where they are?”
“Yes. I learned from the postmaster in Montgomery that a letter addressed to Mrs. Thomas Adams had been sent from his post-office to Belleville, Long Island.”
“Ah! I know that place.”
“And wishing to be assured that the letter was not a pretense, I sent a telegram to the postmaster at Belleville. Here is his answer. It is unequivocal: ‘Mr. Poindexter of Montgomery, Pa. Mr. Thomas Adams and Mrs. Adams of the same place have been at the Bedell House in this place five days.’”
“Very good; then we have them! Be ready to start for Belleville by one o’clock sharp. And mind, Sweetwater, keep your wits alert and your tongue still. Remember that as yet we are feeling our way blindfold, and must continue to do so till some kind hand tears away the bandage from our eyes. Go! I have a letter to write, for which you may send in a boy at the end of five minutes.”
This letter was for Miss Butterworth, and created, a half-hour later, quite a stir in the fine old mansion in Gramercy Park. It ran thus:
Have you sufficient interest in the outcome of a certain matter to take a short journey into the country? I leave town at 1 P.M. for Belleville, Long Island. If you choose to do the same, you will find me at the Bedell House, in that town, early in the afternoon. If you enjoy novels, take one with you, and let me see you reading it on the hotel piazza at five o’clock. I may be reading too; if so, and my choice is a book, all is well, and you may devour your story in peace. But if I lay aside my book and take up a paper, devote but one eye to your story and turn the other on the people who are passing you. If after you have done so, you leave your book open, I shall understand that you fail to recognize these persons. But if you shut the volume, you may expect to see me also fold up my newspaper; for by so doing you will have signaled me that you have identified the young man and woman you saw leaving Mr. Adams’s house on the fatal afternoon of your first entrance. E. G.
Last updated Friday, December 26, 2014 at 21:57