On his way home Mr. Gryce stopped at the Calderon to inquire how Mrs. Taylor was doing, and what his prospects were for a limited interview with her.
He was told that no such interview could be considered for days — that she still lay in a stupor, with brief flashes of acute consciousness, during which she would scream “No! no!"— that brain fever was feared and that increased excitement might be fatal.
Another bar to progress! He had hoped to help her memory into supplying him with a fact which would greatly simplify a task whose anomalies secretly alarmed him. She had been in a fair state of mind before her nerve was attacked by the event which robbed the little Angeline of life and herself of reason, and if carefully approached, might possibly recall some of the impressions made upon her previous to that moment. If, for instance, she could describe even in a general way the appearance of any person she may have seen advancing in the direction of the northern gallery at the moment she herself turned to enter the southern one, what a stability it would give to his theory, and what certainty to his future procedure!
But he must wait for this, as he must wait for Angeline’s story from Madame Duclos. Meantime, a word with Sweetwater — after which, rest.
It was Mr. Gryce’s custom, especially when engaged upon a case of marked importance, to receive this, his recognized factotum, in his own home. No prying ears, no watchful eyes, were to be feared there. He was the absolute master of everything, even of Sweetwater, he sometimes thought. For this young fellow loved him — had reason to; and when Sweetwater played the violin, as he sometimes did after one of their long talks, the aged detective came as near happiness as he ever did, now that his little grandchild was married and had gone with her husband to the other side of the world.
To-night he was not anticipating any such relaxation as this, yet to Sweetwater, arriving later than he wished, he had never looked more in need of it, as, sitting in his old and somewhat dingy library, he mused over some little object he held in his half-closed palm, with an intent, care-worn gaze which it distressed his young subordinate to see. Uncertainty incites the young and fires them to action; but it wearies the old and saps what little strength they have; and Sweetwater detected uncertainty in his patron’s troubled brow and prolonged stare at the insignificant article absorbing his attention.
However, Gryce roused quickly at the young detective’s cheery greeting, and looking up with an answering welcome, plunged at once into business.
“So you have seen Turnbull! What did the man say?”
“That it was the left-hand upper corner of the tapestry he saw shaking, and not the right-hand one as we had blindly supposed.”
“Good! Then we can take it for granted that our new theory is well founded. Certain things have come to light in your absence. That tapestry was pulled aside not merely for the purpose of flinging in the bow, but to let the flinger pass through the door at its back down to the Curator’s office and so out into the court.”
“Whew! And who. . . . ”
“If this fact had been made known to me sooner, you would have had a different day’s work; not getting it until late this afternoon, we have perhaps wasted some valuable hours. But we won’t fret about that. Mrs. Taylor being no better, we are likely to have all the time we want for substantiating my idea. It cannot take long if we succeed either in tracing the Duclos woman or in drawing the net I am quietly manufacturing, so closely about — well, I’ve decided to call him X— that it will hold against all opposition. I have hopes of finding the woman, but great doubts as to the efficacy of the net I have mentioned; it will have to be so wide and deep, and so absolutely without a single weak strand.”
Sweetwater sat astonished, and what was more, silent — he who had a word for everything. Accustomed as he was to the varying moods of his remarkable friend, he had never before been met with a reticence so absolute. It made him think; but for once in his life did not make him loquacious.
Mr. Gryce seemed to be gratified by this, though he made no remark to that effect and continued to preserve his abstracted look and quiet demeanor. So Sweetwater waited, and while waiting managed to steal a glimpse at the small object to which his professional friend still paid his undivided attention.
It looked like a narrow bit of dingy black cloth — just that and nothing more — a thing as trivial as the band which clips a closed umbrella. Was it such a band, and would he presently be asked to find the umbrella from which it had fallen or been twisted away? No. Umbrellas are not carried about museum buildings. Besides, this strip of cloth had no ring on the end of it. Consequently it could not have served the purpose he had just ascribed to it. It must have had some other use.
But when, after an impatient flinging aside of this nondescript article, Mr. Gryce spoke, it was to say:
“I had a long talk with Correy to-day. It seems that he goes through both galleries every morning before the museum opens. Though he will not swear to it, he is of the opinion that the quiver holding the Apache arrows had its full complement when he passed it that morning. He has a way of running things over with his eye which has never yet failed to draw his attention to anything defective or in the least out of order.”
“I see, sir,” acquiesced Sweetwater in an odd tone, Mr. Gryce’s attitude showing that he awaited some expression of interest on his part.
The elder detective either did not notice the curious note in the younger one’s voice, or noticing it, chose to ignore it, for with no change of manner he proceeded to say:
“I wish you would exercise your wits, Sweetwater, on the following troublesome question: if the arrow which slew this young girl was in one gallery at ten o’clock, how did it get into the other at twelve? The bow”— here he purposely hesitated —“might have been brought up the iron staircase. But the arrow ——”
His eyes were on Sweetwater (a direct glance was a rare thing with Mr. Gryce), and he waited — waited patiently for the word which did not come; then he remarked dryly:
“We are both dull; you are tired with your day’s work and I with mine: we will let difficult questions rest until our brains are clearer. But”— here he reached for the strip of dingy cloth he had cast aside, and tossing it over to Sweetwater, added with some suggestion of humor — “if you want a subject to dream upon to-night, there it is. If you have no desire to dream, and want work for to-morrow, make an effort to discover from whose clothing that fell and what was its use. It was picked up in Room B on the second floor, the one where Mrs. Taylor was detained before going downstairs.”
“Ah, something tangible at last!”
“I don’t know about that; I honestly don’t know. But we cannot afford to let anything go by us. Little things like that have not infrequently opened up a fresh trail which otherwise might have been missed.”
Sweetwater nodded, and laying the little strip along his palm, examined it closely. It was made of silk, doubled, and stitched together except at the ends. These were loose, but rough with bits of severed thread, as if the thing had been hastily cut from some article of clothing to which it had been attached by some half-dozen very clumsy stitches.
“I think I understand you, Mr. Gryce,” observed Sweetwater, rising slowly to his feet. “But a dream may help me out; we will see.”
“I shall not leave here till ten to-morrow morning.”
“Very good, sir. If you don’t mind, I’ll take this with me.”
“Take it, by all means.”
As Sweetwater turned to go, he was induced by the silence of his patron to cast a backward glance. Mr. Gryce had risen to his feet and was leaning toward him with an evident desire to speak.
“My boy,” said he, “if your dreams lead you to undertake the search I have mentioned, spare nobody; I say, spare nobody.”
Then he sat down; and the memory which Sweetwater carried away with him of the old detective at the moment he uttered this final injunction was far from being a cheerful one.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:09