Beckoning to Sweetwater, Mr. Gryce pointed out this extra man and asked him if he recognized him as one of the twenty-two he had tabulated.
The answer was a vigorous no. “It’s a new face to me. He must have dropped from the roof or come up through the flooring. He certainly wasn’t anywhere about when I made out my list. He looks a trifle hipped, eh?”
“Troubled — decidedly troubled.”
“You might go a little further and say done up.”
“Good-looking, though. Appears to be of foreign birth.”
“English, I should say, and just over.”
“English, without a doubt. I’ll go speak to him; you wait here, but watch out for the Coroner, and send him my way as soon as he’s at leisure.”
Then he reapproached the bench, and observing, with the keenness with which he observed everything without a direct look, that with each step he took the stranger’s confusion increased, he decided to wait till after he had finished with the others, before he entered upon an inquiry which might prove not only lengthy but of the first importance.
He was soon very glad that he had done this. He got nothing from Mr. Simpson; but the questions put to Mr. Turnbull were more productive. Almost at the first word, this gentleman acknowledged that he had seen a movement in the great square of tapestry to which Mr. Gryce drew his attention. He did not know when, or just where he stood at the time, but he certainly had noticed it shake.
“Can you describe the movement?” asked the gratified detective.
“It swayed out ——”
“As if blown by some wind?”
“No, more as if pushed forward by a steady hand.”
“Good! And what then?”
“It settled back almost without a quiver.”
“No, not instantly. A moment or two passed before it fell back into place.”
“This was before the attendant Correy called out his alarm, of course?”
Yes, of course it was before; but how long before, he couldn’t say. A minute — two minutes — five minutes — how could he tell! He had no watch in hand.
Mr. Gryce thought possibly he might assist the man’s memory on this point but forbore to do so at the time. It was enough for his present purpose that the necessary link to the establishment of his theory had been found. No more doubt now that the bow lying in the niche of the doorway overhead had been the one made use of in this desperate tragedy; and the way thus cleared for him, he could confidently proceed in his search for the man who had flung it there. He believed him to be within his reach at that very moment, but his countenance gave no index to his thought as reapproaching the young man now sitting all alone on the bench, he halted before him and pleasantly inquired:
“Do I see you for the first time? I thought we had listed the name of every person in the building. How is it that we did not get yours?”
The tide of color which instantly flooded the young man’s countenance astonished Mr. Gryce both by its warmth and fullness. If he were as thin-skinned as this betokened, one should experience but little difficulty in reaching the heart of his trouble.
With an air of quiet interest Mr. Gryce sat down by the young man’s side. Would this display of friendliness have the effect of restoring some of his self-possession and giving him the confidence he evidently lacked? No, the red fled from his cheek, and a ghastly white took its place; but he showed no other change.
Meantime the detective studied his countenance. It was a good one, but just now so distorted by suffering that only such as were familiar with his every look could read his character from his present expression. Would a more direct question rouse him? Possibly. At all events, Mr. Gryce decided to make the experiment.
“Will you give me your name?” he asked, “— your name and residence?”
The man he addressed gave a quick start, pulled himself together and made an attempt to reply.
“My name is Travis. I am an Englishman just off the steamer from Southampton. My home is in the county of Hertfordshire. I have no residence here.”
“Your hotel, then?”
Another flush — then quickly: “I have not yet chosen one.”
This was too surprising for belief. A stranger in town without rooms or hotel accommodations, making use of the morning hours to visit a museum!
“You must be very much interested in art!” observed his inquisitor a little dryly.
Again that flush and again the quick-recurring pallor.
“I— I am interested in all things beautiful,” he replied at last in broken tones.
“I see. May I ask where you were when that arrow flew which killed a young lady visitor? Not in this part of the court, I take it?”
Mr. Travis gave a quick shudder and that was all. The detective waited, but no other answer came.
“I am told that as she fell she uttered one cry. Did you hear it, Mr. Travis?”
“It wasn’t a cry,” was his quick reply. “It was something quite different, but dreadful, dreadful!”
Mr. Gryce’s manner changed.
“Then you did hear it. You were near enough to distinguish between a scream and a gasp. Where were you, and why weren’t you seen by my man when he went through the building?”
“I— I was kneeling out of sight — too shocked to move. But I grew tired of that and wanted to go; but on reaching the court, I found the doors closed. So I came here.”
“Kneeling! Where were you kneeling?”
He made a quick gesture in the direction of the galleries.
The detective frowned, perhaps to hide his secret satisfaction.
“Won’t you be a little more definite?” he asked; then as the man continued to hesitate he added, but as yet without any appreciable loss of kindliness: “Every other person here has been good enough to show us the exact place he was occupying at that serious moment. I must ask you to do the same; it is only just.”
Was the look this called up one of fear or of simple repugnance? It might be either; but the detective was disposed to consider it fear.
“Will you lead the way?” he pursued. “I shall be glad to follow.”
A glance of extreme reproach; then these words, uttered with painful intensity:
“You want me to go back there — where I saw — where I can see again —I cannot. I’m not well. I suffer. You will excuse me. You will allow me to say what I have to say, here.”
“I’m sorry, but I cannot do that. The others have gone without question to their places; why should not you?”
“Because ——” The word came brokenly and was followed by silence. Then, seeing the hopelessness of contending with police authority, he cast another glance of strong repulsion in the direction of the gallery and started to his feet. Mr. Gryce did the same, and together they crossed the court. But they got no further at this time than the foot of the staircase. Coroner Price, by an extra effort which seemed to be called for by the circumstances, had succeeded in picking up a jury from the people collected on the street, and entering at this moment, created a diversion which effectively postponed the detective’s examination of his new witness.
When the opportunity came for resuming it, so much time had elapsed that Mr. Gryce looked for some decided change in the manner or bearing of the man who, unfortunately for his purposes, had thus been given a quiet hour in which to think. Better, much better, for the cause of justice, if he could have pushed him to the point at once, harried him, as it were, in hot blood. Now he might find him more difficult.
But when, in company with the Coroner, who now found himself free to assist him in his hunt for witnesses, he reapproached the Englishman sitting as before alone on his bench, it was to find him to all appearance in the same mind in which he had left him. He wore the same look and followed with the same reluctance when he was made to understand that the time had now come for him to show just where he was standing when that arrow was sped on its death-course. And greatly impressed by this fact, which in a way contradicted all his expectations, Mr. Gryce trod slowly after, watching with the keenest interest to see whether, on reaching the top of the steps, this man upon whose testimony so much depended would turn toward the southern gallery where the girl had fallen, or toward the northern one, where Correy had found the bow.
It looked as if he were going to the left, for his head turned that way as he cleared the final step. But his body soon swayed aside in the other direction, and by the time the old detective had himself reached the landing, Travis, closely accompanied by the Coroner, had passed through the first of the three arches leading to that especial section of the gallery where the concealing tapestry hung.
“The man is honest,” was Mr. Gryce’s first thought. “He is going to show us the bow and confess to what was undoubtedly an accident.” But Mr. Gryce felt more or less ready to modify this impromptu conclusion when, on passing through the arch himself he came upon the young man still standing in Section VI, with his eyes on the opposite gallery and his whole frame trembling with emotion.
“Is she — the young lady who was shot — still lying on those cold stones alone, forsaken and ——”
Mr. Gryce knew misery when he saw it. This man had not overstated the case when he had said “I suffer.” But the cause! To what could this excess of sensibility be attributed? To remorse or to an exaggerated personal repulsion? It looked like remorse, but that there might be no doubt as to this, Mr. Gryce hastened to assure the Englishman that on the departure of the jury the body had been removed to one of the inner rooms. The relief which this gave to Mr. Travis was evident. He showed no further reluctance to proceed and was indeed the first of the three to enter where the great drapery hung, flanked by the two immense vases. Would he pause before it or hurry by into the broad corridor in front? If he hurried by, what would become of their now secretly accepted theory?
But he did not hurry by; that is, he did not pass beyond the upper end, but stopped when he got there and looked back with an air of extreme deprecation at the two officials.
“Have we arrived?” asked Mr. Gryce, his suspicions all returning, for the man had stepped aside from the drapery and was standing in a spot conspicuously open to view even from the lower court.
The Englishman nodded; whereupon Mr. Gryce, approaching to his side, exclaimed in evident doubt:
“You were standing here? When? Not at the moment the young girl fell, or you would have been seen by some one, if not by everyone, in the building. I want you to take the exact place you occupied when you first learned that something had gone wrong in the opposite gallery.”
The stranger’s distress grew. With a show of indecision scarcely calculated to inspire confidence in either of the two men watching him, he moved now here and now there till he finally came to a standstill close by the pedestal — so close, indeed, to its inner corner that he was almost in a line with its rear.
“It was here,” he declared with a gulp of real feeling. “I am sure I am right now. I had just stepped out ——”
“From behind the tapestry?”
“No.” His blank astonishment at the quickness with which he had been caught up left him staring for a moment at the speaker, before he added:
“From behind the pedestal. The — the vase, as you see, is a very curious one. I wanted to look at it from all sides.”
Without a word the Coroner slipped past him and entering the narrow space behind the pedestal took a look up at the vase from his present cramped position.
As he did this, two things happened: first Sweetwater, who had stolen upon the scene, possibly at some intimation from Mr. Gryce, took a step toward them which brought him in alignment with the Englishman, of whose height in comparison with his own he seemed to take careful note; and secondly, the sensitive skin of the foreigner flushed red again as he noticed the Coroner’s sarcastic smile, and heard his dry remark:
“One gets a better view here of the opposite gallery than of the vase perched so high overhead. Had you wished to look at those ladies, without being seen by them, you could hardly have found a better loophole than the one made by the curving in of this great vase toward its base.” Then quickly: “You surely took one look their way; that would be only natural.”
The answer Mr. Travis gave was certainly unexpected.
“It was after I came out that I saw them,” he stammered. “There were two ladies, one tall and one very young and slight. The older lady was stepping toward the front, the other entering from behind. As I looked, the younger made a dash and ran by the first lady. Then ——”
“Proceed, Mr. Travis. Your emotion is very natural; but it is imperative that we hear all you have to tell us. She ran by the older lady, and then?”
Still silence. The Englishman appeared to be looking at Coroner Price, who in speaking emerged from behind the pedestal; but it is doubtful if he saw him. A tear was in his eye — a tear!
Seeing it, Mr. Gryce felt a movement of compassion, and thinking to help him, said kindly enough:
“Was it so very dreadful?”
The answer came with great simplicity:
“Yes. One minute she was all life and gaiety; the next she was lying outstretched on the hard floor.”
Again that look of ingenuous surprise.
“I don’t remember about myself,” he said. “I was thinking too much about her. I never saw anyone killed before.”
“Killed? Why do you say killed? You say you saw her fall, but how did you know she was killed?”
“I saw the arrow in her breast. As she fell backward, I saw the arrow.”
As he uttered these words, the three men watching him perceived the sweat start out on his forehead, and his eyes take on a glassy stare. It was as if he were again in gaze upon that image of youthful loveliness falling to the ground with the arrow of death in her heart. The effect was strangely moving. To see this event reflected as it were in horror from this man’s consciousness made it appear more real and much more impressive than when contemplated directly. Why? Had remorse given it its poignancy? Had it been his own hand which had directed this arrow from behind the pedestal? If not, why this ghastly display of an emotion so far beyond what might be expected from the most sentimental of onlookers?
In an endeavor to clear the situation, the Coroner intervened with the following question:
“Have you ever seen a shot made by a bow and arrow before, Mr. Travis? Archery-practice, I mean. Or — well, the shooting of wild animals in India, Africa or elsewhere?”
“Oh, yes. I come from a country where the bow and arrow are used. But I never shoot. I can only speak of what I have seen others do.”
“That is sufficient. You ought to be able to tell, then, from what direction this arrow came.”
“It — it must have come from this side of the gallery. Not from this section, as you call it, but from some one of the other open places along here.”
“Why not from this one?”
“Because there was nobody here but me,” was the simple and seemingly ingenuous answer.
It gave them an unexpected surprise. Innocence would speak in this fashion. But then the bow — the bow which was lying not a dozen feet from where they stood! Nothing could eliminate that bow.
After a short consultation between themselves, which the Englishman seemed not to notice, the Coroner addressed him with the soothing remark:
“Mr. Travis, you must not misunderstand me. The accident which has occurred (we will not yet say crime) is of so serious a nature that it is imperative for us to get at the exact facts. Only yourself and one other person whom we know can supply them. I allude to the lady you saw, first in front of and then behind the girl who was shot. Her story has been told. Yours will doubtless coincide with it. May I ask you, then, to satisfy us on a point you were in a better position than herself to take note of. It is this: When the young girl gave that bound forward of which you both speak, did she make straight for the railing in front, or did she approach it in a diagonal direction?”
“I do not know. You distress me very much. I was not thinking of anything like that. Why should I think of anything so immaterial. She came — I saw her smiling, beaming with joy, a picture of lovely youth — then her arms went suddenly up and she fell — backward — the arrow showing in her breast. If I told the story a hundred times, I could not tell it differently.”
“We do not wish you to, Mr. Travis. Only there must be somewhere in your mind a recollection of the angle which her body presented to the railing as she came forward.”
The unhappy man shook his head, at which token of helplessness Mr. Gryce beckoned to Sweetwater and whispered a few words in his ear. The man nodded and withdrew, going the length of the gallery, where he disappeared among the arches, to reappear shortly after in the gallery opposite. When he reached Section II, Mr. Gryce again addressed the witness, who, to his surprise and to that of the Coroner as well, had become reabsorbed in his own thoughts to the entire disregard of what this movement might portend. It took a sharp word to rouse him.
“I am going to ask you to watch the young man who has just shown himself on the other side, and tell us to what extent his movements agree with those made by the young lady prior to her collapse and fall to the floor.”
For an instant indignation robbed the stranger of all utterance. Then he burst forth:
“You would make a farce of what is so sad and dreadful, and she scarcely cold! It is dishonoring to the young lady. I cannot look at that young man — that hideous young man — and think of her and of how she looked and walked the instant before her death.”
The two officials smiled; they could not help it. Sweetwater was certainly no beauty, and to associate him in any kind of physical comparison with the dead girl was certainly incongruous. Yet they both felt that the point just advanced by them should be settled and settled now while the requisite remembrance was fresh in the mind of this invaluable witness. But in order to get at what they wanted, some show of consideration for his feelings was evidently necessary. Police persistence often defeats its own ends. If he was to be made to do what they wished, it would have to be through the persuasion of some one outside the Force. To whom should they appeal? The question answered itself. Mr. Roberts was approaching from the front, and to him they turned. Would he use his influence with this stranger?
“He may listen to you,” urged the Coroner in the whispered conference which now followed, “if you explain to him how much patience you and all the rest of the people in the building have had to exercise in this unhappy crisis. He seems a good enough fellow, but not in line with our ideas.”
Mr. Roberts, who saw the man for the first time, surveyed him in astonishment.
“Where was he standing?” he asked.
“Just where you see him now — or so he says.”
“He couldn’t have been. Some one would have observed him — the woman who was in the compartment with the stricken girl, or the man studying coins in the one next to it.”
“So it would seem,” admitted the Coroner. “But if he were behind the pedestal ——”
“Behind the pedestal!”
“That’s where we think he was. But no matter about that now! — we can explain that to you later. At present all we want is for you to reassure him.”
Not altogether pleased with his task, but seeing no good reason for declining it, the affable director approached the Englishman, who, recognizing one of his own social status, seemed to take heart and turn a willing ear to Mr. Roberts’ persuasions. The result was satisfactory.
When the Coroner again called Mr. Travis’ attention to Sweetwater awaiting orders in the opposite gallery he did not refuse to look, though his whole manner showed how much he was affected by this forced acquiescence in their plans.
“You will watch the movements of the young man we have placed over there,” the Coroner had said; “and when he strikes a position corresponding to that taken by the young lady at the moment she was shot, lift up your hand, thus. I will not ask you to speak.”
“But you forget that there is blood on that floor. That man will step in it. I cannot lend myself to such sacrilege. It is wrong. Let the lady be buried first.”
The outburst was so natural, the horror so unfeigned, that not only the men he addressed but all within hearing showed the astonishment it caused.
“One would think you knew the victim of this random shot!” the Coroner intimated with a fresh and close scrutiny of this very reluctant witness. “Did you? Was she a friend of yours?”
“No, no!” came in quick disavowal. “No friend. I have never exchanged a word with her — never.”
“Then we will proceed. One cannot consider sensibilities in a case like this.” And he made a signal to Sweetwater, who turned his body this way and that.
The distressed Englishman watched these movements with slowly dilating eyes.
“It’s the angle we want — the angle at which she presented her body to the gallery front,” explained the relentless official.
A shudder, then the rigidity of fixed attention, broken in another moment, however, by an impulsive movement and the unexpected question:
“Is it to find the man who did it that you are enacting this horrible farce?”
Somewhat startled, the Coroner retorted:
“If you object on that account ——”
But Mr. Travis as vehemently exclaimed:
“But I don’t! I want the man caught. One should not shoot arrows about in a place where there are beautiful young women. I want him caught and punished.”
As they were all digesting this unexpected avowal, they saw his hand go up. The Coroner gave a low whistle, and the detective in obedience to it stood for one instant stock-still — then bent quickly to the floor.
“What is he doing?” cried Mr. Travis.
“Yes, what is he doing?” echoed Mr. Roberts.
“Running a mark about his shoes to fix their exact location,” was the grim response.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:09