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- The Golden Slipper - 40/54 -
bestow smiles in any direction save where they legally belong. For since a certain memorable night which we all know, neither Dr. Zabriskie nor his wife have been seen save in their own domestic circle, and it is not into such scenes that this serpent, to whom I have just alluded, ever intrudes, nor is it in places of sorrow or suffering that his smile shines, or his fascinations flourish.
And so one portion of my theory is proved to be sound. Dr. Zabriskie is jealous of his wife; whether with good cause or bad I am not prepared to decide; since her present attitude, clouded as it is by the tragedy in which she and her husband are both involved, must differ very much from that which she held when her life was unshadowed by doubt, and her admirers could be counted by the score.
I have just found out where Leonard is. As he is in service some miles up the river, I shall have to be absent from my post for several hours, but I consider the game well worth the candle.
Light at last. I have not only seen Leonard, but succeeded in making him talk. His story is substantially this: That on the night so often mentioned, he packed his master's portmanteau at eight o'clock and at ten called a taxi and rode with the doctor to the Central station. He was told to buy tickets to Poughkeepsie where his master had been called in consultation, and having done this, hurried back to join Dr. Zabriskie on the platform. They had walked together as far as the cars, and Dr. Zabriskie was just stepping on to the train, when a man pushed himself hurriedly between them and whispered something into his master's ear, which caused him to fall back and lose his footing. Dr. Zabriskie's body slid half under the car, but he was withdrawn before any harm was done, though the cars gave a lurch at that moment which must have frightened him exceedingly, for his face was white when he rose to his feet, and when Leonard offered to assist him again on the train, he refused to go and said he would return home and not attempt to ride to Poughkeepsie that night.
The gentleman, whom Leonard now saw to be Mr. Stanton, an intimate friend of Dr. Zabriskie, smiled very queerly at this, and taking the doctor's arm led him back to his own auto. Leonard naturally followed them, but the doctor, hearing his steps, turned and bade him, in a very peremptory tone, to take the cars home, and then, as if on second thought, told him to go to Poughkeepsie in his stead and explain to the people there that he was too shaken up by his misstep to do his duty, and that he would be with them next morning. This seemed strange to Leonard, but he had no reasons for disobeying his master's orders, and so rode to Poughkeepsie. Wt the doctor did not follow him the next day; on the contrary he telegraphed for him to return, and when he got back dismissed him with a month's wages. This ended Leonard's connection with the Zabriskie family.
A simple story bearing out what the wife has already told us; but it furnishes a link which may prove invaluable. Mr. Stanton, whose first name is Theodore, knows the real reason why Dr. Zabriskie returned home on the night of the seventeenth of July, 19--. Mr. Stanton, consequently, is the man to see, and this shall be my business tomorrow.
Checkmate! Theodore Stanton is not in this country. Though this points him out as the man from whom Dr. Zabriskie bought the pistol, it does not facilitate my work, which is becoming more and more difficult.
Mr. Stanton's whereabouts are not even known to his most intimate friends. He sailed from this country most unexpectedly on the eighteenth of July a year ago, which was the day after the murder of Mr. Hasbrouck. It looks like a flight, especially as he has failed to maintain open communication even with his relatives. Was he the man who shot Mr. Hasbrouck? No; but he was the man who put the pistol in Dr. Zabriskie's hand that night, and whether he did this with purpose or not, was evidently so alarmed at the catastrophe which followed that he took the first outgoing steamer to Europe. So far, all is clear, but there are mysteries yet to be solved, which will require my utmost tact. What if I should seek out the gentleman with whose name that of Mrs. Zabriskie has been linked, and see if I can in any way connect him with Mr. Stanton or the events of that night.
Eureka! I have discovered that Mr. Stanton cherished a mortal hatred for the gentleman above mentioned. It was a covert feeling, but no less deadly on that account; and while it never led him into any extravagances, it was of force sufficient to account for many a secret misfortune occurring to that gentleman. Now if I can prove that he is the Mephistopheles who whispered insinuations into the ear of our blind Faust, I may strike a fact that will lead me out of this maze.
But how can I approach secrets so delicate without compromising the woman I feel bound to respect if only for the devoted love she manifests for her unhappy husband!
I shall have to appeal to Joe Smithers. This is something which I always hate to do, but as long as he will take money, and as long as he is fertile in resources for obtaining the truth from people I am myself unable to reach, I must make use of his cupidity and his genius. He is an honourable fellow in one way, and never retails as gossip what he acquires for our use. How will he proceed in this case, and by what tactics will he gain the very delicate information which we need? I own that I am curious to see.
I shall really have to put down at length the incidents of this night. I always knew that Joe Smithers was invaluable not only to myself but to the police, but I really did not know he possessed talents of so high an order. He wrote me this morning that he had succeeded in getting Mr. T-'s promise to spend the evening with him, and advised me that if I desired to be present as well, his own servant would not be at home, and that an opener of bottles would be required.
As I was very anxious to see Mr. T- with my own eyes, I accepted this invitation to play the spy, and went at the proper hour to Mr. Smithers's rooms. I found them picturesque in the extreme. Piles of books stacked here and there to the ceiling made nooks and corners which could be quite shut off by a couple of old pictures set into movable frames capable of swinging out or in at the whim or convenience of the owner.
As I had use for the dark shadows cast by these pictures, I pulled them both out, and made such other arrangements as appeared likely to facilitate the purpose I had in view; then I sat down and waited for the two gentlemen who were expected to come in together.
They arrived almost immediately, whereupon I rose and played my part with all necessary discretion. While ridding Mr. T- of his overcoat, I stole a look at his face. It is not a handsome one, but it boasts of a gay, devil-may-care expression which doubtless makes it dangerous to many women, while his manners are especially attractive, and his voice the richest and most persuasive that I ever heard. I contrasted him, almost against my will, with Dr. Zabriskie, and decided that with most women the former's undoubted fascinations of speech and bearing would outweigh the latter's great beauty and mental endowments; but I doubted if they would with her.
The conversation which immediately began was brilliant but desultory, for Mr. Smithers, with an airy lightness for which he is remarkable, introduced topic after topic, perhaps for the purpose of showing off Mr. T-'s versatility, and perhaps for the deeper and more sinister purpose of shaking the kaleidoscope of talk so thoroughly, that the real topic which we were met to discuss should not make an undue impression on the mind of his guest.
Meanwhile one, two, three bottles passed, and I had the pleasure of seeing Joe Smithers's eye grow calmer and that of Mr. T- more brilliant and more uncertain. As the last bottle was being passed, Joe cast me a meaning glance, and the real business of the evening began.
I shall not attempt to relate the half dozen failures which Joe made in endeavouring to elicit the facts we were in search of, without arousing the suspicion of his visitor. I am only going to relate the successful attempt. They had been talking now for some hours, and I, who had long before been waved aside from their immediate presence, was hiding my curiosity and growing excitement behind one of the pictures, when I suddenly heard Joe say:
"He has the most remarkable memory I ever met. He can tell to a day when any notable event occurred."
"Pshaw!" answered his companion, who, by the way, was known to pride himself upon his own memory for dates, "I can state where I went and what I did on every day in the year. That may not embrace what you call 'notable events,' but the memory required is all the more remarkable, is it not?"
"Pooh!" was his friend's provoking reply, "you are bluffing, Ben; I will never believe that."
Mr. T-, who had passed by this time into that stage of intoxication which makes persistence in an assertion a duty as well as a pleasure, threw back his head, and as the wreaths of smoke rose in airy spirals from his lips, reiterated his statement, and offered to submit to any test of his vaunted powers which the other might dictate.
"You keep a diary--" began Joe.
"Which at the present moment is at home," completed the other.
"Will you allow me to refer to it tomorrow, if I am suspicious of the accuracy of your recollections?"
"Undoubtedly," returned the other.
"Very well, then, I will wager you a cool fifty that you cannot tell where you were between the hours of ten and eleven on a certain night which I will name."
"Done!" cried the other, bringing out his pocket-book and laying it on the table before him.
Joe followed his example and then summoned me.
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