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- THE GOLD BAG - 5/45 -
unconsciously assumed a more deferential air, and, though they said nothing, I could see that their respect for my authority had increased.
Strangely enough, after this episode, a new confidence in my own powers took possession of me, and, shaking off the apathy that had come over me at sight of that dread figure in the chair, I set methodically to work to examine the room.
Of course I noted the position of the furniture, the state of the window-fastenings, and such things in a few moments. The many filing cabinets and indexed boxes, I glanced at, and locked those that had keys or fastenings.
The inspector sat with folded hands watching me with interest but saying nothing. Parmalee, on the other hand, kept up a running conversation, sometimes remarking lightly on my actions, and again returning to the subject of Miss Lloyd.
"I can see," he said, "that you naturally dislike to suspect a woman, and a young woman too. But you don't know Miss Lloyd. She is haughty and wilful. And as I told you, nobody has mentioned her yet in this connection. But I am speaking to you alone, and I have no reason to mince matters. And you know Florence Lloyd is not of the Crawford stock. The Crawfords are a fine old family, and not one of them could be capable of crime. But Miss Lloyd is on the other side of the house, a niece of Mrs. Crawford; and I've heard that the Lloyd stock is not all that could be desired. There is a great deal in heredity, and she may not be responsible . . ."
I paid little attention to Parmalee's talk, which was thrown at me in jerky, desultory sentences, and interested me not at all. I went on with my work of investigation, and though I did not get down on my knees and examine every square inch of the carpet with a lens, yet I thoroughly examined all of the contents of the room. I regret to say, however, that I found nothing that seemed to be a clue to the murderer.
Stepping out on the veranda, I looked for footprints. The "light snow" usually so helpful to a detective had not fallen, as it was April, and rather warm for the season. But I found many heel marks, apparently of men's boots; yet they were not necessarily of very recent date, and I don't think much of foot-print clues, anyhow.
Then I examined the carpet, or, rather, the several rugs which ornamented the beautiful polished floor.
I found nothing but two petals of a pale yellow rose. They were crumpled, but not dry or withered, and could not have been long detached from the blossom on which they grew.
Parmalee chanced to have his back toward me as I spied them, and I picked them up and put them away in my pocket-book without his knowledge. If the stolid inspector saw me, he made no sign. Indeed, I think he would have said nothing if I had carried off the big desk itself. I looked round the room for a bouquet or vase of flowers from which the petals might have fallen, but none was there.
This far I had progressed when I heard steps in the hall, and a moment later the coroner ushered the six gentlemen of his jury into the room.
THE CORONER'S JURY
It was just as the men came in at the door, that I chanced to notice a newspaper that lay on a small table. I picked it up with an apparent air of carelessness, and, watching my chance, unobserved by Parmalee, I put the paper away in a drawer, which I locked.
The six men, whom Coroner Monroe named over to me, by way of a brief introduction, stepped silently as they filed past the body of their late friend and neighbor.
For the jurymen had been gathered hastily from among the citizens of West Sedgwick who chanced to be passing; and as it was after eleven o'clock, they were, for the most part, men of leisure, and occupants of the handsome homes in the vicinity.
Probably none of them had ever before been called to act on a coroner's jury, and all seemed impressed with the awfulness of the crime, as well as imbued with a personal sense of sorrow.
Two of the jurors had been mentioned to me by name, by the coachman who brought me from the station. Horace Hamilton and Lemuel Porter were near-by neighbors of the murdered man, and; I judged from their remarks, were rather better acquainted with him than were the others.
Mr. Hamilton was of the short, stout, bald-headed type, sometimes called aldermanic. It was plainly to be seen that his was a jocund nature, and the awe which he felt in this dreadful presence of death, though clearly shown on his rubicund face, was evidently a rare emotion with him. He glanced round the room as if expecting to see everything there materially changed, and though he looked toward the figure of Mr. Crawford now and then, it was with difficulty, and he averted his eyes as quickly as possible. He was distinctly nervous, and though he listened to the remarks of Coroner Monroe and the other jurors, he seemed impatient to get away.
Mr. Porter, in appearance, was almost the exact reverse of Mr. Hamilton. He was a middle-aged man with the iron gray hair and piercing dark eyes that go to make up what is perhaps the handsomest type of Americans. He was a tall man, strong, lean and sinewy, with a bearing of dignity and decision. Both these men were well-dressed to the point of affluence, and, as near neighbor and intimate friends of the dead man, they seemed to prefer to stand together and a little apart from the rest.
Three more of the jurors seemed to me not especially noticeable in any way. They looked as one would expect property owners in West Sedgwick to look. They listened attentively to what Mr. Monroe said, asked few or no questions, and seemed appalled at the unusual task they had before them.
Only one juror impressed me unpleasantly. That was Mr. Orville, a youngish man, who seemed rather elated at the position in which he found himself. He fingered nearly everything on the desk; he peered carefully into the face of the victim of the crime, and he somewhat ostentatiously made notes in a small Russia leather memorandum book.
He spoke often to the coroner, saying things which seemed to me impertinent, such as, "Have you noticed the blotter, Mr. Coroner? Very often, you know, much may be learned from the blotter on a man's desk."
As the large blotter in question was by no means fresh, indeed was thickly covered with ink impressions, and as there was nothing to indicate that Mr. Crawford had been engaged in writing immediately before his death, Mr. Orville's suggestion was somewhat irrelevant. And, too, the jurors were not detectives seeking clues, but were now merely learning the known facts.
However, Mr. Orville fussed around, even looking into the wastebasket, and turning up a corner of a large rug as if ferreting for evidence.
The others exhibited no such minute curiosity, and, after a few moments, they followed the coroner out of the room.
Then the doctor and his assistants came to take the body away, and I went in search of Coroner Monroe, eager for further information concerning the case, of which I really, as yet, knew but little.
Parmalee went with me and we found Mr. Monroe in the library, quite ready to talk with us.
"Mr. Orville seems to possess the detective instinct himself," observed Mr. Parmalee, with what seemed like a note of jealousy in his tone.
"The true detective mind," returned Mr. Monroe, with his slow pomposity, "is not dependent on instinct or intuition."
"Oh, I think it is largely dependent on that," I said, "or where does it differ from the ordinary inquiring mind?"
"I'm sure you will agree with me, Mr. Burroughs," the coroner went on, almost as if I had not spoken, "that it depends upon a nicely adjusted mentality that is quick to see the cause back of an effect."
To me this seemed a fair definition of intuition, but there was something in the unctuous roll of Mr. Monroe's words that made me positive he was quoting his somewhat erudite speech, and had not himself a perfectly clear comprehension of its meaning.
"It's guessing," declared Parmalee, "that's all it is, guessing. If you guess right, you're a famous detective; if you guess wrong, you're a dub. That's all there is about it."
"No, no, Mr. Parmalee,"--and Mr. Monroe slowly shook his finger at the rash youth--"what you call guessing is really divination. Yes, my dear sir, it is actual divination."
"To my mind," I put in, "detective divination is merely minute observation. But why do we quibble over words and definitions when there is much work to be done? When is the formal inquest to be held, Mr. Monroe?"
"This afternoon at two o'clock," he replied.
"Then I'll go away now," I said, "for I must find an abiding place for myself in West Sedgwick. There is an inn, I suppose."
"They'll probably ask you to stay here," observed Coroner Monroe, "but I advise you not to do so. I think you'll be freer and less hampered in your work if you go to the inn."
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