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- THE GOLD BAG - 6/45 -


"I quite agree with you," I replied. "But I see little chance of being invited to stay here. Where is the family? Who are in it?"

"Not many. There is Miss Florence Lloyd, a niece of Mr. Crawford. That is, she is the niece of his wife. Mrs. Crawford has been dead many years, and Miss Lloyd has kept house for her uncle all that time. Then there is Mrs. Pierce, an elderly lady and a distant relative of Mr. Crawford's. That is all, except the secretary, Gregory Hall, who lives here much of the time. That is, he has a room here, but often he is in New York or elsewhere on Mr. Crawford's business."

"Mr. Crawford had an office both here and in New York?" I asked.

"Yes; and of late years he has stayed at home as much as possible. He went to New York only about three or four days in the week, and conducted his business from here the rest of the time. Young Hall is a clever fellow, and has been Mr. Crawford's righthand man for years."

"Where is he now?"

"We think he's in New York, but haven't yet been able to locate him at Mr. Crawford's office there, or at his club. He is engaged to Miss Lloyd, though I understand that the engagement is contrary to Mr. Crawford's wishes."

"And where is Miss Lloyd,--and Mrs. Pierce?"

"They are both in their rooms. Mrs. Pierce is prostrated at the tragedy, and Miss Lloyd simply refuses to make her appearance."

"But she'll have to attend the inquest?"

"Oh, yes, of course. She'll be with us then. I think I won't say anything about her to you, as I'd rather you'd see her first with entirely unprejudiced eyes."

"So you, too, think Miss Lloyd is implicated?"

"I don't think anything about it, Mr. Burroughs. As coroner it is not my place to think along such lines."

"Well, everybody else thinks so," broke in Parmalee. "And why? Because there's no one else for suspicion to light on. No one else who by any possibility could have done the deed."

"Oh, come now, Mr. Parmalee," said I, "there must be others. They may not yet have come to our notice, but surely you must admit an intruder could have come into the room by way of those long, open windows."

"These speculations are useless, gentlemen," said Mr. Monroe, with his usual air of settling the matter. "Cease then, I beg, or at least postpone them. If you are walking down the avenue, Mr. Parmalee, perhaps you'll be good enough to conduct Mr. Burroughs to the Sedgwick Arms, where he doubtless can find comfortable accommodations."

I thanked Mr. Monroe for the suggestion, but said, straightforwardly enough, that I was not yet quite ready to leave the Crawford house, but that I would not detain Mr. Parmalee, for I could myself find my way to the inn, having noticed it on my drive from the train.

So Parmalee went away, and I was about to return to Mr. Crawford's office where I hoped to pursue a little uninterrupted investigation.

But Mr. Monroe detained me a moment, to present me to a tall, fine-looking man who had just come in.

He proved to be Philip Crawford, a brother of Joseph, and I at once observed a strong resemblance between their two faces.

"I am glad to meet you, Mr. Burroughs," he said. "Mr. Monroe tells me you are a clever and experienced detective, and I trust you can help us to avenge this dastardly crime. I am busy with some important matters just now, but later I shall be glad to confer with you, and be of any help I can in your investigation."

I looked at Mr. Philip Crawford curiously. Of course I didn't expect him to give way to emotional grief, but it jarred on me to hear him refer to his brother's tragic death in such cold tones, and with such a businesslike demeanor.

However, I realized I did not know the man at all, and this attitude might be due to his effort in concealing his real feelings.

He looked very like his brother Joseph, and I gathered from the appearance of both men, and the manner of Philip, that the Crawford nature was one of repression and self-control. Moreover, I knew nothing of the sentiments of the two brothers, and it might easily be that they were not entirely in sympathy.

I thanked him for his offer of help, and then as he volunteered no further observations, I excused myself and proceeded alone to the library.

As I entered the great room and closed the door behind me, I was again impressed by the beauty and luxury of the appointments. Surely Joseph Crawford must have been a man of fine calibre and refined tastes to enjoy working in such an atmosphere. But I had only two short hours before the inquest, and I had many things to do, so for the moment I set myself assiduously to work examining the room again. As in my first examination, I did no microscopic scrutinizing; but I looked over the papers on and in the desk, I noted conditions in the desk of Mr. Hall, the secretary, and I paid special attention to the position of the furniture and windows, my thoughts all directed to an intruder from outside on Mr. Crawford's midnight solitude.

I stepped through the long French window on to the veranda, and after a thorough examination of the veranda, I went on down the steps to the gravel walk. Against a small rosebush, just off the walk, I saw a small slip of pink paper. I picked it up, hardly daring to hope it might be a clue, and I saw it was a trolley transfer, whose punched holes indicated that it had been issued the evening before. It might or might not be important as evidence, but I put it carefully away in my note-book for later consideration.

Returning to the library I took the newspaper which I had earlier discovered from the drawer where I had hidden it, and after one more swift but careful glance round the room, I went away, confident that I had not done my work carelessly.

I left the Crawford house and walked along the beautiful avenue to the somewhat pretentious inn bearing the name of Sedgwick Arms.

Here, as I had been led to believe, I found pleasant, even luxurious accommodations. The landlord of the inn was smiling and pleasant, although landlord seems an old-fashioned term to apply to the very modern and up-to-date man who received me.

His name was Carstairs, and he had the genial, perceptive manner of a man about town.

"Dastardly shame!" he exclaimed, after he had assured himself of my identity. "Joseph Crawford was one of our best citizens, one of our finest men. He hadn't an enemy in the world, my dear Mr. Burroughs--not an enemy! generous, kindly nature, affable and friendly with all."

"But I understand he frowned on his ward's love affair, Mr. Carstairs."

"Yes; yes, indeed. And who wouldn't? Young Hall is no fit mate for Florence Lloyd. He's a fortune-hunter. I know the man, and his only ambition is the aggrandizement of his own precious self."

"Then you don't consider Miss Lloyd concerned in this crime?"

"Concerned in crime? Florence Lloyd! why, man, you must be crazy! The idea is unthinkable!"

I was sorry I had spoken, but I remembered too late that the suspicions which pointed toward Miss Lloyd were probably known only to those who had been in the Crawford house that morning. As for the townspeople in general, though they knew of the tragedy, they knew very little of its details.

I hastened to assure Mr. Carstairs that I had never seen Miss Lloyd, that I had formed no opinions whatever, and that I was merely repeating what were probably vague and erroneous suspicions of mistakenly-minded people.

At last, behind my locked door, I took from my pocket the newspaper I had brought from Mr. Crawford's office.

It seemed to me important, from the fact that it was an extra, published late the night before.

An Atlantic liner had met with a serious accident, and an extra had been hastily put forth by one of the most enterprising of our evening papers. I, myself, had bought one of these extras, about midnight; and the finding of a copy in the office of the murdered man might prove a clue to the criminal.

I then examined carefully the transfer slip I had picked up on the Crawford lawn. It had been issued after nine o'clock the evening before. This seemed to me to prove that the holder of that transfer must have been on the Crawford property and near the library veranda late last night, and it seemed to me that this was plain common-sense reasoning, and not mere intuition or divination. The transfer might have a simple and innocent explanation, but until I could learn of that, I should hold it carefully as a possible clue.

IV

THE INQUEST


THE GOLD BAG - 6/45

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