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   Chapter 27 THE END OF THE CASE

The Gloved Hand By Burton Egbert Stevenson Characters: 11228

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:03


To Sylvester, head of the Identification Bureau, it seemed that the world was tottering to its fall; but the rest of us, who had not really at the bottom of our hearts, perhaps, believed in the infallibility of the finger-print system, took it more calmly. And presently we went upstairs to take a look at the contents of Silva's secret cupboard. When he had first come to the house, Miss Vaughan explained, he had been given carte-blanche in this suite of rooms. He had them remodelled, installed the circular divan and crystal sphere, selected the hangings, and had at the same time, no doubt, caused the secret cupboard to be built.

Its contents were most interesting. There was a box of aerial bombs, which Godfrey turned over to Simmonds with the injunction to go and amuse himself. For Sylvester's contemplation and further confusion were the gloves with which Silva had managed his parlour mystification scheme, six pairs of them; and there was also the very simple apparatus with which the finger-print reproductions had been made-an apparatus, as Godfrey had suggested, similar in every way to that used for making rubber stamps. There, too, were the plates of zinc upon which the impressions of the prints had been etched with acid. And, finally, there were various odds and ends of a juggler's outfit, as well as various bottles of perfumes, essences, and liquids whose properties we could not guess.

Godfrey looked at the gloves carefully, as though in search of something, and at last selected one of them with a little exclamation of satisfaction.

"I thought so!" he said, and held it up. "Look at this glove, Sylvester. You see it has never been used-there is no ink on it. Do you know what it is? It's the print of Swain's left hand."

Sylvester took it and looked at it.

"It's a left hand all right," he said. "But what makes you think it is Swain's?"

"Because Silva expected to use both hands, till he learned that Swain had injured one of his. But for that, the blood needed to make the prints would have come from the victim, and Silva would have worn this glove, too; but Swain's injury gave Silva a happy inspiration! Wonderful man!" he added, half to himself.

Goldberger and Simmonds went on into the inner room to arrange for the disposition of the body of Mahbub; but Godfrey and Miss Vaughan and I turned back together, for we did not wish to see the Thug. At her boudoir door Godfrey paused.

"The case is clear," he said, "from first to last, provided you can supply us with a final detail, Miss Vaughan."

"What is that?" she asked.

"Did you write that note to Swain in your own room?"

"Yes."

"And will you show me the table at which you wrote it?"

"Certainly," and she opened the door. "Come in. I wrote it at that little desk by the window."

Godfrey walked to it, picked up a blotting-book which lay upon it, and turned over the leaves.

"Ah!" he said, after a moment. "I was sure of it. Here is the final link. Have you a small hand-mirror, Miss Vaughan?"

She brought one from her toilet-table and handed it to him in evident astonishment.

"What do you see in the mirror?" he asked, and held a page of the blotting-book at an angle in front of it.

Miss Vaughan uttered an exclamation of surprise, as she read the words reflected there:

MR. FREDERIC SWAIN,

1010 Fifth Avenue,

New York City.

If not at this address,

please try the Calumet Club.

"'Tall oaks from little acorns grow,'" quoted Godfrey, tossing the book back upon the desk. "But for the fact that you blotted the envelope, Miss Vaughan, young Swain would never have been accused of murder."

"I do not understand," she murmured.

"Don't you see," he pointed out, "the one question which we have been unable to answer up to this moment has been this: how did Silva know you were going to meet Swain? He had to know it, and know it several hours before the meeting, in order to have those finger-prints ready. I concluded, at last, that there must be a blotting-book-and there it is."

Miss Vaughan stared at him.

"You seem to be a very wonderful man!" she said.

Godfrey laughed.

"It is my every-day business to reconstruct mysteries," he said. "Shall I reconstruct this one?"

"Please do!" she begged, and motioned us to be seated.

Godfrey's face was glowing with the sort of creative fire which, I imagine, illumines the poet's brow at the moment of inspiration.

"Where did you first meet Silva?" he asked.

"In Paris."

"What was he doing there?"

"He was practising mysticism. My father went to consult him; he was much impressed by him, and they became very intimate."

"And Silva, of course, at once saw the possibilities of exploiting an immensely rich old man, whose mind was failing. So he comes here as his instructor in Orientalism; he does some very marvellous things; by continued hypnosis, he gets your father completely under his control. He secures a promise of this estate and a great endowment; he causes your father to make a will in which these bequests are specifically stated. Then he hesitates, for during his residence in this house, a new desire has been added to the old ones. It had not often been his fortune to be thrown in daily contact with an innocent and beautiful girl, and he ends by falling in love with you. He knows of your love for Swain. He has caused Swain to be forbidden the house; but he finds you still indifferent. At last, by means of his own entreaties and your father's, he secures your consent to become his disciple. He knows that, if once you consent to sit with him, he w

ill, in the end, dominate your will, also.

"But you ask for three days' delay, and this he grants. During every moment of those three days, he will keep you under surveillance. Almost at once, he guesses at your plan, for you return to the house, you write a letter, and, the moment you leave your room, he enters it and sees the impression on the blotter. He follows you into the grounds, he sees you throw the letter over the wall, and suspects that you are calling Swain to your aid. More than that, Lester," he added, turning to me, "he saw you in the tree, and so kept up his midnight fire-works, on the off-chance that you might be watching!"

"Yes; that explains that, too," I agreed thoughtfully.

"When he realises that you are asking your lover's aid," Godfrey continued to Miss Vaughan, "a fiendish idea springs into his mind. If Swain answers the call, if he enters the grounds, he will separate him from you once for all by causing him to be found guilty of killing your father. He hastens back to the house, tears the leaf from the album of finger-prints and prepares the rubber gloves. That night, he follows you when you leave the house; he overhears your talk in the arbour; and he finds that there is another reason than that of jealousy why he must act at once. If your father is found to be insane, the will drawn up only three days before will be invalid. Silva will lose everything-not only you, but the fortune already within his grasp.

"He hurries to the house and tells your father of the rendezvous. Your father rushes out and brings you back, after a bitter quarrel with Swain, which Silva has, of course, foreseen. You come up to your room; your father flings himself into his chair again. It is Silva who has followed you-who has purposely made a noise in order that you might think it was Swain. And he carries in his hand the blood-soaked handkerchief which Swain dropped when he fled from the arbour.

"Up to this point," Godfrey went on, more slowly, "everything is clear-every detail fits every other detail perfectly. But, in the next step of the tragedy, one detail is uncertain-whose hand was it drew the cord around your father's throat? I am inclined to think it was Mahbub's. If Silva had done the deed, he would probably have chosen a method less Oriental; but Mahbub, even under hypnotic suggestion, would kill only in the way to which he was accustomed-with a noose. Pardon me," he added, quickly, as she shrank into her chair, "I have forgotten how repellent this must be to you. I have spoken brutally."

"Please go on," she murmured. "It is right that I should hear it. I can bear it."

"There is not much more to tell," said Godfrey, gently. "Whoever it was that drew the cord, it was Silva who moistened the glove from the blood-soaked handkerchief, made the marks upon your father's robe, and then dropped the handkerchief beside his chair. Then he returned softly to his room, closed the door, put away the glove, cleansed his hands, made sure that Mahbub was in his closet, took his place upon the divan, and waited. I think we know the rest. And now, Lester," he added, turning to me, "we would better be getting to town. Remember, Swain is still in the Tombs."

"You are right," I said, and rose to take my leave, but Miss Vaughan, her eyes shining, stopped me with a hand upon the sleeve.

"I should like to go with you, Mr. Lester," she said. "May I?"

The colour deepened in her cheeks as she met my gaze, and I understood what was in her heart. So did Godfrey.

"I'll have my car around in ten minutes," he said, and hastened away.

"I have only to put on my hat," said Miss Vaughan; and I found her waiting for me in the library, when I entered it after arranging with Simmonds and Goldberger to appear with me in the Tombs court and join me in asking for Swain's release.

Godfrey's car came up the drive a moment later, and we were off.

The hour that followed was a silent one. Godfrey was soon sufficiently occupied in guiding the car through the tangle of traffic. Miss Vaughan leaned back in a corner of the tonneau lost in thought. It was just six days since I had seen her first; but those six days had left their mark upon her. Perhaps, in time, happiness would banish that shadow from her eyes, and that tremulousness from her lips. Every battle leaves its mark, even on the victor; and the battle she had fought had been a desperate one. But, as I looked at her, she seemed more complete, more desirable than she had ever been; I could only hope that Swain would measure up to her.

At last, we drew up before the grey stone building, whose barred windows and high wall marked the prison.

"Here we are," I said, and helped her to alight.

Godfrey greeted the door-keeper as an old friend, and, after a whispered word, we were allowed to pass. A guard showed us into a bare waiting-room, and Godfrey hastened away to explain our errand to the warden.

"Won't you sit down?" I asked, but my companion shook her head, with a frightened little smile, and paced nervously up and down, her hands against her heart. How riotously it was beating I could guess-with what hope, what fear....

There was a quick step in the corridor, and she stood as if turned to stone.

Then the door was flung open, and, with radiant face, she walked straight into the outstretched arms of the man who stood there. I heard her muffled sob, as the arms closed about her and she hid her face against his shoulder; then a hand was laid upon my sleeve.

"Come along, Lester," said Godfrey softly. "This case is ended!"

THE END

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