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   Chapter 22 No.22

The Chase of the Golden Plate By Jacques Futrelle Characters: 10131

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


"Now that is what actually happened," said The Thinking Machine, after a little while. "How do I know it? Logic, logic, logic! The logical mind can start from any given point and go backward or forward, with equal facility, to a natural conclusion. This is as certain as that two and two make four-not sometimes, but all the time.

"First in this case I had Mr. Hatch's detailed examination of each circumstance. By an inspiration he connected Mr. Herbert and Miss Meredith with the affair and talked to both before the police had any knowledge at all of them. In other words, he reached at a bound what they took days to accomplish. After the second theft he came to me and related the story."

The reporter blushed modestly.

"Mr. Hatch's belief that the thing that had happened to Mr. Herbert and Miss Meredith bore on the theft," resumed the scientist, "was susceptible of confirmation or refutation in only one way, this being so because of Mr. Herbert's silence-due to his loyalty. I saw that. But, before I went further, I saw clearly what had actually happened if I presupposed that there had been some connection. Thus came to me, I may say here, the almost certain knowledge that Miss Meredith had a brother, although I had never heard of him or her."

He paused a little and twiddled his thumbs thoughtfully.

"Suppose you give us just your line of reasoning," ventured Hatch.

"Well, I began with the blood-stains in the automobile to either bring Mr. Herbert into this affair or shut him out," replied the scientist. "You know how I made the blood tests. They showed conclusively that the blood on the cushion was not Mr. Herbert's. Remember, please, that, although I knew Miss Meredith had been in the automobile, I also knew she was not wounded; therefore the blood was that of someone else-the man.

"Now, I knew Mr. Herbert had been wounded-he wouldn't say how. If at home, would he not go to the nearest physician? Probably. I got Doctor Walpole's name from the telephone-book-he being nearest the Herbert home-and sent Mr. Hatch there, where he learned of the wound in front, and of the thirty-two calibre ball. I already knew the police revolvers were thirty-eight calibre; therefore Mr. Herbert was not wounded while in the automobile.

"That removed Mr. Herbert as a possibility in the first theft, despite the fact that his invitation-card was presented at the door. It was reasonable to suppose that invitation had been stolen. Immediately after the plate was returned by express, Mr. Herbert effected a reconciliation with Miss Meredith. Because of this and for other reasons I could not bring myself to see that he was a party to the second theft, as I knew him to be innocent of the first. Yet, what happened to him? Why wouldn't he say something?

"All things must be imagined before they can be achieved; therefore imagination is one of the most vital parts of the scientific brain. In this instance I could only imagine why Mr. Herbert was silent. Remember, he was shot and wouldn't say who did it. Why? If it had been an ordinary thief-and I got the idea of a thief from the invitation-card being in other hands than his-he would not have hesitated to talk. Therefore, it was an extraordinary thief in that it connected with something near and dear to him. No one was nearer and dearer to him than Miss Meredith. Did she shoot him? No. Did her father shoot him? Probably not, but possibly. A brother? That began to look more reasonable. Mr. Herbert would probably not have gone so far to protect one less near to her than brother or father.

"For the moment I assumed a brother, not knowing. How did Mr. Herbert know this brother? Was it in his college days? Mr. Hatch brought me a list of the students of three years before his graduating year and there I found the name, Harry Meredith. You see, step by step, pure logic was leading me to something tangible, definite. My next act was to see Mr. Meredith and ask for the address of his son-an only son-whom at that time I frankly believed was the real thief. But this son was in South America. That startled me a little and brought me up against the father as a possible thief. He was in Baltimore on that night.

"I accepted that as true at the moment after some-er-some pleasant words with Mr. Meredith. Then the question: Was the man who stole from Mr. Herbert, probably entering his place and shooting him, masked? Mr. Herbert said he was. I framed the question so as to bring Harry Meredith's name into it, much to Mr. Herbert's alarm. How had he recognised him as Harry Meredith? By something he said or wore? Mr. Herbert replied in the affirmative-both. Therefore I had a masked Burglar who could not have been either Harry Meredith or Harry Meredith's father. Who was he?

"I decided to let Mr. Hatch look into that point for me, and went to see Doctor Walpole. He gave me the bullet he had extracted from Mr. Herbert's shoulder. Mr. Hatch, shortly after, rushed in on me with the statement that Miss Meredith had admitted that Mr. Herbert had confess

ed to her. I could see instantly why he had confessed to her. Then Mr. Hatch undertook for me the investigation of Herbert's and Harry Meredith's career in college. He remembered part of it and unearthed the affair of The Triangle and the theft of a diamond ring.

"I had asked Mr. Hatch to find for me if Harry Meredith and Mr. Herbert had had a mutual intimate in college. They had. George Francis Hayden, the third member of the Triangle. Then the question seemed solved, but Mr. Hatch upset everything when he said that Mr. Hayden was dead. I went immediately to see Mr. Herbert. From him I learned that, although Mr. Hayden was supposed to be dead and buried, there was no positive proof of it; the body recovered had been in the water three weeks and was consequently almost unrecognisable. Therefore, the theft came inevitably to Mr. Hayden. Why? Because the Burglar had been recognised by something he said and wore. It would have been difficult for Mr. Herbert to recognise a masked man so positively unless the masked man wore something he absolutely knew, or said something he absolutely knew. Mr. Herbert thought with reason that the masked man was Harry Meredith, but, with Harry Meredith in South America, the thief was incontrovertibly George Francis Hayden. There was no going behind that.

"After a short interview as to Hayden, during which Mr. Herbert told me more of The Triangle and the three watch charms, he and I went out investigating. He took me to the room where he had found the plate and jewels-a place in an apartment-house which this gentleman manages." The scientist turned to the stranger, who had been a silent listener. "He identified an old photograph of George Francis Hayden as an occupant of an apartment.

"Mr. Herbert and I searched the place. My growing idea, based on the established knavery of George Francis Hayden, that he was the real thief in the college incident, was proven when I found this ring there-the ring that was stolen at that time-with the initials of the owner in it."

The Thinking Machine produced the ring and offered it to Detective Mallory, who had allowed the earth to slip away from him slowly but surely, and he examined it with a new and absorbed interest.

"Mr. Herbert and I learned of the insurance fraud in another manner-that is, when we knew that George Francis Hayden was not dead, we knew there had been a fraud. Mr. Hayden has been known lately as Chester Goodrich. He has been missing since Mr. Herbert, in his absence, recovered the plate and the jewels in his apartments. I may add that, up to the day of the masked ball, he was protected from casual recognition by a full beard. He is now clean-shaven."

The Thinking Machine glanced at Mr. Mallory.

"Your man-Downey, I think it was-did excellent work," he said, "in tracing Miss Meredith from the time she left the automobile until she returned home, and later leading you to Mr. Herbert. It was not strange that you should have been convinced of his guilt when we consider the goods found in his possession and also the wound in his shoulder. The only trouble is he didn't get to the real insides of it."

That was all. For a long time there was silence. Dollie Meredith's pretty face was radiant and her eyes were fastened on her father. Mr. Meredith glanced at her, cleared his throat several times, then arose and offered his hand to Dick Herbert.

"I have done you an injustice, sir," he said gravely. "Permit me to apologise. I think perhaps my daughter--"

That was superfluous. Dollie was already beside Dick, and a rousing, smacking, resounding kiss echoed her father's words. Dick liked it some and was ready for more, but Dollie impetuously flung her arms around the neck of The Thinking Machine, and he-passed to his reward.

"You dear old thing!" she gurgled. "You're just too sweet and cute for anything."

"Dear me! Dear me!" fussed The Thinking Machine. "Don't do that. It annoys me exceedingly."

* * *

Some three months later, when the search for George Francis Hayden had become only lukewarm, this being three days before Miss Meredith's wedding to Dick Herbert, she received a small box containing a solitaire ring and a note. It was brief:

In memory of one night in the woods and of what happened there, permit me to give this-you can't return it. It is one of the few things honest money from me ever paid for.

Bill, the Burglar.

While Dollie examined the ring with mingled emotions Dick stared at the postmark on the package.

"It's a corking good clew," he said enthusiastically.

Dollie turned to him, recognising a menace in the words, and took the paper which bore the postmark from his hands.

"Let's pretend," she said gently-"let's pretend we don't know where it came from!"

Dick stared a little and kissed her.

* * *

Transcriber's Notes:

Repaired obvious spelling and punctuation typos. Period spellings and unusual grammatical usages retained.

Both "waggon" and "wagon" were used in this text, consistent within character voices-retained.

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