However he decided quickly, it must be done, so he said, diplomatically, "Thi_s awful int'restin', Miss Ames, and I'm just dead sure and certain Mr.
Stone'd think so, too. Let's go out and get it off where he c'n hear it. Wha_ay?"
The boy had risen and was edging toward the door. Rather than lose he_udience, Aunt Abby followed, and in a moment the pair appeared in the living- room, where Fleming Stone was still talking to Eunice and Mr. Elliott.
"Miss Ames, now, she's got somethin' worth tellin'," Fibsy announced. "Thi_arn of hers is pure gold and a yard wide, Mr. Stone, and you oughter hear it, sir."
"Gladly," and Stone gave Aunt Abby a welcoming smile.
Nothing loath to achieve the center of the stage, the old lady seated hersel_n her favorite arm-chair, and began:
"It was almost morning," she said, "a faint dawn began to make objects abou_he room visible, when I opened my eyes and saw a dim, gliding figure—"
Eunice gave an angry exclamation, and rising quickly from her chair, walke_nto her own room, and closed the door with a slam that left no doubt as t_er state of mind.
"Let her alone," advised Elliott; "she's better off in there.
What is this story, Aunt Abby? I've never heard it in full."
"No; Eunice never would let me tell it. But it will solve all mystery o_anford's death."
"Then it is indeed important," and Stone looked at the speaker intently.
"Yes, Mr. Stone, it will prove beyond all doubt that Mr. Embury was _uicide."
"Go on, then," said Elliott, briefly.
"I will. In the half light, I saw this figure I just mentioned. It wasn'_iscernible clearly—it was merely a moving shadow—a vague shape. It cam_oward me—"
"From which direction? "asked Stone, with decided interest.
"From Eunice's room—that is, it had, of course, come from Mr.
Embury's room, through Eunice's room, and so on into my room.
For it was Sanford Embury's spirit—get that firmly in your minds!"
The old lady spoke with asperity, for she was afraid of contradiction, an_esented their quite apparent scepticism.
"Go on, please," urged Stone.
"Well, the spirit came nearer my bed, and paused and looked down on me where _ay."
"Did you see his face?" asked Elliott.
"Dimly. I can't seem to make you understand how vague the whole thing was—an_et it was there! As he leaned over me, I saw him—saw the indistinct shape—an_ heard the sound of a watch ticking. It was not my watch, it was a very fain_icking one, but all else was so still, that I positively heard it."
"Gee!" said Fibsy, in an explosive whisper.
"Then he seemed about to move away. Impulsively, I made a movement to detai_im. Almost without volition—acting on instinct—I put out my hand and clutche_is arm. I felt his sleeve—it wasn't a coat sleeve—nor a pajama sleeve—i_eemed to have on his gymnasium suit—the sleeve was like woolen jersey—"
"And you felt this?"
"Yes, Mr. Stone, I felt it distinctly—and not only with my hand as I graspe_t his arm but" Aunt Abby hesitated an instant, then went on, "But I bit a_im! Yes, I did! I don't know why, only I was possessed with an impulse t_old him—and he was slipping away. I didn't realize at the time—who—what i_as, and I sort of thought it was a burglar. But, anyway, I bit at him, and s_ bit at the woolen sleeve—it was unmistakable—and on it I tasted raspberr_am."
"What!" cried her hearers almost in concert.
"Yes—you needn't laugh—I guess I know the taste of raspberry jam, and it wa_n that sleeve, as sure as I'm sitting here!"
"Gee!" repeated Fibsy, his fists clenched on his knees and his bright eye_airly boring into the old lady's countenance. "Gee whiz!"
"Go on," said Stone, quietly.
"And—I smelt gasoline," concluded Miss Ames defiantly. "Now, sir, there's th_tory. Make what you will out of it, it's every word true. I've thought i_ver and over, since I realized what it all meant, and had I known at the tim_t was Sanford's spirit, I should have spoken to him. But as it was, I was to_tunned to speak, and when I tried to hold him, he slipped away, an_isappeared. But it was positively a materialization of Sanford Embury'_litting spirit—and nothing else."
"The vision may argue a passing soul," Stone said kindly, as if humoring her,
"but the effect on your other senses, seems to me to indicate a livin_erson."
"No," and Aunt Abby spoke with deep solemnity, "a materialized spirit i_vident to our senses—one or another of them. In this case I discerned it b_ll five senses, which is unusual —possibly unique; but I am very psychic—ver_ensitive to spiritual manifestations."
"You have seen ghosts before, then?"
"Oh, yes. I have visions often. But never such a strange one."
"And where did this spirit disappear to?"
"It just faded. It seemed to waft on across the room. I closed my eye_nvoluntarily, and when I opened them again it was gone."
"Leaving no trace behind?"
"The faint odor of gasoline—and the taste of raspberry jam on my tongue."
Fibsy snickered, but suppressed it at once, and said, "And he left the littl_ropper-thing beside your bed?"
"Yes, boy! You seem clairvoyant yourself! He did. It was Sanford, of course; he had killed himself with the poison, and he tried to tell me so—but h_ouldn't make any communication—they rarely can—so he left the tiny implement, that we might know and understand."
"H'm, yes;" and Stone sat thinking. "Now, Miss Ames, you must not be offende_t what I'm about to say. I don't disbelieve your story at all. You tell i_oo honestly for that. I fully believe you saw what you call a 'vision.' Bu_ou have thought over it and brooded over it, until you think you saw mor_han you did—or less! But, leaving that aside for the moment, I want you t_ealize that your theory of suicide, based on the 'vision' is not logical.
Supposing your niece were guilty—as the detectives think—might not Mr.
Embury's spirit have pursued the same course?"
Aunt Abby pondered. Then, her eyes flashing, she cried, "Do you mean he pu_he dropper in my room to throw suspicion on me, instead of on his wife?"
"There is a chance for such a theory."
"Sanford wouldn't do such a thing! He was truly fond of me!"
"But to save his wife?"
"I never thought of all that. Maybe he did—or, maybe he dropped the thin_ccidentally—"
"Maybe." Stone spoke preoccupiedly.
Mason Elliott, too, sat in deep thought. At last he said:
"Aunt Abby, if I were you, I wouldn't tell that yarn to anybody else. Let'_ll forget it, and call it merely a dream."
"What do you mean, Mason? "The old lady bridled, having no wish to hear he_arvelous experience belittled. "It wasn't a dream —not an ordinary dream—i_as a true appearance of Sanford, after his death. You know such things d_appen—look at that son of Sir Oliver Lodge. You don't doubt that, do you?"
"Never mind those things. But I earnestly beg of you, Aunt Abby, to forget th_pisode—or, at least, to promise me you'll not repeat it to any one else."
"I think it wiser for all concerned—for all concerned—that the tale shall no_ecome public property."
"Oh, my land!" burst out Fibsy; "don't you see? The ghost was Mrs. Embury!"
The boy had put into words what was in the thoughts of both Stone and Elliott.
They realized that, while Aunt Abby's experience might have been entirely _ream, it was so circumstantial as to indicate a real occurrence, and in tha_ase, what solution so plausible as that Eunice, after committing the crime, wandered into her aunt's room, and whether purposely or accidentally, droppe_he implement of death?
Stone, bent on investigation, plied Miss Ames with questions.
Elliott, sorely afraid for Eunice, begged the old lady not to answer.
"You are inventing!" he cried. "You are drawing on your imagination! Don'_elieve all that, Mr. Stone. It isn't fair to—to Mrs. Embury!"
"Then you see it as I do, Mr. Elliott?" and Stone turned to him quickly. "But, even so, we must look into this story. Suppose, as an experiment, we build u_ case against Mrs. Embury, for the purpose of knocking it down again. A ma_f straw—you know."
"Don't," pleaded Elliott. "Just forget the rigmarole of the nocturna_ision—and devote your energies to finding the real murderer. I have _heory—"
"Wait, Mr. Elliott, I fear you are an interested investigator. Don't forge_hat you have been mentioned as one of those with 'motive but no opportunity.'
"Since you have raised that issue, Mr. Stone, let me say right here that m_egard for Mrs. Embury is very great. It is also honorable and lifelong. _ake no secret of it, but I declare to you that its very purity and intensit_uts it far above and beyond any suspicion of being 'motive' for the murder o_rs. Embury's huband."
Mason Elliott looked Fleming Stone straight in the eye and the speaker's ton_nd expression carried a strong conviction of sincerity.
Fibsy, too, scrutinized Elliott.
"Good egg!" he observed to himself; "trouble is—he'd give us that same son_nd dance if he'd croaked the guy his own self!"
"Furthermore," Stone went on, "Mrs. Embury shows a peculiarly stron_epugnance to hearing this story of Miss Ames' experience. That looks—"
"Oh, fiddlesticks!" cried Miss Ames, who had been listening in amazement; "i_asn't Eunice! Why would she rig up in Sanford's gym jersey?"
"Why wouldn't she?" countered Stone. "As I said, we're building up _upposititious case. Assume that it was Mrs. Embury, not at all enacting _host, but merely wandering around after her impulsive deed—for if she is th_uilty party it must have been an impulsive deed. You know her uncontrollabl_emper—her sudden spasms of rage—"
"Mr. Stone, a 'man of straw,' as you call it, is much more easily built u_han knocked down." Elliott spoke sternly. "I hold you have no right to assum_rs. Embury's identity in this story Miss Ames tells."
"Is there anything that points to her in your discernment by your five senses, Miss Ames?" Stone asked, very gravely. "Has Mrs. Embury a faintly tickin_atch?"
"Yes, her wrist-watch," Aunt Abby answered, though speaking evidently agains_er will.
"And it is possible that she slipped on her husband's jersey; and it i_ossible there was raspberry jam on the sleeve of it. You see, I am no_oubting the evidence of your senses. Now, as to the gasoline. Had Mrs.
Embury, or her maid, by any chance, been cleaning any laces or finery wit_asoline?"
"I won't tell you!" and Aunt Abby shook her head so obstinately that it wa_uite equivalent to an affirmative answer!
"Now, you see, Aunt Abby," protested Elliott, in an agonized voice, "why _ant you to shut up about that confounded 'vision'! You are responsible fo_his case Mr. Stone is so ingeniously building up against Eunice! You ar_etting her into a desperate coil, from which it will be difficult t_xtricate her! If Shane got hold of this absurd yarn—"
"It's not entirely absurd," broke in Stone, "but I agree with you, Mr.
Elliott; if Shane learns of it—he won't investigate any further!"
"He shan't know of it," was the angry retort. "I got you here, Mr. Stone—"
"To discover the truth, or to free Mrs. Embury?"
There was a pause, and the two men looked at each other. Then Mason Elliott said, in a low voice, "To free Mrs. Embury."
"I can't take the case that way," Stone replied. "I will abandon the whol_ffair, or—I will find out the truth."
"Abandon it!" cried a ringing voice, and the door of her bedroom was flun_pen as Eunice again appeared.
She was in a towering fury, her face was white and her lips compressed to _traight scarlet line.
"Give up the case! I will take my chances with any judge or jury rather tha_ith you!" She faced Stone like the "Tiger" her husband had nicknamed her. "_ave heard every word—Aunt Abby's story—and your conclusions! Your despicable
'deductions,' as I suppose you call them! I've had enough of the 'celebrate_etective'! Quite enough of Fleming Stone—and his work!"
She stepped back and gazed at him with utter scorn beautiful as a sculpture_edea, haughty as a tragedy queen.
"Independent as a pig on ice!" Fibsy communicated with himself, and he stare_t her with undisguised admiration.
"Eunice," and the pain in Mason Elliott's voice was noticeable;
"Eunice, dear, don't do yourself such injustice."
"Why not? When everybody is unjust to me! You, Mason, you and this—thi_nfallible detective sit here and deliberately build up what you call a 'case'
against me—me, Eunice Embury! Oh—I hate you all!"
A veritable figure of hate incarnate, she stood, her white hands clasping eac_ther tightly, as they hung against her black gown. Her head held high, he_hole attitude fiercely defiant, she flung out her words with a bitternes_hat betokened the end of her endurance—the limit of her patience.
Then her hands fell apart, her whole body drooped, and sinking down on th_ide sofa, she sat, hopelessly facing them, but with head erect and the air o_ne vanquished but very much unsubdued.
"Take that back, Eunice," Elliott spoke passionately, and quite as if ther_ere no others present; "you do not hate me—I am here to help you!"
"You can't, Mason; no one can help me. No one can protect me from Flemin_tone!"
The name was uttered with such scorn as to seem an invective of itself!
Stone betrayed no annoyance at her attitude toward him, but rather seeme_mpressed with her personality. He gave her a glance that was not untinge_ith admiration, but he made no defence.
"I can," cried Fibsy, who was utterly routed by Eunice's imperious beauty.
"You go ahead with Mr. F. Stone, ma'am, and I'll see to it that they ain't n_njustice done to you!"
Stone looked at his excited young assistant with surprise, and then good- naturedly contented himself with a shake of his head, and a
"Yes, sir—but, oh, Mr. Stone—" and then, at a gesture from the great detectiv_he boy paused, abashed, and remained silent.
"Now, Miss Ames," Stone began, "in Mrs. Embury's presence, I'll ask you—"
"You won't ask me anything, sir," she returned crisply. "I'm going out. I've _ery important errand to do."
"Oh, I don't know about that," Elliott said; "it's almost six o'clock, Aun_bby. Where are you going?"
"I've got an errand—a very important errand—an appointment, in fact. I mus_o—don't you dare oppose me, Mason. You'll be sorry if you do!"
Even as she spoke, the old lady was scurrying to her room, from which sh_eturned shortly, garbed for the street.
"All right," Stone said, in reply to a whisper from Fibsy, and the bo_ffered, respectfully:
"Let me go with you, Miss Ames. It ain't fittin' you should go alone. It's
"Come on, boy," Aunt Abby regarded him kindly; "I'd be glad of your company."
At the street door, the old lady asked for a taxicab, and the strangel_ssorted pair were soon on their way.
"You're a bright lad, Fibsy," she said; "by the way, what's your real name—_orget."
"Terence, ma'am; Terence McGuire. I wish't I was old enough to be calle_cGuire! I'd like that."
"I'll call you that, if you wish. You're old for your age, I'm sure. How ol_re you?"
"Goin' on about fifteen or sixteen—I think. I sort'a forget."
"Nonsense! You can't forget your age! Why do they call you Fibsy?"
"'Cause I'm a born liar—'scuse me—a congenital prevaricator, I meant to say.
You see, ma'am, it's necessary in my business not always to employ the plai_nvarnished. But don't be alarmed, ma'am; when I take a fancy to anybuddy, a_ have to you, ma'am, I don't never lie to 'em. Not that I s'pose you'd care, eh, ma'am?"
Aunt Abby laughed. "You are a queer lad! Why, I'm not sure I'd care, if i_idn't affect me in any way. I'm not responsible for your truthfulness—thoug_ don't mind advising you that you ought to be a truthful boy."
"Land, ma'am! Don't you s'pose I know that? But, honest now, are you alway_ust exactly, abserlutely truthful, yourself?"
"Certainly I am! What do you mean by speaking to me like that?"
"Well, don't you ever touch up a yarn a little jest sort'a to make it mor_nterestin' like? Most ladies do—that is, most ladies of intelligence an_rains—which you sure have got in plenty!"
"There, there, boy; I'm afraid I've humored you too much you're presuming."
"I presume I am. But one question more, while we're on this absorbin' subject.
Didn't you, now, just add a jot or a tittle to that ghost story you put over?
Was it every bit on the dead level?"
"Yes, child," Aunt Abby took his question seriously; "it was every word true.
I didn't make up the least word of it!"
"I believe you, ma'am, and I congratulate you on your clarviant powers. Now, about that raspberry jam, ma'am. That's a mighty unmistakable taste—ain't it, now."
"It is, McGuire. It certainly is. And I tasted it, just as surely as I'm her_elling you about it."
"Have you had it for supper lately, ma'am?"
"No; Eunice hasn't had it on her table since I've been visiting her."