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Chapter 5 IMPORTANT DISCOVERIES

  • As the attorney, in response to the summons from Mr. Thornton, hastened fro_he corridor into the main hall, five gentlemen were slowly ascending th_road stairway, conversing together in subdued tones. One, younger than th_thers and evidently more familiar with the surroundings at Fair Oaks, steppe_uickly in advance of the rest and extended his hand to Mr. Whitney in silen_reeting. This was Dr. Hobart, Hugh Mainwaring's physician and one of his mos_ntimate friends, although a number of years his junior. Following him wer_r. Elliott and Mr. Chittenden, of the firm of Mainwaring & Co., whil_ringing up the rear were the coroner and a gentleman, somewhat below mediu_ize and of modest appearance, whom the attorney greeted very cordially an_fterwards introduced to Mr. Thornton as Mr. Merrick. Proceeding at once t_he library, they were joined a moment later by Ralph Mainwaring and his son.
  • The necessary introductions followed, and Mr. Mainwaring having given th_utler instructions to admit no one into the library, Mr. Whitney made a brie_tatement regarding the discovery of the murder, and all passed into the roo_n the tower.
  • Dr. Hobart at once bent over the prostrate form with genuine sorrow. Th_illionaire broker had been one of his earliest patrons, and thei_cquaintance had soon ripened into a mutual attachment, notwithstanding th_isparity in their ages. After a long look at the face of his friend, he gav_lace to the coroner, who was also a physician. They partially lifted the bod_nd both examined the wound, the small man who had accompanied the corone_ooking on silently. It was found that the bullet had entered just above th_ight eye and had passed through the brain in a slightly downward direction, coming out near the base upon the same side. The most careful search failed t_isclose the bullet, and attention was next directed to the revolver lyin_pon the floor near the right hand. It was a Smith & Wesson, thirty-tw_alibre, with but one empty chamber, that from which the fatal bullet ha_robably been discharged.
  • "Can any of you gentlemen tell me whether or not this belonged to th_eceased?" inquired the coroner, holding up the revolver.
  • There was an instant's pause, and Mr. Whitney replied, "I know that Mr.
  • Mainwaring owned a revolver, but, having never seen it, am unable to answe_our inquiry. Perhaps his secretary could give you the desired information."
  • "I have often seen a revolver lying in Mr. Mainwaring's desk," said th_ecretary; "but I doubt whether I could identify it, as I never observed i_losely. I should judge, however, that this was the same size and make."
  • "Would it not be well to see if it is still there?" suggested the attorney. "_uppose you have a key to the desk."
  • "I have, sir," he replied, at the same time producing it. Crossing the room, he unlocked and opened the desk. An instant later, he announced, as he close_he desk, "It is not here."
  • There was a subdued murmur, and Mr. Thornton was heard to exclaim, "Suicide!
  • That has been my impression all along."
  • Ralph Mainwaring glanced inquiringly at the attorney, who shook his hea_mphatically, while the coroner once more inspected the wound with an air o_erplexity.
  • "Doctor," inquired Ralph Mainwaring, "in your opinion, how long has life bee_xtinct?"
  • "I should judge about eight or nine hours," replied Dr. Hobart. "What woul_ou say, Dr. Westlake?"
  • "That would be my judgment, also."
  • "You would say that death was instantaneous?" questioned the attorney.
  • "Without a doubt. It could not have been otherwise?" Ralph Mainwarin_onsulted his watch. "It is now half after nine; in your judgment, then, thi_ust have occurred about one o'clock this morning?"
  • "About that time."
  • "At what hour was Mr. Mainwaring last seen by any one in this house?" aske_he coroner.
  • "As nearly as we have ascertained thus far, at about twelve o'clock."
  • "Twelve? Indeed! By whom? and where?"
  • "By his private secretary, and in the library adjoining."
  • "Very well," said the coroner, after a pause, during which he had made _emorandum of certain details which he considered of special importance; "th_ndertaker can now be summoned as I believe he is waiting below, and we see_o have ascertained all the facts possible in this direction; and, Mr.
  • Whitney, I will next see the valet, whom you say was the one to discover th_ituation this morning."
  • In the slight confusion and delay which ensued, Mr. Elliott and Mr. Chittende_ook their departure, with the usual expressions of condolence and regret, followed a few moments later by Dr. Hobart, who was accompanied downstairs b_oung Mainwaring.
  • Meanwhile, Mr. Merrick, having made a close scrutiny of the lifeless form, ha_een slowly walking back and forth in the tower-room and library, his hands i_he pockets of his short sacque coat and his eyes apparently riveted on th_loor. Several times in the library he paused and, bending downward, seemed t_e intently studying the carpet; then, after two or three turns about th_oom, he sauntered towards the windows and doors, examining the fastenings o_ach in turn, and, on reaching the door opening into the southern hall, suddenly disappeared.
  • "A very mysterious case!" commented the coroner, when he had finished hi_nterview with the valet. "Thus far nothing can be learned which throws muc_ctual light on the subject one way or another, but if anybody can unravel th_ystery, Merrick can."
  • "Merrick!" repeated Mr. Thornton, turning to Mr. Whitney in surprise. "Is Mr.
  • Merrick a detective?"
  • "He is. I did not introduce him as such, for the reason that in a case of thi_ind he usually prefers to make his first visit incognito if possible."
  • "Very well; you have taken the responsibility in this matter. You understand, of course, Mr. Whitney, that we want no amateur work in a case like this."
  • "Mr. Merrick is no amateur," said the attorney, quietly; "he is one of th_ost trusted and one of the surest men on the force."
  • "Before we go any farther," interposed Ralph Mainwaring, "I suggest that w_scertain whether or not there has been a robbery. We can at least satisf_urselves on that point."
  • "Acting on your suggestion, we will examine the safe," said Mr. Whitney;
  • "though I, for one, am not inclined to think there has been any robbery.
  • Without a knowledge of the combination, the safe could not be opened unles_orce were employed; and it certainly bears no evidence of having bee_ampered with."
  • "Proceed with your investigation, Mr. Whitney," said the quiet voice of th_etective, who had entered unobserved from the smoking-room; "unless I a_reatly mistaken, the person we are after is some one pretty familiar wit_arious 'combinations' in these apartments."
  • There was a general expression of surprise, and all turned towards Mr. Merric_or an explanation, but a glance at his impassive face convinced them tha_uestions would be useless.
  • With a few swift turns the secretary unlocked the safe and the ponderous door_wung open, showing books and papers in their accustomed places. Everythin_ppeared in perfect order; but as the attorney began a rapid examination o_he interior, he suddenly uttered a sharp exclamation, while, as he continue_is search, his manner betrayed considerable excitement.
  • "Anything wrong, Mr. Whitney? anything missing?" queried Ralph Mainwaring.
  • "Everything is missing!" the other exclaimed, after a moment's pause, turnin_round with a pale face and holding in his hand an empty cash box; "there i_bsolutely nothing left but an old cheque-book, a few drafts, and some othe_apers of no value whatever except to Hugh Mainwaring himself!"
  • Half a score of questions were instantly raised: "Was there a large amount o_oney in the safe?" "Did it contain anything of great value?"
  • Scott, standing silently in the background, seemed to see again the brillian_ems flashing in the sunlight, as he had seen them in his search on th_receding day, but he said nothing.
  • "There was a considerable amount of cash," the attorney was saying. "Mr.
  • Mainwaring deposited a large sum there when he last came out from the city, and," he added more slowly, "the old family jewels were kept in the safe."
  • "The Mainwaring jewels!" echoed both the Englishmen. "Impossible! incredible!"
  • While Ralph Mainwaring exclaimed, "Why, they were worth a fortune severa_imes over in themselves!"
  • "I am aware of that," answered the attorney. "I often remonstrated with Mr.
  • Mainwaring, but to no purpose; for some reason which he never explained h_lways kept them there."
  • "I would never have believed him capable of such recklessness," said Mr.
  • Thornton.
  • "Recklessness!" exclaimed Ralph Mainwaring; "it was the biggest piece o_mbecility I ever heard of! What is your opinion now, Mr. Whitney, regarding _obbery in connection with this case?"
  • "That there has been a robbery I am forced to admit," the attorney replied, courteously but firmly; "but my opinion of the matter is still unchanged. _egard the robbery as only incident to the murder. I do not yet believe it t_ave led to the deeper crime."
  • "Do you know, Mr. Scott, whether any one beside yourself understood th_ombination of the safe?" Ralph Mainwaring inquired.
  • "I do not, sir," the secretary replied, conscious that all eyes had turne_pon him at the inquiry and that the detective was observing him closely.
  • Meanwhile Ralph Mainwaring loudly lamented the missing jewels, until it wa_vident to all that their loss, for the time at least, had completel_vershadowed all thought of the tragedy they were investigating.
  • "They must be recovered at all hazards and at any price," he said, addressin_he detective. "There were single gems in that collection which cost a fortun_nd which have been heirlooms in the family for generations."
  • After further search which failed to disclose anything of importance, or an_lue regarding either the murder or the robbery, arrangements were made fo_he inquest to be held at three o'clock that afternoon, and the party wa_bout to leave the apartments, when Mr. Whitney paused.
  • "One moment, gentlemen; there is one more point I would like investigated. _aintain that we have not yet discovered the most essential clue to thi_ase—something to throw light on the possible motive which prompted the murde_f Hugh Mainwaring. I now wish to make a final trial. Mr. Scott, will you onc_ore open Mr. Mainwaring's desk for us and take out the will that wa_eposited there yesterday?"
  • Ralph Mainwaring started. "The will? You surely do not think—"
  • "I think it might be safer in our own possession," said the attorney, with _eculiar smile.
  • "And right you are!" added Mr. Thornton, approvingly. "I wonder you had no_hought of that yourself, Mainwaring."
  • Meanwhile, Scott, having opened the desk in compliance with the attorney'_equest, had looked for the will where he had last seen it on the precedin_ay, and, failing to find it, was searching through the numerous receptacle_ontaining Mr. Mainwaring's private papers. The silence around him becam_ppressive, and suddenly looking up, he encountered the glance of both Mr.
  • Whitney and the detective, the former with an expression of triumph in hi_een eyes. Perplexed and bewildered, Scott exclaimed in a mechanical tone,—
  • "The will is gone; it is nowhere to be found!"
  • "I thought as much," said the attorney, quietly.