Rodrigues Ottolengui.

Final Proof: or, The Value of Evidence



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"Oh; then you did find your missing link?"

"Yes. I personally swept every room, and the staircase, and at last I found the link. But it would be more correct to say your missing link, than mine, Mr. Mitchel, for it was from this chain that it was broken."

"Indeed!"

Mr. Barnes was amazed at the imperturbable manner in which this statement was received. Becoming slightly agitated himself, he continued:

"As soon as I picked up that link, I was shocked at my discovery, for, from its peculiar shape, I recognized it as similar to your chain, which I had often observed. Still, I hoped that there might be some mistake; that it might have fallen from some other man. But you permitted me to examine this chain, and the last doubt is swept away. I note that every alternate link is solid, the intermediate ones having a slit, by which the links are joined into a chain. The wrench given by the dying woman strained one of these links so that it opened, allowing the chain to part, and later this particular link dropped off. Either you did not observe it at once, or else, being small, you could not find it. If this occurred as I have described, what would be the result? Your chain, where parted, would terminate at each end with a solid link. Thus, to unite the chain again, my lens shows me that you have sawed through one link, and so rejoined your chain. And not only do I see the freshly sawed link, but, as must necessarily be the case, we have two links adjacent, each of which can be opened."

"And your next move will be?" asked Mr. Mitchel, still apparently undisturbed.

"I have no recourse open to me except to arrest you. That is why I have found this whole interview so painful."

"I understand your position, and sympathize with you thoroughly," said Mr. Mitchel. "And yet, see how easily you might dismiss this whole theory of yours. These houses are in my neighborhood, immediately back of me, in fact. I am a householder. What more natural than my taking an interest in property so near me? Why may I not have visited the houses to examine them? Then what more possible than the chance that in passing from one room to another, my chain should have caught on a door-knob, and have been broken, the link dropping as you have suggested? My repairing the damage would be but a natural sequence, and the subsequent murder and your train of reasoning is resolved into a mere coincidence."

"That is ingenious, Mr. Mitchel. But some instinct tells me that I am right, and that you did commit this crime."

"Intuition, which I suppose is what you mean by instinct, is not always reliable, but, oddly enough, in this instance you are correct. I did kill that creature. Moreover, the sequence of events was as you have deduced. I commend you for your skill, for, believe me, I used every precaution to prevent detection."

"Then you confess? My God! This is horrible!"

At the prospect of arresting Mr. Mitchel, a man who had won his most ardent admiration, Mr.

Barnes was so overcome that he sank into a chair and stared blankly at his companion.

"Come! come!" said Mr. Mitchel. "Don't break down like that. The affair is bad enough, I admit, but it might be worse."

"Might be worse!" ejaculated Mr. Barnes, amazed at the words as well as the half-jocular tone.

"Why yes. Much worse. Why, Mr. Barnes, have you not had evidence of my ability to thwart detectives before to-day? Do you suppose that I shall permit myself to be detected, arrested, imprisoned in this affair? Nothing is further from my mind, I assure you. True, you have, with your uncommon skill, discovered a part of the truth. But that need not trouble me, for no other detective will be so shrewd."

"Do you mean to suggest that I should shield you in this matter?"

"Well, yes. That is about what I expect from your friendship."

"Impossible! Impossible! I wish that I could do what you ask! But no! It is impossible!"

"There. I have tried your patience long enough. Let me tell you the whole story, and then you may decide as you please. A few years ago, in Paris, a friend presented me with a poodle. French poodles, as you know, are considered the most intelligent of all dogs, and this one seemed to be the wisest of his species. My friend had already trained him to perform many tricks, and these were done at command, without special signals, so that I could but believe what my friend claimed, that the dog actually understood what was said to him. Thinking this matter over one day, it presented itself to me in a singular light.

"In the training of animals, man has always aimed to make the dumb brute understand, and carry out, the master's wishes. No one, so far as I then knew, had ever trained a dog to express his own wishes, in any way intelligible to the master. This I undertook to do, and was fairly successful. I printed words on cards, such as 'food,' 'drink,' 'yard,' etc., and, by means which I need not recapitulate, I taught my dog to bring me the special card which would represent his wishes. Thus, when he was thirsty, he could ask for 'water,' or when he wished to leave the house, he brought the card marked 'yard.' Imagine my astonishment when one day a little sky-terrier, belonging to another lodger in the house, came to me with the 'food' card in his mouth. At first I supposed it to be merely an accident, but I soon discovered that the terrier understood the cards as well as did the poodle. How, unless the poodle had taught him? Do dogs, then, have a language by which they may communicate with each other?

"This was a new thought, which attracted me more and more as I revolved it in my mind. Then it occurred to me that if animals have a language, monkeys would offer the best field for study, and I began investigating. The discovery that the apes do have a language has been made by Mr. Garner, and by him the fact has been published to the world. But I made the discovery several years ago, though I kept it to myself, for reasons which you shall hear.

"I practised upon the monkeys in the Zo?logical Gardens in Paris and London, until I was a veritable crank on the subject of monkey language. Nothing would satisfy me but a trip to Africa. Thither I went, and made great progress, so that by the time I captured a fine chimpanzee on the Congo, I was able to readily make him understand that I meant him no harm. At first he received my overtures with hesitation, his previous experience with my race rendering him skeptical as to my good qualities. But after a time, we became good friends; I might even say chums. After that I gave him his liberty, and we took strolls together. He was a very sociable fellow when one really got to know him well, but we found the resources of the monkey language inadequate to our needs. The experiment with my dog recurred to me, and I undertook to teach him a human tongue. I chose German as the best adapted to his limitations, and he made such progress that in a few months we could converse with tolerable ease.

"I decided to tell him something of the world of civilization, and one day it occurred to me to expound to him the Darwinian theory. He listened with an expression of learned thought upon his face which would have well suited the countenance of a philosopher, but when I had finished, he astounded me by announcing that he thought he could show me that higher race of apes, which, being more humanly developed than any species now known, might well be designated 'the missing link' which connects the Simian race with man. I begged him to do so, and he undertook the task, though he said that it involved a long journey. I urged him to go, and he left me.

"A month had passed, and I had begun to think that my new-found friend had deserted me, when one day he walked into camp, accompanied by the most human-like ape I had ever seen. It was neither chimpanzee nor gorilla, but a combination of both in those characteristics which were most manlike. The most conspicuous advance beyond the anthropoid apes now known, was the hairless skin. The hands and feet, too, were more human in shape, though on the latter the hallux still retained its prehensile character, which perhaps is necessary to a tree dweller. The face was peculiarly human, though the jaws retained certain distinguishing attributes of the ape, as, for example, the space between the anterior and posterior teeth, and the fang-like canine teeth.

"As you must already suspect the sequel, I may hurry on to the end. The creature was a female, and in the trip to our camp my chimpanzee friend had become much attached to her; indeed, I may say he had fallen in love with her. He had also begun her higher education, so that when we met she was able to address a few words to me in German. As you may well imagine, I was greatly interested in this animal, and did all in my power to teach her. She made even more rapid progress than the chimpanzee had, and I was thinking of the sensation I could produce in Paris by sending cards of invitation to the nuptials of my monkey friends, which I determined should occur in the great metropolis.

"Imagine my horror one morning, upon finding the chimpanzee dead. I did not immediately comprehend the full significance of this, but upon questioning the ape a few days later, she candidly confessed to me that she had strangled the chimpanzee, her only reason being, that having decided for the future to live as a human being, she deemed it wise to destroy her companion, that he might not be able to divulge the secret of her origin.

"Instantly my mind was awakened to a danger which menaced myself. I too knew the secret of her savage ancestry, and the fact that she had not slain me also was probably due to her hope that I would fulfil my promise and take her with me to more civilized parts. Indeed, so certain was I of this, that I took the first opportunity to foster that ambition in her bosom. At the same time I carefully planned a secret departure, and a few nights later succeeded in getting away unobserved, while the ape slept. Throughout the journey to the coast I constantly feared pursuit, but was fortunate enough to get safely on shipboard without hearing more of the savage creature.

"At dusk on last Saturday, I was strolling through the next street, when, to my amazement, I saw coming towards me what appeared to be a woman, whose face however was so startlingly like the ape which I had left in Africa that for a moment I was dazed. In the next instant, realizing that if my suspicion was true, I might be in danger even after the lapse of time, and hoping that it was merely a chance resemblance, I quickly turned into one of the new houses still open for inspection. I did not dare to look behind me, and even thought it a trick of my excited imagination when I fancied that I heard steps following me as I ascended to the second floor. I turned upon reaching the floor above, and instantly with a savage cry the brute was upon me, her hands upon my throat, making a desperate effort to strangle me. I gripped her neck in a similar manner, scarcely hoping to save my life. Fortune favored me, however, and, after a lengthy struggle, the ape lay dead at my feet. I suppose that several years of life in civilization had sapped her savage strength.

"My subsequent proceedings were actuated by two motives. In the first place any public connection of my name with such a horrible encounter would naturally have greatly annoyed my wife, and secondly I could not resist my innate fondness for contending with detectives. I removed the head, hands, and feet, to prevent identification, and also because with them I can convince you that the animal was an ape, and not a woman. As there is no law against the killing of an ape, you must see, Mr. Barnes, that it would be futile to arrest me."

"You are right," replied Mr. Barnes, "and I am truly glad that your explanation places you beyond the law. You must forgive me for my suspicion."

The two men joined hands in a firm clasp, which cemented their friendship, and guaranteed that the secret which they shared would never be divulged by either.

III
THE NAMELESS MAN

Mr. Barnes was sitting in his private room, with nothing of special importance to occupy his thoughts, when his office boy announced a visitor.

"What name?" asked Mr. Barnes.

"None," was the reply.

"You mean," said the detective, "that the man did not give you his name. He must have one, of course. Show him in."

A minute later the stranger entered, and, bowing courteously, began the conversation at once.

"Mr. Barnes, the famous detective, I believe?" said he.

"My name is Barnes," replied the detective. "May I have the pleasure of knowing yours?"

"I sincerely hope so," continued the stranger. "The fact is, I suppose I have forgotten it."

"Forgotten your name?" Mr. Barnes scented an interesting case, and became doubly attentive.

"Yes," said the visitor; "that is precisely my singular predicament. I seem to have lost my identity. That is the object of my call. I wish you to discover who I am. As I am evidently a full-grown man, I can certainly claim that I have a past history, but to me that past is entirely blank. I awoke this morning in this condition, yet apparently in possession of all my faculties, so much so, that I at once saw the advisability of consulting a first-class detective, and, upon inquiry, I was directed to you."

"Your case is most interesting – from my point of view, I mean. To you, of course, it must seem unfortunate. Yet it is not unparalleled. There have been many such cases recorded, and, for your temporary relief, I may say that, sooner or later, complete restoration of memory usually occurs. But now, let us try to unravel your mystery as soon as possible, that you may suffer as little inconvenience as there need be. I would like to ask you a few questions."

"As many as you like, and I will do my best to answer."

"Do you think that you are a New Yorker?"

"I have not the least idea whether I am or not."

"You say you were advised to consult me. By whom?"

"The clerk at the Waldorf Hotel, where I slept last night."

"Then, of course, he gave you my address. Did you find it necessary to ask him how to find my offices?"

"Well, no, I did not. That seems strange, does it not? I certainly had no difficulty in coming here. I suppose that must be a significant fact, Mr. Barnes?"

"It tends to show that you have been familiar with New York, but we must still find out whether you live here or not. How did you register at the hotel?"

"M. J. G. Remington, City."

"You are quite sure that Remington is not your name?"

"Quite sure. After breakfast this morning I was passing through the lobby when the clerk called me twice by that name. Finally, one of the hall-boys touched me on the shoulder and explained that I was wanted at the desk. I was very much confused to find myself called 'Mr. Remington,' a name which certainly is not my own. Before I fully realized my position, I said to the clerk, 'Why do you call me Remington?' and he replied, 'Because you registered under that name.' I tried to pass it off, but I am sure that the clerk looks upon me as a suspicious character."

"What baggage have you with you at the hotel?"

"None. Not even a satchel."

"May there not be something in your pockets that would help us; letters, for example?"

"I am sorry to say that I have made a search in that direction, but found nothing. Luckily I did have a pocketbook, though."

"Much money in it?"

"In the neighborhood of five hundred dollars."

Mr. Barnes turned to his table and made a few notes on a pad of paper. While so engaged his visitor took out a fine gold watch, and, after a glance at the face, was about to return it to his pocket, when Mr. Barnes wheeled around in his chair, and said:

"That is a handsome watch you have there. Of a curious pattern, too. I am rather interested in old watches."

The stranger seemed confused for an instant, and quickly put up his watch, saying:

"There is nothing remarkable about it. Merely an old family relic. I value it more for that than anything else. But about my case, Mr. Barnes; how long do you think it will take to restore my identity to me? It is rather awkward to go about under a false name."

"I should think so," said the detective. "I will do my best for you, but you have given me absolutely no clue to work upon, so that it is impossible to say what my success will be. Still I think forty-eight hours should suffice. At least in that time I ought to make some discoveries for you. Suppose you call again on the day after to-morrow, at noon precisely. Will that suit you?"

"Very well, indeed. If you can tell me who I am at that time I shall be more than convinced that you are a great detective, as I have been told."

He arose and prepared to go, and upon the instant Mr. Barnes touched a button under his table with his foot, which caused a bell to ring in a distant part of the building, no sound of which penetrated the private office. Thus any one could visit Mr. Barnes in his den, and might leave, unsuspicious of the fact that a spy would be awaiting him out in the street who would shadow him persistently day and night until recalled by his chief. After giving the signal, Mr. Barnes held his strange visitor in conversation a few moments longer to allow his spy opportunity to get to his post.

"How will you pass the time away, Mr. Remington?" said he. "We may as well call you by that name, until I find your true one."

"Yes, I suppose so. As to what I shall do during the next forty-eight hours, why, I think I may as well devote myself to seeing the sights. It is a remarkably pleasant day for a stroll, and I think I will visit your beautiful Central Park."

"A capital idea. By all means, I would advise occupation of that kind. It would be best not to do any business until your memory is restored to you."

"Business? Why, of course, I can do no business."

"No. If you were to order any goods, for example, under the name of Remington, later on when you resume your proper identity you might be arrested as an impostor."

"By George! I had not thought of that. My position is more serious than I had realized. I thank you for the warning. Sight-seeing will assuredly be my safest plan for the next two days."

"I think so. Call at the time agreed upon, and hope for the best. If I should need you before then, I will send to your hotel."

Then, saying "Good morning," Mr. Barnes turned to his desk again, and, as the stranger looked at him before stepping out of the room, the detective seemed engrossed with some papers before him. Yet scarcely had the door closed upon the retreating form of his recent visitor, when Mr. Barnes looked up, with an air of expectancy. A moment later a very tiny bell in a drawer of his desk rang, indicating that the man had left the building, the signal having been sent to him by one of his employees, whose business it was to watch all departures and notify his chief. A few moments later Mr. Barnes himself emerged, clad in an entirely different suit of clothing, and with such alteration in the color of his hair that more than a casual glance would have been required to recognize him.

When he reached the street the stranger was nowhere in sight, but Mr. Barnes went to a doorway opposite, and there he found, written in blue pencil, the word "up," whereupon he walked rapidly uptown as far as the next corner, where once more he examined a door-post, upon which he found the word "right," which indicated the way the men ahead of him had turned. Beyond this he could expect no signals, for the spy shadowing the stranger did not know positively that his chief would take part in the game. The two signals which he had written on the doors were merely a part of a routine, and intended to aid Mr. Barnes should he follow; but if he did so, he would be expected to be in sight of the spy by the time the second signal was reached. And so it proved in this instance, for as Mr. Barnes turned the corner to the right, he easily discerned his man about two blocks ahead, and presently was near enough to see "Remington" also.

The pursuit continued until Mr. Barnes was surprised to see him enter the Park, thus carrying out his intention as stated in his interview with the detective. Entering at the Fifth Avenue gate he made his way towards the menagerie, and here a curious incident occurred. The stranger had mingled with the crowd in the monkey-house, and was enjoying the antics of the mischievous little animals, when Mr. Barnes, getting close behind him, deftly removed a pocket-handkerchief from the tail of his coat and swiftly transferred it to his own.

On the day following, shortly before noon, Mr. Barnes walked quickly into the reading-room of the Fifth Avenue Hotel. In one corner there is a handsome mahogany cabinet, containing three compartments, each of which is entered through double doors, having glass panels in the upper half. About these panels are draped yellow silk curtains, and in the centre of each appears a white porcelain numeral. These compartments are used as public telephone stations, the applicant being shut in, so as to be free from the noise of the outer room.



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