Final Proof: or, The Value of Evidence
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"'Us? Does that mean that you too held the view that I merely pretend that the stud was lost?'
"'My dear Madame,' I replied: 'such an idea, of course, seems preposterous, but a detective cannot set aside any theory without thorough investigation. In an analysis of this character the personal equation must have a secondary place. In this affair it could not help us at all. Perhaps you will not understand my meaning. But do you not see that it is just as inconceivable that either of the other ladies should have stolen this stud of yours, as it is to believe that you merely pretend that it is lost? From the view-point of the impartial investigator there can be no choice between these propositions.'
"'I must say that you are not very flattering,' said she, troubled, as she realized that social position could not protect her from suspicion any more than it would the other women. 'Why, I have my enmities, of course, and I frankly admit that I do not love either Mrs. Merivale or Mrs. Beaumont, especially not the latter. Still, to concoct such a scandalous calumny against an innocent woman would be awful. I could not be so low as that.'
"'I believe you,' said I, and I did. 'But, on the other hand, would it not be equally low for these ladies, your social equals, to stoop to petty theft?'
"'I suppose you are right,' said she reluctantly; 'but how did the stud disappear? Don't you see that I had strong evidence against one of them? It was there when they were in the room, and gone when they had left. There must be some explanation of that. What can it be?'
"'Of course,' said I, 'there must be, and there is, an explanation. The most plausible seems to be the one suggested by Mrs. Beaumont, that it rolled from the table to the floor when she put it back. It seems incredible that two searches have failed to discover it, yet it is a small object, and may be lying now in some crevice which you all have over-looked.'
"'I think not,' said she, shaking her head dubiously. 'Suppose you come up and see for yourself. You won't find any crevices. Why, we have even run wires along the line where the seat and back of the lounge are joined. No, the stud is not in that room.'
"And now, friend Barnes, we come to the finale, for I may as well tell you at once that I have found the stud, – that, indeed, as soon as I looked into the room, I suspected that it was within those four walls, in a place where no one had thought of looking, though, to mystify you a little more, I may say that it may not have been in the room when you made your search.
"I inclose with this a sciagraph, that is to say, a picture taken with the X-ray. You will observe that the skeleton of a small animal is discernible surrounded by a faint outline which suggests the form of a dog. If you understand something of anatomy, look where the stomach of the dog should be, and you will notice a dark spot. This is the shadow of the missing stud, which, as Mrs.Beaumont suggested, must have dropped to the floor. There it evidently attracted the attention of Mrs. Upton's pet dog, Fidele, who took it into his mouth, with the result shown in the sciagraph. You will ask how I guessed this at once? In the first place I had perfect confidence in the thoroughness of your search, so when I saw the dog in the room, lying on a silk pillow, two pertinent facts were prominent at once. First, the dog may not have been in the room when you examined the place, and consequently you could not have counted him in as a possible place of search. Secondly, he might easily have been present when the two ladies called, and this was probable since his mistress was lying down and the dog's sleeping-pillow was near the head of the lounge. If you noted this, you may not have comprehended its use; perhaps you took it for one which had slipped from the lounge. At all events, I do not consider that you have been at all at fault. I had better luck than you, that is all.
"P. S. – I do not myself believe in luck. I must also state that Mrs. Upton has sent letters of apology to the other ladies. The dog, Fidele, is to undergo an operation to-morrow. One of our most skilful surgeons has agreed to regain the stud and preserve the life of the pet. A laparotomy, I believe they, call it. – R. L. M."
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