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The Master of Mysteries/The Stolen Shakespeare

 

THE STOLEN SHAKESPEARE

 

HESITATING at the door of the studio long enough only to send to Astro a quick surreptitious message with her eyes—indicating, apparently, contempt for the visitor—Valeska announced, "Mr. Barrister," and left the two men alone in the room.

The newcomer looked about a bit foolishly, and then turned to the palmist. "You're Astro, I suppose?"

Astro, in robe and turban, bowed gravely and his glance slumbered.

"Eh—ah—the fact is, sir," continued Barrister, "that I have come here about a peculiar matter, and solely, sir, to please my wife. She has a woman's weakness for anything occult,—anything full of folderol and fake. You see, I don't take any stock in it myself; but—"

"I understand perfectly," said the Master of Mysteries without apparent annoyance. He seemed, in fact, to be bored already.

The other teetered affably on his toes and heels, condescension in his manner. "She had heard that you professed to be some kind of fortune-teller, besides doing this palmistry business. Is that so?"

"I have had occasion at times to use certain powers which are—ah—supposed to be occult. I say 'supposed to be', out of deference to your manifest feelings in the matter, Mr. Barrister."

"Hum!" said the prospective client quickly. "Well, whether they are or not doesn't matter in this case, as I'm here simply to please my wife. If I didn't come, she'd come, you know. However, if you are able to locate what we want, I'll be willing to acknowledge anything you wish, and pay you accordingly. I suppose you are a medium, then?"

"Some call it that," acknowledged the reserved young man. "I myself assert that I have merely done a few things that others find it too hard to do."

"Such as—"

"Kindly let me look at your hand."

"Bosh!" said Barrister; but he gazed at his own palm, nevertheless, with a new air of curiosity, and after a moment stretched it toward the palmist. "Well, see what you can find in it!" he said.

Astro looked at it negligently; then, under his half-shut lids his eyes sped rapidly over his client's person, the neat business suit beneath the black dress overcoat, the daintily tied scarf, the highly polished shoes, and the general air of careful grooming. Then they returned to the hand before him. Finally, the Seer leaned back listlessly and smiled.

"You went to see Anna Held last night, and were bored. You once had your pockets picked, and will probably have it happen to you again. You are interested in Egyptology—and, apropos, I wish you'd look at my porphyry sphinx there and give me some idea of its age."

Barrister stared, and grew a bit uneasy. Then, apparently to hide his embarrassment, he turned to the carved image and surveyed it with the air of a connoisseur. As he presented his back to the Seer, the latter swiftly stooped over, picked up a return check of a New York theater, good the night before, and slid it into one of the pockets of his silk robe.

"That's about 1400 B. C.," said Barrister easily. "Where on earth did you get hold of it?"

"From my godfather, in Cairo," said the palmist.

"Well," said Barrister, returning, "I've no time now to examine it closely."

"And the matter which worries your wife?" Astro inquired.

Again his visitor hesitated, looked about the room, and gazed again at the sphinx. "Well," he said finally, "I'll tell you." He seated himself and went on: "I have, or rather did have, a First Folio Shakespeare, one of the few good ones of the thirty-seven copies extant. It was stolen from my library yesterday. That's what I want to find—"

"That, and the one who stole it also, I suppose?"

"Er—yes. Yes, certainly."

"An interesting sort of quarry, and rather unusual. Have you been to the police?"

Barrister pursed his lips and shook his head.

"No. You see, there wouldn't be much use in that, would there? I'm afraid the thief, if he found he was suspected, would destroy the book. He can't sell it, anyway; for these folios are as well known to collectors as good race-horses are to touts. He can't get away with it; for every bookman in the world will soon know it if he offers it for sale. I want it back, of course; but it is my wife's idea, this coming to you about it. She gave me the book when we were first married, and so, naturally, I value it at even more than its own great intrinsic value."

"Have you ever had any offers for it?" Astro asked carelessly.

"What? Offers? Oh, no; no indeed; no offers at all. Why should I want to sell it? No, sir! It would be useless for any one to attempt to buy it."

"But nobody is harming you by offering. When did you miss it?"

"Last night, after I came home from the theater. I went to see Anna Held, as you said, though how the mischief you knew it I can't see, and we came home early, disgusted. We happened to be talking about the Folio, and my wife walked to the case and looked for it. It was gone."

"Had the lock been tampered with?"

"Yes, forced. The window had been pried open with a jimmy, too. It was evidently done by a burglar who knew just what he wanted. But it doesn't look like a professional's work; for the book would be too hard to dispose of."

"I see," said Astro. He gazed away into space and puffed at his water-pipe meditatively. "Mr. Barrister, I'll try to find it for you. If I succeed in getting the book or the person who stole it from you, my charge will be five hundred dollars."

"All right," said Barrister, rising. "Will you want to come up to my house and look over the place?"

"I think I can put myself more en rapport with the case, if I do; I want to feel the vibrations, so to speak, and no doubt I shall get an impression of the aura of the culprit if I am on the spot. The rest I shall do with the crystals."

Barrister did not conceal his scorn. "Oh, very well," He said, "I suppose it will at least satisfy my wife. When will you be up?"

"To-morrow morning, early. I'll ask you to disturb nothing, and even to keep away from the room until I come."

"There's nothing to disturb," Barrister commented; "but I'll see to it that nobody interferes with your magic." And so saying, he took up his hat, gave the sphinx one last glance, and left the room.

 

When he was gone the palmist doffed his regalia and yawned. A moment later Valeska reentered the studio. Astro gazed at her reflectively.

"Did you notice that man's watch-charm?" he asked.

"Why, there was something funny about it; but I couldn't make the thing out exactly."

"Did you ever see an Egyptian scarab?"

"Why, yes. But he didn't have one, did he?"

"He used to have one. You know how they mount them, with a pin through the beetle so it can revolve? The setting and the pin were there; but not the stone. You must look closer next time."

"What else did I miss?" she asked, pouting.

"You didn't say anything about his carrying his purse in his outside overcoat pocket. He will always be an easy mark for the light-fingered gentry if he keeps that up. It's lucky for him that he's rich."

"Oh, he is wealthy, of course! I got that much right, anyway. He looked as if he were very well-off, in fact."

"I should imagine he was, with a First Folio Shakespeare lying loose in his library! That's what we've got to find."

"It's interesting?"

"Interesting! I should say so! It's a regular kidnaping case. Talk about diamonds! Why, they're stupid things. Every one likes diamonds, and they can be cut up into smaller stones and readily disposed of, if you're careful about it. But you can't cut a page out of a First Folio, you can't even hint that you'd like to sell it, without all the world knowing about it. Bookhunters are the most determined and interesting collectors in the world. I know of no passion to equal it."

He walked over to the telephone and called up a leading dealer in rare volumes.

"I wish to ask about a First Folio Shakespeare. Are there any bidders in the open market for a copy?" He wrote down rapidly on a tab as he spoke into the receiver, "William A. Hepson. Oh, yes, the millionaire. Ah, thank you."

He slammed the instrument down vigorously, snatched up a telegraph blank, rapidly wrote a message, and handed it to Valeska.

She read it aloud:

"William A. Hepson, Chicago, Ill. Will you give four thousand dollars for a guaranteed First Folio Shakespeare? Wire reply to Jane Gore, 181 East 18th Street, New York."

"Why!" she exclaimed. "Have you located it already?"

"Not quite. But I have an idea, and this will help, if we get an answer by to-morrow morning."

"Who is he?"

"He's a Chicago beef packer who offered four thousand dollars for the book a while ago; but, curiously enough, he was in town this week."

"Is he in the city now?"

"That's what I should like very much to know myself. In the meantime, send this, get the answer at your place, and bring it to me in the morning. Then we'll go up and see Mrs. Barrister."

 


Valeska appeared next morning with a yellow envelope. "He refuses your offer," she said.

"Good!" exclaimed the Master of Mysteries, rubbing his hands in satisfaction. "He has the Folio, then, as I suspected. Now, to work! This case already begins to offer delicate little labyrinths which are nothing short of delicious to the analytical mind. We'll lose no time getting out to Mrs. Barrister's, and I want you to use your eyes better than you did last night. I expect you to see everything that I don't. Remember to watch me, though, and be ready for instructions. Notice any signal that I may happen to give you. For instance, if I raise my eyes to the ceiling, my next look will be at what I want you to notice. If I touch anything, you're to take it and look at it carefully, and follow what I say next. If I cough, you're to create some diversion so that I shan't be noticed for a few moments."

Valeska laughed. "You'll be doing a trance next. Funny how well the bluff always works, isn't it?"

Astro frowned. "My dear," he said pompously, "there are waves of the ether,—N-rays, X-rays, actinic and ultraviolet vibrations, to which I am exceedingly susceptible. I have an inner sense and an esoteric knowledge of life and its mysteries that is hidden from all who have not lived for cycles and eons in solitude and contemplation with the Mahatmas of the Himalayas!"

Valeska, instead of being impressed, broke into a rippling laugh as they went up the avenue.

The Barristers lived in a large, solemn brownstone house off Fifth Avenue, one of a hundred similar domiciles, heavily furnished, dim, close, lusterless, quiet, warm. Astro and his assistant waited in the reception-room till Mrs. Barrister appeared. She was large, plumply built, with gray hair artfully pompadoured and undulated, and a pleasant, though not very intelligent smile; a woman that still kept herself well and carried herself well, treasuring the last remains of what had been a comfortable prettiness. She greeted them cordially.

"I'm so glad you've come!" she announced. "Seems as if I couldn't wait any longer; for I felt sure that you could help us if anybody could, and I do feel so terribly about this robbery! You know it was my wedding gift to Mr. Barrister. My husband agreed with me that it wasn't exactly a case for the police, and we don't want any more talk about it than is absolutely necessary. I've heard so much about you, Mr. Astro; for a great many of my friends have gone to you, and you told them such remarkable things! Then that case of your finding the Sacarnet sapphire gave me considerable confidence in you. Why, my own mother once recovered a purse she had lost, by going to a medium about it!" She bustled about amiably.

"Now, I suppose you want to see the library, don't you? You know Mr. Barrister doesn't believe in anything supernatural, and he wouldn't stay. But I'll show you in."

During this long speech, Valeska's eyes traveled over Mrs. Barrister's portly person; but the Master of Mysteries seemed rapt in thought, abstracted and inattentive. He rose now, however, and followed through the folding doors into the library beyond. The shades had been drawn as if a death had occurred; she raised them, showing a square room, every wall lined with glass-covered bookcases. She went up to one, beside a window, and threw open a door. It was as if she were displaying a rifled tomb.

"Here is where it was kept, right in there. You can see the marks of a chisel or something near the lock. The frame was pried open. Isn't it dreadful? That book was like an only child to us!"

Astro apparently gave it scarcely a glance. "Mrs. Barrister," he said, "I'll ask you kindly to leave me here alone for fifteen minutes. I am extraordinarily sensitive to vibrations; but I must be undisturbed while I concentrate my mind sufficiently to induce the proper psychic conditions. Meanwhile my assistant will stay with you."

Mrs. Barrister was impressed, and withdrew without further questioning. The door of the library was shut, and the two women sat down by a window in the reception-room. Valeska immediately began her own line of investigation.

"When did you last see the book?" she asked.

"Thursday afternoon at about four o'clock I showed it to a caller, and then locked the case as usual. We got home from the theater that night a little after ten, and went almost immediately to the library, as we had been having a discussion about one of the lines in Macbeth. Then we saw that the book was gone."

"Do you know of any one having entered the room, besides yourself and Mr. Barrister, between four and ten?"

"Mary, my maid, was in with the tea things; that's all I know."

"And you don't suspect her?"

"Oh, no! She has been with me for years."

"And the caller?"

Mrs. Barrister thought for a moment before answering. Then she said, "It was a Mr. White. I confess I don't like him very well. But he's more a friend of my husband's than mine. In fact, my husband came in before Mr. White left; so I went up-stairs and left the two men alone. I had an idea there was some trouble between them."

"Does your husband belong to any club?"

"Yes, the Booklovers, and the Stage Club. So does Mr. White. Why?"

"Oh," said Valeska carelessly, "Mr. Barrister seemed such a man of the world,—just the man to belong to clubs, you know. But who showed Mr. White out the door?"

"Why, Mr. Barrister went with him himself. You see, it couldn't have been possible for Mr. White to have concealed the book; it's quite large, you know?"

"You have looked everywhere, of course?"

"Oh, yes. We went immediately to work, searched Mary's room at her request, and then everywhere else in the house. It simply isn't here."

At this moment Astro opened the door and walked silently into the room.

"Oh," Mrs. Barrister suddenly exclaimed, "I quite forgot to tell Mr. Astro something that I'm sure is important! It's a clue we discovered while we were searching the library after we had found the scratches and the broken lock of the case. Here it is!" She drew a scrap of paper from her purse and handed it to him. It was evidently the corner of a letter, and bore a few words written in violet ink.

The palmist held it lightly in his hand for a moment, then asked, "Has any one else had this, except you?"

"Oh, yes. Mr. Barrister himself found it, and, of course, he examined it carefully; but he could make nothing of it."

Astro cast his eyes to the ceiling, and then down on the paper again. He pressed it to his forehead, then handed it to his assistant.

"I shall have to wait until the last influences are evaporated, leaving the original personality of the writer to assert itself." He whirled quickly about, placed his hand to his lips, and coughed.

"Oh, Mrs. Barrister!" Valeska exclaimed. "Look at this paper again for a moment. Come to the light by the window here. It seemed to me I saw a watermark that showed through when I held it to the light. See if you can see it." As she spoke she drew the woman into the bay-window so that she stood with her back to the room.

Astro stepped quickly over to a bookcase against the wall, and, keeping his eyes carefully on Mrs. Barrister, reached to the top of one of the shelves. Four or five books protruded about an inch from the rest of the line. Astro's hand curved over these and down behind until it touched the shelf. Before Mrs. Barrister had turned again, his hand was withdrawn. He spoke sharply.

"Could you lend me a screw-driver?"

"Certainly." She rang for the maid, who appeared, and was sent on the errand. In a few minutes she returned.

"I'm very sorry, Mrs. Barrister, but I can't find it. We always keep it in the kitchen closet; but it's not there now."

"I thought so," said Astro. "But one question, Mary, before you go. First, let me see your palm."

The girl held out her hand timidly, with wonder in her face.

The Master of Mysteries felt of it tentatively, then looked directly into her eyes. "Mary," he said, "where were you after dinner-time on Thursday; from then until Mr. and Mrs. Barrister returned home?"

"In the kitchen with the cook most of the time, sir. I went up into the dining-room beside the library once or twice, though."

"You heard nothing unusual?"

"Nothing at all, sir."

"How did you get that violet stain on your finger ?"

Mary looked at it calmly. "It was from writing a letter the other day. I couldn't get it all off."

"I think I have stayed as long as is necessary," said Astro, turning to Mrs. Barrister, "and now, if you'll excuse me, I'll go. I shall report to your husband as soon as I find anything."

 

Leaving with his assistant, he walked slowly down the front steps. As soon as they were out of sight of the windows, he said, "Well, what did you find out while I was investigating, Valeska?"

She narrated the conversation while Astro walked thoughtfully beside her, his eyes roaming from side to side, until they lighted upon a line of ash barrels near the curb. He stopped.

"See here, Valeska!" he exclaimed suddenly. "I wish you'd go into this house and find out in some way how long these barrels have been standing here. It's a shame the way the Board of Health neglects its duties. Do you see? Tell them you have been sent by a Civic Reform committee to find out if there's any complaint."

He walked on, smiling to himself. "Entirely too clever," he murmured; "so clever that it's positively stupid!" He approached the ash cans and surveyed their contents. From the top of one he gingerly drew out a torn sheet of paper. Another barrel showed, among its overflowing contents, several tin cans, a shoe, a lot of broken bottles, and a mass of sawdust. He gave them a hard look, then sauntered on till Valeska caught up with him.

"Those barrels have been out since Thursday," she said.

He smiled and made no comment. "Now," he said, "what I want you to do is to call on this Mr. White. You had better be getting subscriptions for a book. Get one for a sample at some shop,—something rather silly too—Bibliophiles and Their Hobbies—and you are to find out White's private opinion of Barrister. Barrister, you understand, has already subscribed. You may work it up any way you like, only be sure to get some expression of opinion."

It was almost noon before Valeska returned from her errand, and, as by this time the palmist's outer office was filled with waiting clients, it was the lunch hour before she could speak to him.

"I shall have to raise my fee again," he said. "Ten dollars a reading doesn't seem to stop them at all. I'll make them come only by appointment after this. But what did you find out?"

The girl's eyes sparkled with news. "Hepson's our man, Hepson via White, I guess. Hepson saw Barrister, too, at the club the other morning. Hepson's gone ; but White—"

"Hepson, Hepson, Hepson!" mimicked the Seer, with a smile at her eagerness. "But pray give us more news about White."

Valeska laughed. "Well, he's awfully sore on Barrister for some reason. He believes Mr. Barrister's a fool, I gather."

"He isn't in love with Mrs. Barrister, is he?"

"No! He's in love with himself, I think. He said, for one thing, that Barrister knew no more about books than he did about poker."

"Poker! How's that?"

"Why, I told him I had sold several copies to members of the Stage Club,—I got their names out of the Blue Book, and knew they played pretty hard there,—so we got to chatting about our luck. You see, I told him I liked to play myself, and he began telling me how successful he always was. Then he said he had hard work with some of his friends to collect the gambling debts they owed him."

"I see." The Master of Mysteries turned into his den, and Valeska followed him.

"Why, what's this?" she asked, pointing to a large, flat, heavy parcel on the table. "Why, it's addressed to Mr. Hepson in Chicago! Oh! have you found the Folio already?"

Astro smiled. "I told you some time ago that Hepson already had it. But this is getting warm."

Valeska fingered the package. "It looks just like a big atlas wrapped up."

"It is," said Astro. "I bought it at a book-shop after I left you."

"What in the world do you want to send it to Hepson for, then?"

"I don't particularly. But I should like to show it to the clerk at a certain branch office of the Adams Express Company here."

"Oh, I do wish you'd explain!" Valeska exclaimed.

"I'd rather let you do a little thinking for yourself. You have seen White. You know that Hepson was in town. You have heard Barrister's story. Nothing could be simpler. For instance, how about Mary the maid, and the violet ink stains? What would you make of that?" He stopped a moment, smiling. "I will tell you, however, that I found the screw-driver that was used to open the bookcase with and to force the window with; for it wasn't a jimmy at all."

"Where was it?"

"You recall when I gave you the signal to distract Mrs. Barrister's attention? You did it very cleverly. At that moment I was more interested in the appearance of several books in a case in the library than I was in the scrap of paper. The instrument, badly bent and twisted, was behind those projecting books."

"Oh!" Valeska studied at it. "No wonder Mary couldn't find it! Then it must have been Mary, after all. But why didn't she throw the screw-driver away? Perhaps she thought it would be missed, and wanted a chance to have it straightened out."

"Perhaps so," said Astro dryly.

"But what about the scrap of paper, then?" asked the girl. "Have you made anything of that?"

"A good deal," replied the Master. "For instance, here's the rest of the sheet," and he took from his pocket the portion that he had removed from the ash barrel. "Does that give you a clue?"

She studied a moment. "Now, wait! Don't tell me, please! Your rule is, 'Ask yourself what there is about this crime that distinguishes it from others. How is it different from the ordinary run of things? Then seize upon that difference, be it great or small, and proceed logically and analytically in any direction it offers.' But what is different? It's all different, it seems to me."

"Well, you work it out, and I'll go down and try to find an express office in which a flat parcel addressed to a Chicago millionaire will have been noticed. You may turn away any people who come for a reading. This is going to bring in more money than I thought, and it will pay to follow it up while it's hot."

 

Valeska met him at the front door when he returned, and said in a low voice, "Mr. Barrister is here."

"Certainly," said Astro. "I telephoned him to be here at four o'clock."

"Then you are finished ?"

"You'll see."

"I found out that White had left town to-day," she announced.

"Aha!" said the Seer cryptically.

He went in and bowed gravely to Barrister in the reception-room. Valeska busied herself at her desk and watched under her brows. Astro took his accustomed seat on the divan.

"Mr. Barrister," he said, after a pause, "I am sorry to say that I have been unable to find either the Folio or the thief."

The other immediately rose, shaking his head emphatically and triumphantly. "I thought as much," he said. "This is what all this charlatanry usually amounts to. You're all alike,—you can impose upon credulous women; but when it comes actually to accomplishing anything, you can't deliver the goods. However, I've satisfied my wife, at any rate. I suppose there will be no charge in these circumstances, Mr. Astro?"

The Master of Mysteries twirled his thumbs and spoke dreamily. "On the contrary, Mr. Barrister, my services on this case will cost you just one thousand dollars."

His client stared at him indignantly. His brow drew down. "What in the world do you mean, sir? One thousand dollars!"

"One thousand dollars is my fee. I can give you a blank check if you haven't your book with you."

"But you've discovered nothing."

"I said that I had not found the book or the thief."

"And yet your fee, if you had found either, was to have been only five hundred! I don't understand what you are driving at, sir!"

Astro recrossed his legs and gave his client gaze for gaze. He spoke now very deliberately. His languorous tone had given place to a crisp hard enunciation. "Mr. Barrister," he said, "what you say is true. You understand me perfectly. If I had told you the name of the thief and the location of the book, I should have charged you only five hundred dollars. My price for not telling is one thousand. Do you understand me now?"

He took up a crystal sphere and began to regard it fixedly.

Barrister's face had changed from perplexity to anger, and then to a sudden comprehension. He dropped his head and gazed at the carpet, standing for some moments irresolute and dismayed. Finally he walked to the desk, took the blank check that Valeska handed to him, and dipped his pen into the ink. He looked up.

"You never expect to find the culprit, I suppose?" he asked, with a strange expression on his face.

"I never expect to," answered the Seer.

Barrister signed his name and handed over the check. "You are a most extraordinary young man, sir!" he snarled, and left the room, slamming the door behind him.

 

Valeska stared, her brows knitted. "Wait a minute ! I've almost got it! It was Barrister himself who stole the book—his own book—"

"Which his wife had given him when they were married; don't forget that," said Astro.

"Yes; so, of course, he wouldn't want her to know he had been mean enough to dispose of it. She is still in love with him, I could see that, and she's a sentimental
The Master of Mysteries (1912) - p.59.jpg

Barrister signed his name and handed over the check.

old thing, too. So he had to mimic a burglary, did he?"

"And very stupidly he did it, with an ordinary screw-driver which he didn't have sense enough to destroy."

"But why did he want the book? What did he do with it?"

"Made arrangements with Hepson that morning; stole it that afternoon. Gambling debt. You found that out yourself from White, who had been forcing Barrister for the money, and was sore because he wouldn't pay up. Barrister is sadly in need of ready cash; I found that out from his bank. And Hepson offered him three thousand for his Folio."

"Then Hepson has the book now?"

"Or it's on its way there. That's the reason he turned our telegraph offer down. He wasn't interested, because Barrister had already sold him his copy."

"How did you know that?"

"Let me ask you one question. What was there about this case that was different from most affairs like it?"

Valeska pondered. "Why, it seems to me strange that Barrister didn't call in the police at once."

"Precisely. If he had, he was afraid he would have trouble, and Hepson might be investigated. It's easy enough now for Barrister to keep his wife from knowing anything of the sale; and Hepson will be glad enough at getting the book to say nothing about it for a year or two. There was my start. It seemed queer that Barrister, losing so valuable a treasure, shouldn't report it at once and have it traced, and all the dealers notified. His wife's belief in the occult was what got him safely over the necessity of calling in the police. I didn't like the way he protested so much that nobody had offered to buy his Folio. It seemed to back up my suspicion."

"I rather suspected Mary," commented Valeska, "when I saw the violet stains on her fingers just like the ink on the scrap of paper. By the way, where did you get the rest of that paper, and what does it mean? It quite led me astray."

"Which was precisely what it was intended to do. Our friend Mr. Barrister tried not only to hide his own tracks, but to create false ones in order to befuddle any detective who tackled the job. I noticed the violet writing as we came past the ash barrels. So, I presume, did Barrister when he came home after committing the robbery. 'Aha!' he said to himself, 'here's a chance to fool any detective that comes hunting for clues. I'll give him clues!' So he took the piece, tore off a part, and carefully left it on the floor. I confess that was clever; for as his finding of it in the ash can was entirely accidental, no one knows where such a trail might have led to. But the trouble is that such a man always goes too far, especially when he has to work in a hurry. Now, there's the case of the boots, for instance."

"But I didn't see any boots."

"I saw one in the ash barrel, a left shoe. When I looked out the window that was supposed to have been forced, I saw the prints of a right boot; but it had nails in the heel arranged just as its brother in the barrel had. Of course Barrister took the shoe out of the barrel and used it to make the footprints of a supposititious burglar."

"Why," exclaimed the girl, "it's just as wonderful as if you had really done it with crystal gazing! But I don't see how you could be sure, after all. There was White, who might have been Hepson's tool."

"Yes, I had two lines I might have worked on,—White as well as Barrister,—but White had been winning plenty of money, and is well-off, anyway. He wouldn't go around jimmying windows to get things, either."

"Still, I insist you had nothing that absolutely connected Barrister with his own misdeeds."

"Hadn't I? If you had gone into about ten branch express offices in the down-town district as I had, you'd have found out. You recall my package? It was just the same size as the Folio. I finally found the office that I was looking for, and said to the clerk, 'I sent a package to Mr. Hepson two days ago, and he telegraphs that it hasn't been received. So I'm sending this. I wish you'd look it up and see what's the matter. It's from Renold M. White.' Well, the clerk looked over his record of carbon duplicate receipts, and said, There was a package sent from a Mr. Barrister to a Mr. Hepson in Chicago; but none from White.' So I said, 'Never mind,' and left."

The two sat in silence for some time. At last the Master of Mysteries spoke:

"There is just one thing I don't like about this case of the theft of the First Folio Shakespeare."

"What's that?" asked Valeska.

"This is the first time I go on record as not having run down my quarry; but it has paid fairly well for two days' work." And he smiled as he took up an antique volume of the Kabala.