" How did you manage it, Mrs. Hale? " asked
Polly. Another glance at her watch showed her
that the announcement of luncheon must shortly
occur, and she wished above all not to resume
answering letters of condolence. " It has always
struck me that Anna was very much above the
regular servant class."
" So she is, my dear," Mrs. Hale was launched
on her favorite topic. " But Mr. Hale offered
her such high wages, really ridiculous wages at
the time, that it wouldn't have been in human
nature to resist his offer. I must say for Anna
that she has earned every cent we pay her.
Lately " Mrs. Hale hesitated and surveyed the
boudoir to make sure that the hall door was closed
The Unseen Ear
" lately, Anna has appeared so so absent-
minded. Do you suppose it can be a love affair ? "
" The most natural supposition in the world,"
smiled Polly. " Anna is a remarkably pretty
" So she is," Mrs. Hale nodded her head in
agreement. " I suspect it is that new clerk in the
drug store. I meet them quite often walking to-
gether, and I called Austin's attention to them
when he was last in Washington, just six weeks
ago to-day." Mrs. Hale looked at the calendar
hanging near Judith's desk to be sure of her facts,
" Polly, if I tell you something will you promise
to hold your tongue about it ? "
Polly stared at Mrs. Hale the latter's tone
had completely changed and her customary
irresponsible manner had become one of sup-
" Certainly, Mrs. Hale," she replied, and her
manner reflected the other's seriousness. " I will
consider whatever you say as confidential."
" First, answer this, on your word of honor,"
and Polly's wonderment grew as Mrs. Hale
hitched her chair nearer, and her voice gained in
seriousness. " Have you come across a small
piece of yellow paper; it is folded and has the
word ' Copy ' as a watermark ? " Seeing Polly's
Half a Sheet
uncomprehending stare, she added impatiently,
" The kind reporters use in newspaper offices.
Have you seen such a paper among my husband's
" No, Mrs. Hale; not as you describe it," Polly
shook a puzzled head. " I may not have noticed
the word ' Copy,' though. Was there anything
else to identify it? "
Mrs. Hale thought a minute, then came to a
decision. " It is no matter," she said brusquely.
" Forget I mentioned it ; there is a more pressing
matter " from her silver mesh purse she drew
out a much creased letter. " Read that," she
directed, and held it almost under Polly's nose,
*' but not aloud, read it to yourself."
Obediently Polly took the paper and, holding
it at the proper focus, read :
DEAR AUNT AGATHA:
I started for San Francisco on the midnight train,
so forgive this hasty scrawl in answer to your long
letter. I will see the happy bride and groom on my
return. Sorry Uncle Robert doesn't like Richards.
I found on inquiry that Richards
Polly turned the letter over the second sheet
was missing. The young girl looked in bewilder-
ment at Mrs. Hale.
" Have you the end of the letter? " she asked.
The Unseen Ear
" No, that is all there is to it."
" This " Polly turned it over again. " Why,
it is not even signed."
" But it is in Austin Hale's handwriting,"
asserted Mrs. Hale. " You know it is,
Polly again inspected the clear, distinctive writ-
ing. She had seen it too often to be mistaken in
identifying the chirography.
" It looks like Austin's writing," she qualified.
" When did you receive the letter and what does
it mean ? "
" Mean ? We'll come to that later," Mrs. Hale
lowered her voice to a confidential pitch. " You
see the date there," indicating it, and Polly nod-
ded. " The letter was begun on Tuesday in New
York, and Austin was murdered between Tues-
day midnight and one A. M. Wednesday here in
" He was "
"Of course he was." Patience was never Mrs.
Hale's strong point. " Now, Polly, let us dis-
sect this letter. On Tuesday in New York Austin
states that he is to take the midnight train for
San Francisco ; instead of that he comes to Wash-
ington. Why ? " And having propounded the
conundrum, Mrs. Hale sat back and contemplated
Half a Sheet
Polly. There was a distinct pause before the girl
" I cannot answer your question, Mrs. Hale."
Polly avoided raising her eyes as she turned the
letter over once again and looked at the blank
side. It was a small-sized sheet of note paper
of good quality, and Austin's large writing com-
pletely filled the first page. Polly held the letter
nearer Mrs. Hale.
" The back sheet has been torn off/' she pointed
out. " See, the edges are rough and uneven."
" So I observed." Mrs. Hale was a trifle non-
plussed. She had anticipated more excitement on
Polly's part, and the girl's composure was a sur-
prise. That Polly was maintaining her compo-
sure through sheer will power, Mrs. Hale was too
obtuse to detect. She was convinced, however,
that Polly had been more than ordinarily attracted
by Austin Hale's good looks and his marked at-
tention to her charming self. It was not in
human nature, Mrs. Hale argued, that a young
and penniless girl would refuse a wealthy young
man, especially not in favor of a man of John
Hale's age. It was absurd of Joe Richards to in-
sinuate that her brother-in-law might have sup-
planted Austin in Polly's affections. Having
once gotten an idea in her head no power on earth
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could dislodge it, and Mrs. Hale, to prove her
viewpoint, had decided to investigate the mystery
of Austin's death to her own satisfaction. Mrs.
Hale thought over Polly's conduct for several
minutes, then changed her tactics.
"Had you heard recently from Austin?" she
asked, and at the direct question Polly changed
" Not since this letter to you," she replied
calmly and Mrs. Hale, intent on framing her next
question, failed to analyze her answer.
" Did he make any reference to coming to
Washington ? "
" Only in a general way," and before Mrs.
Hale could question her further, she added, " His
letter of ten days ago said that he might be here
" Ah! " Mrs. Hale felt that she had scored a
point. " That goes to prove that Austin's trip
here Tuesday was unexpected."
" So unexpected that he never even wired you,"
supplemented Polly, and Mrs. Hale eyed her
" True," she replied. " It must have been
something frightfully urgent that brought him
here to his death."
Polly shivered slightly and laid down the letter.
Half a Sheet
" When did Austin mail this letter to you ? "
" I don't know."
Polly glanced at her in surprise. " Was there
no postmark on the envelope ? "
" There was no envelope."
" What! " Polly half rose then dropped back
in her seat. " No envelope? Then how did you
get the letter ? "
Mrs. Hale looked carefully around to make
sure that no one had entered the boudoir or was
within earshot. Her next remark ignored Polly's
" I have not shown Austin's letter to my hus-
band," she began. " Mr. Hale does not always
view matters from my standpoint, and he might
be displeased at my having mentioned to Austin
that he was disappointed in Judith's choice of a
husband. Therefore, Polly, you will say noth-
ing to him."
" Certainly not," agreed Polly. " But about
the letter "
" Nor mention the letter to Judith," pursued
Mrs. Hale, paying no attention to Polly's attempt
to question her. " I shall not discuss it with
Judith, for she might readily resent my writing
Austin to find out something about her husband's
career before he entered the army in 1917. This
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letter " Mrs. Hale picked it up, refolded it, and
replaced it in her purse " must remain a secret
between you and me."
" But, Mrs. Hale," Polly stopped her as she
was about to rise " where did you get the letter
and who tore off the last sheet ? "
" It is for us to find out who tore it off and
what became of it," declared Mrs. Hale. At last
Polly was roused out of herself, and the older
woman observed with interest the two hectic spots
of color in her cheeks. " And why the sheet was
The opening of the boudoir door caused Polly
to start nervously, a start which, in Mrs. Hale's
case became a jump, as Richards addressed them
from the doorway.
" Maud is looking for you, Mrs. Hale," he an-
nounced. " Luncheon is waiting for you."
"Thanks, yes; we will come at once." Mrs.
Hale was conscious of her flurried manner and
her ingratiating smile was a trifle strained as she
faced her handsome son-in-law. " Where is
" She telephoned that she was lunching at the
Army and Navy Club." Richards gave no sign
that he was aware of Mrs. Hale's agitation.
" Your husband is waiting for you."
Half a Sheet
" Run down, Joe, and tell him not to wait for
me." Mrs. Hale laid her hand on Polly's shoul-
der and gave her a slight push. " Go also, my
But Polly hung back. " Wait, Mrs. Hale," she
whispered feverishly. " There, Major Richards
is downstairs by now. Tell me quickly who gave
you Austin's letter? "
" No one."
" Then where did you get it? "
Mrs. Hale paused and looked carefully around
they had the boudoir to themselves, but before
she spoke Mrs. Hale took the precaution to close
the boudoir door.
" I found the letter this morning," she stated,
" in the leather pocket of Judith's electric car."
ANNA, the waitress, found the time lag-
ging in spite of the game of solitaire
she was playing to wile away the tedium
of her enforced idleness. She cast a resentful
glance at her swollen ankle before shuffling the
cards for the thirtieth time since she had eaten
her midday meal. She had discarded the morn-
ing newspaper, and refused to find entertainment
in the cheap paper novel which the cook had
brought to her early in the morning, so her last
and only solace was the pack of playing cards.
Mrs. Hale, a New Yorker by birth, until her
marriage had spent her life in the North, and
while she had quickly succumbed to the spell
which the Capital City casts over those who come
to its hospitable doors, she had never taken kindly
to employing negro servants. She did not under-
stand the African character, and her one attempt
to adjust herself to the conditions then prevailing
in domestic service in the District of Columbia
had proved a dismal failure. With her hus-
band's hasty approval she had sent to New York
and engaged French and English servants.
Aside from her eccentricities, Mrs. Hale was a
kind and thoughtful mistress, and the servants re-
mained long in her employ. Even during the
chaotic war-time conditions in Washington, with
the influx of war-workers and deserters from the
domestic field, her servants had loyally remained
with her in preference to seeking Government
" positions " as elevator women and messengers.
It required a person in Anna's state of mind to
find fault with the large, cozily furnished bed-
room in which she sat. A coal fire on the hearth
added its cheerful glow, and at her elbow was
an electric reading lamp ready for instant service
when the winter afternoon drew to a close.
Anna scowled at her reflection in the mirrored
paneling of the door leading to the bathroom
which she and " cook," a Swede, shared with
Maud, the parlor maid. For nearly twenty-four
hours she had been kept captive inside the four
walls of her bedroom, and her restless spirit re-
belled. Fate, in the guise of a treacherous high-
heeled slipper, had given her an ugly tumble down
the kitchen stairs on her way to bed the night
before, and Dr. McLane's assurance that she had
The Unseen Ear
had a lucky escape did not assuage Anna's sense
of personal grievance nor deaden the pain of her
Footsteps and the clatter of dishes, as a tray
was brought in slight contact with the stair turn-
ing, came distinctly through the open door leading
to the hall. Anna's downcast look vanished.
Seizing the cards, she was intent on layiftg out her
favorite solitaire when Maud entered, bearing a
tray loaded with appetizing, dishes.
" I'm a bit late," she explained apologetically,
as Anna swept the playing cards into her lap to
make a place on the table for the tray. " But
there's been a pile of coming and going in and out
of the house, and it keeps a body moving."
" Sit down and have a cup of tea with me,"
suggested Anna, on whom the extra cup and
saucer on the tray had not been lost. Maud had
evidently anticipated the invitation, judging also
from the amount of cinnamon toast and thin slices
of bread and butter. " I am sorry, Maud, to have
more work thrown on you just now; perhaps I
can hobble downstairs to-morrow." Dr. McLean
seemed to think I might."
" Now, you rest easy," advised Maud earnestly.
" I can handle the work all right, and Mr. Hale
said he would come down handsome for it."
Below S fairs
" He did ! " Anna's eyes had narrowed to thin
slits, but Maud, intent on consuming as much tea
and toast as was humanly possible in a given time,
was oblivious of her facial contortions. " Mr.
Hale is a generous gentleman; you stick by him,
" You bet. What he says goes," Maud nodded
enthusiastically. " Funny hoshold, ain't it ?
A dead easy one if you are in the ' know,' " and
she chuckled. " Let me pour you out another
cup, Miss Anna," and, not waiting for permis-
sion, she replenished Anna's tea, at the same time
refilling her own cup. " My, don't cook make
good toast! No wonder Major Richards is so
partial to it."
"Is he?" Anna's tone was dry.
" Yes, ma'am, and he's partial to a good deal
more besides." Maud relished an opportunity of
airing her views to so superior a person as Anna,
for it was not often that she had her undivided
attention. " Major Richards knows a good-look-
ing woman when he sees one."
" Is that so ? " indifferently, helping herself to
" Yes, ma'am," with emphasis. " Didn't I see
the look and smile he gave you yesterday? "
" Tut, tut ! None of that." Anna spoke with
The Unseen Ear
severity. " Major Richards is Miss Judith's hus-
band, a nicely spoken gentleman."
" Sure he is." Maud smiled broadly, nothing
daunted by Anna's frown. " And say, ain't Miss
Judith mashed on him? That cold kind always
flops the worst when they fall in love."
" Miss Judith isn't the cold kind," retorted
Anna warmly. " She has plenty of temper about
her, but I will say it's tempered with proper
" I wonder if it was proper pride which made
her quarrel so with Mr. Austin ? " Maud's
snicker always grated on Anna, and again the
waitress frowned. " Say, wasn't his death
" Yes." Anna sat back with a shiver. " Ter-
" And they dunno who done it," pursued Maud
with relish, her somewhat nasal voice slightly
raised. " Leastways that is what Detective
Ferguson told me this afternoon."
" Was he at the house again? "
" Yes, three times." Maud looked regretfully
at the empty toast dish. " I asked him if he
wanted a bed made up for his convenience, and he
was real peevish. My, but he asks a lot of ques-
tions ! "
"What about?" inquired Anna.
" Oh, where we were on Tuesday night, and
if we heard anything unusual," answered Maud
with careless candor. " Didn't seem to believe
that we had all gone to bed the same as usual.
I told him if we'd a known Mr. Austin was to
have been murdered, o' course we'd have waited
up for it, so as to supply the police with details.
That settled him for a time and then he wanted to
know when I last saw Miss Judith Tuesday
"So?" Anna leaned out of her chair and
took up a box of candy from the bureau. " Help
yourself, Maud. What did you say to Fergu-
Maud received the candy with eyes which
sparkled as Anna put the box conveniently in
front of her. Her craving for sweets had fre-
quently earned her a reprimand from Mrs. Hale
when that dame caught her in the act of purloin-
ing candy from the stock kept in the dining room.
" I told Ferguson that Miss Judith was un-
dressing in her bedroom when I went upstairs."
Maud's speech was somewhat impeded by a large
caramel. " Then he wanted to know when we
first heard o' the murder silly question, wasn't
The Unseen Ear
" Very," agreed Anna. " Considering he came
upstairs and joined us just after Mrs. Hale had
broken the news of Mr. Austin's death. Men are
" Some of 'em are," amended Maud. " I never
would call Mr. Robert Hale silly. Say, Miss
Anna," and Maud hitched her chair close to
the waitress " do you s'pose he knows any-
thing about the courting that went on between
Miss Polly and his brother? "
" There isn't anything that escapes Mr. Hale's
notice," Anna responded dryly.
" But Miss Polly was mighty sly about it,"
argued Maud. " Mr. Austin caught her once,
though, and my, didn't he flare up ! " Her eyes
grew bigger at the recollection. " I wonder if he
was smart enough to know Miss Polly, for all her
appearing frankness, was playing father and son
off against each other."
" Men never know anything where a pretty
woman's concerned," replied Anna scornfully.
" Miss Judith knew what was going on though,
and " she lowered her voice to confidential
tones " it's my belief that her Uncle John used
his influence with the family to get her sent on
that visit to Japan."
" And there she met Major Richards." Maud
selected another piece of candy. " My, ain't Fate
funny sometimes ! " Her companion agreed, and
Maud munched the milk chocolates with silent en-
joyment. Then her active mind went off on a
tangent as she caught sight of the playing cards
still reposing. in a disorderly heap in Anna's lap.
" Mr. Hale got in one of his tantrums this morn-
"He did?" Anna put down her cup from
which she had been slowly sipping her strong
black tea. " \Vhat about? "
" He said one of his playing cards was missing
from the pack he keeps in the library, and he just
as much as asked me if I had stolen it." Maud
sniffed. "If he hadn't been so nice about my
wages and my room wasn't so comfortable, and
you and cook being so agreeable, I'd a given
" Oh, pshaw! Mr. Hale doesn't mean half he
says," Anna hastened to smooth down Maud's
ruffled feelings. " He forgets the cause of his
tantrums ten minutes afterward. What's the use
of paying attention to them? His Vife never
" I ain't his wife," objected Maud. " And he
didn't forget this tantrum, though it was about
such a measly little thing, but came right back
The Unseen Ear
after lunch and asked me had I found the card in
any one's room. He was put out when I told
" It is too bad, Maud," exclaimed Anna, who
had followed her story with gratifying attention.
" Mr. Hale shouldn't worry you when you have
extra work with me laid up here. Why not speak
to Mrs. Hale?"
" Not me ! " broke in Maud hastily. " I ain't
hankering to start a family ruction. Don't you
worry, Miss Anna, I fixed it," Maud smiled slyly.
" I went up to Miss Judith's boudoir with the C.
& P. man to mend her branch telephone this af-
ternoon, and I just happened to see a pack o' play-
ing cards lying on Major Richards' dresser ; their
backs were just the same as Mr. Hale's pack in
the library, so I sneaked out the Knave o' Hearts.
After the telephone man left, I gave the card
to Mr. Hale. And say, what do you s'pose he
Anna shook her head. " I can't guess. Do go
" Well, first he gave that funny giggle o' his,
then he slips the card in his pocket, and asks me
where I got it." Maud paused dramatically.
" When I said I found it on Major Richards'
dresser he looked at me kinda funny and " a
violent sneeze interrupted the recital " then he
gave me a raise in wages."
" Bless me ! " Anna ejaculated admiringly.
" That was smart work, Maud."
Her companion smiled deprecatingly. " 'Tain't
nothing to what I can do when I set my mind to
it," she replied. " I just happened on Major
Richards' cards. How's your ankle?"
The waitress started at the abruptness of the
" It is not so painful," she said, and glanced
significantly at the clock on the mantel. " Isn't
it 'most time for you to see about setting the
table for dinner? "
" No ; the family's dining out to-night," re-
joined Maud, " so that me and cook can rest up.
Mrs. Hale is pretty much of a fool, but she is
considerate of us. There are times," added Maud
in a burst of confidence, " when I feel darn sorry
" Don't let your sympathies get the better of
your judgment," warned Anna. " Mr. and Mrs.
Hale are well, you might say ' discordantly '
Maud wrinkled her brows. "If you are hint-
ing they like to fuss, you are dead right," she
acknowledged. " There's one thing odd I've
The Unseen Ear
noticed to-day " She paused to contemplate her-
self in the mirrored door with inward satisfac-
tion; the simple black dress on her slight, trim
figure and neat white collar and cuffs, which Mrs.
Hale insisted should be worn by her servants, was
"What were you noticing to-day?" asked
Anna, growing impatient as the pause became pro-
" That Mrs. Hale and Miss Polly Davis were
getting as thick as thieves," explained Maud. " I
ain't never seen them so loving."
" Is that so ? " Anna stroked her cheek re-
flectively. " Mrs. Hale feels Miss Judith's mar-
riage more than she is willing to allow, I believe,
and she's just looking 'round to find somebody
to ' mother.' "
" It's a funny deal her picking on Miss Polly
for that," laughed Maud as she arranged the tea
dishes on the tray preparatory to departure.
" D'ye know, as poor as I am, I'd give a month's
wages to know who had a hand in killing Mr.
Austin." She paused and placed her lips against
Anna's right ear. " Them bloody shears Mr.
Ferguson is forever exhibiting never belonged to
Miss Judith," she whispered, " but Miss Polly's
are missing from her desk."
Down in Robert Hale's den Polly Davis
stopped transcribing his manuscript notes to stare
at three letters which she spread before her. She
read them in rotation for at least the seventh
time, then settled back in her chair and, resting
her weight on its arms, contemplated the
The first was but a scrawl:
You must dine with me to-night. I will not take
a refusal and will call at the usual hour.
Your devoted lover,
The second letter was from Judith:
Do not hesitate to use the enclosed check for your
contemplated trip. Return the loan at your conven-
ience, and let me know if you should need more.
Ever, dear Polly, faithfully yours,
" My contemplated trip," quoted Polly softly.
The haggard lines in her face were accentuated
by the merciless electric light which beat down
from a lamp but a few feet above her typewriter
desk. " Judith, are you mad ! "
Slowly her eyes turned to the third note. It
had no commencement other than the words :
The Unseen Ear
In recognition of your valuable services I am in-
creasing your salary fifty dollars per month. Please
arrange to give me additional hours daily.
FROM their corner table Judith watched,
with total lack of interest, the gay throng
which filled the public dining room at
Rauscher's, although the scene was one to arrest
attention. The smartly gowned women, the for-
eign attaches in their gay uniforms in contrast to
the khaki-clad army officers and the somber even-
ing dress of numerous civilians, formed an at-
tractive center for the mirrored walls and shaded
lights. Judith's inattention was a source of dis-
pleasure to her mother whose efforts to sustain
the conversation had failed.
" Really, Judith," she remonstrated, " it is
very annoying of you to make me repeat my
" I beg your pardon, Mother." Judith awoke
from dreary thoughts. " I did not mean to be
rude, but our our mourning " glancing down
at her black dress " seems so incongruous here.
We should have found a less conspicuous place to
The Unseen Ear
" Tut ! you are supersensitive ; we must eat and
why not here? We are not giving a dinner."
Mrs. Hale paused to bow to an acquaintance.
" Robert and your husband went to the club so
that we would not have even an appearance of a
party. Why, there is Frank Latimer. Wave to
Not waiting for her suggestion to be followed,
Mrs. Hale signaled vigorously with her fan and