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[Illustration: Sparks fell upon the shoulders of two white-robed
figures (_page_ 9)]




Author of "The Holladay Case," "The Marathon Mystery," "The Mystery of
the Boule Cabinet," etc.



This story was published in _The Popular Magazine_ under the title of
"The Mind Master."


The Marathon Mystery
The Holladay Case
That Affair at Elizabeth
Affairs of State
At Odds with the Regent
Cadets of Gascony
The Path of Honor
A Soldier of Virginia
The Heritage
The Quest for the Rose of Sharon
The Girl with the Blue Sailor
The Mystery of the Boule Cabinet
The Gloved Hand











I was genuinely tired when I got back to the office, that Wednesday
afternoon, for it had been a trying day - the last of the series of
trying days which had marked the progress of the Minturn case; and my
feeling of depression was increased by the fact that our victory had
not been nearly so complete as I had hoped it would be. Besides, there
was the heat; always, during the past ten days, there had been the
heat, unprecedented for June, with the thermometer climbing higher and
higher and breaking a new record every day.

As I threw off coat and hat and dropped into the chair before my desk,
I could see the heat-waves quivering up past the open windows from the
fiery street below. I turned away and closed my eyes, and tried to
evoke a vision of white surf falling upon the beach, of tall trees
swaying in the breeze, of a brook dropping gently between green banks.

"Fountains that frisk and sprinkle
The moss they overspill;
Pools that the breezes crinkle,"...

and then I stopped, for the door had opened. I unclosed my eyes to
see the office-boy gazing at me in astonishment. He was a well-trained
boy, and recovered himself in an instant.

"Your mail, sir," he said, laid it at my elbow, and went out.

I turned to the letters with an interest the reverse of lively. The
words of Henley's ballade were still running through my head -

"Vale-lily and periwinkle;
Wet stone-crop on the sill;
The look of leaves a-twinkle
With windlets,"...

Again I stopped, for again the door opened, and again the office-boy

"Mr. Godfrey, sir," he said, and close upon the words, Jim Godfrey
entered, looking as fresh and cool and invigorating as the fountains
and brooks and pools I had been thinking of.

"How do you do it, Godfrey?" I asked, as he sat down.

"Do what?"

"Keep so fit."

"By getting a good sleep every night. Do you?"

I groaned as I thought of the inferno I called my bedroom.

"I haven't really slept for a week," I said.

"Well, you're going to sleep to-night. That's the reason I'm here. I
saw you in court this afternoon - one glance was enough."

"Yes," I assented; "one glance would be. But what's the proposition?"

"I'm staying at a little place I've leased for the summer up on the
far edge of the Bronx. I'm going to take you up with me to-night and
I'm going to keep you there till Monday. That will give you five
nights' sleep and four days' rest. Don't you think you deserve it?"

"Yes," I agreed with conviction, "I do;" and I cast my mind rapidly
over the affairs of the office. With the Minturn case ended, there was
really no reason why I should not take a few days off.

"You'll come, then?" said Godfrey, who had been following my thoughts.
"Don't be afraid," he added, seeing that I still hesitated. "You won't
find it dull."

I looked at him, for he was smiling slightly and his eyes were very

"Won't I?"

"No," he said, "for I've discovered certain phenomena in the
neighbourhood which I think will interest you."

When Godfrey spoke in that tone, he could mean only one thing, and my
last vestige of hesitation vanished.

"All right," I said; "I'll come."

"Good. I'll call for you at the Marathon about ten-thirty. That's the
earliest I can get away," and in another moment he was gone.

So was my fatigue, and I turned with a zest to my letters and to the
arrangements necessary for a three days' absence. Then I went up to my
rooms, put a few things into a suit-case, got into fresh clothes,
mounted to the Astor roof-garden for dinner, and a little after ten
was back again at the Marathon. I had Higgins bring my luggage down,
and sat down in the entrance-porch to wait for Godfrey.

Just across the street gleamed the lights of the police-station where
he and I had had more than one adventure. For Godfrey was the
principal police reporter of the _Record_; it was to him that journal
owed those brilliant and glowing columns in which the latest mystery
was described and dissected in a way which was a joy alike to the
intellect and to the artistic instinct. For the editorial policy of
the _Record_, for its attitude toward politics, Wall Street, the
trusts, "society," I had only aversion and disgust; but whenever the
town was shaken with a great criminal mystery, I never missed an

Godfrey and I had been thrown together first in the Holladay case,
and that was the beginning of a friendship which had strengthened with
the years. Then came his brilliant work in solving the Marathon
mystery, in which I had also become involved. I had appealed to him
for help in connection with that affair at Elizabeth; and he had
cleared up the remarkable circumstances surrounding the death of my
friend, Philip Vantine, in the affair of the Boule cabinet. So I had
come to turn to him instinctively whenever I found myself confronting
one of those intricate problems which every lawyer has sometimes to

Reciprocally, Godfrey sometimes sought my assistance; but, of course,
it was only with a very few of his cases that I had any personal
connection. The others I had to be content to follow, as the general
public did, in the columns of the Record, certain that it would be the
first to reach the goal. Godfrey had a peculiar advantage over the
other police reporters in that he had himself, years before, been a
member of the detective force, and had very carefully fostered and
extended the friendships made at that time. He was looked on rather as
an insider, and he was always scrupulously careful to give the members
of the force every bit of credit they deserved - sometimes considerably
more than they deserved.

In consequence, he had the entree at times when other reporters were
rigorously barred.

It was nearly eleven o'clock before Godfrey arrived that evening, but
I was neither surprised nor impatient. I knew how many and unexpected
were the demands upon his time; and I always found a lively interest
in watching the comings and goings at the station across the
way - where, alas, the entrances far exceeded the exits! But finally, a
car swung in from the Avenue at a speed that drew my eyes, and I saw
that Godfrey was driving it.

"Jump in," he said, pushing out his clutch and pausing at the curb;
and as I grabbed my suit-case and sprang to the seat beside him, he
let the clutch in again and we were off. "No time to lose," he added,
as he changed into high, and turned up Seventh Avenue.

At the park, he turned westward to the Circle, and then northward
again out Amsterdam Avenue. There was little traffic, and we were soon
skimming along at a speed which made me watch the cross-streets
fearfully. In a few minutes we were across the Harlem and running
northward along the uninteresting streets beyond. At this moment, it
occurred to me that Godfrey was behaving singularly as though he were
hastening to keep an appointment; but I judged it best not to
distract his attention from the street before us, and restrained the
question which rose to my lips.

At last, the built-up portion of the town was left behind; we passed
little houses in little yards, then meadows and gardens and strips of
woodland, with a house only here and there. We were no longer on a
paved street, but on a macadam road - a road apparently little used,
for our lamps, sending long streamers of light ahead of us, disclosed
far empty stretches, without vehicle of any kind. There was no moon,
and the stars were half-obscured by a haze of cloud, while along the
horizon to the west, I caught the occasional glow of distant

And then the sky was suddenly blotted out, and I saw that we were
running along an avenue of lofty trees. The road at the left was
bordered by a high stone wall, evidently the boundary of an important
estate. We were soon past this, and I felt the speed of the car

"Hold tight!" said Godfrey, turned sharply through an open gateway,
and brought the car to a stop. Then, snatching out his watch, he
leaned forward and held it in the glare of the side-lamp. "Five
minutes to twelve," he said. "We can just make it. Come on, Lester."

He sprang from the car, and I followed, realising that this was no
time for questions.

"This way," he said, and held out a hand to me, or I should have lost
him in the darkness. We were in a grove of lofty trees, and at the
foot of one of these, Godfrey paused. "Up with, you," he added; "and
don't lose any time," and he placed my hand upon the rung of a ladder.

Too amazed to open my lips, I obeyed. The ladder was a long one, and,
as I went up and up, I could feel Godfrey mounting after me. I am not
expert at climbing ladders, even by daylight, and my progress was not
rapid enough to suit my companion, for he kept urging me on. But at
last, with a breath of relief, I felt that I had reached the top.

"What now?" I asked.

"Do you see that big straight limb running out to your right?"

"Yes," I said, for my eyes were growing accustomed to the darkness.

"Sit down on it, and hold on to the ladder."

I did so somewhat gingerly, and in a minute Godfrey was beside me.

"Now," he said, in a voice low and tense with excitement, "look out,
straight ahead. And remember to hold on to the ladder."

I could see the hazy mist of the open sky, and from the fitful light
along the horizon, I knew that we were looking toward the west. Below
me was a mass of confused shadows, which I took for clumps of

Then I felt Godfrey's hand close upon my arm.

"Look!" he said.

For an instant, I saw nothing; then my eyes caught what seemed to be a
new star in the heavens; a star bright, sharp, steel blue -

"Why, it's moving!" I cried.

He answered with a pressure of the fingers.

The star was indeed moving; not rising, not drifting with the breeze,
but descending, descending slowly, slowly.... I watched it with parted
lips, leaning forward, my eyes straining at that falling light.

"Falling" is not the word; nor is "drifting." It did not fall and it
did not drift. It deliberately descended, in a straight line, at a
regular speed, calmly and evenly, as though animated by some definite
purpose. Lower and lower it sank; then it seemed to pause, to hover in
the air, and the next instant it burst into a shower of sparks and

And those sparks fell upon the shoulders of two white-robed figures,
standing apparently in space, their arms rigidly extended, their faces
raised toward the heavens.



Mechanically I followed Godfrey down the ladder, and, guided by the
flaring lights, made my way back to the car. I climbed silently into
my seat, while Godfrey started the motor. Then we rolled slowly up the
driveway, and stopped before the door of a house standing deep among
the trees.

"Wait for me here a minute," Godfrey said, and, when I had got out,
handed me my suit-case, and then drove the car on past the house, no
doubt to its garage.

He was soon back, opened the house-door, switched on the lights, and
waved me in.

"Here we are," he said. "I'll show you your room," and he led the way
up the stairs, opening a door in the hall at the top. "This is it," he
added, and switched on the lights here also. "The bath-room is right
at the end of the hall. Wash up, if you need to, and then come down,
and we will have a good-night smoke."

It was a pleasant room, with the simplest of furniture. The
night-breeze ruffled the curtains at the windows, and filled the room
with the cool odour of the woods - how different it was from the odour
of dirty asphalt! But I was in no mood to linger there - I wanted an
explanation of that strange light and of those two white-robed
figures. So I paused only to open my grip, change into a
lounging-coat, and brush off the dust of the journey. Then I hastened

Godfrey met me at the stair-foot, and led the way into what was
evidently a lounging-room. A tray containing some cold meat, bread and
butter, cheese, and a few other things, stood on a side-table, and to
this Godfrey added two bottles of Bass.

"No doubt you're hungry after the ride," he said. "I know I am," and
he opened the bottles. "Help yourself," and he proceeded to make
himself a sandwich. "You see, I live the simple life out here. I've
got an old couple to look after the place - Mr. and Mrs. Hargis. Mrs.
Hargis is an excellent cook - but to ask her to stay awake till
midnight would be fiendish cruelty. So she leaves me a lunch in the
ice-box, and goes quietly off to bed. I'll give you some berries for
breakfast such as you don't often get in New York - and the cream - wait
till you try it! Have a cigar?"

"No," I said, sitting down very content with the world, "I've got my
pipe," and I proceeded to fill up.

Godfrey took down his own pipe from the mantelshelf and sat down
opposite me. A moment later, two puffs of smoke circled toward the

"Now," I said, looking at him, "go ahead and tell me about it."

Godfrey watched a smoke-ring whirl and break before he answered.

"About ten days ago," he began, "just at midnight, I happened to
glance out of my bedroom window, as I was turning in, and caught a
glimpse of a queer light apparently sinking into the tree-tops. I
thought nothing of it; but two nights later, at exactly the same time,
I saw it again. I watched for it the next night, and again saw
it - just for an instant, you understand, as it formed high in the air
and started downward. The next night I was up a tree and saw more of
it; but it was not until night before last that I found the place from
which the whole spectacle could be seen. The trees are pretty thick
all around here, and I doubt if there is any other place from which
those two figures would be visible."

"Then there _were_ two figures!" I said, for I had begun to think that
my eyes had deceived me.

"There certainly were."

"Standing in space?"

"Oh, no; standing on a very substantial roof."

"But what is it all about?" I questioned. "Why should that light
descend every midnight? What _is_ the light, anyway?"

"That's what I've brought you out here to find out. You've got four
clear days ahead of you - and I'll be at your disposal from midnight
on, if you happen to need me."

"But you must have some sort of idea about it," I persisted. "At least
you know whose roof those figures were standing on."

"Yes, I know that. The roof belongs to a man named Worthington
Vaughan. Ever hear of him?"

I shook my head.

"Neither had I," said Godfrey, "up to the time I took this place. Even
yet, I don't know very much. He's the last of an old family, who made
their money in real estate, and are supposed to have kept most of it.
He's a widower with one daughter. His wife died about ten years ago,
and since then he has been a sort of recluse, and has the reputation
of being queer. He has been abroad a good deal, and it is only during
the last year that he has lived continuously at this place next door,
which is called Elmhurst. That's about all I've been able to find out.
He certainly lives a retired life, for his place has a twelve-foot
wall around it, and no visitors need apply."

"How do you know?"

"I tried to make a neighbourly call yesterday, and wasn't admitted.
Mr. Vaughan was engaged. Getting ready for his regular midnight
hocus-pocus, perhaps!"

I took a meditative puff or two.

"_Is_ it hocus-pocus, Godfrey?" I asked, at last. "If it is, it's a
mighty artistic piece of work."

"And if it isn't hocus-pocus, what is it?" Godfrey retorted. "A
spiritual manifestation?"

I confess I had no answer ready. Ideas which seem reasonable enough
when put dimly to oneself, become absurd sometimes when definitely
clothed with words.

"There are just two possibilities," Godfrey went on. "Either it's
hocus-pocus, or it isn't. If it is, it is done for some purpose. Two
men don't go out on a roof every night at midnight and fire off a
Roman candle and wave their arms around, just for the fun of the

"It wasn't a Roman candle," I pointed out. "A Roman candle is visible
when it's going up, and bursts and vanishes at the top of its flight.
That light didn't behave that way at all. It formed high in the air,
remained there stationary for a moment, gradually grew brighter, and
then started to descend. It didn't fall, it came down slowly, and at
an even rate of speed. And it didn't drift away before the breeze, as
it would have done if it had been merely floating in the air. It
descended in a straight line. It gave me the impression of moving as
though a will actuated it - as though it had a distinct purpose. There
was something uncanny about it!"

Godfrey nodded thoughtful agreement.

"I have felt that," he said, "and I admit that the behaviour of the
light is extraordinary. But that doesn't prove it supernatural. I
don't believe in the supernatural. Especially I don't believe that any
two mortals could arrange with the heavenly powers to make a
demonstration like that every night at midnight for their benefit.
That's _too_ absurd!"

"It is absurd," I assented, "and yet it isn't much more absurd than to
suppose that two men would go out on the roof every night to watch a
Roman candle, as you call it, come down. Unless, of course, they're

"No," said Godfrey, "I don't believe they're lunatics - at least, not
both of them. I have a sort of theory about it; but it's a pretty thin
one, and I want you to do a little investigating on your own account
before I tell you what it is. It's time we went to bed. Don't get up
in the morning till you're ready to. Probably I'll not see you till
night; I have some work to do that will take me off early. But Mrs.
Hargis will make you comfortable, and I'll be back in time to join you
in another look at the Roman candle!"

He uttered the last words jestingly, but I could see that the jest was
a surface one, and that, at heart, he was deeply serious. Evidently,
the strange star had impressed him even more than it had me - though
perhaps in a different manner.

I found that it had impressed me deeply enough, for I dreamed about it
that night - dreamed, and woke, only to fall asleep and dream and wake
again. I do not remember that I saw any more in the dream than I had
seen with my waking eyes, but each time I awoke trembling with
apprehension and bathed in perspiration. As I lay there the second
time, staring up into the darkness and telling myself I was a fool,
there came a sudden rush of wind among the trees outside; then a vivid
flash of lightning and an instant rending crash of thunder, and then a
steady downpour of rain. I could guess how the gasping city welcomed
it, and I lay for a long time listening to it, as it dripped from the
leaves and beat against the house. A delightful coolness filled the
room, an odour fresh and clean; and when, at last, with nerves
quieted, I fell asleep again, it was not to awaken until the sun was
bright against my curtains.



I glanced at my watch, as soon as I was out of bed, and saw that it
was after ten o'clock. All the sleep I had lost during the hot nights
of the previous week had been crowded into the last nine hours; I felt
like a new man, and when, half an hour later, I ran downstairs, it was
with such an appetite for breakfast as I had not known for a long

There was no one in the hall, and I stepped out through the open door
to the porch beyond, and stood looking about me. The house was built
in the midst of a grove of beautiful old trees, some distance back
from the road, of which I could catch only a glimpse. It was a small
house, a story and a half in height, evidently designed only as a
summer residence.

"Good morning, sir," said a voice behind me, and I turned to find a
pleasant-faced, grey-haired woman standing in the doorway.

"Good morning," I responded. "I suppose you are Mrs. Hargis?"

"Yes, sir; and your breakfast's ready."

"Has Mr. Godfrey gone?"

"Yes, sir; he left about an hour ago. He was afraid his machine would
waken you."

"It didn't," I said, as I followed her back along the hall. "Nothing
short of an earthquake would have wakened me. Ah, this is fine!"

She had shown me into a pleasant room, where a little table was set
near an open window. It made quite a picture, with its white cloth and
shining dishes and plate of yellow butter, and bowl of crimson
berries, and - but I didn't linger to admire it. I don't know when I
have enjoyed breakfast so much. Mrs. Hargis, after bringing in the
eggs and bacon and setting a little pot of steaming coffee at my
elbow, sensibly left me alone to the enjoyment of it. Ever since that
morning, I have realised that, to start the day exactly right, a man
should breakfast by himself, amid just such surroundings, leisurely
and without distraction. A copy of the morning's _Record_ was lying on
the table, but I did not even open it. I did not care what had
happened in the world the day before!

At last, ineffably content, I stepped out upon the driveway at the
side of the house, and strolled away among the trees. At the end of a
few minutes, I came to the high stone wall which bounded the estate
of the mysterious Worthington Vaughan, and suddenly the wish came to
me to see what lay behind it. Without much difficulty, I found the
tree with the ladder against it, which we had mounted the night
before. It was a long ladder, even in the daytime, but at last I
reached the top, and settled myself on the limb against which it
rested. Assuring myself that the leaves hid me from any chance
observer, I looked down into the grounds beyond the wall.

There was not much to see. The grounds were extensive and had
evidently been laid out with care, but there was an air of neglect
about them, as though the attention they received was careless and
inadequate. The shrubbery was too dense, grass was invading the walks,
here and there a tree showed a dead limb or a broken one. Near the
house was a wide lawn, designed, perhaps, as a tennis-court or
croquet-ground, with rustic seats under the trees at the edge.

About the house itself was a screen of magnificent elms, which
doubtless gave the place its name, and which shut the house in
completely. All I could see of it was one corner of the roof. This,
however, stood out clear against the sky, and it was here, evidently,
that the mysterious midnight figures had been stationed. As I looked
at it, I realised the truth of Godfrey's remark that probably from no
other point of vantage but just this would they be visible.

It did not take me many minutes to exhaust the interest of this empty

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