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But it was Thurston Prose her father greeted.
Margaret recognized his voice, although he
spoke in guarded tones.

** I am the bearer of unhappy tidings," she
overheard Prose say in hushed conversation
with her father.

" What ! " rang out the metallic voice of Ful-
lerton.

" I have just come from Barclay's house,"
Prose explained. '' I am the bearer of painful,
tidings."

*' Barclay is not dead? "

"Yes. He died very suddenly this afternoon."

'' Then he has been murdered ! " Fullerton
cried in an outburst of-sudden fury; and Prose
heard a low cry, followed by a soft fall. Margaret
Fullerton had fainted ; and yet she had declared
that she did not love Bryce Barclay.

Fullerton paid no heed to his daughter's cry.
Indeed, it was a cry so faint and low that it
might easily have escaped his notice, for Ful-
lerton was now intensely excited. Nervously
clutching his visitor by the arm, he drew him into
the reception-room on the opposite side of the
hall, and slammed the door with angry violence.



MARGARET FULLERTON. 49

"Barclay has been murdered!" he fiercely
cried. There was no smile now on the cold,
complacent face. Nothing was there but the
hard, firm lines of rage and disappointment.

" He died very suddenly," Prose conceded ;
and wondering at the expression of the other's
face, he began briefly to acquaint Fullerton with
such details of Barclay's death as had come to
his knowledge. When Prose in his narrative
came to the subject of the will Fullerton ground
his teeth together in an access of rage and
disappointment.

''That Sedgwick has murdered him !" he cried,
— ** murdered him for his money. Sedgwick
has robbed my daughter, and he shall swing for
it as sure as there 's a God in Heaven ! " and
Prose shuddered as he looked upon the malig-
nant countenance before him. There he could
read no mercy for the murderer, if a murder
there had been.

" I cannot think there has been violence," he
slowly answered, gazing upon Fullerton with dis-
trust and fear.

" I know it ! " Fullerton cried. '' I am sure
of it ! It is too opportune for mere coincidence.
Who did you say the coroner was ? "

Prose answered; and Fullerton, barely spar-

4



so SILKEN THREADS.

ing a moment to acquaint his daughter with
the fact of her lover's death, hurried off in quest
of Judd.

He would pursue the man who had robbed
his daughter of her lover, to the very death.



CHAPTER V.

THE INQUEST.

DURING the short time which elapsed
between the finding of Barclay's body
and the convening of the coroner's jury Horace
P. Judd had not been idle. He had considered
the matter of Barclay's death in every light
which presented itself to his narrow vision. He
had come to the honest conviction that Bryce
Barclay was the victim of a tragedy, and he had
made up his mind that he would leave no stone
unturned until he should probe the mystery of
this sudden death to its very bottom.

Aided and seconded by Charles Fullerton,
Judd had worked the livelong night; and by
the morning of the following day the two men
had collected a mass of evidence of the utmost
importance.

The coroner's jury was assembled at Bar-
clay's house, and enacted its judicial farce in the
picture gallery, opposite the studio in which the



52 SILKEN THREADS,

dead man had been found. Rembrandts and
Raphaels, Dolces and Diirers, in golden frames,
looked down with angelic surprise upon the
strange scene which desecrated their hallowed
ground.

Judd, acting upon the advice of Charles Ful-
lerton, had determined to summon many wit-
nesses ; the picture gallery was consequently
crowded, and with a motley throng. Like two
fates, at the opposite ends of a long table, sat
Horace R Judd and Charles Fullerton. By
facing each other in this wise they looked in
opposite directions, and nothing which occurred
In the room could escape the attention of one
or the other of the two men.

Thurston Prose was the first witness.

Prose described how he had left Barclay at
three o'clock in order to prepare his will ; how
upon his return at five o'clock he had found
him sitting in his chair, dead.

"What was the character of Mr. Barclay's
intended will?"

'' He proposed to leave his property to the
lady to whom he was engaged."

" Was that property large?"

"■ It was in the neighborhood of three quarters
of a million."



THE INQUEST. 53

" Was it Mr. Barclay's entire fortune? "

**No, it was half his property. The remaining
portion was left to him in trust."

** But such of his property as was at his dis-
posal he proposed to leave away from his heir-
at-law?"

" Yes."

"Who was his heir-at-law?"

** His cousin, Dr. Algernon Sedgwick."

" Was Dr. Sedgwick acquainted with the in-
tention of the deceased? "

'' Yes, Mr. Barclay announced his intention to
him in my presence."

"Were there other witnesses?"

"Yes."

" Did you observe anything peculiar in Dr.
Sedgwick's manner when the deceased an-
nounced his intention to him?"

" Dr. Sedgwick was embarrassed, but his con-
fusion seemed to arise from the publicity of his
cousin's announcement rather than from regret ; "
and Prose explained at some length how Barclay
had spoken before the group of men at the club.

" What did Mr. Barclay do after this con-
versation?"

" He left the club-house in my company."

" Immediately? "



54 SILKEN THREADS.

" We drank his health first."

** At what time was this ? "

" At about half-past two."

" Did the deceased drink anything? "

" Yes, he drank a glass of sherry and bitters."

" That is to say, the deceased partook of
sherry and bitters less than three hours before
his death?"

'' Yes."

" Did he mix the sherry and bitters himself ? "

" No. Mr. Barclay's glass was brought into
the room on a tray with the others, and placed
upon a table."

" Did the deceased take his glass from the
tray himself ? "

" No, it was handed him by Dr. Sedgwick."

" You are sure ? " -

"Yes, I am positive upon this point, because
there was a piece of cork in the glass. Dr.
Sedgwick removed this cork before he handed
the glass to his cousin."

" Did you see the cork? "

** No. I was not sufficiently near the table to
have seen it."

**Did you notice anything peculiar in Dr. Sedg-
wick's behavior when he removed the cork?"

" No. He was embarrassed, but I attributed



THE INQUEST. 55

that embarrassment to Barclay's open declara-
tion about the will. Sedgwick seemed to be
conscious that we were thinking of it,"

Judd now abandoned the scene at the club-
house to interrogate Prose upon Sedgwick's
behavior when he had at first become acquainted
with his cousin's death.

" Did Dr. Sedgwick seem surprised or grieved
when he knew of his cousin's death?"

'' Yes."

In his secret soul Prose thought that Sedg-
wick had displayed a terrible indifference at
Barclay's death ; but he did not feel called upon
to say so. His testimony was damaging enough
against Sedgwick as it was. After all, Sedgwick
was a physician, and familiar with scenes of
sudden death. Perhaps if he, Prose, had been
a physician too, he would have displayed no
greater feeling than had Sedgwick.

After several unimportant questions Prose was
permitted to withdraw, and Messrs. Candage
and Dalton were examined, both of whom
corroborated Prose's testimony, although they
established no new facts.

Parsley, the butler, was the next witness.

Parsley testified that Mr. Barclay had let
himself into his house at three o'clock on the



S6 SILKEN THREADS.

previous afternoon ; that he was attended by-
Mr. Brown, a photographer, who had accompa-
nied Mr. Barclay up to his studio and had re-
mained "there for half an hour. Parsley had
met him as he came downstairs and had opened
the door for him. He was sure it was no longer
than half an hour because he had noticed the
clock when Mr. Edgerton called. At the men-
tion of Mr. Edgerton's name the jurymen pricked
up their ears. If any violence had been directed
against Barclay that previous afternoon it must
have been during the hour and a half interven-
ing between the departure of the photographer
and the return of Prose.

"Who is Mr. Edgerton?" demanded the
coroner.

" Mr. Masters Hedgerton."

''Was he a friend to Mr. Barclay?"

" No, sir. Mr. Barclay knew Mr. Hedgerton,
but I can't say as they was hexactly friends."

*' What do you mean by that? "

" I mean that I don't think there was hany
love lost between Mr. Barclay and Mr. Hedger-
ton, sir."

" What makes you think that? "

*' What makes servants halways think such
things, sir? They sees and they listens."



THE INQUEST. 5/

" Did Mr. Edgerton see Mr. Barclay? "

** No, sir. I hexplained to Mr. Hedgerton as
'ow I 'ad positive borders no one was to be
shown hup, sir."

**Did Mr. Edgerton then leave the house?"

" No, sir. He seemed hangry, sir, when I re-
fused to tell Mr. Barclay he was waiting, sir.
He hargued with me, and when I told him my
horders were positive he said he would come in
and write to Mr. Barclay. He came into the
reception-room, sir."

" Did you remain with Mr. Edgerton while
he wrote his letter?"

" No, sir. I went off to speak to one of the lads,
and when I came back Mr. Hedgerton was gone."

" Did you not consider it strange that Mr.
Edgerton should leave the house without sum-
moning you? "

*'No, sir. People hoften do that, sir. Why,
that very same morning a young woman stepped
in and waited for Mr. Barclay, and then went
off without me seeing her."

" At what time was that? "

" About one o'clock, sir."

*' How long a time elapsed before you returned
to the reception-room? "

" I beg parding, sir."



58 SILKEN THREADS.

" How long was it before you came back to
Mr. Edgerton?"

" It might 'ave been ten minutes, sir."

"Not longer?"

"No, sir."

After some beating about the bush Mr. Pars-
ley averred that it could not have been longer
than fifteen minutes at the very most. This, then,
brought them up to quarter to four.

" You can swear that it was not longer than
fifteen minutes?"

" Yes, sir."

" Did you take Mr. Edgerton's letter imme-
diately up to Mr. Barclay? "

" There was n't hany letter, sir."

"What?"

"There was no letter, sir. When I came
back and saw Mr. Hedgerton was gone I looked
about for the letter. I ransacked the whole
room and looked in the 'all, sir ; but I could n't
find hany letter."

" Did that surprise you? "

" No, sir. Mr. Hedgerton was very much hex-
cited when he came in, sir. I thought maybe
while he was writing he had cooled down like
and made hup his mind to leave the 'ouse with-
out writing."



THE INQUEST. 59

"Why did you think he had left the house?"

" What helse would the gentleman do, sir? "

" Could he not have gone upstairs while you
were speaking with the lad ? "

" Why, yes, sir, I suppose he could. There
was nobody there to hinder him."

** What did you do when you found that Mr.
Edgerton was no longer in the reception-room ? "

" I sat down in the 'all, sir."

" So that Mr. Edgerton could not have come
downstairs without your seeing him?"

" Certainly not, sir."

"And you remained in the hall until Mr.
Prose arrived ? "

" Yes, sir."

"What did you do while you sat in the hall? "

" I read, sir."

" You did not fall asleep ? "

" No, sir, I was reading all the time."

" Could you not have become so absorbed in
your book that some one might have come down
the stairs and passed out without your seeing
him?"

" No, sir ; I was reading ' Sweet Peas,' by the
critic of the ' Daily News/ sir."

The coroner seemed to consider this answer
conclusive and pursued this theme no longer.



6o SILKEN THREADS.

" And no one came to the house between the
visit of Mr. Edgerton and the return of Mr.
Prose?"

*' No, sir."

Here Mr. Parsley stood down and wiped the
perspiration from his face with the napkin he
carried in his hand, greatly relieved that the
trying ordeal was over.

Algernon Sedgwick was the next witness.
He was dressed in deep mourning, and his face
was extremely pale. He seemed conscious that
he was regarded with suspicion, and his manner
was aggressive, the most unfortunate deportment
for a witness.

"You are the nearest relative of the deceased?"

" Yes."

"You are also aware that your cousin pro-
posed executing a will which should leave such
property as was at his disposal away from you?"

" Yes."

" When did you first become aware of the
deceased's intention?"

" At two o'clock yesterday."

"What was your feeling when this intention
became known to you?"

" Annoyance. I was annoyed that my cousin
should speak of so private a matter in so public
a way."



THE INQUEST. 6 1

*' You were not disappointed when you learned
that the deceased proposed leaving to Miss
Fullerton a large fortune, which must otherwise
have come to you ? "

" No. I never expected that my cousin's for-
tune would come to me. I was simply annoyed
that he should have been guilty of such a breach
of good breeding as to declare his intention
in the presence of others."

*' You are a physician? "

"Yes."

" By specialty a toxicologist and medical
chemist?"

" Yes."

" May I examine your ring? "

Sedgwick, becoming slightly paler than before,
withdrew a large seal ring from his finger and
handed it to the coroner, who turned it about
carefully in his hands endeavoring to displace
the seal.

''Does this ring open?" he asked at length,
when his efforts to displace the stone had proved
unavailing.

*' Yes. If you press the knob at the side, the
stone can be made to swing outward upon a
hinge."

The coroner, following Sedgwick's direction,



62 SILKEN THREADS.

pressed the knob and swung the stone out-
wards. Its displacement disclosed a small cavity
beneath the setting. This enclosed space was
empty.

''What is the purpose of this secret chamber? "

*' It was made for a picture."

" Have you always used it for this purpose? "

" No. It is no secret that I was foolish enough
when a medical student to carry a small quantity
of aconitine in the space originally intended for
a picture, and that I boastingly showed the poi-
son to my friends. It is needless to say, how-
ever, that there has been no aconitine there for
the past four years."

" Nor any other poison? "

" Nor any other poison."

" How did you acquire this aconitine?"

" I extracted it myself."

*' And you could extract it again? "

'' Certainly."

" And you have other and various poisons at
your disposal? "

'' Certainly. As is the custom among med-
ical chemists I have in my laboratory a sample
of nearly every known poison."

" Could this ring contain sufficient aconitine
to cause the death of an adult? "



THE INQUEST. 63

"Yes, it could contain aconitine enough to
cause the death of four men."

" Is it not possible that some of its former
contents might have adhered to the sides and
fallen into your cousin's glass when you removed
the cork?"

The coroner asked this question firmly.

Sedgwick answered as firmly, '' No. There
has been no aconitine nor any other poison in
the ring for several years."

"You are sure?"

" Absolutely."

"And the receptacle has been cleaned?"

" Thoroughly."

" So that upon analysis it would reveal the
traces of no poison?"

" So that upon analysis it would reveal the
traces of no poison. It was cleaned with acid
four years ago. It is impossible that it should
contain any poison."

" Is death by aconitine discoverable by
chemical analysis or by any post-mortem ap-
pearances? "

"No, I believe not."

" Have you ever remarked that it was in your
power to cause death in such a manner that the
cause of death could not be discovered? You



64 SILKEN THREADS.

may decline to answer these questions if you
desire."

" I have no wish to decHne. If I have ever
said anything of the kind it would simply have
been what almost every physician must some-
time have said."

''And would such a statement have been
true?"

"Yes. It is possible that a man might die
from a disease which had been caused by the
administration of some poison, but in such a
case there must be an illness. I know of no
poison which could cause sudden death, and yet
leave no trace of its presence."

"And yet you say that aconitine cannot be
detected by chemical analysis or hy post-mortem
appearances?"

"The administration of aconitine is followed
by convulsions. The absence of convulsion
would absolutely exclude it in the present case."

" Is the same thing true of prussic acid? "

" No, not necessarily. But prussic acid has a
strong permeating odor, and the absence of this
odor in the present case would be almost conclu-
sive evidence against its employment. Of course
it is conceivable that my cousin may have died
from the fumes of the strong acid, administered



THE INQUEST. 65

to him in his sleep, or during unconsciousness,
but that I consider extremely improbable."

" Is there no poison which can cause sudden
death without convulsions ? "

*'Yes. It is possible thatwoorara might cause
such a death, though I doubt it. I do not be-
lieve that woorara could cause death in three
hours ; certainly not in a shorter period. Yet
my cousin had been dead some time when he
was discovered by Prose and the butler."

" Do you recall to mind any cases of poison-
ing by woorara?"

"No."

Masters Edgerton was the next witness. In
response to the questions of the coroner he ad-
mitted that he knew Barclay, but that they were
not friends.

" Were you then enemies ? "

" No."

"You visited Mr. Barclay at his house at 3.30
on the 22d of May."

"Yes."

" What was the object of that visit."

" Business of a private nature."

" Do you decline to inform the gentlemen of
the jury of the nature of this business.^"

" Yes."

5






66 SILKEN THREADS.

Edgerton's manner was nervous and excited,
and this denial upon the part of the witness cre-
ated no little surprise. He was the first witness
who had declined to answer a question which
had been put to him. As the bad impression
caused by his denial seemed to dawn upon him,
he continued, —

" My business with Mr. Barclay was of a pri-
vate nature, having no bearing whatever upon
the present case. I should regret extremely to
speak of it, unless the occasion should absolutely
demand it."

" Your business with the deceased was of
importance ? "

" Yes."

'* So important that when you were told you
could not see the deceased you entered the
house in order to write to him?"

" Yes."

'' What became of this letter? "

*' I put it in my pocket before it was fin-
ished. I decided not to write to Mr. Barclay.
I decided to wait until I could see him
personally."

" What did you do after you had decided not
to write to the deceased?"

" I left the house."



THE INQUEST. 67

*' Immediately? "

"Yes."

*' How long a time had you remained in Mr.
Barclay's house? "

" Five minutes perhaps. Certainly not more."

" Had you ever been in the house of the
deceased previous to the 22d of May?"

" Yes."

"Many times?"

" Yes."

"You were familiar with the peculiarity of
its arrangement?"

" Yes."

" You say that latterly your relations with the
deceased had not been friendly?"

".Yes. Mr. Barclay and I ceased to be friends
six months ago."

" Report says that you quarrelled about a
lady. Is this true?"

Edgerton was now greatly excited. He
shifted his weight uneasily from one foot to the
other and looked at the coroner with indecision.
Finally he hesitated no longer.

" Yes, we quarrelled about a lady."

"And it was in regard to this quarrel that
you called upon the deceased upon the after-
noon of the 22d of May? "



68 SILKEN THREADS.

" Yes."

"Why did you not say so before?"

" Because this was a private matter which
could have no possible bearing upon the present
case."

The following witnesses were the medical ex-
perts who had conducted the autopsy. These
gentlemen, in the voluble technical language at
their command, testified that Barclay had died
of no organic disease; that his death had re-
sulted from shock or paralysis of the heart. To
what this shock or paralysis was due they could
not say. The chemical expert testified that he
had made a preliminary chemical examination,
but with negative results. He could detect no
traces of any poison. All that had been said
by Sedgwick he fully corroborated. He was of
the opinion that woorara or concentrated prussic
acid were the only poisons which could have
caused the death of Bryce Barclay. Of woorara,
he testified, little was known. It was a substance
prepared by certain tribes of Indians for poison-
ing arrows. It was equally poisonous whether
administered by the mouth or under the skin.
In the former case its action would be less
rapid. It could not be detected by chemical
analysis by any method known at that time.



THE INQUEST. 69

It was possible, he admitted, that the deceased
had come to his death by some unknown poison.
In answer to the question of the coroner, the
witness was of the opinion that the taste of
woorara or aconitine in wine would be disguised
by the addition of bitters.

No other evidence of importance was adduced,
and after the examination of several unimportant
witnesses the jury withdrew. No decision, how-
ever, was arrived at. As is usually the case
among coroners' juries, its members disagreed,
five believing that the deceased had come to his
death by poison, the remaining seven attributing
his death to natural causes. The true cause of
their disagreement, however, was the testimony
of Sedgwick. Seven of the jurymen believed
that Sedgwick w^as unhappily surrounded by a
net-work of circumstantial evidence. The dis-
senting five believed that he had been too frank
in his admissions. They believed that he had
administered some mysterious, poison to his
cousin in order to obtain his fortune.

The verdict rendered was '' Cause of death
unknown," and the evidence obtained and the
report of the inquest were handed over to the
district attorney.



CHAPTER VI.

DAVID KEENE.

'THH AT night Algernon Sedgwick was arrested
•^ for the murder of his cousin, though it was
by no means certain that Barclay had in truth
been murdered. The presumption of murder,
however, was very strong. The autopsy had
proved that Barclay had suffered from no organic
disease. It had shown that he died from shock
or paralysis of the heart. Now nothing, it was
claimed, could cause 3r man of robust health,
and without organic disease, to die of shock
or paralysis of the heart unless it should have
been poison or external violence of some sort.
Sudden fright or fear, or in fact any violent
emotion, might cause a heart to pause forever in
its rhythmical march ; but this, it was contended,
was a very unlikely thing to happen to a man
of Barclay's temperament ; still more unlikely
when one recalled to mind the smiling expres-
sion of the dead man's face. On the whole, the



DAVID KEENE. 71

weight of opinion favored the theory of poison.
Barclay had drunk of sherry and bitters less
than three hours before his death ; bitters which
the expert had testified would disguise the taste
of almost every vegetable poison. The glass
containing the suspected potion had been taken
from the hand of Sedgwick; an opportunity
being thus afforded to the latter to administer
poison to his cousin had he been so disposed.
Sedgwick, the heir-at-law, was the person most
interested in Barclay's death. Sedgwick, famil-
iar with all poisons, had a complete supply of
them at his disposal. Sedgwick had been averse
to the inquest, and had boasted that he could
cause death without incurring risk of detection.
Thus the evidence was strong against him, and
he had a relentless pursuer in Charles Fullerton,
who could ascribe no motive as sufficient for a
murder other than the desire for gain. So
Algernon Sedgwick had been arrested on sus-
picion and committed to jail.

At this time David Keene, of the firm of
Keene and Eley, was the most prominent detec-
tive in Dashford. Keene was not a detective of
the conventional type. Having received an ex-
cellent education, he had begun life as a news-
paper reporter. At the age of twenty-two he



72 SILKEN THREADS.

had been detailed by his employers to write up
the circumstances of a mysterious murder which
had set the city agog some eight years previous
to the opening of our story. In the pursuance
of this task Keene had become imbued with an
irresistible desire to penetrate the secret of the
crime. He had relinquished a lucrative position
on the staff of the newspaper, and had devoted
himself body and soul, as the saying is, to solv-


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