S. Weir (Silas Weir) Mitchell.

The Guillotine club, and other stories online

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"And the will," I said.

"Yes. That is the interesting part. Talk
about that later. Then they left as they came.
We are only at the beginning of a very diffi
cult business. The next move must come from
the burglars, and they won t hurry. But with
what I can now say to the chief there will be
no arrest of your friend ; but he will have to be
patient. After I see the chief and my own
people, I shall be able to advise you further.
Now, I don t want to talk or to let this evidence
get out. The thieves read the papers indus
triously, and they know of the general police
belief that the Captain took the will, and so
at present they are at ease and can wait."

Then he added, turning to Fernwood:
"The house was entered by the front door.



They saw and meant to take the silver." He
went on to state the case as it now stood.

Meanwhile the Captain sat moveless, in
tensely attentive. When South ended, he
said: "I see it now. It was not alone my
uncle s death that sent them away in a hurry.
The man who saw that will knew that he had
a prize. The silver became of small moment."

I heard him with surprise and relief. Here
was the quiet, reasoning man I first knew,
acute, intelligent, himself again.

South had only affirmative comment, and
left me to advise my friend to be patient, as
now we had to play a waiting game.

Fernwood had, of course, seen Miss Mus-
grave often, and now I advised him to go in
the evening, and in confidence to tell her that
we were on the track of the burglars.

Still, I was far from being at ease. I was
at the end of my mental resources, and was
merely anxious as to the way I should keep him
quiet. What with the bicycle rides in the
country, when Miss Musgrave went with us,



and throwing upon him work in connection
with the books of our library, I succeeded as
well as one could expect to succeed with a sen
sitive man over whom hung so dark a cloud.
He insisted, however, on learning whenever
anything new turned up, and I, on my part,
agreed to this on condition of complete submis-
siveness to my orders.

To keep faith with him, as soon as I heard
again from South, I asked him to meet us at
my room. This was a day or two later. At
this time South said: There have been sev
eral long consultations with the chief of the
city detective force, and here is where we stand.
My own people are sure I am right. The chief
is still in doubt. The trustees of the hospital
want to advertise and offer a reward for the
return of the will ; but some of these old gentle
men say it is useless, because you have it.
They ended by agreeing to wait. You, too,
must wait."

"If," said Fernwood, thoughtfully, "I were
to claim the estate on the final failure to recover
the will and were to turn it over to them, I



should remain forever under the shadow of a
tragedy which would rest unexplained/

"That seems to be on your mind, Captain/
said the detective.

"It is not for a moment to be thought of,"
said I. "What else, Mr. South?"

"Well, sir, you know about criminals. Gen
erally, in case of an unusual burglary, we can
be pretty sure of the group in which we may
find the man. According to Dr. Alston s no
tion, here must have been a burglar intelligent
enough to see the great value of this will, which
must have been short and simple and decisive
enough to content him with his prize. Usu
ally such a man has as his companion some one
who is not a swell burglar, and it is here they
are apt to get trapped. The second fellow
doesn t get enough, or he drinks and talks.
It is just here we are at a loss. There are sev
eral we might suspect, but some of them are in
jail or have disappeared. We have simply got
to wait."

And wait we did until, despite my care,
Fernwood was looking worried and was no



longer manageable. He told Miss Musgrave,
to her horror, that he now believed he had
killed his uncle, and as to the will, he did n t
know. He must have taken it. I became
alarmed, and meanwhile a lawyer had failed to
help us. We had only to wait. I was in de
spair. I had heard of such cases, and saw
that my friend was on the way to become in
sane. Once he declared that he meant to con

"If," said South, "he judges others by him
self, the man who has the will is going to fish
first for the Captain. If not, he will try the
hospital trustees, and that s all there is of it
just now. He s got first to divide that seven
hundred and fifty and spend his share."

The days which went by without further in
cident must have been for Fernwood the most
trying time of his life, but what with work
and I kept him busy and exercise, and above
all the quiet wholesomeness of Miss Mus-
grave s influence, we lived it out. His im
patience under continued suspicion and the
difficulty in keeping the trustees tranquil re-



suited at last in a determination on the part of
Fernwood to free himself from any relation to
the great estate involved. I was now, at last,
so alarmed at his condition, that I reluctantly
consented. A legal paper was drawn up by
which he, Fernwood, conveyed to the hospital
trustees his entire interest in his uncle s prop
erty, conditioned upon their paying over to the
housekeeper ten thousand dollars.

When this should be made known, the will
would become of far less moment. I did not
like it, hut he was so uneasy that I began to
have grave fears lest his reason might give
way. Indeed, as we walked to the office of the
president of the board, he said to me: "I am
again haunted by the idea that perhaps I really
did that thing. If I am not relieved in some
way I shall lose my mind or say I did it. I
am not sure."

"I hope," said I, laughing, "if you lose your
mind, that in that case I shall find it."

"Oh, don t joke about it," he returned, and
we went up-stairs to the office of the president.

Mr. Daingerfield, the old gentleman with


the shiny bald head, which apparently attracted
the early flies, asked us to sit down, put on his
spectacles, and industriously beat off the flies
with a large palm-leaf fan.

"Well," he said rather gruffly, "you want
to see me ? I supposed you would."

Fernwood was at his best, gentle, courteous,
and quiet.

"Yes," he said, "I have come to propose to
you an arrangement with your board which I
am sure "

To my surprise the old man stood up, and,
interrupting him, exclaimed: "We will make
no compromise. None. I am amazed that
you should for a moment think it possible."

"Had you not better hear first what I have to

"No, sir. I have no desire to deal with you
at all. We expected some advance of this

"Of what nature?"

"No matter what. A will is lost by which
the poor would have profited and the man who,



if it never turns up, will get the estate under
circumstances which "

Fernwood rose, but, to my satisfaction, quiet
and cool. He unrolled the deed as he said:
"I am a gentleman placed by disastrous cir
cumstances under suspicion of murder and
theft. Even the most unkindly man should,
in the total absence of proof, feel for me. You,
an old man, simply insult me without even hav
ing the patience and charity to listen. The
deed I hold conveys to your board my entire
interest in my late uncle s estate and leaves me
without a penny/

As he spoke, he tore the paper to pieces, and
was about to cast it into the waste-basket, but
smiled and crammed it into his pocket, saying:
"I hope that you will be able to explain this
matter to your board. I shall have the pleas
ure to let them hear of it by letter."

The old man cried out: "But I could not
have imagined sit down. Sit down, sir !"

"No," said the Captain, and we left Mr.
Daingerfield standing forgetful of the atten-



live flies and exclaiming, "Good gracious !" and
apparently confused out of possibility of other

"Well," I said to Fernwood, "are you satis


It did him good, and afforded him the only
bit of humorous incident which this too tragic
affair supplied.

That afternoon I saw Miss Musgrave. She
sat with Fernwood a while in my sitting-room
and then came down to the delivery-office and
asked for me. I took her into my private
room, where she began to question me about
what would become of the estate if Fernwood
should decline to claim it. He had already
made the same inquiry. I said I did not know,
but that there was a book a law book on wills
which would tell us. I would get it. It was
one of the issues of this complicated affair in
which I too felt some interest.

"Oddly enough," the attendant said, "a gen
tleman asked for that book half an hour ago.



He is over there at the table under the win

It was near by, and I glanced at the reader.
He was, as I remember, a neatly clad man in
black clothes, and because of being clean
shaven, somehow reminded me of a Catholic
priest. He was making notes in a little book.
I noticed that he wore in a black neck-scarf a
large diamond or paste pin. I had a moment
of wonder, because it struck a note of differ
ence from his lean face and the rather simple

Miss Musgrave and I got little information
out of the book, and as we were in agreement
as regarded too constant, direct, and useless
discussion of our troubles, we fell into other
talk. This came of my remarking upon the
way in which a crime or any other such matter
called upon the resources of a library. Sev
eral persons had recently busied themselves in
the library with this question of unclaimed
estates and lost wills.

The day after, a typewritten letter from


Boston addressed to me made me summon
South at once. He read it aloud.

" Dear Sir : I hear a certain document interests
you. Answer in next Tuesday s New York Herald/
and say Yes, it does. A. B. Then you will hear
further. X."

"But why me ?" said I.

"Well, that beats me," replied South. "Of
course this was purposely mailed in Boston.
He should have asked for an answer there.
Very likely he is here. He has spent that
seven hundred and fifty."

"What do you advise?" said I. "It is get
ting more and more strange."

"Answer him as he says, and then wait.
To-night I am going to take a look at some
of the resorts of the upper class of burglars.
Of course it is often done, but the men lately
concerned in big robberies keep dark for a
while. Sometimes the hangers-on of the swell
rascals get picked up in these dens. The upper
set, and there are n t many, put on style and
go to second-rate hotels or live very quietly out



of town. However, I mean to take a look.
Like to go with me? Gentleman from Chi
cago wanting to see the city."

I said: "Yes. I should like to go."

Fernwood declined, as I supposed he would.

I have no desire to describe the haunts of
those I saw that evening. They had in
terest for an old student of the class which has
only one reason for resisting temptation, and
again, as often before, I was struck with the
exterior order and, in one resort, with the
cleanliness of the saloon. I was amused, too,
at South s classification. "It is of no use, or
generally of no use," he said, "to look for the
boss of a big job here." This he said as we
came out of the worst of the dens. "Those
fellows are the common lot, sneak thieves and
so on. They are always poor, hand-to-mouth

"Yes," I replied. "The uncertain day-
laborers of crime. Sad analogy," I murmured
as we moved away.

South was like a botanist in the country.
He knew where to look for this weed or that,



and spoke, like the very decent fellow he was,
of the women who, themselves degraded, help
to degrade.

It was eleven at night, when, having made
nothing by our quest, we went to get a mug of
beer at one of the well-known cafes in the lower
part of the city. South, as we sat, began to
exercise curiosity on those about us with now
and then some shrewd comment. Of a sudden
he set down his half -raised mug and said:
"Don t appear to look, but get a quick look at
the man at the third table the one nearest the
window. He is one of our most skilled bur
glars. He has been in and out of jail three
times, and is as likely as not to "

"By George!" I exclaimed, "I know him.
He was at the library recently, and wanted to
consult a law book about wills."

"What ? What ?" said South. "Is that so ?
Come, let us go. I know the rascal well. He
goes by the name of Tom Swing."

I followed him without a word. When on
the pavement he said to a cabman, "I take you;
wait," and drew me aside. In a few moments



our man came out, smoking a cigar. He
looked at his watch and walked swiftly away.

"Come," said South, "get in." He said to
the cabman: "You see that man? Follow
him at a walk. Don t lose him. Five dollars
if you keep him in sight till I stop you, and
don t get too near."

"All right, sir," said the man^ and we drove


THE streets into which we turned were al
most deserted, and the task was not diffi
cult. "If," said South, "we tracked him on
foot we might very easily alarm him. You
saw him look about him as he came out. He is
on his guard. Now he will never dream of be
ing shadowed by a cab unless he is in one."

This quiet pursuit lasted some ten minutes.
We were again among the slums. Our prey
turned a corner. South stopped the cab, paid
the driver, and saying, "It was cheap," paused
a moment, put his police badge on his coat, and
said to me: "Our man is, I guess, going to
Joe McCoy s. I did not take you there. I
only want to see who Tom will talk to. It is
a mere chance."

As we turned the corner, the man was gone.
"All right," said South, and I followed him
into a drinking-shop. He nodded to the bar-



keeper and said cheerfully: "No one wanted,
Bill; gent from Chicago to see the town."

The room at the back was thick with smoke,
and two thirds full of as rough a lot as I have
ever seen. As we came in, our sudden
entrance seemed to disturb them. The voices
dropped, and South at once said : "Good even
ing, boys. No one wanted this time; gent
from Chicago, seeing the town. Hello, Char
ley!" This to a ruffian near the door. He
spoke to several, and last to me. "This is Tom
Swing, Mr. Paxton. An ornament to his pro
fession." Mr. Swing got up, and said very
quietly in a level voice, and a not unpleasant
one : "I see you still like your little joke, Mr.
South; but I am out of the business. The
ladies of the prison society have got me a job."

South encouraged this return to morality,
and we sat down, calling for lager beer.

South had his back to Tom. I was facing
him some twelve feet away. The noise of
voices rose. A drunken group in a corner
trolled a thieves catch, and it was easy to talk
unheard by our neighbors.



South said to me: "The man with Tom is
an old helper of his, a great brute; what we
call a yeggman." He rarely used thief-slang,
and the word interested me. He explained:
"It is the burglar who uses violence. Swing
never does. He does not even carry a re

"An unusual, a rare case."

"Yes, sir ; but the man is just that. He was
a bank clerk and the son of a decent school
master. Don t watch him too closely.
What s the matter? Take care! I think he
may have remembered you. Crime does
sharpen a man s memory."

"But I must watch him," I said. "Talk to
me. Tell stories. Laugh. Do anything."
I was excited.

"What 7 s the matter ? Mind-reading ? Mr.
Stevens, at the library, told me about it."

"Nonsense !" I said. "I want to watch them.
Talk! talk! anything!"

I stared at Tom while South, puzzled, obeyed
my order, and did talk, while I considered with



intense attention the two scamps. I did not
think they suspected me of listening. That, in
fact, was impossible. The noise was so great
that a policeman looked in and said it would n t
do. Then the drunken crowd broke up.

Swing, too, rose at last, nodded to South,
and went out. His friend also rose unsteadily
and left.

"Come," I said; "an interesting study."

South besieged me with eager questions. I
contented him with a promise to talk if he
would come home with me.

When in my room I called Fernwood out of
bed. He asked what was the matter. I said :
"Nothing wrong. Dress."

It was one o clock when we sat down with
our cigars. I hesitated as I stood by the man
tel, amused at South s eagerness, and foresee
ing with anticipative pleasure the relief I was
about to give.

"Mr. South, tell the Captain how we found
and followed Swing."

"Ominous name," said Fernwood.


When South had our man in the saloon, I
took up the story. I said: "I faced the two
men, and I was near enough "

"To hear?" said Fernwood, anxiously.

"No, not a word; but I know what they

"You do?" cried South. "I knew it. Mind-

"Yes," I said. "I read their minds."

I was enjoying the excitement of South s
face and the queer look of bewilderment on that
of my friend.

"Good heavens !" he cried. "Do go on."

"Well," I said, "I gathered enough. They
have the will ; that is sure, and they saw my re
ply in the paper."

"Yours?" said Fernwood, bewildered. I
had not told him of the letter to me.

"Yes. The short man I could not get at
quite so easily, but he assured Swing she was
safe, because she did not know its value. I
caught bits of his talk. Bad thing that, the
old fellow dying. He just fell when you
grabbed at him; he screamed, and hit the



fender knob. They are puzzled what to do
next. That is all I got clearly. There was
more of course, but the noise and the smoke
distracted my mind. It requires close study."

Fernwood turned to South. "For heaven s
sake, let us end this ! What will you do ? Ar
rest them?"

South was silent a moment. "Why, Cap
tain, the evidence is good for us, but before a
magistrate any shyster of a lawyer would
laugh us out of court."

Fernwood looked the disappointment he felt.
He, too, was for a little silent, and then said,
smiling: "Of course Dr. Alston, who has the
acute sense of some animal ancestor, caught
fragments of the compromising talk of these
men enough, I dare say."

Mr. South smiled the critical dissent of the
better-informed mind.

"Couldn t of heard, sir. Mind-reading it
was, and nothing else."

"Well," said Fernwood, "no matter. It is
all the artillery we have, and we ought to be
able to use it."



I watched with an expert s satisfaction the
return of mental force in a man so lately stum
bling on the boundary of insanity, at times quite
hounded over the line by the beliefs of others
and the too constant dwelling on one fatal sub
ject. Now he was himself once more, sugges
tive, resourceful, and courageous.

I checked South with a lift of the hand and

"Suppose," said the Captain, "you arrest
Sharkey, as you call him, on a charge of mur
der and burglary."

"On suspicion?" said South. "We can, but
it will only scare Swing. We have no avail
able evidence, and Sharkey will simply shut up
like a clam."

"No," said I, "he is the lesser scamp. Jail
bird as he is, there is always a competent scare
for every crow. Let me see him and tell him
what I can make him believe I overheard. It
was a confession and far plainer than I have
told you. Let me say to Sharkey that we will
arrest Swing. Why not even do that at once ?
Tell Sharkey he had better be first to confess



and get a chance to escape the gallows. To
have incidentally caused death during a bur
glary, is, as I understand it, in the eye of the
law, murder."

"Yes," said South ; "that s good law. I will
see the chief."

"Might work, but don t mention mind-read
ing, South," said I.

"Of course not. He must think we over
heard it bits, you know. We must find the
girl, too. If my plan works, that will be easy."

We had some further talk, and South left us.
When we were alone, Fernwood came over to
where I stood, set a hand on each of my shoul
ders, and said : "I am curious as to what you
really did when you saw those villains. But
first I want to say that I owe to you such a
debt of gratitude as never can be paid." His
eyes filled, and he sat down, overcome with
such emotion as forbids speech.

I, too, was for a moment silent. I had
learned to like the man and the woman. I,
whom the chances of life had made a some
what lonely man, had found a friend.



I said: "My dear Fernwood, when I had
seen you a few times I was strongly attracted.
It is for me a great joy to have served a man
I can completely like and, without reserve, ap
prove. In our day the helpful resources of
friendship are so few. Once you could stand
by a friend in battle or express yourself in
verse. Now friendship is limited to small ma
terial kindnesses, to sympathy, to money help
at need ; and that, strange to say, is the sharp
est test to-day, and where too many fail. But
I am on a subject which is often in my mind.
Such a chance as ours has been, is happily

"Oh, yours, yours," said Fernwood, smiling
through tears. "Ah, and my dear Anne. I
shall leave her to thank you."

"Well, I thank heaven that the chance fell
to me. You want to know how I got inside
the counsels of Swing & Co. ?"

"Yes, indeed."

I laughed. "I shall tell you when we are
through with this business."



"Oh, by Jove!" cried Fernwood, with a good
honest laugh, "tell me now."

"No, not yet. Now you must go to bed and
with an easy mind. I want to put on paper
what I gathered. Good-night."

The next afternoon South arrived. Fern-
wood for the first time had gone out alone on
my bicycle.

"We have Sharkey," said South. "Got him
easy. The chief is delighted. The man is well
scared, and we shall have Swing to-night."

In half an hour I was with South in a cell
at the central police station. Sharkey sat on
the cot, a sullen brute. He made no reply when
South said, "You are in a bad scrape this time."

Then I began. "I sat opposite to you at Mc
Coy s. You talked to Swing about the bur
glary and the death at Mr. White s house.
You said the girl had the will."

He looked at me and made no comment. I
went on. "You wanted half of what the will
would bring. Swing said, One third. You
said, More, more ; too little."



He grew attentive. I saw his hands open
and shut uneasily. He was sweating and
passed a hand across his forehead.

"Swing said you were counting your chick
ens before they were hatched, and that you
were in liquor. He said the old man s death
made it a hard job. You said: He just
died. No one hurt him/

Then Sharkey said, "Guess you think I m
a fool."

South caught on to this as I did not The
man felt himself clear of murder.

"Stop a moment," South said to me. "Look
here, Sharkey. You scared an old man, and
he fell dead, and don t you deceive yourself.
It is murder. Swing will be taken to-night.
He will tell the whole of it to save his neck.
Come, doctor. The man is an idiot. He has
had the first chance. Now we will give Swing
his turn."

We rose, and were half out of the door
when Sharkey caught South by the arm. "I 11
tell/ he said "Give me the chance."



"Well," said South, "come to your senses,
have you?"

Within an hour we had his statement under
oath. It was simple. They had watched the
house for several nights; knew there was but
one servant, an old woman ; had seen that there
was a light in a third story usually put out be
fore Fernwood left; reasoned that the front
door was left unlocked from within; and had
easily entered. They found and handled the
silver, and left the tankard on a chair, mean
ing to return for this spoil. Their plan was
to tie and gag the old man, get what they could,
and then at last bag the silver. Mr. White
may have been awake and heard them for he
was up and held the poker in his hand when
they came in. He cried "Murder!" and fell,
striking his head on the knob of the fender.
As he lay still, they did not trouble themselves
to see if he were dead, but by their lantern
light broke open the desk and took the money.
Then Swing saw the will, and tore open the
envelopes. He read it. It was brief. He



said: "Never mind the silver. This is worth
thousands." Sharkey reluctantly yielded, and

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Online LibraryS. Weir (Silas Weir) MitchellThe Guillotine club, and other stories → online text (page 8 of 10)