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A Child Of The Rain
A Difficult Problem
A Grammatical Ghost
A Memorable Night
A Mysterious Case
A Mystery With A Moral
A Spectral Collie
A Terribly Strange Bed
American Horses
An Astral Onion
An Intangible Clue
As Told By Mr Gryce
Bourgonef
From The Loom Of The Dead
His Last Bow
Hunted Down
Introduction To A Mystery With A Moral
Introduction To Melmoth The Wanderer
Melmoth The Wanderer
Missing: Page Thirteen
My Fascinating Friend
No 1 Branch Line: The Signal-man
On Being Found Out
On The Northern Ice
Problem Ix Violet's Own
Satire Of The Sea
Shall He Wed Her?
Story Of An Obstinate Corpse
Story Of The Vanishing Patient
The Adventure Of Black Peter
The Adventure Of Charles Augustus Milverton
The Adventure Of The Abbey Grange
The Adventure Of The Bruce-partington Plans
The Adventure Of The Cardboard Box
The Adventure Of The Dancing Men
The Adventure Of The Devil's Foot
The Adventure Of The Dying Detective
The Adventure Of The Empty House
The Adventure Of The Golden Pince-nez
The Adventure Of The Missing Three-quarter
The Adventure Of The Norwood Builder
The Adventure Of The Priory School
The Adventure Of The Red Circle
The Adventure Of The Six Napoleons
The Adventure Of The Solitary Cyclist
The Adventure Of The Three Students
The Adventure Of Wisteria Lodge
The Affair Of The Tortoise
The Avenger
The Birth-mark
The Black Cross
The Box With The Iron Clamps
The Bronze Hand
The Cambered Foot
The Case Of He Golden Bullet
The Case Of Mr Foggatt
The Case Of The Dixon Torpedo
The Case Of The Pocket Diary Found In The Snow
The Case Of The Pool Of Blood In The Pastor's Study
The Case Of The Registered Letter
The Closed Cabinet
The Coin Of Dionysius
The Disappearance Of Lady Frances Carfax
The Doctor His Wife And The Clock
The Dreaming Lady
The End Of The Road
The Fortune Teller
The Golden Slipper
The Gray Madam
The Great Valdez Sapphire
The Grotto Spectre
The Haunted And The Haunters Or The House And The Brain
The Hermit Of Street
The Hole In The Mahogany Panel
The House By The Loch
The House Of Clocks
The House That Was Not
The Incantation
The Jew's Breastplate
The Knight's Cross Signal Problem
The Last Adventure
The Last Exploit Of Harry The Actor
The Lenton Croft Robberies
The Loss Of Sammy Crockett
The Lost Lady
The Lost Room
The Man In The Green Hat
The Mortals In The House
The Mysterious Card
The Notch On The Ax - A Story A La Mode
The Oblong Box
The Old Stone House
The Piano Next Door
The Pumpkin Coach
The Quinton Jewel Affair
The Reward
The Room Of The Evil Thought
The Second Bullet
The Shape Of Fear
The Spread Rails
The Stanway Cameo Mystery
The Thing On The Hearth
The Torture By Hope
The Tragedy At Brookbend Cottage
The Wrong Sign
The Yellow Flower
Their Dear Little Ghost

Four Max Carrados Detective Stories

The Coin Of Dionysius
The Knight's Cross Signal Problem
The Last Exploit Of Harry The Actor
The Tragedy At Brookbend Cottage



The Coin Of Dionysius








It was eight o'clock at night and raining, scarcely a time when a
business so limited in its clientele as that of a coin dealer could
hope to attract any customer, but a light was still showing in the
small shop that bore over its window the name of Baxter, and in the
even smaller office at the back the proprietor himself sat reading the
latest Pall Mall. His enterprise seemed to be justified, for
presently the door bell gave its announcement, and throwing down his
paper Mr. Baxter went forward.

As a matter of fact the dealer had been expecting someone and his
manner as he passed into the shop was unmistakably suggestive of a
caller of importance. But at the first glance towards his visitor the
excess of deference melted out of his bearing, leaving the urbane,
self-possessed shopman in the presence of the casual customer.

"Mr. Baxter, I think?" said the latter. He had laid aside his dripping
umbrella and was unbuttoning overcoat and coat to reach an inner
pocket. "You hardly remember me, I suppose? Mr. Carlyle--two years ago
I took up a case for you--"

"To be sure. Mr. Carlyle, the private detective--"

"Inquiry agent," corrected Mr. Carlyle precisely.

"Well," smiled Mr. Baxter, "for that matter I am a coin dealer and not
an antiquarian or a numismatist. Is there anything in that way that I
can do for you?"

"Yes," replied his visitor; "it is my turn to consult you." He had
taken a small wash-leather bag from the inner pocket and now turned
something carefully out upon the counter. "What can you tell me about
that?"

The dealer gave the coin a moment's scrutiny.

"There is no question about this," he replied. "It is a Sicilian
tetradrachm of Dionysius."

"Yes, I know that--I have it on the label out of the cabinet. I can
tell you further that it's supposed to be one that Lord Seastoke gave
two hundred and fifty pounds for at the Brice sale in '94."

"It seems to me that you can tell me more about it than I can tell
you," remarked Mr. Baxter. "What is it that you really want to know?"

"I want to know," replied Mr. Carlyle, "whether it is genuine or not."

"Has any doubt been cast upon it?"

"Certain circumstances raised a suspicion--that is all."

The dealer took another look at the tetradrachm through his magnifying
glass, holding it by the edge with the careful touch of an expert.
Then he shook his head slowly in a confession of ignorance.

"Of course I could make a guess--"

"No, don't," interrupted Mr. Carlyle hastily. "An arrest hangs on it
and nothing short of certainty is any good to me."

"Is that so, Mr. Carlyle?" said Mr. Baxter, with increased interest.
"Well, to be quite candid, the thing is out of my line. Now if it was
a rare Saxon penny or a doubtful noble I'd stake my reputation on my
opinion, but I do very little in the classical series."

Mr. Carlyle did not attempt to conceal his disappointment as he
returned the coin to the bag and replaced the bag in the inner pocket.

"I had been relying on you," he grumbled reproachfully. "Where on
earth am I to go now?"

"There is always the British Museum."

"Ah, to be sure, thanks. But will anyone who can tell me be there
now?"

"Now? No fear!" replied Mr. Baxter. "Go round in the morning--"

"But I must know to-night," explained the visitor, reduced to despair
again. "To-morrow will be too late for the purpose."

Mr. Baxter did not hold out much encouragement in the circumstances.

"You can scarcely expect to find anyone at business now," he remarked.
"I should have been gone these two hours myself only I happened to
have an appointment with an American millionaire who fixed his own
time." Something indistinguishable from a wink slid off Mr. Baxter's
right eye. "Offmunson he's called, and a bright young pedigree-hunter
has traced his descent from Offa, King of Mercia. So he--quite
naturally--wants a set of Offas as a sort of collateral proof."

"Very interesting," murmured Mr. Carlyle, fidgeting with his watch. "I
should love an hour's chat with you about your millionaire
customers--some other time. Just now--look here, Baxter, can't you
give me a line of introduction to some dealer in this sort of thing
who happens to live in town? You must know dozens of experts."

"Why, bless my soul, Mr. Carlyle, I don't know a man of them away from
his business," said Mr. Baxter, staring. "They may live in Park Lane
or they may live in Petticoat Lane for all I know. Besides, there
aren't so many experts as you seem to imagine. And the two best will
very likely quarrel over it. You've had to do with 'expert witnesses,'
I suppose?"

"I don't want a witness; there will be no need to give evidence. All I
want is an absolutely authoritative pronouncement that I can act on.
Is there no one who can really say whether the thing is genuine or
not?"

Mr. Baxter's meaning silence became cynical in its implication as he
continued to look at his visitor across the counter. Then he relaxed.

"Stay a bit; there is a man--an amateur--I remember hearing wonderful
things about some time ago. They say he really does know."

"There you are," explained Mr. Carlyle, much relieved. "There always
is someone. Who is he?"

"Funny name," replied Baxter. "Something Wynn or Wynn something." He
craned his neck to catch sight of an important motor-car that was
drawing to the kerb before his window. "Wynn Carrados! You'll excuse
me now, Mr. Carlyle, won't you? This looks like Mr. Offmunson."

Mr. Carlyle hastily scribbled the name down on his cuff.

"Wynn Carrados, right. Where does he live?"

"Haven't the remotest idea," replied Baxter, referring the arrangement
of his tie to the judgment of the wall mirror. "I have never seen the
man myself. Now, Mr. Carlyle, I'm sorry I can't do any more for you.
You won't mind, will you?"

Mr. Carlyle could not pretend to misunderstand. He enjoyed the
distinction of holding open the door for the transatlantic
representative of the line of Offa as he went out, and then made his
way through the muddy streets back to his office. There was only one
way of tracing a private individual at such short notice--through the
pages of the directories, and the gentleman did not flatter himself by
a very high estimate of his chances.

Fortune favoured him, however. He very soon discovered a Wynn Carrados
living at Richmond, and, better still, further search failed to
unearth another. There was, apparently, only one householder at all
events of that name in the neighbourhood of London. He jotted down the
address and set out for Richmond.

The house was some distance from the station, Mr. Carlyle learned. He
took a taxicab and drove, dismissing the vehicle at the gate. He
prided himself on his power of observation and the accuracy of his
deductions which resulted from it-a detail of his business. "It's
nothing more than using one's eyes and putting two and two together,"
he would modestly declare, when he wished to be deprecatory rather
than impressive. By the time he had reached the front door of "The
Turrets" he had formed some opinion of the position and tastes of the
people who lived there.

A man-servant admitted Mr. Carlyle and took his card--his private
card, with the bare request for an interview that would not detain Mr.
Carrados for ten minutes. Luck still favoured him; Mr. Carrados was at
home and would see him at once. The servant, the hall through which
they passed, and the room into which he was shown, all contributed
something to the deductions which the quietly observant gentleman, was
half unconsciously recording.

"Mr. Carlyle," announced the servant.

The room was a library or study. The only occupant, a man of about
Carlyle's own age, had been using a typewriter up to the moment of his
visitor's entrance. He now turned and stood up with an expression of
formal courtesy.

"It's very good of you to see me at this hour," apologised Mr.
Carlyle.

The conventional expression of Mr. Carrados's face changed a little.

"Surely my man has got your name wrong?" he explained. "Isn't it Louis
Calling?"

Mr. Carlyle stopped short and his agreeable smile gave place to a
sudden flash of anger or annoyance.

"No sir," he replied stiffly. "My name is on the card which you have
before you."

"I beg your pardon," said Mr. Carrados, with perfect good-humour. "I
hadn't seen it. But I used to know a Calling some years ago--at St.
Michael's."

"St. Michael's!" Mr. Carlyle's features underwent another change, no
less instant and sweeping than before. "St. Michael's! Wynn Carrados?
Good heavens! it isn't Max Wynn--old 'Winning' Wynn"?

"A little older and a little fatter--yes," replied Carrados. "I have
changed my name you see."

"Extraordinary thing meeting like this," said his visitor, dropping
into a chair and staring hard at Mr. Carrados. "I have changed more
than my name. How did you recognize me?"

"The voice," replied Carrados. "It took me back to that little
smoke-dried attic den of yours where we--"

"My God!" exclaimed Carlyle bitterly, "don't remind me of what we were
going to do in those days." He looked round the well-furnished,
handsome room and recalled the other signs of wealth that he had
noticed. "At all events, you seem fairly comfortable, Wynn."

"I am alternately envied and pitied," replied Carrados, with a placid
tolerance of circumstance that seemed characteristic of him. "Still,
as you say, I am fairly comfortable."

"Envied, I can understand. But why are you pitied?"

"Because I am blind," was the tranquil reply.

"Blind!" exclaimed Mr. Carlyle, using his own eyes superlatively. "Do
you mean--literally blind?"

"Literally.... I was riding along a bridle-path through a wood about a
dozen years ago with a friend. He was in front. At one point a twig
sprang back--you know how easily a thing like that happens. It just
flicked my eye--nothing to think twice about."

"And that blinded you?"

"Yes, ultimately. It's called amaurosis."

"I can scarcely believe it. You seem so sure and self-reliant. Your
eyes are full of expression--only a little quieter than they used to
be. I believe you were typing when I came....Aren't you having me?"

"You miss the dog and the stick?" smiled Carrados. "No; it's a fact."

"What an awful affliction for you, Max. You were always such an
impulsive, reckless sort of fellow--never quiet. You must miss such a
fearful lot."

"Has anyone else recognized you?" asked Carrados quietly.

"Ah, that was the voice, you said," replied Carlyle.

"Yes; but other people heard the voice as well. Only I had no
blundering, self-confident eyes to be hoodwinked."

"That's a rum way of putting it," said Carlyle. "Are your ears never
hoodwinked, may I ask?"

"Not now. Nor my fingers. Nor any of my other senses that have to look
out for themselves."

"Well, well," murmured Mr. Carlyle, cut short in his sympathetic
emotions. "I'm glad you take it so well. Of course, if you find it an
advantage to be blind, old man----" He stopped and reddened. "I beg
your pardon," he concluded stiffly.

"Not an advantage perhaps," replied the other thoughtfully. "Still it
has compensations that one might not think of. A new world to explore,
new experiences, new powers awakening; strange new perceptions; life
in the fourth dimension. But why do you beg my pardon, Louis?"

"I am an ex-solicitor, struck off in connexion with the falsifying of
a trust account, Mr. Carrados," replied Carlyle, rising.

"Sit down, Louis," said Carrados suavely. His face, even his
incredibly living eyes, beamed placid good-nature. "The chair on which
you will sit, the roof above you, all the comfortable surroundings to
which you have so amiably alluded, are the direct result of falsifying
a trust account. But do I call you 'Mr. Carlyle' in consequence?
Certainly not, Louis."

"I did not falsify the account," cried Carlyle hotly. He sat down
however, and added more quietly: "But why do I tell you all this? I
have never spoken of it before."

"Blindness invites confidence," replied Carrados. "We are out of the
running--human rivalry ceases to exist. Besides, why shouldn't you? In
my case the account was falsified."

"Of course that's all bunkum, Max" commented Carlyle. "Still, I
appreciate your motive."

"Practically everything I possess was left to me by an American
cousin, on the condition that I took the name of Carrados. He made his
fortune by an ingenious conspiracy of doctoring the crop reports and
unloading favourably in consequence. And I need hardly remind you that
the receiver is equally guilty with the thief."

"But twice as safe. I know something of that, Max ... Have you any
idea what my business is?"

"You shall tell me," replied Carrados.

"I run a private inquiry agency. When I lost my profession I had to do
something for a living. This occurred. I dropped my name, changed my
appearance and opened an office. I knew the legal side down to the
ground and I got a retired Scotland Yard man to organize the outside
work."

"Excellent!" cried Carrados. "Do you unearth many murders?"

"No," admitted Mr. Carlyle; "our business lies mostly on the
conventional lines among divorce and defalcation."

"That's a pity," remarked Carrados. "Do you know, Louis, I always had
a secret ambition to be a detective myself. I have even thought lately
that I might still be able to do something at it if the chance came my
way. That makes you smile?"

"Well, certainly, the idea----"

"Yes, the idea of a blind detective--the blind tracking the alert--"

"Of course, as you say, certain facilities are no doubt quickened,"
Mr. Carlyle hastened to add considerately, "but, seriously, with the
exception of an artist, I don't suppose there is any man who is more
utterly dependent on his eyes."

Whatever opinion Carrados might have held privately, his genial
exterior did not betray a shadow of dissent. For a full minute he
continued to smoke as though he derived an actual visual enjoyment
from the blue sprays that travelled and dispersed across the room. He
had already placed before his visitor a box containing cigars of a
brand which that gentleman keenly appreciated but generally regarded
as unattainable, and the matter-of-fact ease and certainty with which
the blind man had brought the box and put it before him had sent a
questioning flicker through Carlyle's mind.

"You used to be rather fond of art yourself, Louis," he remarked
presently. "Give me your opinion of my latest purchase--the bronze
lion on the cabinet there." Then, as Carlyle's gaze went about the
room, he added quickly: "No, not that cabinet--the one on your left."

Carlyle shot a sharp glance at his host as he got up, but Carrados's
expression was merely benignly complacent. Then he strolled across to
the figure.

"Very nice," he admitted. "Late Flemish, isn't it?"

"No, It is a copy of Vidal's 'Roaring Lion.'"

"Vidal?"

"A French artist." The voice became indescribably flat. "He, also, had
the misfortune to be blind, by the way."

"You old humbug, Max!" shrieked Carlyle, "you've been thinking that
out for the last five minutes." Then the unfortunate man bit his lip
and turned his back towards his host.

"Do you remember how we used to pile it up on that obtuse ass Sanders,
and then roast him?" asked Carrados, ignoring the half-smothered
exclamation with which the other man had recalled himself.

"Yes," replied Carlyle quietly. "This is very good," he continued,
addressing himself to the bronze again. "How ever did he do it?"

"With his hands."

"Naturally. But, I mean, how did he study his model?"

"Also with his hands. He called it 'seeing near.'"

"Even with a lion--handled it?"

"In such cases he required the services of a keeper, who brought the
animal to bay while Vidal exercised his own particular gifts ... You
don't feel inclined to put me on the track of a mystery, Louis?"

Unable to regard this request as anything but one of old Max's
unquenchable pleasantries, Mr. Carlyle was on the point of making a
suitable reply when a sudden thought caused him to smile knowingly. Up
to that point, he had, indeed, completely forgotten the object of his
visit. Now that he remembered the doubtful Dionysius and Baxter's
recommendation he immediately assumed that some mistake had been made.
Either Max was not the Wynn Carrados he had been seeking or else the
dealer had been misinformed; for although his host was wonderfully
expert in the face of his misfortune, it was inconceivable that he
could decide the genuineness of a coin without seeing it. The
opportunity seemed a good one of getting even with Carrados by taking
him at his word.

"Yes," he accordingly replied, with crisp deliberation, as he
re-crossed the room; "yes, I will, Max. Here is the clue to what seems
to be a rather remarkable fraud." He put the tetradrachm into his
host's hand. "What do you make of it?"

For a few seconds Carrados handled the piece with the delicate
manipulation of his finger-tips while Carlyle looked on with a
self-appreciative grin. Then with equal gravity the blind man weighed
the coin in the balance of his hand. Finally he touched it with his
tongue.

"Well?" demanded the other.

"Of course I have not much to go on, and if I was more fully in your
confidence I might come to another conclusion----"

"Yes, yes," interposed Carlyle, with amused encouragement.

"Then I should advise you to arrest the parlourmaid, Nina Brun,
communicate with the police authorities of Padua for particulars of
the career of Helene Brunesi, and suggest to Lord Seastoke that he
should return to London to see what further depredations have been
made in his cabinet."

Mr. Carlyle's groping hand sought and found a chair, on to which he
dropped blankly. His eyes were unable to detach themselves for a
single moment from the very ordinary spectacle of Mr. Carrados's
mildly benevolent face, while the sterilized ghost of his now
forgotten amusement still lingered about his features.

"Good heavens!" he managed to articulate, "how do you know?"

"Isn't that what you wanted of me?" asked Carrados suavely.

"Don't humbug, Max," said Carlyle severely. "This is no joke." An
undefined mistrust of his own powers suddenly possessed him in the
presence of this mystery. "How do you come to know of Nina Brun and
Lord Seastoke?"

"You are a detective, Louis," replied Carrados. "How does one know
these things? By using one's eyes and putting two and two together."

Carlyle groaned and flung out an arm petulantly.

"Is it all bunkum, Max? Do you really see all the time--though that
doesn't go very far towards explaining it."

"Like Vidal, I see very well--at close quarters," replied Carrados,
lightly running a forefinger along the inscription on the tetradrachm.
"For longer range I keep another pair of eyes. Would you like to test
them?"

Mr. Carlyle's assent was not very gracious; it was, in fact, faintly
sulky. He was suffering the annoyance of feeling distinctly
unimpressive in his own department; but he was also curious.

"The bell is just behind you, if you don't mind," said his host.
"Parkinson will appear. You might take note of him while he is in."

The man who had admitted Mr. Carlyle proved to be Parkinson.

"This gentleman is Mr. Carlyle, Parkinson," explained Carrados the
moment the man entered. "You will remember him for the future?"

Parkinson's apologetic eye swept the visitor from head to foot, but so
lightly and swiftly that it conveyed to that gentleman the comparison
of being very deftly dusted.

"I will endeavour to do so, sir," replied Parkinson, turning again to
his master.

"I shall be at home to Mr. Carlyle whenever he calls. That is all."

"Very well, sir."

"Now, Louis," remarked Mr. Carrados briskly, when the door had closed
again, "you have had a good opportunity of studying Parkinson. What is
he like?"

"In what way?"

"I mean as a matter of description. I am a blind man--I haven't seen
my servant for twelve years--what idea can you give me of him? I asked
you to notice."

"I know you did, but your Parkinson is the sort of man who has very
little about him to describe. He is the embodiment of the ordinary.
His height is about average----"

"Five feet nine," murmured Carrados. "Slightly above the mean."

"Scarcely noticeably so. Clean-shaven. Medium brown hair. No
particularly marked features. Dark eyes. Good teeth."

"False," interposed Carrados. "The teeth--not the statement."

"Possibly," admitted Mr. Carlyle. "I am not a dental expert and I had
no opportunity of examining Mr. Parkinson's mouth in detail. But what
is the drift of all this?"

"His clothes?"

"Oh, just the ordinary evening dress of a valet. There is not much
room for variety in that."

"You noticed, in fact, nothing special by which Parkinson could be
identified?"

"Well, he wore an unusually broad gold ring on the little finger of
the left hand."

"But that is removable. And yet Parkinson has an ineradicable mole--a
small one, I admit--on his chin. And you a human sleuth-hound. Oh,
Louis!"

"At all events," retorted Carlyle, writhing a little under this
good-humoured satire, although it was easy enough to see in it
Carrados's affectionate intention--"at all events, I dare say I can
give as good a description of Parkinson as he can give of me."

"That is what we are going to test. Ring the bell again."

"Seriously?"

"Quite. I am trying my eyes against yours. If I can't give you fifty
out of a hundred I'll renounce my private detectorial ambition for
ever."

"It isn't quite the same," objected Carlyle, but he rang the bell.

"Come in and close the door, Parkinson," said Carrados when the man
appeared. "Don't look at Mr. Carlyle again--in fact, you had better
stand with your back towards him, he won't mind. Now describe to me
his appearance as you observed it."

Parkinson tendered his respectful apologies to Mr. Carlyle for the
liberty he was compelled to take, by the deferential quality of his
voice.

"Mr. Carlyle, sir, wears patent leather boots of about size seven and
very little used. There are five buttons, but on the left boot one
button--the third up--is missing, leaving loose threads and not the
more usual metal fastener. Mr. Carlyle's trousers, sir, are of a dark
material, a dark grey line of about a quarter of an inch width on a
darker ground. The bottoms are turned permanently up and are, just
now, a little muddy, if I may say so."

"Very muddy," interposed Mr. Carlyle generously. "It is a wet night,
Parkinson."

"Yes, sir; very unpleasant weather. If you will allow me, sir, I will
brush you in the hall. The mud is dry now, I notice. Then, sir,"
continued Parkinson, reverting to the business in hand, "there are
dark green cashmere hose. A curb-pattern key-chain passes into the
left-hand trouser pocket."

From the visitor's nether garments the photographic-eyed Parkinson
proceeded to higher ground, and with increasing wonder Mr. Carlyle
listened to the faithful catalogue of his possessions. His
fetter-and-link albert of gold and platinum was minutely described.
His spotted blue ascot, with its gentlemanly pearl scarfpin, was set
forth, and the fact that the buttonhole in the left lapel of his
morning coat showed signs of use was duly noted. What Parkinson saw he
recorded, but he made no deductions. A handkerchief carried in the
cuff of the right sleeve was simply that to him and not an indication
that Mr. Carlyle was, indeed, left-handed.

But a more delicate part of Parkinson's undertaking remained. He
approached it with a double cough.

"As regards Mr. Carlyle's personal appearance, sir--"

"No, enough!" cried the gentleman concerned hastily. "I am more than
satisfied. You are a keen observer, Parkinson."

"I have trained myself to suit my master's requirements, sir," replied
the man. He looked towards Mr. Carrados, received a nod and withdrew.

Mr. Carlyle was the first to speak.

"That man of yours would be worth five pounds a week to me, Max," he
remarked thoughtfully. "But, of course--"

"I don't think that he would take it," replied Carrados, in a voice of
equally detached speculation. "He suits me very well. But you have the
chance of using his services--indirectly."

"You still mean that--seriously?"

"I notice in you a chronic disinclination to take me seriously, Louis.
It is really--to an Englishman--almost painful. Is there something
inherently comic about me or the atmosphere of The Turrets?"

"No, my friend," replied Mr. Carlyle, "but there is something
essentially prosperous. That is what points to the improbable. Now
what is it?"

"It might be merely a whim, but it is more than that," replied Carrados.
"It is, well, partly vanity, partly ennui, partly"--certainly there
was something more nearly tragic in his voice than comic now--"partly
hope."

Mr. Carlyle was too tactful to pursue the subject.

"Those are three tolerable motives," he acquiesced. "I'll do anything
you want, Max, on one condition."

"Agreed. And it is?"

"That you tell me how you knew so much of this affair." He tapped the
silver coin which lay on the table near them. "I am not easily
flabbergasted," he added.

"You won't believe that there is nothing to explain--that it was
purely second-sight?"

"No," replied Carlyle tersely: "I won't."

"You are quite right. And yet the thing is very simple."

"They always are--when you know," soliloquised the other. "That's what
makes them so confoundedly difficult when you don't."

"Here is this one then. In Padua, which seems to be regaining its old
reputation as the birthplace of spurious antiques, by the way, there
lives an ingenious craftsman named Pietro Stelli. This simple soul,
who possesses a talent not inferior to that of Cavino at his best, has
for many years turned his hand to the not unprofitable occupation of
forging rare Greek and Roman coins. As a collector and student of
certain Greek colonials and a specialist in forgeries I have been
familiar with Stelli's workmanship for years. Latterly he seems to
have come under the influence of an international crook called--at the
moment--Dompierre, who soon saw a way of utilizing Stelli's genius on
a royal scale. Helene Brunesi, who in private life is--and really is,
I believe--Madame Dompierre, readily lent her services to the
enterprise."

"Quite so," nodded Mr. Carlyle, as his host paused.

"You see the whole sequence, of course?"

"Not exactly--not in detail," confessed Mr. Carlyle.

"Dompierre's idea was to gain access to some of the most celebrated
cabinets of Europe and substitute Stelli's fabrications for the
genuine coins. The princely collection of rarities that he would thus
amass might be difficult to dispose of safely, but I have no doubt
that he had matured his plans. Helene, in the person of Nina Brun, an
Anglicised French parlourmaid--a part which she fills to
perfection--was to obtain wax impressions of the most valuable pieces
and to make the exchange when the counterfeits reached her. In this
way it was obviously hoped that the fraud would not come to light
until long after the real coins had been sold, and I gather that she
has already done her work successfully in general houses. Then,
impressed by her excellent references and capable manner, my
housekeeper engaged her, and for a few weeks she went about her duties
here. It was fatal to this detail of the scheme, however, that I have
the misfortune to be blind. I am told that Helene has so innocently
angelic a face as to disarm suspicion, but I was incapable of being
impressed and that good material was thrown away. But one morning my
material fingers--which, of course, knew nothing of Helene's angelic
face--discovered an unfamiliar touch about the surface of my favourite
Euclideas, and, although there was doubtless nothing to be seen, my
critical sense of smell reported that wax had been recently pressed
against it. I began to make discreet inquiries and in the meantime my
cabinets went to the local bank for safety. Helene countered by
receiving a telegram from Angiers, calling her to the death-bed of her
aged mother. The aged mother succumbed; duty compelled Helene to
remain at the side of her stricken patriarchal father, and doubtless
The Turrets was written off the syndicate's operations as a bad debt."

"Very interesting," admitted Mr. Carlyle; "but at the risk of seeming
obtuse"--his manner had become delicately chastened--"I must say that
I fail to trace the inevitable connexion between Nina Brun and this
particular forgery--assuming that it is a forgery."

"Set your mind at rest about that, Louis," replied Carrados. "It is a
forgery, and it is a forgery that none but Pietro Stelli could have
achieved. That is the essential connexion. Of course, there are
accessories. A private detective coming urgently to see me with a
notable tetradrachm in his pocket, which he announces to be the clue
to a remarkable fraud--well, really, Louis, one scarcely needs to be
blind to see through that."

"And Lord Seastoke? I suppose you happened to discover that Nina Brun
had gone there?"

"No, I cannot claim to have discovered that, or I should certainly
have warned him at once when I found out--only recently--about the
gang. As a matter of fact, the last information I had of Lord Seastoke
was a line in yesterday's Morning Post to the effect that he was
still at Cairo. But many of these pieces--" He brushed his finger
almost lovingly across the vivid chariot race that embellished the
reverse of the coin, and broke off to remark: "You really ought to
take up the subject, Louis. You have no idea how useful it might prove
to you some day."

"I really think I must," replied Carlyle grimly. "Two hundred and
fifty pounds the original of this cost, I believe."

"Cheap, too; it would make five hundred pounds in New York to-day. As
I was saying, many are literally unique. This gem by Kimon is--here is
his signature, you see; Peter is particularly good at lettering--and
as I handled the genuine tetradrachm about two years ago, when Lord
Seastoke exhibited it at a meeting of our society in Albemarle Street,
there is nothing at all wonderful in my being able to fix the locale
of your mystery. Indeed, I feel that I ought to apologize for it all
being so simple."

"I think," remarked Mr. Carlyle, critically examining the loose
threads on his left boot, "that the apology on that head would be more
appropriate from me."





Next: The Knight's Cross Signal Problem

Previous: The Great Valdez Sapphire



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