The Doctor His Wife And The Clock





Violet had gone to her room. She had a task before her. That

afternoon, a packet had been left at the door, which, from a

certain letter scribbled in one corner, she knew to be from her

employer. The contents of that packet must be read, and she had

made herself comfortable with the intention of setting to work at

once. But ten o'clock struck and then eleven before she could

bring herself to give any attention to the manuscript awaiting

her perusal. In her present mood, a quiet sitting by the fire,

with her eyes upon the changeful flame, was preferable to the

study of any affair her employer might send her. Yet, because she

was conscious of the duty she thus openly neglected, she sat

crouched over her desk with her hand on the mysterious packet,

the string of which, however, she made no effort to loosen.



What was she thinking of?



We are not alone in our curiosity on this subject. Her brother

Arthur, coming unperceived into the room, gives tokens of a

similar interest. Never before had he seen her oblivious to an

approaching step; and after a momentary contemplation of her

absorbed figure, so girlishly sweet and yet so deeply intent, he

advances to her side, and peering earnestly into her face,

observes with a seriousness quite unusual to him:



"Puss, you are looking worried,--not like yourself at all. I've

noticed it for some time. What's up. Getting tired of the

business?"



"No--not altogether--that is, it's not that, if it's anything.

I'm not sure that it's anything. I--"



She had turned back to her desk and was pushing about the various

articles with which it was plentifully bespread; but this did not

hide the flush which had crept into her cheeks and even dyed the

snowy whiteness of her neck. Arthur's astonishment at this

evidence of emotion was very great; but he said nothing, only

watched her still more closely, as with a light laugh she

regained her self-possession, and with the practical air of a

philosopher uttered this trite remark:



"Everyone has his sober moments. I was only thinking--"



"Of some new case?"



"Not exactly." The words came softly but with a touch of mingled

humour and gravity which made Arthur stare again.



"See here, Puss!" he cried. His tone had changed. "I've just come

up from the den. Father and I have had a row--a beastly row."



"A row? You and father? Oh, Arthur, I don't like that. Don't

quarrel with father. Don't, don't. Some day he and I may have a

serious difference about what I am doing. Don't let him feel that

he has lost us all."



"That's all right, Puss; but I've got to think of you a bit. I

can't see you spoil all your good times with these police horrors

and not do something to help. To-morrow I begin life as a

salesman in Clarke & Stebbin's. The salary is not great, but

every little helps and I don't dislike the business. But father

does. He had rather see me loafing about town setting the

fashions for fellows as idle as myself than soil my hands with

handling merchandise. That's why we quarreled. But don't worry.

Your name didn't come up, or--or--you know whose. He hasn't an

idea of why I want to work--There, Violet there!"



Two soft arms were around his neck and Violet was letting her

heart out in a succession of sisterly kisses.



"O, Arthur, you good, good boy! Together we'll soon make up the

amount, and then--"



"Then what?"



A sweet soft look robbed her face of its piquancy, but gave it an

aspect of indescribable beauty quite new to Arthur's eyes.



Tapping his lips with a thoughtful forefinger, he asked:



"Who was that sombre-looking chap I saw bowing to you as we came

out of church last Sunday?"



She awoke from her dreamy state with an astonishing quickness.



"He? Surely you remember him. Have you forgotten that evening in

Massachusetts--the grotto--and--"



"Oh, it's Upjohn, is it? Yes, I remember him. He's fond of

church, isn't he? That is, when he's in New York."



Her lips took a roguish curve then a very serious one; but she

made no answer.



"I have noticed that he's always in his seat and always looking

your way."



"That's very odd of him," she declared, her dimples coming and

going in a most bewildering fashion. "I can't imagine why he

should do that."



"Nor I,--" retorted Arthur with a smile. "But he's human, I

suppose. Only do be careful, Violet. A man so melancholy will

need a deal of cheering."



He was gone before he had fully finished this daring remark, and

Violet, left again with her thoughts, lost her glowing colour but

not her preoccupation. The hand which lay upon the packet already

alluded to did not move for many minutes, and when she roused at

last to the demands of her employer, it was with a start and a

guilty look at the small gold clock ticking out its inexorable

reminder.



"He will want an answer the first thing in the morning," she

complained to herself. And opening the packet, she took out first

a letter, and then a mass of typewritten manuscript.



She began with the letter which was as characteristic of the

writer as all the others she had had from his hand; as witness:



You probably remember the Hasbrouck murder,--or, perhaps, you

don't; it being one of a time previous to your interest in such

matters. But whether you remember it or not, I beg you to read

the accompanying summary with due care and attention to business.

When you have well mastered it with all its details, please

communicate with me in any manner most convenient to yourself,

for I shall have a word to say to you then, which you may be glad

to hear, if as you have lately intimated you need to earn but one

or two more substantial rewards in order to cry halt to the

pursuit for which you have proved yourself so well qualified.



The story, in deference to yourself as a young and much

preoccupied woman, has been written in a way to interest. Though

the work of an everyday police detective, you will find in it no

lack of mystery or romance; and if at the end you perceive that

it runs, as such cases frequently do, up against a perfectly

blank wall, you must remember that openings can be made in walls,

and that the loosening of one weak stone from its appointed

place, sometimes leads to the downfall of all.



So much for the letter.



Laying it aside, with a shrug of her expressive shoulders,

Violet took up the manuscript.



Let us take it up too. It runs thus:



On the 17th of July, 19--, a tragedy of no little interest

occurred in one of the residences of the Colonnade in Lafayette

Place.



Mr. Hasbrouck, a well known and highly respected citizen, was

attacked in his room by an unknown assailant, and shot dead

before assistance could reach him. His murderer escaped, and the

problem offered to the police was how to identify this person

who, by some happy chance or by the exercise of the most

remarkable forethought, had left no traces behind him, or any

clue by which he could be followed.



The details of the investigation which ended so unsatisfactorily

are here given by the man sent from headquarters at the first

alarm.



When, some time after midnight on the date above mentioned, I

reached Lafayette Place, I found the block lighted from end to

end. Groups of excited men and women peered from the open

doorways, and mingled their shadows with those of the huge

pillars which adorn the front of this picturesque block of

dwellings.



The house in which the crime had been committed was near the

centre of the row, and, long before I reached it, I had learned

from more than one source that the alarm was first given to the

street by a woman's shriek, and secondly by the shouts of an old

man-servant who had appeared, in a half-dressed condition, at the

window of Mr. Hasbrouck's room, crying "Murder! murder!"



But when I had crossed the threshold, I was astonished at the

paucity of facts to be gleaned from the inmates themselves. The

old servant, who was the first to talk, had only this account of

the crime to give:



The family, which consisted of Mr. Hasbrouck, his wife, and three

servants, had retired for the night at the usual hour and under

the usual auspices. At eleven o'clock the lights were all

extinguished, and the whole household asleep, with the possible

exception of Mr. Hasbrouck himself, who, being a man of large

business responsibilities, was frequently troubled with insomnia.



Suddenly Mrs. Hasbrouck woke with a start. Had she dreamed the

words that were ringing in her ears, or had they been actually

uttered in her hearing? They were short, sharp words, full of

terror and menace, and she had nearly satisfied herself that she

had imagined them, when there came, from somewhere near the door,

a sound she neither understood nor could interpret, but which

filled her with inexplicable terror, and made her afraid to

breathe, or even to stretch forth her hand towards her husband,

whom she supposed to be sleeping at her side. At length another

strange sound, which she was sure was not due to her imagination,

drove her to make an attempt to rouse him, when she was horrified

to find that she was alone in bed, and her husband nowhere within

reach.



Filled now with something more than nervous apprehension, she

flung herself to the floor, and tried to penetrate with frenzied

glances, the surrounding darkness. But the blinds and shutters

both having been carefully closed by Mr. Hasbrouck before

retiring, she found this impossible, and she was about to sink in

terror to the floor, when she heard a low gasp on the other side

of the room followed by a suppressed cry.



"God! what have I done!"



The voice was a strange one, but before the fear aroused by this

fact could culminate in a shriek of dismay, she caught the sound

of retreating footsteps, and, eagerly listening, she heard them

descend the stairs and depart by the front door.



Had she known what had occurred--had there been no doubt in her

mind as to what lay in the darkness on the other side of the room

--it is likely that, at the noise caused by the closing front

door, she would have made at once for the balcony that opened out

from the window before which she was standing, and taken one look

at the flying figure below. But her uncertainty as to what lay

hidden from her by the darkness chained her feet to the floor,

and there is no knowing when she would have moved, if a carriage

had not at that moment passed down Astor Place, bringing with it

a sense of companionship which broke the spell holding her, and

gave her strength to light the gas which was in ready reach of

her hand.



As the sudden blaze illuminated the room, revealing in a burst

the old familiar walls and well-known pieces of furniture, she

felt for a moment as if released from some heavy nightmare and

restored to the common experiences of life. But in another

instant her former dread returned, and she found herself quaking

at the prospect of passing around the foot of the bed into that

part of the room which was as yet hidden from her eyes.



But the desperation which comes with great crises finally drove

her from her retreat; and, creeping slowly forward, she cast one

glance at the floor before her, when she found her worst fears

realized by the sight of the dead body of her husband lying prone

before the open doorway, with a bullet-hole in his forehead.



Her first impulse was to shriek, but, by a powerful exercise of

will, she checked herself, and ringing frantically for the

servants who slept on the top floor of the house, flew to the

nearest window and endeavoured to open it. But the shutters had

been bolted so securely by Mr. Hasbrouck, in his endeavour to

shut out all light and sound, that by the time she had succeeded

in unfastening them, all trace of the flying murderer had

vanished from the street.



Sick with grief and terror, she stepped back into the room just

as the three frightened servants descended the stairs. As they

appeared in the open doorway, she pointed at her husband's

inanimate form, and then, as if suddenly realizing in its full

force the calamity which had befallen her, she threw up her arms,

and sank forward to the floor in a dead faint.



The two women rushed to her assistance, but the old butler,

bounding over the bed, sprang to the window, and shrieked his

alarm to the street.



In the interim that followed, Mrs. Hasbrouck was revived, and the

master's body laid decently on the bed; but no pursuit was made,

nor any inquiries started likely to assist me in establishing the

identity of the assailant.



Indeed, everyone both in the house and out, seemed dazed by the

unexpected catastrophe, and as no one had any suspicions to offer

as to the probable murderer, I had a difficult task before me.



I began in the usual way, by inspecting the scene of the murder.

I found nothing in the room, or in the condition of the body

itself, which added an iota to the knowledge already obtained.

That Mr. Hasbrouck had been in bed; that he had risen upon

hearing a noise; and that he had been shot before reaching the

door, were self-evident facts. But there was nothing to guide me

further. The very simplicity of the circumstances caused a dearth

of clues, which made the difficulty of procedure as great as any

I had ever encountered.



My search through the hall and down the stairs elicited nothing;

and an investigation of the bolts and bars by which the house was

secured, assured me that the assassin had either entered by the

front door, or had already been secreted in the house when it was

locked up for the night.



"I shall have to trouble Mrs. Hasbrouck for a short interview," I

hereupon announced to the trembling old servant, who had followed

me like a dog about the house.



He made no demur, and in a few minutes I was ushered into the

presence of the newly made widow, who sat quite alone, in a large

chamber in the rear. As I crossed the threshold she looked up,

and I encountered a good, plain face, without the shadow of guile

in it.



"Madam," said I, "I have not come to disturb you. I will ask two

or three questions only, and then leave you to your grief. I am

told that some words came from the assassin before he delivered

his fatal shot. Did you hear these distinctly enough to tell me

what they were?"



"I was sound asleep," said she, "and dreamt, as I thought, that a

fierce, strange voice cried somewhere to some one: 'Ah! you did

not expect me!' But I dare not say that these words were really

uttered to my husband, for he was not the man to call forth hate,

and only a man in the extremity of passion could address such an

exclamation in such a tone as rings in my memory in connection

with the fatal shot which woke me."



"But that shot was not the work of a friend," I argued. "If, as

these words seem to prove, the assassin had some other motive

than plunder in his assault, then your husband had an enemy,

though you never suspected it."



"Impossible!" was her steady reply, uttered in the most

convincing tone. "The man who shot him was a common burglar, and

frightened at having been betrayed into murder, fled without

looking for booty. I am sure I heard him cry out in terror and

remorse: 'God! what have I done!'"



"Was that before you left the side of the bed?"



"Yes; I did not move from my place till I heard the front door

close. I was paralysed by fear and dread."



"Are you in the habit of trusting to the security of a latch-

lock only in the fastening of your front door at night? I am told

that the big key was not in the lock, and that the bolt at the

bottom of the door was not drawn."



"The bolt at the bottom of the door is never drawn. Mr. Hasbrouck

was so good a man that he never mistrusted any one. That is why

the big lock was not fastened. The key, not working well, he took

it some days ago to the locksmith, and when the latter failed to

return it, he laughed, and said he thought no one would ever

think of meddling with his front door."



"Is there more than one night-key to your house?" I now asked.



She shook her head.



"And when did Mr. Hasbrouck last use his?"



"To-night, when he came home from prayer meeting," she answered,

and burst into tears.



Her grief was so real and her loss so recent that I hesitated to

afflict her by further questions. So returning to the scene of

the tragedy, I stepped out upon the balcony which ran in front.

Soft voices instantly struck my ears. The neighbours on either

side were grouped in front of their own windows, and were

exchanging the remarks natural under the circumstances. I paused,

as in duty bound, and listened. But I heard nothing worth

recording, and would have instantly reentered the house, if I had

not been impressed by the appearance of a very graceful woman who

stood at my right. She was clinging to her husband, who was

gazing at one of the pillars before him in a strange fixed way

which astonished me till he attempted to move, and then I saw

that he was blind. I remembered that there lived in this row a

blind doctor, equally celebrated for his skill and for his

uncommon personal attractions, and greatly interested not only by

his affliction, but in the sympathy evinced by his young and

affectionate wife, I stood still, till I heard her say in the

soft and appealing tones of love:



"Come in, Constant; you have heavy duties for to-morrow, and you

should get a few hours' rest if possible."



He came from the shadow of the pillar, and for one minute I saw

his face with the lamplight shining full upon it. It was as

regular of feature as a sculptured Adonis, and it was as white.



"Sleep!" he repeated, in the measured tones of deep but

suppressed feeling. "Sleep! with murder on the other side of the

wall!" And he stretched out his arms in a dazed way that

insensibly accentuated the horror I myself felt of the crime

which had so lately taken place in the room behind me.



She, noting the movement, took one of the groping hands in her

own and drew him gently towards her.



"This way," she urged; and, guiding him into the house, she

closed the window and drew down the shades.



I have no excuse to offer for my curiosity, but the interest

excited in me by this totally irrelevant episode was so great

that I did not leave the neighbourhood till I had learned

something of this remarkable couple.



The story told me was very simple. Dr. Zabriskie had not been

born blind, but had become so after a grievous illness which had

stricken him down soon after he received his diploma. Instead of

succumbing to an affliction which would have daunted most men, he

expressed his intention of practising his profession, and soon

became so successful in it that he found no difficulty in

establishing himself in one of the best paying quarters of the

city. Indeed, his intuition seemed to have developed in a

remarkable degree after the loss of his sight, and he seldom, if

ever, made a mistake in diagnosis. Considering this fact, and the

personal attractions which gave him distinction, it was no wonder

that he soon became a popular physician whose presence was a

benefaction and whose word law.



He had been engaged to be married at the time of his illness, and

when he learned what was likely to be its result, had offered to

release the young lady from all obligation to him. But she would

not be released, and they were married. This had taken place some

five years previous to Mr. Hasbrouck's death, three of which had

been spent by them in Lafayette Place.



So much for the beautiful woman next door.



There being absolutely no clue to the assailant of Mr. Hasbrouck,

I naturally looked forward to the inquest for some evidence upon

which to work. But there seemed to be no underlying facts to this

tragedy. The most careful study into the habits and conduct of

the deceased brought nothing to light save his general

beneficence and rectitude, nor was there in his history or in

that of his wife, any secret or hidden obligation calculated to

provoke any such act of revenge as murder. Mrs. Hasbrouck's

surmise that the intruder was simply a burglar, and that she had

rather imagined than heard the words which pointed to the

shooting as a deed of vengeance, soon gained general credence.



But though the police worked long and arduously in this new

direction their efforts were without fruit and the case bids fair

to remain an unsolvable mystery.



That was all. As Violet dropped the last page from her hand, she

recalled a certain phrase in her employer's letter. "If at the

end you come upon a perfectly blank wall--" Well, she had come

upon this wall. Did he expect her to make an opening in it? Or

had he already done so himself, and was merely testing her much

vaunted discernment.



Piqued by the thought, she carefully reread the manuscript, and

when she had again reached its uncompromising end, she gave

herself up to a few minutes of concentrated thought, then, taking

a sheet of paper from the rack before her, she wrote upon it a

single sentence, and folding the sheet, put it in an envelope

which she left unaddressed. This done, she went to bed and slept

like the child she really was.



At an early hour the next morning she entered her employer's

office. Acknowledging with a nod his somewhat ceremonious bow,

she handed him the envelope in which she had enclosed that one

mysterious sentence.



He took it with a smile, opened it offhand, glanced at what she

had written, and flushed a vivid red.



"You are a--brick," he was going to say, but changed the last

word to one more in keeping with her character and appearance.

"Look here. I expected this from you and so prepared myself."

Taking out a similar piece of paper from his own pocket-book, he

laid it down beside hers on the desk before him. It also held a

single sentence and, barring a slight difference of expression,

the one was the counterpart of the other. "The one loose stone,"

he murmured.



"Seen and noted by both."



"Why not?" he asked. Then as she glanced expectantly his way, he

earnestly added: "Together we may be able to do something. The

reward offered by Mrs. Hasbrouck for the detection of the

murderer was a very large one. She is a woman of means. I have

never heard of its being withdrawn."



"Then it never has been," was Violet's emphatic conclusion, her

dimples enforcing the statement as only such dimples can. "But--

what do you want of me in an affair of this kind? Something more

than to help you locate the one possible clue to further

enlightenment. You would not have mentioned the big reward just

for that."



"Perhaps not. There is a sequel to the story I sent you. I have

written it out, with my own hand. Take it home and read it at

your leisure. When you see into what an unhappy maze my own

inquiries have led me, possibly you will be glad to assist me in

clearing up a situation which is inflicting great suffering on

one whom you will be the first to pity. If so, a line mentioning

the fact will be much appreciated by me." And disregarding her

startled look and the impetuous shaking of her head, he bowed her

out with something more than his accustomed suavity but also with

a seriousness which affected her in spite of herself and

effectually held back the protest it was in her heart to make.

She was glad of this when she read his story; but later on--



However, it is not for me to intrude Violet, or Violet's feelings

into an affair which she is so anxious to forget. I shall

therefore from this moment on, leave her as completely out of

this tale of crime and retribution as is possible and keep a full

record of her work. When she is necessary to the story, you will

see her again. Meanwhile, read with her, this relation of her

employer's unhappy attempt to pursue an investigation so openly

dropped by the police. You will perceive, from its general style

and the accentuation put upon the human side of this sombre

story, a likeness to the former manuscript which may prove to

you, as it certainly did to Violet, to whose consideration she

was indebted for the readableness of the policeman's report,

which in all probability had been a simple statement of facts.



But there, I am speaking of Violet again. To prevent a further

mischance of this nature, I will introduce at once the above

mentioned account.



II



No man in all New York was ever more interested than myself in

the Hasbrouck affair, when it was the one and only topic of

interest at a period when news was unusually scarce. But,

together with many such inexplicable mysteries, it had passed

almost completely from my mind, when it was forcibly brought

back, one day, by a walk I took through Lafayette Place.



At sight of the long row of uniform buildings, with their

pillared fronts and connecting balconies every detail of the

crime which had filled the papers at the time with innumerable

conjectures returned to me with extraordinary clearness, and,

before I knew it, I found myself standing stockstill in the

middle of the block with my eye raised to the Hasbrouck house and

my ears--or rather my inner consciousness, for no one spoke I am

sure--ringing with a question which, whether the echo of some old

thought or the expression of a new one, so affected me by the

promise it held of some hitherto unsuspected clue, that I

hesitated whether to push this new inquiry then or there by an

attempted interview with Mrs. Hasbrouck, or to wait till I had

given it the thought which such a stirring of dead bones

rightfully demanded.



You know what that question was. I shall have communicated it to

you, if you have not already guessed it, before perusing these

lines:



"Who uttered the scream which gave the first alarm of Mr.

Hasbrouck's violent death?"



I was in a state of such excitement as I walked away--for I

listened to my better judgment as to the inadvisability of my

disturbing Mrs. Hasbrouck with these new inquiries--that the

perspiration stood out on my forehead. The testimony she had

given at the inquest recurred to me, and I remembered as

distinctly as if she were then speaking, that she had expressly

stated that she did not scream when confronted by the sight of

her husband's dead body. But someone had screamed and that very

loudly. Who was it, then? One of the maids, startled by the

sudden summons from below, or someone else--some involuntary

witness of the crime, whose testimony had been suppressed at the

inquest, by fear or influence?



The possibility of having come upon a clue even at this late day

so fired my ambition that I took the first opportunity of

revisiting Lafayette Place. Choosing such persons as I thought

most open to my questions, I learned that there were many who

could testify to having heard a woman's shrill scream on that

memorable night, just prior to the alarm given by old Cyrus, but

no one who could tell from whose lips it had come. One fact,

however, was immediately settled. It had not been the result of

the servant-women's fears. Both of the girls were positive that

they had uttered no sound, nor had they themselves heard any till

Cyrus rushed to the window with his wild cries. As the scream, by

whomever given, was uttered before they descended the stairs, I

was convinced by these assurances that it had issued from one of

the front windows, and not from the rear of the house, where

their own rooms lay. Could it be that it had sprung from the

adjoining dwelling, and that--



I remembered who had lived there and was for ringing the bell at

once. But, missing the doctor's sign, I made inquiries and found

that he had moved from the block. However, a doctor is soon

found, and in less than fifteen, minutes I was at the door of his

new home, where I asked, not for him, but for Mrs. Zabriskie.



It required some courage to do this, for I had taken particular

notice of the doctor's wife at the inquest, and her beauty, at

that time, had worn such an aspect of mingled sweetness and

dignity that I hesitated to encounter it under any circumstances

likely to disturb its pure serenity. But a clue once grasped

cannot be lightly set aside by a true detective, and it would

have taken more than a woman's frowns to stop me at this point.



However, it was not with frowns she received me, but with a

display of emotion for which I was even less prepared. I had sent

up my card and I saw it trembling in her hand as she entered the

room. As she neared me, she glanced at it, and with a show of

gentle indifference which did not in the least disguise her

extreme anxiety, she courteously remarked:



"Your name is an unfamiliar one to me. But you told my maid that

your business was one of extreme importance, and so I have

consented to see you. What can an agent from a private detective

office have to say to me?"



Startled by this evidence of the existence of some hidden

skeleton in her own closet, I made an immediate attempt to

reassure her.



"Nothing which concerns you personally," said I. "I simply wish

to ask you a question in regard to a small matter connected with

Mr. Hasbrouck's violent death in Lafayette Place, a couple of

years ago. You were living in the adjoining house at the time I

believe, and it has occurred to me that you might on that account

be able to settle a point which has never been fully cleared up."



Instead of showing the relief I expected, her pallor increased

and her fine eyes, which had been fixed curiously upon me, sank

in confusion to the floor.



"Great heaven!" thought I. "She looks as if at one more word from

me, she would fall at my feet in a faint. What is this I have

stumbled upon!"



"I do not see how you can have any question to ask me on that

subject," she began with an effort at composure which for some

reason disturbed me more than her previous open display of fear.

"Yet if you have," she continued, with a rapid change of manner

that touched my heart in spite of myself, "I shall, of course, do

my best to answer you."



There are women whose sweetest tones and most charming smiles

only serve to awaken distrust in men of my calling; but Mrs.

Zabriskie was not of this number. Her face was beautiful, but it

was also candid in its expression, and beneath the agitation

which palpably disturbed her, I was sure there lurked nothing

either wicked or false. Yet I held fast by the clue which I had

grasped as it were in the dark, and without knowing whither I was

tending, much less whither I was leading her, I proceeded to say:



"The question which I presume to put to you as the next door

neighbour of Mr. Hasbrouck is this: Who was the woman who on the

night of that gentleman's assassination screamed out so loudly

that the whole neighbourhood heard her?"



The gasp she gave answered my question in a way she little

realized, and struck as I was by the impalpable links that had

led me to the threshold of this hitherto unsolvable mystery, I

was about to press my advantage and ask another question, when

she quickly started forward and laid her hand on my lips.



Astonished, I looked at her inquiringly, but her head was turned

aside, and her eyes, fixed upon the door, showed the greatest

anxiety. Instantly I realized what she feared. Her husband was

entering the house, and she dreaded lest his ears should catch a

word of our conversation.



Not knowing what was in her mind, and unable to realize the

importance of the moment to her, I yet listened to the advance of

her blind husband with an almost painful interest. Would he enter

the room where we were, or would he pass immediately to his

office in the rear? She seemed to wonder too, and almost held her

breath as he neared the door, paused, and stood in the open

doorway, with his ear turned towards us.



As for myself, I remained perfectly still, gazing at his face in

mingled surprise and apprehension. For besides its beauty, which

was of a marked order, as I have already observed, it had a

touching expression which irresistibly aroused both pity and

interest in the spectator. This may have been the result of his

affliction, or it may have sprung from some deeper cause; but,

whatever its source, this look in his face produced a strong

impression upon me and interested me at once in his personality.

Would he enter; or would he pass on? Her look of silent appeal

showed me in which direction her wishes lay, but while I answered

her glance by complete silence, I was conscious in some

indistinct way that the business I had undertaken would be better

furthered by his entrance.



The blind have often been said to possess a sixth sense in place

of the one they have lost. Though I am sure we made no noise, I

soon perceived that he was aware of our presence. Stepping

hastily forward he said, in the high and vibrating tone of

restrained passion:



"Zulma, are you there?"



For a moment I thought she did not mean to answer, but knowing

doubtless from experience the impossibility of deceiving him, she

answered with a cheerful assent, dropping her hand as she did so

from before my lips.



He heard the slight rustle which accompanied the movement, and a

look I found it hard to comprehend flashed over his features,

altering his expression so completely that he seemed another man.



"You have someone with you," he declared, advancing another step,

but with none of the uncertainty which usually accompanies the

movements of the blind. "Some dear friend," he went on, with an

almost sarcastic emphasis and a forced smile that had little of

gaiety in it.



The agitated and distressed blush which answered him could have

but one interpretation. He suspected that her hand had been

clasped in mine, and she perceived his thought and knew that I

perceived it also.



Drawing herself up, she moved towards him, saying in a sweet

womanly tone:



"It is no friend, Constant, not even an acquaintance. The person

whom I now present to you is a representative from some detective

agency. He is here upon a trivial errand which will soon be

finished, when I will join you in the office."



I knew she was but taking a choice between two evils, that she

would have saved her husband the knowledge of my calling as well

as of my presence in the house, if her self-respect would have

allowed it; but neither she nor I anticipated the effect which

this introduction of myself in my business capacity would produce

upon him.



"A detective," he repeated, staring with his sightless eyes, as

if, in his eagerness to see, he half hoped his lost sense would

return. "He can have no trivial errand here; he has been sent by

God Himself to--"



"Let me speak for you," hastily interposed his wife, springing to

his side and clasping his arm with a fervour that was equally

expressive of appeal and command. Then turning to me, she

explained: "Since Mr. Hasbrouck's unaccountable death, my husband

has been labouring under an hallucination which I have only to

mention, for you to recognize its perfect absurdity. He thinks--

oh! do not look like that, Constant; you know it is an

hallucination which must vanish the moment we drag it into broad

daylight--that he--he, the best man in all the world, was himself

the assailant of Mr. Hasbrouck."



"Good God!"



"I say nothing of the impossibility of this being so," she went

on in a fever of expostulation. "He is blind, and could not have

delivered such a shot even if he had desired to; besides, he had

no weapon. But the inconsistency of the thing speaks for itself,

and should assure him that his mind is unbalanced and that he is

merely suffering from a shock that was greater than we realized.

He is a physician and has had many such instances in his own

practice. Why, he was very much attached to Mr. Hasbrouck! They

were the best of friends, and though he insists that he killed

him, he cannot give any reason for the deed."



At these words the doctor's face grew stern, and he spoke like an

automaton repeating some fearful lesson:



"I killed him. I went to his room and deliberately shot him. I

had nothing against him, and my remorse is extreme. Arrest me and

let me pay the penalty of my crime. It is the only way in which I

can obtain peace."



Shocked beyond all power of self-control by this repetition of

what she evidently considered the unhappy ravings of a madman,

she let go his arm and turned upon me in frenzy.



"Convince him!" she cried. "Convince him by your questions that

he never could have done this fearful thing."



I was labouring under great excitement myself, for as a private

agent with no official authority such as he evidently attributed

to me in the blindness of his passion, I felt the incongruity of

my position in the face of a matter of such tragic consequence.

Besides, I agreed with her that he was in a distempered state of

mind, and I hardly knew how to deal with one so fixed in his

hallucination and with so much intelligence to support it. But

the emergency was great, for he was holding out his wrists in the

evident expectation of my taking him into instant custody; and

the sight was killing his wife, who had sunk on the floor between

us, in terror and anguish.



"You say you killed Mr. Hasbrouck," I began. "Where did you get

your pistol, and what did you do with it after you left his

house?"



"My husband had no pistol; never had any pistol," put in Mrs.

Zabriskie, with vehement assertion. "If I had seen him with such

a weapon--"



"I threw it away. When I left the house, I cast it as far from me

as possible, for I was frightened at what I had done, horribly

frightened."



"No pistol was ever found," I answered with a smile, forgetting

for the moment that he could not see. "If such an instrument had

been found in the street after a murder of such consequence, it

certainly would have been brought to the police."



"You forget that a good pistol is valuable property," he went on

stolidly. "Someone came along before the general alarm was given;

and seeing such a treasure lying on the sidewalk, picked it up

and carried it off. Not being an honest man, he preferred to keep

it to drawing the attention of the police upon himself."



"Hum, perhaps," said I; "but where did you get it. Surely you can

tell where you procured such a weapon, if, as your wife

intimates, you did not own one."



"I bought it that selfsame night of a friend; a friend whom I

will not name, since he resides no longer in this country. I--"

He paused; intense passion was in his face; he turned towards his

wife, and a low cry escaped him, which made her look up in fear.



"I do not wish to go into any particulars," said he. "God forsook

me and I committed a horrible crime. When I am punished, perhaps

peace will return to me and happiness to her. I would not wish

her to suffer too long or too bitterly for my sin."



"Constant!" What love was in the cry! It seemed to move him and

turn his thoughts for a moment into a different channel.



"Poor child!" he murmured, stretching out his hands by an

irresistible impulse towards her. But the change was but

momentary, and he was soon again the stem and determined self-

accuser. "Are you going to take me before a magistrate?" he

asked. "If so, I have a few duties to perform which you are

welcome to witness."



This was too much; I felt that the time had come for me to

disabuse his mind of the impression he had unwittingly formed of

me. I therefore said as considerately as I could:



"You mistake my position, Dr. Zabriskie. Though a detective of

some experience, I have no connection with the police and no

right to intrude myself in a matter of such tragic importance.

If, however, you are as anxious as you say to subject yourself to

police examination, I will mention the same to the proper

authorities, and leave them to take such action as they think

best."



"That will be still more satisfactory to me," said he; "for

though I have many times contemplated giving myself up, I have

still much to do before I can leave my home and practice without

injury to others. Good-day; when you want me you will find me

here."



He was gone, and the poor young wife was left crouching on the

floor alone. Pitying her shame and terror, I ventured to remark

that it was not an uncommon thing for a man to confess to a crime

he had never committed, and assured her that the matter would be

inquired into very carefully before any attempt was made upon his

liberty.



She thanked me, and slowly rising, tried to regain her

equanimity; but the manner as well as the matter of her husband's

self-condemnation was too overwhelming in its nature for her to

recover readily from her emotions.



"I have long dreaded this," she acknowledged. "For months I have

foreseen that he would make some rash communication or insane

avowal. If I had dared, I would have consulted some physician

about this hallucination of his; but he was so sane on other

points that I hesitated to give my dreadful secret to the world.

I kept hoping that time and his daily pursuits would have their

effect and restore him to himself. But his illusion grows, and

now I fear that nothing will ever convince him that he did not

commit the deed of which he accuses himself. If he were not blind

I would have more hope, but the blind have so much time for

brooding."



"I think he had better be indulged in his fancies for the

present," I ventured. "If he is labouring under an illusion it

might be dangerous to cross him."



"If?" she echoed in an indescribable tone of amazement and dread.

"Can you for a moment harbour the idea that he has spoken the

truth?"



"Madam," I returned, with something of the cynicism of my

calling, "what caused you to give such an unearthly scream just

before this murder was made known to the neighbourhood?"



She stared, paled, and finally began to tremble, not, as I now

believe, at the insinuation latent in my words, but at the doubts

which my question aroused in her own breast.



"Did I?" she asked; then with a burst of candour which seemed

inseparable from her nature, she continued: "Why do I try to

mislead you or deceive myself? I did give a shriek just before

the alarm was raised next door; but it was not from any knowledge

I had of a crime having been committed, but because I

unexpectedly saw before me my husband whom I supposed to be on

his way to Poughkeepsie. He was looking very pale and strange,

and for a moment I thought I stood face to face with his ghost.

But he soon explained his appearance by saying that he had fallen

from the train and had only been saved by a miracle from being

dismembered; and I was just bemoaning his mishap and trying to

calm him and myself, when that terrible shout was heard next door

of 'Murder! murder!' Coming so soon after the shock he had

himself experienced, it quite unnerved him, and I think we can

date his mental disturbance from that moment. For he began

immediately to take a morbid interest in the affair next door,

though it was weeks, if not months, before he let a word fall of

the nature of those you have just heard. Indeed it was not till I

repeated to him some of the expressions he was continually

letting fall in his sleep, that he commenced to accuse himself of

crime and talk of retribution."



"You say that your husband frightened you on that night by

appearing suddenly at the door when you thought him on his way to

Poughkeepsie. Is Dr. Zabriskie in the habit of thus going and

coming alone at an hour so late as this must have been?"



"You forget that to the blind, night is less full of perils than

the day. Often and often has my husband found his way to his

patients' houses alone after midnight; but on this especial

evening he had Leonard with him. Leonard was his chauffeur, and

always accompanied him when he went any distance."



"Well, then," said I, "all we have to do is to summon Leonard and

hear what he has to say concerning this affair. He will surely

know whether or not his master went into the house next door."



"Leonard has left us," she said. "Dr. Zabriskie has another

chauffeur now. Besides (I have nothing to conceal from you),

Leonard was not with him when he returned to the house that

evening or the doctor would not have been without his portmanteau

till the next day. Something--I have never known what--caused

them to separate, and that is why I have no answer to give the

doctor when he accuses himself of committing a deed that night so

wholly out of keeping with every other act of his life."



"And have you never asked Leonard why they separated and why he

allowed his master to come home alone after the shock he had

received at the station?"



"I did not know there was any reason for my doing so till long

after he had left us."



"And when did he leave?"



"That I do not remember. A few weeks or possibly a few days after

that dreadful night."



"And where is he now?"



"Ah, that I have not the least means of knowing. But," she

objected, in sudden distrust, "what do you want of Leonard? If he

did not follow Dr. Zabriskie to his own door, he could tell us

nothing that would convince my husband that he is labouring under

an illusion."



"But he might tell us something which would convince us that Dr.

Zabriskie was not himself after the accident; that he--"



"Hush!" came from her lips in imperious tones. "I will not

believe that he shot Mr. Hasbrouck even if you prove him to have

been insane at the time. How could he? My husband is blind. It

would take a man of very keen sight to force himself into a house

closed for the night, and kill a man in the dark at one shot."



"On the contrary, it is only a blind man who could do this,"

cried a voice from the doorway. "Those who trust to eyesight must

be able to catch a glimpse of the mark they aim at, and this

room, as I have been told, was without a glimmer of light. But

the blind trust to sound, and as Mr. Hasbrouck spoke--"



"Oh!" burst from the horrified wife, "is there no one to stop him

when he speaks like that?"



III



As you will see, this matter, so recklessly entered into, had

proved to be of too serious a nature for me to pursue it farther

without the cognizance of the police. Having a friend on the

force in whose discretion I could rely, I took him into my

confidence and asked for his advice. He pooh-poohed the doctor's

statements, but said that he would bring the matter to the

attention of the superintendent and let me know the result. I

agreed to this, and we parted with the mutual understanding that

mum was the word till some official decision had been arrived at.

I had not long to wait. At an early day he came in with the

information that there had been, as might be expected, a division

of opinion among his superiors as to the importance of Dr.

Zabriskie's so-called confession, but in one point they had been

unanimous and that was the desirability of his appearing before

them at Headquarters for a personal examination. As, however, in

the mind of two out of three of them his condition was attributed

entirely to acute mania, it had been thought best to employ as

their emissary one in whom he had already confided and submitted

his case to,--in other words, myself. The time was set for the

next afternoon at the close of his usual office hours.



He went without reluctance, his wife accompanying him. In the

short time which elapsed between their leaving home and entering

Headquarters, I embraced the opportunity of observing them, and I

found the study equally exciting and interesting. His face was

calm but hopeless, and his eye, dark and unfathomable, but

neither frenzied nor uncertain. He spoke but once and listened to

nothing, though now and then his wife moved as if to attract his

attention, and once even stole her hand towards his, in the

tender hope that he would feel its approach and accept her

sympathy. But he was deaf as well as blind; and sat wrapped up in

thoughts which she, I know, would have given worlds to penetrate.



Her countenance was not without its mystery also. She showed in

every lineament passionate concern and misery, and a deep

tenderness from which the element of fear was not absent. But

she, as well as he, betrayed that some misunderstanding deeper

than any I had previously suspected drew its intangible veil

between them and made the near proximity in which they sat at

once a heart-piercing delight and an unspeakable pain. What was

the misunderstanding; and what was the character of the fear that

modified her every look of love in his direction? Her perfect

indifference to my presence proved that it was not connected with

the position in which he had placed himself towards the police by

his voluntary confession of crime, nor could I thus interpret the

expression, of frantic question which now and then contracted her

features, as she raised her eyes towards his sightless orbs, and

strove to read in his firm set lips the meaning of those

assertions she could only ascribe to loss of reason.



The stopping of the carriage seemed to awaken both from thoughts

that separated rather than united them. He turned his face in her

direction, and she stretching forth her hand, prepared to lead

him from the carriage, without any of that display of timidity

which had previously been evident in her manner.



As his guide she seemed to fear nothing; as his lover,

everything.



"There is another and a deeper tragedy underlying the outward and

obvious one," was my inward conclusion, as I followed them into

the presence of the gentlemen awaiting them.



Dr. Zabriskie's quiet appearance was in itself a shock to those

who had anticipated the feverish unrest of a madman; so was his

speech, which was calm, straightforward, and quietly determined.



"I shot Mr. Hasbrouck," was his steady affirmation, given without

any show of frenzy or desperation. "If you ask me why I did it, I

cannot answer; if you ask me how, I am ready to state all that I

know concerning the matter."



"But, Dr. Zabriskie," interposed one of the inspectors, "the why

is the most important thing for us to consider just now. If you

really desire to convince us that you committed this dreadful

crime of killing a totally inoffensive man, you should give us

some reason for an act so opposed to all your instincts and

general conduct."



But the doctor continued unmoved:



"I had no reason for murdering Mr. Hasbrouck. A hundred questions

can elicit no other reply; you had better keep to the how."



A deep-drawn breath from the wife answered the looks of the three

gentlemen to whom this suggestion was offered. "You see," that

breath seemed to protest, "that he is not in his right mind."



I began to waver in my own opinion, and yet the intuition which

has served me in cases seemingly as impenetrable as this bade me

beware of following the general judgment.



"Ask him to inform you how he got into the house," I whispered to

Inspector D--, who sat nearest me.



Immediately the inspector put the question which I had suggested:



"By what means did you enter Mr. Hasbrouck's house at so late an

hour as this murder occurred?"



The blind doctor's head fell forward on his breast, and he

hesitated for the first and only time.



"You will not believe me," said he; "but the door was ajar when I

came to it. Such things make crime easy; it is the only excuse I

have to offer for this dreadful deed."



The front door of a respectable citizen's house ajar at half-

past eleven at night! It was a statement that fixed in all minds

the conviction of the speaker's irresponsibility. Mrs.

Zabriskie's brow cleared, and her beauty became for a moment

dazzling as she held out her hands in irrepressible relief

towards those who were interrogating her husband. I alone kept my

impassibility. A possible explanation of this crime had flashed

like lightning across my mind; an explanation from which I

inwardly recoiled, even while I felt forced to consider it.



"Dr. Zabriskie," remarked the inspector formerly mentioned as

friendly to him, "such old servants as those kept by Mr.

Hasbrouck do not leave the front door ajar at twelve o'clock at

night."



"Yet ajar it was," repeated the blind doctor, with quiet

emphasis; "and finding it so, I went in. When I came out again, I

closed it. Do you wish me to swear to what I say? If so, I am

ready."



What reply could they give? To see this splendid-looking man,

hallowed by an affliction so great that in itself it called forth

the compassion of the most indifferent, accusing himself of a

cold-blooded crime, in tones which sounded dispassionate because

of the will forcing their utterance, was too painful in itself

for any one to indulge in unnecessary words. Compassion took the

place of curiosity, and each and all of us turned involuntary

looks of pity upon the young wife pressing so eagerly to his

side.



"For a blind man," ventured one, "the assault was both deft and

certain. Are you accustomed to Mr. Hasbrouck's house, that you

found your way with so little difficulty to his bedroom?"



"I am accustomed--" he began.



But here his wife broke in with irrepressible passion:



"He is not accustomed to that house. He has never been beyond the

first floor. Why, why do you question him? Do you not see--"



His hand was on her lips.



"Hush!" he commanded. "You know my skill in moving about a house;

how I sometimes deceive those who do not know me into believing

that I can see, by the readiness with which I avoid obstacles and

find my way even in strange and untried scenes. Do not try to

make them think I am not in my right mind, or you will drive me

into the very condition you attribute to me."



His face, rigid, cold, and set, looked like that of a mask. Hers,

drawn with horror and filled with question that was fast taking

the form of doubt, bespoke an awful tragedy from which more than

one of us recoiled.



"Can you shoot a man dead without seeing him?" asked the

Superintendent, with painful effort.



"Give me a pistol and I will show you," was the quick reply.



A low cry came from the wife. In a drawer near to every one of us

there lay a pistol, but no one moved to take it out. There was a

look in the doctor's eye which made us fear to trust him with a

pistol just then.



"We will accept your assurance that you possess a skill beyond

that of most men," returned the Superintendent. And beckoning me

forward, he whispered: "This is a case for the doctors and not

for the police. Remove him quietly, and notify Dr. Southyard of

what I say."



But Dr. Zabriskie, who seemed to have an almost supernatural

acuteness of hearing, gave a violent start at this, and spoke up

for the first time with real passion in his voice:



"No, no, I pray you. I can bear anything but that. Remember,

gentlemen, that I am blind; that I cannot see who is about me;

that my life would be a torture if I felt myself surrounded by

spies watching to catch some evidence of madness in me. Rather

conviction at once, death, dishonour, and obloquy. These I have

incurred. These I have brought upon myself by crime, but not this

worse fate--oh! not this worse fate."



His passion was so intense and yet so confined within the bounds

of decorum, that we felt strangely impressed by it. Only the wife

stood transfixed, with the dread growing in her heart, till her

white, waxen visage seemed even more terrible to contemplate than

his passion-distorted one.



"It is not strange that my wife thinks me demented," the doctor

continued, as if afraid of the silence that answered him. "But it

is your business to discriminate, and you should know a sane man

when you see him."



Inspector D-- no longer hesitated.



"Very well," said he, "give me the least proof that your

assertions are true, and we will lay your case before the

prosecuting attorney."



"Proof? Is not a man's word--"



"No man's confession is worth much without some evidence to

support it. In your case there is none. You cannot even produce

the pistol with which you assert yourself to have committed the

deed."



"True, true. I was frightened by what I had done, and the

instinct of self-preservation led me to rid myself of the weapon

in any way I could. But someone found this pistol; someone picked

it up from the sidewalk of Lafayette Place on that fatal night.

Advertise for it. Offer a reward. I will give you the money."

Suddenly he appeared to realize how all this sounded. "Alas!"

cried he, "I know the story seems improbable; but it is not the

probable things that happen in this life, as, you should know,

who every day dig deep into the heart of human affairs."



Were these the ravings of insanity? I began to understand the

wife's terror.



"I bought the pistol," he went on, "of--alas! I cannot tell you

his name. Everything is against me. I cannot adduce one proof;

yet even she is beginning to fear that my story is true. I know

it by her silence, a silence that yawns between us like a deep

and unfathomable gulf."



But at these words her voice rang out with passionate vehemence.



"No, no, it is false! I will never believe that your hands have

been plunged in blood. You are my own pure-hearted Constant,

cold, perhaps, and stern, but with no guilt upon your conscience

save in your own wild imagination."



"Zulma, you are no friend to me," he declared, pushing her gently

aside. "Believe me innocent, but say nothing to lead these others

to doubt my word."



And she said no more, but her looks spoke volumes.



The result was that he was not detained, though he prayed for

instant commitment. He seemed to dread his own home, and the

surveillance to which he instinctively knew he would henceforth

be subjected. To see him shrink from his wife's hand as she

strove to lead him from the room was sufficiently painful; but

the feeling thus aroused was nothing to that with which we

observed the keen and agonized expectancy of his look as he

turned and listened for the steps of the officer who followed

him.



"From this time on I shall never know whether or not I am alone,"

was his final observation as he left the building.



Here is where the matter rests and here, Miss Strange, is where

you come in. The police were for sending an expert alienist into

the house; but agreeing with me, and, in fact, with the doctor

himself, that if he were not already out of his mind, this would

certainly make them so, they, at my earnest intercession, have

left the next move to me.



That move as you must by this time understand involves you. You

have advantages for making Mrs. Zabriskie's acquaintance of which

I beg you to avail yourself. As friend or patient, you must win

your way into that home? You must sound to its depths one or both

of these two wretched hearts. Not so much now for any possible

reward which may follow the elucidation of this mystery which has

come so near being shelved, but for pity's sake and the possible

settlement of a question which is fast driving a lovely member of

your sex distracted.



May I rely on you? If so--



Various instructions followed, over which Violet mused with a

deprecatory shaking of her head till the little clock struck two.

Why should she, already in a state of secret despondency, intrude

herself into an affair at once so painful and so hopeless?



IV



But by morning her mood changed. The pathos of the situation had

seized upon her in her dreams, and before the day was over, she

was to be seen, as a prospective patient, in Dr. Zabriskie's

office. She had a slight complaint as her excuse, and she made

the most of it. That is, at first, but as the personality of this

extraordinary man began to make its usual impression, she found

herself forgetting her own condition in the intensity of interest

she felt in his. Indeed, she had to pull herself together more

than once lest he should suspect the double nature of her errand,

and she actually caught herself at times rejoicing in his

affliction since it left her with only her voice to think of, in

her hated but necessary task of deception.



That she succeeded in this effort, even with one of his nice ear,

was evident from the interested way in which he dilated upon her

malady, and the minute instructions he was careful to give her--

the physician being always uppermost in his strange dual nature,

when he was in his office or at the bedside of the sick;--and had

she not been a deep reader of the human soul she would have left

his presence in simple wonder at his skill and entire absorption

in an exacting profession.



But as it was, she carried with her an image of subdued

suffering, which drove her, from that moment on, to ask herself

what she could do to aid him in his fight against his own

illusion; for to associate such a man with a senseless and cruel

murder was preposterous.



What this wish, helped by no common determination, led her into,

it was not in her mind to conceive. She was making her one great

mistake, but as yet she was in happy ignorance of it, and pursued

the course laid out for her without a doubt of the ultimate

result.



Having seen and made up her mind about the husband, she next

sought to see and gauge the wife. That she succeeded in doing

this by means of one of her sly little tricks is not to the

point; but what followed in natural consequence is very much so.

A mutual interest sprang up between them which led very speedily

to actual friendship. Mrs. Zabriskie's hungry heart opened to the

sympathetic little being who clung to her in such evident

admiration; while Violet, brought face to face with a real woman,

succumbed to feelings which made it no imposition on her part to

spend much of her leisure in Zulma Zabriskie's company.



The result were the following naive reports which drifted into

her employer's office from day to day, as this intimacy deepened.



The doctor is settling into a deep melancholy, from which he

tries to rise at times, but with only indifferent success.

Yesterday he rode around to all his patients for the purpose of

withdrawing his services on the plea of illness. But he still

keeps his office open, and today I had the opportunity of

witnessing his reception and treatment of the many sufferers who

came to him for aid. I think he was conscious of my presence,

though an attempt had been made to conceal it. For the listening

look never left his face from the moment he entered the room, and

once he rose and passed quickly from wall to wall, groping with

out-stretched hands into every nook and corner, and barely

escaping contact with the curtain behind which I was hidden. But

if he suspected my presence, he showed no displeasure at it,

wishing perhaps for a witness to his skill in the treatment of

disease.



And truly I never beheld a finer manifestation of practical

insight in cases of a more or less baffling nature. He is

certainly a most wonderful physician, and I feel bound to record

that his mind is as clear for business as if no shadow had fallen

upon it.



Dr. Zabriskie loves his wife, but in a way torturing to himself

and to her. If she is gone from the house he is wretched, and yet

when she returns he often forbears to speak to her, or if he does

speak it is with a constraint that hurts her more than his

silence. I was present when she came in today. Her step, which

had been eager on the stairway, flagged as she approached the

room, and he naturally noted the change and gave his own

interpretation to it. His face, which had been very pale, flushed

suddenly, and a nervous trembling seized him which he sought in

vain to hide. But by the time her tall and beautiful figure stood

in the doorway, he was his usual self again in all but the

expression of his eyes, which stared straight before him in an

agony of longing only to be observed in those who have once seen.



"Where have you been, Zulma?" he asked, as contrary to his wont,

he moved to meet her.



"To my mother's, to Arnold & Constable's, and to the hospital, as

you requested," was her quick answer, made without faltering or

embarrassment.



He stepped still nearer and took her hand, and as he did so my

eye fell on his and I noted that his finger lay over her pulse in

seeming unconsciousness.



"Nowhere else?" he queried.



She smiled the saddest kind of smile and shook her head; then,

remembering that he could not see this movement, she cried in a

wistful tone:



"Nowhere else, Constant; I was too anxious to get back."



I expected him to drop her hand at this, but he did not; and his

finger still rested on her pulse.



"And whom did you see while you were gone?" he continued.



She told him, naming over several names.



"You must have enjoyed yourself," was his cold comment, as he let

go her hand and turned away. But his manner showed relief, and I

could not but sympathize with the pitiable situation of a man who

found himself forced into means l





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