The Pumpkin Coach

The story of the American Ambassadress was not the only one

related on this night.

Sir Henry Marquis himself added another, in support of the

contention of his guest . . . and from her own country.

The lawyer walked about the room. The restraint which he had

assumed was now quite abandoned.

"That's all there is to it," he said. "I'm not trying this case

for amusement. You have the money to pay me and you must bring

it up here now, tonight."

The woman sat in a chair beyond the table. She was young, but

she looked worn and faded. Misery and the long strain of the

trial had worn her out. Her hands moved nervously in the frayed


"But we haven't any more money," she said. "The hundred dollars

I paid you in the beginning is all we have."

The man laughed without disturbing the muscles of his face. "You

can take your choice," he said. "Either bring the money up here

now, to-night, or I withdraw from the case when court opens in

the morning."

"But where am I to get any more money?" the woman said.

The lawyer was a big man. His hair, black and thin, was brushed

close to his head as though wet with oil; his nose was thick and

flattened at the base. The office contained only a table, some

chairs and a file for legal papers. Night was beginning to

descend. Lights were appearing in the city. The two persons had

come in from the Criminal Court after the session for the day had


The woman seemed bewildered. She looked at the man with the

curious expression of a child that does not comprehend and is

afraid to ask for an explanation.

"If we had any more money," she said, "I would bring it to you,

but the hundred dollars was all we had."

Then she began to explain, reiterating minute details. When the

tragedy occurred and her husband was arrested by the police they

had a small sum painfully saved up. It was now wholly gone.

Like persons in profound misery, she repeated. The man halted

the recital with a brutal gesture.

"I'll not discuss it," he said. "You can bring the money in here

before the court convenes in the morning, or I withdraw from the


He went over to the file, took out a packet of legal papers and

threw them on the table.

"All right, my lady!" he said, "perhaps you think your husband

can get along without a lawyer. Perhaps you think the devil will

save him, or heaven, or Cinderella in a pumpkin coach!" There

was biting irony in the bitter words.

A sudden comprehension began to appear in the woman's face. She

realized now what the man was driving at. The expression in her

face deepened into a sort of wonder, a sort of horror.

"You think he's guilty!" she said. "You think we got the money

and we're trying to keep it, to hide it."

The lawyer turned about, put both hands on the table and leaned

across it. He looked the woman in the face.

"Never mind what I believe; you heard what I said!"

For a moment the woman did not move. Then she got up slowly and

went out. In the street she seemed lost. She remained for some

time before the entrance of the building. Night had now arrived.

Crowds of people were passing, intent on their affairs,

unconcerned. No one seemed to see the figure motionless in the

shadow of the great doorway.

Presently the woman began to walk along the street in the crowd

without giving any attention to the people about her or to the

direction she was taking. She was in that state of mental coma

which attends persons in despair. She neither felt nor

appreciated anything and she continued to walk in the direction

in which the crowd was moving.

Some block in the traffic checked the crowd and the woman

stopped. The block cleared and the human tide drifted on, but

the woman remained. The crowd edged her over to the wall and she

stood there before the shutter of a shop-window. After a time

the crowd passed, thinned and disappeared, but the woman remained

as though thrown out there by the human eddy.

The woman remained for a long time unmoving against the shutter

of the shop-window. Finally she was awakened into life by a

voice speaking to her. It was a soft, foreign voice that lisped

the liquid accents of the occasional English words:

"Ma pauvre femme!" it said; "come with me. Vous etes malade!"

The woman followed mechanically in a sort of wonder. The person

who had spoken to her was young and beautifully dressed in furs

that covered her to her feet. She had gotten down from a

motorcar that stood beside the curb - one of those modern vehicles,

fitted with splendid trappings.

Beyond the shop-window was a great cafe. The girl entered and

the woman followed. The attendants came forward to welcome the

splendid visitor as one whose arrival at this precise hour of the

evening had become a sort of custom. She gave some directions in

a language which the woman did not understand, and they were

seated at a table.

The waiters brought a silver dish filled with a clear, steaming

soup and served it. The girl threw back her fur coat and the

dazed woman realized how beautiful she was. Her hair was yellow

like ripe corn and there were masses of it banked and clustered

about her head; her eyes were blue, and her voice, soft and

alluring, was like a friendly arm put around the heart.

The miserable woman was so confused by this transformation - by

the sudden swing of the door in the wall that had admitted her

into this new, unfamiliar world - that she was never afterward

able to remember precisely by what introductory words her story

was drawn out. She found herself taken up, comforted and made to

tell it.

Her husband had been a butler in the service of a Mr. Marsh, an

eccentric man who lived in one of the old downtown houses of the

city. He was a retired banker with no family. The man lived

alone. He permitted no servants in the house except the butler.

Meals were sent in on order from a neighboring hotel and served

by the butler as the man directed. He received few visitors in

the house and no tradespeople were permitted to come in. There

seemed no reason for this seclusion except the eccentricities of

the man that had grown more pronounced with advancing years.

It was the custom of the butler to leave the house at eight

o'clock in the evening and return in the morning at seven. On

the morning of the third of February, when the butler entered the

house, as he was accustomed to do at eight o'clock in the

morning, he found his master dead.

The woman continued with her narrative, speaking slowly. Every

detail was vividly impressed upon her memory and she gave it

accurately, precisely.

There was a narrow passage or hall, not more than three feet in

width, leading from the butler's pantry into a little

dining-room. This dining-room the old man had fitted up as a

sort of library. It was farther than any other room from the

noises of the city. His library table was placed with one end

against the left wall of the room and he sat with his back toward

the passage into the butler's pantry. On the morning of the

third of February he was found dead in his chair. He had been

stabbed in the back, on the left side, where the neck joins to

the shoulder. A carving-knife had been used and a single blow

had accomplished the murder.

It was known that on the evening before the old banker had taken

from a safety-deposit vault the sum of $20,000, which it was his

intention to invest in some securities. This money, in bills of

very large denominations, was in the top drawer on the right side

of the desk. The dead man had apparently not been touched after

the crime, but the drawer had been pried open and the money

taken. An ice-pick from the butler's pantry had been used to

force it. The assassin had left no marks, finger-prints or

tell-tale stains. The victim had been instantly killed with the

blow of the knife which lay on the floor beside him.

The butler had been arrested, charged with the crime, and his

trial was now going on in the Criminal Court. Circumstantial

evidence was strong against him. The woman spoke as though she

echoed the current comment of the courtroom without realizing how

it affected her. She had done what she could. She had employed

an attorney at the recommendation of a person who had come to

interview her. She did not know who the person was nor why she

should have employed this attorney at his suggestion, except that

some one must be had to defend her husband, and uncertain what to

do, she had gone to the first name suggested.

The girl listened, putting now and then a query. She spoke

slowly, careful to use only English words. And while the woman

talked she made a little drawing on the blank back of a menu

card. Now she began to question the woman minutely about the

details of the room and the position of the furniture where the

tragedy had occurred, the desk, the attitude of the dead man, the

location of the wound, and exact distances. And as the woman

repeated the evidence of the police officers and the experts, the

girl filled out her drawing with nice mathematical exactness like

one accustomed to such a labor.

This was the whole story, and now the woman added the final

interview with the attorney. She made a sort of hopeless


"Nobody believes us," she said. "My husband did not kill him.

He was at home with me. He knew nothing about it until he found

his master dead at the table in the morning. But there is only

our word against all the lawyers and detectives and experts that

Mr. Thompson has brought against us."

"Who is Mr. Thompson?" said the girl. She was deep in a study of

her little drawing.

"He's Mr. Marsh's nephew, Mr. Percy Thompson."

The girl, absorbed in the study of her drawing, now put an

unexpected question.

"Has your husband lost an arm?"

"No," she said, "he never had any sort of accident."

A great light came into the girl's face. "Then I believe you,"

she said. "I believe every word . . . . I think your husband is


The girl was aglow with an enthusiastic purpose. It was all

there in her fine, expressive face.

"Now," she said, "tell me about this nephew, this Mr. Percy

Thompson. Could we by any chance see him?"

"It won't do any good to see him," replied the woman. "He is

determined to convict my husband. Nothing can change him."

The girl went on without paying any attention to the comment.

"Where does he live - you must have heard?"

"He lives at the Markheim Hotel," she said.

"The Markheim Hotel," repeated the girl. "Where is it?"

The woman gave the street and number. The girl rose. "That's on

my way; we'll stop."

The two-went out of the cafe to the motor. The whole thing,

incredible at any other hour, seemed to the woman like events

happening in a dream or in some topsy-turvy country which she had

mysteriously entered.

She sat back in the tonneau of the motor, huddled into the

corner, a rug around her shoulders. The flashing lights seemed

those of some distant, unknown city, as though she were

transported into the scene of an Arabian tale.

The motor stopped before a little shabby hotel in a neighboring

cross-street, and the footman, in livery beside the driver, got

down at a direction of the girl and went up the steps. In a few

moments a man came out and descended to the motor standing by the

curb. He was about middle age. He looked as though Nature had

intended him, in the beginning, for a person of some distinction,

but he had the dissipated face of one at middle age who had

devoted his years to a life of pleasure. There were hard lines

about his mouth and a purple network of veins showing about the

base of his nose.

As he approached the girl, leaning out of the open window of the

tonneau, dropped her glove as by inadvertence. The man stooped,

recovered it and returned it to her. The girl started with a

perceptible gesture. Then she cried out in her charming voice

"Merci, monsieur. I stopped a moment to thank you for the

flowers you sent me last night. It was lovely of you!" and she

indicated the bunch of roses pinned to her corsage.

The man seemed astonished. For a moment he hesitated as though

about to make some explanation, but the girl went on without

regarding his visible embarrassment.

"You shall not escape with a denial," she said. "There was no

card and you did not do me the honor to wait at the door, but I

know you sent them - an usher saw you; you shall not escape my

appreciation. You did send them?" she said.

The man laughed. "Sure," he said, "if you insist." He was

willing to profit by this unexpected error, and the girl went on:

"I have worn the roses to-day," she said, "for you. Will you

wear one of them to-morrow for me?"

She detached a bud and leaned out of the door of the motor. She

pinned the bud to the lapel of the man's coat. She did it

slowly, deliberately, like one who makes the touch of the fingers

do the service of a caress.

Then she spoke to the driver and the motor went on, leaving the

amazed man on the curb before the shabby Markheim Hotel with the

rosebud pinned to his coat - astonished at the incredible fortune

of this favor from an inaccessible idol about whom the city


The woman accepted the enigma of this interview as she had

accepted the wonder of the girl's sudden appearance and the

other, incidents of this extraordinary night. She did not

undertake to imagine what the drawing on the menu meant, the

words about the one-armed man, the glove dropped for Thompson to

pick up, the rose pinned on his coat; it was all of a piece with

the mystery that she had stumbled into.

When the motor stopped and she was taken through a little door by

an attendant into a theater box, she accepted that as another of

these things into which she could not inquire; things that

happened to her outside of her volition and directed by

authorities which she could not control.

The staging of the opera refined and extended the illusion that

she had been transported out of the world by some occult agency.

The wonderful creature that had taken her up out of her abandoned

misery before the sordid shop-shutter appeared now in a fairy

costume glittering with jewels. And the gnomes, the monsters and

goblins appearing about her were all fabulous creatures, as the

girl herself seemed a fabulous creature.

She sighed like one who must awaken from the splendor of a dream

to realities of which the sleeper is vaguely conscious. Only the

girl's voice seemed real. It seemed some great, heavenly reality

like the sunlight or the sweep of the sea. It filled the packed

places of the theater. She sang and one believed again in the

benevolence of heaven; in immortal love. To the distressed woman

effacing herself in the corner of the empty box it was all a sort

of inconceivable witch-work.

And it was witch-work, as potent if not as amply fitted with

dramatic properties as the witchwork of ancient legend.

The daughter of an obscure juge d'instruction of the Canton of

Vaud, singing in a Swiss meadow, had been taken up by a wealthy

American, traveling in Switzerland on an April morning-old,

enervated with the sun of the Riviera, and displeased with life.

And this rich old woman, her rheumatic fingers loaded with

jewels, had transformed the daughter of the juge d'instruction of

the Canton of Vaud into a singing wonder that made every human

creature see again the dreams of his youth before him leading

into the Elysian Fields.

And to the girl herself this transformation also seemed the

wonder of witch-work. Her early life lay so far below in a world

remote and detached; a little house in a village of the Canton of

Vaud with the genteel poverty that attended the slender salary of

a juge d'instruction, and the weight of duties that accumulated

on her shoulders. Her father's life was given over to the labors

of criminal investigation, but it was a field that returned

nothing in the way of material gain. Honorable mention, a medal,

the distinction of having his reports copied into the official

archives, were the fruits of the man's life. She remembered the

minutely exhaustive details of those reports which she used to

copy painfully at night by the light of a candle. The old man,

absorbed by his deductions, with his trained habits of

observation and his prodigious memory, never seemed to realize

the drudgery imposed upon the girl by his endless dictation.

"To-morrow," the heavenly creature had said softly, like a

caress, in the woman's ear when an attendant had taken her

through the little door into the empty box. But the to-morrow

broke with every illusion vanished.

The woman sat beside her husband in the dismal court-room when

the court convened. The judge, old and tired, was on the bench.

A sulphurous, depressing fog entered from the city. The

court-room smelled of a cleaner's mop. The jury entered; and a

few spectators, who looked as though they might have spent the

night on the benches of the park out, side, drifted in. The

attorneys and the officials of the court were present and the

trial resumed.

Every detail of the departed, evening was, to the woman, a mirage

except the brutal threat of the attorney, uttered before she had

gone down into the street. This threat, with that power of

reality which evil things seem always to possess, now

materialized. After the court had opened, but before the trial

could proceed, the attorney for the defendant rose and addressed

the court.

He spoke for some moments, handling his innuendoes with skill.

His intent was to withdraw from the case. He realized that this

was an unusual procedure and that the course must be justified

upon a high ethical plane. He was a person of acumen and of no

inconsiderable skill and he succeeded. Without making any direct

charge, and disclaiming any intent to prejudice the prisoner and

his defense, or to deprive him of any safeguard of the law, he

was able to convey the impression that he had been misled in

undertaking the defense of the case; that his confidence in the

innocence of the accused had been removed by unquestionable

evidence which he had been led to believe did not exist.

He made this explanation with profound regret. But he felt that,

having been induced to undertake the defense by representations

not justified in fact, and by an impression of the nature of the

case which developments in the court-room had not confirmed, he

had the right to step aside out of an equivocal position. He

wished to do this without injury to the prisoner and while there

was yet an opportunity for him to obtain other counsel. The

whole tenor of the speech was the right to be relieved from the

obligation of an error; an error that had involved him

unwittingly by reason of assurances which the developments of the

case had now set aside. And through it all there was the

manifest wish to do the prisoner no vestige of injury.

After this speech of his attorney the conviction of the man was

inevitable. He sat stooped over, his back bent, his head down,

his thin hands aimlessly in his lap like one who has come to the

end of all things; like one who no longer makes any effort

against a destiny determined on his ruin.

The thing had the overpowering vitality which evil things seem

always to possess, and the woman felt helpless against it; so

utterly, so completely helpless that it was useless to protest by

any word or gesture. She could have gotten up and explained the

true motive behind this man's speech; she could have repeated the

dialogue in his office; she could have asserted his unspeakable

treachery; but she saw with an unerring instinct that against the

skill of the man her effort would be wholly useless. With his

resources and his dominating cunning he would not only make her

words appear obviously false, but he would make them fasten upon

her a malicious intent to injure the man who had undertaken her

husband's defense; and somehow he would be able, she felt, to

divert the obliquity and cause it to react upon herself.

This was all clear to her, and like some little trapped creature

of the wood that finds escape closed on every side and no longer

makes any effort, she remained motionless.

The judge was an honorable man, concerned to accomplish justice

and not always misled by an obvious intent. The proceeding did

not please him, but he knew that no benefit, rather a continued

injury, would result to the prisoner by forcing the attorney to

go on with a case which it was evident that he no longer cared to

make any effort to support. He permitted the man to withdraw.

Then he spoke to the prisoner.

"Have you any other counsel?" he asked.

The prisoner did not look up. He replied in a low, almost

inaudible voice.

"No, Your Honor," he said.

"Then I shall appoint some one to go on with the case," and he

looked up over the docket before him and out at the few attorneys

sitting within the rail.

It was at this moment that the woman, crying silently, without a

sound and without moving in her chair, heard behind her the voice

which she had heard the evening before, when, as now, at the

bottom of the pit, she stood before the shutter of the


"Will it be necessary, monsieur le judge?"

It was the same wonderful, moving, heavenly voice. Every sound

in the court-room suddenly ceased. All eyes were lifted. And

Thompson, sitting beside the district-attorney, saw, standing

before the rail in the court-room, the splendid, alluring

creature that had called him out of the sordid lobby of the Hotel

Markheim and entranced him with an evidence of her favor.

Unconsciously he put up his hand to feel for the bud in the lapel

of his coat. It had remained there - not, as it happened, from

her wish, but because he dare not lay the coat aside.

In the interval of intense interest arising at the withdrawal of

the attorney from the case the girl had come in unnoticed. She

might have appeared out of the floor. Her voice was the first

indication of her presence.

The judge turned swiftly. "What do you mean?" he said.

"I mean, monsieur," she answered, "that if a man is innocent of a

crime, he cannot require a lawyer to defend him."

The judge was astonished, but he was an old man and had seen many

strange events happen along the way of a criminal trial.

"But why do you say this man is innocent," he said.

"I will show you, monsieur," and she came around the railing into

the pit of the, court before his bench. She carried in her hand

the menu upon which, at the table in the cafe the night before,

she had made a drawing of the scene of the homicide.

The extraordinary event had happened so swiftly that the attorney

for the prosecution had not been able to interpose an objection.

Now the nephew of the dead man spoke hurriedly, in whispers, and

the attorney arose.

"I object to this irregular proceeding," he said. "If this

person is a witness, let her be sworn in the usual manner and let

her take her place in the witness-chair where she may be examined

by the attorney whom the court may see fit to appoint for the


It was evident that Mr. Thompson, urging the prosecutor, was

alarmed. The folds of his obese neck lying above the collar of

his coat took on a deeper color, and his mouth visibly sagged as

with some unexpected emotion. He felt that he was becoming

entangled in some vast, invisible net spread about him by this

girl who had appeared as if by magic before the Hotel Markheim.

The judge looked down at the attorney. "I will have the witness

sworn," he said, "but I shall not at present appoint anybody to

conduct an examination. When a prisoner before me has no

counsel, I sometimes look after his case myself."

He spoke to the girl. "Will you hold up your hand?" he said.

"Why, yes, monsieur," she said, "if you will also ask Mr.

Thompson to hold up his hand."

"Do you wish him sworn as a witness?" said the judge.

The girl hesitated. "Yes, monsieur," she said, "if that is the

way to have him hold up his hand."

Again Thompson was disturbed. Again he spoke to the prosecutor

and again that attorney objected.

"We have not asked to have Mr. Thompson testify in this case," he

said. "It is true Mr. Thompson is concerned about the result of

this trial. He is the nephew of the decedent and his heir. It

is only natural that he should properly concern himself to see

that the assassin is brought to justice."

He spoke to the girl. "Do you wish to make Mr. Thompson your

witness?" he said.

And again she replied with the hesitating formula:

"Why, yes, monsieur, if that is the way to cause him to hold up

his hand."

The judge turned to the clerk. "Will you administer the oath to

these two persons?" he said.

Thompson rose. His face was disconcerted and slack. He

hesitated, but the prosecutor spoke to him. Then he faced the

judge and put up his hand. Immediately the girl cried out:

"Look, monsieur," she said. "It is his left hand he is holding


Immediately Thompson raised the other hand. "I beg your pardon,

Your Honor," he muttered. "I am left-handed; I sometimes make

that mistake."

And again the girl cried out: "You see . . . you notice it . . .

it is true, then . . . he is left-handed."

"I see he is left-handed," said the judge, "but what has that to

do with the case?"

"Oh, monsieur," she said, "it has everything to do with it. I

will show you."

She moved up on the step before the judge's bench and laid the

menu before him. The attorney for the prosecution also arose.

He wished to prevent this proceeding, to object to it, but he

feared to disturb the judge and he remained silent.

"Monsieur," she said, "I have made a little drawing . . . I know

how such things are done . . . . My father was juge

d'instruction of the Canton of Vaud. He always made little

drawings of places where crimes were committed. . . . Here you

will see," and she put her finger on the card, "the narrow passage

leading from the butler's pantry into the dining-room used for a

library. You will notice, monsieur, that the writing-table stood

with one end against the wall, the left wall of the room, as one

enters from the butler's pantry. It is a queer table. One side

of it has a row of drawers coming to the floor and the other side

is open so one may sit with one's knees under it. On the night

of the tragedy this table was sitting at right angles to the left

wall, that is to say, monsieur, with this end open for the

writer's knees close up against the left wall of the room. That

meant, monsieur, that on this night Mr. Marsh was sitting at the

table with his back to the passage from the butler's pantry,

close up against the left wall of the room.

"Therefore, monsieur," the girl went on, "the man who

assassinated Mr. Marsh entered from the butler's pantry. He

slipped into the room along the left wall close up behind his

victim . . . . Did it not occur so."

This was the evidence of the police officials and the experts.

It was clear from the position of the desk in the room and from

the details of the evidence.

"And, monsieur," she said, "will you tell me, is it true that the

stab wound which killed Mr. Marsh was in the shoulder on the side

next to the wall?"

"Yes," said the judge, "that is true."

The prosecutor, urged by Thompson, now made a verbal objection.

The case was practically completed. The incident going on in the

court-room followed no definite legal procedure and could not be

permitted to proceed. The judge stopped him.

"Sit down," he said. He did not offer any explanation or

comment. He merely silenced the man and returned to the girl

standing eagerly on the step before the bench.

"The wound was in the base of the man's neck at the top of the

left shoulder on the side next to the wall," he said. "But what

has this fact to do with the case?"

"Oh, monsieur," she cried, "it has everything to do with it. If

the assassin who slipped along the wall had carried the knife in

his right hand, the wound would have been on the right side of

the dead man's neck. But if, monsieur, the assassin carried the

knife in his left hand, then the wound would be where it is, on

the left side. That made me believe, at first, that the assassin

had only one arm - had lost his right arm - and must use the

other; then, a little later, I understood . . . . Oh, monsieur,

don't you understand; don't you see that the assassin who stabbed

Mr. Marsh was left-handed?"

In a moment it was all clear to everybody. Only a left-handed

man could have committed the crime, for only a left-handed man

standing close against the left side of a room above one sitting

at a desk against that wall could have struck straight down into

the left shoulder of the murdered man. A right-handed assassin

would have struck straight down into the right shoulder, he would

not have risked a doubtful blow, delivered awkwardly across his

body, into the left shoulder of his victim.

The girl indicated Thompson with her hand. "He did it; he's

left-handed. I found out by dropping my glove."

Panic enveloped the cornered man. He began to shake as with an

ague. Sweat like a thin oil spread over his debauched face and

the folds of his obese neck. With his fatal left hand he began

to finger the lapel of his coat where the faded rosebud hung

pinned into the buttonhole. And the girl's voice broke the

profound silence of the court-room.

"He has the money, too," she said. "I felt a bulky packet when I

gave him the flower out of my bouquet last night."

The big, thin-haired lawyer, leaving the courtroom after his

withdrawal from the case, stopped at a window arrested by the

amazing scene: The police taking the stolen money out of

Thompson's pocket; the woman in the girl's arms, and the

transfigured prisoner standing up as in the presence of a

heavenly angel. This before him . . . and the splendid motor

below under the sweep of the window, waiting before the

courthouse door, brought back the memory of his biting, sarcastic


". . . or Cinderella in a pumpkin coach!"

And there occurred to him a doubt of the exclusive dominance of

life by the gods he served.

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