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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Gold Bag - Chapter 16. A Call On Mrs. Purvis
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The Gold Bag - Chapter 16. A Call On Mrs. Purvis Post by :wrayherring Category :Long Stories Author :Carolyn Wells Date :May 2012 Read :3157

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The Gold Bag - Chapter 16. A Call On Mrs. Purvis

CHAPTER XVI. A CALL ON MRS. PURVIS

The next morning I received information from headquarters. It was a long-code telegram, and I eagerly deciphered it, to learn that Mrs. Egerton Purvis was an English lady who was spending a few months in New York City. She was staying at the Albion Hotel, and seemed to be in every way above suspicion of any sort.

Of course I started off at once to see Mrs. Purvis.

Parmalee came just as I was leaving the inn, and was of course anxious and inquisitive to know where I was going, and what I was going to do.

At first I thought I would take him into my confidence, and I even thought of taking him with me. But I felt sure I could do better work alone. It might be that Mrs. Egerton Purvis should turn out to be an important factor in the case, and I suppose it was really an instinct of vanity that made me prefer to look her up without Parmalee by my side.

So I told him that I was going to New York on a matter in connection with the case, but that I preferred to go alone, but I would tell him the entire result of my mission as soon as I returned. I think he was a little disappointed, but he was a good-natured chap, and bade me a cheerful goodby, saying he would meet me on my return.

I went to New York and went straight to the Albion Hotel.

Learning at the desk that the lady was really there, I sent my card up to her with a request for an immediate audience, and very soon I was summoned to her apartment.

She greeted me with that air of frigid reserve typical of an English woman. Though not unattractive to look at, she possessed the high cheekbones and prominent teeth which are almost universal in the women of her nation. She was perhaps between thirty and forty years old, and had the air of a grande dame.

"Mr. Burroughs?" she said, looking through her lorgnon at my card, which she held in her hand.

"Yes," I assented, and judging from her appearance that she was a woman of a decided and straightforward nature I came at once to the point.

"I'm a detective, madam," I began, and the remark startled her out of her calm.

"A detective!" she cried out, with much the same tone as if I had said a rattlesnake.

"Do not be alarmed, I merely state my profession to explain my errand."

"Not be alarmed! when a detective comes to see me! How can I help it? Why, I've never had such an experience before. It is shocking! I've met many queer people in the States, but not a detective! Reporters are bad enough!"

"Don't let it disturb you so, Mrs. Purvis. I assure you there is nothing to trouble you in the fact of my presence here, unless it is trouble of your own making."

"Trouble of my own making!" she almost shrieked. "Tell me at once what you mean, or I shall ring the bell and have you dismissed."

Her fear and excitement made me think that perhaps I was on the track of new developments, and lest she should carry out her threat of ringing the bell, I plunged at once into the subject.

"Mrs. Purvis, have you lost a gold-mesh bag?" I said bluntly.

"No, I haven't," she snapped, "and if I had, I should take means to recover it, and not wait for a detective to come and ask me about it."

I was terribly disappointed. To be sure she might be telling a falsehood about the bag, but I didn't think so. She was angry, annoyed, and a little frightened at my intrusion, but she was not at all embarrassed at my question.

"Are you quite sure you have not lost a gold-link bag?" I insisted, as if in idiotic endeavor to persuade her to have done so.

"Of course I'm sure," she replied, half laughing now; "I suppose I should know it if I had done so."

"It's a rather valuable bag," I went on, "with a gold frame-work and gold chain."

"Well, if it's worth a whole fortune, it isn't my bag," she declared; "for I never owned such a one."

"Well," I said, in desperation, "your visiting card is in it."

"My visiting card!" she said, with an expression of blank wonderment. "Well, even if that is true, it doesn't make it my bag. I frequently give my cards to other people."

This seemed to promise light at last. Somehow I couldn't doubt her assertion that it was not her bag, and yet the thought suddenly occurred to me if she were clever enough to be implicated in the Crawford tragedy, and if she had left her bag there, she would be expecting this inquiry, and would probably be clever enough to have a story prepared.

"Mrs. Purvis, since you say it is not your bag, I'm going to ask you, in the interests of justice, to help me all you can."

"I'm quite willing to do so, sir. What is it you wish to know?"

"A crime has been committed in a small town in New Jersey. A gold-link bag was afterward discovered at the scene of the crime, and though none of its other contents betokened its owner, a visiting card with your name on it was in the bag."

Becoming interested in the story, Mrs. Purvis seemed to get over her fright, and was exceedingly sensible for a woman.

"It certainly is not my bag, Mr. Burroughs, and if my card is in it, I can only say that I must have given that card to the lady who owns the bag."

This seemed distinctly plausible, and also promised further information.

"Do you remember giving your card to any lady with such a bag?"

Mrs. Purvis smiled. "So many of your American women carry those bags," she said; "they seem to be almost universal this year. I have probably given my card to a score of ladies, who immediately put it into just such a bag."

"Could you tell me who they are?"

"No, indeed;" and Mrs. Purvis almost laughed outright, at what was doubtless a foolish question.

"But can't you help me in any way?" I pleaded.

"I don't really see how I can," she replied. "You see I have so many friends in New York, and they make little parties for me, or afternoon teas. Then I meet a great many American ladies, and we often exchange cards. But we do it so often that of course I can't remember every particular instance. Have you the card you speak of?"

I thanked my stars that I had been thoughtful enough to obtain the card before leaving West Sedgwick, and taking it from my pocket-book, I gave it to her.

"Oh, that one!" she said; "perhaps I can help you a little, Mr. Burroughs. That is an old-fashioned card, one of a few left over from an old lot. I have been using them only lately, because my others gave out. I have really gone much more into society in New York than I had anticipated, and my cards seemed fairly to melt away. I ordered some new ones here, but before they were sent to me I was obliged to use a few of these old-fashioned ones. I don't know that this would help you, but I think I can tell pretty nearly to whom I gave those cards."

It seemed a precarious sort of a chance, but as I talked with Mrs. Purvis, I felt more and more positive that she herself was not implicated in the Crawford case. However, it was just as well to make certain. She had gone to her writing-desk, and seemed to be looking over a diary or engagement book.

"Mrs. Purvis," I said, "will you tell me where you were on Tuesday evening of last week?"

"Certainly;" and she turned back the leaves of the book. "I went to a theatre party with my friends, the Hepworths; and afterward, we went to a little supper at a restaurant. I returned here about midnight. Must I prove this?" she added, smiling; "for I can probably do so, by the hotel clerk and by my maid. And, of course, by my friends who gave the party."

"No, you needn't prove it," I answered, certain now that she knew nothing of the Crawford matter; "but I hope you can give me more information about your card."

"Why, I remember that very night, I gave my cards to two ladies who were at the theatre with us; and I remember now that at that time I had only these old-fashioned cards. I was rather ashamed of them, for Americans are punctilious in such matters; and now that I think of it, one of the ladies was carrying a gold-mesh bag."

"Who was she?" I asked, hardly daring to hope that I had really struck the trail.

"I can't seem to remember her name, but perhaps it will come to me. It was rather an English type of name, something like Coningsby."

"Where did she live?"

"I haven't the slightest idea. You see I meet these ladies so casually, and I really never expect to see any of them again. Our exchange of cards is a mere bit of formal courtesy. No, I can't remember her name, or where she was from. But I don't think she was a New Yorker."

Truly it was hard to come so near getting what might be vital information, and yet have it beyond my grasp! It was quite evident that Mrs. Purvis was honestly trying to remember the lady's name, but could not do so.

And then I had what seemed to me an inspiration. "Didn't she give you her card?" I asked.

A light broke over Mrs. Purvis's face. "Why, yes, of course she did! And I'm sure I can find it."

She turned to a card-tray, and rapidly running over the bits of pasteboard, she selected three or four.

"Here they are," she exclaimed, "all here together. I mean all the cards that were given me on that particular evening. And here is the name I couldn't think of. It is Mrs. Cunningham. I remember distinctly that she carried a gold bag, and no one else in the party did, for we were admiring it. And here is her address on the card; Marathon Park, New Jersey."

I almost fainted, myself, with the suddenness of the discovery. Had I really found the name and address of the owner of the gold bag? Of course there might be a slip yet, but the evidence seemed clear that Mrs. Cunningham, of Marathon Park, owned the bag that had been the subject of so much speculation.

I had no idea where Marathon Park might be, but that was a mere detail. I thanked Mrs. Purvis sincerely for the help she had given me, and I was glad I had not told her that her casual acquaintance was perhaps implicated in a murder mystery.

I made my adieux and returned at once to West Sedgwick.

As he had promised, Parmalee met me at the station, and I told him the whole story, for I thought him entitled to the information at once.

"Why, man alive!" he exclaimed, "Marathon Park is the very next station to West Sedgwick!"

"So it is!" I said; "I knew I had a hazy idea of having seen the name, but the trains I have taken to and from New York have been expresses, which didn't stop there, and I paid no attention to it."

"It's a small park," went on Parmalee, "of swagger residences; very exclusive and reserved, you know. You've certainly unearthed startling news, but I can't help thinking that it will be a wild goose chase that leads us to look for our criminal in Marathon Park!"

"What do you think we'd better do?" said I. "Go to see Mrs. Cunningham?"

"No, I wouldn't do that," said Parmalee, who had a sort of plebeian hesitancy at the thought of intruding upon aristocratic strangers. "Suppose you write her a letter and just ask her if she has lost her bag."

"All right," I conceded, for truth to tell, I greatly preferred to stay in West Sedgwick than to go out of it, for I had always the undefined hope of seeing Florence Lloyd.

So I wrote a letter, not exactly curt, but strictly formal, asking Mrs. Cunningham if she had recently lost a gold-mesh bag, containing her gloves and handkerchief.

Then Parmalee and I agreed to keep the matter a secret until we should get a reply to this, for we concluded there was no use in stirring up public curiosity on the matter until we knew ourselves that we were on the right trail.

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