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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Gold Bag - Chapter 9. The Twelfth Rose
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The Gold Bag - Chapter 9. The Twelfth Rose Post by :ayush Category :Long Stories Author :Carolyn Wells Date :May 2012 Read :2256

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The Gold Bag - Chapter 9. The Twelfth Rose

CHAPTER IX. THE TWELFTH ROSE

For the next day or two the Crawford house presented the appearance usual in any home during the days immediately preceding a funeral.

By tacit consent, all reference to the violence of Mr. Crawford's death was avoided, and a rigorous formality was the keynote of all the ceremonies. The servants were garbed in correct mourning, the ladies of the house refused to see anybody, and all personal callers were met by Philip Crawford or his wife, while business acquaintances were received by Gregory Hall.

As private secretary, of course Mr. Hall was in full charge of Mr. Crawford's papers and personal effects. But, in addition to this, as the prospective husband of the heiress, he was practically the head of the house.

He showed no elation or ostentation at this state of affairs, but carried himself with an air of quiet dignity, tinged with a suggestion of sadness, which, if merely conventional, seemed none the less sincere.

I soon learned that the whole social atmosphere of West Sedgwick was one of extreme formality, and everything was done in accordance with the most approved conventions. Therefore, I found I could get no chance for a personal conversation with Miss Lloyd until after the funeral.

I had, however, more or less talk with Gregory Hall, and as I became acquainted with him, I liked him less.

He was of a cold and calculating disposition, and when we were alone, he did not hesitate to gloat openly over his bright prospects.

"Terrible thing, to be put out of existence like that," he said, as we sat in Mr. Crawford's office, looking over some papers; "but it solved a big problem for Florence and me. However, we'll be married as soon as we decently can, and then we'll go abroad, and forget the tragic part of it all."

"I suppose you haven't a glimmer of a suspicion as to who did it," I ventured.

"No, I haven't. Not the faintest notion. But I wish you could find out. Of course, nobody holds up that bag business as against Florence, but--it's uncomfortable all the same. I wish I'd been here that night. I'm 'most sure I'd have heard a shot, or something."

"Where were you?" I said, in a careless tone.

Hall drew himself up stiffly. "Excuse me," he said. "I declined to answer that question before. Since I was not in West Sedgwick, it can matter to no one where I was."

"Oh, that's all right," I returned affably, for I had no desire to get his ill will. "But of course we detectives have to ask questions. By the way, where did you buy Miss Lloyd's yellow roses?"

"See here," said Gregory Hall, with a petulant expression, "I don't want to be questioned. I'm not on the witness-stand, and, as I've told you, I'm uncomfortable already about these so-called 'clues' that seem to implicate Miss Lloyd. So, if you please, I'll say nothing."

"All right," I responded, "just as you like."

I went away from the house, thinking how foolish people could be. I could easily discover where he bought the roses, as there were only three florists' shops in West Sedgwick and I resolved to go at once to hunt up the florist who sold them.

Assuming he would naturally go to the shop nearest the railroad station, and which was also on the way from the Crawford house, I went there first, and found my assumption correct.

The florist was more than willing to talk on the subject.

"Yes, sir," he said; "I sold those roses to Mr. Hall--sold 'em to him myself. He wanted something extra nice, and I had just a dozen of those big yellow beauties. No, I don't raise my own flowers. I get 'em from the city. And so I had just that dozen, and I sent 'em right up. Well, there was some delay, for two of my boys were out to supper, and I waited for one to get back."

"And you had no other roses just like these in stock?"

"No, sir. Hadn't had for a week or more. Haven't any now. May not get any more at all. They're a scarce sort, at best, and specially so this year."

"And you sent Miss Lloyd the whole dozen?"

"Yes, sir; twelve. I like to put in an extra one or two when I can, but that time I couldn't. There wasn't another rose like them short of New York City."

I thanked the florist, and, guessing that he was not above it, I gave him a more material token of my gratitude for his information, and then walked slowly back to my room at the inn.

Since there were no other roses of that sort in West Sedgwick that evening, it seemed to me as if Florence Lloyd must have gone down to her uncle's office after having pinned the blossom on her bodice. The only other possibility was that some intruder had entered by way of the French window wearing or carrying a similar flower, and that this intruder had come from New York, or at least from some place other than West Sedgwick. It was too absurd. Murderers don't go about decked with flowers, and yet at midnight a man in evening dress was not impossible, and evening dress might easily imply a boutonniere.

Well, this well-dressed man I had conjured up in my mind must have come from out of town, or else whence the flower, after all?

And then I bethought myself of that late newspaper. An extra, printed probably as late as eleven o'clock at night, must have been brought out to West Sedgwick by a traveller on some late train. Why not Gregory Hall, himself? I let my imagination run riot for a minute. Mr. Hall refused to say where he was on the night of the murder. Why not assume that he had come out from New York, in evening dress, at or about midnight? This would account for the newspaper and the yellow rose petals, for, if he bought a boutonniere in the city, how probable he would select the same flower he had just sent his fiancee.

I rather fancied the idea of Gregory Hall as the criminal. He had the same motive as Miss Lloyd. He knew of her uncle's objection to their union, and his threat of disinheritance. How easy for him to come out late from New York, on a night when he was not expected, and remove forever the obstacle to his future happiness!

I drew myself up with a start. This was not detective work. This was mere idle speculation. I must shake it off, and set about collecting some real evidence.

But the thought still clung to me; mere speculation it might be, but it was founded on the same facts that already threw suspicion on Florence Lloyd. With the exception of the gold bag--and that she disclaimed--such evidence as I knew of pointed toward Mr. Hall as well as toward Miss Lloyd.

However at present I was on the trail of those roses, and I determined to follow that trail to a definite end. I went back to the Crawford house and as I did not like to ask for Miss Lloyd, I asked for Mrs. Pierce.

She came down to the drawing room, and greeted me rather more cordially than I had dared to hope. I had a feeling that both ladies resented my presence there, for so many women have a prejudice against detectives.

But though nervous and agitated, Mrs. Pierce spoke to me kindly.

"Did you want to see me for anything in particular, Mr. Burroughs?" she asked.

"Yes, I do, Mrs. Pierce," I replied; "I may as well tell you frankly that I want to find out all I can about those yellow roses."

"Oh, those roses! Shall I never hear the last of them? I assure you, Mr. Burroughs, they're of no importance whatever."

"That is not for you to decide," I said quietly, and I began to see that perhaps a dictatorial attitude might be the best way to manage this lady. "Are the rest of those flowers still in Miss Lloyd's room? If so I wish to see them."

"I don't know whether they are or not; but I will find out, and if so I'll bring them down."

"No," I said, "I will go with you to see them."

"But Florence may be in her room."

"So much the better. She can tell me anything I wish to know."

"Oh, please don't interview her! I'm sure she wouldn't want to talk with you."

"Very well, then ask her to vacate the room, and I will go there with you now."

Mrs. Pierce went away, and I began to wonder if I had gone too far or had overstepped my authority. But it was surely my duty to learn all I could about Florence Lloyd, and what so promising of suggestions as her own room?

Mrs. Pierce returned in a few moments, and affably enough she asked me to accompany her to Miss Lloyd's room.

I did so, and after entering devoted my whole attention to the bunch of yellow roses, which in a glass vase stood on the window seat. Although somewhat wilted, they were still beautiful, and without the slightest doubt were the kind of rose from which the two tell-tale petals had fallen.

Acting upon a sudden thought, I counted them. There were nine, each one seemingly with its full complement of petals, though of this I could not be perfectly certain.

"Now, Mrs.--Pierce," I said, turning to her with an air of authority which was becoming difficult to maintain, "where are the roses which Miss Lloyd admits having pinned to her gown?"

"Mercy! I don't know," exclaimed Mrs. Pierce, looking bewildered. "I suppose she threw them away."

"I suppose she did," I returned; "would she not be likely to throw them in the waste basket?"

"She might," returned Mrs. Pierce, turning toward an ornate affair of wicker-work and pink ribbons.

Sure enough, in the basket, among a few scraps of paper, were two exceedingly withered yellow roses. I picked them out and examined them, but in their present state it was impossible to tell whether they had lost any petals or not, so I threw them back in the basket.

Mrs. Pierce seemed to care nothing for evidence or deduction in the matter, but began to lament the carelessness of the chambermaid who had not emptied the waste basket the day before.

But I secretly blessed the delinquent servant, and began pondering on this new development of the rose question. The nine roses in the vase and the two in the basket made but eleven, and the florist had told me that he had sent a dozen. Where was the twelfth?

The thought occurred to me that Miss Lloyd might have put away one as a sentimental souvenir, but to my mind she did not seem the kind of a girl to do that. I knew my reasoning was absurd, for what man can predicate what a woman will do? but at the same time I could not seem to imagine the statuesque, imperial Miss Lloyd tenderly preserving a rose that her lover had given her.

But might not Gregory Hall have taken one of the dozen for himself before sending the rest? This was merely surmise, but it was a possibility, and at any rate the twelfth rose was not in Miss Lloyd's room.

Therefore the twelfth rose was a factor to be reckoned with, a bit of evidence to be found; and I determined to find it.

I asked Mrs. Pierce to arrange for me an interview with Miss Lloyd, but the elder lady seemed doubtful.

"I'm quite sure she won't see you," she said, "for she has declared she will see no one until after the funeral. But if you want me to ask her anything for you, I will do so."

"Very well," I said, surprised at her willingness; "please ask Miss Lloyd if she knows what became of the twelfth yellow rose; and beg her to appreciate the fact that it is a vital point in the case."

Mrs. Pierce agreed to do this, and as I went down the stairs she promised to join me in the library a few moments later.

She kept her promise, and I waited eagerly her report.

"Miss Lloyd bids me tell you," she said, "that she knows nothing of what you call the twelfth rose. She did not count the roses, she merely took two of them to pin on her dress, and when she retired, she carelessly threw those two in the waste basket. She thinks it probable there were only eleven in the box when it arrived. But at any rate she knows nothing more of the matter."

I thanked Mrs. Pierce for her courtesy and patience, and feeling that I now had a real problem to consider, I started back to the inn.

It could not be that this rose matter was of no importance. For the florist had assured me he had sold exactly twelve flowers to Mr. Gregory Hall, and of these, I could account for only eleven. The twelfth rose must have been separated from the others, either by Mr. Hall, at the time of purchase, or by some one else later. If the petals found on the floor fell from that twelfth rose, and if Florence Lloyd spoke the truth when she declared she knew nothing of it, then she was free from suspicion in that direction.

But until I could make some further effort to find out about the missing rose I concluded to say nothing of it to anybody. I was not bound to tell Parmalee any points I might discover, for though colleagues, we were working independently of each other.

But as I was anxious to gather any side lights possible, I determined to go for a short conference with the district attorney, in whose hands the case had been put after the coroner's inquest.

He was a man named Goodrich, a quiet mannered, untalkative person, and as might be expected he had made little or no progress as yet.

He said nothing could be done until after the funeral and the reading of the will, which ceremonies would occur the next afternoon.

I talked but little to Mr. Goodrich, yet I soon discovered that he strongly suspected Miss Lloyd of the crime, either as principal or accessory.

"But I can't believe it," I objected. "A girl, delicately brought up, in refined and luxurious surroundings, does not deliberately commit an atrocious crime."

"A woman thwarted in her love affair will do almost anything," declared Mr. Goodrich. "I have had more experience than you, my boy, and I advise you not to bank too much on the refined and luxurious surroundings. Sometimes such things foster crime instead of preventing it. But the truth will come out, and soon, I think. The evidence that seems to point to Miss Lloyd can be easily proved or disproved, once we get at the work in earnest. That coroner's jury was made up of men who were friends and neighbors of Mr. Crawford. They were so prejudiced by sympathy for Miss Lloyd, and indignation at the unknown criminal, that they couldn't give unbiased judgment. But we will yet see justice done. If Miss Lloyd is innocent, we can prove it. But remember the provocation she was under. Remember the opportunity she had, to visit her uncle alone in his office, after every one else in the house was asleep. Remember that she had a motive--a strong motive--and no one else had."

"Except Mr. Gregory Hall," I said meaningly.

"Yes; I grant he had the same motive. But he is known to have left town at six that evening, and did not return until nearly noon the next day. That lets him out."

"Yes, unless he came back at midnight, and then went back to the city again."

"Nonsense!" said Mr. Goodrich. "That's fanciful. Why, the latest train--the theatre train, as we call it--gets in at one o'clock, and it's always full of our society people returning from gayeties in New York. He would have been seen had he come on that train, and there is no later one."

I didn't stay to discuss the matter further. Indeed, Mr. Goodrich had made me feel that my theories were fanciful.

But whatever my theories might be there were still facts to be investigated.

Remembering my determination to examine that gold bag more thoroughly I asked Mr. Goodrich to let me see it, for of course, as district attorney, it was now in his possession.

He gave it to me with an approving nod. "That's the way to work," he said. "That bag is your evidence. Now from that, you detectives must go ahead and learn the truth."

"Whose bag is it?" I said, with the intention of drawing him out.

"It's Miss Lloyd's bag," he said gravely. "Any woman in the world would deny its ownership, in the existing circumstances, and I am not surprised that she did so. Nor do I blame her for doing so. Self preservation is a mighty strong impulse in the human heart, and we've all got a right to obey it."

As I took the gold bag from his hand, I didn't in the least believe that Florence Lloyd was the owner of it, and I resolved anew to prove this to the satisfaction of everybody concerned.

Mr. Goodrich turned away and busied himself about other matters, and I devoted myself to deep study.

The contents of the bag proved as blank and unsuggestive as ever. The most exhaustive examination of its chain, its clasp and its thousands of links gave me not the tiniest thread or shred of any sort.

But as I poked and pried around in its lining I found a card, which had slipped between the main lining and an inside pocket.

I drew it out as carefully as I could, and it proved to be a small plain visiting card bearing the engraved name, "Mrs. Egerton Purvis."

I sat staring at it, and then furtively glanced at Mr. Goodrich. He was not observing me, and I instinctively felt that I did not wish him to know of the card until I myself had given the matter further thought.

I returned the card to its hiding place and returned the bag to Mr. Goodrich, after which I went away.

I had not copied the name, for it was indelibly photographed upon my brain. As I walked along the street I tried to construct the personality of Mrs. Egerton Purvis from her card. But I was able to make no rational deductions, except that the name sounded aristocratic, and was quite in keeping with the general effect of the bag and its contents.

To be sure I might have deduced that she was a lady of average height and size, because she wore a number six glove; that she was careful of her personal appearance, because she possessed a vanity case; that she was of tidy habits, because she evidently expected to send her gowns to be cleaned. But all these things seemed to me puerile and even ridiculous, as such characteristics would apply to thousands of woman all over the country.

Instead of this, I went straight to the telegraph office and wired to headquarters in a cipher code. I instructed them to learn the identity and whereabouts of Mrs. Egerton Purvis, and advise me as soon as possible.

Then I returned to the Sedgwick Arms, feeling decidedly well satisfied with my morning's work, and content to wait until after Mr. Crawford's funeral to do any further real work in the matter.

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