from Detective Story
Bread Upon the Waters
by Ellis Parker Butler
At five o'clock, one Wednesday afternoon, the Reverend Bryson Brace sat in his study, looking as little like a Congregational minister as it was possible for him to look, and he had a knack of looking like anything but a Congregational minister. He was a tall man of forty years, quick and nervous in all his actions, somewhat careless in his dress, and tremendously energetic. To see him hurrying along the street on weekdays, one would have said he was a second-rate real estate agent, trying to close a small deal before some rival agent got on its track. He had a hearty, boyish laugh, and his sermons sparkled with imagination. On this Wednesday afternoon he was sitting on the edge of his study table, holding a skein of gray wool yarn on his hands, while his wife wound a ball. The Reverend Bryson Brace swung one foot, from which he had kicked his slipper, and, as she wound the yarn, his wife repeated:
"I wind, I wind.
My true love to find;
I wind, I wind,
My true love to find."
As his wife repeated this monotonous old rhyme, the Reverend Bryson Brace sang in falsetto:
"Yankee doodle came to town,
Riding on a po-ho-ny,
Stu-huck a feather in his ca-hap
And ca-halled it ma-hack-a-roni."
It was all nonsense, but the very best sort of brain rest after the three hours he had spent on his sermon. They were interrupted by the ringing of the telephone bell.
"I'll go; don't put down the yarn," said Mrs. Brace. "It is Mr. Graydon," she said, a moment later, looking up from the telephone. "He says he must see you at once; it is very important."
"About Miss Clarkson's bonds," said Bryson Brace. "Tell him I will be there in ten minutes."
"Mr. Brace says he will be there in ten minutes," Mrs. Brace repeated through the telephone, and they began their play again, continuing it until the yarn was all in the ball. Then Mr. Brace brought his shoes from the closet, laced them on his feet, put on his rubber overshoes, got into his overcoat, wrapped a scarf about his neck, put on his hat, and walked rapidly to the home of old John Graydon.
The door was opened by the widower's one servant, Henri, the lame and aged Frenchman who was at once valet, cook, chambermaid, and housekeeper.
"Voila, Henro! Comme portezvous?" asked Mr. Brace cheerfully. The minister was not very strong on French, and he used it only when he met Henri. He used it in the way of a joke.
"I am quite well, Meester Brace," said Henri soberly. "But Meester Graydone, he is not well. Vairy bad!"
"You don't tell me!" exclaimed Bryson Brace, losing his playfulness in a moment. "Where is he? In his room?"
"Yes, Meester Brace," said Henri, as Brace ran up the stairs, taking two steps at a time. At the door of the bedroom he paused to knock.
It would not be exactly true to say Bryson Brace was fond of Mr. Graydon, but he was grateful to him. In his day, before the crash of 19--, when Graydon, Young & Co., brokers, went under, Mr. Graydon had been one of the most liberal supporters of the church. It had been Graydon who, when Bryson Brace broke down with nervous strain, paid the expenses of the trip abroad that set Bryson Brace up again. The old man was now but a wreck of his former self. His fortune gone, he lived alone with Henri in the big house, going to the city each day and doing a pitiful little business in bonds and stocks. With his money gone, the old man lost his health and was now a nervous dyspeptic, with all the irritability of that class of sufferers. His cheeks hung flabbily, there were bags of skin beneath his eyes, and his hands trembled. The door of the bedroom opened and Bryson Brace stood face to face with Doctor Murdock.
"Come in. Brace," said the doctor. "Graydon has something serious to say to you."
"Not dying?" breathed Brace.
"No, not that," said the physician. "Come in."
The doctor was a stocky man, placid, and sure of himself. He had what is called a "good bedside manner." He was an excellent physician. Bryson Brace entered the room.
Old Alexander Graydon lay in his bed, his yellow face yellower against the while pillow. On a chair at the side of the bed sat a fourth man, keen-eyed, alert, and somewhat hard-faced. His hair was cut somewhat short and he wore a tie that was too loud and a ring that was too showy. Otherwise he might have been a keen businessman. He was a detective, and a good one. He was Henry P. Hunt, head of the Hunt Detective Service.
Doctor Murdock closed the door and followed Bryson Brace to the side of the bed. Old Graydon looked up at Brace, looking him full in the eyes.
"Brace," he said, "I've lost those bonds."
The minister seated himself on the chair Murdock pushed forward for him.
"Lost them?" he queried.
"Hunt doesn't believe it, I know, and Murdock doesn't believe it, although he says he does," said Graydon; "but those bonds were stolen from me -- stolen from under my pillow last night. Miss Clarkson's bonds; the whole ten thousand dollars of them."
"Tell me about it," said Bryson Brace.
"And you won't believe me, either," said Graydon. "You brought those bonds here about five o'clock yesterday. Murdock, here, met you as you were going out."
"At half past five or so. Yes, that is true,"" agreed the doctor.
"You brought the bonds," said Graydon, impatiently, "and you said you had walked all the way from Miss Clarkson's. You were cold. If I say anything that is not true, correct me. I called Henri and told him to bring the tea things and make us a couple of cups. While he was making the tea, downstairs there in the living room, you told me about the bonds. You had been to see Miss Clarkson about the fund for a new roof for the church. She said she had wanted to do something for the church, and gave you the bonds and told you to sell them, and that anything over five thousand dollars you got for them you could have for the roof fund. There were ten unregistered Grant County, Ohio, five-percent bonds for one thousand dollars each. Is that true?"
"That is all true," said Bryson Brace.
"You did not know the serial numbers of the bonds?"
"I did not examine them," said Brace.
"Neither did I, fool that I am," said Graydon bitterly. "And, of course, that woman -- that Clarkson woman -- hadn't enough sense to know that bonds had such things as numbers. They were as negotiable as cash. Any one could steal them and sell them."
"And they were stolen?" asked Bryson Brace, aghast,
"That's what I say," said Graydon. "Hunt here --"
"Now, Mr. Graydon," Hunt protested, "I only said that appearances were --"
"Oh, come out like a man and say what you think! Say I stole them!" snarled Graydon. "Or be still and let me tell my lie, if you think it is a lie."
"Go on," said Hunt.
"Henri heard all you said about the bonds," Graydon continued. "That's what I say. You know that. You can tell Hunt that. The bonds lay there, on the tea wagon, all the while we were having tea. Then you went out and Murdock came in. I had sent for him, but it is a lie if any one says I knew about the bonds when I sent for him. I --"
He stopped short. A blank expression covered his face for a moment. His mouth fell weakly open.
"Why, no!" he exclaimed. "That is not so. I telephoned for him after you came; after you gave me the bonds!"
Something like a smile flitted across Hunt's face.
"You got up and put your hand to your chest," said Brace gently, "and said you would telephone Murdock.
That was after I had given you the bonds. You said he had said to telephone him if the sharp pain came again."
"You see! It is no use!" said Graydon despairingly. "No one will believe me."
"Go ahead with the story," said Brace. "I believe you."
"I will go ahead with it," said Graydon. "Murdock came. I felt badly; unless you have had this pain you can't know how badly I felt. But you have had it, Brace; you know how I feel. You had the blues; you had this miserable nervous depression. So Murdock came, and I told him he must do something for me. I said I would kill myself rather than live as I was living. This pain, you understand, and the hopeless depression and no business -- no money coming in. I said all that. But Henri was there all the while; remember that."
"You have admitted that, doctor," said Hunt.
"Yes," said Murdock. "Furthermore, I said I would send up from the druggist's some drops, and that Mr. Graydon was to take two drops from the bottle before going to bed. Two drops, and no more. I told him what I was sending -- laudanum. I warned him not to take more than two drops."
"I took two drops; no more, no less," said Graydon. "Henri saw me take them. They did me no more good than that!" He snapped his fingers.
"They lessened your pain," said Doctor Murdock.
"They did not put me to sleep," replied Graydon. "I lay awake for hours -- for hours! I'm sure it was for hours! The bonds were under my pillow. Finally I fell asleep, but I awakened in a moment. I had had a bad dream. I dreamed the bonds were gone, stolen. I put my hand under my pillow, and the bonds were there, but I got up and took my revolver from the drawer and tucked it under the mattress, where I could put my hand on it in an instant. Then I fell asleep When I awakened, the room was full of gas."
"Gas!" exclaimed Bryson Brace.
"Gas -- illuminating gas," repeated Graydon. "I was almost gone, but my first thought was, hazily, of the bonds. I put my hand under the pillow, and bonds were not there. Then, in a ray of moonlight, I saw a hand and arm closing my door. I thought of thieves. I reached for my revolver and fired -- fired at the hand. I saw the cuff of the coat jump as the bullet struck it against the frame of the door. "You can see the bullet hole there."
Bryson Brace arose and walked to the door. Doctor Murdock went with him and pointed out the bullet hole, which was apparent enough in the white paint of the wood.
"The coat sleeve," continued Graydon. as the doctor and Brace returned to the bedside, "was gray. It was the sleeve of a coat I had given Henri -- a coat of gray Scotch stuff."
"And you think the bullet struck the cuff of the sleeve," said Hunt.
"Think it? I know it?" cried Graydon, in anger. "Didn't I tell you I saw the hole in it where the bullet went through? I saw it as plainly as I see you. I saw the loose cuff flap up against the woodwork; I saw the black hole in the cuff. It was Henri -- in the gray coat I gave him!"
"Mr. Graydon's theory," said Detective Hunt, "is that this servant Henri knew of the bonds and heard Mr. Graydon threaten suicide, and, making use of this knowledge, tried to kill Mr. Graydon by turning on the gas after stealing the bonds, believing that we would think Mr. Graydon had made away with the bonds in some way, and then, in remorse, killed himself."
"And you think," said Graydon, pointing an angry finger at Hunt, "that it is all a cock-and-bull story, that I did steal the bonds, and that I am trying to make a victim of that thief of a servant of mine!"
His voice arose to a scream as he ended.
"Try to be calm, Mr. Graydon," Doctor Murdock cautioned him. "We do not think any of those things; at least, I do not. I think some one from the outside stole the bonds. Others besides Henri wear gray coats. It is possible that you saw a hand and a coat cuff; however, it may have been a hallucination. You had had two drops of laudanum, perhaps more. You were in a room filled with gas. Even if you were able to see with fair clearness, what you saw may have been a shadow in the moonlight."
Mr. Graydon groaned.
"Didn't you find the gray wool under the bullet?" he demanded.
"We found a wisp of gray wool there, yes!" said Hunt. "But the bullet had been removed and replaced again."
"I told you why," said Graydon stubbornly. "It was a clue. I dug the bullet out, and when I found the gray wool there, I put it all back again. I told you that. Brace," he said suddenly, "now you see why I sent for you. They won't do anything for me. I can't get out of this bed; I'm weak. They won't believe me. I told them to look at Henri's sleeve, and they won't do it. You've got to look up things for me, Brace. You look at Henri's sleeve. There'll be a bullet hole in it."
"We looked at Henri's sleeve, Mr. Graydon," said Hunt quietly. "There is no hole in it."
The old man sat straight in the bed.
"I say there is!" he declared.
Hunt arose and walked to the door.
"Henri!" he called.
"Yes, sir!" came the old Frenchman's voice from below.
"You will come up and bring the gray coat Mr. Graydon gave you. Come immediately," said Hunt.
"Yes, sir," Henri answered.
They heard him mounting the stairs without haste, but without hesitation. He entered the room wearing the coat. Hunt waved him toward the bed.
"Show Mr. Graydon your sleeves," Hunt said.
Henri stood at the side of the bed and held out his arms, while the old man, his master, examined the sleeves carefully. He made Henri remove the coat, so that he might examine it more closely and make sure that it was the coat he always wore. Bryson Brace, while Graydon examined the nametag in the collar of the coat, looked at the coat's cuffs carefully. Not only was there no sign of a bullet hole, but there was no sign of damage whatever. The old man threw the coat away from him and lay back on the pillow.
"That is all, Henri," said Hunt, and the man turned to go, picking up the coat.
"You may leave the coat here," said Bryson Brace. When Henri had gone out of the room, Bryson Brace turned back the lining of the coat and looked along the hem. He threw the coat on the bed.
"Mr. Hunt," he said, "there seem to be three theories regarding the loss of the bonds. Doctor Murdock thinks some one from outside the house entered and took them, turning on the gas, and that the hole in the sleeve is a hallucination. Am I right, doctor?"
"That is my opinion," said the doctor.
"Notwithstanding that, it is hardly possible that an outsider would know of the presence of the bonds in the house," smiled Bryson Brace. "If you are right, doctor, the thief came at a lucky moment. Your theory, Mr. Hunt, if I am not mistaken, is that Mr. Graydon, being in financial distress, was too sorely tempted by the presence of so many easily negotiable bonds and the possibility of throwing the blame on Henri."
"It is merely a theory," said Mr. Hunt.
"But you hold it, notwithstanding the oddness of the fact that Mr. Graydon lays emphasis on a bullet hole in a cuff, when that bullet hole does not exist. And you, Mr. Graydon," continued Bryson Brace, "believe Henri tried to murder you, turning on the gas in your room, and that he stole the bonds, and that, as he was closing the door, you shot a hole through the cuff of this gray coat,"
"That's what I believe," said Graydon.
"In spite of the fact that there is no hole in the cuff of the coat!" said Brace. "Mr. Hunt, I have been Mr. Graydon's pastor so long I know you will pardon me for disliking to believe anything such as you hint. If a man's pastor does not stand by him in his trouble, who will?"
"Oh, that's all right," said Hunt. "I understand that."
"And, doctor, I believe your theory is the most rational," said Brace, turning to Murdock. "If I were sure you were right, I would beg Mr. Graydon to accept it, and urge Mr. Hunt to work along that line. But in a case like this we must be cautious. If, by any chance, Henri did steal the bonds, we must not give him too ample opportunity to dispose of them. We must not give him a chance to turn the bonds into cash and disappear with his loot. Do you happen to know where Henri was this morning?"
No one answered.
"How did you come here, Doctor Murdock?" asked Brace.
"Mr. Graydon telephoned for me. Henri let me in,"
"At what hour?"
"Midnight, I should say. I left about seven."
"Henri let you out?"
"And who sent for Mr. Hunt?"
"I telephoned for him about noon today," said Graydon. "He came about one o'clock."
"And Henri let you in, Mr. Hunt?"
"And he was wearing this gray coat?"
"Yes, he had it on him."
"So no one knows where Henri was this morning?" asked Brace.
No one answered.
"Because I think I know," said Bryson Brace. "I certainly enjoyed my short stay in Paris during my trip abroad, which my good benefactor, Graydon, here, made possible. I had a month in that most interesting city; interesting because so different from our New York. I loved to tramp about the streets. Things different from American things interested me. A market for horsemeat, for example. We don't have them here."
"What has that to do with this case?" asked Hunt.
"Such things stick in the memory," smiles Bryson Brace. "I could mention a dozen or more quaint small trades that were unknown to me before I saw them in Paris. Stoppage, for example."
"What's that?" asked Doctor Murdock.
"Stoppage? There are hundreds of stoppage places in Paris," explained Brace. "You see this?"
He picked up the gray coat and showed the inner hem. The cloth there was not clean cut, as with shears, but raveled out.
"I think I know where Henri was this morning. You have a classified telephone directory there, doctor; let me have it. Yes, here it is: 'Stoppage; Madame Mesereau.' One minute while I telephone Madame Mesereau. Central, please give me Greeley 1212A. This Madame Mesereau? Mr. Brace speaking, Madame Mesereau. This morning a man brought you a coat to mend? A gray coat with a hole in one cuff? That is it, two holes in one cuff. He did? And you did the mending? Thank you!"
The Reverend Bryson Brace hung up the receiver.
"Stoppage," he said, "is reweaving. It is darning a tear or a hole so neatly that even a detective cannot notice the spot unless his attention is called to it. It is a small French industry, unknown to most of us, but one a Frenchman would instantly call to mind if, like Henri, the discovery of a bullet hole in the cuff of his gray coat was fatal evidence of his crime."
Mr. Hunt grasped the gray coat and ripped the lining from the sleeve. For one moment he let his eyes rest on the closely clipped gray threads, where the reverse side of the cloth showed the work of the expert French mender, then he leaped for the door. As he threw it open, Henri, hurrying noiselessly down the stairs, glanced back and then threw up his hands.
"Don't shoot; I surrendair!" he cried.