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The Third Adventure of Professor Forrester

The Monkey God

A Thrilling Novelette


When Professor Forrester, unique detective, accepted Horatio Milsted's invitation
to a jazz house party he feared a dull time—and had it. But all at once his dullness
vanished, for he was suddenly plunged into a whirl of mystery, and exciting
adventure and fearful intrigue, that sharpened his wits and taxed his detective
ability to the utmost. The strange theft of Hanuman, the Monkey God, the equally
strange death of its owner, the consternation and panic that followed, and the
sinister shadow of oriental mysticism, hovering darkly over all—these offer
material for a brave tale that nobody can tell better than Seabury Quinn.

PROFESSOR HARVEY FORRESTER was having a beastly time. He had confided as much to himself more than once in the past twenty-four hours, and each passing minute confirmed the truth of it.

The Professor did not dance, and the younger members of the company fox trotted from breakfast to luncheon, from luncheon to dinner and from dinner to bed time. The Professor did not care for music, except classical compositions or the simple folk songs of primitive peoples, and the Milsted house was filled with the cacophonies of jazz from radio and phonograph all day and three- quarters of the night. The Professor despised bridge as a moronic substitute for intelligent conversation, and the older members of the company played for a cent a point from dinner till midnight with the avidity of professional gamblers.

The Professor was having a beastly time.

But old Horatio Milsted, in honor of whose son the house party was given, possessed one of the finest collections of oriental curios in the country, wherefore Forrester had accepted the invitation tendered him and Rosalie Osterhaut, his ward; for he greatly desired to examine a certain statuette of Hanuman, the Monkey God, which was the supreme jewel in the collection that Milsted had inherited from a sea-roving (and none too scrupulous) grandsire.

Two days—forty-eight interminable hours of fox trotting, syncopated music and card-ruffling— the Professor had endured, and as yet had not caught sight of the little monkey god's effigy. Each time he broached the subject to Milsted his host put him off with some excuse. The house party would break up the following morning, and meantime the Professor cooled his back against the wall of the Milsted drawing room while his anger rose hot and seething within him.

"Oh, Professor Forrester," whispered Arabella Milsted, the host's unmarried sister, in the irritatingly high, thin voice possessed by so many short, fat women, "you look so romantically aloof standing there all by yourself. Tell me, don't you ever unbend, even for a teeny, tinsy moment?" She looked archly at him above the serrated edge of her black fan and simpered with bovine coquettishness.

"Do you know," she went on in a more confidential whisper, her little, pale-blue eyes growing circular with sudden seriousness, "I have a presentiment—a premonition—that something terrible is going to happen?"

"Umpf?" growled Forrester noncommittally, gazing first at the obese damsel, then across the crowded dance floor in an effort to descry an exit. "Umpf!"

"Yes—" Miss Milsted, who would never again see forty, but dressed in a manner becoming to twenty, and talked chiefly in Italics, replied— "oh, yes; I'm very psychic, you know. Poor dear Mamma used to say—"

Poor dear Mamma's profound observations will never be known to posterity, for at that moment Horatio Milsted, looking anything but the urbane host, strode into the drawing room and commanded sharply, "Shut off that infernal music!"

"Hear, hear!" murmured the Professor under his breath.

Young Carmody, a vapid-faced youth in too- fashionably cut dinner clothes, who stood nearest the radio, turned the rheostat, and the lively dance tune expired with a dismal squawk.

"Someone has been tampering with my collection," Milsted announced in a hard, metallic voice. "Some infernal thief has stolen a priceless relic—the statue of Hanuman. Now, I don't make any accusations; but I want that curio back. I think I know the thief, and while I'd be justified in turning him over to the police, I'll give him a chance to return my property without a scandal—if he will. The museum is just beyond the library. I want everyone here—everyone—to step into the library, then go, one at a time, into the museum. There's only one door, and the windows are barred, so the thief can't get away. Each of you will be allowed thirty seconds—by himself—in the museum. There'll be a handkerchief on the table, and if I don't find the statuette under that handkerchief when the last of you has passed through the museum, why—" he swept the company with another frigid stare— "I shall have to ask you all to wait while I send for the sheriff. Is that clear?"

A wondering, frightened murmur of assent ran round the brightly lighted room, and the host turned on his heel as he shot out, "This way, if you please."

ROSALIE, the Professor's ward, glanced backward at her guardian as she accompanied her dancing partner and two other couples into the library, and the look in her wide, topaz eyes was a troubled one. She had lived with the Professor nearly a year, now, and knew him as only a woman can know the man she idolizes. The straight- backed little scientist was the soul of honor and propriety, but so immersed in his beloved study of anthropology that theft or murder would scarcely deter him from the acquisition of a relic of scientific value, "What if he should—" she shook her narrow shoulders as one who puts away an unpleasant thought, and stepped across the library threshold.

"I know something terrible will happen," Miss Milsted wailed softly in the Professor's ear.

"Nonsense, Madam; control yourself!" Forrester replied sharply, his narrow nostrils quivering with excitement.

The north wind, sweeping furiously across the rolling Maryland hills, hurled a barrage of sleet and snow against the windows, a man coughed with the abrupt sharpness of nervousness, and a woman tittered with embarrassment. The logs in the hall fireplace snapped and crackled; otherwise the house was as silent as a Quaker meeting before the Spirit moves. Two minutes dragged slowly by while the party in the drawing room watched the library door with bated breath. What drama was being enacted behind those unresponsive panels?

"Oh, I know—" the Milsted person began her dismal prophecy once more, then checked her speech with a little squeak like that of an unsuspecting mouse suddenly snared in a trap. Dying with a short flare, like a shred of dried grass touched with a match, the electric lights winked out, and, save for the reflection of the blazing logs in the hall fireplace, the house was hooded in darkness.

"Oh, I knew it—" Miss Milsted asserted, but Professor Forrester strode impatiently across the polished floor toward the closed door of the library.

"Control yourself, Madam," he snapped. "The wires have been short-circuited by the storm. Here, somebody, bring some candles!" It was characteristic of him that he should assume command in the emergency. The man who had braved sandstorms in the Sahara, glaciers in the Himalayas and natives of Somaliland while tracing the footprints of early civilizations was not to be daunted by imperfect electric power systems. "Fetch some candles," he repeated sharply; "we can't—"

Voices rose in angry discord behind the library door. A man's shout, a woman's scream, Milsted's half-uttered curse mingled in sudden, sharp babel, then bang! the wicked, whiplike snap of a pistol-shot punctuated the hubbub.

The Professor was first to reach the library. He darted through the door, swinging it shut behind him, stilled the renewed voices with a single, sharp command, and struck a match, kneeling over a long, inert object stretched before the grate of glowing coke beneath the mantelpiece.

"Oh, I know something terrible is going to happen! I know it—" Miss Milsted screamed, clawing futilely at the coat-sleeve of the nearest man.

"Madam, be still!" the Professor's voice, dry and sharp with suppressed excitement, cut through the gloom as he re-entered the drawing room. "Be quiet; nothing terrible is going to happen. It's already happened. Mr. Milsted is dead."

"Dead!" the dreadful word flew from lip to lip about the circle of frightened guests. And, as if the tragic announcement were the cue to a theatrical electrician, the dimmed lights of the big country house suddenly sprang into brightness once more, shedding their sharp, yellow rays on the group of pale, terrified faces and bringing the rouge on lips and cheeks into ghastly prominence as frightened women turned hysterically to equally frightened men for comfort and protection.

"How—" began young Carmody, but the Professor cut him short.

"Call the nearest post of state troopers," he ordered curtly. "Then get in touch with the sheriff and the county coroner. Everyone stay where he is, please; the authorities will tell us when we may leave.

"NOW"—Forrester closed the door against the chattering throng in the drawing room and faced the six people in the library—"just what happened?"

"We had just come in, Uncle Harvey," Rosalie answered, speaking with slow care, for in times of excitement her English, still only a half- familiar tongue, completely deserted her; "we had just come in here, and Mr. Milsted was deciding which one of us should go into the museum first, when the lights went out. Somehow, just at the same time, that window there"—she pointed to a casement between two ceiling-high bookcases— "blew open, and, it seemed to me, I saw a head at the opening. I'm not sure about that, though. Mr. Carpenter here started across the room to close the window, and I think someone else did, too, though I don't know who it was, and Mr. Milsted began to swear and ran toward me, then there was a flash and a report, and—"

"And he shot himself," young Mr. Carpenter supplied, interrupting the girl's story. "I don't know why he did it, but we all saw the flash and heard him cry out with a sort of choke, and saw him fall. There was light enough from the fire for us to see that much."

"But it looked to me as though he were shooting toward the window, not at himself," Rosalie protested. "I'm sure the flash was directed away from him."

"Then how do you account for—that?" Carpenter asked almost roughly, pointing dramatically to the figure lying face downward on the handsome Persian rug.

Mr. Milsted lay prone as he had fallen, one arm oddly twisted beneath him, the other extended full length beyond his head, the stock of a German Army automatic grasped convulsively in his hand. His right cheek rested against the nap of the rug, and the Professor, bending down to look into his face, observed a small, round hole, about the calibre of a lead pencil, some two inches or so above the eyebrows and almost in the center of the forehead. The rim of the wound was a little discolored, as though from a bruise, and the center was slightly depressed, forming a shallow cup or; crater, while a mass of thick, clotted matter, grayish white mixed with blood, showed within the tiny, deadly circle. One or two drops of blood—no more—had trickled from the wound and lay upon the carpet.

"U'm?" Forrester rose slowly from his contemplation and pinched his narrow chin between the thumb and forefinger of his right hand. "How do you account for it? That's the question." Thrusting his hand into his jacket pocket, he drew out a short-stemmed briar pipe, stuffed it to overflowing with long cut tobacco and began puffing furiously. "I don't think we'll accomplish much huddled in here," he suggested. "Suppose you join the others. The officers should be here any moment, now."

As the door closed behind the others, Professor Forrester wheeled and stepped quickly into the museum. It was a small, square room entered by a single door of heavy, iron-bound oak, and lighted by a single small, heavily barred window. About its sides were ranged the tall glass- fronted specimen cases, all strongly fastened with Yale locks, while a small, compact safe and two tall, sheet-steel cabinets stood against the wall di- rectly beneath the window. In the center, under the ceiling electrolier, was a table of polished mahogany on which lay a handkerchief covering two small objects. The Professor lifted the cloth, disclosing a small brass inkwell and stamp box.

"Milsted certainly intended giving the guilty man every chance," he commented softly to himself. "No one coming in here could say whether the handkerchief had covered two or three things before, and the fact that the cloth was already resting on two other things would partially disguise the fact that the idol had been returned. Yes, he was pretty decent about it, poor chap."

Replacing the square linen, he stared speculatively about the room. "Now, let's see," he murmured. "The Hanuman statue couldn't have been much bigger than this inkwell or stamp box, smaller, perhaps. Anyone could have carried it easily in his pocket. H'm; very interesting."

STROLLING over to the safe, he bent forward and examined it, even testing its lock tentatively, first taking the precaution to cover the knob with his handkerchief, lest his fingerprints show on the polished metal. The lock was fastened, and he next turned his attention to the upright metal cabinets. They were nearly six feet high by eighteen inches wide and about two feet deep. One was filled with a miscellaneous assortment of papers, old letters and kindred junk, while the other was empty, even its shelves having been removed, leaving a space available for storage about as large as the interior of an upended mummy case.

Again the Professor stooped, examining the cabinet's interior carefully. "Umpf," he inquired of the empty room, "what's this?" On the smoothly painted floor of the case were four crescent-shaped ridges of sand and fine gravel, paired off in two sets of two each, their concave sides facing, and about seven inches distant from each other. Taking an envelope from his pocket the Professor carefully scooped part of the sand into it, then closed the cabinet door and returned to the library.

Approaching the window, which had blown open as the lights went out, he examined its white- enameled sill closely, collected a few grains of sand from it, and bent down to observe the wall and baseboard immediately under it.

His search was rewarded, for, so faint as to be scarcely noticeable, but perceptible to one who knew what he looked for, was a tiny, dirty-yellow stain on the white baseboard, and two more, one about two feet below and ten to eleven inches to the left of the other, against the gray wall paper.

Mentally the Professor blessed his untidy habit of using his pockets for correspondence files as he brushed specimens of these stains into two more envelopes and scribbled identifying notations on each container.

"Now," he informed himself as he knocked the ashes from his pipe into the fire, "we'll have a look around the outside of the house before the police begin to ask embarrassing questions."

THE wind was howling like a thousand banshees with ulcerated teeth, lashing the tall, somber cedars, which lined the Milsted driveway, till they bent almost double before its force, and hurling sheets of mingled snow and sleet against the house walls and window panes. The entire north wall of the Milsted mansion was encrusted with storm-castings as the Professor, muffled to the eyes in his motoring coat and with his fur cap pulled well over his ears, forced his way through the tempest to the spot beneath the library window.

"No chance of finding anything here," he admitted reluctantly as he threw the beam of his electric torch against the ice-covered clapboards. "Any traces are as dead as the dodo. You couldn't track an elephant through this storm. I might as well get back to —ah?" He broke his soliloquy short with a sharp, interrogative exclamation as his foot came in contact with some tiny object imbedded in the half-frozen snow.

Dropping to his knees, he played his electric light over the glacial mass at his feet, dug his fingers through the sleet-crust and exhumed a tiny, glistening object about an inch and a half in length and surprisingly heavy for its size. No need to speculate on the nature of his discovery. The little golden statue, representing a squatting monkey, and exquisitely executed in gold, the face ornamented with rubies, told him at a glance what it was. Hanuman, the Monkey God, was found.

The flashlight's ray disclosed something else. About the spot where the Professor had stumbled over the jewel somebody else had been clawing furiously, for the half-obliterated marks of frantic fingers were plainly visible in the snow. Only desperate haste, biting cold and unrelieved darkness had prevented the other from finding the statuette which the Professor had come upon accidentally.

"Hum," Forrester remarked as he shut off his flashlight and rose, "this is interesting; mighty interesting. Would be worth while trying to find any tracks?"

Two minutes' attempt convinced him it would not. Sheltered from the full fury of the storm by the house, the snow where the monkey's statue had been lost retained the ridges made by the questing fingers which missed what the Professor found; but three feet distant the drifting flakes and lashing sleet obliterated Forrester's own tracks almost as soon as he made them. To seek any person who had passed that way, even a few minutes before, was as bootless an undertaking as attempting to trace a ship across the Atlantic by her wake. "No go," he admitted, after wrestling with the gale for ten yards or so; "better get in and thaw out."

"Find anything?" demanded young Carpenter as the Professor relieved himself of cap and ulster and held his hands to the hall fire, flexing and stretching his fingers to restore circulation.

"Umpf," responded the Professor, bending closer to the blaze and disdaining a glance at his questioner.

"Nut!" muttered Carpenter to the young woman beside him. "Darndest nut I ever saw, racing around in this storm looking for God- knows-what. Reckon the old fool expects to find out why Milsted shot himself?"

If the Professor heard Mr. Carpenter's uncomplimentary remarks he gave no sign of resentment. Turning from the fire as soon as the younger man had withdrawn, he hurried to the library, and with only the corpse of his late host for company, fell to comparing the bits of earth he had salvaged from the steel cabinet, the window sill and the library walls and baseboard.

"HELLO, Professor Forrester; what are you doing here?" queried a sharp-featured young man as he entered the library and put a portmanteau down on the table. "Lookin' for traces of the Pyramid-builders?"

Forrester regarded the newcomer sharply through the lenses of his neat, rimless pince-nez. "I don't believe I—" he began, but the other interrupted with a laugh.

"Of course, you don't," he agreed. "I didn't expect you would. I'm Nesbit—Lambert Nesbit, B. S., in '20, and M. D., in '24. Never had any of your classes, but used to see you on the campus and on the platform at commencements."

"Oh!" the Professor responded. "And you're—"

"Yep, I'm the coroner. Practice wasn't goin' any too good when I got out, for I just missed the flu epidemic and folks wouldn't get sick to accommodate me, so I busted into politics and got myself elected to this job. They tell me outside you've been keepin' the nest warm for me."

"I've made a few—er—observations," Forrester admitted. "Have you questioned anybody?"

"I'll say I have," the coroner retorted with a twinkle in his eye. "Got two state troopers to ride herd on 'em, and put 'em through their paces in great shape. Gosh, they're one scared crowd! Everybody agrees Milsted shot himself, but if I asked any one of 'em, 'Why did you kill him?' I'll bet a dollar he'd break down and confess.

"Well"— he turned to the body with a brisk, professional air— "I wonder why the old coot did kill himself?"

With the deftness of long practice, covering the repugnance he felt for his task with a running fire of cynical comment, the young physician examined the remains, noted the position of the wound, the pistol in the dead hand and the posture of the body.

"Plain as a pike-staff," he announced, rising and dusting his trousers knees. "Never saw an opener case of suicide in my life, but, as Bobbie Burns would say,

"'One thing must still be greatly dark,
The reason why he did it.'"

"I shouldn't be too cock-sure it's suicide if I were you," Professor Forrester replied.

"Eh? The devil you say!" Dr. Nesbit shot him a quick glance. "Why not?"

"Look at that wound again."

"Thanks; I've already had a fine, grandstand view of it. Right through the frontal bone, slick and clean as a whistle."

"But did you see any powder brand around it?" Forrester insisted. "Remember, in the nature of things, Milsted couldn't have held that gun more than a foot from his head, and at that distance, even with smokeless powder, there would have been some burning of the tissues, or at least a scarification of the skin from the powder gases."

"Hum; by the Lord Harry, Professor, you're right!" the young official admitted. "I overlooked it. Still—"

"Try to take that pistol from his hand," the Professor persisted.

"He's certainly holding it," the coroner admitted as he rose after tugging futilely at the weapon clasped in the dead man's fingers. "Rigor mortis set in early—"

"Rigor fiddlesticks!" Forrester scoffed. "Feel his jaw and neck, man; that's where the stiffening would begin, if it were rigor mortis. You'll find those muscles still flaccid."

"RIGHT you are," Dr. Nesbit agreed as he prodded the dead man's facial muscles with a practiced forefinger. "But how do you account for his grasping that gun so—"

The Professor sighed in exasperation. "Did you ever hear of the condition known as cadaveric spasm?" he asked sharply. "That's a perfect example of it. You know, as a physician—or you ought to, if you don't—that when death takes place suddenly, especially from injury to the nervous system, as in this case, where the brain was pierced, the body, or parts of it, notably the hands, become rigid almost immediately. I remember once coming on the body of a poor chap who'd been murdered in the Gobi desert. Some brigands had shot him through the head from behind as he was in the act of eating a piece of mutton, and, though his body had almost completely mummified when we found him, he was still grasping the sheep bone as if it were a pole of a galvanic battery."

"Right-o," the coroner gave a short, affirmative nod. "Absolutely right, Professor. This man was shot through the brain, too, as you say. But that's one of the surest indicia of suicide, you know. No murderer could put that gun in his hand after killing him and make his fingers grasp it as they do."

"Exactly," Forrester nodded in his turn. "But suppose that instead of shooting himself, Milsted had drawn his gun to shoot at someone else, and actually fired one shot before, or just as, the other potted him. What then? Wouldn't we have just the conditions we find here?"

"Yes," Nesbit conceded, "but the facts don't match your theory. Only one shot was heard, and all the testimony, with one exception, is to the effect that there was nobody for Milsted to shoot at, even if there'd been someone to shoot him."

"Right," Forrester replied, "and it's my ward, Miss Osterhaut, who says Milsted fired toward the window just before he fell. I'd take her word against a dozen of these scatter-brained young fools' testimony. She has been brought up to observe things, and do it accurately."


"And here's something else for you to chew on," the Professor continued, brushing aside the half-uttered protest—"look at these—"

Leading the way to the museum he opened the empty cabinet and directed his companion's gaze to the faint marks on its floor. "Recognize 'em?" he demanded.

"Can't say I do."

"Very well, then. I'll tell you. They're footprints. Somebody who had been walking through the snow, before it was deep enough to cover the ground completely, was standing in that cabinet today. You can make out the heel—and toe- prints of his shoes, and here you can see where the sand and gravel has been spread out in a film over the metal where the snow melted from his boots. It's a glacial silt-deposit in miniature. That dates his visit. It didn't start snowing till nearly six o'clock this afternoon, and the ground was frozen hard as bed-rock up to an hour or so before the storm began. The temperature rose several degrees—enough to thaw the very top of the ground—before the snow commenced, and for the first half-hour or so the flakes were wet. This sleet has been coming down only the last hour, maybe a little less. So I say somebody walked through the snow just after it began, got a scum of sand on his shoes and hid in this case without stopping to wipe his boots. He could stand here and see everything going on in the room through the slits in the cabinet door."

Dr. Nesbit smiled ironically as he shook his head. "You may be able to take a piece of skull and build a man from it, or reconstruct a dinosaur from a splint of thigh-bone, Professor Forrester," he conceded, "but I'm not ready to admit you've reconstructed a case of burglary and murder here."

"Then look at this," the Professor urged, leading the way back to the library and indicating the wall beneath the window. "This is the window that everybody agrees opened mysteriously just as the lights went out. Now, here on the baseboard, if you'll look closely, you'll find exactly such sand stains as are on the cabinet floor. And here—" he indicated the faint smudges on the wall— "are the foot marks where somebody took a running start, braced his feet first against the board, then the wall, and with his hands holding the window sill, swarmed up and yanked the casement open. And here—" he pointed triumphantly to the sill— "are other marks, not much more than dabs of sand, I'll grant you, but still marks, where the fellow rested his feet on the sill before he started to leap to the ground outside."

"But you're assuming too much," Nesbit objected. "These marks might easily have been made some other way. I know my house is forever getting all sorts of spots and splotches on it, no matter how hard my wife scrubs and dusts."

Forrester snorted in disgust. "Can't you use your eyes at all?" he demanded. "Look at this, and this, and this—" he thrust the envelopes in which his specimens were stored under the coroner's nose—"the sand in each of those envelopes is identical. If the cabinet was stained with yellow sand, and the wall with red and the window sill with black or gray smut, I'd agree with you; but all the stains are made by the same material. I tell you, whoever hid in that cabinet ran from the museum to the library and made his escape through the window when the lights went out! See here, let's prove it. Call everybody who was present when Milsted died and ask them, separately, if they can remember whether or not the library door opened about the same time the confusion preceding the shooting began."

DR. NESBIT stepped to the door and summoned the six witnesses to the tragedy, admitting them one at a time and asking each the question suggested by the Professor. Rosalie and three others recalled there had been a faint squeak "as though a door was being opened carefully" before Milsted had appeared to go berserker. One of the others thought the museum door had opened a little—"blown by a draft," she assumed—while the sixth witness remembered nothing of the sort.

"That's the best proof in the world that the door did open," the Professor insisted. "If every one of them had agreed it did, we might have assumed your question suggested their answers— human memory is a tricky thing, at best—and that they thought they recalled something which actually didn't happen; but diverse testimony in such a case is its own best proof."

"'Saul, Saul, almost thou persuadest me,'" Coroner Nesbit protested with a laugh. "Seriously, though, Professor, you've got me thinking. I still believe this is a suicide, but everything you've suggested could have happened just as you say— maybe."

"'Maybe' be hanged!" the Professor blazed! "It did, I tell you!"

"But what about Herman, or whatever its name was, that led to the tragedy?" Nesbit asked, half of himself, half of the professor. "As I understand it, Milsted claimed someone had stolen some sort of heathen idol from his museum and was throwing a catch-the-low-down-cuss party when he was—when he shot himself."

"I was coming to that," Forrester answered. "When Mr. Milsted first accused one of us of stealing the statue of Hanuman, I thought he might be indulging in some ill-timed joke, or staging a show with some ulterior motive. He was a queer sort, and I never fancied him very much. But I'm convinced now the jewel really was stolen, and stolen by the person who hid in the cabinet and escaped through the window and murdered Milsted."

"How do you make that out?" Nesbit wanted to know. "Nobody's seen the thief, or the stolen property, for that matter—"

"Oh, yes, somebody has," Forrester corrected, drawing the little golden image with its ruby eyes and nostrils from his pocket and handing it to the astonished coroner. "I found this outside in the snow, directly under that window, just where a person, jumping from that height and landing on slippery ground, might have dropped it. I wish you'd take official charge of it for a few days and tell no one about it till you hear from me."

Briefly he described his search for clues outside the house, the finding of the idol and the finger marks where its loser had made a hurried hunt for it.

"Well, I'll be—this trick is yours, Professor," the young doctor agreed. "I'm still holding to the hypothesis of suicide, but we'll impanel no jury tonight, or until I've had time to perform an autopsy on the body. Can I reach you by 'phone if I need you?"

"Of course," the Professor assured him.

"All right. I'll take the names and addresses of everyone present, and dismiss 'em, pending the inquest. Whether you're right or wrong, Professor, you've given me more mental gymnastics this evening than I've had since I attended the University." He held out his hand with a genial smile. "Good-night, sir."

"LAMBERT NESBIT speaking, Professor," a cheerful voice announced at the telephone, shortly after noon the following day. "Pick up the marbles; you win."

"Eh, how's that—" Professor Forrester began, but the coroner was bursting with information and refused to be interrupted.

"I autopsied Milsted's body this morning," he continued, "and everything points to your theory of murder. In fact, it couldn't have been suicide. When I removed the skull cap I found a bullet had passed through the frontal bone slightly to the left of the frontal suture, penetrating the left superior frontal lobe of the brain, piercing the proecentral fissure with a downward course, and traveling almost to the horizontal fissure of Sylvinus. Do you get me, or am I too technical?"

"Not at all," Forrester assured him. "Remember, Nesbit, I was studying comparative anatomy, putting in six hours a week in the dissecting room, when you were learning to spin a top and play marbles for keeps. Go on, what else did you find?"

"Well, first off, I realized that it would have been impossible for a man to shoot himself in that manner unless he held the stock of the pistol above the level of his head—I experimented on myself by holding a gun with the muzzle touching my forehead where the wound in Milsted's head was. He might have done it by bracing the barrel against his head and pulling the trigger with his thumb, but, as you demonstrated last night, Milsted was clutching the pistol with the rigidity of a cadaveric spasm, which must have occurred at the moment of death, and his forefinger was on the trigger. There wasn't a Chinaman's chance of his shifting his grip on the stock between the shot and the time death ensued, for he must have died instantly from that wound."

"My boy," Forrester assured him, "I'm beginning to have hopes of you. It was hard to convince you last night, but I'll admit you're not one of those thick-headed zanies who persist in error just for the sake of making fools of themselves."

"Thanks," the coroner replied dryly. "But you ain't heard nothin' yet. When I compared the bullet in Milsted's brain with a cartridge from the magazine of his pistol, I found the lethal missile was a soft lead, conical bullet of about 20-20 calibre, while Milsted's gun is a Luger and shoots a .25 cupro-nickel-coated bullet. I was talkin' with a lieutenant in the State Constabulary about it today, and he told me those guns have a muzzle velocity of about twelve hundred feet a second, and if Milsted had shot himself with his own gun the bullet would have gone clear through his head and probably through the wall behind him, as well."

"I could have told you that," Forrester replied. "Have you any other information?"

"Not right now; but there's not much doubt Milsted was murdered. What sticks in my craw, though, is who did it, and why, and why the devil didn't anyone hear a second shot? D'ye reckon both parties could have fired at once, so the two reports sounded like one?"

"U'm; that's possible," Forrester agreed, "but you'll remember that five of the six witnesses to the tragedy fail to recall seeing anything resembling a man at the window when Milsted died, and they'd not have been apt to miss seeing a pistol flash. No, I don't think— here, wait a minute! How long can you postpone the inquest?"

"Well, there's no limit prescribed by law, but the jury has to be sworn super visum corporis—on viewing the body, you know—and we can't keep poor old Milsted above ground indefinitely, waiting to swear in the jury. Tell you what I'll do, if you say. I'll impanel a jury, swear 'em in over the body, and then continue the inquest subject to call. I can get away with that, all right. What were you going to suggest?"

"Take that bullet you found in the brain down to Roach's sporting goods store and have one of their arms experts look at it. I noticed an English air-pistol on display in their window the other day, and it strikes me an air-gun might be the explanation to the whole affair. If the murder had been committed with one of those weapons we'd have about the same amount of mystery we have here, for the thing would probably shoot with practically no sound and would make no flash. These guns are comparatively new in this country, but I daresay they're fairly well known in the British possessions."

"You think the murderer was an Englishman, then?"

"Not exactly that, but I've got what you'd probably call a 'hunch,' Nesbit."

"Good enough. We'll play it through. I'll see what Roach's man has to say and report later. We can hold the inquest up a week or so if necessary, while we gumshoe around for more dope."

"I don't think we'll need wait that long," the Professor told him, as he hung up the 'phone and resumed marking a pile of examination papers.

"MISSIE like buy ve'y pretty fancy work?" a round-faced young man with somnolent eyes, clad in a threadbare overcoat and rather decrepit fez, demanded the following afternoon, when Rosalie answered the ringing of the front doorbell.

"No, I—" the Professor's pretty ward began, then checked her refusal, half spoken, as her large, topaz eyes suddenly narrowed the tiniest fraction of an inch. "Come in," she invited. "I won't promise to buy anything; but I'll look."

"Missie like my t'ings ve'y much," the peddler announced confidently, as he followed her down the hall and into the living-room. "See—" he opened an imitation alligator-hide suitcase and displayed the usual stock in trade of the itinerant Armenian huckster— "ve'y pretty, ve'y cheap, Missie. I t'ink you like buy some, mebbe so."

Attracted by the voices, Professor Forrester put down his book and strolled into the living- room, leaving the study door open behind him. "Shopping again?" he asked with a twinkle in his eye.

Rosalie had spent almost a year in occidental freedom since the Professor rescued her from the entourage of a certain villainous half-caste from Singapore, and the avidity with which she conformed to the Western custom of permitting women to buy their own finery had caused the Professor more than a little amusement.

"Yes, Uncle Harvey," she returned, throwing him a radiant smile. "This gentleman says he's from Armenia, and he has some of the loveliest things."

Forrester looked with astonishment from the girl to the mass of miscellaneous horrors spread on the floor. Even a layman could see these alleged Madeira and Normandy scarfs and Egyptian table covers were of the home-brewed variety, the sort which are stamped out, thousands at a time, by machinery in New Jersey, and foisted on a credulous public by smooth-spoken knaves from the Levant.

The Professor, who knew the home industries of every people in the world as well as he understood their dialects, could recognize the counterfeits with one eye closed, and Rosalie, who had spent ten years of her life in the heart of the East should certainly have been the last one to be deceived by such crude forgeries. Yet there she stood, apparently enraptured, and begged the vendor to display more of his atrocities.

"This ve'y ni-ce piece work," that worthy commended, throwing a cotton cloth thickly encrusted with machine embroidery over his right arm so that it swathed him from shoulder to wrist. "This made 'specially for ladies who like ni-ce t'ings."

His stock patter swept rapidly on, detailing the manifold perfections of the luncheon cloth, but his sleepy eyes traveled round the room, glanced through the open door of the study, and rested on a tiny brass paper weight which stood on the Professor's desk. The knick-knack was an inexpensive piece of Japanese work, executed in polished brass, and represented a diminutive monkey in the act of holding his paws before his mouth—one of the familiar "speak no evil" symbols to be found in every curio store. Just then it glittered in a ray of the afternoon sun as though it were burnished gold instead of hammered brass. The young man's eyes shone with a sudden fierce light of jubilation as they encountered the toy, and he moved a step nearer the study door.

"Ye-es, this ve'y ni-ce cover for ni-ce lady's table—" he drawled, fumbling in the side pocket of his overcoat beneath the cotton cloth which still draped his arm.

"Darwaza bundo!" Rosalie exclaimed shrilly.

The peddler started as though stung by a yellow-jacket, his right arm writhing under the covering of the sheet of embroidery like a snake beneath a blanket.

With a furious movement he whipped the cloth from his shoulder, wrenched something from his pocket and wheeled, backing toward the study with long, cautious steps.

"LOOK out, Uncle Harvey!" Rosalie's warning came sharply. Next instant she launched herself across the room like a fury, rushing between the Armenian and the astonished Professor.

"Dog, son of filth, unworthy offspring of a he goat and a bad smell!" she spat at the hawker in a torrent of Hindustani, her amber eyes glowing balefully, her lovely mouth distended like that of an angry cat.

There was a flash of steel in the afternoon sunlight, something like a flickering flame leaped to life in the girl's right hand and swept forward and down like a cracking whiplash. The peddler screamed with amazement and pain and dropped the object he had half drawn from his pocket.

Rosalie's slim, silk-and-satin-shod foot shot out, kicking the thing out of reach as she menaced the wounded huckster with a ten-inch, wavy- bladed Malay kris.

"Tie him up, Uncle Harvey," she bade, thrusting her knife forward to within an inch of the Armenian's belt buckle, then, to the peddler, "Stand still, grandson of a toad, or by the Three Holy Ones, I shall slit your unclean throat and pour forth your vile blood as an offering to Kali!" The peddler followed her advice to the letter, though his frightened glance turned this way and that, any direction but toward the girl's fierce eyes and the glittering, razor-sharp blade of her dagger.

Seizing a length of lace from the open suitcase, Forrester hastily twisted it into a rope and trussed the huckster's elbows behind him—a far more effective manner of binding than strapping the wrists together—then tore a length from one of the cotton embroideries and bandaged the fellow's wounded wrist.

"Sit down," he ordered curtly, motioning the captive to a chair; then to Rosalie:

"I hope you know what you're about, young woman. If you've run amuck, we're in for a tidy little lawsuit, if not for a criminal prosecution."

"Hou!" Rosalie laughed, lapsing into oriental vernacular, which she still did under the stress of excitement. "Behold, my lord, what your slave has discovered." With a quick fillip, she removed the fez from the peddler's head, displaying a small device in red painted on his forehead near the hairline.

It was a small crescent which nearly enclosed a tiny disc within its horns, and Forrester started at the sight. "Good heavens!" he exclaimed. "Why, it's the caste mark of a follower of Siva!"

"YES, my lord, it is nothing less," the girl replied with a triumphant smile. "When this base-born descendant of a hyena and a mangy female monkey appeared at my master's house, wishing to show me his detestable wares, I was about to send him on his way, but the day is warm for winter and he put up his hand to wipe his brow, so that I did behold the caste mark for an instant as he put back his cap. Many an Armenian have I seen—we had hundreds of them in Singapore—but never have I beheld one who wore the sign of Siva.

"Then I did remember, master of my life, how the villainous Chandra Roi (may the vultures devour his eyeballs!) sometimes hired these Siva fellows to do his filthy work when even the Chinamen would not, and I knew this one came to my master's house for no good.

"Two nights ago when Milsted Sahib spoke of the loss of his image of Hanuman, the others knew not what he referred to, but you and I, my lord, knew that Hanuman is the Monkey God of the people of Hind, and though in this land the monkey dances to the music of hand organs, in India he is a very sacred beast.

"I knew, too, that Milsted Sahib was killed by someone, for did I not behold him shooting at a thing which perched in his window-place, as though Hanuman himself had come to claim his image? And was he not himself shot down? Men do not die from bullets from their own guns when those guns are pointed away from them.

"Also I knew that you went outside the house after the murder, and, though the others saw nothing when you returned, Mumtaz Banjjan dwells in the shadow of her lord's bounty, and his every mood is as plain to her as print upon a book's page. She could see he was excited, and also pleased by something he had found, and there was no further mention of the stolen god. There- fore Mumtaz Banjjan placed herself near the door while her master and the Doctor Sahib talked in the library, and overheard much which passed between them. She knew he had found the god and given it to the young Nesbit, and she heard of the marks of some other person's search for that same idol in the snow. All these things Mumtaz treasured in her memory, and when she beheld the mark of Siva upon this accursed one's brow she bethought her that he must have seen her master pick up the god and take it into the house with him. Therefore, she thought, this one had come here to steal the god back, perhaps to murder her master as he also murdered Milsted Sahib. So she did invite him into the house with fair words that she might watch him, and she saw his unholy eyes light upon the little monkey of brass in the room where my lord reads from great books and writes on paper, which he, being but a pig and an ignorant fellow, doubtless mistook for the very god he stole from Milsted Sahib. And when she saw him reach into his pocket beneath the cloth he held upon his arm she knew he sought some weapon.

"So Mumtaz cried out 'Darwaza bundo' which, as my lord knows, means only 'shut the door,' in Hindustani; but it was enough. The low- born one recognized the words, and betrayed himself, and Mumtaz cut his wicked hand before he could do injury to the master who holds both her body and her soul as lightly in his hand as a child holds a rattle."

"UM; so I see," Forrester commented, "and a very neat piece of work you did, too, my dear. But you might have been shot."

"Forrester Sahib is Mumtaz Banjjan's master, and Mumtaz Banjjan is his slave," the girl replied, lowering her head humbly. "He is the light of her eyes and the breath of her nostrils and the blood of her heart. What does it matter if the slave dies, so the master lives?"

"Never mind the compliments," Professor Forrester waved his hand wearily. He had long since given up trying to convince Rosalie that she must not call herself his slave. "Just at present I require information. How is it you had that kris so handy?"

Rosalie's—or Mumtaz Banjjan's—face lit with a smile. "I belong to my lord, the mighty Forrester Sahib," she announced primly, "if he chooses not to salute my lips I shall go to my grave unkissed; but there are certain young men who think not so. In Singapore I learned that the kris is a sharp tongue which argues well; therefore, when the young men urge me to do what they call 'pet,' if I cannot rebuff them with my laughter or my hands, I wear that which will convince them. The American clothes are clumsy for such a purpose—I cannot wear the knife at my belt—therefore I conceal it in the back of my dress, between my shoulders."

"You little savage!" Professor Forrester chuckled, as he stooped to recover the pistol she had kicked into the corner of the room. Whimsically, he remembered that certain desperadoes of the early Wild West were wont to conceal their Bowie knives in the collars of their coats, and wondered what effect Rosalie's sudden production of a murderous Malay short sword would have at some afternoon tea.

He held the captured pistol to the light and examined it closely. It was a heavy, blue steel weapon with a thick barrel upon which a smaller calibred tube was set. By breaking the stock, after the manner of a revolver, a plunger was withdrawn from the larger barrel, and when the stock was jammed back in place the plunger was thrust into the tube again, compressing sufficient air in the chamber to drive a light bullet with a velocity equal to that of a black-powder pistol. Across the stock was engraved the word Lübeck.

"H'm," the Professor commented, trying the weapon's mechanism, "German make, eh? I might have known they'd have a model on the market as soon as the British perfected one. Well, I think we've about all the evidence necessary for Nesbit's inquest.

"Rosalie," he turned to the girl, "just stand watch over our prisoner while I telephone the police, will you?"

As he retired to the study to notify the authorities he heard the extraordinary young woman informing her captive that a single false move on his part would result in instant and complete disembowelment.

"NOW," the Professor bent a stern gaze on the peddler, "why did you come here?"

The pseudo-Armenian shrugged his shoulders, or came as near doing it as was possible while his elbows were bound behind him, and tightly lashed to the rungs of a chair-back.

"I am a follower of Hanuman," he replied in perfect English. "The grandfather of the man I put to death stole the image of our god from its temple in India almost a hundred years ago and kept it in his house for sacrilegious fools to gape at. Copies of the god's image may be bought in the bazaars throughout India, and this we cannot prevent, but to have our sacred relics ravished from our temples—suppose we should come to your land and take from off your altars the images of your plaster saints, or the little pieces of bread which you worship, how would you feel about it? Other Englay have stolen other statues of the god from us, and we have hunted them down, one at a time, taken back our own and— their lives. The Milsted whom I killed—thieving son of a thieving grandsire that he was!—was the last. Others of our company had accounted for the rest; Milsted was mine."

"U'm?" Forrester nodded thoughtfully. "How did you get into the house?"

The Hindu smiled sardonically. "That was not hard to one of my calling," he answered. "There was a great company of fools assembled at the place, and I bribed one of the servants to tell me the location of the room where Hanuman was kept. While all were at dinner I climbed through the library window and entered the museum. The god was not in any of the glass cases, but I found him in the safe, for it was an old-fashioned one and the lock was easy to pick. When I heard anyone near I hid in a steel case which happened to be empty. When I had taken the statue from the safe, but before I could get away, Milsted came to the museum and discovered his loss. I would have shot him then, but there was someone in the next room, and I feared he would raise the alarm. When Milsted found the god was gone he ran out and called more people, and I thought they were coming to take me, but before any could enter the room where I hid the lights went out and I ran through the dark to the window which I had left unlocked, and was preparing to jump to the ground when Milsted saw me and tried to kill me.

"I shot him with the gun which makes no sound and dropped to the ground, but slipped on the snow and lost the image. There was no time to stay and search for it, for the house was roused, so I ran to the barn and hid, watching the spot where I had dropped Hanuman. After a time I saw someone looking about the ground beneath the window, and saw him pick something up and put it in his pocket. By the light from the window I recognized you, Forrester Sahib, and followed you here to take back that which was mine, and kill you, too, if I could, for you have profaned Hanuman by your touch."

"Why, you didn't think I'd keep the thing, did you?" the Professor asked in amazement.

The Indian shrugged again. "You are an Englay," he answered. "Whether the Englay steal from each other I do not know, but that they steal from us I know very well. Also I have heard that you are one of those who despoil even the tombs of the dead in the name of science. How should I know whether you would keep that which you found when you thought no one watched?"

"UNCLE HARVEY," Rosalie interrupted, "this man is a liar. He says he is a follower of Hanuman, but we have seen the sign of Siva on him, and know him for a Dakait—one whose trade and religion is murder and robbery. His talk of recovering the god for his temple is a lie. He would sell it, if he could get it; maybe to the priests of the temple from which it was stolen, but certainly he would sell it."

She turned to the pinioned Indian and hurled a torrent of fluent, though none too polite, Hindustani at him. "Dishonorable son of a shameless mother," she exclaimed, "confess that you came not to return Hanuman to his home, but to steal him for yourself. I know your kind. You are a brother to the weasel and blood-brother to the snake. In the night you creep into the houses of honest men and they die and you possess their goods. Say, is it not for the honor of Kali, goddess of thieves, that you have done this thing?"

The man stared at her in pop-eyed astonishment. That a fair-haired young lady of the Occident should speak idiomatic Hindustani, even to a liberal use of the intimate insults without which no unfriendly conversation is complete in that tongue, astonished him almost as much as the girl's deft handling of her kris had done a few minutes before.

"It is true," he acknowledged, with a fatalistic writhing of his shoulders. "Of what avail to lie to one who possesses the beauty of the moonflower and the wisdom of the serpent? It is even as you have said."

Rosalie preened herself like a satisfied bird. "You do well to call me moonflower, who was known by that name for many years," she announced.

"Uncle Harvey," she resumed her rather shaky English as she addressed the Professor, though she was perfectly aware he spoke Hindustani as well as she did, "I think they will make no mistake when they hang this fellow. He is one dam' bad egg."