The Best Mystery and Detective Stories HTML version
Just at the time when the Concordat was in its most flourishing condition, a young man
belonging to a wealthy and highly respected middle-class family went to the office of the
head of the police at P——, and begged for his help and advice, which was immediately
"My father threatens to disinherit me," the young man then began, "although I have never
offended against the laws of the State, of morality or of his paternal authority, merely
because I do not share his blind reverence for the Catholic Church and her Ministers. On
that account he looks upon me, not merely as Latitudinarian, but as a perfect Atheist, and
a faithful old manservant of ours, who is much attached to me, and who accidentally saw
my father's will, told me in confidence that he had left all his property to the Jesuits. I
think this is highly suspicious, and I fear that the priests have been maligning me to my
father. Until less than a year ago, we used to live very quietly and happily together, but
ever since he has had so much to do with the clergy, our domestic peace and happiness
are at an end."
"What you have told me," the official replied, "is as likely as it is regrettable, but I fail to
see how I can interfere in the matter. Your father is in full possession of all his mental
faculties, and can dispose of all his property exactly as he pleases. I also think that your
protest is premature; you must wait until his will can legally take effect, and then you can
invoke the aid of justice; I am sorry to say that I can do nothing for you."
"I think you will be able to," the young man replied; "for I believe that a very clever piece
of deceit is being carried on here."
"How? Please explain yourself more clearly."
"When I remonstrated with him, yesterday evening, he referred to my dead mother, and at
last assured me, in a voice of the deepest conviction, that she had frequently appeared to
him, and had threatened him with all the torments of the damned if he did not disinherit
his son, who had fallen away from God, and leave all his property to the Church. Now I
do not believe in ghosts."
"Neither do I," the police director replied; "but I cannot well do anything on this
dangerous ground if I had nothing but superstitions to go upon. You know how the
Church rules all our affairs since the Concordat with Rome, and if I investigate this
matter, and obtain no results, I am risking my post. It would be very different if you could
adduce any proofs for your suspicions. I do not deny that I should like to see the clerical
party, which will, I fear, be the ruin of Austria, receive a staggering blow; try, therefore,
to get to the bottom of this business, and then we will talk it over again."
About a month passed without the young Latitudinarian being heard of; but then he
suddenly came one evening, evidently in a great state of excitement, and told him that he