The Man in Lower Ten HTML version
24. His Wife's Father
I jumped up and seized the fire tongs. The cat's wail had roused Hotchkiss, who was
wide-awake at once. He took in my offensive attitude, the tongs, the direction of my
gaze, and needed nothing more. As he picked up the candle and darted out into the hall, I
followed him. He made directly for the staircase, and part way up he turned off to the
right through a small door. We were on the gallery itself; below us the fire gleamed
cheerfully, the cat was not in sight. There was no sign of my ghostly visitant, but as we
stood there the Bokhara rug, without warning, slid over the railing and fell to the floor
"Man or woman?" Hotchkiss inquired in his most professional tone.
"Neither - that is, I don't know. I didn't notice anything but the eyes," I muttered. "They
were looking a hole in me. If you'd seen that cat you would realize my state of mind. That
was a traditional graveyard yowl."
"I don't think you saw anything at all," he lied cheerfully. "You dozed off, and the rest is
the natural result of a meal on a buffet car."
Nevertheless, he examined the Bokhara carefully when we went down, and when I finally
went to sleep he was reading the only book in sight - Elwell on Bridge. The first rays of
daylight were coming mistily into the room when he roused me. He had his finger on his
lips, and he whispered sibilantly while I tried to draw on my distorted boots.
"I think we have him," he said triumphantly. "I've been looking around some, and I can
tell you this much. Just before we came in through the window last night, another man
came. Only - he did not drop, as you did. He swung over to the stair railing, and then
down. The rail is scratched. He was long enough ahead of us to go into the dining-room
and get a decanter out of the sideboard. He poured out the liquor into a glass, left the
decanter there, and took the whisky into the library across the hall. Then - he broke into a
desk, using a paper knife for a jimmy."
"Good Lord, Hotchkiss," I exclaimed; "why, it may have been Sullivan himself!
Confound your theories - he's getting farther away every minute."
"It was Sullivan," Hotchkiss returned imperturbably. "And he has not gone. His boots are
by the library fire."
"He probably had a dozen pairs where he could get them," I scoffed. "And while you and
I sat and slept, the very man we want to get our hands on leered at us over that railing."
"Softly, softly, my friend," Hotchkiss said, as I stamped into my other shoe. "I did not say
he was gone. Don't jump at conclusions. It is fatal to reasoning. As a matter of fact, he
didn't relish a night on the mountains any more than we did. After he had unintentionally