The Man in Lower Ten
29. In The Dining-Room
That was Saturday night, two weeks after the wreck. The previous five days had been full
of swift-following events - the woman in the house next door, the picture in the theater of
a man about to leap from the doomed train, the dinner at the Dallases, and Richey's
discovery that Alison was the girl in the case. In quick succession had come our visit to
the Carter place, the finding of the rest of the telegram, my seeing Alison there, and the
strange interview with Mrs. Conway. The Cresson trip stood out in my memory for its
serio-comic horrors and its one real thrill. Then - the discovery by the police of the seal-
skin bag and the bit of chain; Hotchkiss producing triumphantly Stuart for Sullivan and
his subsequent discomfiture; McKnight at the station with Alison, and later the
confession that he was out of the running.
And yet, when I thought it all over, the entire week and its events were two sides of a
triangle that was narrowing rapidly to an apex, a point. And the said apex was at that
moment in the drive below my window, resting his long legs by sitting on a carriage
block, and smoking a pipe that made the night hideous. The sense of the ridiculous is
very close to the sense of tragedy. I opened my screen and whistled, and Johnson looked
up and grinned. We said nothing. I held up a handful of cigars, he extended his hat, and
when I finally went to sleep, it was to a soothing breeze that wafted in salt air and a faint
aroma of good tobacco. I was thoroughly tired, but I slept restlessly, dreaming of two
detectives with Pittsburg warrants being held up by Hotchkiss at the point of a splint,
while Alison fastened their hands with a chain that was broken and much too short. I was
roused about dawn by a light rap at the door, and, opening it, I found Forbes, in a pair of
trousers and a pajama coat. He was as pleasant as most fleshy people are when they have
to get up at night, and he said the telephone had been ringing for an hour, and he didn't
know why somebody else in the blankety-blank house couldn't have heard it. He wouldn't
get to sleep until noon.
As he was palpably asleep on his feet, I left him grumbling and went to the telephone. It
proved to be Richey, who had found me by the simple expedient of tracing Alison, and he
"You'll have to come back," he said. "Got a rail-road schedule there?"
"I don't sleep with one in my pocket," I retorted, "but if you'll hold the line I'll call out the
window to Johnson. He's probably got one."'
"Johnson!" I could hear the laugh with which McKnight comprehended the situation. He
was still chuckling when I came back.
"Train to Richmond at six-thirty A.M.," I said. "What time is it now?"
"Four. Listen, Lollie. We've got him. Do you hear? Through the woman at Baltimore.
Then the other woman, the lady of the restaurant" - he was obviously avoiding names -