“One word,” said he, approaching to the side where Hazen sat. “I thought you ought to know before leaving that we can take no proceedings in the matter we were speaking of till we have undisputed proof that your sister is dead. That we may not get for a long time, possibly never. If you are interested in having this Auchincloss receive his inheritance, you had better prepare both yourself and him for a long wait. The river seems slow to give up its dead.”
The quiver of impatience which had shaken Hazen at the first word had settled into a strange rigidity.
“One moment,” he said in a command to the chauffeur at his side. Then in a low, strangely sounding whisper to Harper: “They think the body’s in the Devil’s Cauldron. Nothing can get it out if it is. Would some proof of its presence there be sufficient to settle the fact of her death?”
“That would depend. If the proof was unmistakable, it might pass in the Surrogate’s Court. What is the matter, Hazen?”
“Nothing.” The tone was hollow; the whole man sat like an image of death. “I—I’m thinking—weighing—” he uttered in scattered murmurs. Then suddenly, “You’re not deceiving me, Harper. Some proof will be necessary, and that very soon, for this man Auchincloss to realize the money?”
“Yes,” the monosyllable was as dry as it was short. Harper’s patience with this unnatural brother was about at an end.
“And who will venture to obtain this proof for us? No one. Not even Ransom would venture down into that watery hole. They say it is almost certain death,” babbled Hazen.
Harper kept silence. Strange forces were at work. The head of another gruesome tragedy loomed vaguely through the shadows of this already sufficiently tragic mystery.
“Go on!” suddenly shouted Hazen, leaning forward to the chauffeur. But the next instant his hand was on the man’s sleeve. “No, I have changed my mind. Here, Staples,” he called out as a man came running down the steps, “take my bag and ask the landlady to prepare me a room. I’ll not try for the train to-night.” Then as the man at his side leaped to the ground, he turned to Harper and remarked quietly, but in no common tone:
“The steamer must sail without me. I’ll stay in this place a while and prove the death of Georgian Ransom myself.”
THE DEVIL’S CAULDRON
The solemnity of Hazen’s whole manner impressed Mr. Harper strongly. As soon as the opportunity offered he cornered the young man in the office where he had taken refuge, and giving him to understand that further explanations must pass between them before either slept, he drew him apart and put the straight question to him:
“Who is Josiah Auchincloss?”
The answer was abrupt, almost menacing in its emphasis and tone.
“A trunk-maker in St. Louis. A man she was indebted to.”