It was one o’clock when Hotchkiss finally left. We had by that time arranged a definite course of action—Hotchkiss to search Sullivan’s rooms and if possible find evidence to have him held for larceny, while I went to Cresson.
Strangely enough, however, when I entered the train the following morning, Hotchkiss was already there. He had bought a new note-book, and was sharpening a fresh pencil.
“I changed my plans, you see,” he said, bustling his newspaper aside for me. “It is no discredit to your intelligence, Mr. Blakeley, but you lack the professional eye, the analytical mind. You legal gentlemen call a spade a spade, although it may be a shovel.”
“’A primrose by the river’s
A yellow primrose was to him,
And nothing more!’”
I quoted as the train pulled out.
A NIGHT AT THE LAURELS
I slept most of the way to Cresson, to the disgust of the little detective. Finally he struck up an acquaintance with a kindly-faced old priest on his way home to his convent school, armed with a roll of dance music and surreptitious bundles that looked like boxes of candy. From scraps of conversation I gleaned that there had been mysterious occurrences at the convent,—ending in the theft of what the reverend father called vaguely, “a quantity of undermuslins.” I dropped asleep at that point, and when I roused a few moments later, the conversation had progressed. Hotchkiss had a diagram on an envelope.
“With this window bolted, and that one inaccessible, and if, as you say, the—er—garments were in a tub here at X, then, as you hold the key to the other door,—I think you said the convent dog did not raise any disturbance? Pardon a personal question, but do you ever walk in your sleep?”
The priest looked bewildered.
“I’ll tell you what to do,” Hotchkiss said cheerfully, leaning forward, “look around a little yourself before you call in the police. Somnambulism is a queer thing. It’s a question whether we are most ourselves sleeping or waking. Ever think of that? Live a saintly life all day, prayers and matins and all that, and the subconscious mind hikes you out of bed at night to steal undermuslins! Subliminal theft, so to speak. Better examine the roof.”
I dozed again. When I wakened Hotchkiss sat alone, and the priest, from a corner, was staring at him dazedly, over his breviary.
It was raining when we reached Cresson, a wind-driven rain that had forced the agent at the newsstand to close himself in, and that beat back from the rails in parallel lines of white spray. As he went up the main street, Hotchkiss was cheerfully oblivious of the weather, of the threatening dusk, of our generally draggled condition. My draggled condition, I should say, for he improved every moment, —his eyes brighter, his ruddy face ruddier, his collar newer and glossier. Sometime, when it does not encircle the little man’s neck, I shall test that collar with a match.