“Well, Miss Darrow,” he began at once, “at last your detective has got a clue—not much of a one—but still a clue. I can pick the man for whom we are looking from among a million of his fellows—if I am ever fortunate enough to get the chance.”
Somebody has already called attention to the fact that women are more or less curious, and there are well-authenticated cases on record where this inquisitiveness has even extended to things which did not immediately concern themselves; so I have little doubt I shall be believed when I say the women folk were in a fever of expectancy, and besought Maitland with an earnestness quite unnecessary—(it would have required a great deal to have prevented his telling it)—to begin at the beginning, and relate the whole thing. He readily acceded to this request, and began by telling them the experiences which I have just narrated. It was, he said, during the last act of Sardou’s “Cleopatra” that the idea had suddenly come to him to change the plan of search from the analytical to the synthetical.
“You see,” he continued, “I had from the first been trying to find the assassin without knowing the exact way in which the crime was committed. I now determined to ascertain how, under the same circumstances, I could commit such a crime, and leave behind no other evidences of the deed than those which are in our possession. I began to read detective stories, with all the avidity of a Western Union Telegraph messenger, and, of course, read those by Conan Doyle. The assertion of ‘Sherlock Holmes’ that there is no novelty in crime; that crimes, like history, repeat themselves; and that criminals read and copy each other’s methods, deeply impressed me, and I at once said to myself: ‘If our assassin was not original, whom did he copy?’