With infinite caution he had moved so that he could see her, arriving at a coign of vantage just as she closed the book. She locked it, wrapped it in an oilskin cover which lay beside it on the table, hung the key-chain round her neck, rose, yawned, and, to his violent chagrin, put out the light. He heard her moving but could not tell where, except that it was not in his part of the room. Then a faint shuffling warned him that she was approaching the bed, and he withdrew his head to avoid being stepped upon. The next moment the world seemed to cave in upon him.
Laura’s flight had given him opportunity to escape to his own room unobserved; there to examine, bathe and bind his wounds, and to rectify his first hasty impression that he had been fatally mangled.
Hedrick glared at “The Mystery of the Count’s Bedroom.”
By and by he got up, brought the book to the sofa and began to read it over.
The influence of a familiar and sequestered place is not only soothing; the bruised mind may often find it restorative. Thus Hedrick, in his studio, surrounded by his own loved bric-a-brac, began to feel once more the stir of impulse. Two hours’ reading inspired him. What a French reporter (in the Count’s bedroom) could do, an American youth in full possession of his powers—except for a strained knee and other injuries—could do. Yes, and would!
He evolved a new chain of reasoning. The ledger had been seen in Laura’s room; it had been heard in her room; it appeared to be kept in her room. But it was in no single part of the room. All the parts make a whole. Therefore, the book was not in the room.
On the other hand, Laura had not left the room when she took the book from its hiding-place. This was confusing; therefore he determined to concentrate logic solely upon what she had done with the ledger when she finished writing in it. It was dangerous to assume that she had restored it to the place whence she obtained it, because he had already proved that place to be both in the room and out of the room. No; the question he must keep in was: What did she do with it?
Laura had not left the room. But the book had left the room.
Arrived at this inevitable deduction, he sprang to his feet in a state of repressed excitement and began to pace the floor—like a hound on the trail. Laura had not left the room, but the book had left the room: he must keep his mind upon this point. He uttered a loud exclamation and struck the zinc table-top a smart blow with his clenched fist.
Laura had thrown the book out of the window!
In the exaltation of this triumph, he forgot that it was not yet the hour for a scholar’s reappearance, and went forth in haste to search the ground beneath the window—a disappointing quest, for nowhere in the yard was there anything but withered grass, and the rubbish of other frost-bitten vegetation. His mother, however, discovered something else, and, opening the kitchen window, she asked, with surprise: