The mood in which I proceeded to my own quarters was as thoughtful as any I had ever experienced.
Hitherto I had mainly admired Mrs. Packard’s person and the extreme charm of manner which never deserted her, no matter how she felt. Now I found myself compelled to admire the force and quality of her mind, her readiness to meet emergencies and the tact with which she had availed herself of the superstition latent in the Irish temperament. For I had no more faith in the explanation she had seen fit to give these ignorant girls than I had in the apparition itself. Emotion such as she had shown called for a more matter-of-fact basis than the one she had ascribed to it. No unreal and purely superstitious reason would account for the extreme joy and self-abandonment with which she had hailed the possibility of Mr. Steele’s death. The “no” she had given me when I asked if she considered this man her husband’s enemy had been a lying no. To her, for some cause as yet unexplained, the secretary was a dangerous ally to the man she loved; an ally so near and so dangerous that the mere rumor of his death was capable of lifting her from the depths of despondency into a state of abnormal exhilaration and hope. Now why? What reason had she for this belief, and how was it in my power to solve the mystery which I felt to be at the bottom of all the rest?
But one means suggested itself. I was now assured that Mrs. Packard would never take me into her actual confidence, any more than she had taken her husband. What I learned must be in spite of her precautions. The cipher of which I had several specimens might, if properly read, give me the clue I sought. I had a free hour before me. Why not employ it in an endeavor to pick out the meaning of those odd Hebraic characters? I had in a way received her sanction to do so—if I could; and if I should succeed, what shadows might it not clear from the path of the good man whose interests it was my chief duty to consult?
Ciphers have always possessed a fascination for me. This one, from the variety of its symbols, offered a study of unusual interest. Collecting the stray specimens which I had picked up, I sat down in my cozy little room and laid them all out before me, with the following result:
[transcriber’s note: the symbols cannot be converted to ASCII so I have shown them as follows:]
 is a Square
[-] is sides and bottom of a square,
C is top, bottom and left side of a square,
L is left side and bottom of a square,,
V is two lines forming a V shape
. appearing before a symbol should be inside the symbol
) appearing before a symbol means the mirror image of that symbol
^ appearing before a symbol means the inverted symbol