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The Ruby And The Caldron
by [?]

As there were two good men on duty that night, I did not see why I should remain at my desk, even though there was an unusual stir created in our small town by the grand ball given at The Evergreens.

But just as I was preparing to start for home, an imperative ring called me to the telephone and I heard:

“Halloo! Is this the police-station?”

“It is.”

“Well, then, a detective is wanted at once at The Evergreens. He can not be too clever or too discreet. A valuable jewel has been lost, which must be found before the guests disperse for home. Large reward if the matter ends successfully and without too great publicity.”

“May I ask who is speaking to me?”

“Mrs. Ashley.”

It was the mistress of The Evergreens and giver of the ball.

“Madam, a man shall be sent at once. Where will you see him?”

“In the butler’s pantry at the rear. Let him give his name as Jennings.”

“Very good. Good-by.”


A pretty piece of work! Should I send Hendricks or should I send Hicks? Hendricks was clever and Hicks discreet, but neither united both qualifications in the measure demanded by the sensible and quietly-resolved woman with whom I had just been talking. What alternative remained? But one; I must go myself.

It was not late–not for a ball night, at least–and as half the town had been invited to the dance, the streets were alive with carriages. I was watching the blink of their lights through the fast falling snow when my attention was drawn to a fact which struck me as peculiar. These carriages were all coming my way instead of rolling in the direction of The Evergreens. Had they been empty this would have needed no explanation, but, as far as I could see, most of them were full, and that, too, with loudly talking women and gesticulating men.

Something of a serious nature must have occurred at The Evergreens. Rapidly I paced on and soon found myself before the great gates.

A crowd of vehicles of all descriptions blocked the entrance. None seemed to be passing up the driveway; all stood clustered at the gates, and as I drew nearer I perceived many an anxious head thrust forth from their quickly opened doors and heard many an ejaculation of disappointment as the short interchange of words went on between the drivers of these various turnouts and a man drawn up in quiet resolution before the unexpectedly barred entrance.

Slipping round to this man’s side, I listened to what he was saying. It was simple but very explicit.

“Mrs. Ashley asks everybody’s pardon, but the ball can’t go on to-night. Something has happened which makes the reception of further guests impossible. To-morrow evening she will be happy to see you all. The dance is simply postponed.”

This he had probably repeated forty times, and each time it had probably been received with the same mixture of doubt and curiosity which now held the lengthy procession in check.

Not wishing to attract attention, yet anxious to lose no time, I pressed up still nearer, and, bending toward him from the shadow cast by a convenient post, uttered the one word:


Instantly he unlocked a small gate at his right. I passed in and, with professional sang-froid, proceeded to take my way to the house through the double row of evergreens bordering the semicircular approach.

As these trees stood very close together and were, besides, heavily laden with fresh-fallen snow, I failed to catch a glimpse of the building itself until I stood in front of it. Then I saw that it was brilliantly lighted and gave evidence here and there of some festivity; but the guests were too few for the effect to be very exhilarating and, passing around to the rear, I sought the special entrance to which I had been directed.

A heavy-browed porch, before which stood a caterer’s wagon, led me to a door which had every appearance of being the one I sought. Pushing it open, I entered without ceremony, and speedily found myself in the midst of twenty or more colored waiters and chattering housemaids. To one of the former I addressed the question: