no chances on a robbery, sir, but I wouldn't say he was afraid. He'd 'a been a nasty customer in a row; if anyone 'ad broken in he'd a give 'em what-for good an' proper, sir."
"Urn?" Going to the telephone the little Frenchman raised the instrument from its forked cradle and held it to his ear. "Parbleu! he preyed the contact bar down with a triple rattle, then dropped the speaking-tube back in its rack. "Remain here, if you please," he bade the servant as he motioned me to follow. Outside, he whimpered: "There is no dial tone discernible. The line is cut."
We circled round the house seeking the connection, and beside a chimney found the inlet. The wires had been neatly clipped, and the fresh-cut copper showed as bright against the severed insulation as a wound against dark flesh.
"What d'ye make of it?" I asked as he knelt on the wet grass and searched the ground for traces of the wire-cutters. "Think that chap inside knows more than he pretends?"
"Less, if possible," he said shortly. "Such stupidity as his could not be simulated. Besides. I know his type. Had he been implicated in a murder or a robbery he would have set as great a distance between him and the crime-scene as he could." With a shrug of resignation he straightened to his feet and brushed the leaf-mold from his trousers. "No tracks of any sort," he murmured. "The grass grows close against the house, and the rain has washed away what little tale the miscreants' footprints might have told. Let us go back. We must inform the police and the coroner."
"Want me to take the car and notify "em?" I asked as we turned the comer of the house. "It's hardly safe to trust the servant out of sight before the officers have had a chance to question him, and you don't drive, so——"
The pressure of his fingers on my elbow silenced me, and we drew back in the shelter of the ivy-hung wall as the crunch of wheels came to us from the lower driveway.
"What the deuce?" I wondered as I glimpsed the vehicle between the rain-drenched trees. "What's an express van doing here this time o' night?"
"Let us make ourselves as inconspicuous as possible," he cautioned in a whisper. "It may be that they plan a ruse for entering die house, and——"
"But good heavens, man, they've already gone through it like termites through a log," I interjected.
"Ah bah, you overlook the patent possibilities, my friend. What do we really know? Only that Doctor Pavlovitch was murdered and his study ransacked. But why do people search a place? To find something they want, n'est-ce-pas? That much is obvious. Still, we do not know they found the thing they sought, or, if they found it, we cannot say that others do not also seek it. It must have been a thing of value to have caused them to do murder."
"You mean there may be two gangs hunting something Pavlovitch had hidden in his house?"
"It is quite possible. He was a Russian, and Russia is synonymous with mystery today. The old noblesse have smuggled fortunes from the country, or have plans for getting out the treasures they could not take with them in flights; plots and counterplots, intrigue, plans for assassination or revenge are natural to a Russian as fleas are to a dog. I think it wholly possible that more than one conspiracy to deprive the amiable Pavlovitch of life and fortune has been in progress, and he would not have been a good insurance