The Master of Mysteries/The Denton Boudoir Mystery

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UNDERNEATH a shaded, swinging, bronze lamp in his favorite corner of the studio, the Master of Mysteries sat with half-closed eyes, seeming to drowse over a huge vellum-bound folio whose leaves bore lines of Arabic characters. But, though his dreamy eyes appeared heavy and dull, his index finger sped with such rapidity from line to line as to reveal that the palmist was eagerly absorbed in the message of those antique parchment pages. Behind him loomed the damasks and embroidered hangings with which the room was adorned; in a corner hung a gilded censer breathing its delicate aromatic perfume; an astrolabe occupied a small table at one hand, and near it lay a strange assortment of queer instruments picked up by the Seer in his vagabond travels,—the dread "spider" of the Inquisition, the Angoise "pear", a set of fearsome thumbscrews, strips of human hide, and other such horrors.

"So," he murmured contemplatively, "Ptolemy was a Torquemada himself, in a good many ways. That's interesting; and it confirms an old theory of mine. To think that many persons don't believe in metempsychosis—and do believe in the signs of the zodiac!" His thin lips parted in a smile.

He had turned to his book again, and had read for a few minutes, when his whole attitude changed. He sat upright; his eyes gleamed with interest. Voices were heard outside in the office, where his assistant was still working. He listened intently; then with a quick movement of his right hand touched a button, and the room was flooded with light. It was the first sight of a new client that often told Astro more than an hour's interview.

"Wait a moment till I announce you!" Valeska was exclaiming. "The Master can not be interrupted in his work. It is impossible. I could not do it for the President himself!"

"I must see him immediately! I tell you I must see him!" a man's voice replied. "By heaven! I'll break in by main force!"

Another moment, and the black velvet portières leading to the waiting-room were violently flung aside, and a flushed and excited young man of about thirty years strode into the apartment. Behind him the face of Valeska Wynne appeared in the doorway, with an alarmed expression.

Astro sat, in turban and silken robe, reading, apparently unmoved by this interruption. When the young man stopped in the center of the room, the Seer slowly raised his olive-hued face to the visitor, and a smoldering glance shot from his dark eyes, in a mute question. The young man took a few steps nearer, and broke out again:

"See here! You've got to take this case!" He exclaimed appealingly. "I am at my wits' ends. I'll go mad if you don't help me; no one else can solve it. You're the only man in New York that can explain this mystery. For God's sake, sir, tell me you'll do it!" He dropped in exhaustion into an armchair, looking anxiously at the crystal-gazer. The fingers of one hand twitched nervously, while his other fist was clenched. His forehead was lined with vertical wrinkles.

Astro, still unperturbed, looked at him gravely, his quick eye darting from point to point of the young man's clothing. Finally he said languidly, with an almost imperceptible foreign accent, "My dear sir, the Turks have a proverb, 'He who is in a hurry is already half mad.' If you were in such haste to see me, you should have taken a cab to come here, instead of a street-car."

The young man pulled himself together, sat up, and stared hard at the Seer. Then his face relaxed, as he said, with a tone of great relief, nodding his head, "That's wonderful! It's exactly what I did. Oh, I know you can do it, if you only will! The police are all stupid, there isn't a man with a brain on the whole force, I believe. You're the man to help me!"

Astro made a graceful gesture with his long slender hand. "It is not a question of brains, my dear sir. It is a question of the right comprehension of the forces of the occult, of undeveloped senses and powers. Men need sign-boards to show them the way from town to town. The birds wing their straight paths by instinct. It is my fortune to be sensitive to vibrations that most minds do not register. Where you see a body, I see a spirit, a life, an invisible color. All these esoteric laws have been known by the priestcraft of the occult for ages. Nothing is hidden from the Inner Eye."

"I don't know how you get it," the young man interrupted. "I believe that there are many things we don't understand yet, and that some men are developed beyond their fellows. I've studied mysticism myself, and that's why I came directly to you. I want the mystery of my sweetheart's death cleared up, and the hellish scoundrel that killed her executed. Until that is accomplished, my life will stop, or I'll go insane. The police can prove nothing, even on their own suspect. What motive there could have been for such a crime I can't imagine; it seems so unnecessary, so monstrous!" He had worked himself again into a fever of excitement.

Astro rose and walked over to his visitor. Placing his thumbs on two muscles in the young man's neck, near the spinal column, he manipulated the flesh for a few moments. His client's hysteria gradually subsided, and he became calmer.

"Now," said Astro, sinking back into his chair and taking up the amber mouthpiece of his water-pipe, "give me the details of your story from the beginning. You need not mind my assistant; she is quite in my confidence and may be trusted implicitly."

Valeska had entered, and sat at a table prepared to take notes of the conversation. Astro's eyes turned indulgently on the pretty blond head as it bent seriously over the writing pad.

The young man spoke now as if he had the history already clearly mapped out in his mind. He used occasional impulsive gestures, displaying an ardent and intense temperament.

"My name is Edward Masson. For three months I have been engaged to marry Miss Elizabeth Denton, of Hamphurst, Long Island. That is, I was, until three days ago, when we had a quarrel,—nothing to speak of, really, you know, but the match was temporarily broken off. It would have come out all right, I'm sure. I intended to make it up with her. I was prepared to make any compromise whatever; for I was crazy about her. She was my whole life." He paused and put his hands across his eyes.

Valeska looked across to the Master, her own eyes already swimming with tears of sympathy. Astro, however, showed no sign, and puffed tranquilly at his hookah, waiting for Masson to become more calm. In the anteroom a great clock broke the silence with a ringing melodious chime and struck the hour of six in booming notes.

Masson looked up with a tense face. "That next day she was murdered!" he said brokenly. "She was found dead in her boudoir on the second floor of her house, just before dinner-time, at about dusk. Both doors were locked; but the double windows were open. The police say she was strangled. Think of it! God! she was beautiful! How could any one have done it? It seems impossible, even now that she is dead. There were slight marks on her throat that looked like finger prints. I didn't see them,—there was lace around her neck when I saw her, in her casket. Oh, God!" He rose and paced up and down the room restlessly, his eyes cast down.

"What have the police done?" Astro inquired gently.

"They've arrested Miss Denton's maid. She had a key to Elizabeth's room, it seems, and some of the servants thought they heard her talking in the room. I think that's the strongest point against her. But I doubt if she did it. It was too brutal. I must run down the real murderer and have it proved beyond the possibility of a doubt. I can't rest till that's done."

He turned almost savagely to the quiet figure of the palmist. "Can't you do it? You can see things in crystals; you know the secret laws of nature; you lead a life of study and research with the old adepts. Can't you do this for me?"

Astro smiled subtly. "My dear Mr. Masson," he said, "I do not ordinarily concern myself with such affairs. Those who wish come to me, and I, of my knowledge of the Laws of Being, can reveal what is hidden. Such agonizing experiences as yours are distracting to the student of the Higher Way."

"I'm rich!" Masson broke in. "I'll pay you anything you wish! Make your price—one thousand, two, anything! Only help me! My God, man! you were a part of the world once. Can't you remember what it means to love a beautiful woman and want to marry her?"

"I remember—only too well. It was partly on that account that I hesitated. But I'll forget myself and consent to assist you."

The young man sank into a chair again, with gratitude in his poise. "You'll want to go down to Hamphurst?" he asked.

"Certainly. I must get the vibrations of the scene itself before I seek the murderer. He has left behind him emanations that will rapidly evaporate. I shall go down to-morrow if you will accompany me. Tonight I shall go to the Tombs and see Miss Denton's maid. She, too, must be studied by one who is

"Can't you remember what it means to love a beautiful woman?"

sensitive to aura. My friend McGraw will be able to get permission for that, no doubt."

He shot a glance at Valeska as he mentioned the inspector's name. She replied with a fluttering smile and was serious again.

Young Masson buttoned up his overcoat, and with an embarrassed, hesitating manner, did his best to express his thanks. Astro cut short his stammering sentences, laid his own hand with a friendly gesture on Masson's shoulder, and guided him out of the room. At parting it was agreed that they should meet on the nine-twelve train for Hamphurst.

The palmist walked back to the studio, shut off all lights but the one in his favorite corner, and sat down in silence. Valeska waited for him to speak.

"Not bad for two days' work," he said finally, smiling.

"Are you sure you can do it?" she asked, raising her golden brows.

"My dear," he replied, taking up his water-pipe again, "am I not a Mahatma of the Fourth Sphere, and were not the divine laws of cosmic life revealed to me while I was a chela on the heights of the Himalayas?"

Valeska broke into a silvery laugh. "Do you know," she said, "that patter of yours is almost as becoming as that turban and robe. But, to be serious, have you any clue as yet?"

Astro did not answer for a moment; then he said meaningly, "The principle by which muscle reading can be accomplished is this: The person that is held moves in a minute circle until he finds the point of least resistance to his motion. He moves, then, in this line as long as his holders unconsciously guide him in that direction. The same principle is true of any problem of this sort. Let us wait, until we are guided by something that seems characteristic of this special crime. The street-car business was simple enough to you, I suppose?"

Valeska pouted. "Oh, I'm not altogether a fool. Why, he had a Broadway transfer in his hand when he came in here. He was in too much of a hurry to take a cross-town car for the four blocks."

The Seer chuckled. "But now we'd better go to work. I'll see the maid first. There's no need of your going. You'd better get back to your work on the zodiac. Look up Napoleon's notes on the subject. His was the biggest intellect the stars ever fooled. It will teach you how to fool lesser ones. But get a good night's rest. There'll be something more to search for at Hamphurst to-morrow. I'll look over the papers and see what is known about this murder. Masson was too excited to tell half."

After reading for a half-hour, Astro yawned, shook himself, and changed from the cynical psychologist to a man of keen brisk manner and alert glance. His green limousine, which was always kept waiting at the door of the studio, took him rapidly down-town. A half-hour later he was looking through the cell door at Marie Dubois, the French maid of the late Miss Denton.

She was eager to talk and volubly protested her innocence. Astro let her run on without questions, until she had finally told all she knew of the affair, which was little enough, apparently. She had started up to Miss Denton's room at about half past six to get a cashmere shawl which was to be sent to the cleaner's. Half-way up the side stairs she had stopped, hearing voices inside the boudoir. She did not, however, recognize Miss Denton's voice; instead, there was a higher-pitched voice, exclaiming "Great God!" several times. This was followed by laughter; then came a shrill whistle. She heard something like the fall of a body, then footsteps. All this so alarmed her that she ran up and tried the boudoir door. Finding that locked, she called down to the butler, went and got her own key, and asked him to investigate. The voice she had heard seemed like an old woman's. The butler had heard it, and also the chauffeur, who was in the stable across the yard.

"And how about the letters from Mr. Masson to Miss Denton, which were found in your room?" Astro inquired.

"Oh, Mees Denton, she give me zem zat I send to her fiance!" the girl protested. "Zat same afternoon she make ze paquet. Mon Dieu! ze police say I steal ze letters! It ees not so! Nevaire have I seen a man so good like Monsieur Masson to me. He ees gentleman. Why I steal his letters?" She began to weep.

"Let me see your hand, Marie."

The girl gave him a slender trembling palm. Astro looked at it for a few moments; then he said, "Marie, did Mr. Masson ever make love to you?"

A sudden wave of color flooded the girl's face; but she cried out excitedly, "Nevaire! Mon Dieu! non, par exemple! Why should he do zat? Had he not ze beautiful Mees Denton? Oh, non, Monsieur!"

Astro smiled cryptically and walked out. The rest of the evening he spent translating certain obscure Hebrew texts from the Midrash and comparing them with the published English versions.

On the train down to Hamphurst, next day, Masson was morose and talked but little. He was nervous and impatient to get to the house, watching sullenly out of the window all the way. Valeska did her best to be agreeable; but Astro came out of his reverie only once, to ask:

"Why was the date of your marriage postponed, Mr. Masson?"

Masson scowled, then sighed and shook his head.

"Miss Denton, a month or so ago, was not at all well. The doctors found her heart to be weak. They thought that the excitement of a wedding and its preparation would be too much for her, and feared a collapse."

Astro resumed his abstracted pose. Valeska bent her brows. Masson gazed mournfully out of the window.

Alighting at Hamphurst, they took a carriage and were driven to the Denton house, an old-fashioned, two-and-a-half-story, frame building, painted yellow with white trimmings. It was surrounded with beautiful wine-glass elms which were scattered over the grounds. A wide lawn stretched in front and on one side, with a gravel driveway to the residence and a stable in the rear. The place had an air of quiet peaceful respectability. It seemed to the last degree improbable as the scene of such a tragedy as had been so recently enacted.

The officers had finished their investigations, and the funeral had taken place the day before. An aged aunt of Miss Denton's and the four servants now occuipied the house. Astro and his assistant were introduced to the old lady, then went immediately up to the boudoir where the body had been found. Here, at Astro's request, the exact situation discovered at that time was explained by James, the man-of-all-work, whom Marie had referred to as the butler.

He pointed out the position in which he had found the corpse. It lay face downward; the hair was somewhat disarranged. The square, cheerful, blue-and-white boudoir was now filled with sunlight streaming in from the high French windows which led to a small balcony outside. Many of Miss Denton's belongings still lay about,—a fold of ribbon, a lace collar, a handkerchief on the bureau; and on a small table, a book face down where she had left it, made it seem as if the owner had only just left the room on some trifling errand.

The old lady silently handed Astro a photograph of her niece,—a beautiful woman of twenty-three, with the frank and winning expression of a young girl. Astro handed it to Valeska, who looked at it in admiration and regret. The aunt explained further that her niece Elizabeth was in a low-necked, white mull dress. She had come down for dinner; but, finding that she had forgotten her handkerchief, had gone back up-stairs to get it. She had not hurried, as dinner had not yet been served. Her aunt did not think it strange that Elizabeth did not return for ten or fifteen minutes. Then she had heard Marie scream to James, and she herself had followed him up, and had been there when he opened the door.

The old lady was too overcome to go further; But James corroborated Masson's previous story. Both doors had been locked and the keys withdrawn. The windows were open. No footprints or traces of any kind had been found outside by the police. James himself had been in the lower front hall at the time, rolling up some rugs, and had heard the sound of voices up-stairs, and had wondered at them. One voice, he thought, sounded much like Marie's. It was about three minutes, he thought, between the time when he heard the voice and the laughter—for he had heard that also—to the moment when Marie called for him to come up. She had appeared much excited.

He was a simple-faced fellow, with an awkward air and a generally shiftless appearance, the ordinary country youth who has had too little energy to better himself in any way. Astro scarcely gave him a glance, but stood gazing at the door in front of him.

He made a sign finally, and all but Valeska left the room. She shut the door behind them. Then she followed his eyes about the walls and floor.

"I think," said Astro, thoughtfully regarding the window-frame, "that Masson regrets exceedingly having tried to kiss Marie about four days ago. Poor chap!"

Valeska's eyes narrowed. "Oh!" she said. "That was what broke off the engagement?"

"I'm afraid so."

"But was Marie in love with him, too?" she asked eagerly.

Astro's expression was more animated as he replied, "I love, thou lovest, he loves; we love, you love, they love. I think, my dear, that in matters of the heart you know the symptoms better than I, although you were not taught the philosophy of the Yogis by a Hindu fakir. What do you say, pretty priestess?"

"Masson was sincerely in love with Miss Denton. He never cared a snap for Marie."

"I believe you. And yet he kissed her—or tried to. There was no mistaking that blush. It is a common error to suppose that French girls are a whit less modest than their English or American sisters. In point of fact, they are often more so,—more ignorant, more innocent. Marie was carefully brought up; she is still a child. But the Latin races have temperament; they soon learn. Marie is a passionate little thing, quick at loving as at hating, full of revenges and regrets."

"But what has that kiss to do with this murder?"

"That's precisely what I'm here to find out. Permit me to resume my meditation, that my astral vision may be released."

Valeska smiled, and kept silent. It was Astro's way of requesting that he was not to be questioned further until he himself had run down his clue.

It was a quarter of an hour before he spoke; then to say in triumph, "Ho! I have found it! I have at least solved half the mystery." He pointed to three parallel scratches on the frieze, above the picture-molding.

Valeska shook her head, puzzled.

He shrugged his shoulders and went to the window, pointing to a tiny spot on the white frame.

"It's blood!" exclaimed Valeska.

"It's blood; and yet Miss Denton was strangled, and no blood was shed,—none, at least, of hers."

"Whose blood, then, was it?"

"Kindly get out of the window on the balcony, my dear."

She stepped over the low sill, unconsciously placing her left hand on the frame to steady herself. Her fingers touched the paint about two inches below the bloody smutch.

"Well, my dear, it certainly isn't your blood, at least," said Astro.

"Marie's, then? She is taller than I."

"She had no wound on her hand. I examined them both carefully."

"And there was none on James'."

"Nor the aunt's. If you have looked all you wish to, you might go down to the kitchen and talk to the cook. It was said in the paper that she had a bad temper, and had lately quarreled with Miss Denton. To be sure, all good cooks have bad tempers; but, as the police didn't see fit to arrest her, she may possibly be the murderer. See what you can do. I shall remain here for a while. There's much to be done, and I'm in a hurry to earn my thousand dollars."

When Valeska had left, Astro resumed his study of the room, going over it inch by inch, looking again at the window, finally turning to the balcony. The care with which he worked showed that the Master of Mysteries was unusually perplexed. After examining the floor and rail of the balcony, he drew a bird glass from his pocket and spent a half-hour gazing at the elm whose branches stretched toward the window. Off the balcony was another window, from the room next to the boudoir. This, too, he examined carefully. Then he smiled slightly, put up the glass, and reentered the room. It was evident that he had found what he had sought.

Descending to the lower hall, he gave a quick look at doors and windows, then went out into the yard in the rear to the base of the tree he had spent so much time in investigating. He looked now up, and then down. He gazed up at the two windows of the balcony. His eyes were on the great door of the stable when Valeska appeared, her eyes shining.

"The cook has a cut on her left forefinger!" she announced breathlessly. "The second girl says that, just before they discovered the crime, the cook was away from the kitchen for about fifteen minutes. The cook herself says that she had gone out back of the stable to get a few strawberries for her own supper."

"Did she come back with the berries?"

"Yes; but she might have picked them before."

"What shape was the cut on her finger?"

"Why, it was a straight cut, of course. She said she did it slicing ham. But you know she might have gone up-stairs and into the guest-room, which has a window on the same balcony, and—"

"What about the second girl?" Astro interrupted.

Valeska laughed. "She's a country girl, awfully, awfully in love with James. She's frightened to death for fear that he'll be suspected of the murder."

"Did she hear the voices and the laughter?"

"No. Anyway, she was with the aunt most of the time, in the dining-room. It was the cook who did it, I'm sure."

"And how about the whistle? And why should the cook laugh at such a time?"

Valeska's face fell. "Well," she said finally, "for that matter why should any murderer laugh? The whistle might have been a signal to some one outside."

"Except that, in this case, it wasn't. My dear, the laughter and the whistle are the easiest parts of the mystery. What I want to know is, where is the key to the door? It was in the lock when Miss Denton went up-stairs the second time."

"Where, indeed, is it? That would show a good deal."

"If you'll come with me, I'll show it to you. But first I think we had better get Mr. Masson. I may need a little help in a few moments. Will you kindly call him? I'll be in the stable."

As Valeska left, the palmist strolled slowly over to the stable and looked in the great door. In the center of the floor stood a large brown touring-car. A young man in overalls was polishing the brass work.

Astro nodded. "A very fine-looking machine," he offered. "A Lachmore, isn't it?"

The chauffeur grunted and kept on with his work.

"I am a friend of Mr. Masson's," Astro went on, "and I should like to look over this car. I am thinking of getting one myself some day."

Still the young man did not answer except by inarticulate grunts.

Astro drew nearer. "What's the matter with your finger?" he asked abruptly.

The young man looked up, now angrily, as if about to make a discourteous retort. Seeing Masson approaching, however, he replied, "Oh, it got jammed in the machine a day or two ago. What's that to you?"

"I'd like to see it. I can cure it. I am a healer."

Astro extended his hand suavely.

The young man scowled darkly. "Oh, it's not much. No need of bothering you."

By this time Masson had entered with Valeska.

"Mr. Masson," said the Seer, "this young man interests me very much. I have been conscious ever since I arrived at Hamphurst of certain very harsh and painful vibrations. In the boudoir, these grew more intense. I felt something in that room that was neither an odor nor a color, but partook of the nature of both. Now, singularly enough, I find the same influence here, only more active and vibrant. This young man has a peculiar aura. I wonder that you can not perceive it even with one of your five material senses."

The young man stared, more and more uncomfortable at the talk. Finally he dropped his rag, walked round to the back of the car, and took up a heavy wrench.

Astro raised his voice slightly. "Mr. Masson," he said, "I can see this fellow's astral body as well as his material frame. Now, I notice on the forefinger of his left hand, in its astral condition, a small V-shaped cut I am very anxious to know whether such a corresponding wound is to be found on his fleshly hand. Do you think you could induce him to remove that bandage?"

Masson, mystified, but evidently comprehending that something important was at stake, raised his voice. "Walters," he said, "kindly oblige me by removing that rag from your left hand."

Walters looked up surlily. "I can't, Mr. Masson. It would make it bleed again. It bled like anything when I jammed it in the machine."

"My friend," said Astro genially, "jammed wounds do not bleed to any extent. It is a V-shaped scar then?"

"What of it?" The chauffeur stood poised in a sinister attitude.

"That's what I want to know, too," cried Masson. "By heaven! do you mean that this fellow here had anything—"

Astro raised his hand. "One moment," he interrupted. "First, I want to ask you, Walters, to show me where the gasoline tank is in this car?"

A look of terror swept over the young man's face. He raised the wrench in his hand and rushed at the palmist. Astro avoided him lithely and grappled with him. The man struck out, tore himself free, and dashed for the door. He would have made his escape had not Masson jumped for him. There was another scuffle. Masson, now convinced that he had his sweetheart's murderer before him, fought like a maniac. Astro, who had been thrown to the ground by the force of the blow he had received, now rose, and the next moment drew out a revolver and covered his prisoner.

"Let go, or I shoot you like a dog!" he barked out between his teeth. "Let him go, Masson! This is not for you. The law will attend to him. The man's evil enough; but not so bad as you think. He's no murderer, really."

At these words Walters turned to Astro with a gleam of hope in his eye. "Oh, I'm not, sir! Before God, I had no intention of murdering her! I didn't know I had till afterward. I only tried to keep her from screaming, and she dropped like a log. It was that accursed parrot! Miss Denton was frightened to death, sir, and so was I, pretty near."

Astro spoke sharply. "Valeska, get that halter, and I'll fasten him so he'll be safe till the police can get here."

"A parrot," ejaculated Valeska, as she brought the halter. "Ah, I see! That accounts for the strange, high-pitched voice, the laughter, and the whistling!"

"Get up now, and tell your story!" commanded Astro. "And remember that you speak in the presence of one to whom everything is revealed. At the slightest departure from the truth I shall feel instantly the shifting of your spectrum, and a change in the amplitude of your vibrations. In my crystals I saw the scene; but it was dusk, and the glass was cloudy. Tell me exactly what happened, and if it coincides with my vision you shall have my help in your trial."

"I'll tell the truth, so help me God!" cried Walters. "Listen! It was this way. It was only her money I was after. I had planned it for a week back, knowing just when she left the room empty. I got up the side stairs, and out on the balcony, and into the tree where I could watch her. As soon as she finished dressing and put out the light and went down-stairs, I slid on to the balcony and slipped into the room. Well, I had got her purse and emptied it, when all of a sudden the door opened, and in she came; for I hadn't thought to lock it. She gave a little scream at seeing me there in the dusk, and I grabbed her to keep her from making more noise. Just then Hades seemed to break loose all around me. There was a voice yelling, 'Great God! Great God!' and then something feathery came scratching and flapping into my face. I put out one hand to ward it off, and got a bite that made me drop my hold of the lady. Then as she fell to the floor, there was a laugh that made my blood run cold. It laughed and laughed fit to kill. I couldn't stand it! I didn't care whether I was caught or not then; I locked the door, climbed out on the tree and got down to the ground. I didn't dare to run away, for fear I'd be suspected! but after I heard how it came out it was all I could stand to stay here. I didn't know what to do about Marie; but I hoped she'd get off some way, for I knew they never could prove it on her. And that's the truth, so help me God! Where the parrot came from I have no idea."

"It belongs in the next neighbor's house, and has been missing for a week," said Masson. "Now I'll go and telephone to the police."

He stopped a moment and looked wistfully at the Seer. "Ah, I knew you could do it," he said. "I wish you could tell me now how ever to be happy again."

"There is no such thing as happiness, my friend," said Astro seriously. "There is no joy but calm, the Eastern books say."

Masson bowed his head. Then, as he left, he remarked, "I shall send you a check in the morning. You will see if I am not grateful."

"What I don't see is, how you knew the key was in the gasoline tank of the auto?" Valeska asked him, on the way to town.

"I am not yet sure that it was, but can you think of any safer place for a chauffeur to hide it?" Astro replied with a smile.