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The San Francisco call. [volume] (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, February 09, 1913, Image 4

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Clew of the Army Sword
%Ip from Notes it/A/lee Rotrce, Girl Detective
No. 8 in the Series of a
Clever Girl's Ex
traordinary Ex
THE swift manner In which Alice
Royce detected the slayer of old
John Austen, the rich recluse of Acton
ville, N. J., is yet a subject of com
ment in that community, although the
tragedy occurred three years ago. The
girl detective confronted what wa3 re
garded as an almost hopeless mystery
(The name Actonville is a fictitioas
one. The real name of the town ts
withheld to spare the feelings of a good
woman who was brought into most
painful notoriety at the time.)
Of old Austen himself his towns
people knew little, although he haci
lived among them for twenty years up
to the time%e was found slain in the
library of his home. He Had arrived
one day, a stranger. He engaged a car
riage and was driven about the town
until on Elm avenue, far back of the
roadway and nearly entirely hidden by
a grove of giant trees, he espied the
deserted Graves mansion. He made
note of the real estate agent's name
and address as it appeared on the "For
Sale" sign and was driven to that office.
The Graves mansion had once been
the splendid social establishment of
Actonville, but its owner had takeu
residence abroad, and long before the
arrival of John Austen had given or
ders to the Actonville agent to sell the
house to any person offering a fair
price. Thus when Austen presented
himself to the real estate dealer a bar
gain was soon made.
At that time Austen was about fifty
five years old, spare but ruggedly built.
His features were sharp and his mouth
was thin-lipped and tightly drawn under
the closely cropped horseshoe-shaped
A man named Newton Spencer and
his wife were engaged as his servants.
He liv«d i,u utter seclusion. No visitors
ever crossed the threshold of the man
sion. He covered the old library walls
with books, a few etchings and some
old army swords and guns, suggesting
that he had seen civil war service, con
verted an adjoining apartment into a
bedroom and abandoned the remainder
of the house to his servants. His meals
were taken to him in the library,
where he spent nearly all his time. His
only diversion was an afternoon drive
behind a team of handsome horses.
This he took daily regardless of the
weather. Frequently he returned with
the horses coated with lather, panting
and otherwise showing every Indica
tion of hard driving.
Sometimes —before she grew utterly
deaf, as she had been in the last five
years—old Mrs. Spencer would hear
her master pacing the library, talking
to himself. The tones were angry and
rcse now and then to sharpness, but
the walls of the old-fashioned house
were thick and no words ever reached
the housekeeper's ears.
At times when she entered the li
brary his eyes would be strangely
bright and steadfast in an expression
of brooding anger, though in no way
directed against her. Toward his ser
vants he was monosyllabic, even
brusque, but never altogether rough
or rude.
Austen made occasional trips to
New York, but apparently the sole
purpose of these was to fetch money
with which to replenish, funds he
kept in a local bank for the liquida
tion of his tradesmen's bills.
The evening of the tragedy was
brilliant with stars.
It was just at twilight that old Mrs.
A Mtisterti Storu
Charles Somerville
Spencer, walking the maia pathway
under the big trees, by way of escape
"riom the kitchen heat endured in the
preparation of Mr. Austen's dinner,
was surprised to observe a young man
open the gate, pass in from the street
and up under the elms toward the
house. She supposed the stranger had
mistaken the place for some other
person's home. But when on account
of her deafness he had fairly shouted
the name of her master she turned
readily to lead him toward the door,
there being no positive orders forbid
ding callers. As she thus turned she
saw aged Mr. Austen standing in the
long open window of the library. And
she made out a waving gesture of his
hand that was plainly an invitation
to the young man to enter,
Mrs. Spencer conducted the visitor
to the door of the library, and as her
master opened it she turned and re
paired to the small room off the kitch- |
en, where she and her husband had
dinner. Later in the evening, when
the old couple made their way to their
own sleeping rooms, they observed
the light from Austen's study showing
sharply through the keyhole and
chinks of the door into the dark hall
way. Spencer, whose hearing was
unimpaired, was certain afterward that
there was no sound of conversation
in the library.
At 9 o'clock the next morning when
Mrs. Spencer, bearing her employer's
breakfast, entered the library she
dropped the tray and a shrill cry of
terror came from her lips.
Stretched at full length, face down
ward on the floor, was John' Austen.
His right hand, folded under his chest,
held a revolver and at his feet was a
spray of glass chips from a chandelier
globe that his bullet had shivered be
fore imbedding itself in the ceiling.
On her master's white head the old
woman saw a ghastly suffusion of
crimson and in front of him an empty
sword scabbard. Near it lay the un
sheathed weapon itself with its blade
| red stained. She tottered from the
I room, calling feebly for her husband.
When the Police Chief of Actonville
I and his assistants arrived and made
further examination of the room they
saw that the sword used by the slayer
was one of the several that had hung
on the wall. The pistol also was Aus
ten's. Between bookcases was an old
safe, the door flung wide. Papers were
scattered over several feet of the flooi
in front of the safe and mixed with
the letters and documents on the floor
were yellow-back currency notes and
[ a sprinkling of gold coins. Examina
tion of the wound on the old man's
j head revealed that a single, ferocious
J blow had cloven John Austen's skull,
j killing him almost instantly.
Mrs. Spencer gave a fairly good de
scription of the man who had called
the evening before. A lean, broad
shouldered man of thirty or there
j abouts, she said he was. "Hi 3 face
! was most pleasant," said the old wor
n an, "and when he saw Mr. Austen at
I the window he smiled and waved a3
j friendly as could be." There was
I little, however, that was distinctive in
J his appearance, she went on to say.
!He was well dressed In a blue serge
j suit and wore a Panama hat and rui
j set shoes. When he waved his hand
! she had observed that he wore a mas
j sive ring with a stone in it.
Such were the circumstances as far
!as known when the Police Chief of
j Actonville appealed to a famous New
j York agency for expert assistance and
KUm Alice Rpyce was assigned to the
Alice Royce, accompanied by Mc-
Namara, one of the members of the
New York agency, arrived at Acton
ville at 6 o'clock of the day following
the tragedy. She spent half an hour
on the premises of the old Graves man
' sion. Most of the time she was in the
; library, where, save for the removal
jot old John Austen's body, the room
i had been preserved by the police abso
■ lutely undisturbed.
At 6 o'clock the following evening
! Alice Royce entered the private office
of the Police Chief of Actonville, foi
| lowed by a tall, slender man who was
, pallid to the lips, whose eyes were wild,
j but who nevertheless walked flrmly
j as one bent on executing a resolution.
McNamara brought up the rear. The
I Chief was amazed when the girl de-
I tective said:
j "Chief Foley, this young man is
j Chester Garside of Seatontown. He
j desires to make a full confession of the
' killing of John Austen."
The Chief turned a swift question
ing glance at the young man, who
nodded and said:
"That's correct. I killed John Aus
ten. I know that whatever I may say
here can be used against me, but I am
anxious to tell how it happened, and
I'm ready now."
Foley hurriedly summoned a stenog
rapher. With the eyes of the inter
ested auditors upon him Garside arose,
paced the length of the room three or
four times and finally spoke.
"Since I was sixteen," he said, "I
have been known as Chester Garside.
In reality my* name is Austen and it
was my father I killed. Chester Gar
side Austen," he added bitterly—"that
is my name.
"My father was thirty-nine years old
when he married —my mother a girl
scarcely twenty. He had inherited a
fortune and at forty-five he was a mill
ionaire. My own boyish recollection
of him was that he was a brooding,
domineering man, who sometimes
**I seized [one
of the crossed
army swords
and, in fear of
my life,
struck at the
insane old
treated me with great severity, some-1
times seemed to show an actual hatred !
of me, but at other times suddenly
would disclose moments of tenderness
toward me. All through my childhood
I remember bitter quarrels between my
parents. Frequently my mother would
draw me closely to her and sob:
" 'Oh, my boy—my little boy—lt is
too wretched to bear!'
"As I grew older I understood the
cause of her anguish. My father was
insanely jealous of my mother. In
sanity is the only way to describe his
wild suspicions and his ferocity of
temper when those suspicions were
aroused. In Seatontown, where our!
home has always been, everybody
knew how truly wild these suspicions j
were, how utterly founded on trivial
ities. The nineteen years* difference
in the ages of my father and mother
was a subject of morbid consideration
with him, and no younger man might
meet my mother in the ordinary man- !
ncr of social intercourse without in- j
stantly incurring my father's anger." I
Garside paused, stared hard at the i
little oblong book of the stenographer
and the poised pencil, then squared his
shoulders, thrust his hands in the
pockets of his blue serge coat and
"The name of Chester Garside, it is
needless for me to tell you, is that of i
a famous artist—an elderly man of
fifty-eight now. He was reared In I
Seatontown and there was a boy-and-1
girl love affair between my mother and
himself—a mere romance of early
youth, you understand. Young Gar
art studies and this love affair sub
sided into simple friendship, which,
however, proved enduring.
"Garside attended my mother's wed
ding and left immediately for Paris.
When he returned a year and a half
later he was Seatontown's celebrity,
and was, of course, lionized. •
"Meanwhile I had been born. My
mother in natural admiration for the
fame her old school-day sweetheart
had won conceived the romantic no
tion, as young mothers so frequently
do, of conferring on me his name and
inviting him to stand as godfather for
her child.
"She had long before told my father
of the adolescent romance. Now, to
her dismay, when she broached the
subject of my christening and told him
the name and sponsor she had chosen,
my father flung himself into the fierc
est outburst of rage that he had ever
exhibited. He snarled out the most
outrageous aspersions on my mother.
She had borne past scenes patiently,
but this time her anger blazed, and
with it came the determination to defy
my father. She did.
"I was christened Chester Garside
Austen and the young painter became
my godfather. My father stood at the
altar rail by my mother's side during
side went to New York to pursue his
the ceremony. After their bitter quar
rel my mother had refused to speak
to him, even to sit at the same table
with him, and he had experienced a
repentance for his conduct as abject as
his outburst had been furious.
"But for all that the suspicion my
father had conceived had been by no
means wholly eradicated.
"From my earliest childhood I recall
that next to my mother I adored Gar
side, and that my father held really a
very small place in my heart Garside,
with his ability to enter into my
childish thoughts, the toys and sweets
he was forever handing out of his
pockets for my delight, naturally won
my affection.
"My father at times angrily pro
tested to my mother, but she coldly
turned those objections aside, declar
ing that friendship with a man of the
character of Garside was the most ad
mirable influence that possibly could
come into a boy's life.
"This brings me to the time of, the
last painful scene between my par
ents. I was fourteen years old, had
been ill of typhoid fever and was con
valescent. Garside called to inquire of
my condition and, hearing his voice
below, I eagerly requested my mother
to fetch him to my bedside. He read
ily responded. My mother and he, were
seated beside me. She was holding my
hand and Garside was thrusting my
hair back from my forehead with
!l!!idly fingers while he was happily
outlining a canoe trip on which he
promised to take me when I grew
"I looked up to see my father stand
ing in the doorway. Following my
glance, my mother, and Garside turned
also and saw him. His* heavy black
eyebrows were gathered, his glance set
in glaring anger.
" 'What a pretty picture!' he sneered.
Then, giving vent to his rage, he
shouted: 'Don't talk! Don't try and
say anything. I'll leave you two to
your whelp! You will never see me
"Nor did we. Although Seatontown
is not many miles away from Acton
ville, my father had hidden himself
completely and, besides, my mother
made no Inquiry whatever regarding
him. She had property and we con
tinued living in comfort. In the course
of time she divorced my father for his
desertion. Garside renewed his devo
tion to my mother and, in the end,
they married—my mother in all confi
dence that her friends intimately ac
quainted with her past would place no
false construction on the event, as I
am sure they did not.
"I willingly dropped my surname
and adopted Garside as a father. No
bey ever had a better one. In the
passing of twenty years the austere,
sinister figure of my real father faded
from my memory, save as now and
then the recollection would come of
hi 3 anger-blackened face staring into
the doorway of my sickroom."
The pallid-faced man paused, thank
fully took a swallow of water from a
glass the Police Chief handed him and
"There came last week a letter ad
dressed to me, which I now surrender
to your keeping. You will see that It
came from my father, that it Is writ
ten in friendly tones, speaks of the
loneliness of his declining years and
appeals to me to visit him.
"Of course I showed the letter to my
mother and stepfather. Their rancor
against him was quite gone; they ex
pressed only pity and urged me to
visit the aged man immediately.
"I arrived in Actonville night be
fore last. Being assailed with some
uncertainty as to how, after all. I
might be received in my father's
house, I registered at the hotel, left
my grip there and then made my way
to my father's residence.
"Mrs. Spencer has, I understand, told
you of my arrival.
"'Good evening, Mr.—Mr. Garside,'
he said with sneering bitterness as I
entered the library.
"I took a seat before him, dropping
the hand I had at first extended In
friendship. He studied me intently for
several seconds. His eyes were
strange, uncanny, and the flash and
glitter in them told me that years of
solitude, of wretched brooding on a
fancied wrong, had done their insid
ious damage to his mind.
"He told me that he had heard of
my mother's marriage to Garside. He
asked many questions regarding their
life and whether or not my mother was
happy. I could only truthfully answer
that she was.
" 'And you, I understand,' he ob
served, 'have also given her cause for
joy; you have been dutiful and I hear
are the leading young lawyer of Sea
"To this I only smiled. My father
arose abruptly, went over to his safe
and brought out an armful of papers.
These he sorted over and passed to
me as he rapidly sketched an inven
tory of his belongings. Having im
pressed me with the fact that his for
tune amounted to nearly a million and
a half dollars, he paused and chuckled
wickedly. Not for an instant did I
guess the infamous proposal he was to
make me."
"I looked up to
see my father
standing in the
Garside stopped short. He bent his
face closely to that of Chief Foley.
"Do you know what he wanted me
to do?" he demanded. "He had con
ceived a subtle scheme for revenge
against my mother.
"He offered me a half million dol
lars there and then if I would dis
appear, leaving no word whatsoever
behind me, promising never in my
lifetime to see my mother or give her
any information as to what had be
come of me. Moreover, he promised
that the other million of the fortune
would be held in trust for me by the
provisions of his will and paid wholly
over to me on my mother's death, pro
viding that in the mean time I held no
communication with her of any kind.
He chuckled hazily over the contem
plation of his revenge.
"I indignantly refused this offer,
told him how dearly I loved my
mother and—yes, I didn't refrain,
either, from telling, him of my affec
tion for Garside. . ,
"He stopped me with a cry of rage.
Wildly stammering profanity and im
precations, he arose from his chair
and made his way to the safe. He
drew forth another paper. He waved
it at me frantically.
"'This is a will,' he cried, 'that I
have already drawn up. This will go
on the public records When I am dead.
And it contains the whole damnable
truth about your mother and that
treacherous painter. And you! I have
set down my reasons here for your
complete disinheritance!'
"He thrust the paper back into the
safe, moved around the table as he
spoke, opened a drawer and was fum
bling inside it.
" 'Father,' I cried, 'you can't mean
to libel my mother and me! You cer
tainly won't utter that dirty lie from
the grave!'
"His eye 3 were blazing wildly as he
faced me.
" 'I'll do it,' he shrieked hysterically.
'And I'll do more! I'm near the grave,
but you will go to, yours before me,
Garside robbed me of my wife —I'll
rob the pair of them of their whelp!'
"Then his hand came up from the
table drawer, and in horror I saw that
it held a revolver. Had it not been
for the palsy of age, increased by the
tremor of his crazy emotions, he would
have killed me at that instant
"I glanced around for a weapon—
on the right on the wall I saw the
crossed army swords. I seized one,
tore it from its scabbard and in fear
of my life struck at the insane old
man. The single blow felled him. His
bullet flew over my head, shattering
a globe on the chandelier."
Garside tossed himself into a chair,
land there he sat, staring as if a mov
ing film of pictures of the terrific
scene was then crossing his vision.
"That is all," he said finally, "ex
cepting that when my composure was
somewhat restored I ransacked the
safe, dragged out the infamous will
and bore It away from the house."
Chief Foley led Garside away to a
cell, then returned quickly to his room.
"Miss Royce," he asked eagerly,
"how did you go about it? How were
ycu able in so short a time to find the
"Easily enough," smiled the girl.
"He is left-handed."
"What do you mean?" demanded
Then, as she went about adjusting
her motor veil in a matter of fact
manner, she added:
"There were many things to Indi
cate that a left-handed man had slain
Mr. Austen. You will remember the
scabbard flung to the slayer's right,
the sword to the left Mr. Austen's
hand holding the revolver was crossed
under his chest, the revolver pointing
to the left; the shattered globe in the '
chandelier was toward the slayer's left;
in short, the attack on him had come
from the left. The wound on the old
man's head showed a plain inclination
of the cut from left to right."
"But how did you Identify Garside?"
"It was evident from his open man
ner of approaching the house that
when he came there he had no crime
of murder in mind. Mrs. Spencer knew
he was a stranger in Actonville. The
baggageman at the railroad station
remembered directing such a stranger
to the hotel—the Actonville House. 1
San Francisco Sunday Call.
looked at the registry there. Left
handed writing is easy to identify.
The right-handed writer seeking to-*
write vertically always achieves a de
cided backhanded result, but the left
handed writer almost invariably
achieves the vertical exactly. When I
found In this manner of handwriting
the name 'Chester Garside, Seaton
town, N. V.,' McNamara and myself
vent to the place indicated on tha
first train.
"Chester Garside was pointed out to
us on the street I hurried along and
passed him, dropping my handbag *<
I did so. He politely stooped and
picked it up with his left hand. And
on this hand was the large ring with
the stone in It such as Mrs. Spencer
told us John Austen's visitor had
worn. Then McNamara and myself
went to his office and questioned him.
It was not hard to get him to tell the
story. In fact, he was on the point
that very night of making a confes
Six months later Chester Garside.
supported by the testimony of his
mother, told the same story* to a jury.
He was acquitted on the ground of
One of the chief objects of many
who undertake a Continental tour is to
improve their practical working
knowledge of a foreign language. The
opening attempts in this direction, as
the writer can sorrowfully testify, are
almost bound to be strewn with disap
pointment and barren of result; Indeed
numerous mistakes of procedure can
scarcely be avoided unless the would
be linguist has beforehand had the ad
vantage of definite advice, founded on
the giver's experience.
First, we will enumerate certain
gross errors usually committed by the
student who has arranged a tour in the
hope of perfecting his acquaintance
with foreign idiom. As a rule, he
takes care to be accompanied by an
English friend, thus practically pre
venting the realization of his avowed
The next mistake is to fix upon some
' great centre of cosmopolitan travel —
a city overrun with tourists, among
whom, of course, the irrepressible
Anglo-Saxon element predominates—
as the locale of the holiday. The in*
advisability of attaching oneself to a
conducted party is—so far as the spe
cial purpose with which this article
deals is concerned—so obvious that it
only requires to be referred to; still,
it is a mistake that is often made
the inexperienced language student
undertaking his first trip across the
Having reached their destinatlou.
the tourists frequently take up their
residence at a hotei or boarding-'
house kept by English people and
largely frequented by travellers of the
same nationality. And during their
stay in tne foreign country two or
more tourists —for in all probability
they will eagerly welcome the com
pany of compatriots—will incessantly
converse in their own language, and
they will hear practically nothing else
but their mother tongue during meal
times at their hotel.
Now it is obvious that if the object
of the ambitious linguist i 3 to be
achieved the American abioad must
shun his compatriots and must make
up his mind, as far as possible, to
banish all Anglo-Saxon speech from
his ears throughout the duration of
his stay abroad. He must undertake
the tour alone—this is imperative if
any real educational benefit is to be
derived—and, supposing that the
language he desires to cultivate is
French, he had better avoid Paris and
fix upon some well-populated part of
the provinces not subjected to whole
sale invasion by his touring com
patriots. He should encounter no spe
cial difficulty in finding a small hotei
where no English is spoken; or he will
perhaps do better still if he takes up
his quarters at a pension not devoted
specially to the needs of
He must throw to the winds all
ness in airing the new language, and
must rigorously repress the natural
tendency to relapse joyfully into his
own tongue. Let him, in short, merci
lessly attack the strange idiom as a
German attacks English.
As a rule, the great difficulty lh the
development of one's mastery of a
foreign tongue Is not so much one' 3
inability to express oneself—for .«
need scarcely be said that we are as
suming the possession of a fair initial
acquaintance with the language in
question—as ones inability to catch
the unfamiliar sounds uttered 6y a na
tive; and the student's object should
be to overcome this difficulty gradu
ally by seizing every opportunity of
learning the spoken language. Instead
of gratefully rushing into the com
pany of any English people he may
chance to encounter he must for the
time being keep them and their lan
guage at a respectful distance, for
what he requires is to impregnate him
self, so to speak, with the common
everyday use of the language he it
trying to master.

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