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before his death to try his luck on the Stock Exchange. The results were unfortunate, and it was asserted that when he met his fate he was returning home after a very bad day."
This evidence, which though plausible was circumstantial, was permitted to overweigh that of Dr. Ford, which was scientific and positive. Assuming the latter to be correct, it was argued, Mr. Cowen was murdered. Was such a thing conceivable, possible? Could a man be stabbed to death in that big artery of human motion, the Underground Railway, and the murderer, redhanded, walk off undetected? Certainly not! The idea was too absurd to admit of argument !
So thought the police, so thought the coroner, so thought the majority of the public, and so thought the jury, who returned a verdict of felo-de-se.
But Dr. Ford was unshaken, and he had at least one sincere adherent-the murdered man's widow. Mrs. Cowen understood nothing of medical science; but she knew her husband, and her sublime faith in him was unshaken by his death. Her evidence would have touched any thirteen men less wooden than the coroner and his jury, and, supporting as it did the medical testimony, have convinced any less self-opinionated persons than the police authorities. She stated, with an air of simple conviction that should have been irresistible, that her husband was the last man in the world to have attempted his own life. His disposition was too hopeful, too buoyant and sanguine, to admit of such an idea. His pecuniary losses did not appear to vex him in the slightest degree. They were heavy, but to a man of his fortune not absolutely serious. He was sunshine itself, she declared, and during the twelve years of their married life she had never known him to experience an hour's gloom. Finally, he was too fond of his home, of his friends, of his two children, of his wife, of all that made life beautiful for him, to have taken that life himself.
Yet they called him a suicide! Mr. Jules Merlin attended the inquest as a witness. His evidence was of a slight and negative character. He had heard no cry or noise of any unusual kind, and had seen no bearded man.
The tragedy, however, had doubtless taken place before he entered the train. Mr. Merlin followed the proceedings with considerable interest, and after the verdict he sought an interview with Dr. Ford.
'Your arguments interested me profoundly, doctor," he said, "and under the circumstances I scarcely think the verdict was a proper one.'
It was a d-d improper one," declared the doctor bluntly. "As surely as the coroner is an ass and the jury idiots, Mr. Cowen was murdered.'
"But the motive?" asked the other. "Excuse me, sir," replied the doctor, "but that question is more like that of an imbecile police inspector than of a man of sense. How am I to tell you the motive? I'm not the murderer. don't know him, and I can't get inside his mind. There was no evidence of motive.'
That was the strong point against you," said Mr. Merlin with a smile. It was not robbery, for the man's jewelry and money were untouched. It was not revenge, for the man apparently had no enemies. It had nothing to do with secret societies, for he belonged to
We are able to be, sir. Now evidence of motive is a very good thing for the police to work upon if they can get it. When they have it, I believe they invariably hunt down their man. A murder, however, does not necessarily bear the motive upon its face. Yet, judging by this case, no apparent motive, no murder,' seems to be a police axiom. But the knife was found in the dead man's hand," urged Mr. Merlin. "A hand powerless to inflict that death-blow. The murderer put it there.'
And there was no appearance of a struggle," added Mr. Merlin after a thoughtful pause.
"You would not be able to struggle if a knife were suddenly plunged in your heart," was the reply.
True again; wonderful luck!" assented Mr. Merlin. "And assuming your theory to be correct, the murderer has at any rate succeeded in proving the possibility of a thing which everybody doubted, and still doubts. As to motive," he added slowly, "I believeyes, I really believe that I could assign a motive.”
66 You could? What is it?" asked the doctor quickly.
But Mr. Merlin said "Good-day," and, politely raising his hat, disappeared.
IT was the third anniversary of David Cowen's murder, and just such another evening-chill, wet, gusty, and gloomy. Doctor Ford sat alone over the bright fire in his study. A book lay on his lap, but he was not reading. He was gazing intently into the glowing firethat unfailing inspirer of dreamy reflection-and thinking of a woman.
Dr. Ford had married early in life, and had soon become a widower. Solitary he had remained ever since-long lonely years he had gone through until middle-age came and found him still lonely. He told people he was wedded to his profession, but some time before this night he had awakened to the fact of how cold and cheerless a wife she was. For a living, vital, absorbing love grew into his life.
The seeds were sown when he first met Mrs. Cowen. Her beauty, her tragic sorrow, and her touching faith in the dead, all impressed him profoundly. A friendship grew up between them, which on his part developed into love. He asked Mrs. Cowen to be his wife, and her answer threw him into despair. It was not that she was unable to return his feelings; but the mystery of her husband's death stood between them. She declared that while that mystery remained unsolved her mind could
know no peace, her thoughts_must dwell ever in the past. That being so, to marry the doctor would have been to him a grievous wrong.
Sharing, as he did, her conviction that David Cowen had been murdered, Dr. Ford had no arguments with which to shake this decision, the justice of which he could not but acknowledge. Feeling, too, the hopelessness of the mystery being cleared up, he despaired.
He was thinking mournfully of these things, when a servant entered and presented a card. It bore the name Mr. Jules Merlin.
When Dr. Ford saw Mr. Merlin he remembered him, for he was not a man to forget a face he had once seen, and Mr. Merlin's face was one not readily forgotten. Three years had wrought a change in it, however. It had grown
thinner and more sallow. The features were startling in their distinctness; the eyes hollow and roving, and the lips. painfully restless. Mr. Merlin looked ill, not passingly so, but organically. He looked as though some internal disease was slowly but surely consuming him.
So the doctor thought after a quick but comprehensive glance at his visitor.
was high-pitched and somewhat grating, and there was no humor in the hard smile on his lips.
The doctor, having placed wine and cigars on the table, made a few remarks on topics of general interest. But his visitor made no reply; he had sunk into a restless silence. Presently he moved his chair from the fire, and, sitting against the table, drank a glass of wine. Try a cigar,' said the doctor. These were sent me by a friend in Havana.'
Mr. Merlin rose and walked the room. It was an interesting case," he said. "It fastened upon me. It has never left me night or day. So profoundly mysterious; so extraordinary in every way! If Cowen did not strike the blow, who did? I have asked myself ten thousand times. And, more interesting question still, how did the man escape? I have pictured the scene. I have been in the carriage with the two men. have seen the blow struck. I have heard the dying gasp of the victim, and watched him as the death-look flooded his eyes. I hear the gasp now, and see the eyes !"
Merlin paused with hands outstretched, and breathed heavily. His excitement was remarkable, and he had spoken as though he had no auditor. The doctor watched him with intense interest, and not without some uneasiness. He thought that the man's mind had been unhinged by dwelling upon that one terrible subject.
“Tell me quietly," said the doctor. He himself, although outwardly calm, was now greatly excited. Mad though he appeared, there was a ring of terrible truth in Merlin's sharp voice. Despite the wildness of his words and manner, he impressed his listener with the conviction that he was about to hear truth, that light was about to be thrown on the dark mystery out of which had grown his despair. He trembled with the hope that that despair would be removed.
Mr. Merlin again sat against the table on which he leaned heavily.
"Yes, I'll tell you," he said in a lower voice. You deserve to be told. You-recognized murder when the police babbled suicide. You and I shall share and keep the secret. Listen closer! It was the bearded man. Well!"
His beard was false. Oh! he laid his plans well and warily. Don't you remember saying that he must have had devilish craft and wonderful luck? Ha ha! So he had! What is the good of the best-laid plans in the world without a little luck to back them? Our friend reckoned on his luck, and it stood by him well."
"Who is the man?" demanded the doctor eagerly.
"I don't know him," replied the other, drawing back and passing his hand across his eyes. At least notnot in tangible form. I have him in my mind though, and there he is distinct. Shall I go on?"
"If you please," said the doctor with decreased interest. He was practical. He wanted to be told of a real murderer, not to be introduced to a creation of a disordered intelligence.
"We will go back, resumed Mr. Merlin, folding his arms and staring at vacancy; back in the history of the bearded man, say an hour before he was alone in the train with-with the man he killed. He is at Baker Street. buys a first-class ticket to Notting Hill Gate. He is not bearded then, mind
you. He puts that ticket in his pocket, crosses the road and takes a ticket to Aldersgate Street, which he uses. Alone in the train, he places the clipped over the unclipped ticket, and with his penknife makes them correspond in that respect. You see he has now his ticket from Baker Street to Notting Hill Gate duly clipped as though he passed through the gates of the former station. He alights at Aldersgate and makes his way, above ground, to Farringdon Street. On the way he assumes the beard and widens out the brim of his hat-in fine, the clerk described him correctly-beard, coat-collar turned up, dry umbrella. So he entered the train-the carriage-the place where it was done.
Here Mr. Merlin came to a full stop. 'Go on," said the doctor, in a low voice. His interest, reawakened, was now doubly intense.
He left the carriage at Gower Street,'' continued the narrator after a long pause, "and mingling with the crowd that hurried to the gates slipped off his beard. He dropped his ticket from Farringdon Street almost at the feet of the ticket-collector, who, he was sure, would afterward pick it up under the impression that he had dropped it himself. Then he stole out of the crowd and re-entered the train three compartments away from the one he had left. In a few moments he was a different man. He had burnt the hair of the beard, twisted up the wire and thrown it out of the window, turned up the brim of his hat, turned down the collar of his coat, and put on a silk muffler. Moreover, he had taken a bottle of water from his pocket with which, leaning out of the window, he had saturated his umbrella. Oh he was another man altogether, and a passenger from Baker Street to Notting Hill Gate. And three compartments from him was discovered a self-slain man, knife still in hand.'
Dr. Ford stared at his visitor in amazement. He could not see his face, however, for the lamp was shaded and his hand was against his cheek. he mad? And a murderer, too? Or a victim to terrible but absurd fancies ?
And why did he do it ?" asked the doctor, throwing a soothing scepticism into his voice.
Merlin's right hand slowly sank from his cheek to the table, and rested on an ivory paper-knife. At that moment his dark face became illumined by the glare from a fresh coal on the fire, which suddenly caught ablaze. Seeing that face, the doctor shuddered. Its sharp lines were drawn and twisted into hideous shape by the demons within the man. Terror, hatred, and craft were all written there in intertwisted contorted characters, and the hot, sullen eyes, shifting and reasonless, glowed like fire from within dark caverns.
The motive?" said the madman, jerking the words out, and fidgeting in his chair, while the doctor watched him, calmly but vigilantly. A new
tive ! Conceit-sublime or damnable, which you will-but conceit. The papers, the public, and the police had said often that it could not be done, at least not without detection. I-the bearded man, I mean he proved that it could, and proved a great truth. Well!" he continued, after a moment's pause, his voice rising sharply and harshly, "is that not sufficient? Had you been in the carriage instead of Cowen, you would have died as he did. Why do you look at me like that? Isn't it enough that dead eyes follow me? He tries to speak-you don't. His lips move, but the blood floods his throat, and he can only gasp. Hark! can you hear it? Curses on you, sir! Speak, I say!"'
Merlin rose to his feet. His thin sinewy right hand grasped the paperknife. His eyes burned with revengeful murderous fury like those of a wildcat. The scalp and ears seemed to retreat, as might an infuriated monkey's, leaving the face more sharply prominent than before. It was almost incredible, and it struck Dr. Ford-despite the critical character of the situation-that even the hell of madness could transform so handsome a man into such incarnate ugliness.
The doctor rose also, gazing firmly upon the face of his dangerous visitor. 'You have no occasion to be either annoyed or alarmed, Mr. Merlin," he said quietly.
"The story's not quite finished," yelled the madman, whose eyes were fixed upon the other's breast. You
will have the rest! struck Cowen thus !"
You shall! I is nevertheless a fact that the police stoutly refused to accept as truth the confession made by Merlin to Dr. Ford. They maintained that it was purely a lively invention of the madman's, and, as no positive proof could be adduced to support the story, their sceptical position was really unassailable. Mrs. Cowen believed it, however, for some months later she became Mrs. Ford.
There was a blow struck like lightning; but the thin brittle ivory broke harmlessly against Dr. Ford's broad chest. The doctor's strength was proverbial among his male friends. He was set up and framed like a gladiator, and gifted with extraordinary muscular development. Merlin, on the contrary, was thin and wasted; but the imps which feed on his reason combine to strengthen the madman's sinews. The struggle, then, might have been long and severe, but that assistance quickly came and Merlin was secured. Then, shrieking and foaming, he was carried away.
However strange it may appear, it
THE RAILWAY BUBBLE.
FORTY years ago the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was visited by a madness for gambling and speculation which has never been surpassed by anything of the same kind within the memory of men now living, and probably was never equalled during any period of our history, except in the days of the South Sea Bubble in 1720. Turning over some old newspapers of George I.'s time, I came across a column of advertisements of companies in 1720. They were mostly styled "subscriptions to adventurers," and the capital in each class ranged from two to fifteen millions; the speculations in one paper only were for "interchanging wool for woof" (query, going for wool and getting shorn), trading in purchase and sale of "human hair," "hops," white lead,' "starch," madder," and (rather a bad speculation now) buying up doubtful titles to land in Ireland," with an eye to successful litigation.
means of a bulky size, but in October and November of that year the files of the Gazette," in which all the newly proposed Parliamentary schemes were published, extended over 4,031 pages of double columns, measured II inches closely bound" in depth, and at the lowest computation contained advertisements for Parliamentary schemes which must have cost the adventurers from thirty-five to forty thousand pounds to insert-at one shilling a line. This is not intended to be a statistical article, but that will give an idea of what the cost of advertising alone was. The reader must bear in mind that railway companies, or projected companies, had in those days to publish their notices, which sometimes occupied two, and even three columns of a newspaper, in every county in which any land was proposed to be taken, or to which the Bill related; and, the last requirement as to publication being vague and undefined, if a new company took powers to run over a small portion of one of the few established railways, and to make working and traffic arrangements, they were advised to, and did, ex abundanti cautela, publish these long notices in many counties in or through which the whole of that railway extended.
It is just under half a century ago