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Page 204 text:
v mmn % )t 1911 Colonial Ccljo noiuici ' ii the uuiuiug of a iiicsseugcr lioy. Tlic telugraui was, of course, a sum- mons to Inglewood. Gilder was ready to go iu an instant — lie always kept a suitcase packed for emergencies. " Come go up with me, " was his laconic invitation. I quickly threw a few necessary things into my grip, and in scarcely a moment later, we were upon the .street, had hailed a cab, and were going at breakneck speed to catch the next train for , which was due to leave in five minutes. " Once we were upon the train, iny companion became very silent, and hardly a word was spoken during the journey. As soon as we reached Ingle- wood, after a mile drive from the railroad station, Gilder began to search the beautifid old house for clues. On through the rooms he went, his expression- less face showing that he was deeply puzzled. Finally he returned to the un- fortunate man ' s room. This he began to examine for sliding panels, or other means of exit apart from the door. I meanwhile rummaged around in Proctor ' s private desk, thinking that perhaps the missing man had left there something indicative of his present whereabouts. Finally I came to a will. T opened it and read the few words it contained. " 1, Oliver Proctor, " (this was the kidnapped man ' s father), " do hereby will to my second sou, John, all my real estate and personal propertj ' ; said estate to be bequeathed at his death to my grandson, Sidney Proctor, or, in event of his death or other disfinalification to hold said property, to Sam Proctor. Witness my hand, Oliver Proctor. " " Sidney Proctor, then, would inherit the property, and it seemed to me that he might have killed his uncle. On second thought I abandoned the idea, as it would have been entirely too dangerous for him to undertake such a move. " ]My work was interrupted l)y the butler announcing dinner, or luncheon I should say, and Gilder seemed more cheerful. He relaxed into his usual self, joking about some of his past experiences. I knew him too well to ask him his views upon the present case, and merely showed him the will. He read it over and laid it nonchalently aside while he proceeded to lunch. " After lunch he proposed a walk, and we went far out into the country. " We passed several deserted houses, and came at last to a cottage, small, but well kept and beautiful. Gilder, jerking his thumb in that direction, remarked casually: " Sidney ' s English home. " " ' What ' s that funny looking glass house on top? ' I queried. ' Evidently he is not in a position to throw stones. ' ' I believe it is a sort of chemical laboratory and observatory. You know he used to be a professor of chemistry in some college — I can ' t recall the name. ' " Thus time passed for several days, the only variation of the monotony 196
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s M Js Clje 1911 Colonial Ccfjo " My time in London was drawing to a close when one morning just after breakfast, the butler entered with the morning ' s mail. Gilder was busy, so he handed me the bundle of correspondence, which I immediately sorted over. Picking out the " Daily News, " I tossed a budget of letters to my companion. Hardly had the paper touched my hand before these startling headlines riveted my attention : " Mysterious Disappearance of John Proctor. " June 12, Special Telegram: — John Proctor, owner of the beautiful old Inglewood ilanor hou.se near this city, disappeared last night, and though every effort was made to find him, until twelve o ' clock today no trace of him could be discovered. Hut what is still more mysterious, every window and door of the house was securely locked. As the missing man ' s wife is dead, and his only son is a dissolute prodigal, he was alone on the fateful night. The butler, who occupies a basement room just under that of his employer, sa.vs that Proctor, after locking all the doors and windows carefully, went to bed al)out ten o ' clock. lie heard footsteps in his master ' s room about midnight, but thinking Proctor was probably restless, paid no attention to the noise. He also asserts that it would have been impossible to unlock the doors of the house, — three of which would have to be unfastened before reaching Proctor ' s room — with a skeleton key, as these locks are of widely different type ; in fact, all outside doors, to suit a whim of the owner, are fitted with combination locks of a very complicated nature. The butler is an old family servant, honorable and esteemed, and is not suspected. The room when broken into smelled very slightly of ether, itut it seems impossible that a human being other than John Proctor could have entered the room. As the night was warm, the occupant had opened the windows, but like all old-fashioned houses in this locality, the windows were securely barred, and evidently had not been tampered with. There was not even a chimney in the room, but the room adjoining contained quite a large one. But here again solution of the mystery is impossible. The door was securely locked. No one but John Proctor had keys to the house. These were found in his room, under his pillow. " This, then, is the mystery which confronts us. A man has vanished from a strongly locked and barred house during a dark and windy night — fi ' om a house which, it would seem, was impervious to the supernatural, not to mention anything mortal. The wind makes impossible the use of blood hounds. The missing man comes of a small family. He has but one son, Sam Proctor, who ran away from home and is leading the life of a dissolute sailor. He has also a nephew, Sidney i ' l ' iH-tm ' . who is living ni ' ar Ximes, in southei-n France. ' ' " The twelfth, why that was yesterday, " I mused, handing the jiajier to Gilder. Hardly had Gilder read the story when a ringing of the doorbell an- 195
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Cl)e 1911 Colonial Ccljo m mm being our daily walks. In these we ofteu passed property belonging to Sitluey Proctor. He seemed to own a gi ' eat many estates around Inglewood. " One morning, four days after our arrival, when Gilder and I were searching and examining the old house as iisual, we were both petrified with ho rror and amazement, for there, in his bed, apparently asleep, lay the owner of Inglewood. " ' By Jove, 1 didn ' t expect this I ' exclaimed my companion vehemently. This was the first time that Gilder had indicated by word or deed that he knew more about the case than he expressed to me. Tie touched the statue-like sleeper. " ' Dead, ' he muttered, ' killed about four hours ago. Well, 1 could not have saved the poor devil anyhow. ' " He at once sent a cablegram to Sidney, ac(iuainting him with the recent said happenings. He had previously written a letter, but sent the cablegram. Hardly had the cablegram been dispatched when a servant entered with the day ' s mail. Gilder pounced upon a French paper, and turning a page or two said: " How ' s this. Kob? " " Remarkable Kidnapping. Nimes, June 14; Special cable. The I ' roctor family seems to be the victim of many disasters. Barely had news of John Proctor ' s mysterious disappearance reached here before Sidney Proctor, while out walking alone in a forest near his home, ten miles from this city, was ambuscaded, handcuffed, and borne off in an automobile by three disguised men. A peasant witnessed the aft ' air, bvit all happened so quickly that he was un- able to render assistance to the unfortunate man. An automobile going at full speed was seen passing several villages to the west of Nimes. The machine seemed to be making for the forests of the Cavennes Mountains, and from the last report, it had almost arrived there. All that have seen the auto descrii)e it as a large touring car of about forty horse-power. It contained four men. One of the passengers upon the front seat was sitting in rather an unnatural position ; probably dvie to being bound. Every effort to obtain other evidence as to the missing man ' s whereabouts has been in vain. Sidney Proctor was prominent in sporting circles here, but has of late been losing heavily. " " ' Ah, ' muttered Gilder, ' trying to kill all the heirs, is he? Rob, we must solve this puzzle before he gets the other one too. ' " ' Think so myself, ' I replied, ' but the solution is the part that bothers me. ' " Gilder now took up his abode in a small house in the yard, saying ' That big house is too spooky for me, and as it will be of no more value to me in this case, it may as well remain locked up. ' Since his moving into the smaller house, my companion lapsed into a state of apparently .ioyous disregard of any 197
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