The electric bell from Andrew Anderton’s study rang sharply. It was close to the ear of the butler dozing in his little room off the hall at the back of the main staircase, and he awoke with a start.
“Lord love ’im!” exclaimed that functionary, stalking to the door with as much haste as his dignity would permit. “Why doesn’t ’e stop ringing? I ’eard ’im the first time, without ’im keeping the blooming bell going all the time.” Then, as he reached the door and made for the stairs, he continued grumblingly: “All right, Mr. Anderton. I ’ear you. You certainly are a most impatient gentleman. I never seed anything like you for ’urrying a man, not even in the old country. Though the Marquis of Silsby—my last master before I left England—was a ’asty sort of gentleman, too. This was the way ’e always acted. Wanted me to be right on the spot as soon as he touched the bell, although ’e knew very well I was two floors below ’im. My word! That bell’s still ringing. I can ’ear it from up ’ere.”
The butler, by this time, was on the second floor of the handsome house in upper Fifth Avenue, where Andrew Anderton, the millionaire traveler and Oriental student, lived. He pushed open the door of the study.
“Did you ring, sir?”
He had these words out, from force of habit, before he even looked around the room. When he did, he gave utterance to a shout that brought a maid, who had been passing along the hallway, surging in, white-faced and round-eyed, to see what was the matter.
Andrew Anderton, in the handsome, velvet, embroidered dressing gown he generally wore when alone in his study, was lying across the floor, face down. His body, pressed on the electric foot button, kept the bell below ringing continuously.
“What’s the matter with him, Ruggins?” whispered the maid.
The butler knelt by the side of the still figure and gently turned it over. The face of the student was white—the awful gray white of a corpse—and the eyes were closed. The expression was peaceful. There was nothing in it to suggest that he had died a violent death, or even that he had suffered as he passed away.
“Heart disease, I should say,” murmured Ruggins. “Telephone for Doctor Miles, Amelia.”
The girl took up the desk telephone on the large, heavy table that Andrew Anderton had been writing at when stricken, and called up Doctor Theophilus Miles, who had been a lifelong friend of the dead man, as well as his physician.
As she telephoned she pointed mutely to a pen that evidently had dropped from the fingers of the master at the moment of his collapse, for it was still wet with black ink, and there was a smudge of it on the white paper of the letter he had been inditing.
“Yes, I see,” nodded Ruggins. “It was awfully sudden. ’E must ’ave been took all at once. I wonder whether it was ’eart disease, after all.”
He opened the front of the velvet dressing gown—which was not fastened, but had fallen together—and gave vent to a mumbled ejaculation, as he saw that the waistcoat was open.
“And ’is shirt is the same way,” he went on. “You can see ’is bare flesh. ’Ello! What’s this?”
Something glittering had caught his eye. A closer look revealed two long needles, crossed and welded together in the center, where they were in contact with each other.
“Save us!” muttered the butler. “This is murder!”
The points of both needles were deeply embedded in the flesh on the left side, and Ruggins knew at once that they pierced the heart!
His first impulse was to pull the needles away. Then some vague recollection of something he had heard about the illegality of touching a body until it had been viewed by a coroner held his hand.
“I’ll wait till the doctor comes, anyhow. My poor master’s dead. It wouldn’t do ’im any good to take out the needles. ’Ave you got the doctor, Amelia?”
“Yes. He will be here in five minutes. His automobile is all ready at his door, and he will come right along.”
It was less than five minutes when Doctor Theophilus Miles—a rather gruff, although good-natured, man of sixty—came into the room, and, with a nod to Ruggins, knelt by the side of the stiffened form upon the floor. He opened one of the eyes with a calm, professional finger, felt for a pulse, and then pulled aside the dressing gown to put his hand over the heart.
He started as he saw the needles. Carefully he pulled them out, gazed at them in silence for nearly a minute. Then he told Ruggins and the maid to go out of the room.
“And don’t say anything about what has happened in this room to the other people in the house until I tell you. If they have found out anything, tell them Mr. Anderton is sick. Understand? And, whatever you do, don’t mention these needles.”