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"The clew of the silver spoons"
     a.k.a. "The clue of the silver spoons"

   from _The triumphs of Eugene Valmont_ (1906)

     by Robert Barr



WHEN the card was brought in to me, I looked upon
it with some misgiving, for I scented a commercial
transaction, and, although such cases are lucrative
enough, nevertheless I, Eugene Valmont, formerly
high in the service of the French Government, do
not care to be connected with them.  They usually
pertain to sordid business affairs, presenting
little that is of interest to a man who, in his
time, has dealt with subtle questions of diplomacy
upon which the welfare of nations sometimes turned.

  The name of Bentham Gibbes is familiar to
everyone, connected as it is with the
much-advertised pickles, whose glaring
announcements in crude crimson and green strike the
eye throughout Great Britain, and shock the
artistic sense wherever seen.  Me! I have never
tasted them, and shall not so long as a French
restaurant remains open in London.  But I doubt not
they are as pronounced to the palate as their
advertisement is distressing to the eye.  If, then,
this gross pickle manufacturer expected me to track
down those who were infringing upon the recipes for
making his so-called sauces, chutneys, and the
like, he would find himself mistaken, for I was now
in a position to pick and choose my cases, and a
case of pickles did not allure me.  "Beware of
imitations," said the advertisement; "none genuine
without a facsimile of the signature of Bentham
Gibbes."  Ah, well, not for me were either the
pickles or the tracking of imitators.  A forged
check! yes, if you like, but the forged signature
of Mr. Gibbes on a pickle bottle was out of my
line.  Nevertheless, I said to Armand:
  "Show the gentleman in," and he did so.

  To my astonishment there entered a young man,
quite correctly dressed in the dark frock coat,
faultless waistcoat and trousers that proclaimed a
Bond Street tailor.  When he spoke his voice and
language were those of a gentleman.

  "Monsieur Valmont?" he inquired.

  "At your service," I replied, bowing and waving
my hand as Armand placed a chair for him, and

  "I am a barrister with chambers in the Temple,"
began Mr. Gibbes, "and for some days a matter has
been troubling me about which I have now come to
seek your advice, your name having been suggested
by a friend in whom I confided."

  "Am I acquainted with him?" I asked.

  "I think not," replied Mr. Gibbes, "he also is a
barrister with chambers in the same building as my
own.  Lionel Dacre is his name."

  "I never heard of him."

  "Very likely not.  Nevertheless, he recommended
you as a man who could keep his own counsel, and if
you take up this case I desire the utmost secrecy
preserved, whatever may be the outcome."

  I bowed, but made no protestation.  Secrecy is a
matter of course with me.

  The Englishman paused for a few moments as if he
expected fervent assurances; then went on with no
trace of disappointment on his countenance at not
receiving them.

  "On the night of the twenty-third, I gave a
little dinner to six friends of mine in my own
rooms.  I may say that so far as I am aware they
are all gentlemen of unimpeachable character.  On
the night of the dinner I was detained later than I
expected at a reception, and in driving to the
Temple was still further delayed by a block of
traffic in Piccadilly, so that when I arrived at my
chambers there was barely time for me to dress and
receive my guests.  My man Johnson had everything
laid out ready for me in my dressing room, and as I
passed through to it I hurriedly flung off the coat
I was wearing and carelessly left it hanging over
the back of a chair in the dining room, where
neither Johnson nor myself noticed it until my
attention was called to it after the dinner was
over, and everyone rather jolly with wine.

  "This coat contains an inside pocket.  Usually
any frock coat I wear at an afternoon reception has
not an inside pocket, but I had been rather on the
rush all day.  My father is a manufacturer whose
name may be familiar to you, and I am on the
directors' board of his company.  On this occasion
I took a cab from the city to the reception I spoke
of, and had no time to go and change at my rooms. 
The reception was a somewhat bohemian affair,
extremely interesting, of course, but not too
particular as to costume, so I went as I was.  In
this inside pocket rested a thin package, composed
of two pieces of cardboard, and between them rested
five twenty-pound Bank of England notes, folded
lengthwise, held in place by an elastic rubber
band.  I had thrown the coat across the chair back
in such a way that the inside pocket was exposed,
leaving the ends of the notes plainly recognizable.

  "Over the coffee and cigars one of my guests
laughingly called attention to what he termed my
vulgar display of wealth, and Johnson, in some
confusion at having neglected to put away the coat,
now picked it up, and took it to the reception room
where the wraps of my guests lay about
promiscuously.  He should, of course, have hung it
up in my wardrobe, but he said afterwards , he
thought it belonged to the guest who had spoken. 
You see, Johnson was in my dressing room when I
threw my coat on the chair in the corner while
making my way thither, and I suppose he had not
noticed the coat in the hurry of arriving guests,
otherwise he would have put it where it belonged. 
After everybody had gone , Johnson came to me and
said the coat was there, but the package was
missing, nor has any trace of it been found since
that night."

  "The dinner was fetched in from outside, I suppose?"


  "How many waiters served it?"

  "Two.  They are men who have often been in my
employ on similar occasions, but, apart from that,
they had left my chambers before the incident of
the coat happened."

  "Neither of them went into the reception room, I
take it?"

  "No.  I am certain that not even suspicion can
attach to either of the waiters."

  "Your man Johnson----?"

  "Has been with me for years.  He could easily
have stolen much more than the hundred pounds if he
had wished to do so, but I have never known him to
take a penny that did not belong to him."

  "Will you favor me with the names of your guests, 
Mr. Gibbes ?"

  "Viscount Stern sat at my right hand, and at my   
left Lord Templemere; Sir John Sanclere next to
him, and Angus McKeller next to Sanclere.  After
Viscount Stern was Lionel Dacre, and at his right,
Vincent Innis."

  On a sheet of paper I had written the names of
the guests, and noted their places at the table.    
"Which guest drew your attention to the money?"    

  "Lionel Dacre."

  "Is there a window looking out from the reception 

  "Two of them."

  "Were they fastened on the night of the dinner 

  "I could not be sure; very likely Johnson would
know.  You are hinting at the possibility of a
thief coming in through a reception-room window
while we were somewhat noisy over our wine.  I
think such a solution highly improbable.  My rooms
are on the third floor, and a thief would scarcely
venture to make an entrance when he could not but
know there was company being entertained.  Besides
this, the coat was there less than an hour, and it
appears to me that whoever stole those notes knew
where they were."

  "That seems reasonable," I had to admit.  "Have
you spoken to anyone of your loss?"

  "To no one but Dacre, who recommended me to see
you.  Oh, yes, and to Johnson, of course."

  I could not help noting that this was the fourth
or fifth time Dacre's name had come up during our

  "What of Dacre?" I asked.

  "Oh, well, you see, he occupies chambers in the
same building on the ground floor.  He is a very
good fellow, and we are by way of being firm
friends.  Then it was he who had called attention
to the money, so I thought he should know the

  "How did he take your news?"

  "Now that you call attention to the fact, he
seemed slightly troubled.  I should like to say,
however, that you must not be misled by that. 
Lionel Dacre could no more steal than he could

  "Did he show any surprise when you mentioned the

  Bentham Gibbes paused a moment before replying,
knitting his brows in thought.

  "No," he said at last; "and, come to think of it,
it appeared as if he had been expecting my

  "Doesn't that strike you as rather strange, Mr.

  "Really, my mind is in such a whirl, I don't know
what to think.  But it's perfectly absurd to
suspect Dacre.  If you knew the man you would
understand what I mean.  He comes of an excellent
family, and he is--oh! he is Lionel Dacre, and when
you have said that you have made any suspicion

  "I suppose you caused the rooms to be thoroughly
searched.  The packet didn't drop out and remain
unnoticed in some corner?"

  "No; Johnson and myself examined every inch of
the premises."

  "Have you the numbers of the notes?"

  "Yes; I got them from the bank next morning. 
Payment was stopped, and so far not one of the five
has been presented.  Of course, one or more may
have been cashed at some shop, but none have been
offered to any of the banks."

  "A twenty-pound note is not accepted without
scrutiny, so the chances are the thief may find
some difficulty in disposing of them."

  "As I told you, I don't mind the loss of the
money at all.  It is the uncertainty, the
uneasiness caused by the incident which troubles
me.  You will comprehend how little I care about
the notes when I say that if you are good enough to
interest yourself in this case, I shall be
disappointed if your fee does not exceed the amount
I have lost."

  Mr. Gibbes rose as he said this, and I
accompanied him to the door assuring him that I
should do my best to solve the mystery.  Whether he
sprang from pickles or not, I realized he was a
polished and generous gentleman, who estimated the
services of a professional expert like myself at
their true value.

  I shall not set down the details of my researches
during the following few days, because the trend of
them must be gone over in the account of that
remarkable interview in which I took part somewhat
later.  Suffice it to say that an examination of
the rooms and a close cross-questioning of Johnson
satisfied me he and the two waiters were innocent. 
I became certain no thief had made his way through
the window, and finally I arrived at the conclusion
that the notes were stolen by one of the guests. 
Further investigation convinced me that the thief
was no other than Lionel Dacre, the only one of the
six in pressing need of money at this time.  I
caused Dacre to be shadowed, and during one of his
absences made the acquaintance of his man Hopper, a
surly impolite brute, who accepted my golden
sovereign quickly enough, but gave me little in
exchange for it.  While I conversed with him, there
arrived in the passage where we were talking
together a huge case of champagne, bearing one of
the best known names in the trade, and branded as
being of the vintage of '78.  Now I knew that the
product of Camelot Freres is not bought as cheaply
as British beer, and I also had learned that two
short weeks before Mr. Lionel Dacre was at his
wits' end for money.  Yet he was still the same
briefless barrister he had ever been.

  On the morning after my unsatisfactory
conversation with his man Hopper, I was astonished
to receive the following note, written on a dainty
correspondence card:

                       3 AND 4, VELLUM BUILDINGS,
                                   INNER TEMPLE, E.C.

     Mr. Lionel Dacre presents his compliments to
     Monsieur Eugene Valmont, and would be obliged
     if Monsieur Valmont could make it convenient to
     call upon him in his chambers to-morrow morning
     at eleven.  



HAD the young man become aware that he was being
shadowed, or had the surly servant informed him of
the inquiries made?  I was soon to know.  I called
punctually at eleven next morning, and was received
with charming urbanity by Mr. Dacre himself.  The
taciturn Hopper had evidently been sent away for
the occasion.

  "My dear Monsieur Valmont, I am delighted to meet
you," began the young man with more *of
effusiveness than I had ever noticed in an
Englishman before, although his very next words
supplied an explanation that did not occur to me
until afterwards as somewhat farfetched.  "I
believe we are by way of being countrymen, and,
therefore, although the hour is early, I hope you
will allow me to offer you some of this bottled
sunshine of the year '78 from la belle France, to
whose prosperity and honor we shall drink together. 
For such toast any hour is propitious," and to my
amazement he brought forth from the case I had seen
arrive two days before a bottle of that superb
Camelot Freres' '78.

  "Now," said I to myself, "it is going to be
difficult to keep a clear head if the aroma of this
nectar rises to the brain.  But tempting as is the
cup, I shall drink sparingly, and hope he may not
be so judicious."

  Sensitive, I already experienced the charm of his
personality, and well understood the friendship Mr.
Bentham Gibbes felt for him.  But I saw the trap
spread before me.  He expected, under the influence
of champagne and courtesy, to extract a promise
from me which I must find myself unable to give.

  "Sir, you interest me by claiming kinship with
France.  I had understood that you belonged to one
of the oldest families of England."

  "Ah, England!" he cried, with an expressive
gesture of outspreading hands truly Parisian in its
significance.  "The trunk belongs to England, of
course, but the root--ah! the root--Monsieur
Valmont, penetrated the soil from which this wine
of the gods has been drawn."

  Then filling my glass and his own he cried:
  "To France, which my family left in the year

  I could not help laughing at his fervent

  "1066!  With William the Conqueror!  That is a
long time ago, Mr. Dacre."

  "In years perhaps; in feelings but a day.  My
forefathers came over to steal, and, Lord! how well
they accomplished it.  They stole the whole
country--something like a theft, say I--under that
prince of robbers whom you have well named the
Conqueror.  In our secret hearts we all admire a
great thief, and if not a great one, then an expert
one, who covers his tracks so perfectly that the
hounds of justice are baffled in attempting to
follow them.  Now even you, Monsieur Valmont (I can
see you are the most generous of men, with a lively
sympathy found to perfection only in France), even
you must suffer a pang of regret when you lay a
thief by the heels who has done his task deftly."

  "I fear, Mr. Dacre, you credit me with a
magnanimity to which I dare not lay claim.  The
criminal is a danger to society."

  "True, true, you are in the right, Monsieur
Valmont.  Still, admit there are cases that would
touch you tenderly.  For example, a man ordinarily
honest; a great need; a sudden opportunity.  He
takes that of which another has abundance, and he,
nothing.  What then, Monsieur Valmont?  Is the man
to be sent to perdition for a momentary weakness?"

  His words astonished me.  Was I on the verge of
hearing a confession?  It almost amounted to that

  "Mr. Dacre," I said, "I cannot enter into the
subtleties you pursue.  My duty is to find the

  "Again I say you are in the right, Monsieur
Valmont, and I am enchanted to find so sensible a
head on French shoulders.  Although you are a more
recent arrival, if I may say so, than myself, you
nevertheless already give utterance to sentiments
which do honor to England.  It is your duty to hunt
down the criminal.  Very well.  In that I think I
can aid you, and thus have taken the liberty of
requesting your attendance here this morning.  Let
me fill your glass again, Monsieur Valmont."

  "No more, I beg of you, Mr. Dacre."

  "What, do you think the receiver is as bad as the

  I was so taken aback by this remark that I
suppose my face showed the amazement within me. 
But the young man merely laughed with apparently
free-hearted enjoyment, poured more wine into his
own glass, and tossed it off.  Not knowing what to
say, I changed the current of conversation.

  "Mr. Gibbes said you had been kind enough to
recommend me to his attention.  May I ask how you
came to hear of me? "

  "Ah! who has not heard of the renowned Monsieur
Valmont," and as he said this, for the first time
there began to grow a suspicion in my mind that he
was chaffing me, as it is called in England--a
procedure which I cannot endure.  Indeed, if this
gentleman practiced such a barbarism in my own
country he would find himself with a duel on his
hands before he had gone far.  However, the next
instant his voice resumed its original fascination,
and I listened to it as to some delicious melody.

  "I need only mention my cousin, Lady Gladys
Dacre, and you will at once understand why I
recommended you to my friend.  The case of Lady
Gladys, you will remember, required a delicate
touch which is not always to be had in this land of
England, except when those who possess the gift do
us the honor to sojourn with us."

  I noticed that my glass was again filled, and
bowing an acknowledgment of his compliment, I
indulged in another sip of the delicious wine.  I
sighed, for I began to realize it was going to be
very difficult for me, in spite of my disclaimer,
to tell this man's friend he had stolen the money. 
All this time he had been sitting on the edge of
the table, while I occupied a chair at its end.  He
sat there in careless fashion, swinging a foot to
and fro.  Now he sprang to the floor, and drew up a
chair, placing on the table a blank sheet of paper. 
Then he took from the mantelshelf a packet of
letters, and I was astonished to see they were held
together by two bits of cardboard and a rubber band
similar to the combination that had contained the
folded bank notes.  With great nonchalance he
slipped off the rubber band, threw it and the
pieces of cardboard on the table before me, leaving
the documents loose to his hand.

  "Now, Monsieur Valmont," he cried jauntily, "you
have been occupied for several days on this case,
the case of my dear friend Bentham Gibbes, who is
one of the best fellows in the world."

  "He said the same of you, Mr. Dacre."

  "I am gratified to hear it.  Would you mind
letting me know to what point your researches have
led you?"

  "They have led me in a direction rather than to a

  "Ah! In the direction of a man, of course?"


  "Who is he?"

  "Will you pardon me if I decline to answer this
question at the present moment?"

  "That means you are not sure."

  "It may mean, Mr. Dacre, that I am employed by
Mr. Gibbes, and do not feel at liberty to disclose
the results of my quest without his permission."

  "But Mr. Bentham Gibbes and I are entirely at one
in this matter.  Perhaps you are aware that I am
the only person with whom he has discussed the case
besides yourself."

  "That is undoubtedly true, Mr. Dacre; still, you
see the difficulty of my position."

  "Yes, I do, and so shall press you no farther. 
But I also have been studying the problem in a
purely amateurish way, of course.  You will perhaps
express no disinclination to learn whether or not
my deductions agree with yours."

  "None in the least.  I should be very glad to
know the conclusion at which you have arrived.  May
I ask if you suspect anyone in particular?"

  "Yes, I do."

  "Will you name him?"

  "No; I shall copy the admirable reticence you
yourself have shown.  And now let us attack this
mystery in a sane and businesslike manner.  You
have already examined the room.  Well, here is a
rough sketch of it.  There is the table; in this
corner stood the chair on which the coat was flung. 
Here sat Gibbes at the head of the table.  Those on
the left-hand side had their backs to the chair. 
I, being on the center to the right, saw the chair,
the coat, and the notes and called attention to
them.  Now our first duty is to find a motive.  If
it were a murder our motive might be hatred,
revenge, robbery--what you like.  As it is simply
the stealing of money, the man must have been
either a born thief or else some hitherto innocent
person pressed to the crime by great necessity.  Do
you agree with me, Monsieur Valmont?"

  "Perfectly.  You follow exactly the line of my
own reasoning."

  "Very well.  It is unlikely that a born thief was
one of Mr. Gibbes's guests.  Therefore we are
reduced to look for a man under the spur of
necessity; a man who has no money of his own, but
who must raise a certain amount, let us say, by a
certain date.  If we can find such a man in that
company, do you not agree with me that he is likely
to be the thief?"

  "Yes, I do."

  "Then let us start our process of elimination. 
Out goes Viscount Stern, a lucky individual with
twenty thousand acres of land, and God only knows
what income.  I mark off the name of Lord
Templemere, one of his Majesty's judges, entirely
above suspicion.  Next, Sir John Sanclere; he also
is rich, but Vincent Innis is still richer, so the
pencil obliterates both names.  Now we arrive at
Angus McKeller, an author of some note, as you are
well aware, deriving a good income from his books
and a better one from his plays; a canny Scot, so
we may rub his name from our paper and our memory. 
How do my erasures correspond with yours, Monsieur

  "They correspond exactly, Mr. Dacre."

  "I am flattered to hear it.  There remains one
name untouched, Mr. Lionel Dacre, the descendant,
as I have said, of robbers."

  "I have not said so, Mr. Dacre."

  "Ah! my dear Valmont, the politeness of your
country asserts itself.  Let us not be deluded, but
follow our inquiry wherever it leads.  I suspect
Lionel Dacre.  What do you know of his
circumstances before the dinner of the

  As I made no reply he looked up at me with his  
frank, boyinsh face illumined by a winning smile.  

  "You know nothing of his circumstances?" he  

  "It grieves me to state that I do.  Mr. Lionel Dacre  
was penniless on the night of the dinner."  

  "Oh, don't exaggerate, Monsierur Valmont," cried  
Dacre, with a gesture of pathetic protest; "his pocket  
held one sixpence, two pennies, and a half-penny.  How  
came you to suspect he was penniless?"  

  "I knew he ordered a case of champagne from the  
Lonsdon representative of Camelot Freres, and was re-  
fused unless he paid money down."  

  "Quite right, and then when you were talking to   
Hopper you saw that the case of champagne delivered.  Ex-
cellent! excellent! Monsieur Valmont.  But will a man  
steal, think you, even to supply himself with so delicious
a wine as this we have been tasting?--and, by the way,
forgive my neglect.  Allow me to fill your glass, Mon-
sieur Valmont."

  "Not another drop, if you will excuse me, Mr. 

  "Ah, yes, champagne should not be mixed with
evidence.  When we have finished, perhaps.  What
further proof have you discovered, monsieur?"

  "I hold proof that Mr. Dacre was threatened with
bankruptcy if, on the twenty-fourth, he did not pay
a bill of seventy-eight pounds that had been long
outstanding.  I hold proof that this was paid, not
on the twenty-fourth, but on the twenty-sixth.  Mr.
Dacre had gone to the solicitor and assured him he
would pay the money on that date, whereupon he was
given two days' grace."

  "Ah, well, he was entitled to three, you know, in
law.  Yes, there, Monsieur Valmont, you touch the
fatal point.  The threat of bankruptcy will drive a
man in Dacre's position to almost any crime. 
Bankruptcy to a barrister means ruin.  It means a
career blighted; it means a life buried, with
little chance of resurrection.  I see, you grasp
the supreme importance of that bit of evidence. 
The case of champagne is as nothing compared with
it, and this reminds me that in the crisis now upon
us I shall take another sip, with your permission. 
Sure you won't join me?"

  "Not at this juncture, Mr. Dacre."

  "I envy your moderation.  Here's to the success
of our search, Monsieur Valmont."

  I felt sorry for the gay young fellow as with
smiling face he drank the champagne.

  "Now, monsieur," he went on, "I am amazed to
learn how much you have discovered.  Really, I
think tradespeople, solicitors, and all such should
keep better guard on their tongues than they do. 
Nevertheless, these documents at my elbow, which I
expected would surprise you, are merely the letters
and receipts.  Here is the communication from the
solicitor threatening me with bankruptcy; here is
his receipt dated the twenty-sixth; here is the
refusal of the wine merchant, and here is his
receipt for the money.  Here are smaller bills
liquidated.  With my pencil we will add them up. 
Seventy-eight pounds--the principal debt--bulks
large.  We add the smaller items and it reaches a
total of ninety-three pounds seven shillings and
fourpence.  Let us now examine my purse.  Here is a
five-pound note; there is a golden sovereign.  I
now count out and place on the table twelve and
sixpence in silver and twopence in coppers.  The
purse thus becomes empty.  Let us add the silver
and copper to the amount on the paper.  Do my eyes
deceive me, or is the sum exactly a hundred pounds? 
There is your money fully accounted for."

  "Pardon me, Mr. Dacre," I said, "but there is
still a sovereign resting on the mantelpiece."

  Dacre threw back his head and laughed with
greater heartiness than I had yet known him to
indulge in during our short acquaintance.

  "By Jove!" he cried; "you've got me there.  I'd
forgotten entirely about that pound on the
mantelpiece, which belongs to you."

  "To me?  Impossible!"

   "It does, and cannot interfere in the least with
our century calculation.  That is the sovereign you
gave to my man Hopper, who, knowing me to be hard
pressed, took it and shamefacedly presented it to
me, that I might enjoy the spending of it.  Hopper
belongs to our family, or the family belongs to
him.  I am never sure which.  You must have missed
in him the deferential ring of a manservant in
Paris, yet he is true gold, like the sovereign you
bestowed upon him, and he bestowed upon me.  Now
here, monsieur, is the evidence of the theft,
together with the rubber band and two pieces of
cardboard.  Ask my friend Gibbes to examine them
minutely.  They are all at your disposition,
monsieur and thus you learn how much easier it is
to deal with the master than with the servant.  All
the gold you possess would not have wrung these
incriminating documents from old Hopper.  I was
compelled to send him away to the West End an hour
ago, fearing that in his brutal British way he
might assault you if he got an inkling of your

  "Mr. Dacre," said I slowly, "you have thoroughly
convinced me----"

  "I thought I would," he interrupted with a laugh. 

  "--that you did not take the money."

  "Oho, this is a change of wind, surely.  Many a
man has been hanged on a chain of circumstantial
evidence much weaker than this which I have
exhibited to you.  Don't you see the subtlety of my
action?  Ninety-nine persons in a hundred would
say: 'No man could be such a fool as to put Valmont
on his own track, and then place in Valmont's hands
such striking evidence.'  But there comes in my
craftiness.  Of course, the rock you run up against
will be Gibbes's incredulity.  The first question
he will ask you may be this: 'Why did not Dacre
come and borrow the money from me?'  Now there you
find a certain weakness in your chain of evidence. 
I knew perfectly well that Gibbes would lend me the
money, and he knew perfectly well that if I were
pressed to the wall I should ask him."

  "Mr. Dacre," said I, "you have been playing with
me.  I should resent that with most men, but
whether it is your own genial manner or the effect
of this excellent champagne, or both together, I
forgive you.  But I am convinced of another thing. 
You know who took the money."

  "I don't know, but I suspect."

  "Will you tell me whom you suspect?"

  "That would not be fair, but I shall now take the
liberty of filling your glass with champagne."

  "I am your guest, Mr. Dacre."

  "Admirably answered, monsieur," he replied,
pouring out the wine, "and now I offer you a clew. 
Find out all about the story of the silver spoons."

  "The story of the silver spoons!  What silver

  "Ah! That is the point.  Step out of the Temple
into Fleet Street, seize the first man you meet by
the shoulder, and ask him to tell you about the
silver spoons.  There are but two men and two
spoons concerned.  When you learn who those two men
are, you will know that one of them did not take
the money, and I give you my assurance that the
other did."

  "You speak in mystery, Mr. Dacre." 

  "But certainly, for I am speaking to Monsieur
Eugene Valmont."

  "I echo your words, sir.  Admirably answered. 
You put me on my mettle, and I flatter myself that
I see your kindly drift.  You wish me to solve the
mystery of this stolen money.  Sir, you do me
honor, and I drink to your health."

  "To yours, monsieur," said Lionel Dacre, and thus
we drank and parted.

  On leaving Mr. Dacre I took a hansom to a cafe in
Regent Street, which is a passable imitation of
similar places of refreshment in Paris.  There,
calling for a cup of black coffee, I sat down to
think.  The clew of the silver spoons!  He had
laughingly suggested that should take by the
shoulders the first man I met, and ask him what the
story of the silver spoons was.  This course
naturally struck me as absurd, and he doubtless
intended it to seem absurd.  Nevertheless, it
contained a hint.  I must ask somebody, and that
the right person, to tell me the tale of the silver

  Under the influence of the black coffee I
reasoned it out in this way.  On the night of the
twenty-third one of the six guests there present
stole a hundred pounds, but Dacre had said that an
actor in the silver-spoon episode was the actual
thief.  That person, then, must have been one of
Mr. Gibbes's guests at the dinner of the twenty-
third.  Probably two of the guests were the
participators in the silver-spoon comedy, but, be
that as it may, it followed that one, at least, of
the men around Mr. Gibbes's table knew the episode
of the silver spoons. 

  Perhaps Bentham Gibbes himself was cognizant of
it.  It followed, therefore, that the easiest plan
was to question each of the men who partook of that
dinner.  Yet if only one knew about the spoons,
that one must also have some idea that these spoons
formed the clew which attached him to the crime of
the twenty-third, in which case he was little
likely to divulge what he knew to an entire

  Of course, I might go to Dacre himself and demand
the story of the silver spoons, but this would be a
confession of failure on my part, and I rather
dreaded Lionel Dacre's hearty laughter when I
admitted that the mystery was too much for me. 
Besides this I was very well aware of the young
man's kindly intentions toward me.  He wished me to
unravel the coil myself, and so I determined not to
go to him except as a last resource.

  I resolved to begin with Mr. Gibbes, and,
finishing my coffee, I got again into a hansom, and
drove back to the Temple.  I found Bentham Gibbes
in his room, and after greeting me, his first
inquiry was about the case.

  "How are you getting on?" he asked.

  "I think I'm getting on fairly well," I replied,
"and expect to finish in a day or two, if you will
kindly tell me the story of the silver spoons."

  "The silver spoons?" he echoed, quite evidently
not understanding me.

  "There happened an incident in which two men were
engaged, and this incident related to a pair of
silver spoons.  I want to get the particulars of

  "I haven't the slightest idea of what you are
talking out," replied Gibbes, thoroughly
bewildered.  "You will need to be more definite, I
fear, if you are to get any help from me."

  "I cannot be more definite, because I have
already told you all I know."

  "What bearing has all this on our own case?"

  "I was informed that if I got hold of the clew of
the silver spoons I should be in a fair way of
settling our case."

  "Who told you that?"

  "Mr. Lionel Dacre."

  "Oh, does Dacre refer to his own conjuring?"

  "I don't know, I'm sure.  What was his

  "A very clever trick he did one night at dinner
here about two months ago."

  "Had it anything to do with silver spoons?"

  "Well, it was silver spoons or silver forks, or
something of that kind.  I had entirely forgotten
the incident.  So far as I recollect at the moment
there was a sleight-of-hand man of great expertness
in one of the music-halls, and the talk turned upon
him.  Then Dacre said the tricks he did were easy,
and holding up a spoon or a fork, I don't remember
which, he professed his ability to make it
disappear before our eyes, to be found afterwards
in the clothing of some one there present.  Several
offered to bet that he could do nothing of the
kind, he said he would bet with no one but Innis,
who sat opposite him.  Innis, with some reluctance,
accepted the bet, and then Dacre, with a great show
of the usual conjurer's gesticulations, spread
forth his empty hands, and said we should find the
spoon in Innis's pocket, and there, sure enough, it
was.  It seemed a proper sleight-of-hand trick, but
we were never able to get him to repeat it."

  "Thank you very much, Mr. Gibbes; I think I see
daylight now."

  "If you do you are cleverer than I by a long
chalk," cried Bentham Gibbes as I took my

  I went directly downstairs, and knocked at Mr.
Dacre's door once more.  He opened the door
himself, his man not yet having returned.

  "Ah, monsieur," he cried, "back already?  You
don't mean to tell me you have so soon got to the
bottom of the silver-spoon entanglement?"

  "I think I have, Mr. Dacre.  You were sitting at
dinner opposite Mr. Vincent Innis.  You saw him
conceal a silver spoon in his pocket.  You probably
waited for some time to understand what he meant by
this, and as he did not return the spoon to its
place, you proposed a conjuring trick, made the bet
with him, and thus the spoon was returned to the

  "Excellent! excellent, monsieur! that is very
nearly what occurred, except that I acted at once. 
I had had experiences with Mr. Vincent Innis
before.  Never did he enter these rooms of mine
without my missing some little trinket after he was
gone.  Although Mr. Innis is a very rich person, I
am not a man of many possessions, so if anything is
taken, I meet little difficulty in coming to a
knowledge of my loss.  Of course, I never mentioned
these abstractions to him.  They were all trivial,
as I have said, and so far as the silver spoon was
concerned, it was of no great value either.  But I
thought the bet and the recovery of the spoon would
teach him a lesson; it apparently has not done so. 
On the night of the twenty-third he sat at my right
hand, as you will see by consulting your diagram of
the table and the guests.  I asked him a question
twice, to which he did not reply, and looking at
him I was startled by the expression in his eyes. 
They were fixed on a distant corner of the room,
and following his gaze I saw what he was staring at
with such hypnotizing concentration.  So absorbed
was he in contemplation of the packet there so
plainly exposed, now my attention was turned to it,
that he seemed to be entirely oblivious of what was
going on around him.  I roused him from his trance
by jocularly calling Gibbes's attention to the
display of money.  I expected in this way to save
Innis from committing the act which he seemingly
did commit.  Imagine then the dilemma in which I
was placed when Gibbes confided to me the morning
after what had occurred the night before.  I was
positive Innis had taken the money, yet I possessed
no proof of it.  I could not tell Gibbes, and I
dared not speak to Innis.  Of course, monsieur, you
do not need to be told that Innis is not a thief in
the ordinary sense of the word.  He had no need to
steal, and yet apparently cannot help doing so.  I
am sure that no attempt has been made to pass those
notes.  They are doubtless resting securely in his
house at Kensington.  He is, in fact, a
kleptomaniac, or a maniac of some sort.  And now,
monsieur, was my hint regarding the silver spoons
of any value to you?"

  "Of the most infinite value, Mr. Dacre."

  "Then let me make another suggestion.  I leave it
entirely to your bravery; a bravery which, I
confess, I do not myself possess.  Will you take a
hansom, drive to Mr. Innis's house on the Cromwell
Road, confront him quietly, and ask for the return
of the packet?  I am anxious to know what will
happen.  If he hands it to you, as I expect he
will, then you must tell Mr. Gibbes the whole

  "Mr. Dacre, your suggestion shall be immediately
acted upon, and I thank you for your compliment to
my courage."

  I found that Mr. Innis inhabited a very grand
house.  After a time he entered the study on the
ground floor, to which I had been conducted.  He
held my card in his hand, and was looking at it
with some surprise.

  "I think I have not the pleasure of knowing you,
Monsieur Valmont," he said courteously enough.

  "No.  I ventured to call on a matter of business. 
I was once investigator for the French Government,
and now am doing private detective work here in

  "Ah! And how is that supposed to interest me?
There is nothing that I wish investigated.  I did
not send for you, did I?"

  "No, Mr. Innis, I merely took the liberty of
calling to ask you to let me have the package you
took from Mr. Bentham Gibbes's frock-coat pocket on
the night of the twenty-third."

  "He wishes it returned, does he?"


  Mr. Innis calmly walked to a desk, which he
unlocked and opened, displaying a veritable museum
of trinkets of one sort and another.  Pulling out a
small drawer he took from it the packet containing
the five twenty-pound notes.  Apparently it had
never been opened.  With a smile he handed it to

  "You will make my apologies to Mr. Gibbes for not
returning it before.  Tell him I have been
unusually busy of late."

  "I shall not fail to do so," said I, with a bow.

  "Thanks so much.  Good morning, Monsieur

  "Good morning, Mr. Innis."

  And so I returned the packet to Mr. Bentham
Gibbes, who pulled the notes from between their
pasteboard protection, and begged me to accept