Chapter XXVIII. Mrs. Hill's Malice
 

At this moment there was a low knock on the door.

"Come in!" said Mrs. Hamilton.

Mrs. Hill, the housekeeper, glided in, with her usual stealthy step.

"I really beg pardon for intruding," she said, with a slight cough, "but I thought perhaps I might throw light on the matter Mr. Lynx is investigating."

"Well?" said the detective, eying her attentively.

"I had occasion to go into Ben's room to see if the girl had put things in order, when my attention was drawn to a ticket upon the bureau. You can tell whether it is of importance," and she handed it, with an air of deference, to Mr. Lynx.

"What is it?" asked Mrs. Hamilton.

"It is a pawn ticket," answered Mr. Lynx attentively.

"Let me see it, please!"

Mrs. Hamilton regarded it with mingled pain and incredulity.

"I need not say," continued the housekeeper, "that I was surprised and saddened at this evidence of the boy's depravity. Cousin Hamilton has been so kind to him that it seems like the height of ingratitude."

"May I ask, madam," said Mr. Lynx, "if your suspicions had fastened on this boy, Ben, before you found the pawn ticket?"

"To tell the truth, they had."

"And what reason had you for forming such suspicions?"

"I knew that the boy frequented gambling houses, and, of course, no salary, however large, would be sufficient for a boy with such habits."

Mrs. Hamilton did not speak, which somewhat embarrassed Mrs. Hill. Mr. Lynx, however, was very affable, and thanked her for her assistance.

"I felt it my duty to assist Cousin Hamilton," said she, "though I am sorry for that ungrateful boy. I will now withdraw, and leave you to confer together."

Mrs. Hill would like to have been invited to remain, but such an invitation was not given.

"What do you think, Mr. Lynx?" asked Mrs. Hamilton.

"I think your housekeeper does not like Ben Barclay," he answered dryly.

"And you don't think him guilty?" she asked eagerly.

"No; the boy isn't fool enough, first, to give his own name at the pawnbroker's, and next, to leave the ticket exposed in his room."

"How then did it come there?"

Mr. Lynx was saved the trouble of answering by another tap on the door.

"Who is it now?" he said.

He stepped to the door, and opening it, admitted Susan.

"What is it, Susan," asked Mrs. Hamilton, in some surprise.

"Did Mrs. Hill bring you a pawn ticket, ma'am?"

"And what do you know about it?" demanded Mr. Lynx brusquely.

"And did she say she found it on Master Ben's bureau?"

"Yes, Susan," said the mistress; "what can you tell us about it?"

"I can tell you this, ma'am, that I saw Master Conrad steal into the room this morning, and put it there with his own hands."

"Ha! this is something to the purpose." said the detective briskly.

"Are you sure of this, Susan?" asked Mrs. Hamilton, evidently shocked.

"I can take my Bible oath of it, ma'am; and it's my belief that he's tryin' to get Master Ben into trouble."

"Thank you, Susan," said her mistress. "You have done not only Ben, but myself, a valuable service. You can go. I will see that you do not regret it."

"Don't tell Mrs. Hill that I told you, or she'd be my enemy for life!"

"I will see to that."

As Susan left the room, Mr. Lynx said:

"You won't require my services any longer. It is clear enough who pawned the glass."

"You mean--"

"I mean the boy Conrad, whose mother was so anxious to fix the guilt upon your young secretary. If you have the slightest doubt about it, invite the young gentleman to accompany you to Simpson's to redeem the opera glass."

"I will."