The Yellow Crayon by E. Phillips Oppenheim
This is the luggage porter, sir," Duson announced. "He is prepared to answer any questions."
The man took out his book. Mr. Sabin, who was sitting in an easy-chair, turned sideways towards him.
"The Duchess of Souspennier was staying here last week," he said. "She left, I believe, on Thursday or Friday. Can you tell me whether her baggage went through your hands?"
The man set down his hat upon a vacant chair, and turned over the leaves of his book.
"Guess I can fix that for you," he remarked, running his forefinger down one of the pages. "Here we are. The Duchess left on Friday, and we checked her baggage through to Lenox by the New York, New Haven & Hartford."
Mr. Sabin nodded.
"Thank you," he said. "She would probably take a carriage to the station. It will be worth another ten dollars to you if you can find me the man who drove her."
"Well, we ought to manage that for you," the man remarked encouragingly. "It was one of Steve Hassell's carriages, I guess, unless the lady took a hansom."
"Very good," Mr. Sabin said. "See if you can find him. Keep my inquiries entirely to yourself. It will pay you."
"That's all right," the man remarked. "Don't you go to bed for half-an-hour, and I guess you'll hear from me again."
Duson busied himself in the bed-chamber, Mr. Sabin sat motionless in his easy chair. Soon there came a tap at the door. The porter reappeared ushering in a smart-looking young man, who carried a shiny coachman's hat in his hand.
"Struck it right fust time," the porter remarked cheerfully. "This is the man, sir.
Mr. Sabin turned his head.
"You drove a lady from here to the New York, New Haven & Hartford Depot last Friday?" he asked.
"'Well, not exactly, sir," the man answered. "The Duchess took my cab, and the first address she gave was the New York, New Haven & Hartford Depot, but before we'd driven a hundred yards she pulled the check-string and ordered me to go to the Waldorf. She paid me there, and went into the hotel."
"You have not seen her since?"
"You knew her by sight, you say. Was there anything special about her appearance?"
The man hesitated.
"She'd a pretty thick veil on, sir, but she raised it to pay me, and I should say she'd been crying. She was much paler, too, than last time I drove her."
"When was that?" Mr. Sabin asked.
"In the spring, sir, - with you, begging your pardon. You were at the Netherlands, and I drove you out several times."
"You seem," Mr. Sabin said, "to be a person with some powers of observation. It would pay you very well indeed if you would ascertain from any of your mates at the Waldorf when and with whom the lady in question left that hotel."
"I'll have a try, sir," the man answered. "The Duchess was better known here, but some of them may have recognised her."
"She had no luggage, I presume?" Mr. Sabin asked.
"Her dressing-case and jewel-case only, sir."
"So you see," Mr. Sabin continued, "it is probable that she did not remain at the Waldorf for the night. Base your inquiries on that supposition."
"Very good, sir."
"From your manners and speech," Mr. Sabin said, raising his head, "I should take you to be an Englishman."
"Quite correct, sir," the man answered. "I drove a hansom in London for eight years."
"You will understand me then," Mr. Sabin continued, "when I say that I have no great confidence in the police of this country. I do not wish to be blackmailed or bullied. I would ask you, therefore, to make your inquiries with discretion."
"I'll be careful, sir," the man answered.
Mr. Sabin handed to each of them a roll of notes. The cabdriver lingered upon the threshold. Mr. Sabin looked up.
"Could I speak a word to you-in private, sir?"
Mr. Sabin motioned Duson to leave the room. The baggage porter had already departed.
"When I cleaned out my cab at night, sir, I found this. I didn't reckon it was of any consequence at first, but from the questions you have been asking it may be useful to you."
Mr. Sabin took the half-sheet of note-paper in silence. It was the ordinary stationery of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, and the following words were written upon it in a faint delicate handwriting, but in yellow pencil:-
The thin paper shook in Mr. Sabin's fingers. There was no signature, but he fancied that the handwriting was not wholly unfamiliar to him. He looked slowly up towards the cabman.
"I am much obliged to you," he said. "This is of interest to me."
He stretched out his hand to the little wad of notes which Duson had left upon the table, but the cabdriver backed away.
"Beg pardon, sir," he said. "You've given me plenty. The letter's of no value to me. I came very near tearing it up, but for the peculiar colour pencil it's written with. Kinder took my fancy, sir."
"The letter is of value," Mr. Sabin said. "It tells me much more than I hoped to discover. It is our good fortune."
The man accepted the little roll of bills and departed. Mr. Sabin touched the bell.
"Duson, what time is it?"
"Nearly midnight, sir!"
"I will go to bed!"
"Very good, sir!"
"Mix me a sleeping draught, Duson. I need rest. See that I am not disturbed until ten o'clock to-morrow morning.